Jewish Home LA - 12-17-20

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The Week In News

DECEMBER 17, 2020 | The Jewish Home




Dear Readers, In this week’s Parsha we have the eternal lesson of forgiveness. As viceroy of Egypt Yosef Hatzadik could have easily gotten back at his brothers for doing the unimaginable and selling him to complete strangers. Yet, from the moment he sees them his heart longs to embrace them and be reunited with his family. Time and a process were needed for them to sincerely repent but from his part he was ready to put it in the past. He was able to do this because he saw all that happens in this world as coming directly from Hashem. Even events that happened due to bad choices made by other people was seen as Hashgacha Protis. They would have to Teshuvah for it but as far as he was concerned it was meant to be. All of us have times when we are hurt or disappointed by those around us. We need to learn from Yosef’s attitude toward his brothers and realize that all that happens to us is from Hashem and that nothing happens with His direct involvement. By Yosef the benefit of his being in Egypt was obvious. We need to search within our own challenges to find the point or at least a benefit from having gone through the experience. -Rebbetzin Mira Labkowsky, long time Chabad Shlucha and resident of LA, passed away Tuesday night. A wise and special woman who had much pain in her life yet maintained an open home and ran a highly successful pre-school with an abundance of positivity and laughter. She will be sorely missed by those who knew her. May G-d put an end to pain and suffering with the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days. Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos,


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DECEMBER 17, 2020 | The Jewish Home

The Week In News

‫אסור לדבר בשעת התפלה‬ One who talks in the Shul is a fool and may not be counted to a minyan, according to Turei Zahav, the Taz



The Week In News Living with the Times

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

DECEMBER 17, 2020 | The Jewish Home

Mah Nishtanah

Publisher of the Yated Ne’eman

At the end of last week’s parsha, we studied the story of Yosef and how he was thrown into jail, where he languished for ten years. He then interpreted the similar dreams of two former ministers who had fallen out of the king’s favor and were jailed alongside Yosef. One would be beheaded in three days and the other would be reinstated to his former position. Yosef asked him to return the favor, mentioning him to Paroh and soliciting a pardon. In this week’s parsha, we learn how Paroh was troubled by a pair of his dreams and nobody was able to offer him a successful interpretation. The minister who had been helped by Yosef was reminded of the incident and suggested to Paroh that he tell his dreams to Yosef. He told Paroh that Yosef would be able to offer a proper interpretation of his dreams. In his first dream, Paroh was standing at the edge of the Nile River, which sustained all of Mitzrayim. Out of the water rose seven beautiful healthy cows that began to graze in the marsh. Then seven ugly thin cows rose from the water and stood next to the first group and ate them. Upon seeing that sight, Paroh awoke. He went back to sleep and had a second dream. In that dream, he saw seven stalks of healthy, good grain rise together. They were followed by seven thin beat-up stalks, which swallowed the healthy full stalks. When Paroh awoke in the morning, his heart was beating fast, as he was very disturbed by his dreams. He quickly sent for the country’s expert dream interpreters and wise men to offer him an explanation of what he had seen. None of them were able to satisfy Paroh. Acting upon the suggestion of his minister, Paroh sent for Yosef and retold his dreams, albeit with some changes and embellishments. Yosef cautioned the king that his interpretations would be Divinely inspired. He foretold that the country would experience seven rich years of plenty, which would be followed by seven poor years of famine. Yosef advised Paroh to appoint a minister to conserve food during the good years so that the people would have what to eat during the unfortunate years. Paroh was overwhelmed by Yosef’s brilliance and appointed him as a viceroy of the entire country. We learn the parsha and wonder about the brilliance. To us, it seems so obvious. Of course the hindsight vision helps. We fail to see the unparalleled wisdom and wonder why none of Mitzrayim’s many wise men could come up with that interpretation.

The answer is that none of those wise men in Paroh’s rolodex and none of the professional dream interpreters were interested in the true meaning of Paroh’s dreams. They were looking to enhance their image in the eyes of Paroh so that they would become closer to the king and benefit from the relationship. They all gave explanations that made Paroh look good. They ingratiated themselves with the king, and each in his own way told him that the dreams pointed to Paroh’s great wisdom and power. Like American election pollsters, each pundit saw the events through the prism of his own professional advancement and was blinded as to the obvious truth. Yosef, however, as an Ish Elokim, and a student of Yaakov Avinu, whose trait was emes, truth, removed himself and his situation from the equation. He viewed the incidents objectively, without involving his ego and personal prejudices, and thus he was able to explain that the future would bring good years and very bad years. The others, who could never bring themselves

to be. Yosef, as the talmid of Yaakov, feared no human. Truth is always under threat and often appears to be losing to lies and fabrications. In our day as well, especially in this period of time, we see how the forces of evil lie and cheat to advance themselves and their agenda. People fret and worry about the future. They perceive our existence as threatened in a country that doesn’t value morality, integrity and allegiance to ideals. They see many falling prey to various enticements that appear harmless and provide much gratification. Many times, people don’t even realize that they are engaging in acts that dull their minds and deaden sensitivities that have been baked into our DNA. The Bnei Chashmonai were neither warriors nor military leaders. They were people in whose hearts burned an insatiable desire to rid the world of evil. As we recite in Al Hanissim, they were few and they were weak. But they were righteous. And they had the courage of their convictions. They refused to subjugate them-

Those who are faithful to Hashem have no fear.

to tell the powerful king that something awful was in his future, could therefore subconsciously never entertain the possibility that the dreams were foretelling anything so drastically negative. It is only someone who, as Paroh himself said (Mikeitz 42:38), has “the Divine spirit within him” who can properly understand that which is transpiring. For he who knows that everything that happens to him is from Hashem does not fear fellow men and is not blinded when trying to understand that which is brought to him for interpretation. Yosef, who feared only Hashem and was loyal to the truth, wasn’t encumbered by personal biases and prejudices. This is perhaps the explanation of how there can be a prohibition in the Torah not to fear any people: “Lo soguru mipnei ish.” To be scared is a human emotion. If a person feels threatened, how can he be commanded not to fear the danger? The answer is that if a person has proper faith in Hashem, then he knows that everything that happens to him is only Hashem’s will and nobody can harm him if it is not meant

selves to the culture and philosophy of the Hellenists. The glitz and glamour failed to impress them. As heirs to Yosef Hatzaddik, their only loyalty was to the truth of Hashem and His Torah. Armed with emunah and bitachon, the anshei emes went to war to defeat the forces of darkness and sheker. Under the leadership of Matisyahu ben Yochanan Kohein Gadol, the handful of die-hard tzaddikim and oskei Torah rose up to provide leadership for a dejected, subjugated people. Hashem took note of their courage and self-sacrifice and empowered them with the ability to rally the Bnei Yisroel and to emerge victorious over a powerful and deeply entrenched enemy. The true leader is not the one who cheats his way up the political ladder. The true leader is not the one who repeatedly lies to his people and engages in subterfuges in a desperate bid to maintain his hold on power. He doesn’t merely pontificate and blame the consequences of his ineptitude on someone else. The true Jewish leader is not crippled by arrogance and ignorance. The Jewish leader sits bent over a book

in a small nondescript room studying the word of the Creator. He imparts his knowledge to others with love and devotion. He parcels out his advice and guidance with humility and subservience only to Hashem. People flock to him not because they are forced to, but because they want to. There are no enforcers and party chairmen to keep everyone in line. Good Jews have an inbred sense of where to go for leadership and whom to follow. Every night, as we lit the menorah, we remembered this lesson. With its roots branching out from the avodah of Aharon Hakohein in the Mishkon, the lighting of the menorah reminds us how Aharon and his family ascended to the kehunah. At the time of the chet ha’Eigel, Moshe Rabbeinu proclaimed, “Mi laHashem eilay – Whoever is with Hashem, please gather to me.” The entire shevet Levi rallied to the side of Moshe. Aharon and his shevet did not take a poll to see which side would win. They didn’t take a head count to try to determine which side would have more people and would be more likely to emerge victorious from the battle. Moshe needed them, so they rose to the occasion. Hashem caused them to win and beat back the idolaters, and thus the plague that threatened the Jewish people was squelched. That same fire for Hashem and His Torah burned in the hearts of their grandchildren, the Chashmonaim, and because of them and their fearless dedication to the truth, the forces of evil were defeated. They, too, didn’t check to see which way the wind was blowing before taking action. They were not manipulated by public opinion. They did not resort to self-promoting press releases or straddle the fence with diplomatic doublespeak in the face of the campaign to separate the Jewish people from the Torah. As Aharon Hakohein and his shevet did when they heard the call of “Mi laHashem eilay,” they answered without hesitation. They found the strength within their souls to battle evil and thus caused the spirit of Hashem to return to the Bais Hamikdosh. Therefore, we celebrate the miraculous military victory of Chanukah by lighting the menorah just as Aharon Hakohein, Matisyohu ben Yochanan Kohein Gadol and millions of fearless Jews have done in all corners of the world under all types of circumstances. It is the same menorah that my grandfather and your grandfather lit. It is the same menorah kindled by all the valiant Jews throughout history who stood up to those seeking their destruction, all those

The Week In News Living with the Times

DECEMBER 17, 2020 | The Jewish Home

who answered the call of “Mi laHashem eilay” throughout the generations. In our day, too, there is a kolah delo posik, a silent call emanating from Sinai and from the Har Habayis and from every bais medrash around the world. “Mi laHashem eilay,” it proclaims. Those of us who light the menorah hear it and answer, “Hineni shlucheini - You can count on me. I will make myself worthy of this mission.” We lit the menorah and reminded ourselves that we are up to the sacred task. Now we have to act on it. We must conduct ourselves as people of truth, who appreciate the truths of life and live by them. We need to work to keep ourselves and our families pure and untainted by the sheker that envelops us, seeking to tempt us to forsake what makes us great. People who fight for the truth remain loyal to the types of behavior that have kept us going throughout the golus despite being referred to as backward and irrelevant. They are said to be unrealistic and not with the times. Sheker invariably has the support of the media, which promotes it and its derivatives. People who fight for the truth are maligned, discredited, and referred to as conspiracy theorists and worse. Since the forces of sheker are unable to defeat them in the arena of ideas, they mock, marginalize and ignore them. The news of the day, the dumbing down of our people and the temporary ascendency of sheker, should not deter us from remaining optimistic about the future and remaining faithful to the Torah values we grew up with. This week’s parsha (Mikeitz 41:1) begins with the words, “Vayehi mikeitz shenosayim yomim,” and the Medrash (89:1) states, emphasizing the word “keitz,” that Hashem put an end to the darkness. He set a given time for how long Yosef would sit in jail, and when the time was up, Paroh had his dream. During the First World War, as the battlefront approached, the bombings came closer to the people. One dark night, the bombs fell very close to the population. The people were terrified and went running to the home of the Chofetz Chaim for support and consolation. He said to them, “I am surprised at you. Is this the first darkness our people have suffered that you are so overcome with fright? We have been through so much as a people. In every generation, there are threats to our very existence and Hakadosh Boruch Hu saves us. He ends the night, shining light into the darkness and saving those who are drowning and cowering in the shadows.

“So, I ask you: Why are you more afraid this night than on any other night? ‘Mah nishtanah halaylah hazeh mikol haleilos?’ Know that every night ends, and when it does, ‘yiboka kashachar oreinu,’

the light will burst forth and a new day will begin.” Those who are faithful to Hashem have no fear, for even if they are enveloped by darkness, they know that soon the light will

shine upon them and the world, and they will be spared further pain and anguish. May we all merit, very soon, seeing that great light, glimmers of which were evident in the 36 lights of the menorah.

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The Week In News

DECEMBER 17, 2020 | The Jewish Home

DECEMBER 17, 2020 | The Jewish Home

The Week In News



The Week In News

DECEMBER 17, 2020 | The Jewish Home


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DECEMBER 17, 2020 | The Jewish Home


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Sarah's The WeekCorner In News

DECEMBER 17, 2020 | The Jewish Home

Finding Resilience During COVID-19 Effective Tools for Managing Stress and Increasing Joy Sarah Pachter

While expecting my fifth child amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, I sought advice from a friend who received specialty training in resilience from Harvard University.1 Hoping to pick her brain for resilience tools, I shared my fears of giving birth during the pandemic, and my worry over coping with five children after, when the entire pregnancy had been so taxing, both mentally and physically. I was almost ready to give up, and the journey had barely begun. After I described my feelings, she taught me that the human ability to manage anxiety, increase joy, and develop resilience all boils down to two words: mental flexibility. She explained this meant wiping away all preconceived expectations post-birth, both good and bad. “You need to have zero expectations of how you will react or how you will feel post-baby. Anything could happen, and that is normal and okay. You need to just accept it.” My friend also suggested that I develop a shift in perspective, through reframing, so that I would have the energy to handle whatever occurred after delivery. Reframing is an excellent tool to help change one’s perception of a negative situation into a more positive one. When visiting my parents in Atlanta, I saw a stunning piece of Jewish art hanging up in their home. It looked like it had come from an expensive gallery in Jerusalem. I asked my mother, “Where did you get this incredible painting? It’s beautiful!” My mother laughed, “I found it at a garage sale for five dollars! It had such an ugly frame, so I just had it reframed. The frame was expensive, but the art cost practically nothing!”

1 Paras Davoodi, M.S., whose studies at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education emphasized on risk and resilience science.

We have all been equipped with the incredible power to change our own perspective. Our lives are made up of hundreds of images and experiences, --a painting if you will—which we may view as ugly. But if we have the mental flexibility to shift our lens, these images can be transformed into beautiful works of art. The power is in the frame; by putting energy into reframing, we can begin to see our lives as masterpieces. Mental flexibility requires creativity to transform any given scenario into something positive. One way to successfully reframe is through counter-stories. Shawn Achor, a bestselling author, Harvard researcher, and professor, shares the following scenario with audiences. “Imagine for a moment that you walk into a bank. There are fifty other people in the bank. A robber then walks in and fires his weapon once. You are shot in the right arm. “Now, if you were honestly describing this event to your friends and coworkers the next day, do you describe it as unlucky or lucky?” His audience typically responds with about a 70/30 split. Most would answer that the situation is objectively unfortunate.They might say, “I was just minding my business, running an errand, and suddenly my arm takes a bullet!” Or, “Seriously? I’m the only person who gets shot? Definitely unlucky.” Yet somehow, 30% of his audiences determine that this event is fortunate. They see a different side of things: “I could have been shot in my head or heart. I could have died. I can recover from an injury to my arm.” Others exclaim, “Fifty people were in the room, and no one died! This is incredibly fortunate.” Where does the capacity to see such

positivity come from? How can one consistently derive a positive conclusion for themselves? We tell ourselves internal stories daily. When faced with a situation, we subconsciously present ourselves with various counter-stories that compare what could have been with what happened. For those whose counter-story was negative, they would logically believe that being shot in the arm was unfortunate. But those utilizing the comparative explanatory style of thinking would understand that the event could have meant death, so surviving at a small personal cost was ultimately positive. The comparisons we make for ourselves in real life situations determine our happiness and resilience level in life. Our ability to create a helpful counter-story is essential if we want to become well-adjusted, rather than paralyzed. By developing a positive explanatory style, you can become a part of the 30% who see the glass as half full. I was handed the opportunity for a counter-story after we joyfully welcomed our newborn into our family. When the honeymoon phase ended, I was left with draining exhaustion. However, as my friend had helpfully suggested, I dropped my expectations, and was doing my best to accept the situation as our new normal. As I discussed my feelings and circumstances with another friend, I received a text message, asking me to daven for a young mother who had also just given birth and was now ill with coronavirus. She was unconscious in the hospital and not even aware she had given birth. Reading this text opened my eyes to a very plausible counter-story for any new mother during this time. It made me grateful for my sleepless nights and tiring days

with the other children. We never have true control over life’s circumstances, but we have complete control over our interpretation of them. A friend of mine, whose son was diagnosed with cancer, shared that in the beginning stages of her crisis, she would ask, Why? Why me? Why my family? Eventually, she stopped asking Why, and instead she asked, What now? What lesson is Hashem trying to teach me and what does He want me to become from this challenge? She started seeing the crisis as a call from Hashem to come closer. “I inherited a trait of positivity from my parents and grandparents. They always told me not to dwell on the negative, and to move forward. This positivity is getting me through our struggle.” Now that her son can attend school despite his sickness, she views the small things in life through a different lens. These days, when she packs three school lunches instead of only two, her heart sings with joy. We too can adopt this mantra during this pandemic: we can either view the time at home as boring or a blessing. The way we look at things will shape our experience of them now more than ever. Sure, it’s hard to have a baby in a pandemic, but there is also less pressure to get out and resume obligations such as meetings, events, or school functions. We may feel more isolated at home on Shabbat these days, but there is also zero pressure to entertain guests. I’m out of the kitchen faster and am able to focus on my children and connecting with my husband. Distance learning at home felt like a rare form of torture back in March, but on the flipside, we were able to eat lunch together every day, and my children have since expressed how much they miss that special time. The more we focus on the good, the more easily we stay afloat when we feel we are drowning. There is always a silver lining. The question is, are we creative and strong enough to start seeing it? Mental flexibility requires a change of perspective, ultimately reframing every experience to see the good. This article is dedicated for the refuah sheleima of Benyamin ben Sarah.

DECEMBER 17, 2020 | The Jewish Home

The Week In News



The Week In News

DECEMBER 17, 2020 | The Jewish Home

Press Release For over 30 years, the Orthodox Union West Coast convention has been a staple of Los Angeles area Torah programming at the end of December. Each year, dozens of shuls would host scholars from around the world and a variety of important communal discussions and exciting shiurim would be part of a full Torah weekend. This year, program organizers knew that a similar format would not be possible. With the community still reeling from COVID-19, the type of in-person gatherings that were highlights of previous events were simply not in the cards. However, it was extremely important that this important tradition was not interrupted. Instead, The OU looked to the new technologies that are currently available, in order to offer an unprecedented slate of learning opportunities over the course of one weekend. Thus, the “Virtual Torah LA” was born. Focusing on the theme of Kiddush HaShem, this year’s program draws upon a mix of local California-based educators and scholars as well as speakers from around the world who have prepared content specifically for this event. Close to 40 different speakers will be taking part in the program which can be accessed from one central website at Beginning with a keynote on Thursday night, December 17th and focusing on a

full day of Shiurim on Sunday, December 20th, this will be an opportunity to gather virtually for learning and addressing important communal concerns. As this is a completely online program, all of the content will be available on demand for anyone who cannot join during any particular session. Highlights of the convention include a discussion with high school educators about the challenges of the pandemic as well as Rabbinic leaders sharing their messages for the future. In addition, there will be a track dedicated to continuing Torah offerings from the OU including a spotlight on the All Daf App, a Semichas Chaver Shiur and a shiur from the OU Women’s Initiative Torat Imecha program. The day will begin with our annual learning in memory of Drs. Beth Samuels and Rana Samuels Ofran a”h and will conclude with a plenary focusing on the big picture of communal priorities and achievements with the national leadership of the orthodox union. As was the case in previous years, the convention offers an opportunity to highlight the work of important leaders of the community. This year, a tribute was offered to two different groups. Shul Administrators who have faced incredible challenges keeping their shuls thriving during the pandemic will be recognized

The Week In News

for running afoul of anti-terrorism and money laundering policies. “In less space than a square mile, you’ve got offices tied to: an alleged financier for Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group; an individual accused of helping Iran acquire millions of dollars of military equipment in violation of U.S. sanctions; a man accused of helping Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro plunder his country’s resources; and a company that allegedly opened a bank in North Korea in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions,” wrote CNN. “As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also an office tied to a powerful Southeast Asian militia and a casino mogul accused of trafficking drugs, wildlife and even humans.” Allowing such underworld figures to flourish are Hong Kong’s loose laws regarding front companies. While most countries worldwide have strict laws regarding transparency, Hong Kong does not mandate a company disclose its real owners. As a result, organizations such as Hezbollah and international drug lords thrive, establishing a slew of shell companies that enable them to conduct business unhindered. The rare mix of an advanced Western financial system and no regulation renders Hong Kong particularly attractive to those seeking to evade the U.S. Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List. “People or companies put on the list are generally barred from doing business

Hong Kong District of Chaos

A new CNN report reveals how loose regulation in Hong Kong has turned its metropolitan neighborhood of Wan Chai into a global hub of terrorists, drug dealers, and spies. Located on Hong Kong’s northern shore, Wan Chai appears during the day as a tony and upscale area. Professional-looking men in suits hold business meetings in the numerous cafes that dot the picturesque streets while expensive vehicles cruise by. However, looks can be deceiving. The small neighborhood is home to some of the world’s most unsavory characters, including dozens who are sanctioned by the U.S.

with a Community tribute and the West LA and Wilshire Community police stations are being presented with the Community Shield Award. While we cannot gather in person, this does appear to be the largest gathering of

Torah content for the Los Angeles community in recent memory. The entire schedule including times and speaker biographies can be found at

with Americans, conducting transactions in U.S. dollars and using the U.S. financial system,” noted CNN. “Corporate service providers are prevalent throughout Hong Kong and most offshore financial centers because they make it easy to set up and maintain a company from abroad.”

forum this week in Tehran aimed at encouraging investment in the Islamic Republic. Joining Paris was Germany, Austria, and Italy, countries which released a joint statement “deploring this unspeakable act.” In a tweet announcing the cancellation, the aforementioned countries used the hashtag #nobusinessasusual. Jake Sullivan, President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming national security adviser, also blasted Tehran, calling the killing a “horrifying human rights violation.” “Iran’s execution of Ruhollah Zam, a journalist who was denied due process and sentenced for exercising his universal rights, is another horrifying human rights violation by the Iranian regime. We will join our partners in calling out and standing up to Iran’s abuses,” Sullivan tweeted. Earlier, Tehran summoned the ambassadors of Germany and France for a dressing-down of their harsh reaction to Zam’s killing. In a statement, Iran’s Foreign Ministry’s Europe director said that the two countries’ reaction constituted “an unacceptable interference in Iran’s domestic affairs.” Zam’s execution came after he was sentenced to death in June for “anti-regime activity.” He had fled Tehran and was residing in France after a court found him guilty three years ago but was lured to Iraq by Iranian agents, who arrested him and extradited to the Islamic Republic. Prior to his hanging, Zam released a video in which he confessed to spying for Israel, the United States, and France and “expressed sorrow” for his actions.

Journalist Executed in Iran

A diplomatic crisis erupted between Iran and a slew of European countries after Tehran executed a prominent dissident journalist. Ruhollah Zam, a journalist convicted of sparking anti-government demonstrations in 2017, was put to death on Sunday. The killing sparked global outrage, with both the EU and a dozen European nations condemning the act in the strongest possible terms. A few hours later, France announced that its envoy would not attend a business

The Week In News

DECEMBER 17, 2020 | The Jewish Home

Billionaire Joseph Safra Dies

Jewish billionaire Joseph Safra, Brazil’s wealthiest individual and a banking titan, passed away at the age of 82 in Sao Paulo. Safra’s family said that he died of natural causes. Safra “leaves a legacy that will be followed by many generations,” said a statement. Born in Lebanon, Safra grew up in a family known for their banking prowess. The Safra family began banking when they offered loans to Syrian camel traders hundreds of years ago and quickly grew to become one of the richest bankers in the Ottoman Empire. One brother, Edmond Safra, founded and managed a slew of banks until his 1999 death, while another, Moise, also saw considerable financial success. At the age of 14, Joseph moved with his family to Brazil and helped his father Jacob build Banco Safra into one of Brazil’s largest banks. For the next half decade, Joseph chaired the board of directors of the Safra Group, catapulting him into Brazil’s wealthiest person with a net worth of $23 billion. With his brother Moise (who died in 2014), Joseph built one of Brazil’s largest banks, Banco Safra, and owned Safra National Bank of New York and the J. Safra Sarasin bank in Switzerland. Safra was also known for his philanthropy, donating billions throughout his lifetime to Jewish and Israeli causes. Through his personal foundation, Joseph funded hospitals, yeshivas, synagogues, and museums. After Edmond’s early death in 1999 due to a fire in Monaco, Joseph paid billions to refurbish the Western Wall’s main plaza in memory of his brother. Safra was notoriously media shy and almost never offered interviews. In a rare sit-down he granted a Brazilian daily in 2006, Safra expounded on his conservative investment strategy that put a premium on caution. “If you choose to sail upon the seas of banking, build your bank as you would your boat, with the strength to sail safely through any storm,” Joseph advised at the time.

Putin’s “Doomsday Plane” Vandalized

Russia has launched an investigation after thieves broke into a top-secret plane designed to protect senior Kremlin leaders during a nuclear attack. The Ilyushin-80 had been parked at Taganrog, a remote airfield in southwest Russia, when the thieves hit. Snapping the protective fence with bolt cutters, they made off with $13,600 worth of highly advanced communications gear. Dmitry Peksov, President Vladimir Putin’s personal spokesperson, admitted that the heist was an “emergency situation” and promised that “measures will be taken to prevent this from happening in the future,” adding that a special investigative team had been dispatched to Taganrog. According to reports, the thieves had been attracted to the rare gold and silver metals embedded in the communications gear. The plane had been undergoing repairs at the time and had all of its gear onboard. The break-in left Russian officials redfaced, as the Airborne Command Post is one of Moscow’s most classified and presumably highly secured pieces of military hardware. Intended to safely whisk senior Kremlin leaders out of a disaster zone in the event of nuclear war, the aircraft is commonly guarded by a platoon of military police when not airborne.

Writer John Le Carre Dies

John le Carre, one of the most celebrated espionage writers in history, passed away at the age of 89 over the weekend. Le Carre’s death was announced by his family, who said that the author succumbed to pneumonia on Saturday. Throughout a literary career spanning more than half a century, Le Carre

authored dozens of spy thrillers, many of which went on to become bestsellers. In books such as The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Le Carre chronicled the cat-and-mouse world of espionage that characterized the Cold War. Unlike other authors such as Robert Ludlum who filled their books with firefights and car chases, Le Carre preferred to view spying as a psychological game. Smiley, his main character in over 20 books, was often forced to use his wits to uncover Soviet and East German plots and deception within England’s intelligence. The tales often reflected reality, with the KGB, the CIA, and the UK’s MI6 battling each other all across the world until the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991. Prior to his career as a writer, Le Carre was known as David Cornwall and served as a real-life spy, working for the British Foreign Service as an intelligence agent at the end of World War II. Eventually moving to the MI5, he later revealed that he partook in operations so sensitive that they remain classified 70 years later. After a decade of chasing Soviet spies all over Europe, Le Carre began writing novels based on his exploits. It was his third book, The Spy That Came In From The Cold, that made him an international name, topping bestseller lists in both the U.S. and Europe. Overall, 25 of Le Carre’s books were

turned into movies, including blockbusters such as The Deadly Affair, The Little Drummer Girl, and The Looking Glass War.

Bin Laden Spokesperson Free A senior al-Qaeda terrorist who once served as Osama bin Laden’s spokesperson is now a free man. Adel Abdel Bary, 60, returned to Britain last Saturday after a New York judge ruled that his obesity and asthma made him particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. “Defendant’s obesity and somewhat advanced age make COVID-19 significantly more risky to him than to the average person,” wrote U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan. Bary was slated to finish his sentence on October 28, a few weeks after his eventual release date of October 9. Bary’s lawyer argued, however, that the terrorist’s poor health necessitated granting him an early release. “Mr. Bary’s continued incarceration now significantly increases his risk of infection, which could wreak disastrous health outcomes,” wrote his attorney. According to British sources, the veteran al-Qaeda member will not be added



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to the UK’s anti-terror watchlist as he has already served out most of his prison sentence. A senior official from the United Kingdom’s MI5 domestic counterintelligence and security agency told the Telegraph that Bary is not viewed as a threat. Born in Egypt, Bary had been languishing in a New Jersey prison for his role in al-Qaeda’s twin embassy bombings in Africa in 1998 that left 225 people dead. He was arrested by British security forces a short while after the attack, sparking a long-running extradition battle with the U.S. Bary’s protracted legal battle against British authorities to prevent his extradition became a major point of contention in U.S.-UK relations. After then-Prime Minister Tony Blair made the decision to send the bin Laden associate to the U.S. in 2008, Bary’s team of lawyers successfully dragged out the case through repeated court battles. In 2015, Bary was finally sent to serve out the rest of his 25-year sentence in the United States. His time in a British prison counted toward his total time behind bars, giving him only five years in New Jersey’s maximum security prison. “His return remains a huge headache for the [U.K.] home secretary,” a British government official noted. “She is intent

DECEMBER 17, 2020 | The Jewish Home

on ridding the country of threats, but here’s a notorious terrorist dumped right on her doorstep.”

Illegal Flying Leaflets

It is now illegal to fly propaganda leaflets via balloons from South Korea to its northern neighbor. On Monday, South Korea’s parliament approved legislation criminalizing the act, despite fierce criticism that the country is sacrificing freedom of expression to improve ties with rival North Korea. The legislation passed with the support of 187 lawmakers, mostly governing par-

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ty members who support President Moon Jae-in’s policy of engagement with North Korea. Outnumbered opposition lawmakers didn’t attend the vote after their attempt at delaying the balloting with nonstop speeches was foiled by governing party lawmakers and their allies who used their three-fifths supermajority to halt the speeches in a separate vote. This is the first time that South Korea’s parliament has passed a bill formally banning civilians from floating anti-North Korea leaflets across the tense border. South Korea has previously banned such activities only during sensitive times and has normally allowed activists to exercise their freedom of speech despite repeated protests from North Korea. Under the legislation, anyone flying leaflets, auxiliary storage devices or money toward North Korea without government permission can be punished by up to three years in prison or a fine of 30 million won ($27,730). The bill’s passage came six months after Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, responded furiously over what she called South Korea’s inability to halt civilian leafleting and demanded it ban the activity. She called North Korean defectors involved in the leafleting campaign “human scum” and “mongrel dogs.”

Algerian President Resurfaces

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has appeared on television for the first time since testing positive for COVID-19 two months ago. In the video address he posted on his personal Twitter account, Tebboune said that he was doing well and that the danger to his health had passed. “Thanks to G-d... I have started on the road to recovery,” said the 75-year-old. “It may take two or three weeks but, G-d willing, I will recover all my bodily strength,” he added. “I hope to see you soon. This video recording is the Algerian president’s first appearance since he was rushed to a hospital in Germany after a bout with COVID-19 left him on his deathbed in October. In late November, Tebboune announced that he would return to his country “in the coming days” but had failed to do so, sparking a constitutional crisis.

During Tebboune’s extended absence, voters approved an amendment to Algeria’s constitution banning the country’s Hirak protest movement. Tebboune has until January to sign the amendment into law, something his long sojourn in Germany threw into doubt. To ensure that the amendment became law, Tebboune’s allies attempted to declare him incapacitated, which would enable parliament to select a replacement. Algeria is the tenth-largest country in the world. With an estimated population of over 44 million, it is the eighth-most populous country in Africa.

400 Kidnapped in Nigeria Authorities have launched an all-out search effort after AK-47-wielding gunmen kidnapped 400 schoolchildren in Nigeria. In the incident, dozens of gunmen on motorcycles took over the Government Science Secondary School in northwestern Katsina on Friday before forcing them into the nearby forest. Police quickly rushed to the scene, leading to a violent gunfight between the two sides. “The bandits came on motorcycles firing sporadically and tried to enter the school. Our men, with the assistance of the army, engaged them in a shoot-out,” said Katsina State police spokesman Gambo Isah. He praised security forces for engaging the attackers “in a gunfight that gave (some of) the students the opportunity to scale the fence of the school and run for safety.” Around 200 students were accounted for, while the military has launched a massive operation to locate the remaining 400. Troops have fanned out and set up roadblocks in an effort to cut off escape routes before the bandits could disappear into Africa’s thick forest. “The police, Nigerian Army, and Nigerian Air Force are working closely with the school authorities to ascertain the actual number of the missing and/or kidnapped students,” said Isah. “Search parties are working with a view to find or rescue the missing students.” While no group has taken responsibility for the incident, the attack is thought to be the work of Islamic militants who frequently kidnap young girls for ransom. In a particularly high-profile case in 2014, the ISIS-affiliated Boko Haram insurgency captured 276 mostly Christian female students from their Nigerian school, leading to a worldwide campaign for their freedom. Over 100 of the girls remain missing despite extensive efforts by intelligence agencies and the UN to shed light on their whereabouts.

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DECEMBER 17, 2020 | The Jewish Home

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