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Post  Admin on Wed 08 May 2019, 10:16 am

The Tragic Story of Dan Givon: A Yom Hazikaron Remembrance
May 6, 2019  |  by Adam Ross
https://www.aish.com/jw/id/The-Tragic-Story-of-Dan-Givon-A-Yom-Hazikaron-Remembrance.html?s=mm
The Tragic Story of Dan Givon: A Yom Hazikaron Remembrance
A week after receiving his wings in the Israeli air force, Dan fought in The Six Day War. He was killed defending Jerusalem.

For years on my way home in Jerusalem I would pass Givat HaMatos (Airplane Hill) and wonder what was the story behind this place and how it got its name. I finally succumbed to intrigue and began to unravel the life of an idealistic Israeli pilot whose plane was shot down, crashing into the mountain ridge I rode past every day. His name was Dan Givon and he died defending the city I am proud to call home.

Lt. Dan Givon
Dan was born on April 26 1946, two years before the State of Israel was declared. His parents, Ben-Uri and Miriam, were among a group of youth movement members who had moved from Romania and Yugoslavia, founding members of a new kibbutz. Shaar Ha Amakim, meaning Gate of the Valleys. Located in the north of the country, with the beautiful backdrop of the Carmel Mountains, today it is a home to a wide range of successful Israeli farming and enterprise, and a major producer of sunflower seeds.

Brother to Shula and Ilan Givon, Dan is remembered with affection by friends from the kibbutz, now in their 70s. “He was a handsome young man,” says Baruch Birnbaum. “He was blessed with many talents.”

Dan seemed to breeze through school and stood out for his music and artistic capabilities. Together with other children on the kibbutz, he formed a musical group who would perform songs in Hebrew. Dan was the songwriter and among his favorite themes was the beauty of the land of Israel.

At 16, Dan left the kibbutz to finish the final year of high school in Tel Aviv, attaining high grades across the board. At the end of his last year of studies, with his military service approaching, he had long made up his mind to take the entrance test for the air force. As the Israeli saying goes, “The best go to be pilots.”

Dan Givon fought in The Six Day War a week after receiving his wings.
Yisrael Rom, a friend, recalls, “He worked incredibly hard. Many on the kibbutz were surprised when he completed the course.” Not everybody did; it was tough mentally and physically, and pilots often flew alone, requiring a vast knowledge of aviation and the mastery of the mechanics of the wide range of planes that comprised Israel’s air force. Dan was 21 when he graduated the course at the end of May 1967, on the eve of the Six Day War. As he was receiving his wings, massive Egyptian and Syrian forces were mounting on Israel’s borders while calls for her destruction rang through the airways in Cairo and Damascus.

Israeli pilots flying Fouga Magista planes.
Israel acted decisively with a pre-emptive strike on the Egyptian forces, destroying over 500 aircraft as they sat parked on the runway. That day, Dan received his first mission, in his Fouga CM.170 Magister plane, providing air support for the IDF ground forces who had become enmeshed in fighting as they attempted to strike the 100,000 Egyptian troops and 3000 tanks, APCs and artillery pieces on the Sinai border. On the second day of the war he was called to defend Jerusalem after Jordan entered the war, sending a barrage of artillery fire towards Jewish neighborhoods on the city’s south eastern belt.

The Jordanians had dug deep into a large hill across a shallow valley from Kibbutz Ramat Rachel. The site was of high strategic value, giving a view of over half of Jerusalem. Also home to a 6th century monastery, in 1956 it gained the notorious name, The Hill of the Four, after Jordanian snipers gunned down four Israeli archaeologists touring the site. A network of tunnels, barracks and trenches had been dug into the side of the ridge of the hill allowing Jordanian forces to pose a constant threat to Jewish neighborhoods.

A strategic site overlooking Jerusalem

As part of a four-plane platoon, Danny, the youngest of the pilots, flew low over the hillside attempting to find the right angle to take out the artillery positions. Trying to dodge anti-aircraft fire, he took a direct hit, plummeting out of the sky and crashing down on the adjacent ridge. The place became known as Givat HaMatos, Airplane Hill.

“I remember the attack,” writes Moshe Limey, who was nine years old in 1967. “The planes reached southwest of the monastery above the green mountain. There I saw four planes fly past shooting at the mountain hideout. I will never forget, the fourth plane was hit and did not emerge with the others.” He added, “I will always remember how it curled toward the ground and the strong black smoke that rose into the sky after it hit the ground.”

Remain of Jordanian base dug into the hillside

In the spirit of the IDF not to leave a man behind, efforts were made immediately to rescue Dan’s body from his aircraft. However in the ensuing attempts to rescue him, three soldiers tripped mines planted by Jordanians, suffering serious leg injuries. After the war, two of these men would name their sons Dan in his memory.

The terrible news soon reached Dan’s parents and his friends in Shaar HaAmakim where friends to this day remember the sadness that engulfed the kibbutz.

Baruch Birnbaum, says, “I can still recall when they posted the news of his death on the billboard in the dining room. The whole kibbutz was in heavy mourning.” He continued, “It was just the day after another son of kibbutz members had been killed while on patrol near the Gaza Strip.”

During Dan’s funeral at the kibbutz cemetery his father recited some of his poems.

For these friends and family, the idealism of this young pilot still lives on. “I still remember the songs Danny wrote like it was yesterday,” Birnbaum says, “They pay testament to a young man who had such sensitivity and love for the colors, landscapes, sounds, sounds and people he grew up with.”

The Jerusalem municipality erected a monument on Givat HaMatos on the spot where Dan fell. It flanks the Hebron Road, a major artery that leads to the Old City that was also liberated in the Six Day War. A local elementary school has taken responsibility to preserve the site, visiting every year to clear away the weeds, cut back the grass and keep the memory of this story alive. Directly opposite, stands the Mar Elias Monastery and the remains of the Jordanian batteries that can still be seen visibly by passing cars.

Monument on Givat HaMatos

I have often taken visitors to climb this hill, to take in its incredible panoramic view of history and beauty, old and new. To one side are the foothills and town of Bethlehem, where King David once walked as a shepherd, to another is the Tomb of Rachel, the Matriarch of the Jewish People buried by Jacob almost 4,000 years ago. As you turn, an unbelievable vista of Jerusalem opens up, with over half of the city visible, and just meters away is Givat HaMatos where one of Israel’s most idealistic young pilots fell protecting the land that he loved.

On Yom HaZikaron, let us remember Lt. Danny Givon and all of the soldiers and members of the security forces who have fallen in their defense of Israel. May their memories be for a blessing.
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Post  Admin on Wed 08 May 2019, 10:07 am

Rocking My Crown: Highs and Lows of Covering My Hair
May 4, 2019  |  by Eve Levy
https://www.aish.com/ci/w/Rocking-My-Crown-Highs-and-Lows-of-Covering-My-Hair.html?s=mm
I walk around in this world with a constant awareness of who I am as a married Jewish woman – off limits to other intimate relationships.

The morning after my wedding, I woke up in the hotel suite in Jerusalem and was getting ready to go down for the gourmet honeymoon breakfast with my husband of a few hours. Before heading out the door, I paused, realizing I had forgotten something. I ran back to my suitcase to choose a scarf from my bag, one that matched perfectly with my outfit. I looked into the mirror, and without any skill or experience (read: I had no clue what I was doing!), I tied up and covered my long brown hair for the first time in my life. And when I walked out of the hotel room door that morning, it was the very first time the world would not see my hair.

Since that day 18 years ago, only my husband and children have seen me with my hair uncovered. Looking back now, I smile at my innocence. I was barely 20 years old. So idealistic. So pure. I was so excited for this new look and the status that came along with it. The status of being an Orthodox Jewish married woman. I couldn’t wait for all the accessorizing, and to use my creativity and artistic flare to do this mitzvah. So many choices, so many colors... This is going to be great fun! I thought. I was living in Israel at the time, and this was the norm in my circles. You get married – you cover your hair. So when in Rome...and I just jumped in.

Fast forward 18 years. I am still covering my hair. The excitement has waxed and waned over the years; I’ve gone through many stages and phases in my connection to this observance. I won’t lie and say it has always been a breeze. There have been tears. I’ve had to search and find meaning for myself within this observance after the initial excitement wore off. I’ve had to make this something that I am proud to keep doing. Every. Single. Day. Even when I don’t feel like it, or when it feels too hot to put something on my head.

I choose to keep doing this, not out of rote but out of choice. And I still choose to uphold this tradition just like my great grandmothers did in Europe until they were taken to the gas chambers in Auschwitz. Just like my husband’s grandmothers and great grandmothers did in North Africa. And just like I imagine the Jewish matriarchs did in Israel thousands of years ago. I choose to carry on the tradition.

Eve Levy. Yes she is wearing a wig.

Jewish observances should make your heart sing. This goes for any mitzvah. They are meant to be used as ways for connecting us with our Creator. A mitzvah is precious, like a diamond. Neither one should feel heavy or burdensome. A mitzvah should ideally feel uplifting. If it doesn’t, that could be a sign that something needs readjusting. You may need to change how you are doing the mitzvah. Relearn the meaning behind the particular mitzvah, find some fresh inspiration, get advice from a mentor, figure out how to make it work for you in a way that makes you happy. God wants us to serve Him with joy. He wants our hearts to sing.

So why do Jewish women cover their hair?

If you would ask this question to five different women, you might get five different answers. One woman might answer that she is keeping her hair exclusively for her husband. One woman might answer she does it because her mother did it. One woman might say that for her it is connected to the laws of modesty. For some, it is logical; for others, it’s emotional.

I’d like to share with you some ideas that resonated with me.

The Talmud teaches that God braided Eve’s hair before her wedding to Adam. It highlights the power of hair. Hair is a big part of our beauty as women. Hair may seem so insignificant, not a vital part of our bodies. But interestingly enough, it grows opposite the most important part of oneself – the brain. Even our body hair grows opposite places of power – under our arms, which are the vehicles of action in the world, and on our reproductive parts, which are the place of utmost creation and creativity. 

In our society, a ring on a finger indicates marriage. Every society has different norms.  Historically, women wore hair coverings, Jews and non-Jews. Gloves and bonnets were a symbol of society. Status. Respect. Dignity. The queen of England always wears a hat or crown on her head when in public till this day.

Where there is more spiritual voltage, you need more spiritual protection.
There are deep Kabbalistic teachings that talk about the powerful aura that emanates from the head of a person. The Talmud tells us how an angel teaches the entire Torah to a baby in utero. This light in the womb shines from above the head, and it stays lit for the entire life of the person.

When a woman gets married, her aura changes. This special aura now becomes more open and vulnerable to negative external forces. Covering her head acts as a protection to herself. A marriage and an intimate relationship have so much potential. There is so much voltage, so to speak. Where there is more spiritual voltage, you need more spiritual protection.

Some may not even realize that I always have my head covered. To some, I might look very natural sporting a wig or a headband fall. People may not know it, but I always know that I am covering my hair. As comfortable as wigs can be these days, you still feel like you’re covering your head. And that’s important. I walk around in this world with a constant awareness of who I am as a Jewish married woman – off limits to other intimate relationships. A certain barrier separates me from other men. I personally feel a particular containment and centering when my head is covered.

As I get dressed each morning, with my unique style and flare, I take a moment to pause in front of the mirror. I look myself over and I ask myself: am I representing my true self? Do I look dignified? Do I represent the daughter of the King? With this final touch before I start my day as a busy working mom, I cover my hair.

Now, I am ready. I do feel like a princess, being crowned with royalty. Ready to represent myself to the world. Ready to sanctify God’s name as best as I can.

This is my choice. This is my tradition. I am honored to uphold this and rock my crown.
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Post  Admin on Mon 06 May 2019, 5:07 pm

Smuggled Out of Kovno Ghetto in a Sack
Apr 29, 2019  |  by Adam Ross
https://www.aish.com/ho/p/Smuggled-Out-of-Kovno-Ghetto-in-a-Sack.html?s=mm
Smuggled Out of Kovno Ghetto in a Sack
Erik Brik was a young boy when he survived the Holocaust. He moved to Israel with his family where he reached great prominence.

Erik Brik was born in Kovno, Lithuania in 1936, the only son of Zvi Brik an attorney and his wife Leah, a school teacher. The second biggest city in the country and once its capital, Kovno was famous for its textiles, breweries and furniture production and was brimming Jewish artisans and businesses. Home to dozens of synagogues and Jewish schools with many active Zionist youth movements, Kovno’s Jewish population of 31,000 made up a quarter of the town. The famed Slobodka yeshiva - one of the most renowned seats of Torah learning in Europe – was located close by.

On 25 June 1941, the thriving and vibrant Jewish life in Kovno came to an abrupt halt when the Nazis conquered the city, unleashing a wave of brutal attacks by Lithuanians who murdered hundreds of the Jews in broad daylight on the streets of the city. Within weeks, the Nazis consolidated their grip on the town, forcing the Jews into a ghetto, and in a series of gruesome aktions, led large groups to nearby the forests, shooting them in military forts abandoned by the Soviets.

Forced labor in the Kovno Ghetto

The killings spread fear throughout the community, with the date October 28 1941 still etched in the memory of the few survivors of the town. On that day 9,200 men, women and children were led to the notorious ninth fort, lined up and shot, their bodies buried in shallow pits. The remaining 20,000 Jews in the ghetto lived in constant fear.

No memories of happiness
Five years old when the Nazis entered the city, Erik Brik testified over 60 years later, “I don’t remember that I ever played in the ghetto, I was always afraid.” He added, “I was always within four closed walls, I could not go out. I have no memories of happiness. I can remember only the fear and worry of the daily deprivation.”

Several bitter moments have been etched into his childhood memories. “One day I dropped a pot of soup,” he said. “It was a tragedy because you have no food.” The food was in such short supply, “A rotten potato which has been smuggled in from outside turns the day into a festival.”

Jews forced to leave the Kovno Ghetto

The Nazis brutally exploited the Jews for slave labor, marching 4,500 Jews, already weak from hunger, six kilometers a day to build a military airport for the German air force. Those who worked there lived with the hope that being useful to the Nazis would keep them alive, while each day they would come home terrified to find their families had been deported or taken away in another brutal aktion.

Erik’s father, fearing for his son’s safety, dressed him as an older boy taking him along to work with the other men of the ghetto. On March 27 1944, the Nazis stepped up their murderous plans for the Jewish people, dragging 1,800 children and babies out of the ghetto, shooting them in cold blood. Somehow Erik survived the aktion. “Death is a phenomenon that I saw from up close all around me,” he said.

Hiding underground
As the remaining Jews of Kovno realized their end was near, they began to dig underground bunkers under the buildings of the ghetto, hoping they could hide or owing to some twist of fate, survive until they were liberated. Some who had good contacts outside of the ghetto tried to find ways of escaping but Zvi Brik, a respected leader in the city both before and during the war, refused to abandon his community. Joining others in one of the bunkers, he used his pre-war connections with local gentiles to smuggle his wife and their son out of the ghetto, so Erik’s incredible story of survival continued.

‘They put me in a sack and told me not to make a sound’
One of the ghetto’s factories produced uniforms for the German army; it was another way the Jews of the city used their skills as artisans to remain useful to the Nazis for as long as possible. In a carefully worked out plan, Zvi bribed the wagon driver and guards collecting a batch of uniforms from the ghetto and organized his family’s escape, placing Erik into one of the sacks, with the guard allowing his mother to walk alongside the wagon.

“They put me in a bag and told me not to make a sound,” Erik said remembering the tense journey. “If it was cold or hot or whatever, I was not to make a sound.” The wagon contained valuable goods for the Nazi war effort, and the sack containing 8-year-old Erik was placed on top so that he’d be able to breathe.

A few kilometers outside the ghetto, the wagon stopped and all of the sacks were unloaded into a barn. They had arrived at the farm of a friend of Jaroslavas Rakevičius, a friend of Erik’s father before the war.

Jaroslavas Rakevičius was awarded as a Righteous among the Nations by Yad Vashem
Erik had spent his childhood in the ghetto and had never spent time in the countryside. “When they opened the sack,” he recalled, “I opened my eyes and saw a cow. I had never seen one before.”

Erik and his mother stayed at the farm, just outside Kovno for three days before Rakevičius and his sons, who had also helped 20 other Jewish families to escape, sensing the Nazis were looking for Jews in hiding, took them to their own farm in the village of Keidžiai, around 100 kilometers away from Kovno. He remained hidden there with his mother, moving between two bunkers built under the family’s home and yard, hoping the war would end soon.

“Our biggest fear was being given away and someone informing on us,” Erik said. “If anyone would tell the authorities then not only we would be killed, but also the family that was looking after us.”

You must keep learning
Despite living with this fear, Erik’s mother refused to give up on her only son’s education. Drawing from her experience teaching before the war, she insisted they use their time in hiding to continue his education, tutoring him daily. “She taught me math and history, and I remember many long conversations about the world,” he said, recalling how his mother engaged him about life beyond the confines of the war.

As Erik and his mother stayed in hiding, Zvi Brik, along with the remnant Jews of Kovno, were hiding in the ghetto in their underground bunkers. As the Soviets advanced and the fortunes of the war turned, the Nazis began destroying the ghetto, setting fire to its buildings and smoking the Jews out of hiding. Sadly most of the bunkers were discovered, with the Jews inside suffocating from the smoke. Zvi’s bunker was not found and remarkably he too survived the war.

Reuniting and moving to Israel
After six months in hiding, the Brik family finally reunited, and two years later in 1947, moved to pre-state Israel to start a new life. Erik recalls the family’s journey: “We travelled from Lithuania to Poland, from Poland to Romania, from Romania to Hungary, from Hungary to Russian-controlled Austria, and from Russian-controlled Austria to British-controlled Austria.” He continued, “When we crossed the border we were suddenly met by a division of Brigade soldiers bearing the symbol of our flag.”

These were members of the Jewish brigade serving in the British army; from there they joined a boat of refugees sailing to Palestine. “These are things that will never be forgotten. The view of Haifa from the ship when we first arrived is something I will always remember."

Aharon Barak greets his rescuer’s son
Ceslovas Rakevičius in Israel, 1976
Eleven years old, when the ship docked Erik’s parents gave him the Hebrew name Aharon and changed their family name from Brik, to Barak, meaning ‘lightening.’ Their survival had been like flashes in the dark - one of a very few number of Kovno families who managed to reunite and begin new lives after the war.

Following in his father’s footsteps
In Israel, Aharon continued his education, the efforts of his mother in hiding had helped him retain his thirst for knowledge, despite the fear and anxiety he lived with on a daily basis. After serving in the IDF, he completed a bachelor's degree in International Relations at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University before choosing to follow in his father’s footsteps to qualify as an attorney.

Aharon Barak at Yad Vashem

After gaining great renown, in 1974, Aharon Barak was appointed the Dean of the Hebrew University Faculty of Law and one year later, the young boy smuggled out of Kovno Ghetto in a sack served as Attorney General of the State of Israel from 1975 to 1978. Barak served as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel (1978–95), and became President of Israel’s Supreme Court from 1995 to 2006. Such was the potential of one Jewish boy who survived the Holocaust.
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Post  Admin on Thu 02 May 2019, 9:01 pm

The Holocaust Survivor and the SS Guard
https://www.aish.com/ho/p/The-Holocaust-Survivor-and-the-SS-Guard.html?s=mm
Aug 19, 2017  |  by Judy GruenThe Holocaust Survivor and the SS Guard
Judy Meisel is one of the last people alive who can help finger a former SS guard who tormented her at the Stuttof concentration camp.

Judy Meisel, an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor, is one of the last people alive who can help finger a former SS guard, still never indicted for his crimes, who tormented her during her internment in the Stuttof concentration camp, near what is now the city of Gdansk. Two German law enforcement agents recently traveled to Minneapolis to interview Mesiel to see if she could categorically identify him through photos taken more than 70 years ago. For four hours, Meisel described the cruelties of the camp guards, the horrors she witnessed and the conditions in which she survived.

Born in a small Lithuanian shtetl called Josvane in 1929, Meisel’s life, already strained by poverty, turned into a nightmare when the Nazis jackbooted into town in 1941 and kicked the family out of their home. Meisel’s father had already died from a heart attack, but she, her mother, brother and sister were taken to the Kovno ghetto, where they languished for three years. Two months before the Soviets liberated the ghetto, Meisel's brother was sent to Dachau. The women were sent to Stuttof.

Commandant’s house at Stutthof

On November 21,1944, Judy and her mother, Mina Becker, were holding hands as they walked toward the gas chambers, awaiting their certain deaths. A drunken guard suddenly shouted at Judy at the entryway, startling her, and her mother shouted, “Run, Judith, run!”

Stutthof gas chamber

Half-starved, Judith escaped and returned to her sister Rachel in the barracks. The sisters miraculously survived, despite typhus and starvation, managing to escape from a death march, crawling across the frozen Vistula River to evade the Nazis, and finally taking shelter in a Catholic convent. The nuns treated them well but expected them to convert to Catholicism.

“I thought we were the only Jews still alive,” Meisel recalled of her time in the convent, “but I told my sister, ‘We cannot do this. We will not become Catholic and run away with the nuns.’ I wanted to be Jewish more than anything else to show Hitler that he didn't kill all of us." The sisters maintained their pretense of being Catholic while working at a German Wehrmacht station, and they were eventually liberated physically and emotionally in Denmark, where Judith arrived at age 16 weighing only 47 pounds, almost deathly ill from typhus.

Judy and her sister Rachel in Denmark

During Meisel’s recent interview with the German investigators, she was shown a picture of the guard and asked, “Do you recognize this man?” Her son, Minneapolis attorney Michael R. Cohen, was with his mother during this interview and saw her face turn white.

“Meydele! That is Meydele!” she exclaimed, using the Yiddish word for little girl. “My mother called him that name because of his girlish features. He was the one who watched us get undressed every morning.”

Cohen was shocked when his mother continued to look at the photo and then say to her interviewers, “Look at how young he was. Let me ask you a question: What would you do if you were me?”

Judy and her brother Abe who survived Dachau reuniting in Toronto 1950

“My mother’s capacity for forgiveness and fairness took over, even in the face of her worst nightmares,” Cohen wrote in an essay that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer. If an indictment is issued, German law will allow Meisel to participate as a co-plaintiff against him. As Cohen wrote about this case, “For my mother and our family, this is not a matter of revenge or of seeking the imprisonment of a 91-year-old man. We welcome the opportunity to tell her story and the important lessons it imparts about the need to never remain silent in the face of bigotry, prejudice, hatred, and intolerance.”

As a survivor, Judy Meisel raised her family with a strong Jewish identity and a passion for fighting on behalf of any people facing oppression. In the early 1960’s, when she saw news reports of a black family whose home was violently attacked for having moved into a white neighborhood, Meisel drove to their area with home-baked cookies and rang the doorbell.

Judy’s mother, Mina, (circa 1938) who was murdered in Stutthof gas chamber

“Mrs. Baker, I am a Holocaust survivor,” she said. “What can I do for you?”

Meisel helped organize the Philadelphia contingent that traveled to the March on Washington to hear Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on Aug. 28, 1963. She also had dinner with him and Raymond Pace Alexander , the first black judge appointed to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Dr. King explained the laws of kashruth to the host on Judy’s behalf.

While living in Santa Barbara, California for more than 40 years, Meisel regularly invited non-Jews to her home for Shabbat so they could understand what Jews do and how they practice their faith. “We need to learn to live with the goyim. That word means ‘nations’ and is not derogatory,” she said.

After the war, she said that she never questioned why God had done this to her and to others. “I asked instead, ‘What can I do for you?’ He wants we should be a mensch and should appreciate each other. We know after we finish reading the Hagaddah that we were strangers in Egypt. I go with that motto.”

Despite her unimaginably painful memories, Meisel has also spoken hundreds of times to audiences of college and high school students, as well as synagogues and churches about the Holocaust. But she did not focus exclusively or even primarily on the horrors of those days.

Recent photo of Judy with grandson Ben and great granddaughter Mira

“They need to hear what happened to me, but I also talk about the importance about being Jewish, about the Talmud, how it gives us resiliency. The most important day in my life is Shabbas. It has kept the Jews, and I don't think I would be alive if not for Shabbas. We should be so proud of who we are as Jews. The most important thing is to know who we are.”

Meisel returned to Lithuania as well as Stutthof and Denmark. These visits formed the basis of a riveting documentary titled “Tak for Alt,” “Thanks for Everything,” a reference to what the Danish people did for both Judy and her sister Rachel, nursing them back to health, absorbing them into their own families. During their time in Denmark, the sisters received the joyous news that their brother had also survived and was living in Toronto. At one point in the film, Meisel is seen holding her first grandson, Aaron, weeping with happiness.

“When I held him I thought of all the children who did not survive, and of the 146 members from my extended family who perished. We had all promised one another that if we survived we would tell the story.”

When told, as she often is, that she must have extraordinary resilience, she dismisses it. “I’m a normal person, flesh and blood. We all decide what we are able to do. I’m only one person, but one person can do a lot.”

To read more about Judith Meisel’s story and the status of the investigation, please go to judymeisel.com.

COMMENT ON THIS ARTICLE

https://www.aish.com/ho/p/The-Holocausts-Foremost-Unsung-Hero.html?s=mm
The Holocaust's Foremost Unsung Hero
Nov 2, 2014  |  by Emily Amrousi
The Holocaust's Foremost Unsung Hero
Moshe Kraus saved tens of thousands of Jews. Why has no one heard of him?
In 1986, a 78-year-old man named Moshe Kraus died in Jerusalem. You probably don't recognize the name. He was never commemorated in any way. He is not mentioned in any Holocaust encyclopedias. But Moshe Kraus is responsible for the largest rescue operation during the Holocaust. German industrialist Oskar Schindler, with his resourcefulness and courage, managed to save 1,200 Jews; Kraus saved tens of thousands.

Moshe Kraus
Photo credit: Beit Haedut Museum
Historians are divided on the exact number, but the most conservative estimate talks about at least 40,000 people, and some estimates are even as high as 100,000 Jews who escaped the Nazis in Hungary thanks to this daring man.

The year is 1944. The Nazis are stepping up the pace and sending more and more Jews to their deaths in efforts to quickly complete the extermination of Hungary's Jewry. A spacious glass factory located at 29 Vadasz Street in Budapest is granted extraterritorial status under the auspices of Switzerland. Some 3,000 Jews barricade themselves inside this building, dubbed the Glass House, for three months.

More and more homes in Budapest are turned into Swiss "safe houses," barring entry to Germans and the local complicit Hungarian authorities, and housing thousands of Jews. The Swiss embassy grants 40,000 Jews certificates making them foreign Swiss nationals. Tens of thousands of additional documents are forged while the Swiss turn a blind eye. Young, brave Jews disguised as Nazi officers roam the streets handing out these documents to Jews, and all of this is orchestrated by Kraus.

Among the Glass House survivors are many prominent Jews, including Moshe Shkedi, the father of former commander of the Israeli Air Force Maj. Gen. Eliezer Shkedi. "My father lived because of the Glass House," Shkedi says. "His parents and all his brothers were murdered. The important message is that not only Christians saved Jews during the Holocaust. Jews also managed to save thousands."

The story of the Glass House is one of the most fascinating historical events of that era. Much like the man behind the operation, this event has somehow evaded public attention and never received the recognition it deserved. The Beit HaEdut museum in Nir Galim has recently built a replica of the Glass House, in efforts to right this historical wrong. The forgotten story is now beginning to shed its anonymity thanks to the initiative of Ariel Bariach, the head of the museum.

A Mathematical Trick
For Hungary's Jews, the Holocaust started long after Europe's skies became saturated with smoke from crematoriums. Some 20,000 Jews who fled the Nazis in occupied countries sought refuge in Budapest, which was considered safe. But in March 1944, after the German invasion of Hungary, the Nazis began sending Jews from outlying Hungarian towns to extermination camps in Poland. Within the span of eight weeks, about half a million Jews from the Hungarian periphery were sent to their deaths, at a pace of about 12,000 per day. Entire communities were wiped out, one after another.

1.75 million people had been killed at Auschwitz and the camp was preparing for the arrival of 800,000 Hungarian Jews, slated to be killed.
In April 1944, two Slovakian Jewish prisoners managed to escape from Auschwitz. Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler met with the head of the Slovak Jewish Council, Oscar Krasniansky, and gave him a detailed account of what was happening at the death camp. Krasniansky translated their account and compiled a 32-page report (the Auschwitz Protocols) providing, for the first time, accurate and detailed information on the methods and dimensions of the Nazi extermination efforts. Vrba and Wetzler said that at that point 1.75 million people had been killed at Auschwitz, and that the camp was preparing for the arrival of 800,000 Hungarian Jews, slated to be killed.

By the end of May that year, Moshe (Miklush) Kraus had gotten his hands on the Vrba and Wetzler's report. Kraus was one of the heads of the Zionist movement in Hungary and he directed the Palestine Office in Budapest. He added his own report to the Auschwitz Protocols detailing the transport and extermination of the Jews in the outlying Hungarian towns. The report named every individual from every city and district. He then did everything in his power to disseminate the two reports.

These documents made their way to the regent of the Kingdom of Hungary, Miklos Horthy, and to all the important political figures in Hungary. An international news agency picked up the story and distributed it, and the reports created quite a stir in Switzerland. Swiss public opinion applied enormous pressure on Horthy. The pope, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Swedish King Gustaf the fifth all sent letters of protest to Budapest. Roosevelt's letter to Horthy included a military threat. As a result, Horthy put a stop to the deportation of Jews.

Between July and October of that year, before Horthy was deposed and the Arrow Cross Party rose to power, Kraus gave his all to try to include as many Jews as possible in the mathematical trick he had devised with the help of the Swiss. How did so many thousands of Jews manage to evade the Nazis' awareness? At the core, it was a feat of bureaucratic sleight of hand on a massive scale.

At the time, a British-issued immigration certificate, simply referred to as a "certificate," granting entry to Palestine, was viewed as a protective shield. Anyone in possession of such a certificate was considered a British citizen protected by the Swiss legation in Hungary, because Switzerland represented Britain's diplomatic interests in Hungary at the time. At the end of 1943, the Hungarian government recognized the rights of 1,500 holders of such certificates.

Kraus, together with other Palestine Office workers, approached Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz, who was stationed in Budapest as vice-consul and headed the office that represented British interests. Lutz was sympathetic to the Jews, having served in the Swiss consulate in Jaffa. He and Kraus had the idea to turn the 1,500 individual certificates into family certificates, including the families of 1,500 Jews in these protective documents – 7,800 people in all.

A month and a half after the Nazi occupation, when ghettos were at their peak in the outlying towns, Kraus and Lutz, with the help of anti-Nazi Hungarian foreign office workers, thought up yet another manipulation: They turned the 7,800 certificates back into individual documents, applying them to families as well, allowing them to save about 40,000 people, all of whom now possessed immigration documents issued by Switzerland. The International Red Cross, Britain and Switzerland recognized the 40,000 documents. The Nazis officially recognized only 7,800, but Kraus continued his efforts to get Nazi recognition for the full 40,000.

"The wait (for a reply) was long, and we didn't know the reason," Kraus wrote in an article, "until we found out something very strange: Someone had informed the German legation that the 7,800 documents applied to individuals, not families. That someone was one of us – Dr. Kastner."

The collective passport included tens of thousands of names.
Lutz gave the certificate holders protective passports or "Schutz-Passes" – which identified the bearers as Swedish subjects awaiting repatriation and thus prevented their deportation. The documents issued by the Swiss consulate in Budapest stated that the Swiss embassy's department of foreign interests confirms that so and so appears in a collective Swiss passport, and should be treated as having a valid passport. The collective passport included tens of thousands of names. In order to disguise the fraud, Lutz numbered the individuals in question between 1 and 7,800 – the number that had already been approved by the local authorities.

Five hundred Glass House employees who handled these documents were made into Swiss embassy employees, enjoying all the consular benefits: they were exempt from wearing the yellow star, and some of them were allowed to use the embassy vehicles and the consular telephone as part of their "consular" work. Kraus himself traveled in a car bearing the Swiss flag, driven by a Swiss driver.

The Swiss consulate in Budapest was too small to take on such an enormous operation. Arthur Weiss, the Jewish owner of the Glass House, gave Kraus the keys to his enormous factory, and Lutz issued Swiss diplomatic immunity to the building. A Swiss flag was hung at the entrance. "I chose the Glass House because I feared that there would be a lot more trouble and I knew that this building could hold a lot of Jews in a time of need," Kraus wrote years later.

Stepping Up the Rescue Efforts
In October 1944, Horthy is deposed and the Pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party takes power. A ghetto is established in Budapest and all the city's Jews between the ages of 16 and 40, excluding foreign nationals, are told to report to work camps. Hungary's national radio station announces three times a day that individuals holding Swiss documents are exempt from reporting for duty and can move freely during all hours of the day (Jews were forbidden from exiting their houses for more than two hours each day).

Thousands of Hungarian Jews clamor to the Glass House in search of Swiss papers, including Jews already slated to cross the border into Germany. A photo taken by an unknown photographer during that time depicts masses of people crowding the building's doors holding out their arms.

Beyond the 40,000 certificates, now tens of thousands are issued forged documents.
Lutz and Kraus step up their rescue efforts. Beyond the 40,000 certificates, now tens of thousands are issued forged documents, printed both inside the Glass House and elsewhere on paper stolen from the same printing house that printed the valid documents for the Swiss. The documents provide a sense of security, but in some cases they are recognized as forgeries by the authorities and their holders are sent to the extermination camps.

When Eichmann and the S.S. seek to bring all the Jews in the Budapest ghetto to prepare them for transportation to extermination camps, Kraus approaches Lutz and asks him to grant additional houses extraterritorial status. Lutz purchases 76 houses in Budapest and gives them Swiss immunity. Thousands of Jews possessing Swiss documents are given refuge in these safe houses. These houses are seen as Swiss territory in every respect, and their inhabitants are protected from being deported or taken to work camps. The Red Cross provides them with food and basic supplies.

Lutz's daring plan is adopted by other diplomats hailing from neutral countries. Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg turns 28 houses in Budapest into Swedish territory, housing 4,500 Jews. The Spanish, Portuguese and Vatican legations arrive at a similar agreement with the Hungarian authorities: Spain is allowed to hand out 1,500 certificates, Portugal 700 and the Vatican 3,000. Signs are posted on the safe houses declaring that they are under the protection of the legation and that foreigners are not allowed to enter. All the houses protected by foreign legations are dubbed an "international ghetto".

Kraus purchases another factory, a textile mill, and rents the football association headquarters that shares a wall with the Glass House in order to house the thousands of Jews he aims to save. Some 3,000 people crowd into the Glass House alone, sleeping side by side, head to toes, not daring leave the building for any reason. They sleep in every available space, in cellars, hallways, on tables, in attics. On Shabbat they all hold a collective Kiddush.

Youngsters belonging to the Zionist youth movement become Kraus' assistants. Pinhas Rosenbaum, a young Hungarian Jew at the Glass House, gets his hands on an Arrow Cross uniform and goes out in disguise every day to hand out dozens of Schutz-Passes to Jews. Tova Singer, a 12-year-old girl, takes a forged document stating that she is Christian, and helps transport orphan children from the ghetto to Red Cross orphanages.

Pinchas Rosenbaum
Meir Friedman, a Glass House survivor recalls how the document disseminators became bolder and bolder as time went by. "Dr. Shendor Unger, one of the Zionist bureaucrats, took a consulate vehicle and drove alongside the death march from Budapest to Vienna. Those who were able to say their names were provided with documents on the spot, in the car. They filled out a form and handed it to them. In 90 percent of the cases, the Hungarians had no choice but to honor these papers. Another car that followed the march took those people back to Budapest."

In November 1944, the systematic extermination of Jews left outside the safe houses begins. Death marches to the Austrian border take 2,000 Jews to their deaths each day, in the blistering cold. Kraus and Lutz debate whether or not to continue issuing Schutz-Passes, because if they were to issue more papers than they were allotted the trick would likely be discovered, jeopardizing the entire operation. In the end they decide to keep going.

Clerks and youth movement members work entire nights signing certificates. Kraus' people and members of the Swedish and Swiss legations go out into the streets, handing out life-saving papers with the ink still wet. They go to the death marches and hand out Schutz-Passes. The Hungarians are forced to release another group of people every time.

Holocaust researcher Dr. Ayala Nadivi explains that "it made no difference who received [the documents]. Young, old, men, women, they gave them to whomever they could."

According to Kraus' own account, up to 60 or 70 thousand people were in the safe houses.
According to Kraus' own account, up to 60 or 70 thousand people were in the safe houses. "It emerged that only 32,000 Jews were in the ghetto, while there were some 150,000 Jews in Budapest at the time," Kraus wrote after the war. "That is when the authorities decided to start looking for the missing Jews."

The attacks against the remaining Jews become worse. The Nazis start taking Jews to the banks of the Danube River, stripping them of their clothes and shooting them to death. Their bodies are then thrown into the river.

"We Slept on the Tables"
The Arrow Cross try to enter the Glass House and the other safe houses several times, under the pretext that they are looking for forged documents, but they retreat after Lutz steps in, asserting the buildings' diplomatic immunity.

Meir Friedman was 18 years old when he entered the Glass House. In the spring of 1944 he and his family fled from northern Hungary and headed to Budapest. "Lutz was a true righteous gentile. After all, he would have had to be blind not to see through the maneuver that Kraus and the Zionist youth movement had undertaken. Lutz pretended not to know," Friedman recalls.

"It was a miracle from above that 3,000 people were able to fit inside that building. The conditions were not good, but it was Holocaust deluxe compared to what the people on the outside were going through. I lived in a niche between the office and the top floor, together with several other people. Everyone tried to keep themselves occupied, so they wouldn't go completely crazy," he says.

There was a cellar for Orthodox Jews. They studied Torah in there without stopping.
"There was a cellar for Orthodox Jews. They studied Torah in there without stopping. There was an attic for the Hapoel Hamizrachi party. There was a cellar for Hashomer Hatzair with counselors for children and lectures for adults. There was no shortage of lecturers, professors and doctors among us. I remember someone handing out fliers about choir rehearsals."

Friedman helped affix photos to printed certificates. "The documents didn't provide absolute protection, but most of the Nazis honored them. There were instances, however, when they tore the paper into pieces and took the Jew."

Didn't the Nazis notice that tens of thousands of Jews became Swiss nationals right under their nose?

"Maybe they did notice, but they couldn't change extraterritorial laws. They wanted to show the world that they respected international law."

"On December 31 members of the Arrow Cross entered the Glass House compound in order to take us to the Danube. I will never forget it, because of the bitter cold. We were outside for two hours, until the Swiss embassy intervened and they were forced to let us go back in. Apparently the ruling rabble wanted to be seen as a legitimate government so they respected the Swiss."

Friedman's wife, Vera (Zipora) arrived in Budapest from Vienna at the age of 5, shortly after Kristallnacht. Her father was taken to a work camp and she and her mother hid with relatives in the city. When she was 11, the Arrow Cross rose to power.

"One day, Pinhas Rosenbaum came to us dressed as a Nazi officer. We were startled. We didn't know who he was. After the guard left the building, he immediately started speaking Yiddish so that we wouldn't be scared. He took my mother and me to the Glass House," she recounts.

"The front of the building was impressive and unusual. It was made entirely of glass. Inside were offices, a yard and warehouses. People slept on huge tables, and beneath them. Twenty people on the table and another ten below. There were families in every corner. We lived on the ground floor."

"On Shabbat we would hold a collective Kiddush and everyone sang. During Hanukkah we lit candles. We weren't sad together, but each one of us was sad by himself. Everyone had one suitcase that served as a closet as well as a partition from the person sleeping on the other side."

"The youngsters who were out dressed as Nazis also made sure there was food, and we got food from the Red Cross. Peas, mushrooms, cans. The sanitary conditions were rough – there were only four or five bathrooms for 3,000 people. People stood in line for the bathroom for hours. We bathed once a week. Men bathed in the yard in subzero temperatures, and the women used one pail filled with ice water in a corner. Once a week it was obscured with a curtain."

"Every day in the afternoon we had a Bnei Akiva meeting. We sang and talked about Eretz Israel. We heard that all the Jews in Europe had been murdered. All my relatives in Poland and Vienna. My mother's eight siblings. We never knew if we would survive. Every day was a surprise. We asked ourselves questions. We knew that we had a job – to keep the fire burning and go to Israel to build a Jewish life."

Meir Friedman met his wife after the war, at a Bnei Akiva chapter in Hungary. Together they moved to Israel as part of the youth movement, and later married and had three children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

In February 1945, with the liberation of Budapest, it became clear that more than 100,000 Jews in the city had survived. Several days before the liberation, the owner of the Glass House, Arthur Weiss, was caught and murdered by the Nazis. His wife and son survived, and moved to the U.S. after the war.

Carl Lutz was one of the first to be awarded the title "righteous gentile" by Yad Vashem. In 1965, Israel issued a medal in his honor, and a street in Haifa was named after him.

Moshe Kraus moved to Israel and ran an institution for young boys. He married a Holocaust survivor from Budapest. The two had no children.

At the lavish ceremony, no one mentioned Kraus. Only Lutz praised him again and again.
The Swiss government honored Kraus for saving 30,000 Hungarian Jews. But when Dr. Nadivi began her doctoral research on the Palestine Office in Budapest, she could find no information about Kraus in the Yad Vashem archives.

"It's sad. He was an enormous rescuer. There was no one like him. There was no other rescue operation during the Holocaust that saved so many Jews thanks to the initiative of one person. Thousands followed in the path that he paved – members of youth movements, who also saved others," Nadivi says.

At the end of the war, when the Jewish Agency told Lutz that he would be inducted into the Jewish National Fund's "Golden Book" of honor and that a ceremony would be held to honor him, he thanked them, but informed them that it was Kraus who should receive the honor, because without him, the operation would have never succeeded. As the ceremony neared, Lutz wrote the JNF again asking them to recognize Kraus' contribution. But then, at the lavish ceremony, no one mentioned Kraus. Only Lutz praised him again and again.

Courtesy IsraelHayom.com/ JNS.org
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https://www.aish.com/ci/s/Audrey-Hepburn-Teenage-Spy.html?s=mpw
Audrey Hepburn, Teenage Spy
Apr 27, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
388
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Audrey Hepburn, Teenage Spy
A new book sheds light on the Hollywood star’s heroic wartime activities.

Film icon Audrey Hepburn long hinted that she was active in the Dutch Resistance against the Nazis as a girl living in Nazi-occupied Holland. Now a biography of the star by Robert Matzen, called Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II has uncovered previously unknown ways that Hepburn, and her mother, aided the Allies.

Audrey Hepburn was only ten years old when World War II broke out. At the beginning of the war, she seemed like an unlikely heroine: she was born into an upper class Dutch family and some of her relatives were sympathetic to the Nazis. Six years later, her life was unrecognizable, marked by poverty and trauma and loss - and by secret work for the heroic Dutch resistance.

Hepburn was born in Belgium in 1929. Her mother Ella van Heemstra was a baroness, and her father was an Austrian-British banker. Both parents had fascist sympathies; they had met privately with Hitler in 1935, and Hepburn’s mother once wrote for a Nazi newsletter, saying, “Well may Adolf Hitler be proud of the rebirth of this great country and of the rejuvenation of the German spirit.”

Hepburn’s father walked out on the family in 1935. She and her mother moved to England for a few years, where Audrey Hepburn attended a private boarding school near Dover, but with war on the horizon the two returned home to Holland in 1939, settling in the eastern city of Arnhem. Hepburn’s mother took a job selling furniture, and for a while the Netherlands was peaceful and safe from the Nazi war machine at its borders.

That peace was shattered in May 1940, when Germany invaded the Netherlands. Soon, German troops were installed in every town and village, street signs were changed from Dutch to German, and the Nazi swastika replaced Dutch flags flying over town halls. Hepburn’s school curriculum was drastically altered: “In the schools,” Audrey Hepburn later recounted, “the children learned their lessons in arithmetic with problems like this: ‘If 1,000 English bombers attack Berlin and 900 are shot down, how many will return to England?’”

Soon, Hepburn witnessed unimaginable tragedies. She later recalled seeing a group of Jews being forced onto a train in 1941. “I remember, very sharply, one little boy standing with his parents on the platform, very pale, very blond, wearing a coat that was much too big for him, and he stepped on the train. I was a child observing a child… Then I realized what would have happened to him.”

Audrey Hepburn and her mother Ella, Baroness van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston
In 1942, the Nazis’ orgy of killing finally hit Hepburn’s family directly. Her uncle Otto van Limburg Stirum was arrested with four other men accused of anti-Nazi activities. They were driven to a forest, forced to dig their own graves, then tied to a stake and shot to death. This finally shook Hepburn’s mother’s faith in Nazism and she became a vocal opponent of Nazism and its cruelties.

Mother and daughter moved to the small town of Velp, where Hepburn’s grandfather lived, and explored ways to help the secret Dutch resistance in their fight against the Nazis.

Hepburn was only a teenager but she found ways to materially aid the resistance. She’d studied ballet for years and hoped to become a professional dancer. Now she used her dancing talents to help the resistance.

Audrey with her mother, Ella, in London in the late 1940s

In 1944, when she was 15, Hepburn began volunteering with Dr. Hendrik Visser’t Hooft, a Christian theologian who was a committed anti-fascist. Throughout World War II, Dr. Hooft organized contact and deliveries between the Dutch resistance and the Dutch Government in exile in London. With Hepburn’s aid, he organized secret dance recitals where Hepburn would perform, raising money for the resistance. They called these top-secret performances “zwarte avonden”, or “black evenings” because of their top-secret nature and the fact that they had to blacken out the windows so nobody would guess what was going on inside.

“Guards were posted outside to let us know when Germans approached,” Hepburn later described. “The best audiences I ever had made not a single sound at the end of my performance.”

Hepburn also aided Dr. Hooft with his courier work, delivering the underground anti-Nazi newspaper the Oranjekrant throughout the area on her bicycle. Because paper was hard to get hold of in wartime Holland, the Oranjekrant was tiny, only a few inches square. “I stuffed them in my woolen socks in my wooden shoes, got on my bike and delivered them,” Hepburn later explained. A fluent English speaker, she also delivered messages from the resistance to Allied pilots who’d been shot down.

For a time, Hepburn’s family sheltered a British pilot who’d been shot down over Holland. Hepburn’s son Luca Dotti is recorded in the book explaining that this was his mother’s favorite story to tell about World War II. “My mother told me it was thrilling for her - it was risky, he was a stranger in uniform, a savior, and therefore a knight and hero. Then I learned about the German law that if you were caught hiding an enemy, the whole family would be taken away.”

By the end of the war, Hepburn and her mother were reduced to living in a cellar to avoid aerial bombings. They had very little heat, water, or food. At times Hepburn would go several days at a time without eating; by the end of the war, when she was 16, she weighed just 88 lbs.

When her town was liberated by Allied troops in 1945, Hepburn and her family rushed outside, only to find themselves surrounded by armed soldiers pointing guns at them. Hepburn spoke to the soldiers in English and the troops started cheering. “Not only have we liberated a town, we have liberated an English girl!” one of the soldiers cried.

After the war, Hepburn continued to dance and also modeled. She acted in her first movie in 1948, and later danced in a musical in London’s West End. She moved to New York in 1951 to star in the musical Gigi on Broadway.

Audrey Hepburn with Otto Frank and his second wife.

Years later, after she was established as a major star, Hepburn was asked to play Anne Frank in a movie. Anne Frank’s father Otto Frank personally asked Hepburn to play his daughter, but Hepburn felt there was no way that she could. Both girls were born the same year and grew up not far from each other in Holland. Hepburn had read Anne Frank’s diary and felt an overwhelming kinship with the murdered Jewish girl. “That child had written a complete account of what I had experienced and felt” during the war, Hepburn told her son.

“I was so destroyed by it (reading Anne’s diary) again, that I said I couldn’t deal with” playing Anne Frank in a movie, a sorrowful Hepburn explained as she turned down the role. “It’s a little bit as if this had happened to my sister,” Hepburn explained. “In a way she was my soul sister.”

Despite her fame as an actress, Hepburn was most proud of her resistance activities during World War II. “The war was very, very important to her,” Hepburn’s son Luca Dotti says in the book. “It made her who she was.”

About the Author
Dr. Yvette Alt MillerMore by this Author >

Yvette Alt Miller earned her B.A. at Harvard University. She completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Jewish Studies at Oxford University, and has a Ph.D. In International Relations from the London School of Economics. She lives with her family in Chicago, and has lectured internationally on Jewish topics. Her book Angels at the table: a Practical Guide to Celebrating Shabbat takes readers through the rituals of Shabbat and more, explaining the full beautiful spectrum of Jewish traditions with warmth and humor. It has been praised as "life-changing", a modern classic, and used in classes and discussion groups around the world.



https://www.aish.com/ci/s/Doing-Jewish-and-Responding-to-Terror.html?s=mm
Doing Jewish and Responding to Terror
Apr 30, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
Doing Jewish and Responding to Terror
Jews around the world are pledging to do more Jewish acts after the shooting in California.
When a vile, racist anti-Semite burst into the Chabad of Poway synagogue near San Diego on the last day of Passover, he brazenly murdered a longtime congregant, Lori Gilbert Kaye. Sixty years old, Lori was known for her warm smile and her kindness; whenever her fellow congregants needed anything, Lori was the first to volunteer, often bringing meals to people who were ill.
Lori had made a special effort to attend services that day in order to recite the Yizkor prayer for her mother, and she was one of the first Jews the gunman encountered when he entered the lobby of the synagogue. The gunman ranted about Jews “ruining the world” then murdered Lori in cold blood in front of her 22 year old daughter Hannah.
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein was nearby, washing his hands before reading the Haftorah, when he heard the shot and spun around. The gunman turned and met Rabbi Goldstein’s eyes: the rabbi later recalled how chilled he was to see the coldness in them. The gunman raised his automatic rifle to shoot Rabbi Goldstein who instinctively raised his hands to protect his face. The gunman shot Rabbi Goldstein twice, once in each hand, tearing off one index finger and severely damaging the other.
In that moment, Rabbi Goldstein started to go towards Lori Kaye who laid on the ground, but realized that a group of children was standing in a nearby doorway, staring horror-struck at the carnage. One of those children was Rabbi Goldstein’s four year old granddaughter, watching her zeide get shot. Bleeding profusely, Rabbi Goldstein changed direction, herding the weeping children away from the lobby, yelling to run for safety and flee the synagogue.
Lori Gilbert Kaye with her daughter and husband
It was only because the gunman’s weapon jammed at that moment and he fled that more people weren’t injured or murdered. Eight year old Noya Dayan was injured when shrapnel tore open her leg; her 34 year old uncle Almog Peretz was also injured in his leg by shrapnel. As the terrified congregants gathered outside in front of the synagogue, police and emergency personnel arrived and urged Rabbi Goldstein to enter an ambulance and be rushed to the hospital. Before he acquiesced, there was one task Rabbi Goldstein knew he had to complete: grabbing a chair, Rabbi Goldstein climbed on and told his traumatized congregants, “We are strong, we are united, they can’t break us. Am Yisroel Chai - the People of Israel Live.” Only then did he allow himself to be taken to the hospital, where he faced four and a half hours of surgery on his hands.
Coming out of surgery, Am Yisroel Chai was first message Rabbi Goldstein sent to the world. Speaking wearing his hospital gown, he recorded a video urging Jews around the world to believe in that timeless message, and to change their lives to bring more light into the world. One prime way we can all react to the shooting is to pledge to celebrate Shabbat this week, lighting Shabbat candles and going to synagogue to stand with our fellow Jews.
“Today should have been my funeral,” Rabbi Goldstein wrote in The New York Times two days after the shooting. The day was the funeral of his good friend and congregant Lori Kaye, and it easily could have been his as well. “I do not know why God spared my life in Poway synagogue,” Rabbi Goldstein wrote; “All I can do is make this borrowed time matter.”
For Rabbi Goldstein, that means being even more proud of being Jewish: of proudly walking down the street wearing his kippah, proclaiming his belief in God to the world. As the Jewish world reels in horror after the shooting in California, he wants us to know that we all can do more to bring light into the world to counter the hatred and darkness, wherever we are.
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein
Rabbi Goldstein is urging Jews around the world to start making plans, now, to soar to new heights. “To light candles before Shabbat. To put up mezuzahs on their doorposts. To do acts of kindness. And to show up in synagogue - especially this coming Shabbat.”
We Jews have much to pray for. We should pray for the complete healing of all the injured, including Rabbi Goldstein, Yisroel ben Chana Priva; Noya bat Eden; and Almog ben Ruti. We also must make sure Lori’s sacrifice means something to us.
In the memory of Lori Kaye, Leah bat Reuven, a kindly generous woman, let’s each choose an act of loving kindness to perform in her memory. Whether it’s inviting a person to share a meal with us or reaching out to visit a lonely or ill neighbor, it’s time to pledge a change in her memory. Let’s counter the hatred that killed her with light. Let’s all stand together and resolve to live more proudly as Jews. Let’s resolve to come together this coming Shabbat and celebrate with our fellow Jews. This week, let’s make Rabbi Goldstein’s words a reality: Am Yisroel Chai. The people of Israel continue to live vital, rich, fulfilling and full Jewish lives.
COMMENT ON THIS ARTICLE
About the Author
Dr. Yvette Alt MillerMore by this Author >
Yvette Alt Miller earned her B.A. at Harvard University. She completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Jewish Studies at Oxford University, and has a Ph.D. In International Relations from the London School of Economics. She lives with her family in Chicago, and has lectured internationally on Jewish topics. Her book Angels at the table: a Practical Guide to Celebrating Shabbat takes readers through the rituals of Shabbat and more, explaining the full beautiful spectrum of Jewish traditions with warmth and humor. It has been praised as "life-changing", a modern classic, and used in classes and discussion groups around the world.


https://www.aish.com/ci/s/Jews-Shouldnt-have-to-Pay-with-their-Lives-to-Gather-in-Prayer.html?s=mm
Jews Shouldn't have to Pay with their Lives to Gather in Prayer
Apr 29, 2019
by Rabbi Marvin Hier and Rabbi Abraham Cooper
969
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Jews Shouldn't have to Pay with their Lives to Gather in Prayer
We need our leaders to work together to stop the hate — all hate — from the far right to the far left.

Ten years ago, we asked a hotel clerk in Frankfurt, Germany how to walk to the local synagogue. “Easy,” she said, smiling, “go to the second light, make a right and walk until you reach the armored half-track.” European Jews, to try to protect themselves from Palestinians in the 1970s and today from returning Islamic State fighters, have long accepted that the only way to pray in peace is to prepare for war. Synagogue goers in Paris, Rome, Copenhagen, and in Istanbul, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have paid with their lives for praying to God in a minyan.

Here at home, Jewish institutions large and small have had perimeter security for decades. Still, we all wanted to believe major attacks wouldn’t happen here. Now they have happened here … again and again. Six months to the day of the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh, when a white supremacist neo-Nazi mass-murdered 11 Jews, another Jewish woman, Laurie Gilbert Kaye, is dead, struck down – here in California – as she tried to shield her rabbi, who was injured along with two others, including an 8-year-old girl. They were allegedly gunned down by a 19-year-old white supremacist, who in word and deed copied the shooters in Pittsburgh and in a New Zealand mosque attack.

Something precious and uniquely American is being stripped away from us before our very eyes. Until recently, Americans of all faiths felt secure leaving our homes to go our churches, synagogues or mosques to pray, socialize with our faith communities and return home in peace.

No more. Terrorists, foreign and increasingly domestic, specifically seek to murder and maim the faithful. They are killing more than people; these terrorists are steadily destroying a key pillar of American society.

Is turning our houses of worship into armed camps the best we can offer our children?

We can and should increase training and deploy technological tripwires to “harden” houses of worship. But that cannot stop the hate.

We should also demand that all social media platforms remove “live streaming” capabilities that broadcast these onslaughts in real time. We should demand that Twitter, YouTube, Google, Facebook and others stop providing the anti-Semites and racists a platform. But that would also not stop the hate.

Instead of showing some moral leadership and bipartisan resolve, our politicians have chosen to weaponize anti-Semitism and racism. The recent “hearing” on white supremacist hate crimes in the House Judiciary Committee was a farce with both Democrats and Republicans more interested in pandering to their bases than forging a unified action plan to counter the kind of attacks that took place in Pittsburgh and San Diego. They are shirking their responsibilities to fight the hate.

We American Jews live with the fact that we are the No. 1 target of religious-based hatred.
The media have too often failed in their responsibilities. Hate is hate. But frankly, media outlets don’t always present a level playing field. They don’t seem to trust that Americans are mature enough to know that all Muslims aren’t responsible if an Islamist commits a hate attack, just as all of Christendom is not culpable when a “white nationalist” invokes Scripture to justify murder.

We American Jews live with the fact that we are the No. 1 target of religious-based hatred. In 2019, we are more worried than ever, not only because of the unprecedented level of deadly violent attacks but because anti-Semitism is now accepted in the mainstream of society. We are incensed and worried that America’s anti-Semite in chief, Louis Farrakhan, is rarely called out for decades of violent hatred of Jews and Judaism.

We watch in horror as freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) has injected anti-Semitism into the mainstream of American political culture. Her hatred is excused or winked at by the top leadership of her party.

Here’s what we need from our Democratic and Republican leaders: Spare us the morning-after news releases and work together to stop the hate – all hate – from the far right to the far left.

If we truly want to defeat hate and take back our nation’s venerated freedoms, we all have to earn it by being strong and by acknowledging our differences while working together to rebuild the playing field that once housed the American dream.

https://www.aish.com/jw/s/The-Kaliver-Rebbe-Rabbi-of-the-Holocaust-Dies-at-Aged-96.html?s=mm
The Kaliver Rebbe, Rabbi of the Holocaust, Dies at Aged 96
Apr 29, 2019  |  by Adam Ross
The Kaliver Rebbe, Rabbi of the Holocaust, Dies at Aged 96
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Taub, who carried the scars and memory of the Holocaust, has died in Jerusalem aged 96.
This week a towering Jewish figure left this world. His name was Rabbi Menachem Mendel Taub, the master ‘Admor’ of the Hasidic dynasty of Kaliv, known to many as the Kaliver Rebbe.
With a noticeable lack of beard that set him apart from other senior Hasidic leaders, the Kaliver Rebbe’s appearance was not by a choice; he was a victim of chemical burning experiments carried out on his skin by the notorious Joseph Mengele at Auschwitz.
Born in 1923 in Transylvania, now Hungary, the Rebbe was the seventh generation of a family of Hasidic leaders dating back to Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac of Kaliv, one of the most eminent mystics of the 1800s. In the summer of 1944, aged 21 just having been engaged to be married, he was deported to Auschwitz three days before the holiday of Shavuot along with his family, including six brothers and sisters; he lost them all.
Living with the scars of Mengele
Pulled aside to be one of Mengele’s human guinea pigs, his experience at the hands of the so-called ‘medical team’ at the concentration camp where 1.1 million Jews were murdered, not only prevented him from growing a beard, he was also left unable to father children. Despite the suffering he endured, he refused to let go of the dream of continuing his family’s legacy and saw it his fate to survive. After being transferred late 1944 from Auschwitz to the Warsaw Ghetto and then on to the Breslau concentration camp, he was marched to Bergen-Belsen where he was liberated in April 1945.
Let me live, and I will say Shema Yisrael with the living.
Throughout his life, the Kaliver Rebbe told and retold the story of how his fate to survive the war was sealed. In one of the darkest moments, just days ahead of his liberation, he cut a bargain with God pledging to dedicate his life to passing on the flame of Jewish continuity if his life was saved.
“The Nazis were literally throwing Jews into fires,” he recalled. “I heard Shema Yisrael being sung by a young boy and I turned to God and said, ‘Let me live, and I will say Shema Yisrael with the living.’”
For the next 75 years he would keep to his promise, opening schools, teaching and bringing a community almost entirely destroyed back to life. Wherever he would go, he would tell of his ‘agreement with the Almighty’ and often be brought to tears as he led other Jewish children in the same tune he heard that day. The Shema became his anthem, his revenge, his message to the world.
Rebuilding after the war
After liberation, the Kaliver Rebbe learned the tragic fate of his family, but also that his fiancé, Chana Sara Shapiro, the daughter of an another prominent Hasidic family, had also remarkably survived the war. The couple married and in 1947 moved first to the United States, Cleveland Ohio before immigrating to Israel in 1962 to rebuild the Kaliver Hasidic dynasty which had been largely destroyed by the Nazis.
Growing to be a prominent leader among Orthodox Jews in Israel, the Kaliver Rebbe was renowned for beginning his public appearances regularly visiting children, gathering them together to sing Shema Yisrael with them.
Never forget
Often invoking the memory of the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust, especially the 1.5 million who were children, he even became known as the Shoah Rebbe, making huge efforts to ensure the memory of the Holocaust be perpetuated.
In addition to a 13-volume edition explaining the deeper meaning of the Jewish holidays, he wrote an ‘Encyclopedia of the Holocaust’ bringing attention to what he described as the ‘spiritual heroism’ of the Jews who gave their lives to observe mitzvot during the Holocaust.
“There were rabbis and yeshiva students who clung to the religious commandments until the end,” he told a New York Times reporter in 2000. “Did they not defend the soul of the Jewish people? Are they not as important to Israel today as F-16s and A-bombs?”
Love for the Jewish People
The Kaliver Rebbe’s appeal and voice far extended the remit of his own Hasidic followers, often reaching out to the wider Jewish community in a spirit of unity. His voice was one of peace between brothers, harmony within the Jewish community, rebuking those who would inflame arguments between the religious and secular in Israel with inflammatory language.
A leader who also built bridges between the Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities he was known to be a great friend of the late senior Sephardi scion Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, with admiration shared between the two leaders a known testament to their friendship. When the Rabbi Yosef died in 2013, the Kaliver Rebbe considered it a great honor to help write a sefer Torah in his friend’s merit.
The Kaliver Rebbe with Rav Ovadia Yosef, zt”l
Active well into his 90s fighting for the issues that were dear to him, in 2015, at the age of 93, he gave a rare interview before Passover on Israeli national television, bringing attention to the issue of poor families ahead of the holiday. “The children are crying, and I am crying with them,” he told the reporter. “They have nothing to eat,” adding in tears: “In the name of the six million and one a half million children who perished, how can we let them go hungry? They are crying, I am crying with them.”
A rabbi and a statesman
The Kaliver Rebbe took his responsibility to protect the Jewish People to the highest political offices, reaching out to successive US Presidents urging them to show friendship to Israel. In 2015, from a ceremony in Budapest marking the 70th anniversary since the destruction of Hungarian Jewry, he recorded a video message to then president Barack Obama urging him to be a strong friend of Israel, telling him, “The Almighty ordained that you be president so please do everything you can do to help,” adding: “The whole world should see you are a friend of the Land of Israel.”
Earlier this year, despite being unwell and weak, he congratulated President Donald Trump on moving the embassy to Jerusalem. “I heard about your visit to Jerusalem, and I want to tell you, the Almighty is with you. You should have great success.”
Praised by Israeli leaders
In addition to the tens of thousands of Jews who lined the streets of Jerusalem to pay their respects to the Kaliver Rebbe this week, his passing also brought together Israel’s political leaders, led by President Reuven Rivlin.
At the funeral of the Kaliver Rebbe
“The Rebbe gave voice to the spiritual heroism of Jews during the Holocaust and did all he could to honor the memory of its victims,” he said. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu added, “The timing of the Kaliver Rebbe’s death near Holocaust Remembrance Day strengthens our eternal commitment — to remember and not to forget.”
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Post  Admin on Tue 23 Apr 2019, 10:26 pm

Passover and the Spanish Inquisition
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Passover-and-the-Spanish-Inquisition.html?s=mm
Apr 15, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
Passover and the Spanish Inquisition
Generations of secret Jews defied the Spanish Inquisition to celebrate Passover and other holidays.

Five centuries ago, the Jews of Spain were faced with an unimaginable choice: convert to Christianity or leave the country. When King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella united Spain under Catholic control, they celebrated by decreeing that Spain should be an entirely Christian country. As of August 11, 1492, no Jew could remain in the country. Any Jew who would be found in Spain after that date would be tortured to death.

Most of Spain’s Jews fled. August 11, 1492 coincided with the somber Jewish holiday Tisha B’Av, when Jews recall the destruction of the ancient Temples in Jerusalem. Added to these national tragedies was the expulsion from Spain. Hundreds of thousands of Jews lined the ports and harbors, embarking on boats headed for North Africa, for Turkey, for Italy and other points unknown. Many of these unfortunate Jews were tricked by unscrupulous captains; some were sold into slavery or even murdered once they left Spanish waters.

Some Jews remained, publicly embracing Christianity but continuing to practice Jewish rituals in secret. Doing so was to court death. Seeking to root out secret Jews, the Catholic Church established the Spanish Inquisition in 1480, tasked with interrogating, torturing and - if they determined that people were practicing Judaism in secret - burning Jews in public mass executions. Despite the promise of death by unimaginable torture, many Jews continued to cling to their Jewish tradition, observing Jewish holidays and eating kosher food as best as they could. They were known as conversos.



The brutal Inquisition authorities appealed to the public to observe their neighbors and be alert to any sign of Jewish practices. They asked household servants to report any suspicious behavior to church figures. Many of these testimonies have been collected and documented by the husband and wife team Dr. David M. Gitlitz and Dr. Linda Kay Davidson, both former professors at the University of Rhode Island.

In each city in which it was active, the Inquisition published a document called the Edict of Grace, which enumerated the offences that could mark someone as a secret Jew and have them hauled before the Inquisition and tortured. According to one local Edict, Jews were people who:

…(keep) the Sabbaths (by) cooking on...Fridays such food as is required for the Saturdays and on the latter eating the meat thus cooked on Friday as is the manner of the Jews...not eating pork, hare, rabbit, strangled birds...nor eels or other scaleless fish, as laid down in the Jewish law… Or who celebrate the Festival of unleavened bread (Passover), beginning by eating lettuce, celery or other bitter herbs on those days.

Ironically, as years went by and it became harder and harder for Spain’s secret Jews to transmit their heritage to their children, the Edict of Grace acted as a guide to some Jews, outlining what they should do if they wished to hold on to their Jewish heritage. Central to Jewish practice was preparing and eating special foods for Passover and holding secret Passover Seders.

In the annals of the Inquisition are testimonies of servants and neighbors accusing Jews of secretly celebrating Passover. They paint a heartbreaking picture of committed Jews who tried hard to follow the religion of their ancestors, and suffered terribly for their Jewish devotion.

Juan Sanches Exarch was tried by the Inquisition in the city of Teruel in October 1484. Even though Jews had not yet been expelled from Spain, many Jews faced pressure from local officials to convert to Christianity. Juan Sanches Exarch was seemingly one of these Jews who gave into repeated requests and publicly embraced Christianity but continued to maintain a Jewish lifestyle in secret.

Fifty-three articles laid out the charges against him; Passover observance featured prominently. “He celebrates the Passover, on that day eating matzah, celery, and lettuce as the Jews do” the Inquisition put forth. “He gets unleavened bread from the Jewish neighborhood on the Passover. He buys new dishes for the Passover. He does everything else the Jews do on Passover…. He washes his hands before praying (as is the custom at the Passover seder, and at other Jewish meal times).”

Juan Sahches Exarch faced a two year trial and in the end was found guilty; he was condemned to death in 1486.

In 1492, a high level advisor to King Joan II of Aragon, Pedro de la Caballeria, was questioned by the Inquisition and accused of being a secret Jew. According to another secret Jew who was forced to testify against him, Pedro de la Caballeria admitted that he maintained a Jewish lifestyle in secret. “Who hinders me, if I choose, from fasting on Yom Kippur and keeping (Jewish) festivals and all the rest? Now I have complete freedom to do as I like; those old days (of being restricted because he was a Jew) are gone.”

One of the ritual items that was associated with Pedro de la Caballeria was a dish favored by secret Jews: huevos haminados. This dish of eggs boiled with onion skins, olive oil and ashes, resulted in tinted eggs that had a flavor of onions, and were often eaten on Passover.

Another Passover dish embraced by secret Jews was Bunuelos, or dough made from matzah meal that’s fried in oil and then drizzled with honey. Many Sephardi Jews continue to make these Passover sweets today. Historians have uncovered a description from a Spanish woman named Margarita de Rivera who lived in Mexico in 1643, who described making bunuelos in secret. One hundred and fifty years after her ancestors were forced to hide their Jewishness, her family continued to make this classic Passover pastry.

Matzah was perhaps the most damning Passover foods that could bring Jews before the Inquisition. The Inquisition in the town of Almazan recorded several cases of secret Jews making matzah. A woman named Angelina, identified as the wife of Christoual de Leon of Almazan, was accused of making “the dough of flour and eggs, and formed some round, flat cakes with pepper and honey and oil” and baking these curious, flat breads in the Spring.

In 1505, also in Almaan, a Christian woman in the town named Olalla testified to the Inquisition that she sat behind one of her neighbors, a woman named Beatriz, in church, and observed that week after week, Beatriz would take the communion wafer in her mouth, then discreetly spit it out instead of eating it. During her trial, probably after being tortured, Beatriz admitted that she and a friend, identified only as the wife of Ruy Diaz Lainez, “made some cakes separately of another dough that had no leavening and they kneaded it with white wine and honey and clove and pepper, and they made about twenty of those and they kept them...in a storage chest” out of sight of prying eyes.

Some conversos seem to have had the custom of adding finely ground dirt to their matzah dough, perhaps to imply that the Israelites had so little flour in Egypt that they had to add dust, or perhaps to illustrate that matzah is also known as bread of affliction. Whatever the reason for this curious addition, it comes up in Inquisition documents from the 1620s in the town of Ciudad Rodrigo, in Salamanca near Spain’s border with Portugal. A secret Jew named Isabel Nunez was accused of “making a Passover bread which they used to mix without leavening or salt, saying certain prayers over it”. Her friend Ana Lopez was accused of eating “Passover bread”. (Ana Lopez was acquitted and set free; tragically, it seems that Isabel Nunez was found guilty of being a secret Jew.)

For generations, Spanish Jewish families maintained their Jewish lifestyles under pain of death and against the greatest odds. Untold numbers were tortured and killed, burned to death and murdered. May the memories of the secret Jews who kept Passover under unimaginable circumstances and danger be a blessing, and may their memories inspire us today to celebrate Passover with joy and pride.




10 Ways Israel is Saving Planet Earth
Apr 15, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
https://www.aish.com/jw/me/10-Ways-Israel-is-Saving-Planet-Earth.html?s=mm
This Earth Day, a look into how Israeli advances are helping battle climate change and pollution around the world.

In celebration of Earth Day here are ten ways that Israel is leading the way to protect and safeguard the planet’s precious resources.

Planting Trees
Trees and other plants absorb carbon dioxide and other harmful gasses and release oxygen into the atmosphere. It’s estimated that each acre of forest provides enough oxygen for 18 people every day. An acre of forest also absorbs an amount of carbon dioxide over the course of a year equal to a typical car being driven 26,000 miles. It’s clear that trees are essential to the Earth’s wellbeing, yet in most of the world, deforestation is a severe problem: over 15 billion trees are cut down globally each year.

Israel is the one exception. In fact, Israel is virtually the only country in the world that saw a net increase in trees during the 20th century. Since its establishment in 1948, approximately 240 million trees have been planted in Israel. Israel’s Forest Service, Keren Kayemet Le’Israel (KKL) manages about 8% of land in the Jewish state, planting trees and creating parks and forests throughout Israel.

World Pioneer in Water Recycling
The World Resources Institute estimates that 37 countries currently display an “Extremely High Stress” of water, meaning that over 80% of the water available is used annually, “leaving businesses, farms and communities vulnerable to scarcity”. The United States experiences medium to high stress, withdrawing about half of all available water annually. With a growing population, this level of water use is unsustainable. Israel is a world leader in water recycling and is sharing its recycling know-how with the world.

“In the field of water, Israel has the most advanced and efficient system in the world,” noted The Hindu newspaper, marking a major 2017 agreement between India and Israel to export Israeli recycling practices to India and beyond. In Israel, 95% of sewage water is recycled for use in agriculture. Spain has the next highest level of water recycling, but at 17% it lags far behind the Jewish state.

Each year Israel exports over $2 billion in water technology and scientific innovation to other countries, and the number is growing rapidly. In addition, Israel uses its own high levels of water recycling to support nearby regions, exporting water to the Palestinian territories and the Kingdom of Jordan, as well as billions of dollars each year of high water-intensive crops such as peppers, tomatoes and melons, grown in Israel’s arid semi-desert climate using recycled water.

An Alternative to Plastic
In 2010 two Israeli moms, Daphna Nissenbaum and Tal Neuman, decided to create an alternative to plastic. The result was Tipa, an Israeli company that produces flexible, compostable packaging. “Plastic packaging should behave like natural packaging, such as an orange peel,” explains Merav Koren, VP of Marketing for Tipa; “When discarded, 100% of the orange peel returns to nature.” Tipa packaging works like this, providing an environmentally friendly, compostable alternative to packaging that’s catching on around the world.



European manufacturers have embraced the Israeli plastic alternative. The Dutch retailer EkoPlaza uses Tipa material for up to 40% of its non-plastic packaged products. High end fashion designers such as Stella McCartney and Pangaia have also used Tipa packaging, helping to wean consumers away from plastic waste.

Drip Irrigation
In the 1950s, an Israeli agronomist named Simcha Blass made a major discovery: he placed irrigation hoses alongside rows of crops in Israel’s desert Kibbutz Hatzerim and cut small holes in the hose next to each individual plant. When he ran water through the hoses, he was able to grow crops with much less water than using conventional irrigation methods.

Drip irrigation, as Blass’ invention came to be known, was developed by Israeli companies Netafim, Plastro and NaanDan, and has been constantly improved and adapted to new forms of crops. Drip irrigation has revolutionized global agriculture, allowing farmers to increase yields while using dramatically less water. Today, cutting edge drip irrigation techniques are shared with scores of countries around the world through MASHAV, Israel’s Center for International Cooperation.

Drinking Water from the Sea
As drought threatens much of the world, from Australia to California to the Middle East, Israel is showing the way to find new sources of clean water - including finding water for drinking and irrigation from the sea. The Eastern Mediterranean is facing its worst drought in 900 years, but Israel currently has a surplus of water thanks to conservation, recycling and desalination. The Sorek desalination plant near Tel Aviv is the world’s largest reverse osmosis plant, and is showing a way forward in water technology.

Traditionally, getting water from the sea has been considered a last resort: salty sea water is pushed through microscopic strainers to pull out the salt, but these tiny openings can quickly become clogged with microorganisms, necessitating costly and chemical-intensive cleaning. In recent years, Israeli scientists have found a way to use filters and other mechanisms to unclog the pores, making the process of removing salt and other impurities from seawater much easier and less expensive. Israel now receives 55% of its water from the sea, and is exporting their technology and experience to other countries.

In 2016, facing unprecedented drought and wildfires in California, the Obama administration turned to one foreign nation for help, Israel, establishing a cleantech incubator in Los Angeles bringing ten Israeli companies to the Golden State to help work on solutions to water and other environmental crises. IDE Industries, the Israeli company behind three of Israel’s desalination plants, provided technology for the United States’ largest desalination plant, in Carlsbad, California. The plant provides 190 million liters of water daily for residents of Southern California.

Solar Power Know-How
Ambitious plans for solar energy have altered Israel’s energy landscape in recent years: the country received over 13% of its power from solar panels in 2018 (versus 1.6% in the United States). Even more impactful than Israel’s growing reliance on renewable sources of energy is the huge role the Jewish state is playing in making solar energy available and practical around the world. Scientists at the Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa have steadily improved the energy efficiency of photovoltaic cells in solar panels, making them up to 70% more efficient - and helping solar energy to become a more efficient source of clean energy globally.

Reducing Food Waste
Many of the world’s farmers store crops in burlap sacks; these are easily infested with insects and in many cases up to half of crops are routinely eaten by bugs and rodents. Annually, about 1.3 billion tons of food is lost each year due to problems in food storage. With 805 million people undernourished around the world, that’s enough to food everyone and eliminate hunger. A widespread Israeli technology called the Grain Cocoon is on the front lines of fighting crop lost and is helping global farmers store goods and reduce food waste.

The Grain Cocoon is a high durability, reusable, PVC bag that can hold between five and 300 tons of grain, hermetically sealing it so it cannot be damaged by insects, animals or weather. Developed by Israeli scientist Shlomo Navarro, the Grain Cocoon can be used with grains, rice, legumes and spice, and saves over 99% of crops. The storage bags kill bugs so using them helps farmers limit their use of harmful pesticides. By safely storing foods, the bags also allow farmers to hold onto crops until prices rise, helping eradicate rural poverty.



Grain Cocoons are widely used. Farmers in over one hundred mostly poorer countries use the Israeli invention - including farmers in Arab nations that refuse to recognize the Jewish state. Aid agencies are often the biggest customers of Grain Cocoons, and are spreading the word that a safe, affordable way to eliminate food waste can radically transform the way much of the world farms.

Safe Water Anywhere
Less than one percent of water worldwide is safe for drinking. Each year two billion people are unable to access clean water, and about 1.6 million children under five die each year from drinking contaminated water. Recognizing these grim statistics, Israeli infrastructure developer Yossi Sandak began researching ways to create highly portable, effective water purifiers in 2005. With Israeli scientist Ran Shani, they developed and tested a small 10 gram mouthpiece that can attack to the top of a drinking bottle that purifies water and makes it safe to drink. Sandak and Shani named their invention the WaterSheer, and in the past ten years it’s revolutionized drinking water safety worldwide.



When Taiwan was rocked by a major earthquake in 2009, Israeli rescuers brought WaterSheer with them, materially aiding survivors. “You need high quality water in every circumstance,” explains Yssie Sandak, “and we are able to provide it even in cases of disaster. In Taiwan, within 48 hours our products were already in the field and purifying 16,000 liters (4,227) gallons per day.” WaterSheer has also been used following humanitarian disasters in Myanmar and Haiti, and were part of contingency plans in case of emergency during the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.

Other Israeli technologies are also helping ensure potable water. The Israeli company Sulis produces Sulis Personal Purification Devices: water purification tablets that can purify nearly any groundwater source, making it safe to drink. The Israeli-developed Sokol Alert is a reusable purification system that can treat 3,100 gallons of water at a time and store it in “water pillows” that can be loaded onto flatbed trucks and delivered to sites where drinking water is scarce. Sokol’s water containers are affixed with taps allowing local people to fill containers directly with treated water.

Committing to Reducing Carbon Footprints
Israel is a signatory of the Paris Climate Accords, and in 2016 it embarked on an ambitious plan to drastically reduce the country’s carbon footprint, aiming for a reduction of 26% over 2005 levels by 2030. That’s the equivalent of curbing 7.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide from being released. Pledging 800 million shekels (about $225 million) to the effort, then Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon explained. “We intend to continue to invest in resources as needed to further reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.” Economists estimated that committing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a significant driver of climate change, would boost Israel’s economy by $8 billion overall.

On a global level, Israel’s carbon output is almost nothing. Still, the Jewish state is aiming to do better. In 2018, Israel announced a major new initiative to boost government spending on public infrastructure, including trains and other forms of low-pollution public transportation. Jerusalem’s Light Rail system is being expanded, and Tel Aviv is slated to get its first underground metro system. A high-speed rail connection recently opened up between Jerusalem and Ben Gurion International Airport, and plans are in the works to connect other cities by high speed rail.

Raising Fish in the Desert
Overfishing is a major threat to the global food supply Fully one third of all the species of fish in the world are currently threatened by overfishing. Many countries turn to fish farms to raise fish sustainably, but this comes with its own problems: fish farms generally produce enormous amounts of nitrogen waste, which in turn requires high-intensity and polluting efforts to clean. Since fish farms are often located near shores, in shallow water, the nitrogen pollution poisons waterways, spreading contaminants and killing fish. In many regions, for this reason, fish farming is banned.

New Israeli technology is changing this. GFA Advanced Systems for Freshwater and Saltwater Fish has pioneered ways to purify water in fish farms, eliminating nitrogen build-up and runoff. GFA (which stands for “Grow Fish Anywhere”) creates fish tanks that use microbes to treat nitrogen and organic waste in a “zero-discharge system”. Fish grow in purpose-built, self-contained ponds that can be located anywhere; water only has to be added to make up for evaporation. “It’s the most efficient fish growing system possible” explains CEO Dotan Bar-Noy; “There is no pollution, and there is no need to fish at sea. Just set up tanks with GFA technology anywhere in the world, and harvest fish when you’re ready to go to market.”

Israel’s fish farming technology has transformed regions in Africa. In 2012, the governments of Israel and Kenya entered into a partnership to bring Israeli fish farming technology to the Lake Victoria region, where overfishing and pollution have devastated fish stocks. In 2017, Israel began exporting fish farming technology to Liberia, helping farmers there become independent producers of zero-pollution fish.

“As populations grow,”Bar-Noy explains, “more countries are looking to fish as sources of protein, but overfishing threatens to destroy that dream… (With Israeli technology) fish can be grown anywhere - even in the desert - with minimal environmental impact. This is more than just growing fish. This could help feed millions.”

David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, said “The energy contained in nature, in the earth and its waters, in the atom and the sunshine will not avail us if we fail to activate the most precious vital energy: the moral-spiritual energy inherent in humankind, in the inner recesses of our being, in our mysterious, uncompromising, unfathomable and divinely inspired soul.” Today, as Israel grows in Ben Gurion’s vision, Israeli scientists are helping the environment, and the planet, become cleaner and more environmentally conscious for us all.

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About the Author

Dr. Yvette Alt MillerMore by this Author >

Yvette Alt Miller earned her B.A. at Harvard University. She completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Jewish Studies at Oxford University, and has a Ph.D. In International Relations from the London School of Economics. She lives with her family in Chicago, and has lectured internationally on Jewish topics. Her book Angels at the table: a Practical Guide to Celebrating Shabbat takes readers through the rituals of Shabbat and more, explaining the full beautiful spectrum of Jewish traditions with warmth and humor. It has been praised as "life-changing", a modern classic, and used in classes and discussion groups around the world.
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The Last Seder in the Warsaw Ghetto
Apr 15, 2019  |  by Adam Ross
https://www.aish.com/ho/p/The-Last-Seder-in-the-Warsaw-Ghetto.html?s=mm
The Last Seder in the Warsaw Ghetto
Survivors testify about an epic Seder held in underground bunkers as the Nazis sought to liquidate the last Jews of Warsaw Ghetto.

In April 1943, at the height of the Final Solution, with the sounds of tank rounds and gunfire around them, the last remaining Jews of Warsaw huddled together in bunkers under their besieged ghetto to live their final hours as proud Jews, reading the Passover Haggadah. In the hours that followed, they would rise up in one of history’s most iconic feats of resistance.

The handful of Jews who survived the Nazi’s final onslaught on Warsaw, once a major center of Jewish life, have this Seder night more than any other etched in the memories as a testament to Passover’s powerful calling to connect to family, history, tradition and hope.

The Jewish Capital of Europe
Every Passover during the Nazi occupation of Warsaw, which began in October 1939, the Jewish community did its best to celebrate the holiday. Even after being forced into a ghetto measuring just 2.5% of the city, subject to terrible starvation and disease, additional non-leavened foods were smuggled into the ghetto in the weeks before Passover. Several matzah factories were set up, ensuring the community, at its height numbering almost half a million, could eat the bread of freedom Seder night. Despite the hunger, typhus and dysentery, Jewish life in the ghetto continued.

Matzah being distributed in the Warsaw Ghetto

Passover in April 1943 would be the last for the Jews of Warsaw Ghetto, although by then the community was already unrecognizable. Almost a year earlier Adam Czierniakow, the Head of the Judenrat, the Jewish council appointed by the Nazis, had committed suicide after hearing of the Nazis plans, leaving a note to his wife that he “Would not be the hangman of Israel’s children.” The Nazis had since begun a terrifying program of ‘liquidation’ deporting between 5,000 and 6,000 Jews daily to the Treblinka death camp where they were murdered within an hour of their arrival.


 
On January 18 1943, the Nazis attempted to take another 8,000 Jews but this time members of a newly formed Jewish resistance fired shots at the SS guards and the Nazis rethought their plans, bolstering their military presence, delaying the final liquidation of ghetto to Passover which would fall in three months’ time.

“That’s what we felt in our hearts”
On the 18th of April 1943, when news arrived that the Germans had stationed an army in Warsaw ready to empty the ghetto, members of the underground resistance movements went into high alert. While the rooftops were stationed with Jews keeping track of the enemy’s every move, below the ghetto, Jews were busy embracing the story of the exodus from Egypt as a symbol of their own fight for dignity, pride and hope.

Roma Frey was 24 that Passover, recalling how she and her family had tried their best to make the basement as nice as possible for the holiday, “We tried to put the candles on the table, and a white table cloth,” she adds, “the table was made of a wooden board resting on a few things underneath.”

A hidden matzah factory

Surviving the Holocaust and moving to Melbourne Australia after the war she added. “We acknowledged to ourselves and to God and to ourselves that we want to keep the traditions. That’s what we felt in our hearts, we remembered our grandfathers, the hard times, slavery and our slavery, and here we have, hardly a hope to survive even just one day or night.”

Seder Night with Rabbi Meisel
With families decimated by the deportations, the remnant Jews came together, relying on those who knew the Haggadah by heart to lead them. Many flocked to the home of the 60-year-old venerated Rabbi Eliezer Yitzchak Meisel, who had left his hometown of Lodz along with his followers years earlier when the Nazis invaded. In Warsaw he had become immediately involved in maintaining religious life amid the hardships; it was in his basement that many of the Jews active in the resistance joined for the Passover Seder.

Tuvia Borzykowski was 29 at the time. “No one slept that night,” he recalled. “The moon was full and the night was unusually bright.” Along with the other fighters he joined Rabbi Meisels for the Seder.

Tuvia Borzykowski
“Amidst this destruction, the table in the center of the room looked incongruous with glasses filled with wine, with the family seated around, the rabbi reading the Haggadah.” Throughout the night, despite the increasing sounds of enemy fire, Tuvia and the other fighters held fast, engrossed in the retelling of the Jewish people’s redemption from Egypt. He recalled, “The Rabbi’s reading was punctuated by explosions and the rattling of machine-guns; the faces of the family around the table were lit by the red light from the burning buildings nearby.”

“Now is a good time to die,” Rabbi Meisels said, buoyed by the feeling of pride, courage and faith, as he blessed one of the fighters who came to deliver a report. He died later that night in the flames of the ghetto. Tuvia Borzykowski survived the war and helped establish Kibbutz of Ghetto Fighters near Akko. He is one of several fighters who testified about the Passover Seder they took part in as the uprising began.

“I had never missed a Seder”
Born in Warsaw, Itzchak Milchberg was the leader of a group of Jewish boys posing as non-Jews outside the Ghetto walls, selling cigarettes on the black market to survive. On the eve of Passover in 1943 he was just 12 years old but wise beyond his years. He had seen his father shot before his eyes, his mother and two sisters had already been deported and the only family he had left was an uncle named Fievel who was still in the ghetto.

Itzchak Milchberg , age 13, a year after the uprising
When rumors spread that the Nazis were planning their final deportations, he returned to the ghetto to be with his uncle for Passover. “I had never missed a Seder,” he said. “It was in my blood.”

With the sound of shooting around him, he entered his uncle’s candle lit bunker where 60 people were crowded. “The building was shaking,” he said, “People were crying.” His uncle Feivel embraced him in Yiddish, “Ir vet firn di seder mit mir - You’ll perform the Seder with me.” However some were too distressed to think about running a Seder. He recalls people crying, “God led us out of Egypt. Nobody killed us. Here, they are murdering us.”

Pulling him close, whispering into his ear, Feivel told his nephew, “You may die, but if you die, you’ll die as a Jew. If we live, we live as Jews.” He added, “If you live, you’ll tell your children and grandchildren about this.”

The Seder began. Feivel Milchberg had managed to organize matzah, “I don’t know how he got it,” Itzchak recalls, although he remembers there were no bitter herbs, “There was plenty of bitterness already,” he says.

Together with his uncle he read the Haggadah from memory and soon most of the bunker joined in. “We did most of the prayers by heart,” he says. “The Seder went very, very late.”

He left the ghetto in the early hours of the morning through the sewer system, risking his life as he had done to be there in the first place. In the days that followed he worked as a runner, smuggling arms through the sewers to the Jewish fighters until he was caught on the sixth day of the Uprising. He would later jump from a train taking him to Treblinka and survive the Holocaust thanks to a Catholic family in Warsaw. After the war, he moved to Canada, raised a family of his own and made good in his promise to his uncle to tell his children and grandchildren about that Seder night he had led with his uncle in 1943.

The Uprising
As promised a large SS unit entered the ghetto attempting to deport the remaining Jews to their deaths. But they were met instead by fierce fighting from the Jewish resistance and a barrage of Molotov cocktails, grenades and gun-fire. With renewed strength and pride, this fledgling Jewish fighting force killed 13 Nazis, wounded many more and sent them panicked, retreating out of the ghetto. They held out for almost a month as the Germans set to work painstakingly burning each building in the ghetto to the ground. 13,000 Jews died in the fighting and the flames while thousands more were arrested and deported to the east.

The last Jews leaving the ghetto after the uprising

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising will always be remembered as the greatest physical resistance throughout the Second World War, inspiring underground movements and partisan units across Nazi occupied Europe. Spiritually, the Seder service that took place below its charred streets that night can continue to inspire generations of Jews who refused to be broken even at the darkest of times.
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Passover’s Three Steps to Personal Freedom
Apr 14, 2019  |  by Eitiel Goldwicht
The meaning of Pesach, Matzah and Maror.
VIDEO
https://www.aish.com/h/pes/mm/Passovers-Three-Steps-to-Personal-Freedom.html?s=mm

Click here if you are unable to view this video.
https://www.aish.com/h/pes/mm/Passovers-Three-Steps-to-Personal-Freedom.html?s=mm




A Lion King Passover
Apr 14, 2019  |  by Six13
An inspiring medley from the classic film you’ll want to sing at your Seder.
Check out A Lion King Passover (and all of Six13's other songs) on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/si...
Want to SING THIS AT YOUR PASSOVER SEDER or SCHOOL PROGRAM? Print out our Lion King Passover SINGALONG SHEET with all the lyrics, right here: http://lionking.six13.com
Special thanks to the Horowitz family of Warwick, NY and the Sauer family of Franklin Lakes, NJ
https://www.aish.com/h/pes/mm/A-Lion-King-Passover.html?s=mm
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https://www.aish.com/ci/s/Notre-Dames-Surprising-Jewish-Treasures.html?s=mm
Notre Dame’s Surprising Jewish Treasures
Apr 15, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
Notre Dame’s Surprising Jewish Treasures
The destroyed cathedral still retains priceless art depicting Jewish heritage in France.

The world was transfixed on the devastating images of flames and clouds of acrid smoke spewing from the burning roof of the Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris. As Notre Dame burned, the charred ruin now missing its spire and roof, people around the globe stood with France feeling this loss of an irreplaceable religious and cultural icon.

Notre Dame dates from the 12th century and provides a snapshot of what life was like eight centuries ago. When it was built, the vast majority of the population was illiterate; many people lived in what today would seem like abject poverty. Many of the elaborate friezes, statues and stained glass windows served an educational function, illustrating Biblical and other religious stories and seeking to impart messages to the Christians of Medieval Paris. Surprisingly, some of the most prominent artwork on Notre Dame concerned Jews.

Above the cathedral’s main doorway is a frieze, or raised carving, of two Christian saints: Anne and Joachim, who are thought to be the grandparents of Jesus. Since these individuals were Jewish, the artist used actual local Jews as models.



Jews were barely tolerated. King Philip II expelled Jews from France in 1182, but within a few years Jews began to trickle back into the country, settling in several cities and towns, including Paris. Their activities were severely restricted: the Lateran Council, convened by Pope Innocent III in 1215, banned Jews from all professions in Europe except for pawn broking and selling old clothes. In addition, Jews were forced to wear special ridiculous clothes that differentiated them from Christians.
 
We know what special garments the Jews in Paris wore because their likenesses have adorned Notre Dame Cathedral for 800 years. The Jewish wedding guests in the frieze are dressed in long robes and wearing tall pointy hats.

On the left, the frieze shows Anne and Joachim’s wedding and is a seemingly faithful reproduction of a Medieval French synagogue. The rabbi conducting the ceremony is wrapped in a tallit. Nearby is an ark containing the Torah, a pile of books and a Ner Tamid, the lamp that remains eternally lit in synagogues.

On the right, the frieze depicts Anne and Joachim bringing an offering to a synagogue; the artist even carved a Torah scroll resting on a bima. Nearby is the likeness of two Medieval Jews, deep in conversation in the synagogue.

At the time this frieze was being carved, Jews were relentlessly persecuted in Paris and elsewhere in Europe. In 1239, Pope Gregory I sent letters to church leaders, as well as to the kings of England, Spain and Portugal, enumerating dozens of charges against the Talmud. This led to calls to collect and destroy this Jewish holy work. Nowhere was this horrendous instruction carried out with as much zeal as in Paris. On March 3, 1240, church officials burst into synagogues throughout France. It was a Shabbat and synagogues were full. France’s helpless Jews watched as their holy volumes of the Talmud were confiscated and taken away.

French King Louis IX called for the Talmud to be put on trial. Four rabbis defended the Jewish holy books from a series of accusations; unsurprisingly, the Rabbis were found to have lost and the Talmud was condemned to be burned. On June 17, 1242, church officials brought 24 wagons piled high with volumes of the Talmud, about 10,000 books in all - all known copies of the Talmud then in existence in France - to Paris’ Place de Greve, next to Notre Dame. There, they were publicly burned.

Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, known as the Maharam, witnessed the burning. He penned a haunting lamentation afterwards, recording that “My tears formed a river that reached to the Sinai desert and to the graves of Moshe and Aharon. Is there another Torah to replace the Torah which you have taken from us?”

Synagoga and Ecclesia above the portico of the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris
Two prominent statues on the facade of Notre Dame captured the feelings of Christians and Jews at this time. On the right, one woman stands ragged defeated, her eyes are covered by a snake and her head is bowed. She holds a broken scepter and tablets of Jewish law are slipping from her grasp. Under her feet lies a crown trodden into the dust: she is “Synagoga”, representing the synagogue or Judaism in general.

The Catholic Church wanted those entering Notre Dame to believe that Judaism was finished, downcast and humiliated. On her left is a finely dressed woman standing upright, carrying a chalice and a staff with a cross at its peak, seemingly triumphant. She is known as Ecclesia, representing the victorious Catholic Church.

So important were these allegories of Christian dominance and Jewish humiliation that when the originals were destroyed during the French Revolution, they were recreated and replaced in the 1800s.

Above them is yet another depiction of Jews: the Gallery of Kings, featuring 28 kings of ancient Judah and Israel. These too were replaced after being smashed during the Revolution.

In 1306, King Philip III of France took a drastic step. He was short of funds and decided to seize the belongings and assets of the Jews in his kingdom. This was not an unprecedented step: Jews in Medieval Europe were, in the Latin phrase of the time, servi camerae mosrae, or servants of the chamber of the king. As property, they were the king’s to do with as he saw fit.

On July 22, 1306, the day after the Jewish somber holiday of Tisha B’Av, 100,000 Jews were arrested throughout France and forced into prison. There, they were told they were sentenced to exile; each Jew was permitted to bring only the clothes they were wearing and the very small sum of 12 sous each. In the ensuing months, King Philip III auctioned off the Jews’ property. His order of expulsion was reversed by his son King Louis X, but then reinstated in 1322. Only centuries later was it safe for Jews to once again live in France, as the territory of the expanding French kingdom grew to include areas where French Jews had fled and established new communities.

As French officials survey the wreckage of Notre Dame, it’s becoming clear that the front facade of the cathedral is largely intact. These irreplaceable artistic treasures depicting the history of Jews in France seem to be saved. They can teach us a great deal about Jewish history and fortitude in France and beyond.



Passover’s Three Steps to Personal Freedom
Apr 14, 2019  |  by Eitiel Goldwicht
The meaning of Pesach, Matzah and Maror.
VIDEO
https://www.aish.com/h/pes/mm/Passovers-Three-Steps-to-Personal-Freedom.html?s=mm

Click here if you are unable to view this video.
https://www.aish.com/h/pes/mm/Passovers-Three-Steps-to-Personal-Freedom.html?s=mm




A Lion King Passover
Apr 14, 2019  |  by Six13
An inspiring medley from the classic film you’ll want to sing at your Seder.
Check out A Lion King Passover (and all of Six13's other songs) on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/si...
Want to SING THIS AT YOUR PASSOVER SEDER or SCHOOL PROGRAM? Print out our Lion King Passover SINGALONG SHEET with all the lyrics, right here: http://lionking.six13.com
Special thanks to the Horowitz family of Warwick, NY and the Sauer family of Franklin Lakes, NJ
https://www.aish.com/h/pes/mm/A-Lion-King-Passover.html?s=mm

JEWISH HISTORY
Bananas: 5 Surprising Jewish Facts
Apr 13, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Bananas-5-Surprising-Jewish-Facts.html?s=mm
Bananas: 5 Surprising Jewish Facts
In celebration of World Banana Day, discover the Jewish connection to this delicious fruit.

April is a busy month for Jews, as we prepare for the Jewish holiday of Passover. It’s easy to overlook another holiday on the calendar this season: World Banana Day held the third Wednesday of every April. This year, it’s April 17, 2019.

It’s worth taking a break from our Passover cooking and cleaning to contemplate what it takes to grow and market these delicious fruits. The modern banana industry has some surprising Jewish connections. Here are five Jewish facts about this delicious fruit.

Discovering Bananas
A native plant to India, bananas started becoming popular in the Middle East and Europe during the Middle Ages as Arab traders brought this novel fruit to new markets further west. A tenth-century Arab traveler and geographer known as al-Muqadasi recorded eating bananas in Jerusalem, along with other fruits such as raisins, oranges and apples. Other accounts record Jews eating bananas elsewhere in the land of Israel during the Middle Ages. From about the 17th century on, there are records of farmers growing the crop in the region.

Medieval Jews embraced the exotic fruit, but had a key question – are bananas a fruit at all? This matters because Jews traditionally make one blessing thanking God for creating borei pri ha’etz, the fruits of the tree, and a different blessing thanking God for making borei pri ha’adamah, or the fruits of the grounds, over vegetables and herbs. Bananas grow in a palm-like plant and are actually a herb, producing up to hundreds of bananas from a single plant. Unlike fruit trees, banana trees don’t last long: about eight years.

In the 1500s in the Israeli city of Safed, Rabbi Joseph Karo explained that since bananas are not a fruit, the adamah blessing, not the blessing for fruit, should be said over bananas. Reflecting the fact that Arab traders were largely responsible for spreading bananas’ popularity, Rabbi Karo called them by their Arabic name, muzish.

“Sam the Banana Man”

 
Samuel Zmuri was a Jewish teenager from Kishinev in Russia when he bought a steerage ticket to New York City. Arriving in the US, he stowed away on a freight train to Selma, Alabama, where he worked various odd jobs – including unloading bananas from ships arriving from Central America, where banana production was fast becoming a major industry.

Samuel Zemurray

Samuel, who by then had changed his name to Zemurray, started buying up the overly-ripe bananas that would ordinarily be thrown away and selling them to grocers. Soon Zemurray was being called “Sam the Banana Man”. In 1903 he started his own company and two years later started running his own shipping line, bringing bananas to the US from Honduras. In 1906, he leased 5,000 acres of banana crops and became a major importer of bananas to the United States. He eventually became a controlling shareholder in United Fruit Company, then the world’s largest fruit company. Under his leadership, bananas’ popularity soared, becoming a staple in many American households.

Zemurray was a committed philanthropist. He sponsored 22,000 Latin American farmers to be independent producers selling to United Fruit, and endowed many universities and hospitals, including an agricultural college in Honduras and New Orlean’s first hospital for Black women.

Saving Holocaust Survivors
Samuel Zemurray was a passionate Zionist and a personal friend of Chaim Weizmann, the first President of the State of Israel. In the years after World War II, tens of thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors longed to sail to the land of Israel and start new lives in the Jewish homeland. Britain, which ruled the area, enforced a strict policy of not allowing Jewish refugees to enter. Many Jews tried to enter the land of Israel illegally, only to be captured and imprisoned once more by the British in prison camps on the island of Cyprus, in Greece.

In 1947, the secret Jewish defense force the Haganah (the forerunner of today’s Israel Defense Force) approached Zemurray with a top secret plan: would he finance the purchase of a ship on which Jewish partisans could smuggle Holocaust survivors to the land of Israel? Zemurray agreed, using a front firm called the Weston Trading Company to disguise the deal.

The ship Zemurray bought was a 20-year-old steamer called the USS President Warfield. Attacked by a German submarine in 1942, it had been decommissioned; when Zemurray bought it, it was on its way to a junkyard. Instead, the Haganah brought the ship to the French port of Marseilles and loaded it with 4,553 passengers: Holocaust survivors desperate to enter the land of Israel. As the ship slowly made its way to the port of Haifa during the summer of 1947, the crew renamed the ship the Exodus and unfurled a large blue and white flag, declaring that the land of Israel was their final destination.

The Exodus

A host of British ships including destroyers accompanied the Exodus, and when they neared the coast of Israel, the British shot at the ship and sent a convoy of armed soldiers to board the ship and subdue its passengers and crew. In the fighting that broke out, three Holocaust survivors died and many were wounded. British ships towed the Exodus into the harbor, with plans to send the broken, desperate passengers back to France.

Instead, the passengers and crew of the Exodus staged a hunger strike. For 24 days, in the brutal Mediterranean sun, the world watched as thousands of Holocaust survivors – men, women and children – and members of the Haganah weakened from lack of food. Eventually, British soldiers forced the Exodus’ passengers back to Europe, where they were forced by soldiers wielding tear gas and clubs into new prisons: displaced person camps in Germany. A few months later, in August 1947, in part due to the stirring example of the single-minded determination of the Exodus’ passengers to reach the land of Israel, the United Nations voted to create a Jewish state in a portion of the Biblical land of Israel. Few were aware of Samuel Zemurray’s role in this historic event. A modest, self-effacing man, he shunned the limelight. When he passed away in 1961, some friends were shocked to discover that Zemurray the banana magnate had been behind the historic Exodus journey years before.

Saving banana crops around the world
Jewish farmers began to grow bananas in Israel in the 1930s, first in the north near the Kinneret, (Sea of Galilee), and later throughout the country. Though they are a warm-weather crop, Israel’s burning hot summers can be too much for banana plants. Israeli farmers realized they could compensate by erecting canvas roofs to block bananas from the sun during the hottest summer months. They also conducted pioneering research in banana plant irrigation, fertilization and cross-breeding. Today, Israel produces about 45,000 tonnes of bananas each year, supplying about 20% of all bananas consumed in the West.

Growing bananas in Israel

Israeli banana growers saved banana crops world-wide a few years ago. The greatest threat to banana crops is a pathogen called nematodes, commonly known s roundworms. After years of losing banana harvests to this pest, Israeli scientists developed a banana plant that’s resistant to nematodes in the early 2000s. Now, Israeli-developed strains of hardier banana plants are grown around the world, producing hardy bananas and dramatically boosting yields.

Embraced by Jewish Chefs
Bananas have long been embraced by some Jewish communities. Jewish chefs in Persia and Afghanistan pass down traditional recipes for charoset, the sweet paste eaten at the Passover Seder, that incorporate bananas as key ingredients. In Yemen, Jews used to mash bananas with honey as a folk recipe for some illnesses.

Ashkenazi Jewish cooks began embracing bananas in the 20th century in North America and Europe, along with their non-Jewish counterparts, as bananas became more commercially available and popular. One 19th century Jewish cookbook aimed at recent Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe explained that the soft creamy inside, not the tough outer peel of a banana, was meant to be eaten.

Today, Israel is the world’s top market of fresh bananas per capita, eating a whopping 30 kilos each year per person. Though some South American and East Asian nations consume more bananas in the form of banana flours and drinks, “As far as eating a plain banana goes, Israel is definitely a world leader in consumption, particularly among children,” explains Yuval Levy, a banana expert at the Zemach agricultural research station in Israel.
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Rosh Chodesh: The Meaning of the New Month
Mar 20, 2004  |  by Dina Coopersmith
https://www.aish.com/jl/hol/o/48972041.html?s=mm
Like the moon, the Jewish people will rise up again and light up the night.
The first commandment the Jews were given as a people is the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh, the New Month:

"And God said to Moses… in the land of Egypt… This month is for you, the head of the months. First it is for you among the months of the year." (Exodus 12:1-2)
The Jewish nation was told while still in Egypt that the month of Nissan, the month in which they would be leaving Egypt, should be for their first month, and that from now on, they, as a nation, have a responsibility to count the months and create a uniquely Jewish calendar based on the lunar year.
Isn't this a strange first commandment? You'd think the development of the calendar would only come after the establishment of the basic fundamentals like the Ten Commandments. Why does the Torah consider the process of establishing the new month as a major breakthrough in creating a nation? And what was wrong with the solar calendar that everyone else had been using? What is the significance of basing the Jewish calendar on the moon?
 
THE HUMAN ELEMENT

The mitzvah of sanctifying the new month was a rather involved process. As soon as someone saw the tiniest sliver of a new moon, they would run to the Jerusalem High Court, who needed two witnesses to testify that the moon was actually seen. They would then convene the court, declare the new month and send messengers across the land to tell everyone that the new month had begun on this certain day. They, in turn, would pass on the news and place torches on mountains and high spots to spread the news faster. Sometimes it took two weeks for people to receive confirmation of the day the court had declared as the beginning of the month. (This, by the way, is the root reason why the Jews of the Diaspora would keep two days of the holidays, just in case they were wrong about which day was Rosh Chodesh if the information didn't arrive on time.)

Our calendar determines on which day each Jewish holiday will occur. Each particular holiday brings with it a concrete spiritual reality from above that is available for us to tap into on that specific day. Passover, for instance, contains the opportunity to attain spiritual freedom; Rosh Hashana is the time for judgment.

The determination of this calendar is placed squarely in human hands. Thus if the moon were to appear, in fact, on a Monday, but no one actually saw it until Tuesday, "seeing is believing" and the court would decide that the first of the month was on a Tuesday. As a result, God, as it were, follows the decision of the court and acts accordingly, so that in the case of Rosh Hashana, He would push off His judgment of the entire world by one day!

God is giving the Jewish people an empowering message with this first commandment. Up until now, the Jews have been slaves to the Egyptians. Their time was not their own. Now, says God, you are becoming masters of your time. And not only of your own time, but of My time as well!

The Jews have been slaves to the Egyptians. Now, says God, you are becoming masters of your time and of My time as well!
By being given our own system of measuring time and creating our own calendar, we are taking charge of shaping reality. We are given a certain area of control over nature. Whereas time is steadily moving ahead, never-stopping, marching on in a cyclical, repetitive spiral, we are given the power to stop or start time at will, allowing us to "share" with God that special creativity of determining reality.

THE MOON

As part of this empowering message, it is essential for the moon to be our determining factor in setting up our calendar instead of the sun. The unique feature of the moon is that it appears to us to wax and wane, to disappear and reappear, to grow, diminish and grow again. It is also the smaller of the two luminaries.

Whereas the sun is the symbol of unchanging nature, rising in the east, setting in the west, day in and day out every day of the year, the moon changes and it seems to be telling us something: You can be small and you can diminish until you almost disappear, but then, when things look their darkest, hope springs eternal. You can start looking up again. You can change a situation and yourself for the better, no matter how bad it seems. Nothing is static or set in stone. Human beings have free will and therein is their power of renewal -- an ever-present struggle against the steady, cyclical, repetitive and predictable march of time and nature.

The solar system determines the year, in Hebrew "shana," which comes from the same root as "to repeat, to go over," whereas the moon sets the months, "Chodesh" from the Hebrew root "chadash," -- new, change, different.

The Jewish people are compared to the moon. Though they are small, and suffering has been an integral part of their history among the nations, the Jew knows never to give up. As an individual and as a nation, he will rise up again and light up the night.

Jews live with this belief in the power of miracles, that God supervises over the world and is not dependent on predictable laws of nature. The Jewish nation has a special relationship with God and even when on the lowest of spiritual rungs, about to assimilate and disappear, God maintains His constant love, as a father loves his son.

God relates to Moses a message to give to Pharaoh and to the Jewish people before the 10 Plagues begin, "My firstborn son is Israel" (Exodus 4:22). The Israelites were at their lowest point at this time, undeserving of any miracles in their own right. And yet that is exactly when God sweeps us up, taking us out of the darkness of Egypt, initiating the upward-moving process until 50 days later when we are deserving of receiving the Torah and of becoming a nation.

What a perfect time and place to give the Jewish people the encouraging message in the commandment to sanctify the new moon every month and to determine our calendar this way:

"And God said to Moses ... in the land of Egypt, say to the Jewish people: This month is for you the beginning of the months ..." (Exodus 12:1-2)
 God has given us the power of renewal and change, the gift of expanding, brightening and growing big again after we have been diminished.

WOMEN AND ROSH CHODESH

For women, Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the new month, is considered a mini-holiday as a reward for not having been willing to participate in the sin of the Golden Calf.

After the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, Moses went up the mountain for 40 days to receive the 10 Commandments. As a result of a minor miscalculation, the Jewish men believed that Moses had died and they beseeched Aaron to make for them a "god" to go with them in the desert.

"And Aaron said: Take the earrings from your wives, sons and daughters, and bring them to me" (Exodus 32:2). The women heard and refused to give their jewelry to their husbands, but said: "You want to make a calf with no power to save? We will not listen to you." God gave them reward in this world that they keep Rosh Chodesh more than men, and in the next world they merit to renew themselves like Rosh Chodesh. (Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer, 45)
 

Why should this be our reward? What is the link between our not willing to give up our precious jewelry for the ill-fated Golden Calf project and the concept of celebrating the reappearance of the moon every month?

Women had the ability to see beyond the very frightening situation the Jewish people experienced after Moses went up to receive the Torah and tarried on his way back. As far as the Jewish men were concerned, all hope was lost. There was no leader, no shepherd, no one to guide them through the desert to Israel. How could Moses be late? He must have died! And in fact the Midrash tells us that Satan showed the Jewish people a vision of their beloved leader lying lifeless on a cot in heaven, to scare them.

When things seemed dark and hopeless, the women knew that light was just around the corner.
But the women could not be convinced to sink into such utter despair. When things seemed dark and hopeless, they knew that light was just around the corner. Patience and trust in God would be all that would be needed to get through the "bad" times and into the good ones. Like the moon, becoming brighter and bigger only after it disappears completely into darkness, they knew that better times were on the way. It was impossible to them that God would leave them stranded after having just received the Torah 40 days earlier. They were willing to believe in the power of renewal and trust God no matter how difficult things seemed.

Let us hope that the Jewish nation, especially in Israel, can take encouragement from this special gift of the lunar cycle by which we count our months. As the organized onslaught of Arab terror is well into its fourth year and solutions seem remote, it's all too easy to lose hope and despair of ever living a normal, safe life in our own country. Rosh Chodesh teaches us that everything can change. It is when a situation reaches its bleakest point that the light appears again.

HAPPY ROSH CHODESH!
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https://www.aish.com/jw/me/Bible-Era-Seal-Unearthed-below-Jerusalem-Car-Park.html?s=mm
Bible Era Seal Unearthed below Jerusalem Car Park
Apr 2, 2019  |  by Adam Ross
SHARES
Bible Era Seal Unearthed below Jerusalem Car Park
The tiny clay impression dates back over 2,600 years and bears the name, mentioned in the Bible, of a royal aide to King Josiah.

“Quick! Come and see this!” an excited voice yells out to around 20 crew members painstakingly sifting through layers of, rock and earth. “I’ve found something!” This is the incredible moment when a stunned archaeological team digging under a car park in the Old City of Jerusalem unearthed one of the most significant archaeological finds of recent years – an official stamp baring the name of a senior official of the Royal Court of ancient Judah.

The tiny clay impression dates back over 2,600 years and bears the name of a royal official known as Natan L’Melech meaning ‘Servant to the King’ who is mentioned in the Bible, an aide to the Judean King Josiah in the 8th Century BCE.

Under the auspices of the Israel antiquities authority, the dig is taking place 40 feet under a former car park at the City of David archaeological heritage site.

Blue bulla with the name Ikkar son of Matanyahu
“This is not just another discovery,” Professor Yuval Gadot, 51, the Head of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, who is leading the dig, told Aish.com. “We are talking about the cradle of civilization and a highly significant item which bears the name of a specific individual.” The seal is the first archaeological evidence of the biblical name Nathan-Melech. Gadot added, “This official was so high profile he is not referred to using his father’s name. There was no need. We are talking about someone who everybody knew.”

In addition, another bluish agate stone seal known as a bulla was also found with the inscription ‘belonging to Ikkar son of Matanyahu.” Gadot said, “It is a very beautiful stone, and the Hebrew is so clear.”

He added, “The big story here, is the context, with both the seal and the bulla were found in the same building. As we are digging, we are seeing that this was a central part of Jerusalem at the time, busy with administrative activity and also close to the temple mount.”

He added, “Life as an archaeologist can be pretty quiet at times, with hours, days and weeks often passing without finding anything.” The day the seal was found, Gadot was paid a visit by an archaeologist colleague from Los Angeles. “Come here and see what we have just unearthed,” he said, bringing him to see the seal. “He didn’t know what to say.”

Highlight of his career
“Without a doubt,” Gadot said, “digging at the City of David site in Jerusalem has been the highlight of my 30-year career. The past matters. Jerusalem is the cradle of civilization and it touches everyone.”

“It’s an exciting time to be an archaeologist,” he added. “There is so much more to be still be exposed.”

Doron Spielman, Vice President of the City of David, shared his reaction with Aish.com after holding the tiny clay seal in his hand. “What is so striking,” he said, “is that it is smaller than a thumbnail, it weighs almost nothing, but its importance is diametrically opposite to its size.”

“There are so many people who think this book (the Bible) was made up and seek to erase Jewish history in Jerusalem, yet here we find the stamp of the seal of the servant of the king.”

“One of the reasons Jews have held onto their faith, across thousands of years, is because they have felt a connection to a constant chain of tradition. Who in the world today can dig 40 feet under the ground where you live and unearth something over 2500 years old, in your native language that appears in the book that you read? We are so unique, and no one else has this gift.”

Seal with name from Bible discovered in the City of David
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=36&v=kZ17akXR170
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https://www.aish.com/jl/h/h/Oxfords-Surprising-Jewish-History.html?s=mm
Oxford’s Surprising Jewish History
Mar 24, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt MillerOxford’s Surprising Jewish History
The renowned university town was home to a vibrant Jewish community that is all but forgotten today.

Oxford, the famous university town in England, is world-renown for the scholarship of Oxford University. Yet the city boasts a little-known history too: Oxford was once home to a flourishing, vibrant Jewish community - one of the most significant in all of England – that is all but fotoday.

Medieval Jewish Bankers
Jews came to England in 1066 when French nobleman William the Conqueror invaded England. Jewish bankers had long supported military campaigns and infrastructure projects in France, and soon Jewish communities were lending money to support nobles and kings in England as well. (As the Catholic Church prohibited Christians from charging interest, only Jews were able to engage in lending and other complex financial transactions.)

Oxford became one of the largest English communities and Jewish families lived in a central area called “the Jewry.” One of Oxford’s central avenues today, St. Aldates, was once known as Jew Street. By the end of the 11th Century, about 80-100 Jewish families called Oxford home. They made their living as shopkeepers, money lenders and landlords. As students flocked to Oxford, historians estimate that about 10% of lodging was rented out by Jews. The community was a distinguished one, with rabbis and scholars presiding over an educated, pious community.

St. Aldates street

As England’s Jewish community grew, William’s son William Rufus seems to have enjoyed taunting his Jewish subjects. He used to arrange public debates on theological issues between Jews and Christians, and vowed that he would convert to Judaism if he ever felt that Jews had won. (No matter what, he always ruled that the Jews lost.) For all the humiliation this caused, these early Norman kings safeguarded England’s Jews, preventing the massacres and pogroms that routinely decimated Jews in Europe. This wasn’t due to altruism; English Jews enriched the crown. Each time a Jew died, one third of their estate was seized by the king.


 
This inscription is on the Town Hall in St Aldate’s.

In the Crosshairs of Civil War
After King Henry I’s death, his heirs fought a 19-year civil war, with many of the battles waged in or near Oxford. Henry’s daughter Matilda gained allies in the area around Oxford and demanded money from Oxford’s Jews to fight her cousin Stephen, who was also contesting the throne. Oxford’s Jewish families had no choice but to pay her ruinous taxes.

After a major battle in Oxford in 1142, Stephen gained control of the city and demanded yet more money from Oxford’s Jews. Facing utter ruin, the Jews refused - until Stephen burned down the home of a Jew named Aaron and threatened to do the same for all the Jews in the city. Oxford’s Jews somehow raised the funds to pay Stephen and avert this dire fate. Much of the fighting took place in Jewish residential area of Oxford. One of Stephen’s major fortifications was on a site known as “Jews Mound”.

The Jewish Exchequer
Stephen was succeeded by King Henry II, who revolutionized finances in Medieval England by establishing a central “Exchequer” to keep track of all government spending. His son, the famed Richard the Lionheart, made Jews a key part of this system. Under Richard’s new system, all financial transactions were written on 25 pieces of parchment and placed in secure chests in 25 cities around England - including Oxford, where the Oxford Castle, in the heart of Jewish Oxford, housed the local records. Each chest had four keys, two held by Jews and two held by Christians.Richard even renamed his father’s system, calling Britain’s early accounting records the “Jewish Exchequer”.

Founding Oxford University
Strictly speaking, the colleges that make up Oxford University weren’t a formal university when they were first founded; they were more like a cluster of independent schools. But it is notable that one of the oldest colleges was founded by a Jew. Balliol College, University College and Merton College were the first colleges to be incorporated in Oxford, between the years 1249 and 1264. Merton College was established in 1264; its deed of sale is the oldest surviving document in Oxford and shockingly, it is written in Hebrew.

Merton College deed of sale.

The document shows that a man named Jacob the Jew sold land for the purpose of establishing Merton College. Jacob seems to have worked in partnership with a local official, Bishop Walter de Merton. The deed was likely written by Jacob in his native language, Hebrew. It also contains Latin writing, reflecting the common language spoken by academics in Oxford at the time. While he helped found Merton College, it would have been impossible for Jacob’s sons to study in there. Jews were strictly barred from Oxford and would remain so for over 500 years.

Students Attacking Jews
Tensions between Jews and Christians were never far from the surface in Oxford. In 1244, a group of Oxford students ran wild, attacking Jews in the streets of Oxford and ransacking Jewish-owned houses. Local Jews begged the Constable of Oxford for help. He obliged, arresting 45 students, and imprisoning them in Oxford Castle and a local jail until the violence ebbed.

Oxford’s Jews Thrown into Prison
Anti-Jewish violence began to sweep England in the 12th and 13th centuries. While Oxford never experienced the wholesale massacres that decimated Jewish communities elsewhere in England, life became precarious in the extreme for Oxford’s Jewish families.

During one pre-Easter parade in 1268, students accused a Jew of attacking the university procession and stomping on a crucifix. Authorities rounded up the entire Jewish community of Oxford and imprisoned them until King Henry III came up with what he thought was a fitting punishment and forced the Oxford Jewish community to raise funds for a huge marble and gold crucifix, with verses carved into the base insulting Jews. Originally the king ordered this monstrosity to be erected outside Oxford’s synagogue; eventually he relented and had it housed in Merton College instead. (The crucifix disappeared sometime later, though archeologists have recovered chunks of marble from the area which might be part of the royal structure.)

Only Jewish Student at Oxford
In 1290, King Henry III’s son King Edward I ejected all Jews from England. Up to 40,000 Jews were forced to flee and England remained officially Jew-free until Prime Minister Oliver Cromwell formally invited Jews back into England in 1656.

One Jew did publicly attend Oxford during this time, though he had to formally profess he embraced Christianity to do so. German-born Jacob Wolfgang matriculated in 1608 and endured years of anti-Semitic bullying and violence. Students and tutors used to make fun of his Greek pronunciation and throw rotten eggs at him during lessons with impunity.

Teaching Hebrew and Resisting Calls to Convert
Though Jews were banned from living in Britain openly, one brilliant scholar was allowed to teach Hebrew there. Jacob Barnet (known as “Jacob the Jew”) taught Hebrew to Oxford students in around the year 1600.

Jacob befriended a non-Jewish Oxford scholar, Isaac Casaubon, who repeatedly pressured Jacob to convert to Christianity. Doing so would have opened up new doors for Jacob, allowing him to flourish professionally and socially. In 1609, Jacob finally relented, telling Casaubon that he would convert. His colleagues were overjoyed. University officials started planning a grand conversion ritual in the official Oxford University church of St. Mary’s, in a huge ceremony attended by the entire university. As plans for this major event grew, Jacob had second thoughts, deciding to cling to his Jewish faith after all.

The day before the ceremony, Jacob ran away from Oxford. University authorities ordered local police to find him and Jacob was arrested on the road to London and imprisoned in Bocardo Prison in Oxford. The university chaplain went ahead with his public sermon, issuing a fiery speech, smearing Jews as untrustworthy and evil.

First Coffee Shop in England
Even before Jews were officially allowed back into England in 1656, at least one enterprising Jew opened the very first coffee shop in the country. It was located in Oxford at 84 High Street, established in 1651 by a man called (like previous Oxford Jews) “Jacob the Jew”. Coffee was just beginning to become popular in Europe, and Jacob introduced the new beverage to the students and teachers of Oxford’s storied colleges.

Just a few years later, in 1654, another Jew named Cirques Jobson (some speculate that he was the same Jacob the Jew opening a second branch) established the Queens Lane Coffee House nearby: Oxford’s second coffee shop, and one that continues to serve coffee to this day.

Jews Entering Oxford University
With liberalism sweeping much of England and academia in the 1800s, old barriers began to fall away. Openly Jewish students were allowed to study at the university beginning in 1856. Despite this, snobbery and prejudice kept the number of openly Jewish students very low. When Sir Isaiah Berlin, one of England’s most celebrated philosophers, began teaching in All Souls College in 1932, he was only the fifth openly Jewish teacher working in the university.

Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies

Oxford became markedly easier for Jews to study in when Dr. Cecil Roth, one of Britain’s greatest historians, became a reader in Jewish Studies there in 1939. An Orthodox Jew, Dr. Roth successfully petitioned the university to allow Jewish students to take exams on Sundays instead of Saturdays, the Jewish Shabbat. Since the university didn’t want Jews to gain an unfair advantage by quizzing their classmates about what was on exams, Dr. Roth proposed a simple solution: Jewish student would spend Shabbat, when their classmates were taking exams, at the Roths’ home in Oxford. They stayed there until it was time to take their own exams on Sunday. The Roth home was a popular meeting place for Jewish students until the mid 1960s, when Dr. Roth moved from Britain to Israel.

Jewish Origins of Oxford’s Newest College
Many of Oxford’s beautiful colleges date back hundreds of years, but its newest was founded in 1966 by a remarkable Jewish philanthropist.

Sir Isaac Wolfson was born in 1897 in Glasgow, the son of Jews who’d fled pogroms in Russia. He was raised in poverty and built up one of Europe’s largest businesses, Great Universal Stores, which ran the largest mail order business in Europe and operated thousands of department stores across Britain. Sir Isaac made a fortune, but his greatest pleasure was in giving away the money he’d earned. He formed the Wolfson Foundation in 1955 with the aim of educating young people, and he endowed schools and professorships in Israel and Britain.

This Jewish son of working class immigrants also founded a new Oxford College: Wolfson College, established in 1966. (He also established a Wolfson College in Cambridge, single-handedly altering the landscape of higher education in Britain.) Wolfson College’s first president was the Jewish philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin, who declared Oxford’s most modern college to be an experiment in “new, untrammeled and unpyramided” education. Wolfson College continues to educate over 600 graduate students within the university each year.

Sir Isaac Wolfson died in 1991 in his home in Rehovot, Israel.
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The Golan Heights: 5 Facts
Mar 26, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
https://www.aish.com/jw/me/The-Golan-Heights-5-Facts.html?s=mm
The Golan Heights: 5 Facts
A short guide to the history and strategic value of the Golan Heights.

The Golan Heights are Israel’s buffer against its northern neighbor Syria. In Israeli hands since 1967, the Golan Heights are back in the news today, after President Trump signed a proclamation recognizing Israel’s sovereignty. Here are five facts about the Golan Heights to provide some background at this historic moment.

Historical Ties
The Golan is the site of some of the Torah’s most vivid histories. When Jewish tribes first settled in the land of Israel, the tribes of Gad and Reuben asked Moses for permission to settle east of the Jordan River. Moses agreed and also sent half of the tribe of Manasseh who settled in “Golan in the (region called) the Bashan” in the modern-day Golan Heights (Deuteronomy 4:43).

Jews built a busy and pious community there, but the area was under constant attack from the Aramean kingdom to the region’s north. The Book of Kings describes the monumental battle in the 9th Century BCE when the combined forces of the Jewish tribes of Judah and Israel defeated the Aramean armies in the Golan: “It happened...that (King) Ben-Hadad counted Aram, and he went up to Aphek to wage war against Israel….the battle was joined, and the Children of Israel struck down Aram – a hundred thousand foot soldiers in one day” (I Kings 20:26-29).

Remains of a Byzantine bathhouse, in Kursi National Park, Golan Heights

Jewish communities in the Golan flourished. Many of the battles against the Syrian Greek army that we celebrate during the holiday of Hanukkah took place in the area. Judah Maccabee led Jewish troops against the Greeks in the area, and his grand-nephew, the Jewish King Alexander Jannai, who ruled from 103-76 BCE, annexed the Golan region, adding it to his territory.


 
When the Roman Empire crushed the Jewish kingdom of Judah, the Golan was one of the very last areas to fall, only defeated in the year 67 CE. While Jewish autonomy ended, Jewish life in the Golan continued to flourish. Archeologists have uncovered the remains of 34 ancient synagogues in the area, dating from the end of the Judean kingdom in 70 CE. Throughout the Roman period, Jewish life in the Golan flourished, with synagogues and centers of learning sustaining a literate, pious Jewish community.

That came to end in the 7th Century when Islamic tribes crushed the Jewish communities in the territory. The last battle against the Islamic conquest, fought in the Yarmouk Valley in the year 636, took place in the Golan Heights. After that, Jews were driven out of the area for centuries.

Zionist Farmers in the Golan
Jewish life briefly returned to the Golan in 1891 when Jewish pioneers began to purchase and farm land in the region. Baron Edmond de Rothschild bought 18,000 acres in the area of Ramat Magshimim, in the Golan. Jews built five small farms in the Golan area’s verdant hills.



The Jewish pioneers’ farming experiment came to an end in 1898 when local Turkish authorities evicted the Jews and seized their land. At the end of World War I, Britain took control of the area; in 1923 they gave the Golan to France, along with the territories of present-day Syria and Lebanon. In 1947, Syria forced Jews out of the Golan Heights, and used the area to shell Israeli towns and farms that were in the sights of the towering hills of the Golan instead.

Small Area
The Golan Heights are so often in the news that one might be forgiven for thinking the area is a large one, full of people. In fact, the area of the Golan Heights that’s held by Israel is only about 1,200 square km., or about 500 square miles. About 40,000 people live in the Golan; most of these residents are members of the Druze and Alawite minorities who inhabit several villages and small towns in the hills. In addition, there are 32 Jewish towns and Jewish farming communities across the Golan.

Mount Hermon in the north of the Golan is about 2,800 meters, or 9,300 feet tall, and is a popular skiing destination. A few miles south, the hills along the Yarmuk River, which flows through the southern part of the Golan, are about 400 meters, or 1,300 feet tall. It’s a beautiful region, and several Israeli national parks and protected areas now dot the area.



Between 1948, when the state of Israel was established, and 1967, when Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria, Syrian artillery batteries regularly shelled the entire region of northern Israel. They also allowed Fatah, the PLO’s political arm, to carry out attacks from the region. Haifa is only about 60 miles from the Golan Heights, and the Golan affords an excellent view of the Hula Valley in Israel’s north, which is Israel’s most fertile agricultural region.

For years, Israeli children were forced to sleep in bomb shelters. Many roads in Israel’s north could only be driven along after mine-detection trucks cleared the streets. Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir recalled the misery that Syrians created for Israelis in the crosshairs of the Golan Heights. “The Syrians seemed bent on an escalation of the conflict; they kept up an endless bombardment of the Israeli settlements below the Golan Heights, and Israeli fishermen and farmers faced what was sometimes virtually daily attacks by snipers. I used to visit those settlements occasionally and watch the settlers go about their work as though there was nothing at all unusual in ploughing with a military escort or putting children to sleep – every single night – in underground air-raid shelters” (quoted in My Life by Golda Meir).

Recognizing that Syria was using the Golan Heights to attack Israel, the UN sent troops to police the border between Israel and Syria. In 1966, Israel appealed to this body, the UN Mixed Armistice Commission, asking them to stop Syria from allowing PLO troops to bomb Israel from the Golan. The UN refused to condemn Syria, though it did condemn Israel when Israeli troops dared fire upon Syrian positions in the Golan.

The Six Day War
After years of provocation, Israel gained the Golan Heights during the Six Day War of 1967. Fighting started on June 5, 1967, when Israel launched a preemptive strike on Egypt. Syria used the Golan Heights to shell villages and farms in the Hula Valley, and also sent planes to bomb Haifa. On June 9, Israel engaged Syrian fighters in the Golan and captured the area with seemingly miraculous speed, by the afternoon of June 10.

Archeologists soon found reminders of the area’s historic ties to Israel: coins dating from the 2nd Century CE inscribed with the words “For the Redemption of Jerusalem”.



Syria tried to regain the Golan six years later, in 1973, when they, along with Egypt, and supported by nine other Arab nations, staged a surprise attack on Israel on Yom Kippur. They were unsuccessful and Syria later signed a disengagement agreement as part of their armistice with Israel that left the Golan in Israel’s hands. UN troops were stationed at the border of the now Israeli-controlled Golan Heights and Syria, though Israel never used the Golan Heights to shell Syrian territory the way Syria used the commanding hills to terrorize Israel.

In 1981, Israel effectively annexed the Golan Heights, reflecting the key security importance of the area. Syrian continues to demand its return. In 1999, during peace talks with Yasser Arafat that many Israelis thought might lead to a permanent peace with the PLO, Syria disclosed its position: they would only agree to peace with Israel if Israel returned the entire Golan Heights. They wanted to be able to reestablish military positions on the hills, and also control the freshwater sources of the area. Given their experience with Syrian aggression in the area, Israelis refused to even consider this outrageous demand.

Humanitarian Aid in the Golan
With the humanitarian disaster of Syria’s brutal civil war now in its eighth year, Israelis have used the Golan region to provide life-saving humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. In June 2016, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) launched Operation Good Neighbors, which coordinates massive amount of medical and material aid in the Golan area.



Under Operation Good Neighbors, Israel has distributed over 1,500 tons of food, over 250 tons of clothes, about a million liters of fuel, dozens of generators, and about 25,000 containers of medical equipment and medicine. In one week in 2018 alone, the IDF’s Bashan Brigade carried out six risky operations in the Golan Heights, delivering hundreds of tons of aid, including clothing and children’s toys, to civilians in Syria.

When fighting from Syria’s civil war neared the Golan in July 2018, the Israeli Golan Regional Council launched a major drive to collect items to distribute to Syrian refugees in a buffer zone just outside Israeli control. “We would love any families in the Golan to make sealed bags for a Syrian child with toys and...coloring pages, crayons and sweets...to provide them with a moment of sweet and sweet joy” the council asked. “These are our neighbors and we see this as a mitzvah to help them in times of trouble” explained Council head Eli Malka. Within hours, thousands of donations had poured in.

The brutal fighting continues to rage near to the Golan Heights, a constant reminder of how crucial it is that Israel control the historic and strategically critical area of the Golan.
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Post  Admin on Tue 26 Mar 2019, 11:48 pm

The Golan Heights: 5 Facts
Mar 26, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
https://www.aish.com/jw/me/The-Golan-Heights-5-Facts.html?s=mm
The Golan Heights: 5 Facts
A short guide to the history and strategic value of the Golan Heights.

The Golan Heights are Israel’s buffer against its northern neighbor Syria. In Israeli hands since 1967, the Golan Heights are back in the news today, after President Trump signed a proclamation recognizing Israel’s sovereignty. Here are five facts about the Golan Heights to provide some background at this historic moment.

Historical Ties
The Golan is the site of some of the Torah’s most vivid histories. When Jewish tribes first settled in the land of Israel, the tribes of Gad and Reuben, and half of the tribe of Manasseh, asked Moses for permission to settle east of the Jordan River. Moses agreed, and Jews from the tribe of Manasseh settled in “Golan in the (region called) the Bashan” in the modern-day Golan Heights (Deuteronomy 4:43).

Jews built a busy and pious community there, but the area was under constant attack from the Aramean kingdom to the region’s north. The Book of Kings describes the monumental battle in the 9th Century BCE when the combined forces of the Jewish tribes of Judah and Israel defeated the Aramean armies in the Golan: “It happened...that (King) Ben-Hadad counted Aram, and he went up to Aphek to wage war against Israel….the battle was joined, and the Children of Israel struck down Aram – a hundred thousand foot soldiers in one day” (I Kings 20:26-29).

Remains of a Byzantine bathhouse, in Kursi National Park, Golan Heights

Jewish communities in the Golan flourished. Many of the battles against the Syrian Greek army that we celebrate during the holiday of Hanukkah took place in the area. Judah Maccabee led Jewish troops against the Greeks in the area, and his grand-nephew, the Jewish King Alexander Jannai, who ruled from 103-76 BCE, annexed the Golan region, adding it to his territory.


 
When the Roman Empire crushed the Jewish kingdom of Judah, the Golan was one of the very last areas to fall, only defeated in the year 67 CE. While Jewish autonomy ended, Jewish life in the Golan continued to flourish. Archeologists have uncovered the remains of 34 ancient synagogues in the area, dating from the end of the Judean kingdom in 70 CE. Throughout the Roman period, Jewish life in the Golan flourished, with synagogues and centers of learning sustaining a literate, pious Jewish community.

That came to end in the 7th Century when Islamic tribes crushed the Jewish communities in the territory. The last battle against the Islamic conquest, fought in the Yarmouk Valley in the year 636, took place in the Golan Heights. After that, Jews were driven out of the area for centuries.

Zionist Farmers in the Golan
Jewish life briefly returned to the Golan in 1891 when Jewish pioneers began to purchase and farm land in the region. Baron Edmond de Rothschild bought 18,000 acres in the area of Ramat Magshimim, in the Golan. Jews built five small farms in the Golan area’s verdant hills.



The Jewish pioneers’ farming experiment came to an end in 1898 when local Turkish authorities evicted the Jews and seized their land. At the end of World War I, Britain took control of the area; in 1923 they gave the Golan to France, along with the territories of present-day Syria and Lebanon. In 1947, Syria forced Jews out of the Golan Heights, and used the area to shell Israeli towns and farms that were in the sights of the towering hills of the Golan instead.

Small Area
The Golan Heights are so often in the news that one might be forgiven for thinking the area is a large one, full of people. In fact, the area of the Golan Heights that’s held by Israel is only about 1,200 square km., or about 500 square miles. About 40,000 people live in the Golan; most of these residents are members of the Druze and Alawite minorities who inhabit several villages and small towns in the hills. In addition, there are 32 Jewish towns and Jewish farming communities across the Golan.

Mount Hermon in the north of the Golan is about 2,800 meters, or 9,300 feet tall, and is a popular skiing destination. A few miles south, the hills along the Yarmuk River, which flows through the southern part of the Golan, are about 400 meters, or 1,300 feet tall. It’s a beautiful region, and several Israeli national parks and protected areas now dot the area.



Between 1948, when the state of Israel was established, and 1967, when Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria, Syrian artillery batteries regularly shelled the entire region of northern Israel. They also allowed Fatah, the PLO’s political arm, to carry out attacks from the region. Haifa is only about 60 miles from the Golan Heights, and the Golan affords an excellent view of the Hula Valley in Israel’s north, which is Israel’s most fertile agricultural region.

For years, Israeli children were forced to sleep in bomb shelters. Many roads in Israel’s north could only be driven along after mine-detection trucks cleared the streets. Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir recalled the misery that Syrians created for Israelis in the crosshairs of the Golan Heights. “The Syrians seemed bent on an escalation of the conflict; they kept up an endless bombardment of the Israeli settlements below the Golan Heights, and Israeli fishermen and farmers faced what was sometimes virtually daily attacks by snipers. I used to visit those settlements occasionally and watch the settlers go about their work as though there was nothing at all unusual in ploughing with a military escort or putting children to sleep – every single night – in underground air-raid shelters” (quoted in My Life by Golda Meir).

Recognizing that Syria was using the Golan Heights to attack Israel, the UN sent troops to police the border between Israel and Syria. In 1966, Israel appealed to this body, the UN Mixed Armistice Commission, asking them to stop Syria from allowing PLO troops to bomb Israel from the Golan. The UN refused to condemn Syria, though it did condemn Israel when Israeli troops dared fire upon Syrian positions in the Golan.

The Six Day War
After years of provocation, Israel gained the Golan Heights during the Six Day War of 1967. Fighting started on June 5, 1967, when Israel launched a preemptive strike on Egypt. Syria used the Golan Heights to shell villages and farms in the Hula Valley, and also sent planes to bomb Haifa. On June 9, Israel engaged Syrian fighters in the Golan and captured the area with seemingly miraculous speed, by the afternoon of June 10.

Archeologists soon found reminders of the area’s historic ties to Israel: coins dating from the 2nd Century CE inscribed with the words “For the Redemption of Jerusalem”.



Syria tried to regain the Golan six years later, in 1973, when they, along with Egypt, and supported by nine other Arab nations, staged a surprise attack on Israel on Yom Kippur. They were unsuccessful and Syria later signed a disengagement agreement as part of their armistice with Israel that left the Golan in Israel’s hands. UN troops were stationed at the border of the now Israeli-controlled Golan Heights and Syria, though Israel never used the Golan Heights to shell Syrian territory the way Syria used the commanding hills to terrorize Israel.

In 1981, Israel effectively annexed the Golan Heights, reflecting the key security importance of the area. Syrian continues to demand its return. In 1999, during peace talks with Yasser Arafat that many Israelis thought might lead to a permanent peace with the PLO, Syria disclosed its position: they would only agree to peace with Israel if Israel returned the entire Golan Heights. They wanted to be able to reestablish military positions on the hills, and also control the freshwater sources of the area. Given their experience with Syrian aggression in the area, Israelis refused to even consider this outrageous demand.

Humanitarian Aid in the Golan
With the humanitarian disaster of Syria’s brutal civil war now in its eighth year, Israelis have used the Golan region to provide life-saving humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. In June 2016, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) launched Operation Good Neighbors, which coordinates massive amount of medical and material aid in the Golan area.



Under Operation Good Neighbors, Israel has distributed over 1,500 tons of food, over 250 tons of clothes, about a million liters of fuel, dozens of generators, and about 25,000 containers of medical equipment and medicine. In one week in 2018 alone, the IDF’s Bashan Brigade carried out six risky operations in the Golan Heights, delivering hundreds of tons of aid, including clothing and children’s toys, to civilians in Syria.

When fighting from Syria’s civil war neared the Golan in July 2018, the Israeli Golan Regional Council launched a major drive to collect items to distribute to Syrian refugees in a buffer zone just outside Israeli control. “We would love any families in the Golan to make sealed bags for a Syrian child with toys and...coloring pages, crayons and sweets...to provide them with a moment of sweet and sweet joy” the council asked. “These are our neighbors and we see this as a mitzvah to help them in times of trouble” explained Council head Eli Malka. Within hours, thousands of donations had poured in.

The brutal fighting continues to rage near to the Golan Heights, a constant reminder of how crucial it is that Israel control the historic and strategically critical area of the Golan.
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Post  Admin on Sun 24 Mar 2019, 5:43 pm

What Are You Doing to Confront Anti-Semitism?
Mar 18, 2019  |  by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/What-Are-You-Doing-to-Confront-Anti-Semitism.html?s=mm
What Are You Doing to Confront Anti-Semitism?
A crucial lesson from Mordechai and the story of Purim.

Last time I checked, Tel Aviv is not disputed territory in anyone’s book. It isn’t a “settlement,” “occupied” or an “obstacle to peace.” When rockets are launched at Tel Aviv, whether someone pushed the button on purpose or by accident, they are sent for one reason. Evil people seek the annihilation and elimination of the Jewish people. Those rockets are weapons of anti-Semitism, but they are not the only kind.

When anti-Semitic lyrics are shared, when Jews are accused of dual loyalty or of owning the country, controlling the media or using their “Benjamins” to buy elected officials, those are verbal rockets, also weapons capable of great destruction. The rockets from Gaza were met by the Iron Dome high in the sky, exploding them and protecting our brothers and sisters down below.

What were the verbal rockets of Ilhan Omar or Rashida Tlaib met with? The same elected officials who thankfully help supply Iron Dome to Israel failed to provide it to us, their own fellow citizens. Instead of being met with a dome of protection, blowing up such words and accusations, protecting good people below, the House of Representatives allowed them to fall, exploding and causing us great pain, worry and fear. True, there were exceptions. Congressman Ted Deutch, gave an impassioned, compelling, balanced speech on the House floor and we should be very grateful to him. But his colleagues failed him and failed us; they allowed verbal rockets to be launched and, even worse, to land without protecting us. They couldn’t bring themselves to pass a resolution singularly condemning anti-Semitism. And now we have to ask ourselves, if those whom we rely on to protect us fail us, what will we do about it?

When Haman approached Achashveirosh with his diabolical, genocidal plan to exterminate the Jews, he said, “there is a nation scattered abroad and dispersed among the nations.” The Talmud (Megillah 13b) expands on this conversation.

When Haman targeted the Jews for annihilation, he said to Achashveirosh, “Let’s destroy the Jews.” Achashveirosh replied, “Not so fast. I am afraid of their God, lest He do to me what He did to my predecessors.”

Haman relieved the King of that fear when he said, “Yeshno am echad,” which translates literally as “there is a certain nation.” The Talmud quotes Rava, who explains that Haman was telling the King something much more strategic and insightful. Not yeshno am echad, there is a certain nation, but rather yoshnu am echad, there is a sleeping nation. Said Haman, “They have been negligent of mitzvot, they are divided, fighting with one another about brides playing drums at weddings. They are arguing amongst themselves but at the same time they are fast asleep as to what we want to do and how we threaten them.”

We were on the brink of extinction as a people because we were asleep.
We were vulnerable and literally on the brink of elimination and extinction as a people because we were asleep. Our eyes were closed to what was happening around us. We didn’t take the threats seriously and we didn’t stand up for our right to simply exist. Haman recognized and took advantage that there is a nation that is sleeping. All he had to do was continue to lull the Jewish people into a false sense of security, to breed complacency and apathy, and at that moment he could accomplish his goal of ridding the world of our people.

Indeed, Rabbi Soloveitchik suggested that the true miracle of Purim is that an anti-Semite rose, threatened us, and we believed him. We didn’t excuse him, accept his bogus apologies or say he didn’t really understand what he was saying. We didn’t just reject his tropes, we confronted him, we took him at face value, and we were determined not to let him threaten our people.

Identifying an anti-Semite, taking him or her seriously and doing something about it is nothing short of a miracle.

So how did we survive? What spoiled Haman’s plan? Why did we ultimately triumph over Haman such that we are here today and he is a distant memory? The answer is simple: Mordechai and Esther.

We understand Esther’s heroism. She risked everything: her life, her family, her people, to go out on a limb and confront the king without permission.

But what made Mordechai a hero? If you think about it, Mordechai may actually be a villain, a perpetrator in the story, responsible for initiating the decree to exterminate the Jews of Shushan and beyond.

Would it have been so terrible for him to just bow down? Just once? Not only does Mordechai refuse to bow down to Haman, he insists on antagonizing him by camping out on Haman’s route so that Haman would see him every day and be bothered by the one Jew who refuses to show him honor. Mordechai’s behavior provokes Haman and he responds by declaring his intention to destroy not only Mordechai, but all of Mordechai’s people, the Jews. Even after Haman’s plan has been pronounced, Mordechai continues to snub him.

When Achashveirosh remembers what Mordechai had done to save his life and sends Haman to reward him by parading around publicly, Mordechai could have declined the honor. Instead, he accepts, humiliates Haman and infuriates him further!

And this is the person we consider a hero of Purim? Why? A closer look seems to indicate that Mordechai’s ego put the Jewish people at risk. What was the source of Mordechai’s intransigence?

You might think it’s simple - bowing down was idolatry, one of the three cardinal sins for which we must give up our lives rather than violate. Indeed, the Ibn Ezra suggests that Haman was wearing idolatrous symbols. Rashi comments that Haman had declared himself a deity. Either way, it would seem Mordechai was right not to bow down, he was simply following Jewish law and it was his peers who were wrong for bowing, even if not doing so would mean risking their lives.

But that’s not the whole story. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 61b) says that the law of sacrificing your life rather than engaging in idolatry applies if in fact one is buying into the divine nature of the idol. If one is bowing simply out of fear, one is not liable.

So why didn’t Mordechai simply bow down in an effort to save the Jewish people?

Yes, Mordechai would have been entitled to bow down. To save his life, he could have been apologetic for his Jewishness and submitted to a virulent anti-Semite, bowing down to Haman and his worldview that wants a world without Jews. But Mordechai understood what was at stake.

Mordechai understood the antidote: To stand firm, to stand strong, and to stand as a proud Jew, a Torah Jew.
Mordechai, a humble scholar and righteous sage witnessed the growing anti-Semitism of Haman and his desire to see Jews and Judaism erased and he understood the antidote. If Jews were fast asleep, excusing away even the anti-Semitic “tropes” of their time, the answer was not to bow down, even if it was technically allowed. The answer was exactly the opposite. To stand firm, to stand strong, and to stand as a proud Jew, a Torah Jew.

The answer was to not apologize for being a Jew, but rather to be the proudest and most tenacious Jew, and that is exactly what he did. And this is how is Mordechai is known in the Megillah: “Ish Yehudi haya b’Shushan ha’bira – There was a Jewish man in Shushan the capital.” What do you mean a Jewish man; there was only one? There was a large Jewish population in Shushan!

The Megillah is telling us that true, there were many Jews, but some were abandoning their Judaism and others were failing to stand up for it. The Jewish community was asleep; there was only one Ish Yehudi, an unashamed, unembarrassed, unapologetic Jew.

What happens when Jews stand up for ourselves, when we call out and confront anti-Semitic song lyrics, tropes and yes, call out anti-Semites themselves? By the end of the story, the Megillah tells “fear of the Jew had fallen on them and so no man could stand up against them.” Why? “Because Mordechai, the proud, unashamed, unapologetic and fearless Jew earned the respect of his multitude of brothers, he sought the good of his people and spoke for the welfare of the next generation.”

One of the critical, but too often neglected, lessons of Purim is that the answer to our enemies is not to hide, apologize, or erase our Jewishness. To the contrary, it is to swell with and share our Jewish pride. When we act with confidence and pride, we gain respect. It is no coincidence that Mordechai emerges as a leader not only of the Jewish people, but a dignitary in the Persian government.

The mitzvah of Purim is to get to a point that we can’t tell between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai. We are very good at the blessed is Mordechai. We look to explain, excuse, justify and see everyone as a blessing. But we need to get to a point of remembering that identifying a Haman and cursing him is as important as blessing a Mordechai. We have to call out an anti-Semite, hold them accountable, hold those whose silence makes them accomplices accountable.

None of us know what the future brings. It could be that we will look back at these few weeks as an aberration, a small moment in time that bigoted voices spoke freely but we will go back to strong support, tolerance and freedom. But it also could be that history will look back at this moment, when members of Congress could espouse anti-Semitic views with impunity, without condemnation or consequence, and identify it as an inflection point, the beginning of defense of Jewish people turned.

This Purim, don’t just dress up like Mordechai; act like Mordechai.
If you share that concern, that uncertainty, the question is: what will you do about it? Certainly we have to write letters, make phone calls, attend rallies and hold anti-Semites and those who fail to condemn them accountable. But there is something else we must do.

We must appeal directly to the American people, to carry ourselves with pride, but also with dignity, honesty, integrity and righteousness. If like Mordechai our neighbors come to know and respect us, they will be intolerant of leaders who dare promote anti-Semitic rhetoric or tropes. If we carry ourselves properly, those we work with, work out with, shop with, or live near will speak out and stand up to demand resolutions of condemnation and removal of voices of hate from critical committees.

This Purim, don’t just dress up like Mordechai; act like Mordechai.



When God is Hidden: The Meaning of Purim
Mar 12, 2019  |  by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff
https://www.aish.com/h/pur/t/When-God-is-Hidden-The-Meaning-of-Purim.html?s=mm
When God is Hidden: The Meaning of Purim
Finding meaning and hope in times of darkness.

“These days will be remembered and kept in each generation, in every family, land and city. These days of Purim will never be abandoned by the Jews, nor shall their memory die out among their children.”

Every year the Scroll of Esther must be read aloud in public, usually in the community synagogue. All adult Jewish men and women are given an obligation to hear every single word to fulfill the mitzvah.

Why? Don’t the other Jewish holidays have miracles far greater and wondrous? And why is Purim uniquely celebrated specifically through reading the Megillah?

Here is the message that sears into the heart and soul of every Jew throughout the centuries. The message that whispers to us in the silence of the night: “Do not be afraid. Even if it feels as if I am so far away, hidden and concealed. I will never abandon you, My dear children.”

The miracles of Chanukah and Passover, the shelter of Sukkot all speak openly about the hand of God in our lives. Divine intervention swooped down and saved the nation of Israel. We sing about the revealed miracles. There is no denying the obvious. How could one not believe? A scroll is not necessary.
But what happens when there is miracle after miracle yet no one seems to see the explosion of God’s mighty hand in this world? When God’s voice is masked by nature seeming to take its natural course?

Purim’s miracles were intentionally hidden. Esther happened to be chosen. She happened to be Jewish. Achashverosh happened to be taken by her. We had one of our own in the palace and wow, were we lucky! Mordechai happened to hear the plot to kill the king. Haman happened to erect the gallows upon which he was eventually hanged.

There is no luck or coincidence here. It’s all meant to be, directed behind the scenes by God’s guiding hand.

The name of God is nowhere to be found explicitly in the Book of Esther. It is only alluded to, hidden, waiting to be found. God purposefully concealed His name to teach us that there are times that great miracles are camouflaged, waiting to be discovered.

We all go through times that we believe that we are alone, on our own. Sometimes they are moments of great success. We think it’s all about being at the right place in the right time, karma, or our very own abilities.

We are ignorant or indifferent to God’s mighty hand in our lives. Propelling us forward, showering us with blessing. It is up to us to truly see and recognize the Source of life in our days.

Then there are those moments of darkness. We are bewildered. What happened to me? How am I ever going to get out of this? Where is God? I feel so abandoned. Why is God hiding?

Our people thought the same when the holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. We were sent into exile. Dispersed as the smoke and fire rose over our once glorious Temple. Fear spread from one to another. Can it be that God has abandoned us forever?

The Book of Esther teaches us that even in the darkness of exile, even in the looming shadows, we must never fear. God is watching over us. Perhaps His hand seems hidden. Perhaps the healing seems to be taking forever. We wonder, does God even care?

Beneath the heavy clouds is the hand of God, tenderly watching over us.

I was born upon the ashes of the Holocaust. My birth and the birth of my siblings were all hidden miracles. And each day we must only look to see God peering at us through the curtains of the heavens. Guiding us. Protecting us. Calling out to us. Granting us life.

We each have our own personal scroll to write. Purim gives us the message of courage and strength to seek the hidden hand of God through the dark clouds. This is the true definition of faith.
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Post  Admin on Fri 22 Mar 2019, 4:21 pm

https://www.aish.com/j/as/The-Shtisel-Phenomenon.html?s=mm
The Shtisel Phenomenon
Mar 17, 2019  |  by Judy Gruen
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The Shtisel Phenomenon
Fans can’t get enough of this Hareidi family.
On a recent Shabbat afternoon, I was arranging chicken on a serving platter when I heard one of our lunch guests talking about the hit Israeli series, Shtisel. I dropped my serving fork on the counter with a clang and hustled into the dining room.

“No talking about Shtisel till I’m back at the table!” I commanded, taken aback by my own vehemence. After all, our guest was not giving a D’var Torah; he was just talking about a television show about make-believe people. Yet, like thousands of other Shtisel devotees, my husband and I were hooked on the show from the first episode. It was compulsively watchable, even gripping in its quiet way. Now, I couldn’t bear for even a “bissel” (little bit) of Shtisel talk to take place without me.
“No talking about Shtisel till I’m back at the table!”
The show centers on the Shtisel family of Jerusalem. On one hand, the lives of this hareidi family seem narrowly constrained by religious, social and professional parameters that most Jews – and certainly non-Jews – could not imagine for themselves. Yet the patriarch, the widower Reb Shulem, his daughter Gitty, and youngest son, Akiva, all grapple with universal and timeless issues: adjusting to the loss of a beloved wife and mother, whose presence even after death is keenly felt; navigating the world of dating and trying to find one’s “b’shert;” coping with marital betrayal and then trying to move past the crisis; teenage rebellion; and how far one can push the boundaries of “acceptable” behavior and career choices in society.
A key dramatic arc that is brilliantly teased out through both seasons of the show is the conflict of Akiva, still single in his late twenties, a natural artist who feels compelled to bury his artistic passion and hide his creations because his father, Reb Shulem, believes it goes against Torah values. Watching Shulem’s relationship with Akiva play out against this tension is alternately frustrating and poignant.

Originally broadcast in Israel starting in 2013, Shtisel became an international sensation when Netflix purchased the rights to stream the show in December 2018. Nancy Federman Kaplan and Mimi Cohen Markofsky, two friends in Detroit, were so enamored of the show that they co-founded the Facebook group, “Shtisel – Let's Talk About It.” Currently the group has more than 6,700 members across the Jewish religious spectrum as well as other religions, and grows by a few hundred members each week. Despite the diversity of the membership, the conversation is always respectful. Everyone wants a glimpse into this usually closed and mysterious world.

I pop in there a few times a week for my “fix” of Shtisel talk, insights, and star-sightings: one member posted a picture of herself with the actor who plays the cagey and cold Nuchem; another offered the insight that when the teenage character Ruchami secretly reads Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, it’s a hint that Tolstoy’s adage that all happy families are the same but all unhappy families are unhappy in their own ways also applies to the hareidi world. The rumor that there may be a belated third season has nearly brought the atheists in the group to kneel down and pray.
Cohen Markofsky, who identifies as Modern Orthodox, explained the magic of the show this way: “The writers of the show are telling stories about characters who happen to be hareidi, but the stories and dramas could play out in any religious or even secular setting and probably have the same effect. Its placement in Israel is a plus for Jewish people everywhere! It engages so many people as a looking glass into the lives of a culture in the Jewish population that many group members might never have come across.”

In this way, the show has become an unexpected teacher of Judaism. Jews and non-Jews alike seem to love learning about differing levels of observance within the Jewish community. Members ask questions all the time: What does the name “Nuchum” mean? Why are parents so involved in their childrens’ dating lives? Why are they looking at the eggs in the bowl before they make an omelet?

The hareidi community often gets bad press – unfairly, in my opinion. The extreme acts of a minority become instant news, distorting the lives of quiet faith that should characterize them more fairly. In this way, Shtisel has performed a wonderful feat of public relations, peeling back layers of stereotypes and seeing “ultra-Orthodox” Jews as complex, sympathetic, and multidimensional. There are no perfect characters and no perfectly bad ones, either. Even the most dislikable character, Nuchum, has a few moments that redeem his humanity.

The two seasons of the show were created by Abot Hameiri Barkai for Yes, an Israeli satellite company, and won 11 Israeli TV Awards (including Best Drama, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Script for Season 1) and six awards in 2015 (including Best Actor and Best Actress for Season 2). The realism of the writing is no accident. Both co-writers have Orthodox roots – Yehonatan Indursky grew up in a hareidi family and attended the Ponevezh Yeshiva, while Ori Elon attended a yeshiva in Efrat.

Ruchi Koval, a Cleveland-based Jewish educator, author and motivational speaker, carves out some time in her day to discuss the show in the Facebook group because, as she explains, “The show has so much subtlety, and so much art in a show about art and artists. I need to unpack much of the symbolism with other members of the group. Also, because I have first-hand insight into the Charedi world, though I don't quite live there, I can be useful in clearing up misunderstandings and answer questions, especially as there are so many non-Jews in the group who are fascinated by what they see. And when I have questions, others in the group help me.”

Koval also points out another draw of the program that strikes me as very true. “There are almost no cars, no smartphones, none of the fast pace we are used to,” she observes. “Watching it, you feel everything slowing down. You want to slow down. Its allure is unmistakable. It is so different from Hollywood and it doesn’t rely on any Hollywood tropes. The Hebrew and Yiddish bring back a lot of memories for people. The nostalgia aspect is strong.”

As a Jewish educator and leader, Koval now has many students asking her questions about Orthodoxy based on their watching Shtisel. “They have 100 questions,” she says. ‘Is this true? Could this really happen? Why do they say a prayer before they eat?’ It's literally a Jewish educator's dream come true.”

While I miss the intrigue and suspense of what will next happen in the lives of the Shtisel family, I can also heartily concur with their oft-repeated phrase, “Baruch Hashem.” That a dramatic series portraying a hareidi family and community has led to such a wellspring of respect, interest, and sympathy is, to me, nothing short of a miracle. As one new gentleman in the Facebook group said, “I identify myself as a secular Jew, however, I felt very much a part of the show, because we are all part of the same history.”
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Post  Admin on Fri 15 Mar 2019, 11:27 pm

Ilhan Omar, the Benjamins and Purim Today
Mar 13, 2019  |  by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
https://www.aish.com/h/pur/t/Ilhan-Omar-the-Benjamins-and-Purim-Today.html?s=mm
Ilhan Omar, the Benjamins and Purim Today
The Purim story’s warning of enemies who seek our destruction assumes such powerful relevance today.

George Elliott is credited with saying, “History repeats itself.” Mark Twain sharply improved on it with his observation that “history doesn’t repeat itself – but it does rhyme.” No matter how much things may change, one constant always remains: the Hamans of the world, the Jew haters who seek “to destroy, to murder and to bring to an end all Jews, from young to old”, are somehow forever with us.

It was foretold in the Torah. In the first battle against Amalek, prototype of the anti-Semite throughout the ages, we are informed that although the Jews won the fight, Joshua only “weakened” our enemy. Amalek survived. He continues to plague us in many disguises – masks which have become part of Purim ritual to remind us that people often conceal their true intentions under the guise of noble goals even as they plot the genocide of our people.

What happened in Shushan is the story of our people throughout the ages. It isn’t just ancient Persia, the persecutions and the pogroms of the Middle Ages or even the Holocaust of the 20 th century. Tragically it is the story once again of our own times. Not only Persia/Iran but sophisticated France, cultured England, educated Europe and the rest of the “civilized world” are again proving the truth of Elie Wiesel’s insight that “the only thing we have learned from history is that we do not learn anything from history.”

As we recall the Purim story once again, its warning of enemies who seek our destruction assumes such powerful relevance even here in the United States today.

Let me remind you a little bit about the Jews in Persia of old. When King Achashverosh celebrated his ascent to the throne he threw a huge party to which all were invited. Jews were welcome guests. The drinking was in accord with people’s different faiths. In retrospect, a bill decrying hatred against any and all minority groups would almost certainly have passed in the Persian Congress. Yet it only took a short while for Haman to turn his strategy of genocide into national policy.

What was the key to Haman’s success? His speech is recorded in the Megillah:

And Haman said to King Ahasuerus, "There is a certain people scattered and separate among the peoples throughout all the provinces of your kingdom, and their laws differ from [those of] every people, and they do not keep the king's laws; it is [therefore] of no use for the king to let them be (Book of Esther 3:8).

The Jews have dual loyalty!

That is their crime. Ilhan Omar didn’t invent the brilliant lie. It’s always been Amalek’s secret weapon. Hitler knew it. Stalin knew it. Read the Torah on the way in which Pharaoh was able to turn the Egyptians against the Hebrews – the same Egyptians who had been saved by the wisdom of Joseph – and you will find the similar strategy:

“ He said to his people, ‘Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more numerous and stronger than we are. Get ready, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they increase, and a war befall us, and they join our enemies and wage war against us and depart from the land’” (Exodus 2:9 – 10).

Winston Churchill famously said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before truth puts on its boots.” The lie of Jewish dual loyalty is perpetuated by the Hamans of history even as Jews wherever they reside prove the truth of the promise given by God to Abraham that “I will bless those who bless you.”

Purim, happily, is not merely the story of anti-Semitism; it is the biblical record of a major victory over a nefarious anti-Semite. And perhaps the most ironic part of the story is a truth made famous these past few weeks by a contemporary Jew hater.

Ilhan Omar is right; “It’s all about the Benjamins.”

For Omar “the Benjamins” – a reference to American hundred- dollar bills – was her despicable insinuation that Jews, as the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion long ago put it, control the world behind the scenes with their money.

For the Book of Esther, “the Benjamin” was revealing to us at the outset that Mordechai was “Ish Yemini”, from the tribe of Benjamin. And why was that so significant? The rabbis explain that was the reason Mordechai was able to counter Haman’s libel and to demonstrate to us throughout the ages how best to overcome our enemies.

While others bowed down to Haman, Mordechai refused. It was a trait he inherited genetically. The rabbis tell us that when Jacob met with his brother Esau he bowed down to him. According to some commentaries, it was a sin for which he would be held accountable. And 11 of Jacob’s sons bowed down as well. Only Benjamin, who was not yet born, did not bow. And so Mordechai, a direct descendent of Benjamin, maintained the tradition of his ancestor.

Aware of the threat to their survival, Jews need to put aside their differences and unite in the face of a common enemy.
The man who would not bow down to an enemy in humble submission is the one who encouraged Esther to similarly stand proudly and firmly, without embarrassment or fear, and speak up on behalf of our people. “Who knows,” he told her, “if not for a time such as this have you been placed in this position of rulership.”

Mordechai and Esther are the heroes of the Purim story because they refused to cower before those who sought to destroy our people. They spoke out against their Haman with all of their strength. It’s all about the Benjamins and those who refuse to remain silent when enemies again plot “the final solution” for Israel and for our people.

Maybe it isn’t a coincidence that all this is happening at the very time Jews around the world are celebrating Purim. History records not only the recurring story of anti-Semites and anti-Semitism. It also confirms the Divine intervention that has invariably assured our survival. And this miracle – in the one biblical book in which God’s name isn’t mentioned even once – is a miracle we desperately need today: The miracle of Jews, aware of the threat to their survival, who put aside their differences, united in the face of a common enemy, and collectively recognize that it must’ve been for “a time such as this” that we are given the opportunity to partner with God.
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Post  Admin on Wed 13 Mar 2019, 11:27 pm

Walking Through the Valley of Death
Mar 2, 2019  |  by Naomi Freeman
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/Walking-Through-the-Valley-of-Death.html?s=mm
Walking Through the Valley of Death
Violated as a teen, isolated and alone, a young woman discovers a way back to spiritual and physical health.

I was 15 when trauma overshadowed my life. I wasn’t yet able to comprehend the tortuous impact being violated had on me because I was a tough, “cool” teenager with that exterior façade built to protect me from harm. It had seemed that nothing could faze me ever.

Until this happened.

I certainly wasn’t going to tell my parents, or even my closest friends. I just recoiled within myself and didn’t share the details because I was too embarrassed and devastated.

I tried to open up to only one friend, but two weeks after I confided in her, she moved to North Carolina when her father’s company suddenly transferred them. We were separated by a vast physical distance and too young to know what trauma was and that I needed help.

My parents could not tell that something was wrong because I still looked, on the outside, like their same aloof, rebellious teenage daughter. Lack of communication was my norm. And how could I tell my mother what had happened when she had grounded me for being out late the night before? In my immature mind, I viewed everything that had happened as my fault. Unrelenting guilt devoured me. I wore dark, baggy clothes to hide in; they resonated with the shattered way I felt inside. Suicidal, depressing thoughts engulfed me. The world was a scary place with evil people that couldn’t be trusted.

Depressing thoughts engulfed me. The world was a scary place with evil people that couldn’t be trusted.
A month before my sixteenth birthday, my friend’s mom lent me a book by Dick Gregory, “Cookin’ with Mother Nature.” His book testified how he lost over 200 lbs., going from morbid obesity to a slim, healthy athlete.


 
I don’t remember why I was willing to read his book. I didn’t care about anything. I was failing most of my classes in high school. Who cares what we eat? He wrote about the connection between the food we consume and how we feel. Could it be that all the sugar, candy, ice cream, junk food, French fries, pizza … my whole teen diet… could exacerbate how depressed I was?

Somewhere inside of me was a spark of life bursting to be reborn. My soul was desperate to emerge from the pit of despair where I was stuck for so long.

I had never stopped praying. I didn’t know Who else to turn to in those bleak days when I was feeling so alone. I don’t know what influenced me to pray, but from the very beginning, I did… “God… I feel so dirty, disgusting and yucky. I feel lonely and hopeless…. What’s the point of being alive in a world where people hurt each other?”

And I cried. A lot.

I knew I couldn’t control anything or anyone around me. I could only make choices about myself.

If I would take care of myself, maybe that meant I was worth something. Maybe my life mattered.
Something inside compelled me to choose life. Right then I decided to go “cold-turkey” from the junk-food diet, from smoking and drinking and drugs that I consumed and focus on eating fresh fruits for breakfast, salads for lunch, whole grains and vegetable soups for dinner. It was an inner physical cleansing that could cleanse my mind, heart and soul. If I would take care of myself, maybe that meant I was worth something. Maybe my life mattered.

And slowly, cautiously, tentatively, I started running in the morning before school. It was only ten minutes around the block, but it was a beginning of a new life.

This new routine evolved into going to sleep early and arising by 5:30 am. Ten minutes became twenty, then thirty, and eventually an hour in the awesome fresh morning breeze. Awakening before sunrise, hearing the chorus of chirping birds surrounded me with a buoyant feeling of renewal and rebirth. Running was like flying.

It began with that first step around the block: invigorated, revitalized and restoring that lost sense of self-esteem and self-respect. And off the “typical American diet” it seemed like my brain was coming out of a fog. I could learn, absorb, study and pass exams in school again. My grades in school went up. My communication with my parents improved dramatically as I tried to make up for how disrespectfully I had treated them. Though I sometimes laughingly wondered if I was running away from my problems or running into a new future, those morning runs were a soothing, therapeutic, meditative time of prayer, reflection and contemplation, a time of healing and reconciliation with my inner being and with God Who I had felt estranged from. It was during those walks that I sensed that God was always by my side, coaching me on. He had never left me though I had left Him.

Two years after I started running, three years after the trauma, I was diagnosed with life-threatening cancer. I was only 18 and I was sure that the early trauma was connected to my illness. How could my body fight back when I had wanted to die?

But everything was different now. I wanted to live!! I had to live!

I couldn’t run after major abdominal surgery, but I could walk, though at first it was excruciatingly painful.

I survived that cancer, but six years later I found out that the operation and radiation that helped save my life also made it impossible for me to have children without undergoing more invasive treatment. I didn’t want more drugs and more operations, but I walked through that challenge. Thank God, I walked through births and raising children.

I walked through more surgeries, more radiation treatment and chemotherapy, feeling God’s tremendous love surrounding me.
I walked through cancer again when I was 44, 26 years after the first battle with cancer. Twenty-six years of precious life – the number that represents God’s Name of compassion. I walked through more surgeries, more radiation treatment and chemotherapy, feeling God’s tremendous love surrounding me.

Walking was my route of escape from the death dungeon I was entrapped in for one horrible year when I was 15. It was my way of claiming back my self-worth.

Walking almost every morning became my way of getting through a long list of ordeals, feeling God by my side, helping me always. I pray. I say Psalms. I say thank You. I pray that no one should feel alone. Support exists and God has many ways to help us.

It’s been 40 years since I first ventured around the block for ten minutes. Forty is that auspicious Biblical number of rebirth: of wandering in the wilderness for 40 years before entering the Promised Land; and 40 days between the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul, until Yom Kippur, the annual season of teshuvah. Forty is the number that represents the power to lift a spiritual state, to be purified and transformed.

For me, every step is another opportunity to thank God and celebrate the precious gift of life, the life that I can hardly believe I am here to live.

*Note from the author. Looking back 40 years, I definitely needed post trauma counseling, but I did not have the awareness then to know how to get help or know what my options were.

If you notice that your child, loved one or friend is acting differently – sad, defiant, rebellious or withdrawn – they may be suffering from something that happened that they are afraid to tell you or anyone about. Reach out. Ask questions. Get help. Walking is a highly recommended endeavor that stimulates healthy production of beneficial endorphins but it is not a substitute for therapy.
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Post  Admin on Mon 11 Mar 2019, 2:53 pm

Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel, Renaissance Man
Mar 9, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Rabbi-Yitzchak-Abarbanel-Renaissance-Man.html?s=mm
SHARES
Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel, Renaissance Man
An advisor to kings, Rabbi Don Yitzchak Abarbanel dedicated his life to helping Jews in Europe.

In the late Middle Ages, the learned members of the Jewish Abarbanel family emerged as advisors to kings and princes. As the Middle Ages gave way to the Renaissance, one scion of the Abarbanel family – Rabbi Don Yitzchak Abarbanel – emerged as a true Renaissance man. Scholar, religious leader, philanthropist, diplomat, banker and royal advisor, few figures in European history can match Rabbi Yitzchak’s erudition and greatness – and his concern for his fellow Jews.

Rabbi Yitzchak’s father, Rabbi Judah Abarbanel, was an advisor to a local Spanish ruler, King Henry, who ruled in the city of Castile. King Henry relied heavily on Judah’s good advice and resisted calls by Catholic leaders to persecute the Jews in his kingdom. But the relative peace of that region’s Spanish Jews was shattered when a charismatic populist emerged, preaching hatred against Jews.

Ferrand Martinez, a local monk and royal confessor, hated Spain’s Jews and lost no time in fanning the flames of hatred in his fellow Christians. He would preach against Jews, then lead a mob from town to town, attacking Jewish quarters, breaking into synagogues, and threatening to kill Jews unless they converted on the spot. Seville, Cordova, Toledo and many smaller towns were all attacked by Martinez’s mobs, and the region began to empty of its Jews.

King Alfonso appointed Yitzchak treasurer of the royal court of Portugal.
Rabbi Judah Abarbanel fled along with many of his compatriots, settling in neighboring Portugal where his innate talents once again caught the eye of the local royal rulers. Judah became a favorite advisor to King Alfonso V of Portugal. Wealthy and secure at last, he was able to provide a solid education for his brilliant young son Yitzchak. Yitzchak mastered many languages with ease and excelled in Jewish studies and philosophy. He began to write books about some of the most fundamental questions in Jewish thought, addressing issues such as the nature of prophecy. He also composed commentaries on the Torah. Yitzchak became a rabbi like his father. Eventually, he was forced to abandon his full-time studies when King Alfonso demanded he join his father in working for the royal family and appointed Yitzchak treasurer of the royal court of Portugal.

In the Royal Court of Portugal
Rabbi Yitzchak advised the king well and helped Portugal grow in importance and prestige. He never forgot his Jewish brethren and was always on the outlook for ways to ease the many burdens placed on the Jewish community in what was often a harsh, Catholic land. In 1471, when King Alfonso captured a town in Morocco, he placed the town’s 250 up for sale as slaves. Rabbi Yitzchak sprang into action. He knew it would be impossible to change the king’s mind about the sale, so he offered his own money and raised additional funds among Portugal’s Jews to purchase the slaves himself and then free them. For two years afterwards, Rabbi Yitzchak personally supported these 250 Moroccan Jews, until they’d learned to speak Portuguese and had settled into jobs and occupations.


 
When King Alfonso died in 1481, Portugal became markedly less tolerant of Jews. The old king’s son, King John II, accused many of his father’s old advisors of plotting against him. He summoned a host of advisors and ministers to his palace, including Rabbi Yitzchak. Rabbi Yitzchak was on his way to meet the new king when a friendly informer stopped him with horrifying news: as each royal advisor approached the palace, they were seized and then beheaded. Rabbi Yitzchak lost no time, turning around on the spot and trying to flee with his wife and children to Spain.

Torah Commentary
The family settled in Toledo. There, the uprooted family found themselves bereft, penniless and without connections. Rabbi Yitzchak started working for a Jewish banking company and spent his free time writing commentaries on the Torah. These beautiful, insightful works continue to be studied widely today.

Rabbi Hersh Goldwurm zt”l explained the enduring nature of Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel’s appeal:

“Abarbanel’s literary output was voluminous and multi-faceted…Abarbanel is unique among Jewish Bible commentators in that he does not hesitate to quote the comments of Christian exegetes such as Jerome, Nicholas de Lyre, and others, sometimes even accepting their views. A striking feature of Abarbanel’s works...is their comprehensiveness. One can expect to find in them, on any topic, a comprehensive digest of...views.” (Quoted in The Early Acharonim, compiled and edited by Rabbi Hersh Goldwurm. Mesorah Publications Ltd.: 2008.)

The Abarbanels’ peaceful life in Toledo came to an end in the year 1484, when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain commanded Rabbi Yitzchak to become their royal treasurer, reprising the career he’d once performed with distinction in Portugal.

Rabbi Yitzchak could hardly refuse a royal order but he might have had a secondary reason to comply. The feared Spanish priest Tomas de Torquemada was now head of the Inquisition in Spain and he was leading the charge to root out secret Jews who’d pledged loyalty to the Catholic Church out of fear, but who retained a Jewish lifestyle in secret. These secret Jews were subject to horrific torture and murder. Historians speculate that Rabbi Yitzchak thought that by becoming close to Spain’s royal rulers, he might use his influence to blunt the harshest decrees and laws against Jews.

Ferdinand and Isabella
While Rabbi Yitzchak did become a vital advisor to Ferdinand and Isabella, they were ardent supporters of the Inquisition and seem to have had personal antipathy to Jews. Rabbi Yitzchak served as Queen Isabella’s personal financial agent and raised the money that she and Ferdinand needed to capture the city of Grenada and complete the unification of Spain as a single, Christian country under their rule. Instead of being grateful for his role in their victory, Ferdinand and Isabella turned on Rabbi Yitzchak and the rest of Spain’s Jews. They issued a decree: in 1492, only Christians would be allowed to reside in Spain. Any Jews who refused to convert would be forced to leave.

Rabbi Yitzchak pleaded with the royal couple to avert this decree, to no avail. He offered to raise vast sums of money for the royal court if only the Jews could stay. Ferdinand and Isabella were unmoved. They told Rabbi Yitzchak that if he converted to Christianity he could remain and keep his position in the royal court. Rabbi Yitzchak told them that was impossible.

Ferdinand and Isabella
On the solemn Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av in the Jewish year 5252 (July 30, 1492), Rabbi Yitzchak and his family joined tens of thousands of other Spanish Jews at the nation’s ports, crowding onto ships to take them away from Spain. Many of these desperate refugees were taken advantage of, sold into slavery or even thrown overboard by unscrupulous ship captains. Rabbi Yitzchak and his family managed to make it to the town of Naples.

When King Ferdinand heard that Spanish Jews were landing in that Italian city, he sent word to the local king of Naples (also named Ferdinand) demanding he deny Jews entry. King Ferdinand of Naples refused to be cowed, and allowed the Jews to settle in his domain. Rabbi Yitzchak had hoped to work full time on writing his Torah commentaries again, but the king of Naples demanded that Rabbi Yitzchak once again assume the role of treasurer in his new home.

No Rest
He became treasurer and royal advisor to King Ferdinand of Naples, as well as his son, King Alfonso II, when he succeeded his father in 1494. Rabbi Yitzchak’s travails were not over. In 1495, Naples fell to France and King Alfonso II fled to the Mediterranean island of Sicily. Rabbi Yitzchak and his family went with the deposed king, continuing to serve him in exile.

Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel desperately worked to make his communities a safer, better place for Europe’s battered, persecuted Jews.
He was by now in late middle age but his wanderings never ceased. When King Alfonso II died, Rabbi Yitzchak moved to the Mediterranean island of Corfu where he lived in poverty, writing and studying and working on his voluminous writings. He moved back to Naples, then later to Venice where the city elders invited him to become a government official. Ever the dazzling statesman, Rabbi Yitzchak eventually rose to become one of the rulers of the Venetian Republic. He died in 1509, a celebrated and famous Venetian. Leading members of Venice’s government attended his funeral, in the Italian town of Padua, which was then home to a large Jewish population and contained a Jewish cemetery.

King Alfonso II
In his commentary on the famous Biblical story when Jacob confronts his brother Esau (who has vowed to kill him), the Abarbanel noted that Jacob feared Esau and “his fear was like that of a real hero who, going to battle, is afraid of death and senses the danger, but out of noble motives scorns life and chooses a brave death…” (Quoted in New Studies in Bereshit by Nehama Leibowitz). This nuanced description of our patriarch Jacob’s feelings might reflect the dramatic realities of Rabbi Yitzchak’s life as well. Time and again, he faced danger and the threat of death. Yet throughout his long life, Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel went into battle, immersing himself in public life, desperately working to make his communities a safer, better place for Europe’s battered, persecuted Jews.
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Post  Admin on Fri 08 Mar 2019, 9:25 pm

March of Life: Descendants of Nazis Remember the Holocaust
Mar 2, 2019  |  by Menucha Chana Levin
https://www.aish.com/ho/i/March-of-Life-Descendants-of-Nazis-Remember-the-Holocaust.html?s=mm
March of Life: Descendants of Nazis Remember the Holocaust
Remembrance, reconciliation and fighting anti-Semitism.

When members of the Protestant TOS church in Tuebingen began to investigate the hidden Nazi history of their city and their own families they were in shock. “Many were horrified to discover that their fathers and grandfathers had been actively or passively involved in the Holocaust as SS guards, Wehrmacht soldiers, civil servants or in other capacities,” explains Claudia Kiesinger, director of TOS America.

Barbel Pfeiffer, a congregant, had been unaware of any personal connection to the Holocaust. Although she had seen photos of her maternal grandfather in his army uniform, she assumed it was a closed chapter in Germany’s history. When encouraged to explore their families’ hidden past, she began asking questions.

Pfeiffer was shocked to discover that her grandfather, an engineer, helped build the Auschwitz gas chambers.
Pfeiffer was shocked to discover the terrible family secret that her paternal grandfather, an engineer, helped build the Auschwitz gas chambers. It took weeks for her to come to terms with that horrific realization. Then in 2012 she traveled to Auschwitz with her church and addressed a group of Holocaust survivors.

“I wanted to speak the words that my grandfather never spoke, say the things he never said. He never asked for forgiveness. When he came back, he told his family what he had done and said, ‘Don't you dare speak of this, nobody must know.’ And so the whole story remained a secret,” explained Pfeiffer.


At the end of the war near the city of Tuebingen there had been eight concentration camps well-known for their cruelty and high death rate. In April 1945 the surviving inmates were sent on brutal death marches to Dachau. Along the way thousands were shot in front of German civilians.

Survivors and their descendants walked side by side with the descendants of Nazi perpetrators.
In response to that vicious death march, the first March of Life took place in April, 2007, following the same route through the German countryside. Holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors from the United States joined the March, walking side by side with the descendants of Nazi perpetrators. March of Life, started by Jobst and Charlotte Bittner and members of TOS Church in Tuebingen, is now an independent organization though still affiliated with the church.

In 2018 almost 60 Marches of Life took place worldwide ranging from small Marches in Ueckermünde, Germany with 40 participants to the large March of the Nations in Jerusalem that had 6000 participants. Approximately 20,000 people ventured into the streets with a March of Life in over a hundred cities and towns all over Germany including Heidelberg, Stuttgart, Berlin, Dresden, Hanover, Munich and Hamburg. In addition, Marches have been held in other countries like Romania, Switzerland, Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, France, Britain, United States, Canada, Argentina, Peru, and Bolivia as well as Israel.

Claudia Kiesinger feels there has been an overall positive response to Marches of Life in Germany. “The message about looking into the history of one’s own family concerning the Nazi era is a challenging concept but something that every German can relate to. Occasionally there is criticism that March of Life is connecting remembrance with a clear pro-Israel stance or asking “Why do we still have to talk about the Holocaust?”

In 2015 the organization established a house in Caesarea for Holocaust survivors with weekly gatherings and a luncheon.

“Each time both the survivors and the descendants of Nazis share their stories. It is a very emotional experience and sometimes not easy but new friendships are always formed,” explains Kiesinger.

An emotional moment for a Holocaust survivor and the descendant of a Nazi

Sometimes special encounters take place such as one last June between Berta Feinstein and Riva Leibovich who had known each other in the ghetto of Mohyliv-Podilskyi in Ukraine. Berta was 13 years old when she came to the ghetto with her family in 1941. Riva, from Moldova, was just five years old at the time. Riva's mother asked Berta to take care of her little daughter. After the war, the two girls lost all contact with each other. Berta graduated from Kiev University with a degree in Russian Literature and Linguistics and became a teacher in Minsk for 40 years.

In 1990, both Riva and Berta moved to Israel, unaware of each other’s existence. After 73 years, they met again, recognizing and excitedly hugging each other in the March of Life house.

On May 15, 2018, the March of the Nations brought 6000 people from 50 nations to the streets of Jerusalem on the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel. Its motto: MiShoah LeTkuma – from Holocaust to New Life. In June, 2019 the March of the Nations will take place in a condensed format in different cities throughout Israel. The March of Life has been honored by the Israeli Knesset for its special efforts on behalf of Holocaust survivors.

The March of Life is also involved with sending volunteers on a regular basis to ALEH Negev, a facility for severely disabled children.

“The idea is practical reconciliation: the descendants of Nazis serving the weakest members of Israeli society.”
“The idea is practical reconciliation: the descendants of Nazis serving the weakest members of Israeli society. We have had several exchange and encounter programs with schools in Ashdod and other cities and also a special encounter in Yad Vashem of members of the Krembo Wings Youth movement and young people from Germany, Poland and other nations,” says Kiesinger.


When asked about the organization’s response to the disturbing rise in anti-Semitism in Europe, Kiesinger replied, “We believe that the most effective way to combat anti-Semitism today is to learn from the past by confronting the unfortunate anti-Semitic history in a personal way, relating to the mostly hidden family histories in Germany concerning the Nazis. Also in other European countries like Austria, Poland, France and Switzerland there was collaboration and sympathizing with the terrible acts committed during the Holocaust. We are continuing to call and train people to do annual Marches of Life in their own cities, to lift a relevant voice for Israel and against modern anti-Semitism and to keep organizing Marches ourselves.”
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Post  Admin on Sun 03 Mar 2019, 9:50 pm

With Mengele in Auschwitz
Mar 2, 2019  |  by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/With-Mengele-in-Auschwitz.html?s=mm
With Mengele in Auschwitz
After surviving the horrors of the Holocaust, Yantu Weisz lived independent and strong till age 109.

In 1944, Yantu Weisz was 35 years old when the Nazis entered the Hungarian town of Mezokovesd and rounded up the Jewish community. Yantu was herded – together with her sister and mother – onto a cattle car. As the train chugged toward Auschwitz, everyone aboard knew the end of the journey: gas chambers and crematoria.

Days later, the train pulled its weary and dispirited cargo through the notorious red brick gate. As the cattle car door opened, the first thing Yantu saw was a pair of shiny black boots. They belonged to an immaculately dressed soldier with a riding whip – the bespectacled Angel of Death, Yosef Mengele. Yantu and the others were quickly pushed into line where Mengele pointed his whip – to the right for slave labor, to the left for instant death.

Though upset about being childless, that saved her life.
It was clear that Yantu's more elderly mother was destined for death, and the two sisters decided not to abandon her. In those perilous moments they were uncertain which sister will be spared, and which will accompany their mother to the gas chamber.

Because Yantu’s sister had a young child with her, she was automatically sent to the left with their mother.

Yantu was married for 10 years and childless. Though she’d been upset about not having children, it saved her life.

Yet prior to the fateful deportation, Yantu had become pregnant. As she stood in Mengele’s line, instructions were given for all pregnant women to step forward and “receive better care.” As Yantu was about to comply, another woman alerted her not to reveal the pregnancy: Being caught pregnant in Auschwitz meant certain death.

One night, after having been in Auschwitz for a few weeks, Yantu became very weak with abdominal pains. She went to the latrine and the baby slipped out.

Afterwards, Yantu received assistance from a Jewish nurse – perhaps the legendary Dr. Gisella Perl, a Hungarian prisoner in Auschwitz who was ordered to inform Dr. Mengele of any pregnant women in the camp. His evil intent: to perform cruel and excruciating “medical experiments.”

Yet Dr. Perl bravely defied these cruel orders. She would warn any pregnant woman of the life-threatening situation. Then, using no tools, anesthesia, bandages or antibiotics, Dr. Perl often saved the pregnant woman’s life – lovingly and compassionately performing an abortion… in the middle of the night… on the dirty barrack bunks.

(Dr. Perl survived the war and moved to New York City, where she specialized in infertility, making it her mission to bring life into the world, as chronicled in her autobiography, "I Was a Doctor in Auschwitz.")

Following the miscarriage, Yantu felt very sick and – against everyone’s advice – checked into the concentration camp “hospital.” There, Mengele would visit daily, walk around the beds, and point to those to be taken out and gassed. Miraculously, he never pointed at Yantu.

One evening, one of Yantu’s friends came to the hospital and told her to get up, as a transport was taking them to a better place. Yantu was very weak and told her friend to go on without her.

Not one person from that transport survived.

In the course of six months – first in Auschwitz, then in a munitions factory making bullets – Yantu endured the most horrific conditions – a Nazi tactic to make the Jews “subhuman.” Prisoners were given food only once daily – one small piece of bread and something to drink in the evening. Once, Yantu decided to save her bread for the morning as a way to have more strength during the day. She hid the bread under her head and in the morning it was gone – stolen! From then on, Yantu ate her bread immediately.

Whenever Yantu spoke about her Holocaust experience, she always said that no story, movie or book could adequately convey the sheer horror they endured.

Liberation and the New World
One day, all the Nazi guards ran away. Liberation! The war was over and Yantu survived due to physical strength and a tremendous determination to live. With humility, however, she did not regard her survival as commendable, saying that the finer, more genteel people died; only the tougher ones managed to survive.

Yantu's husband Azriel Chaim, despite suffering from diabetes, also survived the war, however in a weakened condition from which he never fully recovered. (When he died at age 67, the doctors said he was like 85.)

After the war, Yantu and Azriel Chaim returned to their hometown in Hungary, to see what remained. One of Yantu's sisters had gone into hiding in Budapest and survived. Additionally, two of Yantu's three brothers survived the slave labor camps.

Following the war, Yantu had difficulty getting pregnant again and suffered a few miscarriages – complications of her experience in Auschwitz. She was well into her 40s when two children were born, whom she referred to as "miracles." Her son, Rabbi Noson Weisz, is today a senior lecturer at Yeshivat Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem. Her daughter, Annie, lives in New York.

Religion was not allowed, and children were required to attend school on Shabbat.
For a few years, the Weisz family enjoyed the thriving Jewish community in Budapest – he with a government job and she as a seamstress. Yet when Hungary became a satellite of the communist Soviet Union, life became difficult. The open practice of religion was not allowed, and children were required to attend school on Shabbat.

The Weisz family wanted to leave – but the border was closed.

With the Hungarian revolution of 1956, the border opened again and Yantu insisted that they leave – so her children could grow up as proud Jews, not Communists. At the first opportunity, they escaped to Vienna, where they applied for exit visas to Israel, USA and Canada. The visa for Canada came first, so they immigrated to Toronto.

Within six months, the ever-adaptable Yantu was fluent in English and had reestablished her career as a successful, high-end dress designer who made wedding and evening gowns.

Yantu and Azriel Chaim Weisz

Independent and Strong
Yantu lived by herself in Toronto until age 102, working as a seamstress and remaining independent the entire time. She described work as “the best medicine for whatever bothers you.”

"Her independence was more important to her than anything," says her son, Rabbi Weisz. “Her eyesight and mental faculties remained sharp until the very end.”

Yantu wanted her son to be a doctor, but he wanted to be a rabbi. So concurrent with yeshiva studies, he attended University of Toronto night school, earning degrees in microbiology and in law. “My mother then wanted me to go to graduate school, so I consulted with the great Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, who said: 'She is a Holocaust survivor. Do what she asks,’” says Rabbi Weisz, who earned a Masters in Political Science.

“I want to be buried with a coffin made of my sewing machine.”
Though the children never knew their grandmother who perished that day in Auschwitz, she was a strong presence in their life. "My mother always followed in my grandmother’s ways and quoted her,” says Rabbi Weisz. “For example, my grandmother was a seamstress and said: 'I supported my family with my sewing machine, so I want to be buried with a coffin made of my sewing machine.' My mother was also a seamstress and the memories of her mother were never far."

Yantu passed away in April 2018 at age 109, bequeathing to 70 descendents a legacy of courage and goodness.

Rabbi Noson Weisz teaching at Yeshivat Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem.

"The Talmud says that someone who lives a long life can usually attribute it to a specific merit," says Rabbi Weisz. "My mother's outstanding trait was that if she could avoid it, she never took anything from anybody.”

When her son became engaged to a woman from a prominent, wealthy family, Yantu insisted on paying for half the wedding expenses. This was to the other family’s chagrin, as they could not countenance accepting money from a survivor who was eking out a living. The bride's parents had to come up with creative ways to assume as many expenses as possible since Yantu was always averse to "taking."

"If someone asked for tzedakah, she always gave. Even when people owed her money, she never asked for it back,” says Rabbi Weisz. “She always gave and never took. There aren't people like this around anymore."

Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance day, is Thursday May 2, 2019. That Thursday evening (Nissan 28) marks the first yahrtzeit of Yantu Weisz, may her memory be blessed.
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Post  Admin on Fri 01 Mar 2019, 8:44 pm

The Importance of Play: 8 Ways to Nurture Your Child’s Mental Health
Feb 26, 2019
by Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP
https://www.aish.com/f/p/The-Importance-of-Play-8-Ways-to-Nurture-Your-Childs-Mental-Health.html?s=mm
The Importance of Play: 8 Ways to Nurture Your Child’s Mental Health
We need to bring play back into our children’s lives.

Play is the most cherished part of childhood. Sadly, free play for children has steadily declined in the past few decades. The reasons are many: tightly structured family and school schedules, more parents working outside the home, fewer safe places to play and rise of screen time. The average preschooler uses technology 4.5 hours a day.

Mental health issues are on the rise in children. Many experts believe that this directly correlates to the loss of play. Why? Because play is where children learn life adaptability skills. They learn to cope and deal with their stress when they run free, swing from monkey bars, climb trees. In essence they are testing their abilities in “dangerous” situations. Children themselves are allowed to manage just the right dose of danger. This knowledge helps them feel in control of themselves and the amount of stress they can handle, helping them feel in control of their lives.

Play also allows children to develop their imagination and creativity. They learn social skills, how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, make their own decisions and self-advocacy skills. Children who are left to play at their own pace learn to know themselves well. They can discover their own areas of interest and ultimately engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue. Play also helps children maintain healthy physical activity level.

It is no wonder that experts have found that play can help prevent children from a slew of health issues, stress, anxiety, depression and obesity as well.

We need to bring play back into our children’s lives. Here are 8 tips to help increase your child’s free playtime.

1. Turn off electronics: This is not so easy to do in today’s world but it is essential. Have a no technology zone for the hours when your children come home from school. I always appreciate Shabbos because it is a natural break from the world of technology.

2. Have toys but not too many toys: Too much stuff just creates a whole lot of clutter and actually inhibits a child’s imagination. You can try rotating toys, every few months putting some toys away in a bin and replacing them with toys put away months before. This keeps your play area clean and also allows children to experience their old toys as new again.

3. Have space for kids to play: Children need room inside and outside to play. You want to designate an area in the house where they can play freely. We had an old couch in the basement that we called the jumping couch, our kids were allowed to do whatever they wanted with that couch, jump on it, build forts etc. If you have a yard, make sure it has an area for play, swings, a sandbox etc.

4. Have an art box or an art area: When engaged in art, children’s brains grow. It does not need to be anything elaborate: paper, scissors, crayons, markers, stickers and some glue can keep children engaged for hours.

5. Playing solo: Kids need some alone time to play. When they play with their toys by themselves it helps process new experiences, deal with their fears, conflicts, and everyday events in their lives. You often will hear your child engaging in fantasy play using different voices and reenacting what is happening in their world, which can be therapeutic. It is also great for developing their fantasy and imagination.

6. Get outside: Try to get outside everyday, even in the winter. Let them explore and play in nature—the woods, the park, the beach, wherever. If you live in a safe area, try to just sit on the side and let them let them have as much freedom as possible. They don't need an adult-led activity; they really need to be left alone, in control of their own play.

7. Mix children of different ages: It is helpful to encourage your child to play with children of different ages. Older children help facilitate a younger child’s learning, helping them get to a new level naturally. Older kids can practice their leadership skills more readily. Children will also learn to participate as well as challenge the game. This also helps them learn self-control and negotiation skills.

You also want to avoid intervening. Don't try to protect your child from others. Try not to judge other kids to harshly. Remember learning how to deal with difficult kids can give children the practice they need to deal with all types of people as they grow. These are the times where they are learning the biggest lessons in self-control and resilience.

8. Get support: You are not alone. Try talking to other parents, whether it’s in your neighborhood or just on your block. Put your heads together and see how you can encourage your kids to get outside like how it was naturally done back in the olden days.

Reference: Alexander, Jessica Joelle. The Danish Way of Parenting (pp. 27-28). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
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Post  Admin on Wed 27 Feb 2019, 11:09 am

L’Chaim: A Childless Holocaust Survivor Discovers He Has a Namesake
Feb 23, 2019  |  by Rabbi Levi Welton
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/LChaim-A-Childless-Holocaust-Survivor-Discovers-He-Has-a-Namesake.html?s=mm
L’Chaim: A Childless Holocaust Survivor Discovers He Has a Namesake
An inspiring true story about two Chaims and the miracle of life.

My wife Chavi and I were visiting my folks in California. We picked a random Shabbat to go out there and went to the local Chabad for services. A family from out of town was also there that Shabbat celebrating their daughter's Bat Mitzvah. We stayed for the Kiddush and the dynamic Rabbi Mendy Cohen led the entire community in singing, inspiring Torah learning and some hearty l'chaims. The party continued until late in the afternoon.

At some point, I asked the father of the Bat Mitzvah where they originally came from and he told me he was from Mexico City and had converted to Judaism many years ago before he had his kids.

Rabbi Welton with Holocaust survivor Chaim Grossman while wearing suit hand-tailored by Holocaust survivor Martin Greenfield.

"So why'd you pick your Hebrew name of Chaim?"

He told me that he had once spent a Friday night Shabbat service at a synagogue in Westchester, NY back when he was just starting out on his spiritual journey. One of his Rabbis had told him that if he ever met a Holocaust survivor, he should remember these words:

"A Holocaust survivor who doesn't believe in God....is a normal person.
A Holocaust survivor who does...is an angel."

During that Friday night service, as they were dancing around welcoming the holiness of the Shabbat Queen, he looked down at the arm of the person he was holding hands with and saw numbers. He felt overwhelmed that he was dancing with an angel and couldn't control the urge to ask the man his name.


 
The old man smiled and said, "Chaim." At that moment, this man from Mexico City decided that when it came the time to pick his Hebrew name, he would name himself after the angel he was lucky to dance with. Years passed and he never saw the man again.

I asked this father, "Is the survivor’s name Chaim Grossman?"

His mouth dropped open. "How do you know that?"

I told him I'm the Rabbi of a synagogue in Westchester. One of my congregants survived Buchenwald, went on to become a pilot in the Israeli Defense Forces, and then immigrated to America. His name is Chaim.

This father began to cry. He didn’t even known that Chaim Grossman was still alive. I leaned in close to him and told him that Chaim Grossman was very much alive and that I would be seeing him the following Shabbat. After Shabbat , we took this photo as this father wanted to send his love to his "Godfather."

The author with Chaim Valencia.

The next Shabbat, I asked Chaim Grossman to sit in the center of the synagogue as I began my sermon. I told him that 3,000 miles away there lived a man that carried his name and who was raising his family in a traditional, observant home.

"This is incredible," I said. "What is the probability that on the exact Shabbat, the only Shabbat in the entire year that we would fly out to California, it would be the same Shabbat of his daughter's Bat Mitzvah? What are the chances that after hours of celebrating, we would have that conversation about the origin of his name? And what are the chances that the Shabbat for which I would return to New York City to tell this story to his namesake would be the same Shabbat on which we read the Torah portion of Shemot. (Exodus) which literally means "Names," as our Sages teach that the way our ancestors broke free of their slavery was by keeping their Jewish names!"

I then pulled out the photo, printed and framed, and looked Chaim in the eye. As he raised his numbered arm to receive the photo of his "Godson," everyone began to cry. You see, Chaim had never been blessed with any children. And yet now he had a proud Jew halfway around the world who was carrying his name and who would pass it on to his children's children's children.

I will never forget the moment when Chaim stood up and blessed God.

I will never forget the deafening applause that followed.

And I will never forget the image of this holy Holocaust survivor hobbling out of the synagogue holding tightly onto the framed photo of a miracle.

As my father, Rabbi Benzion Welton, taught me, "Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous." I had thought I was going to California on vacation but I was really being sent to bear witness to a profound lesson about "Chaim" which means "Life." As the Talmud says, "If our descendants are alive, then our patriarchs are alive" (Taanit 5b).

Rabbi Welton’s latest project is a historical fiction novel for teens aimed to teach Torah values through an exciting story of magic and adventure that takes place during the Spanish Inquisition. To help him, click here.
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Post  Admin on Sat 23 Feb 2019, 11:41 pm

Do You Have the Attention Span to Read this Entire Article?
Feb 16, 2019  |  by Emuna Braverman
https://www.aish.com/f/mom/Do-You-Have-the-Attention-Span-to-Read-this-Entire-Article.html?s=mm
Do You Have the Attention Span to Read this Entire Article?
Social media is wreaking havoc on our ability to concentrate and think.

Social media is an easy target. There are so many reasons to find it troubling – and yet it is so seductive. I’ve written about the lack of personal privacy and modesty, about the hurt it can cause and the lack of sensitivity it engenders. We all know the illusions it creates – of others who are happier, more successful, more popular – and the confusion that occurs when we seem unable to enjoy any experience unless all of our friends are able to see it and “like” it.

Even death seems to now be a Facebook phenomenon as news of a loved one’s passing is immediately posted online and condolences delivered in the same fashion.

Yet, as I ponder the social media generation, I find a more serious cause for concern: the decay of our ability to concentrate, to control our time and our attention.

Let’s look at these issues in order.

1. Loss of concentration: We were already becoming a sound bite society. If it’s longer than the original 140-word limit Tweet, no one pays attention. How can we learn anything important that way? We can’t.


 
But it’s even worse. In many situations all sorts of information comes at us at once or we fall prey to the ease of switching rapidly back and forth between sites and apps. Under such circumstances no serious learning can take place. This is antithetical to the Torah guidelines to devote long, solid blocks of time to pore over a page of Talmud and learn Torah.

Torah wisdom is acquired through tremendous effort and concentration. Witty cocktail party repartee and news of celebrity birthday bashes can be gleaned as we flip from site to site or from info that pops up on our screen. But insights about marriage, tips for parents, wisdom for living all require serious time and thought, and concentration. This is too precious a commodity to sacrifice on the altar of social media.

2. Controlling our time: Yes, of course we are ultimately responsible, but just as advertisers employ tools of psychological manipulation in constructing ads to sell their products, so too the staff behind these websites strategize how to keep us on their page for as long as possible, how to lead us from friend to friend to friend on Facebook and subject to subject as we surf the web.

Someone recently confessed to me that she can sit down at her computer at 11 PM exploring one idea/item/category with each one leading to something else until the next time she picks up her head it’s 2 AM! I know she isn’t alone.

3. Controlling our attention: This has numerous components. Most of us have noticed that if we visit a retail website and peruse its offerings, those pages will pop up everywhere we go online (even on aish.com!). Even articles are pushed on us by external forces – by algorithms used by websites to keep us interested and engaged and by Apple News Feed. I frequently find myself reading a story that appears on said feed. Unfortunately that item may then lead to all sorts of gruesome and/or inappropriate stories I would rather not read – or even know about. But once it’s in my face, it’s like a car wreck, hard to look way.

Of course, I am responsible. I’m also responsible if I’m seduced by Madison Avenue to buy products I don’t need. But in both cases, I am also the victim of an all-out effort that’s hard to combat.

And since there is such competition online for users’ eyes, every site and offering has to be more outlandish, more attention-grabbing, louder and more colorful and more entertaining than the last. We are less able to invest concentrated thought and learning in our frenetic Internet age.

I’m not suggesting we put the genie back in the bottle. We couldn’t even if we wanted to. I’m just suggesting that we maintain perspective, that we recognize the cost, that we work hard not to lose our precious learning opportunities, that we try our best to reclaim our time, our concentration and our attention.

Perhaps that once-a-week total disconnect called Shabbos is a good place to start...
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Post  Admin on Tue 19 Feb 2019, 12:02 pm

Omar, AIPAC and the Jews
Feb 17, 2019  |  by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
https://www.aish.com/ci/s/Omar-AIPAC-and-the-Jews.html?s=mm
Omar, AIPAC and the Jews
Minneapolis leaders have had enough of Ilhan Omar’s insincere apologies and anti-Semitism. An Aish.com exclusive.

“Jews use financial influence to control society… Jews have dual loyalty… Jews are conspiring to take over the world… Jews are hypnotizing humanity…”

These anti-Semitic tropes have been at the core of some of humanity’s worst atrocities – Crusades, Inquisition, pogroms, Holocaust.

And now, Cong. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota is bringing this rhetoric to the hallowed halls of the U.S. Capitol. “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” she tweeted, referring to the influence of Jewish money (“Benjamins” a slang reference to $100 bills), then singling out pro-Israel AIPAC for the corrupt buying of politicians.

Omar’s contention is unacceptable on many levels. Not only does it evoke harsh anti-Semitic myths of Jews controlling the world via money, it is factually wrong: AIPAC pays no money to politicians, nor contributes to their candidacy.

As for Omar’s implication that a pro-Israel policy is bad for America, perhaps she is unaware that Israel is America's most trusted and reliable ally in the Middle East, a beacon of democracy standing on the frontline of the war against terror.


 
When Omar faced backlash and semi-apologized for these dangerous words, many in the Jewish community excused her ignorance, saying she was “previously unaware” and is now “educated.”

Yet Minnesota State Senator Ron Latz (D) is having none of this.

“Rep. Omar has shown a pattern over the years of using anti-Israel and anti-Semitic tropes or themes in her communications,” Latz, told Aish.com.

Latz would know. Last year, he led a group of local leaders in Minneapolis who invited Omar to an educational discussion about issues of sensitivity to the Jewish community. In a two-hour meeting at Latz's home, Jewish leaders respectfully explained to Omar that criticism of Israel must not include anti-Semitic stereotypes. Most attendees came away troubled by Omar’s response, Latz says, yet hopeful her attitude would change.

As it happens, things are worse. Omar deceived the Jewish community about her support of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement that uses double standards to delegitimize and demonize Israel as the world’s pariah. BDS has been called "terrorists in suits" for its aim of destroying the Jewish state. 

Prior to the election, when asked at a synagogue to specify her stance, Omar said that BDS was “not helpful in getting that two-state solution” – as if to denounce the movement that she now openly supports. This is deception.

“Evil Israel”
Recently, when asked how the U.S. should work productively toward peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Omar first criticized Israel’s very identity “as a Jewish state,” then said: “If we see that in any other society we would criticize it. We would call it out. We do that to Iran.”



Omar falsely suggests that the idea of a state religion is somehow fanatical, racist, and anti-democratic – effectively denying Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. Does Omar not know about Western democracies like England, Spain, Denmark, Greece, Costa Rica and 35 other countries who are officially Christian nations? Does Omar not know that 30 countries identify Islam as their official religion?

Yet it is the world’s sole Jewish state – where freedom of religion for all is enshrined into Israeli law – that aggravates Omar. This double standard is called anti-Semitism.

As for the other part of Omar’s tweet – comparing Israel to Iran: Does she not know that Iran is a radical theocracy, the world’s largest state-sponsor of terror, that routinely vilifies the United States, and that operates terror bases in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq and Lebanon – including sponsorship of Hezbollah that murdered 241 U.S. Marines?

Is this what Omar compares to Israel, our ally that votes in concert with the U.S. at the United Nations – more than any country in the world including major U.S. allies like Great Britain, France and Canada?

Does Rep. Omar truly require more re-education – or is something more sinister operating here?

The Apartheid Canard

Ilhan Omar
✔️
@IlhanMN
 Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel. #Gaza  #Palestine #Israel

4,758
5:15 PM - Nov 16, 2012
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Omar’s most sinister Tweet came as Hamas terrorists were bombarding Israel's civilian population with 150 rockets. It was then that she labeled Israel an “apartheid regime,” saying that “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and see the evil doings of Israel.”

"Evil apartheid"? Doesn't Omar know that Israel upholds Muslims' freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of religion – more freedom and rights to Muslim citizens than any Arab nation, and more religious freedom than the "progressive" nations of Switzerland, Holland, Belgium and France?

Doesn’t Omar know that the first country in the Middle East to grant Arab women the right to vote was not Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, or one of other 23 Arab states – but Israel?

Doesn’t Omar know that in Israel today, 10 percent of Israeli parliament (Knesset) members are Arab; that 30 percent of students at Hebrew University in Jerusalem are Arab; that one-third of the staff at Israel's Hadassah Hospital – arguably the leading hospital in the Middle East – are Arabs?

Yet on all this, Omar is silent. Nor does she utter a word about gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia, where women have been arrested for driving a car, and make up just 5 percent of the workforce – the lowest proportion in the world. Does Omar not know about the Saudi Arabian smartphone APP allowing men to monitor their wives and daughters – who have no independent right to leave the country?

Why does Omar not criticize the horrific discrimination against Jews throughout the Middle East, where 74% of Muslims believe anti-Semitic stereotypes (ADL survey), and where entry to Israelis is almost universally denied?

Why does Omar not criticize the Palestinian Authority’s apartheid policies which regard selling land to Jews as punishable by death, and its longstanding vow that should Palestine ever become a state, not a single Jew will be permitted to live there?

Anti-Semitism on the Rise
With the rise of anti-Semitism around the world – ADL reports a rise of 56% in anti-Semitic incidents from 2016 to 2017 – we cannot afford to give a free pass to those spreading anti-Semitic ideas.

When such statements become part of mainstream discourse, it emboldens anti-Semites. Though Jews are 2 percent of the US population, FBI data consistently shows that anti-Semitism accounts for the majority of U.S. hate crimes due to religious bias. Whether the crime is swastikas painted in Jewish cemeteries, or the yeshiva set on fire by neo-Nazis this month in upstate New York, or the horrific murder of 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue – we must be vigilant.

We need to call out the hypocrisy of a former U.S. President taking the stage with radical anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan (“Jews are termites”). And to call out the Women’s March for tolerating co-founder Tamika Mallory’s praise of Farrakhan as GOAT – the Greatest of All Time.

If we don’t call this out, we are enabling anti-Semitism to normalize in “accepted conversation.” The current British experience gives an inkling into this dangerous process: When “critics of Israel” in the UK Labour Party began employing anti-Semitic tropes, that trend went unchecked long enough that today, Jeremy Corbyn – UK Labour’s BDS-supporting leader – may soon become prime minister.

With Ilhan Omar now wielding international influence on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, it's time to stop pretending she doesn't know her statements are anti-Semitic tropes and dog whistles. To stop pretending that BDS is anything but a bludgeon to delegitimatize and destroy the Jewish state. To ensure that these vile views do not gain ascendance in the US Congress.

It's time for all of us to stop the kid-glove treatment of making excuses for Omar, State Senator Latz tells Aish.com. "She should have learned by now. It is time to hold her accountable for what she says."




Anti-Semitism Is Deeply Woven into the European Fabric
Feb 16, 2019
by Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld
https://www.aish.com/ci/s/Anti-Semitism-Is-Deeply-Woven-into-the-European-Fabric.html?s=mm
Anti-Semitism Is Deeply Woven into the European Fabric
European culture developed in a dominating, hostile Christian environment over more than a millennium.

Saying that anti-Semitism is integral to European culture does not make one popular in Europe. This does not change even if one clarifies that this is not the same as saying that most Europeans are anti-Semites.

Yet the claim is not difficult to prove. European culture developed in a dominating, hostile Christian environment over more than a millennium. Major incitement against Jews initially stemmed from the Catholic Church. Later, several Protestant churches, including Lutherans, promoted Jew-hatred.

If powerful institutions and elites promote hatred over a very long period, that hatred comes to permeate the culture. In the 1960s, Christian historian and clergyman James Parkes analyzed the conflict between Christians and Jews during the first eight centuries of the Christian era. Concerning that period he concluded, “There was far more reason for the Jew to hate the Christian than for the Christian to hate the Jew – and this on the evidence of Christian sources alone.”

Parkes held that the Christian theological concept of the first three centuries created the foundations for the hatred of Jews, on which an “awful superstructure” was built. The first stones for this were laid at “the very moment the Church had the power to do so, in the legislation of Constantine and his successors.” Parkes attributed full responsibility for modern anti-Semitism to those who prepared the soil and made the lies credible.

On the Jews and Their Lies by Martin Luther, 1543


 
During the Enlightenment and thereafter, many leading European thinkers expressed hatred towards Jews. Voltaire, several German philosophers, early French socialists, Karl Marx, and many others took part in what can only be described as an anti-Semitic hate fest.

The Holocaust was executed by German Nazis with the help of many allies. It was facilitated by the mainly Christian infrastructure of anti-Semitic feeling in Europe, which had accumulated over centuries.

After WWII, many thought the Holocaust had taught Europeans a hard lesson. Anti-Semitism seemed to fade, especially after several highly acclaimed movie and television productions – including NBC’s 1973 series Holocaust and Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Schindler’s List – reached huge audiences. Another example was Claude Lanzmann’s powerful 1985 documentary, Shoah.

Yet classic anti-Semitism targeting Jews continues to exist. Polls by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) exposed that the evil myth that Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus is alive and well in Europe. It was found that 46% of Poles, 38% of Hungarians, 21% of Danes and Spaniards, and 19% of Norwegians and Belgians believe this. So do 18% of Austrians and British, 16% of the Dutch, 15% of Italians, and 14% of Germans.

Once a belief is so deeply ingrained in a culture, it takes a very long time to flush it out. Rather than disappear, it will change its shape.

Classic anti-Semitism targeted Jews initially as a religion and later in national/ethnic terms, as a people. In recent decades, however, political correctness has made it impossible for “respectable Europeans” to self-define as anti-Semites.

So the hatred mutated. A third major generation of anti-Semitism has developed: anti-Israelism, which targets the Jewish state. The inroads this has made in Europe were proven by a 2011 study conducted by the German University of Bielefeld. From this study it emerged that at least 150 million adult EU citizens agreed with the statement that Israel is conducting “a war of extermination against the Palestinians.”

Were this in fact the case, hardly any Palestinians would still be alive. To the contrary, the number of Palestinians has increased over the past decades. The persistent myth of Jews being responsible for the killing of Jesus has partially mutated into a new myth: that Israel is committing an act of genocide against the Palestinians.

In another new mutation of anti-Semitism, European Jews are now accused of being responsible for Israel’s actions. A December 2018 study by the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) showed that this idea ranks among the most frequent expressions of anti-Semitism in many European countries. Another aspect of anti-Semitism in Europe is the return of the word “Jew” – without an adjective – as a curse. It is also often used as an invective by non-Jews against other non-Jews.
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