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Post  Admin on Thu 25 Aug 2016, 9:47 pm

Rebbetzin Jungreis and My Greatness Meter
As the Jewish world mourns her death, I'll never forget my encounter with this truly great woman.
by Sara Yoheved Rigler 
One of the greatest lights of the Jewish people in our age has been extinguished. With the passing of Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis yesterday, our world has become dimmer.
Several years ago I was asked to be the emcee at a charity event for women. Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis had agreed to be the main speaker--at no charge to the organization. Her name was a huge draw, and they expected hundreds of women to attend the event, to be held at a major Jerusalem hotel.
I had never met Rebbetzin Jungreis. The day before the event, she allowed me to interview her for at Jerusalem’s Hineni headquarters. I had written a bestselling book about a great woman, so I knew how to gauge real greatness. When you’re in the presence of a truly great person, she gives you her full attention as if you’re the only person in the world for her at that moment. Sitting across from Rebbetzin Jungreis during the interview, the metaphorical “needle of my greatness meter” was jumping so far to the right that I felt like we were the only two people on the planet.
The tzedaka organization holding the event had no professional staff. It was run by two women volunteers who had founded this organization and were eager to see it grow. They were idealistic and enthusiastic, but they had had no experience organizing such a large event. 

Ryan Lochte's Non-Apology
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
Judaism and the lost art of true repentance.
Should we forgive Ryan Lochte, the 12-time Olympic swimming medalist, for his bizarre behavior in Rio de Janeiro last week?
What he did was far more than a prank. To cover for his own drunken rampage at a gas station he concocted a tale of being held up at gunpoint by robbers posing as policemen – a story that went round the world defaming Brazil, host country of the Olympics, as a Third World nation incapable of controlling violence and unsafe for tourism, a billion-dollar industry. After diligent investigation, Ryan’s version of events was exposed as a lie. As his story of an alleged robbery fully unraveled Ryan had no choice but to admit his guilt. For this he has just lost all of his major endorsement deals worth many millions of dollars.

30 Strangers at a Funeral
by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
A group of Jews perform the ultimate kindness for a woman who was going to have no mourners at her funeral.
“This is the easiest funeral you’re ever going to do,” the funeral director told Rabbi Elchanan Weinbach, a local rabbi in Rockland County, New York. There would be no friends or family, the director explained. The rabbi and the funeral director would be the only mourners present.
“I had never officiated at a funeral where I was the only mourner,” Rabbi Weinbach explained in an exclusive interview. “This would have been a first.”
All Rabbi Weinbach knew about the woman who had passed away was her name, age (83), and the fact that she’d once taught piano at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York. Her name was Francine Stein and she’d lived in a local Jewish nursing home for the past ten years.
“But as I thought about the idea of a woman dying alone," Rabbi Elchanan explained, "it went from being the easiest funeral to a very difficult one. It just seemed so sad. I asked myself, 'How can I give Francine Stein the dignity she deserves at her funeral?'"

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Post  Admin on Thu 25 Aug 2016, 5:44 pm
Family Bonding
The three most important traits every family needs.
by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff 
As summer winds down we are given the opportunity to take stock of what matters most. Are there daily choices we can make that would make a difference in our homes this year? Can we implement behaviors and attitudes that help our family grow stronger?
Friendships are important but family is forever.
When a family feels bonded, parents and children share life experiences on a different level. Difficult times are filled with moments of strength, connection and encouragement. Happy occasions become sweeter, brighter, and more joyous.
Here’s how to strengthen your family bond:

1. Loyalty
For families to thrive there needs to be a sense of security. We create a home that is a haven by allowing each child (and parent) to feel safe with one another. Together time should never evoke sentiments of fear or insecurity. No family member should feel the need to withdraw within a shell to feel protected.
How can we build family loyalty?

support each other’s dreams and stand up for one another
don’t use verbal zingers, sarcasm, or derogatory comments to strike each other down
convey that ‘family’ sacrifices for one another. Sometimes it is physical, like sharing a crowded space or cutting a favorite piece of cake in half. Other times it is emotional, like giving time or a listening ear.
parents model respect when disagreeing with each other; they don’t shame each other.
create a tone in the home that does not cultivate fear. This means that verbal abuse, yelling, screaming at one another, or looking for someone to constantly blame are all off limits. (Of course physical abuse and fighting is never allowed).
siblings show concern when one is hurting, experiencing pain or disappointment. While we can’t fix the situation the least we can do is care. Indifference shows a callousness of the heart.

2. Acceptance
We all need to feel that we belong. If a family member feels alone, there is the danger that he or she will look elsewhere for love. Acceptance means that I can lean on you when I fall and you will encourage me when I fail. If I make a mistake, I am not afraid to confide in you because you are approachable. You believe in me; flaws and all.
This does not just apply to children. Husbands and wives, too, need to feel accepted by their spouse.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t give consequences or ignore misbehavior. Rather, there is an underlying sentiment of being loved that allows the relationship to flourish despite the discipline. Acceptance means that we feel positively about our place in the family even if we have caused disappointment.

How can we create an environment of acceptance?

get to know your family. As kids grow parents realize that they are clueless and wonder where ‘my little guy’ or ‘girl’ has gone. Here, too, it is crucial for husbands and wives to continue to make time for one another as years go.
find your child’s inner star. Some children naturally shine and other’s need to have the light brought out. But all of us have been given a Divine gift; make no mistake. Help reveal each child’s inner gifts by showing interests in their likes, challenging their curiosity about the world, and joining them in this quest of discovery.
encourage uniqueness. We are all different, even if we were born to the same parents. Don’t try to raise ‘cookie cutter kids’. Allow for individual likes and tastes.
don’t overschedule your child. Seeking exceptionality brings parents to over expect. Children are made to feel as if they are inadequate if they do not invent a start-up, star on a team, score high on their ACT, or play the violin. What about just being a wonderful human being who is kind, sensitive and a pleasure to be with?
never slam a door on a family member or do something that creates the feeling that they are rejected from the home. Be careful when upset not to say something that can be interpreted as being hateful. While we can dislike the behavior, we must not allow a child or spouse to feel discarded from the family.

3. Appreciation

The foundation of every home must be gratitude. Appreciation is the oxygen of marriage. Children’s gratitude towards their parents, life opportunities, natural gifts and numerous physical blessings creates an environment of respect. We don’t take our family or things for granted. We speak thoughtfully. We take care of our possessions. We don’t allow our children to grow entitled. The entire atmosphere in the home is transformed.
How can we encourage an attitude of gratitude?
parents model thankfulness to one another. This means that acts that we take for granted-like making dinner, driving carpool, family leisure time and trips, buying clothing are all recognized and voiced with appreciation. Children should be taught to follow in parent’s direction.
don’t over buy. We want to create happy homes so many of us make the mistake of equating happiness with ‘things’. We overindulge our children. We keep getting them the latest fads and can’t deal with their tears when we say ‘no’. Then we are surprised by their lack of appreciation and shocked by their disrespect. Truth is we are to blame. The cycle of great expectations has been created. Somehow, it is never enough and they’ve never learned to be happy with what they have.
stop texting while talking. When we look down at our phones while communicating with our loved ones who are standing in front of our eyes, we are clearly showing that they are not important enough for us to even look at. How can I value you if I cannot take the time to see you? Checking emails when returning home from work or when children (or a spouse) are trying to share thoughts with you is plain disrespect. Family time becomes downgraded in children’s eyes.

Combined with the traits of loyalty, acceptance and appreciation is the ability of parents to create an environment of spirituality that anchors the home. Strong roots keep the family grounded. As we approach the Hebrew month of Elul, we near the High Holidays. Contemplating our priorities, values, tone of communication and desire to connect with our traditions become the next step to building families that endure, which will be the topic of our next article.

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Post  Admin on Tue 23 Aug 2016, 8:39 am
In the shadows of slavery, one girl’s persistent questioning leads her on a relentless search for truth.
by Billye Joyce Roberts 
I was born just 81 years after the ratification of the amendment to the US Constitution that abolished the slavery of Africans. I was given a good Southern name – Billye Joyce – although it was a harsh time to be African-American in the United States, especially in the South. We were still called colored or Negroes, and oftentimes the other n-word was used. I was born in Big Momma's (my grandmother's) house because colored doctors were not allowed to use the hospitals in Texas.
My grandmother
I was eight when the Supreme Court decided to end segregation in schools. It wasn't easy and it wasn't quick and it is a battle that is still going on today in some places. My mother did me a great favor by moving us to Southern California when I was three years old so that I would be able to attend better schools.

Slavery wasn't something we talked about in my family. There was too much shame.

Slavery wasn't something we talked about in my family when I was young. My great-grandmother may not have been born in slavery, but her mother most likely was. The reason I don't know for certain is because, although our ancestors were victims, we, the children of the victims, were ashamed, as if it was their fault they were slaves... as if it was our fault. I was taught, in those good schools I went to, that American slaves meekly accepted their situation, that they never fought back or rebelled. I didn’t learn that was untrue until I was in college. Perhaps if my family and I had known those things we might have been less ashamed.

Don't Ask Questions
People often ask me what my religion was before I went to the mikvah. No one displays much interest in the fact that I grew up as a “plain vanilla” Protestant Christian. But their interest perks up when I say I was once Wiccan.
With hindsight, I realize that my journey to Judaism began when I was thrown out of Christian Sunday School when I was six years old for asking a question the teacher couldn’t answer. That question was: “What do you do if you don’t have faith?” What she was really trying to teach me was not to ask questions. (By the way, she failed.)
I was a confused little girl, wondering why I was walking home early for asking a sincere question. And I continued to be confused, with my mind filling up with more and more questions.

But six year olds (at least in my family) couldn't stop going to church, even six year olds with a whole host of unanswered questions. But sixteen year olds can. And ten years later, my last straw was a particularly unpleasant encounter with a minister who was counseling me. I’ll skip the details. My mother was not the sort of woman that one disobeyed, but even she was unable to get me to set foot in a church after that. In fairness, I have to say that what happened really was the very last thing. My sixteen-year-old self had done a lot more thinking and come up with a lot more apparently unanswerable questions. That's what really caused me to stop being Christian. The encounter with the minister was just the thing that pushed me out the door.

When I went to college I ran into all the philosophical “stuff” that one runs into as a freshman. I spent many nights with my friends discussing, with great seriousness, the nature and existence of God, with the confidence that we were going to figure out religious and philosophical issues to which the greatest thinkers in history hadn’t found definitive answers. We didn't, of course, but I did come up with a life philosophy that worked for me for quite a while, based on my certainty that there was a Divine power in the Universe, the gentle meditation of the eternal dance of the ocean waves off the California coast, and the idea that if you did the most good and the least harm you could manage, it would probably lead to a pretty decent, reasonably moral life.

Meeting a Coven of Witches

After college, I moved to Denver, Colorado, where I chanced upon an interesting group of people who practiced Wicca. Although Wiccans (both male and female) call themselves witches, they are not Satanists. They do not worship the Christian devil or any form of evil being. And groups who call themselves Wiccan have many different variations of beliefs and practices.
The folks in my coven were extremely intelligent, studious and their beliefs intersected with many of mine.
The one I was a part of believed in God (though differently named), and in putting positive energy into the world around them in all their thoughts and actions. They were very concerned about the environment. After all, Mother Earth is our home. It is important to respect and care for her. As a group, the folks in my coven were extremely intelligent, studious and their beliefs intersected with many of mine.

As I've learned more about Judaism, I realize how much of what I was attracted to in Wicca came from Jewish sources. Ultimately, Wicca was not my path and when I left Denver I never looked for another coven to join.

Stumbling Upon Judaism
During the years when I wasn’t a part of any organized group, I was still very much aware of God wherever I might be living or traveling. I read a lot of books about religion and philosophy. I more or less continually thought about, fiddled with, poked at what I thought of as “my philosophy about life, death, and everything.” I celebrated God.
My mother had told me, rather sternly, when I stopped going to church: “When you’re old, you’ll come back.” It turned out she was right – sort of. Eventually I began to miss ritual and a community to share it with. Now the only question was, what religion was I going to join to find these things?

I knew absolutely nothing about Judaism and had never met a Jew.
It turns out I know a little about Buddhism, Hinduism, Wicca, various streams of Christianity, random mystics and assorted philosophers. So I’m not quite sure how I managed to know absolutely nothing about Judaism. I never read about it, had never been in a synagogue or met any Jews.
But for some reason I didn’t understand, I did have a little spark of interest. So I bought some books and had an immediately positive response. Judaism said that religion is how you live every day, not just what you profess to believe on the Sabbath. It is a religion that believes that every human being can be moral and attain a place in the Next World, Jews and non-Jews alike. And best of all, Judaism encouraged questions and discussion, and valued logic and reason. I immediately decided I had to find out more about this.

Feeling God's Presence
I’ve felt the presence of the Divine in a lot of places. Dancing with the ocean on the beach in California. Walking through Stonehenge in the UK. Sitting in a small church filled with corn fetishes in some random little town in the Midwest. Watching the Rocky Mountains when they looked like they were illustrated by Pixar Studios. Driving alone through the desert. Even, from time to time, in a church service, or a Wiccan circle.
And I realized very quickly that even though I was very excited about Judaism intellectually, if I couldn’t feel God in a synagogue, then this wasn’t going to be the right religious path for me.

Imagine my fear walking into an Orthodox shul for my first experience of Shabbat services.

I have always been introverted and uncomfortable in crowds or with strangers. So imagine my fear walking into an Orthodox shul for my first experience of Shabbat services. Added to the fear I came in with, I didn’t understand anything that was going on around me. I knew no Hebrew and I was scared stiff that I would do something to offend someone. But it turned out that despite the surface terrors, I did feel God's presence there. On the drive home I was smiling. I hadn’t realized until that moment how afraid I had been that I wouldn’t.

Eventually I found several Rabbis to learn with, read a lot more books, and after several years of asking questions and soul searching, that curious little girl, now a much older woman, got a Hebrew name of her very own. When I emerged from the mikvah as a Jew named Tziporah Miriam bat Sarah, I burst into tears of joy.
But as happy as I was, the part of me that was still a curious little girl couldn’t seem to be satisfied. I learned as much as I could. But the more I read and studied, the more it became obvious to me, how high, wide and deep was what I didn’t know.
Part of the Jewish community today
I believe in Divine coincidence, that perfect “little thing” that lets you stumble into something that is exactly what you need. Like the seemingly random series of events that led me to Aish HaTorah in Rockville, Maryland.

At first a friend asked me to go to a class with her there. I continued taking classes, and I was more and more drawn to the depth of the learning that I experienced. It was much later that I came to realize how much I was learning simply by interacting with the community and watching so many individuals live their Judaism with commitment and joy. This inspired me to work on increasing my own level of observance. I have a long way to go, but it is a path I am glad to be on, surrounded and supported by this community.

Abolishing Slavery
As an African-American, a daughter of American slavery, and as a Jew, a daughter of the Exodus, I am deeply troubled by slavery today. And I feel I must take this opportunity to share some facts about this continuing evil.
“Today?” you may say. But isn’t slavery something that happened in another time, another place, another culture?
There are as many as 27 million modern day slaves worldwide.
Not according to the U.S. State Department. In fact, there are as many as 27 million modern day slaves worldwide. In addition, the WARChild International Network reports that 250,000 children are actively deployed each year, fighting in almost 75% of armed conflicts worldwide.
27 million slaves worldwide. 250,000 child soldiers each year.
These numbers stun me. Really? In this time, in this modern culture, in this civilized place?
I wish I knew what to do to make slavery something that only happened a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far way. But it isn't. It just isn't.
God may have infinite patience. But I don't. We need to work together to abolish slavery and rid the world of this vile activity.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, formerly Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, said: “The God of history, who taught us to study history, had faith that eventually we would learn the lesson of history: that freedom is indivisible. We must grant freedom to others if we truly seek it for ourselves... Jews [are] the people commanded never to forget the bitter taste of slavery, so that [we] never take freedom for granted.”

Or as the song by the great blues singer Solomon Burke puts it: “None of us are free, as long as one of us is chained, no one of us is free.”
This is on us. Slavery still exists. And we are the people charged to remember it, and learn from it, and hopefully, end it... soon, in our own time.

Over the past few years, the number of countries, which includes the US, that have taken steps to implement the UN Protocol against Trafficking in Persons has doubled. This is a good thing at that level. But what can we, as individuals, do?

We can educate ourselves about what is going on. An internet search using the words “human trafficking” or “child soldiers” will bring up page after page of unbelievable statistics as well as information about the red flags that may indicate human trafficking, and things we can do to help stop it. As a first step, go to CNN’s The Freedom Project. Then… do… something. Your choice of the action, but do it now.
Anne Frank said: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
Let's not wait a single moment longer to begin working to truly abolish slavery.

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Post  Admin on Wed 10 Aug 2016, 2:32 pm

Irreversible Damage
by Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith
A miraculous true story demonstrates the power of prayer and reminds us never to give up hope
The results of the CT scans and MRIs were conclusive and irrefutable: Raquel, a 31-year-old wife and mother of two lying in a coma had irreversible brain damage due to prolonged oxygen deprivation. According to scientific studies, in a case like this it would be next to impossible for a person to awake from their coma.
Weeks earlier, Raquel and her husband were vacationing in Florida when she woke up in the middle of the night saying that she didn’t feel well. She collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. But it was too late; Raquel’s body completely shut down. Every organ in her body was failing and she was put on life support.
“You need to get here as fast as possible. The situation is dire.”
Raquel’s husband called her parents in New York, telling them to come right away. Just before takeoff the doctor called them. “You need to get here as fast as possible. The situation is dire.”
Hours later, the entire family and close friends came together on a conference call to recite Psalms while doctors desperately worked to save Raquel’s life. During the intense prayer session Raquel coded, but doctors managed to get her heartbeat back, and her situation slowly stabilized.

Why Being an Orthodox Jewish Mom Makes Me a Better CEO
Sarah Hofstetter is not your typical ‘ad man.’
by Sarah Hofstetter 
Share to Facebook157Share to TwitterShare to EmailMore AddThis Share optionsMore
When 360i, the ad agency I run, won Oscar Mayer’s business in 2010, I politely declined their invitation to sample products from their new portfolio. It’s not that I wasn’t interested—I had spent countless hours trying to win the hot dog maker’s business—but my faith simply prohibited it.
I’ve been keeping kosher and observing the Jewish Sabbath my entire life, along with striving to stick to the other 611 commandments of the Torah. This has meant resisting the temptations of McDonald’s as a child, fending off rebellious friends trying to get me to sneak out with them on Friday nights, and attempting to find the only kosher establishment in Tokyo (yes, it does exist, and yes, they have sushi, not bagels and lox).
At face value, perhaps someone like me shouldn’t be in the advertising business at all, let alone run one. And I’ve been told that many times. From friends. From my family. From others in the business. Yet “vulnerabilities” like mine—whether it’s religion, motherhood, or experience—can actually be major assets.

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Post  Admin on Sun 07 Aug 2016, 10:30 pm

Connecting to the Holocaust
Our daughter was twinned with a girl from Luboml, Poland who perished in the Holocaust. Then the past came to life.
by Adina Soclof
Our daughter’s Hebrew birthday coincides with Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. Our family spent a month in Israel where our daughter, Tova, took Yad Vashem’s Bat Mitzvah tour and joined their twinning program. Participants forge a bond with individual children who perished during the Holocaust, children who never had a chance to celebrate their Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
The program finds something in common between the two children. Our daughter Tova was twinned with a girl named Tova Ziegelman from the town of Luboml in Poland.;
Luboml was a thriving regional market town for several centuries. By the 1930’s it had electric lights, numerous trades and businesses, factories and workshops. There were approximately 5,000 Jews in the town where they led a rich and vibrant Jewish life. The Jews were proud of their shtetl’s major architectural presence, The Great Synagogue. It was built in the 17th century as a spiritual center but also as a fortress; it was constructed with the additional purpose of protecting the Jews in town.
As anti-Semitism and the Nazi threat grew in the 1930's, some Lubomlers began to emigrate to Palestine and the United States. On October 1, 1942 the Germans, who controlled the town, rounded up the remaining Jewish inhabitants of Luboml with the aid of Ukrainian police units and marched them into the countryside. There the Jews were lined up in front of open pits and shot. Tova Ziegelman, only 11 years old, died on that day.

Tova Ziegelman
Our daughter was presented with a Page of Testimony of Tova Ziegelman as well as a special certificate acknowledging participation in the twinning program. Tova’s folder also included two pictures of Tova Ziegelman. The first picture was of her and her family and the second, a picture of Tova with four other children.
On the page of testimony was a number for Tova Ziegelman’s surviving cousin. Aaron Ziegelman. My husband and Tova tried many times to reach him via phone, on Facebook and google, to no avail. Tova took the information that she did have and incorporated it into her Dvar Torah for her Bat Mitzvah.

A few months after her bat mitzvah, Sukkot arrived and we were fortunate to finally have the chance to host my son’s teacher, Rabbi Chanales and his family, for a Shabbos meal.
I set the table and for some odd reason, set an extra plate. It is a good thing that I did. The Chanaleses walked in with their family along with a sprite, elderly women. Rabbi Chanales apologized they had forgotten to tell me that his grandmother was joining us.
Mrs. Chanales, senior, invited us to call her Savta and we sat down to lunch and began to chat. She told us that she lived in New York but was originally from Poland.

Tova in front, her cousin Aaron, his sister Lillian (Savta Chanales) and Blima
“Where in Poland?” my husband asked.
“A small town called Luboml,” she replied.

My husband looked at Tova and said, “Luboml, don't we know about Luboml? Tova go get your folder from Yad Vashem.”
My husband turned to Savta Chanales and said, “My daughter visited Yad Vashem last summer and participated in the twinning project there. What is your maiden name?”
“Ziegelman,” she replied.

My husband flushed red. “Ziegelman! My daughter was paired up with a girl named Tova Ziegelman.”
“That was my cousin!” Savta replied incredulously.
Our daughter returned to the table with the folder and my husband handed Savta Chanales the picture of Tova Ziegelman and the three other children. “Do you recognize anyone in this picture?”

“Yes, I know that picture very well. It is in my living room at home. That’s me and my brother, my cousin Tova and her sister Blima.”
Savta Chanales told us that her father had died when she was young. She had two uncles in the United States who rescued her, her brother and mother in 1938. They were able to get out of Luboml, but the rest of her extended family remained and were murdered by the Nazis.
Her brother Aaron, haunted by the loss of his family, friends and neighbors put together a traveling exhibit of Luboml and arranged for a memorial plaque at the mass grave on the outskirts of Lubomov. He also helped produce a documentary on the town. He once said, "
Before they were victims, they were people…I wanted to restore a portion of Jewish memory destroyed by the Germans, to create portraits of people who lived and loved, who went to school, were married, who knew sorrow and joy, laughter and tears.”
Aaron also submitted the page of testimony to Yad Vashem about his cousin Tova Ziegelman and anyone else he was able to remember from Luboml.
We corresponded with the Savta Chanales and she sent us the documentary her brother had made about Luboml.
My generation, those born in the 70’s, had a palpable connection to the Holocaust through the people who lived through it. We felt the loss and horror keenly. We wanted to ensure that the next generation, our children, will understand the enormity of the Holocaust and not view it as an abstraction.
Meeting someone who actually knew Tova Ziegelman, who lived in the town of Luboml, has made the Holocaust more real and personal for our daughter. Our family is grateful to be a source of comfort to Savta Ziegelman and her brother. We are proud to be able to continue the memory of Tova Ziegelman and the victims from the town of Luboml.
August 7

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Post  Admin on Tue 02 Aug 2016, 10:26 pm
40 Ways Life is Better at 40
Since turning 40, I’m a different person.
by Elana Kleinman
Ever since my 40th birthday last year, I’m different. I am calmer, I walk with a skip in my step, I smile more easily and more frequently. I wake up every day feeling the way I do after clearing a closet or organizing my junk drawer.
I think it’s because I have been doing a lot of emotional de-cluttering over the last few years. I am so much more in touch with where I am, what I have, and what I still need (and don’t need).
So after clearing out a lot of the emotional noise and mess, and in honor of my 41st birthday, here is a list of what I’ve learned and why life is better at 40.
Every day is a gift
Every day is a gift
A few good friends are better than many acquaintances
Simple is better
My life experiences trump my formal education
I can laugh at my mistakes
My relationships are stronger
There is nothing like being in pajamas before dinner
I know that God's plan for me is better than anything I can dream for myself
I’ve found ways to make exercise fun – Spartan, Warrior Dash, Mud Hero
Sleep is my friend
Spending money on making memories is better than buying more stuff
It’s easier to say No…but I say Yes more often
I’m not afraid to challenge myself
I know what I can control…and what I can’t
Friends can become family
A beautiful sunset can make my entire day
I’m less self-conscious
I am a kinder, more sympathetic person
I love that my wardrobe is made up of a few pieces I don’t mind wearing over and over again
I am better at telling the people in my life that I love and appreciate them
I can stand up for myself
Yummy take-out is better than going out to a fancy gourmet meal
I’ve learned how to accept a compliment and learn from criticism
I know when something is not my business
I can admit when I’m wrong – usually
Leaving a sink full of dishes for the morning is not the end of the world
Sometimes taking a walk is better than taking a nap
I’ve learned to let things go
When you feel good about yourself others feel good when they’re with you
Being jealous of someone else is stupid – I have what I need
I’ve accepted that change is not always a bad thing
I can choose my mood
I’ve stopped trying to be like everyone else
Having the house to myself is awesome
Time moves faster – making the good times sweeter and the not so good easier
I appreciate the little things
It’s easier to ask for help
I know who I am…and who I am not
I am stronger – physically, emotionally, and spiritually
The future is exciting
Glamorizing Hitler
Fighting “Hitler Chic” isn’t just an issue of taste. It’s protecting the dignity of the six million Jews murdered and battling resurgent anti-Semitism today.
by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller 
The New York Times recently highlighted a growing trend worldwide: the use of Hitler in advertising, using the Nazi leader to lend prestige to products from selling shampoo in Turkey to fried chicken in Thailand.

Last year, “Hitler 2” blue jeans sold in Gaza City. (Lest anyone miss the violent anti-Jewish message, mannequins wearing the jeans even had knives taped to their hands.) Hitler’s image was printed on sugar packets in Croatia that also contained jokes about the Holocaust. “Hitler’s Cross” restaurant opened in Mumbai, India, in 2006. (The name was soon changed after lobbying by the local Jewish community.)
These examples are only the tip of the iceberg. Hitler imagery is commonly used all over the world, and is proliferating, as Nazism gains a sort of glamor in parts of the world.

Here are just a few examples:
In South Korea, Hitler’s image has been used in Nazi-themed bars, to promote a Nazi-inspired clothing line, in purses called “Hitler Bags” and Coreana cosmetics whose controversial ads featured a model wearing a Nazi-style uniform.

Thailand has seen an explosion of Hitler-themed t-shirts, featuring cartoon characters such as Teletubbies or Ronald McDonald altered to look like Hitler and performing the Nazi salute. Some people sporting the fashion get into the act too, giving the one-armed Nazi salute to match the characters on their T-shirts.

So-called “Nazi Chic” is trending in parts of Asia where Nazi-inspired uniforms are popular. In China, it’s become popular for some grooms to dress in Nazi uniforms and pose as Nazi storm-troopers in wedding portraits. In 2014, the Korean girl group Pritz and the Indonesian singing star Ahmad Dhani performed while dressed in Nazi-themed uniforms. In India, a host of products have been linked to Hitler. “Hitler” ice cream cones became popular in the state of Uttar Pradesh in 2015.

This followed the success of “The Nazi Collection” of sheets and pillowcases emblazoned with swastikas in Mumbai and the “Hitler” clothing store that opened in Ahmedabad. (Its logo featured a red swastika instead of a dot over the i.) So pervasive - and prestigious - is Hitler in India, even Hewlett Packard has used a Hitler-themed ad for its products in India.

Even some Western brands have got in on the act. A 2008 ad for A Bela Sintra wine in Brazil featured a photo of Hitler above a bottle of wine with the slogan “Some things get better with time.” Hitler (as well as Mussolini) wine has also been sold in Italy.
These images desensitize us to the horrors of what Hitler and Nazism actually stood for.

For many, Hitler has become a sort of hero. That was the message in a Palestinian Authority-backed children’s magazine, which featured an essay lauding Hitler as a role model for kids. (Not coincidentally, Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiography, is a best-seller in Palestinian Authority-administered areas.)

For 17% of students in India’s elite schools, Hitler is their most admired hero, according to a 2002 poll by the Times of India. Mein Kampf is popular in India too. It has become a must-read for business school students in India, many of whom consider it a motivational tract.
In Thailand, some visitors to graduation ceremonies at the prestigious Chulalongkorn University in 2013 were startled to see a specially-painted mural depicted several comic book heroes - including Hitler - giving a Nazi salute. It was removed after the Simon Wiesenthal center complained.
Such reports point to a real lack of knowledge about the Holocaust. One 2014 survey found only 54% of respondents worldwide have ever heard of the Holocaust - and only a third believe that historical descriptions are accurate.

In Arab regions, that number dips to 8%. In Sub-Saharan Africa, it’s 12%. In Asia, only 23% believe the Holocaust happened as historical records describe. Among all respondents, those younger than 65 years old are much less likely to have heard of the Holocaust - and to believe historical records are correct, when they have.

In the generation after the Holocaust, it became popular to say “Never forget.” Today, as “Hitler Chic” surges around the world, “Never forget” is more crucial than ever. It’s not just a matter of poor taste; it is protecting the dignity of the six million Jews murdered - and battling resurgent anti-Semitism today.

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Post  Admin on Thu 28 Jul 2016, 10:33 pm
Forgiving the Impossible
During the Holocaust, my grandmother gave up everything for her closest friend, only to be abandoned in return.
by Yael Mermelstein 

Train from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen, 1945:
Maniusia Adler was as alone as any human being could possibly be. Her mother and her baby brother had died in the Lodz ghetto. Her three younger siblings had been sent to the gas chambers as soon as they’d arrived in Auschwitz. Her father was gone and she had no idea if she’d ever see him again. Her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins - all of them gone.
She was 16 years old.
She rested her feverish head against the hard wooden planks of the train. Suffering from a carbuncle, the Jewish doctor at Auschwitz had already told her that without medical treatment, she would die soon.
“So this is how I am to meet my maker,” she thought. She felt little regret. There was nobody left to live for.

“What’s your name?” a girl on the train asked.
“I’m Maniusia Adler from Pabianice. I’m the only one left from my family.”
“I’m Cipa Relkowitz and I think I’m as alone in the world as you are.”
The two young girls smiled at each other. They realized they had finally found someone in place of the fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters that they’d lost.
In the bowels of Bergen-Belsen, Maniusia and Cipa became true soul sisters.
After arriving in Bergen-Belsen, Maniusia managed to miraculously survive her illness. There, in the bowels of humanity in Bergen-Belsen, Maniusia and Cipa became true soul sisters. They shared everything they had with each other, down to the precious toothbrush Maniusia had managed to smuggle into Bergen Belsen.

My grandmother’s work permit from the Lodz ghetto
From Bergen-Belsen, Maniusia and Cipa were transferred to a work camp, Magdeburg. There, Frauline Gertz, a righteous gentile, recruited Maniusia to work in a soup kitchen that she ran. In the soup kitchen, she clandestinely fed the girls that she hired. Since Maniusia was still entitled to a bread ration back in the camp, she gave her rations to her ‘sister’ Cipa, enabling her to survive.
Shortly before the end of the war, Frauline Gertz received word from her workers that they would be killed when they return to camp that evening.
“You must not return to Magdeburg,” Frauline Gertz said. “I will hide you girls. You and your mothers and your sisters.”
Maniusia had no mother. No sister. But she had Cipa.
“But my dear friend!“ Maniusia cried.
“I’m sorry,” Frauline Gertz said. “I have to draw the line somewhere. I cannot save your friend.”
Maniusia couldn’t abandon Cipa. She went back to the camp that evening to be killed along with her.
Thankfully, Magdeburg was not liquidated. Instead, Maniusia and Cipa were led on a Death March for days on end, finally locked in a warehouse where their captors disappeared. On May 8, 1945, Maniusia and Cipa were liberated together.
They returned to Poland to see if there were any surviving members of their families, but they couldn’t find anyone to speak for them. Poland was still a dangerous place for the Jews and two women, alone in the world, were easy targets. Every day they went to the municipality, searching through lists of names, hoping to find some trace of a surviving relative.

One day, Maniusia was approached by a woman named Paula, a neighbor from before the war.
“Maniusia,” she said. “You are no longer alone. I will take you home with me.”
She offered Maniusia a warm bed, warm food and warm words. But Maniusia couldn’t leave.
“Please,” she said. “My friend Cipa here, she is the right arm and I am the left. Can you take her too?”
“I’m terribly sorry,” Paula said. “I barely have one extra bed, barely have food for one extra mouth. Feeding you will already be a brick on my head. Two of you? Impossible.”
Maniusia thanked Paula. “But I cannot leave without my friend,” she said. “I am nobody and she is nobody, but together, we are a little bit of somebody.”

Paula left, leaving the two girls alone, once again.
One day, Cipa and Maniusia were doing what they always did – searching the world for someone to love, someone to love them, when they heard a voice calling for Cipa. She turned around.
“Feter Shloime!” she cried.
Cipa’s uncle had returned and the two rejoiced.
“I thought I had nobody left,” her uncle said. “You must come and live with me.”
She had lain across the butcher’s board twice for Cipa, when Cipa had no intention of doing it for her.
Cipa looked at Maniusia and she could already see the guilt in her friend’s eyes. Times were difficult. He could not take on another burden.
“This is my chance,” Cipa said. “I’m going with him.”
Cipa left with her uncle, leaving Maniusia alone in the world again.
That night, Maniusia slept fitfully. It was hard for her to believe that she had lain across the butcher’s board twice for Cipa, when Cipa had no intention of doing it for her.

Maniusia managed to continue to survive without her dear Cipa. She was eventually tracked down by a surviving aunt and uncle in Paris. They obtained a visa for her to Santa Domingo which enabled her to travel to Paris to join them. Shortly thereafter, she married their son, her first cousin, Ari Adler. Maniusia and Ari made Aliyah to Israel, eventually emigrating to the United States where they raised a beautiful family. Today, Maniusia is the proud mother, grandmother and great-grandmother of numerous Jewish descendants.
My grandmother, today
Only recently, I was interviewing my grandmother Manusia (now Miriam Adler) for a book I was compiling about her life. When she told me the chilling story of her and Cipa, I gasped.
“How terrible!” I said. “Did you ever see her again after that?”
My savta smiled. “But don’t you know who Cipa really is?”
I shook my head. She revealed the true identity of Cipa Relkowitz. It was the name of a dear and close friend of my grandmother’s, someone I’d known since I was a small child!
“I changed her name for the book,” she said. “I was afraid she might be embarrassed if the story were to go public with her real name.”
“But how could you possibly remain friends with her after the way that she abandoned you?” I asked her.

My grandmother shrugged. “Who was I to judge her?” she asked. “Everyone has their own way of dealing with things. Her way wasn’t necessarily my way. I forgave her.”
How many of us are loathe to forgive misdemeanors far less egregious than what transpired between Maniusia and Cipa?
How often do we expect to be treated in the same way that we treat others?
How often are rifts caused because we are holding someone up to some external measuring stick that we’ve concocted?
What would it take to let go of our preconceived notions of the way people should behave?
Can we entertain the possibility that everyone comes with their own unique set of circumstances and that it is not our place to judge someone else’s actions?

How different would our lives and our relationships be if we could forgive – not from a place of understanding – but from a place of accepting that everyone has their foibles, some greater than others?
Maniusia and Cipa’s lifelong friendship is testimony to the power of pure, untainted, forgiveness.
Yael's book, I Promise You – the story of her grandmother, Maniusia Adler's suvival of the Holocaust – is now available with Israel Bookshop. This book, written in the present tense from the perspective of a teen, takes a unique and poignant slant on a story that should never get tired of being told.

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Post  Admin on Mon 25 Jul 2016, 10:58 pm
Balak(Numbers 22:2-25:9) 
What Makes God Laugh
There is an old saying that what makes God laugh is seeing our plans for the future.[1] However, if Tanakh is our guide, what makes God laugh is human delusions of grandeur. From the vantage point of heaven, the ultimate absurdity is when humans start thinking of themselves as godlike.

There are several pointed examples in the Torah. One whose full import has only recently become clear occurs in the story of the Tower of Babel. Men gather together in the plain of Shinar and decide to build a city and a tower "that will reach to heaven." As it happens, we have archeological confirmation of this fact. Several Mesopotamian ziggurats, including the temple of Marduk in Babylon, have been found with inscriptions saying that they reach heaven.[2]
The idea was that tall buildings - man-made mountains - allowed humans to climb to the dwelling place of the gods and thus communicate with them. The Mesopotamian city states were among the first places of civilisation, itself one of the turning points in the history of human life on earth. Before the birth of agriculture, the ancients lived in fear of nature: of predators, of other tribes and bands, and of the vicissitudes of heat and cold, drought and flood. Their fate depended on matters beyond their control.
Only with the spread of domesticated animals and agriculture did people gather in towns, then cities, then empires. A tipping point occurred in the balance of power between nature and culture. For the first time humans were not confined to adapting to their environment. They could adapt their environment to suit them. At this point they - especially the rulers - began to see themselves as gods, demigods, or people with the power to influence the gods.
The most conspicuous symbol of this was buildings on a monumental scale: the ziggurats of Babylon and other Mesopotamian cities, and the pyramids of Egypt. Built on the flat land of the Tigris-Euphrates valley and the Nile delta, they towered over their surroundings. The great pyramid of Giza, built even before the birth of Abraham, was so monumental that it remained the tallest man-made structure on earth for four thousand years.
The fact that these were artificial mountains built by human hands suggested to their builders that humans had acquired godlike powers. They had constructed a stairway to heaven. Hence the significance of the phrase in the Torah's account of the tower, "And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built." This is God laughing. On earth, humans thought they had reached the sky, but to God the building was so infinitesimal, so microscopic that he had to come down even to see it. Only with the invention of flight do we now know how small the tallest building looks when you are looking down from a mere 30,000 feet.
To end their hubris God simply "confused their language". They no longer understood one another. The entire project was turned into French farce. We can visualise the scene. A foreman calls for a brick and is handed a hammer. He tells a worker to go right and he turns left. The project foundered in a welter of incomprehension. Men thought they could climb to heaven but in the end they could not even understand what the person next to them was saying. The unfinished tower became a symbol of the inevitable failure of vaunting ambition. The builders achieved what they sought but not in the way they intended. They wanted to "make a name for themselves" and they succeeded, but instead of becoming a byword for man's ability to reach the sky, Babel became babble, an emblem of confusion. Hubris became nemesis.
The second example was Egypt during the early plagues. Moses and Aaron turned the water of the Nile into blood, and filled Egypt with frogs. We then read that the Egyptian magicians did likewise to show that they had the same power. So concerned were they to show that they could do what the Hebrews could do, that they entirely failed to realise that they were making things worse, not better. The real skill would have been to turn blood back into water, and make frogs not appear but disappear.
We hear the Divine laughter especially in the third plague: lice. For the first time, the magicians tried and failed to replicate the effect. Defeated, they turned to Pharaoh and said, "It is the finger of God." The humour comes when we remember that for the Egyptians the symbol of power was monumental architecture: pyramids, temples, palaces and statues on a massive scale. God showed them His power by way of the tiniest of insects, painful yet almost invisible to the eye. Again hubris became nemesis. When people think they are big, God shows them they are small - and vice versa. It is those who think themselves small - supremely so Moses, the humblest of men - who are truly great.

This explains the otherwise curious episode of Bilam's talking donkey. This is not a fanciful tale, nor simply a miracle. It arose because of the way the people of Moab and Midian thought of Bilam - and perhaps, by extension, the way he thought of himself. Balak the Moabite king, together with the leaders of the Midianites, sent a delegation to Bilam asking him to curse the Israelites: "Come now, curse this people for me, since they are too mighty for me … for I know that whom you bless is blessed, and whom you curse is cursed."
This is a pagan understanding of the holy man: the shaman, the magus, the wonder-worker, the person with access to supernatural powers. The Torah's view is precisely the opposite. It is God who blesses and curses, not human beings. "I will bless those who bless you and those who curse you I will curse," God said to Abraham. "They shall place my name on the children of Israel and I will bless them," he said about the priests. The idea that you can hire a holy man to curse someone essentially presupposes that God can be bribed.
The narrative is admittedly obscure. God tells Bilam not to go. Balak sends a second delegation with a more tempting offer. This time God tells Bilam to go with them but say only what he instructs him to say. The next morning Bilam sets out to go with the Moabites, but the text now states that God was "angry" with him for going. That is when the episode of the donkey takes place.
The donkey sees an angel barring the way. It turns aside into a field but Bilam hits it and forces it back to the path. The angel is still barring the way and the donkey veers into a wall, crushing Bilam's foot. Bilam hits it again, but finally it lies down and refuses to move. 

That is when the donkey begins to speak. Bilam then looks up and sees the angel, who had been hitherto invisible to him.
Why did God first tell Bilam not to go, then that he should go, and then was angry when he went? Evidently God could read his mind and knew that Bilam did really want to curse the Israelites. We know this because later, after the attempt to curse the Israelites failed, Bilam succeeded in causing them harm, advising the Midianites to get their women to seduce the Israelite men, thus provoking the anger of God (Num. 31:16). Bilam was no friend of the Israelites.

But the story of the talking donkey is another instance of Divine laughter. Here was a man reputed to be a maestro of supernatural forces. People thought he had the power to bless or curse whomever he chose. God, the Torah tells us, is not like that at all. He had two messages, one for the Moabites and Midianites, another for Bilam himself.
He showed the Moabites and Midianites that Israel is not cursed but blessed. The more you attempt to curse them the more they will be blessed and you yourself will be cursed. That is as true today as it was then. There are movements throughout the world to curse the state and people of Israel. The greater the malice of Israel's enemies, the stronger Israel becomes, and the more disasters its enemies bring upon their own people.

God had a different message for Bilam himself, and it was very blunt. If you think you can control God, then, says God, I will show you that I can turn a donkey into a prophet and a prophet into a donkey. Your animal will see angels to which you yourself are blind. Bilam was forced to admit:
          How can I curse those whom God has not cursed?
          How can I denounce those whom the Lord has not denounced?

Hubris always eventually becomes nemesis. In a world in which rulers engaged in endless projects of self-aggrandisement, Israel alone produced a literature in which they attributed their successes to God and their failures to themselves. Far from making them weak, this made them extraordinarily strong.
So it is with us as individuals. I have mentioned before a beloved friend, no longer alive, about whom it was said that "he took God so seriously that he didn't need to take himself seriously at all." Pagan prophets like Bilam had not yet learned the lesson we must all one day learn: that what matters is not that God does what we want, but that we do what He wants. God laughs at those who think they have godlike powers. The opposite is true. The smaller we see ourselves, the greater we become.

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Post  Admin on Wed 20 Jul 2016, 9:43 pm

When the Victims of Terror Are Not Jews
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
The terrorism of Nice and the world's select outrage.
Nice has till now been world renowned as the capitol of the French Riviera. Founded by the Greeks long ago, it became a resort for the elite – the cultured, the artistic, the sophisticated, the liberals and the intellectuals who gloried in its symbolic status as paradigm of 21st century paradise.
Today Nice has joined the geographic list of monuments to the tragedy of terrorism. The names of the cities stand as powerful reminders of the universal threat to civilized society. It is no longer just Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. It is Paris and Brussels, San Bernardino and Orlando, Istanbul and Dhaka.
And so we have come full circle.
For years now Europe has been in the forefront of those justifying Palestinian atrocities - terrorist acts of murder of innocents, of slayings of Jews at prayer, children asleep in their bedrooms, mothers in front of their children - all deemed permissible with the torturous logic that people who believe they have no other alternative are morally permitted to carry out brutal and barbaric violence.
Is wholesale murder in fact ever tolerable because the executioners are convinced that their ultimate goal is noble?
But surely now the world needs to ask the question: When does terrorism cease to be terrorism? Is wholesale murder in fact ever tolerable because the executioners are convinced that their ultimate goal is noble? Is there any possible vindication for driving a truck into a crowd of celebrants of Bastille Day, supposedly to distribute free ice cream to the revelers, viciously killing and injuring small children as well as hundreds of others in its path?

The Terrorist Attack in France
by Sara Debbie Gutfreund
It seems that nowhere is safe. How do we live in these times of uncertainty?
The Terrorist Attack in FranceThe Terrorist Attack in France
It seems that nowhere is safe. How do we live in these times of uncertainty?
by Sara Debbie Gutfreund 
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At 10:30pm Thursday a huge truck plowed into a crowd of people watching the Bastille Day fireworks in Nice, France killing over 80 people and seriously injuring dozens more. After the terrorist drove over dozens of people, he emerged from the truck and began to shoot until he was shot dead by police. The official death tally is still unknown, but what we do know is that this is a tragedy of horrific proportions. It comes at the end of a week of senseless violence and tension in America. And it comes at the end of a week of continuing terrorist attacks and fear in Israel.
What do we do when nowhere is safe anymore? When sitting down to watch fireworks with your children is risking your life? When the horror and the violence never seem to end and no one knows what to say anymore?
We read the news with a mixture of shock and trepidation. It is so awful that it silences us with the sheer terror of our helplessness. The terrorists seem to be anywhere and everywhere. The violence is so frightening, we feel like we are frozen in place. Where is it safe? What do we do? What can we say? Where can we find certainty in this shaken, upside down world where mass killings are becoming weekly news?

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Post  Admin on Thu 07 Jul 2016, 9:52 pm

Sherzad: The Kurdish Jew
Nothing will deter him from standing up for his beliefs, even a terrorist attack that cost him his arm.
by Ronda Robinson 
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Sherzad Omer Mamsani is proud to be a Kurdish Jew and is letting the world know it. Nothing will deter him, even a terrorist attack that cost him his arm and left shrapnel in his legs. “This is my calling. How can I run away from it? This is my history. This is my faith. This is not something I do just for a living. It is my life.”
Kurdistan’s director of Jewish affairs since 2015, Sherzad welcomes any Jews who might come to visit for business or tourism. “Jews would be surprised to find that they are freer and safer here than in certain European capitals,” he asserts. He would like to revive Jewish life and see a synagogue in every town. As Iraqi Kurdistan’s first Jewish leader, he spearheaded the first Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony in Kurdistan in May.

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Post  Admin on Wed 06 Jul 2016, 11:07 am

[VIDEO] Miracle at Entebbe: 40th Anniversary
by The Sydenham Shul
This short inspiring video retells Israel’s miraculous rescue of 102 hostages at Entebbe.
View Video

Where Do the Jewish People Get the Strength to Go On?
by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff
We have been scattered throughout the four corners of this earth, many have pronounced us as dead and yet here we are.
by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff 
I cannot watch, but I dare not turn away either. Orit Mark, a young girl cries out. Her father, Michael (Miki) was shot as he drove his wife and two of his 10 children on the highway. Her mother, Chavi, has been severely injured in the attack; the two siblings wounded. She stands with her brother’s arms around her, trying to give words to the gaping hole in her heart. Sobbing, her body heaving, she speaks. Orit is eulogizing her murdered father.
I am awed by this child of our people. Today Orit has lost the sweet innocence of youth. She has met indescribable tragedy face on.
And yet she refuses to utterly crumble. Her voice is strong despite the tears. There is a passion, a conviction that fills the room where thousands of mourners gather in silent sadness. I can hear the whimpers in the crowd, the sighs of weariness from still another killing. But she, this child of our people, does not yield.
“Abba sheli, Abba sheli” – my father, my father, “I love you so.”
Orit’s tears pull at my heart. The raw grief is agonizing, grueling to witness.
“My beloved father, I can’t believe we are parting. Just a moment ago you held me and told me that you’ll never leave but now God has taken you.”
Describing her father, one cannot help but be moved by the goodness that he must have transmitted to his children each day.

A Wounded Faith and Loyal Hasid
by Rabbi Jay Yaacov Schwartz
My unexpected encounter with Prof. Elie Wiesel gave me a glimpse into his regal soul..
by Rabbi Jay Yaacov Schwartz 
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I didn’t meet Prof. Wiesel, as he liked to be called, until well into my fourth decade of life. Until then, I viewed him as a moral witness to the Holocaust, prolific writer, secular Jew and a poetic soul. His message seemed to speak to the common denominator of our creation in the image of o-d, and how the Holocaust both betrayed and imposed unending wounds on the collective spirituality of mankind.
However upon meeting Prof. Wiesel, I encountered an individual that was quite different of what I had anticipated. In the Fall of 2005, I accompanied leaders and benefactors of the Hasidic communities of Tzfat to Prof. Wiesel’s private office near Park Avenue. We were electrified by his regal bearing. He emerged from behind his desk, surrounded by what seemed like thousands of volumes of writing, research and Jewish seforim, books.

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Post  Admin on Thu 30 Jun 2016, 10:08 pm
My Mother-in-Law: Jewish Heroine and Nazi Killer
The thrilling, true story of Rachel Blum’s struggle to survive in a world bent on destroying her.
by Yaakov Astor 

It was a daunting assignment: speaking to 120 eighth grade girls about the Holocaust in the last hour of the last day of their school year. Compounding my challenge, it was gloriously sunny outside. The girls would be anxious to take leave for their summer vacation.
In my favor, I was going to tell them a remarkable story: that of my mother-in-law, Rachel Blum, may her soul rest in peace – a story I have told to spell-bound audiences and have recently published in book form under the title Nothing Bad Ever Happens.
I told these teenage girls that my mother-in-law was roughly their age during the war years, beginning in June 1941 when the Nazis invaded her town, until July 1944 when the Russians liberated Lublin where she had been hiding with a non-Jewish family.
Then I dove into the story, which is truly incredible and gripping – including a Hollywood-worthy climax as Rachel rides in the caboose of a speeding train transporting a thousand SS soldiers to Germany. Fearful an SS officer is about to discover she is Jewish, she convinces the conductor – Ivan Roluk, husband of the non-Jewish couple who took her in – to overturn the train by speeding up around a sharp bend and blowing the horn just beforehand to allow her and his family to jump. (It worked, the family survived and many Nazis were killed; 15-year-old Rachel was responsible for the death of more SS Nazis in one shot than the combined efforts of all the legendary fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising!)

Despite the dramatic nature of that story, I will save the details for the book and instead share another story, one which is in some ways even more incredible.
The Main Shul in Ludmir

Rachel’s childhood town, Ludmir, was home to about 22,000 Jews before the war. On Rosh Hashanah 1942, the Nazis, with the help of local collaborators, began marching columns of bedraggled Jews to a spot outside town and machine-gunned them to death into open pits. Between 15,000 and 18,000 Jews lost their lives that way. And Ludmir was just one of countless Jewish towns in Eastern Europe; all told, some million-and-a-half Jews suffered a similar fate under Nazi domination (even before the gas chambers started operating).

Rachel and her family survived thanks to an ingenious attic hideout. And for the next year, she survived by staying in hiding, smuggling in food for her family and ultimately joining the few thousand survivors in the Ludmir ghetto who had been conscripted into brutal slave labor battalions. Over the year, though, each family member was killed or died of starvation.
This woman risked her life to keep Rachel – until one day when an anti-Semitic neighbor discovered her.
Finally, on December 25, 1943, the Nazis came to finish off everyone left in the ghetto. In miraculous fashion – Rachel found a hiding place beneath a wooden porch. A few days later she emerged and made her way to a Polish woman her family knew before the war.

This woman risked her life to keep Rachel – until one day when an anti-Semitic neighbor discovered her. Frightened for her own life now, the Polish woman told her she had to leave by the early morning.
It was January 1944. A fresh layer of deep snow lay on the ground. The air was biting cold. And a little girl, improperly dressed, was alone and on the run again.

She wandered the streets of non-Jewish Ludmir for a while before entering a barn. Her entire body chilled to the bone, she found a spot at the far end and stuck her feet into a stack of hay to warm them up.

Suddenly, a woman walked in. Their eyes met. Rachel pleaded with her to be quiet, promising she would be gone by the next morning. The woman said nothing, gathered some items and left.
As the day turned into evening, Rachel prepared to leave. The night before she had experienced a powerful dream where her recently-deceased father appeared to her and told her everything would be alright. Drawing courage from the dream, she exited the barn and approached the house next to it.

She knocked on the door. The woman she had seen earlier in the day opened it and invited her inside. The woman then introduced husband and their seventeen-year-old son (who Rachel later found out worked in the local SS office!). They offered her a bowl of soup. During conversation it emerged that this family, the Roluks, knew Rachel’s father. They praised him for being a very righteous and honest man they had had business dealings with. If they did not have money to pay for the items he gave them on consignment, he did not pressure them to pay.

At this point in the war, both Rachel and the Roluks knew the Nazis would kill any family caught harboring a Jew. Understanding the predicament, Rachel asked Mrs. Roluk if she and her family were religious. She answered affirmatively. Rachel then asked her if they had a Bible. Again affirmative. Rachel next requested that she take the Bible and place it on the table. She did. Finally, Rachel said to the entire family, “I want all of you to place your hands on the Bible.” They complied.
“Now, promise me on this Bible that after the war you will find Jewish people and tell that there is a little Jewish girl buried in the backyard.”
“Now, promise me the following,” the 14-year-old recently orphaned Jewish girl said. “I have nowhere to run. I’m tired and I’m alone. After this, I will go outside to your backyard and lie down in the snow. There I will freeze to death. You will bury me. 
Now, promise me on this Bible” – and it is difficult to convey the quality of conviction in my mother-in-law’s voice even as she retold it decades later – “that after the war you will find Jewish people and tell that there is a little Jewish girl buried in the backyard. Promise me that you will tell them that her last wish was that she be reburied with other Jews in a Jewish cemetery.”
A deathly silence fell upon the room. The Roluks looked at each other. One by one, they rose from the table and walked into the next room. Rachel could hear them talking. After a while, they returned and said to her, “You will stay with us. We will tell people that you are our niece from another village.”
What the Roluks did not know at the time was that in saving Rachel they were saving themselves – not only in soul but in body too. (This is detailed in the book. Hint: it has to do with the train story above.)
By the end of my lecture, the 120 girls were mesmerized. The most amazing part of Rachel’s story is that – despite the fact that by war’s end she had no family, friends or money – she became the happiest, most active, most loving and helping human being; someone who regularly said with absolute sincerity, “Nothing bad ever happened to me.”
The story of my mother-in-law inspires on many levels. She is a genuine heroine. As Jews, her story impresses upon us an added message: the value of what it means to be Jewish. Perhaps most of all, we learn from her that even if very bad things happen to us, we have within ourselves an astonishing, mysterious, inextinguishable untapped capacity to love; to be truly happy, active, focused and a magnet of joy for others. God knows, the world needs more of that.
Nothing Bad Ever Happens tells the thrilling, true story of Rachel Blum’s struggle to survive in a world bent on destroying her. Click here to order.

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Post  Admin on Tue 28 Jun 2016, 10:59 am
Wheelchair Envy
I wish people would realize my child is mentally ill and is not going to grow out of it.
by Jane Doeberg 
Have you ever wished your child was in a wheelchair?
Probably not. It’s a horrible wish.
But I have.

You’ve probably never felt jealousy when watching a mother pushing a profoundly disabled child, his arms curled inward, his eyes rolling and his head lolling to the side? People turn and look when he squawks because he can’t communicate. And the people look at the mother attending to him, with compassion in their eyes. “Poor mom,” their eyes say. “That’s a lot on her plate.”
I have.

I have six children and they can all run and jump and hug. They look normal on the outside. And yet I wish there was something tangible to signal to others that all isn’t well, so they could see what we are up against.
You wouldn’t know that my eldest daughter is sick by looking at her.

She’s a beautiful girl with a radiant smile and a boisterous laugh, athletic and smart. Sure, she has a piercing too many, and people talk about her going off the religious path. Sometimes, at synagogue, someone will take me aside and comment on what she’s wearing (or not).
I thank them for their concern. Or I amuse myself by saying, “Holy cow! You’re right – I hadn’t noticed.”

They don’t know what goes on behind closed doors – that this beautiful, once sweet girl is drowning in pain, feels worthless and angry, hates limits but craves them even as she pushes against them without relent. That she tries to numb her pain with booze and boys. That she cuts her skin, that she can’t stand her brothers and sisters, that she hates the parents who love her. Hates me.
Most of all, she hates herself.

Instead I get this: “Oh, she’s just a teenager… you’ll see. She’ll grow out of it,” my neighbor told me when I had to explain why the police had been at our house again. (She’d jumped out a window in the middle of the night “to take a walk,” she explained upon her return hours later. It was ridiculous that we’d called the police, she said. Unreasonable.)

She’ll grow out of it? Is the child in the wheelchair, arms curled in, going to grow out of it?
Neither is she.

Her biological mother hasn’t. She’s a relative of my husband’s and we adopted her two children, a boy and a girl, when they were preschoolers after their mother had been arrested. Again.

A brilliant, gifted woman unable to observe social norms or control her temper, she abused her children emotionally and physically and disappeared from their lives once the family banded together to protect the children.

My son and daughter haven’t seen or spoken to her since a year after we attained custody 11 years ago. They both have written to her periodically and either receive no response or lengthy, bizarre ramblings. (Their father passed away before we got custody.)

Their biological mother never consented to treatment and the Court-compelled diagnoses conflict. Maybe it’s bipolar, maybe she’s Borderline, maybe this personality disorder or that. Psychiatry, while gifted with incredible tools, is an inexact science. Often, diagnoses follows what medication or treatment a patient respond to. Their mother never complied, and we haven’t yet found one that works for our daughter. And, warn the doctors, mental illness usually doesn’t fully “crystalize” until the early 20s.

I sometimes think that the emphasis on “diagnosis” isn’t a medical need, but to give everyone else a label to name the enemy controlling my child.

My son – an angry, nasty, manipulative five-year-old who sometimes frightened me when he first came to live with us – has his challenges, but he has been unrelenting in the work he does on himself. He is a brave, good, kind, funny, honorable, happy teenager. He works with his therapists and works with us. And the biology – at this point – seems to be on his side.
Not so for his sister.

Even as a small child, when we would care for her before we got custody, her temper was explosive, she could tolerate no frustration or disappointment, and communicating with her seemed impossible.

For a time, with the help of an excellent team of therapists and advisors and a stable, loving home, she seemed to blossom. Her grades were great and her behavior – which concerned us far more than grades – was wonderful. She stopped picking on the nerdy kids, tore up the soccer field, treated people with respect, tried to be honest, and adored her baby brothers and sister.
We called her a champ for having worked so successfully on herself, for accomplishing the most important thing: growing and being kind. Sure, she tended toward selfishness or manipulation, but it seemed within the bounds of normalcy. And we believed that she could do or be anything.
And then adolescence hit.

Other girls matured and changed, and she didn’t. She couldn’t seem to get the social signaling going on, and didn’t know how to talk and interact like a tween. She wanted to be in the popular clique, but they didn’t want her, and she refused to befriend anyone who did. The same determination that allowed her to accomplish so much became a barrier to us, a wall, a stubbornness that impeded her ability to hear or see the reality others experienced. She heard no one else, could see nothing except her own desires and impulses.

Minor conflicts mushroomed into major ones. All children fight over the use of the bathroom, but she tried to break down the door. Other kids stomp a foot in frustration; she would collapse on the stairs and then accuse us of pushing her down them.
Though he has four inches and 30 pounds on her, she’d attack her brother in a fury, and not understand why he wanted nothing to do with her. Her little brothers and sisters, once the source of so much joy, became annoyances. 
Though she’s never touched them aggressively, we try never to leave her alone with them.
Fortunately, our community is warm and lovely, and my daughter’s peers clearly see that she’s a girl in pain. After all, she takes every small misunderstanding as an intentional slight, and spins fantastic tales that she thinks are impressive but others finds bizarre.

Her teachers – baffled – mostly have responded to her with warmth and love, generosity and effort that touched my family deeply. One administrator has bent over backwards to work with us, accommodating her frequent absences, adjusting her class schedule, coordinating with the innumerable therapists seeking pictures of how she behaves outside their offices.

And she tells me time and again how much she feels for me, that she sees we’re seeking to get help for her, that we’re unconcerned with shame or standing. Which apparently distinguishes us from so many other families in similar situations. Which is sad.
A few years ago, a well-meaning but ignorant teacher who knows our family from synagogue delayed filling out a teacher form we needed for a neuropsychological evaluation. “I just don’t see why you  want to have her evaluated,” she took me aside at a wedding to explain why she’d not filled it out. “She’s fine at school. Maybe you’re expecting too much?”

I burned silently, thinking of how frightened our then-five-year-old had been the night before when she was awoken by her sister throwing a chair across our kitchen when my husband had told her to turn off her phone. Do I expect too much?

The things people say: “Maybe you’re too inflexible?” “Aren’t you being a little harsh? All teenagers are like this.” “Look, I ran away from home once…” “Hey, my son had behavioral problems but he grew out of them.” “She seems so lovely…”
Can’t you listen to me! I want to scream. This is mental illness, not a phase or just being a teenager. I told you that she is mentally ill. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?

And to those who do seem to get it, please, don’t suggest that, perhaps, she should see a therapist. The four weekly appointments aren’t enough – psycho-therapy, occupational therapy, and trauma treatment, all overseen by a psychiatrist?

Or the most wounding of all, from an actual (well-meaning) friend: “Do you think you’d have more compassion for her if you were her real mother?”
Many people feel mental illness is a stigma. The only shame would be if we refused to deal with it.
Her real mother? The one who abused and abandoned her? I’m just the one who cries myself to sleep with worry, who balances her needs against those of my other children, who plans my schedule around her moods, who sleeps on her floor when we suspect she might try to cut herself, who has been spat upon and threatened with violence. Apparently, I’m just the stand-in.
Hence my desire for the wheelchair.

I realize that many people feel a stigma, feel embarrassed by mental illness. Or maybe their need for privacy is greater than mine. Or maybe it’s a luxury I can’t afford since people know that our eldest children are relatives we adopted. And it doesn’t take tremendous insight or wisdom to recognize that a mother who’s uninvolved in her children’s lives probably isn’t the most normal mother around.

So whether anyone asks or not, they already know that something is up. So I’m comparatively open. I don’t feel that it’s a secret and I don’t think that it’s worthy of shame.

But I realize now what it means to constantly walk on eggshells. Even when she’s doing well, we’re always waiting, worrying that her mood or brain chemistry will shift and we’ll be back in a maelstrom. I’m ever vigilant, always watching her like a hawk. It’s awful for me, and it must be awful for her too.
“How is she?” my friends ask after a hospitalization. Even if she’s fine at the moment, we’re all not – we’re waiting.

Everyone has challenges in life – chronic unemployment, leukemia, marital discord, you name it. Apparently this is my family’s. The only shame would be if we refused to deal with it.
If someone wants to stigmatize me or my children, that’s his decision. I probably wouldn’t want to have much to do with such a person anyway since he’s likely neither wise nor generous.
And I recognize that nearly all the people who’ve wounded me with their comments mean well, however much or little they know or understand.
I want you to know that it’s hard, that I’m struggling.

But I just wish that I had something to signal to others that I have it hard. And that this is real.
Not that I want pity, or even necessarily help (because there really is little that anyone can do). But I want you to know that I’m suffering.

I want you to know that it’s hard, that I’m struggling.

And I want you to understand the patience and strength and resilience of my husband and children. To know that my eldest son lives with constant fear that his sister is destined to turn into the woman who hurt them. And yet he goes on, as we all do. So mindful of all of the goodness we have, in spite of my daughter’s illness.

We’re trying. Please be patient with us.

And I want that compassionate smile.
The neighbor who told me that my daughter would grow out of it eventually got it. Her response opened my heart. After one particularly bad public scene, my neighbor said, “Ach, this is so hard for you. I’m so sorry.”

That’s all I wanted.

That’s all there is.
How can I describe what it is to have to hold down your child while your husband runs for the Xanax? To feel like a prison guard, to set limits by threatening to call the police? All I want is a “Wow, is that hard.”

Yes, I’m ashamed to be jealous of the wheelchair. But sometimes I feel hopeless and tired, and drained. And I just wish that you knew.
  Published: June 25, 2016

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Post  Admin on Thu 23 Jun 2016, 3:11 pm
Britain and the Jews
by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller 
As England goes to the polls for a historic referendum, here are some little-known facts about Jews in the Sceptered Isle.
Medieval Flourishing
Jews first arrived in England with William the Conqueror in 1166; more came later from France, fleeing the Crusades. Additional Jews were invited to the northern city of York by the Bishop of York, who requested their help with his scholarship and learning. Jews established flourishing communities throughout England, engaging in trade, medicine, jewelry-making, and singing.

Legally, English Jews were regarded as a form of chattel. King Henry III mortgaged the Jewish community of England to his brother Richard as collateral for a loan. He later mortgaged England’s Jews to his son Edward in return for an annual payment and an oath of loyalty.
Anti-Semitism in the Magna Carta
It’s been called the first Democratic document in modern Europe, but the Magna Carta – the first document to limit a European monarch’s power, in 1215 – singled out England’s Jews. Fully three clauses (out of 62) of the Magna Carta dealt with Jews, limiting their power to claim unpaid debts and restricting their ability to do business with landowners.

English Pogroms
England’s King Richard I – “Richard the Lionheart” – was an enthusiast supporter of the Crusades and encouraged his subjects to attack Jews wherever they could. At his coronation in September 1189, a riot began at the doors of Westminster Hall; Londoners rampaged through the streets, killing many of the capital’s Jews and ransacking their homes.
Pogroms soon spread to other English towns. Jews were massacred in Dunstable, Lynn, Stamford and Norwich. Pogroms reached the northern city of York in March 1190. Terrified Jews begged to be admitted to York Castle, and the warden opened the castle doors and offered them protection. The local sheriff – leading a crowd braying for Jewish blood – attacked the castle. The Jews inside committed suicide rather than be murdered by the mob outside.

Blood Libels
One of the earliest English pieces of literature, Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, devotes an entire tale – the Prioress’ Tale – to the fabricated story of a Jew who murdered an innocent Christian child in order to steal his blood.
The Prioress’s Tale
In real life, English Jews were routinely accused of blood libels – and often murdered as a result. One of England’s most famous saints – St. Hugh of Lincoln – is a Christian boy whom locals falsely claimed was murdered by Jews in 1255. Eighteen Jews were ultimately executed for failing to confess; the real murderer was never caught.

Secret Jew in Queen Elizabeth’s Court
On July 18, 1290, King Edward I issued an edict banishing Jews from England entirely. Small groups of secret Jews were rumored to live in England, fleeing torture and death under the Inquisition (which mandated death to anyone practice Judaism) that then operated in Portugal and Spain.
One young doctor – Rodrigo Lopez, a secret Jew from Portugal – rose to become the Queen Elizabeth I’s personal physician. Although he maintained the outward trappings of an English gentleman – a busy medical practice, a house in the Holborn area of London, a son at the prestigious Winchester boarding school – Lopez was part of a small group of secret Jews who continued to practice their religion in London.
Unfortunately, Lopez also made a powerful enemy: the Earl of Essex, who was a patient of Dr. Lopez, and seems to have had a falling out with the doctor. When a plot against a pretender to the Portuguese throne surfaced in London, Essex accused Lopez of being part of it. Soon Lopez was accused of being a Spanish spy – and then of poisoning Queen Elizabeth I. Although he protested his innocence, Lopez was arrested, tortured, and in 1594 was publically executed.
Shakespeare is thought to have based the Jewish character of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, written a few years later, on Dr. Lopez. (One clue is the name of his nemesis, Antonio – the same name of the Portuguese nobleman Dr. Lopez was accused of plotting against.)

Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel and the Return of Jews to England
Menasseh ben Israel was a genius who wrote defenses of the Torah, established the first Hebrew printing press in Holland, and maintained friendships and correspondence with some of the greatest figures of the day – including Rembrandt, Queen Christina of Sweden, and the political philosopher Hugo Grotius.
Eager to provide Jews a refuge from anti-Semitism in Europe, Menasseh ben Israel wrote to the new British leader Oliver Cromwell, in 1650, asking him to admit Jews to England. (Menasseh ben Israel guessed that as a devout Puritan, Cromwell might be more positively disposed to the Jews.)
A portrait of Menasseh ben Israel by his friend Rembrandt gives us a glimpse of this remarkable man.
After years of petitions, his wish was granted. Cromwell admitted many individual Jews, allowing them “to meet privately in their houses for prayer” and to lease a cemetery. In 1656, about thirty Jewish families from Spain and Portugal moved to London, eventually setting up a synagogue on Creechurch Lane.
Cromwell’s successor King Charles II continued to relax laws against Jewish life. In 1698, it finally became legal in England to practice Judaism.

Yiddish in England
Between 1881 and 1914, over two million Jews fled anti-Semitism and pogroms in Eastern Europe. Most wanted to go to America, and many set sail on British-owned ships. Docking in Britain en route to the US, a number of Jews decided to stay and make England their homes. By 1914, a quarter of a million Jews lived in England.
While earlier waves of Jewish immigrants were Sephardi, these new immigrants were from Ashkenazi communities. Yiddish newspapers and theatres thrived. One Jewish Londoner, Louis Behr, later recalled visiting the Yiddish-speaking Pavilion Theatre in the 1920s:
“And then Saturday night when Shabbos was out, that was a treat….” Jewish women in particular queued up to buy tickets he remembers: “The whole week they slaved, there was no washing machine, no refrigerator, no television, no wireless (radio). But that was their outlet, once a week they went and they’d come along with packets, their own gefilte fried fish, bagels and food.” If an actor ever forgot his lines, Mr. Behr remembered, the audience – familiar with the play after weeks of theatre visits – would remind them.
Queues outside the Pavilion Theatre, 1895
My mother grew up in London’s East End and recalls her grandmother – my great-grandmother Yittah – who lived and worked in London her entire life, getting by entirely in Yiddish. Each week Yittah would attend a performance at a Yiddish theatre. The more maudlin the play, the better, rating stories by the number of hankies she used up crying. A three-hanky play was called a “gitta druma” or a good show.
Retail Pioneers
In the 19th Century, two Jewish businessmen – Elias Moses and his son Isaac – revolutionized shopping in England – and beyond, inventing the concept of department stores, mass marketing, and “ready to wear” clothes.
From humble beginnings in a market in London’s heavily Jewish East End, the Moses men established full service clothing stores across England, catering to the Victorian age’s growing cohort of salaried workers who craved fine clothing on modest incomes. Their stores were lavish, and offered working class customers the fine service and beautiful surroundings that had previously been the preserve only of the rich.
An 1850 guidebook describes one E. Moses & Son branch: “many thousands of gas-flames, forming branches, foliage, and arabesques, and sending forth so dazzling a blaze, that this fiery column of Moses is visible to Jews and Gentiles at a distance of half a mile.”
English Jews have helped found some of the country’s other iconic businesses too, including the supermarket chain Tesco (founded by Sir Jack Cohen), clothing chain Marks & Spencer (founded by Sir Michael Marks and Thomas Spencer) and Shell Oil (Marcus Bearsted).

Jewish Oath in Parliament
In 1847, Baron Lionel Nathan de Rothschild was elected to Parliament – and was later elected four more times – but was prevented from taking his seat in the Commons because he refused to take an oath declaring his “true faith as a Christian” and swear on a Christian Bible.
Other Jews had served in Parliament: Benjamin Disraeli (who converted to Christianity as a child) would later serve as Prime Minister, and the Jewish MP David Salomons was elected to Parliament in 1851. (Salomons also refused to take the Christian oath, but insisted on taking his seat anyway; he was forcibly removed from Parliament three days later and fined 500 pounds for voting “illegally” in Parliament.)
Rothschild, however, was the first Jew to insist on his right to be sworn into Parliament on his own terms, and he fought publicly for expanded rights for Britain’s Jews. Finally, in 1858, after pressure from Disraeli – and after being elected five times – Rothschild was able to take his seat – eleven years late. Covering his head with a top hat, Rothschild entered the chamber and swore “So help me, Jehovah” instead. (The following year, David Salomons was reelected – and took his oath using the wording Rothschild had pioneered.)

Questions for the Future
A recent 2011 survey found that 271,259 Jews call Britain home. A clear majority of British Jews – 60% – send their children to Jewish schools. 64% of British Jews live in the main Jewish centers of London and Manchester, and 36% live in smaller communities across the country.
Although Britain’s Jewish community is flourishing, there are worrying signs for the future. A 2014 poll found that nearly two-thirds of Britain's Jews – just over 63% – have questioned their future in the UK, citing growing anti-Semitism in Britain.
Since then, the situation has deteriorated further: a 2016 report found steadily increasing levels of anti-Semitism since 2014. 2015 was the worst year on record, with nearly 1,000 anti-Semitic acts reported.

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Post  Admin on Sun 19 Jun 2016, 9:14 pm
Tel Aviv & Orlando: The Big Difference
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
Imagine the naming of parks, institutions and sporting events in honor of Omar Mateen.
On the surface, the stories seem similar. The terrorist attack in Tel Aviv at the Sarona market and the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando were both gruesome examples, in but a two-week span, of the vicious butchering of innocents in the name of an ideology of evil.
“You see, Rabbi,” someone said to me, “it doesn’t just happen in Israel. It’s the same thing in America as well. We’re all living through the identical horror.”
There is, however, one enormous difference. An Israeli friend put it best to me when he explained:
Americans wept and mourned after Omar Mateen slaughtered 49 partygoers for the sake of a misguided and evil cause to which he pledged himself. We share their pain. But thank God Americans are spared one final indignity which inevitably follows the acts of terrorism unleashed against us Israelis. Americans do not have to endure the subsequent glorification of their killers by the society around them.
We, the Israeli told me, face the horrific death of our loved ones; then we have to continue to be reminded of the depraved joy of our neighbors as they worship our murderers as heroes.
Imagine for a moment that after the tragedy in Orlando institutions, parks and sporting events would be named in honor of Omar Mateen. Imagine his wife given gifts and cash awards in the sum of tens of thousands of dollars. Imagine photos of Omar publicly displayed to inspire youth to follow in his footsteps. The thought beggars belief.
Yet terrorists in Israel – those who survive as well as those who perish – become instant folk heroes for martyrdom.
Two terrorists were involved in the Tel Aviv bloodletting. One was taken alive, the other died of his wounds. The Palestinian Authority immediately took upon itself the payments it makes to those participating in these “acts of glorious resistance.”
The PA pays large bounties to the attackers and their families. A terrorist can go out to commit murder assured that if he is arrested he will receive a monthly salary. If he is killed, his family receives a monthly pension. If his family home is destroyed, his family will get a very generous award to rebuild their home.
Rather than being deterred by the harsh consequence of their terrorist attack at Israel’s hand, the perpetrators are actually encouraged and incentivized by the Palestinian leadership. According to one study published by the Gatestone Institute, “Terrorists in prison receive higher average salary than PA civil servants and military personnel.”
Just last month, a dispute arose between Iran and the Palestinian Authority. As a special incentive, Iran promised to pay $7,000 cash to families of every terrorist killed by Israel and $30,000 more if Israel demolishes their homes, effectively creating a life insurance policy for terrorists. Ever since the lifting of sanctions, Iran seems to have significant funds available to pursue its nefarious interests. But the PLO was outraged. Not because they had a problem with the morality of giving money to support terror, but because they were denied another great opportunity for corruption and theft of funds by not sending the funds to them for distribution.
Only when it comes to Jews can depraved murderers become iconic figures of heroism and valor.
Palestinian martyrs, no matter how heinous their crimes, can expect glory and fame beyond anyone’s wildest dreams here on earth.
Abd Al-Baset Udeh, killer of 30 at the Passover Seder massacre in Netanya, had a soccer tournament for 14-year-olds named for him. His brother was honored with distributing the trophies.
Dalal Mughrabi, terrorist bus hijacker who led the most lethal terror attack in Israel’s history in 1978 when she and other terrorists killed 37 civilians, 12 of them children, has had summer camps, schools, graduation ceremonies and sporting events named for her, as well as many TV documentaries honoring her. Palestinian newspapers also frequently glorify her as the heroine of "the most glorious page of heroism in the history of the Palestinian struggle”.
Thaer Hammad, who as a lone gunman murdered 10 Israelis in 2002, was glorified by the official PA daily as “the hero of the Intifada."
In May of this year a chess tournament was named after a terrorist responsible for many terror attacks, including the death of an infant in her stroller – but the terrorists honored most in Palestinian society are those who have killed the greatest number of infidels.
When Israel, out of compassion, returns the bodies of terrorists to their families for burial the result invariably is a huge mob celebration of the funeral as a wedding between the deceased and his newly acquired virgins, highlighted by calls to those in attendance to continue the glorious ways of the hero being interred.
In Orlando, Americans saw firsthand the horrifying results of the kind of religious fanaticism so frequently witnessed against Jews in Israel. The responses were communal outrage, condemnation from all corners and universal denunciation.
In America, everyone agrees that terrorists are not heroes and Omar Mateen cannot possibly become anybody’s role model. Israel’s challenge is far more difficult. Because somehow when it comes to Jews, terrorists are not meant to be condemned as much as they are to be understood. Only when it comes to Jews can depraved murderers become iconic figures of heroism and valor.

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Post  Admin on Tue 07 Jun 2016, 6:27 pm
Muslims Yes, Jews No: The Hypocrisy of the NY Times
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
Separate swimming hours to accommodate religious sensitivities provokes hypocritical response.
This time the New York Times really outdid itself.
If there were an award for hypocrisy, the hands-down winner should clearly be the paper which has long regarded itself as “the newspaper of record.” Within the span of just a few months, the Times editorial board took heated and diametrically opposed positions on the identical issue – the only difference being whether an accommodation was being made for the religious sensitivities of Muslims or of Orthodox Jews.

This past February, when the city of Toronto allowed for women-only sessions at a public pool at specific hours at the behest of Muslim residents, the Times was delighted. Although it was a story from across the border, the editorial writers of the newspaper gushed at this beautiful demonstration of “community integration.” This was a “model of inclusion.” Here was Canada showing us how citizens with differing views of modesty and morality could be extended the courtesy of understanding and the consideration of a policy which would be willing to extend community benefits to all at the cost of minimal sacrifice. The pool might not be open to everybody at all times, but everybody could find some times to enjoy a publicly funded recreation.

So religious accommodation, the Times effusively affirmed is a good thing even if, just like any accommodation, it requires a little compromise. But remarkably enough that is not the way they saw it at all when the ideal was now offered as justification for Orthodox Jews having a few hours during the week set aside at a municipal pool in Brooklyn for women whose religious scruples prevent them from swimming together with men.

Suddenly the former defendants of inclusiveness viewed the matter in a totally different light. This desire on the part of, as it turns out, an exceedingly large number of residents in that particular area of Williamsburg to be true to their traditions of modesty is, according to the New York Times, an affront to “the laws of New York City and the Constitution.” The same Constitution in whose name liberals today so vociferously demand equality for same-sex marriages, unrestricted bathroom use for trans-genders and a host of other “rights” which may upset others it seems according to the interpretation of the Times is unequivocally opposed to granting consideration to Orthodox Jews for their beliefs.

It is a stunning illustration of an attitude exemplified by a classic story: An old Jewish lady sees a gentleman in a long black coat, big beard and black hat on a bus. She goes over to him and says “Why can't you Hassidim dress a bit more modernly? Why not wear a nice suit and trim your beard so you can look a bit more respectable. This is the 21st century in New York City and you are an embarrassment to all of us.”
The gentleman responds to the lady, “I am not Jewish. I am Amish and I am dressed in accord with the traditions of my people.”
The lady respectfully apologizes. “Please forgive me. I didn't realize. And by the way I truly admire the way you people have kept your customs.”
Substitute Muslims for Amish and you have the essence of New York Times anti-Semitism. As a liberal newspaper constantly on guard against the slightest indication of the sin of racism or of Islamo-phobia, political correctness rules every article and editorial.

Change the victim, however, from Muslim to Jew or from Arab to Israeli and the perspective suddenly shifts 180°. One can only wonder if this almost incomprehensible insensitivity and abandonment of reason isn’t in some measure due to the fact that the original owners of the Times were Jews – and history has given us more than enough examples of that remarkable phenomenon of self-hating Jews desperately trying to become beloved by denying and disparaging their own identity.

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Post  Admin on Thu 26 May 2016, 11:59 pm

Four Mantras to Help Moms Keep their Cool
Because happy and healthy mothers make happy and healthy children.
by Barbara Penn 
We all want to be good parents. But let’s face it: parenting is hard. It takes some character workout and honest self-reflection, a dose of wisdom, and a whole lot of self-control not to growl at your children, throw your teen's iPhone out the window, or otherwise allow your inner witch to emerge. Here are some mantras I try to keep in mind to help me maintain calm while facing the daily hurdles inevitable in the life of a mom.

1. You are not superwoman.
I don't have a cape and I don't fly. Respect and embrace your human element. Take care of yourself. Have a support system at the ready for rough days. Go ahead and buy yourself a little piggy bank and use it to set aside store change for the days that you'll need extra help. Don't be bashful; ask for help if you need it and gracefully accept a kind offer.
Get sleep! Not enough shut-eye can do funny things to the brain, especially when the house is a mess, dinner is nowhere to be seen, and your kids are writing their names with toothpaste on your bathroom mirror. Keep your mind and body nourished with healthy foods. Don't forget to eat three meals a day.

2. Self-care isn't selfish.
Your kids won't hate you for taking care of yourself; happy and healthy mothers make happy and healthy children. When you feel like your wires are getting a little loose, it might help to take a step back and ask yourself why you're unhappy and whether your basic needs are being met. Ask yourself whether you're overtired, hungry, or simply run down.
Take a break from your kids. Get out of the house and chill with friends, read a book, do yoga, or polish your nails.

3. Empathy is an antidote for anger.
Empathy helps you put yourself in someone else's shoes to try and understand their perspective. It helps you tolerate another's weaknesses, failings, and plain, old humanness. My children don't have capes and fly either; they are just regular kids with regular child-like behaviors, kid brains and kid mood swings. When I am empathetic, I try to give my kids the liberty of being kid. I try to understand that when my three year old is having a tantrum on the floor of aisle three at the grocery, in his little brain, it’s a perfectly legitimate reaction.
Empathy helps takes the edge off the anger element and tackle a problem with calm logic. It might be difficult to keep in mind in the heat of the moment, but practice certainly helps.

4. Don't react in the heat of the moment.
Talk when you're angry and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret. If a situation does not demand an immediate reaction, then it is best to hold off until you begin to feel a bit cooler. Try walking away or telling an older child, “I'm too upset to speak to you now, so I'm going to walk away for a few minutes.” Take a few slow, deep, breaths. Count to ten. Try singing the ABC's before yelling.
No parent is perfect. But with every challenge we overcome and every flex of our character muscle, we become closer to the people and parents we dream of being.

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Post  Admin on Wed 25 May 2016, 6:29 pm

85-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor’s Bar Mitzvah
by Michal Eisikowitz
Celebrating his bar mitzvah with his grandson, Harry Bibla attains the ultimate victory
One week after Pesach 2015, friends and family of Matan Bibla – a soon-to-be thirteen-year-old from Toronto – opened their mail to find a surprising bar mitzvah invitation.
In addition to the invitation for the expectant young man, guests discovered that the celebration, in fact, would center on two bar mitzvah boys: Matan, and his grandfather, affectionately known as “Saba.”
“I never had a bar mitzvah,” Saba, or Harry Bibla explains. “At 13, I was running for my life. When Matan, my youngest grandson, began learning for the occasion, I realized this was my last chance. I said ‘I want a bar mitzvah too.’”
Born in Miedzyrzec, Poland in 1930, Harry (Tzvi) Bibla – called “Hirsch” as a child – grew up in a bustling town of 15,000 where Jews comprised 75 percent of the population. The third of eight children, he attended the local public school and spent his afternoons roaming with friends. In 1940, however, the ten-year-old’s childhood was cut short: during a brutal aktion, Harry’s mother and younger siblings disappeared (to this day, their fate is unknown). In 1942, the surviving family members – Harry, his father, and two older brothers – were forced into the dilapidated, disease-ridden Międzyrzec ghetto. In this infamous ghetto, from which only 1 percent of the city’s pre-war population emerged alive, 20,000 Jews were crammed into an area designed for 1,400.
Harry found out that all ghetto residents had been dragged to the forest and gunned down.
“We lived nine people in one small room,” Harry remembers. “There was so much sickness.”
Liquidation of the ghetto was not long in coming. When Harry’s father – a devout, hardworking tailor – heard the operation was imminent, he grabbed his three sons and, joined by an uncle and family friend, hid in a nearby field. Hours later, Harry found out that all ghetto residents had been dragged to the forest and gunned down.

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Post  Admin on Thu 12 May 2016, 10:07 pm

Arab Spring Vs. Jewish Spring
by Rabbi Stewart Weiss
The expectations of the Arab Spring are being realized in the Jewish State where democracy, the rule of law, openness, and every type of freedom flourishes.
While Passover is still in our rear-view mirrors, let's take the liberty of asking just one more question: Why is it that for the first nine of the 10 Plagues the Israelites were spared with no action whatsoever taken on their part, yet for the tenth plague – the killing of the firstborn – we had to perform numerous actions to protect ourselves? We had to bring the lamb – one of Egypt's primary gods – and slaughter it before their eyes, and then we had to smear the blood on our door posts so that the Angel of Death would “pass over” our homes. We had to pledge that our own firstborn would dedicate themselves to serving God. Why the difference?

In India, with the Lost Tribe of Ephraim
by Rabbi Keith Flaks
We transcended barriers through the power of music and prayer.
This Passover my wife and I went to Southern India to visit the "lost tribe of Ephraim."
This clan of about 150 claims to be descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. They practice Jewish traditions, celebrate most of the holidays, and have started to observe many mitzvot, often in their unique style.

For example, in their tradition, on Erev Pesach they actually slaughter a goat and put the blood on their doorposts! They were shocked to discover that the Jewish world doesn't do that. In general they were thrilled to learn more about how "mainstream Judaism" is being practiced in the rest of the world. Many dream of a day when they could move to the holy land of Israel.
While my wife and I came to help lead a Passover Seder, we ended up learning tons from our Indian experience. Here were a few lessons and highlights.

1. The Power of Music
About 10 minutes after our arrival at the South Indian village in Chebrolu, I realized we had a problem. They don’t speak English! Okay, so we had a translator and a few spoke English, but in general, how were we supposed to share the depth of our Torah traditions when they can’t understand us?
The answer: through the magic of music.
Music breaks down all barriers. So during the Seder, during kabbalat Shabbat, before during and after classes, we made sure to sing and dance…a lot. 

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Post  Admin on Wed 27 Apr 2016, 9:44 pm
British Museum & Evidence of Israelite Slavery in Egypt
A mud brick with straw, stamped with a royal seal that says “House of Ramses ll,” and other cool artifacts.
by Rabbi Yisroel Roll
The table of archaeological finds below, presented to me by Dr. John H. Taylor, the curator of the Egypt Department of the British Museum in London, reveals a mud brick with straw which is stamped with a royal seal which says: “House of Ramses ll”. The mud brick, seen on the left side of the photo below, is one of 20 held in the basement vaults of the museum, and not exhibited to the public. The brick has been carbon dated to the Israelite period of slavery in Egypt.

Dr. Taylor states that the Israelites did not build the pyramids as is commonly thought. The pyramids were built 100 years after the Israelites left Egypt. What they did build were cities. The Bible states in Exodus 1:11-14, “So they appointed taskmasters over it (the Israelite nation) in order to afflict it with their burdens; it built storage cities for Pharaoh, Pithom and Ramses…They embittered their lives with hard work, with mortar and with bricks…” The Bible further states in Exodus, 5:10, “The taskmasters of the people and its foremen went out and spoke to the people, saying, “So said Pharaoh, I am not giving you straw. Go yourselves and take yourselves straw from whatever you find, for nothing will be reduced from your work.” In the close up photo of the brick below, one can see the straw and the seal which states, “House of Ramses ll”.
Below is a mural of slaves building a structure in Egypt dated from the Israelite period showing a pile of mud bricks similar to the brick displayed on the table above. Dr. John H. Taylor holds curatorial responsibility for ancient Egyptian funerary antiquities, amulets and jewelry. He also provides curatorial supervision for the departmental loans program. These items are sometimes loaned to outside museums and organizations.
Dr. Taylor then showed me a 12-foot iron snake staff found in a pyramid tomb. Shown below, the staff has a cobra head and is wavy and is evidence of the Egyptian magician’s staves mentioned in the Bible in Exodus, 7:11-12, “The magicians of Egypt did so with their incantations. Each one cast down his staff and they became snakes; and the staff of Aaron swallowed their staffs.” The entire snake staff can be seen at the front of the table in the first photo above. The staff is wave like and when placed on the ground and manipulated by a magician can give the illusion of snake like movement. Egyptian magicians were known to be illusionists.
The wicker basket below is dated to the Egyptian period of the Israelites and is evidence of the use of wicker baskets as recorded in the Bible, Exodus 2: 3, “She could not hide him any longer, so she took a wicker basket and smeared it with clay and pitch; she placed the child (Moses) into it and placed it among the reeds at the bank of the River (Nile). “
The copper mirrors at the far right of the first photo above are evidence of the existence of copper mirrors used by Israelite women to beautify themselves and to entice their husbands to produce children despite the dangers of bringing children into the world amidst a slave existence. These copper mirrors are referred to in the Bible in Exodus 38:8, “He (Moses) made the wash basin of copper and its base of copper, from the mirrors of the legions who massed at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. “ The 11th century French Biblical commentator, Rashi, comments that the Jewish women used these mirrors to beautify themselves in order to entice their husbands to produce children despite the fear of bringing children into a life of slavery. This attests to the greater faith of the Israelite women than that exhibited by the Israelite men, which faith has continued to sustain Jewish continuity.
The organizer of this private tour to the British Museum is London educator and historian, Rabbi Aryeh Forta who organizes monthly private tours of the Jewish artifacts at the British Museum. Also seen on this tour was a 3500 year old matzah with finger imprints of the matzah maker and silver wine bowls from the palace of Achashverosh mentioned in Megillas Esther.

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Post  Admin on Thu 21 Apr 2016, 7:15 pm
20 Engaging Questions for the Passover Seder
Provocative questions on relevant topics to help bring your Seder to life.
by Rabbi Shlomo Buxbaum 
The Haggadah tells us to adapt our Seder to the various attitudes of the people we find present around the table. The “wise son” receives wisdom, the “evil son” receives sharp confrontation, the “simple son” is taught the ABC’s of Judaism, and the “one who doesn’t know how to ask” is engaged in dialogue that will open him up.

Many of us know how to engage kids with fun games, props, junk food, and the promise of really cool Afikomen presents. But how do we engage the adults and make sure the Passover Seder becomes more than an annual family get-together featuring matzah and Manishevitz?

Questions that provoke discussion about relevant topics can help bring your Seder to life. Here are 20 questions for your Seder table that will help you engage even the least interested guests. You can pose the questions yourself or prepare conversation cards and hand them out to your guests.

1. When dipping the Karpas into salt water: Has anything ever happened to you which seemed bitter at the time but later turned out to be sweet?

2. When breaking the middle matzah and hiding it for later: What is a “hidden” aspiration that you have, i.e. something that you have postponed for later in life but you plan/aspire to one day get to?

3. When speaking about God’s promise to Abraham: Why did Abraham merit to be the father of the Jewish people? What does it mean to be the child of Avraham? Are we living up to it?

4.What contributions have the Jewish people made to humanity over history?

5.When speaking about how the Jewish people were sent down to Egypt: How have the hardships in our life helped us become better people?

6.During Vehi She’Amdah: Why has there always been so much anti-Semitism in the world? Do you think anti-Semitism is on the rise today?

7.When speaking about the beginnings of Jewish life in Egypt: How does the Jewish people’s assimilation into Egyptian culture resemble Jewish assimilation throughout history?

8.When speaking about Jewish identity in Egypt: What does Jewish identity mean in Exile?

9.When speaking about the harsh slavery: In our day-to-day lives, do we really love what we do or are we more like slaves to our work?

10.The word Mitzrayim (Egypt) resembles the Hebrew word for constriction. What is your personal Mitzrayim? What is holding you back the most?

11.When speaking about the plagues: Are there signs in our life pushing us to change that we are just refusing to see?

12.Are there signs around us that God exists? What are they?

13.Pharaoh Vs. Moses: What are the ingredients to be a great leader?

14.When speaking about the various miracles: Does the existence of the Jewish people defy the natural order of the world? Are we a miracle?

15.If you knew for certain that God would help you succeed, even through miracles, what new endeavor would you take on?

16.When speaking about jumping in the Red Sea: What have you done recently to step out of your comfort zone?

17.When singing Dayneu: What are the gifts in our life that make it all worth it?

18.What Mitzvot/Jewish gifts are you most appreciative of? Israel? Shabbat? Torah? Something else?

19.When reciting Hallel: If you could fully express gratitude to someone in your past who really made a difference in your life, who would it be?

20.When eating matzah: If you could eradicate laziness from your life and live with complete discipline, what could you accomplish?

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Post  Admin on Thu 21 Apr 2016, 6:53 pm
Spiritual Preparation for Passover
12 inspiring ideas about being Jewish to share at your Seder.
by Ruchi Koval 

The Seder is the vehicle to give the next generation our spiritual truths about being Jewish. That means we ourselves have to distill what those truths are. Based on the steps of the Seder, here are 12 ideas to help you spiritually prepare for Passover.

1. Kadesh
We say the special prayer over wine, "sanctifying" the day. The word literally means "make holy!" and this is my first spiritual truth: BE HOLY. RISE ABOVE.
God didn’t take us out of Egypt so that we could just do whatever we wanted. He took us out of Egypt so that we could be a holy nation. He gave us the Torah so that we could rise above our base instincts and rise above the lowest desires of humanity in order to be a light unto the nation and repair the world. A tall order, to be sure. How can we make this happen in our own lives?
To live this spiritual truth, we must rise above our own base desires. We must rise above the petty fighting. We must rise above our own selfish needs to look out for the needs of others. We must rise above and ask what is God's higher intent for our life?

2. Urchatz
We ritually wash our hands in preparation for eating the vegetable of Karpas. My spiritual takeaway from this step is this: WE MUST CLEANSE OURSELVES OF THE THINGS WE WILL ENCOUNTER THAT DO NOT JIVE WITH OUR GOALS.
It is all well and good to be holy but we will all encounter things in our lives that conspire against that quest for holiness. What will we do then? Judaism always has a process available to bounce back from those lapses.
For example: did you spend the whole evening socializing and gossiping with friends? Maybe you came home and felt really bad about yourself. Now there is a process to cleanse yourself from that mistake and reclaim your quest to rise above. Do some introspection and figure out where you went wrong. What drove you to denigrate others? How can you make sure it won't happen again?

3. Karpas
We eat a vegetable dipped into salt water in order to remember the tears of the Jews. In life, we should remember: NEVER FORGET THE ROUGH TIMES. THEY HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY.
When people go through a difficult period in their life, they often want to mentally distance themselves from those memories and not "go there" anymore once they've been through it. But this is a mistake.
Those rough times have something very important to teach us. We need to look back so we can understand how grateful we should be to be past it. Or we can look back and learn things from how we handled it then and how we might handle it now. What emotional tools did we learn in those years? What spiritual tools did we learn? In what way did that experience strengthen or weaken us?

4. Yachatz
We break the middle matzah and put away half for later - for the much vaunted afikoman. It's pretty interesting that matzah is the "poor man's bread" - and that the act of breaking your food and having to put away part for later is a sign of slavery or poverty - but at the same time it's the most tangible symbol of freedom. The Jews ate it on their journey to freedom! Hence, BROKEN PIECES OFTEN FORESHADOW A GREATER WHOLE.
One of my favorite sentences in all of Torah is this: He who sows with tears, will reap with joyful singing. What is amazing about this promise is that the tears themselves are what water the ground and make a happy future possible.
There are so many times in our lives when all we can see in front of us are broken pieces. But here is the promise that these very broken pieces foreshadow the happy ending. You absolutely cannot have one without the other. So when we feel dejected or depressed, let us try to remember in faith that it is these very broken pieces that will create that happy ending.

5. Maggid
In this step we tell the story of the Exodus. We go into great detail in many different ways. We chronicle the historical, emotional, and halachic aspects of the Exodus. We sing songs of gratitude - famously, the plagues and Dayenu. This is what makes the Seder so long!
Which teaches us the following: RETELL YOUR GRATITUDE AND NEVER GET TIRED OF IT. Would you ever get tired of having someone thank you for what you've done for them? He could say it to you every day and it would bring you joy.
We cannot possibly exhaust the degree of gratitude that we must have to G-d for what we went through and how we came out of it intact. The fact that anyone is sitting at a Seder today is a sheer miracle. All you have to do is go back in your own family's genealogy and you will find miracles of Jewish survival.
And by the way, when we focus on gratitude we stop noticing all the broken pieces.

6. Rachtzah
We wash our hands in preparation for eating the matzah. Because THE PREPARATION IS OFTEN MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE END RESULT.
In Judaism we are taught that it is the process rather than the product that is important. We are responsible to do whatever we can to effect a certain outcome. And that is exactly what we will be judged on: our motives, intentions, and efforts. Because results and outcomes are not in our hands.
This Seder could not be a better example. We will prepare nice foods, ritual items, beautiful ideas - and then the Seder might not go exactly the way we want it to. Children might be crabby, adults may squabble, the food may not turn out exactly how we hoped. But it doesn't matter. We do not have control over other people. If we have prepared ourselves in the right way, we can rise above, and remember to be happy because the process is all we have control over.

7. Motzei matzah
We bless and eat the matzah! Eating matzah is the spiritual equivalent to going back to the old country to see where our great-grandparents used to live.
Most of the time Jewish communities evolved and sprawled into ever-nicer neighborhoods. Nobody really likes going back to the old neighborhoods. They are usually dirty and in poor condition. Some have even been embarrassed by their grandparents' lives or conditions. This was very common after the Holocaust. Survivors came to Israel or America and the Jews that had been established there were ashamed of their brethren and their old immigrant, ghetto, shtetl ways.
This is a big mistake. DON'T BE AFRAID OF OUR NATION'S PAST: IT IS THE KEY TO OUR FUTURE. We as a nation must remember our past belongs to all of us. We cannot afford to further fragment ourselves. The old country and the old times have a lot of influence in who we are today. There is so much we can learn from those eras and those communities. Living in shame of our past is a big mistake.
Go there! Go back to Poland to see the concentration camps. Go to Israel to see the ancient communities. Eat the matzah. This is our collective history.

8. Maror
We eat the bitter herbs. Notice we don't say that we should merely talk about the bitterness or just remember the darkness. Oh no. In this religion we have to actually eat it with our own mouth!
Because TO BE COMPASSIONATE YOU MUST EXPERIENCE PAIN. There's a reason that a Jewish judge in ancient times had to be a parent. There are certain things you can just never understand until you experience them yourself, and we are asked to experientially taste that pain so that we have a better understanding of the pain of others.

9. Korech
We eat the matzah-maror sandwich! See, ALL OUR EXPERIENCES IN LIFE ARE REALLY ONE. Sometime it seems like there are so many random and disjointed pieces of our lives. We may have an isolated incident at work, another issue brewing in our social circle, yet another something niggling at us about our home life. Maybe I just heard bad news about a foreign country. Or something really exciting is going on with my niece.
Judaism teaches that all these seemingly disparate incidents are really part of one greater whole. When we say the Shema prayer we affirm that God is one and the greater truth is that all the bits and pieces of our lives are from a single unifying force. There is a journey that we are supposed to be on and all the pieces are interconnected. When we put the different elements of the Seder together in a sandwich, we can remember this truth.

10. Shulchan aruch
We eat the festive meal! ENJOY ALL THE BOUNTY THAT GOD GAVE YOU. Look around. There's food. There are people who care about you. You have a home. You are in the top 10% of human society! Which brings me to the next step:

11. Tzafun
We locate the hidden matzah (and negotiate for the gift!). My takeaway? THE GREATEST GIFTS IN LIFE ARE HIDING. They're hiding in plain view! If you have people who love you, if your bank account is not overdrawn, if you can think, walk, hear, and see - you have great gifts in your life! But how often do we look right past, or right through, our gifts? So play the afikoman game: hide and seek. Find your gifts that are right in front of you.

12. Barech, Hallel, Nirtzah
This is my favorite part of the Seder: where we sing through the joy, the love, the gratitude. We're in no rush. It's already so late. Who cares what time it is? Some have fallen asleep or left the table, but we keep going. IGNORE THE HOUR AND SING 

We are always rushing around and looking at our watches, trying to get to our next destination. How many times in our lives do we really just sit down around a table, absolutely forget about what time it is or what we have to do the next day, and just sing to our hearts content? Believe me when I say that we need more of this in our lives. These are the moments that make memories. These are the moments that make Judaism memorable - and wonderful.

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Post  Admin on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 4:22 pm

PASSOVER Passover, Pesach, Passover 2016 - What is Passover? Passover is April 23 - April 30, 2016.
Commemorating the Exodus from Egypt; the key to our own personal liberation.
What is Passover?  Passover Crash Course  Easy Cleaning  Games for the Seder
Passover Themes Videos+ The Haggadah Family Recipes Laws
The Adele/Bieber Passover Mashup
Featuring Charlton Heston as Moses and Yul Brynner as Pharaoh. You have to see it to believe it.

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Post  Admin on Thu 07 Apr 2016, 3:25 pm

Way #20: The Art of Conversation
People today are busier than ever, "conversation time" is diminishing. Is anyone out there listening?
by Rabbi Noah Weinberg
Joe is walking down a darkened alley, when suddenly a man jumps out, brandishing a pistol.
"Don't shoot," Joe pleads, "I'll give you all my money."
"I don't want your money," says the man with the gun. "My whole life I've been trying to get someone to sit down and talk with me. Now I'm going to make you listen for one hour."
This story reflects a sorry aspect of the human condition. People today are busier than ever – commuting, flying, buying. All in all, conversation time is diminishing. Who has time to talk?
Reflect back to yourself. You want to be understood. But is anyone listening?

B'miyut sichah literally means "minimize conversation." In other words, use conversation effectively. Conversation is our tool to be in contact with other human beings. Unless we communicate, we're all alone.
Building Connections
The Torah says that God created man as a "speaking creature" (see Targum Onkelos – Genesis 2:7). Speech is therefore what distinguishes human beings from other species. Too often people are self-centered and closed up. Conversation is a way out of that self-absorption.
Too many friendships never get beyond the superficial stage. It's possible to talk endlessly about recipes, football and fashion. But that's not enough. We need people with whom we can share our innermost thoughts.

Even family members can live in communicative isolation. Living room furniture used to be designed so that people sat facing one another. Today, living rooms are set up so that everyone faces the TV. You watch a football game and mutter in between munches, "That was a good play." What conversation can compete with the "raza-a-ma-tazz" of multi-media?!
Today, everyone is in his own little corner and struggles by himself. We need to be with others, not to watch television, but to be together and communicate. Without it, you are stifling in your own self-contained envelope. Isolated in your own opinion. Isolated in your own home.
Set aside time specifically for talking. Schedule a block of time to talk to your spouse, your child, your parents, your friends. Speech conveys the deepest soul-thoughts. Words that emit from the heart, enter the heart. Something the other person says may touch a deep chord in us. Conversations build deep connections and expand our world. Without it, we emotionally whither and die.
Great conversation is your chance to explore entire worlds. Unlike a movie, this world is real, not imagined. And the resulting relationship is infinitely more rewarding.
Practice the Art
As accustomed as people are to "speaking," very few actually "communicate." Speaking is natural and automatic. But communication is an art which must be learned and practiced.

Start by changing your attitude. Did you ever sit for hours on an airplane? You read all the magazines, and watch the in-flight movie. There is nothing else to do. Try speaking to the person next to you.
You have to warm up. Begin by saying "hello." Then ask simple, non-threatening questions: "Where are you from? What's your name?" This is just credential exchange. No harm, no weapons.

Yes, it is painful, because you don't know where it will go from there. But what are you worried about – that he'll stand up and announce to all the passengers: "I'm seated next to a boring person!"
It's a shame to sit silently through the entire flight, and then "accidentally" get into a fascinating conversation just as you're parting ways.

Don't be afraid of being rejected or that you won't have anything intelligent to say. It won't kill you. You will learn how. Good conversations have to be cultivated and produced.
Don't Mistake "Discussion" for "Conversation"
A "discussion" is an issue of right or wrong, a cerebral exchange of facts and opinions.
A "conversation" is a personal exploration of another person. The point of conversation is not to impress others or to enhance your popularity, but to learn about others.
That is our most common mistake. When you talk to the guy in the plane, don't let him know by the end of the trip how many trophies you've won and what investments you've made. Nor are you interested in information like who won the ball game and the current market price of gold. That is not conversation. That is the information shop.
The point of conversation is to connect with someone and explore his experiences, thoughts, feelings, and inner appreciations. What does he think about life, about love, about meaning? For example, while a "discussion" might focus on the question, "Is the president effectively dealing with the economy?", a "conversation" would ask, "How is the economic situation affecting you personally?"

Aim to bring the topic around to a more emotional realm. Ask the other person how he is dealing with issues that bother him. Just like when you talk to your spouse after a long day, the conversation should be: "How are you feeling, what upset you about the day, what gave you joy?"
If you're having difficulty getting the other person to talk, build trust by talking about your own experiences and feelings. Don't be "Mr. Know-It-All." When presenting an idea, say, "Balancing career and family has been difficult for me. I look at the situation this way. I would really like to know your experience and how you feel about it." When you report your reaction, he will report his reaction.
The Fascinating World of a Human Being
How do you maintain an interesting conversation? Be fascinated. If you have an eager curiosity about life and people, you'll be an excellent conversationalist. People will talk to you freely, because your interest will draw them like a magnet.
If you find that "fascination" does not come easily to you, do some self-analysis. Figure out why. Often the problem is basic indifference – i.e. "Why should I care about this person?"

To get focused, realize that every human being is a wonderful mystery, created in the image of God. We might make mistakes, but each person is unique and holy, full of ideas, experiences, and special wisdom.
Don't be misled. Most people don't immediately reveal what is especially interesting and significant about themselves.
To discover the wonderful person behind the facade, try interviewing them as a journalist pursuing an important story. "Wow! You're from Buffalo? How do you deal with all that snow?!"

Everybody wants to get to know themselves, but introspection is too painful. So realize that when you ask questions, you are helping people learn about themselves. Imagine someone asks you, "What do you think about life? Is life beautiful? Is it boring, a struggle?" The conversation prompts you to reach inside, examine, and engage in self-discovery. The same questions you'd like to be asked about yourself, ask someone else.
Especially when planning a major step in life – like marriage, career, spirituality – use conversation as a tool. Interview others: What was your experience? Was it interesting? What are the problems? What are the pleasures? How did you overcome your fears? What did you gain? What are the possibilities?
When you are fascinated, people will start talking and they won't stop. Explore life. Talk! See this is a tool for living – it is ridiculous not to use it!

What's Your Name?
A primary way to connect with someone's uniqueness is to learn his name. A name is an intrinsic aspect of human identity. By using his name, you establish a connection and communicate an interest in who he is. And you can't have a good conversation with someone to whom you are indifferent.
A human being is only real when you know his name. Frequently we lose a name in the introduction and then we are talking to someone faceless. We feel uncomfortable. The vibes are no good and it ruins the whole conversation.

Do you tend to forget names? The key is to pay attention at the time of the introduction, and repeat the name to yourself a few times after. One memory technique is to conjure up a mental association. For instance, if the person's name is George Brown, imagine George Washington wearing a big brown suit. (The more silly the image, the easier it is to remember.)
Be a Good Listener
A good friend is a good listener.
In dealing with others, the Torah says: "Do not harden your heart or close your hand" (Dev. 15:7). "Closing your hand" refers to be being generous with money, while "harden your heart" refers to giving to others emotionally. Don't underestimate the value of this. Patiently listening to someone tell his troubles is often worth more than giving money.
In conversation, never interrupt. Don't anxiously anticipate the end of a sentence so you can jump back with your own opinion. If someone makes a statement you disagree with, bite your tongue and keep on listening. A sharp reply is likely to make the other person defensive, in which case he'll either get angry or end the conversation completely. Just calm down and give your undivided attention. Don't look around. Don't think of other things. Pay attention.
Ask for points of clarification. Really try to understand. You will build an atmosphere of trust – which will enable you to voice your own opinion later.

Don't fight with people. No criticism. No confrontation. Just discuss. Exchange feelings. That's conversation.
Constantly emit "listening signals" to demonstrate interest. Use eye contact or add a nod of acknowledgement. Use simple words of feedback, like, "Yes, interesting," or "That must have felt incredible." A skilled conversationalist can say few words ... and build a deep bond.

Make Your Words Count
Sometimes we get bored with living. So we make a phone call and chatter to pass the time.
Don't use conversation as an escape from reality. It's a waste of energy and words. And when the conversation is over, we feel empty.
Make every word count. Consider your words as precious jewels, to be used sparingly. Speak to the point, with clarity and pur­pose. Think before you speak. Make sure to say what you intended to say, in the best way you could say it. Frame your words. Connect your words with your mind, rather than letting your mouth run away and then having to catch up with your mouth.
Unnecessary talk dulls your mind. Efficient use of words puts you in control of your mind.
There's an old saying: "Small people speak about people. Medium people speak about places and things. Big people speak about ideas." The words you choose determine the type of person you'll be.
Don't talk without a purpose. In any conversation, ask yourself: "Is there a point to this conversation? Am I learning anything about life? Am I growing? Are we making contact?" If you can't identify the point, there probably is none.
There is an ancient Jewish tradition called ta'anit dibur – a "speech fast." When people find themselves talking too much, they refrain from all conversation except for Torah study. Likewise, in the House of Prayer, there should be no outside conversations – just God and yourself.
Try experimenting for one hour without talking. It's a healthy exercise in self-control, and can help you focus on your inner self. Don't worry, people will just assume you've got laryngitis.

Avoid Negative Talk
The Torah says that God used the medium of speech to create the world. ("And God said: Let there be light.")
For us as well, speech is a tool of creation – through it we can build the world. A word of praise will encourage others and build confidence. Making someone feel important is to say, "Your existence is necessary." This is life-giving and life-affirming.
On the other hand, speech can also be used to destroy. Words like "You're worthless, that's terrible," wipe out a person's self-esteem. It is untrue to believe that "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me."
Did you ever find yourself in the middle of gossip or a distasteful joke? It's insidious. All of a sudden you find yourself dragged into a discussion that's taken a turn for the worse.
Never say anything negative or derogatory about another person – even if it's true. Gossip causes quarrel and tears apart relationships, families, even entire communities. As King Solomon said: "Life and death are in the hands of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21).
Learn to switch tracks. Monitor your conversation, and when you notice it slipping off track, pull it back, gently and subtly.
If this doesn't work, bow out of the conversation. Have some graceful exit lines ready to go. Of course, don't ever embarrass another person ... but don't hang around and sully yourself either!

Why is "Artful Conversation" a Way to Wisdom?
Be fascinated with human beings and you'll be an excellent conversationalist.
Talk to people in the office, neighbors, even strangers.
Human beings have wisdom. Get them to share it.
Negative speech will make you a negative person.
Use speech wisely. It's one of the greatest gifts we have.
Have a conversation, not a confrontation.
Conversation is a tool of creation; it pulls us out of isolation, builds connections and expands our world.
Fulfilling our needs depends on how well we communicate those needs to others.

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Post  Admin on Wed 30 Mar 2016, 10:10 pm
Brussels & the Israeli Occupation
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
When will the world realize that Islamic terror has nothing to do with Israel?
In the aftermath of the horrific events in Brussels, as Islamist terror attacks struck at the heart of the European Union with a triple bombing in the Belgian capitol, the world surely needs to wonder. After all, comparable acts of terrorism always had an explanation when they were perpetrated in Israel. The media were quick to shed light on them and the United Nations didn’t hesitate to express their understanding: Jihad and the murder of innocent Israelis were the result of the occupation and the settlements.

But why are there the same cruel and brutal acts of indiscriminate killings in Brussels? Why the same shouts of Allah Akbar preceding suicide bombings and mass murders in Paris, in San Bernardino, and so many other places which seemingly have no connection to the occupation and settlements? How are we to explain, as Sohrab Ahmari pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, that “not a single day now goes by without an Islamist suicide bombing, rocket attack, shooting spree, kidnapping or stabbing somewhere in the world”?

Not a single day now goes by without an Islamist suicide bombing, rocket attack, shooting spree, kidnapping or stabbing somewhere in the world.
It is the height of foolishness and naïveté to divorce the events presently threatening European civilization from their parallel expression in the past decades in the Middle East, masquerading as merely a battle against a Zionist regime occupying a land to which they have no historical or legal claim.

What the West seemingly refuses to understand is that the Islamic slander against Israel and upon which it bases its entire justification for all of its brutal and ongoing attacks is the very selfsame idea it sees as rationale for world domination: It not just Jews who occupy a land that isn’t really theirs – it’s all the non-Muslim infidels who occupy countries which have lost the right to independent national existence as a result of their lack of faith.

It is the global occupation by those who do not believe in Allah, of Brussels, of Paris, of Europe and of the United States, and the “illegal settlements” of those countries by those refusing to live by sharia law – which justify the daily acts of worldwide terrorism.

For some strange reason, Western obsession with political correctness refuses to acknowledge what Muslim theologians have no difficulty in expressing. Sheik Ahmad Al-Dweik declared in an address at the Al-Aqsa mosque that the “Caliphate” promised by Allah “will be the number one country in the world. It will fight the U.S. and will bring it down. [The Caliphate] will eliminate the West in its entirety. Allah promised that there would be an Islamic state, and that we would prepare for the West whatever strength and steeds of war we can, in order to strike terror in the hearts of the enemies of Islam and of Allah, until we become those who command and Islam rules [the world].”
Syed Abul Ala Mawdudi, a world-renowned Islamic scholar who traced his paternal ancestry to Mohammed, didn’t hesitate to explain it clearly:

“Islam is a revolutionary faith that comes to destroy any government made by man. The goal of Islam is to rule the entire world and submit all of mankind to the faith of Islam. Any nation or power that gets in the way of that goal, Islam will fight and destroy. In order to fulfill that goal, Islam can use every power available every way it can be used to bring worldwide revolution. This is jihad.” (Resurgent Islam and America, David Goldman, Pg.105)

Maulana Abul Ala Maududi, known as “the Godfather of Islam”, summed it up this way: “Muslim nations are very special because they have a command from Allah to rule the entire world and to be over every nation in the world.” (Ibid)
The terrorism experienced by Israel has been a preview of coming attractions for the entire world.

These are truths the media continues to refuse to publish. If they appear at all, they are invariably brushed aside as the lunatic ravings of an extremely small substrata of Islam, in no way representative of the majority who represent “a religion of peace.” And yet they clearly are the truths which guide the actions of the suicide bombers and the mass murderers who have now moved their focus from Israel to all of Western civilization.

Western leadership needs at long last to recognize that the Islamic code words of “the occupation and the settlements” were never meant simply to strike out at the Jewish people. In the eyes of a faith that is bent on world domination, they refer just as much to the sins of all infidels, be they in the capitols of Europe or the major cities of America. And for that reason it is long past time to recognize that the terrorism experienced by Israel since its founding has been nothing less than a preview of coming attractions for the entire world.
Watch: Joel Rubinfeld, founder of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, on the future of Europe, by J-TV

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