Hasidic Israeli Jazz Musician Coming to JCC – Atlanta Jewish Times

Israeli virtuoso saxophone player and composer Daniel Zamir is headed to Atlanta for a Feb. 19 performance at the Marcus Jewish Community Center. The Hasidic jazz musician, who has toured with Matisyahu, is one of the most in-demand artists in Israel.

He spoke to the AJT by phone from Israel.

AJT: Will this be your first time performing in Atlanta?

Zamir: Well, I played a few years ago with Matisyahu at the University of Georgia. We were on a college tour, and, every campus we visited, I bought a baseball hat and would play the show wearing it. I remember I shouted, Go, Bulldogs! into the mic at UGA, and the crowd went crazy for it.

AJT: Youve actually been on a few tours with Matisyahu. What was it like touring as two observant Jews?

Zamir: Its an amazing experience to be able to express such a unique message on a big stage in front of so many people. To be able to bridge so many gaps and overcome so many prejudices and stigmas, its really unique and a privilege. AJT: You also have the top-selling jazz album of all time in Israel. How does that feel?

Zamir: Its amazing. I never thought that something like that could happen. Ive loved jazz since I started playing the saxophone, but I never thought I could be this successful in it. Also, to be able to connect jazz and Judaism is something I never thought I could do. From what I can tell, I think Im the only ultra-Orthodox jazz musician in the world.

AJT: How much Jewish or Hasidic influence would you say your music has?

Zamir: When I write my music, I have no concept in mind. In other words, I never planned to be a Jewish musician; its something that happened organically. It actually started before I was religious, and I was calling it world music or ethnic music. Only after (American Jewish composer-saxophonist) John Zorn heard my demo in 1999 and called it Jewish music did I finally accept it.

AJT: Why are there so many top-notch Israeli jazz musicians?

Zamir: I remember people were asking me in New York, What are they putting in your falafel over there? But the truth is jazz is music of the people, and after the 1950s people in Israel were trying to imitate American jazz. But what my generation did Avishai Cohen, Omer Avital, myself and others we took our personalities and tradition and infused that into high-quality jazz. The result of that product is so unique and original and alive. I think thats why people love it so much.

Who:Daniel Zamir

Where:Marcus JCC, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody

When:7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19

Tickets:$15-$25; atlantajcc.org/pldb-live/daniel-zamir-32968

Read the original here:
Hasidic Israeli Jazz Musician Coming to JCC – Atlanta Jewish Times

Trump Is Right On Palestine: A Two-State Solution Is No Longer Viable – Huffington Post

Just because Trump said it doesnt mean it has to be wrong.

During Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus recent visit to Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump publicly stated that he could support a divergence from a two-state solution in Palestine. He is the first United States president in recent memory to question that sacred article of U.S.-Middle East policy. But while the announcement came as a shock to many, indeed, a serious rethink is long overdue in recognizing the defunct two-state scheme.

Many honorable people have dedicated the bulk of their professional lives to the tedious minutiae and sad diplomatic history of the Palestinian-Israeli morass. Sadly, none of those efforts have brought any resolution whatsoever to a gangrenous issue in many respects one of the major roots of so many of the Middle Easts contemporary ills.

The trouble is that, apart from a few dedicated diplomats and scholars who had hopes of one day truly accomplishing something, the two-state solution in practice is essentially a fraud. Yes, a few wiser Israeli leadersin the past just possibly might have believed in that ideal, but for decades now the two-state scheme has simply been cynically exploited by newer Israeli leaders, especially by Bibi Netanyahu one of the longer-serving and most right-wing prime ministers in Israels history.

Netanyahu has been backed by a formidable and wealthy pro-Zionist cheering section in the U.S. The goal is to conceal their true agenda the ultimate Israeli annexation of all of Palestine. They themselves as hard-line Zionistshave been subtly but systematically torpedoing the two-state solutionbehind the scenes to that end.

None of my observations here on the hoax of the two-state solution are new or original. Many liberal Israeli observers I met while working in the region have been stating the self-evident for years now. But those voices never get heard in the U.S. where it constitutes an unmentionable. But there should be no doubt: the concept of a two-state solution a Palestinian and an Israeli state sharing historical Palestine and living side by side in sovereignty and dignity is dead. It is almost inconceivable that it can now ever be resuscitated: nearly all the operative forces within Israel are systematically working to prevent it from ever coming about.

The harsh reality is that Israel, through a relentless process of creating facts on the ground, is now decades deep into the process of taking over illegally, step-by-step, the totality of Palestine. Israel has scant regard for any international law in this respect, and never has had any. Washington, apart from a few periodic pathetic bleats, has ended up functionally supporting this cynical scheme all the way, perhaps unwilling to confront the painful reality of what is really taking place, along with its dangerous political repercussions at home.

Baz Ratner / Reuters

Israel is extending day by day its control indeed ownership of Palestinian lands through expansion of illegal Jewish settlements and the dispossession of the rightful owners of these Palestinian lands. Put simply, there is little left of Palestinian land out of which ever to fashion a two-state solution.

That leaves us with only one alternative: the one-state solution. Indeed, Israels actions have already created the preconditions that make the one-state solution an unacknowledged but virtual fait accompli.

Honest observers know full well that the mantra of preserving the peace process for the two-state solution is now little more than a cover by hard-line Zionists for full Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands. The sooner we all acknowledge this ugly reality, the better. That will then require Israel, the Palestinians and the world to get on with dealing with the complex challenge of crafting the binational state the one-state solution.

The calculations of some hard-line Zionists who are now largely in control of Israeli state mechanisms are often unyielding.After years on the ground, Ive found that the rationale is more evident with each passing year. It goes something like this:

1) Israel should functionally take over all of Palestinian territory and permit full Jewish settlement therein.

2) Israel should still play the two-state solution game with visiting foreign diplomats to reduce pressure on Israel, to play for time while it quietly establishes the irreversible facts on the ground that shut out any possible viable Palestinian state.

3) Make life harsh enough for Palestinians that, bit by bit, they will grow bitter and weary, give up and go elsewhere, leaving all the land for Zionist settlers.

4) If Palestinians stubbornly resist, predictable periodic military and security crises in Palestine over the longer run will enable Israel to rid Palestine of all Palestinians a gradual process of ethnic cleansing (or restoration of the situation that God wills as they would refer to it) that returns all the land promised by God to the Jews.

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Some liberal Israelis actually do accept the idea of a one-state solution in their own liberal vision of a future Israel one in which Israelis and Palestinians live as equal citizens in a secular, democratic, binational, multicultural state enjoying equal rights, rather than the increasingly religiously dominated state that it is. And the liberal ideal makes sense: the country is already well on the way to becoming bilingual and Hebrew and Arabic are closely-related languages. Both are Semitic peoples with ancient ties to the same land.

The problem is, ardent Zionists dont want a binational Palestinian-Jewish state. They want a Jewish state and demand that the world accept that term. Yet, in todays world isnt the term Jewish state strikingly discordant? Who speaks of an English or French state? The world would freak out if tomorrow Berlin started calling itself the German State. Or Spain a Christian state.So what do we make of a state that is dedicated solely to Jews and Judaism? Such concepts are remnants of 19th century movements that promoted the creation of ethnically and/or religiously pure states. Modern states no longer define themselves on either an ethnic or religious basis.Indeed it was precisely that kind of ugly religious and ethnic nationalism that caused Jews to flee from Eastern Europe in the first place to find their own homeland.

The true historical task of Israel, with the support of the world, is now to begin the challenging work of introducing the range of major reforms that will transform Israel into just such a multi-ethnic and bilingual state of equal citizens enjoying equal rights under secular law. It is not a question of allowing Palestinians into Israel, they are already there and have been for millennia, initially in far greater numbers than Jews. Palestinians now seek full legal equality of treatment under secular law in Israel.

So lets acknowledge the useful truth that Trump has blundered onto. Lets abandon the naive and cynical rhetoric about the two-state solution that will never come about in any just and acceptable form. Half of Israel never believed in it in the first place. It has served only as a facade for building an apartheid Jewish state a term used frequently by some liberal Israeli commentators I have encountered.

Netanyahu and the right-wing Zionists clearly want all of Palestine. But theyre not ready yet to admit it. They want all the land, but without any of its people. But despite Zionist hopes, the Palestinians arent going to abandon their lands. And so the logical outcome of Israels takeover of all of Palestine leads by definition to an ultimate single, binational state.

The challenge to Israelis and Palestinians is huge. It entails a deep Palestinian rethink of their options and their future destiny in a new order, and the need to fight for those democratic rights in a binational state. It involves Israeli evolution away from God-given rights in a state solely for Jews and Judaism that can only be forever oppressive and undemocratic as it now stands. The process will be a slow and difficult one. But it also represents an evolution consonant with emerging contemporary global values.

We expect a democratic multicultural state from Germany and France, or from Britain, Canada and the United States why not from Israel?

Graham E. Fuller is a former senior CIA official and author of numerous books on the Muslim world. His latest book is Breaking Faith: A novel of espionage and an Americans crisis of conscience in Pakistan.A version of this piece first appeared on GrahameFuller.com

Read more from the original source:
Trump Is Right On Palestine: A Two-State Solution Is No Longer Viable – Huffington Post

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

Evidence of rising anti-Semitism, but data mostly elusive – Minnesota Public Radio News

Has anti-Semitism accompanied Donald Trump’s rise to power? Some organizations that monitor hate groups and hate crimes believe so, noting a rash of recent incidents. But data is elusive, and the president’s supporters note his family connection a Jewish daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren and his comments this week condemning hate and prejudice.

Here’s a look at recent incidents targeting Jewish sites and anti-Semitism in the U.S.:

Human rights activists and organizations are convinced that Trump’s popularity and electoral victory created an acceptance into the mainstream of the “alt-right,” an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism and populism, and along with it, anti-Semitism.

There have been reports nationwide in recent months of anti-Semitic incidents, including people yelling pro-Hitler comments at a rabbi on the street in Providence, R.I., swastikas drawn in subway cars in New York City, and bomb threats at Jewish buildings in several cities.

But determining whether such incidents have increased is difficult.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that monitors hate groups and extremists, reported last week that the number of hate groups operating in the U.S. rose from 892 in 2015 to 917 in last year. But that’s still short of the all-time high of 1,018 hate groups in 2011.

The organization also counted 1,094 bias-related incidents in the month following Trump’s November election victory, including 33 against Jews, 108 involving swastikas and 47 white nationalist fliers.

New York City police keep a running tab of hate crimes. As of Sunday, 31 hate crimes have been reported against Jewish people this year more than double compared to the same period of 2016.

Official nationwide government data for the last year isn’t available. The FBI tracks hate crimes, but the most recent available data is from 2015.

Among the most recent events were bomb threats phoned in to 11 Jewish community centers across the country on Monday, including in St. Paul, Chicago, Cleveland and Houston.

No bombs were found and no arrests have been made, but the threats along with similar threats over recent months at other centers created fear and uncertainty among Jewish people.

Also on Monday, roughly 200 headstones were found knocked over or broken at a Jewish cemetery in suburban St. Louis. No arrests have been made for the damage at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, Mo. Investigators have not yet determined if it was a hate crime. Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who is Jewish, posted a statement on Facebook calling the vandalism “despicable” and “cowardly.”

Until Tuesday, it was what Trump hadn’t said that raised eyebrows. Jewish groups and others were upset in January when a White House statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day failed to mention Jews. Aides to the president defended the statement as “inclusive” of all who were killed by the Nazis.

Last week, when a reporter from the Orthodox Ami Magazine tried to ask Trump during a news conference about increased reports of anti-Jewish harassment and hate crimes, Trump interrupted, saying, “not a fair question.” When reporter Jake Turx tried to continue, the president said: “Quiet, quiet, quiet … I find it repulsive. I hate even the question.”

Trump went on to call himself “the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your life,” and the “least racist person.”

But on Tuesday, Trump denounced threats against Jewish community centers as “horrible” and “painful,” saying more needed to be done “to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”

Speaking after a tour of the newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture, Trump said: “This tour was a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms.”

The president is a Presbyterian, but his daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism ahead of her 2009 marriage to Jared Kushner, who serves as a senior adviser to the president.

Ivanka and Jared Kushner’s children the president’s grandchildren are Jewish.

On Monday, Ivanka Trump wrote on Twitter, “We must protect our houses of worship & religious centers,” and used the hashtag #JCC, which stands for Jewish community center.

Evidence of rising anti-Semitism, but data mostly elusive – Minnesota Public Radio News

Entering a Synagogue – My Jewish Learning

Tips for the novice shul-goer. By Sharon Strassfeld

In addition to the tips listed below, it is important also to remember that in Orthodox synagogues, men and women sit separatelyand often enter the sanctuary through separate entrancesso visitors need to find the appropriate sections and entrances for each gender. Reprinted with permission from The Second Jewish Catalog, edited by Sharon Strassfeld and Michael Strassfeld (Jewish Publication Society).

1. When you enter a traditional synagogue, put on a kippah [yarmulke] if you are a male (supplies are kept in almost every shul), and keep it oneven during the Kiddush and/or meal that follows the service. [In some liberal congregations, women cover their hair as well, while Orthodox women generally cover their hair if they are married. See #6 below for more information.]

2. In traditional synagogues it is forbidden, even after the service, to smoke on Shabbat (ask if youre not aware of synagogue policy).

3. On some occasions, following the Kiddush there will be a lunch to which guests of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah are invited. [Kiddush is the blessing of sanctification of Shabbat over a cup of wine, but in this context, it used more broadly to include also the snacks or light meal provided after the blessing is said.] Dont automatically assume that if youve been to services, you are invited to the lunch. However, you are usually invited for Kiddush.

4. It is bad form to take a Bar/Bat Mitzvah gift with you when you go to a traditional synagogue on Shabbat. Carrying is prohibited on Shabbat, and most traditional synagogues treat this prohibition seriously. Taking a monetary gift with you even in envelopes is especially offensive, since this not only ignores the prohibition against carrying, it also ignores the prohibition against handling money (and things representing money, such as checks, bonds, etc.) on Shabbat.

5. The no-carry principle in a traditional synagogue on Shabbat is also, by extension the dont-bring-a-pocketbook (handbag, suitcase briefcase, etc.) dictum.

Did you like this article? MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Sharon M. Strassfeld is co-author of the Jewish Catalog series.

In addition to the tips listed below, it is important also to remember that in Orthodox synagogues, men and women sit separatelyand often enter the sanctuary through separate entrancesso visitors need to find the appropriate sections and entrances for each gender. Reprinted with permission from The Second Jewish Catalog, edited by Sharon Strassfeld and Michael Strassfeld (Jewish Publication Society).

1. When you enter a traditional synagogue, put on a kippah [yarmulke] if you are a male (supplies are kept in almost every shul), and keep it oneven during the Kiddush and/or meal that follows the service. [In some liberal congregations, women cover their hair as well, while Orthodox women generally cover their hair if they are married. See #6 below for more information.]

2. In traditional synagogues it is forbidden, even after the service, to smoke on Shabbat (ask if youre not aware of synagogue policy).

3. On some occasions, following the Kiddush there will be a lunch to which guests of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah are invited. [Kiddush is the blessing of sanctification of Shabbat over a cup of wine, but in this context, it used more broadly to include also the snacks or light meal provided after the blessing is said.] Dont automatically assume that if youve been to services, you are invited to the lunch. However, you are usually invited for Kiddush.

4. It is bad form to take a Bar/Bat Mitzvah gift with you when you go to a traditional synagogue on Shabbat. Carrying is prohibited on Shabbat, and most traditional synagogues treat this prohibition seriously. Taking a monetary gift with you even in envelopes is especially offensive, since this not only ignores the prohibition against carrying, it also ignores the prohibition against handling money (and things representing money, such as checks, bonds, etc.) on Shabbat.

5. The no-carry principle in a traditional synagogue on Shabbat is also, by extension the dont-bring-a-pocketbook (handbag, suitcase briefcase, etc.) dictum.

6. An extension of the no-money principle is the dont jangle the change in your pocket if youre bored rule.

7. In traditional synagogues, women commonly cover their hair during the service. Frequently, lace nets are provided for women who forget to wear a hat or scarf.

8. In traditional Judaism, writing is prohibited on Shabbat and holidays, so needless to say, dont go to synagogue with your Bic sticking out of your breast pocket (or with cigars sticking out eithersee no. 2 above).

9. While there is no problem in the Reconstructionist, Conservative, and Reform movements about riding to synagogue in a car on Shabbat, Orthodox synagogues do not condone driving. Accordingly, try to be sensitive to such feelings when confronted with the situation. There is no reason to park your car in the synagogue parking lot or right in front of the building when you could park a block away and offend no one.

10. In many synagoguesmen [and women] wear tallitot [prayer shawls] during the morning service (both Shabbat and weekdays). On weekdays, men [and in some communities, women also] wear tefillin for the Morning Service. If you own these articles bring them to the appropriate services. If you dont own a tallit, almost any synagogue will provide you with one; if you dont own tefillin, some synagogues will be able to provide and some wont. In any case, in some shuls it is not a social solecism to pray without tefillin. Women should use their own sensitivity and discretion to guide them in the matter of wearing tefillin and tallitot. [In Orthodox synagogues, most women do not wear them, though some individual women choose to do so. In liberal synagogues, women and men generally follow the same customs.]

11. For all occasions when you enter a synagogue you should dress appropriately. Perhaps it is not fitting to approach God when you are not carefully attired; certainly it shows no respect to a community to ignore its standards of dress. In traditional synagogues women should wear dresses with sleeves and men should wear clean, pressed slacks and shirts Most synagoguesprefer jacket and tie. Some synagogues are tolerant of women in slack suits; others are not. Check the local policy before sallying forth.

12. Except for nos. 1, 3, 7, 10, and 11 above, these rules do not apply during a normal weekday service

As you enter the synagogue/sanctuary/prayer room, you should have the following (women are not required [by traditional Jewish law] to don the first three; some synagogues may even frown on a woman wearing these articles [while other synagogues actively encourage it], so let your own sensitivities decide):

kippah (except in many Reform temples)

tallit (ditto)

tefillin (ditto; you need them only on weekdays)

siddur [prayer book]

Humash [Bible] (only on Shabbat, holidays, Monday and Thursday)

The last two items can usually be found in bookcases either right before you enter the room or right after. In some shuls the siddurim (plural of siddur) are placed on each seat, and the Bibles are given out by the usher just before the Torah service begins. In some traditional shuls you dont take a humash from the bookcase until the time for the Torah reading. In such shuls you simply amble over to the bookcase at that time (along with everyone else) and pick one up.

The tallit (and/or tefillin) can be put on either before entering the room or when you get to your seat (the latter is usually the case with tefillin).The kippah is put on before entering the room.

In most synagogues you can sit wherever you like. If you are there for a simhajoyous occasionsuch as a bar/bat mitzvah, an usher may show you to the area where the family and relations are sitting.

If it is an Orthodox synagogue, remember that men and women sit in separate areas.

In a few synagogues the regular members have customary seats. Sometimes there are seat plaques to indicate such seats; at other times you just have to step (sit) carefully. Often you will be told which areas are open territory The eastern wall (the wall with the ark) is a place of honor in old-style synagogues, and in general you shouldnt just wander over and sit down there.

More here:
Entering a Synagogue – My Jewish Learning

‘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.

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

Features | Jewish identity in a pickle – The McGill Daily (blog)

Affirming non- and anti-Zionist Jewish people at McGill

Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) McGill is a group of anti- and non-Zionist Jewish students on McGill campus.

In speaking about the origins of Zionism and contemporary anti-Semitism in this article, we have chosen to focus on the experiences and theories of European Jewry. We acknowledge the diversity of experiences, whether those are of violence or of thriving communal life, specifically in the contrasting experiences of Sephardic, Mizrachi, and other Jewish peoples. We also acknowledge the forms of violence and dispossession Zionism has imposed on these communities, like Operation Magic Carpet in Yemen, and general erasure from dominant conceptions and narratives of Judaism. For the purpose of discussing mainstream Zionism that evolved from European thinkers, as it is applied in Israel by its government, and how it manifests in North America, we are choosing to focus on Ashkenazi experiences and European political Zionism. However, we hope to acknowledge the failure of mainstream dialogue within and beyond the Jewish community to engage with non-Ashkenazi identities and histories. We hope to include these perspectives as we move forward with IJV McGills work.

A recent tweet by a student politician, which read punch a zionist today, has inflamed discussion over anti-Zionism, violence, and anti-Semitism at McGill. For many of us, this has been a difficult and turbulent time to be both a Jewish student, and an anti/non-Zionist student on campus. We would like to begin this article with the recognition that the tweet may incite violence against visibly Jewish people and Jewish communities in Montreal and beyond. We hear and support calls for the necessity of emotional, physical, and mental safety from anti-Semitic violence.

The conflation of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism within and beyond the McGill community denies us, as young Jewish folks, the diversity of our Diasporic Jewish identities. We denounce anti-Semitism, and recognize the lived realities of the concerns expressed by the Jewish community. However, this conflation fails to recognize anti-Semitism an attack on members of the Jewish faith and peoplehood as separate from criticism of the actions of the Israeli state, in particular its illegal occupation of Palestinian land. The ongoing oppression of other peoples is not a project with the right to invoke Jewish peoplehood or Diasporic Jewish claims in our names. In integrating Israel into the fabrics of our communities, the plurality of political convictions held by Jewish peoples are erased, silencing anti-Zionist voices.

The ongoing oppression of other peoples is not a project with the right to invoke Jewish peoplehood or Diasporic Jewish claims in our names.

It is vital to state that anti-Semitism was and continues to be a violent threat to Jewish people and communities worldwide and leftist anti-oppressive spaces are certainly not free from such anti-Semitism. However, it is also vital to note: modern day systemic oppression cannot be justified by historic discrimination experienced by others. In coming from histories of oppression, we are tied to social justice struggles; as Rabbi Jill Jacobs explains, the obligation to show ourselves as having experienced discrimination [] means continuously working to alleviate the suffering of others. We are a collective of young Jewish folk identifying as non- or anti-Zionists, who share principles that are grounded not only in political conviction, but also in ethical imperatives of our shared Judaism. In that sense, we define non/anti-Zionism as a spectrum of political, moral, and religious views that encompass an opposition to the Zionist project, whether it be through Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against the Israeli state, actively fighting the notion that Israel is the Jewish homeland, or criticizing Israel for its injustices. While we each identify as non- or anti-Zionist Jews, we acknowledge that this article does not speak for all non- or anti-Zionist Jewish people.

In this piece, we aim to critically assess the Zionist theory from which todays North American Zionist communities and actions are grounded, and from which the principles embodied by the government of Israel originate. But beyond just discussing ideology, we aim to share our personal stories of how the conflation of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism has harmed us.

The obligation to show ourselves as having experienced discrimination [] means continuously working to alleviate the suffering of others.

Students identifying as Zionists have institutional resources and familial support systems at their disposal. As folk that face alienation from our greater Jewish communities and even our families for our solidarity activism, we are systematically and routinely denied these supports. We have expended tremendous emotional labour to publish our views and experiences, and ask that our Jewish identities be respected.

The Jewish State, a pamphlet published by the Jewish reporter Theodor Herzl in 1896, aimed to galvanize Jewish people to adopt a national identity and engage with the Zionist project. The text was written in the greater context of widespread anti-Semitism throughout Europe, and in the specific context of the anti-Semitic persecution of a French military captain in what is known as The Dreyfus Affair. The contemporary manifestation of anti-Semitism that Herzl responded to was new and radical; it departed from medieval myths of wicked Jewish crimes against Christian Europe, such as the alleged Jewish ritualistic murder of children, or the Blood Libels, and conspiracies against governments. As rising ethnocentric nationalism, the emergence of eugenics, and continentalism were embedded into European culture through academic acceptance and institutional normalization, so too were they embedded into anti-Semitism; the Jewish people became a singular, and more importantly, inferior ethnic group, irreconcilable with European ethnic and societal standards. Anti-Semitism pervaded all communities, from rural peasantry to the highest ranks of European intelligentsia. Violent persecution and nonviolent discrimination were widespread, and many Jewish people were denied their rights to bodily safety, economic security through employment and property, and freedom of movement. It is within this context that Herzl began his work on the Zionist project.

The Jewish people became a singular, and more importantly, inferior ethnic group, irreconcilable with European ethnic and societal standards.

At the time of its conception, Zionism and the intent to leave Europe and form a Jewish state was not a widely accepted political ideology amongst European Jewish communities. Parallel to many other settler-colonialist projects, Zionism was spearheaded by the elite in this case, the upper-class Jewish intelligentsia of Central and Western Europe. Poor, mainly Eastern European Jewish communities were largely excluded from the Zionist intellectual project, but were instead expected to perform the labour of settling the land wherever or whenever that was to be.

Diasporic Jewry were proud of their status in the European secular world whether that pride was grounded in their insular and rabbinical religious communities, their assimilation into the European intelligentsia, or their radical political work. Many of these Jewish folk did not hold an intrinsic yearning to return to Israel, as Zionists often assert. It is important to note that many disenfranchised and oppressed Eastern European Jewish folk tended to favour workers organisations like the Bund and advocated for Yiddish Socialism, a Jewish workers movement, rather than Zionism.

Poor, mainly Eastern European Jewish communities were largely excluded from the Zionist intellectual project, but were instead expected to perform the labour of settling the land wherever or whenever that was to be.

Many contemporary Jewish people have noticed, as we do, that much Zionist theory harnesses the same nationalistic, ethnocentric rhetoric utilized by the anti-Semitic European powers at the time such as the portrayal of Jewish peoples as genetically of one ethnicity or race. These similarities expanded through the political discourse of the early- and mid-1900s. However, as European powers became more threatening and violent leading into World War II, many Jews took comfort in the adoption of Jewish unity as a means for Jewish strength. However, through this process, Jewish oneness, a foundational and ancient element of Jewish religious thought: , became conflated with nationalism and Zionism. Echoing early political Zionists like Herzl, contemporary groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Israeli government use this notion of a singular Jewish people to reinforce the myth of unanimous and unwavering Jewish support for the state. This narrative of oneness, rooted in the unification efforts of early Zionism, is a harmful tool of the Zionist project imposed to erase Jewish ethnic and lived diversity.

Contemporary Zionists draw upon the constructed concept of Jewish unity to suggest that all Jewish peoples are treated with equity within the state of Israel. However, from the initial entrance of these peoples into the land, they have been subjugated and segregated. For example, Mizrahi Jewish children were subject to unhealthy levels of radiation at the hands of Ashkenazi officials. Although the Israeli government long denied it, they recently admitted to forcefully sterilizing Ethiopian Jewish immigrant women upon entering the country, and the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel experiences rates of police brutality six times higher than their communities proportion to the population in the country. From its establishment, oppression has been evident in the social fabric of Israel: day-to-day discrimination and threats of violence are a prominent component of the narratives of non-Ashkenazi Jewry who immigrate to or live in Israel.

Although the Israeli government long denied it, they recently admitted to forcefully sterilizing Ethiopian Jewish immigrant women upon entering the country.

Similarly, the Zionist project responds to the Palestinian issue in a variety of ways: through the delegitimization of Palestinian people, nationhood, and citizenship, the depiction of the Palestinian people as primitive and a violent threat to the Jewish state, and the construction of a paternalistic fallacy that the State of Israel would better serve the Palestinians than the Palestinians themselves. In reality, Israeli Jewish citizens are placed in a position of institutional power and hold privilege over Palestinians; this imbalance of power manifests in a multitude of ways which systematically oppress Palestinians. Israel continues to hold Palestinian youths under administrative detention and deny youths access to education, Israeli forces demolish Palestinian homes, and the Israeli government censors, arrests, and abuses Palestinian journalists and activists.

As Jewish folks with relative privilege in Israeli society, we cannot pretend to comprehend the experiences of Palestinians in occupied lands and do not wish to speak over their narratives. However, there is a discriminatory nature of Israel which we can speak to: particularly focusing on its privileging of white Ashkenazi (European) Jews and creating a class-structured society in which Soviet Jews, Sephardic Jews, Mizrachi Jews, North-African Jews, and African Jews are oppressed, marginalized and exploited. The Zionist project largely ignores the inequities of varying ethnic groups of Jewish folk in Israeli society and presents Israel as the protector of all Jews. The patriarchal saviour narrative of Israel as a safe haven for the Jewish people inspires steady Jewish Diasporic support for Zionism.

In order to further concretize Diasporic and domestic Jewish support of Zionism, the Zionist project infuses their political agenda into the architecture of Jewish religious life. However, political Zionism can be further distinguished from Judaism through some religious justifications for a Jewish Diaspora or Exile, known in the Torah as Geulah. We would like to preface these religious claims with an acknowledgement that the following is not the only true religious interpretation, but also that these views are far from fringe. Following the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, some Rabbis re-interpreted G-ds promise of the land of Israel and Judea to Abraham as a pact, and concluded that only the Messiah can rule a Jewish nation. Under this interpretation, until the Messiah is sent, humans cannot create or self-govern a Jewish state.

The patriarchal saviour narrative of Israel as a safe haven for the Jewish people inspires steady Jewish Diasporic support for Zionism.

Zionism has invaded religious practice, where those forms of prayer and practice that are centered around Israel are deemed superior. In contrast, non-Ashkenazi modes of prayer and practice are deemed impure. Zionism has, through time, modified all practices regardless of geographic or ethnic affiliation, damaging and erasing significant elements of them. Diasporic Jewish spaces and practices should not be invalidated by the Zionist project, nor should acceptance into these spaces be conditional on support of Zionist ideology.

Zionism is woven into the fabric of Jewish life and tradition, permeating familial, religious, secular, institutional, and emotional aspects of Jewish existence. Jewish day schools are the birthplace of many young Jewish folks strong Jewish identities; they are a place for teaching prayer, spreading culture, and providing a foundation for Jewish children to carry on the Jewish tradition. Unfortunately, these academic institutions use their position to perpetuate the Zionist agenda and encourage impressionable students to subscribe to Zionism. Like many other mainstream institutions, most Jewish day schools tend to erase the differences between a Zionist identity and a Jewish identity. Furthermore, Zionist conditioning occurs in the home, where Jewish families will preach their support and love for Israel as a distant homeland.

Hanna*, who grew up in a Russian Jewish family in the U.S., recounts her story of the pickle jar:

It was the second night of Passover: I had just sung the four questions, our plates were dotted with red wine, our bellies audibly growling. As the Seder came to a close, my mother left to carry steaming bowls of matzo ball soup in from the kitchen. She also brought a large pickle jar to the table. As my relatives began to slurp, the pickle jar was passed around, and it came to me. My eyes fell to its label: Made in Israel. My mother and I made eye contact as I passed the jar to my brother. Shocked, she said in her heavy Russian accent, Youre not eating pickles? I was ashamed, and angered. I thought to myself, there are so many varieties on the shelf, mama why choose Israeli imported pickles? How was I to explain my logic of abstaining, or my involvement in the boycott of Israeli products at the dinner table, in front of my grandparents? And who was I? A privileged girl, born to immigrant parents, who could choose what to eat, and choose to politically disengage from certain brined foods. Had I taken it too far? I myself, was in a pickle. The post-dinner kitchen clean up was icy, and my pickle-refusal has come up again, many times, as proof of me turning my back on our past. Yet again, Jewish culture was being placed inside an Israeli pickle jar.

Hadar*, a member of IJV McGill and a Jewish day school graduate, explains that her experience with Zionist indoctrination started in kindergarten:

With a Zionist Israeli father and a Zionist Canadian mother, I was enrolled in a Zionist institution by the ripe age of three. As a young girl, I recall looking up to Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers with pride and hoping to join them one day in defence of my country. Throughout elementary school, we performed plays about the state of Israel, wrote short stories about summers in Tel Aviv, and sang songs expressing our emotional connection to Zion. I distinctly recall an experience that I had in grade four: our Hebrew instructors decided to take a break from studying dik-duk, or grammar, to screen a film. We saw Kershners 1977 Raid on Entebbe; a film depicting the historical hijacking of an Air France aircraft by the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. As an impressionable Jewish child, this film and our discussion of it thoroughly frightened me and taught me to fear Muslim-appearing peoples and erased the necessary context of Palestinian resistance to conditions of oppression. I have since worked to unlearn this early Islamophobia, but so much of my elementary schooling and domestic environment conditioned me to view Muslim Arabs as inherently bad and Israeli Zionists as ultimately heroic.

I recall looking up to Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers with pride and hoping to join them one day in defence of my country.’

Continuing on with my Zionist activism, I joined my day schools own AIPAC club, assumed a leadership role in it, and travelled to Washington D.C. to lobby for the pro-Israel super-PAC. I didnt buy into it unequivocally I questioned the Islamophobic speakers and presentations and was wary of evangelical Christians that preached their support for AIPAC but I felt proud, empowered, and part of a larger purpose. I admired the Columbia and Barnard students that led a workshop on combating anti-Zionism in which they implied that this work also combated anti-Semitism on college campuses. I struggled with my connection to Judaism in a religious sense, but I thought that I had finally found my place in the Jewish community; my Zionism was my Judaism.

In Beit Knesset (temple), school, summer camp, and extra-curriculars, I was conditioned to unequivocally support Israel. After reading about the atrocities of Operation Protective Edge, when over 2,100 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip by Israeli airstrikes, I completely abandoned my Zionism by the start of grade 11. I knew that my morals and my values hadnt a shred in common with those of the Zionists, who could avert their eyes from or even justify the massacre. Through interaction with anti-oppressive Jewish communities that acted as alternatives to my Jewish school community, I realised my Judaism once more and reclaimed my Zionist-free identity. However, my immediate community was still Zionist. I sat through my mandatory Israel-Advocacy course as a senior in high school as a mishloach, or representative, from Israel came to inspire us to further support Israel. He asked: Is Israel a racist country? Expecting an overwhelming NO, I raised my hand and curtly answered, yes. My fellow students looked at me in awe, processed my answer, and raised their hands to agree with me. I turned to our mishloach; Id never seen a more shocked look on someones face.

He asked: Is Israel a racist country? Expecting an overwhelming NO, I raised my hand and curtly answered, yes.’

To this day, my views would be met with the same shocked look coupled with an accusation of being a self-hating Jew at any given Zionist institution. I beg these Zionist organisations to validate and acknowledge that yes, anti-Zionist Jews exist and we are proud of it. I hope for non-Zionist spaces in which Jews can practise. I hope for Jewish schools that do not condition their students to support Israel. However, spaces on college campuses like Independent Jewish Voices are a step in the right direction for the creation of Jewish communities free of Zionist ideology.

Reba*, an IJV McGill member, recounts her journey towards separating Zionism from her Jewish identity:

In pursuing an active Jewish identity in the Diaspora, I am repeatedly confronted by a frustrating message that Jewish fulfillment is only possible in Israel. It was only recently, in the past couple of years, that I felt able to call myself religious even though I have no intentions of associating my Jewish identity with Zionism. My whole life, I learned that I should feel the most Jewish and the most at home when in Israel, despite its distance and difference from anywhere Ive lived long-term. I grew up being taught that the true uniting force of Jews all around the world was a shared ground, a sovereign land. I now find this argument, that is extremely normalized in Jewish communities, offensive and invalidating to the work I do in the Jewish community in the Diaspora. When I spent nine months living in Israel at the age of 18, I was still confused about how Judaism could mean so many different things to different people, yet by living within certain borders, we were fulfilling the most important Jewish demand. It angers me that Zionist rhetoric conflates a religious, spiritual identity with nationalism. As I have personally stopped holding nationalist ideology and supporting borders, Zionism sits in contradiction with more and more of my personal values.

Ive always connected to Jewish texts, holidays, and practices, and felt satisfied as an active member of Jewish communities in Montreal and Vancouver. However, the conflation of Judaism with Zionism gives rise to a disappointing erasure of Jewish practice and culture that occurs in the Diaspora independently from Israel. Consequently, claims of anti-Semitism in the face of anti-Zionist efforts have struck me as reductive and misguided. In response to criticisms of Israel, Jewish communities will tend to defend the rights and safety of Jews. If we are trying to defend the rights and safety of Jews, why is there not a more inclusive, diverse Jewish community on campus? Why dont we recognize the role of Yiddish and Arabic in Jewish history? Why dont we promote celebrations of Jewish holidays outside of Ashkenazi, European practices?

If we are trying to defend the rights and safety of Jews, why is there not a more inclusive, diverse Jewish community on campus? Why dont we promote celebrations of Jewish holidays outside of Ashkenazi, European practices?

Furthermore, conflating anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism allows for an acceptance and ignorance of Israels violations of human rights. Rising to protect the rights and safety of Jews in response to anti-Zionism ignores Israels settler-colonialist oppression and violence. These kinds of responses have often left me wondering what Israel Zionist groups even support, since the country they choose to defend is an idealized, peaceful land of milk and honey so very far from the brutal reality on the ground. Zionist structures will often pick and choose what parts of Israel they portray and validate; on Birthright trips, for example, Israeli tourism is glorified and violence is hidden. Continuing to live with such a narrow understanding of Israel will only continue the oppression of Palestinian people. Jews must be honest with themselves about Israel, for its violations of human rights does warrant a global response that is not inherently anti-Semitic.

Recently, the Algemeiner, a Jewish and Zionist paper, named McGill as one of the worst universities for Jewish students in North America. The article argues that the McGill student body largely supports BDS, and is therefore anti-Semitic and hostile toward Jews. Due to its refusal to publish Zionist articles, The McGill Daily has been accused of anti-Semitism by the Algemeiner, as well as in articles by Bnai Brith Canada, McGill Hillel, Honest Reporting, and other Zionist organisations. This criticism is rooted in the above conflation, as Zionist is assumed as Jewish, and thus criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism. This continues to silence non/anti-Zionist Jewish voices many of which have appeared in the pages of The Daily. By clarifying the distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, we would like to show that such accusations of anti-Semitism against The Daily are baseless, and that refusing to publish Zionist opinions is compatible with an anti-oppressive mandate.

This criticism is rooted in the above conflation, as Zionist is assumed as Jewish, and thus criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism.

Dominant narratives that conflate Zionism with Judaism result in the marginalization and negation of these non or anti-Zionist Jewish voices. At McGill, Jewish community groups either take an assumed Zionist stance or are apolitical which means upholding the status quo of conflating Zionist and Jewish identities. Apart from Independent Jewish Voices McGill, there is no other non/anti-Zionist Jewish group on campus organising around and speaking openly against Zionist abuses of power. Furthermore, there is not a single other Jewish institution on campus which has committed to a radical anti-oppressive mandate. Radical Jewish folks are left without the familial, communal, material, financial, and institutional support or resources with which to create radical Jewish spaces. Even when recognized, the non/anti-Zionist Jew identity continues to be a taboo on campus, which IJV McGill seeks to deconstruct and combat. The emergence of IJV McGill and non/anti-Zionist spaces for Jews echoes a growing transnational Jewish resistance movement, which includes organisations like Jewish Voice for Peace in the U.S. or Jewdas in the UK.

Independent Jewish Voices McGill is here to affirm that we will not be silenced. Opposing Zionism, an oppressive and violent execution of colonisation, is not an act of anti-Semitism. Furthermore, we aim to challenge the unquestioned harm inflicted on Jewish folks and communities by the Zionist project. We are proud Jewish folks who stand in solidarity with Palestine, the Daily, and criticisms of Israel and Zionism.

*names have been changed.

To contact the McGill Students Chapter of Independent Jewish Voices, email ijvmcgill@gmail.com.

Follow this link:
Features | Jewish identity in a pickle – The McGill Daily (blog)

Open Letter to Progressive Jews: The ADL and AJC are not our allies – Mondoweiss

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League.

The following open letter was shared with Mondoweiss.

Friday, Feb 17th, 2017

We have written this letter in the hope that we can discuss the issues raised below with others from Jewish social justice groups and communities. We hope you will consider them as relevant and worthy of discussion as we do.

We very much appreciate that this moment calls for a strong, broad, united front against the Trump administrations agenda and actions and the vilification of immigrants, refugees, and Muslims, among many others. However, we question whether there are groups within our communities with which, in good conscience, we cannot and should not stand. We know similar questions have been asked in many different contexts over the years; we find it particularly salient at this moment.

Specifically, we refer to the February 12 rallies in support of refugees in which Jewish social justice groups cosponsored the action with, among others, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC), two organizations that have toxic anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian policies. The rally, protesting the Presidents recent actions against refugees (although, notably, the word Muslim is absent from the February 12 call to action), included these two groups among the most prominent national co-sponsors.

We can only begin to address this issue if we know about the ADL and AJCs long history of Islamophobic and anti-Arab actions.

Here are some specifics:

Neither the ADL nor the AJC has ever publicly renounced or apologized for these actions or disassociated themselves from these virulently Islamophobic individuals, groups and funders.

We understand that the ADL and AJC, along with the majority of Jewish groups, support the welcoming of refugees and that the ADL also articulates positive positions on issues such as hatecrimesand (for the most part) building local mosques. ADL has also spoken out and worked with a number of communities against bigotry. But the issues we are raising are not about co-sponsoring an event with an organization that has some good views as well as some that may be inconsistent with a more progressive agenda, but, rather, co-sponsoring with organizations that have long histories of demonizing and targeting Muslims, Palestinians, and other Arabs.

Co-sponsoring an event and signing statements with such organizationsones that foment the very Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism we are committed to challengingcan serve to legitimize the ADL and AJCs anti-Muslim, anti-Palestine history and policies and, in effect, obscure (or even unintentionally promote) their bigoted agenda.

This kind of co-sponsorship ends up hurting both the struggle against Islamophobia and those being targeted. The targets of ADL and AJC policies are not the Jews who cosponsor these events. The targets are Muslims and Palestinians and other Arabs. Members of Muslim social justice communities have articulated strong concerns about Muslim organizations joining forces with groups like the AJC and ADL that promote Islamophobia and are anti-Palestinian. As partners in this work, we believe those of us in Jewish social justice groups should be mindful of the impact of our choices on those with whom we stand in solidarity. (If an organization promoted anti-Semitism in the ways that the ADL and AJC promote anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian policies, the co-sponsors of the February 12 action would certainlyand correctlybe uncomfortable sponsoring an event with them.)

Some may roll their eyes and say that we are insisting on political purity or that we are being politically rigid or divisive at the wrong time. But we are raising these issues because welike so many othersdont want to be accomplices to injustice or to inadvertently perpetuate the Islamophobia we oppose. We also know that, because the current political moment requires those of us who are not being targeted daily to remain constantly vigilant, we must ask difficult questions and challenge ourselves critically.

We are deeply committed to building with new people and new communities. But, for us, this does not automatically translate into supporting a big tent with Jewish organizations actively promoting Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian positions. We know that all of us want to be certain that we do our work as Jews in this struggle as ethical, principled partners genuinely standing in solidarity with Muslims, Palestinians, and all targeted communities.

We welcome an open discussion on these issues.

In solidarity,

Anna Baltzer Liza Behrendt Beth Bruch Elly Bulkin Stefanie Fox Jane Hirschmann Alan Levine Donna Nevel Ned Rosch Rabbi Brant Rosen Gabriel Schivone Rebecca Vilkomerson Lesley Williams Rabbi Alissa Wise

Here is the action we refer to that took place on Sunday, February 12:

President Trumps recent actions against refugees are an outrage and a betrayal of American and Jewish values.

Join HIAS, the refugee agency of the Jewish community, to demand that Americas doors are reopened to refugees fleeing violence and persecution. In the 1930s, Jewish refugees were turned away from these shores in their greatest hour of need. Our community must stand up for refugees, and not allow history to repeat itself.

Join us for a powerful community action at Battery Park. Come raise up your voice to protect the Statue of Liberty and all that she stands for and recognize the many people whose lives are at risk if they are unable to find safety here in this country.

Sister actions will be held the same day around the country. Seewww.hias.org/day-of-actionfor the full list.

The event will happen, rain or shine!

National co-sponsors (list in formation): American Jewish Committee, American Jewish World Service, Anti-Defamation League, Avodah, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, Hebrew Union College, J Street, Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, Jewish Council on Public Affairs, Jewish Theological Seminary, Keys for Refugees, Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, National Council of Jewish Women, New Israel Fund, Rabbinical Assembly, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, Truah, Union for Reform Judaism, Uri LTzedek, Women of Reform Judaism, Workmans Circle

Local co-sponsors (list in formation): American Jewish Committee NY, Anti-Defamation League NY, Bet Am Shalom Synagogue, Bnai Jeshurun Congregation, Brooklyn Heights Synagogue, Brotherhood Synagogue, Central Synagogue, Community Synagogue of Rye, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, Congregation Beth Elohim, Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York, Congregation Mount Sinai, Congregation Rodeph Sholom, Congregation Shaare Tzedek, Congregation Tehillah, Darkhei Noam, East End Temple, Educational Alliance, Jewish Congregation of New Paltz, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Kolot Chayeinu, Lab/Shul, Mechon Hadar, NCJW NY, Park Slope Jewish Center, Progressive Temple Beth Ahavath Shalom, Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore, Repair the World NYC, Romemu, Shaarei Tikvah, Society for the Advancement of Judaism, Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, Temple Bnai Abraham, Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester, Temple Israel of Northern Westchester, Temple Emanu-El of East Meadow, Temple Sinai of Roslyn, The Reform Temple of Forest Hills, Town and Village Synagogue, Union Temple, Westchester Jewish Center, Woodlands Community Temple

See the original post here:
Open Letter to Progressive Jews: The ADL and AJC are not our allies – Mondoweiss

Stephen Kessler: Jewish liberals and the perennial problem of Israel – Santa Cruz Sentinel

About 35 years ago, in the fall of 1982, I wrote a column for the Santa Cruz Express expressing my shame and dismay as a Jewish American at the Israel Defense Forces brutal invasion of Lebanon. That column, and another not long after, provoked a storm of hate mail (Kessler is a self-hating Jew, etc.) and one threat of bodily injury (Well make you feel the pain youve caused us) from local Zionists who couldnt tell the difference between political and moral criticism and anti-Semitism.

On this page, still and often, critics of Israeli government policies like the nonstop construction of settlements in the West Bank and zealous defenders of the Jewish state duke it out verbally in the safety of Santa Cruz over whos to blame for the ongoing conflict between Jews and Arabs on land that is holy to both.

Such arguments are to be expected, especially among Jews, as the intellectual foundation of Judaism is debate over meaning(s) in the Talmud. The secular manifestation of this Jewish trait, the fervent search for truth and justice, is the multitude of Jewish thinkers and writers and scientists and lawyers and scholars who have applied the rigors and pleasures of Talmudic interpretation to less-religious matters like medicine and literature and business and physics and politics.

Jews, a tiny minority, are all over the place in civic and cultural and intellectual life, and so inspire among some people notions of sinister Jewish conspiracies to run the world. Such racist caricatures are shared and cultivated by Kluxers and neo-Nazis and other white supremacists of the right. They seem to trickle down in subtler form to some intellectuals and critics on the left, many of them Jewish, who demonize Israel with particular vehemence while ignoring the atrocities of other states.

Other people appear to think that Israel can do no wrong. They tend to be, to put it kindly, reductionist in their dehumanization of Palestinians. Worse yet are those Jewish zealots who invoke the Holocaust, or the Old Testament, to justify anything Israel does to create facts on the ground that are antithetical to peace with their displaced neighbors. They then blame Palestinians for their own plight because some of their leaders dont recognize Israel and encourage terrorism, thereby disqualifying them as partners in any peace agreement.

Not unlike the United States, Israel was founded on land questionably taken from its native inhabitants. The descendants of some of those inhabitants explode from time to time in murderous rage against their occupiers. There is not much moral high ground on either extreme of this perpetual conflict, and the crimes and self-righteous rhetoric of both sides have never ceased to discourage compromise by Jews and Arabs of goodwill caught in the middle.

My mother, an ardent Zionist and a liberal Democrat all her life, was in the 1950s president of her local chapter of the Jewish aid organization Hadassah, so I was taught from childhood about the moral and geopolitical importance of a Jewish state. I came of age in the 60s when my questioning of authority included questions about why Jews should claim to be chosen, or morally superior for having been victims of genocide. Like many progressive Jews, I am appalled at aggressive Israeli policies, not least because they tend to provoke anti-Jewish sentiment on the left.


I consider myself both pro-Israel (the country not the government) and pro-Palestinian (though anti-terrorism). Like others, I see little promise of a political solution to the perennial conundrum of peaceful and equal coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Palestine, nor to the perennial complaints of attackers and defenders of Israel about the villainy of the other side.

Only in acts and works of culture literature, music, film, art, theater, food, sport, fashion, interethnic love are we likely to find common humanity and common ground in this otherwise vexing existential drama. For starters, I recommend the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish and Yehuda Amichai.

Stephen Kessler, a poet and literary translator, writes regularly for the Sentinels opinion pages.

Excerpt from:
Stephen Kessler: Jewish liberals and the perennial problem of Israel – Santa Cruz Sentinel

The Jewish Chronicle – Outside the synagogue intermarried are … – thejewishchronicle.net

Danya Shults Photo by Bridget Badore

Julianne was raised by Catholic and Presbyterian parents, while Jason grew up culturally Jewish. At first, it was simple to mark their different backgrounds. In December, the couple celebrated Christmas with Juliannes relatives and lit a menorah and served latkes at Christmas dinner.

But now that theyre thinking of having kids, the Kanters have started to talk religion more seriously. And they realized they needed a space to learn about Judaism without the expectations that came with joining a synagogue.

To talk about how are we going to incorporate Judaism into our lives what does that mean? What will that look like? Julianne Kanter said. I didnt know enough about it to feel comfortable teaching my kids about it.

Since last year, the Kanters have found Jewish connection through a range of initiatives targeted at intermarried or unaffiliated couples. Last June, they went on a trip with Honeymoon Israel, a Birthright-esque subsidized tour of Israel for newlywed couples with at least one Jewish partner. And in the months since, they have built community at home in Brooklyn through two discussion groups where intermarried couples get together to meet, eat and talk about shared challenges and experiences.

In one group, called the Couples Salon, five to six couples sharea light meal, introduce themselves and drop questions they have prepared in advance into a bowl. A moderator who can also participate picks out a question and the group talks whether about how to deal with familial expectations, how to celebrate holidays or how to share a ritual with your kids. The salons have happened once a month, with different couples, since August.

We wanted the perspective of people who were in similar situations, which the synagogue is not, Jason Kanter said. It was nice to go to a group where everyone was in the same sort of boat. Theres real dialogue rather than someone telling you their opinion of what your situation is.

A growing number of initiatives are giving intermarried couples a Jewish framework disconnected from synagogue services and outside the walls of legacy Jewish institutions. Instead of drawing them to Judaism with a preconceived goal, these programs allow intermarried couples to form community among themselves and on their own terms.

I wanted to find a way to create a space for couples that come from mixed religious backgrounds to ask questions in a safe space, said Danya Shults, who runs the Couples Salons as part of Arq, a Jewish culture group, and organized her fifth salon earlier this month. Im not a synagogue. Im not expecting them to join. Im not expecting them to convert.

The salons began last year, as did Circles of Welcome, a similar initiative by JCC Manhattan, where five to seven intermarried or unaffiliated couple meets monthly, usually in someones home, to learn and talk about Judaism with a rabbi or rabbinical student who serves as mentor. In Northern Californias Bay Area, two somewhat older programs, Jewish Gateways and Building Jewish Bridges, offer group discussions, classes and communal gatherings for intermarried couples.

The programs are at once a reaction to rising intermarriage rates and to the rejection that intermarried couples have long experienced from parts of the Jewish community. While most Jews married since 2000 have wedded non-Jews, the Conservative and Orthodox movements do not sanctionintermarriage, while the Reform movement, the most welcoming to intermarrieds of the three largest Jewish denominations, encourages conversion for the non-Jewish spouse.

Because of the history of interfaith families not being welcomed and not being accepted that has meant, in some instances, for interfaith families that want to experience Jewish life, they have to figure that out using other resources, said Jodi Bromberg, CEO of InterfaithFamily, which provides resources for intermarried couples exploring Jewish life and inclusive Jewish communities.

Often, said Honeymoon Israel co-CEO Avi Rubel, intermarried couples also have friends from a range of backgrounds. So theyre uncomfortable with settings that, by their nature, are not meant for non-Jews.

When it comes to building community and meeting other people, people want to bring their whole selves into something, Rubel said. Which often in America means being inclusive of non-Jews and other friends. When theyre at a Jewish event, they dont want it to feel exclusionary.

Mainstream Jewish organizations have become more supportive of including intermarried families. Several Conservative rabbis have voiced support for performing intermarriages, and the movement is set to allow its congregations to accept intermarried couples as synagogue members. Honeymoon Israel, launched in 2015, is funded by various family foundations and Jewish federations.

But organizers of the independent initiatives, and intermarried couples themselves, say even a welcoming synagogue can still be an intimidating space. The couples may not know the prayers or rituals, may feel uncomfortable with the expectation of becoming members, or may just feel like theyre in the minority.

Its a privilege of inmarried Jews with children in any social circumstance, said Steven M. Cohen, a Jewish social policy professor at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, referring to synagogue membership. The people that fit the demographic of the active group are the people who feel most welcome.

Rabbi Avram Mlotek, a Circles of Welcome mentor and Orthodox rabbi, says his movements staunch opposition to intermarriage doesnt come into play as he teaches couples about Judaism.

Because of my own commitment to my understanding of halacha, there will be areas in which the couples and I will not see eye to eye, he said, using a Hebrew term for Jewish law. But thats like the 10th or 15th conversation. Thats not the first or second or third or even fifth. Theres so much more to learn about them, and for me to be able to share also about myself, before even getting to that point.

That doesnt mean intermarried Jews will remain forever separate, said Rabbi Miriam Farber Wajnberg, who runs Circles of Welcome at the JCC Manhattan. She sees the program as a stepping stone to a time when the larger community is more open to non-Jewish spouses.

We expect and hope that this program wont need to exist in the future, that we wont need to create a special program to help couples get access to Jewish life, she said. It will just be happening automatically.

But Julianne Kanter, who facilitated her own Couples Salon on Feb. 8, isnt sweating over which synagogue to join. She said that for now, she and her husband feel a sense of belonging in the intermarried groups that have formed.

To me, I feel like these are the people who get us, she said. This is our community, and were just really lucky.

Here is the original post:
The Jewish Chronicle – Outside the synagogue intermarried are … – thejewishchronicle.net

What It’s Like to Be Both Mexican and Jewish – POPSUGAR

Although you may think that all Latinos are Catholic, this is incorrect. I was born in Mexico City, and, like my parents, I was raised Jewish.

My life in Mexico was pretty simple; I lived in a Jewish bubble. I went to a Jewish day school, had only Jewish friends, and lived in a primarily Jewish neighborhood. While I was aware that I was a minority, it never really affected me. I loved participating in traditionally Mexican events. One of my favorite memories of Mexico is when my mom took me to the cemetery to join the Da de los Muertos festivities. I was amazed at all the unique and beautiful colors, food, and photos that decorated the graves.

I never felt ashamed of being Jewish and only later realized that some Mexicans didn’t consider me a “real Mexican.” One day, a local vendor walking around Mexico City’s Centro Histrico called me a gera (blonde). He was basically calling me a gringa due to my pale skin. It caught me by surprise and probably hurt me more than I could even understand at that time.

My life changed when I moved to Miami when I was 8 years old. I no longer went to a Jewish school, most of my friends weren’t Jewish, and the people I met were from all over Latin America. My Latino-Jewish friends understood my background and upbringing perfectly, and most of them were raised with similar experiences. Just like me, they had grown up in Jewish neighborhoods in places like Colombia or Venezuela and moved to Miami seeking a better and safer life. I also had a lot in common with my non-Jewish Latin friends. We bonded over food and culture, as well as our nagging Latino parents.

My first real culture shock occurred when an American-Jewish girl asked me if it was my dad who was Mexican and my mom Jewish, or the other way around. She couldn’t fathom both my parents being Jewish and Mexican. Since then, I’ve probably gotten asked a variation of this question a million times. Even other Jewish people have a hard time understanding my background. People ask me, “If you’re a Mexican Jew, then that has to mean you’re Sephardic, right?” or “You can’t be Ashkenazi, you’re from Mexico” or even, “How are you white AND Mexican?”

Judaism includes several ethnic divisions, but Sephardic and Ashkenazi are two of the most common. A Sephardic Jew is someone whose family originates from places like Spain, Turkey, Portugal, and Greece; an Ashkenazi Jew’s family originates from Central and Eastern Europe and Russia. A lot of people assume that because I’m from a Spanish-speaking country, my ancestors must have come from Spain, but I have no connection to Spain whatsoever. Three out of my four grandparents migrated from Russia, Lithuania, and Poland to Mexico after the Holocaust, making me three-fourths Ashkenazi. I’m also a fourth Sephardic because my paternal grandfather migrated from Turkey to Mexico in the 1900s.

My Mexican-Jewish traditions didn’t seem that unique to me until I moved to Boston for college. It was then that I realized I couldn’t relate to many American-Jewish traditions. Many of my new American-Jewish friends had gone to Jewish schools, attended a Jewish sleepaway camp every Summer, and joined Jewish youth groups during the school year. I had never stepped foot in a sleepaway camp, and the last Jewish school I had attended was in Mexico.

However, it was the different song and prayer tunes they used in synagogue that really opened my eyes. Songs that I had learned in Mexico and Miami were completely different in Boston. I ultimately realized that these are differences that every foreigner deals with. College introduced me to people from different parts of the world, of different cultures and religions. Although some Latinos viewed me as a faux-Latina due to my religion, others saw beyond that and saw me as one of them.

If there is one thing that being a Mexican Jew has taught me, it is the importance of both my family and my heritage. I may not know what’s ahead for me, but I do know this: my kids will be raised in a Spanish-speaking home with chilaquiles for breakfast, baklava for dessert, and Shabbat dinners every Friday night.

POPSUGAR, the #1 independent media and technology company for women. Where more than 75 million women go for original, inspirational content that feeds their passions and interests.

Read the original post:
What It’s Like to Be Both Mexican and Jewish – POPSUGAR

‘Telephone terrorism’ has rattled 48 Jewish centers. Is anyone paying attention? – CNN

Her daughter attends preschool there; she ran to the classroom and evacuated with the students and teachers.

While police and bomb-sniffing dogs searched the building for several hours, the teachers kept the children calm and happy at a safe spot down the street, Taylor said. No explosives were found.

On the same day, January 4, an Orlando Chabad center also received a threatening call, marking the first trickle in what would soon swell to waves of calls menacing Jewish institutions across the country.

In all, 48 JCCs in 27 states and one Canadian province received nearly 60 bomb threats during January, according to the JCCA, an association of JCCs. Most were made in rapid succession on three days: January 9, 18 and 31. A number of JCCs, including Orlando’s, received multiple threats.

In a statement, the FBI said the bureau and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are “investigating possible civil rights violations in connections with threats to Jewish Community Centers across the country.”

Several JCC sources said the FBI has told them it is investigating the calls as hate crimes. Online, another term has circulated: “telephone terrorism.”

“I’ve been in the business for 20-plus years, and this is unprecedented,” said Paul Goldenberg, national director of the Secure Community Network, which advises Jewish organizations on security. “It’s more methodical than meets the eye.”

No bombs have been found, but Jewish leaders hesitate to label the calls “hoaxes.” The chaos and terror the calls have caused are real, as are more tangible consequences.

JCCs across the country are bolstering security and holding town halls to calm frightened parents. Still, several centers have seen students withdraw from their early childhood education programs, typically reliable sources of revenue. As a result, some are slashing budgets, cutting staff and holding emergency fundraisers.

In Orlando’s JCC, 50 students have been withdrawn from its daycare and preschool. In Albany, New York, 12 families have removed their children.

“If we happen to be on the list again,” said Adam Chaskin, director of Albany’s JCC, “that number 12 is going to grow.”

Some wonder why the threats haven’t garnered more media attention and lament the spike in hate crimes seemingly incited by the divisive 2016 presidential campaign.

Others agonize about whether to withdraw their children from JCC schools and cringe when they hear a text message alert on their phones.

“Everywhere I went I had my phone out front and center,” said Taylor, a 37-year-old mother of three. “It was like: OK, when is it going to happen again?”

Like YMCAs, Jewish Community Centers pride themselves on being open to all members of all faiths, and a fair number of their students are not Jewish.

But for many Jews, JCCs aren’t just about schools and swimming lessons. They’re hubs of Jewish social life: places where their children learn Jewish history, their families celebrate Purim parties, and one of the few spots where Jews of all denominations put aside their religious and political differences.

“So much of being Jewish is built around community,” said Jordana Horn, a mother of six in New Jersey whose children and parents both frequent the local JCC. “Everything from prayer to mourning to celebration you need to have a community around you. You need to have a place where everyone can gather.”

For secular Jews, the JCC may be one of the few institutional sources of knowledge about Jewish culture and tradition.

Daniel Mauser and Kristina Kasper, who live in San Diego with their two children, don’t belong to a local synagogue but send their son to a JCC preschool. It’s the best in the area, they said.

Still, they know that the school, which received a bomb threat on January 31, comes with risks.

“Even though it’s a wonderful environment, I know that, in sending my son to a Jewish preschool, it’s a target,” said Kasper, a former New York City schoolteacher.

Not all of the threats against JCCs in recent memory have been empty.

In 2014, a white supremacist murdered two people outside a Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas. In 2006, a man fired shots at the Jewish Federation of Seattle, killing one woman and injuring five others. Five years before that, another man opened fire at the JCC in Granada Hills, California, wounding five people, including a 5-year-old boy.

In 2014 and 2015 the FBI tallied more than 1,270 hate crime incidents targeting Jews, far more than any other religious groups, and some Jewish leaders say the situation is getting worse.

In the past several months, synagogues and schools have been vandalized, swastikas have been scrawled in New York City subway cars and Jewish families have been harassed by neo-Nazis.

“We are in a volatile and fast-growing threat environment,” said Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League. “The Jewish community has been on edge.”

Asked on Wednesday whether his campaign rhetoric could have caused a spike in anti-Semitism, President Donald Trump demurred. He mentioned his daughter, Ivanka — who converted to Judaism — her husband Jared Kushner and their children.

“I think that you’re going to see a lot different United States of America over the next three, four, or eight years. I think a lot of good things are happening, and you’re going to see a lot of love.”

Trump made no mention of the bomb threats, though they have frightened and befuddled many Jewish parents.

Little is known about the calls themselves. Goldenberg, the security adviser, says the caller uses sophisticated voice-masking technology. It’s difficult to discern if it’s a male or female voice, or how old the caller is.

“They could be 15 or 60 years old. These masking technologies are very effective.”

Chillingly, the perpetrator also uses technology to make the calls seem as if they’re coming from within the JCC itself.

The photo of the worried woman pushing an evacuation crib outside the Albany JCC — that’s the image that roiled Kveller.com’s Facebook group for mothers, said Deborah Kolben, editor of the Jewish parenting website.

Other Jewish mothers say they don’t know what to make of the bomb threats, or how they should react.

“The question is: How serious is it?” said Elissa Strauss, a parenting columnist for Slate whose son attends a JCC preschool. “That’s what I, as a Jew and a parent, am trying to work out. I don’t think I have a clear understanding of what I’m supposed to do right now, besides not give in.”

Parents are asking: Is it because no bombs have exploded? Because the protection of children is seen primarily as a “women’s issue”? Because Trump’s chaotic new administration dominates news cycles? Or because JCC leaders are trying to quiet the story for fear of panicking parents and losing students?

Ivy Harlev, director of the JCC in Wilmington, Delaware, which received two bomb threats last month, says she is “torn” about whether more media should have covered the threats.

“I don’t want that kind of negative attention, but I want to make sure that people know that we are a secure place, and that we have the support of local law enforcement.”

Like many JCCs that have received threats, Harlev’s quickly assembled a town hall so parents could question administrators, local police and FBI representatives. Two families decided to withdraw their children from the JCC’s early childhood education program, Harlev said.

In Albany, Orlando and elsewhere, JCC staffers have tried to bolster security — and ease parents’ peace of mind — by closing entrances, blocking phone calls from unknown numbers and posting bollards to block vehicles from getting close to their buildings.

At least one family was satisfied by the changes.

For nearly four years, Melissa Braillard, a mother of two in Orlando, had sent her children to the JCC. She knew and liked the teachers, the administrators, the other parents and their children.

“I feel like I had a support system, and people cared for us.”

But after the third bomb threat and weeks of worrying, Braillard removed her children from the JCC. “I need to keep my kids safe,” she thought at the time.

A few weeks later, though, Braillard agreed to return to the Orlando JCC to see its security improvements. She came away impressed.

Because her son would be starting kindergarten soon at another school anyway, he is not returning to the JCC. But her daughter will be back in the classroom on Monday.

Meanwhile, parents like Taylor, the mother who witnessed the first bomb threat, are determined to keep the doors open. “Our JCC isn’t going anywhere,” she said, “and that’s the most important message.”

See more here:
‘Telephone terrorism’ has rattled 48 Jewish centers. Is anyone paying attention? – CNN

Synagogue in Willow Glen to welcome new Torah scroll – Milpitas Post

San Joses Jewish community willwelcome a new Torah scroll to Congregation Am Echad in Willow Glen on Sunday.

To commemorate the rare occasion, the synagogue at 1504 Meridian Ave. is holding a traditional ceremony known as Hachnoses Sefer Torah, starting at 11 a.m.

This is the first time in more than two decades since the congregationlast received a new Torah, according to Rabbi Menachem Levine. The new scroll will replace one of the temples four older ones.

In Judaism, these Torah scrolls, its holy, its reverent, Levine said of the ceremony. Its a celebration of bringing a new one into the synagogue.

The Torah usually refers to the Five Books of MosesGenesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomybut can also mean the entire body of Jewish law and teachings. Unlike the Christian Bible, which has been translated and rewritten many times, Torah scrolls have been rewritten exactly the same for thousands of years.

Our scrolls are, for thousands of years, word for word, Levine said. The laws are so strict about how you have to write those Torah scrolls. You cant sit there erasing Gods name.

The new Torah was commissioned about a year and a half ago in Israel and donated to the congregation. The donor, Kevin Fagan, couldnt be reached for comment, but Levine said the scrolls are extraordinarily expensive, ranging anywhere from $35,000 to $100,000. Despite the price tag, Levine said its a lot of bang for your buck that lasts for decades.

There are scrolls that are hundreds of years old that are still used weekly, he said.

A Torah scribe, called a sofer, writes the entire scroll by hand using a feather quill and ink, copying exactly from another scroll right next to it. The scroll takes about a year to complete but if its brought into a congregationbrand new, the last letters remain unwritten until the start of the ceremony. The scroll is then takenoutdoors, where singing and dancing take place for about an hour. More singing and dancing ensue when the scroll is brought back inside, followed by a prayer service before its finally placed inside an ornamental cabinet called the Torah ark.

Once we put the Torah in the ark, its resting place, theres a big festive meal and there will be multiple speeches including the person donating this Torah, Levine said.

Because the Torah scroll is so large and delicate, a person brought it to San Jose as a carry-on item in a cross-country flight.

It was literally hand-delivered to the temple, Levine said.

Levine said he has often witnessed the ceremony but is looking forward to officiating one for the first time.

Its very festive, he said. Its a day of happiness.

Go here to see the original:
Synagogue in Willow Glen to welcome new Torah scroll – Milpitas Post

Asked about anti-Semitism, Trump promises ‘a lot of love’ – The Times of Israel

WASHINGTON US President Donald Trump, asked Wednesday about a spike in anti-Semitic acts in the United States, promised that Americans would see a lot of love across the country in the future but only after bragging about his election win.

At a joint press conference with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump was asked by an Israeli reporter about anti-Semitic attacks, which spiked in the days after his November election.

He was also asked if he agreed with those who said the new administration might be playing with xenophobia and maybe racist tones.

Trump offered a rather circuitous reply starting with a non sequitur but one reporters have grown accustomed to about the size of his Electoral College victory and the tremendous enthusiasm his campaign had generated.

He then vowed: We are going to stop crime in this country. We are going to do everything in our power to stop long-simmering racism.

The country is very, very divided, Trump said, adding, Hopefully, Ill be able to do something about that.

At this point, Trump shifted gears to point out his close family ties to Judaism.

As far as people, Jewish people so many friends, a daughter who happens to be here right now, a son-in-law, and three beautiful grandchildren, he said.

Daughter Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism in 2009 before marrying Jared Kushner, an Orthodox Jew who is now serving as one of Donald Trumps closest advisers. Both were present.

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner arrive for a joint press conference by US President Donald Trump and Israels Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the East Room of the White House on February 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. (AFP / MANDEL NGAN)

The president continued: I think that youre going to see a lot different United States of America over the next three, four or eight years. I think a lot of good things are happening and youre going to see a lot of love.

In the 10 days after Trumps surprise electoral victory, a US rights advocacy group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, tallied 867 racist incidents in the United States, of which 100 were classified as anti-Semitic.

After spiking in that initial period, the number of anti-Semitic incidents, and of other reported bias incidents, has slowed considerably.

The Trump administration faced criticism after a statement issued on the occasion of World Holocaust Day urged global tolerance but omitted specific mention of the Nazi genocide that killed six million Jews.

Netanyahu defended Trump over that statement, however, telling reporters on Wednesday that criticism of the president over the issue was misplaced.

Earlier, at their joint press conference, Netanyahu said, There is no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish state than President Donald Trump.

Go here to read the rest:
Asked about anti-Semitism, Trump promises ‘a lot of love’ – The Times of Israel

Skokie’s Lubavitch school celebrates arrival of new Torah – Chicago Tribune

When a new Torah arrives for the first time, it is cause for celebration, rabbis at Seymour J. Abrams Cheder Lubavitch Hebrew Day School in Skokie say.

The school certainly proved that Monday by holding an exuberant ceremony that began outside with a schoolwide march around the building and ended inside with music, dancing and boisterous good cheer.

Known as the most sacred item in the Jewish religion, a new Torah scroll is always welcomed in this celebratory fashion, said Rabbi Yitzchok Wolf, dean of Cheder Lubavitch.

“This is actually a very significant and extraordinary experience for the children,” Wolf said. “The children will all read from this. We’re trying to give the children the right perspective as to what Judaism means for a child growing up in the 21st Century.”

The Torah traveled a long way to find its permanent home. It was a gift from Sherwin and Pam Willner of Lincolnwood in memory of Sherwin’s parents, Ben and Mary Willner, school officials said.

A scribe (or “Sofer” in Hebrew) was commissioned in Israel, according to Wolf, and he wrote most of the Torah scroll in Jerusalem. Another scribe, Yochanan Nathan, finished the scroll, working some of the time at school where children could watch and learn the traditions of the Torah.

The final letters of the Torah were completed by Nathan Sunday at the Palmer House hotel in Chicago where the celebrating began, Wolf said. Then the Torah was transported to the Skokie school.

“It’s a beautiful thing to be able to hand over a Torah to the community,” Nathan said during a recent visit to the school. “There’s always a lot of excitement about it. There’s a continuity among all the generations of Jewish people.”

Wolf said the Torah is “a piece of artwork” written by the scribe using a quill and ink. Nothing is [machine] printed; a piece of parchment that comes from deer or cow skin is used to create the sacred scroll, he said.

To create a Torah, according to Judaism, the scribe hand-writes the sacred scroll in a specific way and only then is it considered a kosher Torah. There are 600,000 letters in the Torah, which reflect the 600,000 Jews who exited Egypt in the time of the Exodus, Wolf said.

“There’s a lot of history and tradition when it comes to commissioning the scribe to write the Torah,” Wolf said. “It is exactly the same Torah that the Jewish people had for thousands of years. Not even one letter was changed added or subtracted.”

Although other Torahs have been studied in the school, this is the first permanent one commissioned specifically for the children, Wolf said. That makes it even more special to the school community, he said.

The Torah represents a way of life, according to Wolf. It provides a foundation for living, he said.

“This school is not only where we convey facts and figures,” Wolf said. ” It gives them the right morals and the right values that children must have today in this pop culture environment that we’re living in. We must give them something of content.”



Read more:
Skokie’s Lubavitch school celebrates arrival of new Torah – Chicago Tribune

Lieberman discusses political career, Jewish faith at Partners in Torah fundraiser – Cleveland Jewish News

Former U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman said being an observant Jew was a positive during his career in public service, though at times he did face challenges. When he was elected to the U.S. Senate, he recalled asking his rabbis for advice about what to do if a session was scheduled on Shabbat.

I felt a real obligation never to miss a vote because of my religious observance, because I couldnt delegate my vote, there are no proxies in the Senate, and I never wanted anybody to say, Lieberman missed a vote, didnt vote for us in Connecticut because of his religion, he put his religion above us. Bottom line Id say over my senate years, sometimes it was difficult, but it was definitely doable, Lieberman said.

Lieberman served as the guest speaker at Partners in Torah of Cleveland’s third annual fundraiser Feb. 12 at Landerhaven in Mayfield Heights.

Lieberman, who was the Democratic Partys nominee for vice president in the 2000 election, making him the first Jewish candidate on a major American political party presidential ticket, said his passion for history and the value of tikkun olam inspired him to pursue a career in politics. He also credited his parents for raising him to be an observant Jew and for instilling in him a faith in America.

They told me that to be successful in America, I didnt have to homogenize myself, I didnt have to assimilate myself, I didnt have to be like everybody else, said Lieberman, who was born in Stamford, Conn., and graduated from Yale University and Yale Law School in New Haven, Conn.

I should be what I believed in, what I wanted to be and I would gain more respect as a result of that. You know what, they happened to be right, and I will forever be grateful to them.

In 1970, Lieberman was elected to the Connecticut Senate, where he served three terms as majority leader. He served as state attorney general from 1983 to 1989. He won election to the U.S. Senate in 1988 and was re-elected in 1994 and 2000.

After his run for vice president in the 2000 presidential election, he ran as a third party candidate during his re-election bid in 2006. Lieberman retired from the senate in January 2013.

Lieberman praised Partners in Torah for the work its doing in the community as well as for its open and inclusive environment.

In what you have made real in a very few years through Partners in Torah, theres a very powerful lesson I think which is that over the years and centuries, we have developed different Jewish denominations and sometimes theres real conflict between us, Lieberman said.

So in the most literal sense, we all dont seem to be able to pray together, but what you are proving is that we all can learn together, we all can study together, we all can involve ourselves in the Torah together, and thats a very powerful message.

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel introduced Lieberman at the Feb. 12 event. Mandel, a Republican from Beachwood, recalled a meeting he had with Lieberman years ago in Washington D.C. The meeting was only supposed to last 10 minutes, but the two ended up speaking for two hours.

That day those two hours that stuck with me ever since as two of the most powerful hours of my life, Mandel said.

Mandel also referred to Lieberman as a statesman and gentleman.

When I think about Sen. Lieberman, I think about the kind of person we want in public service, someone whos a fierce fighter and defender of the United States of America and the Jewish state of Israel, Mandel said.

Proceeds from the event will benefit Partners in Torah of Cleveland, an organization that offers Jews of all backgrounds across the Cleveland Jewish community learning opportunities to discover Judaism and its culture, history and traditions at their own pace.

The Cleveland Jewish News was the media sponsor of the event.

The rest is here:
Lieberman discusses political career, Jewish faith at Partners in Torah fundraiser – Cleveland Jewish News

‘The Daily’: What to Expect From Trump and Israel – New York Times

New York Times
'The Daily': What to Expect From Trump and Israel
New York Times
He was speaking in front of thousands of Jewish teenagers waving Israeli flags an early stop on a tour that would take these young people from the concentration camps of Poland, where Judaism nearly met its end, to Israel, where it had been reborn.

and more »

Original post:
‘The Daily’: What to Expect From Trump and Israel – New York Times

Rabbi Rosenthal ends a successful 29-year stint at San Carlos synagogue – The San Diego Union-Tribune

When life is at its worst, Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal is at his best.

The death of a loved one is precisely when youwant to feel more anchored in your culture, with your synagogue family, said Dr. Seth Krosner, recalling his mothers passing in 2008.

He is really good at doing that.

Rosenthal of Tifereth Israel Synagogueis masterful at weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, and other happyoccasions.But when death strikes a Jewish family? Hes the mensch.

No two are the same, said Jerry Hermes, the San Carlos synagogues board president,of the dozens of funerals hes seen Rosenthalconduct.

Hes not a boilerplate rabbi. Everything is tailor made.

Soon, though, hiscongregation will have to endure a loss without him. After 29 years as this synagogues rabbi, Rosenthal is retiring.

In a profession with 24/7 demands, longtenures are rare. Clergy of all faithslead services, writesermons, make house, hospitaland mortuary calls at a moments notice. They are expected to be pure, wise and apolitical.

We are supposed to know about everything, said Rabbi Wayne Dosick, founder of Elijah Minyan, a synagogue without walls, and an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego. We are expected to be experts in religious law, write book reviews for the Sisterhood (a Jewish womens group), know all about long-term loans for construction projects.

Rosenthal thrived in this demanding environment. Heleaves on his own terms, not at the congregations behest.

Were all heartbroken, Krosner said.

Maybe not all.

Its bittersweet, Rosenthal, 64, said of his departure.

He paused. Not really. Im ready.

Rosenthaltalks of the bumps in the road of life, and its easy to see why. Hes had to avoidnumerous personal potholes, including his mothers determination that he steer clear of the rabbinate.

He grew up in the San Fernando Valley,the son of observant Jews who neverforgot afriendsmisery. The friend was a rabbi whose congregation didnt treat him very well, Rosenthal said.

At home, the lesson was clear:My mother never wanted me to be a rabbi, hesaid.

Despite a passion forJudaism, the young man enrolled at UC San Diego as a computer science major. Those studieswere valuable Tifereth Israels rabbi is also its IT specialistbut not fulfilling.

He changed his major andin 1974 earneda degree in Jewish studies. Six years later, after graduate work atrabbinical schools in Los Angeles and New York City, Rosenthal was ordained as a Conservative rabbi.

Why did he ignore his mothers wishes?

Because I loved Judaism and wanted to share it with others. I ultimately decided you have to love Jews thats first and then Judaism.

There are bumps in the road, he said of life asthe headof a congregation, arguments you might have. Ultimately you have to be part of the same familyand you have to be friends with each other.

What my mother feared, he said, did not come to pass.

Scanthe rabbisresume and it seems he was destined to lead Tifereth Israel.

This is where Rosenthal, while still an undergraduate, served as youth adviser to Rabbi Monroe Levens.

Where he met the woman he would marry, Judy Feigelson.

Where, after stops at temples in New Jersey, Florida and Orange County, he was hired as an associate rabbi.

Where, two years later, he succeeded Rabbi Aaron Gold.

This dream come true had the potential to turn into a nightmare.

Everybody loved Rabbi Gold, said Rabbi Dosick. It was hard for a young man to come in and succeed a beloved rabbi. But he did beautifully.

People thrust into these unenviable positions are sometimes referred to as korban, a Hebrew term for a sacrificial offering.

They come in and have to take the brunt of the transition, Rosenthal said. Itsnot that easy to do. It took me a few years to find my own footing.

That was a tricky task, given the many fault lines underthe congregation. Worshipers here include Holocaust survivors, refugees from Russia and Syria, young families, retirees, gays and lesbians. Theyrepresentevery viewpoint on the political spectrum.

There are enough reasons for people to be upset with you, an oldrabbi once told Rosenthal, urging him to avoid partisan issues. Dont give them another.

Instead, the new rabbi focused on getting to know his congregation, listening to their hopes and concerns. He met people in their jobs, in the synagogues school, in its orchestra Rosenthal is second violin and at their homes.

He knows people well, said David Ogul, a member of the congregation. At weddings and funerals, he tells stories about them because he knows them.

On a coolafternoon, Rosenthal stood on the curb outside the synagogue as a line of cars disgorged their pre-teen cargoes.

Hello guys, he called out, welcome!

The youngstersfiled into a spacious complex at the foot of Cowles Mountain, Tifereth Israels third home. Founded in downtown San Diego in 1905, the synagogue detoured to North Park before coming herein 1979. After the synagoguemoved east,San Diegos Jewish populationshiftednorth, taking some of Tifereth Israels membersnow 350 families,down from its peakof 600.

The afternoon religion school draws some80 kids, ages 5 to12. About100 toddlers attendthepreschool.

Rosenthal poppedinto classrooms, teachingquick lessons. The world is not just ours alone, he told fourth- and fifth-graders studyingTu BShevat, a day when trees areplanted for the planet and parsley for the Passover meal.

In the preschool, Rosenthal sat on the carpet withtwo kids playing with Legos.

Minutes later, he was heading for the door. Keep building! he calledout.

Although some of the preschoolers are not Jewish and some of the religion school students come from dual-faith families,Rosenthal is happy to have them. Hes also come to value the contributions of gay and lesbian temple members.

Ive gotten to know inter-married families more intimately, gayand lesbian people more intimately, he said. Ive seen that theyare loving human beings and committed to Judaism.

In recent decades, Conservative Judaisms stanceon sexual orientation and inter-marriagehas evolved. Growing up in a Conservative synagogue, Jackie Gadd always felt from others this undercurrent of, being a Jew, how awful it would beto assimilate.

That xenophobic, separatist perspective did not work for me.

Now married to a lapsed Catholic who is agnostic if not atheist, Gadd wanted their son, Eli, to understand his heritage. Tifereth Israel isa Conservative synagogue, but Gadd found a different attitude there.

Tifereth is a lot of more open-minded, she said. They have programs for you if you are Jewish or if you are Jew-ish.

Programs also are open to believers regardless of sexual orientation. Krosner, a trauma surgeon at Scripps Mercy Hospitalwho is gay, is a former synagogue board president.

A gay president never would have happened in the past, he said. The world changed during his tenure, and thats an issue where he evolved as a rabbi.

At the start of his rabbinate, Rosenthal believedthat people chose their sexuality.Eventually, I came to a personal realization that my assumptions and beliefs were not correct. They were made this way by God.

You hope the congregation grows, he said. You hope you grow, as well.

While proclaimingJan. 31 Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal Day, San Diego City Councilman Scott Sherman notedthe honorees 29-year tenure;his three terms as president of the San Diego Rabbinical Association;his work creatingCommunity Jewish Highat Temple Emanu-El in Del Cerro.

Unmentioned was the rabbis skill at bringing comfort and a Jewish perspective to the grief-stricken. For Rosenthal, leading funerals andpraying the Kaddish while families sitshiva a week-long mourning period is aprivilege.

Thats when you meet people heart-to-heart, he said.

Rosenthal personalizes each funeral, working inanecdotes and observations.The rabbis tribute to Jerry Hermes late mother-in-lawwas typically informed and heart-felt.

People who had come from out of town toldme what a Hermes paused, fighting back tears. What a great funeral service it was.

Mortality is a difficult, emotional topic many people avoid. Two years ago, though, Rosenthal underwent valve replacement surgery.

It kind of changes your perspective on things, he said, on what is important.

Whats important now: spending time with Judy, their three adult children and six grandchildren. His updated bucket list includes plenty of travel, as family members are scattered from coast to coast.

Still, Rosenthal isnt abandoning the local community. Hellintroduce a movie, The Mezuzah, Tuesday and Thursday at the Jewish Film Festival. Afterhis last act as rabbi, presidingover Tifereth Israels Purim carnivalon March 5, hell attend the synagogue as rabbi emeritus.

He may also become the kind of temple member whocaused his mother such tsuris.

I plan to come back and sit in the back and complain about the rabbi and the temperature in the synagogue, Rosenthal said. Just like everybody else.

See the article here:
Rabbi Rosenthal ends a successful 29-year stint at San Carlos synagogue – The San Diego Union-Tribune

Wrapping Up Post Rabbinic Judaism – Patheos (blog)

Its time to wrap up our recent conversation on Post Rabbinic Judaism. I think weve gone as far as we can for the moment.

Many agree that todays forms of Liberal Judaism are increasingly moving away from traditional expressions of Rabbinic Judaism. This has prompted our recent discussion on what does a Post-Rabbinic Judaism look like? Where is Liberal Judaism heading?

I think the honest answer is, that despite being able to see the trends, no one really knows.

Things are in flux, there isnt a dominant trend in Liberal Jewish theology, and time will tell what emerges.

A continual tension will be how to define and maintain a Jewish identity if we continually move the parameters of such. Without parameters, Judaism quickly loses meaning. Yet parameters too strictly enforced can prevent necessary change and stifle growth and spiritual life.

Without binding central authorities, Judaism evolves through the efforts of those who engage it. Many congregations are being transformed through interfaith couples and converts. And many Jews are exploring ways to make their Judaism real and meaningful, navigating between tradition and daily life.

Still, I think weve identified in our past few posts what constitutes the foundations of a Post Rabbinic Judaism:

(1) A liberal , nuanced reading of Torah. A reading of Torah that employs critical scholarship and avoids literalism through metaphor, allegory, and myth.

(2) A selective or critical observance of halakhah Shabbat, holidays, study, life cycle events, and the general ethical norms outlined in Torah (such things help define Judaism.) Yet Torahs ethical vision need be in ongoing dialog with todays understanding of goodness, justice, and the human condition, with neither trumping the other. The tension is necessary and unavoidable. Further conversation over the nature of halakhah needs to be had should halakhah be reformed? Ignored? Replaced?

(3) Adherence to a genuine moral worldview that emphasizes justice, love, and care for the needy, and affirmation of human dignity. In this sense, forming a genuine Jewish worldview rooted in Jewish tradition, informed by Jewish values.

(4) Self-identification with the Jewish people and Jewish tradition, along with basic commitments to work for the good of all Jews (and all people.)

Well certainly post on these issues again, but for now, I think our conversation on Post Rabbinic Judaism deserves a break.

As always, I welcome your input and insights.

View original post here:
Wrapping Up Post Rabbinic Judaism – Patheos (blog)

Why have the Jews survived? – Opinion – Jerusalem Post – Jerusalem Post Israel News

THE FACULTY OF LAW building at Berlins Humboldt University.. (photo credit:Wikimedia Commons)

It was with mixed emotions that I visited Humboldt University in Berlin a few weeks ago to deliver the annual Hildesheimer lecture on Jewish law. Humboldt is Berlins oldest university. Marx and Engels studied there and Albert Einstein lectured there. On the other hand, the first Nazi book burning took place just outside the gates of the university. On the road just outside the university, is a plaque in memory of the Jewish students who were deported from the university during the Nazi era. It is a stark reminder of the darkness of the past. And now that same university hosts an annual lecture on the relevance of Torah law in the world today.

Standing in the heart of the university in one of its large lecture halls, speaking to a gathering from across the Jewish community of Berlin, as well as the senior faculty of the university and specifically its department of law, I was struck by the remarkable story of Jewish tenacity and survival despite all odds. A university which once reflected the worst of the Nazi horrors has now become an open platform for the teaching of Jewish law, and for partnership with the Jewish community.

This was, of course, merely one brief incident in the dramatic journey of Jewish history, replete with tenacity and courage, combined with miracles of Divine intervention and guidance. One of the most powerful and breathtaking emblems of this journey of Jewish history is the miracle of the reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel only three years after the Holocaust and the subsequent dazzling development of the State of Israel in all spheres of human endeavor.

But that is only part of the story. There is another very important part, and that is the remarkable eternal vibrancy not only of the Jews, but of Judaism. The values and principles of the Torah that God gave us more than 3,300 years ago have guided and remained relevant to our survival every step of the way. And so speaking at the Humboldt University and sharing the relevance of Jewish law for todays times brought home to me this other crucial dimension of the Jewish story.

In my lecture I dealt with four areas of human rights: political power, a married womans rights, the rights of a criminal accused and poverty alleviation. In each one of these areas Jewish law took morally visionary positions which Western law only came around to thousands of years later. I also demonstrated how the Torah often takes an approach which is more subtle and sophisticated in understanding the concept of vulnerability, in terms of which sometimes it is the individual and sometimes society which is considered to be the more vulnerable party.

Furthermore, I pointed out that many of the moral foundations of the modern world come from the Torah itself. This is what the famous (Catholic) historian Paul Johnson writes:

All the great conceptual discoveries of the intellect seem obvious and inescapable once they have been revealed, but it requires a special genius to formulate them for the first time. The Jews had this gift. To them we owe the idea of equality before the law, both Divine and human; of the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person; of the individual conscience and social responsibility; of peace as an abstract ideal and love as the foundation of justice, and many other items which constitute the basic moral furniture of the human mind. Without the Jews it might have been a much emptier place.

Johnson errs in ascribing these insights to the Jewish people, when in fact they were revealed to us by God.

One of the great miracles of world history is the eternal vibrancy and relevance of Torah, and this is an important part of the Jewish story. These values transform our story of survival into something infinitely meaningful and significant. Mere survival doesnt give meaning or significance to the experience. Why is it that we want to survive and retain our identity as the Jewish people? Why is it that throughout many generations and across the continents we have tenaciously clung to each other and survived despite all odds? Why is it that we are so passionate about maintaining a Jewish state in the midst of a hostile environment of enemies who seek our destruction? The answer to these questions lies within the teachings of Judaism, which have framed our experience of survival with meaning and significance. We seek not merely survival, but also to live by our Torah values and principles which infuse everything we do.

This is how it has been since the very birth of our people. When Moses asked Pharaoh for freedom in the name of God, he said, Send my people that they may serve me. It was not only about survival and freedom it was about a higher cause. It was about the values and the moral vision of being a Jew.

It is these values that infuse with meaning our valiant efforts in building the Jewish state in the ancient land of Israel. It is these values that inform the quest to preserve Jewish identity in the melting pots of modern Western society, where freedom and equality give us access to everything. It is these values that energize the remarkable rebirth of German Jewry. It is these values that make the story of the Jewish people not merely a story of survival, but a story of the triumph of morality and goodness, and the triumph of a profound and inspiring vision of the world.

The author has been the chief rabbi of The Union of Orthodox Synagogues of South Africa since 2005.

Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin

Prev Article

February 12, 2017: Show it here

See the rest here:
Why have the Jews survived? – Opinion – Jerusalem Post – Jerusalem Post Israel News