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Post  Admin on Wed 22 Apr 2015, 11:24 am

Who Gets to Pray on the Temple Mount?Who Gets to Pray on the Temple Mount?
It pains me that I can’t pray there. But it’s not an Arab woman who is preventing me.
by Ruchama King Feuerman         
So the Arab women, calling themselves the army of Muhammad, stand guard at the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif, Noble Sanctuary, whatever you call it, depending on what tribe you’re from. In between noshing and knitting and drinking tea, they seek out Jews, the visibly religious kind who ascend the Temple Mount, to stop them from praying there. They chase them down, surround them, terrify them, some calling them pigs and apes. “Everyone must protect Al Aksa so the Jews don’t take it,” a woman says, as reported in the New York Times.

I imagine it's all much worse, especially hearing reports from friends who live in Jerusalem and go to the Kotel frequently.
I wonder: Are these Arab women genuinely afraid of a religious take-over? How much of this outcry is a religious imperative and how much of it is a means to achieving a political goal? I can only guess.

There is no shrine anywhere in the world that can evoke such drama, anxiety, and a complexity of feeling as this spot where Israel's ancient Jewish Temples once stood and where the Al Aksa Mosque and Dome of the Rock now stand.

During the ten years I lived in Israel, I would pray at the Western Wall, a tiny segment of the rocky wall, so plain and small in comparison to the Temple Mount with its huge gleaming edifice of the Dome of the Rock. And yet today, this blunt wall is the most preferred and holiest spot for Jews to pray in the world.

Sometimes I'd wonder what went on above on the Noble Sanctuary, how they prayed, what they were saying, but usually the Western Wall, the Kotel, took all of my concentration. I’d pour out my heart on those craggy stones and walk away feeling an inner alignment, anchored. Later, when I married and returned to the U.S. to live in New Jersey – anti-climactic, I know – I prayed, as Jews do everywhere, facing east toward Jerusalem.

The rabbis of old made it so that the Jerusalem is always on our tongues and on our lips, no matter where we are, even now, in the suburbs of New Jersey. Yes, even when we eat pizza and recite the grace after eating, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount are emphasized in the blessing. When Jewish women immerse in the mikvah, the ritual bath, they say a single prayer, there in the water. Not for fertility, not for love between a wife and husband. But – “Rebuild our temple like the days of old.” For a religious Jew, the Temple Mount surfaces a hundred times a day and more, that's how habituated our tongue is to yearning for it.

But to pray on the Temple Mount? I have no plans to do so, not anytime soon, not even if the Waqf – the Islamic authorities that govern the Noble Sanctuary – were to invite me.
Why? Because normative Jewish law prohibits ascending the mountain. No Jew can walk on the spot where the Holy of Holies once stood, where only the High Priest on Yom Kippur was sanctioned to enter. It is only after the Messiah comes or the red heifer appears, that the Temple will be rebuilt. Until then, to trespass there is a grave sin.
But here's where it gets interesting. For two thousand years, Diaspora Jewry was cautious. One did not irritate the Gentile nations, thereby fulfilling the ancient dictum: One mustn't be a thorn in their eyes. In the Middle Ages the rabbis exhorted their flock not to build lavish homes, lest it provoke the envy of their Christian neighbors. As recently as 50 years ago, the old time European rabbis now in America asked their congregants not to wear their prayer shawls in the streets. One ought not take too visible a position.

Then came the establishment of the State of Israel. Many Christians and Jews understood this to be a fulfillment of the millennia old promise: "Even if your exiles are at the end of the heavens, the Lord, your God, will gather you from there and He will bring you to the land which your forefathers possessed, and you will take possession of it..." (Deut. 30:1-5). It was experienced by many as a divine miracle, as though we had been given enchanted power by the Almighty to win an incredibly improbable victory. The Messiah couldn't be too far off.

However, the Messiah tarried. Perhaps as many theologians have understood, these are the birth pangs of the Messiah, but it's been a long birth, and he still hasn't come.
It's understandable that a few have agitated for a Messianic Caesarean birth. Let us hurry the Messiah along, let us force his hand if need be, by political action on the world stage. Open up the Temple Mount, they say. The Messiah is nigh, and if we meet him halfway he will surely appear.
The Messiah is coming, he is always coming.

Netanyahu said back in November, after the assassination attempt on Yehudah Glick’s life, "It is easy to start a religious fire; it is much more difficult to extinguish it."

Whether he is aware of it or not, Netanyahu is in line with mainstream rabbinical Diaspora ideology, which is the way Jews have been functioning since Roman times. A Jew does not ask for too much, a Jew does not grab. Just give me Yavneh and its sages, Rabbi Yochanan said to Vespasian, after the conquering Roman general offered him anything the elderly rabbi requested. The Talmud famously asks, Why didn't he ask for the return of Jerusalem and the Temple? Because he was a pragmatist.

And yet, and yet... Who cannot be pained and outraged to see Jews hounded on their sacred land? Does one need reminding that Judaism’s holiest spot on earth isn’t the Kotel – it’s the Temple Mount!
Sometimes I want to cry out: Enough with this humiliating passivity. If we don’t claim this land as ours, it may be lost forever.

But then the words of our sages return to me, as they must. One isn’t permitted to force the hand of the Messiah. For now, one cannot pray there. Instead I yearn to see our Temple rebuilt, and Jews from the four corners of the earth coming to pray there as a unified people. May we see this speedily in our days.
Ruchama Feuerman wrote extensively about the Temple Mount in her award winning novel, "In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist."

Believing Iran
Does Tehran mean what it says? Oh, yes.
by Jeff Jacoby         
Who trusts Iran? Most Americans don't. According to two new polls, a majority of the public strongly doubts that the ruling theocrats in Tehran can be counted on to keep their end of any nuclear deal negotiated in the US-led "P5+1" talks in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Asked in a Fox News poll how much of Iran's claims on nuclear matters can be trusted, 55 percent of respondents replied that the United States "can't trust anything" the regime says, while 28 percent were willing to trust only "a little." Similarly, a survey by NBC News found that 68 percent of Americans consider Iran unlikely to abide by any nuclear agreement.

Nothing unusual there. Given Iran's long history of deceit, it would be strange if Americans and their allies didn't regard as worthless any nuclear promises the mullahs make.

Iran was an early signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1970 and it signed a detailed safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency in 1974. But after the Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers seized power in 1979, Iran began lying about its nuclear activities. Virtually everything we know about Iran's nuclear program was uncovered only after years of stonewalling, concealment, and outright denial. The construction of a vast uranium enrichment installation near Natanz and a heavy-water reactor in Arak, for example, didn't come to light until 2002, when an Iranian exile group exposed their existence in a press conference in Washington.

Iran has repeatedly flouted UN Security Council resolutions ordering it to suspend all enrichment-related activities. Even now, reports the IAEA, Tehran refuses to answer questions about the "possible military dimensions" of its nuclear activities.

With such a track record, it stands to reason that Iran's commitments are so widely regarded as worthless. No piece of paper signed in Switzerland will take the ayatollahs' eyes off the nuclear prize they have pursued, by means mostly foul, for so long. And of what value is any agreement if one of the signatories can't be trusted not to cheat?

Yet what makes the framework nuclear deal so grotesque and dangerous isn't Iran's trail of deception. The real reason to block any nuclear accord with Tehran's rulers isn't that they always lie. It's that they don't.
Maybe Iran would cheat on the loophole-ridden deal being promoted the Obama administration. But it wouldn't have to. Even President Obama admits that Iran could abide by the terms agreed to and wait for them to run out in a little more than a decade. "At that point, the breakout times [to nuclear weapons capability] would have shrunk almost down to zero," the president told NPR. Cheat or don't cheat, the end is the same: The Lausanne deal paves Iran's path to the bomb either way.

The mullahs don't lie about what matters to them most: death to America, the extermination of Israel, unrelenting global jihad.

And then it will be clear – apocalyptically clear – that the ayatollahs were telling the truth.
They were telling the truth last November, when the Iranian Revolutionary Guards proclaimed that "the US is still the great Satan and the number one enemy of the [Islamic] revolution and the Islamic Republic."
They were telling the truth in February, when Ali Shirazi, a senior Iranian cleric and aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared that his troops are in a global war that will one day bring "the banner of Islam over the White House."

They were telling the truth a decade ago when Hassan Abassi, a high-ranking intelligence operative, warned that Iranian agents had identified "29 sensitive sites in the West, with the aim of bombing them... Our intention is that 6,000 nuclear warheads will explode" as part of a "strategy ...for the destruction of Anglo-Saxon civilization."

They were telling the truth when a commander of Iranian forces insisted that "America has no other choice but to leave the Middle East region beaten and humiliated." And when Iran's supreme leader raged that "there is only one solution to the Middle East problem, namely the annihilation and destruction of the Jewish state." And when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asserted that "a world without America is not only desirable, it is achievable."

And when, over and over and over, they have incited crowds in chants of "Death to America."

Tehran's rulers may have lied for years about their nuclear activities; their negotiated commitments to suspend enrichment and submit to inspections may not be worth the ink they sign them with.
But the mullahs don't lie about what matters to them most: death to America, the extermination of Israel, unrelenting global jihad. They say they are deadly serious.
Believe them.
This article originally appeared in The Boston Globe.
Published: April 19, 2015

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Post  Admin on Wed 15 Apr 2015, 11:40 pm

The Holocaust TorahThe Holocaust Torah
How did a survivor who wouldn’t buy a ticket to Israel afford to commission a Torah scroll all by himself?
by Yvette Alt Miller          
“Join us for a Holocaust Torah Dedication.” The synagogue e-mail caught us by surprise. Our congregation is very small. Everyone knows each other and we’re aware of any looming celebrations months in advance. Besides, dedicating a new Torah scroll is a huge event. We’d just been part of a mammoth, two-year fundraiser for a new scroll at our kids’ school that took years of planning and the participation of scores of families to make that dream a reality. How could there be a similarly large undertaking in our own synagogue without us being aware of it?
Torah scrolls are painstakingly hand-written by specially-trained scribes. It can take a year or more to complete one scroll; consequently, commissioning a new Torah scroll is very expensive and it’s common for an entire community to band together to raise funds for it.

A Nazi in the Family
by Derek Niemann
Three years ago I discovered that my grandfather was a member of the SS and arrested for crimes against humanity.
by Derek Niemann
Late last year, I read an interview with a rabbi in my university city of Manchester, in which he said that things were so bad he could not see himself ending his days in Britain. I wanted to cry – how could this be happening in my own country? His words had a special resonance for me – at the time I was finishing a book about my own grandfather – an active perpetrator in the Holocaust.
My German grandfather died before I was born. My father told me that his father, Karl Niemann, was “a bank clerk, a pen-pusher.” He also told me that he was a member of the Nazi party. Out of shame, I kept that from my Jewish friends.
Three years ago while my wife prepared for a conference in Berlin a far more terrible revelation came. I decided to join her in the German capital for a short vacation. I asked my dad where he had lived during the war. I would look it up, maybe take some photos of the house for him. I checked online for any information about the street itself.
 Karl pictured in his army uniform on the outbreak of the First World WarKarl pictured in his army uniform on
the outbreak of the First World War
While I was searching a page came up bearing the words: SS Hauptsturmführer Karl Niemann… crimes against humanity… use of slave labor.
I was to discover that in May 1945 my grandfather was arrested in the Alps by American soldiers and imprisoned in former POW camps for three years. My family closed that sordid chapter in their lives and never spoke about it again. But as a 50-year-old writer, I had a compulsion to dig into this new-found truth and to write about it. I trawled archives, went to concentration camps, spoke to Holocaust historians and relatives and began to piece together the story – not just of Karl Niemann, but also that of my family, who had been living a life in Berlin that was both bizarre and frighteningly ordinary.

Video: L'Chaim: The Dov Landau Story
by JRoots
In Poland, a Holocaust survivor shares his harrowing experiences with young Jews.

Video: Bobby's Story: Living with Faith after the Holocaust
by Rabbi Naftali Schiff and JRoots
An Auschwitz survivor shares her faith with the Next Generation.

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Post  Admin on Tue 14 Apr 2015, 12:12 pm

6 Surprising Jewish Communities
Some of the surprising, diverse places where, against the odds, Jewish life is flourishing.
by Yvette Alt Miller
“And I will scatter them among the peoples, and they shall remember me in far countries, and they shall live with their children, and they shall return” (Zechariah 10:9). Part of the Jewish people’s unique history is the scattering of Jews to the four corners of the earth. Miraculously, the Jewish people have survived exile over thousands of years, leaving their imprint across the globe.
Today the Jewish people have returned to their ancestral homeland where just over half of world Jewry resides. Here are some of the surprising, diverse places where, against the odds, Jewish life is flourishing.
Less than two and a half square miles, the rocky outpost of Gibraltar at the edge of Spain is an unusual place. A British territory since the 1700s, Gibraltar uses its own currency – the Gibraltar Pound – and locals speak the dialect Llanito, a mixture of Spanish and English – with some Hebrew influences thrown in. 30,000 people call Gibraltar home – as well as hundreds of Barbary Macaques, the only wild apes in Europe.
Jews have lived on Gibraltar for centuries, dating their presence to 1356, and today enjoy a thriving community of 750, with a remarkably well-developed infrastructure: four synagogues, a mikvah, a kosher coffeehouse, and separate boys and girls religious high-schools. Overwhelmingly Orthodox and Sephardi, Gibraltar’s community is growing by leaps and bounds, increasing over 25% since 2008, when the community started extending loans to potential Jewish immigrants to help them get settled on “The Rock,” as Gibraltar’s sometimes known.
Small in numbers, the community is tightly-knit. “It’s very much a single community where we all feel like one family” explains Gibraltar resident Mark Benady, “where we all join together for joyous occasions and we all join together, unfortunately, for sad occasions as well.”
A sparsely-inhabited, land-locked country in southern Africa, Botswana is perhaps best known abroad as setting of the popular Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency series. The largely-desert nation of 2 million is also home to southern Africa’s newest Jewish community, and the only one that is growing in size.
Approximately 100 Jews – many expats from Israel – live in Botswana’s capital, Gaborone, which has grown in recent years as economic reforms have transformed Botswana from one of Africa’s poorest nations into one of its most fast-growing. Shabbat and holiday services are held in people’s homes, and residents import kosher food from South Africa. In 2004, the community organized a governing body, the official “Jewish Community of Botwsana”, which is investigating the purchase of land for a synagogue or Jewish community center. Meanwhile, a heder, or Jewish school, has been set up for the young community’s approximately twenty children, ensuring a vibrant Jewish community in Botswana for years to come.
About 600 Jews today call Japan home, living in the historic centers of Kobe and Tokyo. The first Jewish settlers – mostly traders from the US, Britain and Poland - came to Japan in 1861. Settling near Tokyo, they moved to the coastal city of Kobe after the great earthquake of 1923. One of the earliest Jewish residents was Raphael Schaver, an American businessman who founded the Japan Express, the first foreign language newspaper in the country. Some of their descendents still live in Kobe today.
A second Japanese Jewish community rose in the 1880s in Nagasaki, built by Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia. The Nagasaki community soon became the largest in Japan with about 100 families. During the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5, the community fled, bequeathing its Torah scroll to their brethren in Kobe. (One famous member of the Nagasaki Jewish community was Joseph Trumpledor, who lost an arm in the Russo-Japanese War: he went on to help develop Jewish defense forces in what was soon to become the Jewish State.)
Kobe’s Jewish community continued to flourish in the first half of the 20th century, attracting Jewish immigrants from Russia, Iraq, Syria and Eastern Europe. During World War II, Japan’s Counsul General in Lithuania, Chiune Sugihara, issued exit visas for 2,000 Jews, routing them through Kobe; many Jews, arriving in the bustling Japanese port city – and seeing a thriving Jewish community there – decided to settle in the city. The city maintains a small Jewish community today: communal Shabbat meals are common, and there is one synagogue in the town.
Tokyo’s Jewish community is more recent, dating from the 1950s, when foreigners began flocking to the country to help the war-torn nation rebuild. A Jewish center was established in the central Tokyo district of Hiroo in 1952. Yiddish was the language spoken there, allowing Jews from diverse nations to communicate. A larger center was rededicated in 2009, catering to about 120 families in the capital.
Jews are thought to have lived in the South American country of Uruguay since the 1600s. Remains of a mikvah, a Jewish ritual bath, from that time have been discovered in Colonia, a rugged outpost thought to be the home of secret Jews during the Inquisition.
The modern community, however, dates from 1904 when Sephardi Jewish traders arrived in the capital Montevideo; Russian Jews followed in 1906. Uruguay’s first formal synagogue was dedicated in Montevideo in 1917, and the community grew as Jews immigrated from Europe and the Middle East. By the 1960s, Uruguay’s Jewish population had reached 50,000, one of the largest in the world. Since then, it’s declined, to about 20,000-25,000 members. Approximately 0.75% of Uruguay’s population of a little over three million is Jewish.

Nine synagogues and two day schools – educating nearly half of the community’s children – provide the backdrop to a vibrant community in Montevideo. Jewish Uruguayans have often held national office, including cabinet officials, far beyond their numeric representation in society. Ricardo Erlich, a prominent member of Uruguay’s Jewish community and leading biochemist, served as Mayor of Montevideo from 2005-2010, when he left that post to become Minister of Education.
Uruguay’s Jews are proud that Uruguay was the first Latin American country (and the fourth in the world) to recognize Israel in May of 1948, and the first Latin American nation to establish diplomatic ties with the Jewish state. Uruguay is the only Latin American country to administer Israel’s university entrance exams, and has one of the world’s highest rates of aliyah to Israel.
In recent years, the southern Uruguayan city of Punta del Este has emerged as a major destination for Jewish vacationers. The town, which has a year-round population of about 9,000, has four synagogues, and sees an influx of 25,000 to 50,000 Jewish visitors each January, the height of South America’s summer. For a few weeks each year, Punta del Este gains a pronounced Jewish flavor, with Jews walking on the beach in town wearing kippot openly, a rarity in some Latin American locations. Israeli universities and cultural organizations hold events in Punta del Este then, and the Israeli Philharmonic has performed for the massive numbers of Jewish tourists.
Twenty years before the establishment of the state of Israel, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin set up his own “Jewish” country: Birobidzhan, in the far reaches of Siberia. Located in mosquito-infested swampland on Russia’s far eastern edge, as a buffer between the USSR and China, Birobidzhan was meant to be a Yidishe Avtonomne Gegnt, a Jewish autonomous region, with Yiddish as its official language. Yiddish schools were established, a Yiddish-language newspaper, the Birobidzhaner Stern newspaper serviced the region, and street signs and official theatres and schools were all in Yiddish.

The project attracted relatively few Jews: around five Soviet Jews moved to Birobidzhan when it was established in 1928, but the territory’s unwelcoming location made it an unappealing place to live. 1934 saw the peak immigration to the Jewish region, with 5,250 Jews moving that year, though most left soon afterwards.
A few thousand Jews remained in Birobidzhan until 1991, when most left after the fall of the Soviet Union. Today, the capital city of Birobidzhan has a Jewish population of about 5,000 (out of a total population of 76,000). The town’s main avenue is still named Sholem Aleichem Street, and a statue of the Fiddler on the Roof stands outside the local symphony hall. The Birobidzhaner Shtern continues to print two or three pages each week in Yiddish, but times have changed: the editor is not Jewish; the daughter of Cossacks, she learned Yiddish in college. The New York Times has called Birobidzhan a “Jewish Disneyland”: “a city that often seems to have the religious authenticity of a pizza bagel with pepperoni”.
Azerbaijan, a central Asian nation bordering Iran, is home to a thriving, warmly welcomed Jewish community.
Jewish traders first settled in this Central Asian nation bordering Iran in the 5th Century, though the first permanent Jewish settlement dates from 1730, when a local king allowed Jews to purchase land in his northern Azeri kingdom: Jews bought and area known as “Red Village”, which remains a bastion of Azeri Jewish life to this day. Home to 4,000 residents – all of whom are Jewish – Red Village is prosperous town of brick and stone houses, cafes, three synagogues, and a Jewish school. The entire city comes to a peaceful halt each week, as businesses in the town close for Shabbat.
Azerbaijan’s capital city, Baku, a two-hour drive away, is home to about 10,000 Jews. Azerbaijan’s Government is encouraging their expansion: President Ilham Ilyev paid for a new synagogue in the capital in 2012 (bringing the number of synagogues in Baku to three) and fully funds the capital’s two Jewish schools. (In the Red Village, Azerbaijan’s government pays for the heating and oil in the synagogues and schools, as well.)
A Shiite Muslim nation, Azerbaijan nonetheless conducts a flourishing trade with Israel, totaling $5.5 billion annually. Many of Azerbaijan’s most prominent citizens are Jews, including the Nobel Prize physicist Lev Landau, chess master Garry Kasparov, and writers Essad Bey and Kurban Said, who wrote Azerbaijan’s most famous novel, “Ali and Nino”. Azeri Jews have made their marks in Israel, as well, including such well-known figures as the famous Israeli singers Sarit Hadad and Yaffa Yarkoni.
Let’s hope we soon see the day when all Jews come home together in Israel, bringing the beauty of their various traditions with them.
Published: April 11, 2015          

Eclipsed: Poland's Secret Jews
by Tusia Dabrowska
I was raised in Warsaw as a Catholic Pole. Today I have embraced my Jewish identity.
by Tusia Dabrowska
Tusia Dabrowska grew up in Warsaw unaware that she was Jewish, a fact she suspected and then confirmed in her teens. For the past 15 years she splits her time between Wasrsaw and Brooklyn.
My grandmother, an agile woman in her mid-sixties, leaned over a pale, pink-tiled bathtub and reached behind the washing machine next to it. We were in the basement of her house. She was too small and had to climb up the bathtub ledge. Crouching, she finally reached a plastic bag. It was a dry and warm Polish summer in 1995. My grandmother was back on the floor, protectively holding the tightly wrapped package, a set of pictures of her family. The washing machine had long ago stopped working; it was a kind of treasure chest, hiding the memories of family that was unmentionable. My grandmother always believed that it was better our family history died with her.

There was something unnamed, yet shameful about us. Kids said my family was ugly, polite adults said I looked Spanish, less polite adults said many other things. I grew up in Warsaw, away from the small town my mother escaped as soon as she could, and the street my grandmother lived on her whole life, including the years she spent hiding in another basement. That was the street to which my grandmother, like her mother, belonged. She belonged to this street when it was the heart of the Jewish District. She had belonged to it the 50 years when we were the last Jews there. Even before the war ended, while still in hiding, my grandmother was christened. For the rest of her life, she strived to find her home, to belong, to pass.
This obsessive need to fit in shaped my grandmother’s choices, and it echoed in my mother’s life.
 I grew up knowing that the most difficult aspect of fitting in is the threat that at any moment we might be discovered. The erasure of the Jewish life in our part of the world was, mildly put, a discombobulating experience for those who survived. But in Poland, it was compounded by the almost complete demolition of virtually all social structures. Moreover, communism had no interest in rebuilding social bonds based in democratic practices. This meant that growing up 40 years after the war, I was still vulnerable to opinions about who I was offered voluminously to me by cab drivers, lonely drunks, old women who needed a reason to cut me in the line at the store, and a neighbor who thought I played music too loud. I was not only susceptible to their opinions; I had no other point of reference.
My grandmother was a Catholic who dyed her hair Henna-red and who destroyed her family pictures. The same pictures she had shared with me only once. On her deathbed in 2006, for the first time since the War, she told my mother, in utter confidentiality, that we were Jewish. My mother learned she was Jewish some 35 years before when her classmate told her he couldn’t date her. But had he not told her, there were other clear giveaways. Like the fact that my grandmother kept pictures in the washing machine. And that challah bread was most delicious on Fridays. Or that Paul Newman was the only light-haired actor that my grandmother thought handsome.
Against her deepest fears, my grandmother passed on to us a wealth of culture, albeit an amalgam of Polish and Jewish traditions
 And it was the strength of that world which guided my mother in Warsaw. She moved there in the late 1970s, approximately a decade after the last round of expulsions of Jews from Poland. But in comparison to what my mother had grown up with, the capitol brimmed with Jewish life.
The socio-cultural association of Jews in Poland, formal and not, sought to make sense of the remnants of Jewish life. When I was growing up, virtually everyone my mother was friends with was Jewish. It was an unnamed network of people who kept their life stories for late night whispery conversations. They were few in numbers and had a very narrow, if any, connection to a positive sense of their ethnic, cultural, or religious identity. But out of the sense of an unspoken bond, they also supported each other, including women like my mother, a single mother from rural Poland with a sickly child, a prematurely born daughter with kidney problems.

I’ve come to realize that the hardest part of overcoming the illness that marked our identity is not the cherishing of traditions that were passed on to me. It is reaching the place where I can begin to outline what was taken away from me. This sense of loss is a common sentiment among young people, Jewish or not, in Poland. However, to me,the Jewish festivals that fetishize the shtetl past are as alienating as Chabad Centers popping up in Poland. At a time when most young people, for better or worse, pick and chose their identities to then stretch them beyond accepted boundaries, being Jewish in Poland often feels as if you’re perpetually perched on the set of Fiddler on the Roof.
Like many other Warsaw Jews, I felt insatiated. Ostensibly preparing to write a novel, I spent a year researching everyday practices of Jewish women in pre-World War II Varshe. At YIVO’s photo archives I looked for pictures of I.L. Peretz to see the apartment in which his wife and companion in social activism lived. In the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum online photo archives, I studied women’s fashion. While reading a variety of blogs devoted to old Warsaw I hunted for trivia. I learned about idea markets where Jewish political agitators encouraged other Jews to join their party. I read about the notorious Adria restaurant and nightclub, which was run by the composer Henryk Gold and was considered one of the centers of cultural—Jewish and Polish, life. I discovered Jewish feminist activists, bilingual radicals, and tri-lingual writers—hoydenish dreamers who populated the streets of my birth city 50 years before me. I found my home.
After the war, Warsaw was, at least architecturally, rebuilt. The past – diverse and riddled with ethnic and cultural tensions, yet rich and co-habitable – was gone. The very few remnants of the past that survived had their function changed as if to hide their original purpose and inhabitants. From the Warsaw that survived, more – like a wood synagogue near my mother's apartment – were demolished by the early 1970s. It was assumed that Jewish architecture had no purpose or use in the country.

Allowing the voices of erased histories to echo through me helps my own voice to reveal joy in being Jewish
And as communism covered the country first with majestic limestone edifices and then cheap concrete, it seemed that the once vibrant Jewish life has become a geological fact. My own apartment in Warsaw, built right after the war, is partially constructed from repurposed rubbles. Ghosts of that other Warsaw live in the walls of my home, and they give me the strength and pride to be Jewish in Poland now.
For a Polish Jew, creating the present has to be rooted in learning to draw on the past, beyond grief and fear. Allowing the voices of erased histories to echo in and through me helps my own voice to reveal joy in being Jewish, without feeling guilt or discomfort. My experience of discovering my family's history, redefining my belonging and my role in my community is a process that mirrors that of Poland's shift into a free country. Perhaps this is the plight of being a Jew in Poland today--never quite feeling grounded in your place in history.
Tusia is one of a number of younger Polish Jews featured in Adam Zucker’s documentary film-in-progress, The Return. The film explores being Jewish in Poland today by following four young women who were raised Catholic only to discover they were Jewish in their teens. Each struggles to create a living Jewish identity in a virtual vacuum—within the country that was once the epicenter of the Jewish world. Zucker has been travelling to Poland for the past four years to capture the story. Click here for more    information, or to get involved. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/439056396/the-return-3
Published: April 27, 2013

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The Passover Seder’s 15 Steps
The Seder as an interactive learning experience
Click Here to view Graphic

Exodus: Retelling Our Family's Story
by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg
Passover connects our children to something larger than themselves.
On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress of the newly formed United States of America convened a committee to design what would become our Great seal, our emblem and the symbol of our sovereignty.
The committee was comprised of three of the five men who had drafted the Declaration of Independence: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. Adams chose a painting known as the "Judgment of Hercules," to adorn the seal. Jefferson suggested a depiction of the Children of Israel in the wilderness, led by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night for seal.
Benjamin Franklin also chose a design based on the Jewish story that he would describe as, "Moses standing on the Shore, and extending his Hand over the Sea, thereby causing the same to overwhelm Pharaoh who is sitting in an open Chariot, a Crown on his Head and a Sword in his Hand." Franklin in fact suggested the motto for this new country: "Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God."
As in most cases of committees, it took six years, three committees, and the contributions of 14 men before the Congress finally accepted a design in 1782 and it wasn’t any of the original three suggestions. However, Thomas Jefferson liked the motto "Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God" so much, he used it on his personal seal.
Why Matzah before Marror?

The Purpose of Leaving Egypt
by Sara Yoheved Rigler
Three central lessons from the Passover story.
Pop quiz: What was the purpose of the Exodus from Egypt?
If you answered, “To free the Israelites from slavery,” or “to save them from oppression and suffering,” you probably would be in the company of 99% of those answering this question. However, one very important dissenting voice would give a very different answer, and that’s the voice of God Himself.
God’s purpose was to create a relationship with the Jewish people.
In the Shema God says: “I am the Lord your God who took you out of the land of Egypt to be for you a God.” God’s avowed purpose was to create a relationship with the Jewish people. “You will be My people, and I will be your God” (Ex. 6:7).
To create that relationship, God had to first of all reveal Himself. That was the purpose of the ten plagues – “So you will know that I am God” (Ex. 8:18). Each plague revealed some facet of God’s mastery. For example, the plague of lice, which was the first plague that the Egypt sorcerers could not duplicate, showed that God had mastery over even the tiniest creations. The plague of hail, which included, “fire flaming amid the hail” (Ex. 9:24) showed that whereas the pagan pantheon had a different god for each natural force, the one God of the Hebrews controlled all, even competing forces.
The relationship that God was establishing with the Israelites was a relationship of love. Therefore, He had to show them that He saw and cared about their affliction. The Israelites had to feel taken care of by God. Relief from their suffering, freedom from their slavery, was not the goal of the Exodus, but was necessary for the purpose of establishing a relationship, the true goal of the Exodus.

6 Passover Lessons to Impart to Your Children6 Passover Lessons to Impart to Your Children
A letter to my children for the Seder.
by Sara Debbie Gutfreund         
Tonight I want to tell you a story. It's a story that began in a narrow, dark land where we knew our names but forgot who we were. It's a story of how we lost our way and fell until we reached a place where we could no longer speak. A place where we couldn't stay where we were but didn't yet know how to leave.
It's a story about last minute hope. About a faith that pulled us forward and helped us take that first step towards freedom. It's a story about how God picked us up and brought us from despair to joy, from darkness to light, from chaos to meaning. It's a story of the journey of our nation. It's the story of your great grandparents. It's my story. It's your story.
Our stories don't end. They are passed from generation to generation, and each of us adds our own story. Of hope, of redemption, of learning how to grow beyond yesterday's narrow space. Here are some of the lessons from the Passover story that I want you to know.

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Passover & Jewish Destiny
Matzah symbolizes hope, especially this year.
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
t’s been noted that more Jews observe the Passover Seder than any other Jewish ritual.
It is a powerful affirmation of our collective kinship in a historic moment that allowed for the birth of our people. With Divine aid, we went from slavery to freedom. The Seder permits us to remember and to give thanks. It is our opportunity to reflect upon the miracles of our past. It is our tribute to history.

But the very first Seder of our people makes clear that this is not its major message.
Remarkably enough, the Jews in Egypt were commanded to celebrate the Seder on the very night before their departure and deliverance. They were not yet free. Nevertheless they ate the matzah and the bitter herbs and they fulfilled the required rituals. Clearly they were not celebrating an event which had already occurred but rather demonstrating their faith in the inevitability of a Divine promise they were anticipating.

The Passover Seder began with an emphasis on destiny, not history.

The first Seder took place not after the Exodus but before it. It was a Seder not of gratitude for what was but of hope for redemption yet to come. The Passover Seder began with an emphasis on destiny, not history; on the future, not the past.
And that is what makes Passover so relevant from generation to generation. Even as we retell the story of old to our children we make clear that its purpose is meant to resonate with us as a harbinger of hope. “In every generation they rise up against us to destroy us but the holy one blessed be he saves us from their hands” – just as the Almighty did then against our ancient Egyptian oppressors.

It is the only certainty of history. God always comes to our aid. He may be depended upon, unlike any other temporary political alliances or allegiances. History has a preordained plan – an order, or as it is expressed in Hebrew by the word Seder. The Seder of history has a preordained conclusion. 
The story of our redemption from Egypt is but a prequel to the final redemption of messianic fulfillment. So certain are we of this for the future that we ask our children, those who will surely be the beneficiaries of this Divine promise, to open the door for Elijah at every Seder to welcome the prophet whose assigned task is to announce the coming of Messiah.
And by eating matzah at the Seder we make a stunning declaration about the way in which we see this come to pass. It is counterintuitive. It goes against the common proverbial assumption that “history doesn’t change overnight.” But it is the method of historic change utilized by God himself – and incorporated by way of symbol into the Passover holiday. Redemption, as illustrated by the matzah, came speedily and unexpectedly. They did not even have time to let their bread rise. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, Israelite slaves were free.
Our ancestors were told that at the very first Seder, before they left Egypt, to sit “with their loins girded, with shoes on their feet, with traveling sticks in their hands” ready to begin their journey. Only faith that God would fulfill his promise made it possible for them not only to believe, after 210 years of bitter oppression, their salvation was near but that its implementation was but a matter of moments away.

Matzah demonstrates the speed of Divine intervention.

Human progress may take centuries. The matzah demonstrates the speed of Divine intervention.
Indeed, the rabbis long ago told us to be attuned in particular to dramatic historic changes that came about in unprecedented and seemingly incomprehensible speed. The haste of events is one of God’s chosen ways to indicate his direct and personal involvement.

Who Knows Nine?

That is why there is a unique tradition in Judaism that the Messiah will be born on Tisha b’Av. Redemption at the end of days is viewed as a dramatic turnabout, a total and speedy transformation from the tragic to the jubilant, from weeping to joyous wonderment. It is precisely when we are enveloped by darkness that we need to be certain of the nearness of dawn.
It is at the very close of the Seder that we find a perplexing line in the famous passage which alludes to the theological significance of numbers. We ask “Who knows one?” and we all respond: one is our God. So too we get the significance of two as the two tablets, three as the patriarchs, for as the matriarchs, five of the books of the Torah, six the number of sections of the Mishnah, seven the days of the week, eight the day of circumcision… and then comes the link which seems totally out of place. “Who knows nine?” and the response is nine are the months of pregnancy. Many have wondered at the pertinence of this connection. Nine months of pregnancy are simply a biological fact. What in the world is it doing in the list meant to offer religious significance of numbers on the night when we reflect on redemption?
I would like to suggest that the nine months of pregnancy indeed have a very special link with the theme of the Seder night. The prophets long ago taught that the final redemption will be preceded by what they called “the pains of childbirth.” Just as the prelude to the glorious moment of birth is the mother’s pain during labor, so too will the time of messianic fulfillment, sequel to the Passover story, be preceded by a painful and difficult period for the Jewish people. In the aftermath of a seeming Tisha b’Av , final redemption will break forth, speedily and almost in the blink of an eye just as for the Jews in Egypt in the ancient biblical story.

A Difficult Year

As Jews prepare to observe Passover, we cannot fail to note that the Jewish people in Israel and around the world have had a most difficult year. Growing anti-Semitism, the war of Gaza against Israel this past summer, the ongoing fear of Iran’s nuclear capability threatening our annihilation and now the strained relationship between the President of the United States and Israel have left us with great cause for concern.
But perhaps the meaning of these painful moments needs to be understood in context of the prophetic warnings of the terrible trials immediately preceding the messianic age. And perhaps, as we prepare to celebrate the Seder in the year which on the Jewish calendar is spelled TISHA, the very word for nine in Hebrew, we may express the hope that this will be the time alluded to in the nine months of pregnancy.
May our pain be prelude to ultimate joy and may our history finally turned into the blessing of our promised destiny.

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Iran and the Bomb
Iran cannot be allowed to get the bomb because they may actually use it.
by Bret Stephens and Prager University    
Many countries have nuclear weapons, and many more want them. Only one, though, has its neighbors and the world terrified. That country is Iran. Why is everyone so concerned? Because the Islamic theocracy has repeatedly threatened to destroy Israel, sponsors global terrorism, and would leverage the deterrence effect of a nuclear weapon to advance their anti-Western and anti-American interests. Bret Stephens, foreign affairs columnist for the Wall Street Journal explains the one thing you really need to know in order to understand why we can't let Iran get the bomb – they may actually use it.

Netanyahu’s Churchillian Warning
Like Churchill, will Netanyahu also be ignored?
by Charles Krauthammer         
Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress was notable in two respects. Queen Esther got her first standing ovation in 2,500 years. And President Obama came up empty in his campaign to preemptively undermine Netanyahu before the Israeli prime minister could present his case on the Iran negotiations.
On the contrary. The steady stream of slights and insults turned an irritant into an international event and vastly increased the speech’s audience and reach. Instead of dramatically unveiling an Iranian nuclear deal as a fait accompli, Obama must now first defend his Iranian diplomacy.
In particular, argues The Post, he must defend its fundamental premise. It had been the policy of every president since 1979 that Islamist Iran must be sanctioned and contained. Obama, however, is betting instead on detente to tame Iran’s aggressive behavior and nuclear ambitions.

Yemen’s Last JewsYemen’s Last Jews
A visit with the remaining 90 Jews.
by Yvette Alt Miller          
“God is great, death to America, death to Israel, damn the Jews, victory for Islam.”
The slogan of Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who took over the capital, Sana, in January 2015, is fierce. It is also puzzling that their hatred would so stridently and centrally be directed against Jews, considering that Yemen – which long boasted one of the world’s oldest and largest Jewish communities – is today almost entirely empty of the Jews who called Yemen home for thousands of years.

5 Strategies to Find Balance in Life
by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff
If you think going to the gym is a guilty pleasure, read this article
Balancing marriage, parenting, work, and life responsibilities can feel like a high-wire act. Our children need us, our spouses expect us to be there for them, and then there are parents, jobs, financial pressures and daily obligations pulling at us all at the same time. This does not even begin to address our desire to take care of ourselves. Carving personal time out for a gym class or quiet cappuccino in a coffee shop seems as if we are seeking guilty pleasures.
Some nights we lie awake thinking to ourselves that nobody in this family is happy because each person believes I am there more for the others – and this includes ourselves..

The Power of the Pencil
A lesson in how to positively influence children.
by Rabbi Dovid Rosman         
Last week I experienced the work of a genius educator. When I arrived home from work, my ten-year-old daughter excitedly brought me her report card for the first half of the school year. The grades were basically all perfect except for the category called “organization” – how well the student does in bringing the appropriate books to class and keeping her homework and notes organized. In that category, my daughter received an A- (shocking, but true).
But there was something different about the minus sign. “Look abba, my teacher wrote the minus in pencil. She told me that she knows that really I can be much neater and that if I improve over the next half of the year she’ll erase the minus.”
I was floored by the teacher’s clever motivation technique.

Tongue Untied
How my son overcame his debilitating stutter and became an inspirational speaker.
by Judy Yormark Mernick         
Over the last 10 years, my 28-year-old son has taught on numerous Jewish educational programs in the US, Canada, Central Europe, Israel and Australia. He received an International MBA, worked at Deloitte as a Strategy Consultant and consulted senior-level executives on their presentations skills. Currently, he works at a unique start-up, mentors entrepreneurs at a technology accelerator, and lives with his wife and children in Israel.
Yes, indeed, I am a “proud Jewish mother.” But there is much more to my son, Moshe, than the above.
Anyone who has known Moshe since he was a child knows that for him, speaking, whether one-on-one or in front of 500 people, is a big deal. Moshe stutters. It began when he was about three years old, at which point we were told to ignore it, as most children who begin stuttering before the age of five stop on their own; it is merely a stage of speech development.

by Ronda Robinson
One Jew's creative way to help people quit smoking. Whoopi Goldberg is on board.
“If you have someone in your life you desperately want to stop smoking, you need to know about this new app. It’s called the Nobituary, and it’s at nobituary.com. It lets you send a life-affirming message to people … so that you’re not writing their obituary,” Whoopi Goldberg declared recently on “The View,” ABC TV’s morning chatfest.
While Goldberg, an American comedian and TV host, is not Jewish, the 20-something creator of Nobituary, a new kind of loving intervention to help people quit smoking, is a member of the tribe.

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Post  Admin on Fri 13 Feb 2015, 2:29 pm

Because They Were Jews
by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff
Each of the four victims in the Paris shooting has a name. And make no mistake about it. They were murdered for being Jews.
I cannot believe the words I am hearing. White House spokesman John Earnest struggled to explain the comments of President Barack Obama who said that the threat of terrorism was being overstated in the media. Obama had also described the terror attack by radical Muslims on a kosher supermarket in Paris as committed by “vicious zealots who …randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.” Questioned by journalists at a press conference, one journalist spoke up and said: “I mean this was not a random shooting of a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris. This was an attack on a kosher deli. Does the president have any doubt that those terrorists attacked the deli because there would be Jews in that deli?”

The astounding response given: “The adverb the President chose (random) was used to indicate that the individuals who were killed in that terrible incident were killed not because of who they were but because of where they happened to randomly be.” After further prodding he added, “These individuals were not targeted by name, that is the point.”

So this is the point that we are left with, as the soil around the graves of those who were savagely murdered is still freshly dug? I try to define this disconcerting word – random. The dictionary spews forth images that fill my mind: aimless, purposeless, unconsidered, accidental. I feel outraged. And then we are told that “these individuals were not targeted by name.” Somehow, they were just a “bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.”

With all due respect, I must speak out. These holy ones were murdered in cold blood because they were Jews. They died al Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying God’s Name. Even the killer said at the time, "I have 16 hostages and I have killed four, and I targeted them because they were Jewish."
Listen carefully Mr. Earnest. Yohan Cohen, Yoav Hattab, Francois-Michel Saada, Phillipe Braham – these are the names of our beautiful Jewish men

Listen carefully Mr. Earnest. Yohan Cohen, Yoav Hattab, Francois-Michel Saada, Phillipe Braham – these are the names of our beautiful Jewish men. They call out to you. Their souls are the purest of the pure. Each had families who loved them. Hearts are still breaking, weeping for fathers, husbands and sons to come home. There is nothing random that happened here. And these are not just a bunch of folks. They are my brothers. We are family.

What you have done is stripped my brothers of their final dignity. You have rendered them nameless. To do so is to make each man seem somehow anonymous. You decided that they do not even deserve to be remembered by their names. How do we mourn one that we cannot call out to and recognize? You make it seem simple to forget, as if they were easily swatted away. But we will never allow you or the world to cast the memory of these holy ones aside.
These last few months have been painful for our people. We are still kindling a flame in our hearts for our three sweet boys savagely taken in the summer, the many young soldiers who courageously gave their lives so that we can live in our land today, the four great rabbis of Har Nof, beautiful baby Chaya Zeesel Braun, and now four more holy souls who were murdered because they were Jews. Yizkor! It is our responsibility to remember. We must remember, especially because the world chooses to forget.

We, the Jewish nation, will not forfeit the names that we carry. The word for soul, neshamah, is rooted in the word shem, name. We, Jews, understand that our names and our souls are forever linked. It is when an infant enters the covenant that we have a ceremony called ‘giving the name’ because the spiritual destiny of a person is contained in his name. Every child’s Jewish name becomes his and her life legacy, and expresses the sanctity that lies within. And at the end of days when one returns his soul to his Creator, there is a Kabbalist tradition to call out the name as the body is being lowered into the earth. Our names are holy.

So please, Mr. Earnest, in the silence of the night think about your words. Take a moment and reflect. We are a nation that has risen from the ashes. I, myself, carry the name of my great grandmother, Slova Channah. She was taken away by the Nazis and brutally murdered along with her innocent grandchildren. From my very first memory, I can recall my Zaydie, my grandfather’s face light up each time he would see me. He would call out to me and I would watch his eyes grow moist. I know that each time he uttered my name, the image of his mother would be revived. In a mix of terrible sadness of what was, and incredible wonder at the miracle of rebirth, my Zaydie cried. 
No, we are not and never will be, random. Our names define us.

It was after Cain killed Abel, that God calls out and asks “Where is Abel, your brother?” Cain replies his infamous response: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
This is the sentence that drives me to write these words. How can I possibly be silent when my brothers have gone? Is there one of us who could sleep at night restfully, and repeat “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We are one nation and together we must stand. Otherwise the words that followed as God called out to Cain will give us no peace:
“What have you done? Do you hear the voices? These are the drops of your brother’s spilled blood! They cry out to Me from the ground.”
Published: February 10, 2015

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ISIS and Book Burning
"I see parchment burning, but the letters are soaring free."
by Jeff Jacoby
Book burning is as old as books, and as current as this week's news.
The Associated Press reported on Monday that Islamic State fanatics have ravaged the Central Library of Mosul, the largest repository of learning in that ancient city. Militants smashed the library's locks and overran its collections, removing thousands of volumes on philosophy, science, and law, along with books of poetry and children's stories. Only Islamic texts were left behind.
"These books promote infidelity and call for disobeying Allah," one of the ISIS jihadists announced as the library's holdings were emptied into sacks and loaded onto pickup trucks. "So they will be burned."
There was more book-burning soon afterward, when Islamic State vandals sacked the library at the University of Mosul. "They made a bonfire out of hundreds of books on science and culture, destroying them in front of students," AP reported. Lost in the libricide were newspapers, maps, and texts dating back to the Ottoman Empire. UNESCO, the UN's educational and cultural agency, decried the libraries' torching as "one of the most devastating acts of destruction of library collections in human history."

"Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people."
Perhaps the most chilling words ever written about book-burning were penned in 1821 by the great German poet Heinrich Heine: Dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen – "Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people." Today that axiom is etched on a plaque in Berlin's Bebelplatz, the public square where more than 20,000 books deemed "un-German" and "decadent" were destroyed in a vast Nazi bonfire on the night of May 10, 1933.
Though Heine's words are indelibly associated now with the Holocaust, they have lost none of their grim prescience. Just one day after news emerged of the book-burnings in the Islamic State's so-called "caliphate," the jihadists released a video exulting in the horrific murder of Jordanian pilot, Moaz al-Kasasbeh, who was burned alive in a metal cage.
There is something uniquely diabolical about setting books on fire, a lust to obliterate that almost ineluctably leads to even more dreadful evils. It is no coincidence that those obsessed with annihilating the physical expression of dangerous thoughts or teachings so often move on to annihilating the people who think or teach them.

"A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it," orders Captain Beatty, the book-hating fire chief in Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's dystopian classic. "Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man's mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?"
Books cannot be killed by fire. Books are weapons in the war of ideas.A World War II-era poster printed by the US government shows Nazis burning books.
Yet if the long and heartbreaking history of book-burning teaches anything, it is that books cannot be killed by fire. Pages can be burned, libraries can be reduced to ash, treatises can be found guilty of heresy or sedition and set ablaze. But ideas are not so easily extirpated. Heine's books were among those the Nazis flung on the bonfires in 1933; so were the books of more than 2,000 other authors, including Bertolt Brecht, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Ernest Hemingway, Leo Tolstoy, and Franz Kafka. Josef Goebbels assured the enthusiastic crowd that they would "commit to the flames the evil spirit of the past." The books, however, are still alive. It was the Third Reich that went down in flames.

The story of books is the story of books being suppressed – a story of staggering cruelty, and of equally staggering futility. The destruction of Mosul's libraries prompted one Iraqi parliamentarian, Hakim al-Zamili, to compare ISIS to the Mongols who conquered Baghdad in 1258. Then, too, prized works of learning – on history, medicine, astronomy – were demolished. "The only difference is that Mongols threw the books in the Tigris River, while now [ISIS] is burning them," al-Zamili said. "Different method, but same mentality."
The Roman Empire couldn't keep the letters from soaring free. ISIS can't either
Indeed, in their bloodlust and zealotry, the book-burners of ISIS have many antecedents – Crusaders, Mongols, Nazis, Wahhabis, Khmer Rouge. But ISIS too will find that it is easier to slaughter human beings than to destroy ideas.
The Talmud records the death of Chanina ben Teradion, a 2nd-century Jewish sage killed by the Romans for violating a ban on teaching Torah. It was a terrible death: He was wrapped in the scroll from which he had been teaching and set on fire, with wet wool placed on his chest to prolong the agony. His horrified disciples, forced to witness his death, cried out: "Rabbi, what do you see?" He replied: "I see parchment burning, but the letters are soaring free."

Any brute can burn parchment, or ransack a library, or blow up a mosque, or bulldoze cultural treasures. But not even mighty armies can destroy the ideas they embody. The Roman Empire couldn't keep the letters from soaring free. ISIS can't either.
Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe where this article originally appeared.
Published: February 8, 2015

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7 Inspiring Jewish Quotes7 Inspiring Jewish Quotes
I stare at the pile of gear spread out before me in the pre-dawn light. Mittens, glove liners, hand warmers, earphones, neck warmer, two hats, windbreaker… Outside the freezing wind is whipping through the trees’ bare branches. In the glow of the porch light I see that it has begun to snow. “Either you run the day or the day runs you,” I whisper to myself one of my favorite Jim Rohn quotes as I pull on my gear.

Tying my sneakers, I hear the echo of a medley of Rohn quotes in my mind. If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary. We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better. The words get me outside; they propel through the storm. The snow flies into my eyes. For every disciplined effort there is a multiple reward. Today, I have won.

Quotes can motivate us to keep moving towards our goals. They can get us out the door. Here are seven insightful Jewish quotes on achieving our goals.
1. “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein
Sometimes we get stuck in life and it’s hard to see that we keep turning into the same dead end. We need to begin by changing our thoughts if we want to change our lives.

2. “In spirituality, the searching is the finding and the pursuit is the achievement.” Dr. Abraham J. Twerski
It is important for us to strive to accomplish our goals and move towards our destinations. But what really matters is who we become as we search and what we learn as we pursue our dreams.

3. “A person who takes a walk of 100 feet and a person who walks 2,000 miles have one major thing in common. They both need to take a first step before they take a second step.” Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The hardest part of any endeavor is beginning, taking that first step and getting out the door. But we can’t get to the second step before we have the courage to take that first one.

4. “Don’t be afraid of discovering that the ‘real you’ may be different than the ‘current you.’” Rabbi Noah Weinberg, zt”l
We often have pre-conceived notions of who we are and what we are capable of accomplishing. Don’t let your past define you. Don’t let who you were yesterday limit who you can become today. What we know about ourselves is not complete. Be open to seeing different aspects of yourself even if they are at first uncomfortable or unfamiliar to you.

5. “One question is always relevant: How can I use this to move forward?” Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller.
Whatever situation we are experiencing in life, how can I use what I have to grow? How can I use this challenge or relationship or gift to move forward towards my goals?

6. “We have no understanding of the energy that God planted within our souls. Therefore, God has to test us to bring forth those treasures that are buried deep within ourselves and make us unique.” Rebbeztin Esther Jungreis
If we only knew the depths of our potential, we would never want to sleep. If we could only imagine the treasures within us, we would search ceaselessly for them. But God does see the greatness within us and in His infinite kindness, He orchestrates our lives so that we will be forced to use the strengths we cannot see for ourselves.

7. “At the end-point there is nothing but being, no time but the present.” Rabbi Akiva Tatz
We are often so caught up in the past and the future that we fail to see that our real choices are right now. In the present. Who we are in this moment.
Share the quotes that motivate you to get out the door in the comment section below.
Published: January 18, 2015

Israel vs. the Mob
by Jonah Goldberg
Politics is in large part a numbers game, and Jews are at a numerical disadvantage.
Spreading the Light
For Dovid Winiarz, life was an outpouring of love and joy. His loss leaves a gaping hole in American Jewry.

Earlier this week, Dovid Winiarz was travelling in a treacherous ice storm near Baltimore, when the car hit a patch of black ice and skidded out of control. Four other people in the two-car collision suffered minor injuries; Dovid was killed instantly.
His loss leaves a bereft wife and 10 children, and a gaping hole in American Jewry.
Though he provided financial services by profession, Dovid's every waking moment was focused on bringing more joy into the world and spreading a positive Jewish message.

On the commuter train, he would walk up and down the aisles, passing out hundreds of cards that said: “Keep Smiling." He'd give everyone two cards, saying: "Here’s a smile for you, and one to give someone else.”
As a young man, he founded a successful food pantry in Staten Island, as well as the organization Survival Through Education which connects unaffiliated Jews to their heritage.
Dovid had a boundless love of people, and a deep love of Torah.

Dubbed the "Facebuker Rebbe," his inspiring words reached 13,000 Facebook followers.

"There comes a time when we stop and ask ourselves just why we come to work each day," Dovid wrote. "If you want to love your work, you need to focus on the giving that results from it. Not what you take for yourself but what you give to others. Tomorrow, when you go to work, do not focus on the 90 percent of your income that you need to pay the bills. Instead focus on increasing your productivity so you will have more to give away."

Planting Seeds
We come into this world with a mission, and at the end, the only question is have we fulfilled it.
Dovid Winiarz lived 49 years, the Jewish number of completion.
Travelling on that icy highway, he was en route to an annual Jewish educators' convention, seeking new ways to inspire others.
He was totally dedicated to promoting Judaism, always looking to take it to the next level.
He was a dedicated husband and father of 10. A pillar of the community, with an impeccable reputation.
He lived and breathed the idea that every Jew has infinite precious value.
He displayed a generous outpouring of love that helped others see a God who loves every human being.
His bountiful enthusiasm and warm disposition endeared him to untold thousands.
As for the success of his endeavors, Dovid would say, “Wherever I go, I am going to plant seeds. Hopefully they’ll grow one day. It’s not my job to decide if they grow or not... I just have to plant seeds.”
Dovid planted tens of thousands of seeds.

One can easily imagine someone on that train whose life was changed as a result of the "Keep Smiling" card.
These and other untold stories are written and sealed in the chronicles of Dovid Winiarz, for all eternity. May his memory be for a blessing.
Published: January 20, 2015

Weak Processing Control
by Rifka Schonfeld, Director S.O.S (Strategies for Optimum Success)
Why does my child have such a hard time understanding the material?
Glancing out the window as the school bus rolled by, Miriam noticed her daughter, Riki, trudging up the walk with the look of someone carrying the world on her shoulders.
What now? Miriam thought, her stomach tightening. A bad mark on a test? A fight with her best friend? Sixth grade was really turning into the pits for Riki. Never a very good student, Riki’s overall performance had taken a dive. She hated school and did not get along with her teachers.
Miriam sighed as she thought of the tension this situation caused at home. A few nights ago she had been trying to help her daughter study for a social studies test. Riki had no patience to look inside the book for answers; she wanted to be spoon-fed.
“Ma, what colonies were in New England? I have to fill in this map.”
“ Doesn’t it say in the book?”
“No, it just says New England.”
“Riki, the information is right there on the very page you’re looking at.”
“But if you know it, why can’t you tell me? I have no patience to read this whole thing.”
“See if you can find the names of the colonies on your own.”
“ Forget it.” She shoved the map away from her and it fluttered to the floor. “I’ll do the map later. I’ll do the Boston Tea Party first. At least that one I know.”

She turned quickly to the pre-test questions about the Boston Tea Party, brightening up as she related the drama of the colonists who had dressed up like Indians and dumped crates of British tea in the harbor, infuriating the king of England.
But when it came to the questions about why the colonists did such a thing or how they were punished, Riki became deflated.
“I don’t remember learning that. Maybe I was absent,” she said.
So they spent hours reviewing this information. Where in the world was she when all this was being taught, Miriam wondered. Soon it was ten thirty, the younger kids were not yet in bed, and the information was just not sticking. At her wits’ end, Miriam lost herself. “We’re stopping right here!” she barked at her daughter. “Learn to pay attention in class and you won’t have to cram like this before every test!”
Riki jumped up, shouting, “I do pay attention! My teacher is a liar, we never learned this!” Then she burst out crying and ran upstairs.
“If I flunk the test, it’s because you wouldn’t help me,” she sobbed.
Now, watching her daughter’s forlorn profile through the window, Miriam thought, “Riki was once a good, happy kid. I don’t know what’s going on but I’m going to find a way back to that place. There has to be a way.”

The way back to “that place” began with a long overdue screening by an educational psychologist who found Riki to be a child of above- average intelligence with attention deficit symptoms that showed up as “weak processing control.” That diagnosis was the beginning of a new chapter in Riki’s life, as her parents began to finally understand what their daughter was struggling with.

“Processing control” refers to the brain’s ability to select and then distribute data to the relevant brain regions that deal with such functions as language comprehension, visual processing, and the interpretation of social cues.
Children with weak processing control are likely to have shallow concentration. Even when reasonably alert in the classroom, they are not thinking hard or intently enough to register information effectively in the brain. These students often develop only a partial or vague understanding of what is being taught, and their retention is usually poor.
Children with superficial or weak attention control often have problems with short-term memory. They have no patience for fine detail and are highly distractible. They much prefer the big picture or the broad concept.
Riki fit this profile. Her problems with concentration greatly interfered with her ability to stay focused long enough to grasp a piece of information in its entirety. She could relate the drama of the Boston Tea Party, but lost the thread of the story when it came to piecing together cause and effect, and identifying key points in the story’s aftermath.

Missing the Forest for the Trees
On the other hand, children who are highly distractible often focus on trivial or secondary details to the exclusion of important ones. A teacher might tell a class, “Now, look carefully at the next couple of paragraphs and you will discover an important clue to the identity of the mysterious stranger.” Most children will immediately snap to attention and find the clue.
A child like Riki, on the other hand, will focus for a few seconds on the task, and then become distracted by the stranger’s unusual name, or some interesting detail in the illustration at the bottom of the page. By the time she has wrenched her attention away from these details and refocused on the task of finding the clue, the class will have discovered the stranger’s identity.

“I feel so dumb in class,” Riki told me when we met. “I try to cover it up by being the best in sports and being good in singing and dancing. I just want to be a regular kid.”
Like many children affected with attention deficits, Riki was imaginative and artistic. She could draw very well, was adept at arranging flowers and decorating a table beautifully for a celebration. By carefully observing her grandmother, had picked up knitting and crocheting. Because she seemed to have no problem concentrating on activities of this sort, her parents felt that if only she tried harder, she could apply herself similarly to her studies.

This is a mistake many people make. The regions of the brain that deal with tactile and manual skills such as drawing and painting, carpentry, surgery and sewing, are different from those that process visual and auditory data related to conceptual learning. One cannot form expectations about a child’s performance in classroom learning based on his superior abilities in areas involving manual and tactile skills.
In other words, it would be foolish to ask a carpenter, “If you can build a house, why can’t you write a novel?”

Can Parents Make A Difference?
There is a great deal parents can do to give their child tools to compensate for their attentional problems. Some of the following suggestions have been adapted from a lengthy treatment on attention dysfunction by Dr. Mel Levine, in his widely acclaimed Educational Care.
It is vital for a child with distractibility to have a work environment where noise, certain kinds of music, conversation and ringing telephones have been filtered out.

When assisting with homework, parents may need to repeat instructions to a child with attentional dysfunction. Afterwards, have the child repeat what he or she just heard. Most important, maintain good eye contact when giving directions.
Children with superficial processing may read an entire chapter of a book and have no idea what they just read. Encourage such a child to underline, to keep summarizing, to whisper important ideas under their breath, and to have opportunities to discuss what they are reading.
If there is an intellectually superior sibling, that brother or sister should not be allowed to monopolize the conversation at home.

Parents should set limits on passive processing experiences such as watching television, listening to music or playing electronic games. These activities in excess may prevent children from becoming more active thinkers.
Children with a tendency to tune out or daydream excessively need periodic reminders (offered in a low-key manner) to return to reality. A parent might say, “There goes your active mind again. It took off on a tangent. Should we get back to the subject?”
Children with problems maintaining a focus can benefit from being told in advance how long they will have to concentrate. Using a clock or a timer may be an immense help in stretching a child’s attention span in small but steady increments.
Parents should try whenever possible to link subject matter that a child is studying in school with real life experiences or everyday situations. These associations will make dry “inert” material come to life and help to fix the information in the child’s memory.

Often, there is too much parent-child tension for a parent to be able to work productively with a child who has weak processing control. Instead, a tutor, or someone with experience in working with attention problems should be brought into the picture.
When passive processing is only one aspect of a picture of overall attention dysfunction, stimulant medication like Ritalin given under a doctor’s supervision may be helpful.
In Riki’s case, homework sessions lost their negative, tension-filled atmosphere when Riki worked with a family friend. Mother and daughter were gradually able to regain their former close relationship.
Most important, learning about her attention difficulties lessened the shame and guilt she felt for not being a top student. 

She began to show a much greater willingness to invest the extra effort required to manage the challenges facing her.
“As long as I know it’s not my fault,” she told me, “I don’t mind having to try harder than most kids to get a good mark. “As long as my teachers don’t think I’m lazy. Just a regular kid that happens to have a problem.”
Published: January 17, 2015

Telling the Story
Bo(Exodus 10:1-13:16)
by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Identity is based on the narrative that links me to the past, guides me in the present, and places on me responsibility for the future

Go to Washington and make a tour of the memorials and you will make a fascinating discovery. Begin at the Lincoln Memorial with its giant statue of the man who braved civil war and presided over the ending of slavery. On one side you will see the Gettysburg Address, that masterpiece of brevity with its invocation of "a new birth of freedom." On the other is the great Second Inaugural with its message of healing: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right..."

Walk down to the Potomac basin and you see the Martin Luther King Memorial with its sixteen quotes from the great fighter for civil rights, among them his 1963 statement, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." And giving its name to the monument as a whole, a sentence from the I have a Dream speech, "Out of the Mountain of Despair, a Stone of Hope."

Continue along the tree-lined avenue bordering the water and you arrive at the Roosevelt Memorial, constructed as a series of six spaces, one for each decade of his public career, each with a passage from one of the defining speeches of the time, most famously, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."

Lastly, bordering the Basin at its southern edge, is a Greek temple dedicated to the author of the American Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson. Around the dome, are the words he wrote to Benjamin Rush: "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." Defining the circular space are four panels, each with lengthy quotations from Jefferson's writings, one from the Declaration itself, another beginning, "Almighty God hath created the mind free," and a third "God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?"
Each of these four monuments is built around texts and each tells a story.

Now compare the monuments in London, most conspicuously those in Parliament Square. The memorial to David Lloyd George contains three words: David Lloyd George. The one to Nelson Mandela has two, and the Churchill memorial just one: Churchill. Winston Churchill was a man of words, in his early life a journalist, later a historian, author of almost fifty books. He won the Nobel Prize not for Peace but for Literature. He delivered as many speeches and coined as many unforgettable sentences as Jefferson or Lincoln, Roosevelt or Martin Luther King, but none of his utterances is engraved on the plinth beneath his statue. He is memorialised only by his name.

The difference between the American and British monuments is unmistakable, and the reason is that Britain and the United States have a quite different political and moral culture. England is, or was until recently, a tradition-based society. In such societies, things are as they are because that is how they were "since time immemorial." It is unnecessary to ask why. Those who belong, know. Those who need to ask, show thereby that they don't belong.

American society is different because from the Pilgrim Fathers onward it was based on the concept of covenant as set out in Tanakh, especially in Exodus and Deuteronomy. The early settlers were Puritans, in the Calvinist tradition, the closest Christianity came to basing its politics on the Hebrew Bible. Covenantal societies are not based on tradition. The Puritans, like the Israelites three thousand years earlier, were revolutionaries, attempting to create a new type of society, one unlike Egypt or, in the case of America, England. Michael Walzer called his book on the politics of the seventeenth century Puritans, "the revolution of the saints." They were trying to overthrow the tradition that gave absolute power to kings and maintained established hierarchies of class.

Covenantal societies always represent a conscious new beginning by a group of people dedicated to an ideal. The story of the founders, the journey they made, the obstacles they had to overcome and the vision that drove them are essential elements of a covenantal culture. Retelling the story, handing it on to one's children, and dedicating oneself to continuing the work that earlier generations began, are fundamental to the ethos of such a society. A covenanted nation is not simply there because it is there. It is there to fulfil a moral vision. That is what led G. K. Chesterton to call the United States a nation "with the soul of a church," the only one in the world "founded on a creed" (Chesterton's anti-Semitism prevented him from crediting the true source of America's political philosophy, the Hebrew Bible).

The history of storytelling as an essential part of moral education begins in this week's parsha. It is quite extraordinary how, on the brink of the exodus, Moses three times turns to the future and to the duty of parents to educate their children about the story that was shortly to unfold: "When your children ask you, 'What is this service to you?' you shall answer, 'It is the Passover service to God. He passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians, sparing our homes" (Ex. 12:25-27). "On that day, you shall tell your child, 'It is because of this that God acted for me when I left Egypt'" (Ex. 13:8). "Your child may later ask you, 'What is this?' You shall answer him, 'With a show of power, God brought us out of Egypt, the place of slavery' (Ex. 13:14).

This is truly extraordinary. The Israelites have not yet emerged into the dazzling light of freedom. They are still slaves. Yet already Moses is directing their minds to the far horizon of the future and giving them the responsibility of passing on their story to succeeding generations. It is as if Moses were saying: Forget where you came from and why, and you will eventually lose your identity, your continuity and raison d'etre. You will come to think of yourself as the mere member of a nation among nations, one ethnicity among many. Forget the story of freedom and you will eventually lose freedom itself.

Rarely indeed have philosophers written on the importance of story-telling for the moral life. Yet that is how we become the people we are. The great exception among modern philosophers has been Alasdair MacIntyre, who wrote, in his classic After Virtue, "I can only answer the question 'What am I to do?' if I can answer the prior question 'Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?'" Deprive children of stories, says MacIntyre, and you leave them "anxious stutterers in their actions as in their words." (1)

No one understood this more clearly than Moses because he knew that without a specific identity it is almost impossible not to lapse into whatever is the current idolatry of the age - rationalism, idealism, nationalism, fascism, communism, postmodernism, relativism, individualism, hedonism or consumerism, to name only the most recent. The alternative, a society based on tradition alone, crumbles as soon as respect for tradition dies, which it always does at some stage or another.

Identity, which is always particular, is based on story, the narrative that links me to the past, guides me in the present, and places on me responsibility for the future. And no story, at least in the West, was more influential than that of the exodus, the memory that the supreme power intervened in history to liberate the supremely powerless, together with the covenant that followed whereby the Israelites bound themselves to God in a promise to create a society that would be the opposite of Egypt, where individuals were respected as the image of God, where one day in seven all hierarchies of power were suspended, and where dignity and justice were accessible to all. We never quite reached that ideal state but we never ceased to travel toward it and believed it was there at journey's end.
"The Jews have always had stories for the rest of us," said the BBC's political correspondent, Andrew Marr. God created man, Elie Wiesel once wrote, because God loves stories. What other cultures have done through systems, Jews have done through stories. And in Judaism, the stories are not engraved in stone on memorials, magnificent though that is. They are told at home, around the table, from parents to children as the gift of the past to the future. That is how story-telling in Judaism was devolved, domesticated and democratised.

Only the most basic elements of morality are universal: "thin" abstractions like justice or liberty that tend to mean different things to different people in different places and times. But if we want our children and our society to be moral, we need a collective story that tells us where we came from and what our task is in the world. The story of the exodus, especially as told on Pesach at the seder table, is always the same yet ever-changing, an almost infinite set of variations on a single set of themes that we all internalise in ways that are unique to us, yet we all share as members of the same historically extended community.

There are stories that ennoble, and others that stultify, leaving us prisoners of ancient grievances or impossible ambitions. The Jewish story is in its way the oldest of all, yet ever young, and we are each a part of it. It tells us who we are and who our ancestors hoped we would be. Story-telling is the great vehicle of moral education. It was the Torah's insight that a people who told their children the story of freedom and its responsibilities that would stay free for as long as humankind lives and breathes and hopes.

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Post  Admin on Mon 19 Jan 2015, 11:43 am

A Hostage's Terrifying Eyewitness Account
The cashier of the kosher supermarket attacked in Paris recounts her 5-hour nightmare. An Aish.com exclusive.
Zarie is the 22 year old cashier at the kosher supermarket in Paris that was attacked last week. In an exclusive interview with Aish.fr, Aish.com's French site, she recounts the nightmare of being held hostage, her terrifying encounter with the terrorist and the steadfast faith that enabled her to get through this tragedy. Here is her riveting and moving interview.
Aish.fr: Zarie, you work as a cashier at the Hypercacher store in Paris. How did the attack begin?
Zarie: It was between 1 PM and 1:30 PM. A father with his two-year- old child was at my counter when I heard the first gunshot. Yohann Cohen, the young man who works with me, was the first to be hit. He shouted our manager’s name who, wounded, managed to leave the store. I did not realize immediately that this was a real gunshot.
Aish.fr: Were you hurt?
Zarie: No. I heard gunshots and screams then footsteps coming closer. I heard the killer’s voice telling me: "What about you? You're not dead yet? "And then a gunshot towards me.

France's Jews: Canary in the Coal Mine
by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein
If France is not safe for Jews, then the very future of Europe: and indeed the civilized world - is in real danger.
The voices proclaiming that France is no longer safe for Jews and that they should, therefore, emigrate are dangerously misguided. If France is not safe for Jews, then the very future of Europe – and indeed the world – is in jeopardy.
History has demonstrated that Jews are the proverbial canary in a coal mine. Just as canaries in a mine die before humans are aware of undetectable toxic gases, such as methane and carbon monoxide, and in dying warn of impending disaster, so is the state of Jews in their societies the test for the safety of the environment there. If the Jews in a particular society are, like the canaries, singing and thriving then all is well. If not, that is an early warning of danger ahead. Sometimes, threats of danger to civilization are not noticed. The miners rely on their canaries, and the world ought to rely on the position of Jews to assess the threat level to civilized society.
In 1933, the danger that Adolf Hitler posed to the world was not yet clear, but when Jews became unsafe in Hitler’s Germany, that was a sign of the toxins of hatred seeping into the world – toxins that tragically went unnoticed until too late, and which eventually engulfed humanity in a war that lead to the death of 60 million people.

My Father's Core Values
by Rabbi Shalom Schwartz
My father lived a life of quiet greatness. These are the inspiring lessons I've learned from him.
My father, Frank Schwartz, passed away from this world on Dec. 22, 2014, Kislev 30, 5775. I hadn’t anticipated the penetrating hole that opened next to my heart at the moment of his passing. I believe that the pain is there so I can carry my father with me, until I understand and integrate the meaning of his life with the meaning of my own life, and beyond. This is what his life means to me:
Responsibility: Our father was a pillar, a rock, a reliable and responsible husband, father, son, grandfather, and great-grandfather. His presence gave us confidence. We felt safe and cared for. There was never a doubt that whatever problem arose, Dad would take responsibility. During a family vacation we were playing hockey on a frozen-over section of Georgian Bay and the puck would sometimes miss the net and slide very far out from the shore line. My Dad watched us closely. Suddenly there was a loud cracking sound that echoed. I can still hear my father’s fear- instilling booming voice: “Everyone off the ice! Now!” In seconds the ice had been cleared, and we wondered which had been louder and scarier – the sound of cracking ice or my father’s shout.

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Post  Admin on Fri 16 Jan 2015, 3:35 pm

5 Jewish Lessons from Unbroken
by Daniella H.
Louie Zamperini and the power of faith.
Reading Unbroken, the amazing story of Louie Zamperini, I was struck by the amount of Jewish values and beliefs the book imparts. Even though Aish.com posted an excellent article about the book last week, I am compelled to share the following lessons I extrapolated from the incredible life of Louie Zamperini.
Belief creates your reality: After the crash landing of their B-24 bomber plane in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Louie and his surviving crew members, Phil and Mac floated in two cramped rafts for weeks before reaching land. During that time Louie and Phil constantly believed that they would live through this situation while Mac resigned himself to the reality of their fate. Not surprisingly Louie and Phil survived while Mac succumbed to their unfortunate situation. Belief creates your reality, as the famous Yiddish expression goes, "Tracht gut vet zein gut – Think good and it will be good.”

Faith in God:
Being stuck in the middle of the ocean surrounded by large and hungry circling sharks the three men had no access to food or drinking water. They quickly depleted the meager rations of water in their emergency provisions and were left parched and dying of thirst. Louie and Phil prayed three times to God to send them rain, and each time God answered them and brought the rain down. Louie made a deal with God that he would dedicate his life to Him if He saved them. God wants a relationship with us and prayer is a powerful conduit to that relationship. Oftentimes He creates a lack in our lives in order to generate that relationship.

The Righteous Fall 7 Times:
Louie’s brother Pete tells him throughout the beginning of the book, “If you can take it, you can make it.” Louie overcomes his physical limitations in order to become one of the runners on the American team in the 1936 Olympics. Later in the book Louie is tortured by one of the guards in the prisoner of war camp and yet he refuses to succumb to the torture. He is beaten, punched and degraded and each time he gets up and keeps pushing himself forward. “The righteous fall seven times and get up” (Proverbs, 24:16). It is through these challenges in our lives that we are able to rise to higher levels of growth and they are ultimately what build who we are.

Every Challenge is an Opportunity:
Part of what gave Louie Zamperini his amazing resilience was his perspective on challenges. Situations that others would view as insurmountable he would view as something to overcome and conquer. That fighting spirit is what made him a champion Olympic runner and what helped him survive 47 days at sea and three years as POW subjected to unimaginable abuse. Judaism believes every challenge is an opportunity given by God to get closer to Him and refine our character traits. The Sages teach that "a person is born to struggle," as the Talmud states, "According to the effort is the reward."

After Louie is freed from the POW camp and returns to his life back in America he is tormented by nightmares and consumed by revenge toward the guard in the camp who tormented him all those years. Towards the end of the book he makes the decision to forgive his tormentor and from that point forward he never has another nightmare or thinks of revenge again. Forgiveness really benefits us. Everything God causes to happen to us is really for our benefit and ultimately Louie follows through on the promise he made to God on that raft when he was lost at sea: He has a relationship with God which is really what He ultimately wants from us

Does Being Religious Help You Get a Job?
by Eric Brand
In or out of Hollywood, it sure is a good question.
Is being identified as an observant Jew helpful or unhelpful in securing employment? Well, I’ve had a lot of jobs, both before and after I was religious, and I’ve lost a lot of jobs, both before and after I was religious. So I’m either an expert, or you should stop reading this immediately and get back to work.
In case you’re still reading, let’s take a look at some examples from my checkered past working inside and outside Hollywood for an answer.
It’s 20 years ago and my writing partner and I are taking a meeting with one of the biggest producers in Hollywood – a man with a string of successes in movies, television, and music, with a stable of A-list stars. He’s put the word out that he wants to do a show about a Jewish family, and we’re there to pitch him a concept for it. It’s a little hard for us to do the look-‘em-in-the-eye-and-make-‘em-laugh routine that we’ve perfected, since he’s taking this particular meeting from the bathroom.
That’s correct. After the initial hand-shaking and some folks-we-have-in-common pleasantries, we’re a couple of minutes into our pitch and he stands up and walks away, saying over his shoulder, “Keep going, I’ll leave the door open.”

Mere days after the brutal terror attacks in Paris that left 17 people dead – 
including four Jews who were murdered in a kosher grocery as they shopped for Shabbat – some public figures are already seeking to blame Jews and Israel for the attacks.
Some of these smears are predictable, coming from marginal individuals who routinely find ways to blame Jews and the Jewish state for all the world’s ills. For instance, one regular contributor to Iranian-backed Press TV wasted little time in writing that Israel “orchestrated” the Paris attacks – and for good measure, ludicrously added that Israel was behind Malaysian airplane crashes, too. The founders of the Free Gaza Movement, which has been endorsed by public figures such as Desmond Tutu, echoed this slander, posting on social media the patently false smear “MOSSAD just hit the Paris offices of Char­lie Hebdo in a clumsy false flag designed to dam­age the accord between Pales­tine and France…”
It seems that some of these lies are drifting from the marginal fringe into mainstream publications.

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The Anti-Semitic Derangement
by Jeff Jacoby
France's Jews are leaving, and that never bodes well for the society driving them out.
Even before last week's terrorist attacks in Paris, the French prime minister was concerned about the continued viability of Jewish life in France. In an interview with The Atlantic prior to the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket massacres, Manuel Valls made a grim prediction:
"If 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure."
His misgivings were far from groundless. An exodus of French Jews is already underway and accelerating rapidly. In 2012, there were just over 1,900 immigrants to Israel from France. The following year nearly 3,400 French Jews emigrated; in 2014 approximately 7,000 left. For the first time ever, France heads the list of countries of origin for immigrants to Israel, and the ministry of immigration absorption expects another 10,000 French Jews to arrive in 2015.

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Post  Admin on Wed 14 Jan 2015, 9:58 am

#Je Suis Juif
by Sara Debbie Gutfreund
I am a Jew. Don’t let the Jews of France stand alone.
Four Jewish hostages were murdered at a kosher grocery store in Paris by a terrorist who had connections to the two men who attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo earlier last week. The gunman at the supermarket near the Porte de Vincennes metro station was killed by the police on Friday while his wife escaped, and the Charlie Hebdo gunmen were killed in a separate raid near Paris. After the attack of the newspaper office many people around the world twittered #Je Suis Charlie, I am Charlie Hebdo, and the hashtag rapidly began to trend as everyone expressed outrage for this attack on free speech.

Following the horrific murders at the kosher supermarket, many again took to Twitter urging others to tweet #Je Suis Juif, I am a Jew, to express the same outrage for this attack on religion. But #Je Suis Juif isn’t trending. We, the Jewish people, stand alone. Isn’t freedom of religion just as important as freedom of speech? Isn’t it just as evil and shocking for people to be killed for who they are as it is for what they say? Where are all the Twitter supporters now?

But there were some powerful Tweets that did speak up for the Jewish nation:
Mark Ferguson: We must stand by French Jews as we stood by French cartoonists and police. #JeSuisJuif
Aviva Klompas: The world stood united to defend free expression #JeSuisCharlie. Now it must stand united to defend human life #JeSuisJuif- I am a Jew
Rina Wolfson: So it wasn’t just about cartoons after all. Or is buying kosher bread offensive and provocative too? #JeSuisJuif
Kyle Price: #JeSuisCharlie is trending. #JeSuisAhmed is trending. #JeSuisJuif is not trending. And no one is surprised.
Ben Shapiro: If you tweeted #JeSuisCharlie but won’t tweet #JeSuisJuif today, I think we can all figure out the reason.
David Heyman: I suppose it was perhaps inevitable that the conclusion of #JeSuisCharlie would sadly be #JeSuisJuif

For the first time since World War II, there were no Shabbat services at the Paris Grand Synagogue this past Shabbos. Jewish leaders were told to close their synagogues and Jews all over France were urged to stay home. Mothers and fathers with babies in their arms who had gone to buy food for Shabbos were seen running hysterically out of the supermarket, escorted to safety by heavily armed policemen. Families who have lived in France for generations are wondering how much longer they will be able to remain there. On Saturday hundreds of thousands of people marched through the streets of France with the signs “Je Suis Charlie” to protest the terrorist attack against free speech. But where were the signs protesting the murder of four innocent Jews?

The Jewish people in France cannot believe that the situation has come to this. They are heartbroken. They are scared. They need to hear our prayers. They need to hear our voices from all over the world: I am a Jew.
I am a Jew. My grandmother said it to the department store Santa Claus when she politely refused his candy cane offer.

I am a Jew. My mother said it when she refused to campaign on Shabbos when she was running for the NY State Supreme Court.
I am a Jew. My seven-year-old son said it to the dentist when the dentist asked why he was wearing a velvet cap on his head.
I am a Jew. I said it to my friend at the gym when she asked me if I heard what was happening in France. I am a Jew, I said, and I started to cry. I am a Jew, and my heart is breaking. And she looked at me and said: I am a Jew too. My heart is also breaking.
I am a Jew who lit candles on Friday night and cried as I saw the images of the fleeing hostages flicker before me in the flames.
I am a Jew who watched my husband walk out the door to go to shul on Shabbos and thought of all the people in France whose synagogues were closed.

I am a Jew who watched my children playing Russian School Room on Shabbos afternoon and asked them what they were doing. It’s a game, they said. In the game the teacher tries to find out who is Jewish in her class by asking questions. Only one of us is the Jew, and the teacher wants to know who it is because it is a crime. “Who taught you that?” I ask. “What kind of game is that?”
“Everyone knows this game,” they tell me, and they go back to playing. I stand a few feet away and listen in. The child playing teacher asks: What is your name? Where are you from? Tell me your mother’s name.
I never played this game as a child. It doesn’t make any sense to me. Why are my children, whose great- great grandparents were born in New York playing Russian School Room? Why are my children, who learn in Jewish schools and are part of a beautiful Jewish family, learning at such a young age that they are hated for who they are? That they stand alone for what they believe?

For the people of France and for every Jew in every country, and for Jewish children everywhere, I call out to the world: Je Suis Juif! My voice echoes the cries of those who have come before me, those who have lived and died for Your Name: I am a Jew. I was born a Jew. I live as a Jew. I will die as a Jew. #JeSuisJuif Don’t let the Jews of France stand alone.

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Post  Admin on Fri 09 Jan 2015, 1:25 am

American Hero Going to Israel
by Yvette Alt Miller
After losing his legs in Afghanistan, Brian Mast is still fighting for his country. And now he's about to fight for Israel.
In September, 2010, Staff Sergeant Brian Mast, a bomb technician in Special Operations Command serving in Afghanistan, lost both his legs and part of one hand in an explosion. The highly decorated veteran – Mast has been awarded numerous medals for Valor, Merit and Sacrifice, including the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, Purple Heart, and Defense Meritorious Service Medal – was suddenly, after 12 years in the US military, unable to continue in active service.
Yet in an exclusive Aish.com interview Mast insists that being wounded was a turning point in his life, rather than an ending. “Since being injured, life has been an absolutely positive journey,” he explains. “From the moment I woke up in Walter Reed hospital I’ve witnessed the great lengths that people will go to help wounded veterans.”
“Since being injured, life has been an absolutely positive journey.”
From hand-made quilt covers to “Warriors to Wall Street” that offers career advice in the financial industry, Mast discovered an endless array of volunteer initiatives channeling their talents to aid others. He was overcome with gratitude. “It made me want to give my own back,” he recalls.

Video: What is Jewish Prayer?
by Mrs. Lori Palatnik
It's not Simon Says. It's talking to God from the heart.
View Video

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Post  Admin on Fri 09 Jan 2015, 1:16 am

The Paris Terror Attack
by Yvette Alt Miller
A long history of threats and violence, against Charlie Hebdo and other targets, has too often been minimized and ignored.

In the hours after the brutal assault on a newspaper office in the center of France – one of the largest mass attacks on European soil since World War II – the world struggled to understand how such a barbarous assault could have taken place.
On the quiet afternoon of January 7, 2015 three heavily armed men – French police would later identify them as two brothers and a third man, all French nationals, who returned to France after fighting in Syria’s brutal civil war – approached the offices of the weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, in central Paris. They shot the armed police officer standing guard outside, forced a terrified employee who had just returned from picking up her young child from daycare to enter the office’s entrance code, and unleashed a bloodbath, shooting employees with meticulous, military-style precision. By the time they escaped several minutes later – and after shooting a policeman who confronted them outside - 12 people lay dead and much of France was in shock.
“I don’t understand how people can attack a newspaper with heavy weapons,” said the dazed Editor-in-Chief Girard Biard, who was visiting London and so escaped the massacre. “We are shocked and surprised that something like this could happen in the center of Paris,” echoed Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Grand Mosque in Paris. As evening approached, crowds of astonished and grieving people formed spontaneous demonstrations, expressing solidarity with the murdered journalists, and seeking an outlet for their heartache and distress.
Charlie Hebdo would seem an unlikely symbol to unify so many people. The newspaper is aggressively offensive, mocking politicians, the establishment, celebrities and religion. One French friend of mine characterized it as “equal opportunity” offensive. Virtually every group has been the target of its nasty humor at some point, including Catholics, Jews, and Muslims. When the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published offensive pictures of the Prophet Mohammed in 2006, sparking protests and riots around the world, Chalie Hebdo reprinted the cartoons – and added some of its own, as well. A 2011 edition was supposedly guest-edited by Mohammed (complete with another offensive cartoon); the current issues’ cover story celebrates a new French novel that many have characterized as an anti-Muslim screed.
The sight of crowds of grieving people reminded me of a premise from a novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Chronicle of a Death Foretold. This book tells the story of two brothers who announce their intentions to murder another young man in their town. Even though they repeatedly state their intensions, few believe them. Local officials are convinced they are bluffing and ordinary citizens fail to take them seriously. By the time the violence takes place, the entire town is complicit.
As in this fictional tale, a long history of threats and violence – both against Charlie Hebdo and other targets – has too often been minimized and ignored.
Charlie Hebdo itself is no stranger to violence. On November 2, 2011, just after it announced its “Mohammed-edited” issue, its offices were firebombed. (The attack occurred in the early morning hours and resulted in no casualties.) In 2012, French officials begged the magazine not to publish more offensive Mohammed cartoons. When the magazine insisted on going ahead, France closed embassies, consulates, schools and cultural centers in over a dozen Muslim countries for fear of attack. “We want to laugh at the extremists,” a journalist said at the time, explaining his magazine’s indifference to potential reprisals over its offensive humor.
Editor Stephane Charbonnier, who’d received death threats for years – and was listed as a marked man by an al-Qaeda magazine in 2013 – was living under police protection at the time of his murder. The magazine retained an armed guard by its door and even joked about its status as a target for terror. (A cartoon in the current issue depicts a terrorist saying “Still no attacks in France – wait, we have until the end of January to present our New Year’s wishes.”)
The threats were no laughing matter. Like the brothers in Chronicle of a Death Foretold, they announced their intentions loud and clear – and repeatedly – for all to hear.
One came in September 2014, when an Isis tape advised sympathisers around the world: “If you are not able to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman or any of their allies. Smash his head with a rock or slaughter him with a knife or run him over with your car or throw him down from a high place or choke him or poison him.” On November 19, another Isis video, made in French this time, urged sympathisers to target the French: “Terrorize them and do not allow them to sleep due to fear and horror. There are weapons and cars available and targets ready to be hit... poison the water and food.... and run them over with your cars....”
In May 2014, four people were murdered in a Jewish museum in Brussels by a French national who had fought for Isis in Syria. On December 21, 2014, 11 people were injured when a man yelling jihadist slogans drove his car into a crowd of pedestrians in the French city of Dijon; two days later, a dozen were injured when another driver ploughed his car into French holiday shoppers in the French town of Nantes. These were not unforeseen events; these acts have been calmly planned, announced and too often, ignored.
Violence is rarely unforeseen. All too often it is not taken seriously enough by civilized people. It can seem bizarre and far-fetched to contemplate people willing to perpetrate horrific acts of violence; it’s much more comforting to tell ourselves that people can’t possibly mean it when they make these threats, that those promising to kill and maim must be exaggerating their evil intentions. As the attack in Paris shows, we ignore these warnings at our peril.
Iran has stated its intention to “wipe Israel off the map.” In January 2015, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told a crowd of supporters of his plans to attack Israel: “We will develop our weapons so that our missiles will reach as far as possible and hit targets at sea, on land, and in the air.” In November 2014, the head of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, made his intentions clear: “Southern Lebanon is prepared to fight (Israel).... We are not afraid of war...we are a threat to Israel.” Even the supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority had its own message to Israel in July 2014, when it took possession of a new type of military equipment. Over images of a man holding a missile launcher, a video intones: “A message to the Israeli government and the Israeli people: Death will reach you from the south to the north.... The KN-103 rocket is on its way toward you.”
It’s tempting to dismiss these and other threats as empty hyperbole. The carnage in Paris unfortunately reminds us that when individuals announce their plans to kill and maim we must take their threats at face value.

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Post  Admin on Fri 02 Jan 2015, 10:40 am

Jews Don’t Say Happy New Year
What’s the best wish for the new year?
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech         
Ever notice that Jews don’t traditionally wish each other “happy new year”?
Instead we say the Hebrew phrase “shanah tovah” which — in spite of the mistaken translation that appears on almost all greeting cards — has no connection at all to the expression “have a happy new year.”
Shanah tovah conveys the hope for a good year rather than a happy one. And the reason for that distinction contains great significance.

This past January, the Atlantic Monthly had a fascinating article titled There’s More to Life than Being Happy. The author, Emily Esfahani Smith, points out how researchers are beginning to caution against the pursuit of mere happiness. They found that a meaningful life and a happy life overlap in certain ways, but are ultimately very different. Leading a happy life, the psychologists found, is associated with being a "taker" while leading a meaningful life corresponds with being a "giver."
"Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desire are easily satisfied and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided," the author writes.

Happy people get joy from receiving while people leading meaningful lives get joy from giving to others.
She quotes Kathleen Vohs, one of the authors of a new study to be published this year in The Journal of Positive Psychology: "Happy people get joy from receiving benefits from others while people leading meaningful lives get a lot of joy from giving to others." In other words, meaning transcends the self while happiness is all about giving the self what it wants.

According to Roy Baumeister, the lead researcher of the study, “What sets human beings apart from animals is not the pursuit of happiness, which occurs all across the natural world, but the pursuit of meaning, which is unique to humans.”
Long before all of these studies, Jews somehow understood this intuitively. Happy is good, but good is better.

To hope for a happy new year is to give primacy to the ideal of a hedonistic culture whose greatest goal is “to have a good time.” To seek a good year however is to recognize the superiority of meaning over the joy of the moment.

The word “good” has special meaning in the Torah. The first time we find it used is in the series of sentences where God, after each day of creation, views his handiwork and proclaims it “good”. More, when God completed his work he saw all that he had done “and behold it was very good.”
What does that mean? In what way was the world good? Surely it was not in any moral sense that it was being praised. The commentators offer a profound insight. The word good indicates that every part of creation fulfilled God’s purpose: it was good because it was what it was meant to be.

That is the deepest meaning of the word good when it is applied to us and to our lives. We are good when we achieve our purpose; our lives are good when they fulfill what they are meant to be.
We know many people of whom it can be said that they had good lives in spite of their having had to endure great unhappiness. Indeed, the truly great chose lives of sacrifice over pleasure and left a legacy of inspiration and achievement that they never could have accomplished had they been solely concerned with personal gratification.

A shanah tovah, a good year, from a spiritual perspective, is far more blessed than a simply happy one.
Meaning Leads to Happiness
A shanah tovah may not emphasize happiness, yet it is the most certain way to ultimately achieve happiness.
Because another powerful idea discovered by contemporary psychologists is that happiness most often is the byproduct of a meaningful life. It’s precisely when we don’t go looking for it and are willing to set it aside in the interest of a loftier goal that we find it unexpectedly landing on us with a force that we never considered possible.

Happiness is the byproduct of a meaningful life.

You would think that acquiring ever more money would make people happier. There are millions of people ready to testify from their own experience that it just isn’t so. But if getting more won’t do it, what will? Social scientists have come to a significant conclusion: while having money doesn’t automatically lead to happiness, giving it away almost always achieves that goal!
The prestigious Science magazine (March, 2008) tells us that new research reveals when individuals dole out money for gifts for friends or charitable donations they get a boost in happiness while those who spend on themselves get no such cheery lift. “We wanted to test our theory that how people spend their money is at least as important as how much money they earn,” said Elizabeth Dunn, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia. What they discovered was that personal spending had no link with a person’s happiness, while spending on others and charity was significantly related to a boost in happiness.

“Regardless of how much income each person made,” Dunn said, “those who spent money on others reported greater happiness, while those who spent more on themselves did not.”
In a fascinating experiment, researchers gave college students a $5 or $20 bill, asking them to spend the money by that evening. Half the participants were instructed to spend the money on themselves, and the remaining students were told to spend it on others. Participants who spent the windfall on others — which included toys for siblings and meals eaten with friends — reported feeling happier at the end of the day than those who spent the money on themselves. Spending as little as $5 on other people produced a measurable surge in happiness on a given day, while purchasing supposedly pleasure -gratifying personal items produced almost no change in mood.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all that people find giving money away very rewarding,” Aaron Ahuvia, associate professor of marketing at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, explained. “People spend a lot of money to make their lives feel meaningful, significant and important. When you give away money you are making that same kind of purchase, only you are doing it in a more effective way.” He added, “What you’re really trying to buy is meaning to life.”
Meaning is our ultimate goal; in our pursuit of the “good” life we will discover the reward of true happiness.

So shana tova, may you have a year filled with meaning and purpose. And happiness that will surely follow.
Published: August 31, 2013 

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Post  Admin on Sun 21 Dec 2014, 10:33 pm

Sony's Surrender to Terror
The greatest enemy of civilization is appeasement to evil.
The Sony Corporation just lost over 200 million dollars, but we may have lost something far more precious.
The story just came to a dramatic conclusion as the studio which produced the as yet unreleased movie, “The interview”, threw in the towel. They abandoned all plans for distribution of the film in which they had invested a small fortune. After being hacked by agents of the North Korean government, upset over the story line which mocked their glorious leader Kim Jong, Sony found itself threatened with a 9/11 style attack on moviegoers unless it pulled the plug on the film’s showings. Major movie chains all canceled out of fear for their theaters.

Sony's Capitulation
by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
Is America letting the terrorists win?
Lots of folks are pondering the implications of the cancelled release of The Interview, Sony's satirical film about the assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
The saga began this past summer, when North Korea's state-run news agency promised "stern" and "merciless" retaliation if the film were released. In response, Hollywood executives ordered that thousands of images be digitally altered to avoid offending North Korea.
The appeasement did not work. Last month, Sony's computer system was hacked, ostensibly by those operating on behalf of North Korea. When the hackers – citing 9/11 – threatened to attack any theater screening the film, the film's stars canceled a series of promotional appearances and Sony pulled its television advertising. The next day, movie theaters cancelled their distribution agreements.

Harry Potter and Jewish Values
by Yvette Alt Miller
News of a Jewish wizard at Hogwarts reminded me of 5 Jewish values reflected in the series of books.
It’s official. Astute readers of the Harry Potter series have long suspected Harry’s friend and ally Anthony Goldstein might be Jewish (living at Hogwarts with a kosher meal plan). Now author JK Rowling has confirmed the matter, tweeting a Jewish fan who enquired if there were any Jews in the books: “Anthony Goldstein. Ravenclaw. Jewish wizard.” The next day Ms. Rowling enigmatically suggested the possibility of a minyan at Hogwarts: “Anthony isn’t the first Jewish student, nor is he the only one. I just have reasons for knowing most about him!”

Anorexia and My Need for Perfection
by Kayla Rosen
I had to be the skinniest, the prettiest, and the smartest. Otherwise, I was nothing.
“I felt alone. I couldn’t tell anyone because I was ashamed of what I was going through. In my community, eating disorders are seen as a materialistic, self-induced plea for attention and popularity. Especially anorexia. I wanted to hide, to disappear into myself even more. And that just caused me to lose more and more weight, while hating myself for who I had become.”

Harvard & SodaStream
by Alan M. Dershowitz
Harvard's president stops an anti-Israel boycott against SodaStream.
The Harvard University Dining Service has been rebuffed in its efforts to join the Boycott Movement against Israel. A group of radical anti-Israel Harvard students and faculty had persuaded the dining service to boycott SodaStream, an Israeli company that manufactures soda machines that produce a product that is both healthy and economical. But Harvard President Drew Faust rebuffed this boycott and decided to investigate the unilateral action of the Harvard University Dining Services.

Video: Gossip & Capitulation

by Rabbi Yaakov Salomon
Two lessons from the Sony debacle.

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Post  Admin on Wed 10 Dec 2014, 8:44 pm

Obsessed with the Holocaust
by Ruchama King Feuerman
It's crazy, I know, but I often imagine another Holocaust is right around the corner.
Once, when my youngest was going through a miserable teething bout, yelling ad infinitum, crying to no end that piercing baby cry, I randomly thought: What if we were in an underground bunker in Warsaw or Kovno? What if someone had taken us in to hide us? Would my baby and I have been thrown out? Would comrades have smothered her, God forbid? Then I stopped and had to ask myself, Isn’t it weird to be thinking like this?
I ran the obsessive thought past my husband, expecting him to dismiss it, but then he admitted the same idea had crossed his mind.
Is this just a reflex of being Jewish?

My Moment at the Kotel
by Jessie Wilson
God, I want to know what can I get here that I can't get anywhere else?
I sniffled a little as I drove off and left the kids with doting grandparents to meet my husband at the airport where we would embark on our much awaited adventure to Israel, ten long years after our first visit. As I drove to the airport I thought that there were still so many things that could go wrong that would prevent us from leaving. I had to find a place to park somewhere in the city and take a shuttle to the airport, hauling both my husband’s and my own luggage. I had to make it through security not totally sure if I had even brought along the correct paperwork for our paper-less tickets. I had to find my husband somewhere past security, assuming his connecting plane to meet me hadn't gotten delayed.

10 Ways to Make December More Jewish
by Yvette Alt Miller
Helping kids enjoy being Jewish during December: and all year round.
“My daughter is obsessed with all the holiday activities in her school,” a friend recently told me. Another friend confided that her children were begging their Jewish parents to buy a Christmas tree. Each year the “December Dilemma” – the task of guiding our kids through the season of other people’s holidays – gets tougher. How can we balance our children’s enjoyment of the season with pride in being Jewish?

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Post  Admin on Sat 06 Dec 2014, 7:03 pm

What Will They Say About You?
by Rabbi Daniel Cohen
What would your children say about you at your funeral?
The story is told of Alfred Nobel, the chemist who invented dynamite. When his brother Ludvig passed away, a French newspaper mistakenly wrote an obituary about Alfred entitled "The Merchant of Death." Shocked that he was viewed as the curator of death, Alfred did some soul searching and decided to leave a different mark on the world by endowing the Nobel Prize with his wealth.
Alfred Nobel had the advantage of seeing his eulogy in print. It was his wake up call and he chose to alter his life and legacy.
We rarely get that kind of preview to hear another person's perception of us at the end of our lives.
In truth, such awakenings abound. How often do we leave a funeral and ask ourselves, "What will they say about me?" 

Why I Want a Large Family
by Eliana Cline
The blessing of growing up in a home with many siblings.
“So, do you have kids? How many do you have?”
Working in waspy IT firm, this question was a common ice breaker. Coffee breaks were often spent sharing daily challenges of sleepless nights and debating how to achieve the mythical work-family balance. The three questions were predictable. How many kids do you have? How many do you want? And how many siblings do you have?
The answers, for the most part, were also predictable. Most people had one or two children, and didn’t want more. The director had three girls, but that was only because he wanted a son.
My answer to the third question never failed to raise eyebrows. “You have six siblings?!”

Kalman Levine: In Memoriam
by Emuna Braverman
Making the pain personal.
I had a good friend around 33 years ago. I say “had” not because there was any rift between us but circumstances and distance got in the way and we lost touch. There were no hard feelings and the good memories remain – of learning together in Jerusalem, of laughing together in Jerusalem, of the big cookies she always had in the glass jar on her counter, of the sheva brachos she and her then-husband hosted for us.
When we moved to Los Angeles, they had briefly preceded us and we took up residence in their apartment while looking for our own. I was newly expecting and nauseated and…well I’ll spare you the details…but she was a good hostess and a good friend. Like I said we lost touch but we kept the memories.

Do Opposites Attract?
by Rosie Einhorn, L.C.S.W. and Sherry Zimmerman, J.D., M.Sc. and Sherry Zimmerman
We've really hit it off, but there are a number of differences that concern me and do not concern her.
Dear Rosie and Sherry,
Recently, I met a beautiful local girl. We hit it off straight away and have started dating, despite a number of differences between us.
For example, she is not religious like I am but claims to be "spiritual". Also, unlike the few past relationships I have had, I see her nowhere near as often as I'd like due to her preference of staying home most nights with her family, but despite her residing extremely close to me. Thirdly, as there is an age difference of several years between us, we have different natures of friends. My friends are adults in their late twenties who want to settle down and focus on creating a home and family. Her friends are mostly young adults who more often than not enjoy going out to dinners and various festivities. We don't mix our circle of friends either.

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Post  Admin on Sat 06 Dec 2014, 6:45 pm

Photos of the Last Remaining Synagogues in the Muslim World
by Hyacinth Mascarenhas

11 beautiful photos of shuls that were once home to thriving Jewish communities.
Faith has long inspired some of the most remarkable architecture around the world.
In Judaism, the synagogue is seen as more than just a physical building: It is a central address and institution for the expression of Jewish identity and traditions, embedded in the social fabric of Jewish communities.
These synagogues were once scattered across the Middle East and North Africa and were home to thriving and flourishing Jewish populations, some dating back to ancient times. Since the creation of Israel in 1948 and the 1967 Six-Day War, however, these numbers have dwindled due to persecution and subsequent emigration, leaving behind only a few thousand Jews in the Arab world. Small clusters of Jews can still be found in Muslim-majority countries, including Egypt, Lebanon, Iran and Tunisia.
Along with this diaspora, the few remaining synagogues stand as reminders of the once-thriving Jewish populations in Muslim-majority countries and offer us a glimpse into the unique Arab-Jewish identity in the Middle East.
We've compiled a list of some of the most gorgeous synagogues and temples in Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East, spanning from Iran to Morocco:
1. Eliyahu Hanavi Sephardic, Egypt
The 150-year-old Eliyahu Hanavi Sephardic synagogue in Alexandria, Egypt, is one of the largest synagogues in the Middle East and boasts towering Italian marble columns and seating for more than 700 people, offering us a unique glimpse into what the once-vibrant Jewish community was like in its prime.

2. Ashkenazi Synagogue, Turkey
Designed by Italian architect Gabriel Tedeschi, Ashkenazi Synagogue is located in Istanbul, Turkey, and was opened in 1900 for Jewish immigrants from Poland and Macedonia. The wooden black ark is carved with letters of the Hebrew alphabet and was brought from Kiev. It is also the country's only Ashkenazi synagogue.

3. Slat Alfassiyine, Morocco
Located in Fez, Morocco, one of the world's oldest medieval cities, this 17th-century synagogue was reopened early last year following a two-year restoration project. It is an "eloquent testimony to the spiritual wealth and diversity of the Kingdom of Morocco and its heritage," according to Moroccan King Mohammed VI.
Islamist Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane represented King Mohammed VI in an inauguration ceremony marking the completion of a 17th century synagogue restoration project in Fez yesterday.
In 2011, when a new constitution was adapted, the king said that Jewish places of worship throughout Morocco should be restored, even as the Arab spring roared across North Africa.The newly renovated Slat Alfassiyine synagogue in the heart of one of the world’s oldest medieval cities, the country’s cultural and spiritual nucleus, symbolizes how seriously he took that mandate.

4. Shaar Hashomayim, Egypt
One of the largest Jewish temples in Egypt, the Shaar Hashomayim synagogue, which means "Gates of Heaven," was built in 1905. Also known as Adly Street Temple and Ismailiya Temple, the architecture of this synagogue resembles ancient Egyptian temples, and is engraved with lotus flowers and plants on its outer walls.

5. Temple Beth-El, Morocco
Located in Casablanca, Morocco, Temple Beth-El is one of the largest synagogues in the country, and is the religious and social center of the city's Jewish community.

6. Neve Shalom, Turkey
Dating back to the 1930s, Neve Shalom, which means "Oasis of Peace," is Istanbul's largest synagogue. Tragically, it has also been the target of numerous brutal attacks by anti-Jewish extremists in recent decades.

7. Magen Abraham, Lebanon
This building is the last remaining synagogue in Beirut, Lebanon. After the last rabbi departed in 1975, the synagogue suffered severe structural damage during Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war. However, repairs began in 2009 and the interior has now been restored to its original state, with sky-blue walls and arched windows.

8. El Ghriba, Tunisia
Believed to date back almost 1,900 years, the El Ghriba synagogue in Tunisia, 500 kilometers south of Tunis, is Africa's oldest synagogue. Last year the synagogue hosted hundreds of Jews from Europe, Israel and Africa in a three-day pilgrimage guarded by armed Tunisian police.

9. Zarzis Synagogue, Tunisia
Home to a small Jewish community of around 100 people, this synagogue is located in Zarzis, Tunisia. Built in the early 20th century, the building was once host to a community of about 1,000 people. In 1982 the synagogue was torched shortly after the Israeli occupation of Lebanon, and the community's Torah scrolls were destroyed before the building was restored.
Zarzis is home to a Jewish community of around 100 people, all living in the Jewish quarter of the city near the central market.
Many have jewelry shops and run other businesses such as carpentry and the Shimon Haddad and sons general store, the shop sells natural remedies and other miscellaneous products.
The community is served by the Zarzis Synagogue, built in the early 20th century to host the local Jewish community that numbered approximately1000 people at the time.
The synagogue was subject to an arson attack in 1982 that followed the Israeli incursion into Lebanon before it was restored to its original status. Prayers are read in the synagogue every Saturday morning and the synagogue hosts a Yeshiva, a Jewish Torah learning school during the week. The synagogue has a distinctive Andalusian architectural style.

10. Pol-e-Choubi Synagogue, Iran
Iran's population of 75 million includes about 20,000 Jews, the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside Israel. The Pol-e-Choubi synagogue in located in Tehran, Iran.

11. Ben Ezra, Egypt
Located in Old Cairo, the Ben Ezra was not only an important center of prayer and celebration for Jews in Egypt since the 10th century. Often referred to as El-Geniza Synagogue, it was also site of the 19th-century discovery of the Cairo Geniza, considered to be "the most important source for understanding daily religious, communal and intellectual life around the Mediterranean during the medieval period."
According to local legend, the synagogue is said to be built on the exact place where Moses was found near the river shore.

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Post  Admin on Wed 03 Dec 2014, 12:15 am

On the Question of Palestine
by Ron Prosor
The speech by Israel's ambassador at the UN General Assembly is a cogent overview of modern Israeli history. Share widely.
Speech to the UN General Assembly, November 24, 2014
I stand before the world as a proud representative of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. I stand tall before you knowing that truth and morality are on my side. And yet, I stand here knowing that today in this Assembly, truth will be turned on its head and morality cast aside.
The fact of the matter is that when members of the international community speak about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a fog descends to cloud all logic and moral clarity. The result isn’t realpolitik, its surreal politik.
The world’s unrelenting focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an injustice to tens of millions of victims of tyranny and terrorism in the Middle East. As we speak, Yazidis, Bahai, Kurds, Christians and Muslims are being executed and expelled by radical extremists at a rate of 1,000 people per month.

Creating Light during Darkness
by Eliana Cline
4 positive responses when you find yourself submerged in physical or spiritual darkness.
Living in South Africa, we have most 21st century conveniences like high-speed internet, running water and electricity, despite the abhorrent government services and rampant corruption. But recently, due to a gross lack of resource planning and foresight, our national power grid has been unable to provide sufficient electricity for the country. The result is both unplanned and planned load-shedding where power is suspended for hours on end. The resulting darkness is annoying, frustrating and damaging.
Likewise, the Jewish world has been experiencing times of darkness. From the kidnapping and murder of our three boys, to the dozens of soldiers who died in Operation Protective Edge and the most recent Har Nof massacre, our collective psyche is reeling from pain and loss.
We can learn from the varied responses to both situations, when physical light is taken away and when our spiritual world feels dark and gloomy.

JEWLARIOUS Jewish humor, arts and entertainment
Dedicated in blessed memory of Richard Allen Julis 
who made us laugh and made us better Jews.
Mockingjay Part I
by Mark Papers
For a nation fighting a war, how do they get like minded people in the other parts of the world to support them? It's not the justness of their cause. It's how well they can manipulate the media.
This might not be a secret to most of my readers, but I like movies. What I don’t love is the news.
Of course, some days, trying to not pay attention to the news is like trying to stuff a bouquet of helium balloons into your trunk. Especially with some of the recent stories coming out of Israel.

Video: Jtube: Real Time with Bill Maher
by Bill Maher
What makes someone "seem Jewish"?

FUNNY Money Talks
Judy's 10 Commandments for Saving Money

Video: A Broken Body Isn't a Broken Person
by Janine Shepherd and TED Talks
A former Olympian is forced to rethink the meaning of her life after a crippling accident ends her career.
View Video

Video: Online Dating: Beware
by Rabbi Yaakov Salomon
Does it really lead to marriage?

Video: Our Man on Al Jazeera
by Aish.com staff
Mordechai Kedar: defending Israel in Arabic.

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Post  Admin on Sun 30 Nov 2014, 9:02 pm

Life with Arabs in Jerusalem
by Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith
The Har Nof massacre has stripped away the veneer of security, leaving us feeling vulnerable.
Jerusalem has gotten a bit scarier the last couple of months. Israeli authorities are not  officially calling it the third intifada, but living in our nation’s capital is not as tranquil as it used it to be. After a spate of terror attacks by lone drivers (right around the corner from where I live), the horrific massacre in Har Nof’s largest shul, and two men being stabbed by Arab assailants near Jaffa Gate, (five minutes after I walked by that very spot), fear has gripped the city. It’s just been reported that the Shin Bet foiled a Hamas plot to attack Teddy Stadium. There is a shortage of pepper spray (which my wife and kids now carry) and a greater mistrust toward Arabs living and working in the city due to fears that they may be the next terrorist who goes on a rampage.

Video: The Ferguson Riots: A Non-Political Lesson
by Rabbi Tzvi Sytner
What is the connection between anger and looting?

Video: Responding to the Har Nof Massacre
by Mrs. Lori Palatnik
We may not understand the why, but we do need to know what we are going to do about it.

Ambassador for Israel
by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
A tribute to Charley Levine, the Israeli-Texan PR giant.
Charley Levine, who passed away in Jerusalem last week at the young age of 62 from an aneurism, was a trailblazing Israeli-American PR professional who for decades was the "go-to" media advisor for a panoply of influencers – from Shimon Peres to Mike Huckabee, Hillary Clinton to Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Waldorf Astoria to Microsoft.

Fighting Jihad with Education
by Dr. Shmuel Katz
A guide for the concerned global citizen.
In this time of great danger – with Iran threatening Israel with nuclear annihilation, and jihadists on borders north and south – Israel's efforts to tell its story to the world are simply not taking hold. The classic approach of explanatory "hasbara" has repeatedly failed to break through the clutter of disinformation.
It is time for a new approach – one in which the world understands that they also have “skin in the game.”
The Middle East conflict is not simply "Arab versus Jew." Rather this is a "holy war" being waged by jihadists against all people of good will – Jews, Christians and moderate Muslims.
The key, I believe, is education. Once good people are informed about the facts, we have a much better chance of standing up to evil and achieving our mission of keeping the world free.

Calling for Palestinian Forward Thinking
by George Deek
The unique perspective of Israel's vice-ambassador to Norway: an Israeli-Arab.
When I walk in the streets of my home town Jaffa, I am often reminded of the year 1948. The alleys of the old city, the houses in Ajami neighborhood, the fishing nets at the port – they all seem to tell different stories about the year that changed my city forever.

Notes from an Ex-Agnostic
by Shoshana
Sometimes believing is seeing.
I was driving down the road one bleak February morning, feeling immersed in a monochromatic world. The gray road snaked its way around a rocky gray hillside. To my left, a large gray river moved sullenly in its path. Gray concrete buildings blended into a sky that was – you guessed it – gray.
And then I asked myself a question: What if God exists?

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Post  Admin on Fri 28 Nov 2014, 11:24 pm

Calling for Palestinian Forward Thinking
by George Deek
The unique perspective of Israel's vice-ambassador to Norway: an Israeli-Arab.
When I walk in the streets of my home town Jaffa, I am often reminded of the year 1948. The alleys of the old city, the houses in Ajami neighborhood, the fishing nets at the port – they all seem to tell different stories about the year that changed my city forever.

At Home in Jerusalem
by C.B. Gavant
A shiva call reminds me why I live in Jerusalem, despite the fear.
Last night I dreamed that I was in my hometown Baltimore, trying to catch a bus to take me to my destination. The bus pulled up and I realized that it wouldn’t take me there after all. Silly me, I thought in my dream, you don’t take buses in Baltimore. Of course, the city has public transportation, but I’d grown up in suburbia where everyone has a car.

Six Ways to Instill Perseverance
by Adina Soclof
Helping kids keep on going, when the going gets tough.
Teaching kids to persevere when things are tough seems to be a huge problem for parents in the modern era. Kids seem to fall apart at the first sign of adversity, and parents are having a hard time moving their kids forward through these everyday challenges.
In order for children to grow into responsible and emotionally-healthy adults, they need a "can-do attitude." Making mistakes, getting stuck and pushing through is an essential part of learning how to cope, gain confidence, grow and finally succeed in life.

Groggy Morning Emails
by Emuna Braverman
How my day got ruined by one annoying message.
I woke up early this morning, imagining how productive I would be before the phone started ringing and all the loud demands of the day interrupted my concentration. I no longer have small children at home – you know, the ones with that unerring instinct about when you wake up early, expecting some free (or me) time and get up early as well – so I felt justified in anticipating this quiet time.
But I made a classic mistake. (Is it classic if a result of relatively new technology?!) I checked my emails before beginning to write/think. There was one annoying email in my inbox and my day was thrown off.

Jacob vs. Esau, Part I: The Two Roles
by Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld
Unravelling one of the most cryptic episodes of the entire Torah.
The story of Jacob and Esau is one of the most perplexing sagas of the entire Torah. From a young age, Jacob developed into the diligent Torah student, dwelling in the tents of study. Esau, by contrast, is described as an idler and hunter, a man of violence who lived by his might and conquest. Our Sages describe him as a murderer, idolater and womanizer all rolled into one. Reading the opening account of their lives (Genesis 25:27), we would have little question who should be the progenitor of the Jewish people.

The Morality Business
by Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt
Live and let live is not a Jewish value.
Vayetzei(Genesis 28:10-32:3)
The Morality Business
In this week's Torah portion, Jacob arrives in Haran and meets some shepherds. He notices that they are sitting around chatting and immediately admonishes them: If you are working for someone, then you are being paid to tend that person's sheep, not to sit and talk. And if you are self-employed, you should get on with life. Either way, you shouldn't be sitting around doing nothing.
It turns out that these men were waiting to water their sheep, and could not do so until there were enough of them to remove a rock from over the well. Jacob single-handedly moves the rock and allows them to get on with shepherding.

Way #31: Seek The Ultimate Pleasure
by Rabbi Noah Weinberg
Even with lots of money and power, no human being is truly satisfied without the transcendent dimension.
We all have moments of being struck by the awesomeness of life – whether the birth of a baby, a canopy of stars above, a piece of majestic music, or a breathtaking sunset.
These experiences are both energizing and calming at the same time. They enable us to break beyond our own limitations and to merge our (relatively) tiny, insignificant selves with the greater infinite unity.
If God's creation can have such an impact on us, how much more would an experience with the Creator Himself.
Consider someone travelling the world seeking exciting experiences. Now tell him: "In the next room, you can sit down and speak to God Almighty Himself for an entire hour."
Wouldn't that be the ultimate experience?

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Post  Admin on Sun 23 Nov 2014, 6:49 pm

From the Four Widows
by Sara Debbie Gutfreund
In the midst of the most horrific nightmare, these righteous women are reaching out to the Jewish world with a message of hope
.After the horrific attack in the shul in Har Nof last week, I couldn’t sleep for the next few nights. I couldn’t stop thinking about the widows and the orphans. I couldn’t stop thinking of the nightmarish scene of that morning. The chaos, the pain, the sheer shock of the immensity of the loss.

Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky: Big Man with a Big Heart
by Rabbi Moshe Cohen
Fighting the terrorists in the Har Nof shul, he undoubtedly saved many people's lives.
Aryeh Kupinsky was a big man with a long, red beard. He towered over almost everyone. But what really made him stand out was that he always had a big smile.
Aryeh was a doer, always in motion. Long legs taking great strides, powerful arms reaching out with great sweeping gestures. And what was Aryeh doing? He was always helping someone. He lived for others. His first thought was never for himself.

Rabbi Moshe Twersky: Students Speak
by Rabbi Shlomo Buxbaum and Rabbi Gavriel Friedman
Two Aish rabbis recollect studying with Rabbi Twersky.
Shlomo Buxbaum: Friday Nights with Rabbi Twersky
Rabbi Twersky was brutally murdered on November 18th in an attack on his Synagogue while he was wrapped in Tallis and tefillin and immersed in prayer. His loss is a terrible one for the Jewish people.
Rabbi Twersky reigned from two dynasties.

The Murder of Zidan Saif
by Jeff Jacoby
The Jewish state's newest hero wasn't Jewish.
By the thousands they streamed to Yanuh-Jat, Israelis of every description making their way on Wednesday to the remote northern Galilee district, where a fallen hero was to be buried with full honors. Israel's president, Reuven Rivlin, was there to pay his respects; so were the minister of internal security and the nation's top police commissioner. From around the country, hundreds of black-hatted haredi ("ultra-Orthodox") Jews came on chartered buses, disembarking to join throngs of Arabic-speaking Druze in traditional white turbans, police officers in dress blues, and so many other mourners that even the roofs of nearby homes were crowded with onlookers.

(Not So) Ordinary Har Nof
by Ira T. Berkowitz
Har Nof is unremarkable on the outside, but extraordinary from the inside.
I live in Har Nof, a neighborhood on the western edge of Jerusalem, far from the usual hot spots. Har Nof itself is a little dull. It isn’t well-planned and brimming with promise like some of the newer Israeli towns. Nor does it have the character of the older Jerusalem neighborhoods. It isn’t quaint with cobblestone streets like bohemian Nachlaot, nor is it otherworldly and labyrinthine like Meah Shearim. It’s just a predominantly Orthodox neighborhood, about thirty years old, with dozens of clunky, limestone-faced apartment buildings and very little open space

Video: Where Was God During the Har Nof Massacre?
by Rabbi Yaakov Salomon
It's okay to ask this question.

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Post  Admin on Fri 21 Nov 2014, 8:49 am

Terror in the Synagogue
by Sara Debbie Gutfreund
Gaining some perspective on an unfathomable tragedy.
But we can learn to feel the loss the way we should as a nation.
As if the fathers were our own.
As if the orphaned children are ours.
As if the newly widowed wives are our sisters.
Because they are. The Jewish people are one family, and the pain echoes around the world as we mourn this horrific attack.
Pray for those who are injured. Pray for those who have lost loved ones. Every tear, every prayer, every Jew who mourns makes a difference. Because the one thing that is always true about tragedy is that it reminds us how much we all need each other.

Fighting for Life in Har Nof
by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller
When my grandson and son-in-law got caught in the line of fire.
"Mordechai just came home from shul. He said that Arabs came in and are shooting, and that a man with an axe is hitting everyone. Some of the people threw chairs at them, but it didn't help."
My 12-year-old grandson had hit the floor along with everyone else when the bullets began to fly. He was fully aware of what was going on, and what it meant.
He somehow found the courage to let go of his father's hand, crawl towards the exit and break into a run.
Mordechai is blonde, freckled, and a soft-spoken somewhat introverted and studious boy, much like his father, Shmuli. He is not Huck Finn, and the courage he found at those moments were a gift straight from God.
By the time he finished telling Miri what happened, sirens from Hatzalah ambulances, police cars, and Magen David could be heard telling her that there were casualties.

Rejecting Despair in Har Nof
by Ayalah Haas
Today's attack will not deter my belief in the Almighty's promise.
One would think that I feel a deeper sense of despair over this latest murderous attack against Jewish civilians - which struck just a few minutes’ walk from home.
Yet I do not feel despair. I am certainly not numb to their hatred, nor naïve to our complicated and fragile existence. Yes, today my heart has sunk, and tears are falling. But I do not despair.
Today, I am exactly where I need to be: in the Land the Almighty promised to our forefathers, the Land of Israel. Since I arrived here 13 years ago, one thing has become very clear: Terrorists may not tell me that the Promised Land is theirs to barbarically rule over.
My husband, kids and I pray on a daily basis that each of us merit Divine protection.

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Post  Admin on Fri 21 Nov 2014, 8:22 am

The Jerusalem Massacre
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
Even tragedies have degrees.
Death is a misfortune. Murder is far more horrible to bear. Turned into a massacre, it shocks us into unmitigated grief.

But there was still more to the terrorist attack of this week in Israel. It happened in the holy city of Jerusalem, a place in which we are meant to feel the nearness of God. It took place in a synagogue attended by early-morning worshipers who came only to stand in the presence of the Almighty and worship the Creator of the universe.
It was carried out by those who brought axes, knives and weapons of violence into the house of God.

The victims were in the midst of the silent prayer, reverently reciting words that dream of peace, as well as the hope for a messianic time when all people dwell together in brotherhood and tranquility. They wore the phylacteries, tefillin, signs of God's closeness to our hands and our minds. Garbed in their prayer shawls they were brutally executed by those for whom their very holiness proved provocative.
Could there be anything more horrible than this?

Palestinian Response
Yet we need to weep bitter tears for another tragedy of comparable magnitude. It is the tragedy of the aftermath – the tragedy that illustrates the true horror of a crime that makes us question the right of mankind to call itself civilized.

To start, there was the response of the Arab world with whom we keep being challenged to make peace – as if we were the ones waging wars meant to annihilate us and refusing even to recognize us. No sooner did the news of the massacre become public than the Arab street began to joyously pass out sweets to their children and offer praise for the "glorious martyrs" who carried out the gruesome bloodbath. Murder of innocents needs no justification; when the victims are Jews it is a time for rejoicing.

Abbas warned not to allow Jews to "contaminate" the Temple Mount.
There was the response of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, whose name rarely appears in the media without the prefix "moderate," who gave the pro forma required regrets to the English-speaking world – while at the same time, to his own people, praising those who carried out the violence against Jews for which he has been loudly agitating these past months.
Abbas also made certain to demand an end to the "Israeli provocations" that he made clear are the cause of all Palestinian uprisings. Just a few days ago he warned that he and fellow Palestinians would not allow Jews to "contaminate" the Temple Mount, adding that allowing Jewish prayer at the site would result in a global "religious war." For the "moderate" Abbas, Jews dare not pray on the Temple Mount – or for that matter in any synagogue – with hope for safety and survival.

There was the response of Tawfik Tirawi, former chief of the Palestinian General Security in the West Bank and a member of Fatah's Central Committee, who told a radio station that the attack was "nothing but a reaction to the recent crimes of the occupation and the settlers in occupied Jerusalem and across the nation."
There was the response of Hamas, with whom humanitarians round the world demonstrated in solidarity this past summer, who in a message published on its official website, Al-Resalah, called the synagogue slaughter "a quality development in fighting the occupation" (i.e. the nonexistent occupation in Gaza) and declared: "We highly value the heroism of its operatives."
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri praised the attack on Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera as "heroic," calling for more attacks of the same sort to "stop the occupation's aggression against Islamic holy places."
There was the response of the media which continued the kind of "balanced reporting" we were treated to this past summer when Israel struggle to defend itself against rocket attacks around the country. BBC led the news with the headline "Jerusalem police fatally shoot two after apparent synagogue attack." The four murdered rabbis were apparently not worthy of mention.
CNN's headline (after first calling it an attack on a "mosque"), "Four Israelis, 2 Palestinians killed in synagogue attack, Israeli police say," left the reader to wonder whether two Palestinians were also the victims of the attack, giving moral equivalence to the terrorists and their victims.

Waiting in Vain
Far more significantly than all the above was the response from those in the forefront of criticism of Israel; from those urging the boycott of the Jewish state; from those marching in the streets of Europe because of their profound sensitivity to the plight of Palestinians; from those who ostensibly cannot keep silent in the face of injustice.

With the world's silence, the hypocrisy is revealed.

And what was their response? What was their reaction to an unprovoked slaying of rabbis with the words of God on their lips?
We wait – and we wait in vain for any outcry. But now we know. The hypocrisy is clearly revealed. It has never been about compassion for innocent Palestinians. That was merely a camouflage for anti-Semitism. The world's silence is simple. The horrific murders in Jerusalem have stirred no demonstrations, inspired no revulsion, caused no governments to denounce Arab terror.
The aftermath of the carnage makes me weep most of all – to cry for a world that still does not understand that – in failing to properly mourn for murdered Jews – it sows the seeds of its own destruction.
Published: November 18, 2014

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