Friday, August 12, 2011

In a Jerusalem Tunnel, a Glimpse of an Ancient War

Eli Shukron, an Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist,
cleans stones making part of an underground section of the Western Wall
at the end of what archaeologists say is a 2,000-year-old drainage tunnel
leading to Jerusalem's Old City. AP Photo/Dan Balilty
The excavation of an ancient drainage tunnel beneath Jerusalem has yielded a sword, oil lamps, pots and coins abandoned during a war here 2,000 years ago, archaeologists said Monday, suggesting the finds were debris from a pivotal episode in the city's history when rebels hid from Roman soldiers crushing a Jewish revolt.

The tunnel was built two millennia ago underneath one of Roman-era Jerusalem's main streets, which today largely lies under an Arab neighborhood in the city's eastern sector. After a four-year excavation, the tunnel is part of a growing network of subterranean passages under the politically combustible modern city.

The tunnel was intended to drain rainwater, but is also thought to have been used as a hiding place for the rebels during the time of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. That temple was razed, along with much of the city, by Roman legionnaires putting down the Jewish uprising in 70 A.D.

On Monday, archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority unveiled a sword found in the tunnel late last month, measuring 24 inches (60 centimeters) in length and with its leather sheath intact. The sword likely belonged to a member of the Roman garrison around the time of the revolt, the archaeologists said. -- Matti Friedman, Associated Press

To read more, click here.

Young Russian Jews in Assimilation Bind

Hawkish new generation split on how, or whether, to engage with mainstream community.

At this year’s Celebrate Israel Parade, young Russians, left, wore orange.
Like 500 other young Jews from the former Soviet Union who marched in this year’s Celebrate Israel Parade in June, Boris Shulman wore bright orange. In addition to signifying support for Israel’s settler movement — which also uses orange — the color contrasted sharply with the 500 older Russian Jews who marched in the parade, wearing blue and white.

Color choices are not all that separate the younger and older generations of Russian-American Jews.

Unlike their parents and grandparents, who came to the United States as adults in the 1970s and ‘80s, these young Russian Jews — born or raised in America, fluent in English and now in their 20s and 30s — grew up in the same culture and country as their non-Russian Jewish American peers.

Now, they must figure out how to integrate into the American Jewish mainstream — and whether they even want to. -- Ben Sales, NY Jewish Week

To read more, click here.

Canadian Hadassah Rebrands Itself

Alina Ianson, Marla Dan
Canadian Hadassah WIZO (CHW) is rebranding itself in order to clear up any confusion the public may have about the organization, says Alina Ianson, the organization’s executive director.

“We’re not the same organization as Hadassah [in the United States], and we’re not the same as World WIZO.

“In 1917, Canadian Hadassah was established as a Canadian organization, and coincidentally, it had the same name [Hadassah]. Later on, we affiliated ourselves with World WIZO, and added that to our name.  We are also affiliated with Hadassah International in New York.” -- Carolyn Blackman. Canadian Jewish News

To read more, click here.

Mother Russia

The new Lifetime reality show Russian Dolls portrays the Russian-American Jews of Brighton Beach as celebrating neither America nor their Judaism but the freedom to be stereotypically Russian

Diana Kosov on Russian Dolls.
Giovanni Rufino/Lifetime Entertainment Services, LLC
In the first episode of Russian Dolls, a new Lifetime reality show set in Brooklyn and billed as a cross between Jersey Shore and the Real Housewives franchise, a 23-year-old bleached-blonde named Diana Kosov spends a lot of time fretting about her new boyfriend, Paul, who drives a Maserati and lavishes her with flowers and teddy bears but who is unfit to bring home to her parents. The problem? “He’s Spanish, and I’m Russian,” Kosov explains. “In this community, if I date someone who’s not Russian, it’s a big deal.” Later, her mother, Anna, shows up to prove the point. “I would like you marrying Russian guy,” she tells her daughter, as they practice making borscht. “We have same kultur. It’s very important, you understand?”

The astute viewer will notice that, in both of these interludes, Kosov is wearing a large Star of David pendant that dangles above her dramatically pushed-up cleavage. In a phone interview this week, she said the message she heard was clear: “I’m looking for a Russian Jewish guy.” But, on the show, the word Jewish never enters the dialogue—not in an aside to the camera, not with Kosov’s mother, and not, eventually, with Paul, who gets the heave-ho over a plate of tuna tartare. “My parents, they came to America for a reason,” Kosov says, earnestly. “To look for Russians?” Paul retorts. “Yeah,” Kosov replies, without elaboration.

The pattern repeats itself throughout Russian Dolls, which is centered in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach, long a Jewish neighborhood and today dominated by Russian Jewish émigrés. Its characters, almost all of them Jewish, arrived in the largest historical movement of Jews in the postwar era—but aren’t explicitly introduced as Jews. --Allison Hoffman, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Team B II Members: Israel You're Not Alone

Three authors of Shariah: The Threat to America joined a new coalition called Israel: You're Not Alone in a press conference in Washington, DC yesterday. Frank Gaffney, Gen. Jerry Boykin (ret.), and Tom Trento addressed different points about America's relationship with Israel and Israel's 1967 borders. Mark Langfan presents his map showing the Jewish State's vulnerability to rocket attacks against 70% of its population centers. -- UStream

Click below to view video.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Church, a Shul, and a Mosque Try Faithful Experiment-- In Omaha, Three Faiths Join To Build Sanctuaries Together

Multi-Faith: Jon Meyers (left) and John Waldbaum (right) of Temple Israel
talk with Azhar Kalim of Omaha’s new Islamic center.
Justin Limoges Photography
Deep in America’s heartland, a Reform synagogue, a nondenominational mosque and an Episcopalian church are all putting down roots on a 37-acre tract of land that once belonged to a Jewish country club. A body of water called Hell Creek runs through the development, over which the faith groups plan to build “Heaven’s Bridge.”

Fantastical as it sounds, this interfaith campus is currently in the works in Omaha, Neb. Slated for completion in 2014, the Tri-Faith Initiative is an experiment in religious coexistence in a city better known as a hub of corn-fed conservatism.

“The only other place where such a thing exists is Jerusalem,” said Dr. Syed Mohiuddin, chairman of the Creighton University School of Medicine. Mohiuddin’s organization, the American Institute of Islamic Studies and Culture, is building a mosque on the campus. “Jerusalem is so important to these three faiths. We are sort of reproducing that model.” -- Naomi Zeveloff, Forward

To read more, click here.

Ayatollah of the RAF

 Academic "University" head is Muslim convert who claims Nazi gas chambers were British propaganda and criticises Libya air strikes

RAF role: Dr Joel Hayward teaches at the RAF's pilot training college
The head of studies at the Royal Air Force pilot training college is a convert to Islam who has criticised Nato air strikes on Libya in a Muslim magazine.

Dr Joel Hayward is dean of the college at Cranwell, the RAF’s equivalent of Sandhurst, and has taught many of the pilots spearheading the military operation against Colonel Gaddafi.

But, to the dismay of defence chiefs, he has cast doubt on the widely held belief that the Nato actions averted the mass killing of civilians in Benghazi. He also warned against the RAF becoming "the air corps of a rebel army."

Dr Hayward has previously expressed remorse after appearing to claim that far fewer Jews were killed by the Nazis than generally thought and that the gas chambers of the Holocaust were British propaganda.
-- Ian Gallagher, Daily Mail, UK

To read more, click here.

The Bizarre Alliance Against Israel

  • The 21 countries of the Arab League are divided by civil wars and religious tensions, as daily displayed in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon. They are beset with Islamist insurgencies, enmity between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and even discord between mainstream and extremist Sunnis.
  • All their governments are non-democratic in character, often corrupt, and are still based on systems that are autocracies, military dictatorships, hereditary family rule, presidencies for life, tribal elders, or edicts of Islamic dignitaries in a theocratic regime.
  • Yet much of the focus of European and American commentators on the Middle East remains concentrated not on the glaring problems of the Arab societies but with Israel.
  • Western radicals have shown more compassion for Arab dictators, especially in Libya, than for democratic Israel. Western feminists and gay and lesbian groups have been silent about the place and treatment of women and homosexuals in Muslim Arab countries.
  • No woman in an Arab country has yet been elected to a prominent position as was Golda Meir in Israel, the first female prime minister elected anywhere who was not the wife or daughter of a previous head of government.
Michael Curtis, professor emeritus of political science at Rutgers University, American Thinker

To read the complete article, click here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Eyewitness 1948

Eyewitness 1948 is a short film series, produced by Toldot Yisrael and the History Channel. It is the centerpiece of an Israel Education pilot program for the US developed with The iCenter and made possible through the generous support of the Jim Joseph Foundation and others. The Eyewitness 1948 films use Toldot Yisrael’s interview footage to tell the stories of Israel’s founding through the eyes of the people who lived it.

Click on image below to view video.

To read more and see more videos, click here.

Conference of Presidents Expresses Disappointment at Cuban Court's Upholding Gross' 15-Year Term

Leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations expressed their disappointment with the Cuban Supreme Court’s rejection of Alan Gross’ final legal appeal to have his 15-year prison sentence substantially reduced or, preferably, eliminated.

“We are extremely disappointed that the Cuban Supreme Court has upheld Mr. Gross’ conviction and his grossly unjust 15-year prison sentence. Mr. Gross was in Cuba on a humanitarian project during which he was helping the local Jewish community communicate via the Internet with each other and with other Jewish communities. He has been held in prison for 20 months, since his arrest in December 2009, and his health has deteriorated significantly since that time. We previously issued an appeal to President Castro requesting that he grant clemency to Mr. Gross. We now reiterate our request to the president and urge him to grant clemency on humanitarian grounds as quickly as possible and allow Mr. Gross to be reunited with his family, especially his daughter and mother, who are both battling cancer,” said Conference of Presidents Chairman Richard Stone and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein. “We express our support for and solidarity with the entire Gross family during this difficult time,” they added.

Alan Gross was held in prison for nearly 14 months before being charged. Gross had a contract for the U.S. Agency for International Development to help the Jewish community in Cuba communicate with other Jewish communities through the Internet. As State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley has stated, the activities conducted by Mr. Gross pursuant to this contract were “not a crime.”

“We thank the U.S. Administration for maintaining its focus on Mr. Gross’ plight and hope that a diplomatic resolution to Mr. Gross’ situation can be found quickly,” said Solow and Hoenlein.

FYI: Security Bulletin for the British Jewish Community

Editor: Please note


Following the recent events of public disorder, CST would like to advise the community that although there have been no reports of targeted attacks against our community or communal buildings, security procedures should be reviewed & enhanced.

The violence is, however, quite indiscriminate and could as easily affect our community as any other. The situation remains highly volatile, and there is no way of knowing at this time if it will further deteriorate.


Keep all external doors closed & secured even when the building is in use

Review your evacuation and invacuation procedures and brief all staff and visitors

Consider alternative evacuation routes & ensure routes away from the building are safe to pass through

Remove refuse & building materials or any other object from the outside of your property that could be used to break windows or damage your building & ensure your refuse bins are securely locked and chained away from your building

When your building is closed, ensure all windows and doors are securely locked and alarms are set

Be aware of your surroundings when arriving and leaving communal buildings & where possible members of staff should not leave on their own

Prevent staff and visitors from congregating outside your building. Encourage people to disperse as quickly as possible e.g. at the end of the work day, services or at the end of an event

Be alert to suspicious people, objects and activities around your building

Ensure all security equipment, alarms, exterior lighting and CCTV are working correctly. Check that CCTV lenses are cleaned and video equipment is recording

Consider securing items of value (either monetary or sentimental) either off site or in secure areas within the building (e.g. basements, safes etc)

Previous security advice from CST should also be adhered to

Should you require advice for events, training or any matters relating to security, please contact CST


It’s always better to be “safe than sorry” – follow some of our personal safety tips to help keep yourself safe

Stick to well-lit public areas & never take shortcuts at night

Try to look & act confidently – look like you know where you are and where you are going

Ensure that you know where your children are at all times and that they are appropriately supervised and aware of their personal safety

Spread your valuables around your person e.g. keep your phone in your bag, your house keys in your trouser pocket and your money in your jacket

Be aware about the valuables that you are carrying and don’t show them off. Talking on your mobile phone, carrying a laptop or showing your friend your new gold ring, all show thieves that you are worth robbing

If someone tries to take something from you, it may be better to let them take it rather than get into a confrontation and risk injury

Do not listen to mp3 players etc whilst out walking or jogging - you need to be alert to your surroundings

Always let people know where you are going and what time you are expected to arrive & return

Stay with family and friends whenever possible and don’t walk home alone

Don’t walk and text on your mobile – you are likely to be distracted

Don’t leave valuables or important documents in your car in plain sight - place them in the boot

Walk facing the traffic to avoid unseen vehicles

If you think you are being followed – cross-over the road. If you are still concerned go to the nearest public place and ask for help (police station, shop, pub or petrol station)

Keep an eye on official media sources to help you avoid trouble areas

Do not hesitate to contact 999 if you feel threatened

Monday, August 8, 2011

Artifacts Breathe New Life into the Destruction of the Temple

On the eve of Tisha B'Av, commemorating the anniversary of the destruction of the First and Second Temples, artifacts were exposed that breathe new life into the story of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

The sword with remains of the scabbard on it (Photo: Clara Amit, courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority)
A sword in a scabbard that belonged to a Roman soldier and an engraving of the Temple's menorah on a stone object were discovered during work the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted in the 2,000 year old drainage channel between the City of David and the Jerusalem Archaeological Garden.

The channel served as a hiding refuge for the residents of Jerusalem from the Romans during the destruction of the Second Temple.

During the course of work the Israel Antiquities Authority carried out in Jerusalem's ancient drainage channel, which begins in the Siloam Pool and runs from the City of David to the archaeological garden (near the Western Wall), impressive finds were recently discovered that breathe new life into the story of the destruction of the Second Temple. The excavations are being conducted on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority and are underwritten by the City of David Foundation. -- The Israel Antiquities Authority spokesperson via Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To read more, click here.

At The 9/11 Memorial, a Symbol in The Cross Hairs, So to Speak

American Jewish Committee's Marc Stern:
“World Trade Center Cross”
could be seen as neutral memorial to 9/11 tragedy,
depending on how it is displayed
In the weeks before the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum on the site of the former Twin Towers is taking shape in Lower Manhattan — and one item slated for the permanent exhibition is drawing particular, and sometimes negative, notice. American Atheists, a nonprofit organization, has filed suit against the inclusion in the memorial of a 17-foot-tall steel cross — two construction beams — that was discovered in the rubble of the World Trade Center. It became a symbol of survival for many Christians and was displayed until recently at nearby St. Peter’s Church. A small part of the Memorial’s budget comes from state and city sources.

“An ugly piece of wreckage,” said American Atheists’ Jane Everhart. “A powerful remembrance,” said Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, which is backing the cross’ placement. The Jewish Week spoke with Marc Stern, associate general counsel of the American Jewish Committee, which has taken no official position on the dispute. -- Steve Lipman, NY Jewish Week

To read more, click here.

Inside Empire’s Slaughterhouse: The Life of a Kosher Chicken

The Zimmermans, a Mennonite family
that raises chickens for Empire,
run a 38-acre farm in McAlisterville, Pa. (Ralph Alswang)
The end came swiftly for the chicken I’ll call Bob.

Propelled into a trough of sorts by a machine that tips a crate’s worth of birds onto the assembly line -- “They’re like children, sliding down,” the head kosher supervisor said -- chicken Bob was seized by a worker’s practiced hands and guided toward the shochet, or ritual slaughterer, along a stainless steel panel meant for calming the birds.

While a second worker held down his legs and body, the shochet gently grasped Bob’s head and, in what seemed like a split second, made his cut before the lifeless chicken was deposited into a funnel for the blood to drip out.

Every six seconds or so, another chicken followed.

The shochet, clad in a bloodstained yellow rain slicker and with a transparent plastic cap covering his hair and beard, swayed rhythmically as he worked, almost as if he were davening. Alongside him, 11 other teams of three, each led by its own shochet, labored methodically.

In all, 60,000 chickens would be killed by late afternoon. It’s all in a day’s work at Empire Kosher Poultry, the largest kosher chicken company in the United States. -- Uriel Heilman, JTA

To read more, click here.

Poll: American Jews and Muslims Share Common Values

Muslim and Jewish Americans share common values on key questions, according to a Gallup poll.

The poll, released Tuesday [August 2], found that the Muslim Americans exceeded Jewish belief in religious pluralism and in the fairness of elections, and also in support of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- 81 percent for Muslims, 78 percent for Jews.

Jews and Muslims also were the only religious groups surveyed in which a majority backed President Obama.

Jews were the least likely group, besides Muslims, to question the loyalty of Muslims, with 70 percent of Jewish Americans denying that Muslim Americans sympathize with the al-Qaeda terrorist group and 80 percent agreeing that Muslims are loyal to the United States. They disagreed, however, on whether Muslims spoke out enough against terrorism, with 28 percent of Muslims and 65 percent of Jews saying that Muslims were not vocal enough. The 65 percent put Jews in the middle of the religious groups surveyed.

Interestingly, Jewish respondents were slightly more likely than Muslims to believe that Muslims face prejudice in American society.

The poll included results from the Gallup Heathways Well-being index conducted from Jan. 1, 2010 to  April 9, 2011, as well as two independent studies of the Muslim-American population conducted  from Feb. 10 to March 11, 2010 and Oct. 1-21, 2010, by a Gallup-affiliated research group based in the United Arab Emirates. According to researchers, the poll had a margin of error of 6.6 percent for Muslims and 7.3 percent for Jews.

The study also found that Muslims were the least likely religious group to agree that there is ever justification for individuals or small groups to attack civilians, that the generation that came of age post-9/11 are more likely to report feelings of anger than their peers, but that anger is reported less among those that regularly attend religious services.

“As children of Abraham, Jews and Muslims recognize that we don’t just share a common faith but also a single fate,” Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, an organization devoted to outreach between the Jewish community and other ethnic groups, said in an interview with JTA.

"People will be overwhelmed by these findings. The perception is that the Muslim Jewish relationship in the U.S. is one of conflict, not of cooperation. This is just the opposite of what we’ve found in the field.” -- JTA

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Jewish Camping: It's No Bunk!

At Pinemere, supervisor Gabe Miner (center) assists two campers as they read from a Torah lent to the camp for the summer by Congregation Beth Am Israel in Penn Valley. Many camps in the region have increased their Jewish activities in response to positive feedback from parents and campers.
Perched on the edge of a platform 40 feet above the grassy Camp Harlam grounds in Kunkletown, Pa., 13-year-old Jake Lord steels himself for his first plunge down the zipline.

Attached to the line next to him, Michael Holzman, a visiting rabbi from Reston, Va., prepares himself for the same inaugural experience.

A few minutes later, both make it to solid ground and head off to the next activity -- reading for the rabbi, "gator ball" for Jake.

To an outsider, surmounting such a physical challenge could be par for the course at any summer camp. But it's no coincidence that Jake shared it with a rabbi.

For directors at Harlam and other Jewish overnight camps in the Pocono Mountains that serve children from the Philadelphia area, summertime is their chance to help shape the next generation. Bolstered by recent studies offering statistical evidence of camp's success in building identity, they're "doing Jewish" even more these days -- from sending rabbis up a ropes course to bestowing cotton candy "shaped" like former Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion's hair to campers who correctly answer trivia questions about the historical figure.  -- Deborah Hirsch, Philadelphia Jewish Exponent

Lakeside at Camp Ramah
To read more, click here.

Circus Students Climb Walls between Cultures

"Art has the biggest potential for social healing that I know of," says the director of Israel's Association for the Development of Circus Arts.
The Israel Circus School runs multicultural programs to bring Jewish and Arab schoolchildren together.
"My main interest is how we employ the arts in social healing. I don't mean art or drama therapy, but art in its fullest form. I think art has the biggest potential for healing that I know of, and the Israel Circus School is a fully artistic and professional school for adults, youth and children. They learn to be creative, responsible, artistic members of the community, but as part of their training we involve all our students in our various multicultural projects."

Under the banner "Circus Arts for Social Change," she is now creating a local and international network of circus artists and supporters interested in building a new socio-political agenda "to find innovative and creative means of resolving conflict situations and setting up new social priorities towards creating a society that cares, honors and respects all its members."

Hendelman launched this initiative with an international multicultural youth circus convention, July 19-21 in the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Acco (Acre). The event is called "Climbing Walls," at the suggestion of her co-founder and artistic director, David Berry.

"The bottom line of it all is conflict resolution. No matter where we are, there is always the potential for conflict within ourselves and with our neighbors, and these conflicts are the walls which then spread to cultures and nations," says Hendelman. "We need to start climbing these walls. This project is only a pebble, a first step to what I envisage as building a new socio-political agenda in all aspects of life." -- Avigayil Kadesh, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To read more, click here.

Little-Known Non-Cutting Ritual Appeals to Some who Oppose Circumcision

In the same week in which a San Francisco judge struck from the city’s November 2011 ballot a controversial measure aiming to ban circumcision of any male under 18, two reputable media sources reported on a relatively new, little-known ceremony that serves as a Jewish alternative to circumcision. The New York Times and NPR both reported on brit shalom — Hebrew for “covenant of peace” — and presented it as a small but growing phenomenon.

Brit shalom is frequently promoted by opponents of circumcision as a way to welcome baby boys into the Jewish covenant without the traditional ritual cutting that Jews have practiced for millennia and trace back to a biblical commandment from God to Abraham. But if you’ve never been to — or even heard of — this ceremony, you’re not alone.

“I have never had the pleasure of attending a brit shalom,” said filmmaker Eli Ungar-Sargon, whose 2007 documentary “Cut: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision” presents a critical look at the common surgical procedure. -- Jonah Lowenfeld, LA Jewish Journal

To read more, click here.

Drive aiming to attract young Jews to Detroit

The Detroit Jewish community is launching a nationwide campaign to raise money to bring 25 young Jews to live in the city.

Do It for Detroit is hosting events through August held by Detroit residents and former residents, as well as supporters in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, to raise $100,000 to revitalize the Michigan city's Jewish community. A program of the Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit, it will offer subsidies of $3,000 a year to live in the city, and the recipient will host at least one community event a month to help strengthen the Jewish and Detroit-area communities.

The first event will take place Wednesday at a high school softball field in suburban Detroit, followed the next day by a fundraiser in Chicago by ex-Detroiters. Charity kickball tournaments in Los Angeles and baseball events in New York also are planned.

The effort is part of a larger campaign to attract young people back to Detroit, which despite a growing cultural life has been suffering a brain drain due to Michigan’s high unemployment.

Detroit once was a major Jewish hub, with 44 synagogues and a rich cultural life. Now only one synagogue remains there -- the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue.

As the city declined, most of the Jewish population moved to the northern suburbs. A 2010 study conducted by the Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit found that 67,000 Jews live in Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties, a decline of 5,000 since 2005.However, over the same period the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue has increased from 50 households to 175 households.

If the money is raised, the program will start accepting applications in October. As of Wednesday morning, the campaign had raised $9,702. -- JTA