District pulls sponsorship of Holocaust literature trip to DC – Lincoln Journal Star

A semester-long Holocaust literature class taught in several of Lincolns high schools for more than 15 years will no longer end with a one-day trip to the Holocaust museum in Washington.

At least it wont be a school-sponsored trip, and, as far as Lincoln Southeast High School teacher Paul Smith is concerned, that means he wont be able to take students.

To me that says that theyre not going to cover me for a substitute, for liability, period, said Smith, who created the class at Southeast in 2001.

Smith said the classes haven’t gone on trips to Washington for a few years because the airline cost had become prohibitive. But he checks each semester, and found some good deals for this spring.

So he planned the trip, sent information home to parents and told his principal, who said he needed to get permission from the district office.

The answer: the district no longer sponsors the trip.

Jane Stavem, associate superintendent for instruction, said the policy regarding trips was revised in 2014 and district officials determined the Holocaust literature trip should not be sponsored, though the teacher could still take students in a non-sponsored trip.

LPS policy allows principals to approve field trips during the regular school day. It also allows for travel for extracurricular activities such as sports and fine arts.

Nonroutine trips require approval of the district office. Many of the trips taken by bands, swing choirs, dance groups or students in various competitions such as We The People fall into that category.

The policy says nonsponsored school trips — those where the district takes no responsibility — include such things as travel for club sports teams, an out-of-state band trip organized by a booster club or a foreign language teacher taking students abroad during the summer. The trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum now falls under that umbrella in school policy.

They can still take the trip, Stavem said.

When the policy was revised, district officials wanted to be more consistent about making sure all school trips followed district policy. For instance, the policy requires all students have the opportunity to take the trip, even low-income students who qualify for a waiver of student fees, she said.

Among the factors the district considers are the length of absence, the educational value, adequate supervision, alternatives that would be closer to home and the amount of preparation.

The fact that the trip happened in the middle of the week and travel required students be up late, and the lack of extended planning were among the reasons the trip wasn’t approved to be sponsored, Stavem said.

Mark Gudgel, who taught the Holocaust class at Southwest for a decade and now teaches at Omaha Public Schools, said the trip is an experience that cant be duplicated in class.

Frankly it doesnt seem like whats best for kids is being considered at all, he said. In my experience the experiential learning that takes place in one of those museums and outside the classroom far exceeds what I can do in the classroom. Ive witnessed it changing students lives.

Gudgel joined LPS because he wanted to teach such a class. He often expanded the trips his students took to several days to include a visit to New York City.

Today, he teaches humanities classes at Omaha North High School and has loosely modeled similar trips after the LPS Holocaust classes.

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The Holocaust literature class delves into the Holocaust and uses that as a basis to talk about present-day genocides, tolerance, prejudice and discrimination.

Interest in the class grew rapidly in those early years and by 2003, and today, most of the LPS high schools offer a Holocaust literature class.

Smith said in the years when the classes didn’t travel to Washington, he tried to find speakers but there was no regular alternative.

And he said he doesnt understand how a trip like this differs from trips taken by school bands or dance troupes.

You can take a bunch of kids dancing in Orlando for a week, he said. I just want to take them to a museum for crying out loud.

Because of seating limitations on the plane, he said hes had to use a lottery system for the trips in the past. And theres always a waiting list for the class. When they traveled, Smith typically researched the flights and shared the information with teachers at other schools.

You cant put a price tag on the experience kids get at the museum, Smith said.

What we have in our own nations capitol is second to none, he said. The insight you get looking at things through a different lens, survivors who are volunteers, historians. You are getting first-hand experiences, first-hand knowledge — things you cant get from literature, a book or a video.

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District pulls sponsorship of Holocaust literature trip to DC – Lincoln Journal Star

Unity rally Sunday to counter anti-Semitism – The Courier-Journal


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Scene during the We Stand Together Rally for Unity at the Jewish Community Center in Louisville, KY. March 12, 2017(Photo: By Frankie Steele, Special to CJ)Buy Photo

Dr. Michelle Elisburg of Floyds Knobs, Indiana, was in Louisville Sunday to send a message to those who’vebeen terrorizingthe Jewish peoplewith bomb threats and other forms of harassment nationwide.

Were not going to cower in a corner, said Elisburg, who is Jewish. Were not going to be afraid.

Elisburg, 46, was among an estimated 400 people who gathered outside the Jewish Community Center on Dutchmans Lane for the We Stand Together Rally for Unity.

The center hostedthe rally, along with the Jewish Federation of Louisville, after having to temporarily evacuate last Wednesday because of a bomb threat reminiscent of others that have occurred in this country in recent months. The rally served as a call to action to peace-loving people from all backgrounds.

We have no time to be silent, said Sara Wagner, president and chief executive officer of the Jewish Community of Louisville. Its a time to stand together and look together at the things that we do stand for, not the hate that other people stand for.

Scene during the We Stand Together Rally for Unity at the Jewish Community Center in Louisville, KY. March 12, 2017(Photo: By Frankie Steele, Special to CJ)

Sunday afternoon, a cross section of people of various hues andfaiths including Protestants, Baptists, Muslims and Episcopalians stood shoulder to shoulder, applauding and singing patriotic songsoutside the center to show their support for the Jewish community.

The outpouring of concern and love that has come from everyone standing here on our front steps today and on our front lawn has been truly amazing, Wagner told the crowd. Every day, we wake up ready to celebrate Jewish life and to open our doors wide to the entire community.

The bomb threat at the center follows a rash of such attacks across the country this year that has included not only bomb threats but thedesecration of gravesites at cemeteries in Philadelphia and in Missouri as well asswastikasput on cars in Miami Beach, according to a news report.

Louisville, don’t just rally today. We need you every day.

Jewish institutions, such as community centers, schools and synagogues, have received more than 150 threats in the last three months, according to the Anti-Defamation League, a national civil rights and human relations organization. League offices also weretargeted.

A former journalist,Juan Thompson, has been charged in connection with some of the threats. He allegedly was involved in a scheme to make his ex-girlfriend look guilty, according to the Associated Press.

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But the threats have continued. For example, Wagner told the rally crowd that there had been another threat earlier in the day directed at a Jewish Community Center in Indianapolis. Its happening way too often, she said. Every one of these threats is too much.

Her comments were echoed by Congressman John Yarmuth, who said it was important for everyone to keepcoming out to rallies to say no to hatred, no to bigotry, no to ignorance and intolerance.

Dani Harper holds a ‘hate has no home’ sign during the We Stand Together Rally for Unity at the Jewish Community Center in Louisville, KY. March 12, 2017(Photo: By Frankie Steele, Special to CJ)

Yarmuth, who is Jewish,said the issue is personal to him because he grew up at the Jewish Community Center and knows Louisville voters.

I know the kind of compassionate, tolerant, open community that we have, and in fact, thats true of our country as well,” he said.”What were seeing in these acts of hatred are not representative of this nation, this community, or I believe, the world.

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Sadiqa Reynolds, president and chief executive of the Louisville Urban League, told the crowd it’s important to support the Jewish people but for the Louisville community to also stand together on other key issues, such as attempts to segregate the schools. “Louisville, don’t just rally today,” she said. “We need you every day.”

Muhammad Babar, president of Muslim Americans for Compassion, lamented the county’s inability, thus far, to break down barriers that lead to division. He also spoke of children who lost their lives during the Holocaust. “We cannot bring back those children, who never lived to be adults … but we can promise them and we can swear on their innocence that never again in our world any group of people will be threatened or harmed on the basis of their religious beliefs, gender, skin color or sexual orientation,” he said.

Reporter Darla Carter can be reached at (502) 582-7068 or dcarter@courier-journal.com.

Scene during the We Stand Together Rally for Unity at the Jewish Community Center in Louisville, KY. March 12, 2017(Photo: By Frankie Steele, Special to CJ)

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Unity rally Sunday to counter anti-Semitism – The Courier-Journal

Lior Ashkenazi takes a look at ‘Norman’ – Israel News – Jerusalem Post – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Meeting Lior Ashkenazi, who stars in Joseph Cedars new movie, Norman, with Richard Gere, brings to mind Albert Camus famous quote: You know what charm is: a way of getting the answer yes without having asked a clear question.

Norman opened Thursday in theaters throughout Israel, and Ashkenazi who truly never needs to ask a clear question unless he feels like it sat down for an interview at the Diaghilev Hotel in Tel Aviv earlier last week.

Ashkenazi plays Micha Eshel, an Israeli politician who accepts a favor from Geres character, Norman (the subtitle of the movie is The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer), then gets drawn into Normans schemes after he becomes prime minister. Its an unusual mixture of comedy and tragedy with parallels to many current news stories.

Ive seen many situations like that from the world of celebrities, said Ashkenazi, who could easily have coasted on the charm and looks he was born with he combines the face and physique of a Greek god with the slightly befuddled expression of a hero in a Woody Allen comedy, and to say that this works for him is an understatement but has focused on his acting, and is now one of Israels most acclaimed actors.

Someone gives you something and you pay for it by posing for a photo, he said.

Ashkenazi has been a celebrity for years, thanks to acting, which has put him at the center of the renaissance in Israeli movies over the past decade and a half. Among his most important movies are Dover Koshashvilis A Late Wedding, which ushered in the trend of stories about outsiders in Israel, in this case, Georgians (and which features the most sizzling sex scene in Israeli movies, with Ashkenazi and the late Ronit Elkabetz); Eytan Foxs Walk on Water, in which Ashkenazi plays a tightly wound Mossad agent who befriends a gay man; Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushados two gory psychological thrillers Rabies and Big Bad Wolves (which Quentin Tarantino called the best film of the year), where the actor portrays disturbed, violent cops; and Cedars previous film, the Oscar-nominated Footnote, in which, cast against type, Ashkenazi plays a Talmud scholar locked into a rivalry with his father.

He is especially pleased with his work with Cedar, which he sees as a true collaboration, especially with Norman.

When I came into Footnote, the script was pretty much finished, he said. But on Norman, I was more involved… Its a complicated story, with so many implications. And it was a script Joseph was working on for a long time, and he really involves the actors in the work, it was wonderful. Its a complicated story and it was woven together so carefully.

Cedar challenged me… Hes intellectual and you have to be alert. He can talk about so many things and you have to know what they are.

Working with Gere also upped his game.

There was the excitement of Im working with Richard Gere!, and then he is a colleague, we work together, we eat together, we talked about his choices… He works very hard, hes a very method actor, very concentrated. Between takes, hes focused, he doesnt fool around… You think of him as a leading man, from Pretty Woman and movies like that. But he is very serious, although of course hes also very charismatic… He brings out an elegance in the character.

ANY MOVIE about politics will invite questions about how much it is based on reality, and Ashkenazi was very clear about how he sees his character.

People say, Is it Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu]? No, its not him. In a way, its a combination of several prime ministers and politicians, where theyre in the right place at the right time and suddenly theyre popular… And the politicians, no matter how popular they are… there is always someone behind them, someone they are indebted to.

In order to hone his characterization Ashkenazi tried to meet with politicians, but was disappointed to discover that when they heard the synopsis, they all refused…you could do a copy-paste from the headlines into the script and that made them uncomfortable, apparently.

Ashkenazi sees Norman as something more than just a political story.

Its about friendship, he said. Its about how you know if someone is really a friend, or you wonder whether hes just someone who needs something from you… In Norman, theres a lot of ambivalence, and its left open: does he love Norman, or is Norman just someone who can do things for him? Ashkenazi, who was born in Ramat Gan to Ladino-speaking parents from Turkey, said he came to acting in that cliche way; I was always the class clown.

Inspired by Burt Lancaster movies, which he enjoyed watching with his father, and the work of Robert De Niro, he studied acting at Beit Zvi. Although he is proud he has never had a day job since he finished school, when some of his early plays were not the hits he had hoped they would be, he enrolled in a computer science course.

But after one lesson, I understood its not for me. And he has never looked back, moving gradually from theater to film as the movie industry flourished.

After his films were shown at festivals around the world, there was the temptation of trying to go to Hollywood, but he resisted it.

If I go there, I would always be foreign, I would always have an accent, he said. I cant see myself going on auditions in LA.

Surprisingly, Ashkenazi said he was terrible at auditions.

But some foreign directors have come calling recently. After the interview, he was off to work on an international movie, Entebbe, about the hijacking and rescue mission in 1976, which is shooting a few scenes here.

The film, which Jos Padilha, the creator of the television series Narcos, is directing, also stars Rosamund Pike and Daniel Bruhl. Once again, Ashkenazi will play a prime minister, but this time a real one: Yitzhak Rabin.

Portraying a real prime minister, and such a revered one, he says, can be a burden.

Im not doing an imitation of Rabin, he said. Im in a story about this rescue mission and Im playing the prime minister who ordered it.

He is also in Julie Deplys movie My Zoe and he plays a Jewish reporter from New York in Dragos Buligas vampire movie, The Wanderers. He will play a Mossad agent in Sarajevo in a film by Tony Kaye, who made American History X.

But Israeli cinema remains key for Ashkenazi and he has roles in upcoming films by Eran Riklis (The Syrian Bride) and Shmuelik Maoz (Lebanon). Although he is no longer performing in the theater, he has been directing plays for some time, and is now directing his first short film. Its based on a play and tells the story of a driving instructor giving a test who voices regrets about his life to a student. Ashkenazi has chosen not to act in this project and it stars Menashe Noy as the instructor and Moran Rosen as the student.

But although directing beckons, he said he wouldnt give up acting anytime soon.

This is always was what Ive really wanted to do.

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Lior Ashkenazi takes a look at ‘Norman’ – Israel News – Jerusalem Post – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Sakinah and Shekinah: spiritual tranquility in Judaism and Islam – MuslimVillage.com (press release) (blog)

By: Rabbi Maller

Source: MuslimVillage

The word Sakinah (Arabic)/Shekinah (Hebrew) is a very important concept in both Islamic and Jewish thought.

As the Quran says It is God who sent down tranquillity into the hearts of the believers, that they would increase in faith along with their (present) faith. (48:4)

Thus, the experience of Sakinah is both Gods gift of enhanced, confirming faith and the product of ones own faithfulness. (Quran 9:26 & 40)

This is clearly stated in the example given in the Quran about Prophet Samuels selection of Saul to be the first King of Israel:Their prophet (Samuel) said to them (The People of Israel), Indeed, a sign of his (Sauls) kingship is that the chest (ark of the covenant) will come to you in which is Sakinah- assurance (Ghali translates; serenity) from your Lord, and a remnant of what the family of Moses and the family of Aaron had left (the ten commandments stone tablets), carried by the angels. Indeed, in that is a sign for you, if you are (already) believers. (2:248)

All faithful Christians, Jews and Muslims, no matter how pious they are, will benefit from enhancing their trust in God due to a Sakinah experience. Even Usayd ibn Khudayr, who according to Aishah, the wife of the Prophet, was one of three men among the Ansar whom no one could excel in virtue, could still benefit from a Sakinah experience he had while reading the Quran.

In a similar way, Jewish tradition asserts that even Torah scholars may experience a Shekinah blessing during study, Rabbi Chananiah ben Teradion said . . when two sit together and words of Torah pass between them, the Shekinah dwells between them . . , (Mishnah Avot 3.3): and Rabbi Chalafta ben Dosa of Kefar Chanania used to say it can be said this applies to even one (Ibid 3:7)

Community prayer is also a place where one can experience Shekinah as Talmud Brachot 6a says: Whenever ten (or more) are gathered for prayer, there the Shekinah dwells-rests.

The Sakinah can also dwell in a sacred object like the ark of the covenant or in a lowly bush (Quran 2:248). Those who are truly Blessed by the Lordwith the best gifts of the earth and its fulness, and the favor of Him who dwells in the bush. (Deuteronomy 33:16)

The Sakinah can also dwell on or in a holy person; a saint, a sage. or a Prophet like Muhammad: Allah sent down His Sa Sakinah (tranquillity) upon His Messenger and upon the believers and imposed upon them the word of righteousness, and they were more deserving of it and worthy of it.(Quran 48: 26)

Prophet Musas blessing of the twelve tribes of Israel is recorded in Deuteronomy 33 with Shekinah used as a verb to indicate the Divinr human interaction.. In verse 12 Moses says, The beloved of the Lord Yishkon-dwells safely by Him; he encompasses him all day long, and He Shakain-dwells between his shoulders (in his mind and heart).

I believe the ambiguity of the pronouns in verse 12 is intentional. It is meant to stress the interactive reciprocity (Shekinah-Sakinah) between God, both as Lover and as Beloved, and Gods faithful human lovers who also receive Gods love .

However, the word/concept Shekinah in Jewish rabbinic thought is also a name for God that focuses mostly on the presence of God that may manifest itself during several types of ordinary religious activities such as the prayer and Torah study already referred to; and also when visiting the sick (Shabbat 12b). practicing hospitality (Shabbat 127a & Sanhedrin 103b), giving charity (Baba Batra 10a), practicing chastity before marriage (Derek Ere i.) and faithfulness within marriage (Soah 17a).

It is true that doing all these things frequently will help produce greater faith, confidence, and peace of mind. But the Jewish focus is more on the opportunity to personally experience Gods presence in a daily activity, than on an individuals personal spiritual growth.

This somewhat different emphasis between Sakinah and Shekinah are not opposites. They are simply two different perspectives: like seeing a lion from the front, or from the side. Sakinah and Shekinah thus compliment each other; and proclaim the interactive reciprocities between humans love of God and Gods love of humans.

From another perspective, Shekinah, a rabbinic name for God, shifts the view from the community to the individuals experience, just as Sakinah shifts the focus from Jihad (both military and personal effort) to calmness, serenity and effortless peace of mind. Both of these shifts are complementary; not contradictory,

The connection between our faithfulness and Gods Shekinah is described in Exodus 25; when God directs the People of Israel to build a sanctuary. But first God says, each person should make a voluntary offering: The Lord said to Moses Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive an offering for me, from everyone whose heart prompts them to give. (Exodus 25:1-2)

Six verses later God says,Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell (Shekanti) among them. (25:8) First humans choose to make a heart felt offering to God; then God chooses to dwell among, and within, faithful humans and their religious communities.

When God is well pleased by faithful people, Gods gift of inner peace and reassurance is sent down to them. As it is written: Certainly Allah was pleased with the believers when they pledged allegiance to you, (Muhammad), under the tree, and He knew what was in their hearts, so He sent down Sakinah (tranquillity) upon them and rewarded them with an imminent conquest. (Quran 48:18)

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of MuslimVillage.com.

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Sakinah and Shekinah: spiritual tranquility in Judaism and Islam – MuslimVillage.com (press release) (blog)

Vandalized Capitol Hill synagogue calls for pushback against toxic expression – The Seattle Times

The Seattle synagogue Temple De Hirsch Sinai was vandalized with graffiti saying The Holocaust is fake history. Its rabbi responded: Were not going to allow those who terrorize us to define us.

A synagogue in the Capitol Hill neighborhood was vandalized overnight Thursday with anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying graffiti, said Rabbi Daniel Weiner of Temple De Hirsch Sinai.

A Seattle police officer discovered the spray-painted message Friday morning on the old sanctuarys facade.

It says, The Holocaust is fake history, Weiner said. The s characters in the graffiti are dollar signs, Weiner said.

It really is a toxic mix of Holocaust denial, the stereotypical charge that Jews are obsessed with money, and the notion coming from the (President Trump) administration that all facts are fungible fake facts, fake history, Weiner said.

Police also investigated a box deemed suspicious because it was found outside a door at the synagogue where deliveries are not made, said Seattle Police Chief Kathleen OToole, who went to the scene. The box contained books that someone had donated to the synagogue, police said.

Shortly after the discovery of the graffiti, a neighbor hung a bedsheet saying Love Wins over the markings, Weiner said.

It was a very sweet gesture and touching, but we took it down I think its extremely important that people see this.

Weiner said the Seattle police are investigating the incident as a hate crime. He said hed been hearing all morning from people who worship at the temple.

People are incredibly hurt and upset. But most of the calls Ive gotten, all of the calls have been supportive, but most have been defiant, he said.

We are going to do our due diligence in terms of security, Weiner said. At the same time, were not going to allow those who terrorize us to define us.

Federal officials have been investigating more than 120 threats since Jan. 9 against Jewish organizations in three dozen states and a rash of vandalism at Jewish cemeteries.

On Feb. 27, a bomb threat forced evacuation of the Stroum Jewish Community Center on Mercer Island.

Seattle Police Department spokesman Patrick Michaud said officers will be patrolling the area around the temple when they have extra time between 911 calls.

Michaud said police did not have a suspect.

Bias incidents have been rising in Seattle since at least 2012, according to Seattle Police Department statistics. Last year, 255 such incidents were reported to police.

Top police officials had met with temple leaders as recently as Wednesday to discuss concerns over hate crimes.

With all thats happening nationally we want people in all of our communities to feel safe, OToole said. Weve been meeting with people of this temple. Weve been meeting with people in mosques around the city we take these cases very seriously.

Weiner said he has been at Temple De Hirsch Sinai for 16 years. He said the synagogue has experienced minor vandalism before and received a threatening phone call after the election.

But, in my time, theres been nothing like this, Weiner said.

Since the election, Weiner said he believes people who were previously marginalized or silenced now feel newly empowered to express hateful sentiments.

The majority of us need to push back against that and convey that America is still America theres no place for hate or tolerance of toxic expression.

Other communities are also being threatened, Weiner said. This is a considerable and conspicuous upsurge in attacks on all vulnerable minority populations, he said.

Weiner said he and other faith leaders had already been scheduled to meet with U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell on Friday afternoon to discuss the rise in hate crimes and possible solutions.

Its a little more imminent and urgent than I had hoped it would be, he said.

Weiner never made it to the meeting. It was announced that he was on his way, but he got news of the suspicious package and had to turn back.

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Vandalized Capitol Hill synagogue calls for pushback against toxic expression – The Seattle Times

Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA – Heritage Florida Jewish News

Palestinian man alleged to be part of terror cell killed in shootout with Israeli troops

JERUSALEM (JTA)A Palestinian man who allegedly was part of a terror cell planning attack on Israeli targets was killed in a gunfight with Israeli troops in the West Bank.

Basel al-Aaraj was killed overnight Monday during an IDF arrest raid in Ramallah in the northern West Bank.

Al-Aaraj, 31, was shot and killed by Israeli troops after they surrounded the house where he was holed up in order to arrest him. He opened fire on the troops, according to the IDF.

Al-Aaraj was alleged to be part of a terrorist cell planning to carry out attacks on Israeli targets and allegedly was responsible for procuring weapons. An M-16 rifle and an improvised Carlo-style submachine gun were found inside the home, the IDF said.

Al-Araj was detained without charges or explanation by Palestinian security forces in April last year, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported. He was released in September after mounting a hunger strike in prison amid reports of torture and mistreatment.

On Sunday, two Palestinian men from Nablus were arrested at the Tapuah Junction in the northern West Bank on suspicion that they were planning to carry out a stabbing attack there. One of the men was carrying a large knife.

Annexing West Bank will lead to crisis with Trump administration, Liberman warns

JERUSALEM (JTA)Annexing the West Bank will lead to a crisis with the Trump administration, Israels Defense Minister warned.

I am saying it as clearly as possible: We received a direct message from the United States saying that Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank would mean an immediate crisis with the new administration, Avigdor Liberman said Monday during an appearance before the Knessets Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Liberman called on the ruling government coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to clarify very clearly, there is no intention to impose Israeli sovereignty. Liberman is due to meet with top U.S. administration officials this week in Washington.

The warning came in response to an interview over the weekend with Likud lawmaker Miki Zohar, who told the Israeli news channel i24 News that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no longer possible.

The two-state solution is dead, Zohar said. What is left is a one-state solution with the Arabs here as, not as full citizenship, because full citizenship can let them to vote to the Knesset. They will get all of the rights like every citizen except voting for the Knesset.

Liberman said the interview raised red flags around the world. Im getting calls from all of the world wanting to know if this is the position of the coalition, he told the Knesset committee. As far as my opinion is concerned, we need to separate from the Palestinians and not to integrate them. The decision to annex Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) would mean the integration of 2.7 million Palestinians in Israel.

U.S. President Donald Trump has not called specifically for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. When asked about the topic last month during a news conference in Washington with Netanyahu, Trump said: I like the one the two parties like… I can live with either one.

Trumps position diverges with that of previous U.S. presidents, who said two states was the only viable solution for resolving the conflict.

Israeli decries Womens Strike organizer convicted in bombing that killed her uncle

(JTA)The niece of an Israeli killed in a terrorist attack nearly 50 years ago criticized the planned International Womens Strike for allowing one of the convicted terrorists in a leadership position.

In an op-ed published last week on the Huffington Post website, Terry Joffe Benaryeh said she commends the goal of the strike, a push for womens equality. The strike is planned for March 8, the official observance of International Womens Day

But, explain how my family is supposed to reconcile the reality that the woman who stripped my uncle of his life is now deemed a hero by many of my fellow Americans. What justification is there for Rasmea Odeh, a woman who killed two people (with the intention of killing more!) to lead a peaceful fight for human rights? Benaryeh wrote.

Eddie Joffe and Leon Kanner were killed at the Supersol market in Jerusalem on Feb. 21. 1969, when a bomb set by Odeh and an accomplice exploded in the crowded store. Nine people were injured in the blast.

Odeh was arrested in March 1969. She was convicted and sentenced by an Israeli military court in 1970 to life in prison for two bombing attacks on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. She spent 10 years in an Israeli prison before being released in a prisoner exchange with the PFLP in 1980.

Odeh confessed to planting the bomb, though in recent years has claimed that the confession was given under torture, which is disputed by Israeli officials.

Explain to me how Odeh, who was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a U.S.-designated terrorist group, was chosen to represent American feminists who seek to peacefully stand up for womens rights, Benaryeh wrote. The Womens Strike lists as its Principle #1 that Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. It is a positive force confronting the forces of injustice and utilizes the righteous indignation and spiritual, emotional, and intellectual capabilities of people as the vital force for change and reconciliation. Rasmea Odeh signed her name to this movement. And she did so with blood on her hands.

Odeh, an associate director at the Arab American Action Network, was found guilty in November 2014 of lying on her application for citizenship to the United States by covering up her conviction and imprisonment for the bombing attacks when she entered the United States in 1995. She applied for citizenship in 2004.

In December 2016, a federal judge ordered a new trial, in which Odeh reportedly will be allowed to show she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder when she was interviewed in Detroit during the citizenship process, a claim that was not introduced in her first trial.

U.S. lawmakers visit potential sites for embassy move to Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (JTA)A delegation from the U.S. House of Representatives visited Israel for one day, during which they were to visit possible sites in Jerusalem for the American Embassy.

The delegation of lawmakers was from the House Subcommittee for National Security, part of the House Oversight Committee. The lawmakers reportedly met Sunday morning with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials. They also reportedly had a briefing at the US. Embassy in Tel Aviv, and visited U.S. government properties in Jerusalem.

The delegation was led by subcommittee chairman Rep. Ron DeSantis, R- Fla. DeSantis told reporters Sunday evening that U.S. President Donald Trump intends to honor his campaign pledge to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

DeSantis told Breitbart News in an interview on Sunday that he thought the U.S. consulate in the upscale Arnona neighborhood of southern Jerusalem would be a good place to house a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

Great security, very big and nice facility, DeSantis told Breitbart. So, that is something that could potentially be a plug-and-play. Where you are literally just changing the sign to the U.S. Embassy. And that obviously depends on what the president wants to do. So, he could potentially do that.

Cuomo at Yad Vashem: No tolerance for acts of anti-Semitism

JERUSALEM (JTA)There will be no tolerance for these acts of anti-Semitism, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a weekend visit to Israel.

We must live by the rules that an abuse to one, an affront to one, is an affront to all, and that large fires start as small fires, and we will have zero tolerance for any abuse or discrimination of any fellow human being, Cuomo said Sunday during a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. In the United States now we have had a rash of anti-Semitism, over 100 acts of anti-Semitism, and I am sad to say also in my state, the state of New York. It is disgusting, it is reprehensible, it violates every tenet of the New York State tradition.

He added: To the people of Israel, I say that these acts of anti-Semitism will not be tolerated.

Cuomo continued: This trip has two purposes; number one, while some would weaken the relationship between the people of the State of New York and our Jewish brothers and sisters, the purpose of this trip is to strengthen those relationships through cultural exchange, through economic development partnerships, and well be working on them. The second purpose of this trip is Hineini, I am here, I have been here before, and I will be here again.

Cuomo last visited Israel in the wake of the 2014 Gaza War, also on a whirlwind 24-hour trip.

Rivlin thanked Cuomo for his visit and said, Your arrival to Israel at this time is an extremely important signal that the U.S. people and government will not let anti-Semitism win. On behalf of the State of Israel, I would like to express our appreciation for your visit and for the clear and powerful message you have sent.

Rivlin added: The same appreciation goes to President Trump, who condemned the recent attacks. And we are deeply touched by Vice President Pence who went and gave a handand a voicein fixing the broken gravestone. The fact that so many Christians and Muslims, came to aid the Jewish communities sends the clearest message against racism and hatred. It is a sign of great hope and civil courage.

Last month, Pence visited a vandalized Jewish cemetery in St. Louis and helped volunteers clean up the area.

Cuomo was scheduled to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later on Sunday. The visit also was meant to bolster economic ties between Israel and New York State.

Israel upsets Korea in first game of World Baseball Classic

JERUSALEM (JTA)Team Israel defeated Korea in the first game of the World Baseball Classic.

Israel topped Korea 2-1 in the 10th inning on Monday in Seoul. Team Israel had 8 hits to Koreas 7 in the hard-fought game.

The Israeli team is scheduled to play the team from Chinese Taipei later on Monday, and the Netherlands on Wednesday.

This is the first year that the Israeli team has qualified for the quadrennial baseball tournament, in which 16 countries are represented. In 2012, Israels inaugural WBC team narrowly missed making the tournament.

The game marks the first time that American Jewish baseball players, including several current and former Major League Baseball players, are representing Israel in a world championship. World Baseball Classic rules state that players who are eligible for citizenship of a country may play on that countrys team.

Israel is the only participant in this years tournament not currently among the top 20 in the world rankings. Israel is ranked 41st in the world.

The game was not broadcast on any of Israels major television channels or sports channels.

Ten current and former Jewish major leaguers representing Israel in the World Baseball Classic visited Israel in December.

In an article published on Sunday, ESPN described the Israeli team as the Jamaican bobsled team of the WBC.

Aleppo family claims to be Jewish, calls on Israel to help them

JERUSALEM (JTA)Members of a family in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo have called on Israel to help them leave the country, claiming Jewish heritage.

A recording of a woman calling for the assistance was broadcast Sunday morning on Army Radio.

The younger brother of the woman on the recording, who himself escaped over a year ago to London and identified as Salah, told Army Radio that his mother is Jewish and his father Muslim, and that he and his siblings had considered themselves Jewish growing up.

There is nobody who can help us to get out of this place, said his sister, 30, on the recording, where she is identified as Razan, though that is not her real name. We are asking that the Israeli government does not abandon us, but helps us get out of here to another country. I ask that the government demands from the entire world to do this. All my love and loyalty is to this religion (Judaism).

The Jewish Agency told Israeli media outlets that it was looking into the matter and would work to rescue the family if it is proven they are Jewish. Meanwhile, officials at the Jewish Agency told Army Radio that they had doubts about the familys Jewishness because people in similar positions have hidden their Jewish identity to avoid putting themselves in more danger.

Aleppos last remaining Jews were believed to have left the country with the help of the Jewish Agency in 2015.

Former U.S. envoy to Israel, Dan Shapiro, to join Israeli think tank

JERUSALEM (JTA)Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro will join a Tel Aviv-based think tank as a visiting fellow.

The Institute for National Security Studies announced the appointment on its website on Sunday.

Shapiro will participate in several of the institutes research programs, including those on Israel-U.S. relations, Israeli-Palestinian relations, the Arab world, and Israeli society and public opinion, according to the announcement. According to the think tank, he will study opportunities and make policy recommendations to strengthen the U.S.-Israel strategic, economic and societal partnership, and to preserve, expand and strengthen the common interests between the two states.

INSS Director Amos Yadlin said that Shapiro possesses keen insight, deep experience, and a broad network of relationships in Israel, the United States, and the Middle East.

Shapiro was appointed to his post by former President Barack Obama in July 2011. He resigned on Jan. 20, vacating the position for President Donald Trumps appointee, David Friedman.

Shapiro reportedly took the unusual step of asking the State Department for permission to stay in Israel as a private citizen so that his daughter could complete the school year. His daughter is in the 11th grade, a year that is heavy with Israeli matriculation exams

At the end of January, Shapiro wrote an article for Foreign Policy, in which he laid out a path for moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, a stated goal of the Trump administration.

Trump, Netanyahu discuss dangers of Iran deal in phone call

WASHINGTON (JTA)President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about the Iran nuclear deal in a phone call.

Trump called Netanyahu on Monday and the two leaders discussed the dangers posed by the nuclear deal with Iran, according to a statement from Netanyahus office.

The two leaders spoke at length about the dangers posed by the nuclear deal with Iran and by Irans malevolent behavior in the region and about the need to work together to counter those dangers, read the statement.

Netanyahu and Trump have both denounced the deal, which exchanges sanctions relief for a rollback of Irans nuclear program. But the U.S. president and other top officials have wavered in their commitment to undoing the agreement.

During the phone call, Netanyahu also thanked Trump for the warm hospitality during his visit to Washington last month and for condemning anti-Semitism during a joint address to Congress, according to the statement.

The White House statement reporting the call described the conversation in more general terms.

The two leaders discussed the need to counter continuing threats and challenges facing the Middle East region, it said. The Prime Minister thanked the President for his comments at the beginning of his speech before the Joint Session of Congress condemning anti-Semitism

Last Tuesday, Trump noted recent bomb threats on Jewish institutions and vandalism of cemeteries in his first address to a joint meeting of Congress.

Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last weeks shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms, Trump said.

Nearly 100 Jewish institutions have been targeted with bomb threats since the beginning of the year. The Kansas shooting occurred when a patron who was ejected from a bar after hurling racial epithets at two workers from India allegedly returned with a gun, killing one of the men and wounding the other.

Trump has come under fire for his delayed responses to the threats against Jewish institutions, deflecting questions about it before finally issuing a denunciation. The White House did not address the Kansas shooting until Tuesday, six days after the attack.

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Shore communities stoic as bomb threats rattle JCCs – Daily Record

Alex N. Gecan, @GeeksterTweets 11:04 a.m. ET March 10, 2017

People clap as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivers remarks at the Kaplen Jewish Community Center on the Palisades during a rally against recent bomb threats made to jewish centers, Friday, March 3, 2017, in Tenafly, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)(Photo: AP)

Bomb threats. Evacuations. Religious vandalism.

Since January, scores of Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) and day schools in at least 30 states have received over 100 bomb threats. In New Jersey, 19 incidents at religious facilities throughout New Jersey have been reported; eight were bomb threats targeting six JCCs

No explosive devices were found at any of the centers, but the sudden spike in threats has shaken communities and, so far, raised more questions than answers, including who is behind them, why they are doing it and why they are doing it right now.

HATE AND PREJUDICE: Blame Trump? Shoreline says ‘No’

“This is nothing that we’ve seen before,” Joshua Cohen, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s New Jersey office, told the Asbury Park Press. “They’ve been coming in waves since the beginning of the year. There were bomb threats that were called into Jewish institutions last year, and these happened from time to time, but nothing like this wave.”

JCCs: Bomb threats raise old fears

He said that the purposes of bomb threats are twofold – “to disrupt operations and to create fear and panic in the community. This wave of bomb threats, while credible, has created fear and panic in the community.”

When asked what he attributed the increase in bomb threats to, Cohen said the recent political climate – a contentious presidential election, the emergence of the so-called “alt-right” – could be a factor.

“Individuals are feeling empowered and emboldened to act out, speak out, commit acts of anti-Semitism in an environment where they may not have felt comfortable to do so,” he said.

While the most recent bomb threats represent a sudden spike in anti-Semitic incidents, hate crimes targeting Jews and Muslims were already trending upward in the state even as total bias incidents have begun to decline, an Asbury Park Press analysis of state police data found in 2016.

Crimes against both Jewish and Muslim New Jerseyans spiked in 2015. Religiously motivated hate crimes had been in decline until rising 10 percent in 2015.

Of the victims of religiously motivated bias crimes, Jews were the most common targets with 113 reported incidents in 2015. There were 14 reported Muslim victims and only six targets of other religions.

According to the Pew Research Center, Muslims comprise only three percent of adults in New Jersey, and six percent are Jewish.

Old sickness, new symptoms

“To be honest, I think this has always been our reality, and I think this nation has some unfinished business around race religions,” said Elizabeth Williams-Riley, president of the American Conference on Diversity. “It’s always been a part of the fabric of our nation, it’s why we exist as an organization. So what has happened is the platform has been given to, in a very bold way, folks who can now see their own attitudes and behaviors as being right, or being reinforced, or being celebrated.”

Williams-Riley recalled a surge in reported hate crimes following the 2016 Presidential election.

“It was occurring in K through twelfth grades most frequently, which is a tremendous ‘ah-ha’ for us,” she said, referring to reports of students hurling Islamophobic, racist and otherwise discriminatory remarks after the 2016 election. “I’ve also heard a lot about students feeling more open to say things about LGBTQ students and saying things about them not belonging, and they need to get themselves together.”

‘NO HATE’: Kean University, American Conference on Diversity hold town hall

American with disabilities have also faced increased harassment under the new administration, she said, because “one of the first things that Trump did was mock someone with a disability,” in reference to then-candidate Donald Trump’s apparent mocking criticism in November 2015 of New York Times investigative reporter Serge Kovaleski, who lives with arthrogryposis.

Racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, vitriol towards those seen as foreign – none of these are new sentiments. Williams-Riley suggests that kids learn biases at home, in their families. But now that Americans have seen groups like the so-called alt-right eating up airtime and a presidential candidate-cum-president stoke nationalist ire, they have become confident enough to act out on those beliefs. “In this instance, the notion to be openly bigoted or openly biased, to express yourselves about certain things, has been violated,” she said.

Politicking in response

Whatever the ideological motivation for the threats, if there even is one, other experts say that the reaction has been extremely political.

“I think the issue here, the reason this has become a bigger political issue, is because for many … President Trump’s response was slow in coming, to the point where we now have all 100 U.S. senators demanding action in response to these anti-Semitic incidents from the White House,” said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University. “That kind of unanimity almost never happens these days, and therefore an issue that might not be political has become political.”

TRUMP: “Anti-Semitism is horrible, and it’s going to stop and it has to stop.”

President Trump spoke out against the threats and vandalism at Jewish centers during his speech to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28: “Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”

To his critics, the denunciation – like his repudiation of former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke – was too little, too late.

CPAC: White nationalist Richard Spencer ousted

Dworkin urged against ascribing a political motive to the bomb threats.

“That’s plausible, but until we capture somebody or until we find an email that says ‘somebody is planning this and doing it,’ it is simply a plausible reason,” he said.

BOMB THREATS: Morris reps call for probe

In the 2016 presidential election, exit polls showed that 71 percent of Jewish voters cast ballots for Hillary Clinton, according to the Pew Research Center. However, Orthodox voters were more inclined to vote for Donald Trump: A September 2016 poll conducted by the American Jewish Committee found that approximately 50 percent of Orthodox voters favored Trump while 21 percent supported Clinton. Fifteen percent said they would not vote.

The president’s own daughter, Ivanka, converted to Judaism before marrying Jared Kushner, who is Orthodox, in 2009.

The Anti-Defamation League has compiled a list of bomb threats against Jewish day schools, community centers and other facilities. They counted 121 total threats in five waves between Jan. 4 and Feb. 27 nationwide – and at least another eight in a sixth wave on March 7.

The fifth wave, comprising only the day of Feb. 27, accounted for 40 bomb threats.

Federal agents have made one arrest so far in the wave of bomb threats.

Juan Thompson, 31, of Missouri is charged with sending threats to eight Jewish organizations as part of a bizarre plot to harass and discredit a former lover.

Thompson is, apparently, no stranger to the untrue. In 2016 online news agency The Intercept fired him after it “discovered that he had fabricated sources and quotes in his articles,” according to a statement from the publication.

Garden State threats

In New Jersey, the League counted seven specific bomb threats – three at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly on Jan. 9 and 31 and Feb. 27 and one each at the Jewish Community Center of Central Jersey in Scotch Plains and the Middlesex Jewish Community Center in Edison on Jan. 18, the Jewish Community Center of Metrowest New Jersey in West Orange on Jan. 31 and at the Betty and Milton Katz Jewish Community Center in Cherry Hill on Feb. 27.

On Feb. 27 the state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness reported “19 incidents at religious facilities throughout New Jersey,” including eight bomb threats spread over six JCCs, but officials would not specify where each “incident” took place.

WATCH: Unity rally at Cherry Hill JCC

Asked for a list of the incidents, Special Agent Michael Whitaker, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ Newark field office replied, “The FBI and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are investigating possible civil rights violations in connection with threats to Jewish Community Centers across the country. The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence, and will ensure this matters is investigated in a fair, thorough and impartial manner. As this matter is ongoing, we are not able to comment further at this time.”

CENTRAL JERSEY: JCCs receive bomb threats

Police evacuated the Jewish Community Center of Central Jersey in Scotch Plains after the Jan. 18 bomb threat but staff and members were allowed back inside the same day. Still, Sandra Kenoff, director of marketing for JCC of Central Jersey, said it was a worrisome event.

“I think our community was very appreciative of the fact that we were pretty vigilant about our safety practice and protocol,” Kenoff said. “Certainly, it’s a concerning event to happen to the organization.”

The fallout from the threats has brought politicians of different stripes into agreement.

“Just a few days ago you had Senators (Bob) Menendez and (Cory) Booker side-by-side with (Gov.) Chris Christie up in Tenafly, New Jersey, at a rally denouncing … these incidents,” Dworkin said. “In New Jersey we have not seen that kind of politicized response.”

Shoreline connection

While the threats have certainly disrupted operations where they have forced evacuations, Jewish community organizations along the Jersey Shore have, at least for now, been insulated from much of the fear and panic.

“It hasn’t affected us really in any way practically, though we are more careful about our surroundings,” said Rabbi Shmuel Naparstek, who leads Chabad of Jackson. A newer organization, the Chabad hosts 30 to 50 people at its time in its various programs, Naparstek said.

“It has not been a factor in any of our programs or operations,” Naparstek said. I can’t speak for other organizations but personally it has not affected us.

Elsewhere in Jackson, opponents of an ordinance that would ban dormitories have denounced it as anti-Semitic. They say the ordinance directly targets the township’s Orthodox Jewish community, a specific subset of Jackson’s larger Jewish population.

“I personally have not encountered any of that animosity, and I really don’t see that as being any factor,” Naparstek said when asked if there may be escalating anti-Semitic sentiment in Jackson.

JACKSON: Swaskita, ‘white power’ graffiti appear

In Freehold Borough the Freehold Jewish Center reached out to local police, just to be on the safe side.

“I cannot tell you how good they’ve been,” Executive Director Marvin Krakower said of police in the borough and township.

“Thank God, we haven’t seen anything yet, but there’s been additional swastikas and threats,” Krakower said. “It’s just bringing out the worst right now – but most people in this country are good.”

LAKEWOOD: Cops arrest juvenile swastika suspects

Krakower applauded President Trump and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent denunciations of anti-Semitism, and that more politicians should “step up to the plate.”

Meanwhile, Cohen of the Anti-Defamation League’s New Jersey office said it is imperative to investigate any such threats when they come in.

“We take these incidents very seriously, and we continue to work with our federal and local law enforcement partners, in addition with our local law enforcement partners,” Cohen said.

Alex N. Gecan: 732-643-4043; agecan@gannettnj.com

The USA Today Network contributed to this report.

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Shore communities stoic as bomb threats rattle JCCs – Daily Record

Perspectives: Opposing anti-Semitism with repentance, prayer … – Greenwich Time

updated 2017 photo of the rabbi Mitchell Hurvitz.

updated 2017 photo of the rabbi Mitchell Hurvitz.

Perspectives: Opposing anti-Semitism with repentance, prayer, charity

On the High Holidays, we sing a prayer titled U’netaneh Tokef:

On Rosh Hashanah it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed. How many will pass and how many will be created? Who will live and who will die? Who in their time, and who not their time? Who by fire and who by water?……. Who will rest and who will wander? Who will be safe and who will be torn? Who will be calm and who will be tormented?…… But, repentance, prayer and charity will deflect the evil of the decree.

According to Jewish tradition, U’netaneh Tokef was written by rabbi Amnon of Mainz, Germany. The story is told that this 11th century rabbi was coerced by the local archbishop to convert to Catholicism or be killed.

Rabbi Amnon asked for three days by which he could reflect on his options.

When the days passed, he was brought before the church’s authorities and then he declared that they should please cut off his tongue so that he might atone for his sin of even considering conversion.

Infuriated, the archbishop ordered that more than his tongue, rabbi Amnon’s arms and legs were to be amputated limb by limb until he relented and agreed to conversion.

While dying under this torture, the legend tells us that rabbi Amnon composed and recited the U’netaneh Tokef prayer with his last dying breaths. After which, rabbi Amnon’s spirit appeared before one of his rabbinical colleagues and he then recorded this somber prayer and fixed it to our High Holiday liturgy.

Regardless of factual historic detail to the origin of this prayer, U’netaneh Tokef accurately reflects our collective Jewish experience of being vulnerable to seemingly uncontrollable variables that have confronted our Jewish lives.

“Who shall live and who shall die?” wasn’t simply a universal mortal reflection. Rather it was how Jews understood the real constant threat that targeted their existence because they were Jews.

The Middle Ages was certainly a dark period of Jewish persecutions. But anti-Semitism has been rearing its ugly head from the very beginnings of Jewish history until present times.

There have been pockets of time and places that have been safe harbors for the Jews. And with the re-creation of our Jewish State in 1948, we are not wholly dependent on others to defend our lives.

European anti-Semitism is well chronicled and most understand the Holocaust as the evolution of the hatreds and violence that have historically tormented the Jews. Less well known to us is the vestiges of anti-Semitism that has existed, and still exists, within our own country.

We might be aware that Peter Stuyvesant led the effort to keep Jews out of New Amsterdam at the beginnings of Colonial America, and during the Civil War, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant ordered all of the Jews to be expelled from his war zone. But many more significant cases of American anti-Semitism have been well documented.

Jews were commonly denigrated in American periodicals. There was wholesale exclusion of Jews from society and significant incidents of organized violence that targeted American Jews. Jews in many of the states were denied a myriad of political rights until the mid 19th century.

In the first half of the 20th century, there was common discrimination against Jews in the work force, in purchasing of residential properties, membership in private clubs, etc… Quotas against Jews were commonplace in the university world both for students and faculty.

There has always been significant leadership in both the American Jewish and non-Jewish world that helped to effectively combat organized anti-Semitism. And many American Jews of the 21st century have felt secure that significant anti-Semitic challenges in our country have become rare and isolated incidents.

However, with the rise of the anti-Semitic “Alt-Right” political groups, numerous bomb threats to American Jewish Community Centers and desecration of Jewish cemeteries, the haunting words of Unataneh Tokef needs to come more quickly to mind.

The genre of questions of “who shall live and who shall die” is not in isolation; the questions are responded to with the declaration: “repentance, prayer and charity will deflect the evil of the decree.”

“Repentance” is to recognize what we are doing that is wrong and then changing our behavior so that the positive actions can diminish or even eliminate the existence of that which is wrong. “Prayer” is first and foremost an act of self-examination. Are we truly repenting? And if not, how do we do a better job at what needs to be done? “Charity” is the act of giving meaningfully with both time and resources. Our repentance coupled with honest prayerful reflection must prompt the appropriate allocation of our time and our money.

The question of “who shall live and who shall die” as applied to the Jewish community has been a historical reality that we have confronted effectively over the centuries.

As we live with the blessings of the 21st century, we cannot wear a blindfold to the significant challenges that still exist and confront our people. The present political climate has increased hateful rhetoric and energized individuals and groups who wish to do harm.

We have a collective responsibility to combat anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred that targets any ethnic, cultural, racial and/or religious group. Living in denial will only hasten the problems and make the stern decree of consequences more painfully possible.

Let’s all do everything we are able to mitigate the possibility of the stern decree.

Rabbi Mitchell M. Hurvitz is Senior Rabbi Temple Sholom of Greenwich, co-founder of the Sholom Center for Interfaith Learning and Fellowship and a past president of the Greenwich Fellowship of Clergy For an archive of past Greenwich Citizen columns, please visit http://www.templesholom.com

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Perspectives: Opposing anti-Semitism with repentance, prayer … – Greenwich Time

This Sephardi Jew sees preserving Ladino as ‘act of resistance’ against Trump – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Devin Naar says Ladino connects Jews with Latinos and Muslims, two communities he considers marginalized in Trumps America. (Meryl Schenker Photography/The Stroum Center for Jewish Studies at Washington University)

(JTA) One-year-old Vidal doesnt know the significance behind the lullaby his father sings him at bedtime. He knows it helps him fall asleep, but notthat the Ladino song is part of an effort to teach himwhat served asthe lingua franca of Sephardi Jews of the Ottoman Empire for over 500 years.

And he doesnt know that whenhe says his first words, he will join a shrinking cadre of Ladino speakers, most of them elderly, who hold the keys to a culture that is on the brink of extinction.

To lose a language is to lose a world, and were on the cusp of that,his father, Devin Naar, told JTA.

Naar, a professor of Sephardic studies at the University of Washington, is deeply passionate about preserving Ladino which is also known as Judeo-Spanish, Judezmo or Judio the language his grandfathers family spoke in their native Greece. By teaching Vidal Ladino, Naar hopes to fulfill a longtime dream of transmitting itslegacyto his son.

In recent months, theres something else at stake too. The 33-year-old Seattle resident sees the linguistic roots of Ladino, which include Hebrew, Spanish, Turkish and Arabic, as providing a way to connect Jews with Latinos and Muslims.Preserving Ladino is a specific political act of resistance in Trumps America, Naar said.

Its a language of linguistic fusion that is based in Spanish but really brings together a lot of other linguistic elements that I think give it a special resonance, especially in todays world, because it serves as bridge language between different cultures between Jewish culture, between Spanish culture and between the Muslim world, Naar said.

President Donald Trump has signed executive orders to builda wall between the U.S. and Mexico and to banimmigrants from some Muslim majority countries.

If Trump is interested in building a wall, Judezmo serves as a bridge, and I think that we need bridges such as this in our time, Naarsaid.

Naars grandfather came to the United States with most of his familyin 1924 from Salonica, Greece, in the midst of discriminatory measures being passed against Jews there. Family members left behind later perished inthe Holocaust, along with 95 percent of the citys Jews.

In the U.S., there were other difficulties. Naars grandfather heard anti-Semitic slurs and other insults from bigots who mistook him forSouth American or Middle Eastern.

Speaking Ladino serves as a method of reclaiming that heritage and activating that heritage not only for personal and family reasons but for political reasons, Naar said.

Devin Naars grandfather, far right, in Salonica, Greece, in the early 1920s, before they moved to the U.S. (Courtesy of Naar)

Ladino emerged following the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, when the communitydispersed throughout the Ottoman Empire and came in contact with local languages as well as different Iberian dialects. At its height in the beginning of the 20th century, the languagehad abouthalf a million speakers, Naar estimated.

Estimates of current Ladino speakers vary widely, from between 160,000-300,000 people with some familiarity withthe language to around 50,000-100,000 speakers. Most of the population today is elderly, but there is renewedinterest in the language in some universities in the U.S. and Israel as well asamong Sephardi Jews.

Teaching VidalLadino has its challenges there is no complete English-Ladino dictionary and most speakers are older.Naarwas recently reading Vidal a childrens book about a dinosaur with slippery flippers and found himselfat a loss for how to translate that expression into Ladino. He consulted a scholar in Israel and a local Ladino speaker to get it right.

Its a learning process for me, both speaking to him and recognizing the limits of my vocabulary and trying to expand my vocabulary, Naarsaid.

But he isnt alone. Naar enlisted the help of a Seattle-basedgroup of elderly Ladino speakers, who translated Little Red Riding Hood into the language as a gift to Vidal. And his wife, Andrea, speaks to their sonin a mix of English, Spanish and Ladino.

Rachel Amado Bortnick, the founder of an online community for Ladino speakers, told JTA thatshe had only heard of one other casein the last decade of a child being taught to speak Ladino.

Theres no community that uses it daily its very challenging, to put it mildly, to actually pass on the language in the way that a person like me grew up in, said Bortnick, who learned Ladino as a child in her native Turkey.

Naars interest in the language goes back to his family history. He grew up hearing his grandfather and older relatives speak the language.

But by the time he started college in 2001, he had only learned a few words: greetings, curses, food-related words and liturgical passages. Questions from classmates about his last name, which did not sound like the Ashkenazi Jewish names they were familiar with, motivated him to dig deeper into his heritage.

He started studying Sephardi history and asked his grandfather to teach him Ladino.

A year later, Naar was able to read letters detailing the fate of family members who had perished in Auschwitz. The letters, written in Ladino by a family friend after World War II, had been tucked away in a closet, and some of Naars family members had been unaware of their existence and the details they provided ofthe deaths of family members.

The older generation, they couldnt believe it. They hadnt heard somebody speak like that in years, so that was very powerful for me, Naar said.

Now hes doing his part to pass the language on to the next generation and with it, a set of values.

One of my goals in trying to teach Vidal Ladino would be so that he has a sense of connection and awareness, not only of where he comes from, but also how the culture that he is connected to is connected to many other people, so that if he sees that immigrants in general or Spanish-speaking immigrants or Muslims in America are being maligned, I hope that he would be inspired to stand up.

Devin Naar is reading his son, Vidal, childrens books in Ladino as well as translating books from English into the language. (Courtesy of Naar)

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This Sephardi Jew sees preserving Ladino as ‘act of resistance’ against Trump – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

‘There Are Jews Here’ documentary profiles dwindling rural Jewish populations – The Recorder

If theres a moment in the documentary There Are Jews Here that sums up the dilemma dwindling Jewish congregations face, it might be when Mickey Radman, of Latrobe, Penn., finally drops the brave face hes maintained through much of the film.

A couple years ago this was unthinkable, the elderly Radman says, as he contemplates the closing of the small synagogue hes attended for decades. And now its become a reality.

And with that, Radman, facing the camera, silently begins to cry before abruptly turning and walking away.

Radman is just one of a host of likeable and engaging people whose lives are profiled in There Are Jews Here, an acclaimed film that looks at four towns and small cities Butte, Mont.; Dothan, Ala.; Laredo, Texas; and Latrobe where Jewish communities are struggling to survive.

Nationally, about 1 million of Americas roughly 5.3 million Jews live outside of major cities, the filmmakers say.

The problems for those in smaller communities are universal. Assimilation, younger people leaving for work elsewhere, elderly parishioners dying, some members simply disengaging from the community the people in There Are Jews Here face an attritional battle for which there are no easy solutions.

But the film, which screens Sunday at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, is not just a study of decline. Whether depicting prayer services, housewarming parties, or simple conversation, the documentary also offers moments of joy, humor and hope as interviewees talk about what Judaism and community mean to them.

It think the film is resonating with non-Jews, too, because ultimately its really about community, Brad Lichtenstein, the documentarys director, said during a recent phone call from his home in Milwaukee, Wis. There are declining populations in a lot of religions, not just Judaism.

Yet people crave community, Lichtenstein added, and they try to make it any way they can.

There Are Jews Here documents the unorthodox ways some communities have done this, such as Dothans pledge, through a program set up by a local Jewish philanthropist, to pay the moving expenses and related costs for Jews to resettle in the town.

And the film pays tribute to older generations passing the torch to younger people like how the tiny congregation in Latrobe vows to keep its synagogue open long enough to allow its youngest member, 12-year-old Ellie Balk, to have her bat mitzvah there.

Lichtenstein, who grew up in a Jewish community in Atlanta, has made numerous documentaries on social and cultural issues, such as a controversial mining project in a watershed area in Wisconsin and the violent 1971 uprising in Attica Prison in New York state.

He said the initial impetus for There Are Jews Here came from a friend, Mike Leven, who works with an organization that helps small Jewish communities insure their legacies if they close, such as by preserving sacred Torah scrolls or making arrangements to maintain historic cemeteries.

Mike suggested there could be a good film in some of these stories, since [the closing of Jewish communities] was happening all across the country, said Lichtenstein.

He and his co-producer, Morgan Elise Johnson, visited some 18 Jewish communities before settling on the four profiled in the film. The appeal of those towns, Lichtenstein said, came both from their diversity and the charisma of the people they talked to.

With documentaries, youre looking for people who can carry your story, and we found a really great bunch of people to talk to, he said.

Theres Nancy Oyer, for instance, of Temple Bnai Israel in Butte, where just 30 Jews live in a town of nearly 34,000 people. Oyer, a native of Chicago who moved west for work as a geologist and her love of the mountains, is energetic, warm, articulate and also weighed down by the effort of keeping her diminishing congregation afloat.

Its rewarding but exhausting, says Oyer, who also leads some of the services at her synagogue (there is no regular rabbi). In one sequence, she hires a rabbinical student from Los Angeles to lead services during High Holy Days; he jokes that when he first heard from Oyer, his immediate thought was There are Jews in Butte, Montana?

It would seem there were a fair number of them in past decades. The handsome brick synagogue, opened in 1903, appears as if it can hold well over 200 people. One of the films most enduring images shows Oyer, strumming an acoustic guitar, as she accompanies just nine people in song during a service.

In Laredo, Texas, the president of the local temple, Uriel Uri Druker, can count about 130 Jews in the community but thats in a city of over 248,000 people. We usually have just enough people to have a meeting, he says at one point.

The Laredo section includes an additional story. Susie Druker, Uris wife, grew up Catholic and became estranged for a time from her parents when she married and took steps to convert to Judaism. The familys synagogue has no education classes, though, so she attends a Torah class elsewhere in town, where discussion is in Spanish, English and Hebrew.

The couple want to stay in Laredo, but theyre worried their three young sons will grow up isolated in such a small congregation. They contemplate moving to San Antonio, which has a bigger and busier synagogue, but its a difficult decision: as Susie tearfully says, I dont want us to be just another number that left Laredo.

Dothan, in southeastern Alabama, made national news in 2008 when the plan to help Jews move to the town, by covering up to $50,000 of their moving expenses, was announced. Lichtenstein said that kind of notoriety made him reluctant at first to film there. But then he met a Jewish couple in Los Angeles who wanted to relocate to Dothan, as life in the City of Angels was too expensive.

There Are Jews Here covers, sometimes humorously, the steps that Karen and Terrence Arenson, with their young daughter, Emily, take to start a new life in the Deep South. No way! Karens mother yells when her daughter calls her to break the news. Alabama? What the hell is in Alabama?!

As Lynne Goldsmith, rabbi of Dothans Temple Emanu-el, puts it, its all about community. You really have to go out of your way here to be a Jew, she says (Dothan has about 143 Jews and an overall population of 68,000).

But between regular recreational activities like dinners and a bowling night, services at the synagogue, and a few newcomers like the Arensons, the towns Jewish members are hanging in there, Goldsmith says.

If you dont have a community, youre like a Jewish monk, she says, referring to towns where Jews no longer have any recourse for observing their faith together. And we dont do well as Jewish monks. We need community.

There Are Jews Here plays Sunday, March 12, at 2 p.m. at the Yiddish Book Center, 1021 West St. in Amherst. Tickets are $8 general admission, $6 for members, $4 for students. To watch a trailer from the film, visit: therearejewshere.com

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‘There Are Jews Here’ documentary profiles dwindling rural Jewish populations – The Recorder

Sedra of the Week: Zachor | Jewish News – Jewish News

This weeks additional Torah reading is known by its heading Zachor: the communal remembrance of how the tribe of Amalek pursued our ancestors out of Egypt, chasing after the weakest stragglers and mugging them for their possessions. Preying on the most vulnerable, the tribe, a descendant of Esau, were merciless to those most loyal to them.

David, before he became king of Israel, came across a slave of the Amalekites who was left to die in the desert because he had fallen ill and was weak. He tended to him and was appalled at the cruelty of his masters, who had captured Davids entire household on a raid against the Philistine of Ziklag.

In ancient Greece, Sparta practised auto-euthanasia. In Roman law, the lives of slaves were worthless. The Torahs clarion call against Amalek and the cheapening of human life is considered by our rabbinic tradition to be the most important reading in the Hebrew calendar.

The Torah points out the people at this time were not God-fearing. It does not say why, but perhaps the very state of leaving stragglers unguarded and unsupported was a sign of lack of righteousness. The Torah then commands us to eradicate all memory of Amalek. Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev comments the Amalekite refers not only to the descendants of Esau, but also to negativity in the heart of every person.

Zachors message is that one should eradicate that negativity from within ones heart, as this is what leads to sin.

Ariel Abel is rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

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Sedra of the Week: Zachor | Jewish News – Jewish News

Antisemitism and Aliyah – Algemeiner

The French Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket chain was targeted in January 2015 by an Islamic terrorist, who killed four people. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Many people argue that antisemitism in Europe and other parts of the world should notmakeJews instinctively flee to Israel.

Butit is high time for Diaspora Jews to shake off their denial and confront the reality. They must acknowledge that all indicators predict that their situation is only going to worsen, and that in some cases a call for aliyah in the face of rising antisemitism is warranted.

Although the feverish increase in antisemitism is a global phenomenon, Jew-hatred in the United States, Canada and Australia is a far cry from what is happening in Europe and South Africa.

March 10, 2017 8:34 am

In the United States, amid bomb threats and cemetery desecrations, the principal menace comesfrom the combined far-Left and Muslim antisemites, along with some right-wing radicals. This activity is located primarily on university campuses, where Jewish students are increasingly intimidated.

Liberal AmericanJews, who failed to react to Barack Obamas vicious anti-Israel diplomatic onslaughts and played down the venom on campus, are now promoting a partisan political agenda by blaming President Donald Trump for the recent threats and desecrations.

But despite these tensions, aliyah from the United States in response to antisemitism is nonsensical. Thats because on the wholeAmericans are the least antisemitic people in the world.

But Europe is entirely different. Here, antisemitism directly impacts Jews, and is destroying their quality of life.

This does not suggest that Jews in Europe are facing imminent extermination. Israel is a safe haven, and will ensure that a second Holocaust does notoccur.

But the quality of Jewish life in Europe today does justify a call for mass emigration.

What sort of a life is it for a Jew when he is fearful to be seen in public with a kippah or any other outward manifestation of his Judaism?Or when schools, synagogues and otherlocations where Jews meet require military protection? Who could have dreamed of such a situation a mere 10 years ago?

Who would have envisaged that the finest universities in the UK and Europe would be transformed into platforms for anti-Israel and antisemitic activity, where Jewish students are harassed and denied freedom of expression?

Violent Islamic terrorism, including a home-grown variety, is also nowa daily threat to Europeans. The influx of refugees, many of whom are deeply embedded with antisemitism, has only accentuated this problem. Andwherever possible, European Islamic terrorists primarily target Jews.

While most governments pay lip service to the fight against antisemitism, popular hatred of Jews is growing and Israel is still being blamed as the source of Islamic extremism.

And while antisemitism is rife in the media and political arena,even the slightest criticism of Islamic extremism leads to accusations of Islamophobia and indictments of racism.

The situation is somewhat different in each country. Ironically, Eastern European countries are less hostile than their Western counterparts.Antisemitism is worst in France. In the UK,Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition party, can only be described as the left-wing equivalent of the late British fascist leader Oswald Mosley. Corbyns friends and allies include Islamic terrorist supporters and outright antisemites.

Those who no longer care about their Jewishness assume a low profile and seek to discard their Jewish identity. In most cases, their children will no longer consider themselves Jews.

It is the remaining, committed Jews who face a quandary. Many of them live among fellow Jews and rarely face antisemitism directly. They live in denial and philosophically dismiss the hostility and the discrimination that their children endure.

But Jews should not be willing to live under such circumstances. There is no guarantee in any society that children will maintain the traditions of their parents. But in todays Europe, it is almost impossible to have any confidence about nurturing Jewish grandchildren who will retain and take pride in their heritage. For many, the odds of shedding their Jewish identity are very high.

The time has come to speak out clearly. Conditions for Jews in Europe will almost certainly worsen, even in countries like the UK. Jews who value their heritage and wish to see their children and grandchildren remain proud and committed Jews should make every effort to leave.

To emigrate is no easy challenge. Even allowing for the fact that Israel today has one of the most successful economies in the world, many middle-aged families may find it difficult to find meaningful employment. Most of them will therefore remain in Europe.

But they should at least encourage their children to settle in Israel. Thenext generation can and should be saved.

A version of this article was originallypublished byIsraelHayom and the Jerusalem Post.

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Antisemitism and Aliyah – Algemeiner

"Post-truth is pre-fascism": a Holocaust historian on the Trump era – Vox

A week after Donald Trumps election, Timothy Snyder, a professor of European history at Yale, posted a long note on Facebook. Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism, he began. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.

The note consisted of twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to what Snyder called the circumstances of today. Among other things, he admonished Americans to defend democratic institutions, to not repeat the same words and phrases we hear in the media, to think clearly and critically, and to take responsibility for the face of the world.

The post went viral. Its now the basis of Snyders new book, On Tyranny. The book is a brisk read packed with lucid prose. If its not quite alarmist, its certainly bracing. This is a call to action, a reminder that the future isnt fixed. Being a citizen, Snyder argues, means engaging with the world, with other people, with the truth.

You submit to tyranny, he writes, when you renounce the difference between what you want to hear and what is actually the case.

If theres a recurring theme in On Tyranny, its that accepting untruth is a precondition of tyranny. Post-truth is pre-fascism, he warns, and to abandon facts is to abandon freedom.

In this interview, I talk to Snyder about the book, the fragility of Americas liberal democratic system, and what we might learn from Europes descent into fascism.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

This is a brief book, but you cover a lot of ground. The tone is measured but also urgent. You write as though the American political order is truly imperiled.

Absolutely. I believe it is. I wrote the book in a few days in December, so it was all done a month before the inauguration. It sounded true at the time, and it sounds even more true now. These are thoughts I had relatively long ago. As a historian, I understand that democratic republics fall all the time. You work on European history and you know that most times it actually doesn’t work out.

You also know that the Europeans who saw their regimes change were not necessarily less wise than we are. I’d be tempted to say they’re wiser, in fact. I think we have a lot of good attributes in our society, in our political system, but also we’ve been lucky a lot of the time. It’s important to be humble and to realize that past success is no guarantee of future returns.

So what happens next is going to depend on us.

The American founders were very attuned to the dangers of tyranny, and they designed a system that would guard against it. Why is that system short-circuiting now?

I’m just going to repeat the point that you make. This is something that Americans often get wrong. We think that because we’re America, everything will work itself out. This is exactly what the founders refused to believe. They thought human nature is such that you have to constrain it by institutions. They preferred rule of law and checks and balances. They were the opposite of American exceptionalists.

They thought they knew something from history because of the Greeks and Romans. In the book, I just argue that they were right and that we can also learn from more recent and relevant examples because two more centuries have passed. I think our institutions are basically okay, but there are a couple of things that have gone wrong before the election.

What went wrong before the election?

An obvious problem is the role of money in politics, the confusion between the right to free speech and the right to give as much money as you want to anyone you want. Those are obviously two different things. The founders knew, because they read Aristotle, that inequality itself is always going to be a threat to democracy. If you have too much inequality, Aristotle warned, the people will grow tired of oligarchs. And someone like Trump will come along and say, well, the world’s run by billionaires but at least I’ll be your billionaire, which is false and demagogic and generally horrible.

But it makes a certain kind of sense when you’ve already reached a point of extremity.

Tell me about the distinction you make between a politics of inevitability and a politics of eternity. I find this interesting from a political theory perspective. What youre describing is two equally misguided orientations to politics, both of which are grounded in a false story we tell ourselves about history. The price we pay for this is blindness to the present, and to our role in shaping the future.

It all starts with me trying to assert that history matters, that we have to start from history itself and not from the comforting or delusive myths we might have about the past. A politics of inevitability is an idea thats been pretty widespread in the US since 1989. Its the view that the past is messy and violent and chaotic but that were inching inexorably toward a freer, safer, more progressive world. The future will be better, in other words, because thats how history works. There will be more globalization, more life, more prosperity, more democracy. But this is just not true.

No big narrative or grand stories like that are true, and they actually blind you to the very real danger of returning to the kinds of things you’re saying can’t happen, which is where the politics of eternity emerges.

A politics of eternity is an equally antihistorical posture. Its a self-absorbed concern with the past, free of any real concern with facts. In the book, I call this a longing for past moments that never really happened during epochs that were, in fact, disastrous. An eternity politician seduces the populace with a vision of the past in which the nation was once great, only to be sullied by some external enemy. This focus on the past and on victimhood means people think less about possible futures, less about possible solutions to real problems.

But again, these are just stories. The truth is that history is much more open and we have much more agency and responsibility than we think.

This reminds me of a recent discussion I had with Fareed Zakaria. People mistakenly assume that history moves in only one direction, that liberal democracy is the logical endpoint of Western civilization. But thats clearly not the case. History, like everything else, is in flux, and the range of outcomes is infinite.

That is exactly why I wrote the book. I was afraid the dominant narrative reaction would be something like: Oh, well, it’s a bump in the road. It’s a detour. The institutions will handle it. It’ll all be fine in the end, right? That’s what we were talking about earlier. That’s the politics of inevitability. That’s just not true.

It’s just not true that things have any kind of direction. That’s a big intellectual mistake that we made in 1989. We put ourselves to sleep and now we’re having a rough awakening, and the rough awakening has to lead us to realize that no, we’re actually in charge, and things can go in all kinds of directions.

A recurring theme of your book is that many democracies have failed in circumstances that resemble our own. Tell me what you mean by circumstances that resemble our own.

Well, for one, people overlook the fact that regime change in a democracy usually happens after an election thats when we have to be on guard. There are dramatic cases like the Bolshevik Revolution where a very, very young republic was overturned by a true revolution, but usually what happens is the scenario begins with an election, a big election. This is how Hitler came to power, for instance. His party won more votes than anyone else. Once inside, he decided the system needed to be changed. Something similar happened with the communists in Czechoslovakia, who won an election in 1946 and then wanted to carry out a coup dtat.

But to answer your basic question: The general circumstances are when an unusual figure is elected by way of normal mechanisms at a time when for other reasons the system is under stress. Thats the basic setup, and thats what I was referring to.

You said a minute ago that you still believe in the basic viability of our institutions. But I wonder if thats true for the majority of Americans. This last election showed, among other things, that a lot of people have lost faith in public institutions. They elected a man in large part because he wasnt a product of these institutions. It seems they were willing to flirt with disaster to register their disgust with the system.

So were already in a very dangerous place. A liberal democracy cant survive if people dont believe in it.

We’re not just flirting. We’re in a long-term relationship with disaster. The question is whether we get out of it in time. There are two steps here. The first is dealing with these flawed institutions; theres too much stress in the system. There’s gerrymandering, for example, which is an affront to the one-vote-for-one-person principle. These are problems that have to be addressed.

But were in a stage now where we have to first rescue the flawed system and then work to improve it. In order to do that, one does have to have some idea of an America that would be better, right? It’s an aspiration of America that would be improved. It’s not enough to say, Let’s go back to 2016. We have to have some idea of this as an experience from which one learns and then applies those lessons.

So I do believe our institutions in their logic are basically sound, but I agree with you that they will have to be corrected. The doubt that Americans have for institutions has to be mobilized toward a sense that they can improve as opposed to a cynicism about institutions and rules in general.

If we reach that point where people say, nothing ever works, it’s all nonsense, then we really are done.

Are we there already? My sense is that November 8 was a Rubicon-crossing moment for the country. But youre a historian, and this is a book about historical lessons, so tell me theres a non-terrifying precedent for this.

Talk me off the ledge!

My whole gambit in this book is that I’m not a US historian. I’m a historian of Europe, and the experience I’m bringing to bear is what happened to many European democracies and what people I admire have to say about how they resisted and what they learned when beating back authoritarianism. These are the sources of my book, and I believe the lessons learned in the 20th century apply equally to the 21st century.

History doesn’t give you perfect analogues, perfect parallels. It doesn’t repeat, and it doesn’t even rhyme, but it does present patterns.

Well, lets talk about one of those patterns, namely the discrediting of truth in totalitarian regimes.

This whole idea we’re dealing with now about the alternative facts and post-factuality is pretty familiar to the 1920s. Its a vision that’s very similar to the central premise of the fascist vision. It’s important because if you don’t have the facts, you don’t have the rule of law. If you don’t have the rule of law, you can’t have democracy.

And people who want to get rid of democracy and the rule of law understand this because they actively propose an alternative vision. The everyday is boring, they say. Forget about the facts. Experts are boring. Let’s instead attach ourselves to a much more attractive and basically fictional world.

So I’m not saying that Trump is just like the fascists of 1920s, but I am saying this isnt new.

In the book, you say that abandoning facts means abandoning freedom.

That’s absolutely the case. The thing that makes you an individual, the thing that makes you stand out, is your ability to figure out what’s going on for yourself. If you abandon that, then you open yourself up to some grand dream, and you cease to be free in any meaningful sense.

Abandoning facts also means abandoning truth, and a civilization cant get along without shared truths.

Sociologists say that a belief in truth is what makes trust in authority possible. Without trust, without respect for journalists or doctors or politicians, a society cant hang together. Nobody trusts anyone, which leaves society open to resentment and propaganda, and of course to demagogues.

If a community or country can’t hold together horizontally by way of an idea of factuality, then someone comes along vertically with a huge myth, and that person wins.

When you address this in the book, your intended audience is individual citizens. Most of the power of authoritarianism is freely given, you write. Individuals offer themselves without being asked. Political theorists have understood for a long time that the foundation of political power is consent, which can always be withdrawn. But this is not well understood by most citizens.

I think Americans do understand this well enough for normal times. In normal times, consent means political consent, as expressed in voting. What Americans might not understand is that in abnormal times, when the political system as they understand it is shaken and transformed, they can express consent to these changes without being aware that they are doing so. In normal political times, this sort of social adjustment would also be normal. But in times like these, our impulse to adjust takes on radical political significance.

Are you optimistic about the potential for collective action in this environment?

Collective action is hard, but there are real opportunities. If we manage to get our heads away from the screens, if we manage to meet people and talk to people with whom we disagree, then there can be new forms of action which may turn out to be effective. It doesn’t have to be that all Americans at exactly the same time do the same thing.

If 10,000 little groups do 5,000 little things, that will make a tremendous difference.

Whats the most important and relevant lesson in the book? What do you urge people to do with these historical truths?

The book has 20 lessons in there, and they’re of a different character. Some people are going to find some of them more relevant than others. What I want to emphasize is the instruction of the people who survived and learned about totalitarianism. There is wisdom in their examples, in what they did in those dramatic moments. For example, people who lived through fascism understand that when governments talk about terrorism and extremism, you have to be on guard, because these are always the words you hear before your rights are taken away from you.

If another terrorist attack occurs in the United States, which unfortunately is very likely, we have to be vigilant about what comes next. For these are the moments when rights are lost and regimes are changed. So we have to be prepared for that.

We cant trade our actual freedom for a false feeling of security.

See the article here:
"Post-truth is pre-fascism": a Holocaust historian on the Trump era – Vox

Purim and the Challenge of the Holocaust – Algemeiner

Esther and Mordechai writing the second letter of Purim. Oil on canvas, 1685. Photo: RISD Museum of Art, Rhode Island.

In themidrash on Mishlei, we read the following:

All of the festivals will be nullified in the future [the messianic age], but Purim will never be nullified.

This assertion seems to fly in the face of Jewish tradition, which states categorically that the Jewish festivals mentioned in the Torah, such as Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot will never cease to be celebrated.

March 9, 2017 8:24 am

Rabbi Baruch Halevi Epstein, in his famous commentary Torah Temimah on Megillat Esther (9:28), explains this contradictionin the following most original manner:

The miracle of Purim is very different from the miracles mentioned in the Torah. While the latter were overt miraclessuch as the ten plagues in Egypt, the splitting of the Red Sea, the revelation at Sinai and the falling of the man (manna) in the desertthe miracle of Purim was covert. Unlike with the miracles narrated in the Torah, no law of nature was ever violated in the Purim story, and the Jews were saved from the hands of Haman harasha (the evil Haman) by seemingly normal historical occurrences

Covert miracles will never cease to exist, explains the Torah Temimah. In fact, they take place every day. But overt miracles such as the splitting of the Red Sea have come to an end. In light of this, the midrash is not suggesting that the actual festivals mentioned in the Torah will be nullified in future days, since this would contradict Jewish belief. Rather, it is stating that the original reasons for celebrating the festivals, namely overt miracles, will have ceased.

So, one should read the midrash as follows: Overt miracles, which we celebrate on festivals mentioned in the Torah, will no longer occur. But covert miracles such as those celebrated on Purim will never end; they will continue to occur every day of the year. In other words, all the other festivals will still be celebrated to commemorate great historical events in Jewish history, so as to make them relevant and to teach us many lessons for our own lives. Purim, on the other hand, although rooted in a historical event, functions as a constant reminder that the Purim story never ended. We are still living it. The Megillah is open-ended; it was not and will never be completed. Covert miracles still happen.

Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner zl, in his celebrated work Pachad Yitzchak (volume on Purim, chapter 33), uses this idea to explain a highly unusual halachic stipulation related to Purim:During all Torah festivals, the congregation sings Hallel, the well-known, classic compilation of specific Psalms. These Psalms praise God for all the great miracles He performed for Israel in biblical times. Why, then, asks the Talmud, do we not sing Hallel on Purim? Is there not even more reason to sing these Psalms on the day when God performed the great miracle of rescuing Israel from the hands of Haman?

The Talmud (Masechet Megillah 14a) answers kriyata zu hallila the reading of Megillat Esther is in itself praise. When one reads the story of Esther, one actually fulfills the obligation of singing Hallel, because telling this story is the greatest praise to God for having saved the Jews.

Interestingly, one of the most celebrated commentators on the Talmud, Rabbi Menachem Meiri (1249-1315), ponders the need to say Hallel on Purim when one is unable to read or hear the Megillah. In this case, according to his opinion, one should indeed sing the psalm, since one must thank God for what happened. Rabbi Hutner, however, points out that no other authority agrees with his opinion.

Moreover, one often wonders why the story of Purim is still relevant at all after the Holocaust. Not even a hidden miracle was performed to save the Jews from the hands of Hitler, a greater enemy than Haman. Why continue to praise God for a hidden miracle when it seems that even hidden miracles came to an end with the Holocaust?

This question should be on the mind of every Jew who celebrates Purim, and it is not only the Holocaust that should raise this issue. The Spanish Inquisition; the many pogroms against the Jews; and the various forms of exterminating complete Jewish communities throughout all of Jewish history, in which Gods saving hand was absent, allbeg that very question. Shouldnt these events convince Jews to abolish Purim altogether? How can we continue celebrating Purim when six million Jews, collectively, did not see the hidden hand of God, and were left with no divine intervention? Is celebrating Purim not an affront to all those millions who were tortured and died under the most hideous circumstances?

Hundreds of personal stories describe how Jews risked their lives to rejoice in their Jewishness while facing the Nazis atrocities. In the extermination camps, peoplecelebrated Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Pesach and even Purimand they literally had to decide whether to sing Hallel after failed attempts to find a Megillah.

What was it that kept them going? Was it just wishful thinking? No. What they realized then, as never before, was the eternity and indestructibility of the Jews. Perpetuity is the very essence of our people. When Rabbi Moshe Friedman of Boyan, a towering personality and great Talmid Chacham in pre-war Poland, was brought to Auschwitz with a transport of deeply religious Jews during Pesach of 1943, he was asked to undress prior to the shower. He turned to the Oberscharfhrer, grasped the lapel of his Nazi jacket and said to him: Youthe most despicable murderers in the world, dont imagine for one moment that you will succeed in destroying the Jewish people. The Jewish nation will live forever. It will not vanish from the stage of history; instead, you will be erased and disappear.

It was the famous, slightly antisemitic historian Arnold Toynbee who, with great annoyance, alluded to what history has taught us: any nation that stands up against the Jews will ultimately disappear. Such was the fate of the ancient Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Persians and the Greeks, etc.

Jews have been an ever-dying people that never died. We live in spite of peril. Our refusal to surrender has turned our story into one long, unending Purim tale. To this day, a large part of the world does not know what to do with us. We make them feel uneasy because we represent something they cant put their finger on. Jews are sui generis.

More than anything else, it is the existence and survival of the state of Israel that irritates many. Perplexity has morphed into aversion. Where does this small nation, which does not comprise even one percent of the world population, have the chutzpah to play such a crucial role in science, technology and many other areas of human knowledge?

Yet what would the world do without Jews, who are responsible for so many inventions that are vital to the survival of modern society? Great progress and major breakthroughs in the world of medicine, such as the treatment of paralysis, depression, Alzheimers disease, etc., are Israeli accomplishments. What about Windows, voicemail and the most advanced anti-terror systems? All Israeli. Israel produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation, and in proportion to its population has the largest number of start-up companies in the world. It is ranked second in the world for venture capital funds. And the list goes on.

Even if, God forbid, the state of Israel would not survive Iran the Haman of our day every Jew instinctively knows that the Jewish peoplewill still endure, even without their homeland, and will climb the ladder and surprise the world once again. Purim will never cease.

Which Jeweven secular or atheistdares to betray theJewish victims of persecutionby not celebrating Purim? That is the ultimate question that all Jews must ask themselves. Not to do so would be a tragic dereliction of duty.

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Purim and the Challenge of the Holocaust – Algemeiner

A steep rise in anti-semitism – Willamette University Collegian

Over 50 bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers this year

By Dorian Grayson Staff Writer

Amongst the rise in hate crimes in the United States has been a rise in anti-Semitism. Jewish centers have been receiving bomb threats and a Jewish cemetery was desecrated last week.

People waited for President Trumps response, which many felt came out late and lackluster.

The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that must still be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil, Trump said.

The White House excluded Jews from mention in their statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Before the statement above, Trump was asked in a conference last week about the rise of anti-Semitic acts in the United States. He told the reporter to sit down and refused to answer the question, calling it insulting.

Given how quick Trump is to denounce many things, and how much of the new American anti-Semitism comes from his supporters, his one denunciation doesnt count as permanent, wrote David Leonhardt for The New York Times. He, more than anyone else, has the responsibility to make everyday religious bigotry again feel like a part of the countrys past.

The bomb threats last week were called in for schools and Jewish Community centers in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia. All of them turned out to be hoaxes, forcing the police and news crews to enter these spaces.

My instincts tell me this is all part of a coordinated effort, said an Ann Arbor police detective. The Ann Arbor Jewish Community Center has had at least two recent bomb threats.

In St. Louis, on Feb. 18 and 19, more than 170 gravestones were destroyed in the Chesed Shel Emeth Jewish cemetery. Only a week later, 100 gravestones were destroyed in Philadelphia in the Mt. Carmel Cemetery.

[The vandalism is] a hateful act, an attempt to create fear and to tarnish the memory of those who have died and attack their dignity, a Philadelphia rabbi said.

After all this, on March 3, Juan Thompson was arrested in St. Louis for making some of the bomb threats mentioned earlier. He is not believed to be responsible for most threats, nor is it clear that he was working with the other callers. He made calls against Jewish schools and centers in New York, San Diego, Dallas and Farmington Hills.

FBI Director James B. Comey recently met with Jewish community leaders to describe the increase in threats. He said that the investigation was a top priority.

Thompsons arrest is on both federal and state charges within New York. A federal judge ordered him held without bail with an eventual detention hearing. He is being represented by a federal public defender.

Thompson was a reporter for two years at The Intercept before leaving in January 2016. A year later he started making the threats. His first was against a Manhattan Jewish history museum on Jan. 28.

The investigation for the source of the other threats and desecration is ongoing.


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A steep rise in anti-semitism – Willamette University Collegian

World Council of Churches ‘gravely concerned’ over Israel’s travel ban – Episcopal News Service

[World Council of Churches] The World Council of Churches March 9 expressed grave concern about a new law passed March 8 by the Knesset which reportedly forbids granting entry visas to foreign nationals who call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts of either Israel or the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Entry to Israel Act (Denial of Visa to Non-Residents Who Knowingly Call for a Boycott on Israel) apparently makes no distinction between boycotting Israel proper and boycotting products of the settlements, which are widely considered illegal under international law.

If reports of its content and intent are correct, this law is a shockingly regressive law, said WCC General Secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit. It would be a clear violation of freedom of expression, that is critical for those who want to visit Israel, for those who have to live under the occupation, and for those who want access to the Palestinian territories. It is also a significant violation of freedom of religion. It is precisely because of our Christian principles and teachings that we in the World Council of Churches find the purchase and consumption of goods produced in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories immoral, and it is for the same reason many churches and Christians around the world choose to divest from companies that profit from the illegal occupation.

Tveit observed that, if strictly applied according to its reported terms, this new legislation would have the effect of barring representatives of many churches around the world from entering Israel, from accompanying sister churches and fellow Christians in the region, and from visiting the holy places for Christians. This potentially impacts the religious freedom of many Christians around the world, and harms Christians in Israel and Palestine. It could mean that I cannot, as general secretary of the WCC, visit our member churches in Israel and Palestine anymore, nor go to the holy sites.

The WCC whose 348 member churches represent more than 560 million Christians globally has encouraged its member churches to consider in their own contexts appropriate non-violent means of opposing the occupation and of working for a just peace in Israel and Palestine according to their own moral principles and teachings. The WCC has a specific and longstanding policy inviting member churches to boycott Israeli settlement products and to reconsider their investments from the same perspective, and many of them have made statements and taken actions accordingly.

The WCC affirms and supports Israels right to exist, categorically rejects violence as a means of resolving the conflict, and has described anti-Semitism as a sin against God, Tveit stressed. But we, together with the United Nations and the vast majority of the international community, consider Israels 50 year-long occupation of the occupied Palestinian territories as illegal. And on this basis the WCC has encouraged boycotting goods from Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, divestment from companies that benefit from the occupation, investment in Palestinian enterprises that can stimulate the local economy, but not a general boycott of or sanctions against Israel.

The WCC seeks an equal measure of justice and dignity for all people, with a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike, Tveit continued, but this legislation represents a form of isolationism that cannot be in Israels best interests as a member of the international community, let alone of the people of the region. It is a critical shift in the way Israel relates to the rest of the world, and also in their role as guardians of holy places for three religions. I hope and pray it will not prove to be the governments actual policy and practice.

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World Council of Churches ‘gravely concerned’ over Israel’s travel ban – Episcopal News Service

Bassel Al-A’raj: Battling Intellect and Palestinian Encyclopedia – Al-Manar TV

Sara Taha Moughnieh

Bassel Al-Araj, a 31-year-old Palestinian from Bethlehem, a pharmacist, intellect, and struggler was enrolled Monday in the list of heroes executed by Israeli occupation forces on the path of liberating Palestine.

After months of searching, the Israeli occupation failed to capture Araj alive. The latter engaged in an individual battle that lasted for two hours against the Israeli force that attacked his shelter, to later seize his body and keep it in captivity.

Soon after Araj was announced dead, hashtag the battling intellect emerged on social media and activists began informing about this hero who theyve concealed his name for months due to their fear over his life.

Only two days ago the name Bassel Al-Araj was not popular. Today Arajs blood restored a retaliatory spirit that united supporters of military resistance and intellectual resistance.

I have never imagined that this educated and thin young man, who I have met in Beirut two years ago, would take the military option. We, writers and journalists, prefer saying that we are fighting the enemy intellectually and culturally, but Bassel Al-Araj was the most noble amongst us; he combined intellectual and military resistance journalist Qassem Qassem wrote for Al-Akhbar newspaper.

Here lies the significance of this young man who fought the Israeli enemy in all possible ways and had the concern of preserving the Palestinian history in its smallest details.

He was highly educated and conscious, and was a reference in the Palestinian culture to many journalists and activists inside and outside the occupied territories. If he was asked about a certain Palestinian costume he would explain the history of this costume as well as the region and the family it belonged to he was more like an encyclopedia, a friend of Araj told Al-Manar website.

Khodor Salameh, Lebanese activist, another friend of Araj, indicated that Bassel was a knowledge fortune in every field. He arranged between religion and society. He was capable of establishing a local social science rather than an imported one. He had a story to tell about every village, street or stone in Palestine. He knew the names of all the battles and martyrs.

Araj used to arrange educational tours for Palestinian youth and tourists inside Palestine. He took them to the regions in which Palestinians battled against the British and Israelis. He also worked on documenting Palestinian revolts and history, from before the Nakba (catastrophe).

Speaking to Al-Manar website, Salameh explained that Bassel saw the road to Palestine was a straight one without any neutrality or curves. He was dedicated to document the Palestinian cause, writing its history, and transferring it from one generation to another He was a devouring reader and a battler unlike many people, he was a very good listener, and he concluded every conversation with the name of a book, reference, or an article.

He had a clear project that was based on resistance, as he was very influenced by the Lebanese experience in the field of resistance, Salameh added.

In 2015 Araj attended the Conference of Supporting the Resistance in Beirut. As soon as he returned to Palestine he disappeared for a week along with a couple of young men.

The Palestinian Authority stated that this group was arranging for a military operation against Israelis. In parallel, the Israelis claimed that this group was recruited by Hezbollah in Lebanon. Only one week later, the Palestinian Authority captured Araj and his friends who denied preparing for any operation claiming that they were on a camping trip.

The Palestinian authority imprisoned Araj and his friends in Bitonia prison. In concurrence, Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas appeared on Israeli Channel 10 saying that he had stopped a big operation that was going to target the Israelis.

Araj and his friends were tortured in prison. The Palestinian battler who had diabetes was denied medication which influenced his health. They launched a hunger strike that lasted for one month, then the Palestinian Authority released them 6 months after detention.

As soon as they were released, and based on the Israeli-Palestinian Authority Security Coordination Policy, which includes exchange of information between the two sides, the PA sent the report of investigation with Araj and his friends to the Israelis.

Reportedly, the PA arranges with the Zionist authorities so that the latter would capture the prisoners that the PA releases. Hence, the Palestinian Authority would deny any accusation of capturing resistance fighters.

The Israeli-PA Security Coordination Policy was identified in the Taba agreement of 1995, which stated that the Palestinian Authority was responsible for preventing terrorists and terrorism and taking the right measures against them. This takes places through a joint Palestinian-Israeli committee which confiscates the resistance weapons, specifically Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

The Palestinian Authority halted the security coordination after the eruption of Al-Aqsa Intifada (uprising) in 2000. It was restored when Mahmoud Abbas reached power. On that occasion, Zionist Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said: We see great opportunities in the election of Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. We hope he will be able to lead his people and create a democratic law respecting society that will build its institutions, fight terrorism and dismantle the infrastructure of terrorist organizations.

Bassels stance from the Palestinian Authority was basic in his revolutionary rhetoric, as he clearly believed that this organization had a limited job to perform, and if it werent for the benefit of the occupation, the world wouldnt have permitted its establishment in the first place, Salameh pointed out.

Due to this great loss, a revolutionary atmosphere dominated social media, as the subject of Arajs martyrdom went viral in the past three days in at least four countries (Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt and Jordan).

According to Salameh This is a transitional point. Today, we are supposed to build on Bassels experience rather than grieve over his departure. We must transform Bassel into an ongoing battling intellectual path that refutes any form of coordination, normalization or peace.

I am confident that the departure of Bassel will have a backlash on the murderers: The Authority which is executing any form of resistance, and the Israeli that produced tens of thousands of heroes and redirected the compass of thousands of other intellects by assassinating Bassel Al-Araj.

Source: Al-Manar Website

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Bassel Al-A’raj: Battling Intellect and Palestinian Encyclopedia – Al-Manar TV

No Moshe? No problem – Cleveland Jewish News


Exodus 27:20-30:10

1 Samuel 15:1-34

In this weeks parsha, Tetzaveh, we read of many laws that pertain to the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. The Mishkan served as Bnei Yisraels sanctuary while they traveled in the Midbar, the wilderness. We read of the clothes worn by the Kohanim (Priests) and the Kohen Gadol (High Priest), the instructions for how Moshe is to consecrate Aharon and his sons (the Priests), and Moshes instructions for the even-day inauguration of the Mishkan.

Interestingly, when reading the Parsha a question arises. The name of Moshe is never mentioned in the parsha. Instead, it says, And you shall command the children of Israel. (27:20). What is the reason for not mentioning Moshes name? He clearly played a significant role in the inauguration of the Mishkan and the consecration of the Kohanim.

The Maor Enayim provides an excellent answer. Moshe died on the seventh of Adar, which is usually the week when we read parsha Tetzaveh. The absence of his name in this parsha alludes to his passing. However, the seventh of Adar is also the day Moshe was born. Why not hint to that in parshat Tetzaveh as well?

In truth, the lesson of Moshes passing is a more powerful message for us. The absence of his name connects his death to the establishment of the Mishkan and the role the Kohanim play in it. The leader of the Jewish people passed away, but the Jews keep going. With the strength and inspiration provided by the Mishkan (which is facilitated by the Kohanim), the people can continue their journey both in the wilderness and for all time.

At times in our nations existence, we feel a leadership void. We must make sure to maintain our beliefs and push ourselves to keep going, to maintain our Jewish identities. At the time of this parsha we lost our leader, but we our still going today, thousands of years later. We must always remember that even without a leader we still have the ability to thrive and to continue our Jewish heritage.

Noah Fleeter of Beachwood is a sophomore at the Fuchs Mizrachi School in Beachwood.

No Moshe? No problem – Cleveland Jewish News

Adam Kirsch – Tablet Magazine

Literary criticAdam Kirschis readinga page of Talmuda day, along with Jews around the world.

In last weeks column, we saw that Chapter Three of Tractate Bava Batra deals with disputes over real estate. The Talmud lays down a rule that anyone who works a plot of land continuously for three years is presumed to be its legal owner. But what happens in a case where two people claim to be the owner of the same piece of land, and neither of them can bring legal proof that he has worked it for three years? That is the situation the Gemara addresses in Bava Batra 34b, which Daf Yomi readers studied this week. In such a dispute, each party bases his claim to ownership on inheritance: This one says: It belonged to my ancestors and that one says: It belonged to my ancestors. How can the court decide between them, if neither one has documentary proof or witnesses?

The principle in such cases, the Gemara explains, was established in an analogous dispute over the ownership of a boat. In that case, the rule was that the court takes no action at all: We do not seize property in a case where ownership is uncertain, and where it was seized, we do not release it. Then how does the dispute get resolved? The Talmud answers with an ambiguous formula: Whoever is stronger prevails. In other words, the parties fight it out, and whoever manages to seize the property keeps it. This is a troubling saying, because it seems to represent an abdication of the whole responsibility of the judges. If the stronger party prevails, then might makes right, and there is no reason to have laws or judges in the first place.

The Koren Talmud explains, in its notes, that commentators have disagreed over just what whoever is stronger prevails is supposed to mean. Is it a legal principle, meaning that whoever physically wins control of a piece of property is its rightful owner? If this were the case, then the rabbis would seem to envision the parties in the dispute fighting once and for all. Whoever won the boat, or the land, in the initial fight would thereupon become its legal owner. The rival claimant could not then return latersay, with a group of strong friendsand wrest the boat back, because that would constitute stealing.

Other interpreters of the Talmud, however, have opined that whoever is stronger prevails is not a legal dictum, but simply a pragmatic observation. When judges cant honestly decide between two claims, because no evidence is available, then in practice the stronger party will take hold of the property. But this does not mean that he has legal title to it; and if the rival claimant manages to seize it back at some later date, so be it. If whoever is stronger prevails means no more than this, then the two parties have a strong inducement to settle the case to avoid a perpetual feud that would effectively deprive both of them of secure ownership.

Indeed, a little later on, in Bava Batra 35b, the Gemara asks what happens if two parties are fighting over the same piece of property, and the court rules that whoever is stronger prevails, and then a third party comes and takes it away from both claimants. Does this qualify as a theft? The answer appears to be no, since a robber of the public is not called a robber. In other words, it is impossible to steal a boat that doesnt belong to anyone. Since neither of the initial claimants could prove ownership, neither has the right to demand the return of the boat if it is taken. This seems to let the third party off the hook a little too easily, and Rav Ashi adds a qualification: Actually, he is called a robber, and the property he steals should be taken back from him by the court. But there is still an ambiguity,because the robber would ordinarily have to make atonement to the person he stole from, and in this case he cant know who deserves reparations.

If the principle of whoever is stronger prevails leaves both claimants in a legal limbo, why doesnt the court simply force the parties to settle? After all, the Gemara observes, that is the procedure followed in similar situations. In what way is this case different, the rabbis ask, from the case where two people produce two deeds of sale that are issued on one day? If two parties each have a deed bearing the same date, then the original owner must have fraudulently sold the property twice. In that case, the law holds that the parties divide the property (according to Rav), or else that the judges divide it at their discretion (according to Shmuel). Why not do the same in a case where neither party has any deed to show?

However, the Gemara rejects the analogy. In a case where both parties have a deed bearing the same date, it will not be possible for the court to clarify the matter. Because the deeds cancel one another out, no further information could ever be found to make the decision easier. (Even if a witness emerged saying that one deed was written a few hours earlier in the day, it might not make a difference, since according to some authorities the date is what governs the contract, not the time.) So the court might as well enforce a judgment based on its present knowledge.

But in a case where neither party can show a deed of sale, it is theoretically possible that at some time in the future, a document or a witness will emerge to prove one claim and refute the other. To make a judgment now, based on inadequate information, might mean committing an injustice. Better for the court to do nothing, the Talmud suggests, then to put an unjust decision on the record.


Adam Kirsch embarked on theDaf Yomicycle of daily Talmud study inAugust2012. To catch up on Tablets complete archive ofmore than four years ofcolumns,click here.

Adam Kirsch is the director of the MA program in Jewish Studies at Columbia University and the author, most recently, of The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature.

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Adam Kirsch – Tablet Magazine

Two arrested in car burglaries outside Dania beach synagogue – Sun Sentinel

Like any other Friday, Moshe Elbilia attended synagogue with his wife and kids, leaving his car parked there overnight, intending to pick it up once the Sabbath ended on Saturday evening.

But last month, Elbilia and at least seven other people returned to find each of their cars with the drivers side window smashed.

Its not something you expect to see, Elbilia said. Its not something pleasant.

The Broward Sheriffs Office on Tuesday announced two arrests in connection with the Feb. 3 car burglaries at 2615 Stirling Road, near Eliyahu Hanavi Beit Midrash synagogue in Dania Beach.

Jamal Meyers, 29, of Davie and Deneisha Bruce, 23, of Dania Beach, are facing charges related to the car burglaries and credit card fraud.

Investigators say someone, later identified as Meyers, broke into the cars that had been left parked overnight by members of the synagogue.

Elbilia said that during the Sabbath, he and other members walk home from the synagogue and pick up their cars the next day.

As a religious person, you dont drive on the Sabbath, Elbilia said. We [also] dont use cellphones [during the Sabbath], so we had to wait until Saturday night to call police.

Each car had been rummaged through, but only three had items missing, according to an incident report. Some of the items stolen were driver licenses, credit cards and GPS systems.

During the investigation, detectives discovered that Meyers used one of the victims credit cards at the Chevron gas station about an hour after the car burglaries.

On that same night, Bruce gave her name and address when she ordered $100 worth of food from a Pizza Hut using one of the stolen credit cards and had it delivered to her house, according to her arrest report.

The next morning, Bruce also tried to buy more than $500 worth of items from a Walmart with another one of the stolen cards. She was caught on surveillance video inside the Walmart, her arrest report said.

During the investigation, someone related to Meyers identified him to authorities, according to his arrest report.

After the two arrests, Investigators were able to return the stolen items back to their rightful owners, the sheriffs office said.

Bruce was released Saturday on a $3,100 bond, the sheriffs office said. Meyers is being held on a $7,400 bond at the Broward Main Jail.

rpiccardo@sun-sentinel.com, 954-356-4544 or Twitter @rebecapiccardo

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Two arrested in car burglaries outside Dania beach synagogue – Sun Sentinel