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JFO Volunteers of the Year ANNETTE VAN DE KAMP-WRIGHT Jewish Press Editor ach year, the Jewish Federation of Omaha ( JFO) dedicates the first Monday in June to the Annual Meeting. This year is no different; June 7, we will offer both a virtual option via livestream and an in-person event where we will honor our lay leaders and volunteers. More than ever, this community cannot flourish without you and we welcome the opportunity to shine a spotlight on all of you. For more details about the JFO Annual Meeting, please watch for articles in the Jewish Press during the coming weeks. We are pleased to present the 2020 JFO Agency Volunteers of the Year. Jeannette Gabriel was nominated by the JFO Community Engagement and Education department: “Jeannette gave an incredible amount of assistance and direction in ensuring our Kripke Federation Library collection was properly assessed and transferred offsite during the renovations,” Jennie Gates Beckman said. “We welcome the opportunity to highlight how much time and effort went into making the right decisions regarding each volume. Jeannette put in countless hours both assessing in-person and in researching and documenting each piece in our collection.” The 13 JFO employees who make up The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee were nominated by the
Inspired by Omaha friends Page 4
Have you seen the blue envelope? Page 5
General Election Candidate Statements Pages 12-14
JFO after it was formed in the summer of 2020. They are Michelle Alberts, Leigh Chaves, Jonathan Crossley, Jennie Gates Beckman, Esther Katz, Erika Lucoff, Pam Monsky, Mariana Nieto, Kael Sagheer, Jamie Skog-Burke, Halley Taylor, Jessi Taylor and Murphy Wulfgar. The committee aims to bring employees together through education and provides recommendations to leadership in addressing marginalization and inequity. The Rose Blumkin Jewish Home nominated Bob Kaplan for RBJH Volunteer of the Year. “Bob has assisted the activities staff for years with Monday afternoon Bingo,” Sabine Strong said. “He helps the Residents mark their Bingo cards and pays out dimes to the winners. Having a faithful volunteer who shows up every single week is a blessing. Bob also comes Friday afternoons as a representative of the Temple Caring Committee to visit Residents and he is a true asset for all of us.” The Jewish Press nominated Eric Shapiro, who has served on the Jewish Press Board for four years and has been the Treasurer for the past three years. While this past year has been a true test for many boards who were forced to meet only virtually, we cannot overstate how much we appreciate the dedication our lay leaders have demonstrated in showing up for countless Zoom meetings. Eric is a great example of someone who is both humble and supportive and has been instrumental in translating the editor’s ‘budSee JFO Volunteers of the Year page 3
IHE Lunch and Learn Series Kohll’s Rx: Local familycontinues owned pharmacy leads Covid vaccine response
Spotlight Voices Synagogues Life cycles
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IHE is honored to continue that work. ARIEL O’DONNELL On May 20, 2021, we welcome IHE Administrate Assistant Christina E. Chavarria, The Institute for the Program CoordiHolocaust Education nator for the William is pleased to announce Levine Family Instiour upcoming Third tute for Holocaust EdThursday Lunch and ucation at the United Learn Series speakers. States Holocaust MeEducating the public morial Museum in regarding the events of Washington, D.C. the Holocaust and contemporary impor“where she has tance of these diaworked since Decemlogues, makes certain ber 2006. She has repthe Holocaust will resented the Museum Christina E. Chavarria never be forgotten. in the US, Europe, Latin America, Israel, Japan, and around the United States. Her interests lie in Holocaust literature, engaging new audiences and partners, and studying and disseminating information on the impact and history of the Holocaust in Spain, Latin America, and the US Latino population.” “Christina currently runs the Conference for Holocaust Education Centers See IHE Lunch and Learn page 4
Kohll’s Rx: four generations grow a family business: Jack, left, Leo and Sam. Mom Janet, dad David, Anna and Max Kohll
OZZIE NOGG By Dec. 14, 2020, Nebraska and Iowa had racked up a total of 406,257 COVID-19 cases. At the time, local, family-owned Kohll’s Pharmacy was one of the first pharmacies nationally to offer COVID testing. “We worked with the Uni-
versity of Nebraska Medical Center doing PCR nasal swab testing,” pharmacist David Kohll explained. “We were also one of the first to add COVID antibody testing and rapid antigen COVID testing. I haven’t run a total of the numbers, but it See Kohll’s Pharmacy page 2
2 | The Jewish Press | April 30, 2021
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stores. I have an understanding of what the business looked Continued from page 1 could be something over 50,000 tests.” Among them were staff like decades ago and what choices made the pharmacy sucmembers at the Rose Blumkin Jewish Home. cessful enough to still be around today. My long term goal is According to Chris Ulven, Executive director of the RBJH, “In to open a Kohll’s Rx location in Denver and I consult my Dad the early days of the pandemic when test kits were in short sup- on a daily basis about the decisions I’m faced with making.” ply, I called David for help. Although his primary He had Covid tests available job title is Flight Instructor and guaranteed to run onat the Scottsdale AZ, airgoing tests for our employport, Sam Kohll, 26, develees over several months. oped and directed the David really stepped up Specialty Pharmacy Diviwhen the Home’s options sion of Kohll’s Rx after gradwere limited. It worked out uating from UNL in 2016. very well for us.” “Currently I work remotely A little more than one for my Dad, helping with year later, in January of billing for Covid vaccines. 2021, the Douglas County Kohll’s has responded great, Health Department anconsidering how quickly nounced it had partnered the pandemic developed. with Kohll’s to preregister Our family business is people for COVID-19 vaccisomething I’m very proud nations. “We actually to be part of, especially the started administering the close relationships with my vaccine in December to a Dad and grandfather. Their Grand Island nursing facilwork ethic sets a great exity,” David Kohll said, “and ample for me.” were one of the first phar- Kohll’s Pharmacies founder, Louis Kohll, in the Park Avenue location Twenty-year old Max macies in the country to circa 1950. Kohll, an accounting stuadminister the COVID vaccine. Right from the beginning, area dent at Kansas University in Lawrence, echos that sentiment. district health departments relied on us as to administer vac- “I started working at the drug stores in elementary school, cines to the most fragile, to people with developmental dis- cleaning off the shelves, and in high school I was a pharmacy abilities and their caregivers. We already had scheduling clerk. When I’m in Omaha I always help out. Most recently, I software and extensive experience as a flu vaccinator because worked on the Covid-19 testing workflow. It was important Kohll’s has specialized in vaccine administration since the that patients received their results as soon as possible so they 1990s. We’ve taken care of many of the major corporations in could take the proper measures to protect themselves and Nebraska, Iowa, and even outside those states for many years.” others. I think the legacy my family has in the Omaha area is In addition to Kohll’s testing capabilities, the company also pretty neat,” Max continued, “and to be part of the fourth genhad access to vital Personal Protection Equipment through eration in a family business is rare. There’s a sense of respontheir many medical supply vendors. sibility to represent my family well, and I’m motivated to do The pharmacy business is in the Kohll family’s DNA. David’s good work when I’m there.” grandfather, Louis Kohlberg (later changed to Kohll) received Rounding out the fourth generation are Jack Kohll, a student his pharmacy degree from Creighton University in 1930. He at UNL who works part-time as a Pharmacy Technician at the travelled Western Nebraska as a salesman for F&F Cough Kohll’s Lincoln location, and seventeen year-old Leo — a Burke Drops and bought Park Avenue Drug on 29th and Leaven- High junior who currently works as a part-time gym supervisor worth in 1948. “In 1957, my grandfather had a heart attack in at the JCC. At Kohll’s Rx Leo is tasked with merchandising and the pharmacy and died shortly thereafter,” David said. “The janitorial work. “It’s really cool to observe, up close, the way a name Kohll’s appeared on the building around 1960, so the lo- large family-owned business operates every day and to see how cation on Park Avenue was really our first store.” Running that hard you have to work to sustain the success we’ve had for so first Kohll’s Pharmacy then fell to the second generation — many generations,” Leo said. “We tried to help as many people David’s father, Marvin, and Marvin’s brother, Jerry — who soon as possible during the pandemic. I administered swab tests to began adding additional locations. people and one day my dad told me that I was likely the “In the 60s to early 70s there were about six Kohll’s Pharma- youngest tester in the Nebraska — I was sixteen at the time — cies,” David said. “Most were typical drug stores — with a soda and possibly the youngest in the country.” The family calls Leo fountain, beer and wine, school supplies, sundries — although ‘the voice’ of Kohll’s since it’s his voice on the recorded message the two in Richman/Gordman South Omaha and Lincoln were customers hear when they call the pharmacies. strictly pharmacies. Eventually we started gravitating to more In recent months, as more and more people called Kohll’s of a professional healthcare company that provided medical for Covid vaccines, Kohll’s called on volunteers for help disequipment and oxygen. I remember in 1979, when I was 16, I tributing shots. David Kohll’s childhood friend Stacey Rockdrove a big truck and carried a pager around to show my friends man rounded up “an army” of volunteers and now serves as because I was on call for emergency home oxygen delivery.” Volunteer Coordinator. “In all, we had more than 230 active The choice to position themselves as a healthcare company volunteers,” Rockman said. “They directed traffic on site, got allowed Kohll’s to offer wheelchairs, scooters, in-home stair people checked in, answered more than 2,000 emails, over lifts, elevator systems, walk-in tubs, ramps and decks, wheel- 7,000 phone calls, and scheduled second shot appointments. chair vans, modification of vehicles for accessibility plus other We also had a list of more than 800 people, mostly elderly, who home medical equipment. Jerry Kohll opened a division pro- had no access to the internet, so volunteers called them and viding medications to nursing homes that he sold around made vaccination appointments over the phone. It was a 1996, and David’s brother, Justin, now runs Preventive Medical monumental job. Our lead volunteers worked ten-hour days, Clinics — a separate entity specializing in aesthetic services often on weekends, preparing for the ever-changing routines and medical compounding. Bottom line: David Kohll repre- in the clinics. I don’t think anyone realized how hard this was sents the third generation of Kohlls carrying on the family going to be, to make this whole operation happen, and I’m rebusiness. David’s brother, Louis, who passed away in 2006, was ally grateful that so many people offered to help. It’s a commualso a partner and pharmacist. The brothers disprove the old nity effort, aimed at ending the pandemic, one dose at a time.” adage: “The first generation makes it. The second generation The effort includes volunteers from the Tri-Faith Initiative, grows it. The third generation blows it.” local church congregations plus members of the Jewish comWhich brings us to the fourth generation. David and his wife munity. “It’s humbling and makes me feel a little awkward to Janet (who met when she stopped in as a customer to purchase see how many in the Jewish community reached out,” David a bottle of wine and a corkscrew at Kohll’s Park Avenue loca- said. “I grew up with many of them or met them over the years, tion) are the parents of Anna, Sam, Max, Jack and Leo. “They and each volunteer brings unique talents. They work exall work in the company, at least if they’re in town,” Janet said. tremely hard and constantly shoot me ideas that improve the Anna, 28, receives her Doctorate in Pharmacy degree from vaccination process. In some ways the volunteers put pressure UNMC this May and is the first woman pharmacist in the fam- on Kohll’s to make sure we stay relevant for many years to ily. She lives in Denver and works remotely for Kohll’s Rx. “I’m come. At times I felt like just giving them the keys to the comvery fortunate to be part of my family’s multi-generational pany and letting them run it.” business,” Anna said, “Kohll’s paved the way for many other Deborah Denenberg, an enthusiastic Kohll’s booster, views independent pharmacies in how to respond to the pandemic. the pharmacy’s longevity through the lens of personal experiIn a situation that was very chaotic, my Dad’s focus has con- ence. “When I was General Manager of my family’s Upstairs stantly been on having an efficient workflow in order to help Dinner Theater, I learned the importance of patronizing local, the most people we can. I’m often surprised when people who family-run businesses — especially a business run by a family don’t live in Nebraska or Iowa have heard of Kohll’s and make connected to the Jewish community. David Kohll competes, positive comments about our services. It was great growing successfully, against the giants like Walgreens and CVS. He re up with pharmacist mentors, to learn the history of the Kohll’s See Kohll’s Rx page 3
The Jewish Press | April 30, 2021 | 3
Where are the books? Jeannette Gabriel was nominated by the Community Engagement and Education director Jennie Gates Beckman. This week, I’m building on Annette’s Volunteer of the Year article. In it, she mentions my nomination of local historian and Jewish community member Jeannette Gabriel for her incredible commitment. Jeannette’s report was instrumental in connecting us with the Dean of the Criss Library on the UNO Campus to begin conversations of a potential partnership in which UNO would house the JENNIE GATESbulk of the Kripke collection in their BECKMAN archives. We are so thankful to Jean- JFO Director of nette for the time she contributed to Community Engagement & this endeavor! Education “Jeannette gave an incredible amount of assistance and direction in ensuring our Kripke Federation Library collection was properly assessed and transferred offsite during the renovations. We welcome the opportunity to highlight how much time and effort went into making the right decisions regarding each volume. Jeannette put in countless hours both assessing inperson and in researching and documenting our collection.” To rewind: Where are the books? In the middle of the pandemic, approx. 30,000 volumes were boxed, labeled, and transferred to the Criss Library for safe keeping during the renovations. Those materials will remain there while the JFO and UNO discuss various options regarding a more permanent arrangement. The approximately 6000 remaining titles are being stored in a climate controlled room on campus as to be easily retrievable to patrons. From that subset of the collection will be curated a series of rotating displays in the Learning Commons, a strategy which will allow those who love to simply “browse the stacks” to retain this pleasure in the new configuration.
LOCA L | N ATION AL | WORLD
JFO Volunteers of the Year Continued from page 1 get-speak’ into language that promotes communication. He is quick to respond to any email inquiries, which is a skill that’s more important than ever during the pandemic. Eric has real humility; he will say he ‘didn’t do much,’ and he would be wrong. Pam Monsky said this about the Walk Against Hate Committee members Tippi Denenberg, Jen Goodman, Erika Kirby, Preston Love Jr., Sara Rips and Justin Spooner, who are the ADL-CRC nominees for Volunteer of the Year: “The Walk Against Hate Committee produced an incredible event in extraordinary circumstances. The Walk was the first of its kind for the COVID era. Committee members were responsible for selecting and researching local sites with Civil Rights significance. They recruited participants, solicited sponsors and marketed the event to the community. They raised over $10,000 and forged partnerships with 13 community organizations who have become ADL-CRC allies.” Gabby Williams is the Jewish Community Center’s Volunteer of the Year. “She has been an advisor for Omaha BBYO and MZ Shoshanah BBG #2053 since July 2018,” Jacob Geltzer said. “Since becoming an advisor, Gabby has been a great asset in
the development of BBYO and BBG here in Omaha. “She has guided our members and teen leaders to improve their experiences and to help develop Omaha’s future leaders. She goes above and beyond and puts her whole self into the role. She offers new perspective of the programs and with her mentorship, we have seen higher quality programming, increased attendance and the growth of local teens becoming active leaders on the regional, national and international level.” The Institute for Holocaust Education chose Shannon Vesely for its Volunteer of the Year. IHE Executive Director Scott Littky said: “Shannon was instrumental in assisting the IHE in improving our annual Tribute to the Rescuers Essay Contest. Her work included the development of resources for students and teachers to use as models for their essays. She updated and improved the scoring guide for the teachers and judges and created a concept-based unit for the book Refugee by Alan Gratz to be used by schools. She helped us take the essay contest and the Refugee teaching unit to the next level.” Congratulations to all our agency Volunteer-of-the-Year recipients! For more information about the Jewish Federation of Omaha Annual Meeting, see upcoming issues of the Jewish Press and/or visit www.jewishomaha.org.
Kohll’s Rx Continued from page 2 sponded immediately to protect our mothers and fathers in the RBJH, and then set up a massive, ongoing vaccination campaign — all with lightening speed. From the start, Kohll’s took a proactive leadership role fighting the pandemic in Nebraska. I’m not sure the community recognizes the impact Kohll’s Rx has had during Covid.” The original Kohll’s mission — Small Enough to Know You. Large Enough to Serve You — still applies today. “More than anything, we offer a sense of community,” David said. “Everyone who works at Kohll’s has an innate desire to help. We do whatever possible to ensure each and every interaction with Kohll’s is a pleasant one. That focus guides us every day.”
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Inspired by Omaha friends
MARTHA GERSHUN On Dec. 28, 2017, Martha Gershun read an article in the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle about Deb Porter Gill, a woman who needed a kidney transplant. The article reminded her of another transplant story 15 years earlier when Cheryl Cooper donated a kidney to Martha’s Omaha cousin Ann Goldstein at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Gershun was deeply moved by that act of generosity. She wanted to try to give that gift to another family. Nine months after reading that newspaper article, Gershun donated one of her kidneys to Gill at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Gershun wrote about that journey in a fascinating new book, Kidney to Share, that she co-authored with pediatrician and bioethicist John Lantos, MD. Dr. Lantos is Director of the Bioethics Center at Children’s Mercy Hospital. The book was just released by Cornell University Press. In Kidney to Share, Gershun tells the story of her decision to donate a kidney to a woman who was previously a complete stranger. She takes readers through the complex process by which such donors are vetted to ensure that they are physically and psychologically fit to take the risk of a major operation. Dr. Lantos, who Gershun got to know when they were in a chavurah together at Congregation Beth Torah in Overland Park, KS, places her story in the larger context of the history of kidney transplantation and the ethical controversies that surround living donors. Together, they help readers understand the discoveries that made transplantation relatively safe and effective as well as the legal, ethical, and economic policies that make it feasible. “Kidney to Share is a remarkably fasci-
Martha Gershun and Deb Porter Gill
nating work, a mix of personal narrative and medical history and ethics which brilliantly teases out the complexities of modern medicine at its most scientifically and ethically complex,” according to Perri Klass, Professor of Journalism and Pediatrics at New York University and Co-Director of NYU Florence. “The book, with its overlapping voices, contributing to a medically suspenseful organ transplant story, is at once intimate and educational, clear-eyed, heartfelt, and profoundly moving.” Gershun and Lantos explore the steps involved in recovering and allocating organs. They analyze the differences that arise depending on whether the organ comes from a living donor or one who has died. They observe the expertise— and the shortcomings—of doctors, nurses, and other professionals and describe the burdens that we place on people who are willing to donate. “We wanted to push readers to consider just how far society should go in using one person’s healthy body parts in order to save another person,” according to Lantos.
Kidney to Share provides an account of organ donation that is both personal and analytical. Gershun and Lantos pull back the curtain to offer readers a more transparent view of the fascinating world of organ donation. More than two years after their successful transplant operations both Gershun and Gill are healthy and well. “Donating a kidney to Deb was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life,” Gershun said. “We hope this book will add to the body of knowledge about living organ donation, so more people have the information, inspiration, and support to participate in this medical miracle. Left Bank Books in St. Louis, MO, will host a virtual book release event for Kidney to Share at 5:30 p.m. on May 18 on their online platform (https://www. left-bank.com/event/martha-gers hun-john-d-lantos-kidney-share). Gershun and Lantos will be joined by moderator Jeffrey P. Bishop, MD, PhD, Tenet Endowed Chair in Bioethics at Saint Louis University. The Kansas City Public Library will also host a virtual author event from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on May 26 on their online platform, moderated by Terry Rosell, DMin, PhD, Rosemary Flanigan Chair at the Center for Practical Bioethics. The RSVP link will be posted soon on the Library website at https://kclibrary.org/signatureevents. Gershun will also participate in a panel on Saving a Life: Judaism’s View of Organ Donation with Dr. Ron Wolfson and Rabbi Elliot Dorff as part of B’Yachad Together: Spirited by American Jewish University (AJU) at 8 p.m. on June 1. Free registration for the event is available through the AJU website: https://bit.ly/3e57U7q.
Continued from page 1 and works with 50 Holocaust organizations around the country. She is also part of a small team of Museum staff who is overseeing the Museum’s implementation of HR 943, the Never Again Act, federal legislation that will implement Holocaust education around the US for the next five years.” Christina will be presenting on the Anthony Acevedo collection and his diary - connecting it to the History Unfolded event module on the “repatriation” of Mexican Americans and nationals in the 1930s and 1940s. On June 17, 2021, the Institute will host Omaha educator Mark Gudgel to speak with attendees regarding his new book, Think Higher, Feel Deeper: Effectively Nuancing the Holocaust in Secondary Classrooms. Gudgel has been a Holocaust educator for many years, and was fortunate enough to speak with Elie Wiesel, who gave the inspiration for this book’s title. In the book, Gudgel engages with the necessities of teaching Holocaust education, how to do so enrichingly with nuance, and the benefits of such a learning experience for all. On July 15, 2021, we are joined in dialogue by our very own Kael Sagheer about the book, Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil by Susan Neiman. Sagheer, the IHE Education Coordinator, will facilitate a discussion regarding the book, its content, and how it is applicable to our lives today. From the book: “As an increasingly polarized America fights over the legacy of racism, Susan Neiman, author of the contemporary philosophical classic Evil in Modern Thought, asks what we can learn from the Germans about confronting the evils of the past. The newly released paperback edition has an added Afterword for 2020.” For more information regarding the Third Thursday Series, or to register, please contact Scott Littky at slittky@ ihene.org.
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The Jewish Press | April 30, 2021 | 5
Have you seen the blue envelope? KAREN M. GUSTAFSON, MS, NCC, LIMHP JFS Executive Director We kicked off our JFS Friends Campaign on Monday, April 6. Have you seen your blue envelope in the mail? Our goal is to raise $25,000, which is almost 5% of our budget. Our campaign, in addition to our annual allocation from the Jewish Federation of Omaha, makes up 55% of our $547,500 budget for 2020-21. The remainder of our revenue comes from Counseling Services, Program Income, Adoption Home Study Fees, Grants, Endowment Income and General Contributions throughout the year, in honor or in memory of a loved one. Last fiscal year 2019-20, we suspended our Friends Campaign (which supports our programs and operations) in partnership with the collective efforts of the Federation and Foundation to raise money for a COVID-19 Relief Fund. The majority of the COVID-19 funds raised flow through Jewish Family Service since we are the agency with established financial assistance policies. Other uses of the COVID-19 Relief Fund have gone to support families, at the Pennie Z. Davis Early Learning Center (ELC) and Friedel Jewish Academy, who were impacted by COVID and having financial challenges in paying their tuition; and, employees serving the Jewish community who lost income due to the temporary need to quarantine due to a COVID positive test or exposure. While JFS is still helping those impacted by COVID-19, through the funds raised in this joint effort of the Federation, Foundation and YOU, it is time for us to get back to our programming. Did you know that JFS... • Conducted 10 Adoption Home Studies in 2019-20. This service has been on the rise. • Served over 114 parents through our Love and Logic parenting classes. • Provides social, physical and educational programming for our special needs adults in Yachad. • Served 132 individual clients for 949 therapy sessions. • Serves as one of the campus Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). • Provided 571 financial gifts to community members in need (separate from COVID Funds). • Had 333 visits to our Food Pantry (before it closed due to the pandemic). • Provided over 433 gifts of Tzedakah in order to celebrate the holidays. • Provided 140 individuals with gifts for Hanukkah. • Provided 29 children with Back-to-School supplies and backpacks. • Is a member of the First Responders (FR) Support Team, providing therapy and educational services to FR families. • Is a member of the Metro Area Suicide Prevention Coalition (MASPC), providing us up-to-date information and resources to bring back to the Jewish and Omaha community. • Has been training Summer Camp Counselors for the past 5 years in: Child Abuse Prevention, Behavioral Interventions and Helping to Create a Supportive Environment. • Provided supportive services to Friedel Jewish Academy. JFS does all of this with four full-time staff and two parttime staff (Yachad only). As a direct result of recent events like the “Break the Stigma” campaigns for mental health and the mental health challenges of almost everyone during COVID, community members are paying greater attention to their own mental health. Our services in just about all areas have been in high demand. Our “Virtual Counseling” was on the cutting-edge last year when we went 100% on-line through Zoom, even awarding us with the Pillars of Excellence Award for Best Practices with the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies (NJHSA), across the U.S. and Canada. YOUR Omaha JFS led the training to help other agencies get up to speed and HIPAA-compliant in order to provide their clients’ services within a highly ethical format, being one of the first agencies in the network to start offering virtual services before COVID. I hope that something in this story touches your heart or speaks to you. You may not hear about us often, but that is also because we value the privacy of those we serve. We don’t shout from the rooftops or write stories of our accolades; but instead, we continue the work, quietly, every day. JFS is on this campus to represent YOU, the Jewish community, in doing our
ORGANIZATIONS B’NAI B’RITH BREADBREAKERS The Monsky Lodge of B’nai B’rith is pleased to announce the resumption of its award-winning speaker program via ZOOM. Although the Home auditorium remains temporarily closed, we’ll continue presenting an outstanding lineup of thought-provoking keynoters. For specific speaker information and/or to be placed on the email list, please contact Breadbreakers chair Gary Javitch at email@example.com or leave a message at the B’nai B’rith JCC office 402.334.6443.
part to Repair the World (Tikkun Olam). THIS is why we do a Friends Campaign. If you haven’t done so already, we hope you can find it in your heart to support our agency this year. Borrowing from the infamous quote by Rabbi Hillel, “If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” These words remind us that although self-interest is our right, we also have a duty to care for others.
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SARA KOHEN Friedel Jewish Academy, located on the JCC campus, serves students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Friedel aims to provide the educational foundation to develop inquisitive learners who confidently engage with the world through Jewish values. Friedel achieves this through outstanding curricula, an optimal 10:1 student–teacher ratio, Hebrew language
immersion, and more. Friedel is open to graduates of the Pennie Z. Davis Early Learning Center, as well as to Jewish families from across the community. Friedel still has four spaces available for kindergarten for the 2021–2022 school year, and a few spaces remaining in other grades. For more information, or to schedule a virtual tour, contact Sara Kohen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember, you are a Jew There I was, riding down a long straight narrow highway. Tall trees lined both sides of the road reminding me of rural France, but this time I was deep in Western Ukraine, halfway between Kyiv, the capitol, and the border with Hungary and Poland. Large fields of dark brown soil, darker even than the rich earth of the American Midwest, stretched off each side of the road. Cat- RICHARD FELLMAN tle grazed in the distance. It was late October and leaves were changing to tans, browns, yellows and deep shades of red. Trucks filled with beets the size of an American football passed us all going to market. One sixteen wheeler looked new. Another drawn by horses was a worn out buggy with wheels scrapped from old automobiles. Then came a handsome two-wheel cart with two men busily visiting with each other. It had a beautiful white horse prancing down the road which went from Lechovitz to Shepetikva where the railroad station led to the world outside of the Province of Vohlynia. A great American novelist of the mid-20th Century wrote “You Can’t Go Home Again,” but he was writing about North Carolina. I was on my way to the shtetl of Lechovitz, a village in western Ukraine where my Grandfather Gershon Fellman was born. I knew what I was imagining wasn’t possible, but buried in my mind I wanted to visit my great-grandmother, Chava Fellman, who lived into her 90s and died in 1918 having never left her home in that village in what her generation always called Russia. Chava had eleven living children, eight boys and three girls, and my grandfather was the ninth. His father, Lazer Fellman, ran an inn next to the market place in Lechovitz and died in his early fifties leaving Chava with children to raise and an inn to run. I visited that Inn when I was in Ukraine on a Fulbright Fellowship teaching American Politics at a national university near the border with Hungary. My wife and I had an apartment in Uzzhhord, Ukraine, for half a year in 2009. During that time we did a great deal of traveling throughout Eastern Europe. In Lechovitz, where the Soviets had changed the town’s name to Bilihorja so it would not sound as if it were German, the lady who ran the local museum told me the Jewish population of Lechovitz before World War II was about 1,500, half the entire village. She also told me how the Nazis murdered the Jews of Lechovitz and the neighboring villages at a site we visited deep in the woods next to the town. I told her my great-grandmother ran an inn, and she said to me “Would you like to see it? It’s called the “Jew’s Inn” and it’s next to the large parking lot where you left your car. That lot used to be the market place, and your great-grandmother’s building is still there just as it was years ago.” We walked, just a block or so and I was standing at the Jews Inn. I stood silently. The building was obviously old just like other old buildings I had seen many places in Ukraine. It was now a family home, but no one was there. My mind began to wander. This is where my grandfather, Gershon, played as a child. This is the building my great-
grandfather Lazer somehow acquired to run an inn. This is where Chava earned a living as a widow. It almost seemed as if I could hear their voices speaking to me in Yiddish. The entire family in America had a picture of Chava as an old lady seated in a high back chair wearing a shawl and a white garment. Her hands held a book. Her fingers were bent, the result of old age. On a table next to her sat a framed photo. I always guessed it was Lazer, her long deceased husband. According to stories in the family, my grandfather Gershon was a favorite of Chava. He was tall, all of five feet ten, bright, quick, and charming. The entire family liked him. He was conscripted into the Russian Army when he was nineteen and the term of service was twenty years. Jews were not treated well by the Army. They were not allowed to advance, but he earned a Marksman’s Medal and was given a thirty day furlough. With it he came home and spent time with his mother and siblings. He told his mother he was going to America. Thousands of Jews were leaving Russia in the years between 1881 and 1921. America was a land of opportunity and freedom. Young Jews during those years dreamed of American streets paved with gold. And they also dreamed of Palestine, the ancient homeland of Jews. Others embraced Socialism and Communism. These were all paths up and out of the pogroms and poverty of the Pale, that portion of western Russia where the Czars had forced all Jews to live. Gershon was no different. Four of his older brothers and one of his sisters had already emigrated to America. Two of his oldest brothers had moved to a neighboring Russian village. Their sons would soon be going to America. Gershon’s younger sister and younger brother would within just a few years follow him to the new world. But Gershon’s leaving was hard on Chava. She had always tried to not think of him as a favorite, but that emotion always seemed to return to her. She knew he was going. She knew she would never see him again. She knew she would have no personal contact with him ever again. She saw that he was packed. He told her he would wear his Russian Army uniform until he crossed the border and from there all the way to Germany and then to America he would wear his own clothes. In his satchel with everything he owned were his clothes but more important was the photograph of his mother and his tallit, his prayer shawl, and three bottles of vodka “just for the guards,” he told Chava, “so I can get across the border without any trouble.” Gershon’s younger brother took him in their buggy to the train in Shepetikva where Gershon would begin his journey. It was the last time Gershon would see his mother. Before he left they embraced. She was shorter than he was and had to reach up to put her arms around him. He leaned over and held her tightly against his chest. She kissed him, first on one check then on the other, and she rubbed the back of his hair just as she did when he was a small boy. Tears came to Gershon’s eyes, and tears came to Chava’s, too. Gershon was silent. Chava spoke, quietly. “Remember, you’re a Jew.” They parted.
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Death and Mourning in Judaism: Burial and funeral service SAM KRICSFELD AND ANNETTE VAN DE KAMP-WRIGHT It’s the question nobody wants to ask themselves: What do I want my funeral to look like? Anyone who has attended a Jewish burial or service knows there are laws, customs and traditions we adhere to, we’ll notice when something is missing, but do we know which parts of the burial and service are required of us, versus what is up to the family? What do we need, versus what do we want? Does it matter more to the family, or is it more important for the deceased? These and other questions are unpleasant to think about, but they must be answered at some point. For the purpose of this article, we will separate between burial service and memorial. They don’t always happen at the same moment, or even on the same day. As for Yahrzeits, Shiva and the unveiling of stones, we will discuss that later this year. The burial itself as well as keriah (rending of clothes) fall under Jewish law. The most important aspect of following Jewish burial laws, Beth Israel’s Rabbi Ari Dembitzer said, “Is to honor the deceased.” A Jewish funeral is distinguished by its simplicity, humility, and solemnity. Its general format has not changed for thousands of years. The mitzvah of accompanying the dead to the final resting place is so great it supersedes all
other mitzvot, including Torah study. Today most Jews outside of Israel are buried in caskets. Note that general practice in talmudic times was for the body to be borne to the cemetery on a mitah (‘bier’). (Jewishfuner al.org) Keriah is what Maurice Lamm in The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning called “the most striking Jewish expression of grief.” Keriah takes place before the burial service
and many examples of it can be found in the Torah: “When Jacob saw Joseph’s coat drenched with what he tought to be his son’s blood, he rent his garments. Likewise, David tore his clothes when he heard of the death of King Saul and Job, who knew grief so well, stood up and rent his mantle.” Lamm also wrote: “The rending is an See Death and Mourning page 8
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Death and Mourning Continued from page 7 opportunity for psychological relief. It allows the mourner to give pent to pent-up anguish by means of a controlled, religiously-sanctioned act of destruction.” Halachically, there is a requirement to ‘expose the heart,’ indicating a broken heart. Nowadays, Keriah is sometimes done symbolically by attaching a black ribbon to one’s clothing, which is then ripped by the mourner. Keriah may only be performed by those of post B’nai Mitzvah age. When a family goes through the Jewish Funeral Home, the JFH will notify your synagogue when applicable. If the deceased is not a member of a specific synagogue, additional arrangements will have to be made with the synagogue through which the family wants to have the burial. “At the time of death,” Nate Shapiro, Executive Director of Temple Israel, said, “the first phone call should be to the Jewish Funeral Home. At Temple, we will work with any funeral home. Once the funeral home contacts us, I reach out to the family to go over logistics and determine whether a burial plot needs to be purchased. Following that conversation, a member of our clergy will discuss intake. A member of our staff will also reach out to compose the announcement we send out to the community.” He recommends designating one family member be in liaison with the funeral home and the synagogue: “Sometimes it can be very difficult to do planning when there
are too many cooks in the kitchen,” he said. The timeline is as follows: Jewish burial ideally takes place between 24-48 hours after death. However, if a death occurs on or close to Shabbat or a Jewish holiday, the timeline shifts so as not to have a funeral on Shabbat or during that holiday. “The 24-48 hr. time frame is, again, out of respect for the deceased,” Rabbi Dembitzer said. “Exceptions may be made to accommodate travel of family for the sake of the deceased.” There is no ‘viewing,’ as is the custom in other communities. “The Talmud tells us that it is forbidden to gaze at the face of a dead person. On a basic level, this is so that we do not lose respect for the deceased. The Kabbalists explain that one of the reasons we cover the face of the deceased is because a person’s sins are ‘engraved upon the forehead.’ By gazing at the deceased, especially at a time when the soul is still hovering over the body waiting for its final judgment, we can potentially arouse divine prosecution against them, bringing them pain. (Chabad.org) The funeral service usually includes a eulogy by the clergy and, if the family wishes it, by a family member or a representative appointed by them. Psalm 23 is most common, but other Psalms may be read. The memorial prayer is read, as well as Kaddish. This service can be in the funeral chapel at the cemetery, or graveside. Filling in the grave is a mitzvah for each of
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us. The custom is to place the shovel back in the earth rather than passing it from hand to hand. The shovel may also be inverted to indicate that we are using it in an unusual way to show that we are not happy to see the person dead. Customs vary as to how many shovelfuls to place – some placing one, others 3, and others not counting. Customs also vary as to the filling in of the grave. Some congregations place a symbolic covering of earth on the casket; others cover the top of the casket, while still others fill in the grave completely. While some elements of a funeral are standard, others are not. When in doubt, it is always best to ask your own clergy. “Our main priority,” Nate Shapiro said, “is to provide a meaningful funeral experience for the family.”
Sources for further reading: https://www.jewish-funerals.org/funeral-and-burial/ Maurice Lamm, The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning https://www.shiva.com/ https://reformjudaism.org/preparingjewish-funeral-checklist https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3218995/jewish/Why-DontJews-Have-Open-Casket-Funerals.htm We aim to run these articles the last week of every month. If you have questions, or are hoping there is something specific we will cover, please feel free to reach out. The writers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
New incentive program at Sabra Camp Sabra is delighted to announce Legacy Heritage Fund has established an incentive program for new campers for two summers, starting in 2021. The program’s goal is to enrich children’s Jewish learning and identity by giving them the opportunity to attend camps with strong Jewish content and programming. These incentives are for campers from small Jewish communities with populations of 10,000 Jews or fewer. Other eligibility requirements are: the camper is a rising 4th-10th grader and has
not previously attended Jewish overnight camp; the camper must attend camp Sabra for a full session. The grant consists of $1,500 per camper for two consecutive years. If an older sibling is already a camper and the younger sibling is new, that younger sibling can apply. Multiple children from one family can each apply for a grant. For more information on how to apply, , contact Kim Sloan at 314.680.2906 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit the website at www.campsabra.com.
The music of Fats Waller comes to life in this Tony© Award-winning musical revue.
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What to change? Lessons from tennis Life in Israel is not just about voting for a new government every few months. In-between we do stuff. Like play tennis. A few months ago something wonderful happened on this front: Two men revolutionized the game with a simple rule change. I was one of those men and this is my story. I started playing tennis almost half a century ago. But hand in hand with my TEDDY love for the game came a fear of double WEINBERGER faulting. My fear was essentially not of losing but of looking pathetic. It could occur at any time, whether I was winning or losing, and would often morph in my head into the following words: “It would really be a shame to hand over a free point now.” My anxiety would sometimes get to a stage when I could hardly toss the ball up because my arm shook so much. To say that I was not having fun at those times would be a great understatement—I was suffering. Lord knows that I worked on my problem. I listened to the CDs of a sports psychologist, adopting his suggestion of always bouncing the ball a set number of times before the serve; I concentrated on my breathing, rather than the outcome of the serve; and I even went to a creative arts therapist in Jerusalem for several months, where I learned to keep a journal that would feature ideal tennis-serve scenarios (which I was to concentrate upon during an actual game). All of this helped but only partially. Recently, my problem was getting the better of me in my tennis games with my friend Rabbi Lior Engelman (many of whose holiday teachings I have translated for this column). It got to a point where I was ready to stop playing with him. But Lior did not want to give up on our game, and frankly neither did I. We devised one simple rule-change that has made all the difference: no double faults. If your second service does not go in to the appropriate service box, you get to keep trying until it does (i.e. you get to repeat your second serve rather than your more powerful first serve). In one fell swoop, my fear disappeared. Absent the psychological problem, I was left with the technical aspect of my serve, which is fairly good. Because of this, it almost never happens that I actually need to implement my rule—if my first serve doesn’t go in, my second serve almost never misses. To the tennis purists among you who are horrified and are
thinking: “the stress is part of the game--what you have done is not tennis,” I would answer: There are many common exceptions to official tennis rules that are accepted in social tennis (my rule is not appropriate for tournament play). For example, touching the net with any part of your body or racket during or in the aftermath of a shot should result in your forfeiting the point, but this rule is typically overlooked in social tennis. Another common social-tennis rule is “first-one-in”; i.e., on the very first point you cannot double fault--because no one wants to begin the game by serving a double fault My rule just extends “first-one-in” to the whole game. It’s possible that after a year or two of sessions with an excellent sports psychologist, I could have gotten to the same state regarding the serve without my “no double faults” rule, but I’m not sure. I only wish that I had come up with my rule decades ago because not only would I have enjoyed tennis more, but I think that my partners would have preferred it. To check out this hypothesis, I contacted Steve Benz, Associate Professor of English at the University of New Mexico, and a former tennis partner of mine in Miami in the mid-90s. Unlike me, Steve was also a successful tournament player, moving on to Atlanta a few years later and twice winning that city’s championship for his age level. I emailed Steve: “Back in our Miami days, if I had asked you to play using my rule, would you have agreed?” Steve wrote back: “I would have had no problem accepting the proposed rule change. The main reason is that I never liked winning a point by double fault and would rather play the point--win or lose--than not play it. In fact, quite often in my tennis ‘career,’ I’ve returned second serves that were out but close and kept on playing the point just because it’s more fun to play. I’ve even done that in tournaments. I guess my philosophy would be ‘Play on!’” Thanks for the validation, Steve. I will just add here that I think there is a larger lesson to be learned from my rule. If you have a problem in life, it is not always the case that you have to change; sometimes you need to change the presenting circumstances. Yes, Play On! Teddy Weinberger, Ph.D., made aliyah with his wife, former Omahan Saraj Jane Ross, and their five children, Nathan, Rebecca, Ruthie, Ezra, and Elie, all of whom are veterans of the Israeli Defense Forces; Weinberger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ain’t Misbehavin’ is coming to the Omaha Community Playhouse The music of legendary jazz musician and entertainer Fats Waller comes to life in the wildly popular Tony Award-winning musical Ain’t Misbehavin’, opening Friday, May 21 at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Experience the contagious rhythms and electric energy that made Fats Waller an international icon. Featuring five triplethreat actors and a slew of infectious jazz and swing hits, Ain’t Misbehavin’ is a musical delight!
Tickets are on sale now starting at $42. Purchase at the OCP Box Office (6915 Cass Street), by phone at 402.553.0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com. The show will run in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre at OCP from May 21 through June 20. Performances will be held Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Don’t miss it!
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Meet the Jewish activist digging through the trash for climate justice WHY NOT DO IT THE EASY WAY?
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ORGE CASTELLANO This article ﬁrst appeared on Alma. A few years ago, Anna Sacks was an utterly different person. Her existence revolved around the monotonous slender buildings, high-rise cubicles and exceedingly demanding domains of Manhattan’s corporate world. The young New Yorker’s workday routines soon became onerous and quite prosaic, to the point of tedium. She needed a radical switch away from the antagonistic competitive culture that prevented her from fulfilling her personal aspirations. Waiting for her — far from the concrete jungle’s chaotic littered streets — were the idyllic vistas of rural Connecticut. After quitting her job in investment banking, she would find spiritual and emotional refuge there within The Adamah Fellowship, a three-month residential program for adults that blends organic farm-to-table living with sustainable agricultural practices through the teachings and lens of Judaism. She was lured quickly by the scenery’s natural charm, the metaphysical dynamics of communal living, and the substance and intention behind the work carried out on the farm. The transformative Jewish experience would prove to be a pivotal point for the 30-year-old — and would help steer her life’s Credit: Patricia Lopez Ramos purpose toward becoming the individual she is today: an environmental activist. Upon returning to the Upper West Side, a crude reality awaited Anna: an excessive amount of usable items tossed out daily in the trash. Such disheartening sights would prompt her to start rummaging through some of the bags piled up along her neighborhood’s sidewalks. Usually armed with reusable bags and a pair of punctureproof gardening gloves, Anna tries to salvage every item she can get her hands on. At home she sorts her finds, deciding what stays with her, what she gives to friends and family, and what she donates to charitable organizations. She simultaneously documents the process on TikTok and later on Instagram, coining the experience as “Trashwalks” and her figure as “The Trash Walker.” Since her time with Adamah, Anna has gone from having no experience in sustainability to becoming an expert on the matter. She recently waged a petition on Change.org titled “Tell CVS to Donate, Don’t Dump,” to implore and pressure the pharmacy chain to minimize waste and donate unused goods to local charitable organizations. It had more than 444,000 signees as of this week. I sat down recently with Anna, virtually, to talk about her activism, the relationship between Judaism and nature, and the untenable waste practices of some of the biggest corporations in America. How many times a week do you do your trashwalks? And could you walk me through one of your routines? I tend to go as frequently as I can. Sometimes I do a short one, and I do a longer one if I have more time. It is typically two or three times per week. Once I have the stuff I need, I document and sort everything out. I follow the residential recycling schedule. In New York City, different blocks put up their recycling on different days, so that’s what I do. I also go to corporations that are along that route. I have this Change.org campaign asking CVS “Donate, Don’t Dump,” so if I’m meeting up with my friends and if there’s a CVS along the way, I will go there to see what they’re doing. When was the first time you noticed the disposal practices of CVS? And when did you start checking other companies as well? It’s not just CVS. It’s a very common practice in the U.S., and unfortunately in other parts of the world, too. It’s a way for corporations to manage their unwanted merchandise. Specifically, this past week at CVS, I found around 10 garbage bags filled with candy, cereal and pretzels. The majority of it wasn’t past best-by-date. The cereals had a best-bydate in November. It was a very long shelf-life. Whenever there is a holiday, they typically have the merchandise on sale for a period, then they need to make room for the other stuff, so they typically toss it. That’s consistent. Every store sells seasonal merchandise, whether it’s TJ Maxx or Walgreens, Party City, even larger chains like Target and Walmart. They all do this. Some are just less accessible. Walmart usually has a compactor, so no one can see what they’re throwing out. It’s hidden, but it’s happening. Besides joining your CVS campaign, how can citizens
prevent companies from intentionally disposing of so many usable items? I think it would be great if everyone talks to the store manager. Suppose you go to CVS, Michaels or Barnes & Noble. In that case, there are so many places, talk to their manager and ask them what they do with their excess merchandise and if it’s possible to set up donation partnerships, especially if you know a place that would accept those items. One of the most significant aspects of Judaism is its intrinsic relationship with nature and the environment. How can people apply what Judaism teaches us about sustainability and the relationship between human needs against nature’s autonomous rights in their daily lives? I think that’s a little bit hard for me to say because it’s so personal. At Adamah, it was focusing on the relationship between nature and Judaism. We would do Avodat Lev in the morning for prayer. Sometimes it could be going for a walk in nature, sitting and listening to the sounds, thinking and being grateful. That’s a spiritual practice. I went to Jewish day school and we had tefillah in the morning, [but] it was all indoors. I like the idea of incorporating nature as a spiritual practice. You’ve said that companies are protected from legal liability under the federal Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. Why aren’t companies taking advantage? I’ve heard from a lot of employees that managers tell them [they can’t donate food] because of lawsuits. What I have experienced is that hierarchy gets in the way: the fact that the store-level employees have no control over it; neither the store manager nor the regional manager shows up; there’s no room within the organization for them to be donating, even if they wanted to. How can corporations implement Jewish values into their waste management policies and practices? For meat, there’s an alternative called Grow and Behold in the U.S. All their meat is kosher. They make sure animals are treated well. They are given enough land to run on. And there’s another one called KOL in D.C. There are companies that are doing this. The meat is more expensive, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Meat should be expensive, so people enjoy it less frequently. It shouldn’t be this thing that we have multiple times a day, and for most of human history it never was that way. Besides your deep sense of commitment, what else would you say most motivates you to do what you do? The idea of changing things and making things better. We created this system so that we can create a better system. To me, this is low-hanging fruit, very common sense. It’s bipartisan. And something that’s not controversial. Suppose anyone watches the videos and sees the waste. It’s a human reaction to be like, “this is upsetting,” “this is wrong.” That’s motivating to do something that can do good and help people and be better for the environment. It’s a positive thing to change. Read the full article at www.omahajewishpress.com.
Who am I? The Nebraska Jewish Historical Society (NJHS) requests help from the community in identifying photographs from the archives. Please contact Kathy Weiner at 402.334.6441 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you are able to assist in the effort to preserve Jewish Omaha history.
The Jewish Press | April 30, 2021 | 11
Temple Sinai hires Rabbi Daniel Fellman SAUL STRAUSSMAN After a comprehensive search for a new senior rabbi, Temple Sinai of Pittsburgh, PA, has hired Rabbi Daniel Fellman who has been the senior rabbi at Temple Concord in Syracuse, NY, for more than a decade. A search for a new rabbi after such a long and storied tenure, such as our Rabbi Gibson’s, is challenging in the best of times. It becomes complex when you add in a pandemic and the need to conduct all interviews and meetings via teleconferences. Despite not being able to meet in person, Rabbi Fellman’s warmth and engaging personality was apparent. Rabbi Fellman forRabbi Daniel Fellman merly served as assistant and associate rabbi at Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, NJ. With an impressive track record of community involvement, Rabbi Fellman was selected for Forty Under Forty in Syracuse in 2011. He currently serves on the Board of Interfaith Works and on the City/County Human Rights Commission. He also serves on the board of the Jewish Federation, the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation, and the University Hill Corporation. Rabbi Fellman graduated from Colorado College with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1996 and from the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion with a master’s degree in Hebrew Letters in 2004 and was ordained in 2005. Rabbi Fellman is married to Melissa and they have three children. He is the son of Dick and the late Bev Fellman of Omaha.
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Israeli envoy joins Arab ambassadors in planting tree at UAE Embassy
technologies that will power a green the Trump administration-brokered RON KAMPEAS economic recovery for our countries, Abraham Accords, as well as diplomats WASHINGTON | JTA Israel’s ambassador to the United our region and the entire world,” Erdan from Egypt and Jordan, which have longStates and the United Nations joined a said. standing peace agreements with Israel. number of his Arab counterparts in planting an olive tree at the United Arab Emirates Embassy, spotlighting environmental cooperation as part of the recent normalization of ties between Israel and several Arab countries. “Warmer relations will help get us to a cooler planet,” said Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE ambassador to the United States, said at Tuesday’s ceremony. “Normalization is already accelerating climate cooperation between the UAE and Israel. ” Israel’s ambassador to the United States and to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, said he had raised regional environmental cooperation Israeli U.S. Ambassador Gilad Erdan, right, joins his UAE counterpart Yousef Al Otaiba in with John Kerry, the Biden adminis- planting an olive tree at the UAE Embassy in Washington, April 20, 2021. Credit: Israel tration’s climate czar who for Embassy decades has also been deeply invested The UAE and Israel are attending the The White House was represented by in Israeli-Arab peacemaking. Kerry is a Biden administration’s virtual Earth Day Barbara Leaf, the top National Security former secretary of state. Climate summit convening Thursday. Council official handling the Middle “Now that the Abraham Accords have Also present at the event were diplo- East, and Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the unlocked the tremendous potential for mats from Morocco and Bahrain, coun- chairman of the U.S. House of Represencooperation between our peoples, we tries that achieved normalization tatives Middle East subcommittee. can lead the way in developing the green agreements with Israel last year under
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OMAHA CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATE STATEMENTS PETE FESTERSEN | District 1
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OMAHA MAYORAL CANDIDATE STATEMENTS R.J. NEARY
I am running for Mayor because I believe we need to reconnect the neighborhoods of our city and create a prosperous recovery from the pandemic. I’ve been married to my wife Liz for 35 years and have two wonderful grown daughters. I started at Investors Realty in 1987 and have been President and Chair for many years. I helped to seal the deal on many great projects in Omaha during that time. I served on the Omaha Planning Board, including two years as Chair. I have served on the Boards of Habitat for Humanity and the Holland Children’s Movement. I will put that experience as a business leader to work as your next mayor. HERE’S MY 12-MONTH PLAN: • I will appoint a Pandemic Czar who will act as the point person for the Covid economic recovery • Begin to fix crumbling, pot-hole strewn streets once and for all using best available technologies • Adopt a climate action plan to be part of the solution for reducing greenhouse gases and environmental equity. • Improve city services by making garbage and recycling pickup work well again, for all residents • Connect and revitalize our neighborhoods through funding and focus on neighborhood associations and technology • Improve substandard housing by adding inspectors and support staff immediately, and identifying a reliable funding program to establish more affordable housing in our city • Improve Racial Equity by elevating an eq-
uity officer in my cabinet and eliminating barriers to advancement • Make government more transparent through a culture of continuous improvement in all departments and a published report card of performance • Improve public safety through innovations, including the development and implementation of a special social services unit that will respond to non-violent 911 calls. I hope to earn your support! My website is nearyforomaha.com and my email is email@example.com.
JEAN STOTHERT One of the best ways to evaluate any city is to assess the level of support provided to those who need assistance. By that and any other measure, I believe Omaha to be a very caring and supportive community. Our public, private, non-profit, and philanthropic partners have done a tremendous job in providing resources and assistance for those who need it. This has been especially true this past year during the pandemic when people have faced significant financial, housing, employment, and social challenges. Throughout the pandemic, we have worked with our partners to stabilize city finances, enact a commonsense mask ordinance, and advocate for vaccinations. We secured over $30 million in funding that we are now directing toward those who fell behind on rent and utility bills due to the pandemic. We have expanded community service and neighborhood grant funding with a focus on
opportunities to address the impacts of COVID-19. We are increasing our commitment to address unemployment and underemployment challenges citywide. While Omaha has one of the lowest large-city unemployment rates in the nation, there is still work to do. I have also committed to increased funding for the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau. This will be critical to restoring jobs in our hospitality sector that employs so many. The recently enacted federal American Rescue Plan will provide Omaha over $100 million in direct funding to assist with our pandemic recovery. I believe our team has demonstrated the leadership and ability to properly manage and allocate funds for the benefit of those in need. While we didn’t expect or plan for a pandemic, all of us in Omaha have done our part to make our city better. I am proud of the work we have accomplished together, and I look forward to the work ahead.
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“It’s been an honor to serve on the Omaha City Council and together we’ve accomplished many great things. We renovated the Benson, Dundee and Florence neighborhood business districts. We prioritized public safety and deterred property crime. And we held the line on property taxes. It’s been a challenging time for our city with civil unrest and the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to stay focused on keeping our citizens safe and healthy during the pandemic and continuing our economic recovery. This includes rental assistance for those in need and financial support for our restaurants and small businesses that have struggled over the last year. I will continue to prioritize public safety, police-community relations and neighborhood street resurfacing and am working on community-wide strategies for affordable housing, public transit, and mental health. During these difficult times, we need proven leadership that can bring people together to address these complex issues. I appreciate the trust you’ve placed in me and would appreciate your support as we continue to focus on the future of our community.”
SARAH JOHNSON | District 1
Omaha has so much potential, but not enough progress. We have waited too long for meaningful change, and we cannot wait any longer. Many residents in District 1 don’t feel that our local government is working for them, too many feel that their voice isn’t being heard. We deserve responsive civic leaders with common sense who will listen to, care about, and work for all people, who truly value people over politics. From Covid recovery to affordable housing, transportation to trash collection I’m ready to work for See Omaha City Council Candidate Statements page 13
press.com, go to Submission Forms.
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OMAHA CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATE STATEMENTS Continued from page 12 you! I’m a registered Independent and I am excited to dedicate myself to being your full time voice and advocate at City Hall. I was raised in District 1, and operated my small business, the Omaha Bicycle Company, in Benson from 2012 through 2019. I’m a founding member of Mode Shift Omaha, a community nonprofit advocacy group working to improve Omaha’s transportation infrastructure, accessibility, and mobility equity for residents across the city. With over a decade of experience in community building, grassroots organizing, and small business, I’ll embrace the ideas, intelligence, and passion of the people and organizations of our city so that Omaha can finally have the opportunity to become a community that works for all of us. I will focus on creating a culture of communication and collaboration between residents and local government to ensure decisions are always viewed through a lens of equity, humanity, efficiency, and sustainability. I believe we can build a stronger, more resilient, and more equitable city when we all have a seat at the table. Please join me, and visit www.SJ4OMA.com to learn more about how we can work together to help make Omaha a community that respects its citizens, focuses on its people, and provides everyone the opportunity for their voice to be heard.
BEN GRAY | District 2
I have demonstrated in a variety of ways that I know how to get things done. I have worked hard for this city and especially for District 2. I love Omaha and I love being in a position to seriously get some major work done. I promise if I’m elected I will continue the necessary work for our city.
CAMMY WATKINS | District 3
Cammy Watkins is a proud Omaha native who is ready to serve and enact positive change in our community as a member of Omaha’s City Council. Her passion for advocacy is represented in an almost 20-year career in the non-profit sector with organizations like Sierra Club, Habitat for Humanity of Omaha and now, Inclusive Communities. Cammy has a long history of working behind the scenes to promote polices for our community and beyond. This work earned her national attention as one of Glamour magazine’s 70 female eco-achievers, alongside other environmental leaders such as former EPA director, Lisa Jackson. Cammy has helped over 100 families in Omaha realize the dream of homeownership and helped dozens more work towards ending the cycle of poverty through financial literacy and education. Cammy has a proven track record of supporting employee rights. During her time as the president of JML 100, an independent union of Sierra Club employees, she led the union through the 2008 recession that accompanied a contentious contract negotiation. Negotiations were settled amicably, and greater job security was provided to Sierra Club employees. Cammy has consistently used her voice to elevate conversations and address concerns for the betterment of the community as a whole. Whether it is environmental sustainability, housing affordability or racial equity, Cammy has been on the front lines of building a more just society. She is a dynamic speaker, a loyal community partner, a proud Aunt and a strong believer in humanity’s potential to come together.
Cammy credits her mother, Lisa, with inspiring her strong work ethic, her mindfulness around racial and social equity, and her dedication to the city of Omaha and its amazing people.
BECKY BARRIENTOS-PATLAN | District 4 I’m Becky Barrientos Patlan! I was born and raised in South Omaha, and graduated from South High in 1976. Married to Virgil Patlan in 1977. Virgil, Jenny, Kristy and Daniel have blessed us with 28 grandchildren and 2 greats! As a first generation American Mexican, at such a time as this, I see and know the struggles, in our neighborhoods, Omaha, Nebraska and America. As founder of Burlington Road NA, I am not afraid to talk about issues of assimilation problems. Being a good neighbor means being a good neighbor, no matter what color you are or what country you’re from. Many times, calling out on issues regarding racism and Anti-Semitism! So, whether you’re Mexican, Polish, German, Irish, Czechoslovakian, Bohemian, Lithuanian, Sudanese or the many more that have immigrated here, bring your heritage, talents, hopes and dreams for a better life, to ‘the Magic City in south O!’ Parks are special family spaces; I spearheaded LC Miguel Keith Park on 30th & Y Street. I also led Nebraska’s Heart for Missing Children, dba ‘A Hand to Hold’ in 2005 and the Amber Harris Project, where we knocked on doors of neighbors of sex offenders. Children and vulnerable adults need to be protected in our neighborhoods! Virgil is a retired Omaha Police Officer, who recently found his Jewish roots; he and I led “This is Your Neighborhood-Anti Gang & Graffiti Program, a fourth-grade program. I am a PRO-God, America, Life, Religious Liberty, Police, Veteran and Second Amendment Candidate. Pro-Bono Publico means FOR THE SAKE OF THE COMMUNITY. That’s all I’ve ever done for you and your family! Thank You! VOTE BECKY on May 11! A Stronger Voice for South Omaha-District 4! For more information, see www.facebook.com/beckybarrie ntospatlan or email me at email@example.com.
VINNY PALERMO | District 4 For the past four years, I have proudly served Omaha City Council, District 4. I have represented my constituents with hard work and determination, listened to their concerns and taken action, and I have stood up for my district prioritizing people over politics. The next four years will be challenging as our city manages the pandemic and economic uncertainty. As a member of the Council, I’m involved in making tough choices for the city by weighing important public concerns with the city’s limited budget. I am committed to serving our city and ensuring we offer the important city services our community relies upon.
DON ROWE | District 5 My name is Don Rowe, and I am running for Omaha City Council in District 5. For over 20 years I have been a leader in the Millard business community. As Vice President of Sales for Millard Lumber, I have participated in major development See Omaha City Council Candidate Statements page 14
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OMAHA CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATE STATEMENTS Continued from page 13 projects and negotiations throughout the city. This experience has helped shape my vision for the future of Omaha: More opportunities for everyone, strong infrastructure, sound fiscal management, business development to attract more good jobs, and top-notch police and fire departments to keep our families and businesses safe. Our Mayor has done a great job for our city, but she needs more help on the City Council. We need a Councilmember in District 5 that has strong negotiating experience and has been a trusted leader in the community for decades. My wife and I love Omaha. We believe it is one of the best places in America to live and raise a family. I want to keep it that way, while continuing to make improvements. With that in mind, here is my pledge to the people of District 5: • I will always listen. I know I don’t have all the answers, and I want to learn as much as I can from my community before acting. • I will not support any tax increases. Our taxes are high enough! Families must find ways to budget and do more with less, and I believe Omaha can do the same. • I will work to give our police and firefighters the tools and training they need to stay safe on the job while being outstanding community partners. I’d appreciate your vote and support on May 11 as I campaign to make this great city even better. Please visit DonRoweOm aha.com to learn more.
BRINKER HARDING | District 6 My name is Brinker Harding, and for the past four years it has been my honor to serve and represent Omaha’s 6th City Council District. My district includes the home of the Jewish Press and Jewish Community Center, and I’ve enjoyed listening and learning from leaders in the Jewish community and throughout my district. During my time on the City Council, we have: • Improved public safety by adding a new police precinct in my district and securing new equipment for Omaha’s firefighters • Widened and improved roads throughout the city • Created a 20-year road maintenance plan with voter support • Added new development projects to create more jobs and help prevent “brain drain” • Maintained as many city services as possible during the COVID shutdowns without raising the tax levy • Balanced the city budget • Worked to improve quality of life for the people of Omaha By working with the Mayor and other Councilmembers, we have created an impressive track record of success for our city. But we are only getting started. As I look forward to my next term, I know that together we can continue to make improvements to Omaha. My biggest focus in my next term will be rebounding from the pandemic. Omaha families and businesses are struggling, and I feel it is the responsibility of the City Council to do all we can to safely get our economy – and our lives – back to normal. I am asking for your support and vote in the upcoming General Election on May 11. To learn more about my campaign and goals, please visit BrinkerHarding.com. Thank you!
SARA KOHEN | District 7 Omaha is a wonderful community. My family and I moved here after I graduated from law school in Lincoln and have been here ever since. We came here so I could clerk for Chief Judge
William J. Riley on the U.S Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. At that time, we enrolled our oldest (and then only) child at the Pennie Z. Davis CDC and met many great friends. After my clerkship, I practiced law full-time for several more years. I now am privileged to work with kids and families as the Director of Advancement at Friedel Jewish Academy. My family and I are active members at Beth El and Beth Israel and proud to call Omaha our home. Determination to help our community has driven my career choices and changes. This determination is why I am now running for City Council. Local government is important: From the quality of the roads we drive on, to the parks our children play in, to our families’ health and safety, decisions made by local elected officials matter. Omaha is amazing, and we have so much potential as a city. We can do even better, though, and we need new leadership on the City Council. We need elected officials who listen, who let people know what their city government is doing, and who base decisions on facts and bringing people together around solutions. We need to do the basics right—things like fixing streets the right way, making responsible city contracts, and protecting public health and safety—but we shouldn’t stop there. I’ll work to help Omaha reach its potential, working with community partners to create new jobs, do more to attract and retain young adults, and to protect our community from climate-related threats. As a Councilmember, I will work to make Omaha the best possible city for all of us, our children, and our grandchildren. I would love to earn your vote on May 11.
AIMEE MELTON | District 7
Hello, I am Aimee Melton, and for the past eight years, I have had the honor to serve as the representative for District 7 on the Omaha City Council. During my time on the Council, I have appreciated and valued the relationships I have developed with the leaders in the Jewish community through my district and the City of Omaha. Together, we have accomplished a lot in our City to include the following: • Made improvements to public safety by adding nearly 100 sworn police officers, adding a 5th police precinct and securing new equipment for Omaha Firefighters • Widened and improved roads throughout the city and developed a 20-year Master Roads and Infrastructure Plan • Added new economic development projects throughout the city, from Downtown to Elkhorn • Maintained as many city services as possible throughout the COVID pandemic without raising the tax levy • Balanced the city budget as Chair of the Finance Committee Working alongside Mayor Stothert and my colleagues on the City Council, we have strengthened the core of our City and helped propel Omaha forward for years to come. Our work is not complete, however, and with your support for a third term, we can continue this track record of success. My priorities in a third term will be to continue to focus on the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining a strong and safe community by supporting public safety, and working to create more economic development opportunities for all throughout our community. I am asking for your support and vote in the upcoming General Election on May 11. To learn more about my campaign and goals, please visit MeltonforOmaha.com. Thank you!
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RBJH staff wants to wish a heartfelt farewell to Sarah Quinata, activities assistant, as she begins her career working in the geriatric ﬁeld. Sarah moved to Nebraska from Connecticut to go to school at the UNO Department of Gerontology. She came to RBJH as a volunteer and soon was hired for a few hours to assist with Opening Minds through Art last spring. This past fall, she was our UNO Geriatic intern and kept working this semester assisting the activity staff wherever needed. Wishing Sarah success, contentment, and satisfaction at your new job. Pictured: above: RBJH activities staff modeling their Opening Minds through Art T-shirts and below: Sarah with her original tiles for the the RBJH neighborhood tile project.
Top, above, below and bottom: Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) at Friedel Jewish Academy! All crafts and games were connected to places the students learned about while studying the Monthly Middot (character traits) this year. Yom Ha’Atzmaut sameach! Above: The RBJH SE neighborhood celebrated Anna Mogilevskaya birthday in style with plenty of Russian music and good food.
SP O TLIGHT PHOTOS FROM RECENT JEWISH COMMUNITY EVENTS SUBMIT A PHOTO: Have a photo of a recent Jewish Community event you would like to submit? Email the image and a suggested caption to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Above, right and below: Friedel students participated in Cooking with Memories, a project for remembering fallen IDF soldiers, by cooking their favorite recipes, as shared by their families.
GENEROUSLY SUPPORTED BY
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Voices The Jewish Press (Founded in 1920) Abby Kutler President Annette van de Kamp-Wright Editor Richard Busse Creative Director Susan Bernard Advertising Executive Lori Kooper-Schwarz Assistant Editor Gabby Blair Staff Writer Mary Bachteler Accounting Jewish Press Board Abby Kutler, President; Eric Dunning, Ex-Officio; Danni Christensen, David Finkelstein, Candice Friedman, Bracha Goldsweig, Margie Gutnik, Natasha Kraft, Chuck Lucoff, Eric Shapiro, Andy Shefsky, Shoshy Susman and Amy Tipp. The mission of the Jewish Federation of Omaha is to build and sustain a strong and vibrant Omaha Jewish Community and to support Jews in Israel and around the world. Agencies of the Federation are: Community Relations Committee, Jewish Community Center, Center for Jewish Life, Jewish Social Services, and the Jewish Press. Guidelines and highlights of the Jewish Press, including front page stories and announcements, can be found online at: wwwjewishomaha.org; click on ‘Jewish Press.’ Editorials express the view of the writer and are not necessarily representative of the views of the Jewish Press Board of Directors, the Jewish Federation of Omaha Board of Directors, or the Omaha Jewish community as a whole. The Jewish Press reserves the right to edit signed letters and articles for space and content. The Jewish Press is not responsible for the Kashrut of any product or establishment. Editorial The Jewish Press is an agency of the Jewish Federation of Omaha. Deadline for copy, ads and photos is: Thursday, 9 a.m., eight days prior to publication. E-mail editorial material and photos to: email@example.com; send ads (in TIF or PDF format) to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters to the Editor Guidelines The Jewish Press welcomes Letters to the Editor. They may be sent via regular mail to: The Jewish Press, 333 So. 132 St., Omaha, NE 68154; via fax: 1.402.334.5422 or via e-mail to the Editor at: avandekamp@jewishomaha. org. Letters should be no longer than 250 words and must be single-spaced typed, not hand-written. Published letters should be confined to opinions and comments on articles or events. News items should not be submitted and printed as a “Letter to the Editor.” The Editor may edit letters for content and space restrictions. Letters may be published without giving an opposing view. Information shall be verified before printing. All letters must be signed by the writer. The Jewish Press will not publish letters that appear to be part of an organized campaign, nor letters copied from the Internet. No letters should be published from candidates running for office, but others may write on their behalf. Letters of thanks should be confined to commending an institution for a program, project or event, rather than personally thanking paid staff, unless the writer chooses to turn the “Letter to the Editor” into a paid personal ad or a news article about the event, project or program which the professional staff supervised. For information, contact Annette van de KampWright, Jewish Press Editor, 402.334.6450. Postal The Jewish Press (USPS 275620) is published weekly (except for the first week of January and July) on Friday for $40 per calendar year U.S.; $80 foreign, by the Jewish Federation of Omaha. Phone: 402.334.6448; FAX: 402.334.5422. Periodical postage paid at Omaha, NE. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: The Jewish Press, 333 So. 132 St., Omaha, NE 68154-2198 or email to: email@example.com.
Editorials express the view of the writer and are not necessarily representative of the views of the Jewish Press Board of Directors, the Jewish Federation of Omaha Board of Directors, or the Omaha Jewish community as a whole.
A different narrative ANNETTE VAN DE KAMP-WRIGHT Jewish Press Editor In March of 2020, when COVID-19 was still new and stories came flying from everywhere, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency posted an article about Rabbi Daniel Nevins, the dean of the rabbinical school at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Nevins became ill, tested positive and subsequently recovered. “Within hours,” Ben Harris wrote, “Nevins was hooked up to a machine at the New York Blood Center to donate blood plasma. In the race to develop effective treatments for the disease, researchers are investigating whether antibodies from the blood of people who have successfully fought off the disease may provide treatment for people with more serious symptoms.” It was the kind of feel-good story we all like to read. But it’s a story that is accompanied by an uncomfortable truth. Rabbi Nevins is one man; there are thousands of others who made the same choice as he did: they donated their plasma. The difference: unlike Rabbi Nevins, they did not get photographed with a big smile on their face; they were not clad in laid-back jeans. Instead, they were modestly dressed, had wigs or beards and hats. They quietly and quickly mobilized when the need was there and they helped save countless lives. Yet, in the middle of all the stories about how high the death toll was in many Hasidic communities, much of the media quickly began to play the blame game. Here was the story: Hasidic Jews got sick and stayed sick, because they wouldn’t follow the rules and didn’t keep their distance. Life cycle events drew crowds in the thousands; politicians, especially in New York, were at odds with the orthodox community who just wouldn’t play by the rules. I admit, I fell for it too; there were so many articles about it, and only once I noticed I kept seeing the same images used for different stories did
it become clear to me I was not paying enough at- nationwide study on the use of blood plasma to tention. Only when a friend pointed out that I was treat patients with severe COVID-19. On the call missing something did I become aware. that afternoon, he told the religious leaders he “Once COVID-19 prevention measures were es- needed something for his research: more blood tablished and promoted by public health authori- from people who have survived the virus. “Do what ties,” Hopkinsmedicine.org wrote, “Local and you can,” Joyner said, according to Yehudah national Orthodox Jewish leaders put forth man- Kaszirer of Lakewood, New Jersey, one of the rabbis dates for their communities to comply, and devel- on the call. About 36 hours later, Kaszirer boarded oped culturally sensitive policies to address how to safely engage in prayer services, family and communal gatherings and social support systems.” And here is a headline from the Sun Sentinel: “New York Orthodox Jews help South Florida COVID-19 patients with plasma donations.” The article continued: “The COVID Plasma Initiative, which consists of thousands of Orthodox Jews who have recovered from the virus and are now donating their plasma, recently conducted drives in New York City that drew 200 donors.” Even Rabbi Daniel Nevins donating blood plasma at Mount Sinai Hospithe New York Times wrote: “The Ha- tal in New York, March 27, 2020. Credit: Nevins sidic community has taken a tragedy and turned it a private jet with roughly 1,000 vials of blood stored into a superpower. A number of factors lie behind in coolers. It had been drawn from members of the the outsize role of the Orthodox plasma drive, ac- community through a blood drive organized with cording to public health experts and community military-like speed.” And CBS reported: “Orthodox leaders, including the close ties that bind Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish communities account for half society, a religious commitment to the value of of all plasma donations in COVID-19 fight.” human life and a network of organizers committed So, there it is. It’s a great story about great people to turning something bad into something good.” who did a great thing. As much as I hate to say it, The following story appeared on NBC News: not all Jewish media jumps all over a feel-good “One Saturday in mid-April, a group of Orthodox story about the Hasidic community. The Jewish Jewish leaders held a conference call with a Min- Press certainly isn’t blameless (although I’d prefer nesota doctor as they grappled with spiking coro- to personally own that blame, rather than place it navirus cases in their New York area communities. on our agency). The question is: can we do better? Dr. Michael Joyner of the Mayo Clinic is leading a I think we can and we must.
Sorry, but Zoom Judaism just isn’t the real thing RABBI ELI L. GARFINKEL New York Jewish Week via JTA For more than a year now, synagogues around the world have managed to continue their activities during the COVID pandemic with Zoom and similar services. There is, however, a problem. Zoom Judaism is not working. What Zoom provides is not real community. At the end of the day, digital fellowship is pyrite, also known as fool’s gold. Zoom meetings and rooms do not fulfill the fundamental needs of Jewish community, which are very much physical in nature. Judaism is a sensual religion, one that is based on our five senses. To be a Jew means to see other human beings and not just images of heads, to listen to them without the option of a mute button, to feel their embrace, to taste their food at communal meals, and to sense the leathery smell of a Torah scroll or the perfume of a beloved Jewish friend. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that Zoom Judaism was necessary during the height of the pandemic and will continue to be so for some months. I recognize that Zoom has been a lifesaver for the physically challenged and that it has quickly brought about a revolution in Jewish adult education. My concern is that some Jewish leaders believe that the pandemic has given us license to reimagine a largely digital synagogue as a permanent replacement for real, physical Jewish community. This belief is predicated on the idea that Jews will continue to find Zoom Judaism compelling long after the novel coronavirus is finally vanquished.
Jews will not find Zoom Judaism compelling. To borrow a term from environmentalism, Zoom Judaism is unsustainable. Life is an in-person affair, and Jewish life is all the more. Zoom Judaism under non-emergency conditions will promote the deifi-
Credit: New York Jewish Week
cation of what has been called the “sacred self,” the notion that our own desires for convenience and comfort take precedence over God’s command to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Some have suggested that hybrid services are the answer to this danger. Alas, hybrid services are also an unsustainable solution. It is so easy to log in and, relatively speaking, so hard to actually make one’s way to a brick-and-mortar structure, that most Jews will take the path of least resistance if they take any path at all. This path, however, will merely lead us to an atomized hive of like-minded individuals, not a community. It will do to Judaism what
Facebook and Instagram have done to friendship. Sooner or later, we will have to shut off the public streams and force those who value Jewish community to come back to shul and benefit from the real McCoy. Zoom should be used for the benefit of those who cannot attend otherwise, particularly those who are homebound, hospitalized or live very far from any synagogue. The good news is that we have been here before. When we lost the Beit Hamikdash in Jerusalem nearly two millennia ago, we lost the physical nexus of the Jewish world, one that served as a hardwire connection to the Holy One. We wisely created a new system that made the synagogue, even in those dark days, the physical home of the Jewish community. In much the same way, we must double down on the power and potential of synagogues and what they provide: a physical community that nothing else, no matter how technologically advanced, can ever replace. Rabbi Eli L. Garfinkel is the author of The JPS Jewish Heritage Torah Commentary and the spiritual leader of Temple Beth El in Somerset, New Jersey. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JTA or its parent company, 70 Faces Media.
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The Jewish Press | April 30, 2021 | 17
If rabbis can’t talk about public policy, what’s the point of Torah? RABBI MICHAEL ROTHBAUM Text Messages is a column, produced with The Jewish Week, sharing wisdom from the weekly Torah portion. JTA When do you call the rabbi? Sometimes to complain. (We’re Jews, after all.) But usually, a life-cycle event has taken place. A birth, thank G-d. An impending wedding. An illness. Too often in the last year, a death. Over the past 13 months, tragedy has demanded that rabbis step forward to provide a steady shoulder, open ears and a guiding hand. It’s been deeply painful, but it’s been a privilege. The calamity of COVID represents a challenge that rabbis are seen as uniquely equipped to help confront. Even more so than in normal times, we’ve walked with our communities in the pain that accompanies untimely death. For me, this raises a question: If rabbis are qualified to attend to those suffering pain, loss or grief, are we not also qualified to address the brokenness in our land that results in pain, in loss, in grief ? For some Jews, the answer is an unequivocal no. Even Jews who call upon rabbis in times of crisis sometimes share open contempt for those of us who teach the Torah of public policy, social justice and – that dirtiest of words – “politics.” What business, they ask, does a rabbi have talking about such things? The second of the two portions we read this week is Kedoshim, in which God makes the simple but urgent demand “k’doshim t’hiyu ki kadosh Ani” — “Be holy, because I am holy.” God’s holiness is not for God alone, unattainable to the lowly mortal. Rather, human beings can embody that holiness, becoming personifications of the Divine. While some traditions allow for this possibility, they ask the ostensible holy person to be cloistered or physically apart from their kin. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Torah followed suit; after all, in some contexts the word “kadosh” means “apart” or “separate.” But the holiness of Kedoshim is not reserved for the ritual functionaries, the priests. Instead, God commands Moses to speak to “kol-eidat,” the entire community, regarding what is holy. The insistence that every one of us participate in holinessmaking is an essential element of Jewish theology. How we perform this holiness is the subject of Kedoshim. Yes, there are instructions for ritual holiness: offer sacrifices to God, not idols; make sure they are consumed and not left to rot; keep Shabbos. But the bulk of the teachings involve how we construct society and interact with each other in that society. Many of the instructions involve imbalances of power. Kedoshim enumerates laws regarding relatively weaker groups: the elderly, consumers, immigrants, workers. Those who have accrued power through land ownership, for example, must
leave some of their produce for those who are poor and land- all-too-common American atrocities? If so, what then is this less. Those who have the power to hire and fire employees are tradition of ours? A faded scrapbook of pleasant memories? warned not to oppress their workers. For those empowered A vague sense of connection to a beloved grandparent? as judges, stealing, lying and false denials are forbidden, as is And what of rabbis? Are we just spiritual sanitation workers, the “avel b’mishpat,” the “violent injustice” of discrimination. called in to sweep up in the aftermath of a disordered society Even those who have power by reason of what they know are bound to certain standards. If one possesses information about a certain person, the Torah instructs them not to be a “rachil,” a “peddler” walking about spreading this information. Conversely, if the information may prevent danger to others, the individual possessing such knowledge can no longer stand around while their neighbor’s blood is shed. Which brings us again to the matter of death. When there is a death, you call the rabbi. But with so much needless death in this country, I can’t help but wonder: Why didn’t you call Rabbi Mike Rothbaum speaks out against the Trump administration’s “Muslim ban” during a sooner? How many American deaths rally in Washington, Oct. 18, 2017. Credit: Bend the Arc would’ve been entirely preventable had we only observed the that prizes profits over God’s crowning creation, the human teachings of Kedoshim? Like the deaths of our unhoused being? neighbors who perish under overpasses, while those with In Torah, the opposite of holiness is not secularity. There is wealth continue to accrue more of it, fighting taxes that ask no “secular” in Torah. The opposite of holiness is idolatry. It is them to leave even the tiniest corners of their fields? wickedness. Or the deaths of undocumented immigrants, afraid to seek Rabbis stand by your side, uphold you while you peer into life-saving health care lest ICE agents nab them in the bright the depths of the grave. We’re humbled and honored to do so. light of the emergency room? But it’s time we stood together outside the gates of the cemeOr the deaths of workers who collapse from unsafe working tery, learning the Torah of holy society, building holy economy, conditions, exposed to COVID in unventilated overcrowded partnering in the cultivation of holy justice, the cornerstone workplaces — or simply overworked — left vulnerable by a of holy civilization. political system that values corporate campaign contributions Rabbi Michael Rothbaum is spiritual leader of Congreover human life and dignity? gation Beth Elohim in Acton, Massachusetts. He serves on Or the deaths of those like George Floyd and Daunte Wright the advisory boards of the Jewish Alliance of Law and Soand Breonna Taylor and countless more — a shameful cial Action and the New England Jewish Labor Committee, yahrzeit list of the victims of a criminal justice system built and is a member of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human upon nothing if not avel b’mishpat, the violent injustice of a Rights. He lives in Acton with his husband, Yiddish singer racial caste system? Anthony Russell. None of this is news. None of this information is unavailable The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of to us. Are we not accomplices, standing in silence while our the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JTA or its neighbor’s blood is shed? parent company, 70 Faces Media. Does Torah really have nothing to teach us regarding these
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B’NAI ISRAEL Join us via Zoom on Friday, May 14, 7:30 p.m. for evening services with guest speaker, Wendy Goldberg, Executive Director of the Tri-Faith Initiative. Our service leader is Larry Blass. Everyone is always welcome at B’nai Israel! For information on our historic synagogue, please contact Howard Kutler at firstname.lastname@example.org or any of our other board members: Scott Friedman, Rick Katelman, Janie Kulakofsky, Carole and Wayne Lainof, Mary-Beth Muskin, Debbie Salomon and Sissy Silber. Handicap Accessible.
BETH EL Virtual services conducted by Rabbi Steven Abraham and Hazzan Michael Krausman. VIRTUAL AND IN-PERSON MINYAN SCHEDULE: Mornings on Sundays, 9 a.m. and Mondays-Fridays, 7 a.m.; Evenings on Sunday-Thursday, 5:30 p.m. FRIDAY: Kabbalat Shabbat, 6 p.m. SATURDAY: Shabbat Morning Services, 10 a.m.; Havdalah, 9 p.m. SUNDAY: Torah Study, 10 a.m.; BESTT (Grades K2), 9:30 a.m. at Beth El; Kindergarten Roundup, 9:45 a.m. at Beth El; BESTT (Grades 3-7), 10:45 a.m. at Beth El. MONDAY: Jewish Law with Rabbi Abraham, 8 p.m. TUESDAY: Biblical Literacy with Rabbi Abraham, 11:30 a.m.; Miriam’s Coast-To-Coast Book Club, 7:30 p.m. WEDNESDAY: Coffee & Conversation with Rabbi Abraham, 2 p.m.; BESTT (Grades 3-7), 4:30 p.m. at Beth El; Jerusalem Through the Ages with Dr. Rami Arav, 6 p.m.; Hebrew High (Grades 8-12), 6:30 p.m. at Beth El; Beit Midrash — You Shall Surely Heal, 7 p.m. THURSDAY: Pearls of Jewish Prayer with Hazzan Krausman, 7 p.m. FRIDAY-May 7: Shavuot To Go Orders Due, 5 p.m.; Kabbalat Shabbat, 6 p.m. SATURDAY-May 8: Shabbat Morning Services, 10 a.m.; Havdalah, 9:10 p.m. Please visit bethel-omaha.org for additional information and service links.
BETH ISRAEL Virtual services conducted by Rabbi Ari Dembitzer. Classes, Kabbalat Shabbat and Havdalah on Zoom, WhatsApp or Facebook Live. On site services held outside in Sukkah, weather permitting. Physical distancing and masks required. FRIDAY: Nach Yomi — Daily Prophets, 6:45 a.m. with Rabbi Ari (WhatsApp); Shacharit, 7 am.; Deepening Our Prayer, 7:45 a.m. with Rabbi Ari (Zoom); Laws of Shabbos, 8 a.m. with Rabbi Ari (Zoom); Mincha/Kabbalat Shabbos, 7:30 p.m.; Candlelighting, 8:02 p.m. SATURDAY: Shabbat Kollel, 8:30 a.m. with Rabbi Yoni; Shacharit, 9 a.m.; Mincha/Ma’ariv, 8:10 p.m.; Havdalah, 9:07 p.m. SUNDAY: Shacharit, 9 a.m.; Daf Yomi with Rabbi Yoni — 30 mins prior to Mincha; Mincha/Ma’ariv, 8:10 p.m. MONDAY: Nach Yomi — Daily Prophets, 6:45 a.m. with Rabbi Ari (WhatsApp); Shacharit, 7 am.; Deepening Our Prayer, 7:45 a.m. with Rabbi Ari (Zoom); Laws of Shabbos, 8 a.m. with Rabbi Ari (Zoom); Daf Yomi with Rabbi Yoni — 30 mins prior to Mincha; Mincha/Ma’ariv, 8:10 p.m. TUESDAY: Nach Yomi — Daily Prophets, 6:45 a.m. with Rabbi Ari (WhatsApp); Shacharit, 7 am.; Deepening Our Prayer, 7:45 a.m. with Rabbi Ari (Zoom); Laws of Shabbos, 8 a.m. with Rabbi Ari (Zoom); Daf Yomi with Rabbi Yoni — 30 mins prior to Mincha; Mincha/Ma’ariv, 8:10 p.m.
WEDNESDAY: Nach Yomi — Daily Prophets, 6:45 a.m. with Rabbi Ari (WhatsApp); Shacharit, 7 am.; Deepening Our Prayer, 7:45 a.m. with Rabbi Ari (Zoom); Laws of Shabbos, 8 a.m. with Rabbi Ari (Zoom); Daf Yomi with Rabbi Yoni — 30 mins prior to Mincha; Mincha/Ma’ariv, 8:10 p.m. THURSDAY: Nach Yomi — Daily Prophets, 6:45 a.m. with Rabbi Ari (WhatsApp); Shacharit, 7 am.; Deeping Our Prayer, 7:45 a.m. with Rabbi Ari (Zoom); Laws of Shabbos, 8 a.m. with Rabbi Ari (Zoom); Character Development, 9:30 am. with Rabbi Ari (Zoom); Daf Yomi with Rabbi Yoni — 30 mins prior to Mincha; Mincha/Ma’ariv, 8:10 p.m. FRIDAY-May 7: Nach Yomi — Daily Prophets, 6:45 a.m. with Rabbi Ari (WhatsApp); Shacharit, 7 am.; Deepening Our Prayer, 7:45 a.m. with Rabbi Ari (Zoom); Laws of Shabbos, 8 a.m. with Rabbi Ari (Zoom); Mincha/Kabbalat Shabbos, 7:30 p.m.; Candlelighting, 8:10 p.m. SATURDAY-May 8: Shabbat Kollel, 8:30 a.m. with Rabbi Yoni; Shacharit, 9 a.m.; Mincha/Ma’ariv, 8:10 p.m.; Havdalah, 9:16 p.m. Please visit orthodoxomaha.org for additional information and Zoom service links.
CHABAD HOUSE All services are in-person. All classes are being offered online at Ochabad.com/classroom. For more information or to request help, please visit www. ochabad.com or call the office at 402.330.1800. FRIDAY: Shacharit, 8 a.m.; Lag Baomer Party, 4-7 p.m. RSVP via text 347.319.5384 or email xandra@ ochabad.com; Inspirational Lechayim, 6 p.m. with Rabbi and friends: ochabad.com/Lechayim; LIght Candles, 8:03 p.m.; Count the Omer #34. SATURDAY: Shacharit, 10:30 a.m.; Shabbat Ends, 9:07 p.m.; Count the Omer #35. SUNDAY: Shacharit & Coffee Conversation, 9 am.; Count the Omer #36. MONDAY: Shacharit, 8 a.m.; Personal Parsha class, 9:30 a.m. with Shani Katzman; Advanced Biblical Hebrew Grammar, 10:30 a.m. with Prof. David Cohen; Count the Omer #37. TUESDAY: Shacharit, 8 a.m.; Virtual Pirkei Avot Women’s Class, 7 p.m.; Count the Omer #38. WEDNESDAY: Shacharit, 8 a.m.; Mystical Thinking (Tanya), 9:30 a.m. with Rabbi Katzman; Introductory Biblical Hebrew Grammar, 10:30 a.m. with Prof. David Cohen; Introduction to Hebrew Reading, 11:30 a.m. with Prof. David Cohen; Count the Omer #39. THURSDAY: Shacharit, 8 a.m.; Advanced Hebrew Class, 11 a.m. with Prof. David Cohen; Talmud Study, noon with Rabbi Katzman; Count the Omer #40. FRIDAY-May 7: Shacharit, 8 a.m.; Inspirational Lechayim, 6 p.m. with Rabbi and friends: ochabad. com/Lechayim; LIght Candles, 8:10 p.m.; Count the Omer #41. SATURDAY-May 8: Shacharit, 10:30 a.m.; Shabbat Ends, 9:15 p.m.; Count the Omer #42.
LINCOLN JEWISH COMMUNITY: B’NAI JESHURUN & TIFERETH ISRAEL Virtual services facilitated by Rabbi Alex Felch. FRIDAY: Kabbalat Shabbat Service, service leaders/music: Rabbi Alex and Elaine Monnier, 6:30 p.m. via Zoom; Candlelighting, 8:04 p.m. SATURDAY: Shabbat Morning Service, 9:30 a.m. led by Rabbi Felch via Zoom; Torah Study on Parashat Emor, 11:30 a.m. via Zoom; Havdalah, 9:08 p.m. SUNDAY: LJCS Grades Gan-Gesher, 10 a.m. with guest speaker Lukasz Niparo via Zoom; Men's Jewish Bike Group of Lincoln meets Sundays at 10 a.m. rain or shine to ride to one of The Mill locations from Hanson Ct. (except we drive if its too wet, cold, cloudy, windy, hot or humid) followed by coffee and spirited
discussions. No fee to join, no dues, no president, no board or minutes taken. If Interested please email Al Weiss at email@example.com to find out where to meet each week; Adult Ed: Intro to Judaism with Rabbi Alex, 11:30 a.m. via Zoom. MONDAY: Makers of Jewish Things, 7 p.m. via Zoom. TUESDAY: Synagogue Staff Meeting, 10 a.m.; Tea & Coffee with Pals, 1:30 p.m. via Zoom. WEDNESDAY: LJCS Grades 3-7, 4:30 p.m. via Zoom. FRIDAY-May 7: Kabbalat Shabbat Service, service leaders/music: Rabbi Alex, Nathaniel and Steve Kaup, 6:30 p.m. via Zoom; Candlelighting, 8:11 p.m. SATURDAY-May 8: Shabbat Morning Service, 9:30 a.m. led by Rabbi Felch via Zoom; Torah Study on Behar-Bechukotai, 11:30 a.m. via Zoom; Havdalah, 9:17 p.m. All Federation families with children participating in Jewish overnight camps or other Jewish youth programs this summer are eligible for Camp Incentive Grants of $300 per camper for the registration deposit. Additional camp scholarships are based on need and require a submitted scholarship application. All campers who receive Federation support are expected to participate in a tzedakah activity of their choosing. Contact either synagogue office or the LJCS for an application if you have a 2021 camper!
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Virtual services conducted by Rabbi Brian Stoller, Rabbi Deana Sussman Berezin and Cantor Joanna Alexander. DAILY VIRTUAL MINYAN: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. Join us via Zoom. FRIDAY: Teen Honors Shabbat Service: Join us on Zoom where our teens will lead and offer reflections, poems and music. We will also announce the recipient of the 2021 Brandon Thomas Pursuit of Passion Scholarship, sponsored by his family in his memory. Plus, we will give a blessing as a congregation to our graduating seniors and hear some exciting updates about teen engagement at Temple Israel, 6 p.m. Join us via Zoom. SATURDAY: Torah Study, 9:15 a.m. Join us via Zoom; Shabbat Service — B’nai Mitzvah of Aiden Meyerson and Cody Meyerson, 10:30 a.m.; Lag B’Omer Havdalah, 6 p.m. SUNDAY: Youth Learning Programs, 10 a.m.; Temple Tots, 10 a.m.; Grade 6 Trope, 11 a.m. MONDAY: Jewish Law Class & the Quest for Meaning, 11 a.m. Join us via Zoom. WEDNESDAY: Youth Learning Programs: Grades 36, 4 p.m.; Grades 7-12, 6:30 p.m.; Beit Midrash — You Shall Surely Heal: Medicine and Health Care in the Jewish Tradition, 7 p.m. THURSDAY: Thursday Morning Discussion, 9:30 a.m. with Moshe Nachman. Join us via Zoom; Racial Justice in Our Community: A Speaker Series with Preston Love, Jr., noon; Challah at Home with Rabbi Berezin, 8 p.m. FRIDAY-May 7: Teacher Appreciate Shabbat, 6 p.m. Join us via Zoom. SATURDAY-May 8: Torah Study, 9:15 a.m. Join us via Zoom; Shabbat Service — Bar Mitzvah of Max Silverman, 10:30 a.m. Please visit templeisraelomaha.com for additional information and Zoom service links.
ADL statement on verdict in Derek Chauvin trial New York, NY, April 20, 2021 ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) released the following statement regarding the guilty verdict reached today in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd: “The jury’s decision to hold Derek Chauvin accountable for the murder of George Floyd is a critically necessary first step in securing #JusticeforGeorgeFloyd.
And yet, no guilty verdict can change the fact that George Floyd -- and Breonna Taylor, Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, and too many others -should be alive today. Our country's policing and
criminal legal systems have targeted and devalued Black, Brown, and Indigenous lives for centuries. The issue is much bigger than one traffic stop, one no-knock raid, one police shooting, one department, or one city. It is long past time for our country to tackle systemic racism, reimagine what public safety looks like, and create transformational change to ensure justice and fair treatment for all people. Black Lives Matter, and our society's laws, practices, and institutions must reflect that.”
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Life cycles IN MEMORIAM HELEN RIFKIN Helen Rifkin passed away on April 14, 2021 in Omaha. Services were held April 16, 2021 at Temple Israel Cemetery and was officiated by Rabbi Ari Dembitzer. She was preceded in death by husbands, Ben Rifkin and Dave Chorney; her mother, Margaret Handler; sisters, Betty Hoppe and Lauralee Renn; and nephew, Daniel Renn. She is survived by son, David Rifkin, sons and daughters-inlaw, Gary and Caryn Rifkin, and Tom and Diane Rifkin; grandchildren: Laura and Sean Banks, Jennifer and Mike Bryan, and Annie Rifkin; great-grandsons: Sam and Jake Bryan, and Sawyer Banks; brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Paishe and Phyliss Rifkin; nephews and nieces-in-law: Rick and Holly Renn, Bob and Debby, Bill and Susan, Ed and Deby and Don and Melissa Rifkin and their families; and cousins, Bernie and Susan Handler. Mom was a strong and loving woman who lived a full, happy and accomplished life. Few knew that she graduated Central High School at 16 and earned a scholarship to the Kansas City School of Art. Unfortunately, her mother thought leaving home at 16 wasn’t a good idea. Instead Mom married the love of her life Ben. She enjoyed what she said was the happiest part of her life raising her family. She devoted decades of her life to volunteering, including being President of the Nebraska Jewish Historical Society. She worked for the JCC coordinating JCAC, the singles programs and Visions, the senior program. Mom enjoyed many deep and meaningful friendships over her lifetime. When the phone rang it was usually for Mom from a friend seeking advice or a shoulder to lean on. She was truly a special person who will long be remembered by those she knew. Memorials may be made to Nebraska Jewish Historical Society,
BAR MITZVAH MAX SILVERMAN Max Silverman, son of Michala and Adam Silverman, will celebrate his Bar Mitzvah on Saturday, May 8, 2021, at Temple Israel. Max is an eighth-grade honor roll student at Grandview Middle School. He is a member of student council and the 2017 NMEA All-State Children’s Choir. Max is interested in baseball, football, basketball, track, playing tuba, cooking and baking. For his mitzvah project, Max is volunteering with Elkhorn Kid’s Campus. He has a brother, Cael. Grandparents are Pam and Jim Silverman of Omaha, and Wanda England of Omaha. Great-grandparents are Frances Silverman of St. Louis, MO, and Erma Imler of Lees Summit, MO.
Nebraska Humane Society, or the organization of the donor’s choice. ALLEN JAY ROSS Allen Jay Ross passed away peacefully on April 17, 2021, at age 88. A private family memorial service was held in Omaha. Burial will be in New York. A celebration of Allen’s life will be held in Omaha at a later date. He is survived by his wife, Judy Zweiback, daughters and sonsin-law, Alison Ross Green and Jonathan Green and Amanda Ross Bacon and Zack Bacon; grandchildren: Oliver Green, Charlie Green and Sam Green; extended family: Jeff Zweiback, Tim Zweiback, Wendy Burkhardt, Amy Zweiback, Zane Brzezinski, Sydney Burkhardt, Max Zweiback and Mia Zweiback. He was a very proud uncle and a special cousin who kept in constant touch with his family. He amassed a wealth of meaningful friendships from his youth to the present. He will be missed by all who knew him. Allen was the finest of men who found beauty and joy in every aspect of his life. He was a proud veteran of the US Navy He was a respected and successful businessman. He valued family over everything else in life. JACK SHRAGO Jack Shrago passed away on March 31, 2021. Private family services were held on April 1, 2021. He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Helene, son and daughter-in law, Michael and Melissa Shrago, grandsons: Ethan and Noah Shrago; brother, Leon Shrago; sister, Barbara Parker; brother-in-law, Murray Rose; sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Renee and Louie Kazor; nieces, nephews, family and friends. Memorials may be made to Beth Israel Synagogue or Friedel Jewish Academy.
LETTER TO THE COMMUNITY On behalf of our daughter, Ruby, Jeff and I would like to thank our Omaha Jewish community for the many kind words of support and loving kindness extended to her, and us, these past few weeks. Since speaking on April 2, Ruby has been on the receiving end of many lovely gestures, phone calls, notes, emails and texts. Heartfelt words of apology have been offered, accepted and appreciated. Speaking to the very emotional subject of Race always unleashes energy. May that energy last, be used productively and move us all forward with mutual respect and open hearts as we make our way along the Race line. May Ruby’s painful, individual “incident” serve to shine light on the much bigger “issue” of Race and all it entails. There's plenty of work to do. Jeff and I are all in. We hope you will be, too. Shalom, Ellen Platt
The Jewish Press | April 30, 2021 | 19
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20 | The Jewish Press | April 30, 2021
News LOC AL | N AT I O N A L | WO R L D
Derek Chauvin’s conviction represents a beginning, not an end
PHILISSA CRAMER TC Jewfolk via JTA Enzi Tanner didn’t watch the trial of Derek Chauvin. Even as the jury returned guilty verdicts Tuesday afternoon on all three counts against the former Minneapolis police officer — second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — the community safety organizer at Jewish Community Action, a Minnesota social justice organization, had been thinking of issues bigger than the result. “My biggest concern before was in focusing solely on the trial, it makes us about one incident,” Tanner said. “It’s about that 9 minutes and 29 seconds on May 25. And that’s what it ends up being about and not the broader system. Even in the trial, people are arguing that Derek Chauvin is a rogue police officer, that he’s not typical. And he is.” For Tanner, a Jew of color, the state of policing and public safety in the country is the intersection of his work as an organizer and who he is as a person. And the April 11 killing of Daunte Wright by a police officer in nearby Brooklyn Center only strengthened his resolve to pursue broader efforts to transform public safety through his work at the Jewish Community Action, which shifted last year to focus squarely on responding to George Floyd’s death. (The officer in the Wright killing has been charged with manslaughter.) “This last week actually provided more opportunities and more clarity than before,” he said. “Before the murder of Daunte Wright and around the trial, we [were] already planning and trying to work on some political education pieces on what’s next.” Fueled by a belief that fear is holding back needed changes in policing, Tanner is putting together a workshop for his organization on anti-Black racism, fear and the need to be secure. “We have a narrative in this country about anti-Black racism and fear, and it allows for that confusion between se-
curity and actually being secure,” he said. “Fear is a physical reaction, it’s not just a psychological thing. When we watch scary movies, we actually react to that, so getting in tune with that, and our initial reactions, I just think that’s important.”
Enzi Tanner is the community safety organizer for Jewish Community Action, a social justice group in Minnesota. Credit: Tanner via TC Jewfolk
A virtual training on Sunday started tackling some of the difficult conversations that come around the topic of reimagining public safety. A portion of the training included about 20 minutes of breakout rooms with scenarios of how to practice having conversations about policing. One of those needed conversations is about the movement
to “defund” police in Minneapolis and beyond — a term that Tanner says has a different meaning depending on whom you ask. To him, it means the middle ground between reform, which requires investing more money into police forces, and abolition, doing away with police entirely. “Folks who want to defund, it’s this middle ground. It’s saying that we have enough resources as a community to provide for what we need,” he said. “When you talk about defunding, you’re talking about reallocating, and as you’re talking about reallocating, to me it actually opens up the world to dreaming of what’s possible. How can we imagine a world in a society that we’ve never seen? And it’s scary as hell.” For Tanner, the road ahead is certain to be difficult — but it’s one that he sees traversing nonetheless as an action with a deeply Jewish antecedent. “I just keep imagining our ancestors being at the Red Sea and being like, ‘OK, you go,’ ‘No, you go first.’ And then everyone else is like, ‘This is a really bad idea, y’all. We don’t even know what’s over there. We haven’t even seen it before.’ And I feel like, in many ways, we get a chance to do this, make mistakes, learn and grow,” he said. The U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday, a day after Chauvin’s conviction, that it would investigate the Minneapolis Police Department. Previous investigations have ended with agreements, known as consent decrees, between federal and local authorities to changes in policing and oversight. Regardless of the conviction, Tanner said justice isn’t done. “There is no justice,” he said, “because there is no redemption or repair in a cage.” Read statements from Jewish organizations in Minneapolis and beyond about the conviction of Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd on our website at www.omahajewishpress.com.
THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE CONGRATULATE 2x3 Mazal Tov, Aaron!
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