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Post  Admin on Fri 19 Jun 2015, 3:26 pm

Marijuana and Jewish Joy
Do Jews like being happy?
by Rabbi Gavriel Horan

The National Geographic’s recent article, “High Science,” about the new science of marijuana, features Israeli scientist, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, who was the first to identify marijuana’s psychedelic properties. He named the neurotransmitter that binds to the same receptor in the brain as THC, Anandamide, after the Sanskrit word for supreme joy, ananda. When asked by National Geographic why he didn’t choose a Hebrew word for joy instead, he replied, “In Hebrew there are not so many words for happiness. Jews don’t like being happy.”

The good doctor could not have been more wrong.

You can learn a lot about a culture by its language. In Eskimo dialect there are numerous words for different types of snow. They are surrounded by snow and understand all the different subtle nuances between the different types of precipitation.

Classical Hebrew actually has over a dozen different words for happiness. The Talmudic sources list ten different Hebrew words for joy – there’s ecstatic joy, songful joy, surprising joy and so on (Avos d’Rebbe Nossan 34). In fact, there are so many different words for joy that it can be said that Judaism is centered around joy, as the Eskimos’ lives are centered on snow. Whether it’s celebrating life events, from births and circumcisions to bar mitzvahs and weddings, to the Sabbath and holidays, to blessings of gratitude on mundane daily activities like eating a piece of fruit or even going to the bathroom, attaining happiness is a priority in Jewish life.

Jewish Joy
he Talmud teaches that the Divine Presence only rests upon someone in a state of joy (Shabbos, 30b). “Serve God with gladness,” the Psalmist enjoins us, "come before Him with joyful song" (Psalms, 100:2). “It is a great mitzvah (commandment) to be in a state of joy always,” Rebbe Nachman of Breslav says (Likkutei Maharan, 2:24).
More recently, Professor Tal Ben-Shahar, one of the leaders in the field of Positive Psychology, author of the book “Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment,” and the instructor of the most popular course in the history of Harvard University, explained that “many of the ideas ‘discovered’ by modern psychologists, had actually been present for thousands of years in traditional Jewish sources.”

Getting High
What about Mechoulam’s naming of the brain’s marijuana-like neurotransmitter after a word for joy in the first place? Does marijuana lead to a state of joy? Does getting high lead to happiness?
Every high eventually goes away and is followed by a low. The low is really just a return to your normal state of consciousness, but in contrast to the high, everyday life suddenly feels like a low. This conundrum can propel the infrequent recreational user to want to get high more often to avoid the lows, creating a vicious cycle that can lead to the need for more drugs to reach the same high, laying the seeds for addictive behavior.

According to Judaism a marijuana high might smell like joy, but there’s nothing genuinely joyful about it.
The most commonly used word for joy in Hebrew is simcha. Simcha shares the same linguistic root as the word tzemach - or growth. In Judaism joy and growth are inextricably intertwined. Joy takes work. It’s the feeling that you get when you work hard at something and succeed. It is the pleasure of having reached the top of an arduous peak. You can look back at the long journey and bask in the pleasure of your accomplishment. That is true joy.

We often think that pleasure and pain are opposites, and therefore seek out all sorts of ways to achieve pleasure without pain. In reality pain is the gateway to pleasure. No pain, no gain. The more effort we exert, the more we can enjoy the fruit of our labor. When we look for all sorts of shortcuts to find pleasure without effort or pain, we end up with empty highs that lack true depth and meaning. They may look like joy, but they fade away as quickly as they came and we end up worse off than when we started.

Natural Highs
Life is full of natural highs. We all have moments of inspiration that give us energy and vision to continue along a certain trajectory in life. Natural highs may include milestone life events such as graduations, weddings, births, as well as experiences like climbing a mountain, travelling to an exotic place, meeting an amazing person or watching an incredible sunset. But life isn’t about running after inspiration. Inspiration is free. It comes and goes easily.

One of my friends recently had a brush with death. He was miraculously saved from a head on collision on a major three lane highway, and he was ecstatic to have another day on earth. 

Suddenly, he experienced joy from every little thing, no matter how small or unpleasant. Seeing his kids fight, taking out the garbage, and watching the wind blow through the trees outside his house made him dance with joy. He was so happy to be alive that everything was amazing. He told me that he hoped his new state of consciousness would last forever.

Unfortunately it didn’t. After a few days, the miracle of life became business as unusual. The only way to hold on to the inspiration is by using it as an impetus to change your life by putting it into an action – no matter how small.

Everyone gets inspired. The key is what you do with the inspiration. If we find ways to integrate the inspiring moments into our very being so that they change us for the better, the high can actually last forever. That’s real growth and leads to true, long-lasting happiness.

My advice: burn off your marijuana high with some hard-earned Jewish joy.
Published: June 13, 2015

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Post  Admin on Tue 16 Jun 2015, 12:34 pm

The Debate over Jewish Achievement
As a non-Jew, I’m fascinated that a people which constitute less than 1% of the world’s population has made such enormous contributions to humanity.
by Steven L. Pease         
Jews have been part of my life in kindergarten, at Harvard Business School, and throughout my professional career. It was from those experiences that I developed the notion that Jews are the world’s most disproportionate high achievers.

A decade ago I began intensive research to test out the hypothesis. Now, after writing The Golden Age of Jewish Achievement, speaking on the subject, being interviewed on radio and TV, and soliciting criticisms and arguments to disprove the statement, I have come to believe it is simply true.

As a non-Jew, I am fascinated by the fact that a people which constitute 2/10ths of 1 percent of the world’s population and 2 percent of the U.S. population, has made such enormous contributions to the betterment of humanity.
To cite some examples: In hi-tech entrepreneurship, Jewish names include: Intel (Grove and Vadasz), Google (Brin and Page), Oracle (Ellison), Microsoft (Balmer), Dell (Dell), Qualcom (Jacobs), Facebook (Zuckerberg and Sandberg).

In finance, the names are legion: Goldman Sachs, Rothschild, Warburg, Kohlberg, Kravis & Roberts, Wells Fargo, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and many more.

As World Chess champions, Jews have held the title 54% of the time since 1866.
In the 113th United States Congress (2013-2015), Jews were elected to 11 percent of U.S. Senate seats.
Jews account for three of the nine Supreme Court Justices.

More examples:

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Post  Admin on Mon 08 Jun 2015, 10:54 am

Sheryl Sandberg and Shloshim
Bringing the ideas of Jewish mourning into the national spotlight.
by staff         
The unexpected death of tech leader Dave Goldberg – husband of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg – has brought the ideas of Jewish mourning into the national spotlight.
As the 30-day mourning period ("Shloshim") concluded, Sandberg shared her thoughts with millions of people. Publicizing Judaism's sensitive and wise mourning practices constitutes a "Kiddush Hashem" – sanctification of God's Name – that serves as a merit for the dearly departed.

Excerpts from Sandberg's post:
Today is the end of sheloshim for my beloved husband – the first thirty days. Judaism calls for a period of intense mourning known as shiva that lasts seven days after a loved one is buried. After shiva, most normal activities can be resumed, but it is the end of sheloshim that marks the completion of religious mourning for a spouse.

A childhood friend of mine who is now a rabbi recently told me that the most powerful one-line prayer he has ever read is: “Let me not die while I am still alive.” I would have never understood that prayer before losing Dave. Now I do.
I think when tragedy occurs, it presents a choice. You can give in to the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even breathe. Or you can try to find meaning. These past thirty days, I have spent many of my moments lost in that void. And I know that many future moments will be consumed by the vast emptiness as well.

But when I can, I want to choose life and meaning.

And this is why I am writing: to mark the end of sheloshim and to give back some of what others have given to me...

I have learned that I never really knew what to say to others in need. I think I got this all wrong before; I tried to assure people that it would be okay, thinking that hope was the most comforting thing I could offer. A friend of mine with late-stage cancer told me that the worst thing people could say to him was “It is going to be okay.” That voice in his head would scream, How do you know it is going to be okay? Do you not understand that I might die? I learned this past month what he was trying to teach me.

Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not. When people say to me, “You and your children will find happiness again,” my heart tells me, Yes, I believe that, but I know I will never feel pure joy again. Those who have said, “You will find a new normal, but it will never be as good” comfort me more because they know and speak the truth. Even a simple “How are you?” – almost always asked with the best of intentions – is better replaced with “How are you today?” When I am asked “How are you?” I stop myself from shouting, My husband died a month ago, how do you think I am? When I hear “How are you today?” I realize the person knows that the best I can do right now is to get through each day.

I have learned some practical stuff that matters. Although we now know that Dave died immediately, I didn’t know that in the ambulance. The trip to the hospital was unbearably slow. I still hate every car that did not move to the side, every person who cared more about arriving at their destination a few minutes earlier than making room for us to pass. I have noticed this while driving in many countries and cities. Let’s all move out of the way. Someone’s parent or partner or child might depend on it.
I have learned how ephemeral everything can feel – and maybe everything is. That whatever rug you are standing on can be pulled right out from under you with absolutely no warning. In the last thirty days, I have heard from too many women who lost a spouse and then had multiple rugs pulled out from under them. Some lack support networks and struggle alone as they face emotional distress and financial insecurity. It seems so wrong to me that we abandon these women and their families when they are in greatest need.

I have learned to ask for help – and I have learned how much help I need. Until now, I have been the older sister, the COO, the doer and the planner. I did not plan this, and when it happened, I was not capable of doing much of anything. Those closest to me took over. They planned. They arranged. They told me where to sit and reminded me to eat. They are still doing so much to support me and my children...

For me, starting the transition back to work has been a savior, a chance to feel useful and connected. But I quickly discovered that even those connections had changed. Many of my co-workers had a look of fear in their eyes as I approached. I knew why – they wanted to help but weren’t sure how. Should I mention it? Should I not mention it? If I mention it, what the hell do I say? I realized that to restore that closeness with my colleagues that has always been so important to me, I needed to let them in. And that meant being more open and vulnerable than I ever wanted to be. I told those I work with most closely that they could ask me their honest questions and I would answer. I also said it was okay for them to talk about how they felt. One colleague admitted she’d been driving by my house frequently, not sure if she should come in. Another said he was paralyzed when I was around, worried he might say the wrong thing. Speaking openly replaced the fear of doing and saying the wrong thing. One of my favorite cartoons of all time has an elephant in a room answering the phone, saying, “It’s the elephant.” Once I addressed the elephant, we were able to kick him out of the room.

At the same time, there are moments when I can’t let people in. I went to Portfolio Night at school where kids show their parents around the classroom to look at their work hung on the walls. So many of the parents – all of whom have been so kind – tried to make eye contact or say something they thought would be comforting. I looked down the entire time so no one could catch my eye for fear of breaking down. I hope they understood.
Further reading: ABCs of Death & Mourning

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Post  Admin on Fri 05 Jun 2015, 9:52 pm
Studies show that giving kids chores is key to their personal growth.
by Emuna Braverman         
Great news for parents! According to research by Marty Rossmann, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, giving children household chores at an early age helps to build a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance. (It seems the boy scouts were on to something.) “Chores also teach children how to be empathetic and responsive to others’ needs,” notes psychologist Richard Weissbourd of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

There’s going to be a lot of housekeepers out of work!

Without getting carried away, this is an important finding – that of course seems obvious. Contributing to the family, giving to others is better for our character than an extra language and other resume-padding activities. It’s time to pull back from the brink.
We want our children to be givers. They won’t learn that at school or in the workplace; we need to teach them. We need to take the focus off of their accomplishments and put it back where it belongs – on the type of person they are. This isn’t easy because it is out of step with society. All their teachers and peers, all of our friends (Facebook and otherwise!) are promoting achievement, grades, Ivy League acceptances, promotions…We can caught up in the illusion. We can think it’s the best thing for our kids.

That’s why this Wall Street Journal (03/14/15) article “The Chore-Filled Path to Success” is essential reading. It takes us back to basics – not reading and mathematics but character development, who we are as human beings. It forces us to reflect on our real goals for our children – what we genuinely want versus what we’ve been co-opted to feel.

If the focus is all on grades and resumes and upwardly mobile careers, it is all too easy to become a taker, to live a life that’s all about me. No parent interviewed would honestly want that for our children yet that is the direction in which we push them. They may be happier, kinder, more fulfilled at a community college – but what will we tell our friends? We live in a world where ambition is all and material success is the mark of the man.

Yet the author of the piece, Jennifer Breheny Wallace, clearly has another definition of success in mind, a definition that aligns itself with Jewish understanding and focuses on being a mensch as opposed to being a Harvard graduate.

“Being slack about chores when they compete with school sends your child the message that grades and achievement are more important than caring about others.” No sane parent conveys this intentionally – but without reflecting on what we really want for our children and how to achieve it, we adopt this as our default position.

Like all lessons for our children, it begins with us. It begins with the choices we make and the actions they see. If we model giving, they are more likely to be givers. If we model taking…you can finish the sentence. If we are clearly more concerned about their skill with a clarinet than their caring for others, they will get the message. We have to internalize it first. We have to believe it first. We have to be committed to creating a mensch – a kind and thoughtful human being who is always there for others and puts them before himself. Even if he graduates at the bottom of his class…
Published: May 30, 2015

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Post  Admin on Tue 02 Jun 2015, 7:05 pm

My Death Scare
A potential cancer diagnosis helped me discover the value of time.
by Marshall Roth         
I started seeing blood in my stool. Undeniable streaks of red.

I passed it off as nothing serious. My brother had bleeding hemorrhoids and I figured it was my turn next.
A search on Google confirmed that, indeed, bleeding hemorrhoids produces the effects I'd been seeing. So I pushed it out of my mind and went on with life.
A few months later, my brother-in-law – recovering from colon cancer – mentioned how it began with seeing blood in his stool.

Colon cancer?!
Doctor Google confirmed: colon cancer matched my symptoms.
My mind raced. I'm dying!
I called the gastroenterologist and described the symptoms.
"We'll schedule a colonoscopy right away," his secretary said cheerily, trying to cover up the urgent gloom.
I hung up and tried to absorb the stark reality: I may have only a few months to live.

Laser Focus
The ensuing days till my colonoscopy were the most harrowing – and most vibrant – of my life.
I tried pushing all negative thoughts from my mind. God is sending me a wake-up call, I reminded myself. This is my opportunity to reevaluate my life.
With the clock ticking fast, I pledged that – whatever the test results – I will try to maximize every moment.
Easier said than done. How does one begin to "maximize every moment"? By what measure determines a "valuable use of time"?
Impelled by the specter of mortality, I discovered a 3-step process:

Step-1 – Destination
Maximizing time starts with a clear destination. Just like a GPS quickly and efficiently determines the best route and mode of transportation, so too the path of life requires a precise destination.
I began by asking core questions:
Who am I, and am I true to myself?
What change do I want to effect in this world, and why?
How much risk and hard work am I willing to invest to get there?
In those frantic few days, these essential questions made me realize: If I don't know where I'm going, I'll never get there.

Step-2 – Hourly Value
I felt the imperative to evaluate the worth of my time. But how?
An article published years ago on, "Curse of the Billable Hour," describes assigning a "dollar value" to time. If I'd be willing to perform some task for $100 an hour, that is its real-world value.
So I started, before undertaking any activity, to ask: Would I pay myself $100 an hour to do this? In other words, is this worth my time?
Before checking Facebook, I'd try remembering to ask: How much is this experience worth? Would I spend $50 for 30 minutes? Ten dollars for 6 minutes? Or is it just a waste of time?

I caught myself before clicking too far into "Internet space-out."
With increased awareness, I was able to catch myself before clicking too far into the time-wasting zone of "Internet space-out."
During my days in rabbinical school, one friend left a successful career on Wall Street to pursue Torah studies. He was exceptionally studious, and I asked how he managed to stay so focused.
"I was earning $400 an hour at the investment firm," he explained. "To justify my time in the study hall, each hour has to provide at least $400 value. So I make it count."

Step-3 – Moments of Choice
In my quest to maximize time, I discovered the importance of constant awareness. To avoid the comfort of spacing out and focus on what I'm doing.
Because only with awareness of each moment, can I hope to make the right choice for that moment. To keep the GPS positioned on target, and to follow its path.
Constant awareness is only possible with a daily time accounting. For as the most finite substance and our most precious commodity, time is the greatest measure of "profit and loss."
It is said that Baron Rothchild paid a servant to remind him every hour that he was one hour closer to death. That's why I love this hourly alarm APP.
Beyond this, I tried focusing on my breathing, and on the built-in mechanism of the heartbeat – an electrical pulse jolting me awake, again and again, prodding the question: Am I serious and focused, using my time most productively?

Priority Goals
Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Sheinberg, a great sage of the past generation, illustrated the profound value of time:
When it comes to precious items – a diamond ring or a Picasso, for example – the precious item is placed at the center, framed by less expensive materials. Yet a wristwatch appears to be the exception: a gold casing often outshines the comparatively simple watch-face.
In truth, Rabbi Sheinberg said, a wristwatch also frames the more valuable item: Time.
Every moment is infused with vast potential.

What will I make of it?
In the end, my colonoscopy showed no sign of cancer, placing me among the select few to actually celebrate a diagnosis of "bleeding hemorrhoids."
What a wonderful wake-up call. 
What a lesson not to rely on Doctor Google.

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Post  Admin on Sun 31 May 2015, 6:58 pm

Educating to Hate
Biased textbooks are mis-educating students to hate Jews and the Jewish state.
by Yvette Alt Miller          
Dutch teenagers taking a mandatory high school history class have been learning some highly suspect “facts” about the Jewish state.
According to the textbook Geschiedeniswerkplaats (“History Workplace”), Israel’s founding was an utter catastrophe, in which “Jewish militias carried out murders in Arab villages” and is depicted as an unprovoked pogrom of crazed Jews against peaceful Arab villagers.
No mention is made that the UN mandated the establishment of a Jewish State. Nor of the crucial historical detail that five Arab armies attacked the nascent Jewish state hours after Israeli independence was proclaimed.
No mention is made of Arab atrocities against Jews in the pre-state period – nor of the nearly one million Jews from Arab lands expelled following Israel’s founding in 1948 who found refugee in Israel.

Israeli leaders are called murderers and terrorists

Instead, Dutch teenagers are presented with a topsy-turvy view of Israel, in which former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin (winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978 for the peace treaty with Egypt that saw Israel withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula) is called a murderer and terrorist, and Israel’s founders are variously called “radical,” “terrorists,” and described (against historical evidence) as driven by an irrational desire to conquer all the biblical Land of Israel.

The book’s discussion of Israel’s founding in 1948 is illustrated with a modern-day picture of a Palestinian boy throwing a rock at an Israeli tank: the caption describes this as a “small act of resistance.” The book then creates a guilt-inducing feeling of panic and intense moral urgency by saying the boy in the picture was killed nine days after the photo was taken.

Fighting Back
Many Dutch students – and their teachers – read Geschiedeniswerkplaats’ upside-down and horrifying description of Israel without apparent comment – until one Israeli-Dutch 16-year-old, Barak Gorani, was assigned the textbook in his Jewish high school and complained.
Gorani, who describes himself as an “Israeli patriot,” pointed out the book’s many historical errors to his teacher – who agreed whole-heartedly. But, she said, there was nothing she could do: the Netherlands’ Education Ministry required it as a mandatory text.

Outraged, Gorani showed the textbook to his father, who passed it along to the Israeli Embassy. Gorani’s father said he was amazed that no one had formally objected to the textbook which was being used even in a Jewish school! “The Dutch, even the Jews, let it pass in silence.”
Israel’s embassy described the book as “outrageous” and may constitute incitement. The textbook’s publisher, Noordhoff Uitgevers, defended their work, saying: “We believe we carefully handled the facts and in the right context.” But as the story gained notoriety, increasing numbers of complaints poured in from parents and students alike.
As indignation grew, the Dutch Education Ministry began to distance itself from its own textbook, noting the Ministry “does not approve textbooks, they are selected by individual schools."

Deep Dialogue?
Sadly, the case in the Netherlands seems to be unusual only because someone had the courage to stand up and complain. In recent years, schools and education departments in other nations have assigned biased textbooks to impressionable students that denigrate the Jewish state.

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Post  Admin on Fri 29 May 2015, 12:33 pm

The Amoral Revolution in Western Values & its Impact on Israel
by Col. Richard Kemp
Israel's fight is the Western world's fight. The survival of Western civilization depends upon Israel's survival.
The writer was Commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan. The following text is Col. Kemp’s address delivered at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies on May 19, 2015.
As an officer cadet at Sandhurst in 1977, I studied the wars and campaigns of the Israel-Palestine conflict in great depth, 
 learning lessons in leadership, tactics and strategy from the always victorious operations of the IDF.
Years before that, in my school playground, girls always shopped and boys played war. Normally it was British and Germans or cowboys and Indians. For a time in 1967 it became Israelis and Arabs. After a few weeks, however, it reverted to the usual antagonists because nobody seemed to want to play on the Arab side.
I gather a similar recruitment problem exists today in the playgrounds of England with the Taliban side short of troops.
At 8, I was a little young for the serious study of military science beyond the playground, but later, as a 14-year-old schoolboy, I remember one day during the Yom Kippur War, my form master, a young chap just out of teacher training, came into the classroom with an arm full of newspapers.
He said that normal lessons would stop as there was a ‘real war’ starting and that this was really exciting so we should study it. Every day, we followed the events, wrote stories of our own, and learnt the geography. My father was unamused when all of the articles about the war had been cut out before he could get his hands on his breakfast-time paper. We were quite disappointed when it finished quickly and we had to resume normal lessons.
Why am I telling you all this?
It was all about the good fighting the bad and the good were expected to win. It was very simple even to a 14-year-old.
Even as late as 1973, Israel was still widely seen as the good guys and the Arabs were the bad. Sympathy was with Israel because they were being picked on and bullied. There was little consideration of the ‘legitimacy’ of Israel; it was taken for granted.

Eight Words from President Obama
by David A. Harris
"The Palestinians are not the easiest of partners." This is the heart of the issue.
President Barack Obama delivered a compelling and heartfelt speech on May 22 at a Washington synagogue.
He spoke directly to the concerns and aspirations of the Jewish people, identifying himself squarely with Jewish ethical values and the Jewish historical journey as a metaphor for the universal quest for peace and justice.
While not intended as a full-blown policy address, he did touch on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, asserting:
"Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people on their land, as well. Now, I want to emphasize that's not easy. The Palestinians are not the easiest of partners."
For starters, like a clear majority of Israelis, I have long believed that the Palestinians have such a right. It would serve not only Palestinian interests but Israeli interests as well, allowing the Jewish state to end an unsought occupation, dating back to 1967, and also shift significantly the demographic balance within its own borders.
But there is just one problem, and it is contained in eight words the president expressed: "The Palestinians are not the easiest of partners."
The audience's reaction was to laugh right after this sentence. But, of course, it's no laughing matter. Indeed, it's the heart of the issue, and has been for decades.

Why I Tour The U.S. As An Israeli Soldier
by Elad and Lital
We love Israel and know best the moral dilemmas we faced.
Lital and I participated in the 6th "Israeli Soldiers Tour," speaking on campuses, high schools, synagogues and churches throughout the Northeast. This included John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) staged a "die-in" last semester.
Sponsored by StandWithUs, an international Israel education organization, the tour features reserve duty soldiers who recount their personal experiences serving in the IDF and upholding its strict moral code, in the face of an enemy that hides behind its civilians. We talk about our backgrounds and life in Israel, putting a human face to the IDF uniform. Fourteen teams of two are dispatched throughout the United States.
This is my second tour and Lital's fifth. We go because we want to correct the many lies and misrepresentations about the IDF. There is no comparison to actually meeting a soldier and learning from their first-hand experiences. We love Israel and we know best the moral dilemmas we faced.
Lital works for a news site in Israel. Born in Ashdod, she holds a BA in Social Sciences from the Open University and is working towards her Masters in American Jewry at Haifa University.  Proud of her service in the IDF, she considers it an honor to contribute whatever she can to her country, which led Lital to choose service in the border police unit. She served in checkpoints, stations aimed at thwarting terrorist attacks — a position usually held by men.
Lital tells a harrowing tale of a woman in labor, screaming in pain, who arrived in an ambulance at a checkpoint between Israel and the West Bank.  She is 18-years old. What would you do?  In that split second, Lital made the executive decision to check the ambulance to ensure that nothing harmful was being transported into Israel. She found an explosive device hidden under one of the seats.

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Post  Admin on Tue 26 May 2015, 6:44 pm

Jewish Women on a Train
After seeing the whole world bleed and collapse in on itself, this cannot be happening. We must jump.
by Faigy Schonfeld         
The following account happened to my grandmother shortly after being liberated from a concentration camp. It is written in the manner in which she told me.
A wind, a breath – my lungs – at last! I inhale, soothed by the rhythmic clack and cough of rolling train beneath me, tilt my face to the window. It is slightly ajar and the beauty of the Czechoslovakian countryside is draped in midnight cloak. I close my eyes. Just...for a bit. A little peace, closed eyes, breathing, wind on my cheeks.
“Ssh, Zelda, try to sleep a little.” Sheindel wraps her fingers around mine. She is a sweet sister, Sheindel, self-appointed as she is, as my caretaker. She is only five years my senior but it is thanks to her I am alive. I am 15 now, but I was only 12 when I left home for the last time. I turn to offer her a smile.
“Where do you think they're taking us?” she whispers.
I shrug. “I heard Malka talking with some of the officials in the front cabin. We're going to someplace in Germany. From there, maybe, we can go home?” And find Tatte and Mamme. And Yosef Chaim and Ruchel and Ahrele. I don't say this aloud but the words hang heavy and limp between us, waiting.

Banning Israel from World Football
Intifada through diplomacy.
by Yvette Alt Miller          
The Palestinian Authority is seeking to have Israel suspended from FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, global soccer’s governing body. If the motion passes on May 29, 2015, Israel would become the world’s only nation to be banned from FIFA matches around the world.
“We will never, ever accept any compromise, any agreement or deal,” Palestinian Football Association chief Jibril Rajoub has explained. A former security official in the PLO’s feared security apparatus, Rajoub regards sports as a tool to help the Palestinian Unity Government between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority achieve statehood without taking concrete steps to negotiate with Israel.
Rajoub’s complaint to FIFA has three main components, each of which is strongly refuted by Israel as grounds for their suspension: that Israel restricts the movement of Palestinian players, particularly between Gaza and the West Bank; five of Israel’s soccer teams are located outside of Israel’s 1967 cease-fire lines with Jordan; and that Israel’s Football Association turns a blind eye to racism.

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Post  Admin on Thu 21 May 2015, 8:39 pm

The New Pew Report and the Ten Commandments
Are the Ten Commandments in trouble?
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
As Jews prepare to celebrate the holiday of Shavuot commemorating the giving of the Torah at Sinai, a new report by the Pew Institute makes clear that the millennium old divine code for ethical behavior is today being seriously challenged. At least one of the commandments, the first to be exact, has significantly lost its claim on contemporary acceptance with the incredible growth of a movement that now has its own name.
The “nones” are Americans who choose “none” as response to their affiliation with brand-name religion – and in the words of John Green, director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, they are the new major force in American faith. They are, Green said, “more secular in outlook and more comfortable admitting it" than any previous generation.

The “nones” are Americans who choose “none” as response to their affiliation with brand-name religion – and in the words of John Green, director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, they are the new major force in American faith. They are, Green said, “more secular in outlook and more comfortable admitting it" than any previous generation.
Earlier this month, the 2014 General Social Survey was released. It shows in stark relief that what some are calling the Great Decline of religion in America continues: Since 2012, the U.S. has about 7.5 million more Americans who are no longer active in religion.
The GSS is the gold standard for sociological surveys. Funded by the National Science Foundation, this multimillion-dollar study gives us the most accurate data on American society – including religion.
If this growth continues, in a few years the largest “religion” in the U.S. may be no religion at all
When asked their religious preference, nearly 1 in 4 Americans now says “none.” Up until the 1990s, the percentage that was in this group known as “nones” hovered in the single digits. The 2014 GSS showed that nones are now 21 percent of the population.
How large does that make this group? According to the GSS, there are nearly as many Americans who claim no religion as there are Catholics. If this growth continues, in a few years the largest “religion” in the U.S. may be no religion at all.

The Pew Report, released just last week, shows "Nones," at 22.8% of the U.S., second only to evangelicals and ahead of Catholics in religious market share. Far more disconcerting are the numbers that point to the direction of the future. A high percentage of younger members of the Millennial generation – those who have entered adulthood in just the last several years – are religious “nones” (saying they are atheists or agnostics, or that their religion is “nothing in particular”). At the same time, an increasing share of older Millennials also identify as “nones,” with more members of that group rejecting religious labels in recent years. Overall, 35% of adult Millennials (Americans born between 1981 and 1996) are religiously unaffiliated
America has long been a uniquely blessed country. Our Pledge of Allegiance identifies our claim to special divine providence. Based on the vision of our founding fathers, we have been “one nation, under God.” The founding fathers never failed to emphasize this unique relationship between our country and our creator.

Benjamin Franklin, speaking for almost all of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, expressed it well: "Here is my Creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That He ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is in doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion, and I regard them as you do in whatever sect I meet with them.”

What shall we then say about our present generation? As a contemporary sociologist put it, Americans today will soon need to change “one nation” to “none nation” – and eliminate any mention of the one who introduced himself at Mt. Sinai as “I am the Lord your God who took out of the land of Egypt the house of bondage.”

Rabbinic commentators made a profound observation about the number ten as key to the commandments. Ten as a number is written with a one followed by a zero. Together they make “10”. Remove the number one however and you are left simply with a zero, with nothing. Similarly, remove the first commandment, belief in a God of history with whom we have a personal relationship, and all the other commandments fall by the wayside.

Dostoyevsky was right in his famous words in The Brothers Karamazov: “Without God, all is permissible.” The noble ideals of the Decalogue secure their power from firm belief in an all seeing God to whom we owe unqualified obedience. Without God, greed permits theft, human passions justify adultery, ingenious rationalizations vindicate even the most obscene violence and murder.
A secular society identifying itself as “none” needs to fear far more than the absence of God in its midst. The most profound message of the Ten Commandments is that belief is the necessary prelude to civilized behavior.
The Midrash makes a striking observation about the two times the number ten makes a significant appearance in the book of Exodus. Before the Ten Commandments, ten was the number of the plagues God sent against the Egyptians as punishment for their crimes. Sinai however offered an alternative to the ten of retribution. Ten are also the heavenly prescription for the conduct of a moral and ethical life.

The Ten Commandments speak to us with the same message today as they did to our biblical ancestors. They remind us to choose One instead of None, the sacred over the secular, in order to find divine favor and blessing. And as Jews, entrusted with the mission to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” we must be in the forefront of returning God to his proper throne of ruler over all mankind.

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Post  Admin on Tue 19 May 2015, 9:05 pm

50 Days to Greatness
To celebrate my turning 50, I am running five marathons this year and defying doctors’ gloomy predictions.
by Harold Berman
As a child, orthopedic specialists told me and my parents that I could function only with special shoes to compensate for my misshapen arches, that the problem extended up to my torso, and that by the age of 40, I would be reduced to hobbling around with chronically painful backaches.
This year, I turn 50. I don’t wear special shoes. My back feels fine. And I’m running marathons.
In Judaism, the number 50 signifies transcendence. We count the Omer leading up to the 50th day, transporting ourselves from Passover to Shavuot, transforming ourselves from the narrow confines of Egypt to the liberating revelation of the Torah at Mount Sinai. The Yovel – the Jubilee – takes place in the 50th year, at which time debts are forgiven, and property is returned to its original owners. In other words, society is transformed in previously unthinkable ways so that previously unknown potential can be realized.
To celebrate my turning 50, I am running five marathons this year, one for each decade. I recently ran the Geneva Marathon and 50 days before that, I ran the Jerusalem Marathon. I plan to run my third marathon a little over 50 days after that.

The Western Wall Pledge
Do we take the Western Wall for granted?
by Michael Freund
It stands there silently, contemplatively, like a sentry guarding its post, projecting strength and a dramatic sense of history even as it invokes our deepest longings regarding Jewish destiny.
As the best-known site in all of Jerusalem, it is a symbol that resonates profoundly and sometimes inscrutably in the heart of all those who feel the softness of its touch.
Indeed, for those of us born after the miraculous events of the Six Day War, it is hard to conceive of a time when the Western Wall was defiled and unreachable, languishing despondently under foreign rule.
We visit it whenever we wish, free to recite any prayer, and to offer as much praise or shed as many tears as our hearts might desire.
Nonetheless, it was just 48 years ago today, on the 28th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar that this ancient relic of the Temple period was returned to our people, an event we now commemorate each year as Jerusalem Day.
But how much do we really appreciate and cherish the Wall? I hesitate to ask, but, do we perhaps take the Western Wall for granted? Of course, the Temple Mount, which sits above the Wall, is our holiest of holy sites, surpassing the Wall in significance. And we must work towards the day when we shall be free to ascend it in peace, unencumbered by political restrictions.

Am I A Control Freak?
I have this need to feel in control. Is something wrong with me?
by Lauren Roth
I’m an 18-year-old girl and I consider myself pretty emotionally healthy. But I noticed that I have this need to feel in control. For example, I've always had a very difficult time accepting authority and it led me to fight back against my teachers and my parents almost to prove that they couldn't control me. Lots of times I end up angry and in tears when I’m forced to listen to or submit to them. I also noticed it with subtler things. I love driving and I always need to be the one behind the wheel. It gives me a feeling of something I can control. Also with friends, I have lots of relationships where the girl is younger or more vulnerable than I am. Is there something wrong? Am I a control freak?
Lauren Roth's Answer
Yes, you are. But you're in good company – so are lots and lots of people in this world! The question is: are you hurting yourself or the people around you with the controlling behavior? Sometimes controlling behavior doesn’t bother the people around you and doesn’t affect you badly. Sometimes, though, it can hurt your friends and your family, and make you lonely and/or miserable.

All the Lonely People
by Emuna Braverman
We can all make a difference in other people's lives.
by Emuna Braverman         
After her spouse had passed away, my husband’s grandmother was lamenting her loneliness to her daughter. “You can talk to me,” consoled her daughter.
“I don’t want to talk to you; I want to talk about you!” responded the grieving mother.
Loneliness comes in all forms. It visits rich and poor, tall and short, educated and illiterate alike. Our job is to be sensitive to it and to respond to the needs of our fellow human being the best we can.
In the scenario above, clearly my mother-in-law was not the person to solve her mother’s loneliness. She needed peers, friends, and perhaps another husband. One of the main things to note is that it is different for everyone. There is no “one size fits all” solution for loneliness just as there is no “one size fits all” description of it. It is unique to everyone.
Some of it is obvious. We look at the singles, the divorced, the widowed and our heart goes out to them. We know we should invite them over, make a coffee date, at the very least call them up. We are moved by their plight – and then we get on with our lives. It is a type of callousness we need to work hard to remedy.

More Holy Woman
by Sara Yoheved Rigler
In shark-infested waters, their only life raft was reassuring words.
Eli and Shaya, two yeshivah students from England, decided to start a hi-tech company. Since they had neither financial backing nor experience, they understood how important it was to engage an expert business consultant. The consultant they turned to was a septuagenarian Chasidic woman who lived in Jerusalem. She always wore two housecoats, one atop the other, and a babushka. Her own business experience had consisted of a dairy farm of eight cows, a venture that had never been particularly profitable. Her name was Rebbetzin Chaya Sara Kramer.
Eli and Shaya called the Rebbetzin every week and consulted her about everything. Every month, Shaya, who had moved to Jerusalem, brought her a cash donation to help with her living expenses. They used to tell her that she was a partner in their business.
A year and a half after founding their company, Eli and Shaya were sued by a famous American blue-chip corporation. The young entrepreneurs hired lawyers. After reviewing the case, their lawyers informed them that they didn't have a chance of winning against such a large, powerful conglomerate. Disconsolate, Eli and Shaya went to Rebbetzin Chaya Sara and told her their lawyers' prognosis.
Her response was: "Fire your lawyers and fight!"
However doubtful of their prospects of winning, they obeyed. The conglomerate's lawyers were callous and intimidating. When they phoned Eli from New York to discuss the case on September 11, 2001, just after the collapse of the Twin Towers, Eli told them: "Maybe we shouldn't discuss business today so that we can be together in bereavement for what happened in the United States." The sharks replied: "Business is business."

Mistake David Letterman for a Jew
by Staff
His last name ends with "man." That's also why we think Superman is Jewish.
Late night talk show host David Letterman’s final episode is May 20th, 2015. He began hosting late night television in 1980 and became the longest serving late night talk show host in television history. He is famous for his acerbic wit and his quirky bits including stupid pet tricks and his Top Ten lists. Interestingly, David Letterman is also somewhat famous for people mistakenly believing he’s Jewish. For the record: he’s not. What Jewish mother would not have staged a serious orthodontic intervention for that gap in his two front teeth?

Paul Shaffer: The Mensch
by Rabbi Aaron Goldscheider
You may know him as David Letterman's sidekick, but Paul Shaffer is also a guy who leads a pretty mean "maariv" service.
When David Letterman steps down from his Late Show, his musical director and comic foil for the last 33 years will do the same. Paul Shaffer, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Grammy winning musician and bandleader will be moving on.
The millions of viewers who enjoyed kicking back night after night to his muscular music, stunts and shtick, were exposed to only one side of Paul Shaffer. They witnessed his talent, his wit, and his eccentric stage personality.
I am deeply impressed knowing another side. Paul Shaffer, the mensch: deeply devoted to family life, a Jew committed to his synagogue, and passionate about his Jewish roots and upbringing. The Paul I know loves the traditional Shabbat service, especially the Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat melodies, and who himself leads a pretty mean ‘maariv’ service.

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Post  Admin on Fri 15 May 2015, 12:38 pm

Jewish-Chinese Connections
Fascinating facts about Jews and China.
by Yvette Alt Mille
Lost Jews of China
In the Middle Ages, Jewish traders following the ancient Silk Road spice route settled in China, forming a community in the city of Kaifeng. Kaifeng was then one of the “Seven Ancient Capitals of China” and one of the world’s largest metropolises, with a population of close to one million. China’s ruling Song Emperors welcomed the Jews as welcome guests, bestowing seven family names that these Kaifeng Jews could use – some of which are still carried by their descendents in the town today.
Kaifeng’s Jewish community thrived at first, building its first synagogue in 1163, and eventually swelling to several thousand members. Smaller Jewish communities sprung up in other towns in China. Unlike many Jewish communities elsewhere, it seems that China’s Jews faced little or no persecution. Ironically, the lack of discrimination they faced in China seems to have hastened their end.
Within a few hundred years, the Jews of Kaifeng began to drift away from their religion. They intermarried with their Han Chinese neighbors and gradually lost their Jewish knowledge and traditions. When Kaifeng faced a devastating flood in 1642, its small Jewish community was able to recover and rebuild their synagogue. When Kaifeng was again heavily damaged by floods in 1841 – which wiped away the town’s sole remaining synagogue, among other buildings – the Jewish community never rebuilt.
Today, Kaifeng still boasts a street called Nan-Xuejing Hutong, meaning South Studying-the-Scriptures Lane, where its Jewish community used to live. Few other clues remain of the once-bustling community of Jews that called China home.

The dramatic retrieval of a long-lost family heirloom.
by Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser
from "It Happened in Heaven" (
Ann had been born and raised in Pennsylvania. When she married, she moved to San Francisco, and had not returned to the East for more than two decades. So her visit to New York City was exciting. Her sister and brother-in-law, with whom she was staying, were anxious to show her around town and she enjoyed doing the conventional tourist-type things that most visitors to the city do.
On her last Sunday in New York, she ventured alone to the Lower East Side, to do some shopping. It seemed to Ann as if nothing had changed on Delancey Street. The tenements were still the same run-down, seedy buildings they were 20 years ago. The sidewalk vendors still hawked their wares loudly and abrasively. The shop owners still expected a good haggle over the price, and the crowds of shoppers, eager for a bargain, were thick as ever.

The Torah mantle in the window caught her eye and she rushed into the shop
Ann turned down a small side street to get some relief from being jostled by the throng, and as she walked along, she glanced idly into the store windows. She had almost passed a small Judaica shop when something in the window caught her eye. She came to an abrupt halt, then went closer to take a better look. There on display was a beautiful Torah mantle. It was made of maroon velvet and had a silver menorah embroidered on the front. There were also some Hebrew words embroidered in thin silver threads under the menorah, which because of Ann's lack of Hebrew education, she was unable to read.
She rushed into the shop and began questioning the clerk. Did the Torah mantle in the window once belong to someone? Where did it come from? How old was it? Was it for sale?
The clerk reacted defensively to Ann's questions. What concern was it of hers where the mantle had come from? No, it was definitely not for sale. Was she interested in buying something else? If not, then would she please leave. The salesclerk practically pushed Ann out of the store.

That evening, Ann, who was a close friend of my mother, telephoned me and related the whole bizarre incident. I listened, but could not understand why the Torah mantle was so important to her until I heard her story.
"It was almost at the end of World War II. My brother Nochum had just turned 18, and my parents lived in dread that he would be called up. There was the draft then, you know. They took any and every able-bodied man. My brother was a very gentle and sensitive boy. He didn't even know how to raise his voice. He was the apple of my father's eye and my parents' only son. I remember how my mother checked the mail every day, terrified that there would be a draft notice.

The Western Wall Infographic
Everything you need to know about Israel’s most-visited site. Perfect to share for Jerusalem Day.

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Post  Admin on Wed 13 May 2015, 4:04 pm

by Alyssa Rachel Gross
4 lessons I've learned in giving to others.

When I first heard about Masbia, a kosher restaurant-style soup kitchen, I contacted the volunteer coordinator and got my foot in the door as a volunteer. I was looking for an opportunity to be part of a larger mission, and my intuition told me, this was where I needed to be.
Masbia welcomes everyone, Jew and non-Jew alike, to enjoy a warm tasty meal. I think it represents the ultimate in Tikkun Olam, fixing the world, by fulfilling a basic need: hunger.
From young to old, Jews to Catholics, white to black, everyone is welcome to walk through the door. Each week, there are 200 volunteers, as varied as the diners, that come in to help out from kitchen prep to unloading deliveries and giving out pantry bags on Thursday nights.
Volunteering has been an invaluable experience. Here are some of the lessons I've learned serving chicken, rice, vegetables, soup, bread and dessert to those in need.

1. Smile
Rabbi Yishmael says, "Receive every person cheerfully." Some people make that a lot easier than others. Am I really expected to greet everyone with a smile, including the rude client who is yelling at me about the food? What if I'm the one having a bad day?
What I've learned is that no matter how someone approaches you, greet them with a smile anyway. The people with the hard angry faces need that warm welcome the most. They may not always warm up to you but sometimes they do and sometimes it takes time. Life is not about being reactive. It is about deciding how you want to be, come what may.

2. Give a little extra
Lois, one of the unofficial mothers at the soup kitchen, once instructed me. “Always give them a little extra." If someone needs another cup of tea or a little baggie to go for a sick mom at home, give with an open hand. There are times when we are short on volunteers and the line for the pantry goods runs down the block. We’d love to be able to serve the food in a more expedient fashion but some nights one volunteer is doing the job of three. As people wait to be served dinner or for their pantry bags, I walk around offering another serving of water or apple juice, offering a smile or a simple apology. I throw in an extra bag of edamame or peanut butter to the regulars I know who need it.

This lesson has translated to my work life as well. When Purim time came around, I brought in a variety of flavors of hamentashen to work. I don't think one of my colleagues had ever had a hamentashen in their life but they loved them. More than just the delicious treat, it's about giving just a little bit extra, doing more than necessary. Those moments, while seemingly small, express care and everyone appreciates being considered.

3. Fill the need
At a soup kitchen, sometimes the demand can overwhelm the supply. Whether we're short on staff or on food, we do our absolute best to provide each diner with a hot meal or pantry goods to take home on pantry night.
But there are times when conflict arises. Folks want items that are no longer available or make a request simply above our means. Neil, a fellow volunteer once said, "I don't volunteer to say no." That one simple phrase left a profound mark on me. We are here in life to give. Do your absolute best to say yes. Maybe I can't help you in one way but there's something else that I can do.

4. The world needs you
The nightly news report can often lead us to a cynical view of the world. We are bombarded by images of violence and hatred at home and abroad. But when you enter into a space devoted to giving back to others, you see just how many good people there truly are; dedicated individuals pouring their guts, sweat and tears into helping others. Let your faith in humanity be renewed.
We can all aspire to greatness. Let us give of our time, our heart and ourselves. Find your cause. Find your passion. And may we all merit to be a part of making God’s world a better place.
In memory of the generous spirit of my brother Yitzchak Isaac Ben Chaim Meir.
Published: May 9, 2015

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Post  Admin on Mon 27 Apr 2015, 8:38 am

Surprising Facts about the Jews of Mexico
Mexico boasts a thriving Jewish community with roots that go back 500 years.
by Yvette Alt Miller

Some of the most vibrant Jewish neighborhoods in North America exist “South of the Border” in Mexico, where over 40,000 Jews have created a close-knit, distinct community.
Here are some surprising facts about North America’s least-known Jewish centers.

Early Jewish Haven
When Hernan Cortés first conquered Mexico for Spain in 1521, he did so with a number of secret Jews amongst his men. Judaism was banned at the time in Spain, and soon many secret Spanish Jews departed for “Nueve Espana” in the New World to try and live a more Jewish life. In fact, Spain’s first Viceroy in Mexico, Antonio de Mendoza, possessed a Jewish surname, and historians suggest he was possibly one of the secret Jews who moved to the new territory.
King Phillip II of Spain soon established the Kingdom of Nuevo Leon in Mexico (and parts of what is today Texas), and appointed Don Luis de Carvajal – a well-known Portuguese-Spanish nobleman who was born to Jewish converses, or forced converts – as Governor of the new territory. Carvajal welcomed both Jews and Catholics into his land. His nephew, Louis Rodriguez Carvajal, embraced his Jewish identity in the new kingdom, and encouraged other secret Jews to do the same.

Inquisition in Mexico
The Spanish Inquisition, which forbade any Jewish practice, spread to Mexico in 1571. Many of the new territory’s Jews fled to neighboring Peru: Jews who chose to remain faced torture and execution if it was ever found that they continued to practice their faith.
Some of the earliest victims of the Mexican Inquisition were the family of the Governor Louis de Carvajal. His sister Francisca was arrested on charges of being a Jew, tortured, and burned at the stake, along with four of her children – Isabel, Catalina, Leonor, and Luis – in 1596; another of her sons, Luis, committed suicide in prison rather than face more torture. In 1601, another of Francisca Carvajal’s daughters, Mariana, was burned at the stake for the crime of being Jewish as well. Governor de Carvajal himself was arrested on charges of practicing Judaism, and died in prison 1595.

Jews were soon pursued throughout Mexico. “Suspicious” activities that could brand someone a Jew included bathing on a Friday and afterwards putting on clean clothes; draining and disposing of blood after slaughtering a bird to eat; fasting on Yom Kippur; eating tortillas (which are unleavened) during Passover; and circumcising sons. Anyone guilty of these “crimes” faced drastic punishments including torture, imprisonment, forced wearing of a sanbenito, a knee-length yellow gown, or a dunce-cap, and execution. (Visitors to the Zocalo, the main plaza in the center of Mexico City today, might be unaware that this was the main location where generations of Jews were publicly burned at the stake for the “crime” of being Jewish.)

By the time the Inquisition was abolished in Mexico in 1821, approximately 100 Jews had been killed, and many more imprisoned.

Cinco de Mayo, the Struggle for Mexican Independence, and Mexico’s Jews

Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Battle of Puebla, when a small Mexican force led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin defeated a much larger French army, on May 5, 1862. (The area of Puebla might have been home to a thriving secret Jewish community of its own; see the section on Jewish-Mexican food, below.)
Despite this victory, French forces went on to conquer Mexico, and set up the short-lived Second Mexican Empire. In 1864, Emperor Maximilian I declared himself ruler and though he never consolidated his reign over all of Mexico, the short-lived monarch did make one remarkable change in Mexico: he issued an edict of religious tolerance, and invited German Jews to settle in Mexico. When Maximilian was deposed and executed in 1867, his successor, Mexican nationalist President Benito Juarez, continued to enforce a separation of Church and State, ensuring that Mexico remained a haven for Jewish immigrants.
Jewish refugees began to pour into Mexico. Ashkenazi Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe came in the 1880s, establishing Mexico’s first synagogue, in Mexico City, 1885. Sephardi Jews soon followed, fleeing persecution in the crumbling Ottoman Empire, and finding a new home in Mexico. (Sephardi Jews had an added incentive to immigrate to the new nation; they spoke Ladino, a Spanish-derived Jewish dialect that helped them feel at home in Spanish-speaking Mexico.)

Lithuania, Damascus and Aleppo in Mexico City
Mexico’s oldest standing synagogue is the Sephardi Synagogue, built in 1923 in the heart of Mexico City, at 83 Justo Sierra Street. Although the Jewish community has long since moved to the suburbs, Jews who work downtown still frequent the congregation during the working week. Down the street is Mexico’s first Ashkenazi synagogue, Justo Sierra, built in 1941 as a replica of a magnificent Lithuanian synagogue; builders worked from a photograph, copying the ornate details faithfully. Now a cultural center, it is the only Mexican synagogue that is open to the public. Fear of crime and terrorism haunt Mexico’s Jews, making them highly security-conscious and wary of maintain the safety and security of their synagogues and other communal buildings

Today’s Mexican Jewish community is tightly-knit, and contains several distinct strands: two separate Syrian communities thrive, each with their own traditions, from Aleppo and Damascus. Ashkenazi Jews maintain the traditions they brought with them from Eastern Europe. Another group of Mexican Sephardi Jews hails from the Balkans, and keeps those memories alive through family recipes and customs. Finally, a fifth group has made its mark on Mexico’s Jewish community in recent years: immigrants from the United States, who call Mexico home now and have brought their own distinct traditions from North of the Border to Mexico.

Jew-Mex: Jewish-Mexican Cuisine

A few of Mexico’s best-known dishes turn out to have surprising Jewish origins. Bunuelos, the quintessential Mexican winter holiday dish of golden, deep-fried balls of cheese-infused dough, originated as a Sephardi Hanukkah dish: the oil used the fry these savory snacks was originally meant to invoke the oil used to miraculously light the Menorah in the Temple during the first Hanukkah.

Some theorize that the springtime Mexican dish Capirotada – a rich bread pudding infused with sweet cheese and drenched in syrup – also originated with Mexican Jews, as a way of disguising their consumption of unleavened bread during Passover.
Pan de Semita, the iconic sesame-seed-studded roll of Mexico’s Puebla region (the area where the Battle of Puebla, celebrated in Cinco de Mayo celebrations), has been linked to secret Jews who possibly ate it as an unleavened alternative to regular bread during Passover. Another iconic Mexican regional dish – roast suckling goat, enjoyed in and around the Mexican city of Monterrey (which also contains an established Jewish presence) – was likely Jewish in origin: a way for secret Jews to avoid eating the roast suckling pig so popular in much of Mexico.

Culinary influences have gone both ways: Mexican Jewish cooks have adapted the bright flavors and fresh fruits of Mexico to traditional Jewish dishes, adding chilies to gefilte fish and tropical spices to chicken soup. In Mexico City today, kosher consumers can enjoy Mexican staples embraced by the Jewish community such as quesadillas (corn tortillas that are filled, folded and fried), flautas (tortillas that are rolled and fried), sopes (fried circles of cornmeal dough), chalupas (cups of fried cornmeal) – all filled with Mexican delicacies such as queso (cheese), nopales (cactuse), frijoles (refried beans), salsa, and guacamole. Even street food has been available at kosher stands in Mexico City, ensuring that Mexico’s Jews don’t miss out on their country’s delicious snacks.

Tight-Knit Community, Bright Future

Centered today in Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara, Mexico’s Jewish community is tightly-knit, with enviable levels of Jewish engagement. Jewish organizations reach every corner of the community’s life, providing independent ambulance services, welfare organizations, social groups – even a dedicated anti-kidnapping response group.

Intermarriage rates are among the lowest in the world: 94% of Mexican Jews marry other Jews. Approximately 95% of Mexican Jews are affiliated with the Jewish community, and about 95% of children attend one of the community’s sixteen different Jewish schools.

Rates of anti-Semitism remain low. In June 2003, then-President Vicente Fox passed a law that forbids discrimination, including anti-Semitism, adding a greater level of security for Mexico’s 40,000+ Jews. Jewish community leader Renee Dayan-Shabot was in the Mexican Senate the day the law was passed. “It came time for any arguments against the law,” she recalls, “and there was complete silence.” Then, as now, Mexico embraced its small but vibrant Jewish population.

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Post  Admin on Mon 27 Apr 2015, 8:17 am

The Trial of Oskar GroeningThe Trial of Oskar Groening
Justice is not being served.
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech         

Seven decades after the Holocaust, in a small courthouse in Luneburg Germany, a trial that is probably the last of its kind is making headlines around the world.
Oskar Groening is being tried on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder, related to a period between May and July 1944 when around 425,000 Jews from Hungary were brought to the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex in Nazi-occupied Poland and almost immediately gassed to death. Groening, known as “the accountant of Auschwitz”, faithfully fulfilled his duty as SS-Unterscharführer, collecting the cash that doomed Hungarian Jews carried with them to the place of their extermination and seeing to its shipment to Berlin to give financial backing to the final solution of genocide. For his role, this now 93-year-old faces 6 to 15 years if convicted.

I must make a painful confession. Much as I rejoiced at the capture of Eichmann and his execution in Israel and much as I found a great measure of satisfaction in the past by verdicts of guilt and punishment – admittedly all too few – for those involved in the barbaric crimes of the Holocaust, I am troubled by the rationales now being stressed for the importance of this particular trial.
Does it make any sense to be told that we need again to hear the testimony of witnesses as well as the admission of the defendant in order to refute the claims of Holocaust deniers? To continue an argument with those who refuse to accept historic fact is to grant an undeserved measure of truth to an absurdity, as if it were worthy of debate and further discussion. Deniers are no better than spokesman for the Flat Earth Society who deserve only laughter, not a public hearing which grants them legitimacy as worthy intellectual opponents.

Yes, Oskar Groening publicly admitted, "I saw everything. The gas chambers, the cremations, the selection process. One and a half million Jews were murdered in Auschwitz. I was there." But we did not really need him to tell us that. Indeed, Ursula Haverbeck, one of Germany’s more infamous Holocaust deniers, was in court for Groening’s initial testimony and after listening to his detailed description of what happened in the camp, not unexpectedly commented, “He’s been turned.”
For those interested in truth, the facts have long ago been established; for those motivated by irrational hatred of Jews and of Israel, no amount of irrefutable proof will suffice to open the closed minds of haters.
To be gratified by Groening’s confessions to the horrors that took place at Auschwitz is almost as if one were previously unsure of the truth previously documented by hundreds of survivors and eyewitnesses.
But there is another and more important reason being trumpeted as cause for rejoicing for this long-delayed trial. At last, we are told, we can feel that justice is finally being done in the country responsible for one of the most unspeakable crimes of history. It will serve, it’s been suggested in several articles, as a fitting closure to the Nazi sins of the twentieth century.

6500 members of the SS worked at Auschwitz. To date only 49 have been convicted of crimes
And that is precisely why I feel so devastated by this implicit insult to the memory of the six million.
The Groening trial is being showcased as vivid demonstration of Germany’s concern for bringing the guilty to punishment. Yet what it proves sends precisely the opposite message.

The year is now 2015. The legal action against Groening somehow never found its way to the court for countless decades. All the while, records indicate that about 6500 members of the SS worked at Auschwitz – and that was merely one of the many factories of death which carried out the fiendish designs of the final solution. Of those, to date only 49 have been convicted of crimes.
Remarkable, too, is the nature of the crimes attributed to Groening in comparison to those who somehow have escaped judicial notice, having lived out their lives in serenity and in all probability blessed prosperity. Groening pleads that he was not actively involved in the murders, the beatings, the gassing and the tortures of Auschwitz. He admits that he shares in the moral guilt but feels that does not make him culpable under law. True, by all accounts, even his own reflections on his past, he is not an innocent.

But should we not ask what happened to all the others who somehow escaped the scrutiny of the courts, the inquiries of the authorities, the investigations of the legal system charged with bringing to justice not simply those who bureaucratically assisted the machinery of evil but who brutally carried out its heinous cruelties?
Is it not a travesty of the very word justice if the most that German courts can succeed in accomplishing after these many years of indifferent pursuit of the truly guilty is to convict a 93-year-old concentration camp accountant while the many tens of thousands of sadistic beasts who carried out the horrific acts which defined Nazi cruelty and inhumaneness never paid a price for their sins?
And if Groening is found guilty and sentenced, while all those who actually carried out the crimes of the death camps escaped judicial notice, would not the greatest tragedy of all be for the world to offer its final judgment on the Holocaust with the false pronouncement that in the end justice was served?
Published: April 25, 2015

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Post  Admin on Thu 23 Apr 2015, 10:58 pm

Jerusalem: Facts and Figures
Everything you need to know about Israel’s capital.
by and Yvette Alt Miller

You will no doubt want to bookmark this Article.
CLICK BELOW Very interesting


Israel & FDR’s Secret Correspondence with the Saudi KingIsrael & 
FDR’s Secret Correspondence with the Saudi King
FDR did not support the creation of Israel. Destiny had other plans.
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech         
This week we commemorate the 67th anniversary of the birth of the modern day state of Israel. This momentous event almost didn’t take place without very special divine intervention.
At the time almost no one knew the story. It was not until much later that the secret correspondence between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Saudi King surfaced. But now we know what transpired behind the scene that would surely have derailed recognition of Israel as a member state of the United Nations – and we can once again stand in awe of the mysterious ways in which God plays a role in directing the turning points of history.
I have just now become privileged to see copies of the original letters between Abdul Aziz bin Abdur Rahman al Faisal al Saud and the then president of the United States. It was in March 1945 that the Saudi King, aware of the imminent end of the Second World War, wrote to FDR of his fear that the Jewish remnant of the Holocaust might push for a return to their ancient homeland of Palestine. Saud was particularly concerned that there might be some American support for this on humanitarian grounds, especially in light of the revelations about the extent of Jewish suffering.
The Saudi King was undiplomatically direct in his opposition to this possibility:

ISRAEL INDEPENDENCE DAY Israel Independence Day - Yom Ha'Atzmaut

Israel Independence Day: Reason to RejoiceIsrael Independence Day: Reason to Rejoice
Israel represents the greatest national success story of all time.
by Isi Leibler         
The Bible quotes Balaam describing the Jews as “a people that dwells alone and is not counted among the nations”. Alas, that aptly describes the status of the Jewish state on the 67th anniversary of its rebirth. Yet despite enormous challenges confronting us, we have every reason to celebrate.
Yes, Israel is the only country in the world whose right to exist and defend itself is continuously challenged. We have neighbors who still dream of driving us into the sea; we face an ongoing global tsunami of viral anti-Semitism; the world judges us by double standards; Israel is an oasis in a region in which primitive barbarism reigns as hundreds of thousands of people are butchered as a matter of routine.
But despite this, by any benchmark Israel unquestionably represents the greatest national success story of all time.
Exiled and scattered throughout the world for 2000 years and suffering endless cycles of persecution and mass murder climaxing with the Shoah, the Jews miraculously resurrected a nation state.
Since the late 19th century, Jewish idealists have been returning to their homeland and transforming deserts into gardens.
In 1947 the world was astonished when incredibly for a brief moment, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union unprecedentedly agreed to endorse the creation of a Jewish state.
There were only 600,000 Jews in Palestine when the State of Israel was declared. Yet against all odds and despite inadequate armaments and lack of military training, fighters from the fledgling state successfully vanquished the combined military forces of its Arab neighbors, determined to destroy us.
Victory was not achieved without painful sacrifice and 24 hours before rejoicing on Independence Day, we pay tribute to over 20,000 Jews those who gave up their lives to defend our Jewish state.

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Post  Admin on Wed 22 Apr 2015, 11:24 am
Who Gets to Pray on the Temple Mount?Who Gets to Pray on the Temple Mount?
It pains me that I can’t pray there. But it’s not an Arab woman who is preventing me.
by Ruchama King Feuerman         
So the Arab women, calling themselves the army of Muhammad, stand guard at the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif, Noble Sanctuary, whatever you call it, depending on what tribe you’re from. In between noshing and knitting and drinking tea, they seek out Jews, the visibly religious kind who ascend the Temple Mount, to stop them from praying there. They chase them down, surround them, terrify them, some calling them pigs and apes. “Everyone must protect Al Aksa so the Jews don’t take it,” a woman says, as reported in the New York Times.

I imagine it's all much worse, especially hearing reports from friends who live in Jerusalem and go to the Kotel frequently.
I wonder: Are these Arab women genuinely afraid of a religious take-over? How much of this outcry is a religious imperative and how much of it is a means to achieving a political goal? I can only guess.

There is no shrine anywhere in the world that can evoke such drama, anxiety, and a complexity of feeling as this spot where Israel's ancient Jewish Temples once stood and where the Al Aksa Mosque and Dome of the Rock now stand.

During the ten years I lived in Israel, I would pray at the Western Wall, a tiny segment of the rocky wall, so plain and small in comparison to the Temple Mount with its huge gleaming edifice of the Dome of the Rock. And yet today, this blunt wall is the most preferred and holiest spot for Jews to pray in the world.

Sometimes I'd wonder what went on above on the Noble Sanctuary, how they prayed, what they were saying, but usually the Western Wall, the Kotel, took all of my concentration. I’d pour out my heart on those craggy stones and walk away feeling an inner alignment, anchored. Later, when I married and returned to the U.S. to live in New Jersey – anti-climactic, I know – I prayed, as Jews do everywhere, facing east toward Jerusalem.

The rabbis of old made it so that the Jerusalem is always on our tongues and on our lips, no matter where we are, even now, in the suburbs of New Jersey. Yes, even when we eat pizza and recite the grace after eating, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount are emphasized in the blessing. When Jewish women immerse in the mikvah, the ritual bath, they say a single prayer, there in the water. Not for fertility, not for love between a wife and husband. But – “Rebuild our temple like the days of old.” For a religious Jew, the Temple Mount surfaces a hundred times a day and more, that's how habituated our tongue is to yearning for it.

But to pray on the Temple Mount? I have no plans to do so, not anytime soon, not even if the Waqf – the Islamic authorities that govern the Noble Sanctuary – were to invite me.
Why? Because normative Jewish law prohibits ascending the mountain. No Jew can walk on the spot where the Holy of Holies once stood, where only the High Priest on Yom Kippur was sanctioned to enter. It is only after the Messiah comes or the red heifer appears, that the Temple will be rebuilt. Until then, to trespass there is a grave sin.
But here's where it gets interesting. For two thousand years, Diaspora Jewry was cautious. One did not irritate the Gentile nations, thereby fulfilling the ancient dictum: One mustn't be a thorn in their eyes. In the Middle Ages the rabbis exhorted their flock not to build lavish homes, lest it provoke the envy of their Christian neighbors. As recently as 50 years ago, the old time European rabbis now in America asked their congregants not to wear their prayer shawls in the streets. One ought not take too visible a position.

Then came the establishment of the State of Israel. Many Christians and Jews understood this to be a fulfillment of the millennia old promise: "Even if your exiles are at the end of the heavens, the Lord, your God, will gather you from there and He will bring you to the land which your forefathers possessed, and you will take possession of it..." (Deut. 30:1-5). It was experienced by many as a divine miracle, as though we had been given enchanted power by the Almighty to win an incredibly improbable victory. The Messiah couldn't be too far off.

However, the Messiah tarried. Perhaps as many theologians have understood, these are the birth pangs of the Messiah, but it's been a long birth, and he still hasn't come.
It's understandable that a few have agitated for a Messianic Caesarean birth. Let us hurry the Messiah along, let us force his hand if need be, by political action on the world stage. Open up the Temple Mount, they say. The Messiah is nigh, and if we meet him halfway he will surely appear.
The Messiah is coming, he is always coming.

Netanyahu said back in November, after the assassination attempt on Yehudah Glick’s life, "It is easy to start a religious fire; it is much more difficult to extinguish it."

Whether he is aware of it or not, Netanyahu is in line with mainstream rabbinical Diaspora ideology, which is the way Jews have been functioning since Roman times. A Jew does not ask for too much, a Jew does not grab. Just give me Yavneh and its sages, Rabbi Yochanan said to Vespasian, after the conquering Roman general offered him anything the elderly rabbi requested. The Talmud famously asks, Why didn't he ask for the return of Jerusalem and the Temple? Because he was a pragmatist.

And yet, and yet... Who cannot be pained and outraged to see Jews hounded on their sacred land? Does one need reminding that Judaism’s holiest spot on earth isn’t the Kotel – it’s the Temple Mount!
Sometimes I want to cry out: Enough with this humiliating passivity. If we don’t claim this land as ours, it may be lost forever.

But then the words of our sages return to me, as they must. One isn’t permitted to force the hand of the Messiah. For now, one cannot pray there. Instead I yearn to see our Temple rebuilt, and Jews from the four corners of the earth coming to pray there as a unified people. May we see this speedily in our days.
Ruchama Feuerman wrote extensively about the Temple Mount in her award winning novel, "In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist."
Believing Iran
Does Tehran mean what it says? Oh, yes.
by Jeff Jacoby         
Who trusts Iran? Most Americans don't. According to two new polls, a majority of the public strongly doubts that the ruling theocrats in Tehran can be counted on to keep their end of any nuclear deal negotiated in the US-led "P5+1" talks in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Asked in a Fox News poll how much of Iran's claims on nuclear matters can be trusted, 55 percent of respondents replied that the United States "can't trust anything" the regime says, while 28 percent were willing to trust only "a little." Similarly, a survey by NBC News found that 68 percent of Americans consider Iran unlikely to abide by any nuclear agreement.

Nothing unusual there. Given Iran's long history of deceit, it would be strange if Americans and their allies didn't regard as worthless any nuclear promises the mullahs make.

Iran was an early signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1970 and it signed a detailed safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency in 1974. But after the Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers seized power in 1979, Iran began lying about its nuclear activities. Virtually everything we know about Iran's nuclear program was uncovered only after years of stonewalling, concealment, and outright denial. The construction of a vast uranium enrichment installation near Natanz and a heavy-water reactor in Arak, for example, didn't come to light until 2002, when an Iranian exile group exposed their existence in a press conference in Washington.

Iran has repeatedly flouted UN Security Council resolutions ordering it to suspend all enrichment-related activities. Even now, reports the IAEA, Tehran refuses to answer questions about the "possible military dimensions" of its nuclear activities.

With such a track record, it stands to reason that Iran's commitments are so widely regarded as worthless. No piece of paper signed in Switzerland will take the ayatollahs' eyes off the nuclear prize they have pursued, by means mostly foul, for so long. And of what value is any agreement if one of the signatories can't be trusted not to cheat?

Yet what makes the framework nuclear deal so grotesque and dangerous isn't Iran's trail of deception. The real reason to block any nuclear accord with Tehran's rulers isn't that they always lie. It's that they don't.
Maybe Iran would cheat on the loophole-ridden deal being promoted the Obama administration. But it wouldn't have to. Even President Obama admits that Iran could abide by the terms agreed to and wait for them to run out in a little more than a decade. "At that point, the breakout times [to nuclear weapons capability] would have shrunk almost down to zero," the president told NPR. Cheat or don't cheat, the end is the same: The Lausanne deal paves Iran's path to the bomb either way.

The mullahs don't lie about what matters to them most: death to America, the extermination of Israel, unrelenting global jihad.

And then it will be clear – apocalyptically clear – that the ayatollahs were telling the truth.
They were telling the truth last November, when the Iranian Revolutionary Guards proclaimed that "the US is still the great Satan and the number one enemy of the [Islamic] revolution and the Islamic Republic."
They were telling the truth in February, when Ali Shirazi, a senior Iranian cleric and aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared that his troops are in a global war that will one day bring "the banner of Islam over the White House."

They were telling the truth a decade ago when Hassan Abassi, a high-ranking intelligence operative, warned that Iranian agents had identified "29 sensitive sites in the West, with the aim of bombing them... Our intention is that 6,000 nuclear warheads will explode" as part of a "strategy ...for the destruction of Anglo-Saxon civilization."

They were telling the truth when a commander of Iranian forces insisted that "America has no other choice but to leave the Middle East region beaten and humiliated." And when Iran's supreme leader raged that "there is only one solution to the Middle East problem, namely the annihilation and destruction of the Jewish state." And when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asserted that "a world without America is not only desirable, it is achievable."

And when, over and over and over, they have incited crowds in chants of "Death to America."

Tehran's rulers may have lied for years about their nuclear activities; their negotiated commitments to suspend enrichment and submit to inspections may not be worth the ink they sign them with.
But the mullahs don't lie about what matters to them most: death to America, the extermination of Israel, unrelenting global jihad. They say they are deadly serious.
Believe them.
This article originally appeared in The Boston Globe.
Published: April 19, 2015

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Post  Admin on Wed 15 Apr 2015, 11:40 pm

The Holocaust TorahThe Holocaust Torah
How did a survivor who wouldn’t buy a ticket to Israel afford to commission a Torah scroll all by himself?
by Yvette Alt Miller          
“Join us for a Holocaust Torah Dedication.” The synagogue e-mail caught us by surprise. Our congregation is very small. Everyone knows each other and we’re aware of any looming celebrations months in advance. Besides, dedicating a new Torah scroll is a huge event. We’d just been part of a mammoth, two-year fundraiser for a new scroll at our kids’ school that took years of planning and the participation of scores of families to make that dream a reality. How could there be a similarly large undertaking in our own synagogue without us being aware of it?
Torah scrolls are painstakingly hand-written by specially-trained scribes. It can take a year or more to complete one scroll; consequently, commissioning a new Torah scroll is very expensive and it’s common for an entire community to band together to raise funds for it.

A Nazi in the Family
by Derek Niemann
Three years ago I discovered that my grandfather was a member of the SS and arrested for crimes against humanity.
by Derek Niemann
Late last year, I read an interview with a rabbi in my university city of Manchester, in which he said that things were so bad he could not see himself ending his days in Britain. I wanted to cry – how could this be happening in my own country? His words had a special resonance for me – at the time I was finishing a book about my own grandfather – an active perpetrator in the Holocaust.
My German grandfather died before I was born. My father told me that his father, Karl Niemann, was “a bank clerk, a pen-pusher.” He also told me that he was a member of the Nazi party. Out of shame, I kept that from my Jewish friends.
Three years ago while my wife prepared for a conference in Berlin a far more terrible revelation came. I decided to join her in the German capital for a short vacation. I asked my dad where he had lived during the war. I would look it up, maybe take some photos of the house for him. I checked online for any information about the street itself.
 Karl pictured in his army uniform on the outbreak of the First World WarKarl pictured in his army uniform on
the outbreak of the First World War
While I was searching a page came up bearing the words: SS Hauptsturmführer Karl Niemann… crimes against humanity… use of slave labor.
I was to discover that in May 1945 my grandfather was arrested in the Alps by American soldiers and imprisoned in former POW camps for three years. My family closed that sordid chapter in their lives and never spoke about it again. But as a 50-year-old writer, I had a compulsion to dig into this new-found truth and to write about it. I trawled archives, went to concentration camps, spoke to Holocaust historians and relatives and began to piece together the story – not just of Karl Niemann, but also that of my family, who had been living a life in Berlin that was both bizarre and frighteningly ordinary.

Video: L'Chaim: The Dov Landau Story
by JRoots
In Poland, a Holocaust survivor shares his harrowing experiences with young Jews.

Video: Bobby's Story: Living with Faith after the Holocaust
by Rabbi Naftali Schiff and JRoots
An Auschwitz survivor shares her faith with the Next Generation.

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Post  Admin on Tue 14 Apr 2015, 12:12 pm

6 Surprising Jewish Communities
Some of the surprising, diverse places where, against the odds, Jewish life is flourishing.
by Yvette Alt Miller
“And I will scatter them among the peoples, and they shall remember me in far countries, and they shall live with their children, and they shall return” (Zechariah 10:9). Part of the Jewish people’s unique history is the scattering of Jews to the four corners of the earth. Miraculously, the Jewish people have survived exile over thousands of years, leaving their imprint across the globe.
Today the Jewish people have returned to their ancestral homeland where just over half of world Jewry resides. Here are some of the surprising, diverse places where, against the odds, Jewish life is flourishing.
Less than two and a half square miles, the rocky outpost of Gibraltar at the edge of Spain is an unusual place. A British territory since the 1700s, Gibraltar uses its own currency – the Gibraltar Pound – and locals speak the dialect Llanito, a mixture of Spanish and English – with some Hebrew influences thrown in. 30,000 people call Gibraltar home – as well as hundreds of Barbary Macaques, the only wild apes in Europe.
Jews have lived on Gibraltar for centuries, dating their presence to 1356, and today enjoy a thriving community of 750, with a remarkably well-developed infrastructure: four synagogues, a mikvah, a kosher coffeehouse, and separate boys and girls religious high-schools. Overwhelmingly Orthodox and Sephardi, Gibraltar’s community is growing by leaps and bounds, increasing over 25% since 2008, when the community started extending loans to potential Jewish immigrants to help them get settled on “The Rock,” as Gibraltar’s sometimes known.
Small in numbers, the community is tightly-knit. “It’s very much a single community where we all feel like one family” explains Gibraltar resident Mark Benady, “where we all join together for joyous occasions and we all join together, unfortunately, for sad occasions as well.”
A sparsely-inhabited, land-locked country in southern Africa, Botswana is perhaps best known abroad as setting of the popular Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency series. The largely-desert nation of 2 million is also home to southern Africa’s newest Jewish community, and the only one that is growing in size.
Approximately 100 Jews – many expats from Israel – live in Botswana’s capital, Gaborone, which has grown in recent years as economic reforms have transformed Botswana from one of Africa’s poorest nations into one of its most fast-growing. Shabbat and holiday services are held in people’s homes, and residents import kosher food from South Africa. In 2004, the community organized a governing body, the official “Jewish Community of Botwsana”, which is investigating the purchase of land for a synagogue or Jewish community center. Meanwhile, a heder, or Jewish school, has been set up for the young community’s approximately twenty children, ensuring a vibrant Jewish community in Botswana for years to come.
About 600 Jews today call Japan home, living in the historic centers of Kobe and Tokyo. The first Jewish settlers – mostly traders from the US, Britain and Poland - came to Japan in 1861. Settling near Tokyo, they moved to the coastal city of Kobe after the great earthquake of 1923. One of the earliest Jewish residents was Raphael Schaver, an American businessman who founded the Japan Express, the first foreign language newspaper in the country. Some of their descendents still live in Kobe today.
A second Japanese Jewish community rose in the 1880s in Nagasaki, built by Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia. The Nagasaki community soon became the largest in Japan with about 100 families. During the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5, the community fled, bequeathing its Torah scroll to their brethren in Kobe. (One famous member of the Nagasaki Jewish community was Joseph Trumpledor, who lost an arm in the Russo-Japanese War: he went on to help develop Jewish defense forces in what was soon to become the Jewish State.)
Kobe’s Jewish community continued to flourish in the first half of the 20th century, attracting Jewish immigrants from Russia, Iraq, Syria and Eastern Europe. During World War II, Japan’s Counsul General in Lithuania, Chiune Sugihara, issued exit visas for 2,000 Jews, routing them through Kobe; many Jews, arriving in the bustling Japanese port city – and seeing a thriving Jewish community there – decided to settle in the city. The city maintains a small Jewish community today: communal Shabbat meals are common, and there is one synagogue in the town.
Tokyo’s Jewish community is more recent, dating from the 1950s, when foreigners began flocking to the country to help the war-torn nation rebuild. A Jewish center was established in the central Tokyo district of Hiroo in 1952. Yiddish was the language spoken there, allowing Jews from diverse nations to communicate. A larger center was rededicated in 2009, catering to about 120 families in the capital.
Jews are thought to have lived in the South American country of Uruguay since the 1600s. Remains of a mikvah, a Jewish ritual bath, from that time have been discovered in Colonia, a rugged outpost thought to be the home of secret Jews during the Inquisition.
The modern community, however, dates from 1904 when Sephardi Jewish traders arrived in the capital Montevideo; Russian Jews followed in 1906. Uruguay’s first formal synagogue was dedicated in Montevideo in 1917, and the community grew as Jews immigrated from Europe and the Middle East. By the 1960s, Uruguay’s Jewish population had reached 50,000, one of the largest in the world. Since then, it’s declined, to about 20,000-25,000 members. Approximately 0.75% of Uruguay’s population of a little over three million is Jewish.

Nine synagogues and two day schools – educating nearly half of the community’s children – provide the backdrop to a vibrant community in Montevideo. Jewish Uruguayans have often held national office, including cabinet officials, far beyond their numeric representation in society. Ricardo Erlich, a prominent member of Uruguay’s Jewish community and leading biochemist, served as Mayor of Montevideo from 2005-2010, when he left that post to become Minister of Education.
Uruguay’s Jews are proud that Uruguay was the first Latin American country (and the fourth in the world) to recognize Israel in May of 1948, and the first Latin American nation to establish diplomatic ties with the Jewish state. Uruguay is the only Latin American country to administer Israel’s university entrance exams, and has one of the world’s highest rates of aliyah to Israel.
In recent years, the southern Uruguayan city of Punta del Este has emerged as a major destination for Jewish vacationers. The town, which has a year-round population of about 9,000, has four synagogues, and sees an influx of 25,000 to 50,000 Jewish visitors each January, the height of South America’s summer. For a few weeks each year, Punta del Este gains a pronounced Jewish flavor, with Jews walking on the beach in town wearing kippot openly, a rarity in some Latin American locations. Israeli universities and cultural organizations hold events in Punta del Este then, and the Israeli Philharmonic has performed for the massive numbers of Jewish tourists.
Twenty years before the establishment of the state of Israel, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin set up his own “Jewish” country: Birobidzhan, in the far reaches of Siberia. Located in mosquito-infested swampland on Russia’s far eastern edge, as a buffer between the USSR and China, Birobidzhan was meant to be a Yidishe Avtonomne Gegnt, a Jewish autonomous region, with Yiddish as its official language. Yiddish schools were established, a Yiddish-language newspaper, the Birobidzhaner Stern newspaper serviced the region, and street signs and official theatres and schools were all in Yiddish.

The project attracted relatively few Jews: around five Soviet Jews moved to Birobidzhan when it was established in 1928, but the territory’s unwelcoming location made it an unappealing place to live. 1934 saw the peak immigration to the Jewish region, with 5,250 Jews moving that year, though most left soon afterwards.
A few thousand Jews remained in Birobidzhan until 1991, when most left after the fall of the Soviet Union. Today, the capital city of Birobidzhan has a Jewish population of about 5,000 (out of a total population of 76,000). The town’s main avenue is still named Sholem Aleichem Street, and a statue of the Fiddler on the Roof stands outside the local symphony hall. The Birobidzhaner Shtern continues to print two or three pages each week in Yiddish, but times have changed: the editor is not Jewish; the daughter of Cossacks, she learned Yiddish in college. The New York Times has called Birobidzhan a “Jewish Disneyland”: “a city that often seems to have the religious authenticity of a pizza bagel with pepperoni”.
Azerbaijan, a central Asian nation bordering Iran, is home to a thriving, warmly welcomed Jewish community.
Jewish traders first settled in this Central Asian nation bordering Iran in the 5th Century, though the first permanent Jewish settlement dates from 1730, when a local king allowed Jews to purchase land in his northern Azeri kingdom: Jews bought and area known as “Red Village”, which remains a bastion of Azeri Jewish life to this day. Home to 4,000 residents – all of whom are Jewish – Red Village is prosperous town of brick and stone houses, cafes, three synagogues, and a Jewish school. The entire city comes to a peaceful halt each week, as businesses in the town close for Shabbat.
Azerbaijan’s capital city, Baku, a two-hour drive away, is home to about 10,000 Jews. Azerbaijan’s Government is encouraging their expansion: President Ilham Ilyev paid for a new synagogue in the capital in 2012 (bringing the number of synagogues in Baku to three) and fully funds the capital’s two Jewish schools. (In the Red Village, Azerbaijan’s government pays for the heating and oil in the synagogues and schools, as well.)
A Shiite Muslim nation, Azerbaijan nonetheless conducts a flourishing trade with Israel, totaling $5.5 billion annually. Many of Azerbaijan’s most prominent citizens are Jews, including the Nobel Prize physicist Lev Landau, chess master Garry Kasparov, and writers Essad Bey and Kurban Said, who wrote Azerbaijan’s most famous novel, “Ali and Nino”. Azeri Jews have made their marks in Israel, as well, including such well-known figures as the famous Israeli singers Sarit Hadad and Yaffa Yarkoni.
Let’s hope we soon see the day when all Jews come home together in Israel, bringing the beauty of their various traditions with them.
Published: April 11, 2015          

Eclipsed: Poland's Secret Jews
by Tusia Dabrowska
I was raised in Warsaw as a Catholic Pole. Today I have embraced my Jewish identity.
by Tusia Dabrowska
Tusia Dabrowska grew up in Warsaw unaware that she was Jewish, a fact she suspected and then confirmed in her teens. For the past 15 years she splits her time between Wasrsaw and Brooklyn.
My grandmother, an agile woman in her mid-sixties, leaned over a pale, pink-tiled bathtub and reached behind the washing machine next to it. We were in the basement of her house. She was too small and had to climb up the bathtub ledge. Crouching, she finally reached a plastic bag. It was a dry and warm Polish summer in 1995. My grandmother was back on the floor, protectively holding the tightly wrapped package, a set of pictures of her family. The washing machine had long ago stopped working; it was a kind of treasure chest, hiding the memories of family that was unmentionable. My grandmother always believed that it was better our family history died with her.

There was something unnamed, yet shameful about us. Kids said my family was ugly, polite adults said I looked Spanish, less polite adults said many other things. I grew up in Warsaw, away from the small town my mother escaped as soon as she could, and the street my grandmother lived on her whole life, including the years she spent hiding in another basement. That was the street to which my grandmother, like her mother, belonged. She belonged to this street when it was the heart of the Jewish District. She had belonged to it the 50 years when we were the last Jews there. Even before the war ended, while still in hiding, my grandmother was christened. For the rest of her life, she strived to find her home, to belong, to pass.
This obsessive need to fit in shaped my grandmother’s choices, and it echoed in my mother’s life.
 I grew up knowing that the most difficult aspect of fitting in is the threat that at any moment we might be discovered. The erasure of the Jewish life in our part of the world was, mildly put, a discombobulating experience for those who survived. But in Poland, it was compounded by the almost complete demolition of virtually all social structures. Moreover, communism had no interest in rebuilding social bonds based in democratic practices. This meant that growing up 40 years after the war, I was still vulnerable to opinions about who I was offered voluminously to me by cab drivers, lonely drunks, old women who needed a reason to cut me in the line at the store, and a neighbor who thought I played music too loud. I was not only susceptible to their opinions; I had no other point of reference.
My grandmother was a Catholic who dyed her hair Henna-red and who destroyed her family pictures. The same pictures she had shared with me only once. On her deathbed in 2006, for the first time since the War, she told my mother, in utter confidentiality, that we were Jewish. My mother learned she was Jewish some 35 years before when her classmate told her he couldn’t date her. But had he not told her, there were other clear giveaways. Like the fact that my grandmother kept pictures in the washing machine. And that challah bread was most delicious on Fridays. Or that Paul Newman was the only light-haired actor that my grandmother thought handsome.
Against her deepest fears, my grandmother passed on to us a wealth of culture, albeit an amalgam of Polish and Jewish traditions
 And it was the strength of that world which guided my mother in Warsaw. She moved there in the late 1970s, approximately a decade after the last round of expulsions of Jews from Poland. But in comparison to what my mother had grown up with, the capitol brimmed with Jewish life.
The socio-cultural association of Jews in Poland, formal and not, sought to make sense of the remnants of Jewish life. When I was growing up, virtually everyone my mother was friends with was Jewish. It was an unnamed network of people who kept their life stories for late night whispery conversations. They were few in numbers and had a very narrow, if any, connection to a positive sense of their ethnic, cultural, or religious identity. But out of the sense of an unspoken bond, they also supported each other, including women like my mother, a single mother from rural Poland with a sickly child, a prematurely born daughter with kidney problems.

I’ve come to realize that the hardest part of overcoming the illness that marked our identity is not the cherishing of traditions that were passed on to me. It is reaching the place where I can begin to outline what was taken away from me. This sense of loss is a common sentiment among young people, Jewish or not, in Poland. However, to me,the Jewish festivals that fetishize the shtetl past are as alienating as Chabad Centers popping up in Poland. At a time when most young people, for better or worse, pick and chose their identities to then stretch them beyond accepted boundaries, being Jewish in Poland often feels as if you’re perpetually perched on the set of Fiddler on the Roof.
Like many other Warsaw Jews, I felt insatiated. Ostensibly preparing to write a novel, I spent a year researching everyday practices of Jewish women in pre-World War II Varshe. At YIVO’s photo archives I looked for pictures of I.L. Peretz to see the apartment in which his wife and companion in social activism lived. In the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum online photo archives, I studied women’s fashion. While reading a variety of blogs devoted to old Warsaw I hunted for trivia. I learned about idea markets where Jewish political agitators encouraged other Jews to join their party. I read about the notorious Adria restaurant and nightclub, which was run by the composer Henryk Gold and was considered one of the centers of cultural—Jewish and Polish, life. I discovered Jewish feminist activists, bilingual radicals, and tri-lingual writers—hoydenish dreamers who populated the streets of my birth city 50 years before me. I found my home.
After the war, Warsaw was, at least architecturally, rebuilt. The past – diverse and riddled with ethnic and cultural tensions, yet rich and co-habitable – was gone. The very few remnants of the past that survived had their function changed as if to hide their original purpose and inhabitants. From the Warsaw that survived, more – like a wood synagogue near my mother's apartment – were demolished by the early 1970s. It was assumed that Jewish architecture had no purpose or use in the country.

Allowing the voices of erased histories to echo through me helps my own voice to reveal joy in being Jewish
And as communism covered the country first with majestic limestone edifices and then cheap concrete, it seemed that the once vibrant Jewish life has become a geological fact. My own apartment in Warsaw, built right after the war, is partially constructed from repurposed rubbles. Ghosts of that other Warsaw live in the walls of my home, and they give me the strength and pride to be Jewish in Poland now.
For a Polish Jew, creating the present has to be rooted in learning to draw on the past, beyond grief and fear. Allowing the voices of erased histories to echo in and through me helps my own voice to reveal joy in being Jewish, without feeling guilt or discomfort. My experience of discovering my family's history, redefining my belonging and my role in my community is a process that mirrors that of Poland's shift into a free country. Perhaps this is the plight of being a Jew in Poland today--never quite feeling grounded in your place in history.
Tusia is one of a number of younger Polish Jews featured in Adam Zucker’s documentary film-in-progress, The Return. The film explores being Jewish in Poland today by following four young women who were raised Catholic only to discover they were Jewish in their teens. Each struggles to create a living Jewish identity in a virtual vacuum—within the country that was once the epicenter of the Jewish world. Zucker has been travelling to Poland for the past four years to capture the story. Click here for more    information, or to get involved.
Published: April 27, 2013

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The Passover Seder’s 15 Steps
The Seder as an interactive learning experience
Click Here to view Graphic

Exodus: Retelling Our Family's Story
by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg
Passover connects our children to something larger than themselves.
On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress of the newly formed United States of America convened a committee to design what would become our Great seal, our emblem and the symbol of our sovereignty.
The committee was comprised of three of the five men who had drafted the Declaration of Independence: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. Adams chose a painting known as the "Judgment of Hercules," to adorn the seal. Jefferson suggested a depiction of the Children of Israel in the wilderness, led by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night for seal.
Benjamin Franklin also chose a design based on the Jewish story that he would describe as, "Moses standing on the Shore, and extending his Hand over the Sea, thereby causing the same to overwhelm Pharaoh who is sitting in an open Chariot, a Crown on his Head and a Sword in his Hand." Franklin in fact suggested the motto for this new country: "Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God."
As in most cases of committees, it took six years, three committees, and the contributions of 14 men before the Congress finally accepted a design in 1782 and it wasn’t any of the original three suggestions. However, Thomas Jefferson liked the motto "Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God" so much, he used it on his personal seal.
Why Matzah before Marror?

The Purpose of Leaving Egypt
by Sara Yoheved Rigler
Three central lessons from the Passover story.
Pop quiz: What was the purpose of the Exodus from Egypt?
If you answered, “To free the Israelites from slavery,” or “to save them from oppression and suffering,” you probably would be in the company of 99% of those answering this question. However, one very important dissenting voice would give a very different answer, and that’s the voice of God Himself.
God’s purpose was to create a relationship with the Jewish people.
In the Shema God says: “I am the Lord your God who took you out of the land of Egypt to be for you a God.” God’s avowed purpose was to create a relationship with the Jewish people. “You will be My people, and I will be your God” (Ex. 6:7).
To create that relationship, God had to first of all reveal Himself. That was the purpose of the ten plagues – “So you will know that I am God” (Ex. 8:18). Each plague revealed some facet of God’s mastery. For example, the plague of lice, which was the first plague that the Egypt sorcerers could not duplicate, showed that God had mastery over even the tiniest creations. The plague of hail, which included, “fire flaming amid the hail” (Ex. 9:24) showed that whereas the pagan pantheon had a different god for each natural force, the one God of the Hebrews controlled all, even competing forces.
The relationship that God was establishing with the Israelites was a relationship of love. Therefore, He had to show them that He saw and cared about their affliction. The Israelites had to feel taken care of by God. Relief from their suffering, freedom from their slavery, was not the goal of the Exodus, but was necessary for the purpose of establishing a relationship, the true goal of the Exodus.

6 Passover Lessons to Impart to Your Children6 Passover Lessons to Impart to Your Children
A letter to my children for the Seder.
by Sara Debbie Gutfreund         
Tonight I want to tell you a story. It's a story that began in a narrow, dark land where we knew our names but forgot who we were. It's a story of how we lost our way and fell until we reached a place where we could no longer speak. A place where we couldn't stay where we were but didn't yet know how to leave.
It's a story about last minute hope. About a faith that pulled us forward and helped us take that first step towards freedom. It's a story about how God picked us up and brought us from despair to joy, from darkness to light, from chaos to meaning. It's a story of the journey of our nation. It's the story of your great grandparents. It's my story. It's your story.
Our stories don't end. They are passed from generation to generation, and each of us adds our own story. Of hope, of redemption, of learning how to grow beyond yesterday's narrow space. Here are some of the lessons from the Passover story that I want you to know.

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Post  Admin on Tue 31 Mar 2015, 11:12 am

Passover & Jewish Destiny
Matzah symbolizes hope, especially this year.
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
t’s been noted that more Jews observe the Passover Seder than any other Jewish ritual.
It is a powerful affirmation of our collective kinship in a historic moment that allowed for the birth of our people. With Divine aid, we went from slavery to freedom. The Seder permits us to remember and to give thanks. It is our opportunity to reflect upon the miracles of our past. It is our tribute to history.

But the very first Seder of our people makes clear that this is not its major message.
Remarkably enough, the Jews in Egypt were commanded to celebrate the Seder on the very night before their departure and deliverance. They were not yet free. Nevertheless they ate the matzah and the bitter herbs and they fulfilled the required rituals. Clearly they were not celebrating an event which had already occurred but rather demonstrating their faith in the inevitability of a Divine promise they were anticipating.

The Passover Seder began with an emphasis on destiny, not history.

The first Seder took place not after the Exodus but before it. It was a Seder not of gratitude for what was but of hope for redemption yet to come. The Passover Seder began with an emphasis on destiny, not history; on the future, not the past.
And that is what makes Passover so relevant from generation to generation. Even as we retell the story of old to our children we make clear that its purpose is meant to resonate with us as a harbinger of hope. “In every generation they rise up against us to destroy us but the holy one blessed be he saves us from their hands” – just as the Almighty did then against our ancient Egyptian oppressors.

It is the only certainty of history. God always comes to our aid. He may be depended upon, unlike any other temporary political alliances or allegiances. History has a preordained plan – an order, or as it is expressed in Hebrew by the word Seder. The Seder of history has a preordained conclusion. 
The story of our redemption from Egypt is but a prequel to the final redemption of messianic fulfillment. So certain are we of this for the future that we ask our children, those who will surely be the beneficiaries of this Divine promise, to open the door for Elijah at every Seder to welcome the prophet whose assigned task is to announce the coming of Messiah.
And by eating matzah at the Seder we make a stunning declaration about the way in which we see this come to pass. It is counterintuitive. It goes against the common proverbial assumption that “history doesn’t change overnight.” But it is the method of historic change utilized by God himself – and incorporated by way of symbol into the Passover holiday. Redemption, as illustrated by the matzah, came speedily and unexpectedly. They did not even have time to let their bread rise. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, Israelite slaves were free.
Our ancestors were told that at the very first Seder, before they left Egypt, to sit “with their loins girded, with shoes on their feet, with traveling sticks in their hands” ready to begin their journey. Only faith that God would fulfill his promise made it possible for them not only to believe, after 210 years of bitter oppression, their salvation was near but that its implementation was but a matter of moments away.

Matzah demonstrates the speed of Divine intervention.

Human progress may take centuries. The matzah demonstrates the speed of Divine intervention.
Indeed, the rabbis long ago told us to be attuned in particular to dramatic historic changes that came about in unprecedented and seemingly incomprehensible speed. The haste of events is one of God’s chosen ways to indicate his direct and personal involvement.

Who Knows Nine?

That is why there is a unique tradition in Judaism that the Messiah will be born on Tisha b’Av. Redemption at the end of days is viewed as a dramatic turnabout, a total and speedy transformation from the tragic to the jubilant, from weeping to joyous wonderment. It is precisely when we are enveloped by darkness that we need to be certain of the nearness of dawn.
It is at the very close of the Seder that we find a perplexing line in the famous passage which alludes to the theological significance of numbers. We ask “Who knows one?” and we all respond: one is our God. So too we get the significance of two as the two tablets, three as the patriarchs, for as the matriarchs, five of the books of the Torah, six the number of sections of the Mishnah, seven the days of the week, eight the day of circumcision… and then comes the link which seems totally out of place. “Who knows nine?” and the response is nine are the months of pregnancy. Many have wondered at the pertinence of this connection. Nine months of pregnancy are simply a biological fact. What in the world is it doing in the list meant to offer religious significance of numbers on the night when we reflect on redemption?
I would like to suggest that the nine months of pregnancy indeed have a very special link with the theme of the Seder night. The prophets long ago taught that the final redemption will be preceded by what they called “the pains of childbirth.” Just as the prelude to the glorious moment of birth is the mother’s pain during labor, so too will the time of messianic fulfillment, sequel to the Passover story, be preceded by a painful and difficult period for the Jewish people. In the aftermath of a seeming Tisha b’Av , final redemption will break forth, speedily and almost in the blink of an eye just as for the Jews in Egypt in the ancient biblical story.

A Difficult Year

As Jews prepare to observe Passover, we cannot fail to note that the Jewish people in Israel and around the world have had a most difficult year. Growing anti-Semitism, the war of Gaza against Israel this past summer, the ongoing fear of Iran’s nuclear capability threatening our annihilation and now the strained relationship between the President of the United States and Israel have left us with great cause for concern.
But perhaps the meaning of these painful moments needs to be understood in context of the prophetic warnings of the terrible trials immediately preceding the messianic age. And perhaps, as we prepare to celebrate the Seder in the year which on the Jewish calendar is spelled TISHA, the very word for nine in Hebrew, we may express the hope that this will be the time alluded to in the nine months of pregnancy.
May our pain be prelude to ultimate joy and may our history finally turned into the blessing of our promised destiny.

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Iran and the Bomb
Iran cannot be allowed to get the bomb because they may actually use it.
by Bret Stephens and Prager University    
Many countries have nuclear weapons, and many more want them. Only one, though, has its neighbors and the world terrified. That country is Iran. Why is everyone so concerned? Because the Islamic theocracy has repeatedly threatened to destroy Israel, sponsors global terrorism, and would leverage the deterrence effect of a nuclear weapon to advance their anti-Western and anti-American interests. Bret Stephens, foreign affairs columnist for the Wall Street Journal explains the one thing you really need to know in order to understand why we can't let Iran get the bomb – they may actually use it.

Netanyahu’s Churchillian Warning
Like Churchill, will Netanyahu also be ignored?
by Charles Krauthammer         
Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress was notable in two respects. Queen Esther got her first standing ovation in 2,500 years. And President Obama came up empty in his campaign to preemptively undermine Netanyahu before the Israeli prime minister could present his case on the Iran negotiations.
On the contrary. The steady stream of slights and insults turned an irritant into an international event and vastly increased the speech’s audience and reach. Instead of dramatically unveiling an Iranian nuclear deal as a fait accompli, Obama must now first defend his Iranian diplomacy.
In particular, argues The Post, he must defend its fundamental premise. It had been the policy of every president since 1979 that Islamist Iran must be sanctioned and contained. Obama, however, is betting instead on detente to tame Iran’s aggressive behavior and nuclear ambitions.

Yemen’s Last JewsYemen’s Last Jews
A visit with the remaining 90 Jews.
by Yvette Alt Miller          
“God is great, death to America, death to Israel, damn the Jews, victory for Islam.”
The slogan of Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who took over the capital, Sana, in January 2015, is fierce. It is also puzzling that their hatred would so stridently and centrally be directed against Jews, considering that Yemen – which long boasted one of the world’s oldest and largest Jewish communities – is today almost entirely empty of the Jews who called Yemen home for thousands of years.

5 Strategies to Find Balance in Life
by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff
If you think going to the gym is a guilty pleasure, read this article
Balancing marriage, parenting, work, and life responsibilities can feel like a high-wire act. Our children need us, our spouses expect us to be there for them, and then there are parents, jobs, financial pressures and daily obligations pulling at us all at the same time. This does not even begin to address our desire to take care of ourselves. Carving personal time out for a gym class or quiet cappuccino in a coffee shop seems as if we are seeking guilty pleasures.
Some nights we lie awake thinking to ourselves that nobody in this family is happy because each person believes I am there more for the others – and this includes ourselves..

The Power of the Pencil
A lesson in how to positively influence children.
by Rabbi Dovid Rosman         
Last week I experienced the work of a genius educator. When I arrived home from work, my ten-year-old daughter excitedly brought me her report card for the first half of the school year. The grades were basically all perfect except for the category called “organization” – how well the student does in bringing the appropriate books to class and keeping her homework and notes organized. In that category, my daughter received an A- (shocking, but true).
But there was something different about the minus sign. “Look abba, my teacher wrote the minus in pencil. She told me that she knows that really I can be much neater and that if I improve over the next half of the year she’ll erase the minus.”
I was floored by the teacher’s clever motivation technique.

Tongue Untied
How my son overcame his debilitating stutter and became an inspirational speaker.
by Judy Yormark Mernick         
Over the last 10 years, my 28-year-old son has taught on numerous Jewish educational programs in the US, Canada, Central Europe, Israel and Australia. He received an International MBA, worked at Deloitte as a Strategy Consultant and consulted senior-level executives on their presentations skills. Currently, he works at a unique start-up, mentors entrepreneurs at a technology accelerator, and lives with his wife and children in Israel.
Yes, indeed, I am a “proud Jewish mother.” But there is much more to my son, Moshe, than the above.
Anyone who has known Moshe since he was a child knows that for him, speaking, whether one-on-one or in front of 500 people, is a big deal. Moshe stutters. It began when he was about three years old, at which point we were told to ignore it, as most children who begin stuttering before the age of five stop on their own; it is merely a stage of speech development.

by Ronda Robinson
One Jew's creative way to help people quit smoking. Whoopi Goldberg is on board.
“If you have someone in your life you desperately want to stop smoking, you need to know about this new app. It’s called the Nobituary, and it’s at It lets you send a life-affirming message to people … so that you’re not writing their obituary,” Whoopi Goldberg declared recently on “The View,” ABC TV’s morning chatfest.
While Goldberg, an American comedian and TV host, is not Jewish, the 20-something creator of Nobituary, a new kind of loving intervention to help people quit smoking, is a member of the tribe.

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Post  Admin on Fri 13 Feb 2015, 2:29 pm

Because They Were Jews
by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff
Each of the four victims in the Paris shooting has a name. And make no mistake about it. They were murdered for being Jews.
I cannot believe the words I am hearing. White House spokesman John Earnest struggled to explain the comments of President Barack Obama who said that the threat of terrorism was being overstated in the media. Obama had also described the terror attack by radical Muslims on a kosher supermarket in Paris as committed by “vicious zealots who …randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.” Questioned by journalists at a press conference, one journalist spoke up and said: “I mean this was not a random shooting of a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris. This was an attack on a kosher deli. Does the president have any doubt that those terrorists attacked the deli because there would be Jews in that deli?”

The astounding response given: “The adverb the President chose (random) was used to indicate that the individuals who were killed in that terrible incident were killed not because of who they were but because of where they happened to randomly be.” After further prodding he added, “These individuals were not targeted by name, that is the point.”

So this is the point that we are left with, as the soil around the graves of those who were savagely murdered is still freshly dug? I try to define this disconcerting word – random. The dictionary spews forth images that fill my mind: aimless, purposeless, unconsidered, accidental. I feel outraged. And then we are told that “these individuals were not targeted by name.” Somehow, they were just a “bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.”

With all due respect, I must speak out. These holy ones were murdered in cold blood because they were Jews. They died al Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying God’s Name. Even the killer said at the time, "I have 16 hostages and I have killed four, and I targeted them because they were Jewish."
Listen carefully Mr. Earnest. Yohan Cohen, Yoav Hattab, Francois-Michel Saada, Phillipe Braham – these are the names of our beautiful Jewish men

Listen carefully Mr. Earnest. Yohan Cohen, Yoav Hattab, Francois-Michel Saada, Phillipe Braham – these are the names of our beautiful Jewish men. They call out to you. Their souls are the purest of the pure. Each had families who loved them. Hearts are still breaking, weeping for fathers, husbands and sons to come home. There is nothing random that happened here. And these are not just a bunch of folks. They are my brothers. We are family.

What you have done is stripped my brothers of their final dignity. You have rendered them nameless. To do so is to make each man seem somehow anonymous. You decided that they do not even deserve to be remembered by their names. How do we mourn one that we cannot call out to and recognize? You make it seem simple to forget, as if they were easily swatted away. But we will never allow you or the world to cast the memory of these holy ones aside.
These last few months have been painful for our people. We are still kindling a flame in our hearts for our three sweet boys savagely taken in the summer, the many young soldiers who courageously gave their lives so that we can live in our land today, the four great rabbis of Har Nof, beautiful baby Chaya Zeesel Braun, and now four more holy souls who were murdered because they were Jews. Yizkor! It is our responsibility to remember. We must remember, especially because the world chooses to forget.

We, the Jewish nation, will not forfeit the names that we carry. The word for soul, neshamah, is rooted in the word shem, name. We, Jews, understand that our names and our souls are forever linked. It is when an infant enters the covenant that we have a ceremony called ‘giving the name’ because the spiritual destiny of a person is contained in his name. Every child’s Jewish name becomes his and her life legacy, and expresses the sanctity that lies within. And at the end of days when one returns his soul to his Creator, there is a Kabbalist tradition to call out the name as the body is being lowered into the earth. Our names are holy.

So please, Mr. Earnest, in the silence of the night think about your words. Take a moment and reflect. We are a nation that has risen from the ashes. I, myself, carry the name of my great grandmother, Slova Channah. She was taken away by the Nazis and brutally murdered along with her innocent grandchildren. From my very first memory, I can recall my Zaydie, my grandfather’s face light up each time he would see me. He would call out to me and I would watch his eyes grow moist. I know that each time he uttered my name, the image of his mother would be revived. In a mix of terrible sadness of what was, and incredible wonder at the miracle of rebirth, my Zaydie cried. 
No, we are not and never will be, random. Our names define us.

It was after Cain killed Abel, that God calls out and asks “Where is Abel, your brother?” Cain replies his infamous response: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
This is the sentence that drives me to write these words. How can I possibly be silent when my brothers have gone? Is there one of us who could sleep at night restfully, and repeat “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We are one nation and together we must stand. Otherwise the words that followed as God called out to Cain will give us no peace:
“What have you done? Do you hear the voices? These are the drops of your brother’s spilled blood! They cry out to Me from the ground.”
Published: February 10, 2015

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ISIS and Book Burning
"I see parchment burning, but the letters are soaring free."
by Jeff Jacoby
Book burning is as old as books, and as current as this week's news.
The Associated Press reported on Monday that Islamic State fanatics have ravaged the Central Library of Mosul, the largest repository of learning in that ancient city. Militants smashed the library's locks and overran its collections, removing thousands of volumes on philosophy, science, and law, along with books of poetry and children's stories. Only Islamic texts were left behind.
"These books promote infidelity and call for disobeying Allah," one of the ISIS jihadists announced as the library's holdings were emptied into sacks and loaded onto pickup trucks. "So they will be burned."
There was more book-burning soon afterward, when Islamic State vandals sacked the library at the University of Mosul. "They made a bonfire out of hundreds of books on science and culture, destroying them in front of students," AP reported. Lost in the libricide were newspapers, maps, and texts dating back to the Ottoman Empire. UNESCO, the UN's educational and cultural agency, decried the libraries' torching as "one of the most devastating acts of destruction of library collections in human history."

"Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people."
Perhaps the most chilling words ever written about book-burning were penned in 1821 by the great German poet Heinrich Heine: Dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen – "Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people." Today that axiom is etched on a plaque in Berlin's Bebelplatz, the public square where more than 20,000 books deemed "un-German" and "decadent" were destroyed in a vast Nazi bonfire on the night of May 10, 1933.
Though Heine's words are indelibly associated now with the Holocaust, they have lost none of their grim prescience. Just one day after news emerged of the book-burnings in the Islamic State's so-called "caliphate," the jihadists released a video exulting in the horrific murder of Jordanian pilot, Moaz al-Kasasbeh, who was burned alive in a metal cage.
There is something uniquely diabolical about setting books on fire, a lust to obliterate that almost ineluctably leads to even more dreadful evils. It is no coincidence that those obsessed with annihilating the physical expression of dangerous thoughts or teachings so often move on to annihilating the people who think or teach them.

"A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it," orders Captain Beatty, the book-hating fire chief in Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's dystopian classic. "Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man's mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?"
Books cannot be killed by fire. Books are weapons in the war of ideas.A World War II-era poster printed by the US government shows Nazis burning books.
Yet if the long and heartbreaking history of book-burning teaches anything, it is that books cannot be killed by fire. Pages can be burned, libraries can be reduced to ash, treatises can be found guilty of heresy or sedition and set ablaze. But ideas are not so easily extirpated. Heine's books were among those the Nazis flung on the bonfires in 1933; so were the books of more than 2,000 other authors, including Bertolt Brecht, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Ernest Hemingway, Leo Tolstoy, and Franz Kafka. Josef Goebbels assured the enthusiastic crowd that they would "commit to the flames the evil spirit of the past." The books, however, are still alive. It was the Third Reich that went down in flames.

The story of books is the story of books being suppressed – a story of staggering cruelty, and of equally staggering futility. The destruction of Mosul's libraries prompted one Iraqi parliamentarian, Hakim al-Zamili, to compare ISIS to the Mongols who conquered Baghdad in 1258. Then, too, prized works of learning – on history, medicine, astronomy – were demolished. "The only difference is that Mongols threw the books in the Tigris River, while now [ISIS] is burning them," al-Zamili said. "Different method, but same mentality."
The Roman Empire couldn't keep the letters from soaring free. ISIS can't either
Indeed, in their bloodlust and zealotry, the book-burners of ISIS have many antecedents – Crusaders, Mongols, Nazis, Wahhabis, Khmer Rouge. But ISIS too will find that it is easier to slaughter human beings than to destroy ideas.
The Talmud records the death of Chanina ben Teradion, a 2nd-century Jewish sage killed by the Romans for violating a ban on teaching Torah. It was a terrible death: He was wrapped in the scroll from which he had been teaching and set on fire, with wet wool placed on his chest to prolong the agony. His horrified disciples, forced to witness his death, cried out: "Rabbi, what do you see?" He replied: "I see parchment burning, but the letters are soaring free."

Any brute can burn parchment, or ransack a library, or blow up a mosque, or bulldoze cultural treasures. But not even mighty armies can destroy the ideas they embody. The Roman Empire couldn't keep the letters from soaring free. ISIS can't either.
Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe where this article originally appeared.
Published: February 8, 2015

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Post  Admin on Sun 25 Jan 2015, 11:48 pm
7 Inspiring Jewish Quotes7 Inspiring Jewish Quotes
I stare at the pile of gear spread out before me in the pre-dawn light. Mittens, glove liners, hand warmers, earphones, neck warmer, two hats, windbreaker… Outside the freezing wind is whipping through the trees’ bare branches. In the glow of the porch light I see that it has begun to snow. “Either you run the day or the day runs you,” I whisper to myself one of my favorite Jim Rohn quotes as I pull on my gear.

Tying my sneakers, I hear the echo of a medley of Rohn quotes in my mind. If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary. We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better. The words get me outside; they propel through the storm. The snow flies into my eyes. For every disciplined effort there is a multiple reward. Today, I have won.

Quotes can motivate us to keep moving towards our goals. They can get us out the door. Here are seven insightful Jewish quotes on achieving our goals.
1. “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein
Sometimes we get stuck in life and it’s hard to see that we keep turning into the same dead end. We need to begin by changing our thoughts if we want to change our lives.

2. “In spirituality, the searching is the finding and the pursuit is the achievement.” Dr. Abraham J. Twerski
It is important for us to strive to accomplish our goals and move towards our destinations. But what really matters is who we become as we search and what we learn as we pursue our dreams.

3. “A person who takes a walk of 100 feet and a person who walks 2,000 miles have one major thing in common. They both need to take a first step before they take a second step.” Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The hardest part of any endeavor is beginning, taking that first step and getting out the door. But we can’t get to the second step before we have the courage to take that first one.

4. “Don’t be afraid of discovering that the ‘real you’ may be different than the ‘current you.’” Rabbi Noah Weinberg, zt”l
We often have pre-conceived notions of who we are and what we are capable of accomplishing. Don’t let your past define you. Don’t let who you were yesterday limit who you can become today. What we know about ourselves is not complete. Be open to seeing different aspects of yourself even if they are at first uncomfortable or unfamiliar to you.

5. “One question is always relevant: How can I use this to move forward?” Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller.
Whatever situation we are experiencing in life, how can I use what I have to grow? How can I use this challenge or relationship or gift to move forward towards my goals?

6. “We have no understanding of the energy that God planted within our souls. Therefore, God has to test us to bring forth those treasures that are buried deep within ourselves and make us unique.” Rebbeztin Esther Jungreis
If we only knew the depths of our potential, we would never want to sleep. If we could only imagine the treasures within us, we would search ceaselessly for them. But God does see the greatness within us and in His infinite kindness, He orchestrates our lives so that we will be forced to use the strengths we cannot see for ourselves.

7. “At the end-point there is nothing but being, no time but the present.” Rabbi Akiva Tatz
We are often so caught up in the past and the future that we fail to see that our real choices are right now. In the present. Who we are in this moment.
Share the quotes that motivate you to get out the door in the comment section below.
Published: January 18, 2015
Israel vs. the Mob
by Jonah Goldberg
Politics is in large part a numbers game, and Jews are at a numerical disadvantage.
Spreading the Light
For Dovid Winiarz, life was an outpouring of love and joy. His loss leaves a gaping hole in American Jewry.

Earlier this week, Dovid Winiarz was travelling in a treacherous ice storm near Baltimore, when the car hit a patch of black ice and skidded out of control. Four other people in the two-car collision suffered minor injuries; Dovid was killed instantly.
His loss leaves a bereft wife and 10 children, and a gaping hole in American Jewry.
Though he provided financial services by profession, Dovid's every waking moment was focused on bringing more joy into the world and spreading a positive Jewish message.

On the commuter train, he would walk up and down the aisles, passing out hundreds of cards that said: “Keep Smiling." He'd give everyone two cards, saying: "Here’s a smile for you, and one to give someone else.”
As a young man, he founded a successful food pantry in Staten Island, as well as the organization Survival Through Education which connects unaffiliated Jews to their heritage.
Dovid had a boundless love of people, and a deep love of Torah.

Dubbed the "Facebuker Rebbe," his inspiring words reached 13,000 Facebook followers.

"There comes a time when we stop and ask ourselves just why we come to work each day," Dovid wrote. "If you want to love your work, you need to focus on the giving that results from it. Not what you take for yourself but what you give to others. Tomorrow, when you go to work, do not focus on the 90 percent of your income that you need to pay the bills. Instead focus on increasing your productivity so you will have more to give away."

Planting Seeds
We come into this world with a mission, and at the end, the only question is have we fulfilled it.
Dovid Winiarz lived 49 years, the Jewish number of completion.
Travelling on that icy highway, he was en route to an annual Jewish educators' convention, seeking new ways to inspire others.
He was totally dedicated to promoting Judaism, always looking to take it to the next level.
He was a dedicated husband and father of 10. A pillar of the community, with an impeccable reputation.
He lived and breathed the idea that every Jew has infinite precious value.
He displayed a generous outpouring of love that helped others see a God who loves every human being.
His bountiful enthusiasm and warm disposition endeared him to untold thousands.
As for the success of his endeavors, Dovid would say, “Wherever I go, I am going to plant seeds. Hopefully they’ll grow one day. It’s not my job to decide if they grow or not... I just have to plant seeds.”
Dovid planted tens of thousands of seeds.

One can easily imagine someone on that train whose life was changed as a result of the "Keep Smiling" card.
These and other untold stories are written and sealed in the chronicles of Dovid Winiarz, for all eternity. May his memory be for a blessing.
Published: January 20, 2015
Weak Processing Control
by Rifka Schonfeld, Director S.O.S (Strategies for Optimum Success)
Why does my child have such a hard time understanding the material?
Glancing out the window as the school bus rolled by, Miriam noticed her daughter, Riki, trudging up the walk with the look of someone carrying the world on her shoulders.
What now? Miriam thought, her stomach tightening. A bad mark on a test? A fight with her best friend? Sixth grade was really turning into the pits for Riki. Never a very good student, Riki’s overall performance had taken a dive. She hated school and did not get along with her teachers.
Miriam sighed as she thought of the tension this situation caused at home. A few nights ago she had been trying to help her daughter study for a social studies test. Riki had no patience to look inside the book for answers; she wanted to be spoon-fed.
“Ma, what colonies were in New England? I have to fill in this map.”
“ Doesn’t it say in the book?”
“No, it just says New England.”
“Riki, the information is right there on the very page you’re looking at.”
“But if you know it, why can’t you tell me? I have no patience to read this whole thing.”
“See if you can find the names of the colonies on your own.”
“ Forget it.” She shoved the map away from her and it fluttered to the floor. “I’ll do the map later. I’ll do the Boston Tea Party first. At least that one I know.”

She turned quickly to the pre-test questions about the Boston Tea Party, brightening up as she related the drama of the colonists who had dressed up like Indians and dumped crates of British tea in the harbor, infuriating the king of England.
But when it came to the questions about why the colonists did such a thing or how they were punished, Riki became deflated.
“I don’t remember learning that. Maybe I was absent,” she said.
So they spent hours reviewing this information. Where in the world was she when all this was being taught, Miriam wondered. Soon it was ten thirty, the younger kids were not yet in bed, and the information was just not sticking. At her wits’ end, Miriam lost herself. “We’re stopping right here!” she barked at her daughter. “Learn to pay attention in class and you won’t have to cram like this before every test!”
Riki jumped up, shouting, “I do pay attention! My teacher is a liar, we never learned this!” Then she burst out crying and ran upstairs.
“If I flunk the test, it’s because you wouldn’t help me,” she sobbed.
Now, watching her daughter’s forlorn profile through the window, Miriam thought, “Riki was once a good, happy kid. I don’t know what’s going on but I’m going to find a way back to that place. There has to be a way.”

The way back to “that place” began with a long overdue screening by an educational psychologist who found Riki to be a child of above- average intelligence with attention deficit symptoms that showed up as “weak processing control.” That diagnosis was the beginning of a new chapter in Riki’s life, as her parents began to finally understand what their daughter was struggling with.

“Processing control” refers to the brain’s ability to select and then distribute data to the relevant brain regions that deal with such functions as language comprehension, visual processing, and the interpretation of social cues.
Children with weak processing control are likely to have shallow concentration. Even when reasonably alert in the classroom, they are not thinking hard or intently enough to register information effectively in the brain. These students often develop only a partial or vague understanding of what is being taught, and their retention is usually poor.
Children with superficial or weak attention control often have problems with short-term memory. They have no patience for fine detail and are highly distractible. They much prefer the big picture or the broad concept.
Riki fit this profile. Her problems with concentration greatly interfered with her ability to stay focused long enough to grasp a piece of information in its entirety. She could relate the drama of the Boston Tea Party, but lost the thread of the story when it came to piecing together cause and effect, and identifying key points in the story’s aftermath.

Missing the Forest for the Trees
On the other hand, children who are highly distractible often focus on trivial or secondary details to the exclusion of important ones. A teacher might tell a class, “Now, look carefully at the next couple of paragraphs and you will discover an important clue to the identity of the mysterious stranger.” Most children will immediately snap to attention and find the clue.
A child like Riki, on the other hand, will focus for a few seconds on the task, and then become distracted by the stranger’s unusual name, or some interesting detail in the illustration at the bottom of the page. By the time she has wrenched her attention away from these details and refocused on the task of finding the clue, the class will have discovered the stranger’s identity.

“I feel so dumb in class,” Riki told me when we met. “I try to cover it up by being the best in sports and being good in singing and dancing. I just want to be a regular kid.”
Like many children affected with attention deficits, Riki was imaginative and artistic. She could draw very well, was adept at arranging flowers and decorating a table beautifully for a celebration. By carefully observing her grandmother, had picked up knitting and crocheting. Because she seemed to have no problem concentrating on activities of this sort, her parents felt that if only she tried harder, she could apply herself similarly to her studies.

This is a mistake many people make. The regions of the brain that deal with tactile and manual skills such as drawing and painting, carpentry, surgery and sewing, are different from those that process visual and auditory data related to conceptual learning. One cannot form expectations about a child’s performance in classroom learning based on his superior abilities in areas involving manual and tactile skills.
In other words, it would be foolish to ask a carpenter, “If you can build a house, why can’t you write a novel?”

Can Parents Make A Difference?
There is a great deal parents can do to give their child tools to compensate for their attentional problems. Some of the following suggestions have been adapted from a lengthy treatment on attention dysfunction by Dr. Mel Levine, in his widely acclaimed Educational Care.
It is vital for a child with distractibility to have a work environment where noise, certain kinds of music, conversation and ringing telephones have been filtered out.

When assisting with homework, parents may need to repeat instructions to a child with attentional dysfunction. Afterwards, have the child repeat what he or she just heard. Most important, maintain good eye contact when giving directions.
Children with superficial processing may read an entire chapter of a book and have no idea what they just read. Encourage such a child to underline, to keep summarizing, to whisper important ideas under their breath, and to have opportunities to discuss what they are reading.
If there is an intellectually superior sibling, that brother or sister should not be allowed to monopolize the conversation at home.

Parents should set limits on passive processing experiences such as watching television, listening to music or playing electronic games. These activities in excess may prevent children from becoming more active thinkers.
Children with a tendency to tune out or daydream excessively need periodic reminders (offered in a low-key manner) to return to reality. A parent might say, “There goes your active mind again. It took off on a tangent. Should we get back to the subject?”
Children with problems maintaining a focus can benefit from being told in advance how long they will have to concentrate. Using a clock or a timer may be an immense help in stretching a child’s attention span in small but steady increments.
Parents should try whenever possible to link subject matter that a child is studying in school with real life experiences or everyday situations. These associations will make dry “inert” material come to life and help to fix the information in the child’s memory.

Often, there is too much parent-child tension for a parent to be able to work productively with a child who has weak processing control. Instead, a tutor, or someone with experience in working with attention problems should be brought into the picture.
When passive processing is only one aspect of a picture of overall attention dysfunction, stimulant medication like Ritalin given under a doctor’s supervision may be helpful.
In Riki’s case, homework sessions lost their negative, tension-filled atmosphere when Riki worked with a family friend. Mother and daughter were gradually able to regain their former close relationship.
Most important, learning about her attention difficulties lessened the shame and guilt she felt for not being a top student. 

She began to show a much greater willingness to invest the extra effort required to manage the challenges facing her.
“As long as I know it’s not my fault,” she told me, “I don’t mind having to try harder than most kids to get a good mark. “As long as my teachers don’t think I’m lazy. Just a regular kid that happens to have a problem.”
Published: January 17, 2015
Telling the Story
Bo(Exodus 10:1-13:16)
by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Identity is based on the narrative that links me to the past, guides me in the present, and places on me responsibility for the future

Go to Washington and make a tour of the memorials and you will make a fascinating discovery. Begin at the Lincoln Memorial with its giant statue of the man who braved civil war and presided over the ending of slavery. On one side you will see the Gettysburg Address, that masterpiece of brevity with its invocation of "a new birth of freedom." On the other is the great Second Inaugural with its message of healing: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right..."

Walk down to the Potomac basin and you see the Martin Luther King Memorial with its sixteen quotes from the great fighter for civil rights, among them his 1963 statement, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." And giving its name to the monument as a whole, a sentence from the I have a Dream speech, "Out of the Mountain of Despair, a Stone of Hope."

Continue along the tree-lined avenue bordering the water and you arrive at the Roosevelt Memorial, constructed as a series of six spaces, one for each decade of his public career, each with a passage from one of the defining speeches of the time, most famously, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."

Lastly, bordering the Basin at its southern edge, is a Greek temple dedicated to the author of the American Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson. Around the dome, are the words he wrote to Benjamin Rush: "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." Defining the circular space are four panels, each with lengthy quotations from Jefferson's writings, one from the Declaration itself, another beginning, "Almighty God hath created the mind free," and a third "God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?"
Each of these four monuments is built around texts and each tells a story.

Now compare the monuments in London, most conspicuously those in Parliament Square. The memorial to David Lloyd George contains three words: David Lloyd George. The one to Nelson Mandela has two, and the Churchill memorial just one: Churchill. Winston Churchill was a man of words, in his early life a journalist, later a historian, author of almost fifty books. He won the Nobel Prize not for Peace but for Literature. He delivered as many speeches and coined as many unforgettable sentences as Jefferson or Lincoln, Roosevelt or Martin Luther King, but none of his utterances is engraved on the plinth beneath his statue. He is memorialised only by his name.

The difference between the American and British monuments is unmistakable, and the reason is that Britain and the United States have a quite different political and moral culture. England is, or was until recently, a tradition-based society. In such societies, things are as they are because that is how they were "since time immemorial." It is unnecessary to ask why. Those who belong, know. Those who need to ask, show thereby that they don't belong.

American society is different because from the Pilgrim Fathers onward it was based on the concept of covenant as set out in Tanakh, especially in Exodus and Deuteronomy. The early settlers were Puritans, in the Calvinist tradition, the closest Christianity came to basing its politics on the Hebrew Bible. Covenantal societies are not based on tradition. The Puritans, like the Israelites three thousand years earlier, were revolutionaries, attempting to create a new type of society, one unlike Egypt or, in the case of America, England. Michael Walzer called his book on the politics of the seventeenth century Puritans, "the revolution of the saints." They were trying to overthrow the tradition that gave absolute power to kings and maintained established hierarchies of class.

Covenantal societies always represent a conscious new beginning by a group of people dedicated to an ideal. The story of the founders, the journey they made, the obstacles they had to overcome and the vision that drove them are essential elements of a covenantal culture. Retelling the story, handing it on to one's children, and dedicating oneself to continuing the work that earlier generations began, are fundamental to the ethos of such a society. A covenanted nation is not simply there because it is there. It is there to fulfil a moral vision. That is what led G. K. Chesterton to call the United States a nation "with the soul of a church," the only one in the world "founded on a creed" (Chesterton's anti-Semitism prevented him from crediting the true source of America's political philosophy, the Hebrew Bible).

The history of storytelling as an essential part of moral education begins in this week's parsha. It is quite extraordinary how, on the brink of the exodus, Moses three times turns to the future and to the duty of parents to educate their children about the story that was shortly to unfold: "When your children ask you, 'What is this service to you?' you shall answer, 'It is the Passover service to God. He passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians, sparing our homes" (Ex. 12:25-27). "On that day, you shall tell your child, 'It is because of this that God acted for me when I left Egypt'" (Ex. 13:8). "Your child may later ask you, 'What is this?' You shall answer him, 'With a show of power, God brought us out of Egypt, the place of slavery' (Ex. 13:14).

This is truly extraordinary. The Israelites have not yet emerged into the dazzling light of freedom. They are still slaves. Yet already Moses is directing their minds to the far horizon of the future and giving them the responsibility of passing on their story to succeeding generations. It is as if Moses were saying: Forget where you came from and why, and you will eventually lose your identity, your continuity and raison d'etre. You will come to think of yourself as the mere member of a nation among nations, one ethnicity among many. Forget the story of freedom and you will eventually lose freedom itself.

Rarely indeed have philosophers written on the importance of story-telling for the moral life. Yet that is how we become the people we are. The great exception among modern philosophers has been Alasdair MacIntyre, who wrote, in his classic After Virtue, "I can only answer the question 'What am I to do?' if I can answer the prior question 'Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?'" Deprive children of stories, says MacIntyre, and you leave them "anxious stutterers in their actions as in their words." (1)

No one understood this more clearly than Moses because he knew that without a specific identity it is almost impossible not to lapse into whatever is the current idolatry of the age - rationalism, idealism, nationalism, fascism, communism, postmodernism, relativism, individualism, hedonism or consumerism, to name only the most recent. The alternative, a society based on tradition alone, crumbles as soon as respect for tradition dies, which it always does at some stage or another.

Identity, which is always particular, is based on story, the narrative that links me to the past, guides me in the present, and places on me responsibility for the future. And no story, at least in the West, was more influential than that of the exodus, the memory that the supreme power intervened in history to liberate the supremely powerless, together with the covenant that followed whereby the Israelites bound themselves to God in a promise to create a society that would be the opposite of Egypt, where individuals were respected as the image of God, where one day in seven all hierarchies of power were suspended, and where dignity and justice were accessible to all. We never quite reached that ideal state but we never ceased to travel toward it and believed it was there at journey's end.
"The Jews have always had stories for the rest of us," said the BBC's political correspondent, Andrew Marr. God created man, Elie Wiesel once wrote, because God loves stories. What other cultures have done through systems, Jews have done through stories. And in Judaism, the stories are not engraved in stone on memorials, magnificent though that is. They are told at home, around the table, from parents to children as the gift of the past to the future. That is how story-telling in Judaism was devolved, domesticated and democratised.

Only the most basic elements of morality are universal: "thin" abstractions like justice or liberty that tend to mean different things to different people in different places and times. But if we want our children and our society to be moral, we need a collective story that tells us where we came from and what our task is in the world. The story of the exodus, especially as told on Pesach at the seder table, is always the same yet ever-changing, an almost infinite set of variations on a single set of themes that we all internalise in ways that are unique to us, yet we all share as members of the same historically extended community.

There are stories that ennoble, and others that stultify, leaving us prisoners of ancient grievances or impossible ambitions. The Jewish story is in its way the oldest of all, yet ever young, and we are each a part of it. It tells us who we are and who our ancestors hoped we would be. Story-telling is the great vehicle of moral education. It was the Torah's insight that a people who told their children the story of freedom and its responsibilities that would stay free for as long as humankind lives and breathes and hopes.

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Post  Admin on Mon 19 Jan 2015, 11:43 am

A Hostage's Terrifying Eyewitness Account
The cashier of the kosher supermarket attacked in Paris recounts her 5-hour nightmare. An exclusive.
Zarie is the 22 year old cashier at the kosher supermarket in Paris that was attacked last week. In an exclusive interview with,'s French site, she recounts the nightmare of being held hostage, her terrifying encounter with the terrorist and the steadfast faith that enabled her to get through this tragedy. Here is her riveting and moving interview. Zarie, you work as a cashier at the Hypercacher store in Paris. How did the attack begin?
Zarie: It was between 1 PM and 1:30 PM. A father with his two-year- old child was at my counter when I heard the first gunshot. Yohann Cohen, the young man who works with me, was the first to be hit. He shouted our manager’s name who, wounded, managed to leave the store. I did not realize immediately that this was a real gunshot. Were you hurt?
Zarie: No. I heard gunshots and screams then footsteps coming closer. I heard the killer’s voice telling me: "What about you? You're not dead yet? "And then a gunshot towards me.

France's Jews: Canary in the Coal Mine
by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein
If France is not safe for Jews, then the very future of Europe: and indeed the civilized world - is in real danger.
The voices proclaiming that France is no longer safe for Jews and that they should, therefore, emigrate are dangerously misguided. If France is not safe for Jews, then the very future of Europe – and indeed the world – is in jeopardy.
History has demonstrated that Jews are the proverbial canary in a coal mine. Just as canaries in a mine die before humans are aware of undetectable toxic gases, such as methane and carbon monoxide, and in dying warn of impending disaster, so is the state of Jews in their societies the test for the safety of the environment there. If the Jews in a particular society are, like the canaries, singing and thriving then all is well. If not, that is an early warning of danger ahead. Sometimes, threats of danger to civilization are not noticed. The miners rely on their canaries, and the world ought to rely on the position of Jews to assess the threat level to civilized society.
In 1933, the danger that Adolf Hitler posed to the world was not yet clear, but when Jews became unsafe in Hitler’s Germany, that was a sign of the toxins of hatred seeping into the world – toxins that tragically went unnoticed until too late, and which eventually engulfed humanity in a war that lead to the death of 60 million people.

My Father's Core Values
by Rabbi Shalom Schwartz
My father lived a life of quiet greatness. These are the inspiring lessons I've learned from him.
My father, Frank Schwartz, passed away from this world on Dec. 22, 2014, Kislev 30, 5775. I hadn’t anticipated the penetrating hole that opened next to my heart at the moment of his passing. I believe that the pain is there so I can carry my father with me, until I understand and integrate the meaning of his life with the meaning of my own life, and beyond. This is what his life means to me:
Responsibility: Our father was a pillar, a rock, a reliable and responsible husband, father, son, grandfather, and great-grandfather. His presence gave us confidence. We felt safe and cared for. There was never a doubt that whatever problem arose, Dad would take responsibility. During a family vacation we were playing hockey on a frozen-over section of Georgian Bay and the puck would sometimes miss the net and slide very far out from the shore line. My Dad watched us closely. Suddenly there was a loud cracking sound that echoed. I can still hear my father’s fear- instilling booming voice: “Everyone off the ice! Now!” In seconds the ice had been cleared, and we wondered which had been louder and scarier – the sound of cracking ice or my father’s shout.

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