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These Are The Steps Jewish Institutions Are Taking To Secure Themselves Against Possible Attacks By Eric Berger
Police vehicles gather around the synagogue where a shooting took place in Poway, Calif., April 27, 2019. (Xinhua/ via Getty Images)
When someone threw rocks a couple months ago at the doors of a Chabad center in Atlanta, the glass didn’t shatter. That’s because earlier in the year, local Chabad leaders decided to reevaluate their security following an incident with a trespasser. Neil Rabinovitz, a former 22-year veteran of the FBI who now works as community security director for the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, visited the site and performed a security assessment. He determined that the building needed to add more security cameras, change its system for locking doors — and presciently, install a new coating on its glass doors. “Had they not taken the recommendations, the rocks would have gone right through and shattered,” Rabinovitz said. “But because they upgraded their cameras, we have great pictures and could actual see with that coating, it did what it was THE
supposed to do.” The successful outcome speaks to the changes that have happened in the Jewish community in recent years in coordination with the Secure Community Network, or SCN, a security nonprofit that assists Jewish institutions across North America. “Our goal is to identify gaps and vulnerabilities, and then to work with the organization to fill those gaps and vulnerabilities,” said Brad Orsini, SCN’s senior national security adviser. “Instead of spending an inordinate amount of money and building a prison, we give them very basic, tangible things that they can do right away.” Orsini, Rabinovitz and other SCN leaders have been particularly busy over the past two years, since the deadliest-ever attack on Jewish Americans — the October 2018 shooting massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Synagogues, Jewish day schools and other institutions have been tightening their security protocols since that shooting, which was followed by deadly attacks on a Chabad synagogue in Poway, California, at a kosher grocery store in Jersey City, New Jersey, and at a home in Monsey, New York. In all, there were 2,107 antiSemitic incidents in the United
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• Medical supplies • Light up the night • Law enforcement & first responder coordination With the recent political unrest and protests, Jewish organizations should be on high alert, security officials say. “Far from the current conditions driving down anti-Semitism, threats or the likelihood of an attack, it appears that they may exacerbate See INSTITUTIONS on Page
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States in 2019, the most since at least 1979, according to the AntiDefamation League. In May, SCN released a guide, “Low-Cost/No-Cost Security Measures for Jewish Facilities,” that highlights 10 central areas Jewish institutions should address: • Secure the property • Control the flow • Signage • Secure the facility • Access control • Alarm systems • Staffing the phones
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INSTITUTIONS Continued from Page 3 them, particularly as our community begins to reopen,” said Michael Masters, SCN’s national director and CEO. Improving security isn’t simply about investing more money in infrastructure. For example, a synagogue might have five entrances. Best practices recommend that just one be used and the others be locked, Orsini said. “The most important thing we can do for building security is to control access in and out of building,” said Orsini, who also spent nearly three decades with the FBI. “The first problem we have to overcome as security consultants in the community is to convince them at shul on Friday night and Saturday, you got to lock your doors.” The organization also recommends employing an off-duty police officer or a certified security services professional who can guard entrances to a campus or building. Jewish institutions should also have ushers and greeters who are trained to detect suspicious behaviors. “It’s all part of the greater security safety system of many layers to ensure that we are keeping folks the
safest we can,” said Gene Moss, director of community security for Jewish Federation of Greater Portland in Oregon. Suspicious behavior might include someone sitting in a vehicle for an extended period of time, including after regular business hours, or recording information about an institution by sketching, note taking, videotaping or taking pictures, the ADL reports. SCN also recommends that Jewish institutions host Stop the Bleed training for staff and community members — to help victims survive until first responders arrive. Before the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, congregants participated in a session to recognize and intervene with life-threatening bleeding, and that training saved lives, according to a Pittsburgh trauma surgeon who treated the shooting victims. Orsini, who worked for the Pittsburgh federation before switching to the national job earlier this year, also did active threat training with Tree of Life’s rabbi, Jeffrey Myers, and others at the shul. He convinced Myers to carry a cell phone on Shabbat, which most Conserva-
tive and Orthodox clergy eschew on the holy day. Myers called 911 during the shooting. “We know that this training can make a difference,” Masters said. Lilly Krenn, executive director of Beth Jacob Congregation in Oakland, California, organized a Stop the Bleed training for her Orthodox synagogue on a Sunday afternoon in January 2020. More than 50 people attended. They received a kit containing such items as a tourniquet, protective gloves and a compression bandage. “It was very emotional for a lot of people,” Krenn said. “The people who were attending were not medical people, and it was pretty graphic. If you are learning how to stop a wound from bleeding more, it can be fairly intense, but I think everyone left feeling like there was something that they would be able to do” in the event of an attack. Krenn’s congregation is not far from Temple Sinai, a Reform congregation recently vandalized with a swastika. That congregation had upgraded its camera system and, as a result, was able to catch the perpetrator. Krenn’s synagogue also recently bolstered its camera sys-
tem. During these uncertain times, Krenn said she is grateful for the new equipment and training. “I think one can feel very vulnerable during these times,” Krenn said. “And when you have people bring support to you, it’s a reminder that there are so many good, caring, loving people in the world.” This article was sponsored by and produced in partnership with the Z3 Project and the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto, California, as part of Z3's 2020 virtual conference, "Visions for a Shared Future: Reimagining Diaspora-Israel Relations." This article was produced by JTA’s native content team. ì
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To Understand Israel’s Future, We Must Look At Where It Is Today By Michele Chabin
Likud supporters displaying a poster of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrate at party headquarters in Tel Aviv following the release of the first exit polls showing their party on top, March 2, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90|)
JERUSALEM – When Israelis went to the polls three times over the course of less than 12 months for national elections in 2019 and 2020, they repeatedly were forced to confront questions about what kind of country they want their children to inherit. Some of the election discourse centered on quality of life, including how Israel, a country the size of New Jersey with limited natural resources, will sustain its evergrowing population financially and environmentally. Then there were the questions about Israel’s religious and ethnic character: What impact will Israel’s rapidly growing haredi Orthodox minority – their birthrate of 6.5 children per woman is more than double the national average of 3 — have on everything from the nation’s economy to its religious and democratic character? And what about Israel’s Arab minority, comprising about onefifth of the population? Will Arab citizens of Israel integrate more fully into Israeli society, and will Jewish Israelis allow them to do so? And what will Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians, and its Arab neighbors, look like? To understand where Israel might be going as it heads into its fourth election in just two years, scheduled for this March, it’s instructive to understand where the country stands today. Israel has a population of roughly 9.2 million, the highest birthrate among all countries in the OECD index of developed countries and one of the world’s highest life expectancy rates, 83 years. Its population is relatively young: Just 12% of citizens are 65 and older, and the population is expected to hit 13 million by 2040. With THE
roughly half of Israel’s Jewish population residing in or around the central cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, land and resources are already growing scarce. Israel must prepare now for the challenges of the future, said Gidon Bromberg, Israeli director of EcoPeace Middle East. “There will be stress on our natural resources from a growing population and a real threat to biodiversity and quality of life for Israel’s citizens,” Bromberg said. “The challenge is to get the policies right and to invest in adaptive technologies: investing in renewable energy, more desalination plants, building high to protect open spaces, and to reconsider government support for unlimited population growth.” About 74% of Israelis are Jewish, 21% are Arab (mostly Muslims) and 5% belong to religious minorities, such as non-Arab Christians, or are part of the Jewish community but not considered Jewish by Israel’s religious establishment, such as some Russian Israelis. There are two trends to focus on as we look to Israel’s future, says Sergio Della Pergola, professor emeritus of demography at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University: the Jewish-Arab demographic balance within Israel, and the balance between Orthodox Jews and nonOrthodox Jewish Israelis. Hundreds of thousands of haredi Orthodox Jews protest a measure to draft them into the Israeli military, March 2, 2014. (Yaakov Naumi/ FLASH90) Because of a decreasing ArabIsraeli birthrate and growing haredi Orthodox birthrate, the current proportion of Israeli Jews to Israeli Arabs is relatively stable, Della Pergola said. But if the haredi Orthodox birthrate continues on its present course, the percentage of haredim in Israel will jump from around 12% today to over 20% by 2040. “Whether the haredi birthrate will hold steady is a very big question mark,” Della Pergola said. “Already more haredim are earning university degrees and a small number are joining the IDF. Much will depend on the pace of this transformation.” Only half of all haredi men are currently employed. Their relative-
ly low labor force participation rate has cost the country $8.5 billion in gross domestic product, according to Gilad Malach, director of the Israel Democracy Institute’s UltraOrthodox in Israel program. If the haredi community does not increase its workforce participation rate, it will have implications for all Israelis. Malach cited Israel’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as an example. Due to the haredi community’s distrust of the government, large family sizes and high-density residences, more than a third of Israelis who contracted the virus have been haredi Orthodox. “This is the kind of thing that affects the entire population,” Malach said. “For many people, this was a red light for what might happen in the future.” By contrast, many Arab citizens of Israel are willing and even eager to integrate into larger Israeli society — so long as they can maintain their Palestinian identity, according to Thabet Abu Rass, co-director of
Abraham Initiatives, a nonprofit organization that promotes coexistence. “The situation in Israel is changing and it’s a win-win situation,” Abu Rass said. Lucy Aharish Lucy Aharish, a pioneering ArabMuslim broadcaster in Israel, is shown at the i24news studios in Jaffa, April 15, 2015. Her marriage to a Jewish-Israeli celebrity sparked controversy. (David Vaaknin for The Washington Post via Getty Images) Whereas 10 years ago Arab Israelis contributed 8% of GDP, that figure is now 11%. Abu Rass attributes much of the increase to a lower community birthrate and proactive steps by the Israeli government to encourage integration of its Arab citizens. “I come from a family of 14 kids. It was a challenge to feed and educate us,” he said of his own experiSee FUTURE on Page
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5 Things To Know About Israel’s Attention-Grabbing Covid-19 Vaccination Spree By Philissa Cramer And Ben Sales
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A healthcare worker prepares a vaccine at a facility operated by the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center in Rabin Square, Dec. 31, 2020. (Miriam Aster/Flash90)
(JTA) — Israel is making headlines for its response to COVID-19 — again. Early on in the pandemic, Israel was lauded for its tough lockdown measures and low coronavirus rates, only to become a cautionary tale over the summer, when case numbers skyrocketed. Now Israel is getting praised again, this time for its vaccination campaign. On Jan. 1, Israel announced that it had vaccinated more than 1 million citizens — over 10% of its population of nearly 9 million, and far and away the highest vaccination rate worldwide. The country is vaccinating 150,000 people every day and hopes to vaccinate half of its population by March. But the country is also experiencing a renewed spike in COVID19 cases, and the pandemic’s steepest toll could yet be ahead. So far, the disease has killed nearly 3,500 Israelis. Here’s what you need to know about Israel’s vaccine drive, from what’s making it work to how it relates to the looming elections to why the country isn’t anywhere close to ending its outbreak. 1. Israel’s universal health care system is vaccinating people
Israeli teachers wait receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the Shamir Medical Center in Be’er Ya’akov, Israel, Dec. 30, 2020. (Avi Dishi/ Flash90)
Like most developed countries, Israel provides health care to all of its citizens free of charge, and the coronavirus vaccine is no exception. The country is prioritizing elderly citizens and those with immunosuppression or other health risks, but everyone is eligible for the vaccine, or will be in the future. To receive medical care, Israelis choose between four national networks of health clinics. All of the networks provide the same basic set of government services and medications, but they’re concentrated in different parts of the country and each offer their own premium health care plans, with access to a wider range of services. The four networks give the government a relatively efficient way to distribute vaccines across the small country, and the networks are competing to provide the fastest and most convenient shots. Vaccination sites are running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, some even on Shabbat, a day when most Israeli services shut down. Israelis are also able to book appointments on an app. One of the networks, Maccabi, is advertising a drive-in vaccination site near the port city of Haifa, with
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a video showing people rolling up their sleeves without taking off their seatbelts. Clalit, the largest health care network, has a running counter of how many people it has vaccinated. As of Monday night, it stood at 594,418. 2. The country has been relatively liberal about who can get the vaccine.
On Monday, the country’s health minister stopped supplying vaccines to a Tel Aviv hospital that administered doses to teachers who did not meet eligibility criteria. (The national teachers union has vowed to strike if teachers are not vaccinated imminently.) At basically the same time, the prime minister’s office has come under fire for giving the vaccine to all of its employees, regardless of their age and health. 3. A lot is riding on this for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
An Israeli receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Tel Aviv, Dec. 31, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Like most countries, Israel is prioritizing frontline healthcare workers and the elderly, especially those in nursing homes, in its first batch of vaccines. But it has been handing out vaccines relatively freely. For starters, Israel included everyone over 60 in the first tier. Other countries have higher age limits or, in the case of the U.S., are treating the elderly in congregate living settings differently from those who live in their own homes. What’s more, where other countries are imposing procedures to ensure that no others get the vaccine until it’s their turn, Israel has seemed to be prioritizing getting shots into arms over hewing to a rigid hierarchy. Israelis say that if you’re near a vaccination center at the end of the day, when any prepared vaccines must be used or discarded, you are likely to be able to get a shot, even if you’re young, healthy and don’t work in health care. Some vaccine providers are taking this approach in the United States, too; a law student in Washington, D.C., shared this week that he got a shot because he was at the grocery store pharmacy just before closing time. But more often, states are telling Americans that they must plan to wait — and in some cases, as in New York, imposing steep penalties for administering vaccines out of order. Some signs of tension appear to be emerging as Israel runs through its first big batch of doses, though.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the media at the Knesset building in Jerusalem, Dec. 22, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Political machinations are hardly the only motivation for getting the country vaccinated. But Netanyahu knew that his support was tenuous when he committed early to vaccine contracts, at high cost, and now that it’s election season in Israel (again), perhaps nothing could do more to shore up his sagging support than a successful vaccination drive earning the world’s esteem and allowing the country to safely get back to normal. The prime minister was the first Israeli to be vaccinated, and he has posed with a wide array of constituents in vaccine photos — including with an Arab Israeli he said was the 1 millionth person vaccinated in the country. Exactly how many Israelis will be vaccinated before March 23, the date of the upcoming election, remains to be seen. But the current pace of vaccinations suggests that most Israelis will have gotten the concrete benefit of vaccination by then, even as other aspects of Netanyahu’s leadership remain ripe for criticism. (Remember that massive protests against him have taken place whenever there is not a lockdown, and sometimes when there is.) See VACCINATION on Page THE
VACCINATION Continued from Page 6 4. Israel is facing criticism for not vaccinating Palestinians — even as Palestinian leaders say they don’t want the help.
Palestinians wait to be tested for the coronavirus at a health center in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Jan. 5, 2020. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
As soon as the charts showing Israel leading with its vaccination campaign, criticism emerged over access to vaccines in Gaza and the West Bank, the Palestinian territories that Israel occupies but does not manage. Headlines from NPR, the Associated Press and other news organizations have implied that Israel is not delivering vaccines to Palestinians, and that narrative has gained traction, particularly among longstanding critics of Israel. in Canada, Jewish leaders are raising the alarm about members of Parliament who have cited the vaccine situation in criticism of Israel as an
apartheid state. In fact, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for delivering medical care in its territories, according to the Oslo Accords signed in 1993. And the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, has said it does not want Israel’s help and is working to purchase vaccines of its own. It expects to receive its first shipment of a Russian-developed vaccine next month. Many people, including allies of Israel, say Israel should help vaccinate Palestinians anyway, for both moral and practical reasons. Hundreds of rabbis from multiple denominations, organized by Rabbis for Human Rights, have signed a letter arguing that Israel has a moral imperative to deliver vaccines to Palestinians, especially in Gaza, the strip of land controlled by Hamas where medical care and the general standard of living is poor. Israel is not alone in prioritizing its own citizens getting vaccinated. Equity of access to vaccines is a pressing global issue, with wealthy countries buying up the vast majority of the first vaccines and leaving huge swaths of the world, including much of Africa, without a clear path to ending their pandemics. Israeli leaders say they intend to donate
doses left over after Israelis are vaccinated to needy countries, potentially including Palestinian territories. But right now they — like other national leaders around the world — are focused on their own citizens, including the nearly 2 million Arab Israeli citizens who are part of the current vaccination campaign. 5. Whether the pace of vaccinations can be sustained is unclear — and cases are mounting.
A box of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. (William Campbell/Getty Images)
Only another 1 million doses are scheduled to arrive later this month, although the country is trying — along with everyone else on Earth — to obtain more. (A new deal with Moderna won’t deliver vaccines before February, officials announced Tuesday.) If no additional doses are received, only about a quarter of the country’s population will have gained immunity through vaccina-
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tion by the end of January, leaving millions of people vulnerable to COVID-19 at a time of high community spread and with at least one highly infectious new variant circulating. In just one 24-hour span this week, one in every 1,000 Israelis was diagnosed with COVID-19, and a third lockdown, imposed late last month, is being tightened. The number of “serious cases” — people who are hospitalized and in poor condition — is nearing its fall peak, and infections are widespread across all sectors of society. According to the government, more than half of older Israelis have received one dose already. But even with the high vaccination rate, Israel is far from ending its onslaught of cases and deaths through vaccination. That’s true for every country, but it could come as a harsher realization for one with international acclaim for its vaccine rollout. “THE MOST WELL TRAVELED VEHICLES ON EARTH”
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Jewish Community Shaped By The Inquisition Opens Portugal’s First Holocaust Museum By Cnaan Liphshiz
The interior of the Holocaust Museum of Porto, Portugal, in January 2021. (Courtesy of the Jewish Community of Porto)
(JTA) — Portugal is set to open its first Holocaust museum, built in the northern city of Porto by members of a Jewish community that was founded by descendants of victims of the Inquisition. The Holocaust Museum of Porto was developed in cooperation with the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow and other institutions. It will open on Jan. 20, the Jewish Community of Oporto, an organization representing local Jews, said in a statement, and expects to receive 10,000 visitors a year when emergency restrictions connected to the COVID-19 pandemic are lifted. On Jan. 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, students from across Portugal will visit the museum, the statement said. The museum features a reproduction of Auschwitz prisoner barracks, a memorial room with walls carrying the names of Holocaust
victims and a study center. The Inquisition, a campaign of religious persecution on the Iberian Peninsula that began in Spain in 1492, was applied also in Portugal in 1536. It ended Jewish life in Porto and across the region as hundreds of thousands of Sephardic Jews fled both countries. Those who remained practiced Judaism in secret. Their descendants are known as bnei anusim. Organized Jewish life in Porto reappeared in the 1920s thanks to Artur Carlos de Barros Basto, a descendant of the bnei anusim and army captain who helped promote Jewish life in and around Porto. Consequently he was thrown out of the army and labeled a pedophile on false charges in an anti-Semitic conspiracy. With his downfall, Jewish life in Porto suffered a setback. In the 1940s, many thousands of Jewish refugees from further east in
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Europe passed through Portugal, which was neutral during World War II, and escaped from there to the United States and prestate Israel. Aristides de Sousa Mendes, a former Portuguese consul general serving in France, issued thousands of life-saving visas to Jews fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. In the early 2000s, multiple bnei anusim from Porto completed Orthodox conversions to Judaism, including the former leader of the community, Jose Ferrao Filipe. The community also has members descended from Ashkenazi Jews who lost relatives in the Holocaust, including the community organization’s treasurer, Michael Rothwell. “My grandparents were good German patriots,” he wrote in the statement, but with Nazism ”they found themselves accused of unwanted foreigners, they were transported like cattle to Auschwitz, separated from each other, targets of all the violence and there they died.” Portugal today has about 3,100 people who self-identify as Jews — a 75% percent increase over 2001, according to a 2020 report on Jewish demographics in Europe by the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research. The Jewish Community of Porto says it now has about 400 members, compared to a few dozen a decade ago. Porto has about 200,000 residents in total. The influx is connected to immi-
gration from elsewhere in Europe and Latin America, as well as Portugal’s 2015 law guaranteeing citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews that was passed to atone for the Inquisition. Spain passed a similar law later that same year. The Jewish communities of Porto and Lisbon vet citizenship applications for the government, charging hundreds of dollars per application. There have been more than 76,000 applications, and about 30% have been approved. The Porto community, which a decade ago could not afford to fix its cracked synagogue ceiling or hire a rabbi, in recent years has renovated its synagogue, hired a full-time rabbi, opened a Jewish museum and last year produced a $1 million documentary on de Barros Basto. Dignitaries and diplomats from several countries will attend the opening of the latest addition to the community’s institutions, the Holocaust Museum of Porto, the community said. A community spokesperson declined to say how much the museum, which is located in the central Arrabida area, cost to build and what its annual budget will be. The museum project benefited from “a substantial donation from a Portuguese Sephardic family from South East Asia,” Rothwell said in the statement, which did not name the family.
FUTURE Continued from Page 5 ence growing up as an Arab Israeli. The change, he said, “is good for the country and good for my society.” As a consequence and perhaps cause of decreased Arab-Israeli birthrates, more Arab-Israeli women are entering the workforce. In 2010, the participation rate of Arab women in the workforce was only 18%. Today, 36% are working. During the past 10 years, according to Abu Rass, the number of Arab students studying in Israeli universities jumped from 24,000 to 50,000. “There are a lot of government projects, more scholarships and better access to jobs,” Abu Rass observed. Although Abu Rass is optimistic about the future, he says he’s also a realist. “I believe that in 20 years, my
community will be more integrated into the economy if the government makes integration a priority,” he said. “But the fact is, there’s a conflict between my people, the Palestinians and my country, Israel. That conflict will always affect us. If things improve, I will be the biggest winner.” No one can be certain what Israel will look like in 2040. What’s certain is that the challenges of the future cannot be ignored today. This article was sponsored by and produced in tpartnership with the Z3 Project and the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto, California, as part of Z3's 2020 virtual conference, "Visions for a Shared Future: Reimagining Diaspora-Israel Relations." This article was produced by JTA’s native content team. ì THE
Myanmar’s Tiny Jewish Community Is Rattled After Military Coup By Ben Frank
British rule ended when the Japanese bombed Rangoon on Christmas Day, 1941, and invaded the country at the outset of World War II. Many Burmese Jews fled to India and never returned. A group of Myanmar activists residing in Israel wave the historical flag of Burma (until 1974), the flag of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, and the flag of Israel during a protest outside the country's embassy in Tel Aviv against the country's military coup, Feb. 3, 2021. (Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images)
(JTA) — A leader of Myanmar’s tiny Jewish community, reacting to the military coup that has rocked the nation, recalled witnessing “the brutality of the Military” in his Southeast Asian country in 1988. “But since 2015, I never thought I or my children’s generation” would ever “witness this again,” Sammy Samuels wrote on Facebook. “But I was wrong.” He called Sunday’s coup “A Sad Day for Myanmar.” Samuels, who keeps the keys of Musmeach Yeshua synagogue in the nation’s largest city, Yangon, once known as Rangoon, has been instrumental in holding together the community of about a dozen families. Following in the footsteps of his father, Moses, Samuels has maintained the site as a haven for Jewish visitors and tourists. The coup is the latest turn in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, where the military took over the government and announced a yearlong state of emergency. The junta detained the democratically elected leader, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, on transparently thin criminal charges, put up roadblocks, suspended communications and closed down the airport. The action ends nearly a decade of fledgling democracy in Myanmar that saw the country become a popular tourist destination. And it throws into relief a history of colonial and post-colonial turmoil. Several thousand Jews thrived there when the country was under the mantle of the British Empire. Musmeach Yeshua, which means “brings forth salvation,” was built in 1854 and rebuilt in 1896. The oldest tomb in the nearby Jewish cemetery dates back to 1876. THE
A protester holds an image of the detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration condemning the military coup outside the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 4, 2021. (Mladen Antonov/AFP via Getty Images)
Burma achieved independence in 1948 and established cordial relations with the new State of Israel, mostly due to the friendship between prime ministers, David Ben-Gurion and U Nu. The latter was the first head of state to visit Israel after its birth. A warm relationship exists between the two nations, including Israel selling arms to Myanmar over the years, according to reports. Israel aided Myanmar after Cyclone Nargis in 2008. In 1962, a brutal military coup that installed a dictatorship took place. The military nationalized businesses, causing most Jews to emigrate. The army suppressed freedom of speech and political parties, and the country fell into economic ruin. The army jailed or kept in house arrest Suu Kyi, the daughter of a beloved independence leader. Tourists were advised not to mention her name; guides never did. She spent nearly 15 years in detention between 1989 and 2010, when she was released. Suu Kyi emerged from house arrest and in 2015 her party, the National League for Democracy won a decisive election victory. The military honored the results and Suu Kyi appeared to be the de facto national leader. She played a vital role in Myanmar’s transition from military junta to partial democracy in the 2010s, though she was condemned internationally for defending the military campaign — labeled a genocide by human rights groups — against the Rohingya minority. In 2006, Samuels and his father
founded Myanmar Shalom, a boutique travel company. They designed and arranged tours that included Buddhist stupas, Hindu temples, Christian churches and Muslim mosques, along with the last remaining synagogue and cemetery. After his father died in 2015, Samuels, in his late 30s, has represented the Jewish community at interreligious councils and often met with Suu Kyi on matters of interfaith dialogue. Samuels had graduated with high honors from Yeshiva University and worked at the American Jewish Congress in New York. Returning to Yangon, he organized Hanukkah candlelighting ceremonies that often drew several hundred government leaders. For these few Jewish locals and the Jews working at the American and Israeli embassies, the synagogue stands as the focal point for Jewish travelers and conveys a message to the world: “We are still here.” Usually no one shows up for a daily minyan, though a minyan frequently does take place — either the result of someone having to recite a memorial prayer, or when a small group of American, Israeli or Australian Jews arrive during the tourist season. When that happens, Samuels frantically calls the few Jews in the city to come quickly to the synagogue and meet the guests in the building, one of 188 sites on the list of Yangon heritage structures.
The two-story, white stone synagogue is located at No. 85 26th St. At the main street entrance, visitors can see above the walls an archway with a seven-branched candelabra. Inside that wall sits a Jewish star. The bimah, surrounded by wooden benches, stands in the middle of the sanctuary ,which features a balcony. Over the years, the Samuels raised funds to paint and keep the house of worship in good repair.
Inside the Musmeach Yeshua Synagogue in Yangon, Myanmar. (Ben G. Frank)
An international outcry to sanction the military over takeover is growing. Whether tourism rebounds after the pandemic recedes may depend on whether the military pulls back or the world forgets. In 2019, when global outrage about the treatment of the Rohingya was building, Samuels told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about the related decline in tourism. “A lot of people start to boycott traveling to Myanmar, but when we say tourism, it’s not just about us, a tour company, or the hotel or airline. It involves the tour guide, taxi driver, hotel bellman,” he said. “They should not be punished for what happened.”
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H oliday Features ‘We’ve Lost Almost An Entire Year’: Covid-Fatigued THE
Communities Prepare For A Distanced Purim
Students at the Leffell School in Westchester County celebrated Purim from home in 2020. Westchester County emerged as an early epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak last spring in New York State. (Courtesy of Yael Buechler)
(JTA) — In any other year, the mask-decorating party planned for later this month at Congregation Beth El Ner Tamid in Broomall, Pennsylvania, would make perfect sense: Costumes are part of the ritual for festive Jewish holiday of Purim, which begins Feb. 25. This year, though, the masks being decorated aren’t meant for a carnival — they’ll be appropriate to use as personal protective equipment as long as the coronavirus pandemic lasts. The gathering, and the subsequent synagoguewide celebration, will take place on Zoom. The party represents Beth El Ner
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Tamid’s effort to preserve the spirit of the holiday, even as its very celebration offers a cruel reminder that an entire year has elapsed since COVID-19 turned life upside down, seemingly overnight. “There’s a lot of grief in the fact that we’ve lost almost an entire year of synagogue life and our personal lives,” said Rabbi Janine Jankovitz of Beth El Ner Tamid. “I know people are tired and sad, and we’re trying to bring them just a little bit of joy.” In 2020, Purim began on the evening of March 9, just before the country shut down to stop the spread of the coronavirus. For some Jewish communities, the holiday was the first celebrated over Zoom. In others, the typical parties gave way to more somber, hand sanitizer-soaked services, stripped of the raucousness that characterizes the holiday. By the following Shabbat, they had canceled in-person services, too. But in other communities, traditional Purim celebrations appear to have turbocharged the spread of the virus, resulting in a brutal toll in the following weeks. A year later, the holiday is symbolic of one thing for everyone: an entire Jewish calendar year in which the holidays, the Shabbats and all the rituals in between have been adapted under the burden of the pandemic and its restrictions. For non-Orthodox synagogues, that means a Zoom production that builds on a year of expertise. Temple De Hirsch Sinai, a Reform congregation in Seattle, Washington, located near an early outbreak, canceled last year’s “Star Wars”-themed Purim programming but vowed that its annual Purim spiel would be “back next year, bigger and better than ever.” This year, its schedule boasts multiple online events, including a spiel inspired by the viral video app TikTok. But some elements of the celebration — including the reading of the Megillah, the scroll containing the Purim story — do not lend themselves to the practicalities of pandemic broadcasting. Listeners typically use groggers, small noisemakers, to cancel out the name of Haman, the villain who tries to destroy the Jews, whenever it’s mentioned in the story.
“How do you do the groggers on Zoom?” Jankovitz wondered, bemoaning the fact that the experience for little kids, for whom the silliness on Purim is a special treat, won’t be the same. “The sense that we’re going to have to mute people in between really does take away from the joy and festivity of Purim.” At the Orangetown Jewish Center, a Conservative congregation in Rockland County, just north of New York City, this year’s Purim costume parade will be replaced by a car parade through the town, with congregants decorating their cars for the occasion and the fire department leading the way. For the Megillah reading, congregants will gather in the parking lot to hear the story on their car radios. While the synagogue did host its services in person last year, the crowd that assembled for that Megillah reading was smaller than usual as the coronavirus was spreading in nearby Westchester County. The very next day, the synagogue notified its members that someone who attended that service had tested positive for the coronavirus. This year, with congregants able to safely distance from one another in their cars, Rabbi Craig Scheff hopes the setup will be an opportunity to feel connected as a community while staying safely distanced. “We’ve been playing with the idea of drive-in movie-style programming of some kind where people could be in their cars but safely apart,” Scheff said, noting the Jewish legal issues with a drive-in service on Shabbat. “Purim seemed like the perfect opportunity.” The Leffell School, a Jewish day school in Westchester County, an early epicenter of the pandemic in New York state, had already switched to online learning by Purim last year. “Because everything was so new on Zoom, there was this excitement of what Purim would look like online,” Rabbi Yael Buechler of the lower school recalled. This year the school, like many other Jewish day schools, has operated in person since September, so Purim celebrations will morph yet again. Students will listen to a streamed Megillah reading from their classrooms. But they won’t be able to sing or shout — behaviors
that add risk by propelling air particles more forcefully — and there will be no all-school assembly. “This whole year has been a bit of a ‘v’nahafoch hu’ experience,” Buechler said, using a Hebrew phrase from the Megillah meaning “it will be turned upside down” that symbolizes the topsy-turvy nature of the Purim story. For Rabbi Shaanan Gelman, this Purim will in some ways be more normal than last year. Gelman, who leads the Modern Orthodox Kehilat Chovevei Tzion in Skokie, Illinois, attended last year’s AIPAC convention in Washington, D.C., where he came in contact with someone who later tested positive for the coronavirus. So while his congregation met in person, he was in quarantine at home and listened into the synagogue’s phone line to hear the Megillah reading while reading along from a scroll on Purim night. The next morning, a colleague read the Megillah for him from outside his house while he listened from his bedroom upstairs in a scene that played out across the Orthodox world, where it is considered preferable to hear the Megillah read in person, even though Purim is the rare holiday where technology is permitted. This year, Gelman’s synagogue will host multiple services and provide a livestream option for those who are not able to attend, though Gelman stressed that the streaming option is not an ideal way to fulfill the obligation to hear the Megillah. Depending on the weather, the synagogue may even host an outdoor service in a tent where they have held Shabbat services for months. “A lot of what has become synonymous with Purim is not going to be happening this year,” Gelman said. “Hopefully next year we’ll get back to the bigger celebration of Purim.” While Gelman noted the fatigue that had set in around continued pandemic restrictions on daily life, he said being able to attend services in person this year should not be taken for granted. “I am appreciative that I can, God willing, come to shul and hear the Megillah live,” Gelman said. “I think we’ve all become grateful for the little things.” THE
Israeli Mixed Martial Arts Fighter Natan Levy Defied Odds To Enter The UFC. Now He Wants To Break Stereotypes. By Elie Bleier
zation, with an impressive victory last month in a series promoted for up-and-comers in the sport. After subbing for a fighter who tested positive for COVID on just five days notice, Levy upset undefeated Shaheen Santana in a 160pound catchweight bout in Dana (JTA) — Natan Levy is no White’s Contender Series, earning stranger to fighting. After moving a UFC contract. to Israel from his native Paris as a boy, Levy would often tangle with kids picking on him because of his accent. But this aggressive prowess has helped some of his wildest dreams come true, silencing plenty of At 5-foot-6, Levy has had to fight taller doubters along the way. opponents. (Amy Kaplan) Levy, 29, and now living in Las Vegas, became only the third IsraeAt 6-foot-1, Santana had a sizli to sign on with the Ultimate able height advantage over the 5-6 Fighting Championship, the world’s Levy. Plus Levy typically fights at premier mixed martial arts organi- 145 pounds, moving up to tangle
with Santana, a Brazilian jiu jitsu specialist who had won by submission in five of his six bouts. “It looked at the weigh-ins like David and Goliath,” Levy, who also remained unbeaten in six bouts as a pro, said in the postfight news conference, “but I prevailed. I showed that it’s not about the size of the dog in the fight but the fight in the dog.” For Levy, who signed a UFC deal for four bouts with the details undisclosed, the road to achieving his dream was rife with uncertainty. “People would laugh when I’d say that I want to leave everything to be in the UFC,” Levy said at the news conference. “People literally laughed in my face.” Born in Paris to a traditional Jewish family, Levy’s parents divorced when he was 4 years old. His mother asked him and his two brothers where they wanted to live, Paris or Herzliya, Israel, where they had previously lived for a period. The boys chose Israel. Levy was about 5 when he made the move. “I was kind of traumatized by the divorce and my dad not being around anymore,” Levy told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “so I
would just fight all the time. I also had a French accent, so kids would make fun of me, which would lead me to attack them. I fought at least once every recess.” With time, Levy learned to funnel his aggression through martial arts. He didn’t have immediate success. “The minute it got boring I would leave,” Levy recalled. But by 13 he began weekly martial arts training. By 15 he was practicing three hours a day. By 17 he received his kung fu black belt, and at 18 he traveled to Okinawa, Japan, to receive his black belt in karate. At 22, Levy found himself back in Israel working as an instructor. Yet a competitive fire burned inside. Modern MMA, which was historically dominated by wrestling, Brazilian jiu jitsu and kickboxing, had seen the recent success of UFC karatekas Lyoto Machida and Stephen Thompson. This gave Levy hope, despite the fair share of doubters. Unfazed, Levy decided to migrate to Las Vegas, an MMA hotbed, where he See NATAN LEVY on Page
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Levy has up to three training sessions per day. (Rudy Plaza)
began adapting his karate and kung fu skills to the MMA rules: All martial arts are acceptable and minimal rules are employed. This leaves fighters susceptible to attacks from
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disciplines with which they may not be familiar. Levy had to learn which karate and kung fu techniques proved effective, as well as to pick up the grappling and submission arts from scratch. It proved to be far from an easy transition. Over the first few years, Levy was forced to travel between training in Vegas and work in Israel. Eventually he succeeded in turning the sport into his full-time job, training up to three sessions a day, but had obstacles, as many fights were canceled at the last minute. Other opportunities opened up,
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such as being offered a contract at Bellator, the UFC’s competitor organization, but he was focused on the latter’s caged octagon. Levy found practical wisdom for dealing with uncertainty from within the cage. “Getting punched in the face is not that bad,” he said. “Sure, it hurts a bit. But being afraid of getting punched in the face is so much worse. You’ll spend years fearing it. Then a day comes and you get punched in the face for the first time and realize, ‘That’s it? That’s what I was scared about?’” With the win over Santana, Levy dealt with an unpredictable and creative opponent while putting his evolution as a well-rounded mixed martial artist on display. Afterward, he was ecstatic about achieving his goal. “It’s a dream come true,” he said at the news conference. “I left everything back home seven years ago, like some madman, just packed everything and went to Vegas to follow this dream.” White, the UFC’s outspoken president, was impressed — and pleased an Israeli was joining his organization. “[Levy] dominated a guy up a weight class on only five days’ notice, and subbed a guy who’s 6-0 with five submissions,” he said, grinning. “I look forward to seeing his standup in the UFC. “Our lawyers and our Hollywood agents are going crazy right now. These guys have been waiting for a guy from Israel.” White was criticized for the statement, with some believing it was anti-Semitic. Levy didn’t find it a problem. “What [White] said was true,” Levy said. “I literally know his lawyers and agents who were hitting him up. What do you want him to do, to lie? They want an Israeli guy!” Levy was flooded with well wishes on social media even as an amateur. He readily embraces his national identity. “When I wear the Israeli flag to my fights, I don’t do so to announce ‘Here I am, Natan Levy, the official representative of Israel,’” he said. “I just wear it because I’m proud of where I’m from. It’s not me honoring Israel; it’s the other way around.” He takes even greater pride in representing Jews worldwide. “I’m here to show the world that we’re not only smart, well educated and well mannered, but if you push
us, we can fight, we can defend ourselves and you’ll regret it!” Levy joked, adding, “When somebody Jewish writes me and tells me they’re inspired by me to do sports, or they’ve been bullied and now feel that they can stand up for themselves, I swear it makes me happier than winning a world title.” Levy is not the only JewishIsraeli athlete to make waves recently. Just days after his victory over Santana, Deni Avdija became the highest Jewish and Israeli NBA draft pick in history. For Levy, both break stereotypes. “I’ve heard the sentence ‘Jews are supposed to be managers, not athletes,’ and I like proving that wrong,” Levy said. “We don’t have the best starting point; Israeli sports culture is kind of behind. But we come from all over the world, why wouldn’t we be able to do something others can?” With expectations high, the selfanointed “JewJitsu” practitioner hopes to be someone that fans and future generations of Jewish athletes can look up to. “This is only the beginning,” Levy said of himself and Avdija. “We [Jews] have something to fight for.” Further, Levy wants to be more than just a Jewish Israeli role model. “We’re Jewish. We’re Israeli. We represent this wherever we go,” he said. “We need to be humble. Respectful. Not to mistreat people. Whoever mistreats us will pay — but we don’t do that to others.” With this attitude, the soft-spoken, typically smiling fighter defies the hyperaggressive, trash-talking entertainer cliches pervasive in MMA. “If someone talks smack to me, yes, I’ll tell them what’s on my mind,” he said, “but I don’t intend to start acting like a tough guy. I couldn’t if I tried — so why try? It’s just not me.” Now Levy will stay in Vegas, recovering from his fight and preparing for his UFC debut. In America and under COVID restrictions, Levy remains separated from his Israeli family, whom he hasn’t seen for over a year and a half. Yet after living in France, Israel, the U.S. and Japan, he has learned to find home wherever he finds himself. “I always look to the Nevada mountains and they remind me of Eilat,” he said, “and then I think: Jews have always traveled in the desert — I’m right where I need to be.” THE
Arts & Culture Bookshelf THE
Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway To Play WeWork Founder Adam Neumann And Wife Rebekah In Upcoming TV Show
Jonathan Sacks’ Final Book, Dozens Of Others Win 2020 National Jewish Book Awards By JTA Staff
By Lior Zaltzman
Adam Neumann speaks during a signing ceremony at WeWork Weihai Road flagship in Shanghai, April 12, 2018. (Jackal Pan/Visual China Group via Getty Images)
(JTA) — Reports about the very public fall from grace of ousted WeWork founder Adam Neumann have been anything but glamorous. But the recently announced cast for an upcoming Apple TV+ show based on the story, “WeCrashed,” is quite star-studded. The Israeli-American entrepreneur, who resigned in 2019 from the company he founded after a meteoric loss in value, will be played by “Dallas Buyers Club” star and Academy Award winner Jared Leto. Neumann’s wife and WeWork co-founder, Rebekah Neumann, who is the cousin of
Gwyneth Paltrow, will be played by Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the forthcoming show, which does not have an anticipated release date yet, was co-created by Lee Eisenberg, known for his film “Good Boys” and himself the son of an Israeli immigrant. It is based on a podcast of the same name from Wondery media and will be directed and produced by “This Is Us” team John Requa and Glenn Ficarra. Eisenberg isn’t the only creator inspired by Neumann’s story. Nicholas Braun (“Succession”) is set to play the Kabbalah-loving former kibbutznik in another drama series from “You’re the Worst” creator Stephen Falk, based on an upcoming book from Wall Street Journal reporters Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell, “The Cult of We.” There is also a movie currently in works, based on an upcoming book on Neumann by journalist Katrina Brooker.
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(JTA) — The final book published by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks before he died in November is the Jewish Book Council’s top book for 2020. “Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times,” published in the United States in September, was awarded the Everett Family Foundation Book of the Year when the Jewish Book Council announced its 2020 National Jewish Book Awards on Wednesday. Sacks shared his vision for a moral future — one that he said would include an end to “cancel culture,” changes in Israeli policy and more encounters with people who hold different views — in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last summer. Among the dozens of other new books drawing top honors was Rabbi Art Green’s “Judaism for the World: Reflections on God, Life, and Love,” which won the Myra H. Kraft Memorial Award for best book about contemporary Jewish life and practice. Green spoke to JTA last fall about his undeterred vision for a robust contemporary Jewish spirituality. Magda Teter, a historian who teaches at Fordham University, won the The JDC-Herbert Katzki Award
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The late Jonathan Sacks' was given the top award for "Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times." (National Jewish Book Awards)
for books based on archival material for “Blood Libel: On the Trail of an Antisemitic Myth.” She spoke to JTA multiple times during 2020 about the ways that the blood libel theme could be detected in the conspiracy theories reshaping American politics. The top children’s book of 2020, according to the Jewish Book Council, was “Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale with a Tail.” The book, about a cat that appears on a boy’s doorstep during his family’s Seder, also won a Sydney Taylor Book Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries this week. Among the award-winning novels were Colum McCann’s “Apeirogon,” set in Israel and Palestine, and Max Gross’ “The Lost Shtetl,” about a Jewish village in Poland that the Nazis neglected to visit. McCann, who is not Jewish, told Kveller last February about the real grieving fathers who inspired his novel. Gross told Alma in October about his writing process, where he drew inspiration and what he considers Jewish fiction. The year’s Jane and Stuart Weitzman Family Award for cookbooks and food writing was “Now for Something Sweet,” by the Monday Morning Cooking Club, a group of six Jewish women who have been collecting recipes reflecting the diverse traditions of Australian Jews for years. They spoke about their project with The Nosher in 2017, on the occasion of their third cookbook release. The full list of 2020 National Jewish Book Award winners and finalists can be found here. A virtual ceremony to honor the winners will take place April 12.
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2021 Golden Globes: All The Jewish Nominees, From ‘Mank’ To ‘Borat’ To ‘Unorthodox’ By Emily Burack
A Golden Globe trophy in 2019. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)
(JTA) — “Schitt’s Creek” is trying to pick up in the Golden Globes where it left off in the fall with its historic Emmys sweep. The show about a wealthy interfaith Jewish family was nominated Wednesday for five awards, including four for the main actors and one for best series. There are plenty of other Jewish nominations, too, notably “Mank,” the acclaimed film on the story of Jewish screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, with six. The Golden Globes, taking place virtually in the new pandemic normal, will be held Feb. 28 and hosted for the fourth time by comedians Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. This time they’ll be on different coasts.
and is forced to live in a small town they once bought as a joke. “Unorthodox,” the hit Netflix drama based on Deborah Feldman’s memoir of the same name about a young woman leaving the haredi Orthodox world, is nominated for best limited series. The Israeli star of the show, Shira Haas, is also nominated for best actress in a limited series. Up against “Unorthodox” in that category is “The Undoing,” a notvery-Jewish HBO miniseries adapted from Jewish author Jean Hanff Korelitz’s novel “You Should Have Known.” Jane Levy, a Jewish actress, is The “Schitt’s Creek” cast at a prenominated for her role in “Zoey’s Emmys party, Sept. 21, 2020. From Extraordinary Playlist,” a musical left: Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Dan Levy and Anne Murphy. (“Schitt’s NBC comedy. Creek”/Instagram) Last but not least: Al Pacino is TELEVISION nominated for his role as Meyer “Schitt’s Creek” is up for best Offerman, a Jewish Nazi hunter series and Eugene Levy, Dan Levy, with a Yiddish accent in the AmaCatherine O’Hara and Annie Mur- zon Prime show “Hunters.” phy are all nominated in the best television series, musical or comedy categories. The show follows the well-to-do family that loses its money Unlike the Oscars, the Globes divide their film categories into musical or comedy and drama, allowing for a wider range of actors and actresses to be nominated. The television categories are divided, too, similar to the Emmys. Check out all the Jewish nominees below.
Al Pacino, left, and Logan Lerman are Jews out for revenge in Amazon Studios’ “Hunters.” (Christopher Saunders)
MOVIES “Mank,” starring Gary Oldman (in a controversial casting decision), leads the pack with its six nominations: for best motion picture, drama, best screenplay, best supporting actress, best actor (drama), best original score and best director.
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Gary Oldman plays Herman Mankiewicz in “Mank.” (Screenshot from YouTube)
Borat Sagdiyev returns to America in the sequel to a 2006 movie about the fictional Kazakh journalist. (Amazon Studios)
“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” starring Jewish actor Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat, a fictional journalist from Kazakhstan, was filled with Jewish moments and timely commentary on anti-Semitism. It received three nods from the Globes: for best motion picture, musical or comedy, for best actor in the musical or comedy category (Cohen) and best actress in the same category. Maria Bakalova, the Bulgarian actress who plays Borat’s daughter in the film, delighted viewers with a wacky breakout performance (and a memorable scene with Rudy Giuliani). “Palm Springs,” the “Groundhog Day”-style time-loop comedy from Hulu starring Jewish actor Andy Samberg, is up for best motion picture, musical or comedy. Samberg also notched a best actor nomination in the comedy category. “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” also starring Sacha Baron Cohen, is the story of Jewish anti-war activist Abbie Hoffman from Jewish writer-director Aaron Sorkin. The film is up for five awards: for best motion picture, drama; supporting actor for Cohen; best director and best screenplay for Sorkin; and best original song for “Here My Voice.” Sophia Loren‘s Holocaust film “The Life Ahead,” which tells the tale of survivor and former sex worker Madame Rosa, is up for two awards — best motion picture and best original song. Jewish actress Kate Hudson was nominated for her role in “Music,” the musical drama film from singer-songwriter Sia.
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14 Purim 2021
Israeli Researchers Use Novel Methods To Seek Treatments For Deadly Pancreatic Cancer By Larry Luxner
This year’s recipient of the award created in Barbara’s memory is Dr. Oren Parnas of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. His $135,000 ICRF grant will fund a three-year effort to profile individual pancreatic cancer cells from early stage tumors. Using a model in which he actiDr. Ziv Gil of the Technion and Rambam hospital in Haifa, is researching the vates a cancer-causing gene to cellular mechanisms underlying the introduce cancer into mice, Parnas spread, or metastasis, of pancreatic and his team will profile the genes cancer cells. (Pioter Flite) of individual pancreas cells from By the time Barbara Goodman pre-malignant lesions two weeks was diagnosed with Stage IV pan- after initiation of the cancer-causcreatic cancer in October 2001, ing genes, six weeks afterward and there were already 30 tumors in her at other intervals up to 15 months. liver. He’ll then compare those findings “We knew we were in for a pretty to human tissues in order to distough battle,” recalled her husband, cover markers for early diagnosis. Kenneth Goodman, then president of New York-based Forest Laboratories, a pharmaceutical company. “But I had an entire research organization I could draw upon.” Nevertheless, nine months after her diagnosis, Barbara died. She was only 51, far younger than usual Dr. Oren Parnas of Jerusalem’s for pancreatic cancer patients, who Hebrew University is profiling individual pancreatic cancer cells are diagnosed, on average, at 70. from early stage tumors in a bid to In his wife’s memory, Kenneth discover markers for early diagnosis. established the Barbara S. Good(Aviad Weissman) man Endowed Research Career Development Award for Pancreatic Pancreatic cancer is notoriously Cancer at the Israel Cancer Research difficult to diagnose early due to the Fund, which supports scientific absence of symptoms. The pancreas research in Israel with funds raised is located deep in the abdominal in North America. cavity where a cancerous tumor can “As an executive in the pharma expand undetected. Late-stage world, you get a pretty good under- symptoms reflect a loss of normal standing of research. But for pan- pancreatic function and include creatic cancer, there are virtually no weight loss, yellowing of eyes and cures or treatments,” Goodman said skin, severe abdomen or back pain, in a recent webinar organized by and gallbladder and liver enlargeICRF. “I knew we needed to do a ment. lot of very basic research. I felt this “Although pancreatic cancer is was something done best in Israel, generally diagnosed after the canby Israeli scientists who have had cer has already spread, it develops great success with other cancers.” over a long time, in many cases for Tumor markers for early more than 10 years, without any symptoms,” said Parnas, who studdiagnosis
ied industrial engineering and worked at Bank Hapoalim as an economist before realizing that science was his true calling. “You can’t screen the whole population” for the disease, he said, “but on the cellular level you can see changes during this time.” Improving detection and treatment is critically important. While pancreatic cancer ranks 11th in prevalence among all cancers in the United States, it’s the third-deadliest, after lung and colorectal cancers. The survival rate for pancreatic cancer is only 20% after one year and 7% after five years, according to the American Cancer Society. People with Stage IV pancreatic cancer live on average two to six months after diagnosis. In recent months, “Jeopardy” TV host Alex Trebek, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Civil Rights leader and congressman John Lewis all died of pancreatic cancer. This year, some 57,600 Americans will have been diagnosed with the disease, and about 47,000 Americans will die from it.
Resistance to radiation
Leading risk factors for pancreatic cancer include smoking, obesity and alcohol consumption, and an individual’s chances of developing the disease increase with age. Another risk factor is mutations of the BRCA gene, which Ashkenazi Jews have in higher prevalence than the general population and which leads to higher rates of breast and ovarian cancer. “There is some association with BRCA, but pancreatic cancer rates are only a little higher among Jews or Israelis than anyone else,” said Dr. Yaacov Lawrence, a radiation oncologist at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv. “The incidence of pancreatic cancer is increasing, and
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treatment options even today are very limited. The pancreas is very hard to cut out because it’s in a difficult place for surgeons to get at, and cancers have often metastasized by the time they’re discovered.” Pancreatic cancer is particularly resistant to chemotherapy and radiation. The tumors rarely shrink, even after exposure to high doses of ionizing radiation. Lawrence thinks tumor cells are able to resist radiation by rewiring their metabolism.
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Dr. Yaacov Lawrence, a radiation oncologist at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv, is studying how pancreatic cancer tumors’ resistance to radiation may be affected by their abnormally high appetite for glucose, the most common form of sugar, and other nutrients. (Courtesy of Yaacov Lawrence)
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“Each cell is like a little person,” explained the oncologist, who immigrated to Israel 23 years ago from Britain. “They each need their sources of energy, and we’ve known for many years that cancer cells have slightly different ways of processing food than normal cells. We hypothesized that maybe this difference in how cancer cells process their food underlies their resistance to radiation.” Lawrence, funded by a threeyear ICRF grant, is studying how the tumor’s resistance to radiation may be affected by its abnormally high appetite for glucose, the most common form of sugar, and other nutrients. He is conducting this research in collaboration with Dr. Eyal Gottlieb, an expert in cancer metabolism at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, and Dr. Ariel Shimoni Sebag, a cancer biologist at Hebrew University. Improving chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer Dr. Ziv Gil, head of the Technion’s Applied Cancer Research Laboratory, has received an ICRF grant for research on the cellular mechanisms underlying the spread, or metastasis, of pancreatic cancer cells. Gil is studying how pancreatic cancer cells can migrate along axons, or nerve fibers — a mechanism known as neural tracking. “One of the hallmarks of pancreatic cancer is its ability to invade and progress through nerves,” Gil said. He and his team already have discovered the mechanism by which cells called macrophages help spread cancer from the pancreas to other organs. “It’s as if the body senses the cancer as an inflammation, and it sends these cells to fight the cancer. But instead of fighting the cancer, these small cells nourish it,” said Gil, who is also a senior physician in the Technion’s Department of Otolaryngology, and
director of head and neck surgery at Rambam hospital in Haifa. “Now we are trying to imitate the transmission of these signals between the macrophages and cancer cells in order to package chemotherapy within these signals that can target the cancer.” At present, Gil’s team, supported by ICRF funding, is doing preclinical trials on mice to develop synthetic biological materials that deliver chemotherapy to cancer cells. Human clinical trials, he said, are still a few years away. Rambam colleague Dr. Erez Hasnis, also an ICRF grantee, is taking a close look at one particular protein, RNF125, whose levels seem to drop as pancreatic cells become malignant. This, he said, happens in normal cells as digestive enzymes are synthesized and secreted. They get injured and replaced, and at some point, mutations start to accumulate. Scientists do not yet know why some people develop full-blown pancreatic cancer and others don’t. Yet often, Hasnis said, the pancreas simply cannot keep up with our food intake. “As we eat more and more, our pancreas gets exhausted. Eventually some cells start to die and other cells need to replace them, in a process that makes the pancreas cells prone to malignant transformation,” Hasnis said, citing several published papers linking pancreatic cancer to obesity and high caloric intake. Hasnis also wants to know why this particular cancer is so aggressive when it comes to metastatic spread. To find out, he has developed a method in which pancreatic cancer is resected in a mouse model, allowing his team to observe how liver metastasis develops. This allows him to isolate specific genes involved in cancer seeding. “Hopefully in a few years,” he said, “we’ll be able to use novel molecules to target the metastatic process.” This article was sponsored by and produced in partnership with the Israel Cancer Research Fund, whose ongoing support of these and other Israeli scientists’ work goes a long way toward ensuring that their efforts will have important and lasting impact in the global fight against cancer. This article was produced by JTA’s native content team. More from Israel Cancer Research Fund THE
Why American Jews Love Stella D’Oro Cookies
Spoiler: the Swiss Fudge cookies resemble shtreimel hats. By Joanna O'leary
As a child, visits to my maternal grandfather and grandmother (of Italian and Polish heritage, respectively) involved eating a lot pasta and pierogi. Dessert, in turn, was sometimes cannoli and poppyseed roll, but often a platter of Stella D’Oro cookies — assorted dainty corrugated rings and logs of buttery dough with almond undertones. My grandfather had developed a taste for them early in his youth as an immigrant from Genoa, and my grandparents’ pantry was never without at least one package. Truth be told, my juvenile palate found the cookies too bland (re: insufficiently sugary), but they held a special place in my heart because they were a favorite of my beloved sometimes salty, comparatively sweeter Pop-Pop. Up until my second year in college, I associated Stella D’Oro (Italian for “Star of Gold”) exclusively with Italian-American culture. While “grocery” shopping in the 7-Eleven near our dorm (hey, we didn’t have cars, OK?) with a friend who also happened to be Jewish, I came upon a package and remarked upon my personal nostalgic ties. “Stella D’Oro?” he replied with a puzzled grin. “That’s a Jewish thing.” We preceded to dive into an appropriately sophomoric argument
about whether Stella D’Oro was “more Jewish” or “more Italian,” each of us buttressing our claims with mostly anecdotal evidence and hearsay, and completely eschewing the more interesting question: What happened with these cookies that laid the foundation for such a debate in the first place? Stella D’Oro, as its name might suggest, was started in 1930 by Joseph and Angela Kresevich, Italian immigrants in Brooklyn. Already successful restaurateurs, the Kresevichs further parlayed their food business savvy by creating a line of Italian-style cookies, crackers, and breadsticks that appealed to other Italian immigrants missing flavors from home. The cookies, originally made by hand and without (gasp) butter, were immediately popular. The fact that Stella D’Oro cookies were devoid of butter as well as milk also led them to be an object of desire early on for devout Kosher Jews because they were pareve and could therefore be eaten for dessert after a meat supper. The Swiss fudge variety, whose crimped circumference and inner opaque dark chocolate circle bore a whimsical resemblance to shtreimels, round fur hats worn on the Sabbath, led them to become particularly popular in the ultra-Orthodox community. And when in 2019 Tablet published its venerable list of the 100 Most Jewish foods, Swiss fudge cookies earned the title of “most Jewish cookie ever made.” Broad appeal, however, has not prevented Stella D’Oro from becoming a subject of controversy.
As the business changed owners throughout the years, wages and benefits have been reduced and/or altered, unsurprisingly souring relations between management and its multicultural labor force, many of whom had worked for the company for decades. This contentious history, and specifically the 11-month strike that ensued following its acquisition by a hedge fund, is documented in the 2011 film, No Contract, No Cookies. Perhaps the greatest scandal occurred in 2003, when then-owner of Stella D’Oro Kraft foods announced they were discontinuing the traditional (pareve) Swiss fudge recipe and replacing the chocolate filling with a dairy version. Following public outcry, Kraft clarified this substitution was being “reconsidered,” eventually reversing course. There was much rejoicing, especially by one superfan Yaakov Kornreich of Flatbush, who dubbed the cookies so “addictive” that “they should come with a surgeon general’s warning.” Stella D’Oro aficionados (Italian, Jewish, both, and neither) continue to be highly vocal in their opinions, and
the company in turn has been receptive to the taste vagaries of its consumer public. In 2014, the beloved Lady Stella collection was brought out of its five-year retirement in response to consumer demand. To commemorate the occasion, Stella D’Oro gifted loyalists with coupons for gratis goodies and donated 100,000 cookies to families in need. So now that we have resolved why one can quibble as to whether Stella D’Oro are a “Jewish” or “Italian” thing, here is a better question: Does it matter? For me, an ardent lover of Jewish cuisine and proud Italian-American, the cookies’ cultural and religious connotations are trumped by something more important: their role in so many cherished family suppers.
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A Jewish Bartender’s 5 Tips For Perfectly Delicious Homemade Cocktails By Maddy Albert
This piece originally appeared can be a perk, proportions matter on The Nosher. when making drinks, so portion size is something important to keep in mind. “People tend to make drinks larger at home than at a bar and that can make it more difficult to balance,” Williams says. Plus, “the size can make it difficult to finish quickly. A cocktail is designed to be (Getty Images) drunk quickly. For stirred drinks, It’s been a unique and challeng- this is done so they are cold and the ing year for all of us; learning how flavors balanced, as the drink to find joy and relax is more impor- warms up the bitter, and alcohol tant than ever. One of our favorite flavors will become more promiways to chill out is with a home- nent.” made cocktail. Shaken and Stirred Don’t know where to start? Well, “When you give a drink a good, you’re in luck! Jewish mixologist hard shake, you introduce tons of and Detroit native Chas Williams tiny air bubbles,” Williams says. — you might know him as the pre- “This gives the drink a lighter, vious head bartender at Ferndale’s fresher texture.” Mixing a drink Oakland Art and Novelty Company, well, he explains, affects the temor as the creator of the famed mat- perature and dilution, so you should zah ball cocktail (made with real always stir for 20-30 seconds, and schmaltz!) — shared his top five shake “very hard” for 10-15 sectips for making your own cocktails. onds. Quality Not Quantity “I always tell people it’s imposUnlike cooking where leftovers sible to shake a drink too hard, but
a poorly shaken drink will fall flat on your tongue.” Remember Your Ratios “Trying to remember a specific recipe or worry that you don’t have a specific ingredient is tough,” Williams acknowledges. An easy one to remember is “that any “old fashioned” drink is “2 ounces of any spirit and 0.25-0.5 ounces of any sweetener, with a few dashes of bitters.” If a sour is more your thing, remember that “2 ounces spirit and 0.5-0.75 each of a citrus and sweetener — just make them equal amounts.” These ratios allow for much more creativity at home, Williams says. “Rum with simple syrup and lime? Daiquiri! Tequila with lime and Curaçao? Margarita! Bourbon with lemon and simple? Whiskey Sour! Honey instead of simple? Gold Rush!” Experiment with Flavors When it comes to adding a touch of sweetness, there are many ways to go.
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“Use honey or maple syrup; make syrups with different sugars like palm or agave,” Williams recommends. As long as you stick to the ratios, you can swap tequila for rum, or bourbon for Scotch. But remember, he adds, “just like with cooking, it is important to use good ingredients … fresh juices and homemade syrups are all important to the final flavor.” Mix from the Heart Flavors bring back memories, and like the best home-cooked meals, the best drinks feature flavors that mean something to you. Without his fond memory of his grandma’s matzah ball soup with homemade chicken stock, we would have never seen the iconic matzah ball cocktail featured at the 2018 Bombay Sapphire Most Imaginative Bartender competition. For Williams, a number of his fall and winter drinks are inspired by his annual Rosh Hashanah trip to an apple orchard with his family. Seeking a taste of Williams’ family memories? Check out this recipe for one of his delicious orchardinspired cocktails, the Lammas.
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on The Controversy Over California’s Ethnic Studies Curriculum, Explained By Ben Sales
An empty classroom in Hollywood, Calif., seen in August 2020. The ethnic studies curriculum is an attempt to reflect the experiences and perspectives of the state's minority communities in its education system. (Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)
(JTA) — How and where do Jews fit into America’s minority communities? That’s the question at the center of a debate that has raged for more than a year over new school curriculum guides that are being adopted in California. Lawmakers there required the creation of an ethnic studies curriculum, and the effort to fulfill their mandate has spurred a yearslong process that has included multiple opportunities for public comment. Jewish groups strenuously objected to the first draft of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, or ESMC, saying it did not reflect the American Jewish experience and even advanced some forms of antiSemitism. Many of those same groups praised the third draft of the curriculum when it was released in December. The revision responded to their concerns, they say: Two sections of the curriculum deal principally with the American Jewish experience, and many of the sections that they had identified as objectionable were gone. Not everyone is happy with the latest draft: On Wednesday, the authors of the original curriculum disavowed the project in protest of the revised versions, which they feel “silenced the voices of Ethnic Studies teachers/educators, who are all from racially and politically underrepresented groups.” And other Jewish activists say that regardless of how the project discusses Jews, its basic ideology is unacceptable. They see this as the latest front in an ongoing battle over critical race theory, an approach to education that views race and racism as embedded in, and central to, society and its institutions. Opponents of critical race theory see it as a threat to open THE
debate and a return to classifying people based on their race, which they see as a danger to Jews. In recent days, two long articles have been published in Jewish publications — both objecting to the revised version from those two opposing sides of the debate. Whatever the final draft looks like, California law does not require schools to use the proposed materials it is making available. Here’s what you need to know about California’s ethnic studies curriculum and why it has roiled Jews in the state. An attempt to reflect California’s diversity in its school curriculum The goal of California’s ethnic studies curriculum is to increase understanding of the state’s ethnic minorities and have them feel more included in the state school system. After state lawmakers required an ethnic studies curriculum, a panel of 20 ethnic studies scholars convened and drafted a version focused on four minority groups: AfricanAmericans, Latinos, Asian Americans and Native Americans. The curriculum discusses the experiences and contributions of those minorities in the state, as well as the growth of their communities and the ongoing discrimination they face. But when the first draft of the curriculum was released in the middle of 2019, numbering hundreds of pages, Jewish organizations in the state and across the political spectrum were upset that it did not include the experience of California’s Jews. The state has more than 1 million Jews, with Los Angeles and the Bay Area hosting two of the nation’s largest Jewish communities. In one example JIMENA, an organization representing the state’s Mizrahi, or Middle Eastern Jewish, community was dissatisfied with the draft. The Mizrahi Jewish activists felt that their experience, which includes fleeing their home countries, was excluded from the curriculum, even though the experience of Arab Americans, whose communities hail from some of the same countries, were featured. Jewish groups were upset, too, that the curriculum included a number of anti-Israel sections. It count-
ed the movement to boycott Israel among social movements to discuss positively alongside Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, among others. Critics complained that the inclusion of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement effectively discriminated against Jews and was an outlier among movements that otherwise focused on domestic issues. The initial draft also referred to Israel’s War of Independence as the Nakba, the Palestinian term for the conflict and meaning “catastrophe.” The curriculum also included a song lyric that appeared to accuse the Jews of manipulating the press, a long-standing anti-Semitic stereotype. “The ESMC is inaccurate and misleading in several critical respects and is drafted in a manner that reflects an anti-Jewish bias,” read a July 2019 letter from a coalition of California Jewish state lawmakers. “We cannot support a curriculum that erases the American Jewish experience, fails to discuss antisemitism, reinforces negative stereotypes about Jews, singles out Israel for criticism, and would institutionalize the teaching of antisemitic stereotypes in our public schools.” Jewish organizations were not the only ones to object to exclusions in the first draft. Advocates for Sikh-American and ArmenianAmerican interests also called for their communities to be included. A letter signed by a coalition of organizations representing Middle Eastern immigrant communities, spearheaded by JIMENA, protested what they saw as a lack of representation in the curriculum. “We fear that our exclusion from a curriculum, which we support, would contribute to the ongoing cultural genocide and erasure of minority voices from the Middle East and North Africa,” read the letter, which also was signed by representatives of the Assyrian, Coptic, Kurdish, Iranian, Baha’i and Zoroastrian communities. “Our inclusion in the curriculum would affirm the important and compelling minority voices from the MENA region.” A revised version reflects Jewish groups’ concerns Following the backlash to the
first draft, the state’s Education Department said it recognized changes were needed. Ahead of the release of the latest draft, according to the department, members of the public sent in 57,000 comments on the curriculum.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, pictured in 2019, vetoed a bill to make the ethnic studies curriculum a graduation requirement following objections to the content of its first draft. (Agustin Paullier/AFP via Getty Images)
“A model curriculum should be accurate, free of bias, appropriate for all learners in our diverse state, and align with Governor Newsom’s vision of a California for all,” read a statement made in August 2019 by the leadership of the state Board of Education. “The current draft model curriculum falls short and needs to be substantially redesigned.” The following year, Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have made ethnic studies a high school graduation requirement, citing the controversies over the draft as a reason. A number of Jewish groups campaigned for the inclusion of the Jewish experience in later drafts. The latest curriculum does include two lessons on American Jews, including one on the Mizrahi experience. JIMENA drafted the lesson plan on Mizrahi Jews last year. Another lesson plan focuses on the complex nature of American Jewish identity, including the ways in which some Jews experience “conditional whiteness and privilege.” Both lesson plans discuss anti-Semitism — includes definitions of anti-Semitism from the Anti-Defamation League as well as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. The sections echoing anti-Jewish stereotypes and discussing the movement to boycott Israel have been removed. So have references See CURRICULUM on Page Purim 2021
CURRICULUM Continued from Page 19 to the Nakba. The latest draft also includes lessons on other communities, including Sikhs and Armenians, who had protested their earlier exclusion. Jewish groups that had campaigned for the changes said they were pleased with the latest draft. “We are encouraged by the IQC’s support this week for including the Jewish American experience as a part of the new ethnic studies model curriculum for all the state’s public schools,” Tyler Gregory, executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Community Relations Council, said in a statement ahead of the release of the latest draft, referring to the committee that put together the curriculum.
Gladys Alvarez, a fifth-grade teacher, talks to her students remotely from their Los Angeles classroom, August 2020. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
“The IQC has endorsed holistic and equitable changes to the curriculum that protect our community and other communities through the inclusion of language that seeks to prevent discrimination against any
20 Purim 2021
group in the classroom.” Objections persist despite — and because of — the changes Some Jewish commentators and activists still aren’t happy. Even with the changes, they say, the curriculum advances a narrow ideology despite aiming to increase tolerance and inclusion. Some critics, including the former New York Times editor and writer Bari Weiss, have called for the philosophy underpinning it to be rejected. “The Ethnic Studies Model curriculum proposed for K-12 California public schools is divisive, encourages victimization, and promotes a narrow political ideology,” reads the website of the Alliance for Constructive Ethnic Studies, a group mobilizing opposition to the curriculum that was co-founded by Elina Kaplan, a Jewish activist who emigrated from the former Soviet Union and is a self-identified Democrat. “The Ethnic Model Studies Curriculum should be revised to provide a balanced range of perspectives, remove the political agenda, and inspire mutual respect and dignity.” In a January tweet criticizing the curriculum, Weiss wrote, “There is no more important story in the Jewish world this month.” Corresponding with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency this week, Weiss said her issue with the curriculum is its embrace of critical race theory. “There are some people who
think CRT can be made kosher,” Weiss told JTA. “It cannot. It is, at its root, hostile to Jews, to liberalism and to American values. And it is the framework for every single draft that has been proposed.” Opponents of critical race theory have generally come from the right, and last year President Donald Trump instructed federal agencies not to fund any program that employs critical race theory or anything that “suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil.” In the case of the ethnic studies curriculum, some of its opponents are not Trump supporters. Kaplan is a Democrat and Weiss has been vocally critical of Trump. The members of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, who objected to the initial draft and praised the later ones, are all Democrats. The curriculum has gained renewed attention of late, including from liberal activists like actor Josh Malina, due to a critical article in Tablet magazine, which has published a number of articles in recent years about the perceived dangers of “woke” thinking. The article features the objections raised to the first draft, claims the latest version includes anti-Jewish language and notes that school boards have been lobbied to teach the original draft rather than the revised one. But two of the story’s objections to the latest draft are either inaccurate or misleading. In one instance, the article said the curriculum includes a resource with an antiSemitic statement, but the essay with the offensive statement is not actually cited in the draft. The article’s author, Emily Benedek, has countered that the anti-Semitic statement in question is found in a larger publication linked to in the draft. An author’s note appended to the Tablet article following criticism of its claims does not address the apparent inaccuracies. In the note, Benedek took aim at critical race theory, which she called “dangerous” and “fundamental” to the curriculum. She wrote that the revisions celebrated by Jewish groups are insufficient. “The exclusion of Jews from the original ESMC, which was what the various organizations spent their energies on, was offensive,” she wrote. “But focusing on that is akin to painting a house that is rot-
ted from the foundation.” An article about the curriculum in the left-wing Jewish Currents magazine also featured objections to the revised version, but for the opposite reason. The piece, by Gabi Kirk, reports on the resignation of the original draft’s authors, who contended in an open letter that the principles of ethnic studies have been “compromised due to political and media pressure.” “Our association with the final document is conflicting because it does not reflect the Ethnic Studies curriculum that we believe California students deserve and need,” they wrote. The Jewish Currents piece also reviews Jewish groups’ advocacy regarding the curriculum. And it quotes Devin Naar, one of the professors cited as a resource in the lesson on Mizrahi identity, saying that his work has been misrepresented because the lesson does not discuss Ashkenazi Jewish discrimination against Mizrahi Jews. In the article, Kirk wrote that the latest draft of the curriculum puts forward “a version of ethnic studies unrecognizable to scholars and community organizers engaged in the field — and heavily influenced by those who oppose the discipline’s very existence.” The Jewish Currents piece also appears to include an inaccuracy. It said the current draft “excised all Palestine-related content from the draft,” when in fact there’s a story about a Palestinian American experiencing anti-Arab discrimination. The curriculum also includes a line about Palestinian population centers in the United States. Kirk wrote to JTA that “There is no mention of ‘Palestine’ as a place in any section” of the current curriculum and that more extensive exploration of Palestinian American identity that was present in earlier drafts has been taken out. The Education Department is required to make a final decision on the curriculum by March 31.
This NY Ice Cream Parlor Is Famous For Wild Flavors. It’s Surviving The Pandemic By Catering To Jewish Customers. By Shira Feder
Bruce Becker behind the counter at Max and Mina's. (Shira Feder)
NEW YORK (JTA) — On a frosty Tuesday in January, Mark Becker strode into Max and Mina’s ice cream shop holding a netted green bag filled with fresh oranges. “Maybe he’s making orange ice cream,” his brother Bruce said from behind the counter. Max and Mina’s flavors tend to change with the seasons, the Jewish holidays and the Becker brothers’ moods. Winter doesn’t stop the experimentation. “I’m using all of it, even the peel,” Mark Becker said firmly, swinging the bag over his shoulder and vanishing into the back of the Queens store. Since 1997, Max and Mina’s has become famous for its creative flavors — some of them inspired by savory Jewish cuisine, all of them kosher. There’s been lox, halva, haroset, herring, Ferrero Rocher babka and Chubby Bunny (which comes with bits of birthday cake, sprinkles and dark chocolate fudge swirl), as well as an assortment of cookie-based ice creams. The store has been featured on world class ice cream lists and declared by the Travel Channel to be one of America’s “most famous ice cream paradises,” with a caveat that some flavors, like pizza, are too bizarre for the masses. American designer Isaac Mizrahi is a fan, as is actor Kevin James. Max and Mina’s is even the answer to a question in the board game Trivial Pursuit: “What kosher product is served in flavors like ‘lox,’ ‘corn on the cob’ and horseradish at Max and Mina’s in Flushing, New York?” Even with all the cachet, the store has been unable to avoid the THE
economic hardships brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Beckers, who grew up Orthodox on Long Island, lost their wholesale business, which was their big moneymaker. The staff has been whittled down to the brothers and their children, who pick up occasional shifts behind the counter. “The store before COVID was on a rockin’ tear,” a pensive Bruce Becker told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “I wonder if COVID wasn’t around what it would be like.” He sighed. “It is what it is.” The store is wallpapered with cereal boxes, concert stubs, photos of the Beckers with Francis Ford Coppola, gum wrappers, a photo of the Lubavitcher rebbe, hotel keys and punk band stickers, existing as a sort of interruption to the senses. A picture of flowers, handpicked by Bruce Becker, is glued to the ceiling above the cash register.
Julia Tran, accompanied by friend Tehilla Limgento, picks up a cone from Bruce Becker. (Shira Feder)
Becker describes the store in reverent terms and often compares it to a museum. He says he will never run out of wall space to display odds and ends. “It’s just about taking your stuff and rearranging,” he said. “That’s what museums do all the time when they bring a new exhibit in.” The shop is named after the Beckers’ grandfather Max Sockloff, an organic chemist who liked experimenting with ice cream, and their grandmother Mina. After Sockloff died, Bruce Becker discovered what is now a prized family heirloom that exists in a safety deposit box: a book of ice cream
recipes documenting his grandfather’s flavor experiments. Now, 23 years after the store’s opening, the Beckers are trying to keep the dream alive and cooking up several schemes to bring in new revenue streams during the pandemic. They are considering a dairy-free line of ice cream and have just started accepting credit cards. They also recently added a slate of flavors deemed “cholov yisroel.” Some haredi Orthodox Jews will eat only cholov yisroel — referring to dairy products produced by Jewish farmers. The less stringent will partake of any dairy product certified as kosher. The business is keeping afloat. The store’s famed past attracts a fair share of non-Jewish foodies, but the cholov yisroel certification has brought in a steady stream of new customers from the Five Towns, a heavily Orthodox area of Long Island, and parts of Brooklyn. Before Mark Becker walked in with the oranges, a masked Orthodox woman wearing a gently curled wig came in pushing a stroller. “I think I owe you money, but I never gave it to you,” she told Bruce, handing him $12. “Almost every day I get someone coming back in here to pay me back for something,” he said. Asked about how important Jewish identity is to Max and Mina’s existence, Bruce paused to think. “For me, being Jewish is a value system, about taking care of people and being empathetic to people who are struggling,” he said. Referring to the woman to whom he had lent the money, Becker added: “I’m struggling, too, and for me to give out could be somewhat questionable, but you can always find a way to give.” The store, nestled between a kosher pizza joint and a tech repair shop that sells flip phones to a haredi Orthodox crowd, is based in the largely middle class central Queens town of Kew Garden Hills.
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The area is home to one of the most established Orthodox Jewish communities in New York, and it’s stuffed with kosher eateries, mikvahs and dozens of synagogues. But there’s also a growing Bukharian Jewish population, as well as groups of Afghan, Latino, Korean and Chinese residents, many of whom seem to enjoy their fair share of ice cream.
Max and Mina’s is located in Queens, N.Y., in one of the most diverse locations in America. (Shira Feder)
The door opened again, and two young Jewish women entered. “It seems like he’s really creative,” said one, Tehilla Limgento, a kosher observer accompanied by her friend Julia Tran. “And I think it’s really fun to go to a place that is kosher that’s pretty stellar.” The door clanged open again. “Hey man, do you have any quarters?” a man asked. “Like $2.65 in quarters? I just got a ticket out there, and I don’t want to get another one.” Bruce Becker got out from behind the counter to examine the ticket. He’s done with the interview – and back to serving.
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My Grandfather Survived Auschwitz — And Spends His Life Spreading Kindness By Hannah Alberga
David Moskovic, the author's grandfather, at his 90th birthday party. (Stephen J. Thorne)
(JTA) — On Jan. 6, a sea of heads bobbed and flags flew outside the U.S. Capitol. A closer look revealed a dark hoodie, skull, crossbones and large white letters: “Camp Auschwitz,” followed by “Work Brings Freedom.” That’s the phrase my 91-year-old grandfather, David Moskovic, saw every day in German — “Arbeit Macht Frei” — when he was a 14-year-old Nazi prisoner. For nights following the riots, my grandfather roused to recurring nightmares. The mob at the Capitol brought him back to Auschwitz, 1944. Upon arrival, soon-to-be prisoners were rushed out of cattle cars and had their belongings taken. Everyone was sorted into two lines: One led to a building with a chimney exhaling bulging smoke — the product of cremating innocent bodies. One led to the camp. His family was split, but by the end of the war he lost everyone — his mother, father, older brother and two younger sisters — but his older sister, Edith. “You can’t even comprehend what could have happened,” he said to me over the phone from Ottawa when we spoke about the riots. But he could. He knew what hate-born violence looked like, felt like, the pain, the starvation, the loss, the imprint. Today, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, it’s imperative to step into the past as a way to process the
present. At 16, my grandfather had suffered more than most people do in their entire lives, but he never let it define him. Instead it fueled a deep, wholehearted sense of kindness that guided the rest of his life. Following his arrival at Auschwitz, my grandfather, along with his brother and father, was tattooed with his new name — A6024. David Moskovic no longer existed. For six months he was sent to lay bricks at Buna, a work camp outside of Auschwitz. His daily diet consisted of a slice of hard bread, grass soup with stones mixed in and sometimes a thicker potato soup for dinner. He often saved his slice of bread for his father, terrified for his diminishing body and declining health. In January 1945, Buna prisoners were rounded up at dusk and instructed to march. Gunshots pierced the air. Prisoners dropped dead. After three days without food or water, they arrived at a brickyard in Glewice, a village in Poland, and were given a slice of bread before being jammed into cattle cars. Each time the train stopped, the soldiers removed dead bodies, but my grandfather needed these corpses. He hid beneath them as a blanket. When it snowed, he kept his mouth open to dampen his lips. Later he learned that his father and brother had died. By the fourth day without food or water, the cattle car stopped at Buchenwald, a concentration camp in Germany. My grandfather rolled off, unable to stand. He saw his uncle dying but did not react, could not react. Survival was the sole focus. Each day he pleaded to God, “Give me one more day.” Finally he was fed a bowl of soup. He snuck back in line for seconds — a death sentence if discov-
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ered. When he saw prisoners on the verge of dying, he took their food vouchers. This was the only way to survive. He was so skinny he could practically see through his own hand. All that remained was skin and bones. As the Allies encroached, the Nazis tried to kill as many people as possible. They selected hundreds of prisoners every day, instructed them to dig a large hole and shot them into the mass grave. One day, my grandfather was chosen. He knew once he left those gates he would never return. No one did. As the selected prisoners began to march, he threw himself to the ground and lay flat while the others stepped on him. Once they left, he ran back to his barrack, hiding in the rafters for hours. On April 11, 1945, planes flew so low it seemed like they would hit the roofs of the barracks. My grandfather could barely walk outside to see what was going on. A big white sheet hung in the air. The guards were gone. American soldiers had arrived. When I place the picture of American soldiers liberating my grandfather, handing him the most valuable gift imaginable at the time — freedom — next to the U.S. Capitol rioters, I feel nauseous, my muscles tighten and my jaw clenches. The contrast is uncanny. But it’s a testament to reality. Freedom and hate live in tandem, immersed in a tumultuous relationship: When one pushes, the other pulls. White supremacy is alive. But my grandfather is alive, too. The Capitol mobs represent a hatred that was growing louder every day. But my grandfather and other survivors represent a love that has the extraordinary power of sowing hope for “one more day.” Auschwitz is not a historical artifact. The gates did not close on liberation day; they opened a door to generations of hate that may never have an expiration date. But they also opened the door to freedom for my grandfather, who reminds me that every day is beautiful. He lost his family, his home, his health, his nationality and religious identity.
Yet he started over. The past never tainted his future, but instead showed him a path of resilience. Love became the cornerstone of his life — a sharp contrast to the hatefilled wishes of white supremacists. Living in Ottawa, while working as a plumber, he dropped off and picked up his three children every day from school, no matter what. He traveled eight hours round trip from Ottawa to Toronto for my school plays, graduations, birthdays, holidays and often just for a visit. He welcomed a new rabbi by delivering a Shabbat meal. He gifted my cousins’ old toys to children he met in the elevator of his apartment building. He extended an open-ended offer to take a blind woman for groceries. He made peanut butter sandwiches for the security guard in his building — two, toasted, just the way he likes it. His hugs are more like squeezes. His handholds can last hours. His kisses are on both cheeks. Before the pandemic, my grandfather regularly spoke at schools about his experiences. He often concluded with this sentiment, the same words he says to me at the end of every phone call: “I live a beautiful life. I have three beautiful children. I am a happy man. Be nice to each other. Be good to each other. Take care of each other.”
Hannah Alberga is a Torontobased journalist. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JTA or its parent company, 70 Faces Media.
Rep. Elissa Slotkin Wants To Mandate Holocaust Education In Fight Against Domestic Terrorism By Ron Kampeas
Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) speaks at the podium standing with members of the Problem Solvers Caucus to praise the forthcoming passage of the bipartisan emergency COVID-19 relief bill in a press conference outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC on December 21, 2020. (Cheriss May/Getty Images)
(JTA) — Rep. Elissa Slotkin, the Michigan Democrat who now chairs an influential anti-terrorism subcommittee, wants to mandate Holocaust education as a means of preventing domestic terrorism, citing the anti-Semitic symbols that appeared during the recent deadly Capitol raid. Slotkin, giving her first news conference on Thursday as the chairwoman of the intelligence and counterterrorism subcommittee of the Homeland Security Committee, outlined an agenda that she said would be shaped by confronting domestic terrorism in the wake of the deadly Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol. She said one of the things she wanted her subcommittee to “look at” was “mandatory Holocaust education.” “Right now it’s only required in a certain number of states, I feel like it’s like 15 or so,” Slotkin, who is Jewish, said when asked to elaborate by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Local and state governments control curricula, but the federal government may effectively require some content by leveraging federal funds for schools. “I support requiring it at the federal level because I walked through those crowds, the morning of the 6th, my husband walked me to work,” Slotkin said of the day of the raid by Trump loyalists who sought to prevent Congress from affirming Joe Biden’s election as president based on falsehoods peddled by Trump. “And we were walking through those crowds, and if you are not educated on the Holocaust, when you see something like a ‘Camp Auschwitz’ sweatshirt or a swastika or some of these tropes that have been around forever about wealthy Jews running the world, that kind of thing — if you don’t know that as a historical legacy and connection to genocide, when you see it at a random protest you might not think it’s that big of a deal,” she said. Slotkin was among the co-sponsors of legislation that passed last year that creates a clearinghouse of Holocaust resources for educators administered by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Slotkin is a rising star among Democrats, winning a sophomore term in a Michigan district that otherwise swings to Republicans. Her background in the CIA and on the White House National Security Council has made her one of the preeminent Democrats on security.
Florida Jewish Couple Turns 100 Years Old Together And Celebrates 80th Anniversary This Year By Gabe Friedman
Edith and Lou Bluefeld seen in a local news report. (Screen shot from WPTV)
(JTA) — Now for some happy news. A Jewish couple in Florida is celebrating two hefty milestones together this year: 100 years of life, and 80 years of marriage. Lou and Edith Bluefeld, of Boca Raton, have known each other since they were 16. They ran a kosher catering business that served visiting U.S. presidents and helped to kosher the White House kitchen. They also cooked for former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin when he was in Washington, D.C., for the 1978 Egypt peace accord
announcement, according to a South Florida Sun-Sentinel report. Lou turned 100 on Saturday, and Edith hits the number on Aug. 4, NBC’s WPTV reported. Their 80th wedding anniversary is Feb. 23. Their plan is to celebrate with their children and grandchildren later in the year if the family has all received the COVID-19 vaccine. The Bluefelds also spoke to WPTV about their experience watching last Wednesday’s mob attack on the Capitol building. “It shook me,” Lou said. “It was such an embarrassment.” “What are the history books going to say?” Edith said. Lou said that he hopes the country can unify the way it did in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack. “There’s Republicans and there’s Democrats, but really we’re Americans, and that’s what we have to get back to,” he said.
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Safety Features That May Help You Save Money On Auto Insurance Although insurance companies may vary in what they consider safety features, the following are generalized options that may qualify drivers for discounted insurance rates. Vehicles with high safety ratings may not only save drivers' lives in the event of collisions, but they also may save them money. As an incentive for buying cars with various safety features, many insurance companies offer deep discounts to drivers. Although insurance companies may vary in what they consider safety features, the following are generalized options that may qualify drivers for discounted insurance rates. · Antilock braking system: These systems have been standard equipment on vehicles manufactured since 2012. · Air bags: These safety features help cushion the blow for people during a crash and include front and side-protection. Discounts increase with the number of air bags. 24 Purim 2021
· Adaptive cruise control: This feature monitors traffic conditions and adjusts speed by controlling the throttle and brakes to maintain distance from other vehicles. · Daytime running lights: Daytime running lights may make drivers eligible for small discounts. · Electronic stability control: This prevents vehicles from skidding out or rolling over during hard turns. · Lane departure warnings: These systems alert drivers if they get too close to the edge of a lane. · Blind spot sensors: These sensors light up or make a sound when a vehicle is in drivers' blind spots, potentially preventing collisions during lane changes. If you would like to discuss ways to possibly lower your auto insurance, call Allstate agent Jeff Stern at 504-7380265.ì
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Planning and Financing Funerals If you’re like most families, you wonder where to start, when thinking about funerals. Considering pre-arranging is an excellent way to begin. With the pandemic; it’s good to have a plan and have it clearly laid out for your loved ones. Pre-planning allows you to pre-select and prepay for funeral expenses rather than leaving the choices and financing to others, at a difficult time in their lives. Jacob Schoen & Son Funeral Home has been helping New Orleans families since 1874. They can answer all of your questions and take the difficulty out of planning your end-of-life celebration. Schoen offers many options to make your funeral just the right fit for you — and your budget. Whether it is a direct cremation or a full traditional service with a catered affair afterward; they can take care of every detail of your uniquely personal vision. There are payment options and they’ll even create a “Wishes File” for you if you’re not quite ready to commit. So if something happens, your family has a place to start. According to recent industry estimates, the average funeral costs between $7,000 and $12,000. This includes basic service fees, transporting remains to a funeral home, embalming and other preparation, a casket, viewing and burial. There are a lot of decisions to be made in a short amount of time and each aspect has a cost associated with it. It can be overwhelming for a family to address this at the time of loss. Many people assume that their funeral costs will be covered by their life insurance policies. However, that isn’t always the case and certain complications can arise. The funeral planning information guide Funeral Basics states that sometimes insurance poliTHE
cies become invalid if payments have not been kept up. Policies may have liens on them, or some named beneficiaries may no longer be alive. This can stall the process as issues are worked through. In addition, it can sometimes take between six and eight weeks for beneficiaries to receive life insurance policy payouts. (Death Certificates in Louisiana often take four to six weeks). Since most funerals take place within a week of a person’s death, that tasks the surviving family members with financing the funeral while they await life insurance funds. It’s worth noting that when you use life insurance to cover funeral expenses, you do so through a third party provider who charges a percentage fee. The net result is you pay more for a funeral than it actually costs for the convenience of using the life insurance as payment and your family still doesn’t know what you want. The true value of preened funeral insurance is what it does for those you leave behind. Your wishes are clear. The plan is comprised of choices you made, so no one has to wonder what you would have wanted. In addition, the prices are locked in at the time of the contract on the guaranteed services. So the longer you live, the better the value for you. For your loved ones that are left behind, the challenge of a sudden passing does not need to be complicated by wondering what you might have wanted, combined with an unexpected out of pocket expense. Now, more than ever, preplanning is important. If you’d like to learn more about the possibilities, reach out and have a conversation with an Atlantic Coast Life advisor at Jacob Schoen & Son Funeral Home, (504) 482-2111.
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When Buying A Leased Vehicle Makes Sense
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Consumers in the market for new vehicles must make a number of decisions before getting behind the wheel of a new car. Some may debate whether or not to buy a new or pre-owned vehicle, while others may wonder if buying or leasing is best for them. Often, the lease payment is less than a monthly note, especially on luxury vehicles. People who decide to lease will likely have another decision to make when their leases reach maturity: should I return my car or buy it? Drivers who have never leased a vehicle may not even know that lessees have the option to buy their cars at the end of their lease agreements. The idea of leasing suggests drivers would always be better off turning their vehicles in, but there are situations in which keeping the car can benefit buyers. The buyout figure is less than the market value of the vehicle Lessees who don't drive much might find that their vehicles are worth more at the end of the lease than the buyout figure indicated on the agreement. That means lessees can buy the vehicle for less than its market value. They can then flip the vehicle and reap a profit or simply keep driving the vehicle. As we are entering the second year of COVID-19, many lessees are discovering that buying their leased vehicle makes more sense, especially if they enjoy it! The excess mileage penalties are steep
Drivers also may be better off buying their lease if they significantly exceeded their mileage restrictions. Lease agreements typically include per-mile penalty fees for every mile drivers go past the mileage limits indicated in their agreements. These fees can quickly add up, but drivers won't have to pay them if they choose to buy their vehicles at the end of their leases rather than returning them. The condition of the vehicle Drivers who took care of their leased vehicles and even those who did not may benefit from keeping their cars when their leases reach maturity. Keeping a leased vehicle that's been well-maintained can save drivers money over the cost of buying new vehicles and maybe even pre-owned vehicles, as the buyout value on their lease is likely a lot less expensive than the cost of a new car, truck, or SUV. But keeping vehicles that have enduring considerable wear and tear also may be wise, as leasing companies may charge hefty wear-and-tear penalties. Buying a vehicle at the end of a lease may seem unusual. But there are various instances when buying makes more sense than turning the vehicle in. Many of the Mercedes-Benz vehicles are known for their great residual sales value. Talk to the sales team at Mercedes-Benz of New Orleans to discuss your situation and see if purchasing or leasing is the best option for your needs. THE
Financing Nursing Home Care And The 'Look-Back Period'
Health care plans provide access to medical care and other necessities and reduce out-of-pocket health-related expenses. Each plan is different, and depending on where you live, your coverage may vary. People quickly find that many healthcare plans do not include provisions for long-term health care, such as paying for nursing facilities. Understanding how health plans work and learning about potential financial reviews for nursing home payment qualification is a good idea for anyone concerned about financing their future health care needs. Health care basics In the United States, health care is largely privately managed, with most employers offering access to various health coverage plans. Government subsidized plans include Medicare, which is for retirementage individuals and younger people with disabilities. Medicaid is a joint state- and federally-run government program that provides health coverage to low-income individuals and families. Health insurance does not pay for nursing home care in most cases. Unless an individual meets low-income criteria, nursing home care is paid for by the resident; otherwise, people who qualify for Medicaid can have their nursing home expenditures paid for by that program. To receive Medicaid assistance, applicants should expect a financial review, including a lookTHE
back period. What is the look-back period? The senior health, finance and lifestyle resource Senior Living advises that Medicaid is a "last resort" method of financing nursing home costs. Individuals are expected to use other means of payment first and "spend down" their assets. When financial resources dwindle, Medicaid will kick in to provide coverage. To ensure that individuals simply do not transfer money out of their accounts to avoid paying for nursing home care by their own means, Medicaid requires a look-back period into applicants' finances to determine if there were any violations to rules regarding asset transfers. Most people engage in some sort of long-term planning to protect a portion of their assets so that they can be used to support spouses or children. According to rules, an applicant is permitted to transfer certain monies to his or her spouse, provided the spouse isn't also applying for long-term care through Medicaid. Most money and tangible asset transfers (check with the Louisiana Medicaid Office for the most current rules 888-342-6207 or email MyMedicaid@la.gov) must have taken place 60 months (5 years) prior to application for Medicaid. Penalties will be instituted when rules are broken, namely gifts or asset transfers that take place within the look-back period. This could delay your Medicaid acceptance.
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Exploring Hospice And Palliative Care
The opportunity to live independently is a goal for many people as they plan for retirement. While there's much people can do to plan for financial independence in their golden years, health issues may arise that can make it hard for aging adults to get through the day without a little help. Palliative care and hospice are sometimes mistaken as the same thing, even though they're quite different. Learning about each option can help adults identify which option is best for them should they one day require daily assistance. Palliative Care Palliative care may be available at any time for individuals with serious and potentially life-threat-
ening conditions. According to Healthline, palliative care is focused on improving the overall wellness of individuals with serious illnesses, such as Alzheimer's disease, cancer, COPD, and other chronic illnesses. Since it is based on individuals' needs, palliative care can differ from one person to the next. WebMD says a palliative care program frequently aims to ease pain and help with other problems, including improving comfort. It is used in addition to other treatments. Palliative care also can help patients and their families if an illness makes it more difficult to get around, leads to depression or adversely affects the family, including caregivers. Hospice Care The National Institute on Aging notes that hospice care may be recommended when it is no longer possible to cure a serious illness or when a patient opts out of certain treatments. Like palliative care, hospice provides comprehensive comfort care and family support. However, attempts to cure the per-
son's illness are stopped in hospice. Hospice is typically recommended when a person with a terminal illness has around six months or less to live. When people hear "going into hospice" they may think this means entering a facility. However, hospice can take place in many different settings, including at home, in a nursing home, in a hospital, or even a facility that specializes in hospice care. Both palliative and hospice care bring together a team of health care professionals with special skills. This team can include doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists, spiritual advisors, and trained volunteers. Everyone works together to address patients' emotional, medical and spiritual needs. The main difference between palliative and hospice care is when each is offered to a patient. Palliative care can be available at any time, regardless of illness stage, prognosis or life expectancy. Hospice care is only available when an
illness is no longer responding to treatment. It is sometimes known as end-of-life care. However, a person can come out of hospice care should his or her condition begin to improve. Patients and their families can discuss the options of palliative and hospice care with their health care teams. While these types of care have become much more accessible in recent years, they may not be available everywhere. It also pays to ask questions about health insurance coverage to determine if the costs of palliative or hospice care will be covered by a provider. A long-term care policy also may be an option to cover palliative services. The American Association of Long-Term Care Insurance (www. aaltci.org) says that more than 7.5 million Americans have some form of Long-Term Care Insurance in place as of January 1, 2020, with an average of 55% of those policies being purchased between ages 55-65.
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Affordable Ways To Create Your Own Backyard Oasis With COVID-19 surges threatening, summer plans may have to be put off again, but why spend money on a vacation when you can invest that money into your own home. Our backyards are some of the best places to spend the summer months, especially if you're practicing social distancing and are tired of being cooped up indoors. Fortunately, it's possible to transform your outdoor living space into a secluded, open-air retreat. Bring the indoors out. We often hear about bringing the outdoors inside, but the reverse is also true when designing a luxurious extension of your home. Homey, lived-in touches can take your outdoor space from sterile and unfinished to cozy and inviting. Think patterned throw pillows, fluffy blankets for chilly evenings, outdoor rugs, colorful lanterns, and decorative accessories like painted terracotta pots or metal tins. Invest in comfy furniture. What's the best part of your living or family room? Chances are it's your comfortable couch or recliner. To recreate the same feeling, splurge on some soft furniture that will make you want to stay outside for hours reading a book or working remotely. It doesn't have to break the bank either - you can DIY a cozy lounging bench with reclaimed wood and hand-sewn cushions with outdoor stuffing and fabric. Go wild with greenery. Live plants can help you feel connected with nature, and tending to them can help you feel relaxed yet productive during quarantine. A vertical garden can add visual interest, while trees and shrubs can provide shade and character. Aromatic herbs like lavender or rosemary offer pleasant scents and can spice up your cooking. And don't be afraid to cut some flowers from your garden to place in vases or pots for beautiful finishing touches.
Add a relaxing pool or spa. But if you really want to splurge, a pool or spa can help transport you somewhere far away without leaving your home. A pool can help you and the kids get some exercise while swimming laps, while a spa can soothe tired muscles after a long day hunched over your laptop.
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Evaluating Seniors' Biggest Expenses New parents may not be able to visualize that one day their largest expenditures won't be centralized around providing necessities for their children. Adults go though many years of paying for diapers, toys, clothing, food, and education for their children. Yet, when the children have flown the coop, spending patterns change, and even more changes await come retirement. According to a 2020 survey from the financial services firm Edward Jones, 68 percent of workers soon to retire said they had no idea how much they should be setting aside for expenses, particularly health care and long-term care. Professionals approaching retirement would be wise to analyze the Consumer Price Index - Elderly (CPIE). It is a good reference to estimate which future expenses will cost the most after retirement. The Bureau of Labor Statistics looks at consumer spending and uses various data to determine the rate of inflation in key areas that apply to older adults starting at age 62. Individuals may be surprised to learn about where they'll be spending the bulk of their money when they get older. Here's a look at some key categories.
· Food: The cost of food will not change dramatically, but it can eat into your budget. Even though food costs may decline when there's only two mouths to feed, food and beverage spending may go up due to more leisure time and dining out. Utilize senior discounts by shopping on days when stores offer percentages off purchases. Save money on restaurant spending by eating out at lunch instead of dinner, splitting plates or skipping appetizers. · Healthcare: Experts warn that while many expenses decline in retirement, health care spending increases. According to Fidelity, the average 65-year-old couple retiring in 2020 in the United States needed roughly $295,000 just to cover their retirement health care expenses. Those with family histories of severe illnesses or those with preexisting conditions will need even more. It's also important to realize that roughly half of the population will need long-term care at some point, offers The Motley Fool, and that requires advanced budgeting as well. Many people find that Medicare supplement plans can bridge the gap in expenses that government-run plans will not cover. Saving through a health savings account (HSA) when employed also can
create extra cash on hand for retirement expenses. · Housing: According to data from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, housing accounted for roughly 49 percent of all spending for seniors. Focus should be centered on lowering those costs when a fixed income is imminent. The possibilities include paying off a mortgage; downsizing a home to have a lower rent or mortgage payment; refinancing a home to a fixed-rate loan so that costs are predictable; and taking on a tenant to offset costs.
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But, if you’re 62 or older – and want money to pay off your mortgage, supplement your income, or pay for healthcare expenses – you may consider a reverse mortgage. It allows you to convert part of the equity in your home into cash without having to sell your home or accumulate additional monthly bills. A reverse mortgage can be complicated so it is important to get the facts so you can make an informed decision. In Southeast Louisiana, Allison Calamia is a Certified Reverse Mortgage Professional, a designation requiring a rigorous exam that demonstrates competency and a dedication to upholding the highest ethical and professional standards. She is one of only 152 individuals nationwide to achieve this designation. Calamia leads customers with honesty and integrity through virtually every aspect of the profession, from retail to wholesale to secondary market. “It’s not just about business,” she says — it’s about connecting with her customers and seeing how this product transforms their lives. “I love the ‘Aha!’ moment when customers and professionals say, ‘I didn’t know it worked that way.’ There are so many myths about Reverse Mortgages, and I love to dispel them. On top of that, my customers keep my job exciting because they are so interesting.” No matter what the needs or circumstances, every customer is welcomed with Calamia’s diverse knowledge and skill set — and the most extensive reverse mortgage background in the state. She can be reached at 504-833-2111. THE
Effective Financial Planning Can Help Anyone Overcome The Challenges Posed By The Pandemic The timing of recessions is unpredictable, but they are inevitable. Taking steps to recession-proof your finances now is an important component of financial planning that can help people overcome the stress of living during a downturn. "Financial planning" is an umbrella term that can be applied to various aspects of money management. Many people associate financial planning with retirement. However, effective financial planning can help people confront today's challenges just as much as it can help them prepare for their golden years. The COVID-19 pandemic has posed numerous challenges, including a recession sparked by widespread job loss and declines in economic activity. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that the unemployment rate in the United States exceeded 10 percent in July 2020, and while the country has since witnessed declines in unemployment rates, tens of millions of workers remain out of work today. The sudden rise in unemployment and decline in global economic activity underscores the need to plan for recessions, even during those times when economies are thriving. Taking steps to recession-proof your finances is an important component of financial planning that can help people overcome the stress of living during a downturn. Build up your savings A recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 45 percent of adults said their mental health had been negatively affected due to stress related to the virus. That poll was conducted in March 2020, shortly after lockdown measures were instituted and the term "social distancing" entered the American lexicon. As the pandemic has worn on through the summer, fall and even through today, stress remained a big concern for many people. Much of that stress stemmed from the economy, but one way to ease that stress is to have a substantial amount of money in savings. Each person's financial needs are different, but many planners recommend clients have at least six months' worth of expenses in their savings as a cushion to help them get through job loss. Avoid overspending Many financial planners recommend a 50-30-20 approach to money management. Such an approach advises people to devote 50 percent of their earnings to needs, 30 percent to their wants and 20 percent to savings. Spending more than 30 percent on wants can make it difficult to build up a savings account to levels that can protect you in the event of a recession. Expect the unexpected The American economy was doing historically well as recently as January 2020, only to have the bottom fall out during the pandemic. If you want to recession-proof your finances, do not take your foot off the gas in regard to insulating THE
yourself from the next recession. No matter how strongly the economy is performing in the future, continue to expect the unexpected and prioritize saving so you have a soft landing awaiting you should the economy again take a sudden turn for the worse. Pay down debt Debt, particularly high-interest debt, can compromise your ability to save. A 2019 survey from Bankrate.com found that 13 percent of
Americans admitted that debt was preventing them from saving more money. Pay down debt like credit cards and only make credit card purchases if you have the money to pay the bill in full when it's due. A fixed rate debt-consolidation loan is worth considering, too. Liberty Bank & Trust has a team of loan advisors available to discuss debt-consolidation loans. Email today at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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