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The Week In News

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DECEMBER 26, 2019 | The Jewish Home

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DECEMBER 26, 2019 | The Jewish Home

The Week In News

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The Week In News

DECEMBER 26, 2019 | The Jewish Home

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Dear readers, There’s something in the Chanukah lights which moves people in a very deep way. Part of it is due to memories of ourselves while we were children and—not yet jaded—still experienced the world as pure. Another part is the message the holiday carries: Might isn’t determined by size. A small army can win, and a single flask of oil can give all the light needed. But, ultimately, I think it’s the lights themselves. “Ki ner mitzvah v’Torah or,” all mitzvos are compared to a flame, but in the Chanukah lights it’s literal. There’s a physical warmth and a bright light that’s part of the mitzvah, as well as the kedushah itself. It is therefore the only mitzvah associated with light from which we are not allowed to derive any benefit. A physical flame becomes a holy flame. When possible, we should spend time by the candles looking at them, internalizing its message of spirit over matter, the Torah over Greek and secular philosophy. The world can use a lot of light. Let us share the message of Chanukah with those around us, ushering in the time when darkness shall be banished forever. Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos Chanukah,

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 26, 2019 | The Jewish Home

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TheHappenings Week In News

DECEMBER 26, 2019 | The Jewish Home

Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt Tells her Story as an Orthodox Female Journalist at Beth Jacob Yehudis Litvak Last Wednesday night, at Beth Jacob Congregation, Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, an editor at The Forward and a journalism teacher at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, spoke about her career as an Orthodox female journalist. Her talk, entitled “Let Me Hear Thy Voice: Feminism, Modesty, and Journalistic Ethics,” was part of the Modern Minds on Jewish Matters lecture series. Avital began her story with that of her great-grandfather, Ilya Koganov, a journalist in the Soviet Union who paid the ultimate price for his commitment to tell the truth. In 1935, he was sent to Birobidzhan in the Far East, where Stalin had planned to resettle the Jews. Nobody knew it back then, but it had been part of Stalin’s plan for a “final solution,” which thankfully got thwarted by his sudden death. In Birobidzhan, Koganov saw horrible living conditions and rampant malaria. He understood that the Soviet government wanted him to report only the positive, but he could not bring himself to go against his journalistic ethics. Kaganov was arrested on account of Zionist activities, and his family never heard from him again. Assuming that he was sent to Siberia, the family sent letters there for years. It was only decades later,

in 2007, that the family found out that Kaganov was executed in an unmarked location soon after his arrest. Growing up with such stories, Avital inherited her great-grandfather’s journalistic ethics. Her parents immigrated from the former Soviet Union to New Jersey, where they reclaimed their heritage and became Orthodox. As a child, Avital found the transition to frumkeit difficult, especially the prohibition to write on Shabbos. Avital has always been writing. As she got older, she began to see her writing as her way of serving Hashem. After high school, she attended Stern College, hoping to become a writer. While in college, she wrote her first honest essay that went vira—her thoughts about modesty and what she called the “Orthodox compulsive disorder.” She wrote that we flaunt our modesty to such an extent that it becomes immodest and that we need to be modest about modesty. After this essay, “I couldn’t stop,” said Avital. “I continued writing about issues I was passionate about.” She was young and single back then, and her writing affected her personal life, as Orthodox young men were hesitant to meet her. Yet, “I couldn’t keep quiet even if I tried,” she said. After she sent off a passionate letter to

the editor of Haaretz newspaper, the editor told her that Haaretz was in need of an Orthodox voice. She was offered the job, which she gladly accepted. “I began writing about the beauty and the challenges of Orthodox life,” she said. In her new position, Avital traveled a lot and conducted many fascinating interviews. At the same time, she continued writing about women’s issues. Citing a midrash about the daughters of Tzelafchad, Avital said, “In order to overcome human limitations, frum women need to speak up.” Even though much of Avital’s writing was about the frum community, she found that frum publications were not interested in publishing her articles. “There is a lack of free discourse” in the frum world, she said. Frum publications prefer positive articles about the good in our community, but they do not wish to expose the negative. Avital turned to secular publications to build a platform where she could pursue her passion of effecting change through her journalism. In the thick of her writing carrier, Avital married a rabbi and found herself in the role of a community rebbetzin. “The tension of careers is real,” she said. Her congregants sometimes disagree with her

articles, which leads to uncomfortable situations. But both she and her husband are devoted to their congregation and manage to make it work. To date, Avital has covered a wide range of topics, from abortion to violence against Chareidi Jews. While some of her articles describe positive aspects of the frum community, others draw attention to the areas that need improvement. She draws inspiration from Yeshayahu haNavi, “the first journalist in history, speaking his truth despite the consequences.” She also quoted a different Yeshayahu—the philosopher Isaiah Berlin—who said that journalism does not provide solutions, but it describes problems so clearly that they no longer can be ignored. As a frum journalist, “I have to stand behind every word I write,” Avital said, explaining that she would continue to see the subjects of her articles at lifecycle events and be held accountable for her writing. While she doesn’t “coat things with sugar” when it comes to the frum community, at the same time, writing for a secular publication presents Avital with “opportunities to defend our community,” depict the Orthodox world in a positive light, which she feels is important in the current political climate.

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, PhD, Speaks at Cedars-Sinai Talmud Dedication Gift of Complete Set of the Talmud Coincides with Seven-Year Cycle of Daily Jewish Learning Prominent Orthodox Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, PhD, made a pilgrimage of sorts Tuesday, December 17th, when he visited Cedars-Sinai for the dedication of a complete set of the Talmud, the Jewish books of law and commentary. “They told me that if I came, I could hold the tablets,” he said. In a city known more for its movie-making magic than for its holy sites, the tablets Soloveichik is referring to are, of course, movie props. They’re the tablets used in Cecil B. DeMille’s classic 1956 film, “The Ten Commandments,” starring Charlton Heston. Donated to Cedars-Sinai’s predecessor, Mount Sinai Hospital, by DeMille’s wife, Constance Adams DeMille, the tablets were on display alongside the colorful new English translation Noé Edition Talmud Bavli, a gift to Cedars-Sinai from Koren Publishers of Jerusalem. “We’re very grateful to Koren Publishers for this gift,” said Rabbi Jason Weiner, director of the Spiritual Care Department at Cedars-Sinai, «It›s an incredible feat to translate the entire Talmud, and this

is not just any translation,» Weiner said. The translation uses modern language, along with charts, color photos, historical background information, and archeological diagrams to give perspective on the text. The gift coincides with the January 4th completion of a 7.5-year cycle of daily Talmud study, known as Daf Yomi. During this cycle, scholars study sequentially one page a day of the Talmud. The completion of one cycle and the beginning of another is cause for celebration around the world. Cedars-Sinai patients and their family members, as well as employees who are participating in Daf Yomi, will have access to the books to continue their studies while at the hospital. For Soloveichik, a movie buff, there is a connection between movie-making, art, Jewish life, and the study of Jewish law. “I am obsessed with The Ten Commandments. Not the actual commandments, mostly the movie,” Soloveichik joked. “So I was very intrigued at the prospect of coming to Los Angeles to see so ‘sacred’ an object.”

Cedars-Sinai Chief Rabbi Jason Weiner, left, and Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, PhD, hold the replica Ten Commandments tablets. Photo by Cedars Sinai

The Cedars-Sinai tablets, and the meticulous research by DeMille’s team in recreating them, he said, remind him of a 1658 painting by Dutch artist Rembrandt. The painting, like DeMille’s tablets, shows a level of detailed research and understanding of Judaism unique for its time, according to Soloveichik. In the biblical story, Moses receives the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai. While Moses is away, some of the people believe that he is dead and begin worshipping a statue of a golden calf, an act explicitly forbidden by the law of the time. When Moses returns and finds them

doing this, he throws the tablets angrily to the ground, breaking them. According to the story, he later hand-carves a second set of commandments. While the Rembrandt painting is often called “Moses Breaking the Tablets of the Law,” Soloveichik believes that the tablets depicted are in fact these second tablets, and that the depiction of them as a work of people, rather than the divine, is symbolic. “Moses himself refashioned the tablets from the stone, and in the process, he refashioned himself, restoring the covenant,” Soloveichik said. This theme of restoring that which has been broken, Soloveichik says, is repeated throughout Jewish scripture and history. And it’s a theme that is sure to resonate with Cedars-Sinai patients, family members and healthcare professionals. “These second set of tablets embodies something central to our history—the Jewish ability to come back after disaster—to not lose hope after all we had was shattered, to recreate anew what had been destroyed,” said Soloveichik.


TheHappenings Week In News

DECEMBER 26, 2019 | The Jewish Home

Expo at BYLA Inspires and Educates Yehudis Litvak

Last week, the 10th grade at Bais Yaakov Los Angeles (BYLA) hosted a magnificent Torah Expo—an exhibit with a display and a creative activity on each mitzvah listed in the mishnah, “Eilu Devarim,” which we say every day in davening. Entitled The Sky’s the Limit, the expo educated and inspired not only the tenth graders themselves, but also their parents, other BYLA students, and the older grades of Tashbar Sephardic Yeshiva Ketana, Toras Emes Academy, and YAYOE, who came to see it. Guided by their teacher, Mrs. Gila Gettinger, the tenth grade split into groups. Each group designed its own exhibit display and an activity for the visitors. True to the theme, there was no limit to the girls’ creativity. For example, for the mitzvah of pe’ah, the girls focused on sharing one’s gifts—a value that goes far beyond agriculture. Their activity was based on the popular book, Yiddishe Kop. The visitors were handed a picture of girls in a classroom, and they had to answer questions relevant to the topic, such as which girl feels excluded. For the mitzvah of bikkurim, the girls built a farm wagon, and the activity involved building baskets. For hachnasas kallah, each visitor got to participate in making real wedding shtik—dancing props that will be donated to a gemach for use at weddings. For kibbud av v’eim, visitors had to answer questions on the subject. For gemilus chassadim, visitors watched a video taken with a hidden camera, where the girls conducted an experiment. First, they dropped some paper towels on the floor and waited for somebody to pick them up. Many people simply walked by. Then they dropped a dollar on the floor, which got picked up sooner. They discussed the results of their experiment and its implications in doing chessed. For the mitzvah of re’ayon, the girls created a beautiful display about aliyah l’regel. The activity included a litmus test, where the visitors got to measure how much they wait for mashiach. They were given strips of pH paper, which they had to dip into different solutions, depending on their answers to the questions. The final stop at the expo was an inspiring video on the subject of talmud Torah keneged kulam. Girls interviewed several BYLA alumni—some of them Kollel wives and others whose husbands work and strive to maintain a Torah atmosphere in their homes. Much work and dedication went into every single exhibit, and the tenth graders feel that they learned a lot from this ex-

perience. Responding to a survey after the expo, they listed valuable takeaways, such as meeting new friends, learning to work together with different people, especially those they wouldn’t have chosen to work with, learning to manage their time, com-

ing up with creative ideas and pursuing them, learning responsibility, and discovering their own strengths and talents. The girls also learned much about mitzvos and tefillah. “Now I really pay attention in davening when I’m saying ‘Eilu

Devarim.’ It’s such a beautiful tefillah,” wrote one student. “I learned to apply the mitzvos daily,” wrote another.

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TheHappenings Week In News

DECEMBER 26, 2019 | The Jewish Home

OU West Coast Convention Brings the Community Together with Torah Learning Yehudis Litvak

Over 3500 Jews throughout the Greater Los Angeles area learned Torah and gleaned inspiration at the Orthodox Union (OU) West Coast Convention, held over the December 12th-15th weekend. The convention opened on Thursday night at Adas Torah with a keynote address by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg, senior rabbi at Boca Raton Synagogue. His talk, entitled, “Being Orthodox is Not Just a Hobby: A Vision for Passionate Jewish Living,” urged every Orthodox Jew to be “a professional Jew,” passionate about Judaism. “Rabbi Goldberg was the star of the weekend,” says Rabbi Alan Kalinsky, director of OU West Coast. “He addressed all the different crowds—high school students, sponsors, community members— and was very inspiring.” A total of 11 synagogues and four high schools, along with Link Kollel, participated in the convention, with each synagogue hosting one of the visiting rabbis as scholar-in-residence over Shabbos. On Friday, Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Rosh Kollel of YU/RIETS and posek for OU Kosher, gave a rabbinic shiur at LINK Kollel. “The avrechim were captivated by the breadth of his knowledge,” says Rabbi Kalinsky. Also, on Friday, the convention speakers visited the local yeshiva high schools, inspiring the students with their words of Torah. On Friday night, Adas Torah hosted a tisch, attended by about 75 men and women. “There was inspirational singing and lovely divrei Torah,” says Rabbi Kalinsky. Friday night onegs were also held in private homes in Hancock Park and Valley Village. Two private events were held on Motzaei Shabbos, one for sponsors and community trustees and another one for local teachers. On Sunday, Torah Los Angeles, a Torah learning program with parallel tracks of lectures on various topics, was held at YULA Boys High School. All shiurim were well attended and garnered enthusiastic responses from the audience. One of the tracks included a shiur about bikkur cholim in cases of mental illness, by Rabbi Jason Weiner, chaplain at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, followed by Rabbi Dr. Zev Weiner, a psychiatrist at UCLA Medical Center. Rabbi Jason Weiner described the “best, sincerest way to do bikkur cholim” as being there for the patient, giving them our total attention and offering emotional support. While people tend to feel compassion for people with physical illness, they

might feel somewhat judgmental or dismissive of patients with a mental illness. Rabbi Weiner emphasized that everyone deserves support and non-judgmental compassion. At the same time, one must be aware of their limitations. He cited a psak from Rav Asher Weiss, shlita, stating that if the mitzvah of bikkur cholim is too difficult, then one is exempt from it. If visiting a person with mental illness is slightly uncomfortable or awkward, one should step out of their comfort zone and do the mitzvah anyway. But if such a visit is triggering and threatens one’s own wellbeing then one is exempt from visiting. In cases of severe danger, such bikkur cholim is prohibited, just as in cases of contagious diseases. In such situations, “we don’t shirk our responsibility, but we turn it over to professionals,” said Rabbi Weiner. Rabbi Dr. Zev Wiener spoke about the complexity of bikkur cholim in cases of mental illness, due to shame associated with the condition, potential safety issues, and the fact that “well intentioned statements might cause tremendous hurt and harm.” There is also the issue of boundaries, when the patient’s needs are so overwhelming that a visitor can’t possibly provide them with what they need. “Precisely because it is complex, there is a high potential for kedushah,” said Rabbi Dr. Weiner. Psychiatric wards are often the least visited in hospitals. Rabbi Dr. Weiner spoke about his patients who expressed a desire for more visitors and more support. One patient said, “One friend would be better than 500 of your pills.” Emotional support can go a long way to help a patient heal, and especially so in cases of mental illness. A kind word can save a life. At the same time, it’s important not to embarrass a patient and not to drain their emotional energy. Therefore, when deciding whether or not to visit a person suffering from mental illness, one must use their seichel in assessing one’s relationship with the patient and whether a visit would actually be helpful. Even when visiting in person is not advisable, it is always possible to daven for the patient and offer support

to the family members. Another shiur, by Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn, dean of Yeshivat Yavneh, and Rabbi Arye Sufrin, Head of School at YULA Boys High School, focused on inspiring our teens. The rabbis spoke about a weekly class they give together at YULA Boys, where the students can ask any question they’d like. They mentioned that this generation’s questions are very different from the previous generation’s. Students no longer ask about fundamental Jewish beliefs. They want to know whether it is permissible to eat in a vegan restaurant. The rabbis emphasized treating the students as adults, acknowledging their questions. They listed numerous resources that can be helpful to today’s parents. They also spoke about the lack of passion in today’s teenagers and suggested creating experiences, such as shabbatonim, that help ignite passion. On a parallel track, Rebbetzin Yael Weil and Mrs. Geri Weiner gave shiurim on Tanach, dedicated in memory of Dr. Beth Sharon Samuels, a”h, and Dr. Rana Lynn Samuels Ofran, a”h, two sisters who learned and taught Torah and inspired the local community. Rabbi Efrem Goldberg concluded the learning program with a shiur about mindfulness and its place in Jewish life. “Most of us are living our lives on auto-pilot, mindlessly and frantically going through life at unprecedented pace,” he said. By regulating all parts of our lives, halachah seeks to achieve exactly the opposite—attention and focus on every detail. “When you contemplate which shoe to put on first, you begin your day with an intentional act. Nothing about your life should be random or mindless. We must examine every decision we make to make sure it conforms with our values.” Rabbi Goldberg spoke about the challenge to mindfulness presented by modern day technology, which easily distracts us from being focused on the present. He also cautioned against shallow breathing, when one is not getting enough oxygen. “When you don’t have neshimah [breath], you lose touch with your neshamah,” he said. “My message to you is: Slow down and savor life!”

A rebbetzins program also took place on Sunday morning. Rebbetzin Dr. Adina Schmidman, Director of OU’s Department of Women’s Initiatives and a rebbetzin in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, who moderated the rebbetzin panel, said, “It was wonderful to see [rebbetzins come together] to explore ways to better reach their communities.” A legal seminar, entitled “The Right of Jewish Defense in an Era of Rising Anti-Semitism”, was held after the morning learning sessions. The seminar was better attended than ever and not only attended by lawyers. “The topic was picked weeks ago, but it turned timely,” says Rabbi Kalinsky. That Shabbos, Nessah synagogue in Beverly Hills was vandalized. The OU invited Rabbi Yedidia Shochet, a rabbi at Nessah, to address the seminar attendees. Then Louis J. Shapiro, Esq., a criminal defense attorney and certified criminal law specialist, explained the legal definitions and principals of self-defense and defense of others pursuant to California Penal Code. The next speaker, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, discussed the current state of affairs in anti-Semitism. He advocated for more sharing of intelligence between the Jewish community and law enforcement. Then Rabbi Jonathan Muskat, esq., Rabbi of the Young Israel of Oceanside, spoke about the halachic aspects of carrying weapons inside and outside the synagogue. He stated unequivocally that a properly trained shul member is permitted to carry a conceal weapon in shul, even on Shabbos, due to pikuach nefesh. Rabbi Raziel Cohen, “the tactical rabbi,” who trains both professionals and civilians in the use of firearms, spoke about trending threats, security vulnerabilities, and concerns that he currently confronts, offering his recommendations in response to them. The leadership of the OU consider the conference a “wonderful success,” said the OU President Moishe Bane. “We’re very excited to have partnered with so many synagogues, schools and community leaders to help make our vision into a reality by having a weekend where the whole community comes together for Torah study,” said Rabbi Kalinsky in a press release. He also expressed gratitude to the sponsors— due to their generosity, the Torah learning was free and accessible to all.


DECEMBER 26, 2019 | The Jewish Home

The Week In News

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The Week In News Living with the Times

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz Publisher of the Yated Ne’eman Kislev is a month when we fortify ourselves with faith. Just as a single light can illuminate the darkness of winter, so can a spark of faith during the month of Kislev brighten what appears to be a bleak situation. Those who believe, are able to see beyond the immediate and perceive what lies in the distance. This is hinted to in the name of this month, Kislev, which is composed of the words keis and lamid vov. Keis means to cover and lamed vov is the number 36, the number of lights we kindle over Chanukah. During this month, the cover that is generally in place over light is removed. When the world was created, a bright light shone. After man sinned, that light was taken away and hidden. During the eight days of Chanukah, the brightness of the ohr haganuz, the ever-present hidden light, becomes evident, because the cover has been removed. We are able to see better and deeper and accomplish more than we can the rest of the year. In fact, the Rokeiach says that the 36 lights that we kindle on Chanukah correspond to the 36 hours during which the great light, the ohr haganuz, shined in the world before Hashem hid it. That light is evident on Chanukah every year. It is during these eight days that we have the ability to perceive things that most people cannot perceive the entire year. Rav Yisroel Eliyohu Weintraub, in Sefer Nefesh Eliyohu on Chanukah (page 102), discusses the concept that the light that shone during the first six days of creation was hidden in Torah Shebaal Peh. Those who extend themselves and work to understand the difficulty of Torah are able to see that light. We light the menorah and say, “Haneiros hallolu kodesh heim, these flames are holy, ve’ein lonu reshus lehishtameish bohem ela lirosam bilvod, and we may not use them for anything; we may only look

DECEMBER 26, 2019 | The Jewish Home

Uncover Your Fire at them.” What can we see in these lights? What message do they bear for us? Perhaps the lights show us who we are and what we are capable of becoming. The biggest impediment to emunah and bitachon and to improving ourselves is the belief that we have been off track for so long that we can’t change. Often, we lose faith in ourselves and think we cannot rise about the level we have attained. We fail to see the possibilities and powers that each new day presents. We don’t realize that just as Hashem is “mechadeish betuvo bechol yom tomid ma’asei bereishis,” we can also recreate ourselves and improve every day. Chanukah, however, is a holiday of renewal. At its heart is the message portrayed

people had acclimated to the Greek persecution and accepted it as a fact of life, the Chashmonaim were able to convince them that they were capable of improving themselves and their situation. They motivated a depressed people to realize that although they were in a sad state, they could recreate reality and regain control of their own destiny.

ing that it was unnatural, since he liked each of the ingredients on their own, had an idea. She invited him into the kitchen and allowed him to assist her in peeling the potatoes. Then she heated oil and fried the onions, watching his appetite grow. He enjoyed helping her sprinkle the salt and form the latkes, excited to eat the mysterious dish with the delicious aroma.

To be able to accomplish that, a person has to be able to look past the mediocrity he has become accustomed to, forget old habits and attitudes, and rethink his position.

Finally, they were ready to eat and she laid them out on an attractive platter. Her little helper opened his eyes wide. “Latkes?!” he shouted. “Now that I know what latkes are, I’m going to munch a whole lot of them.”

The word Chanukah is rooted in the Hebrew word chinuch, which means inauguration. Chanukah  is a time of  chinuch, not only because of the chanukas haMikdosh, but also because the Chashmonaim taught us about re-inauguration.

There is a fire within you. through the Chashmonaim that a person can be a mischadeish and start again anytime. After many years of persecution, the Jewish people became apathetic and didn’t believe that they had what it would take to fight back and earn their freedom. The Chashmonaim came along and decided that they had suffered enough at the hands of the Yevonim and, relying on their faith, went to war to restore the ability to study Torah and perform mitzvos.

They imparted the message that we can start again, re-consecrate, and be mechaneich. Even if we are not at a beginning, we can fashion a new beginning at any time.

There was nothing evident that that time beheld something special that would enable the Chashmonaim to think they were starting out in an auspicious time to begin anew.

All around us, we see examples of what happens when people are too set in their ways to see things honestly and too protective of their agendas to acknowledge the truth.

The Chanukah miracle transpired during the era of Bayis Sheini. There was no new building and no new seder ha’avodah to rally around. Although the

There is an old Yiddish joke about a young child who disliked potato latkes. His siblings loved the scrumptious treat, but he despised it. His wise mother, know-

When there is promise in the air, it is easier to motivate people to join the cause, because novelty inspires passion. Everybody likes success and wants to be part of successful campaigns.

Agendas based on fiction enslave a person, making him incapable of seeing things as they are, impairing him like a form of blindness. They hold back any hope of success in tackling the problem and instead allow it to fester and grow. The boy didn’t like latkes, because he didn’t know what they were, and as soon as he found out, they became a favorite food. The re-consecration celebrated on Chanukah is brought about by rethinking what we had thought was reality, remembering old ambitious dreams and letting go of darkness brought on by wrongful agendas. This enables us to lift ourselves out of whatever is pulling us down. Rav Moshe Kotlarsky told the story of Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man confirmed to reach the apex of Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain. On his first attempt, he couldn’t reach it, but the very fact that he had attempted to go where no man had ever gone before and came so close to reaching the top turned him into an international hero. Until then, it was generally believed that it was impossible for anyone to ever make it to the top of that mountain. A great banquet was held in honor of Sir Hillary’s great achievement. He was uncomfortable with the wide acclaim so when he entered the ballroom and saw that a large picture of the mountain was displayed on the wall, he pointed to the picture and said, “Mountain, mountain, in the first battle of Mount Everest vs. Sir Hillary you won, but I will come again & conquer you because as a mountain you can’t grow, but as a human, I can.” We all have challenges that confront us. We have goals that we wish we could attain but they seem distant and too difficult. We need to know that we all have the


The Week Living with In theNews Times

DECEMBER 26, 2019 | The Jewish Home

abilities to grow; Hashem gives us what we need to develop and succeed. We just need to recognize that we have the abilities and believe in them and in Hashem. Armed with those beliefs, we can attain the strength needed to overcome anything. Sir Hillary wasn’t familiar with the Chashmonaim, so he couldn’t point to them and derive strength from their example, but we can. We are all familiar with the tradition that there are 36 hidden tzaddikim who sustain the world. Yet, we mistakenly assume that those individuals have a lifelong lock on the position. Rav Aryeh Levin taught that although there are 36 secret tzaddikim whose merit supports the world’s existence, anyone can be that tzaddik on any given day. Just because someone was ordinary yesterday doesn’t mean that he can’t be a tzaddik who upholds the world today. Every person has the ability to rise to that level. You just have to believe in yourself. Perhaps the 36 Chanukah candles hint to that concept as well. The keis lamid vov, the concept of a cover being removed from the 36 candles that are kindled on Chanukah, is a reminder that we can be a lamid vov tzaddik if we remove the cover and see the ability we possess. When we think of new, we should know that there is nothing as new as fresh resolve, and nothing as promising and exciting as a new attitude. This past week, I attended the Torah Umesorah Presidents Conference at the Trump Doral in Miami. Gary Torgow is a fixture at that weekend, each year surpassing the previous one with a brilliantly delivered, awesome message. He quoted the Sefas Emes, who, in Parshas Lech Lecha, asks why the Torah does not offer any information about Avrohom Avinu prior to Hashem’s commandment that he leave his ancestral home and follow Hashem to the land where He would direct him. The Sefas Emes quotes the Zohar, who says that the call of “Lech Lecha” rang out and everyone in the world heard it. Everyone chose to ignore it. Everyone except Avrohom. Everyone else couldn’t be bothered with making the change. They all had excuses of why the call wasn’t for them and why they were better off ignoring Hashem’s offer.

Avrohom Avinu, who spent his life seeking aliyah and growth, was always alert for messages and signs from Heaven. As soon as he heard that call ring forth, he answered it. Men of greatness are always looking to improve and grow, and therefore they act. Avrohom was eternally blessed and changed the course of history because he had faith in himself and Hashem. That call still goes forth every day: “Leave your narishkeiten behind. Follow the word of Hashem. Do what is right. Follow His path. Reveal your light. You will then be successful and you will be blessed.” Rav Nachman of Breslov reveals another meaning of the name of this month. Kislev, he says, is roshei teivos of “Vayar Ki Sor Liros” (Shemos 3:4). Hashem saw that Moshe Rabbeinu stopped to ponder the bush that was burning in the desert and not being consumed by the fire. The Seforno says that he paused and tried to understand the phenomenon he was witnessing - “lehisbonen badovor.” Lesser people observe phenomenal occurrences and continue along their way, seemingly oblivious to what they have seen. They don’t want to have their comfort zone punctured by seeing something new that might cause them to look at the world differently. It is much easier and less taxing to look, say, “Wow!” and keep moving without being challenged or getting involved. Moshe Rabbeinu was different. Stopping, approaching and trying to understand what he was seeing marked him as a leader. That is the avodah of Kislev. And that is what we celebrate on Chanukah: the opportunity to discover latent gifts within ourselves. Through contemplating them, and seeing them for the first time, we allow them to shine. We have to tap into the message of these days and their power. We can find a new light. We can find chiddush within ourselves. We can bring newness into our lives. Things happen and we think we understand what is going on. The truth is that we don’t have a clue.

The Medrash in last week’s parsha (Vayeishev 80:1) states that at the time the brothers were selling Yosef into slavery, Yosef was mourning, Reuvein was mourning, Yaakov was mourning, Yehudah was looking for a wife, and Hashem was working on creating the light of Moshiach. What we believe is a time for mourning, when we only see sadness, darkness and loneliness, can in essence really be a step in the birth and revelation of Moshiach. Even when a believer grieves, he knows that all is not lost and that the light of Moshiach is gathering fuel for its eternal fire. So many people wish things were turning out differently for them. They wish they learned more Torah and that it would be easier for them to understand Torah. They wish they had a better job and that they had more money. They have a flame

inside of them, but it lies hidden and too often it is dormant. They don’t believe that they have the ability to peel away that which covers the light. They don’t believe that they have the strength and stamina to improve themselves and their situation. I say to them: Chanukah has a deep message for you. There is a fire within you. You just need to uncover it. Give it the right atmosphere it needs to blow up. A fire needs air. It needs oxygen. If it lies smothered, it gives off no light and exudes no warmth. It needs you to believe in it and give it what it needs to take off. You have to look beneath the keis and into the depth of your neshomah. Know that there is an incipient flame burning there. Know that it is capable of bringing you to higher and better places. You just gotta believe.

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Torah Musings The Week In News

DECEMBER 26, 2019 | The Jewish Home

Basketball Bruises Sarah Pachter

A few weeks ago, I played basketball for the first time in 15 years. Thirteen women walked through the doors of the stateof-the-art YULA gym for a women’s-only evening of basketball. The spacious gym reminded me of my high school days. I smiled, and as we stepped onto the court and almost touched the past, memories came flooding back to me—of bleachers filled with friends and family, scoreboards lit up above us, and statisticians keeping track of every move. Within moments, I was 16 all over again. I was very quickly propelled back to reality when I started gasping for air after running up and down the court twice (maybe once, but who’s counting?). I was rusty and jarringly disappointed by my failing basketball skills. My mind still thought I was a teen, but my body let me know (loud and clear!) that this was no longer the case. It was a pretty humbling experience. But despite it all, I had fun, and even though I didn’t play like my teenaged self, I sure felt like my teenaged self again. A few days after the game, I noticed a bruise that spanned my knee all the way up a part of my leg. The bruise was black, and extremely swollen. Even though it looked intense, during the game, I didn’t even realize I had been injured. It was only after the game that my body decided to let me know I’d been hurt. And then it hit me: A bruise is a physical indication that something underneath the surface is tender and bleeding. Something similar happens when we are angry. Our outward emotion is an expression of deeper pain. Our minds

may not be aware of our hurt, but our anger lets us know we are aching. However, anger is a masking emotion—it is rarely the base feeling we are experiencing and usually indicates that something deeper is going on.1 Chayi Hanfling explains anger eloquently. Anger is often used as a coping mechanism to deal with underlying emotions that threaten our internal stability. Oftentimes in our relationships we feel sad, hurt, anxious, or fearful, which make us feel vulnerable, a feeling many translate as weakness or powerlessness. So our primary emotion of hurt or fear triggers a secondary emotion of anger as a way to make ourselves feel more powerful and less vulnerable. Anger breeds an illusory sense of strength which can feel intoxicating, especially when the alternative can feel so terrifying.2 If one is exceedingly bruised, the doctor might suggest an x-ray to check for a broken bone. So too, we must examine our anger and determine what type of hurt it is masking. When we address the hurt, it allows us to grow from the anger. The Vilna Gaon considers anger to be one of the two main traits that prevent a person from serving the Almighty.3 Some may deny unpleasant feelings because they are afraid they reflect poorly on them; however, this is an erroneous thought process. Denying anger can cause pain in the body and other psychosomatic issues.4 Additionally, Hashem created us in a way that causes every person to experience a full gamut of emotion that when

1 2

Eruvin 65b

3 4

Beur HaGra on Mishlei 16:31

https://www.aish.com/sp/pg/Anything-but-Anger.html?s=hp1&mobile=yes Anger, Pliskin, Zelig, pg. 15

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observed can help us change. Anger educates, and it’s our job to listen so it can stop. We must confront our anger because only acknowledged anger can be controlled.5 Just like we relate to a bruise in a neutral fashion, applying to it no moral value, we must examine our anger in a non-judgmental way so we can get to the root of it and conquer it. Another reason we must not be afraid to uncover the root of our anger is because it informs us of our true priorities and values. Rabbi Pliskin relays an example of a mother who was constantly reminding her children not to fight when one sibling broke another’s toy. She claimed that the love of a sibling should be more important than the cherished toys. Then one day, a neighbor borrowed their immersion blender and returned it broken. Their mother muttered, “I guess that’s what you get for trying to do something nice…” Her eldest daughter observed this and said, “Mother, shouldn’t your love for your fellow Jew trump your anger over the blender?” How can we practically guide our anger to teach us about our inner wounds and values, rather than keep us trapped in resentment? Get Real with Who You Are Let’s look again at the basketball example to illuminate how to control anger instead of letting it control you. As I waltzed onto the court that night, I assumed I had the stamina of a 17-year-old and was sorely disappointed by a reality check. In the same vein, when our expectations of ourselves and life are unrealistic, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and frustration. It is only through humility that we can lower our expectations of ourselves and others. Gaavah, conceit, causes anger. The Rambam feels that most traits need to be expressed in measure, i.e. through the middle ground; however, he states that this trait should be eradicated completely. Humbling ourselves to prevent the anger from building and lowering expectations to prevent frustration can help do this. Keep an Anger Journal Rabbi Abraham Twersky suggests keeping an anger log. He maintains that humans don’t have control over the feeling of anger, but have total control over our responses and resentments. Because we don’t have free will over the feeling of anger, we must not feel guilty. An anger journal can resemble the following: 1. Here’s what happened today… 2. This is how I responded… At a later time, we can look over the

5

Anger, Pliskin, Zelig, pg. 79

entry and reflect, Did I handle that in the best way possible? Then, the moment of anger becomes a lesson for the next time. Keeping track of what happens before and after anger strikes is one of the best ways to allow anger to teach you what is hurting. By observing and acknowledging the anger, and making the necessary changes in our lives and reactions, anger can finally start to dissipate because it has done its job.6 Brachah Is on the Way Rabbi Nachman states that whenever Hashem wants to give us yeshua, salvation, he first tests us in anger. If we pass the test, we receive the yeshua.7 Hashem has a gift ready to share with us, but first He will send us a test in the form of anger. When one has the right to anger and stops themselves instead, brachah, blessing, is on the way. Conquering our anger unlocks access to that brachah. The Vilna Gaon supports this notion when he writes, “For every second that man controls his tongue, he merits some of the ‘hidden light,’ something which no angel can imagine.”8 Anger constricts, both physically and spiritually, while serenity and humility expand us. Releasing anger expands us to receive Hashem’s brachah. Whenever I feel locked in my anger (or any negative feeling) I try to imagine a group of helium balloons tied together with a weight. If we can simply release the weight, the balloon can fly without boundaries. Similarly, by relinquishing our anger, we become a greater and a more whole vessel, worthy of receiving Hashem’s blessings. Lower yourself and your expectations to receive more bounty. Ultimately, if I’m enraged, it doesn’t hurt the person as much as it hurts me. We are put on Earth to learn, and we must learn from all places, including our anger. Pirkei Avot says, “Who is wise? one who learns from everyone.” Everyone includes our emotions, too. Anger can become a powerful tool to help teach us what is hurting inside and what our values are. We must not ignore our inner teacher, but rather examine it without judgment it in order to grow. When we observe our anger and humble ourselves, we become a greater version of ourselves, ready to receive the flow of Hashem’s bounty. With a little bit of practice we can soften anger, and get a little bit better at the game of life.

6

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hdj9MBZBLGU

7

Emunah with Love and Chicken Soup by Rigler, Sara Yocheved, pgs. 419-420

8

Iggeret HaGra


The Week In News

DECEMBER 26, 2019 | The Jewish Home

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People The Week In News

DECEMBER 26, 2019 | The Jewish Home

Dr. Yehuda Sabiner, First Gerrer Chassid to Graduate Medical School: “Any way you choose, you should do the best you can.” Rebecca Klempner When a 29-year-old Israeli graduates medical school, it doesn’t usually make headlines. But when Dr. Yehuda Sabiner graduated from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology Rappaport Faculty of Medicine earlier this year, his name appeared in The Forward, The Guardian, The Jerusalem Post, and other publications. Why? He’d just become the first Gerrer Chassid to complete medical school in Israel. Like most boys growing up in Ger, Dr. Sabiner attended cheder. Since he was intelligent and hard-working, his family expected he would end up as a rabbi or dayan. However, unlike those other boys, Dr. Sabiner dreamed of becoming a doctor. “When I was a child, I had in Jerusalem two very special pediatricians…and they were both very special in their profession but also in terms of being a mensch—in compassion and empathy to(wards) their patients. “But as I grew up, I also understood that the field is very attractive…you have to be very smart to understand this stuff, and you must be curious about it, and it’s one of the fields…you can provide so much help and chessed to the members of your community, to human beings. So, it’s definitely one of the beams of the olam umed—you know: Torah, avodah, gemilut chasadim.” Every once in a while, he mentioned this idea, but his parents, his teachers— they all believed it was impossible. His schools, like many Charedi institutions in Israel, did not teach secular studies. How would he obtain the secular education necessary to enter university? And why would he want to leave the noble—and socially accepted—pursuit of Torah study, anyway? At 16, Dr. Sabiner consulted with his mashpia, telling him about his dream. He asked why did he have to study so hard in yeshiva if he planned to leave the beis medrash? Dr. Sabiner explains, “He was a very smart guy, and he told me, ‘Listen: Now you are just 16 years old. Do you want now to go out? No! You’re going to lose your shidduch, you’re going to burn yourself... If you want to be anything successful in life, then you have…to be the best in that situation. And I can guarantee you that if you’re going to bring all your effort now in yeshiva, it’s going to help you after marriage [whichever way] you go.’” Dr. Sabiner laughs. “He was very smart, and he was also right!” That effort that Dr. Sabiner exerted in yeshiva paid off in a number of ways. At Yeshiva Shaarei Torah, Dr. Sabiner

Robert Rothschild, ATS Director of Development; Dr. Yehuda and Rachel Sabiner; Pamela Wohl, ATS Senior Director of Development; and Lindsey Malamut, Associate Director of Development

sometimes learned 13, 14 hours a day. “In SHOVAVIM…we had a project for studying five hours in a row without going to drink, or to talk, or to the bathroom,” he explains. This developed zitzfleisch in young Yehuda which would pay off later at the Technion, where, as exams approached, it was common to pull all-nighters with study partners. Moreover, Dr. Sabiner attended a top iyun yeshiva, which studied each subject with great depth. “I got my brain, all the time, exercised,” he says. “In yeshivos… they train you always to ask—not to trust in the lines in front of your eyes, what people said before. Always face it again, always check it, always see, ‘Is it true in this time, in this situation?’ “When you see a case of a patient, a medical case, you always try to challenge the first diagnosis, you try to challenge people who said something else, to see, is it still possible? Still true?” However, there were several hurdles to Dr. Sabiner entering medical school. For one, he had to win over his wife, Rachel, who initially opposed his path. Although Dr. Sabiner, before their initial meeting, had attempted to alert her to his plans to leave full-time learning, his father-inlaw had misinterpreted his message. Rachel had anticipated working outside the home to support their family while he remained in learning indefinitely. Had she not changed her mind, Dr. Sabiner says, “there was no chance I was going to study medicine, no way I would break our marriage for it.” Baruch Hashem, she did change her mind, and then Dr. Sabiner needed practical assistance. That came through the Technion. In Bnei Brak, the Technion— Israel’s Cal-Tech or MIT—established a mechina, an institute to teach high-school level material on a condensed schedule. While most mechinot have nine-month programs, the Technion preparatory school for Charedim is extended to almost a year and eight months. Its programs are taught by top teachers, including some PhDs, but

says Dr. Sabiner, “They’re teaching the basics. At one point, the teacher wrote on the board: N = the set of natural numbers.” And half the class asked, ‘What is N?’ and the other half asked, ‘What’s a natural number?’” Many students dropped out, but most completed their program and went into tech or engineering fields. Some joined private firms, while others started their own businesses or entered the public sector. Once at the Technion, in Haifa, Dr. Sabiner was at first mistaken for the kashrus supervisor rather than a student. But it didn’t take long for him to feel welcome on campus. He warmly praises the Technion. Not only did they provide scholarships and tutoring in challenging subjects like math and chemistry, the faculty trusted his ability to see his plans through. “When I said [that I wanted to become a doctor] for the first time to my family— my family wasn’t so much worried that I was going to university. They were sure I was dreaming! You grew up already! You can’t just decide at 20 years old, ‘I want to be a doctor!’ It’s impossible! The Technion believed in me.” Asked what surprised him most during his university years, Dr. Sabiner tells of his one-month rotation in a Family Medicine practice in Bnei Brak, during which he feared other Charedim would refuse to let him remain in the room during their appointments. “[O]ut of four weeks, only four people asked me to leave. They were not Charedi! They were secular people, very modern. But in that room, we had rabbis, rebbes, rebbetzins…all of them very supportive. A little bit surprised, but very supportive.” Dr. Sabiner, Rachel, and their children continue to live in Bnei Brak. He’s planning to specialize in either Internal Medicine or Pediatrics. (He explains, “I very, very much like the field of diagnosis and to deal with the big picture, with multi-organ systems.”) While during the most intense periods of his university life

he could only snatch brief periods of Torah study—he refused to go to bed at night without learning for 10 or 15 minutes, at least—today he can fit more in. “I have chavrusos…big talmidei chachamim, and we study twice a week for a couple hours. And Motzaei Shabbat, I am studying with a big rabbi, Tur and Shulchan Aruch about the halachot refuah and refuah l’Shabbat.” The majority of Gerrer Chassidim already work, just not in full-time, professional-level positions. As more Charedim enter university and professional careers, Dr. Sabiner expects the community will have to adjust. “[I]t’s very common to go to a shul—a Chassidic or Litvish shul, or a Modern shul—in the United States, and you see people waking up, four o’clock in the morning, five o’clock in the morning, and having a shiur for two hours before going to work. And the minute they come back from work, they have another shiur, and they are studying a lot of material. I think this is going to be the next challenge in Israel, to provide a background to support those so-called balebatim.” Interestingly, Dr. and Mrs. Sabiner would prefer their son become a rabbi or dayan. Nonetheless, all their children will receive tutoring in math and English after school. “We want to provide them with the option that when it comes time to decide what path [they want]…[they] will have opportunities to do whatever [they] choose. “I am not a missionary who thinks that everyone ought to go and study a profession. But a guy who does not find himself in one place should try another place. And if he’s already decided to go work, why should he bring home a salary of 6000 shekel a month, a low income, when he could go and study and pick a good profession? He could help his family, help himself, help his country. Help your community! He’ll have more money to support different things. Why not do it the right way? There are very, very, very talented people among us—boys and also girls—and they should get the full potential of whatever they want to be. I really don’t care if it’s as a rabbi, a rosh yeshiva, a lawyer, a doctor—any way you choose, you should do the best you can.” In conclusion, Dr. Sabiner says, “I am far from being a genius. There are a lot more talented people than me. But I was stupid enough to try it the first time.” He chuckles. “I think that when people know it’s possible, they’re going to do it! You’re going to have to fight for it. It’s not easy, it’s not easy for anyone, especially someone who has never studied general sciences, but still it is possible, and once you know it’s possible, you can do it.”


Rabbeinu Yonah [on Masechta Avos] transforms Masechta Avos from a sefer about middos to a ‘Masechta Bava Kama’ on the topic of middos. He does this by explaining and getting to the bottom of the root of each middah, b’iyun. Learning Avos with Rabbeinu Yonah achieves a doubly important objective. In addition to the actual learning of mussar as Rav Yisroel Salanter so encouraged, it accomplishes so much more!

LEARNING MUSSAR B’IYUN PLANTS THE IDEAS DEEPER INTO A PERSON’S SOUL

and [enables one to] overcome the natural urge to resist rebuke. On the contrary, it instills a deep desire for learning and understanding the depth of the lessons of mussar.”

—HaGaon HaRav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, shlita

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The Week In News

DECEMBER 26, 2019 | The Jewish Home

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The Week In News

Book Review

DECEMBER 26, 2019 | The Jewish Home

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Former L.A. resident, Azriela Jankovic, Ed.D., recently published her first book, Beyond All Things: Insights to Awaken Joy, Purpose, and Spiritual Connection. Similar to Rabbi Arush’s The Universal Garden of Emuna in its goal to invite a broad audience to connect to their spiritual side, as well as to the work of Brené Brown, which aims to use social science and psychological research to inspire humans to grow, Dr. Jankovic’s slim volume combines these two styles—Torah-based and research-based—with a gentle voice and an uplifting vibe. A “SOULcare coach,” Dr. Jankovic draws deeply both on her personal beliefs and her background as an educator. Why did she choose to write her book for a general audience rather than a specifically Jewish one? “Searching for depth and meaning in years past may have led a person to any number of religious institutions,” Dr. Jankovic explains in the book’s introduction. “…For the first time in human history, we are afforded access to information and inspiration from every corner of the world. We are converging together and beginning to recognize the great Spiritual Truths that unite all of humanity (p. 9).” Dr. Jankovic, who made Aliyah several years ago, organizes Beyond All Things into several topical chapters divided into 50 “Insights.” Each insight, moreover, ends with a short exercise or reflection, labeled “Grow Your Insight.” It took me a while to finish this book despite its concise nature. It felt natural to wait a day or two after reading an Insight so I could digest and process its content. While not complicated reading, it is deep reading, and the way Dr. Jankovic presents each Grow Your Insight exercise nudges readers to interact with the text. This is not a book to breeze through on a single afternoon. A few piques: Insights are uneven in length, and a few of the shorter ones left me feeling like something was missing. These Insights (including #12 and #19) were usually the ones with less storytelling and less personal input. They left a vaguer impression on me than the ones with anecdotes and a truly personal touch.

I felt the same way about a couple of the chapter introductions, and she never really concluded the personal hashgachah pratis anecdote she started the volume with. On the other hand, Insights such as #21, which details a lovely story about Dr. Jankovic’s grandparents, made quite an impact. Because her storytelling skills are so strong, I wanted her to exercise them more. I really appreciated Dr. Jankovic’s endnotes, which list the sources, both Jewish and scientific, which guide the book. So many inspirational volumes tell people to do or believe things without explaining why, without revealing how the author came to their conclusions, and this book’s transparency was refreshing. Her book concludes, “We are living beings, deeply connected with all of life. With each breath, an opportunity to begin again. To heed the call of our soul. To remind ourselves of and to return to our purest nature, which connects us with all of life (p.113).” Beyond All Things would be perfect to read—one Insight at a time— first thing in the morning or right before bed. It’s appropriate for readers 18 and up, of all religions or none. You can find the book either on Amazon or on Dr. Jankovic’s website, www.azrielajankovic.com.


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DECEMBER 26, 2019 | The Jewish Home

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DECEMBER 26, 2019 | The Jewish Home

How the Gulag Judge Lit the Menorah By Asharon Baltazar

R

epeatedly arrested for his “counter-revolutionary” activities to preserve the flickering flame of Judaism in the Soviet Union, Reb Mordechai Chanzin frequently found himself behind bars. His first sentence amounted to 10 years in a forced-labor camp. After his release, Reb Mordechai was again found guilty and punished with five more years. His third and final sentence resulted in six years. Overall, between the years 1935 and 1956, he spent 21 years in Soviet prisons and camps. In his short stints of freedom, he selflessly devoted himself to preserving Judaism behind the Iron Curtain. Among his many experiences, there was one story that he would tell again and again. As the Siberian winter deepened, Chanukah came, and a group of young Jewish men, all prisoners of the Gulag, convened for a short meeting. The topic: how to obtain and light a secret menorah. One promised to supply margarine to be used as fuel. Some frayed threads from standard-issue camp garb would suffice as wicks. Even small cups to hold the margarine were procured from somewhere. Of course, all this was against camp regulations, and they all understood the implication of their actions should they be caught. Reb Mordechai was the eldest of the group of 18 men and was therefore honored to usher in the holiday by lighting the first candle. In the dead of night, in a small garden shed, the hardy crew crowded around their makeshift meno-

rah and listened to Reb Mordechai’s emotional voice as he recited the first blessings, tears trickling down his cheeks. Reb Mordechai and his comrades gazed silently at the small yellow light, each one recalling Chanukah in his parents’ home. The loud crash of the door opening shattered the men’s reverie. Camp guards rushed through the doorway and flooded the cramped space. The Jewish inmates were grabbed by brutish hands and shoved through the camp. When they reached a small dank cell, they were ordered to pile inside. The first to be brought to trial was the ringleader, Reb Mordechai. Inside the small courtroom, which consisted of the judge’s desk and a bench for the defendant, the proceedings were all but pro forma. Reb Mordechai had already predicted his indictment and solemnly awaited the verdict. “This is an act of treason,” said the prosecutor. “By lighting the candles, you intended to signal to enemy forces. The penalty for this is death.” The judge regarded the young man standing in front of him. “Do you have anything to say for yourself?” Reb Mordechai’s heart pounded in his chest as he approached the judge. “Is it just me, or is it the rest of the group too?” “All of you,” enunciated the judge dryly. Reb Mordechai was devastated. The courtroom began to spin around him. Whatever indifference he was able to afford until then vanished in the terror-stricken realization that his fellow brothers would be led to their deaths. He blamed himself. Reb Mordechai burst into bitter tears,

and for a few minutes he stood in front of the judge, sobbing uncontrollably. Years of crushing pain and pent-up emotions overwhelmed him, and he couldn’t be stopped. “Come close,” said the judge. Reb Mordechai took a step towards the judge’s desk. Softly, the judge asked about his relatives, their means of livelihood, and other personal details. Reb Mordechai answered the judge’s inquires. “What do you have to say for yourself?” the judge pressed on. Mustering temerity he did not feel, Reb Mordechai addressed the judge, “We are Jews, and we lit the candles that night to observe the holiday of Chanukah.” “You lit Chanukah candles? You lit Chanukah candles?” the judge repeated to himself, clearly unsettled. “You don’t say…Chanukah candles.” Recomposing himself, the judge called to the two guards present in the courtroom and asked them to stand outside. When the door clicked closed, the judge turned his attention back to Reb Mordechai. “If you lit Chanukah candles, let me demonstrate the right way to light them.” Reb Mordechai watched the judge light a small lamp. Picking up the incriminating documents gingerly, with trembling hands, the judge slid the first one off and held it to the flame. The paper caught fire and disappeared quickly in an orange blaze and a few wisps of smoke. As if he were afraid to delay lest he change his mind, the judge worked quickly through the pile, saying, “You see? This is how you light Chanukah candles.” Soon there was nothing remaining of the pile. Finished, the judge scooped up the

scattered ashes, strode over to the window, and tossed them into the Siberian wind. Sitting down, the judge reached for the buzzer on his table and summoned the guards. “Take this group of 18 men,” the judge barked, “and separate them, making sure that it would be impossible for them to see one another. There’s no point in killing them; they are not worth even one bullet.” The guards marched out, and Reb Mordechai was again left alone with the judge. The latter faced Reb Mordechai and said in a trembling voice, “I, too, am a Jew, and I beg you to make sure that the future generations of our people will know to light the Chanukah candles.” In 1956, a few years following Stalin’s death, hundreds of thousands of prisoners were pardoned and their names cleared. Among them was Reb Mordechai Chanzin, who was finally given permission to leave the camps that had robbed him of decades of life. Chanzin moved to Moscow, where he became secretary to Chief Rabbi Yehudah Leib Levin. A decade later, through the efforts of the Rebbe, he was allowed to immigrate to Israel, where he was reunited with his brother Dovid, the rabbi of Petach Tikva. Copyright and reprinted with permission of Chabad.org.

Asharon has liked to write since childhood and found a good outlet for his creativity at Chabad.org. He currently resides with his wife in Jerusalem, where he studies in kollel.


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DECEMBER 26, 2019 | The Jewish Home

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remembering

the Mount Carmel Chanukah

forest fire By Tzvi Leff

O

n December 22, Jews all over the world will kindle their menorahs to celebrate the first night of Chanukah. After reciting the three blessings, they will then sing “Haneirot Hallalu,” an ancient poem celebrating the holiday and the role played by the candles’ flames in the miracle many years ago. In 2010, however, the fires of Chanukah were not a cause for celebration. Instead of rejoicing with candles and jelly doughnuts, Israel found itself battling the worst natural disaster that the country had ever experienced. Known simply as the “Mount Car-

mel Forest Fire,” the out-of-control blaze torched large parts of Israel, almost laid waste to Haifa, and left dozens of people dead. The inferno left large scars on the unprepared populace and even impacted the Israeli defense establishment’s plans regarding attacking Iran. It was almost like the story of Chanukah, but inverted. If Jews have historically celebrated the ethos of the few battling the many and the weak overpowering the strong, the Carmel Forest Fire was the complete opposite. Israel, which on several occasions has successfully taken on and defeated Arab militaries from multi-

ple countries simultaneously, found itself overwhelmed by the blaze. With more than 40 law enforcement personnel dead and the country’s third biggest city in danger of being utterly destroyed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turned to the world for help. That year, Jews didn’t exult in defeating the Greeks, but rather celebrated the assistance they rushed to Tel Aviv. Athens, in the midst of its own devastating financial crisis, was one of the first foreign entities to stand by Israel when the time came. The modern-day Hellenist firefighters sent 34 trained staff, with seven planes and more than 2 tons of fire

retardant, to fight the flames side-byside with their Israeli counterparts. But Greece wasn’t alone. Overall, 34 different countries answered Israel’s call for help. From the Palestinian Authority to a hostile Turkey and even firefighting paratroopers personally sent by President Barack Obama, Chanukah in 2010 saw an unlikely international coalition invest its human as well as financial capital to save the Jewish State from devastation.

A Matter of Time December 2, 2010 was a sunny and unseasonably warm day. Five teens from the Druze village of Isafiya set up for a picnic, bringing with


DECEMBER 26, 2019 | The Jewish Home

them food, water, and a large Nargila water pipe. After enjoying the Nargila, one 14-year-old threw the burning coals into a clump of dry bushes. This seemingly innocuous act would have dire consequences. That year, Israel had been experiencing an abnormally warm winter marked by a severe lack of rain. The dry conditions, which were exacerbated by an overall multi-year drought, meant that the Carmel was a disaster waiting to happen. In fact, Haifa’s Mayor Yona Yahav would later tell an investigative committee that the city was aware that they were on borrowed time and that it was “just a matter of time until a calamity occurred.”

The fire spread rapidly. Devouring the dry bushes and grass, the inferno soon engulfed the entire Carmel ridge. The real danger came in the afternoon. A strong wind coming in from the Mediterranean Sea pushed the blaze towards the Damun Prison, an aging penitentiary housing highly dangerous Palestinian security prisoners. With a fiery inferno bearing down on them, officials couldn’t leave the inmates in Damun Prison. Yet the intensity and the rapid spreading of the fire took them by surprise, leaving the prison severely understaffed for the task of safely evacuating hundreds of prisoners. With only hours to go until the flames would hit, the Israel Prisons Service sent a bus filled with cadets in the jailer’s officer’s course to the penitentiary to lend a hand. The bus filled with reinforcements slowly climbed the winding road that led to Damun when disaster struck. A massive tree had fallen on the highway, blocking the bus from advancing any further. With a long line of cars behind them and a tree blocking them from advancing, they were left helpless when the flames suddenly changed direction and raced towards them. Sitting two cars behind the bus was Haifa Police Commander Ahuva Tomer, the first-ever woman to reach such a senior post. Along with another police officer and three firefighters, the 53-year-old raced out of her vehicle and plunged into the bus in a hopeless rescue attempt. All 36 cadets and the driver of the bus were killed; the rescue team succumbed to their own injuries over the next few days. The death of so many officials at once was the worst non-military tragedy in Israel’s history, and Prime Minister Netanyahu immediately decreed a national day of mourning. Yet Netanyahu had more pressing problems than planning a memorial for the heroic law enforcement officials. After 24 hours passed, it was clear that something was very wrong. Incredibly, Israel had no way of extinguishing the fire. Despite the efforts of hundreds of firefighters, the blaze only continued spreading. Observers would later say that the billowing smoke resembled a nuclear mushroom cloud – the heavy

Feature The Week In News

The Jewish Home | OCTOBER 29, 2015

curtain of soot blackening the skies was so thick that it could be seen from space. Fire officials were soon throwing everything the country had at the flames. First, they were joined by volunteer firefighters, then by policemen, and even the IDF was called in. The military soon dispatched two battalions of soldiers to the front, along with heavy equipment such as bulldozers, water tankers, and cranes. The army also sent unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to map the spread of the flames and lent the firefighters advanced command and control centers to manage its manpower more efficiently. But there was one thing the IDF couldn’t do: put its large air force into action. Due to a law passed a decade earlier, the military was prohibited from sending air force jets to fight fires. The legislation was passed to protect the expensive jets from the immense damage the smoke would cause it. Yet large planes were the thing that Israel needed most at this time. In 2010, Israel’s aerial firefighting unit consisted of only 14 small and slow crop-dusting planes. These single engine jets could only carry 1,500 liters of water and were sensitive to extreme temperatures. The airplanes soon proved to be almost totally useless. Forced to fly high above the flames to avoid being burned out of the sky, their puny loads evaporated before they even hit the ground. As a result, the entire firefighting effort was locked to the ground and was restricted to guessing where the flames would go next. The effort to predict which direction the fire was heading soon proved futile; the strong breeze coming in from the Mediter-

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ranean would often send the blaze in two directions at once. By the next day, it was clear that Israel was in serious trouble. Firemen had made zero headway and the fire threatened to spread to Haifa itself. Besides the severe economic damage the torching of Israel’s third largest city would cause, Haifa’s sprawling bay is also home to a number of oil refineries and an ammonium plant; the environmental damage, should they catch fire, would be catastrophic. “We are in a very harsh event,” Netanyahu said during an emergency cabinet meeting. “We have more than 40 dead. People are missing. People are injured. Many perished in admirable courage and sacrificed themselves in order to save others.”

Help from Abroad It soon became clear that Israel needed help from overseas. Politicians involved in the decision to appeal to its allies later said that the move was a difficult decision to make. Israel, the Start-Up Nation, was usually the one sending aid teams to other countries, whose leaders were now stunned at Israel’s present inability to quell the blaze. On Chanukah, Jews celebrate their victory over the Greeks who tried to stamp out the sovereign Jewish State. Yet here, the Greeks were the first to arrive, flying a squadron of no less than six tankers to Ramat David airbase along with pilots and technicians. After Greece came Holland, who dispatched its own specialized fire-fighting aircraft, along with three fire extinguishing helicopters. Diplomats at Israel’s Foreign Ministry worked the phones tirelessly to con-


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29, 2015 | The Jewish Home Feature The OCTOBER Week In News

tact their counterparts around the world and beg them to send whatever they could to save the Jewish State. And help did arrive. Belgium, Russia, Norway, and Finland each sent a team of firefighters. Surprisingly, aid arrived even from nations known for their adversarial relations with Jerusalem. Egypt, despite having engaged in four wars with Israel, sent over a team, along with other normally-hostile entities such as Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. “This is a human catastrophe,” said Palestinian Authority official Ahmed Rizek Abu Rabia. “The Palestinian side is offering all the help it can through official channels.” Even Turkey, which had drastically downgraded relations with Israel since the Gaza Flotilla a year earlier, dispatched firefighters to battle the raging flames. Hoping that the gesture signaled a thaw in ties between Jerusalem and Ankara, Netanyahu singled out Turkey for special praise, saying at a cabinet meeting that he hoped “this will be the beginning of better relations between our two countries.” On the holiday that describes the victory of the “weak against the strong,” it seemed like the entire world shared its collective strength to rescue northern Israel. Faraway countries like Australia, Austria, Canada, and Denmark even offered to send help without being specifically asked by Israel. To Israelis accustomed to being the world’s pariah, it was surprising, even astonishing, to be on the receiving end of so much unconditional support. But perhaps no one surprised them as much as U.S. President Barack Obama. That year, relations between Obama and Netanyahu were clearly deteriorating. With a year under his belt as the commander-in-chief, Obama had already signaled that he wanted to “see daylight” between America and Israel. While they would only bottom out in 2015 amid joint rancor over the Iran nuclear deal, Obama had already signaled that the warm relationship between the two countries that had defined the Bush administration was a thing of the past. Within his first 100 days in office,

DECEMBER 26, 2019 | The Jewish Home

Lighting the menorah at the White House Chanukah party in which President Obama offered aid to defeat the devastating fires

Obama had already demanded that Israel completely and utterly halt Jewish building in Judea and Samaria. Not stopping there, he told Netanyahu that construction in certain neighborhoods in Jerusalem needed

“Just outside the [White House] gate, my cellphone rang,” described Oren in his best-selling book Ally. “Netanyahu, on the other end, sounded as I’ve never heard him before, truly frightened.

“I think Obama showed a personal care,” said U.S. Ambassador Michael Oren. to end as well, reportedly emphasizing “not one brick.” This did not inspire feelings of confidence in Jewish officials at the White House Chanukah Party that year, a festive event first established by President George Bush in 2001. The annual party, which has since grown to include a festive menorah lighting, is always attended by senior Jewish leaders from throughout the United States. When Israel’s U.S. Ambassador Michael Oren entered the White House party, he was not in a celebratory mood.

“‘We need firefighting planes, big ones,’ Netanyahu told him. ‘Go to the president and ask for help.’” Entering the fabled White House Chanukah party, Oren made a beeline for the president. Ignoring the normal diplomatic niceties, he briefly described the situation and begged Obama for help. “Dozens of people are dead, sir, and Haifa’s threatened,” Oren told the president. “Israel needs you.” In President Obama’s remarks that night, he prefaced his speech by singling out Oren. “I want to begin by offering our

deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all of those who’ve died as a result of the terrible forest fire in northern Israel,” the U.S. president told the crowd. “As rescuers and firefighters continue in their work, the United States is acting to help our Israeli friends respond to the disaster. A short while ago, our ambassador in Tel Aviv, Jim Cunningham, issued a disaster declaration, which has launched an effort across the U.S. government to identify the firefighting assistance we have available and provide it to Israel as quickly as possible. Of course, that’s what friends do for each other.” He continued, “And, Mr. Ambassador, our thoughts and prayers are with everybody in Israel who is affected by this tragedy and the family and loved ones of those in harm’s way.” Oren would go on to describe in his memoir how Obama ordered his close aide Reggie Love “to make sure Israel gets everything it needs.” Oren and Love would spend the night calling different U.S. air force bases in a desperate attempt to locate one of America’s three available “scoopers,” or massive 747 firefighting planes that could scoop water from the Mediterranean and rush towards the flames. By the next day, eight out of the 11 planes owned by the U.S. were making their way towards Israel. On them were a team of Hotshots, firefighting commandos from Utah who would parachute behind the wall of flames armed with water and fire retardant. Speaking with The Jewish Home, Oren said that the extraordinary lengths Obama went to in order to help Israel showed that, contrary to his image, the U.S. president truly cared about the welfare of the Jewish State. “I think Obama showed a personal care,” said Oren. “Everyone said that he hated Israel, that he was anti-Semitic – it wasn’t true. We had some serious policy disagreements, large ones, but he was there for us in our hour of need.”

Under Control The outpouring of international aid did its job, and firefighters managed to regain control over the fire by December 5, especially after the Evergreen Boeing 747 supertanker


DECEMBER 26, 2019 | The Jewish Home

The Week In News

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Feature The Week In News

Israel rented dumped 40 million tons of water on the wildfire. While it would take another week for the fire to be extinguished completely, the immediate threat to Haifa was gone. However, the damage remained, and it was catastrophic. Over 9,900 acres of forest were destroyed, including 1.5 million trees which died immediately and another 4 million which later perished as a result of the smoke. The widespread devastation of Israel’s greenery was emotionally difficult for a country raised on the Zionist ethos of planting forests. More than half of the Carmel Forest Reserve, one of the country’s biggest, was destroyed, and it would take years for it to recover. The economic damage caused by the blaze was considerable as well, costing the state an estimated $500 million. Residents of Haifa and the surrounding area were hit particularly hard, with 250 homes burned down and 17,000 people needing to be evacuated. What also took a hit was Israel’s national pride. The country that prided itself on being the “Start-Up Nation,” with the strongest military in the Middle East that was always first to offer aid to others, found itself utterly helpless. Israel’s shocking level of unpreparedness for large wildfires also influenced the region’s geo-politics. During that period, Iran was racing towards obtaining nuclear weapons; hardly a week would go by without

26,| OCTOBER 2019 | The Jewish The DECEMBER Jewish Home 29, 2015Home

a senior defense official warning Tehran that Israel wouldn’t hesitate to strike its nuclear facilities should the need arise. With the heavily armed Lebanese militia Hezbollah expected to respond to any Israeli attack on Iran by starting a war, the country’s

rael implementing far-reaching changes in order to beef up its readiness for wildfires. No more would its response be based on small crop-dusting planes but on a new Israeli Air Force squadron especially trained for such scenarios. Today, the Aerial Firefighting

The heavy curtain of soot blackening the skies was so thick that it could be seen from space. clear unpreparedness for emergency management caused many to ask if attacking Iran was really an option. “The great Carmel fire has embarrassed Israel’s firefighting capabilities and proved its almost complete incompetence,” warned Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television station later that week. “The enormous blaze that broke out on the Carmel proved that Israel is not prepared for war or a mass terrorist strike that would cause many casualties in the home front.” The unprecedented damage caused by the blaze resulted in Is-

Unit Aerial uses 14 Air Tractor airplanes that can carry up to 3,000 liters of water and fire retardant. With the ability to take off rapidly and be refilled in under 10 minutes, the jets are capable of creating a 100-meter-long protective line against fires. Israel’s Fire and Rescue Service was also integrated into one body as opposed to the various regional services that made coordination so difficult in 2010. In addition, the Public Security Ministry went on a spending spree, stocking up on more than 1,000 tons of fire retardant in

75

contrast to the 14 tons it possessed in 2010. The improvement in Israel’s firefighting capabilities was evident when another series of wildfires broke out in 2016. Despite being 30% larger than the towering blaze in 2010, few Israelis were evacuated from their homes, no one was killed, and Israel was not forced to avail itself of the world’s largesse. “If the fires [in 2016] had happened before the Carmel disaster, it could’ve ended in disaster as well,” Fire and Rescue Service Commissioner Shimon Ben-Ner noted. “Since the Carmel disaster, the Fire & Rescue Authority has changed beyond recognition. “At the time, it was made up of dozens of different fire associations acting independently of each other,” added Ben-Ner. “Each fire association dealt with fires with the inadequate measures at its disposal, and if it needed help it would’ve called nearby fire associations.” According to the fire chief, “since the Carmel disaster, when we used firetrucks that were decades old – some of which broke down on the way to the fire – dozens of modern fire trucks were acquired, and the firefighters have far more advanced equipment. Finally, the Fire & Rescue Authority has added more manpower, going from the 1,200 firefighters in 2010 to 1,900 in 2016.” Israel hopes that with these advances, the country will be able to – with G-d’s help – battle any fires that may come its way.


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PM for Cuba For the first time since 1976 Cuba has a prime minister. On Saturday, President Miguel Diaz-Canel named Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz the country’s prime minister– a nomination quickly confirmed by the country’s parliament. Marrero, 56, has been tourism minister for 16 years, presiding over a rise in visitors and a hotel construction boom that has made tourism one of the most important sectors of the Cuban economy. Diaz-Canel cited Marrero’s experience in negotiating with foreign investors as one of his prime qualifications, according to state media. The position of prime minister was held by Fidel Castro from 1959 to 1976, when a new constitution changed his title to president and eliminated the post of prime minister. Castro and his brother, Raúl, held the presidential post along with Cuba’s other highest positions, like Communist Party leader, until this year, when Raúl Castro stepped down as president and a new constitution divided the president’s responsibilities between Castro’s successor, Miguel Diaz-Canel, and the new post of prime minister. The new constitution gives the prime minister responsibility for the daily operations of government as head of the Council of Ministers. The prime minister has a five-year term and is nominated by Diaz-Canel and approved by the National Assembly, which unanimously approves every proposal put before it, with one known exception in recent history. Marrero Cruz’s post of tourism minister was given to him by Fidel Castro. Cuba welcomed 4.3 million tourists this year, fewer than hoped for but more than double the 2 million who arrived the year Marrero Cruz was named tourism minister.

While Australia Burned…

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison apologized this week after he spent last week on a family trip to Hawaii as

fires raged across South Australia. Three people died in those fires. “I have obviously returned from leave and I know that has caused some great anxiety in Australia and (my wife) Jenny and I acknowledge that,” Morrison said in a news conference on Sunday. “If you had your time over again and you had the benefit of hindsight then (you’d) have made different decisions.” He added, “I’m sure Australians…understand that when you make a promise to your kids you try and keep it. But as prime minister you have other responsibilities. I accept the criticism.” More than 105 bush and grass fires continued to burn across New South Wales – a southeastern state of Australia – early Sunday, according to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service. About 59 of them were still not contained. A state of emergency was declared in the state for the second time in two months.  The bushfires have been burning for two months now, exacerbated by strong winds that stoke the flames and spread dangerous embers, and by rising temperatures – including a record-breaking heat wave that began earlier this week.  Since September, the death toll from the wildfires has jumped to nine, with nearly 800 homes destroyed in the country. More than 2,500 firefighters have been working across the region to contain the fires. Volunteer firefighters Geoffrey Keaton, 32, and Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, died last Thursday near the town of Buxton, southwest of Sydney. Their vehicle hit a tree before rolling off the road. Three other firefighters were also injured.

Putin’s Press Conference

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual marathon press conference is a major media event in Russia, designed to show the country’s “first person” in full command of the facts and steadily steering a course for the new year. This year’s event, which took place last week, was no different: Putin took questions from domestic and international press for around four hours and 20 minutes, without taking an intermission. The top line for U.S. and international media? Putin’s reaction to U.S. President Donald Trump’s impeachment, which took place just one day before the conference. The impeachment of Trump, Putin said, was based on “made-up reasons,” and was not likely to lead to the U.S. President’s removal. “I actually really doubt that it [the

Trump presidency] is ending, it still has to go through Senate where as far as I know the Republicans hold the majority so it’s unlikely they will want to remove the representative of their party for some made-up reasons,” the Russian leader said. In Russia, however, the impeachment drama drew less attention than Putin’s press conference, the premier media event of the season. Much of the press conference was devoted to relatively narrow domestic issues: problems of urban waste disposal, long lines at government clinics, or the cost of domestic air travel to and from the far eastern peninsula of Kamchatka. But Putin also caused a stir on social media when he suggested the Russian constitution might be amended to change a provision on term limits, sparking speculation about whether he plans to remain in office beyond 2024. “What could be done with regard to this is to remove the ‘consecutive’ provision,” the president said, answering a question about the possibility of constitutional amendments. Putin is currently serving a fourth term in office. The Russian constitution bars an individual from serving more than two

consecutive terms as president. In theory, Putin must step aside after 2024, but there is intense speculation in Russian political circles that the constitution might be amended to allow him to serve unlimited terms – or that Putin might once again assume the office of prime minister, as he did after his second term as president. Putin didn’t completely dodge hard issues. The Kremlin leader, for instance, did field questions about Russia’s strained relations with other countries. But when asked to comment on past remarks by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson – who once compared the Kremlin leader to Dobby the House Elf from the “Harry Potter” films – Putin said that he was unconcerned. He was also uncompromising when asked about allegations of Russian state involvement in the killing of a former Chechen fighter in Berlin this summer, an incident that strained relations between Germany and Russia and led to the expulsion of two Russia diplomats. Putin conceded that there had been “no official request” to extradite the Chechen before his murder but called the man “an absolutely bloody killer.” As in the past, there would be no admission by Putin of any official Russian

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The Week In News involvement in the case. The Putin show did close, however, with a relatively sensitive question for Putin about his two daughters. Putin has in the past acknowledged – but not substantially discussed – his children, saying only in a previous press conference that they were not involved in politics or business and “keep a low profile.” In Thursday’s presser, Putin managed to give an answer without acknowledging their names. And in classic fashion, he also managed to neither confirm nor deny any new details about that part of his private life.

Sanctions on South Sudan

The United States is becoming weary of the conflicts plaguing South Sudan. This week, the U.S. announced sanctions on two top South Sudanese officials, accusing them of prolonging the country’s deadly conflict and obstructing the path to peace. South Sudan responded with its own

DECEMBER 26, 2019 | The Jewish Home

diplomatic jab, recalling its ambassador to Washington “for consultations.” For years, South Sudan’s warring leaders have delayed putting an end to their country’s brutal conflict, scuttling peace talks and blowing past deadlines as the death toll mounted and a refugee crisis caused upheaval across the region. South Sudan’s envoy, Philip Jada, returned to Juba over the weekend. “The timing of the sanctions took me by surprise,” Jada said, adding that he does not expect to stay away from Washington for long. “We have a very good engagement, and then they implement sanctions again, so we just start wondering why, if you’re in dialogue, do you continue to give punitive measures?” This week’s sanctions follow other measures the United States has taken to express its discontent with the cycle of violence and political disputes. In recent weeks, it briefly recalled its ambassador to Juba, threatened visa restrictions on individuals who jeopardize the peace process, and slapped sanctions on a number of high-ranking officials. U.S. officials helped guide South Sudan to independence from Sudan in 2011 after decades of war, but infighting between the country’s two leaders, President Salva Kiir and then-Vice President Riek Machar, sparked a new civil war in 2013. The conflict divided the nation along ethnic lines and unleashed a wave of suffering that has dragged on for six years.

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The two men have failed many attempts to reach and implement peace agreements. They finally signed an agreement at the end of 2018 but have missed multiple deadlines to form a unity government, announcing in November that they need until mid-February. It was after missing that deadline that the State Department temporarily recalled its ambassador, Thomas Hushek, from Juba and announced that the United States plans to reevaluate its relationship. The sanctions this week came shortly after the U.S. Treasury announced another round of sanctions on five other South Sudanese officials earlier this month, calling them “responsible for the abduction and likely murder” of two South Sudanese human rights activists who disappeared in Kenya in January 2017. On December 12, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also warned that visa restrictions could be implemented against individuals who obstruct the peace process. Jada said that his government is concerned by the sanctions against South Sudanese officials but that his recall to Juba is in direct response to this week’s sanctions against Kuol Manyang Juuk, the minister of defense and veterans affairs, and Martin Elia Lomuro, the minister of cabinet affairs. The war in South Sudan has displaced millions of people, many of whom are now refugees in neighboring countries. A State Department-funded study  released last year estimated that the war had left at least 382,000 people dead.

Diplomat’s Wife Charged

According to Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service CPS, Anne Sacoolas, the wife of a U.S. intelligence officer in Britain, will be charged with death by dangerous driving for the road crash she was involved with that killed Harry Dunn, 19, who was riding on his motorcycle at the time. Initially it was said that Sacoolas wouldn’t be charged because of diplomatic immunity. She has since returned to the U.S. The deceased’s parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, went to the U.S. to ask President Donald Trump to intervene in the case. During their meeting in the White House, the couple rejected Trump’s offer to meet Sacoolas, whom the president said was in the next room. Following the decision from CPS, extradition proceedings have begun and will involve Britain’s Home Office, which will consider whether to formally issue the request through U.S. diplomatic channels.

The Dunn family’s spokesman Radd Seiger told Newsweek  in a statement: “Today’s development is obviously a significant one but above all else will enable them, at long last, to begin the process of grieving for the loss of their beloved son. “I have witnessed their pain firsthand day-in, day-out for all these weeks yet marvel at their courage, compassion, decency, magnanimity but above all else tenacity in their fight for justice,” he added. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department said, according to Sky News, that the CPS decision to charge Sacoolas is “disappointing, unhelpful and will not bring a resolution closer.”

N. Korea Tough Talk Kim Jong Un has been talking about a special “gift” he’d like to give the United States. Now, officials are saying that the holiday present will come in a form of a hardline policy towards the U.S. that will involve taking denuclearization off the table and consolidating Pyongyang’s status as a nuclear weapons state. Additionally, Pyongyang will also no longer pursue sanctions relief as a means of achieving economic development either in the short-term or long-term, but will instead increase its commitment to the state’s ideology of self-reliance, known as Juche. It’s unclear how the United States will respond to North Korea’s new stance. When U.S. President Donald Trump came to office in 2017, he and Kim sparred verbally as the Hermit Kingdom test-fired a bevy of increasingly advanced ballistic missiles, the type designed to deliver nuclear warheads. Since then, there has been a flurry of diplomacy between the two leaders but negotiations have not made any substantial progress. It’s possible that North Korea will wait until after the 2020 elections to sit down with the U.S. In the past, other administrations have made agreements with Pyongyang, only to have the next administration ignore those accords. Some have speculated that the holiday “gift” that North Korea has been promoting would come in the form of an advanced missile launch. But others have noted that firing a missile would set off China and Russia, Pyongyang’s two most important international trading partners. Both nations have historical ties to North Korea. China, in particular, is believed to account for almost 90% of North Korea’s imports – a vital lifeline for Pyongyang. Backdoor supply lines from China and Russia are beginning to reopen, and the North Koreans are aware that something its most important economic partners view as too extreme could alienate them. Analysts say while China and Russia want North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, their number one priority is stability on the Korean Peninsula.


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