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Post  Admin on Fri 08 Mar 2019, 9:25 pm

March of Life: Descendants of Nazis Remember the Holocaust
Mar 2, 2019  |  by Menucha Chana Levin
March of Life: Descendants of Nazis Remember the Holocaust
Remembrance, reconciliation and fighting anti-Semitism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Post  Admin on Sun 03 Mar 2019, 9:50 pm

With Mengele in Auschwitz
Mar 2, 2019  |  by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
With Mengele in Auschwitz
After surviving the horrors of the Holocaust, Yantu Weisz lived independent and strong till age 109.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not one person from that transport survived.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yantu and Azriel Chaim Weisz

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

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

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

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

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

Rabbi Noson Weisz teaching at Yeshivat Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem.

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

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

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

Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance day, is Thursday May 2, 2019. That Thursday evening (Nissan 28) marks the first yahrtzeit of Yantu Weisz, may her memory be blessed.

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Post  Admin on Fri 01 Mar 2019, 8:44 pm

The Importance of Play: 8 Ways to Nurture Your Child’s Mental Health
Feb 26, 2019
by Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP
The Importance of Play: 8 Ways to Nurture Your Child’s Mental Health
We need to bring play back into our children’s lives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reference: Alexander, Jessica Joelle. The Danish Way of Parenting (pp. 27-28). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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Post  Admin on Wed 27 Feb 2019, 11:09 am

L’Chaim: A Childless Holocaust Survivor Discovers He Has a Namesake
Feb 23, 2019  |  by Rabbi Levi Welton
L’Chaim: A Childless Holocaust Survivor Discovers He Has a Namesake
An inspiring true story about two Chaims and the miracle of life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The author with Chaim Valencia.

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

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

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

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

I will never forget the deafening applause that followed.

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

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

Rabbi Welton’s latest project is a historical fiction novel for teens aimed to teach Torah values through an exciting story of magic and adventure that takes place during the Spanish Inquisition. To help him, click here.

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Post  Admin on Sat 23 Feb 2019, 11:41 pm

Do You Have the Attention Span to Read this Entire Article?
Feb 16, 2019  |  by Emuna Braverman
Do You Have the Attention Span to Read this Entire Article?
Social media is wreaking havoc on our ability to concentrate and think.

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

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

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

Let’s look at these issues in order.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps that once-a-week total disconnect called Shabbos is a good place to start...

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Post  Admin on Tue 19 Feb 2019, 12:02 pm

Omar, AIPAC and the Jews
Feb 17, 2019  |  by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
Omar, AIPAC and the Jews
Minneapolis leaders have had enough of Ilhan Omar’s insincere apologies and anti-Semitism. An exclusive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Apartheid Canard

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

5:15 PM - Nov 16, 2012
Twitter Ads info and privacy
20.7K people are talking about this
Omar’s most sinister Tweet came as Hamas terrorists were bombarding Israel's civilian population with 150 rockets. It was then that she labeled Israel an “apartheid regime,” saying that “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and see the evil doings of Israel.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-Semitism Is Deeply Woven into the European Fabric
Feb 16, 2019
by Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld
Anti-Semitism Is Deeply Woven into the European Fabric
European culture developed in a dominating, hostile Christian environment over more than a millennium.

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

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

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

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

On the Jews and Their Lies by Martin Luther, 1543

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Post  Admin on Thu 14 Feb 2019, 6:49 pm

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A Jewish Valentines Day
Feb 12, 2012  |  by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
A Jewish Valentines Day
Love is the ultimate mitzvah.
Love is in the air.

With the advent of Valentine's Day, the United States Greeting Card Association estimates that roughly 1,000,000,000 greeting cards filled with declarations of love are sent worldwide – and that number doesn't include the flowers, chocolates, jewelry and gifts that have become part of the rituals of this day on the calendar dedicated to expressing the emotion that Shakespeare called "the language of the soul."

As Jews, we may not be sure whether it's proper for us to join the party. After all, for the longest time the full name of this holiday was “St. Valentine's Day” because of its legendary link with the apocryphal story of one of the earliest Christian saints. Yet academics aren't the only ones who have recognized the dubious historical basis of this connection. Vatican II, the landmark set of reforms adopted by the Catholic Church in 1969, removed Valentine's Day from the Catholic church's calendar, asserting that "though the memorial of St. Valentine is ancient… apart from his name nothing is known… except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on 14 February."

What's left for this day, as proponents of its universal celebration declare, is something that people of all faiths may in good conscience observe: A day in which to acknowledge the power of love to make us fully human.

When I am asked as a rabbi if I think it's a good idea for Jews to celebrate Valentines Day, my standard answer is, "Yes, we should celebrate love… every day of the year."

And as long as one day has been singled out to emphasize the meaning of love, this might be a wonderful moment for us as Jews to remind ourselves of its deeper meaning as a commandment – a meaning that is all too often lost when it's defined by Hallmark.

Love, for at least one of the major Talmudic Sages, represents the ultimate mitzvah. When a non-Jew asked Hillel to "teach the entire Torah on one foot,” i.e. to summarize its essence, his response was basically the idea implicit in "love your neighbor as yourself."

So in a way, loving others it would appear is the summum bonnum of Judaism.

Related Article: The Power of Love

Love of Self

And yet, the way Valentine's Day is observed around the world leaves out one person worthy of love who is almost universally ignored. Granted, it is a fantastically beautiful thing to acknowledge love for another. But a closer look at the biblical verse that makes “love” a commandment points to someone who needs to be loved even before the object of your Valentines Day passion.

The first necessary step to loving others is to love oneself.
The verse in Leviticus (19:18) reads "love your neighbor as yourself." There are two instructions given here, and in very specific order. The verse is commonly used to remind us to love others, but we ignore, at our own peril, the first necessary step that has to be taken in order to accomplish the goal of loving others. Love your neighbor, the Bible teaches, as yourself.

It is one of the most profound psychological truths that the deep-seated hatred manifested by tyrants or criminals is in reality self-hatred turned outward. To be truly human, you must begin with self-acceptance and self-esteem. Only then can you move forward to a feeling of affection for others as well.

The Chasidic Rabbi of Kotzk was right when he witnessed a man beating another and said to his disciples, "See how even while performing an evil act, this Jew fulfills the words of the holy Bible. He demonstrates that he loves his neighbor as much as he loves himself. We can only pray that he eventually comes to love himself, so that he may alter the way he treats others."

Barbara De Angelis, an American researcher on relationships and personal growth, put it well in saying that, "If you aren't good at loving yourself you'll have a difficult time loving anyone, since you'll resent the time and energy you give another person that you aren't even giving to yourself."

The flip side of this, of course, is also true: If you don't how to love yourself, how can you expect anyone else to love you?

Faustian Bargain

This is not to suggest a self-love that's narcissistic, but rather the kind of self-love made possible by self-respect. The kind of self-love exemplified by the remarkable story of Gil Meche, the subject of a front-page headline in the New York Times:.

"Pitcher Spurns $12 Million to Keep Self Respect"

Gil Meche is a 32-year-old Major League pitcher for the Kansas City Royals. His contract called for $12 million for the coming baseball season. Major league contracts are guaranteed; no matter how well or poorly someone plays, or even if he can't play at all due to injuries, he gets paid in full. Meche has a chronically aching shoulder that prevents him from pitching. All he would need to do to collect his salary is to report for spring training. But instead, Meche announced his retirement last week, which means he will not be paid at all.

"When I signed my contract, my main goal was to earn it," Meche explained. "Once I started to realize I wasn't earning my money, I felt bad. I was making a crazy amount of money for not even pitching. Honestly, I didn't feel like I deserved it. I didn't want to have those feelings again."

I don't want to take what I don't deserve.
To Gil Meche, more important than money was the ability to look himself in the mirror and say, "I know I am true to my values, my dignity and my self-respect. I don't want to take what I don't deserve." And with that he demonstrated something we all could learn as the necessary prerequisite for true love.

Indeed, in many areas of life we are confronted with choices in which self-respect appears to be at odds with the seeming need for success. The Faustian bargain seduces us to sell our souls. Only those who are smart enough to choose love, are strong enough to make the right decision.

It isn't egotistical to make sure that you are likable in your own eyes. According to the Torah, it's a first step we all have to take before we proceed on the journey of love of others that will grant us the greatest fulfillment.

So here's my suggestion for Valentine's Day and as all the other 364 days of the year. No, you needn’t send yourself a Hallmark card declaring your love. But you might want to take a moment to live in a way that earns your deepest respect and admiration.

When you truly reach that place, you can then love others as yourself. In turn, they will be your true valentines, loving you for who you are with the kind of love that transcends momentary passion and one pithy phrase.

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Post  Admin on Tue 12 Feb 2019, 8:38 pm

Anti-Israel legislation makes its way to the US government
By Phil Schneider -  February 12, 2019 2419 0
Some Democrats in the Congress today claim that they oppose the BDS movement, but they think that people should have the rights to express BDS views. This is called anti-semitism in Congress. Get used to it. It will just grow and grow as the Muslim population grows in the United States.
Ilhan Omar runs from CNN reporter when pressed on BDS support
The BDS is the New Organized Anti-Semitism
Today, there is a new stylish form of anti-semitism. It is called support for BDS. It is support for a boycott, for economic pressure against the State of Israel. Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats support this anti-Israel measure too. Today, it is not out-of-style to support BDS in the progressive crowd. So, rather than say that one is anti-Israel, there is a more acceptable way of doing it. It is called being “unopposed to the BDS.” What needs to be said loud and clear is that the entire goal of the BDS movement is the destruction of the State of Israel. So, if one is “unopposed to the BDS,” they are unopposed to the destruction of the State of Israel. Of course, they won’t admit that. But that is the essential truth.

The drive of these new congresswomen is pure hatred of the State of Israel. But it also is the progressive socialist agenda that Bernie Sanders espoused. In a nutshell, the two unfortunately go hand-in-hand. But they ought not. Even the genuine progressives ought to realize that Israel is the most “progressive” country in the Middle East. The radical congresswomen should be marginalized. Even the progressives in the Democratic Party should know better.

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Post  Admin on Sun 10 Feb 2019, 10:12 pm

A rabbi shocks a priest and imam about what he wants at his funeral
By Leah Rosenberg -  February 10, 2019 5016 0
What happens when a rabbi, a priest, and an imam meet at an interfaith conference? Well, in this interview, one answer will definitely give you a laugh!

SHNOOKS! "A Rabbi, a Priest and an Imam

The Question
The question asked by the interviewer was, “What do you hope people will say about you at your funeral?” That is definitely a deep question. It gives people a lot to think about: How am I spending my time? What am I doing in my life to make a difference? How do I connect with others?

And the answers given reflect the seriousness of the question. For the most part.

The Imam’s Answer
The imam said, “At my funeral, I hope they’ll say I put the needs of my congregation before my own.” That sounds nice. He wants to be the type of leader that cares for others. Beautiful!

The Priest’s Answer
The priest said, “At my funeral, I hope they’ll say I extended my ministry beyond the walls of my church.” That also sounds like a nice answer. The priest wants to make a difference in the lives of others.

The Rabbi’s Answer
Now comes the rabbi’s answer. He said, “At my funeral, I hope they’ll say, ‘Look! He’s moving!'”
This is some good Jewish humor! Laughter really has the power to heal things, and Jews appreciate and know that. Anywhere that it is appropriate to insert some humorous aspect, a Jew will do that. Humor makes situations more relaxed. It is something special to be able to make others laugh. And this video definitely gives a good laugh!

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Post  Admin on Thu 07 Feb 2019, 10:42 pm

Saying Goodbye to Eddie
Feb 3, 2019  |  by Rabbi Zale Newman
Saying Goodbye to Eddie
The elderly Holocaust survivor had no money or family. Who would come to his funeral?
Last Wednesday I faced the very real possibility of performing a funeral for a sweet, elderly Holocaust survivor all alone.
After being hospitalized a number of years ago, I joined the Bikur Cholim organization, almost 500 volunteers who visit and provide services for sick people in the Toronto Jewish community. I am part of the Sunnybrook Health Sciences team who visits Jewish patients in this huge hospital. My role is to visit before every Shabbat and Jewish holiday.

Seven months ago I began to visit Eddie “Efraim” Ford, an 85-year-old survivor originally from Budapest. He was six years old when the war broke out and survived by being hidden with a Christian family.

The war took its toll in many ways, but eventually Eddie made it to Canada where he began a new life for himself. He married and divorced and never had children. Aside from a nephew in Detroit, we knew of no other living family members.

When I met him he was fighting cancer that had spread to three parts of his thin, small body. Eddie was quite the personality. He had written a book of poetry and fondly remembered his time as a young member of the choir in the Dohany Street great synagogue of Budapest. He could only remember the tunes to the Shema when the Torah was taken out and some lines of the Aleinu prayer.

Every Friday in the hospital, as part of his late-in-life Jewish reawakening, he would put on his huge red kippah and we would sing Shalom Aleichem, Adon Olam and of course Shema Yisroel and Aleinu.

He cherished the hospital Shabbat candles we brought for him which he lit every week, put on tefillin, and made blessings on the cookies and drinks we brought for him. He was “winding down” but we kept this practice going, along with daily visits from our team members up to two weeks ago. When I visited him the last Friday, he was barely conscious, but nevertheless I sang his favorite pre-Shabbat songs for him.

The following Monday, Bikur Cholim received a call from the hospital that he had passed away. There was no one to take care of funeral arrangements. We had his body taken to the non-profit, traditional funeral home for proper Jewish burial. They offered to provide their services and a plot at no cost, as he left the world with no money or assets. It took quite some time to get all of the legal matters in order and the burial was set for noon on Wednesday.

But who would attend a funeral for someone they didn’t know, in the middle of day, out in northern Toronto, in frigid -27C degree temperatures?

I feared it would just be Eddie, me and our Father Above.

I sent out a late night Facebook post. Three people responded that they would join me. We were now up to four attendees, I was hoping for at least a minyan of ten.

When I arrived at the cemetery just before noon, I couldn't get in because of the long line of cars. I assumed there was another funeral taking place at the same time and I wondered how we would find Eddie's designated resting place.

I stopped people who were walking and they all said they were going to the funeral of Mr. Eddie Ford. I had to park far away and walk in the freezing wind to join almost 200 people (!) in a huge, warm circle of love, as we gave Eddie a traditional, sweet, proper, fitting, and loving send off to the Next World. We made a pathway to comfort his long lost brother from a small town in Ontario, whose relative had found about Eddie’s passing on the Internet and informed him so that he could attend.

Toronto Jews gather together

I am in tears just thinking about how humbling and awesome it is to be part of the Jewish People who, on very short notice, would drop everything, drive a long distance to stand outside in an open field on a super freezing, windy day to escort a sweet Jew from Budapest, who was unknown to almost all of them, on his final journey.

We are indeed one family.

Photo credit: Rafi Yablonsky

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Post  Admin on Thu 07 Feb 2019, 9:53 pm

Erasing Henry Ford’s Anti-Semitism
Feb 6, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
Erasing Henry Ford’s Anti-Semitism
The mayor of Dearborn is hiding Ford’s Jew-hatred; it’s important the world learns from it instead.

Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, is remembered for many accomplishments: he invented the Model T Ford and pioneered industrial innovations including large-scale industrial plants, standardized interchangeable car parts, and the first moving industrial line for cars. According to a 1999 Gallup Poll, Ford was the 16th most admired person in the 20th century,

Yet Ford has a darker legacy, too. He was a virulent anti-Semite and his odious writings about Jews inspired Hitler and continue to inspire Jew-haters to this day. When a small Michigan magazine, the Dearborn Historian, recently wrote about this, the mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, where the Ford Motor Company is headquartered, banned the distribution of the magazine and then fired its editor. (The magazine was published by a Dearborn historical society whose members are appointed by the mayor.) Mayor John “Jack” O’Reilly explained by saying that the magazine article “could become a distraction from our continuing messages of inclusion and respect” that he wants Dearborn to be known for today.

The mayor’s logic flawed. Ford’s legacy of hatred continues to provoke anti-Jewish hatred around the world. Instead of sweeping it under the carpet it’s vital that we shine a light on it and forcefully condemn – not suppress – Ford’s anti-Semitism today.

A hundred years ago, Ford was a beloved American figure. Model T’s had been in production for a decade, bringing motor travel within the grasp of ordinary middle-class Americans. His famous $5 a day production line wage represented a step forward for working conditions at the time. Reporters routinely covered his every move. Popular and beloved, Ford ran for Senate in 1918 and was only narrowly defeated.

The following year Ford formed a publishing company and bought the small weekly newspaper the Dearborn Independent. With no news experience, Ford started to lose money on the paper. “Find an evil to attack” one of Ford’s new hires, an experienced journalist named Joseph J. O’Neil urged. “Let’s find some sensationalism.” Ford knew just whom to attack: Jews. He marked his newspaper’s new emphasis with the headline “The International Jew: The World’s Problem” in 1920.

Soon, the Dearborn Independent was insulting and slandering Jews with every issue. “There is no other racial or national type which puts forth this kind of person” Ford’s newspaper asserted, slanderously writing that Jews were untrustworthy, greedy, treacherous and controlled global politics and financial systems. The relentless attacks proved popular and the Dearborn Independent started making a profit and gaining readers. Soon, the sleepy little local newspaper had a circulation approaching a million subscribers and was one of the biggest publications in the country.

Ford wanted to spread his nefarious lies about Jews to an even wider audience. Between 1920 and 1923, he wrote four books attacking Jews and describing them as uniquely evil and dangerous. The International Jew came out in 1920 and was followed by three sequels. All four volumes falsely accused Jews of controlling the world, being single-mindedly malevolent and dangerous, seeking to harm Christians, and of manufacturing claims of the deadly pogroms that were then sweeping Europe. They freely borrowed material from a famous Russian anti-Semitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which falsely purported to be the minutes of a meeting of Jews gathering to plot their evil control of the world.

Ford’s books were immediate successes, translated into twelve languages and distributed world-wide. In in its first two years, The International Jew sold over 2 million copies. The fact that it bore Henry Ford’s name only added to its appeal and sense of respectability among people who admired the world-famous businessman. Ford was so intent on his hateful message reaching a wide audience that he refused to copywrite the books so that anyone was free to publish them without permission. Even today, the books remain in circulation, with no copywrite limiting their dissemination.

One early fan of Ford’s books was Adolf Hitler. In 1931, a reporter travelling from Detroit to Munich to interview Hitler and was startled to see a large picture of Henry Ford hanging on the wall above Hitler’s desk. “I regard Henry Ford as my inspiration” Hitler explained.

Back home in the United States, some outraged Jews and others were boycotting Ford products. Faced with the prospect of damage to his profits, Ford stopped the Dearborn Independent’s weekly anti-Jewish slanders, and in 1927 Ford made what was widely regarded at the time as a half-hearted apology for his relentless attacks on Jews. But his books continued to flourish, finding readers around the globe.

Henry Ford died in 1947, and in the decades since, his family and the Ford Motor Company have repudiated his anti-Semitism. Ford’s grandson, Henry Ford II, in particular, supported many Jewish organizations and charities. When the Holocaust movie Schindler’s List came out in 1997, the Ford Motor Company sponsored a nation-wide commercial-free screening on American television.

Yet the anti-Semitism of Henry Ford in the 1920s continues to affect the world today. The International Jew and his other anti-Semitic books remain widely available.

Dozens of editions are listed on Amazon alone, with many boasting hundreds of glowing five-star reviews. Extremists use Ford as a source of inspiration and validation of their odious hatred.

This hatred has real world consequences. Anti-Semitic incidents have been rising globally; in the United States, the number of anti-Semitic attacks rose 37% between 2016 and 2017. In Britain, they rose 34%. A major 2014 study by the Anti-Defamation League found that over a quarter of the world’s population harbors anti-Semitic feelings.

At the same time, the number of people doubting figures about anti-Jewish attacks and violence is growing as well. A 2019 poll found that about a third of Britons know little or nothing about the Holocaust, while 5% had never heard of it. In France, 20% of people aged 18-34 have never heard of the Holocaust. In the United States, 9% of millennials have never heard of the Holocaust, and over 40% of people do not know what Auschwitz was.

This situation cries out for more education, not less. Instead of hiding Henry Ford’s anti-Semitism and whitewashing his legacy, we need to use it to educate our children about the disastrous consequences of Ford’s writings and how to counter them. It’s a terrible mistake to deliberately forget the past. We need to confront Henry Ford’s legacy head-on, exposing and debunking the anti-Semitism he espoused.

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Post  Admin on Thu 31 Jan 2019, 8:56 pm
The 132-strong Israeli team containing both regular and reserve soldiers includes Search and Rescue units, the Navy’s Underwater Missions Unit, engineering experts, doctors, and firefighters as well as several dogs and their handlers from the IDF’s elite canine unit, ‘Oketz.’
An entire plane load of supplies, including rescue vehicles, equipment and medical supplies made the 14 hour flight with soldiers given vaccinations and briefed at the airport on what to expect.

Technology helps locate cellular signals
After being met at the airport by their military counterparts in Brazil, the team got to work.

“We immediately met with the fire department, the company which operates the dam and local rescue teams,” Cohen said. “We are working in teams in the worst affected places, according to where the Brazilians need us most.” Each team is equipped with drones, sonar equipment and crucially, advanced technology able to detect the location of cell phones.

Being briefed at Ben Gurion airport

“When we reach a new rescue site, we use an advanced technology which can detect cellular signals,” Cohen explained. “If we get a positive reaction, the dogs go in and then we start digging.” She added “In flooded areas, divers from the navy lead the search with sonar equipment.”

On Monday the Israeli teams retrieved 15 bodies and several more on Monday, sadly none of them alive. “We are hoping to find more, and we are doing everything we can,” Major Cohen said. The death toll rose to 65 and is expected to rise.

“Of course it’s difficult - it’s a terrible tragedy and emotionally hard. We meet together at the end of each day and there are mental health support staff here if we need.”

Warm Welcome
Major Cohen has served for 13 years in the Home Front. In Brazil she is tasked with maintaining close ties with civilians and local emergency services who she says are deeply appreciative.

“Yesterday I was with some people from one of the villages affected and I heard the same message from everyone I met, they are deeply grateful and have given as a very warm welcome.” She added, “I tell them, we are here for them and will do whatever we can to help.”

Israeli soldiers and divers search for survivorsThe mission has also prompted an outpouring of thanks on social media. One Brazilian from Sao Paulo wrote, “Thank you Israel! We will never forget what you are doing for us.” Another posted, “You have no idea how much it means to us. I hope this is the beginning of a great friendship between our peoples.”

Although the team are a little far away from the nearest Jewish community, they were nevertheless delivered a hot meal on their arrival from Chabad in Brazil.

Proud to be representing Israel
“There is an overwhelming feeling of pride among the Israeli delegation here,” Major Cohen said. “It is a terrible tragedy for these villages but I cannot emphasize enough how honored and privileged we feel to be representing Israel helping another nation in need.” She continued to stress the close connection with the Brazilian teams they are working alongside. “We are so proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Brazilian people and let them know that we are here for everything that they need. We know that back home the Israeli people feel the same.”

This is not the first time Israel has dispatched its humanitarian search and rescue teams abroad to assist in natural disasters. Among many mission, in 2010, Israel sent an emergency response team to the earthquake in Haiti and building field hospitals to treat the injured. In 2015, a team of search and rescue and medical staff were sent to Nepal following the powerful earthquake which struck the country and over 70 soldiers were sent to Mexico to help rescue bodies from collapsed buildings after the powerful September 2017 earthquake.

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Beneath a Scarlet Sky: Italian Heroism in the Holocaust
Jan 26, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
Beneath a Scarlet Sky: Italian Heroism in the Holocaust
A bestselling novel is reminding readers of real-life cases of Italian heroism in the face of danger.

They are stories that need to be told. As the Holocaust recedes ever further into history, it’s more imperative than ever to record history, ensuring we have the testimonies of those who witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust firsthand.

Recent years have seen a number of bestselling books about the Holocaust. One of the most celebrated recently is Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan, which is currently in production to be a major television movie starring Spider-Man hero Tom Holland. The book has been a runaway bestseller, reaching the top of Amazon Charts, and has been translated into ten languages. The story it tells is of a remarkable Italian hero who helped Jews escape the Holocaust. While fiction, it has some true components, and mirrors the real-life heroism of hundreds of Italians who risked their lives to help Jews.

Mark Sullivan first heard of the man on whom his fictional hero is based in 2006. Somebody mentioned a 79 year old man in Italy who said he’d helped rescue Jews. Fascinated, Sullivan placed a call to the man, Pino Lella, in Milan. “I understand you’re an unsung hero,” Sullivan said.

Mark Sullivan, left, and Giuseppe ‘Pino’ Lella

“I no hero. I’m more of a coward,” Lella replied.

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Things Judaism has Taught Me about Life
Jan 26, 2019
by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Pearls of hard-earned wisdom.

Things Judaism has Taught Me about Life

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

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!

The First Jew I Met in Iran
Jan 21, 2019  |  by Majid Rafizadeh
Face to face with the challenges of living a double life under the Iranian theocracy.

In my early 20s, I taught university in Iran under the rule of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. At the time, it was strictly forbidden, on pain of termination, to discuss human rights in class. However, I found it impossible not to bring up the topic in one of my classes. Young minds needed to know the truth, and I hoped that their reactions to the subject matter would generate new ideas and new hope in their generation. While I described to my students the terrible tragedy of the Holocaust, something grabbed my attention at the back of the class.

The class was segregated by gender, with boys sitting in the front rows of desks, and the girls seated in the back. One of my female students was crying. She cried so quietly that I might not have noticed, but for the subtle tremble of her shoulders. Small in size and wearing a gray scarf and mandatory Islamic dress, no one else noticed her crying. I was stunned by how emotional she was, and walked up to her with some tissues. I couldn’t help but wonder what had upset her to such a degree. At the time she didn’t offer me an explanation, so I returned to teaching the class.

Later, I learned that my student, Sara, had relatives on her grandfather’s side who died in the Holocaust. I was saddened and surprised. Many questions raced through my mind: Is she Jewish? The shock of that thought brought on another, important question. Why am I surprised to have met a Jew? Why did I suddenly begin feeling as if I had met a foreigner, someone from another country? Her relatives had actually lived longer than mine in Iran. Why was she hesitant to say that she was Jewish?

Why am I surprised to have met a Jew? Why did I suddenly begin feeling as if I had met a foreigner, someone from another country?
I soon came to understand the reason she felt the need to keep herself hidden. They were the same feelings that many other people commonly felt in the region when they were faced with the decision of whether to reveal that they were Jewish.

First, there are systematic and concerted efforts made from the top down by the theocratic regime and several other governments in the region to eliminate Jewish history. There is also a strong push to incite antagonism against the Jewish people.

The regime openly encourages debates that revolve around casting doubt on and questioning the authenticity of the Holocaust. They ratchet up anti-Israel slogans, and celebrate national anti-Israel holidays such as Quds Day. They promote and accept Holocaust deniers such as the former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the intricate teachings that may imply that Jews are impure (najis).

All of these actions, combined with many more forms of intimidation enacted by the regime, not only create a hostile environment for Jewish communities inside Iran, but also abroad.

Other examples of disrespect and fear-mongering that the regime engages in include inviting people from around the world to participate in Holocaust cartoon competitions with a nearly $50,000 prize. This is sponsored by two organizations that are directly or indirectly linked to the Iranian government. The Owj Arts and Media Organization is funded by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and the Sarcheshmeh Cultural Center is supported by the Islamic Development Organization (IDO), funded by the parliament.

To have the ruling leaders torment them in this way only further isolates the Jewish community and puts them at risk of being targeted by both extremists and regime loyalists.

These policies force many families and individuals to have two different lives in private and public, two different names, and maybe two different religions. This, in turn, breeds a deep mistrust toward the Jewish community, which only enhances the “them-versus-us” culture that has been building for decades. A deep division runs through the society, leaving interaction unstable at best, and potentially explosive at worst.

Despite generations of their families living on the same land, and the rich history and influence that they have had in the region, many Jews do not feel that they are safe or a welcome part of the society. One man I spoke to, who asked that his last name not be revealed, said he does not tell people about his life. This isolation is no longer just physical, but mental and emotional, a state of existence that could create long-lasting psychological trauma.

Second, the Iranian regime promotes its anti-Semitic and anti-Israel narrative through various means including the curriculum taught in schools, commentary on social media, news reports and entertainment on television, and nonstop political rhetoric. Its narrative does not stop at the borders of the Middle East. Lately, it has attracted an audience in the West as well.

From the perspective of these Islamist leaders, Jews, like other religious minorities, are regarded as a potential threat to the regime’s national security and national identity. They may be viewed as outsiders who disrupt the regime’s attempt to homogenize the population for easier control.

Since the Iranian regime is opposed to Israel’s existence, Iranian authorities view the Jewish people through prisms of suspicion.
One reason behind these perceptions of Iran’s theocratic establishment is that the roots of Jews in Iran date back to a pre-Islamic era, an era that the Iranian government attempts to de-emphasize or erase from the memory of the society. Another reason is rooted in the notion that for the Iranian regime, Jews and Israel are mingled in one category; if you are Jewish, the thinking goes, then you are an Israeli. Since the Iranian regime is opposed to Israel’s existence, Iranian authorities view the Jewish people through prisms of suspicion. They are viewed as Israeli allies, conspirators, and loyalists to Israel and the United States, not the Iranian government.

Some Jews secretly confess that they are indeed living two separate lives. In their private life they practice their faith, but in public they are extremely cautious, avoiding saying anything about their lives. Out of fear or in order to survive economically, socially, and academically, some may convert to Islam on the surface but continue to practice Judaism at home. Some have two names, one Muslim, one Jewish.

Despite this solid bias against Jews, in order to enhance its global legitimacy in some circumstances and events, the Iranian regime has boasted about tolerance, and pointed to the fact that there are Jews in Iran, as a sign that the regime is cosmopolitan and civil. Depending on the circumstance the Jewish community may be paraded past foreign governments as an example of progress, or trampled down by the Iranian regime as a toxic presence in the country and region.

Not surprisingly, I was admonished for speaking about human rights and the Holocaust in my class. I never saw Sara after the last day of class. She took the time to give me a thank-you card. She was carrying an English book with a title suggesting religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence. I hoped in that moment that I’d reached her, and my decision to speak about human rights had aided in the liberation of her mind, and hopefully the minds of her classmates.

When I flipped the card open to read it, the words inside brought tears to my eyes. It read, “My Hebrew name is Yaffa.”

This article originally appeared on

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Post  Admin on Fri 25 Jan 2019, 12:59 am

Martin Luther King: Quotes about Israel and Jews
Jan 19, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
Martin Luther King: Quotes about Israel and Jews
Stirring calls to live up to our potential and to look at others with fairness and warmth.

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of America’s most eloquent voices for civil rights, for humanity and for peace. Here are memorable quotes about Jews and Israel that contain King’s stirring calls to live up to our potential and to look at others with fairness and warmth.

Jews and African-Americans:
When King was invited to address the American Jewish Committee convention in 1958, he noted the great similarities between Jews and African Americans, who both experienced hatred and prejudice and who worked to overcome that hatred:

My people were brought to America in chains. Your people were driven here to escape the chains fashioned for them in Europe. Our unity is born of our common struggle for centuries, not only to rid ourselves of bondage, but to make oppression of any people by others an impossibility.

Anti-Semitism and racism:
There are Hitlers loose in America today, both in high and low places… As the tensions and bewilderment of economic problems become more severe, history(‘s) scapegoats, the Jews, will be joined by new scapegoats, the Negroes. The Hitlers will seek to divert people’s minds and turn their frustration and anger to the helpless, to the outnumbered. Then whether the Negro and Jew shall live in peace will depend upon how firmly they resist, how effectively they reach the minds of the decent Americans to halt this deadly diversion…. (May 14, 1958 address to the National Biennial Convention of the American Jewish Congress)

Probably more than any other ethnic group, the Jewish community has been sympathetic and has stood as an ally to the Negro in his struggle for justice. (March 26, 1968 address to the 68th annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly)

Learning from Jewish history:
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself. The Bible tells the thrilling story of how Moses stood in the Pharaoh’s court centuries ago and cried, ‘Let my people go’. This is a kind of opening chapter in a continuing story. The present struggle in our country is a later chapter in the same unfolding story. Something within has reminded the Negro of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. (Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963)

It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. (Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963)

Zionism and Anti-Semitism:
On October 27, 1967, just a few months after the Six Day War, King had dinner with students from Harvard University in Boston. Professor Seymour Martin Lipset was present and recalls how one of the students criticized Zionists. King was incensed, saying “Don’t talk like that!” - and continuing:

When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism!

The following year, just days before his tragic murder, King addressed an annual Jewish assembly and explained his pro-Israel feelings at greater length. He explained that Israel and Arab states had different conceptions of what constitutes “peace”. Arab states are consumed with inequality and require fundamental changes in their societies before they can feel secure. Israel, in contrast, desires only secure borders and for the world to recognize its right to exist.

Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all of our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity and the right to use whatever sea lanes it needs. I see Israel, and never mind saying it, as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality. (March 26, 1968 address to the 68th annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly)

Fighting for Soviet Jews:
On December 11, 1966, King addressed 50,000 people in 32 states at demonstrations for Soviet Jews via a telephone hookup. His eloquent words reminded the crowds that they all had a vital responsibility to work to help their fellow Jews who were trapped in the Soviet Union. Here are three quotes from that stirring speech:

We cannot sit complacently by the wayside while our Jewish brothers in the Soviet Union face the possible extinction of their cultural and spiritual life. Those that sit at rest, while others take pains, are tender turtles and buy their quite with disgrace.

The denial of human rights anywhere is a threat to the affirmation of human rights everywhere.

Jewish history and culture are a part of everyone’s heritage, whether he be Jewish, Christian or Muslim.

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968 at the age of 39. His stirring words continue to live on, inspiring us to work towards his vision of a world without hatred, without prejudice. His palpable affection and respect for Israel and the Jewish people can inspire us today.

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Post  Admin on Sat 19 Jan 2019, 12:15 am

The Song of Faith
Beshalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16)
Jan 13, 2019
by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
The Song of Faith
Converting despair into hope.
The Shabbos that Parashas Beshalach is read is known as “Shabbos Shirah — the “Sabbath of Song” — because it is in this parashah that Moses leads the Jewish men, and Miriam the prophetess, leads the Jewish women in singing the Song of Praise and Exultation to the Almighty God following the crossing of the Sea of Reeds. The special song that Moses composed is “Az Yashir — Then Moses will sing.” The use of the future tense teaches us that Moses not only sang at the Sea of Reeds, but he will lead us in song once again when we behold our final redemption: the coming of Messiah. In the interim, we, the Jewish people, recite the song of Moses every morning in our prayers as we express gratitude to God.
How does one sing unto God? Is it possible for mere humans to praise Him?
Moses opened his song with the awesome words, “Ashirah la’Hashem … I shall sing to Hashem for He is exalted above the arrogant ….”1
But how high is God? Can we compare Him to anything that we human beings have experienced? Moses, the greatest man ever to walk on planet Earth, was keenly aware of this human inadequacy, so he contented himself with the phrase, “ga’oh ga’ah,” which is literally translated “high, high” (exalted above), followed by a blank space in the text. In fact, every stanza of Moses’ song is followed by a blank space, so that we might realize that no mortal can even hope to comprehend the infinite, the Divine.
In our culture of hedonism and instant gratification, it is vital to absorb this message, for ours is a generation that may lose faith at the slightest disappointment. “How could God have allowed this to happen to me?” we protest indignantly. So, when events do not turn out as anticipated, let us remember the message of Moses: leave a blank space and remain silent, anchored to our faith.
Converting Despair Into Hope
Miriam the prophetess not only led the women in song, but she did so with tambourines and drums. From where did she obtain those instruments? The desert was hardly a place to purchase them. A profound lesson is to be found in those instruments. While enveloped in brutal bondage in the “Auschwitz” of Egypt, Miriam the prophetess prepared drums and tambourines, in the faith that one day redemption would come and give the nation cause to sing and celebrate. It is this pure faith that Jewish women instilled in our people, it is this faith that enabled us to survive the centuries, and it is this faith that we must summon whenever we find ourselves in predicaments that appear to be hopeless.
When counseling people embroiled in trying and untenable situations, our esteemed mother, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, often advises them to take their cue from Miriam: The name Miriam means “bitter” (as in maror of the Seder table); but through her faith, Miriam converted bitterness into hope and renewed life. So, instead of giving in to despair, get a tambourine and trust God. Our mother, a survivor of the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, is living testimony to that trust.
A Song That Springs from the Heart
Shirah is more than a song: It is an expression of jubilation and exultation that springs from the inner recesses of the soul.
At the Splitting of the Reed Sea, the Jewish people, in its entirety, witnessed events of a magnitude that even the illustrious prophets did not behold. The heavens opened as the Children of Israel beheld angels, the Patriarchs, and the Matriarchs; they saw the very Hand of God. A simple handmaiden was able to point and cry out in joy, “This is my God ….”
But there is yet another dimension to this song of Moses that makes it so special, and this uniqueness is to be found in the Hebrew word, “az” with which Moses commenced the song. It was with this very same word, “az,” that Moses previously questioned God and complained, “Mei’az … — From the time I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your Name, he [Pharaoh] did evil to this people, but You did not rescue Your people.”2 And now, with this very same word, “Az,” Moses proclaims God’s praise.
Sometimes we sing songs of praise to thank God for having saved us from danger and suffering, and we also sing to acknowledge the miracles He performed on our behalf. But that gratitude takes on a totally different dimension when we become aware that even the danger and suffering that we experienced were for our own benefit, and realize that through that affliction, we came to realize our potential and achieved greatness. Our bondage in Egypt enabled us to come to Sinai and accept God’s Covenant, for only a nation that endured suffering could appreciate the true meaning of Hashem’s chesed. Only such a nation could be worthy of accepting God’s covenant and all the responsibilities entailed therein — to become a “light unto the nations,” witnesses to God’s Presence.
Now we can better understand why, when the Torah speaks about Moses singing the song at the Splitting of the Sea, the word used is Yashir — will sing, for when the Messiah comes, Moses will once again lead us in song with the word “Az” and we will understand the meaning of our long exile and our pain.
In the interim, we must always keep that vision in mind. We must always be aware that even when problems overwhelm us, even when we find ourselves enveloped in darkness, God’s Presence is always there and our suffering is not random or for naught. As Isaiah states, “I thank You, Hashem, for You were angry with me and now … You have comforted me.”3
Recreating Yourself
It is written that when our Forefathers departed from Egypt, God took them via a circuitous route rather than on the way that would lead them directly to the Land of Israel. At first glance, this is difficult to understand. Why would God have us traverse an inhospitable desert where there was no provision for food or water when we could have passed through the land of the Philistines and be assured of sustenance? There is an important teaching to be learned here. The Almighty was concerned that we would not be able to withstand the temptations and the pressures of Philistine society; contact with them might prompt us to return to Egypt, not only in a physical sense, but in our outlook as well. It is not only from the land of Egypt that we had to depart. More significantly, we had to remove the immorality and corruption of Egypt from ourselves. We had to experience the desert so that we might be re-created, re-shaped, and thus become the Priestly Kingdom, the holy nation that God willed us to be.
We must derive a lesson for life from this. That which appears to be short and comfortable sometimes turns out to be arduous and hazardous. Physical risks can be overcome, but once we lose our values and our morals, we lose the very essence of our lives. Accordingly, we must be vigilant and guard our souls; we must carefully choose the neighborhood in which we live; the environment in which we work, and the place where we vacation. We are never to underestimate the deleterious effects of living in a corrupt environment. Sometimes, it is more prudent to take a longer, circuitous path and, if necessary, change direction, in order to avoid a situation that would prove destructive to our spiritual well-being.
1. Ibid. 15:1.
2. Ibid. 5:23.
3. Isaiah 12:1.
Find what you’re looking for – in the weekly Torah portion. ArtScroll has a large and exciting variety of books on the weekly Torah portion. For personalized
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Post  Admin on Tue 15 Jan 2019, 11:18 pm

How Rabbi Noah Weinberg’s Warmth and Wisdom Reached This Confused Jew
Jan 15, 2019  |  by Francine Barish-Stern
How Rabbi Noah Weinberg’s Warmth and Wisdom Reached This Confused Jew
I am one among so many who have benefitted from his wisdom, dedication and love for Judaism and his fellow man.

The first time I ever heard Rabbi Noah Weinberg speak I was hooked. His tone, his language, his way of addressing an issue; I felt like he was talking directly to me and answering the issues I was grappling with and experiencing.

I grew up in an observant family but moved away from Judaism due to what I perceived as a child to be sexist views in Judaism.

Eventually I became as secular a Jew as they come. Three times a year I dusted my Judaism off and paraded it out for all to see, and then quickly stuck it away for another year.

But when my children were born I was determined to give them a Jewish home and a Jewish education. I even sent them to Solomon Schechter Day School. We joined a temple and in 1989, celebrated our B’Nai Mitzvah together – mother and two sons.

But something happened when my mother died in 1995. My whole world fell apart. One son became a born again Christian and one son became very distant from any religious connection. It was only through the help of the Cantor from my synagogue that I started to set my feet rooted in my heritage and began to rise out of my abyss.

By 2005 I was celebrating Shabbat each week, trying to not eat milk and meat, definitely no pork, and reading the Torah on a regular basis. Although I didn’t accept either of my son’s choices, they were adults and I had to concentrate on me. My friends and family all thought I was going from one extreme to the other, but I wasn’t going to be deterred. Even though I knew it was still a long road to reclaiming my Judaism, I knew I had to keep going.

That year I was searching online for anything that might be that bridge to the next level in my spiritual path… and there I found Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory. Inspired by his talks, I searched for anything with his name on it.

I discovered that he had traveled a long and sometimes shaky road to becoming the founder of Aish HaTorah. His wisdom and love for every Jew enabled him to reach people of all ages and different religious backgrounds.

By the time I found Rabbi Weinberg’s large collection of work, I was a rather confused and lost Jew. I devoured his “48 Ways to Wisdom,” and started listening to the audio collections. I read his articles on numerous Jewish sites and eventually became a regular at His concepts that life was beautiful and filled with joy were a revelation from the solemn religious teaching I had experienced. It was truly liberating!

But the turning point for me was watching his videos. I found a new level of understanding. Just watching the Rabbi speak; his natural ability to connect with each person, the way he moved as he discussed deep issues, his style that made a serious subject into a questioning joke, and the smile that followed, and his manner that just commanded your attention.

Rav Noah saw potential in everyone, even when they didn’t see it in themselves.
He taught that Judaism doesn’t require all or nothing…baby steps are okay. He saw potential in everyone, even when they didn’t see it in themselves, and that was my connection too! So many years had passed and I was in such a bad place. Could I really scratch my way out and connect to the person that Rabbi Weinberg inspired in me?

Just looking at his face gave me hope. There was a light that shone from his eyes; he exuded a simple grace and a warmth in his smile that said, “Pay attention, he knows what you need!” Even today, 10 years after his passing, I can still see his face and be moved to a place that inspires me to be better and to push on.

I continue to read and listen to the Rabbi’s enormous library of work, and use the book, “Wisdom for Living, Rabbi Noach Weinberg on the Parashah,” as a source for my weekly in-depth understanding of the Torah portion.

On this 10th yahrzeit of Rabbi Noah Weinberg, I am one among so many who have benefitted and are still benefiting from his wisdom, dedication and love for Judaism and his fellow man. He is sorely missed, but his memory is truly for a blessing!

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Post  Admin on Sun 13 Jan 2019, 9:15 pm

Muslim Heroes of the Holocaust
Jan 12, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
Muslim Heroes of the Holocaust
Four remarkable stories that some Muslims don’t want to be publicized.

When the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham Islamic Centre opened in the heavily Jewish London neighborhood of Golders Green in 2017, they promised to reach out to Jewish residents. In January 2019, they planned to launch a major exhibit highlighting Muslim heroes who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

Local Muslims were outraged. Some were particularly incensed that the Islamic Center partnered with Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Center. Faced with mounting opposition, the Islamic Center cancelled the exhibit.

That’s a shame because the story they planned to tell is a vital one: among the thousands of “Righteous Among the Nations” heroes identified by Yad Vashem as having risked their lives to save Jews, scores of these saviors were Muslim. Their remarkable stories deserve to be known.

Here are four Muslims who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Let’s not allow extremists to erase their history.

Dr. Mohamed Helmy
Mohamed Helmy was born in Sudan to Egyptian parents, and moved to Berlin at the age of 21 to study medicine. Dr. Helmy settled in Germany, eventually rising in his profession to become head of the Urology Department at the Robert Koch Hospital in Berlin. There, he witnessed Jewish doctors being fired in 1933. Dr. Helmy was even briefly imprisoned along with other Egyptians living in Germany, but was eventually released and allowed to continue practicing medicine. Despite the dangers, Dr. Helmy publicly spoke out against Nazi policies.

When war broke out and Jews began to be arrested in Berlin, Dr. Helmy risked his life to save one family. He was good friends with a Jewish woman named Anna Boros, and he told her she could stay in a cabin he owned in a picturesque Berlin neighborhood named Buch. German authorities investigated Dr. Helmy several times, suspecting him of hiding Jews.

In those periods he arranged for Anna to hide with a different family. “The Gestapo knew that Dr. Helmy was our family physician,” Anna later testified, “and they knew that he owned a cabin in Berlin-Buch. He managed to evade all their interrogations. In such cases he would bring me to friends where I would stay for several days, introducing me as his cousin from Dresden. When the danger would pass, I would return to his cabin...Dr. Helmy did everything for me out of the generosity of his heart and I will be grateful to him for eternity.”

Unbeknownst to Anna, Dr. Helmy even obtained documents from the Central Islamic Institute in Berlin, declaring (falsely) that Anna had converted to Islam and had married an Egyptian in Dr. Helmy’s home, believing that this might save her from deportation if she was ever caught. Dr. Helmy also helped Anna’s mother Julie and step-father Gerog Wehr and her grandmother Cecilie Rudnik find shelter with other families, and helped them with medical problems during the war. In 1944, the Wehrs were caught and interrogated and they let slip that Dr. Helmy was helping them and hiding their daughter. Dr. Helmy raced to move Anna to another safe spot, and provided the authorities with a false letter from Anna saying she was staying with her aunt in the town of Dessau to throw them off her track.

Anna Boros Gutman (second from left) during her visit to Berlin with her daughter Carla (extreme left), Dr. Helmy and his wife Emmi (right), 1969 (Photo: Yad Vashem)

Anna, her parents and her grandmother all survived the war thanks to Dr. Helmy and the other Berliners who helped shelter the family. Anna and her relatives moved to the United States and immediately began writing letters to the Berlin Senate seeking recognition for Dr. Helmy and his friends. In 2013, Yad Vashem named Mohamed Helmy a Righteous Among the Nations for risking his life to help Jews during the Holocaust.

Salahattin Ulkumen
When World War II broke out, Selahattin Ulkumen, a 30-year-old Turkish civil servant, was the Turkish Consul General on the Greek island of Rhodes. The island was home to nearly 2,000 Jews, many of whom could trace their roots back to the 1492 expulsion of Jews from Spain. Most of these Jews had Greek or Italian citizenship, but some had Turkish papers. When Germany started deporting Rhodes’ Jews in 1944, Ulkumen realized he could help save the island’s Turkish Jews.

Identification portrait of Salahattin Ulkumen, Turkish Consul-General in Rhodes.
On July 19, 1944, the local Gestapo ordered all Jews to report to the island’s train station. They were destined for the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. Ulkumen went up to Ulrich Kleeman, the general in charge, protesting, telling him that Turkey was a neutral party and demanding that all Jews with Turkish citizenship – and their spouses – be released at once.

Ulkumen later recalled that “The German commander said that, according to Nazi laws, all Jews are Jews and had to go to concentration camps. I objected. I said that, under Turkish law there is no difference between whether a citizen was Jewish, Christian or Muslim...I said that I would advise my government if he didn’t release the Jewish Turks and that it would cause an international incident. Then he agreed.”

Ulkumen’s speech was largely a bluff: he had no orders to save the Jewish Turks and was acting on his own initiative. Moreover, Turkish law didn’t dictate that the spouses of Turks had Turkish citizenship; he made that up on the spot. In all, Ulkumen saved about 13 Turkish citizens and another 40 Jews with Turkish connections.

Salahattin Ulkumen at Yad Vashem

In some cases, he intervened personally to help individual Jews evade deportation. Albert Franko was married to a Turkish wife. Learning that he had this Turkish connection, Ulkumen had Franko removed from a train that was already on its way to Auschwitz. In another case, Ulkumen went up to a Turkish Jewish citizen, Matilda Toriel, as she queued to report to Gestapo headquarters, and told her not to enter. He then went into headquarters and insisted that her husband, who was an Italian citizen, be released as well. In all, Ulkumen succeeded in adding another 25-30 names to the Gestapo’s list of Turkish Jews, insisting that these Jews were Turkish and had simply allowed their Turkish documents to lapse.

After the war, Albert Franko, Matilda Toriel and other Jews Ulkumen saved told Yad Vashem of his bravery. In 1989, Selahattin Ulkumen was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.

Lime Balla
In 1943, Lime Balla was a 22-year-old housewife living with her husband Destan in the Albanian village of Shengjerji. During the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in 1943, 17 Jews escaped from the city of Tirana to the countryside, finding refuge in Lime’s village. Lime and Destan, like other Albanian Muslims, adhered to an intense honor code called “Besa”, which mandated that people protect guests at all cost. For many of Albania’s Jews, Besa was a lifesaver, as Albanian Muslims shielded Jews from deportation by German occupying authorities.

Villagers took in the 17 Jews, disguising them as farmers and sheltering them for 15 months. Lime and Destan took in two brothers, Solomon and Mordechai Lazar. “We were poor,” Lime later recalled. “We didn’t even have a dining table – but we never allowed them (the Lazar brothers) to pay for the food or shelter. I went into the forest to chop wood and haul water. We grew vegetables in our garden so we all had plenty to eat.”

One of Lime’s nephews was a partisan fighting the Nazis in the city of Pristina, and in December 1944 the village’s Jews left for Pristina where partisans continued to shelter and help them. Lime lost contact with Solomon and Mordechai until 1990, when the brothers contacted her. They were living in Israel. Once the Soviet Union had dissolved, it became possible for Albanians like Lime to speak about their wartime activities openly for the first time. In 1992, Yad Vashem recognized Lime and Destan Balla as Righteous Among the Nations.

Khaled Abdul Wahab
Khaled Abdul Wahab was a wealthy Tunisian landowner in the picturesque Tunisian town of Mahdia when World War II broke out. He sheltered Jews and saved Jewish women from being attacked by German soldiers.

In the 1940s, Tunisia had a large Jewish population. Jews from Tunisia were not deported to death camps the way Jews in Europe were, but after Germans invaded Tunisia in 1942, they started enforcing draconian anti-Jewish laws. Annie Buchris was a Jewish girl in Mahdia whose world was turned upside down with the German occupation. Jews had to wear yellow stars on their clothes and many Jews lost their homes. Annie’s house was taken over by German soldiers and her father and brothers were sent to a forced labor camp. German troops forced Annie and her mother live and work in an olive oil factory from which they were barred from leaving.

Khaled was friends with Annie’s father Jacob. Khaled started frequenting German establishments and befriending Nazis in order to spy on them and learn what new horrors they were planning. One evening he heard a plan that made his blood run cold. The Germans were forcing some Jewish women to work in a brothel – and one Nazi told Khaled that he wanted his friend Jacob Buchris’ wife to work there too. Khaled knew he had to intervene.

He plied the Nazi officer with alcohol until he was drunk, then drove to the olive oil factory and informed the Buchris family that they were in danger. He waited as the Buchrises and about two dozen other Jews living in the factory packed their belongings and then took them to a farm his family owned nearby.

One of the Jewish girls who sheltered in the farm was Eva Weiseldec, who later recorded testimony about Khaled’s bravery. “One night,” she recalled, “he ferried the women, children and old men in our family to a farm he owned about 20 miles outside of town. There, he said, we would be safe…. As luck would have it, however, a German unit arrived in the area not long after we did. Our host told us to get rid of our yellow stars, stay inside the farm walls and keep far away from the main house.”

Khaled hosted Germans in his farm while two dozen Jews hid just meters away in a different part of the property.

Some Nazis knew Jews were hiding on the farm. One night, drunken German officers wandered over to the barn and shouted, “We know you are Jews and we’re coming to get you!” Khaled rushed over and somehow persuaded the officers to leave the Jews alone. “The next day,” she recalled, “our host came to the stables. We rushed to express our thanks to him, but he was more eager to apologize to us. He said he was sorry that we had to face the terrifying ordeal of the Germans’ threats, expressed relief that he had intervened in time to prevent a horrible tragedy, and promised that it would never happen again.”

The two dozen Jews stayed in Khaled’s farm until British troops took over the area in 1943 and they could return to their homes.

Click here to read the incredible story of Zayneba and Mustafa Hardaga.

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Post  Admin on Sun 13 Jan 2019, 8:49 pm
Resilience of an Injured Israeli Soldier
Jan 5, 2019  |  by Adam Ross
Critically injured in a terrorist attack, Idan Levy refused to give up his dream.
Only the top Israeli soldiers are selected for officer school and many don’t make the cut. It involves more time in the army, taking additional responsibility and leading younger soldiers. Idan Levy, (19) serving in the IDF Logistical Corps, was a year and a half into his military service when his commanders recommended him for the prestigious course.
On 8th January 2017, three weeks before graduating, Idan’s unit arrived at a Jerusalem lookout point to begin an educational seminar when an Arab terrorist rammed his 10 ton truck into them. Four soldiers were killed in the attack and 13 were seriously injured, including Idan who was clinging to his life.
The four victims

“We were standing in a circle, waiting to meet the educational officer to show us the site,” Idan says, “but I don’t remember much else from that day. Everything I can tell you about what happened is from the news and video tapes which captured the attack.”

CCTV footage showed the terrorist plowing his truck into the soldiers at high speed then turning around to run them over a second time before soldiers and a passing Israeli tour guide shot and killed him at the scene.

Idan sustained a serious head injury, a ripped artery in his throat and severe damage to one of his legs. Unconscious, he was rushed to Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital for emergency surgery which saved his life.

He remained in the hospital for five months as his leg was rebuilt and he underwent intensive physiotherapy which continues to today. Due to seriousness of his injuries, he was told by the army that he would be discharged from his military service. For Idan, this was devastating news.

“It was a real low point to feel this being taken away,” he said. “I had dreamed about serving as an officer for years. My maternal grandparents and paternal great grandparents moved to Israel generations ago to escape persecution.

There was one sentence he would say over and over, which I really held onto. “God only challenges those who can handle it.”
“My choice to serve as an officer was an essential part of who I was. I wasn’t about to let it go. I told them I wasn’t accepting their decision and refused to listen very time they brought it up. After a few weeks I think they understood how important it was for me to serve my country.”

Fighting back to recovery
Convincing the army was his first victory. Now he needed to muster the strength to recover. Inspiration came from Idan’s hospital roommate. “There was one sentence he would say over and over, which I really held onto. ‘God only challenges those who can handle it.’

“I grew up with a belief in God and we had a strong Jewish culture at home. I started to find strength in recognizing that there was a purpose to my life, my recovery and in turn my motivation to go back to service grew stronger by the day.”

Idan was also inspired by an impromptu hospital visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “It was a huge surprise,” Idan says. “He asked about my injuries, how I was feeling and also how I felt about returning to the army. He gave me a lot encouragement.”

Israeli PM visiting Idan

Two weeks later, he convinced the hospital to let him check out for the day to attend the graduation of his officers’ course. Accompanied by his parents and friends he took his place in an emotional ceremony in the presence of a senior IDF general with three seats left empty as a tribute for the soldiers killed in the attack. The fourth fatality had been an instructor.

“We received our pins and there were long hugs between us all,” Idan recalls, “Despite what had happened, we wanted above all else to finish the course together.”

New appreciation for life
“I realized then how grateful I am to be simply alive. In the hospital I saw people with no arms and legs and I gained a new appreciation for life.”

The day Idan came home from hospital dozens of family members and friends were waiting to greet him. “They have played a huge part in helping me to recover. The first holiday after I came out of hospital was Pesach. On Seder night I was sitting around the table with my grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins and I remember thinking to myself that a loving family is the most wonderful thing a person can have.”

Idan is an only child, which made his recovery even more meaningful for his family. “Sometimes my mom just hugs me for no reason. I think she’s just so happy I’m alive.”

Thinking positive
He has maintained a close connection to the other soldiers injured in the attack, some of whom still suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. “It helps to speak about the attack,” he says. “We help each other.”

“I am optimistic, my philosophy on life now is really just about looking for the good. The ability to walk and talk. everything is really a gift. I can honestly say that I barely find myself feeling sad.”

First Lieutenant, Idan Levy

Now with the rank of First Lieutenant, Idan Levy realized his dream at an induction ceremony at the Western Wall. He is back in uniform proudly serving as an officer in the IDF Logistics corps, with responsibilities for organizing reserve troops training. With eight soldiers under his command, he has much life wisdom to offer.

“I share with my soldiers the things that I have taken from my experience,” he says. “It taught me how you can get over things, not let them get you down, the importance of getting up again and fighting back.”

“I have learned to always smile at life, to look at what you have and to appreciate everything in your life.”

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Post  Admin on Thu 10 Jan 2019, 9:34 pm

The Influence of the Hebrew Bible on America's Founding
Jan 5, 2019
by Ollie Anisfeld and J-TV
The Influence of the Hebrew Bible on America's Founding

The untold story of the Torah’s impact on America's founders and the political documents they codified.

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Post  Admin on Sun 06 Jan 2019, 6:11 pm

Jews, Genetics and the New World
Jan 6, 2019  |  by Rabbi Avi Shafran
Recent studies indicate that a significant segment of the immigrants who settled the New World were descended from Jews.

When my family lived in Providence, Rhode Island back in the 1980’s and early ‘90s, I heard rumors that some of the city’s residents of Cape Verdean ancestry had a strange custom. Friday afternoons, they would turn over the traditional Catholic religious paintings common to Cape Verdeans’ homes to face the wall, and then light candles.

Cape Verde is a group of islands off the west coast of Africa that were uninhabited until discovered by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century. Among the immigrants to the islands from Europe, historians contend, were Spanish and Portuguese Jews fleeing the Catholic Inquisitions in those lands. One of the islands’ towns is called Sinagoga, Portuguese for “synagogue,” and surnames of Jewish origin can still be found in the area.

In the early 19th century, many Cape Verdeans found their way to the New World, and Providence is home to one of the oldest and largest Cape Verdean communities in the U.S.

I was reminded of my former neighbors’ purported practice when reading of a recent study published in the scientific journal Nature, examining the DNA of thousands of members of another population with roots in the Iberian Peninsula: Latin Americans.

The researchers sampled the DNA of 6,500 people across Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, which they compared to that of 2,300 people all over the world. Nearly a quarter of the Latin Americans shared 5 percent or more of their ancestry with people living in North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean, including self-identified Sephardi Jews.

That degree of Jewish ancestry is more pronounced than that of people in Spain and Portugal today, indicating that a significant segment of the immigrants who settled the New World were descended from Jews.

It is no great surprise that so large a portion of a population that emigrated from Spain centuries ago have Jewish ancestry. It is estimated that when the Spanish Inquisition began in 1478, approximately one-fifth of the Spanish population, between 300,000-800,000 people, were Jews. By 1492, when the Alhambra Decree gave the choice between expulsion and conversion, the number had dwindled to 80,000. Most of the “missing” Jews had undergone superficial conversions and retained their Jewish identity and practices in secret. They are called “crypto-Jews,” conversos or anusim. Many of them, though, along with many other Spanish and Portuguese Jews who refused conversion, sailed away from the Iberian Peninsula to seek refuge on new shores.

There is no way, of course, to prove that those emigrants were the source of the apparent Jewish ancestry of so many Latin Americans today, but the genetic test results dovetail neatly with the historical record, indicating that a new population began to appear in Latin America around the time of the Inquisitions.

Bolstering the genetic connection is a 2011 study that found that several rare genetic diseases (including a cancer associated with the BRCA1 gene and a form of dwarfism) that appear in Jews also show up among Latin Americans. Albert Einstein College of Medicine geneticist Harry Ostrer, one of the study’s researchers, said, “It’s not just one disease… this isn’t a coincidence.”

The newer study’s results indicate that there may currently be over 150 million Latin Americans with a degree of Jewish ancestry.

Some Latinos who believe they have Jewish roots seek to reclaim a Jewish identity, even undergoing conversion ceremonies; some have even converted according to Jewish law. Others just take note, and pride, in their ostensible Jewish genealogical heritage. New Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose family comes from Puerto Rico, recently revealed that her family tradition includes some Sephardic Jewish ancestry.

Genetic studies, of course, have no import in Jewish law. And not only because Jewishness depends on the maternal line. Even in analyses of mitochondrial DNA – which passes down only through females – genetic findings do not meet the halachic requirements for establishing Jewish identity.

Yet it’s intriguing to read stories of people across Latin America whose family tradition is to shun pork and light candles on Fridays and cover mirrors when mourning the deaths of relatives. And stories like the one I heard about some of Providence’s Cape Verdeans.

And depressing to think of all the Jewish families that were lost to Klal Yisrael over history to persecution and the resultant intermarriage and assimilation.

But the resurgence of interest – and pride – in even tenuous Jewish connections is heartening too.

For it recalls what the Prophet Zecharyah (8:23) predicts for the time of Mashiach: that “ten men from all the languages of the nations will take hold… of the tallis of a Jew, saying: ‘We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’.”

This article originally appeared in Hamodia Magazine.

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Post  Admin on Sat 05 Jan 2019, 12:58 am

Preparing for Death
Dec 29, 2018  |  by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg
Preparing for Death
8 things you can do now to avoid compounding your family’s pain later.

Death is a highly uncomfortable and awkward subject. As a result, most people do all they can to avoid the subject altogether. While we would prefer to see ourselves as living forever, the Torah instructs us that, in fact, reflecting on our mortality and being mindful of our transience are critical to living an inspired life and making the most of each day. Indeed, it is for this reason that King Solomon, the wisest of all men, encouraged us to prefer spending time in a house of mourning to spending time in a house of celebration.

Overcoming the taboo and talking about death are not only important to inspire how we live life, but are actually acts of love and devotion to those whom we will ultimately leave behind. A few years ago, a woman in our community died suddenly. She was never married and had no children, but I remembered that she had a brother. I went to her home and rifled through paperwork in an effort to find his information so that I could inform him of the terrible news. It took a significant amount of time to make contact with him and even longer to ascertain what arrangements she had made.

The more the deceased has planned, organized, and communicated his or her wishes, the less speculation, conflict, and compounded pain the bereaved will face at their time of loss and grief. Put simply, it is not only negligent, but also unkind, not to have one’s “matters in order,” irrespective of how young or healthy he or she may presently be, or how uncomfortable it may be to think about and prepare for death.

None of us would ever intentionally cause or contribute to the pain or anguish of our family members. Yet failing to prepare likely will lead to complicating and, more likely, compounding the pain of our loved ones when we are gone.

For the sake of your family, please considering arranging the following as soon as possible:

1. ICE – Upon arriving at the scene of an accident or emergency, paramedics are trained to look on the patient’s cell phone for an ICE – an In Case of Emergency entry that lists emergency contacts. Access to the right person and the right information can be the difference between life and death. Add an ICE entry to your cell phone phonebook immediately and consider downloading an ICE app that will allow access to your emergency contact(s) even when your phone is locked.

2. Life Insurance – Both Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe Orach Chaim 2:111) and Rav Ovadiah Yosef (Yechaveh Daat 3:85) were asked if purchasing life insurance reflects a lack of faith and trust in God. They responded that as long as one remembers that it is God who empowered us with the wisdom to create life insurance and enabled us with this tool to protect our families, it is absolutely permitted and appropriate. They extend this endorsement to fire, theft, and car insurance as well. Nobody ever plans to be diagnosed with a terminal illness or to be the victim of a fatal accident. We cannot predict when our end will come, but we can plan so that the pain of our loss will not be compounded by financial instability, hardship and disaster.

3. Disability Insurance – Life insurance can help provide for one’s family members if one dies, but what would happen if he or she suffered a debilitating injury or an incapacitating illness precluding the ability to work and provide an income? Disability insurance is only a luxury if it is never needed. We pray it will never be a necessity, but we would be foolish not to have it in case.

4. Living Will & Health Care Proxy according to Jewish Law – A myriad of complicated questions can arise in medical treatment, particularly at the end of life. This legal document empowers the patient to determine in advance what choices he or she would prefer within the parameters of Jewish law and who is authorized to communicate those choices to medical professionals if the need arises. Moreover, rather than leaving wishes and desires ambiguous so that others are guessing and speculating, this document spells them out. Additionally, instead of conflict arising over how decisions are reached or which rabbinic authority should be consulted, the living will documents the decision-making process and sequence. The document can name a specific rabbi (or rabbis) or refer the decision to an organization, such as the Bioethics Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. This is not a document reserved for the old or infirm. Every adult should have one on record and it should be reviewed and updated every few years and as circumstances demand – and discussed with your spouse, children or relatives, so your wishes are clear.

5. Will – Don’t leave loved ones guessing or fighting over how you want your assets divided. You work hard for your money and it should be properly distributed among family, friends, and charities in a thoughtful, intentional and halachik manner. You can use your estate to leave not only a legacy for your family, but a legacy gift to the community, Shul or schools that impacted your family. If you still have minor children, identify who will be responsible for them and ask their permission to stipulate such in your will. If you want to designate a specific piece of jewelry, art or memento to a particular person, specify that in your will or other document.

6. Ethical Will – When Yaakov anticipated his demise he called his family around his death bed in order to give them each blessings and charge them as a family. Throughout the millennia, prominent rabbis and leaders have recorded ethical wills communicating their values, vision, and passions to the next generation. Don’t just leave children and grandchildren financial assets. Leave them your vision for who they could become and the most important values you hope they will pursue.

7. Burial Arrangements – Where do you want to be buried, including Israel? Do you want a chapel service or a graveside service? Whom would you like to officiate? Does your family know that you want a Jewish burial according to Jewish law and for them to sit a full shiva and say kaddish? Have you bought a plot and purchased a “pre-need” package with a funeral home which is significantly less expensive that needing to buy it “at need?” Record your burial wishes in detail, including important biographical information that you would hope to be included in your eulogy, such as the major influences in your life and people and milestones that you were most grateful for or proud of. Are there particular relatives or friends or other people whom you would like to be invited to speak at your funeral?

8. Organized File – Perhaps most importantly, gather all of the above documentation and place it in a clearly designated place (paper and/or electronic) that your loved ones are aware of and have access to. Include your doctors, rabbi, and attorney and their contact information, your bank accounts, cemetery deed, safety deposit box (and location of keys), insurance information, financial advisors and brokers, inventory of assets and real estate, etc., so that nobody will be left guessing and searching for important information when it is needed. If you are one of those pack rats who hides money and jewelry in books or crevices around the house, tell someone where to look, so they do not get discarded with your other belongings or wind up with the next occupant of your house or apartment.

You may be reading this thinking it is excellent advice for someone else, for the elderly or the sick and infirm. But being responsible and planning appropriately are for every adult, every married person and certainly for every parent or grandparent. Don’t only consider making all of these arrangements yourself, but plan to speak to your children and grandchildren about their making such arrangements for themselves as well. Such preparations and arrangements are not taught in school. They rely on you to provide guidance and support in these areas. Not only is communicating these ideas to your children and grandchildren the right thing to do, but it is also in your interest, for their failure to plan, will likely become your emergency.

May we all merit to live full and meaningful lives realizing great longevity. In the meantime, let’s show our loved ones how much we care by making the proper preparations now, so they won’t have to later.

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Post  Admin on Thu 27 Dec 2018, 11:05 pm
Dona Gracia Nasi & the Spanish Inquisition’s Underground Railroad
Dec 22, 2018  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
Dona Gracia Nasi & the Spanish Inquisition’s Underground Railroad
Gracia Nasi defied the Spanish Inquisition to ferry thousands of Jews to safety.

Dona Gracia Nasi was a great Jewish hero. For decades she ran an underground railroad for Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition and single-handedly supported Jewish communities in Italy, Turkey and Israel. Praised during her lifetime as “the heart of her people”, Dona Gracia Nasi’s story is hardly remembered today. That should change; her remarkable story deserves to be known.

She was born into a secret Jewish family in Portugal in 1510 and given the royal-sounding name of Beatrice de Luna as her legal name – and Gracia Nasi as her secret Jewish name.

Gracia’s family were merchants who likely had fled the Spanish Inquisition in 1492. When Jews were expelled from Portugal three years later, many decided to stay, becoming “Conversos” or supposed converts to Christianity in public, but maintaining Jewish lives in private. The Portuguese authorities were more lenient to these secret Jews than their counterparts in Spain, and Gracia’s family were pillars of the secret Jewish community there. In fact, their hidden last name Nasi, meaning “Prince”, indicates they were long-standing community leaders. While maintaining an outward appearance of being Christian, the family observed Shabbat, avoided non-kosher foods, and studied Jewish texts in secret.

At the age of 18, Gracia married Francisco Mendes, another secret Jew, and together they built up a large trading company. They had one daughter whom they gave two names: Brianda as a non-Jewish name, and Reyna as a secret name. Reyna means queen in Spanish and might recall the common Jewish name Malka, which means queen in Hebrew. Francisco died in 1536, after eight years of marriage. That same year, the Portuguese authorities began to crack down on secret Jews. They set up a Holy Office of the Inquisition, modeled after Spain’s fearsome religious police. Many of Portugal’s secret Jews fled, Gracia and her young daughter included.

An Israeli stamp commemorating Gracia, with image of Tiberias below
The pair settled in Antwerp which was more tolerant of Jewish practice and where Gracia had many relatives. She went into business with a brother-in-law, but she longed to move somewhere where she could live completely openly as a Jew. As an upper class businesswoman in Flanders, Gracia knew it would be impossible to run a large business if she openly professed her Jewish faith. Gracia and her brother-in-law discussed moving to the German lands to the south where communities of Jews lived freely. They set a goal of moving within a year. Sadly, Gracia’s brother-in-law died suddenly, making her the sole surviving partner in a large trading company, putting Gracia’s plans to move on hold.

Gracia used her extensive business contacts to help other Jews escape.
Though she couldn’t live openly as a Jew herself, Gracia used her extensive business contacts to help other Jews escape to cities where they could live Jewish lives. She helped secret Jews escape from Portugal and Spain, and to make the difficulty journey over the Alps into Italy or into the Balkans. It was more difficult to help these Jews escape with some of their property and wealth to help them start their new lives.

Gracia’s extensive business contacts hid a network of escape routes throughout Europe. While she traded spices and gems, her business agents also ferried secret Jews across borders along with this merchandise. One popular route was for Jews to board Gracia’s ships in Spain and Portugal, bound for England. When the ships docked in Southampton or Plymouth, one of Gracia’s London agents, a man named Christopher Fernandes, was instructed to board the ships and let the hidden Jews know whether it was safe to stay on board for the next leg of the journey, to the Netherlands. Because Jews were banned from England at the time, the journey was a hazardous one.

Image of Dona Gracia looking towards Tiberias, symbolizing her determination to create a better future for the Jewish people.

Another of Gracia’s London agents was Antonio de la Ronha, a learned Jew who was related to her. He was tasked with helping Jewish refugees recover property they’d been forced to leave behind.

Once in the Netherlands, many secret Jews found employment in Gracia’s warehouses and businesses until they could be dispatched to safety further south to Italy or Turkey. Gracia’s agents instructed the fleeing Jews on which roads to use and in which inns it was safe to stay. They relied on a network of sympathetic allies. In Venice, a non-Jewish printer named Daniel Bomberg, who specialized in printing Hebrew books, received the property of fleeing Jews and returned it to their owners once they’d made it to the relative safety of Italy.

Writing in 1946, the British historian Cecil Roth noted that Gracia was the “brains behind the whole of this elaborate organization” and that “There is nothing similar in Jewish history, or perhaps in any history, until our own day and the organization of the ‘underground railway’ for saving Jews from the hell of Nazi and post-Nazi Europe and securing their entry…to the Land of Israel.”

Emperor Charles V
In Antwerp, Gracia’s vast wealth attracted unwanted attention from kings and princes. Emperor Charles V wanted Gracia’s daughter to marry one of his courtiers and seize the family’s wealth. Gracia said she wished to visit a spa in France and fled with her daughter and as much property as she could carry. From France, she travelled on to Italy, settling in Venice where she re-established her trading business.

Even though Jews lived openly in Venice – confined to a dreary island called the Ghetto – Gracia was not able to reveal her Jewishness publicly. To do so would have meant an end to her business dealings. In fact, it appears Gracia was arrested and held in prison briefly in Venice after she was accused of being a secret Jew. She began a clandestine plan to transfer her wealth to Turkey, with an eye to eventually living there. Turkey at the time was welcoming the Jews who’d been forced out of Europe. Sultan Bajazet II famously declared that he couldn’t understand the motives of King Ferdinand of Spain, who’d decreed that all Jews leave Spain in 1492. “How can you call this Ferdinand ‘wise’ – he who has impoverished his dominions in order to enrich mine?” the Sultan asked as industrious, educated Jews left Europe for Ottoman lands.

Gracia’s life in Venice was precarious. In 1550 Venetian authorities started prosecuting secret Jews and Gracia, along with her sister-in-law, daughter and niece, fled to the Italian town of Ferrara. There, for the first time in her life, she publicly declared her Jewishness, using her name Gracia. She changed her last name to her family’s previous Hebrew surname of Nasi. When her nephew Joao visited Gracia, he adopted the name Nasi too and changed his first name to Samuel. In Ferrara, Gracia supported local Jewish scholars and paid for the first translation of the Torah into Spanish.

This peace and happiness was short-lived. In 1551, plague broke out in Ferrara. City officials blamed Jews and forced Jews to leave the town. Gracia decided the time had come. She set sail for Constantinople, in the heart of the Ottoman Empire. There, she set up a fine household, again living openly and proudly as a Jew. She continued to run her trading empire with their secret routes ferrying Jews to freedom, but for the first time Gracia was able to publicly support Jews and Jewish organizations as well.

Each day, 80 poor people entered her grand palace to receive free meals. Gracia paid to redeem Jewish slaves who were seized by pirates. When Turkey experienced a bitterly cold winter in 1567, she paid to help the empire’s poor Jews afford heat and clothes. She supported hospitals, charities, schools and synagogues throughout the Ottoman lands.

One of Gracia’s favorite projects was a synagogue and yeshiva she established in the heart of Constantinople, which was known as “the Synagogue of the Senora”. Previously, local tradition dictated that Constantinople’s Jews always prayed in the one synagogue to which their families belonged. Gracia’s synagogue was different: it was open to all Jews, welcoming everyone whether member or not.

Izmir’s Senora Shul today

In 1559, Gracia established a synagogue in Salonika, in Greece, a city in which many secret Jews from Spain were finding refuge. Known as the “Gracia” synagogue, this too was specifically open to all Jews, whether members or not. She also established a kollel, or rabbinic academy, in Salonika, where the city’s rabbis and scholars could take turns studying Jewish texts full time.

Perhaps Gracia’s most ambitious project was supporting the Jewish community in Israel.
Perhaps Gracia’s most ambitious project was supporting the Jewish community in Israel. She petitioned the Sultan for permission to resettle Spanish Jews in Tiberias, an ancient city in the north of Israel, and he agreed. Gracia backed the venture and built a thriving Jewish settlement there, as well as supporting Jews elsewhere in the region. She had a grand house built for herself in Tiberias and petitioned the Sultan for permission to go to the Holy Land.

First, Gracia had a promise to keep. Years before, she’d promised her husband Francisco that she’d do everything in her power to see he was buried in Israel. Now, with great difficulty, she had his body removed from the church graveyard in Lisbon where it was interred and brought to Israel, where he was reburied in Tiberias.

Sadly, Gracia never had the chance to follow him there. She grew sick and withdrew from public life, living in Constantinople in old age in precarious health. She died in about the year 1569, one of the most beloved figures in the entire Jewish world.

Tributes were delivered to Gracia the Nasi throughout Europe and the Middle East. One of the most famous was a poem written by the great Jewish poet Sa’adiah Longo, who had fled the Spanish Inquisition as a child and moved to Salonika with his family, where he witnessed Gracia’s generosity and help for her fellow Jews firsthand. In his ode “Dona Gracia of the House of Nasi” he compares Gracia’s passing to some of the major calamities in Jewish history. She “straightened the path in the wilderness...the passage to an awesome God,” he recalled. That passageway that Gracia Nasi prepared allowed unknown thousands of Jews to escape persecution and death at the hands of the Inquisition and build new lives in safety. Her heroism deserves to be better known today.

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Post  Admin on Thu 27 Dec 2018, 11:51 am
Simcha Rotem: The Last Surviving Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Fighter
Dec 24, 2018  |  by Adina Hershberg
Simcha Rotem: The Last Surviving Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Fighter
The heroic Jew died this past Shabbat at the age of 94.

Simcha Rotem, the last remaining fighter of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, passed away this past Shabbat at the age of 94. At the 70th anniversary ceremony of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, he described the impetus for having launched an offensive against the Nazis on April 19th, 1943 that had no chance of succeeding.

“We knew the end would be the same for everyone. The idea for the uprising came from our determination. We wanted to choose the kind of death we would die; that’s all.”

The Warsaw ghetto uprising symbolized a refusal to succumb to Nazi atrocities and inspired other resistance campaigns by Jews and non-Jews alike.

Rotem also said, “…no words can describe what the Holocaust and the uprising was like and what the bestiality of the Germans was like, but despite their cruelty, they did not break the moral of the Jewish people.” He added, “To this day I have doubts as to whether we had the right to carry out the uprising and shorten the lives of people by a day, a week or two weeks.”

Simcha (Szymon) Rathajzer was born in Warsaw on February 24th, 1924 and was also known by the name Kazik – an abbreviation of a Polish name “Kazimierz”, which means “someone who destroys his opponent’s prestige/glory during battle”. Warsaw at the time had a vibrant Jewish community which made up a third of the city’s population.

At the age of 12, Rotem joined the Zionist youth movement HaNoar HaTzioni. World War II broke out when Rotem was 15. He was wounded in September 1939 during a German bombing campaign that destroyed his family home. His brother, Israel, and five other close relatives were killed. Shortly after, Warsaw’s Jews were herded into the infamous ghetto.

Initially, the ghetto held some 380,000 Jews who were cramped into tight living spaces. At its peak, the ghetto housed about a half million Jews. After the deportation of July 22, 1942 when 265,000 men, women and children were rounded up and later murdered in Treblinka, the resistance movement began to grow. Rotem joined the ZOB, Zydowska Organizacia Bojowa or Jewish Combat Organization in July of 1942, although he admitted that “I felt totally helpless” in the face of the Nazis. There were 50,000 Jews left in the ghetto.

Rotem at Yad Vashem

A small group of Jews began to spread calls for resistance. They also carried out isolated acts of sabotage and attacks. Some of the Jews began to defy German orders to report for deportation. On January 19, 1943, when the Nazis came to hold raids in the ghetto, they encountered resistance from the Jews for the first time. The Jews were surprised that they had succeeded in stopping the Nazi raids.

When the Germans returned to the ghetto on April 18, 1943, the ghetto uprising began. The Nazis entered the ghetto on the eve of Passover. Three days later, the Nazis set the ghetto ablaze, but the Jewish fighters continued their struggle for nearly a month before they were brutally murdered. During the intervening months, many of the Jews had built bunkers in the basements of buildings, often with tunnels leading to other buildings. The handful of Jewish fighters with weapons took to the shelters, thus giving them the advantage of defensive positions.

The teenage Rotem served as a liaison between the bunkers. He also served as the head courier, reporting directly to the ZOB commander, Yitzchak Zuckerman, who was on the Aryan side of the city. Rotem also took part in the fighting.

In his testimony to Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, Rotem stated, “At the first moment when I saw the great German force entering the ghetto, my first reaction, and I’m sure not just mine – I felt we were nothing. What could we do with our pathetic, almost non-existent weaponry, when faced with the tremendous German firepower, with light cannons and tanks and armored personnel carriers and a huge infantry force numbering hundreds, hundreds if not thousands…I felt totally helpless.” Rotem’s feeling was followed by “an extraordinary sense of spiritual uplifting…This was the moment we had been waiting for…to stand up to this all-powerful German.”

Rotem noted that the rebels had no illusions about their chances. “We’d kill as many of them as we could; we knew our fate was completely clear.” The Jewish fighters managed to kill 16 Nazis and to wound nearly 100.

Once they saw that their defeat was imminent, Rotem was sent to the Aryan side of Warsaw via a secret passageway where he met with Zuckerman to arrange an escape for the remaining fighters. The passageway was discovered by the Nazis and therefore the two of them were trapped on the Aryan side while the fighting raged and the ghetto burned. Rotem made several attempts to enter the ghetto through the sewers until he succeeded. He encountered Zivia Lubekin, one of the last surviving leaders of the ghetto uprising. The two of them led approximately 80 fighters through the sewers to the Aryan side. From there they continued on to the forests outside of the city. Rotem kept them in hiding in the forest and in various apartments until the end of the war.

Rotem continued his underground activities with the resistance movement. In particular, he helped care for the several thousand Jews who still remained in hiding in Warsaw. In August 1944 he took part in the Polish Warsaw uprising that was crushed by the Nazis after 63 days.

Immediately after the war, Rotem took part in the Beriha (escape) organization that helped European Jews immigrate to Mandate Palestine, despite the restrictions imposed by the British. In 1946 he immigrated to Palestine and was imprisoned by the British in the Atlit detention camp, south of Haifa. Although his 12-year-old sister had been murdered in the ghetto uprising, his parents and another sister survived in hiding and emigrated to Palestine in 1947.

Rotem joined the Hagana, the precursor to the Israel Defense Forces and he fought in the War of Independence. He served as a manager in a supermarket chain until retiring in 1986. He was an active speaker and member of the Yad Vashem committee that selects the Righteous Among the Nations, honoring non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

In 2013 at the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, Rotem was honored with the Grand Cross of the Order of the Rebirth of Poland, one of the country’s highest honors, for his actions during World War II.

Earlier this year, Rotem rebuked Polish President Andrzej in a letter, for his speech at the 75th commemoratory ceremony of the Warsaw ghetto uprising.

I, Simcha (Kazik) Rotem, who fought shoulder to shoulder with my brothers and sisters against the damned German Nazis on the streets and in the sewage systems of the Warsaw Ghetto, is telling you, Mr. President, that many of your people took a very active part in the murder of Jews in the Holocaust, expelling Jews from their homes in Poland while cruelly abusing them. They even murdered Jews who managed to escape the Nazi extermination machine and sought to regain their homes and property when the war ended.

…Only once the Polish society truly faces the bitter historical truth, revealing its scope and severity, will there be a chance that those horrors will not be repeated. Therefore, I vehemently oppose the distorted law recently passed in Poland, meant to eradicate from historical recollection the heinous acts the Poles committed against the Jewish people during that dark time…

Ninety-year-old Aliza Vitis-Shomron is the last known Warsaw Ghetto uprising survivor left in Israel. Upon hearing of Rotem’s death she tearfully stated, “It’s a difficult day because this really means that this is it. I’m the only one left and there is no one else to keep the story alive. He was the last fighter. I’ll keep speaking till my last day, but no one lives forever. After me, who will keep telling?”

Rotem is survived by his two children and five grandchildren. Hopefully, they, along with the thousands of people who have heard his story will continue to tell it. His tale is part of our shared history. It is a story of rebirth.

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Post  Admin on Sun 23 Dec 2018, 3:23 pm

Saying No to Cremation
Dec 23, 2018  |  by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
Saying No to Cremation
We should not do to ourselves what our enemies have done to us – to burn the last remnant and reminder of people we loved.

For some, the inevitability of death is frightening. For those who have faith in Jewish tradition which assures us of the continued survival of the soul after our taking leave from Earth, death is nothing more than moving from one room to another, from the corridor to the main banquet hall. The journey which we call life ends with our birth into immortality.

To understand death is to enter a realm that of necessity requires faith as a guide. No mortal has actually ever returned from the grave to give us a first-hand account. And yet most believers in the Bible as well as those of many other religions have somehow come to very similar conclusions: There is life after this life. Human beings are a wondrous combination of body and soul. The soul has its source in God; as we are told in the story of creation God blew into Adam’s body some of his spirit. God by definition is immortal. So too is a part of us, the part which truly defines us, the part which makes us who we are, the part which represents our uniqueness, the part which is the key to our essence and our being.

The Torah begins with the Hebrew letter beit. In Hebrew that letter means two. The very first message of the Torah, which tells us of the creation of this world, hints at the existence of a second world – the world to come after our sojourn here on earth.

It is a truth which demands careful attention for the way in which we lead our lives. More, it must guide us as well in the way in which we deal with the body in the aftermath of death.

Sadly, and with great pain, we must take note of a contemporary phenomenon which chooses to replace Jewish burial with cremation. This trend recently received much publicity when Rona Ramon, widow of Israel’s first astronaut Ilan Ramon, asked to be cremated in the will she left before her untimely death two weeks ago of pancreatic cancer.

I have nothing but the greatest admiration for Rona Ramon. The manner in which she lived her life was inspirational beyond measure. Unfortunately, the way she chose to dispose of her corporeal remains was a tragic break with Jewish tradition, a tradition going back to Abraham, the first Jew, who gladly paid the fortune demanded of him in order to bury Sarah in the “Cave of the Couples” and a place where according to the midrash Adam and Eve are buried as well.

It was heartbreaking to read the reason that motivated Rona to request cremation. A mother of four when her husband perished as the Columbia spaceship disintegrated upon its ill-fated return to earth, she had to survive the additional tragedy of the death of her son in a training accident after the crash of the F-16 fighter pilot he was flying. With the heavy weight of these tragedies of the past upon her, Rona concluded – as she wrote before her passing – she did not want her children and family to be forced to go through yet another funeral.

It is not for me to judge her or God forbid to offer criticism. Clearly the tragedies of her past were responsible for her personal decision. But I believe it is necessary to remind ourselves what millennia of Jewish history have identified as the most fitting and respectful way to honor our loved ones once their souls have departed.

Jews perform an interesting symbolic ritual in response to the death of our closest relatives. It is called kriah – making a rip in one's garment. People think the purpose is to allow physical release, to tear something as a sign of anger. That is not the way the mystics of the Kabbalah explain this ritual.

The relationship between garment and body symbolically parallels the connection between body and soul.
The relationship between garment and body symbolically parallels the connection between body and soul. Clothing covers us; it isn't our essence or our identity. If a garment we wear gets ripped it doesn't actually affect us. Our true selves remain intact. So too, our bodies are the "garments" of our soul. They are external to it; one is independent of the other.

Death is the rending of our outer garment. But it is no more than that. That's why the mourners perform the mitzvah of kriah, to affirm that as painful as the loss of a loved one may be, there is great comfort in knowing that "the ripping of the garment" hasn't diminished the actual person.

Yet much as death diminishes the significance of the body, we shouldn't fail to emphasize the powerful linkage that remains even after death severs the connection between the physical remains and the soul. The soul owes its life on earth to the body. For a long time the two of them coexisted in a mutually beneficial relationship. When the soul departs at death, tradition tells us it does so in stages. It hesitates before bidding final farewell to its physical partner. Like a magnet, the soul continues to be drawn to the site of its former longtime residence. It stays close to the body, finding it difficult to accept the reality of ultimate separation.

Almost all religions and cultures acknowledge the relationship between body and soul that extends beyond death. In Judaism there is particular sensitivity to the soul’s concern for respectful treatment of “the earthly garment” that enabled it to carry out its life's mission.

The body is carefully washed, even though it will soon disintegrate. For as long as possible it needs to be accorded the dignity it earned during life. The body retains its right to modesty; only women may prepare a female body for burial and only men a male. The corpse is to be put into a closed coffin so that onlookers not are left with the memory of a diminished human being.

Honoring the body is a way of showing our respect for the soul that remains close by until it is assured that its material partner received proper treatment.
More striking still, Jewish law forbids those in the immediate presence of the dead to eat and drink or to fulfill a mitzvah – because that would be mocking them, inasmuch as they are now incapable of doing the same. The corpse may not know or care, but the soul of the departed does. Honoring the body is a way of showing our respect for the soul that remains close by until it is assured that its material partner received proper treatment.

It is surely significant that throughout history those who most wanted to bring about the end of the Jewish people sought to do it through fire. Both temples in Jerusalem were put to the torch and burnt. The Nazis built crematoria to carry out The Final Solution. In Hebrew the word for garbage is ashpah – a contraction for aish poh, "fire is here," because the most common way to get rid of the useless was to burn it. We cannot justify doing to ourselves what has been and continues to be the way of our enemies – to burn and to destroy the last remnant and reminder of people we loved.

Our Arab enemies have long understood the Jewish passion and commitment to preserving the dignity of bodies which housed Jewish souls. That is why they have demanded exorbitant ransoms for the return of Israeli bodies, hundreds of Palestinian terrorists for the remains of even one Jewish soldier.

Rona Ramon wanted to spare her grieving children and family the trauma of her burial. In years to come her loved ones will have no physical place to mourn, to visit, to remember and in some small way to be with her at graveside. That makes her cremation another cause for tears.

We dare not judge Rona Ramon, a heroic figure who endured loss beyond comprehension. But let us reaffirm the powerful words of King Solomon, “And the dust will return to the earth from where it came and the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

See also: Letter to My Cremated Father.

Letter to My Cremated Father
Dec 23, 2018  |  by Michael Chighel
I hope this open letter does you honor. Let no one imagine for a moment that you meant anything less to me than the earthly manifestation of divine love.

Dear Tata, the cremation of your body has singed my soul.

And so I am compelled to seek some relief from the burn in the composition of a letter to you aimed across the great divide between the World of Mendacity in which I am still residing and the World of Truth in which you are now a blessed new citizen.

You never liked phonies and poseurs. I don’t doubt that, now, seeing me as you do from the World of Truth, the artificial nature of this letter is entirely obvious. My complex motives, noble and ignoble, are transparent to you, more so than they are to me. Let’s be honest about at least one motive. I have an agenda. Since your passing, I have corresponded with three fellow Jews asking me for advice. Their parents have informed them of their plans to have their bodies cremated upon death. I advised them to share their anxieties with their parents before it’s too late. My hope is that this letter, an artifice to ease my double grief over your death and cremation, will reach other Jews in the same plight, children and parents.

You specified in your will that, upon your demise, your dead body is to be completely burned.
I suppose this letter is my ersatz shiva. May it be the catalyst of real shivas that will otherwise have been unrealized.

Let me begin by sympathizing, as best I can, with your decision. You specified in your will that, upon your demise, your dead body is to be completely burned, that a gentile funeral home is to expedite the incineration, and that the resulting ashes should be disposed of in any way the executor of the will deems fitting.

In a way, I admire your bold decision. I am your son, after all. I know how you felt about Jewish traditions, how little stock you put by them. You were a thinking man. It’s from you that I learned to think myself. You taught me how to see the beauty in a Euclidean proof in geometry. You explained to me how a car motor works. You taught me to trust in my intellect. To take the deepest pleasure in the feeling of wonder. Later, on my way toward attaining a PhD in philosophy, I would learn how Aristotle said that all thinking originates in a sense of wonder. You never read Aristotle yourself. But you understood him instinctively.

(Perhaps you’re attending Aristotle’s lectures now? But no, I don’t believe it. I believe your infinite thirst for knowledge has drawn you willy-nilly into the great hall in which the soul of Rabbi Akiva imparts the greatest secrets of the Torah.)

You loved Reason. And in your passion for the rational, you found it necessary to dismiss the Torah. I understand. I myself, your reason-loving son, had to undergo the most grueling mental exercises, and the most purgatorial gestures of self-introspection, in order to come to terms with the non-rational truths of the Torah. It was only after reaching the outermost limits of rational thinking – with the help of philosophers like Immanuel Kant, Thomas Kuhn, Jacques Derrida – that I discovered the very real possibility, indeed the very reality, of the non-rational. I don’t blame you. Nor am I patronizing you. (“Patronize”: from pater, father. Can a Jewish son ever really patronize his father? Your mind begat mine.) I am arguing with you. It was you who taught me to argue with you. You would be so proud of me when I was able to disagree with you. You’d frown and shake your head and smile a big secret smile.

You loved Reason, yes, and in your love for Reason, you concluded that the Torah is nothing but a product of human imagination. That there is nothing like life after death. That the soul is nothing but a wondrous symphony of electrical impulses played in the grey concert hall of the brain. That once the concert ended and all these impulses become quiet, nothing remains but a useless lump of organic material to be disposed of like an old automobile beyond repair.

I truly admire the fierceness of your conclusion. I admire your intolerance for magical thinking, for voodoo. I admire the extraordinary existentialist’s courage with which you faced the profound meaninglessness of reality – which is to say, a reality that you felt to be ultimately meaningless. You waved your fist against fate in the manner of a Greek tragic hero. (Is that why you died so close to Hanukkah – Kislev 21? Is Rabbi Akiva presently explaining how the Maccabee victory was a victory over the Tyranny of Reason and the Hellenistic Empire of Tragic Heroism?)

If I could have entered into a philosophical discussion with you about such questions, I would have. But you were not impressed by philosophical ideas. You left those to me.

And now I see a different route I might have taken, a route to a different conversation, a route I never saw before. I see it so clearly now because of my pain. My pain makes me lucid. So let me say what I should have said. Let others hear it on behalf of your memory….

I wish I could have recited Kaddish by your grave.
I wish I could have buried your body. I wish I could have strewn earth upon your shroud. I wish I could have recited Kaddish by your grave. I wish I could have invoked the Great Name, the Shmei Rabba, over your body’s quiet enfoldment in the earth and its return to its element.

Instead of earth, you chose fire. Fire too is a primordial element, yes. But fire mocks. When our people were condemned to a Final Solution during your childhood which you spent in Siberia, those who murdered them did so with a double mockery. They poisoned them with gas like an exterminator killing insects. And they incinerated their remains in fire like a garbage man burning waste.

I feel – I don’t know, but I feel – that you opted for cremation in some kind of unfathomable solidarity with those of us whose bodies were cremated in Auschwitz. I heard of a survivor who had intended to make such a posthumous gesture. I think it was an unconscious solidarity in your case. The heroic gesture, again, of a tragic hero. In light of your decision, I can’t help but feel that the crematoria of Auschwitz are still with us. Exile is something the Jew suffers deep, deep within. You accepted the Exile. You made room for Auschwitz. I wish you could have heard and believed the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe: Exile is unacceptable! Auschwitz has no more place in this world, not even as little place as the tip of a single match head!

And I should have said something else. I should have told you about my need to mourn for you in the company of others. My need, yes, admittedly only mine, not yours, Tata. But you loved me so much, surely you would have acquiesced to my need, the need of your son whom you loved with a boundless love, even if you would have disagreed with the validity of this need…. My need to sit shiva for you – to sit and mourn in the company of family and friends, to talk about you, to share memories of you.

As you know, dear Tata, I cry when I am alone. I weep like a boy. (You remember the sound?) I think about you. I look through old photos of you. I even talk to you. And I weep. I mourn. Nothing can take away my private mourning. But it is just that – private. Why should I want to mourn publicly as well? Is private mourning not enough? Indeed, isn’t private mourning more genuine than public mourning?

Yes, that’s just it. Public mourning all too easily becomes a spectacle, a maudlin charade. We who still reside in the World of Mendacity will sometimes take advantage of any occasion to get a little more attention, narcissistically, even a funeral or a memorial service. And yet, at the same time, we are social creatures, who naturally take comfort in the presence of family, friends and community.

And that’s just it. The old and venerable Jewish tradition of a public comforting of mourners, the tradition of sitting shiva, is what gives legitimacy to public mourning. For a Jew, any other way of mourning publicly must indeed be a farce. A shiva house alone, for a Jew, constitutes an authentic way to mourn in company, authentic because so very old, so utterly unoriginal.

Shiva is the final hammer blow that snaps shut the iron link in the chain of a family history.

The fact that I wish you had decided otherwise in no way diminishes my adoration for you or how dearly I will cherish your memory.
You know very well, dear Tata, that I bear no resentment toward you. You know I adored you. The fact that I wish you had decided otherwise in no way diminishes my adoration for you or how dearly I will cherish your memory. It was your unbounded paternal love for me that made me so Jewish. Your love for me was fashioned in the image of God’s love for His children. It was your own very Jewish upbringing that engendered this paternal love in you. What choice did I have but to take this infinite love to God Himself?

I hope I always honored you properly in life. And I hope this open letter does you honor. Let no one imagine for a moment that you meant anything less to me than the earthly manifestation of divine love.

My prayer now is that our common Divine Father is taking you in His infinite paternal bosom, and that, from your heavenly perspective and station, you will move angelic forces to influence Jews contemplating cremation to think things through a notch more carefully. Intercede for us.

I miss your arms around me, Tata. Hug me now.

Your Miki.

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