Near San Francisco, Karaite Jews keep an ancient movement alive … – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

It is a custom among Karaite Jews to pray kneeling on the ground, as seen here in the sanctuary of Congregation Bnai Israel in Daly City, Calif. (Courtesy of Karaite Jews of America)

DALY CITY, Calif. (J. The Jewish News of Northern California via JTA) Show up on a Shabbat morning at Congregation Bnai Israel in this Northern California suburb and, if youre a typical American Jew, you will see plenty thats familiar.

At the front of the sanctuary is an ark, and inside the ark are several Torah scrolls. There is a memorial wall at the back listing the names of the communitys lost loved ones. Near the entrance is a rack of tallitot, or prayer shawls.

But before you come in, you must remove your shoes, as Moses did when he approached the Burning Bush. Examine the rack of tallitot and you will find that the fringes are dyed, knotted and wrapped in an unusual way. In front of the pews is an open space covered in rugs. Some worshippers sit or kneel on the floor; when they bow, they touch their heads to the ground. The prayers follow a unique structure, and the sound is very Middle Eastern.

Bnai Israel is the only Karaite synagogue in North America, serving the Diasporas largest community of Jews carrying on the traditions of a movement that diverged from the rabbinic mainstream as far back as the eighth century C.E. About 800 members live within driving distance of the synagogue.

Karaite Jews differ from Rabbanite Jews, as Karaites call Jews who follow rabbinic tradition, in that they rely on what is written in the Torah and reject practices and interpretations derived from the oral law the Talmud and other rabbinic literature. The two communities coexisted until the 10th century, when the (Rabbanite) sage Saadia Gaon denounced Karaites as apostates and sought to exclude them from the Jewish community. Relationships between the two Jewish communities have varied across time and place, but the initial antagonism has long colored the relationship.

In the Bay Area, where few Rabbanite Jews are aware of Karaite Judaism, the relationship is cordial, though not always close on an institutional level. But on a personal level, many Karaite Jews are involved with the wider Bay Area Jewish community. Many have had bar and bat mitzvahs in Rabbanite synagogues.

Still, Bnai Israels is a small, closely knit community drawn together by the Egyptian ancestry of many of its members as well as their Karaite practice. Like many other small Jewish communities, they are concerned about the future. Who will induct their children and other interested Jews into Karaite traditions?

To ensure that future, the congregation has embarked on a relatively small construction project that will have a large and visible impact on their community: They are renovating their existing 3,500-square-foot prefab building and creating a 1,000-square-foot Karaite Jewish Cultural Center,attached to the synagogue, which will serve as a combination education program, museum and social center.

There is a Karaite Heritage Center in Israel, but this will be the only similar institution in the Diaspora.

For a community this small, a lot is riding on the project.

If this current generation of Karaite Jews in the United States fails, itll be very difficult to kick-start the movement in any organized fashion, said Shawn Lichaa, a pillar of the local Karaite community.

Karaite practice is usually defined byits differences with rabbinic Judaism, whose acceptance ofthe orallaw is considered foundational by Orthodox, Conservativeand Reform Jews, even if Reform Judaism does not consider its rules binding.

Karaite Torah scrolls are stored in the Eastern style, with the scroll enclosed in a hard case. (David A.M. Wilensky)

The rabbinic kosherpractice of not mixing milk and meat, for example, is derived from fairly limited verses in the Bible that one should not cook a young goat in its mothers milk. The rabbinic traditionexpanded the prohibition to prevent the mixing and consumption of any kind of dairy with any kind of meat, including chicken, and created an array of laws about separating cooking utensilsandwaiting between eating meatand dairy.

In the Karaite view of kashrut, one may mix meat and dairy products that come from different animals, and each community and individual has autonomy to decide how strict or lax to be. Karaites also do not accept rabbinic loopholes that ease various Shabbat restrictions. Karaite Jews have embraced some Rabbanite traditions, such as bnai mitzvah, while rejecting others, such as celebrating Hanukkah (which marks events that occurred 1,000 years after those described in the Torah).

Karaites also include a blue strand in their tzitzit, giving their tallitot a distinctive look and informing the name ofA Blue Thread, Lichaas long-running blog on Karaite Judaism.

In the Bnai Israel sanctuary, most women sit off to one side, though there is no mechitza to separate them formally from the men. As each Karaite community is empowered to set its own standards, American mores rubbed off on the community, and some women now prefer to sit in the main area.

Today there are an estimated 30,000 Karaite Jews in Israel, 1,500 in the United States and small communities in places like France, England, Turkey and Russia. But until the mid-20th century, many lived in Arab lands. For centuries, one of the most prominent Karaite communities in the world was in Cairo, where the first Bay Area Karaites came from. Cairo once had a Karaite quarter of about 5,000 people adjacent to the mainstream Jewish quarter. Relations between Karaite and Rabbanite Jews in Cairo were close; the Cairo Genizah, a vast store of Jewish writings discovered in a Rabbanite synagogue in Cairo in the 19th century, included a number of Karaite documents.

In what Karaites sometimes call the second exodus, they left Egypt en masse during the last century afterIsrael became a state in 1948. More left after the 1956 Sinai War. During the 1967 Six-Day War, the remaining Jewish men in Egypt were put in camps, where they were held for over two years; they were the last to leave. Over the years mostly because of relatives already in the Bay Area many of the Egyptian Karaite Jews wound up here.

A rack of prayer shawls at Congregation Bnai Israel shows the unique style of tzitzit used by Karaite Jews. (David A.M. Wilensky)

In 1994, the Bay Area Karaite community bought the Daly City building from an existing Congregation Bnai Israel that was closing. The Karaite congregation adopted the name Bnai Israel because it was already painted on the side of the building.

The cultural center would have been no more than a dream were it not for the fortuitous union, in their 60s, of David Ovadia and Maryellen Himell-Ovadia, who are leading the fundraising and renovation efforts. Ovadia is a Karaite Jew by heritage and a structural engineer by training; Himell-Ovadia is a former member of San Franciscos Congregation Emanu-El and an experienced fundraiser.

Ovadia came to the Bay Area from Egypt at age 13 in 1963.

During that time, a lot of my other uncles and everybody else was feeling the pressure and everything that was going on in Egypt, he said.

While others in his community have feared for its future, Ovadias faith never wavered.

I never doubted that this is going to continue, he said. This is making sure that there is going to be a tradition kept alive. We will live for a thousand years and more.

Himell-Ovadia sees herself as part of a bridge between the Karaite and mainstream Jewish communities of the Bay Area a bridge that she hopes will grow.

This is not just about improving or facilitating things within the Karaite community, but to build bridges to the larger world and to make this a welcoming place for others who want to come and learn about this unique culture within the branches of the Jewish family tree, she said.

With groundbreaking set for the end of this month, the Bnai Israel community has already raised $1.1 million of its $1.2 million goal. The cultural center campaign is an approved grantee of the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federations donor-advised funds, though it only accounts for a small percentage of the money raised. In about six weeks, the congregation will move out of its building and be hosted by other congregations until the High Holidays, when it expects to be back home again.

A Blue Thread blogger Lichaa, 37, is also the creator of the Karaite Press. Launched in February 2016 with the publication of a 12th-century Karaite commentary on the Book of Esther, the Karaite Press aims to make great historical Karaite writings many of them written in Arabic and until now locked up in manuscript form available to the global Karaite community and the public at large.

Lichaa, a San Francisco native and the son of Karaite parents from Cairo, grew up in Foster City, where he attended Hebrew school at Peninsula Sinai Congregation.

In Cairo, members of the Karaite community lived close together. But, Lichaa said, When we came to the U.S. we didnt have proximity, a central place where a critical mass lived where we could do education with our own teachers. The easiest thing to do was join local synagogues.

Today, the Daly City congregation offers some education programs, but none specifically for kids.

We do train them in prayers, one on one. I do some of that, Lichaa said.

A recent bar mitzvah at Bnai Israel was a major affair, drawing a crowd of 150 to the small sanctuary.

The new center will offer a range of programs, everything from cooking classes, history classes, to arts, he said. I see a Tuesday night open house where were open to the community. People can drop by, there will be food and beverages. And maybe Thursday nights well have a specific learning opportunity.

Lichaa is working to make sure all of the classes will be live-streamed, making the learning available to a wide audience.

The center also will include a rotating exhibit of Karaite Torah scrolls, art, manuscripts and the like.

Lichaa views himself as Jewish first and Karaite second.

I made an active decision that my preferred form of Judaism is Karaite Judaism, he said. If youre an Orthodox Jew, I understand why you follow the rabbinic tradition. But for everyone else, I wonder why Karaite Judaism cant be one of the menu options.

Read more here:
Near San Francisco, Karaite Jews keep an ancient movement alive … – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff: February 23, 2017 – Haaretz

David Magerman confronts boss over Trump support | Ellison clarifies past comments | NORPAC defends Menendez | Sous-Vide Gefilte Fish?

Have our people email your people. Share this sign up link with your friends

WOW — Incredible Read: “‘You Have to Stop, Renaissance Executive David Magerman Tells Boss About Trump Support” by Gregory Zuckerman: “David Magerman says he was in his home office in suburban Philadelphia earlier this month when the phone rang. His boss, hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer, was on the line.I hear youre going around saying Im a white supremacist, Mr. Mercer said. Thats ridiculous. …Those werent my exact words, Mr. Magerman said he told Mr. Mercer, stammering and then explaining his concerns about Mr. Trumps policy positions, rhetoric and cabinet choices. If what youre doing is harming the country then you have to stop.

“Until now, however, nobody within the tight-lipped hedge fund has gone public with a grievance.His views show contempt for the social safety net that he doesnt need, but many Americans do, said Mr. Magerman, 48 years old, during an interview with The Wall Street Journal at the Dairy Caf, a kosher restaurant he owns in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. Now hes using the money I helped him make to implement his worldview by supporting Mr. Trump and encouraging that government be shrunk down to the size of a pinhead.Mr. Magerman, a 20-year Renaissance veteran who helped design the funds trading systems, says he is speaking only for himself, and that there is no sign of a broad insurrection at the firm.”

“Mr. Magerman makes millions of dollars a year, drives a Tesla and says he gives more than $10 million in charity annually. A research scientist, he is one of 100 partners at the firm, but he isnt one of Renaissances most senior executives.Id like to think Im speaking out in a way that wont risk my job, but its very possible they could fire me, he said. My wife isnt comfortable with me jeopardizing my job, but she realizes its my prerogative and agrees with my sentiments.Mr. Magerman has one idea that would reduce the power of people like Mr. Mercer. He said he was thinking about reaching out to Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) to craft proposals to reduce speculative trading, which presumably would curtail Renaissances profits.This is my lifes workI ran a group that wrote the trading system they still use, he said. But I feel relieved Im now doing something, and if they fire me, maybe its for the best.” [WSJ]

–Flashback: “The Controversial David Magerman” by Simon Van Zuylen-Wood in September 2013:”Wealthy Main Liner David Magerman has given millions to Philadelphias Jewish community. The Jewish community is thankful. Sort of.” [PhillyMag]

DNC WATCH — Yesterday, at the final debate ahead of the election for Chairman of the Democratic National Committee taking place on Saturday, Rep. Keith Ellison addressed past comments, including praise forLouis Farrakhan, controversialviews towards the Jewish community and his position on the U.S.- Israel relationship, that havecaused many establishment Jewish Democrats to oppose his candidacy.

These are false allegations, Ellison said when asked about his past comments thirteenminutes into the live TV debate in Atlanta, and that’s why I have 300 rabbis and Jewish community leaders who have signed a letter supporting me I have a long, strong history of interfaith dialogue, interfaith communication, and that’s why in my own community, I have strong support from the Jewish community. So these are smears and we’re fighting back every day, but we’re fighting back with people who know us. I just want to say, it is critical that we speak up against this anti-Semitism because right now, you have Jewish cemeteries being defaced and desecrated. Right now, you have Jewish institutions getting bomb threats. We have to stand with the Jewish community right here, right now, four square, and that’s what the Democratic Party is all about.

Ellison on Democratic concerns of his Israel record: Here’s what I say, I voted for $27 billion in bilateral aid to Israel over the course of about six or seven votes. I have been to the region many times and sat down with members of the Knesset and worked with them. I’ve been a stalwart champion of the two-state solution, which means that we’ve got to have Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security. And I have made that a very key cornerstone of my advocacy I believe that the U.S.-Israel relationship is special and important. I’ve stood for that principle my whole service and my whole career. And you can trust when I’m the DNC chair that that relationship will continue. We will maintain the bipartisan consensus of U.S. support for Israel if I’m the DNC chair. [YouTube]

INTERVIEW — JI’s Aaron Magid spoke withNORPACNational President Ben Chouakewho spoke out againstattacks on Sen. Bob Menendez for questioningDavid Friedman, while implying concerns around dual loyalty,during theSenate Foreign Relations Committee hearing last week.

“Out of all the Democratic Senators, by far, Senator Menendez posed the most generous and friendly questions to Mr. Friedman,” Chouake told Jewish Insider in a phone interview on Wednesday. “He was trying to help Mr. Friedman explain himself and give him a lay-up so that he could bat it out of the park. The intention of Senator Menendez was to get reassurance from Mr. Friedman that he could do his job given his passion…Its horrible and inappropriate because Senator Menendez is the exact opposite of anti-Semitic. I am working with this guy for 20 years. He is the go to person in the Senate. He is the person who spends day and night fighting for us. How do you accuse someone like that of anti-Semitism? The guy took a bullet for us on Iran.”

Chouake on ADL’s deleted tweet criticizing Menendez: “Why did they delete it unless they thought they were wrong. You dont delete stuff that you think is right. The guy asked a question. I dont know if it was perfectly posed or not. His questioning to Mr. Friedman was very friendly. By far the most friendly Democrat on the panel. I think he was trying to help him. You have to look at everything in the context of what it is and the person who was asking. If I asked the same question, would you call me an anti-Semite? So, why are you calling him an anti-Semite?”

OnFriedman as Ambassador to Israel: “I support him because he is committed to the issue and will do a good job. He is also a member of NORPAC. The problem was that he speaks awfully harshly about certain things. He apologized for it and thats good. His heart is great. I like him and know the guy.” Read the entire interview here [Jewish Insider]

DRIVING THIS WEEKEND: Pence, Adelson to meet privately by Theodore Schleifer: …a meeting that cements the Republican billionaire’s place as a key adviser to the new administration. Pence, who is speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition that meets at Adelson’s hotel and casino in Las Vegas, The Venetian, will chat formally with Adelson just before he addresses the entire RJC on Friday evening, according to a source with knowledge of the meeting. [CNN]

–We’re told prior to Pence’s remarks at Shabbat dinner, the RJC will be hosting Friday evening prayer services with expected participation from over 150 attendees.

Pence makes stop at Jewish cemetery in Missouri where gravestones were toppled by John Wagner: From the heart, theres no place in America for hatred or acts of prejudice or violence or anti-Semitism, Pence said from the bed of a pickup truck, speaking through a bullhorn at an event organized to clean up the damage. I must tell you, the people of Missouri are inspiring the nation by your love and care for this place, for the Jewish community in Missouri Pence made his unadvertised visit to the cemetery shortly after delivering a speech… on the economy…We condemn this vile act of vandalism and those who perpetrated it in the strongest possible terms, he said While at the cemetery on Wednesday, Pence also heard a prayer from a rabbi and joined Gov. Eric Greitens (R) in clearing brush. [WashPost]

— From WH pool report: Anti-Defamation League Regional Director Karen Aroesty spoke to Pence briefly just before he hopped onto the bed of the pickup. She said. “I want to thank you for being here and thank the president for his words. We look forward to doing whatever we can to help. We’re a resource for you if you want. Being here today is important for a lot of people.” “I didn’t want to miss coming,” Pence said As Pence walked away from delivering remarks he greeted people who had come to the cemetery to volunteer. Many thanked him for being there and the message that sent. One woman asked him how the travel ban was any different than the desecration of the cemetery.

WATCH: Marc Daniels, the Kippah Guy, gives Pence a red Trump/Pence yarmulke (minute 03:26) and gets a hug in return [YouTube; Pic]

A bipartisan letter signed by 150 Democratic and Republican House Members, including Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who is running for Chairman of the Democratic National Committee on Saturday, calls on the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to take swift action against the bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers (JCC) across the country. We urge the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to swiftly assess the situation and to advise Congress on what specific steps are being taken, or will be taken, to deter such threats from being made, to identify and prosecute the perpetrators for violations of federal criminal laws, and to enable JCCs to enhance security measures such as physical barriers and guards, in the event that an individual seeks to act upon these threats, the letter states. This is not an idle concern, given that there have been at least three casualty-causing attacks at JCCs or other Jewish institutions in the last two decades. This is a national problem and, as such, it requires a national solution. the letter notes. [JewishInsider]

“Clearly, the Trump administration has a problem with Jews” by Bernard-Henri Levy: “I had no idea how right I was, a month ago, when I wrote in The New York Times that American Jews should be wary of their new President…At best, Mr. Netanyahu will go down as a very distant relative of Joseph making an alliance with Pharaoh to protect his people.But we know how that story ends: just as a new pharaoh “arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph” and reduced his descendants to slavery, so, sooner or later, a new president will arise over America.Leading, according to the Talmud, to two equally tragic scenarios.Either the newcomer is indeed a new pharaoh and will associate the Jews with the predecessor whose cause and destiny they so recklessly embraced.Or, as the sages say, he is the same pharaoh but has changed sides. Translating this into present-day terms, the unpredictable Mr. Trump becomes another Mr. Trump; he makes a 180-degree perspective shift in his vision of the Jewish world; and he turns against an Israel about which, at bottom, he cares not a whit and which, therefore, has everything to fear, beginning right here and now, from his cynical “pragmatism.”" [CNN] A CNN panel debates the presidents anti-Semitism trump card: His daughter Ivanka [WashPost]

In Israel, Some Wonder Where The Outrage Is Over U.S. Anti-Semitic Acts by Daniel Estrin: Netanyahu’s muted response has drawn criticism, including from Yehuda Bauer, the academic advisor of Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial and museum. “He follows President Trump,” Bauer says. “He did not react immediately.” A former adviser to Netanyahu, Dore Gold, says he doesn’t see anything wrong with Netanyahu’s response. “There has been a tendency to politicize this whole issue of anti-Semitism in America,” he says. “Opponents of the Trump administration want to blame it for anti-Semites coming out of the woodwork and attacking Jewish institutions. I think we should all be united in our struggle against anti-Semitism, and not look for a fall guy for what is happening.” [NPR]

TALK OF THE TOWN: Anti-Defamation League Receives Bomb Threat at National Headquarters in New York by Roseanne Colletti: The bomb threat to the Third Avenue office was anonymous, according to ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt Police say they got a call about it shortly before noon. An investigation found it not credible. “It’s a frightening moment and it reminds us that the haters and the bigots, they hide in the shadows like cowards and they seek to terrorize us because of our faith,” Greenblatt said on MSNBC Wednesday Gov. Cuomo called the pattern a “national crisis” and directed the New York State Police to coordinate with federal and local law enforcement in the investigation. “We are treating these incidents for what they are — as crimes — and we will not allow them to go unpunished,” Cuomo said in a statement. [NBC4]

HAPPENING TODAY: Governor Andrew Cuomo will hold a roundtable with Jewish Community and interfaith leaders at the Museum of Jewish Heritage at 2:00 pm EST followed by a press statement.

“Bill Kristol: Hill Republicans asking if they can survive four years of Trump” by Tim Skoczek:”I think if you talk privately to Republicans on the Hill, it’s like, ‘Oh my God, what is going on? Can we survive this for four years?’” Kristol told David Axelrod on “The Axe Files” …A well-known proponent of a muscular US foreign policy, Kristol also expressed a deep concern with Trump’s “America first” philosophy, which Kristol said signals America’s withdrawal from an unstable world in need of its leadership. The reassurance Kristol found in some of Trump’s Cabinet appointments, he said, has dissipated as Trump navigates the complexities of foreign diplomacy with a worrying degree of impulsiveness and bombast. “I’ve got to say, this first month has been very unnerving to me and to many, many others,” Kristol said.” [CNN]

TRUMP TEAM: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Sees Tax Overhaul by August by Rebecca Ballhaus and Nick Timiraos: In his first week on the job, Mr. Mnuchin has spoken with around 10 foreign counterparts and other leaders The secretary has been in close contact with National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, his former colleague at Goldman Sachs Group Inc… The two men have a close relationship, a Treasury official said. [WSJ]

McMaster May Reorganize Trumps Foreign Policy Team Once Again by Peter Baker: Left uncertain is what, if anything, will happen regarding Stephen K. Bannon, the presidents chief strategist, who has played a major role in shaping foreign policy Since arriving this week, Mr. McMaster has made a point of going door to door through the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where most national security aides work, to introduce himself and build relations, current and former officials said. [NYTimes]

Tillerson looking for ways to raise his public profile by Nahal Toosi: Tillerson is clearly a very talented and able guy, said Eliot Cohen, a former State official… The problem is that this is the Trump administration, and one has to surmise that he is not where the president is on some of his zanier days. Meanwhile, several dozen Trump-appointed political staffers have arrived in Foggy Bottom Its like high school, said the State official familiar with Tillersons media request. The Trump people all sit together at the tables at lunch. The State Departments ego has been bruised by how rarely Tillerson has appeared alongside Trump. Sources have told POLITICO that the secretary of state was never consulted when Trump, in an appearance with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, dropped the U.S. commitment to a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. Tillerson also was on a trip to Europe when Netanyahu was in Washington, D.C., missing an opportunity for an important visual. [Politico] Rex Tillerson: The silent man at the State Department [CBSNews]

Rex Tillerson Is Already Underwater by Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky: At the moment, however, neither the headlines nor the trend lines look all that good for Tillerson. The secretary of state has options to play a more influential role under these unhappy circumstances, but, frankly, none of them are all that good. Unless his boss empowers him, Tillerson wont have the street cred he needs at home and abroad to emerge as a truly consequential secretary of state. [PoliticoMag]

How Ivanka Trump is rebranding herself as the grown up First Daughter of America” byAnne McElvoy:”An Arabic speaker Egyptian by birth, with a network of top contacts in the Middle East from her days working for the Bush administration [Dina] Powell is, in effect, chief adviser to Ivanka, with a powerful Rolodex of her own across the main parties in Washington. There is speculation that Ivanka is assembling a squad to balance the shoot-from-the-hip ideologists close to her father, to appeal to women who may not be Trump fans but are quietly unconvinced by the liberal feminist arguments against him.” [EveningStandard]Inside Ivanka Trumps Campaign for a $500 Billion Child-Care Plan [Bloomberg]

TRUMP ECHO CHAMBER: How Trumps campaign staffers tried to keep him off Twitter by Tara Palmeri: “If candidate Trump was upset about unfair coverage, it was productive to show him that he was getting fair coverage from outlets that were persuadable,” said former communications director Sam Nunberg I would assume the president would like to see positive and preferential treatment from those outlets and that would help the operation overall.” A former senior campaign official said Nunberg and his successor, former communications director Jason Miller, were particularly skilled at using alternative media like Breitbart, Washington Examiner, Infowars and the Daily Caller to show Trump positive coverage. [Politico]

“Is Trump Worse Than a Liar?” by David Suissa: It’s still possible, of course, that despite all the bullshit, some good can come out. Trump may deter evil regimes, support key allies, negotiate better deals, destroy ISIS and add millions of jobs. If he gets out of the way, some members of his team may score a few policy victories. But let’s be frank — for any initiative that will demand deep and grounded thinking from the man on top, it will be touch and go Trump has brought his bullshit ways into the White House, creating a chaotic reality show that chronicles his alternate reality. As long as he keeps believing in this reality, and getting away with it, all we can expect is that, for better or for worse, the show will go on. [JewishJournal]

KAFE KNESSET –Netanyahu adds another stop to his busy itinerary — by Tal Shalev:Far away from the troubling reality of criminal probes and political hazards, Netanyahu appears to be enjoying the Grand World BB tour. Currently enjoying the summer sun in Sydney, Australia, the PM announced he will be flying to Moscow in two weeks time. He will meet with President Putin to discuss Israel’sconcerns about Syria and Iran. The Russian trip will be the sixth that Netanyahu is taking during February and March. After London, DC, Singapore and Sydney this month, Netanyahu will be spending most of March abroad as well, traveling to Beijing and then back to DC for AIPAC after visiting Moscow. All of the trips have huge strategic and economic significance, but as a senior political figure told Kafe Knesset today, it looks like Netanyahu is really trying not to be here. In the wake of the ongoing criminal investigations and political rivals who are waiting to attack, Netanyahu appears to prefer the smiling photo ops with world leaders. He is diverting the public agenda towards statesmanship, an arena in which he has no visible competition to date. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset [JewishInsider]

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM — Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Trumps settlements policy: “The people working on it are Jason Greenblatt on behalf of Trump and our US ambassador, Ron Dermer. They are both religious Jews. It is impossible to describe either of them as some leftist enemy of Israel We have to reach an understanding and arrangement with the Americans. What people dont realize is that we dont have the option of getting into a quarrel with the Trump administration. We already had eight years of quarrels and conflicts with the Obama administration. That is enough. [Al-Monitor]

Parents of slain Israeli soldier meet US envoy at UN by Danielle Ziri: During their meeting, the Goldin family requested that Ambassador [Nikki] Haley assist in their efforts for the return of the bodies of their son [Hadar] and Sgt. Oron Shaul, also held in Gaza, for burial in Israel A spokesperson for the US Mission to the UN said that during the meeting, Ambassador Haley pledged to advocate on behalf of Hadar Goldin and work with Leah and Simcha as well as the Israeli Mission, and other US partners at the UN for the return of Hadar to his family. [JPost]

ON THE HILL: Graham to Introduce Bill Cutting Palestinian Aid by Aaron Magid: The office of Senator Lindsey Graham announced on Wednesday that the South Carolina Republican lawmaker would introduce legislation next week to cut off US assistance to the Palestinian Authority This legislation would cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority (PA) if they continue their policy of paying monetary rewards to terrorists and their surviving family members, according to the Graham press release. [JewishInsider]

** Good Thursday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff?Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? Wed love to hear from you.Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com**

BUSINESS BRIEFS:Starbucks’ brand perception has plummeted since it announced plan to hire refugees [BI] Wells Fargos independent directors hire Norman Brownstein’s lobbying firm [FT] British Startup Bank Turns to Ivanka Trumps Brother-in-Law [WSJ] Paul Singer is taking the attack on his latest target to the next level [Yahoo]

A legendary deal-maker was asked about the one mistake he made again and again, and his answer was brutal by Frank Chaparro: Henry Kravis is a Wall Street legend. The firm he founded with his cousin George Roberts in 1976, KKR, now manages $130 billion In an interview with Kip McDaniel at Institutional Investor, Kravis was asked to identify a mistake he repeated during his 40 years at KKR. His answer was pretty brutal Here’s what Kravis had to say “We might have been too slow in changing out some CEOs of companies we had, keep thinking that he or she will get a lot better Waiting is a lost opportunity, and we used to wait I think today we move much faster than we ever did.” [BI]

Hedge fund billionaire David Einhorn heading for divorce by Emily Smith: The Greenlight Capital founder, whose stock picks move markets, has separated from Cheryl [Strauss Einhorn], whom he married in 1993 before he made his fortune, now estimated at an impressive $1.55 billion. At stake in the upcoming divorce is their nearly 10,000-square-foot home in Rye, NY, and possibly his rumored vault of gold stashed at a secret location in New York City. The couple is well-known in New York for their philanthropic work. In 2002, they established the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, with the vision of building a more peaceful and harmonious society, according to its Web site. [NYPost]

Robert Kraft talks about his friendship with Donald Trump by Jesse Reed: Speaking about all this with Andrea Kramer on HBOs Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Kraft explained his relationship with Donald Trump. Do I agree with everything he says or espouses? No. But hes a friend, Kraft said. This country is awesome, and whomever is president of the United States, I will try to support. Ive done that since the 1960s. Kraft also talked about how loyal President Trump has been to him, noting the support he was given in 2011 when his wife Myra passed away. He said Trump called him multiple times per week to console him and see how he was doing. [MSN] Robert Kraft to Patriots critics: The haters still hate [FoxSports]

DESSERT: Sous-Vide Gefilte Fish? A Chefs Argentine-Jewish Cuisine by Tejal Rao: Mishiguene (crazy in Yiddish), which sits by a sprawling park in Buenos Aires, was the citys first restaurant to serve traditional Jewish foods in a tasting menu. [Toms] Kalika called it immigrant cuisine In March, he plans to open Fayer, his second restaurant in Buenos Aires. Argentina, home to one of the largest Jewish populations in the world, is his inspiration. At Fayer, he will cook more of what he sees as an emerging Argentine-Jewish cuisine multicultural Jewish influences from across the diaspora, unified by the open-fire grilling and wood smoke that define Argentine cooking Though the restaurant does not serve kosher food, the whirling, joyful mood during Friday dinners is that of an unconventional Shabbat. There is often drinking and dancing and roars of applause. [NYTimes]

Eighteen Caf, in Squirrel Hill, offers a unique menu of memorable kosher food by Angelique Bamberg and Jason Roth: Eighteen, a kosher wine bar and sit-down restaurant offers a variety of dishes not traditionally associated with Jewish culture, such as butternut-squash ravioli, pomegranate-glazed salmon and sushi, alongside classic Jewish-deli fare like bagels with lox and Israeli favorites such as hummus and shakshuka. The common thread, aside from being prepared under the supervision of a rabbi, is fish. Aside from eggs, it is the only animal protein on the menu. Eighteens pastrami is made from cured salmon, its reuben is made with smoked beets, and theres even a cheeseburger with a house-made veggie patty. [PittsburghCityPaper]

BIRTHDAYS:Philosopher, novelist and public intellectual, earned a Ph.D. from Princeton, winner of a MacArthur Genius Fellowship in 1996, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein turns 67…Political consultant and pollster Frank Luntz turns 55…Billionaire founder and CEO of Dell Technologies, investor, philanthropist and author, Michael Dell turns 52…Movie, stage and television actor, comedian and singer, Josh Gad turns 36…Former director of women’s media at Hillary for America, former deputy press secretary at the Democratic National Committee, Rebecca Chalif turns 31…Bloomberg political reporter (with two years of daily travel covering Hillary Clinton), previously a White House reporter for Politico, was once managing editor of the Daily Princetonian, Jennifer Epstein (h/ts Playbook)…Former intern at the White House Office of Public Engagement, former Hillary Iowa Fellow and Hillary Florida Fellow, now with the Podesta Group in the office of the chairman, Gidon Feen turns 22…CEO at NYC-based Puder PR, after 10 years as director of communications and PR for the Jewish Federations of North America, Joe Berkofsky…Reporter for the Texas Tribune in Austin covering state politics and the Texas Legislature, Patrick Svitek…AIPAC alum Reuben A. Engber…Financial consultant and organizer for non-profit organizations, archives and artists, Johnathan Morpurgo…Barak Daon…Lois Copeland…Mark Jacobs…

Gratuity not included. Welovereceivingnews tips but we also gladly accept tax deductible tips.100% of your donation will go directly towards improving Jewish Insider. Thanks! [PayPal]

Want to enjoy ‘Zen’ reading – with no ads and just the article? Subscribe today

See the rest here:
Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff: February 23, 2017 – Haaretz

How Marie Antoinette and Sean Spicer Are Making Babka Famous – Forward

Bomb threats against JCCs throughout the U.S. are bringing many reactions, but none tastier than this tweet from The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect in response to Presidential spokesman Sean Spicers bizarre insistence that Donald Trump has spoken out against anti-Semitism many times:

Thats a nice Jewish twist on let them eat cake, which is a frequently used translation of a sentence in Jean-Jacques Rousseaus autobiography, Confessions. But wait thats just the beginning of the story.

In French, the sentence actually reads: Quils mangent de la brioche and it is often mis-attributed to Queen Marie Antoinette, who was nine years old in 1765, when Rousseau wrote those words in his multi-volume opus. (He finally published it in 1782.)

In the interest of facts, an endangered concept these days, in the previous sentence, Rousseau merely refers to a grande princesse, and he doesnt name names. Theres no record of Marie Antoinette saying anything about brioche.

What the let them eat cake saga does show is that fake news has a long history; the misattributed utterance was taken as a symbol of total disregard for the struggles of poor peasants; brioche was a luxury, and certainly not within the means of the poor.

Back to babka and the contemporary struggle for actual reality. Yes, the Anne Frank Center was suggesting that the current administration literally, at least should eat some yeast cake that in Jewish tradition usually includes lots of chocolate or cinnamon. Figuratively, of course, the Anne Frank Center was displaying its disdain for Spicers claim.

But language nerds had another pressing concern. Come to think of it, what does the word babka mean?

The Oxford English Dictionary says babka is the diminutive form of baba, which, via French from Polish, literally married peasant woman. (The shadow of Marie Antoinette and the peasants lives on.) The OED also points out that baba in Indian culture means father or respected older man, but thats not relevant to the European cake that has become a staple of Jewish-American cooking as well as Israeli bake shops.

If babka immediately makes you think grandmother, or the Yiddish word for grandmother, bubbe, its because, well, thats also what babka means.

Savta. Bubbe. Grandma.

The Polish and Belarusian noun babka and the Belarusian, Ukrainian, and Russian baba mean grandmother or little grandmother. And while this may sound a bit creepy, The Oxford Companion to Food points out that the babkas bottom part looks like the pleats of a skirt in other words, the kind of thing grandma might wear.

No matter what grandma is wearing, many of us would love it if a brigade of feisty Jewish grandmothers were responding to Spicer and Trump right now, perhaps while slinging babka.

So how did a word for grandmother become a pastry? According to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, babka as a pastry name came to English from Polish, via French. But dont worry too much about grandmas disappearance from use: The Canadian Oxford assures us that babka is still sometimes used in its original meaning (grandmother), especially among those of Central and Eastern European descent. And of course, the word babushka can be heard in neighborhoods with Russian-Jewish grandmothers in abundance. Babushka means grandmother, and is the diminutive of baba, or older woman, according to Merriam-Webster.

If all this etymology just makes you want to snack, youre in luck. You can certainly make babka at home, no matter what your heritage, and a bonus is that making babka can keep you busy long enough to miss a news cycle and the accompanying rise in blood pressure.

Baking a chocolate babka is no casual undertaking, writes Melissa Clark of The New York Times in her introduction to her babka recipe.

The Eastern European yeast-risen coffee cake has 14 steps and takes all day to make, Clark writes. But the results are worth every sugarcoated second with a moist, deeply flavored brioche-like cake wrapped around a dark fudge filling, then topped with cocoa streusel crumbs.

Here is her recipe:

If fourteen steps seems too simple, and you want to stay busy and distracted from the Presidency for even longer, Bon Appetit offers a babka recipe featuring a double helix twist. Think of it as supporting science, another endangered entity right now.

Maybe babka will get a Trump bump, just like Nordstroms, Teen Vogue, and other unexpected members of the resistance. But for those who follow pastry, grandmothers favorite snack, babka, was getting kind of hot before the Anne Frank Center made it even hotter.

Bon Appetit magazine declared last month that babka is the new bagel, meaning it is finely making its way to the masses. We can only rejoice, Vered Guttman of Haaretz wrote about a year ago, when it seemed a bit easier to rejoice.

Not to be outdone, Haaretz offers a classic poppyseed babka recipe, an ideal treat to master with Purim only weeks away. Last but certainly not least, Haaretz even offers a ten-photo, step-by-step babka-making primer which makes babka-making seem totally doable, and even soothing.

Far less damaging to the heart rate than watching Sean Spicer, and a reminder that if our grandmothers survived what they survived and still managed to roll dough, spread chocolate, and enjoy the ensuing babka, perhaps we can best get through this with a little piece of elaborate yeast cake too.

Aviya Kushner is The Forwards language columnist and the author of The Grammar of God (Spiegel & Grau). Follow her on Twitter at @AviyaKushner

See the original post here:
How Marie Antoinette and Sean Spicer Are Making Babka Famous – Forward

Baptist Leaders ‘Strengthen Connection to Israel’ on Bridge-Building Mission – Breaking Israel News

Fourteen U.S. Baptist leaders returned from Israel this week after learning about the Jewish state beyond the headlines and building Christian-Jewish bridges, in a mission, Feb. 13-20, organized by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship).

The Baptist leaders toured Christian and Jewish holy sites including the Western (Wailing) Wall and Old City of Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee, Masada, Caesarea, Muhraka (Horn of Carmel) and Meggido. The group also made a special visit to Israels Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem.

Visiting the Holy Land of Israel is a great privilege. We are so grateful to have been given the opportunity to learn about the Jewish homeland and our Christian heritage and to strengthen our connection to the Israeli people and most importantly, to G-d, said Rev. Samuel Tolbert, a trip leader and president of the National Baptist Convention of America (NBCA).

The Baptist leaders were the most recent major Christian group to visit Israel with The Fellowship. In the summer of 2015, The Fellowship hosted 21 top ministers of the Detroit-based Pentecostal group the Church of God In Christ, while in in Jan. 2016, it brought 22 top clergy of the Washington, D.C.-based Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC), the movement of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., to Israel. In May of last year, 26 leaders of the NBCA the second-largest African-American Baptist group also visited Israel with The Fellowship, and last Sept. The Fellowship brought 22 leaders from the Bahamas-based Global United Fellowship (GUF) to Israel.

We were honored to host these outstanding Baptist leaders in Israel, said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of The Fellowship. By experiencing the spiritual power of the Holy Land, they deepened their own faith while strengthening the profound historic bonds between the Christian and Jewish people.

The Fellowship was formed in 1983 to promote better understanding and cooperation between Christians and Jews, and build broad support for Israel. Today The Fellowship is the largest channel of Christian support for Israel and Jewish needs around the world.

Participants in this months mission included Tolbert, Rev. Derick Brennan of Philadelphia; Rev. Dr. Jason Coker of Jackson, Mich.; Rev. Earlene Coleman of McKeesport, Pa.; Rev. Gary Dollar of Glen Carbon, Ill.; Dr. Brian Ford of Columbia, Mo.; Dr. Jim Hill of Kirkwood, Mo.; Rev. Forestal Lawton, of Kansas City, Mo.; Rev. Steven T. Mack, of Camden, N.J.; Dr. Harry Rowland of Decatur, Ga.; Rev. Doyle Sager of Jefferson City, Mo.; Rev. Napoleon Smith of Albuquerque, N.M.; Rev. Julian K. Woods of Lake Charles, La.; and Rev. James E. Victor, of Arlington, Va.

See the article here:
Baptist Leaders ‘Strengthen Connection to Israel’ on Bridge-Building Mission – Breaking Israel News

Jewish History is Under Siege in the Middle East and These Volunteers Are Risking Their Lives to Protect It – Newsweek

On a sunny morning in February 2016, Sami Solmaz, a Kurdish filmmaker from Turkey, took a ride with Kurdish forces from the Iraqi town of Sinjar to the front lines. He spent the day filming gun battles between Kurdish fighters and the Islamic State militant group for a documentary he was making on ISIS attacks against religious minorities. That afternoon, as he was heading back to town, he heard a soldiers voice crackle over his drivers radio: Be careful! ISIS is firing chlorine bombs into Sinjar.

The militant group had been launching homemade rockets filled with chemicals toward Sinjar since Kurdish forces pushed them out of the town in late 2015. Earlier in February, a chemical attack in Sinjar had left Kurdish fighters sick, and Solmaz knew it was best to stay away. The only problem: His drivers car was in town, and so they decided to hurry back and retrieve it. We were only there 10 minutes, but you could smell [the gas], he tells Newsweek.

Try Newsweek for only $1.25 per week

On his way out of Sinjar, Solmazs face began to swell and his throat started to burn as he drove toward the Iraqi city of Duhok, where he fell into a deep sleep at his sisters apartment and awoke more than 20 hours later. When he was feeling better, he emailed Jason Guberman, the director of Digital Heritage Mapping, a nonprofit hed been helping in New York, to apologize for slipping out of touch.

Guberman was relying on Solmaz, an atheist from a Muslim family, to document Jewish heritage sitesfrom synagogues and cemeteries to ruins of schools, houses and community centers Jews once used in the Middle East and North Africa. For years, his staff and a rotating cast of about a dozen interns and volunteers have been racing to create digital records of Jewish sites. The projects name is Diarna, which means our home in Judeo-Arabic. As wars in the region destroy these sites, Gubermans team is running out of time.

In his office near Manhattans Union Square, Guberman has created a situation room that has been stripped of cubicles and lined with marked-up maps of Yemen, Iraq, and the Syrian cities ofAleppo and Damascus. This enables the team to prioritize the most at-risk areas and dispatch researchers, like Solmaz, into the field when moments of peace create opportunities. To create realistic renderings of the sites, Diarna has recruited a network of volunteer photographers and paid researchers through social media and word of mouth in countries like Yemen, Syria and Iran. Most live and work in the region and can access dangerous areas more easily than Americans or non-Muslims.

Read more:How the new monument men are outsmarting ISIS

Back in New York, his staff uses SketchUp, a 3-D modeling tool, to transform photographs from the field into digital models of the ancient buildings and plot them, according to their coordinates, on Google Earth. They also look for people familiar with the siteslike former congregants of synagogues, or the architects who renovated themwho can recall details about their appearance. Their recollections about anythingfrom whether the flooring was made of tile, wood or carpet to whether the buildings were lit with stained glass, skylights or chandeliershelp Diarna researchers create more accurate 3-D images and descriptions of the sites. Diarna often shares the witnesses raw recorded testimonies to bring online exhibits to life. Unlike other organizations doing similar kinds of work, Diarna makes its 3-D models publicly accessible.

When Diarna launched, Guberman estimated his team would identify between 500 and 1,000 sites to plot on Google Earth; the number has now surpassed 1,600.

Solmaz, who was in Iraq to collect footage for his film about ISIS, offered to visit abandoned Jewish villages for Guberman. The two had met in the summer of 2014 at the Center for Jewish History in New YorkSolmaz was there to inquire about using the buildings archives to research a documentary about Kurdish Jews, which he would be filming in Syria and Iraq. He wound up in Diarnas office, where he and Guberman chatted about his interest in Jewish culture. Solmaz had grown up in Turkeys southeast, and his grandparents had told him stories about the minorities who no longer lived thereJews, Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians. By the time Solmaz was born in 1963, Ottoman and Turkish authorities had massacred or deported most of them in campaigns to Turkify the nation in its violent early days, a part of his countrys history that he thought about often in his work as a war correspondent and independent filmmaker.

An Israeli youth lies on an Israeli flag during the annual pilgrimage to the tomb of Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira in the southern Israeli town of Netivot in January 2015. Thousands of Jews mostly of Moroccan origin came to pray over the respected Kabbalist rabbi. Oded Balilty/AP

As Guberman listened, he realized he might be able to recruit Solmaz to help Diarna. But doing so would be dangerous. Syrias civil war was in its third year, and ISIS was taking over major cities and towns in Iraq. Guberman worried that Solmaz could be captured, kidnapped or killed, especially if ISISor the Syrian regimediscovered his links to an American nonprofit with a Jewish cause. We actually tried to discourage him, says Guberman, but he wanted to go. The two men agreed to stay in touch.

What had started as a chance meeting in a quiet museum would soon become a vital partnershipspanning oceans and war zonesto preserve ancient history before it vanishes.

A month after their first meeting, Solmaz returned to Gubermans office with a file of photographs. The images showed the ruins of a Jewish village in the mountains separating Iraq from Turkey, near the headquarters of the Kurdistan Workers Party; the insurgent group is at war with Turkey and the target of frequent Turkish bombing campaigns. Guberman hadnt told him to go there because hed assumed it was too dangerous. Jason was shocked, Solmaz recalled. He said, How were you able to get this?

Over the next two and a half years, Solmaz planned multiple trips to Iraq, northern Syria, Turkey, Israel and Greece, always allaying Gubermans concerns about safety. Jason, I can go there, I am Kurdish, hed tell him. Or Im a war correspondent, dont worry.

The arrangement has been mutually beneficial. Solmaz hikes mountains, cajoles locals and travels to war zones to find the endangered sites Diarna wants to preserve on the internet. In return, Diarna pays him for photographs, videos and reports, which Solmaz often finds useful for his projects.

A Diarna expedition photo shows the exterior of the Tomb of Nahum in Alqosh, Iraq. Diarna

When Diarna launched in 2008, most Jewish synagogues, schools and cemeteries in the Middle East and North Africa had been out of use for decades, and many had fallen into disrepair. Most of the estimated 1 million Jews who lived between Morocco and the Arabian Sea abandoned their homelands to escape anti-Semitic violence in the 1950s and 60s. Now wars in Yemen, Iraq and Syria, along with the emergence of ISIS, which has been attacking ancient sites with pickaxes and dynamite, pose a real threat to preserving the Middle Easts ancient history.

As destroying sacred sites has become increasingly common in the Middle East, analysts, countries and even some militants have come to see the costs of destroying them. In September, an Islamist militant became the first person convicted of a war crime for destroying cultural and religious sites in Mali. At his trial at the Hague in the Netherlands, Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, who was sentenced to nine years in prison, urged other combatants to refrain from destroying cultural sites, saying such acts are not going to lead to any good for humanity.

Experts on ancient cultures say there is universal value in preserving sacred heritage sights of any religion. All cultures and societies have sacred sites, and these sacred sites are related to concepts of who we are, where we came from and where we are going, says Richard Leventhal, the director of the Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Pennsylvanias Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. ISISs methodical destruction of holy sites serves a very important purpose for the group. ISIS is not just trying to wipe people off the face of the earth by killing them, says Leventhal, they are also destroying their history.

Under pressure from multiple enemies on multiple fronts, ISIS has been losing territory in Syria and Iraq. Their retreat is slowly revealing the extent of their destruction. The group has targeted religious sites from all faiths within the land it occupied. During the organizations 2014 and 2015 rampage against symbols of idolatry, according to its corruptedversion of Islam, the militants blew up the Mosque of the Prophet Jonah in Mosul. The mosque was one of several sites said to house Jonahs tomb, an important monument for Muslims, Christians and Jews. It seemingly should have been protected because it was inside a Sunni mosque, but they blew it up anyway, Guberman says. So at that point we knew that no site is safe.

But Jews have an unusually deep level of experience with violent enemies doing all they can to wipe out their history. Guberman did not want what happened in World War II in Europethe Nazis destroying hundreds of synagogues to happen in the Middle East. Without physical evidence of Jewish culture, the worlds understanding of Jewish communities in the Arab world will disappear with the death of the last generation who can remember them.

Guberman sees a special significance in his work for the worlds Jews whose heritage begins in Iraq. I mean, this is where all Jewish history comes from, he says. According to Jewish tradition, all Jews trace their lineage to Abraham, the father of monotheism who was born in the Babylonian city of Ur, now in present-day Iraq. Religious scholars say that Abraham and his descendants began to disperse across the Middle East in the 19th century B.C. Population estimates show that the majority of the worlds Jews remained in the region through the Middle Ages. As recently as the early 1900s, nearly 1 million of the worlds estimated 15 million Jews were still living across the Middle East and North Africa, some in Jewish communities with roots in antiquity.

But Israels founding in 1948 led to violence from Muslim mobs and discriminatory policies implemented by local governments aimed at Jews in the Arab world, prompting almost all of them to leave. Most initially went to Israel, which spearheaded their mass emigration through a series of famous missions like the 1949 Magic Carpet airlift that spirited 50,000 Yemenite Jews to Israel, and a subsequent operation that nearly emptied Iraq of its Jewish population. The Jews left; their ancient synagogues remained.

In 2008, when Guberman was finishing his degree in political science at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, and wondering what to do next, only about 5,000 Jews remained in North Africa and the Middle East, outside of Israel. Without a Jewish community left to care for them, hundreds of sacred sites were converted into mosques, housing and other structures, or ignored as their roofs caved in and engravings faded.

A Diarna expedition photo shows a child’s grave in a Jewish cemetery in Tangier, Morocco, in 2011. Joshua Shamsi for Diarna Geo-Museum

Guberman considered applying to law school, but he changed his mind after speaking to a friend who had recently returned from a trip to Morocco. His wife is part Moroccan-Jewishand they had just had a daughter. He was very concerned about how his daughter was going to connect with her Moroccan-Jewish heritage when she grew upbecause so much history had already disappeared, Guberman says.

His friends concern piqued his interest. Guberman had always been drawn to Mizrahi (or Eastern) Jewish history and he was surprised by how little attention it received compared with that of Jews in Europejust a paragraph, he recalls, in a college textbook. Guberman and a small group of friends decided to devote themselves to its preservation.

Gubermans Bubbie offered free food and internet to her grandson and his colleagues in Connecticut when they started. The group soon secured enough funding from Karin Douglas, a philanthropist and fellow Sacred Heart graduate, to move out of Bubbies house and launch Digital Heritage Mapping, which would fuel the Diarna project. By late 2008, Gubermans small team was beginning to make renderings of sites in the precarious physical world to preserve forever on the internet. Guberman and his small team of researchers used Google Earth to map the ruins of Jewish villages that had dotted northern Iraq from antiquity through the early 20th century; an 800-year-old cemetery outside of Marrakesh, Morocco, nearly lost to a development project became a virtual exhibit online; Diarnas website published photographs of the tomb of Judeo-Moroccan mystic Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzera in the Nile Delta, before Egypts government banned an annual pilgrimage to the site in 2014 over tensions between locals and Jewish visitors.

Jason Guberman gives a lecture showing a 3-D rendering from the Diarna Geo Museum. Tracy Deer-Mirek/Diarna

Many places were still off limits when Diarna started its project, some three years before the Arab Spring uprisings toppled dictators in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. Many of those autocrats clung to anti-Semitic policies. Libya under Muammar el-Qadda was particularly difficult to access for researchers working for a Jewish nonprofit. Qaddafi was notoriously anti-Semiticcanceling all debts owed to Jews, among other thingsand Diarnas efforts to recruit local researchers failed. Libyans were too nervous to be associated with a Jewish organization, Guberman explained.

But when the Arab Spring began in Tunisia in 2010, Diarna saw a unique opening.

When fighting erupted in Libya, for example, reporters descended on the country, including one familiar with Diarnas work. She contacted Guberman, offering to help him. Her only condition was anonymity.

In May 2011, Guberman sent her a map of the Hara Kabira, the old Jewish quarter in Tripoli, to help her locate the Dar Bishi synagogue, the most beautiful in the city when it opened in 1928. After Qaddafi took power in the late 1960s, the government seized and shuttered all Jewish property in Libya. Guberman hoped the reporter could find a way to survey it without raising the suspicion of the government, which was keeping an eye on foreign journalists in the city. Somehow, she slipped out of her hotel and made it there. She entered the crumbling structure through a hole in the back wall and took pictures of its gutted, columned interior, strewn with trash and vandalized by graffiti. She sent the photos to Guberman when she was safely out of the country.

The interior of the abandoned Dar Bishi synagogue in Tripoli, Libya on September 28, 2011. Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty

Guberman was cautiously optimistic that the rebels who ousted Qaddafi in 2011 might make it easier to access Jewish sites. A Libyan Jew named David Gerbi tested those expectations a few months later by returning to Tripoli from exile in Italy to restore the Dar Bishi synagogue. From New York, Guberman closely followed the news of Gerbis dramatic entrance to the holy site as the Libyan used a sledgehammer.

Guberman wondered how locals would react. He soon found out. A group of protesters opposed to the synagogues restoration gathered in central Tripoli with signs denouncing Zionism and some declaring there is no place for Jews in Libya. Fearing for his safety, Gerbi abandoned his project and returned to Italy, signaling to Guberman that the obstacles he faced researching Jewish sites under Qaddafi would likely remain. As he puts it: We realized that probably nothing good is going to come of doing work in Libya.

Gubermans team published a 3-D model of the once-stately structure on Google Earth, using photographs and coordinates the female reporter had taken. They also used her photographs to make a video tour of the model.

The latter may turn out to be among the only proof the site ever existed.

As governments collapsed across the region, threats to buildings multiplied. One of the higher-profile Jewish heritage sites lost to the fighting in Syria was the centuries-old Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in a suburb of Damascus. The synagogue is named for the prophet Elijah, whose appearance, Jews believe, will herald the coming of the Messiah. According to local tradition, Elijah anointed his successor on the site where the synagogue was built. Still well maintained when the war in Syria began, it appeared in photos published by The Daily Beast in 2014 as piles of rubbleits fine carpets, chandeliers and library of religious texts apparently gone.

Eddie Ashkenazie, a Diarna researcher from Brooklyn with roots in Syria, has been closely following the destruction. He felt a new determination in his work after watching aerial footage shot in the ancient Syrian city of Homs in 2015 that showed block after block of bombed-out buildings.

Ashkenazie has been scouting out Brooklyn synagogues with Syrian congregants whose memories of Jewish sites might still be fresh. I tell them what I do, and they’re like, Oh, bring us your pictures tomorrow, bring us your maps, he says. Just yesterday, after prayer services a group of men helped me [locate] synagogues in Damascus. After the meeting, he returned to his office and added the synagogues to Diarnas expanding database of sites.

A small number of Jews still live in Damascus, Syrias capital, some of whom have helped Diarna document sites. But the material hasnt yet been published due to concerns of drawing unwanted attention to the shrinking community and their lesser-known sacred sites. Wherever there is a community, Guberman says, their lives take precedence over our documentary mission.

Over the past few years, the last Jews in Syriaand much of the wider regionhave left. In 2015, in a controversial operation, Israeli-American businessman Moti Kahana smuggled Aleppos remaining Jewish residents to Israel through Turkey. In 2016, the Jewish Agency for Israel airlifted a family that made up 19 of Yemens roughly 85 Jews to Israel. Tunisian Jews have migrated recently too, as attacks have made the country less safe. When the last people leave, Guberman said, it is just a matter of time before the sites will be repurposed or destroyed.

On a recent stopover in his native Turkey, Solmaz clicked through images on his computer, each one illustrating the precariousness of Jewish heritage in Iraq. In a stone synagogue in Gondik, a small village in the northern Kurdish region of Iraq, hay covered the floors to feed the livestock who now occupy it. In another picture, taken in Kirkuk, fresh bullet holes marked the walls of a Muslim familys home whose central feature revealed its Jewish pastan elaborate niche built into the wall for a Torah.

Solmaz plans to return to Iraq once Kurdish and Iraqi forces push ISIS out of Mosul, another city that was once home to thousands of Jews. More recently Mosul was home to tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities who fled their homes ahead of ISISs advance. For his own work, Solmaz will document the damage the jihadis have caused to the citys non-Muslims and the architecture they left behind. For Diarna, he will look much further back in time, for evidence of a small Jewish community that endured for centuries in Mosul before fleeing persecution in the early 20th century.

To understand the present, Solmaz says, you have to know your past.

View original post here:
Jewish History is Under Siege in the Middle East and These Volunteers Are Risking Their Lives to Protect It – Newsweek

Trump: Black History Museum a Tribute to ‘American Heroes’ – Voice of America

U.S. President Donald Trump visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington on Tuesday, calling it a beautiful tribute to so many American heroes.

The new president read the names of several prominent black figures from American history, saying, I’m deeply proud that we now have a museum that honors the millions of African American men and women who built our national heritage, especially when it comes to faith, culture and the unbreakable American spirit.”

He pledged to do everything I can to continue that promise of freedom for African Americans and for every American. So important, nothing more important. His visit came as the U.S. celebrates its annual Black History Month during February.

Trump said the fight for racial equality in the United States depicted at the museum is a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms. He condemned recent threats against Jewish centers in the U.S., calling them horrible and painful.

But he promised, as he has numerous occasions, Were going to bring this country together, maybe bring some of the world together.

WATCH: Trump visits museum

Popular tourist attraction

The museum, on the National Mall not far from the White House, opened last year and has drawn large crowds and wide critical acclaim. It has nearly 37,000 objects in its collection tracing the history of blacks in America, from their arrival on slave ships from Africa, to the mid-19th century Civil War fought over slavery, to the advances toward racial equality at the heart of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

There are exhibits about black communities, their families, the visual and performing arts, religion, civil rights, slavery, and legalized racial segregation that existed in the United States as recently as 50 years ago.

In his upset presidential election victory last November, Trump won just 8 percent of the black vote compared to 88 percent for his Democratic rival, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Trump was accompanied on his museum visit by the only African-American in his Cabinet, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who is awaiting confirmation as the presidents housing chief. The president promised to work closely with Carson to do great things in our African-American communities together.

View original post here:
Trump: Black History Museum a Tribute to ‘American Heroes’ – Voice of America

‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ star Rachel Bloom brings a fresh, feminist approach to Jewish comedy – Jewish Journal

When it comes to Rachel Bloom, its hard to know whether to start with the sex or the Jewishness. Both seem to ooze out of her, like a classic starlet of the Yiddish theater in which burlesque comedy could arrive in a voluptuous feminine package.

Consider the music video You Can Touch My Boobies, which has more than 5 million views. Bloom plays a Hebrew-school teacher who appears in a dream to seduce her kippah-wearing bar mitzvah student, Jeffrey Goldstein. Clad in a black bustier and fishnets, she rides around in a toy car shaped like a giant breast with a nipple for a hood ornament crooning, Were gonna have some fun tonight.No need to check the locks, she tells Goldstein, because wink, wink to American Jewish dining habits his parents are out at Benihana. But Jewish guilt is never far behind, and suddenly, Golda Meir appears to scold Jeffrey for his fantasies: You have brought shame on your family and the Jewish people!

In the tradition of Woody Allen, she has deftly translated the American-Jewish experience its neuroses, obsessions and culturally distinctive lexicon into mainstream entertainment. As a writer and actress, Bloom routinely probes aspects of her identity relishing, mocking, exuding sexuality and Jewishness both in the prolific collection of music videos she posts on YouTube, as well as on the CW show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a musical romantic comedy that she co-created and stars in.

[Watch Rachel Blooms Jewiest music videos]

In Rachel Bloom, we have a female heir to the neurotic, outsider Jew who is constantly negotiating identity through sex and ethnic baggage. There are strains of Philip Roth in her work a sex-obsessed Jew feeling ever out of place, trying to grow up and fit in. And what we gather from Bloom, a millennial, is that although political frissons have somewhat altered the American-Jewish makeup, a generation later, communal preoccupations are the same.

The 29-year-old is an expert at channeling the tropes of her male artistic and literary forebears, where sex and Judaism coalesce and collide as integral, paradoxical and indispensable to the human experience. But she upends theses legacies with something new and utterly transgressive: a female point of view.

I think a lot about Fanny Brices aesthetic, Bloom told me when we met for coffee last month in Silver Lake. Her whole thing was Yiddish, Yiddish, Yiddish. I did 23andme [the genetic test] and Im 97 percent Ashkenazi Jewish. Yiddish is what I connect to.

The comparison to Brice (the comedian-actress immortalized in the movie Funny Girl) is apt except for the fact that Bloom, unlike Brice, writes all of her own material. In just two seasons of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Bloom has written or co-written more than 80 original songs. Thats more than four Broadway shows, she said.

Rachel Bloom (second from left) is Rebecca Bunch in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Photo by Mike Yarish/The CW

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend tells the story of Rebecca Bunch, a tenacious, Harvard-educated Manhattan lawyer. After a chance encounter on a New York sidewalk with a guy she dated at summer camp, she becomes unmoored, determined to pursue her crush all the way to the West Coast. She walks out of her high-paid, partner-track job and follows the object of her affection to his hometown West Covina. Last year, the role earned Bloom a Golden Globe award.

The day we met, Bloom had just wrapped the shows second season, which is now available in its entirety on Netflix. She declared a recent episode the most Jewish episode weve ever done. In Season Two, Rebecca finally ensnares her lifelong obsession, the under-employed, none-too-bright Asian-American Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III), and makes him her boyfriend. Before long, theyre heading together to Scarsdale for a bar mitzvah, and Rebecca frets nervously over how her family and friends will receive them. Will Scarsdale Like Joshs Shayna Punim? asks the episodes title.

What Rebecca does not expect is that her overbearing mother (played expertly, as always, by Tovah Feldshuh) warms quickly to Josh, learning to call him a Pacific Islander instead of Oriental, and teaching him how to make and pronounce challah. But rather than quell Rebeccas anxiety, her mothers acceptance intensifies it, as if to say: If a Jewish mother approves, something is definitely wrong. Rebeccas anxiety then shifts from Joshs outsider status to her own: At the bar mitzvah, it isnt the non-Jewish Josh on trial, but Jewish tradition itself.

Far-fetched? More like autobiographical. Bloom herself never really felt she belonged.

Im a West Coast Jew, so theres always this feeling of, like, What are my roots? Bloom said of growing up an only child in Manhattan Beach. Religious observance was anathema at home, but, Bloom said, We talked about being Jewish a lot, we talked about Christian oppression a lot, and for as long as I can remember, my fathers been telling me to read The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

[My] family felt like East Coast Jews: I was not allowed to swim in the ocean because my mother was afraid Id drown. My parents were wary of me being in the sun because of skin cancer. I loved musical theater, Stephen Sondheim, Woody Allen. Plus I had obsessive-compulsive disorder, she said. All of these things combined made me feel like an outsider living in a beach community where everyone is surfing and bleach-blond. They dont even have a word for anxiety.

During the episode in Scarsdale, which aired in January, Rebecca is on edge the entire time. At the bar mitzvah party, she is constantly rolling her eyes and whining about how miserable and terrible Jews are. When her childhood rabbi, played by Patti LuPone, asks if shes found a synagogue in California, Rebecca replies that she doesnt believe in God, so its not on her to-do list. Always questioning, the rabbi replies gleefully. That is the true spirit of the Jewish people!

Rebecca is most disheartened that the boy she brought to shield her from Jewish communal rituals is actually quite enjoying himself. She cant understand why Jewish psychological mishegoss is not blatantly apparent to him.

You dont understand, Rebecca tells Josh. You are forgive me a non-Jew from the West Coast. Let me explain how it goes. East Coast: dark, sad. West Coast: light, happy. These people dont understand what fun is. Trust me.

Josh and Rebecca (Vincent Rodriguez III and Bloom) sing to each other in an episode where Josh later meets her family and friends at a bar mitzvah party. Photo by Scott Everett White/The CW

Thats when the horah begins a fun dance! Josh exclaims but while the traditional klezmer music plays and everyone happily clasps hands, Rebeccas view that tragedy is never too far from the Jewish psyche is proven when the rabbi sings: Now its time to celebrate / Grab a drink and fix a plate / But before you feel too great / Remember that we suffered.The song, appropriately titled Remember That We Suffered, is not only the defining Jewish number of the series so far, but perhaps the most Jewishly astute musical number since Fiddler on the Roof.

Ironically, Bloom said it is the absence of personal Jewish suffering that has enabled Jewish exploration in her work.

People who came over here from Europe watched their families being murdered because of Judaism, she said. They were terrified for their lives because of Judaism. And they came to an America that was still quite anti-Semitic, so of course they wanted to assimilate. Ive never really suffered anti-Semitism. Sure, sometimes people call me a kike online or whatever because people say horrible things on the internet to everyone. [But] I have never been afraid for my life because of my heritage. And that gives me the freedom to talk about it.

Like most American Jews, Bloom fits firmly into an assimilated framework, describing her Judaism in mostly cultural, secular terms. Being Jewish is Mel Brooks! she said. The feeling of being an outsider, the being cold in restaurants, the guilt, the anxiety. She said her husband, Dan Gregor, grew up Conservadox on Long Island and attended yeshiva until eighth grade, but ultimately left the religious life. As a couple, they celebrate with occasional holiday meals, but a question about shul attendance got a deep, resounding Noooo. Not even on the High Holy Days?

I love thinking about the fact that its the High Holidays, Bloom said. But at end of the day, he and I are both secular people. I do not believe the Torah is the word of God I believe its very interesting, and that it informs my entire heritage, and there are things to be learned from it, but I do not believe the universe cares if I have a cheeseburger.

Bloom earned her musical theater bonafides at NYUs Tisch School of the Arts, where she led the schools sketch comedy group, Hammerkatz. A year after graduating in 2009, she made a splash with the self-produced music video, F Me, Ray Bradbury, about a young woman who fantasizes about the science fiction author and masturbates while reading his stories. Blooms character alternates between sex kitten dressed like Britney Spears in Baby One More Time and sci-fi geek, turning down a date to stay home and read.

When I started doing musical comedy, I realized that a lot of pop music, even though I love it, does not represent how people actually are, Bloom said. Bradbury was her attempt to reconcile what I thought I should be like with what I actually was like. And I found more people [related] to the latter. More people feel like outcasts, and feel like they dont fit in. All of us feel some form of imposter syndrome.

After Bradbury went viral, Bloom continued to release a string of music videos, as well as the album Suck It, Christmas, a collection of Chanukah songs co-written and produced with her husband and her writing partner, Jack Dolgen. In Chanukah Honey, a parody to the tune of Santa Baby, Bloom again plays come-hither sex kitten to a Jewish love interest who got an MBA from Penn Amen but, unfortunately for her, dates Japanese women. Replete with references to the JCC, bat mitzvahs and camp, Bloom tempts her crush to Come and flip my latkes tonight as she rolls around on the floor in a blue-and-white Santa outfit. Of course, with Bloom, being a good Jewish girl, sex isnt all shes after: But seriously, she asks as an aside, do you want kids?

In Can Josh Take a Leap of Faith? the Season 2 finale Blooms character, Rebecca (right), is all dressed up for her big day when complications ensue. Photo by Michael Desmond/The CW

On her first trip to Israel last year, Bloom said, she played her Israeli tour guide some tracks from the Chanukah album, thinking hed get a kick out of it. We wrote a song about cantors, but no one in Israel talks about cantors, she observed. Bloom was surprised to discover that even though she loved visiting Israel, she didnt really relate to it. It was really crazy to be in a country for all Jews, but Israel is not my culture, she said.

Because she is an Ashkenazi Jew, European persecution is much more her thing, and it pops up in the animated video Historically Accurate Disney Princess Song, a feminist send-up of Disney fairy tales. While searching for her prince, Bloom encounters little Jews hiding out in the forest. I never did ask you, why do you hide in the forest? Oh, I see, to hide from people trying to kill you!

The video caught the attention of screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna, who penned The Devil Wears Prada and 27 Dresses. She arranged to meet Bloom; together, they solidified the idea for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and promptly sold the pilot. Bloom had her big break into Hollywood.

What followed was a crippling period of anxiety and depression. Mental illness runs rampant in my family, Bloom said, and no one has ever dealt with it. The actress speaks openly and publicly about her struggle with anxiety and not the kind treated as a kitschy Jewish trait, but a debilitating affliction. To tame her illness, she does cognitive behavioral therapy and practices meditation. She also sees a psychiatrist.

I think keeping things taboo, keeping things secret, for me, thats when things get bad, she said. When you learn to deal with anxiety, you think about what you actually know to be true versus what you tell yourself. These catastrophic thoughts, do you actually think those things are going to happen?

The angst dates back to middle school, where Bloom said she was bullied. I never felt pretty, she said. I wanted to be pretty, but I felt disgusting. And people told me, Youre ugly; youre a loser. It was the way I dressed, I cut my own hair. Then in eighth grade, I started to get boobs and I got more positive attention. And that only continued to grow. So I feel like I have a perspective on being a sexual being, as someone who hasnt always been that. I appreciate it, but I also see the absurdity of it: Suddenly I have value because sacks of fat on my chest grew?

Blooms interest in the way sex shapes identity is a constant theme in her work, a trait she shares with male Jewish predecessors like Woody Allen and Philip Roth. But her approach to sex constitutes a radical departure from the conventions of Jewish sexuality that have been canonized in film and literature mainly by men. Whereas Jewish men typically have dealt with feelings of extreme sexual alienation, Bloom offers the bliss of sexual possibility. Where her male counterparts were ensorcelled by sex, Bloom is determined to demystify it.

At the end of the Bradbury video, instead of allowing a reference to Bradburys book Something Wicked This Way Comes to serve as pun, Bloom trades the erotic for the mechanic: And by come, I mean ejaculate, she declares, as if giving a science lesson.

Sex gets the same biological treatment on her show, which has featured numerous musical numbers that deal with the more visceral, uncomfortable truths about sex. The Sexy Getting Ready Song is about the difficult, unpalatable things women do to groom themselves for a date and includes a bloody scene of anal waxing. In the sardonic hip-hop number Heavy Boobs, Bloom salutes and ridicules her ample bosom by dressing as a scientist holding up plastic bags filled with breast fat. The song Period Sex needs no explanation.

The reason Im so open and honest and brassy and ballsy about this s is because my goal, if theres a goal that I have as an artist, would be to make us all realize we are all just animals on this earth made of guts, who are all just trying to survive and get along, she said.

If the defining feature of Jewish sexuality until now was sexual inadequacy, Bloom has rewritten the script. A child of the post-feminist generation, she is fully awake to her sexual power. But rather than use it strictly to seduce, she subverts the male gaze by drawing attention to the bodys anatomical indignities. Its as if shes trying to warn young Jeffrey Goldstein that his sexual fantasy will likely end with a urinary tract infection.

There might be a tiny part of me thats still a little afraid of being sincerely sexy because then you risk looking foolish, Bloom said. Its much easier for me to be brassy-funny-sexy because theres a protectiveness to that, and I dont want to feel taken advantage of. Its all about control.

Bloom at the Golden Globes in January. Twice nominated for Girlfriend, she won in 2016. Photo by Jen Lowery/via Newscom

With lipstick and a dress, Bloom can easily play the bombshell. But off-screen shes content in a gray T-shirt and bomber jacket. When we meet, she isnt wearing an ounce of makeup, another way she peels back the curtain on the many faades of being female.

When I learned sketch comedy, I felt like I suddenly had to become a dude, because thats the culture of comedy, she said, lowering her voice to sound like man. Dude, bro, f. There is a certain adopting of a faade when you are anything other than the majority, and I think that gives you an understanding of others who are oppressed.

If feminism bequeathed to her a creative benefit, Bloom said, it is the freedom to say what I want.

Her fearlessness certainly resonates with her Jewish audience, which goes bananas every time Bloom explodes an old stereotype. After she took on the meaning of Jewish American Princess in the JAP Battle rap, a female writer for the Jewish online magazine Tablet ecstatically declared, I am FINALLY THE DEMO OF A THING. I have never been the demo of a thing!

But ultimately, a Jewish audience may not be enough to sustain even a critically acclaimed show.

Im not afraid to make my show Jewish, Bloom said, but at the same time, my show is the lowest-rated show on network television. So while specificity is important to good art, I dont know how much of a mass appeal there is in openly talking about Judaism.

In the past, Jewish artists like Allen and Roth could be rueful about their Jewishness, perhaps a little bit ashamed. But not Bloom. Instead, she seems to revel in it. And shes not prepared to stop anytime soon. At the end of our meeting, Bloom was rushing off to start work on Season Three. Its not just a job for her, but a community, a purpose, a spiritual salve.

For most of my life, Ive kind of felt like I dont really have a place, and the success of this show not only draws me to people who have also felt like that, but it makes me feel I have a place to fit in. Its cathartic to realize Im not alone.

Link:
‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ star Rachel Bloom brings a fresh, feminist approach to Jewish comedy – Jewish Journal

Bored? Need something to do? We got you – Pensacola News Journal

From staff reports , pnj.com Published 4:26 a.m. CT Feb. 19, 2017 | Updated 1 hour ago

Penny & Sparrow returns to Vinyl Music Hall on Sunday.(Photo: Jamie Clayton/Special to the News Journal)

Pensacon 2017

Sunday. The fourth Pensaconwill take place at the Pensacola Bay Center, 201 E. Gregory St.;Pensacola Grand Hotel, 200 E. Gregory St.;Rex Theatre, 18 N. Palafox St.;Saenger Theatre, 118 Palafox Place; and Pensacola Little Theatre, 400 S. Jefferson St.World-class celebrities will be on hand all weekend long to interact with fans, sign autographs and take photos, including Henry Winkler (“Happy Days,” “Arrested Development’), David Bradley (“Game of Thrones,” “Harry Potter”), Sean Astin (“Lord of the Rings,” “The Goonies”), John Wesley Shipp (“The Flash”) and multiple cast members from “Star Trek,” “Star Wars” and “The X-Files,” among more than 100 guests. http://www.pensacon.com.

Pensacon: Five things you don’t want to miss

‘Evita’

University of West Florida Center for Fine and Performing Arts, 11000 University Parkway, Building 82. 2:30 p.m. Sunday and Feb. 26; 7:30 p.m. Fridayand Saturday.This multiple Tony Award-winning musical drama is based on the true story of Eva Peron, who leaves her small hometown as a teenager to seek fame and fortune in Buenos Aires. There she becomes a celebrated actress and, eventually, the second wife of Juan Peron, helping him become elected president of Argentina. Ultimately, she becomes a true voice for the people of Argentina before her death. The show features popular hits Dont Cry for Me, Argentina, Another Suitcase in Another Hall and You Must Love Me. Tickets: $16; $12 for senior citizens and active military; $10 for non-UWF students and UWF faculty and staff; $5 for high school students; free for UWF students with valid Nautilus cards. 857-6285,www.uwf.edu/tickets.

Penny & Sparrow in concert

Vinyl Music Hall, 2 Palafox Place. 7 p.m. Sunday. “Let aLover Drown You,” the new album from Penny & Sparrow, is set for a March 11 release on Single Lock Records/Thirty Tigers. Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke began making music together in 2010 while roommates at the University of Texas in Austin. The duo built a reputation for creating strikingly honest, bare-boned acoustic music that resonated deeply with those who heard their songs and saw their performances.Tickets: $12 for general admission standing; $20 for general admission seated at the Vinyl Music Hall box office or online at http://www.vinylmusichall.com or http://www.ticketfly.com. All ages are welcome, but there is a $5 surcharge for those younger than 21. http://www.vinylmusichall.com.

Bruce Katz Band in concert

Paradise Bar & Grill, 21 Via de Luna, Pensacola Beach. 3 p.m. Sunday.Bruce Katz is a four-time nominee for the Blues Music Award for “Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year,”selected by the Blues Foundation of Memphis.Besides leading the Bruce Katz Band, Katz performs regularly with the Delbert McClinton Band, Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band, John Hammondand other artists, and was a member of the Gregg Allman Band from 2007-13. He had also been touring with legendary Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks and the Freight Train (until Trucks’ recent sudden death), as well Allman Brothersspinoff band, Les Brers.www.paradisebar-grill.com.

Movie listings for Feb. 17-24, 2017

Save Ferris in concert

Vinyl Music Hall, 2 Palafox Place. 7 p.m. Monday. Returning to the stage and the studio after a long absence, Orange County ska-punk band Save Ferris is best known for its hit cover of Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ “Come On Eileen” and their song The World is New, which was featured in the film The Big Hit. Touring behind its first new music in 14 years, the band will perform at Vinyl Music Hall with support fromBaby Baby andOperation Hennessey. Tickets: $20 at the Vinyl Music Hall box office or online at http://www.vinylmusichall.com or http://www.ticketfly.com. All ages are welcome, but there is a $5 surcharge for those younger than 21, and those younger than 16 must be accompanied by a ticketed adult guardian. http://www.vinylmusichall.com.

Divas Galore at Super Jazz Gumbo Fundraiser

Seville Quarter, 130 E. Government St. 5:30 p.m. doors; 6:30 to 9 p.m. event, Monday. Show your love for jazz at Jazz Pensacolas fundraiser. The Big Band of Misfits presents Divas Galore talented female vocalists Saundra Daggs, Angie Powers Bartlett, Sharon Carroll, Joanna Hayes, Holly Shelton, Cynthia Domulot, Crystal Joy Albert and Kathy Lyon. The evening of big band music serves as a fundraiser for the free Pensacola JazzFest, scheduled for April 1-2 in historic downtown Seville Square. Tickets: $20. Admission includes a cup of seafood gumbo, and you can order from the menu and cash bar. Hold onto your admission tickets for door prize drawings. Attendees can also purchase 50/50 tickets for a cash drawing. 433-8382.

Agent Orange, Guttermouth andThe Queers in concert

Vinyl Music Hall, 2 Palafox Place. Enjoy a triple bill of classic punk rock as Agent Orange, Guttermouth and the Queers share the Vinyl Music Hall stage. Scars & Stripes will open the show. Tickets: $15at the Vinyl Music Hall box office or online at http://www.vinylmusichall.com or http://www.ticketfly.com. All ages are welcome, but there is a $5 surcharge for those younger than 21, and those younger than 16 must be accompanied by a ticketed adult guardian. http://www.vinylmusichall.com.

Get set for ‘St. Practice Day’

Selwyn Birchwood in concert

Paradise Bar & Grill, 21 Via de Luna, Pensacola Beach. 6 p.m. Tuesday.Florida’s rising young blues star Selwyn Birchwood received the Blues Music Award and Living Blues Critics’ Award for Best Debut Album of 2014 for his Alligator Records debut, “Don’t Call No Ambulance.” Birchwood is a guitar and lap-steel-playing bundle of pure energy who delivers his original songs with a revival tent preacher’s fervor and a natural storyteller’s charisma. Free. 916-5087,www.paradisebar-grill.com.

‘The Arch of Titus Menorah Panel: Adding Color to the Jewish War’

University of West Florida Center for Fine and Performing Arts, 11000 University Parkway. 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Join Dr. Steven Fine, professor of Talmudic history at Yeshiva University in New York, on an exploration of his recent research into the relief sculptures of the Arch of Titus, in cooperation with the Institute for the Visualization of History. Standing uniquely at the matrix of Roman, Jewish and Christian literary and visual sources, the menorah panel of the Arch of Titus (circa81 CE) is a unique artifact of Roman imperial propaganda. This presentation builds upon the discovery of the original yellow ochre pigment of the Arch menorah relief by the Arch of Titus Project and the implications of this discovery for the experience of Roman art and for our understanding of the Jewish War (66-74 CE). Free. 474-2658.

WSRE Public Square Speakers Series presents Ellen Prager

WSRE Jean & Paul Amos Performance Studio at Pensacola State College, 1000 College Blvd. 6:30 p.m. doors; 7 p.m. event, Thursday.The WSRE Public Square Speakers Series will present Ellen Prager for a free evening lecture based on her book, Sex, Drugs and Sea Slime.With her ability to make science fun and understandable for people of all ages, Prager has built a national reputation as a spokesperson on earth and ocean science issues. She has appeared on “The Today Show,”"Good Morning America,” CNN, CBS, NPR, The Discovery Channel and more. She has participated in research expeditions to locations such as the Galapagos Islands, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and throughout the Caribbean. Formerly the chief scientist at the worlds only undersea research station in the Florida Keys, she now acts as the science adviser to the Celebrity Cruise ship Xpedition in the Galapagos. Free, but registration is requested atwsre.org/speakers.

Black History Month celebration with Clint Smith

University of West Florida Commons Auditorium, 11000 University Parkway, Building 22. 6 p.m. Thursday.The UWF Office of Equity and Diversity will welcome renowned poet Clint Smith as the keynote speaker for Black History Month. Smith is a writer, acclaimed spoken word poet, award-winning teacher and doctoral candidate in education at Harvard University. His two TED Talks, The Danger of Silence and How to Raise a Black Son in America, have been viewed more than fourmillion times. In 2014, he earned the spotlight as the National Poetry Slam champion and Individual World Poetry Slam finalist. A book signing will follow Smith’s speech. Free. http://www.uwf.edu/respect.

Kountry Wayne and Friends

Saenger Theatre, 118 Palafox Place. Up and coming comedian Wayne Colley, known online as King Kountry Wayne, has a following on social media of more than 3.5 million fans who support his comedic ventures.Tickets: $40, $35 and $28 at the Saenger Theatre box office, Ticketmaster.com or by phone at 800-745-3000. Additional fees may apply. 595-3880; http://www.pensacolasaenger.com.

2017 Krewe of Lafitte Illuminated Mardi Gras Parade

Downtown Pensacola. 7:30 p.m. Friday. Celebratethe Krewe of Lafittes 62nd year at the Illuminated Night Parade.The Grand Marshall for the parade will be Buck Lee, formerly of the Santa Rosa Island Authority. Line the parade route along Garden and Palafox streets to catch beads and throws from the lighted Krewe of Lafitte floats and their band of pirates, who will be leading the way for more than 70 parade entrants, including floats from many of the local krewes, marching bands, local celebrities and areadance groups.www.kreweoflafitte.com.

African American Memorial Endowment Scholarship Banquet

WSRE Jean & Paul Amos Performance Studio at Pensacola State College, 1000 College Blvd. 6:30 p.m. Friday.Pensacola State College is celebrating black history and heritage with an annual scholarship event.Nine students will receive scholarships at the African American Memorial Endowment Scholarship (AAMES) Banquet and Dr. Garrett T. Wiggins Live Your Dream Scholarship program.The public is invited to join scholarship recipients and community leaders for this evening of entertainment, inspiration, student recognition and dinner. The guest speaker is Verdell Hawkins, executive director, Gulf Power Foundation/ Community Relations Manager. Tickets: $12; must be purchased by Feb. 17. 484-1759.

Eric Lindell in concert

Vinyl Music Hall, 2 Palafox Place. 8 p.m. Friday.Eric Lindell is accomplished on guitar, harmonica, keyboards and bass, and has performed with many of New Orleans’ top musicians since bursting on the scene in 2005, when he first appeared at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.His live shows draw as much attention as his material, and his combination of sweet, blue-eyed soul with foot-stomping R&B, swamp pop, funk and blues has won him critical and popular acclaim across the country. Vintage Pistol will open the show.Tickets: $15at the Vinyl Music Hall box office or online at http://www.vinylmusichall.com or http://www.ticketfly.com. All ages are welcome, but there is a $5 surcharge for those younger than 21. http://www.vinylmusichall.com.

PensacolaGrand Mardi Gras Parade

Downtown Pensacola. 10 a.m. line-up; 2 p.m. parade, Saturday. Pensacola Mardi Gras Inc. presents the PensacolaGrand Mardi Gras Parade. In the past, more than 225 parade entries and 6,000 people have participated in the parade. http://www.pensacolamardigras.com.

Arsonwave CD Release Party

Vinyl Music Hall, 2 Palafox Place. 7 p.m. Saturday.Popular metalcore band and Pensacola natives Arsonwave will release their debut self-titled album, “Embrace Reality,” at Vinyl Music Hall. The first 200 people in line will receive a free copy of the CD. Limbs, Brave New World and Rise Up Lights will open the show. Tickets: $15at the Vinyl Music Hall box office or online at http://www.vinylmusichall.com or http://www.ticketfly.com. All ages are welcome, but there is a $5 surcharge for those younger than 21, and those younger than 16 must be accompanied by a ticketed adult guardian. http://www.vinylmusichall.com.

Read or Share this story: http://on.pnj.com/2lvQJCe

Read more from the original source:
Bored? Need something to do? We got you – Pensacola News Journal

DeVos narrowly confirmed as education secretary – Heritage Florida Jewish News

Betsy DeVos

(JTA)-Betsy DeVos was confirmed as secretary of education, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaker in a historic 51-50 vote.

DeVos, a Michigan billionaire whose advocacy for school choice has led to sweeping changes in the educational landscape in her home state, provoked divergent opinions in the Jewish community.

Both the haredi Orthodox Agudath Israel of America and the Orthodox Union issued congratulations within minutes of the vote. It marked the first time a vice president broke a tie for a Cabinet confirmation.

In a letter to the Senate Education Committee last month, Agudath Israel of America expressed its support for DeVos, saying it had worked closely with her for years to change state laws that would make it easier to use vouchers for private schools, including religious schools.

“Mrs. DeVos will be an education secretary who is focused on the needs of each individual student and not on where he or she attends school,” the letter said.

In a separate letter to the committee, the Orthodox Union said DeVos “has a long history of advocating for and supporting” reforms favored by the group, though it stopped short of issuing an outright endorsement.

The Reform movement’s rabbinical arm, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, was opposed to the nomination, as were the National Council of Jewish Women and Jewish Women International.

DeVos’ support for school choice raised concerns among advocates of church-state separation, who oppose the diversion of public funds to religious institutions.

In a statement outlining questions it had for various nominees, the Reform movement asked the senators to ask DeVos about “the use of taxpayer dollars for sectarian education.”

“A central principle of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause is that members of particular faiths, and not the government, should fund religious institutions,” the statement said. “When vouchers are used towards expenses related to religious school education, they become an indirect government funding of sectarian institutions.”

Read more:
DeVos narrowly confirmed as education secretary – Heritage Florida Jewish News

A Karaite prayer: Little-known Jewish community builds center to tell its story – Jweekly.com

Show up on a Shabbat morning at Congregation Bnai Israel in Daly City, and if youre a typical American Jew you will see plenty thats familiar. At the front of the sanctuary is an ark, and inside the ark are several Torah scrolls. There is a memorial wall at the back, listing the names of the communitys lost loved ones. Near the entrance is a rack of tallits.

But before you come in, you must remove your shoes, as Moses did when he approached the Burning Bush. Examine the rack of tallits, and you will find that the fringes are knotted and wrapped in an unusual way. In front of the pews, there is an open space covered in rugs. Some worshippers sit or kneel on the floor; when they bow, they touch their heads to the ground. The prayers follow a different structure, and the sound is very Middle Eastern.

Bnai Israel is the only Karaite synagogue in North America, serving the diasporas largest Karaite community about 800 members live within driving distance of the synagogue.

Karaite Jews differ from Rabbanite Jews (as Karaites call the majority of Jews who follow rabbinic tradition) in that they reject oral law the Talmud and rabbinic authority relying instead on the literal text of the Bible. The two communities coexisted until the 10th century, when foundational Jewish (Rabbanite) leader and thinker Saadia Gaon denounced Karaites as apostates and sought to exclude them from the Jewish community. Relationships between these two Jewish communities have varied across time and place, but that initial antagonism has long colored the relationship.

In the Bay Area, where few Rabbanite Jews are aware of Karaite Judaism, that relationship is cordial, though not always close on an institutional level. But on a personal level, many Karaite Jews are involved with the wider Bay Area Jewish community. Many have had bar and bat mitzvahs in Rabbanite synagogues.

In the Karaite view of kashrut, one may mix meat and dairy products that come from different animals, and each community and individual has autonomy to decide how strict or lax to be. On the other hand, Karaites do not accept rabbinic loopholes that ease the restrictions of Shabbat. Karaite Jews have embraced some Rabbanite traditions, such as bnai mitzvah, while rejecting others, such as celebrating Hanukkah.

The Torah directs Jews to include in tzitzit a strand of techelet, which rabbinic sources have interpreted as a reference to a specific deep blue dye. Karaites take techelet to mean any kind of lighter, sky-blue dye, which gives their tallits a distinctive look and informed the name of A Blue Thread, a long-running blog on Karaite Judaism.

In the Bnai Israel sanctuary, most women sit off to one side, though there is no mechitza to separate them formally from the men. As each Karaite community is empowered to set its own standards, American mores rubbed off on this community, and some women now prefer to sit in the main area.

Today there are an estimated 30,000 Karaite Jews in Israel, 1,500 in the United States, and small communities in places like France, England, Turkey and Russia. But until the mid-20th century, many lived in Arab lands. For centuries, one of the most prominent Karaite communities in the world was in Cairo, where the first Bay Area Karaites came from. Cairo once had a Karaite quarter of about 5,000 people adjacent to the mainstream Jewish quarter. Relations between Karaite and Rabbanite Jews in Cairo were close; the Cairo Genizah, a vast store of Jewish writings discovered in a Rabbanite synagogue in Cairo in the 19th century, included a number of Karaite documents.

In what Karaites sometimes call the second exodus, they left Egypt en masse during the last century, beginning when Israel became a state in 1948. More left after the 1956 Sinai War. During the 1967 Six-Day War, all Jewish men in Egypt were put in camps, where they were held for over two years; they were the last to leave. Over the years mostly because of relatives already in the Bay Area many of the Egyptian Karaite Jews wound up here.

In 1994, the Bay Area Karaite community bought the Daly City building from an existing Congregation Bnai Israel that was closing. The Karaite congregation adopted the name Bnai Israel because it was already painted on the side of the building.

It is a small, closely knit community, drawn together by members Egyptian origins as well as their Karaite practice. Like many other small Jewish communities, they are concerned about the future. Who will induct their children and other Jews interested in Karaism into Karaite traditions?

To ensure that future, the congregation has embarked on a relatively small construction project that will have a large and visible impact on their community: They are renovating their existing 3,500-square-foot prefab building and creating a 1,000-square-foot Karaite Jewish Cultural Center, attached to the synagogue, which will serve as a combination education program, museum and social center.

There is a Karaite Heritage Center in Israel, but this will be the only similar institution in the diaspora.

For a community this small, a lot is riding on the project. If this current generation of Karaite Jews in the United States fails, itll be very difficult to kick-start the movement in any organized fashion, said Shawn Lichaa, a pillar of the local Karaite community.

The cultural center would have been no more than a dream were it not for the fortuitous union of David Ovadia and Maryellen Himell-Ovadia. The couple met when both were 60 a stroke of luck for them, and for the Karaite community.

David is a Karaite Jew by heritage and a structural engineer by training; having done engineering work on nuclear power plants in the past, he is somewhat overqualified for this project, whose design he has spearheaded. Maryellen is a former member of San Franciscos Congregation Emanu-El and a master fundraiser. Her career culminated in a top development position at U.C. Berkeley, making the relatively measly $1.2 million needed for the Karaite cultural center a cinch for her to raise.

For two people who are as ballsy as we both are to connect at the age of 60 and figure out how to build a new life together, bringing the strength that you have but tempered with a willingness to compromise and to learn from each other, that is a miracle when you can pull that off, Maryellen said. I dont think it happens every day.

David came to the Bay Area from Egypt at age 13 in 1963. During that time a lot of my other uncles and everybody else was feeling the pressure and everything that was going on in Egypt, he said.

He is a quiet, reserved man, but his passion about the renovation and the new cultural center shines through. He delights in talking about minute plumbing details, zoning hoops hes had to jump through and other nuts and bolts of the project.

While others in his community have feared for its future, Davids faith never wavered. I never doubted that this is going to continue, he said. This is making sure that there is going to be a tradition kept alive. We will live for a thousand years and more.

Maryellen sees herself as part of a bridge between the Karaite and mainstream Jewish communities of the Bay Area a bridge that she hopes will grow.

This is not just about improving or facilitating things within the Karaite community, but to build bridges to the larger world and to make this a welcoming place for others who want to come and learn about this unique culture within the branches of the Jewish family tree, she said.

With groundbreaking set for the end of this month, the Bnai Israel community has already raised $1.1 million of its $1.2 million goal. The cultural center campaign is an approved grantee of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federations donor-advised funds, though that only accounts for a small percentage of the money raised so far. In about six weeks, the congregation will move out of its building and be hosted by other congregations until the High Holy Days, when they expect to be back home again.

While David and Maryellen get the money and the facility in order, Lichaa is thinking about what will go on inside the new cultural center.

There is no greater exponent of Karaite Judaism in America today. His long-running blog, A Blue Thread: A Jewish Blog with a Thread of Karaite Throughout, is a deep dive into the history, ideas and practices of Karaite Judaism.

Lichaa, 37, is also the creator of the Karaite Press. Launched in February 2016 with the publication of a 12th-century Karaite commentary on the Book of Esther, the goal of the Karaite Press is to make great historical Karaite writings many of them written in Arabic and until now locked up in manuscript form available to the global Karaite community and the public at large.

Born in San Francisco to Karaite parents from Cairo, he grew up in Foster City, where he attended Hebrew school at Peninsula Sinai Congregation.

Its not unusual for Karaite Jews in America to send their kids to Rabbanite synagogues for a Jewish education and bar/bat mitzvah, while supplementing that with home instruction in Karaite traditions.

In Cairo, members of the Karaite community lived close together, but, said Lichaa, When we came to the U.S. we didnt have proximity, a central place where a critical mass lived where we could do education with our own teachers. The easiest thing to do was join local synagogues. In fact, that is the only option for Karaites in the rest of the United States.

Today, the Daly City congregation offers some education programs, but none specifically for kids. We do train them in prayers, one-on-one. I do some of that, Lichaa said. A recent bar mitzvah at Bnai Israel was major affair, drawing a crowd of 150 to the small sanctuary.

The new center will offer a range of programs, everything from cooking classes, history classes, to arts, he said. I see a Tuesday night open house where were open to the community. People can drop by, there will be food and beverages. And maybe Thursday nights well have a specific learning opportunity. He is working to make sure all of the classes will be live-streamed, making the learning available to a wide audience.

The center also will include a rotating exhibit of Karaite Torah scrolls, art, manuscripts and the like.

Lichaa views himself as Jewish first and Karaite second. I made an active decision that my preferred form of Judaism is Karaite Judaism, he said. If youre an Orthodox Jew, I understand why you follow the rabbinic tradition. But for everyone else, I wonder why Karaite Judaism cant be one of the menu options.

Some Jews born into mainstream Judaism do choose Karaite practice. No conversion is necessary in such cases; it is somewhat analogous to a Jew from an Orthodox family choosing to associate with a Reform synagogue, simply choosing a different stream of Judaism.

Lichaa and his wife, who comes from a mainstream Jewish family, made the decision to raise their son Reuven, 2, primarily in Karaite Judaism. But it is not to the exclusion of involvement in Rabbanite Jewish communities, Lichaa said. For example, this past erev Shabbat we were at the Mission Minyan, and we are frequent participants at Chabad of Noe Valley.

The new center will make it easier for young Jews from Karaite families to make the same choice. For [Reuven] and others like him there are many young kids in our community that they have a place they can learn about their heritage if they, too, make the active decision to choose Karaite Judaism, this center will be there to support them in that, Lichaa said.

David, Maryellen, Lichaa and other members of the local Karaite community are looking forward to the completion of the center with great anticipation. They have given their money, time and moral support to the project. And every bit of that is being put to use.

We have to maximize every square inch of space, every dollar, Maryellen said.

Indeed, the property is small, and half of it is taken up by a parking lot; the cultural center extension will bring the facility right up to the sidewalk.

Sitting at Bnai Israel, talking with the regulars, there is a sense of vibrancy and excitement. The mood is that of people awaiting the impending arrival of something truly awe-inspiring. And who can blame them? They are embarking on an exciting new venture that will have a lasting impact on the future of their community and its heritage.

Im hopeful now that therell be a future for Karaite Judaism in the United States, Lichaa said.

The rest is here:
A Karaite prayer: Little-known Jewish community builds center to tell its story – Jweekly.com

The City: Week of February 10 (copy) – Cleveland Jewish News

Singles Scene

SATURDAY, FEB. 18

Crossroads for Jewish Singles of Cleveland dinner, 7 p.m., Cedar Creek Grille, 2101 Richmond Road, Beachwood. RSVP to Elaine at 216-831-4344.

SATURDAY, FEB. 25

Crossroads for Jewish Singles of Cleveland dinner, 7 p.m., Winking Lizard, 25380 Miles Road, Bedford. RSVP to Ken at 440-498-9911.

MONDAY, FEB. 27

Cleveland Jewish Singles 35-55 meet-up, 7:30 p.m., Nervous Dog Coffee Bar at La Place, 2101 Richmond Road, Beachwood. RSVP to meetup.com/Cleveland-Jewish-Singles-35-55.

FRIDAY, FEB. 17

Family Kabbalat Shabbat, 9:30-10:15 a.m., Park Synagogue East, 27500 Shaker Blvd., Pepper Pike. For children ages birth to 5 with parents, grandparents and/or caregivers. RSVP to 216-371-2244 ext. 121 or asolomon@parksyn.org.

SUNDAY, FEB. 19

Integrating Local Immigrants: Cleveland Resources and Experiences featuring Danielle Drake and Nadia Zaiem, 9:30-10:45 a.m., First Unitarian Church of Cleveland, 21600 Shaker Blvd., Shaker Hts. 216-751-2320 or firstunitariancleveland.org.

MONDAY, FEB. 20

Presidents Day Celebration, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, 2929 Richmond Road, Beachwood. 216-593-0575 or maltzmuseum.org.

TUESDAY, FEB. 21

College financial planning workshop, 6:30-7:30 p.m., Brecksville Community Center, 1 Community Drive. Reservations required. 888-845-4282.

Women of Fairmount Temple lunch and program with Felicia Zavarella Stadelman who will discuss Claude Monet, noon, Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, 23737 Fairmount Temple, Beachwood. Lunch costs $10. Diane Lavin will lead First Families of the Bible at 10:30 a.m. 216-464-1330.

Crohns and Colitis Foundation of America Concord support group meeting, 6:30-8 p.m., Auburn Career Center – Technology Learning Center, Room 116, 8140 Auburn Road, Painesville. Group meets third Tuesday of every month. No meetings in July and August. 216-524-7700 ext. 5 or neohio@ccfa.org.

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 22

Accelerate 2017: Citizens Make Change, 5:30 p.m., Global Center for Health Innovation, 1 St. Clair Ave. NE, Cleve. cleveleads.org.

Making a Difference in Troubled Times presented by the Rev. Raphael Gamaliel Warnock, 7:30 p.m., South Franklin Circle retirement community, 16575 S. Franklin St., Bainbridge Twp. RSVP required. 440-247-1300 or southfranklincircle.org.

Protect Your Heart: Know Your Numbers, 7-8:30 p.m., Ross DeJohn Community Center, 6306 Marsol Drive, Mayfield Hts. Free. Free blood pressure screenings and stroke risk assessments starting at 5:30 p.m. Register at 440-312-4784 or ccf.org/healthyhearthillcrest.

iMovie App for Beginners workshop, 7 p.m., Cuyahoga County Public Library Orange branch, 31975 Chagrin Blvd., Pepper Pike. Basic proficiency with iPad required. Register at 216-831-4282 or cuyahogalibrary.org.

THURSDAY, FEB. 23

Cleveland Institute of Art presented by Grafton Nunes, 4 p.m., Judson Manor retirement community, 1890 E. 107th St., Cleve. Free. 216-791-2555 or judsonsmartliving.org/events.

College financial planning workshop, 6:30-7:30 p.m., Solon Community Center, 35000 Portz Pkwy. Reservations required. 888-845-4282.

FRIDAY, FEB. 24

Family Kabbalat Shabbat, 9:30-10:15 a.m., Park Synagogue East, 27500 Shaker Blvd., Pepper Pike. For children ages birth to 5 with parents, grandparents and/or caregivers. RSVP to 216-371-2244 ext. 121 or asolomon@parksyn.org.

SATURDAY, FEB. 25

Breast Cancer A to Z: Triple Negative Breast Cancer – For those touched by cancer, 8:30-11:30 a.m., The Gathering Place West, 800 Sharon Drive, Westlake. Free, advance registration required. 216-595-9546.

Donuts with Dave Greenspan, 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Westlake Porter Public Library, 27333 Center Ridge Road, Westlake. greenspanforohio.com.

Lecture by historian David Stradling, 7 p.m., Happy Days Lodge, 500 W. Streetsboro Road, Peninsula. Tickets: $8 adults, $3 children ages 3-12. Doors open at 6. 330-657-2909 or forcvnp.org/cvi.

2nd annual Lake Erie Folk Festival, 1-6 p.m., Shore Cultural Centre, 291 E. 222nd St., Euclid. lakeeriefolkfest.com.

Sandlot baseball program, noon, Baseball Heritage Museum, 6601 Lexington Ave., Cleve. 216-789-1083 or baseballheritagemuseum.org.

SUNDAY, FEB. 26

Jump for Joy with Queen Esther, 3-5 p.m., Jump Palace, 1667 OH 303, Streetsboro. Free, advance registration required. 330-742-3349 or education@tbshudson.org.

NAAMAT Cleveland Council Young Family event, 1:30-3 p.m., Herps Alive, 1489 Garden Drive, South Euclid. For children ages 5 and older. RSVP to 216-321-2002 or naamatclev@gmail.com.

Boundaries That Matter: Redistricting State and Federal Election Districts community discussion presented by Mark Salling and Paul Moke, 9:30-10:45 a.m., First Unitarian Church of Cleveland, 21600 Shaker Blvd., Shaker Hts. 216-751-2320 or firstunitariancleveland.org.

A faith ta die for – about Jewish martyrs presented by Rabbi John Spitzer, 9:30-11 a.m., Beth El Congregation, 750 White Pond Drive, Akron. Advance registration requested. $5 suggested donation. Preceded by services and light breakfast at 8:30.

Women of Fairmount Temple Sunday Mitzvah Morning, 9:30-11:30 a.m., Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, 23737 Fairmount Blvd., Beachwood. 216-464-1330.

jHub Purim Hoopla!, 3:30-4:30 p.m., Solon Community Center, 35000 Portz Parkway. Free, registration required. 216-371-0446 ext. 207 or dshapiro@jecc.org.

TUESDAY, FEB. 28

Colon Cancer Updates – For those touched by cancer, 6:30-8 p.m., The Gathering Place West, 800 Sharon Drive, Westlake. Free, advance registration required. 216-595-9546.

FRIDAY, MARCH 3

Family Kabbalat Shabbat, 9:30-10:15 a.m., Park Synagogue East, 27500 Shaker Blvd., Pepper Pike. For children ages birth to 5 with parents, grandparents and/or caregivers. RSVP to 216-371-2244 ext. 121 or asolomon@parksyn.org.

Anti-Israelism and the Jewish Community: Why the American Jewish Community Should Support Israel presented by Asaf Romirowsky, 8 p.m., The Temple-Tifereth Israel, 26000 Shaker Blvd., Beachwood. Shabbat dinner at 7 p.m. costs $16. 216-831-3233 or hmiller@ttti.org.

Visit link:
The City: Week of February 10 (copy) – Cleveland Jewish News

Why the Muslim Ban Sent Jewish Writers Flocking to Social Media … – Forward

On Friday, January 27, one week after he was sworn in as president, Donald Trump signed an executive order titled Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States. That order as youve now surely heard did at least two notable things. First, it suspended the Issuance of Visas and Other Immigration Benefits for residents of seven majority-Muslim countries Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan and Libya that the Trump administration considers likely to produce national security threats. Second, it suspended indefinitely the acceptance of people fleeing civil war in Syria because, in the words of the order, the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States.

The response was swift and loud. Protests materialized at airports and in cities across the country. (One memorable sign at Los Angeles International Airport read, They Warned Us About This in Hebrew School.) Flanked by recently arrived refugees, Sen. Chuck Schumer delivered a tearful speech. The nations acting attorney general, Sally Yates, wrote a letter stating that the Department of Justice would not defend the ban; hours later, she was fired and replaced by a U.S. attorney from Virginia, Dana Boente, who said that he would defend it. Via a spokesman, Barack Obama, newly returned from vacation, said, Citizens exercising their constitutional right to assemble, organize, and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake.

Amid all the frenzy, something noteworthy happened online: Jews began telling personal stories. It was as though Trumps executive order had unlocked an archive where they store some of the most raw, personal ideas about what it means to be a Jew, an American, an immigrant, a refugee, a human being.

Two days after the immigration order was signed, Dani Dekelbaum-Barr, a special education teacher in Texas, posted a mini-essay to Facebook that was shared more than 3,800 times. I am a Jew whose family was murdered in the Holocaust, forced to dig their own mass grave in the Zhulkin Forest, I am the great-granddaughter of Jewish refugees working four jobs to send money to Poland to rescue their remaining family.

I am the woman who will not take off her Star, she continued. Who will not forget. Who will always remember and never deny her family, her heritage, her religion, her birthright, her God.

I have seen this before and I will not stay silent.

Elsewhere on Facebook, the novelist Gary Shteyngart wrote on his official author page, One of my strongest memories is the feeling of safety and warmth upon finally reaching JFK airport in 1979 as a Soviet refugee. Imagine coming from a country that is an even worse hell than the Soviet Union, the landing gear descending, the plane skidding to a halt. But instead of being reunited with your loved ones, you are questioned over your political beliefs and sent back to an uncertain fate. What kind of country would do this to human beings after everything we know?

Twitter

On Sunday, January 29, University of Denver graduate student Mark Mayer shared a photo of his grandmother Karolas German passport from the 1930s. The prominently stamped J, he explained, was a Judenstempel, a Jew stamp, to make her easily identifiable. He notes how other pages in the passport show that his grandparents were allowed only a month to visit the United Kingdom and were prohibited from seeking employment there.

They arrived in the United States early in 1940, just before domestic fears about spies and infiltrators truly closed down pathways for Jewish refugees, he wrote. Thats how I got here. Her mother and father died in Auschwitz.

As Mayers post was being liked and shared on Facebook, a Google Document titled Soviet Jewish Refugee Solidarity Sign-on Letter was gaining signatures: We, the undersigned Soviet Jewish refugees, write to express our support for the United States refugee resettlement program and our opposition to President Trumps executive orders that close Americas doors to vulnerable refugees desperately seeking our protection.

At Vox, in a piece titled Donald Trump Has Revealed Himself To Be a President Who Lacks Empathy, Matthew Yglesias cited Schumers speech and Trumps subsequent mockery of the senators fake tears, and wrote, For most American Jews especially those of us who, like Schumer and I, grew up in New York under the shadow of the Statue of Liberty the sense of the United States as a place of refuge from the blood-and-soil nationalism of Europe is integral to our sense of American greatness.

At the Atlantic, Julia Ioffe published a powerful account of her own familys exodus from Russia and arrival in the United States. This is what its like to be a refugee, it begins. Thousands of miles away, people haggle over policy details, about whether you are a risk and a burden, or an asset full of potential, a victim, or a potential tool of foreign policy, but really they are talking about you, and the days of your life and how you will live them. Later in the piece, she wrote, to most people watching the refugee crisis unfold, the refugees detained and turned back at airports across the country are likely abstractions, too. They do not see what brought them there or the bureaucratic Rube Goldberg machine they had to navigate to be deemed safe and responsible refugees.

Why did so many Jews respond to a swipe of the presidents pen?

Evan Osnos is an author and staff writer at The New Yorker who recently spent five years living and reporting in China. He now lives and works in Washington, D.C., and when he heard the news of the ban, he tweeted a message to his more than 50,000 Twitter followers: Im alive because my father, a Jewish refugee born en route from Poland, was allowed into America in 1944. My generation owns todays shame.

Contacted by the Forward, he expanded on the story (though he noted he was speaking more as a citizen, author, and son than as a journalist). His paternal grandparents lived in Warsaw, Poland, until 1939, when they left for what Osnos calls a long, chaotic trek that took them through Romania, Turkey, Iraq and other countries, and ultimately brought them to Mumbai, where Osnoss father, Peter Osnos, was born in 1943. Quoting from a ship manifest he retrieved during his phone call with the Forward, Osnos said the ship departed from India in December 1943 and arrived in San Pedro, California, in February 1944. The United States, he says, was literally a safe harbor.

To be Jewish, Osnos says, is to be aware of a shared experience of dislocation, and to be aware that there comes a moment in history when even ordinary middle-class placid lives can be blown apart. And in those moments you really dont have all that much to depend on except good fortune, and, if youre lucky, the kindness of strangers.

Twitter

For Americans like him, who grew up in safety and comfort, stories of such physical peril can feel abstract to the point of illegibility. But that began to change when he took a trip to Poland in 2002 with his mother (who is Episcopalian), his father and his fathers elder brother. That trip helped him understand that it was not by accident that his grandparents made it to this country; it was the result of their sheer will and, on the other side, Americans who believed in providing sanctuary for people in distress.

He said that watching Trump issue the order blocking refugee resettlement felt like not only a failure on the part of the White House, but in a sense a failure that all of us will have to bear as long as this remains the policy.

Journalist, author and Russian refugee Masha Gessen also spoke out on the executive actions implications. Her post-election dispatches for The New York Review of Books, among them Autocracy: Rules for Survival, and The Putin Paradigm, have made her a much-sought expert on life in an autocracy, or a democracy starting to look like one.

In the days before the ban was officially announced, she sent out a series of tweets listing people who had come to the United States as refugees: Gary Shteyngart, Julia Ioffe, Anya Ulinich, Hannah Arendt, Madeleine Albright, Henry Kissinger, Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno, Albert Einstein. Anne Frank didnt, she wrote. Couldnt get a visa. After the ban was signed and the airport protests erupted and lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union successfully obtained a temporary stay on the ban from a federal judge in Brooklyn, she added: So grateful to those who showed up today: the protesters, the lawyers, the judges. Same gratitude I still feel for my own 1981 refugee visa.

Getty Images

Speaking with the Forward from Oberlin, Ohio, where she is guest-teaching, Gessen said news of the ban made her sick to her stomach. It was, to her, the most shocking thing that [Trump] has done so far.

Her response was multilayered. She reacted as someone who came here as a refugee; as a journalist who has covered refugee crises in other countries; as someone with friends who have sought and received asylum in the United States, and as a Jew. It hits close to home because of the way the United States failed Jews during the Holocaust, she said, noting that the Jewish story is the story of exile.

The ban, she says, runs counter to international law, and it ignores how refugees like the ones she listed on Twitter have enriched and built and transformed the country. But on a deeper level, she says, it cuts against certain core American ideals ideals to which her own story is a testament.

The refugee visa she received in 1981 was a symbol of hope. It meant I could be whoever it is I wanted to be, not what the state decided I could be, not what I was allowed to be as a Jew, she said. To her it represents that corny and beautiful American idea that the only person who can hold you back is yourself. The country hasnt always lived up to those ideals, and an ideal, by definition, can never be fully reached. But, the American idea of progress, for most of its history, has been this idea of moving toward the ideals proposed by the Founding Fathers, she said.

The United States, Gessen says, was the worlds first nation conceived as a state of immigrants. That national story, as it happens, ignores Native Americans, and ignores people who came here in shackles, which is not a small thing. But it is important nevertheless. Trumps order, she says, represented a remarkable change of course. Its a huge thing when a president sort of goes against the national story in that manner.

Philip Eil is a freelance journalist based in Providence, Rhode Island.

See more here:
Why the Muslim Ban Sent Jewish Writers Flocking to Social Media … – Forward

Scion of prominent Jewish American family publishes first book of poetry at the age of 100 – Washington Post

A pencil sketch on the living room wall of Henry Morgenthau IIIs home depicts three versions of him: a skinny figure at 13, fatter at 20 and burdened with a grotesque potbelly at 40. Awful fate may be avoided by not following Pas example, the artist wrote to the boy in about 1930.

The artist was making fun of Morgenthaus father, who was his good friend and who carried some extra pounds around his middle. As Morgenthau recalled, his father did not take offense; in fact, he had kind of a sense of history and urged the artist, who was then governor of New York, to sign it. He scrawled F.D.R. on it, and the framed sketch now hangs near a bust of the president who ushered in the New Deal and led the United States through most of World War II.

Perhaps because people didnt tend to live as long back then, Roosevelt didnt draw Morgenthau at 60, 80 or older. But last month, the retired television producer turned 100, and he celebrated by publishing his first book of poetry.

A Sunday in Purgatory, published by Passager Books at the University of Baltimore, draws from his life as a scion of a prominent Jewish American family that includes his grandfather, Henry Morgenthau, who immigrated to New York from Germany in 1866 and served as ambassador to Turkey, and his father, Henry Morgenthau Jr., treasury secretary under Franklin Delano Roosevelt. A younger brother, Robert, served as U.S. district attorney in New York.

The collection also reflects Morgenthaus recent life in Washington, where he moved from Boston seven years ago to be near family. Sitting in his apartment at the retirement community Ingleside at Rock Creek as snow swirled outside, he spoke of how the city had changed since he lived here in the 1930s.

This idea of these old people going to these kind of communities didnt really exist. … On the whole, you just stayed at home, he said. My grandparents, they didnt have anything like this, he said, gesturing at his sleek black walker a few feet away.

As a documentarian, he spent extensive time with poets and writers, including Robert Lowell. Footage from his 1963 interview with James Baldwin appears in the newly released film, I Am Not Your Negro. In 1991 he wrote Mostly Morgenthaus, a book about his famous family. But aside from a brief foray in the fifth grade, he did not begin writing poetry until he participated in a couple of writing workshops in his 90s.

I dont know just what or why I started. I showed it to a few people and I was encouraged to go on, he said. It developed in sort of conflicting ways. On the one hand it was a way of separating myself from my heritage of a distinguished family.

Several of the poems shed a personal light onto historic events and characters of the American 20th century. When Roosevelt died in 1945, Morgenthau was serving in Gen. George S. Pattons Third Army in Europe, and a letter his father wrote him about dining with the president the night before he died became material for his poem, A Terrific Headache:

Before that last supper, he steadied

the trembling hand

of his long time boss and friend

as he mixed Bourbon Old Fashioneds and nibbled

caviar, a gift from the Soviet ambassador.

Four ladies were his guests.

One of the women was Roosevelts longtime mistress, Lucy Mercer Rutherford. His father didnt allow that information to appear in his authorized biography, but Morgenthau includes it in his poem, and also touches on Eleanor Roosevelts private musings about the shortcomings of her marriage.

He and Eleanor remained close until her death; he and his family donated many of her letters to the FDR Presidential Library and Museum at Hyde Park, the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. But Morgenthau still has folders full of correspondence from her, as well as a couple of dozen White House invitations.

Sipping ginger ale as he sat at a curly maple desk that once belonged to his mother, he recalled visiting John F. Kennedy at the White House with Eleanor Roosevelt. Jackie wasnt there, but [daughter] Caroline was there, and Kennedy brought her out, holding his hand. Mrs. Roosevelt, she was great with Caroline, and she told her stories of how it was that they would have Christmas in the White House. Afterward, she said, I didnt see where Jackie had any place to do any work.

Morgenthaus study and living room are lined with books, art, and photographs of him with FDR, JFK, Jimmy Carter and, beside the menorahs and carefully tended orchids, one taken with Barack Obama when he was campaigning for the 2008 Democratic nomination.

I became an early supporter, he said. I didnt think that Obama had any chance of winning, but I thought it was important that he make a good showing, and for that I supported him. I gave more money than I ever have before or since. For all the things that he stood for and being an African American.

Morgenthau is, by contrast, worried and horrified about the White Houses present occupant, calling President Trump a kind of pied piper who is leading us into what could easily be the destruction of civilization.

For Morgenthau, living to 100 has meant lifting the veil not only on others secrets but his own as well. In his poems, he refers to a lifelong dread of being uncovered. I need to be the person/my friends and family believe me to be./I cant be the person I am,/ but cant push him out.

Asked about that, he flashed a big smile and nodded. Well, there were a lot of things that different readers interpret in different ways, he said. Ill say I had a difficult childhood. I think I had a considerable learning disability. I was never a very good student, even though I was interested in intellectual things [and] I had things which were sort of festering, about my identity, including sexual identity, which is sort of referred to in a number of those poems.

Since moving to Washington and working with a terrific psychiatrist, he said, Ive found a way of sorting out these feelings which at times have been terrifying. … Id lived with this fear of exposing myself, and I tended not only to be a loner, which I was, but also self-consciously alienating people as a way of keeping them at a distance, and at times being very arrogant. Now, he said, Im much more outgoing with people, and more sensitive to their sensibilities.

Did poetry help him to open up? Or did opening up spur him to write poetry?

He paused for a long time. I hadnt thought about that, but I think it was both.

Living at Ingleside has also been a catalyst. Although he skips many of the facilitys group activities to make time for writing, many of his poems, including the title one, address issues around nearing the end of life that are implicit in living there.

I think age, in its various stages, is sort of a nexus for community, he said. I feel very comfortable being with people somewhere near my own age. I wrote this poem, A Sunday In Purgatory it is a kind of waiting place for the end; everyone knows its not far away. At Ingleside, People feel pretty free to talk with each other about this. And Im probably now in the top one percent.

His wife, with whom he describes a very close and satisfying relationship, died in 2006; his three children have, he says, been enthusiastic about the collection.

Im thrilled that he found this passion, said his daughter, Sarah Morgenthau, who lives in the District. I think thats a large part of why Dad is 100, is that he continues to push himself and to engage and to experiment with new mediums, (and) I think it enabled him to sort of articulate some of the things that hes wanted to say.

His publisher, which specializes in the work of people over 50, hopes Morgenthaus book can open a door for others. Im feeling that this book can make an entry point for other writers to see that they can possibly write or publish a book in their 90s, said co-editor Kendra Kopelke.

That said, they pushed the collection through relatively quickly, Morgenthau said. There are quite a few poems that I considered a work in progress, he said with a smile. Although it usually takes a year to evolve, they wanted to do it in three months … I guess because of my age.

See the original post here:
Scion of prominent Jewish American family publishes first book of poetry at the age of 100 – Washington Post

Stephen Miller Is a ‘True Believer’ Behind Core Trump Policies – New York Times


New York Times
Stephen Miller Is a 'True Believer' Behind Core Trump Policies
New York Times
President Trump congratulating Mr. Miller, center, after the senior adviser's swearing-in last month. Credit Al … Mexican heritage celebrations and Iraq war protests were things of particular offense. He produced a 2003 … Mr. Miller wrote many of

and more »

Read more from the original source:
Stephen Miller Is a ‘True Believer’ Behind Core Trump Policies – New York Times

America’s diverse history holds many untold stories – Massillon Independent

By Samantha Kay Smith Special to The Independent

Feb. 1kicked off Black History Month.

March: National Womens History Month.

May: Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Jewish American Heritage Month.

June: LGBTQ History Month.

September: National Hispanic-Latino Heritage Month.

October: National Italian American Heritage Month.

November: National American Indian Heritage Month.

We have just started one of the most celebrated of our diversity themed heritage and history months with Black History Month. Most of our other months throughout the year are also dedicated to underrepresented portions of our history. These months are when we try to tell an entire peoples history in just 30 days.

We dont try to do this to any other history. We dont try to tell American history in one month. By only dedicating one month to all of these histories, we dont learn the complex and beautiful histories that make our nation.

Have you heard of Alice Paul? She helped lead the Womens Suffrage Movement and advocated for the Equal Rights Amendment to be added to the Constitution.

What about Edmonia Lewis? A famous African-American, American-Indian sculptor who attended Oberlin College in the 19th century.

Do you know who Mary and Joseph Tape are? Mary sued the local school principal for barring her Chinese-American daughter from attending. This was in 1885, almost 70 years before Brown v. Board of Education.

Do you know about Alan Turing? Did you know about him before you saw “The Imitation Game”? He was a British scientist who revolutionized computer technology during World War II. He was also imprisoned because he was gay.

Bayard Rustin? Emma Lazarus? Alex Haley? Madame C.J. Walker? Jonas Salk? Maria Tallchief? Carlos Juan Finlay? Phillips Wheatley? Cesar Chaves? Charlene Teters? Irving Berlin? Loreta Janeta Velazques?

How many of those names did you know? These are all men and women who influenced America and American culture. They all are men and women that would have only been recognized during their Enter-Identifier-Here History/Heritage Month. They are men, women, black, Jewish, American Indian, Asian Pacific, East Asian, Latino, and every other combination of identities. And they are all people who should be recognized in our National History.

Unfortunately, because these stories are almost never told, we have to have special diversity months.

At Spring Hill, we believe these people are American history. We should be teaching black history all year ’round. We believe in teaching womens history all year ’round. We believe in teaching Jewish American, American Indian, Asian Pacific American, LGBTQ, and every other history out there. We should be teaching a reflective history of the men and women who have made America and our world.

And we should be ensuring that every student of history can see themselves in our shared history.

Samantha Kay Smith is the director of Spring Hill Historic Home, and writes the blog, “Kendal’s House on the Hill” published at IndeOnline.com. Read her blog on The Independent’s website and reach her at 330-833-6749.

The rest is here:
America’s diverse history holds many untold stories – Massillon Independent

Nonprofit notes, Feb. 12 – NewsOK.com

Television journalist Bob Woodruff and his wife Lee Woodruff speak at the Stand Up for Heroes event at Madison Square Gardenin New York in 2013. Lee Woodruff will speak at the 13th annual Juliette Low Leadership Society luncheon Feb. 16 at the Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club.[AP FILE PHOTO]

Girl Scout luncheon celebrates 100-year milestone

Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma is honoring the humble beginnings of the Mistletoe Troop from Muskogee and celebrating 100 years of selling cookies at the 13th annual Juliette Low Leadership Society luncheon Feb. 16 at the Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club.

New York Times best-selling author, journalist and speaker Lee Woodruff will be the keynote speaker. As co-author of In an Instant, Woodruff garnered critical acclaim for the compelling and humorous chronicle of her family’s journey to recovery following her husband Bob’s roadside bomb injury in Iraq.

Proceeds of the luncheon will help provide girls with opportunities to receive leadership development, financial literacy skills, healthy relationship workshops and outdoor experiences.

Sponsorship and membership opportunities are still available for this event. For more information, go to gswestok.org/jlls or contact Holly Johns Rowland at 528-4475 or hjohns@gswestok.org.

Nominations sought for visionary leaders

The Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits seeks nominations for Visions: A Celebration of Nonprofit Leadership, which honors agents of change in the community who provide leadership to enrich and enliven those whom they serve.

Honorees inspire others with their conviction and drive, give a voice to those without and act with the highest integrity to provide Oklahomans with resources otherwise not available.

Nominations for the Visions Awards are due by Feb. 28. Forms are available at okctrnonprofits.wufoo.com/forms/visions-2017-nomination-form.

Foundation plans annual gala

The Ralph Ellison Foundation presents its fourth annual gala celebration, “A Night with Ralph Ellison,” from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 25 at the Oklahoma History Center.

The gala includes a three-course wine dinner, music, literary readings and dance. For tickets, go to ralphellisonfoundation.org/gala-2017.

Museum continues Brown Bag Lunch Series

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, 1700 NE 63 St., continues its Brown Bag Lunch Series from noon to 1 p.m. March 1 in the Dub and Mozelle Richardson Theater with How the Spanish Inquisition Brought Jewish Culture into the American West.

Join author Corinne Joy Brown as she connects the research for her award-winning novel Hidden Star to a deeper understanding of Western cowboy culture. Participants can bring a lunch or purchase one at The Museum Grill. Reservations are not required.

For more information, go to nationalcowboymuseum.org.

Council names Leadership Arts Class members

The Oklahoma Arts Council has announced the participants of its 2017 Leadership Arts program. These members will convene at four two-day spring sessions to learn how to advance their communities through the arts and arts education.

Members of the 2017 class of Leadership Arts include: Scott Ambler, Sandra Kent, Dedra Morgan, Diane Jordan, Adam Heilman, Linda Moore, Glenna McBride, Andrew Ray, Sharon Cheatwood, LaTasha Duncan, Cindy Scarberry, Jermaine Mondaine, Brian Grider, Robert Arrington, Wilmari Ruiz, Maya Hering, Susan Marshall-Armstrong, Anne Oakley Erin Oldfield, John Selvidge, Jarica Walsh, Shoshana Wasserman, Bayly Wright, Bruce Carter, Addie Roanhorse, Jennifer Barretto, Susan Teeters, Sheri Ishmael-Waldrop, David Timmons, Aaron Beck, Krystle Brewer, Krystal Grizzle and Sarah Wright.

For more information, go to arts.ok.gov.

$20,000 donation match kicks off at food bank

Throughout 2017, Dolese will match all donations made to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma through the nonprofit’s Volunteer Center up to $20,000. This match will provide the equivalent of 200,000 meals for chronically hungry children, hardworking families and seniors with inconsistent access to food.

Donations can be made to the Dolese Delivers Match in the food bank’s volunteer center, 3355 S Purdue, or at fighthungerfaster.org. A $25 donation can be made by texting the word FOOD to 501501.

For more information, contact Lisa Pitsiri at lpitsiri@regionalfoodbank.org or 604-7114.

CASA hosts first open house of year

CASA of Oklahoma County began a pilot program in 2016 offering open house events at 6 p.m. on the last Tuesday of each month in the Oklahoma County Juvenile Center. On Jan. 31, CASA held its first open house of 2017.

CASA provides trained, court-appointed volunteer advocates to speak for the best interests of children in the foster system in Oklahoma County. Open houses are free and focus on the basics of CASA’s volunteer opportunity. Guests are given a tour of the juvenile center and are encouraged to ask questions and interact with staff throughout.

For more information, go to okcountycasa.org/calendar.

Organizations earn award for beautification efforts

Keep America Beautiful presented Keep Oklahoma Beautiful, OKC Beautiful, Ardmore Beautification Council, Keep Broken Arrow Beautiful and Keep McAlester Beautiful with its President’s Circle Award at the recent Keep America Beautiful National Conference in Washington, D.C.

The President’s Circle Award recognizes exemplary performance by certified affiliates of the national nonprofit in creating clean, green and beautiful communities.

The conference brought together more than 350 leaders from Keep America Beautiful’s national network of affiliates, business leaders, policymakers and other experts who shared innovative ideas and proven strategies to help end littering, improve recycling, and beautify America’s communities.

Grant applications available for cleanup

An estimated 50,000 Oklahomans will join millions nationwide to participate in the Great American Cleanup March 1-May 31, locally facilitated by Keep Oklahoma Beautiful (KOB).

Businesses, groups or organizations wishing to participate must register through KOB. In doing so, groups will receive cleanup supplies, program materials and grant opportunities.

Registered groups have the opportunity to apply for cash grants from $200 to $300, sponsored by OGE Energy Corp. Groups also can enter an essay contest to win lawn and garden equipment donated by local company P&K Equipment. To register, go to keepoklahomabeautiful.com.

Prescription discount card helps fight hunger

According to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, 66 percent of clients served in the state have had to choose between spending money on food or medical care.

The Regional Food Bank and Watertree Health are addressing health and hunger problems in Oklahoma by offering a free prescription discount card and, as an added benefit, Watertree Health makes a donation to the food bank every time a person uses the discount card.

The card is accepted at more than 60,000 pharmacies, including chains such as Homeland, CVS, Walmart and Walgreens. It can be used by people with health insurance to fill in coverage gaps or by individuals who do not have coverage.

To obtain a free card, go to watertreehealthcard.com/feedok or text FEEDOK to 95577. For more information about the food bank, call 972-1111 or go to regionalfoodbank.org.

Library book sale coming to fairgrounds

The 2017 Friends of the Library Booksale is 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Feb. 25-26 at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds in the Oklahoma Expo Hall. Admission is free.

A presale for members is 5:30 to 9 p.m. Feb. 24. Memberships will available for purchase in the lobby from noon to 4 p.m. and after 6 p.m. Feb. 24. Annual dues are $15. Children 12 and younger are free.

More than 700,000 books covering a wide range of subjects, plus a large selection of music, DVDs and audiobooks will be available. In the general section, hardbacks are $1 and paperbacks and magazines are 50 cents. Collectors’ choice books are individually priced, most less than $5.

Proceeds are used to purchase items and provide services not covered by Metropolitan Library System’s budget. For more information, go to mlsfriends.org, call 606-3763 or email friends@metrolibrary.org.

Grant to help services in impoverished areas

Count Me in 4 Kids, a collaboration among Sunbeam Family Services, Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy and other advocacy groups, received a project grant from The Oklahoma Group, a student-led consulting organization from University of Oklahoma providing nonprofits pro-bono services.

The framework for the project comes from research done by Sunbeam that identified trends in some of the most impoverished ZIP codes in Oklahoma County. It will focus on services that help to build family stability and economic well-being, essential to improving the quality of life for children and families within these ZIP codes. The research will identify the unmet needs of impoverished children, pinpoint gaps and develop a strategy to address those needs.

For more information, go to sunbeamfamilyservices.org or oica.org.

FROM STAFF REPORTS

More:
Nonprofit notes, Feb. 12 – NewsOK.com

Jewish Heritage Museum Atlanta, GA – The Breman Museum

Register now for up close and personal tours of our newest exhibition Atlanta Collects: Art Treasures From Atlanta’s Private Collectors. Limited space available, RSVP required. See Degas, Mary Cassatt, Picasso, Wyeth and more, learn about the artists and the collectors who made the exhibition possible.

Ben was six years old when he witnessed the ravages of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, in his home town of Frankfurt am Main. Soon thereafter, he and four of his siblings were sent on a Kindertransport to France and then the United States and Atlanta. Benjamin will be speaking February 19, 2017 about his journey.

Register now for up close and personal tours of our newest exhibition Atlanta Collects: Art Treasures From Atlanta’s Private Collectors. Limited space available, RSVP required. See Degas, Mary Cassatt, Picasso, Wyeth and more, learn about the artists and the collectors who made the exhibition possible.

Celebrate Black History Month with the Breman and join us for our second annual Historic Jewish Atlanta Tour Civil Rights Bus Tour.

Take a culture break during your lunch on the fourth Friday of every month! The Breman Museum, Center for Puppetry Arts, and High Museum of Art are partnering to bring the Midtown community something new between 12 noon and 1 p.m. on these special Fridays. The program pairs two of the institutions for a conversation, performance, or tour experience from a new perspective. Each lunchtime program is free and lasts approximately 20 minutes (with time to explore the Museums exhibitions after the program). See below for program locations, dates, and details. Dont miss out on feeding your cultural appetite at Midtowns great arts organizations!

Excerpt from:
Jewish Heritage Museum Atlanta, GA – The Breman Museum

Confronting ‘injustice,’ pro-Israel Christians rally support for a US embassy in Jerusalem – Heritage Florida Jewish News

Hadas Parush/Flash90

During the Jewish holiday of Sukkot in October 2015, thousands of evangelical Christians wave Israeli, American and other national flags as they march in a Jerusalem parade as part of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem’s Feast of Tabernacles festivities. ICEJ is among the pro-Israel Christian organizations that are rallying support for moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Aside from its centrality to Jewish peoplehood as the home of the ancient Jewish Temples and now the modern state of Israel’s capital, Jerusalem is also synonymous with Judaism for many Bible-reading Christians. As such, prominent pro-Israel Christian organizations are lining up to express their support for President Donald Trump’s promise to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and to hold the president accountable for his words.

Susan Michael, U.S. director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), said Christians already understand that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and would like to see the American government follow suit. In fact, ICEJ has had its own “unofficial” embassy in Jerusalem since 1980, a point that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted in his2016 Christmas address.

“Hundreds of millions of Christians around the world understand from their Bible the spiritual significance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people, and that it was established as the capital of Israel some 3,000 years ago by King David,” Michael told JNS.org, adding that Christians “believe the spiritual law of blessing established in Genesis 12 that God will bless those who bless the Jewish people… They want to see the U.S. standing in support of Israel and enjoying the blessings of doing so.”

Matthew Staver, founder and chairman of the Liberty Counsel evangelical Christian organization and president of the Christians in Defense of Israel ministry, echoed Michael’s assessment.

“Support for Israel comes from both the Bible, which clearly establishes God gave the land of Israel to the Jews, and from history that confirms the continuity of the connection between Israel and the Jewish people,” Staver told JNS.org. “To deny recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is anti-Semitic.”

David Brog, the founding executive director and currently a board member of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), which calls itself America’s largest pro-Israel organization with more than 3.3 million members, told JNS.org that many Christians who read the Bible “understand that Jerusalem is and has always been Israel’s capital city, and they simply don’t understand why Israel should be the only nation on Earth where we do not place our embassy in the capital.”

“Support of Israel was one of the motivating factors in the historic evangelical voter turnout for President Trump in this past election,” said Pastor Mario Bramnick, president of the Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition, a leading pro-Israel Latino Christian initiative. “As evangelicals, we support President Trump’s resolve in moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. We believe that theland of Israel, with an undivided Jerusalem as its capital, was given by God to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob by way of an eternal covenant and that no president, prime minister or monarch has any authority to take it away.”

‘Decades-long injustice’

While the historic Jewish connection to Jerusalem is obvious to many evangelical Christians, ICEJ’s Michael also explained that from a practical standpoint, pro-Israel Christians also feel the “need to right a decades-long injustice in U.S. policy.”

“Israel is the only country where the U.S. embassy is not located in the capital of that country. This is because the U.S. government does not even recognize west Jerusalem as being part of Israel, even though it is territory Israel has controlled since 1949,” she said.

Indeed, President Harry Truman instituted de facto recognition of Israel in May 1948 (de jure recognition of the Jewish state came in January 1949), but the U.S. has never recognized Israel’s claims over Jerusalem. Those claims were limited to western Jerusalem until Israel reunified the city, capturing the eastern portion from Jordan, in the 1967 Six-Day War. In the decades following Israel’s extension

of sovereignty over all of Jerusalem, the U.S. has held firm on refusing to recognize the city as the capital of Israel.

Congress, however, has taken a different position. In 1995, Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which calls on the U.S. to move the embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the city as Israel’s capital. But every sitting president since then has opted to sign successive six-month waivers delaying the move. Most recently, former President Barack Obama signed the waiver in December, meaning President Trump will need to decide by June 1 between another waiver or an embassy move.

As such, one proposal suggests that the U.S. relocate its embassy to western Jerusalem, which the international community widely accepts as being part of Israel in the present or under any future Israeli-Palestinian final status agreement.

“Moving the embassy to west Jerusalem has no bearing on east Jerusalem, nor does it prejudice the outcome of eventual negotiations over the city’s final status and borders, and therefore should happen forthwith,” Michael said.

At the same time, the U.S. already maintains a consulate in Jerusalem that serves the city as well as the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It is one of two American consulates, the other being in Hong Kong, that report directly to the State Department rather than to a U.S. ambassador.

Will Trump make the move?

In the early days of Trump’s presidency, his administration has made conflicting statements as to when or if the U.S. embassy will be relocated.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Jan. 23 that “no decision” has been made on the move.

“We’re at the very early stages of that decision-making process,” Spicer told reporters after being asked how the move would serve U.S. strategic issues. “It’s very early in this process. [Trump's] team is going to continue to consult with [the] State [Department].”

Spicer’s comments came after he had said a day earlier that the U.S. was in the “very beginning stages” of discussing the embassy move. At the same time, in an interview with Israel Hayom shortly before taking office, Trump said he “did not forget” about his promise to move the embassy to Jerusalem, adding that “you know that I am not a person who breaks promises.”

Additionally, U.S. Ambassador to Israel-designate David Friedman, who has yet to be confirmed by the Senate, announced that he intends to live in Jerusalem rather than the American ambassador’s traditional residence in Herzliya.

In February, Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with Trump in Washington, D.C., where the leaders may discuss the issue of the embassy move, officials have said.

“The decision to move the U.S. embassy should be the product of a net assessment of potential benefits versus potential risks,” Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told JNS.org.

“It is easy to focus on the hyperbolic threats of certain Middle East actors [who oppose the embassy move] without also factoring into the equation what moving the embassy might achieve-repairing an historic injustice, fixing the fact that America currently has representation in Jerusalem for the Palestinian Authority but none for Israel, and sending the message throughout the region that America fulfills its promises to allies,” he said.

Mobilizing Christian support

CUFI sent out a Jan. 22 action alert that called upon its members to email Trump, asking him to keep his promise and move the embassy.

“Thus far, more than 20,000 of our members have emailed the White House. They reminded the president that America, the Congress and 3.3 million members of CUFI are with him and that he should ignore the voices calling on him to break his promise,” Brog said.

During the 2016 election campaign, the ICEJ mobilized several hundred Christian leaders to speak out in favor of the embassy move.

“The U.S. branch of the ICEJ wrote a letter to both presidential candidates before the election, signed by some 650 Christian leaders, encouraging this move,” Michael said. “We will do whatever is necessary in the coming months to encourage the administration and demonstrate the continued support of the American Christian community for this move.”

Michael believes that Trump should work closely with Israel and other regional U.S. allies to make sure the embassy move is carried out appropriately, to avoid violence or diplomatic strains.

“While we do encourage the U.S. administration to make this move as soon as possible, we caution that it must be done right,” Michael said. “We understand that they (administration officials) need time to consult with Israel on various aspects of such a move. They should also use this opportunity to bolster regional relationships and influence by working out a plan ahead of time with key Arab leaders, as well as build a coalition of other countries that will follow the U.S. in moving their own embassy to Jerusalem.”

The rest is here:
Confronting ‘injustice,’ pro-Israel Christians rally support for a US embassy in Jerusalem – Heritage Florida Jewish News

American Jewish players set to unite for Israel in the World Baseball Classic – Jerusalem Post Israel News

They call it Team Israel, but really, its Team Jew. And theres never been anything like it.

Next month in South Korea, 16 countries will play in the quadrennial baseball tournament known as the World Baseball Classic (WBC), a World Cup for baseball. One of them is Israel, which advanced to the tournament by winning its qualifier in Brooklyn in September.

Almost all the players on this team are Jewish Americans, representing a mix of the American-Jewish community. Some have an integrated Jewish background two Jewish parents, extensive participation in Jewish holidays, and involvement in the Jewish community while others have a Jewish parent but grew up with the other parent after divorce, or have only one Jewish grandparent, and barely know they are Jewish. Yet somehow, they all bought in on being a Jew representing Israel.

I always found it amazing that so many of these guys who had virtually no [Jewish] identity growing up, never celebrated Jewish holidays, embraced being known as a Jewish baseball player, says Jonathan Mayo, 46, a reporter for MLB.com since 1999; and understanding that the Jewish community in the United States loves them unconditionally.

The guys not only embraced their identity as Jewish players, they embraced each other. The weekend before the Brooklyn qualifier, the team gathered for the first time in Wappingers Falls, New York. It was a threeday mini-camp to get them ready to play Great Britain and Brazil. Repeatedly, veterans spoke of their amazement at the team comradery that so quickly came together.

I dont know what the reason was behind it, but everybody got super comfortable with everybody on the first day of the workouts, says Nick Rickles, 27, a catcher with the Washington Nationals organization. The next day, it was like wed played together six months everybody was on the same page immediately. That was very impressive to me. I can feel something special that I dont know that I felt with a team before, especially this soon.

Rickles is one of a handful of returning veterans who played in the WBC in 2012, the first qualifying round in which Israel competed. Its been four years since weve seen each other, but coming back, we hadnt missed a beat in four years, he says. That was also very impressive to me.

Nate Freiman, 30, a free agent first baseman, is another of the five or six players who will be playing on the third Team Israel roster next month 2012 and September being the first two. He was the star at the first qualifier in Jupiter, Florida, when he hit four home runs, knocked in seven and slugged 1.417.

He had one simple message for the players:

I said this is going to be a new experience for almost all of you, playing on the international stage. And the type of baseball, and the type of feeling surrounding this tournament, is something that is difficult to replicate in minor league baseball. But buy into this, bring everything you have to this, and this will be an experience you wont ever forget.

TEAM ISRAEL is like no team the players have ever played on. As professionals, they are used to shuffling from one franchise to another, making friends and then moving on, as they have all done in their careers. Here, it is a permanent team. No ones traded or released: if you can still play, youll keep playing, and if you retire, you remain part of the family. In the world of professional baseball, thats a very small family.

I grew up as a Jewish kid in Santa Monica playing baseball with other Jewish kids, says Cody Decker, a 30-year-old catcher with the Milwaukee Brewers organization. But the higher you get in the ranks, theres less and less Jewish baseball players to the point where other than on this team, Ive been teammates with only two Jewish players in professional baseball over the last eight seasons.

The result, he says, is something unique, this thing we have in common and no one else gets to experience that. Thats why this is pretty special.

Is it a good baseball team? Yes. Can the total be greater than the sum of its parts? Absolutely. And the parts are pretty impressive.

Israels 28-man roster was put together by the teams 73-year-old manager, Jerry Weinstein, a toothpick-chewing baseball lifer with 40 years of experience coaching professional and college baseball. A studious and well-prepared leader, he was just named manager of the Colorado Rockies Hartford Yard Goats in the Double AA Eastern League.

The team Weinstein put together resulted in a group of 28 extremely talented professional baseball players, among the minuscule number of the very best in the world.

A dozen of them have Major League experience (final rosters were not available at press time). These include Craig Breslow, Ike Davis, Decker, Freiman, Ty Kelly, Ryan Lavarnway, Jason Marquis, Josh Satin and Josh Zeid. Other possibilities include Ian Kinsler, Kevin Pillar and Danny Valencia. Another dozen or so players have played in Triple AAA, one level below the Major League. This is an able and capable team.

The level of Major League experience varies. Marquis, 39, who retired in 2015 after 15 years in the big leagues, can still pitch, as demonstrated by his outstanding performance in September starting two of the three games, pitching seven innings, giving up one run, two hits, walking one and striking out six.

Marquis is the most accomplished major leaguer on this team third on the all-time Jewish list in wins and strikeouts, and fourth in innings pitched. Hes likely to start the first game, and, if he can duplicate what he did in Brooklyn, the third as well.

Another atypical characteristic of Weinsteins roster is how smart a team it is.

The level of conversation is at a much higher level, one not usually associated with a baseball clubhouse, says Dan Rootenberg, 44, the teams strength and conditioning coach and physical therapist, who played for the Netanya Tigers in 2007 in the one-season Israel Baseball League (IBL). Youve got guys who have deferred medical school, whove been to Yale, Duke, Stanford, you name it. There is this extremely high level of intelligence and depth of conversation thats not typical.

Nate Fish, 37, Team Israels first-base coach who played in the IBL for the Tel Aviv Lightning, says, Every team has that one smart guy everyone considers weird, but also kind of looks up to because they suspect he is smart. We were that guy, all of us Its not only the best Jewish baseball team ever; its the most educated baseball team ever.

To be eligible to play in the WBC, Major League Baseball (MLB) instituted rules different from all other international sporting events such as the World Cup, Maccabiah and Olympics. Those require participants to be passport-holding citizens of the country for which they play. However, to help spread baseball around the world, eligibility requirements in the WBC were changed players do not need to hold passports of the country they are representing, but only be eligible to hold passports of the country they are representing.

The Israeli parameter for citizenship is called Hok Hashvut, The Law of Return: any Jew anywhere in the world has the fundamental right to move to Israel and become an Israeli citizen. Thats how Team Israels players are American Jews who are playing in an international competition on behalf of the State of Israel. And thats a first.

Identifying who is a Jew starts with lists of Jewish players compiled by Shel Wallman and Ephraim Moxson at Jewish Sports Review, and Scott Barancik of Jewishbaseballnews.com.

Finding proof that the players are in fact Jewish then falls on Peter Kurz, 59, president of the Israel Association of Baseball (IAB), the governing body of baseball in Israel and the sponsor of Team Israel.

Some parents are both Jewish, so the player has a bar mitzva certificate, a bris certificate, a ketuba from the parents, says Kurz. MLB accepts that. Then I have to prove that the player is related to the parents, so I have to bring his birth certificate in addition to the ketuba. What if the parents are not Jewish? Or only one parent is Jewish? Then I have to go back did his father have a bar mitzva? He didnt have a bar mitzva? What about his grandfather? Maybe his grandfather had something.

Every ketuba Kurz received was in English, except for one in Hebrew. Not to worry, MLB has someone in the office who can read the Hebrew. If there are no documents, Kurz gets a letter from their rabbi. One player had an army certificate of his grandfather from World War II that said he was Jewish. MLB accepted that, too.

THE TEAM bonding continued into the qualifying tournament in Brooklyn. Pitcher Alon Leichman, 27, one of three Israelis on the 2012 team who now serves as the bullpen coach, printed out Hebrew phrases to learn, posting them in everyones lockers. The team also practiced in the clubhouse singing Hatikva, Israels national anthem, so everyone could at least pretend they knew the words, says Fish.

As is customary, the national anthem of each country is played before every game in the tournament. At the opening strains of Hatikva, all the players pulled out a blue kippa with the IAB insignia and put it on their heads some for the first time in their lives. We had to remember to keep our hats on, not off, when Hatikva was played, laughs Fish, the self-proclaimed @ kingofjbaseball.

The players also identified with the team mascot: The Mensch on the Bench, a stuffed toy rabbi and Jewish knockoff of Elf on the Shelf, the Christmas doll toy. It was brought by Decker, the teams practical joker, its merry prankster.

Decker is the Jewish Crash Davis, with 173 home runs over eight seasons in the minor leagues, and only 12 plate appearances in the majors, with no hits and one RBI on a sac fly. (The answer to the trivia question is Melvin Upton Jr.)

Decker borrowed a real tallit from a reporter, wrapped it around the little Mensch, and gave the tiny Hasid a prominent seat on the dugout bench and its own locker in the clubhouse. That brought a whole nother level of cohesion to this group, says Rootenberg. And its been in our clubhouse this whole time bringing us luck. Its special. The photograph that accompanied a New York Times feature on the team was of the toy.

Identification as a player for Israel was not only exhibited at the tournament itself; some of the players carry it with pride affiliated with an organization receive travel bags for carrying equipment with the teams logo on the side. Those who have played for multiple organizations and almost all of these players have collect many travel bags over the years.

Which one they use is their choice.

One of the things that were very proud of is showing off that we were part of the team, says Rickles. So, we get these travel bags Im with the Nationals, I was previously with the Oakland As but instead of using those bags, I would use my Team Israel bag. So not only does that show that Im proud to be part of the team, it brings awareness to other guys What is that? What did you guys do? When do you guys play again? Seeing the bag and being able to talk about it makes other people aware and want to be part of the team.

Each of the players has a personal reason for wanting to represent Israel: their religion, a love of competition, a grandparent who survived the Holocaust, their careers, a chance to play for a country on the biggest international stage baseball has to offer, for the friendship and comradery.

Baseball has been my career, says Adam Gladstone, 44, head of baseball operations for the team. If I have the ability to give back to Israel and to my religion through baseball, its probably the best way for me to do that; my way of giving back to the religion, the community and my heritage.

Freiman calls it an extreme honor to play for Team Israel, a sentiment voiced by many of the players. Ive been fortunate to represent towns and schools and cities, and Im always proud and honored to represent my team, he says. But this is different. In international baseball, youre representing an entire country, an entire people, an entire heritage and culture. And we are here to make them proud.

Being on Team Israel also helps the players get in touch with their own Jewishness.

For 28-year-old infielder Kelly, whose mother is Jewish but who was raised Catholic, his fathers religion, this team is the most connected hes ever been. I identify with it much more now, he says of his Judaism.

As for the team, Kelly says, I dont want to say I feel like an outsider, but I feel like I have to be more appreciative because its not something that Ive been practicing my whole life, and that its just a natural thing that Im playing for Team Israel. Its been sort of an afterthought.

Whatever their individual motives, the common theme for all is helping to grow the sport in Israel, putting Israel on the baseball map, and knowing that they are playing for something way beyond themselves.

The team comradery is us understanding what were representing and what were here to do, says R.C. Orlan, 26, a pitcher with the Nationals franchise. Theres a certain purpose other than just winning its always been about going as far as you can and winning, but were trying to represent something bigger than that.

They are not in competition for stats, fighting the guy sitting next to them on the bench to get to the Major Leagues or to stay there, perusing whose numbers are better. These teammates are competing for one goal: Help Israel. Help Israeli baseball.

None of this is for us, says Decker. Thats why this tournament is so great for us, especially for this team. We know were playing for something a lot bigger. This is not about our stats, this is not about our careers it doesnt necessarily do much for our careers. This is for Israel. This is something thats bigger.

THE PLAYERS also have come to understand how deeply it touches Jews in the US, and how theyre playing both for Israel and for baseball-loving Jewish Americans who root for Israel. But they only discovered just how much impact they had after playing in Jupiter, where they were defeated 9-7 in 10 innings by Spain.

It didnt sink in until we lost, says Rickles. You dont realize how many people have your back, how many people want you to succeed. Coming into this year, four years later, it means a lot to me to play for a country and the people that are behind us.

Freiman calls that loss a crushing disappointment, one of the biggest disappointments of my baseball career. In the intervening four years, weve seen how much this has meant to people all across the country, and abroad.

Decker says he and Freiman, who have played together on a couple of teams since 2012, including last summer, brought it up once a week how crushing a night that was. It was crushing. We thought we had it. That line drive to right we were jumping out of the dugout, running onto the field. And the guy made a good catch. Ill remember that Joc [Pederson] hit to right forever.

Wherever hes gone the last four years, Decker says, people referenced Team Israel over and over.

A shocking amount of people, he says. When mail came to the clubhouse with requests to sign cards, Id say 50 percent of them mention Team Israel. Honest to God truth. Its an outrageous amount of people. When I sign [autographs] on the field, theres always one guy saying, Remember when you played on Team Israel?

Freiman says he had the same experience.

All over the country California, Texas, Iowa, Florida, New York everywhere in the country [Jews] follow this.

STILL, FOR all their feelings about connecting to their fellow Jew, their own Jewishness and to each other, there was one piece missing: Israel. With only a couple of the players having been there, the teammates had little idea what it was about. They were representing the country in the abstract.

So to create a bond with the country on their uniforms, a group of 10 players past, present and future flew to Israel in January (on a plane borrowed from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson) to see and learn about the country and the baseball scene there.

Jeff Aeder, 55, who started the jewishbaseballmuseum.com website, co-sponsored and organized the journey, bringing the group to Israel for a six-day trip much like the Birthright experience.

Theres nothing more exciting to me than bringing people who have never been here before, who dont have the same background, and the same inherent love of this country, says Aeder, a Chicago businessman and owner of Milts BBQ for the Perplexed, a profit-free kosher restaurant. My job was to expose them to enough different aspects of it so that they get a feel for the country, so that when they go back theyre absolutely amazed by the vitality of the country, the spirit of the people, by the hope, the optimism, and also understanding the risks and concerns the press doesnt portray Israel the way we see it. For them to do this, and to turn them on to what we know as the beauty of Israel is just phenomenal, just great.

The entire trip was caught on camera by filmmaker Jeremy Newberger, who together with MLB.coms Mayo is producing a documentary called Heading Home, which chronicles the players getting a taste of Israel and then playing in the 2017 Classic.

The group was filmed eating shawarma and falafel in the Mahane Yehuda market; visiting Yad Vashem; listening to a recording of David Ben-Gurions declaration of independence in Tel Aviv; attending a groundbreaking ceremony for a new baseball field to be built in Beit Shemesh; visiting the Western Wall on Friday night; swimming in the Dead Sea; climbing Masada; taking in an air force base; and dedicating a medical motorcycle for the volunteer emergency medical service, Hatzalah.

The purpose of the film is to document this trip beyond the goodwill tour, says Mayo, to show these players exploring what it means to be a Jewish ballplayer, and this momentous occasion of having an Israeli national team competing in a major international competition for the first time.

A highlight for all was a meet-and-greet event at the Baptist Village field in Petah Tikva. Dozens of Israeli kids who play in one of the IABs five age-group leagues watched the stars take a little batting practice, before getting autographs and selfies.

For the IAB, it was about connecting the Israeli kids to baseball, which is not easy in a country where passion for sports centers on soccer and basketball. But what better way to get them jazzed than to meet professional baseball players?

Stars make leagues, in every sport, says Fish, who just completed three years as the inaugural executive director of the IAB, the organizations first paid professional. Without stars, no one cares about baseball. Especially little kids. Little kids dont care about the nuances of baseball as much as they think Ken Griffey is a really cool dude. So a team like that gives Israel a team to look up to thats the spark that little kids need to play baseball.

As much as the players may have sparked interest in the kids, it was Israel that sparkled for the players. They tweeted throughout the trip and after returning to the States.

From the Mediterranean to the Dead, the Western Wall to graffiti wall, Masada to sabbaba, what a trip, tweeted Sam Fuld, a 35-year-old free agent outfielder.

Jon Moscot, 25, a pitcher with the Reds, who was forced out of this tournament because of Tommy John surgery but is already committed for 2021, tweeted: The trip to Israel is nothing short of spectacular.

After being home for two days and letting our incredible trip sink in, my overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude, tweeted As franchise catcher Ryan Lavarnway, 29, one of two Yale graduates on the team. I learned so much about history and religion and the State of Israel. Everybody was so kind and we felt totally at home. Thank you so much!

Zeid, a 29-year-old free agent pitcher and another veteran from 2012, ended his visit with a strong recommendation: One of the best weeks ever. Doesnt matter who you are or where youre from, Israel is an incredible, must-see experience.

When the players put on their uniforms in Seoul with the Star of David patch on their right arm, not all of the best Jewish professionals in the US will be playing for Team Israel. Some couldnt join due to injury, or because they had to be in spring training with their organization, or because of family commitments. One, 22-year-old top rookie Alex Bregman, is playing for team USA.

Everybody who has bought into this from a players standpoint, from a coaching standpoint, from a front-office IAB standpoint everybody is proud to put that jersey on, for whatever reason it is, says Gladstone. This is their way of giving back. If they didnt want to do it, they wouldnt be here, they would have declined. There were some guys we would have liked to have on the club, offered the opportunity to see if they had interest, and they didnt relate to it. So, if they didnt relate to it great. We found the 28 best guys that can represent us.

THEN THERES the bonus: not only do these players get to play in the biggest international baseball tournament, play to represent world Jewry, and play for the State of Israel they also get paid. For winning in Brooklyn, the players and the IAB split $400,000. Each game they win next month earns another round of money. When the Dominican Republic took home the trophy in 2013, the players and the countrys baseball federation split $3.5 million.

Las Vegas has the Dominicans favored next month at 5-2 odds, with Japan and the US at 3-1. The four lowest odds are Australia, China, Colombia and Israel, at 100-1.

The world rankings are worse. China and Colombia are 18th and 19th, respectively, the lowest among the 16 teams playing next month except Israel, that is, which is ranked 41st. In the opening round, Israel will play No. 3-ranked South Korea, No. 4 Chinese Taipei and No. 9 Netherlands.

But rankings and odds can be misleading. For one, these numbers were on the board before the rosters came out. Moreover, with two teams less talented than this one and this is the best Jewish baseball team ever Israel played six games against four countries in the 2012 and 2016 qualifiers and won five of them.

For the IAB, the World Baseball Classic is about the excitement of being represented on the world baseball stage; Jewish pride watching this warm and embracing family of American Jewish jocks play baseball with the best in the world; and of course, the bottom line: the chance to really grow the sport in Israel.

There are already IAB teams in cities with large Anglo communities, including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Raanana, Beit Shemesh, Modiin, Beersheba and Hashmonaim, as well as in smaller towns such as Tel Mond, where the majority of players are Israeli- born. A lot of the games they play, however, are on makeshift diamonds carved out of soccer field corners.

Our primary need for Israel baseball is field development, says Jordy Alter, 53, vice president of the IAB. Without proper facilities for kids to play, it is impossible to expand from our current number of players. Advancing in this competition will help provide us with funding we would use for field development and to improve current facilities. We would also benefit from hiring a professional coach to help our kids and train our many volunteers.

FOR ALL the Jewish focus on Team Israel, in the end it comes down to balls and strikes, yada yada yada. Its about baseball.

On a given night, anything can happen in baseball, manager Weinstein said at the Winter Meetings, echoing one of the sports time-honored axioms. You get the right guys pitching and executing their pitches, you never can tell whats going to happen.

The WBC has been played three times, with Japan winning in 2006 and 2009, and the Dominicans in 2013. Next months classic begins with Israel playing the opener against Korea on March 6 at noon Israel time/5:00 a.m. Eastern. Israel plays Chinese Taipei 17 hours later, and The Netherlands 48 hours after that. Two of the four teams in this Group A advance to the next round to play against the top two teams from Group B. The top two teams from that round in Tokyo will advance to the semifinals and finals, booked for Dodger Stadium, March 20 to 22.

Could Israel be one of them?

Its a talented enough team, I think, to get to Japan, says Mayo, the top evaluator of minor leaguers at MLB.com. And then? Who knows. Theyll have to play Japan and Cuba in all likelihood. Cuba is not what it used to be Could it happen? I think it could happenyeahyeah.

Everyones dreaming big. Asked what it would mean for Israel to win it all in Los Angeles, Mayo paused.

Mashiach [the Messiah] would come?

Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin

More:
American Jewish players set to unite for Israel in the World Baseball Classic – Jerusalem Post Israel News