Archive for the ‘Jewish American Heritage Month’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more:How the new monument men are outsmarting ISIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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February 21, 2017   Posted in: Jewish American Heritage Month  Comments Closed

Black History Month Has Me Thinking – Armenian Weekly

February focuses attention on Black history, since it is designated for that celebration. As a result, the soaring rhetoric of Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr. gets heard. And that set my thoughts in motion this year.

The similarities between the Armenian experience under Ottoman rule and that of Africans in the U.S. is surprisingly similar, analogous.

February focuses attention on Black history, since it is designated for that celebration. As a result, the soaring rhetoric of Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr. gets heard. And that set my thoughts in motion this year. (Photo: Library of Congress)

The biggest similarity to my mind is the indignity heaped upon both groups. Long-term second-class citizenship is one of the degrading conditions borne. Armenians, as Christians in an empire rule by Islamic precepts effectively had no rights, outside of s very small segment that constituted a financial elite in the capital or who were traders. Our word was not equal to that of a Muslim in the courts. Our women, children, and property could be stolen on some the whim of a local Kurdish or Turkish tribal leader or potentate, and we might even be murdered, with no effective recourse in law. Effectively, we were no more than serfs. Periodically, we were forced to convert or die. Our tongues were cut off if we spoke Armenian. We were slowly being decimated in our own homeland.

Blacks in America lived through Jim Crow segregation. Schools were black or white, and supposedly separate but equal, even though in reality they were not. Blacks were lynched for perceived offenses against whites, often having often been blamed unjustly. The song Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday is a haunting presentation of this grotesque phenomenon. And this is all after emancipation. Naturally, Africans were deprived of their native languages and religions.

After things got better for both groups, the degradation and humiliation continued in different ways.

In our case, we have the ongoing denial. How debasing is that? Not only do we got murdered, robbed, and thrown out of our home, but the culprit sneeringly denies doing anything except maybe, just maybe, having caused a tiny bit of discomfort. Turkeys wealth, industry, is built on looted Armenian (Assyrian, Greek, plus Jewish) wealth. Our centuries-old architectural heritage is systematically decimated. Even Ani, which nominally enjoys some protection, is an ongoing target of desecration. Human mistreatment also continues. Not only were survivors forced to live as wives of rapists, or children of parents murderers, but some Armenians who had become Alevis were subsequently massacred when Turkeys murderous government set its sights on that group, the hidden, or crypto, Armenians are still subjected to discrimination and hatred if they come out with their true identity. Turkish society as a whole still resists coming to terms with its sordid past.

And with the black community, a similar process of denial and debasement is evident. One glaring example is the CIA-crack-cocaine-black-Americans connection, designed to destabilize those communities. This was revealed in the San Jose Mercury News two decades ago by reporter Gary Webb (who was driven to suicide by the harassment he subsequently received). There is the ongoing killing of blacks by law enforcement, frequently, if not overwhelmingly, inappropriately. The DWB (driving while black/brown) phenomenon has been documented wherein blacks are pulled over disproportionately. Meanwhile, a significant portion of the American population refuses to recognize that a huge chunk of U.S. wealth stems from the stolen labor of black slaves. There is no sense that somehow, this must be repaid.

You see the parallels. It would be good to have a discussion with your black neighbors, coworkers, or clients. Exchange perspectives on our experiences of oppression. That interaction might even generate modes of cooperation or insights that serve both groups in their struggle for justice.

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Black History Month Has Me Thinking – Armenian Weekly

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February 18, 2017   Posted in: Jewish American Heritage Month  Comments Closed

God, Allah, Buddha, Great Spirit: Minnesota hospital chaplains adapt to diversity – Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Rev. Verlyn Hemmen remembers the days when a hospital chaplain wore a clerical collar, carried a Bible and visited the bedsides of Minnesotans who were overwhelmingly Catholic and Lutheran.

Today roughly a third of patients are something else, estimates Hemmen, who oversees spiritual care at Twin Cities Allina Hospitals. Theyre Muslim, Jewish, another faith or nothing at all.

His chaplain closet still holds Bibles and a ministers stole, but theres also a stack of Qurans, Muslim prayer rugs, a singing bowl for Buddhist meditation, Jewish menorahs, and a soft leather pouch holding tobacco, sage and an eagle feather for American Indian rituals. The hospital chapel below his office which already has a sign pointing to Mecca is being remodeled to embrace diverse spiritual practices.

Weve moved away from words like religion to spirituality, said Hemmen. Now we work more with the spirit or the soul. This population has called us to broaden our approach to people, to meet people where they are at.

More than 520,000 patients checked into Minnesota hospitals last year, carrying religious baggage that wasnt as neatly packed as it used to be. One in four Minnesotans now identify as either unaffiliated with any religion, or not-Christian, according to Pew Research Center, a trend that has dramatically changed the world of chaplains and the spiritual care at Minnesotas hospitals.

A couple of factors are at work. Minnesotas growing immigrant community, which made 50,000 interpreter requests at just two Twin Cities health care systems last year, have injected new religious traditions that require more than a recital of Our Father. One in five Minnesotans, particularly those younger, have an undefined or no faith, according to Pew Research.

Minnesotans may be particularly open to meditation, guided imagery and other spiritual practices because the state is a national leader in recognizing the mind-body connection in medicine, chaplains say.

Chaplains today are trained to work in interfaith ways, looking for spiritual or emotional connections that go beyond religious creed. Hospitals can, and do, still contact on-call Catholic priests, Protestant ministers or Muslim imams for patients who request that. Theyre also working to diversify the face of chaplaincy to include Muslims, Jews even nonbelievers.

It is absolutely in flux, said the Rev. Gary Sartain, north central regional director for the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education, the national training association for chaplains. We [the ACPE] are in the middle of a major reorganization. … Should we change the name to Association for Spiritual Education?

Even to find the terminology is difficult, he said. How do we communicate to the world who we are and what we do?

This month, the association is surveying members to solicit new name ideas. Its part of its own soul-searching as it marks its 50th anniversary, including a national conference in Minneapolis in May.

Myo-O Habermas-Scher, a Zen Buddhist priest raised in the Jewish faith, is among 45 staff chaplains serving Fairview Health Services hospitals and hospice care. The group is mainly Protestant, but includes an imam and chaplains from Jewish, Buddhist and Native American faith traditions as well as a nonbeliever, said the Rev. B.J. Larson, a Fairview director of spiritual health services.

Their work requires far more than bedside prayers.

Habermas-Scher starts her day reviewing the charts of patients she has visited and checking for other chaplain requests. She makes patient rounds with a health care team.

Sitting in her office, with small Tibetan prayer flags and Buddhist prayer beads strung above her desk, Habermas-Scher explained how she presents herself to patients.

I explain we are all interfaith chaplains, that we are here to support you in any way, she said.

On a recent afternoon, she visited patient Sue Smith in a quiet corner of the floor lounge. The discussion, they reported later, explored emotional and spiritual issues related to disability and to aging. Habermas-Scher shared insights from the Old Testament as well as Zen teachings.

Smith, raised a Catholic but now less-so, said she appreciated the neutral counseling.

For people who are searching, having an interfaith [approach] broadens things, said Smith, a student counselor at a Twin Cities college. I like the openness of it.

Across the street, Sharif Mohamed, an imam who is part of the Fairview team, scans hospital admissions. On this day, 29 Muslims have checked into Minneapolis and Burnsville. He acts as cultural interpreter for staff, and emotional and spiritual adviser to members of one of Minnesotas fastest-growing religions.

In fact, Muslims kneeling on prayer rugs facing Mecca several times a day now visit hospital chapels more than people of any other faith.

Mohamed wears many hats here, and most recently has been composing a series of universal prayers. He explains: When I visit a non-Muslim patient, I want to pray with them but not compromise my own theology.

Most chaplains are still Christian, including Wendy Manuel a resident at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park. Here, patients find a menu on the tray next to their beds, listing Healing Services, including aromatherapy, hand massage, guided imagery, prayer/healing ritual, and more.

Last week Manuel stopped by the room of Marcene Johnson, who requested a hand massage. Manuel took out oil and began gently massaging Johnsons hand, avoiding the IV tube as she rubbed her palms, her fingertips, her veins. Soon Johnson fell into a light sleep. After about 15 minutes, Manuel ended her gentle ritual, as a tear welled in her eyes. Its like a prayer, she explained softly.

Johnson eventually opened her eyes again. A former evangelical Christian, she said she appreciated spiritual support without dogma, noting, They arent pressuring you to follow their way of thinking.

All Twin Cities hospitals are traversing this shifting religious landscape. Its been the delicate dance, said the Rev. Tim Nelson, vice president of Spiritual Well-Being at HealthEast Care Systems, which reports 68 languages spoken by patients last year. Acknowledging our faith-based heritage, while expanding spiritual practices of those around us.

At Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul, a front-desk visitor will pass a nearly life-size statue of Jesus, just feet from the new meditation room. North Memorial Medical Center holds an ecumenical service on Sundays, a Catholic Mass on Wednesdays, and Native American ceremonies in a grove of pine trees.

Hennepin County Medical Center has a prayer wall in its chapel stuffed with tiny paper requests from all faiths, and a CD collection of Benedictine and Hindu chants, New Age, country and gospel music.

The Rev. David Hottinger, manager of the Spiritual Care Department, recalled getting a late-night call for a chaplain and music. When he arrived with a CD player, the patient wanted to hear Pink Floyd.

Well, it just so happens Im a big Pink Floyd fan, too, said Hottinger. We had a deeply meaningful spiritual conversation, all with Pink Floyd as the entree. If I had come in with a collar and Bible, he would have sent me packing.

Many patients respond to these broader spiritual discussions, said Hottinger.

Where does your strength come from? I might ask. Where do you see hope in your life? How can we help you find peace?

A growing body of research has shown improved medical outcomes for patients receiving spiritual and emotion support, said Mary Jo Kreitzer, founder of the Us Center for Spirituality and Healing. The commission that accredits hospitals, in fact, requires that spiritual care be part of patient care standards, she said.

Today its less [about being] a faith leader, and more about providing spiritual care in the context of health, illness and suffering, said Fairviews Larson. You have chaplains accompanying patients living with cancer, facilitating spirituality groups for children, designing a ritual for a family with a transplant.

Its creative and challenging work, she said. Vital health care depends on it.

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God, Allah, Buddha, Great Spirit: Minnesota hospital chaplains adapt to diversity – Minneapolis Star Tribune

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February 18, 2017   Posted in: Jewish American Heritage Month  Comments Closed

Trump says settlement expansion ‘may not help’ peace – Heritage Florida Jewish News

WASHINGTON (JTA)Settlement expansion may not be helpful in achieving peace, the Trump administration said in its first pronouncement on an issue that has confounded U.S.-Israel relations for decades.

The White House announcement Thursday evening comes a week after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced major settlement building initiatives in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.

While we dont believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal, the statement said.

Most of the building authorized by the Netanyahu government is in existing settlements, but there are patches that would expand settlements, and Cabinet ministers to Netanyahus right want to seize on the new friendliness of the Trump administration to expand settlements further and annex territory.

The Trump White House statement avoids some of the thickets of disagreement that frustrated relations between Netanyahu and President Barack Obama, Trumps predecessor.

It neither calls for a stop on building in existing settlements, an activity that troubled Obama, nor terms settlements an impediment to peace. That suggests a return to the approach of President George W. Bush, who for a period said he could tolerate natural growth within existing settlement boundaries.

However, the statement does suggest that a president who has turned over tables in so many other spheres that once bound Democrats and Republicansfriendly outreach to a Russian government both parties have reviled in recent years is probably the best known exampleis nonetheless seeking consistency on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

On Friday, Israels deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, highlighted the White Houses stated stance that expansion in these communities was not an obstacle to peace and added it was not the problem in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The White House itself holds that the settlements are not an obstacle to peace and they never have been, Hotovely said in a statement. It must be concluded therefore that expansion of construction is not the problem.

In the past 25 years all paths towards any kind of solution have been blocked by the Palestinians. The core questions as to the sources of the conflict should therefore be reexamined and new solutions proposed.

Hotovely said the government of Israel is committed to building in all parts of our land and we must respect the will of the people who elected us for this purpose.

President Donald Trump, who prides himself as a deal-maker, said throughout his campaign that he wants to bring about a breakthrough in Israeli-Palestinian peace, and that hope is pronounced in the statement.

The American desire for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has remained unchanged for 50 years, the statement said. As the President has expressed many times, he hopes to achieve peace throughout the Middle East region.

The Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity and looks forward to continuing discussions, including with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he visits with President Trump later this month, it said.

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DeVos narrowly confirmed as education secretary – Heritage Florida Jewish News

Betsy DeVos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Watch Rachel Blooms Jewiest music videos]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Israel’s right-wing revolutionaries – Christian Science Monitor

February 14, 2017 JerusalemAs a leftist 20-something in the 1990s, Anat Roth railed against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not making peace with the Palestinians. She recruited university students and organized demonstrations day after day outside his house, his office, anywhere armed with slogans such as the wild right is a danger for Israel.

It was very noisy and it was very effective, recalls Ms. Roth, noting that Mr. Netanyahu lost to a pro-peace candidate in 1999. We succeeded … to get rid of Netanyahu big time.

Today, Netanyahu is back in power, and Roth is opposing him again but for a completely different reason. She thinks he isnt conservative enough.

You start to understand that … your maximum [position] is not even the minimum of the most moderate people among the Palestinians. Anat Roth, former peace activist and Knesset candidate from a right-wing party

Netanyahu has said in the past that he supports the establishment of a Palestinian state, a move that she now believes would be suicidal for Israel. She has come to that conclusion after years of Palestinian bombings, shootings, and stabbings that have killed more than 1,200 Israelis; after Israels withdrawal from the Gaza Strip that led to the rise of a terrorist regime that showered her fellow citizens with rockets; after her liberal friends failed to answer her increasingly persistent questions about how to protect the country.

Roth has also become more religious and moved from her small Jerusalem apartment to a spacious home in Efrat, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. In the last election, she ran for parliament with a party to the right of Netanyahu. She has given up entirely on the two-state solution she once fought so hard to achieve.

You have to fight for what you believe in, says Roth. But if you realize that it is not achievable, and that the theories and assumptions you believed in are not right, you need to have the guts, the strength, to confront it and look for other options and not be stuck in prior assumptions that dont bring you anywhere.

Roths transformation in many ways mirrors what has happened to Israeli society. Over the past two decades, Israel has undergone a fundamental shift that has brought to power the countrys most right-wing government in history.

And it may be about to get more conservative.

Netanyahu whose hard-line stances taxed his relationship with former President Barack Obama and other Western leaders is being pulled inexorably to the right by rising rivals, toughening public opinion on security issues, and by the increasingly religious tilt of the Israeli population.

Roi Peleg kisses his son Raz before heading off to preschool in Eli, a settlement with about 4,000 residents in northern West Bank.

For years, when Netanyahu wanted to check the power of interest groups to the right of him most notably the settler movement he could always invoke the United States: Washington, hed say, wont let us build more. But now that could change. President Trump, who was scheduled to meet with Netanyahu on Feb. 15 in Washington, has signaled a more hands-off stance toward Israel including a pro- settlement pick for ambassador, David Friedman. Right-wing elements see a chance to move the country decisively against the formation of a Palestinian state and perhaps toward formal annexation of lands in the West Bank, which they refer to by the biblical names of Judea and Samaria.

All this could fundamentally change Israels standing with much of the West, at the United Nations, and with other countries in the volatile Middle East a region already seemingly in a perpetual state of war and splintering increasingly along religious lines.

I think Israel is at a unique junction, says Naftali Bennett, one of the most prominent politicians pulling the Israeli government to the right. For the first time in 50 years, we need to ask ourselves, what do we really want? Theres a unique opportunity for Israel to go through quantum change.

Roth is now the doting mother of a baby girl. She is strong in her political views but not condemnatory. She still knows her liberal friends phone numbers by heart.

While she has given up completely on a Palestinian state, many Israelis have shifted more conservative largely out of a loss of hope though not a desire for peace with the Palestinians. But there are other factors behind the hardening attitudes as well.

Israelis have long touted the dual nature of Israel as Jewish and democratic. In the past, when asked to choose which of those foundational principles should take precedence, they would refuse. But increasingly Israelis are revealing a preference and its for the Jewish element, says Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI), an independent research center in Jerusalem that does extensive polling.

The growing presence of religious Jews, both in number and influence, is challenging the secular Zionist vision that has long dominated Israels elite institutions: its parliament, courts, military, and media. A religious nationalist vision, one that sees Israel establishing its sovereignty over Judea and Samaria as a prelude to the Messiahs coming, is increasingly moving from the fringes of Israeli society into politics. It is spurring right-wing parties, which now make up about half of the political spectrum, to try to outdo each other ideologically, says Dahlia Scheindlin, a political scientist and pollster.

A student holds his baby as he studies at the Bnei David academy in the West Bank settlement of Eli. The academy has spearheaded a surge in the number of religious officers in the Israeli military.

The most visible sign of this, and the one arguably of most concern to the international community and its hopes for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is the rising clout of the settler movement. Ideological settlers have become a critical part of Netanyahus base in the Likud party, and key supporters of his chief rival, Mr. Bennett of the Jewish Home party the party to which Roth now belongs.

Her move to Efrat, a ridge of red-roofed homes surrounded by Palestinian farmland, is part of a surge in the Israeli settler population in the West Bank, which has nearly quadrupled since the 1993 Oslo Accord. Since Mr. Trumps inauguration, the government has approved another 5,500 homes in the settlements.

The settlers are now probably the most effective interest group in the country, says Mr. Plesner.

Bennett, a software entrepreneur who made millions before going into politics, is pushing a far-reaching and controversial solution in the West Bank: Extend Israeli sovereignty to the 61 percent of the area that is already under full Israeli control. Allow the more than 400,000 Israeli settlers there to stay in their homes, offer Israeli citizenship or residency to the areas estimated 80,000 Palestinians, and let the rest of the West Bank Palestinians live in autonomous areas under a government of their choice. Hed couple that with a massive Marshall Plan to improve infrastructure and economic opportunity.

Bennett plans to introduce a bill in the coming weeks that would extend Israeli sovereignty over Maale Adumim, a settlement of 40,000 people just outside Jerusalem. Nearly 8 in 10 Israelis support such a move, but it would set a legal precedent for implementing the rest of Bennetts plan which is not as widely accepted. Only 44 percent of Israelis support annexing the West Bank, according to IDI. I feel that if we dont make our move now, and apply Israeli law based on my plan, well miss this window, he says.

If Bennett succeeds, that would effectively kill the prospects for the two-state solution, ending the international communitys decades-long drive to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

There would be no need to talk about a two-state solution in a scenario of annexation of occup[ied] territory, says chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in a statement to the Monitor. [It] seems that the two-state solution that Israel is talking about is the State of Israel and the state of the settlers that this extremist government has been vigorously building. Their vision is one of one state and two systems, apartheid, rather than two states. Without international intervention, it will be very difficult to save the prospects of a sovereign and independent State of Palestine.

I think Israel is at a unique junction…. Theres a unique opportunity for Israel to go through quantum change. Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party

While Bennetts vision has proved attractive to Roth and many other settlers, the Israeli politician is not a settler himself. He is, in many ways, the quintessential Israeli success story a fighter, an innovator, a leader.

He lives in a tony city just north of Tel Aviv. His parents are American immigrants, educated at the University of California, Berkeley. He grew up loving Asterix comics and the books of Beverly Cleary (of Ramona fame), according to a 2013 profile by the Haaretz newspaper.

Bennett showed leadership abilities from a young age. He served in two different elite Israeli military units Sayeret Matkal and Maglan. He fought Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon and Palestinian militants in the West Bank. When he and his friends formed a start-up, everyone knew who would be chief executive officer. When they sold it for $145 million, it was Bennett who negotiated the deal. Netanyahu, a fellow Sayeret Matkal alum, appointed him chief of staff in 2006.

Dubbed by some Bibi 2.0, Bennett is now increasingly challenging the prime minister on major issues. Netanyahu who has long been deft at balancing American pressure and settlers impatience could face a crucial test if Mr. Trump relaxes the usual US positions.

He might be surprised with an American president who says, Listen, I couldnt care less what you do with your country … just phone me if theres a crisis but otherwise I dont want to interfere, says Oded Revivi, mayor of Efrat and chief foreign envoy for the YESHA Council, the settlers political arm.

While Netanyahu still dutifully adheres to the American stance on Palestinian statehood, Bennett has boldly and unabashedly stated what seems to him and an increasing number of Israelis patently obvious: The two-state solution is dead. Bennett admits that his vision for a Greater Israel is not appealing to the world, but says people respect a coherent vision. If theres one thing he says hes learned from doing business in America, it is to be honest.

If theres a problem with your product, Call the guy, tell him the truth, tell him what you know, tell him what youre doing about it, bite the bullet, he says. Theyre not going to be happy … but theyll respect you.

What I think is unacceptable is when we say, Hey, we want a Palestinian state but but but this and that, says Bennett.

Cutting our roots here I believe will have a tremendous effect on who we are as a nation not just to the Jews who live in Israel, but to the whole Jewish nation all over the world. Tamar Asraf, spokeswoman for a local settler council in the West Bank

Many analysts are skeptical that Bennett will succeed in implementing his vision, given Netanyahus considerable legislative power as prime minister, as well as the prospect of international opprobrium. But in a tumultuous era of populism that brought Brexit and now a Trump White House, its not inconceivable.

While some worry about Israel retreating from Western liberalism, many religious nationalists here view themselves as forging a prescient path alongside Brexit champions, Trump supporters, and others eager to avoid the pitfalls of liberal naivet.

I think the whole world, including the Israelis, went through a trend of liberalism, says Mr. Revivi. I dont know who woke up first.

Palestinian activists protest near the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim in the West Bank.

Even during her years as a peace activist, Roth found it painful to accept that Israel should give up the West Bank, which it conquered in the Arab-Israel conflict of 1967, to create a Palestinian state.

The basic thing is that you dont want to get rid of it because its … one of the limbs of your body, she says. When do you amputate a limb? Just when youre forced to.

On the one hand, given demographic trends that showed Palestinian birthrates far outpacing Israeli ones, she felt it was indeed imperative to establish a separate state in order to keep a Jewish majority in Israel. Nevertheless, as she watched three peace summits end without an agreement at Camp David, in 2000; at Taba, Egypt, in 2001; and in Annapolis, Md., in 2007 she found herself asking, Why arent Palestinians accepting Israels offers?

You start to understand that … your maximum [position] is not even the minimum of the most moderate people among the Palestinians, she recalls thinking after working with Palestinians to develop the 2003 alternative peace plan known as the Geneva Initiative. I started realizing that they want things I will never give them like Jerusalem, like the Temple Mount…. Its not like a limb; its the heart itself.

When Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, with no negotiations or concessions from the Palestinians, the militant Hamas movement took credit for pushing Israel out and won elections the following year. Gaza militants showered Israel with rockets, despite periodic poundings by Israeli planes that killed thousands of Palestinians. The 2014 war, in which Hamas even targeted Tel Aviv, sending parents and children scurrying to bomb shelters, shattered the idealistic notions that many leftists had harbored.

Gaza is like a laboratory of what will happen in Judea and Samaria, says Roth, who formally left the Labor Party after those attacks. The security threat of having a Palestinian state next to us is more dangerous than the demographics.

To be sure, there are security risks involved in denying Palestinians a state as well. No one can control the new generation of Palestinians, says Issa Samander, a former Palestinian activist in the West Bank, who sees the seeds of a new Palestinian uprising germinating. [Israelis] dont know the new generation…. They will be surprised.

But for religious settlers, it goes beyond safety to a sense of mission. This is why Roi Harel still lives in his home on a windswept hill surrounded by Arab villages, with the skyscrapers of Tel Aviv visible in the distance.

One morning last March, while his five kids and wife were still sleeping, Mr. Harel opened his door on his way out to serve in the army reserves. Suddenly, in the predawn darkness, two Palestinian teenagers assaulted him with baseball bats and knives. They pushed him back into his home, down a corridor. Unarmed and wounded, he was all that stood between the assailants and his family. He shouted to his wife to call security. Then, somehow, he managed to push the intruders outdoors. Soon thereafter, security forces found the Palestinians and killed them.

We feel the nation is watching us. I think all the Israelis west of here say, If they fall, theres no one strong enough to hold the lines. Roi Harel (l.), a West Bank settler who was attacked in his home in March 2015 by two Palestinians, who were later killed by Israeli security forces. He and his wife, Shira (r.), are determined to remain in their home.

Palestinians, many of whom feel justified in defending their homeland by force, pointed out that six times as many Palestinians as Israelis had been killed in the most recent wave of violence.

Netanyahu, for his part, called Harel to congratulate him on his bravery, while local schoolchildren made a sign for the familys front door that celebrated the hero.

For months, some kids in the Harels neighborhood, out of fear, refused to shower alone. One youth slept with a baseball bat; another kept a knife under his pillow. But none of the families have moved. They believe staying is important both practically and symbolically. If they leave, they feel the army will give up on defending these strategic hills overlooking Israels sole international airport and the belt of high-tech industries that power Israels economy and contribute to its international prestige.

We feel the nation is watching us, says Harel, whose wife oversaw a renovation of their home, including adding a second floor, after the attack. I think all the Israelis west of here say, If they fall, theres no one strong enough to hold the lines.

Harels neighbor Tamar Asraf, like Roth, grew up not knowing anything about her religious roots. In fact, she resented religious people and settlers blaming those living in the occupied territories, in particular, for the lack of peace. Because of them, she thought, we have to serve in the army.

But while doing her military service, she met other young women who were religious. She started to connect more with her Jewish heritage and identify with the biblical lands of Judea and Samaria.

Cutting our roots here I believe will have a tremendous effect on who we are as a nation not just to the Jews who live in Israel, but to the whole Jewish nation all over the world, says Ms. Asraf, who is now a spokeswoman for the local settler council. And this is the main reason why we are here today, fighting in order to turn this place into a part of the state of Israel…. Because if this is not our homeland, then what are we doing here?

But for other Israelis, formally extending the countrys sovereignty to the West Bank is fundamentally opposed to its nature as a Jewish and democratic state. For either Israel would have to absorb so many Palestinians that Arabs would become the majority in the near future, or it would have to relegate Palestinians to a different civil or legal status.

Palestinians, for their part, already see Israels claim to being a democracy as a sham. Not far from the West Bank settlement of Eli, a small outpost called Amona has become a firestorm of controversy, a symbolic battle against the entire settlement enterprise and its legal underpinnings. Palestinians claiming ownership of the land celebrated when Israels High Court of Justice ordered the outpost evacuated. The government complied earlier this month. But its offers of compensation and resettlement, as well as a new law to legalize homes built on private Palestinian land, are seen as running counter to the court decision.

I feel the democracy in Israel is just for their people, says Mayor Abdulrahman Saleh in the neighboring Palestinian town of Silwad, who has been involved in the legal battle. But for Palestinians, either in [historical Palestine] or here it is like Bashar al-Assad, he adds referring to the Syrian strongman. It is dictatorial.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (l.) and Israeli Labor Party lawmaker Hilik Bar attend a 2013 meeting with a delegation of mostly Israeli university students and activists at the presidential headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Hilik Bar, the deputy speaker of Israels Knesset (parliament) and a friend of Roths since her Labor Party days, is among the shrinking minority of Israelis who havent given up on a Palestinian state.

As head of the lobby for the two-state solution since 2013, Mr. Bar has pitched his plan to the Knesset and the Israeli president. Hes gone to Ramallah to talk to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president. Hes even consulted with leaders from the broader Arab and Muslim world, whose support he sees as crucial for such a deal.

He insists that a two-state solution can be achieved without endangering Israels security.

Look, Israel is surrounded by many, many enemy states with ordinary armies, with long-range missiles, with tanks, with combat jets and we are living. We won five [or] six wars in seven decades against almighty armies of Arab states, because we have a very strong army and the most courageous soldiers that you will meet, Bar says. And this is why it seems to me very defeatist to assume that … we should be afraid to do a peace agreement because of a small, demilitarized … state that will be in some of the areas in Judea and Samaria.

Its not that hes sanguine about the Palestinian leadership. In fact, he says he has no confidence that Mr. Abbas can broker a deal. Hes not strong, hes not always reliable, hes often closing his eyes against incitement, says Bar. But, he adds, We will never find a Palestinian president who will be a great Zionist and have … an Israeli flag in his office.

One way to revive negotiations would be to look for opportunities for incremental progress, rather than a comprehensive peace deal, says David Makovsky of the Washington Institute, who was involved in the 2013-14 American-led effort to restart the peace process.

We tried to hit a home run three times, says Mr. Makovsky. Maybe we should try to achieve a single to show the public that something is succeeding.

Before that can be done, however, Bar must garner more support from the Israeli public. For her part, Roth remains firm in her view that Israel should never give up any of the occupied territories for a Palestinian state. I hope my friends in the Labor Party will wake up, she says over a cappuccino at a popular cafe one block from the Knesset. Then she gets up to leave. She has a lot to do including, maybe, winning a seat in parliament next time around.

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Israel’s right-wing revolutionaries – Christian Science Monitor

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

Singles Scene

SATURDAY, FEB. 18

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

SATURDAY, FEB. 25

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

MONDAY, FEB. 27

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

FRIDAY, FEB. 17

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

SUNDAY, FEB. 19

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

MONDAY, FEB. 20

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

TUESDAY, FEB. 21

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

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

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

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 22

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

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

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

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

THURSDAY, FEB. 23

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

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

FRIDAY, FEB. 24

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

SATURDAY, FEB. 25

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

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

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

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

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

SUNDAY, FEB. 26

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

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

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

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

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

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

TUESDAY, FEB. 28

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

FRIDAY, MARCH 3

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

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

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

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

On a sunny morning in February 2016, Sami Solmaz, a Kurdish filmmaker from Turkey, took a ride with Kurdish forces from the Iraqi town of Sinjar to the front lines. He spent the day filming gun battles between Kurdish fighters and the Islamic State militant group for a documentary he was making on ISIS attacks against religious minorities. That afternoon, as he was heading back to town, he heard a soldiers voice crackle over his drivers radio: Be careful! ISIS is firing chlorine bombs into Sinjar. The militant group had been launching homemade rockets filled with chemicals toward Sinjar since Kurdish forces pushed them out of the town in late 2015. Earlier in February, a chemical attack in Sinjar had left Kurdish fighters sick, and Solmaz knew it was best to stay away. The only problem: His drivers car was in town, and so they decided to hurry back and retrieve it. We were only there 10 minutes, but you could smell [the gas], he tells Newsweek. Try Newsweek for only $1.25 per week On his way out of Sinjar, Solmazs face began to swell and his throat started to burn as he drove toward the Iraqi city of Duhok, where he fell into a deep sleep at his sisters apartment and awoke more than 20 hours later. When he was feeling better, he emailed Jason Guberman, the director of Digital Heritage Mapping, a nonprofit hed been helping in New York, to apologize for slipping out of touch. Guberman was relying on Solmaz, an atheist from a Muslim family, to document Jewish heritage sitesfrom synagogues and cemeteries to ruins of schools, houses and community centers Jews once used in the Middle East and North Africa. For years, his staff and a rotating cast of about a dozen interns and volunteers have been racing to create digital records of Jewish sites. The projects name is Diarna, which means our home in Judeo-Arabic. As wars in the region destroy these sites, Gubermans team is running out of time. In his office near Manhattans Union Square, Guberman has created a situation room that has been stripped of cubicles and lined with marked-up maps of Yemen, Iraq, and the Syrian cities ofAleppo and Damascus. This enables the team to prioritize the most at-risk areas and dispatch researchers, like Solmaz, into the field when moments of peace create opportunities. To create realistic renderings of the sites, Diarna has recruited a network of volunteer photographers and paid researchers through social media and word of mouth in countries like Yemen, Syria and Iran. Most live and work in the region and can access dangerous areas more easily than Americans or non-Muslims. Read more:How the new monument men are outsmarting ISIS Back in New York, his staff uses SketchUp, a 3-D modeling tool, to transform photographs from the field into digital models of the ancient buildings and plot them, according to their coordinates, on Google Earth. They also look for people familiar with the siteslike former congregants of synagogues, or the architects who renovated themwho can recall details about their appearance. Their recollections about anythingfrom whether the flooring was made of tile, wood or carpet to whether the buildings were lit with stained glass, skylights or chandeliershelp Diarna researchers create more accurate 3-D images and descriptions of the sites. Diarna often shares the witnesses raw recorded testimonies to bring online exhibits to life. Unlike other organizations doing similar kinds of work, Diarna makes its 3-D models publicly accessible. When Diarna launched, Guberman estimated his team would identify between 500 and 1,000 sites to plot on Google Earth; the number has now surpassed 1,600. Solmaz, who was in Iraq to collect footage for his film about ISIS, offered to visit abandoned Jewish villages for Guberman. The two had met in the summer of 2014 at the Center for Jewish History in New YorkSolmaz was there to inquire about using the buildings archives to research a documentary about Kurdish Jews, which he would be filming in Syria and Iraq. He wound up in Diarnas office, where he and Guberman chatted about his interest in Jewish culture. Solmaz had grown up in Turkeys southeast, and his grandparents had told him stories about the minorities who no longer lived thereJews, Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians. By the time Solmaz was born in 1963, Ottoman and Turkish authorities had massacred or deported most of them in campaigns to Turkify the nation in its violent early days, a part of his countrys history that he thought about often in his work as a war correspondent and independent filmmaker. An Israeli youth lies on an Israeli flag during the annual pilgrimage to the tomb of Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira in the southern Israeli town of Netivot in January 2015. Thousands of Jews mostly of Moroccan origin came to pray over the respected Kabbalist rabbi. Oded Balilty/AP As Guberman listened, he realized he might be able to recruit Solmaz to help Diarna. But doing so would be dangerous. Syrias civil war was in its third year, and ISIS was taking over major cities and towns in Iraq. Guberman worried that Solmaz could be captured, kidnapped or killed, especially if ISISor the Syrian regimediscovered his links to an American nonprofit with a Jewish cause. We actually tried to discourage him, says Guberman, but he wanted to go. The two men agreed to stay in touch. What had started as a chance meeting in a quiet museum would soon become a vital partnershipspanning oceans and war zonesto preserve ancient history before it vanishes. A month after their first meeting, Solmaz returned to Gubermans office with a file of photographs. The images showed the ruins of a Jewish village in the mountains separating Iraq from Turkey, near the headquarters of the Kurdistan Workers Party; the insurgent group is at war with Turkey and the target of frequent Turkish bombing campaigns. Guberman hadnt told him to go there because hed assumed it was too dangerous. Jason was shocked, Solmaz recalled. He said, How were you able to get this? Over the next two and a half years, Solmaz planned multiple trips to Iraq, northern Syria, Turkey, Israel and Greece, always allaying Gubermans concerns about safety. Jason, I can go there, I am Kurdish, hed tell him. Or Im a war correspondent, dont worry. The arrangement has been mutually beneficial. Solmaz hikes mountains, cajoles locals and travels to war zones to find the endangered sites Diarna wants to preserve on the internet. In return, Diarna pays him for photographs, videos and reports, which Solmaz often finds useful for his projects. A Diarna expedition photo shows the exterior of the Tomb of Nahum in Alqosh, Iraq. Diarna When Diarna launched in 2008, most Jewish synagogues, schools and cemeteries in the Middle East and North Africa had been out of use for decades, and many had fallen into disrepair. Most of the estimated 1 million Jews who lived between Morocco and the Arabian Sea abandoned their homelands to escape anti-Semitic violence in the 1950s and 60s. Now wars in Yemen, Iraq and Syria, along with the emergence of ISIS, which has been attacking ancient sites with pickaxes and dynamite, pose a real threat to preserving the Middle Easts ancient history. As destroying sacred sites has become increasingly common in the Middle East, analysts, countries and even some militants have come to see the costs of destroying them. In September, an Islamist militant became the first person convicted of a war crime for destroying cultural and religious sites in Mali. At his trial at the Hague in the Netherlands, Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, who was sentenced to nine years in prison, urged other combatants to refrain from destroying cultural sites, saying such acts are not going to lead to any good for humanity. Experts on ancient cultures say there is universal value in preserving sacred heritage sights of any religion. All cultures and societies have sacred sites, and these sacred sites are related to concepts of who we are, where we came from and where we are going, says Richard Leventhal, the director of the Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Pennsylvanias Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. ISISs methodical destruction of holy sites serves a very important purpose for the group. ISIS is not just trying to wipe people off the face of the earth by killing them, says Leventhal, they are also destroying their history. Under pressure from multiple enemies on multiple fronts, ISIS has been losing territory in Syria and Iraq. Their retreat is slowly revealing the extent of their destruction. The group has targeted religious sites from all faiths within the land it occupied. During the organizations 2014 and 2015 rampage against symbols of idolatry, according to its corruptedversion of Islam, the militants blew up the Mosque of the Prophet Jonah in Mosul. The mosque was one of several sites said to house Jonahs tomb, an important monument for Muslims, Christians and Jews. It seemingly should have been protected because it was inside a Sunni mosque, but they blew it up anyway, Guberman says. So at that point we knew that no site is safe. But Jews have an unusually deep level of experience with violent enemies doing all they can to wipe out their history. Guberman did not want what happened in World War II in Europethe Nazis destroying hundreds of synagogues to happen in the Middle East. Without physical evidence of Jewish culture, the worlds understanding of Jewish communities in the Arab world will disappear with the death of the last generation who can remember them. Guberman sees a special significance in his work for the worlds Jews whose heritage begins in Iraq. I mean, this is where all Jewish history comes from, he says. According to Jewish tradition, all Jews trace their lineage to Abraham, the father of monotheism who was born in the Babylonian city of Ur, now in present-day Iraq. Religious scholars say that Abraham and his descendants began to disperse across the Middle East in the 19th century B.C. Population estimates show that the majority of the worlds Jews remained in the region through the Middle Ages. As recently as the early 1900s, nearly 1 million of the worlds estimated 15 million Jews were still living across the Middle East and North Africa, some in Jewish communities with roots in antiquity. But Israels founding in 1948 led to violence from Muslim mobs and discriminatory policies implemented by local governments aimed at Jews in the Arab world, prompting almost all of them to leave. Most initially went to Israel, which spearheaded their mass emigration through a series of famous missions like the 1949 Magic Carpet airlift that spirited 50,000 Yemenite Jews to Israel, and a subsequent operation that nearly emptied Iraq of its Jewish population. The Jews left; their ancient synagogues remained. In 2008, when Guberman was finishing his degree in political science at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, and wondering what to do next, only about 5,000 Jews remained in North Africa and the Middle East, outside of Israel. Without a Jewish community left to care for them, hundreds of sacred sites were converted into mosques, housing and other structures, or ignored as their roofs caved in and engravings faded. A Diarna expedition photo shows a child’s grave in a Jewish cemetery in Tangier, Morocco, in 2011. Joshua Shamsi for Diarna Geo-Museum Guberman considered applying to law school, but he changed his mind after speaking to a friend who had recently returned from a trip to Morocco. His wife is part Moroccan-Jewishand they had just had a daughter. He was very concerned about how his daughter was going to connect with her Moroccan-Jewish heritage when she grew upbecause so much history had already disappeared, Guberman says. His friends concern piqued his interest. Guberman had always been drawn to Mizrahi (or Eastern) Jewish history and he was surprised by how little attention it received compared with that of Jews in Europejust a paragraph, he recalls, in a college textbook. Guberman and a small group of friends decided to devote themselves to its preservation. Gubermans Bubbie offered free food and internet to her grandson and his colleagues in Connecticut when they started. The group soon secured enough funding from Karin Douglas, a philanthropist and fellow Sacred Heart graduate, to move out of Bubbies house and launch Digital Heritage Mapping, which would fuel the Diarna project. By late 2008, Gubermans small team was beginning to make renderings of sites in the precarious physical world to preserve forever on the internet. Guberman and his small team of researchers used Google Earth to map the ruins of Jewish villages that had dotted northern Iraq from antiquity through the early 20th century; an 800-year-old cemetery outside of Marrakesh, Morocco, nearly lost to a development project became a virtual exhibit online; Diarnas website published photographs of the tomb of Judeo-Moroccan mystic Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzera in the Nile Delta, before Egypts government banned an annual pilgrimage to the site in 2014 over tensions between locals and Jewish visitors. Jason Guberman gives a lecture showing a 3-D rendering from the Diarna Geo Museum. Tracy Deer-Mirek/Diarna Many places were still off limits when Diarna started its project, some three years before the Arab Spring uprisings toppled dictators in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. Many of those autocrats clung to anti-Semitic policies. Libya under Muammar el-Qadda was particularly difficult to access for researchers working for a Jewish nonprofit. Qaddafi was notoriously anti-Semiticcanceling all debts owed to Jews, among other thingsand Diarnas efforts to recruit local researchers failed. Libyans were too nervous to be associated with a Jewish organization, Guberman explained. But when the Arab Spring began in Tunisia in 2010, Diarna saw a unique opening. When fighting erupted in Libya, for example, reporters descended on the country, including one familiar with Diarnas work. She contacted Guberman, offering to help him. Her only condition was anonymity. In May 2011, Guberman sent her a map of the Hara Kabira, the old Jewish quarter in Tripoli, to help her locate the Dar Bishi synagogue, the most beautiful in the city when it opened in 1928. After Qaddafi took power in the late 1960s, the government seized and shuttered all Jewish property in Libya. Guberman hoped the reporter could find a way to survey it without raising the suspicion of the government, which was keeping an eye on foreign journalists in the city. Somehow, she slipped out of her hotel and made it there. She entered the crumbling structure through a hole in the back wall and took pictures of its gutted, columned interior, strewn with trash and vandalized by graffiti. She sent the photos to Guberman when she was safely out of the country. The interior of the abandoned Dar Bishi synagogue in Tripoli, Libya on September 28, 2011. Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Guberman was cautiously optimistic that the rebels who ousted Qaddafi in 2011 might make it easier to access Jewish sites. A Libyan Jew named David Gerbi tested those expectations a few months later by returning to Tripoli from exile in Italy to restore the Dar Bishi synagogue. From New York, Guberman closely followed the news of Gerbis dramatic entrance to the holy site as the Libyan used a sledgehammer. Guberman wondered how locals would react. He soon found out. A group of protesters opposed to the synagogues restoration gathered in central Tripoli with signs denouncing Zionism and some declaring there is no place for Jews in Libya. Fearing for his safety, Gerbi abandoned his project and returned to Italy, signaling to Guberman that the obstacles he faced researching Jewish sites under Qaddafi would likely remain. As he puts it: We realized that probably nothing good is going to come of doing work in Libya. Gubermans team published a 3-D model of the once-stately structure on Google Earth, using photographs and coordinates the female reporter had taken. They also used her photographs to make a video tour of the model. The latter may turn out to be among the only proof the site ever existed. As governments collapsed across the region, threats to buildings multiplied. One of the higher-profile Jewish heritage sites lost to the fighting in Syria was the centuries-old Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in a suburb of Damascus. The synagogue is named for the prophet Elijah, whose appearance, Jews believe, will herald the coming of the Messiah. According to local tradition, Elijah anointed his successor on the site where the synagogue was built. Still well maintained when the war in Syria began, it appeared in photos published by The Daily Beast in 2014 as piles of rubbleits fine carpets, chandeliers and library of religious texts apparently gone. Eddie Ashkenazie, a Diarna researcher from Brooklyn with roots in Syria, has been closely following the destruction. He felt a new determination in his work after watching aerial footage shot in the ancient Syrian city of Homs in 2015 that showed block after block of bombed-out buildings. Ashkenazie has been scouting out Brooklyn synagogues with Syrian congregants whose memories of Jewish sites might still be fresh. I tell them what I do, and they’re like, Oh, bring us your pictures tomorrow, bring us your maps, he says. Just yesterday, after prayer services a group of men helped me [locate] synagogues in Damascus. After the meeting, he returned to his office and added the synagogues to Diarnas expanding database of sites. A small number of Jews still live in Damascus, Syrias capital, some of whom have helped Diarna document sites. But the material hasnt yet been published due to concerns of drawing unwanted attention to the shrinking community and their lesser-known sacred sites. Wherever there is a community, Guberman says, their lives take precedence over our documentary mission. Over the past few years, the last Jews in Syriaand much of the wider regionhave left. In 2015, in a controversial operation, Israeli-American businessman Moti Kahana smuggled Aleppos remaining Jewish residents to Israel through Turkey. In 2016, the Jewish Agency for Israel airlifted a family that made up 19 of Yemens roughly 85 Jews to Israel. Tunisian Jews have migrated recently too, as attacks have made the country less safe. When the last people leave, Guberman said, it is just a matter of time before the sites will be repurposed or destroyed. On a recent stopover in his native Turkey, Solmaz clicked through images on his computer, each one illustrating the precariousness of Jewish heritage in Iraq. In a stone synagogue in Gondik, a small village in the northern Kurdish region of Iraq, hay covered the floors to feed the livestock who now occupy it. In another picture, taken in Kirkuk, fresh bullet holes marked the walls of a Muslim familys home whose central feature revealed its Jewish pastan elaborate niche built into the wall for a Torah. Solmaz plans to return to Iraq once Kurdish and Iraqi forces push ISIS out of Mosul, another city that was once home to thousands of Jews. More recently Mosul was home to tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities who fled their homes ahead of ISISs advance. For his own work, Solmaz will document the damage the jihadis have caused to the citys non-Muslims and the architecture they left behind. For Diarna, he will look much further back in time, for evidence of a small Jewish community that endured for centuries in Mosul before fleeing persecution in the early 20th century. To understand the present, Solmaz says, you have to know your past.

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February 21, 2017   Posted in: Jewish American Heritage Month  Comments Closed

Black History Month Has Me Thinking – Armenian Weekly

February focuses attention on Black history, since it is designated for that celebration. As a result, the soaring rhetoric of Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr. gets heard. And that set my thoughts in motion this year. The similarities between the Armenian experience under Ottoman rule and that of Africans in the U.S. is surprisingly similar, analogous. February focuses attention on Black history, since it is designated for that celebration. As a result, the soaring rhetoric of Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr. gets heard. And that set my thoughts in motion this year. (Photo: Library of Congress) The biggest similarity to my mind is the indignity heaped upon both groups. Long-term second-class citizenship is one of the degrading conditions borne. Armenians, as Christians in an empire rule by Islamic precepts effectively had no rights, outside of s very small segment that constituted a financial elite in the capital or who were traders. Our word was not equal to that of a Muslim in the courts. Our women, children, and property could be stolen on some the whim of a local Kurdish or Turkish tribal leader or potentate, and we might even be murdered, with no effective recourse in law. Effectively, we were no more than serfs. Periodically, we were forced to convert or die. Our tongues were cut off if we spoke Armenian. We were slowly being decimated in our own homeland. Blacks in America lived through Jim Crow segregation. Schools were black or white, and supposedly separate but equal, even though in reality they were not. Blacks were lynched for perceived offenses against whites, often having often been blamed unjustly. The song Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday is a haunting presentation of this grotesque phenomenon. And this is all after emancipation. Naturally, Africans were deprived of their native languages and religions. After things got better for both groups, the degradation and humiliation continued in different ways. In our case, we have the ongoing denial. How debasing is that? Not only do we got murdered, robbed, and thrown out of our home, but the culprit sneeringly denies doing anything except maybe, just maybe, having caused a tiny bit of discomfort. Turkeys wealth, industry, is built on looted Armenian (Assyrian, Greek, plus Jewish) wealth. Our centuries-old architectural heritage is systematically decimated. Even Ani, which nominally enjoys some protection, is an ongoing target of desecration. Human mistreatment also continues. Not only were survivors forced to live as wives of rapists, or children of parents murderers, but some Armenians who had become Alevis were subsequently massacred when Turkeys murderous government set its sights on that group, the hidden, or crypto, Armenians are still subjected to discrimination and hatred if they come out with their true identity. Turkish society as a whole still resists coming to terms with its sordid past. And with the black community, a similar process of denial and debasement is evident. One glaring example is the CIA-crack-cocaine-black-Americans connection, designed to destabilize those communities. This was revealed in the San Jose Mercury News two decades ago by reporter Gary Webb (who was driven to suicide by the harassment he subsequently received). There is the ongoing killing of blacks by law enforcement, frequently, if not overwhelmingly, inappropriately. The DWB (driving while black/brown) phenomenon has been documented wherein blacks are pulled over disproportionately. Meanwhile, a significant portion of the American population refuses to recognize that a huge chunk of U.S. wealth stems from the stolen labor of black slaves. There is no sense that somehow, this must be repaid. You see the parallels. It would be good to have a discussion with your black neighbors, coworkers, or clients. Exchange perspectives on our experiences of oppression. That interaction might even generate modes of cooperation or insights that serve both groups in their struggle for justice.

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February 18, 2017   Posted in: Jewish American Heritage Month  Comments Closed

God, Allah, Buddha, Great Spirit: Minnesota hospital chaplains adapt to diversity – Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Rev. Verlyn Hemmen remembers the days when a hospital chaplain wore a clerical collar, carried a Bible and visited the bedsides of Minnesotans who were overwhelmingly Catholic and Lutheran. Today roughly a third of patients are something else, estimates Hemmen, who oversees spiritual care at Twin Cities Allina Hospitals. Theyre Muslim, Jewish, another faith or nothing at all. His chaplain closet still holds Bibles and a ministers stole, but theres also a stack of Qurans, Muslim prayer rugs, a singing bowl for Buddhist meditation, Jewish menorahs, and a soft leather pouch holding tobacco, sage and an eagle feather for American Indian rituals. The hospital chapel below his office which already has a sign pointing to Mecca is being remodeled to embrace diverse spiritual practices. Weve moved away from words like religion to spirituality, said Hemmen. Now we work more with the spirit or the soul. This population has called us to broaden our approach to people, to meet people where they are at. More than 520,000 patients checked into Minnesota hospitals last year, carrying religious baggage that wasnt as neatly packed as it used to be. One in four Minnesotans now identify as either unaffiliated with any religion, or not-Christian, according to Pew Research Center, a trend that has dramatically changed the world of chaplains and the spiritual care at Minnesotas hospitals. A couple of factors are at work. Minnesotas growing immigrant community, which made 50,000 interpreter requests at just two Twin Cities health care systems last year, have injected new religious traditions that require more than a recital of Our Father. One in five Minnesotans, particularly those younger, have an undefined or no faith, according to Pew Research. Minnesotans may be particularly open to meditation, guided imagery and other spiritual practices because the state is a national leader in recognizing the mind-body connection in medicine, chaplains say. Chaplains today are trained to work in interfaith ways, looking for spiritual or emotional connections that go beyond religious creed. Hospitals can, and do, still contact on-call Catholic priests, Protestant ministers or Muslim imams for patients who request that. Theyre also working to diversify the face of chaplaincy to include Muslims, Jews even nonbelievers. It is absolutely in flux, said the Rev. Gary Sartain, north central regional director for the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education, the national training association for chaplains. We [the ACPE] are in the middle of a major reorganization. … Should we change the name to Association for Spiritual Education? Even to find the terminology is difficult, he said. How do we communicate to the world who we are and what we do? This month, the association is surveying members to solicit new name ideas. Its part of its own soul-searching as it marks its 50th anniversary, including a national conference in Minneapolis in May. Myo-O Habermas-Scher, a Zen Buddhist priest raised in the Jewish faith, is among 45 staff chaplains serving Fairview Health Services hospitals and hospice care. The group is mainly Protestant, but includes an imam and chaplains from Jewish, Buddhist and Native American faith traditions as well as a nonbeliever, said the Rev. B.J. Larson, a Fairview director of spiritual health services. Their work requires far more than bedside prayers. Habermas-Scher starts her day reviewing the charts of patients she has visited and checking for other chaplain requests. She makes patient rounds with a health care team. Sitting in her office, with small Tibetan prayer flags and Buddhist prayer beads strung above her desk, Habermas-Scher explained how she presents herself to patients. I explain we are all interfaith chaplains, that we are here to support you in any way, she said. On a recent afternoon, she visited patient Sue Smith in a quiet corner of the floor lounge. The discussion, they reported later, explored emotional and spiritual issues related to disability and to aging. Habermas-Scher shared insights from the Old Testament as well as Zen teachings. Smith, raised a Catholic but now less-so, said she appreciated the neutral counseling. For people who are searching, having an interfaith [approach] broadens things, said Smith, a student counselor at a Twin Cities college. I like the openness of it. Across the street, Sharif Mohamed, an imam who is part of the Fairview team, scans hospital admissions. On this day, 29 Muslims have checked into Minneapolis and Burnsville. He acts as cultural interpreter for staff, and emotional and spiritual adviser to members of one of Minnesotas fastest-growing religions. In fact, Muslims kneeling on prayer rugs facing Mecca several times a day now visit hospital chapels more than people of any other faith. Mohamed wears many hats here, and most recently has been composing a series of universal prayers. He explains: When I visit a non-Muslim patient, I want to pray with them but not compromise my own theology. Most chaplains are still Christian, including Wendy Manuel a resident at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park. Here, patients find a menu on the tray next to their beds, listing Healing Services, including aromatherapy, hand massage, guided imagery, prayer/healing ritual, and more. Last week Manuel stopped by the room of Marcene Johnson, who requested a hand massage. Manuel took out oil and began gently massaging Johnsons hand, avoiding the IV tube as she rubbed her palms, her fingertips, her veins. Soon Johnson fell into a light sleep. After about 15 minutes, Manuel ended her gentle ritual, as a tear welled in her eyes. Its like a prayer, she explained softly. Johnson eventually opened her eyes again. A former evangelical Christian, she said she appreciated spiritual support without dogma, noting, They arent pressuring you to follow their way of thinking. All Twin Cities hospitals are traversing this shifting religious landscape. Its been the delicate dance, said the Rev. Tim Nelson, vice president of Spiritual Well-Being at HealthEast Care Systems, which reports 68 languages spoken by patients last year. Acknowledging our faith-based heritage, while expanding spiritual practices of those around us. At Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul, a front-desk visitor will pass a nearly life-size statue of Jesus, just feet from the new meditation room. North Memorial Medical Center holds an ecumenical service on Sundays, a Catholic Mass on Wednesdays, and Native American ceremonies in a grove of pine trees. Hennepin County Medical Center has a prayer wall in its chapel stuffed with tiny paper requests from all faiths, and a CD collection of Benedictine and Hindu chants, New Age, country and gospel music. The Rev. David Hottinger, manager of the Spiritual Care Department, recalled getting a late-night call for a chaplain and music. When he arrived with a CD player, the patient wanted to hear Pink Floyd. Well, it just so happens Im a big Pink Floyd fan, too, said Hottinger. We had a deeply meaningful spiritual conversation, all with Pink Floyd as the entree. If I had come in with a collar and Bible, he would have sent me packing. Many patients respond to these broader spiritual discussions, said Hottinger. Where does your strength come from? I might ask. Where do you see hope in your life? How can we help you find peace? A growing body of research has shown improved medical outcomes for patients receiving spiritual and emotion support, said Mary Jo Kreitzer, founder of the Us Center for Spirituality and Healing. The commission that accredits hospitals, in fact, requires that spiritual care be part of patient care standards, she said. Today its less [about being] a faith leader, and more about providing spiritual care in the context of health, illness and suffering, said Fairviews Larson. You have chaplains accompanying patients living with cancer, facilitating spirituality groups for children, designing a ritual for a family with a transplant. Its creative and challenging work, she said. Vital health care depends on it.

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February 18, 2017   Posted in: Jewish American Heritage Month  Comments Closed

Trump says settlement expansion ‘may not help’ peace – Heritage Florida Jewish News

WASHINGTON (JTA)Settlement expansion may not be helpful in achieving peace, the Trump administration said in its first pronouncement on an issue that has confounded U.S.-Israel relations for decades. The White House announcement Thursday evening comes a week after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced major settlement building initiatives in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. While we dont believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal, the statement said. Most of the building authorized by the Netanyahu government is in existing settlements, but there are patches that would expand settlements, and Cabinet ministers to Netanyahus right want to seize on the new friendliness of the Trump administration to expand settlements further and annex territory. The Trump White House statement avoids some of the thickets of disagreement that frustrated relations between Netanyahu and President Barack Obama, Trumps predecessor. It neither calls for a stop on building in existing settlements, an activity that troubled Obama, nor terms settlements an impediment to peace. That suggests a return to the approach of President George W. Bush, who for a period said he could tolerate natural growth within existing settlement boundaries. However, the statement does suggest that a president who has turned over tables in so many other spheres that once bound Democrats and Republicansfriendly outreach to a Russian government both parties have reviled in recent years is probably the best known exampleis nonetheless seeking consistency on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. On Friday, Israels deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, highlighted the White Houses stated stance that expansion in these communities was not an obstacle to peace and added it was not the problem in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The White House itself holds that the settlements are not an obstacle to peace and they never have been, Hotovely said in a statement. It must be concluded therefore that expansion of construction is not the problem. In the past 25 years all paths towards any kind of solution have been blocked by the Palestinians. The core questions as to the sources of the conflict should therefore be reexamined and new solutions proposed. Hotovely said the government of Israel is committed to building in all parts of our land and we must respect the will of the people who elected us for this purpose. President Donald Trump, who prides himself as a deal-maker, said throughout his campaign that he wants to bring about a breakthrough in Israeli-Palestinian peace, and that hope is pronounced in the statement. The American desire for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has remained unchanged for 50 years, the statement said. As the President has expressed many times, he hopes to achieve peace throughout the Middle East region. The Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity and looks forward to continuing discussions, including with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he visits with President Trump later this month, it said.

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February 17, 2017   Posted in: Jewish American Heritage Month  Comments Closed

DeVos narrowly confirmed as education secretary – Heritage Florida Jewish News

Betsy DeVos (JTA)-Betsy DeVos was confirmed as secretary of education, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaker in a historic 51-50 vote. DeVos, a Michigan billionaire whose advocacy for school choice has led to sweeping changes in the educational landscape in her home state, provoked divergent opinions in the Jewish community. Both the haredi Orthodox Agudath Israel of America and the Orthodox Union issued congratulations within minutes of the vote. It marked the first time a vice president broke a tie for a Cabinet confirmation. In a letter to the Senate Education Committee last month, Agudath Israel of America expressed its support for DeVos, saying it had worked closely with her for years to change state laws that would make it easier to use vouchers for private schools, including religious schools. “Mrs. DeVos will be an education secretary who is focused on the needs of each individual student and not on where he or she attends school,” the letter said. In a separate letter to the committee, the Orthodox Union said DeVos “has a long history of advocating for and supporting” reforms favored by the group, though it stopped short of issuing an outright endorsement. The Reform movement’s rabbinical arm, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, was opposed to the nomination, as were the National Council of Jewish Women and Jewish Women International. DeVos’ support for school choice raised concerns among advocates of church-state separation, who oppose the diversion of public funds to religious institutions. In a statement outlining questions it had for various nominees, the Reform movement asked the senators to ask DeVos about “the use of taxpayer dollars for sectarian education.” “A central principle of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause is that members of particular faiths, and not the government, should fund religious institutions,” the statement said. “When vouchers are used towards expenses related to religious school education, they become an indirect government funding of sectarian institutions.”

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February 17, 2017   Posted in: Jewish American Heritage Month  Comments Closed

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

When it comes to Rachel Bloom, its hard to know whether to start with the sex or the Jewishness. Both seem to ooze out of her, like a classic starlet of the Yiddish theater in which burlesque comedy could arrive in a voluptuous feminine package. Consider the music video You Can Touch My Boobies, which has more than 5 million views. Bloom plays a Hebrew-school teacher who appears in a dream to seduce her kippah-wearing bar mitzvah student, Jeffrey Goldstein. Clad in a black bustier and fishnets, she rides around in a toy car shaped like a giant breast with a nipple for a hood ornament crooning, Were gonna have some fun tonight.No need to check the locks, she tells Goldstein, because wink, wink to American Jewish dining habits his parents are out at Benihana. But Jewish guilt is never far behind, and suddenly, Golda Meir appears to scold Jeffrey for his fantasies: You have brought shame on your family and the Jewish people! In the tradition of Woody Allen, she has deftly translated the American-Jewish experience its neuroses, obsessions and culturally distinctive lexicon into mainstream entertainment. As a writer and actress, Bloom routinely probes aspects of her identity relishing, mocking, exuding sexuality and Jewishness both in the prolific collection of music videos she posts on YouTube, as well as on the CW show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a musical romantic comedy that she co-created and stars in. [Watch Rachel Blooms Jewiest music videos] In Rachel Bloom, we have a female heir to the neurotic, outsider Jew who is constantly negotiating identity through sex and ethnic baggage. There are strains of Philip Roth in her work a sex-obsessed Jew feeling ever out of place, trying to grow up and fit in. And what we gather from Bloom, a millennial, is that although political frissons have somewhat altered the American-Jewish makeup, a generation later, communal preoccupations are the same. The 29-year-old is an expert at channeling the tropes of her male artistic and literary forebears, where sex and Judaism coalesce and collide as integral, paradoxical and indispensable to the human experience. But she upends theses legacies with something new and utterly transgressive: a female point of view. I think a lot about Fanny Brices aesthetic, Bloom told me when we met for coffee last month in Silver Lake. Her whole thing was Yiddish, Yiddish, Yiddish. I did 23andme [the genetic test] and Im 97 percent Ashkenazi Jewish. Yiddish is what I connect to. The comparison to Brice (the comedian-actress immortalized in the movie Funny Girl) is apt except for the fact that Bloom, unlike Brice, writes all of her own material. In just two seasons of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Bloom has written or co-written more than 80 original songs. Thats more than four Broadway shows, she said. Rachel Bloom (second from left) is Rebecca Bunch in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Photo by Mike Yarish/The CW Crazy Ex-Girlfriend tells the story of Rebecca Bunch, a tenacious, Harvard-educated Manhattan lawyer. After a chance encounter on a New York sidewalk with a guy she dated at summer camp, she becomes unmoored, determined to pursue her crush all the way to the West Coast. She walks out of her high-paid, partner-track job and follows the object of her affection to his hometown West Covina. Last year, the role earned Bloom a Golden Globe award. The day we met, Bloom had just wrapped the shows second season, which is now available in its entirety on Netflix. She declared a recent episode the most Jewish episode weve ever done. In Season Two, Rebecca finally ensnares her lifelong obsession, the under-employed, none-too-bright Asian-American Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III), and makes him her boyfriend. Before long, theyre heading together to Scarsdale for a bar mitzvah, and Rebecca frets nervously over how her family and friends will receive them. Will Scarsdale Like Joshs Shayna Punim? asks the episodes title. What Rebecca does not expect is that her overbearing mother (played expertly, as always, by Tovah Feldshuh) warms quickly to Josh, learning to call him a Pacific Islander instead of Oriental, and teaching him how to make and pronounce challah. But rather than quell Rebeccas anxiety, her mothers acceptance intensifies it, as if to say: If a Jewish mother approves, something is definitely wrong. Rebeccas anxiety then shifts from Joshs outsider status to her own: At the bar mitzvah, it isnt the non-Jewish Josh on trial, but Jewish tradition itself. Far-fetched? More like autobiographical. Bloom herself never really felt she belonged. Im a West Coast Jew, so theres always this feeling of, like, What are my roots? Bloom said of growing up an only child in Manhattan Beach. Religious observance was anathema at home, but, Bloom said, We talked about being Jewish a lot, we talked about Christian oppression a lot, and for as long as I can remember, my fathers been telling me to read The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. [My] family felt like East Coast Jews: I was not allowed to swim in the ocean because my mother was afraid Id drown. My parents were wary of me being in the sun because of skin cancer. I loved musical theater, Stephen Sondheim, Woody Allen. Plus I had obsessive-compulsive disorder, she said. All of these things combined made me feel like an outsider living in a beach community where everyone is surfing and bleach-blond. They dont even have a word for anxiety. During the episode in Scarsdale, which aired in January, Rebecca is on edge the entire time. At the bar mitzvah party, she is constantly rolling her eyes and whining about how miserable and terrible Jews are. When her childhood rabbi, played by Patti LuPone, asks if shes found a synagogue in California, Rebecca replies that she doesnt believe in God, so its not on her to-do list. Always questioning, the rabbi replies gleefully. That is the true spirit of the Jewish people! Rebecca is most disheartened that the boy she brought to shield her from Jewish communal rituals is actually quite enjoying himself. She cant understand why Jewish psychological mishegoss is not blatantly apparent to him. You dont understand, Rebecca tells Josh. You are forgive me a non-Jew from the West Coast. Let me explain how it goes. East Coast: dark, sad. West Coast: light, happy. These people dont understand what fun is. Trust me. Josh and Rebecca (Vincent Rodriguez III and Bloom) sing to each other in an episode where Josh later meets her family and friends at a bar mitzvah party. Photo by Scott Everett White/The CW Thats when the horah begins a fun dance! Josh exclaims but while the traditional klezmer music plays and everyone happily clasps hands, Rebeccas view that tragedy is never too far from the Jewish psyche is proven when the rabbi sings: Now its time to celebrate / Grab a drink and fix a plate / But before you feel too great / Remember that we suffered.The song, appropriately titled Remember That We Suffered, is not only the defining Jewish number of the series so far, but perhaps the most Jewishly astute musical number since Fiddler on the Roof. Ironically, Bloom said it is the absence of personal Jewish suffering that has enabled Jewish exploration in her work. People who came over here from Europe watched their families being murdered because of Judaism, she said. They were terrified for their lives because of Judaism. And they came to an America that was still quite anti-Semitic, so of course they wanted to assimilate. Ive never really suffered anti-Semitism. Sure, sometimes people call me a kike online or whatever because people say horrible things on the internet to everyone. [But] I have never been afraid for my life because of my heritage. And that gives me the freedom to talk about it. Like most American Jews, Bloom fits firmly into an assimilated framework, describing her Judaism in mostly cultural, secular terms. Being Jewish is Mel Brooks! she said. The feeling of being an outsider, the being cold in restaurants, the guilt, the anxiety. She said her husband, Dan Gregor, grew up Conservadox on Long Island and attended yeshiva until eighth grade, but ultimately left the religious life. As a couple, they celebrate with occasional holiday meals, but a question about shul attendance got a deep, resounding Noooo. Not even on the High Holy Days? I love thinking about the fact that its the High Holidays, Bloom said. But at end of the day, he and I are both secular people. I do not believe the Torah is the word of God I believe its very interesting, and that it informs my entire heritage, and there are things to be learned from it, but I do not believe the universe cares if I have a cheeseburger. Bloom earned her musical theater bonafides at NYUs Tisch School of the Arts, where she led the schools sketch comedy group, Hammerkatz. A year after graduating in 2009, she made a splash with the self-produced music video, F Me, Ray Bradbury, about a young woman who fantasizes about the science fiction author and masturbates while reading his stories. Blooms character alternates between sex kitten dressed like Britney Spears in Baby One More Time and sci-fi geek, turning down a date to stay home and read. When I started doing musical comedy, I realized that a lot of pop music, even though I love it, does not represent how people actually are, Bloom said. Bradbury was her attempt to reconcile what I thought I should be like with what I actually was like. And I found more people [related] to the latter. More people feel like outcasts, and feel like they dont fit in. All of us feel some form of imposter syndrome. After Bradbury went viral, Bloom continued to release a string of music videos, as well as the album Suck It, Christmas, a collection of Chanukah songs co-written and produced with her husband and her writing partner, Jack Dolgen. In Chanukah Honey, a parody to the tune of Santa Baby, Bloom again plays come-hither sex kitten to a Jewish love interest who got an MBA from Penn Amen but, unfortunately for her, dates Japanese women. Replete with references to the JCC, bat mitzvahs and camp, Bloom tempts her crush to Come and flip my latkes tonight as she rolls around on the floor in a blue-and-white Santa outfit. Of course, with Bloom, being a good Jewish girl, sex isnt all shes after: But seriously, she asks as an aside, do you want kids? In Can Josh Take a Leap of Faith? the Season 2 finale Blooms character, Rebecca (right), is all dressed up for her big day when complications ensue. Photo by Michael Desmond/The CW On her first trip to Israel last year, Bloom said, she played her Israeli tour guide some tracks from the Chanukah album, thinking hed get a kick out of it. We wrote a song about cantors, but no one in Israel talks about cantors, she observed. Bloom was surprised to discover that even though she loved visiting Israel, she didnt really relate to it. It was really crazy to be in a country for all Jews, but Israel is not my culture, she said. Because she is an Ashkenazi Jew, European persecution is much more her thing, and it pops up in the animated video Historically Accurate Disney Princess Song, a feminist send-up of Disney fairy tales. While searching for her prince, Bloom encounters little Jews hiding out in the forest. I never did ask you, why do you hide in the forest? Oh, I see, to hide from people trying to kill you! The video caught the attention of screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna, who penned The Devil Wears Prada and 27 Dresses. She arranged to meet Bloom; together, they solidified the idea for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and promptly sold the pilot. Bloom had her big break into Hollywood. What followed was a crippling period of anxiety and depression. Mental illness runs rampant in my family, Bloom said, and no one has ever dealt with it. The actress speaks openly and publicly about her struggle with anxiety and not the kind treated as a kitschy Jewish trait, but a debilitating affliction. To tame her illness, she does cognitive behavioral therapy and practices meditation. She also sees a psychiatrist. I think keeping things taboo, keeping things secret, for me, thats when things get bad, she said. When you learn to deal with anxiety, you think about what you actually know to be true versus what you tell yourself. These catastrophic thoughts, do you actually think those things are going to happen? The angst dates back to middle school, where Bloom said she was bullied. I never felt pretty, she said. I wanted to be pretty, but I felt disgusting. And people told me, Youre ugly; youre a loser. It was the way I dressed, I cut my own hair. Then in eighth grade, I started to get boobs and I got more positive attention. And that only continued to grow. So I feel like I have a perspective on being a sexual being, as someone who hasnt always been that. I appreciate it, but I also see the absurdity of it: Suddenly I have value because sacks of fat on my chest grew? Blooms interest in the way sex shapes identity is a constant theme in her work, a trait she shares with male Jewish predecessors like Woody Allen and Philip Roth. But her approach to sex constitutes a radical departure from the conventions of Jewish sexuality that have been canonized in film and literature mainly by men. Whereas Jewish men typically have dealt with feelings of extreme sexual alienation, Bloom offers the bliss of sexual possibility. Where her male counterparts were ensorcelled by sex, Bloom is determined to demystify it. At the end of the Bradbury video, instead of allowing a reference to Bradburys book Something Wicked This Way Comes to serve as pun, Bloom trades the erotic for the mechanic: And by come, I mean ejaculate, she declares, as if giving a science lesson. Sex gets the same biological treatment on her show, which has featured numerous musical numbers that deal with the more visceral, uncomfortable truths about sex. The Sexy Getting Ready Song is about the difficult, unpalatable things women do to groom themselves for a date and includes a bloody scene of anal waxing. In the sardonic hip-hop number Heavy Boobs, Bloom salutes and ridicules her ample bosom by dressing as a scientist holding up plastic bags filled with breast fat. The song Period Sex needs no explanation. The reason Im so open and honest and brassy and ballsy about this s is because my goal, if theres a goal that I have as an artist, would be to make us all realize we are all just animals on this earth made of guts, who are all just trying to survive and get along, she said. If the defining feature of Jewish sexuality until now was sexual inadequacy, Bloom has rewritten the script. A child of the post-feminist generation, she is fully awake to her sexual power. But rather than use it strictly to seduce, she subverts the male gaze by drawing attention to the bodys anatomical indignities. Its as if shes trying to warn young Jeffrey Goldstein that his sexual fantasy will likely end with a urinary tract infection. There might be a tiny part of me thats still a little afraid of being sincerely sexy because then you risk looking foolish, Bloom said. Its much easier for me to be brassy-funny-sexy because theres a protectiveness to that, and I dont want to feel taken advantage of. Its all about control. Bloom at the Golden Globes in January. Twice nominated for Girlfriend, she won in 2016. Photo by Jen Lowery/via Newscom With lipstick and a dress, Bloom can easily play the bombshell. But off-screen shes content in a gray T-shirt and bomber jacket. When we meet, she isnt wearing an ounce of makeup, another way she peels back the curtain on the many faades of being female. When I learned sketch comedy, I felt like I suddenly had to become a dude, because thats the culture of comedy, she said, lowering her voice to sound like man. Dude, bro, f. There is a certain adopting of a faade when you are anything other than the majority, and I think that gives you an understanding of others who are oppressed. If feminism bequeathed to her a creative benefit, Bloom said, it is the freedom to say what I want. Her fearlessness certainly resonates with her Jewish audience, which goes bananas every time Bloom explodes an old stereotype. After she took on the meaning of Jewish American Princess in the JAP Battle rap, a female writer for the Jewish online magazine Tablet ecstatically declared, I am FINALLY THE DEMO OF A THING. I have never been the demo of a thing! But ultimately, a Jewish audience may not be enough to sustain even a critically acclaimed show. Im not afraid to make my show Jewish, Bloom said, but at the same time, my show is the lowest-rated show on network television. So while specificity is important to good art, I dont know how much of a mass appeal there is in openly talking about Judaism. In the past, Jewish artists like Allen and Roth could be rueful about their Jewishness, perhaps a little bit ashamed. But not Bloom. Instead, she seems to revel in it. And shes not prepared to stop anytime soon. At the end of our meeting, Bloom was rushing off to start work on Season Three. Its not just a job for her, but a community, a purpose, a spiritual salve. For most of my life, Ive kind of felt like I dont really have a place, and the success of this show not only draws me to people who have also felt like that, but it makes me feel I have a place to fit in. Its cathartic to realize Im not alone.

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February 16, 2017   Posted in: Jewish American Heritage Month  Comments Closed

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

Show up on a Shabbat morning at Congregation Bnai Israel in Daly City, and if youre a typical American Jew you will see plenty thats familiar. At the front of the sanctuary is an ark, and inside the ark are several Torah scrolls. There is a memorial wall at the back, listing the names of the communitys lost loved ones. Near the entrance is a rack of tallits. But before you come in, you must remove your shoes, as Moses did when he approached the Burning Bush. Examine the rack of tallits, and you will find that the fringes are knotted and wrapped in an unusual way. In front of the pews, there is an open space covered in rugs. Some worshippers sit or kneel on the floor; when they bow, they touch their heads to the ground. The prayers follow a different structure, and the sound is very Middle Eastern. Bnai Israel is the only Karaite synagogue in North America, serving the diasporas largest Karaite community about 800 members live within driving distance of the synagogue. Karaite Jews differ from Rabbanite Jews (as Karaites call the majority of Jews who follow rabbinic tradition) in that they reject oral law the Talmud and rabbinic authority relying instead on the literal text of the Bible. The two communities coexisted until the 10th century, when foundational Jewish (Rabbanite) leader and thinker Saadia Gaon denounced Karaites as apostates and sought to exclude them from the Jewish community. Relationships between these two Jewish communities have varied across time and place, but that initial antagonism has long colored the relationship. In the Bay Area, where few Rabbanite Jews are aware of Karaite Judaism, that relationship is cordial, though not always close on an institutional level. But on a personal level, many Karaite Jews are involved with the wider Bay Area Jewish community. Many have had bar and bat mitzvahs in Rabbanite synagogues. In the Karaite view of kashrut, one may mix meat and dairy products that come from different animals, and each community and individual has autonomy to decide how strict or lax to be. On the other hand, Karaites do not accept rabbinic loopholes that ease the restrictions of Shabbat. Karaite Jews have embraced some Rabbanite traditions, such as bnai mitzvah, while rejecting others, such as celebrating Hanukkah. The Torah directs Jews to include in tzitzit a strand of techelet, which rabbinic sources have interpreted as a reference to a specific deep blue dye. Karaites take techelet to mean any kind of lighter, sky-blue dye, which gives their tallits a distinctive look and informed the name of A Blue Thread, a long-running blog on Karaite Judaism. In the Bnai Israel sanctuary, most women sit off to one side, though there is no mechitza to separate them formally from the men. As each Karaite community is empowered to set its own standards, American mores rubbed off on this community, and some women now prefer to sit in the main area. Today there are an estimated 30,000 Karaite Jews in Israel, 1,500 in the United States, and small communities in places like France, England, Turkey and Russia. But until the mid-20th century, many lived in Arab lands. For centuries, one of the most prominent Karaite communities in the world was in Cairo, where the first Bay Area Karaites came from. Cairo once had a Karaite quarter of about 5,000 people adjacent to the mainstream Jewish quarter. Relations between Karaite and Rabbanite Jews in Cairo were close; the Cairo Genizah, a vast store of Jewish writings discovered in a Rabbanite synagogue in Cairo in the 19th century, included a number of Karaite documents. In what Karaites sometimes call the second exodus, they left Egypt en masse during the last century, beginning when Israel became a state in 1948. More left after the 1956 Sinai War. During the 1967 Six-Day War, all Jewish men in Egypt were put in camps, where they were held for over two years; they were the last to leave. Over the years mostly because of relatives already in the Bay Area many of the Egyptian Karaite Jews wound up here. In 1994, the Bay Area Karaite community bought the Daly City building from an existing Congregation Bnai Israel that was closing. The Karaite congregation adopted the name Bnai Israel because it was already painted on the side of the building. It is a small, closely knit community, drawn together by members Egyptian origins as well as their Karaite practice. Like many other small Jewish communities, they are concerned about the future. Who will induct their children and other Jews interested in Karaism into Karaite traditions? To ensure that future, the congregation has embarked on a relatively small construction project that will have a large and visible impact on their community: They are renovating their existing 3,500-square-foot prefab building and creating a 1,000-square-foot Karaite Jewish Cultural Center, attached to the synagogue, which will serve as a combination education program, museum and social center. There is a Karaite Heritage Center in Israel, but this will be the only similar institution in the diaspora. For a community this small, a lot is riding on the project. If this current generation of Karaite Jews in the United States fails, itll be very difficult to kick-start the movement in any organized fashion, said Shawn Lichaa, a pillar of the local Karaite community. The cultural center would have been no more than a dream were it not for the fortuitous union of David Ovadia and Maryellen Himell-Ovadia. The couple met when both were 60 a stroke of luck for them, and for the Karaite community. David is a Karaite Jew by heritage and a structural engineer by training; having done engineering work on nuclear power plants in the past, he is somewhat overqualified for this project, whose design he has spearheaded. Maryellen is a former member of San Franciscos Congregation Emanu-El and a master fundraiser. Her career culminated in a top development position at U.C. Berkeley, making the relatively measly $1.2 million needed for the Karaite cultural center a cinch for her to raise. For two people who are as ballsy as we both are to connect at the age of 60 and figure out how to build a new life together, bringing the strength that you have but tempered with a willingness to compromise and to learn from each other, that is a miracle when you can pull that off, Maryellen said. I dont think it happens every day. David came to the Bay Area from Egypt at age 13 in 1963. During that time a lot of my other uncles and everybody else was feeling the pressure and everything that was going on in Egypt, he said. He is a quiet, reserved man, but his passion about the renovation and the new cultural center shines through. He delights in talking about minute plumbing details, zoning hoops hes had to jump through and other nuts and bolts of the project. While others in his community have feared for its future, Davids faith never wavered. I never doubted that this is going to continue, he said. This is making sure that there is going to be a tradition kept alive. We will live for a thousand years and more. Maryellen sees herself as part of a bridge between the Karaite and mainstream Jewish communities of the Bay Area a bridge that she hopes will grow. This is not just about improving or facilitating things within the Karaite community, but to build bridges to the larger world and to make this a welcoming place for others who want to come and learn about this unique culture within the branches of the Jewish family tree, she said. With groundbreaking set for the end of this month, the Bnai Israel community has already raised $1.1 million of its $1.2 million goal. The cultural center campaign is an approved grantee of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federations donor-advised funds, though that only accounts for a small percentage of the money raised so far. In about six weeks, the congregation will move out of its building and be hosted by other congregations until the High Holy Days, when they expect to be back home again. While David and Maryellen get the money and the facility in order, Lichaa is thinking about what will go on inside the new cultural center. There is no greater exponent of Karaite Judaism in America today. His long-running blog, A Blue Thread: A Jewish Blog with a Thread of Karaite Throughout, is a deep dive into the history, ideas and practices of Karaite Judaism. Lichaa, 37, is also the creator of the Karaite Press. Launched in February 2016 with the publication of a 12th-century Karaite commentary on the Book of Esther, the goal of the Karaite Press is to make great historical Karaite writings many of them written in Arabic and until now locked up in manuscript form available to the global Karaite community and the public at large. Born in San Francisco to Karaite parents from Cairo, he grew up in Foster City, where he attended Hebrew school at Peninsula Sinai Congregation. Its not unusual for Karaite Jews in America to send their kids to Rabbanite synagogues for a Jewish education and bar/bat mitzvah, while supplementing that with home instruction in Karaite traditions. In Cairo, members of the Karaite community lived close together, but, said Lichaa, When we came to the U.S. we didnt have proximity, a central place where a critical mass lived where we could do education with our own teachers. The easiest thing to do was join local synagogues. In fact, that is the only option for Karaites in the rest of the United States. Today, the Daly City congregation offers some education programs, but none specifically for kids. We do train them in prayers, one-on-one. I do some of that, Lichaa said. A recent bar mitzvah at Bnai Israel was major affair, drawing a crowd of 150 to the small sanctuary. The new center will offer a range of programs, everything from cooking classes, history classes, to arts, he said. I see a Tuesday night open house where were open to the community. People can drop by, there will be food and beverages. And maybe Thursday nights well have a specific learning opportunity. He is working to make sure all of the classes will be live-streamed, making the learning available to a wide audience. The center also will include a rotating exhibit of Karaite Torah scrolls, art, manuscripts and the like. Lichaa views himself as Jewish first and Karaite second. I made an active decision that my preferred form of Judaism is Karaite Judaism, he said. If youre an Orthodox Jew, I understand why you follow the rabbinic tradition. But for everyone else, I wonder why Karaite Judaism cant be one of the menu options. Some Jews born into mainstream Judaism do choose Karaite practice. No conversion is necessary in such cases; it is somewhat analogous to a Jew from an Orthodox family choosing to associate with a Reform synagogue, simply choosing a different stream of Judaism. Lichaa and his wife, who comes from a mainstream Jewish family, made the decision to raise their son Reuven, 2, primarily in Karaite Judaism. But it is not to the exclusion of involvement in Rabbanite Jewish communities, Lichaa said. For example, this past erev Shabbat we were at the Mission Minyan, and we are frequent participants at Chabad of Noe Valley. The new center will make it easier for young Jews from Karaite families to make the same choice. For [Reuven] and others like him there are many young kids in our community that they have a place they can learn about their heritage if they, too, make the active decision to choose Karaite Judaism, this center will be there to support them in that, Lichaa said. David, Maryellen, Lichaa and other members of the local Karaite community are looking forward to the completion of the center with great anticipation. They have given their money, time and moral support to the project. And every bit of that is being put to use. We have to maximize every square inch of space, every dollar, Maryellen said. Indeed, the property is small, and half of it is taken up by a parking lot; the cultural center extension will bring the facility right up to the sidewalk. Sitting at Bnai Israel, talking with the regulars, there is a sense of vibrancy and excitement. The mood is that of people awaiting the impending arrival of something truly awe-inspiring. And who can blame them? They are embarking on an exciting new venture that will have a lasting impact on the future of their community and its heritage. Im hopeful now that therell be a future for Karaite Judaism in the United States, Lichaa said.

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February 16, 2017   Posted in: Jewish American Heritage Month  Comments Closed

Israel’s right-wing revolutionaries – Christian Science Monitor

February 14, 2017 JerusalemAs a leftist 20-something in the 1990s, Anat Roth railed against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not making peace with the Palestinians. She recruited university students and organized demonstrations day after day outside his house, his office, anywhere armed with slogans such as the wild right is a danger for Israel. It was very noisy and it was very effective, recalls Ms. Roth, noting that Mr. Netanyahu lost to a pro-peace candidate in 1999. We succeeded … to get rid of Netanyahu big time. Today, Netanyahu is back in power, and Roth is opposing him again but for a completely different reason. She thinks he isnt conservative enough. You start to understand that … your maximum [position] is not even the minimum of the most moderate people among the Palestinians. Anat Roth, former peace activist and Knesset candidate from a right-wing party Netanyahu has said in the past that he supports the establishment of a Palestinian state, a move that she now believes would be suicidal for Israel. She has come to that conclusion after years of Palestinian bombings, shootings, and stabbings that have killed more than 1,200 Israelis; after Israels withdrawal from the Gaza Strip that led to the rise of a terrorist regime that showered her fellow citizens with rockets; after her liberal friends failed to answer her increasingly persistent questions about how to protect the country. Roth has also become more religious and moved from her small Jerusalem apartment to a spacious home in Efrat, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. In the last election, she ran for parliament with a party to the right of Netanyahu. She has given up entirely on the two-state solution she once fought so hard to achieve. You have to fight for what you believe in, says Roth. But if you realize that it is not achievable, and that the theories and assumptions you believed in are not right, you need to have the guts, the strength, to confront it and look for other options and not be stuck in prior assumptions that dont bring you anywhere. Roths transformation in many ways mirrors what has happened to Israeli society. Over the past two decades, Israel has undergone a fundamental shift that has brought to power the countrys most right-wing government in history. And it may be about to get more conservative. Netanyahu whose hard-line stances taxed his relationship with former President Barack Obama and other Western leaders is being pulled inexorably to the right by rising rivals, toughening public opinion on security issues, and by the increasingly religious tilt of the Israeli population. Roi Peleg kisses his son Raz before heading off to preschool in Eli, a settlement with about 4,000 residents in northern West Bank. For years, when Netanyahu wanted to check the power of interest groups to the right of him most notably the settler movement he could always invoke the United States: Washington, hed say, wont let us build more. But now that could change. President Trump, who was scheduled to meet with Netanyahu on Feb. 15 in Washington, has signaled a more hands-off stance toward Israel including a pro- settlement pick for ambassador, David Friedman. Right-wing elements see a chance to move the country decisively against the formation of a Palestinian state and perhaps toward formal annexation of lands in the West Bank, which they refer to by the biblical names of Judea and Samaria. All this could fundamentally change Israels standing with much of the West, at the United Nations, and with other countries in the volatile Middle East a region already seemingly in a perpetual state of war and splintering increasingly along religious lines. I think Israel is at a unique junction, says Naftali Bennett, one of the most prominent politicians pulling the Israeli government to the right. For the first time in 50 years, we need to ask ourselves, what do we really want? Theres a unique opportunity for Israel to go through quantum change. Roth is now the doting mother of a baby girl. She is strong in her political views but not condemnatory. She still knows her liberal friends phone numbers by heart. While she has given up completely on a Palestinian state, many Israelis have shifted more conservative largely out of a loss of hope though not a desire for peace with the Palestinians. But there are other factors behind the hardening attitudes as well. Israelis have long touted the dual nature of Israel as Jewish and democratic. In the past, when asked to choose which of those foundational principles should take precedence, they would refuse. But increasingly Israelis are revealing a preference and its for the Jewish element, says Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI), an independent research center in Jerusalem that does extensive polling. The growing presence of religious Jews, both in number and influence, is challenging the secular Zionist vision that has long dominated Israels elite institutions: its parliament, courts, military, and media. A religious nationalist vision, one that sees Israel establishing its sovereignty over Judea and Samaria as a prelude to the Messiahs coming, is increasingly moving from the fringes of Israeli society into politics. It is spurring right-wing parties, which now make up about half of the political spectrum, to try to outdo each other ideologically, says Dahlia Scheindlin, a political scientist and pollster. A student holds his baby as he studies at the Bnei David academy in the West Bank settlement of Eli. The academy has spearheaded a surge in the number of religious officers in the Israeli military. The most visible sign of this, and the one arguably of most concern to the international community and its hopes for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is the rising clout of the settler movement. Ideological settlers have become a critical part of Netanyahus base in the Likud party, and key supporters of his chief rival, Mr. Bennett of the Jewish Home party the party to which Roth now belongs. Her move to Efrat, a ridge of red-roofed homes surrounded by Palestinian farmland, is part of a surge in the Israeli settler population in the West Bank, which has nearly quadrupled since the 1993 Oslo Accord. Since Mr. Trumps inauguration, the government has approved another 5,500 homes in the settlements. The settlers are now probably the most effective interest group in the country, says Mr. Plesner. Bennett, a software entrepreneur who made millions before going into politics, is pushing a far-reaching and controversial solution in the West Bank: Extend Israeli sovereignty to the 61 percent of the area that is already under full Israeli control. Allow the more than 400,000 Israeli settlers there to stay in their homes, offer Israeli citizenship or residency to the areas estimated 80,000 Palestinians, and let the rest of the West Bank Palestinians live in autonomous areas under a government of their choice. Hed couple that with a massive Marshall Plan to improve infrastructure and economic opportunity. Bennett plans to introduce a bill in the coming weeks that would extend Israeli sovereignty over Maale Adumim, a settlement of 40,000 people just outside Jerusalem. Nearly 8 in 10 Israelis support such a move, but it would set a legal precedent for implementing the rest of Bennetts plan which is not as widely accepted. Only 44 percent of Israelis support annexing the West Bank, according to IDI. I feel that if we dont make our move now, and apply Israeli law based on my plan, well miss this window, he says. If Bennett succeeds, that would effectively kill the prospects for the two-state solution, ending the international communitys decades-long drive to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel. There would be no need to talk about a two-state solution in a scenario of annexation of occup[ied] territory, says chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in a statement to the Monitor. [It] seems that the two-state solution that Israel is talking about is the State of Israel and the state of the settlers that this extremist government has been vigorously building. Their vision is one of one state and two systems, apartheid, rather than two states. Without international intervention, it will be very difficult to save the prospects of a sovereign and independent State of Palestine. I think Israel is at a unique junction…. Theres a unique opportunity for Israel to go through quantum change. Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party While Bennetts vision has proved attractive to Roth and many other settlers, the Israeli politician is not a settler himself. He is, in many ways, the quintessential Israeli success story a fighter, an innovator, a leader. He lives in a tony city just north of Tel Aviv. His parents are American immigrants, educated at the University of California, Berkeley. He grew up loving Asterix comics and the books of Beverly Cleary (of Ramona fame), according to a 2013 profile by the Haaretz newspaper. Bennett showed leadership abilities from a young age. He served in two different elite Israeli military units Sayeret Matkal and Maglan. He fought Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon and Palestinian militants in the West Bank. When he and his friends formed a start-up, everyone knew who would be chief executive officer. When they sold it for $145 million, it was Bennett who negotiated the deal. Netanyahu, a fellow Sayeret Matkal alum, appointed him chief of staff in 2006. Dubbed by some Bibi 2.0, Bennett is now increasingly challenging the prime minister on major issues. Netanyahu who has long been deft at balancing American pressure and settlers impatience could face a crucial test if Mr. Trump relaxes the usual US positions. He might be surprised with an American president who says, Listen, I couldnt care less what you do with your country … just phone me if theres a crisis but otherwise I dont want to interfere, says Oded Revivi, mayor of Efrat and chief foreign envoy for the YESHA Council, the settlers political arm. While Netanyahu still dutifully adheres to the American stance on Palestinian statehood, Bennett has boldly and unabashedly stated what seems to him and an increasing number of Israelis patently obvious: The two-state solution is dead. Bennett admits that his vision for a Greater Israel is not appealing to the world, but says people respect a coherent vision. If theres one thing he says hes learned from doing business in America, it is to be honest. If theres a problem with your product, Call the guy, tell him the truth, tell him what you know, tell him what youre doing about it, bite the bullet, he says. Theyre not going to be happy … but theyll respect you. What I think is unacceptable is when we say, Hey, we want a Palestinian state but but but this and that, says Bennett. Cutting our roots here I believe will have a tremendous effect on who we are as a nation not just to the Jews who live in Israel, but to the whole Jewish nation all over the world. Tamar Asraf, spokeswoman for a local settler council in the West Bank Many analysts are skeptical that Bennett will succeed in implementing his vision, given Netanyahus considerable legislative power as prime minister, as well as the prospect of international opprobrium. But in a tumultuous era of populism that brought Brexit and now a Trump White House, its not inconceivable. While some worry about Israel retreating from Western liberalism, many religious nationalists here view themselves as forging a prescient path alongside Brexit champions, Trump supporters, and others eager to avoid the pitfalls of liberal naivet. I think the whole world, including the Israelis, went through a trend of liberalism, says Mr. Revivi. I dont know who woke up first. Palestinian activists protest near the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim in the West Bank. Even during her years as a peace activist, Roth found it painful to accept that Israel should give up the West Bank, which it conquered in the Arab-Israel conflict of 1967, to create a Palestinian state. The basic thing is that you dont want to get rid of it because its … one of the limbs of your body, she says. When do you amputate a limb? Just when youre forced to. On the one hand, given demographic trends that showed Palestinian birthrates far outpacing Israeli ones, she felt it was indeed imperative to establish a separate state in order to keep a Jewish majority in Israel. Nevertheless, as she watched three peace summits end without an agreement at Camp David, in 2000; at Taba, Egypt, in 2001; and in Annapolis, Md., in 2007 she found herself asking, Why arent Palestinians accepting Israels offers? You start to understand that … your maximum [position] is not even the minimum of the most moderate people among the Palestinians, she recalls thinking after working with Palestinians to develop the 2003 alternative peace plan known as the Geneva Initiative. I started realizing that they want things I will never give them like Jerusalem, like the Temple Mount…. Its not like a limb; its the heart itself. When Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, with no negotiations or concessions from the Palestinians, the militant Hamas movement took credit for pushing Israel out and won elections the following year. Gaza militants showered Israel with rockets, despite periodic poundings by Israeli planes that killed thousands of Palestinians. The 2014 war, in which Hamas even targeted Tel Aviv, sending parents and children scurrying to bomb shelters, shattered the idealistic notions that many leftists had harbored. Gaza is like a laboratory of what will happen in Judea and Samaria, says Roth, who formally left the Labor Party after those attacks. The security threat of having a Palestinian state next to us is more dangerous than the demographics. To be sure, there are security risks involved in denying Palestinians a state as well. No one can control the new generation of Palestinians, says Issa Samander, a former Palestinian activist in the West Bank, who sees the seeds of a new Palestinian uprising germinating. [Israelis] dont know the new generation…. They will be surprised. But for religious settlers, it goes beyond safety to a sense of mission. This is why Roi Harel still lives in his home on a windswept hill surrounded by Arab villages, with the skyscrapers of Tel Aviv visible in the distance. One morning last March, while his five kids and wife were still sleeping, Mr. Harel opened his door on his way out to serve in the army reserves. Suddenly, in the predawn darkness, two Palestinian teenagers assaulted him with baseball bats and knives. They pushed him back into his home, down a corridor. Unarmed and wounded, he was all that stood between the assailants and his family. He shouted to his wife to call security. Then, somehow, he managed to push the intruders outdoors. Soon thereafter, security forces found the Palestinians and killed them. We feel the nation is watching us. I think all the Israelis west of here say, If they fall, theres no one strong enough to hold the lines. Roi Harel (l.), a West Bank settler who was attacked in his home in March 2015 by two Palestinians, who were later killed by Israeli security forces. He and his wife, Shira (r.), are determined to remain in their home. Palestinians, many of whom feel justified in defending their homeland by force, pointed out that six times as many Palestinians as Israelis had been killed in the most recent wave of violence. Netanyahu, for his part, called Harel to congratulate him on his bravery, while local schoolchildren made a sign for the familys front door that celebrated the hero. For months, some kids in the Harels neighborhood, out of fear, refused to shower alone. One youth slept with a baseball bat; another kept a knife under his pillow. But none of the families have moved. They believe staying is important both practically and symbolically. If they leave, they feel the army will give up on defending these strategic hills overlooking Israels sole international airport and the belt of high-tech industries that power Israels economy and contribute to its international prestige. We feel the nation is watching us, says Harel, whose wife oversaw a renovation of their home, including adding a second floor, after the attack. I think all the Israelis west of here say, If they fall, theres no one strong enough to hold the lines. Harels neighbor Tamar Asraf, like Roth, grew up not knowing anything about her religious roots. In fact, she resented religious people and settlers blaming those living in the occupied territories, in particular, for the lack of peace. Because of them, she thought, we have to serve in the army. But while doing her military service, she met other young women who were religious. She started to connect more with her Jewish heritage and identify with the biblical lands of Judea and Samaria. Cutting our roots here I believe will have a tremendous effect on who we are as a nation not just to the Jews who live in Israel, but to the whole Jewish nation all over the world, says Ms. Asraf, who is now a spokeswoman for the local settler council. And this is the main reason why we are here today, fighting in order to turn this place into a part of the state of Israel…. Because if this is not our homeland, then what are we doing here? But for other Israelis, formally extending the countrys sovereignty to the West Bank is fundamentally opposed to its nature as a Jewish and democratic state. For either Israel would have to absorb so many Palestinians that Arabs would become the majority in the near future, or it would have to relegate Palestinians to a different civil or legal status. Palestinians, for their part, already see Israels claim to being a democracy as a sham. Not far from the West Bank settlement of Eli, a small outpost called Amona has become a firestorm of controversy, a symbolic battle against the entire settlement enterprise and its legal underpinnings. Palestinians claiming ownership of the land celebrated when Israels High Court of Justice ordered the outpost evacuated. The government complied earlier this month. But its offers of compensation and resettlement, as well as a new law to legalize homes built on private Palestinian land, are seen as running counter to the court decision. I feel the democracy in Israel is just for their people, says Mayor Abdulrahman Saleh in the neighboring Palestinian town of Silwad, who has been involved in the legal battle. But for Palestinians, either in [historical Palestine] or here it is like Bashar al-Assad, he adds referring to the Syrian strongman. It is dictatorial. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (l.) and Israeli Labor Party lawmaker Hilik Bar attend a 2013 meeting with a delegation of mostly Israeli university students and activists at the presidential headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Hilik Bar, the deputy speaker of Israels Knesset (parliament) and a friend of Roths since her Labor Party days, is among the shrinking minority of Israelis who havent given up on a Palestinian state. As head of the lobby for the two-state solution since 2013, Mr. Bar has pitched his plan to the Knesset and the Israeli president. Hes gone to Ramallah to talk to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president. Hes even consulted with leaders from the broader Arab and Muslim world, whose support he sees as crucial for such a deal. He insists that a two-state solution can be achieved without endangering Israels security. Look, Israel is surrounded by many, many enemy states with ordinary armies, with long-range missiles, with tanks, with combat jets and we are living. We won five [or] six wars in seven decades against almighty armies of Arab states, because we have a very strong army and the most courageous soldiers that you will meet, Bar says. And this is why it seems to me very defeatist to assume that … we should be afraid to do a peace agreement because of a small, demilitarized … state that will be in some of the areas in Judea and Samaria. Its not that hes sanguine about the Palestinian leadership. In fact, he says he has no confidence that Mr. Abbas can broker a deal. Hes not strong, hes not always reliable, hes often closing his eyes against incitement, says Bar. But, he adds, We will never find a Palestinian president who will be a great Zionist and have … an Israeli flag in his office. One way to revive negotiations would be to look for opportunities for incremental progress, rather than a comprehensive peace deal, says David Makovsky of the Washington Institute, who was involved in the 2013-14 American-led effort to restart the peace process. We tried to hit a home run three times, says Mr. Makovsky. Maybe we should try to achieve a single to show the public that something is succeeding. Before that can be done, however, Bar must garner more support from the Israeli public. For her part, Roth remains firm in her view that Israel should never give up any of the occupied territories for a Palestinian state. I hope my friends in the Labor Party will wake up, she says over a cappuccino at a popular cafe one block from the Knesset. Then she gets up to leave. She has a lot to do including, maybe, winning a seat in parliament next time around.

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

Singles Scene SATURDAY, FEB. 18 Crossroads for Jewish Singles of Cleveland dinner, 7 p.m., Cedar Creek Grille, 2101 Richmond Road, Beachwood. RSVP to Elaine at 216-831-4344. SATURDAY, FEB. 25 Crossroads for Jewish Singles of Cleveland dinner, 7 p.m., Winking Lizard, 25380 Miles Road, Bedford. RSVP to Ken at 440-498-9911. MONDAY, FEB. 27 Cleveland Jewish Singles 35-55 meet-up, 7:30 p.m., Nervous Dog Coffee Bar at La Place, 2101 Richmond Road, Beachwood. RSVP to meetup.com/Cleveland-Jewish-Singles-35-55. FRIDAY, FEB. 17 Family Kabbalat Shabbat, 9:30-10:15 a.m., Park Synagogue East, 27500 Shaker Blvd., Pepper Pike. For children ages birth to 5 with parents, grandparents and/or caregivers. RSVP to 216-371-2244 ext. 121 or asolomon@parksyn.org. SUNDAY, FEB. 19 Integrating Local Immigrants: Cleveland Resources and Experiences featuring Danielle Drake and Nadia Zaiem, 9:30-10:45 a.m., First Unitarian Church of Cleveland, 21600 Shaker Blvd., Shaker Hts. 216-751-2320 or firstunitariancleveland.org. MONDAY, FEB. 20 Presidents Day Celebration, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, 2929 Richmond Road, Beachwood. 216-593-0575 or maltzmuseum.org. TUESDAY, FEB. 21 College financial planning workshop, 6:30-7:30 p.m., Brecksville Community Center, 1 Community Drive. Reservations required. 888-845-4282. Women of Fairmount Temple lunch and program with Felicia Zavarella Stadelman who will discuss Claude Monet, noon, Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, 23737 Fairmount Temple, Beachwood. Lunch costs $10. Diane Lavin will lead First Families of the Bible at 10:30 a.m. 216-464-1330. Crohns and Colitis Foundation of America Concord support group meeting, 6:30-8 p.m., Auburn Career Center – Technology Learning Center, Room 116, 8140 Auburn Road, Painesville. Group meets third Tuesday of every month. No meetings in July and August. 216-524-7700 ext. 5 or neohio@ccfa.org. WEDNESDAY, FEB. 22 Accelerate 2017: Citizens Make Change, 5:30 p.m., Global Center for Health Innovation, 1 St. Clair Ave. NE, Cleve. cleveleads.org. Making a Difference in Troubled Times presented by the Rev. Raphael Gamaliel Warnock, 7:30 p.m., South Franklin Circle retirement community, 16575 S. Franklin St., Bainbridge Twp. RSVP required. 440-247-1300 or southfranklincircle.org. Protect Your Heart: Know Your Numbers, 7-8:30 p.m., Ross DeJohn Community Center, 6306 Marsol Drive, Mayfield Hts. Free. Free blood pressure screenings and stroke risk assessments starting at 5:30 p.m. Register at 440-312-4784 or ccf.org/healthyhearthillcrest. iMovie App for Beginners workshop, 7 p.m., Cuyahoga County Public Library Orange branch, 31975 Chagrin Blvd., Pepper Pike. Basic proficiency with iPad required. Register at 216-831-4282 or cuyahogalibrary.org. THURSDAY, FEB. 23 Cleveland Institute of Art presented by Grafton Nunes, 4 p.m., Judson Manor retirement community, 1890 E. 107th St., Cleve. Free. 216-791-2555 or judsonsmartliving.org/events. College financial planning workshop, 6:30-7:30 p.m., Solon Community Center, 35000 Portz Pkwy. Reservations required. 888-845-4282. FRIDAY, FEB. 24 Family Kabbalat Shabbat, 9:30-10:15 a.m., Park Synagogue East, 27500 Shaker Blvd., Pepper Pike. For children ages birth to 5 with parents, grandparents and/or caregivers. RSVP to 216-371-2244 ext. 121 or asolomon@parksyn.org. SATURDAY, FEB. 25 Breast Cancer A to Z: Triple Negative Breast Cancer – For those touched by cancer, 8:30-11:30 a.m., The Gathering Place West, 800 Sharon Drive, Westlake. Free, advance registration required. 216-595-9546. Donuts with Dave Greenspan, 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Westlake Porter Public Library, 27333 Center Ridge Road, Westlake. greenspanforohio.com. Lecture by historian David Stradling, 7 p.m., Happy Days Lodge, 500 W. Streetsboro Road, Peninsula. Tickets: $8 adults, $3 children ages 3-12. Doors open at 6. 330-657-2909 or forcvnp.org/cvi. 2nd annual Lake Erie Folk Festival, 1-6 p.m., Shore Cultural Centre, 291 E. 222nd St., Euclid. lakeeriefolkfest.com. Sandlot baseball program, noon, Baseball Heritage Museum, 6601 Lexington Ave., Cleve. 216-789-1083 or baseballheritagemuseum.org. SUNDAY, FEB. 26 Jump for Joy with Queen Esther, 3-5 p.m., Jump Palace, 1667 OH 303, Streetsboro. Free, advance registration required. 330-742-3349 or education@tbshudson.org. NAAMAT Cleveland Council Young Family event, 1:30-3 p.m., Herps Alive, 1489 Garden Drive, South Euclid. For children ages 5 and older. RSVP to 216-321-2002 or naamatclev@gmail.com. Boundaries That Matter: Redistricting State and Federal Election Districts community discussion presented by Mark Salling and Paul Moke, 9:30-10:45 a.m., First Unitarian Church of Cleveland, 21600 Shaker Blvd., Shaker Hts. 216-751-2320 or firstunitariancleveland.org. A faith ta die for – about Jewish martyrs presented by Rabbi John Spitzer, 9:30-11 a.m., Beth El Congregation, 750 White Pond Drive, Akron. Advance registration requested. $5 suggested donation. Preceded by services and light breakfast at 8:30. Women of Fairmount Temple Sunday Mitzvah Morning, 9:30-11:30 a.m., Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, 23737 Fairmount Blvd., Beachwood. 216-464-1330. jHub Purim Hoopla!, 3:30-4:30 p.m., Solon Community Center, 35000 Portz Parkway. Free, registration required. 216-371-0446 ext. 207 or dshapiro@jecc.org. TUESDAY, FEB. 28 Colon Cancer Updates – For those touched by cancer, 6:30-8 p.m., The Gathering Place West, 800 Sharon Drive, Westlake. Free, advance registration required. 216-595-9546. FRIDAY, MARCH 3 Family Kabbalat Shabbat, 9:30-10:15 a.m., Park Synagogue East, 27500 Shaker Blvd., Pepper Pike. For children ages birth to 5 with parents, grandparents and/or caregivers. RSVP to 216-371-2244 ext. 121 or asolomon@parksyn.org. Anti-Israelism and the Jewish Community: Why the American Jewish Community Should Support Israel presented by Asaf Romirowsky, 8 p.m., The Temple-Tifereth Israel, 26000 Shaker Blvd., Beachwood. Shabbat dinner at 7 p.m. costs $16. 216-831-3233 or hmiller@ttti.org.

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February 14, 2017   Posted in: Jewish American Heritage Month  Comments Closed


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