Archive | August, 2017

Hate in Charlottesville: The day the Nazi called me Shlomo

Hate in Charlottesville: The day the Nazi called me Shlomo

Posted on 18 August 2017 by admin

By Ron Kampeas
JTA

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The white supremacists, for all their vaunted purpose, appeared to be disoriented.

Some 500 had gathered at a park here Saturday to protest this southern Virginia city’s plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from the park. Pressured by the American Civil Liberties Union, Charlottesville had allowed the march at Emancipation Park — or Lee Park, the protesters’ preferred name.

White supremacists rally in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 12, 2017. (Ron Kampeas) Holding Nazi flags, white supremacists march at a park in Charlottesville, Va., protesting the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, Aug. 12, 2017. (Ron Kampeas_

White supremacists rally in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 12, 2017. (Ron Kampeas)
Holding Nazi flags, white supremacists march at a park in Charlottesville, Va., protesting the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, Aug. 12, 2017. (Ron Kampeas_

That worked for an hour or so, and then the protesters and counterprotesters started to pelt one another with plastic bottles — it was unclear who started it. Gas bombs — mildly irritating — seemed to come more from the white supremacists. Finally the sides rushed each other headlong and there were scuffles.

So Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and, heeding the police, the white supremacists filed out of the park and started walking, north, but to where no one seemed sure. There was talk of meeting at a parking lot, but which parking lot, no one was sure. As they approached the Dogwood Vietnam Memorial, a bucolic hill overlooking an overpass, they sputtered to a stop for consultations and did what marchers on a seasonably warm day do: They sat on the grass, sought shade and chatted.

I had been following at a distance with a handful of journalists and folks who were there not so much to counterprotest but to deliver an alternative message. Zelic Jones from Richmond bore a poster with a saying by Martin Luther King Jr., “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

I climbed the hillock to see if anyone would be willing to talk. On the way, the marchers had studiously ignored reporters, but I thought, at rest, they might be more amenable. It was not to be. One man, wearing black slacks, a white shirt, sunglasses and black baseball cap, shadowed me. He moved to stand between me and anyone I had hoped to interview.

I looked him directly in the eye.

“How’s it going, Shlomo?” he asked.

“My name is Ron,” I said. I hadn’t identified myself as Jewish.

“You look like a Shlomo.”

“You want to talk?” I offered.

“I don’t talk to the press,” he said. “They just lie.” He scampered away.

The exchange was jarring in how personal it was. I’ve been hated directly for many things (try being a journalist, anywhere), but it had been a while — I’d have to cast back to early childhood — since I’d faced visceral hatred just for, well, looking Jewish.

A year ago I had attended at a hotel in Washington, D.C., the unveiling of the “alt-right,” convened by one of its lead theorists, Richard Spencer, who also was in attendance in Charlottesville. That news conference — an expression of white supremacy argued in plummy tones that disguised its hateful content — was at a remove from the hatred stalking the streets of Charlottesville on Saturday. Spencer was polite and helpful after the fact. His ideas are toxic, but in the airless corridors of a Washington hotel, they seemed denuded of malice; they seem to be the imaginings of an intemperate toddler.

Here in Charlottesville, the hatred was present and real and would before the day ended apparently kill someone, when a car driven by a 20-year-old Ohio man plowed through counterprotesters.

Among the 500 white supremacists were men and women bearing signs like “Goyim know!” (Know what?) and “Jews are satans children.” There were Nazi flags. There were men all in black, T-shirts and slacks and army boots and helmets, jogging along with plastic shields. There were the men who sang of “blood and soil” as they marched to the Emancipation Park event. And when the white supremacists got their act together and gathered in McIntire Park, they shouted “Jew” every time the name of Charlotteville’s Jewish mayor, Michael Signer, was mentioned.

Of course, the hostility was not confined to Jews: As targets, Jews were not even preeminent; blacks were. There were the “White lives matter” T-shirts. Marching along McIntire Road, the white supremacists shouted the N-word at drivers passing by. More prominent than the Nazi flags were the Confederate flags and their variants.

The focus on Jews was anomalous: This was supposed to be about the Confederacy and Southern heritage, and defenders of the Southern cause are not always identified with hostility toward Jews. About an hour’s drive away, Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery, a Confederate monument, has a carefully tended Jewish section.

And yet here it was, the chants of “Jews will not replace us” (as?). I had two more personal encounters. At the Dogwood Vietnam Memorial, a man wearing a floppy beige sunhat started following me and explaining the lie of the Holocaust, the evil of the Jews, the value of DNA in determining purity. I retreated as he ran after me, screaming, “My mother says I’m a Jew! My MOTHER! Does that mean I’m entitled to something?” (I resisted replying, “Your mother’s love.”)

And earlier, filing out of Emancipation Park, a group of youths surrounded and shouted at me, “Take that wall in Israel down! An open border for everyone!” — a reference to a popular theory on the far right that Jews are engineering open borders to bring the United States to ruination while keeping Israel pure. They moved on.

Anomalies like these tend to bemuse, at least me. What the racists believe to be hurtful jibes come across more as non sequiturs, as mouthings of the deluded or the possessed. Why Shlomo of all names? What was that about DNA? A wall in Israel?

And then the car rammed the crowd, and there was a fatality, and some 35 injured, including five critically, and it was harder to pick out the absurd and use that as a way of keeping an emotional distance from the hate speech. I counted the wounded, rushed by stretchers into the back of ambulances, the less seriously injured patched up with torn cloths, leaning on friends’ shoulders and wincing.

I retreated to a cafe that was open only to clergy and the media dispensing free water and beer. I filed a story, and on the large wall TV, CNN said President Donald Trump was ready to speak.

The cafe fell silent. There was, it seems, even among this crowd of liberal clergy, a thirst for a message of unity from a president who has pledged, and more often than not failed, to lead us all.

Trump engaged in some throat clearing about the Veterans Administration, and then began, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred bigotry and violence, on many sides.” At “on many sides” the room erupted into shouts of anger. On cue, Trump repeated, “On many sides.”

There was only one side visibly and overwhelmingly gripped by hate on Saturday in Charlottesville.

As the day wore on, the White House refused to retreat from Trump’s many sides comment, and the president’s tweets didn’t add clarity.

“Condolences to the family of the young woman killed today, and best regards to all of those injured, in Charlottesville, Virginia. So sad!” was his last tweet of the day.

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Lying a sad fact of life

Posted on 17 August 2017 by admin

Show me a person who believes that he or she has never, ever told a lie and I will show you a very rare bird indeed — either that or a liar.
Given the fact that we are in the midst of a prolonged post-election investigation involving a foreign power and possible collusion with one or more members of the president’s staff, the subject of lies and ascertaining “truth” belches at us every time we turn on the news.
In all fairness to the politicians, the group of people generally rated high on the lying scale, the public itself is guilty of lying, no matter what their occupation.
My column today barely scratches the surface of this topic of deception. Checking Amazon’s book catalog, I found over 50 different titles before I quit counting those dealing with lies and detection techniques.
Among the many reasons people lie are to fulfill a wish, to avoid the truth, to avoid punishment, to “get back” at someone, to heighten or maintain self-esteem, to put one over, to change the behavior of others, or to be treated in a certain way.
While the study of human behavior has been investigated for hundreds of years, it has been only in the last 50 or more years that the study of detecting deception has undergone scholarly research.
Here are some of the major findings. Children start lying as early as six months, primarily to get attention. Most people assume avoiding eye contact is a sign of lying, but it is not. It is normal for people to keep eye contact for just a small percentage of time.
People are lied to as many as 100-200 times a day and fail to detect lies 54 percent of the time. One slightly positive sign is that one quarter of the time, our lies are for another person’s benefit.
Amazingly, 75-80 percent of lies go undetected. The people who really need to detect deception — juries, police, and judges — fare poorly at detecting lies. Only the Secret Service scores high on lie detection.
In addition to law enforcement and intelligence, the group most interested in lie detection, as you might expect, is the corporate world of industry, business and finance.
Much research and analysis on the subject of lying and lie detection is available for any and all liars and lie detectors to read.
Pamela Meyer, the author of Liespotting, Proven Techniques to Detect Deception, is one of the most sought-after speakers and consultants on this “deceptive” subject.
In little more than 200 pages, she describes the techniques of detecting lies from the face, body, and words of those being interviewed. A very useful read for those who need to detect lies, and, of course, those not wanting to be caught lying.
Not that you would, but the next time you consider telling a lie, remember one of Mark Twain’s thoughts on why it’s easier to tell the truth. … “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

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Many far-right groups protest in Charlottesville

Posted on 17 August 2017 by admin

By Ben Sales
JTA

Some believe the “white race” is in danger. Some believe the United States was built by and for white people and must now embrace fascism. Some believe minorities are taking over the country. And some believe an international Jewish conspiracy is behind the threat.
These are the people who were rallying in Charlottesville.
The “Unite the Right” rally Saturday saw hundreds of people on America’s racist fringe converge in defense of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and brawl with counterprotesters. The rally ended after a white supremacist, James Fields, rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one woman and injuring at least 19. Two police officers also died when their helicopter crashed while monitoring the rally.
The rally was the largest white supremacist gathering in a decade, according to the Anti-Defamation League, but it wasn’t the work of one extremist group or coalition. Spearheaded by a local far-right activist named Jason Kessler, the rally saw several racist, anti-Semitic and fascist groups, new and old, come together.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks hate groups, the rally included “a broad spectrum of far-right extremist groups — from immigration foes to anti-Semitic bigots, neo-Confederates, Proud Boys, Patriot and militia types, outlaw bikers, swastika-wearing neo-Nazis, white nationalists and Ku Klux Klan members.”
Many of the attendees, says the ADL’s Oren Segal, were young men who became radicalized on the Internet and were not affiliated with any particular group. While some protesters belonged to the “alt-right,” a loose movement of racists, anti-Semites and nativists, others were part of older white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
At the rally, protesters were seen carrying Nazi and Confederate flags, as well as signs with racist and anti-Semitic slogans. They chanted “Sieg heil,” gave Nazi salutes and shouted derogatory phrases at passers-by.
“They really believe they have to save the white race, and to do that, they have to achieve some sort of white ethno-state,” Segal said. “They tend to be young, more frenetic in terms of their use of social media, while older more traditional groups like the Klan are in decline. Regardless of differences, it’s all the same hate.”
Here’s a guide to a few of the most prominent hate groups who showed up in Charlottesville.

Vanguard America

James Fields joined this relatively new fascist white supremacist group at the rally. On the homepage of its website, Vanguard America declares, “Our people are subjugated while an endless tide of incompatible foreigners floods this nation.”
The group trumpets the concept of “blood and soil,” an idea championed by the Nazis claiming that the inherent features of a people are the land it lives on and its “blood,” or race. In addition to opposing multiculturalism and feminism, Vanguard America’s manifesto calls for a country “free from the influence of international corporations, led by a rootless group of international Jews, which place profit beyond the interests of our people, or any people.”
According to the ADL, the group has posted dozens of fliers on campuses in at least 10 states. Its posters bear slogans like “Beware the International Jew” and “Fascism: The next step for America.” This year, the group defaced a New Jersey Holocaust memorial with a banner reading “(((Heebs will not divide us))).” Its signs at Saturday’s rally bore the fasces, a traditional fascist symbol depicting a bundle of sticks with a protruding axe blade.

Ku Klux Klan

One of the country’s oldest and most infamous hate groups, the Klan has primarily targeted black people, along with Jews, Catholics and other minorities. The KKK throughout its history has been responsible for lynchings, bombings, beatings and other racist acts of murder and abuse.
Group members have historically worn white hoods, to hide their identities and to mimic ghosts. Its leaders, including white supremacist activist David Duke, take on bizarre titles such as grand wizard and exalted cyclops.
The KKK was founded by Confederate veterans following the Civil War to harass black people, and at its height in the 1920s it had some 4 million members, according to the SPLC. An ADL report this year said the Klan has shrunk to about 3,000 total members spread across 40 groups in 33 states, mostly in the South and East.
“This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back,” Duke said in a video at the rally Saturday. “We’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back, and that’s what we got to do.”

Identity Evropa

A new group that affiliates with the alt-right, Identity Evropa seeks to promote “white American culture,” and also has posted fliers on college campuses. The group, which works with white supremacist pseudo-intellectual Richard Spencer, claims there are inherent differences among races and that white people are more intelligent than others. Identity Evropa sees itself as “identitarian,” a far-right European ideology seeking to reassert white identity.
The group supports a policy of “remigration” of immigrants out of the United States. Some of its posters bear the slogan “You will not replace us,” a chant that Charlottesville protesters paired with “Jews will not replace us.” Identity Evropa does not allow Jews as members.

League of the South

If the rally’s proximate goal was to preserve the statue of Lee in Charlottesville, the most obvious participants were the League of the South, a neo-Confederate group. The organization supports Southern secession from the United States and “believes that Southern culture is distinct from, and in opposition to, the corrupt mainstream American culture.”
The group envisions a Christian theocratic government that enforces strict gender norms. It opposes immigration as well as Islam. League of the South defines the “Southern people” as being of “European descent,” calls itself “pro-white” and states that it “has neither been the will of God Almighty nor within the power of human legislation to make any two men mechanically equal.” Duke gave the keynote address at one of the organization’s gatherings this year.
According to the SPLC, the group founded a paramilitary unit in 2014.

National Socialist Movement

This one is pretty self-explanatory — America’s version of the Nazi Party. It is a white supremacist organization that would either deport “non-whites” — including Jews — or strip them of citizenship and subject them to a discriminatory regime (the group’s manifesto proposes both). The group is also anti-feminist and homophobic.
The National Socialist Movement idolizes Adolf Hitler, who it says “loved and cared deeply for the average person.” Until about a decade ago, the group would protest in full Nazi regalia, which it has swapped out for black uniforms.
Its crest features a swastika superimposed on an altered version of the Stars and Stripes.

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Rabbi shares life’s journey in one-man show

Posted on 17 August 2017 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray
sharon@tjpnews.com

I have met more than one local rabbi who had “another life” before they were called to the bimah: nurse, Red Cross worker, Wall Street banker, IDF soldier. But only one made his way there via Broadway.
Rabbi Adam Roffman will share that journey in the form of a one-man show during two performances of Sunday the Rabbi Sang Sondheim at 7:30 p.m. Sundays, Aug. 20 and 27, at Stage West Studio Theatre, 821 W. Vickery Blvd. in Fort Worth. Proceeds of the evening will benefit the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County and Orchard Theatre of Texas.
Roffman is an associate rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel in Dallas, and as one of his congregants, I’ve been privileged to get to know him over the past four years.
In December, Roffman performed Sing for Your Siddur, a prayer book fundraiser for the Dallas shul. Roffman explained that while the Dallas show had a cabaret-like flavor, the Fort Worth edition is more theatrical and delves more deeply into his intensely personal journey.
“The biggest difference is that I was playing to a home crowd at Shearith and people knew me and knew a little bit of my story, and I had credibility with them the second I walked out on stage,” he explained in a phone interview. “I had to really change it to make it more personal, to turn it less from a cabaret evening into something that has a very strong theatricality to it. The story of the decisions I make from being an actor to being a rabbi are explored in greater depth and there’s more tension in the piece… it feels weightier. It’s more like going to a play and less like going to a cabaret.”
Roffman grew up in Baltimore, where he attended a Conservative Jewish day school. Like most Baltimoreans, he grew up loving the Orioles with added passions for musical theater and Torah study. He graduated from Amherst College with a political science degree and the Circle in the Square Theatre School with a Certificate in Musical Theatre Performance.
The show is autobiographical with a narrative punctuated by 15 Broadway songs over the course of 90-plus minutes. There is an intermission. Roffman explained that in addition to being deeply emotional, the performance is somewhat physically taxing as well.
“This is a little bit like running a marathon. Being up on stage by yourself for 90 minutes is really taxing. You have to get yourself in shape. At times that’s been a real struggle for me. In the course of an ordinary musical as one performer, you might sing five or six songs and usually you’re singing with other people, but this is just me. And also, like I said, because it’s very personal, it is very emotionally draining.”
The rabbi sees similarities between the outlets of theater and music and the Judaism.
“There is a lot in common between what it is that Judaism tries to teach us and helps us explore — not just the everyday but also the challenges in life — and to think about them in an honest way and with an eye toward making the world a better place, and I think that theater does the same thing.”
One of the hallmarks of Roffman’s approach to both Judaism and theater is intention and honesty.
“When I talk about prayer, I talk about being honest,” he says. “When you go through these words the idea is to internalize them and make them personal and that means — most of the time — to struggle with them. If you are reading a line in the prayer book and praying it, you first have to decide in your own mind if there’s truth in what you are saying and if there isn’t, you have to ask the question why. Ultimately the goal is to get yourself to a point where you can believe the things you are saying. But it’s that moment in honesty where the real power in prayer is.”
Roffman explained that as a performer he had a similar experience to what one might have with prayer. Some of the songs he will perform, he has been singing for 20-plus years, but when he went to practice them it was almost as if he didn’t know the words at all. Coming to terms with their meaning for him in the context of his life story was an arduous process. It is difficult to accept that the path one thought they were on is not where they will end up.
“A lot of the songs that I sing, especially toward the middle of the show, are about the complexities of life and how life is not black and white, that there are lots of different shades of gray and the more honest you are about the challenges you face, the more real the solutions become.”
Roffman will be accompanied by a gifted Dallas musician, pianist Jon Schweikhard. He explained that the music is difficult and having a talent like Schweikhard as accompaniment and Jim Covault as director makes the show run smoothly. Orchard Theatre founder and playwright Richard Allen helped shape the script. The rabbi also alluded to the fact that there may a surprise guest or guests adding to the show at some point, but wouldn’t elaborate.
It is clear from talking to Roffman that he loves his day job — rabbi— and his hobby — musical performer. But perhaps his greatest joy is being a husband and father.
Roffman and his wife Rabbi Shira Wallach are parents of daughter Hannah, age 2. Roffman kvelled when he shared an anecdote of Hannah spontaneously at the piano, imitating his practice sessions with full intention — carefully fingering the piano keys and “singing” lyrics.
Roffman attributes much of his show’s success to his wife Shira, who is a gifted singer in her own right. “As always, I could not possibly have done this without Shira. I trust her so implicitly with getting the story right and being a sounding board in helping me tell it, but also she’s come to love this story of me as much as I have. So we’ve been sharing that together.”
Roffman can’t wait for the first performance this weekend. “There is a lot of joy in the performance of musical theater songs for me. Just the opportunity to do that is great. I get a lot of joy out of singing.”
Tickets for the show are $30 each or $100 for a group of four. They can be purchased at www.orchardtheatre.org.

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Dallas Doings: New chairman, Dale Hansen, 60-year anniversary

Dallas Doings: New chairman, Dale Hansen, 60-year anniversary

Posted on 17 August 2017 by admin

Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray
sharon@tjpnews.com

Dallas businessman Seay named chairman of Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce

Dallas-based businessman George Seay was named chairman of the Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce in June. He is the founder and chairman of Annandale Capital, and a national political leader. A seventh-generation Texan, Seay carries his family’s generational tradition of successful entrepreneurs, philanthropists and leaders in public policy. One of his grandfathers was a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, while the other grandfather is Bill Clements, who served as the first Republican governor of Texas since Reconstruction.

Seay

Seay

Seay’s leadership signifies a monumental shift for the Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce, an organization now slated to be the most influential organization promoting win-win economic ties between Israel and the United States. The organization will be far more than a bilateral trade association; it is transforming into an economic and political powerhouse, which will anchor the U.S.-Israel economic relationship in Texas. According to Seay, “The Chamber serves a critically important role — deepening the strategic U.S.-Israel relationship by (1) making industry in Texas the primary beneficiary of cutting-edge Israeli innovation and (2) enhancing Texas business exposure to commerce in Israel. Israel is a world leader in many technologies that drive the Texas economy and Texas is a national and international leader in industries that benefit Israel — we will show other states and nations what it looks like to leverage Israeli innovation, harness Texas economic power and industry, and closely align Texas-Israeli economic and strategic interests.”
Among important 2017 advancements were a historic water conference in Texas, which convened a delegation of 10 Israeli water companies, high-ranking Israeli and Texas government officials and hundreds of water industry professionals, as well as a dynamic Texas agricultural trade mission to Israel furthering ties in that industry, both held in the spring. The Chamber is also in the process of shepherding a $2 million R&D agreement between Texas and Israel, as well as formulating a major cybersecurity conference for late 2017 geared toward critical security infrastructure in Texas.
According to the Israeli Ministry of Economy, recent initiatives by the Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce “signify a new page in Israeli-Texas relations.”
— Submitted by Toba Hellerstein

Dale Hansen at Beth Torah

Dale Hansen, the legendary Channel 8 sportscaster, will be the guest speaker at the Congregation Beth Torah Men’s Club annual kickoff event on Sunday, Aug. 20.
Hansen has been the sports anchor at WFAA since 1983, dominating the market and making national news with award-winning investigations, incisive commentary and provocative opinions. He was the Dallas Cowboys’ radio play-by-play analyst for more than a decade and has been a regular on sports radio shows around the dial.

Screenshot WFAA’s Dale Hansen will be the guest speaker at Beth Torah’s Men’s Club.

Screenshot
WFAA’s Dale Hansen will be the guest speaker at Beth Torah’s Men’s Club.

The beer-and-barbecue evening starts at 5:30 at the synagogue, located at 720 W. Lookout Drive in Richardson, near the crossroads of Bush Turnpike and Central Expressway. The cost is $10 ($5 for students) and the public is welcome.
Beth Torah’s Men Club, which presents the annual Dallas Kosher BBQ Championship, just won its 10th consecutive Quality Chapter Award from the national Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs. For more information, call the synagogue at 972-234-1542.
— Submitted by Michael Precker

Bnai Zion achieves 4-star rating from Charity Navigator

Bnai Zion Foundation recently received a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest and most-utilized independent evaluator of charities. This is Charity Navigator’s highest possible rating and indicates that the Bnai Zion organization adheres to sector best practices and executes its mission in a financially efficient way. Avrille Harris-Cohen is executive director of Bnai Zion, Texas Region, and Diane Benjamin is the region president. Larry Strauss of Plano and Carole Wolanow of Dallas are on the proposed slate for Bnai Zion’s national board of directors. If approved, their term will begin with the organization’s Sept. 26 annual meeting and run through 2020.

Diamond anniversary: Weinbergs celebrate 60 years

Mazel tov to Ettie and Melvin Weinberg, who will celebrate their 60th anniversary Aug. 18.

Melvin and Ettie Weinberg today

Melvin and Ettie Weinberg today

Their story began with Melvin’s introduction to Ettie by her sister, JoAnn Hiller z’l, who was already engaged to Eli Hiller z’l from New York. From their initial meeting, Ettie and Melvin’s future was cemented by their wedding eight months later, after sundown in the Olan Sanctuary of Temple Emanu-El, officiated by Rabbi Levi A. Olan.

Melvin and Ettie Weinberg on their wedding day 60 years ago

Melvin and Ettie Weinberg on their wedding day 60 years ago

They have been active Temple members ever since. JoAnn and Eli were married the same day before sundown at Tiferet Israel. (In some Jewish communities two sisters cannot share a simcha on the same day.) Celebrating with Ettie and Melvin will be their daughter Sheila and husband Ross Greenstein, son Neal and grandchildren, Danielle Sonego and Aaron Sonego. Ettie and Melvin believe they have been truly blessed these past 60 years and plan to celebrate their simcha with dinner at Bob’s Steak and Chop House with their family and an April 2018 trip to Israel with several of their friends.

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Read through lesser-known Holocaust texts

Posted on 17 August 2017 by admin

When Jews think about Holocaust writings, we often first remember Anne Frank.
That’s true for me, but never again will I count her as the only young girl who left a diary behind. I had no idea there were any others until I read Rutka’s Notebook, subtitled A Voice from the Holocaust. The cover calls it “the long-lost diary” of another young girl, and adds that some are now calling its author “the Polish Anne Frank.” I don’t agree with that; the two girls — and their writings — are so very different. But for many, their similar ages during a similar time spur the connection.
This old/new Holocaust story first surfaced about a decade ago, when, after 61 years, a non-Jewish woman — then 82 years old — finally made public that she had kept to herself, for all that time, the slim notebook a childhood friend had asked her to hold for safekeeping — just before she, Rutka, went off to die in an Auschwitz gas chamber. It was finally published as this book in 2008, with copyright owned by Yad Vashem.
As a document, this defies comparison to Anne Frank’s diary — the two are incredibly different. Anne, as we all know, showed us the interior life of a maturing teenager, defining her future hopes and dreams. Rutka left a different kind of record: of a younger but still maturing teenager’s everyday activities and escapades, very much “in the moment” of approaching adulthood. Anne’s writings might be termed “philosophical” when read next to Rutka’s down-to-earth reportage of actual personal happenings.
The difference: Rutka was never in hiding, so she had the kind of exterior life that Anne was denied. Although her small family — parents and a much younger brother — were moved several times by the Nazis into ghetto settings, she had constant open contact with her friends. Most of her notebook is frivolous, even childish. But Rutka did see the horrors of roundups and deportations, and even ugly murders, before it was her turn to experience all three of these herself. And her knowledge of reality underlies everything; she writes as matter-of-factly about watching a baby coldly killed before its own mother’s eyes as she does about wondering to whom she’d give her first kiss. Also, this is a very brief document, covering only January to April of 1943.
By itself, Rutka’s notebook would be only a pamphlet. But its finding sparked much else, all now parts of this book. Although her mother and brother perished with her, her father survived; he remarried after the horrors, had a child, and it is this daughter, the later-discovered Zahava Laskier Scherz, who introduces Rutka with a moving essay on “The Sister I Never Knew.” Zahava also writes the fascinating story of her father’s three very different life stages — perhaps the most important reading of all.
This book surprised me with a bibliography of more than a dozen other adolescent Holocaust diaries and notebooks that I had never before known existed — five young boys among the authors. And for me especially, there was also a bit of family learning that provided previously elusive information to answer a question my sister and I had asked all our lives: Her name is Ruth, but those in the generation of our Boubby the Philosopher always called her “Root.” Here, I found that this wasn’t because those elders couldn’t pronounce the “th,” but that Rutka is the eastern European diminutive of Ruth, and is often shortened in conversation to that formerly mysterious “Root”!
This volume would make a worthy addition to the library of anyone wishing to explore one of the lesser-known aspects of the Holocaust. It’s easy reading, although some of the subject matter is painful to confront and absorb. I bought my copy at a bookshop clearance for $1, but it’s still available on Amazon for less than $5. Either way: so very little for such a big lesson in our history.

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Charlottesville’s Jewish mayor is an expert on demagogues, and now on anti-Semitism

Charlottesville’s Jewish mayor is an expert on demagogues, and now on anti-Semitism

Posted on 17 August 2017 by admin

By Ron Kampeas
JTA

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Michael Signer, the Jewish mayor of Charlottesville, has one thing in common with the white supremacists who descended on his southern Virginia city over the weekend: He also opposed the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Of course, Signer’s reasons for preserving the statue would have appalled the supremacists: He agreed with local African-American activists who had argued that preserving the statue was a means of teaching Virginians about the horrors of a “dishonorable” cause, the Confederacy.

Charlottesville Mayor oMichael Signer speaking on

Charlottesville Mayor oMichael Signer speaking on “Meet the Press,” Aug. 14, 2017

Signer was on the losing side of a 3-2 City Council decision, and the statue is now slated for removal. But his thoughtful approach, more typical of an academic than a politician, has also been evident in his counsel during the rash of protests that have plagued this city: “Don’t take the bait,” he has said.
In giving that advice, Signer has noted that for the first time in his life, he has been the target of intense baiting as a Jew.
“I can’t see the world through a black person’s eyes,” he said at a June 13 address at an African-American church, where he urged constituents not to give in to the impulse to counter hatred with hatred.
“I can see it through a Jewish person’s eyes; the KKK hates Jews just as much as they hate black people. The stuff with this group online about Jews is unbelievable, bloodcurdling. The stuff I’ve gotten on my phone at my house, you’d think it was done a hundred years ago.”
Signer, 44, a practicing lawyer in Charlottesville, also lectures on politics and leadership at the University of Virginia, his law school alma mater. His wife, Emily Blout, is an Iran scholar at the same university, which is located here.
An Arlington native, Signer is the child of journalists, but in his author’s autobiography sounds like many other younger liberal Jews who note with pride their grandparents’ working class and intellectual roots:
“My grandfather was a Jeep mechanic for the Army on the European front in World War II and lifetime member of the proofreaders’ union at the New York Times; he lost part of a finger in an industrial accident as a young man,” he wrote. “My grandmother organized seamstresses on her factory floor in New York City and later worked as a secretary to Hannah Arendt at the New School.”
In a January speech declaring Charlottesville “a capital of the resistance,” Signer described his grandfather as a “Jewish kid raised in the Bronx” who was “part of the forces that liberated the world from Nazism and fascism, that laid the groundwork for NATO and the Marshall Plan, and for a country that lived up to the promises of the Statue of Liberty. …
“If he were alive right now, I don’t think I could look him in the face and say Grandpa, I didn’t fight for the values you fought for.”
Before becoming mayor, Signer was known both for his activism in the senior reaches of the Democratic Party — he was national security adviser for John Edwards’ 2008 primary campaign — as well as his expertise on a subject that has received much attention recently, demagoguery. His 2009 book, “Demagogue: the Fight to Save Democracy from its Worst Enemies,” was well received.
The book examines successful demagogues left and right: Sen. Joe McCarthy, the 1950s anti-communist firebrand who plagued the American discourse, and Hugo Chavez, the late Venezuelan strongman and leftist, both come under scrutiny. In December  2015, before the presidential primaries, Signer predicted that Donald Trump could become a “singular menace to our Republic.”
Paraphrasing James Fenimore Cooper, Signer wrote then that Trump met all four criteria of an American demagogue: “they posture as men of the common people; they trigger waves of powerful emotion; they manipulate this emotion for political benefit; and they threaten or break established principles of governance.”
Without saying “I told you so” outright, Signer this weekend squarely blamed Trump for stoking the populist white nationalist fervor that culminated in the violence that took the life of one counterprotester, injured dozens of others and led to the death of two state troopers in a helicopter crash. The rally included Nazi flags, chants of “Jews will not replace us,” and shouts of “Jew” every time a speaker mentioned Signer’s name.
“Look at the campaign he ran,” the mayor said on CNN.
Signer elaborated on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” saying of Trump, “I think they made a choice in that campaign, a very regrettable one, to really go to people’s prejudices, to go to the gutter.”
Signer’s tactic has been to organize countering events that celebrate Charlottesville’s diversity, prompting Mark Pitcavage, the senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, to say on Twitter that Signer “gets it.”
Speaking in May on “State of Belief,” a radio show produced by the Interfaith Alliance, Signer said it was more productive to focus on the victim than the perpetrator.
“You’re trying to ease the pain of someone who’s been afflicted rather than focus on the harasser,” he said.
He also described the unfamiliar sensation of being in the position of the afflicted, barraged as he was with online assaults from anti-Semites as the Lee statue issue was put before the council.  One tweet, from the account of someone calling themselves Great Patriot Trump, read “I smell Jew. If so, you are going back to Israel. But you will not stay in power here. Not for long.”
“The wave of anti-Semitic attacks I’ve seen in the last week, it’s been a new experience for me, I’ve never seen that before,” Signer said. “Some of the nightmare historical tropes I thought had been retired after World War II” had returned as “more disturbing mashups of politics today and anti-Semitism.”

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God guides our choices through blessings, curses

Posted on 17 August 2017 by admin

This week’s Torah portion, Re’eh, has a dramatic beginning that always surprises me: “See, this day I set before you blessing and curse…” Well, if you’re going to put it that way, I guess the choice should be easy — choose the blessing! Yet surprisingly, the choice isn’t always easy. Why? Why is it that when we are faced with blessings and curses, the choices don’t seem so clear-cut?
Sometimes the answer is pure and simple: human weakness. I should exercise more because my doctor is always telling me I should. And on those rare occasions when I actually do, I feel better, so I know I should. Yet the pain of exercising is concentrated in those few minutes, while the benefits, the blessings of exercise, are diffuse. And I am weak, choosing the path of least resistance, a path that inevitably leads to a worse outcome.
Sometimes the answer is neither pure nor simple. Sometimes the difficulty in choosing between the blessing and the curse lies in our difficulty perceiving when a blessing is disguised as a curse or a curse is disguised as a blessing. Today, it is the rare person who has never lost a job, and losing a job is a painful experience that feels like a curse. Yet there are times when the job you lose is the job you’ve hated but have been afraid to quit. Losing that type of job can be a blessing in disguise.
Many people fantasize about winning the lottery and never having to worry about the lack of money again. Yet history shows us time and again instances where sudden wealth — winning the lottery, a large inheritance, a poor country discovering valuable natural resources — can lead to devastating results. What normally is, and should be, a blessing can in actual fact become a curse.
Hardest of all is when blessings are mixed with curses. Modern medicine is a miracle and a blessing, extending our lives when in previous centuries we would have died. Yet sometimes, artificially extending our lives also lengthens the suffering we can experience at the end of our lives. Sometimes the blessing is mixed with a curse, making our choices neither simple nor pure.
Why is it hard to choose between blessings and curses? Because our choices aren’t always black and white and are, in fact, usually in various shades of gray. So how should we choose?
I am reminded of a teaching by the great 20th-century scholar, Rabbi Louis Finkelstein, who taught: “When I pray, I speak to God. When I study, God speaks to me.” Personally, God speaks most clearly to me through the prophet Micah (6:8) when we are told to do justice, love kindness and walk modestly with God. How do we choose the blessings? We choose blessings when we are honest and true and seek to create a more fair and just society. How do we avoid the curses? We avoid the curses when we act kindly and embrace mercy. And while we seek to walk in God’s ways, we must do so with a sense of modesty and humility. Because when we study God’s word and God speaks to us, it is in a still, small voice that we fallible human beings might mishear.
Blessings and curses are set before us. Let us do justice, love kindness, and walk modestly with God to make the better choices.
Rabbi Ben Sternman is the spiritual leader of Congregation Adat Chaverim in Plano.

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Texas A&M cancels white supremacy speaker’s appearance

Posted on 17 August 2017 by admin

Staff report

Texas A&M has decided to cancel an on-campus white-supremacist speech and gathering just days after a violent rally in Charlottesville, Va.
A former student had requested the Sept. 11 speaking venue for Preston Wiginton, who is not a student. Texas A&M did not allow Wiginton access to a speaker hall, but he was granted access to Rudder Plaza in the center of campus for the all-day event.
Texas A&M changed its stance Monday.
“With no university facilities afforded him, he chose instead to plan his event outdoors for Sept. 11 at Rudder Plaza, in the middle of campus, during a school day, with a notification to the media under the headline ‘Today Charlottesville, Tomorrow Texas A&M,’ ” a press release read. “Linking the tragedy of Charlottesville with the Texas A&M event creates a major security risk on our campus.”
In December, Richard Spencer, who helped organize the Charlottesville rally, spoke on the same topic at Texas A&M. He was met with heavy criticism and a police presence. Fallout from that incident changed the university’s policy on speakers.
During that event, Members of Texas A&M’s Jewish community found their own ways to counter Spencer’s message. It included a peaceful silent protest and attending an “Aggies United” event at Kyle Field that drew thousands of students and detracted from Spencer’s influence on campus.

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Special ‘bar mitzvah’ at Temple Shalom

Special ‘bar mitzvah’ at Temple Shalom

Posted on 17 August 2017 by admin

Photo: Winn Fuqua Rabbi Andrew Paley will celebrate 13 years, his “bar mitzvah,” at Temple Shalom, with his family (left to right) Debbie, Sammy, Molly, his congregation and the community beginning this Friday, Aug. 18, at 6 p.m.

Photo: Winn Fuqua
Rabbi Andrew Paley will celebrate 13 years, his “bar mitzvah,” at Temple Shalom, with his family (left to right) Debbie, Sammy, Molly, his congregation and the community beginning this Friday, Aug. 18, at 6 p.m.

Rabbi Andrew Paley celebrates 13th year with congregation

By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP

It’s the “Year of Rabbi Andrew Paley” at Temple Shalom and the community is invited to share in the celebrations of the rabbi’s 13th year. Festivities begin with an Oneg social at 6 p.m., and services at 6:30 p.m., Friday, Aug. 18. The celebration will continue throughout the year, with a Saturday morning bar mitzvah service, Feb. 24, also dedicated to the rabbi’s commitment to Temple Shalom.
At the Aug. 18 service, 1,000 new High Holy Day prayer books, purchased by congregants in Paley’s honor, will be dedicated. Members of the community are invited to share with Rabbi Paley, a “gift of words,” many to be spoken at services throughout the year.
“I could never have imagined the incredibly meaningful and significant journey my career has taken,” said Paley. “From my ordination when the president of Hebrew-Union College, Dr. Alfred Gottschalk, of blessed memory, asked ‘Are you prepared to become a rabbi in the community of Israel?’ until now, I still feel that sense of awe and wonder, excitement and trepidation at the sacred and blessed responsibility of being God’s servant. I see my role and opportunity in the same way I did then, and at the same time very differently.”
Paley is the husband of Debbie Niederman, associate director of the Union for Reform Judaism Leadership Institute and past president of the Association for Reform Jewish Educators, and the father of Molly, a sophomore at Duke University, and Samuel, a junior at Plano Academy High School.
The son of Dr. Leslie and Annette and brother of Steven and Michael, Paley follows family tradition in being a rabbi. His great-grandfather, Eiser Paley, was an Orthodox rabbi. Growing up in Cleveland, Shabbat dinners at his parents’ Conservative home and his involvement in a local Reform congregation’s youth group program made impressions.
“At home, there was always Jewish beauty and love for our traditions. In my youth group, I met kids like me and it was a great social connection, led by young rabbis who were engaging and who took an interest in us,” said Paley. “When I was 17 I had an epiphany during the High Holy Days, realizing that relationship was so important to me, and I wanted to do that for others.”
Paley holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology from Ohio State University as well as a certificate in marital and premarital counseling and a master’s degree in Hebrew letters from HUC–JIR, where he was ordained in 1995. Before coming to Dallas he served communities in Fairbanks, Alaska; China Lake Naval Air Station; Miami, Florida; and Cleveland.
Paley is a member of the Dallas Mayor’s Task Force on Poverty; the coordinating committee of Faith Forward Dallas: Faith Leaders united for Peace and Justice — a project of Thanks-Giving Square of Dallas; and the Interfaith Advisory Committee of the North Texas Food Bank, as well as a chaplain with the Dallas Police Department (the first rabbi to serve as such in DPD history).
He’s a member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), a member of the Southwest Association of Reform Rabbis, a member and past president of the Rabbinical Association of Greater Dallas, and an honorary director of the Dallas Hebrew Free Loan Association. Paley is a mentor for CCAR and to HUC rabbinical students and is an AIPAC Leffer Fellow mentor. He serves on the national board of the Sigma Alpha Mu Fraternity; he has edited prayer books — one for Sabbath and one for the High Holy Days — and he’s written numerous articles.
“Rabbi Paley’s warmth for everyone and his presence in good times and bad is a gift. He’s an impeccable teacher, a brilliant teacher of Torah and life, and he infuses his impact by educating and caring in everything he does,” said Josh Goldman, president of Temple Shalom’s board of directors. “He sets an example of living tikun olam, making our congregation, our city, and our world a better place.”
Paley says it’s an honor to have served alongside his team. He calls Rabbi Ariel Boxman an excellent example of love and dedication to serious and creative Jewish education as well as to students and family. He appreciates the laughter and music of Cantor Emeritus Don Croll and his continued loving, committed and indispensable involvement in the congregation. Of Cantor Devorah Avery, he says you cannot find a kinder and gentler soul, and that she reminds everyone of the Jewish teaching, “Whoever sings, prays twice.”
Paley’s memories are vast, including Temple Shalom’s 40th and 50th anniversaries, the commissioning of the Blumin Family Torah, the 100th anniversary of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, his service to Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square — Faith Leaders United for Peace and Justice, and, with heartfelt recollection, his offering of blessings at the July 2016 Dallas Memorial Service to the Fallen Dallas Officers.
“My dream of 2004 continues to be my guiding light in 2017 — to be a place of genuine and deep caring in our Temple and beyond, becoming a place of meaningful gathering; to nurture and support serious lifelong Jewish study, becoming a place of meaningful learning; and coming together in creative and joyful ways for purposeful, uplifting and soulful prayer, becoming a place of meaningful worship,” said Paley. “I see our ability to significantly contribute our namesake — shalom,  wholeness and peace — to our city and our state, indeed our country, as we courageously advocate for the vision of our world, as we learn in our tradition, ‘The world is sustained by three things: truth, justice and shalom.’ ”

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