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Post  Admin on Thu 22 Oct 2015, 6:38 pm

3 Ways the Media Distort Attacks in Israel
And what you can do about it.
by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
When Israelis faced five separate stabbing attacks on Saturday
 Oct. 17, they were luckily able to fight off their attackers and defend themselves.

How did the world’s press report on these attacks? “Four More Palestinians Shot Dead on the Streets”. “Israelis Kill Four Palestinians”. “Palestinians Shot Dead in Alleged Knife Attacks”.

These headlines (from the Irish Independent, USA Today and Sky News respectively) are typical of much reporting when it comes to the Jewish state, portraying Israelis under attack as aggressors and glossing over (or omitting) details of the terrorism that Israelis are facing every day.

Here are three common media distortions we’re seeing in coverage of the current violent attacks in Israel and what you can do about them.

1. Upside-Down Reporting : Terrorists as Victims, Victims as Aggressors
It might seem unbelievable that people who arm themselves with knives, guns and meat cleavers and go out to murder Jews would be called victims but many news reports perversely insist on painting a picture of innocent Palestinian victims and Israelis as cold-blooded killers.
An Oct.17, 2015 headline in the British Telegraph newspaper announcing “Israeli security forces kill four more Palestinians as knife attacks continue” misleadingly make it seem as if an ongoing massacre is going on against Palestinians – not a wave of terror attacks against Israelis. An Oct. 19, USA Today insert carried by papers across the country reported “West Bank Bands Together: from making food to slingshots, Palestinians do what they can to fight Israel” – the take-away impression being that fighting Israelis is a noble pursuit, not the reality of shooting toddlers, stabbing children, and attacking Israelis viciously – targeting them only because they are Jews.

Pointing out the facts of recent terror attacks is one antidote to these upside-down news reports that invert aggressor and victim. That’s what NBC anchor Jose Diaz-Balart did recently during a live report. MSNBC/NBC correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin – reporting from Jerusalem – claimed that a would-be terrorist who’d been shot dead by police earlier was unarmed. Both of his hands were open and both of his hands did not have a knife.” But back in the studio, Mr. Diaz-Balart brought up a picture of the attacker, pointing out to viewers, “We can clearly see the man – with what appears to be, at least in his right hand, a knife.”

We don’t all have the influence of Mr. Diaz-Balart, but we can all learn how to counter bald-faced lies and distortion from him: pointing out the truth about attacks in reader feedback, letters to the editor, in blogs and social media – can take the air out of lies and distortions about Israel.

2. False Equivalence
Another slander that’s gaining traction about the Jewish state is that Israel is somehow culpable for the violence that’s roiling Palestinian society.

That was the assumption behind a recent CNN headline “More Die as Violence and Finger-Pointing Plague Israel, Palestinians.” The Oct. 18, 2015 headline came after the five failed terror attacks, and the day before the massive fatal attack in Beersheva’s Central Bus Station. Where was the violence on the part of the Israelis? Where the finger-pointing? Surely shooting an armed terrorist who is in the act of attacking isn’t the same sort of violence as carrying out the attack in the first place?
An Oct. 19 op-ed in The New York Times described an almost-unrecognizable Jerusalem, one in which mobs of Jews parade through the streets chanting “Death to Arabs”, in which Arabs are fearful of letting their children out of doors lest they be shot by murderous Israelis like “Jerusalem’s gun-wielding mayor.” This is a willful distortion.

This type of false equivalence has real consequences, convincing people that Israelis are some responsible for being stabbed, shot at, run over, attacked and murdered. It creates a climate in which Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking at Harvard on October 13, 2015 – the same day that three Israelis were murdered and twenty wounded in two separate attacks – could say both Israelis and Palestinians shared the blame for the violence. It desensitizes us to the fear and violence Israelis are experiencing. Sir Eric Pickles, Chairman of the Conservative Friends of Israel group in Britain, has called this desire to be balanced “pathological”.
One way to respond is to speak up: don’t be afraid to present a more nuanced, truthful version of events. Arm yourself with facts. Read Israeli news outlets, turn to websites such as www.honestreporting.com and www.camera.org for help.

3. Giving a Platform to Lies and Extremism
One striking feature of much Israel coverage is the extent to which extreme people, organizations and views are given air and print time.
CNN, in an Oct. 18 report, quoted Israeli officials about the five terror attacks the day before – then cast doubt on them, saying “But the official Palestinian version of events doesn’t always match the account given by Israeli authorities”. According to this alternate account, CNN reported, a Palestinian terrorist didn’t attempt to stab an Israeli; instead, the Palestinian was the victim, hunted down and shot in cold blood by an Israeli “settler”.
Who is this alternative source? According to CNN, it’s WAFA, the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency. But does WAFA deserve to be treated as a credible news source?

Based on translations of its Arabic news source, the answer is absolutely not. This is the news outlet that on December 30, 2014, called the two terrorists responsible for murdering five Israelis as they prayed in a Jerusalem synagogue “martyrs...who ascended (to Heaven).” In the current wave of violence, WAFA has consistently referred to terror attacks against Israeli civilians as military operations, praised those killed in attempting to carry out attacks as “martyrs” and misreported the deaths of terrorists killed in self-defense as they carried attacks as cold-blooded executions.
An Associated Press (AP) story on October 15, 2015 story about the roots of Palestinian rage: “East Jerusalem Palestinians at Center of Wave of Unrest” similarly relied on highly biased information sources. Quoting Ir Amim, “an advocacy group that promotes equality in the city”, the AP painted a dystopian vision of Jerusalem in which “Arab neighborhoods have potholed streets, overcrowded classrooms, and suffer from insufficient public services like water, sewage and garbage collection”.
But Ir Amim is hardly an unbiased source. Described by one of its own officials as promoting a political agenda rather than coexistence, the organization – funded by Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and EU – is extremist in its Israel-bashing and has called for the US to “sever diplomatic ties” with the Jewish State. A 2010 film series they funded was described at the time by the then-editor of the Jerusalem Post as “contain(ing) just about every imaginable one-sided, context-deficient, unbalanced misrepresentation of Israel rolled into one nasty package.”

In this climate we all have to be careful consumers of news. We must make an effort to question where our news sources are getting their information and evaluate whom they’re quoting. When you read extreme-sounding claims about Israel, take a moment to read about the source. Educate yourself about Israel and the news. Don’t be afraid to speak up. We all have a stake in making sure that distortions and lies about the Jewish state don’t go unchallenged.

With thanks to Honest Reporting for highlighting many of these and other examples of media bias against Israel.
Published: October 20, 2015

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The Spiritual Bystander Effect

Post  Admin on Wed 14 Oct 2015, 7:25 pm

The Spiritual Bystander Effect
The Jewish people needs your prayers.
by Sara Debbie Gutfreund

“Can you believe what’s going on in Israel?” my mother asked me when I called her in the middle of Sukkot. I felt my heart drop, my breath catch. I hadn’t been keeping up with the news at all. My house was full of guests; children running up and down the steps and trays of food going in and out of the sukkah. And I stopped myself from saying: Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. Because part of me really didn’t want to hear what had happened.

Just at that moment my youngest ran into the room and pulled on my skirt. “Ima, hold me.” He rubbed his eyes as I gathered him into my arms and quickly steered the phone call into a different direction. But after I said Shema with him and tucked him into bed, I forced myself to finally go into my office. I sat down at my desk and as the lively din of my guests echoed towards me from downstairs, I opened up the news. The headlines looked like nightmares, one after the other. A father and mother shot in their car while their children watched helplessly from their seats. A father murdered on his way to pray at the Wall. His wife stabbed. His two-year-old daughter shot in the leg. And the young man who came out of his apartment to help them killed too. I closed my eyes and heard someone calling my name from downstairs.

Do we have any hazelnut coffee left? Ima, where are you?” I looked down at the names of the wounded and I heard my name echoing from the kitchen a second time. A third time.

“Ima!” And then. “Does anyone know where Ima went?” I turned off my computer. I shut my office door. What can I do anyway? I thought to myself. I could pray, but everyone was praying for the victims, for the situation, for the nightmarish headlines that grew worse every day. Why would my prayer make a difference? I walked downstairs into the distracting relief of guests looking for coffee, of children finishing brownies and playing cards in the sukkah, of a life so very far away from the mounting fear that was rising on every street corner in Israel.
But as I searched through the cabinets for hazelnut coffee, my heart ached. For every Jew who had been hurt. For the innocent lives that had been so cruelly cut short. For the children who were now orphans. For the parents and siblings and friends torn apart by grief. For the fear that was weaving its way through our beloved Land.
Over the next few days, there were emails and text messages on my phone – to say Psalms, to gather in prayer for Israel. And the headlines continued to pour in. More stabbing attacks. Tel Aviv. Afula. Jerusalem. Streets I had walked so many times with my children. Places that I had always considered safe now covered in blood. But I can’t do anything, I thought again to myself. I don’t live there. And there is so much to do right now. I can’t think about it now.
But everything that I did felt like it was covered by a gray shadow. The trips we went on. The food that I was cooking. And everything felt so much heavier, so caught beneath a murky unexpressed grief, because I wasn’t even praying. I was relying on someone else to set aside the time. Say the words. Plead for help. And then suddenly, I thought about the bystander effect, when everyone assumes that someone else will help. Someone else will call the fire department. Someone else will get the police. Someone else will help the lost child. And as I was picking up one of my fallen sukkah decorations, which happened to be a mirrored circle with the words: “Save Your nation and bless Your inheritance,” I saw my reflection. And I held that mirror in my hands, watching my tears like raindrops from above. And then I placed it carefully on the table, closed my eyes and began to pray.
That’s when I understood that the bystander effect doesn’t just happen in the physical realm. It happens to us spiritually too. We forget that each one of our prayers count. We forget that each of our tears help. We forget how very much every single Jew, every single one of us, is needed. There is something you can do. You can pray. And there is no prayer that is like your prayer. No tears are like your tears. The Jewish nation desperately needs you now. And no one else’s words or prayers can take your place.
It doesn’t matter where we live. Praying for, defending and supporting Israel is imperative for every Jew. Donate money to help the victims. Speak up against the outrage of Israel portrayed as an aggressor while our people are attacked on every street corner. The headlines keep pouring in. Don’t stand by while another Jew suffers. Speak now. Act now. Pray now. Don’t be a spiritual bystander.
Israel needs every single Jew to help, to pray, to care. “Save Your nation and bless Your inheritance.” Take the mirror and see the person who the Jewish nation cannot live without. It’s you.
Names to Pray For
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Published: October 12, 2015

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Post  Admin on Wed 07 Oct 2015, 9:51 pm

The Murder of a Hero
by Sara Yoheved Rigler
In trying to save a life, Rabbi Nehemia Lavi paid with his life
Rabbi Nehemia Lavi, 41, was celebrating the Third Meal of Shabbat with his wife and seven children in their rooftop sukkah above their Jerusalem Old City apartment. Rabbi Lavi related a teaching of the Vilna Gaon that there are two mitzvot that a man can fulfill with his whole body: Living in the Land of Israel and sitting in a sukkah. (Women, who are commanded to immerse in a mikvah, have three whole-body mitzvot.) He remarked to his family that they are, at that moment, fulfilling both these mitzvot. Suddenly they heard a woman screaming. Rabbi Lavi, an officer in the I.D.F. Reserves, grabbed his gun and ran downstairs to save her. As Israel’s Chief Rabbi would say at Nehemia Lavi’s funeral, he thus was fulfilling a third mitzvah with his whole body.
The Arab terrorist, who had already murdered 22-year-old Aaron Banito Bennet and seriously wounded his young wife Adelle, killed Rabbi Lavi by repeatedly stabbing him in the chest and neck. Then he took the rabbi’s gun and shot the Bennets’ toddler in the leg. Adelle, with a knife in her shoulder, managed to run to an Israeli police outpost fifty meters away before losing consciousness. The police neutralized the terrorist..
Nehemia Lavi was a lover of Jerusalem’s walled Old City. Although he grew up in Beit El, a town 33 kilometers outside Jerusalem, Nehemia moved to the Old City 23 years ago, as a yeshiva student at Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim. He became an educator. He taught young men at the yeshiva and children at the Moriah Talmud Torah in the Jewish Quarter.
He was also a lover of the Land of Israel. He took a tour guide course and became a certified guide, not because he was seeking another vocation, but just because he wanted to learn everything about the Land of Israel.
Rabbi Lavi had zeal to serve. As a combat soldier in the I.D.F. and then the Reserves, he was regularly called up for reserve duty. Disappointed that after turning 40 he would no longer be called up, he took a chaplain's training course so that he could continue to serve in the Reserves as an officer. He finished the course just 2 weeks ago.
In the Muslim Quarter
Some twenty years ago, Nehemia and his wife Netta moved into Beit Witenberg on HaGai Street in the Muslim Quarter. This large complex had been purchased by Rabbi Moshe Witenberg, a wealthy Eastern European Jew, in the 1880s. Rabbi Witenberg used part of the building to construct a magnificent Chabad synagogue with an extensive library, rented out twenty apartments, and used much of the building for his charitable institutions. Rabbi Witenberg died childless in 1899, after insuring with the Turkish authorities that the property would be consecrated as a charitable foundation and remain in Jewish hands. In 1920, Arab rioters attacked the Witenberg complex, burned down the synagogue, including its many Torah scrolls and priceless Chabad manuscripts, and looted and destroyed the apartments.
Although the original residents were afraid to return to Beit Witenberg after it was reconstructed, Jewish immigrants from Hungary moved in. They stayed there until driven out by the Arab riots of 1929, in which 133 Jews in the so-called “Muslim Quarter” were murdered. (An official census conducted by the British Mandate government in 1922 had found that the majority of residents of the “Muslim Quarter” were Jews.) In the wake of the Arab riots of 1929 and 1936, the “Muslim Quarter,” including its many Jewish-owned properties, became Judenrein.
After Israeli forces liberated the Old City from Jordanian rule in the Six Day War of 1967, Jews slowly returned to the Jewish Quarter. Reclaiming Jewish properties in the Muslim Quarter, however, was much harder. It took many years of legal action, much money, and the dedicated efforts of Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim to return scores of properties to Jewish hands. Finally, in 1987, a mezuzah was once again affixed to the entrance of the Witenberg complex.
Despite the danger of living in the Muslim Quarter, Nehemia Lavi and his family moved into Beit Witenberg on Hagai Street twenty years ago. His apartment there was both a home and a statement that Jews would not be intimidated by Arab violence from reclaiming their ancestral homeland or even this one, small, holy part of it.
The Number 18 Bus
Nehemia Lavi understood that courage, like fear, is contagious. The act that best reveals his bravery took place in 1996. At 6:30 in the morning of February 25, Jerusalem’s #18 bus was filled with people on their way to work. A suicide bomber boarded the bus and blew himself up, killing 26 people. Exactly one week later, at the same hour on the same #18 bus route, another suicide bomber blew up the bus, killing 19 people. Exactly one week after that, at the same hour, knowing how scared the driver and passengers would be, 22-year-old Nehemia Lavi, carrying a large Israeli flag, got on the #18 bus at the beginning of its route. With encouraging words and the blue-and-white flag of the Jewish nation, Nehemia instilled courage into the driver and passengers. He rode the bus until its last stop and then back the whole route in the other direction. It was a statement: We Jews will not submit to fear.
Nehemia Lavi understood that courage, like fear, is contagious.
Courage, like fear, is contagious. At Nehemia Lavi’s funeral this past Sunday, they announced that after the conclusion of the Simchat Torah holiday, “Second Hakafot,” dancing with the Torah as on Simchat Torah, but with the rousing accompaniment of a band, would take place on Hagai Street in the Muslim Quarter, at the very place where Nehemia Lavi and Aaron Banito Bennet had been murdered. The square has been renamed, “Nehemia and Aaron Square.”
Hundreds of Jews poured to the site. As the band played, Am Yisrael Chai (“The Jewish Nation Lives”), on the cobblestones recently cleansed of Jewish blood, hundreds of Jews danced with Torah scrolls in their hands and courage in their hearts.
The following day, rabbis started holding Torah classes at Nehemia and Aaron Square. Member of Knesset Mutty Yogez moved his official office to the Square. And the youths whose classmates from the Lavi family are now fatherless are sitting there on Haggai Street learning Torah and singing songs of Jewish faith and fortitude.
All of these are a statement: We Jews will not submit to fear. 

Our brother Nehemia, this is the courage you taught all of us by your brave example. Your courage is contagious.

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Post  Admin on Tue 18 Aug 2015, 8:25 pm

ABC's of Elul
The last month of the Jewish calendar is actually the most important – serving as preparation for the High Holidays.
by Rabbi Shraga Simmons

If you had an important court date scheduled – one that would determine your financial future, or even your very life – you'd be sure to prepare for weeks beforehand.
On Rosh Hashanah, each individual is judged on the merit of his deeds. Whether he will live out the year or not. Whether he will have financial success or ruin. Whether he will be healthy or ill. All of these are determined on Rosh Hashanah.

Elul – the month preceding Rosh Hashanah – begins a period of intensive introspection, of clarifying life's goals, and of coming closer to God. It is a time for realizing purpose in life – rather than perfunctorily going through the motions of living by amassing money and seeking gratification. It is a time when we step back and look at ourselves critically and honestly, as Jews have from time immemorial, with the intention of improving.

The four Hebrew letters of the word Elul (aleph-lamed-vav-lamed) are the first letters of the four words Ani l'dodi v'dodi lee – "I am to my Beloved and my Beloved is to me" (Song of Songs 6:3). These words sum up the relationship between God and His people.
In other words, the month preceding Rosh Hashanah is a time when God reaches out to us, in an effort to create a more spiritually-inspiring atmosphere, one that stimulates teshuva.

Beginning on Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah, we recite "Slichot", a special series of prayers that invoke God's mercy. If Rosh Hashanah falls at the beginning of the week, then "Slichot" begin on the Saturday night of the previous week. (Sefardim begin saying "Slichot" on Rosh Chodesh Elul.)
After the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses asked God to explain His system for relating with the world. God's answer, known as the "13 Attributes of Mercy," forms the essence of the "Slichot" prayers. The "13 Attributes" speak of "God's patience." The same God Who created us with a clean slate and a world of opportunity, gives us another opportunity if we've misused the first one.
"Slichot" should be said with a minyan. If this is not possible, then "Slichot" should still be said alone, omitting the parts in Aramaic and the "13 Attributes of Mercy."

Finally, the most important aspect of Elul is to make a plan for your life. Because when the Big Day comes, and each individual stands before the Almighty to ask for another year, we'll want to know what we're asking for!

Additions to the Services
Beginning the second day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, it is the Ashkenazi custom to blow the shofar every morning after prayers, in order to awaken us for the coming Day of Judgement. The shofar's wailing sound inspires us to use the opportunity of Elul to its fullest.
Also beginning in Elul, we say Psalm 27 in the morning and evening services. (Sefardim say it in the morning and afternoon services.) In this Psalm, King David exclaims: "One thing I ask... is to dwell in the house of God all the days of my life." we focus on the unifying force of God in our lives, and strive to increase our connection to the infinite transcendent dimension.

40-Day Period
Rewind 3,000 years to the Sinai Desert. God has spoken the Ten Commandments, and the Jews have built the Golden Calf. Moses desperately pleads with God to spare the nation.
On the first day of Elul, Moses ascends Mount Sinai, and 40 days later – on the seminal Yom Kippur – he returned to the people, with a new, second set of stone tablets in hand.
For us as well, the month of Elul begins a 40-day period that culminates in the year's holiest day, Yom Kippur.
Why 40? Forty is a number of cleansing and purification. Noah's Flood rains lasted 40 days, and the mikveh – the ritual purification bath – contains 40 measures of water.
Elul is an enormous opportunity. During this time, many people increase their study of Torah and performance of good deeds. And many also do a daily cheshbon – an accounting of spiritual profit and loss.

Events of the Year 2448
Many of the Jewish holidays are based on the events of one crucial year in Jewish history – 2448, or 1312 BCE.
About 3,300 years ago, in the Jewish year 2448, the Jewish people were freed from slavery in Egypt – following the plague of the First Born. The date was the 15th of Nissan, the first Passover celebration.
One week later, with the Egyptian troops in full chase, the Red Sea split – and the Jewish people walked through on dry land. This occurred on the seventh and final day of the Passover holiday.

Ten Commandments and Mount Sinai – Fifty days later, on the holiday of Shavuot, God gave the Ten Commandments to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai. At Sinai, the Jews regained the immortal level of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Moses' First Ascent – Following the revelation, Moses went up Mount Sinai to learn more details of the Torah directly from God. At the end of 40 days, God handed Moses two sapphire tablets of identical shape and size – upon which the Ten Commandments were engraved.

The Golden Calf – On the 16th of Tammuz, when Moses had not yet returned from the mountain, the Jewish people began to panic. They sought a new "leader" and built the Golden Calf. Immediately, the Clouds of Glory – the divine protection of God – departed. The Jews had relinquished their spiritual greatness and become mortal again. On the 17th of Tammuz, Moses came down from the mountain, smashed the Tablets, destroyed the Calf, and punished the transgressors.

Moses' Second Ascent - On the 19th of Tammuz, Moses ascended Mount Sinai again to plead for the lives of the Jewish people. He prayed with great intensity, and after 40 days, God agreed to spare the Jewish people in the merit of their forefathers. On the last day of Av, Moses returned to the people. Their lives were spared, but the sin was not yet forgiven.

Moses' Third and Final Ascent – Moses ascended Mount Sinai on Rosh Chodesh Elul and stayed in the heavenly camp for 40 days (bringing the total number of days spent there to 120). Henceforth, the month of Elul became a special time for drawing close to God. At the end of the 40 days – on the 10th of Tishrei – God agreed to mete out the punishment for the Golden Calf over many generations. He then gave Moses a new, second set of Tablets.

Moses came down from the mountain with good news for the people: The reunification was complete, and the relationship restored. Thereafter, the 10th of Tishrei was designated as a day of forgiveness for all future generations: Yom Kippur, the 

Day of Atonement.
Midrashic Sources: Exodus Rabba 32:7, 51:8; Tanchuma - Ki Tisa 35

Recommended Reading
Rabbeinu Yitchak Abohav writes in "Menoras HaMeor":
Any intelligent person who is scheduled for trial before a mortal king will surely spend sleepless nights and days preparing his case. He will seek the advice of every knowledgeable person he knows who can help him prepare his case. He will go to great lengths to attain a favorable verdict, even if all that is at stake is but a small part of his fortune, and he faces no personal risk.
Should he not do so as well when brought to judgment before the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy Blessed One, when not only he, but his children and his fortune all hang in the balance?
With this in mind, here is some suggested reading for the High Holidays.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Survival Kit (Shimon Apisdorf, Leviathan Press) – The award-winning guide to getting more meaning out of the High Holidays. With humor and sophistication, this book offers invaluable insight to the significance of the holidays and prayers. User-friendly format.

ArtScroll Machzor – The most complete and well organized prayer book on the market today. Includes full English/Hebrew text of all prayers, plus explanations, laws and customs. Features a masterful essay on the essence of the High Holidays. Separate volumes for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

The Book of Our Heritage (Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, Feldheim) – A thorough review of the Jewish calendar. Includes month-by-month explanations of all the holidays, laws and customs throughout the Jewish year. A classic.
Published: May 21, 2002

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Post  Admin on Fri 31 Jul 2015, 3:52 pm

Atticus Finch and Fallen Heroes
If we stop believing in heroes there’s no hope for us ever to become like them.
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech         
Atticus Finch is a racist.
That’s what we now learn from Harper Lee’s just released prequel to her Pulitzer prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Already breaking all sales records for a newly released book 54 years after Harper Lee introduced us to Atticus in a classic that became one of the best-selling books ever published, we now are shattered to learn that the hero who captured our hearts never truly deserved our respect and admiration.

Go Set a Watchman reveals that the courageous lawyer portrayed by Gregory Peck in the famous film based on the novel wasn’t really a civil rights champion after all. He too was tainted by the prejudices of his world and the bigotry of his society.
This revelation mirrors a greater contemporary tragedy.

For more than half a century, students in schools across the country read the story of Atticus Finch and his courageous courtroom battle. They were introduced to idealism, to heroism, to fearless bravery in order to uphold a personal sense of ethical morality. And the story served its purpose well. It was inspiring. By personal account, it motivated countless youngsters to identify with pursuing principled values against unjust societal norms. Yes, we taught our children, life has its heroes who challenge us to emulate them.
Fallen heroes have become the supposed new norm.
But today’s youth are confronted with the countless examples of fallen heroes for whom Atticus Finch may well represent a perfect paradigm.
Greek tragedy was predicated on the fall of the truly mighty and powerful. Today’s fallen idols fell from lower platforms of fame and public adoration, but the results are no less devastating.

Who can forget how Bill Cosby parlayed Cliff Huxtable into the ideal father all Americans wished they had – and then turned his ostensible moral code into the widely successful book Fatherhood. Bill Cosby was honored with the Presidential Medal Of Freedom. A generation looked up to him. Today his reputation as a reputed rapist has turned him into a pariah.
Remember how long Lance Armstrong was worshiped for his unequaled athletic prowess until, after years of denial on his part, we learned of his illegal drug use and cheating. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire broke baseball records, until we found out they could only do it by breaking the law. Heroes all – until they weren’t any longer.
Politicians are discovered to have served their personal desire for wealth far more than their constituents and jailed for corruption. Corporations have knowingly kept dangerous products on the market in order to increase their profits. And alas, even spiritual leaders have been found to be guilty of crimes totally contrary to their supposedly religious beliefs.
Indeed, there have always been fallen angels. What makes today different is the power of the media, the Internet, the blogs and websites to publicize these failings to a degree never known before. And perhaps the greatest tragedy is that fallen heroes have become the supposed new norm. They are no longer seen by today’s generation as aberrations; they are merely illustrations of reality.

We need to remember the world is still filled with heroes in spite of its villains.
Speak to young people and they will tell you that almost everyone is a fraud. Heroes don’t really exist. They are just phonies waiting to be uncovered. Lawyers are liars, businessmen are thieves, politicians are crooks and clergy are bogus.
We have fallen for the idea that there are no heroes. In his first inaugural address, Ronald Reagan put it well when he famously said, “Those who say that we're in a time when there are no heroes, they just don't know where to look.”
We need to desperately replace our fascination with humanity’s flaws with the recognition of everyday acts of human greatness. They appear all around us every moment of every day. They are made clear by the sacrifices of parents, the goodness of friends, the kindness of strangers, the strength of character, the nobility and the courage of so many of those with whom we interact all the days of our lives.
We need to remember the world is still filled with heroes in spite of its villains. Because if we stop believing in heroes there’s no hope for us ever to become like them.
Published: July 27, 2015

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Post  Admin on Tue 21 Jul 2015, 3:37 pm

[INFOGRAPHIC] 7 Dangers to Israel
by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
The State of Israel, founded in 1948, is besieged today more than ever.

7 Dangers to Israel
The State of Israel, founded in 1948, is besieged today more than ever.
by Shraga Simmons

1. Iran
70 years after the Holocaust, little did the Jewish people imagine that nuclear
weapons could be soon in the hands of fanatical tyrants who boast that "the
destruction of Israel is non-negotiable."*
*General Mohammad Reza Naqdi, Iranian Revolutionary Guards, March 2015

2. Hamas
The Arab terror group – sworn to Israel's destruction* – has unleashed a wave
of suicide bombings, kidnappings, cross-border tunnels. In the decade since
Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, Hamas has launched four large-scale rocket
wars, most recently in 2014.
Funding: Qatar* and Iran*
*Hamas Charter; NPR – June 18, 2015; Telegraph (UK) – April 4, 2015

3. Hezbollah
The de facto ruling force in southern Lebanon, Hezbollah vows to destroy Israel
and has built a vast underground network of tunnels and bunkers, equipped
with 100,000 missiles aimed at the length and breadth of Israel.*
Funding: Iran* and Venezuela*
*Wall Street Journal – Jan. 2, 2014; New York Times – April 3, 2015; CNN – June 3, 2013

4. United Nations
Founded to bring unity and peace to the world, the United Nations has
descended into a center of anti-Semitism, where 30% of UN General Assembly
resolutions target the State of Israel. The UN Human Rights Council has
condemned the Jewish State more than the other 192 nations combined.

5. Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions
The BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) movement accuses Israel of
apartheid and seeks to turn it into a pariah state. Israeli artists, academics, and
businesses are routinely targets of protest.

6. Disunity
The destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, a cataclysmic event in Jewish
history, was due to infighting among Jews. Despite disagreements, the pursuit
of national destiny requires that we respect and value the Jewish heart that
binds us as one family. 

7. Assimilation
Comprehensive studies of Diaspora Jewry reveal a dilution of Jewish identity,
resulting in apathy and disengagement amongst millions of Jews and
weakening attachment to the Jewish State. Meaningful Jewish education and
experiences are crucial to reversing this trend.

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Post  Admin on Thu 16 Jul 2015, 11:05 am

Omar Sharif died last week.
For those of us old enough to remember, Sharif was a cinema idol, a smolderingly handsome Egyptian leading man of the 1960s embraced by Hollywood and catapulted into international prominence – as well as Oscar contention – for his role in Lawrence of Arabia. Success followed success and his fame became further cemented by his starring role in yet another sweeping historical epic, Dr. Zhivago.

Sharif had more than 100 films to his credit. He won three Golden Globe awards. In his personal life he was married to Egyptian cinema’s reigning screen beauty and together they were acknowledged as the glamour couple of their generation.

Yet in spite of all this the matinee idol almost overnight was transformed from superstar to villain, from celebrity to pariah. His crime was something that could not be forgiven. Because of it his films were banned in his homeland as well as many other Arab countries. His sin? Sharif shared an on-screen romance with Barbra Streisand in the 1968 movie, Funny Girl. And Barbra of course is a Jew.
Sharif’s death brings back to mind a kind of irrational hatred that would seem to be impossible of finding a parallel in our 
more enlightened times. And yet it was but a few months ago that we were exposed to an eerily similar illustration of bigotry which transcends any civilized norms of behavior.

It was a selfie photo by the Israeli contestant in the Miss Universe contest in Florida this year which started it. Miss Israel, Doron Matalon, wanted a souvenir and so she took a picture of herself which included several others standing alongside. One of them unfortunately happened to be Miss Lebanon. On January 11, Matalon posted the picture with the gleeful caption, “good morning from us.” And that’s when the fireworks began.

The Arab world was incensed.

After an avalanche of criticism from within the Arab world, which frowns on contact with Israel, Miss Lebanon, Saly Greige, issued a stunning repudiation of the image and even claimed to have been avoiding Miss Israel throughout the competition.

“The truth behind the photo,” she claimed was that “since the first day of my arrival to participate to Miss Universe, I was very cautious to avoid being in any photo or communication with Miss Israel (that tried several times to have a photo with me) … I was having a photo with Miss Japan, Miss Slovenia and myself; suddenly Miss Israel jumped in, took a selfie, and put it on her social media…this is what happened and I hope to have your full support in the Miss Universe contest.”

Translation: There is no way in the world I would ever have anything to do with a Jew so please don’t ostracize me for committing an unforgivable transgression. I swear I hate Jews just as much as you do. So please support me in achieving my goal in being named the most beautiful woman in the universe.

And this wasn’t the first time that Jew hatred affected the Miss Universe competition. In 2002, Miss Lebanon Christina Sawaya refused to join the competition because Miss Israel Yamit Har-Noy was also competing.
It is sad beyond words that Omar Sharif was boycotted more than half a century ago simply because of his relationship with a Jew. Sadder still is the realization that the unwillingness of much of the Arab world to this day to acknowledge the possibility for human contact and perhaps even friendship across racial and religious divides still defines contemporary reality.
As the world mourns the death of Omar Sharif, perhaps it might take a moment to reflect on the irony that the cause of the boycott directed against him lives on in the continuing efforts of those who similarly seek to isolate present day Israelis and Jews.

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Post  Admin on Fri 19 Jun 2015, 3:36 pm

In Constant MotionMom with a ViewIn Constant Motion
I need to learn how to slow down.
by Emuna Braverman         

Have you ever had one of those days? You know the kind I mean – where you schedule in a million things so you end up being late for all of them, where you are running, running, running, being productive and yet overwhelmed and you forget to eat (actually that part has never happened; I have never in my life forgotten to eat!) and you’re frantic and famished and stretched to the maximum and by the time the end of the day finally arrives you are too tired to even speak?

I had one of those days today. Then I realized something – I have one of those every day! From the moment I wake up and push my “on” button, I keep going, going, going until the battery finally dies. I seem to be on either high or off; I can find my medium mode. Even if I go on vacation, I keep running, guide book in hand. Lying on a beautiful beach? I’m afraid I’d get bored. So I keep going.

But I can’t keep up the pace I once did (yes I recently wrote about my friends turning 60 and I am not far behind) and I’m starting to wonder if I should pull back, if I’m pushing too hard, if it’s healthy to move at this pace or if I would benefit from slowing it down, from coming up for air, for a little breathing space. All this frantic rushing around can’t be good for me – physically, spiritually or emotionally.

It’s so hard to stop, to say no, to move at a more leisurely pace. It threatens my whole sense of self (who am I if I am not in constant motion?) and yet…and yet…I think that is where the next step in growth my life. I always say about my children that I can’t stop the overachievers, I can’t sell them on an A instead of an A++ and I can’t light a fire under the kids who aren’t motivated; I can’t make them care.

But does that mean I can’t change myself? Doesn’t that mean I’m stuck on one speed for the rest of my life (barring illness, God forbid)? It can’t be. A fundamental tenet of Judaism is that change is ALWAYS possible. It is never too late. If we stop changing, we stop growing. If we stop growing, we stop living.

There are different ways of growing – and they certainly don’t all involve doing more, more and then some more. Some of us grow by saying no, by slowing things down, by stopping to look around and savor the beauty in our world and the gifts in our lives.

I can’t change my children, I can’t slow them down or speed them up because they are unique individuals with their own ability to exercise their free will and make choices. I can’t change them but I can change myself. I just have to decide I really want it. I have to decide that life on the merry-go-round is wearing me out and that in the end is counterproductive. It’s a tough choice. It’s a fine line. It’s a matter of subtleties and nuances, of introspection and self-awareness.

But if you’ve ever had one of those days – or, if like me, all days are “one of those days” – there’s no other option. I have to make a change. I have to catch my breath. I’ll begin tomorrow; I have too much to take care of today!
Published: June 13, 2015

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Post  Admin on Fri 19 Jun 2015, 3:26 pm

Marijuana and Jewish Joy
Do Jews like being happy?
by Rabbi Gavriel Horan

The National Geographic’s recent article, “High Science,” about the new science of marijuana, features Israeli scientist, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, who was the first to identify marijuana’s psychedelic properties. He named the neurotransmitter that binds to the same receptor in the brain as THC, Anandamide, after the Sanskrit word for supreme joy, ananda. When asked by National Geographic why he didn’t choose a Hebrew word for joy instead, he replied, “In Hebrew there are not so many words for happiness. Jews don’t like being happy.”

The good doctor could not have been more wrong.

You can learn a lot about a culture by its language. In Eskimo dialect there are numerous words for different types of snow. They are surrounded by snow and understand all the different subtle nuances between the different types of precipitation.

Classical Hebrew actually has over a dozen different words for happiness. The Talmudic sources list ten different Hebrew words for joy – there’s ecstatic joy, songful joy, surprising joy and so on (Avos d’Rebbe Nossan 34). In fact, there are so many different words for joy that it can be said that Judaism is centered around joy, as the Eskimos’ lives are centered on snow. Whether it’s celebrating life events, from births and circumcisions to bar mitzvahs and weddings, to the Sabbath and holidays, to blessings of gratitude on mundane daily activities like eating a piece of fruit or even going to the bathroom, attaining happiness is a priority in Jewish life.

Jewish Joy
he Talmud teaches that the Divine Presence only rests upon someone in a state of joy (Shabbos, 30b). “Serve God with gladness,” the Psalmist enjoins us, "come before Him with joyful song" (Psalms, 100:2). “It is a great mitzvah (commandment) to be in a state of joy always,” Rebbe Nachman of Breslav says (Likkutei Maharan, 2:24).
More recently, Professor Tal Ben-Shahar, one of the leaders in the field of Positive Psychology, author of the book “Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment,” and the instructor of the most popular course in the history of Harvard University, explained that “many of the ideas ‘discovered’ by modern psychologists, had actually been present for thousands of years in traditional Jewish sources.”

Getting High
What about Mechoulam’s naming of the brain’s marijuana-like neurotransmitter after a word for joy in the first place? Does marijuana lead to a state of joy? Does getting high lead to happiness?
Every high eventually goes away and is followed by a low. The low is really just a return to your normal state of consciousness, but in contrast to the high, everyday life suddenly feels like a low. This conundrum can propel the infrequent recreational user to want to get high more often to avoid the lows, creating a vicious cycle that can lead to the need for more drugs to reach the same high, laying the seeds for addictive behavior.

According to Judaism a marijuana high might smell like joy, but there’s nothing genuinely joyful about it.
The most commonly used word for joy in Hebrew is simcha. Simcha shares the same linguistic root as the word tzemach - or growth. In Judaism joy and growth are inextricably intertwined. Joy takes work. It’s the feeling that you get when you work hard at something and succeed. It is the pleasure of having reached the top of an arduous peak. You can look back at the long journey and bask in the pleasure of your accomplishment. That is true joy.

We often think that pleasure and pain are opposites, and therefore seek out all sorts of ways to achieve pleasure without pain. In reality pain is the gateway to pleasure. No pain, no gain. The more effort we exert, the more we can enjoy the fruit of our labor. When we look for all sorts of shortcuts to find pleasure without effort or pain, we end up with empty highs that lack true depth and meaning. They may look like joy, but they fade away as quickly as they came and we end up worse off than when we started.

Natural Highs
Life is full of natural highs. We all have moments of inspiration that give us energy and vision to continue along a certain trajectory in life. Natural highs may include milestone life events such as graduations, weddings, births, as well as experiences like climbing a mountain, travelling to an exotic place, meeting an amazing person or watching an incredible sunset. But life isn’t about running after inspiration. Inspiration is free. It comes and goes easily.

One of my friends recently had a brush with death. He was miraculously saved from a head on collision on a major three lane highway, and he was ecstatic to have another day on earth. 

Suddenly, he experienced joy from every little thing, no matter how small or unpleasant. Seeing his kids fight, taking out the garbage, and watching the wind blow through the trees outside his house made him dance with joy. He was so happy to be alive that everything was amazing. He told me that he hoped his new state of consciousness would last forever.

Unfortunately it didn’t. After a few days, the miracle of life became business as unusual. The only way to hold on to the inspiration is by using it as an impetus to change your life by putting it into an action – no matter how small.

Everyone gets inspired. The key is what you do with the inspiration. If we find ways to integrate the inspiring moments into our very being so that they change us for the better, the high can actually last forever. That’s real growth and leads to true, long-lasting happiness.

My advice: burn off your marijuana high with some hard-earned Jewish joy.
Published: June 13, 2015

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Post  Admin on Tue 16 Jun 2015, 12:34 pm

The Debate over Jewish Achievement
As a non-Jew, I’m fascinated that a people which constitute less than 1% of the world’s population has made such enormous contributions to humanity.
by Steven L. Pease         
Jews have been part of my life in kindergarten, at Harvard Business School, and throughout my professional career. It was from those experiences that I developed the notion that Jews are the world’s most disproportionate high achievers.

A decade ago I began intensive research to test out the hypothesis. Now, after writing The Golden Age of Jewish Achievement, speaking on the subject, being interviewed on radio and TV, and soliciting criticisms and arguments to disprove the statement, I have come to believe it is simply true.

As a non-Jew, I am fascinated by the fact that a people which constitute 2/10ths of 1 percent of the world’s population and 2 percent of the U.S. population, has made such enormous contributions to the betterment of humanity.
To cite some examples: In hi-tech entrepreneurship, Jewish names include: Intel (Grove and Vadasz), Google (Brin and Page), Oracle (Ellison), Microsoft (Balmer), Dell (Dell), Qualcom (Jacobs), Facebook (Zuckerberg and Sandberg).

In finance, the names are legion: Goldman Sachs, Rothschild, Warburg, Kohlberg, Kravis & Roberts, Wells Fargo, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and many more.

As World Chess champions, Jews have held the title 54% of the time since 1866.
In the 113th United States Congress (2013-2015), Jews were elected to 11 percent of U.S. Senate seats.
Jews account for three of the nine Supreme Court Justices.

More examples:

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Post  Admin on Mon 08 Jun 2015, 10:54 am

Sheryl Sandberg and Shloshim
Bringing the ideas of Jewish mourning into the national spotlight.
by Aish.com staff         
The unexpected death of tech leader Dave Goldberg – husband of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg – has brought the ideas of Jewish mourning into the national spotlight.
As the 30-day mourning period ("Shloshim") concluded, Sandberg shared her thoughts with millions of people. Publicizing Judaism's sensitive and wise mourning practices constitutes a "Kiddush Hashem" – sanctification of God's Name – that serves as a merit for the dearly departed.

Excerpts from Sandberg's post:
Today is the end of sheloshim for my beloved husband – the first thirty days. Judaism calls for a period of intense mourning known as shiva that lasts seven days after a loved one is buried. After shiva, most normal activities can be resumed, but it is the end of sheloshim that marks the completion of religious mourning for a spouse.

A childhood friend of mine who is now a rabbi recently told me that the most powerful one-line prayer he has ever read is: “Let me not die while I am still alive.” I would have never understood that prayer before losing Dave. Now I do.
I think when tragedy occurs, it presents a choice. You can give in to the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even breathe. Or you can try to find meaning. These past thirty days, I have spent many of my moments lost in that void. And I know that many future moments will be consumed by the vast emptiness as well.

But when I can, I want to choose life and meaning.

And this is why I am writing: to mark the end of sheloshim and to give back some of what others have given to me...

I have learned that I never really knew what to say to others in need. I think I got this all wrong before; I tried to assure people that it would be okay, thinking that hope was the most comforting thing I could offer. A friend of mine with late-stage cancer told me that the worst thing people could say to him was “It is going to be okay.” That voice in his head would scream, How do you know it is going to be okay? Do you not understand that I might die? I learned this past month what he was trying to teach me.

Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not. When people say to me, “You and your children will find happiness again,” my heart tells me, Yes, I believe that, but I know I will never feel pure joy again. Those who have said, “You will find a new normal, but it will never be as good” comfort me more because they know and speak the truth. Even a simple “How are you?” – almost always asked with the best of intentions – is better replaced with “How are you today?” When I am asked “How are you?” I stop myself from shouting, My husband died a month ago, how do you think I am? When I hear “How are you today?” I realize the person knows that the best I can do right now is to get through each day.

I have learned some practical stuff that matters. Although we now know that Dave died immediately, I didn’t know that in the ambulance. The trip to the hospital was unbearably slow. I still hate every car that did not move to the side, every person who cared more about arriving at their destination a few minutes earlier than making room for us to pass. I have noticed this while driving in many countries and cities. Let’s all move out of the way. Someone’s parent or partner or child might depend on it.
I have learned how ephemeral everything can feel – and maybe everything is. That whatever rug you are standing on can be pulled right out from under you with absolutely no warning. In the last thirty days, I have heard from too many women who lost a spouse and then had multiple rugs pulled out from under them. Some lack support networks and struggle alone as they face emotional distress and financial insecurity. It seems so wrong to me that we abandon these women and their families when they are in greatest need.

I have learned to ask for help – and I have learned how much help I need. Until now, I have been the older sister, the COO, the doer and the planner. I did not plan this, and when it happened, I was not capable of doing much of anything. Those closest to me took over. They planned. They arranged. They told me where to sit and reminded me to eat. They are still doing so much to support me and my children...

For me, starting the transition back to work has been a savior, a chance to feel useful and connected. But I quickly discovered that even those connections had changed. Many of my co-workers had a look of fear in their eyes as I approached. I knew why – they wanted to help but weren’t sure how. Should I mention it? Should I not mention it? If I mention it, what the hell do I say? I realized that to restore that closeness with my colleagues that has always been so important to me, I needed to let them in. And that meant being more open and vulnerable than I ever wanted to be. I told those I work with most closely that they could ask me their honest questions and I would answer. I also said it was okay for them to talk about how they felt. One colleague admitted she’d been driving by my house frequently, not sure if she should come in. Another said he was paralyzed when I was around, worried he might say the wrong thing. Speaking openly replaced the fear of doing and saying the wrong thing. One of my favorite cartoons of all time has an elephant in a room answering the phone, saying, “It’s the elephant.” Once I addressed the elephant, we were able to kick him out of the room.

At the same time, there are moments when I can’t let people in. I went to Portfolio Night at school where kids show their parents around the classroom to look at their work hung on the walls. So many of the parents – all of whom have been so kind – tried to make eye contact or say something they thought would be comforting. I looked down the entire time so no one could catch my eye for fear of breaking down. I hope they understood.
Further reading: ABCs of Death & Mourning

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Post  Admin on Fri 05 Jun 2015, 9:52 pm

Studies show that giving kids chores is key to their personal growth.
by Emuna Braverman         
Great news for parents! According to research by Marty Rossmann, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, giving children household chores at an early age helps to build a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance. (It seems the boy scouts were on to something.) “Chores also teach children how to be empathetic and responsive to others’ needs,” notes psychologist Richard Weissbourd of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

There’s going to be a lot of housekeepers out of work!

Without getting carried away, this is an important finding – that of course seems obvious. Contributing to the family, giving to others is better for our character than an extra language and other resume-padding activities. It’s time to pull back from the brink.
We want our children to be givers. They won’t learn that at school or in the workplace; we need to teach them. We need to take the focus off of their accomplishments and put it back where it belongs – on the type of person they are. This isn’t easy because it is out of step with society. All their teachers and peers, all of our friends (Facebook and otherwise!) are promoting achievement, grades, Ivy League acceptances, promotions…We can caught up in the illusion. We can think it’s the best thing for our kids.

That’s why this Wall Street Journal (03/14/15) article “The Chore-Filled Path to Success” is essential reading. It takes us back to basics – not reading and mathematics but character development, who we are as human beings. It forces us to reflect on our real goals for our children – what we genuinely want versus what we’ve been co-opted to feel.

If the focus is all on grades and resumes and upwardly mobile careers, it is all too easy to become a taker, to live a life that’s all about me. No parent interviewed would honestly want that for our children yet that is the direction in which we push them. They may be happier, kinder, more fulfilled at a community college – but what will we tell our friends? We live in a world where ambition is all and material success is the mark of the man.

Yet the author of the piece, Jennifer Breheny Wallace, clearly has another definition of success in mind, a definition that aligns itself with Jewish understanding and focuses on being a mensch as opposed to being a Harvard graduate.

“Being slack about chores when they compete with school sends your child the message that grades and achievement are more important than caring about others.” No sane parent conveys this intentionally – but without reflecting on what we really want for our children and how to achieve it, we adopt this as our default position.

Like all lessons for our children, it begins with us. It begins with the choices we make and the actions they see. If we model giving, they are more likely to be givers. If we model taking…you can finish the sentence. If we are clearly more concerned about their skill with a clarinet than their caring for others, they will get the message. We have to internalize it first. We have to believe it first. We have to be committed to creating a mensch – a kind and thoughtful human being who is always there for others and puts them before himself. Even if he graduates at the bottom of his class…
Published: May 30, 2015

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Post  Admin on Tue 02 Jun 2015, 7:05 pm

My Death Scare
A potential cancer diagnosis helped me discover the value of time.
by Marshall Roth         
I started seeing blood in my stool. Undeniable streaks of red.

I passed it off as nothing serious. My brother had bleeding hemorrhoids and I figured it was my turn next.
A search on Google confirmed that, indeed, bleeding hemorrhoids produces the effects I'd been seeing. So I pushed it out of my mind and went on with life.
A few months later, my brother-in-law – recovering from colon cancer – mentioned how it began with seeing blood in his stool.

Colon cancer?!
Doctor Google confirmed: colon cancer matched my symptoms.
My mind raced. I'm dying!
I called the gastroenterologist and described the symptoms.
"We'll schedule a colonoscopy right away," his secretary said cheerily, trying to cover up the urgent gloom.
I hung up and tried to absorb the stark reality: I may have only a few months to live.

Laser Focus
The ensuing days till my colonoscopy were the most harrowing – and most vibrant – of my life.
I tried pushing all negative thoughts from my mind. God is sending me a wake-up call, I reminded myself. This is my opportunity to reevaluate my life.
With the clock ticking fast, I pledged that – whatever the test results – I will try to maximize every moment.
Easier said than done. How does one begin to "maximize every moment"? By what measure determines a "valuable use of time"?
Impelled by the specter of mortality, I discovered a 3-step process:

Step-1 – Destination
Maximizing time starts with a clear destination. Just like a GPS quickly and efficiently determines the best route and mode of transportation, so too the path of life requires a precise destination.
I began by asking core questions:
Who am I, and am I true to myself?
What change do I want to effect in this world, and why?
How much risk and hard work am I willing to invest to get there?
In those frantic few days, these essential questions made me realize: If I don't know where I'm going, I'll never get there.

Step-2 – Hourly Value
I felt the imperative to evaluate the worth of my time. But how?
An article published years ago on Aish.com, "Curse of the Billable Hour," describes assigning a "dollar value" to time. If I'd be willing to perform some task for $100 an hour, that is its real-world value.
So I started, before undertaking any activity, to ask: Would I pay myself $100 an hour to do this? In other words, is this worth my time?
Before checking Facebook, I'd try remembering to ask: How much is this experience worth? Would I spend $50 for 30 minutes? Ten dollars for 6 minutes? Or is it just a waste of time?

I caught myself before clicking too far into "Internet space-out."
With increased awareness, I was able to catch myself before clicking too far into the time-wasting zone of "Internet space-out."
During my days in rabbinical school, one friend left a successful career on Wall Street to pursue Torah studies. He was exceptionally studious, and I asked how he managed to stay so focused.
"I was earning $400 an hour at the investment firm," he explained. "To justify my time in the study hall, each hour has to provide at least $400 value. So I make it count."

Step-3 – Moments of Choice
In my quest to maximize time, I discovered the importance of constant awareness. To avoid the comfort of spacing out and focus on what I'm doing.
Because only with awareness of each moment, can I hope to make the right choice for that moment. To keep the GPS positioned on target, and to follow its path.
Constant awareness is only possible with a daily time accounting. For as the most finite substance and our most precious commodity, time is the greatest measure of "profit and loss."
It is said that Baron Rothchild paid a servant to remind him every hour that he was one hour closer to death. That's why I love this hourly alarm APP.
Beyond this, I tried focusing on my breathing, and on the built-in mechanism of the heartbeat – an electrical pulse jolting me awake, again and again, prodding the question: Am I serious and focused, using my time most productively?

Priority Goals
Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Sheinberg, a great sage of the past generation, illustrated the profound value of time:
When it comes to precious items – a diamond ring or a Picasso, for example – the precious item is placed at the center, framed by less expensive materials. Yet a wristwatch appears to be the exception: a gold casing often outshines the comparatively simple watch-face.
In truth, Rabbi Sheinberg said, a wristwatch also frames the more valuable item: Time.
Every moment is infused with vast potential.

What will I make of it?
In the end, my colonoscopy showed no sign of cancer, placing me among the select few to actually celebrate a diagnosis of "bleeding hemorrhoids."
What a wonderful wake-up call. 
What a lesson not to rely on Doctor Google.

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Post  Admin on Sun 31 May 2015, 6:58 pm

Educating to Hate
Biased textbooks are mis-educating students to hate Jews and the Jewish state.
by Yvette Alt Miller          
Dutch teenagers taking a mandatory high school history class have been learning some highly suspect “facts” about the Jewish state.
According to the textbook Geschiedeniswerkplaats (“History Workplace”), Israel’s founding was an utter catastrophe, in which “Jewish militias carried out murders in Arab villages” and is depicted as an unprovoked pogrom of crazed Jews against peaceful Arab villagers.
No mention is made that the UN mandated the establishment of a Jewish State. Nor of the crucial historical detail that five Arab armies attacked the nascent Jewish state hours after Israeli independence was proclaimed.
No mention is made of Arab atrocities against Jews in the pre-state period – nor of the nearly one million Jews from Arab lands expelled following Israel’s founding in 1948 who found refugee in Israel.

Israeli leaders are called murderers and terrorists

Instead, Dutch teenagers are presented with a topsy-turvy view of Israel, in which former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin (winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978 for the peace treaty with Egypt that saw Israel withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula) is called a murderer and terrorist, and Israel’s founders are variously called “radical,” “terrorists,” and described (against historical evidence) as driven by an irrational desire to conquer all the biblical Land of Israel.

The book’s discussion of Israel’s founding in 1948 is illustrated with a modern-day picture of a Palestinian boy throwing a rock at an Israeli tank: the caption describes this as a “small act of resistance.” The book then creates a guilt-inducing feeling of panic and intense moral urgency by saying the boy in the picture was killed nine days after the photo was taken.

Fighting Back
Many Dutch students – and their teachers – read Geschiedeniswerkplaats’ upside-down and horrifying description of Israel without apparent comment – until one Israeli-Dutch 16-year-old, Barak Gorani, was assigned the textbook in his Jewish high school and complained.
Gorani, who describes himself as an “Israeli patriot,” pointed out the book’s many historical errors to his teacher – who agreed whole-heartedly. But, she said, there was nothing she could do: the Netherlands’ Education Ministry required it as a mandatory text.

Outraged, Gorani showed the textbook to his father, who passed it along to the Israeli Embassy. Gorani’s father said he was amazed that no one had formally objected to the textbook which was being used even in a Jewish school! “The Dutch, even the Jews, let it pass in silence.”
Israel’s embassy described the book as “outrageous” and may constitute incitement. The textbook’s publisher, Noordhoff Uitgevers, defended their work, saying: “We believe we carefully handled the facts and in the right context.” But as the story gained notoriety, increasing numbers of complaints poured in from parents and students alike.
As indignation grew, the Dutch Education Ministry began to distance itself from its own textbook, noting the Ministry “does not approve textbooks, they are selected by individual schools."

Deep Dialogue?
Sadly, the case in the Netherlands seems to be unusual only because someone had the courage to stand up and complain. In recent years, schools and education departments in other nations have assigned biased textbooks to impressionable students that denigrate the Jewish state.

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Post  Admin on Fri 29 May 2015, 12:33 pm

The Amoral Revolution in Western Values & its Impact on Israel
by Col. Richard Kemp
Israel's fight is the Western world's fight. The survival of Western civilization depends upon Israel's survival.
The writer was Commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan. The following text is Col. Kemp’s address delivered at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies on May 19, 2015.
As an officer cadet at Sandhurst in 1977, I studied the wars and campaigns of the Israel-Palestine conflict in great depth, 
 learning lessons in leadership, tactics and strategy from the always victorious operations of the IDF.
Years before that, in my school playground, girls always shopped and boys played war. Normally it was British and Germans or cowboys and Indians. For a time in 1967 it became Israelis and Arabs. After a few weeks, however, it reverted to the usual antagonists because nobody seemed to want to play on the Arab side.
I gather a similar recruitment problem exists today in the playgrounds of England with the Taliban side short of troops.
At 8, I was a little young for the serious study of military science beyond the playground, but later, as a 14-year-old schoolboy, I remember one day during the Yom Kippur War, my form master, a young chap just out of teacher training, came into the classroom with an arm full of newspapers.
He said that normal lessons would stop as there was a ‘real war’ starting and that this was really exciting so we should study it. Every day, we followed the events, wrote stories of our own, and learnt the geography. My father was unamused when all of the articles about the war had been cut out before he could get his hands on his breakfast-time paper. We were quite disappointed when it finished quickly and we had to resume normal lessons.
Why am I telling you all this?
It was all about the good fighting the bad and the good were expected to win. It was very simple even to a 14-year-old.
Even as late as 1973, Israel was still widely seen as the good guys and the Arabs were the bad. Sympathy was with Israel because they were being picked on and bullied. There was little consideration of the ‘legitimacy’ of Israel; it was taken for granted.

Eight Words from President Obama
by David A. Harris
"The Palestinians are not the easiest of partners." This is the heart of the issue.
President Barack Obama delivered a compelling and heartfelt speech on May 22 at a Washington synagogue.
He spoke directly to the concerns and aspirations of the Jewish people, identifying himself squarely with Jewish ethical values and the Jewish historical journey as a metaphor for the universal quest for peace and justice.
While not intended as a full-blown policy address, he did touch on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, asserting:
"Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people on their land, as well. Now, I want to emphasize that's not easy. The Palestinians are not the easiest of partners."
For starters, like a clear majority of Israelis, I have long believed that the Palestinians have such a right. It would serve not only Palestinian interests but Israeli interests as well, allowing the Jewish state to end an unsought occupation, dating back to 1967, and also shift significantly the demographic balance within its own borders.
But there is just one problem, and it is contained in eight words the president expressed: "The Palestinians are not the easiest of partners."
The audience's reaction was to laugh right after this sentence. But, of course, it's no laughing matter. Indeed, it's the heart of the issue, and has been for decades.

Why I Tour The U.S. As An Israeli Soldier
by Elad and Lital
We love Israel and know best the moral dilemmas we faced.
Lital and I participated in the 6th "Israeli Soldiers Tour," speaking on campuses, high schools, synagogues and churches throughout the Northeast. This included John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) staged a "die-in" last semester.
Sponsored by StandWithUs, an international Israel education organization, the tour features reserve duty soldiers who recount their personal experiences serving in the IDF and upholding its strict moral code, in the face of an enemy that hides behind its civilians. We talk about our backgrounds and life in Israel, putting a human face to the IDF uniform. Fourteen teams of two are dispatched throughout the United States.
This is my second tour and Lital's fifth. We go because we want to correct the many lies and misrepresentations about the IDF. There is no comparison to actually meeting a soldier and learning from their first-hand experiences. We love Israel and we know best the moral dilemmas we faced.
Lital works for a news site in Israel. Born in Ashdod, she holds a BA in Social Sciences from the Open University and is working towards her Masters in American Jewry at Haifa University.  Proud of her service in the IDF, she considers it an honor to contribute whatever she can to her country, which led Lital to choose service in the border police unit. She served in checkpoints, stations aimed at thwarting terrorist attacks — a position usually held by men.
Lital tells a harrowing tale of a woman in labor, screaming in pain, who arrived in an ambulance at a checkpoint between Israel and the West Bank.  She is 18-years old. What would you do?  In that split second, Lital made the executive decision to check the ambulance to ensure that nothing harmful was being transported into Israel. She found an explosive device hidden under one of the seats.

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Post  Admin on Tue 26 May 2015, 6:44 pm

Jewish Women on a Train
After seeing the whole world bleed and collapse in on itself, this cannot be happening. We must jump.
by Faigy Schonfeld         
The following account happened to my grandmother shortly after being liberated from a concentration camp. It is written in the manner in which she told me.
A wind, a breath – my lungs – at last! I inhale, soothed by the rhythmic clack and cough of rolling train beneath me, tilt my face to the window. It is slightly ajar and the beauty of the Czechoslovakian countryside is draped in midnight cloak. I close my eyes. Just...for a bit. A little peace, closed eyes, breathing, wind on my cheeks.
“Ssh, Zelda, try to sleep a little.” Sheindel wraps her fingers around mine. She is a sweet sister, Sheindel, self-appointed as she is, as my caretaker. She is only five years my senior but it is thanks to her I am alive. I am 15 now, but I was only 12 when I left home for the last time. I turn to offer her a smile.
“Where do you think they're taking us?” she whispers.
I shrug. “I heard Malka talking with some of the officials in the front cabin. We're going to someplace in Germany. From there, maybe, we can go home?” And find Tatte and Mamme. And Yosef Chaim and Ruchel and Ahrele. I don't say this aloud but the words hang heavy and limp between us, waiting.

Banning Israel from World Football
Intifada through diplomacy.
by Yvette Alt Miller          
The Palestinian Authority is seeking to have Israel suspended from FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, global soccer’s governing body. If the motion passes on May 29, 2015, Israel would become the world’s only nation to be banned from FIFA matches around the world.
“We will never, ever accept any compromise, any agreement or deal,” Palestinian Football Association chief Jibril Rajoub has explained. A former security official in the PLO’s feared security apparatus, Rajoub regards sports as a tool to help the Palestinian Unity Government between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority achieve statehood without taking concrete steps to negotiate with Israel.
Rajoub’s complaint to FIFA has three main components, each of which is strongly refuted by Israel as grounds for their suspension: that Israel restricts the movement of Palestinian players, particularly between Gaza and the West Bank; five of Israel’s soccer teams are located outside of Israel’s 1967 cease-fire lines with Jordan; and that Israel’s Football Association turns a blind eye to racism.

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Post  Admin on Thu 21 May 2015, 8:39 pm

The New Pew Report and the Ten Commandments
Are the Ten Commandments in trouble?
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
As Jews prepare to celebrate the holiday of Shavuot commemorating the giving of the Torah at Sinai, a new report by the Pew Institute makes clear that the millennium old divine code for ethical behavior is today being seriously challenged. At least one of the commandments, the first to be exact, has significantly lost its claim on contemporary acceptance with the incredible growth of a movement that now has its own name.
The “nones” are Americans who choose “none” as response to their affiliation with brand-name religion – and in the words of John Green, director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, they are the new major force in American faith. They are, Green said, “more secular in outlook and more comfortable admitting it" than any previous generation.

The “nones” are Americans who choose “none” as response to their affiliation with brand-name religion – and in the words of John Green, director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, they are the new major force in American faith. They are, Green said, “more secular in outlook and more comfortable admitting it" than any previous generation.
Earlier this month, the 2014 General Social Survey was released. It shows in stark relief that what some are calling the Great Decline of religion in America continues: Since 2012, the U.S. has about 7.5 million more Americans who are no longer active in religion.
The GSS is the gold standard for sociological surveys. Funded by the National Science Foundation, this multimillion-dollar study gives us the most accurate data on American society – including religion.
If this growth continues, in a few years the largest “religion” in the U.S. may be no religion at all
When asked their religious preference, nearly 1 in 4 Americans now says “none.” Up until the 1990s, the percentage that was in this group known as “nones” hovered in the single digits. The 2014 GSS showed that nones are now 21 percent of the population.
How large does that make this group? According to the GSS, there are nearly as many Americans who claim no religion as there are Catholics. If this growth continues, in a few years the largest “religion” in the U.S. may be no religion at all.

The Pew Report, released just last week, shows "Nones," at 22.8% of the U.S., second only to evangelicals and ahead of Catholics in religious market share. Far more disconcerting are the numbers that point to the direction of the future. A high percentage of younger members of the Millennial generation – those who have entered adulthood in just the last several years – are religious “nones” (saying they are atheists or agnostics, or that their religion is “nothing in particular”). At the same time, an increasing share of older Millennials also identify as “nones,” with more members of that group rejecting religious labels in recent years. Overall, 35% of adult Millennials (Americans born between 1981 and 1996) are religiously unaffiliated
America has long been a uniquely blessed country. Our Pledge of Allegiance identifies our claim to special divine providence. Based on the vision of our founding fathers, we have been “one nation, under God.” The founding fathers never failed to emphasize this unique relationship between our country and our creator.

Benjamin Franklin, speaking for almost all of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, expressed it well: "Here is my Creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That He ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is in doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion, and I regard them as you do in whatever sect I meet with them.”

What shall we then say about our present generation? As a contemporary sociologist put it, Americans today will soon need to change “one nation” to “none nation” – and eliminate any mention of the one who introduced himself at Mt. Sinai as “I am the Lord your God who took out of the land of Egypt the house of bondage.”

Rabbinic commentators made a profound observation about the number ten as key to the commandments. Ten as a number is written with a one followed by a zero. Together they make “10”. Remove the number one however and you are left simply with a zero, with nothing. Similarly, remove the first commandment, belief in a God of history with whom we have a personal relationship, and all the other commandments fall by the wayside.

Dostoyevsky was right in his famous words in The Brothers Karamazov: “Without God, all is permissible.” The noble ideals of the Decalogue secure their power from firm belief in an all seeing God to whom we owe unqualified obedience. Without God, greed permits theft, human passions justify adultery, ingenious rationalizations vindicate even the most obscene violence and murder.
A secular society identifying itself as “none” needs to fear far more than the absence of God in its midst. The most profound message of the Ten Commandments is that belief is the necessary prelude to civilized behavior.
The Midrash makes a striking observation about the two times the number ten makes a significant appearance in the book of Exodus. Before the Ten Commandments, ten was the number of the plagues God sent against the Egyptians as punishment for their crimes. Sinai however offered an alternative to the ten of retribution. Ten are also the heavenly prescription for the conduct of a moral and ethical life.

The Ten Commandments speak to us with the same message today as they did to our biblical ancestors. They remind us to choose One instead of None, the sacred over the secular, in order to find divine favor and blessing. And as Jews, entrusted with the mission to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” we must be in the forefront of returning God to his proper throne of ruler over all mankind.

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Post  Admin on Tue 19 May 2015, 9:05 pm

50 Days to Greatness
To celebrate my turning 50, I am running five marathons this year and defying doctors’ gloomy predictions.
by Harold Berman
As a child, orthopedic specialists told me and my parents that I could function only with special shoes to compensate for my misshapen arches, that the problem extended up to my torso, and that by the age of 40, I would be reduced to hobbling around with chronically painful backaches.
This year, I turn 50. I don’t wear special shoes. My back feels fine. And I’m running marathons.
In Judaism, the number 50 signifies transcendence. We count the Omer leading up to the 50th day, transporting ourselves from Passover to Shavuot, transforming ourselves from the narrow confines of Egypt to the liberating revelation of the Torah at Mount Sinai. The Yovel – the Jubilee – takes place in the 50th year, at which time debts are forgiven, and property is returned to its original owners. In other words, society is transformed in previously unthinkable ways so that previously unknown potential can be realized.
To celebrate my turning 50, I am running five marathons this year, one for each decade. I recently ran the Geneva Marathon and 50 days before that, I ran the Jerusalem Marathon. I plan to run my third marathon a little over 50 days after that.

The Western Wall Pledge
Do we take the Western Wall for granted?
by Michael Freund
It stands there silently, contemplatively, like a sentry guarding its post, projecting strength and a dramatic sense of history even as it invokes our deepest longings regarding Jewish destiny.
As the best-known site in all of Jerusalem, it is a symbol that resonates profoundly and sometimes inscrutably in the heart of all those who feel the softness of its touch.
Indeed, for those of us born after the miraculous events of the Six Day War, it is hard to conceive of a time when the Western Wall was defiled and unreachable, languishing despondently under foreign rule.
We visit it whenever we wish, free to recite any prayer, and to offer as much praise or shed as many tears as our hearts might desire.
Nonetheless, it was just 48 years ago today, on the 28th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar that this ancient relic of the Temple period was returned to our people, an event we now commemorate each year as Jerusalem Day.
But how much do we really appreciate and cherish the Wall? I hesitate to ask, but, do we perhaps take the Western Wall for granted? Of course, the Temple Mount, which sits above the Wall, is our holiest of holy sites, surpassing the Wall in significance. And we must work towards the day when we shall be free to ascend it in peace, unencumbered by political restrictions.

Am I A Control Freak?
I have this need to feel in control. Is something wrong with me?
by Lauren Roth
I’m an 18-year-old girl and I consider myself pretty emotionally healthy. But I noticed that I have this need to feel in control. For example, I've always had a very difficult time accepting authority and it led me to fight back against my teachers and my parents almost to prove that they couldn't control me. Lots of times I end up angry and in tears when I’m forced to listen to or submit to them. I also noticed it with subtler things. I love driving and I always need to be the one behind the wheel. It gives me a feeling of something I can control. Also with friends, I have lots of relationships where the girl is younger or more vulnerable than I am. Is there something wrong? Am I a control freak?
Lauren Roth's Answer
Yes, you are. But you're in good company – so are lots and lots of people in this world! The question is: are you hurting yourself or the people around you with the controlling behavior? Sometimes controlling behavior doesn’t bother the people around you and doesn’t affect you badly. Sometimes, though, it can hurt your friends and your family, and make you lonely and/or miserable.

All the Lonely People
by Emuna Braverman
We can all make a difference in other people's lives.
by Emuna Braverman         
After her spouse had passed away, my husband’s grandmother was lamenting her loneliness to her daughter. “You can talk to me,” consoled her daughter.
“I don’t want to talk to you; I want to talk about you!” responded the grieving mother.
Loneliness comes in all forms. It visits rich and poor, tall and short, educated and illiterate alike. Our job is to be sensitive to it and to respond to the needs of our fellow human being the best we can.
In the scenario above, clearly my mother-in-law was not the person to solve her mother’s loneliness. She needed peers, friends, and perhaps another husband. One of the main things to note is that it is different for everyone. There is no “one size fits all” solution for loneliness just as there is no “one size fits all” description of it. It is unique to everyone.
Some of it is obvious. We look at the singles, the divorced, the widowed and our heart goes out to them. We know we should invite them over, make a coffee date, at the very least call them up. We are moved by their plight – and then we get on with our lives. It is a type of callousness we need to work hard to remedy.

More Holy Woman
by Sara Yoheved Rigler
In shark-infested waters, their only life raft was reassuring words.
Eli and Shaya, two yeshivah students from England, decided to start a hi-tech company. Since they had neither financial backing nor experience, they understood how important it was to engage an expert business consultant. The consultant they turned to was a septuagenarian Chasidic woman who lived in Jerusalem. She always wore two housecoats, one atop the other, and a babushka. Her own business experience had consisted of a dairy farm of eight cows, a venture that had never been particularly profitable. Her name was Rebbetzin Chaya Sara Kramer.
Eli and Shaya called the Rebbetzin every week and consulted her about everything. Every month, Shaya, who had moved to Jerusalem, brought her a cash donation to help with her living expenses. They used to tell her that she was a partner in their business.
A year and a half after founding their company, Eli and Shaya were sued by a famous American blue-chip corporation. The young entrepreneurs hired lawyers. After reviewing the case, their lawyers informed them that they didn't have a chance of winning against such a large, powerful conglomerate. Disconsolate, Eli and Shaya went to Rebbetzin Chaya Sara and told her their lawyers' prognosis.
Her response was: "Fire your lawyers and fight!"
However doubtful of their prospects of winning, they obeyed. The conglomerate's lawyers were callous and intimidating. When they phoned Eli from New York to discuss the case on September 11, 2001, just after the collapse of the Twin Towers, Eli told them: "Maybe we shouldn't discuss business today so that we can be together in bereavement for what happened in the United States." The sharks replied: "Business is business."

Mistake David Letterman for a Jew
by Jewlarious.com Staff
His last name ends with "man." That's also why we think Superman is Jewish.
Late night talk show host David Letterman’s final episode is May 20th, 2015. He began hosting late night television in 1980 and became the longest serving late night talk show host in television history. He is famous for his acerbic wit and his quirky bits including stupid pet tricks and his Top Ten lists. Interestingly, David Letterman is also somewhat famous for people mistakenly believing he’s Jewish. For the record: he’s not. What Jewish mother would not have staged a serious orthodontic intervention for that gap in his two front teeth?

Paul Shaffer: The Mensch
by Rabbi Aaron Goldscheider
You may know him as David Letterman's sidekick, but Paul Shaffer is also a guy who leads a pretty mean "maariv" service.
When David Letterman steps down from his Late Show, his musical director and comic foil for the last 33 years will do the same. Paul Shaffer, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Grammy winning musician and bandleader will be moving on.
The millions of viewers who enjoyed kicking back night after night to his muscular music, stunts and shtick, were exposed to only one side of Paul Shaffer. They witnessed his talent, his wit, and his eccentric stage personality.
I am deeply impressed knowing another side. Paul Shaffer, the mensch: deeply devoted to family life, a Jew committed to his synagogue, and passionate about his Jewish roots and upbringing. The Paul I know loves the traditional Shabbat service, especially the Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat melodies, and who himself leads a pretty mean ‘maariv’ service.

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Post  Admin on Fri 15 May 2015, 12:38 pm

Jewish-Chinese Connections
Fascinating facts about Jews and China.
by Yvette Alt Mille
Lost Jews of China
In the Middle Ages, Jewish traders following the ancient Silk Road spice route settled in China, forming a community in the city of Kaifeng. Kaifeng was then one of the “Seven Ancient Capitals of China” and one of the world’s largest metropolises, with a population of close to one million. China’s ruling Song Emperors welcomed the Jews as welcome guests, bestowing seven family names that these Kaifeng Jews could use – some of which are still carried by their descendents in the town today.
Kaifeng’s Jewish community thrived at first, building its first synagogue in 1163, and eventually swelling to several thousand members. Smaller Jewish communities sprung up in other towns in China. Unlike many Jewish communities elsewhere, it seems that China’s Jews faced little or no persecution. Ironically, the lack of discrimination they faced in China seems to have hastened their end.
Within a few hundred years, the Jews of Kaifeng began to drift away from their religion. They intermarried with their Han Chinese neighbors and gradually lost their Jewish knowledge and traditions. When Kaifeng faced a devastating flood in 1642, its small Jewish community was able to recover and rebuild their synagogue. When Kaifeng was again heavily damaged by floods in 1841 – which wiped away the town’s sole remaining synagogue, among other buildings – the Jewish community never rebuilt.
Today, Kaifeng still boasts a street called Nan-Xuejing Hutong, meaning South Studying-the-Scriptures Lane, where its Jewish community used to live. Few other clues remain of the once-bustling community of Jews that called China home.

The dramatic retrieval of a long-lost family heirloom.
by Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser
from "It Happened in Heaven" (Feldheim.com)
Ann had been born and raised in Pennsylvania. When she married, she moved to San Francisco, and had not returned to the East for more than two decades. So her visit to New York City was exciting. Her sister and brother-in-law, with whom she was staying, were anxious to show her around town and she enjoyed doing the conventional tourist-type things that most visitors to the city do.
On her last Sunday in New York, she ventured alone to the Lower East Side, to do some shopping. It seemed to Ann as if nothing had changed on Delancey Street. The tenements were still the same run-down, seedy buildings they were 20 years ago. The sidewalk vendors still hawked their wares loudly and abrasively. The shop owners still expected a good haggle over the price, and the crowds of shoppers, eager for a bargain, were thick as ever.

The Torah mantle in the window caught her eye and she rushed into the shop
Ann turned down a small side street to get some relief from being jostled by the throng, and as she walked along, she glanced idly into the store windows. She had almost passed a small Judaica shop when something in the window caught her eye. She came to an abrupt halt, then went closer to take a better look. There on display was a beautiful Torah mantle. It was made of maroon velvet and had a silver menorah embroidered on the front. There were also some Hebrew words embroidered in thin silver threads under the menorah, which because of Ann's lack of Hebrew education, she was unable to read.
She rushed into the shop and began questioning the clerk. Did the Torah mantle in the window once belong to someone? Where did it come from? How old was it? Was it for sale?
The clerk reacted defensively to Ann's questions. What concern was it of hers where the mantle had come from? No, it was definitely not for sale. Was she interested in buying something else? If not, then would she please leave. The salesclerk practically pushed Ann out of the store.

That evening, Ann, who was a close friend of my mother, telephoned me and related the whole bizarre incident. I listened, but could not understand why the Torah mantle was so important to her until I heard her story.
"It was almost at the end of World War II. My brother Nochum had just turned 18, and my parents lived in dread that he would be called up. There was the draft then, you know. They took any and every able-bodied man. My brother was a very gentle and sensitive boy. He didn't even know how to raise his voice. He was the apple of my father's eye and my parents' only son. I remember how my mother checked the mail every day, terrified that there would be a draft notice.

The Western Wall Infographic
Everything you need to know about Israel’s most-visited site. Perfect to share for Jerusalem Day.

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Post  Admin on Wed 13 May 2015, 4:04 pm

by Alyssa Rachel Gross
4 lessons I've learned in giving to others.

When I first heard about Masbia, a kosher restaurant-style soup kitchen, I contacted the volunteer coordinator and got my foot in the door as a volunteer. I was looking for an opportunity to be part of a larger mission, and my intuition told me, this was where I needed to be.
Masbia welcomes everyone, Jew and non-Jew alike, to enjoy a warm tasty meal. I think it represents the ultimate in Tikkun Olam, fixing the world, by fulfilling a basic need: hunger.
From young to old, Jews to Catholics, white to black, everyone is welcome to walk through the door. Each week, there are 200 volunteers, as varied as the diners, that come in to help out from kitchen prep to unloading deliveries and giving out pantry bags on Thursday nights.
Volunteering has been an invaluable experience. Here are some of the lessons I've learned serving chicken, rice, vegetables, soup, bread and dessert to those in need.

1. Smile
Rabbi Yishmael says, "Receive every person cheerfully." Some people make that a lot easier than others. Am I really expected to greet everyone with a smile, including the rude client who is yelling at me about the food? What if I'm the one having a bad day?
What I've learned is that no matter how someone approaches you, greet them with a smile anyway. The people with the hard angry faces need that warm welcome the most. They may not always warm up to you but sometimes they do and sometimes it takes time. Life is not about being reactive. It is about deciding how you want to be, come what may.

2. Give a little extra
Lois, one of the unofficial mothers at the soup kitchen, once instructed me. “Always give them a little extra." If someone needs another cup of tea or a little baggie to go for a sick mom at home, give with an open hand. There are times when we are short on volunteers and the line for the pantry goods runs down the block. We’d love to be able to serve the food in a more expedient fashion but some nights one volunteer is doing the job of three. As people wait to be served dinner or for their pantry bags, I walk around offering another serving of water or apple juice, offering a smile or a simple apology. I throw in an extra bag of edamame or peanut butter to the regulars I know who need it.

This lesson has translated to my work life as well. When Purim time came around, I brought in a variety of flavors of hamentashen to work. I don't think one of my colleagues had ever had a hamentashen in their life but they loved them. More than just the delicious treat, it's about giving just a little bit extra, doing more than necessary. Those moments, while seemingly small, express care and everyone appreciates being considered.

3. Fill the need
At a soup kitchen, sometimes the demand can overwhelm the supply. Whether we're short on staff or on food, we do our absolute best to provide each diner with a hot meal or pantry goods to take home on pantry night.
But there are times when conflict arises. Folks want items that are no longer available or make a request simply above our means. Neil, a fellow volunteer once said, "I don't volunteer to say no." That one simple phrase left a profound mark on me. We are here in life to give. Do your absolute best to say yes. Maybe I can't help you in one way but there's something else that I can do.

4. The world needs you
The nightly news report can often lead us to a cynical view of the world. We are bombarded by images of violence and hatred at home and abroad. But when you enter into a space devoted to giving back to others, you see just how many good people there truly are; dedicated individuals pouring their guts, sweat and tears into helping others. Let your faith in humanity be renewed.
We can all aspire to greatness. Let us give of our time, our heart and ourselves. Find your cause. Find your passion. And may we all merit to be a part of making God’s world a better place.
In memory of the generous spirit of my brother Yitzchak Isaac Ben Chaim Meir.
Published: May 9, 2015

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Post  Admin on Mon 27 Apr 2015, 8:38 am


Surprising Facts about the Jews of Mexico
Mexico boasts a thriving Jewish community with roots that go back 500 years.
by Yvette Alt Miller

Some of the most vibrant Jewish neighborhoods in North America exist “South of the Border” in Mexico, where over 40,000 Jews have created a close-knit, distinct community.
Here are some surprising facts about North America’s least-known Jewish centers.

Early Jewish Haven
When Hernan Cortés first conquered Mexico for Spain in 1521, he did so with a number of secret Jews amongst his men. Judaism was banned at the time in Spain, and soon many secret Spanish Jews departed for “Nueve Espana” in the New World to try and live a more Jewish life. In fact, Spain’s first Viceroy in Mexico, Antonio de Mendoza, possessed a Jewish surname, and historians suggest he was possibly one of the secret Jews who moved to the new territory.
King Phillip II of Spain soon established the Kingdom of Nuevo Leon in Mexico (and parts of what is today Texas), and appointed Don Luis de Carvajal – a well-known Portuguese-Spanish nobleman who was born to Jewish converses, or forced converts – as Governor of the new territory. Carvajal welcomed both Jews and Catholics into his land. His nephew, Louis Rodriguez Carvajal, embraced his Jewish identity in the new kingdom, and encouraged other secret Jews to do the same.

Inquisition in Mexico
The Spanish Inquisition, which forbade any Jewish practice, spread to Mexico in 1571. Many of the new territory’s Jews fled to neighboring Peru: Jews who chose to remain faced torture and execution if it was ever found that they continued to practice their faith.
Some of the earliest victims of the Mexican Inquisition were the family of the Governor Louis de Carvajal. His sister Francisca was arrested on charges of being a Jew, tortured, and burned at the stake, along with four of her children – Isabel, Catalina, Leonor, and Luis – in 1596; another of her sons, Luis, committed suicide in prison rather than face more torture. In 1601, another of Francisca Carvajal’s daughters, Mariana, was burned at the stake for the crime of being Jewish as well. Governor de Carvajal himself was arrested on charges of practicing Judaism, and died in prison 1595.

Jews were soon pursued throughout Mexico. “Suspicious” activities that could brand someone a Jew included bathing on a Friday and afterwards putting on clean clothes; draining and disposing of blood after slaughtering a bird to eat; fasting on Yom Kippur; eating tortillas (which are unleavened) during Passover; and circumcising sons. Anyone guilty of these “crimes” faced drastic punishments including torture, imprisonment, forced wearing of a sanbenito, a knee-length yellow gown, or a dunce-cap, and execution. (Visitors to the Zocalo, the main plaza in the center of Mexico City today, might be unaware that this was the main location where generations of Jews were publicly burned at the stake for the “crime” of being Jewish.)

By the time the Inquisition was abolished in Mexico in 1821, approximately 100 Jews had been killed, and many more imprisoned.

Cinco de Mayo, the Struggle for Mexican Independence, and Mexico’s Jews

Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Battle of Puebla, when a small Mexican force led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin defeated a much larger French army, on May 5, 1862. (The area of Puebla might have been home to a thriving secret Jewish community of its own; see the section on Jewish-Mexican food, below.)
Despite this victory, French forces went on to conquer Mexico, and set up the short-lived Second Mexican Empire. In 1864, Emperor Maximilian I declared himself ruler and though he never consolidated his reign over all of Mexico, the short-lived monarch did make one remarkable change in Mexico: he issued an edict of religious tolerance, and invited German Jews to settle in Mexico. When Maximilian was deposed and executed in 1867, his successor, Mexican nationalist President Benito Juarez, continued to enforce a separation of Church and State, ensuring that Mexico remained a haven for Jewish immigrants.
Jewish refugees began to pour into Mexico. Ashkenazi Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe came in the 1880s, establishing Mexico’s first synagogue, in Mexico City, 1885. Sephardi Jews soon followed, fleeing persecution in the crumbling Ottoman Empire, and finding a new home in Mexico. (Sephardi Jews had an added incentive to immigrate to the new nation; they spoke Ladino, a Spanish-derived Jewish dialect that helped them feel at home in Spanish-speaking Mexico.)

Lithuania, Damascus and Aleppo in Mexico City
Mexico’s oldest standing synagogue is the Sephardi Synagogue, built in 1923 in the heart of Mexico City, at 83 Justo Sierra Street. Although the Jewish community has long since moved to the suburbs, Jews who work downtown still frequent the congregation during the working week. Down the street is Mexico’s first Ashkenazi synagogue, Justo Sierra, built in 1941 as a replica of a magnificent Lithuanian synagogue; builders worked from a photograph, copying the ornate details faithfully. Now a cultural center, it is the only Mexican synagogue that is open to the public. Fear of crime and terrorism haunt Mexico’s Jews, making them highly security-conscious and wary of maintain the safety and security of their synagogues and other communal buildings

Today’s Mexican Jewish community is tightly-knit, and contains several distinct strands: two separate Syrian communities thrive, each with their own traditions, from Aleppo and Damascus. Ashkenazi Jews maintain the traditions they brought with them from Eastern Europe. Another group of Mexican Sephardi Jews hails from the Balkans, and keeps those memories alive through family recipes and customs. Finally, a fifth group has made its mark on Mexico’s Jewish community in recent years: immigrants from the United States, who call Mexico home now and have brought their own distinct traditions from North of the Border to Mexico.

Jew-Mex: Jewish-Mexican Cuisine

A few of Mexico’s best-known dishes turn out to have surprising Jewish origins. Bunuelos, the quintessential Mexican winter holiday dish of golden, deep-fried balls of cheese-infused dough, originated as a Sephardi Hanukkah dish: the oil used the fry these savory snacks was originally meant to invoke the oil used to miraculously light the Menorah in the Temple during the first Hanukkah.

Some theorize that the springtime Mexican dish Capirotada – a rich bread pudding infused with sweet cheese and drenched in syrup – also originated with Mexican Jews, as a way of disguising their consumption of unleavened bread during Passover.
Pan de Semita, the iconic sesame-seed-studded roll of Mexico’s Puebla region (the area where the Battle of Puebla, celebrated in Cinco de Mayo celebrations), has been linked to secret Jews who possibly ate it as an unleavened alternative to regular bread during Passover. Another iconic Mexican regional dish – roast suckling goat, enjoyed in and around the Mexican city of Monterrey (which also contains an established Jewish presence) – was likely Jewish in origin: a way for secret Jews to avoid eating the roast suckling pig so popular in much of Mexico.

Culinary influences have gone both ways: Mexican Jewish cooks have adapted the bright flavors and fresh fruits of Mexico to traditional Jewish dishes, adding chilies to gefilte fish and tropical spices to chicken soup. In Mexico City today, kosher consumers can enjoy Mexican staples embraced by the Jewish community such as quesadillas (corn tortillas that are filled, folded and fried), flautas (tortillas that are rolled and fried), sopes (fried circles of cornmeal dough), chalupas (cups of fried cornmeal) – all filled with Mexican delicacies such as queso (cheese), nopales (cactuse), frijoles (refried beans), salsa, and guacamole. Even street food has been available at kosher stands in Mexico City, ensuring that Mexico’s Jews don’t miss out on their country’s delicious snacks.

Tight-Knit Community, Bright Future

Centered today in Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara, Mexico’s Jewish community is tightly-knit, with enviable levels of Jewish engagement. Jewish organizations reach every corner of the community’s life, providing independent ambulance services, welfare organizations, social groups – even a dedicated anti-kidnapping response group.

Intermarriage rates are among the lowest in the world: 94% of Mexican Jews marry other Jews. Approximately 95% of Mexican Jews are affiliated with the Jewish community, and about 95% of children attend one of the community’s sixteen different Jewish schools.

Rates of anti-Semitism remain low. In June 2003, then-President Vicente Fox passed a law that forbids discrimination, including anti-Semitism, adding a greater level of security for Mexico’s 40,000+ Jews. Jewish community leader Renee Dayan-Shabot was in the Mexican Senate the day the law was passed. “It came time for any arguments against the law,” she recalls, “and there was complete silence.” Then, as now, Mexico embraced its small but vibrant Jewish population.

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Post  Admin on Mon 27 Apr 2015, 8:17 am

The Trial of Oskar GroeningThe Trial of Oskar Groening
Justice is not being served.
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech         

Seven decades after the Holocaust, in a small courthouse in Luneburg Germany, a trial that is probably the last of its kind is making headlines around the world.
Oskar Groening is being tried on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder, related to a period between May and July 1944 when around 425,000 Jews from Hungary were brought to the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex in Nazi-occupied Poland and almost immediately gassed to death. Groening, known as “the accountant of Auschwitz”, faithfully fulfilled his duty as SS-Unterscharführer, collecting the cash that doomed Hungarian Jews carried with them to the place of their extermination and seeing to its shipment to Berlin to give financial backing to the final solution of genocide. For his role, this now 93-year-old faces 6 to 15 years if convicted.

I must make a painful confession. Much as I rejoiced at the capture of Eichmann and his execution in Israel and much as I found a great measure of satisfaction in the past by verdicts of guilt and punishment – admittedly all too few – for those involved in the barbaric crimes of the Holocaust, I am troubled by the rationales now being stressed for the importance of this particular trial.
Does it make any sense to be told that we need again to hear the testimony of witnesses as well as the admission of the defendant in order to refute the claims of Holocaust deniers? To continue an argument with those who refuse to accept historic fact is to grant an undeserved measure of truth to an absurdity, as if it were worthy of debate and further discussion. Deniers are no better than spokesman for the Flat Earth Society who deserve only laughter, not a public hearing which grants them legitimacy as worthy intellectual opponents.

Yes, Oskar Groening publicly admitted, "I saw everything. The gas chambers, the cremations, the selection process. One and a half million Jews were murdered in Auschwitz. I was there." But we did not really need him to tell us that. Indeed, Ursula Haverbeck, one of Germany’s more infamous Holocaust deniers, was in court for Groening’s initial testimony and after listening to his detailed description of what happened in the camp, not unexpectedly commented, “He’s been turned.”
For those interested in truth, the facts have long ago been established; for those motivated by irrational hatred of Jews and of Israel, no amount of irrefutable proof will suffice to open the closed minds of haters.
To be gratified by Groening’s confessions to the horrors that took place at Auschwitz is almost as if one were previously unsure of the truth previously documented by hundreds of survivors and eyewitnesses.
But there is another and more important reason being trumpeted as cause for rejoicing for this long-delayed trial. At last, we are told, we can feel that justice is finally being done in the country responsible for one of the most unspeakable crimes of history. It will serve, it’s been suggested in several articles, as a fitting closure to the Nazi sins of the twentieth century.

6500 members of the SS worked at Auschwitz. To date only 49 have been convicted of crimes
And that is precisely why I feel so devastated by this implicit insult to the memory of the six million.
The Groening trial is being showcased as vivid demonstration of Germany’s concern for bringing the guilty to punishment. Yet what it proves sends precisely the opposite message.

The year is now 2015. The legal action against Groening somehow never found its way to the court for countless decades. All the while, records indicate that about 6500 members of the SS worked at Auschwitz – and that was merely one of the many factories of death which carried out the fiendish designs of the final solution. Of those, to date only 49 have been convicted of crimes.
Remarkable, too, is the nature of the crimes attributed to Groening in comparison to those who somehow have escaped judicial notice, having lived out their lives in serenity and in all probability blessed prosperity. Groening pleads that he was not actively involved in the murders, the beatings, the gassing and the tortures of Auschwitz. He admits that he shares in the moral guilt but feels that does not make him culpable under law. True, by all accounts, even his own reflections on his past, he is not an innocent.

But should we not ask what happened to all the others who somehow escaped the scrutiny of the courts, the inquiries of the authorities, the investigations of the legal system charged with bringing to justice not simply those who bureaucratically assisted the machinery of evil but who brutally carried out its heinous cruelties?
Is it not a travesty of the very word justice if the most that German courts can succeed in accomplishing after these many years of indifferent pursuit of the truly guilty is to convict a 93-year-old concentration camp accountant while the many tens of thousands of sadistic beasts who carried out the horrific acts which defined Nazi cruelty and inhumaneness never paid a price for their sins?
And if Groening is found guilty and sentenced, while all those who actually carried out the crimes of the death camps escaped judicial notice, would not the greatest tragedy of all be for the world to offer its final judgment on the Holocaust with the false pronouncement that in the end justice was served?
Published: April 25, 2015

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Post  Admin on Thu 23 Apr 2015, 10:58 pm

Jerusalem: Facts and Figures
Everything you need to know about Israel’s capital.
by aish.com and Yvette Alt Miller

You will no doubt want to bookmark this Article.
CLICK BELOW Very interesting


Israel & FDR’s Secret Correspondence with the Saudi KingIsrael & 
FDR’s Secret Correspondence with the Saudi King
FDR did not support the creation of Israel. Destiny had other plans.
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech         
This week we commemorate the 67th anniversary of the birth of the modern day state of Israel. This momentous event almost didn’t take place without very special divine intervention.
At the time almost no one knew the story. It was not until much later that the secret correspondence between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Saudi King surfaced. But now we know what transpired behind the scene that would surely have derailed recognition of Israel as a member state of the United Nations – and we can once again stand in awe of the mysterious ways in which God plays a role in directing the turning points of history.
I have just now become privileged to see copies of the original letters between Abdul Aziz bin Abdur Rahman al Faisal al Saud and the then president of the United States. It was in March 1945 that the Saudi King, aware of the imminent end of the Second World War, wrote to FDR of his fear that the Jewish remnant of the Holocaust might push for a return to their ancient homeland of Palestine. Saud was particularly concerned that there might be some American support for this on humanitarian grounds, especially in light of the revelations about the extent of Jewish suffering.
The Saudi King was undiplomatically direct in his opposition to this possibility:

ISRAEL INDEPENDENCE DAY Israel Independence Day - Yom Ha'Atzmaut

Israel Independence Day: Reason to RejoiceIsrael Independence Day: Reason to Rejoice
Israel represents the greatest national success story of all time.
by Isi Leibler         
The Bible quotes Balaam describing the Jews as “a people that dwells alone and is not counted among the nations”. Alas, that aptly describes the status of the Jewish state on the 67th anniversary of its rebirth. Yet despite enormous challenges confronting us, we have every reason to celebrate.
Yes, Israel is the only country in the world whose right to exist and defend itself is continuously challenged. We have neighbors who still dream of driving us into the sea; we face an ongoing global tsunami of viral anti-Semitism; the world judges us by double standards; Israel is an oasis in a region in which primitive barbarism reigns as hundreds of thousands of people are butchered as a matter of routine.
But despite this, by any benchmark Israel unquestionably represents the greatest national success story of all time.
Exiled and scattered throughout the world for 2000 years and suffering endless cycles of persecution and mass murder climaxing with the Shoah, the Jews miraculously resurrected a nation state.
Since the late 19th century, Jewish idealists have been returning to their homeland and transforming deserts into gardens.
In 1947 the world was astonished when incredibly for a brief moment, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union unprecedentedly agreed to endorse the creation of a Jewish state.
There were only 600,000 Jews in Palestine when the State of Israel was declared. Yet against all odds and despite inadequate armaments and lack of military training, fighters from the fledgling state successfully vanquished the combined military forces of its Arab neighbors, determined to destroy us.
Victory was not achieved without painful sacrifice and 24 hours before rejoicing on Independence Day, we pay tribute to over 20,000 Jews those who gave up their lives to defend our Jewish state.

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Post  Admin on Wed 22 Apr 2015, 11:24 am

Who Gets to Pray on the Temple Mount?Who Gets to Pray on the Temple Mount?
It pains me that I can’t pray there. But it’s not an Arab woman who is preventing me.
by Ruchama King Feuerman         
So the Arab women, calling themselves the army of Muhammad, stand guard at the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif, Noble Sanctuary, whatever you call it, depending on what tribe you’re from. In between noshing and knitting and drinking tea, they seek out Jews, the visibly religious kind who ascend the Temple Mount, to stop them from praying there. They chase them down, surround them, terrify them, some calling them pigs and apes. “Everyone must protect Al Aksa so the Jews don’t take it,” a woman says, as reported in the New York Times.

I imagine it's all much worse, especially hearing reports from friends who live in Jerusalem and go to the Kotel frequently.
I wonder: Are these Arab women genuinely afraid of a religious take-over? How much of this outcry is a religious imperative and how much of it is a means to achieving a political goal? I can only guess.

There is no shrine anywhere in the world that can evoke such drama, anxiety, and a complexity of feeling as this spot where Israel's ancient Jewish Temples once stood and where the Al Aksa Mosque and Dome of the Rock now stand.

During the ten years I lived in Israel, I would pray at the Western Wall, a tiny segment of the rocky wall, so plain and small in comparison to the Temple Mount with its huge gleaming edifice of the Dome of the Rock. And yet today, this blunt wall is the most preferred and holiest spot for Jews to pray in the world.

Sometimes I'd wonder what went on above on the Noble Sanctuary, how they prayed, what they were saying, but usually the Western Wall, the Kotel, took all of my concentration. I’d pour out my heart on those craggy stones and walk away feeling an inner alignment, anchored. Later, when I married and returned to the U.S. to live in New Jersey – anti-climactic, I know – I prayed, as Jews do everywhere, facing east toward Jerusalem.

The rabbis of old made it so that the Jerusalem is always on our tongues and on our lips, no matter where we are, even now, in the suburbs of New Jersey. Yes, even when we eat pizza and recite the grace after eating, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount are emphasized in the blessing. When Jewish women immerse in the mikvah, the ritual bath, they say a single prayer, there in the water. Not for fertility, not for love between a wife and husband. But – “Rebuild our temple like the days of old.” For a religious Jew, the Temple Mount surfaces a hundred times a day and more, that's how habituated our tongue is to yearning for it.

But to pray on the Temple Mount? I have no plans to do so, not anytime soon, not even if the Waqf – the Islamic authorities that govern the Noble Sanctuary – were to invite me.
Why? Because normative Jewish law prohibits ascending the mountain. No Jew can walk on the spot where the Holy of Holies once stood, where only the High Priest on Yom Kippur was sanctioned to enter. It is only after the Messiah comes or the red heifer appears, that the Temple will be rebuilt. Until then, to trespass there is a grave sin.
But here's where it gets interesting. For two thousand years, Diaspora Jewry was cautious. One did not irritate the Gentile nations, thereby fulfilling the ancient dictum: One mustn't be a thorn in their eyes. In the Middle Ages the rabbis exhorted their flock not to build lavish homes, lest it provoke the envy of their Christian neighbors. As recently as 50 years ago, the old time European rabbis now in America asked their congregants not to wear their prayer shawls in the streets. One ought not take too visible a position.

Then came the establishment of the State of Israel. Many Christians and Jews understood this to be a fulfillment of the millennia old promise: "Even if your exiles are at the end of the heavens, the Lord, your God, will gather you from there and He will bring you to the land which your forefathers possessed, and you will take possession of it..." (Deut. 30:1-5). It was experienced by many as a divine miracle, as though we had been given enchanted power by the Almighty to win an incredibly improbable victory. The Messiah couldn't be too far off.

However, the Messiah tarried. Perhaps as many theologians have understood, these are the birth pangs of the Messiah, but it's been a long birth, and he still hasn't come.
It's understandable that a few have agitated for a Messianic Caesarean birth. Let us hurry the Messiah along, let us force his hand if need be, by political action on the world stage. Open up the Temple Mount, they say. The Messiah is nigh, and if we meet him halfway he will surely appear.
The Messiah is coming, he is always coming.

Netanyahu said back in November, after the assassination attempt on Yehudah Glick’s life, "It is easy to start a religious fire; it is much more difficult to extinguish it."

Whether he is aware of it or not, Netanyahu is in line with mainstream rabbinical Diaspora ideology, which is the way Jews have been functioning since Roman times. A Jew does not ask for too much, a Jew does not grab. Just give me Yavneh and its sages, Rabbi Yochanan said to Vespasian, after the conquering Roman general offered him anything the elderly rabbi requested. The Talmud famously asks, Why didn't he ask for the return of Jerusalem and the Temple? Because he was a pragmatist.

And yet, and yet... Who cannot be pained and outraged to see Jews hounded on their sacred land? Does one need reminding that Judaism’s holiest spot on earth isn’t the Kotel – it’s the Temple Mount!
Sometimes I want to cry out: Enough with this humiliating passivity. If we don’t claim this land as ours, it may be lost forever.

But then the words of our sages return to me, as they must. One isn’t permitted to force the hand of the Messiah. For now, one cannot pray there. Instead I yearn to see our Temple rebuilt, and Jews from the four corners of the earth coming to pray there as a unified people. May we see this speedily in our days.
Ruchama Feuerman wrote extensively about the Temple Mount in her award winning novel, "In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist."

Believing Iran
Does Tehran mean what it says? Oh, yes.
by Jeff Jacoby         
Who trusts Iran? Most Americans don't. According to two new polls, a majority of the public strongly doubts that the ruling theocrats in Tehran can be counted on to keep their end of any nuclear deal negotiated in the US-led "P5+1" talks in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Asked in a Fox News poll how much of Iran's claims on nuclear matters can be trusted, 55 percent of respondents replied that the United States "can't trust anything" the regime says, while 28 percent were willing to trust only "a little." Similarly, a survey by NBC News found that 68 percent of Americans consider Iran unlikely to abide by any nuclear agreement.

Nothing unusual there. Given Iran's long history of deceit, it would be strange if Americans and their allies didn't regard as worthless any nuclear promises the mullahs make.

Iran was an early signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1970 and it signed a detailed safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency in 1974. But after the Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers seized power in 1979, Iran began lying about its nuclear activities. Virtually everything we know about Iran's nuclear program was uncovered only after years of stonewalling, concealment, and outright denial. The construction of a vast uranium enrichment installation near Natanz and a heavy-water reactor in Arak, for example, didn't come to light until 2002, when an Iranian exile group exposed their existence in a press conference in Washington.

Iran has repeatedly flouted UN Security Council resolutions ordering it to suspend all enrichment-related activities. Even now, reports the IAEA, Tehran refuses to answer questions about the "possible military dimensions" of its nuclear activities.

With such a track record, it stands to reason that Iran's commitments are so widely regarded as worthless. No piece of paper signed in Switzerland will take the ayatollahs' eyes off the nuclear prize they have pursued, by means mostly foul, for so long. And of what value is any agreement if one of the signatories can't be trusted not to cheat?

Yet what makes the framework nuclear deal so grotesque and dangerous isn't Iran's trail of deception. The real reason to block any nuclear accord with Tehran's rulers isn't that they always lie. It's that they don't.
Maybe Iran would cheat on the loophole-ridden deal being promoted the Obama administration. But it wouldn't have to. Even President Obama admits that Iran could abide by the terms agreed to and wait for them to run out in a little more than a decade. "At that point, the breakout times [to nuclear weapons capability] would have shrunk almost down to zero," the president told NPR. Cheat or don't cheat, the end is the same: The Lausanne deal paves Iran's path to the bomb either way.

The mullahs don't lie about what matters to them most: death to America, the extermination of Israel, unrelenting global jihad.

And then it will be clear – apocalyptically clear – that the ayatollahs were telling the truth.
They were telling the truth last November, when the Iranian Revolutionary Guards proclaimed that "the US is still the great Satan and the number one enemy of the [Islamic] revolution and the Islamic Republic."
They were telling the truth in February, when Ali Shirazi, a senior Iranian cleric and aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared that his troops are in a global war that will one day bring "the banner of Islam over the White House."

They were telling the truth a decade ago when Hassan Abassi, a high-ranking intelligence operative, warned that Iranian agents had identified "29 sensitive sites in the West, with the aim of bombing them... Our intention is that 6,000 nuclear warheads will explode" as part of a "strategy ...for the destruction of Anglo-Saxon civilization."

They were telling the truth when a commander of Iranian forces insisted that "America has no other choice but to leave the Middle East region beaten and humiliated." And when Iran's supreme leader raged that "there is only one solution to the Middle East problem, namely the annihilation and destruction of the Jewish state." And when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asserted that "a world without America is not only desirable, it is achievable."

And when, over and over and over, they have incited crowds in chants of "Death to America."

Tehran's rulers may have lied for years about their nuclear activities; their negotiated commitments to suspend enrichment and submit to inspections may not be worth the ink they sign them with.
But the mullahs don't lie about what matters to them most: death to America, the extermination of Israel, unrelenting global jihad. They say they are deadly serious.
Believe them.
This article originally appeared in The Boston Globe.
Published: April 19, 2015

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Post  Admin on Wed 15 Apr 2015, 11:40 pm

The Holocaust TorahThe Holocaust Torah
How did a survivor who wouldn’t buy a ticket to Israel afford to commission a Torah scroll all by himself?
by Yvette Alt Miller          
“Join us for a Holocaust Torah Dedication.” The synagogue e-mail caught us by surprise. Our congregation is very small. Everyone knows each other and we’re aware of any looming celebrations months in advance. Besides, dedicating a new Torah scroll is a huge event. We’d just been part of a mammoth, two-year fundraiser for a new scroll at our kids’ school that took years of planning and the participation of scores of families to make that dream a reality. How could there be a similarly large undertaking in our own synagogue without us being aware of it?
Torah scrolls are painstakingly hand-written by specially-trained scribes. It can take a year or more to complete one scroll; consequently, commissioning a new Torah scroll is very expensive and it’s common for an entire community to band together to raise funds for it.

A Nazi in the Family
by Derek Niemann
Three years ago I discovered that my grandfather was a member of the SS and arrested for crimes against humanity.
by Derek Niemann
Late last year, I read an interview with a rabbi in my university city of Manchester, in which he said that things were so bad he could not see himself ending his days in Britain. I wanted to cry – how could this be happening in my own country? His words had a special resonance for me – at the time I was finishing a book about my own grandfather – an active perpetrator in the Holocaust.
My German grandfather died before I was born. My father told me that his father, Karl Niemann, was “a bank clerk, a pen-pusher.” He also told me that he was a member of the Nazi party. Out of shame, I kept that from my Jewish friends.
Three years ago while my wife prepared for a conference in Berlin a far more terrible revelation came. I decided to join her in the German capital for a short vacation. I asked my dad where he had lived during the war. I would look it up, maybe take some photos of the house for him. I checked online for any information about the street itself.
 Karl pictured in his army uniform on the outbreak of the First World WarKarl pictured in his army uniform on
the outbreak of the First World War
While I was searching a page came up bearing the words: SS Hauptsturmführer Karl Niemann… crimes against humanity… use of slave labor.
I was to discover that in May 1945 my grandfather was arrested in the Alps by American soldiers and imprisoned in former POW camps for three years. My family closed that sordid chapter in their lives and never spoke about it again. But as a 50-year-old writer, I had a compulsion to dig into this new-found truth and to write about it. I trawled archives, went to concentration camps, spoke to Holocaust historians and relatives and began to piece together the story – not just of Karl Niemann, but also that of my family, who had been living a life in Berlin that was both bizarre and frighteningly ordinary.

Video: L'Chaim: The Dov Landau Story
by JRoots
In Poland, a Holocaust survivor shares his harrowing experiences with young Jews.

Video: Bobby's Story: Living with Faith after the Holocaust
by Rabbi Naftali Schiff and JRoots
An Auschwitz survivor shares her faith with the Next Generation.

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