Friday, May 6, 2011

Tourists Discover Israel's Negev Desert

History and scenery come together for visitors to Israel’s Negev Desert
Israel’s Negev Desert accounts for more than 55 percent of Israel’s land, but only about 8% of its population. Here, among spectacular desert vistas, you can find an increasing number of unique tourist accommodations.

Along the ancient Spice Route, for example, a unique desert B&B offers visitors individual cabins with small private pools and wine made on site. Its name, Carmey Avdat (Vineyards of Avdat) Farm (, draws on Avdat, an important ancient Nabatean city. Several grape-pressing areas, a farm and churches were uncovered by archeologists at this site.

Isrotel Beresheet (Genesis) (, a new luxury hotel opening this spring, is located on a cliff above Machtesh (Crater) Ramon, a landform unique to the Negev and Sinai deserts. The largest natural crater in the world at 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) long and 10 kilometers (a bit more than six miles) wide, the Ramon formed when soft rocks buried under hard surface rocks eroded, causing the hard upper layers to collapse in the shape of a heart.-- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To view video, click on image below.

Op Ed: There’s that Double Standard Again

The targeted killing of Osama bin Laden is being applauded all over the world, and rightly so.

The decision to target and kill Osama bin Laden is being applauded by all decent people. Approval to capture or kill this mass-murdering terrorist leader was given by presidents Obama and Bush. It was the right decision, morally and legally.

Although bin Laden wore no military uniform and held no official military rank, he was an appropriate military target. As the titular and spiritual head of al-Qaida, he was the functional equivalent of a head of state or commander in chief of a terrorist army. From the beginning of recorded history, killing the king has been a legitimate goal of military action. The phrase “checkmate” means “the king is dead,” signifying the successful end of a battle.

Yet there are those who claim that all targeted killings are immoral and illegal. These critics characterize such actions as “extrajudicial executions,” and demand that terrorist leaders and functionaries be treated as common criminals, who must be arrested and brought to trial. -- Alan M. Dershowitz

To read the complete article, click here.

Trove Of Historic Records Of Holocaust Goes Online

This photo provided by
the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
shows a group of French Jewish refugee children
who arrived from Marseilles via Spain
at the Rossio train station in Lisbon in 1943.
Associated Press

A trove of papers and photographs documenting the lives of Holocaust victims and survivors includes notable names like Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel and former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. But Benzion Baumrind's name might have stayed forgotten to his descendants without the records kept by a humanitarian aid agency.

A genealogist discovered Baumrind, one of 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust, was in her family with one stray document buried in a database of historic papers and photos kept by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

With over 500,000 names, and more than 1,000 photographs, the searchable collection documents the relief organization's vast efforts during World War II and the postwar era in 24 countries, from China and Japan to the Dominican Republic and Bolivia. The records, being made available online for the first time on Monday, open a singular view into the lives of survivors that the JDC aided during that cataclysmic period. -- The Associated Press via NPR

To read the complete article, click here.

Repairing the World One Garden at a Time

Jenga Mwendo, who bought this land
to plant a community garden
in the Lower 9th Ward, with her daughter Jasmine.
Fifteen teenagers from Kehillat Israel synagogue sat on the floor of a house in the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans, Louisiana. There were no walls, no stairs -- and no one was home. The tile on what might have been the bathroom floor was still visible, along with remnants of linoleum that probably belonged in the family's dining room. From where they were seated, they could see both the levee and a sustainable house built by Brad Pitt's foundation offering a glimpse into the past and the future of a community devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

This was the way Billy Planer, founder of ETGAR 36, started off the community service trip for Aliza McHugh, and the other teenagers from the temple, who had given up their Presidents' Day weekend to work in the Lower 9th Ward. -- Robyn Carolyn Price, Palisadian-Post via Huffington Post

To read the complete article, click here.

Rabba by Choice: She Chooses the Title Over Rabbi

What’s in a Name? Stern-Kaufman is choosing
the title “rabba,” over “rabbi.”
Courtesy of Jewish Academy of Religion
Kaya Stern-Kaufman is graduating from rabbinical school this spring, but she will not always be called a “rabbi.” Instead, the 47-year-old mother of two will also use the title “rabba,” making her the first woman to specifically choose this Hebrew feminized version of “rabbi” as a preferred moniker.

Just what this will mean, however, is unclear. After initially announcing her choice in a press release issued by her school, the American Academy of Religion, Stern-Kaufman said she will use the title rabbi or rabba, depending on the circumstances. -- Elana Maryles Sztokman, Forward

To read the complete article, click here.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

From Slave to IDF Officer: A Guinean's Story

Be'eri: I see myself as a Jew in every way
Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Office

At just 15 Avi Be'eri was sold to slave traders who smuggled him into Israel from Guinea, he managed to turn his life around and will now become an IDF officer‬‬. -- ‪Smadar Shir‬, Ynet News

To read complete story, click here.

Canada Re-Elects Stephen Harper, Its Pro-Israel Prime Minister

Canada's staunchly pro-Israel prime minister, Stephen Harper, has been re-elected by a healthy margin.

Harper, leader of the Conservative Party, has gone from heading two successive minority governments to a comfortable majority.

In Monday's federal elections, Harper captured 167 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons, with 40 percent of the popular vote.

In a stunning reversal, the left-leaning New Democratic Party replaced the Liberal Party as the official opposition. The NDP won 102 seats and the Liberals dropped to 34.

Harper's strong and clear support for Israel apparently drew many Jewish voters away from their traditional Liberal base. In heavily Jewish districts, Israel emerged as a key election issue.

In two Toronto-area electoral districts, Jewish Conservative challengers played up the government's support for Israel and defeated longtime Liberal lawmakers.

In Montreal, Irwin Cotler, a former justice minister and well-known human rights advocate, won his district in a tough and close race against an Orthodox Jewish former city councillor. Cotler, whose victories in the past were assured, won by a narrow margin.

In Winnipeg, Jewish Liberal lawmaker Anita Neville lost to the Conservative candidate.

Canadian Jewish Congress CEO Bernie Farber told JTA that while Jewish voters may have have shifted away from the Liberals, "the Jewish community doesn't determine any election."

 "The voting pattern in the community really mirrors the rest of Canada," Farber said.

In a statement, B'nai Brith Canada congratulated Harper and said it looks "forward as always to working with the opposition parties as well." -- JTA

Anti-Sharia Laws Stir Concerns that Halachah Could Be Next

John Chasnoff of the American Civil Liberties Union and Gail Wechsler of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis join Muslims in Jefferson City, Mo. on April 12, 2011 to protest a proposed law banning sharia.
(Missouri News Horizon / Creative Commons)
With conservative lawmakers across the United States trying to outlaw sharia, or Islamic religious law, Jewish organizations are concerned that halachah could be next.

If the state legislative initiatives targeting sharia are successful, they would gut a central tenet of American Jewish religious communal life: The ability under U.S. law to resolve differences according to halachah, or Jewish religious law. -- Ron Kampeas, JTA

To read the complete article, click here.

CUNY Nixes Kushner Honorary Degree over Anti-Israel Statements

The City University of New York has voted not to honor playwright Tony Kushner with an honorary degree at its commencement after a board member objected, citing the Pulitzer Prize winner's anti-Israel statements.

The New York Jewish Week reported that the request by CUNY's John Jay College to recognize Kushner was turned down at a board of trustees meeting Monday after board member Jeffrey Wiesenfeld objected. Kushner would have been eligible to speak at the graduation ceremony.

The decision could be the first time in the university system's history that a proposed candidate for an honorary degree has been vetoed, the newspaper reported.

Other candidates approved this year for honorary degrees include former New York Mayor Edward Koch and Bernard Spitzer, the father of former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, from the City College of New York; Joel Klein, the city's former schools chancellor, from CUNY; and Judith Kaye, the state's former chief judge, from John Jay, The Jewish Week reported.

Kushner has been active with organizations that endorse the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

He has written that Israel was "founded in a program that, if you really want to be blunt about it, was ethnic cleansing." Kushner also has said that "it would have been better" had the State of Israel never been created. -- JTA

Oral Histories from 1948 Tell Firsthand Stories of Israel’s Founding

Ruth Farhi, who was a student in Jerusalem in 1948,
sits in her Ramat Gan home for an interview
with cameraman Peleg Levy of Toldot Yisrael,
which is documenting personal recollections
of Israel's War of Independence. (Dina Kraft)
Ruth Farhi’s eyes cloud with tears and her gaze turns from the camera recording her story as she tells of a memorable January night in 1948 that haunts her to this day.

She and a bunch of friends were crammed into her one-room rooftop apartment, sitting at the same upright piano with wooden inlay that sits just feet away from her now, singing and laughing late into the night. The revelry ended only when the 15 young men among them, all fighters in the Haganah, Israel’s pre-state militia, stood up and said their goodbyes.

Not long afterward, Farhi learned that every one of them had been killed later that night along with 20 others. It was one of the bloodiest and most painful episodes in Israel’s War of Independence. They died in an ambush by Arab villagers as they attempted to deliver supplies to a group of besieged kibbutzim. The victims became known as the Lamed Hey fighters -- Hebrew for 35.

“I lived across the street from the Jewish Agency, and by the next morning the place was full of activity,” she recalled. “It was soon evident something terrible had happened.”

Farhi shared her story as part of a project called Toldot Yisrael, which aims to record on video the stories of Israeli and Diaspora Jews who witnessed or were otherwise involved with the War of Independence. The goal is to create a video archive and interactive database for educators, researchers and filmmakers.

Aryeh Halivni, who immigrated to Israel from the United States, modeled Toldot Yisrael after Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Project, which interviewed 52,000 Holocaust survivors on video. -- Dina Kraft, JTA

To read the complete article, click here.

Argentinian Cabinet Head Expresses Israel Support

The head of the Argentina cabinet expressed support for Israel during a Holocaust Memorial Day program.

Anibal Fernandez, one of the main spokesmen for President Cristina Fernandez, spoke Monday before a crowd of nearly 2,000 at an event in Buenos Aires organized by DAIA, the umbrella organization for Argentinian Jewish institutions.

Fernandez cited the anthem of Jewish partisans from the Vilna ghetto during World War II in expressing his support for Israel and its right to exist. -- JTA

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"Saudi Women Revolution" Makes a Stand for Equal Rights

Women outside an election center in Jeddah
on April 23 making a symbolic plea to register.
As election centers across Saudi Arabia opened on April 23 for voters to register for forthcoming municipal elections, groups of women turned up asking to take part.

As expected, they were turned away -- women will not be able to stand or vote in September's municipal elections -- but just by showing up they had made their point.

This was one of the first public acts of the newly-formed "Saudi Women Revolution," a movement set up to campaign for the end of Saudi Arabia's discriminatory laws.

Their chief aim is ending male guardianship, which means Saudi women often need permission from their husband, father, brother or even son to work, travel, study, marry, or access health care, according to Human Rights Watch.

They also want to be allowed to drive, which is forbidden for women in the Kingdom. -- Catriona Davies, CNN

To read the complete article, click here.

In Remote Kyrgyzstan, Jews Secure Ties With Local Elite Amid Political Turmoil

Letter From Bishkek

Still Standing: Rabbi Arie Raichman stands in front of a gazebo on the grounds of the Bishkek synagogue. The structure was damaged slightly by a pipe bomb in September.
Josh Tapper
The main synagogue in this dusty, potholed capital city is a white, two-room chapel that calls to mind an old Quaker meetinghouse. Sitting next to a gazebo-covered courtyard, it feels like an oasis compared to the rundown conditions of nearby properties.

A cracked blue-and-yellow Star of David hung askew on the front of the gazebo, a glaring reminder of a pipe bomb flung over the gates right before Rosh Hashanah services last September. Luckily, the bomb landed in an inflatable swimming pool that the synagogue had recently purchased, causing only minor damage to the gazebo.

“It was a miracle,” chief rabbi Arie Raichman said, smiling behind his bushy black beard as he showed me photos of the damage from inside his office in the synagogue compound. -- Josh Tapper, Forward

To read the complet article, click here.

US Urges UN to Shelve Goldstone Report

America takes Israel's side at UN Photo: Reuters
America against Goldstone: US Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, urged the world body Thursday to end its preoccupation with a report accusing Israel of committing war crimes during the Gaza War.

"The United States urges the United Nations to end, once and for all, its actions in relation to the Goldstone Report," she said.

 The remarks were made during a periodical Security Council session on the state of affairs in the Middle East and the Palestinian question. The US has been leading calls to shelve the controversial report following Judge Richard Goldstone's recent retraction in a Washington Post article. -- ‪Yitzhak Benhorin‬, Ynetnews

To read the complete article, click here.

Op Ed: Jewish Angle Missing From '60 Minutes' Piece on Lara Logan

Lara Logan
Getty Images
Some days I think, Jews are the new women. Jews are like the woman in a room full of men, the ones who are supposed to stay quiet and nice and not talk too loud or even at all, not appear in any way strong or assertive, and never make any waves. Just as society prefers women when they are passive and submissive, the world at large prefers Jews that way, too.

I thought of this as I watched the “60 Minutes” interview with CBS correspondent Lara Logan as she described being sexually assaulted on February 11 amid the uprising in Egypt’s Tahrir Square. Her graphic descriptions of hands and nails everywhere on her body — groping, grabbing, pulling and scratching — are a woman’s worst nightmare. She was the only woman on the CBS team that night, and she was isolated from her crew and throngs of Egyptian men had their way with every inch of her body, inside and out. It was a harrowing account, and most definitively a woman’s story, in the sense that it was her womanhood that made her a victim.

But it is also a Jewish story — and, actually, an Israeli one. -- Elana Maryles Sztokman, Forward

To read hte complete article, click here.

Op Ed: On the News of Osama bin Laden’s Death

“When the wicked perish there are shouts of joy!”
וַבֲאבֹד ְרָׁשִעים ִרָּנהּ
Proverbs 11:10
"If your enemy falls, do not exult; if he stumbles do not let your heart rejoice.”
Proverbs 24:17 ִּב ְנפֹל אֹו ִי ְב ָך, ַאל- ִּת ְׂש ָמח

As a Jew and as an American I am raw with emotion today. In the Hebrew calendar, today is the 28th day of the month of Nissan – which is Yom Ha-Shoah, the day we commemorate the destruction of European Jewry. In front of the world and for all to see, six million men, women and children were methodically and brutally exterminated because they were Jews. We dedicate this day in the Jewish calendar to recall the lives lost, the communities destroyed, and the families and creativity that will simply never be. I believe this day also asks us to consider what is so special about this people, culture of ours that so many sought to wipe off the face of the Earth. What did the Nazis and their sympathizers wish to destroy and – now that we are alive and free – what are the responsibilities and opportunities that come along with this gift that so many never had?

And, of course, this year we commemorate Yom Ha-Shoah on the day on which we learned of Osama Bin Laden’s death. In a daring act of bravery, American commandos hunted down Bin Laden in a city not far from the capital of Pakistan and stormed his compound. American forces killed Bin Laden, ending a nine-and-a-half year search for one of the principal architects of the attacks of 9/11 and the murder of countless men and women of different nationalities and religions. The image that keeps running through my head is from this morning’s news, as a CNBC anchorman tried unsuccessfully to hold back tears as he read a statement of appreciation to the United States military and intelligence community from Howard Lutnick, Chairman and CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald and BGC Partners. I was brought back to those days after September 11, 2001, when we came together as a city and as a nation. Never in all my years as an American or as a resident of New York City have I felt more connected to complete strangers than I did in those days and weeks after 9/11. In an uncanny coincidence, May 2nd also marks the day in the year 1945 on which the world learned of Hitler’s death.

The other image that returns is the celebrations outside the White House last night with singing and dancing. Something made me uncomfortable about watching these celebrations even after the good news of Bin Laden’s death and the justice that was meted out by our military. I have no ambivalence about his targeted killing (if that is  what this was) and I feel nothing but deep pride and appreciation to our government. I would even say that I am uncomfortable with my ambivalence of experiencing joy at the death of our enemy. Why shouldn’t we celebrate? There are forces of evil in the world and Bin Laden was evil. Certainly, there is a difference between the celebrations that occurred on American streets and the dancing that occurs on Arab streets after an American or an Israeli is murdered. An inability or lack of readiness to make a distinction between our legitimate celebration of the killing of a criminal who perpetrated crimes against humanity, and of people who take joy in the murder of innocent people, constitutes the worst kind of moral relativism and cowardice.

But with the memory of the taste of matzah not all that faded, I recall how on the night of the Seder we took drops from our wine glasses and placed them on a napkin in order to diminish our joy because of the suffering of the Egyptians at the hand of God with the ten plagues. I also hear the words of the rabbinic midrash where the angels are chided by God for singing at the drowning of the Egyptians in the Sea – “How dare you sing as my children drown?” The rabbinic author of this midrash imagines God disciplining the angels for singing even at the destruction of Israel’s enemy – a punishment that was just, and carried out by God’s direct will.

For me on this day in this special year, the message is clear. I am part of a people whose great and ancient literary tradition imagines that even God has tempered joy after the just killing of evil people. I am part of a people whose Prime Minister – after a surprise attack intended to destroy her country – tells her former enemy, “We can forgive you for killing our sons. But we will never forgive you for making us kill yours” (Golda Meir, 1977). These words reveal the soul of a special people of whom I am honored to be a part. And while we know the world is a complicated, often morally messy place – right and wrong and good and evil do exist. Today we honor the memory of our martyrs, and all those who equally embrace the truths of the idea that all human beings are created in the image of a loving God, as well as the idea that God wants us to pursue justice.

Today we have justice.
Rabbi David Hoffman, PhD
Jewish Theological Seminary of America

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bin Laden’s Killing Raises Immediate Questions of Security

Upon hearing the news of Osama bin Laden's death, jubilant crowds
packed New York's Times Square
in the wee hours of May 1, 2011. (Uri Fintzy)
For years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, many Americans waited in fear for the next strike by al-Qaida on U.S. soil. But the ensuing decade has seen no more major terrorist attacks in the United States.
Now, with the news that Osama bin Laden has been killed in Pakistan by U.S. forces, the question many American Jews are considering is whether the liquidation of al-Qaida’s leader makes a follow-up attack more or less likely, and whether Jews could be a target.

“More likely,” said Paul Goldenberg, director of the Secure Community Network, the American Jewish community’s security organ known by the acronym SCAN.

“We know of no imminent threat as of today as a direct result of the death of bin Laden,” Goldenberg told JTA on Monday morning, when much of the world woke up to the news of bin Laden’s death. “However, the community should remain extremely vigilant because there are lone wolves, and other terrorist groups have used incidents like this to launch revenge attacks.” -- Uriel Heilman, JTA

To read the complete article, click here.

United Synagogue Statement on the Death of Osama bin Laden

We are grateful to hear about the death of Osama bin Laden. The news of the successful American operation was given even more resonance for Jews around the world as we marked Yom HaShoah. We well know the heartrending grief and pain that a man of impure evil spewing rabid hate can cause. Our tradition warns us not to celebrate the death of any human being, even of our worst enemies, but it does not stop us from gratitude that some measure of justice has been exacted. The world continues to be a dangerous place, but thanks to the resolve of President Obama and the courage of the anonymous American agents, it is slightly less so today than it was yesterday.

Notes on the Death of Osama bin Laden

Photograph by Farooq Naeem.
No doubt there will be time to reflect more deeply about the news announced by President Obama last night. For now, I thought it might be useful to annotate some of the initial headlines.

On where he was found...

On who was living with Bin Laden..

On what bin Laden’s death means for Al Qaeda…

On the hunt itself…

-- Steve Coll, New Yorker Magazine

To read the complete article, click here.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden Leaves Behind Network Linked by Internet

Analysis: Raid against al Qaida leader is vital psychological milestone, but the war will continue for years to come.

A decade after Osama Bin Laden escaped US forces who surrounded his maze of caves in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, US Navy seals backed by helicopters finally caught up with the world's most infamous terrorist in Pakistan.

The successful raid, made possible by a painstaking American intelligence-gathering operation, represents a vital psychological milestone in the global war on al Qaida, for everyday that Bin Laden evaded justice and was free to issue calls and instructions for mass murder was an affront to the American people, and to US prestige.

To be sure, US-led efforts have greatly weakened the jihadi network around the world. Relying on a mix of ground forces, covert operations, assassinations, drone strikes, effective intelligence, as well as an ever-growing internet-based counter-terrorism effort, the US and other states have been able to prevent al-Qaida from carrying out "spectacular" attacks on a high profile Western targets for a number of years. But the battle is far from over.

Bin Laden's death will have little real operational impact on al-Qaida, since it has become a decentralized global network of radicalized followers linked to one another by the internet. Al-Qaida has become a worldview to which anyone can subscribe and act in its name. It stopped relying on its centralized leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan years ago. -- Yaakov Lappin, Jerusalem Post

To read the complete story, click here.

Canadian Election

Please Vote in the National Elections
May 2, 2011

Israel Becomes a "Contributing Nation" to UN’s AIDS Fight

Under newly signed agreement, Jewish State will provide both funding and knowhow to the fight against infectious disease.

The Health and Foreign ministries have for the first time signed an agreement between the State of Israel on the one hand and the World Health Organization and UNAIDS on the other – turning this country into a “contributing nation,” providing both funding and knowhow to the fight against AIDS.

The two ministries will give $150,000 to the WHO and $100,000 to UNAIDS.
-- Judy Siegel-Itzkovitch, Jerusalem Post

To read the complete article, click here.

Pittsburgh Jewish Schools Start New Tuition Initiative

Paul Shaviv
Although UJA Federation of Greater Toronto spends $10 million a year on Jewish day school tuition subsidies, annual fees are daunting.

Full-day tuition here ranges from almost $11,000 for junior kindergarten at the Toronto Heschel School to $20,100 at the community high school, the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto.

In Pittsburgh, Jewish day schools are offering free tuition to new students in grades 3 to 11 for the coming school year.

The initiative is being paid for by three schools as well as by a grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. Tuition ranges from more than $4,600 to $14,000 (US) per year.

Is the new initiative relevant to Toronto, which doesn’t have a comparable program? -- Frances Kraft, Canadian Jewish News

To read the complete article, click here.

When the Lines Are Down

Jerusalem has the country’s only center for severe aphasia – which leaves intelligence intact but impairs the ability to communicate.
There are few worse conditions than having a normal mind imprisoned in a defective brain or body – one that prevents one from speaking, causes words to come out wrong, or makes it difficult to understand written language. The condition – not well known to the public – is called aphasia, from the Greek root aphatos– meaning speechless.

It may result from a stroke, trauma to the brain, a brain tumor or other disorders, and can be permanent or somewhat improved through training.

Brain scans of aphasia victims show lesions to the language areas of the frontal, temporal and parietal lobes. Oddly, depending on the region affected and the amount of damage, some people can’t speak but can write, while others can do the opposite. Some can sing but not speak, or have other deficits. -- Judy Siegel-Itzkovitch, Jerusalem Post

To view the complete article, click here.

An Aunt’s Legacy Is Erased in Maine A Century After Triangle Fire, Labor Activist’s Name Is Purged

Forgotten Hero: Rose Schneiderman (right) was one of the figures in the mural.
Courtesy of Annie Schneiderman Valliere
As Annie Schneiderman Valliere drove south from her home in Woolwich, Maine, to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire’s centennial commemoration in New York City, friends began calling her cell phone with disturbing news: Her aunt, activist Rose Schneiderman, was about to be scrubbed from Maine’s labor history.

The state’s pro-business Republican governor had ordered a public mural that told labor’s story and was prominently displayed at the Labor Department to be dismantled and packed away in a secret location. Schneiderman’s image was in the background of a panel that honored Frances Perkins, the U.S. secretary of labor under Franklin Roosevelt and the first woman to hold a Cabinet rank. And the agency’s conference rooms — named for Perkins, Schneiderman and Cesar Chavez — would also lose their special designations.

“I think it’s a sad commentary on what the future will bring, at least for this governor,” Valliere told the Forward in an interview. She said she worried about “what we’ll go back to when he’s done. I think it’s embarrassing for the state.” -- Maia Efrem, Forward

To read the complete article, click here.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Do Israeli and American Jews Need Each Other?

Starting in 2005, American readers of the Israeli daily Haaretz noticed something new in its pages: well-informed, jaunty analyses not only of American politics and diplomacy but of American Jews and American Judaism. The paper's correspondent was clearly a native-born Israeli, but, in decidedly un-Israeli fashion, he not only was genuinely interested in understanding American Jewry from within but regularly had insightful things to say about it.

Now, three years after the end of his stint in the U.S., and having established himself as a leading journalist on both sides of the Atlantic, including as the author of the popular Jerusalem Post blog, Rosner's Domain, Shmuel Rosner has gathered the fruits of his reporting and research in a Hebrew volume aimed at his native audience.

Despite its flip title, Shtetl, Bagel, Baseball is an excellent tour d'horizon of current trends in American Jewish politics, demographics, economics, and religion. The subtitle, "On the Dreadful, Wonderful State of America's Jews," well conveys the author's dual approach: a characteristically skeptical, Zionist take on the future of American Jews coupled with an un-Zionist willingness to be charmed and dazzled by their accomplishments and relentless experimentation. In the latter respect, Rosner (a friend and colleague) certainly parts company with the more doctrinaire versions of classical Zionism's "negation of the Diaspora." -- Yehudah Mirsky, Jewish Ideas Daily

To read the complete article, click here.

Jewish Community Aiding Tornado Victims

Jewish groups are mobilizing assistance in areas of the U.S. Southeast struck by devastating tornadoes this week.

The Birmingham Jewish Federation in Alabama has opened a Tornado Recovery Fund to raise money for victims of the storms and tornadoes, which struck Wednesday and continued Thursday morning. The federation is coordinating a community relief effort with the United Way of Central Alabama, focusing on the Birmingham region, which was particularly hard hit. Hundreds of homes were destroyed, and more than a million homes and buildings were without power as of Friday afternoon.

Knesset Israel Congregation of Birmingham held a communal meal Thursday night and was planning to do the same over Shabbat, to aid those without electricity. The congregation's rabbi, Eytan Yammer, is giving monetary aid to victims from his discretionary funds.

Nearly 300 people were killed in six states, two-thirds of them in Alabama alone. So far, no Jewish deaths or injuries have been reported, although several Jewish homes in Alambama were damaged by trees, according to Southern Jewish Life.

"Fortunately, much of our Jewish community was minimally affected by the storms, though we have received some calls for assistance," Collat Jewish Family Services Executive Director Lauren Perlman reported Thursday.

“In Birmingham, there’s no separation between the Jewish community and our broader community," said Joyce Spielberger, director of community relations and overseas programs at the Birmingham Jewish Federation. "There is not one person in Alabama that has not been affected.”

B'nai B'rith International also has opened a mailbox for donations to the affected area. -- JTA


The Jewish human rights organization B’nai Brith Canada has called on all Canadians to come out to cast their ballot in the upcoming federal election to ensure their voice is heard on the key issues of the day.

“Canadians should not take for granted the rights enshrined in our Constitution, especially the right to vote for who will lead this country and represent us on the world stage”, said Frank Dimant, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada. “This is a right that many individuals around the world are denied.”

“Voting is not only a right but a responsibility for all citizens, in order for democracy to flourish.

“There are many issues of concern in this election that include ensuring an unwavering stance on security and safety at a time when the threat of global terrorism has intensified, and pursuing freedom and justice both at home and abroad given that tyrants and despots worldwide continue to commit human rights abuses with impunity, threatening not only their own subjects, but also world peace. Canadians also need to be able to rely on a strong economy and a robust social safety net that will meet the health and welfare needs of people of all ages Whatever priorities individual Canadians may have, it is clear that our country, and the party that receives the mandate to govern it, can only be strengthened by strong voter turnout and ongoing participation in the democratic process.”

Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day May 2, 2011

Yad Vashem -
The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority
Central Theme - Fragments of Memory: The Faces behind the Documents, Artifacts and Photographs

Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah in Hebrew) is a national day of commemoration in Israel, on which the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust are memorialized. It is a solemn day, beginning at sunset on the 27th of the month of Nisan (May 1, 2011) and ending the following evening, according to the traditional Jewish custom of marking a day. Places of entertainment are closed and memorial ceremonies are held throughout the country.

The central ceremonies, in the evening and the following morning, are held at Yad Vashem and are broadcast on the television. Marking the start of the day - in the presence of the President of the State of Israel and the Prime Minister, dignitaries, survivors, children of survivors and their families, gather together with the general public to take part in the memorial ceremony at Yad Vashem in which six torches, representing the six million murdered Jews, are lit.

The following morning, the ceremony at Yad Vashem begins with the sounding of a siren for two minutes throughout the entire country. For the duration of the sounding, work is halted, people walking in the streets stop, cars pull off to the side of the road and everybody stands at silent attention in reverence to the victims of the Holocaust. Afterward, the focus of the ceremony at Yad Vashem is the laying of wreaths at the foot of the six torches, by dignitaries and the representatives of survivor groups and institutions. Other sites of remembrance in Israel, such as the Ghetto Fighters' Kibbutz and Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, also host memorial ceremonies, as do schools, military bases, municipalities and places of work. -- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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