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Post  Admin on Sun 18 Aug 2019, 10:47 am

Broadway Actor Takes The Narrow Way
https://www.oneforisrael.org/bible-based-teaching-from-israel/video/jewish-testimonies-i-met-messiah/broadway-actor-takes-the-narrow-way/
By Eitan Bar
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What do you do when your life revolves around popularity, but the way of truth is the unpopular one to take? Broadway star Jordan Gilbert chose to follow it, no matter the price, staying true to his faith and his Messiah!
In a world that makes it harder and harder to speak out about our faith, Jordan decided that he won’t be silent.
Eitan Bar is a native Jewish-Israeli who was born and raised in Tel Aviv, Israel (1984). Graduated with his B.A. in Biblical Studies from Israel College of the Bible (Jerusalem, 2009), his M.A. in Theology from Liberty University (2013) and is now pursuing his Doctorate with Dallas Theological Seminary. Eitan currently serves as ONE FOR ISRAEL's Director of Media & Evangelism. (From 2006 to 2013, Eitan worked for CRU, in which his roles included serving as Israel's VLM-SLM leader.)

Eitan's professional background is in "Multimedia Design and Visual Communications" working for various secular advertising agencies in Tel-Aviv.

Eitan is the producer of:
1) I MET MESSIAH (Jewish testimonials).
2) Answering Rabbinic Objections to Jesus.



https://www.aish.com/tp/i/sacks/527948601.html?s=mm
Why Is the Jewish People So Small?
V'etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11)
Aug 8, 2019
by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
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Why Is the Jewish People So Small?
Nations are not judged by their size but by their contribution to the human heritage.

Near the end of Va-etchanan, so inconspicuously that we can sometimes miss it, is a statement with such far reaching implications that it challenges the impression that has prevailed thus far in the Torah, giving an entirely new complexion to the biblical image of the people Israel:

The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you are the fewest of all peoples. (Deut. 7:7)

This is not what we have heard thus far. In Bereishit God promises the patriarchs that their descendants will be like the stars of the heaven, the sand on the sea shore, the dust of the earth, uncountable. Abraham will be the father, not just of one nation but of many. At the beginning of Exodus we read of how the covenantal family, numbering a mere seventy when they went down to Egypt, were "fertile and prolific, and their population increased. They became so numerous that the land was filled with them" (Ex. 1:7).

Three times in the book of Deuteronomy Moses describes the Israelites as being "as many as the stars of the sky" (1:10, 10:22, 28:62). King Solomon speaks of himself as set among "the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number" (1 Kings 3:8). The prophet Hosea says that "The Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted" (Hos. 2:1).

In all these texts and others it is the size, the numerical greatness, of the people that is emphasized. What then are we to make of Moses' words that speak of its smallness? Targum Yonatan interprets it not to be about numbers at all but about self-image. He translates it not as "the fewest of peoples" but as "the most lowly and humble of peoples." Rashi gives a similar reading, citing Abraham's words "I am but dust and ashes," and Moses and Aaron's, "Who are we?"

Rashbam and Chizkuni give the more straightforward explanation that Moses is contrasting the Israelites with the seven nations they would be fighting in the land of Canaan/Israel. God would lead the Israelites to victory despite the fact that they were outnumbered by the local inhabitants.

Rabbenu Bachya quotes Maimonides, who says that we would have expected God, King of the universe, to have chosen the most numerous nation in the world as His people, since "The glory of the king is in the multitude of people" (Prov. 14:28). God did not do so. Thus Israel should count itself extraordinarily blessed that God chose it, despite its smallness, to be His am segulah, His special treasure.

Rabbenu Bachya finds himself forced to give a more complex reading to resolve the contradiction of Moses, in Deuteronomy, saying both that Israel is the smallest of peoples and "as many as the stars of the sky." He turns it into a hypothetical subjunctive, meaning: God would still have chosen you, even if you had been the smallest of the peoples.

Sforno gives a simple and straightforward reading: God did not choose a nation for the sake of His honour. Had He done so He would undoubtedly have chosen a mighty and numerous people. His choice had nothing to do with honour and everything to do with love. He loved the patriarchs for their willingness to heed His voice; therefore He loves their children.

Yet there is something in this verse that resonates throughout much of Jewish history. Historically Jews were and are a small people: today less than a fifth of one per cent of the population of the world. There were two reasons for this. First is the heavy toll taken through the ages by exile and persecution, directly by Jews killed in massacres and pogroms, indirectly by those who converted - in fifteenth century Spain and nineteenth century Europe - in order to avoid persecution (tragically, even conversion did not work; racial anti-Semitism persisted in both cases). The Jewish population is a mere fraction of what it might have been had there been no Hadrian, no crusades and no anti-Semitism.

The second reason is that Jews did not seek to convert others. Had they done so they would have been closer in numbers to Christianity (2.2 billion) or Islam (1.3 billion). In fact Malbim reads something like this into our verse. The previous verses have said that the Israelites are about to enter a land with seven nations, Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Moses warns them against intermarriage with them, not for racial but for religious reasons: "they will turn your children away from following Me to serve other gods." Malbim interprets our verse as Moses saying to the Israelites, Don't justify intermarriage on the grounds that it will increase the number of Jews. God is not interested in numbers.

There was a moment when Jews might have sought to convert others (to be sure, there was one instance when they did. The Hasmonean priest-king John Hyrcanus I forcibly converted the Edomites, known as the Idumeneans. Herod was one of their number). The period in question was the Roman Empire in the first century. Jews numbered some 10 per cent of the empire, and there were many Romans who admired aspects of their faith and way of life. The pagan deities of the Hellenistic world were losing their appeal and plausibility, and throughout the centres of the Mediterranean, individuals were adopting Jewish practices. Two aspects of Judaism stood in their way: the commandments and circumcision. In the end, Jews chose not to compromise their way of life for the sake of making converts. The Hellenistic people who sympathized with Judaism mostly adopted Pauline Christianity instead. Consistently throughout history, Jews have chosen to be true to themselves and to stay small rather than make concessions for the sake of increasing numbers.

Why have Divine providence or human choice or both, eventuated in the sheer smallness of the Jewish people? Could it be, quite simply, that through the Jewish people God is telling humankind that you do not need to be numerous to be great. Nations are not judged by their size but by their contribution to the human heritage. Of this the most compelling proof is that a nation as small as the Jews could produce an ever-renewed flow of prophets, priests, poets, philosophers, sages, saints, halakhists, aggadists, codifiers, commentators, rebbes and roshei yeshivot; that they could also yield some of the world's greatest writers, artists, musicians, film-makers, academics, intellectuals, doctors, lawyers, businesspeople and technological innovators. Out of all proportion to their numbers Jews could and can be found working as lawyers fighting injustice, economists fighting poverty, doctors fighting disease, and teachers fighting ignorance.

You do not need numbers to enlarge the spiritual and moral horizons of humankind. You need other things altogether: a sense of the worth and dignity of the individual, of the power of human possibility to transform the world, of the importance of giving everyone the best education they can have, of making each of us feel part of a collective responsibility to ameliorate the human condition, and a willingness to take high ideals and enact them in the real world, unswayed by disappointments and defeats.

Nowhere is this more in evidence today than among the people of Israel in the state of Israel: traduced in the media and pilloried by much of the world, yet still, year after year, producing human miracles in medicine, agriculture, technology, the arts, as if the word "impossible" did not exist in the Hebrew language. When, therefore, we feel fearful and depressed about Israel's plight, it is worth returning to Moses' words: "The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you are the fewest of all peoples."

Small? Yes. Still surrounded, as the Israelites were then, by "nations larger and stronger than you." But that small people, defying the laws of history, outlived all the world's great empires, and still has a message of hope for humanity. You don't have to be large to be great. If you are open to a power greater than yourself, you will become greater than yourself. Israel today still carries that message to the world.

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About the Author

Rabbi Lord Jonathan SacksMore by this Author >
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks is an international religious leader, philosopher, and respected moral voice. The author of over 30 books, Rabbi Sacks has received multiple awards in recognition of his work including the 2016 Templeton Prize. He is the recipient of 17 honorary doctorates, was knighted by Her Majesty The Queen in 2005 and made a Life Peer, taking his seat in the House of Lords in October 2009. He served as the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013.

These weekly teachings from Rabbi Sacks are part of the ‘Covenant & Conversation’ series on the weekly Torah reading. Read more essays from the series on www.rabbisacks.org.

Now available for additional learning: The FAMILY EDITION of Covenant & Conversation, designed to enhance your parsha conversation with everyone from teenagers to great-great-grandparents. To read and print this new learning resource, for an inter-generational discussion around your Shabbat table on Rabbi Sacks’ ideas for the week, click here!
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Post  Admin on Thu 08 Aug 2019, 1:38 pm

But What If I Don't Want the Sacrifices of the Temple to Return?
Aug 3, 2019
by Billye Tziporah Roberts
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/But-What-If-I-Dont-Want-the-Sacrifices-of-the-Temple-to-Return.html?s=mm
But What If I Don't Want the Sacrifices of the Temple to Return?
I’ve never liked the idea of animals dying for me… or God.

Imagine that you lived in the United States in the early 1600s, in one of the first settlements – Jamestown, Virginia or near Cape Cod – where the Pilgrims started out. Life was, to say the least, hard.

Less than half of the Pilgrim families that landed at Plymouth Rock survived that first winter. Fewer than 150 of the 700 original Jamestown colonists survived the first three years.

Disease, starvation, bad water, hostile Native Americans. Not only no luxuries. Almost no necessities.

Now imagine someone from the year 2019 shows up. Someone who lives on that same east coast where you are barely surviving. They describe life as we live it today. They tell you that people live in multi-story buildings, that it's possible to travel from one area of the country to another, even one country to another, in only hours. They talk about places where you can buy all the food, clothing or anything else you need.

Long before that person began trying to explain telephones or the internet, you'd decide that they were either crazy or a liar. How else could you respond to such outlandish stories?

I have a similar problem when I try to imagine what life was like when we had the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. What happened there is so far outside of my current reality that I just can't wrap my mind around it. Especially the idea of bringing sacrifices.

It wasn't that I didn't want the Temple re-built. Believe me, I do. But I always hoped that it could be done without all those sacrifices.
I've always thought it was both uncivilized and unnecessary to slaughter all those innocent animals, not to mention unsanitary. Ick! I mean, what kind of a way is that to show my love, my joy, my appreciation to God?

I would think maybe it was just something that was necessary "back then," but we certainly don't need to do that sort of thing anymore.

My stomach always got queasy thinking about the sight and sounds of the animals being slaughtered, and the blood being slathered all over the alter.

I am also extremely sensitive to odors, so imagining the smells of blood and slaughtered animals and burning flesh only added to my nausea. It was beyond me to imagine all of that being "a pleasing smell to the Lord."

Because of these imaginings, I struggled with the part of the prayers where we ask for the rebuilding of the Temple and the re-institution of sacrifices. It wasn't that I didn't want Mashiach (the Messiah) to come, or that I didn't want the Temple re-built. Believe me, I do. But deep in my heart, I always hoped that it could be done without all those sacrifices.

But one morning, as I was saying that part of the prayers, I had an insight based on something I learned from Rabbi Stephen Baars.

What if I simply couldn't understand what it was like when the sacrifices were made in the Temple? What if, like the American colonists from the 1600s who wouldn't be able to understand life in America in the 2000s, what if it was so outside of what I have experienced that I am just not capable of even imagining what it was like when sacrifices were made when the Temple still stood?

After all, God's presence dwelled in the Temple. Has anything in my life come close to that experience? Maybe. I have had moments when I sensed the shadow of God in my life. But sensing the revelation of the Shechina, the Divine Presence that filled the Holy Temple? That had to have been so very much more.

Imagine you are there:

What if… what you saw wasn't intestines and blood but the living Presence of God hovering over the alter, a tangible vision of the Transcendent, inviting you to participate in an eternal dance with the Divine?

What if… what you heard wasn't the screams of dying animals but the singing of God's praise by His angels and you answering, harmonizing in joyous song about the wonder and love of God?

What if… what you smelled wasn't horrid and overpowering, but pure and fragrant: sweeter than incense and spices? Until every breath was filling you, opening you up, until every pore in your body was taking in the aroma of the world, breathing in time with the entire universe?

What if… after all your other senses were completely overwhelmed by these fantastic sensations what you ultimately felt was simply... God.
What if… after all your other senses were completely overwhelmed by these wonderful, fantastic sensations, what you ultimately felt was simply... God. You were more than filled with God. You were overflowing with God.

And it was the most wonderful, and, of course, completely indescribable, thing you'd ever felt.

And you were almost totally, completely, wholly, a part of it all. Almost.

All you would want would be to push past that almost all the way into the Presence that is God. And after having lived with the direct and immediate sensation of what it means to be connected to God, you would never – ever - want the experience to end.

But, of course, it would have to: when the sacrifices ended, or when the festivals ended, or even just when the day ended.

However much a person might want to stay in that state of closeness to the Eternal, we live in a physical world. We need to go home, back to our jobs, to tending our families; to eating, drinking, sleeping. The wonders of the sacrifices would fade.

But what if… all those overwhelming sensations and emotions didn’t fade completely away? What if they became a tiny little flame that managed to survive somehow, deep inside, under the hearts of those who were blessed to experience the sacrifices?

What if… that tiny little flame remained, even after the Temples were destroyed and the sacrifices were no more?

What if… it still burns, tucked safely away beneath the hearts of the Jewish people? So that even though we don't really remember, we can't really forget either?

Because there is still an echo, passed down from generation to generation, that we can just barely hear if we listen hard enough; just barely feel if we open our hearts enough?

What if …my issues with the sacrifices wasn't really a problem with what happened in the Temple? Instead, they were a problem with my inability to recognize that tiny little flame inside me and allowing it to open my mind to what my heart already knew?

Right now, I am preparing my mind and heart for Tisha B'Av. So I am spending a lot of time thinking about the destruction of the two Temples, and hoping that my thoughts about that tiny little flame turn out to be true.

Because that would mean that I’ll be able to focus, with no reservations, on the wondrous experiences and the closeness to God that the re-built Temple will bring us.

So that I will be able to say, with a joyous and undivided heart: may it be soon.
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Post  Admin on Mon 05 Aug 2019, 10:01 am

A Magic Trick in Auschwitz
Jul 27, 2019  |  by Ronda Robinson
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/A-Magic-Trick-in-Auschwitz.html?s=mm
A Magic Trick in Auschwitz
For Werner Reich. magic sparked a crumb of hope during the Holocaust.

In the hell of Auschwitz it was a magic trick that gave Werner Reich hope. The 91-year-old Holocaust survivor remembers seeing the trick it to this day.

As a 16-year-old, he had come back from a work assignment, climbed onto the top of a bare wooden bunk in the concentration camp barracks and found another inmate doing a card trick. Reich recalls, “It was like finding a gorilla in your bathroom. You can’t comprehend where it came from, what it was doing there. It knocked my socks off, although I didn’t have any.”

The older man, Herbert Lewin – whose stage name as a magician in Berlin had been The Great Nivelli – kindly explained how the trick worked without being asked. “I remembered every detail. It was the first trick I’d ever seen in my life. From that point on I practiced that card trick every single day in my head,” says Reich.

Balm for the Soul
“The trick provided for me a mental diversion from the daily gnawing of hunger and the constant fear for my life. It gave me something to think about, something that was a goal.”

He knew the rhythm, the movement, the flow of the trick well enough to recreate it in England after his liberation from Auschwitz, Poland.

The gift of a card trick during the unimaginable, harrowing time spawned a lifelong interest in magic. Although Reich doesn’t perform magic for pay, he enjoys using it to uplift the spirits of hospital patients and friends. He also donates his talent for fundraisers.

A member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and the Psychic Entertainers Association, Reich says magic has taught him how to think outside the box and approach problems from a different angle. He has learned to think on his feet, maintain presence of mind and take command of an audience.

“For this reason, I have never had a ‘bad’ audience and am a successful speaker even in the worst school.”

Teaching Youths Not to Hate
Imprisoned in jail and concentration camps from ages 15 through 17, the nonagenarian uses his energy to speak 100 times a year and promote Holocaust awareness at schools, colleges, synagogues, churches and conventions worldwide.

Sometimes he is called on to do an intervention. “Anti-Semitism has been here all the time. It’s just coming to the surface,” says Reich. For instance, a school where teens had been caught painting swastikas invited him to teach them the meaning and consequences of their actions.

The response is always positive, he says. Even though he has every right to play the victim card, Reich tells audiences not to feel sorry for him.



“I have had a very good life!” he reports. “What is important is not to be a bystander. We are all responsible for each other. I always quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.’ I beg them not to be a silent friend.”

A Happy Life Turns Ugly
Born in Berlin in 1927, he describes his early years as a typical middle-class Jewish life. His father worked as a mechanical and electrical engineer. His mother was a proud German who had served in the army in World War I, saved the lives of soldiers and received an Iron Cross military medal.

When Hitler came to power in 1933, Germany stopped allowing Jews to work at major companies, colleges and hospitals. Reich’s father lost his job. The children had to leave school.

At age 6, Reich and his family moved to Yugoslavia, where his father had served during WW I as an officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army.

“In 1933 people thought in two years Hitler would be out and we’d go back home. We had to sell our house for next to nothing. When we left, 25 percent of all our financial means was confiscated by the government as an emigration tax. We came to Yugoslavia and my father couldn’t find job because the country was strictly agricultural,” Reich recently told an audience at the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum in Atlanta.

“I was a kid, I was very happy. I went to school. I learned Croat and Serbian. I didn’t know the problems my parents had. In 1940 my father died, then a few months later Germany invaded Yugoslavia. Everything got turned upside down.”

His mother felt safe because of her military service, but she feared for her children and placed the elder, a daughter, with one couple and Werner with another who worked in the resistance movement. He quips, “It’s like hiding the cheese in the mousetrap.”

The Gestapo Knocks
Werner lived a lonely life, cooking, cleaning and developing film for the resistance movement. One morning there was a knock at the door. Several Gestapo agents burst in and threw everything out of the closets. One stood guard over Reich with a gun, ordering him to leave the door open when he went to the bathroom.

The secret police then arrested the 13-year-old and took him to prison, questioning and hitting him for hours, no matter what answers he gave.
The secret police then arrested the 13-year-old and took him to prison, questioning and hitting him for hours, no matter what answers he gave. They locked him in a basement cell with a concrete floor and bucket for a toilet and fed him only liverwurst sandwiches for three days. “They obviously lacked imagination as far as food was concerned,” he says dryly.

He spent two months in different prisons. In one cell in Gratz, Austria, he looked out a third-floor window to the prison yard below and saw his mother walking in a circle. It would be the last time he would ever see her. He then spent 10 months in Terezin, a concentration camp north of Prague in the Czech Republic.

Little could Reich imagine the horrors to come. “I was sort of convinced all of this was going to stop very soon. I didn’t know anything about death camps.”



He soon found out as one of 2,500 prisoners shipped via railroad cattle cars. “They gave us a piece of bread and a couple of cans of sardines the Red Cross must have sent. Buckets overflowed after an hour. We were lying in our feces and urine.”

Stealing the Horses’ Food to Survive
After three days the train doors opened. “It was a scene out of hell. We asked where we were. They told us we were in Auschwitz.” Stripped, shaved and tattooed with the number A-1828 on his arm, Reich lived on 400 calories a day. After a couple of months there, he passed through three selections by Dr. Mengele. The vast majority were killed after that.

“We were trying our best to survive. It was a question of life or death.” He worked in the stables and stole the horses’ food. After nine months there, in January 1945 he and 60,000 other prisoners went on a three-day death march during which 15,000 died. He then suffered a four-day railroad transport in coal cars to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. In open railroad cars, they endured snow, ice and death from frostbite.



At Mauthausen, he relates, “We got a tablespoon of moldy bread a day. I slept next to a dead man for three days just to get his rations.”

When liberated on May 5, 1945, at the age of 17, Reich weighed just 64 pounds. He then went to Communist Yugoslavia. After regaining his strength, he managed to escape to England, find work and get married. He and his wife, Eva, moved to New York, where his sister settled after the war.

A Lucky Life, A Lucky Man
Reich spent 10 years studying in college at night and worked as an industrial engineer. He and Eva were married for 61 years until her death in 2016. “She was the love of my life. I have two sons, David and Michael, two delightful daughters-in-law and four grandchildren. Life has been very, very good to me. I really have no complaints. I was lucky. I was really lucky.”

Herbert Lewin – The Great Nivelli, the magician whose stage name derived from reversing the spelling of his last name – also survived the war. He wound up settling in New York less than 30 minutes away from Reich. After Lewin died in 1977, his former bunkmate spotted the obituary in a magician’s magazine. They never met again after Auschwitz.
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Post  Admin on Mon 29 Jul 2019, 10:56 am

Reuven Bauman: Through Fire and Water
Jul 28, 2019  |  by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Reuven-Bauman-Through-Fire-and-Water.html?s=mm
Reuven Bauman: Through Fire and Water
Reuven Bauman’s heroic rescue on a Virginia beach echoes his grandfather’s lifesaving deed 50 years earlier.

The story is well-known: On July 9, 35-year-old Rabbi Reuven Bauman was on a Virginia beach, chaperoning day campers. Some of the boys got too close to the water’s choppy edge and were caught off-guard by a giant wave. Seeing the boys struggle to regain their balance in the now-deep water, Reuven immediately threw off his shoes and rushed in to save them.

During those perilous moments, Reuven held the boys tightly, keeping them from slipping out further. A nearby fisherman helped the boys reach shore safely. Yet suddenly, Reuven himself was caught in a treacherous rip tide and swept out to sea; his body was recovered five days later.

From where did Reuven derive this extraordinary sense of courage and self-sacrifice for others?

After speaking with the Bauman family, the rest of the story can now be told.

New York City, 1967. Reuven’s paternal grandfather, Wilhelm Bauman (known fondly as Willy), was a cabinet-maker. While out on a job, Willy’s partner was working in an adjacent room. Suddenly Willy heard a massive explosion. Highly-flammable glue had combusted – consuming the adjacent room in flames.

Disregarding his personal safety, Willy rushed into the dangerous inferno and pulled out his injured partner – likely saving the man's life.

In the process, however, Willy was critically injured with third-degree burns covering much of his body. Doctors did not expect him to live through the night.

Willy stayed in intensive care for many months, and eventually – with the help of an experimental burn unit – returned home to his family. Though his ability to walk was permanently damaged (he often used a wheelchair), Willy lived another 40 productive years.

Rabbi Mark Bauman was 12 years old when his father performed this exceptional deed. Mark is also the father of Reuven Bauman, whose valiant rescue on a Virginia beach echoes his grandfather’s lifesaving deed of 50 years earlier.

“Between my father and my son,” Mark says of the heroic courage transmitted through generations, “it was fire and water.”

At great personal cost, Willy Bauman performed a heroic lifesaving rescue in 1967.

Appreciating Reuven
Reuven Bauman was a beloved teacher of children in Norfolk, Virginia, spending countless hours meticulously preparing class material and developing new methods to teach in a clear, accessible way.

On a personal basis, Reuven was devoted to his students, caring and connecting to each on his level. “The boys loved him,” says Reuven’s father. “The other day a parent came over to me and said: ‘My son dislikes school, but he loved Rabbi Bauman’."

Two days before his death, Reuven accompanied the day camp to an amusement park. He rode on terrifying rollercoasters, feeling it was important to share that experience with the kids. “His commitment to his students was his life’s mission,” said Rabbi Mordechai Loiterman, the principal where Reuven taught. “It wasn’t a job he was doing; this is how he defined himself.”

Last year, Reuven published a children’s book, Yanky’s Amazing Discovery, about a boy who overcomes his struggles. The boy is inspired by Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky, one of the greatest rabbis of the 20th century, whose character traits could be emulated by a child on any level.

Says Rabbi Mark Bauman: “Reuven felt it was important to portray our Sages in a way that is relevant and accessible, to encourage young people to aspire to their greatness.”

Reuven also wrote children’s poems about the Jewish holidays, which is being prepared for posthumous publication.

Family and friends describe Reuven as the perfect blend of intellect, humility, dignity, sweetness, humor, and love. Regardless of age, level of observance or background, Reuven respected everyone. When the yeshiva’s non-Jewish cook had a heart attack, Reuven took the initiative to buy a card, have everyone sign it, and bring it to the hospital.

"He always made you feel like a 'somebody'," says Yisrael Schwartz, Reuven’s brother-in-law. “His kindness, his smile, his ability to connect with people. Reuven had a quiet, gentle way of making you feel good about yourself.”

Reuven in his element: teaching a class of seventh graders

Reuven lived and died with Kiddush Hashem – deeds that sanctify God’s Name. His jumping into the dangerous waters to save his students was but an extension of his devotion to always putting others first.

Mordechai Bauman, one of Reuven’s five brothers, cites the Talmudic teaching that if someone desecrates God’s Name in secret, the deed is exposed in public. The same is true of the flipside: If a person sanctifies God’s Name in secret, the deed is rewarded publicly.

“Throughout Reuven’s life, he sanctified God’s Name in a very quiet, unassuming manner,” says Mordechai. “Maybe that is why God gave him the opportunity to complete his mission with an act that would cause a public Kiddush Hashem, one which spread across the globe.”

Reuven with his brother-in-law, Yisrael M. Schwartz

Massive Recovery Effort
When Reuven went missing, people far and wide were amazed at the massive outpouring of assistance, as hundreds of volunteers from organizations in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Georgia rushed to Virginia to join the search. Helicopters and a private airplane were commandeered to search up and down the coast; others came with boats and jet skis. Volunteers in SUVs scanned the terrain with binoculars, while other crews walked miles along the shore in 90-degree heat.

“When the call goes out that someone needs help, you just go without thinking twice,” says Yosef Nissel of Misaskim of Maryland, an organization that helps those dealing with tragedy. Nissel and his team of volunteers drove four hours to Virginia Beach with a boat in tow; upon arrival they chartered a second.

After a day or so of searching, the Coast Guard and other public rescue teams ended their effort, conceding it as futile. Yet the army of Jewish volunteers would not be deterred. Driven by the ever-slim chance of rescuing Reuven they pressed on, committed not to leave until they could at least accord Reuven the honor of a proper burial.



Day after day, working for hours on almost no sleep in sweltering heat, volunteers combed 450 square miles in a coordinated and organized effort. They were assisted by a local expert who calculated tides, currents and wind patterns – devising search grids for land, sea and air.

Meanwhile, thousands around the globe were drawn to this tremendous Kiddush Hashem by praying and performing good deeds on behalf of Reuven.

After a break for Shabbat, the volunteers were back in the ocean Sunday morning before sunrise.

On Sunday, as the midday sun beat upon the exhausted crew, a local fishing captain suggested that volunteers head out a few miles to where the ocean turns clear and has thick patches of seaweed. There, about one mile off the coast near the Virginia-North Carolina border, and six miles from where Reuven was last seen, Nissel’s team spotted his body.

Yosef Nissel, a volunteer from Maryland, discovered Reuven’s body one mile from the shore.

For an entire week, volunteer organizations like Achiezer, Misaskim, Chai Lifeline, Chaverim and Hatzalah were featured on the news – highlighting the tight-knit Jewish community and making a positive impression on everyone involved.

Coast Guard members were especially inspired, given that a few weeks earlier an 8-year-old boy had drowned in similar circumstances, swept away by a powerful rip current. In that instance, authorities gave up the search and simply waited for the body to wash up on shore.

In one particularly dramatic moment, when the Coast Guard diver brought Reuven's body out of the water, he proudly declared, "I am a Jew."

Importantly, Reuven received a proper burial, bringing a measure of relief to the grieving family.

Via conference call, over 40,000 people attended the funeral, where his brother-in-law Yisrael Schwartz declared:

“It as if God was saying to Reuven: You've done all this kindness for others in your quiet, unassuming way. Now I will give you a chance to save a life, and make a tremendous public Kiddush Hashem. The name Reuven Bauman will be known around the world as a man of true Kiddush Hashem. Here you go, Reuven. Take this gift. You deserve it.”

For Reuven Bauman, other people always came first. Now we each have the opportunity to give something back, by helping to care for Reuven’s wife and five young children, with a donation to the Bauman Family Fund.

May the memory of Reuven Tzvi ben Menachem Yitzchak continue to uplift and inspire.
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Post  Admin on Mon 29 Jul 2019, 10:50 am

Jews in the American Military
Jul 27, 2019
by Marc Liebman, Captain USN (retired)
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Jews-in-the-American-Military.html?s=mm
Jews in the American Military
Four American Jews who made a major contribution to the American Armed Forces.

Most American Jews do not know of the major contribution their fellow Jews have made to the American Armed Forces. Many actually changed the way the U.S. military operates.

Here are four men who made a difference.

Commander Uriah P. Levy, war hero, fighter of anti-Semitism, philanthropist
Uriah P. Levy served with distinction in the War against the Barbary Pirates and the British during the War of 1812. He was the Commodore of the U.S. Navy’s Mediterranean Squadron. Six times, Uriah Levy took superior officers to court martial for anti-Semitism. Twice he was forced out until a board reviewed the proceedings and reinstated Levy. Despite this, he became the first Jewish flag officer in the U.S. Navy.

While a flag officer in 1850, Levy led the effort to eliminate flogging as a punishment for sailors convicted for crimes under the Articles of War. The U.S. Navy was the first major navy to do so.

After he retired from the navy, Levy learned Monticello - Jefferson’s home and plantation - was about to be sold to pay family debts. Levy bought it and began its restoration. He commissioned the statue of Jefferson that now sits in the Capitol Rotunda as the only privately funded statue on U.S. property. The religious center at the Naval Academy is named after Levy.

Vice Admiral Joseph Taussig - Naval Strategist
Joe Taussig’s father, Ed, was recruited into the U.S. Navy by Uriah Levy and became the first Jewish Midshipman at the Naval Academy. Ed Taussig was the first of four generations of Naval Academy graduates, all of whom had distinguished careers.

By the time the U.S. became involved in World War I, Joe Taussig competed assignments in China, Cuba and the Philippines. In May, 1917, as commander of Destroyer Squadron 8, he led the first destroyer squadron to deploy to Europe. His squadron’s accomplishments led to an assignment in D.C. as the head the Division of Enlisted Personnel, the organization responsible for recruiting, training and retaining enlisted men.

After the war, Captain Taussig testified before Senate Committee for Navy Affairs that when World War I broke out, the Navy was far from ready for war. His comments and his award-winning essay that challenged then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s proposal that the Navy make up its manning shortfalls by enlisting men being paroled from jail, earned him Roosevelt’s ire.

In the U.S., officers “serve at the pleasure of the President.” As a practice that holds to this day, rarely do Navy or Marine Corps officers speak out publicly against our political leaders. When one does, one puts one’s career at risk.

Admiral William Sims, the Navy’s highest-ranking officer and a critic of Navy preparedness publicly supported Taussig. Sims sent Taussig to the Naval War College first as a student, then as a tactics instructor and eventually he became the head of the Strategy Department.

When Roosevelt took office in 1933, he informed the Navy that he would not approve RADM Taussig’s promotion to Vice Admiral. The dispute went public when two influential columnists – Drew Pearson and Robert Allen – criticized Roosevelt’s decision not to promote Taussig who was the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations. Instead, the Navy gave him command of cruiser and battleship divisions before sending him to run the Norfolk Navy Yard and the Fifth Naval District.

In May, 1940 Taussig was again asked to testify before the Senate’s Committee on Naval Affairs. He said the Navy was not prepared a war with Japan that he believed was inevitable. Allen and Pearson called Taussig the “best strategist in the Navy.”

Roosevelt was furious and as commander-in-chief, he demanded Taussig retire immediately. After Pearl Harbor and early Japanese victories followed the plan Taussig outlined, he was recalled, promoted to Vice Admiral and served on the Secretary of the Navy’s staff.

Today, VADM Joseph Taussig’s legacy lives on. As head of the Division of Enlisted Personnel, he set standards individuals must meet and focused the navy’s efforts to recruit the best and the brightest men and women. He established the Naval War College as think tank for naval strategy and war-gaming that honed the skills of the officers who led the navy to victory during World War II.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Rosenthal – Bomber Pilot
When Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Robert Rosenthal had just finished Brooklyn Law School. On December 8th, he enlisted in the Army and after receiving his wings was assigned to fly B-17. He arrived in England in August 1943 as a B-17 aircraft commander in the 418th Bombardment Squadron, 100th Bombardment Group.

The group was known as “Bloody Hundredth” because of its high loss rates even though they were not much worse than any other B-17 unit. Before the P-38 and P-51s began escorting the bombers all the way to the targets and back, the Eighth Air Force was losing more than ten percent of the bombers on every mission. With the fighter escorts, the loss rate dropped to a more “acceptable” seven percent.

On October 10th 1943, Rosenthal’s crew in a B-17 named Rosie’s Riveters took off on its third mission. The Eighth Air Force expected the bombers to get to their target in Muenster, Germany unescorted. His B-17 was the only one of 13 bombers from his group that returned. When he landed, two of his airplane’s four engines were shut down due to battle damage and it had a large hole in the left wing due to a direct hit by an 88mm shell.

Rosenthal flew his required 25 missions and volunteered to fly a second tour. The first time he was shot down in September 1944, he broke his arm bailing out over German occupied France. The Free French managed to get him back to England and Rosenthal resumed his career as a B-17 pilot.

On his 52nd and next to last mission, Rosenthal flew the lead bomber headed to Berlin. An 88mm anti-aircraft shell set the B-17 on fire. Nevertheless, Rosenthal led his formation over the target before he descended. He was the last to bail out at 1,000 feet just before the B-17 exploded. Rosenthal and his crew landed behind Soviet lines and were flown back to England. Rosenthal flew one more mission before the war ended.

Rosenthal was selected to interview Herman Goering and prepare the case against the head of the Luftwaffe. Goering was convicted of war crimes and the night before he was to be hung, a cyanide pill was smuggled into his cell and Goering committed suicide.

In 1948, Robert Rosenthal returned to the law firm that hired him right out of law school. He was elected to the Jewish-American Hall of Fame in 2006 and passed away at the age of 90 in 2007.

Colonel Aaron Bank – The Founder of the Green Berets
As a young man, Aaron Bank traveled extensively through Europe and became fluent in German and French. At the outbreak of World War II, he was 37 and volunteered. He went through Officer Candidate School and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. Because of his language proficiency, Bank was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.).

After training on how to conduct clandestine operations, he parachuted into France on July 31st,1944 as the leader of a three-man Jedburg team code-named Packard knowing that if he was captured, the Gestapo would torture and kill him. Aided by French partisans, Bank’s team harassed the Germans until he was pulled out in late 1944.

Bank’s next assignment was to recruit and lead a team of anti-Nazis and former German soldiers who would kill Adolph Hitler if and when he fled to his redoubt in Berchtesgaden. O.S.S. head, William Donovan reportedly told one of his subordinates to “Tell Bank to get Hitler.” The mission was called Iron Cross and was cancelled just after the team boarded its airplane to fly into Bavaria.

Right after the war ended in Europe, Bank was sent to French Indochina to rescue French and other Europeans held prisoner by the Japanese. While there, Bank worked with Ho Chi Minh who was fighting the Japanese. After the war, Bank served in intelligence billets in Europe before being sent to Korea as the executive officer of the 187th Regimental Combat Team that fought in several battles.

Back in the U.S., Bank was assigned as the Chief of Special Operations Branch of the Army’s Office of Psychological Warfare and ordered to “staff and gain approval for an O.S.S. Jedburg style force.” In 1952, the Army approved and funded 2,300-man unit. Its mission was “to infiltrate by land, sea or air deep into enemy occupied territory and organize the resistance guerrilla potential to conduct Special Forces operations with the emphasis on guerrilla training.”

Bank and seven others started the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) on June 19th, 1952 in Fort Bragg, NC. Within two years, the 10th was manned, operational and split into two units, the 10th and the 77th. After the Berlin uprising in 1953, both were expanded. The structure, training, tactics and employment of Green Beret A Teams that Bank outlined in 1952 are still used today. Colonel Bank retired in 1958.

After Bank left the Army, President Kennedy authorized the wearing of the “beret, man's, wool, rifle green, Army shade 297.” Since then, the Army Special Forces have been known as the Green Berets.

Bank wrote two books. One was the story of his career - From O.S.S. to Green Berets. The other was a novel called Iron Cross that Ethan Nathanson, author of the The Dirty Dozen, helped him write.

Horrified at the lack of security at the San Onofre nuclear plant in Southern California near where he lived, Bank lobbied for changes. Twice he had to publicly expose the vulnerability of the plant to sabotage. Finally, in 1974, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission acted on his recommendations for all nuclear power plants in the U.S.

There are many others such as ADM Ben Morrell who is considered the father of the Navy’s SeaBees and General Sydney Sachnow, a Holocaust survivor who is one of the most revered and highly decorated Green Berets ever who had distinguished careers. Their accomplishments along with many others are buried in U.S. military history. They are Jewish role models whose story is worth telling to our children.

If you are interested in more about this topic or are part of a group that would like to see the presentation on these and many more American Jews, the author welcomes the opportunity. You can contact him either through Aish.com or via his website https://marcliebman.com.
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4 Jewish Lessons from Lion King
Jul 23, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
https://www.aish.com/j/as/4-Jewish-Lessons-from-Lion-King.html?s=mm
4 Jewish Lessons from Lion King
The hit movie draws on timeless Jewish values and stories.

Disney’s 2019 remake of Lion King is a beautiful update of the original film with realistic looking computer-generated animals portraying all the beloved animal characters.

Beyond its fidelity to the 1994 film, Don Hahn, the producer of the original Lion King, explained that its creators drew inspiration from sources including Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the Bible, particularly the Biblical stories of Moses and Joseph.These stores feature “a character (who) is born into royalty, is then exiled, and has to return to claim their kingdom,” Hahn said.

Here are four key Jewish lessons from the Lion King.

True Meaning of Heroism
A true king doesn’t rule for the sake of his own glory, King Mufasa tells young Simba in Lion King. A truly great leader must devote himself to his people and work on their behalf, not his own. It takes Simba years of exile before he’s finally mature enough to return home and assume the mantle of leadership, risking his life and fighting to protect his pride.

This stirring narrative draws on Biblical stories. The lives of many Jewish heroes involved exile and return. Our patriarch Jacob was raised in the land of Israel, but had to flee for many years and live in exile before he was able to return home. Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s royal household before he was forced to flee and live in hiding for many years; he eventually returned to Egypt and helped lead the Jewish people to freedom.

These Jewish heroes experienced periods of doubt and uncertainty.They had to overcome fear and weakness to emerge as brave heroes. They didn’t do it alone: in each case, it was their belief in God and their realization that there’s a divine plan for Jewish survival that gave them the courage to act. Jewish heroes of the Torah didn’t assume leadership because they craved glory or power. It was the recognition that the situation demanded their unique response that spurred them to greatness.

Meaning of Life
In Lion King, Simba becomes embroiled in a bitter feud between his father, King Mufasa, and his evil uncle Scar. Scar kills Mufasa and convinces Simba that he’s to blame for his father’s death. Overwhelmed by shame, Simba leaves and begins a new life in exile, befriending a warthog named Pumbaa and a meerkat named Timon. They teach him that life is meaningless. “Hakuna matata” (which means “no worries” in Swahili) should be his only goal. Though this phrase can mean “be chill” or “relax”, Simba’s friends turn it into an anthem and way of life, instructing their friend that there’s no point in trying to achieve greatness or be selfless and brave.

Jewish thought rejects this nihilistic view in favor of King Mufasa’s wiser way of looking at the world. An Infinite Being created this world with a purpose, infusing the universe with meaning.

As Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D. explains, “Just as the universe in its entirety has a purpose, so does everything in the universe… Each individual has a purpose. My existence is not an accident. I have to accomplish something with my existence. Being is not haphazard or meaningless”. We each have an important role to play, Like Simba, our challenge is discovering and fulfilling our life goals that only we can accomplish.

Role Models
One of the most moving scenes in Lion King comes when Simba sees the image of his father before him and is reminded of King Mufasa’s wisdom and the high hopes he had for his son. In the original 1994 Lion King, this stirring scene features Simba recognizing his father’s face in the constellations of the night sky. In the 2019 version, Simba magically sees his father’s face in his own reflection, as he peers into the surface of a pond.

Perhaps the movie’s writers were inspired by a beautiful Jewish tale. The Torah describes Joseph, the favorite son of our patriarch Jacob, being sold into slavery in ancient Egypt. There, he worked for a mighty minister named Potiphar, and seemingly became integrated into the ancient Egyptian society in which he found himself. He proved himself a trustworthy worker, and rose to become an overseer with great responsibility.

Potiphar’s wife was attracted to Joseph and went out of her way to tempt him. One day, she laid a trap for Joseph, who found himself alone with her. It would have been so easy for Joseph to succumb to the loose morals of Egypt, yet in that moment, he suddenly had a vision of his father Jacob. In an instant, Joseph suddenly remembered the moral code his father stood for (Rashi on Genesis 39:11; Talmud Sotah 37). That vision gave Joseph the strength to resist Potiphar’s wife. (In a turn of events, Joseph was cast into prison but later rose to become second in command to Pharaoh himself.)

Fight Against Injustice
Lion King echoes Jewish themes when some female characters refuse to accept oppression and injustice. After the wicked lion Scar seizes the throne, he institutes a repressive, horrible rule that makes his fellow lions suffer terribly. Instead of accepting this dismal fate, two female lions – Simba’s mother Sarabi and his fiancé Nala – resist. Nala even goes on a hazardous journey to find help far away.

Perhaps the scriptwriters were inspired by Jewish teachings. Jewish history features Shifra and Puah, (alternative names for Moses' mother Yocheved and his sister Miriam) two incredibly brave women who resisted evil oppression and are credited with the very survival of the entire nation of Israel. While the scriptwriters apparently were inspired by the story of Moses, who was raised in a royal household only to endure exile before returning, it was Moses’ mother and sister – and other Jewish women – who saved the Jewish people through their long dark years of slavery.

While Jewish men despaired, it was Jewish women who somehow found the strength to go on, and who convinced their husbands not to give up on family life. Jewish women continued to raise children and imbue their families with the hope that one day things would be better. When Pharaoh decreed that all Jewish baby boys be thrown into the Nile, Jewish midwives defied their order.

Throughout history, the Jewish people have been saved time and again by brave Jewish champions. 
Our compelling stories have inspired countless writers, including those who penned Lion King.
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Post  Admin on Mon 22 Jul 2019, 6:46 pm

Finding God in the Darkness
Jul 20, 2019  |  by Risa Rotman
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/Finding-God-in-the-Darkness.html?s=mm
Finding God in the Darkness
On display in Har Nof, the unconquerable strength of the Jewish people in the face of their adversaries.
Faigy was part of our group of ladies who learned together every other week, delving into topics related to building a trusting relationship with God. One week Faigy took on an uncharacteristically serious tone as she started to tell us the story of her parents. She first described her mother’s childhood in an Orthodox home in Belgium before the demonic thunder and lightning of the Holocaust descended on their idyllic world and how the family were constantly on the run until the end of the war.
Faigy’s father’s story continues to fascinate me until today. He also lived in Belgium as well as other parts of Western Europe, but he was not raised in an observant home. It was heartbreaking to watch Faigy’s tears as she described how a Nazi beast beat her father to a pulp and left him in a river of blood. Faigy described the event as if she had just personally witnessed the attack on her beloved father.
The author with her grandchildren at the bris of the first grandson named after Chaim
“After the war, my father found himself with a group of young Orthodox Jews,” Faigy told us. “Knowing very little about his own heritage, he felt comforted in the presence of these determined contemporaries. Slowly he took on mitzvah observance and in time he found his wife. Eventually the new couple made their way to America, started a business and built a thriving Jewishly observant home."
In the shards of the Holocaust he found a relationship with God.
The words of Rav Shach, the great Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevezh echo in my mind: “Those who left Judaism after the Holocaust, we can understand. Those who remained faithful, we will never be able to fully understand.” But Faigy's father did not remain faithful; it was in the shards of the Holocaust that he found a relationship with God. This is where my fascination lays.
But perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised. I can think of a story that happened to us when we were sitting shiva for my husband, Chaim hy’d, who passed away from his wounds in the Har Nof attack. During the shiva we were inundated by people, friends and strangers alike, all coming to connect with us as they gave us their condolences. A few journalists came to hear the story, so that they could share what we went through with their readers. One journalist spent a fair amount of time respectfully listening to my sons talk about their father and the difficult year leading up to his passing.
A few hours later that same day, the journalist returned with an older American Jewish couple. They were very eager to speak to me. The journalist told me that after leaving our home earlier that day he went into town to take care of some errands when he happened upon this older non-religious couple. They were touring Israel and had taken some time out to relax downtown. The couple and the journalist started to talk and for some reason, the journalist told the couple about our shiva.
Chaim and Risa Rotman
He described to them what had happened in the shul in Har Nof and how two terrorists entered the holy sanctuary loaded with guns, knives and cleavers bent on accomplishing as much destruction as possible. Before the police shot them down, these terrorists left four men dead, four widows and 25 orphans. They also left my husband, Chaim (amongst others who thank God recovered from their wounds) hanging between the upper and lower worlds.
For one year we watched Chaim hang on to the slippery thread of life before his passing. It was a year of tremendous Kiddush Hashem. Nurses, doctors, patients and their families at the various hospitals Chaim entered and departed were witnessed to how his loving family and community took care of him and each other. Men came to sit by his side and learn together. Loving packages of food were distributed freely. Comments from the spectators like, “We have never seen anything like this before,” were not unusual.
Throughout this difficult time the family and community didn’t just keep our faith but nurtured it and watched it blossom into a community of kindness.
The journalist continued to explained to the non-religious couple how throughout our test, we – the family and community as a whole – didn’t just keep our faith but nurtured it and watched it blossom into a community of chesed and kindness.
Facing the couple, the husband now spoke up as his wife nodded along. “We were very taken with your story, Mrs. Rotman. I don’t want your husband’s death to be in vain. I have to discover my Judaism. When I heard your story, I asked this man,” he said pointing to the journalist, “to take me to a place where I could purchase a pair of good-quality tefillin. I heard that your husband never missed wearing his tefillin until the day of the attack. I am well into my 70s and have never once put on tefillin. Now I will start wearing tefillin in your husband’s memory.”
Everyone in the room was left speechless. We were witnessing the unconquerable strength of the Jewish people in the face of their adversaries. They can maim us, harm us, and even kill us but they will never take away our souls that are thirsty for a connection with the Divine.


The Incredible Story of the Righteous Convert of Vilna
Jul 14, 2019  |  by Rabbi Menachem Levine
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/The-Incredible-Story-of-the-Righteous-Convert-of-Vilna.html?s=mm
The Incredible Story of the Righteous Convert of Vilna
Who was Avraham ben Avraham, the righteous convert buried next to the Vilna Gaon?

Jewish history is replete with famous converts. Yitro, the father-in-law of Moses, the prophet Ovadia, Onkelos, the famous Biblical commentator and a nephew of Emperor Titus. Rabbi Akiva and his disciple, Rabbi Meir, were both descended from converts, as were the leading Talmudic Sages Shemaiah and Avtalyon. Even King David himself traced his lineage to Ruth, the convert whose story we read during the festival of Shavuot.

The House of Potocki
Perhaps the most important convert in recent history was Avraham ben Avraham, the righteous convert, ger tzeddek, of Vilna. Who was he and what is his story?

Avraham ben Avraham was born Valentin Potocki, a child of one the most prominent Polish families in the Kingdom of Poland.

His parents were devout Jesuit Order Catholics and at the age of 16, Potocki enrolled in a Catholic seminary in Paris. There he met Zaremba, who would become his study partner and close friend. The two were quite scholarly and decided to explore the Hebrew Bible (“The Old Testament”) in greater depth.

One day, they saw an old Jew studying a large volume of Torah and asked if he could teach them. Tradition tells us his name was Rabbi Menachem Man ben Aryeh Löb of Visun, and his teachings and explanations of the Hebrew Bible impressed them. They prevailed upon him to instruct them in the Hebrew language so they could study further. In six months, they acquired proficiency in the Hebrew, as well as a strong belief in Judaism.

At the time conversion to Judaism was punishable by death.
At this point, the friends told Rabbi Man that they wanted to convert. This was a dangerous choice in Poland because at the time conversion to Judaism was punishable by death (until this law was abrogated by the Polish Sejm in 1768). Rabbi Man suggested that they travel to Amsterdam to convert, as Amsterdam was considered a more open and tolerant place.

Potocki decided to first travel to Rome to clarify his decision. There he became certain that he could no longer remain a Catholic. He subsequently moved to Amsterdam, where he converted according to Jewish law, and took on the name of Avraham ben Avraham. Zaremba also converted and was known as Baruch ben Avraham, and he and his family moved to the Holy Land. Avraham left Amsterdam and moved to Vilna, which was at the time under Polish rule. He returned to Poland despite the danger he would be in should he be recognized, as he was liable to the death penalty for his conversion.

By this time Avraham’s parents were searching frantically for their missing son. They sent messengers to the various countries where Avraham had written to them from during his journeys, but could find no information as to his whereabouts.

Knowing the danger that he faced if he was found, Avraham consulted with the Vilna Gaon, one of the greatest sages of the past few hundred years. The Vilna Gaon advised Avraham to leave the large city of Vilna and move to a smaller town where he was less likely to be found. Following his advice, Avraham moved to the town of Ilya. There he sat in a synagogue, dressed like a pious Jew, and studied Torah for many hours of the day and night. He was sustained by righteous women of the city who provided him with adequate food.

In that city, there was a Jewish tailor who sewed uniforms for Polish bureaucrats. He overheard his clients talking about a divinity student of noble lineage who had disappeared. The tailor began to suspect that the stranger in the shul was the one they were discussing. This tailor's son had a habit of disturbing men studying in shul, and it happened once that he was sharply rebuked by Avraham. In anger, the tailor reported him to the Bishop of Vilna, and Avraham was identified and arrested.

After imprisonment and a trial for heresy, Avraham was condemned to be burned alive at the stake.
Avraham’s parents visited him in prison and begged him to renounce his Judaism publicly. They promised to build him a castle where he could practice Judaism privately. According to Rabbi Ben-Zion Alfes, the Maggid of Vilna, Avraham refused his mother, saying, "I love you dearly, but I love the truth even more."

After imprisonment and a trial for heresy, Avraham was condemned to death by being burned alive at the stake.

It is related that while in prison, Avraham communicated to the Vilna Gaon his sadness. The Gaon expressed surprise. “But you are going to give your life al kiddush Hashem, for the sake of Heaven, so why are you crying? You should be joyful!” he told him.

The Vilna Gaon
The righteous convert explained that he wasn’t pained by his impending execution, but rather because he had no continuation among the Jewish people. “I don’t have a father and I don’t have children or brothers among Israel,” he said.

The Vilna Gaon replied by quoting the verse in Isaiah (44:6), “I am first and I am last, and besides Me there is no God.” The Midrash states: “I am first — I have no father; I am last — I have no son.” The Gaon explains the Midrash as teaching, “I am first — I have no father” means “I (God) am the Father for those who have no father,” and “I am last — I have no son” means “I (God) am better than 10 sons.” With his words, Avraham was comforted.

On the day of his scheduled execution, local gentiles brought wood for the fire that would burn him. They then gathered in the square where the execution would take place. This was on the second day of Shavuot, corresponding to May 23, 1749.

Avraham went with joy, confident in his life’s choices. As the fire began to consume his body, Avraham recited the blessing one recites when giving up his life al kiddush Hashem, sanctifying God's Name, and continued with the words of Shema Yisrael, until his soul left his body.

The Vilna Gaon's old gravesite, before it was destroyed.

In defiance of an order that no one should dare collect the Avraham’s ashes to bury them, the Vilna Gaon sent Reb Leizer Shiskes, a beardless Jew disguised as a gentile, to try to gain possession of Avraham’s ashes. Shiskes bribed the guard to hand him the ashes, and he was also given two fingers that had survived the fire. These were placed in an earthenware vessel and buried in the Vilna cemetery. The Vilna Gaon blessed Shiskes with long life, and he indeed lived for 112 years. In fact, on Shiskes’ grave was inscribed, “[Because of] the blessing of the Gaon, the number of the years of his life was 112.”

When the Vilna Gaon passed away, he was buried in the plot adjacent to Avraham, who became known as the Ger Tzeddek, Righteous Convert.

In 1927, the Vilna community made a monument for the plot of the Ger Tzeddek, along with a plaque that stated, “The tomb of the Ger Tzeddek, for a precious, clean, and pure soul, the kadosh, Avraham ben Avraham zt”l, who sanctified God in public on the second day of Shavuot, 5509.” On the second day of Shavuot, the Jews of Vilna commemorated his yahrzeit and tell the story of his conversion and martyrdom. It was also customary that every shul in Vilna would say Kel Malei Rachamim in his memory on that day.

Tragically, during World War II, the Nazis destroyed the cemetery where the Vilna Gaon and Avraham ben Avraham were buried. Yet, in 1949, the Communists granted permission to move the remains of the Vilna Gaon, and seven others, among them Avraham ben Avraham to a new cemetery, where they remain until today.

Vilna Gaon's gravesite

In the renowned Volozhin Yeshiva (and in many yeshivas until today), a song is sung that was composed by Avraham ben Avraham as he was marched in the streets to his execution. The words are taken from the beginning of the morning prayer service, “Aval anachnu amcha, bnei brisecha, bnei Avraham Ohavcha shenishbata lo b’Har Hamoriah” – But we are Your nation the sons of Your covenant, the sons of Avraham Your beloved one, to whom You swore at Mount Moriah, the seed of Yitzchak his only son who was bound upon the altar, etc. Blessed are You, etc., who sanctifies His name in the multitudes.”

Avraham ben Avraham was one of those souls who sanctified God’s name. His story is testimony to the great spiritual levels a convert can attain, to the extent that he was buried alongside one of the greatest Torah sage of his time. May his life and deeds continue to be an inspiration.

There are secular scholars who claim the story of Avraham ben Avraham is fictitious, due to a lack of primary sources.

Yet, there is a contemporary written account from the year 1755, a mere six years after his execution, from Rabbi Yaakov Emden (1697-1776). In his book Vayakam Edus b'Yaakov, p. 25b, Rabbi Emden wrote:

“Some years ago, a prince from the house of Potolzki converted to Judaism. He was caught and incarcerated and encouraged to return to his original faith...He nevertheless was not afraid of dying...and died sanctifying God’s name. May peace be with him.”

There are also multiple oral histories, and several 19th-century Jewish and Gentile Sources, including famed Polish author Józef Ignacy Kraszewski, that corroborate the story. Additionally, printed versions of the story from varied Jewish communities over the past 270 years, all tell the identical tale.

It has been logically suggested that the reason there are few non-Jewish written accounts of this story was because the powerful Potocki family censored the story.

I would like to note that there are descriptions about the Ger Tzedek that are clearly inaccurate or exaggerated. After extensive research, this article was written based on the most accepted version of this incredible story.
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Post  Admin on Mon 22 Jul 2019, 1:54 pm

The Incredible Story of the Righteous Convert of Vilna
Jul 14, 2019  |  by Rabbi Menachem Levine
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/The-Incredible-Story-of-the-Righteous-Convert-of-Vilna.html?s=mm
The Incredible Story of the Righteous Convert of Vilna
Who was Avraham ben Avraham, the righteous convert buried next to the Vilna Gaon?

Jewish history is replete with famous converts. Yitro, the father-in-law of Moses, the prophet Ovadia, Onkelos, the famous Biblical commentator and a nephew of Emperor Titus. Rabbi Akiva and his disciple, Rabbi Meir, were both descended from converts, as were the leading Talmudic Sages Shemaiah and Avtalyon. Even King David himself traced his lineage to Ruth, the convert whose story we read during the festival of Shavuot.

The House of Potocki
Perhaps the most important convert in recent history was Avraham ben Avraham, the righteous convert, ger tzeddek, of Vilna. Who was he and what is his story?

Avraham ben Avraham was born Valentin Potocki, a child of one the most prominent Polish families in the Kingdom of Poland.

His parents were devout Jesuit Order Catholics and at the age of 16, Potocki enrolled in a Catholic seminary in Paris. There he met Zaremba, who would become his study partner and close friend. The two were quite scholarly and decided to explore the Hebrew Bible (“The Old Testament”) in greater depth.

One day, they saw an old Jew studying a large volume of Torah and asked if he could teach them. Tradition tells us his name was Rabbi Menachem Man ben Aryeh Löb of Visun, and his teachings and explanations of the Hebrew Bible impressed them. They prevailed upon him to instruct them in the Hebrew language so they could study further. In six months, they acquired proficiency in the Hebrew, as well as a strong belief in Judaism.

At the time conversion to Judaism was punishable by death.
At this point, the friends told Rabbi Man that they wanted to convert. This was a dangerous choice in Poland because at the time conversion to Judaism was punishable by death (until this law was abrogated by the Polish Sejm in 1768). Rabbi Man suggested that they travel to Amsterdam to convert, as Amsterdam was considered a more open and tolerant place.

Potocki decided to first travel to Rome to clarify his decision. There he became certain that he could no longer remain a Catholic. He subsequently moved to Amsterdam, where he converted according to Jewish law, and took on the name of Avraham ben Avraham. Zaremba also converted and was known as Baruch ben Avraham, and he and his family moved to the Holy Land. Avraham left Amsterdam and moved to Vilna, which was at the time under Polish rule. He returned to Poland despite the danger he would be in should he be recognized, as he was liable to the death penalty for his conversion.

By this time Avraham’s parents were searching frantically for their missing son. They sent messengers to the various countries where Avraham had written to them from during his journeys, but could find no information as to his whereabouts.

Knowing the danger that he faced if he was found, Avraham consulted with the Vilna Gaon, one of the greatest sages of the past few hundred years. The Vilna Gaon advised Avraham to leave the large city of Vilna and move to a smaller town where he was less likely to be found. Following his advice, Avraham moved to the town of Ilya. There he sat in a synagogue, dressed like a pious Jew, and studied Torah for many hours of the day and night. He was sustained by righteous women of the city who provided him with adequate food.

In that city, there was a Jewish tailor who sewed uniforms for Polish bureaucrats. He overheard his clients talking about a divinity student of noble lineage who had disappeared. The tailor began to suspect that the stranger in the shul was the one they were discussing. This tailor's son had a habit of disturbing men studying in shul, and it happened once that he was sharply rebuked by Avraham. In anger, the tailor reported him to the Bishop of Vilna, and Avraham was identified and arrested.

After imprisonment and a trial for heresy, Avraham was condemned to be burned alive at the stake.
Avraham’s parents visited him in prison and begged him to renounce his Judaism publicly. They promised to build him a castle where he could practice Judaism privately. According to Rabbi Ben-Zion Alfes, the Maggid of Vilna, Avraham refused his mother, saying, "I love you dearly, but I love the truth even more."

After imprisonment and a trial for heresy, Avraham was condemned to death by being burned alive at the stake.

It is related that while in prison, Avraham communicated to the Vilna Gaon his sadness. The Gaon expressed surprise. “But you are going to give your life al kiddush Hashem, for the sake of Heaven, so why are you crying? You should be joyful!” he told him.

The Vilna Gaon
The righteous convert explained that he wasn’t pained by his impending execution, but rather because he had no continuation among the Jewish people. “I don’t have a father and I don’t have children or brothers among Israel,” he said.

The Vilna Gaon replied by quoting the verse in Isaiah (44:6), “I am first and I am last, and besides Me there is no God.” The Midrash states: “I am first — I have no father; I am last — I have no son.” The Gaon explains the Midrash as teaching, “I am first — I have no father” means “I (God) am the Father for those who have no father,” and “I am last — I have no son” means “I (God) am better than 10 sons.” With his words, Avraham was comforted.

On the day of his scheduled execution, local gentiles brought wood for the fire that would burn him. They then gathered in the square where the execution would take place. This was on the second day of Shavuot, corresponding to May 23, 1749.

Avraham went with joy, confident in his life’s choices. As the fire began to consume his body, Avraham recited the blessing one recites when giving up his life al kiddush Hashem, sanctifying God's Name, and continued with the words of Shema Yisrael, until his soul left his body.

The Vilna Gaon's old gravesite, before it was destroyed.

In defiance of an order that no one should dare collect the Avraham’s ashes to bury them, the Vilna Gaon sent Reb Leizer Shiskes, a beardless Jew disguised as a gentile, to try to gain possession of Avraham’s ashes. Shiskes bribed the guard to hand him the ashes, and he was also given two fingers that had survived the fire. These were placed in an earthenware vessel and buried in the Vilna cemetery. The Vilna Gaon blessed Shiskes with long life, and he indeed lived for 112 years. In fact, on Shiskes’ grave was inscribed, “[Because of] the blessing of the Gaon, the number of the years of his life was 112.”

When the Vilna Gaon passed away, he was buried in the plot adjacent to Avraham, who became known as the Ger Tzeddek, Righteous Convert.

In 1927, the Vilna community made a monument for the plot of the Ger Tzeddek, along with a plaque that stated, “The tomb of the Ger Tzeddek, for a precious, clean, and pure soul, the kadosh, Avraham ben Avraham zt”l, who sanctified God in public on the second day of Shavuot, 5509.” On the second day of Shavuot, the Jews of Vilna commemorated his yahrzeit and tell the story of his conversion and martyrdom. It was also customary that every shul in Vilna would say Kel Malei Rachamim in his memory on that day.

Tragically, during World War II, the Nazis destroyed the cemetery where the Vilna Gaon and Avraham ben Avraham were buried. Yet, in 1949, the Communists granted permission to move the remains of the Vilna Gaon, and seven others, among them Avraham ben Avraham to a new cemetery, where they remain until today.

Vilna Gaon's gravesite

In the renowned Volozhin Yeshiva (and in many yeshivas until today), a song is sung that was composed by Avraham ben Avraham as he was marched in the streets to his execution. The words are taken from the beginning of the morning prayer service, “Aval anachnu amcha, bnei brisecha, bnei Avraham Ohavcha shenishbata lo b’Har Hamoriah” – But we are Your nation the sons of Your covenant, the sons of Avraham Your beloved one, to whom You swore at Mount Moriah, the seed of Yitzchak his only son who was bound upon the altar, etc. Blessed are You, etc., who sanctifies His name in the multitudes.”

Avraham ben Avraham was one of those souls who sanctified God’s name. His story is testimony to the great spiritual levels a convert can attain, to the extent that he was buried alongside one of the greatest Torah sage of his time. May his life and deeds continue to be an inspiration.

There are secular scholars who claim the story of Avraham ben Avraham is fictitious, due to a lack of primary sources.

Yet, there is a contemporary written account from the year 1755, a mere six years after his execution, from Rabbi Yaakov Emden (1697-1776). In his book Vayakam Edus b'Yaakov, p. 25b, Rabbi Emden wrote:

“Some years ago, a prince from the house of Potolzki converted to Judaism. He was caught and incarcerated and encouraged to return to his original faith...He nevertheless was not afraid of dying...and died sanctifying God’s name. May peace be with him.”

There are also multiple oral histories, and several 19th-century Jewish and Gentile Sources, including famed Polish author Józef Ignacy Kraszewski, that corroborate the story. Additionally, printed versions of the story from varied Jewish communities over the past 270 years, all tell the identical tale.

It has been logically suggested that the reason there are few non-Jewish written accounts of this story was because the powerful Potocki family censored the story.

I would like to note that there are descriptions about the Ger Tzedek that are clearly inaccurate or exaggerated. After extensive research, this article was written based on the most accepted version of this incredible story.
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Post  Admin on Mon 22 Jul 2019, 1:53 pm

Finding God in the Darkness
Jul 20, 2019  |  by Risa Rotman
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/Finding-God-in-the-Darkness.html?s=mm
Finding God in the Darkness
On display in Har Nof, the unconquerable strength of the Jewish people in the face of their adversaries.

Faigy was part of our group of ladies who learned together every other week, delving into topics related to building a trusting relationship with God. One week Faigy took on an uncharacteristically serious tone as she started to tell us the story of her parents. She first described her mother’s childhood in an Orthodox home in Belgium before the demonic thunder and lightning of the Holocaust descended on their idyllic world and how the family were constantly on the run until the end of the war.

Faigy’s father’s story continues to fascinate me until today. He also lived in Belgium as well as other parts of Western Europe, but he was not raised in an observant home. It was heartbreaking to watch Faigy’s tears as she described how a Nazi beast beat her father to a pulp and left him in a river of blood. Faigy described the event as if she had just personally witnessed the attack on her beloved father.

The author with her grandchildren at the bris of the first grandson named after Chaim

“After the war, my father found himself with a group of young Orthodox Jews,” Faigy told us. “Knowing very little about his own heritage, he felt comforted in the presence of these determined contemporaries. Slowly he took on mitzvah observance and in time he found his wife. Eventually the new couple made their way to America, started a business and built a thriving Jewishly observant home."

In the shards of the Holocaust he found a relationship with God.
The words of Rav Shach, the great Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevezh echo in my mind: “Those who left Judaism after the Holocaust, we can understand. Those who remained faithful, we will never be able to fully understand.” But Faigy's father did not remain faithful; it was in the shards of the Holocaust that he found a relationship with God. This is where my fascination lays.

But perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised. I can think of a story that happened to us when we were sitting shiva for my husband, Chaim hy’d, who passed away from his wounds in the Har Nof attack. During the shiva we were inundated by people, friends and strangers alike, all coming to connect with us as they gave us their condolences. A few journalists came to hear the story, so that they could share what we went through with their readers. One journalist spent a fair amount of time respectfully listening to my sons talk about their father and the difficult year leading up to his passing.

A few hours later that same day, the journalist returned with an older American Jewish couple. They were very eager to speak to me. The journalist told me that after leaving our home earlier that day he went into town to take care of some errands when he happened upon this older non-religious couple. They were touring Israel and had taken some time out to relax downtown. The couple and the journalist started to talk and for some reason, the journalist told the couple about our shiva.

Chaim and Risa Rotman

He described to them what had happened in the shul in Har Nof and how two terrorists entered the holy sanctuary loaded with guns, knives and cleavers bent on accomplishing as much destruction as possible. Before the police shot them down, these terrorists left four men dead, four widows and 25 orphans. They also left my husband, Chaim (amongst others who thank God recovered from their wounds) hanging between the upper and lower worlds.

For one year we watched Chaim hang on to the slippery thread of life before his passing. It was a year of tremendous Kiddush Hashem. Nurses, doctors, patients and their families at the various hospitals Chaim entered and departed were witnessed to how his loving family and community took care of him and each other. Men came to sit by his side and learn together. Loving packages of food were distributed freely. Comments from the spectators like, “We have never seen anything like this before,” were not unusual.

Throughout this difficult time the family and community didn’t just keep our faith but nurtured it and watched it blossom into a community of kindness.
The journalist continued to explained to the non-religious couple how throughout our test, we – the family and community as a whole – didn’t just keep our faith but nurtured it and watched it blossom into a community of chesed and kindness.

Facing the couple, the husband now spoke up as his wife nodded along. “We were very taken with your story, Mrs. Rotman. I don’t want your husband’s death to be in vain. I have to discover my Judaism. When I heard your story, I asked this man,” he said pointing to the journalist, “to take me to a place where I could purchase a pair of good-quality tefillin. I heard that your husband never missed wearing his tefillin until the day of the attack. I am well into my 70s and have never once put on tefillin. Now I will start wearing tefillin in your husband’s memory.”

Everyone in the room was left speechless. We were witnessing the unconquerable strength of the Jewish people in the face of their adversaries. They can maim us, harm us, and even kill us but they will never take away our souls that are thirsty for a connection with the Divine.
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Post  Admin on Sun 14 Jul 2019, 10:43 pm

Lucette Lagnado’s Lost Egyptian Jewish World
Jul 14, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
https://www.aish.com/ci/s/Lucette-Lagnados-Lost-Egyptian-Jewish-World.html?s=mm
Lucette Lagnado’s Lost Egyptian Jewish World
The award-winning journalist brought the Cairo Jewish community of her childhood to life.

Lucette Lagnado never stopped fighting. “She was a courageous and brilliant reporter and writer,” explained Paul Steiger, former Managing Editor of the Wall Street Journal where Ms. Lagnado covered health care issues. The famous WSJ reporter died last week at the age of 63.

An article she wrote shed light on Josef Mengele’s gruesome experiments on Auschwitz prisoners and led to her 1991 book Children of the Flames about the survivors and their descendants. It was her memoirs about her own family, however, that brought Ms. Lagnado greatest fame. Her twin books The Arrogant Years (2011) about her mother Edith, and the award-winning book The Man in the Sharkskin Suit (2007) about her father Leon, brought to life the vibrant Jewish world of Egypt her family fled, and described their difficult acclimation to life in the United States and her longing for the world she’d left behind.

Ms. Lagnado was six years old in 1963 when her family fled Egypt. Her grandparents had moved there from Aleppo, and for years, her large extended family enjoyed a robust Jewish life in Cairo and Alexandria, which at the time boasted some of the largest and most established Jewish communities in the world.

Lucette Lagnado, then 6, and her family pose for a family portrait
on the eve of their exodus from Egypt in the 1960s

On Friday nights, Ms. Lagnado recalled, her father had his pick of synagogues to attend in the Jewish quarter of Cairo. “When services were over,” she described in The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit, “the exquisitely dressed men once again crowded the streets, laughing and joking as they hurried home to their wives and children, anxious to sample the special Friday-night cooking whose smells filled the night air of Ghamra” neighborhood.

Even in the darkest days of World War II, when it seemed that Nazi troops were poised to take over Egypt, Egyptian Jews comforted themselves that the Jewish community would be safe. “Dieu est grand” (God is great), Ms. Lagnado’s father Leon would say whenever his neighbors feared for their lives.

Egyptian Jews’ sense of security shattered after Israel was established in 1948. Anti-Semitism began to increase, and during the 1952 revolution in Egypt, foreign and Jewish-owned businesses in Cairo were attacked, burned and destroyed. Several people, including a young Jewish woman visiting from Alexandria, were killed in the riots. Jews, whose families had lived in Egypt for generations, began to face hatred and violence and fled.

Edith and Leon in Cairo, 1943
The Lagnados considered moving after the riots of 1952, but stayed put for over a decade, while their Jewish community found themselves increasingly targeted and dwindling as more and more Egyptian Jews sought shelter Israel or the United States. Caroline Lagnado, Lucette’s niece, recalled her father Ezra Cesar Lagnado telling her that for years after the 1952 riots he and other Jews remember “walking fearfully outside, anxious not to be attacked”. Suddenly, Jews were the enemy in Egypt, regarded as non-Egyptians, despite their thousands of years of history there.

By the late 1950s, Lucette Lagnado recalled, Jews were being attacked and were panicking. The “grand synagogue on Adly Street” in Cairo had become, she wrote, “a hub of frenetic activity, the scene every day of hurried weddings. As families prepared to flee to any country that would have them, as they plotted their escape literally to the ends of the earth – Australia, Venezuela, Canada, South Africa, Brazil – young lovers chose to tie the know lest they be separated forever. Engagements that would have lasted months were now barely a couple of days, while weddings that usually took a whole evening were performed in an hour.”

Jewish couples would sometimes go directly from their weddings in the synagogues to the piers to catch boats out of Egypt. “There wasn’t even time to cry,” Ms. Lagndano described. “There was only a feeling that one had to get out at any cost.”

Much of the Lagnado family fled to Israel. Life wasn’t easy there. In the 1950s, Israel was a poor state besieged by hostile armies from all sides, and it was struggling to absorb nearly a million Jewish refugees who’d been forced out of their homes in Arab lands like the Lagdanos. Ms. Lagnado’s grandmother and other relatives found themselves living in small farming communities across the Jewish state. Life was difficult. Her grandmother used to sing songs about the beautiful smell of orange blossoms back in Egypt, but now wrote saying she was living amongst orange groves in Israel and tiring of the scent she’d once found so alluring.

When the violence and anti-Semitism around them grew too great to ignore, Ms. Lagnado’s family decided life might be easier in the United States. It was a wrenching decision and in many ways her family never truly recovered.

The weeks before their departure were frenetic with preparations. Lucette, her parents, two brothers and sister all had new wardrobes made. Seeking ways to bring out some of the family’s savings, Ms. Lagnado’s father hired a man who owned a canning company to seal gold and jewelry into cans of marmalade to escape detection. (Fearing they would be discovered, he later opened the cans and gave away their contents; the family arrived in New York in 1963 with only $212, the amount they were officially allowed to bring out of Egypt.)

The Lagnado Family in Alexandria, 1952

After 18 months of makeshift living first in Paris then in New York, the Lagnados finally moved into a tiny Brooklyn apartment. They found that life in America was much more difficult than they’d anticipated. Upper class in Egypt, the Lagnados were suddenly penniless refugees in New York. They’d brought 26 suitcases with them from Egypt, filled with ballgowns and other custom-made clothes, but they never opened them in their new home. (Years later, the suitcases were burned in a house fire, their finery never worn.) A well-meaning social worker pressured Lucette’s older brother to go to work in menial jobs instead of attending college, a decision that he deeply regretted for many years. An anti-Semitic landlord evicted the family from their first apartment. Without connections, speaking broken English, the Lagnados found themselves vulnerable and adrift.

Perhaps nothing made the Lagnados realize how different their new life was than the humiliating experience of eating in the local kosher soup kitchen. The women who volunteered there were kind, Ms. Lagdano recalled, but nothing could disguise the fact that the family which once had given charity was now receiving it.

Many other Jewish families from Egypt were also pouring into Brooklyn, and they established a vibrant community, reviving some of the sense of fellowship their members had enjoyed in Egypt. “The congregation was booming,” Ms. Lagnado recalled. “They prayed in the exact way that they had in Egypt, determined to allow nothing to change, despite the fact that they now lived thousands of miles from Cairo.” Ms. Lagnado’s father found a loving home in the resurrected community of Egyptian Jews, while some other members of her family rebelled.

Ms. Lagnado was shocked to meet Jews who were entirely secular, and soon felt pressure to give up her Jewish traditions. Ms. Lagnado’s sister left the family and their traditional way of life, and Ms. Lagnado herself began to separate from the warm Jewish traditions of her family. When she first came to America, Ms. Lagnado had an English teacher who taught her the word “broken”, smashing crockery in class so that students could describe various items as broken. As the years went by in New York, Ms. Lagnado came to realize how apt the metaphor was: much of her family life seemed to be broken in their new home. Increasingly, Ms. Lagnado mourned the loss of Jewish life and sense of community her family knew in Egypt.

In her final year of high school, tragedy struck: Ms. Lagnado was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She had the good fortune to come under the care of an eminent physician, Dr. Burton J. Lee III, M.D., who would later go on to become the private doctor of Pres. George W. H. Bush. Dr. Lee became a trusted friend and mentor of Ms. Lagnado, and years later she asked him about something that had always puzzled her.

When she was first admitted to the hospital, Dr. Lee and her father had a private talk that left her father extremely emotional. What did her father say, she wanted to know. Dr. Lee recalled their conversation perfectly decades later. Ms. Lagdano’s father had implored and begged Dr. Lee to take on his daughter as a patient. Dr. Lee was intending to treat Ms. Lagnado anyway, he recalled, but there was something in her father’s demeanor that haunted him for decades. Noting his desperation at the time, Dr. Lee remembers thinking, ‘This man has no cards left to play” as he begged for his daughter’s life.

Ms. Lagnado saw it differently. Her father Leon was utterly devoted to her and to his family; “by breaking down and pleading his case like a mendicant and invoking me again and again,” she wrote, “my father had in fact found one last card he could play,” helping his daughter once more. Luckily, Ms. Lagnado responded well to her cancer treatment and recovered sufficiently to attend Vassar College, then graduate school at Columbia University, then pursue an award-winning career in journalism.

In the 1980s, Ms. Lagnado’s parents became very ill; the poor care they received led her to focus on health care as a journalist. Yet it was their family legacy and their legacy as Jews that she wanted them to be remembered for most.

In The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit, Ms. Lagnado describes the Jewish heritage her father left. Even in his declining years, wracked by ill health and living in a tiny apartment, he filled his days with giving. Ms. Lagnado gives a poignant sample of the envelopes filling his apartment. “Pay to the order of ‘The Institute to Uplift the Souls of the Holy’, $5; pay to the order of ‘The Orphans of Jerusalem’, my father would write in his tremulous hand, $10. Pay to the order of ‘The Light of Life Girls’ College, $15….” His desk wall piled high with thank you notes and pictures from the many charities he supported. He was always haunted by loss – the loss of his warm community in Egypt, the loss of tradition as his family members shed Jewish practice – but Ms. Lagnado also wanted people to remember the communities he helped build and support.

Ms. Lagnado married fellow journalist Douglas Feiden 1995. Sadly, as a result of the cancer treatment she received as a teenager she was never able to have children. She is survived by Mr. Feiden, as well as by her numerous nieces and nephews and other relatives. Ms. Lagnado also leaves a precious heritage to all of us, who are enriched by her beautiful writing and her descriptions of the Jewish worlds she loved, lost – and at times rediscovered.

In her book The Arrogant Years, Ms. Lagnado described how she left the Orthodox Jewish traditions she grew up in, and the loss and sadness she felt at their absence. She also beautifully describes rediscovering the warm Jewish lifestyle she craved years later, after she tracked down a beloved childhood friend who still lived in the heart of the Sephardi Orthodox Jewish community in Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn. Now a grandmother, Ms. Lagnado’s friend welcomed her back with open arms.

“In my absence” Ms. Lagnado wrote, “the (Orthodox Jewish) Community...had grown and flourished… Families stuck together here, and children lived near their loved ones even when they were grown… Above all, the Community took care of its own, my friend reminded me.” It was all so much like the close-knit community Ms. Lagnado’s parents described in Egypt, and for which Ms. Lagnado longed all her life.

In Brooklyn’s Orthodox community, “If someone was sick and infirm,” Ms. Lagnado described, “there were armies of volunteers rushing to visit them and comfort them and bring them soup. A bride in need of a trousseau could count on getting the fine clothes and gowns she needed…. It was exactly as the Jews had functioned back in old Cairo and in long-ago Aleppo, as it had in the world of the pasha and his wife, when philanthropy was personal as well as communal…” Ms. Lagnado had once again found the lost world of her youth.

“We have Thanksgiving every week,” she learned from her Orthodox friend, in the form of warm Shabbat and holiday meals. Ever the brilliant reporter, Ms. Lagnado wanted to convey that beauty and way of life. After a lifetime of yearning for the community and spirituality she’d had in Egypt, her gift to us lay in part in sharing the wonder she felt at finding this vibrant Jewish community once more in America.

“It was the siren song (my friend) had sung for years – every time I had run into her – a melody that filled me with yearning and where the lyrics consisted of only two words,” Ms. Lagnado wrote in her inimitable style of the Orthodox Jewish life she’d improbably discovered late in life: “Come back come back come back come back.”

Dr. Yvette Alt MillerMore by this Author >

Yvette Alt Miller earned her B.A. at Harvard University. She completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Jewish Studies at Oxford University, and has a Ph.D. In International Relations from the London School of Economics. She lives with her family in Chicago, and has lectured internationally on Jewish topics. Her book Angels at the table: a Practical Guide to Celebrating Shabbat takes readers through the rituals of Shabbat and more, explaining the full beautiful spectrum of Jewish traditions with warmth and humor. It has been praised as "life-changing", a modern classic, and used in classes and discussion groups around the world.
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Post  Admin on Thu 11 Jul 2019, 10:21 pm

https://www.aish.com/ho/p/Making-the-Holocaust-Real.html?s=mm
Making the Holocaust Real
Jul 8, 2019  |  by Judy GruenMaking the Holocaust Real
Archiving the Jewish American past, Gregg Philipson collects to remember and to fight bigotry and anti-Semitism.

The middle school students pass the small brown suitcase from one to another in the school auditorium. They each take a moment to touch its smooth, worn leather, and to look at the six-pointed yellow star that says “Jude” stamped on it. The metal closures are long broken, so that the suitcase is permanently slightly ajar, as if the story of its history is still inside, waiting to be told.

Gregg Philipson regularly brings this suitcase to schools, along with a dozen or so other WWII-related artifacts from his vast collection, to make the Holocaust a bit more real to the next generation. Over the past decade, Philipson, who lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, Michelle Warech-Philipson, has become one of the foremost collectors of WWII-related and Jewish historical artifacts in the country. He is a veritable walking encyclopedia about the Holocaust, Jewish military history, major Jewish figures from nearly all the U.S. wars, including the American Revolution, Civil War and the Confederacy, WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and other U.S. military conflicts. Additionally, his expert knowledge includes the vital role Jewish chaplains have played in the military. Among his more eclectic interests are Jewish magicians, Jewish “strong men,” and Jewish astronauts.

Philipson is a retired executive who worked in the Biometric Authentication Security industry for more than 40 years. Now, in this unexpected second career, he and Michelle travel the country and sometimes internationally, usually at their own expense, so that Gregg can share his vast knowledge on any of these topics, bringing relevant portions of The Gregg and Michelle Philipson Collection and Archive with them.

As a kid, Gregg Philipson collected toy soldiers and baseball cards. But as a young man in his twenties, he discovered the roles that his own father and uncle had played fighting against the Axis powers in WWII. That started him on a quest to collect artifacts that were relevant to his family’s personal history and to Jewish history. Among his first acquisitions were the soldiers’ uniforms that belonged to his father, Sergeant Bernard Philipson, who served with the U.S. Army’s 8th Armored Division and helped liberate the Langenstein Concentration camp, and to his grandfather, Louis Philipson, a U.S. Army sergeant in World War I.

The Gregg and Michelle Philipson Collection and Archive contains a treasure trove of WWII propaganda art that includes cartoons, posters, and even milk bottles imprinted with slogans promoting the sale of war bonds. Some of America’s most famous artists, including Theodore Geisel (later known as Dr. Seuss), used their skills to create posters supporting the war effort. The Walt Disney studios produced posters featuring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck promoting gas rationing and war bond purchases.

“Letting the kids touch things makes it so much more real to them.”
The suitcase Philipson brings to all the schools is a rare artifact. It had belonged to Mere Schomacher Michelson, born on November 25,1848 and killed sometime in 1941 in the Latvian town of Liepāja. The Soviet Union annexed Latvia in 1940, and in 1941, when the Nazis had begun its campaign against the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa), German Nazis and Latvian collaborators murdered nearly the entire local Jewish population, which had numbered about 7,000 before the war. Fewer than thirty Jews survived in Liepāja by the end of the war.

Gregg and Michelle Philipson at their exhibit at Texas State University

Philipson doesn’t lecture the kids from behind a podium. Instead, he walks through the room as he tells stories of history, handing students artifacts from his collection. “Letting the kids touch things makes it so much more real to them. It personalizes the unfathomable tragedy,” he observed.

Philipson is an inveterate shopper for artifacts. One of his latest purchases is a rare, anti-Semitic marionette puppet. Made in 1933, the doll’s face is painted to depict a Jewish man with a sinister, ghoulish face, wearing a wizard’s hat with a Star of David on it.

Rare, anti-Semitic marionette puppet made in 1933
“This is an important piece as it illustrates the vile anti-Semitic feeling prevalent throughout Europe prior to the Holocaust. It’s a perfect example of how children learn to hate while watching something as innocent as a puppet show,” he explained.

It requires intense effort to locate, purchase and preserve these artifacts, and it can be emotionally draining. "Collecting, if you do it at a very high level, is a very demanding lifestyle, and it gets quite emotional at times,” he said. “There are nights when I sit in my office at one or two in the morning, crying."

Philipson wants his collection to help shine a light on what “hate, bigotry, and apathy can do to individuals and to the world in general."
Philipson wants his collection to help shine a light on what “hate, bigotry, and apathy can do to individuals and to the world in general." To realize this goal, he loans pieces from his collection for public exhibitions around the United States, including to major museums such as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., as well as universities, colleges, schools, and U.S. military installations. In 2012, former Texas Governor Rick Perry appointed Philipson a Commissioner to the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission. For many years Philipson also served as an advisory board member at the Holocaust Museum in Houston. He is a life member of the Jewish War Veterans.

Though Philipson speaks to audiences ranging from middle school kids to the elderly, his target audience is young people, “not only middle and high school students, but also U.S. soldiers who are still very young and impressionable,” he explained. Several times a year, he addresses the U.S. Army troops at Ft. Hood and speaks on various topics, including the Holocaust. The Philipsons are currently in the process of gifting Jewish Chaplaincy artifacts to the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps Museum, located at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

“Thank you for teaching us about this horrible time and for teaching me just how lucky I really am.”
With more schools integrating anti-bullying initiatives into their curricula, Philipson’s presentations to thousands of students a year augment what they are learning. “We tie in the lessons of the Holocaust to bullying. We say, ‘Be an upstander, not a bystander.’

A thank you letter he received from a middle school girl said, “I’m glad that you brought things that . . . belonged to people because it really opened my eyes and put things into perspective. There was something about touching and seeing the suitcase, armband, and concentration camp uniform with the star that made it all more real and sad. Because of you coming to our school, I will now try to take nothing for granted. So thank you for teaching us about his horrible time and for teaching me just how lucky I really am.”

Philipson often recommends the book, The Diary of Petr Ginz, written by a teenager whose diary was found in Theresienstadt, to students. Like The Diary of Anne Frank, this diary was also written by a teenager.

The Survivors' Talmud
The Collection includes three volumes of “The Survivors' Talmud” – also known as the U.S. Army Talmud – the first and only known edition of the Talmud published by a government body. Two survivors of the Dachau concentration camp, Rabbi Samuel A. Sneig, chief rabbi of the U.S. Zone, and Rabbi Samuel Jakob Rose, proposed the idea of printing an entire, full-size Talmud in Germany as a sign of the Jewish people's survival despite efforts to annihilate them, and the U.S. government agreed. It was difficult to even find a complete set of Talmud in Western Europe after the Nazi destruction of Jewish lives and property. Finally, two complete sets were found in New York and sent to Germany for the project.

While Philipson has spoken to hundreds of audiences, among his most gratifying experiences have been in China, at Harbin University as well as The Japanese Unit 731 Criminal Evidence Museum, both located in the city of Harbin, and the Shanghai Ghetto Jewish museum, which is located at the former Ohel Moshe Synagogue in the Tilanqiao Historic Area of China. Philipson has what he calls a “powerful” Shanghai ghetto collection and material about the Mir Yeshiva.

“The Chinese are among the most gracious group of people I have ever encountered in all my travels,” Philipson said. “They truly embrace the Jewish people and made us so very welcome. The trip was mutually beneficial as I learned a great deal about the history of Holocaust-era Japanese biological and chemical warfare experiments that were carried out on the Chinese civilian population. The Japanese atrocities across Asia during World War II have many similarities to the Holocaust.”

Because of these similarities, Philipson noted that the Chinese people have a growing interest in Holocaust history. Not only does the Chinese government protect the old Jewish synagogues and other Jewish-related buildings, keeping them in meticulous condition, but “the Chinese people cherish their history of providing safe haven for Jews,” he noted.

This history long predates WWII. “In the early 1900s, many Russian Jews fleeing pogroms were welcomed in Harbin. And Shanghai continued to be a safe haven during the Holocaust. Almost all the members of the famous Mir Yeshiva in Lithuania were able to reach Shanghai and survive.”

With anti-Semitism on the rise again, ugly stereotypes about Jews and vicious slurs against the State of Israel are gaining traction. Philipson’s collection not only works to combat those stereotypes, but to highlight Jewish contributions to anti-racism efforts. His collection includes memorabilia about Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a civil rights activist who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Alabama in 1965. Philipson attends U.S. Army observances on topics that commemorate Black history, women’s history, women in the military, women’s equality, and Asian Americans/ Pacific Islander history.

“We have powerful collections on many ethnic groups and set up the exhibits for these events at Ft. Hood as well. Our audiences know we’re Jewish and they love how inclusive we are. I really try to talk about the Jewish experience in America, because we are a people who not only contribute to society as a whole, but we’ve also maintained deep awareness of our Jewishness. We’re saying, be proud of being an American, be proud of being a Jewish American, be proud of who you are and be respectful to others. The audience really gets the message.”

To learn more about the collection, go to https://philipsoncollection.utep.edu/about
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Messages from Your Loved Ones After They’re Gone
Jul 7, 2019  |  by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
https://www.aish.com/ci/s/Messages-from-Your-Loved-Ones-After-Theyre-Gone.html?s=mm
Messages from Your Loved Ones After They’re Gone
Obsessed with death, a child of a Holocaust survivor creates an app that enables you to leave meaningful messages to loved ones.

The two saddest words in the English language, it’s often been said, are “if only.”

Our lives are like a breath; our days like a fleeting shadow (Psalms 144:4). Our loved ones pass away and we can no longer share their presence. “If only…” is the universal cry of the bereaved desperately seeking continued connection and conversation with those who made their lives meaningful.

If only I could hear my mother’s voice once again reassuring me of her love, granting me more of her wisdom. If only my father could be here with me to give me strength and courage. If only I would’ve asked them the questions I never bothered to ask. If only I would’ve gotten to truly know them as my closest friends. Death, it would seem, has closed the door to any further interaction. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of death is its final verdict of silence from beyond the grave, its cruel response to “if only” with the harsh judgment that now nothing more is possible, it is simply too late.

Thanks to Gaby Eirew that seeming inevitability may have changed.

Gaby is the child of a Holocaust survivor. Her mother, Denise, was smuggled out of the Drancy camp in France in 1942 as a four-year-old by the French resistance, while her parents, unbeknownst to her, were murdered in Auschwitz. Denise was also given a fake postcard pretending to be from her parents, saying that if she cried for them, they would not come back – a way of protecting her, because it was feared that if she displayed any emotion about her parents it would draw attention to her true Jewish identity, and put her life at risk. Gaby’s mother never really knew her own parents, nor could she ever truly grieve for them.

Gaby Eirew with her mother Denise.

That awareness surely played a role in Gaby’s personal reaction to death of her parents in the space of a month followed very shortly by the sudden passing of her best friend. She found herself overwhelmed by her own grief while at the same time trying to imagine the impact her friend’s death had on her three young children.

"I imagined my kids like hers, growing up with everything that they knew directly from their mum stopping there and then. I wanted to write to them all and reassure them and tell them the most useful things, but I could not sum her up. Some things I realized the children would hear from their father and grandparents, but some things would surely have to come straight from her," Gaby told BBC. The tragedy that befell Gaby’s own mother, never really getting to know the woman who bore her and gave her life, was now repeated albeit by other circumstances with the passing of her best friend.

Gaby became obsessed with death, with its finality and with its closure of possibility for further sharing. She went around, as she put it “like a lunatic”, asking hundreds of people, “what have you prepared for your death? What messages have you left for your loved ones?”

The app empowers you to continue your conversations with loved ones by way of messages prepared before taking leave from Earth.
And so was born the idea for a remarkable app that would help children both to mourn for their parents as well as in a sense to keep them alive. A free app that would help them to continue their relationship. It has been used by tens of thousands of people in more than 30 countries to leave a legacy of video messages for their families.

With technology, we can achieve a small measure of immortality – our image, our voices, our wisdom, our advice, our memories – on video recordings. If, when we leave on lengthy trips or seek to maintain contact with family living at a distance we make use of Skype, why not – Gaby reasoned – continue our conversations with loved ones by way of messages prepared before taking leave from Earth.

So Gaby surveyed thousands of mourners to find out what they most missed aside from the physical presence of the deceased. In that way the prerecorded messages could be relevant in the most personal of ways. And the findings were fascinating.

When she asked people what they most wished they could have asked their parents, "The single most important thing that people said they wanted to hear was that their parent was proud of them, that they loved them and to hear them say that with their name," Gaby says. "So often people were told that their mum or dad loved them so much, but they needed and wanted to hear it". demonstrating the importance, as parents, to take advantage of the opportunities to say those words to our children during our lifetimes. We just don’t say them often enough.

Sometimes mourners wanted to hear a very specific set of words. "They wished they could ask their parent, 'I remember you whispering something to me every night, what was it? I want to hear it again.' It could have been a prayer, or nursery rhyme or other words that became part of a nightly ritual and helped them know they were loved before they fell to sleep”. This reminds us of the importance of the seemingly unimportant – the rituals of everyday communication which convey our love and our values, such as putting our children to sleep by reciting with them words of the Shema.

Another discovery was that bereaved children often carry a huge amount of guilt. "For a parent to say in a message 'I'm sick, I'm dying, it's not your fault, I don't want to die, I'm happy you get to live on and you get to have a full life,' that's really important." And conversely, that will remind us that while are alive we must be careful not to give them lifelong guilt by implying that their disappointments are the cause of our failures.

Gaby was also surprised to hear many of the more mundane – and quite specific – questions that children had for their parents. What floor cleaner did you use? That smell reminds me of my childhood. What perfume did you wear? I want to wear it too. What is the recipe for that soup you used to make? Satisfying children's curiosity about these kinds of details can really help with grieving, she says. And perhaps the importance of these questions to mourners can make us far more sensitive to the importance of creating memories during our children’s lifetimes when we are still with them – memories like the smell of the kitchen preparing for Shabbat and the odors of the holidays and their special foods.

Essentially, Gaby summarized, they were looking for advice and guiding principles that would help them make important decisions as their lives unfolded without their parents. What a remarkable realization it should be for us that the most important thing we can leave our descendants is a legacy of values rather than a lucrative financial inheritance.

Gaby's app, called RecordMeNow, is essentially a series of prompts that helps people to create a video library for their children, broken down into subject areas, based on Gaby's findings. A key aim was to get parents to record that simple message in video form for posterity

Gaby’s mission, to have people record meaningful messages to their loved ones before their passing, has a biblical precedent. That is what Jacob did as he called his children to his deathbed for a final blessing. Jacob knew that his words of guidance would have far greater impact with the realization by his sons of his imminent death. Death lends unparalleled significance to the words of someone we dearly love.

The RecordMeNow app is like a digital update to this idea. For the time being it is one of the best ways I know of achieving a lifespan even longer than 120.

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.
Click here to purchase Rabbi Blech’s new book, Hope Not Fear: Changing the Way We View Death.
 https://www.amazon.com/Hope-Not-Fear-Changing-Death/dp/1538116642/friendsofaishhat
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Post  Admin on Thu 04 Jul 2019, 9:35 pm

https://www.aish.com/ho/p/Talking-with-Angels.html?s=mm
 Talking with Angels
Jun 29, 2019  |  by Menucha Chana Levin
Talking with Angels
Margit (Gitta) Mallasz, swimming champion, artist and writer, saved 100 Jewish women and children in Budapest.

Margit (Gitta) Mallasz was born in 1907 in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia, now Slovenia, to an upper-class family. Her father was an officer in the Hungarian army and her mother was Austrian. At the age of 15 Gitta moved to Budapest where she became a champion swimmer. Her best friends, Lili Straus, a sports teacher, and Hanna Dallos, a graphic designer, were both Jewish. After Hanna married Joseph Kreutzer they opened a graphic art studio and asked Gitta, who also had a talent for graphic art, to work with them.

Gitta and her brother in 1914
As anti-Semitism grew more widespread in Budapest, Gitta became the official manager of the studio for Hanna and Joseph. When the World War II began, the Jewish couple relocated to a small house outside Budapest, keeping a cautiously low profile. In March, 1944, when the Germans invaded Hungary, the friends closed the studio and returned to Budapest. Two months later, after the Jewish ghetto was created, Joseph Kreutzer was arrested and never seen again.

Then one of Gitta’s friends introduced her to Father Pal Klinda, a brave priest who sheltered Jewish women in a sewing workshop producing military uniforms. When Father Klinda asked Gitta to take charge of the workshop, she agreed if her friends Hanna and Lili could work there too.

Hanna and Joseph, Gitta, and Lili

Since the workshop was contributing to the German war effort, it was legally permitted to employ Jews on condition they were registered and authorized. Father Klinda and Gitta defied that regulation and sheltered many unauthorized children of the Jewish workers.

In October, 1944, the Arrow Cross, a fascist organization took control of the Hungarian government and started a brutal reign of terror for the Jews in Budapest. Thousands were tortured, abused and murdered in the final six months of the war and their property stolen or destroyed. During this fearful time, Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg saved thousands of Budapest Jews using Swedish protective passports. Other foreign diplomats such as Giorgio Perlasca, Carl Lutz and George Mandel-Mantello also organized false documents and safe houses for them in Budapest. However, despite these valiant efforts, only 200,000 Jews (about 25%) managed to survive the Holocaust.

The situation in Gitta’s workshop grew more dangerous as the Arrow Cross militia searched for Jews throughout the city. Then a group of SS men moved into a villa right next door to the workshop. In November 1944 Arrow Cross men, headed by Father Andras Kun, a virulent anti-Semite, broke into the workshop. The vicious Father Kun wanted to destroy the Jews that were being save by Father Klinda. Claiming the workshop did not have a permit, Kun insisted that Gitta should give him a list of names of the Jewish workers. He threatened to shoot her if she refused.

Realizing some of the Jewish women had already managed to escape, Gitta provided Kun with a smaller number of names. The remaining women were taken away but fortunately one of the workers notified Father Klinda. He managed to save them and brought them back to the workshop.

After this petrifying ordeal, Gitta persuaded a German soldier to give her a document certifying the workshop was legal under the auspices of the SS. She even had the courage to complain to the SS men in the villa next door that her workshop was being harassed by the Arrow Cross.

Despite her brave efforts, the Arrow Cross men returned one month later. Gitta called the SS men and began negotiating with the Arrow Cross intruders. That gave most of the women enough time to escape through a hole in the wall which she had prearranged in case of necessity.

Thanks to Gitta’s foresight, 100 women and children managed to escape. Tragically, 16 were captured, including her close friends Hanna and Lili, and taken to the Ravensbruck concentration camp.

Eva Langley-Danos was the only survivor of these 16 women. Upon her return from Ravensbruck, she wrote an account of their fate. This account, together with the testimonies of the women and children who were sheltered in the workshop and escaped, later enabled Yad Vashem to verify the story.

After the war, each priest got what he deserved. Father Klinda was honored by Yad Vashem while Kun was executed.

Gitta remained in postwar Communist Hungary to support her impoverished parents and other family members, despite feeling stifled under Soviet oppression.

Fifteen years later, after her parents died and her nephews and nieces reached adulthood, Gitta “chose freedom” by fleeing the iron curtain to France in 1960.

Her life changed completely. She resumed her career as a graphic artist and married for the first time at age 53.

Although mourning the loss of her close friends, Gitta still had one tangible possession she had brought from Budapest. Consisting of several notebooks, these were transcripts of instructions Hannah claimed were given to her by an angel early in the war. After many years, Gitta decided to translate these spiritual notebooks from Hungarian into French and publish them as a book. “Talking with Angels” became a best seller and was translated into many other languages. Gitta always rejected the idea that she was the author of the book insisting, “I am merely the ‘scribe’ of the angels.”

However, for a hundred Jewish women and children from Budapest, Gitta herself was the courageous ‘angel’ who had saved their lives.

Spending her final peaceful years in the French countryside writing her books, she died on May 25, 1992 at the age of 85. In 2011, Gitta Mallasz was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.
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Post  Admin on Wed 03 Jul 2019, 9:17 am

https://www.aish.com/ci/de/With-Strings-Attached.html?s=mm  
 With Strings Attached
Jun 30, 2019  |  by Emuna Braverman
With Strings Attached
My boyfriend’s family showers us with gifts and money and expect a say in the most important issues in our life.

Dear Emuna

My boyfriend and I have been together now for three years. We are very serious and eventually plan to marry, travel, have children, etc. I am crazy about him and vice versa. However, his family lacks boundaries and is constantly trying to dictate our future together. They have always given us money, gifts, etc. and now plan to pay for our house and wedding. I was not raised to accept things being handed to me so this is very tough to accept.

I have also learned that the money and gifts come with strings attached. These strings have not been formally stated but they have said they want to have a say in when we have kids, how many kids we have, where we live, where our kids will go to school, what I need to do to be a perfect wife to their son, etc. I’m in an uncomfortable position because I don’t know how to address this issue and never have had to in the past.

I should also note that my boyfriend’s older brother is the most disrespectful towards me and his mother always defends him. He is very misogynistic and believes that I have no right to work as a woman and should be a housewife. I love my boyfriend so much and I would hate for our relationship to take a turn for the worst. He has recently begun defending me and also stood up to them about what he actually wants with his future, but now they blame me for his “deviant behavior”.

All Tangled Up

Dear Tangled,

You raise a lot of serious issues here. The first and the most important are the “strings” from your family to be. King Solomon writes in Proverbs that “one who hates gifts shall live”; in other words we don’t want to be dependent on others. I respectfully recommend that you immediately start to disengage from this unhealthy pattern you have begun. Refuse all presents, pay for your own wedding (even if it has to be smaller) and accept apartment living until you can afford your own house.

I know this sounds drastic but while you are taking from them, you put yourself in a position of dependence and you give them power. If you are financially independent, you will be better able to set boundaries. It is very difficult to give with no strings attached (although there are those healthy parents who do) but the strings here are ridiculous, inappropriately invasive and destructive. It is none of their business when you have kids, how many kids you will have, where they will go to school and so on. That level of involvement (read: power) in your lives is very significant and not their place.

In fact, even without money involved, I would be worried about in-laws who imagine that they should have a say in these matters. You say that your boyfriend has recently begun defending you. I am sorry to say this and I don’t want to cause a rift in your relationship but he has to do much more. He doesn’t just have to defend you; he needs to defend the relationship. Quite frankly, he needs to tell your parents to butt out, that these issues are none of their business and that they have no say in any of these areas. He can say it politely and respectfully of course but he should be very clear that this is non-negotiable.

If he can’t or won’t do this, it is doubtful you will be able to have a successful marriage. Parents need to keep out of their children’s marriages. The Torah makes it absolutely clear that you must be his first priority, as it says, “A man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife” (Genesis, 2:24). If he can’t accept and fully internalize this, if he can’t take your position against them and, if necessary, create a distance from them until the relationship can be normalized, then you will not be able to make a marriage work. I hate to say such a thing but it’s better to know in advance.

He MUST make it clear to his parents that if they continue to make these demands on the two of you, they will lose their relationship not only with you (which may be their goal) but with him as well. If he is able to do this with his parents, then his brother should be easy. And basically irrelevant. You can avoid him more. He doesn’t have as much emotional power or pull and certainly no financial one. The real issue is his parents.

So, again, your boyfriend has to stand up to his parents, very assertively, and insist that they back off from their invasive involvement in your relationship. And the two of you need to come to an agreement about living within your means and not take these gifts, so you won’t be beholden to people who may love your boyfriend but have attached too many strings that reflect their own agenda. Be strong and good luck.
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Post  Admin on Mon 01 Jul 2019, 9:28 am

World War II Hero Speaks Out
Jun 30, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
https://www.aish.com/ci/s/World-War-II-Hero-Speaks-Out.html?s=mm
World War II Hero Speaks Out
Robert Hilliard wants us to follow his courageous example of standing up for what’s right.

Robert Hilliard isn’t done speaking out. In an Aish.com exclusive interview, he explained why standing up for what’s right is just as important to him today as it was over 70 years ago after the Holocaust.

During World War II, Hilliard was a young private in the US Army, tasked with reporting on local news items for his company’s newspaper. After the liberation of Nazi concentration camps, Pvt. Hilliard was shocked to see that American and other Allied soldiers were continuing to keep Jews prisoners, in some cases acting with extreme levels of brutality and cruelty that echoed the Nazis.

In a 1997 memoir, Hilliard wrote about how he and another young Jewish private, Ed Herman, stood up for what was right.

Surviving the Americans: The Continued Struggle of the Jews After Liberation (Seven Stories Press, 1997) recounted the terrible scenes that Hilliard and Herman witnessed in the immediate aftermath of World War II. They were stationed near a makeshift hospital being run in a monastery near Munich, which housed both Jewish and Nazi patients. Despite their dire condition, the hospital staff ignored the Jews, lavishing attention on Nazi soldiers instead. To Hilliard’s and Herman’s shock and horror, many of their fellow American soldiers did the same.

The author in uniform at Kaufbeuren Air Base, June, 1945

After donating supplies to the Jewish survivors and encouraging other soldiers to do the same, Hilliard and Herman decided to implement a radical plan. They penned an impassioned letter describing the neglect Jewish survivors were receiving. They tried to wake up American readers, declaring that by standing idly by, “YOU ARE TO BLAME!”

Using their base’s newspaper printer, Hilliard and Herman copied their letters. “We mailed them out by the hundreds,” Hilliard recalled, “to wives, friends, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and neighbors, to synagogues, clubs, organizations, fraternities and sororities, to Jewish community groups, to everybody and anybody who might care enough to send a package, or contact a senator or congressman or any other politician who might by conscience or constituent pressure be goaded into asking questions and getting action.”

Their letter spurred scores of people to send emergency food and medicine to the survivors – and Hilliard believes that a copy reached President Truman who ordered sweeping changes vastly improving the way American troops treated Jewish survivors.

speaking about genocide

At the age of 94, Robert Hilliard is continuing to speak out, educating people about what he saw in the aftermath of the Holocaust and urging them to follow his example of standing up for what is right. He spoke with Aish.com via telephone from his home in Florida, where he lives in retirement with his second wife Joanne and continues to write.

“I grew up in Brooklyn during the Depression,” Hilliard explains, “and I saw what that did to people.” One of his earliest memories is watching a grown man during the Depression punching a steel grate, crying and “Saying I have no job, I have no place to live.”

“What kind of existence is this when you have all these people living high on the hog...and you have people starving?” Hilliard wondered to himself. It seemed profoundly wrong to him that people who were secure and comfortable could ignore their fellow humans when they were in such distress.

“You either say okay I’ll get mine, or you say I’m a human being and I’m not going to stand for this.” From an early age, he decided to not stand and ignore suffering.

at entrance to Jewish Hospital at St. Ottilien

It was this inner determination that gave him, along with Ed Herman, the strength to persevere in 1945, doing all they could to help their fellow Jews and to educate others about their plight.

After World War II, Hilliard married, raised a family, and started a career, first working for the US Federal Government and later as a professor of Mass Communication at Emerson College near Boston. He lost touch with Ed Herman for a time, who had stayed in Europe after the war and worked to help smuggle Jews into the land of Israel, and later lived in New York.

After he retired, however, Hilliard once again started speaking out about his experiences following the war. He started working on his memoirs and got in touch with Herman to make sure he accurately remembered the activities he was writing about. As both men moved into retirement, they decided to make this next phase of their lives one of education and activism. They began travelling the world together speaking about the Holocaust and their roles in helping bring attention to the plight of Jewish survivors in the weeks after liberation and spreading the message that “bigotry, discrimination and racism in any form is harmful and should not be tolerated.”

Since Ed Herman passed away in 2007, Hilliard has felt a renewed sense of urgency. “I tell people if you see something wrong in your country, then you need to take a stand against it and try to stop it. I tell young children you have to take a stand if you see anything that smacks of racism or bigotry.”

He hopes that his example will inspire others to oppose evil wherever they see it.

“We were two young soldiers,” Hilliard says, “who saw something wrong and decided to do something about it. We stuck our necks out and thank God we were successful.”

“We cannot change history but we can change the future,” Hilliard says. “Don’t run away from the problems you see. Do what you can to make the world a little better, a little sweeter.”

About the Author

Dr. Yvette Alt MillerMore by this Author >

Yvette Alt Miller earned her B.A. at Harvard University. She completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Jewish Studies at Oxford University, and has a Ph.D. In International Relations from the London School of Economics. She lives with her family in Chicago, and has lectured internationally on Jewish topics. Her book Angels at the table: a Practical Guide to Celebrating Shabbat takes readers through the rituals of Shabbat and more, explaining the full beautiful spectrum of Jewish traditions with warmth and humor. It has been praised as "life-changing", a modern classic, and used in classes and discussion groups around the world.
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Post  Admin on Tue 25 Jun 2019, 10:04 pm

A Critical Pre-Camp Parental Safety Talk
Jun 23, 2019  |  by Elisheva Liss, LMFT
https://www.aish.com/f/p/A-Critical-Pre-Camp-Parental-Safety-Talk.html?s=mm
A Critical Pre-Camp Parental Safety Talk
In addition to protecting our children from becoming victims, we need to minimize the likelihood of their becoming perpetrators.

As we label the socks and pack up the duffels, we scan the emails about the “pre-camp safety talks” and try to arm our kids with a specific type of personal awareness. Our communities have, thankfully, been making progress in the area of educating children towards body boundaries, good vs inappropriate touch, reporting to safe adults, and general safety. There is still a lot of room for improvement, but I would like to add a piece that I’m not sure gets as much attention, but could help this cause:

We tend to focus on trying to make efforts to protect our children from becoming victims, which is vital, but equally important is educating our children to minimize the likelihood of their becoming perpetrators as well. And I’m not only talking about the teens.

Very, very often in therapy, we hear that a child’s first experience with sexual touch was with another child. Sometimes the other child is a bit older, but other times, they are peers. Sometimes these experiences register as consensual, but sometimes they register as traumatic. Even when it does feel enjoyable for them, often their bodies and minds encode the episodes with guilt, shame, disgust, and other feelings and associations that create problems and impact sexual, emotional, or relational functioning later on in significant ways. What some may not realize is that a child who knowingly or unwittingly takes advantage of another child in this way, is also at risk for psychological damage, not to mention legal repercussions.

So when you are sitting your child down and discussing how no one is allowed to hurt them, touch them in private parts, ask them to look at or touch them in sexual ways, etc., please take the extra minute or two to teach the reciprocal message as well: You are likewise not allowed to hurt, stare at or touch anyone else’s private parts, or ask them to do that for you.

The thought of one’s own child being at risk for such a thing is difficult to imagine, but this is going on in most camps and schools, often right under the noses of caring adults and counselors, and often involving children from wholesome families. And sometimes, (though not always) children acting out sexually with one another, is an indicator that one or more of the kids have been touched inappropriately by an adult or older teen, and is mimicking the behavior.

If you have a teen child who will be responsible for younger children, I would encourage them to not to even allow themselves to get into situations where they are isolated one on one with a younger child; it decreases the likelihood of secretive, inappropriate touch, and the danger of mistaken or false allegations, both of which can ruin lives.

So while we need to continue to educate children for their own protection, we should also add education and instruction that promotes the safety of others around them too, and hopefully shrink the epidemic of child sexual abuse to whatever extent possible.

This article originally appeared on Nefesh.org

About the Author

Elisheva Liss, LMFTMore by this Author >
Elisheva Liss, LMFT maintains a private practice in Far Rockaway, NY. She treats adults and couples, specializing in issues of intimacy and sexuality, and frequently lectures on these topics, as well as Torah, and general mental health. She can be reached at: speaktosomeone@gmail.com
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Post  Admin on Mon 24 Jun 2019, 12:23 am

https://www.aish.com/jw/s/The-Orthodox-Jew-in-SS-Uniform.html?s=mm
The Orthodox Jew in SS Uniform
Jun 22, 2019  |  by Akiva Bigman
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The Orthodox Jew in SS Uniform
Posing as an SS officer behind enemy lines, Brickman's job was to catch Nazis attempting to flee Germany for South America.

Haim Brickman was just five years old when he learned that his stepfather had been a Nazi officer. It was the 1960s, and the newly blended family had just relocated to the Philadelphia suburbs for Haim’s stepfather William’s, academic career. While rummaging through some boxes in the basement, Haim discovered an SS uniform, officer insignia, Nazi flags, documents in German and worst of all, a picture of his stepfather in full Nazi uniform.

Shocked at what he had found, Haim ran up the basement stairs, his mind racing. Could my mother have unknowingly married a Nazi? What else is he hiding from us? What crimes was he involved in?

Panting and out of breath, Haim entered the kitchen and yelled out, “Mommy, Daddy is a Nazi!” Haim’s mother smiled. That was the moment when he learned his family’s big secret.

William Brickman, far right,
with his fellow agents, in Nazi uniform
Haim is my uncle. I have known about his stepfather for a few years now, and every year I am reminded of his past on Holocaust Remembrance Day. This year, though, I decided to look into the matter. I’ve been collecting countless documents from personal archives and a few institutions in Israel and the US. Naturally, not everything was preserved in full. Some of the stories lack detail, while in other instances, there are discrepancies between the various documents and Haim’s childhood memories. But nevertheless, what I have been able to learn makes for a fascinating and inspiring story.

This is the incredible story of William Zeev Brickman, a professor of education, an American spy and an emissary behind the Iron Curtain.

William Wolfgang Brickman was born in June 1913 in Manhattan, the son of Shalom-David, a German Jew, and Lahia-Sarah, a Jewish woman originally from the Polish town of Jedwabne, the infamous site where the Polish locals murdered their Jewish neighbors.

As a member of an Orthodox Jewish family, Brickman mostly spoke Yiddish at home, while he learned English and other languages out on the street. His father died when he was young, apparently the result of a self-inflicted umbilical hernia aimed at helping avoid the military draft back in Europe.

William was a towering, vibrant boy. When he registered for college, he decided to play it safe and major in something he knew he would be good at. With a background in German and Yiddish, he decided to register for the German and education programs at the City University of New York.

Agent 004
During the 1930s, Brickman got his doctorate in German, Latin and education, managing to overcome the hostility and often anti-Semitism of some of the academic staff. His knowledge of Yiddish from home and knack for languages in general allowed him to develop great expertise in a number of languages, including full mastery of various local dialects. According to his academic resume, he could read 20 European languages, in addition to Latin and ancient Greek, three Asian and two African languages.

By the late 1930s, Brickman had a blossoming academic career, but World War II broke out and threw a wrench in his plans. In March 1943, one year after the US entered the war, he was drafted into the air force as a historian and German-language expert. In a letter of recommendation for an officers’ course, Brickman’s direct commander at his base in Fort Worth, Texas described him as “a scholar turned soldier, who proudly made the transition from civilian to military life.”

Brickman had requested to be drafted as an officer in the air force’s medical or chemical warfare units. All signs point to him having been convinced the war would serve as a sort of continuation of his academic career, but once again, fate would have other plans.

Brickman was drafted to the Office of Strategic Services, the US intelligence agency that would later become the CIA.
In late 1944, following the allied invasion of northern France, it was clear the demise of the Third Reich was a matter of time. The US military was on the lookout for German speakers when Brickman’s name came up. He was summoned to interviews that were presented to him as ascertaining whether he would be a good fit for the occupation forces in Germany after the war. Brickman was supposed to serve in the occupation forces’ postal service where his knowledge of German would be considered an advantage, they said.  He scored high marks on the language exams, and was accepted to the role. He didn’t know it at the time but his peaceful life was about to get a lot more interesting.

According to the military documents, Brickman was to be stationed with the US Counter Intelligence Corps 970th division, which operated in liberated territories in order to catch Nazi agents that had stayed behind. Between Jan. and Feb. of 1945, Brickman took an intelligence course at Fort Ritchie base in Maryland, in preparation for his being stationed in liberated Germany. According to Haim, at this stage there was yet another change in plans – Brickman was drafted to the Office of Strategic Services, the US intelligence agency that would later become the CIA.

At first, Brickman was alarmed. Beyond the challenges of being stationed overseas, he did not want to leave behind his mother, who was alone and suffering from a serious illness. As an Orthodox Jew, he also feared that on such a mission, he would not be able to maintain his religious way of life. Nevertheless, Brickman would soon be identified as Agent 004. Later on, his relatives would joke that Brickman had in fact preceded Agent 007, otherwise known as James Bond.

Setting the trap
Service in the OSS was particularly challenging, and Brickman’s unit was to be stationed inside Germany, behind enemy lines, in the twilight of the Third Reich. Their objective: to capture senior SS officers that tried to escape and evade capture. The plan was to parachute into the border area between Germany and then-Czechoslovakia – an area known for being a center where Nazis would head in order to flee the country, in particular to Argentina, and pose as senior officers to catch those attempting to flee.

For reasons that remain unclear, instead of parachuting in, the forces crossed the border by foot, setting up camp in Regensberg, Germany. This was made easier by the fact that the allied forces had already made significant progress, and the battle for Berlin was already in its advanced stages. The Germans began to destroy documents and archives, and the chaos that pervaded made it impossible to check the identities of agents posing as Nazi officers, thus allowing the agents to carry out their missions.

His unit offered Nazi officers a way out of the country, interrogated them and then foiled their escape plans.
The official military documents I found while researching this article do not add any information or details about this period. All I know is what Brickman himself said about this time in conversations with his stepson. As Brickman told it, his unit offered Nazi officers a way out of the country, interrogated them and then foiled their escape plans. Their working assumption was that the only people in the area with the means and desire to leave Germany would be senior officers in the SS and the Wehrmacht.

Their method went something like this: Some of the agents in the unit would go out in public, mainly to the bars the Nazi officers were known to frequent. After having given the appearance they had been drinking, the agents would begin to brag about how they could help those who had the money flee the country for South America. When someone would turn to the agents and ask for their help, they would direct them to a specific cabin where the agent would say they would find a Nazi officer with the connections and ability to get them out of the country. The Nazis would arrive at the cabin at night where they would be greeted by a secretary who would ask them a few questions about where they served, their ranking and the like. The secretary would then call Brickman, who would be waiting in the office inside.

Brickman would be dressed in SS fatigues, on his shoulder the insignia of a military rank higher than that of his guest.

According to Haim, his stepfather “made sure not to take things too far. He wanted to remain credible, but he wanted to be more senior than the Nazi in order for him to obey him and treat him with respect.”

In his conversation with the Nazi, Brickman would investigate the officer over his actions in the war and the places where he had served, before agreeing on a payment for his evacuation. Eventually, Brickman would send him a rendezvous point on the Czechoslovakian border and an agreed upon date when a group would prepare to leave for South America. When that date arrived, the Nazi officers would show up to the meeting point. But instead of finding their guides for the trip out of the country, they would find other OSS officers, who would take them hostage and transfer them to allied prisons. Other senior officers were taken to Nuremberg.

In one case, Brickman’s unit had received information about the presence of very high-ranking SS officer in one of the villages in the area, and the agents set out to arrest him. Brickman entered the room, gave him two minutes to pack before leaving. The officer protested, saying he had many possessions and needed more time. Brickman made it clear that if he was not ready, he would be arrested and dragged through the streets naked. Two minutes later, the officer was ready.

Brickman was involved in a mission to catch Martin Bormann, one of the heads of the German Nazi regime. While the allies suspected he was hanging around the Czechoslovakian border, there were no pictures of him available, so he could not be identified. Brickman arrived at the village where Bormann was born and located the school he had attended as a boy. It was there he found a photograph of Bormann, which he distributed to his fellow agents. According to Haim’s account, his father managed to get to the village where Bormann had apparently been hiding, although he did not ultimately succeed in catching him.

After the war, Brickman went back to working with the Counter Intelligence Services, where he was made responsible for Germany’s Deggendorf district. At one point, he was stationed with the security unit tasked with securing the area where the Nuremberg trials were being held in 1945. In this role, a disguised Brickman would try to infiltrate the site in civilian clothes, with the aim of exposing weaknesses in the security system there. From time to time, when he would walk around among the Nazis’ cells, he would run into a prisoner he had helped capture. He would take the opportunity to remove his military hat and reveal his kippah underneath. “He wanted to show them that fate had been reversed, and the victims had become the masters,” Haim said.

In the months after the war, Haim would often serve as a witness at Jewish wedding ceremonies for concentration camp survivors conducted by a rabbi from the US military.

Brickman set himself a goal of collecting as many materials as possible from the Nazi era during his stay in postwar Germany, in order to preserve and document them for the sake of historical remembrance.

William Brickman stands in front of an
anti-Semitic poster in the Soviet Union
Among these documents, some of which are now at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem, others now housed in Brown University’s archives, one can find a collection of files and pamphlets from the Nazi era. There is also a copy of the Nazi party’s 1933 campaign platform, numerous Reichsmark bills, various limericks and everyday documents distributed by the regime. One of the more important findings that Brickman managed to take with him from Germany was an elegant album produced by the Gestapo that detailed the various torture methods used by the secret police. The album was donated to the Yad Vashem archives in 1960, along with uniforms, flags, pins, a collection of stamps and various other items from that period.

Postcards from behind the Iron Curtain
Upon his discharge from the army in April 1946, Brickman returned to the academic track. He studied with the well-known philosopher John Dewey, and during the 1950s, taught at New York University’s Department of Education where he headed the department’s history program. In 1960, he transferred to the University of Pennsylvania where he served as the head of the comparative education department.

Brickman has 25 great-grandchildren who reside in Israel.
Taking advantage of his knowledge of a variety of languages, Brickman’s research focused on the comparison of different education systems around the world. He wrote dozens of books on education, published dozens of articles in periodicals and Jewish magazines and edited a journal in the field.

In 1958, Brickman married Sylvia Mann, the daughter of a Jerusalemite family that had immigrated to the US. Mann was divorced with two children, Haim and his sister Simcha. It was in the early 1960s, when Brickman became a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania that the family moved to that house in Philadelphia, taking with them William’s large collection of books and various objects that would expose Haim to his past.

According to Haim, William didn’t talk much about that time in his life. But Haim does recall how his stepfather would embarrass him whenever they would go see a James Bond movie together. “He would erupt in laughter in the middle of the movie. It really embarrassed me as a child,” Haim said.

Brickman died in the US in 1986 and was buried in Jerusalem. He now has 25 great-grandchildren who reside in Israel. At his funeral, he was lauded for his contribution to Jewish education in the US and his efforts to obtain federal funding for Jewish day schools.

The original version of this article appeared on Israelhayom.com
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Post  Admin on Thu 20 Jun 2019, 11:23 pm

The Heroic Soviet Jewish Activist You Never Heard of
Jun 17, 2019  |  by Adina Hershberg
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The Heroic Soviet Jewish Activist You Never Heard of
Hillel Butman played a key role in exposing the plight of Soviet refuseniks to the world.

Most Jews have heard of Natan Sharansky, but few know of Hillel Butman (pronounced Boot mahn), a giant of a man who recently died at the age of 87.

“Hillel Butman was the first, before the rest of us,” Sharansky said. “Already in 1966, a year before the Six Day War, he founded the Zionist Youth Movement in Leningrad. Who thought about Zionism back then, before 1967? It was very rare. He established an underground organization; taught Hebrew, literature and Judaism; established secret ‘ulpanim’ in which the young people met; and he tried to scream to the world the cry of the Jews in Russia who wanted to go home to Israel. Dozens of people, and then hundreds of people and then thousands of people got carried away by this movement.”

Butman was born in Leningrad in 1932 into a typical Jewish Russian family. His family was neither religious nor Zionist, nor did they know anything about Jewish history or Palestine. But they were not assimilated. His father had a seat in the Leningrad synagogue where he attended High Holy Day services. He enjoyed singing Yiddush songs. The family ate matzah during Passover.

When World War II broke out, Butman was a young boy. He and his family were evacuated to Siberia. When he returned to Leningrad in 1945 and completed school, his life changed dramatically. “I came out of the walls that defended me,” he recalled. “I began feeling antisemitism from two sides—‘above,’ meaning the government, and ‘below,’ meaning the streets.”
MORE https://www.aish.com/jw/s/The-Heroic-Soviet-Jewish-Activist-You-Never-Heard-Of.html?s=mm
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Post  Admin on Wed 19 Jun 2019, 8:09 am

Sabotaging the German V-2 Rocket
Jun 15, 2019  |  by Lori Samlin Miller
https://www.aish.com/ho/p/Sabotaging-the-German-V-2-Rocket.html?s=mm
Sabotaging the German V-2 Rocket
The heroic actions of 200 inmates at Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp is the subject of new film, “Dirty Bomb.”

The short film, Dirty Bomb reveals a relatively unknown story of resistance during the Holocaust.

Jewish slave laborers were brought to the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp, a satellite of Buchenwald, where they were forced to build the V-2 ballistic rocket, the brainchild of aerospace engineer Werner von Braun who was then working for the Nazis. Around 60,000 prisoners passed through the Mittelbau camps between August 1943 and March 1945. Two hundred Jewish inmates chose to sabotage the creation of the V-2 bomb.

According to historian Norman Davies, “due to a curious oversight in the Treaty of Versailles which did not include rocketry in its list of weapons forbidden to Germany,” von Braun was able to pursue his career in rocket technology in Germany. His pioneering work for the Nazis began at the German resort town of Peenemünde, where the world’s first liquid propellant rocket, the V-2 bomb, was initially developed.

Werner von Braun at Peenemünde Army Research Center

The creation of the V-2 bombs gave the Nazis the most powerful and sophisticated weaponry in the world. The V-2 contained both a powerful motor and an automatic guidance system that enabled the rocket to reach a height 50 miles above the earth while traveling up to 120 miles before striking its intended target. Several thousands of lives were lost when the bombs exploded in Britain, and it is estimated that 20,000 Jews lost their lives while constructing these V-2 bombs.

Werner von Braun would go on to have an illustrious career. He and over 1,600 other German engineers, technicians, and scientists were secretly moved to the United States after the war. While working for the United States Army, von Braun developed the intermediate-range ballistic missile program, and later developed rockets that launched Explorer 1- the United States’ first space satellite. Von Braun and his team were absorbed into NASA, where he served as director of the Space Flight program and became the chief architect of the Saturn heavy lift launch that used V-2 technology to send the Apollo space shuttle to the Moon.

Germans from Nordhausen burying the dead of Mittelbau-Dora

Following the Royal Air Force’s attack on Peenemunde that bombed and seriously damaged the facility, production was halted and a new underground site was constructed by slave laborers at the Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp. Here, a new secret underground production facility would resume the work of assembling and storing the deadly V-2 bombs for the Nazis. The slave laborers at Dora Mittelbau were often selected from other camps and reassigned due to their special training, such as electrical or mechanical skills. Thousands of prisoners died while digging huge tunnels into the mountains as they constructed a large underground factory where the work of the former Peenemunde V-2 missile program continued. The prisoners lived almost exclusively underground, shut off from the world in unstable tunnels where they were deprived of fresh air and sunlight, starved, and the death toll was extraordinarily high. Dora Mittelbau is reported to have had a high mortality rate; of the 60,000 prisoners sent to Mittelbau, approximately one third died.

Underground factory

At the time of full missile production in 1944, Mittelbau-Dora was an independent concentration camp with a prisoner population of at least 12,000. A resistance took place amongst some of the prisoners at the camp who chose to tamper with the V-2 bombs that they were assembling-rendering them ineffective. The consequences of their decision insured death of these inmates who performed this sabotage as the bombs, like the inmates, were numbered. More than 200 prisoners were hanged for this sabotage. Dora’s resistance remained unknown to all but a few who lived through the horrors of the Dora Mittelbau camp, who were made to watch the public hangings of the saboteurs. Those who sacrificed themselves were left hanging and not buried, an attempt by the Nazis to frighten and dissuade other prisoners who were forced daily to walk between the rows of these hanged heroes.

According to Valerie McCaffrey, who wrote and directed the film Dirty Bomb, the idea to honor these unnamed heroes for their decision to sacrifice their lives originated from stories her uncle, who served in the Battle of the Bulge under General George Patton, shared with his family after the war. “The American soldiers nicknamed these V-2 bombs dirty bomb because they failed to go the distance. They were aimed at England, but landed in Belgium, and many misfired altogether. I was so intrigued by the role of the prisoners who sabotaged the building of the missiles that I had to make the film.”

The underground corridors of the factory, Mittelbau-Dora. Photo by Giovanni Carrieri

McCaffrey, an Armenian, explained how her family survived the Armenian genocide. “I thought it was urgent to tell this story about the heroes-the prisoners of the camp. They sacrificed their lives, knowing they would be found out and the outcome it would generate. This is one of the stories that changed the world.”

McCaffrey viewed this piece of history as a reversal story. “Most times, the prisoners are the victims, but in this story, they are the heroes. The scope of this story is that they were responsible for saving lives, and quite possibly ending the war. Interestingly enough, the grandfather of one of the investors of this film was a Nazi.”

The film stars Israeli native, Ido Samuel. “I grew up hearing stories about the Holocaust and meeting survivors who came to our school in Israel to tell their stories. You grow up as a Jewish person in Israel with a sense of commitment to always tell these stories and never forget.

Former concentration camp inmate Pinhas Klein stands
next to the memorial in the grounds of Mittelbau-Dora.

When I heard the story that her uncle told her (McCaffrey) about the Jewish prisoners who sabotaged bombs in World War II and saved thousands of lives, I was surprised I never heard of it before and it wasn’t known what those prisoners did. They sacrificed their own lives to save thousands that they did not know. Why were these prisoners willing to sacrifice their lives to sabotage the bombs?” Samuel believes what the prisoners at Dora Mittelbau did was very simple. “There was a Simon Wiesenthal quote that really stuck with me. ‘For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing They gave their lives so evil couldn’t succeed.’”

Photo Credit for graphic: Giovanni Carrieri. Visit his site at www.giovannicarrieri.com
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Post  Admin on Sun 16 Jun 2019, 9:59 pm

Of Margaritas and Modesty
Jun 16, 2019  |  by Yitty Koval
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/Of-Margaritas-and-Modesty.html?s=mm
Of Margaritas and Modesty
Attending a Catholic college has put my Jewish identity to the test.

I’m a school psychology grad student at John Carroll University, a Catholic college in my hometown Cleveland. After being in Orthodox Jewish schools since I was three years old, it’s been quite an interesting experience. Most of my fellow classmates are, if not Catholic, pretty religious-minded or traditional themselves. Not too common for a college environment.

My program director has an unmasked fascination with Judaism. As a devout Catholic, he takes any opportunity to mention book recommendations about religion and Judeo-Christian values. I mentioned that having a Rabbi and Jewish educator as parents leaves me with plenty of religious books to choose from, but he keeps suggesting books.

The Holocaust is another thing that Christian people seem to be super-interested in. After working with a classmate on a project, she and I started talking about which countries our families were originally from. She has a German-sounding last name, and indeed, she said that her ancestry was fully German. She described touring Germany and Austria a few years ago and the conflicted feelings she felt upon learning that if her grandparents hadn’t left Germany before the Holocaust, they would have likely joined the Nazi party. She told me she shudders to think of what horrific crimes her own grandfathers would have committed had they not emigrated from Germany in time.

I’ve also found myself gently explaining to my classmates why I won’t get pizza with them after class. When I turned 21, they offered to take me to get my first margarita and I had to explain the kosher laws about alcohol. These non-Jewish classmates were more interested than most Jews in the laws of kosher!

The author
My college experience has felt a bit like trying to dance to music that keeps speeding up and slowing down. Just when I think I'm going at the right speed and I understand exactly what's expected of me, the tempo changes and I'm stuck on the dance floor, confused and tripping over myself to adapt. There are times when I feel so strongly that I am making a Kiddush Hashem (reflecting God's name positively) and doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. I imagine God right next to me, encouraging me with pride and love. And then there are times when I feel awkward or embarrassed, times I feel I've overstepped a boundary and I almost certainly know that I've let God down.

This mess of emotions isn't new for us as Jews. Over and over again, we find ourselves in foreign cultures, and each of us needs to make choices every day about how much of the culture around us we are willing to let into our lives. Before Passover, my younger sister Hindy learned that one of the greatest tragedies of the Jewish enslavement in Egypt was that the Jews almost lost their identities. There they were, living in Goshen, Egypt for a couple hundred years (interestingly, this is just about how long Jews have been in the USA), and their identities were nearly hijacked by the surrounding society.

But one reason the Jews merited to be taken out of Egypt, despite being far removed from their heritage, is that they didn't change their language, dress, or names. The Chasam Sofer, a leading European Torah scholar from the 1800s, mentioned in his ethical will that the three above-mentioned traits are absolutely critical to maintaining Jewish survival. Keeping our language, dress, and names unique to our Jewish heritage are powerful tools to ensure Jewish survival throughout the years.

When I heard this, I asked myself: How am I doing in this area? And I think I'm doing pretty okay. This concept gives me so much strength when I think about it. I proudly use my Yiddish name Yitty (which has been mispronounced in ways I never thought possible) among a group of people named Cassidy and Allison and John. I wear my modest clothing every day, no matter the weather and no matter what everyone around me is wearing. And I still wince every time I hear a coarse word I would never use, and I hope I don't ever lose that sensitivity to refined speech.

Keeping the basic boundaries of name, speech, and language when in a compromised setting is crucial so I don't slip up and forget who I am. But I continue to look for more areas to build little fences, different moments throughout every day and every interaction that remind me: God has expectations of me. And I can make him proud
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Adopting 9 Jewish Orphans
Jun 9, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Adopting-9-Jewish-Orphans.html?s=mm
Adopting 9 Jewish Orphans
Hayim Cohen has built a unique family to help Jewish children in need.

Hayim Cohen never set out to change the world. Yet the 34-year-old Houston resident has transformed the lives of nine Jewish orphans, building a unique family of children in need.

As a child growing up in a Yiddish-speaking Satmar Chassidic family in New York, Hayim recalls that one particular Jewish injunction spoke to him in a deep, profound way. In an Aish.com exclusive interview, Hayim recalls that the Jewish instruction “Don’t cause anguish to any widow or orphan” (Exodus 22:21) always felt particularly meaningful to him. He took the injunction to care for the less fortunate personally, and decided to pursue a career in social work.

He moved to Houston to study social work, working in Jewish summer camps and helping children with difficult home lives. He began to gain a reputation as someone who could help children within the Jewish community, and in 2010 he was contacted by social workers from a rural area in Texas. Two Yiddish-speaking ultra-Orthodox Jewish boys were in foster care there, but the local foster home they were placed in had no way of meeting their needs. Could Hayim, located in the large Jewish community of Houston, help?

“I didn’t waste any time,” Hayim recalls. He visited the boys – Avichai and Avshalom, who were nine and ten years old – in their foster home. Their foster parents had insisted the boys remove the kippot they were used to wearing and were serving the children non-kosher food. “I jumped into action,” Hayim says, and applied to become a licensed foster parent with the state of Texas to help them. Within a very short period of time he learned a huge amount and realized the incredible need for foster homes in Texas and elsewhere.

“I never knew the level of need in the foster system,” Hayim explains. He learned that many children have absolutely nobody to support them and are entirely without relatives, friends or resources. “There are thousands of kids in that situation.” In Texas alone there are 29,000 children in the foster care system. In Harris County, which is home to Houston, there are 13,000 children in foster care. Hayim was determined to do what he could to help.

“I often hear people say ‘if I ever had the opportunity to give back, I’d give back,’” Hayim says with a chuckle. “But I tell them you do have the opportunity, it’s right here.” He acknowledges that not everyone can be a foster parent but “that chance to help, it rests with everyone.”

Hayim became licensed and Avichai and Avshalom moved in with him. It was very difficult at first, but slowly the new foster family became used to their new routine. When Hayim felt overwhelmed, he turned to his rabbi, and continued to take classes and training courses within the foster care system. He also joined a support group for Jewish foster and adoptive families. Gradually, Avichai and Avshalom began to adjust to their new lives; one day Avshalom turned to Hayim and told him that if he had to be anywhere other than with his birth family, he wanted to be with Hayim.

Hayim continued to forge bonds with local social workers and worked hard to expand resources for Jewish children within Texas’ foster care system. His Yiddish-speaking Orthodox foster home was a unique resource, and a year and a half after he took in Avichai and Avshalom, Hayim got a phone call about another Yiddish-speaking, religiously observant Jewish child in CPS (Child Protective Services) care.

Yehudah was 11 years old and is “such a special kid” Hayim explains. At first, he was traumatized and didn’t want to play with his new foster family. Hayim, Avichai and Avshalom would play board games in the evening together, while Yehudah peeked out from an open door at them, afraid to join them. Finally, one day, Yehudah came and sat down and started playing the board game with the others. “We didn’t say anything,” Hayim recalls. “We just acted like he’d always been playing.”

Their home classroom

Soon, Hayim enrolled Yehudah – and his foster brothers – in a local Jewish boy scout troop, as well as another group for young boys called the Houston Police Explorers, run by the Houston Police Department. The boys began to blossom. Hayim home-schooled the children. He’d learned that children from difficult backgrounds can often best be helped by public schools, yet he didn’t want to compromise their religious Jewish education either. He also had to work around the complex schedules of therapists and counsellors his foster children required.

Hayim’s solution was to turn a room into his modest house into a classroom, complete with a smartboard on the wall, and transform his home into a fully-functioning home school. Hayim hired tutors to teach the boys both secular and Judaic studies, and he’s proud today that all of his boys are working at their grade level.

A couple of years later, another boy, Shmariyahu Yair, joined the foster family. He was followed by Yissachar Yomtov and Simcha Yitzhak, two brothers whom Hayim calls the “babies” of the family: they were two and four years old when they were placed in the home. In 2017 three brothers joined the family: Nachman Medad, Elimelech Fishel and Pasach Lior.

As the foster family grew, they forged special bonds with one another and Hayim decided he wanted to transform his family, becoming not only a foster father, but a legal father as well. Over the span of several years, Hayim has adopted all nine of his foster children.

It has made for an unusual home. Hayim hopes to find the girl of his dreams to marry, and he acknowledges that his family’s large size presents special challenges. “It’s difficult to date; you can imagine,” Hayim explains, joking that “you can imagine coming to somebody and saying you want to date them – and you also have nine children – I hope you like to cook!” he finishes with a laugh. Still, Hayim has faith that God willing, he’ll meet his bashert soon, and she’ll embrace both him and his warm-hearted family.

In the meantime, the boys want to give back, helping other foster children in similar circumstances they were once in. The boys recently hatched a plan to make a difference in the lives of Houston’s foster children.

With nine growing boys, the family is always looking for inexpensive places to buy clothes. A local store was recently going out of business and slashing all their prices; Hayim and the four oldest boys went shopping. As they browsed, the store owner announced that all the inventory was now 90% off. Avshalom, who’s now 18, turned to his father and asked wouldn’t it be amazing if they could buy all the school uniforms in the store – and donate them to foster kids?

The Cohens have long donated clothes to a Houston-area charity called BEAR (“BE A Resource for CPS kids”) which distributes clothes to foster children. “Kids often come into foster care with only the clothes on their backs,” Hayim explains. His children understood that reality, and each year would donate a few outfits to the charity. This time, Avshalom had a more ambitious plan: to donate hundreds of articles of clothing.

Buying out the store to help other kids in need.

The boys discussed the idea. They each had saved up their allowance for months: would they be willing to part with their savings to help foster kids on a large scale? Avshalom in particular had been saving up his allowance to buy one of his brothers a set of books written by Maimonides. Would he mind Avshalom spending the money on charity instead? The answer was clear: all the brothers decided to help buy out the store.

The store owner was so impressed he lowered the prices even further, and together the boys bought 1,200 school uniforms and 4,000 pairs of socks for $300. On May 20, 2019, they donated the clothes to charity. Hayim becomes teary recalling his sons’ charity and willingness to go without in order to help others.

The Cohens: (back) Shmariyahu Yair, Avichai, Hayim Nissim, Yehuda Baruch and Avshalom;
(front) Pesach Lior, Yissachar Yomtov, Simcha Yitzhak, Elimelech Fishel and Nachman Medad.

Hayim has tried to use the publicity his unusual family has received to educate the community about adoption and foster care, including in the Jewish community. “Our community is nervous when it comes to adoption,” Hayim told reporters, “because they feel like there are no Jewish children in foster care. Jewish children in foster care doesn’t mean we’re an imperfect people. It means there are issues that are out of our control.…. People have been blinded by the old idea that kids in foster care are ‘damaged goods’. These are normal kids who have gone through an abnormal situation. They deserve the same love, respect and dignity that we give to every other person in our daily life.”

Hayim hopes that his example will inspire others to act to help others, and to understand the magnitude of the need in the foster care system. “We can all do something,” he notes. Not everyone can adopt or be a foster parent – but we can all challenge ourselves to move out of our comfort zones to care more, to do more, and to try and make a lasting difference to others.

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About the Author

Dr. Yvette Alt MillerMore by this Author >

Yvette Alt Miller earned her B.A. at Harvard University. She completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Jewish Studies at Oxford University, and has a Ph.D. In International Relations from the London School of Economics. She lives with her family in Chicago, and has lectured internationally on Jewish topics. Her book Angels at the table: a Practical Guide to Celebrating Shabbat takes readers through the rituals of Shabbat and more, explaining the full beautiful spectrum of Jewish traditions with warmth and humor. It has been praised as "life-changing", a modern classic, and used in classes and discussion groups around the world.
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If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem
Jun 1, 2019  |  by Esti Rosen Snukal
If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem
The magic of Jerusalem can pull your heartstrings.

For those of you who have been blessed to walk or sleep or pray in the holy city of Jerusalem, you know her magic. It isn’t a myth or some children’s fable. Jerusalem’s magic is a truth that lingers on the lips of anyone who has breathed her sweet air. It’s a magic that follows you for years – even decades – whispering, calling, pulling at you.

It may have been just a few moons or what feels like a lifetime since you’ve walked through her narrow alleyways, or haggled over the price of a slim brass candlestick with the local merchant who is leathered from the sun. Maybe it was just last summer or maybe you were only a small child when you last kissed the cool stones of the Western Wall.

But when you find your stillness, when you close your eyes and just hear your breath, you can feel her magic warm your veins. You remember her touch, the way the stones feel under your fingertips: smooth and bumpy, cool and warm.

And you can hear her. Even on the shores of distant islands. Even under the rumbling of computer printers and deadline pressures. Even with overtired, cranky children and daily life. You hear her. The music of the marketplace, bustling and bursting with the frenzy of life and the pulse of her people. The shrill call of the shofar blowing over her ripe green hills. The old beggar woman, toothless and tired, shaking her paper coffee cup on the steps of the Old City leading down to the Kotel, jiggling her few coins, eyes pleading.

You can hear the ambulance sirens that pierce the air, that stop your heart, tight in your chest, even for a few seconds. And the other siren, the one that makes you smile every Friday before sundown, reminding you that the Shabbat Queen is arriving in 10 short minutes. You can hear the patter of children’s feet running on the courtyard stones under the mosaic of dry olive branches. And the sound that tears, and prayer, and belonging, and true Godly devotion make. Because you have seen it first-hand in the faces of your brothers and sisters pressed tight against the Kotel, hearts and souls spilled open.

And when you pray, wherever you find yourself, and say the word Yerushalayim, you can feel your soul being pulled over oceans and country sides, being drawn back through her narrow golden alleys. You hear her. The ancient Hebrew language of our people and the sacred words of our Torah echoing from the clay rooftops and whispering through the leaves of the sweet pomegranate trees.

And you can smell her. You can smell the fresh laffas and pitas – you know, the ones that just came out of the brick oven bubbling and beige, soft and salty. For this bread is the smell of Jerusalem: warm and intoxicating and welcoming. And you can smell the orange blossoms on a hot, sticky August night carried in the thick summer air, sweet and delicate.



Yes, you know. You know the magic of Jerusalem. How it can pull and play with your heartstrings. How it can both fill you and yet leave you empty with longing. How it can devastate you when it’s bleeding and hurting. How its magic can reach you even if you are flipped upside down on the other side of the planet swimming the blue waves of The Great Barrier Reef. Or sitting at your office desk in a Manhattan skyscraper.

Her magic, like your shadow, is always with you, growing stronger and larger from her luminescent light.

Oh, how we have loved and lost and laughed and prayed and dreamed and cried and lived a lifetime and more on her golden cobblestones. Under her arches. On her soft, green, mossy hills. In her sunlit alleyways.

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem…

Impossible.

This article originally appeared in the Jewish Link https://www.aish.com/jw/j/48969196.html?s=ras



Why Jerusalem Matters
Nov 2, 2008  |  by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
Why Jerusalem Matters
For millennium of exile, Jews always turned toward Jerusalem. What memory were they eager to preserve?

Jerusalem has no strategic significance. It has no commercial or industrial importance, and it is not a cultural center.

How has this ancient city, unimportant as it appears, crept to the heart of contention between Israel and the Palestinians over the future of the land of Israel? Why should we care what happens to Jerusalem?

We need to begin by understanding the importance of memory. Memory isn't history or dead memorabilia. By defining the past memory creates the present. Repression of memory creates mental disease. Health comes from memory's recovery. Dictators consolidate power by altering memory. Stalin airbrushed Trotsky and Bukharin out of photographs. Revisionists deny the Holocaust ever happened. Why does it matter?

In Hebrew, the word for man is "zachar." The word for memory is "zecher." Man is memory. People who suffer memory loss through illness or accident don't just misplace their keys. They lose their selves. They become lost and adrift in time, because without memory, the current moment has no context, and no meaning.

When the Jews were first exiled from Jerusalem, King David said, "If I forget you Jerusalem, let my right hand lose its strength. Let my tongue cling to my palate if I fail to recall you, if I fail to elevate Jerusalem above my highest joy." The memory of Jerusalem somehow is linked to our current vigor as a people. But how? What is the memory of Jerusalem, and what does it contribute to who we are?

The memory of Jerusalem somehow is linked to our current vigor as a people.
London comes from a Celtic word which means "a wild and wooded town." Cairo is an anglicized version of the Arab name for Mars, the Roman god of war. Paris is named for the Paris of Greek myth, who was asked by the gods to choose between love, wisdom, and power. He chose love ― the love of Helen of Troy.

The Talmud says Jerusalem was named by God. The name has two parts: Yira, which means "to see," and shalem, which means "peace."

Jerusalem was the place of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, and Abraham said of Jerusalem, "This is the place where God is seen."

Elsewhere, God is a theory, but in Jerusalem, God is seen, and felt, as a tangible presence. In Jerusalem we reach beyond the frailty and vulnerability of our lives, and we sense and strive for transcendence. Elsewhere we grope for insight. In Jerusalem we anticipate clarity. Paris may be for lovers, but Jerusalem is for visionaries.


In Jerusalem, God is seen, and felt, as a tangible presence.
Jerusalem is a metaphor for a perfected world, and it gives us perspective on our lives. When Aldous Huxley said, "we have each of us our Jerusalem," he meant much more than a temporal city of taxi cabs and traffic jams. He meant a vision of what life might be.

The vision of life's promise is one we surrender at our peril, because it gives us the will to live. In exile for two thousand years Jews said "Next year in Jerusalem," and amidst poverty and oppression they preserved the dream of a world in which love and justice, not power and self-interest, would be the currency men live by.

Part of the name Jerusalem is "vision." The other part of the name is peace, but the peace of Jerusalem is not the absence of strife. Jerusalem has rarely known anything but strife. The peace of Jerusalem is the peace at the center of the spokes of a wheel, where opposing forces may be delicately balanced and reconciled.

The Talmud says that creation began in Jerusalem, and the world radiated outward from this place. Medieval maps show Jerusalem at the epicenter of Asia, Europe, and Africa. The world flows into this spot, and all life's forces resonate here. From this place, the whole world is cast into perspective.

Jerusalem, the center, which gives perspective to the rest of the world. Jerusalem where God is seen. Jerusalem the perfected world. Humanity has long understood that he who controls Jerusalem controls the world's memory. He controls the way God is seen. He controls the way life's forces are cast into perspective. He controls the way we collectively see our future.

Once the Temple Mount was the highest point in the city of Jerusalem, but in the year 135, Roman slaves carried away the dirt of the mountain, and turned it into the valley we now look down on from the Old City. The Romans expelled Jews from Jerusalem and barred them from reentering on pain of death. Jewish life, they proclaimed, has now ended.

The Crusaders rewrote Jerusalem's importance, the center no longer of Jewish national drama, but the site of the passion and death of Jesus. Like the Romans they expelled Jews, and destroyed synagogues.

The Muslims came after, and as those before them rewrote the memory of Jerusalem, expelling Jews and Christian. They systematically built mosques on every Jewish holy site. They airbrushed the past.

In rewriting the history of Jerusalem each of these cultures rewrote our place, the Jewish place, in history. They consigned us, they believed, to the dust bin of history ― a once great people, now abandoned by God; bypassed by time.

In Jerusalem, each culture rewrote the Jewish place in history.
But Jews preserved Jerusalem as a memory. When we built our houses we left a square unplastered, and we broke a glass at weddings in memory of Jerusalem. From all over the world we turned and prayed toward Jerusalem, and because memory was kept alive, the Jewish people lived.

When Jerusalem was liberated, time was conflated. The past became present. What we had longed for became ours. What we had dreamed of became real, and soldiers wept because an adolescent Mediterranean country suddenly recovered a memory lost for 2000 years. The past was instantly present, incredibly, transcendentally, transforming who we knew ourselves to be.

Who are we? We are not despised and impoverished itinerants, surviving on the fickle goodwill of other nations. We are not a nation of farmers recovering swamps, nor of warriors ― though when we need to be we are all these things.

We are a nation of priests and of prophets, a light unto mankind. We taught the world "to beat their swords into plowshares," "to love your neighbor as yourself," equality before justice, and that admiration belongs not to the rich and powerful, but to the good, the wise, and the kind. Hitler said, "The Jews have inflicted two wounds on humanity: Circumcision on the body and conscience on the soul." How right he was and how much more we have to do. How tragic when we fail ourselves.

Already divided by language, by geography, and even by religion, our people is bound only by threads of memory and of hope. These threads are exquisitely fragile. If they sever we will fragment, and the long and bitter exile of our people ― not yet fully ended, is consequence, says the Talmud, of the dissensions which sunder us from one another.

To this threat, Jerusalem provides counterpoint, for Jerusalem embodies our memories and hopes. Jerusalem is a living memory, a vision of God in our lives, an image of a perfected world. Jerusalem gives us the strength to achieve what we as a people must do, to unite ourselves, and to sanctify this world.

This is why Jerusalem matters.
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The Birth of Hope
Bechukotai (Leviticus 26:3-27:34)
May 26, 2019
by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
113
SHARES
The Birth of Hope
It is not too much to say that Jews kept hope alive, and hope kept the Jewish people alive.

This week we read the Tochecha, the terrifying curses warning of what would happen to Israel if it betrayed its Divine mission. We read a prophecy of history gone wrong. If Israel loses its way spiritually, say the curses, it will lose physically, economically, and politically also. The nation will experience defeat and disaster. It will forfeit its freedom and its land. The people will go into exile and suffer persecution. Customarily we read this passage in the synagogue sotto voce, in an undertone, so fearful is it. It is hard to imagine any nation undergoing such catastrophe and living to tell the tale. Yet the passage does not end there. In an abrupt change of key, we then hear one of the great consolations in the Bible:

Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away… I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God: I am the Lord. (Lev. 26:44-45)

This is a turning point in the history of the human spirit. It is the birth of hope: not hope as a dream, a wish, a desire, but as the very shape of history itself, "the arc of the moral universe," as Martin Luther King put it. God is just. He may punish. He may hide His face. But He will not break His word. He will fulfil His promise. He will redeem His children. He will bring them home.

Hope is one of the very greatest Jewish contributions to Western civilisation, so much so that I have called Judaism "the voice of hope in the conversation of humankind."[1] In the ancient world, there were tragic cultures in which people believed that the gods were at best indifferent to our existence, at worst actively malevolent. The best humans can do is avoid their attention or appease their wrath. In the end, though, it is all in vain. We are destined to see our dreams wrecked on the rocks of reality. The great tragedians were Greek. Judaism produced no Sophocles or Aeschylus, no Oedipus or Antigone. Biblical Hebrew did not even contain a word that meant "tragedy" in the Greek sense. Modern Hebrew had to borrow the word: hence, tragedia.

Then there are secular cultures, like that of the contemporary West in which the very existence of the universe, of human life and consciousness, is seen as the result of a series of meaningless accidents intended by no one and with no redeeming purpose. All we know for certain is that we are born, we live, we will die, and it will be as if we had never been. Hope is not unknown in such cultures, but it is what Aristotle defined as "a waking dream," a private wish that things might be otherwise. As seen through the eyes of ancient Greece or contemporary science, there is nothing in the texture of reality or the direction of history to justify belief that the human condition could be other and better than it is.

Judaism is not without an expression of this mood. We find it in the opening chapters of the book of Ecclesiastes. For its author, time is cyclical. What has been, will be. History is a set of eternal recurrences. Nothing ever really changes:

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun. (Eccl. 1:9)

Ecclesiastes, though, is a rare voice within Tanach. For the most part, the Hebrew Bible expresses a quite different view: that there can be change in the affairs of humankind. We are summoned to the long journey at whose end is redemption and the Messianic Age. Judaism is the principled rejection of tragedy in the name of hope.

The sociologist Peter Berger calls hope a "signal of transcendence," a point at which something beyond penetrates into the human situation. There is nothing inevitable or even rational about hope. It cannot be inferred from any facts about the past or present. Those with a tragic sense of life hold that hope is an illusion, a childish fantasy, and that a mature response to our place in the universe is to accept its fundamental meaninglessness and cultivate the stoic virtue of acceptance. Judaism insists otherwise: that the reality that underlies the universe is not deaf to our prayers, blind to our aspirations, indifferent to our existence. We are not wrong to strive to perfect the world, refusing to accept the inevitability of suffering and injustice.

We hear this note at key points in the Torah. It occurs twice at the end of Genesis when first Jacob then Joseph assure the other members of the covenantal family that their stay in Egypt will not be endless. God will honour His promise and bring them back to the Promised Land. We hear it again, magnificently, as Moses tells the people that even after the worst suffering that can befall a nation, Israel will not be lost or rejected:

Then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where He scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. (Deut. 30:3-4)

But the key text is here at the end of the curses of Leviticus. This is where God promises that even if Israel sins, it may suffer, but it will never die, and it will never have reason to truly despair. It may experience exile, but eventually it will return. Israel may betray the covenant but God never will. This is one of the most fateful of all biblical assertions. It tells us that no fate is so bleak as to murder hope itself. No defeat is final, no exile endless, no tragedy the story's last word.

Subsequent to Moses, all the prophets delivered this message, each in his own way. Hosea told the people that though they may act like a faithless wife, God remains a loving husband. Amos assured them that God would rebuild even the most devastated ruins. Jeremiah bought a field in Anatot to assure the people that they would return from Babylon. Isaiah became the poet laureate of hope in visions of a world at peace that have never been surpassed.

Of all the prophecies of hope inspired by Leviticus 26, none is as haunting as the vision in which Ezekiel saw the people of the covenant as a valley of dry bones, but heard God promise to bring us "back to the land of Israel.'" (Ezek. 37:11-14)

No text in all of literature is so evocative of the fate of the Jewish people after the Holocaust, before the rebirth in 1948 of the State of Israel. Almost prophetically, Naftali Herz Imber alluded to this text in his words for the song that eventually became Israel's national anthem. He wrote: od lo avda tikvatenu, "our hope is not yet lost." Not by accident is Israel's anthem called HaTikva, "The Hope."

Where does hope come from? Berger sees it as a constitutive part of our humanity:

Human existence is always oriented towards the future. Man exists by constantly extending his being into the future, both in his consciousness and in his activity... An essential dimension of this "futurity" of man is hope. It is through hope that men overcome the difficulties of any given here and now. And it is through hope that men find meaning in the face of extreme suffering.[2]

Only hope empowers us to take risks, engage in long-term projects, marry and have children, and refuse to capitulate in the face of despair:

There seems to be a death-refusing hope at the very core of our humanitas. While empirical reason indicates that this hope is an illusion, there is something in us that, however shamefacedly in an age of triumphant rationality, goes on saying "no!" and even says "no!" to the ever so plausible explanations of empirical reason. In a world where man is surrounded by death on all sides, he continues to be a being who says "no!" to death - and through this "no!" is brought to faith in another world, the reality of which would validate his hope as something other than illusion.[3]

I am less sure than Berger that hope is universal. It emerged as part of the spiritual landscape of Western civilisation through a quite specific set of beliefs: that God exists, that He cares about us, that He has made a covenant with humanity and a further covenant with the people He chose to be a living example of faith. That covenant transforms our understanding of history. God has given His word, and He will never break it, however much we may break our side of the promise. Without these beliefs, we would have no reason to hope at all.

History as conceived in this parsha is not utopian. Faith does not blind us to the apparent randomness of circumstance, the cruelty of fortune, or the seeming injustices of fate. No one reading Leviticus 26 can be an optimist. Yet no one sensitive to its message can abandon hope. Without this, Jews and Judaism would not have survived. Without belief in the covenant and its insistence, "Yet in spite of this," there might have been no Jewish people after the destruction of one or other of the Temples, or the Holocaust itself. It is not too much to say that Jews kept hope alive, and hope kept the Jewish people alive.

Shabbat shalom.

NOTES

1. Jonathan Sacks, Future Tense: A Vision for Jews and Judaism in the Global Culture (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2011), 231-252.
2. Berger, op. cit., 68-69.
3. Ibid., 72.
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The “New Germany” and the Kippah
May 27, 2019  |  by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/The-New-Germany-and-the-Kippah.html?s=mm
The “New Germany” and the Kippah
The government’s recommendation not to wear a kippah everywhere is an appalling reminder of a Holocaust strategy that failed.

Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years. Here in Anatevka, we have traditions for everything: how to sleep, how to eat… how to work… how to wear clothes. For instance, we always keep our heads covered, and always wear a little prayer shawl that shows our constant devotion to God. You may ask, “How did this tradition get started?” I’ll tell you! Tradition – Tevye, Fiddler on the Roof

On 1 September 1941, on the initiative of Reich Minister Joseph Goebbels, the German Interior Ministry issued an order that from 19 September 1941, all the Jews of the Reich and the Protectorate aged six and older were required to wear the Jewish star ("Judenstern"). The order stipulated that the palm-sized badge be sewn on their clothes, on the left side of the chest, at heart level, to be noticeable in a public place.

When Nazi officials implemented the Jewish badge they did so in an intensified systematic manner as a prelude to deporting Jews to ghettos and killing centers in German- occupied-Eastern Europe. Jews needed to be identified as Jews – to ensure that not one of them escapes extermination.

This weekend we learned that the “new Germany” encourages Jews in Germany not to wear their head coverings everywhere in public. It is now dangerous for Jews to be readily identifiable. Germany’s top official responsible for efforts against anti-Semitism, Felix Klein, decided that personal safety is more important than religious freedom. And so, in a remarkable historic irony, the country that gave us the Holocaust and the star of David as a badge of shame, today in the guise of concern for its Jewish residents, gives us guidance about how to cope with the nascent rise of anti-Semitism by suggesting that this time we hide our identities and forsake our traditions!

Michel Friedman who previously served as president of the European Jewish Congress put it bluntly: “When a representative of the federal government officially tells the Jewish community that ‘you are not safe against anti-Jewish hate everywhere in Germany’, then that is a pathetic display for the rule of law and political reality”.

It is hard to believe that in the span of one generation we have gone from the defeat of Nazi-ism and the realization of the ultimate unspeakable horrors of anti-Semitism to a repeat of Jew hatred considered so unstoppable and insoluble that the only viable response is for Jews to hide who they are and ignore their religious beliefs.

Felix Klein’s advice to the Jewish community resonates with an appalling reminder of a Holocaust strategy that failed. As Jews were being rounded up for deportation to concentration camps there were those who sought to conceal their identities. They took the dangerous step of not wearing the required yellow star. They tried to pass as non-Jews. It was not a yarmulke that gave them away. Nazis knew there was a simple way to reveal the truth. “Take down your pants,” the men were told – and the sign of their circumcision gave them away.

We need to prove that our Jewish identity is a source of pride, not of shame; a source of joy, not a burden.
“Take off your hats” will not suffice to secure our safety when the virus of anti-Semitism continues to spread. The very act of giving in to this affront to our religious affiliation is already the greatest proof of our enemies’ victory.

Tevye was right. The reason for wearing a skullcap is tradition. The law is not biblical. Yet it is rooted in a biblical law with profound significance. Today we wear tefillin – the phylacteries on head and hand – only during prayer. We do not consider ourselves worthy enough of wearing them throughout the day as we go about our regular activities. Yet that was the original law. The purpose? Clearly to acknowledge to ourselves and to be identified to the world at large as committed both mind and body to the Almighty above us.

As Jews with the divine mission to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” we were meant to be recognizable. Our dedication to God was always visible. Jews wore tefillin – until we didn’t feel ourselves holy enough except during prayer. But for the rest of the time we need to publicly demonstrate our life commitment to a “higher being” – like the head covering above us. We need to prove that our Jewish identity is a source of pride, not of shame; a source of joy, not a burden.

How tragic that Germany of all places feels it helpful to suggest, unlike the 40s, not to identify ourselves with the yellow star but to conceal our identity with bare heads devoid of any link with our God. To recommend that we renounce Jewish pride in our faith only serves to contribute to the insidious and dangerous assimilation of the Jewish people.
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Sabbatical and Sinai
Behar (Leviticus 25:1-26:2)
Jan 16, 2000  |  by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
https://www.aish.com/tp/b/sw/Sabbatical-and-Sinai.html?s=mm
Sabbatical and Sinai
An argument for the Divine authorship of the Torah.

This week's essay is dedicated in the merit of Devorah bat Mohtaram, may she gain full health and have an easy birth.


Every week, we open our email and read from the Torah portion nice ideas about relationships, spirituality, success and joy. We appreciate the Torah for its relevance, rationality and wisdom. But there's one question we haven't asked: How do we know the Torah is true? Did God really give the Torah to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai?

To help answer our question, let's try looking at the reverse argument: that the Torah was written by a committee. In fact, let's imagine that we're the rabbis assigned to write the Torah. Of course, we're not going to tell anyone that we're writing this or else they won't accept it. Instead, we're going to say God gave this book – and hope people believe us.

Now remember, we're starting from scratch. There's nothing yet written – no Garden of Eden, no Ten Commandments. So what would be a good law to include in our Torah? How about "Thou shalt not steal?" That's very practical – let's include it.

"Thou shalt not murder?" Okay, we'll put that in, too.

Now I'd like to propose the following law:

Every seventh year, the entire Jewish people must cease working the fields. They may not plant, plow or harvest – for an entire year, once every seven years.

Do you think this is a good law to put in the Torah?

Sure! We've all heard of "crop rotation." Letting the land lie fallow helps replenish the nutrients, yielding better crops than if you'd use the soil year after year.

One problem, however. If we're an agrarian society (as the early Israelites were), then we live off what we plant. So if we don't plant for an entire year, we'll have nothing to eat!

But there's a solution: Let's store up one-sixth of the harvest in each of the first six years, and then eat from that in the Sabbatical year. Or alternatively, we could divide the country into seven regions; each year, a different region will let their fields rest and borrow food from all others. Simple enough.

Alternative Option

Now imagine that our committee proposes a far more radical idea: No dividing the land, no storing up grain. Rather, we simply promise to deliver a triple crop in the sixth year.

Absurd! Obviously we can't guarantee that the sixth year will yield a triple crop. If we're pretending to be God, and promise something we can't deliver, we'll be exposed as frauds!

How long do you think this religion will last if we make this promise?

About six years! As soon as the triple crop doesn't come, we're out of business. The religion's a sham.

So our imaginary rabbinical Torah-writing committee shoots down the triple-crop idea as an impossible option.

No Excuse

Now let's see the Sabbatical year as described in the actual Torah (Leviticus 25:3-21):

"For six years you may plant your fields, prune your vineyards, and harvest your crops. But the seventh year is a sabbath for the land. During that year, you may not plant your fields nor prune your vineyards. Do not harvest crops that grow on their own. Do not gather the grapes on your unpruned vines since it is a year of rest for the land...

...And if you ask, what will we eat in the seventh year? We have not planted nor have we harvested crops. I will direct my blessing to you in the sixth year and the land will produce ENOUGH CROPS FOR THREE YEARS."

What is the Torah's proposal? Divide up the land? Store the grain? No! The Torah promises that "The sixth year will produce enough crops for three years."

The Torah could have written, "Keep the Sabbath law in the seventh year. It's going to be a terrible year, everybody's going to be starving. But as a great reward, you'll get a triple crop in the eighth year." That would have been smart, because then, if it didn't happen, the excuse could always be, "Well, some people were cheating in the seventh year. So God punished us and didn't give us the triple crop."

But no. Our author promises a triple crop in the sixth year, before we even observe the law. There is no possible excuse should there fail to be a bumper crop.

Why would the author – who wants people to believe in the divinity of this book – make a ridiculous promise he cannot possibly fulfill and thereby expose himself as a fraud? Why take such a far-out risk when there are so many other options?

Sinai Direct

So who wrote the Torah? Who would make such a promise?

This week's parsha, "Behar," begins as follows:

"God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall observe a Sabbatical year of rest. For six years you may plant your fields, prune your vineyards, and harvest your crops. But the seventh year is a Sabbath for the land."

Why does the Torah, in relating the mitzvah of the Sabbatical year, specify that God is speaking on "Mount Sinai?"

Because the Sabbatical year is one mitzvah which proves that no human being would ever write this law. Only God could be the Author Who gave the Torah on Mount Sinai.

Learn the Book

Soon we will be celebrating the holiday of Shavuot – the anniversary of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

Jewish tradition tells us that the soul of each and every Jew – past, present and future – stood that day at Mount Sinai. When God's Voice tore through the Heavens, the Torah was engraved on the stone tablets... but was first engraved on the heart of every Jew. The Voice spoke and we heard.

Is the Torah true? This is the time of year to investigate the evidence. Jewish belief needs to be built upon a rational foundation, not a leap of faith. The commentators say that the very reason God instituted the Sabbatical year was in order to give everybody time off to study Torah!

What can we do? Make the commitment to learn. Attend a Torah class in your area. Other ideas:

Attend a Discovery seminar
Subscribe to Torah email lists
Read a good Jewish book
While commuting, listen to audio classes
Try out one-on-one Jewish learning, by phone or in person
In "Shema Yisrael," the Jewish Pledge of Allegiance, we begin with the word Shema – "listen." Carefully and calmly, we listen. To the beauty, depth and relevance of our Torah. Intuitively, deep down we know the truth. And the mitzvah of the Sabbatical year invites us to rediscover it once again.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Shraga Simmons

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About the Author

Rabbi Shraga SimmonsMore by this Author >

Rabbi Shraga Simmons is the co-founder of Aish.com, and co-author of "48 Ways to Wisdom" (ArtScroll). He is Founder and Director of Aish.com's advanced learning site. He is co-founder of HonestReporting.com, and author of "David & Goliath", the definitive account of anti-Israel media bias. Originally from Buffalo, New York, he holds a degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin, and rabbinic ordination from the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. He lives with his wife and children in the Modi'in region of Israel
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