Friday, September 9, 2011

The Footnotes of September 11

For Tim Duffy, the day started with a postcard-perfect sky over Cape Cod. Within hours, everything changed.

From his jet fighter, Duffy had a ghastly bird's-eye view of lower Manhattan, watching the second tower of the World Trade Center collapse beneath him.

"Anytime I see it's a beautiful day to fly, I kind of think of that morning," recalls Duffy, who was a lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts Air National Guard at the time.

Duffy not only witnessed the most horrific day in modern U.S. history -- his story is one of the numerous footnotes in The 9/11 Commission Report.  -- Drew Griffin, Kathleen Johnston, and Brian Rokus, CNN

To read more and view the 10+ videoes, click here.

Solving a Grim Jewish Quandary after the Attacks: Avoiding Agunah Problems for 9/11 Widows

When unthinkable disaster struck a decade ago and close to 3,000 people were murdered at the World Trade Center, the scale of destruction created a unique challenge for victims’ families: identification of the dead.

With only fragmented human remains and degraded DNA left in the wake of 9/11, that task became, in the words of the National Institute of Justice, “the greatest forensic challenge ever undertaken in this country.”

For the families of Jewish victims, this problem was particularly thorny. According to Jewish law, a woman cannot remarry unless she has definitive proof of her husband’s death, lest she inadvertently enter into an adulterous relationship. Jewish law dictates that death can be proven in three ways: physical evidence, eyewitness testimony of the death and certain confirmation that the person had been in a situation in which survival was essentially impossible.

Absent such proof, this would leave Jewish wives of those killed at the World Trade Center in the position of classic agunot – “chained” women, left in a legal marriage with one who most likely was dead. -- Michael J. Broyde and Yona Reiss, JTA

To read more, click here.

Designer Galliano Convicted in Anti-Semitism Case

John Galliano's drunken anti-Semitic ravings cost him his job at Paris luxury house Christian Dior and gave him a criminal record but didn't land him in jail, a Paris court ruled Thursday.

The court found Galliano guilty on two counts of "public insults based on origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity" — charges that carry a maximum sentence of six months in prison and fines of up to (EURO)20,000.

But the three-magistrate panel showed leniency, sentencing the legendary designer to a (EURO)6,000 ($8,400) suspended fine, which means it goes on Galliano's criminal record but he does not have to pay it. The court did not give Galliano prison time. -- Jenny Barchfield, AP

Click here to read more

Culture Clash: Cultural sensitivity vs legal rights on the streets of Toronto

The line between accommodating religious or cultural sensitivities and protecting the legal rights of Canadians is increasingly being blurred in the public sphere.

Two recent incidents, in which a journalist and a blogger were told not to photograph Muslim women in public places, highlight the need for a better understanding of the laws in question. -- Joanne Hill, Jewish Tribune (Toronto)

To read, more click here.

Susan Rice: Shalit Captivity Violates Decency

The detention of Gilad Shalit is a violation of "basic decency," the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said after meeting with the captive Israeli soldier's father.

"I was honored to meet with Noam Shalit today, 1,900 days after his son, Gilad, was taken captive," Rice said Wednesday in a statement. "During this period, Hamas has held Gilad hostage and without access by the International Committee of the Red Cross in violation of international humanitarian standards and basic decency. I expressed to Mr. Shalit the solidarity of the United States with him and his family, and I reiterated our strongest condemnation of his son’s detention."

Noam Shalit is in New York this week meeting with ambassadors and human rights organizations attempting to garner support for the campaign to free his son, who has been held captive by Hamas for more than five years.

New York's City Council proclaimed Wednesday Gilad Shalit Day. San Francisco had made a similar proclamation on Aug. 28. -- JTA

Thursday, September 8, 2011

9/11 Study Says Religious Victims Coped Better with Attacks

Sense of Community May Also Ease Recovery for Jews

Study of Spirituality: A new study finds evidence that spirituality helped victims of the September 11 terror attacks recover from the trauma. Getty Images
As the country marks the 10th anniversary of 9/11, a new study purports to show the benefits of religious involvement or spiritual belief in coping with the long-term impact of the event. And Jews, who constitute both a religious group and the nation’s least religious ethnic group, are evident on both sides of the debate that the study seems set to provoke.

According to the study, which will be published in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, religious and spiritual Americans reported better physical and emotional health in the three years after the September 11 attacks — the period during which the study took place.

“The more likely people were to participate in religious activities, the more likely they were to experience positive emotion, and the less likely they were to ruminate about the events of 9/11 and the less likely they were to develop physical health problems,” said Roxane Cohen Silver, one of the psychologists who wrote the study. “The same basic message comes from what we call spirituality.” -- Naomi Zeveloff, Forward

To read more, click here.

Last Ethiopian Jews Finally Make Exodus to Israel

After Years of Waiting, Falash Mura Given Permission to Move
 In the half-light of dawn, 16 families huddle on benches in the early morning chill, waiting patiently for their journey to a new and unimaginable life. They sit in a courtyard, hidden from the view of friends and relatives who have come to say farewell, behind the modest local offices of the Jewish Agency for Israel, in a walled and guarded lot.

The women, wearing headscarves, are wrapped in flowing gabis ­­— traditional Ethiopian throw blankets. Some men are dressed in Western clothing; others dress more traditionally and grasp their dulas, or walking sticks. Some of these 82 adults and children have crosses tattooed on their foreheads, emblematic of their Christian backgrounds — and of the status that has kept them and their compatriots waiting in Gondar for a decade or more to emigrate to Israel despite their validated claims of Jewish ancestry.

But the previous morning, the heads of these families were handed a small travel allowance by officials from the Jewish Agency for their long awaited journey. Each signed the acknowledgement of receipt with a thumbprint. As village people who used to farm with oxen and are now day laborers, it is clear that they will not fit into Israeli society easily. -- Len Lyons. Foward

To read more, click here.

Battle of the Bagels — Montreal

From Flickr: two stout monks
It may be hard to believe that for some bagel lovers, New York bagels are not the be all and end all. Not everyone may know it, but Montreal is a big bagel town, too. And now some U.S. cities — New York, included — are serving Montreal bagels on their turf.  -- Renee Ghert-Zand, The Jew & the Carrot blog, Forward

To read more, click here.

Finding the Joys of Jewish Community at Camp Ramah

Hundreds of thousands of American kids have returned home from overnight camp in the past few weeks, among them about 40,000 campers and counselors coming back from Jewish summer camps, which seek to combine sports and crafts with serious educational purpose and identity building.

As the head of The Jewish Theological Seminary, which supervises the Ramah network of eight overnight and four day camps from coast to coast, I get to spend time each summer talking to kids, counselors and heads of program about their experiences. Something is happening at Camp Ramah and similar camps, I can report, that bears watching by our society as a whole. It can be summed up in three words: community still matters.

I freely admit, as a baby boomer in good standing, that these are the words I most want to hear from my own kids (now 20-something camp alumni) and the post-millennials still in the midst of summer growing pains. My generation was raised on academic titles like "The Quest for Community" and "The Joyful Community" that captured and validated our yearning for group friendships. We nourished the hope (sung lustily and loud) of getting by with a little help from our friends, and vowed not to embrace the kind of individualism pictured on Marlboro Man billboards every bit as much as we vowed to avoid or give up smoking. Figuring out how to balance personal plans and ambition with membership in strong and lasting face-to-face communities -- keeping my options open and still making ties that bind -- has been one of the defining dilemmas of my life. -- Arnold M. Eisen, Chancellor, The Jewish Theological Seminary, Huffington Post

To read more, click here.

JTS Launches Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue

The Jewish Theological Seminary has announced the establishment of the Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue (MCID), funded with a $2 million gift from New York philanthropist Howard Milstein and the Paul Milstein family. The Milsteins have a long history of engagement with the school and the gift marks the second generation of relationship between the Milsteins and JTS.

“The new center will expand the long commitment of JTS to interreligious dialogue and partnership and enable us to highlight an annual schedule of distinct programs that range in complexity and content,” said Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, who will be director of the Milstein Center. Rabbi Visotzky is the Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies at JTS. He has been active in interreligious dialogue for more than three decades in the United States and internationally. -- Jewish Philanthropy

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Follow up: Jerusalem Filmed in Imax 3D

After a year of research and preparation, the giant screen film JERUSALEM advanced into production with an unprecedented aerial shoot throughout Israel and the West Bank. Scheduled for worldwide release in 2013, the film will take audiences on a spectacular tour of the Holy Land and the city once believed to lie at the centre of the world. -- An Arcane/Cosmic Picture Film via

To view video, click on image below.

10 Years On, Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theories about 9/11 Persist

Theories that Jews or Israel were involved in the 9-11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center,
seen above, still abound and are proliferating. (Michael Foran)
Osama bin Laden is dead. A new skyscraper is rising at the site of the old World Trade Center. U.S. troops are withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ten years later, the physical legacies of 9/11 attacks are fading into history. Yet the conspiracy theories about who “really” was behind the attacks seem to be growing.

Like a drug-resistant virus, these fantasies have persisted despite efforts to combat them by mutating over time, taking new forms and finding new modes of transmission. Jews and Israel often are their targets, and they evoke centuries-old myths about Jewish power, allegiances and manipulation of social institutions.

The conspiracy theories began almost as soon as the towers fell. -- Dan Klein, JTA

To read more, click here.

Jerusalem's Multi-Faith Train Crosses City, Creed and Gender

It might be seven years later than the original schedule and take twice the time to arrive than that promised by its planners, but as of last Friday, Jerusalem finally has Israel's first light-rail network.

Well, not exactly a network: so far there is only one line, 14 kilometres from the Pisgat Ze'ev neighbourhood in the north-eastern corner of the capital, all the way through the town centre to Mount Herzl in the west, and there are no immediate plans for more lines. But why quibble? For the next three months, it's free of charge.

Thousands of Jerusalemites flocked to board the train on its first days, crowding the space-age-look, sleek and silent, silver carriages.  -- Anshel Pfeffer,

To read more, click here.

Golda Meir Wanted Allies to Bomb Auschwitz

Golda Meir around 1948

Golda Meir, the future Israeli prime minister, wanted the United States and its allies to bomb Auschwitz, researchers have learned.

Researchers from the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies found documents in Israeli and American archives that shed light on Meir’s support for the unsuccessful campaign by Jewish leaders to persuade the Allied powers to bomb the Nazi death camp. -- JTA

To read more, click here.

Opinion: "We-Come-to-You" Judaism

Jewish Journal President David Suissa
can be reached at
The American Jewish community spends a fortune every year trying to keep Jews connected to their Judaism. Much of that money goes to what I call “Please-Come-Here” Judaism: Jews are invited to attend special Jewish activities in the hope that this will entice them to come and stay “under the Jewish tent.”

Many of those outreach efforts are smart and innovative. Still, philanthropists often wonder: Why are so many Jews still leaving the tent, and why are assimilation and intermarriage still so rampant? -- David Suissa, Jewish Journal

To read more, click here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Lost Spirit Still Inspires: A 9/11 Story

Akamai has recovered from the tumultuous days of September 2001, and now…
(Akamai Technology Inc. via Bloomberg News/File 2008)
After its founder was killed on Sept. 11 and its business damaged in the aftermath, Akamai slid to the edge of failure. What it still had were Daniel Lewin’s technology and vision. -- Hiawatha Bray, Boston Glob

To read more, click here.

El Al – just like home (and with the nomination to prove it)

Earlier in the week, I wrote about dropping my youngest son at the airport to fly as an “unaccompanied minor” to Los Angeles. We could have chosen many different airlines – Delta, Continental, US Air, or a flight routed via Europe – but we opted for El Al. For many Israelis and Jews, it’s sort of a gut reaction – of course, we’ll choose El Al, they’re the safest. And we’re supporting the Zionist endeavor.

Then, those of us who are old enough to remember, will shudder with memories of surly stewardesses and a seating configuration in coach that packed twice the number of rows into the same space as a comparable transatlantic flight, resulting in a situation where, if the guy in front of you leans back while you’re eating, you don’t need a spoon to eat your yogurt. And then there was El Al’s well deserved nickname “Every Landing Always Late.”

But, as Mr. D. would intone, the times they are a-changin.

El Al has been nominated for six awards from the Airline Passenger Experience Association in Overall Flight Experience, Best In-Flight Magazine, Best Ground Experience, Outstanding Safety Video, Best Cabin Ambiance and the Middle East regional category. -- Brian Blum, Israelity Blog

To read more, click here.

Hungary's Jewish Festival Tackles Money Hurdles and Hatred

The Great Synagogue in Budapest
is the largest active synagogue in Europe

With cash-strapped Hungary surviving on aid from the EU, less money is available for Europe's largest Jewish festival. But organizers hope the event still draws large crowds to help fight growing anti-Semitism. -- Stefan J. Bos, DW-Word.DE

To read more, click here.

Sapling from the Anne Frank House to Be Planted in 2013

The Anne Frank House tree before it fell.
Huliana90212/Creative Commons
In 2006, the diseased, 150-year-old chestnut tree outside of the secret annex where Anne Frank hid during World War II was set to be cut down. In preparation for its death, saplings from the tree were promised to different sites around the world to carry the tree and its message to new communities.

Despite strong pushback from the tree’s supporters and a series of legal battles that ensued, which saved the tree and resulted in the construction of a support structure to keep it from falling, Seattle was chosen as one of the recipients.

However, on August 23, 2010, a windy day in Amsterdam, the tree fell, taking its support structure with it.

Now, with the original tree gone, the saplings sent around the world—including 11 to the U.S.—are all the more important to the tree’s supporters. -- Madeleine Lowe,

To read more, click here.

Sweden Earmarks $630,000 to Protect Its Jews

Sweden has earmarked 4 million kronor ($630,000) to boost security for the country's small Jewish minority.

The move comes after criticism at home and internationally that Sweden needs to do more to protect Jews from anti-Semitic hate crimes.
Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag says if no extra security measures are taken "there is a risk that people don't dare visit synagogues in Sweden."

Sweden saw a surge in reported hate crimes against Jews , including harassment, violence and vandalism , in the wake of Israel's invasion of Gaza in 2009. Many Swedish Jews say they've experienced growing hostility in recent years, especially in the southern city of Malmo, which has a fast-growing Muslim population.

An estimated 20,000 Jews live in Sweden. -- Associated Press via Philadelphia Inquirer

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy US Labor Day

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Affordable Housing? Borrow a Page from NYC

The American dream
Photo by: Bloomberg
An essential ingredient is government leadership in creating the public-financing tools for an Israeli-based solution. -- Jerilyn Perine and Julie Sandorf, Jerusalem Post

To read more, click here.

Libya and the Jews

Libyan Jews, early 20th century
There are reasons for Jews to view the fall of Muammar Qaddafi with satisfaction: A bizarre and dangerous enemy of the West and Israel is on the verge of defeat, and the Libyan people may be on the threshold of freedom. But, as in Egypt, the second Arab Spring in Libya looks like a mixed blessing. One test will be the manner in which the new government treats the Jews and Israel.

Libya is, historically, a place of conquest and revolt. Jews arrived there long before the Arabs, much less Islam: Ptolemy I is reported to have settled Jews in Libya in 312 B.C.E., and more Jews arrived 150 years later. The Libyan Jews of Tripolitania in the west and Cyrenaica in the east became rural farmers and craftsmen and urban aristocrats. As Romans, Christians, Arabs, and Islam swept over Libya and North Africa, the Jews remained.  With the coming of Islam, it appears that the Jews of the coast were dispersed to the interior. Their numbers were increased by refugees from Spain and Italy, and they suffered or prospered under different Muslim rulers.  -- Alex Joffe, Jewish Ideas Daily

To read more, click here.

Retrieving American Jewish Fiction

The Jewish "boom" in American writing in the 60's was ignited by Bellow, Roth, and Malamud—reeled off in that order as if they were a firm of Jewish accountants.  Soon there were so many American Jewish writers, enjoying so much critical praise, that Truman Capote complained about the "Jewish mafia in American letters," while John Updike (than whom no novelist more goyishe) wrote three short-story cycles in which he pretended to be a Jewish writer. The roots of American Jewish literature go much further back, though. The avot and imahot of American Jewish writing should not be forgotten. And some should even be reread. -- D.G. Myers, Jewish Ideas Daily

Click here to read more.

Australia’s Deputy PM Supports Boycotted Israeli Business

Wayne Swan
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan visited an Israeli business that has been targeted by advocates of boycotting Israel.

Swan, who is also the nation’s treasurer, joined Jewish legislator Michael Danby and more than 100 Israel supporters Sunday at a branch of Max Brenner, the Israeli-owned chocolate shop, in Brisbane.

The visit came 24 hours after about 50 supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement protested outside the Brisbane store in the latest of a series of demonstrations across Australia against Max Brenner outlets. They were met by a counter-demonstration of more than 100 Israel supporters organized by a student from the University of Queensland. Pro-Palestinian organizers claim the Strauss Group, Max Brenner’s parent company, supports the IDF and is complicit in “Israel’s apartheid and occupation policies.” -- JTA

To read more, click here.

The Song that Ate the World: The Global Domination of “Hava Nagila.”

“Insert Jewish song” in a screenplay usually means that the movie’s attendees will hear a clarinet playing “Hava Nagila.” This is relatively new song in the Jewish canon, written in the early 1900s (yes, that is “new”; the Psalms were written 3,000 years ago.). Since then, it has become symbolic of Jewish music altogether. -- Paul Wieder, JUF News, Chicago

To read more, click here.