Archive | September, 2018

9 things you didn’t know about Yom Kippur

9 things you didn’t know about Yom Kippur

Posted on 13 September 2018 by admin

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – OCTOBER 10: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish girls perform the Kaparot ceremony on October 10, 2016 in Jerusalem, Israel. It is believed that the Jewish ritual, which involves swinging a live chicken above one’s head, transfers the sins of the past year to the chicken, which is then slaughtered and traditionally given to the poor. It is performed before the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, the most important day in the Jewish calendar, which this year will start at sunset on October 11. (Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)

By MJL Staff

(My Jewish Learning via JTA) – Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, starts at sundown on Tuesday, Sept. 18. Traditionally one of the most somber days on the Jewish calendar, it’s known for fasting and repentance – not to mention killer caffeine withdrawal headaches.
However, the holiday has some lesser-known associations as well.
1. The word “scapegoat” originates in an ancient Yom Kippur ritual.
Jews historically have been popular scapegoats — blamed for an array of ills not of their creation. But, and we’re not kid-ding, they really do deserve blame (or credit) for the term scapegoat. In Leviticus 16:8 (in the Torah portion Achrei Mot), the High Priest is instructed on Yom Kippur to lay his hands upon a goat while confessing the sins of the entire community — and then to throw the animal off a cliff.
2. Another animal ritual, swinging a chicken around one’s head, has sparked considerable controversy, and not just from animal-rights activists.
In 2015, the kapparot ritual, in which a chicken is symbolically invested with a person’s sins and then slaughtered, spurred two lawsuits in the United States: one by traditional Jews claiming their right to perform it was being abridged by the government and another by animal-rights activists. Centuries earlier, the ritual drew criticism from notable sages like the Ramban (13th century) and Rabbi Joseph Caro (16th century), whose objections had less to do with animal welfare than with religious integrity.
3. Yom Kippur once was a big matchmaking day.
The Talmud states that both Yom Kippur and Tu b’Av (often described as the Jewish Valentine’s Day) were the most joyous days of the year, when women would wear white gowns and dance in the vineyards chanting “Young man, lift up your eyes and see what you choose for yourself. Do not set your eyes on beauty, but set your eyes on a good family.” Given the aforementioned caffeine headaches and the difficulty of making a decision on an empty stomach, we’re glad this particular tradition is no more.
4. Food and drink are not the only things Jews abstain from on Yom Kippur.
Other traditional no-nos on Yom Kippur include bathing, wearing perfume or lotions, having sexual relations and wearing leather shoes. The less-than-attractive aroma resulting from the first two restrictions (not to mention the romantic restrictions imposed by the third) may explain why the day ceased to be an occasion for finding true love.
5. In Israel, Yom Kippur is the most bike-friendly day of the year.
Although many Israelis are secular, and there is no law on the books forbidding driving on Yom Kippur, virtually all the country’s Jews avoid their cars on this day. With only the occasional emergency vehicle on the road, bikers of all ages can be seen pedaling, even on major highways.
6. Eating a big meal before the holiday begins will make your fast harder rather than easier.
Traditionally, the meal eaten before beginning the fast is supposed to be large and festive, following the Talmudic dictum that it is a mitzvah (commandment) to eat on the eve of Yom Kippur, just as it is a mitzvah to fast on Yom Kippur itself. However, eating extra food — particularly in one last-minute feast — does not help to keep you going for 24 hours, says Dr. Tzvi Dwolatzky of Israel’s Rambam Health Care Campus. He suggests eating small amounts of carbohydrates (bread, potato, rice, pasta), some protein (fish, chicken) and fruit.
7. On Yom Kippur in 1940, London’s Jews kept calm and carried on.
In the midst of the Battle of Britain, the relentless Nazi bombardment of London that began in September 1940, the city’s synagogues went on with their Yom Kippur services. According to JTA, while air raid warnings “twice disturbed” the morning services Oct. 12, 1940, “most synagogues carried on regardless” and a “large proportion of the men attending services wore uniforms of the various forces.”
8. Yom Kippur’s Kol Nidre services are the only night of the entire Jewish calendar when a prayer shawl is worn for evening prayers.
According to the late Rabbi Louis Jacobs, the tallit (prayer shawl) is worn during Kol Nidre as “a token of special reverence for the holy day.” It is traditional to wear a tallit or a white garment for the entire holiday, with the color white symbolizing both our spiritual purity and our removing ourselves from the vanities of the material world. Many people actually wear a white robe called a kittel.
9. A Virginia rabbi’s pro-civil rights movement sermon on Yom Kippur in 1958 riled up local segregationists and sparked fears of an anti-Semitic backlash.
JTA reported that Virginia’s Defenders of State Sovereignty group demanded that local Jews “move quickly to refute and condemn” Rabbi Emmet Frank of Alexandria’s Temple Beth El for his sermon criticizing the state’s “massive resistance” to school desegregation and said that if he had intended to destroy Christian-Jewish relations, “he could not have been more effective.” While a “leading member” of the Reform temple reportedly said a “considerable” number of congregants worried Frank’s stand “might result in increased anti-Semitism,” others “sided with the rabbi, holding that he held a spiritual and moral duty to speak out for social justice.” The congregation stood by Frank, and The Washington Post published an editorial calling him a “courageous clergyman.”

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1979 Teen Tourists planning April reunion

1979 Teen Tourists planning April reunion

Posted on 13 September 2018 by admin

Photo: Courtesy Audrey Essenfeld Pincu
At the Dead Sea with the 1979 Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ Teen Tour, from left, Audrey (Essenfeld) Pincu, Anne (Leventhal) Wechsler and Jana (Pink) Kusin floated without a care.

By Deb Silverthorn

The Jews crossed the desert for 40 years, and it’s been nearly 40 since the 1979 Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ Teen Tour participants made their own crossings of Israel’s deserts, swam in her seas, climbed her mountains and lived amongst her people.
A reunion is set for the evening of April 13 at the Clubs of Prestonwood, The Creeks, for the 65 young adults and eight staff members for who the memories remain.
“As a 16-year-old, the Teen Tour was a lot of fun and an incredible summer,” said Sally Waxler Oscherwitz who, with Audrey Essenfeld Pincu, is organizing the gathering. “As an adult, I realize it was one of the Federation’s greatest gifts to each of us.”
While Pincu and Oscherwitz look forward to seeing those with whom they can connect, memories live on of their friends Nathan Levy and Daniel Vaiser, who have since died.
“We were a very close group, and to lose friends so early in life is hard. To remember and celebrate together is a gift,” said Pincu, who still calls Dallas her home. “There are many within our group who remain in touch; a group of girls who go to dinner, occasional get-togethers when people come to town, and of course, within our synagogues and in the community, people see each other and the memories come to life in a blink.”
For six who were there, it was a summer of love: three marriages stemming from the spirit of the Sinai, the heart of the homeland. Ruth Solomon and Mark Schor met as counselors, he a Dallas representative, she a Sabra. Vicki Small knew she was going to marry Paul Friedman after spending the summer together, he telling her she had the “most beautiful brown eyes” at the tour’s orientation. Marcia Prager and her future husband, Larry Levine, met on Teen Tour, and began dating when they met again as students at the University of Texas.
“I’ve been to Israel 10 times and the summer of ’79 definitely stands out. I’ve stayed in touch with a number of the participants and there are lots of wonderful memories, and crazy stories,” said Gary Grove, then a Federation employee who led that summer’s Teen Tour, now a psychiatrist in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Reflecting on water shortages and medical maladies, a confluence of issues while at Gadna (an IDF program that prepares young people for service), friendships that were built, praying at the Kotel and snorkeling at Sharm El Sheikh, his own 25-pound weight loss and few hours of sleep each night, Grove’s memory bank is filled.
“I’m so excited about this reunion and I wouldn’t miss it for anything. I really look forward to being there,” he said. “From hostels to hotels, to staying at kibbutzim and sleeping under the stars in the Sinai, it was a summer of impression, I think, for everyone who took part.”
The teens were on the road from June 25-Aug. 4, 1979, arriving in Jerusalem and never skipping a beat to Tiberias, Safed and Herzliya, to Nahariya, Haifa, the Druze village, Tel Aviv and the Sinai. From fishing villages to Eilat, from Masada and Ein Gedi, to the Knesset, Yad Vashem and much more, the travelers’ feet hit the ground running, stopping (maybe) to rest.
“We got together 10 years ago, and it was like no time had passed. Staying in touch, reaching out to one another is easier with social media but there’s nothing like reconnecting in person, with hugs and toasting one another,” said Oscherwitz, a Scottsdale resident for 26 years.
While many of the group has remained in touch, most participants having made DFW-area their home over the years, organizers are still trying to contact tour members Susan Aaron, Melanie Aarons, Miki Ablon, Rebecca Aronowitz, Lisa Brender, Jay Brenner, David Brothman, Roger Katz, Sarah Levin, Libbi Schwartz, Jim Shorter, Barry Sklaver, Victoria Solomon and adult tour advisors Susan Bell and Bev Cohn.
For more information or to share contact information, or for participants who wish to share photos for a slideshow, contact teacher624@hotmail.com or visit the group’s Facebook page at

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Anti-Israel forces and the battle for the Jewish future

Anti-Israel forces and the battle for the Jewish future

Posted on 13 September 2018 by admin

A mock Israeli checkpoint set up during “Israeli Apartheid Week” on the campus of University of California, Los Angeles. Credit: AMCHA Initiative.

By Deborah Fineblum

(JNS) — You send your kids off to college, and they come back telling you that Israel is an occupying force with no rights to the land. This Jewish state you taught them to love? Their professors and friends have convinced them that it’s nothing more than a Zionist hoax.
“These parents are thinking, ‘I’ve just had my child colonized by the enemy of our people,’” said Richard Landes, a retired history professor at Boston University. “Under the illusion of fighting for the underdog, they’re buying the whole victim narrative put forward by the same people who run all 17 nations that surround little Israel.”
These days, campuses are increasingly battlefields where chief among the spoils are the hearts, minds and loyalties of the next generation of the Jewish people.
Countless Jewish students were captive audiences last year for Israel-baiting professors, and many witnessed (and even participated in) anti-Israel demonstrations and divestment campaigns. And on many campuses this spring during “Israeli Apartheid Week,” student unions featured “walls” festooned with a list of Israel’s “crimes.”
Not surprising is a recent Anti-Defamation League study that found that incidents of anti-Semitism on campus have nearly doubled over the past year. And a recent study by Brand Israel found that support by American Jewish college students (62 percent who had witnessed anti-Israel activity on their campuses) for Israel plummeted from 84 percent to 57 percent between 2010 and 2016.
“I knew I was walking into a den,” said Adah Forer, who graduated this spring with a degree in history from the University of California, Berkeley. “When I asked what it was like for Jews there, I was told an Israeli flag was burned on campus in 2008.”
Graffiti was also found recently in a campus bathroom stating that “Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber.”
But despite years spent in front of “left-leaning professors,” Forer emerged with her love of Israel forged in the fire of anti-Israel pressures. As the campus’ StandWithUs Emerson fellow and president of the pro-Israel group Tikvah, leading pro-Israel counter-demonstrations became a defining piece of Forer’s college experience.
But hers isn’t necessarily typical.
A flurry of anti-Israel events
Unfortunately, watchdogs like CAMERA, Canary Mission and AMCHA Initiative have had little trouble finding anti-Israel events on campuses across North America to report on this past year. A sampling includes:
• The UCLA student government debated whether representatives who went on trips to Israel sponsored by Jewish groups should face sanctions. This following on the heels of student government leaders raising doubts about whether a student can sit on a campus judicial panel because he or she is Jewish.
• On the eve of the Passover holiday, when most Jewish representatives had left campus and were unable to vote, the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter at Tufts, working with the campus Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), put up a surprise BDS resolution calling on the university to divest from companies that do business with Israel.
• SJP at Swarthmore College collected hundreds of student signatures petitioning the school to stop serving Sabra-brand hummus, a product of Israel-based Strauss Group. Their claim: Using Sabra in the cafeteria makes the school an “accessory to the occupation of Palestine.” (Upshot: the administration added another brand of hummus.)
• More than a dozen protestors burst in on an event held by Armenian, Kurd and Israeli students at UCLA: One member tore down the flags and ripped up the panelists’ notes. The protestors made sure their anti-Israel shouts and chants shut down the program while several policemen looked on but did nothing. Equally disturbing, said Ilan Sinelnikov, president of Students Supporting Israel (SSI), is the muzzling of the other side. “At the UCLA panel event, the message was so strong — a shared history of three indigenous peoples,” he says. “The anti-Israel side just couldn’t handle that display of unity and understanding. They had to shut it down and argue that we have no rights to our own homeland.”
• At San Francisco State University, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat’s speech was drowned out by the catcalls of protesters, who made it impossible for him to finish his speech. This at a school where Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, a professor of “ethnic studies and race and resistance studies,” has stated that “Zionists are not welcome on our campus.”
• At New York University, SJP and JVP convinced 53 student groups, including the Slam! Poetry Club, to sign on to support BDS, and refuse to co-sponsor events with any Israel advocacy and Jewish groups.
This coalition is an example of “intersectionality,” where seemingly unconnected groups — often Hispanics, blacks and gays and lesbians — are being solicited as allies of campus anti-Israel groups.
Forer, the UC Berkeley grad, said such “intersectionality” is a fact of campus life today. “Anti-Israel forces are becoming more strategic by hijacking other minority groups and convincing them that they’re all victims,” she says.
It’s a pattern CAMERA executive director Andrea Levin called “a cause for real concern when 53 groups band together at [New York University] to denounce Israel, and half the student government votes for it.”
Anti-Israel student groups
Behind much of these on-campus attacks on Israel are student groups that have increased their numbers in chapters across North America.
• Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which began at UC Berkeley a quarter-century ago, has exploded from 80 campuses to more than 200 in just eight years, and is typically led by Arab students with Christian and Jewish followers. The national organization’s website says SJP is “centered on freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinian people, who have been living without basic rights under Israeli military occupation and colonialism since 1948.” AMCHA Initiative has found that having an SJP chapter increases a school’s rate of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incidents, as well as BDS campaigns. Among the online comments by attendees at last year’s national SJP conference: “Israel really needs to die, and I pray it happens in my lifetime” and “When I stomp, I imagine Zionists’ faces under my feet.”
• Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), which also began in Berkeley in the 1990s, is arguably the largest Jewish campus anti-Israel group, with members known for heckling and shutting down speakers they disagree with and pushing BDS through school governments. Their website invites students to: “Come learn about best practices for documenting actions, messaging to get the attention of the cameras and how to turn out the press on short notice.”
• Calling itself “pro-Israel and pro-peace,” J Street operates on campus as J Street U. From that website: “We recognize that the ongoing occupation and settlement of the Palestinian territories is politically unsustainable and morally untenable.”
• But if JVP is the largest Jewish campus-based anti-Israel group, the four-year-old IfNotNow is hard on its heels. Its website says it’s “a movement led by young Jews to reclaim the mantle of Jewish leadership from the out-of-touch establishment…we will be the generation to end our community’s support for the occupation and create a Judaism that stands for the dignity of all people.”
Not only have INN chapters organized “anti-occupation Passover Seders,” but they have been targeting younger Jews this summer, holding training sessions for camp counselors working at eight Jewish camps to teach “anti-occupation” propaganda to their campers. One suggestion: leading the Kaddish mourning prayer for Palestinian terrorists killed in Gaza.
“It’s bad enough what’s happening on campuses,” said SSI’s Sinelnikov. “But training counselors to brainwash young campers about the ‘occupation’ is crossing the line. They’re using Hamas’s own tactics to brainwash kids.”
This summer, IfNotNow also set up a table marked “Birthright” at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to pull over travelers to Israel on Birthright Israel to warn them of “the truth” about the country they were about to visit, most of them for the first time.
In addition, five members of IfNotNow made a highly publicized walk-off from the last day of their own Birthright trip to join with the anti-Israel group Breaking the Silence, so they could “learn about the occupation,” they said.
“Like J Street, IfNotNow is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and dangerous,” said Andrew Pessin, professor of philosophy and Jewish studies at Connecticut College and co-editor of “Anti-Zionism on Campus: The University, Free Speech and BDS” (Indiana University, 2018). “IfNotNow and J Street U pose as sincere progressive students questioning the morality of Israel.”
That positioning “masquerades as pro-Israel and pro-peace so it can pull students in, often funneling them onto the more violent JVP,” said CAMERA’s Levin.
The boost in BDS campaigns
Back on campus, insisting that schools “boycott, divest and sanction” Israel remains the No. 1 method of fomenting an anti-Israel student body. Since the time of the Second Intifada in Israel in the early 2000s, anti-Israel forces have been pressuring local governments, unions and churches to divest of any financial connection to Israel and its businesses, hospitals and universities. On campuses, this means getting the school government to pass these resolutions, which, in turn, pressure their administrations to adopt them.
The purpose of BDS, according to the ADL, is nothing short of the “demonization and delegitimization of Israel.”
The Jewish Virtual Library has tallied 119 BDS votes in the past five years. Though 64 percent were defeated, BDS has passed at many institutions of higher education, including the universities of Michigan and Minnesota, George Washington University, Oberlin and Barnard colleges, and several University of California system branches.
An AMCHA study shows that schools that even consider BDS resolutions witness an uptick in anti-Semitic events. At UC Santa Barbara, for example, Jewish students were threatened, and a student wearing a Star of David necklace spit on. The vote there on BDS was by secret ballot. “That means representatives aren’t accountable to the students who elect them,” Pessin said.
And, though none of the student governments that have voted for their universities to divest succeeded in convincing their administrations to actually cut ties with the Jewish state, these anti-Israel votes have what the ADL terms “a negative impact on public perceptions of Israel” on campus, where everyone is pulled into “a highly politicized and publicized debate.”
‘Teaching them what to think’
The student anti-Israel groups, however, are not operating without help from their elders.
For the last 20 of the 37 years he’s spent as a history professor at Hamilton College, the climate has become “more uniformly liberal,” says Robert Paquette, who also directs the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization. “The line between activism and scholarship is increasingly blurred, with Angela Davis, who was suspected of conspiring to murder a judge, paid five figures to speak here,” he says. “Our universities, which used to be in the business of teaching students how to think, are now teaching them what to think. And their top cause today is the demonization of Israel.”
In fact, nearly 2,000 faculty members across North America have endorsed a BDS agreement to boycott Israeli institutions and refuse to write recommendations for students wishing to study there. This is according to Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, who taught Hebrew and Middle East studies at UC Santa Cruz for two decades and is executive director of AMCHA Initiative, which monitors the situation.
Brandeis University professor, author and leading expert on American Jewish history Jonathan Sarna put it this way: “The real problem is when a faculty’s diversity is only defined in terms of gender and race, but never in terms of ideology. We lose our balance when students can’t understand the people who voted for Donald Trump because there aren’t any there.”
And “with faculty increasingly moving left,” he said, “students hear consistent criticism of Israel. Sadly, most don’t know enough to judge for themselves.”
Moreover, any professors not on the anti-Israel bandwagon may find themselves “pariahs,” according to Landes. “Tenured or not, in this age of political correctness, openly defend Israel and suddenly you’re not invited to speak at conferences anymore, and you’re shunned in the faculty lounge.”
Pushing the dial even further to the left are the many schools where the salaries of professors of Middle Eastern studies are being paid by endowed chairs that bring millions into universities’ coffers. Many of these endowments are by wealthy Arabs and Arab-sympathizers.
Among these is Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Alsaud, the fifth wealthiest person in the world. Although the Saudi’s $10 million for the Twin Towers Fund was refused by New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani after the 9/11 attacks, no such rebuff greeted the prince’s $20 million endowments to both Harvard and Georgetown universities. Another example: Both NYU and Columbia now have Hagop Kevorkian chairs paid for by that Armenian’s millions. And, as they use their lecterns as anti-Israel bully pulpits, professors can punish any student who speaks in Israel’s defense.
“Grade-shaving is real,” says Paquette. “If your professor doesn’t like what you represent, prepare to pay for it when the grades come out. So, parents say to their kids: ‘We’re spending $50,000 a year. Keep your mouth shut and graduate.’”
Follow the money …
and the studies
None of these anti-Israel programs comes cheap. And, observers say, American laws governing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other nonprofits often protect the groups from transparency in their funding streams.
In the United States, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund supports everything from BDS campaigns and anti-Israel lobbying to NGOs funding anti-Israel activities. Among its campus grantees are JVP ($280,000), Palestine Legal ($150,000) and the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights ($90,000).
“There’s an alarming drop in federal prosecutions of terror finance activity in the charitable sector,” says Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, now with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who testified before Congress.
Umbrella groups that help fund the anti-Israel forces in North America include the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (previously known as the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation), which is a major enabler supporting BDS campaigns on a multitude of campuses. Also known as Education for Just Peace in the Middle East, it has a hand in more than 300 BDS organizations.
In addition, those involved in charities that were connected with or found guilty in American courts of terrorist activities have now regrouped as the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Schanzer said. The AMP specifically helps SJP run BDS campaigns and has supplied chapters with such resources as “Apartheid Walls” for Israeli Apartheid Weeks. As a not-for-profit corporation with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, Schanzer told JNS that “AMP would not have to file an IRS 990 form that would make its finances more transparent” and can receive tax-exempt donations.
Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs also documented European Union funding of anti-Israel organizations, with data showing the E.U. “directly financed organizations which promote anti-Israel delegitimization and boycotts to the approximate sum of more than 5 million euros in 2016.”
One study out of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs found that SJP “is not as they claim, a ‘grassroots’ student organization … but that it “maintains affiliations with Arab and Islamic terror groups, is overtly anti-Semitic, incites hatred and violence against Jewish students, and rejects the existence of the state of Israel in any borders.”
“If you’re anti-Israel, there are 150 NGOs happy to fund you,” says Landes. “But if you’re launching a pro-Israel campaign on your campus, the pickings are slimmer.”
Of course, not all universities are equally embroiled in anti-Israel activities. Lists of those with the greatest number of incidents and overtly anti-Israel professors tend to include such schools as Columbia, Portland State, San Francisco State, UCLA and Vassar.
San Francisco State is among the worst for Jewish students, according to Brooke Goldstein, founder of the Lawfare Project, which provides legal help for Jews facing anti-Semitism. “Discrimination, harassment and intimidation — it’s all there, with the mayor of Jerusalem heckled so viciously he couldn’t deliver his speech,” she said. “You can be attacked there simply because you are a Jew who believes that after 2,000 years of persecution, the Jewish people deserve to be safe.”
Jewish students at UC Berkeley, Forer said, “usually hurry by during our counter-demonstrations, but some of them would stop and want to take action.”
Soon, the ones who walk by may decide that “it’s not OK to wear a Jewish-star necklace, much less an IDF sweatshirt,” says Rossman-Benjamin. “This milieu is driving a wedge between Jew and Jew. Jewish students who say, ‘I only criticize Israel because I care about her,’ and insist on ‘safe space’ for anti-Israel hate, get co-opted by bigger forces determined to wipe out the Jewish homeland and the Jewish people.”
She added that “students who don’t feel part of Jewish destiny and are willing to turn against their own people are easy pickings for Jewish Voice for Peace and others.”
School is now back in session, and many observers expect anti-Israel forces will keep cranking up the heat.
Said Pessin: “Now, it’s no longer the two-state solution they’re demanding, but the wholesale destruction of Israel — ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!’ It’s chilling to hear so many Jewish students and professors echoing this call for the destruction of Israel.”
“The student council president at Berkeley has already announced that part of his agenda for fall is BDS,” sighed new graduate Forer. “Now they’ll have to figure out how to do battle with that.”

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Cantor’s concert at Methodist church aims for unity

Posted on 13 September 2018 by admin

By James Russell
Special to the TJP

A city reckoning with its deep racial and economic inequities may need more than Jewish music to bring it together. But a cantorial performance at a Methodist church scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Sunday, organized by a Jewish Fort Worth couple, at least will bring the community together for one afternoon.
Karen and Kal Silverberg organized the upcoming Community Concert for Peace shortly after the cantorial search committee of Congregation Ahavath Sholom, of which Kal serves on the board, selected Andres Levy as the visiting cantor for the High Holidays. Levy, who is making his Texas debut, is chanting the liturgy for High Holiday services..
But the community concert is at the neighboring Arborlawn United Methodist Church, 5001 Briarlawn Drive. The large church located near both Ahavath Shalom and Congregation Beth El in southwest Fort Worth recently expanded its facilities to include a larger worship hall. The church was one of the first venues the couple approached.
“They were amazingly receptive,” Kal said. “They are well-known for music appreciation in the community.” The church has hosted performances by the Fort Worth Symphony, Fort Worth Civic Orchestra, Texas Boys Choir and others. “The sanctuary is bright and inviting with great acoustics, and new. They would also like to bridge a lot of gaps. We are inviting everyone we know from any facet of what we do.”
By introducing Jewish music to the community, the couple hopes the concert will break down barriers among believers and non-believers of all identities.
“We wanted to be in a nonthreatening, informal and comfortable place where [attendees] may go to a concert any way,” Kal said. “By ‘nonthreatening,’ we mean someone who is not Jewish or affiliated with a synagogue would not feel uncomfortable by going into an unfamiliar place. It’s simply not getting uncomfortable with the unknown. We want the concert to be accessible to all.”
Levy’s biography is diverse enough to promote conversations about diversity. Born in Chile, he now lives in Buenos Aires. He was trained as an architect but has devoted his career to singing. He has performed internationally, including for the past 16 years as a traveling cantor during the High Holidays, in California, Florida and North Carolina. He will sing traditional songs in Hebrew and Ladino. But he also will perform songs, including in English, in more familiar styles, such as Broadway and Big Band.
“We’re broadening the perspective of what Jewish music is,” Karen said. “It is a great opportunity to bring together the greater Fort Worth community, which is not always at peace with one another, for a combined fun, artistic event. We’re talking about community peace, not elsewhere in the world, and coming together for a chance to do something we all enjoy.”
Kal also considers the concert an advancement of the synagogue’s mission.
“Ahavath Shalom means ‘lover of peace.’ It is a continuation of our mission and our very name to extend to this community and a concert for peace,” he said.
Advance tickets are $18 for adults and $9 for children. Tickets at the door are $25 for adults and $12 kids. VIP tickets are $180. Tickets and underwriting opportunities are available online at AhavathSholom.org/concert.

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Listen to the shofar fully and attentively

Posted on 13 September 2018 by admin

Dear Families,
My favorite question after camp is, “What do you do the rest of the year?”
First of all, getting ready for 900 kids and 250-plus staff is a yearlong job. However, I do have many other wonderful jobs during the year. Being a Jewish educator is a year-round job or, rather, a wonderful calling.
The fall holidays are a busy time for rabbis and Jewish teachers, and with the holidays coming so early, this year has been particularly busy. Everything is new for our little ones in preschool, yet how to give something new to those who have been celebrating the holidays for their entire lives is always a challenge. So I read and study and think, and sometimes find that thought that is new to me. So I share.
I was a musician many, many years ago, before I became a Jewish educator, so it was easy to pick up a shofar and get a good sound. Jonathan Wittenberg in “The Eternal Journey: Meditations on the Jewish Year” wrote something that, as a musician, struck me:
“If one strikes the keyboard of a piano, it produces a note. But if one blows into the shofar – even though one has some skill and has blown successfully on a dozen previous occasions – there is always a doubt. Responding to the atmosphere in the synagogue, or the spirit of the service, or some hidden facet of the blower’s state of being, the shofar may simply refuse to produce any sound at all. There is always a mystery, always a question.”
What is the question beyond whether I will get a good sound? Do I question myself, my beliefs, my hopes, dreams and more? But making a good sound is not enough – there is so much to learn about the shofar. And, the mitzvah is not in the blowing but in the hearing.
Wittenberg continues, taking the command to hear the shofar another step:
“Just to overhear it is not enough. If one passes a building and happens to catch the sound of the notes, that is not considered proper listening. There has to be a partnership between blower and hearer, a shared attentiveness. For the shofar addresses each person individually. Its question cannot be heard by proxy or by the outer ear only; we have to listen to it in the fullness of our own being.”
Attentive…intention – what happens to me inside when I listen to the shofar? Why do we come to hear and wait for that moment in services? Those who may have slipped out for the sermon come back for the sound. Why?
So the challenge this year is to listen attentively and with intention. When the holiday is past, take that skill of “attentive and intentional listening” into your life for the important sounds in your world.

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Historical Markers Help Us Remember Jewish History

Posted on 13 September 2018 by admin

If my mail is any indication, there are a lot of Jewish organizations, all worthy of our support. But there is one which does not send out mailers and also deserves our support.
The Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation (JASHP) came to my attention recently, when I read that it assisted in the rededication of the Leo Frank Memorial in Marietta, Georgia. The marker had been removed because of road reconstruction.
Leo Frank, a Jewish factory manager, was found guilty in the 1913 killing of Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old employee.
Emotions ran high among the local citizens. Although evidence indicated that the custodian was the more likely killer, Frank’s religion and position probably worked against him.
The judge, feeling pressured, found Frank guilty, but gave him a life sentence instead of the death penalty.
The townsfolk had other ideas. Frank was forced out of prison and was hung to death close to where the memorial is now located.
Leo Frank’s innocence is still being sought. He received a full pardon as a result of an unfair trial, but he was never fully exonerated for the crime with which he had been charged.
Seventy years after Frank was murdered, a witness admitted that he had seen the custodian, Jim Conley, carrying the victim’s body the day she died.
He had kept silent for fear of he would be killed if he had spoken up. Conley had been the main witness for the prosecution.
Hopefully, this recent rededication and the efforts of the JASHP and the local Jewish community and friends will eventually result in Frank’s full legal exoneration.
As the rededication ceremony began, word arrived that in a few months, a 30-inch black granite marker would soon be installed next to the Leo Frank Marker, recognizing every person lynched in the United States.
This national anti-lynching memorial honoring over 4,000 victims will have the following inscription, “In respectful memory of the thousands across America, denied justice by lynching, victims of hatred, prejudice and ignorance.”
Markers such as these help us to remember our past so that important people, places and events will not be forgotten.
Admittedly, not every historical marker reflects an important person, place or event.
Texas, with its 16,000 thousand markers, has its share of seemingly insignificant inscriptions, such as “Former site of Bob’s Barber Shop.” But then again, if Bob’s Barber Shop was the only one in town, those folks probably did think it was pretty important.
Historic markers help us to learn and remember our history. Texas and American History textbooks fail to mention the 4,743 lynchings that occurred in the United States from 1882-1968.
More markers cannot erase the evil which occurred, but they can help us to be less ignorant of the truth.

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Don’t let fear block your heart from love

Posted on 13 September 2018 by admin

“Take good care of yourself.” A common phrase with different implications, depending on the context. If we look further, the question becomes what is “the self” — which aspect of you needs attention, and how do you take care of it?
When it comes to physical health, for example, taking care of yourself may mean giving your body what it needs to be strong — making sure to exercise, eating healthy and getting the proper amount of rest and recuperation.
Taking care of yourself mentally entails avoiding negative thinking patterns, being patient with perceived shortcomings — not being too “hard on yourself” and choosing to stay away from toxic characters or activities.
There is an ongoing relationship, an interaction born of tension, whereby one part of us nurtures, neglects or harms another part.
William Faulkner, in his speech at the Nobel Banquet at the City Hall in Stockholm, mentioned “the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself, which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.” Jewish mystical teachings describe this inborn conflict in a broader context, not only as a split within the heart, but as a struggle between two distinct souls inside us, each vying for control over our consciousness, feelings and actions.
In this context, when speaking of a relationship with the “yourself,” the person can look at the godly soul inside with great pain and compassion, realizing how through ignorance or unwise decisions, the most powerful and sublime spark was dragged through the mud, roughed up and suffocated — the imposed environment of a personal exile and prickly path that, if understood properly, would never have been chosen, yet in the long run (after the fact) is paved with lessons and unique opportunities for redemption.
Imagine witnessing an innocent child, who you are entrusted to care for, being beaten up or treated unfairly. You feel sadness, anger and outrage. So too, many of the experiences and emotional traumas people endure, from the moment the soul is thrust into an unfamiliar setting, leave their mark. Much of our drive and ambition — even “standing up for yourself” — is a form of protecting that child inside us who carries memories of the psychological blows and cuts that parents, instructors, peers or the larger world has thrown over the years.
And so, we arrive at the most auspicious time of the Jewish year for repair and new and better beginnings. Superficially, the current buzz words of teshuvah (repentance) and kaparah (atonement) are all about wiping the slate clean, seeking forgiveness from people and from G-d. But, within the broader spiritual framework, these holidays are just as much about reaching a new level of thinking — how we view and relate to ourselves.
In developing our own self-awareness, we automatically discover habits that are totally unworthy of us or decisions that conflict with what we truly value. In this sense, honest introspection can be a tricky maze of memories and emotions. We must tread a fine line between being too frivolous and easily forgiving oneself, dismissing damaging actions with excuses, or holding oneself accountable — a cathartic regret that also allows for letting go afterward, without carrying along the shame or guilt.
The beautiful facet of teshuvah (literally “returning”) and this day of kaparah (“cleansing”) is that whenever you sincerely go through it, it’s done; it counts—even if there will be a relapse.
Yom Kippur is about reconnecting to ideals to fulfill our unique potential. But reconnecting requires change, an internal elevation and willpower. Change begins in the heart. The heart is naturally untamed, always running from place to place, one scene to another, wavering between holy and harmful attractions.
We face critical decisions throughout the day. The power to choose freely stems from a deep level of the soul, but there are two conscious emotions that make tough choices easier.
The mainstay of the “heart” — our emotions and character traits — begins with love and fear. Love drives you to move closer. Fear pulls you away. The natural undeveloped soul applies its power of love to physical pursuits and gratification. Likewise, fear manifests as fear of failure, financial loss, dreading social rejection and so forth.
Inside the rival soul, however, these same traits of love and fear are applied differently. Loves propels us to give, to do good. Fear (of consequences) keep us from doing something immoral or destructive, even when, in the moment, we are pulled toward it.
Throughout the Torah, cultivating these two main emotions in our relationship with G-d is stressed time and again. “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your G-d ask of you? Only that you FEAR the Lord your G-d and LOVE Him (Devarim 10:12)”
The lowest level of fear is anticipation of the consequences — worrying about harm to oneself.
A higher fear is blended within the emotion of love — when you love something enough, you automatically are afraid to be separated from it. In spiritual terms, all sin separates—affecting our soul connection through the display of disloyalty.
Healthy fear, the antidote, comes from the awareness of G-d’s presence, wherein this consciousness creates humility and prevents rash decisions. A more sophisticated development in the emotion is when fear merges to become awe, the overwhelming sense of being minuscule within the face of a much grander force, a feeling that naturally inspires a healthy mix of regret, embarrassment and renewed loyalty — and we are in “the Days of Awe.”
In this era, where spiritual movements and philosophies are explored almost like a hobby or trend, there is plenty of love to go around. Fear, on the other hand, is often misunderstood, looked at as “old school,” or some primitive view of a punitive deity. But in Jewish view, “the beginning of wisdom is the fear of G-d. (Psalms 111:10, Proverbs 9:10)”
This type of fear is not simply watching your back or wondering “what will happen to me?” It stems from an awareness of where we stand. Its taking that same natural emotion and directing it where it belongs: to the primary mover of the universe, the source of life.
In kabalistic terminology, fear and love are the two wings that lift us beyond the animal world. Embracing love without fear, or vice versa, the soul attempts to soar with only one wing.
The deeper accomplishment during these “Days of Awe” is removing the blockage over the heart and soul to reveal the latent love and fear. Being able to feel healthy emotions is itself a gift, but this gift only comes as a response to our toil during these times—through teshuvah (regret and resolve), tefillah (prayer and attachment), tzedakah (charity and community work)—determining the fruitfulness in all areas for the coming year.
Rabbi Dan Lewin is director of the nonprofit Maayan Chai Foundation. For information, visit www.maayanchai.org.

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Apologies to those I’ve offended

Posted on 13 September 2018 by admin

“‘You are old, Father William,’ the young man said, ‘and your hair is exceedingly white. But yet you continue to stand on your head. Do you think at your age this is right?’”
These words are from “Alice in Wonderland.” I surely qualify as old at 84, and my hair goes with it. But I have never stood on my head in my whole long life (although once I was able to lie flat on my back and touch my toes to the floor behind my head).
Still, as we journey through these Ten Days of Teshuvah, I make the head-banging effort of making things right with those I have wronged during the past year. Our tradition tells us that T’filla – Tzedakah – and Teshuvah may avert the stern decree. The first is easy enough; I’ve been praying since Selichot. The second: I open my pocketbook as widely as I can. But the third is the hardest: there are so many deserving my apologies.
So I’m starting with a group shoutout to all of you who read me weekly: I know I‘ve written things that annoy you, that you don’t agree with or that sometimes (not too frequently, I hope) even offend. So although I cannot say I’m sorry for having written them – because part of a columnist’s calling is the hope that words will stimulate thoughts and reactions, both positive and negative – I do ask forgiveness for any mental discomfort I’ve caused. (Remember: I love to hear from those of you who disagree as well as those who don’t.)
There’s a little Rosh Hashanah ditty that used to be a staple song for Jewish preschoolers. Its words are wonderfully simple: “Let’s be friends and make amends. Now’s the time to say ‘I’m sorry.’ Take my hand and I’ll take yours – Let’s be friends for always.” I’ve always thought we adults can learn a lesson from this, the essence of these 10 penitential days, which — if we’re honest with ourselves — are never enough for all our necessary apologizing.
Myself, I wonder if it’s too late to apologize for errors of all kinds — not just in the past year, but far before that. It seems the older I get, the more my hair turns into that of Father William, the more I remember what I’m truly sorry for. And sometimes, it’s too late to offer a personal “I’m sorry.” But I think that may be part of what Kever Avot is for; when I visit the cemetery as the New Year approaches, I tell my sorry stories to those who no longer walk this earth, hoping that they can hear me anyway and forgive me.
It’s a rule of nature, a law of life: people who actively interact with others make mistakes and need to say they’re sorry. The only way to avoid Teshuvah is to have lived as a hermit for the past year without saying a word to anyone. But that has never been our Jewish way of life. We are a people, each one responsible in a very subtle but very true and vital way for every other. When we give money to our Federations, we’re helping to shoulder that responsibility. Example: Although we can’t personally apologize to every Israeli for our stateside disagreements with their country’s policies, our Tzdakah helps take care of their real, personal needs.
Well, the Ten Days are half gone already, and I still have a lot of apologizing to do, so I’d better get busy telling many other folks what I’m sorry for, and how sorry I am, and how I want to be connected – to hold hands like preschoolers and sing “let’s be friends for always.” I hope my conscience will be clear enough to stand with my congregation on Yom Kippur, as together we can ask God’s forgiveness because we’ve first obtained it from our fellows. May we all live long enough to apologize again next year.

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Some special gifts for your Rosh Hashanah hosts

Some special gifts for your Rosh Hashanah hosts

Posted on 07 September 2018 by admin

Photo: Marco Beltrametti/Wikimedia Commons)
Apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah: So why not provide the honey?

By MJL Staff

(My Jewish Learning via JTA) — Invited to someone’s house for a Rosh Hashanah meal and looking for an appropriate gift? In addition to the always appreciated flowers or bottle of wine, here are some other must-have (or must-give) items for the Jewish New Year.
If you’re drawn to the edible items on this list, we recommend you check ahead of time whether your host keeps kosher or has other dietary restrictions.
Jewish calendars
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year after all, and every year needs a calendar. While many, if not most, people rely on digital calendars for day-to-day scheduling, a pretty wall calendar makes a nice decoration and can help keep the household organized. Most Jewish calendars sold in the United States list secular dates as well as Hebrew ones (including all the holidays, of course), and run through the end of the next Gregorian year. (So one that starts with Rosh Hashanah in 2017 will last you until December 2018.) You can find a wide selection online and in Judaica stores and bookstores.
Someone with an artistic bent or who enjoys the stress relief that comes with coloring might enjoy a coloring-book calendar featuring intricate Judaic motifs such as Jewish stars and Hanukkah menorahs. And one from New York’s Jewish Museum showcases a variety of paintings, sculptures and ceremonial objects from its collection.
Jewish cookbooks
If your host invited you over for a home-cooked meal, he or she probably likes to cook. The four books listed here were published within the last couple of years, so there’s a good chance your host doesn’t yet own them — and what better than a cookbook to subtly convey to your host that you’d love more holiday meal invitations? (Find more Jewish cookbook suggestions here.)
“Modern Jewish Baker: Challah, Babka, Bagels & More” is written by Shannon Sarna, the editor of The Nosher food blog, part of the 70 Faces Media family that includes My Jewish Learning. In this gorgeous book, she pays homage to Jewish baking traditions while re-invigorating them with modern flavors and new ideas.
The mother-daughter team of Gabrielle Rossmer Gropman and Sonya Gropman in “The German-Jewish Cookbook: Recipes and History of a Cuisine” features recipes for German-Jewish cuisine as it existed in Germany before World War II, and as refugees later adapted it in the United States and elsewhere. The dishes are a departure from better-known Eastern European Jewish fare and focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Israeli baker Uri Scheft’s “Breaking Breads: A New World of Israeli Baking” offers sweet and savory recipes for European, Israeli and Middle Eastern favorites.
For vegan cooks — or those who often have a vegan family member or guest at their table — “The Superfun Times Vegan HolidayCookbook: Entertaining for Absolutely Every Occasion” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz offers meat- and dairy- and egg-free recipes for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (break-the-fast), as well as dishes for a variety of other Jewish and non-Jewish holidays.
Honey dishes
It is traditional to dip apples in honey on Rosh Hashanah, and a special honey dish can add extra beauty to the practice. We like a stainless steel and glass one that says “Shana Tova Umetuka” (a good and sweet new year) in Hebrew and a Rosh Hashanah apple plate and honey dish set with a pomegranate design available in red, blue and gray.
Food
Why dip good apples and challah in mediocre honey? The Savannah Bee Company, a gourmet honey purveyor, sells a variety of beautifully packaged artisanal honeys, including several variety packs. Or encourage your host to sample some raw honeycomb. The company also sells numerous other honey-based products, like body lotions and soaps. All their honey is KSA kosher-certified.
For Rosh Hashanah, Zingerman’s, a Michigan deli and mail-order gourmet superstore, bakes its own honey cakes, round challahs, mandelbrot and rugelach, and sells an array of gourmet honeys from around the world.
Love marzipan? Try Rosh Hashanah “Marzipops.” A gift set of these marzipan lollipops contains 10 lollipops: two each of a honeypot, a red apple, a challah, a pomegranate and a shofar. They are gluten-free and vegan, but are not certified kosher.
Assorted items
Barbara’s Gifts is based in Israel but ships to the United States. Its Rosh Hashanah gift box contains a pomegranate hand towel, pomegranate challah cover, Jewish calendar tea towel, pomegranate-shaped trivet, pomegranate fabric placemats, a pomegranate notepad and set of Rosh Hashanah greeting cards.
If your host likes scented candles, try an apples-and-honey one. Just make sure you don’t try to eat it after reading the description: “Brown sugar glazed apples blended with warm cinnamon, golden clove and grated nutmeg wrapped in sweet caramel honey drizzles and hints of pure maple syrup.” You can also find a variety of pomegranate-scented candles here.
Off the beaten path
Who doesn’t need a Rosh Hashanah-themed smartphone cover/case? Luxlady offers some in various sizes for popular iPhone and Android models.
Children and adults alike will enjoy accessorizing with High Holiday-themed nail decals from Midrash Manicures.
Nothing quite right? Try searching for Rosh Hashanah on Etsy or visit The Sabra Patch, an Etsy-like online store for Israeli artists. Whatever you buy, best wishes for a sweet and Happy New Year!

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High Holidays vocabulary

High Holidays vocabulary

Posted on 07 September 2018 by admin

Photo: Prisma/UIG via Getty Images
A page from a Machzor dating from the beginning of 14th century

By My Jewish Learning Staff

(MJL via JTA) — Here are some important Hebrew words and terms you may encounter over the High Holiday season.
Akedah — Pronounced ah-keh-DAH. Literally “binding,” the Akedah refers to the biblical story of the binding of Isaac, which is traditionally read on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.
Chag sameach — Pronounced KHAG sah-MAY-akh. Literally “happy holiday,” a common greeting on Rosh Hashanah and other Jewish holidays.
Elul — Pronounced el-OOL (oo as in food). The final month of the Jewish calendar, it is designated as a time of reflection, introspection and repentance.
Het (also chet) — Pronounced KHET (short e). Sin, or wrongdoing.
L’shanah tovah u’metukah — Pronounced l’shah-NAH toe-VAH ooh-meh-too-KAH. A Hebrew greeting for the High Holidays season that means “For a good and sweet year.”
Machzor — Pronounced MAHKH-zohr. Literally “cycle,” the machzor is the special prayer book for the High Holidays containing all the special liturgy.
Selichot — Pronounced slee-KHOTE. Literally “forgivenesses,” selichot are prayers for forgiveness. Selichot refers to two related types of penitential prayers: the prayers that customarily are recited daily at morning services during the month of Elul, as well as the name of the service late at night on the Saturday preceding Rosh Hashanah consisting of a longer series of these penitential prayers.
Shofar — Pronounced shoh-FAR or SHOH-far (rhymes with “so far”). The ram’s horn that is sounded during the month of Elul, on Rosh Hashanah and at the end of Yom Kippur. It is mentioned numerous times in the Bible in reference to its ceremonial use in the Temple and to its function as a signal horn of war.
Tashlich — Pronounced TAHSH-likh. Literally “cast away,” Tashlich is a ceremony observed on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah in which sins are symbolically cast away into a natural body of water. The term and custom are derived from a verse in the Book of Micah (7:19).
Teshuvah — Pronounced tih-SHOO-vuh. Literally “return,” teshuvah is often translated as “repentance.” It is one of the central themes and spiritual components of the High Holidays.
Tishrei — Pronounced TISH-ray. The first month in the Hebrew calendar, during which Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot all occur.
Unetaneh Tokef — Pronounced ooh-nuh-TAH-neh TOH-keff. Literally “we shall ascribe,” a religious poem recited during the Musaf (additional service) Amidah that is meant to strike fear in us.
Yamim Noraim — Pronounced yah-MEEM nohr-ah-EEM. Literally “Days of Awe,” a term that refers to the High Holidays season. Sometimes it is used to refer to the 10 days from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur, which are also known as the Aseret Yimei Teshuvah, or the 10 Days of Repentance.
Yom tov — Pronounced YOHM TOHV or YON-tiff. This is a general term for the major Jewish festivals.

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