Friday, February 24, 2012

Alaska -- That Great Big Jewish Land

Interior Secretary Harold Ickes and a few others
in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration
liked the idea of resettling German Jews in Alaska.

The 49th state was built by Jewish people, Jewish money and Jewish know-how. And although their numbers are small, Jews are still disproportionately prominent in commercial and public life. -- Yereth Rosen, Moment

To read more, click here.

Toronto's Negev: iconic bookstore to close its doors

Webster’s dictionary defines the word ‘icon’ as a symbol or emblem.

Such a description surely applies to the Negev Bookstore.

Sadly, for Torontonians of many different generations, the sign in Negev’s window trumpets, “After 52 years serving the community we are closing.”

Fifty-two years ago, David Louis Kaplan, Calgary-born son of a Lithuanian rabbi turned farmer, opened Negev with his oldest son Arthur. Originally Lieberman’s bookstore, the Negev quickly became the go-to destination for books of Jewish and Israeli interest, religious necessities such as mezuzahs and tfillin, and of course siddurim, chumoshim and seforim.

The store then and now, catered to all shades of Jewish thinking and observance. As such, it was very much a unifying force for Canadian Jewry. At the same time, one could see scholarly rabbonim mixing with newcomers to our faith and exchanging banter with Conservative and Reform devotees. -- Peter Miller, Canadian Jewish Tribune

To read more, click here.

Linked Arms -- Guatemala and Israel

Guatemala City, Guatemala.
(Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images)
Guatemala and Israel have historically shared a warm, if sometimes dark, relationship—and it is one that is bearing new fruit today -- Irin Carmon, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Israel's artists colony Ein Hod is thriving

Despite the 2010 Carmel fire that took its toll on the region, this oasis for artists is open and ready for visitors.

The 150 families who live in the Ein Hod artists colony in the Carmel Mountains are marking a year since the devastating Carmel Forest fire struck the whole region. But according to longtime Ein Hod resident and tour guide Dan Ben-Arye, the vibrant community of painters, sculptors, musicians, writers and stage performers is stronger than ever.

"Besides having 18 galleries and two museums, we have lots of workshops," says Ben-Arye. "You can come and work with the artists themselves, without any kind of background."

Since its establishment in 1953, Ein Hod has counted 10 Israel Prize winners among its ranks. -- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To read more, click here.

Likeness of a Jew

Daniel Mendelsohn (left) and Alan Hollinghurst. (Photoillustration Tablet Magazine;
Mendelsohn photo Pierre Verdy/AFP/Getty Images;
Hollinghurst photo Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images; Samuel L. Wackson/Flickr)
A literary dispute between novelist Alan Hollinghurst and author Daniel Mendelsohn revives a history of sensitivity to British stereotypes about Jews -- Allen Ellenzweig, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Anne Frank baptized in Mormon proxy ritual

Anne Frank was baptized in a Mormon proxy ritual in another case of a Holocaust victim discovered to have been baptized posthumously this month.

The ceremony reportedly took place last weekend in a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple in the Dominican Republic. It was discovered by Helen Radkey, a former member of the Mormon church who has become a whistleblower on such activity.

Only Mormons have access to the church's genealogy database, which also can be used to submit a deceased person's name for proxy baptism.

The discovery comes more than a week after it was discovered that the parents of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal were posthumously baptized last month. Wiesenthal was a Holocaust survivor who died in 2005; his mother was killed in the Nazi death camp Belzec in 1942.

Posthumous baptism, which is done by proxy, is also known as "baptism for the dead." It allows members of the church to stand in for the deceased to offer them a chance to join the church in the afterlife.

In 2010, the church agreed after meetings with Jewish leaders to halt the proxy baptisms of Holocaust victims unless the names were submitted by their direct ancestors.

Anne Frank was posthumously baptized at least a dozen times between 1989 and 1999, Radkey told the Huffington Post.

Also last week, the names of the father and grandfather of Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel were found to have been submitted for proxy baptism.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Wiesel called on Mitt Romney, the front-runner in the race for the Republican presidential nod, to tell his church to stop performing posthumous proxy baptisms of Holocaust victims. -- JTA

From Northern Canada, With Love

Photos By Raymond MacLean
During a recent educational tour in Canada, Noam Bedein, director of the Sderot Media Center, an independent advocacy organization in the Negev, encountered a surprising amount of support for Israel among the members of the First Nations — the country’s indigenous people, like the Native Americans here — he met. As often-displaced groups, they told Bedein, a Sabra, they understood Israelis’ love for their land.

Among a growing international hostility toward Israeli interests, the reservoir of affection for Israel “surprised me,” Bedein tells The Jewish Week in a telephone interview.

This month some individuals from the First Nations are getting to see the Jewish state firsthand. A delegation, the latest that has brought some 300 members of the First Nations to Israel in the last decade, is there this week under the auspices of B’nai B’rith of Canada. -- Steve Lipman, NY Jewish Week

To read more, click here.

Thanks to financial aid, Jewish summer camp enrollments rise, despite economy

Bills or bug juice?

Campers at Camp Ramah in New England get ready to cool down
in the lake during a hot summer day.
(Nir Landau/Foundation for Jewish Camp)
With the economic recovery still struggling to take hold, many American Jewish families are finding they face a difficult question as deadlines for summer camp enrollment approach: Can they both pay their bills and send their kids to Jewish overnight camp?

“It’s a difficult decision,” said Shelly Zemelman, a school psychologist in Cleveland with four children. Her 16-year-old daughter, Batya, has spent four summers at Camp Stone, a modern Orthodox camp in Sugar Grove, Pa. that charges $3,500 for a four-week session. Other Jewish camps charge as much as $1,500 per week. -- By Dan Klein, JTA

To read more, click here.

Mensch in the Moon -- Honoring 50 Years in Space

Right now there are two Americans aboard the International Space Station, and their only way home is to hitch a ride in the Russians' Soyuz capsule, a ramshackle remnant of the 1960s. There's no space shuttle to bring them home because the shuttle's been retired; also retired are plans for an American return to the moon.  The country seems to have lost its space ambition.

But the future wasn't always so bleak.

In 1961, President Kennedy asked the nation to "commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the earth." The speech remains one of history's great throwings-down of the gauntlet; to humanity's enduring and pleasant surprise, the nation made it: on July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong hopped from a lunar lander into soft, grey moon dust and announced that he had taken one small step. The nation was justifiably proud of itself. But it didn't realize what a big part of its pride in the moon landing was owed to an engineer named Abe Silverstein. -- Josh Gelernter,  Jewish Ideas Daily

To read more, click here.

Far-right lawmakers’ move to leading party concerns Greek Jews

Greek Jewish leaders are expressing concern over the move by two far-right lawmakers to the leading conservative party.

Makis Voridis and Adonis Georgiadis resigned from the far-right Popular Orthodox Rally, or LAOS, and will run as candidates of the New Democracy party in April's elections. New Democracy is leading in the polls.

The lawmakers, who have expressed or associated themselves with insulting anti-Jewish views, stepped down from LAOS after backing a national austerity bill against the party's vote; the measure passed Monday.

The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece expressed Greek Jewry’s “concern and surprise” that Voridis and Georgiadis joined the New Democrats. -- JTA

To read more, click here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Israeli Among the Insurgents

Lt. Bilal Khabir of the FSA, formerly of the Syrian paratroops, in Sarmin, Idleb Province, Syria.
All photos Jonathan Spyer
Smuggled into Syria, an Israeli reporter Jonathan Spyer finds that the Free Syrian Army lacks leadership but is fiercely united against Bashar al-Assad and Iran -- Tablet

To read the article and see the accompanying slide show, click here.

Heavy Weekend Rains Raise Kinneret Water Level by Half a Foot

A view of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee)
Photo Credit:
The Kinneret, Israel’s Sea of Galilee, has long been a steady source of concern for locals, with the need for water for drinking and agriculture scoring the highest points for anxiety, followed closely by tourism.

The lowest level was reached in 2001, at 214.87 meters (704.95 feet) below sea level. At that point the ecological damage to the beautiful lake was considered critical, as the water receded to as much as a thousand feet from where the beaches used to be.

Happily, the current rainy winter has elevated the Kinneret’s water level by 2.21 meters (7.25 feet), compared with that driest of seasons, 11 years ago. Altogether, this rainy season has contributed 1.4 meters (4.59 feet) to the water level, putting it at 212.66 meters (697.70 feet) below sea level.

This weekend alone brought up the lake’s level by 19 cm, or a little over half a foot.

The Kinneret needs to rise 3.86 meters (12.66 feet) to reach its optimal water level, which experts suggest could possibly happen after the end of the rainy season. They point out that record snow on the mountains north of the lake will result in record thawing come spring. -- Yori Yanover, Jewish Press

Tel Aviv approves resolution to run buses on Shabbat

The Tel Aviv City Council approved a resolution to allow public transportation to run on Shabbat.

The measure was approved Monday evening by a vote of 13-7.

The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality must now seek a permit from the Israeli Transportation Ministry, but the ministry said in a statement that "There is a decades-old status quo regarding operation of public transportation on Shabbat, and the Transportation Ministry does not intend to violate it."

If the ministry rejects the request, the resolution provides for the creation of an independent transportation service.

In general, public transportation does not operate on the Sabbath in Israel, except in Haifa and Eilat on a limited basis. It is part of the "status quo," a doctrine that regulates the public relationship between the religious and secular positions in Israel.

In a public letter released Tuesday morning addressed to Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who supports the measure, Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau called for the decision to be reversed.

"This is a severe blow to the holiness of the Shabbat, which is a remnant of Creation, a reminder of the Exodus from Egypt, a day of rest for every worker and a day of spiritual ascension and the unity of the family," Lau said in the letter.

In an interview on Israel Radio, Lau said that Meir Dizengoff, the first mayor of Tel Aviv, pledged that Shabbat would be publicly observed in the "first Hebrew city" and that the decision harms the status quo. -- JTA

A conversation on love and loss with JTSA Teacher

Eitan Fishbane, assistant professor
in the Department of Jewish Thought of The Jewish Theological Seminary,
where he teaches courses in the literature and history of Jewish mysticism,
from medieval Kabbalah to modern Hasidism.

Jewish studies professor whose new memoir recalls the tragic death of his wife at age 32. -- By David Green, Haaretz

To read more, click here.

Interfaith coalition urges candidates to eschew religious division

Several Jewish groups joined an interfaith coalition calling on presidential candidates to refrain from using religion as a political wedge issue.

Fifteen religious organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee and the Union for Reform Judaism, issued an Interfaith Statement of Principles advising the candidates to abide by principles of religious liberty and avoid religious discord as they campaign for the November race.

The principles included calls for candidates to be responsive to constituents of all religions, conduct campaigns without appeals for support based on religion, reject messages that reflect religious prejudice and avoid actions that encourage religious division in the electorate.

“This statement of principles reaffirms our commitment to freedom of religion as enshrined in the Constitution, and our message to all candidates for public office is to set a proper tone where faith may be openly discussed, but avoid overt appeals for support on the basis of religion, or the denigration of another person’s views on the basis of religion,” said Abraham Foxman, the ADL's national director, in a statement.

"Candidates should reject appeals to voters that reflect religious prejudice, bias or stereotyping," he said, "and avoid statements intended to encourage divisions along religious lines.”

Other signatories to the statement included the Interfaith Alliance, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the National Council of Churches USA, as well as other Hindu, Muslim, Protestant and Sikh groups. -- JTA

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Black tomato coming to a salad near you

Everyone knows that Israeli food is scrumptious, fresh and flavorsome. It's also highly innovative.

At the annual Arava Agricultural R&D exhibition - which took place earlier this month -visitors were wowed by new edible produce including a black tomato, rainbow colored carrots and red lemons.

Over 250 companies from Israel and around the world participated in the expo.

The new species of fruits and vegetables are set for export. And in addition to adding a splash of color to the salad bowl, the new produce reportedly packs more vitamins and antioxidants into its fruit/vegetable.

"Black Galaxy" tomato was developed by Technological Seeds DM. The company says that the color was derived from a pigment in blueberries and that the new species has higher concentrations of Vitamin C as found in regular tomatoes.

Among other new edible creations, the show featured the latest agro-tech developments including thermal plant imaging and a crop dusting robot.-- Viva Sarah Press, Israel 21c

To view the accompanying video, click on image below.

Chavez opponent faces anti-Semitism

Magazine puts Star of David on image of
Henrique Capriles Radonski, who is of Jewish descent.
Henrique Capriles Radonski, who on Sunday [Feb. 11] handily won the opposition’s ticket in the Venezuelan presidential race, is said to have the best chance of defeating President Hugo Chavez in an election in years when voters go to the ballots on October 7.

But some observers worry supporters of the incumbent might turn the 39-year-old governor of Miranda’s Jewish ancestry into an issue by smearing him with anti-Semitic slurs. -- Gil Shefler, Jerusalem Post

To read more, click here.

Make a baby face, make peace

If Puss in boots was a politician, maybe he could bring peace.
A Hebrew University study shows that baby-faced diplomats and politicians make people more willing to compromise. -- Karin Kloosterman, Israel21c
To read more, click here.

English National Opera in Hot Water over “Death of Klinghoffer”

Grave site of terror victim Leon Klinghoffer.
Photo Credit:

The Telegraph reports that Jewish groups have accused the English National Opera of “giving a voice to terrorism” and have threatened to mount protests after the company’s decision to stage the rarely-performed “The Death of Klinghoffer”. Based on the murder of a disabled Jewish tourist during the hijacking of a cruise ship by Palestinian militants, the opera company itself says the production will “shock” audiences. -- Yori Yanover, Jewish Press

To read more, click here.

Recognizing Synagogue Inclusion

With a specially designed, handicapped-accessible bima, sign-language services for the deaf and alternative holiday programs aimed at those with disabilities, Congregation Rodeph Sholom is at the forefront of the inclusion movement.

Now, the Reform synagogue on the Upper West Side is being formally recognized for its effort to bring people with disabilities — who have long been on the sidelines — more fully into Jewish life. It took first place in The Synagogue Inclusion Award, sponsored by UJA-Federation of New York’s Caring Commission. -- Hannah Dreyfus, NY Jewish Week

To read more, click here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

For Presidents' Day: Washington and Lincolm and the Jews

“To Bigotry No Sanction, to Persecution No Assistance”
George Washington's Letter to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island (1790)

The letter, a foundation stone of American religious liberty and the principle of separation between church and state, is signed, simply, “G. Washington.” Each year, Newport’s Congregation Kahal Kadosh Yeshuat Israel, now known as the Touro Synagogue, re-reads Washington’s letter in a public ceremony. The words deserve repetition.  --Jewish Virtual Library

To read more, click here.

Abraham Lincoln and the Jews

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, whose 200th birthday we are observing, was a protector and friend for the Jews "In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity."

At the outset of the Civil War the Jewish Community faced official discrimination as the legislation expanding the US Army restricted the chaplaincy to clergy of the Christian faith. Members of the Jewish Community energetically protested this exclusion. Petitions for change in the law, including one in the U.S. Senate presented by Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, later the author of the 13th Amendment ending slavery, were submitted. -- Stephen M. Astrachan, Jewish Magazine

To read more, click here.

Former national security adviser calls for Pollard clemency

Robert McFarlane, who served as National Security Advisor under President Ronald Reagan, has called on President Obama to grant clemency to Jonathan Pollard.

McFarlane wrote in a Feb. 9 letter to President Obama that an affidavit filled by then Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, which is often cited as the reason for Pollard's continued incarceration, was "surely inspired in large part by his deeply held animus toward the State of Israel."

"His extreme bias against Israel was manifested in recurrent episodes of strong criticism and unbalanced reasoning when decisions involving Israel were being made," McFarlane wrote of Weinberger.

Pollard, who has been imprisoned since his 1985 arrest, was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 after being convicted of spying on behalf of Israel. He is said to be ill.

McFarlane wrote that the "imprisonment of Mr. Pollard for more than 26 years is more than excessive and well beyond what any court would award for the same action today. Mr. Weinberger's unduly harsh and unwarranted severity was disgraceful and mean-spirited. It has resulted in a great injustice that I encourage you to mitigate by awarding clemency and commuting Jonathan Pollard's sentence to time served."

A recent push for clemency has garnered substantive support among congressional Democrats and a range of former officials of Republican and Democratic administrations. -- JTA

Does Education Fuel Anti-Semitism?

 German Study Says Holocaust Studies May Increase Hatred--Dan Fleshler, Forward

Strange Brew: Holocaust education in Germany can have unintended effects.
Some students react negatively to the portrayal of Jews as victims,
which may reinforce their beliefs that Jews hold power in the world.
Getty Images

To read more, click here.

Israel exports millions of flowers for Valentine's Day

Israeli farmers sent millions of flowers to Europe, North America and Asia for Valentine's Day, reported the Flower Growers Association.

It's a tradition for people around the world to show their love with flowers on Valentine's Day. Not surprisingly, Flower Growers Association secretary general Haim Hadad reported a jump of 40-70 percent in demand for Israeli flowers in the run-up to the holiday of love.

Red was the most popular color of flowers this year, said Hadad. He added that in addition to roses, gerberas, anemones and buttercups were also in high demand.

The Flower Growers Association reported that in the run-up to Valentine's Day flower sales would bring in some $10 million - with 90% of sales coming from export. -- Viva Sarah Press, Isarel21c

What is the Jewish view on obligation to care for aging parents?

From the various Movements.

Reform answer by Rabbi Holly Cohn
Orthodox answer by Rabbi Gidon Rothstein
Conservative answer by Rabbi Michael Schwab

To read the article, click here.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mourning in America--Another thing to learn from Whitney Houston's death

A video tribute to Whitney Houston at the Grammy Awards, Feb. 12, 2012.
(Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
The awkward tribute to the late Whitney Houston at the Grammys proves that the country still hasn’t learned how to mourn properly. But Judaism has. -- Liel Leibovitz, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Opinion: Thank you Planned Parenthood

Amid all the hubris and rancor flying around the subject of women’s reproductive rights these days, I suggest we stop for a moment and send a word of thanks to Planned Parenthood for its 100 years of caring for both women and men with nowhere else to turn — almost 50 of those years in Los Angeles.

This venerable organization is well known for offering every kind of gynecological care, including birth control and, in a small percentage of cases, when requested, terminating unwanted pregnancies. But it also performs vasectomies for men,  and sex education for middle- and high-school students — including peer-advocate programs — as well as parent and adult education. -- Susan Freudenheim, Jewish Journal

To read more, click here.

Israel education initiative for camps launched

A new Israel education initiative for camps is launching with grants of $3.6 million.

The Larry and Lillian Goodman Foundations has awarded a four-year, $2.3 million matching grant to the iCenter and the Foundation for Jewish Camp to establish the Goodman Camping Initiative for Modern Jewish History. The grant will be matched by the Marcus Foundation and the Avi Chai Foundation, who are jointly contributing a $1.3 million grant to the program.

The objective of the initiative is to enhance and expand the teaching of modern Israeli history and culture at nonprofit independent Jewish overnight camps.

A recent study by the Foundation for Jewish Camp found that Jewish camp alumni are 55 percent more likely to feel emotionally attached to Israel.

“As young Jews are our future leaders, Jewish camps provide an ideal environment for them to learn about Israeli history and culture so that they will be knowledgeable when standing up against anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses,” said Larry Goodman, chairman of the Goodman Foundations. “We believe the Goodman Camping Initiative will be an influential program in building deep ties with the state of Israel for thousands of campers and staff.”

Beginning in summer 2012, participating camps will feature an in-house modern Israel educator and five trained senior staff. The first cohort, which has already been selected, will be made up of 12 camps and the program is set to expand to 36 camps over the four-year period. -- JTA

Mormons Still Baptizing Dead Jews Despite Agreements to End Practice

LDS leaders have apologized for the baptism of the parents of famed Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal, but the persistent posthumous baptizing of Holocaust victims has outraged Jewish leaders. -- Allison Yarrow, Daily Beast (Feb. 15, 2012)

To read more, click here.

ALSO SEE from the LDS Press
Mormon Church apologizes for Jewish baptisms for the dead

Volunteer's access to database revoked after Holocaust survivor's name is submitted -- Joseph Walker, Deseret News (Feb. 15, 2012)

To read more, click here.

New Developments in the Jewish Classroom and Beyond

Ramaz taps ‘outsider’ as headmaster; Touro professor wins three Holocaust research fellowships; Israel education push at UJA-Fed.; ORT to open third school in Buenos Aires. -- Julie Wiener, NY Jewish Week

To read more, click here.