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Jewish Federation of Northeastern Pennsylvania JANUARY 16, 2014
VOLUME XII, NUMBER 2
Ariel Sharon, one of Israel’s last warrior statesmen, dies at 85 By Ron Kampeas (JTA) – Ariel Sharon, one of Israel’s last warrior statesmen, whose military and political careers were woven into his nation’s triumphs and failures, has died. Sharon, 85, died on January 11 at the Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv after eight years in a coma. “He went when he decided to go,” said his younger son, Gilad, who has become the fierce guardian of his father’s legacy. He was among the last of Israel’s founding fathers, fighting in every Israeli military conflict in the first three decades of the state. As a military general, Sharon helped turn the tide of the Yom Kippur War with Egypt in 1973. As defense minister, he plunged his nation into the crucible of Lebanon in 1982, an engagement that nearly cut short his career after he was found to bear indirect responsibility for the massacre of Palestinian refugees at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon. But Sharon would rise from the ashes of that calamity to effect an astonishing about-face as prime minister, orchestrating the evacuation of thousands of Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip after spending the bulk of his career championing the settlement enterprise.
Ariel Sharon (File photo from JTA) As prime minister, Sharon began the construction of Israel’s controversial security fence in the West Bank. His overriding concern, Sharon always said, was to protect a nation built on the ashes of the destruction of European Jewry. “I arrived here today from Jerusalem, the capital of the state of Israel, the only place
where Jews have the right and capability to defend themselves by themselves,” he said in a May 2005 visit to Auschwitz to mark 60 years since the Holocaust. He forged bonds with Diaspora Jewish leaders, interspersing his English with Yiddishisms and often urging them to emigrate to Israel. “Sharon worked his entire life for the unity of the Jewish people,” said a statement from the Jewish Federations of NorthAmerica. “He was closely engaged with Jewish communities around the world, and acutely aware of their needs and aspirations. In all his leadership roles, and especially as prime minister of the Jewish state, Sharon engaged with Jewish communities across the Diaspora.” Lionized and scorned for his bluntness, Sharon was nicknamed “the Bulldozer” both for his tendency to disrespect boundaries and his legendary girth. Ideological loyalties meant little to the man known in Israel simply as Arik. In 1973, he helped cobble together the Likud party from a coalition of interests that had little in common except that they had been frozen out of government for decades by the ruling Labor party. A generation later, in 2005, he bolted Likud to form Kadima, a
Israel’s circumcision interventions draw mixed reception from European Jews By Cnaan Liphshiz PARIS (JTA) – The Israeli government is wading into the burgeoning European debate over circumcision and receiving a mixed reception from the continent’s Jews. On December 11, Israel initiated a motion in defense of circumcision at the Council of Europe, an intergovernmental organization devoted to enhancing cooperation among its 47 member states. Intended to offset a nonbinding October resolution approved by the council’s Parliamentary Assembly that condemned non-medical circumcision of boys, the Israeli initiative will be reviewed in January and possibly put to a vote by the assembly. The earlier resolution shocked both Jewish and Muslim groups and threatened to internationalize an anti-circumcision campaign that, until now, has been waged mostly by local activists working in individual European countries. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs got involved following the passing of this resolution because claims that milah [Jewish circumcision] hurts boys go against the essence of the state of Israel and its responsibility for the fate of Jews everywhere,” said Nimrod Barkan, Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO, who spearheaded the motion. The growing campaign to limit ritual circumcision of boys has generated considerable concern in Israel. The chairman
of the Knesset committee on the Jewish Diaspora, Yoel Razbozov, said in October that if bans are enacted, circumcisions should be performed at Israeli embassies in such countries. But Israel’s incipient role as defender of European Jewry is dividing local activists, with some warning that Israeli involvement could complicate the lives of Jews in Europe. “Jewish communities don’t want to mistakenly be regarded as an extension of the political state of Israel,” said Rabbi Lody van de Kamp, a well-known Dutch Orthodox figure. “Any involvement from the state in religious issues in the Diaspora communities’ work in that way [is] counterproductive.” Representatives of Jewish groups active on the circumcision issue in Europe say that as an observer state at the Council of Europe, Israel has every right to lobby on issues of concern. But in off-the-record talks, some Jewish activists expressed worry that Israel is getting involved in an issue that does not directly concern it and with which it has limited experience. “It’s not always beneficial to have the Israelis wade in,” one European activist said on condition of anonymity, citing a need to maintain good working relations with Israelis. “They do things differently to how we would.” The activist recalled a vocal disagreement that leaders of Germany’s Jewish community
At right: Former Israeli Chief Rabbi Yo n a M e t z g e r addressed journalists followinga2012court decision in Cologne, Germany, that the practice violates the bodily integrity of a child. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
had last year with Eli Yishai, who at the time was Israel’s minister of internal affairs, and Yona Metzger, who was then Israel’s chief Ashkenazi rabbi. (Metzger has since been arrested in Israel on fraud and bribery charges.) Germany’s Central Council of Jews said that the Israelis had done more harm than good in their response to a German court ruling in Cologne that said circumcision amounted to a criminal offense. “Metzger said there was no reason why we shouldn’t have a doctor present at every milah. That’s not a message we want to spread,” the activist said. “He said unhelpful things and put us in a difficult position.” The 2012 ruling in Cologne, which was reversed earlier this year, was one of several recent high-profile actions aimed at limiting the custom across Europe. Most of the See “European” on page 4
INSIDE THIS ISSUE Effect of education
Israel under the radar
centrist party that attracted lawmakers from Likud and Labor, including his old partner and rival Shimon Peres. As agriculture minister in the first Likud government, from 1977-1981, Sharon vastly expanded Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, areas conquered in the 1967 Six-Day War. In 2005, he led the disengagement from Gaza, overseeing the evacuation of nearly 10,000 Israelis from 21 communities in Gaza and four settlements in the northern West Bank. “Sharon did what no one on the left was able to do,” said Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of the progressive magazine Tikkun. “Split the right, marginalize the extremists who believe that holding on to the biblical vision of the Land of Israel is a divine mandate, and acknowledge that a smaller Israel with defensible borders is preferable to a large Israel that requires domination of three million Palestinians.” Born Ariel Scheinermann in 1928 to Russian-speaking parents in the village of Kfar Mala in the central part of prestate Israel, Sharon for much of his career was known more for his impetuousness than his pragmatism. See “Sharon” on page 6
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Two authors consider the effect An Israeli court orders a couple to After 20 years, Russian immigrants PLUS universal education, for males, had pay for their dog’s care; limiting to Israel are proving to be an aliyah Opinion...........................................................2 on Jews throughout history. reality TV hours; and more. success story. Jewish Community Center News............6 Story on page 4 Story on page 9 Story on page 12 D’var Torah...................................................8
THE REPORTER ■ january 16, 2014
a matter of opinion Antisemitism links boycott of Israel to quenelle By Ben Cohen JNS.org About five years ago, I participated in a head-to-head debate about contemporary antisemitism that was published in the Congressional Quarterly. Facing off against a particularly tiresome Jewish anti-Zionist, I tried to shed some light on the issue by drawing a distinction between what I called “Bierkeller” and “Bistro” antisemitism. “Bierkeller” antisemitism – named for the drinking establishments in Germany where the Nazis chugged down beer while shouting themselves hoarse about the “Jewish menace” – is, I said, pretty transparent. You wear a uniform, you yell about Jews (not “Zionists,” mind you, but “Jews”), and you burn down a synagogue. By contrast, “Bistro” antisemitism – named for the trendy eateries adored by bien-pensant metropolitan leftists – is an altogether more refined affair. It does not demonize Jews as Jews. It regards any talk of antisemitism as a reprehensible technique to divert attention away from Israel’s “crimes.” And it insists that there is no common ground between today’s calls to destroy the Jewish state and Hitler’s obsession with destroying the Jewish people; the former is grounded upon principles of justice, while the latter refers to a regrettable historical event that is, whatever the paranoid fantasies conjured up by Jewish leaders, over and done with. As I observed the furor around two separate but related events in recently – the mushrooming of a movement in American universities in favor of an academic boycott of Israel, and the dis-
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turbing trend in France for performing the “quenelle,” an inverted Nazi salute, in public spaces – I thought once more of that distinction. What, I asked myself, connects the worldview of Dieudonné M’bala M’bala – the antisemitic French comedian who invented the quenelle, and who heads a party called the “anti-Zionist List” while admitting that the voice of a Jewish journalist makes him nostalgic for the gas chambers – with the worldview of the Israel-haters in the American Studies Association, the Modern Language Association, and similar academic bodies? Put another way: Is there now an inviting bistro in some corner of the loud, intimidating bierkeller? It’s likely that many, though not all, American advocates of the academic boycott of Israel would be horrified by any association with Dieudonné. In their minds, a huge expanse separates their opposition to what they call Israel’s “apartheid” system of government from the young man who gave the quenelle while standing outside the Jewish school in Toulouse where, during a March 2012 terrorist atrocity, a rabbi and three small children were murdered. That fellow, they would say, is motivated by hatred of Jews; we, on the other hand, are motivated by
justice for the Palestinians. The truth is that it’s nowhere near that simple. Here’s why: In the post-Holocaust era, there isn’t a single example of something defined as “anti-Zionism” that hasn’t been contaminated by antisemitism. When the Arab League launched its “anti-Zionist” boycott in 1945, three years before Israel’s creation, its target was the besieged Jewish community in British Mandate Palestine. When the Soviet Union threw in its lot with the Arab regimes during the Cold War in the name of “anti-Zionism,” the primary victims were Soviet Jews. When Poland’s ruling communists launched an “anti-Zionist” campaign in the late 1960s, the people whom they purged were Jewish. And when left-wing German terrorists hijacked an Air France plane in 1976, they demonstrated their “anti-Zionism” by separating the Jewish passengers from the non-Jewish ones. Today’s boycott activists need to be reminded of this sordid history. They need to be asked why the cause of Israel’s elimination is a magnet for individuals like Dieudonné, as well as for the myriad others who warn darkly about the power of the so-called “Israel Lobby,” or the existence of an “Israel Firster” mentality among Jews. Is it just a coincidence? Or
are we dealing with a situation in which antisemitism is acceptable so long as it calls itself by some other name? Are we really so dim as to be fooled by an exercise in rebranding? After all, if the antisemitic Nazi salute were not illegal in France, there would be no need for the “anti-Zionist” quenelle. Israel’s defenders might also want to ponder the important question of what the future holds. Will forthcoming incarnations of anti-Zionism belong to the earnest dogmatists of the academy, or will they be trumped by the theatrical provocations of Dieudonné and his quenellistas? Only the latter have the possibility of becoming a mass phenomenon, because they exercise an appeal that stretches from the street corners of depressed European cities to glitzy VIP rooms filled with celebrity athletes. That’s why the days when we look back upon the academic boycott of Israel as a comparatively innocent affair may not be too far in front of us. Ben Cohen is the Shillman Analyst for JNS.org. His writings on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Haaretz, Jewish Ideas Daily and many other publications.
How living in Switzerland taught me about anti-Jewish bias By A. Pinsker (JTA) – During the height of the recession, I moved to Switzerland. I had already lived in France, Japan, India and Israel, and traveled much of the rest of the world. I’d gone global for work, love, spirituality and cultural infatuation, but this last time was for cash: As a teacher in the recession during a hiring freeze, like thousands of other Americans, I became an economic expat. In the land of chocolate, cheese, bankers and income, my fellow New York native teachers and I were able to afford taxi rides, apartments on our own and meals out, living the American Dream – only abroad. We were paid a six-figure salary to teach Muslim princes, Hindu billionaires and Jewish corporate kids at an international middle school of students aged 11-14 in Zug, where the infamously pardoned Marc Rich brought Glencore, making the small former farm town fabulously wealthy. The students were “third culture kids,” gone global from living in one oil-rich nation to another. They reminded me a lot of myself – not in financial terms, but cultural: I am a half-Jewish, halfUkrainian pan spiritual writer, teacher and yoga instructor who identifies as Jewish. Having lived around the world, I felt for them. At one of our first staff meetings, one of the British teachers was discussing a problem student. “He has Russian boy syndrome,” she said. My mouth dropped. “They’re obsessed with weapons and violence!” she said to a room full of nods. Then my Indian-English co-teacher joked: “I thought this was a global school!” Everyone in the room laughed. My Park Slope liberal skin chafed. I was the only teacher in a school of thousands that celebrated Rosh Hashanah. I had to ask for special permission to take off two days. When I returned, my co-teacher asked if I had enjoyed my day off at the “Jewish celebration.” Noting a snippiness, I responded that I’d rather not discuss my
religion. She retorted that “I was making things difficult” and she was “just making conversation.” Near Christmastime, I saw for the first time blackface Santa’s helpers; St. Nicholas’ helpers were “Moors.” At the same time, there was a British-only celebration at school that I satirized in an article for The Huffington Post. Although I went to the Orthodox church in Geneva to volunteer, I was still called anti-Christian by my supervisor. As a half-Jew who had lived previously as a “nothing” (read to most: Christian), I never had experienced actual exclusion or discrimination. I was shocked. The article and my other “outbursts” landed me in the principal’s office, where I was informed there were other complaints about me. Separation of church and state is just an American thing, I soon learned. By Christmas I already was afraid of what would happen when I saw the baby Jesus manger set up in the parking lot. When I was in the fifth grade, I had asked a teacher where were the other decorations besides the “Christian” ones? She asked, “Are you Jewish?” I said, “My dad is and my friends are,” and she immediately put up Kwanzaa and Chanukah decorations. But in Switzerland, this attitude only attracted sneers and mocking remarks. I felt like I should resign. I put my mezuzah inside my door. At a wedding in Israel – only a four-hour flight – I felt at home among my people, the Jews. My suspicions about Switzerland were valid: I was being discriminated against. By living in Japan, New York, Paris and India, all American and proIsrael or Jewish friendly (I lived in the Marais district in Paris), I had not realized that antisemitism actually existed, and had never heard a discriminatory word spoken. At a staff meeting I raised my hand and said, “Exclusion is a form of bullying, so please note that not all the students are Christian, so please say ‘Happy Holidays’ to all the students instead of ‘Merry Christ-
mas.’” An American supervisor smiled and said “Happy Holidays.” I was thrilled. My co-teacher made every student line up to say it to me with spite. An Irishwoman who referred to me as “the Jewish girl” said, “Switzerland is a Christian country, it has tradition and Israel might be the same.” I told her maybe, but we were in an international school and that in India, an extremely diverse country, they would never celebrate the wrong holiday or wish a Happy Ramadan to a Hindu. Majority rules, she said, simply. “Christians are the majority in the U.S., too,” I said. I realized what a very special place America is. My comments resulted in the silent treatment in the staff room. I wasn’t invited to showers and parties. My New York friend said I was behaving like a college freshman. In fact, in college I had been a radical feminist activist – but then it was a good thing, not something to be penalized for. My boss, a Scot, went out of his way to buy me a Chanukah present and encouraged me to resign to preserve my teaching record and, more importantly, my belief that global citizenry, not nationalism, would help bridge the international world. So I gave up the job. My rights in Switzerland were not those of an American. I’ve been all over the world, but only back home was I able to be a dissident, doing my patriotic duty by speaking up. Now, back in Brooklyn, controversial artists are a dime a dozen and I’m probably the least neurotic person in the room. I lost a nice income, but at least I know I’m free to be who I am. It’s good to be home. A. Pinsker is working on a memoir called “Girl Gone Global,” on living on three continents in a search for love and a spiritual home. She has been published in New York Magazine, the Fix, New York Press, Time Out New York, New York Post, BUST Magazine, the Forward, The Jerusalem Post, Interfaith Magazine and more.
JANUARY 16, 2014 ■
community news New course to explore Jewish identity through lens of American history By Chaim Davidson This February, the Jewish Discovery Center will offer an adult-education series to help address what has been called “one of the greatest challenges facing the Jewish people,” and what many see as a direct cause of Jewishcommunity atrophy: the question of meaningful Jewish identity. Titled “To Be a Jew in the Free World: Jewish Identity Through the Lens of Modern History,” the six-part session will begin on Wednesday, February 12, and run for six consecutive weeks. The course will be held at 7:15 pm, at the Jewish Discovery Center in Waverly. The program will cost $100, which includes the textbook. To register, visit www.JewishNEPA. com or call 570-587-3300. According to organizers of the program, the course will be offered simultaneously in more than 300 communities worldwide and will represent the first global effort to bring the Jewish community together to address these issues since the Pew report was released. The series will represent another first for the Jewish Discovery Center, as classes will stream live on the Internet, allowing those who cannot attend in person to join the class from their home. A special offer will be made to first-time students due to a limited grant from the Jewish Federation: All 2013-14
At left: Rembrandt’s portrait of Menasseh Ben Israel, who is considered to be one of the most influential Jewish leaders and authors of the 17th century. Ben Israel was friendly with Rembrandt, who provided four engraved etchings to illustrate one of his books, and was in correspondence with the leading intellectuals of the time.
UJA donors can save 50 percent off their tuition. According to Rabbi Benny Rapoport, director of the Jewish Discovery Center and one of the editors of “To Be a Jew in the Free World,” the release of the Pew study in October prompted the new course. “The findings of the recent [Pew] study are frightful,” he said. “They paint an ominous picture of a younger generation that is, at best, confused about their identity as Jews, and at worst, oblivious. How do we ensure that Jews will find meaning in their Judaism?” He explained, “Our objective with this course is to initiate a discussion about Jewish identity, why it is still relevant
B’nai Harim held a get-together
and what we can do to make it something our children and grandchildren will cherish for generations to come.” The series will explore various questions about modern Jewish identity, such as: What is Jewish identity? Why is it important? What role do Jews play in a progressive, enlightened society? Would the world really suffer if Jews, as an identifiable group, assimilated into the general culture and vanished? What was it like for one’s great-grandparents to leave the shtetl, to set out and discover new lives for themselves, including all of the liberties the free world had to offer? How did they adapt their Judaism to the developments of a free and modern society? In a time and place where antisemitism is no longer a daily threat, nor a bar to assimilation, what is it that fosters Jewish identity in a way that is personal and meaningful? Using the lens of American history, participants will confront questions of allegiance and issues in which Judaism and contemporary society appear to be in conflict. Looking into the past, the course will explore a series of case studies, such as arguments made in the 1650s to convince Oliver Cromwell to readmit Jews to England, and how Ulysses S. Grant’s 1862 expulsion of the Jews became a defining issue in his presidential election. In addition, the series will revisit Napoleon’s controversial offer of emancipation, as well as George Washington’s letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, RI, in 1790.
Bais Yaakov of Scranton activities
At right: Members of C o n g re g a t i o n B ’ n a i Harim gathered for an evening of activities on December 25. After eating deli sandwiches, participants played games and exchanged stories. (Photos submitted By Lee Emerson)
Bais Yaakov of Scranton hosted Bet Yaakov of Deal for dinner on December 19. Seventy students and staff members from Bet Yaakov of Deal, NJ, attended the dinner, prepared by Bais Yaakov of Scranton. The Scranton students played a game to meet the visitors and hosted the dinner. Some of the participants had stayed in the same house at the Bais Yaakov Convention in Toronto in November, and were already acquainted with each other. “When You Believe” “When You Believe,” a new original musical by Adina (Laury) Turoff, produced and directed by Leah Laury, with music by Hindy Pressman and Patti Schwartz, as well as original dance by Chavie Schwartz, will be held on Saturday, February 8, at 8:30 pm.
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DEADLINE Shelly Wismer, chairwoman of the B’nai Harim program on December 25, showed (l-r) Meredith Stemple, Rose Gelbard and Richard Kelmans the cheese balls, which were guessed about as part of the games.
Steve and Norma Levine enjoyed the evening at Congregation B’nai Harim.
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THE REPORTER ■ january 16, 2014
Authors examine education’s impact on Jewish history
By Robert Gluck JNS.org Why has education been so important to the Jewish people? Author Maristella Botticini says a unique religious norm enacted within Judaism two millennia ago made male literacy universal among Jews many centuries earlier than it was universal for the rest of the world’s population. “Wherever and whenever Jews lived among a population of mostly unschooled people, they had a comparative advantage,” Botticini tells JNS.org. “They could read and write contracts, business letters and account books using a common [Hebrew] alphabet while learning the local languages of the different places they dwelled. These skills became valuable in the urban and commercially oriented economy that developed under Muslim rule in the area from the Iberian Peninsula to the Middle East.”
Emphasizing literacy over time set Jews up for economic success, say Botticini and Zvi Eckstein, authors of the 2012 book “The Chosen Few: How Education Shaped Jewish History.” An economic historian, Botticini earned a B.A. in economics from Università Bocconi in Milan and a Ph.D. in economics from Northwestern University. After working at Boston University, she returned to Italy and works at her alma mater. An economist, Eckstein received his B.A. from Tel Aviv University and his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. He spent five years as the Bank of Israel’s deputy governor and is now dean of the School of Economics at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzylia. In their book, which they describe as a reinterpretation of Jewish social and economic history from the years 70 to 1492 A.D., Botticini and Eckstein say that Jews over those years became “the chosen few”
European anti-circumcision activity has been led by secularists who believe the practice violates children’s rights or nationalists seeking to limit Muslim or Jewish influence in their countries. The Cologne ruling prompted brief bans in Austria and Switzerland, and led several Scandinavian politicians and health officials to express support for banning circumcision. Many Jews believe those statements could be a prelude to restrictive legislation in Scandinavia and beyond. Shimon Cohen, who advises the British Jewish community on resisting measures to limit ritual slaughter and circumcision, said that large European Jewish communities are equipped to handle such threats. But in countries with very small Jewish communities, a ban could get through without anybody noticing and have a precedentsetting effect. “One of the major advantages to this
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Israeli involvement is that, no matter what the size of the local Jewish community, there’s likely to be an Israeli embassy present with politically intelligent insight and open channels of communication with senior government officials,” Cohen said. For Barkan, the Israeli UNESCO ambassador, spearheading the pro-circumcision motion at the Council of Europe has been an opportunity for rare cooperation with Muslim partners – particularly Turkey, but also Albania and Azerbaijan, whose representatives signed on fairly quickly, he said. As for the criticism from Jewish activists, Barkan chalks it up to cultural differences. “European Jewish communities have very complex considerations to accommodate and I understand that,” he said. “But I grew up in a place that taught me that if I wanted to achieve something, I better to go ahead and try.”
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Zvi Eckstein, co-author of the 2012 book “The Chosen Few: How Education Shaped Jewish History” and dean of the School of Economics at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzylia, Israel. (Photo courtesy of Zvi Eckstein) – a demographically small population of individuals living in hundreds of locations across the globe and specializing in the most skilled and urban occupations. These occupations benefit from literacy and education. “Our book begins with the profound and well-documented transformation of the Jewish religion after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 [A.D.] at the end of the first Jewish-Roman war,” Eckstein tells JNS.org. “Judaism permanently lost one of its two pillars – the Temple in Jerusalem – and consequently the religious leadership shifted from the high priests, who were in charge of the Temple service, to the rabbis and scholars, who had always considered the study of the Torah, the other pillar of Judaism, the paramount duty of any Jewish individual.” The Jews’ new religious leadership set their people on a path to become “a literate religion, which required every Jewish man to read and study the Torah and every father to send his sons to a primary or synagogue school to learn to do the same,” says Eckstein. From an economic point of view, the authors write, it was costly for Jewish farmers living in a subsistence agrarian society to invest a significant amount of their income on the rabbis’ imposed literacy requirement. A predominantly agrarian economy had little use for educated people. Consequently, a proportion of Jewish farmers opted not to invest in their sons’ religious education and instead converted to other religions, such as Christianity, which did not impose this norm on its followers. “During this talmudic period (third-sixth centuries), just as the Jewish population became increasingly literate, it kept shrinking through conversions, as well as war-related deaths and general population decline,” Botticini tells JNS.org. “This threatened the existence of the large Jewish community in Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel) and in other places where sizable Jewish communities had existed in antiquity, such as North Africa, Syria, Lebanon, Asia Minor, the Balkans and Western Europe. By the seventh century, the demographic and intellectual center of Jewish life had moved from Eretz Yisrael to Mesopotamia, where roughly 75 percent of world Jewry now lived.” Like almost everywhere else in the world, Mesopotamia had an agriculture-based economy, but that changed with the rise
of Islam during the seventh century and the consequent Muslim conquests under the caliphs in the following two centuries. Their establishment of a vast empire stretching from the Iberian Peninsula to India led to a vast urbanization and the growth of manufacture and trade in the Middle East; the introduction of new technologies; the development of new industries that produced a wide array of goods; the expansion of local trade and long-distance commerce; and the growth of new cities. “These developments in Mesopotamia increased the demand for literate and educated people – the very skills Jews had acquired as a spillover effect of their religious heritage of study,” Eckstein says. Between 750 and 900, almost all Jews in Mesopotamia and Persia – nearly 75 percent of world Jewry – left agriculture and moved to the cities and towns of the newly established Abbasid Empire to engage in skilled occupations. Many also migrated to Yemen, Syria, Egypt and the Maghreb; to, from and within the Byzantine Empire; and later to Christian Europe in search of business opportunities. “Once the Jews were engaged in these skilled and urban occupations, they rarely converted to other religions, and hence, the Jewish population remained stable or grew between the eighth and the 13th centuries,” Botticini says. The book does not whitewash the persecution that took place during the 15 centuries of Jewish history it examines, Eckstein says. “When [persecution of Jews] happened, we record [it] in our book,” he says. “[But] what we say is something different. There were times and locations in which legal or economic restrictions on Jews did not exist. Not because we say so, but because it is amply documented by many historians. Jews could own land and be farmers in the Umayyad and Abbasid Muslim empire. The same is true in early medieval Europe. If these restrictions did not exist in the locations and time period we cover, they cannot explain why the Jews left agriculture and entered trade, finance, medicine. There must have been some other factor that led the Jews to become the people they are today. In ‘The Chosen Few’ we propose an alternative hypothesis and we then verify whether this hypothesis is consistent with the historical evidence.” Botticini says the key message of the book “is that even in very poor communities or countries, individuals and families should invest in education and human capital even when it is costly and it seems to bring no economic returns in the short-run. “Education and human capital endow those individuals and those communities that invest in them with skills and a comparative advantage that pays off and can bring economic well-being and intellectual achievements in many dimensions,” she says. “A motto in which we strongly believe [is] go to the local public library and borrow a book and read it,” adds Botticini. “Even when you end up disagreeing with or not liking a book, it is never a waste of time reading a book. Reading and studying are precious gifts. This is the bottom line message of ‘The Chosen Few.’”
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JANUARY 16, 2014 ■
Bar-Ilan’s new haredi dean of exact sciences
By Abigail Klein Leichman/ISRAEL21C This story was reprinted with permission from Israel21c, www.israel21c.org. A Harvard graduate living in the ultra-Orthodox (haredi) city of Bnei Brak has just shattered a religious glass ceiling by attaining a prestigious academic appointment. Professor Malka Schaps, a mathematical researcher raised in Ohio as Mary Elizabeth Kramer, is the new dean of Bar-Ilan University’s Faculty of Exact Sciences. Few haredi women pursue higher education, and Schaps may be the only one to climb this far on the university ladder. Speaking with Israel21c, Schaps characterizes her life story as “fairly complex.” Indeed, this daughter of college professors not only excels in an esoteric field, but she also writes novels and reads ancient Greek history in the original language. As a child in Washington, DC, she was firmly focused on science until – ironically enough – winning $250 as a finalist in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search. She discovered that many other finalists liked discussing literature and philosophy, so she used her prize money to buy books and spent her first years at Swarthmore College engaged in a personal philosophical search. While working in a math camp at the end of her sophomore year, she roomed with another counselor, a Jewish girl who taught her the Hebrew alphabet from an Israeli Telma soup poster, took her to Friday night services and introduced her to Jewish dietary laws. By the time she graduated from Swarthmore in 1969, she had converted to Judaism and wed Rabbi David Schaps, Swarthmore Class of 1967. They earned their doctorates at Harvard, she in math and he in classics. David, a former Israel Defense Forces chaplain, is a professor of classical studies at Bar-Ilan, a poet and author of such books as “Economic Rights of Women in Ancient Greece” and “The Gates of Heaven: A Beginner’s Guide to Jewish Prayer.” (His sister and brother-in-law, Ellen and Bernard Spolsky, are retired Bar-Ilan professors of literature and linguistics, respectively.) Following a trip to Israel in the summer of 1970, Malka and David Schaps decided to apply for academic posts in Israel, as well as in the United States. “We felt Israel has more effect on the Diaspora than the other way around,” she explained. “Living here is like being in the center of things.” The couple accepted teaching positions at Tel Aviv Uni-
Professor Malka Schaps versity in 1972 and settled in Bnei Brak, gradually shifting to the right in their religious lifestyle. They switched to Bar-Ilan five years later and have been there ever since. For women’s sake “I refused four times when the chairman tried to persuade me to run for election to the job of dean as the department’s candidate,” Malka said, explaining that she had founded the university’s program in financial mathematics and wanted to continue running it. “I also wanted to make a new push on a difficult research problem which was stalled,” she added, with a sigh. But one of the two other women in the department convinced her to accept the challenge. “I did it for the sake of raising the status of women,” she said. In two years from now, Malka plans to go back to her longtime research in spin representations, a futuristic quantum mechanics field having to do with equations in motion. “We research things I can’t even define for people,” she admitted. She is not yet sure how the new job will affect her writing schedule. Malka is finishing a new novel, the third in a trilogy, exploring the relationship of former college roommates – one a Jewish convert living in Israel, the other a Gentile mathematician in the United States. “The non-Jewish mathematician is myself if I hadn’t converted,” revealed Malka, who started writing in 1981 and has published seven novels for haredi readers under the pen name Rachel Pomerantz. While writing books and advancing their academic careers, the Schapses raised two children of their own and cared for four foster children. “We had a very small family of two children,” she
explained. “The two closest neighbors in our apartment building each had 13 children. So we decided to take in foster children in 1982.” The couple now has 17 grandchildren, counting those of the two foster children who stayed with the family until adulthood. Bnei Brak residents who are aware of her professional accomplishments are “impressed,” she said. Yet Malka does not see herself as a role model for haredi Israeli girls, because although they learn science and math, unlike their male counterparts, they generally do not have the educational opportunities that were open to Mary Elizabeth Kramer. “I got my Ph.D. from another world,” she said. “I don’t know that my career has that much to say in Bnei Brak.” Malka muses that after she retires, perhaps she will work on upgrading the teaching of geometry in the ultraOrthodox school system. However, she does think that her novel “A Time to Rend, A Time to Sew,” about academics who became religious, was popular with haredi girls all around the world because it asserted that girls are just as smart as boys and can be successful in scientific careers. The book sold more than 10,000 copies in three languages. (Schaps will be speaking in Scranton on Sunday, February 2, at a Federation event. For more information, see the ad on page 11.)
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THE REPORTER ■ january 16, 2014
jewish community center news More than 200 attend JCC’s All American Chanukah Feast and celebration
The JCC of Scranton held its community Chanukah celebration on December 4 with more than 200 people in attendance. The theme of the event was an “All American Chanukah Feast,” featuring an American barbecue meal provided by Gemstone Catering of Westchester, NY. Entertainment was provided by the barbershop quartet Chordial Connection, and also included a performance by the Scranton Hebrew Day School Junior Choir.
His bravery in the battle for Jerusalem in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence made the infantry unit commander the stuff of legend at the age of 20. He took a bullet to the stomach and, when all seemed hopeless, ordered the soldiers who were able to retreat. He eventually crawled to safety. Five years later, Sharon led a raid on the Jordan-ruled West Bank town of Kibya in retaliation for a terrorist attack that killed an Israeli mother and her two children. The raid killed 69 Palestinians, half of them women and children. Sharon claimed he hadn’t known there were people in the homes he was blowing up, but the stain marked his subsequent military and political careers. In the 1956 war with Egypt, Sharon captured the strategic Mitla Pass in the Sinai Peninsula after defying orders not to advance. During the 1973 war, he again challenged his superiors who feared crossing the Suez Canal was a risky maneuver that would incur too many losses. But Sharon prevailed, leading his forces across the canal and trapping an Egyptian army unit, a move many consider a turning point in the conflict. His penchant for insubordination making it unlikely he would ever secure the top military job, Sharon quit the army in 1972 – returning only to fight in the Yom Kippur War – and launched his political career. His ability to keep an unruly coalition in line helped Likud leader Menachem Begin win the 1977 elections, ending the hegemony that Labor leaders had enjoyed since the founding of the state. Sharon was rewarded with the agriculture portfolio, ostensibly because of his farming roots, but also because
Children participated in several activities, such as face painting, spin art and playing dreidel-a-thon. Additionally, the children ate cotton candy and popcorn. “It was a wonderful evening of fun, friends and Chanukah,” said organizers of the program. Representatives of the JCC thanked Leah Laury, Janice Cutler and Alma Shaffer for chairing the event. They also thanked the students of Bais Yaakov, members of the
he turned the ministry into a cash cow for the settlement movement. After another hard-fought Likud victory in 1981, Begin could hardly deny Sharon the prize he had sought for so long: the Defense Ministry. A year later, in June 1982, Sharon launched Israel’s invasion of Lebanon to push back Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization from its mini-state in southern Lebanon. The invasion rankled both the Reagan administration, which had brokered a mostly successful cease-fire with the PLO nine months earlier, and Sharon’s government colleagues. On Sharon’s orders, the army breached the 40-kilometer line the government initially said was its goal, pursuing the PLO all the way to Beirut, where it laid siege to the city. “If he gets the chance, he’ll surround the Knesset with his tanks,” Begin once reportedly joked of Sharon. The Lebanon war also would give birth to one of the darkest stains on Sharon’s career – the September 1982 massacre of hundreds of Palestinian refugees by Israel’s Lebanese Christian allies. A state commission subsequently cleared Sharon of knowing in advance of the massacre, but held him indirectly responsible, asserting that he should have anticipated and prevented the carnage. The commission recommended Sharon’s dismissal, and by the beginning of 1983 he was gone from power. The exile would not last long, however. Sharon rebuilt his reputation, this time as a careful nurturer of alliances. He was an architect of the national unity governments that lasted until 1990. When Likud returned to power in 1996, Sharon became national infrastructure minister and later foreign minister
Friends of The Reporter Dear Friend of The Reporter, Each year at this time the Jewish Federation of Northeastern Pennsylvania calls upon members of our community to assist in defraying the expense of issuing our regional Jewish newspaper, The Reporter. The newspaper is delivered twice of month (except for December and July which are single issue months) to each and every identifiable Jewish home in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
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JCC’s BBYO Teen Leadership Group and the JCC staff who volunteered their time. Also thanked was Louise McNabb, JCC director of adult services and community outreach, for organizing the event in conjunction with the chairwomen and volunteers. The event was sponsored by Pennsylvania Paper and Supply Company, and the Foundation for the Jewish Elderly of Eastern Pennsylvania. (See page 7 for event photos.)
Continued from page 1 under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Americans and Palestinians alike said they appreciated Sharon’s role as an elder statesman who would make sure Netanyahu kept his word. Sharon was critical in achieving the 1998 Wye River Accords that kept the peace process alive through the rest of Netanyahu’s term. In 1999, Labor’s Ehud Barak ousted Netanyahu, who temporarily retired from politics, and Sharon became head of the Likud. The following year, Sharon visited the Temple Mount accompanied by a large escort of security officers, inflaming Palestinians and – some have charged – helping to provoke the second intifada. The uprising derailed Barak’s efforts to accelerate peace talks and Sharon was overwhelmingly elected prime minister in February 2001. In a flash, the sidelined statesman and disgraced defense minister, the soldier once marked as brilliant but uncontrollable, was in charge. His contemporaries who had kept him back were dead, retired or marginalized. Sharon and President George W. Bush, who assumed power at the same time, had an affinity dating to 1998, when Sharon hosted the then-Texas governor on a helicopter flight across Israel and the West Bank. Their friendship culminated in Sharon’s greatest diplomatic triumph: the 2004 White House letter recognizing some of Israel’s largest West Bank settlements as realities on the ground and dismissing the demand for a “right of return” of Palestinian refugees to Israel. In 2005, Sharon carried out one of the most astonishing moves of his career, abandoning his longstanding support for Israeli settlements by evacuating thousands of settlers from Gaza and relocating them inside Israel proper. Months after the disengagement was completed, he broke from Likud, much of which had opposed the operation, and formed Kadima. His appetites, like his personal ambition, knew few bounds. He routinely feasted on grilled meats on Jerusalem’s Agrippas Street, known for its late-night eateries. He had gallstones and kidney stones removed, suffered from gout and, at 5 feet, 7 inches tall, was extremely obese. In December 2005, Sharon was rushed to the hospital after aides noticed impairment in his speech. He was released two days later having suffered a mild stroke. Weeks later, in January 2006, Sharon suffered a second stroke that left him in a vegetative state from which he would never recover. Here, too, Sharon defied expectations, holding on for eight more years, fed by a tube but breathing on his own. About a year ago, scientists reported that Sharon had exhibited brain activity in response to external stimulation, a finding that suggested he might have regained some ability to comprehend what was going on around him. His medical condition began deteriorating significantly in recent days, though, prompting renal failure followed by a decline in organ function. Throughout his career, Sharon’s motivations were a subject of considerable speculation. How could the man who had cleaned Gaza of terrorists as southern commander in 1971 and helped sire the settlement movement wind up endorsing the 2003 road map for peace and evacuating thousands of settlers? As a soldier and statesman, Sharon always maintained an acute sense of the possible and the improbable. And unlike some Likud colleagues who were ideologically wed to the notion of Greater Israel, Sharon showed himself capable of putting strategic considerations above other loyalties. “The Palestinians will always be our neighbors,” the man who once bridled at the mere mention of the word “Palestinian” told the United Nations in September 2005. “They are also entitled to freedom and to a national, sovereign existence in a state of their own.” Sharon is survived by two sons: Gilad, 46, who has been a keeper of his father’s flame, tending the family farm and publishing a compilation of his father’s writings in 2011, and Omri, 49, who served in the Knesset from 2003-2006 and carved out a niche as an environmentalist. Omri Sharon quit because of a corruption probe and served a four-month prison sentence in 2008. Sharon’s first wife, Margalit, died in an automobile accident in 1962. Two years later, he married her younger sister, Lily, who died of cancer in 2000. A son, Gur, from his first marriage died in a shooting accident in 1967. Matthew Berger and Ben Sales contributed to this report.
JANUARY 16, 2014 â–
Thanks to everyone for coming to our
All-American Chanukah Feast!
THE REPORTER ■ january 16, 2014
d’var torah ABINGTON TORAH CENTER
Rabbi Dovid Saks President: Richard Rutta Jewish Heritage Connection 108 North Abington Rd., Clarks Summit, PA 18411 570-346-1321 • Website: www.jewishheritageconnection.org Sunday morning services at 8:30 am Call for other scheduled services throughout the week.
BETH SHALOM CONGREGATION
Rabbi Yisroel Brotsky 1025 Vine St., Scranton, PA 18510, (corner of Vine & Clay Ave.) 570-346-0502 • fax: 570-346-8800 Weekday – Shacharit: Sun 8 am; Mon, Thurs. & Rosh Chodesh, 6:30 am; Tue, Wed & Fri, 6:45 am; Sat & Holidays, 8:45 am. Mincha during the week is approx. 10 minutes before sunset, followed by Maariv.
BICHOR CHOLEM CONGREGATION/ CHABAD OF THE ABINGTONS Rabbi Benny Rapoport President: Richard I. Schwartz 216 Miller Road, Waverly, PA 18471 570-587-3300 • Website: www.JewishNEPA.com Saturday morning Shabbat Service 9:30 am. Call or visit us online for our bi-weekly schedule
CHABAD LUBAVITCH OF THE POCONOS Rabbi Mendel Bendet 570-420-8655 • Website: www.chabadpoconos.com Please contact us for schedules and locations.
CONGREGATION BETH ISRAEL
Affiliation: Union for Reform Judaism Rabbi Allan L. Smith President: Henry M. Skier Contact Person: Ben Schnessel, Esq. (570) 222-3020 615 Court Street, Honesdale, PA 18431 570-253-2222 • fax: 570-226-1105
CONGREGATION B’NAI HARIM
Affiliation: Union for Reform Judaism Rabbi Peg Kershenbaum President: Alan S. Wismer P.O. Box 757 Sullivan Rd., Pocono Pines, PA 18350 (located at RT 940 and Pocono Crest Rd at Sullivan Trail 570-646-0100 • Website: www.bnaiharimpoconos.org Shabbat Morning Services, 10 am – noon; every other Saturday Potluck Shabbat Dinner with blessings and program of varying topics, one Friday every month – call for schedule.
JEWISH FELLOWSHIP OF HEMLOCK FARMS
Rabbi Steve Nathan President: Steve Natt Forest Drive 1516 Hemlock Farms, Lords Valley, PA 18428 570-775-7497 • E-Mail: email@example.com Friday evening Shabbat service 8:00 pm, Saturday morning Shabbat Service 9:30 am.
MACHZIKEH HADAS SYNAGOGUE Rabbi Mordechai Fine President: Moshe Fink 600 Monroe Ave., Scranton, PA 18510 570-342-6271
OHEV ZEDEK CONGREGATION
Rabbi Mordechai Fine 1432 Mulberry St, Scranton, PA 18510 Contact person: Michael Mellner - 570-343-3183
Union of Reform Judaism Rabbi Daniel J. Swartz President: Ken Miller 1 Knox Street, Scranton, PA 18505, (off Lake Scranton Rd.) 570-344-7201 Friday evening Shabbat, 8 pm; Saturday Morning , when Shabbat School is in session, at 11 am
TEMPLE ISRAEL OF DUNMORE
President: Isadore Steckel 515 East Drinker St., Dunmore, PA 18512 Saturday morning Shabbat 7:30 am; also services for Yizkor
TEMPLE ISRAEL OF THE POCONOS
Affiliation: United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism Rabbi Baruch Melman President: Dr. Sandra Alfonsi Contact person: Dr. Sandra Alfonsi 570-223-7062 711 Wallace St., Stroudsburg, PA, 18360 (one block off Rte. 191 (5th Street) at Avenue A) 570-421-8781 • Website: www.templeisraelofthepoconos.org E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Friday evening Shabbat, 7pm; Saturday morning Shabbat, 9 am
TEMPLE ISRAEL OF SCRANTON
Affiliation: United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism Rabbi Moshe Saks 918 East Gibson St., Scranton, PA, 18510 (located at the corner of Gibson & Monroe Sts.) 570-342-0350 Fax: 570-342-7250 • E-Mail: email@example.com Sunday, 8 am; Mon & Thurs, 7:15 am; Tue, Wed & Fri, 7:25 am; Rosh Hodesh & Chagim weekdays, 7 am; Shabbat Morning Service, 8:45 am; evening services: Sun – Thurs, 5:45 pm; Friday Shabbat and Saturday Havdalah services, call for times.
Taking the journey by RABBI STEVEN P. NATHAN, JEWISH FELLOWSHIP OF HEMLOCK FARMS, THE SYNAGOGUE OF PIKE COUNTY Yitro, Exodus 18:1-20:23 This week’s parasha is Yitro (Shemot/Exodus 18:120:23). It begins, “And Yitro (Jethro), father-in-law of Moses, heard all that God had done to Moses and to Israel his people, that God had taken Israel out of Egypt.” The parasha then continues with Yitro’s advice to Moses that he not take on the duty of judging the people’s grievances alone, but appoint judges to help him. Finally, it reaches a climax the giving of the Ten Commandments at Sinai. It is at Sinai that the ragtag bunch of former slaves finally covenant themselves to God as a people. At Sinai the nation, or people, of Israel is born. Ever since “higher” biblical criticism began in the 19th century, there are those who have questioned the veracity of the narrative of Mount Sinai, as well as the other miracles and tales of the Torah. But, whether or not one believes in Sinai as a historical event does not concern me. What matters is not the historical facts of the narrative, but rather the “Truth” within, the spiritual message that it is meant to teach. I believe that the ancient rabbis too cared more about the inner truth than the factual nature of the narrative, for in one prominent rabbinic reading of the text, the sages stated that Yitro actually came to see Moses after the giving of the law at Sinai, even though the text states that he arrived before the sacred event. The rabbis permit themselves this license based on the rabbinic exegetical principle that “there is no early or late in the Torah.” Standard chronology does not affect sacred text. Time can be suspended – or reversed – by the interpreter if need be. The Torah is not bound by time, but is, in effect, beyond it. And so our sages wrote that when Yitro “heard all that God had done to Moses and his people” the text is speaking not only about the Exodus from Egypt, but the events at Sinai as well. In 12th century France, the great commentator Rashi also wrote that Yitro journeyed “...out to the wilderness, a place of emptiness, in order to hear words of Torah.” In her book on Exodus, “The Particulars of Rapture,” Aviva Gottlieb Zornberg posited that, upon hearing of the giving of Torah at Sinai, Yitro left his material life and all of his world behind. He gave up the glory of the priesthood (he was a priest of Midian) and emptied himself of ego so that he could then hear the words of Torah. But how could he hear the words if, according to this rabbinic chronology, the Torah had already been given? Obviously, he must have heard them from Moses. However, the truth of the matter is that all of the people heard God’s word only through Moses. Though God initially began to speak to all the people, we read in the Torah that it was too much for them to bear. And so, they told Moses to go up the mountain, receive the complete word of God and bring it back to them. Since they knew that Moses was a true prophet with whom God spoke, they also knew they could trust what he would relate to them. Yitro, too, relied on the words of his son-in-law in order to understand what God spoke. In the parasha Yitro states, “Now I know that God is greater than all the gods.” (18:11) Rashi interprets this to mean that Yitro had experienced the worship of all gods of the world, but that he came to realize [upon hearing of what happened at Sinai] that our God was the God. In discussing the idea that Moses relayed all that had happened at Sinai, Rashi also states “...Moses narrated... everything that God had done in order to attract [Yitro’s] heart, to bring him close to the Torah.” Furthermore, the commentaries speak of Yitro’s connection to his past and being caught between a desire to embrace God and fear based on his past identity and experience (something which I don’t have time to discuss in this
commentary). Yet, the sages still believed that Yitro was “converted” by hearing all that God had done. However, Zornberg reminds her readers that this occurred even though he had not personally experienced the giving of Torah at Sinai (Zornberg, pp. 253-254). Even so, Yitro is brought close to God by hearing Moses tell him the redemption and revelation narrative of the Exodus from Egypt and the giving of Torah. Though still reticent because of his connection to his Midianite past, Yitro eventually embraces God and God’s word. His acceptance of the words of Torah heals his soul and removes from him any sense of fear or trepidation. Yet, perhaps the central point of this commentary is revealed in Zornberg’s reminder toward the end of her commentary that Yitro had “...already made all the necessary spiritual movements away from civilization and into the wilderness, as soon as he heard of the Exodus. Moses’ narrative works not to bring near one who was far, but to bring near one who has already come close.” Zornberg writes eloquently of how Moses’ speech “...engages with the ambivalences, the attraction and the repulsion, of one who, against all odds, approaches Sinai...” and that the “therapeutic” quality of Moses’ words recounting all that had happened addresses “a real trauma, a wound inflicted, as it were, by the very encounter with God.” This verse spoke to me on a deep level, for I believe Zornberg is saying that Moses’s retelling of the narrative becomes therapeutic, healing speech because it acknowledges the intensity as well as the traumatic nature of the human-Divine encounter. Simultaneously, it also helps Yitro become aware of its beauty and the reality of what it means to approach Sinai. Moses knows that Yitro is both attracted (out of love, rooted in the present) and repulsed (out of fear, rooted in his past) by Sinai, and so Moses acknowledges this dichotomy. This then allows Yitro to embrace the entire experience and ultimately God. We are all aware that God and Judaism (indeed, all religions) have the ability to attract and repel, often simultaneously. We want to find God, we want to connect to community, and yet many of us are often repelled by the memories, often painful, of negative childhood experiences related to this desire. Perhaps it was a rabbi who bored us to tears every Shabbat, or one who ignored the children or who chastised people harshly for not coming to services, without giving them a reason to want to attend. Perhaps it was an overly strict or an ineffective religious schoolteacher. Or perhaps it was experiencing Judaism in one’s family as boring, judgmental, superfluous or even (especially for women) oppressive. Many of us may have experienced these traumas in the past and yet, the fact that you are reading this commentary means that you have chosen to connect in some way to the tradition. Somehow, the attraction overcame the repulsion; the love overcame the fear or anger. Remember, Rashi said that Moses was able to reach Yitro only because Yitro had already prepared himself spiritually. He could be reached and healed by Moses’ words because he was not so far away as he might have otherwise been. He had a desire to be close to God and to be part of the new people, and so he had begun his approach to both. That is why Moses was able to bring him all the way to Sinai, even though he had not witnessed it first-hand. This is true for so many of us who consider ourselves on some level to be seekers, but are uncertain exactly how to reach our final destination (or where it is or what it looks like). But if those of us who have begun the journey listen carefully to the words of Torah as filtered through contemporary teachers, whether rabbis, professionals or simply other Jews, as well through our community, then we empower ourselves to continue the journey. If we seek meaning that speaks to us wherever we may be at that
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Israel under the radar Bibi’s wine, doggie care, smoking soldiers, diamond savior them on the street near the exchange while taking them to the polishing factory, he told the Israel Diamond Institute’s in-house publication. But the bag was found by a young diamond dealer from nearby Bnei Brak, who noticed a bag full of diamonds lying on the ground. The young dealer handed the bag over to the Diamond Exchange’s legal division. “I wasn’t tempted for a moment to take it. I was brought up to believe that we don’t touch anything that isn’t ours,” he said. “Moreover, the rules of the Diamond Exchange require us to behave with integrity and to return a lost item.” When the veteran dealer reported the loss, he was astounded to learn that his bag was in the process of being returned. “I can’t believe that there are people like that; I was pleasantly surprised,” said the dealer, who gave the man who found it some reward money. Israeli women set hair-razing record Some 250 women in Jerusalem set a Guinness World Record for donating the most hair to make wigs for cancer patients in a single drive. The record was broken in November at a hair salon in Jerusalem’s Malcha Mall after five hours, when the Zichron Menachem Cancer Support Center collected 117 pounds of hair. The drive continued See “Radar” on page 14
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By MARCY OSTER JERUSALEM (JTA) – Here are some recent stories out of Israel that you may have missed: Taxpayer shekels at work? Israel’s first family seems to like its creature comforts. The prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem spent $1,700 on scented candles and more than $4,200 on wine in 2012. There was also some $2,600 spent on mezuzahs. The water bill for the Netanyahus’ personal home in Caesarea was more than $20,000, possibly due to the home’s private pool. The flower bill was $5,700 and the dry cleaning tab came to $2,800. Spending on Netanyahu’s three homes, which also include a private Jerusalem home, amounted to $934,000 in 2012, according to a report by the Israeli government watchdog group Movement for Freedom of Information. The group obtained the figures after filing a court petition. The amount is more than double that spent by then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008. Honest dealer a diamond in the rough When a veteran diamond dealer from the Israel Diamond Exchange lost a bag containing some $200,000 worth of uninsured diamonds, he was sure he would have to take out a large loan to pay back the broker who owned them. The dealer had dropped
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THE REPORTER ■ january 16, 2014
Food, Jews and the Soviet Union 19th-century Russian writers, food was what landscape (or maybe class?) was for the English. Or war for the Germans, love for the French – a subject encompassing the great themes of comedy, tragedy, ecstasy and doom.” However, these same writers – whose descriptions of food cause Von Bremzen to salivate – moralize about food, “exposing gluttons as spiritual bankrupt Philistines – or lethargic losers.” This means that even before the Soviets came into power, “a complicated, even tortured, relationship with food ha[d] long been a hallmark of our national character.” Focusing each chapter on a different decade – from the 1910s through the beginning of the 21st century – Von Bremzen not only picks a specific food to symbolize each period, but shows its affect on Russian life in general. For example, the section on the 1930s centers on the difficulties of living under Stalin, particularly the schizophrenic nature of the time. There were “the period’s dread silence [and] the morbid paralysis of families of the newly arrested”; however, the decade was also filled with the constant noise of street loudspeakers
By rabbi rachel esserman Warning: If you’re looking for old-fashioned Russian Jewish recipes, you’re going to be very disappointed in Anya Von Bremzen’s “Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing” (Crown Publishers). First, only one of the eight recipes included has a particular Jewish slant (a peppery version of gefilte fish). Second, even though Von Bremzen and her mother left the U.S.S.R. during the 1970s as part of Soviet Jewish emigration, they consider themselves “ecumenical culturalists” (for example, lighting a menorah next to their Christmas tree, as well as making a Russian Easter cake to go with their Passover gefilte fish). Last, as a food writer and editor, the author readily and happily eats all forms of treif (pork, shellfish, etc.). Readers looking to learn more about life in Russia during the 20th and 21st centuries, though, will be delighted to follow Von Bremzen’s lead as she explores three generations of family life through the lens of Russian cuisine and the history that inspired it. Von Bremzen believes that Russians have long “fixated on food.” For example, she notes “that for
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and radios playing music and explaining the wonders of life under Soviet (specifically Stalin’s) rule. For Von Bremzen, the representative food of the decade is kotleta – a fried patty made with almost any type of meat (beef, pork, fish or chicken, or if no meat was available, carrots or beets) – eaten with a side dish of kasha or potatoes. In researching her memoir, Von Bremzen was surprised to learn the origin of this “lump-in-the-throat nostalgic treat from five generations of childhood”: a group of Soviet food experts, who were sent to the U.S. by Stalin, were so impressed with the hamburger patty, they brought back “22 American hamburger grills” on which to cook them for mass consumption. As for the bun, it “got lost in the shuffle” during World War II when “Soviet food planning settled instead for a takeout kotleta, unsandwiched.” Most of the personal descriptions focus on Von Bremzen’s mother’s family, who were originally Jewish, although religion didn’t play a role in their lives once the revolution arrived. One of the author’s greatgrandfathers was a stalwart Communist who “hated the Talmud and detested the Bible. Mom liked to tug at the wispy clumps of hair on his temples as he sat in the kitchen copying ‘The Short Course of the History of the All-Union Communist Party’ into his notebook over and over and over. He knew it all by heart, Stalin’s Party catechism.” Both of Von Bremzen’s grandparents were also active members of the party. Her grandfather was involved in intelligence work, a dangerous occupation during Stalin’s regime. Fortunately, his luck held and he avoided the many purges that took place, although he had several close calls. None of the horrors of Stalin’s rule shook his belief in the Communist system, though, and he was very upset when his daughter, who chafed under Soviet rule, decided to emigrate. Von Bremzen mentions how even under the Soviets, antisemitism remained. Woefully ignorant at the time of what Judaism actually meant, she knew that listing Jew as an ethnicity on your identity card (which she calls an “internal passport”) “was the equivalent of a yellow star in the toxic atmosphere of the Brezhnev era.” Emigrating to the U.S. before turning 16 allowed her to avoid a very difficult choice: picking which ethnicity was placed on her passport. Even now the dilemma still haunts her: Von Bremzen doesn’t know if she would have picked Jew like her mother or Russian like her father. While her mother, who seemed allergic to the Soviet regime almost from birth, was determined to emigrate, Von Bremzen was more reluctant. She’d learned how to manage the system, which included dealing in black market goods at school. Yet, she was willing to follow her mother, even though the Soviet regime allowed no right of return for any reason. Fortunately for the two women, the U.S.S.R. collapsed and they were able to travel not only to see family, but, in Von Bremzen’s case, to study Russian cuisine. Although there are a few details about the women’s lives in the U.S. (first in Philadelphia and then New York City), the later chapters still focus on life in Russia, including how the political and social changes affected their relatives. What stood out – particularly in the last chapter – was not so much the differences in food or culture, but the utterances of ethnic hatred Von Bremzen heard throughout the former U.S.S.R., including the intolerance Russians in Moscow expressed for those coming from different parts of the former Soviet empire. In “Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking,” Von Bremzen does an excellent job explaining Russian history, while also sharing the foibles of her own extended family. The writing is breezy and the pages turn quickly, even when the author discusses difficult subjects, such as Hitler’s invasion and Stalin’s purges. History lovers should find this personal take on the subject of great interest; foodies will enjoy exploring the connection between politics and cooking.
Continued from page 8 moment, then we can be brought the rest of the way in love. Then, together with one another, we can experience the beauty of Jewish community as well as the spirit of the Divine in our lives. For those who do not believe that they have begun the journey, just stop for a moment and look where you are. You are on the journey with each step you take, no matter how small it might seem. Don’t worry about how long it will take. Just pay attention to where you are now and then take the next tiny step. Join with the rest of us as we walk from slavery to Sinai and beyond, over and over again. We are together, yet separate, on this sacred journey. That is what it means to be part of a Jewish community. That is what it means to stand together at Sinai.
JANUARY 16, 2014 ■
Major Jewish-themed films reimagined in new cinematic concert The project explores the emotional relationBy Robert Gluck ship between music and movies and moves JNS.org beyond the classical and klezmer genres Clarinet virtuoso David Krakauer’s new with a modernist approach. project takes listeners on a journey of personal Krakauer’s team includes Rob Schwimdiscovery, while exploring the intersection of mer on piano, Sara Caswell on violin, Mark music and Jewish identity in the iconic movies Helias on double-bass, Sheryl Bailey on of the last 50 years. guitar and John Hadfield on drums. To lend “The Big Picture,” Krakauer’s multimedia creative intrigue, New York graphics giants concert, opens on January 29 at the Museum Clarinetist David Light of Day and Cutting Room Films creof Jewish Heritage in New York and runs until February 23. The klezmer/jazz/classical musi- Krakauer. (Photo courtesy ated original films for “The Big Picture.” of David Krakauer) The original visuals are a reaction to the cian adds his contemporary style to beloved songs from 12 major films, such as “Funny Girl,” “Fiddler show’s music, not clips from the films the music comes from, on the Roof,” “Sophie’s Choice,” “Radio Days” and “The explained Krakauer. Instead of using the visual elements Pianist.” The music is accompanied by original projected as a creative starting point, Krakauer’s music serves as a catalytic agent, embracing his adventurous and individual visuals created by Light of Day and Cutting Room Films. “For the music part I’ve taken themes from iconic films spirit of self-discovery. “There’s that great scene from the with Jewish content and reimagined them with a band beginning of [the 1990 movie] ‘Avalon’ where the patriarch of world-class musicians,” Krakauer told JNS.org. “The of the family arrives [in America] on July 4, 1900, and he album has become more special than I’d ever imagined. gets off the boat and there are fireworks, and of course he It brought me to a new emotional level, reminding me of thinks they are for him,” he said. “It’s a poignant moment the incredible resiliency of my great-grandparents arriving that I can relate to on a personal level.” Born and raised in New York, Krakauer’s cultural influfrom Eastern Europe with virtually nothing.” The musician said he never knew his great-grandparents, ences include klezmer, classical, electronica and jazz. He but he learned their story from other family members, who has shared the stage with a wide array of artists, including told Krakauer that they were able to overcome poverty and Itzhak Perlman, the Klezmatics, Fred Wesley, Socalled, antisemitism to succeed. His great-grandfather was born in Poland and arrived in America at the end of the 19th century without much money, starting off his new life as an errand boy on New York City’s Lower East Side. “[My great-grandfather] was delivering parts to a place that made bed springs,” Krakauer said. “He was curious, so he watched what they were doing. The head of the company saw this and said to his employees, ‘Don’t let that dirty little Jew see what you’re doing.’ Instead of being insulted my great-grandfather thought, ‘If they’re so secretive, maybe that’ll be a good business,’ and he ended up making a spring manufacturing business that my grandfather took over, and three of his sons went into the business.” Krakauer and producer Joseph Baldassare picked the Museum of Jewish Heritage for the launch of “The Big Picture” because it overlooks Ellis Island, the place made famous by immigrants like those from Krakauer’s family. “My grandfather’s brother had a cold, so they wrapped him up in blankets so he wouldn’t be refused at Ellis Island,” Krakauer said. “There was a lot of fear, doubt and uncertainty.” According to Gabriel Sanders, director of public programs at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Krakauer’s show is a natural extension of the museum’s recent forays into Jewish arts. “We’ve devoted each of the last three summers to showcasing the work of contemporary Jewish filmmakers: Woody Allen in 2011, Mel Brooks in 2012 and Barbra Streisand this past year,” Sanders told JNS.org. “To have their work – to say nothing of more somber Holocaust-related films like ‘The Pianist’ and ‘Schindler’s List’ – explored and reimagined in our theater seems a natural extension of our mission. That this exploration and reimagination will be done by a talent as titanic as Krakauer is, for us, nothing short of thrilling.” “The Big Picture” reimagines familiar themes by filmmusic composers such as John Williams, Marvin Hamlisch, Randy Newman, Wojciech Kilar and Vangelis, as well as melodies by Sidney Bechet, Sergei Prokofiev, Mel Brooks, Ralph Burns, John Kander and Fred Ebb, and Jerry Bock that have appeared in popular films with Jewish content.
Eiko and Koma, and Leonard Slatkin, as well as the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Phoenix Symphony and the Detroit Symphony. “The bottom line is this is very expressive music,” Krakauer said. “When I came to klezmer music 25 years ago, I came from a background of classical music and jazz. I didn’t grow up with it. But when I heard the music, I was immediately drawn to it and I felt that this is the Yiddish accent of my grandmother. That expression drew me to it.” Each film Krakauer picked for “The Big Picture” has a Jewish connection, whether it is the director, actor, composer or topics like war and persecution (“Sophie’s Choice,” “Life is Beautiful”) and Jewish tradition (“Fiddler on the Roof”). The concert features the master clarinetist Krakauer and his sextet navigating Jewish history by showcasing new musical arrangements of these familiar movie soundtracks. After spending more than a year on this project, Krakauer said he connected emotionally to his ancestors in a different way. When he listened to all the show’s pieces one after the other and heard how the progression moved along, the final product gave Krakauer a new perspective on Jewish history. “It makes people, Jewish and non-Jewish, connect to this journey through cultural heritage,” he said. “It happens to be mine, but it is a universal story. Struggling, striving, getting from point A to point B.”
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THE REPORTER ■ january 16, 2014
Two decades on, Russian immigrants a rare case of successful aliyah
Russians in the upper third of Israeli earners By Ben Sales grew from 10 to 27 percent. TELAVIV (JTA) – Growing up in the Urals, “With any group of new immigrants in Pavel Polev was a precocious ice skater and a any country, you won’t find such a huge sucmember of the Soviet Union’s national youth cess,” Natan Sharansky, the famous Soviet figure-skating team. But in 1992, at age 15, refusenik who now serves as chairman of the Polev’s life was upended when he joined the Jewish Agency for Israel, told JTA. “If you massive wave of Jews immigrating to Israel look at service in the army, at medicine and from the crumbling Soviet Union. After serving science, you can see how deeply it’s entering a mandatory three years in the Israel Defense Israeli society.” Forces following high school, Polev took a Russian immigrant success stands in marked job as a custodian. contrast to the ongoing challenges faced by Two decades later, Polev is a successful small-business owner and rising politician. Ariel Mayor Pavel Ethiopian immigrants, who arrived in Israel in He runs an air-conditioning store and serves as Polev, a rising star in large numbers at around the same time. More deputy mayor of Ariel, the Israeli West Bank Israeli politics, worked than half of Ethiopian Israelis live below the settlement city home to a large Russian-speak- as a custodian when he poverty line, according to the Adva report. ing population. “It’s impossible to compare first arrived in Israel in Ethiopians also lag the broader Israeli public in education and have salaries about one-third now with the situation 22 years ago,” said 1992. lower than the average Israeli. Polev, a member of the Russian immigrantThe Russian success owes at least in part to the founded Yisrael Beiteinu party. Polev’s immigrant success story resembles those of education and skills that enabled them to succeed in an many of the one million Russian-speaking immigrants modern economy. Ethiopians emigrated from an agrarwho arrived in Israel in the 1990s. Along with their de- ian subsistence economy and have struggled to adjust scendants, Russian speakers now comprise nearly one- their traditional lifestyles to a Western society. “The education there was at a high level,” said Chen Bram, fifth of all Israelis. Unlike other immigrant groups that moved en masse an expert on Russian Jewry at Hebrew University’s to Israel only to find themselves poor and socially mar- Truman Institute. “So their ability to direct themselves ginalized, two decades on Russian aliyah is by many was very high.” Russian success is all the more startling considering metrics a story of resounding success. The Russian influx has had a palpable impact on Israeli society, how ill-prepared Israel was to absorb them when they first from the countless storefronts with signs in Cyrillic arrived. At the time, stories abounded of highly trained characters to the many Russian-speaking immigrants Russian scientists forced to take jobs cleaning streets. who have assumed critical roles in the highest echelons “They got here and they felt that there was no one who was caring for them,” said Betzalel Shif, a law professor who of Israeli politics. Though many Soviet immigrants, especially older ones, immigrated from Tashkent, a Soviet city in Uzbekistan, still face poverty and significant cultural barriers, overall in 1971. “Thank God they understood how to survive in statistics show a community on the rise. According to a Russia and survive here.” Shif was a founding member of the Zionists’ Forum, a 2013 report by the Adva Center, an Israeli social policy Russian immigrant advocacy group that was the precurthink tank, 56 percent of Russian immigrants in 1992 were in the poorest third of Israeli society – below the poverty sor organization to Israel B’Aliyah, a Russian immigrant line or at risk of poverty. By 2010, the figure had dropped party founded by Sharansky that won seven seats in its first to 38 percent. Over the same period, the percentage of Knesset election in 1996.
The party merged with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party in 2003, helping to cement the mounting political influence that has been a hallmark of Russian success and another distinguishing feature of Russian integration. Moldovan-born Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party, a faction that also counted Russian immigrants as its primary constituency, won 15 seats in the 2009 elections before joining lists with Likud last year. Liberman is one of two Russian-speaking ministers and one deputy minister in the governing coalition, compared to just two Ethiopians in the entire Knesset. Polev said Yisrael Beiteinu has passed the stage of appealing only to narrow Russian interests and is now aiming to present itself as a mainstream party – a shift that also speaks to the success of Russian integration. In their first years in Israel, Russian politics focused largely on securing government support for communal priorities. Now Russians are beginning to deal with the consequences of their successful integration. “There are some kids who grow up here and feel bad about their Russianness, they want to forget their language,” said Alexey Tashaev, an organizer of the Russian Israeli youth organization Fishka. “That’s a problem. On the other hand, some don’t identify with Israel.” Even as the community grows more successful, challenges remain for elderly Russians and those living in Israel’s economically disadvantaged periphery. Nadejda Tatarenko, 70, who moved from Ukraine at 47, said that older immigrants often do not receive all of their government benefits and encounter disrespectful conduct at government offices. But as the Russian community continues to integrate, she added, such challenges likely will become a thing of the past. “For a long time there will still be a difference between people without roots here and people who do have them and who know their rights,” said Tatarenko, the founder of the nonprofit Immigrants for a Successful Absorption. “Now we have the third generation, and they’re Israeli. I don’t see many differences between them and sabras.”
JANUARY 16, 2014 ■
NEWS IN bRIEF From JTA
French high court reinstates ban on Dieudonne show
France’s highest court reinstated a ban on a performance by the comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala hours after a lower court overturned it. The administrative court in Nantes on Jan. 9 rejected an argument by a municipal administrator, Christian de Lavernée, that a performance by Dieudonne would create a disturbance to public order and “cause offense to basic human dignity,” Le Monde reported. But later in the day, France’s highest court, the Council of State, reinstated the ban following an appeal by Interior Minister Manuel Valls, the BBC reported. Valls had informed French mayors earlier that week that they had the authority to ban shows by Dieudonne, a comedian who has been convicted seven times for inciting racial hatred against Jews with jokes about the Holocaust, calls for the liberation of killers of Jews and anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, among other actions. The show, which was to take place the night of Jan. 9 in the western French city, was scheduled to be the first performance in a nationwide tour by Dieudonne of his new routine, “The Wall.” Dieudonne had already arrived at the theater in Nantes on Jan. 9 when the high court ruling was issued. Fans who had gathered for the show were held back by police, according to the BBC. Five thousand tickets were sold for the show. Dieudonne was also scheduled to appear on Jan. 26 in Bordeaux, one of several French cities that have banned his show at Valls’ encouragement. The ruling came amid criticism that Valls’ attempts to ban Dieudonne were too restrictive of freedom of expression. Jack Lang, a Jewish former cabinet minister and head of the Paris-based Arab World Institute, said Jan. 7 during a television interview that he was “convinced that [Valls’] circular does not conform to French law.” Lang added: “Freedom of expression is the governing principle when the state places such rigorous restrictions and there need to be very strong reasons for doing so.” But European Jewish leaders lauded the move. In a statement on Jan. 9, European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor called the high court decision “a triumph for the values of democracy and for the French Republic.”
Dutch rabbis uncomfortable with recognition of Noahides
Several Dutch rabbis criticized a rabbinical court’s recognition of non-Jews who observe Torah laws. The court’s recognition took place at an oath-taking ceremony attended by several dozen Noahides, a term referring to non-Jews who observe the seven categories of religious laws specified in the Torah as part of God’s covenant with Noah after the flood. Members of Rotterdam’s Noahide Ohel Abraham community took the oath in December at a ceremony led by two Orthodox rabbis from Israel, Uri Sherky and Efraim Choban. A Dutch rabbinical student, Meir Villegas Henriquez, also participated. The ceremony constituted the first official recognition of Noahides in the Netherlands by Orthodox rabbis. “It is not a good thing. It’s unclear, neither here nor there, and I don’t like it,” Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, a chief rabbi of the Netherlands, told the Jewish weekly NIW. Several other Dutch rabbis also expressed their discomfort with the ceremony. The Israeli rabbis belong to the Noahide World Center in Jerusalem, a body which supports the Noahide oath and way of life as means of strengthening the bond between Jews and non-Jews. “Some of them don’t want to convert, others can’t,” Villegas Henriquez told JTA, referring to the Ohel Abraham community. “But they all want to become closer to Judaism and we want to help because
this is a welcome step. We’re supposed to be a light unto the nations, but that’s difficult to achieve by only praying in a synagogue with other Jews.” Responding to the criticism, Villegas Henriquez published an op-ed defending his congregation in NIW on Jan. 5. The Dec. 16 ceremony did not violate or Jewish religious law, Villegas Henriquez wrote.
Canadian court rejects Arab group’s challenge to cut in gov’t funding
The government of Canada acted reasonably in cutting its funding to a Canadian-Arab group because it appeared to support terrorist acts, the country’s Federal Court ruled. In a decision made public the week of Jan. 8, the court dismissed a challenge by the Canadian Arab Federation to a decision made by former Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to end funding for a language instruction program in 2009-10, the Toronto Star reported. The Federation said it would appeal. The court in its Dec. 23 ruling noted that Kenney asked his chief of staff to “please ask the department to bring forward complete information on the contribution embarrassingly approved by our government for the radical and antisemitic Canadian Arab Federation.” Kenney said, according to the court, “From our point of view, these groups do not deserve and have no right to taxpayers’ dollars to promote their kind of extremism.” In a letter quoted by the court, Kenney told Khaled Mouammar, the Federation’s president at the time, that “serious concerns have arisen with respect to certain public statements that have been made by yourself or other officials of the CAF. These statements have included the promotion of hatred, antisemitism and support for the banned terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah.” The public statements, the letter added, raise “serious questions about the integrity of your organization and has undermined the government’s confidence in the CAF as an appropriate partner for the delivery of settlement services to newcomers.” The court agreed, saying it was Kenney’s position that the language program offers newcomers not only training, but also an orientation to the Canadian way of life, including “social, economic, cultural and political integration.” It found that the statements could reasonably lead one to come to the same conclusions as did Kenney about the Canadian Arab Federation. The Canadian Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs welcomed the court ruling. “Given CAF’s clear record of glorifying terror groups and spewing hateful rhetoric, Minister Kenney was right to deny it public funding,” CIJA said in a statement. “It’s particularly disturbing to think that an organization that holds views so diametrically opposed to Canada’s values was given a mandate to integrate new Canadians.”
After 10 years, largest eruv in U.K. going operational
The United Kingdom’s largest eruv will be usable for the first time the Sabbath of Jan. 10-11. The Manchester eruv took 10 years to plan and construct and is the U.K.’s most technically complex enclosure, according to the London Jewish Chronicle. Eruv experts from Jerusalem spent 10 days inspecting the enclosure before declaring it ready for use on Jan. 10, the newspaper reported. The boundary is 13 miles long and cuts across three boroughs of Manchester. According to Jewish law, the eruv permits religious Jews to carry items in public on the Sabbath, including pushing baby carriages. Meanwhile, the Conference of European Rabbis has published what it says is the first comprehensive list of kosher products certified by European kashrut authorities. The items are searchable by country, brand name, food type and kashrut authority.
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THE REPORTER ■ january 16, 2014
New Season of
• Non-Feature Films •
Blessed is the Match - In 1944, 22-year-old Hannah Senesh parachuted into Nazi-occupied Europe with a small group of Jewish volunteers from Palestine. Theirs was the only military rescue mission for Jews that occurred in World War II. Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy - This entertaining documentary, narrated by the award-winning Joel Grey, examines the unique role of Jewish composers and lyricists in the creation of the modern American musical. There are interviews alongside standout performances and archival footage. Constantine’s Sword is a 2007 historical documentary film on the relationship between the Catholic Church and Jews. Directed and produced by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Oren Jacoby, the film is inspired by former priest James P. Carroll’s 2001 book Constantine’s Sword. *Follow Me - The Yoni Netanyahu Story - featuring three Israeli Prime Ministers, Yoni’s ex-wife (for the first time on film) and recently released audio from the Entebbe operation itself. Follow Me brings a rare portrait of Israel’s elite soldiers and their greatest hero to the big screen. Inside Hana’s Suitcase - A real-life Japanese schoolteacher, who appears throughout the film, sparked this entire story by gathering artifacts for a Holocaust educational center she was developing along with a group of girls and boys called The Small Wings. After applying to receive Holocaust artifacts, a large box arrives with a handful of artifacts, including a battered brown suitcase labeled with Hana Brady’s name. The teacher and her students begin searching for the story behind the suitcase. What they discover will surprise you. They wind up unlocking — and showing us in the film — a whole series of deeply moving memories and other related artifacts and photos. Finally, Hana’s surviving brother George travels to Japan to meet the Japanese students. Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story - This excellent documentary, narrated by Dustin Hoffman, portrays the contributions of Jewish major leaguers and the special meaning that baseball has had in the lives of American Jews. Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story was shown at the Opening Event for the 2012 UJA Campaign. The Case for Israel: Democracy’s Outpost - Famed attorney Alan Dershowitz presents a vigorous case for Israel: for its basic right to exist, to protect its citizens from terrorism and to defend its borders from hostile enemies. *The Flat - This gripping autobiographical documentary tells the story of the filmmaker Arnon Goldfinger, who travels to Tel Aviv to clean out the apartment of his recently deceased German-born Jewish grandmother. Goldfinger discovers, while going through her belongings, evidence that his grandparents were good friends with Leopold von Mildenstein, a leading official within the Nazi propaganda agency, and that they remained friends after World War II. He journeys to find out the details of this disturbing revelation. The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg - As baseball’s first Jewish star, Hammering Hank Greenberg’s career contains all the makings of a true American success story. *Orchestra of Exiles - This riveting documentary tells the story of how Polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman watched Jewish musicians being fired from classical orchestras when Hitler came to power. Huberman decided to build a new orchestra in Palestine and encountered many obstacles along the way. He ultimately succeeds and the Palestine Symphony gave its first performance December 1936. (When Israel gained independence in 1948, the orchestra was renamed the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, which remains to this day a world-class orchestra.)
• Feature Films •
Crossing Delancey - This is a warm comedy taking place in New York City. Isabella Grossman desires to rise above her family’s Lower East Side community, but her grandmother has other matchmaking plans. *Fill the Void - Fill the Void tells the story of an 18-year-old, Shira, who is the youngest daughter of her family. Her dreams are about to come true as she is set to be married off to a promising young man. Unexpectedly, her sister, Esther, dies while giving birth to her first child. The pain that overwhelms the family postpones Shira’s promised match. Everything changes when an offer is proposed to match Yochay, the late Esther’s husband, to a widow from Belgium. When the girls’ mother finds out that Yochay may leave the country with her only grandchild, she proposes a match between Shira and the widower. Shira will have to choose between her heart’s wish and her family duty. Footnote - The story of a great rivalry between a father and son, both eccentric professors who have both dedicated their lives to work in Talmudic Studies departments of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Though the father shuns overt praise for his work and the son is desperate for it, how will each react when the father is to be awarded the most sought after prize, the Israel Prize? This Oscar nominated film will entrance from the start. Good - In an attempt to establish its credibility, the new Nazi government is seeking out experts to endorse its policies and comes across Johnnie Halder’s novel of a husband who aids his terminally ill wife in an assisted suicide. Because of this, the Nazis flatter Johnnie, arranging for high paying and prestigious positions. Never evil, Johnnie Halder is an Everyman who goes along, accepting what he is told without question until he is an unwitting accomplice to the Nazi killing machine. *Hava Nagila: The Movie - Hava Nagila is instantly recognizable and musical shorthand for anything Jewish. But as audiences will discover in Hava Nagila (The Movie), the song is much more than a tale of Jewish kitsch and bad bar mitzvah fashions. In its own believe-it-or-not way, it encapsulates the Jewish journey over the past 150 years. Featuring interviews with Harry Belafonte, Connie Francis, Glen Campbell, Leonard Nimoy, Regina Spektor and more. The film follows the song from Eastern Europe to Palestine and all the way to America. Hidden In Silence - Przemysl, Poland, WWII. Germany emerges victorious over the Russians, and the city comes under Nazi control. The Jews are sent to the ghettos. While some stand silent, Catholic teenager Stefania Podgorska chooses the role of a savior and sneaks 13 Jews into her attic. Every day, she risks detection — and immediate execution — by smuggling food and water to the silent group living above her. And when two German nurses are assigned to her living quarters, the chances of discovery become dangerously high. This is the true story of a young woman’s selfless commitment and unwavering resolve in the face of war.
Continued from page 9
for three days at 200 salons throughout the country. The haircuts were free. Several of the women who donated their hair were cancer survivors and their family and friends. The previous record was 107 pounds. Don’t let her go to the dogs A couple who abandoned a Doberman has been ordered by an Israeli court to pay for her care, including putting money aside for possible future medical problems. “Pets have a special status in Israel’s law books and are not considered mere objects,” Judge Lior Bringer of Eilat wrote in his decision, according to Haaretz. “Their owners have a responsibility to protect and maintain them, and to care for their needs.” The decision is a landmark for Israel, according to attorney Guy Nussan Hanegbi, legal adviser for the Let Animals Live organization, which sued the dog’s owners for neglect. Earlier this year, a Haifa court sentenced someone to 150 hours of community service for abandoning his dog. Some 50,000 dogs are abandoned in Israel annually, according to the country’s Agricultural Ministry. When Big Brother meets big ideas For Israelis addicted to reality TV, it was bad news. Israel’s Second Authority for Television and Radio is limiting reality TV to seven hours per week, according to a new policy paper released by the authority, which supervises commercial broadcasting in Israel. The policy will cover Israeli channels 2 and 10 and will represent a three-hour cut in the number of reality programs currently airing. For every hour of reality programming, including singing competitions and other programs featuring non-actors, the channel will have to air “quality television” in prime time, according to the policy. The Israeli shows that currently carry the highest ratings are “The Next Star,” a singing competition, and Israel’s version of “X Factor,” a talent competition. Channels once were limited to broadcasting six hours of reality or entertainment television per week, but that was raised to 10 hours in 2011 by the Second Authority’s council. No more lighting up during combat Israeli soldiers are going to have to find new ways to de-stress while serving their country. The Israel Defense Forces has canceled an order that requires soldiers to be provided with cigarettes and matches during times of emergency. The IDF said the order does not adhere to the military’s current drive to promote healthy lifestyles among soldiers. Smoking has been banned indoors at IDF facilities for the last five years. Army canteens will continue to sell cigarettes, however. Israeli doctors and Wikipedia Budding Israeli doctors are taking their cases to Wikipedia. A new course at Tel Aviv University called “Wiki-Medicine: The Wonderful World of Wiki and Free Medical Information in Hebrew Wikipedia” will teach medical students how to write and edit entries in Hebrew and English. The course also will teach students how to write and edit reliable entries on the online encyclopedia and about how to protect their intellectual property rights. It is the first time, Haaretz reported, that an Israeli academic institution is offering a course dedicated to writing Wikipedia entries.
Noodle (PAL version- can only be played on computer, NOT regular DVD players) - At 37, Miri is a twice-widowed, El Al flight attendant. Her well regulated existence is suddenly turned upside down by an abandoned Chinese boy whose migrant-worker mother has been deported from Israel. The film is a touching comic-drama in which two human beings — as different from each other as Tel Aviv is from Beijing — accompany each other on a remarkable journey, one that takes them both back to a meaningful life. Operation Thunderbolt - The true story of the Entebbe hijacking and rescue. Operation Thunderbolt was filmed in Israel with the full cooperation of the Israeli government, and is an exciting re-creation of the events of those tense days. We see the full scope of the story, from the original hijacking to the passengers’ captivity in Uganda to the agonized debates at the highest levels of the Israeli government over a diplomatic vs. a military solution. Operation Thunderbolt is the thrilling and true story of how one small country refused to let its people be killed by terrorists and took action to prevent it. People who claim that Israel is a “terrorist state” should see the film and be reminded who the real terrorists are. Orthodox Stance (documentary-2007) - Dimitriy Salita, a Russian immigrant, is making history as a top professional boxer and rigorously observant Jew. While providing an intimate, 3-year-long look at the trials and tribulations faced by an up and coming professional boxer, Orthodox Stance is a portrait of seemingly incompatible cultures and characters working together to support Dmitriy’s rare and remarkable devotion to both Orthodox Judaism and the pursuit of a professional boxing title. Playing for Time - An outstanding cast brings life to this Fania Fenelon autobiography about a Jewish cabaret singer and other Jewish prisoners whose lives were spared at Auschwitz in exchange for performing for their captors. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - Set during World War II, this is the story of Bruno, an innocent and naïve 8-year-old boy, who meets a boy while romping in the woods. A surprising friendship develops. *The Concert - Thirty years ago, Andrei Simoniovich Filipov, the renowned conductor of the Bolshoi Orchestra, was fired for hiring Jewish musicians. Now a mere cleaning man at the Bolshoi, he learns by accident that the Chatelet Theater in Paris has invited the Bolshoi Orchestra to play there. He decides to gather together his former musicians and perform in Paris in the place of the current Bolshoi Orchestra. He wants a young violinist virtuoso, Anne-Marie Jacquet, to accompany his old Jewish or Gypsy musicians. If they all overcome the hardships ahead, this very special concert will be a triumph. The Debt - Academy Award winner Helen Mirren and two-time Academy Award nominee Tom Wilkinson star in The Debt. In 1966, three Mossad agents were assigned to track down a feared Nazi war criminal hiding in East Berlin, a mission accomplished at great risk and personal cost… or was it? The Impossible Spy - Young Israeli husband Eli Cohen is recruited by the Mossad in the early 1960s and sent to Syria. Telling his wife he has a new job that requires extensive business travel, he takes up residence in Syria, where he befriends a high-ranking Syrian government official and provides invaluable information to Israel. On a visit home, his wife pleads with him to leave his job so he can be home more, and his handler tells him he has accomplished enough, but he decides to return to Syria one last time. One day, he learns of an attack on a kibbutz scheduled for that night; he abandons normal precautions in order to warn Israel as quickly as possible and is caught. The Other Son - The dramatic tale of two babies switched at birth, The Other Son creates a thoughtful presentation of what could be a soap opera-type event. Instead, director Lorraine Levy and a wonderful screenplay take the viewer down a very different path, allowing each to come to his/her own conclusions. Wallenberg: A Hero’s Story - Wallenberg: A Hero’s Story is an incredibly riveting, Emmy Award-winning, fact-based story about a hero who helped more than 100,000 Hungarian Jews escape from the Nazis during the Holocaust. *Just added to the Jewish Federation’s Film Lending Library!
Israeli women at Jerusalem’s Malcha Mall broke a Guinness World Record by donating 117 pounds of hair for cancer patients in just five hours, on November 11. (Photo by Meital Cohen/Flash90/JTA)
Notice to our Pocono Readers 911 Emergency Management Services has been updating mailing addresses in Monroe County and Lehman Townships in Pike County. Please don't forget to notify the Federation so you will continue to receive The Reporter. Thanks, Mark Silverberg, Executive Director Jewish Federation of Northeastern Pennsylvania
JANUARY 16, 2014 ■
NEWS IN bRIEF from israel From JTA
Israeli museums may own Nazi-looted art, group says
An Israeli organization that recovers Jewish assets stolen by the Nazis said hundreds of items in Israeli museums may have been looted. Hashava: The Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets said on Jan. 8 that hundreds of paintings, items of Judaica and other artworks in Israeli museums may be Nazi-looted art. Hashava was set to meet on Jan. 9 with representatives of the Israel Museum, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Ein Harod Museum and the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum to seek their help in locating works in their collections that may have been looted by the Nazis. Many works of art seized by the Nazis and discovered by the Allied forces in German museums or in storage were sent to Israel following World War II and no effort was made to find the original owners or their heirs, according to Hashava. Under an Israeli law passed by the Knesset in 2005, if the original owners of Nazi-looted possessions cannot be found, proceeds from their sale are to be used to assist poverty-stricken Holocaust survivors or to fund Holocaust education projects.
Tourism to Israel reaches all-time high
Israel reported an all-time high in annual visitors in 2013. A record 3.54 million visitors arrived in Israel in 2013, half a percent more than the previous record year. Meanwhile, some 272,000 tourists arrived in December, a 14 percent increase over December 2012, setting a record for most arrivals in the Jewish state in one month. The figures were released on Jan. 9 by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics. Nearly 18 percent of tourists arrived from the United States, with some 623,000 Americans visiting. Russia sent 603,000 tourists, and France 315,000. More than half the tourists, or 53 percent, were Christian; only 28 percent were Jewish. Overall, tourism contributed about $11.4 billion to the Israeli economy in 2013, according to the Ministry of Tourism. “The year 2013 is a record year for tourism, and we are proud of that. Despite Operation Pillar of Defense and the security situation in the region, tourists voted with their feet,” said Tourism Minister Uzi Landau.
Thousands of African migrants protest at Knesset
Thousands of asylum-seeking African migrants protested outside the Knesset in Jerusalem over Israel’s response to their refugee requests. The protesters, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea and said to number about 10,000, are on a nationwide strike from their mostly low-level jobs that on Wednesday extended to a fourth day. Some 90 chartered buses brought the migrants from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for the protests. The protesters carried signs reading “We need protection”; “We are not criminals, we are refugees”; and “We are not infiltrators, we are human beings.” Eight representatives of the migrants were denied permission Wednesday to enter the Knesset to meet with three lawmakers by the body’s speaker, Yuli Edelstein, reportedly at the request of Miri Regev of the Likud party. Regev reportedly is against having the African migrants anywhere in Israel. The protest follows three days of demonstrations by the migrants and their supporters in Tel Aviv, including marching on foreign embassies in the city to enlist the help of foreign governments to intercede with Israeli officials. In December, the Knesset approved an amendment to the Migrant Law to allow Israel to hold African migrants in prison for up to a year without trial and indefinitely in the open detention facility in Saharonim. The Saharonim residence is called an “open facility,” with detainees free to leave during the day and with mandatory check-in at night. They are not allowed to hold jobs. Israel’s Supreme Court had ruled unconstitutional the law allowing officials to hold migrants without trial for three years.
Israel’s Bennett: No agreement based on ‘67 lines
Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said his Jewish Home Party will not accept an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement based on the 1967 lines. “No more word games: the 1967 lines mean dividing Jerusalem and giving up the Western Wall, the Temple Mount and the Old City. In what way will our history remember a leader that agrees to give up Jerusalem? We won’t sit in such a government,” Bennett declared on Jan. 7 during a speech in Tel Aviv at the Institute for National Security Studies, Ynet reported. “Will those who pressure us today die for us tomorrow?” he added, stating that Jews “are not occupiers in our land.” Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to come to a peace agreement with the Palestinians at a conference on Jan. 6 at the Harry S. Truman Research Institute at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “Even a very stupid prime minister who makes peace will get positive press. But a prime minister who is an idiot will not make peace,” Olmert said. He added that his speech was not meant to criticize Netanyahu, who he called on to make “tough choices.” Olmert said Israel would reap many benefits from making peace and that it would change all of the Middle East.
Chabad overseas work may qualify as national service in Israel
The work of 100 Israeli men serving overseas as emissaries on behalf of Chabad can count as national service, a Knesset committee decided. The Special Committee for the Equal Sharing of the Burden on Jan. 6 voted to include the plan as part of legislation that would require most haredi Orthodox Israeli men to serve in the military or perform national service. The legislation is being prepared for its second and third reading in front of the Knesset plenum. The committee approved the plan, recommended by Elazar Stern of the Hatnua party, by a 5-3 vote. Stern was the chief education officer in the Israel Defense Forces and oversaw the expulsion of Jewish settlers from Gush Katif. IDF officials objected to the plan, saying it would make it more difficult to draft other haredi men and that it will not help integrate the men into Israeli society, according to reports. Volunteers for Magen David Adom, Zaka and the Israel Police already receive the status of national service, which in some cases can be served in exchange for military service.
Create a Legacy for our Jewish Future in NEPA TYPES OF GIFTS
Your charitable gifts to the Federation can result in immediate and/or future benefits for you and your family.
PERPETUAL ANNUAL CAMPAIGN ENDOWMENTS (P.A.C.E.) There are considerable tax advantages in establishing a P.A.C.E. gift to the Federation outright or as part of your estate planning. In doing so, you can perpetuate your annual UJA Campaign gift in your name, the name of your family, in memory of a loved one or in celebration of a significant event in your life or the life of another. On average, the annual income normally calculates out to 5% of the amount of your P.A.C.E. endowment. The corpus of your Fund would not be affected, and only the income would be used for the annual UJA gift – in perpetuity. That is, a P.A.C.E. endowment of $100,000 would normally produce an annual gift of $5,000 to future UJA Campaigns.
IMMEDIATE GIFTS OF CASH Cash contributions are deductible as itemized deductions in the year you make the donation(s), up to 50% of your adjusted gross. Excess charitable deductions can be carried forward for up to five years.
GIFTS OF SECURITIES The best stocks to donate are obviously those with increased value. However, depreciated securities are not necessarily unworthy of charitable contributions. In order to preserve the best tax advantages, with regard to appreciated and depreciated securities, please contact the Federation.
MATCHING GIFTS If you work for a company that participates in a Matching Gift Program (see details in this issue of The Reporter), then the company will match your gift to the Jewish Federation. Please check with your Human Resources Department for more information.
GIFTS OF MUTUAL FUNDS Contributing mutual fund shares can provide the same tax advantages as appreciated stocks. Due to the great complexities involved with the transfer of mutual fund shares, please begin the transfer process well before December 31st.
GIFTS OF REAL ESTATE A charitable contribution of property is most attractive when there is no mortgage balance and the property is increasing in value. Based upon the fair market value, you may claim an income tax deduction, avoid all capital gains taxes, and remove that property from your taxable estate. You may transfer real estate to the Jewish Federation at any point, but please consult your tax professional or financial advisor prior to a real estate transaction.
DEFERRED/PLANNED GIFTS Deferred gifts are often called “planned gifts” because they are integrally connected to your financial and/or estate plans. They may range in size from very small bequests to multi-million dollar trusts. They are deferred gifts because, even though they are given today, the Jewish Federation will not realize their benefit until some time in the future. Please contact the Federation for more information regarding various planned giving options.
GENERAL ENDOWMENT FUNDS The Jewish Federation of Northeastern Pennsylvania expresses its gratitude to those who have made a commitment to our Endowment Fund. These very special contributions represent a commitment to maintain a high quality of Jewish life in our region for the decades that lie ahead.
CONTACT For further information, please contact Mark Silverberg, Executive Director, Jewish Federation of Northeastern Pennsylvania, 601 Jefferson Avenue, Scranton, PA at 570-961-2300 (ext. 1)
THE REPORTER ■ january 16, 2014
What will be your Jewish Legacy?
A Program of the
For more information about leaving your legacy, legacy gifts or bequests contact:
Jewish Federation of Northeastern Pennsylvania TEL: 570.961.2300 (ext. 1) E-Mail: Mark.Silverberg@Jewishnepa.org With the true spirit of kehilla and our commitment to tikkun olam, the Jewish Federation’s CREATE A JEWISH LEGACY Initiative is a community-wide partnership established between the Jewish Federation of Northeastern Pennsylvania and its many UJA-funded educational, social service, cultural and recreational agencies and institutions including the State of Israel and the needs of world Jewry – all with a shared vision of ensuring a strong and sustainable Jewish future.
TODAY. TOMORROW. TOGETHER These include world-wide Jewish needs (JDC), the State of Israel, Scranton JCC, Jewish Family Service of NEPA, Scranton Hebrew Day School, Scranton Mikveh, Temple Hesed Religious School, Scranton Temple Israel Religious School, Yeshiva Beth Moshe/Milton Eisner Institute, Bais Yaakov of Scranton, B’nai Harim Religious School, Jewish Fellowship of Hemlock Farms Religious School, Jewish Discovery Center/Chabad, Bnos Yisroel of Scranton, Jewish Resource Center of the Poconos and Temple Israel of the Poconos Hebrew School
January 16th 2014 Edition of The Reporter