Jews in the Anthropocene Epoch

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I was at a screening last week for a new documentary on Zionism. A good-sized crowd of donors, activists and people concerned with Israels present and future turned out. There were speeches, the doc, more speeches, a Q-and-A. Then, just as the director thanked everyone for coming, and we all rose to leave, the owner of the theater leapt up and said, Just a second!

He introduced himself as Dr. Joel Shapiro, the founder of the Electric Lodge in Venice, the venue where we had all gathered. He told us that the entire theater runs on solar power it actually sells electricity back to the grid and that it has charging stations outside for electric cars. His goal, he said, is to make Electric Lodge a model for how theaters, museums and other institutions can go green and fight global warming.

Shapiro spoke in a torrent, but people were already halfway out the door. They had two hours for saving Israel, but he struggled to keep their attention to wedge in 30 seconds on saving the Earth.

Maybe, I thought, we need to step back and reconsider our priorities.

I am not, I hasten to add, suggesting we stop caring about, teaching about, fighting about Israel. Im just wondering if its time to redirect some of our time, talent and resources to this other cause, as well.

Because heres the bottom line: If the nearly 100 percent of scientists who concur on the causes and effects of global warming are correct and at this point its just the rocket scientists over at Fox & Friends who doubt them then the world wont have Israel to kick around much longer. Or Jews. Or any of us.

On Oct. 24, scientists meeting in Berlin are slated to officially adopt a name for our epoch: the Anthropocene. Geologic time is divided= into eras, periods, epochs and ages. We all know ages Jews appeared in the Bronze Age and, as peoples go, have had a remarkably long run.

Epochs slice a bigger chunk of time, according to measures taken from sedimentary rock, fossil and chemical indicators. We are currently listed as belonging to the Holocene Epoch, which started 11,700 years in the past.

But on Oct. 23, the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) will decide whether to recommend that the massive changes humankind has wrought on our environment require a new nomenclature. Thanks to us, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are now greater than they have been since humans appeared 2.6 million years ago, and oceans have reached peak levels not seen in 6,000 years.

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Jews in the Anthropocene Epoch

Student organization encourages conversation about Palestine

Keene State College senior Hersch Rothmel is spearheading the effort to begin a chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace on campus. Jewish Voice for Peace is a national grassroots organization that seeks to raise awareness about the Israeli occupation of Palestine. It advocates for human rights and amended U.S. policy in the region. The new student group held its first event last Tuesday, Oct. 14. The teach-in, focusing on Israel and Palestine, featured a number of speakers and was an impassioned and informative narrative.

Aisha Mershani has a Ph.D in Peace, Development and Conflict Studies. Her talk focused on the Palestinian Civil Resistance against the Israeli apartheid wall and occupation of the West Bank, where she has worked as a photographer and solidarity activist since 2003.

Her photographs are expository, documenting popular resistance to the wall, daily life, interactions and landscapes in the region.

She started off the teach-in by explaining that American media does not show what is truly going on in Israel/Palestine and that as Americans we are brainwashed on this matter.

The first misconception, she explained, Is that its not a conflict its an occupation. Israel is occupying Palestinian lands.

Focusing on the West Bank, Mershanis presentation centered on what she considers the three most dangerous parts of the integrated system that Israel has been implementing in order to control Palestinian movement and steal land. These parts are the checkpoints, the tunnel roads and the apartheid wall.

Inside the West Bank, a checkpoint is a station where Israeli soldiers check IDs of Palestinians before they are allowed to cross to other areas, Mershani explained.

She explained how the checkpoints arent just how we would think of border checkpoints between nations, but checkpoints between villages.

A single village may become enclosed and isolated. A residents ability to leave is completely in the hands of Israeli soldiers.

Mershani explained, What could be a five minute drive, turns into a four hour drive waiting in lines to be allowed to move from one village to the next even within the West Bank. This is a way for Israel to control and track Palestinian movement.

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Student organization encourages conversation about Palestine

Seanad calls on Government to recognise Palestine

The Seanad has passed a motion calling on the Government to recognise the state of Palestine.

It is unlikely to change policy but the decision is the latest boost for Palestinian authorities campaigning for international recognition, coming after a similar move by the British House of Commons and Sweden’s decision to recognise a Palestinian state.

The motion called on the “Government to formally recognise the state of Palestine and do everything it can to help secure a viable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so that citizens of both states can live in peace and security”.

It had cross-party support and passed without a vote.

Tabling the motion, Fianna Fil senator Averil Power said Ireland should “make it clear that statehood is a right of the Palestinian people and not a bargaining chip for the Israelis to play in further sham negotiations.

“In doing so, we will help increase pressure on Israel to pursue a genuine peace process that has a real prospect of delivering peace and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

The Government is unlikely tofollow the motion but Ms Power said Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan would visit the Seanad in November to discuss the issue.

“It was great that we didn’t have to have a vote as we had cross-party support, which sends out a strong message,” she said.

Ahead of the vote, the Israeli ambassador to Ireland, Boaz Modai, said he had contacted all senators to urge them to vote against the measure.

“Stunt gestures such as recognising ‘Palestine’ unilaterally are counter-productive because they only give excuses to those on the Palestinian side who hope to achieve their goals without talking directly to Israel,” the embassy said in a statement.

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Seanad calls on Government to recognise Palestine

Growing strong: Maimonides Academy to open new building for grades three through eight

Rendering of the outside of the new Maimonides Academy building. Images courtesy of Maimondes Academy

After a decade of dreaming, the staff at Maimonides Academy, an Orthodox Sephardic day school, is nearly ready to make its longtime vision come true and open a new building.

The 50,000-square-foot, four-story structure which cost about $20 million, according to Rabbi Aharon Wilk, Maimonides principal is slated to open on La Cienega Boulevard near the Beverly Center in January. It will house a total of about 360 children in grades three through eight.

The building became necessary as the school ran out of room to enroll new applicants. Now it can continue to grow, said Rabbi Baruch Kupfer, who has been executive director of Maimonides Academy for more than 25 years.

Jewish children need a Jewish school to go to. They deserve the proper facilities they would get in other places and a modern education that will prepare them for the world outside. Our children deserve nothing else, he said.

The school currently has two locations: The one on Huntley Drive is for preschool through third grade, while a West Pico Boulevard site is home to students in fourth through eighth grade. In January, the Pico outpost will close, but the Huntley location will stay open. The third-graders there will be transferred to the new building.

Maimonides Academy was founded in 1968, and started with fewer than 15 students in different rooms at Sephardic Magen David Synagogue, when it was located on Melrose Avenue. Over time, it has blossomed into an institution that serves more than 260 families and 500 students.

Kupfer said that the renovation, funded by families and private donors, hasnt happened until now because of zoning problems. Weve been able to resolve them, he said.

Sketch of the new library

The new building will contain two science labs, a synagogue with a separate beit midrash (house of study) for havruta Torah study and a sports center. There will be outdoor areas on the different levels, a music center, an art studio, a library, a dining hall and two large parking lots that can hold up to 80 cars total. Theres also going to be a Holocaust Memorial Hall, an Israel Independence Hall, an atrium garden and a roof terrace.

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Growing strong: Maimonides Academy to open new building for grades three through eight

Anti-Semitism In Norway: The Word Jew Allegedly Being Used As A Curse In Schools

In light of the current wave of anti-Semitism in Scandinavia, it may come as little surprise to many that Jew hate in Norway is at all time high, with new claims that the word Jew is being used as a curse in schools.

Irwin Cohen, the president of the Jewish community in Norway, reached out to reporters, making allegations reminiscent of the pre-second world war atmosphere in Europe, and warning that anti-Semitism is growing in the county.

According to Cohen, Along with the well-known curses, Jew has become a dirty word common in many schools, he said.

Norway has had its fair share of anti-Semitic incidents over the years, like back in 2012 when Professor Johan Galtung, a Norwegian academic, went on an anti-Semitic rant linking mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik to the Mossad, while suggesting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are what led to the Holocaust.

In that same year, marchers at a May Day Parade in Norway held banners proclaiming slogans such as Israel = Apartheid and Boycott Israel! which were not condemned by Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg at the time despite the offense the banners caused to the Norwegian Jewish community.

In April this year, a school and sports facility were sprayed with swastikas and racist slogans against Jews, while in September a swastika was carved into the glass doors of the Trndelag Theater the day after the premiere of a Jewish puppet theater performance there.

Cohen spoke about the issues faced by Jews across Norway, saying, There is a total of about 1300 Jews in Norway; 160 of them are Norwegian schoolchildren. And sometimes they need to hide their Jewishness. If youre going to school with a large groups of Muslims, I do not think the first thing you should do is pick up your hand and tell them about your Jewish background.

He continued, The sad thing is that the [Norwegian] public still believe in stereotypes and the conspiracy theories that Jews have a great impact on the world financial markets and seek to take over the world. The strange thing about this strain of anti-Semitism is that it is over 2,000 years old, but never dies.

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Anti-Semitism In Norway: The Word Jew Allegedly Being Used As A Curse In Schools

Sunrise synagogue to complete mystery Torah

It’s taken 100 years, but a mystery Torah will be completed in a public ceremony.

Temple Beth Israel has kept its incomplete Torah in an ark on the pulpit for decades without knowing it was missing 136 letters.

That’s because at about 50 pounds, it’s double the weight of most holy books.

The congregation some time ago left the scroll open to a passage near the middle to evenly distribute the weight.

It also made the Torah easier to lift around Passover, when the passage is traditionally read. Jewish tradition is to lift the Torah overhead so the congregation can see it.

But by keeping it open to the same spot, there was never a need to scroll elsewhere.

“It is just too heavy,” Rabbi Hector Epelbaum said.

So the scroll was used and used some more without anybody noticing.

Until last year when the temple hired Sofer on Site to do an inventory of the Torahs and check for damage. The North Miami Beach company discovered that the last paragraph had the letters blocked out, but never filled in.

The writing event will begin at 10 a.m. Nov. 2 and should last all day. All Jewish adults and children can participate.

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Sunrise synagogue to complete mystery Torah

Ingber 15: The oldest hatred in new and old forms

Anti-Semitism is not something we talk about on college campuses. While we may discuss anti-Semitism abstractly in academic conversations, it is something we believe we are beyond, something reminiscent of backward 20th century totalitarian regimes. But this ancient hatred of Jews persists around the world. From the depths of Saudi madrassas to the halls of the United Nations in Geneva, anti-Semitic tropes continue.

This past May, a gunman of Algerian descent murdered four people at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels. A few years earlier, Mohammed Merah, a French national, murdered many people including an 8-year-old girl at a Jewish school in Toulouse.

But this summer, following the Israeli operation in the Gaza strip, anti-Semitism was not isolated to rogue actors perpetrating violence. While many protests expressed clear messages objecting to the actions of the Israeli government, others contained thousands of protesters many in Germany, alarmingly chanting gas the Jews. And most striking was an incident in Sarcelles, France, a suburb of Paris. Jewish businesses were looted and ransacked by mobs in an incident resembling something from 1930s Germany. Synagogues were attacked and Jewish sites were vandalized in the suburb of what many consider to be the cultural capital of Europe.

While it is important to note that European governments have been exceptionally swift in condemning this anti-Semitism and mobilizing broad political support to stop its spread, the populist nature of these events signifies the extant nature of European anti-Semitism.

But it is no surprise that there has been virtually no discussion on this topic of campus. Perhaps it is academically passe to examine anti-Semitism in most circles. But I think most students at Brown, and in the United States more broadly, do not believe they are exposed to anti-Semitism. I write this column not to suggest that Browns campus is brimming with anti-Semitism not in the slightest. But I would like to highlight certain things that have appeared across institutions of higher education that give cause for concern.

It is first crucial to remember that Jews still constitute a minority with a long history of persecution prior to a recent history of safety and security. It was not long ago that Henry Ford regularly distributed The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and President Franklin Delano Roosevelts State Department routinely rejected requests to accept Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. While the triumph of the Jewish people vis-a-vis thousands of years of historical threats is nothing short of astonishing, we must remember that persecution weighs heavily on the Jewish historical memory.

And so, it is alarming that somebody drew swastikas on the facade of Emory Universitys chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi, the schools oldest historically Jewish fraternity. While some might say that Emory is in Atlanta, and the South has more anti-Semitism than other parts of the country, a similar expression of prejudice occurred recently at Yale. Swastikas were chalked on the sidewalk outside a freshman dorm just a short time after they were found on a whiteboard inside an academic building. Scary.

But never at Brown, right? That could not possibly happen here. But it did. Last year, surrounding the now infamous Ray Kelly affair, a number of posters with Ray Kellys face were adorned with swastikas. Should I have to enter my dorm and look at a swastika on the door? Do we have such a short memory of 20th century events that we forget how traumatizing these symbols are for Jews, many of whom had family live through or perish in the Holocaust?

But it is easy to condemn a swastika. The more nefarious instances of anti-Semitism manifest in language, not images. They appear in language speciously germane to a conversation but actually coded in historical anti-Semitism tropes. And it is in conversations regarding Israel that these tropes come to life.

Let me be nothing short of absolutely clear: It is perfectly acceptable and appropriate to criticize the actions of Israel without venturing into anti-Semitic territory. But when criticism of Israel uses language historically associated with anti-Semitic canards, we have to be careful. Calling Israelis or the Israeli government bloodthirsty for Palestinian children is simply a new variation on historic uses of blood libel the untrue and offensive notion that Jews seek the blood of non-Jewish children for religious ritual.

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Ingber 15: The oldest hatred in new and old forms

Dutch Christians Boycott Netherlands Church Over Exhibit Portraying Jailed Palestinian Children

October 21, 2014|1:17 pm

A picture of an exhibition named “Room No. 4″ featured at Domkerk Church in Utrecht, Netherlands, that shows adults portraying imprisoned Palestinian children, October 2014.

Dutch Christians have boycotted a Netherlands church for displaying an exhibit they believe encourages anti-Semitism.

Named “Room No. 4″ the exhibit was brought to Utrecht’s Domkerk Church, one of the Netherlands best-known places of worship, by the Dutch Coalition for Palestinian Children in Israeli Detention. The exhibit features adult models tied up in ropes to portray jailed Palestinian children who are in Israeli detention facilities.

Earlier this month, Hebe Kohlbrugge, a member of the church, joined other Christians in the protest by boycotting the exhibit due to what he believes to be a permeating anti-Jewish sentiment from the piece.

“Many people cannot differentiate between Israel and Jews,” Kohlbrugge told the Trouw daily newspaper. “People wearing kippot are being harassed over Israel’s actions. Thus criticism of Israel becomes anti-Semitism.”

Kohlbrugge also said he believes the church is an unsuitable venue for criticizing Israel. “Before you point fingers, better look at the ones pointing in your direction.”

Japp Hamburger, whose group belongs to the Dutch Coalition for Palestinian Children in Israeli Detention recently wrote an Op-Ed on the Dutch news website Joop.nl where he claimed that the exhibit doesn’t encourage anti-Semitism.

The church, according to JTA, agrees with Hamburger and believes the exhibit affirms children’s rights and on that basis decided to display it on its premises.

” … [T]he church placed a board displaying members’ complaints against the exhibit, but said it decided to host it anyway because of its “commitment to children’s rights,” JTA reports.

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Dutch Christians Boycott Netherlands Church Over Exhibit Portraying Jailed Palestinian Children

Israel's ThetaRay turns to maths to detect cyber threats

By Tova Cohen HOD HASHARON Israel (Reuters) – As businesses face a growing threat of cyber attacks, Israeli start-up ThetaRay is betting on maths to provide early detection, enabling the shutdown of systems before damage can be done. The year-old company's first investor was venture capital firm Jerusalem Venture Partners. It is now also backed by heavyweights like General Electric, which uses …

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Israel's ThetaRay turns to maths to detect cyber threats

Israel panel proposes 25-42 pct tax hike on mining companies

An Israeli government panel on Monday proposed sharply raising taxes on mining activities, but it softened the blow by recommending a progressive, rather than flat, rate ranging from 25 to 42 percent. The hike drew the ire of the country's largest mining firm, potash and speciality chemicals maker Israel Chemicals (ICL) , which has lobbied heavily against the tax. In a final report, the …

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Israel panel proposes 25-42 pct tax hike on mining companies