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AISH  Empty Re: AISH

Post  Admin Today at 10:12 pm

https://www.aish.com/jw/s/An-Open-Letter-to-Seth-Rogen.html?s=mm
An Open Letter to Seth Rogen
Aug 1, 2020  |  by Rabbi Benjamin Blechprint article
An Open Letter to Seth Rogen
Seth, you spent an hour of prime time savaging your fellow Jews, misrepresenting Jewish history, defaming Israel and Israelis, and slandering Judaism. What gives?

Dear Seth,
I know that you’ve never claimed to be a historian, a theologian, a philosopher or a scholar. You’re a famous actor and comedian. Until last week, you pretty much stuck to the areas of your expertise.

I can’t blame you for going on Marc Maron’s podcast to plug your new movie – after all Maron has more downloads than any cable show has viewers. Your new film, An American Pickle, is a pretty far out fantasy with a Jewish “hook” that might even have an important message. It’s the story of a simple Jewish man named Herschel Greenbaum who works in a pickle factory in Brooklyn, falls into a vat of brine and stays there perfectly preserved for 100 years until he comes back to life to be with his great great grandson Ben in contemporary Brooklyn. I have no inkling how you developed the idea but to my mind it certainly would make for an interesting opportunity to focus on the link between generations as well as the mystical and miraculous reality of Jewish survival.

Seems that was wishful thinking on my part. Seth, you spent an hour of prime time with many millions of listeners savaging your fellow Jews, misrepresenting Jewish history, defaming Israel and Israelis, slandering Judaism and, in your own words, testifying that “religion is silly” and “for the preservation of the Jewish people it [Israel] makes no sense.”

I can’t help but wonder how your grandparents who taught you about the reality of anti-Semitism would feel about your performance if they could have been “pickled” and returned to life like the hero of your film. What I can tell you though is the absolute glee of Jew haters in the aftermath of your hour of shame. Mondoweiss, a left-leaning news website co-edited by journalists Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz - two Jewish founders who describe themselves as progressive and anti-Zionist - reacted to your statements with the bold headline “Israel Is Ridiculous, Antiquated and Based on Ethnic Cleansing, Seth Rogen Says, But He’s Afraid To Tell Other Jews.” But obviously not afraid enough to prevent him from sharing his views on the most listened-to podcast in the world.

You have an obligation to think before you speak and to have some familiarity with facts before you libel people.
Seth, I don’t mean to swell your ego but in a celebrity-driven culture such as ours, what you say matters, and what you claim as truth can unfortunately influence the thinking of countless people. You have an obligation to think before you speak and to have some familiarity with facts before you libel people. How terrible, you shared with millions, that you were “fed a huge amount of lies about Israel my entire life! They never tell you that – oh by the way, there were people there. They make it seem like it was just like sitting there, like the (obscenity) door’s open they forget to include the fact to every young Jewish person.”


 
I understand that you’re not a scholar, Seth. It seems that it comes as a shock to you that there were in fact people other than Jews living in Palestine. Let me explain that to you how that happened.

We just finished commemorating Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. For thousands of years Jews around the world have fasted and observed a day of mourning. We weep for what we once had. Our ancestors settled in the land God promised to Abraham in biblical times. There twelve tribes became a nation. There we had prophets who taught us as well as the rest of the world how to live lives of holiness, of justice and righteousness. And there we built a temple to the Almighty in order to bring His presence down to earth and His values and wisdom to serve as beacon for all mankind.

It was on Tisha B’Av that the Babylonians destroyed that temple and sent us into our first exile. But we wept by the rivers of Babylon and we would not forget our homeland. We returned and rebuilt. We saw the glory of yet another temple. And once again we learned that those who serve as the conscience of the world will be hated. The second Temple was destroyed by the Romans and in a striking coincidence – or as we see it the serendipity of God’s management of the universe - the date of the tragedy was once more the ninth of Av. Again we were forced into exile.

History had a remarkable sense of irony. The first Crusade was declared by Pope Urban II on July 20, 1095, leading to the death of 1.2 million Jews. The Hebrew date? Tisha B’Av. In 1492, the Golden age of Spain came to a close when Queen Isabella and her husband King Ferdinand ordered that the Jews be banished from the land “for the greater glory of the church and the Christian religion.” The edict of expulsion gave the Jews exactly four months to the day to put their affairs in order and leave the country. The Hebrew date on which no Jews were allowed any longer to remain in the land where they had enjoyed welcome and prosperity for centuries? Of course, Tisha B’Av.

And yet Jews never despaired. We never gave up on our “silly religion” or our claim to our national homeland - a place, Seth, you seem to think we don’t need because we can rely on other safe havens in spite of our history of oppression, exile and Holocaust.

When Dr. Chaim Weizmann, later to become the first president of the state of Israel, met with Lord Balfour, former prime minister of UK, and explained to him the Zionist idea, Balfour asked him why the Jews were opposed to the Uganda Plan as a substitute for Palestine. Wiseman responded: “Lord Balfour, suppose that I would offer to you Paris instead of London, would you accept?” “But,” Balfour said, “Dr. Weitzman, London is ours.”

“That’s true,” Wiseman answered, “but Jerusalem was ours when London was still a swamp.”

Seth, maybe you really should study a little more about the history of your people. Yes, other people were in Palestine. But even a Jew-hating world somehow miraculously recognized, first by way of the Balfour declaration and then with United Nations recognition, that amidst a sea of newly created Arab countries Jews had a right to at least a tiny sliver of land they could call their own, harking back to thousands of years of linkage, physical, spiritual and emotional.

The following story is probably apocryphal but its message is a truth, Seth, that should speak directly to your heart. Napoleon was once walking through the streets of Paris on Tisha B’Av. As he passed the synagogue he heard the sounds of crying and mourning. “What’s this all about?” Napoleon asked. An aide explained that the Jews were mourning for the loss of their temple. “When did this happen?”, Napoleon asked. The agent replied, “About 1700 years ago.”

Napoleon was incredulous. “Certainly a people which has mourned the loss of their temple for so long,” he said, “will merit to see it rebuilt.”

This Tisha B’Av, I wept for the two temples destroyed and the many other tragedies that were the result of horrors inflicted on us by others. I cried for the insensitivity, the thoughtlessness and – I hate to say it – the stupidity of our own people. How painful that post-Holocaust Jewry fails to recognize that suicide may be just as destructive as murder.

Seth, would you allow me to guide you and to help you find out why you are so gravely mistaken about Israel, about Judaism and about the Herschel Greenbaum you really are in the depths of your soul?

I would welcome the opportunity to learn with you.

Respectfully yours,
Benjamin Blech
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Post  Admin on Sun 02 Aug 2020, 9:09 pm

In the #NoDenyingIt campaign, Holocaust survivors ask Facebook to remove Holocaust denial.
Enough is enough. Tell Facebook to say no to Holocaust denial.
That’s the message of the new campaign launched last week #NoDenyingIt. Its message is clear: Facebook – like too many other social media platforms – has become a cesspool of Holocaust denial and it’s time we all demanded that stop. No more denying the Holocaust on Facebook, or anywhere else.
“As a result of Facebook’s refusal to categorize Holocaust denial as a form of antisemitic hate speech,” the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) recently observed, “this (Holocaust-denying) rhetoric appears across the platform, including in both public and private groups specifically devoted to the topic… an ADL review clearly found explicit denial, as well as the hate-filled and conspiratorial antisemitism common to this philosophy.”
Facebook does maintain what it terms Community Standards, and provides a lengthy list on its website of posts that violate their standards and will be removed from the platform. This includes hate speech, which Facebook defines broadly as “direct attack(s) on people based on what we call protected characteristics - race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disease or disability.”
Under these very guidelines it seems that claims the Holocaust never occurred can be considered hate speech. After all, if the Holocaust didn’t happen, then the tens of thousands of Jewish witnesses who watched as their mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and other loved ones were murdered - and told the world what happened in the Jewish ghettos and Nazi death camps - somehow must all be lying. If the Holocaust is a hoax, then the millions of Jews around the world today who continue to remember and mourn its victims would all be liars, participants in one of the greatest lies the world has ever seen.
https://www.aish.com/ci/s/Take-Holocaust-Denial-Off-Facebook.html?s=mm



https://www.aish.com/ci/s/Fear-of-Speech-is-Replacing-Freedom-of-Speech.html?s=mm
Fear of Speech is Replacing Freedom of Speech
Aug 1, 2020  |  by Jeff Jacobyprint article
Fear of Speech is Replacing Freedom of Speech
Culturally, the freedom to express unpopular views has never been more endangered.
"Freedom of Speech," the famous Norman Rockwell painting that depicts a young man addressing a local gathering, was inspired by a real event. One evening in 1942, Rockwell attended the town meeting in Arlington, Vt., where he lived for many years. On the agenda was the construction of a new school. It was a popular proposal, supported by everyone in attendance — except for one resident, who got up to express his dissenting view. He was evidently a blue-collar worker, whose battered jacket and stained fingernails set him apart from the other men in the audience, all dressed in white shirts and ties. In Rockwell's scene, the man speaks his mind, unafraid to express a minority opinion and not intimidated by the status of those he's challenging. He has no reason not to speak plainly: His words are being attended to with respectful attention. His neighbors may disagree with him, but they're willing to hear what he has to say.

What brings Rockwell's painting to mind is a new national poll by the Cato Institute. The survey found that self-censorship has become extremely widespread in American society, with 62 percent of adults saying that, given the current political climate, they are afraid to honestly express their views.
"These fears cross partisan lines," writes Emily Ekins, Cato's director of polling. "Majorities of Democrats (52 percent), independents (59 percent), and Republicans (77 percent) all agree they have political opinions they are afraid to share." The survey's 2,000 respondents sorted themselves ideologically as "very liberal," "liberal," "moderate," "conservative," or "very conservative." In every category except "very liberal," a majority of respondents feel pressured to keep their views to themselves. Roughly one-third of American adults — 32 percent — fear they could be fired or otherwise penalized at work if their political beliefs became known.

Freedom of speech has often been threatened in America, but the suppression of "wrong" opinions in the past has tended to come from the top down. It was the government that arrested editors for criticizing Woodrow Wilson's foreign policy, made it a crime to burn the flag, turned the dogs on civil rights marchers, and jailed communists under the Smith Act. Today, by contrast, dissent is rarely prosecuted. Thanks to the Supreme Court's First Amendment jurisprudence, freedom of expression has never been more strongly protected — legally.

But culturally, the freedom to express unpopular views has never been more endangered.
On college campuses, in workplaces, in the media, there are ever-widening no-go zones of viewpoints and arguments that cannot be safely expressed. Voice an opinion that self-anointed social-justice warriors regard as heretical, and the consequences can be career-destroying. The dean of the nursing school at UMass-Lowell lost her job after writing in an email that "everyone's life matters." An art curator was accused of being a racist and forced to quit for saying that his museum would "continue to collect white artists." The director of communications for Boeing apologized and resigned after an employee complained that 33 years ago he was opposed to women serving in combat.

Virtually everyone would agree that some views are indisputably beyond the pale. If there are supporters of slavery or advocates of genocide who feel inhibited from sharing their beliefs, no one much cares. But the range of opinions deemed unsayable by today's progressive thought police extends well into the mainstream. And in many cases, the most enthusiastic suppressors of debate are students, journalists, artists, intellectuals — those who in former times were the greatest champions of uninhibited speech and the greatest foes of ideological conformity.

It isn't only on the left that this totalitarian impulse to silence dissent exists. President Trump, always infuriated by criticism, has called for columnists who disparage him to be fired, hecklers at his rallies to be beaten up, and TV stations to lose their licenses if they run ads vilifying his handling of the pandemic — calls routinely amplified on social media by tens of thousands of his followers. When a Babson College professor joked that Iran ought to bomb "sites of beloved American cultural heritage" like the Mall of America and the Kardashian residence, a right-wing website launched a campaign that got him fired.

The new Cato survey found that more than one in five Americans (22 percent) would support firing a business executive who donated money to Democrat Joe Biden's presidential campaign, while 31 percent would be OK with firing someone who gave money to Trump's re-election campaign. The urge to ostracize or penalize unwelcome views isn't restricted to just one end of the spectrum.

Americans' right to free speech is shielded by the Constitution to a degree unmatched anywhere else. But our First Amendment guarantees will prove impotent if the habit of free speech is lost. For generations, Americans were raised to see debate as legitimate, desirable, and essential to democratic health. They quoted Voltaire's (apocryphal) aphorism: "I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it." Editors, publishers, satirists, and civil libertarians took to heart the dictum of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who wrote that "the principle of free thought" is meant to enshrine "not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate."

But that principle has been turned on its head. The "thought that we hate" is not tolerated but stifled. It is reviled as taboo, forbidden to be uttered. Anyone expressing it may be accused not just of giving offense, but of literally endangering those who disagree. And even if only some people lose their careers or reputations for saying something "wrong," countless others get the chilling message.

"And so dread settles in," writes journalist Emily Yoffe. "Challenging books go untaught. Deep conversations are not had. Friendships are not formed. Classmates and colleagues eye each other with suspicion."

And 62 percent of Americans fear to express what they think.

The speaker in Norman Rockwell's painting may have had something unpopular to say, but neither he nor his neighbors had any doubt that it was appropriate for him to say it. Now, such doubt is everywhere, and freedom of speech has never been more threatened.

This article originally appeared in the Boston Globe.
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Post  Admin on Tue 28 Jul 2020, 4:21 pm

Under Siege: Past and Present
Jul 27, 2020  |  by Sara Yoheved Rigler
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Under-Siege-Past-and-Present.html?s=mm
Under Siege: Past and Present
What the siege of Jerusalem teaches us about the Covid-19 siege.


When the Babylonians, and later the Romans, wanted to conquer Jerusalem, they did not mount a direct assault. The city, fortified with thick walls, was too strong for that. Instead they laid siege to the city. No one could enter or leave. After a period of time, starvation weakened the populace. And that led to infighting among the different political groups. By the time the enemy actually attacked and breached the walls, the defenders were too weak to resist.


A siege works in four stages: 1) it prohibits movement in and out, which leads to 2) people lacking basic necessities, which leads to 3) internal strife and civic unrest, which leads to 4) inability to defeat the enemy when it finally invades the city. Before the Roman army besieged Jerusalem in 70 C.E., the Jewish capitol was one of the largest cities in the ancient world, with a population of 100,000 and massive stores of grain and water. But as the siege proceeded, the Jews became even more divided into what modern parlance would call “left” and “right.” Extremists set fire to the grain storage in an effort to radicalize the moderates to fight the Romans. Starvation and internal strife so weakened the populace that by the time the Romans broke through the walls, the bonds between the Jewish inhabitants had already been severed, leading to the destruction of the Holy Temple on Tisha B’Av.


The Covid-19 pandemic has laid siege to the world.
The Covid-19 pandemic has laid siege to the world. Physical movement is restricted, with the borders of many countries closed, and whole populations prohibited from leaving their homes. The virus’s toll has been severe, with some 16,000,000 people infected and over 645,000 dead to date. Efforts to stave off the disease by lock-downs have created financial havoc. An untold number of businesses have gone bankrupt and whole industries face collapse, as the unemployment rate surges. As in the sieges of old, populations suffering for lack of their basic necessities degenerate to infighting and civic unrest. Domestic abuse has soared. This is how people act when they feel that there’s no way out.


Here in Israel, we saw miraculous results during the first wave of Covid-19. With a population size similar to New York City and Switzerland, as of April 20, Israel had 172 deaths, contrasted to 6,100 in New York City and 1,401 in Switzerland. Around that time, Israel was rated one of the safest countries in the world in terms of Covid-19.


But the word “miracle” was never mentioned. We Israelis gave credit to our Prime Minister and to our societal self-discipline, since we are used to dealing with catastrophic threats.




During this second wave, however, the Covid-19 siege has weakened and divided us. With 33,159 active infections and another 255 deaths since the start of the second wave, the country is vociferously divided between those calling for a lock-down and those insisting that the financial debacle will have a worse human cost than the disease. Every night protestors against the government – small groups, but vocal – take to the streets. The government itself is divided as to which measures to impose. On the same day that the Minister of Health threatened a total lockdown, the Knesset Coronavirus committee opened everything, including public pools and gyms.


The Siege that Didn't Succeed
In the 8th century B.C.E., the mighty Assyrian Empire, which had conquered today’s Turkey, Iraq, and Syria, decided to conquer the land of Israel. It defeated the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, sending its inhabitants into exile (which have become known as the “Ten Lost Tribes”). Several years later the Assyrian army marched south to the smaller and militarily weaker Kingdom of Judah, comprising only two tribes. Sennacherib and his army laid siege to Jerusalem in 701 B.C.E.


The situation looked bleak, but the Prophet Isaiah prophesized that the city would not fall. The king of Judah at the time was the righteous King Hezekiah. In the British Museum today is a clay hexagon from that period describing Sennacherib’s military victories. It includes an inscription boasting of the siege of Jerusalem: “Hezekiah, King of Judah, I locked in Jerusalem, like a bird in a cage.”


The siege, however, did not succeed. The Bible (Kings II, 19:14- 19) describes how King Hezekiah went to the Holy Temple and prayed:


Hashem, God of Israel, … You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the world. You made heaven and earth. … Hear the words of Sennacherib that he has sent to insult the living God! Indeed, Hashem, the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their land. … Now, Hashem our God, save us please from his hand, then all the kingdoms of the world shall know that You alone are God.


That very night God struck the Assyrian camp with a devastating plague. The few troops that survived, and Sennacherib himself, fled back to Assyria. The Kingdom of Judah flourished for another 115 years.


Wake-Up Calls
From Hezekiah we learn that prayer can break a siege. Turning to God, who controls world history, is the road to redemption. When the Babylonians threatened Jerusalem in the 6th century B.C.E., the Jewish ruler turned to political alliances with Egypt to save the nation. Despite the Prophet Jeremiah’s remonstrations that only God can save, misplaced faith in political and military solutions led to the siege and fall of Jerusalem.


Of course, claiming that God can break a siege begs the question of who allowed the siege in the first place. Monotheism asserts that God is the only operative force in the universe. While human beings have free will in the moral sphere, only God determines what will ultimately happen.


Once, a young man visited Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem and went to meet its head, Rabbi Noah Weinberg. He told Rabbi Weinberg that he didn't need to attend a yeshiva because he and God were already extremely close. He told the rabbi how he was riding his motorcycle along a winding mountainous road when on oncoming truck forced him to veer off the road. He plunged to what should have been certain death. Instead, he miraculously survived with minimal injuries. “So you see God and I are super tight," the young man said.


"He saved my life.”


Rabbi Weinberg replied, “And tell me, who do you think pushed you off the cliff?”


God sends multiple wake-up calls, but humanity can press the snooze button only so many times.
The Prophet Jeremiah repeatedly told the people that their wrong actions – murder, idolatry, and adultery – were taking them in the wrong direction.


God would block this spiritually self-destructive course of action by sending a strong foe to rout them. If they reversed course, they would be saved. This is how history operates. God sends multiple wake-up calls, but humanity can press the snooze button only so many times.


The Covid-19 siege has stymied the world. Faith in political leaders, scientific experts, and economic rescue plans have so far failed to solve the crisis. Even as we hope for a vaccine to protect against the virus, alarming cases of reinfection are causing questions as to how long immunity against this deadly virus can last. The partial collapse of the economy is leading people to fear that they will be unable to pay for rent, mortgage, or even food. Amidst the screams of protest and cries of pain, we can hear echoes of the prophet’s voice calling us to take a spiritual inventory and turn to God.


When there’s no way out, there’s always a way up.
Just as communication is the basis of a good marriage, prayer is the basis of a relationship with God. In addition to the time-honored prayers of the siddur [the Jewish prayer book], you can pray to God in your own words, in your own language. Privately speaking to God out loud in your own words is called hitboddedut. Pour out your heart to God. Tell Him what you are feeling, or fearing. Acknowledge that He is in control, and appeal to Him for help, confident in His love for you. But always start your alone time with God by thanking Him for what you do have – your sight, your hearing, your ability to think, etc. We should be thanking God for every breath. This is particularly pertinent during Covid-19.


Prayer is based on the recognition that God can intervene in human history. To be sure, this is how God chose to introduce Himself to us with the first of the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai: “I am the Lord your God who took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” Read: I love you and will intervene in history for your benefit.


When there’s no way out, there’s always a way up.
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Post  Admin on Sun 26 Jul 2020, 9:54 pm

https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Mourning-the-Old-Normal.html?s=mm
Mourning the Old Normal
Jul 25, 2020  |  by Sara Yoheved Rigler
Mourning the Old Normal
Take time to mourn the life we used to have.

I walk the narrow lanes of my neighborhood in the walled Old City of Jerusalem like I am moving through the Prophet Jeremiah’s lament: “How she sits in solitude, the city that was full of people” (Lamentations 1:1)! Just five months ago, the lanes of the Old City were so crowded with tour groups from Asia, Europe, and Africa that it was hard to maneuver my way through them. Now the streets are empty; even the residents have little cause to venture out.

The men who used to fill the yeshivahs now learn Torah by Zoom from their apartments. Mothers stay home with their children. The students from around the world who converged on Jerusalem are exiled to their native countries, the gates of Israel sealed to non-citizens. The souvenir shops and the restaurants are closed and dark. The popular humus restaurant, opened just a year ago, has a FOR SALE sign on the glass door. The owner of the boutique hotel around the corner from me is also trying to sell. I know these men – fathers of families now hundreds of thousands of shekels in debt.

“The byways of Zion are in mourning for lack of the festival pilgrims,” lamented Jeremiah. “All her gates are desolate.”

Once, God was revealed among us; now He is hidden, obscured, concealed.
This is the time of year for mourning. Known as the “Nine Days” between the first day of the Hebrew month of Av and the fast day of Tisha B’Av, we eat no meat, drink no wine, do not go swimming or buy new clothes. We are in mourning for the Holy Temple which was destroyed on the ninth of Av. We once had the tangible presence of God in our midst, attested to by miracles that everyone who entered the Temple could see. With the destruction of the Temple, we mourn the departure of the Divine Presence. Once, God was revealed among us; now He is hidden, obscured, concealed. We have much to mourn.

Judaism is fastidious about mourning. When a parent, sibling, spouse, or child dies, we sit shiva for seven days. During that time, we permit ourselves no distractions, refrain from all work, stay in the house, wear no shoes, do not change our clothes, sit on low stools, and give ourselves over to the arduous process of grieving for the loved one we have lost, in the presence of those who come to comfort us. My friend Beth told me how she sat shiva for her mother for seven days, but her father died two days before Passover, so the shiva was cut short by the holiday. She felt the difference. The lack of a full week to grieve – and to be comforted by visitors – left her feeling unresolved and incomplete.


Grief counsellors assert the importance of the mourning process. Unprocessed grief can lead to later physical and psychological problems. The sages knew what they were doing when they taught us how to mourn.

Mourning the Life We Knew
There is much talk about the “new normal” that the Covid-19 pandemic has thrust upon us. Whether still caught in the first wave or besieged anew by the second wave as we are in Israel, our lives have dramatically changed from just a few months ago. Many of us have suffered from the coronavirus itself; some have lost family members and friends; some have lost jobs or businesses; senior citizens and singles are isolated in their homes; young mothers are cooped up with their children; and all of us suffer from the chaos of conflicting medical opinions and expert recommendations. Society has become a rudderless boat in a storm. As Rabbi Aron Moss of Sydney wrote at the onset of the pandemic: “It is not that we have lost our sense of certainty. We have lost our illusion of certainty.”

In my weekly webinar for married Jewish women, I asked each member to name her greatest loss/hardship from Covid-19. The responses included:

Not being able to fly to my sister’s wedding
Losing my job
Not being able to visit my elderly parents in a different city
An irritable husband because his business has collapsed
My daughter not having a proper graduation from college
The stress of having husband and children home all the time
One webinar member said that she got married a couple of months ago, with few of her family and none of her friends at her wedding.

These are real losses. We must take time to mourn them. This requires allotting ourselves a block of time alone. We should write down all the things we have lost or miss due to the pandemic. (You can share some of your list in the comments section below.)

Here are some items from my list:

Not having my grandchildren come for the Pesach Seder
Not having Shabbos guests, including my married daughter and her family
The French bakery and all the other stores in my neighborhood that are out of business due to the lack of tourist traffic
No all-night learning with hundreds of women on Shavuot night
Miss hugging my children and grandchildren
Community functions and celebrations
Going out to dinner with my husband
Now, with your own list in hand, sit, close your eyes, and mourn for what you loved and have lost. Allow yourself time to feel the pain of the loss. Cry if you want to.

When you have fully acknowledged and experienced your losses, with your eyes still closed, move on to the next step: Be grateful for the life you do have. You can’t be with your loved ones, but you can see them on Zoom or FaceTime. You’re cooped up with your spouse; be grateful you have a spouse. You lost your job, but you still have the health and the mental capacity to seek a new job. Let gratitude color the new normal.

Then take a few deep breaths and open your eyes. Now you’re ready to emerge on the other side and move forward.

Avoid the 3 D’S
Judaism introduced into the world the concept of teleological time – that history moves forward toward a goal, specifically the Messianic Era. All other ancient cultures saw history as cyclical, an endless circle leading nowhere. Because Jews believe in a Divine Director, history has a direction, and a purpose: to teach us to transform ourselves and our societies into agents of justice, compassion, and holiness in order to bring the Final Redemption.

The Hebrew Prophets prophesized both catastrophes and redemption. They foresaw that the Holy Temple would be destroyed and the Jewish people exiled from their land. They also described the joyous return to the land of Israel when “old men and old women will once again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, … and the squares of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing” (Zecharia 8:4-5). In the Jewish worldview, all catastrophes lead ultimately to redemption.

The global catastrophe of the Covid-19 pandemic is also part of the redemption process. We are suffering, “the birth pangs of the Messiah.” As every woman who has given birth can attest, labor is painful, but purposeful pain is bearable. We must know that we are treading a rocky road leading to a worthwhile destination.

As we navigate this road, it is imperative to avoid the 3 D’s: denial, depression, and disconnection.

Denial: Many people are just waiting to return to life as it used to be. They believe that once a vaccine is found, presto! The world will be back to pre-March, 2020. This is unlikely. The profound losses in the global economy will take years to recoup. Many companies that have gone out of business, such as restaurants and summer sleep-away camps, will not be resuscitated. Whole industries, such as the airline industry and the tourist industry, will take years to recover. And the government debt accrued by disbursements to citizens will be an albatross around the global neck for the next generation.

Even in the medical field, experts are predicting that the novel coronavirus will mutate, necessitating multiple vaccines. Reports are surfacing of reinfections – people who tested positive, then negative, and who had antibodies, now vulnerable to the virus again.

Denial of the gravity of our situation makes us less able to cope with the challenge – and to learn its lessons. When God chooses to send a pandemic, it is to teach us and humble us. To deny the severity of the plague is to lose the opportunity for spiritual awareness and growth.

Depression: Depression is very different than mourning. Depression is a pit we fall into; mourning is a tunnel we pass through, emerging at the other end. The Torah specifically prohibits the extreme mourning rites of other ancient cultures, such as pulling out hair and cutting one’s skin. One must mourn one’s losses, but not too much and not too long.

Depression is a pit we fall into; mourning is a tunnel we pass through, emerging at the other end.
Depression paralyzes us and blinds us to the Divine, who is directing our world with love at every moment. Monotheism asserts that God is the only operative force in the universe. Although human beings have free will in the moral sphere, only God decides what will be the ultimate outcome. Emunah, or faith in a loving God, is the antidote to depression. Again, to quote Rabbi Aron Moss: “Panic and fear are also contagious. Take every precaution as advised by health authorities. Wash your hands well. And every time you do, remember whose hands you are in.”

Disconnection: Many people have commented how sheltering at home with spouse and children has been a positive experience of bonding. For others, the constant contact has been irritating and divisive. Domestic abuse is on the rise. The choice is ours whether to use periods of quarantine to connect or to disconnect, both with family members and with God.

One of the key choices in life is to choose connection, and Covid-19 has given us unique opportunities to do that. Zoom offers us a way to connect to relatives and friends we haven’t seen in ages. Community initiatives to deliver food to the elderly is one of the best fruits of the pandemic. In Israel, a volunteer organization has sprung up that will shop for food and medications, even take out the garbage, for families in quarantine. Don’t let the stress of Covid-19 drive you to disconnect.

Once we pass through the dark tunnel of mourning our losses, and we avoid the 3 D’s, we will emerge into the new reality of a world humbled and chastened, and we will be energized to take on the challenges leading to the coming of Moshiach.
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Post  Admin on Thu 23 Jul 2020, 4:44 pm

https://www.aish.com/jw/s/The-Pope-who-Printed-the-Talmud.html?s=mm
The Pope who Printed the Talmud
Jul 18, 2020  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
The Pope who Printed the Talmud
Pope Leo X allowed a remarkable group of men to produce the first printed set of Talmud.

A volume of the Talmud – dedicated to the Pope? It seems unlikely but the very first printed edition of the Talmud was in fact dedicated to Pope Leo X, who reigned as pope from 1513 until his death in 1521.

For millennia, copies of the Talmud had been painstakingly written by hand. It could take many years to complete a set of all 63 masechtot, or tractates, of the Talmud.

In 1450, a German bookmaker named Johannes Gutenberg invented the very first printing press. He used it to print pamphlets and calendars, and several copies of the Bible. The “Gutenberg Bible” is considered the very first printed book ever produced in Europe. In the ensuing years, other printers copied Gutenberg’s invention and began printing books. Several Jewish books were printed using the new mechanical invention but nobody ever attempted to print an entire copy of the Talmud. For years, sets of the Talmud continued to be written laboriously by hand.

That changed in 1519, after years of bitter debates, when the very first complete edition of the Talmud was produced using the new invention the mechanical printing press.

Daniel Bomberg: Christian Printer of Hebrew Books
One of the very first printers to produce Hebrew books in Europe was Daniel Bomberg, a Christian printer who moved from his native Antwerp to Venice in 1515 and opened a printing press business there. Venice at the time was home to a vibrant Jewish community, and Bomberg realized that he could prosper by catering to this under-served market.

Printing Jewish books wasn’t so easy. His initial requests for a license were repeatedly turned down by Church and city officials. Bomberg started offering local officials ever larger bribes to allow him to print Jewish books. After paying 500 ducats – an enormous sum – he was granted a ten-year license to print Hebrew books.

Bomberg got to work immediately, hiring learned Jews to help him. He petitioned Venice’s officials for permission to hire “four well-instructed Jewish men”. Jews living in Venice at the time could only live in the Ghetto and were forced to wear distinctive yellow caps whenever they left the Ghetto’s gates. Bomberg’s assistants were granted permission to wear black caps like other non-Jewish workers.

Together, they started printing copies of the Chumash, the Five Books of Moses, and other Jewish books. Bomberg and his Jewish assistants decided to include the text of Targum Onkelos, the translation of the Hebrew text written by the celebrated First Century Jewish scholar Onkelos, a popular custom still in practice today.

Jacob Ben Jehiel: Jewish Nobleman Advising an Emperor
Bomberg’s pro-Jewish business activities were made somewhat easier by the climate in Europe overall, which was becoming more tolerant of Jews, thanks in part to an Austrian Jewish physician named Jacob Ben Jehiel (also known as Jacob Lender).

Very little is known about Jacob Ben Jehiel’s personal life. What’s clear is that he was a learned Jew, fluent in Hebrew, who worked as a doctor. He died in about 1505 in Linz, Austria. Unusual for a Jew, he rose to become one of the most influential men in the Holy Roman Empire, working as the personal assistant of Emperor Frederick III, who ruled from 1452-1493. It was noted that the two men were fast friends, and Jacob Ben Jehiel’s friendship influenced Frederick III to be sympathetic to his Jewish subjects. At the time the emperor’s enemies complained he was “more a Jew than a Holy Roman Emperor”. Jacob was so beloved by the Emperor that Frederick III knighted him, raising him from a lowly Jewish outcast to the ranks of the nobility.

One day, a young German nobleman named Johann von Reuchlin contacted Jacob, asking for his help in learning Hebrew. He’d studied with a Jew named Kalman in Paris, von Reuchln explained, and had learned the Hebrew alphabet. Now he wanted to learn more. Jacob Ben Jehiel agreed to tutor the Christian nobleman and taught him to read and write Hebrew. They struck up a friendship that would lead to von Reuchlin defending Jewish scholarship across Europe and to the first printing of the Talmud.

Johann von Reuchlin: Defending Jewish Books
Now fluent in Hebrew, Reuchlin championed Jewish books, defending Jewish scholarship from Catholic zealots who wanted to ban Jewish literature and burn Jewish books. He had many Jewish friends and was remarkably tolerant of Jewish viewpoints and scholarship. When Catholic officials demanded that he and other scholars condemn the Talmud, von Reuchlin replied contemptuously that one not condemn what one had not personally read and understood. “The Talmud was not composed for every blackguard to trample with unwashed feet and then to say that he knew all of it.”

Johann von Reuchlin
In the early 1500s, von Reuchlin engaged in what was known as the “Battle of the Books,” arguing that Jewish scholarship had merit and that Hebrew books ought not to be banned.

Johannes Pfefferkorn: Condemning his Fellow Jews
Reuchlin’s main adversary in the “Battle of the Books” was Johannes Pfefferkorn, a Jew who converted to Christianity. He turned on his fellow Jews and caused years of pain and misery for Jewish communities across Germany.

Pfefferkorn was a butcher by trade but he was also in trouble with the law. He was arrested for burglary in his 30s, spent time in prison, and subsequently found himself unemployable. In order to reverse his ill fortune, he volunteered to convert to Christianity and to have his wife and children convert as well. Pfefferkorn embraced Catholicism under the protection of the Dominicans, the strict Catholic order that administered the feared Inquisition. The Dominicans wasted no time in using Pfefferkorn to help bolster their attempts to persecute Jews and to ban Jewish books.

In the years between 1507 and 1509, Pfefferkorn wrote a series of booklets claiming to illuminate the secret world of Jewish thought. Although Pfefferkorn's writings show that he had a very poor grasp of Jewish scholarship, that didn’t deter him as he churned out booklet after booklet excoriating Jews and the Jewish faith. His pamphlets were written in Latin and aimed at Catholic scholars and priests. They had names such as Judenbeichte (“Jewish Confession”) and Judenfeind (“Enemy of the Jews”), and Pfefferkorn falsely claimed that Jews were devious and blasphemous and that their literature ought to be banned. Though he wasn’t educated enough to study it himself, Pfefferkorn demanded that the Talmud be banned in Europe.

Using Pfefferkorn’s booklets as “proof”, Dominical authorities demanded that Jews be expelled from towns which had large Jewish communities, including Regensburg, Worms and Frankfurt. Their campaign succeeded in Regensburg and the city’s Jews were expelled in 1519.

Pfefferkorn and his supporters managed to convince Emperor Maximilian I to briefly ban the Talmud and other Jewish books in cities across Germany and to destroy any and all Jewish books that could be found. This alarmed more liberal Catholics, including Johann Reuchlin, who’d spent so long learning Hebrew and studying Jewish holy books with Jacob Ben Jehiel. Reuchlin objected and wrote passionate defenses of the Talmud and other Jewish books. Eventually, Maximilian I reversed his decree.

Pope Leo X and the Battle of the Hebrew Books
The “Battle of the Books” raged across German cities and was debated among the educated class: should the Jewish Talmud and other holy books be banned, or were they worthy of preservation and study? Historian Solomon Grayzel notes that “There was not a liberal Christian in Europe, nor a single critic of the forces of bigotry within the Church, who failed to range himself on the side of Reuchlin in defense of the Jewish books… Everyone who was not a peasant in Europe was thus ranged on one or the other side in the controversy. The only people who were forced to stand aside and not participate were the ones most directly concerned – the Jews.” (From A History of the Jews by Solomon Grayzel. Plume: 1968)

Reuchlin eventually gained a powerful ally: Pope Leo X. A cultured, educated man, Leo X came from the fabulously wealthy Medici family. He was disposed to be tolerant towards Jews – so much so that at one point the Jews of Rome wondered if his benevolence towards them was a sign that the Messiah was on his way: community elders even wrote to Jewish leaders in the Land of Israel asking if they, too, had seen signs of the Messiah coming.

Pope Leo X
In 1518, Leo X took a public stand in the Battle of the Books: not only should the Talmud not be banned and burned, he stated, but he gave a Papal Decree allowing it to be printed using the new mechanical printing presses that were all the rage in Europe. Some individual volumes of the Talmud had already been printed; now, the Pope was allowing a complete set of all 63 volumes of the Talmud (called Shas in Hebrew) to be produced. Joannes Bomberg, who’d already built up a Jewish business at his printing press in Venice, was given the commission to print this first complete set of Shas on his printing presses. It was an unprecedented show of support for Jews in Europe.

Jacob ben Chaim ibn Adonijah
But Pope Leo X imposed one crucial condition: Daniel Bomberg could print the Talmud only if he included anti-Jewish polemics in the books. Realizing that this would alienate potential readers, Bomberg successfully lobbied against including anti-Jewish screeds in his Jewish books. He did, however, make one concession to the Pope’s generosity: the first four volumes of the set of Talmud he was printing were dedicated to Pope Leo X.

Bomberg Babylonian Talmud, Venice Pesachim
Local Jews were reluctant to buy expensive new volumes of the Talmud dedicated to a Catholic leader whose Church regularly persecuted Jews and Jewish communities across Europe, even if Pope Leo X himself was sympathetic towards Jews. Sales were sluggish and Bomberg realized he had to make some changes, including dropping the dedication to the Pope. He also turned to Jacob ben Chaim ibn Adonijah, a Jewish proofreader from Tunisia, for help. (There is some evidence that ibn Adonijah might have converted to Christianity, like some other printers who specialized in Hebrew books in Venice at the time.)

Bromberg and ibn Adonijah devised a layout of their printed editions of the Talmud that is still in use today. They placed the Talmud text in the middle of the page, and included key commentaries on the Talmud around the central text. The commentary by Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki (known as Rashi), a Medieval French scholar was printed on one side of the page. Commentaries by a group of other Medieval Jewish sages known as the Tosefotists are found on the opposite side of the page.

This layout made it easy to read and study, and proved an immediate hit with customers. Though their title pages no longer carried a printed dedication to Pope Leo X, these beautiful books continued to be printed with his permission, enabling even more Jewish communities to study and learn from complete sets of the printed Talmud.

For further reading, see these books:

History of the Jews by Heinrich Graetz (1894).
The Jewish Connection by Hirsh Goldberg (1976).
A History of the Jews by Solomon Grayzel (1968).
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Post  Admin on Tue 21 Jul 2020, 11:52 pm

#JewishPrivilege
Jul 21, 2020  |  by Noah Goldman
Being Jewish shouldn't be defined through suffering and negativity. Let's flip #JewishPrivilege to a positive.
A strange discussion involving Jews has emerged on Twitter. The hashtag #JewishPrivilege has emerged and was gaining steam from different voices, some of whom have a large platform. The idea is likely the result of old antisemitic canards which claim that Jews are in control of everything from Hollywood to government. It’s the same antisemitism but with a different mask.
The goal is, as usual, dehumanization of the Jewish people.
Many Jews on twitter, including myself, raised their voices and shared their #JewishPrivilege in the antisemitism that they and their families have had to go through. This was such a powerful pushback that now if you go on Twitter and search the #JewishPrivilege hashtag, you will find many saddening stories of antisemitism. You will have to dig a bit to find the original antisemitic intentions of the hashtag.
But perhaps the most powerful way to push back the antisemitic #JewishPrivilege is to flip the script and turn it into a positive one. Because indeed it is a privilege to be Jewish!
#JewishPrivilege is being born with the opportunity to wrestle with and develop a relationship with the Divine Creator.
more https://www.aish.com/jw/s/JewishPrivilege.html?s=mm
#JewishPrivilege is having a community to rely on and receive support.
#JewishPrivilege is having the guidelines and tradition to constantly develop better character traits.
#JewishPrivilege is having Shabbat, a time to connect with God, yourself, your family, and your friends.
#JewishPrivilege is having a process to emotionally heal after the loss of a loved one.
#JewishPrivilege is returning to our homeland to defy history and rediscover who we are as a people with a homeland.
#JewishPrivilege is having the Torah to guide us through the ups and downs of life thrown our way.
#JewishPrivilege is striving to bring morality and wisdom into a broken world.
#JewishPrivilege is being part of a philanthropic nation that cares deeply about humanity.
#JewishPrivilege is appreciating the importance of education and learning for all.
#JewishPrivilege is being part of a nation that has miraculously survived thousands of yeas of exile, while being persecuted and dispersed, proudly identifying as Jews and keeping our traditions alive.

What's your #JewishPrivilege? Share in the comment section below.
About the Author

Noah GoldmanMore by this Author >
Noah Goldman graduated from Queens University of Charlotte with BA’s in Political Science and Religious Studies. He enjoys writing and discussing topics relating to Judaism, Politics, and Life and is currently learning at Aish HaTorah's Foundaishons program. He lives in Charlotte, NC with his family and two dogs.
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Post  Admin on Sun 19 Jul 2020, 5:21 pm

https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Thank-You-Kareem-Abdul-Jabbar.html?s=mm
 Jul 19, 2020  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
Thank You Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
An open letter to the NBA star who called on African Americans to condemn anti-Semitism.
Dear Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,
Thank you for speaking out. Thank you for breaking the silence. Thank you for using your column in The Hollywood Reporter and your celebrity status to condemn the recent torrent of virulently anti-Semitic tweets, Instagram posts, and other social media expressions targeting Jews in the vilest terms. Thank you for being a rare Black leader and role model who’s not afraid to stand up and condemn hatred when it’s directed against Jews.

“Recent incidents of anti-Semitic tweets and posts from sports and entertainment celebrities are a very troubling omen for the future of the Black Lives Matter movement,” you wrote, “but so too is the shocking lack of massive indignation. Given the New Woke-fulness in Hollywood and the sports world, we expected more passionate public outrage. What we got was a shrug of meh-rage.”

That “meh-rage” hurts.

For the past few weeks, we Jews have watched in horror as a string of high profile celebrities accused us of “world domination”, repeated old slanders that Jews control the world’s banks and are the “richest” people, and quoted vile anti-Semites such as Louis Farrakhan and Adolf Hitler. (In the case of Hitler, the social media posts purporting to quote him – posted last weekend by Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson – turned out to be misattributed.) In many cases, their extreme posts have been met with mild indignation at best. Contrast Jackson's slap on the wrist with the fate of Serbian soccer player Aleksandar Katai, who was fired by the LA Galaxy soccer club after his wife made racist social media posts mocking the Black Lives Matter movement.   


A lot of ink has been spilled recently lamenting “cancel culture” where one false move – one insensitive post or racist comment – can cause people to lose their credibility or even their livelihoods. It’s a horrible development but given cancel culture’s sad prevalence today it’s all the more shocking that anti-Semitic statements or posts stir such meager responses.

Celebrity rapper Ice Cube spent June 10 tweeting that Jews are responsible for oppressing African Americans. (Since your supportive column came out, Kareem, he’s attacked you for betraying Blacks and supposedly cozying up to Jews for “thirty pieces of silver”.) On June 30, television star Nick Cannon publicly agreed with the rapper Richard Griffin, who called Jews “wicked” and said Jews are responsible for most of the evil in the world on Cannon’s podcast; Cannon called these slurs “the truth”. (Cannon was recently fired from Viacom CBS for his words and finally apologized.)

Then last weekend, DeSean Jackson posted that Jews are trying to control the world and “extort America” and that “Hitler was right”. Jackson’s odious messages received only a tepid rebuttal from the NFL and many fans: the Eagles fined him but he’s still playing for the team. On July 8, former NBA player and Black Lives Matter activist Stephen Jackson came to his defense, posting that Jackson was “speaking the truth” and that the Jewish Rothschild family owns “all the banks”.

It’s not just athletes. “So many of the people I follow on Instagram have been quoting Louis Farrakhan,” my daughter recently lamented. She stopped following celebrities who support Farrakhan, the hateful leader of the Nation of Islam who has called Jews “Satanic,” “termites,” liars, the “master of the bankers,” slave-owners and liars. It’s hard to believe that anyone would publicly support or willingly quote Farrakhan, yet that’s what Philadelphia Eagles Lineman Malik Jackson did July 9, when he defended DeSean Jackson and called Farrakhan “honorable.” Comedian Chelsea Handler posted an old clip of Farrakhan claiming that Jews, Whites and Blacks can never “come together”; “I learned a lot from watching this powerful video” she commented in a June 21 post. (She has since deleted the video and apologized.)

Where’s the outrage? Where are the protests in the streets? After all, this time was supposed to be different.

For the past two months, so many of us have had the feeling that something was really shifting in America. I felt hopeful about race relations in the US, and energized that I could take part in this change. Was I wrong? Does the hatred that so many Americans harbor towards Jews mean that when it’s our turn for support – when we Jews are being attacked and it’s time to say no to hate on our behalf – our allies aren’t willing to stand up for us?

Jews have never faced so much hate in the US. 2019 saw the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents in the US since records began. The Anti-Defamation League reported a 12% jump in attacks on Jews from the already high level the year before. Within a year, over a dozen Jews were murdered in anti-Semitic attacks, including the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018; the attack on Chabad of Poway, California on April 27, 2019; the shootout at a kosher grocery store in Jersey City on December 10, 2019; and a frenzied knife attack at a Hanukkah party in New York on December 28, 2019.

The killers in these attacks came from radically different walks of life: hateful white supremacists, members of a Black Hebrew cult that taught African Americans are the “true” Jews, and a deranged African American man. They awoke us to the fact that extremist ideologies on both the right and the left demonize Jews and foment violence against us.

A recent poll finds that while about 14% of Americans in general harbor hate towards Jews, a much higher percentage of African Americans – about 23% – hold anti-Semitic views. The poll also found higher than average levels of anti-Semitism among Hispanic respondents: 19% of American-born Hispanic respondents and 31% of foreign-born Hispanic respondents revealed they harbor negative attitudes towards Jews. The flurry of offensive posts in recent weeks illustrates these dismal numbers: millions of our fellow Americans, from various walks of life, seem to hate us simply because we’re Jews.

No matter how many marches we go on, how many signs we put in our windows, how much we try to support our fellow Americans and proclaim loudly that we all stand together against hate – when that hate is directed against us, all those grand promises seem to ring hollow. Too often, we stand alone.

Kareem, that’s why your column is so important. You’re a role model – an athlete, author, and outspoken critic. We need more voices like yours calling out the double standard, reminding us that tackling racism and anti-Semitism together is still possible. We need more voices like yours calling out African American leaders – and white leaders too – who are quick to rightly condemn racism but remain quiet when it’s Jews who are under attack.

As you wrote, Kareem, “The lesson never changes, so why is it so hard for some people to learn: No one is free until everyone is free. As Martin Luther King Jr. explained: ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.’”

We need to have zero tolerance for anti-Semitism. As Americans condemn racism we must find the strength to stand up against Jew-hatred as well.

Yours Sincerely,
Yvette Miller
 

https://www.aish.com/ci/s/The-Jewish-Owner-of-The-New-York-Times.html?s=mm
The Jewish Owner of The New York Times
Jul 18, 2020  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
The Jewish Owner of The New York Times
A century ago Jewish newsman Adolph Ochs made the New York Times America’s premier newspaper.
Few publications elicit the same passions, loyalties and criticisms as the New York Times. To its dedicated readers, it’s the “Grey Lady”, a reliable source of high-quality news delivered each day along with a dollop of reasonable editorial comments. To its detractors, it’s a frustrating mouthpiece for progressive issues.

Some recent missteps have outraged Jews and Israel supporters, too. Last year, in April 2019, some of the paper’s international readers were outraged to see a highly offensive anti-Semitic political cartoon in the paper’s overseas edition, depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leading US President Trump around by a leash: a Jewish star was plastered on the leash in case anyone missed the age-old anti-Jewish stereotype of Jews controlling world leaders.

The paper apologized and changed its protocols, but according to New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, the newspaper’s problems went deeper than changing the way they approved cartoons. “The problem is that its publication was an astonishing act of ignorance of anti-Semitism – and that, at a publication that is otherwise hyper-alert to nearly every conceivable expression of prejudice…” He accused the paper of being blind to anti-Jewish bigotry, unable to recognize anti-Jewish hatred, even while it calls out other forms of prejudice.

It’s a criticism echoed by former New York Times Editorial Board member Bari Weiss, who quit last week, citing a culture where she was bullied for her conservative views and also for writing about Jewish issues.

It didn’t have to be this way. The New York Times was reimagined over a hundred years ago by Adolph Simon Ochs, a visionary Jew. He coined the term “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” a promise that still graces a small square at the top left corner of each day’s New York Times. Ochs purchased the venerable newspaper in 1896 and did all he could to turn what was then a failing newspaper into the nation’s paper of record.


Adolph Ochs
From an early age, Adolph learned that it was possible to disagree about politics and contemporary issues – even passionately – and still respect others who might hold different opinions. His parents, German Jewish immigrants, vividly illustrated the ability to disagree on major issues and still remain friends; they were on opposite sides of the slavery debate.

Adolph’s father Julius Ochs had moved to the US from Germany when he was 19; Adolph’s mother Bertha Levy immigrated when she was 16. Julius spoke six languages and led the small Jewish community of Nashville, where he originally settled. They moved to Cincinnati and started building their large family.

When the US Civil War broke out in 1861, Julius volunteered for the Union Army and fought against the Confederacy and slavery. Bertha considered herself a southerner, and she helped the Confederate cause, smuggling medicines to troops in Kentucky, just over the Ohio River from her home. Their vastly different political inclinations seemed not to strain their relationship and Adolph grew up in a loving Jewish home, where political differences were respected.

After the war times were hard and the Ochs’ once thriving dry goods store was forced to close. Julius worked as a justice of the peace but for a tiny salary. The family of seven were forced to move into a tiny, unpainted shack. Barely able to make ends meet, Adolph begged his parents to let him get a job. When he was 11 in 1869, they finally agreed and Adolph became a paper boy for the Knoxville Chronicle, folding 50 newspapers each morning and walking nearly five miles to deliver them. The $1.50 he earned each week helped the family survive.

Adolph continued in the newspaper business, quitting school at 15 to work full time. While working at the Louisville Courier-Journal, his parents wrote that they couldn’t afford to buy Adolph’s brothers and sisters clothes for school; he sent them his entire savings of $56.

His first foray into newspaper ownership came in 1877 when Adolph joined two colleagues in buying the Chattanooga Dispatch. Overjoyed, he wrote home to his parents, envisioning days of prosperity for his brothers and sisters ahead: “May God spare you to see Nannie married to a millionaire; George President of the United States; Milton a Senator; Ada a famous author; and Mattie a successful merchant or a large-salaried Rabbi’s wife. As to myself my prayer is that I may soon be able to make for you all a comfortable home where want is unknown and send my brothers and sisters on their different roads rejoicing,” he wrote to the family.

But the Chattanooga Dispatch failed and Adolph was left to settle its debts by using its printing presses to print pamphlets for local merchants. He told colleagues that he learned the importance of having a controlling stake in a newspaper, instead of relying on others.

Clean, dignified and trustworthy. It was a novel approach to journalism that Adolph would try to honor all his life.
Adolph soon bought another local paper, borrowing $250 to purchase a controlling stake in the ailing Chattanooga Times – “before he was old enough to vote,” his biographer Elmer Davis noted. At the time, “yellow journalism” was the norm; it was commonplace for newspapers to print lurid descriptions of murders and other sensationalist crimes. Truth wasn’t always a paper’s top priority. Adolph made a groundbreaking decision for a newspaper publisher: under his watch, the Chattanooga Times would be “clean, dignified and trustworthy.” It was a novel approach to journalism that Adolph would try to honor all his life.

His clean living extended to his personal life. In 1882, Adolph married Iphigene “Effie” Wise of Cincinnati; her father, Rabbi Isaac Wise, was a leader in the city’s Jewish community. Effie began writing book reviews for the newspaper. Adolph worked long hours but was careful to come home for dinner each evening. He gave Effie flowers or another small gift every day.

By 1896, when Adolph was 38, he decided to join the big leagues of publishing. The once venerable New York Times, founded in 1851, was failing. Lurid penny newspapers were much more popular and few people wanted to spend the three cents it cost to buy the New York Times and read its more serious news. While some sensationalist New York papers had circulations of up to 400,000, just 9,000 people regularly bought the New York Times.

Adolph purchased the paper and decided to take a risk. He’d keep the paper’s serious coverage, resisting the lure to print sensationalist stories, while he dropped the price to one penny. Under his ownership, Adolph announced he was keeping news and editorial departments strictly separate, a highly unusual arrangement at the time. In doing so, he was drawing on his own family’s unique history in which even strong political disagreements didn’t spill over into personal animosity. Under his leadership, the New York Times would publish a wide range of opinions, without stooping to ad hominem personal attacks.

The paper would run “all the news...in language that is parliamentary in good society,” he promised in a notice in the paper August 18, 1896. It was an electrifying announcement at the time, and his new mantra was discussed in newspapers across the country.

Adolph began printing “All the News That’s Fit to Print” on each issue, a dig at other salacious newspapers of the day.
The newspaper began to soon prosper. Teachers began using its articles in their lessons and religious leaders cited it in churches and synagogues. Adolph began printing “All the News That’s Fit to Print” on each issue, a dig at other newspapers of the day. By 1916, the paper had a circulation of 344,000 and had become the nation’s paper of record.

Adolph used to say that his success was due to his Jewish upbringing, but his family failed to keep Jewish traditions. As Jews around the world began settling in large numbers in the Land of Israel and building a Jewish state, Adolph was a self-described opponent of Zionism.

At his death in 1935, Adolph left a controlling interest in the paper to his son-in-law Arthur Hays Sulzberger. Sulzberger was very philanthropic and proud of his Jewish faith – but never wanted to be seen as “too” Jewish. He very publicly opposed Zionism and insisted that the New York Times not criticize Nazi atrocities against Jews too much in the 1930s and during the Holocaust.



In her book Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper,” Northeastern University Professor Laurel Leff notes that Sulzberger had experienced anti-Semitism and shied away from his newspaper being seen as “too Jewish.” “There would be no special attention, no special sensitivity, no special pleading,” for Jewish causes, even when the situation of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe was crying out for news coverage and editorials, Leff notes.

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger

Nazi crimes against Jews were “mostly buried inside (the paper’s) gray and stolid pages, never featured, analyzed or rendered truly comprehensible,” Max Frankel, the newspaper’s former Executive Editor, wrote in a scathing article in the New York Times in 2001. The paper only highlighted persecution of Jews six times on its front page; passionate exhortations to help Europe’s Jews were featured only twice in the paper’s weighty Sunday editions during the Holocaust.

Adolph’s grandson Arthur Ochs Sulzberger took over as publisher of the New York Times in 1963. Today, Adolph’s great grandson Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. serves as the paper’s publisher. Though Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. was raised in his mother’s Christian faith, several other members of the Ochs family continue to work at the newspaper, and in many quarters, the New York Times is seen as a “Jewish” newspaper. Perhaps because of its extensive Jewish history, and because of its prestige and the central role the New York Times plays in American life, its coverage of Jews and Israel is closely watched.

I subscribe to the New York Times and both appreciate its high level news coverage, as well as lament its inevitable flaws. The paper has printed some shocking editorial pieces, including a recent call by political agitator Peter Beinart on why he no longer believes in a state of Israel and wishes to see the Jewish state fade away. It also is one of the few daily newspapers to maintain a bureau in Israel, allowing for original reporting from the region. The paper can be maddening, frustrating, and on occasion inspiring.

“All the News That’s Fit to Print” remains stamped on each front page; it's a lofty standard to live up to, one that is Adolph Ochs’ legacy.
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Post  Admin on Fri 17 Jul 2020, 4:40 pm

https://www.aish.com/ci/s/Bari-Weiss-and-the-New-York-Times.html?s=mm
Bari Weiss and the New York Times
Jul 15, 2020  |  by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
Bari Weiss and the New York Times
The paper has lost sight of its "deepest responsibility to make readers think".

Bari Weiss just learned her lesson.

A brilliant writer, winner last year of the National Jewish book award for How To Fight Anti-Semitism and staff editor for the op-ed section of the New York Times, she has this week regretfully sent in her letter of resignation in light of her recognition that the self-proclaimed “newspaper of record” no longer has room for journalists who refuse to fall in step with the far-left political narrative that has now become the New York Times Bible.

Weiss’s announcement follows shortly after the departure of editorial page editor James Bennett – another resignation that illustrates precisely the kind of new McCarthy-like policy that today governs a newspaper which once laid claim to our esteem for seeking truth and open inquiry.

Bennett permitted for publication an op-ed piece by Senator Tom Cotton that diverged from the Times’ approach to the post George Floyd riots that have so far been responsible for the deaths of at least 22 people. Senator Cotton expressed an opinion that reasonable people can debate; he agreed with the President that it was a good idea to send in the National Guard to maintain and restore order. He argued that the Insurrection Act could be invoked to deploy the military across the country to assist local law enforcement. And that was anathema to the current groupthink of the Times. As Bari Weiss notes, “It took the paper two days and two jobs to say that the Tom Cotton op-ed ‘fell short of our standards’” – and actually apologized for publishing it.

It was in 1896 that Adolph Ochs described the philosophy that would guide his newspaper and make it a paradigm for honest journalism: “To make of the columns of the New York Times a forum for the consideration of all questions of public importance, and to that end to invite intelligent discussion from all shades of opinion.”


Today’s readers need to know that that is no longer official or even permitted policy.

Opinions only have a right to be heard if they agree with the established orthodoxy of the publisher. The free exchange of ideas is not an ideal; it is a forbidden invitation to readers to come to their own erroneous conclusions.

As Weiss put it, “The Times has embraced the idea that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else… Intellectual curiosity – let alone risk-taking – is now a liability at the Times. If a person’s ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinized. Everyone else lives in fear of the digital Thunderdome. Online venom is excused so long as it is directed at the proper targets. Standing up for principle at the paper does not win plaudits. It puts a target on your back.”

Bari Weiss had another reason for having a target placed on her back. She was the victim of “constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views. They have called me a Nazi and a racist; I have learned to brush off comments about how I’m ‘writing about the Jews again.’”

How utterly amazing to be accused as both a Nazi as well as a too ardent supporter of Israel.

Last week the Times offered us yet another op-ed that apparently “met their standards.” Peter Beinart's essay, “I No Longer Believe in a Jewish State”, beautifully echoed the paper’s intense antipathy to Israel as well as its ongoing prejudicial reporting.

The paper also had no problem a while back giving a half-page op-ed to arch terrorist Marwan Barghouti – a criminal serving five consecutive life terms after being convicted in an Israeli criminal court of premeditated murder for his role in terrorist attacks that killed five people – to author a diatribe against the Israeli system of justice. Just to make certain readers could identify the writer the article concluded with this note: ““Marwan Barghouti is a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian.”

It is well to remember that before the op-ed page debuted in the New York Times on September 21, 1970, John B. Oakes, the Times editor who willed the page into existence, remarked that, “A newspaper’s deepest responsibility is to make readers think. The minute we begin to insist that everyone think the same way we think, our democratic way of life is in danger.”

The page opposite the editorials, today home of the op-ed section, was originally occupied by obituaries, a fitting description of the demise of its dedication to truth which has now been replaced by a cancel culture that led to the resignation of a courageous editor. Hopefully Bari Weiss's final act at the Times will help reveal the truth of a newspaper which no longer deserves our respect and support.
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Post  Admin on Tue 14 Jul 2020, 10:11 pm

https://www.aish.com/jw/s/An-Irreplaceable-Doctor-A-Tribute-to-Dr-Elliot-Samet.html?s=mm
An Irreplaceable Doctor: A Tribute to Dr. Elliot Samet
Jul 12, 2020  |  by Tzivia Reiter
An Irreplaceable Doctor: A Tribute to Dr. Elliot Samet
Our beloved community doctor died due to Covid-19.

I moved to Passaic, NJ nine years ago, right after my youngest daughter was born. It was a difficult time for me personally, as my father had just been diagnosed with cancer. When my father came to visit me, Dr. Samet frequently saw him at synagogue. Dr. Samet’s natural compassion was such that he noticed the new man in synagogue who appeared to be cold and shivering. No sweater could warm my father due to the sickness inside. Dr. Samet could not do enough for him. His humanity was such that he was extremely bothered by this and would tell me whenever he saw me, “What can we do for your father? I just wish we could do something for him.”

I felt the warmth of his kindness. Dr. Samet’s empathy for not only the suffering of my father but for the powerlessness of his loved ones to alleviate it, profoundly moved me. I felt an immediate bond with him that would only strengthen in the years to come.

My father’s condition worsened. I spent as much time as I could at the hospital. On the Friday before the last Shabbos of his life, I prepared to leave for the hospital. My friends came to my home to stay with my children. But when my daughter woke up from her nap, I saw that she had developed croup. As croup often does, she presented with symptoms that appeared perhaps more terrifying than they warranted. She gasped, wheezed and sounded like she could barely breathe. She cried, buried her head inside the crook of my neck and clung to me for dear life. It was the most agonizing moment of my life – to be torn between the love and duty of a mother toward her sick child, and the love and duty of a daughter toward her dying father.

I was distraught and completely immobilized. I did not know what to do. I called Dr. Samet. He said, “Go to your father. I’ll take care of your baby. She will be fine. I’ll come to the house over Shabbos. Don’t worry. Trust me and go to your father.”

And so I went. Dr. Samet made house calls to my daughter over Shabbos and personally checked to make sure that she was fine and that her croup was not dangerous. I had peace of mind knowing that she was safe and in good hands. I remained at my father’s bedside until the moment he took his last breath. I will always be grateful to Dr. Samet for gifting me that.
 
Dr. Samet dancing at a patient's bar mitzvah.

My father died in the morning and his funeral was held a few hours later in Brooklyn. There wasn’t much time to get the word out, as we needed to get him to the airport to reach his final resting place in Israel. While much of what took place in those ensuing hours remain a blur to me, one thing I do remember is seeing Dr. Samet’s face among the crowd. That he made the time, on such short notice, to travel to Brooklyn for my father’s funeral in the midst of his busy schedule astounded me. Perhaps I should not have been surprised. A person who felt so much, could do no less.

Dr. Samet was the old fashioned family doctor of yesteryear. The kind who makes house calls. The kind who calls after a visit to see how your child is feeling. Like the grandfather who manages to make every grandchild feel like he’s the favorite, my children each felt they shared a bond with him. Even my mother was connected to Dr. Samet. When she came to Passaic for the weekend and got sick or needed a doctor, he would always see her without fail.

There were so many things to admire about Dr. Samet, even beyond his medical skill and dedication. His connection to God – he said a prayer before giving each child a shot. His humility – he insisted my husband call him Elliot and not doctor. His commitment – his zeal for the safety of the community’s children was legendary, providing education on many issues including wearing sunblock, helmets when bicycling, and avoiding drinking on Purim.

There are so many stories told about Dr. Samet. These are but a small glimpse of my own. Perhaps the most descriptive story is this: upon hearing the news of his passing, three generations of my family cried.

Our relationship with Dr. Samet will not end. It will transform into a new kind of relationship. A relationship of memories. A relationship where we call upon his wisdom and remind ourselves of what Dr. Samet would say, and what Dr. Samet would do. A new pediatrician may preside over our children’s future well visits, but Dr. Samet will always be our family doctor.
https://israelunwired.com/university-student-rips-apart-the-marxist-ideology/
University student rips apart the Marxist ideology
It seems uncommon that university students are willing to go against the Liberal way of thinking. But this student tears apart the Marxist ideology.
University student rips apart the Marxist ideology
By Leah Rosenberg - July 14, 2020 593 0
It seems uncommon that university students are willing to go against the Liberal way of thinking. But this student tears apart the Marxist ideology.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=29&v=3-VZUzLd7LU&feature=emb_logo
Dear Marxist Students, Be Careful What You Wish For
Donate Today And Promote This Video To Thousands
The Marxist Ideology Kills People
Do you want to know something about Black Lives Matter? They openly support the Marxist ideology. They have made it clear. Are so many that ignorant that they believe it is just about non-existent systemic racism? These protestors are supporting Communism – the same communism that killed about 100 million people.

Do these BLM activists know that? They are either ignorant about history, or they know it and don’t care. Either way, it is bad. It means you either have fools running Black Lives Matter or tyrants. Or both.

Hear it from Someone Who Knows
This student knows almost firsthand the horrors of Communism. His family experienced it. Communism is not a game, although it seems like many Americans act like it is.

These ignorant BLM supporters must stop fighting against the freedom that America has to offer. They should think before they fly that red flag and raise up that symbol of Communism.

Can you listen to this student speak and want the life his family had under Communist rule? That is ridiculous, irrational, and destructive. It is truly mind-boggling that Americans are actually fighting FOR such a cruel ideology.

It’s not About Police or Racism
Is it not obvious that these radical rioters do not care to actually improve America and help bring about reform? That they do not care about helping better society?

America isn’t perfect. What country is? But it tries to be as close to it as possible. America offers endless opportunities for people of all race and color. What in the world is BLM fighting against? What do they really want?
To destroy America. If you haven’t realized it yet, open your eyes just a little wider…
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Post  Admin on Tue 14 Jul 2020, 2:49 pm

https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Defying-20000-Nazis-in-New-York-City.html?s=mm
Defying 20,000 Nazis in New York City
Jul 4, 2020  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
Defying 20,000 Nazis in New York City
In 1939 Isadore Greenbaum risked his life to disrupt a major Nazi rally at Madison Square Gardens.

Sitting among more than 20,000 of his cheering, smiling fellow Americans, Isadore Greenbaum felt profoundly alone. Inside Madison Square Garden, a huge 30-foot picture of George Washington adorned the stage, flanked by American flags and swastikas. Washington was America’s “first Fascist’ according to the Feb. 20, 1939 rally organizers, the German American Bund, a nationwide cultural organization that promoted German-American culture and fealty to Hitler’s regime.

Surrounded by cheering Nazi sympathizers, Isadore sat through three hours of speeches and rapturous applause, getting angrier and angrier as speakers described a frightening Nazi vision of America, espousing white Christian dominance.

A huge portrait of George Washington at the German American Bund's "Pro American Rally" at Madison Square Garden.
“American patriots,” intoned Bund leader Fritz Kuhn, a naturalized American citizen who’d previously worked for a Ford factory in Detroit, “you have all heard of me through the Jewish controlled press as a creature with horns, a cloven hoof, and a long tail.” The rally kicked off with the National Anthem, sung by Americans wearing swastikas and giving Nazi salutes.

Speakers denounced “job-taking Jewish refugees.” A Bund official explained that “(t)he Spirit which opened the West and built our country is the spirit of the militant white man,” and claimed Nazism was a quintessentially American outlook. Kuhn reassured the rally goers, “It has then always been very much American to protect the Aryan character of this nation” and urged Americans to reclaim America and “demand that our government be returned to the people who founded it!”


 Photo from Life Magazine, March 7, 1938
The rally-goers waved American flags and posters with slogans that included “Stop Jewish Domination of Christian America”. Many wore Nazi armbands. Security guards wearing uniforms very similar to the Brownshirts in Germany patrolled the aisles.

Outside Madison Square Garden, thousands of protestors gathered, denouncing the Nazi sympathizers inside. The crowd at the "Pro American Rally" also included housewives and ordinary citizens who were disgusted by Nazi supporters in their midst. At one point a band playing in a nearby Broadway theater serenaded the protestors with a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. One unnamed protestor set up a loudspeaker in a nearby building which broadcast anti-Nazi sentiments, as well as the advice to people attending the rally: “Be American, Stay Home.” Other protesters clashed with police; thirteen protestors were arrested during the evening.

New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia had been lobbied to prevent the rally from taking place, but he defended the Bund’s right to free speech. “If we are for free speech, we have to be for free speech for everybody, and that includes Nazis,” he explained. Seeking to avert violence, he instructed the New York City police to have a heavy presence in the area. 1,700 police officers were deployed around Madison Square Garden – “enough to stop a revolution” the police commissioner told reporters at the time.

New York's mounted police form a solid line outside Madison Square Garden on Feb. 20, 1939, to hold in a crowd where the fascist German American Bund was holding a rally.

It was virtually impossible to pass the police ranks and enter the rally without a ticket. Yet Isadore Greenbaum, a Jewish 26-year-old plumber's assistant who lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with his wife Gertrude and their young son, managed to do it. He sneaked inside the rally and sat in the back, listening with growing alarm at the hate-filled speakers. He was shocked at how eagerly the crowd received anti-Jewish messages and embraced a vision of America built on xenophobia and hatred.

As the rally wound down, Fritz Kuhn took the stage once again, and Isadore got out of his seat and slowly walked to the front of the stadium. He pushed through the Nazi-uniformed guards and jumped up on the stage. Quickly pulling out the cables from Kuhn’s microphone so the crowd could no longer hear the Bund leader, Isadore shouted the message he wanted to convey to over 20,000 of his fellow Americans instead: “Down with Hitler!”

Isadore Greenbaum being rushed off stage.
Bund guards immediately jumped on Isadore, punching and kicking him. He sustained a black eye and a broken nose. As the guards beat him, while the rally-goers screamed their approval, roaring with the delight at this public beating of a Jew. Eventually New York City police officers managed to intervene and pull Isadore to safety – once they were outside the police promptly arrested Isadore for disturbing the peace.


Isadore was brought before a judge and explained what happened: “I went down to the Garden without any intention of interrupting, but being that they talked so much against my religion and there was so much persecution I lost my head and I felt it was my duty to talk.”

The judge seemed to blame Isadore for the violence that had been directed against him. “Don’t you realize the innocent people might have been killed,” because of Isadore’s outburst he asked. “Do you realize that plenty of Jewish people might be killed with their persecution up there?” Isadore retorted.

Seemingly unmoved, the judge gave Isadore a choice: either spend ten days in jail or pay a $25 fine. Gertrude managed to scrape together the money for the fine, a large amount in 1939. None of the security guards or other people attending the rally faced any charges for beating Isadore or openly praising Nazi Germany or preaching hate.

Isadore Greenbaum and his family

A few months later, Fritz Kuhn was found guilty of embezzlement and tax evasion and was sent to Sing Sing Prison in New York. In 1941, when the United States entered World War II, Isadore Greenbaum enlisted in the US Navy, becoming a Chief Petty Officer. He was interviewed by the US Armed Forces’ newspaper Stars and Stripes about his experiences in Madison Square Garden. It was one of the very first instances of an American fighting uniformed Nazis, just months before war broke out. “Gee, what would you have done if you were in my place listening to that (expletive) hollering against the government and publicly kissing Hitler’s behind – while thousands cheered?” Isadore told the reporter before explaining, “Well, I did it.”

After his military service, Isadore and Gertrude moved to Los Angeles where Isadore became a colorful local figure, working as a fisherman and an artist on Newport Pier. He died in 1997, one of the first Americans to directly confront Nazi terror and to risk his life to oppose the dark vision that American Nazi sympathizers were promoting for his country.

Watch this 7-min documentary, A Night at the Gardens, by Marshall Curry, that captures the rally.


About the Author

Dr. Yvette Alt MillerMore by this Author >

Yvette Alt Miller earned her B.A. at Harvard University. She completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Jewish Studies at Oxford University, and has a Ph.D. In International Relations from the London School of Economics. She lives with her family in Chicago, and has lectured internationally on Jewish topics. Her book Angels at the table: a Practical Guide to Celebrating Shabbat takes readers through the rituals of Shabbat and more, explaining the full beautiful spectrum of Jewish traditions with warmth and humor. It has been praised as "life-changing", a modern classic, and used in classes and discussion groups around the world.
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Post  Admin on Sun 12 Jul 2020, 11:22 pm

https://www.aish.com/sp/pr/So-You-Dont-Feel-God-in-Your-Life.html?s=mm
So You Don't Feel God in Your Life?
Jul 11, 2020  |  by Rachel Carmon
So You Don't Feel God in Your Life?
I was berating myself, feeling down and useless. Little did I know that God was listening to my pain.

All I could see was blackness.

Sure, I was alive in a beautiful world. I was healthy. I did not have COVID-19. My family was safe. Thank God, all was well.

But this awareness was all intellectual; it wasn't something I felt.

I was down, feeling flat, useless. In spite of my best efforts, I had lost my job due to company issues and financial market fluctuations. And now corona hit; I didn't see any way forward. No job, no money coming in.

All these years I had talked myself into accepting that I wasn't working at anything I was really passionate about or that made me spring up out of bed in the morning with purpose and a sense of mission, but I comforted myself by saying that at least I was making a decent living to support my family. Now that too was gone.


 
What did I have to show for my 50+ years? What purpose did I have?

All those Aish webinars and video clips with the snappy language, cool rabbis and pulsating upbeat music, pushing for a sense of mission were taking their toll. I couldn't even begin to answer the questions: What were my dreams? What were my goals? What did I want to accomplish on this earth?

I would berate myself. How dare you complain with all the abundance that you have? Are you in a hospital bed? Are you getting chemo treatments? Can you talk? Can you hear? Can you see? You godless ingrate. You don't deserve what you have. The beating up on myself was endless. The problem (no job) and the solution (try to see the good you have) just morphed into turning myself into one big punching bag. You are no good. You are ungrateful. You have so much to be thankful for. You do not appreciate. You are worthless. Don’t you think God will take the good away from you if you don’t value it enough? Over and over. It was a broken record in my head that gave me no respite.

I wasn't one of those workaholics who had to learn that my family was my priority. My family was my priority. I knew that. Sure I worked hard. I was not one to cut corners at work; I was meticulous and conscientious. But I always knew that my children were the most important thing to me.

When I realized years ago that I could not get both myself and my kids out the door in the morning without being stressed, I adjusted my schedule so that I could be fully (read, perky!) there for my kids in the morning. Unhurriedly, I sent them off with carefully packed lunches, completed homework assignments (carefully labeled; no dog-eaten, crumpled half-baked paperwork for these kids!) and caressing goodbyes, replete with little loving notes of positivity tucked into their backpacks, and private chauffeuring to school if a bus was missed. Only after sending them off in cheerful Donna Reed-like fashion did I wend my way to work, making up the lost work-time in the wee hours of the morning, after everyone was fed, bathed, story-timed and tucked into bed, giving up regularly on sleep or "me-time" for years.

When the guests we constantly had at our Shabbos table due to my husband's work in outreach and adult education (now there was the sense of purpose and mission that my family could tap into), started to infringe on my kids sense of self, we cut back, ensuring that at least one meal was exclusively family time. We understood that healthy boundaries were called for and that as parents, we had to respond to our children's need to be seen and heard, front and center.

So, part of me was surprised when not all of those children stayed religious. That some of them are struggling with their relationship with the Almighty. I was sure that we were handing down the Jewish tradition faithfully, with just the right amount of old-fashioned responsibility to the past, link in the chain message, and a healthy dose of inject your own strengths, inform your faith with your own personality, talk. We felt we were real parents, authentic about our vulnerabilities, open to questions, caring and giving. Where did we go wrong?

The other part is not surprised. We cannot micromanage our children's journey. They came up against challenges and demons we had never encountered, both close to home and in the greater world. Their 21st century realities are a far cry from the bubble of conservatism we Baby Boomers experienced. We didn't know what they faced until it hit us in the face. We were not prepared.

And so, here we are – a fragile nuclear family, hanging on to each other, trying to understand and be there for each other, with compassion and love. Encircling us, at a far distance, is a fractured, somewhat estranged larger family, with bad guys and broken dreams, trampled hopes, derailed lives, tarnished souls, and cowardice. I know clearly with whom my loyalties lie – my husband and children. That is absolute. And yet, I feel such pain at the betrayals and losses in my life.

It all comes out, unleashed in a torrent of tears and fury. My friend listens quietly, interjecting here and there in that sensitive, understanding way of hers.
I find myself in my friend's garden, sitting socially distant-appropriate meters away, pouring out my heart about the losses and pain, the estrangement from the larger family, the no job and no purpose, the senseless misery, the feeling of abandonment, of being an orphan with no parents, the sense of aloneness and failure. It all comes out, unleashed in a torrent of tears and fury. My friend listens quietly, interjecting here and there in that sensitive, understanding way of hers. I finally finish. I am spent.

"So you don't feel God in your life?" she asks. I nod miserably. "You feel your father died and left so much undone and is not here to help and hug?" I nod again. "Your pain at your larger family is justified, your estrangement from them is self-protecting; they hurt you and your family, but still there is a gaping hole, in the place where relationship once was. That is not phantom pain. That is real. But know that God is with you." I nod mutely. Sure.

I wasn't prepared for the email I received the very next day. It was from one of my estranged family members, someone I had not spoken with for years. I had not been ready for any kind of relationship with her. And the email went as follows: "I received the following note from someone I was corresponding with. Apparently that person knew your father. I found it meaningful. I hope you will also."

The story related in the email went as follows:

"I knew your relative quite well. I will take the liberty of writing a personal story that he shared with me about himself. [He had asked me what I was learning and I told him I was learning Tractate Yevamos which is quite complicated and difficult.] He said that after the war was over he was a skeleton of himself physically and emotionally and he was not sure he was sane. At the first opportunity that he had he got hold of a volume of the Talmud and it happened to be Yevamos. He opened it and began learning. When he saw that he could follow and, in his words in Yiddish, 'Ich hob zich gekent reorientirin [I was able to reorient myself]' he knew he was sane."

I held the iPhone in my shaking hands, tears rolling down my cheeks. Just yesterday in a quiet garden in the middle of nowhere, I had cried about my estranged family member, my need to get healing from a father who died too young and my sense of distance from God. These were the people/beings in my life I was missing.

And today, I received a message from each of them.

Is God in my life? You bet He is. And with all that is going on in this crazy world of ours, He takes the time to listen to our pain and send us sweet messages that He is there all along.
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Post  Admin on Thu 09 Jul 2020, 8:51 pm

I was an Unhappy Atheist
Jul 4, 2020  |  by Kylie Ora Lobell
How believing in God made me a grateful person.
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/I-was-an-Unhappy-Atheist.html?s=mm
When I was 12, I decided I was an atheist.

After all, I had prayed to God multiple times that my parents wouldn’t get divorced, and they still did. When my Catholic grandmother would drag me to church, I’d be incredibly bored; if God was so magnificent, why was church awful?

I didn't have a strong religious background or education, so letting go of God was easy.

After I made my atheist declaration, I believed everything was in my control. If I was having a bad day, it wasn’t the universe was trying to tell me something; that was on me. And since I was the one who controlled my destiny, I got anxious whenever things didn’t work out. No greater power was watching over me, protecting me, so I felt all alone in the world. I didn’t think there was any sort of afterlife and got down thinking about the eternal nothingness that I was someday going to experience. Life became pretty meaningless.

I did what I had to do – go to school, get my homework done, and, as I got older, work part-time jobs to support myself – but I was rarely joyful about life. By the time I was a junior in college, I was going to weekly therapy sessions because I was having panic attacks. I was anxious about boys, about grades, and above all, about my future. I’d get sad on the weekends when there was nothing happening on campus, and I’d stay in my room, all alone, sulking and binging on pizza. Whenever I didn’t do well on a test, it felt like a huge setback. If it was rainy outside, which it often was, I got upset.
 
Upon graduation from college, I met Daniel, a Jewish comedian who was no longer observant but still enjoyed going to his local Chabad for Friday night dinner. The first time he took me along with him, I felt the palpable joy in the room as the Lubavitchers and their guests sang Shabbat tunes and excitedly talked to one another while eating delicious food. This was the kind of joy and community and warmth I needed in my life.

I kept going back to Shabbat dinners and discovering more about Judaism. The wisdom I learned resonated with me and I began to see how Judaism's framework for living could provide a structure and moral guide I needed. I was fascinated by the stories in the Torah, which played out in my head like a movie.

There was no definitive time when I knew, for sure, that I was no longer an atheist. I just felt God when I was at that Shabbat table or learning Torah. It felt like serenity sweeping over me. It made my days better and gave me hope. Instead of just relying on myself, I knew God was there, watching over me, and ensuring I would be okay. I became grateful for all the blessings in my life, of which there were plenty. They were no longer mere accidents. Focusing on the good things showed me just how great my life really was.

When I decided to pursue an Orthodox conversion to Judaism, Daniel decided to become more religious and return to his Orthodox roots.

Throughout my conversion process, I noticed that my mood was shifting. I was still in therapy and practicing self-care, but I saw how being a believer amplified my efforts. If I was having a bad day, I could talk about it in therapy to feel a little better, but ultimately, it was up to me to say, “God, I believe that everything that happens to me is for a good reason,” and try to improve my day as much as possible.

Now, 10 years after I started on my conversion process and five years after I formally became a Jew, I am happier than I’ve ever been. I wake up every day with a great attitude, and I’m ready to conquer what’s ahead. I don’t let the little things overwhelm me; I can control them as much as possible by staying calm and centered, but I can’t change everyone and everything around me. I treat myself right, and I have trust in God that everything will be fine. I pray for the big and small blessings because I know God has the power to transform my life.

I don’t know where I’d be without Judaism – probably still miserable, not enjoying life, and being bitter about what I didn’t have. Instead, I focus on what I do have, I live every day to the fullest, and I am excited about all the joys life has to offer.
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Post  Admin on Sun 05 Jul 2020, 7:08 pm

Defying 20,000 Nazis in New York City
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Defying-20000-Nazis-in-New-York-City.html?s=mm
Jul 4, 2020  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
Defying 20,000 Nazis in New York City
In 1939 Isadore Greenbaum risked his life to disrupt a major Nazi rally at Madison Square Gardens.

Sitting among more than 20,000 of his cheering, smiling fellow Americans, Isadore Greenbaum felt profoundly alone. Inside Madison Square Garden, a huge 30-foot picture of George Washington adorned the stage, flanked by American flags and swastikas. Washington was America’s “first Fascist’ according to the Feb. 20, 1939 rally organizers, the German American Bund, a nationwide cultural organization that promoted German-American culture and fealty to Hitler’s regime.

Surrounded by cheering Nazi sympathizers, Isadore sat through three hours of speeches and rapturous applause, getting angrier and angrier as speakers described a frightening Nazi vision of America, espousing white Christian dominance.

A huge portrait of George Washington at the German American Bund's "Pro American Rally" at Madison Square Garden.
“American patriots,” intoned Bund leader Fritz Kuhn, a naturalized American citizen who’d previously worked for a Ford factory in Detroit, “you have all heard of me through the Jewish controlled press as a creature with horns, a cloven hoof, and a long tail.” The rally kicked off with the National Anthem, sung by Americans wearing swastikas and giving Nazi salutes.

Speakers denounced “job-taking Jewish refugees.” A Bund official explained that “(t)he Spirit which opened the West and built our country is the spirit of the militant white man,” and claimed Nazism was a quintessentially American outlook. Kuhn reassured the rally goers, “It has then always been very much American to protect the Aryan character of this nation” and urged Americans to reclaim America and “demand that our government be returned to the people who founded it!”


 Photo from Life Magazine, March 7, 1938
The rally-goers waved American flags and posters with slogans that included “Stop Jewish Domination of Christian America”. Many wore Nazi armbands. Security guards wearing uniforms very similar to the Brownshirts in Germany patrolled the aisles.

Outside Madison Square Garden, thousands of protestors gathered, denouncing the Nazi sympathizers inside. The crowd at the "Pro American Rally" also included housewives and ordinary citizens who were disgusted by Nazi supporters in their midst. At one point a band playing in a nearby Broadway theater serenaded the protestors with a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. One unnamed protestor set up a loudspeaker in a nearby building which broadcast anti-Nazi sentiments, as well as the advice to people attending the rally: “Be American, Stay Home.” Other protesters clashed with police; thirteen protestors were arrested during the evening.

New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia had been lobbied to prevent the rally from taking place, but he defended the Bund’s right to free speech. “If we are for free speech, we have to be for free speech for everybody, and that includes Nazis,” he explained. Seeking to avert violence, he instructed the New York City police to have a heavy presence in the area. 1,700 police officers were deployed around Madison Square Garden – “enough to stop a revolution” the police commissioner told reporters at the time.

New York's mounted police form a solid line outside Madison Square Garden on Feb. 20, 1939, to hold in a crowd where the fascist German American Bund was holding a rally.

It was virtually impossible to pass the police ranks and enter the rally without a ticket. Yet Isadore Greenbaum, a Jewish 26-year-old plumber's assistant who lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with his wife Gertrude and their young son, managed to do it. He sneaked inside the rally and sat in the back, listening with growing alarm at the hate-filled speakers. He was shocked at how eagerly the crowd received anti-Jewish messages and embraced a vision of America built on xenophobia and hatred.

As the rally wound down, Fritz Kuhn took the stage once again, and Isadore got out of his seat and slowly walked to the front of the stadium. He pushed through the Nazi-uniformed guards and jumped up on the stage. Quickly pulling out the cables from Kuhn’s microphone so the crowd could no longer hear the Bund leader, Isadore shouted the message he wanted to convey to over 20,000 of his fellow Americans instead: “Down with Hitler!”

Isadore Greenbaum being rushed off stage.
Bund guards immediately jumped on Isadore, punching and kicking him. He sustained a black eye and a broken nose. As the guards beat him, while the rally-goers screamed their approval, roaring with the delight at this public beating of a Jew. Eventually New York City police officers managed to intervene and pull Isadore to safety – once they were outside the police promptly arrested Isadore for disturbing the peace.


Isadore was brought before a judge and explained what happened: “I went down to the Garden without any intention of interrupting, but being that they talked so much against my religion and there was so much persecution I lost my head and I felt it was my duty to talk.”

The judge seemed to blame Isadore for the violence that had been directed against him. “Don’t you realize the innocent people might have been killed,” because of Isadore’s outburst he asked. “Do you realize that plenty of Jewish people might be killed with their persecution up there?” Isadore retorted.

Seemingly unmoved, the judge gave Isadore a choice: either spend ten days in jail or pay a $25 fine. Gertrude managed to scrape together the money for the fine, a large amount in 1939. None of the security guards or other people attending the rally faced any charges for beating Isadore or openly praising Nazi Germany or preaching hate.

Isadore Greenbaum and his family

A few months later, Fritz Kuhn was found guilty of embezzlement and tax evasion and was sent to Sing Sing Prison in New York. In 1941, when the United States entered World War II, Isadore Greenbaum enlisted in the US Navy, becoming a Chief Petty Officer. He was interviewed by the US Armed Forces’ newspaper Stars and Stripes about his experiences in Madison Square Garden. It was one of the very first instances of an American fighting uniformed Nazis, just months before war broke out. “Gee, what would you have done if you were in my place listening to that (expletive) hollering against the government and publicly kissing Hitler’s behind – while thousands cheered?” Isadore told the reporter before explaining, “Well, I did it.”

After his military service, Isadore and Gertrude moved to Los Angeles where Isadore became a colorful local figure, working as a fisherman and an artist on Newport Pier. He died in 1997, one of the first Americans to directly confront Nazi terror and to risk his life to oppose the dark vision that American Nazi sympathizers were promoting for his country.

Watch this 7-min documentary, A Night at the Gardens, by Marshall Curry, that captures the rally.
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Defying-20000-Nazis-in-New-York-City.html?s=mm


https://israelunwired.com/when-reagan-gave-this-speech-he-didnt-realize-how-perfect-it-was/
When Reagan gave this speech, he didn’t realize how perfect it was
By Leah Rosenberg - July 1, 2020 5870 0
Ronald Reagan was a great speaker and a powerful leader. When he gave this speech decades ago, he had no idea how relevant it would still be today.

https://israelunwired.com/when-reagan-gave-this-speech-he-didnt-realize-how-perfect-it-was/
Reagan and Appeasement
What amazing speeches Ronald Reagan gave nearly half a century ago! Thank you to Mathew Worth from Canada for creating yet another inspiring video.

Have things even changed today? Reagan’s speech sounds like it could have been said right now. He declares in this speech that “…this is the specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face—that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight or surrender. If we continue to accommodate, continue to back and retreat, eventually we have to face the final demand—the ultimatum.”


How relevant this still is today! If only the people of Israel really understood this, there would be no question of what Israel needs to do in order to ensure its survival.

There was a time when people understood the clear and obvious, and common sense was still prevalent. We have lost it all in post-modernism, and people today can’t really understand. They don’t completely relate to these eternal words, and that is one of the biggest problems facing our world.
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Post  Admin on Thu 02 Jul 2020, 7:24 pm

When King Louis IX Burned the Talmud
Jul 1, 2020  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
When King Louis IX Burned the Talmud
A thousand years ago, King Louis IX ordered the Talmud burned in Paris.
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/When-King-Louis-IX-Burned-the-Talmud.html?s=mm
“O (Talmud), that has been consumed by fire, seek the welfare of those who mourn for you…”
These searing words were written by Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg (1215-1293), a brilliant Jewish student who’d recently travelled from his home in northern Germany to Paris to study a renown yeshiva there, after he witnessed the mass burning of the Talmud in Paris in 1240 on the orders of King Louis IX. A peripatetic king, Louis IX was one of the few Medieval Christian thinkers to willingly engage in debate with Jews - but his legacy is one of pain and suffering for thousands of Jews in France.
“He was a splendid knight whose kindness and engaging manner made him popular,” the Encyclopedia Britannica describes King Louis IX. Crowned at the age of twelve in 1226, King Louis IX instituted legal reforms across France and often personally judged cases in his magnificent Great Hall in the Palais de la Cite in Paris, where he handed out judgments and punishments to his subjects. A staunchly religious Catholic, King Louis IX was seemingly preoccupied by Jews. He issued the Ordinance of Melun in 1230, forcing Jewish into “honest” jobs - in reality manual labor. (Forbidden from virtually all professions by the Lateran Council of 1215, life for France’s Jews became more difficult than ever.) He also had an appetite for debating Jews about religion and Judaism’s holiest texts.
In the 1230s, King Louis IX finally got his chance to show off his powers of argument and his piety and debate Jews about the very validity of the Jewish faith.
In 1236, Nicholas Donin, a Parisian Jew who had turned his back on the Jewish community and publicly embraced Catholicism, penned a damning letter to Pope Gregory IX. In it, Donin attacked the Talmud, the written discussions of the Oral Law that was given to Moses on Mount Sinai along with the Written Law that makes up the Five Books of Moses. He enumerated 35 complaints about the Talmud, including that it attacked the Catholic Church. If there were no more Talmud, Donin asserted, then Jews would be more likely to abandon their Jewish faith and convert to Christianity, as he himself had done.

Pope Gregory IX took Donin’s letter seriously, and he sent a letter to all Catholic institutions in France demanding that they seize copies of the Talmud from Jewish communities in their midst. Similar letters were sent to Catholic leaders in Italy, Spain and Portugal. The Talmud was going to be put on trial, the Pope announced, and all copies had to be confiscated before this began.
King Louis IX
The date for taking the precious Talmud volumes from synagogues, homes and Jewish schools was set for Shabbat, March 3, 1240. On that day, officials burst into synagogues across Europe where Jews were gathered for Shabbat services, loading volumes of the Talmud that had been painstakingly written by hand, as well as other Jewish books, away. Any Jew who tried to prevent his or her holy books could be killed with impunity.

Two months later, the Talmud was put on trial. King Louis IX oversaw the arrangements: the proceedings were to be public, and he personally promised to guarantee the personal safety of the Jews who were to be charged with defending the Talmud. However, there were strict ground rules that any Jew defending the Talmud had to adhere to: they could not criticize Christianity in any way. Nothing derogative about Christians or Christian belief could be uttered. Blasphemy, as defined by the Catholic Church, would not be tolerated. The conclusion of this infamous trial, or disputation, was a foregone conclusion.

King Louis IX ordered four prominent rabbis to defend the Talmud: Rabbi Yechiel of Paris, Rabbi Moses of Coucy, Rabbi Judah of Melum and Rabbi Samuel ben Solomon of Chateau-Thierry. They faced off against Nicholas Donin, the Christian convert who’d initiated the entire dispute.

The trial raged for days. Rabbi Yechiel led the Jewish team, and even his opponents agreed that he argued brilliantly, given the strict limitations on what he was allowed to say. When Donin accused the Talmud of treating Christian figures less than kindly, Rabbi Yechiel responded that it was possible that two people might have the same name, pointing out that “not every Louis born in France is king.” His flattery seemed designed to sooth the mercurial monarch, who watched every stage of the debate with great interest.

At one point King Louis IX’s temper got the better of him as he followed the intricate arguments. Rabbi Yechiel advanced a particularly effective argument and Louis IX became enraged, shouting that instead of discussing matters of faith with a Jew, a good Christian should plunge his sword into him instead. So much for assurances that the rabbis would be safe. Rabbi Yechiel fled for his life, and the three other rabbis continued the dispute without him. Despite the rabbis’ best efforts, the trial had been decided before it began. The Talmud was found “guilty” and condemned to be burned.

King Louis IX oversaw the “sentence” two years later, in 1242. Officials throughout France had scoured the countryside looking for copies of the Talmud and other Hebrew books, taking them by force from Jews across France. Not a single volume of the Talmud remained in Jewish hands. On the morning of June 17, 1242, 24 wagons piled to the top with thousands of volumes of the Talmud and other Jewish books made their way slowly through Paris to the Place de Greve, near Notre Dame Cathedral. The collection was enormous. At a time when every book was painstakingly written by hand, this represented generations of Jewish learning and work. It’s estimated that the wagons held about 10,000 books.

One by one, each of the two dozen wagons disgorged their books, dropping the precious texts onto the ground. By the end of the day, an enormous pile of Jewish writings covered the plaza. A crowd gathered to watch the conflagration as Louis IX’s officials set the books on fire.
“My tears formed a river that reached to the Sinai desert and to the graves of Moshe and Aharon,” Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, who was present at the scene, recalled later about that day. “Is there another Torah to replace the Torah which you have taken from us?” Sages designated a minor fast day in memory of this tragedy: the Friday before the Torah Portion Chukat is read in synagogue. This year’s fast day in memory of the Talmud’s burning is Friday, July 3, 2020.
The Apotheosis of St. Louis, which stands in front of the St. Louis Art Museum, memorializes the city's namesake.
The fast day this year comes amid renewed attention about King Louis IX. After his death, he became a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. The city of St. Louis is named after him and some people are protesting his statue in that city. In addition to putting the Talmud on trial, King Louis IX also signed legislation to expel Jews from France (this was carried out by his successor King Phillip IV) and led the Seventh and Eighth Crusades, which also targeted Jewish communities. His legacy is a complex one.

Yet, as many people around the world debate Louis IX’s legacy, some Jews will recall his reign in a much more personal way, fasting and praying and recalling the Trial of the Talmud that he oversaw, and the incalculable loss of Jewish scholarship that resulted.



The Year of the Vilna Gaon
Jun 27, 2020
by Ariel Bulshtein, Israel Hayom
Long after most of its once-vibrant Jewish community is gone, Lithuania is embracing the legacy of the Vilna Gaon.
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/The-Year-of-the-Vilna-Gaon.html?s=mm
Visitors to the only remaining Jewish cemetery in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius witnessed something unusual on April 23. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the area filled with cars, and out of one spilled high-ranking Lithuanian officials, including Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius. Careful to observe social distancing, they all joined Israeli Ambassador to Lithuania Yossi Levy near one of the headstones to mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of the great Torah scholar Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Shlomo Zalman, better known as the Vilna Gaon.

The Vilna Gaon was born on April 23, 1720, in the village of Selz in modern-day Belarus. When he was living, Vilnius, known as the "Jerusalem of Lithuania" was anything but Lithuanian, and home mostly to Poles and Jews. The Holocaust changed that forever.

Although the now-independent Lithuania is home to only a tiny Jewish population, the locals try to remember the rabbi, who helped make their capital famous throughout the Jewish world. One of the streets in the old city of Vilnius has been renamed after the rabbi. In 1997, a statue of him was erected in what used to be the city's Jewish quarter.

The Vilna Gaon lived near the city's great synagogue, which was later badly damaged in World War II and completely destroyed by the Soviets. Still, much of the area remains as it was during his life. The nation's Jewish museum is named after the Vilna Gaon, and another site in Vilnius linked to the rabbi is the Widow and Brothers Romm print shop, which published the first version of the Talmud with the Gaon's commentary.

Ironically, the first version of the statue to commemorate the great scholar portrayed him without any head covering, an error that was later fixed. Although there are many images of the rabbi, no one knows what he really looked like, as all 11 "portraits" were painted long after his death.

The 300th anniversary of the Gaon's birth inspired decision-makers to step up their efforts to commemorate his life. The Lithuanian Parliament declared 2020 the Year of the Vilna Gaon and the Year of Jewish History. But even before 2020, Lithuanian authorities sought to have the Gaon's manuscripts included in UNESCO's Memory of the World Programme. The Lithuanian Central Bank issued a special commemorative coin to mark the celebrations of his birth and legacy.

The celebration scheduled originally included nearly 70 separate events, but coronavirus upended everything. An international conference on Jewish study and intellectualism in Lithuania from the 18th to 20th centuries has been postponed until October, and possibly to next year.

His sons said he never slept more than two hours a day, divided into four half-hour parts.
The Vilna Gaon himself would probably wonder, and maybe be dismayed, if he knew the honors being heaped upon him in his homeland, which since his lifetime has been nearly emptied of its Jewish population. He was noted for scholarship and modesty, so much so that he consistently refused an official position with the local rabbinate, as the job would have disrupted his studies.

His sons said he never slept more than two hours a day, divided into four half-hour parts. It's hard to imagine him making time for the "nonsense" of national honors.

The unusual interest in the great scholar's life seems quite appropriate to Lithuanian Ambassador to Israel Lina Antanavičienė. "The Jews were an inseparable part of society in Lithuania from the days of the great duchy in the 14th century," Antanavičienė said.

"The Jewish community made an important contribution to the rise of Lithuania, its history, culture, and science. We see the 300th anniversary of the Gaon's birth an opportunity to promote knowledge of the history of Jews in our country, and improve and preserve their legacy and invest more in keeping that legacy alive. In the broader sense, this is an opportunity for the Lithuanian people and for the entire world to learn more about the achievements of Jews who were born in our country and lived and created for our country, and to be proud of them," the ambassador said.

The Lithuanians' desire to show pride in a spiritual authority who was active in their capital city is worthy of praise, but it is a challenge. The Vilna Gaon's work, his thinking, rulings, and innovations to the Talmud and the Kabbala are not immediately comprehensible to anyone who is not familiar with Jewish texts, and virtually inaccessible to anyone who does not read Hebrew. And without the content, the Vilna Gaon could be reduced to a folkloric figure, as happened with Judah Loew ben Bezalel of Prague, whom residents and visitors associate with the famous legend of the Golom.

The organizers of the year of events honoring the Vilna Gaon will try to bridge knowledge gaps with an exhibition titled "The Years of Eliyahu," which is scheduled to open in October at the National Library of Lithuania and will focus on the rabbi's enormous influence on Judaism. State authorities plan to borrow the famous notebook from the Gaon's own synagogue, which is currently preserved at the Yiddish Scientific Institute in New York, for the exhibit.

The Lithuanian national broadcast company is making a special effort to bring the Vilna Gaon's work to the general public. A special radio program devoted to the Gaon shared some of his pearls of wisdom with listeners, and stressed his critical approach as well as his broad familiarity with general subjects like mathematics and astronomy. The Gaon wrote a book on the sciences, and was also knowledgeable about engineering, biology, geography, linguistics, and music.

The broadcast underscored the Gaon's importance as a spiritual authority not only to the Jewish people, and shared a piece of his practical advice: "Today, this teaching from the Vilna Gaon is important to us. If a person desires to understand something, he must follow three rules: to look at what he is shown, to hear what he is told, and to feel all this in his heart."

Ambassador Antanaviciene agreed that the legacy of the Vilna Gaon includes universal messages. "The Vilna Gaon's philosophy is as relevant in the changing world of today as it was in the 18th century. Living in a community, while developing independent thought and aspiring to make positive changes in society – that teaches us an important lesson about the development of modern democracy in Lithuania," she said.
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Post  Admin on Tue 30 Jun 2020, 10:25 pm

The 48 Ways to Prayer
Jun 27, 2020  |  by Sarah Levy
The 48 Ways to Prayer
How Rabbi Noah Weinberg's book shook my stagnation and gave me a path to meaningful prayer.

In my mind, there are two types of people. There are those who know how to pray, and those who don't.

I was one of those people who just didn’t have what it takes to pray. And I believed there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

I was raised as an observant Jew so of course I prayed. Once a day since first grade, and twice a day since fifth, in fact. And about a year ago, I started saying the evening prayers as well. Being 20 years old, this added up to a mighty lot of prayers! And when you count Shabbos and Holidays, I was praying a lot.

But all too often my prayers were stilted, forced through numb lips, and even worse, a numb heart.

I felt down about my inability to connect properly. Sure, I had my moments of intense prayer. And although I felt connected to God, it was usually a huge struggle to stay focused when I opened my prayer book. I tried, oh, did I try. But I could not get myself unstuck.


 
Enter The 48 Ways to Wisdom.

Based on the Mishna in Ethics of the Fathers (6:6), the 48 Ways is Rabbi Noah Weinberg's transformational series. I’ve been learning the 48 Ways book for the last few years. I like to learn it during the days of the Omer. As we have 49 days before the holiday of receiving the Torah (48 Ways plus one day for review), I feel it is the perfect time.

This year, I wanted to take it to the next level. I sat down the first night, holding my well-worn copy, and wondered what more I could do. And then I noticed it.

At the very end of the book was one extra chapter. Entitled “The 48 Ways as Tools”, it described the ways as tools to reach any goal in spirituality. A wild thought suddenly flew through my head. Could this possibly be what I needed to finally shake my prayer stagnation?

There was only one way to find out. With a huge measure of trepidation, a great deal of anticipation, and a little helping of what I was almost too scared to identify as hope, my way to meaningful prayer began.

So here are a few selections from my spiritual travelogue, an adventure on the high seas of supplication, gratitude, relationship, and prayer.

Way #1- Constant Study: Imagine what your life would be like if you lived with proper prayer

Ah. Who needs palm trees when you can dream of the perfect prayer? I’m imagining myself swaying over my prayer book, finally feeling the connection I’ve always wanted to feel, and appreciating each word instead of speedreading my way through prayer, with disjointed words and malformed syllables the poor victims.

I’m taking this dream and putting it on the calendar, with a label of “Day 48”. Now this is motivation!

Way # 2 - Define the Issue: What does prayer mean?

Whoa. Talk about a knock-out. Could I really learn to pray without properly articulating what prayer is?

After giving it some thought, this is the definition of what I believe prayer means to me: Talking to the Creator of the World as a reality in front of me, realizing that He is right here and I am actually talking to someone who is listening closely, and I can thank Him and ask for anything I need. And since the Hebrew verb for prayer, lihitpallel, is in the reflexive, prayer is also a means of self-examination. Is what I am praying for good for me? Is that really what I should be asking for?

Way #3- Saying it out loud

Who knew that praying out loud puts your concentration into a whole new league? The difference is so huge, I should take out a billboard to let everyone know!

Way #5-The Power of Awe: What is awesome about the impact of prayer?

Prayer is awesome because…. You whisper a few words in the corner of your family room, and God actually hears what you’re saying! And… He answers you! What could be more awesome than that?

I’m starting to see a change in the way I approach talking to God. As I learn a new way every day, I keep that way in mind and it’s been making a different. So grateful!

Way #7- Humility and Objectivity: How would you motivate someone else to live with the correct attitude to prayer?

Hmm. How would I motivate someone else?

I think the strongest reason for investing time and effort into your relationship with God is that it's worth it. It's the right thing to do, and you get so much more than you give.

Way #10- Serving the Wise: Ask a wise man to help you understand prayer better.

"No way I'm doing this," is my instant reaction. "I don't have who to ask, and I'm way to embarrassed."

And no matter how much I try to psych myself up to do it, it's a no-go. And I feel pretty down about it. I think of calling my grandmother. The way she prays, her tears, concentration, and palpable connection, has always been something I've wanted to emulate. But somehow, reaching out and discussing my definition of prayer is too difficult.

And then an unsolicited email lands in my inbox. From my grandmother. It was an email to a group of her contacts, in response to a question someone had posed to her. The contents? Her definition of prayer!

"We need to feel that Someone is listening and that Someone cares for us and has the ability to help us."

Way #18 - Harnessing the power of physical pleasure: Talk to your body.

This feels really strange. I mean, who talks to their body? This Way to Wisdom is becoming an integrated being, where the soul leads and the body provides the power, kind of like a horse and a rider. By talking to your body, and encouraging it to cooperate by pointing out the benefits it will have, you harness your body's passion and power.

And… it works! I realized that a lot of what was holding me back was physical stuff, lack of patience, time, busy with other things, distraction. And when I told my body that "Yeah, it's hard but it's going to be so worth it, and you'll feel amazing afterwards," it was so much easier to pray well.

Way #26 - Know your place: Compare yourself to someone who prays well. How did they get there?

I immediately think of my great-grandmother. A Holocaust survivor who built a beautiful family and thriving business and did so much for others. I picture her sitting quietly with her blue book of Psalms, murmuring the words that clearly meant so much to her.

As a survivor who kept her all-encompassing faith in the darkest days in mankind's history, her connection to God was something so real, something she nurtured from her youngest childhood days in Eastern Europe, through Auschwitz, to a new home in America. While my experiences are so far removed from hers, and please God, we should never again know of such suffering, I hope to grow a relationship as real and as meaningful.

Way #41- Living in Reality: Why is prayer a real obligation and how would you explain it to others?

A funny memory suddenly pops up. Something about a teacher of mine telling up about a pair of friends who are very close but don't talk. They just sit quietly side by side. I remember clearly how funny we found that. My class laughed about it for days.

The joke is on us, because if you're not talking honestly to God, you're really doing the same thing.

 

Way #47 – Growth comes from implementing wisdom each day: How will you live with prayer daily?

As I approach the end of the 48 Ways, the joy of accomplishment is very real. But as much as I'm glad to be finishing, I'm more than a little afraid. It's almost like I'm going to be left all on my own.

But Way 47 provides the answer. Growth comes from implementing wisdom each day.

I decide that every day I will stop before each prayer and remind myself of one of the Ways to Prayer, and focus my thoughts on that one way while I’m praying.

The most important thing I've learned? That there are two categories of people. Those who can pray, and those who haven't yet learned to pray.

Which category do you belong to? And what will you do about it?

Click here to order your copy of Rabbi Noah Weinberg's 48 Ways to Wisdom.
https://www.aish.com/sp/pr/The-48-Ways-to-Prayer.html?s=mm
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Post  Admin on Sun 28 Jun 2020, 5:49 pm

https://www.aish.com/sp/so/Saadya-Ehrenpreis-A-Man-With-Down-Syndrome-and-a-College-Dream.html?s=mm
Saadya Ehrenpreis: A Man With Down Syndrome and a College Dream
Jun 27, 2020
by Luis Andres Henao and Jessie Wardarski

Saadya Ehrenpreis: A Man With Down Syndrome and a College Dream
A tribute to the beloved New Yorker who defied expectations.

The following is the latest installment of a series of tributes to COVID-19 victims by the Associated Press

Right up to the end, the status message on Saadya Ehrenpreis’ social media profile read: “Having the time of my life.”

“And he was,” Ahava Ehrenpreis said of her son, one of more than 110,000 lives claimed by COVID-19 in the United States so far.

Born with Down syndrome, Saadya was not expected to be able to become independent, and doctors said he might not even learn to talk. He proved them wrong, graduating from high school and enrolling in Yeshiva University’s Makor College Experience, a program for young men with special needs.

Saadya Ehrenpreis proudly holds up his Yeshiva University student ID. (Stephen Glicksman via AP) 

 
Saadya was beloved on the campus in New York City for his joyful spirit, and classmates paid tribute to him during Yeshiva’s graduation via videoconference Sunday – a ceremony in which he himself would have “walked” virtually if not for the new coronavirus.

“The secret of his popularity is that he was so positive, so happy and so anxious for you to be happy, too,” Ahava said. “This is a very selfless happiness: I won’t be happy unless you’re happy too.”

For years she wrote about her son’s inspiring milestones in a magazine column. In the last one, “Dear Saadya … Love, Mom,” she asked readers to pray for him as he fought the disease. On April 28, two days shy of his 36th birthday, he became the first student at Yeshiva University to die from COVID-19.
Hundreds attended his funeral remotely the following day.

As he grew up in his native New York, Saadya’s family never wanted him to feel like he was different from his five sisters and two brothers, and he was close to them, his mother said.

“I give his siblings a lot of credit, because they really included him. He was always one of the guys,” she said. “And I think that attitude sort of played out for the rest of his life. If you said to him, ‘You have a disability,’ he would have said, ‘Really?’”

Saadya wanted to prove he could do anything, and from the time he could walk, fences and locks did little to hold him back, his mother wrote in a column. There were times he insisted he be allowed to take driving lessons – one instance where he had to be told no – and he was prone to going on solo jaunts exploring the bustling city without warning.

“He was a great person, a great heart.”
“The NYPD records show Saadya’s fearless sense of adventure, documenting just how many times they were called in to search for him,” Ahava wrote in Mishpacha magazine.

In 2006, he traveled to Israel for Yeshivat Darkaynu, a gap-year program for young men with special needs, and ended up staying in the country for four years.

Returning to the United States, he focused on a lifelong but seemingly unattainable dream: attending Yeshiva University, where his late father, Leon Ehrenpreis, had been a mathematics professor.

But that became a reality when Makor College Experience launched in 2017, with Saadya part of its inaugural class. During the three-year program, young men with special needs live in dorms and apartments and do coursework in Jewish studies and other fields, along with training in life skills like dating and applying for jobs.

Saadya was thrilled to be a college student. In a photo taken at the Washington Heights campus, he can be seen proudly holding up his university ID.

“Best dorm ever. I like the cooking class,” he said of his Yeshiva University experience in a 2017 school video. “My father was staff at YU. I want to be like my father.”

Saadya Ehrenpreis with Harav Ahron Kahn at Yeshiva University.
Last year, before more than 200 people at synagogue, he read a prayer in Aramaic in homage to his father, who was also a Rabbi, a Torah scholar and a marathon runner.

“He went up there and he said it beautifully,” Ahava said of that morning, which she chronicled in a piece titled “Miracle on East 18th Street.”

Eventually, Saadya moved into an apartment in Brooklyn with other Makor students, learning to ride the subway from there to school during rush hour. He joined the welcoming committee at the university’s beis medrash, or study hall, where he greeted all who came to daven, debate and learn the Talmud.

“Saadya was an exceptional young man,” university president Rabbi Ari Berman said. “He had a radiant smile and brightened the day of anyone that he interacted with.”

At home and at school, Saadya was known for being tidy. At times that got him into trouble because he’d organize anything, even if it belonged to others.

Saadya’s mother recalled the times he wore a superhero mask and cape, and when he sang in front of the mirror. He loved the Miami Boys Choir and the Maccabeats, an Orthodox Jewish a cappella group founded at Yeshiva University. He was fond of pizza, especially a slice from Jerusalem 2 on Avenue J in Brooklyn.

Makor has launched a scholarship program in Saadya’s memory, calling him “a personification of the type of student for whom the program was founded.”

A few days before commencement, Stephen Glicksman, Makor’s director of clinical innovation, said he took comfort in knowing Saadya would “want his peers to celebrate and to be happy and to live in the moment like he did.”

“He was the best. I miss him,” classmate Jonah Goldstein said Sunday, wearing a cap and gown as he watched the graduation ceremony on a screen from his backyard in Woodmere, New York. “He was a great person, a great heart.”
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Post  Admin on Thu 25 Jun 2020, 10:33 pm

https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Becoming-a-Jew-All-the-Perks-of-Membership.html?s=mm
Becoming a Jew: All the Perks of Membership
Jun 21, 2020  |  by Elizabeth Emery
75
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Becoming a Jew: All the Perks of Membership
Becoming Jewish is a wonderful journey, but it isn’t always easy.

Early last summer, I visited Israel and tucked a prayer into the Western Wall. It had been at least ten years since I’d made any serious attempt at prayer, but I was at a point in my life where the decisions I was making were not yielding the results I was looking for. I wanted to break the patterns that I learned in a difficult and abusive childhood, but I seemed unable to do so. I had already been married once to someone who treated me terribly; my boyfriends before and after usually weren’t any better. Wading through the quagmire of online dating was exhausting and depressing.

So I found myself divorced at 28 years old, standing in front of the Western Wall with a folded-up receipt from an Israeli gas station with just two words written on it: Husband, baby. I figured if there was power in prayer, it was to be found in the yearning of the heart and not so much in the power of the pen, so I kept it simple and tucked it into a crevice. I had rarely experienced such a longing, nor such a willingness to make the changes I needed to make to get where I wanted to go.

That night, I swiped right on a tall, good-looking Mizrahi man who is now my fiancé. It sounds like a love story from a novel, and in many ways it feels like it is (a lightning strike of luck, a handsome foreigner), but it is also challenging and complicated.

The least of the complications was the fact that I would have to convert to Judaism. In theory, this was no problem – I had seriously considered it before, because I had spent several years nannying for an observant Orthodox family and loved what I learned from them – but in practice it meant moving, changing jobs, and making all the lifestyle changes that go along with being an Orthodox Jew.

Gradually integrating the mitzvot into my life has provided structure and meaning that sustains me on difficult days and uplifts me further on good ones.
In many ways, transitioning into a Jewish lifestyle feels easy and familiar. I was raised a devout Mormon, so although I left that church in high school, I was intimately familiar with the "Old Testament" and found Jewish values to be already ingrained deep within me. I love the rich intellectual tradition of Judaism and find Jewish history and Judaism’s prominent figures, like Rabbi Akiva and Maimonides, fascinating. Gradually integrating the mitzvot into my life has provided structure and meaning that sustains me on difficult days and uplifts me further on good ones.

So far, so good. But in March, things got a little more complicated. I created a Twitter account to connect with other writers and advocate my own writing, and I began to publish more of my own tweets and get involved in others’ conversations. Many of these were positive about Israel, and many of them covered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.




Before Twitter, my experience with anti-Semitism had been anecdotal: The shooting in Pittsburgh, the increasing reports of anti-Semitism, were sad and alarming but they all still felt somewhat remote. Then, within one week on Twitter, I was called a liar, white supremacist, Hasbara agent, dumb Jew, lying Jew, and a Nazi, among other names which are not fit to print. Someone threatened to dox me and publish my address so I could get the “punishment” I deserved.




Of course, it didn’t matter that I was not actually Jewish yet, nor that I had never even heard of Hasbara until someone accused me of working for them. It was made very clear that merely associating with Jews, or advocating for Israel, was enough to provoke the most inhuman rhetoric. For the most part, I took this in stride. It bothered me, but I wasn’t surprised by it.




Then one morning I met the limits of my ability to distance myself. It was the day after Amit Ben Yigal, a 21-year-old IDF soldier, was killed by a large rock dropped directly on his face from the roof of a Palestinian home. “What a price I have paid,” Amit’s father told reporters of the loss of his only son. I read that over and over again: What a price I have paid.




The seriousness with which I take a child’s life – indeed, the sacredness which Judaism attributes to every human life – makes me grieve when I see that a Palestinian child has been killed. I didn't know what I expected the reaction in the Twitterverse to Ben Yigal’s death to be, but it certainly wasn’t what I saw: Dozens of people earnestly rejoicing over his death in the most ugly and explicit terms. When I objected, they told me they hoped I, and every other Zionist Jew, would be next.




I’ve raised enough kids as a nanny and older sister to know that when you love a child, the thing you fear the most is the moment that occurs in the blink of an eye, a swift and irreversible tragedy. Now, I can tell you that it is also possible to lose sleep over the fear of the death of a child you don’t even have yet. My fiancé proudly served in the IDF and we will be proud to see our children serve as well, but it is impossible to consider their future service without knowing that what happened to Ben Yigal, what might happen any of the youth who fight for Israel, might also happen to us. Might happen to me.




Becoming a part of Judaism is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, but it has forced me to confront real human ugliness and to take on responsibilities that I would rather not.

I went to a wonderful Jewish friend of mine and cried bitterly into her arms. She was very sympathetic, but she wasn’t shocked or horrified. It is unfortunate, she said, but if you want to be a Jew, this is just one of the perks of membership. As usual, she was right. We finished talking, and she gave me a warm hug, advised me to be brave, and buttressed me with a big bowl of homemade matzoh ball soup. Still blowing my nose, I sat at the table with her kids and the mood shifted quickly from sadness to silliness.




Becoming a part of Judaism is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, but it has forced me to confront real human ugliness and to take on responsibilities that I would rather not. It is simultaneously one of the most joyous processes, and also one of the most sobering. As I move deeper into my own practice, and realize more about what it means to really take on the mantel of Judaism, I am having to learn an old Jewish tradition – that of holding gladness in one hand and grief in the other. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but I’ve never doubted my decision for a moment.




Indeed, having such behavior directed at me made me realize it had always been there, and that it always would be there, directed at people I love. How could I do anything else but stand beside them? After all, as I’m finding out, being part of a community is one of the most beautiful parts of Judaism; no matter what happens, you aren’t Jewish alone.
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Post  Admin on Tue 23 Jun 2020, 10:42 pm

Why I Don't Need to Believe in God
Jun 21, 2020
by Billye Tziporah Roberts

I've always known that there was a God. I saw God everywhere and felt that He wanted a relationship with us.
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/Why-I-Dont-Need-to-Believe-in-God.html?s=mm
My family moved a lot when I was young, and we attended several different Protestant churches, of different denominations, over the years.

One morning, when I was six years old, I was thrown out of a Methodist Sunday School because I asked the teacher a question she couldn't answer. All these many years later, I have come to understand that it never even occurred to her that mine was a sincere question. I'm sure she thought I was just being bratty and uppity. But in this case the teacher badly misjudged the child.

I was actually doing my best to be a good little Christian girl. The problem I kept running into was that my Sunday School teachers kept saying things that didn't make sense to me.

So many questions
So I'd ask them about the things they taught and they would explain (by which I mean try to shut me up so they could move on) by saying other things that made no more sense to me than their original statements. When I'd ask again (and I always asked again) they would invariably give me the ultimate Christian answer to all complex questions: "You just have to have faith."

One day I finally asked, in all my childlike innocence, the question that aggravated one teacher enough that she threw me out of her class: “But... what do you do if you don't have faith?” I remember walking home alone that lovely morning so long ago, totally puzzled by what I had said that upset her so much.

Even at six, I was aware that belief implied the possibility that the thing believed in wasn't real. But I knew there was a God.
I mean I truly, almost desperately, wanted to know the answer to that question. I wanted to do the right thing. I wanted to be a good little Christian girl. Whatever the teacher was trying to teach me that day, what I actually learned was:

1. not to ask any question about the religion I was being taught; and
2. never admit to anyone that I did not have faith.

 
Because I didn't have any. I did not believe in God. (Or Jesus, although that turned out to be another issue entirely.)



Even at six, I was aware that belief implied the possibility that the thing believed in wasn't real. That's why you had to believe. I didn't have faith because I didn't need it. I knew with total certainty that there was a God. So, no belief was needed.

There were however, a lot of things I did not know:

What, or who, exactly was this God I knew was there?

Why was it I knew God was there, but other older, apparently smarter people than me didn't seem to be so sure of that?

What did God want from people... from me?

If, as people kept trying to teach me, I was really supposed to worship God, what was the right way to do it?

In other words, what was the way to get what I wanted more than anything else: to be closer to God?

So, yeah, I knew God was there, but that didn't clear up the many other things I wasn't even a little bit sure about.

I continued attending Sunday School and church services as I grew up. (Mostly because my mother made me. But also because I kept hoping that there still might be an answer or two there. At that time, I had no idea there was anywhere else to look.)

Though my days of asking questions came to a complete halt, I didn't stop having questions.

Feeling God everywhere
I never stopped experiencing that part of God's presence in this world (the Shechinah).

My college friends laughed at me when they saw me dancing with the ocean waves. I didn't bother to explain that I could feel eternity in the endless rolling of that sea.

Sitting alone under the stars in the California desert, I felt God's immensity against my own insignificance. It felt right. It felt peaceful. It also made me know that if you lived alone in the desert, you would either become very wise, or go completely mad. Maybe both.

Later, in random travels, I stood in room-sized, wooden buildings with open ceilings so that your eyes would be drawn upward toward Godliness. I wandered through maze-like buildings, where all the heads of all the doors were built down low so that you had to bend down to enter the rooms reminding you of humility. I saw stunning beauty in stone cathedrals whose stained-glass windows and massive arches had been built as a form of worship to remind you of G-d's majesty.

I stood in places where people fought and died. I stood in ancient villages where people lived and died. Like the ocean, eternity moved in these places too.

I had always thought that the Pacific Ocean, was the most humbling thing I would ever experience. And then I saw Stonehenge. I walked around the open plain that surrounded that massive circle of stones. It filled me with awe.

There are a lot of things that I still don't know but I have no doubt that God was in all those places.

But what was my way?
There was still this huge, multi-piece puzzle in my head - so many pieces. Some slid together and fit with others. Some sat off to the side of the board, stubbornly refusing to intersect with any of the others. But no single piece, no group of pieces, was the one Perfect Piece that I was certain was the foundation of them all.

I moved to Denver, Colorado. And I met a new group of people, Wiccans. They also worshiped God, though very differently than anyone I had known before. They were good, sincere people. They were my friends, my coven. I loved them. And I respected them and their path. I learned so much from them. But it turned out that their path didn't put all the pieces of the puzzle together for me. Their path was not my path, any more than Christianity had been.

Me and a friend

And eventually, when I moved East, I found myself again walking alone, still searching for answers.

It was in a small town in Pennsylvania, one that didn’t have ten Jews to make a minyan most of the time, that I began learning about Judaism. The story of that nearly two-decade journey is too long for a paragraph, so for now I will just say:

I would never have thought that buying a book called "Judaism for Dummies" would lead me to the mikvah and all the rest of my wonderful, amazing 18-year Jewish journey. (Click here to read more about the author's journey to Judaism.)

I had finally found my own path.

And I still don't "believe" in God.
Rabbi Manis Friedman wrote, "The statement, 'I believe there is a God' is meaningless. Faith is not the ability to imagine that which does not exist."

Exactly! I could never figure out how to say it so well.

This was the reason that being told to "just have faith" never worked for me. It wasn’t possible for me to just have faith, because I didn't have to imagine anything. I've always known that there was a God. I saw God everywhere. I always felt that God wanted a relationship with us.

It's what I felt in my travels around the world: people reaching out to God and God reaching back.

Although, what I really feel is that little space between God’s Hand and ours. Because, of course, we can never wholly grasp hands. As God said to Moses, "You will not be able to see My face, for man shall not see Me and live" (Exodus 33:20).

But the fact that we can never really touch God isn't the point. It's the reaching that matters - the yearning to touch that matters - to both sides and for both sides.

God is always there... reaching out to us… wanting to reach us, as much as we want to reach Him.

I knew that when I was six years old. And I know it now.
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Post  Admin on Sun 21 Jun 2020, 10:21 pm

https://www.aish.com/ci/s/My-Experiences-as-a-Black-Orthodox-Jew.html?s=mm
My Experiences as a Black Orthodox Jew
Jun 20, 2020  |  by Aliza Bracha Klein
My Experiences as a Black Orthodox Jew
The past several weeks have been overwhelming and heartbreaking for me.

One of my most used slogans is that “I don’t fit in a box”. And I say this as a black Jewish American who is Orthodox. I'm asked many times to share my story because people are so curious about my journey. But my story is quite long and complicated so I don’t tell it as much anymore. Nevertheless, the short version is that I wanted to live a Torah-observant life which I found immensely fulfilling. And I’m also blessed to have met my husband, Aryeh Klein, who has provided me with support and compassion every step of the way.

As a black Orthodox Jew, I've had many different experiences that make me who I am, and one of them is the experience of being a person of color. The past several weeks have been overwhelming and heartbreaking for me.
I want to first express my condolences to the family of George Floyd. No man, no matter the color of his skin, should die in that manner. It is a horrific tragedy.

I also extend my condolences to retired police officer David Dorn who was killed by looters and rioters. Another terrible tragedy. I can’t begin to tell you how deeply saddened I am about these tragic events.

As a social worker who has worked for a police department and worked side-by-side with our officers, I have respect for our police officers who risk their lives to protect citizens every day. I truly appreciate them.
Alyssa Bracha and Aryeh Klein

On the other hand, I also understand the awful experiences and challenges that black Americans – more specifically that black males – face in the United States.

George Floyd is just one of the many horrific incidents that describe what some black men face when interacting with the police. Unfortunately, there are some bad cops in the system. They need to be identified and not hidden within the police departments. I believe that police officers – black and non-black – could benefit from learning different arrest procedures and cultural competence training. Too many police officers – and average citizens for that matter – are suspicious of black males and hold racist beliefs. As the daughter of a black male, I’ve experienced this with my own eyes.

I remember when I was 15 years old, my parents and I took a cruise to Alaska where we were one of two black families on board, along with hundreds of people. We encountered a lot of stares, awkward conversations, and discomfort by others.

As we were on our land-and-sea tour during our train ride through the Yukon Territory, there was an open seat next to my father. No one wanted to sit beside him. You could see the sneers and faces of displeasure as they passed him by, judging my father just by his skin, not by his character.

In a Detroit Jewish News article, a black man shares his story about being pulled over every day at 5 AM while on his route to the gym where he was working as a trainer with a client. He asked this officer, “Why do you pull me over every morning? You know who I am. I’m the only black guy who comes over here.” The cop gave him no reply.

The outrage is understandable. It has been expressed through peaceful protests by multitudes of people, and sadly, it has also been expressed by destructive rioting
The outrage is understandable. It has been expressed through peaceful protests by multitudes of people, and sadly, it has also been expressed by destructive rioting by a wide range of people, black and white, some who just want to start trouble, some who are angry and are expressing it inappropriately, and others who have different agendas.

In 1966 while giving a speech, Dr. Martin Luther King spoke about rioting. He says:

Certain conditions continue to exist in our society, which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met.

This quote is usually taken out of context by individuals who support rioting. If you knew Dr. King, you would know that he believed in peaceful protests and did not support violence. Dr. King was merely providing empathy on the issues and concerns of black America, while also highlighting the reason as to why people were rioting. He did not condone it.

Dr. King, who was a minister, spoke from many religious principles including peace, kindness, and respect for your neighbor. Just like Dr. King, my parents always taught me about kindness and respect for your neighbor. I was also taught that just because you may experience hurt, it doesn’t mean that you have the right to hurt others. My mother's story is a prime example of this.

My mom is a retired journeyman electrician for General Motors. During her time working there, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She also experienced racism and sexism on the job that exasperated her medical condition and quickened her decline. My mom spent years in court battles over the way she was treated and never received justice. Despite the horrible mistreatment she received, she continued to have faith without being fueled by anger and hate against the world.

I believe that my parents’ strong will and ability to continue to have faith no matter what challenges they faced are some of the reasons that motivated me to seek a more observant Jewish lifestyle.

My dad often tells me that good things and blessings happen in difficult times. He’s right. Difficult times like this showed me that I have amazing family and friends that care about me and support me. Furthermore, these difficult times helped me see what obstacles I could face no matter how difficult -- especially when guided by faith.

Last but not least, we can all combat racism with the specific principles of treating people the way you would like to be treated, learning about our fellow neighbors, and treating people with respect no matter where they come from.

We can also learn to how to combat racism by:

Learning about yourself and checking to see if you have any biases or prejudices
Talking to someone of a different ethnicity than yours
Learning about other cultures and their history
Engaging in active listening
Asking questions when appropriate if granted the opportunity
Not assuming you know all about a particular culture by the media
Understand that there are culture conflicts that exist
Be an ally to those that are not able to speak up at times


https://www.aish.com/ci/s/A-Policeman-Speaks-Out.html?s=mm
A Policeman Speaks Out
Jun 20, 2020  |  by Steve Riback
A Policeman Speaks Out
I will never stand for or justify racism, illegal acts, brutality or excessive force by police officers. But we need to set the record straight.

Change can be challenging. I know because it happened to me over 17 years ago. At the time, I was living my passion as a crime-fighting police officer, yet struggling internally to find purpose. One Shabbat, the realization of how uneducated I was about Judaism engulfed me. The spark in my soul was lit and my quest began, leading to my eventual transformation of keeping kosher, the Sabbath, and wearing a yarmulke and beard. Although it was a challenge, my police department grew to accept my new appearance that came from my spiritual change. I saw firsthand the power of what working together could accomplish.

I have seen many other significant changes through the years from my police department in areas such as transparency, accountability, and training – all to improve and strengthen relationships with the community.

The oath taken by Chauvin to protect and serve was completely disregarded, and thankfully justice through the legal system is ongoing.
This is why I truly cannot help but be deeply saddened by recent events in our country and the shockwaves felt through the law enforcement community. Every human being should be outraged and disgusted at the horrific actions of Derek Chauvin towards George Floyd and his resulting death. The oath taken by Chauvin to protect and serve was completely disregarded, and thankfully justice through the legal system is ongoing. These are undoubtedly challenging times ahead, but Fred DeVito may have said it best, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you!”

These past couple of weeks have caused me to deeply reflect on my more than 22 years in law enforcement. I have had many conversations with fellow officers, and we are astonished at how our profession is getting skewered by the media with blatant disregard for facts or accuracy in reporting. We collectively feel we try to protect and serve the community that currently seems to hate us. Make no mistake about it, I will never stand for or justify racism, illegal acts, brutality, or excessive force by police officers. Those who operate in that fashion have no business working as police officers and deserve to be held accountable for their actions.

It is one thing to hear about the pervasive negativity towards police officers in the media, but it is quite another to live it. I stood side-by-side with fellow officers for several days last week at supposed peaceful protests reading signs displaying slogans of death and physical harm for cops, while listening to chants for violence on the police. I vividly recall the crowd spitting on officers, as well as throwing frozen water bottles, chunks of concrete, flaming glass bottles, and large rocks at us. Numerous officers received broken bones, lacerations, and the unimaginable outcome for fellow Officer Shay Mikalonis, who was shot in the face and currently lies in critical condition on a ventilator.

To lump all police officers as evil and the root cause of many problems in this country would be wrong and grossly inaccurate.
To categorize every protester as wanting death or injury to the police would be wrong and grossly inaccurate. To lump all police officers as evil and the root cause of many problems in this country would also be wrong and grossly inaccurate. For those citizens throughout the country wanting change and reform for police departments, your input, ideas, and suggestions are very much welcomed – your violence is not. As someone who fought firsthand against Civil Rights infractions, I am an advocate of attempting to solve disagreements peacefully in hopes everyone can come to the table and be heard. Meaningful discussions and positive change are outcomes the police want as well. We want your trust, we want your support, and we want to work together with the community.

It seems as of late that the focus and scrutiny with police-related incidents has shifted to what races the officer and suspect are, as opposed to the details, facts, and circumstances. Although it has been the center of attention, uses of force by police officers are extremely rare in comparison to the amount of citizen interactions that occur. Police officers know this fact, but I often wonder if the communities we serve are aware of it.

When discussing police uses of force, statistical facts and evidence for officers must be explored. To start, I wholeheartedly believe in the sanctity and preciousness of every human being’s life. In 2019, according to the Washington Post, 1003 people in the United States were shot and killed by police. The U.S Census stated the population in America was 329,131,338 people (on 12/31/19), equating to an individual residing in the U.S having a 0.00000305% chance of dying in a police-related incident. This statistic is irrespective of suspect race and/or gender as well as if the suspect used a weapon, harmed someone, attacked an officer, etc.

But what about statistics regarding non-deadly uses of force, excessive force, and brutality at the hands of the police? These are harder to find nationwide. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) 2019 Annual Report reported that the police responded to 874,510 calls from citizens for emergency and non-emergency assistance. The same Annual Report states 773 total officer use of force incidents, to include 4 officer-involved shooting deaths. This amounts to an overall use of force rate of 0.000883% (once again without knowing details of each use of force encounter and without regard to any race). For those departments with abnormal or high statistics, further investigation should be conducted to find out why. If any wrongdoing is uncovered, they must be held accountable.

Uses of force is undoubtedly one of the most controversial areas for law enforcement, and their scrutiny is imperative for ensuring police departments operate within the parameters of the law, while striving to maintain the public’s trust. But to claim or categorize ALL officers as racist or using excessive force, or even engaging in deadly force in systemic or epidemic levels is not supportable by facts. Contrary to what some in the media would lead you to believe, there is no evidence police officers are singling out any race over another en masse. We are either responding to calls for service or using crime trends and statistics to position resources in areas affected by crime (and specifically towards those committing the crimes).

Are there cops who take advantage of their position, are terrible at their jobs, and/or engage in illegal behaviors? Certainly. And every one of them deserve intense scrutiny, to be removed from the profession, and brought up on charges if applicable.

What can be done to improve the relationship with police officers as the national conversation turns to police reform? One call to action gaining traction is the “8 Can’t Wait” movement (see image below). Until more research and studies are done, it is difficult to know if this can be universally adopted throughout the country, but it certainly is a starting point for meaningful discussion and positive changes to occur.

Graphic from Campaign Zero

The LVMPD may be a department to emulate since for years our policies have encompassed almost all 8 areas with success. Furthermore, in Las Vegas we have a strong bond with our community, evidenced by the outpouring of community support for Officer Mikalonis. Police departments can create or strengthen community bonds by operating with high levels of accountability, sincerity in building and maintaining relationships, and a genuine love for serving the community.

I have the honor and privilege to work with some of the most courageous and brave men and women each shift. I get to see heroes on display every day as they consistently risk their own safety while heading directly towards danger, when everyone else is running away from it. Rest assured when 911 is called, these heroes are responding without a care of who you are in terms of race, religion, etc…they are simply coming because you called and need their help!
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Post  Admin on Thu 18 Jun 2020, 11:11 pm

https://www.aish.com/ci/s/The-Nazi-in-Harvards-Midst.html?s=mm
Senior Nazi official Ernst Hansfstaengl attended his 25th Harvard reunion in 1934, despite his Nazi ties.


Ernst Hanfstaengl was a larger than life figure. Tall and regal, he had an aristocratic manner and was a talented musician. He charmed many of the people he came across, from future American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to his many admiring classmates and professors at Harvard where he studied, to the man who eventually became his best friend and mentor: Adolf Hitler.


An ardent Nazi, Hanfstaengl tested the humanitarian resolve of his friends back at Harvard. After he was invited to be class marshal at Harvard’s 1934 Commencement exercises, Hanfstaengl became a divisive figure – inspiring some students to make gestures supporting the Nazis, and motivating many others to actively oppose him and the vile Nazi regime he represented.


Born into an upper class family in Munich in 1887, Hanfstaengl’s mother was American and when time came for him to go to college, he attended Harvard University. “In the early 1960s, we knew about this man,” recalled Jeffrey S. Mehlman, a member of the Harvard Class of 1965 who went on to become a professor of French Literature at Boston University. Hanfstaengl was known as a bonvivant and talented piano player (Wagner, the anti-Semitic German composer, was his particular favorite). He rowed crew, made friends widely, and even enjoyed personal invitations to the home of Harvard President Charles W. Eliot. He befriended Pres. Theodore Roosevelt’s son, who was also a student at Harvard, and spent Christmas of 1908 as a guest at the White House. “He was known as a good musician, and the big story was that Harvard was so powerful it had friends all over the world on all sides of every issue”, Mehlman remembered.


After graduating from Harvard in 1909, Hanfstaengl returned to Germany and kept up his Harvard connections. A member of Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Club introduced him to an American military attaché who told Hanfstaengl he’d just discovered “a most remarkable fellow” – a small-time would-be politician named Adolf Hitler.


 
Hanfstaengl went to a local beer hall where Hitler was speaking. He later recalled that with his “odd little mustache”, Hitler looked “like a waiter in a railway station restaurant” – but when the future mass murderer and dictator began to rant, Hanfstaengl was mesmerized. He visited Hitler’s home and played an upright piano he found there, quickly becoming noticed by Hitler and his inner circle. Hanfstaengl played a piece by Wagner and Hitler danced around, “waving his arms” he later described.


With Hitler and Goring in 1932
The two men became close friends (some observers noted that they seemed to have an odd, sinister bond with each other), and Hanfstaengl tried to teach Hitler more about high culture to help him further his political aspirations. Hanfstaengl’s Harvard connections were particularly prized: one day he played some Harvard football marches on the piano, and Hitler cried, “’That is it, Hanfstaengl, that is what we need for the movement, marvelous,’ and he pranced up and down the room like a drum majorette,” Hanfstaengl later wrote.


He wrote more marches for Hitler and composed the infamous Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! March, adapting a cheer he knew from his Harvard days that went “Harvard! Harvard! Harvard! Rah! Rah! Rah!”The march (which means “Hail Victory!” in German) was soon shouted every time Hitler spoke and became a hallmark of the Nazi party and its rallies.


By 1934, Hanfstaengl was in charge of the Nazi Party’s foreign press office. That was also the year of his 25th Harvard reunion. At Harvard, members of key reunion classes – 25th, 50th, and 75th – are invited to graduation, parade through the streets and through Harvard Yard, and sit on the stage while Harvard students receive their degrees. Hanfstaengl was invited by his classmates to help coordinate their parade, serving as Vice Marshal for the class of 1909 at the reunion. “He was an international celebrity, a good musician, and that was enough for his classmates,” explains Prof. Mehlman.


Some students were thrilled with the Nazi celebrity’s invitation – the young student editors at Harvard Crimson student paper even recommended that Hanfstaengl receive an honorary degree at the graduation ceremony. In an editorial titled “Render Unto Caesar”, students argued that because “he has risen to distinguished station” in a “country which happens to be a great world power,” an honorary degree was appropriate.


Harvard in the 1930s was a bastion of white male Christian privilege – very few Jews or other minorities could attend and discrimination was widely accepted. Still, even within the restrictive social mores of the era, the editors of the Harvard Crimson were reactionary, criticizing anti-Nazi organizations on campus and flirting with open approval of some Nazi policies.


Jewish and anti-Nazi groups were outraged, and soon Hanfstaengl’s planned visit was attracting widespread attention and protests. Amid all the uproar, Hanfstaengl rejected the offer of being Vice Marshal and said he wouldn’t attend. Then two days later he changed his mind and set sail for America and the graduation ceremony. By the time his ship docked in New York on June 16, 1935, a hostile crowd of 1,500 was waiting to confront him. Unwilling to brave the crowds, Hanfstaengl didn’t go ashore, and unceremoniously boarded a tugboat instead, which brought him to shore later on, a coward unwilling to face his critics head on.


Once in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Hanfstaengl was given a security detail. Several distinguished alumni invited Hanfstaengl to their homes – even Harvard University President James Bryant Conant invited him to his house for a tea party. (In his memoirs, Conant later maintained that he tried to make his disdain for his Nazi guest clear. When Hanfstaengl tried to make conversation, Conant recalled his manner was “cold; I did not return the greetings.”)


Marching in the Harvard parade
All week long, Hanfstaengl courted attention, giving several press conferences and announcing that he was going to endow a scholarship to bring Harvard students to Germany and donate $1,000 to the university. During one press conference in Harvard Yard, Rabbi Joseph Solomon Shubow – who was a Harvard alumnus – confronted him, asking about the plight of German Jews under Nazism. When Hanfstaengl replied, “I will say that the Jews’ situation in Germany is going to be normal before long,” Rabbi Shubow asked him “Did you mean by extermination?” Before he could reply, a Harvard police officer grabbed Hanfstaengl’s arm and announced the interview was over. Hanfstaengl told the crowd that since he was on vacation he couldn’t talk about such matters, then he proceeded to President Conant’s house for tea.


The day before commencement, the university held a day of festivities called Class Day. With Hanfstaengl in attendance, the occasion had a decidedly Nazi flavor. Hansfstaengl entered the area where the ceremonies were taking place and gave a Nazi salute. Some students applauded and returned the gesture – a few members of the class of 1924, celebrating their tenth anniversary, even goose-stepped into Harvard Stadium and gave the Nazi salute. Students held up comic posters, some of which referenced Hitler and Nazis and made jokes about them.


The next day was commencement day, and it had a more somber tone. Many students and townspeople lined the streets of Cambridge, protesting the Nazi in their midst. Harvard’s commencement ceremony was disrupted by two Radcliffe undergraduates who chained themselves to benches in Harvard Yard and yelled “Down with Hanfstaengl!” and “Down with Hitler!” during President Conant’s speech. When police arrived to take them away, they threw off their coats to reveal bright red anti-Nazi slogans sewn onto their dresses. Nearby, in Harvard Square, a crowd of 2,000 noisily protested Hanfstaengl’s presence – among them Harvard and MIT undergraduates.


Police charged into the protestors and arrested several Harvard undergraduates. Seven Harvard students were even found guilty of disturbing the peace and were sentenced to six month’s hard labor – an extremely harsh sentence for protesting. Harvard President Conant strenuously lobbied for their release and six of the students were pardoned after a month in prison.


After his week reveling in attention in Cambridge, Hanfstaengl returned to Germany. “It has been the most enjoyable and successful vacation that I have had in years,” he declared. Back at Harvard, President Conant urged the overseers of the university to reject the proposed $1,000 scholarship. “Hitler’s henchmen (are) trying to use Harvard as an American base to spread approval of the Nazi regime,” he argued. The board members agreed, declaring: “We are unable to accept a gift from one who has so closely been associated with the leadership of a political party which has inflicted damage on the universities of Germany through measures which have struck at principles we believe to be fundamental to universities throughout the world.”


Hanfstaengl eventually fell out of favor with senior Nazis and fled to Switzerland then Britain in 1937. When World War II broke out, Britain classified him as an enemy alien and sent him to a detention center in Canada. From there, he managed to use his Harvard connections once again to get a letter to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, offering to help the United States in the war in return for his freedom. Pres. Roosevelt agreed and had Hanfstaengl moved to a rural area outside Washington where he analyzed Nazi broadcasts and wrote memos about Nazi activities. He provided no useful information and American authorities eventually concluded that he couldn’t be trusted.


He returned to Germany after the end of the war and continued to keep up his Harvard connections. A 1959 article in the Harvard Crimson notes that Hanfstaengl was planning to return to the university for his class’s 50th reunion – and was planning to offer once again the $1,000 that the university refused to accept from him 25 years earlier. “But this time it will be different,” he told the student paper. “I expect to have a swell time, and get a warm welcome. Why not? I’m as anti-Nazi now as they come.”


Despite his protestations, Harvard again declined his offer.
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Post  Admin on Tue 16 Jun 2020, 8:10 pm

https://www.aish.com/ci/s/The-Nazi-in-Harvards-Midst.html?s=mm
The Nazi in Harvard’s Midst
Jun 13, 2020  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
The Nazi in Harvard’s Midst
Senior Nazi official Ernst Hansfstaengl attended his 25th Harvard reunion in 1934, despite his Nazi ties.

Ernst Hanfstaengl was a larger than life figure. Tall and regal, he had an aristocratic manner and was a talented musician. He charmed many of the people he came across, from future American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to his many admiring classmates and professors at Harvard where he studied, to the man who eventually became his best friend and mentor: Adolf Hitler
An ardent Nazi, Hanfstaengl tested the humanitarian resolve of his friends back at Harvard. After he was invited to be class marshal at Harvard’s 1934 Commencement exercises, Hanfstaengl became a divisive figure – inspiring some students to make gestures supporting the Nazis, and motivating many others to actively oppose him and the vile Nazi regime he represent
Born into an upper class family in Munich in 1887, Hanfstaengl’s mother was American and when time came for him to go to college, he attended Harvard University. “In the early 1960s, we knew about this man,” recalled Jeffrey S. Mehlman, a member of the Harvard Class of 1965 who went on to become a professor of French Literature at Boston University. Hanfstaengl was known as a bonvivant and talented piano player (Wagner, the anti-Semitic German composer, was his particular favorite). He rowed crew, made friends widely, and even enjoyed personal invitations to the home of Harvard President Charles W. Eliot. He befriended Pres. Theodore Roosevelt’s son, who was also a student at Harvard, and spent Christmas of 1908 as a guest at the White House. “He was known as a good musician, and the big story was that Harvard was so powerful it had friends all over the world on all sides of every issue”, Mehlman remembered.

After graduating from Harvard in 1909, Hanfstaengl returned to Germany and kept up his Harvard connections. A member of Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Club introduced him to an American military attaché who told Hanfstaengl he’d just discovered “a most remarkable fellow” – a small-time would-be politician named Adolf Hitler.

Hanfstaengl went to a local beer hall where Hitler was speaking. He later recalled that with his “odd little mustache”, Hitler looked “like a waiter in a railway station restaurant” – but when the future mass murderer and dictator began to rant, Hanfstaengl was mesmerized. He visited Hitler’s home and played an upright piano he found there, quickly becoming noticed by Hitler and his inner circle. Hanfstaengl played a piece by Wagner and Hitler danced around, “waving his arms” he later described.

With Hitler and Goring in 1932
The two men became close friends (some observers noted that they seemed to have an odd, sinister bond with each other), and Hanfstaengl tried to teach Hitler more about high culture to help him further his political aspirations. Hanfstaengl’s Harvard connections were particularly prized: one day he played some Harvard football marches on the piano, and Hitler cried, “’That is it, Hanfstaengl, that is what we need for the movement, marvelous,’ and he pranced up and down the room like a drum majorette,” Hanfstaengl later wrote.

He wrote more marches for Hitler and composed the infamous Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! March, adapting a cheer he knew from his Harvard days that went “Harvard! Harvard! Harvard! Rah! Rah! Rah!”The march (which means “Hail Victory!” in German) was soon shouted every time Hitler spoke and became a hallmark of the Nazi party and its rallies.

By 1934, Hanfstaengl was in charge of the Nazi Party’s foreign press office. That was also the year of his 25th Harvard reunion. At Harvard, members of key reunion classes – 25th, 50th, and 75th – are invited to graduation, parade through the streets and through Harvard Yard, and sit on the stage while Harvard students receive their degrees. Hanfstaengl was invited by his classmates to help coordinate their parade, serving as Vice Marshal for the class of 1909 at the reunion. “He was an international celebrity, a good musician, and that was enough for his classmates,” explains Prof. Mehlman.

Some students were thrilled with the Nazi celebrity’s invitation – the young student editors at Harvard Crimson student paper even recommended that Hanfstaengl receive an honorary degree at the graduation ceremony. In an editorial titled “Render Unto Caesar”, students argued that because “he has risen to distinguished station” in a “country which happens to be a great world power,” an honorary degree was appropriate.

Harvard in the 1930s was a bastion of white male Christian privilege – very few Jews or other minorities could attend and discrimination was widely accepted. Still, even within the restrictive social mores of the era, the editors of the Harvard Crimson were reactionary, criticizing anti-Nazi organizations on campus and flirting with open approval of some Nazi policies.

Jewish and anti-Nazi groups were outraged, and soon Hanfstaengl’s planned visit was attracting widespread attention and protests. Amid all the uproar, Hanfstaengl rejected the offer of being Vice Marshal and said he wouldn’t attend. Then two days later he changed his mind and set sail for America and the graduation ceremony. By the time his ship docked in New York on June 16, 1935, a hostile crowd of 1,500 was waiting to confront him. Unwilling to brave the crowds, Hanfstaengl didn’t go ashore, and unceremoniously boarded a tugboat instead, which brought him to shore later on, a coward unwilling to face his critics head on.

Once in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Hanfstaengl was given a security detail. Several distinguished alumni invited Hanfstaengl to their homes – even Harvard University President James Bryant Conant invited him to his house for a tea party. (In his memoirs, Conant later maintained that he tried to make his disdain for his Nazi guest clear. When Hanfstaengl tried to make conversation, Conant recalled his manner was “cold; I did not return the greetings.”)

Marching in the Harvard parade
All week long, Hanfstaengl courted attention, giving several press conferences and announcing that he was going to endow a scholarship to bring Harvard students to Germany and donate $1,000 to the university. During one press conference in Harvard Yard, Rabbi Joseph Solomon Shubow – who was a Harvard alumnus – confronted him, asking about the plight of German Jews under Nazism. When Hanfstaengl replied, “I will say that the Jews’ situation in Germany is going to be normal before long,” Rabbi Shubow asked him “Did you mean by extermination?” Before he could reply, a Harvard police officer grabbed Hanfstaengl’s arm and announced the interview was over. Hanfstaengl told the crowd that since he was on vacation he couldn’t talk about such matters, then he proceeded to President Conant’s house for tea.

The day before commencement, the university held a day of festivities called Class Day. With Hanfstaengl in attendance, the occasion had a decidedly Nazi flavor. Hansfstaengl entered the area where the ceremonies were taking place and gave a Nazi salute. Some students applauded and returned the gesture – a few members of the class of 1924, celebrating their tenth anniversary, even goose-stepped into Harvard Stadium and gave the Nazi salute. Students held up comic posters, some of which referenced Hitler and Nazis and made jokes about them.

The next day was commencement day, and it had a more somber tone. Many students and townspeople lined the streets of Cambridge, protesting the Nazi in their midst. Harvard’s commencement ceremony was disrupted by two Radcliffe undergraduates who chained themselves to benches in Harvard Yard and yelled “Down with Hanfstaengl!” and “Down with Hitler!” during President Conant’s speech. When police arrived to take them away, they threw off their coats to reveal bright red anti-Nazi slogans sewn onto their dresses. Nearby, in Harvard Square, a crowd of 2,000 noisily protested Hanfstaengl’s presence – among them Harvard and MIT undergraduates.

Police charged into the protestors and arrested several Harvard undergraduates. Seven Harvard students were even found guilty of disturbing the peace and were sentenced to six month’s hard labor – an extremely harsh sentence for protesting. Harvard President Conant strenuously lobbied for their release and six of the students were pardoned after a month in prison.

After his week reveling in attention in Cambridge, Hanfstaengl returned to Germany. “It has been the most enjoyable and successful vacation that I have had in years,” he declared. Back at Harvard, President Conant urged the overseers of the university to reject the proposed $1,000 scholarship. “Hitler’s henchmen (are) trying to use Harvard as an American base to spread approval of the Nazi regime,” he argued. The board members agreed, declaring: “We are unable to accept a gift from one who has so closely been associated with the leadership of a political party which has inflicted damage on the universities of Germany through measures which have struck at principles we believe to be fundamental to universities throughout the world.”

Hanfstaengl eventually fell out of favor with senior Nazis and fled to Switzerland then Britain in 1937. When World War II broke out, Britain classified him as an enemy alien and sent him to a detention center in Canada. From there, he managed to use his Harvard connections once again to get a letter to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, offering to help the United States in the war in return for his freedom. Pres. Roosevelt agreed and had Hanfstaengl moved to a rural area outside Washington where he analyzed Nazi broadcasts and wrote memos about Nazi activities. He provided no useful information and American authorities eventually concluded that he couldn’t be trusted.

He returned to Germany after the end of the war and continued to keep up his Harvard connections. A 1959 article in the Harvard Crimson notes that Hanfstaengl was planning to return to the university for his class’s 50th reunion – and was planning to offer once again the $1,000 that the university refused to accept from him 25 years earlier. “But this time it will be different,” he told the student paper. “I expect to have a swell time, and get a warm welcome. Why not? I’m as anti-Nazi now as they come.”

Despite his protestations, Harvard again declined his offer.


https://www.christianheadlines.com/blog/president-trump-meets-with-black-leaders-to-discuss-police-reform-anti-racism.html?utm_source=Crosswalk&utm_campaign=Connecting%20through%20Crisis%20-%20Crosswalk.com&utm_medium=email&utm_content=3375630&bcid=aca0ec8e3bea4e78ac0738d678528c86&recip=488938472%20
President Trump Meets With Black Leaders to Discuss Police Reform, Anti-Racism
Amanda Casanova | ChristianHeadlines.com Contributor | Friday, June 12, 2020
Donald Trump, Trump meets with Black leaders to discuss police reform and anti-racism policies
ChristianHeadlines.com
PRESIDENT TRUMP MEETS WITH BLACK LEADERS TO DISCUSS POLICE REFORM, ANTI-RACISM
#racism #politics #top headlines #Donald Trump
President Donald Trump met this week with conservative black leaders to discuss police reforms and other anti-racism proposals.

According to the Christian Post, the meeting was the first of two. In Dallas later in the week, Trump also met with black leaders to talk about anti-racism initiatives.

“A lot of these things are systemic," said Ja'Ron Smith, assistant to the president on domestic policy. "We need to break down that system and fight back.

"You know, opportunity zones, [historically black colleges and universities], criminal justice reform, those are reversing some systemic issues," Smith added.

The meetings come as protests and demonstrations continue across the nation following the death of George Floyd. Floyd, a black man, died after a white police officer in Minneapolis detained Floyd by pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck.

“Recently, with the protests, how can we create better policing and community relations?" Smith said.

"One thing we have done over the last couple of weeks is listening to individuals, and now we have some solutions, and those are things we are going to continue to work through as an administration."

Kareem Lanier, of the Urban Revitalization Coalition, said Trump’s work has already been “nothing short of historic for black America.” He said, however, it’s time for police reform.

"We did criminal justice reform, but police reform is the gateway to what we see as an unjust criminal justice system sometimes," Lanier said. "Meaning, if a crooked cop doesn't do a terrible corrupt thing with an individual, we never get into that bad system."

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the White House is expected to release a legislative proposal on policing reform soon. She said, however, reforms would not include reducing legal immunity for officers.

This week, Democrats introduced a police reform bill that would ban chokeholds and create a National Police Misconduct Registry.

"This is a powerful movement and it has made legislation like this, that was probably impossible to do a month ago, possible," Cory Booker told CNN in an interview Sunday.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Pool
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.
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Post  Admin on Sun 14 Jun 2020, 9:51 pm

https://www.aish.com/sp/so/Confessions-of-a-Grieving-Heart.html?s=mm
Confessions of a Grieving Heart
My brother’s sudden, unexpected death has left within me a gaping hole.

A month ago, I received a phone call that changed my life forever: my brother had suddenly, unexpectedly died. To say that the news hit me like a ton of bricks would be an understatement; it was as if I had been hit by a freight train boring down on me at top speed. I felt as if a dark impenetrable cloud had descended upon my life.

When I ripped my shirt at his gravesite, I felt as if I had torn a hole right into my soul. I felt I would never experience happiness again. I would never laugh again, I would never sing again, and I would never love again. And I would never want to have a relationship with God again.

Although my brother was a happy, healthy, fun loving guy, he suffered from years of chronic low back pain. He had two back surgeries in the past for herniated discs and recently the pain had returned. He was trying physical therapy, but to no avail. As a last resort, he took some strong prescription medication and had a fatal drug interaction with something else he was taking at the time. By the time he was found, his heart had stopped and he was unresponsive.

My older brother was more than my brother to me, he was my best friend. A thousand memories began constantly playing through my mind. Growing up, wrestling together on the living room floor, watching movies together, playing wiffle ball in our backyard with the neighborhood kids, reading scary stories to each other. My brother was my superhero, a gentle giant would always be there to care for me and protect me. As we got older, the dynamics of our relationship inevitably changed but the bond only got stronger. We talked almost daily, we were there for each other in difficult times and celebrated together in joyous times. Losing him left a large gaping hole in my heart.
Grief is mourning the loss of a relationship. At times it can be debilitating. I remind myself that it comes from a place of love. In fact, the stronger the love, the stronger the grief. The Talmud teaches that for every sickness, there exists an antidote somewhere in the world. So, what is the antidote for grief? Ironically it’s what caused the grief to begin with, namely, love. An outpouring of love, doing positive acts in the memory of the deceased, helps to heal. Receiving love and care from friends and family during the mourning period. And feeling the love one has for the deceased by sharing their memories and keeping this love alive. And my relationship with my brother has not ended; I talk to him every day and know he’s listening.

My brother with his two daughters
Sometimes we don’t fully know a person until they leave this world. After my brother died, I received hundreds of messages from friends, family, and coworkers on how my brother touched their lives, often in incredible ways. My brother had the great capacity to love unconditionally. I heard countless stories of him helping people, many of whom he barely knew, whether it was finding someone a job, Shabbat hospitality, helping someone through a divorce, or visiting someone sick in the hospital.

In addition to love, the other antidote is emunah, faith. Faith is not a crutch; it takes enormous inner strength to achieve faith. Rather, faith is a comfort. It is understanding that the soul is something that is very real, in fact, more real than what our naked eye sees. We are not bodies who happen to contain a soul, but the other way around. And the soul is very much aware of what occurs in this world after it leaves its earthly existence. And they are in a much better place than they ever were in, when they were here, as they are now soaring to their true potential, unshackled by their physical bodies. It is understanding that the World to Come is indeed the World of Truth, as it is called in the Talmud, for it is there, and only there, that all of the questions and struggles of this world are fully answered and we finally achieve the clarity we seek. It is understanding that our world is seeing the wrong side of the quilt, and the Next World is seeing the beautiful tapestry that exists on the Other Side.

My brother holding my son
The person who helped take care of the graveside arrangements shared with me an incredible insight. To comfort a mourner we say the word HaMakom, which means the Place. We say, “May the Place comfort you together with all other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.” The Place refers to God for He is the Omnipresent One who is everywhere. He is the Place for the universe. Although paradoxically He is the One who allowed the death to occur, it is only He Who can provide the comfort that is needed. Some pain is too great for humans alone to help and we have no choice but to turn to Him. Only His Presence can fill the gaping place in one’s heart.

We are about to mark the Shloshim, the 30-day period since my beloved brother’s passing. As customary, his friends and family are finishing the entire set of Mishna so his soul could have a further elevation. The Lubavitcher Rebbe used to say that learning Torah in the memory of a loved one is like sending a care package to their soul, for the soul craves much more than what the physical world has to offer.

A portrait of my brother that I painted
I am finally beginning to see that the once impenetrable dark cloud which descended upon my world is penetrable after all. I am beginning to see that once again I can laugh, I can love, I can sing. The same God who created the heart which has the capacity to grieve also created it with the capacity to heal.

I believe grief serves as the ultimate crucible to our spiritual selves. When we eventually emerge from it, we are different than before. I love my family much more and never take them for granted. I appreciate the great gift of life more than ever. And my relationship with God is stronger and my purpose in life has never been more clear.
May Ephraim Meir ben Yechiel Mordechai have an illuyei neshama, an elevation of the soul, and may his memory be a blessing for all of Israel.
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Post  Admin on Thu 11 Jun 2020, 10:30 pm

https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Violins-of-Hope-Telling-Holocaust-Stories-Through-Music.html?s=mm
Violins of Hope: Telling Holocaust Stories Through Music
May 30, 2020  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
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Violins of Hope: Telling Holocaust Stories Through Music
Niv Ashkenazi's new album featuring instruments and music by composers that were affected by the Holocaust.

When Niv Ashkenazi was 23, fresh out of completing his MA at the renown musical school Juilliard, he received an invitation that would change his life. Would he like to play some violins that have a unique connection to the Holocaust?

The invitation came from Amnon Weinstein, a Tel Aviv violin restorer and his son Avshalom. Amnon’s parents Moshe and Golda were Holocaust survivors: both musicians, after the Holocaust they found refuge in Israel and opened a violin shop in Tel Aviv. Amnon and Avshalom built on their legacy, collecting violins, particularly instruments that were played during the darkest days of the Holocaust. They founded “Violins of Hope” which educates audiences around the world about the Holocaust, explaining the incredible stories behind musical instruments. Some were played in concentration camps; some were played by musicians murdered in the Holocaust; at least one was used to transport explosives by a young Jewish resistance fighter to blow up a Nazi outpost.

Niv tried each of the remarkable instruments the Weinsteins had brought, savoring their unique feel and sounds. “You can feel the history behind them,” he noted in a recent Aish.com exclusive interview.

One violin in particular intrigued him: a wooden violin with two Jewish stars inlaid into the wood, a small metal star on the front of the instrument and a large Jewish star made of inlaid shell on the back. The front of the violin was noticeably darker than the back. “I didn’t like it at first,” Niv recalls. Yet the more he played, the more the violin seemed to speak to him. “It grew on me.”


 


Before long Niv had developed a unique relationship with the distinctive violin, and he learned about its history. It was handmade in the early 1900s in Yugoslavia. While the name of the owner has been lost to history, the Jewish stars on his violin indicate that he was possibly a wedding violinist; at that time it was common for Jewish musicians to decorate their violins and other instruments with Jewish Stars of David. The lighter color on the back of the violin indicates that it was likely hung on the owner’s wall as a piece of art when it wasn’t being played; the beautiful Jewish star on its back would have provided color and beauty in its Jewish owner’s home.

It’s possible that the original owner of the violin was murdered in the Holocaust. Amnon and Avshalom Weinstein spent years lovingly restoring it and made Niv an offer: would he like to keep the violin on a permanent loan, playing it and telling its story? Niv jumped at the chance. Now, he’s played it on his new album, “Violins of Hope”, making sure that a new generation can learn about the Holocaust through music.



Some of the pieces were written by Jewish composers who were killed in the Holocaust; others were written by those who escaped from Nazi Europe or who tried to tell the story of the Holocaust in music. Many of the stories behind the pieces on the album are harrowing – their history deserves to be better known.

One such track is “Serenade”, the only surviving known piece by the Jewish composer Robert Dauber. Robert’s father Adolf was a world-famous violinist and conductor, and Robert followed in his footsteps, becoming an accomplished musician and composer. He was deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp while he was still a teenager. Theresienstadt was designed by the Nazis as a “model” camp where Jews were forced to pretend that they were enjoying an idyllic existence for the benefit of international visitors. The Nazis made propaganda films in the camp to show the world that they were supposedly treating Jews well even while imprisoning them. Inspectors from the Red Cross even toured Theresienstadt and allowed themselves to be convinced that the conditions there were benign.

Click here to listen to "Serenade"

Robert Dauber was allowed to play in the Theresienstadt orchestra, made up of Jewish prisoners, and he wrote “Serenade” there when he was twenty. He was later sent to Auschwitz and then to Dachau where he died of typhoid in 1945. The beauty of his other compositions is lost to us, but in Niv’s masterful playing and a piano accompaniment, audiences can once again hear the luscious, joyous melody that Robert Dauber created, even amid his darkest time.

Another notable inclusion in the album is Trois pieces de concert by the celebrated Jewish composer Szymon Laks. When Germany invaded Paris in 1940, Laks was already a famous composer. Born in 1902 in Warsaw, he was already well known in musical circles when the Nazis deported him, along with thousands of other Jews, to Auschwitz.



One of his first sights in that hellhole was the camp band, made up of miserable, starved, prisoners, setting up. Despite his musical fame, Laks was sent to do backbreaking manual labor and nearly died. Eventually, he managed to get transferred to the Auschwitz prisoner band. The concertmaster at the time was a non-Jewish Polish musician named Jan Zaborski who’d been arrested and sent to Auschwitz for the “crime” of giving false birth certificates to Jews in order to save their lives. Zaborski died in Auschwitz and Laks eventually became leader of the orchestra, using his position to try and improve the lot of the prisoners who were forced to play music for Nazi guards.

Laks requested that his musicians receive more practice time, which meant that they had to spend fewer hours performing back-breaking labor elsewhere in the camp. One day, Laks was ordered to have his musicians perform outside in the middle of a blizzard. Laks told the Nazi guards that the freezing cold snow might harm the instruments. (Clearly, no concern was given to the Jewish men who were playing the instruments.) Laks was successful and the orchestra was excused for playing outdoors in the storm.

At the end of the war Laks, with the other members of the Auschwitz orchestra, were moved to Dachau, then were forced on a death march. After three days, the exhausted prisoners were liberated by the American Army. Laks returned to Paris and continued his musical career, but many of his earlier compositions were destroyed. Trois pieces de concert is a fragment of his earlier work, composed before the end of the Holocaust. Written for cello and violin, it’s a lilting, melodic piece full of beauty and joy.

Working on “Violins of Hope” was an intensely personal experience for Niv, and helped bring him together with his new wife Leah Kohn, who produced the album. Niv had been playing his Holocaust-era violin in concerts and educational settings for a few years already, and had been thinking about creating a Holocaust-theme album with it. “When I mentioned it” to Leah, a classmate of his from Julliard, “she said she’d been thinking the same thing. We wanted to represent the life of this instrument.” The couple began collaborating on the album. Last September, they married.

For Leah, depicting the Holocaust is a personal mission: her grandparents were Holocaust survivors. Her mother’s mother survived Auschwitz, where most of her relatives perished, and Leah’s grandfather survived the Mauthausen death camp. They were “miraculously” reunited after the war, Niv explains. Working on “Violins of Hope” was a way to honor their memories.

While Niv’s immediate family didn’t experience the Holocaust, he’s found that working on the album deepened his interest in his family’s history. His mother is from Tel Aviv and his father is from Jerusalem. Niv grew up visiting Israel frequently – his interest in violin started when he was two and saw a street performer playing a violin on a street corner in Israel – and he’s now learning more about his family’s Sephardic heritage. "Working on the album has really opened up my eyes to the vastness of the Jewish experience.”

“Violins of Hope” was released just as the pandemic hit. While Niv has been forced to cancel his concert schedule, he’s found ways to continue reaching audiences. A recent concert to promote the album was moved online. “Over 1,300 people joined online live,” Niv explains, “and for a classical concert that’s a pretty big audience.”

More information about “Violins of Hope” can be found at https://www.nivashkenazi.com/album.
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Post  Admin on Sun 07 Jun 2020, 7:29 pm

https://www.aish.com/ci/s/A-Jew-of-Colors-Advice-on-Combating-Racism.html?s=mm
A Black Jew’s Advice on Combating Racism
Jun 4, 2020  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller

A Black Jew’s Advice on Combating Racism
Growing up as a black Orthodox Jew in Chicago, Lev Perlow witnessed racism first-hand.

Lev Baruch Perlow is a 1st Sergeant in the Israeli army and with his slightly Ethiopian-tinged Hebrew andf English, he might seem like a “typical” Ethiopian-Israeli working to defend the Jewish state. Yet Lev’s background – and his Ashkenazi sounding name – indicate that his background is anything but ordinary.

He was adopted at the age of ten in 2005 into an American Jewish family and spent much of his childhood in an affluent suburb of Chicago, attending a mix of public schools and Jewish schools, immersed in his family’s tight-knit Orthodox Jewish community. Lev, as well as his siblings who were also adopted from Ethiopia, had Orthodox conversions to Judaism. In a recent Aish.com exclusive interview, Lev discussed growing up in a largely white American area, the racism he experienced, and what he wants people to know right now about racism and how to combat it.

“I remember pretty well living in an orphanage in Ethiopia as a young child," he recalls. He’d watched movies about New York and thought of America as a magical place. When it was time to actually leave Ethiopia and move to the United States to join a new family, he was apprehensive.

“Everybody saw me as another person – not something to stare at.”
"When I got to America I was speechless,” Lev says. “It was a dream come true.” Back in Ethiopia “my house was the size of a room.” Suddenly, he had a beautiful house and every comfort he could imagine. More importantly, he now had two loving parents and a warm Jewish environment to welcome him. His second Shabbat in America, Lev went to synagogue with his parents. “From the very moment I got to shul, the second week after I got adopted, I felt very welcome.” The fact that he was from Ethiopia didn’t elicit negative stares or remarks. “Everybody saw me as another person – not something to stare at.”

That warmth and acceptance gave Lev a strong feeling of security and a sense of being home, but he soon realized that in many ways to have black skin in America is to face a constant drumbeat of racism, prejudice and hostility, invisible to many people who are not Black.
 
The first time Lev felt slighted because of his skin color was in a shopping mall where he’d arranged to meet a friend. Lev arrived early and waited. He was dressed well, Lev remembers, like most of the other shoppers in the mall. That didn’t seem to matter to a woman who walked towards him. “She looked at me and stopped,” he recalls. Somehow a young boy in a bustling public space, simply because he was black, seemed like a threat. She took her purse off her shoulder and switched it to the other side so that it wouldn’t be close to Lev as she walked past him.

It wasn't the last time he’d be negatively judged because of the color of his skin. But Lev stresses that his experience has been very different from most African Americans. "African Americans have a whole history in America – in Ethiopia, there’s no similar history of slavery or racism. You don’t really feel it until you come to America.” Yet once he was in America, Lev was struck at how many people seemed hung up on the color of his skin.

One of his first months in American school, a social worker entered his class. Lev was the only black child in the class – one of only a small handful in the school – and she asked him to come out of the room with her to talk. Black History Month was coming up, she explained, and she wanted to know Lev’s thoughts about it. “I kind of felt offended,” he remembers thinking. “Why do you have to specifically make a month to represent Blacks? What about the other eleven months of the year?” And why was she taking him, a ten-year-old, out of class and asking him and only him to think about it?

Just think of black people as normal. We’re not more special than another person – we’re the same as you.
“The moment we start putting all these precautions around Black people,” trying to tiptoe around in order not to hurt their feelings, Lev cautions, we risk creating a gulf between people, and emphasizing differences in color instead of bringing people together. Asked what white people can do to overcome racism, Lev is emphatic: “Think of them as normal.” This is something he’s noticed many well-meaning whites fail at, as they try to bend over backwards to be extra nice or to show how unprejudiced they are. “At the end of the day we’re people. We’re not more special than another person – we’re the same as you. We have the same rights, the same everything – just a different skin color.”

Instead, he’s noticed that some people’s determination not to offend can make them even more likely to emphasize differences and to be inadvertently racist.

He remembers one time in class his teacher was reading excerpts from a book about slavery. “It was from a white point of view,” Lev recalls. “The teacher was reading the book and said the N word. I see her saying the word from the book and looking at me.” The teacher paused, possibly embarrassed, and in that moment the entire classroom of children all turned their heads too and stared at Lev. Suddenly, the racism in the book seemed horribly present in the classroom. “The moment that you put these side looks and pauses after saying the N word, you give it power… Little by little, you separate people from each other." What started off as Lev's teacher's embarrassment over saying the N word in his presence grew to feel like an acknowledgement that this vile slur somehow applied to him.

The N word continued to bedevil Lev as he got older. Some children seemed to be determined to make racist remarks about Lev. The liberal use of the N word in some rap songs gave them the perfect cover to say this odious insult with seeming impunity, under cover of merely singing some popular songs.

As a teenager, kids – including some in his Jewish school – would sing rap songs containing that offensive slur around him. Each time they’d come to the N word in the lyrics, they’d pause and look at Lev. Sometimes they would yell out the N word louder than the other words. Lev would pretend not to hear, but the pain was horrible. He wanted to fight his tormentors but his parents worked with him, convincing him not to. They advised him to be patient and to talk with people who slighted him. “They taught me patience; patience is what helped me get through it."

“The use of the N word really ticks me off,” he says. There’s such a horrible history associated with it; once Lev learned more about it he was even more pained by its use. Even now that he lives in Israel, he hears the N word in rap music, and tries to educate people not to repeat it. “Israelis used to say it around me until I explained the history – I said this is a word that’s not used as a good thing.”

Many of the people currently posting on social media in the United States, saying that they want to help eliminate racism might do well to heed this warning: the N word, even if it’s ostensibly used in an “artistic” way, is a hateful word that should never be used.

At other times, kids made jokes about Lev’s skin color and Ethiopian origins. Even when they felt they were simply being funny, their insensitive remarks often made Lev feel out of place. This type of racism was particularly pervasive in the Jewish community, Lev observed. “In school I was one of the fastest kids, one of the strongest kids, so they would use that to joke around,” Lev recalls. “‘Oh, he can run fast because he's Black or African’ – those jokes.” Another common stereotype Lev disliked was that he liked rap music – “they want that stereotype (of rappers) to be every Black person,” he observes. Making these broad assumptions strips away Black people’s individualities, implying that all Black people are somehow alike simply because of the color of their skin.

At times, the humor was more obviously barbed. There was a time in high school when Lev came to school wearing a black shirt. “Hey Lev, put on a shirt!” several students teased him. The teacher didn’t say anything.

After high school, Lev immigrated to Israel. His mother is Israeli, and he’d grown up loving Israel as the Jewish homeland. “I made aliyah because of the Jewish people and because of my parents” he explains. “My parents gave me everything I could have wanted and dreamed of in America and more. Moving to Israel is a thank you.” He also wanted to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces to defend his country.

Tragically Lev has encountered racism in Israel as well. He’s noticed that Israeli Jews from Ethiopian families sometimes embrace African American culture, recognizing a community similarly beset by racism. He advises his Ethiopian friends in Israel to embrace their own rich Jewish culture instead. “You have a different culture, you’re raised differently,” he explains – still, the common sympathy can be strong as Ethiopian Jews watch the American Black experience from afar and recognize much of the own racism and police brutality that Ethiopian Jews face in Israel too.

In both the United States and in Israel, Lev has found racism to be pervasive.
In both the United States and in Israel, Lev has found racism to be pervasive. “It’s every day, it’s every second – this type of light racism (of jokes and minor slights). It floats in the air. People try to wave it away, but as long as you have it racism will stay.” Lev has started speaking up, pointing out small instances of racism and racist assumptions when he sees them – he’s found that he has to say something every day.

Lev’s parents and siblings still live in suburban Chicago and he’s been following the news avidly, reading about protests against the murder of George Floyd and the riots and looting that have spread across the country. He understands the frustration of Black Americans who’ve been subject to violence and racism and oppression that many white people simply can’t conceive of. He mourns the violence, which he doesn’t support, and feels he understands the peaceful protests as many thousands of African Americans have stood up and said enough.

When he watched the video footage of George Floyd’s arrest and murder, Lev says it reminded him of his military training – and seemed to be a classic case of what not to do when apprehending someone.

Floyd’s death came just a few months after the February 23 shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old man who was murdered while out jogging in Brunswick, Georgia. That murder reminded Lev of terror attacks he’d witnessed against Israeli soldiers years earlier. Still living at home in Chicago, Lev remembers seeing footage on the news of an Arab terrorist ramming his car into a crowd of Israeli soldiers. After watching that horrific attack Lev told his mother that he was going to move to Israel and enlist to help protect the Jewish state.

“That kind of hatred behind the murder of Arbery is disgusting and horrific. I had the same feeling that I had when I saw a car hit Israeli soldiers: another person killing someone because of the color of their skin.”

Today, with so many Americans and others around the world asking what they can do to help stamp out racism, Lev has some advice we all need to hear. Be kind. Be sensitive. Don’t joke about other people’s differences or try to taunt them. Look at others as fully realized people, not simply as walking embodiments of the color of their skin. “It's pretty simple: treat a black person like you treat yourself, like you treat any other person.”
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Post  Admin on Thu 04 Jun 2020, 10:30 pm

https://www.aish.com/jw/s/How-Covid-19-Brought-Me-and-My-Hasidic-Neighbors-Together.html?s=mm
How Covid-19 Brought Me and My Hasidic Neighbors Together
May 30, 2020  |  by Joseph Rosen
How Covid-19 Brought Me and My Hasidic Neighbors Together
For years I felt rejected by my Hasidic neighbors. The pandemic changed all that.

I live on a Montreal block in Mile End, once the neighborhood of Mordecai Richler, which is now 50-per-cent Hasidic Jews – an ultra-Orthodox sect that prays three times a day, and wears black hats imitating 18th-century Polish aristocracy.

While I live among them as a secular Jew, and have friendly relations with some neighbors, the Hasidim separate themselves from me and my social world. For many in the neighborhood, including me, social distance with our counterparts is nothing new.

But COVID-19 quarantine protocols, while physically distancing me from secular society, have brought me socially closer to my Hasidic neighbors. Morning and night, their voices sing out in prayer: ancient Middle Eastern melodies float through the pandemic-emptied street, bringing archaic echoes of spiritual yearning to the urban streetscape. Fathers, sons, grandfathers and grandsons – it’s only ever men – cluster together on front stoops, lean out from balconies, and dot the sidewalk. Melancholic songs ring up and down the street in passionate call and response, and passersby stare in wonder. After weeks of this outdoor synagogue, I see that the Hasidim have something to teach us seculars about what it means for a community to reconnect in a COVID-19 world.

Hearing noises coming from my balcony, I stepped outside and was surprised to see four Hasidic brothers praying on the adjacent balcony.
My first response wasn’t so romantic. Hearing noises coming from my balcony, I stepped outside and was surprised to see four Hasidic brothers praying on the adjacent balcony. I went downstairs to see that my neighbor's front stoop was the center of the service, and immediately worried that this religious ritual might increase my family’s risk of infection.

Years ago, my neighbor put up a green plastic fence to separate our front stoops. I felt rejected. Since COVID-19, the same neighbor brings out a Torah scroll on a portable table, and I find the front of my house at the heart of their religious services. Because Orthodox Jews must pray communally in a “minyan" of at least 10 men, the Hasidim were in a bind when the government shuttered all religious buildings and forbade religious services. Rabbis, in accordance with government directives, forbade having minyans in person. Improvising, as Jews have often done living under regimes that forbid Jewish practice, my Orthodox neighbors took to the streets so that, while remaining two meters apart, they could continue to pray together. Instead of hiding in caves and basements – as Jews sometimes had to do in centuries past – the new coronavirus has driven them outdoors.


 
One morning my curiosity overcame my fear and I walked out to the sidewalk when I heard them chanting. As much as I enjoy secular life, I found myself missing a sense of spiritual connection. It was cold, with a smattering of April snow on the ground. In addition to COVID-19, we have to survive what Montreal calls “spring” together.

My neighbor had started praying with his son, and he watched for others to emerge from their front doors. White tallit – prayer shawls embroidered with silver and blue – covered their heads. They wore tefillin: black leather boxes containing parchment inscribed with Hebrew verses, which are wrapped with leather straps onto the forehead and arm. My neighbor walked up and down the sidewalk looking to connect with other Hasidim as they came out across the street and down the block. Silent, so as not to interrupt the order of prayers, they made hand gestures to each other like third base coaches, holding up fingers to indicate how many were praying. My neighbor signaled to a man a few houses away who peeked into his neighbor's window: two fingers. When they identified a minyan of 10 they said Kaddish. The prayer is recited by mourners for 11 months after a close relative dies. In Judaism, one doesn’t mourn alone – but surrounded by community.

The first Montrealer to die of COVID-19 was a 67-year-old Hasid who went to a synagogue two blocks away from me. Online news articles about the community became a hotspot of anti-Semitic ranting. The Hasidim felt immediately targeted. “The level of hatred, the level of focus, of scapegoating, has gone beyond anything we have seen before,” said one Hasid. When a janitor was seen cleaning a synagogue, a neighbor called the police and eight cop cars showed up. There are reports of verbal attacks on the street, and Hasidim being told to stick with “Jewish stores.”

A few unfortunately timed weddings, big families and travel back and forth may explain why my co-religionists were initially hit harder than other communities. And as friends and I joked, after Justin Trudeau warned against “speaking moistly,” energetic schmoozing might have been a factor in the Jewish transmission rate (JR0).

Some argue that they have been socially irresponsible, but the Hasidim are not libertarian yahoos: It is their communal commitments that have made them – and potentially my front yard – more vulnerable to the coronavirus. We worshippers of the secular indulge in unnecessary COVID-19 risks, too. Some go for runs in busy parks. Others order delivery from Pizza Pizza. My COVID-19 vices are social: ringing a friend’s doorbell to sing happy birthday to their child, midnight scotch drinking with friends (at two meters) and visiting my girlfriend across town (at nowhere near two meters). The risks we take are based on what we value most.

The Hasidim pray together. And my neighbors, facing the green fence, sing loudly right onto my stoop, potentially increasing my viral exposure. The coronavirus highlights how permeable the borders are between our bodies, and how much our private choices affect everyone around us.

After stepping onto the sidewalk that morning, I strolled up and down the block, seeing a Hasid every three or four houses. The silver embroidery on their tallit flashed brightly in the sun, imparting a splendor one does not see indoors. One man shouted his prayer from out of his open window on the second floor. I didn’t understand the words, and the singing wasn’t classically “beautiful” like the choirs in more mainstream synagogues and churches. But his voice rang out with a pained yearning that resonates in this time of uncertainty. At various points congregants yelled, so that all can hear, “Amen,” pronounced “Oh-MAIN,” meaning “so be it!”

They know what they’re praying; I don’t. They know what brings them together; we don’t. To what will we seculars say “Amen”? On Saturday morning, I joined their minyan.
And then they all simultaneously went quiet. They prayed the Amidah, a prayer said silently on one’s own. Closing their eyes they turned east – in the direction of Jerusalem – and began to bob up and down, swaying back and forth. Their fervor infected me, and I took a moment to stand, in the stillness of morning, feeling the weight and uncertainty of the pandemic that led to this outdoor synagogue. So many things seemed less important, and something – although I’m not sure what – felt more important.

They know what they’re praying; I don’t. They know what brings them together; we don’t. To what will we seculars say “Amen”?

On Saturday morning, the Jewish Sabbath, I decided to join their minyan. I feared they wouldn’t count me as a Jew, but I put on a tie, a black jacket and my yarmulke – the religious head covering that, along with hijabs, Quebec has banned from public office. They saw me with surprised but welcoming eyes. My neighbor whisked a Torah out of his house, like it was a famous celebrity and he was a security detail. They signaled back and forth silently to determine who would read and sing which parts. I let go of my insecurity and joined the chorus shouting “Amen!”

After the service everyone met one another’s eyes to congratulate each other. They looked at me too, smiling, and said “Good Shabbos!” Infected by their communal warmth, I felt connected to these previously distant neighbors.

Later that afternoon, walking down the street I asked a Hasid about the “Parsha HaShavua” – the section of the Torah they read that week. It addressed impurity: how to purify women who have given birth and men who have wasted an “emission” – meaning an ejaculation that has not landed in the divinely sanctified receptacle. Then it addressed how to purify someone with leprosy after a seven-day quarantine. “Just like now!” the Hasid said enthusiastically: “It was a disease that no one knew how to heal.” If a leper gets better, but their house remains unclean, concludes the Torah portion, it must be rebuilt using new materials.

The Hasidim have already figured out how to reorganize themselves, during COVID-19, based on their deepest values. And we – one of the most privileged societies in human history, who have known neither drought nor famine, war nor plague – need to do the same. The Sabbath is the day when we pause all forms of labor; it provides an opportunity to reconnect to the deeper values guiding our work week. COVID-19 has provided us seculars with just such a pause. In this time of physical distance and suspended labor, we must reimagine how we will reorganize our society. How we will restructure our economy – to come together, productively, without “wasting emissions”?

Given the plague of global warming, we cannot just return to “business as usual”: We need to discuss whether we must rebuild our house from scratch. We must rediscover the values that guide us. This is the conversation we need to have now: passionately, but not moistly.
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