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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
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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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Post  Admin on Tue 02 Jun 2020, 10:55 pm

https://www.aish.com/ci/s/Rioting-and-Shul-Vandalism.html?s=mm
Rioting and Shul Vandalism
May 31, 2020  |  by Emuna Braverman
Rioting and Shul Vandalism
The murder in Minnesota is horrific. It's shocking to me that that level of police racism, abuse and brutality still exists. Unfortunately, the reaction is no way to right the wrong.

We’ve been in Los Angeles for 37 years so along with the recent rioting, we experienced the 1992 Rodney King riots. I thought then, as I think now – that the stories that sparked the riots are terrible, speaking of unbearable pain and injustice – but that I really don’t see a connection between racism/police brutality and looting Louis Vuitton stores or Target or the local mom and pop shops...I don’t understand how or why graffiti on synagogues is in any way an appropriate response.

Does anyone really believe this is the way to right the wrongs? Is any and all anger and violence justified in the face of racism?

And I thought then, as I think now – how unfortunate that the young go out and destroy that which it took their parents years to build. In 1992 many stores were burned and ransacked in the very neighborhoods where the rioters lived, enterprises that their parents had spent the previous 40 years building. There is energy among the young; there can be vision and idealism but so much lack of perspective.

The Talmud says, “If old men say 'destroy' and young men say 'build up', you should destroy and not build up because destruction by old men is considered construction and construction by boys is destruction.”

The Torah is frequently admonishing us to know our place. This means to recognize our unique strengths and weaknesses, to focus on the hand we are dealt and not the one we wish we were dealt or the hand that others were dealt. Certainly an aspect of this is recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of our age. What wisdom and life experience am I lacking at 25? What physical strength and drive am I lacking at 60? It is only with those recognitions in mind that we can make wise decisions.


 
In the book of Kings, there is a story about Rechovoam, the son of King Solomon. When he took over the throne the coffers were depleted and he very much wanted to impose a heavy tax on the people. His older advisers suggested that he wait. He should take time to consolidate his power and build a relationship of trust with the people. His younger advisers were less patient. They reminded him of the heavy taxes his father imposed and suggested that he impose even heavier ones! Young himself (and eager for the income), Rechovoam listened to his younger, more “sympatico” advisers. This ultimately led to the deaths of the tax collectors and the splitting of the kingdom.

I don’t expect such dire consequences now. I am hopeful that, having survived riots in the past, the city of Los Angeles (and other cities across America) will survive them again. I think that with the good will of the majority of the American people, and with the Almighty’s help, we will survive and recover. But...

Of course the timing is terrible. Just as stores and malls were about to open up, they have been looted and destroyed. In their naive desire to punish “the rich” they end up hurting themselves. For all the landlords and store owners who are taking a hit, there are hundreds, probably thousands of lower income workers who are hurt by this destructive behavior. Without perspective, we end up damaging the very people we want to help.

The Mishnah in Ethics of Our Fathers teaches: “Who is the wise man? The one who foresees the consequences.” This is so powerful. We are all susceptible to our emotions. We all have the potential to react in negative ways out of anger, pain, frustration, jealousy – you name the bad character traits, we all have them! But a wise person doesn’t just stop himself because he doesn’t want to listen to his negative self (although that’s certainly an important component); a wise person stops himself because he sees the future consequences. Where will this lead? Will it accomplish my goals? Will it encourage others to join our mission or alienate them?

I’m not going to list all the possible questions; that’s not the point. The point is that they should be asked. The point is that a reaction should be rational and methodical. The point is that goals are accomplished through strategy and unity, that we as a country need to work together.

What happened in Minnesota was an appalling tragedy. There are no words to adequately convey how wrong and terrible and painful it was. It is shocking to me that that level of police racism, abuse and brutality still exists. And justice must be meted out.

Unfortunately the reaction was also wrong. We haven’t learned from recent history and we haven’t learned our lessons from the Prophets either! Maybe, just maybe, we can learn them for the future.

More on the Riots:
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Post  Admin on Sun 31 May 2020, 10:49 pm

https://www.aish.com/sp/so/The-KKK-Dr-King-and-a-Kumsits.html?s=mm
The KKK, Dr. King and a Kumzits
May 31, 2020
by Rabbi Moshe (Micky) Shur, as told to Chaya Silber
The KKK, Dr. King and a Kumzits
How Martin Luther King’s commitment to his roots inspired me to return to my own.

We were relaxing in our tiny rented apartment when we heard a screech outside. Headlights were shining out in front; a couple of rednecks had stopped their car, and they began pumping a cascade of bullets through our kitchen window. We ducked down behind the sofa as the bullets continued to shower, blowing out the glass.

The shooting stopped, and we heard the car accelerate. But we didn’t get up so fast. We stayed down there a few more minutes until our heart rates had slowed enough for us to stand up. The bullets had broken dishes, poked holes in the thin sheetrock, and decorated the linoleum. None had hit us, but we had gotten the message.

It was a humid South Carolina summer night in 1965, the kind of humidity that plays with your brain and senses. Peter and I were drunk from the heat and looking to break out of the doldrums. We were two young college students who were game for a little adventure. Perhaps we were a bit foolish. No, we were really foolish. And that’s why we decided that instead of sitting in that little apartment in the heat, we’d go to the Ku Klux Klan meeting at a farm nearby in Orangeburg.

In those days, Orangeburg was a hotbed of the Confederacy and white supremacist hatred. We thought it would be cool to eavesdrop on what “the Klan” was doing. Meetings were open to the public, after all, and we were young white boys, so what could be dangerous?

We tried to blend in and cheer when the other people at the meeting cheered, and boo when they booed. Then the KKK leaders, wearing white robes with hoods that covered their faces, urged the participants to raise funds to help the cause. We decided to contribute as well and checked our pockets for loose change. What we hadn’t realized, though, was that there were a few buttons from SCOPE in our pockets, and those made their way into the collection box.

The atmosphere was explosive. We tried to put on angry expressions and mimic the sentiments of the crowd, but inside we were quaking with fear.
SCOPE stood for the Summer Community Organization and Political Education program. As a young, idealistic college student eager to make a difference, I had been recruited to join SCOPE earlier that summer by Professor James Shenton, then one of the heads of the history department at Columbia University. The organization ran voter registration drives, held information sessions, and galvanized other community organization efforts. The project was under the leadership of a young, idealistic black preacher, Dr. Martin Luther King, who would be brutally assassinated three years later for daring to speak his mind in an era of racism and intolerance.
t didn’t take long for furious shouts to ring out. “Who put these buttons here?” someone shouted, wagging his finger at the crowd. The locals seethed with rage. “We’re gonna get you!” The atmosphere was explosive. Peter and I tried to put on angry expressions and mimic the sentiments of the crowd, but inside we were quaking with fear.

Fortunately, no one connected us with the buttons, or we would have been lynched on the spot. When we saw that the crowd was beginning to disperse, we quickly escaped from that boiling room, grateful to get away. But our relief was premature.

Dr. King and I
I was born in New England in the mid-1940s and was raised in a traditional “Conservadox” home in Detroit, Michigan. During the summers I went to Camp Ramah, where I was first a camper, then a counselor. I have always enjoyed singing and playing folk music, and I used to entertain the campers on humid summer nights. After graduating high school, I went to college to study history, which has always fascinated me.

In 1966, I graduated Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary with an MA in history; later I received a Juris Doctorate (JD) from Wayne State University and a master’s in Near Eastern studies from the University of Michigan. But my interest in academia took a back seat to my true passion, which was community activism. This was during the roaring ’60s, when the civil rights movement swept across America, and many Jewish boys like myself were caught up in the excitement. All humans are created equal, and that included African Americans, who were finally granted equal rights when the Voting Rights Act was passed in August of 1965.

That was the summer when Professor Shenton recruited me and Peter Geffen, a college friend, to join SCOPE. We would be spending the summer in Orangeburg, South Carolina, but first we were sent to Atlanta for orientation. It was there that I met Dr. King. He was in the company of other prominent civil rights leaders, including Bayard Rustin, Hosea Williams, and Andrew Young.

Although the encounter took place decades ago, I remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday. Dr. King was a powerful, charismatic figure, filled with a sense of responsibility. He spoke softly at times, but when he opened his mouth, everyone listened carefully. He had an aura that was hard to describe.

The orientation was very exciting, with speakers from all over the country talking about responsibility, brotherhood, and the rights of every human being. Although the orientation was comprehensive, no one thought to mention that we were heading into hostile territory and that our lives might be at risk. We were young and motivated, and fear was the last thing on our minds.

Rabbi Abraham Heschel, Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery, Feb. 6, 1968.
During a break in the orientation, Peter and I were invited backstage, where we were finally introduced to Dr. King. It felt very natural, as though I were meeting a friendly uncle or someone I’d known for years. One of the organizers suggested we take a picture. Someone there had a Polaroid camera, which was the latest gadget in those days. A picture was snapped and Dr. King autographed it, writing, “Best wishes, thanks for your help.”

Today this autographed picture might be worth a considerable sum, but I no longer have it. Unfortunately, when we mailed it to a Rochester photo shop to have it enlarged, we received the enlarged photo with the autograph superimposed on the front, but the original, with Dr. King’s autograph on the back, was never returned.

We finally made our way to South Carolina, where thousands of African American families lived in impoverished communities. Practically the only white people who set foot inside their homes were the sheriff and the tax collector, so they were naturally wary of white people.

Although I was white and Jewish, I became very close to members of the black community and was welcomed into their homes. Perhaps it was my genuine desire to bridge the gap, to understand their struggles and concerns. I would speak to them on Sunday, when they returned from church, delivering the poignant message that all men were created equal and that Dr. King would lead them to freedom. After my speech, they would all reply with a single word: “Hallelujah!”

During the summer I was appointed chairman of SCOPE, a position that put me in the cross hairs. But I was oblivious to this reality – until the night my window was shattered with bullet holes.

“If I ever see you here again, both of you and your car will end up at the bottom of one of those swamps.”
If you’re wondering why we didn’t call the police, let me explain. During the 1960s, many of the cops in the south were white supremacists who were in cahoots with the KKK. In fact, just a couple of months later, I had another incident that shook me up.

While driving late at night in a swampy region of South Carolina with a young black activist in the passenger seat, we were pulled over by a white cop. After carefully inspecting our car and noticing the civil rights literature, he issued a warning. “I know who you are,” he said with obvious hatred. “If I ever see you here again, both of you and your car will end up at the bottom of one of those swamps.”

Rabbi Moshe (Micky) Shur
It wasn’t just an empty threat. A year earlier, in 1964, three prominent civil rights activists had disappeared one night in this area. Their bodies were found a couple of years later at the bottom of a swamp.

In fact, the famous crime thriller of 1988, Mississippi Burning, was based on the true story of several civil rights activists who disappeared in a small Mississippi town and whose murder was covered up by the local authorities. It is based on incidents that occurred during the years I was active in the civil rights movement.

Peter and I witnessed the aftermath of the KKK burning down a historic church, and we participated in a rowdy courthouse demonstration. I was arrested during another demonstration, dragged off in handcuffs by the state police, and my picture was in all the papers.

All of this activity made my parents very nervous. They were terrified for my safety. Seeing my picture in the papers made them realize the full extent of what I was involved in, and they drove down to the South in 1966 during their summer vacation to bring me back home. I protested, saying that I was happy where I was, but they tempted me with a trip to Israel, a place I had never visited. I agreed to go.

This was before the Six-Day War, when idealism was at its peak. Israel was under attack by its enemies, and most of the country was off limits. I landed at Ben Gurion, went to a kibbutz and did manual labor for a few months, and fell in love with the land.

I credit Dr. King’s example to my eventual decision to become an observant Jew and make move to Israel.
After that pivotal summer, I returned home to finish my degrees, but eventually I decided to make aliyah. The assassination of Dr. King in 1968 and the ideals he stood for had made a huge impression on me. I realized that everyone needs to live with meaning and purpose, to make a difference in this world.

In fact, I credit Dr. King’s example to my eventual decision to become an observant Jew and make move to Israel. Having witnessed up close his idealism and commitment to his roots, I was inspired to live with meaning and purpose, and I wanted to make a difference in this world, so I chose to help the African American community, and then later my fellow Jews.

In 1974, I settled in Israel where I joined the Diaspora Yeshiva, the renowned baal teshuvah yeshivah founded in 1967 by Rav Mordechai Goldstein. The baal teshuvah movement exploded shortly after the Six-Day War in June of ’67, when tens of thousands of young college students, inspired by Israel’s victory, began flocking to the Holy Land to learn about their roots. The Religious Affairs Ministry leased a few buildings on Har Zion to the yeshivah, and also built the Chamber of the Holocaust nearby.

The Diaspora Yeshiva Band

The yeshivah was the birthplace of the world-renowned Diaspora Band, and I was one of its founders. In existence from 1975 to 1983, the band infused rock and bluegrass music with Jewish lyrics, creating a style of music we called "Chassidic Rock." I composed some of its iconic songs, including “Ivdu” and “Hafachta Mispedi.”

Rav Goldstein allowed the students to keep their long hippie hairstyles and colorful attire, and to play music expressing the stirrings of their souls. This was the era of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, when a young generation expressed its angst and yearning through song.

At first, we were just a group of musically-inclined students who sat on the ground strumming our guitars and singing together late into the night during a kumzits, especially on Motzaei Shabbos. Soon I purchased a sound system at a discounted price from a wealthy patron, and around 1974, the troupe coalesced into a real band.

We originally had 15 members, with a core of five or six who continued for several years. They were bandleader and singer-songwriter Avraham Rosenblum on lead guitar; singer-songwriter Benzion Solomon on fiddle and banjo; Simcha Abramson on saxophone and clarinet; Ruby Harris on violin, mandolin, guitar, and harmonica; Adam Wexler on bass; and Gedalia Goldstein on drums. I was a vocalist and ran the sound system. The band became a sensation on college campuses around the world, and it became famous for its sold-out Motzaei Shabbos concerts at Assaf’s Cave at Har Tzion, the site of King David's burial site where the Diaspora Yeshiva was located.

We would get together for what we called a “jam session” and just play from the heart. Benzion Solomon was the only member of the band who had a degree in music and who could read music and do arrangements. The rest of us improvised, playing by ear.



I got married in Israel to my wife, Shoshana. We moved to the States in 1977, where I taught and did outreach at the University of Virginia. Then we went to New York and I joined Queens College, where I have been a faculty member and the executive director of its Hillel program since 1979, over 40 years.

Today I am an adjunct professor of history and a senior associate for the Center for Jewish Studies. I teach a Jewish history course, as well as a course called “Introduction to Jewish Mysticism and Kabbalah.” Over the years I have produced six music CDs, one of them in collaboration with my son, called A Shur Thing (available on Spotify).

Among college students, I am best known for my annual five-day summer tour. It’s called “In the Footsteps of Dr. King,” and it takes college students to the Deep South, including Atlanta, Georgia, and Selma, Montgomery, and Birmingham in Alabama. We visit a memorial to the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African American military pilots who fought valiantly during World War II.

When I lead tours to the South, I am able to connect to these college students who want to learn more about what Dr. King represented. I show them a picture of myself with Dr. King and talk about how he inspired me to find my own roots.

This article originally appeared in Ami Magazine.
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Post  Admin on Fri 29 May 2020, 11:44 am

The Hidden Message in Hinei Ma Tov
https://www.aish.com/h/sh/video/The-Hidden-Message-in-Hinei-Ma-Tov.html?s=mm
May 25, 2020  |  by Elimor Ryzman
Jewish unity despite our differences is a prerequisite for accepting the Torah. How do we attain it?
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About the Author
Elimor RyzmanMore by this Author >
Elimor Ryzman has over ten years’ experience in teaching, lecturing and inspiring women from all over the world. From educating high school girls to lecturing Kallot and woman, Elimor is able to enthrall and engage a crowd with her passion and love. Her devotion to each and every one of her students is unique and everlasting. She believes that student success and personal growth is created through meaningful relationships.

Upon Elimor’s completion of the Michlala seminary in Jerusalem, she studied at Stern College for Woman, NYU School of Occupational Therapy, and at Ridman University for the study of holistic care.

Elimor is a member of the PUAH Cares team and also received a certificate as a Yoetzet Bakehilla from the PUAH Organization. She is currently on the board of EVEN LA, a Los Angeles based organization that focuses on woman, Taharat Hamishpacha, and preserving the Jewish home. Elimor hosts and founded what is the known in LA as the “Matriarch Event”, a luncheon for the senior woman of the community. This magnificent event, under the auspices of Bikur Cholim of Los Angeles, takes place bi-monthly and before the major Jewish holidays.
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Post  Admin on Tue 26 May 2020, 10:14 pm

https://www.aish.com/sp/so/The-Journey-of-the-Convert.html?s=mm
The Journey of the Convert
May 23, 2020  |  by Rabbi Ken Brodkin
The Journey of the Convert
I didn’t mean to spend so many years walking down the path of the convert. But where they go, I will go.

Sitting across my desk, the husband looked at me as his wife gazed down. “Rabbi, he said, “we want to thank you for everything you’ve done for us. But we’ve decided not to continue with the conversion.”

I wasn’t shocked at their decision but it did feel like a loss. Three years earlier, we’d met on a Shabbos morning. We pushed our respective strollers to my house from shul and shared a Shabbos meal. Over time we learned together on many nights, shared our homes and sat in my sukkah.

But the rigors of Jewish observance jolted their marriage. Once, while I was driving with the husband in his pickup truck over the Columbia River, he said, “To be honest, I’m not sure I can give up Burger King.”

Now that the couple was ending their Jewish path, I told them that the clarity they achieved for their life was a success.

I don’t seek converts. Yet, during my 15 years serving as a rabbi in Portland Oregon, the journey of the convert has been my journey. When I work with potential converts, I tell them that the path looks different for different people. And it’s not right for everyone.


 
When I first moved to Portland, there was a young woman who came to our community from Central Oregon. She had a Jewish boyfriend. They started coming to our shul for a while and we got to talking about Judaism. At one point she said to me, “I’m not sure I’m comfortable with traditional Judaism and how it views women.”

I told her that this was an important issue for her to resolve. I encouraged her to go out and seek her path. I wasn’t sure where she would go. From time to time, she would call or email me. We had long discussions about gender, Jewish philosophy Judaism and passages in the Torah.

The Hebrew term for convert is ger, literally someone who sojourns. The term “ger” implies that someone is coming from the outside and may not feel permanent with the Jewish people. Every time I meet a potential convert, I am intrigued by their path. Something inside me wants to understand them more deeply, since we are each on our own journey in emunah (faith).

The journey of the convert started long ago. It’s written in the Book of Ruth. Two women – Ruth and Orpah – had divergent moments of self-discovery at the same time.

Their mother-in-law, Naomi, was once a prominent woman. But by the time we meet her in the Book of Ruth, Naomi is a destitute, bereaved woman, preparing to walk back to Israel from the fields of Moav. Initially, the three women set out together.

Naomi told Ruth and Orpah, “No my daughters, go back to your home, and may God do kindness with you.” Naomi explained that Ruth and Orpah – foreigners – would have no marriage prospects in Israel. These women had lived and buried their dead together. Now it was time to part.

They lifted their voices and wept…Orpah kissed her mother-in-law and Ruth clung to her…

Naomi protested Ruth’s embrace. “Orpah has gone back to her gods, continue with her and go back home!”

And Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you…Where you go I will go, where you sleep I will sleep, your nation is my nation, your God is my God.”

With these words, Ruth sums up the journey of the convert. As she embraced Naomi, Ruth clung to the people of Israel. Together they walked to Beit Lechem where Ruth found the fields of Boaz. There she scraped out a living, gleaning sheaves.

Boaz told Ruth that her path was the path of chesed, doing “kindness,” as it were, with God. Ruth had found “refuge under the wings of God’s Presence.”

How can the convert know they are ready to embrace the Jewish people and enter the covenant with God? How can they change their identity and become the son or daughter of Abraham and Sarah? It doesn’t happen quickly, but somehow, they connect with the Jewish people. Then, in a moment of self-discovery, they find themselves.

“Your people are my people, your God is my God.”

I saw it happen with the young woman from Central Oregon. One Shabbat morning, she showed up early to shul. It was the first time I had seen her in months. Something felt different. “Rabbi, I am going to become Jewish.”

She wasn’t looking for my agreement. It just was. Come what may, she was going to be Jewish. And she was right. She entered the covenant of Abraham, and, together with her soon-to-be-husband embarked on building a faithful home in Israel. Today, when I hear about her acts of kindness and her Jewish kids, I think back to her early steps on her journey, all those years ago.

I didn’t mean to spend so many years walking down the path of the convert. Yet, I’m grateful to be on this road. Where they go, I will go. Their journey is my journey.
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Post  Admin on Sun 24 May 2020, 10:48 pm

The Real Story Behind the Covid-19 Vaccine Story
May 23, 2020  |  by Rabbi Avi Shafran
https://www.aish.com/ci/sam/The-Real-Story-Behind-the-Covid-19-Vaccine-Story.html?s=mm
The Real Story Behind the Covid-19 Vaccine Story
Appreciating the awesomeness of our immune system.

One of the Covid-19 vaccines being studied has yielded encouraging results. That good news should yield us something too: a sense of awe at the accomplishment.

Earlier this week, the biotech company Moderna, which partnered with the National Institutes of Health to develop the vaccine, announced that results of a Phase 1 clinical trial showed that eight study participants developed antibodies for the virus like those who have experienced and survived the disease. And lab experiments with mice showed that the vaccine prevented the virus from infecting cells.

The study hasn’t yet been peer reviewed, and Phase 2 trials, which will involve several hundred subjects, are yet to come. But even the achievement to date is impressive.

If our wonderment, however, is only at the amazing progress toward, hopefully, a successful vaccine, we will have missed the truly awe-inspiring story behind the story.

A vaccine, you likely know, works by stimulating immune cells called lymphocytes to produce antibodies, specialized protein molecules that counter the targeted antigen, or toxic invader, and thus prevent the disease it could cause from taking hold.

Vaccines are made of dead or weakened antigens that can’t cause an infection but nevertheless stimulate the immune system to produce the necessary antibodies. Although with time, the produced antibodies will break down, special “memory cells” remain in the body and, when the antigen is encountered again, even years later, the memory cells can produce new antibodies to fight it.

This happens within our bodies constantly.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a healthy individual can produce millions of antibodies a day, fighting infections so efficiently that people never even know they were exposed to an antigen.

They estimated that the human body has the potential to make a quintillion – that’s one million trillion – unique antibodies.
Last year, a team of scientists at Scripps Research Institute in San Diego published results of their antibody research in the respected journal Nature. Based on their findings, they estimated that the human body has the potential to make a quintillion – that’s one million trillion – unique antibodies.

Imagine for a moment if the workings of our immune systems were suddenly made visible to us.

We would be struck dumb.

“If the stars should appear,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson, only “one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of G-d which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.”

Our immune systems, like the stars, are usually and easily taken for granted; their very ubiquity makes it hard to fully appreciate them. But appreciating them is the privilege, indeed the duty, of every thinking, sensitive person.

Returning to this week’s happy news. Is what really amazes us the technological breakthrough that could lead to an effective vaccine? Or is the true object of our astonishment and wonder the suddenly focused-upon workings of our biological processes?

Once upon a time, after all, heart transplants, too, were flabbergasting. But, at least to thoughtful people, they were never remotely as amazing as hearts.

Back in 1996, a sheep named Dolly was successfully cloned, the first such triumph. I recall the admiration, wonder and dread that the accomplishment evoked around the world.

What exactly had scientists done? They had managed to transfer a cell from the mammary gland of an adult sheep into another sheep’s unfertilized egg cell whose nucleus had been removed; and the egg cell was then stimulated to develop, and eventually implanted in the womb of yet a third sheep, which bore Dolly.

I recall thinking at the time that, impressive as the experiment was, all that had essentially been achieved was the coaxing of already existent genetic material to do precisely what it does, well, all the time. The achievement of producing Dolly bas Dolly was, to be sure, a major one; myriad obstacles had to be overcome, and a single set of chromosomes, rather than the usual pair from two parents, had to be convinced to do the job.

But, still and all, other than the unusual means of bringing it about, what was witnessed was a natural process that takes place millions of times in millions of species each and every day without capturing anyone’s attention. A natural process that was, like all natural processes in the end, a miracle – no less one for its ubiquity.

Likewise, with all due recognition of the great and praiseworthy efforts to create an effective vaccine for Covid-19, may they be successful, what happened this week was, in the end, a cajoling of immune systems to do… what immune systems do billions of times daily.

So our proper appreciation of the scientific knowledge we have today, and our gratitude to the scientists that used that knowledge to advance the drive for an effective vaccine should be joined by – indeed, overwhelmed by – our ultimate awe for the immune systems with which our Creator endowed us.

Whether it’s manipulating the creation of a sheep fetus or of an immune response, the true marvel lies not in the manipulation but in the manipulated, in the myriad miracles God implanted in the world He created.

© 2020 Rabbi Avi Shafran
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Post  Admin on Fri 22 May 2020, 8:47 pm

Perseverance: NASA’s Mars Project and Preparing for Shavuot
May 16, 2020  |  by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
https://www.aish.com/h/sh/t/Perseverance-NASAs-Mars-Project-and-Preparing-for-Shavuot.html?s=mm
Perseverance: NASA’s Mars Project and Preparing for Shavuot
Perseverance is what will bring us to Mars this summer. And it's the crucial trait we need for our spiritual journey as well.
Together with Jews around the world I’ve been busy since Passover counting the days. No, I don’t mean how long I’ve been confined to my home or how many weeks it’s been since I was able to pray in a synagogue. I’ve been fulfilling the mitzvah to count the 49 days between the holiday marking our deliverance from Egypt to the magnificent moment when we received the Torah on Mount Sinai.

The Counting of the Omer is a meaningful way to link the festival of freedom with its ultimate purpose of receiving the Torah on the holiday of Shavuot. The midrash compares it to a bride counting the days from her engagement to the ultimate joy of her wedding. The count expresses our anticipation of our marriage to God under the chuppah of Mount Sinai which miraculously hovered over our heads as we listened to the thunderous voice of the Almighty proclaiming the 10 Commandments.

Interestingly, the name selected by NASA for its next rover headed to Mars expresses the key lesson we need to take to heart as we prepare to receive the Torah.

NASA is the scientific embodiment of the human effort to transcend our earthly limitations. Somehow, from the depths of our souls, we know there must be more than the globe on which we live. The profound quest for probing the mysteries of the universe is testament to our spiritual awareness of a greater universe – and of a Divine creator.

NASA’s missions deserve names worthy of their historic significance. In its early years, NASA failed this challenge. The seven landers to survey the surface of the moon between 1966 and 1968 in preparation for the landings of Apollo astronauts were simply the word Surveyor followed by a number. The probes that flew past Mars, Venus and Mercury were Mariner 1 through 10, and Viking 1 and Viking 2 were the rockets that NASA successfully landed on Mars in 1976.


 
Then NASA had a great idea. Beginning with the Pathfinder mission in 1997, NASA turned to schoolchildren with a naming contest. In 2003, the choices of Sofi Collis, a precocious nine-year-old who was born in Siberia, gave us the emotionally moving names Spirit and Opportunity because, as Sofi wrote, “I used to live in an orphanage. At night, I looked up at the sparkly sky and felt better. I dreamed I could fly there. In America, I can make all my dreams come true. Thank you for the Spirit and the Opportunity.”

This year as well, as NASA was completing plans for the Mars mission scheduled for the red planet this summer, a contest was held for children ranging from kindergartners to high schoolers. There were 28,000 entries and 155 semifinalists. The winner was a seventh grader from Springfield, Virginia. The winning name? One word: Perseverance.

Alexander Mather, in his winning essay, explained: “Curiosity. Insight. Spirit. Opportunity. If you think about it, all of these names of past Mars rovers are qualities we possess as humans. We are always curious and seek opportunity. We have the spirit and insight to explore the moon, Mars and beyond. But, if rovers are to be the qualities of us as a race, we missed the most important thing. Perseverance.”

Perseverance is what will allow us to reach beyond our physical limitations – and get closer to God.
Perseverance is what will bring us to Mars this summer. Perseverance is what will permit us to escape our earthly confines. Perseverance is what will allow us to reach beyond our physical limitations – and get closer to God.

It is true for space travel, just as it is true for our spiritual journey as well.

How do we make the trip from Egypt to Sinai, from the confines of physical bondage to the soaring liberation of holiness? It is not easy to reach the top of a mountain. Living up to the demands of Mount Sinai is a harder climb than reaching the top of Mount Everest. It requires commitment. It requires dedication. But most of all it requires perseverance. Benjamin Disraeli summed it up best: “Through perseverance people win success out of what seemed destined to be certain failure.”

That is the real meaning of counting the days until Shavuot. It is fascinating that the very name of the holiday commemorating our acceptance of the Torah is a word that does not mention the event of that day but rather the preparation for it in the days preceding. Shavuot means weeks – the weeks of perseverance leading up to it which make our commitment to Torah possible.

How can every one of us achieve the ideal of lives committed to holiness, of lives exemplifying the best and the noblest as defined by God himself? It is by way of the one word, perseverance, that will take us to Mars – and beyond that, to Heaven itself.
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Post  Admin on Fri 22 May 2020, 12:16 am

The Power of a Hug
May 17, 2020  |  by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
The Power of a Hug
What have you missed the most during this terrible time of quarantine and self-isolation?
There is a remarkable story that took place toward the end of World War II. An American soldier’s platoon liberated one of the Nazi death camps. The camp was filled with hundreds of half-starved children. The American soldiers quickly set up a huge pot of soup to feed the kids, and the children lined up behind it, eager to get their share of the precious food.


One particular soldier made eye contact with a boy at the end of the line who was waiting patiently for his soup. The American approached the boy, and since he couldn’t speak the boy’s native language, he communicated by offering the boy a warm hug. After they finished hugging, the soldier looked up and noticed that the children who were previously lined up for the soup had postponed their chance to eat and instead formed a line behind the soldier to receive their hugs as well.


There are times when hugs are more needed than food, when an embrace is more satisfying than sustenance. Our bodies require calories but our souls have to feel the warmth of touch and of love conveyed by a loved one.


King Solomon, the wisest of all men, long ago taught us in the book of Ecclesiastes that there is “A time to embrace and a time to cease from embracing” (Ecclesiastes 3:5). The sequence is significant. There may be good cause at times to cease from embracing. Surely a plague is one of them. But we dare never forget that human contact is an ideal – an ideal which may have tragically been all too often unattainable in these last few months during the fearsome attack of coronavirus.


“I haven’t been hugged in months,” said a close friend to me over the phone. “I can only imagine lying in a hospital bed, fearful of death, with no one to hug you.” There are no words to describe what it must’ve been like for the woman who had tested positive for the virus and given birth without being allowed to hold her newborn infant for weeks on end. I remain haunted by the image of a 90-year-old great-grandmother looking through her nursing home window separating her from her loved ones, not knowing whether she would live long enough to ever again hug them or kiss them.


One of the things we need to take away from these difficult months of deprivation as we return to normalcy is to never again fail to appreciate what we previously so very much took for granted.


Who would’ve guessed how much power there is in the humble hug?


In a remarkable study published in the scientific journal Psychological Science, the authors investigated the relationship of hugging, social support, and the probability of getting sick in 404 volunteers from the Pittsburgh area. First, the volunteers were called every evening for 14 days and asked about their social relationships, whether they had been hugged that day and how often. On average, there was a clear relationship that individuals who had been hugged more also felt like they received greater social support.


Studies show that hugging is an effective way to reduce stress and infection risk by conveying social support.
Now for the even more interesting part of the study: Some time after the phone interviews had been completed, the volunteers were invited to an isolated floor of a local hotel and were quarantined in separate rooms. The investigators then gave them nasal drops containing a virus that caused common cold-like illnesses. Interestingly, how often somebody had been hugged clearly influenced the infection risk. Volunteers who had been hugged more had a decreased risk of infection. Moreover, among volunteers who got infected, those who had been hugged more had less severe symptoms, their noses were less stuffy. The authors concluded that hugging is an effective way to reduce stress and infection risk by conveying social support.


The common cold does not seem to be the only disease affected by hugging. Cardiovascular diseases are among the leading causes of death in the United States and in many other countries. One of the major risk factors for developing potentially fatal heart disease is high blood pressure – and hugging has been shown to reduce blood pressure in a 2005 study published in the scientific journal Biological Psychology.


Having witnessed firsthand the dire consequences of our inability to embrace our loved ones, give extra hugs to those who surround you, and when life returns to normal, let us embrace this powerful and much-needed communication with our loved ones.
About the Author


Rabbi Benjamin BlechMore by this Author >


Rabbi Benjamin Blech, a frequent contributor to Aish, is a Professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University and an internationally recognized educator, religious leader, and lecturer. He is the author of 19 highly acclaimed books with combined sales of over a half million copies, A much sought after speaker, he is available as scholar in residence in your community. See his website at rabbibenjaminblech.com.
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Post  Admin on Tue 19 May 2020, 11:24 pm

https://www.aish.com/ci/s/My-Sister-is-Starving-Herself-to-Death.html?s=mm
My Sister is Starving Herself to Death
May 16, 2020  |  by Miriam Shalem
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My Sister is Starving Herself to Death
A toxic combination of a severe eating disorder and a spouse's fear and denial.

The bellowing was coming from upstairs, probably from her bedroom. I begged God for mercy that this time the pain would subside quickly.

I gasped when I saw her. My niece was right to ask me to come; their mother – my sister – looked beyond awful.

The yellow skin on Emily’s face was sagging, her cheekbones seemed to have vanished. Her legs looked like knitting needles. Her dress clung to her bones; there was no flesh left on her body. It was a heart-breaking scene.

I picked up her weightless body and lay her onto her bed. She was so light and fragile. When the pain subsided, she smiled, exposing rotting teeth. She looked like a skeleton wearing a dress.

When the pain subsided, she smiled, exposing rotting teeth. She looked like a skeleton wearing a dress.
It was horrifying for her young children who were gathered around her to see her like this. I glanced at thirteen-year-old Naomi; panic in her eyes. There was also anger etched on her face. Unfortunately, her world revolved around her mother’s health. Naomi knew that at any moment her mother could collapse and that there would come a time that they wouldn’t be able to revive her. Naomi had lost her mother a long time ago; she was now one of her mother’s caregivers.
When Emily was finally asleep we tiptoed out of the bedroom. “Aunty Miriam,” asked Elisha, “doesn’t she love us? Is that why she doesn’t want to get better? Aren’t we enough for her to want to be healthy?”

My eyes filled with tears, “Your mummy loves you very much,” I tell the children. "I promise she is trying her hardest to get better.”

Anorexia is a mental disorder; the sufferer refuses to eat and is obsessive about losing weight. Anorexics often put weights in their pockets in order to cheat the scales. They also take laxatives so that whatever they eat passes straight out of their body. Emily has been a victim of Anorexia Nervosa for about thirty years.

At Emily’s thirteenth birthday party, my mother baked a special cream cake which was Emily’s favorite. When Emily asked for a third slice, my mother embarrassed her in front of all her friends. “No, don’t be greedy. You'll get chubby and you don’t want that.” My mother was also obsessed with her weight and being thin. This compulsion impacted my whole family. My siblings and I are all weight conscious, always dieting and exercising, though not to the extent of having a food disorder.

Around the age of 14 Emily became extremely fashion conscious. Perusing the fashion magazines with skinny models influenced her greatly. Around that time I noticed that Emily was always careful with what she ate and exercised a lot. Soon afterwards I noticed Emily began skipping meals. These were some of the early warning signs that, looking back, I witnessed. I'm sure there were others that we missed. Before Emily married she may not have had anorexia but she was obsessed about her weight and troubling signs were there if we knew how to look.

After Emily married David there were a few years when her weight was stable. She enjoyed going out for meals and seemed genuinely happy. But after her third child was born, Emily began lying, telling her husband that she’d eaten dinner earlier with the kids when she obviously hadn’t. Emily’s group of friends were all extremely weight conscious. Emily followed extreme diets and became addicted to artificial sweeteners. She drank incessantly, filling herself with fluids rather than food, chewing gum to avoid hunger pangs.

It didn’t take long for her body to stop being able to digest the few things she ate; her body was brutally starved.

The disease is terribly complex, affecting the person's physical, mental and emotional well-being. Eating disorders are a response to stress. Over the years Emily experienced a lot of stress in her marriage. David is an active member in the community as well as a successful businessman. Perhaps starving herself would give Emily the attention she craved from her husband. In the early days when her illness was still manageable David would beg Emily to eat and bribe her with gifts to achieve results. This phase didn’t last long because no one was dealing with the core of the issue.

Emily has adamantly refused treatment. She doesn't believe she suffers from an eating disorder.
Anorexia can be overcome but the patient has to want to receive help. Sadly Emily is now in her mid-fifties and until now she has adamantly refused treatment. She doesn't believe she suffers from an eating disorder. She makes it her life’s mission to find doctors who will back her up by finding different reasons for her inability to eat. She has seen hundreds of doctors and every time a doctor tells her she has an eating disorder she moves on to another, a classic sign of people suffering from anorexia.

David has always had the tendency to escape difficult situations. His inability and unwillingness to deal with direct confrontation has helped to enable this terrible situation all these years. Despite our pleading, David just doesn't have the stomach to have his wife sectioned and forcefully detained in a hospital. It is easier for him to remain in denial and allow himself to continue to be manipulated by her and the lies she tells him.

Tragically there is a lot of stigma attached to eating disorders and I think he feels this will reflect badly on him. So he chooses to believe the doctors that give different reasons for her inability to eat. For a long time I was very angry with David for not forcing her to go to a hospital or treatment center years ago. At one point I argued with him about it. Many appointments to therapists who specialize in eating disorders were made, and cancelled.

I fear that he has now given up. Since there is so little of her left, he just wants her to live how ever long she has left, with her family around her. And if/when the worst happens he will feel no guilt as he never acknowledged what her illness is in the first place. Denial is an incredibly powerful force.

Emily seemingly has everything to live for; she has a husband, children and a host of grandchildren. She has no financial worries and what’s more she is a most accomplished writer.

People who suffer from this become very aggressive, controlling and manipulative. Her children and husband bear the brunt of her outbursts. The sufferers are also obsessed with feeding people and she piles food onto her family’s plates. Emily loves hosting diner parties. When she is busy cooking she is distracted and does not feel hungry. She stands at the buffet table, insisting on filling her guest’s plates. It is quite uncomfortable for her guests. Often after serving the main course she would be in so much pain that she would leave her guests and go upstairs. She would come down at dessert time, so that she could resume piling cakes on people’s plates.

Anorexia is a cry for help. The sufferers usually feel they have no control over their lives. The intake of food is the one thing they can control. Often adolescents become anorexic because of peer and social pressure. It does not only destroy the patient’s life but affects the lives of the whole family. Because there are so many stigmas around this illness, it may be easier to ignore the early signs. Unfortunately, it escalates and can be life threatening.

It is a chilling realization for her children to think that their mother may be willing to die rather than get better.
My niece Naomi and her older married siblings know what their mother is suffering from. They know it is too late for her to have a complete recovery, but they still hope that with the right treatment, she can still have a better quality of life than the one she is living now. It is a chilling realization for her children to think that their mother may be willing to die rather than get better.

Most of the married siblings have given up pleading with their mother and father to go to hospital and be treated; they have tried dozens of times to beg their dad to force her to get help. It is an extremely painful sight to take someone against their will to a locked down clinic. Sadly sufferers of anorexia after a certain point are unable to think clearly, it is only a spouse who is able to take this painful course of action. When the older children couldn’t convince their father to do this they had no choice but to protect themselves by focusing on looking after their own families.

Emily frequently passes out from dizziness and needs oxygen to revive her. Due to her illness she also suffers from osteoporosis, her bones are so brittle so when she passes out she is also at risk of breaking some bones.

My sister is literally fading away in front of our eyes. I haven’t seen her eating anything in front of me for a very long time. I know that she chews on pineapple and then spits out the pulp. Her body rejects most foods now. Every few weeks she has a flare up of awful pain because her gut twists and we all think that now she will be admitted and agree to be line fed, but her gut manages to be manually untwisted and the pain subsides. When these attacks occur, you can hear her screaming from the street.

I pray every day that Emily will open herself up to receive the help she so desperately needs and that with her family’s love and support she will slowly be healed.

I urge anyone who thinks they or someone they know may have this mental illness to get help as early as possible. Look out for the early symptoms which include skipping meals, lying about eating, avoiding eating socially, excessive exercise or wearing baggy clothing.

Here are some resources on anorexia:

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/a/anorexia-nervosa
https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/types/anorexia/signs
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/eating-disorders/symptoms-causes/syc-20353603
https://weightmatters.co.uk/eating-disorders/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAwP3yBRCkARIsAABGiPrKhT5KQip4fErkKLjB0NbwtfH3PfcC6FuaX8CRibVEkMkg3ugvzMYaAv8cEALw_wcB
The author is using pseudonym.
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Post  Admin on Sat 16 May 2020, 9:36 pm

https://www.aish.com/ho/p/The-Muslim-Holocaust-Researcher.html?s=mm
The Muslim Holocaust Researcher
May 11, 2020
by Rona Tausinger, Israel Hayom
The Muslim Holocaust Researcher
Prof. Mehnaz Afridi, a Pakistani Muslim, has been the director of the Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center in New York for the past decade.

Don't even bother to try and label Mehnaz Afridi. A professor in religious studies, Afridi is a Pakistani Muslim who has been the director of the Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center in New York (HGI) since 2011. She researches and teaches the Holocaust, genocide and Islam from a multi-cultural perspective.

This year, due to the coronavirus, the March of the Living in Poland did not take place, and Afridi was invited to participate in a virtual ceremony for the International March of the Living. This is how I came to know her, a warm and impressive woman. Her book, Shoah Through Muslim Eyes (2017, a series edited by Michael Berenbaum), offers a unique and fascinating perspective on this chapter in history. In these times of factionism and strife, Afridi's devotion to the topic of the Holocaust, her continued activism for reconciliation and her commitment to interfaith dialogue are moving.

When I delved into researching the Holocaust, I understood the need for the State of Israel.
Afridi has traveled across the Middle East, Western Europe and the US throughout her life. It seems like the seminal paradigm in her identity is that of the other and foreignness. A sense of detachment and discrimination are not foreign to her and are a central part of her biography: "I was born in Karachi to a Muslim Pakistani family. My father worked in international banking. That means our family had to migrate often. In 1984 we moved to Scarsdale, New York, where I finished high school. In most of the schools I attended, I was the only Muslim. Dark skinned, with a different language and culture.

"In Switzerland, I felt 'too dark'. In Dubai, I was an outsider. In New York, I was a Pakistani. I knew racism. In some of the schools, I became friends with Jews, who also stood out for being different. As time went on, I became more curious about Jews."

Q: Do you come from a religious home?
"My mother was religious. My father was a believer, but secular and more relaxed. I keep customs, fast during Ramadan, I don't wear a hijab. I pray, since praying is like meditation for me."

Q: How does a Muslim woman become so interested in the Holocaust and end up scientifically researching it?

 
"I did my Masters in religious studies at Syracuse University. Almost by accident, I became a teaching assistant to Alan Berger [a veteran Holocaust researcher who was a professor in the religious studies department – RT]. In his lessons, I was exposed deeply to the Holocaust. I completed my doctorate at the University of South Africa. Michael Berenbaum, an orthodox rabbi and researcher of the Holocaust, was also one of my mentors. That's how I found myself studying Judaism, researching the many points where Judaism and Islam meet, and finding how the concept of God is so similar. My interest in the Holocaust grew and I began to understand the need for the State of Israel."

'This is the degree of humanity'
She shares with me a defining moment in her life. The summer of 2007 when she was invited to speak at a conference in Munich, after which she felt the need to visit Dachau, the death camp in Germany. "I always wanted to visit the camps," Afridi says, "and in Dachau, I felt an emptiness, everything was exposed, the white rocks were blinding. I was holding my newborn baby daughter, her crying echoed inside me, and I asked myself what were you thinking, why did you bring her to Dachau?

"I stood in the crematorium and prayer spontaneously rose inside me from the Koran (2:156) that is said when a person passes away. I wanted to give the dead the respect they deserved. The meaning of the prayer is that 'we belong to God, and to Him do we indeed return'.

"I didn't realize then how that powerful moment would define me. I didn't know exactly why I wanted to visit Dachau. Maybe as a Muslim witness, to tell of the rage over Holocaust denial in the Muslim world and to raise attention to the dangers of ignoring history. I felt a responsibility for the dead, to be a voice for them in the Muslim world. I found myself looking into my daughter's eyes, feeling that remembering these horrors is the only way to avoid this happening again to anyone. In Islam, human dignity is a right given by God to all people, as those who accept the divinity across the world, whether a person is dead or alive (as is exemplified in the Koran, such as Surah 5:31).

"Unfortunately, the Holocaust is not taught in Muslim communities. Muslims are aware of the Holocaust but it's not part of the curriculum. I wanted to bridge these stories to Muslims. To tell my community: 'accept the Holocaust, recognize the pain.' It may not be your pain, but it is the pain of humanity.

"I've seen attempts in the Muslim community to refute the Holocaust, to distort history and numbers. My research was born out of this Holocaust denial and the relativism towards it. It hurt me as a Muslim, not only as an intellectual. I wanted to give the Holocaust the mantle of Islamic ethical justice."

Q: How did your family and friends react to your choice? 
"My father died 20 years ago. My mother found it hard at first. She wondered why I didn't study a normative field. At first, she feared Muslim extremists. Today she supports me and has even come with me to Israel. I have two children, and as a mother, I can understand the motives. My children read books and watch movies about the Holocaust. They have close Jewish friends. I do not believe in occlusion but in exposure to a diverse environment. This is the way I wanted to live and raise my children, in religious freedom with understanding and tolerance for the other. In my eyes, this is the degree of humanity."

For her book, Afridi interviewed survivors over the years.

Q: What is the added value of a Muslim interviewing a Holocaust survivor?
"I'm not another Jew or Israeli asking for their testimony. As a Muslim I felt that I wanted to interview the Holocaust survivors myself. One of the survivors, for example, decided that he no longer wanted to be interviewed, but when he heard I was Muslim he got very excited, changed his mind and spoke with me. The interviewees were curious about me and my religion. I keep in touch with many of the survivors, I visit their homes, eat with them on holidays, a close connection was forged. The view of Islam is based on a warped perspective given by the media. I let them meet with Muslim students and you can immediately see the difference in how people react to each other. These things define me and my life, these are the transformations I yearn for."

Q: In your book and research, Islam is the fundamental model through which you observe the Holocaust, by using the Koran and Hadith.
"Indeed, I am a Muslim dealing with the Holocaust of the Jews, and therefore my perspective is different. The soft and tolerant voices of Islam are not heard enough. The message of Islam was always universal: promote tolerance, equality, and acceptance of other faiths and cultures. That and moreover, the Koran says that if you are exposed to false testimony, even from your own people – you must rise against it and stand for justice. Through Islam, my ethical responsibility towards humanity, as God has commanded, is not to tolerate false testimony (4:135). Therefore, it is my duty as a Muslim to condemn Holocaust denial; also, history must be known, if you disconnect Islam from its roots you miss similar stories, the shared heroes, traditions, and sisters. Therefore, I am committed to the Holocaust, it's strange, but that's how it is."

Q: Who reacted more harshly: Muslims or Jews?
"Both. I'm interested precisely in these junctions of Judaism and Islam. My appointment to head the Holocaust center was controversial in both communities, unfortunately, they don't trust each other enough. In Muslim circles they asked why I don't study Islamic issues, why I don't write about the Palestinians; and it wasn't easy for the Jews as well. When I took the job, it was the first time in history that a Muslim woman was chosen to head any Holocaust center in the world. It was an unusual decision that evoked opposition, such as 'it would be better to give the job to a neo-Nazi' or 'a Muslim chosen to direct the center will diminish the Holocaust as a seminal event for Jews.'"

These reactions broke her heart, and also made her feel how important it was for her to bring change. With time, thanks to her research and personal interactions, more people in the community began to trust her. Even the more extreme elements were impressed: "In time they learned to understand my activism against anti-Semitism. Today I have Jewish friends whom I treat like family."

Q: You are a woman, a Muslim woman, a Muslim woman dealing with the Holocaust, and an intellectual making her way in academia. Is it a lonely journey?
"I'm fighting on two fronts. I'm drawing Muslim students to study the Holocaust: Albanians, Pakistanis, Syrians, Iraqis, Saudis. The male Muslim students have the most difficult time with me. But I have a lot of support from Muslims and Jews, such as the women's fraternity 'Salaam-Shalom'."

Q: The Holocaust is a seminal event in Jewish modern history that you think Muslims should know more about. What should Jews learn about Muslims to understand them better, what are our blind spots as Jews?
"We are 1.5 billion Muslims spread around the world. Islam has many colors. There is Muslim aggressiveness, like the Taliban, Hamas. But there are millions of silent Muslims, suffering victims, like in China, Bosnia, Kashmir. Muslims are treated as an extreme group, as troublemakers. As Muslims we also are victims of stereotyping, of Islamophobia. Even when I brought a group of 52 women to Auschwitz, some of them Muslims, we encountered anti-Muslim revelations."

Afridi also deals with the Muslim Chinese minority of Uyghurs, of which China is holding in forced labor camps en masse. "They've been through abuse and rape of women and children. There is a silenced suffering of Muslims around the world. There are many 'pockets' of discriminated Muslim minorities, and many times it's the non-Arab Muslims. In Islam there is a hierarchy: The Arabs are on top, then the Asians and at the bottom are the Africans. A racist Muslim hierarchy. The Arabs see themselves as the 'pure Muslims', the pure receivers of the message, since the Koran was delivered in Arabia. But most Muslims are Asians and the minority are disadvantaged Africans."

The tensions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict definitely complicate the way the Holocaust is perceived. Afridi mentions Prof. Mohammed Dajani Daoudi from Al-Quds University, who in 2014 initiated a tour of Palestinian students to Auschwitz, for the first time ever. He received death threats and was forced to pack up and escape to the U.S.

Q: Is it easier for a non-Arab Muslim to teach the Holocaust?
"Maybe. There is more Holocaust denial in the Middle East, due to the tension with Israel. It's a painful discussion, submerged in political propaganda. There's an identity competition over the narrative, while everyone has a place in memory. By understanding the Holocaust we can improve the dialogue between us. We must show empathy outside our identity. It doesn't mean you lose your faith by doing so, but you become more aware of the sensitivities of other faiths and cultures. That is the only way to grow, to progress."
This article originally appeared on Israel Hayom. Photo credit: Louis Constant Dui



https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Sky-High-Anti-Semitism-and-Increased-Jewish-Pride.html?s=mm
Sky-High Anti-Semitism and Increased Jewish Pride
May 13, 2020  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
Sky-High Anti-Semitism and Increased Jewish Pride
2019 saw the highest levels of anti-Semitism in the US on record. American Jews are responding with Jewish pride.
Anti-Semitism has been steadily increasing in the United States for the past decade, a new report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) shows, and in 2019 it reached a record high. Anti-Jewish incidents in 2019 were the highest on record, exceeding all records since at least 1979, when the ADL first began keeping track.

In 2019 well over 2,100 attacks on Jews were recorded, an 18% increase since 2018 and fully a doubling in anti-Jewish attacks since 2015. Many of the anti-Semitic incidents were horrifically violent, including the murder of Lori Gilbert-Kaye in the Chabad of Poway synagogue on April 27, 2019, the murders of Mindy Ferencz and Moshe Deutsch, as well as Douglas Miguel Rodrigues and Det. Joseph Seals, in Jersey City on December 10, and the violent knife attack on Jews at a Hanukkah party in Monsey, New York, on December 28. (Rabbi Josef Neumann died of his injuries three months later.) The report also details over a thousand cases of threats and harassment directed Jews and over 900 cases of the property of Jews being intentionally destroyed or damaged.

The ADL’s report is shocking in its mind-numbing tally of examples of anti-Jewish hatred but for too many of us it’s hardly surprising. For the first time in recent memory, the ADL records, a majority of American Jews have been victims of anti-Semitic incidents – or have witnessed someone else being attacked for being Jewish. Our sense of security as American Jews has shattered.

For the first time in a generation, American Jews are discovering what many Jews in Diaspora communities all over the world experience, realizing that we are a minority within our own countries and not always welcomed. For some Jews, this is acting as a powerful catalyst, encouraging many of us to explore what it means to be Jewish, and leading countless Jews to embrace their Judaism.

Here are four inspiring recent trends of Jews choosing to live fuller Jewish lives, even in the shadow of increasing anti-Semitism.

1. Young Adults Embracing Shabbat

 
In recent years, increasing numbers of Jews have been rediscovering a central component of Jewish life: Shabbat. This is part of a trend of living a more fully Jewish life in general, and in some communities, it’s young Jewish adults who are showing the way.

A recent article in The Atlantic highlighted the growing, vibrant Shabbat scene among Millennials living in Houston: “On a typical Friday night in Houston, many young people are out drinking in bars or curled up watching Netflix… But in a few Houston homes, Jews in their 20s and 30s have opted to fill these evenings with a different kind of obligation: strictly observing Shabbat, or the Jewish Sabbath.” The young professionals featured in the article described how they had chosen to celebrate Shabbat as adults, and took turns inviting each other to Shabbat meals in their homes, and even held informal Shabbat services for their friends and guests in their apartments on Friday nights.

Data about just how many young adults are choosing to celebrate Shabbat are hard to come by, but one indication that Shabbat observance is catching on is the rapid proliferation of “Moishe Houses”, informal homes where small groups of Jews rent together and which function as central hubs for Jewish activity for young adults, hosting Shabbat lunches and dinners as well as other events. From the founding of the first Moishe House in Oakland, California in 2006, the movement has grown rapidly to over 100 Moishe Houses around the world today, hosting Shabbat dinners for young adults. This fits into a pattern: more Jews in their 20s and 30s are rediscovering the joys of Jewish rituals – so much so that a greater proportion of young Jewish adults describe themselves as religiously observant than older American Jews today.

2. Growing Jewish Community
Many Jews are used to reading dire predictions of the future of American Jewry – yet contrary to some dark predictions, the number of Jews in the United States is growing. Researchers at Brandeis University near Boston found in a major 2018 that the US Jewish population was 7.5 million that year – and growing each year.

Fueling that is a birthrate that’s much higher than the US average of 1.77 children per family. Orthodox American Jews tend to have larger families – an average of just over 4 children per family. Even among secular American Jews, the desire for larger families seems to be motivating many couple to have larger families. While most American Jews who describe themselves as “secular” do have families about the size of the average American family, many do join their Orthodox brethren in choosing to build larger families – nearly 10% of “secular” American Jews also have an average of four children or more. Jewish children ensure the future of a vibrant Jewish community – the fact that so many Jewish families are raising larger families is helping build the next generation of American Jews.

3. Increasing Numbers of Students Visiting Israel on Birthright
The past several years have seen a broad upward trend of Jewish college students and young adults visiting Israel, many for the first time, on Birthright Israel trips. Birthright was formed in 1999, and since then the program has revolutionized Jewish life in America and beyond, bringing young Jewish adults to Israel on free (or almost free) trips, so they can experience Israel and gain familiarity with the Jewish homeland. Tens of thousands of Jews have traveled to Israel with Birthright; many have found themselves transformed by the experience.

In recent years, the numbers of American Jews going on Birthright trips has trended broadly upwards. From 13,593 students participating on Birthright in 2015, that number rose to 15,043 in 2016 and to 15,570 in 2018. In 2017 Birthright widened the pool of participants, raising the maximum age of visitors to 32 and instituting Israel trips geared towards newly-married couples.

Birthright trips have an outsized impact: participants are 45% more likely to marry Jews after their trip than others. “It was a spiritual experience I didn’t expect to get” explained Sam Paul, an 26 year old insurance broker from Manchester, New Hampshire, on his trip, echoing many other American Jews who’ve got the chance to learn about the Jewish homeland through this unique program.

4. Jews Give Highest Levels of Charity in the United States
Jews consistently are in the lead when it comes to charitable giving in the United States – American Jews donate more money to charity than any other ethnic or religious group: they give at levels higher than other religious and ethnic groups, and a greater percentage of American Jewish families give charity than families of other faiths. This phenomenon is true at all levels of income – one recent study found that even among households making less than $50,000 a year, (which is less than the national mean in the US), Jews are significantly more likely to donate funds to charity (60% of low earning Jews donate versus only 46% of non-Jewish low earners.)

Demographer Hanna Shaul Bar Nissim studies charitable giving and she notes that there’s something unique about American Jews’ generosity: “Expressed in Hebrew, the Jewish concepts of tzedakah (charitable giving), tzedek (justice) and chesed (mercy and kindness) instruct and compel all Jews to give charity and treat people who are less fortunate with compassion.” The generosity of American Jews is another reason to be proud of our community – and yet another way that our faith shapes and strengthens us and our faith.


https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Covid-19-in-the-Shadows-of-the-Holocaust.html?s=mpw
Covid-19 in the Shadows of the Holocaust
May 9, 2020  |  by Mindy Stern
Covid-19 in the Shadows of the Holocaust
Children of survivors gain inspiration from their forebears.

The author's grandfather, David Stern, who was working in NY trying to get visas for his wife and 8 children to get out of Czechoslovakia. Everyone perished except the two oldest kids, Harry Stern, her father, and her Aunt Irene
I didn’t know them when they were hungry and feared for their lives during the Holocaust. Their two and half years in hiding, surviving on carrots and the occasional onion skin were nine years behind them by the time I was born. At the war’s end, my mother and grandmother emerged from a dreary attic in Belgium jaundiced, their teeth in shambles. Their new life in America restored their health. Like Scarlett O’Hara, they vowed to never be hungry again. They raised my sister and me to be self-sufficient, frugal, resourceful, always ready for the unexpected, qualities that prepared us for some of the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Our home in Brooklyn was never short of food. Bubby – my grandmother, shopped daily, often visiting two supermarkets to buy what was on sale. She overcooked everything, but we ate from nature’s bounty: fresh string beans, asparagus, cauliflower, whatever was in season. Our shelves overflowed with canned goods, the freezer groaned with packages of chicken, steaks, and pounds of kosher delicatessen from Bloch & Falk, the German-Jewish deli in Washington Heights. I learned to cook whatever is fresh in the market and to always keep a pantry stocked.

The author's mother walking down the street in Belgium with a Jewish star on her shirt.
 
When my son, a frontline physician in Seattle, sent our family links to the latest scientific data on Covid transmission, his step-mom, Simone replied: “I think of how this compares with our forebears during the war, living in fear and deprivation in ghettos, in hiding, or in far worse situations, how Europe emerged from the devastating losses and how different the world was in the postwar years. And that this is not a deliberate attempt to annihilate us… We are all going to be a little poorer when the crisis is over but we will still have a roof over our head and food to eat and our kids hopefully will find their paths in a new and more challenging world.”

Simone’s reflection motivated me to reach out to my cousins. We children of survivors all grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust. I wondered what lessons we carry, consciously or not, as a result of our upbringing. I yearn to talk with my parents, Bubby, my aunts and uncles, but none of them are alive today. I wanted to see how their lives and behavior inspire their children and grandchildren, even from beyond the grave.

From left, Aunt Irene, and the author’s parents Thea & Harry on their wedding day, 1949
My first call was to Felice in Mohnton, PA. “My parents’ experience is always in the background of my personality and how I look at things. I know what they struggled with and what life was like for them from the day when they weren’t allowed to go to school in their hometown in Czechoslovakia. It’s made me a very strong person – shaped me in a lot of ways. I have a little of my mother’s outlook, 'Don’t dwell on things, try to move forward.'”

That sounded so familiar to me. When circumstances beyond my control have hit me hard, like getting laid-off during a massive downsizing at the hospital where I worked, I leapt into action, began strategizing right away, never allowing myself to wallow. It turns out that my parents’ stoicism, determination to move forward, and gift for finding silver linings were themes in each of my conversations with cousins.

A dish of Shlishkas
 

Aunt Irene was the best home cook I knew when I was a little girl. I adored my cousins, Ira and Mindy, and loved going to their house, with its fresh cooking and baking aromas. From her home in North Woodmere, NY, Mindy told me, “My mother used to talk all the time about being homesick, deprived. In Bergen-Belsen she had a bunkmate and at night, they talked about the foods their mothers made. She learned the best recipes in camp. They were so hungry, they imagined beautiful dishes, and she concocted them after she got out.” Aunt Irene perfected Shlishkas, the Hungarian-Jewish version of gnocchi rolled in toasted, buttered bread crumbs, and they became her signature dish. Just thinking of them now makes my mouth water.

Cousin Ira recalls that his mother “literally could not throw food out. She knew you could get energy from the juice in potato peels and was beaten in the camp for stealing some out of a garbage can. In her fridge, I’d find tiny little balls of aluminum foil - crumpled up, three-times used tin foil that she’d say, ‘didn’t owe me any money’ with a scoop of egg salad, a quarter of potato, two stalks of celery salvaged from soup.” But their “post-stress life was all about being normal, living a normal life.”

Top row: the author and cousin Ira. Bottom row: cousin Mindy (L) and the author’s sister Ivy circa 1959
When Ira’s curiosity prompted questions about that era, his mom changed the subject. “I don’t want to talk about that,” she’d say. “I want to talk about my two diamonds, you and your sister…. They were proud of being able to forget, being able to get past it, and not wallow in it. If she were alive now, she would have been ready for Covid-19. She was resourceful, had a kitchen full of everything, and most important, had a positive attitude.”

My cousins and I, the first generation born after the Holocaust, are in our sixties. I wondered if our parents’ positive, can-do attitude has been passed on beyond our generation, to the grandchildren. I called my niece, Nina, a business entrepreneur in Brooklyn. She and her husband are both recovering from Covid-19, and have been self-isolating for weeks. Now that they can breathe more easily, their biggest lament is of losing their senses of smell and taste. I asked Nina how three of her grandparents’ Holocaust experiences inform her view of the pandemic.

The author's grandmother, Judith Scheiner
“It’s all I think about,” she gushed. “It defines how I get through this. I’m so privileged – I have a pantry full of food, I feel really lucky. Sabba, Savta and Oma give me strength – it feels so much less than what they lived through. We’re not being persecuted and I’m not hiding from someone. What we’re doing doesn’t feel like much of a sacrifice. I have a lot of hope.”

Maybe that’s the key – when facing hardships, find inspiration in the stories of your forebears. Their endurance models hope, strength, and a belief that the future will be better. If they could do it, what are we complaining about? And if your spirits start to sag, take a few basics out of your pantry: eggs, oil, salt, flour. Boil some potatoes. Make a batch of shlishkas, roll them in butter and bread crumbs, bake, and serve with sour cream. Ahhhhhh. We can get through this.
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Post  Admin on Tue 12 May 2020, 10:01 pm

https://www.aish.com/jw/s/6-Ways-Not-to-Let-Isolation-Get-You-Down.html?s=mm
6 Ways Not to Let Isolation Get You Down
May 9, 2020  |  by Ann Goldberg
6 Ways Not to Let Isolation Get You Down
Lockdown is no picnic, but there are simple things everyone can do to keep their spirits up.
As someone in the high-risk category due to age, recent illness and surgery, overnight I went from being an independent, active senior who was delighted to be cancer-free, to being a government designated ‘vulnerable’ – aka ‘old-sickie’ – who needs to be locked away for her own good and can't leave the house under any circumstances.
It wasn’t easy. My brain may have accepted that it was for my good, but my emotions found the whole thing very difficult. I'm fortunate to have a husband to share the situation with, children who were happy to help us and a computer to order online. Not everyone is so lucky.

Here's what I'm doing to keep my spirits up.

1. Exercising
Despite being a couch potato, I try to take a short walk every day. And I am doing something I’ve never done before: I'm taking online aerobics classes. Nothing madly strenuous – I Googled ‘exercises for the over-fifties’ and picked two – one a low impact aerobics to keep my heartbeat going strong and another to exercise parts of my body I barely remember existed.

The result has been amazing – my blood pressure is down and I feel much better. I definitely hope to keep this up after the crisis is over.

2. Contacting People Living On Their Own

We are blessed with children and grandchildren and we miss them terribly. But at least we are in contact with them. I began to think of all the people I knew who live totally on their own and have few, if any, relatives who would contact them.

I started calling them up and offered my children’s help in bringing them shopping if they needed it. I could sense from their voice that just hearing someone asking how they were cheered them up, so I ring them occasionally.

3. Praying
I pray regularly but have to admit that it’s often by rote and something I do with one part of my mind on all the other things I have to do when I‘ve finished praying.

But now I don’t have that much else to do. Nowhere to go. No one to see. So I take my time in the morning and pray at a slower pace. I check the English translation when I realize that although I’ve been saying this for years I don’t really know what it means.

I’ve added on a few extra prayers that speak to me and I’ve got a long list of people to pray for – especially those hit by the virus.

4. Tolerance
I think I’m more tolerant now than I was before all this (don't ask my husband). I’ve started buying my weekly shopping online so as not to burden my children with too much extra work. After all, they're at home trying to work while taking care of little children and their home-schooling schedules.

I don’t always like what the shop sends, but I just have to accept it. Yes, things are often missing –and of course it’s just the item that I waiting for. But I try to smile through it all and be glad that this option is available, and learn to make do with what I received rather than what I wish I had.

5. Showing Gratitude
Yes, it’s frustrating to suddenly have to sit back and let others do everything for you when you’re still physically capable of doing it, but you’re not allowed to – for your own good.

It’s also difficult to know how to say thank you to all the people who are now looking after you, but it’s important to try.

I’ve been baking a lot more cookies and cakes in the last few weeks and distribute them to my children when they come by with shopping items I need and couldn’t get online. They knock on the door leaving the items outside the door and then with mask and gloves on, they step back down the stairs so I can come out and wave to them and leave them some baked goods to take home.

Many toy stores now have home deliveries so I’ve ordered some crayons, coloring books, games and toys and books for all ages and give them to the children.

6. Trying Doing Something You Think You Can't Do
For several years I’ve had help cleaning the house as my back and knees really ache when I try and clean the floors and the bath. But with no one coming into the house now I’ve had no choice but to have-a-go myself, and I’ve been really surprised that after a few weeks the aches and pains aren’t so bad. Maybe the extra exercise has got me into better shape.

This is an opportune time to try other things you've given up on – learning a new language, reading that enormous book, or taking a new online class.
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Post  Admin on Sun 10 May 2020, 8:38 pm

https://www.aish.com/sp/so/God-Finds-an-Estranged-Jew-in-the-Peruvian-Amazon.html?s=mm
God Finds an Estranged Jew in the Peruvian Amazon
May 9, 2020  |  by Sara Yoheved RiglerGod Finds an Estranged Jew in the Peruvian Amazon
While living in the Peruvian Amazon married to a native woman, an American Jew experiences a life-saving miracle that sparks his spiritual quest.

Saul was born in New Jersey in 1980. His family belonged to a Reform temple, which they attended on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, faithfully maintaining their post-services-on-Rosh Hashana tradition of going out for Chinese food. Saul went to Hebrew school one afternoon a week and on Saturday mornings until he was Bar Mitzvah age. “Our family was culturally Jewish,” says Saul. “We read The New York Times, watched Woody Allen movies, and espoused liberal political causes.”

When 9/11 hit, Saul was in college. Suddenly many of the foreign students were warned that unless they had proper visas they would be deported. A campaign ensued for students who were U.S. citizens to marry foreign students just so they could receive resident visas. Saul volunteered to marry a Catholic Peruvian woman. Their nuptials took place at City Hall. Saul’s father was proud of him that he was doing "tikkun olam."

Surprisingly, the marriage stuck. When Saul graduated in 2003 with a major in Romance languages, he found it difficult to get a good job. After two years of teaching, Saul and his wife decided to move to her native city of Lima, Peru. For what it cost them to rent for one year in New York City, they could purchase an apartment in Lima. Saul got a job teaching English at the French School.

Lima boasted four shuls and 3,000 Jews, most of them elderly Holocaust survivors. Chabad and the Conservative shul struggled to get a minyan. Saul was an atheist. His Judaism consisted of lighting Hanukah candles, holding a Seder, and refraining from eating on Yom Kippur, although he did drink. And he maintained his family’s “Jewish tradition” of absorption in liberal politics.

The lack of even a single synagogue in Tarapoto was irrelevant to Saul.
After nine years of living in Lima, a metropolis of ten million people with no public transport system and which is enshrouded in fog nine months a year, Saul decided to move to the beautiful Amazon region. He chose Tarapoto, a city of 500,000 people with opportunities for developing a business in legal and technical translations for mining companies. The lack of even a single synagogue in Tarapoto was irrelevant to Saul.


 
But as Saul and his wife had children, it became important to him to give his offspring a Jewish identity, based on the Reform doctrine of patrilineal descent. Their first son was born while they were visiting Saul’s parents in New Jersey, and he was circumcised by a Conservative mohel. When their second son was born in Tarapoto, Saul approached a local surgeon and asked him to circumcise the eight-day-old baby. The surgeon refused, saying it was dangerous to circumcise such a young infant.

The Miracle
Three months later, Saul’s family was invited to a wedding in the beach resort of Los Grillos in Zorritos, near the border with Ecuador. Saul’s American friend Eric was marrying a non-Jewish Peruvian woman, and he brought Rabbi Laurie from Florida to conduct the ceremony. Saul still wanted a bris for his second son. While he understood that Rabbi Laurie could not actually circumcise the baby, he asked her to officiate at some kind of bris ceremony the day after the wedding, and she agreed.

At Los Grillos, Saul’s family was staying in a rustic, one-room bungalow with a thatched roof. It contained just a bed for the couple and a smaller bed for the children. Above the bungalow was a platform holding a 1000-liter water tank, accessed by a ladder. The bungalow was so close to the shoreline that they could leave the baby sleeping in the children’s bed while Saul, his wife, and older son frolicked on the beach, still within earshot of the baby’s cries.

The wedding took place on Saturday afternoon, with the dancing going on until late into the night. On Sunday morning, Rabbi Laurie conducted a bris-like ceremony with all of Eric’s and Saul’s friends in attendance. Afterwards, Saul bid Eric goodbye, telling him, “We’re heading back to our bungalow to have a family beach day.” Eric protested that they had just had a bris for his son, a significant Jewish milestone. They should stay and celebrate with the assembled friends. Saul and his wife acquiesced. They spent the whole day eating, drinking, and celebrating both the wedding and the bris.

The one-ton water tank had crashed onto the bed in which their baby would have been sleeping had they not stayed to celebrate the bris.
Toward midnight, as they drove toward their bungalow, the caretaker came running out, screaming, “I’m so glad you guys are okay!” He pointed in the dark to the ruins of what had been their bungalow. That day a drunken driver in an SUV had collided with the ladder, knocking the one-ton water tank off its perch and through the hatched roof. As Saul waded through the sodden remnants of the bungalow, he spied the water tank. It had crashed onto the bed in which their baby would have been sleeping had they not stayed to celebrate the bris. Saul stood there trembling.

“It was very apparent to me,” Saul recalls, “that my son had survived because we had decided to do the ceremony and because we had stayed there to celebrate it properly. I saw the hand of God. I wasn’t ready to admit it to others, but I thought to myself, ‘Well, if there is a God and He just saved my son, I have to do something to thank Him. What can I do?’”

All the way back to Tarapoto, Saul reflected on an appropriate response. He thought about keeping kosher, but other than fruits and vegetables, there was no kosher food available in Tarapoto. Then he considered learning Hebrew, but he concluded that was a weak response to a major miracle. Finally, he decided, “I learned that God is pretty much into Shabbat, so if I make a nice dinner with wine on Friday nights, that would be something.”

Although Tarapoto had no real Jewish community, a decade before an Israeli organization named Shavei Yisrael had sent an emissary to reclaim the great-grandchildren of Moroccan Jewish traders who had come to the Amazon in the late 19th century and had married local women. Shivei Yisrael had started a large-scale conversion program under Orthodox auspices for those descendants of the Jewish traders who wanted to be Jews. They held Shabbat services in private homes. Saul started attending these services on Friday nights and would follow up with a dinner in honor of Shabbat. He continued this practice for two years.

Then Saul and his wife went through a painful break-up. As he remembers,

“I really felt very troubled. I felt regretful of a lot of things that had gone on for many years. I went to an indigenous spiritual retreat that a client of mine was running. Before the retreat, the participants had to go on a special diet. We were forbidden to eat pork or shellfish for two weeks. I thought to myself, ‘Anything that my great-grandmother wouldn’t eat and that a shaman in the rainforest wouldn’t eat, there must be something to it.’”

During the retreat, Saul “really felt directly the Divine presence.” Afterwards, he started making Kiddush on Shabbat nights.

He needed to educate himself but no Jewish books were available. “Amazon doesn’t ship to the Amazon.”
A couple months later he decided that he was tired of wading in the shallows of Jewish observance. He wanted to dive in. But how? He needed to educate himself, but no Jewish books were available. As he wryly observes, “Amazon doesn’t ship to the Amazon.”

Internet Jew
At that point Saul discovered the Jewish internet. Aish.com, especially the “How-to” articles by Lori Palatnik, “Ask the Rabbi,” and Pathways [now Aish Academy] became like tour guides through the dense jungle of Jewish observance. Saul felt like he was maneuvering through the rain forest on clearly marked trails. He also used the websites Mi Yodeya and Sefaria, an online library of classic Jewish texts.

“Once I started, it snowballed,” Saul recollects. “I wanted to learn more and I wanted to do more.” Still, he proceeded slowly. He learned that there are three daily prayers, but when he looked at the Shaharit morning service, he realized, “I’m not ready for this.” Instead, he undertook to say the one-line “Modeh ani” prayer upon awakening, and Shema Yisrael.

Gradually, Saul took upon himself to observe Shabbat. He needed his cup of fresh coffee on Shabbat morning, but he realized he could grind the coffee beans on Friday before sundown. The Friday night services were held a 45-minute walk from his house, and he wasn’t ready to stop driving on Shabbat. One Friday night he found himself at a gas station and realized he could make sure to fill his car before Shabbat. “I was just focusing on the next step, and I didn’t know where it was going to take me. As I would approach a new mitzvah, sometimes I was excited, and sometime I’d say to myself, ‘That’s stupid. I’m never going to do that.’ Eventually, I would do that mitzvah and afterwards I’d feel uncomfortable not doing it.”

Keeping kosher in the Amazon presented its own problems. There was no kosher meat available in Tarapoto. At first Saul would go to the local butcher and, even though the meat had not been slaughtered according to halacha [Jewish law] he’d buy cuts of chicken and beef (kosher animals) and bring them home, and salt and soak them according to the laws he learned about on the Internet. Eventually he said, “This isn’t really right.” He started to have kosher meat airlifted to him from Lima (18 hours by car from Tarapoto) by paying a taxi driver to pick up meat at Lima’s only kosher restaurant and bring it to the airport.

After a year of such gradual steps, Saul was keeping Shabbat except for smoking, which he felt incapable of giving up. Even there, he took a small step in the direction of the halacha by lighting his cigarettes from an existing flame, as is permitted on the holidays. Half a year later, he decided, “I’m ready to do this,” and he kept his first full Shabbat. It was May 26, 2018. “It was really hard,” he remembers. “But it felt really good to take that step.”

Meanwhile, the erstwhile atheist had developed a relationship with God through his online Jewish studies. “I believed that God created the universe and gave us the Torah, and when you do a mitzvah, you’re getting closer to God by doing what He told you to do.”

By winging his way through cyberspace Saul found a Judaism he didn’t know existed.
Eventually, Saul decided that Tarapoto, Peru, was not the right place to live a Jewish life. The best place to relocate, he realized, was Israel. So in February, 2020, he came for a six-week stay, with the intention of making Aliyah and then going back to Peru to retrieve his two children. Saul and his ex-wife decided he would have custody of the children so they could be raised as Jews and take advantage of the educational opportunities of living in Israel. But then, in March, the coronavirus pandemic hit, and Israel went into lockdown. Marooned in Israel, Saul is happily learning Torah in the Old City of Jerusalem, anxiously waiting to be reunited with his children.

Before the lockdown, Saul ended up at my Shabbos table. Among the other guests was an American couple, Yitzchak and Jenny, who became religious twenty years ago. At some point in the discussion, Yitzchak, with umbrage, said to Saul, “I’ve been learning Torah for twenty years, while you learned everything you know on the internet. And you know more than I do.”

The road to Judaism did not pass through the Peruvian Amazon, so Saul had had no choice but to fly, and by winging his way through cyberspace he found a Judaism he didn’t know existed.
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Post  Admin on Thu 07 May 2020, 11:14 pm

The Eichmann Files
Apr 26, 2020
by Tal Ariel Amir, Israel Hayom
55
SHARES
The Eichmann Files
Sixty years after Eichmann's capture, the evidence used against him is revealed.

"In all his activities the accused displayed indefatigable energy, verging on overeagerness towards advancing the Final Solution… He was not a puppet in the hands of others; his place was amongst those who pulled the strings... Even if we had found that the Accused acted out of blind obedience, as he argued, we would still have said that a man who took part in crimes of such magnitude as these over years must pay the maximum penalty known to the law, and he cannot rely on any order even in mitigation of his punishment. But we have found that the Accused acted out of an inner identification with the orders that he was given and out of a fierce will to achieve the criminal objective…" – Excerpts from the verdict and sentencing of Adolf Eichmann, December 1961.

The trial of Adolf Eichmann, who headed the Gestapo Department for Jewish Affairs known as IV B4, is an integral part of the consciousness of the Jewish people. One of the prevailing memories of the trial sessions in the Beit Ha'am community center in Jerusalem is the chilling testimonies of 121 Holocaust survivors.

But the criminal trial could not only rely on the survivors, only a few of whom actually saw Eichmann in person. Their testimonies were needed to highlight the unfathomable cruelty of the Nazis and the terrors of the Holocaust.

The discussions on Criminal Case No. 40/61 were based on the work of 15 Israel Police detectives, who were part of a special unit, Bureau 06. Their working assumption was that this was a murder trial and thus they needed evidence to prove Eichmann's senior role in organizing and implementing the Final Solution.

The conditions for launching the investigation – which began 60 years ago when Eichmann was captured and brought to Israel on May 21st, 1960 – were complicated. The war had ended 15 years earlier, the murder scenes spread across many states. The Bureau investigators hunted for documents that would speak for themselves and could not be refuted. Documents that could demonstrate Eichmann's infinite desire for the destruction of the Jewish people, and his key status in managing the transports to the death camps.

The investigators managed to get their hands on 400,000 pages of telegrams and letters from archives in Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France, as well as in the US too – which after the war collected tens of thousands of exchanges between the heads of the Nazi regime.

1,506 documents were filed by the court as "smoking guns" against Eichmann.
Out of all of these, 1,506 documents were filed by the court as "smoking guns" against Eichmann. They show how he insisted on reaching every single Jew, how he tried to cover up the extermination by using the phrase "special treatment," how he fumed that in his opinion, there were too few Jews on the death trains. And how he personally ensured that children were also sent to Auschwitz.

The police files have never been published and were transferred to the National Archives at the end of the trial. Copies were also given to Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center. Two years ago, Chief Inspector Dr. Yossi Hemi, a historian and the deputy head of the Israel Police Heritage Museum, took the materials: hundreds of boxes of brown files and yellowing paper. Hemi read through them anxiously and with dread, page by page, interrogation after interrogation.

Among the papers was a detailed diagram that Eichmann prepared by his own hand while he was readying for his trial. In them, he describes the structure of the Reich Defense Ministry and the chain of command in order to prove that he was just a cog in the system. The department he headed, the IV B4, is shown in the diagram as just one of many.

Hemi took all the evidence materials and turned them into a book and an exhibition on the police, which will be published soon.

Adolf Eichmann joined the Nazi party in 1932 when he was 26 years old, and was accepted into the SS, the party's paramilitary and intelligence organization. Two years later, he joined the Jewish Department, which became known as IV B4 department of the Central Office for Security of the Reich. At first, he looked into forced migration of Jews out of Germany, and even visited Haifa in October 1937 as part of these efforts, but came to the conclusion that Jews should not be encouraged to migrate to Mandate Palestine as the establishment of a Jewish state was not in the interest of the Third Reich.

Adolf Eichmann during his trial in Jerusalem (Archives: GPO)

In 1939, Eichmann was appointed to head the Jewish Department, and two years later began to experiment with mass extermination using gas. On January 20th 1942, he attended the Wannsee Conference in the Berlin suburb. It was there that the plan to annihilate Europe's Jews was drawn up. Eichmann prepared the invitations for the various parties and prepared the records of the meeting.

In March 1942, the transports of Polish Jews to Auschwitz began, with tens of thousands killed in the gas chambers. Despite this, Eichmann did not give up on personally dealing with Selman Lipski, Moshe Bejman, David Cymermann and Abraham Itzkowicz from the Neuhof Ghetto in Poland.

One of the first documents in the investigation file is a telegram from April 17th, 1942 which shows how dedicated Eichmann was to the Final Solution. In the telegram, which was classified as secret and titled "Special Treatment of Jews", Eichmann writes to the head of the Gestapo in Ciechanow, Poland and says that under orders of the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, "the Special Treatment is to be carried out" on these four, without giving details of what that is precisely.

The explanation comes in another letter which he sends five weeks later, on May 23, when he again asks for "special treatment," this time for seven more Jews in the Ghetto: Szmerek Goldberg, Tasiemka Eliacz, Rafael Braun, Mendel Rubensztayn, Moszek Lewin, David Bryszkowski and David Zamiadyn. This time he explicitly writes that they "are to be hanged in the ghetto of Neuhof, in the presence of persons of their race. I request an implementation report."

These two letters, which proved Eichmann's direct involvement in the extermination and his unimaginable cruelty, were presented to him by Chief Inspector Avner Less, the only one of the investigators who was allowed to question him and whose mother tongue was German.

The response of the Nazi criminal was rambling and unintelligible. "It can clearly be understood from reading – an instruction to the Ciechanow Gestapo post, which had presented a suitable proposal to the Central Office for Security of the Reich. This proposal was sent onwards, by order of the Reichsfuehrer SS and Head of the German police [Himmler]. In this case, the IV B4 acted as was expected by all central agencies. An order was requested from higher up."

Less insisted on hearing what the "special treatment" was. "They were put to death," Eichmann responded, "but this issue, as I have already said – it was never in the hands of the IV B4 to give the orders to put them to death."

April and May of 1942 saw a turning point in the Nazi treatment of the Jews. It was no longer just Polish Jews; the first transports started to arrive from Holland, Belgium and mainly France. The Vichy puppet government, which ran France under the patronage of the Nazis, turned its Jewish citizens over to the Germans and helped send them to the extermination camps.

The Jews were put in the Drancy concentration camp, north of Paris. Documents found in the French government's archives show that the Vichy regime adhered to the Nazi narrative that the Jews were being transported to labor camps. On July 22nd 1942, the first deportation train from France left for Auschwitz, with 1,000 Parisian Jews on board.

But the Bureau 06 investigation uncovered previously unknown details. On July 14th, around 1900, Adolf Eichmann placed an angry call to Drancy following the cancellation of the first transport, which was supposed to go out the next day. The reason for the cancellation: It "only" had 150 Jews on it.

Eichmann spoke with Heinz Röthke, chief of the Department of Jewish Affairs in France. In his record, Röthke says he explained to Eichmann that he hadn't managed to find more Jews due to a lack of time, and that the transport was delayed because Eichmann told him he must have 1,000 Jews on the train "since it was a matter of prestige."

"[Eichmann says that]… nothing like this has happened to him before. It's very embarrassing," Röthke sums the main points of the call. "He didn't want to tell his superiors, to avoid embarrassing himself, and has to consider whether he wants to give up on France as a country that is marked for deportations. I asked him for this not to happen, and added that it wasn't our bureau's fault. I informed him that the rest of the trains would leave as planned."
MORE https://www.aish.com/ho/i/The-Eichmann-Files.html?s=mm
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