Friday, August 5, 2011

Quit Christians Only Prayer Rally, Religious Leaders Urge Texas Governor

Sixteen rabbis are among the more than 50 Houston religious leaders who signed a letter asking Texas Gov. Rick Perry to reconsider participating in a Christian prayer rally.

Rick Perry, a potential Republican presidential candidate, plans to host "The Response" on Aug. 6 at Houston's Reliant Stadium. In a commercial featured on the rally's website, Perry "calls on Americans to pray and fast like Jesus did, and the Israelites did in the book of Job," as a solution to the "economy in trouble, communities in crisis, and people adrift in a sea of moral relativism."

The Response is sponsored by the American Family Association, a Conservative Christian advocacy nonprofit founded in 1977 as the National Federation for Decency. The rally follows the association's statement of faith, which includes that the Christian Bible is "the inspired, the only infallible, authorative Word of God."

In the letter, the leaders criticize Perry for calling for "a full day of exclusionary prayer. ... This religious event is not open to all faiths, and its statement of beliefs does not represent religious diversity."

The rabbis who signed are members of the Anti-Defamation League's Coalition of Mutual Respect, a group of U.S. interfaith leaders who promote education and respect among religions and ethnicities.

"By his actions," the letter says, "Governor Perry is expressing an official message of endorsement of one faith over all others, thereby sending an official message of religious exclusion and preference to all Texans who do not share that faith. We believe our religious freedom is threatened when a government official promotes religion, especially one religion over all others." -- JTA

Rare Life-Saving Heart Operation Saves Haiti Girl

Doctors at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv have performed a rare and complicated life-saving open-heart operation on a 12-year-old Haitian girl.

The doctors discovered Amy Mariolata when she came to a primary care clinic outside Port au Prince opened by Israeli medics in the wake of Haiti's devastating earthquake in January 2010.

She was suffering from rheumatic heart disease, a condition affecting the heart valves, and had a life expectancy of just two years.

The doctors brought her to Israel and carried out an eight-hour surgery, which is likely to extend her life by at least 20-30 years. The $30,000 operation and transportation costs were covered by Sheba. -- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Click on image below to see accompanying video.

The Womanizer’s Wife

(Photo: Alan Benainous/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Billionairess Anne Sinclair stood by her man when just about everyone else in the world believed the maid. Is it that she knows her husband Dominique Strauss-Kahn? Or that she doesn’t? -- Vanessa Grigoriadis, New York Magazine

To read more, click here.

Op Ed: Jewish Power and Jewish Loss

On Thursday, July 21, I attended a press conference announcing the passing of a bill, C-442, a private member’s bill passed on the final day of the last Parliament that created a National Holocaust Memorial in Ottawa.

I learned that Canada has the third-largest population of Holocaust survivors in the world, yet it’s the last of the western nations that fought on the side of the Allies to erect a national Holocaust memorial. 

As a Canadian Jewish community, we are committed to make sure the world will “never forget” the events of the Holocaust. We are familiar with the slogan “Never Again.” We derive from the Holocaust important lessons for how we are to live our lives. -- Rabbi Chaim Strauchler, Canadian Jewish News

Click here to read more.

Torontonian Co-Founds Kindergarten in Ramla

Lianne Merkur with Ramla mayor Yoel Lavi
at the Circle School’s booth at a job fair earlier this year.
As part of a class assignment five years ago, Lianne Merkur wrote a business plan for a school serving Jewish and Arab children in Israel.

The Toronto native’s vision – tweaked and fine-tuned – is now on its way to becoming reality.

Merkur, 23, is co-founding a kindergarten with her 29-year-old boyfriend and business partner, Jalil Dabit, a Christian Arab community youth advocate, in Ramla, Israel. The Circle School ( will serve three- to five-year-olds. -- Frances Kraft, Canadian Jewish News

To read more, click here.

In their 40s and 50s, Embarking on Second Careers as Rabbis

Evette Lutman, 52, who was ordained in 2010
at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College,
serves as rabbi at B'nai Havurah in Denver.
David Zalubowski/ The Denver Post)
Ten years ago, Sonia Saltzman was a frequent business traveler to Latin America for a Boston-based nonprofit job in international micro-lending.

Evette Lutman spent more than 10 years working as an attorney representing battered women and serving as a family referee in a Michigan county courthouse. Charles Friedman worked for nearly 15 years in his family's business in plastics construction manufacturing.

Today, all three are rabbis, having changed careers midlife to pursue their Jewish dreams....

The three belong to a small group of second-career rabbis who are finding their place in the world of Jewish religious leadership in their 40s and 50s. -- Penny Schwartz, JTA

To read more, click here.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bay Won’t Speculate on Its Reaction if New Boycott Called Ahava Products on Shelves in Fall

The newly branded Ahava skin care line is due to arrive this fall in stores across North America, including The Bay, which was mired in controversy last year when it removed the Israeli product from its shelves while a protest by anti-Israel groups demanding a boycott of Ahava was under way.

Both Ahava and The Bay claimed that the timing was purely coincidental; the decision to cease carrying Ahava was inspired by commercial considerations and the fact that Ahava was planning to re-brand, they said. The issue was never completely resolved due to inconsistencies in statements made at the time by Bay CEO Bonnie Brooks, as well as the fact that other retailers continued carrying Ahava (See Jewish Tribune, "Confusion Reigns at Bay," Jan. 20, 2011).

In any event, the campaign to boycott Ahava seems to have failed thus far and the new line will be available late September or early October.

However, Tiffany Bourre, external communications manager for the Hudson’s Bay Company, told the Jewish Tribune that the company “could not speculate” how it would react to any new demand for a boycott of Israeli products and will take each case as it comes. -- Atara Beck, Jewish Tribune (Canada)

To read more, click here.

The Line Between Worship and Entertainment

Everyone, it seems, knows that "you don't clap in shul," that is, you don't applaud after a prayer is sung or a speech is given. I'm sure you've cringed as I have the few times I've seen it happen. I've always understood the lack of applause to designate that worship is fundamentally different from performance: the audience is not the people in the seats who bought tickets; rather, it is God, before whom the community performs. Thus, no matter how moved you are from a worship experience, you refrain from applause, a recognition that you are not a passive audience member, but are part of the cast of the show, and the audience is the Almighty.

Yet this distinction, policed though it may be by the clapping rule, is not absolute.

It's no accident that the first American movie with sound, The Jazz Singer (1927), told the story of a musical Jew caught between his father's wishes for him to become a cantor and his own desire to apply his muse to a popular art. Indeed, the history of American Jewish music seems to teeter on the question of tradition and novelty, between a distant past and the creative "now." Worship music in the 20th century is clearly influenced by surrounding entertainment music, but the more interesting case is when the opposite occurs: when music created for entertainment finds its way back into worship or other religious settings. -- Ethan Goldberg, Brandeis University, KOACH

To read more, click here.

Cambria County Students Research Barnesboro Jews’ Story

Photo courtesy of David Karp A grainy black and white photo of the B’nai Israel Synagogue in Barnesboro appears
on the cover of this 1927 program for “dedication and consecration exercises.
The students of Northern Cambria High School often walked by the 85-year-old deserted synagogue, but never paid it much attention. Some did not even know what it was.

But all that has changed. And in a big way.

For the last year, 15 of the school’s juniors and seniors have embarked on a project researching the local Jewish history of their small town, and participating in the $341,000 renovation of the former B’nai Israel synagogue building so that it can be used for social services.

Under the tutelage of Karen Bowman, history teacher and chair of the social studies department, students have traced census records, deeds, and conducted oral interviews with the descendents of the Jewish merchants that helped build the once thriving coal-mining town of Barnesboro. -- Toby Tabachnick, Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle

To read more, click here.

Rosa Parks Essay Reveals Rape Attempt

Long before Rosa Parks was hailed as the "mother of the civil rights movement," she wrote a detailed and harrowing account of nearly being raped by a white neighbor who employed her as a housekeeper in 1931.

The six-page essay, written in her own hand many years after the incident, is among thousands of her personal items currently residing in the Manhattan warehouse and cramped offices of Guernsey's Auctioneers, which has been selected by a Michigan court to find an institution to buy and preserve the complete archive.

The Associated Press was provided with some samples of the documents in the archive, including portions of the essay. Archivists had reviewed the documents for Guernsey's and provided descriptions of their contents.

Civil rights historian Danielle McGuire said she had never before heard of the attempted rape of Parks and called the find among Parks' papers astounding. -- Ula Ilnytzy, Associated Press via Yahoo

To read more, click here.

Op Ed: Let's Play Breast-Feeding--Breast-Feeding Doll Is Latest Reality Play

Berjuan Toys has sold more than 2 million Breast Milk Baby dolls in Europe, where the Spanish company markets the doll as Bebe Gloton. The doll is now being sold in the U.S. for $89. The Breast Milk Baby doll by Berjuan Toys. Image provided by Berjuan Toys.
First there was Chatty Cathy, the baby doll who said "I love you" (or one of 10 other phrases) when a child pulled the string on her neck. Then there was Baby Alive, who chewed her food and soiled her diaper when a child pumped the lever on her back.

Now there's Breast Milk Baby, who suckles and makes slurping noises when held close to the sensors in the strategically placed daisy appliques on a child's pretend nursing bra.

We're almost afraid to ask what's next.

Berjuan Toys of Spain has sold more than 2 million of the dolls in Europe, where it was marketed as Bebe Gloton. Breast Milk Baby is now available in the U.S. for $89. -- Editors, Chicago Tribune

To read more, click here.

Seeking U.S. Citizens Born in Jerusalem: Stand Up, and Be Counted!

Women's League for Conservative Judaism (WLCJ) has signed onto the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)'s  “Friend of the Court” brief in Zivotofsky v. Clinton, urging the Supreme Court to enforce a law passed by Congress in 2002 requiring the State Department to allow American citizens born in Jerusalem to have their place of birth recorded as “Israel” on their U.S. passport and Consular Report of Birth Abroad.

Current State Department policy insists that such passports say “Jerusalem,” while American citizens born in Tel Aviv can choose to have their passport say “Tel Aviv” or “Israel.” (See below for more information on this "Friend of the Court" brief.

WLCJ's signing onto this brief is consistent with its organization's resolutions.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is seeking U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem who are interested in having their voices heard at the U.S. Supreme Court in a case involving the right of such citizens to have their place of birth recorded as "Israel" on their United States passport. ADL is working with the International Israel Allies Caucus Foundation and the National Council of Young Israel on this project.

Americans born in Jerusalem, or American parents of minors born in Jerusalem, are invited to join the new ad hoc Association of Proud Americans Born in Jerusalem, Israel.  As part of the effort, a web site has been created at where U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem can register and learn more about the case, and supporters can take action to make their voices heard.

ADL will file a "Friend of the Court" brief next week in Zivotofsky v. Clinton, urging the Supreme Court to enforce a law passed by Congress in 2002 requiring the State Department to allow American citizens born in Jerusalem to have their place of birth recorded as "Israel" on their U.S. passport and Consular Report of Birth Abroad.  The Ad Hoc Association will sign onto ADL's brief, bringing the voice of its membership to the Supreme Court.

Current State Department policy insists that such passports say "Jerusalem," while American citizens born in Tel Aviv can choose to have their passport say "Tel Aviv" or "Israel."

The "Born in Jerusalem" web site also has information on how supporters of the legislation may send a letter to members of Congress urging them to join a special legislators' brief insisting that the 2002 law be enforced.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Russians Mum on Requests for Wallenberg Info

Russian authorities have failed to respond to requests for more information on the Raoul Wallenberg case.

The requests by The Associated Press and the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants came in the aftermath of the release of a  new book released by the Russian government on Wallenberg.

“Secrets of the Third Reich Diplomacy,” which was released earlier this year, contains quotes from the interrogation of Willy Roedel, a German officer who shared a cell with Wallenberg. Roedel was arrested by the Soviets after World War II.

Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat who helped tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews escape persecution during World War II. He was arrested by the Soviet Union in 1945 and Soviet officals said he was executed in 1947. However, scholars and family members insist that Wallenberg lived in the state-run gulag camps for decades after he was declared dead.

Academics investigating the disappearance of Wallenberg for years have requested tapes of Roedel’s interrogation, but the Russians have maintained that such tapes never existed.

Roedel’s published statements predate his introduction to Wallenberg, but focus on his relationship with Gustav Richter, a German police attache who was Wallenberg’s cellmate for the first six weeks of his arrest.

While the new information does little to explain the fate of Wallenberg, it does suggest that the Russians may have more information on the diplomat's life than have been made public. Roedel’s statements were pulled from an unpublished 549-page file that appears to have 57 unreleased pages. -- JTA

Op Ed: What Million Missing Israelis?

Demography is like magic. Put the right numbers in the wrong hands, and you get manipulation. Put the wrong numbers in the right hands, and you get miscalculation. But the case of "The Million Missing Israelis" -- an article published in on at the beginning of July by Joseph Chamie and Barry Mirkin -- is a hard one to categorize. Indeed, the two writers have the wrong numbers. They also make some statements that might raise suspicions related to motivations -- namely, that their demography is driven by a political agenda rather than science.

Chamie and Mirkin argue that the unpublicized story of emigration from Israel is no less significant than the story of Jewish immigration back to the homeland, and that it has reached a point at which it should be considered a threat to Israel's future as a Jewish state -- both demographically but no less important ideologically. "The departure of Jewish Israelis also contributes to the undermining of the Zionist ideology," the authors write, based on the assumption that a million Israelis have chosen to leave the country since its 1948 birth. Magnanimously, they take the trouble to also include lower estimations of departing Israelis --"the official estimate of 750,000 Israeli emigrants -- 10 percent of the population" -- but even so, that doesn't change the perception that Israel is just like "Mexico, Morocco, and Sri Lanka." Not the most exemplary models of prosperity and success. -- Yogev Karasenty and Shmuel Rosner, Foreign Policy via JTA

To read more, click here.

Israel to Extradite Bosnian Serb on War Crimes Charge

Aleksandar Cvetkovic, a Bosnian Serb
suspected of involvement in genocide.
Photo by: Interpol
A Bosnian Serb with Israeli citizenship can be extradited to Bosnia to stand trial on charges of genocide, a Jerusalem court ruled.

Aleksandar Cvetkovic, who is married to an Israeli woman, will be extradited to a court in Sarajevo in the next 60 days following Monday's ruling by the Jerusalem District Court, unless he appeals to Israel's Supreme Court within 30 days.

Cvetkovic, 43, is accused of involvement in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Serbian troops.

He was arrested in January following an extradition request from Bosnia. He is alleged to have been part of an eight-man firing squad that executed Bosnian Muslim males at the Branjevo Farm as part of the massacre.

Cvetkovic, who has lived in Israel since 2006, said he served as an army driver in Srebrenica during Bosnia's civil war between 1992 and 1995, and did not participate in the massacre. -- JTA

For more details, click here.

Australia’s Oldest Jew dies at 110

Mary Rothstein earlier this year.
Mary Rothstein, Australia’s oldest Jew, has died at age 110.

Rothstein died Tuesday afternoon at an aged-care facility run by Jewish Care in Melbourne. 

She was the second-oldest Australian and was believed to be the second-oldest Jew in the world after Evelyn Kozak of New York City, according to Robert Young, a senior researcher at the U.S.-based Gerontology Research Group, which specializes in verifying centenarians and supercentenarians.

Born in Russia, Rothstein and her family escaped the pogroms to England soon after she was born in 1901. She had no birth certificate, so she was not named in the world’s 89 validated living supercentenarians listed by the Gerontology Research Group.

Rothstein lived in London for half her life, working as a milliner making hats for the royal family, before immigrating to Australia.

Rothstein’s daughter, Ruth Cavallaro, who visited her mother twice daily since she was moved into the aged-care facility 17 years ago, told JTA, “I’m numb, it hasn’t actually hit me. I don’t know what I’ll do with my time. She was a wonderful mother, very good to her grandchildren and loved her great-grandchildren. It’s very sad that this era has gone.”

Cavallaro said her mother only ate in kosher restaurants and used to walk to synagogue every Saturday until she was moved from her home.

As for her secret to her long life, Rothstein’s daughter said on her mother's 110th birthday in March, “The only thing I can honestly say about her is she never drank, never smoked and never swore. And she worked very hard.”

Along with her daughter, Rothstein is survived by two grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. -- JTA

For more information, click here.

Radio Israel

Radio in Israel is as ubiquitous as hummus, falafel, and politics. During their morning and evening commutes, motorists as well as bus passengers (captive to the listening tastes of their drivers) are likely to be hearing either one of seven Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) affiliated stations or one of two Army Radio outlets. The airwaves' other two dozen stations offer a host of regional and language options, as well as music ranging from Tel Aviv chic to ethnic Mizrahi.  (This diverse menu does not include Arutz-7, a station aimed primarily at West Bank residents, which, due to government regulations, is now restricted to internet broadcasts.)

Army Radio (known by the Hebrew acronym GALATZ, meaning galei Tzahal or "IDF waves") was founded in 1951 and aimed at conscripts and reservists. The schedule was expanded and a much wider audience sought after the 1967 Six Day War. GALGALATZ, the enormously popular sister station, was established in 1993 to offer a younger, trendier audience a steady diet of the latest Western and Hebrew pop music (often on request from soldiers' text messages).  -- Elliot Jager, Jewish Ideas Daily

To read more, click here.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Giffords Return Marks Moment of Unity in Divided House

Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in January,
appeared on the floor of the House of Representatives
after the vote. House Television, via Associated Press
House Television, via Associated PressRepresentative Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in January, appeared on the floor of the House of Representatives after the vote.

The clock was running down, and the debt ceiling compromise did not yet have enough Yeas to pass. Then, slowly, applause started trickling through the House chamber. The clapping grew over the next half minute, until finally, the person who somehow managed to draw universal admiration from the frayed body came into view.

Representative Gabrielle Giffords made a surprise appearance Monday evening on the floor of the House of Representatives, the first time she has returned to Washington since she was shot earlier this year in Arizona.

With two minutes remaining on the voting clock, Ms. Giffords entered the chamber through a side door. Her arrival prompted a standing ovation that lasted throughout the remainder of the vote on the compromise to raise the debt ceiling. She was among one of the last representatives to cast her ballot, voting yes on the measure as other affirmative votes put the bill over the top.

“Gabby is voting to support the bipartisan debt-ceiling compromise,” said a post on her Facebook page. “This is a huge step in her recovery, and an example of what we all know–she is determined to get better, and to serve CD8 and our nation. This vote–expected to be very close–was simply too important for her to miss.”

Ms. Giffords waved and quickly was surrounded by her Democratic colleagues. Some Republicans crossed the aisle to see her, too, as she rose to wave again. -- Michael D. Shear, Sarah Wheaton and Jeff Zeleny, The Caucus blog, NY Times

To read more, click here.

The Santa Maria Minyan

Courtesy of Edgar de la Pena
Located in the northern part of Santa Barbara County, but as distant from chic Santa Barbara as one can imagine, Santa Maria is a blue-collar town dotted with fast-food and barbecue joints. In recent years, its population, at least half of which is Latino, has mushroomed to 100,000, fueled by agribusiness — including vineyards and wineries — and the city’s other growing industries.

On a Friday afternoon, the local radio stations play mostly Christian music or gospel chants in both English and Spanish. The city’s main drags are lined with churches of all denominations.

But one church in particular stands out. Out front there’s a large banner that reads, in all capital letters: Congregacion Beth Shalom. The spelling of Congregacion isn’t a mistake; it’s Spanish. Edgar de la Peña, a 36-year-old Mexican-born graphic artist who grew up in Santa Maria, is the founder and leader of Beth Shalom, a devout community with a dozen families — approximately 60 people — including many children.

Every Shabbat and every Jewish holiday, and on other occasions as well, they gather in the sanctuary and meeting hall they rent from the church, or at people’s homes. Though fairly new to the religion, they worship, study and live their Judaism wholeheartedly, and they do it communally.

Like many Latinos who were raised Christian and later became Jews by Choice, de la Peña has family memories that connect him to Judaism. He said that when he was 7 years old and still living in Michoacan, Mexico, he traveled to Jalisco to see relatives. He and his family arrived on a Friday. Before sundown, his grandmother told him to put on good clothes and turn off the TV. The table for Friday night dinner was set elegantly, and the family didn’t go out in the public square until after sundown on Saturday evening. --Roberto Loiederman, The Tribe via JTA

To read more, click here.

A Game-Changer in Breast Cancer Detection

RUTH screens for breast cancer without touching the patient.
Israeli device now in clinical trials avoids radiation, guesswork, discomfort and other downsides that make mammography an imperfect screening tool.

Early detection is the key to improving breast cancer survival rates, but mammography is not the ideal method to accomplish this goal. On this point, medical experts across the globe agree.

Not as clear is what could do the job without the disadvantages of mammography -- which often causes pain or discomfort; emits radiation; cannot properly image dense breast tissue; relies on a radiologist's interpretation of the image; and is not recommended for routine screening of women under age 40 or 50.

Of several approaches being developed worldwide, an Israeli solution pioneered by electro-optical engineer Boaz Arnon holds particular promise in providing a game-changing device for early detection of breast cancer. -- Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel21c

To read more, click here.

As Chefs Become More Observant, Kosher Menus Go Gourmet

For Some, Cooking Kosher Is an Opportunity, Not a Drawback
Deliciously Kosher: Moshe Wendel puts the finishing touches
on a dish at Pardes, his restaurant in Brooklyn. Saul Sudin
Duck leg confit served with white bean cassoulet. House-made lamb bacon. Mexican-inflected California cuisine. Not the offerings you would have expected at a kosher restaurant 20 years ago, perhaps not even a decade ago. But a handful of high end, innovative kosher restaurants, primarily in the gastronomic capitals of New York and California, have sprouted in the past decade, immutably changing the kosher dining landscape.

Much of this change has been propelled by baalei teshuvah chefs and diners, those who were raised in the religious world, left an observant life and returned, or those who became more observant later in life. “They’re driving the revolution” said Sue Fishkoff, author of “Kosher Nation: Why More and More of America’s Food Answers to a Higher Authority.” “Look at the chefs and the winemakers and the cookbook writers… so many of them are baalei teshuvah. They’ve come from the world of non-kosher food; they know it, appreciate it and are bringing it into the world of kosher.”  -- Devra Ferst , Forward

To read more, click here.

Kosher Pork in Sunnyside, Queens, NY

Rabbis saw to it long ago that it’s against the law to have a pig farm on Jewish-owned land in Israel, so Jewish pig-farmers there (perhaps after consulting a legal-loophole-minded rabbi of their own) built their sties on platforms above the land—taking the practice of raising pigs to a whole new level.

But if you want actual Kosher pork—pork spare ribs, pork cutlets, center-cut pork chops, all labeled in Hebrew “Sh’Chita Beit Yosef” (i.e., kosher slaughtered)—you get that only in New York, only at the Associated Supermarket at 4407 Greenpoint Avenue, in Sunnyside, Queens, and only for a few hours today, between the time the Israeli artist Oded Hirsch snapped the above photo on his cell phone and it got forwarded to me, and the time I phoned Aris Duran, the supermarket manager, for an explanation.

“What are you saying?” Duran asked. “Pork cannot be kosher.” So I e-mailed him the photo. He called me right back, and said he was going to pull all the meat off the shelves. “It was a mistake,” he said, and a few seconds later he called back and left a message to say, “Thanks for alerting me.”

Duran had to leave a message because I was on the other line to the Orthodox Union, whose voice-mail recording describes it as “the global leader in Kosher supervision and the world’s largest Jewish resource.” (So much for the Torah and the Talmud.) I pressed two for matters Kosher, and listened to another menu until I heard: “To report a product that may be mistakenly labelled, press four.” I did, and was invited to leave a message for Howard Katzenstein, who called me right back. “I have to tell you,” he told me, “my father-in-law read your magazine religiously—or some would say irreligiously. How can I help you?” I told him about the kosher pork for sale in Sunnyside. “If the price is right, I say go with it, right?” Katzenstein said, and giggled.

But seriously, Katzenstein told me, he hears of such outrages only “rarely.” -- Philip Gourevitch, The New Yorker

To read more, click here.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Where Politics Are Complex, Simple Joys at the Beach

A group of Israeli women illegally brought some of their Palestinian counterparts
from the southern part of the West Bank into Israel for a day of fun.
The Palestinian women went in disguise, which meant removing clothes
rather than covering up.
Credit: Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times
Skittish at first, then wide-eyed with delight, the women and girls entered the sea, smiling, splashing and then joining hands, getting knocked over by the waves, throwing back their heads and ultimately laughing with joy.

Most had never seen the sea before.

The women were Palestinians from the southern part of the West Bank, which is landlocked, and Israel does not allow them in. They risked criminal prosecution, along with the dozen Israeli women who took them to the beach. And that, in fact, was part of the point: to protest what they and their hosts consider unjust laws. -- Ethan Bronner, NY Times

To read more, click here.

Knesset Rejects Civil Marriage Bill

Seventeen lawmakers vote in favor of Meretz MK's proposal for non-religious marriage, 40 oppose

The Knesset on Wednesday rejected a bill initiated by Knesset Member Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), allowing civil marriage in Israel. Seventeen lawmakers voted in favor of the proposal in its preliminary reading, while 40 voted against it.

The bill was aimed at allowing Israelis to choose between civil or religious marriage. Divorce would have been performed in accordance with the type of marriage, unless the couple agreed in writing to divorce in a different way.

Moran Azulay, Ynetnews

To read more, click here.

A Garden Refuge in the Heart of Jerusalem

Five years ago, the plot of land on the grounds of the Natural History Museum in Jerusalem was barren and unused. Today it has become the city's largest community garden.

Designed as a space to grow organic crops, the garden – located just a stone's throw from a busy street - is also an educational institution and an urban refuge for the people of Jerusalem.

The community garden is open to anyone, and regular visitors include school children, artists and a nursery for mentally disabled adults. -- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To view video, click on image below.

Canadian DJ Finds Audience for Klezmer Fusion in France

DJ SoCalled -- Josh Dolgin of Montreal --
performing his blend of klezmer and hip-hop
before a sold-out crowd in Paris.
(Alex Weisler)
Josh Dolgin didn’t set out to kick Yiddish music into the 21st century.

But there’s no denying that the 34-year-old musician’s beguiling blend of ‘70s-style funk, hip-hop beats, traditional Chasidic melodies and klezmer has been an electric addition to the Jewish music scene.

On July 11, Dolgin, who performs under the name DJ SoCalled, drew a sold-out crowd of bubbes and hipsters to Cafe de la Danse, a 500-seat venue in Paris.

Dolgin, who lives in Montreal, is popular in France. In North America, he says, there’s a greater pressure for music to be easily categorized, and identity politics is a game he doesn’t want to play.

“America? Forget about it -- if you’re not dressed up like a rabbi singing reggae, then Jews don’t want anything to do with you and non-Jews don’t want anything to do with you,” he told JTA. “People want to put you in a little rack on the iTunes store.”  -- Alex Weisler, JTA

To read more, click here.

For Non-Jewish Mothers Raising Jewish Children, Things Can Get Complicated

Lisa Shimel and her husband, John Davis,
are raising their sons, Justin Davis, left, and Adam Davis,
as Jewish, in accordance with John's religious heritage.
(Courtesy Lisa Shimel)
Lisa Shimel, who is not Jewish, celebrated Christmas with her Jewish husband until their first child was born; now they’ve added Chanukah. Deb Morandi works at Jewish Family Services, where she introduces intermarried families to Judaism, though she is not Jewish.

Pat Luftman was a committee co-chair in her son’s Jewish preschool, but her Jewish husband was denied a board position because the couple was intermarried. The Rev. Eleanor Harrison Bregman accompanies her children and Jewish husband to synagogue on Saturday, then goes to church the next day on her own.

A growing number of non-Jewish parents in America who have no plans to convert are raising Jewish children, marrying Jewish spouses, building Jewish homes and playing active roles in the Jewish community. But without plans to join the faith officially, their place in the Jewish community can be a bit complicated. -- Sue Fishkoff, JTA


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Field Intelligence Observers: An all-female unit that defends the borders of Israel day and night

Field Intelligence
"Intelligence gathering is extremely professional and demands extensive training and instruction," said Brig. Gen. Eli Pollack, the Head Field Intelligence Officer.

The Field Intelligence Observers are an all-female unit of the Field Intelligence Crops, working 24 hours a day behind computer screens defending the borders of Israel. During extremely long shifts, the observers make sure there are no suspicious bodies or infiltration attempts in their designated areas.

If a suspect is identified, they track it and simultaneously inform the relevant forces in the field. The girls also have the option of using the See-Shoot device enabling them to fire from afar after receiving permission and specific instructions from their commanders.

The observers remain at the same base throughout their service and know the details of every inch of their area. -- Rotem Eliav, IDF

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Ope Ed: Is Terrorism Against Israel Really More Justified Than Terrorism Against Norway?

In a recent interview, Norway's Ambassador to Israel has suggested that Hamas terrorism against Israel is more justified than the recent terrorist attack against Norway. His reasoning is that, "We Norwegians consider the occupation to be the cause of the terror against Israel." In other words terrorism against Israeli citizens is the fault of Israel. The terrorism against Norway, on the other hand, was based on "an ideology that said that Norway, particularly the Labor Party, is foregoing Norwegian culture." It is hard to imagine that he would make such a provocative statement without express approval from the Norwegian government.

I can't remember many other examples of so much nonsense compressed in such short an interview. First of all, terrorism against Israel began well before there was any "occupation". The first major terrorist attack against Jews who had long lived in Jerusalem and Hebron began in 1929, when the leader of the Palestinian people, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, ordered a religiously-motivated terrorist attack that killed hundreds of religious Jews—many old, some quite young. Terrorism against Jews continued through the 1930s. Once Israel was established as a state, but well before it captured the West Bank, terrorism became the primary means of attacking Israel across the Jordanian, Egyptian and Lebanese borders. If the occupation is the cause of the terror against Israel, what was the cause of all the terror that preceded any occupation? -- Alan M. Dershowitz, Hudson NY

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Struggling to Survive: Small Jewish Communities across the U.S. Are Fighting to Stay Afloat

Robert A. Moses (above), a synagogue officer and member of its long-term planning committee,
now finds himself planning for the congregation’s future with other committee members.
Bill Aron, Courtesy of Special Collection, College of Charleston Library
There were Hebrew school classes and youth activities, bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings and a full roster of minyans in Butte, Montana. There were three synagogues — two Orthodox and one Reform. There once were upward of 1,000 Jews. There were….

And that is a problem for synagogues in small towns like Butte and in smaller hamlets, too: There were. Jews settled in these places more than a century ago because of business opportunities. In Butte, it was mining, in other places a manufacturing boom or some reason to serve people by supplying clothing or food or furniture and the like, as the American population was spread across its states.

Families grew, children moved on to larger places and the American Jewish world became more of a metropolitan culture, as did America itself. In Butte, the population steadily shrank (it stands at about 32,000, down from more than 100,000 a century ago) and with it, the number of Jews. Now, the Reform congregation, B’nai Israel, is all that remains, with fewer than 20 families and an aging membership of about 30 people. And someone has to pay for an eternal flame to remain eternal.

And for cemetery upkeep and building maintenance, or to bury the old prayer books. “We’re looking right now at trying to deal with over 100 years of stuff that’s accumulated,” said Janet Cornish, 60, who describes herself as “kind of the secretary, interim president and cantorial soloist” of B’nai Israel. Founded in 1903, the synagogue, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is Montana’s oldest. The congregants are pursuing a long-term plan “for what we’ll do in the future,” Cornish said, “so that the last person who walks out the door won’t have to deal with it.” -- Howard Shapiro, Forward

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American Cadets Visit Auschwitz in Search of Answers

Future Officers Wrestle With Questions of Morality and Responsibility

Learning To Say No: American cadets visit museum at Auschwitz
as part of a program to teach them about dangers of totalitarianism.
Krzystof Galicia
In an upstairs room at the only remaining synagogue in this town, 37 miles west of Krakow, 13 future American military officers wrestled with ethical questions in the actual shadow of Auschwitz.

Clad in jeans and T-shirts, the students from West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy and the Honors Program of the United States Coast Guard Academy listened as Christopher Clifton, a 21-year old Coast Guard midshipman, called the murderers who conceived of and carried out the killings at Auschwitz “evil people who enjoyed doing evil to people.”

It was a viewpoint that drew a quick response from Clifton’s fellow participants in the American Service Academies Program, sponsored by the Auschwitz Jewish Center, in Oswiecim, and the Museum of Jewish Heritage, in New York.

“This was not carried out by an army of psychopaths,” midshipman Jordan Foley countered. “The Holocaust goes beyond evil.” Foley, a 23-year-old Annapolis senior from Butler, Pa., thought that simply blaming the Holocaust on “evil people” ignored the systemic character of Nazi racist ideology. “If we write the killers off as psychopaths for this event, then we excuse humanity for allowing this to happen.” -- Donald Snyder, Forward

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Lending a Little Help to a Big Problem

Philadelphia’s Germantown Jewish Center is one of 65 synagogues providing temporary shelter to the homeless
HELPING OUT: Germantown Jewish Center coordinator Milt Cohen
with a former “guest” of the Family Promise program.
Courtesy of Germantown Jewish Center

For two weeks in June, my synagogue, the Germantown Jewish Centre, which is located in Northwest Philadelphia, housed 14 homeless people as part of a national interfaith effort to provide temporary housing for the homeless.

GJC is among more than 65 synagogues around the country doing something to remedy at least a small portion of this huge problem. The synagogues are mostly affiliated with the Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist movements. They provide temporary shelter for homeless individuals and families, some rotating with a network of up to eight churches and mosques, others working independently.

GJC is part of Family Promise (formerly the National Interfaith Hospitality Network), which was founded 25 years ago in Union County, N.J., as a response to suburban and rural homelessness. The founder, Karen Olson was a marketing executive who realized that what was needed to alleviate homelessness was more than food and money. She founded the network with the mission of helping low-income families nationwide achieve sustainable independence.

Although churches are obviously in the majority, synagogues — which represent about 3% of participating congregations — became involved almost immediately. Initiated by congregants and blessed by their rabbis, the programs have volunteers preparing breakfast and dinner and sleeping overnight in the synagogue when the “guests,” as they are called, are present.  -- Linda Kriger, Forward

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