July/August 2024

Page 1



The tragic fate and future promise of women in the IDF


Survivors and activists fight for accountability


Recognizing the significant need for rehabilitation beds in Israel — and in Jerusalem in particular — Hadassah began construction on the large and innovative Gandel Rehabilitation Center at Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus years ago. After October 7, with a country at war facing a critical shortage, the building’s first phase was accelerated and opened for treatment in January.

Now, we need your help to see this world-class facility through to completion.

Your support will allow Hadassah hospitals to offer a full range of special treatments including physical and occupational therapy, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and respiratory and orthopedic rehabilitation. There will be a PTSD center and rehabilitation for neurological problems caused by brain, spinal cord and nervous system injuries. When construction is complete, the 323,000-square-foot eight-story center will care for 10,000 patients annually.

Hadassah Stands With Israel

Learn more and find other Israel trips at go.hadassah.org/travel2024 or call Ayelet Tours at 1-800-237-1517.


Volunteer. Bear witness. Learn about Hadassah hospitals’ role in the war effort. And more.

Show your support for Israel and its people — at a time when it’s so critically needed — by joining Hadassah on our solidarity mission.

September 2-9

Led by Cathy Olswing & Debbie Kessler Sign up for the mission now


October 7 survivors Amit Soussana and Tali Biner are two of the many Israelis whose voices will not be silenced. They, like most Israelis, are perplexed and angry that so much of the world is denying or even justifying the atrocities, including sexual violence, that happened on that fateful day and beyond.


Why were female observer soldiers stationed less than a mile from Gaza without defensive weapons? Why were their repeated warnings about a potential Hamas infiltration ignored? Could the October 7 tragedy and ensuing war have been averted if their warnings had been heeded?


12 COMMENTARY Transgressive prayer


• One mom’s take on campus antisemitism

• A Catholic ally

38 TRAVEL Yiddishkeit in the Berkshires


Finding calm in the kitchen


• Despair and hope in Mourning in Lod

• Sisters unravel Persian heritage via podcast


• Recent titles from Hadassah members

• Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s Long Island Compromi se

A new conscript symbolizes the evolving role and contribution of women to the Israel Defense Forces. See story on page 22. Photo by Nir Alon/Alamy.

There’s a peculiar side effect to the displacement of some 60,000 from northern Israel: Some people, especially seniors, are thriving in ways they hadn’t at home. They don’t have to cook for themselves. Communal activities keep them occupied. In many ways, it’s like an assisted-living facility—and how the kibbutz used to be.


A man in a black kippah caressing a lover. A hot sofer , or scribe, standing against the backdrop of a ketubah. Two red-headed lovers wrapped in a tallit, about to kiss. Judging these Jewish romance novels by their covers—and plots—it’s going to be a scorching summer. facebook.com/hadassahmag

Perpetual Autumn

Let’s recommit to our pride as Jews and Zionists

Summer is supposed to be a time to relax, but for Israel and the Jewish world, this is a year with no summer break. Our calendars are stuck. Even if we could get beyond the horror and tragedy of October 7, 2023, we are in a perpetual state of mobilization and a seemingly endless struggle.

Far from the combat zones, Israel’s legitimacy is questioned more widely than ever, and it’s clear that the war with Hamas provides an excuse for people who believe the Jewish state’s illegitimacy goes back to its founding. For many, the central issue is Zionism, which they misunderstand—out of malign intent or ignorance.

Zionism, of course, is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. Dozens of new nations emerged after World War II, and all of them had independence initiatives. The Zionist movement accepted the United Nation’s original two-state solution for Palestine, but the Arabs rejected that plan and instead launched a war. Between 1948 and 1967, Gaza and the West Bank were under Arab sovereignty, but no Palestinian Arab state emerged. As an independent nation, Israel has engaged on numerous occasions in negotiations over the creation of a Palestinian state—and will no doubt join in such negotiations in the future.

Right now, the horizon is bleak. We appreciate the support of cherished friends in government and public life, including the broad bipartisan congressional majority that approves aid to Israel. We also

engage with people and institutions who could be friendlier. And just as important, we are talking among ourselves about justice, self-defense and how to preserve our humanity as we confront those who hate Jews and those who are too easily persuaded by slogans that mask hate.



We are troubled by the alarming increase in antisemitism. According to an Anti-Defamation League report, antisemitic incidents in the United States—including physical assault, vandalism and verbal harassment targeting synagogues, schools, Jewish institutions and individuals— increased by 140 percent between 2022 and 2023. The spike was especially dramatic after October 7. The ADL audit is reason enough to recommit to our pride as Jews and Zionists, to empower and defend ourselves and to call on our leaders and allies to join us in fighting hostility. We are experienced in handling hurt feelings and defending free speech, even when it is painful to hear. But when speech crosses into harassment and assault, we will draw—and hold—the line.

Hadassah continues to pressure the United Nations and other organizations to strengthen their efforts to address the weaponization of

violence against women. SecretaryGeneral António Guterres’s 2023 Report on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence was heartbreaking, but it didn’t go far enough. There is voluminous documented evidence that Hamas carried out systematic sexual violence during the October 7 attack and against hostages it kidnapped. By failing to explicitly hold Hamas responsible for rape and murder, the United Nations report fell short of promoting justice for Israeli women and signaled to terrorists everywhere that they can escape accountability.

Advocacy on this issue is central to Hadassah’s End the Silence campaign. I also encourage everyone to watch Screams Before Silence, a documentary film by former Meta Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and available on YouTube, which includes interviews with survivors of the October 7 attacks.

Our busy summer will give way to a busier fall, which includes an election on November 5 that will affect issues of great concern to Hadassah. First and foremost, I encourage all of you not only to vote but also to be involved in our #HadassahVotes efforts. There are so many key issues at stake: Strengthening American support for Israel, combatting antisemitism and championing women’s health, public health and reproductive freedom.

We haven’t had much good news of late. With our advocacy and action, I am confident we can create some.

delivering resilience. delivering hope.

360° of Healing is about keeping Israel’s children mentally and emotionally healthy.

The Herman Dana Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Hadassah is internationally recognized for outstanding services in treatment, teaching and training, and critical research in child and adolescent mental health. The Division’s specialized staff provides full-scale treatment plans based on an exhaustive approach that includes assessing the child’s physiological, emotional and cognitive states, as well as the family dynamic and cultural background.

The Child and Adolescent Inpatient Unit serves children aged 6 to 18 and provides individual therapy, group work, parental guidance, family intervention, parents’ groups and psychopharmacology. Some children suffer from life-threatening disorders: nearly half are diagnosed with eating disorders; others suffer from psychotic disorders, affective disorders, behavioral problems, severe anxiety, and non-compliance with medical treatment.

The clinically based Research Unit investigations include the psychological effect of terror and trauma on minors and genetic components in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

CHAIR Ellen Hershkin



SENIOR EDITOR Leah Finkelshteyn





Roselyn Bell

Ruth G. Cole

Nancy Falchuk

Gloria Goldreich

Blu Greenberg

Dara Horn

Ruth B Hurwitz

Francine Klagsbrun

Anne Lapidus Lerner

Curt Leviant

Joy Levitt

Bonnie Lipton

Marcie Natan

Nessa Rapoport

Sima Schuster

Susan S. Smirnoff

Barbara Topol

Living on the Edge


the surface in Israel, all is not O.K


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trolling down tel aviv’s Ben-Gurion Boulevard on a sunny Shabbat afternoon, watching young families play in the parks while the cafes and bars teem with patrons, it’s easy for a visitor to think that at least part of Israeli society is healing. Life, of course, does go on. Not long ago, one good friend celebrated her daughter’s wedding while, on the same day, another experienced the joy of her third granddaughter’s baby naming.

But beneath the surface, all is not O.K. Amid the worry and uncertainty about the fate of the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza and the future of the war on several fronts, Israelis are living on the edge. Most are affected directly or indirectly by the conflict.

The older sister of the bride mentioned above, for example, has been essentially a single mother for the past eight months, as her husband has been serving in the reserves with only limited breaks. Her 18-monthold son, who hasn’t seen his father much for nearly half of his life, often walks up to random men with beards and says, “Abba.”

The mood in Israel hit me hard as I traveled there in late May as part of a mission called I Believe Israeli Women, initiated and sponsored by the Seed the Dream Foundation in partnership with Jewish Women International. Admittedly, we met with individuals most directly affected by the terror attacks of October 7 and its aftermath— survivors, hostage families, first responders, hostage negotiators, legal

and military officials—with a special focus on the sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas.

It was an intense and powerful experience. No matter how much I’ve read, watched and obsessed over the news, being on the ground, seeing and hearing and, when appropriate, hugging, the individuals directly affected was transformative. I am grateful for the opportunity to share with you my experience in “Survivors Share Their Stories” (page 16) and “Fighting for Accountability” (page 20).

The aftermath of October 7 continues to reverberate in many ways in Israel. In “Ignored Until It Was Too Late,” Maayan Hoffman delves into the tragic story of the female field observer soldiers tasked with watching Israel’s border with Gaza (page 22). And Uriel Heilman brings to life “A Kibbutz in Exile,” about displaced war refugees from the North (page 28).

For her part, food columnist Adeena Sussman shares how, despite the heat and heaviness that surround her, she is “Keeping My Cool in the Kitchen” with simple, light summer recipes (page 42).

Closer to home, Bonnie Rochman gives us a glimpse into the college conundrum many families are experiencing in “We’re Not Crossing Off Schools” (page 14). And in “A Catholic Ally,” Jennifer Stefano reminds us that we have friends outside the Jewish community (page 15).

Lastly, if ever there was a summer to take a break and indulge in some romance novels, this might be it. Jean Meltzer’s got you covered with “Summer of (Jewish) Love” (page 48). May we all find some escape amid the heat and heartache.


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I had to share my thoughts on such an amazing issue (May/June 2024). Noa Tishby was a great choice for the cover. I saw her speak during a Zoom presentation with the Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte. I remember thinking, “Who is she?” Turns out, she was captivating in her courage, knowledge and beauty— inside and out. I bought her book Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Understood Country on Earth and put it on the shelf.

Come October 7, I pulled it out and read it. It is so informative. Being raised in New York and New Jersey, I didn’t know the history of the Middle East as I wish I had. Her book is thorough and has made me more knowledgeable. I have recommended it many times now and have sent it to friends struggling with the adequate knowledge to support Israel and the Jewish faith. I look forward

to reading Tishby’s new book and continuing to follow her on Instagram.

The story “One Beautiful Egg: The First Gestational Surrogacy” resonated with me, too. The will to have a child is probably one of the strongest. At 39, I was so sick of dating and inquired about intrauterine insemination. I always knew I wanted to be a mother. Within several months, I was pregnant. Eleven years later, I have the most amazing, wellrounded son who will soon start learning for his bar mitzvah. The best decision I ever made. And Provence—featured in “A Sojourn in Jewish Provence”—is my favorite place, rich with colors and history. I didn’t know about the synagogues there, so thank you!

Price Charlotte, N.C.


I love Hadassah Magazine. I love crossword puzzles. And I have a great sense of humor. But the May/June puzzle, “Jewish Mothers Past, Present and Biblical,” should not have included clues for the answers “nag,” “guilt” and “smothering” that perpetuate unfair stereotypes of Jewish women. Especially in a puzzle that elsewhere highlighted some great Jewish women.

Ruth Tepper Newton, Mass.


Thank you for the arts story “They

Also Served” by Adrienne Wigdortz Anderson (May/June issue) about the National Museum of American Jewish Military History in Washington, D.C., and the Jewish men and women who have and are serving in the armed forces.

My husband was an officer in the Medical Service Corps from 1979 to 1994. Our family was stationed in Naples, Italy, during the Gulf War. Our little Jewish community did not have a dedicated rabbi—he was stationed aboard a ship—but I will never forget our wartime Passover seder. We hosted reservists, and our rabbi’s wife defrosted 300 kosher chicken breasts in her bathtub. She certainly knew how to improvise!

Annette Gross Carmel, Ind.


To Be a Jew Today: A New Guide to God, Israel, and the Jewish People by Noah Feldman, skillfully reviewed by Martin Raffel in the May/June issue, suggests to this reader that the author has put Jewish life on a psychiatrist’s couch for a going over, a reboot. Descriptions of Jewish denominations in today’s world as we understand them are given different designations, or different names, by the author. But redefinitions and name changes do not alter the culture or beliefs of each group, and the author comes to the end of his thesis with the generally accepted conclusion that the Jewish people, with all our differences, are ultimately one big diverse and connected happy—or not so happy—family.

I admit not having read the book, but Raffel’s review aroused my interest and now I’m off to find a copy.

Eleanor Rubin Tinton Falls, N.J.


I read “For Jews Over 55, ‘Feeling Part of Something’ on Friday Nights” (March/April 2024) while remembering my own long-ago experiences of Shabbat. For over 25 years, our circle got together every Friday night. We were a group of 14 (we started at 4) called TGIF, and we would meet for dessert at someone’s house. The group consisted of three past or current synagogue presidents and one rabbi, among many other notables. All the women were Hadassah life members and all the men were Associates.

We would discuss the happenings of the week, sports and sometimes gossip. We all had synagogue and Hadassah in common. It was rare

that anyone missed the get-togethers, and I shall never forget the friendships that existed and the feeling that Shabbat was something special.


In “Henrietta Szold’s Gifts” (March/ April), biographer Francine Klagsbrun characterizes Szold’s support for a binationalist state, a position she shared with Martin Buber, as placing her on “the wrong side of history.” True, she and Buber lost out to the dominant Zionist vision that brought about a Jewish state, one that had dominated the Palestinians. The phrase “the right side of history”

generally means a result that leads to greater justice and equity. Given the wars and suffering that continue to afflict both Jews and Palestinians in the Jewish state, it is time to work for a binationalist state and an outcome that might well place the founder of Hadassah on “the right side of history.”

Rabbi Sheila Weinberg and Maynard Seider Philadelphia, Pa.


Please email letters to the editor to letters@hadassah.org. To read more letters, visit us online at hadassahmagazine.org


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Israeli Paralympians Are Headed to Paris Games

Nina Is an Athlete , a documentary released in January, showcases Israeli Paralympic badminton champion Nina Gorodetsky’s successful parallel quest to compete in the Tokyo Paralympic Games in 2021 and conceive a second child at age 40.

No less impressive, the now 43-year-old mom, wheelchair-bound since a car crash in her teens, managed to qualify for the Paralympics in Paris this summer even with the stress of her husband, Dor Kessel, being away from home fighting a war.

“Dor was in the reserves for four months, and I was alone with two children,” Gorodetsky said. “For four months, I did not fly to competitions. Players ranked below me overtook me in the rankings.” Yet in February, she was able to attend the World Championships in Thailand, where she ranked ninth— assuring her a spot on the team.

“I didn’t prepare for the competition as much as I needed and wanted to. Yet I made it to the quarterfinals,” she said. “I still find it hard to believe that I was able to get a ticket to the Paris games.”

The Hamas attacks, ensuing war in Gaza and friction in the North have added extra

Student-Penned Books Keep Seniors’ Stories Alive

Across the rural towns spanning the Illinois-Idaho border, sobering tales of Naziera Europe come alive thanks to a Christian farmer’s daughter with a passion for history.

She is Deb Bowen, an unlikely champion of Jews with a mission to make the Holocaust real for local children. After first meeting survivors at a 2003 Yom Hashoah event, Bowen founded A Book By Me, an intergenerational storytelling project that pairs middle- and high school-age children with survivors of World War II and the Holocaust and their children.

“I kept thinking the same thought, that I do not want their story to die with them,” recalled Bowen, who lives in Illinois. “There’s just something about a kid and a senior together,” she reflected. Survivors “are going to say more

challenges for Israeli athletes ahead of the Paris Olympics (July 26 to August 11) and Paralympics (August 28 to September 8). In another sign of the times, 20 Israeli Paralympians so far have volunteered to mentor people with new disabilities resulting from the current war through a special initiative of the Israel Sports Association for the Disabled and Israel Paralympic Committee.

Despite the challenges, Gorodetsky and her teammates will likely bring home medals from Paris. Since the Paralympics were first established in 1960 for athletes with physical impairments, Israeli Paralympians have earned a total of 129 gold, 125 silver and 130 bronze medals. At the Tokyo games, Israel’s 33-member team earned six golds, two silvers and one bronze—eight in swimming and one in rowing.

Israel’s Paralympic team headed to Paris, split almost evenly between men and women, will include at least three Muslims and one Druze in its 30-plus roster. Athletes will compete in multiple events, among them swimming, hand bike, rowing, shooting, goalball, taekwondo, boccia, kayaking and tennis. — Jordana Benami

to the kid than they would to me.”

Over the past two decades, those interviews—from live, phone or Zoom meetings—have yielded 140 student-penned and illustrated books, which Bowen has distributed to 50-plus schools in Iowa, Illinois and beyond. Funded by grants and private sponsors, the books are self-published through Bowen’s nonprofit volunteer organization, Understanding Works.

viewers how she grew up in Uruguay to parents who’d fled Berlin just after Kristallnacht in 1938.

Telling stories like hers, reflected Lipschitz, “enables the younger generation to understand the extent of inhumanity that can occur.”

One of those books will soon tell the story of Aida Lipschitz, a Hadassah member. Bowen recruited the retired New Jersey legal assistant after they met on a 2019 Panama cruise. Lipschitz has since shared with student inter -

Bowen’s fascination with Holocaust narratives dates to her own childhood, when she discovered Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl at her small-town library and had to ask her teacher if the incredible tale was real. “I was always drawn to true stories,” Bowen said. She later worked in library children’s programming and in multicultural outreach initiatives, including with local Muslim students after 9/11. “I brought the world to my hometown, always fighting intolerance,” she said.

After that 2003 Yom Hashoah event, Bowen reached out to a friend at the Jewish Federation of the Quad Cities (which, along with the

Moran Samuel, rowing silver medalist at the Tokyo games
Badminton champion Nina Gorodetsky

Trying to ‘Rekindle’ Black-Jewish Collaborative Energy

When they co-founded the Rekindle Fellowship in 2019, Matthew Fieldman and Charmaine Rice figured they’d draw on his nonprofit expertise and her diversity, equity and inclusion credentials to jumpstart what Fieldman called “a national network of Black and Jewish changemakers,” starting in their home city of Cleveland. Rekindle’s name comes from a vision of reigniting the collabo rative energy lost in the decades since the civil rights movement, when Blacks and Jews worked closely toward collective goals. In today’s largely suburbanized,

social-media-bubble landscape, “once-a-year interfaith seders are not going to move the needle,” explained Fieldman, part of a four-generation family of Hadassah life members. Rice and he wanted to bring the communities together for face-to-face conversations and, more important, service projects to advance understanding.

In 2021, the postGeorge Floyd racial reckoning had provided a subtext for Rekindle’s first cohorts; now, the

Holocaust Education Committee of the Quad Cities, is now a sponsor of A Book By Me). Bowen secured a Federation grant for Understanding Works.

“The power of the human story does break down barriers,” she said. “Sometimes it lasts a lifetime, and sometimes it’s temporary. But we have to keep chipping away. We cannot give up.”

—Hilary Danailova

Face-to-Face A Rekindle interfaith celebration (right); Rekindle co-founder Matthew Fieldman (left) at a book event with Aviva Roland, India Hobbs, co-founder Charmaine Rice and Kelly Rice

backdrop is the Israel-Hamas war.

“There’s a hunger to discuss, to learn,” reflected Fieldman, a nonprofit professional who worked for a decade at Jewish organizations, including Hillel and several federations. When he first conceived of Rekindle, Fieldman reached out to Rice, a Black friend who is a leader in Ohio diversity organizations, including the Cleveland NAACP.

With its $150,000 budget funded by private philanthropy, Rekindle operates two cohorts a year, often in partnership with local Jewish federations or synagogues. Each engages 16 adults—eight Jewish, eight Black—for four, three-hour curriculum-driven conversations, interfaith holiday celebrations and a collective action project around themes like education. One team arranged for a nonprofit to teach African singing and traditional  goombe  drum-making to Cleveland schoolchildren. Then local Jewish chef Jeremy Umansky (a Rekindle alumnus) taught the kids how to bake babka.

Beyond Cleveland, there are chapters in Rochester, N.Y., Metrowest New Jersey and, soon, in Baltimore, Omaha, Akron, Tampa, Detroit and New Orleans. Participants, many of whom are recruited through synagogues and churches, range in age from 30

to 75 and represent diverse backgrounds and professions.

After the October 7 Hamas terror attacks and subsequent spike in antisemitism, Fieldman said, Rekindle responded with a retooled version of its Israel discussion-points curriculum, which presents viewpoints across the Zionist political spectrum.

Rekindle’s numbers are small—120 graduates thus far— but its ambition to establish a national organization to support local chapters is large. Fieldman and Rice believe that small groups facilitate meaningful conversations that can breed not only mutual empathy, but also cross-cultural advocacy.

Fieldman notes a recent discussion he had with a Black program participant who told him that although he protests Israel’s actions in Gaza, he won’t chant “From the River to the Sea” because, through Rekindle, he has learned how painful that sounds to his Jewish friends. Such insights, Fieldman said, offer hope.

“There will always be challenges in both communities,” Fieldman said. “But this change is going to happen by people meeting neighborhood to neighborhood, one city at a time.”

—Hilary Danailova

Deb Bowen and Des Moines resident and Holocaust survivor David Wolnerman, who died in 2023, celebrate the completion of his student-drafted biography.

Binding Myself in Prayer


love of the transgressive, including wrapping tefillin

Ialmost never tell anyone that I’m a lady who wraps, which is to say, that I’ve been binding myself in prayer every morning for nearly a dozen years. When I mention tefillin outside Jewish circles, and sometimes even within them, a surprising number have no idea what I’m talking about. The mention of leather straps can elicit wide-eyed stares, as if I’m describing a form of religious kink.

Tefillin, a pair of little black boxes containing Hebrew parchment scrolls that are attached to the forehead and arm by leather straps, are mentioned four times in the Torah, including in Deuteronomy 6:8—“You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes.” Traditionally, only men observe this mitzvah.

The passages written on the parchment speak of all that was done for us by God. They include the Shema, our central statement of oneness with the Divine. Jews wear tefillin during

morning prayers because if we’ve got something tied to our forehead and wrapped around an arm and hand as a symbol of something, we’re not likely to forget its meaning.

I’ve heard tefillin described from a contemporary, neurodivergence-informed point of view as calming for the nerves, a way of being held in place and kept safe, much like the idea behind a weighted blanket. From this perspective, I’m not a likely candidate for wrapping. I have a teensy inclination to claustrophobia, and a weighted blanket is about as appealing to me as being buried alive.

I never meant to take on the mitzvah of wrapping tefillin. When the first of my three children was in the year leading up to his bar mitzvah, I enjoyed a glimpse of the tefillin workshop offered at the Reconstructionist shul we attended. But it was a one-and-done experience for my son, and I in no way related to the ritual myself.

Child number two was dazzled by the workshop. We were already doing what she called girls’ tefillah, singing prayers on the drive to school each morning, when she insisted we try tefillin together. I refused. After a while, she wore me down. We borrowed two old sets from a rabbi who collects them and makes it her mission to encourage their use, and one Sunday morning, we gave it a twirl.

A photograph from that day shows us in our prayer shawls and little black boxes, my daughter wearing her bright pink Wonder Woman T-shirt. Going forward, my daughter’s interest waned. I, however, never looked back. To my own astonishment, I laid tefillin for morning prayer the next day and the next and every day since, except Shabbat and major holidays, including Tisha B’Av, which falls this year on August 13. On these other days we wrap during afternoon prayers.

Why do I continue to wrap? I don’t know. Am I also a teensy bit compulsive? I’m only certain that the ritual became an instant habit.

Ironically enough, from the beginning, wrapping has felt safe, not claustrophobic. Not like spiritual bondage, but rather a way to focus and take charge.

At the same time, laying tefillin also feels unsafe and transgressive, and I am especially drawn to what I’m told is transgressive for women. When I began to lay tefillin, I heard the inspirational stories (apocryphal? real?) about how I was following in

the footsteps of Michal, daughter of King Solomon, and Yocheved, Miriam and Rachel, daughters of medieval French rabbi Rashi, all said to have wrapped. I also heard stories (apocryphal? real?) about a woman beaten on the streets of Israel by an ultra-Orthodox man who recognized the telltale impressions running up her arm and felt threatened by a woman invading his ritual turf.

Since the horrific attacks of October 7, wrapping tefillin has become a moment to grapple with the heartbreak we are experiencing. Many Jews feel under antisemitic siege in the supposed safety of our Diaspora communities. We may feel fractured. We may see ourselves as if we’re in danger of flying apart. Or we may experience ourselves as a people being bound more tightly together.

I still wrap the tefillin passed down to me when I first took on this mitzvah. From time to time, I think of the man who used my set 50 or even a hundred years ago, though it’s a sure bet he never imagined me. Maybe he felt unsafe in the world he walked in. Maybe he didn’t. He might be happy to know that his tefillin have come into the hands of someone using them daily—or he might not.

I’d be lying if I claimed that this spiritual practice always feels particularly spiritual. Sometimes it’s routine. And while I am a lover of the transgressive, I’ve never wanted to wrap because I’m not supposed to do it. I do it because every morning I feel that I am.

Christine Benvenuto is the author of two books, and her stories and essays have appeared in many magazines, newspapers and anthologies (christinebenvenuto.wordpress.com). She lives in Western Massachusetts.

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We’re Not Crossing Off Schools

Limiting my daughter’s college choices feels wrong | By Bonnie Rochman

As the mother of two kids in college and one approaching her senior year of high school, I had a new (unpaid) job this year: I assiduously tracked the campus unrest at my older children’s universities, toggling between their college newspapers, campus Hillel updates and each college’s respective social media group for Jewish parents that was hastily created post-October 7.

The power and pitfall of all this screentime was that I typically knew what was happening on my kids’ campuses—Yale and Washington University in St. Louis—before they did. Within minutes of any incident, a parent posted a video: Here were some anti-Israel protesters disrupting WashU’s admitted students day; there was a crown jewel of Yale’s campus—a building named for a Jewish donor—with most of its eponymous letters strategically plied off so that it read “War Center.”

To say that my and my youngest child’s thoughts about where she should apply have been affected by the climate that gripped campuses this year is an understatement.

In the past eight months, I have heard many Jewish parents say, “I would never send my child to the Ivy League.” But Ivy League schools don’t have a monopoly on anti-Israel protests. Cal Poly Humboldt, nestled in the redwoods of Northern California, is across the country from the

Ivy League. Compared to Columbia’s Jewish population of 1,500, or 22 percent, Cal Poly Humboldt has just 150 Jewish students, or 2 percent. And yet they had one of the most entrenched campus protests.

My husband and i met and fell in love in Israel. We gave our children Hebrew names, which means they can’t obscure their Jewish identities even if they tried. With that in mind, what is the “right” school for them these days?

I think the right school is one where they don’t feel compelled to hide who they are to fit in. And I believe that hinges more on the people they choose to surround themselves with than the actual school.

One of my son’s best friends at Yale is a Jordanian Arab. Their friendship has been stretched like Silly Putty and challenged over the past eight months, but isn’t that the hallmark of the strongest of relationships?

My high schooler’s parameters for her college search haven’t really changed; rather, the chaos on campuses has only confirmed her priorities. She wants to attend a school with a robust Jewish population. Even at 16, she recognizes the saw-you-at-Sinai sense of camaraderie she feels when in the company of other Jewish teens.

There will always be people who make us question who we are and why we believe the things we do. The

purpose of college is to learn how to become a better thinker. That doesn’t happen if students cocoon themselves within a cluster of people who all share the same opinions.

For that reason, crossing schools off my daughter’s list feels like the wrong approach. The truth is that many top colleges have no shortage of applicants. Steering my Jewish student away from a campus that has had its share of protests feels like playing directly into the hands of people who don’t want Jews on campus.

“Jews can’t afford to abandon these schools,” said Ron Hassner, who rose to national prominence as the University of California, Berkeley, professor who hunkered down in his office for two weeks to draw attention to what he saw as the university’s unwillingness to keep Jewish students safe. In a Zoom conversation with Tablet magazine, he said, “Are we 19th century Eastern European Jews who run from shtetl to shtetl as the Cossacks chase us? We’re not—we’re confident, we’re proud.”

I hope my children remain proud but not so proud that they can’t listen to divergent opinions. I hope they surround themselves with people who value and honor them for who they are. And I hope this extends to their lives far beyond college.

Bonnie Rochman is a health and science writer and former parenting columnist for Time magazine.

Yale University

A Modern-Day ‘Ezer’

My dear Jewish sisters, you are not alone

Last christmas, my husband and I replaced the Star of Bethlehem over the outdoor nativity scene we inherited from his grandmother with a 45-inch neon Star of David. I told my children it was an act of solidarity for our Jewish friends—and an act of defiance for those who hate them. If they’re coming for the Jews, I told my children, they’ll have to take us, too.

It was in that same spirit that I traveled to Israel in May, in wartime, as part of the I Believe Israeli Women delegation, an initiative of the Seed the Dream Foundation in partnership with Jewish Women International.  I went to bear witness to the aftermath of Hamas’s barbaric murder of the Jewish people on October 7 as well as to gain a firsthand understanding of how the terrorists used rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war.

I met with survivors, released hostages and the families of those still held hostage. I visited the site of the Nova music festival and witnessed the devastation at nearby Kibbutz Kfar Aza. I spoke to ZAKA first responders on duty that day and saw their unedited photographs of men,

women and children murdered by Hamas. I stood one mile from the Gaza border, where the birdsong that early Saturday morning competed with the roar of artillery heading toward Gaza. I returned home a changed woman promising to believe Israeli women and tell their story.

Iwould never intentionally seek harm for myself or my family.

But my husband and I, both Roman Catholics, know that greater harm will befall our school-aged children if we fail to teach them to act morally in the face of growing antisemitism. Catholics are encouraged from a young age to heed Jesus’s words from John 15:13: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for a friend.” And the Jews are our friends.

But let us first live and fight. I believe that a Christian must be an “ezer” for the Jewish people. Ezer, the Hebrew word for “helper,” is  used 21 times in the Hebrew Bible. Yes, God uses it to refer to Eve, but also to strong nations that aided the Israelites. God even uses the word 16 times to refer to Himself.

Many Christians believe we are

being called to be ezrim today, just as many—but not enough—did in the 1930s and 1940s during the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust. We fear what fate will befall the Jewish people if their state is taken from them.

That is the reason Israel exists— so that the Jewish people can defend themselves. But the existence of Israel does not mean Christians have no role in the defense of Jews, or that we can remain silent in the face of antisemitism.

People often ask why I am so passionate in my support of the Jewish people. The answer is simple: I was raised right.

My Catholic parents ensured that I understood what “Never Again” meant. Never again will we stand by as people call for the murder of Jews.

My father insisted I read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich when I was 12 years old. My mother and I read numerous firsthand accounts of the Holocaust. My parents taught me that the Jews who led uprisings at the Warsaw Ghetto, Sobibor and  Treblinka were heroes. My parents respected and admired Israel.

In most Catholic schools, students in eighth grade learn about the rise of Hitler, Stalin and the Holocaust, and how to effectively combat similar evils today. The same lessons I was taught decades ago are the ones my children are learning today.

So powerful were these lessons that on my 21st birthday, I went alone to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria to bear witness. I felt it was my moral obligation. It is the same reason my family and I stand with you today, as do many others.

In these trying times, my dear sisters, know that you are not alone.

Stefano is an independent journalist and contributing columnist to The Philadelphia

The author’s yard in December

Survivors Share Their Stories

Amplifying the accounts of sexual violence and murders

Nearly four months after going public with details of the sexual assault and abuse she experienced while being held hostage in Gaza, Amit Soussana is a long way from finding her path forward. “I can’t even begin to think about work,” she says. “I’m still hurt in so many ways.”

Tali Biner, who survived the massacre at the Nova musical festival on October 7, also is figuring out what’s next for her. She isn’t ready to return to the hospital where she worked as a nurse. “Unfortunately, I don’t feel that I’m healthy enough to treat people in Israel,” she says, noting that as a medical professional, she would be required to tend to all patients, regardless of their background.

Instead, Biner, also a singer/songwriter, is focusing on her music and

speaking out about what she saw and heard while being holed up in a trailer for seven hours, with the sounds of death and sexual violence all around her.

Soussana and Biner are two of the many Israelis whose voices will not be silenced. They, like most in Israel, are perplexed, frustrated and angry that so much of the world is denying, downplaying or even justifying the atrocities that happened on October 7, when Hamas infiltrated the country, murdered 1,200 people, brutalized scores more and kidnapped some 250 individuals.

Among other voices that refuse to be silenced: family members of those still captive in Gaza; first responders who were the earliest eyewitnesses to the brutality inflicted by the terrorists; Israel Defense Forces soldiers who

battled and continue to battle the terrorists; released hostages recovering from serious injuries; and those tasked with the sacred work of preparing for burial casualties of Israel’s longest war since the War of Independence.

I met face-to-face with Soussana, Biner and a few dozen of these individuals while in Israel for a week at the end of May. I was part of a delegation called I Believe Israeli Women, which was initiated and sponsored by the Seed the Dream Foundation in partnership with Jewish Women International.

I was representing Hadassah and Hadassah Magazine among a dynamic group of women—lawyers, judges, entertainment executives, journalists, philanthropists and professionals working on gender-based violence issues and at women-centered organ-

izations—all determined to do just what Israelis are asking: amplify their stories; raise awareness about Hamas’s barbarism, particularly the sexual violence, and the need for accountability; and demand that the world take action to ensure that sexual violence as a weapon of war will not be tolerated. (See sidebar on page 20.)

Where are these survivors, soldiers and former hostages today? How are they navigating life now, more than eight months after that fateful day that changed the Jewish nation forever? Here are just a few of their stories, ones that reflect the horror as well as the heroism that continues to pervade every corner of Israeli society.

Amit soussana dismisses the notion that she was courageous for being the first woman to publicly detail her tortured captivity. She says she had decided while still being held in Gaza that if she was released, she would tell her story of being assaulted and repeatedly beaten by her Hamas captors.

“It would make it less horrible for me,” the 40-year-old recalls thinking. Her experience, which includes being chained to a wall by her ankles, repeatedly asked about her menstrual cycle, allowed virtually no privacy and forced to perform a sexual act on

her guard, was reported in The New York Times on March 26.

But the horror and psychological impact persist.

Soussana was released November 30 in a hostage-prisoner exchange and ceasefire deal with Hamas. Over time, she has slowly regained her ability to show emotion, she told us in a meeting room of the Tel Aviv headquarters of the Hostages Families Forum, the volunteer-run nonprofit that advocates for the hostages and provides a host of services for their families.

“I couldn’t cry for two months after my release. I was happy, but I couldn’t show it,” Soussana said. A therapist she continues to see, she added, has helped her connect with her emotions.

In contrast, her mother, Mira, seems to have no problem expressing her emotions as she sits next to her daughter, repeatedly wiping away tears and reaching for Amit’s hand as she once again listens to the nightmarish details of what she experienced.

“My mom writes to me every night, says how much she loves me,” Soussana said with a smile.

As she recalls the torture and sexual abuse she experienced, she worries incessantly about those still being held. “It’s unimaginable what condition they’re in after 200-plus days,” she said.

Soussana thinks about returning to the law—she had been a practicing patent attorney—perhaps as a human rights attorney. But she can’t get out of her mind the way she was mocked by her captors for being a lawyer.

“When I told Hamas I was a lawyer, they would humiliate me,” she said. She described how they would make her clean while taunting her, saying, “‘What a good job the lawyer is doing.’ ”

She also thinks about returning to Kfar Aza, the border community where she had lived only for a year, having grown up in Sderot. It was a “beautiful kibbutz full of nature with amazing people,” she said. “It was the most wonderful year of my life.”

The section of kfar aza where Soussana lived lies in ruins. The whole kibbutz is eerily quiet, except for clusters of workmen tasked with clearing out the houses so rebuilding can begin.

The blood and smell of death is gone, but the devastation remains in the community that, before October 7, had 960 residents. Not all were in the kibbutz on that fateful day because it was a holiday, said reservist Ron, a captain in the IDF Spokesperson Unit, who does not give her last name in accordance with IDF protocol. Of those who were on the kibbutz, 64 were murdered and 19 were kidnapped.

Only one couple has returned to

Still Hurting Amit Soussana (above right), held captive by Hamas for 55 days in Gaza, is embraced by a friend outside her destroyed house on Kibbutz Kfar Aza; Tali Biner (opposite), speaking at the car lot filled with burnt-out vehicles, survived the attacks on the Nova music festival but says she doesn’t feel comfortable getting the stamp of ‘survivor.’

civilians in the next hostage deal being discussed at the time. It didn’t happen.

their home so far, along with a new first responder team charged with protecting the kibbutz, from which you can clearly see Gaza just about a mile away. On October 7, Kfar Aza had 14 members on the team. Seven of them were murdered and five were severely injured.

Soussana’s rental home on Kfar Aza was in the section of the kibbutz closest to the border with Gaza. At the end of the row of houses in this area stands the charred home of Sivan Elkabets and her fiancé, Naor Hasidim, both of whom were murdered during the attack. Inside, Elkabets’s mother has set up a little memorial to the couple, with photos and artwork along with a guest book at the entrance. The walls are sprayed with dozens of bullet holes. Outside, mundane remnants of their lives are still strewn about these many months later—an electric toothbrush, a chair cushion, a bra.

Banners with the photos and the names of the kibbutz’s five members still held captive in Gaza are hung everywhere.

Among those pictured is Emily Damari, who turned 28 while in captivity. Her mother, Mandy, was also a resident of Kfar Aza. On October 7, she was rescued by one of her sons who had just moved to Sderot. He was also able to reach his brother and his brother’s family on the kibbutz. Incessant shooting by the

terrorists around Emily’s home prevented him from getting to her.

Today, like many of the hostages’ relatives, Mandy Damari spends many days in meetings, sometimes traveling around the world, begging for action that will lead to her daughter’s release.

Initially, Damari didn’t know whether her daughter had been murdered or taken hostage. As she waited for news, she recalled, she honestly didn’t know which she feared most, she told us in a session at the Hostages Families Forum building.

Eleven days after October 7, the family finally got word from the IDF that they had evidence that Emily had been taken hostage.

Damari’s hopes for her daughter’s return were raised when some of the hostages were released in the deal made in November. Someone in the first group released by Hamas reported that Emily was O.K., that she had been shot, but it was not life threatening and she had had some sort of surgery. The second group of hostages that soon followed had just been with Emily, Damari found out. Her daughter was apparently so certain she would be released soon that she didn’t give them a letter to take home.

At that point, Damari said, “at least I knew that she was alive. She and I were both certain she would be coming home,” as the authorities talked about releasing all the female

At a huge, dusty, fenced-in field, an IDF reservist named Adam gives a tour of what has become the repository of 1,650 burnt-out vehicles caught in the maelstrom of the Hamas attack. Along one edge of the lot, several hundred are stacked in piles—cars, trucks, even ambulances that Hamas intentionally set on fire, often with people inside them.

“Each and every car has a story to tell,” Adam said. Many of the stories are told, he said, through the ashes that were painstakingly accumulated by 35 reservists from the IDF’s Military Rabbinate corps, which is in part responsible for identifying remains of soldiers and whose members worked around the clock clearing some 300 burned vehicles.

Among the vehicles brought to the lot, which has become a makeshift memorial of sorts, is the white trailer in which Tali Biner spent seven hours hiding with three friends on the site of the Nova music festival.

“All the atrocities, all the sexual abuse, all the things that you’ve heard of, sometimes I feel ashamed that I am carrying this weight on my chest, but I was a witness to those things,” she told our group, standing by the destroyed vehicles.

“I remember the sexual abuse that started in the area—from many sides, it surrounded me. I could hear

Gratitude Israel’s First Lady Michal Herzog (center), with Marcy Gringlas (left) and Ayelet Razin BetOr, thanked the I Believe Israeli Women delegation ‘for coming, for listening and for caring.’

women yelling for minutes and minutes. As a woman, it was clear to me what was happening. It always stopped with gunshots.

“I heard one couple; the man was begging for mercy for the woman. That, too, ended in silence.”

When she emerged from her trailer at about 3 p.m., she witnessed women with ripped shirts, spread legs, some without underpants; one woman was bound to a tree, her hands behind her back.

A surgical nurse at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv before October 7, Biner quickly moved to do what she could to help the injured. Most of the people she saw were already dead.

Today, the 20-year-old Biner is spending her time “spreading word of what happened to us,” she said. She is also working on her music. She was speaking to groups in the United States earlier in the year when protesters at the University of California, Los Angeles prevented her from talking at a college forum.

More recently, in late May, soon after our visit, she met in Israel with Nikki Haley, a former governor of South Carolina and United States ambassador to the United Nations, who posted a photo of the two of them to social media.

Biner said she is also finding comfort being with other Nova survivors, some of whom come together as a community once a week. It was not easy at first. “I don’t feel comfortable getting the stamp of ‘survivor,’ ” she said. “It’s not fun to feel that you are doomed for life. But we are a family. We understand each other much better than other people will ever be able to understand.”

Shari mendes also has been spending a lot of time bearing witness to the atrocities she encountered after the October 7 attacks, though she has cut back a bit due to the psychological toll that it’s been taking on her.

As a reservist in the army unit that ritually prepares female soldiers for burial, Mendes saw firsthand the mutilation of some of the bodies she was preparing. Soon after the IsraelHamas war began, she, an architect by profession, became one of the key figures giving testimony around the world about what she had found.

Speaking to us at Shura, the IDF base that is run by the Military Rabbinate, Mendes, 63, described what she called “the holy work” performed there. The base’s morgue is typically used for soldiers killed during their service and brought for burial preparation. But a decision was made after the October 7 attacks that all casualties—military and civilian—would be brought to Shura.

In the days following the massacre, truckloads of body bags were sent to the base, filling the cav ernous space from floor to ceiling. You never knew what kind of atrocity would be dis covered inside each bag, Mendes recalled. Some of the women had no clothing; others, bloody underwear.

Only in retrospect did it become clear that there was a pat tern to what they were finding, she said: blood in the genital

Fulfilling a Promise Chaim Otmazgin, one of the first ZAKA volunteers to arrive at the scene of the Nova massacre, forces himself to share the horrific stories because he ‘promised the bodies’ he would be their mouthpiece.

areas, bullet wounds in sensitive areas and mass evidence of shooting in faces.

Despite the gruesome nature of the work and the pressure to identify the bodies quickly and prepare them for burial, Mendes said she found strength remembering the story of her grandmother’s brother. At the age of 20, he was in Auschwitz, tasked by the Nazis with taking bodies out of the ovens. According to family lore, Mendes said, her great uncle participated in a failed uprising attempt aimed at destroying the crematoria. “If he could do that, which was even worse, then I could do this,” she said. She expressed deep frustration at the denialism that she has encountered, both personal attacks on her and in general. “Part of what is so sad about this experience to me is that there is an expectation that people who are raped should say, ‘Hi, I was raped’ in a world that doesn’t believe them.”

Some deniers in the media, including on social media, have suggested that the scenes of violence that Hamas terrorists themselves recorded and

“Eyewitness testimony needs to be enough; it’s enough in other instances,” including regarding the Holocaust, Mendes said.

“There’s an entire industry focused on denying me, and I’m nobody. There are evil people who are working 24/7 to take it all apart.”

“I don’t know how you fight that,” she added. “You just don’t. You just don’t give it credence.” Instead, you persevere, said Mendes, who is also a breast cancer survivor who

founded the Lemonade Fund, which provides emergency grants to breast cancer patients—a need, she said, that has increased in the wake of October 7 due to increased financial pressures on families.

As Mendes said in the Sheryl Sandberg-presented Screams Before Silence, a documentary about the sexual violence that Hamas perpetrated: “We may never know the extent of the sexual violence because these


On June 18, a day before the United Nations marked its annual International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, 54 American and international organizations sent a strongly worded letter to António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, urging him “once again, to publicly condemn Hamas for their weaponization of sexual violence against Israeli women and girls on October 7 and beyond.

“There is abundant evidence of Hamas’s brutal rape, mutilation, gender-based violence and murder of Israeli women and girls on October 7 and of the women and girls Hamas kidnapped and has continued to hold hostage for more than eight months,” read the letter, which was initiated by Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, and co-led by Jewish Women International, the National Council of Jewish Women, the newly formed I Believe Israeli Women global movement and the American Muslim & Interfaith Women’s Empowerment Council.

The letter was also a response to two parallel reports from the United Nations-backed Commission of Inquiry (COI) that came out June 12. The reports accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes, alleging that Israel also committed crimes against humanity and that both Palestinian terrorists and the Israeli military engaged in sexual and gender-based violence during the early months of the Israel-Hamas war.

The COI reports, coming from a body “with a long and clear track record of bias and anti-

women were silenced.”

“So, every one of us, women and men, must speak up for these women and say we will bear your story, we will bear witness for you. You will not be forgotten and what happened to you will be told.”

Lisa Hostein, executive editor of Hadassah Magazine was part of the I Believe Israeli Women delegation, sponsored by the Seed the Dream Foundation in partnership with Jewish Women International.

semitism,” the letter stated, “ignored the overwhelming evidence and failed to hold Hamas responsible for its crimes against humanity, including the clear and systematic weaponization of sexual violence on October 7 and beyond.”

Maintaining pressure on the United Nations is part of a multipronged strategy as Jewish women’s organizations and rights activists, legal experts, government officials and others around the globe, especially in the United States and Israel, work to bring attention to—and accountability for—the sexual violence and torture perpetrated by Hamas on and since October 7.

“It may seem frustrating to continue to call on the United Nations to do more—especially when we see such clear antisemitism and bias from them. But really, we can’t let the narrative of denial win,” said Elizabeth Cullen, Hadassah’s director of government relations, who has been devoting considerable time to the issue, including initiating meetings at the White House, lobbying on Capitol Hill and promoting the efforts of Hadassah’s End the Silence campaign.

That Hadassah effort, launched in March, has included staged events around the world and a petition signed by 150,000 individuals calling on Guterres to create an independent, impartial investigation into Hamas’s use of rape as a weapon of war and pursue vigorous prosecution to hold Hamas accountable.

Though they sometimes vary in focus and approach, sometimes working in tandem and sometimes alone, the entities involved in addressing Hamas’s weaponization of sexual assault share common goals. These include amplifying the voices of the victims and the

Bearing Witness Shari Mendes, here at the United Nations, has spoken around the world about what she found as she prepared female soldiers for burial.

survivors as well as combatting the denialism, disinformation and, in some cases, justification of the atrocities.

Indeed, “rape is resistance” memes have circulated on social media. And at a June demonstration in front of the New York City exhibit commemorating the more than 360 people who were murdered and, in some documented instances, raped at the Nova music festival on October 7, a group of masked pro-Hamas protesters called the exhibit “propaganda.”

The advocates are also seeking broader international condemnation of Hamas’s brutalities, ways to impose legal, social and financial consequences and a recommitment to end sexual violence as a weapon of war globally.

One of the key players in these efforts in Israel is the Dinah Project, which is collecting, verifying and using evidence of the acts of rape, gang rape and other sexual violence to make the case.

Like those signing on to the Hadassah-led letter, the Dinah Project also criticized the legal conclusions and double standard applied to Israel in much of the COI reports.

But they also found “some very important and positive bottom-line findings” that went further than any prior United Nations reports in implicating Hamas, according to Ruth HalperinKaddari, a Bar-Ilan University-based legal scholar and expert in international women’s rights, who is one of the five women who

comprise the volunteer-driven Dinah Project.

Pramila Patten, the United Nations secretarygeneral’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, had found in her fact-finding mission to Israel in late January to mid-February “clear and convincing information that sexual violence, including rape, sexualized torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment has been committed against hostages.” Her team also found “reasonable grounds” to believe that sexual violence, including rape and gang rape, occurred during the October 7 attack.

But that report, which was received positively by advocates on this issue, stopped short of attributing specific crimes to Hamas, saying that further investigation was needed.

In its own separate reports, the COI used Hamas’s own denial of any sexual wrongdoing to conclude the opposite, that in fact, it was responsible, Halperin-Kaddari said. It is significant, she added, that the COI specifically noted that “women were subjected to gender-based violence during the course of their execution or abductions” and that “the attack was premeditated and planned…and it was coordinated by Hamas.”


n addition to pressuring the United Nations, advocates have also been working with the Gender Policy Council at the White House, which convened a gathering on conflictrelated sexual violence around the world on June 17, hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris. And in the United States Congress, the House of Representatives has already passed a resolution on the issue and another one is pending in the Senate.

Eyewitnesses to the atrocities and legal advocates are traveling all over the world, from European to Asian capitals, speaking to governments, on university campuses and at other institutions, seeking to raise awareness of Hamas’s systematic abuses and elicit official condemnations and support for consequences.

Activists also are working to educate the wider public through missions to Israel, events, media and, of course, on social media.

Israel’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, in concert with Hadassah and other organizations, initiated the activism in early December, bringing Israeli eyewitnesses, first

responders and others to testify at the United Nations about the atrocities they had witnessed.

The keynote speaker at that session was Sheryl Sandberg, the former chief operating officer of Meta. Since then, Sandberg has continued her advocacy, serving as the presenter and public face of the recently released documentary, Screams Before Silence , which includes compelling survivor and eyewitness testimony. (Read a Q&A with the movie’s director on page 56.)

“In this moment, people are denying something that should be so obvious,” Sandberg said in a recent telephone interview, during which she described her work on behalf of Hamas’s victims of sexual abuse as the most important she’s ever done.

No matter what your politics, she said, you “have to believe that sexual assault is never O.K. and can’t be denied.” Doing so “is dangerous not just for Jews and Israel but for democracy, for humanity and for the world.”

Sandberg also spoke at the White House gathering in June, during which part of Screams Before Silence was screened, as did Amit Soussana, a hostage released by Hamas in November who has spoken publicly about the sexual abuse she experienced.

The activism has expanded in recent months. In Israel, Knesset Member Shelly Tal Meron convened a forum in May entitled Global Women’s Coalition Against Gender-Based Violence as a Weapon of War. The event included governmental and nongovernmental activists from around the world, Jewish and non-Jewish, as well as hostage family members.

Among the speakers was Ayelet Razin Bet-Or, another member of the Dinah Project and the former director of the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women in Israel’s Ministry of Social Equality.

“In the face of the most violent and widespread sexual assault in recent history, a silencing and gaslighting industry thrives, not content in simply overlooking the disaster, but rather actively works to question the facts,” Razin Bet-Or, a criminal attorney, said.

Marcy Gringlas, the co-founder and president of Seed the Dream Foundation, was the only American representative to speak. “It is unthink-

able that in 2024, dangerous disinformation campaigns are working to invalidate and deny the humanity of Israeli women, men and children, and Jewish people everywhere,” she said. “The world is tolerating crimes that would not be tolerated if any other group had been targeted. This is the definition of antisemitism at its core.”

Incensed at the denial and demand for more and more proof of the crimes, when so much already exists, Gringlas and her team at Seed the Dream, a family foundation that supports many projects in Israel, launched I Believe Israeli Women, in partnership with Jewish Women International, which is led by CEO Meredith Jacobs.

Working with Razin Bet-Or on the ground in Israel, they brought a group of 25 American women from all different fields to bear witness and to begin developing a strategy.

Since their return to the United States, members of the I Believe Israeli Women delegation have delved into the issue as the organization’s leaders seek to expand its reach.

Among those motivated by what she learned in Israel is Jennifer Long, CEO and co-founder of AEquitas, a Washington-based nonprofit that provides expertise related to the prosecution of gender-based violence and human trafficking.

Amid the proliferation online and even on college campuses of the notion that the attacks on October 7 were justifiable resistance, Long said she is deeply troubled that when it comes to Israel, “there can be an inherently unworthy victim or an inherently justifiable rape.”

Long, a former prosecutor and one of the few non-Jewish participants on the mission, said she has provided legal expertise in cases of sexual violence throughout the world, but “very few had this level of torture and violence.”

It is terrifying, she added, that “we have a situation right now where a very loud part of the population feels 100 percent comfortable saying that rape can be resistance and threatening that it could happen again.”

“This is first and foremost about the victims of October 7,” Long said, but it is particularly chilling “because of its potential impact on humans around the world, particularly for women and girls because they are the ones primarily targeted.” —Lisa Hostein

Ignored Until It Was TooLate

The tragic fate of Israel’s female observer soldiers | By Maayan Hoffman

Roni eshel loved food.

During weekends, her parents would visit her at the Nahal Oz base close to the border with Gaza, where she served as a field observer, or tatzpitanit, in the Israel Defense Forces. For the year and four months that she was stationed there, they would bring pasta, salad and meat dishes and sit together in the beautiful, flower-filled park between the base and Kibbutz Nahal Oz, eating and laughing.

That park is now overgrown, and the smell of fresh flowers has faded. Plastic shopping bags are tangled in the thorny brush. And Roni is dead.

On October 7, beginning at 6:23 in the morning, hundreds of Hamas terrorists stormed Roni’s base, murdering around 60 soldiers, including 15 unarmed female field observers, members of IDF Unit 414—the majority of whom burned to death while hiding in their command center. Seven observers were kidnapped; the IDF later rescued one, Ori Megidish, and the body of another, Noa Marciano, who was killed in captivity. Hamas is still holding hostage the other five. Only four female observers escaped the carnage.

The buildings on the base are scarred with bullet holes. Most of the

surveillance cameras are destroyed. And everything in the command center, the operations hub where the observers spent most of their working hours monitoring Israel’s border with Gaza, is blackened or melted— from the computers to the walls.

More than eight months after the attack, the smell of fire still lingers inside the building, evoking the tragedy that befell the young women who died there. As Roni’s father, Eyal Eshel, walked through the command center on a recent visit, his footsteps echoed amid the charred remains. He travels to the base every month or so from the family home in Tzur Yitzhak,

Evidence of Tragedy Everything in the command center, the operations hub where the field observers (seen in happy times, opposite page) spent most of their working hours monitoring Israel’s border with Gaza, is blackened or melted—from the computers to the walls.

a small village north of Tel Aviv.

He, like many in the country, is still searching for answers: Why were these soldiers, stationed less than a mile from the Gaza border, without defensive weapons? Why were they instructed to remain in their safe rooms and command centers while no efforts were made to rescue them?

And, perhaps most critically, why were these women’s repeated warnings about a potential Hamas infiltration ignored? Could the October 7 tragedy and ensuing war have been averted if their warnings had been heeded?

“No one listened to them. No one took care of them,” Eshel said. “These were nobody’s soldiers.”

In May, the families of the female observers who remain in captivity— Liri Albag, Karina Ariev, Agam Berger, Daniela Gilboa and Naama Levy— released a video captured on Hamas

body cameras of their loved ones being abducted on October 7, once again drawing public attention to the story of the observers at Nahal Oz. The video shows the women bloodied and being tormented, with one terrorist specifically referring to those they were abducting as “female war prisoners.”

“No one has the privilege of ignoring this video, of seeing the humiliation the girls experienced every single moment,” said Ariev’s sister, Sasha Ariev.

The families said they released the video to put pressure on the government to return to negotiations and close a deal for the hostages. The next day, the government announced that negotiations had resumed.

“The story of the brave observers is, on one leg, the story of the failure” of Israel on October 7, said retired IDF General Noam Tibon. Their story,

he said, needs to be uncovered “to honor their memory and to learn… what we need to fix in the IDF and the State of Israel.”

Along all of israel’s borders, dedicated command centers like the one at the Nahal Oz base operate around the clock, as IDF observers diligently monitor the safety of their sectors. These soldiers and officers, who are overwhelmingly women, are acutely aware that the security of their region can hinge on their immediate decisions.

“We have four shifts,” former tatzpitanit Roni Lifschitz explained. “Four hours on, four hours off. You have to know an area by heart. It’s about four to five kilometers [two and a half to three miles] at a time. You need to watch for any suspicious activity. It’s a challenging task, not physically but mentally.”

Lifschitz, who completed her army service in December and is now taking

some time off, was a soldier at the Nahal Oz base. On October 7, she was in the middle of a training at a base in Jerusalem. The job of an observer, she explained, can be arduous. They must not take their eyes off the screen that monitors the border while operating a computer keypad with one hand and potentially using the other to use a radio device to talk to superiors or conduct other tasks.

There are a handful of observer bases along the perimeter of the country. In the South, the main bases with observer soldiers are currently in Re’im, Kisufim and Zikim; there are no longer any observers in Nahal Oz, although a small group of combat and other soldiers are operating there.

Many observers graduate high school with outstanding academic records. They excel in their military training and are carefully selected to serve on the border. However, despite the significance of their role and being considered members of the IDF Combat Intelligence Corps tasked

with reconnaissance and gathering information close to enemy lines, the position is classified as junior-ranking. These female soldiers, trained in firearms usage, are unarmed.

In the past, a handful of observers committed suicide, and after that it was decided that they should not bear weapons. They are stationed at bases with armed combat soldiers.

The observers at Nahal Oz, for example, shared the base with combat soldiers from the Golani Brigade.

On October 7, approximately 700 soldiers were stationed along the border with Gaza when the attack began. The assault resulted in the deaths of 331 IDF soldiers and local security team members, along with 61 police officers. At Nahal Oz, in addition to the 15 female soldiers from the 414th observation unit who were massacred, 45 more soldiers lost their lives at the outpost. Additionally, nearly 20 fighters from the Nahal Oz reconnaissance unit were killed in action.

Lifschitz and Eshel, father of the

deceased soldier, confirmed what has been widely reported since October 7: For months before the massacre, the tatzpitaniyot at Nahal Oz had informed their superiors repeatedly that Hamas appeared to be planning an attack that would likely involve breaking through the border fence.

The Maariv daily reported that the women were already speaking up about strange activity on the border as early as May 2023, when they witnessed part of a large-scale, allday Hamas drill that likely served as preparation for the October 7 attack. Throughout that summer, Hamas operatives were observed gathering less than half a mile from the border.

In an interview with KAN public broadcasting, two surviving Nahal Oz observer soldiers, Yael Rotenberg and Maya Desiatnik, shared their experiences leading up to that fateful day. Rotenberg recalled seeing many Palestinians dressed in civilian clothing approach the border fence with maps, examining the area and digging

Mourning His Daughter Eyal Eshel lights candles for his daughter Roni in the remains of the Nahal Oz command center; Roni Eshel (far left) smiles for the camera with fellow soldier and friend Roni Lifschitz.

holes. Despite reporting these activities, she was told by her superiors they were farmers and not to worry.

Desiatnik described how, in the months leading up to the attack, Hamas terrorists trained at the border fence, increasing their frequency from once a week to nearly nonstop. She documented their training, which included driving tanks and even crossing the border into Israel. As border activity intensified, she sensed that an attack was imminent, but no one listened, she said.

“We saw what was happening, we told them about it, and we were the ones who were murdered,” Desiatnik told KAN.

Eshel recounted how his daughter frequently briefed him on the escalating situation. “When Roni would come home to visit, she would sit with me and tell me, ‘Dad, this camera does not work or that camera does not work. They [Hamas] are making holes in the fence, and no one is coming to fix them,’ ” he recalled.

“I told Roni, ‘Give me the names and numbers of some commanders,’ because I wanted to call and under-

stand why no one was listening to these women.

“But Roni wouldn’t let me,” Eshel continued. “She would say, ‘Dad, don’t call, you’ll make me a laughingstock.’ ”

Lifschitz, the former observer who worked alongside Roni Eshel, corroborated Eshel’s account of what was happening on their watch.

In response to a Hadassah Magazine query regarding allegations that the observers’ warnings were not heeded and other questions raised in this article, an IDF spokesperson replied, “The IDF is currently focused on eliminating the threat from the terrorist organization Hamas. Questions of this kind will be looked into at a later stage.”

Although the israeli government and military have yet to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the failures of October 7, experts are beginning to assess the mistakes that led to that day, with some directly or indirectly linking it to the negligence and failures at the Nahal Oz base.

“Every investigation should start with those brave observers, because they gave warnings [through the offi-

Amir Tibon, an editor at Ha’aretz, lived with his wife and two toddlers on the kibbutz, less than a mile from the base. When he understood that there were terrorists outside his door, he called his father. His parents immediately left their Tel Aviv residence and drove south, armed only with a pistol. Noam Tibon left his wife and the family car at nearby Kibbutz Mefalsim and caught a ride further south with a soldier.

At around 1:15 p.m., Tibon made it to Kibbutz Nahal Oz, joined the local security team and several units of special forces who were already deep in battle with the terrorists, and rescued his son and the rest of the family. Tibon said members of a paratroopers brigade arrived at the base around the same time, but it was already “burning like hell.”

“They tried to rescue [the soldiers], but unfortunately, very few were alive.”

Tibon said examples like the failure to listen to the observers’ warnings was the reason that Aharon Haliva [former director of the Military


Intelligence Directorate] resigned. “At the end of the day, they were the eyes of the IDF in this region, and they saw, they saw—and arrogant and vain commanders in the Israeli intelligence shut them down. This is unforgivable.”

Raphael Cohen, director of the Strategy and Doctrine Program of RAND’s Project AIR FORCE, a nonprofit research organization, said that placing unarmed soldiers so close to one of Israel’s most volatile borders “strikes me as a truly criminal level of complacency”—even though the Golani soldiers stationed with them were armed.

Cohen said he has heard the narrative multiple times that the reason they were not listened to is the gender bias built into the IDF, which “strikes me as plausible, though I cannot point to any actual evidence.”

Lifschitz said she believes the women were not taken seriously because of both their gender and their rank.

“We were 18- and 19-year-old girls,” she said. “Even though we know the whole area perfectly and could tell you about it in our sleep, we were not considered high enough ranked, so they did not listen. They liked to belittle us. It did not surprise me.”

While the presence of women in the IDF, including in combat roles, has increased in recent years, most, like those serving as observers, hold junior officer ranks, explained Shira Efron, the Diane and Guilford Glazer Foundation senior director of policy research at the United States-based Israel Policy Forum think tank. She said that women constitute about 45 percent of junior officer positions. Their representation shrinks to approximately 20 percent at the lieutenant level and further declines to single-digit percentages among senior officers.

“Are women listened to?” Efron

asked. “The question is if they are at the table to begin with.”

Of the 32 members of the Israeli General Staff under the leadership of Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi, there are only three women: President of the Military Court of Appeals General Orli Markman, Military Advocate General Yifat TomerYerushalmi and Military Secretary to the President Brigadier General Naama Rosen-Grimberg.

The education division of the IDF is composed mainly of women, yet it has never had a female head at the level of general.

“The IDF is not in a place to lose talent after what happened to us,” Efron said.

Tibon echoes the view of many in noting that female soldiers showed up “big time” in this war, erasing any doubts about their capabilities in combat roles. There have been numerous accounts of female combatants playing key roles on October 7 and, since then, in Gaza.

Benny Gantz, then a member of the War Cabinet, speaks with observer soldiers at the Urim base in Israel’s Negev Desert.

One of the most notable examples was the all-female tank crew that was instrumental in maneuvering tanks from their post at the Egyptian border to engage with hundreds of terrorists at the Gaza border.

Following the war’s onset, there has been a significant increase in women enlisting in combat units. Although the IDF shares percentages rather than raw numbers for security reasons, in December 2023, figures revealed that combat units surpassed their targeted number of female recruits by more than 100 percent.

Subsequent data released by the IDF in April showed an even more substantial surge. For instance, the artillery corps exceeded its female recruitment target by 195 percent, indicating that for every woman it aimed to recruit, close to two actively pursued positions within the corps.

The border defense corps exceeded its recruitment target by 158 percent, the rescue and training unit by 170 percent and the border police by 139 percent. In general, the IDF exceeded its female recruitment target by 157 percent, according to the April data.

At the same time, multiple news reports indicate that post-October 7, a growing number of female recruits are refusing to serve as observers.

“If they feel that they are doing something important, that they are secure and well trained and can protect themselves, they will come back with a huge motivation,” Tibon said. “If they feel no one respects them and they are not secure, they will not want to come.”

Lifschitz’s younger sister was expected to follow in her footsteps and serve as an observer. But just before she entered the army this winter, she requested a transfer and will serve as

a driver in the IDF. She is in training and still does not know in which unit she will be placed.

“Nothing has changed since October 7,” Lifschitz said. “The headquarters at Nahal Oz moved to Re’im, but it is the same as at the other base. They don’t treat the observers differently—same system, same behavior,” she said, meaning that they still have no weapons and the hierarchy in the army has not changed.

“Why should my sister be an observer and go through what I went through?” Lifschitz wondered. “It’s a crucial task, but right now, it feels like my friends died for nothing. They were murdered for nothing.”

Back at the Nahal Oz command center, Eshel lights three memorial candles for his daughter Roni that glow brightly in the darkness. He wipes a tear from his eye.

“When I am here, all I want to do is cry—only cry,” he said. He and the other families of the tatzpitaniyot who died that day are pushing to turn the command center into a memorial.

And he, like Tibon, is calling for a full investigation as well as a change of leadership and practice. He acknowledged that uncovering the truth won’t bring Roni back, yet he says it can safeguard future female soldiers’ lives.

“I am Roni’s soldier now,” he said as he looked up toward the sky, teary-eyed but determined. “The girls are screaming from the ground: ‘Save our honor.’ ”

Maayan Hoffman is editor-in-chief of ILTV, an Israeli daily English language news program. She is also the host of the podcast Hadassah On Call: New Frontiers in Medicine.

Lifschitz (in foreground) and fellow field observer soldiers sit at computer screens that monitor the Gaza border while operating a computer keypad with one hand.

A Kibbutz in Exile

Evacuees have resurrected their old communal life at a hotel for war refugees |

For more than eight months, Kibbutz HaGoshrim residents Urit and Zeev Gelber have had their life squeezed into a single room at a hotel overlooking the Kinneret.

Along with over 100 members of their kibbutz near the Lebanon border, the couple was relocated last October to the Ramot Resort Hotel in the southern Golan Heights, about an hour south of HaGoshrim, when Hezbollah began attacking northern Israel the day after Hamas’s October 7 massacre in the South. Every morning, the Gelbers eat breakfast in the hotel dining room with their fellow refugees, including evacuees from the northern Israeli city of Kiryat Shmona, and they see them again at dinner and sometimes lunch.

Retirees like the Gelbers often spend time with their fellow pensioners during the day, too. The group has organized a morning exercise class and extracurricular activities like papercutting. Speakers come to the hotel to give lectures and classes, and

the seniors travel together on occasional day trips to area attractions. A hotel bomb shelter serves as a makeshift rec room. In the afternoons, many care for young grandchildren also living at the hotel.

Children roam the resort unhindered, leaving bicycles scattered about and spending lazy afternoons in the large outdoor pool with fantastic views of the lake. In the mornings, the younger kids occupy conference rooms that have been repurposed into a kindergarten and day care.

After dinner, the older folks often hold court in a corner of the lobby, sitting in a circle of chairs and munching on nuts and cookies, discussing the war and their kids, and speculating over when they’ll be able to return home. They call themselves “The Parliament,” and they represent the kibbutz in exile whenever issues arise with hotel management.

For 70-year-old Urit Gelber, a lifelong kibbutz resident, the communal element of life at the hotel during this wartime displacement recalls

something from many decades ago— kibbutz life before privatization.

“The kibbutz community returned to itself,” Gelber said. “This life here reminds us of things from the past. We meet in the dining room for all three meals. We sit and laugh together. We make joint decisions and digest our problems together. We talk. Most important of all, we gossip. The camaraderie is therapeutic.”

It’s a peculiar side effect of the displacement of some 60,000 Israelis from northern Israel: some people, especially seniors, are benefiting, even thriving in ways they weren’t at home. They don’t have to cook for themselves. Communal activities keep them occupied during the day, and they’re not isolated.

In many ways, it’s like an assistedliving facility—and how the kibbutz used to be.

“We gather and people ask after one another, even people you didn’t necessarily meet before or talk to,” said Gad Hillel Rosenblum, 82. “You want to support others and be supported.”

‘The Parliament’ holds court in the hotel lobby.

Only a fraction of ha-

Goshrim’s 1,360 members live at the Ramot hotel. Approximately 10 percent are in their kibbutz homes, while others either reside at one of the four other hotels hosting large numbers of HaGoshrim evacuees, all near the Kinneret, or have moved into rental apartments. In fact, most of Israel’s internal refugees have taken up residence in rentals rather than crowd into the hotels.

That’s partly because of the uncertainty of when they’ll be able to go home, which many said is the most difficult element of their displacement. Hezbollah continues to attack northern Israel with rockets, drones and antitank missiles. Even if the barrages were to cease, residents are worried about the omnipresent threat of an October 7-style attack in the North.

The Ramot hotel, where there haven’t been any air raid sirens for the entire duration of this war, has its challenges, too—notably, crowding and lack of privacy.

“You see that families here have problems unrelated to the war; even if you don’t want others to see— people see and people hear,” Gelber said. “Everything is much more out in the open. People don’t have anywhere to go. You’re not getting along with your wife or husband, where will you run to?”

The setting at the resort is bucolic but isolated. The hotel is situated amid agricultural fields on the windy road to the tiny town of Ramot. The well-manicured 10-acre property has 129 rooms spread out among a series of interconnected buildings and a few freestanding wood cabins.

It’s a big change from the private homes the evacuees owned in HaGoshrim’s sprawling grounds about three miles from Kiryat Shmona, a large town with a population of 25,000.

Ironically, HaGoshrim has its own hotel, which is one of the kibbutz’s single-biggest sources of income; it has been shuttered since October 8.

One retiree who insisted on anonymity said she lived at the Ramot

hotel for two months but moved back home despite the dangers because she couldn’t take it anymore. She didn’t want to revert to the communal kibbutz of old, or crowd together with her husband into a single room with a single bathroom.

A few key factors have enabled the current situation. The Israeli government is footing the bill for the evacuees, including accommodations and three meals per day. The refugees from northern Israel do not bear the same October 7 trauma as those from southern Israel, many of whom saw their homes destroyed and family members or friends murdered, kidnapped or assaulted during the Hamas attack.

And HaGoshrim residents relocated collectively, a decision that has kept those opting for hotels together in large groups at a few specific locations.

When privatization arrived at the kibbutz two generations ago, many of the unique elements of communal life began falling away. First, in the early 1980s, children stopped sleeping in group

Haim Yitzhak is among the younger HaGoshrim exiles at the Ramot resort.
Kibbutz members eat breakfast together every morning.

homes, where kids had been sent to live as soon as they were weaned. Then, in the mid-1990s, the dining hall reduced operations, eventually closing in 2000, the year the kibbutz was formally privatized.

Seventy-two-year-old Haya Lahav, who has lived on HaGoshrim since age 3, remembers the special sense of togetherness that faded once kibbutz members began eating their meals apart. At the hotel in Ramot, she said, that togetherness has re-emerged.

“We’ve returned to the communal dining room, to sitting together, to drinking coffee together—things we hadn’t done in years,” she said.

Lahav’s husband stayed behind in the kibbutz, first to serve as a reservist in the kibbutz security squad and later to stay close to his job driving a truck for a nearby fish farm. He visits the hotel on weekends, and Lahav is surrounded by friends the rest of the time. When the communality gets to be too much, she retreats to her hotel room. “I do crafts, I watch TV,” Lahav said. “Everyone busies themselves with something.”

Such close-quarter living is particularly challenging for families, where parents and kids may be four to a room. Children assigned to new or temporary schools may attend only inter mittently due to refugee fatigue, and adults must manage jobs alongside all the other challenges of displacement.

At the Ramot hotel, the number of evacuees fell from a high of 190 to 127 by mid-spring, leaving most of the resort’s rooms open

to paying guests.

Haim Yitzhak is among the younger HaGoshrim exiles who have stayed, along with his wife and three children, ages 5, 7 and 12. He said there are advantages to the hotel.

“If I were in an apartment, who would my kids play with?” Yitzhak said. “They’d be stuck inside. They wouldn’t have friends.”




Relatively speaking, Yitzhak said, he’s fortunate. He has a roof over his head, he’s not going hungry and he can do his high-tech job remotely from his hotel room—albeit with frequent interruptions from his kids. While uncertainty about the future is frustrating, he said, many families in Israel are much worse off, starting with those whose loved ones are stuck in Gaza. His wife, Dana Yitzhak, is hav-

ing a harder time.

“I’m going crazy, but I stay because the kids have acclimated to their frameworks here,” she said, later adding: “I’ve gotten to know the kibbutz community better here. Now I know who’s who. The kibbutz takes care of us.”

Ursula Taquni is one of the seniors helping to care for her grandchildren in the afternoons. Her daughter is a police officer and her son-in-law works in construction. A native of Switzerland who moved to HaGoshrim 35 years ago, Taquni sometimes struggles with finding alone time.

“It’s a little hard, with just a room in the hotel,” Taquni said. “Sometimes in the afternoons, I go to my room to watch a movie in German that I like. Or I go for a walk on the hotel grounds.”

Stacey Avni is among the small number of evacuees at the hotel from another kibbutz. Maayan Baruch is located across the road from HaGoshrim and only about 400 yards from the Lebanon border.

“I’ve found a really wonderful community here,” the 68-year-old said of the Ramot Resort Hotel. “We joke about how I’m a moment away from becoming a member of Kibbutz HaGoshrim. It’s fun.”

In her next breath, Avni corrected herself. We’re not suffering, she said, but her hotel room is as cluttered as a storage shed. She doesn’t like living

Evacuees enjoy dinner on the hotel grounds along the shores of the Kinneret.
Urit Gelber

on the government’s dime with no income from the three-room bed and breakfast she ran back home, and her grandchildren are far away.

“It’s not fun,” Avni said. “We’re always talking about when we’re going to go home.”

Afew of the hotel residents venture back home occasionally to fetch clothes, check on their houses or even visit for the weekend. But between Hezbollah’s attacks, a dearth of safe rooms and the shuttering of essential area services such as schools, returning permanently doesn’t seem feasible right now.

Yaela Gluzeshten said she feels safer at the hotel than she would at her kibbutz home, which is not outfitted with a reinforced safe room. She has been displaced for so long that she had trouble the other day remembering what the coffee table in her living room looks like. Before the war, she would host her three children and their kids every Friday night for Shabbat dinner, but she said she doesn’t miss all the cooking.

“The food here is simply delicious,” exclaimed her husband, Giora, at dinner, “and the hotel’s treatment of us is even better.”

Hotel manager Rinat Olami Shriki said she tries to balance the evacuees’ needs with those of vacationing guests paying full price. However,

Kindergarten kids play during recess.

things don’t always go smoothly.

“We’ve never dealt with people living here on a long-term basis; it’s a big challenge for management and staff,” she said. “People live here, and it turns into their home, but it’s not really their house. We’re a hotel and we’re supposed to keep operating as a hotel.”


The reality of kids’ bikes and scooters strewn about is typical for a kibbutz but irritating to hotel management. Strollers are parked in hallways, wash ing machines have been placed in available nooks and crannies, and some evacuees complain about dining needs. They also grumble that when family or friends visit, they must pay for meals, and their guests can’t spend the night.

For the

most part, conflict between evacuees and the hotel is managed by The Parliament, with whom Shriki is in constant conversation. They negotiate over everything from meal menus to the use of common rooms.

Overall, Shriki said, she’s sympathetic to the evacuees’ situation and views the hotel’s role hosting them as a national duty. The hotel is compensated by the government at a rate of about $135 per day per adult evacuee and half that amount per child.

“We’re like family now, really,” said Salem Gamal, the hotel’s Israeli Arab dining manager. “The kids call me by name. We live together with these people day and night, 24 hours a day.”

Daniel Tshuva is among the few older evacuees who came to the hotel from Kiryat Shmona rather than a kibbutz. At first there was a divide between city dwellers such as himself and kibbutzniks, he said, but after more than half a year together, they feel like family.

“If they’re depressed, I help them.

The hotel has fostered its own kind of kibbutz, he said: , using the Hebrew term for the ingathhe said. “This is our kibbutz Israel. He works for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and has written about Israel’s current

Gad Hillel Rosenblum
‘Every Woman Is Different, Every Birth Is Different’

New lives begin at Hadassah’s Rady Mother and Child Center

Last summer, midwife efrat

Dolinsky gave birth to her son, Carmi, at the same place where she regularly helps deliver other women’s babies: the Rady Mother and Child Center at Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus.

“All my babies were born at Hadassah,” said the 33-year-old mother of four. Carmi, however, was the first born after she became a midwife. “I arrived as the night shift was ending. My supervisor, midwife Aviah Yagel, was about to go off duty, but she stayed to deliver me. Suddenly, I

was getting what I try to give: care, attention and bonding, serenity and reassurance, respect and support for my labor and birth.”

“I knew how important all this was—but I knew it a hundredfold more intensely after being at the receiving end,” she said, adding that Carmi’s birth “was easy and joyous.”

He was one of some 700 infants born each month at Mount Scopus in one of the Rady Center’s 10 luxurious birthing suites. Seven hundred, that is, in normal times. Since October 7, that number has fluctuated wildly, some-

times swelling with evacuees to the area, sometimes shrinking as expectant mothers, reluctant to travel far, sought more local hospitals. The staff has also helped the wives of soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces through their birthing experiences, many of whom needed additional support.

“Since the war against Hamas began, there’ve been more than a few women who have delivered their babies here while their husbands are fighting in Gaza,” said Elisheva Levin, head midwife and labor and delivery nurse at the Rady Center. In some cases, she said, “the new fathers managed to reach the delivery room directly from the front.”

The rady center opened in December 2018, replacing Mount Scopus’s old maternity ward. “Our staff is already double

Mother and newborn at Hadassah Hospital
Mount Scopus

what it was in the old facility,” said Levin, “and we’re still recruiting.”

The facility and the care it gives draw both first-time and veteran mothers. “We help every woman give birth safely in the way she wants, whether that is natural childbirth, an epidural or anything in between,” said Dolinsky, one of the 60 midwives at the center who, as in all Israeli hospitals, take the primary role in delivering babies.

As the first major upgrade of Mount Scopus’s labor and delivery department in almost 50 years, the Rady Center “transformed the maternity facilities from guesthouse to Hilton,” said Dr. Hagai Amsalem, the hospital’s head of labor and delivery. Among the major changes are the replacement of the old facility’s seven small labor and delivery rooms with the 10 suites, each with its own patio as well as equipment such as oversized physio balls to help natural and comfortable birthing.

For women who arrive in advanced labor, direct street access for drive-up arrivals has proven invaluable. “It was my seventh birth, and I thought I had time,” said an ultra-Orthodox woman who lives on the outskirts of Jerusalem and asked that her name not be used. Her youngest was nearly born in the Rady Center’s parking lot. “My son’s shoulder was stuck, so there was time for staff to hurry me into the building, put screens around me in reception and birth him there.”

“Every woman is different, every birth is different,” said

birth experience influencing a woman’s long-term health and well-being, it’s an important part of our job to read each mother, to understand her needs and fears.”




Sometimes, she said, those needs and fears affect not only the mothers, but the fathers as well.

One young father, recalled midwife Merav Bruchim, served in an IDF unit that identifies victims of Hamas violence or soldiers who have been killed in Gaza. He initially had difficulty going to his wife when she was in early labor. “He kept washing his hands,” said Bruchim, whose own husband served in a reserve unit several months ago. “When we saw this, we offered him a shower. He was calmer afterward,” and he was able to give his wife the support she needed.

The midwives gather information about each pregnant woman’s medical, birth and personal history—if

this is her first pregnancy or her 10th; whether she is Jewish, Muslim or Christian; from a religious or secular background. “We ascertain the type of birth she hopes for,” said Levin, “or carefully read the file of those who’ve met with our midwives ahead of time to plan their birth.”

Naama Madmon gave birth to her daughter, Hadar, at the Rady Center last summer. Her first child was born in a hospital close to where she and her husband live, near Ashdod, and “it was less than optimal,” she said. “I’d heard good things about Hadassah Mount Scopus.”

Just as with her first child, she again had gestational diabetes, and her pregnancy was considered high risk. “I was carefully monitored throughout and instructed to come in before labor was established,” she said. “I had complete confidence that I was in good hands, from the doctor


Decode today’s developments in health and medicine, from new treatments to tips on staying healthy, with the Hadassah On Call: New Frontiers in Medicine podcast. In each episode, journalist Maayan Hoffman, a third-generation Hadassah member, interviews one of the Hadassah Medical Organization’s top doctors, nurses or medical innovators. This July, Hoffman will speak with Dr. Yuval Tal, director of the Allergy and Clinical Immunology Unit at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, about seasonal, food and environmental allergies, and those that develop as we age. And catch up on recent episodes, including a talk with senior gastroenterologist Dr. David Hakimian, who specializes in clinical nutrition and bowel diseases. Subscribe and share your comments at hadassah.org/hadassahoncall or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Baby Hadar

who admitted me, to the anesthesiologist who gave me the epidural, to my midwife, who understood I needed my dignity. Before examining me, she emptied the room. At my previous birth, a cleaner had walked in during

an internal exam…. I remember lying there, thinking, ‘Couldn’t she wait?’ ”

In straightforward births like Madmon’s, mother and baby are usually discharged within 48 hours. If there are complications, they may

stay longer, sometimes in the Rady Center’s high-risk or neonatal intensive care units.

For some women, psychological complications arise before birth preparations. There are those who experience pregnancy and childbirth as a traumatic loss of control and struggle to cope with physiological changes, vaginal exams and fear of pain. Others have had negative birth experiences in the past or are survivors of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. These women find help in the Rady Center’s Corrective Birth Experience Clinic, opened in 2020 and created and headed by obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Lorinne Levitt. Sarah, who asked that her full name not be used, is one of some 200 women so far who have sought help from Dr. Levitt’s clinic. At age 8, she said, her adoptive father raped her; the assaults continued until they were discovered and stopped by her adoptive mother. Nevertheless, she said, both parents later insisted that she had imagined the rapes or, if she had been sexually abused, it had happened in a foster home.

At 18, Sarah cut ties with them. In time, she married, but childhood memories grew overwhelming when she became pregnant.

“The clinic helped me talk it out,” she said, “and build a birth plan that addressed my needs and was safe for my baby. There were no vaginal exams. I pushed when I felt I needed to. They put the monitor in front of me so I could see my baby’s heartbeat the whole time. It calmed me, and I trusted them. I can’t put into words how important this was.”

For traumatized women like Sarah, cognitive behavioral therapy, physical grounding techniques and other therapies are used “to help moms-to-be

Elisheva Levin, Rady Center head midwife

confront their fears and develop a workable birth plan,” Dr. Levitt explained.

For all Rady Center births, straightforward or complicated, the delivery room monitors are connected to departmental computer monitors, which allow Dr. Amsalem, the labor and delivery head, and his team to unobtrusively follow every birth. “We have full control, but try to limit intervention,” he said. “We approach pregnancy and childbirth not as medical conditions but as normal events that the body knows how to handle.”

Even so, the Rady Center always has a senior physician on duty in case of complications. But, more often, he or she sees the laboring woman only on admission. After that, the mid wives take over labor and delivery.

Like all Israeli midwives, every Rady Center midwife has completed a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing and worked as a nurse before a one-year midwifery specialization. Head midwife Levin decided 20 years ago—after giving birth to her eighth child—to realize her dream of becoming a midwife. “I’m endlessly excited about the process of birth,” said the Chicago native who made aliyah when she was 18. “I’ve helped deliver almost all my 19 grandchildren.”

Dolinsky, the midwife who gave birth last summer at the center, spent nine years as a maternity and high-risk pregnancy nurse before qualifying as a midwife 18 months ago. “It’s not for the faint-hearted,” she said. “It’s intensive, and the responsibility is huge, but that’s totally outweighed by the satisfaction and sheer joy. I feel privileged to be with women at this life-changing moment.”




Kaddish will be recited annually for your loved one in perpetuity in the Fannie and Maxwell Abbell Synagogue at Hadassah Medical Center beneath Marc Chagall’s iconic stained glass windows.


Kaddish will be recited for your loved one daily for 11 months after burial, after which Kaddish will be recited annually.



A reservation to ensure Kaddish will be recited for you and your loved ones upon their death. Available in standard and Enhanced Perpetual Yahrzeit.

For further information, or to establish a Yahrzeit, call 877.212.3321 or email yahrzeit@hadassah.org.

Wendy Elliman is a British-born science writer who has lived in Israel for more than five decades.

Make Your Voice Heard

Advocating around antisemitism, voting priorities and support for Israel


Hadassah is redoubling its efforts to counter the alarming rise in antisemitism post-October 7. The organization is working with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to advance legislation to fund civil rights enforcement, define antisemitism at the Department of Education, establish a national coordinator to counter antisemitism in the White House and bolster Holocaust education in public schools across the country. At the same time, Hadassah leaders continue to speak out against antisemitism displayed by

the United Nations, the International Criminal Court and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Meanwhile, Hadassah members are working to expand use of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism in states across the country, including Georgia, South Dakota, Indiana, Ohio and New Jersey.

You can join Hadassah’s efforts to combat antisemitism at Hadassah’s National Action Center ( hadassah.org/actioncenter ).


The Olympic Summer Games in Paris will occupy the world’s airwaves from July 26 to August 11. Israel will be among the 206 countries competing for gold, silver and bronze medals. While most of us know Israel’s tragic history at the Olympics—six coaches and five athletes were murdered by terrorists at the 1972 games in


On November 5, American voters will elect one president, 34 senators, 435 representatives and 11 governors. They will also vote on more than 75 ballot measures in states across the country, many relating to reproductive rights and gun violence.

While Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, does not endorse candidates in any kind of race, it does educate around policy matters essential to the organization’s Zionist, female-focused mission. In 2024, that means advocating around expanding support for Israel, combatting antisemitism and championing women’s and public health.

Want to know how to assess candidates in those three policy areas? Hadassah’s issues guide offers tools to consider candidates at the local, state and federal level ( hadassah. org/votes ). Also online, learn about #HadassahVotes, a four-step voting plan with linked resources to information such as verifying registration and requesting early mail-in ballots.

Israel’s National Olympics Committee was formed in 1933, during the British Mandate. But it wasn’t until 1952 that Israel sent its first delegation of athletes to the summer games in Helsinki.

Israel did not compete in the Winter Olympic Games until 1994, in Lillehammer,

Since 1952, Israel has competed at every summer Olympics except the 1980 games in Moscow, which Israel boycotted along with the United States and many other nations in protest of the Soviet Union’s 1979 invasion

At the 1988 summer games in Seoul, Israeli sailors and brothers Ran and Dan Tortan were thrown off the


Hadassah Magazine has won eight new Simon Rockower Awards, the annual prizes for excellence in Jewish journalism handed out by the American Jewish Press Association. The awardwinning magazine was recognized on June 3 for its work done in 2023 during the AJPA’s 43rd annual conference, this year held in Nashville.

The magazine took top honors in four categories: Uriel Heilman won first place for “The Economic Fallout of War” in Excellence in Business Reporting; Hannah Pressman won first place for “My Year of Taylor, Barbie and Margaret” in Excellence in Personal Essay; Robert Goldblum won first place for “The Women of Sassoon” in Excellence in Arts (Review/Criticism); and in the wild card category of Excellence in Writing about the War in Israel: Feature Writing, Sue Fishkoff won first

sailing team after they competed in an event on Yom Kippur—after being instructed by Israel’s National Olympic Committee not to participate.

Israel didn’t take home an Olympic medal until 1992, when Judoka Yael Arad won bronze. Today, Arad serves as president of Israel’s National Olympic Committee and as a board member of the International Olympic Committee.

The playing of “Hatikvah” and the raising of Israel’s flag that signaled the country’s first gold medal win came in 2004, when Gal Fridman won in men’s windsurfing.

In total, Israel has won 13 medals at the summer games—three gold, one silver and nine bronze. The country has yet to medal at the winter games.


in Excellence in Writing about Food and Wine.

place for “A ‘Great Awakening’ for American Jewry.”

The magazine also won four honorable mentions: In the category of Excellence in Single Commentary, Rona Kobell won for “Preserving History”; Alexandra Lapkin Schwank for “The Incredible Reach of #JewishTikTok” in Excellence in Feature Writing; Karen Chernick in Excellence in Arts News and Features (Reporting) for “Between Alienation and Acceptance”; and Beth Segal for “A Menu of Music and Food”

“It is especially gratifying in these difficult times to be honored for the work that we do in telling Jewish stories,” said Lisa Hostein, the magazine’s executive editor. “From insightful pieces about Jewish art and culture to devastating stories of the economic, psychological and worldwide impact of October 7 and the ensuing Israel-Hamas war, our winning entries underscore our team-wide effort to bring our readers stories that matter. Yasher koach to all the winners!”

The Berkshires Beckon This Summer

A land flowing with nature, culture and ‘Yiddishkeit’

Jews have a history of exodus from plague-ridden lands to promised ones, a tradition renewed by the recent pandemic, but with a twist. Some of us left permanently for an idyllic place we’d already been visiting for years—the Berkshires.

The narrow mountainous band of Western Massachusetts stretching from Connecticut to Vermont has long been a weekend getaway and summer resort for urbanites looking to escape to the country without leaving culture behind. The Berkshires—also the name of the surrounding county— is anchored by Great Barrington in the South, Pittsfield in the middle and North Adams in the North.

Staring out his window at Arrowhead, his home in Pittsfield, writer Herman Melville saw the white peak of Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts, and got the inspiration for his famous white whale. Authors Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edith Wharton lived in neighboring Lenox. Then there are the music and theater icons like Leonard Bernstein, who conducted at Tanglewood in Lenox for decades, right up to James Taylor, who still lives in the area and performs at Tanglewood most summers.

Only Bernstein from this illustrious

list was Jewish, but the Berkshires have long been a haven for a disproportionate number of Jewish visitors, audiences and patrons.

The county today supports the independent Berkshire Minyan as well as six synagogues— three Reform (Hevreh of Southern Berkshire, Temple Anshe Amunim and Congregation Beth Israel); one Reconstructionist (Congregation Ahavath Sholom); one Conservative (Congregation Knesset Israel); and a Chabad center. Anshe Amunim, Beth Israel and Knesset Israel trace their roots to the latter half of the 19th century, when Jews began settling in the Berkshires in numbers.

Dara Kaufman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires and a lifelong Berkshires resident, puts the current Jewish population at 3,500—out of the more than 125,000 in the area—but estimates that the number swells by an additional 2,500 over the summer. What has changed since the pandemic, according to Kaufman and multiple synagogue leaders, is the number of Jews who have made the move permanent.

Rabbi Levi Volovik of Chabad of the Berkshires said his congregation

has grown by 20 percent since Covid. Hevreh’s Rabbi Jodie Gordon said her synagogue’s religious school has added 15 new families since 2020 to its base of about 40 with school-age children.

A number of these “newish and Jewish” arrivals (the name of a Federation meet-and-greet event) have added to the quality of life in the region as leaders of some of its cultural powerhouses. For example, at Pittsfield’s Barrington Stage Company, the board president, artistic director and development director are all Jewish.

Alan Paul came to the Berkshires in 2023 to become the company’s artistic director. “I like producing theater that celebrates Jewish themes and culture,” he said, adding that it’s difficult to find American musical theater that doesn’t have Jewish artists’ fingerprints, even if the work isn’t explicitly Jewish. That includes La Cage aux Folles with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and book by Harvey Fierstein, which Barrington Stage Company will put on this summer.

If classic theater is your thing, The Comedy of Errors will be on the boards at Shakespeare & Company this summer. Sheila Bandyopadhyay has been the director of training at

Tanglewood becomes the backyard of the Berkshires in June, July and August.

the company’s renowned Center for Actor Training since 2021. According to her, the breathing techniques she teaches there could have a practical Jewish application.

“They would certainly help a b’nei mitzvah kid chant their Torah and Haftarah portions,” she said with a laugh, thinking back to her own bat mitzvah.

And then there’s the culture around food. Rafi Bildner, restaurateur and fourth-generation foodie whose great-grandfather founded the Kings supermarket chain, spent childhood summers at his family’s home abutting October Mountain State Forest. The gregarious chef has a V’ahavta tattoo, meaning love in Hebrew, on his left bicep, which is fitting because he definitely loves what he does—making pizza.

his signature pies—including one inspired by the Iraqi Jewish dish sabich. That pizza brings together fresh greens, hardboiled egg, eggplant and over two dozen other ingredients on a circle of dough.

In a former life, Bildner led bicycle tours all over the world, but thinks some of the best biking he’s done is closer to home.

“What’s amazing about the Berkshires,” he said, is “you could be in a town, and then you’re really out there in the woods within a very short period of time.”

Bildner is also an avid fly fisherman who said one of the top spots for trout is on the Housatonic River, under the covered bridge in Sheffield’s Thom Reed UFO Monument Park. As its name implies, the park is one of the weirdest tourist destinations in the Berkshires; it is the site where Reed and his family supposedly encountered a UFO in 1969.

attend the nearby Union for Reform Judaism-affiliated Camp Eisner. Indeed, many Jews were introduced to the Berkshires through Eisner or the area’s other Reform movement camp, Camp Crane Lake in Stockbridge.

During the pandemic, Camp Half Moon in Monterey became part of the international network of Israeli-founded Kimama summer camps, which fuse traditional American camp values with Israeli culture and character.

Kimama owner and CEO Avishay Nachon looked at over 30 campgrounds within two and a half hours of the New York City metro area before seeing Half Moon on Lake Buel. In a word, he said of the 100-year-old campsite, it had “ruach”—which in Hebrew is a combination of spirit, energy and atmosphere. He bought the 33-acre property in 2021.

This summer, Kimama will bring 30 kids who were either kidnapped by Hamas on October 7 or whose siblings were to Camp Half Moon on full scholarship.

If you don’t catch a fish or a glimpse of alien life, you can at least grab a bite at the Great Barrington Bagel Company & Deli, a favorite of families whose kids

No discussion of nature and culture in the Berkshires is complete without Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO),

Stroll down Main Street in Great Barrington.
Sabich Pizza



Pittsfield, the Berkshires “big city,” has some of the best theater in the area. In addition to Barrington Stage Company , the Berkshire Theatre Group puts on many of its performances in the gilded turn-of-the-century Colonial concert hall. The Festival of New Jewish Plays will run at the Colonial from August 15 to 17.

The Berkshire Museum is a cabinet of curiosities whose eclectic collection extends to artwork, a small aquarium and live amphibian and reptile exhibits. The museum also houses the Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation, named for the philanthropic brothers who supported many Berkshires’ cultural institutions in life and whose foundation continues to do so after their death, including a lecture series in their mother‘s memory at their former congregation, Anshe Amunim. The series will host journalist and author

John Heilemann on August 25.

In addition to Melville’s home at Arrowhead , the Berkshire Athenaeum—Pittsfield’s public library—houses first editions of the author’s works, letters, paintings and artifacts. One of the more interesting items is a small olive wood cross Melville kept on his desk that he brought back from his trip to the Holy Land in 1856-1857. The word Jerusalem is etched on the cross in Hebrew but is missing the second “ yod .”


The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center has some of the most varied programming in the region: theater, standup comedy, dance, film and more. The late Lola Jaffee, another great Jewish Berkshires philanthropist, led a restoration of the 119-year-old theater to its former grandeur, including its vintage 1930s marquee. The Mahaiwe is a short walk from the Railroad Street and Main Street shops and restau -

rants and the newly reopened Triplex Cinema , a communitysupported nonprofit theater.

The Great Barrington Public Theater , housed in the Daniel Performing Arts Center on the campus of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, will stage Canadian-IsraeliAmerican Oren Safdie’s Survival of the Unfit from July 6 to 21.


Before soaking up some culture at Tanglewood or Shakespeare & Company , take in the nature on a walk in Bullard Woods abutting Stockbridge Bowl . Or catch some great views of the lake from the famous Kripalu yoga retreat center or from Olivia’s Overlook , a scenic spot bisecting several popular hiking trails.

The house and gardens at Edith Wharton’s The Mount offer both nature and culture. Nearby, downtown Lenox is ideal for shopping and dining. In the center of town, stop by Concepts of Art on Church Street for distinctive Judaica, fine art and jewelry, and The Bookstore & Get Lit

Wine Bar on nearby Housatonic Street for a new read and drink.


Williams College sits on a bucolic campus that encompasses the Williams College Museum of Art , where a number of the works were gifted by the Jewish collector Sigmund R. Balka, and the renowned Williamstown Theater Festival . Rachel

Bloom, co-creator and star of the television series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Reboot , will stage her onewoman Death, Let Me Do My Show at the festival from July 5 to 14.

Just off campus is The Clark Art Institute , whose holdings include the works of Colonial-era Jewish silversmith Myer Myers and his partner Benjamin Halsted as well Jewish Impressionist Camille Pissarro.

A short drive east on Route 2 from Williamstown leads to one of the biggest and best contemporary art museums anywhere— Mass MoCA in North Adams.


While technically not in the Berkshires, the National Yiddish Book Center is a mecca of Yiddish language and culture and is only an hour’s drive away. Its permanent exhibit, “Yiddish: A Global Culture,” tells the story of modern Yiddish culture through hundreds of rare objects, family heirlooms, photographs, music and videos. For klezmer and other music lovers, Yidstock: The Festival of New Yiddish Music, is back for its 12th year from July 11 to 14.

The center recently announced plans to relocate to its campus a 126-year-old, 25-foot-long synagogue mural that was rediscovered in an attic apartment in North Adams. The pastel crayon artwork, which features two lions flanking the Ten Commandments and a set of American flags, stood over the Ark of Congregation Beth Israel’s original sanctuary before it was covered up and forgotten for decades.

The National Yiddish Book Center (left) and the synagogue mural it will soon house in its lobby
A Sol LeWitt exhibit at Mass MoCA

which overlooks Stockbridge Bowl in Lenox. The Tanglewood lawn becomes the backyard of the Berkshires every summer. This summer, in addition to Stravinsky, Strauss and Brahms, Roger Daltrey of classic British rock band The Who, The Pretenders and, for a 50th year, James Taylor will be performing.

Tanglewood is also a focal point for several Berkshires synagogues.


Start your planning at the official website for the Berkshires org) . For a listing of cultural events, check out The Rogovoy Report (rogovoyreport. com) , curated by local Jewish journalist and author Seth Rogovoy.

For Jewish events year-round, research the Community Calendar of the Jewish Fed eration of the Berkshires org) and its newspaper, the Jewish Voice ation’s annual an indispensable guide.

Kosher travelers should consult Chabad of the Berkshires

Additionally, a new kosher catering com pany, 518 Kosher dinners-to-go for Shabbat pickup from Congregation Knesset Israel in Pittsfield all summer. Knesset Israel also hosts the Berkshire Jewish Film Festival annually in July and August.

Members of the 96-year-old Hills Chapter of Hadassah jongg events, lunch programs and a book club, among other activities.

Hevreh plans to host its annual Tanglewood Shabbat on August 9, and Anshe Amunim will hold Havdalah there on July 13 and August 24.

Anshe Amunim member Danny Meyers relishes the nature-culture nexus of the Tanglewood experience. “I love the fact that you can go hiking or kayaking on Stockbridge Bowl and then pack up your picnic dinner, take your chairs and go to Tanglewood and hear the BSO,”

said the Pittsfield resident, who relocated with his family from New Jersey in 2020. “It’s a combination you can’t find in too many other places in the world.”

A description that applies equally to the Berkshires as a whole.

Avi Dresner is a screenwriter, documentary filmmaker and winner of two Rockower Awards from the American Jewish Press Association. He lives in the Berkshires with his family.


MUSEUM HOURS: Sunday–Friday 10:00 am to 4:00 pm


‘Ruach’ at Camp Half Moon
the yiddish book center ’s core exhibition

Keeping My Cool in the Kitchen

Recipes that help calm the appetite and the mind |

Summer has descended upon Tel Aviv, and with it the everpresent canopy of heat and humidity that marks this season along Israel’s Mediterranean coast. But this year, in addition to the weather-induced haze, we’re under an even heavier cloud: the constant specter of October 7 and all that it has wrought here in Israel—and the Diaspora.

Sometimes the fugue state of grief and uncertainty feels like too much to bear. So many are struggling, so much seems upside down. Nevertheless, we attempt to go about our daily lives even as the fate of our hostages remains unknown, when hundreds of thousands of Israelis remain displaced from their homes and while our young men and women are pressed into service to defend us.

Here in Israel, despite facing existential paralysis, there is an insistence on living. Merely existing as Jews, in the Jewish nation, feels like a victory in the presence of so many around the world questioning our right to do so. We take walks with friends (often to protests). We read (or listen to) books. We work. We sleep (although fitfully).

And, of course, we cook. It is in precisely these moments of turmoil that I find myself turning to cooking as an act of comfort, nourishment and, most important, resilience. When cooking isn’t merely a “job” for me, but a lifeline.

My Tel Aviv kitchen features large windows that open to a breezy deck and all-day sunlight streaming in from different angles depending on the time of the day. The space has become my sanctuary—the place

where I can escape and focus on something other than the news. A cooking session often begins with me using my Israeli-made Zaksenberg juicer to extract lemon, lime, orange or pomegranate juice for a recipe. The physicality of the cranking motion followed by the satisfaction of watching colorful juice stream into a glass is downright meditative.

Next, I might grab a mixing bowl and whisk, spoon or spatula, some pantry staples and fruits or vegetables and begin futzing around to string together ingredients, flavors and techniques into new recipes.

It is during those hours in my kitchen that I feel a sense of peace that’s hard to come by these days. I find myself lingering at my counter to prolong that calm. Jewish people have always channeled their emotions into cooking and food—whether it’s processing the sadness of a shiva, the promise of a bris or a simchat bat, or the cherished routine of a Shabbat dinner—and I am borrowing that concept for my everyday cooking.

Owing to the heat, I’ve been turning to simple dishes that lean heavily on kitchen staples and shuk-fresh summer produce, building entire menus that are light on oven time and extraneous effort. The ambition is in the action itself: Putting together a meal for myself or my loved ones that not only accurately reflects the state of my heart but protects and buoys it as well.

I’ve come to revel in the no-cook

satisfaction of a salad like the one I share here, which fuses peak summer cantaloupe, juicy tomatoes, salty feta cheese and bitter arugula leaves and is dressed with olive oil and fresh lime juice. Or another salad that brings together Italian tuna, hardboiled eggs, marinated chickpeas and tender lettuce leaves that can be put together quickly and enjoyed for a few days. Both should be prepared with top-quality olive oil, preferably from Israel.

And for dessert, a plate of thick, tart Greek yogurt or labneh cheese. Sprinkled with nuts and drizzled with honey and olive oil and finished with the surprise of grassy chopped thyme, this simple preparation is proof that the sum is often greater than its parts.

This summer, I’m seeking meals that calm both the appetite and the mind.

Adeena Sussman is the author of Shabbat: Recipes and Rituals from My Kitchen to Yours and Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors from My Israeli Kitchen. She lives in Tel Aviv.

Sussman in her Tel Aviv kitchen

1 ⁄3 cup dried apricots, diced

3 cups ripe, sliced cantaloupe

3 cups arugula leaves

bowl. Add the cantaloupe, tomatoes and arugula to the bowl, then gently toss. Sprinkle with the sliced onion and feta.

Greek Yogurt With Pistachios, Honey, Olive Oil and Thyme

Serves 4

2 cups Greek yogurt

1/2 cup toasted pistachios, chopped

3 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt

Chickpeas With Italian Tuna & Eggs

Serves 4

1/4 cup olive oil

Fi nely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon (2 teaspoons zest, 3 tablespoons juice)

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon chili flakes, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning

Spread the yogurt on a small platter with sides. Sprinkle with the pistachios, then drizzle with the honey and olive oil and sprinkle with the thyme and salt.

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup chopped celery, plus any tender celery leaves

3 cups butter lettuce

4 hard-boiled eggs, halved

1 7.7-ounce can Italian tuna in olive oil, drained

1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

F reshly ground black pepper

Whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest and juice, thyme, oregano, chili flakes and salt in a medium bowl. Add the chickpeas and celery, toss to coat, and let sit for 30 minutes to 2 hours on the counter, or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Arrange the lettuce on a platter, spoon the chickpeas and their liquid over the lettuce and top with the eggs, tuna and onions. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste.

Unravelling a Persian-Jewish Mystery

Two sisters unearth their family’s complex, emotional history |

Danielle, galeet and Michelle Dardashti were born into a “mixed” Jewish family; their mother is Ashkenazi and their father, Persian. Throughout their childhood, however, their Persian heritage received short shrift. Three years ago, Danielle, a storyteller and Emmy Award-winning documentary producer and journalist, and Galeet, a singer, composer and anthropologist focusing on Middle Eastern culture, set out to answer their questions about their ancestry.

Why didn’t their Grandfather Younes, a renowned singer in 1950s and 1960s Iran dubbed “The Nightingale,” continue his musical career after he made aliyah in 1967? Why did their father, Farid, leave behind his singing stardom in 1960s Iran to pursue a career in architecture in the United States? And why did he become an Ashkenazi cantor, leading services at Conservative synagogues?

Other questions emerged when Danielle found a treasure trove of recordings in the basement of their parents’ home in New Rochelle, N.Y.

Growing up, the sisters were part of a family band, A Dash of Dardashti, with their parents. They sang in about a dozen languages, including Greek, Hebrew and French, at synagogues and Jewish festivals in the United States and Canada. However, Persian songs were absent from their repertoire.

Danielle and Galeet have turned their quest to understand their Persian heritage into a compelling six-episode podcast, a saga titled The Nightingale of Iran that slowly unfolds as a multigenerational quest for identity and belonging. (Michelle was not involved in the podcast as she had just started as rabbi of Kane Street Synagogue in Brooklyn.) Recently named Best Podcast of the Year by the Quill Podcast Awards, the podcast captures the sweet family life—at times loving and funny, at times emotional and painful—that courses through audio clips dating back to 1959 and emerges in interviews with relatives and friends. These are augmented by conversations with guests, including experts on music and Middle Eastern history.

“I’m listening in like a time traveler, like a fly on the wall,” Danielle, 53, comments in an episode about the recordings. “I’m shocked how clearly I can hear these voices from the past.” Perhaps most enthralling are the clips of their grandfather’s glorious voice trilling the classical Persian tahrir that sounds almost like the broken cries of a shofar, their father’s youthful voice and, later, his magnificent cantorial renditions.

“Non-Ashkenazi stories have been left out of the mainstream for so long in North America, to the point that people forget that there were very important Jewish cultural figures in other places in the world,” Galeet,

50, said in a Zoom interview.

The podcast is not only a family story describing their once-famous grandfather, who died in 1992, and their father’s choice to assimilate into Ashkenazi Jewish culture. The sisters also reveal how marginalization and pain were embedded in Iranian Jewish society even during the Pahlavi dynasty (1925 to 1979), which Galeet explained was considered a golden age for Jews in the country.

The sisters are both married with children and live in White Plains, N.Y. Because of Galeet’s musical and professional immersion in Middle Eastern culture, she has been the most connected of her sisters to their Persian heritage.

But for Danielle, the rediscovered recordings and interviews have been a “huge exploration. Unearthing the tapes was like an archeological dig.”

One emotional highlight was their interview with Habib Partow, a Muslim and a former wrestler who now lives in New Jersey and who had been their grandfather’s friend in Iran.

“Habib ran with his laptop to show us the photo of our grandfather that still hangs on his refrigerator,” Galeet recalled. “He sobbed five times during our call.”

For Danielle, it was the mundane recordings that struck a chord. In one, her grandmother, then 38, is showing off the Hebrew—“Ani…ohevet… at”—that she learned at the “cloob”

Farid Dardashti singing with a band in Iran

in Tehran, which was like a Jewish community center. She then laughs at herself because she knows her Hebrew for “I love you” isn’t correct.


“It was like I was there in the room with them,” Danielle said. The idea for the documentary Mourning in Lod came from Sheila Nevins, the legendary Emmy Award-winning American documentary film producer. In 2021, she read a New York Post article about Yigal Yehoshua, a Jewish Israeli man killed by Arab rioters. After his death, his family donated one of his kidneys to an Arab woman.

When Nevins, who would end up co-producing the film, reached out to Israeli filmmaker Hilla Medalia, “We thought this would be a short, kind of sweet story of hope,” Medalia recalled in a Zoom interview from Tel Aviv.

And to some extent, they were correct. There is hope in this film about two murders that ultimately connect three families. But there is also sufficient material to get your blood boiling.

Lod is one of several mixed Arab-Jewish cities in Israel. As explored in the documentary, in May 2021, after Hamas fired rockets into Israel and clashes between Jews and Arabs rocked Lod, a group of Jewish extremists, several of them armed, took to the streets. There was a confrontation, and an Arab man, Musa Hassuna, was shot and killed.

The bloodshed continued. Arabs rioted in the streets, and one threw a rock at the car that Yehoshua was driving. It struck his head, gravely wounding him.

Medalia’s on-camera interview with Hassuna’s

Rahel Musleah virtual tours of Jewish India and other cultural events (rahelsjewishindia. com).

widow, Marwa, just weeks after his death is heartbreaking. She describes how their daughter, Milla, had begged to see her father: “Take me to him. I’ll save him.”

The film also recounts how Yehoshua’s family collectively decided to take him off life support and donate his organs.

The day after their decision, Randa Aweis, a 58-year-old Christian Arab from East Jerusalem with kidney disease, was called to immediately report to Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem for a kidney transplant. For nine years she had traveled to Ein Kerem for dialysis treatment; her condition had deteriorated, making a transplant urgent. The surgery was performed by Dr. Abed Khalaileh, director of the Hadassah Medical Organization’s Kidney Transplant Service.

Medalia also captures the Yehoshuas’ expressions of grief. Yigal’s widow, Irina; their two children; and his brother, Efi, all speak on camera about his kindness to everyone, regardless of background.

But some Israeli reactions to the Yehoshuas’ generosity were vile. Hateful commenters on social media damned the family for saving an Arab woman’s life.

Worse was the police reaction to the murders. Despite obtaining surveillance video of the Jewish-Arab clashes that would help identify who had killed Hassuna, the investigation made little progress. According to the film, three suspects were detained but eventually released due to political interference.

In contrast, in Yigal Yehoshua’s case, eight people were arrested, charged with murder and terrorism. All are still in prison awaiting a trial.

The film provides some optimism, describing the good that can come from tragedy. After the transplant surgery, Aweis was able to attend a memorial service

for Yehoshua. Unsure of her welcome, she sat in the car until mourning family members escorted her to a table of honor.

In life, Yigal Yehoshua and Ahmed Hassuna, Musa’s father, had known each other. Today, their families remain close and together try to ease tensions in Lod.

I’m not sure exactly what message to take from Mourning in Lod, available on Paramount+. It was completed before the Hamas attack on October 7. The film’s sound designer, Lior Weitzman, was murdered by a terrorist that day while riding a bike near Sderot.

It seems with every step forward, there are two steps back.

Curt Schleier, a freelance writer, teaches business writing to corporate executives.

A portrait of Jewish historian and diplomat Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt by Isaac Ben Aharon, part of Jewish Art Salon’s exhibition, ‘Artists on Antisemitism,’ through August at 81 Leonard Gallery in New York City. See jewishartsalon.org for more information.

Danielle (left) and Galeet Dardashti
Randa Aweis (left) and her daughter


Since the outbreak of war in Israel, Yad Sarah has aided in the rehabilitation and recovery of more than 2,500 soldiers.

“I will never forget when we came home from the hospital after Yahali was born, and again when he was reborn after he was wounded,” said Hadas Brazilai, the mother of Yahali Brazilai, a 13th Battalion Golani soldier injured in combat.

“Back then, we brought him a highchair. Now, we brought a wheelchair from Yad Sarah,” she continued. “And the excitement of seeing his first steps this time was even more inspiring.”

With more than 7,000 volunteers and 126 branches throughout Israel, Yad Sarah is here to support IDF soldiers and all the people of Israel. JOIN US –SUPPORT

Yahali Brazilai IDF soldier, Yad Sarah client


They're played at the Maccabiah games

Oil-bearing rock

An Ancient Day of Mourning

An Ancient Day of Mourning

Drove too fast

"Okay, __ your way!"


Wayne ___ (superhero mansion)

1. They’re played at the Maccabiah games

Amos Oz's "A ___ of Love


7. Oil-bearing rock

12. Drove too fast



16. “Okay, your way!”


Innermost part of the First Temple

17. Wayne (superhero mansion)

Cover some ground?

18. Amos Oz’s “A of Love and Darkness”

Wee, to Burns


19. Grads

20. Expenditure

52. Sort or type

54. Yin and yang, e.g.

55. Character set for computers

57. Barely get, with “out”

58. Destroyer of the First Temple

66. Bitcoin e.g.

67. Rocker Ocasek

68. Fol-de(nonsense)

70. Egg on

21. Singles

Glucose, to fructose

What the First Temple, by Solomon, was meant to house -Wan Kenobi

22. Innermost part of the First Temple

24. Cover some ground?

25. Wee, to Burns

Bank manager?

26. Toned

Chisholm Trail town

27. Glucose, to fructose

Phone six

Streaming video service

Raiders of the lost Ark?

29. What the First Temple, built by Solomon, was meant to house

Theme of this puzzle

35. -Wan Kenobi

"Little piggies"

36. Bank manager?

Sort or type

37. Chisholm Trail town

Yin and yang, e.g.

41. Phone six

71. Reading during 48-across

78. Like Bo Peep's charges

77. Food sticker

79. C.S. Lewis's magical kingdom

78. Like Little Bo Peep’s charges

80. Boat in "Jaws"

5. Baseballer Martinez

6. Severe financial legal penalty

7. Peanut butter choice

13. Jipijapa hat 14. One after another? 15. Negev, for one

8. Schlep

34. Not perfectly round

37. Astern

38. “You stink!”

39. Anger

40. Author Jong

50. Maori dance with rhythmic chanting 53. Kith partner 55. Star pitcher

59. The Babylonian one destroyed the First Temple

60. Fabric sheet name

79. C.S. Lewis’s magical kingdom

81. Designer Chanel et al.

82. Not more than

80. Boat in “Jaws”

83. Nile marsh plant

9. The “A” of ABM

10. Balcony section

11. Like waves to shorelines

. Smack 28. "Comprende?" 30. They're nuts 31. Heed

42. Old German coin

43. Where, in Latin

61. Like much spam

56. Shakespeare's Venetian Jewish moneylender

44. Daughter to abba

62. Writer Hemingway

63. Clearasil target

58. Trojan War figure

45. Wall climber

64. Attach, as a patch

84. Prepared to propose

81. Designer Chanel et al.

85. Woody vines

82. Not more than

83. Nile marsh plant


84. Prepared to propose

12. a dime

13. Jipijapa hat

14. One after another?

32. The onetime ___ Shade Catskills' bungalow colony 33. Red ___

15. Negev, for one

47. Tried to get home, maybe

59. The Babylonian one destroyed the First Temple 60. Fabric sheet name

49. It was closed during the Six-Day War

65. Charge to a British scientist

61. Like much spam

62. Writer Hemingway

69. Exams for would-be attys.

85. Woody vines

1. Persian potentates

23. Smack

34. Not perfectly round 37. Astern

28. “Comprende?”

38. "You stink!"

50. Maori dance with rhythmic chanting

63. Clearasil target

72. Calling company?

Character set for computers

Barely get, with "out"

42. Streaming video service

Destroyer of the First Temple

46. Raiders of the lost Ark?

Bitcoin e.g.

48. Theme of this puzzle

Rocker Ocasek

51. “Little piggies”

Fol-de-___ (nonsense)

Egg on

2. Pablo's designer daughter 3. Egglike

4. ___ Martin (cognac)

5. Baseballer Martinez

30. They’re nuts

53. Kith partner

64. Attach, as a patch

31. Heed

32. The onetime

6. Severe financial legal penalty

7. Peanut butter choice

1. Persian potentates 2. Pablo’s designer daughter 3. Egglike 4. Martin (cognac)

8. Schlep

9. The "A" of ABM

Shade Catskills’ bungalow colony

33. Red

39. Anger 40. Author Jong 42. Old German coin 43. Where, in Latin 44. Daughter to abba 45. Wall climber 47. Tried to get home, maybe

55. Star pitcher

73. They might squeak by

65. Charge to a British scientist

74. Carbon compound

56. Shakespeare’s Venetian Jewish moneylender

69. Exams for would-be attys.

75. “Mon Oncle” star

72. Calling company?

58. Trojan War figure

76. “ la Douce” (1963 film)

73. They might squeak by 74. Carbon compound 75. "Mon Oncle" star 76 "___ la Douce" (1963 film)

Summer of (Jewish) Love

Contemporary romances focus on Jewish joy

Having grown up on the Jersey Shore, I know all about summer. Gathering up a car full of kids, sunscreen and towels. Lying on a beach, a refreshing icecold lemonade in hand, seagulls squawking overhead. And as every aficionado of summer knows, no trip to the coast would be complete without the perfect beach read.

What I never would have imagined as a teenager, however, are the cover images of new novels spread along beach towels on the shore this summer. A man in a black kippah caressing a lover, as seen on Felicia Grossman’s latest fairy tale-inspired novel, Wake Me Most Wickedly. A hot sofer, or scribe, standing against the backdrop of a ketubah, as showcased on Stacey Agdern’s recent The Dating Contract, which features a plot where the couple initially only pretends to date.

Or, in the case of my fourth novel, Magical Meet Cute, out in August, two red-headed lovers about to kiss.

One is a proud Jewish woman, the other a potential golem she may have accidentally summoned. A tallit is wrapped lovingly around them, a perfectly rendered tzitzit trailing down an extremely fit arm.

Fun, love and the promise of a happy ending. This is the world of Jewish romance. Or, more specifically, contemporary novels and authors that focus on Jewish joy. These books have become part of a movement that I am deeply and passionately invested in.

Joy is not a word often associated with Jewish writing. Indeed, growing up near Atlantic City in the 1990s, I largely had access to one type of Jewish story—Holocaust fiction. Of course, there were others, novels such as Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth or kid’s fare like All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor.

But the narratives I was handed, the stories I was told about my Jewish experience, were that I was either a victim needing to be saved or a side

character. The girl with frizzy hair and oversized glasses—or, in Roth’s case, an overbearing Jewish mother— but never a person deserving of a happily ever after.

There is power in seeing yourself as the hero in your own story. I discovered that power in my 30s, when the chronic illness I had lived with for most of my life, myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/ CFS), worsened. Too disabled to leave the house, I spent two years relegated to four square walls of a two-bedroom apartment in Northern Virginia, where I was living with my husband.

I had to leave rabbinical school, losing the vocation I so desperately wanted. I gave up dreams of having children, acknowledging with my husband that I was often too sick to raise them. It was in this dark place that I realized I had a choice between giving up or surviving—and thriving.

I made an important decision. One that would change the entire trajectory of my life: I was going to hold onto joy.

I started small, turning off the news and cutting out social media. I bought a plant and began meditating. Then, I joined ME Action, writing letters to members of Congress to advocate for those with my illness. I also helped sponsor the creation of a

siddur for PunkTorah’s online synagogue and community, realizing the need for online access points for Jews long before the Covid pandemic. It was during this joy hoarding that I began to read romances.

I found comfort in these stories, with their zany antics and their promise of a happily ever after. I adored the fantasy aspect of romance—a billionaire who does laundry, a rock star falling for the ordinary girl. Yet despite their formulaic construction, it would be a misnomer to call romance novels “fluff.” Rather, like Hasidic parables of yore, romance novels tackle difficult contemporary issues through the lens of an entertaining story.

It’s a model that works. Today, romance is the highest-earning genre in fiction, with approximately 39 million romance novels sold each year. It’s an impressive number, and it speaks to the voracious appetite of romance readers.

However, I did not think to write my own romance novel, one that would reflect my reality, until an experience several years ago with my then 7-year-old niece. As she was sitting on my lap while we were watching a movie, she looked up at me with innocent eyes and said, “Aunt Jeanie. You have a big nose. And big noses are ugly.”

My heart broke.

I love my nose. It’s part of my history as an Ashkenazi Jewish woman, and when I look in the mirror, I see 6,000 years of that history staring back at me. I couldn’t understand how my little niece—a girl raised by strong Jewish women, who attended Jewish day school—had internalized this message that there was something wrong with my Jewish look.

I realized she would grow up with the same stories I had read, about

Jewish women as victims, side characters or overbearing mothers.

So, I decided to write a book for when she grows up, in the genre that I loved, but this time it would be a Jewish romance with unapologetically and joyously Jewish characters. A story where the best of our community was profiled, where Jewish women never bemoaned the size of their noses and Jewish men were sexy. And, no longer ashamed of my diagnosis, I gave my heroine my disease. I allowed this broken and disabled Jewish woman to be loved, valued and adored.

That book, The Matzah Ball, was published in 2021 and became an international best seller and was optioned for film. Its success has led me to write more unapologetically Jewish romances, including Mr. Perfect on Paper and Kissing Kosher.

After my experience writing The Matzah Ball, I learned something important. While I had written the book primarily for myself and my niece, countless others needed these types of books, too.

Today, the need for Jewish joy has never been more apparent. In the wake of October 7, antisemitic incidents have increased significantly worldwide. We have all been horrified about what we have seen on college campuses and online. But while my own ability to combat hateful people and rhetoric is limited, I can model Jewish pride.

So, what does Jewish romance offer today’s Jewish reader?

It offers narratives that celebrate Jewish life. It creates access points. In some of the most recent Jewish romances, a reader can celebrate Hanukkah alongside a Reform Manhattanite Jew, as in Meredith Schorr’s novel Someone Just Like You. Or

undergo the stressful but oftentimes hilarious struggles of the Orthodox shidduch process, as in Heidi Shertok’s Unorthodox Love. It showcases strong Jewish women with diverse lives and unfiltered opinions, such as in Sara Goodman Confino’s Behind Every Good Man, set during a 1960s election campaign.

Beyond all these things, Jewish romance allows Jewish readers to envision themselves as the heroes. And to connect with Jewish pride and Jewish joy—all while lounging at the beach.

Jean Meltzer is the internationally best-selling author of The Matzah Ball, Mr. Perfect on Paper, Kissing Kosher and the upcoming Magical Meet Cute


Join us on Monday, July 29 at 7 PM ET for a special One Book, One Hadassah livestreamed from Hadassah’s National Conference in Las Vegas.

Israeli-born master storyteller Talia Carner will be in conversation with Hadassah Magazine Executive Editor Lisa Hostein as they discuss Carner’s The Boy with the Star Tattoo. The historical epic weaves together the rescue of Holocaust-era Jewish orphans by Youth Aliyah with a daring military mission in the early days of the Jewish state. Carner will also talk about her advocacy for Israel and women’s rights and share her insights on writing a Zionist book in today’s publishing world. Free and open to all. To register, scan the QR code or go to hadassahmagazine.org .


Writing about wealth, security and a kidnapping

Toby Fleishman is not the one in trouble this time. Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s follow-up to her critically acclaimed first novel, Fleishman Is in Trouble , longlisted for the National Book Award, takes readers to the fictitious, largely Jewish Long Island, N.Y., suburb of Middle Rock and explores the trials and travails of the Fletcher family.

“The Fletchers were a great Jewish American family,” writes Brodesser-Akner in her new book, Long Island Compromise . “…[T]hey’d come to this country, observed the landscape, and deftly assimilated into it. They did such a good job of this that, ultimately, they disappeared undetected into a completely different diaspora, fully absorbed by the America outside Middle Rock and in no need of a place like that anymore. That worked until it didn’t.”

It didn’t because Carl Fletcher, the patriarch, was kidnapped for a week before his family pays a ransom for his return. He never recovers, and neither do his wife and three children, as

their lives fall apart stunningly in this multigenerational saga. Brodesser-Akner, a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine , has already sold Long Island Compromise to Apple TV, with plans to write and executive produce the program (as she did with the Emmy Awardwinning Fleishman Is in Trouble for Hulu).

Here, the 48-year-old New York City-based author reveals the inspiration behind her latest novel. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Why were you drawn to writing about a wealthy Long Island Jewish family?

My parents moved to Long Island when I was a baby and we lived there until I was 6, when my parents divorced. My father stayed on Long Island, and he was great about picking me and my siblings up every weekend from Canarsie, Brooklyn [where we lived with our mother]. I found Long Island to be such a fascinating place, watching it evolve over the years.

I had a journalistic distance, visiting only on weekends. This inspired my writing, resulting in 70 pages of Long Island Compromise that I started before Fleishman .

How are your family experiences reflected in the book?

Growing up in a poor section of Brooklyn, I saw the disparity in perceptions of wealth. I watched it play out, and what was so interesting to me then is that you could have a very big house on Long Island and think of yourself as a poor person.

So, I was very interested in the dynamic of who actually is poor, and who thinks they’re poor. Can money ever really buy you safety and stability?

You start the book with a kidnapping. How do you think that will be perceived in light of Hamas’s kidnapping and holding of hostages?

It’s interesting that you asked that because it did not occur to me until a friend pointed it out, two months after October 7. They are so different: The book has a very specific crime of opportunity and sort of weird, ragged 1970s [feel], and the other is a wholesale, coordinated terrorist attack on Israel. It just feels so categorically different.

There have been recent accusations of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel bias in the literary world. What has your experience been in writing and publicizing this book?


I am not experiencing the things that other people are experiencing. No one asked me to mute anything, no one asked me to change anything. And it feels like my publication is not shadow banned or anything. I don’t know why. I’ve been busy writing the story and also promoting my book. But I don’t deny that anyone’s experience is their experience.

Hadassah is mentioned several times in your novel. Carl’s wife, Ruth, is a member. Why?

Well, it’s Hadassah. I’m a big fan!

Amy Klein is a freelance writer and the author of The Trying Game: Get Through Fertility Treatment and Get Pregnant Without Losing Your Mind.

Books by Hadassah Members Span

All Genres

Hadassah members are not only passionate readers, they are also prolific writers. Some of their published works are biographical, some historical and some are comedic gems. Here are a few recent releases, confirming that Jews—and particularly members of Hadassah—are the people of the book (for more reviews, go to hadassahmagazine.org/books).

Postwar Stories: How Books Made Judaism

If you are wondering how to combat antisemitism today, you might find guidance in Postwar Stories, a comprehensive account of how authors, rabbis and others caused a change in thinking about Jews and Judaism starting in the mid-1940s. Extensively researched and written by Rachel Gordan, assistant professor of religion and Jewish studies at the University of Florida in Gainesville, the book takes readers on a journey through faith, community and creed, unpacking how Judaism went from “the least understood of all major


The Talented Mrs. Mandelbaum: The Rise and Fall of an American Organized-Crime Boss

Journalist Margalit Fox brings to vivid life a storied figure largely unknown today: A Jewish woman who was one of the most infamous underworld criminal leaders in 19th century New York City. From her roots as a peddler on the Lower East Side, Fredericka Mandelbaum became a philanthropist, businesswoman and fixture of Gilded Age society while plotting and executing lucrative thefts and reselling stolen goods. Her death in 1894 made headlines around the world.

Nearly Departed: Adventures in Loss, Cancer, and Other Inconveniences

Comedy writer Gila Pfeffer has penned a cancer memoir full of humor and resilience. She’s a survivor of a disease that had killed both her parents by the time she was 30. In this life-affirming debut, Pfeffer, an activist for prioritizing breast health, writes about helping to raise her younger siblings and being young and single in the Orthodox community; she also describes her subsequent happy marriage, motherhood and faith.

Opening Doors: The Unlikely Alliance Between the Irish and the Jews in America

With relations between Israel and Ireland currently strained, Hasia R. Diner’s deeply researched book reminds us of the solidarity between Irish and Jewish immigrants to America. The Irish paved the way, arriving in the 1840s, with Jews from Eastern Europe beginning to land here in the 1880s. Diner writes about overlapping neighborhoods and connections through education,

labor unions and politics. While she doesn’t avoid unpleasant moments in the immigrants’ intertwined history, she emphasizes how the two groups stood up for each other as they were both considered “other” by the wealthy Protestant elite.

The Place of All Possibility:

Cultivating Creativity Through Ancient Jewish Wisdom


A spiritual leader and innovative educator, Rabbi Adina Allen encourages creativity as a path to deeper spirituality, healing, self-understanding and compassion. For her, creativity is the heart of human nature. The co-founder of the Jewish Studio Project, whose goal is to cultivate creativity as a Jewish practice, Allen urges readers to use simple materials “to make art about it,” whether through movement, writing, painting or sculpture, to reinterpret Jewish texts and beliefs. The creative approach explained in this debut work is not exclusive to artists.

Life After Kafka

By Magdaléna Platzová. Translated by Alex Zucker (Bellevue Literary Press)

Blending fact and fiction, Magdaléna Platzová imagines the life of Felice Bauer, who had been Franz Kafka’s first fiancée. (The author was engaged four times.) This is Felice’s story, set decades after they ended their relationship and based in part on her correspondence with Kafka, published as Letters to Felice. The novel begins as Felice and her family flee Europe in 1935, “where the ground had been disappearing underneath the Jews’ feet,” Platzová writes. The author places herself as a character in this literary tale, which moves back and forward in time, unfolding complexities surrounding the letters.

Sandee Brawarsky is a longtime columnist in the Jewish book world as well as an award-winning journalist, editor and author of several books, most recently of 212 Views of Central Park: Experiencing New York City’s Jewel From Every Angle.

Guide to Jewish Literature

Also available online with purchasing links. Go to hadassahmagazine.org and click on Guide to Jewish Literature.

Clara’s seCret

R. Frenkel

This critically-acclaimed bestseller presents the captivating story of Clara Prinz, a remarkable woman forced to leave her native Berlin in 1939. As Clara traveled alone on a voyage into the unknown, she turned to memories of her adolescence during La Belle Époque – the Beautiful Era filled with optimism and cultural transformation at the dawn of the twentieth century. Through Clara’s chance encounters with notable personalities of the period, Clara’s Secret weaves an unforgettable tapestry of personal and historic events. Clara’s Secret is ultimately a compelling story of the advancement of humankind and the survival of its decline. Available on Amazon and www.laevnotes.com.

Finding Jonah Linda D. Twersky

Imagine being at ground zero for an event that ignites a world war. In 1939, Shayna Ozdoba Kaufman was at home near Warsaw with her seven-year-old daughter,

Chaya-Sarah, when Germany invaded Poland. Her husband, Jonah, was thousands of miles away in America. Invading armies, long bread lines, and border guards were the new order. Facing dangers she never knew existed, her survival and her child’s depend on her ability to make the right decisions. Can she do the impossible to save herself and her daughter from the unimaginable?

Available in paperback and e-book on Amazon, Bookshop.org, Barnes and Noble. lindadtwersky@gmail.com

e vitChka: a true story oF survival , h ope and love

Lawrence P. Levitt and Stephanie Smartschan

Before World War II, there were two hundred Jewish children in Humenné, Czechoslovakia. After the war, there were six. Evitchka was one of them. Her survival is a testament to the luck, determination, and resilience of her parents and the bravery of a young Catholic couple. Her story crosses continents and spans decades, culminating in the unlikely chance to repay an unpayable debt.

Order online via Amazon, BN, IndieBound. Print ISBN: 978-1952352232

Ebook ISBN: 9781952352249

Four Women

Norman Shabel

Four amazing women, each with a dramatic story of heroism and loss during the Holocaust, and their young alcoholic lawyer, Joshua Logan, battle the corrupt real estate and political arena that is Miami Beach in 1968. Can Joshua save their home, and their lives, while trying to get justice for a client with a devastating injury who is facing a prejudiced judge and a defense lawyer who politically controls the judicial system of Miami? This is a fast-paced read with a compelling story line that takes us from sunny, corrupt Miami Beach back to the horrors of the Holocaust. Available on Amazon and normanshabel.net.

the g irls oF J erusalem and other stories

From the opening vignette in which a photograph is a silent witness to history to the powerful coda “Miracles,” a novella set against the vibrant panorama of the Yiddish theater in America, the fifteen memorable narratives in The Girls of Jerusalem and Other Stories span continents and eras as they chronicle love and loss, piety and heresy, mysticism and rationality to reinterpret ancient tropes of exile, dislocation, and profound change, revealing a new understanding of Jewish history and memory. “Luminous tales of exile and loss that bequeath new life” Kirkus Reviews (starred review). A best book of the year selection. Available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

From h ere : lessons i n love & loss From 9/11 Felice Zaslow

Felice and Ira Zaslow’s love story spanned almost four decades, from the beaches of Far Rockaway to a comfortable suburban existence on the south shore of Long Island. Then came the morning of September 11, 2001. Through the days, weeks, and months that followed, Felice had to find her way through unfathomable trauma, on a path she had to forge herself, seeking guidance and role models along the way. This remarkable and inspiring memoir puts a very personal face on a national tragedy, facing down the darkness by looking for the light that is always present.

Available on Amazon and Bookshop.org.

the m arriage Box Corie Adjmi

Forced to return to her parents’ roots in the Orthodox Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn, Casey Cohen faces two opposing worlds as she explores the unfamiliar culture and finds love. “...a read-alike for Meg Wolitzer’s The Wife and Melissa Bank’s A Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing and sets the weight of familial, romantic and cultural expectations against the terrifying freedom of the unknown.”—Booklist.

Available on Amazon and Bookshop.org, www.corieadjmi.com.

To advertise here, please call Randi O’Connor at (212) 451-6221, or email roconnor@hadassah.org. Space is limited.

religions” to being accepted in America’s public sphere.

Gordan explores how magazine articles and literature normalized images of Jews and shaped postHolocaust American Jewish identity. She also notes key events that highlight that shift.

For example, after Charles Lindbergh’s infamous 1941 speech at an America First rally in which he pointed to Jews as one of the groups pushing the country to war, public discourse critical of the former aviation hero reflected changing attitudes toward Jews. Lindbergh gained a new reputation as an isolationist through his vocal support of America First, an influential group known for its antisemitic and pro-fascist views.


Displaced Persons

An aching heart. An addled brain. A guilty conscience. The characters in Joan Leegant’s deeply affecting collection of stories, winner of the 2022 New American Fiction Prize, suffer from manifold afflictions of the body and mind that propel them to take flight in search of terra firma— solid ground on which to repair and rebuild themselves after loss. Yet whatever their reasons for fleeing, many of them remain Jews in the wilderness, in terra incognita, perhaps no more secure on new shores than they had been in their old lives.

The first seven of Leegant’s 14 stories take place in Israel, where several of her characters are highly educated American Jewish women seeking refuge after various traumas.

In “Remittances,” Robin, a doctoral dropout whose departure from Yale and move to

Gordan credits Gentleman’s Agreement, both the book by Laura Z. Hobson and the movie of the same title staring Gregory Peck, with awakening the public to antisemitism in America in 1947.

The First Murder By Carol Goodman Kaufman (Touchpoint Press)

The fictional Queensbridge, a quiet town set in the real-life Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, is the type of place where everyone knows each other’s business—or thinks they do.

That’s the starting point for Carol Goodman Kaufman’s debut novel. A former industrial psychologist and writer of many children’s books who lives in Worcester, Mass., the author’s

Israel followed a violent episode that has left her scarred, finds a commonality in the plight of the immigrant workers who clean her neighbors’ apartments. “She is struggling with the rag,” Robin observes of a Filipina maid, “standing on tiptoe on the rickety stepstool, trying in vain to expand her reach in hopes of earning something, anything, and I put down the phone, unable to stop watching....”

The latter half of the stories, equally strong, revolve around Jews in America whose journeys promise a whiff of hope or redemption. The unnamed mother in “The Natural World,” a secular Jew, searches a South Dakota phonebook in vain for Cohens, Goldbergs and Kaplans. “I barely acknowledge the whole ethnic thing at home, but suddenly it’s supremely important to assure myself there are Jews in Rapid City,” she says.

Leegant has written gorgeous tales of wandering Jews. Her characters may have a hard time settling into their lives, but her readers will find themselves comfortably ensconced in her stories from start to finish.

—Robert Nagler Miller

Robert Nagler Miller writes frequently about the arts, literature and Jewish themes from his home in Chicago.

love for the Berkshires is clear in her descriptions of its natural beauty. She is also an active member of Hadassah, serving as chair of Youth Aliyah as well as in other national Hadassah portfolios over the years.

In Goodman Kaufman’s Queensbridge, an unexpected death sends Caleb Crane, the tenacious local police chief, on a quest to uncover the truth about the town and its inhabitants. Running throughout the whodunit are themes from the holiday of Purim. Indeed, Goodman Kaufman creates a topsy-turvy world, filled with charades and playful disguises.

Caleb, a former New York City police officer, and his Jewish wife, Rachel, have moved to the sleepy Queensbridge in search of a change of pace. They settle in and begin trying to have a child. Rachel soon becomes fast friends with the pregnant Mary Jane Bennett.

But soon, Mary Jane is found dead, strangled by her own scarf in what the medical examiner deems an


Join us on Thursday, August 22 at 7 PM ET as Joan Leegant discusses her new collection of short stories, Displaced Persons , with Hadassah Magazine Executive Editor Lisa Hostein. Free and open to all. Register by scanning the QR code here or at hadassahmagazine.org/books

experiment with autoerotic asphyxiation, and Caleb has difficulty accepting that explanation. Instead, he wonders who might have wanted to kill Mary Jane.

Was it her husband, a lawyer and environmental activist; Mary Jane’s

best friend, who appears on crutches a day after her death; her rambunctious father, who disapproves of his daughter? Or her brother, who has a criminal history? And what about Rachel, Caleb’s own wife, who was jealous of Mary Jane’s pregnancy?



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Contributions will be used for the support of Hadassah’s charitable projects and programs in the U.S. and/ or Israel including: medical relief, education and research; education and advocacy programs on issues of concern to women and that of the family; and support of programs for Jewish youth. Financial and other information about Hadassah may be obtained, without cost, by writing the Finance Department at Hadassah’s principal place of business at the address indicated above, or by calling the phone number indicated above. In addition, residents of the following states may obtain financial and/or licensing information from their states, as indicated. DC: The Certificate of Registration Number of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. is #40003848, which is valid for the period 9/1/2023-8/31/2025. Registration does not imply endorsement of the solicitation by the District of Columbia, or by any officer or employee of the District. FL: A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION FOR HADASSAH, THE WOMEN’S ZIONIST ORGANIZATION OF AMERICA, INC. (#CH-1298) AND HADASSAH MEDICAL RELIEF ASSOCIATION, INC. (#CH-4603) MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE 1-800-HELP-FLA, OR ONLINE AT www.FloridaConsumerHelp.com. KS: The official registration and annual financial report of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. is filed with the Kansas Secretary of State. Kansas Registration #237-478-3. MD: A copy of the current financial statement of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. is available by writing 40 Wall Street, 8th Floor, New York, New York 10005, Att: Finance Dept., or by calling (212) 355-7900. Documents and information submitted under the Maryland Charitable Solicitations Act are also available for the cost of postage and copies, from the Maryland Secretary of State, State House, Annapolis, MD 21401 (410) 974-5534 MI: Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. MICS #13005/Hadassah Medical Relief Association, Inc. MICS # 11986/ The Hadassah Foundation, Inc. MICS #22965. MS: The official registration and financial information of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. may be obtained from the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office by calling 1(888) 236-6167. NJ: INFORMATION FILED BY HADASSAH, THE WOMEN’S ZIONIST ORGANIZATION OF AMERICA, INC. AND HADASSAH MEDICAL RELIEF ASSOCIATION, INC. WITH THE NEW JERSEY ATTORNEY GENERAL CONCERNING THIS CHARITABLE SOLICITATION AND THE PERCENTAGE OF CONTRIBUTIONS RECEIVED BY THE CHARITY DURING THE LAST REPORTING PERIOD THAT WERE DEDICATED TO THE CHARITABLE PURPOSE MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY BY CALLING (973) 504-6215 AND IS AVAILABLE ON THE INTERNET AT www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/charity/chardir.htm. NC: FINANCIAL INFORMATION ABOUT HADASSAH, THE WOMEN’S ZIONIST ORGANIZATION OF AMERICA, INC. AND A COPY OF ITS LICENSE ARE AVAILABLE FROM THE STATE SOLICITATION LICENSING BRANCH AT 919-8145400 OR FOR NORTH CAROLINA RESIDENTS AT 1-888-830-4989. PA: The official registration and financial information of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc., Hadassah Medical Relief Association, Inc., and The Hadassah Foundation, Inc. may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll free, within Pennsylvania, 1(800) 732-0999. VA: A financial statement of the organization is available from the State Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, P.O. Box 1163, Richmond, VA 23218, Phone #1 (804) 786-1343, upon request. WA: Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc., Hadassah Medical Relief Association, Inc. and The Hadassah Foundation, Inc. are registered with the Washington Secretary of State. Financial disclosure information is available from the Secretary of State by calling 800-332-GIVE (800-332-4483) or visiting www.sos.wa.gov/charities. WV: West Virginia residents may obtain a summary of the registration and financial documents of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. from the Secretary of State, State Capitol, Charleston, WV 25305. WI: A financial statement of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. disclosing assets, liabilities, fund balances, revenue, and expenses for the preceding fiscal year will be provided to any person upon request. ALL STATES: A copy of Hadassah’s latest Financial Report is available by writing to the Hadassah Finance Dept., 40 Wall Street, 8th Floor, New York, New York 10005. REGISTRATION DOES NOT CONSTITUTE OR IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL, SANCTION OR RECOMMENDATION BY ANY STATE. Charitable deductions are allowed to the extent provided by law. Hadassah shall have full dominion, control and discretion over all gifts (and shall be under no legal obligation to transfer any portion of a gift to or for the use or benefit of any other entity or organization).  All decisions regarding the use of funds for any purpose, or the transfer of funds to or for the benefit of any other entity or organization, shall be subject to the approval of the Board or other governing body of Hadassah. The Hadassah Foundation, Inc. is a supporting organization of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. September 2023

Told in an easy style, the novel moves convincingly toward exposing the murderer, thanks to the persistent police chief.

Bernardine’s Shanghai Salon: The Story of the Doyenne of Old China

Delving into Jewish as well as Chinese history, author Susan Blumberg-Kason has produced a thoroughly documented biography of Bernardine Szold Fritz, a longforgotten American journalist, artist, actor—and cousin of Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold.

Szold Fritz, born in Peoria, Ill., in 1896, led an unusual life. In 1929, after three failed marriages, she traveled by train from Paris to Manchuria to marry Chester Fritz, a silver broker from North Dakota. The two had only met once before, in Shanghai.

The marriage turned out to be a mistake, but Szold Fritz had, Blumberg-Kason writes, “an exotic kind of personality that appealed to people.” So, like Gertrude Stein in Paris, Szold Fritz transformed her living room in Shanghai into a salon. Her guests included leading Chinese poets and publishers and actresses as well as international visitors such as hotelier Sir Victor Sassoon, actor Charlie Chaplin and writer Emily Hahn.

After returning to the United States, Szold Fritz was involved in anti-Nazi causes and donated to the American League for a Free Palestine, whose goal was a Jewish state. She died in Los Angeles in 1982.

Stewart Kampel was a longtime editor at The New York Times.

Good for Business

Legal questions, mitzvot and deals |

his column has recently called attention to the proliferation in Israeli media of Hebrew roots dealing with war. Relatedly, the use of the root ק-ס-ע (ayin-samekh-kof), to deal with or do business with, has escalated from Jewish law and lore—halakha and aggadah—into modern Zionism itself. This is especially true in reports of protests demanding an הָקסִעִ (iskah), deal, be made for the return of all hostages abducted by Hamas.

Strangely, the root is not found in the Bible. According to 20th century etymologist Ernest Klein, it is derived from another root, ק-ש-ע (ayin-sin-kof), that appears in Scripture once, in Genesis 24:20, where the Philistines

(hitasku), “fought with,” our forefather Isaac over the ownership of a well.

This belligerent use of our root is found in an aggadah on the Creation. God’s ministering angels were ןיִקסַּעְִתְִמִ (mitaskin), quarreling, as one group of them was opposed to the creation of humanity. God took advantage of their argument and inattention to His actions and created Adam.

Uncomfortable with possible misuse of rabbinic secrets, the Talmud (Hagigah 13a) proclaims קֶסעִ ךְָלְ ןיֵאֵ (ein lekha esek), “You have no business,” getting enmeshed in “hidden things.” The rabbis also use our root to find a way to grant a sort of legal immunity, stating that

( a-osek be-mitz- h vah), “one engaged in a religious act,” is exempt from performing a different mitzvah at that time. Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Avoda 7:11) uses our root to paint a colorful tableau of the agricultural ceremony associated with the barley harvest. He writes that multitudes from the surrounding villages would gather to witness the scene לְוֹדָגָּ קֶסעְִבְּ (be-esek gadol), “with much flourish.”

Today’s lenders may use an ancient Jewish document, אֵקסִעִ רֵתֵֶּה (heter iskah), business permit, to create a legal way to circumvent the biblical decree against taking interest. Aramaic becomes modern Hebrew when a newcomer to a discussion asks: ןַנַיִקסעִ יאֵמְִבְּ אֵָכָָה (hakha be-mai askinan), “What exactly are we dealing with here?” An יִתְֵּגְַלְְפְִמִ ןָקסעִ (askan miflagti , politi- ) cal fixer, always knows with whom קֶסעִ תְוֹשֲעִלְ (la-asot esek), to make a deal, even if it means one must deal with an untrustworthy הָנַוּקְסעִ (askuna), band of foes. A criminal lawyer might request an ןוּעִטִ תְקסִעִ (iskat tiyun), plea deal, while your accountant will remind you to list all your תְוּיִּקסִעִ

(hotsa’ot iskiyyut), business expenses.

Today, we are hopeful for less stressful times, when one can say about life, לְיִגְרָכָּ םיִקסעִה (ha-asakim ka-ragil), “It’s business as usual.” And, on a personal level, that one’s קיִסעִמִ (ma’asik), employer, however occupied by Zionist תְוּנַקסעִ (askanut), communal service, will never be too הָקוּסֲעִ (asukah), busy, to take your call.

Joseph Lowin’s columns for Hadassah Magazine are collected in HebrewSpeak, Hebrew Talk and his most recent book, Hebrew Matters, available at gcrr.org/product-page/hebrew-matters



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Anat Stalinsky

‘You cannot look away’ from Hamas’s brutality | By Lisa Hostein

Anat stalinsky, the israeli television director who helmed Screams Before Silence, a documentary about the sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas during the October 7 massacre and later against the hostages in Gaza, feels like she is living in two war zones. One is all around her, in the country where she has lived for nearly 33 years; the other is far away in Ukraine, where she was born and where her father still lives.

The 41-year-old mother of two

Why did you make this documentary?

The most horrible experience any human being can have is feeling helpless. I couldn’t walk to Gaza to help the hostages. When I was approached to direct this project, I felt I was able to use my professional skills, the gift that God gave me, to tell an important story. This became the most important project of my life. When you do something like this, it has a heavy emotional price to pay. I’m still in the process of recovering from hearing all the stories. It didn’t go by me; it went through me.

How did the project come about?

The initiative behind the project came from [Israeli public relations expert] Eytan Schwartz, who had been volunteering soon after October 7 to bring foreign journalists to the South. He began hearing reports of sexual violence from first responders and others but no one was really talking about it publicly. [Schwartz took the idea to Meny Aviram, CEO

young children got stuck in Germany with her family for two weeks after October 7.

At the time, both despite and because of her visual sensibilities as a director, she opted not to watch any videos or news clips of the horrors. She read everything but didn’t want to dive into the visual aspect. That changed, she says, when she got home and was approached to make this film.

Sheryl Sandberg, the former Meta chief operating officer who is the

of the Kastina Communications production company, who asked Stalinsky to direct.] We approached Sheryl, and she immediately said yes. It was made very quickly, within a few months. I knew we had to make it really fast, first of all because of the hostages [and the sexual violence they are being subjected to].

What impact do you hope Screams Before Silence will have?

The film makes you bear witness to what happened, which has a lot of meaning, and if more people bear witnesses to that, something will change. You cannot stay the same after watching the film, and you cannot look away.

How did you decide what to include and what not to?

The film is not graphic visually. It was a decision I made. The graphic things that the viewer sees is through watching Sheryl look at them. I’m not showing you the ZAKA person’s

presenter of the film—interviewing the survivors, first responders and experts—extolled Stalinsky in a brief telephone interview as “a brilliant and phenomenal director and human being.”

I spoke with Stalinsky—whose most recent Israeli television series, Sovietzka, received critical acclaim— in a Tel Aviv hotel over coffee, after she addressed the I Believe Israeli Women delegation in May. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

graphic pictures, but you will see Sheryl’s reaction and hear what he is saying. You don’t need to see the corpses.

What has the general reaction been?

Everyone who watches it says it changed them. It’s very compelling, very powerful, people are crying a lot. It’s not only about the shoah, [the Hebrew word for catastrophe that is most often used to describe the Holocaust], but it also sheds light on the heroes.

What has been the distribution plan?

We went on YouTube because we knew we wanted the film to reach as many people as possible. This is the largest free platform. It’s also on Twitter [X] and on our website. Some two million have seen it so far. We have arranged screenings all over the world. More people need to see it.

Lisa Hostein is the executive editor of Hadassah Magazine.

A Love for Israel, a Heart for Hadassah

“It’s not a question of wealth—where there’s a will, there’s a way. If your heart goes out to Israel like mine does, you should explore CGAs.”

As a longtime, passionate Hadassah supporter, Chaim Freiberg believes in the power of strengthening Hadassah’s support of life-saving work. He and Israel share the same birth year: 1948. “My mother escaped the Nazis in Poland and came to Palestine (before it became Israel) with several of her peers. She lost the rest of her family in Poland,” he recalls. His mother’s extraordinary courage brought four sons—all proud Israeli sabras—into the world.

His love of country never waned after moving to the United States in his 20s. “I will always consider myself an Israeli,” he declares proudly. By establishing charitable gift annuities (CGAs) with Hadassah, Chaim supports initiatives that are close to his heart and central to his identity, while ensuring his financial security.

Personalized Example

The payments you and/or someone you designate will receive depend on your age (or the age of the annuitant) and the amount of your gift. Contact us for a personalized example or to learn about ways to include Hadassah in your estate plan.

*Rates as of Jan. 1, 2024. Rates are fixed when annuity is established. Rates are also available for two-life gift annuities. Minimum age: 65 | Minimum contribution: $10,000.

The information and content contained herein are intended for educational purposes only and are not intended to provide legal, tax or other professional advice or to be relied upon. Reliance on any information contained herein is at the reader’s own risk. For such advice, please consult with an attorney, tax advisor, or accountant. Figures cited in any examples are for illustrative purposes only.

References to estate and income taxes include federal taxes only and are subject to change. State income/estate taxes and/or other state laws may impact your individual results.

The solicitation disclosure on page 54 is incorporated in this advertisement.

Charitable deductions are allowed to the extent provided by law. Hadassah shall have full dominion, control and discretion over all gifts (and shall be under no legal obligation to transfer any portion of a gift to or for the use or benefit of any other entity or organization). All decisions regarding the use of funds for any purpose, or the transfer of funds to or for the benefit of any other entity or organization, shall be subject to the approval of the Board or other governing body of Hadassah.

California residents: Annuities are subject to regulation by the State of California. Payments under such agreements, however, are not protected or otherwise guaranteed by any government agency or the California Life and Health Insurance Guarantee Association. Oklahoma residents: A charitable gift annuity is not regulated by the Oklahoma Insurance Department and is not protected by a guaranty association affiliated with the Oklahoma Insurance Department. South Dakota residents: Charitable gift annuities are not regulated by and are not under the jurisdiction of the South Dakota Division of Insurance. Charitable gift annuities are not available in all states.


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