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The Week In News

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DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

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DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

The Week In News

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The Week In News

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home


The Week In News

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

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The Week In News

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

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Dear readers, After I left kollel and joined the workforce, it felt strange to that throughout the yeshiva system we had learned the halachos of Shabbos, kashrus, davening, and marriage in depth, but the halachos of business—employing workers, being an employee, sales transactions, commitments, partnerships, etc.—weren’t studied on the same level. Years later while learning one of the halachos relating to a sales transaction, I saw that the words in the Shulchan Aruch HaRav were “baal nefesh yachmir al atzmo—and sell it for the lower price.” These were the very same words used say for buying an esrog or relating to kashrus! Just as we learn what Hashem wants us to eat or how to daven, He also has rules of how to do business and when one should be stringent. In addition to making a kiddush Hashem and avoiding a chillul Hashem—Rambam writes this is the greatest height a person can reach—these laws Choshen Mishpat complete the general cycle of life and bring our Creator into what we’re doing most of the hours of the day. I remember when the weekly pamphlet Business Halacha started. It was fascinating reading the weekly story and using human logic trying to guess what the halachah would be. It’s not as simple as one might think. There are specific rules and general concepts, not simply just about what feels right and makes sense to the human mind. Living with these halachos throughout the day brings a consciousness of the One above into the mundane part of our lives. It’s the perfect preparation for a time when it says our physical eyes will see Hashem in all of creation. May it happen very soon. Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos,

Shalom

T H E P R E M I E R J E W I S H N E W S PA P E R H I G H L I G H T I N G L A’ S O R T H O D OX C O M M U N I T Y The Jewish Home is an independent bi-weekly newspaper. Opinions expressed by writers are not neces­sarily the opinions of the publisher or editor. The Jewish Home is not responsible for typographical errors, or for the kashrus of any product or business advertised within. The Jewish Home contains words of Torah. Please treat accordingly. FOR HOME DELIVERY, OR TO HAVE THE LATEST ISSUE EMAILED TO YOU FREE OF CHARGE, SEND A MESSAGE TO EDITOR@JEWISHHOMELA.COM


The Week In News

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

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TheHappenings Week In News

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

Evening of Chizuk Inspires and Educates Parents and Teachers Yehudis Litvak Teachers and parents drew inspiration and acquired practical strategies at the annual Evening of Chizuk, entitled Keys to Unlocking the Child’s Potential. The event was hosted by the Los Angeles Teacher Center of Torah Umesorah at its new location on La Brea Avenue. Introducing the program, Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn, Dean of Yeshivat Yavneh, said, “Everyone here wants to bring better future… We are coming together to do something bigger than all of us… [Chinuch] is something bigger than information. It’s about connecting our children to our me-

sorah in the deepest way possible.” Introduced by Rabbi Einhorn, Rabbi Ephraim E. Shapiro of North Miami Beach, Florida, gave a powerful inspirational talk, outlining the four chinuch principles we can learn from the story of the navi Elisha reviving the son of the Isha HaShunamis. The process consisted of four steps: Elisha closed the door, davened to Hashem, then put his mouth on the child’s mouth, his eyes on the child’s eyes, and his hands on the child’s hands. Then the child’s body became warm. In chinuch, the first step, closing the

door, corresponds to giving our children undivided attention. When we are speaking to a

child or student, we close the door to the rest of the world in order to be able to focus on them. “Don’t be so busy!” said Rabbi Shapiro passionately. “Don’t let your children ever think you are too busy for them!” The second step, tefillah, is “very practical, pragmatic, and sensible,” said Rabbi Shapiro. He told a story about a boy whose learning abilities increases dramatically after his rebbi’s continuous heartfelt tefillos. The third step, aligning one’s body with the child’s, corresponds to seeing things from the child’s perspective and speaking to them in the way that they understand. A crucial component of this step is believing in your child or student and letting them know that you believe they have inherent potential and are capable of fully reaching it. The fourth step is showing children genuine caring. “They are craving affection, love, warmth,” said Rabbi Shapiro. He urged parents and teachers to treat each child as their only child and make each one feel loved and cared for. The next speaker, Rabbi Zev Brown, Ph.D., a rebbi and psychologist in Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway, New York, spoke about being imperfect, but “good enough” parents and bringing self-awareness into the picture to help us navigate our parenting journey. “How much of what we want for our children is for us and how much is in our children’s best interests?” he asked. “We invest every ounce of ourselves into our children.” Rabbi Dr. Brown encouraged parents to assess their motivations and ensure that our chinuch is truly motivated by the desire to help our children achieve their potential. “The more we sort it out in our head the more effective we can be,” he said. Rabbi Dr. Brown spoke about “the most powerful mechanism we have”—our relationship with our children. “The chances of our children developing into healthy adults depend on the health of our relationship with them,” he said. “Before we teach them, they have to know that we care.” To succeed in life, children need to feel unconditionally loved and accepted by their parents. The more we invest in this relationship the more children will be willing to accept our influence. While we should have standards and expectations, our children need to know that we love them even when they disappoint us. Our job as teachers and parents is to maintain that careful balance between setting standards and providing unconditional love. Rabbi Dr. Brown spoke about three styles of parenting: authoritarian, permissive, and authoritative. Our goal is the authoritative style, where we set clear expectations while at the same time stay responsive to the child’s needs. “The challenge is to create levels of accountability without creating a battle,” he said. “We’ll lose the battle all the time.” To achieve this balance, Rabbi Dr. Brown outlined four primary components: attitude, accountability, consistency, and respect. “At the end of the day, the outcome of our parenting is beyond our control,” concluded Rabbi Dr. Brown. “We do our hishtadlus. There are no tricks. It’s hard work.”


TheHappenings Week In News

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

High Energy and New Space Create an Exciting Atmosphere for Over 400 People attending American Israel Gap Year Association’s 2019 Israel Fair Parents, students, and educators were abuzz with excitement at this year’s American Israel Gap Year Association’s (AIGYA) Israel Gap Year Fair. The Shalhevet High School location provided plenty of room for the over 400 people who gathered to hear about the many Israel gap year options. Forty Israel gap year programs from across the denominational spectrum participated in the fair. These included ones that focus on travel programs, religious study, academic pursuits, community and army service. Additionally, there were booths relating to Israel advocacy. As the cornerstone event for AIGYA for the past seven years, the fair drew families from the entire West Cost—Seattle to San Diego—as well as Las Vegas and Phoenix to meet with Israel program providers, making this one of the largest Israel gap year fairs. It’s also the only cross-denominational fair in the country. Gitty Meyers, sister of a gap year participant, said she observed “a real change in the character of the fair, where the cross-section of families attending were already excited about the opportunity that these programs represented.” Ms. Myers said, “They wanted to explore all the possibilities and were engaged in thoughtful conversations with each other.” “Originally, my sister didn’t want go on a gap year,” she continued, “but the fair not only encouraged her exploration, but convinced her to participate. She became a believer in the importance of the opportunity. Her experience to date is one of awe of Israel and appreciation of the country’s strengths and challenges.” AIGYA’s founder and executive director, Phyllis Folb, notes that the gap year has strong benefits to justify taking a year before college. “While gap year has long been associated with greater academic success, the gap year in Israel has proven to be a life-changing experience for Jewish youth,” she said. “We are finding that gap year alumni are more knowledgeable and confident students when they return home. They are more engaged in the Jewish life on campus and better able to speak to issues that have been arising on college campus. Their eyewitness accounts of the challenges that Israel faces makes them better global citizens, able to engage in conversations that could provide more insight and lower the rhetoric.” Currently the graduates of the Gap Year Fair now on their gap year are acting as AIGYA ambassadors chronicling their Israel year in real time on Instagram for future students to see. One future AIGYA

ambassador was chronicling the fair on Instagram, too, offering followers an inside view of the Fair. This which added to the excitement of the evening. Featured sponsor, Masa Israel Journey,

was joined by Jewish high schools: YULA Boys & Girls, Harkham GAON Academy, de Toledo, and Valley Torah. There was also special assistance from Milken Community Schools and area synagogues,

including Sinai Temple, Temple Aliyah, Beth Jacob, Bnai David-Judea, Young Israel Century City, and Beverly Hills Synagogue.

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The Week In News Press Release

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

The Azrieli Foundation Donates $18 Million to Yeshiva University The donation is the Azrieli family’s latest investment in higher education, the Jewish community, and the next generation of leaders. Yeshiva University announced at its 95th Annual Hanukkah Dinner and Convocation on Sunday, December 8, 2019, that it has received an $18 million gift from The Azrieli Foundation. The gift will provide continued support of the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration as well as strengthen undergraduate scholarships. It is one of the largest gifts focused on Jewish education that Yeshiva University has received and stands to have lasting impact on generations of YU students. The Azrieli Graduate School was established in 1983 by the Canadian builder and visionary businessman David J. Azrieli. Since opening 36 years ago, Azrieli has educated over 800 students from around the world. Every day, our graduates are teaching in hundreds of classrooms, camps, and Jewish places of learning, helping to shape the next generation of students. They have a lasting impact on their students and inspire and infuse both passion and skill in their classrooms. Graduates have demonstrated leadership both in the classroom and through service to their communities and are shaping the landscape of Jewish education across the

globe. This gift will help provide opportunities for undergraduates and graduates to receive a world-class education based in foundational Torah values and will enable faculty to continue innovating and enhancing programs. “This historic gift to Jewish education and Jewish educators is transformative for the future of our communities,” said Dr. Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University. “The Azrieli family is the gold seal in philanthropy, and this gift reflects their true partnership and commitment to the essential work of Yeshiva University.” The announcement was made at Yeshiva University’s 95th Annual Hanukkah Dinner and Convocation, which took place at the New York Hilton Midtown Hotel in New York City. During the evening, the University presented the Azrieli family with its Legacy Award, celebrating 36 years of transformative partnership with Yeshiva University and honoring the Azrieli Foundation’s three decades of impact philanthropy. “We are honored to receive this recognition, which would have meant so much to my father,” said Dr. Naomi Azrieli, Chair and CEO of the Azrieli Foundation.

“He held a deep belief, which we share, in the redemptive power of education. He also felt that his support of education wasn’t charity, as it was giving back what education had given to him.” During the evening, Dr. Berman conferred an honorary degree upon philanthropist Howard Jonas, founder and chairman of IDT Corporation, Genie Energy, and IDW Media and chairman of the board of directors at Rafael Pharmaceuticals. Jonas and his wife, Debbie, support a variety of causes in the Jewish community. Their family foundation supports health and hospitals, education, poverty relief, addiction treatment, religious outreach, and the disabled, primarily in Israel and the United States. The evening also featured recognition of the Yeshiva University Women’s Organization (YUWO), which provides scholarships to students in need, sponsors educational Shabbat programs and funds chessed programs. YUWO also offers stipends for undergraduate students with basic needs not covered by scholarships, such as food, clothing, textbooks, and healthcare. The Hanukkah Dinner and Convo-

cation drew guests who are among the country’s leading Jewish philanthropists and community leaders. Past speakers and honorees have included former President George W. Bush, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Secretary of State and then-Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Vice President Al Gore, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Senator John McCain. About Yeshiva University Founded in 1886, Yeshiva University brings together the ancient traditions of Jewish law and life and the heritage of Western civilization. More than 7400 undergraduate and graduate students study at YU’s four New York City campuses: the Wilf Campus, Israel Henry Beren Campus, Brookdale Center, and Jack and Pearl Resnick Campus. YU’s three undergraduate schools—Yeshiva College, Stern College for Women, and Sy Syms School of Business—offer a unique dual program comprised of Jewish studies and liberal arts courses. Its graduate and affiliate schools include Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, the Katz School of Science and Health, and Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. YU is ranked among the nation’s leading academic institutions. Visit the YU Web site at www.yu.edu.


DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

The Week In News

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TheHappenings Week In News

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

The 19th Annual SimXa Shabbaton Inspires the Newcomers and the Old-Timers Yehudis Litvak With much excitement, appreciation, and a shared feeling of achdus, SimXa Company conducted its 19th annual SimXa Shabbaton over the Thanksgiving weekend. Held at Hyatt-Regency Hotel in the picturesque Valencia, California, the Shabbaton brought together hundreds of Jews of various backgrounds to learn Torah and get inspired by the meaningful Jewish programming. As usual, the Shabbaton was attended by Jewish families of Russian, American, Israeli, Bucharian, and Persian descent and offered parallel tracks of lectures, in Russian and in English. The Russian-speaking lecturers, the popular Rabbi Aryeh Katzin of Brooklyn, New York, founding principal of Sinai Academy, director of RAJE (Russian American Jewish Experience) and publisher of a Russian Jewish newspaper, and Rabbi Yitzchak Roytman of Netanya, Israel, a student of the famous Rav Yitzchak Ginzburgh and an expert in Chassidus and mysticism, were received with much enthusiasm from the Russian-speaking attendees. English-speakers were mesmerized and inspired by Rabbi Reuven Wolf, Rav of Maayon Yisroel in Los Angeles; by world-renowned expert on Jewish mysticism, Mrs. Miriam Yerushalmi, a psychologist and a prolific author from Brooklyn,

Begelfer family at this year's Shabbaton

New York; and by local popular educators, Rabbi Gershon and Rebbetzin Chana Rochel Schusterman. The lecture topics ranged from Thanksgiving in Marriage to Trump, Putin, Netanyahu and the Messianic Process, drawing diverse and engaged audiences. As always, the SimXa Shabbaton offered a fun-filled children’s program, with the return of last year’s popular SimXa Kids’ Club, baby-sitting, gourmet meals and luxury accommodations, hikes and nearby attractions, live music and entertainment. A new wine-tasting experience was added this year, and the popular poetess and performer Katya Kapelnikova held concerts for women. The attendees spanned the ages from newborn to great-grandparents. A highlight of this year’s Shabbaton was the attendance of four generations of the same family, who have been participating in

SimXa Shabbatons for the past 14 years, slowly growing in their Torah observance. This year, this family’s daughter and granddaughter, who grew up attending the SimXa Shabbatons, joined her parents and grandparents together with her husband and young son, bringing lots of nachas to the organizers and numerous old-timers. Her brother was not in attendance this year, but for a good reason—he is learning in yeshiva in Yerushalayim, also bringing nachas to the extended family and friends. We spoke with the whole extended family: the great-grandparents, Raya and Roman Teper, the grandparents, Toly and Elvira Begelfer, the young couple, Chava and Gavriel Shields, and their son Moshe. They shared a bit of their journey with us. Toly and Elvira were invited to attend their first SimXa Shabbaton by their friends. It was their first experience spending Shabbos together as a family in an Orthodox environment. “I asked my friend, ‘What should I wear?’” recalls Elvira. “She said, ‘Wear whatever you want.’ I got there and oh my goodness! Everyone was wearing skirts, and I was wearing jeans.” Despite the initial culture shock, the Begelfers enjoyed the Shabbaton. “We were taken away by the lectures and learning, and by the warmth,” says Elvira. “We’ve been coming back every sin-

of different people,” says Chava. Elvira adds, “The way she handles everything is very special, with the highest middos.” The path to observance was a gradual process. “Every year we added something: Shabbos candles, kosher,” says Toly. After high school, Chava attended UCLA, where she learned more about Yiddishkeit through JAM (Jewish Awareness Movement, a campus organization). There, she also met her future husband, Gavriel, although they didn’t reconnect until they were both learning in Israel several years later. After graduating, Chava attended Neve Yerushalayim, where her commitment to Yiddishkeit solidified. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it without family support,” she says. “Every step of the way, my mother wanted to understand me. I would write to her every week to share what I’d learned and tell her more over the phone.” A dedicated mother, Elvira wanted more than that. She traveled to Israel and joined her daughter in Neve for three weeks, becoming the first parent in Neveh’s history to stay in the dorm and attend classes with her daughter. Family cohesiveness was very important to the Begelfers. “When Chava called from Neve and asked us to buy a couple of [separate] pots and pans for her, we called

Shabbos meals and then escape to his own room and do his own thing. After 9th grade, he attended the CTeen Chabad camp. He came back with a firm resolution to wear his kippa and tzitzis to public school. “He was very impressed by the counselors and their beautiful middos,” says Elvira. Mid11th grade Shawn transferred to Valley Torah High School. The Begelfers are grateful to another Shabbaton family, Rabbi Menachem and Rena Vilner, who were instrumental in Shawn’s growth. Their son befriended Shawn, and they spent a lot of time together. While Shawn was still in public school, the Vilners arranged for a chavrusa for him at the Calabasas yeshiva. Later, Rabbi Shlomo Gottesman, Rosh Yeshiva in Calabasas, helped Shawn transfer to Valley Torah. Currently, Shawn is 22 and in his 5th year in Israel. Where did such amazing family closeness come from? It is easy to see when speaking to Elvira’s parents. “We have a wonderful daughter,” says Raya, Elvira’s mother. “We try to support her and her family as much as we can.” Chava recalls a time when she was trying to explain something about Yiddishkeit to her grandparents but felt unable to express herself in Russian. She burst into tears. Her grandmother immediately comforted her and bought kosher dishes, no questions asked. “We bought a double stove and separate milk and meat dishes,” says Raya. It’s important to her that her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchild eat at her home, though it is not easy. But Raya and her husband Roman are not strangers to

Begelfer family in discussion at the 2005 Shabbaton

gle year, since I was eight years old,” says Chava. “The Shabbaton was the highlight of my year, and I’ve always looked forward to it. I knew there was a fun children’s program, but I didn’t participate. Instead, I would sit in on the lectures. I loved the learning. I would argue with the rabbis. I thought I’d be able to stump them, but they always had intelligent answers. The Shabbaton planted the seeds for our growth.” The whole family has fond memories of the hikes and classes with Rabbi Sholom Rodal of Chabad of Mount Olympus, a popular lecturer at SimXa Shabbatons. They’ve kept up with Rabbi Rodal outside the Shabbatons, and he’s helped them along their journey. They also feel that they gained a lot from the Shabbaton organizers, Esther and Moshe Davidoff. “It’s amazing to watch Esther’s middos as she deals with hundreds

Chabad of Northridge and koshered our kitchen,” says Toly. Chava is very appreciative of her family’s support. “I have friends who went through the same process,” she says. “My Russian friends got so much backlash from their family.” Like Elvira, Toly is also very supportive of his children’s spiritual growth. Torah observance was initially more familiar to him because he attended a yeshiva for a year at age 14. “Looking back, it was one of the best years of my life,” he says. “But it was very hard because my parents didn’t keep Shabbos or kosher and I was not strong enough to talk to them about Judaism.” As a parent himself, Toly is determined to make Torah observance easier for his children without pressuring them in any way. When they began keeping Shabbos, their son, Shawn, would participate in the

Yiddishkeit. They came from Kishinev in Moldova, where they were surrounded by a loving Jewish extended family. They’ve always celebrated Jewish holidays. “Yiddishkeit is always in our hearts,” says Raya. She showed us an old family picture of her own parents and grandparents, who look very religious. Proudly, she pointed out her uncles who knew how to read from the Torah. Roman agrees. “In my heart, I’m a Jew. When I come to the Shabbatons, I learn more about Yiddishkeit.” “We enjoy coming and listening to lectures,” adds Raya. “It’s such a nice event. People are very friendly. It’s relaxing and meaningful.” The Begelfers’ and Tepers’ old-timer sentiments are shared by the newcomers as well. Chana Bukshpun from Los Angeles, who attended the Shabbaton for the first Cont. on bottom of next page


The Week In News Communicated

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

In the Business of Igniting Souls: Neve Yerushalayim Jerusalem, December 1980: A young American tourist wearing jeans and a backpack descends the steps to the Kotel plaza. Gazing at the Wall for the first time, she knows she’s supposed to be moved. But she’s too annoyed—even angry—about the partition separating men and women. Why are women shunted off to the side? she fumes. She makes a decision. These religious people can segregate themselves if they like, but I’m standing wherever I want. And she marches right into the men’s section. She’s about halfway to the Kotel when a guard suddenly notices her. Running after the girl, he calls to her to stop. “You not to be here, you to be there,” he says in broken English, pointing to the women’s side. He escorts her out. She’s seeing red. At that moment, a tall man wearing a suit and a black fedora approaches her. He smiles. “Are you Jewish?” he asks.  “Yes,” she says, between clenched teeth. “Would you be interested in a Friday night Shabbat meal with a religious fam�ily, or a class on Jewish philosophy?” “No!” she replies, wanting nothing to do with either the Kotel or Judaism. For the next few hours, she wanders around the Old City. But something pulls her back to the Kotel. I’ll give it a second chance, she figures. Again, the partition upsets her, but she has no choice about it. On the women’s side, she goes up to the Wall. Placing her hands on the stones, she sees the notes pressed into the cracks, gazes upward, and looks at the people around her, then back at the Wall. She feels nothing. Oh well, she thinks. I tried. With that, she exits the women’s section. Just then, a young woman in a highnecked sweater and mid-calf skirt approaches. “Excuse me,” she says with a friendly smile, “do you have a map of the Old City?” “Yeah, just a second,” the tourist responds, reaching into her backpack. “By the way, are you Jewish?” Hmm, the tourist thinks. I believe I’ve heard this before. “Yes. Why?” “While you’re here in Jerusalem, would you be interested…” Yup, sounds familiar. “Listen,” the tourist challenges, “before we talk about my doing anything religious, what’s the deal with this partition?” “Well,” the woman calmly replies,

Cont. from previous page

time, says, “I love the people! The speakers are amazing! The lectures are interesting, deep, and yet easy to understand, the way they connect Torah and real life. I got such a powerful energy boost.” Another first timer, Nechama Langer from Berkeley, California, is also enthusiastic about her experience. “My most memorable moment is dancing with my

“wouldn’t you feel more comfortable praying surrounded by women rather then men?” The tourist pauses. Yes, I would. Okay, that makes sense. Then a little light bulb goes on in her head. Maybe other things in Judaism make sense, too? Two months later, she drops in on some classes at Neve Yerushalayim, intending to study no longer than a week. Ten months later, she returns to America—just for a visit—as a newly Orthodox Jew. The Tourist? Gila Manolson In its 50-year history as a ground-breaking institution for Jewish women’s education, the staff of Neve Yerushalayim have had the privilege to know thousands of women like Gila from all over the globe. Some may have had a strong Conservative background, while others didn’t even know they were Jewish growing up. They were seeking truth, seeking meaning, seeking healthy family life and relationships, and seeking G-d! They came to Neve to find out what it means to be a Jew, to discover the depth of their heritage which they knew almost nothing about. They were inspired to find that Judaism was not an archaic religion, but a guide to living the most meaningful life, freed from the fads and false morals of their generation. These women have left Neve to build lives in Jewish communities around the world. They have gotten married to men who share their dedication to Torah and are raising generations of Torah observant Jews. Another Neve student, Sara (’85) tells how, after spending 15 years on an ashram, she began to discover that there was something more to Judaism than what they taught her in Hebrew school. She writes1: A month later my search took me to Jerusalem. There I studied at Neve Yerushalayim, billed as a “yeshivah for English-speaking women with little or no Jewish background.” I fancied that I had a great deal of Jewish background, since I had gone to Hebrew School until I went away to college and was the president of my synagogue youth group. Yet what I was learning in Jerusalem felt like a completely different religion. 1 Reprinted with permission from G-d Winked: Tales and Lessons from My Spiritual Adventures by Sara Yoheved Rigler (Mekor Press 2012)

kids,” she says. “I enjoyed watching my son dance with the DJ.” Her favorite teaching is Miriam Yerushalmi’s comparison of our bodies with the Beis Hamikdash and the food we eat with the offerings. “What do you want to offer in the Beis Hamikdash—chemicals and French fries or the finest healing food?” Nechama adds, “I am amazed by the Davidoff family and their dedication to bringing people together.”

Something started to stir inside me. My intellect, which so often at the ashram had been scolded and sent to sit in the corner, was now set free to run and do cartwheels. I was invited to pick apart every argument. And I did—I questioned, challenged, debated, and argued. I battled with several issues, but the depth of my teachers’ approach left nothing outside its ken. Here was intellectual brilliance aligned with spiritual profundity. The way of life enjoined by the Torah fit me like a dress that had hung in my closet for decades, only when I actually tried it on did I find that it fit me perfectly. In Jerusalem, during my first week of studies, I noticed that when people emerged from the rest room, they would stand for a minute with their eyes closed, muttering something. When I inquired what they were doing, I was told that just as there is a blessing to say when eating or drinking, there is also a blessing to say after using the toilet, acknowledging the Divine source of all the bodily functions. I was blown away. Still, my leave of absence from the ashram was drawing to a close, and my former life beckoned. I was 37 years old. The ashram was not only my physical and spiritual home, but also my place of employment and the residence of all my friends. Accepting the dictates of the Torah would require a radical change of lifestyle – a repudiation of so much I held dear, an estrangement from those I loved, and the forfeit of whatever standing and prestige I had acquired in the New Age world. The very idea overwhelmed me. One night, sometime after midnight, I went to the Kotel, the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site. There I meditated. What was God’s will for me?

Moshe and Esther Davidoff, the Shabbaton organizers, draw their own inspiration from the Shabbatons. “We truly feel that every Shabbaton comes together in a miraculous way! We are grateful to HaKadosh Boruch Hu for this big blessing and Siata diShmaya that He sends us every year,” they say. “Families like the Teper-Begelfer-Shields family are a big nachas to us, along with many other fami-

I had spent my entire adult life learning to align myself with the will of God as I perceived it. Now I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that it was God’s will for me to stay in Jerusalem and practice Torah. That night at the Kotel, I chose. “Yes,” I told God, “I will accept Your Torah as my guide, even when it is inconvenient or downright difficult. I will do it on Your terms … whatever it costs me. I will live the way You want me to.” That night I fairly floated up the steps from the Kotel to my room in the Jewish Quarter. Instead of feeling saddled by the religious obligations to which I had just committed myself, I felt free and light. As Neve approaches its 50th year, idealistic young women, like Gila and Sara, from all over the world are still arriving almost every day of the year to immerse themselves in an environment of Torah. They are searching for clarity in a confusing world, and connection to their heritage where so many Jews are assimilating and intermarrying. Neve has an obligation to continue to provide quality Jewish education for these women. Neve can’t abandon their commitment to the future of the Jewish people and continues to dedicate itself to its mission. This year, it is launching its 50th anniversary campaign to raise $7.5 million in order to propel its work forward—to increase its recruitment programs, create more spiritual support for its alumnae, enhance its offerings to the present student body, award them scholarships, and renovate the dorms, thus building more successful Jewish futures. A donation to Neve is to enable the school to continue empowering Jewish women and the community at large. You can learn more about Neve’s goals at www.nevey.org.

lies that have been participating in our programs for years. A special mention must go to the popular SimXa Kids’ Club started by Chana Hertzberg, continued by Tzippy Kin and recently taken over by Tzippy Mochkin. The children’s programs volunteer staff from Bais Yaakov Los Angeles is at the core of our success every year!”

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The Week In News BottomLineMG.com

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

The Gemara in Masechta Bava Kama [30a] says, “He who wants to be a chassid, a pious person, should be careful in matters of the property belonging to others. Rava says he should be careful in matters written in Pirkei Avos.

WHO WOULD NOT WANT TO BE CALLED A CHASSID? Who would not want to reach the exalted level that the Gemara considers a chassid? This is possible to achieve through learning the Pirkei Avos with the commentary of the great chassid, Rabbeinu Yonah.” —HaGaon HaRav Binyomin Finkel, shlita

ROV

E I M PL

M

E PA T C

P IM

E N T

M

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I

Join the Daily Limud HaMussar Initiative THE SIYUM of the first machzor of Kinyan Chochma will take place in Eretz Yisrael at Binyanei Ha’umah on Moetzei Shabbos, Parshas Miketz, December 28th.

Daily Limud HaMussar Initiative

There’s no time like the present! Join Dirshu’s Kinyan Chochma program and be koneh the mussar sefarim of Tomer Devorah, Orchos Chaim, Orchos Tzadikim, Rabbeinu Yona on Masechta Avos and Mesilas Yesharim through a daily learning schedule and monthly tests for chazarah and retention.

JOIN DIRSHU KINYAN CHOCHMA TODAY! 888-5-DIRSHU KinyanChochma@DirshuNJ.org


The Week In News

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

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16

The Week In News Living with the Times

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

Historic

Publisher of the Yated Ne’eman We live in historic times. Our period will be studied by history students for many years to come. They will study the rebirth of Torah and its proliferation on these shores and around the world, in numbers and ways never known to mankind. In less than a month, masses of people will gather to celebrate the Siyum Hashas of Daf Yomi, proving that netzach Yisroel lo yishaker. Historians will study the phenomena of Binyomin Netanyahu, the longest serving prime minister in Israel’s brief history, along with the allegations of corruption, his coalition deals with the religious parties, and the upcoming second do-over election. These are historic things. They don’t happen too often. Schoolchildren will be memorizing the names of Donald Trump and the Democrats who tormented and impeached him and will be analyzing what he did to deserve to be the third president to face what used to be that embarrassing fate. President Trump’s crime occurred three years ago, when he was elected as a non-politician on a campaign to remake government. Democrats and others who despised him immediately set out to find ways to undo the election and have him impeached. Different sins were floated, but they didn’t do the trick. Despite their best efforts, Democrats couldn’t make them stick. Then a phone call with the president of Ukraine fell into their lap, and with much determination and perseverance, it rose to the level of a high crime and/or misdemeanor with which to finally call the long-awaited impeachment hearings, draw up articles of impeachment, and hold a vote. With faux sincerity, they speak of the danger the president represents to the country and the urgent need to rush him out of office. Haughty college professors appear before Congress, demonstrating the falsity of what is being taught on today’s campuses, twisting everything to support a leftist-socialist agenda. The professors swore that they were

impartial, but felt that the crimes exhibited during the infamous phone call led them to believe that the president must be chucked. Too bad that one of them, Noah Feldman, is on record as far back as 2017 as advocating for Trump’s impeachment. So much of what transpires in the political world is fiction. Poll tested, practiced sound bites are intended to fool voters into believing that the politician cares about them and represents their interests in the halls of power. More frequently, that is as patent a lie as the politician’s hair color. We need to ensure that the propensity to lie to get ahead doesn’t creep into our corner, and that the lack of decency and loss of shame do not invade our community any more than they already have. We come from better stuff and hew to values that have sustained our people since our

From an examination of the pesukim that describe Yaakov’s tefillah at the beginning of the parsha, we can deduce that he was more concerned about the welfare of his family than for himself. He said, “Hatzileini na miyad ochi, miyad Eisov. Hashem, please save me from my brother Eisov, because I fear pen yavo vehikani eim al bonim, that he will come and kill my wives and children.” He followed this up by saying, “V’atah omarta heiteiv eitiv imoch vesamti es zaracha kechol hayom. Hashem, You cannot allow Eisov to come and kill my family, because You promised me that my children would be so plentiful that it would be impossible to count them.” Yaakov then sent gifts to Eisov in a bid to win his favor, so that he may stop his brother’s murderous march, which was ad-

We operate on a higher plane and answer to a higher authority. birth as a nation. We can’t take anything for granted and need to educate our children on the importance of living an honest life of values. We can’t count on them picking it up on their own or from their teachers. If we want to have good children, we must invest much time and effort raising and educating them. In Parshas Vayishlach, we learn how Yaakov prepared his family for the showdown with his brother Eisov, who sought their destruction. Though born and raised in the house of Lovon, the upbringing of Yaakov’s children was such that they all remained loyal to their father’s heritage. When Yaakov received word that Eisov was coming, he feared for his safety and the safety of his family. He sought various measures to provide for their defense should Eisov reach their encampment and seek to do battle.

vancing with 400 warriors. He then spirited away his family to a safe place. Yaakov was then alone, and while he was “levado,” the “sar” of Eisov confronted him and wrestled with him through the night. Yaakov was able to overcome him and earn the name change to Yisroel, the eternal name of the Jewish people. All through the confrontation, his family was safe and in fact never touched by Eisov. As long as there is a separation between the Bnei Yisroel and Eisov, they are safe. It is when the Jewish people feel comfortable living among the Eisovs and the barriers break down that danger ensues. This has been the pattern of our nation throughout the years, as the Netziv aptly portrays in his monumental work on anti-Semitism called She’airis Yisroel. Levado. Our legacy, handed down by Yaakov, is to be alone and not to mix and

get involved with our host nations. It is an irrevocable force built into the natural order. The forces of evil are forever locked in battle with us. When we lay low and keep to ourselves, they leave us alone, but when we get too comfortable and bring too much attention to ourselves, trouble ensues. Through the merit of Yaakov Avinu, when we have been true to the mission of Yisroel, we have been spared. Though battered and bruised, as was Yaakov, we have remained standing long after the Eisovs of each generation perished. It has not gone unnoticed that many of the prominent drivers of the impeachment effort against President Trump are Jews. Anti-Semites have come to refer to what is transpiring in Washington as a “Jew-Coup.” Nothing good can come to our people from activity that causes such reactions. It is incumbent upon us, as Jewish citizens of this great land, to openly declare that we are uncomfortable with the Jewish members of Congress who have been leading the charge against the democratically elected president they disagree with. Nothing good can come from Jews being attached to this, as our history attests. We cannot permit this political gambit to be placed on us. Regardless of party affiliation, we need to recognize that Mr. Trump, to date, has been an effective president and a dear friend of the Jewish people and Israel. Under his leadership, the economy is booming, benefitting every one of us and the causes we hold dear. Look around at how many people are doing well and sharing their largesse with communal organizations, yeshivos, and people who need help. You can thank Trump for that. The stock market is up, unemployment is down, the army is being strengthened, and the country’s borders are being fortified. In the words of Trump’s attorney general Robert Barr, the political left and the media “have marshaled all the force of mass communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.” President Trump and his administration are fighting back and working to reassert religion and traditional values in this country. The Justice Department is giving priority to cases that involve religious institutions, which benefits yeshivos, shuls and our way of life. Previous presidents postured and promised to move the American embassy to Yerushalayim, but it was just an applause line in a campaign speech. Trump actually did it. Besides recognizing Yerushalayim as Israel’s capital, he recognized Israel’s


The Week Living with In theNews Times

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

annexation of the Golan and the right for Jews to live in historic Israel. Yes, these things really do make a difference. And let us not forget that he commutated the sentence of our dear friend, Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, who now travels the country and the world delivering messages of emunah, bitachon and chizuk. It behooves us to recognize the good that has been done to us and not do anything to give ammunition to those who seek to undermine us. We need to be good neighbors and practice common courtesies, if only so that people’s only interactions with Jews are positive ones. This country has been good to us. The Constitution affords us freedoms we never enjoyed before in our long golus. We must not abuse them or act in ways that could lead anyone to question our patriotism, morality, virtue and simple decency. Dinah left the protection of Yaakov’s encampment and was attacked by Shechem. Shimon and Levi exacted revenge, and for their act they were reprimanded by Yaakov. Though Shechem acted improperly, that did not excuse Shimon’s and Levi’s act of tricking the people of Shechem and weakening them through bris milah so that they could be overpowered, even though they did so with the best of intentions. Yaakov’s middah is emes, truth, and to abuse the truth for any cause is never excusable. A 30-something Yerushalmi talmid chochom was trying out for a rosh yeshiva position. He was invited to deliver a shiur so that the other roshei yeshiva could help make their decision whether to hire him for the coveted position. The young illuy sat in front of the yeshiva’s talmidim and roshei yeshiva and began his shiur. As he began carefully laying out his dissertation, Rav Yonah Mertzbach, senior rosh yeshiva and leader of the yeshiva, rose to ask a question. The young man stopped in his tracks, thought for a moment and said, “I made a mistake.” He immediately changed topics and began to say a different shiur than the one he had prepared. He went home and told his wife that he was not going to get the job. “Right at the beginning of the shiur I made a mistake. I admitted that I erred and spoke on a different topic than the one I had prepared.” As they were speaking, there was a knock on the door. Rav Mertzbach, the one who had asked the question and led the yeshiva, had come to their home. He turned to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and with a wide smile on his face said, “Mazel Tov, rosh yeshiva. You are the person we were looking for, honest enough to admit when you made a mistake.” Rav Shlomo Zalman went on to lead

Yeshiva Kol Torah for decades. He went on to serve as klal yisroel’s rebbi and posek. And now you know the rest of the story, he attained his position because his Torah was Toras Emes. Not only Rav Mertzbach, but the thousands of people who would learn under him and those who would turn to him for halachic rulings and advice in all manners of human life. They all appreciated his chein, chochmah and

midas ha’emes. Not only Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, but gedolei Yisroel throughout the ages stood out because of their greatness in Torah and in their devotion to the truth. Not only gedolei Yisroel, but good Jews as well. In fact a good person is referred to as “ehrlich,” meaning that he is honest and trustworthy and religious and a good Jew. This is the heritage passed down to us

from Yaakov and the way we are to conduct ourselves. We operate on a higher plane and answer to a higher authority. Let us emulate our great forefather and demonstrate each and every day, and in everything we do, that we are guided by the absolute truth and nothing else, earning us approval from Above.

Attention High School Seniors & their Parents

DO YOU PLAN TO STUDY IN ISRAEL?

Touro College Los Angeles invites High School Seniors & their Parents to an information session

SEMINARY & YESHIVA

Getting the most out of your year + Financial aid opportunities • • • • •

Choosing a Seminary or Yeshiva Planning your year TCLA Israel Option Affording Seminary or Yeshiva in Israel Planning for after Seminary or Yeshiva

TOURO COLLEGE LOS ANGELES 1317 N. CRESCENT HEIGHTS BLVD, W. HOLLYWOOD, CA WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2019 | 8:00 PM WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 8, 2020 | 8:00 PM RSVP: adina.schwartz15@touro.edu | 323.822.9700 x 85155

Touro College Los Angeles strives to provide its students with an education based on Jewish ideals to prepare them for a life of value.

TOURO COLLEGE LOS ANGELES A DIVISION OF TOURO UNIVERSITY WORLDWIDE

Where Knowledge and Values Meet

tcla.touro.edu @TouroCollegeLA Touro College Los Angeles is a division of Touro University Worldwide, which is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC): 985 Atlantic Ave. #100, Alameda, CA 94501-6444: Tel. 510.748.9001. Touro College Los Angeles is an Equal Opportunity Institution.

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The Week In News

18

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

ERETZ YISRAEL Binyanei Haumah December 28, 2019 ‫ תש”פ‬,‫ל‘ כסלו‬

Yad Eliyahu January 9, 2020 ‫ תש”פ‬,‫י”ב טבת‬

ENGLAND Manchester

EventCity January 5, 2020 ‫ תש”פ‬,‫ח׳ טבת‬

London

Heythrop Park Resort Hotel

January 10-12, 2020

‫ תש”פ‬,‫ט״ו טבת‬-‫י״ג‬

FRANCE

Dome de Paris January 12, 2020 ‫ תש”פ‬,‫ט”ו טבת‬

SOUTH AFRICA The Deck January 15, 2020 ‫ תש”פ‬,‫י”ח טבת‬

NORTH AMERICA

Prudential Center, NJPAC and Newark Symphony Hall February 9, 2020

TO RESERVE, CALL:

347.85.SIYUM DirshuWorldSiyum.org Eretz Yisrael: 02-560-9000 Europe: 020-8050-2615

‫ תש”פ‬,‫י”ד שבט‬

PINSK / RADIN

BottomLineMG.com

March 20-22, 2020 ‫ תש”פ‬,‫כ״ו אדר‬-‫כ״ד‬

W o Pr me ud n’s THE DIRSHU WORLD SIYUM IN NORTH AMERICA en Se will ‫ בע"ה‬be held at The Prudential Center, NJPAC and Newark Symphony Hall So tia cti ld l C on in Newark, NJ on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. Additional locations worldwide. Ou en at t! ter


The Week In News

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

Due to the overwhelming response and with the women’s section at Prudential Center completely sold out

DIRSHU HAS SECURED A THIRD LOCATION IN NORTH AMERICA which is in close proximity to the Prudential Center (a mere 10-minute walk).

Exclusive Men’s Venue

Exclusive Women’s Venue

The exciting NJPAC event will take place at the same time as the event at Prudential Center. It will feature exclusive drashos full of inspiration and chizuk, as well a live, exciting, uplifting musical performance. Many Gedolim will grace the event, in addition to special moments broadcast from Prudential Center.

This event at Newark Symphony Hall will feature a truly unique experience and uplifting hisoirirus, created and tailored for the neshei chayil of Torah yidden and their daughters. The program will feature live inspirational women speakers, exclusive musical performances and selected drashos from Gedolim at Prudential Center.

ELEVATING THE TORAH LANDSCAPE FOREVER. Be part of an experience that will change your life!

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Torah Musings The Week In News

20

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

Hermès and the Birkin Bag Sarah Pachter

The Art of Giving was a fundraising event created to raise money for Tomchei Shabbos, a Los Angeles based organization that provides food and clothing for those in need within the community. The event took place at The Real Real, an upscale consignment shop on Melrose Avenue. During cocktails, an associate was explaining to a small group of women, myself included, how consigning worked for their store. “So, what type of designer labels do you sell?” Lexi1 asked an employee. “We have every designer,” he replied with confidence. “You don’t carry Hermès, do you?” she asked with skepticism. “Absolutely.” Lexi pressed further, “Yes, but do you sell the Birkin bag?” “Why, yes, in fact, we do. Several,” he replied, coyly. When she asked about the purchase price of the purse, we were all shocked to hear that they are actually more expensive at The Real Real than at the Hermès store itself. Some sold for north of $450,000. Curious, I interjected, “I’m not sure I understand—why do they cost more at a second-hand store than at the Hermès store on Rodeo? Wouldn’t most buyers rather own a new handbag? Are they pre-owned by celebrities?” At this point, the associate said something which floored me. “A person can’t just go into a Hermès store and buy a Birkin bag.” “Why not?” I asked, confused. “Is it only available online?” He patiently responded, “No, it can’t be ordered, either. Acquiring a Birkin bag is a…process.” At that, I was even more unclear than when we started. “Getting your hands on a Birkin bag is not so simple. First, potential consumers are waitlisted immediately, after which they go through a qualification process. The interested buyer would need to have first had a certain monetary amount of purchases from Hermès on their consumer resume. Furthermore, once a person reaches the status that enables the client to purchase the bag, Hermès will not guarantee you will receive the color of your choice. For example, if the customer requests a black bag, the most desirable color due to

1

All names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

its versatility, Hermès may decide to send you orange or hot pink instead. The purchaser has no choice, only preference.” To me, this all sounded insane. “How many people are actually in this elite group and are even able to enter into this rat race?” I asked. “Well, I was speaking to an associate from Hermès the other day, and she mentioned that 1300 people were in the store last Saturday.” I turned to Lexi, trying to gauge if the associate was joking. My friend agreed that it was ridiculous, but true.2 She even knew someone on the waitlist who was attempting to befriend certain employees in order to request a specific color. The Real Real associate continued, “The Birkin is more expensive here because of its accessibility both in color and availability. In fact, many have sold their authentic Hermès purses and made tremendous profit from them.” The Hermès sales plan utilizes “waitlist psychology” to an exponential degree. It is a genius marketing technique designed to make a product even more desirable to consumers. One of my editors, Christina McDowell, writes in her memoir, After Perfect, about a scene from her life that is reminiscent of the Birkin craze. When I read about it, it struck a chord with me, and I related it to a Torah concept. Growing up, Christina’s family had everything. They lived in a beautiful mansion, set back upon acres of manicured land around the corner from the old Kennedy estate, Hickory Hill, and surrounded by other politicians, royalty, and billionaires who threw weekend yacht barbecues on a whim. Christina’s family traveled via private jets to their various homes and exotic vacation spots. Wearing designer clothing and diamond-studded jewelry was an understood expectation. Her family was glamorous, truly picture-perfect. Life was perfect. Then, within moments, everything changed. Her father, Tom Prousalis, was an associate of Jordan Belfort, otherwise known as The Wolf of Wall Street, which director Martin Scorcese later turned into a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Belfort. In After Perfect, Christina recalls with sadness and shock, the infamous day the FBI came storming into her home to arrest her father when she was 18 years old. She later discovered that her father stole her social security number, leaving her in an enormous amount of personal credit card debt. Her family lost everything. She went, in a matter of months, from being her father’s princess to homeless. At one point in the book, she describes

how her father returned from prison and gifted her the famed Hermès Birkin bag. Believing in its value, and all the hype, and the symbol she thought it represented as a comeback for her father and her family, she guarded the bag with her life. A few months later, Christina realized how silly it was that she owned this bag but could hardly afford to pay her rent, so she reluctantly decided to sell the purse. She brought it to a well-known consignment shop that confirmed the bag was authentic. They listed the bag for nearly $20,000 online. A few weeks later, the consignment shop received a phone call from the Hermes legal infringement team, threatening to sue for fraud, as the bag, was in fact, a knock-off. Albeit, the best one they’d ever seen! They immediately took the bag down and returned it to Christina, sharing the unfortunate news. The moment could not have been more symbolic and heartbreaking for Christina. It reframed how she felt about her childhood, for she had been fooled over and over again by her father, and the Birkin bag was proof. Her whole life had been a mirage, but also serves a cautionary tale about what we prize here on earth. Before descending onto Earth, our souls are waiting in the heavenly spheres. We are offered a task and the tools to fulfill our purpose before descending into an earthly body. Our neshamot promise wholeheartedly to remain focused and undistracted by the externals. We hope to reach our G-d-given potential in the lifespan we are provided. But then, we descend to Earth, and sometimes the desires of the physical world are too strong. Our bodies take precedence and cause the soul to change gears. Unfortunately, sometimes we miss the mark entirely. This world is described by the Sages as Olam HaSheker, the world of falsehood, while the next world is called Olam HaEmet, the world of truth. Gemara Bava Basra3 discusses the following story: Rav Yosef, the son of Rav Yehoshua, became ill and fell unconscious. Upon awakening, his father asked him what he saw. Rav Yosef said, “Olam hafuch ra’isi

2

3

All facts have been verified

Bava Basra, 10b

elyonim l’mata v’tachtonim l’mata—I saw an upside-down world.” The people who are esteemed on earth were lowly in the next world. And those who were considered lowly on earth were held in high regard in shamayim. His father responded, “You did not see a world turned upside down, but rather the world as it truly is. The world we live in is the upside-down world.” Perhaps we need to reconsider what we believe to be valuable on earth. Society chases the bags, jewelry, accessories, and other “necessities” of life. Yet ultimately, these items stay behind. You can’t bring anything with you into the next world beyond your own mitzvot and tzedakah. One of my favorite quotes states, “The only money you really have is the money you give away.” Here in Los Angeles, a woman who moved to a nursing home I visited recently relayed that her children are selling her home on the East Coast. “I have so many belongings that now have to be sold, given away, or disposed of. Every time we traveled, I would bring back souvenirs.” She sighed with regret and said, “And what for? Now, it’s all simply a burden on my family.” We will all one day approach shamayim and realize the years we spent working for certain material items don’t have value in the next world. The purses and other souvenirs of life are a currency that can’t be transferred; they simply become useless baggage. People spend years attempting to acquire items like the Birkin bag, but is the financial strain and effort worth it? Perhaps such energy could be spent elsewhere by creating, inventing, improving oneself, or being of service to the world at large. After 120 years, we may also have a realization like Christina’s. We may wonder, This is what I held so dear when I could have given importance to eternal pursuits? It was all just a mirage. A fake purse, if you will. The beauty of Judaism is that anything in the physical world can be utilized for spiritual growth. If having nice possessions creates positivity, such as pleasing one’s spouse or creating a beautiful home for hosting others, then the pursuit becomes infinite in its spiritual gain. Answering such questions of ourselves, however, requires a scrupulous examination of our actions and our values. Elevating the physical for spiritual gain is ultimately the purpose of the soul, as well as the purpose of that Tomchei Shabbos fundraising event. Perhaps one day soon people will chase possessions for the sake of mitzvot; but until then, we can all focus on inner-work, moving closer to our personal and spiritual goals.


Emotional Health The Week In News

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

Facing Difficult Feelings Rabbi Dov Heller, LMFT

In Judaism, one of the most important character traits a person can acquire is being honest with one’s self. It is especially important to be honest about how we feel, particularly when we experience uncomfortable or unwanted feelings. Greg has been married for 15 years. Over the last few years he has started to feel alone in the relationship but refuses to acknowledge his feelings. He tells himself, “She’s a great woman and. Mother, and I need to learn how to appreciate her more.” But the more he tries to rationalize his feelings, the more alone he feels. Even when they spend a weekend together, he still feels this nagging loneliness but pushes it out of his mind, telling himself, “Nothing’s perfect.” Eventually, he starts experiencing signs of depression and is prescribed an antidepressant. The medicine helps his depression but doesn’t help his isolation and loneliness. Feelings are information. We should listen and learn from them. When we do, we grow and thrive. When we don’t, we may suffer the consequences of ignoring what they are trying to tell us. Greg’s marriage is not headed in a good direction. He could very possibly repair and rejuvenate his marriage if would start listening to and try to understand the meaning of his loneliness. Unfortunately, Greg chooses to deny his feelings towards his wife because he is terrified that if he acknowledges how he really feels, it might jeopardize his relationship. He fears it could lead to divorce, which he dreads above anything else in life. So, he chooses to suffer silently in order to preserve his marriage and maintain the status quo. This means he avoids the very actions that could strengthen his marriage! There are many ways in which we avoid facing the truth about how we feel. Most of the time, our avoidance is unconscious. Here are some of the more common ways we avoid acknowledging our feelings.  Minimizing the importance of our feelings. “It’s no big deal, lots of people tend to feel alone sometimes in their marriage.”  Hoping the feeling will just go away. “Moods come and go. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll feel better.”  Magical thinking. “This feeling will go away when I become a partner in

the firm and feel more secure professionally.” These three avoidance mechanisms were the main ways in which Greg avoided facing the truth about his anxiety. Other people might turn to the following additional mechanisms:  Intellectualizing. “My anger is justified given the way she treated me.”  Blaming others. “I feel this way because he keeps pushing my buttons.”  Distraction. In our culture, people avoid their feelings by hiding behind their many “screens,” working, keeping busy, partying, and working out.  Numbing feelings by eating, sexual promiscuity, drugs such as alcohol, street and designer drugs.  Denial, which is essentially flatout lying to oneself.  Accommodating and people pleasing. “I will feel better if people like me and approve of me.”  Creating drama in relationships and co-dependency “I must take care of you, or you’ll leave me”  Repressing and dissociating are unconscious ways of pushing unwanted and dangerous feelings such as trauma states out of one’s consciousness  When we hide from the truth, we lose vitality, our emotional core is weakened, and we feel more conflicted. When we face reality, no matter uncomfortable or scary, we feel alive, stronger, and more at peace.  As frightening as Greg’s feelings were, if he would tolerate the pain of facing the underlying meanings beneath his loneliness, he would feel stronger and more at peace with himself.  Are you running away from a discomforting feeling that creates fear of facing some painful truth about yourself or your life? Ask yourself: Am I afraid to face how I truly feel? What am I afraid of? We need to be courageous in order to face our uncomfortable feelings and learn from them. In psychology, this is called affect tolerance. We must learn to embrace feelings and stop fighting them. Feelings truly are our teachers. This being a human is a guest house Every morning a new arrival, A joy, a depression, an anger. They show up as unexpected visitors. Welcome and entertain them all. Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows Who sweep through your house,

Still treat each guest honorably. He may be preparing you For some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, Meet them at the door smiling And invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, Because each visitor is there to guide you towards some greater good. -Adapted from a quote by Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi There are three steps we need to take in order to process and learn from our feelings:  Name the feeling and take ownership of it.  Ask, why am I feeling this?

What is the meaning of what I’m feeling in the present context in which I’m experiencing it?  What will I do now that I understand the meaning of this feeling? Living in reality is difficult. Living with fantasies and lies is easier in the short run, but in the long run we suffer. If you truly want to be happier, feel stronger, and more at peace consider living more truthfully and honestly. Rabbi Dov Heller is in private practice offering psychotherapy and personal mentoring for individuals and couples. He can be contacted at Dov@ClarityTalk.com. You may also visit his website at www.ClarityTalk.com

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DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

OCTOBER 29, 2015 | The Jewish Home

There is No Typical Day

TJH Speaks with Attorney Ben Brafman By Tammy Mark

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enjamin Brafman is the tenacious powerhouse attorney whose name and image are regularly found in the media, well-known for taking on some of the most complex criminal cases and representing some of the most formidable clients. His private persona is one of a family man and philanthropist, with an unwavering commitment to his faith, a deep-seated concern for his community and a profound compassion for others. His four decades of traversing these diverse worlds have given Brafman an exclusive vantage point that has left him with concerns, caveats, and sound advice for future generations. The son of Holocaust survivors, and one of four children, Brafman grew up humbly in Brooklyn and Belle Harbor, Queens. “My parents were very hard-working, good, honest people,” Brafman shares. “My father came to this country, went to the army, and served for three years. My mother was very talented in terms of making dresses and alterations. We lived in Crown Heights next door to Lubavitch headquarters.”

Brafman fondly recalls his early interactions with the revered rabbinical leader, “I saw the Rebbe every day. I don’t know if he remembered me, but I remember him! I was the little kid stopping the punch ball games so the Rebbe could pass without getting hit on the head with a ball.” Brafman explains that he was a “tough” kid growing up, a below-average student and not a particularly good fit for his yeshiva. He began working at the age of 12, running the yeshiva mailroom and, as a good writer from an early age, even writing their fundraising brochures – perhaps an early hint of his future involvement with countless charities across the globe. “I always worked and I always made money because I was a real hustler,” he recalls. “I worked in the mountains as a waiter, I hawked t-shirts outside a concert, I mowed lawns, I cleared snow – everything.” He ventured into stand-up comedy while waiting tables in the Catskills – again honing a skill he could later rely on for charity events. Brafman recalls the arduous hours of his college years. “I worked from 9 in the morning

to 6 o’clock, went to college from 6:30 to 11:30. Then I took the bus and got home at one in the morning…it was lunacy.” Brafman’s academic capabilities didn’t surface until he reached law school, where he transitioned from a mediocre student to an exceptional scholar. “I finally found something I was interested in,” he says, “and I was able to focus on studying.” He graduated with distinction from Ohio Northern University College of Law and was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1975. “For the first time in my life I was able to study – I got a scholarship and I had some help from my in-laws. I studied really hard and I liked what I learned.” Brafman landed a plum job at a prominent white-collar law firm and subsequently spent four years as an Assistant District Attorney in the Manhattan D.A.’s office, while earning a Master’s in Criminal Justice from New York University Law School. By 1980 Brafman established Brafman & Associates in Manhattan. Today, Brafman heads a stellar team of lawyers who tackle the most difficult

and public criminal cases. “One of the challenges in my practice is personal service, and many of the clients I attract require my attention. They can work with the team but they want me in the room – and I get that. That’s the good news and the bad news.”

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rafman loves what he does and is continuously invigorated by the daily challenges he faces. “There is no typical day,” he notes. “Sometimes I’m on trial and I’m in the same courthouse weeks in a row, but I also have a practice to run and other clients to see. People see me walking into a courthouse on TV, and they see me standing next to a wellknown personality and they think it looks like fun – they don’t realize how much work it involves, how much you need to read and stay current; the law changes every 20 minutes, and there’s always homework, so I can be reading for hours at night. So a typical day is an adventure. That’s what makes my practice interesting.” Brafman explains that speaking well is just a very small percentage of what his work entails. “You can’t


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The Jewish Home | OCTOBER 29, 2015

get by and be successful,” he asserts, “and you certainly can’t get to the top just on personality. You need to have substance behind personality – and substance is very difficult.” He details some of the minutia of his work. “People have been involved in business transactions for years that are questionable, and I have to sort this out. I have to unwrap years of doing things their own way. I have to try and figure out: is this defensible? Is this a business that went astray, but there’s no criminality? So it’s complicated…and it’s also a challenge because my adversary is always the government.” His success and reputation have brought Brafman to lead cases involving complex allegations and large personalities, with a client list that includes politicians, celebrities, mobsters, and moguls. He’s learned how to hold his own even with the most imposing figures. “I’ve never been intimidated by any of the personalities, certainly in the last 20-25 years,” he says. “You could be starstruck for 10 minutes but then you’ve got to get over it. I realize at the end of the day that they’re just people. Sometimes I need to essentially say, ‘Look, your judgement got you into this mess, let’s try and use my judgement to get you out of this mess.’ It’s easy to say that, but it’s very hard to have a huge celebrity suddenly being told what they can and cannot do.” He muses, “You really can’t be intimidated once you’ve been in a maximum-security prison sitting in a locked room with a murderer who is a sociopath, and you’re trying to figure out how to deal with his legal issues – so if that personality doesn’t intimidate you, you’re not going to be intimidated by a musician or successful businessperson.” Brafman shares an insider’s perspective on celebrity success as a whole. “In my career I have found that the really smart major celebrities have not just talent, but there’s something that separates them from the rest of the people in that industry that makes them a superstar. I think in every profession, if you rise to a level where people take note of your work and know who you are, you’ve done something that separates you from the thousands of other people who do the same job

With attorney Alan Dershowitz

and don’t get the recognition.” Success, maintains Brafman, is predicated largely on the basic principle of hard work. “I work really hard. I think you need to have a fair degree of mazal, and I think you need to put in the time. I spent a lot of time perfecting the craft hoping people take notice – but you have to consistently do good work.”

rough period, that they have the potential to be the most successful African-American entrepreneurs in the history of the world if they just stayed out of trouble – and both of them did exactly that. I walked them away from a nightmare and they went on to be more successful than anyone ever anticipated, except me. I saw their extraordinary talent in music, but when

“People see me walking into a courthouse on TV, and they see me standing next to a well-known personality and they think it looks like fun – they don’t realize how much work it involves.” Entertainer and entrepreneur Sean “Puffy” Combs was one of Brafman’s early celebrity cases, and Brafman’s status catapulted following his 1999 acquittal. The relationship was a learning experience for all. “When I came into his life, he was 21 years old, and he and I had some serious conversations. I tried to explain to both him and [fellow entertainer] Jay-Z, who was also going through a

you speak to them, you also realize that this is a person who’s brilliant in his own world and they’ve become very successful.” Brafman often recounts the tale of when he first joined Combs’ case and how the mogul demanded 24/7 access to Brafman, which Brafman explained was impossible. Brafman remained as true to his observance as always when Combs called him hundreds of times

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the following Friday night. Ironically, Combs was thrilled when Brafman did not answer the phone on Shabbos as Combs had just made a bet that Brafman wouldn’t answer his call on the holy day. “At this point in my career, thank G-d, I’ve sort of reached a level that took me a while to get here where people understand about Shabbos and yom tov,” Brafman says. “When I first started out and judges would try to schedule things in September and October, I was always trying to explain that I can’t work next week because it’s Shemini Atzeret – and I can’t explain Shemini Atzeret to myself so how am I going to explain it to them?” he jokes. “Now, what’s interesting, is when I come into court and the judge sees me, they sometimes volunteer and say, ‘What days are not good for you, Mr. Brafman?’ I like that it signifies some level of recognition, but I think you have to be consistent.”

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riminal defense attorneys at all levels are likely to face criticism, especially understandable with some of the weighty cases Brafman has taken on, but the scourge of public opinion has waned over time. “It depends on the notoriety of the individual and also the nature of the allegation,” he explains. “When I was [producer] Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer for a year, there were some isolated instances of mild criticism, but there were also some who were infatuated with the fact that someone they knew was in the eye of the storm and going to be in the Super Bowl of cases. So I think most people are sort of intrigued.” Brafman shares the sad realities of his life’s work and how people come to view his role differently when it becomes personal. He notes, “One thing I dealt with my whole life professionally is that criminal defense lawyers do not have a constituency among the general population – until they need them. Most people could be critical of me and the work and say, ‘How can you defend someone like that?’ but then when it’s their son or their wife…they’re calling me at two in the morning and begging me to help them and rationalizing the behavior and suddenly all is well. If I’m able to find a way to save them,

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no one questions me in those cases. Some of my harshest critics over the years end up sometimes as my clients, and when we have these philosophical discussions they realize they were wrong.” Brafman is privy to the ripple of repercussions for those who’ve made such potentially devastating mistakes and, as deftly as he can construct a solid legal defense for his clients, Brafman can easily establish the sympathetic side of the personal suffering that often comes along with the legal issues. He illustrates, “If you get nailed in a massive fraud, it’s you and me after a while. In many cases, everyone cuts you loose; you’re a pariah. I’ve often said that I probably talk more people out of committing suicide than any therapist, any psychiatrist – that is a real, true statement because sometimes it’s an option that suggests a solution to what might otherwise be years in prison. I have to deal with that in a compassionate and also a strong fashion. I have had some really tough conversations with people. I’ve seen families break up in my conference room. I have clients who had a perfect life suddenly have everything ruined in an hour and never have the same life again.” Sitting face-to-face with the person who has the ability to influence their fate, one can imagine how he likely puts his clients at ease. Brafman appreciates the fact that many former clients have kept in touch through the years and have gone on to straighten out their lives and be able to once again enjoy their families and celebrate milestones, many thanking him for saving their lives in more ways than one.

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rafman is today less involved with the violent criminal cases of his earlier years; his work of late has been defined by white-collar criminal defense. “Most of the work I do now is dealing with a person’s state of mind: did the person intend to violate the law? If someone unintentionally violated the law, do I have a defense? I also do a lot of damage control. People come to me facing 20 years in jail, and I get them out of the mess with six months, and they’re home in less

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

At a Shurat Hadin conference

time than that. We also do a lot of trying to save a young person who’s done something wrong or stupid so they should not have to forfeit their life as a result. “There’s a big difference between saying what you did is good and I’m proud of you, as opposed to me saying what you did was not good, but I’m still going to try and help you,” he clarifies. “What I need to do is operate within ethical boundaries at all times,” he says. “I think what helps me a lot as I have developed is that I believe in the criminal justice system in the United States. I have real credibility as an honest lawyer and as someone who fights really hard, but does it within the rules – and there is flexibility within the rules. The world is not black-and-white. The world, I am of the opinion, is often gray. “I have a case that we won maybe 30 years ago where my client was a medical student with a minor drug offense. We got the case dismissed because the search was illegal. People may say, ‘Well, he was guilty.’ Yes, but today he’s a pediatric oncologist who operates on kids who are described as terminally ill. He does cutting-edge surgery on children with malignant brain tumors and he saves a lot of them, so I am really proud of the fact that I saved him!” Brafman adds, “I find that people screw up – a lot of people screw up – some people worse than others. But not everyone who screws up deserves to have their life forfeited.”

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hile his workdays are spent advocating for and mentoring troubled clients and navigating their often-scandalous accusations, Brafman’s private time is spent with his family and immersed in advocacy and support of Israel, Torah institutions, and his community. Undoubtedly determined and diligent, Brafman took measures early on to prevent being completely consumed by the demands of such a career path. “I didn’t want to be one of those lawyers who stays in his office until 2 o’clock in the morning, especially when my kids were younger,” he asserts. “I wanted to see them and be part of their life, so I have a work area in my home and I generally am in the house by seven or eight at night, and when I work late it’s in the house. So when my kids were growing up, and they could come down in the middle of the night to get a glass of juice and see me at the table with notebooks and tape recordings strewn all over the table, it was good for a couple of reasons: I was in the house and I was in their life, and I wanted them to see that my success didn’t come easy.” A resident of Lawrence, New York, Brafman appreciates the quiet suburban life he created with his wife, Lynda, a retired librarian, and their now grown children, Jennifer and David. Their Torah-observant lives pay homage to his family’s history and their humble beginnings in the States after the war. Brafman is somewhat of a local

celebrity, as everyone seems to know him personally, whether they do or not. He displays his softer side when off-duty and his deep sense of empathy is evident as he speaks of the causes and communal issues that weigh on his mind. While Brafman has probably emceed hundreds of charity events from Chabad to One Israel Fund to FIDF, he is personally involved with several other communal and international causes, with some that are especially close to his heart. A few of his current endeavors include the Aleph Institute, a Chabad affiliate that helps Jewish people who are incarcerated and their families, and Shurat Hadin, which brings together lawyers from all over the world to fight against terrorism and BDS. “I am very involved in Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), and I do the dinner every year to raise money for cancer research in Israel. My wife is a cancer survivor and we lived through a year of chemotherapy when my kids were young,” he shares. “Kulanu began in my home. It’s now an extraordinary success because of a lot of us who stepped up. My wife and I are very proud that it started in my home, and it’s now turned into one of the best resources this community has for kids with learning issues and other disabilities – they are in a Torah environment where they’re treated well, and they get the best of care and services. “I do as much as I can,” he adds. “I have always believed that if you’ve been blessed with a certain degree of success, you have an obligation to share that success.” Brafman had an exceptional relationship with his late brother, Rabbi Aaron Brafman, zt’’l, principal and menahel of the Yeshiva of Far Rockaway and one of the community’s leading rabbis and educators, who passed away in 2017. “My brother was someone who devoted his entire life to chinuch, who was probably the purest tzaddik I ever really met in my life,” Brafman maintains. “I was always very impressed by his sincerity, he could have been anything – he was brilliant, he did extremely well in college, he got a master’s degree – and yet he decided to devote his life to teaching. The kids who graduated from the yeshiva loved


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him, and they respected him.” The brothers were able to work together in many private ways. “He and I were very close, very different, but very close. He was proud of me too, I think. I was very happy to be a resource for him, for his school and the people who came to him with problems, not necessarily legal problems. So many people in our community, from afar, look like they have a very successful existence – yet as you get involved in their private life, they’re desperate. Every once in a while, these people would come to my brother and pour their hearts out and ask him for help, and he would call me and say ‘What can we do?’ So, I miss him.” Brafman dedicated a sefer Torah in his brother’s memory in the cheder in Israel that he founded with his son, David, now called Toras Aaron. “My son is a lot like my brother – he’s dedicated. It’s very hard having your son and 10 grandchildren in Israel, but I go as often as I can.”

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rafman’s unique position has provided him with many insights and cautionary tales for the younger generations and their parents alike. Several years back, Brafman delivered a Shavuot speech in Woodmere where he implored the community to take their public behavior more seriously. “It’s always on my mind,” he discloses. “I think we have a lot of people in the world who just hate Jewish people; anti-Semitism is a fact of life – people who will always hate Jews and sometimes it’s a completely irrational hatred. I also think that we have to do our part and not create more anti-Semitism and it’s very easy to do that because if you are identified as a yeshiva kid, wearing your yarmulke and having your tziztit out, if you do something that’s offensive, it’s not ‘look at that it’s a wild kid’ it’s ‘look at that Jewish wild kid.’” Brafman regularly speaks to students and explains the importance of preventing chillul Hashem in their everyday interactions. “When you run into a pizza store and talk to the guy behind the counter and you’re rude and you don’t say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and you push your way onto line…that may be the only interaction with an orthodox

The Jewish Home | OCTOBER 29, 2015

Ben, with his brother, Rabbi Aaron Brafman, z”l

Jewish person that kid behind the counter will ever have in his or her entire life,” he says. “It will be something they remember and share when they go home and talk about their job – like everybody does.” Brafman experienced this phenomenon on a global level in 2011, recalling, “When I was representing Dominique Strauss-Kahn who was on his way to becoming the president of France, the media exposure was extraordinary. I was in every newspaper in the world with him because it was an international case, and in almost every article in France, for example, that was written about the case I was described as Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s “Jewish” advocate – it struck me that if I were a Protestant or a Catholic it would not say ‘DSK’s “Catholic” advocate.’ “Unfortunately, France has become somewhat of an anti-Semitic country and, interestingly, when I got the case dismissed, I was a hero with the Jews of France celebrating as if I’d won the Super Bowl. Until this day, in Manhattan, at the U.S. Open or at a baseball game, everywhere I go, French Jews recognize me and still thank me.” Brafman’s high-profile cases have

brought him into the public eye on several occasions. “I think there’s something to be said for anonymity,” he says, “and I miss being anonymous in some respects, but it’s also made me more conscious in many ways of the fact that if you are identified as a Jewish person, you can’t be rude or obnoxious and you can’t walk around like you own the place.” Though Brafman seems weary from all he’s seen, he nonetheless conveys the passion and resolve needed to continuously move things forward. “I can think of few failings in the Jewish community and Israel – they do almost everything well except public relations,” he maintains. “Nobody ever publicizes the good stuff we do because the tabloids love it when Jews screw up. Jews do a lot of good stuff but we don’t see stories in The New York Times or the Post about the Bikur Cholim people who show up to so many hospitals with packages of food and the Shabbos delivery.” He asserts, “We have an obligation to publicize the good stuff – and the same thing with Israel. After a hurricane or a flood or tsunami, Israel’s IDF is the first medical unit to show up and start saving people’s lives and

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yet those countries turn around and criticize us at the UN. I think Israel has the best democracy in the world and yet they get criticized for being an apartheid state – which to me, is such intellectual dishonesty, which is why I got involved in Shurat Hadin.” Brafman urges parents to take heed. “Before you send your kids to universities all over the country you need to educate them. Let them read some of the literature that One Israel Fund and Stand With Us puts out so that when they’re confronted with attacks on Israel they don’t just say ‘I love Israel’ but they can debate these issues – because when you debate honestly you win against the dishonest attacks.” He continues, “What’s most disturbing to me now as I get older, when you go to college campuses and you speak to people, even Jewish people, many of them don’t even know about the Shoah. Some don’t believe it ever happened. Schindler’s List was good because it brought front and center the horrors of the concentration camps, but it also was a Hollywood production, so people see it now and think it’s like Game of Thrones.” Another pressing issue that is at the forefront of his mind is the hazard of technology. “Today we have much more serious consequences, because everything today is recorded on videotape and every crime is solved, not by detective work, but because every school and street has surveillance cameras. “I speak publicly about the dangers of texting. When you text something, it’s forever. I have forensic people that I work with who can restore your text or your emails – even if you smash the computer and throw it into the ocean. Yet you have kids today who don’t talk, they text. When you say something nasty or negative or inappropriate, you say it to one person and maybe they quote you…but you can always deny it or apologize or whatever. But if you text, it’s permanent, it’s forever, and you have no idea where that text or email goes…and suddenly a private text has become evidence to be used against you for the rest of your life,” he cautions. “Reading something in black-and-white, you can read it again and again, so if it’s hurtful it’s going to be hurtful again and again.


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“In the last 10 years the heart of almost every criminal case, in terms of the government evidence, has been emails or texts that have been sent by on behalf of my client or associates, and it’s often very difficult to deal with and sometimes impossible. You can text something when you’re 16, and they bring it up your whole life – and suddenly you’re on the defensive and it suggests that you’re not necessarily a good person. “One message to send out, especially to young people: it’s so easy to be nice, and it takes so much more effort to be nasty or mean or offensive. Once you go down the road of nasty, mean, and offensive, it’s very hard to change your personality when you’re 25 or 30; it’s much easier when you’re a younger person. Brafman adds, “I think the responsibility is not just on the schools – I think it’s on the parents, it’s in the homes. It’s what you talk about around the Shabbos table. Are you just sitting there sharing lashon hara or gossip?

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

Does that mean that your kids are going to go have those conversations at the Shabbos table when they’re adults? Or do you want to talk to them about all of the wonderful things that Israel is doing so that they know about it?”

ment far out of his foreseeable future. He tries hard to find more opportunities these days to unwind from the intensity of his work through golf lessons, reading and working out – at times with a much-appreciated

“I have always believed that if you’ve been blessed with a certain degree of success, you have an obligation to share that success.”

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rafman’s challenging work, communal commitments, and family obligations – Lynda’s parents have recently moved in with them – keep the idea of retire-

punching bag. His most precious time, however, is with his family, enjoying time with his daughter and six grandchildren who live nearby and with his son in Israel.

“As I got older, on Sunday I started looking forward to next Shabbos.” He quips, “I’ve often said that if it wasn’t for Shabbos, I think I’d be dead. It gives you a chance to really recharge, and even when I don’t do anything on Shabbos, I go to shul, I talk to my grandchildren... “At the end of the day, it gives you a focus and a balance, and keeping Shabbos honors the people who paid the ultimate sacrifice because they were Jewish.” What are the other secrets to his overarching success? Brafman credits a strong work ethic and relies on it to keep pushing forward on all fronts. “I think you really need to accept the fact that there are no shortcuts. All of the people I know, and all of the famous people I know who are extraordinarily successful, have taken some degree of talent and applied years and years of really hard work to refine the talent. “Simply put, you need to pay your dues.”

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Some of them were talking whilst others were unconscious and some “couldn’t do anything but scream in pain.”

Corbyn: World’s Biggest Anti-Semite Tragic Eruption on New Zealand Island

At least six people have been confirmed dead after an unexpected volcanic eruption on White Island in New Zealand this week. Rescuers have described attempting to save tourists covered in ash. Eight other people are missing and are presumed dead. Police believed that there were 47 people on the island when tragedy stuck. Among those, there were 24 visitors were from Australia, nine from the U.S., five from New Zealand, four from Germany, two from China, two from Britain, and one person from Malaysia. Questions have been raised as to why visitors were allowed on the island after seismic monitoring experts raised the volcano’s alert level last month. “These questions must be asked and they must be answered,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in Parliament as police announced that they were launching an investigation. Local tourism authorities market White Island, or “Whakaari,” as it is known in the Maori language, as “the world’s most accessible active marine volcano.” Roughly 10,000 people visit the island every year. The volcano last erupted in 2001. This week, ash plume rose 12,000 feet into the air. For now, the island is too dangerous for rescue attempts to be made, although authorities have been searching for signs of life via helicopter. Survivors were covered with dust and ash and suffered from horrific burns. Many of them couldn’t talk, barely making out the word “help.” Lillani Hopkins, a 23-year-old geography student who moved to New Zealand from the UK three years ago, had been on the island just moments before the eruption. Her tourist boat turned back and rescued 23 others after the event. Lillani said that she froze when she saw people covered in ash and diving into the sea to cool their burns. “It looked like a bomb had gone off,” she said. “There was a crippled helicopter that had been knocked off the pad. The propellers had been all bent and broken. “All I could think was, if it can do that to metal, what can it do to human skin?”

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Only days before Britain goes to the polls, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has called Labour leader MP Jeremy Corbyn the world’s number one anti-Semite. Speaking with the British Daily Mail, Simon Wiesenthal Center head Rabbi Marvin Hier said that Corbyn’s actions and stated views regarding Israel means that he is the world’s biggest danger to world Jewry. Rabbi Hier added that England would become a “pariah state” should Corbyn end up victorious in the upcoming election.  “No one has done more to mainstream antisemitism into the political and social life of a democracy than the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party,” said Rabbi Hier. “If Jeremy Corbyn wins, he will make Britain a pariah on the world stage.”  He noted, ”To have a person seeking the highest office who ignored anti-Semitism for years, who did everything in his power to encourage it, is shocking.” Rabbi Hier, whose organization is named after the famed Nazi hunter, likened the UK’s current anti-Jewish climate to 1930s Germany. “We don’t want to get it wrong again. We cannot sit back and watch this happen again,” he warned.  Corbyn has appeared on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s list before, having nabbed the number 2 spot in 2017 and the number 4 spot in 2018. This year, he was named the top anti-Semitic person or event in 2019. Labour anti-Semitism as a whole also came in at number 10 in 2017. The dubious distinction comes as Jews in Britain are terrified that Corbyn will become the country’s highest elected official. Under Corbyn, Labour has been embroiled in countless anti-Semitic scandals, and almost half of England’s Jews say they would consider leaving if he wins the top job.  Last week, leaked documents showed that contrary to claims, Labour has refused to crack down on the party’s rampant anti-Semitism problem. According to papers obtained by the Sunday Times, Labour activists who made open calls to kill Jews did not receive any disciplinary action.  Overall, there were 130 outstanding cases, including the failure to expel activists who made statements such as supporting the “extermination of every Jew on the planet” and calling Jews “bent-nose manipulative liars.”

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The Week In News

Russian Agents Planned Hits from French Alps

Like a story out of a spy novel, it was recently revealed that a group of Russian military intelligence officers have been operating out of villages in the French Alps. The Western officials who reported this information said that European and U.S. intelligence agencies have been tracking up to 15 members of the “GRU,” as the Russian agency is known. The fact that Russian operatives have been able to move relatively freely doesn’t come as a shock, given the nature of Europe’s open borders. Rather, what is noteworthy is that French authorities chose to make public the revelations about the Alps base. French officials reported that they considered the area to have been the unit’s rear base for covert operations in Europe.

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

“It’s good that our European partners are taking the Russian threat so seriously,” said Marc Polymeropoulos, a former senior CIA officer with expertise in Europe and Russia. “Russia behaves at times like an outlaw regime, attempting to kill dissidents abroad and fomenting unrest in European democracies. It takes the sustained efforts of European security services working together to counter this threat.” France’s Le Monde daily published what it said were the names of the 15 officers who planned assassinations from the French lair. Among the Russians who stayed in France’s Haute-Savoie department in the Alps were Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. In March 2018, British authorities revealed that Russian agents had used a nerve agent to poison a former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, as well as his daughter – both of whom have since recovered. Two GRU officers, under the aliases Petrov and Boshirov, were charged by the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service in September for the attack. In addition to Skripal and his daughter, three other individuals had come into contact with the nerve agent and were harmed, including one individual, Dawn Sturgess, who died. Russia has denied involvement in the attack, calling the allegations “propaganda.”

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Devastating Factory Fire in New Delhi A factory fire on Sunday killed at least 43 people in a crowded grains market in central New Delhi. The fire broke out in an alleyway that was too narrow for vehicles to access, and so firefighters were left to battle the flames from about 100 yards away. The blaze was extinguished by 25 fire trucks, according to Fire Services chief Atul Garg. The fire, which began around 5:30 a.m., started at a factory space near Sadar Bazaar. Many of its victims were factoryworkers who were asleep when it began. Fires are common in India, where building laws and safety norms are often disregarded. In February of this year, a fire that started in an illegal rooftop kitchen of a six-story hotel claimed the lives of 17 people. “My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones,” tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Wishing the injured a quick recovery. Authorities are providing all possible assistance at the site of the tragedy.”

Iran & U.S. Prisoner Swap Last Saturday, Iran and the U.S. conducted a prisoner exchange, releasing Princeton graduate student Xiyue Wang and Iranian scientist Massoud Soleimani, respectively. “Mr. Wang had been held under the pretense of espionage since August 2016,” President Donald Trump said in a statement. “We thank our Swiss partners for their assistance in negotiating Mr. Wang’s release with Iran.” The Swiss Embassy in Tehran looks out for U.S. interests in the country, as the U.S. Embassy there has been closed since the 1979 takeover and hostage crisis. According to Princeton University, Wang had been arrested while conducting research for his doctorate on the Qajar dynasty that once ruled Iran. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly “infiltrating” the country and sending confidential material abroad, claims which his family and Princeton strongly denied.

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Soleimani, who works in stem cell research, hematology and regenerative medicine, had been arrested by U.S. authorities on charges he had violated trade sanctions by trying to have biological ma-

terial brought to Iran. He and his lawyers deny the claim, stating he had simply taken advantage of a former student’s plans to travel from the U.S. to Iran in September 2016 as an opportunity to get recombinant proteins used in his research for a fraction of the price he’d pay at home. The prisoner exchange took place in Zurich, with Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, present to escort Soleimani. Though Hook was the official in attendance, Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien is said to have played the lead role in the negotiations dating from his time as the special representative for hostage affairs at the State Department. Acknowledging other Americans currently held by Iran, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that “the United States will not rest until we bring every American detained in Iran and around the world back home to their loved ones.”

Migrants Drown off Mauritania’s Coast A boat carrying dozens of migrants sank in the Atlantic Ocean last week, killing at least 58 people. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 83 survivors swam to the shore of Mauritania and were being assisted by local officials, with an unspecified number of injured people receiving medical care at a hospital.

The boat had departed from Gambia on November 27 and had over 150 passengers aboard. The vessel, en route to Spain’s Canary Islands, had been running low on fuel before it sank. “The Mauritanian authorities are very efficiently coordinating the response with the agencies currently present in Nouadhibou,” IOM Mauritania Chief of Mission Laura Lungarotti said in a statement. “Our common priority is to take care of all those who survived and bring them the support they need.” In wake of the accident, Gambian President Adama Barrow vowed to crack down on human traffickers who he said were risking the lives of innocent people for financial gain. “To lose 60 young lives at sea is a national tragedy and a matter of grave concern to my government,” Barrow said on Saturday in televised remarks. Mauritania is a country in Northwest Africa. It has a population of 2.8 million people.


The Week In News

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

Prime Minister at 34

34-year-old Sanna Marin, formerly Finland’s Minister of Transport and Communications, will soon make history as the country’s youngest prime minister ever. Marin was selected by her Social Democratic party on Sunday to take over as the country’s leader after former Prime Minister Antti Rinne resigned last week. She will become the world’s youngest sitting prime minister once she takes office this week. Marin will also become Finland’s third female prime minister. The Social Democrats are the largest party in the country’s governing coalition. Marin told reporters that she would work to rebuild trust within the coalition after a postal strike shook confidence in Rinne’s leadership. The other parties in Finland’s coalition government are also led by women, several of whom are under the age of 35. Marin joins other young world leaders, including 39-year-old Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, and 35-year-old Oleksiy Honcharuk, the prime minister of Ukraine. Marin entered into politics at age 27, becoming the head of the City Council in her hometown of Tampere. “I have never thought about my age or gender, I think of the reasons I got into politics and those things for which we have won the trust of the electorate,” she said.

Measles Outbreak Shuts Down Samoan Gov’t The Samoan government was shut down briefly last week in order to participate in a massive countrywide vaccination campaign against measles. Over 4,200 measles cases, including 62 fatalities, have been reported across Samoa in recent weeks. The South Pacific nation is home to 200,000 people. None of the victims had been vaccinated, leading to the government’s decision to shut down services last Thursday and Friday while all civil servants (with the exception of those supplying water and electricity) assisted public health officials with the campaign. Red flags have been erected outside of homes where residents have not been vaccinated against measles, and Samoan

schools have been shut indefinitely since November 17 due to the outbreak. Samoa has arrested an anti-vaccination campaigner amid the outbreak. Edwin Tamasese was charged with incitement against a government order after he was detained on Thursday. The outbreak is in part blamed on people spreading false information, claiming vaccinations are dangerous. According to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi, children have been banned from all public gatherings and places where “large numbers of people congregate.” The country is attempting to vaccinate at least 90% of its population. UNICEF reported that in 2018, almost

350,000 measles cases had been reported worldwide, more than doubling the numbers reported in 2017.

NATO Conf. Cancelled

Following the U.S. ambassador to Den-

mark’s decision to ban a keynote speaker at a planned NATO conference, the event was cancelled on Sunday. Stanley R. Sloan, a visiting scholar at Middlebury College in Vermont and a former analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency, had planned to speak about the future of trans-Atlantic relations at the event celebrating the 70th anniversary of NATO. One day before his scheduled departure, he was informed that the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen had vetoed his participation due to his previous criticisms of President Trump. In his 2016 book, Defense of the West, Sloan discussed how the Trump administration might lead to deterioration of trans-Atlantic relations.

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In the 70 years since the modern rebirth of the the State of Israel, the Jewish State has been at the forefront of the world’s attention. Today, there are countless efforts to vilify the Jewish state. Yet, there is also an ever expanding movement of biblical Zionists who stand with the nation of Israel as an expression of their commitment to God’s eternal word. As we seek to understand the clash between these two conflicting ideologies and look to make sense of the modern world’s great interest in Israel, the need for The Israel Bible has never been as important.

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The Week In News The embassy tweeted on Sunday that Sloan had been added to the program last-minute, without the same process involved in recruiting the other speakers. Once Ambassador Carla Sands declared that she did not want Sloan to participate, the Danish Atlantic Council “had no other option� than to revoke his invitation to speak, council Secretary General Lars Bangert Struwe said in a statement. “After serious consideration, we have decided not to proceed with the conference,� Struwe added. “The progress of the process has become too problematic; and therefore, we cannot participate in the conference, let alone ask our speakers to participate.�

IDF Fudged Haredi Draft Numbers The IDF found itself in hot water last week after it was exposed forging the number of haredi recruits in order to meet

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recruiting targets. Until 2012, haredi yeshiva students were legally exempt from the mandatory draft under legislation known as the Tal Law. That year, the High Court of Justice struck down the law as unconstitutional but said that all haredim did not have to be drafted immediately as long as the government could meet consistent draft goals. 

Since then, the IDF has increased the number of ultra-Orthodox combat units in order to promote integration in the military. These battalions, which currently exist in the Kfir, Paratroopers, and Givati infantry brigades, appeared to work, as the number of haredi recruits continued to rise. Yet a new report alleges that the IDF purposely adopted a loose definition of what constitutes a haredi soldier in order to cover up its failure to reach the necessary number of recruits. This false data was presented as fact to the IDF Chief of

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Staff, the Defense Ministry, and the government until it was exposed by senior journalist Carmela Menashe. According to Menashe, the military defined anyone serving in one of its ultra-Orthodox units as haredi, even if he was no longer religiously observant. This included foreign volunteers who wanted to evade a mandatory three-month Hebrew course, married Religious Zionist troops who wanted more time at home with their wives, members of Chabad, and Religious Zionists who didn’t want to serve with women. Nevertheless, they were all counted by the army as haredim, something which reportedly tripled the real number in the IDF. In 2017 for example, the IDF reported that 3,070 haredim enlisted, while the real number was only 1,300. In 2013, meanwhile, only 600 haredi troops were drafted while the IDF reported that the real figure was 1,200. Officers who were aware of the real state of affairs were also pressured by their superiors to perpetuate the lie or face demotion.  While the IDF has confirmed that mistakes were made regarding the criteria of who was haredi, it maintains that the mistake was not part of an overall policy of dishonesty. “There isn’t a will to inflate the numbers – it stemmed from our interpretation of who is ultra-Orthodox,� said IDF Manpower head, Maj. Gen. Moti Almoz. “It is possible that people made mistakes, but there was no malice and definitely not forgery of numbers.�

clear moral stance against discrimination toward Israel at the UN,� said Foreign Minister Israel Katz. “This represents an important step in the long struggle against the prejudiced bias toward Israel at the United Nations. Particularly noticeable is the shift in the stance of several member states of the European Union, and I trust that the remaining EU members will adopt this position soon.� Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority (PA) harshly criticized the nations for changing their vote, with its ambassador telling the council that “if you protect Israel, it will destroy you all.� He added that the very idea of a Jewish state constitutes “shameless racism.� The resolution had been sponsored by a slew of nations, including Comoros, Cuba, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. It passed by a margin of 87-54 votes with 23 abstentions. The UK, France and Spain abstained, as they do every year. The United States, Canada, Australia, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Kiribati voted against the resolution.

Lebanese Businessman Donates Hitler’s Effects to Israel

Siding with Israel at the UN Thirteen countries surprisingly opposed an anti-Israel UN resolution this year in what can be a sign that the international body is becoming less hostile towards the Jewish state. The resolution had taken place in the UN Department of Palestinian Affairs and singled out Jewish-owned homes in Judea and Samaria for condemnation. The Department of Palestinian Affairs is considered vehemently anti-Israel and routinely bashes Israel for a litany of supposed crimes.  While the resolution passed by a large margin, 13 countries voted to oppose it for the first time, including Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Brazil, and Colombia. In previous years, these countries had decided to abstain with regards to these issues. The change is rare in the UN, as the aforementioned countries that decided to oppose the anti-settlements resolution had traditionally supported such bills or had abstained. The vote took place the UN’s Palestine Day, a day the organization dedicates to criticizing the Jewish State. Israel thanked the 13 countries for changing their voting habits, adding that it was a step towards peace and against anti-Israel bias. “I am pleased that this significant group of countries has decided today to voice a

A Swiss-Lebanese businessman responded to a controversial public auction featuring Nazi leader Adolph Hitler’s personal effects by purchasing them. In recent weeks, the Munich-based Hermann Historica auction house caused a storm after announcing that it would sell off the mass murderer’s personal effects. The 10 personal items included the German Fuhrer’s cigar box, a copy of Mein Kampf, and his top hat.  Enter Abdalla Chatila. The diamond magnate, who is one of Switzerland’s 300 richest people, paid more than $500,000 to buy the items in order to “potentially lethal injustice that those artifacts would go to the wrong hands.� Fearing that the items would end up in the possession of neo-Nazis, Chatila said that he “felt I had no choice but to actually try to help the cause.� While Chatila originally intended on burning the artifacts, he ended up donating them to Israeli NGO Keren Hayesod, which gave it to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum.  The artifacts will now be displayed in Jerusalem’s national Holocaust memorial to remind visitors of the horrors that occurred in the worst organized mass murder campaign in history. On Monday, Chatila


The Week In News

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

toured Yad Vashem accompanied by Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, who thanked him for the gesture. “Your donation is of great importance at this time, when people are trying to deny historical truth. These artifacts, which you are generously donating to Yad Vashem, will help convey the legacy of the Holocaust to the next generation who will not meet survivors,” Rivlin said. The president added, “What you did was seemingly so simple, but this act of grace shows the whole world how to fight the glorification of hatred and incitement against other people. It was a truly human act.” Making the story more remarkable is Chatila’s Lebanese heritage. Israel and Lebanon are officially enemies and have already fought two wars against each other, with many predicting that another round is only a matter of time. Lebanon also does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and bans its citizens from communicating with Israelis. 

Elections to be Held March 2 Here we go again. On Tuesday, a bill for new elections was presented in the Knesset by lawmakers from both major parties, Likud and Blue and White, signaling an ignominious end to the short-lived 22nd Knesset.

The legislation sets the date of the next general election at March 2, 2020, marking an unprecedented third election within 11 months, after the last two votes on April 9 and September 17. The bill was drafted by Blue and White lawmakers Avi Nissenkorn, Meir Cohen and Tzvi Hauser, together with Likud’s MKs Miki Zohar and Shlomo Karai. “These are not the pieces of legislation I had hoped to submit as a public representative, and I still hope that we can pull them tomorrow before midnight and announce the establishment of a broad unity government,” said Nissenkorn, who had also co-sponsored legislation to dissolve the 21st Knesset in his first term as an MK. Following the filing of the bill, Blue and White chief Benny Gantz said there was still time to avoid “costly and unnecessary” elections. He said his party was “making every effort” to form a government without giving up its principles. He also called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to announce he would not seek parliamentary immunity. “As you promised before the previous election, do not hide behind parliamentary immunity, and go defend your innocence in court,” Gantz said in a video statement. “You have the full right to protect yourself but you must not make the Knesset a safe haven for criminals. “Do this so that we can find a solution and form a government,” Gantz added.

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The Week In News In response, Netanyahu said Gantz was engaging in “spin.” “The time has come that one day, for the good of the citizens of the State of Israel, we’ll sit and seriously discuss the formation of a broad unity government. It is still not too late,” Netanyahu tweeted. The April 2019 election made history when, by the end of May, it became the first-ever Israeli election that failed to produce a government. After both Netanyahu and Gantz failed to form a coalition in the wake of the September vote, the Knesset had a Wednesday deadline for a majority of lawmakers to agree on an MK to form a government before parliament will be dissolved and a new election will be called. Neither Gantz’s Blue and White nor Netanyahu’s Likud has enough allies to form a government without the other or the support of Yisrael Beytenu, but the two parties have failed to make progress on unity efforts.

Lapid: No Rotation Needed Senior Kahol Lavan leader Yair Lapid agreed to forgo an agreed-upon prime minister rotation with party head Benny Gantz this week, abandoning the deal that could have made him the country’s leader. “If there are elections, we’ve decided that this time there won’t be a rotation agreement. We will go together, all of us, a large and united Blue and White, behind Benny Gantz, our candidate for prime minister,” announced Lapid on Monday.  Hitting back at claims that he was forced out by Gantz, Lapid said that he had willingly given up his shot to be Israel’s leader in order to help Kahol Lavan’s chances in the event of a third election. “I don’t feel like I’m giving up on something. I feel privileged,” said Lapid.  “We built the largest party in the country. We set principles and values and stood by them despite all the temptations,” Lapid added. “We will do everything to prevent elections in the coming few days. If we succeed, great. If not – Blue and White will run united in the next election, led by Benny Gantz. And we will win.” Lapid had conditioned merging his

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

Yesh Atid party with Gantz’s Hosen L’Yisrael before the first round of elections in April on sharing the job of prime minister with Gantz. Known as the rotation, the pact would have seen Gantz serving as premier for two years following an electoral victory, after which he would be replaced by Lapid. The agreement is thought to have caused Kahol Lavan significant damage in the ballot box, as Israelis who liked Gantz but opposed Lapid were moved to cast their vote for other parties. Lapid and Gantz also clashed repeatedly, with the popular ex-general and Lapid disagreeing on whether to enter a Netanyahu-led unity government. While Gantz had agreed to Netanyahu’s clause that he continue serving as premier for the first half of the term, Lapid had adamantly refused and vetoed every possible coalition breakthrough. The disagreement reportedly resulted in Gantz warning Lapid that he would split off of Kahol Lavan should he refuse to soften his position. 

Prison for Israeli Embassy Plot A Jordanian court sentenced a man to eight years in prison this week for plotting to attack the Israeli embassy in Amman last year. According to the state security court, Khaled Abu Raya “threatened to carry out terrorist acts.” The 33-year-old Jordanian planned “to open fire on the embassy and its employees in a bid to kill a large number of Israelis.” The plot was concocted in response to the transfer of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018, a major policy shift that outraged Palestinians and Arabs. According to the charge sheet, it was also motivated by Israel’s policies vis-a-vis the Gaza Strip which has been rocked by anti-Israeli protests since March last year. The same court also sentenced another Jordanian, Munir Ibrahim, to three years in jail on Monday for planning to infiltrate Israel and attack soldiers in the Jewish state. Illegal crossings of the tightly secured border between Jordan and Israel are

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rare. Earlier this month, Jordan referred an Israeli to court on charges of illegally entering the kingdom and possessing drugs. Ties between the two countries, which are bound by a peace treaty, have been cool in recent years amid disagreements and issues linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

2 Killed in Pearl Harbor Attack

Two people were killed and another was wounded after a U.S. sailor opened fire at a Navy base in Pearl Harbor last Thursday. The shooter was identified as 22-yearold Machinist’s Mate Auxiliary Fireman Gabriel Antonio Romero. An active duty sailor deployed on the USS Columbia, Romero had used his M4 service rifle to go on his murderous spree at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard before using his Navy-issued M-9 pistol to kill himself. The victims were identified as Roldan A. Agustin and Vincent J. Kapoi, Jr., both Department of Defense contractors. 36-year-old Roger Nakamine, who was working as an apprentice at the shipyard, was wounded in the attack.  “Our lives have been changed forever,” Kapoi’s sister, Theona, said.  “There are so many unanswered questions, but we all have to be honest – it changes nothing because we can’t bring him back.”  While authorities are still probing for a motive, they do not believe that Romero was motivated by terrorism. The Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) also said that they are certain that the victims were selected at random.  The tragedy occurred only three days before  National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, which is the memorial for the Japanese attack on Hawaii on December 7, 1941 – “a date which will live in infamy.” The surprise attack killed 2,335 servicemen and thrust the U.S. into World War II. 

George Zimmerman Sues Travyon Martin’s Family George Zimmerman, the Florida res-

ident who famously shot and killed Travyon Martin in 2012, is suing Martin’s family to the tune of $100 million. Zimmerman had provoked a national controversy after he shot the unarmed 17-year-old Martin. Zimmerman was eventually acquitted of homicide charges in a trial that riveted the nation.  Now, Zimmerman is suing the Martin family in wake of allegations that they presented manufactured evidence to the court in an attempt to convict him. According to court filings, the Martin family switched out eyewitness Brittany Diamond Eugene, whose testimony would have assisted Zimmerman’s version of events, with her half-sister Rachel Jeantel.  Allegedly concocted by Martin family attorney Ben Crump, the swap put a far more persuasive Jeantel on the stand. During the trial, Jeantel had provided a damning testimony that painted Zimmerman as a violent neighborhood watch officer who chased after Martin despite the teen not having posed a threat to his wellbeing.  Jeantel had presented herself as Travyon Martin’s girlfriend and testified that Travyon had told her on the phone that he was being pursued by Zimmerman. “He said, ‘Why are you following me for?’ And I heard a hard-breathing man say, ‘What you doing around here?’” Jeantel recalled.  Yet according to Zimmerman’s attorney Larry Klayman, Jeantel had not been on the phone; Eugene had been talking to Martin at the time.  The allegations were first unearthed by the recent controversial documentary examining the circumstances of the case titled “The Travyon Hoax.” Zimmerman’s lawsuit accuses the Martin family and Florida authorities of being fully aware of the fraud and “are alleged to either have known about or should have known about the witness fraud, obstructed justice, or lied repeatedly under oath in order to cover up their knowledge of the witness fraud.” Jeantel had been found to be lying several times throughout the trial, such as her reasons for failing to attend Travyon’s funeral and lying about her age and weight. In a statement, attorney Ben Crump and Travyon’s parents Tracey and Sybrina denied the allegations and said that their innocence would be proven in court.  “I have every confidence that this unfounded and reckless lawsuit will be revealed for what it is – another failed attempt to defend the indefensible and a shameless attempt to profit off the lives and grief of others,” Crump said in a statement. “This plaintiff continues to display a callous disregard for everyone but himself, revictimizing individuals whose lives were shattered by his own misguided actions. He would have us believe that he is the innocent victim of a deep conspiracy, despite the complete lack of any credible evidence to support his outlandish claims.”


The Week In News

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

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The Week In News Dirshu

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

Kinyan Torah Learners: The Stars of the Dirshu Torah Revolution Chaim Gold

As Dirshu’s World Siyum approaches, it is important to highlight the ultimate heroes of the Siyum HaShas, those lomdei Torah who—day after day, month in and month out—learn the Daf, chazzer the daf, and take monthly tests on thirty blatt as part of the Dirshu Kinyan Torah program. Some take tests on Gemara with Rashi, others add Tosafos. They are the supreme Torah heroes of our time. No matter what is going on in their lives, they manage to carve out time each and every day so that they can truly become Shas Yidden. It is these great talmidei chachamim, both past and be’ezras Hashem future, who are the stars of the Dirshu revolution that has overtaken the world. In the wake of previous siyumim, thousands of new learners have joined Kinyan Torah and decided that they want to do everything in their power to take their learning to the next level. Dirshu anticipates even greater numbers of new heroes with the beginning of the next cycle of Daf Yomi. The Kinyan Torah Impact on the Family The following letter from a woman in Monsey, received by Dirshu’s American office, offers an inkling of the lifelong impact that Kinyan Torah can have on a family. My husband is currently involved in the Kinyan Torah 30 blatt, 120 blatt, and Kinyan Shas programs. He grew tremendously since he joined Dirshu and feels this program really taught him the right derech halimud. As bein hazemanim comes along (Sukkos and Pesach), when most men get ready for vacation, my husband sits down with a calendar and figures out how many blatt he needs to cover in a day to complete chazarah of b’erech 2000 blatt… My husband’s heart and soul is devoted to the Dirshu programs. Once again, I would like to thank you for all that you do. My husband became who he is today only because of you! Rav Avrohom Schorr, Rav of Khal Nezer Gedalyahu of Brooklyn, similarly highlighted the impact Dirshu has on the entire family. He asked, “How do kids in today’s world know what is really important and what isn’t? The school may be able to impart book knowledge but seeing how

their parents conduct themselves is the ultimate teacher. When a child sees that the entire home is focused around the husband’s and father’s learning seder, chazara, and preparation for tests, the entire home becomes a manifestation of Torah.”

written by the wife of a long time Dirshu member and sent to Dirshu’s offices: It seemed like just yesterday When the news came out of the blue There was an organization testing people on Shas It’s called Kollel Dirshu.

Dirshu’s Kinyan Torah program has transformed the limud of Daf HaYomi among Klal Yisrael, immeasurably enriching the limud haTorah of tens of thousands the world over. It has raised the bar in ensuring accountability in learning and has endowed Klal Yisrael with great talmidei chachamim. It has produced a cadre of elite Shas Yidden who will illuminate Klal Yisrael for years to come.

Abba came home all excited With a smile and spark in his eyes “This sounds like something I’d enjoy, I’d really like to give it a try.”

Perhaps the words of the venerated rosh yeshiva and posek, HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Wosner, zt”l, expressed it best. Rav Wosner was not at all given to hyperbole. When he visited the testing site in Bnei Brak he remarked, “Baruch Hashem, [in the course of my life] I have merited to know numerous Torah giants from many countries. Some of them were great at indepth learning, others had profound logic. Still, the foundation of them all was yedias haTorah—vast Torah knowledge…. “It is for this reason that I give song and praise to Hashem that I have merited to come here to witness this fantastic sight… talmidei chachamim sitting and learning the Word of Hashem in order that they merit a kinyan in Shas.” Hagaon Harav Dovid Tzvi Ordentlich, Zt”l: Dirshu Has Reintroduced Daf Yomi To Klal Yisrael In A Profound Way Rav Dovid Tzvi Ordentlich, zt”l, who passed away earlier this month, served as the rav of Beitar Illit for more than 20 years. He saw the transformative impact that taking Dirshu tests and especially the Kinyan Torah program has had on lomdei Torah and their families. At a Dirshu siyum in Beitar approximately two years ago, Rav Ordentlich, who was already unwell but was moser nefesh to attend, said, “Dirshu has accomplished regarding limud haTorah and especially Daf Yomi. When the Daf Yomi was established by Rav Meir Shapiro it had a transformative effect on Klal Yisrael. I think we can say the same with regard to Dirshu. Just as the institution of Daf Yomi was a chiddush so too was the establishment of Dirshu. Dirshu has reintroduced Daf Yomi to Klal Yisrael in a profound way. It has ensured that

untold thousands are learning masechtos, finishing masechtos, starting new masechtos and knowing them. Just like Rav Meir Shapiro’s Daf Yomi spread to all of Klal Yisrael so too, Dirshu’s method of learning the Daf and being tested on it has increasingly spread among numerous segments of Klal Yisrael!” “It Becomes Part of Your Life!” Interestingly enough, many Dirshu learners were initially wary of joining Kinyan Torah. After all, it is a real commitment. There can be no slacking off. Every month without fail the new test comes and ready or not, it must be taken. Amazingly, those who started with a true commitment and dedication cannot believe how they learned before this. Learning and retaining one’s learning, just becomes part of a person’s life. Rabbi Moshe Fisher, a veteran test-taker living in Lakewood, explained eloquently how he managed to retain such vast amounts of material: “It becomes part of your life. Every time I say kriyas Shema at night, I think of the Gemaras about kriyas Shema. Every time something comes up on Shabbos, I think of the related sugya in Shabbos.... Once you’re into Dirshu, it’s hard to be meisiach daas—to take one’s mind off of Shas. You simply become attached!” At the Dirshu World Siyum in 2012, Rav Wosner said something that encapsulates what he saw as the unique power of limud haTorah and what embodies those who learn in the Kinyan Torah program, “The klaf, the parchment of Torah Shebiksav is made from the hide of an animal. The klaf of Torah Shebaal Peh is the hearts of those who learn Torah! He who learns Torah Shebaal Peh is full of Torah, full of yirah, full of kedushah.” A most eloquent testimony, however, to what it means to be part of Kinyan Torah, can be gleaned from this remarkable poem

So as Test #1 came and Abba was chazering We all could feel the heat A test on the first 30 blatt of Shas Was really no small feat! Test after test came and went With Abba doing well time and time again Then the accumulative tests started And the chazzerin began with a bren. All of us pitched in before each yom tov And on most trips, Abba was absent When Abba stayed up to learn after the seder We saw what real ameilus baTorah meant! Three bar mitzvos we celebrated Boruch Hashem, four more births brought no rest Through simchos and challenges the Daf was there Abba didn’t miss even one test! The night after each cumulative test Our family enjoyed steak for dinner It didn’t matter that we didn’t know Abba’s grade yet Because in our eyes our Abba’s a winner! We’ve come a long way since that first 30 blatt test That seemed so overwhelming But this past test on 2711 blatt Was truly exhilarating! As we sat back and enjoyed the Siyum HaShas And Abba said the Hadran We felt such a pride at what our family accomplished But no! We’re definitely not done! Because Abba has already started Shas again Being tested this time on Tosafos, too. So we’ve all come together, the whole… clan To say thank you! Thank you, Dirshu!


The Week In News

DECEMBER 12, 2019 | The Jewish Home

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