Message From Kosher OC Magazine Kosher OC is here to give the Orange County Jewish community news when it happens, here and around the world. We combine the best of modern media and dedicated journalism to give you timely and interesting stories about the movers and shakers of the community and the great events they hold. We also talk about Jewish trends and trendmakers in Israel and throughout the globe with interesting ideas about celebrating holidays and celebrating each other. Join us for a window into the world of Judaism, and let us have your insight and input. It is our pleasure to serve this wonderful community.
24 Hebrew Academy Hosts Tours 25 Temple Beth Tikvah Launches Rabbi Haim Asa Memorial Lecture & Celebrates 50th Anniversary 26 Friendship Circle Slates Evening of Recognition 30 TVT Honors Create-A-Legacy Program Donors 31 Super Teens: Jewish Girls Unite 32 Writing Rabbi: CBI’s Rabbi Elie Spitz Reprints One Book, Introduces Another 33 Moot Beit Din: TVT’s Jewish Mock Trial Program
Table of Contents Featured
Student Voice 34 Moot Beit Din Leadership Experience 35 Volunteering with Leket Israel
4 TVT Pride is our Children 5 Jewish Girls Unite on West Coast 6 Zach Gayer Knows All about NCAA’s “Big Dance” 8 Reali Amazing: Lively Israeli High School Students Engage in Exchange Program with TVT
Judaism 10 Miriam Our Soul Sister 12 Passover Debate: Red vs Reed Sea 13 Kaddish vs Yizkor 16 Costco Kosher for Passover 17 Passover 2015 Sedarim in Orange County
LOCAL 18 An Elegant Evening, Great Cause with Atid Hadassah 20 JCC Launches Reflections Series
Israel 36 Natural Gas Lights a Brighter Future for Northern Israelis 38 Israel Partners with Lockheed Martin on National Cybersecurity Curriculum 39 Likud Emerges as Clear-Cut Winner of Israeli Election in Final Tallies
Opinion 40 How Do We Explain Passover to Modern Egyptians? 42 Strangers in a Land Not Their Own 44 Why Bibi Won and What It Means 45 Defining “Pro-Israel” Is a Serious Matter 46 Trial by Peers or Jury? 48 Blind Faith
21 Learning, Camping Are Part of CSP Programs 22 Kids Bring Passover Spirit to Jewish Retirement Home
How to Reach Us
23 Heritage Pointe Holds 25th Annual Spring Luncheon and Boutique
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TVT Pride Is Our Children By Robin Silver-Zwiren
TVT Pride is certainly our children — not just the ones attending Tarbut V’Torah now, but those who have graduated. My kids call it “stalking” when I scroll through their Facebook friends to see what graduates are up to. The truth is that I don’t need to “stalk” their lists, because I have many of the same people on my friends list. I try not to add students who are still at the school. I attend graduation ceremonies, whether my own friends’ kids are on the platform or not. Of course, I have my camera and post the photos on FB. That is when TVT grads usually get added to my list of friends, thus giving me the wonderful opportunity to keep up with their accomplishments. My deal with my own kids is not to comment on everything their friends post, and I try to keep up my end of the bargain. Kosher OC Magazine has turned the tables, because several comment on the articles I write. I check to see who has “liked” our articles and see several familiar TVT names. The other day I 4
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forwarded a note with the link to the photos from the Friends of the IDF/ JCC program honoring our local hero, Sahar Elbaz. The responses were amazing. It is not just how many went on our site to look at the photos, but how many sent me personal responses. Katie DeLoach has already graduated from college and joined the workforce, but we messaged back and forth — the new age form of “chatting” — about her job and what living in San Francisco is like. Sara Weissman is enjoying her semester abroad in Italy, and days later we are still sending messages back and forth. It is wonderful knowing that they continue to be drawn towards this community even when far away. That they continue to take an interest in not only their classmates but others as well. Then again, TVT students take classes with students in other grades and play on teams with students in other grades, so this feeling of unity comes naturally. They return home for
March Study Break and rush to school to see familiar faces. Tarbut V’Torah creates a strong family bond between students, faculty and students, and parents and other students. This bond never diminishes, no matter how many years have passed, because the bond was forged as early as kindergarten. No matter what changes TVT makes, nobody will ever take away our TVT Pride. GO LIONS!
Jewish Girls Unite on West Coast By COLLIVE.com
One hundred eighty girls participated at the first “Shine Your Light” tribute concert in Orange County, CA, emphasizing an empowering message. While Linda Schwartz was planning her daughter Meirah’s Bat Mitzvah party, she was moved to honor the 70th Yahrzeit of Anne Frank. She wanted to pay tribute to a girl who spent a good part of her childhood hiding in an attic and who wrote in her diary about her hopes and dreams for a better world.
today that even in a time of darkness, they will continue to spread light.” Nechama Laber, founder of Jewish Girls Unite, welcomed everyone to the JGU global community connecting Jewish girls. She asked attendees to close their eyes and imagine themselves as a candle.
Linda felt that the finest way to honor those who lost their lives is to stop and pay attention to those who are doing their best to save others and who are illuminating the world with their good deeds.
“When one candle lights another, it gives power to light another and everyone benefits from more light. Think of one thing you can do today to brighten up the world. The Lubavitcher Rebbe encouraged young girls to light Shabbos candles because his broader message was that one is never too young to add light to the world. Please give yourself permission today to shine your inner light, because everyone is a shining light”.
Linda sponsored and arranged a tribute concert for women and girls at Chabad of Irvine, CA. The celebration honored 6 remarkable teen girls with the Shining Light Award and launched the new website for Jewish Girls Unite, a global community inspiring girls to be shining lights.
“Imagine if Anne Frank would not have been locked away in an attic, how much more she could have accomplished? Even a dim candle adds so much light in a dark room. We hope that girls will think, what can I do today to be a shining light?” said Hilary Buff, Shine Your Light coordinator.
Linda quoted Anne Frank to the crowd of 180 women and girls, “How wonderful is it that nobody needs to wait a moment before starting to improve the world. We have hope and faith in the amazing young women
Inspirational singer, Rivka Leah Cylich – Velkovitch, composer of the new JGU theme song called “Shine Your Inner Light” inspired the audience through song.
Hillary, Linda and Nechama presented awards to Katja Davis, Liora Wolder, Cara Wolder, Jessica Wolder, Matana Zwiren, Mashie Marcus and Dani Blieden for being shining lights from the following organizations: Friendship Circle, Hebrew Academy, NCSY, TVT, Cteen and University Synagogue. This event is the beginning of a movement to empower girls to become the candle lighters of the world. “This is a good prototype to use for other States,” said Jenny Kdoshim, event planner. The new Jewish Girls Unite website was designed by Leah Caras, founder of Yaldah magazine, which has joined forces with JGU. The Jewish Girls Unite Global community features exciting online events, classes, contests, information and highlights on the Jewish Girls Winter and Summer Retreats, blogs, inspiration, a unity forum, and more. The next virtual celebration is this Sunday at 8 PM ET and will highlight Miriam of the past and a Miriam today. Girls can download the newly released song at www.jewishgirlsunite.com once they register as a JGU member. --Register for the Jewish Girls Summer Retreat at jewishgirlsretreat.com Kosher oc Magazine // April 2015 |
Zach Gayer Knows All About NCAA’s “Big Dance” By Ilene Schneider
While injuries have kept the University of Michigan (UM) out of the college basketball playoffs this year, one southern Californian certainly knows how it feels to go to “the big dance.” His team made it to the first round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) playoffs three years ago, went to the national title game two years ago and got as far as the “elite eight” last year. Zach Gayer of Newport Beach has just finished his fourth and final year as a student manager for UM basketball. Gayer, a 2011 graduate of Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School and a participant in the 2007 JCC Maccabi Games, spent part of his childhood in Michigan and is the son of two UM alumni. He maintains a network of friends from all over the world. “I always knew I wanted to do this kind of job and always knew I wanted to go into coaching,” Gayer said. When the opportunity to become a student manager became available, he jumped at the opportunity to work for the team as a student, further his career goals, get some scholarship money and “have a lot of fun.” A sports management major, he hopes to work for a professional or college basketball team or a sports marketing company. Gayer described UM as a “challenging, rigorous academic 6
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school,” but he has been able to work his basketball managing schedule into his academic schedule. He can get excused absences from classes when the team travels, and he can adjust his schedule around the games. This year Gayer is one of three head student managers who travels with the team. He explained that there are 20 student managers who make sure that the coaches have what they need. They also watch tapes of the opponents’ games, recruit, scout and run training camps. Gayer described making the finals two years ago as a highlight, but he said that a lot of moments and games stand out. “I’ve developed some great relationships with people,” he said. “I can’t imagine that there’s as good a group of people as there is in this program,” he said. “I’ve learned so much about how to carry myself in a professional setting and made great friends.” He concluded, “I’ve loved every minute of being a student manager for the basketball team. Now I just wonder what I’m going to do with an extra four hours of the day I haven’t had in four years.”
Lively Israeli High School Students Engage in Exchange Program with TVT By Ilene Schneider
“It’s special and important to see how Jews around the world connect to Israel,” said one of the 27 Israeli high school students in an exchange program with Tarbut V’Torah. “That’s why students fight to get into this program to show how much Israel has going for it – simply by being ourselves.” The students – most of them from the Reali School, a private school in Haifa, and several from the military boarding school next door – are talking about the inventions, food and culture of Israel while showing that they live the same kind of life as American teens in many ways. “When people see us as people, not as a country, they lose their prejudice,” said one student. The exchange program has sent the Israeli students to Boston and San Francisco, as well as Argentina, Russia, Greece, Germany, Poland and the United Kingdom. The trip is 11 days long and for most of the students, their first one to the US. Serving as ambassadors for their country, the students have gone to Hebrew Academy, the Bureau of Jewish Education and Chapman 8
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University as well as TVT. They were hoping to talk to teens at a public school.
them have an idea of career choices – doctor, animator, actor, researcher, diplomat, army officer and dog trainer.
While these articulate teens are here to “represent Israel in a natural way,” they are “having a blast.” Each is staying with a host family from TVT and seeing the sights of Southern California. Since the group landed in Los Angeles, the students have been to Santa Monica, Venice Beach, the music center in LA and a kumsitz with a bonfire on the beach in Orange County.
The army boarding school, started in 1953 by then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, enables its students to take classes with the Reali students. Students wake up at 6 a.m., clean the dorm, eat breakfast, go to the classes and then take extra classes in subjects to prepare them for the army. The school is competitive with 60 or 70 people chosen from 800 applicants, and some come from as far away as Eilat. There are four to seven cadets in every class, mostly boys.
The Reali School, which has 4,000 students (1,400 in grades 10 to 12) was founded in 1913. Funded by both the government and parents, it offers majors like a four-year college, enabling students to specialize in various subjects before they do their military service. Reali students attend school six days a week, with the school day starting at 8 a.m. and usually finishing between 3 and 4 p.m. They have 60 hours of volunteer work — for the Magen David Adam, for poor families and for other causes – and take five field trips a year to see the country. Most of
At the boarding school there is a book of values stressing discipline and team attitudes. “The idea is that every day you should be a better person than you were yesterday,” one student explained. TVT students will stay with the families of these students when they go to Israel in June. “Connections with Americans are so important to maintain,” one student summarized. “Not only are we bonding with the TVT students, but we’re bonding with each other.”
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Miriam Our Soul Sister By Robin Silver-Zwiren
The three children of Amram and Yocheved – Aaron, Moshe and Miriam – are crucial to our story of redemption. Each played a particular role, but it seems that each needed sibling support to complete his or her part. It is their story that we read about at the Passover Seder. It is their story that fills books that enthrall young children. Although most Biblical stories are filled with tales of heroic men, this particular one begins with women — in fact, with a woman and her beloved daughter. Together it is said they worked as midwives to Hebrew women during the time of our enslavement in Egypt. Even though there was a decree for Hebrews to kill their newborn sons, it was Miriam who played the matchmaker for her separated parents. It was a young Miriam who went to her father to tell him to return home to his wife and family. He even listened! Next we read that Moshe is born. Of course, Miriam had a solution for that. She said they should put the infant in a basket among the reeds along the Nile River. The child was saved by Pharaoh’s daughter as Miriam 10
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watched from across the river. When the princess needed a nursemaid, Miriam brought her own mother to nurse her infant son. While living in the Royal Palace, Moshe led quite a privileged life while the Hebrews continued to be slaves in the land. Years later, when Moshe was grown, he saw a Hebrew slave being beaten. Who knows what made him want to kill the slavemaster? Surely, it was not the first time he saw Hebrews mistreated. Nevertheless, fearing for his own life, he ran away. He was gone long enough to marry the foreign Zipporah and have sons of his own. Timing is everything, and maybe Hashem, our G-D, did not yet believe it was time for the Hebrew slaves to be freed. Moshe’s royal upbringing gave him the courage to speak to Pharaoh, even though stories say he was not a good orator. Other stories say big brother Aaron spoke for him — that together they approached Pharaoh. In any case, it is Moshe who was the one to speak to Hashem directly. It was Moses who gave the Ten Commandments to the Hebrews. Moshe was the leader, the lawmaker.
Aaron’s dominant role was in his being the leader of the Priestly tribe of Cohanim. Thousands of years later, Aaron’s lineage lives on, but we know nothing about Moshe’s children. Then again, as wonderful a wife as Zipporah proved to be, she was still a foreigner. A child born of a convert can not take on the Priestly duties. Children of converts are unable to serve in the Holy Temple or recite the Priestly Blessing that is sung in synagogues today. Unfortunately all the men, including the Leviim where the Kohanim come from, participated in the Sin of the Golden Calf. The women, with Miriam as their leader, did not. Miriam is often compared to Sarah. These women stood by their men, whether brother or husband. They did not stand way behind in the background but right up front to help. They helped raise the women to a higher level of faith and Emunah. Even before the Golden Calf episode, the women took command. The Hebrews safely crossed the Reed Sea with their tribes. They did not walk with men on one path and women on another as some Ultra
Orthodox may believe. Yet at some point the women gathered together with Miriam in the lead. They began to sing and dance while their timbrels kept the rhythm. They did not dance in their own circles, because mixed dancing was not allowed. They joined together because this was something they enjoyed doing. It was then that Hashem refered to Miriam as a prophetess. No man had yet to be called a prophet, but Miriam was bequeathed the title by the Lord Himself. Miriam’s Well is said to have been a wandering one — one that gave the Hebrews water to drink when parched from roaming in the desert. (If only Moshe asked Miriam for directions, it may not have taken 40 years though!). It is a custom, albeit a rather new one, to put a Miriam’s Cup on the Seder table. Filled with water, ours is near Elijah’s Cup filled with wine. Both are equally significant. In fact Miriam’s has extra meaning, because it reminds us all that women have a role in our redemption. It is not just stories of Moshe and Pharaoh and the 10 Plagues. It is not just about a bunch of rabbis sitting together as we read about in the Haggadah. It is about women, too, and I know each of us has a bit of Miriam, Esther, Devorah and the Matriarchs in us.
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Kosher oc Magazine // April 2015 |
Passover Debate: Red vs. Reed Sea By Zach Miller
Is it really just a spelling error that’s crossed over for generations? Yam Suph, as it’s called, is the body of water that split open for the Israelites to pass through when escaping from the rampaging Egyptians. So, where is that exactly? Generally, Christians call it the Red Sea, and Jews call it the Reed Sea. Some say that the missing ‘e’ is just a coincidence. Sadly, that is a real and potential reason for the mix up. Others, however, say the missing “e” is just a coincidence. Yam Suph, isn’t English—duh—and could refer to the sea at the end of the world, which paralleled the Red Sea mythos of that time. Well, mythos from a Greek perspective. So, if anything, that’s more evidence that it wasn’t the Red Sea, as Greek translations would only serve Christian texts, and that’s just treif (not kosher)… Don’t forget that the sea did split into twelve sections, one avenue for each Israelite tribe. Of course there is the divine explanation, but Judaism isn’t a religion without research. As Simcha Jacobovici a.k.a. the Naked 12
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Archaeologist investigated, there was a swamp-like “sea” (very similar to the Florida everglades) in the path the Israelites could have taken that would have been too large an obstacle to swim across. It was, for lack of a better word, a “sea.” And it split, several times— twelve times—which would make sense given the Santorini narrative, where a large volcano erupted with such tremendous power, that it pushed into motion the plagues and now the splitting of the sea (with a divine hand, of course—never forget). Because this swampland that no longer exists today was full of reeds, and thus the name, when the water receded away, allowing the Israelites to pass with perfect timing, by the way—explain that, science!—the sea would not have split just in two, but in a plethora of ways; exactly twelve, apparently, that led the Israelites to freedom. In other words, the Red Sea is (probably) not it…
Kaddish vs Yizkor By Robin Silver-Zwiren
Kaddish. Few words bring as many tears to one’s eyes as the word “Kaddish” does. Immediately we think of the date to remember a loved one — time to set aside a day in our busy lives to remember what we have lost. The “shoresh,” root of the word is the same as “kiddish,” to sanctify. As we say the prayers and light a candle, we sanctify the person who gave our lives true meaning. We acknowledge that they have left this earth, but that their soul remains with us, that they are being cared for by Hashem. Kaddish is written in Aramaic, the common language of our ancestors who lived thousands of years ago. Our other tefilot prayers are written in Hebrew, so why is this one not? Yes, other tefilot are directed to Hashem and Kaddish more to ourselves, but why is there a need to use Aramaic? What makes Kaddish different than every other prayer? Kaddish is for everyone; that is why. Historically, men, even young boys, were given more formal education. Whether with rabbis in Arab lands or in the “cheder” of Eastern Europe, they learned to speak and read Hebrew. In fact, that is one reason why Jews
controlled so much of the silk trade, even money changing and banking. Even if the person at the start of the route in Iran spoke Farsi and the person at the end spoke French, Hebrew would be the common tongue. So, in actuality, any of these men could recite Kaddish in Hebrew. Women like my mother and those before her were not given a formal Jewish education. They learned the laws of kashrut working in the kitchen alongside their mothers. They learned how to care for babies by tending to younger siblings, nephews and nieces. They learned whatever tefilot they had the time to recite orally. So having Kaddish in Aramaic was for the women and children who did not have the skills in Hebrew. My sister and I recited Kaddish for both my late mother and brother during shiva. We davened in my parents’ hallway just behind where the men were standing. I admit that not every Orthodox household would do the same. That is yet another difference between Modern Orthodox and the more stringent rulings. We continued to recite Kaddish during the mourning period and the anniversaries
of their passing. Yizkor, which means “remembrance,” is said on Yom Kippur, the last day of Succot and Pesach and on Shavuot. Succot, Pesach and Shavuot are the festivals for which our ancestors would travel to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is one to remember those we have lost and that Hashem our G-d cares for all our souls. Our ancestors brought offerings from their harvest as well as a monetary fee to give the Kohen Gadol when they visited the Temple. We no longer have the Temple, so we dedicate those days to remember the departed. The donations we give in our relatives’ names are our offerings to Hashem. Kaddish is recited in synagogue with a minyan during Maariv, Shacharit and Mincha service. Yizkor, however, can be said at home or synagogue. Please take a few moments to remember your departed loved ones as well as other Jews who died during the Inquisition, Crusades and Holocaust. Make a donation to a charity, whether it be your synagogue, school or for a community member in need. Kosher oc Magazine // April 2015 |
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Costco Kosher for Passover By Robin Silver-Zwiren
Stroll down the aisles at the Costco in the District of Irvine and you might be tempted to start shopping for Passover. Then again, the holiday is creeping up on us so we don’t have much time left to get what we need. It is amazing how much we “need” to fill our pantries for an eight day holiday. It sure isn’t like the Passover my Bubby used to make with the carp, carp and whitefish swimming in the bathtub waiting to become gefilte fish. Costco is carrying a large selection of Meal Mart products this year that certainly simplifies matters. The gefilte fish is only one of the prepackaged items you will find in the Costco display. Try the chicken soup. The broccoli, potato and sweet apple kugels (for photos, visit our website www.kosheroc.com) will fill your plate as well as your tummies. Stuffed peppers, oven roasted turkey breast, chicken breasts, brisket and pot roast and you may need the Chag to go on another week. We decided to get ahead of things by having the spare ribs for dinner tonight. The meat was really tender and tasty and our dog, Izzy, was very happy with all the bones. The portions are not large but considering the low cost you can 16
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always serve two meal options. As always, Tustin Costco carries several cheese options that are Kosher for Passover. The Muenster, shredded mozzarella, and tray of cheese assortments are so well rated that it is not just kosher consumers who want to sample them. For our purpose, having gluten free crackers to eat with the cheese is a perfect snack. Stock up on the fruits and vegetables Costco offers because they are always good quality. Add extra apples for your charoset. Shmurah matza is watched from the time of harvest through the production to ensure no chametz, even water, comes near. Having shmurah matzah at the Pesach seders is one more important tradition. Even if you have never used it pick up a box so you too can fulfill this traditional mitzvah. Don’t forget to pick up Kedem grape juice in case 4 cups of wine is more than you can handle. It is great quality and really tasty too. Rabbi Eidlitz is the best source for what is kosher in the California. Most of the other guides are geared towards the New York region. You will
be surprised by how many of your commonly used items are actually acceptable for Passover use. Check it out before you head out grocery shopping. Pesach Sameach. --For more information on Kosher foods throughout the year, visit KosherQuest.org
Passover 2015 Sedarim in Orange County By Kosher OC Staff
First Night: Friday, April 3
Second Night: Saturday, April 4
Chapman Hillel Passover Seder, 6:00 p.m. Chapman University, Orange
A Night of Insight, Freedom, and Joy, 5:30 p.m. Temple Beth El, Aliso Viejo Family
Community Seder, 6:30 p.m. Chabad Jewish Center, Mission Viejo
Passover Seder, 5:30 p.m. Congregation Shir Ha-Maâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;a lot, Irvine
Community Passover Seder, 7:00 p.m. Chabad of Tustin
Family Passover Seder, 6:00 p.m. Temple Bat Yahm, Newport Beach
UCI Student Seder, 7:30 p.m. Chabad of UCI, Irvine
Traditional Second Night Seder, 6:00 p.m. Temple Judea, Laguna Woods
Community Seder, 8 p.m. Chabad of San Clemente
Family Passover Seder, 6:00 p.m. Temple Beth Tikvah, Fullerton Second Night Seder, 6:00 p.m. Congregation Bâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;nai Tzedek Community Second Night Seder, 6:00 p.m. Temple Beth David, Westminster Second Night Community Seder, 8:00 p.m. Congregation Beth Jacob, Irvine
Kosher oc Magazine // April 2015 |
An Elegant Evening, Great Cause with Atid Hadassah By Ilene Schneider
Atid Hadassah is hosting a captivating performance of “God Plans, and Woman Laughs,” presented by the Jewish Women’s Theatre. Slated for April 14, from 6 to 9 p.m., at Temple Bat Yahm, 1011 Camelback, in Newport Beach, the event will include cocktails, appetizers, dessert, a silent auction and a chance to meet the actors and actresses. The objective is to raise funds for building 20 suites in the underground surgical center beneath the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. The surgical center will enable Hadassah doctors to safely treat victims of terror and save lives during the most critical times. Founded in 2008, the Jewish Women’s Theatre (JWT) gives voice to Jewish women in America today by developing original works, according to Ronda Spinak, co-founder and artistic director of the group. “God Plans, and Woman Laughs” is a show exploring the often surprising outcomes to our 18
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hopes, dreams and private wishes. “JWT was created to challenge and debunk the often-negative stereotypes of Jewish women and broaden the scope of the way the Jewish woman is portrayed,” Spinak said. “We’re showing Jewish women in a whole different way, showing the diversity of Jewish women in a natural or organic way and changing the perceptions of Jewish women in society. We’re saying things that need to be said to the world and each other.” Hadassah was founded 103 years ago. Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, emphasizes “The Power of Women Who Do.” Couvert for the evening is $75. The event is open to men and women. --For more information, contact email@example.com
REFLECT ON THE PAST - PLAN FOR THE FUTURE As you gather together this Passover consider leaving a gift in your will or trust to TARBUT V’TORAH COMMUNITY DAY SCHOOL Call us today to be a part of our community’s unified effort to build a strong and vibrant Jewish future here in Orange County. To join Create a Jewish Legacy contact: Susan Clain, Director of Institutional Advancement Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School 949.509.9500 Ext. 3012 firstname.lastname@example.org www.tarbut.com
Life & Legacy program and the Life & Legacy Logo are trademarks of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. All rights reserved.
JCC Launches Reflections Series By Ilene Schneider
Yom Hashoah is Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day. In Israel everything stops for two minutes of silent devotion.
Directed by Nick Strimple. Strimple is hailed by the LA Weekly as a musician “whose praise is too seldom sung.” As a composer, conductor, scholar and author, Strimple is a sought-after Holocaust music scholar, USC Thornton School Professor, and guest lecturer at Yale University, Oxford University, the University of Miami and Wellesley College, among others.
Yom Hazikaron is Memorial Day for those who lost their lives fighting for and defending the State of Israel. In Israel all places of public entertainment are closed on this day.
Merage JCC welcomes Shevet Tapuz and the annual commemoration of Yom Hazikaron Tuesday, April 21, 7:00 p.m.
More celebratory, Yom Ha’atzmaut is Israel’s Independence Day and follows the day after Yom Hazikaron.
Passport to Israel: Yom Ha’atzmaut Lunch with Dr. Rachel Korazim Thu., April 23, 12 noon Back by popular demand! Celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) and learn about Jewish and Zionist history from Dr. Rachel Korazim, world-renowned Israeli Jewish scholar specializing in Israel and Holocaust education. The program includes Israeli lunch and shuk (Israeli market).
Merage JCC’s Israel Engagement Center launches its Reflections series, a commemoration of the Jewish journey from the Holocaust (Shoah) to statehood. The Reflections series commemorates:
The Reflections events include: Jewish Poland: Our Journey Opening event: April 14, 6 p.m. (registration required) Photo exhibit in the Slutzky Gallery: April 14-May 14 Shoah Remembered with Dr. Rachel Korazim Dr. Korazim is “not to be missed!” Tuesday and Wednesday, April 14-15, 7 pm Music as Resistance and Remembrance Los Angeles Zimriyah Chorale Saturday, April 18, 7:30 p.m. 20
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— For more information, contact the Merage Jewish Community Center at (949) 435-3400.
Learning, Camping Are Part of CSP Programs By Ilene Schneider
Prof. Shaul Magid spoke at a recent Community Scholar Program (CSP) event entitled Jewish Thinking Outside the Christian Gaze: The Case of Hasidism. Prof. Magid, a prominent professor of Jewish studies at Indiana University, argued that Eastern European Hasidim, which emerged outside any Christian influence, resembles certain elements of Christianity, while remaining deeply attached to Jewish life and practice. Prof. Magid is the author of four books, including: Hasidism on the Margin: Reconciliation, Antinomianism, and Messianism in Izbica and Radzin Hasidism (University of Wisconsin Press, 2003), From Metaphysics to Midrash: Myth, History, and the Interpretation of Scripture in Lurianic Kabbala (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2008) which was awarded the 2008 American Academy of Religion Award for best book in religion in the textual studies category, American Post-Judaism: Identity and Renewal in a Postethnic
Society (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2013) and Hasidism Incarnate: Hasidism, Christianity, and the Construction of Modern Judaism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014). Along the way, his religious life ranged from Charedi communities in Brooklyn and Jerusalem to a collective founded by students of the charismatic Chasidic Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, all of which means that he is uniquely positioned to perceive and understand the subtleties and complexities of Jewish history and destiny.
Tents” camping adventure with a long weekend in Death Valley National Park. Highlights included three nights of camping in Furnace Creek Campground, a spectacular hike in Golden Canyon, a visit to Badwater (the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere) and Artist’s Drive and a Jeep adventure in Titus Canyon. CSP’s 10th Annual Family Camping Trip takes place in Bryce Canyon from June 22 to 26. --For more about upcoming CSP events, visit www.occsp.org or call (949) 682-4040
A group of 30 CSP dads and kids recently enjoyed their 10th Annual “In Kosher oc Magazine // April 2015 |
Kids Bring Passover Spirit to Jewish Retirement Home By Sara Gold
Temple Beth El’s third-grade students presented a Passover program March 23 for the residents at Heritage Pointe, a Jewish retirement community in Mission Viejo. The 17 students, led by Temple Beth El’s cantor Natalie Young, sang a few Passover songs with the seniors, including “Avadim Hayenu” and “Dayenu.”
third-grader Bryce Chapman, a San Juan Capistrano resident. Heritage Pointe resident Betsy Silver said that the kids’ visit brightened the seniors’ day.
“They just bring so much joy to the residents,” she said. “It was beautiful just seeing them come and share their Jewish learning with us.”
Then the students performed short skits depicting the Passover story, from Moses’ birth to the crossing of the Red Sea. As part of their twice-monthly religious school program at Temple Beth El in Aliso Viejo, the third-graders had spent several weeks preparing the skits, which they also performed for the temple’s younger students. “It made me happy to do the songs and skits we’ve worked so hard on for the older people, who were smiling, laughing and having a good time,” said 22
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Residents at Heritage Pointe, a Jewish retirement community in Mission Viejo, clap and sing along as Temple Beth El’s third-graders lead a chorus of “Dayenu.”
“They just bring so much joy to the residents,” she said. “It was beautiful just seeing them come and share their Jewish learning with us.”
Temple Beth El’s third-grade students visited Heritage Pointe last month to sing Passover songs and theatrically depict the Passover story for the senior citizens.
Heritage Pointe Holds 25th Annual Spring Luncheon and Boutique By Ilene Schneider
A special performance by Annie Korzen will highlight the 25th Annual Heritage Pointe Luncheon and Boutique on Tuesday, April 28, at the Hotel Irvine. The boutique will begin at 9:30 a.m., the luncheon at 11:45 a.m. and the performance at 1 p.m. Korzen, an American actress, comedian and writer, is particularly well known from the hit television show Seinfeld, appearing in the recurring role of Doris Klompus. In addition, she performs solo shows (Yenta Umplugged and The Yenta Cometh) on three continents, writes humorous essays for numerous media outlets and is the author of Bargain Junkie: Living the Good Life on the Cheap. Jacquee Lipson and daughter Donna Markovitz are the luncheon co-chairs. Together with Pamela Davis, director of Heritage Pointe, they are planning a fabulous day of shopping and entertainment. --For more information, contact Heritage Pointe, the Jewish Home for the Aging, at (949) 364-0010 or pdavis@ heritagepointe.org
Kosher oc Magazine // April 2015 |
Hebrew Academy Hosts Tours By Ilene Schneider
In March, the Arts and Humanities House at the Hebrew Academy, Huntington Beach was proud to host the grand opening of the Hebrew Academy Museum of Art and Culture for its exhibition, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Pyramids, Pyramids,
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Everywhere: Meeting Human Needs in Ancient Egypt and Beyond.â&#x20AC;? During the event, sixth graders served as docents to a collection of parents, faculty and community members who
viewed the student-created artifacts, listened to the expert presentations on each exhibit, and participated in the Egyptian-themed photo-booth and activity center.
Temple Beth Tikvah Launches Rabbi Haim Asa Memorial Lecture & Celebrates 50th Anniversary By Ilene Schneider A groundbreaking endeavor between a Reform temple in California and a Modern Orthodox synagogue in Israel will honor Rabbi Haim Asa’s legacy of reaching out to Jews from across the religious spectrum, and the excitement is building in April. “The effort is moving forward with the shul building project in Efrat in memory of my father as well as creating a relationship between Temple Beth Tikvah and the Zemer HaZayit congregation in Efrat that will benefit from a building in my father’s memory,” explained Aviva Zahavi-Asa. The relationship between the congregations will be spearheaded by “Building Bridges: Moving Beyond Denominational Judaism: The Rabbi Haim Asa Memorial Lecture” on Sunday, April 26, at 7 p.m. at Temple Beth Tikvah (TBT), 1600 N. Acacia Ave., Fullerton. Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, chief rabbi of Efrat, whom Asa described as “one of the most innovative leaders within the Modern Orthodox world,” will give the lecture. In a recent speech, the American-born Rabbi Riskin, said that he was proud of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for addressing the U.S. Congress about Iran. Rabbi Riskin, who made aliyah in 1983 and founded his congregation in Efrat, is especially recognized for his innovative educational and social action
programs, which are based upon his unique vision of an authentic Judaism sensitive to every human being and responsive to all universal concerns. The lecture is free and open to the public with no need to RSVP. This will be the first of a series of adult education efforts to be carried out between the congregations. Ultimately, there will be Skype classes in which educators at the Zemer HaZayit congregation in Efrat address members of Temple Beth Tikvah’s adult education program. “We have already had a number of TBT members visit my shul for Shabbat and holidays, and they have come away with a very positive impression of our shul, its warmth, the singing and how women are able to take on ritual roles within the tefillot while still abiding by Jewish law,” Asa said. “We’re looking for ways to develop a relationship with the Jews of Efrat and build awareness with Israel,” explained Miriam Van Raalte, educator and administrator of TBT. “We have a new large screen in the foyer to the entryway of our new building to make it easier to communicate with Israel. It’s all part of building bridges with the community of Efrat.” For more information about the lecture, please contact the temple at email@example.com or (714) 871-3535. For information about Zemer HaZayit,
please visit www.buildzemerhazayit. org. Rabbi Riskin’s lecture will take place less than a week before Temple Beth Tikvah’s 50th year anniversary celebration, “The Temple Beth Tikvah Golden Jubilee: Writing the Next Chapter,” on Saturday, May 2. The gala dinner will include surprises and memories, according to Van Raalte, who said the event would “honor all the people who helped us to get where we are today.” There will be a representative from the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), past presidents and congregants who have moved out of the area at the gala. Individuals will be honored by the decade when they joined the congregation without singling out anyone. For more information on the celebration, please contact the Temple at firstname.lastname@example.org or (714) 871-3535. On the following day, on Sunday, May 3, at 1 p.m., the Asa family will be holding the unveiling for the headstone on Rabbi Asa’s grave at Pacific View Cemetery in Corona Del Mar. Afterwards, at 2:30 p.m., there will be a gathering at Temple Beth Tikvah with refreshments and a chance for people to share their memories about the rabbi. For the latter participants are asked to RSVP to (714) 871-6172.
Kosher oc Magazine // April 2015 |
Friendship Circle Slates Evening of Recognition By Ilene Schneider
In some organizations it is really true that people get back more than they give. One such organization is the Friendship Circle, said to be today’s fastest growing Jewish organization for children with special needs. With more than 79 locations worldwide, the Friendship Circle has cultivated friendships between 5,000 special children and nearly 11,000 teen volunteers. In other words, the Friendship Circle does a lot of good for a lot of people. Its special approach brings together teenage volunteers and children with special needs for hours of fun and friendship. “These shared experiences empower the children, our special friends, while enriching the lives of everyone involved. Our special friends blossom and gain the confidence they need to make the most their abilities and talents,” according to the Friendship Circle’s website. Teen volunteers learn the value of giving, the power of friendship and 26
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the importance of integrating children with special needs into communities. Parents and siblings receive muchneeded respite and support from the Friendship Circle community and its volunteers. The Friendship Circle links volunteers, children, parents, staff and supporters in a seamless circle of friendship that makes miracles happen every day – and everybody wins. As the website explains, each independent Friendship Circle is operated by its local Chabad Lubavitch Center and entirely supported by each local community to benefit local children with special needs. In Orange County Chabad Jewish Center of Newport Beach – under the direction of Rabbi Reuven and Rebbitzen Chani Mintz – runs the Friendship Circle. This year the Friendship Circle will honor 245 outstanding teen volunteers for their dedicated service while presenting Rich and Andi Mandel with the Jo Ann Krupp Friendship Award on Wednesday, April 29, at 6 p.m. at Mile
Square Golf Course in Fountain Valley. --For more information, contact the Friendship Circle at (949) 721-9800 ext 103, email@example.com or www.friendshipcircleoc.org
Your smile is our passion (949) 248-2525 www.myscdental.com
TVT Honors Create-A-Legacy Program Donors By Ilene Schneider
For nearly a year and a half, the Jewish Community Foundation has mentored nine local Jewish organizations to obtain a combined total of more than 200 new legacy gift commitments. In partnership with the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, the Jewish Community Foundation educates and inspires its Create a Jewish Legacy partner institutions, providing them with the training, tools and support needed to effectively engage their supporters. The program enables community members to consider how they can positively impact the future through a legacy gift in their will, trust, retirement plan or life insurance policy.
those who have made a commitment to leave a legacy that will ensure that TVT is here for years to come.
Tarbut V’Torah (TVT) is part of that program, along with Beth Jacob Congregation of Irvine, Bureau of Jewish Education, Community Scholar Program, Hebrew Academy, Heritage Pointe, Jewish Federation & Family Services OC, Temple Bat Yahm and Temple Beth El of South Orange County. On April 17 at 8 a.m. TVT will host a Kabbalat Shabbat honoring
As Stephen Kaufman explained, “Simply put, I believe TVT has changed our lives for the better in so many ways that I am forever grateful to Mr. Gelman and TVT’s dedicated staff, parents and children. This wonderful institution has the power to radiate light for us and for generations to come. TVT’s influence in shaping the future of Jewish Orange County,
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The TVT Legacy Society includes: Anonymous, Wendy and Lance Arenson, Dede and Kenny Beard, Sharon and Mark Berman, Jeanne and Gideon Bernstein, Sarah and Richard Bruck, Mardelle and Jeffrey Davis, Rochelle and Irving Gelman, Marci and Richard Gollis, Stephen Kaufman, Rachel and Payson Lederman, Sue and Jay Littman, Sarit and Yehiel Livnat, Shirley and Basil Luck, Marci and Shawn Miller, Sheila Siegel, Erica and Fred Taylor and Susan and Samuel Wyman.
and far beyond, is incalculable. I want to be a part of that legacy, and so adopt it as my own, through Jewish Community Foundation of Orange County.” According to Richard Bruck, “We have had the pleasure of experiencing firsthand the way the TVT administration, teachers, and staff embrace all of the essential Jewish values in which we so fervently believe. We have been blessed that these resources have been available to us and our daughter. Accordingly, we have pledged to do everything we could to promote and foster a Jewish future for anyone in Orange County seeking it. This Create a Jewish Legacy gift is a partial fulfillment of that pledge.” “It’s not about the size of your legacy gift,” said Susan Clain, TVT’s director of institutional advancement. “It’s about safeguarding the Jewish institutions important to you. Our gifts added together create a powerful, positive impact for generations to come.”
Super Teens: Jewish Girls Unite By Robin Silver-Zwiren
The Jewish Girls Unite program was introduced in Orange County. The program unites Jewish girls using technology to build relationships. The penpals many of us had when growing up now use social media to connect. “Shine Your Light” connects Jewish girls worldwide. The teenager living in a small community attending a high school where she is the only Jew can now gain support from other girls. Chabad of Irvine hosted the event on Sunday March 15, which also happened to be the 70th yarzheit of Anne Frank. It was certainly a wonderful way to remember a brave young girl who lost her life, simply because she was Jewish. Meirah Schwartz celebrated her Bat Mitzvah that weekend as well. Her mother, Linda, wanted the celebration to have extra meaning, and it certainly did. Nechama Laber, founder of Jewish Girls Unite, likened us to a candle. Each and every soul has a piece of G-d within us. Enchanting and talented Rivka Leah Cylich-Velkovitch entertained us all. Her lyrical
composition, “Shine Your Inner Light” certainly helped us all light our flames.
teenage girls in how to dress more modestly.
More than 150 women gathered to honor six teen girls who are an inspiration to us all. They were given the “Shining Light Award” for their community service projects.
Mashie Marcus attends Hebrew Academy and began C-Teen, a Chabad teen program. Mashie is also involved with the Friendship Circle and Mitzvah Corps.
Katya Davis attends a local public school. She believes we all need to be a catalyst for change, so she started an anti-bullying program.
Mashie Marcus attends Hebrew Academy and began C-Teen, a Chabad teen program. Mashie is also involved with the Friendship Circle and Mitzvah Corps.
Cara, Jessica and Liora Wolder have raised more than $40,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation with a Shave-A-Thon and several fundraisers at Tarbut v’Torah. Their efforts have made it possible for nine SoCal children to get the trip of their dreams. Matana Zwiren is a TVT student with tremendous energy. She serves on the local NCSY Board, coordinates chesed projects and leads weekly Tot Shabbat at Beth Jacob of Irvine. In addition, she started TStyles, a Facebook page that helps to guide
Dani Blieden is an avid softball player and Chabad of Irvine women’s shows performer. For more information, visit www. jewishgirlsunite.com. Register for the Jewish Girls Summer Retreat at www. jewishgirlsretreat.com
Kosher oc Magazine // April 2015 |
CBI’s Rabbi Elie Spitz Reprints One Book, Introduces Another By Ilene Schneider
April marks the month when Rabbi Elie Spitz of Congregation B’nai Israel in Tustin celebrates the reprinting of his first book after 15 years and the launch of his third book, which was five years in the making. In the reprinting of Does the Soul Survive?, which has sold 30,000 copies, Rabbi Spitz gets to write an introduction from what he learned from people’s stories and from new books about the afterlife. In addition to freshening up references to keep the book current, he has added information from colleagues and readers to share how the book was useful to them. The new book, Increasing Wholeness, is about Jewish wisdom and guided meditation. “Writing is my hobby and study time,” Rabbi Spitz said. “This book harvests my interest in the inner life and the tool of guided meditation to gain access to wisdom.” Increasing Wholeness also takes advantage of technology, incorporating 32
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thirty YouTube videos to the written word with QR readers in the print version and clicks in the electronic version. The interactive book enables a reader to access videos directly to engage in the experiences suggested by means of exercises. Guided meditation – or wakeful dreaming – has been Rabbi Spitz’s interest for 30 years. After teaching a class on increasing wholeness that was attended by 50 people, he decided to develop it into a book and brought in film students to help. He asked a congregant, Sheila Witzling, to put up the QR readers and YouTubes. “It was a long journey with a lot of people helping to react to the book in a kind of lab for developing material,” he said. On April 26 at 7 p.m. at the public launch of the book at Congregation B’nai Israel, Rabbi Spitz will talk about the journey of writing it and segue into guided meditation. He described the process as “a wakeful dream in which you relax and have somebody guide
you on the journey.” He has done it for the yizkor memorial service with the B’nai Israel community and believes that it brings about insight and inner peace. “Religion addresses how to be a more complete person in a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual sense,” Rabbi Spitz said. “It serves effectively in connecting others with God and serving as God’s partner. The goal is for people to come to their own wisdom. By using guided meditation, you can reflect on practices you find most useful. By doing it consistently, you can grow and shape habits and character.”
Moot Beit Din
TVT’s Jewish Mock Trial Program By Robin Silver-Zwiren affected as the economic recession and unemployment become a grave problem. Teacher salaries are reduced, causing further discontent within the population. The teachers’ union approaches the Beit Din to acquire a better perspective on how Jewish tradition approaches these issues. Should unions have limited power or the right to collective bargaining? Is a labor strike a legitimate negotiating tool? The eloquent, well prepared Tarbut team won its division C title, meaning that TVT was now placed in Level B.
Moot Beit Din is a RAVSAK program that TVT students get to participate in yearly. RAVSAK, the Jewish Community Day School Network is a TVT sponsor and runs some interesting programs for administrators, teachers and students. Moot Beit Din is the “Jewish Mock Trial” program where a case is prepared and presented to a trial of judges. Jewish Studies teacher Lee Weissman has been the faculty person in charge of the program since its inaugural year. This year new faculty member Jeremy Shine is also assisting the students in this program. The team spends months preparing its case using Talmudic and other sources to prove a point within the context of Halacha, Jewish law. It proves our Jewish heritage is very much alive and fluid. Consider that it is high school students- not rabbis, lawyers or scientists — preparing the case studies makes the research only that much more remarkable. There are three levels in the program. Group A are required to find all source material. Group B is given some sources but are expected to find others. Group C is given sources; although students
can use others, they are not required to do it. In 2010 Justin Sass, Einav Silverstein, Sara Weissman and Jonathan Zalomek were the first TVT Moot Beit Din team sent to compete. Read Sara Weissman’ s article for more on this…” The 2011 case presented by Justin Sass, Amit Silverstein, Sara Weissman and Atara Zwiren to the Beit Din Court was about whether cloning is acceptable or not. This is not an issue rabbis of long ago would have to address. Using Talmudic and some more recently written scientific publications, the team put together a very interesting case. A Jewish couple loses a son following a tragic accident. Both are doctors and start to look into human cloning as a means to getting their beloved Michael back. The team concluded that, although cloning might be permissible within Jewish law, it is not advisable as it might become a substitute for natural procreation. The team in 2012 included Jordan Berman, Matthew Cohen, Sara Weissman and Atara Zwiren. A mythical country has run smoothly with good leadership, a strong education system and positive values. Unfortunately, it has been
The 2013 team of Jordan Berman, Ronnie Hecht and Ari Zwiren had a case that could well be one for many of us today. Two girls grow up in the same neighborhood and become good friends. Catholic Cassia would like Leah not only to attend her wedding but to be a bridesmaid. Being Jewish Leah is unsure whether she can even attend the church wedding. Many rabbis would say that it is not permissible to be in a church, especially when Mass is said. Using various sources, the Moot Beit Din team decided it was permissible to attend the wedding, even act as a bridesmaid. She should not answer “amen” to any blessings and be careful not to eat non kosher food. Of course, any of us would have to discuss this with our rabbi before taking this ruling as law. Case of 2014 with student Vivienn Herscovitz, Adam Jacobs, Ari Zwiren and Matana Zwiren was one for the kashrut industry to study well. A Jewish summer camp has strong believes in Bal Tashchit, protecting Jewish values likes our environment. Recycling, composting and water conservation are very important as are their beliefs in the laws of Kashrut. Being interested in not only in what they eat but how it is produced makes them question using industrially raised meat. Some parents wanted the camp to only use free-range chicken and Kosher oc Magazine // April 2015 |
Student Voice beef, but that might have raised costs. The TVT Moot Beit Din team used sources from Talmud for its ruling that industrial beef is not a violation of “Tza’as Ba’alei Chayim,” uncruel actions to the animals. Since these creatures were created to serve man, slaughtering them for consumption is not against halacha, because it is for a purpose. Torturing animals, just like harming another person, however, is not acceptable. Case 2015 Team includes Adam Cohen, Vivian Herscovitz, Gabriel Nahum and Matana Zwiren with Rachel Ast and Kat Finkelstein as
alternates. (Tarbut often has other students who learn the materials and prepare with the class. Only four people are allowed on the travel team, but since it is in LA and we don’t have travel restrictions, having substitutes as back ups in case of an emergency is a good thing.) A high school promoting positive midot and culture is a goal. One day the principal receives an email from a student with a copy of a “snap chat” message another student sent. The principal suspends the student who sent the offensive note; however, his parents believe that this was fair. The principal approached the Beit Din for a ruling on how better
to deal with the issue of bullying and social media. Moot Beit Din is being hosted by Milken High School in Los Angeles April 17 to 19. The high school students will spend a beautiful Shabbat filled with dynamic speakers and discussions. Please come out to support the Tarbut v’Torah team. It will certainly prove to be an enriching experience. Milken High School Sunday April 19 Time: TBA
Moot Beit Din Leadership Experience By Sara Weissman Each year, teams of students from participating schools receive a case that concerns a modern ethical dilemma and a packet of sources. Students analyze the texts, prepare a paper supporting their decision, and argue their position before judges.
The case we were given to analyze was this: Shana, a dying cancer patient, needed a rare type of bone marrow and Reuven was a perfectly matched but unwilling donor. According to doctors, Shana had an 80% chance of dying without the transplant, while Reuven had an 8% chance of dying in surgery. Though Reuven initially agreed to be a donor, he later changed his mind, arguing that the transplant would cause him physical and emotional pain. The question was, did Jewish law obligate Reuven to donate to Shana? This scenario landed on my desk my first year in Moot Beit Din, a national competition where students use Jewish legal texts, ranging from Babylonian Talmud to Maimonides, to argue positions on assigned cases. 34
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When asked by my teacher to join the program, it was the arguing part of the process that scared me. Argue? I barely spoke up in my classes of 15 students, let alone in front of judges asking questions. Oral presentations had always turned my face an shocking shade of fuscia and, from first grade and onward, my report cards had read, “A pleasure to have in class. Needs to work on class participation.” I was intrigued by the case about Reuven and Shana and the idea of tackling a modern moral dilemma through halacha, but speak? No thank you. In response to my teacher’s suggestion, I hemmed and hawed but ultimately, with goading, conceded. I couldn’t be happier I did. That year, after months of preparation, our team stood in front of the judges, ready to argue that Reuven’s was permitted to refuse to donate. We
hadn’t come to this decision easily. In fact, from the start, we had hoped for the opposite outcome for Shana and Reuven’s case. Why condemn a cancer patient to death when the risks to the donor were so low? But after my team and I spent weeks hunched over the texts discussing each point, we realized that the sources favored Reuven’s right to protect his own interests. Struggling with our moral compasses, we finally concluded that halacha was designed to be unswayed by our own ethical biases. We decided we needed to defend what we saw as Reuven’s right to do wrong within the law. Before we began our presentation, I could feel my hands shake and the butterflies in my stomach doing somersaults. I was sure I was going to mess up, positive that my quaky voice was going to come out sounding like a CD of Tiny Tim’s Greatest Hits. Then I heard my friend begin the introduction to our argument. I remembered how proud I was of the presentation we had prepared, how exciting the whole process had been, and how hard we had struggled with our own morals and the texts to decipher the law. I looked at our audience made up of the new friends we made just days before. These people weren’t judging us. They
Student Voice were smiling, supporting us just as we had supported them. When my turn to speak came, my voice quavered for a moment but soon flowed naturally. We finished making our argument, fielded the judges’ questions as best we could, and took our seats, proud. We didn’t win, but it hardly mattered. Our friends had, and all of us felt giddy having overcome something that challenged us. There was no question we were coming back next year. Four years later, I went to Moot Beit Din for the last time, not as one of the freshmen on the team but as one of two seniors. It was our turn to take leadership and teach the freshmen everything we learned: which legal texts took precedence over others, what kinds of holes to avoid in our argument, how to prepare for the judges’ questions, and more. After hesitating to join Moot Beit Din only a few years earlier, I was now telling our newest members not to worry. I told them what I thought they should expect: an ethical and intellectual challenge, an unbelievable learning opportunity, and a lot of fun. When the day of the competition arrived and we stood in front of the judges, I still felt the butterflies but something had changed. As we began laying out our argument, the jitters went away and were replaced by the calm that comes with doing what you love. In that moment, there was nowhere I would rather be than engaging with the texts and watching as our younger team members addressed the judges’ questions with confidence. With their hard work, our school won for the first time that year. Moot Beit Din gave me not only a lasting love of Jewish law, but the skills to speak up and take leadership beyond the program. It showed me that I can speak publically and, when I feel passionately about a subject, I really enjoy doing so. Now as a college student, I use the lessons Moot Beit Din taught me on a daily basis. I can think of no better program to prepare students to delve into what interests them, in the Jewish world or otherwise, and engage others as effective leaders.
Volunteering with Leket Israel By Robin Silver-Zwiren and Matana Zwiren
Leket is Israel’s food bank. Leket, much like our very own Orange County Second Harvest Food Bank, feeds those in need. The poverty level in Israel is still extremely high. Thankfully fields are overflowing with tasty delights. Caterers, bakeries, hospitals and other organizations who have unused leftover food are able to donate as well. With the help of tens of thousands of volunteers yearly Leket is able to rescue unused food and rescue lives of those who are starving. The food is delivered to sites where it is collected, organized and distributed. Since 2003 Lekat has helped supply food banks, schools, homeless and abuse shelters and soup kitchens. From day care centers to elder care facilities to IDF army bases their list is long. By providing free food to social service agencies there are funds for other resources. Food that would have to be thrown out if Leket did not provide such a valuable service. Leket does not just provide food to Israeli Jews. Non-kosher donations are not given to Jews but there is plenty for the Christian and Arab population. I wonder if the produce delivered to Gaza during the conflict last summer was donated by Leket.
Food Hamas tossed out because they did not want the world to know Israel is caring for them. Food that their starving elderly and children desperately needed. Matana’s personal account with Leket Israel: Leket Israel was one of my NCSY Girls Israel Volunteer Experience (GIVE) chesed programs. We spent several hours working in the fields. We were given huge bins which we filled with peppers. When filled we brought it to a large truck used to transport the produce. From the fields to shelters, hospitals and schools. It happened to be an extremely hot day and many in my group were not used to this type of labor. But, seeing this beautiful Israeli grown produce certainly made it a wonderful experience. If you are planning a trip to Israel you should sign up for a Leket volunteer programs whether a day of gleaning or helping to prepare meals. Opportunities are Sunday through Thursday year round. If you are making a simcha in Israel don’t forget to tell your caterer you want to donate your unused leftovers to Leket. Kosher oc Magazine // April 2015 |
Natural Gas Lights a Brighter Future for Northern Israelis By JNS has led the way in helping Israel broker deals with neighbors Egypt and Jordan that could build political stability in the region, in addition to building alliances within Israel. Marom said that as a non-profit, Erez College is an important piece of the puzzle. “We should build the [Israeli natural gas] industry through the non-profit world,” he said.
Jobs are coming to northern Israel in the country’s fledgling natural gas industry, and Erez College is opening the door to those new careers. People have long joked that after 40 years in the desert, Moses still led the Jews to the only place in the Middle East without oil or gas. In 2009, that all changed with the discovery of the Tamar and Leviathan offshore gas fields. But while natural gas offers the prospect of freedom from foreign energy interests, Israel has few qualified practical engineers ready to populate the industry. Into this gap leapt Sandee Illouz, CEO of Erez College, a vocational college in the town of Shlomi on Israel’s northern border. “The discovery of natural gas in Israel opens a whole new realm of jobs and job opportunities,” Illouz said at a March 10 ceremony that unveiled the college’s Mechanical Practical Engineer program and new Natural Gas Laboratories. Illouz, who made aliyah from Iowa in 1975, welcomed leaders and investors from World ORT, the Nefesh B’Nefesh aliyah agency, and government representatives, along with American donors from the Jewish National Fund 36
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(JNF) “Go North” initiative, which has supported the new program from the beginning. Go North aims to bring 300,000 new residents to northern Israel, taking the pressure off the center of the country—but the initiative can only accomplish its objective if high-quality jobs and training exist in the north.
Leviathan is the largest gas field discovered in the 21st century, said Erez College’s pedagogical advisor, Edward Breicher. Approximately 30 times larger than Tamar, Leviathan contains as much as 19 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. “With oil,” Breicher said, “you must use 50 percent of every shekel for development, to take it from the ground, refine it, to complete the whole process. It’s expensive energy. Natural gas, on the other hand, comes to you ready-to-use. Every country is trying to use it.”
The jobs will be there, said Amit Marom, CEO of the philanthropic Marom Group. Speaking for industry giant Noble Energy, a Texas-based Fortune 1000 oil and gas company, Marom said, “We need 1,500 practical engineers now. We will need another 500 every year.”
Half of Israel’s current power emanates from natural gas, and the Jewish state is now working on a major pipeline to carry natural gas across the country. Natural gas remains the cleanest fossil fuel, with far lower emissions than petroleum. It is also easier to access and store. But as is the case with any fossil fuel, it can be dangerous, demanding specially trained professionals to handle it safely. Additionally, the natural gas industry is being held up in the governmental arena. Regulations and anti-trust matters must be dealt with before the gas is made available.
Shlomi Mayor Gabriel Naaman (left) and Ken Krupsky, Jewish National Fund’s assistant vice president for the “Go North” initiative. In Shlomi, a northern Israeli town, Erez College recently launched a practical engineering program to populate Israel’s natural gas industry.
Once the government gives the green light, Erez College graduates should be ready, having trained in Israel’s largest laboratory for the processing and testing of industrial materials, built with JNF’s partnership.
With its Israeli partners, Noble Energy
Yaniv Bracha, a student in the Erez College practical engineering program, said, “Natural gas will create an economic revolution, along with new business opportunities for me.” Married with two children, Bracha is currently the northern region manager for Paz Oil, Israel’s largest fuel company. When Breicher devised the idea of a practical engineering program as an enticing new area of study, he approached two large training schools, but was turned down. Yet Illouz recognized the potential the natural gas industry could have for Erez College and the town of Shlomi, in terms of educational and employment opportunities, and quickly made Erez’s program a reality. Sandee Illouz founded Erez College 30 years ago, with assistance from the Jewish Agency for Israel, to bring new hope to Shlomi’s nearly 2,000 residents. “Most of them had no high school diploma and would have left if they could for the wealthier central areas of the country,” she said. Development towns like Shlomi sprouted up all over Israel in the 1950s to house a flood of refugees from Arab countries and to ensure the country’s security in sensitive areas. But even today, funds remain scarce for these residents, and many are still among the poorest in Israel. Shlomi itself, a quiet town nestled in Israel’s woody northern foothills, was the target of the initial rocket volleys that were launched at the Jewish state during the 2006 Lebanon War. While many organizations speak about breaking the cycle of poverty, Erez College has seemingly smashed through every obstacle in its path. Shlomi Mayor Gabriel Naaman is one of 13 children, and only one—his younger sister—managed to study
beyond high school, since so few options were available in northern Israel for education and vocational training. That was the first thing that needed to change, Naaman believed. When he became Shlomi’s mayor in 1999, he demanded 25 million shekels (about $6.3 million) from Israel for the building that now houses Erez College. “I wanted something with a long future,” said Naaman. “This is what the region needed.” Along with its new natural gas program, Erez College offers education in mechanical engineering, software design, and food preparation, in response to labor-market demands. Shlomi now has more than 7,000 residents, and Erez College has become a magnet for the entire Western Galilee. Since many of Erez’s students have day jobs, the college holds classes in the evenings and on Fridays, when most Israelis don’t need to work. More than 14,000 students have graduated so far, including single mothers, new immigrants, Arabs, Druze, and demobilized soldiers. Eighty percent of Erez graduates are employed. Today, Mayor Naaman’s own children, nieces, nephews, and their friends are laying down roots in northern Israel rather than leaving the area. “JNF and Sandee Illouz’s vision is fast becoming a reality,” Naaman said. “Erez College is giving the entire region a huge boost, and now training our workforce for the field of natural gas.”
Kosher oc Magazine // April 2015 |
Israel Partners with Lockheed Martin on National Cybersecurity Curriculum By JNS
The Israeli Ministry of Education announced a partnership with the U.S. defense firm Lockheed Martin to enrich Israel’s cybersecurity curriculum for high school students. The partnership, which was discussed during the recent CyberTech 2015 conference in Tel Aviv, is aimed at increasing the number of Israeli cyber and computer science professionals. “Israelis place a high cultural value on technology and innovation, which today requires an equally highly skilled and knowledgeable cyber workforce to protect it,” said Joshua Shani, chief executive of Lockheed Martin Israel.
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“We are excited to lend our expertise to developing that workforce for the benefit of Israel’s economy and national security.” The head of the Technology and Information Administration at the Israeli Ministry of Education, Dr. Ofer Rimon, said the ministry “invests resources in expanding the number of students studying math, science, and technology in high levels, and fostering and training teachers.”
Likud Emerges as Clear-Cut Winner of Israeli Election in Final Tallies By JNS the Zionist Union with 28 to 27 seats respectively. By Wednesday morning in Israel the picture was more clear cut, with official tallies from all voting precincts indicating that Likud has made a sweeping victory with 30 seats, a clear majority over the Zionist Union’s 24 seats.
The Likud party, headed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has emerged as the clear winner of the country’s elections on Tuesday, according to vote tallies released Wednesday in Israel. Netanyahu had already celebrated his party’s “victory” on Tuesday on Twitter despite the fact that Israeli television exit polls initially displayed conflicting
results. Some television networks showed that Likud has won the most Knesset seats by a margin of only one seat, while others indicated it has tied with the Zionist Union party. “Against all odds: a great victory for the Likud. A major victory for the people of Israel!” Netanyahu tweeted in response to one of the initial exit polls suggesting Likud has beaten
Kosher oc Magazine // April 2015 |
How Do We Explain Passover to Modern Egyptians? By Rabbi Charles Savenor
The initial plan was spectacular. While studying at Hebrew University in 1990, Arie Katz, a Princeton grad who currently serves as the chair of the Orange County (CA) Community Scholar Program, and I journeyed from Israel to Egypt the week before Passover to tour and admire our ancestors’ handiwork, otherwise known as the pyramids. The grand finale would be our own recreation of the Exodus from Egypt, including a modern day crossing of the Red Sea, provided by our passage through the Suez Canal. Finally, we would return to Israel, as free men, ready to celebrate Passover. The most memorable part of the week was surprisingly a dinner, a Ramadan evening break fast, at the home of our tour guide, Rhandah. This middle-aged woman exemplified the incongruous tendencies of Egypt. Educated in the West, she was a devout Muslim. Clearly a loving mother, she worked long days away from home leading tours, a 40
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passion at which she excelled. While sophisticated, modern and educated in the west, Rhanda possessed a deep connection to and pride in her Egyptian homeland, its multi-layered history, Islamic heritage, and eclectic people. Her home, decorated with paintings ranging from impressionist scenes to scribal passages from the Koran, reflected the wide spectrum of interests shared by her husband and herself. During the meal we sat on rug with our tour guide, her family and their guests. My eye focused on the Semitic writing, albeit Arabic, of the Koran excerpts. Protected within an old wooden frame, the text and its presentation, especially its being inked on special parchment, reminded me of the Jewish mezuzah. These semitic scribbles strangely made me feel comfortable. In my heart, this meal was not merely a repast; it constituted an opportunity for dialogue and friendship. Seated around us were several
highly educated Egyptians also working in the travel industry. One gentleman was a regional manager from American Express travel, and the other owned his own tour company. As the evening unfolded, these two men and their wives asked Arie and me routine questions about where we call home and went to school. These questions were familiar enough and felt like a round of Jewish geography. When our new “friends,” however, heard that we were students in Israel, their tone changed. Stares flashed across the room. The tenor of their questions shifted from simple friendly inquiry to political statements about Israel. Their words could no longer be defined as opinion. They spoke in absolutes, and, from their perspective, articulated truisms about their northern neighbor. That we were American Jewish college students did not seem to register or matter to them. In their eyes, we were not Israeli. They effortlessly
could separate our Judaism from our Zionism. We could not. What ensued was a heated diatribe about the Israeli/Arab situation, and an unabashed wholesale debasing of Israelis, their business ethics, their manners, their diplomacy. With every passing moment, I regretted our presence and our acceptance of the post-Ramadan break-fast invitation. The once familiar Semitic script letters adorning the wall now looked different. What message did this parchment truly impart? A poetic plea for peace and brotherhood? Or a call to arms against the infidel? With every mouthful, the chumus tasted more and more like maror, the bitter herb, and the pita like lekhem oni, the bread of affliction. Looking back on this toxic environment, I can more easiely understand how “I Hate Israel” became a hit song in Egypt in the late 1990’s. Present diplomacy and past wars defined their anger towards this “zionist state.” Ironically, just the day before, Arie and I had seen the “1973 Victory Museum” in Cairo. This shrine in the heart of this arab metropolis celebrates the Arab victory over the Israelis in the 1973 war, what we call the Yom Kippur War. I left the museum confounded about how the outcome of a war and even its name can be seen so differently by geographic neighbors.
shift gears and break the palpable tension, one of the women asked us a question. “Isn’t there a Jewish holiday next week? Passover, no? Would you mind explaining it to us?” Dumbfounded, Arie and I looked at each other. He stiffened. Sweat dripped down my brow despite the cooling effect of the fans circling overhead. How exactly were we to explain Passover to Egyptians? I imagined our unedited response: “Approximately four thousand years ago, our God, represented by a stuttering prophet named Moses, demanded that Pharaoh release his Israelite slaves. Upon Pharaoh’s refusal to ‘let our people go,’ God released ten devastating plagues upon your people. You know the Nile, right outside your window, the first plague turned it into blood. The last plague killed every first born child in every Egyptian home. At this point, feeling somewhat defeated, Pharaoh Ramses II released our people, approximately a million men, women, and children. We left in a hurry with flat bread called matzah, and our pockets filled with Egyptian wealth as back-pay for the pyramids. After Pharaoh let us go, he changed his mind so he followed us to the banks of the Red Sea. We thought we were trapped, but God split the sea, through which every last Hebrew passed safely. The entire pursuing Egyptian army was not so lucky.” Taking a deep breath and smiling, I responded, “Passover is our festival of freedom. It is when our ancestors were released from slavery and became a national entity. … So what’s Ramadan all about? … Please pass the pita.”
In a well intentioned attempt to
After the discussion about Israel and Passover, the spirit of friendship
quickly escaped from the room and was replaced with awkward silences and stilted conversation. It quickly became obvious that it was time for Arie and me to leave. As we stepped through the threshold, our host’s token wishes of “salaam aleykum” felt hollow. The rest of our sojourn in Egypt was colored by the discussion at this one meal where true dialogue was taboo. What I hoped would have been a cross-cultural exchange turned out to be wake-up call on how Israel and Jews are viewed in the Arab world. That night at our tour guide’s home the children of former slaves and the children of former slaveowners joined together for what could have been a powerful opportunity for healing, even on a minute scale. However, it became transparent that many today are still enslaved by prejudices and preconceived notions. Every year at the seder when we recall our people’s slavery in Egypt. I recall sitting on the rug in our tour guide’s home. More questions remain than answers. --Rabbi Charles Savenor is the Director of Congregational Education at the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York. He blogs on parenting at www. FamilyInOrbit.com.
Strangers in a Land Not Their Own By Rabbi Elliot J. Cosgrove If the wicked child were sitting at the Global Planning Table of the Jewish People rather than at the Seder table, the response he would receive would be of a decidedly different and far more embracing nature. “What does this service mean to you?” the chutzpah-filled child asks. “To you and not to him – thereby excluding himself from the community.” He stands in breach of a fundamental principle of our people, so much so, the Haggadah famously explains, that he must be struck in the teeth. “You who have placed yourself outside the Jewish community: had you been there at the Exodus, you would not have been redeemed.” Nowadays, the Jewish communal reaction to the second child would be radically different. Our first response would be to create a blue ribbon study on engaging the unaffiliated. We would create a trip specially designed for such young adults – a ten-day all-expense-paid trip to Israel with the hope that disengaged Jews would retrieve that pintele yid buried deep within. On college campuses, we would identify a funder to underwrite free Shabbat meals, so as to remove any actual or perceived barrier to entering Hillel. If that second child had a family of his or her own, another Jewish foundation would send free Jewish children’s books every month with the hope that bedtime could become a moment of Jewish identity building. For young professionals, we would create alternative spring breaks to India, Costa Rica or Nicaragua to backdoor Jewish identity and connection through acts of social justice. “Tatale, don’t beat yourself up,” we now say to that second child, “if you can’t connect to the Jewish community, we will send someone to your office to teach, provide an outreach worker “to meet you where you are,” and be sure to check out our free High Holiday services in an converted warehouse with an open 42
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bar. These days not only do we not heap scorn upon the Jew who sits at the periphery, but just the opposite: we pour enormous amounts of affection, energy and resources into that disengaged Jewish soul. In the 1990s, Jack Wertheimer, Steven M. Cohen and the late Charles S. Liebman wrote an award-winning essay called “How to Save American Jews.” (Commentary, Jan. 1996). It was written in the wake of the 1990 National Jewish Population Study that famously reported, among other signs of erosion in the Jewish community, the sobering statistic of an intermarriage rate of over fifty percent. The authors went on to distinguish between the different segments of American Jewish life: the “actively engaged,” the “moderately engaged,” the “loosely engaged,” and then of course, the “disengaged.” And while we could quibble with their classification and the criteria by which a person qualifies for each category, the stir the article caused was due to its prescriptive recommendations. The authors argued that the Jewish future would be better served by focusing resources on the core of affiliated Jews and not on those Jews sitting at the margins of Jewish life. Given the limited nature of Jewish resources, why would we do anything but direct our efforts at those already predisposed to affiliation? Day schools, synagogues, Jewish camping – these are the “in-reach” efforts that will bring the greatest return on investment. Well intended as it may be, outreach to the unaffiliated is throwing good money after bad. Besides they argued, if we are really interested in saving American Jewry, is it not a bit misguided to appeal to the lowest common denominator? Not only, their reasoning goes, does such a stance neglect those seeking an “authentic” Jewish expression, but Jews on the periphery are actually more likely to respond to traditional
modes of Jewish expression, and not some bland, soulless “Jewish lite,” denuded of the very substance that makes Judaism worth fighting for in the first place. Twenty years and a Pew study later, the debate rages on, both in principle and pragmatics. With limited resources, shall we focus on the core or on the margins of communal life? It is not just a theoretical question, but one that plays out in my rabbinate all the time. Let me give you a recent example. A few Sundays ago, I officiated at a baby naming for a beautiful little girl. Neither the child nor the parents were members of the Synagogue, but the grandparents were. They called me on behalf of their child asking if I, as their rabbi, could be present for the naming. From there, I went to a board meeting for a campus Hillel at a university where a disproportionately large number of young people from this congregation attend. The question on the table was how congregational rabbis can collaborate with Hillel directors to integrate our kids into Jewish campus life and then, hopefully, back into congregations after graduation from college. One of the many ideas discussed was the possibility of my spending a Shabbat on that campus next fall, inviting our kids and their friends for Shabbat dinner with their rabbi – and in doing so – deliver them, as it were, into the hands of the campus rabbi. Later that evening, I met up with a group of about eighteen successful young professionals, all but one unaffiliated, many children of this congregation, who, to their great credit, took time out of their schedules to serve meals to the homeless at the Bowery Mission. We did a mitzvah, they connected with each other and, despite the fact that they do not enter the synagogue other than on the High Holidays – in some circuitous way they connected to their rabbi and, by extension, their Judaism.
A baby naming, a Hillel meeting, an evening serving meals to the homeless, each act, I hope you will agree, worthwhile if not noble. But the thought did occur to me that under a strict definition of resource allocation, my time that day was not spent serving the membership of this community. “Rabbi,” I can imagine some board member saying: “You are paid to serve the 1500 family units of this congregation. That time you spent with the unaffiliated young professionals should have been spent doing visits to home-bound congregants. That baby naming you did … if that parent is old enough to draw a paycheck and father a child, he can darn well join a synagogue. And as for you taking a fall Shabbat to make a campus visit, let’s be clear – you are paid to be on the bimah of this synagogue week-in and weekout. Rabbi, its not that any of these activities are objectionable, but if you spend your time running after those Jews who are not here, then you risk making the Jews who are here feel they are being taken for granted and – even worse – neglected.” There is no one crisp answer to the question, but it is the question of our time, and I think it can and should be added to your seder table discussions two days from now. The Haggadah is a story about many things – national liberation from slavery to freedom, the fulfillment of a divine promise, the recitation of sacred history. But at its core, I believe, the seder is about a journey – not only geographical, but also spiritual – a story of homecoming. “In every generation, you must see yourself as if you personally came out of Egypt.” This is the objective, to feel yourself at home in the narrative of our people. It is a goal that remains elusive for far too many. Think about it. Why is the very first statement of the Haggadah not about welcoming those present, but acknowledging those who are not: “Let all who are needy come and celebrate Passover.” Why does the entire ritual begin (Mah Nishtanah) and end (Who knows one?) with questions that immediately level the playing field? If there was ever a ritual attuned to the person coming in from
the outside, it is the seder. It isn’t just the wicked child who is alienated: three out of the four children have no idea what is going on. “From the beginning,” the Haggadah clarifies, our ancestors were idol worshippers … but now, we are called to God’s service.” The Haggadah’s curricular goal is two-fold. First, to encourage participants to identify with the core narrative of our people, and also to remind us of those who remain spiritually alienated, a demographic from which we can never disconnect because it is a demographic that once was us. As God said to Abraham: “Know well that your descendants will be strangers in a land not their own …” Even as, especially as, we gather at the seder table, we are made aware of those who remain in a condition of spiritual exile, and the Haggadah reminds us of our obligations to bring them back home. Put simply, maybe the message of the Haggadah is that we, as a people, are a mixed multitude. From the four different kinds of children to the variations among contemporary Jews, we are not and have never been homogeneous. We need to be brought home by means as diverse as our varied constitutions. On a communal level, we must be willing to educate each other regarding the tipping points of Jewish identity and to be in constant dialogue on the roles that Jewish institutions play in impacting Jewish life. Day schools and Birthright, Jewish camping and campus outreach, AIPAC and AJWS. Yes, there are limited resources, but it is not an either/ or proposition. As a synagogue, our first mission must be to articulate the unique role congregations like ours play as drivers of Jewish identity. In prayer, in study, in joy and sorrow, in community with each other and the greater people of Israel over a lifetime – no other institution can lay claim to our differentiated role. Yes, we are a membership organization – that is and will always be our first priority. But our mission extends beyond our walls and membership to young professionals, people considering conversion, teens, and social justice projects, to name but a few. When it comes to Jewish identity, return on investment should
never be measured strictly by way of members served. It is not an easy balancing act, and it is a struggle I face every day. In a sense, the task of a contemporary rabbi is no different than the role of the prophet Elijah as described in today’s Haftarah. “To turn the hearts of parents to their children, and those of the children to their parents.” Religious leadership then, and now, is an act of mediating between the generations, helping each side understand, appreciate and validate narratives and needs different from their own. A final word: As I clicked to print this sermon yesterday, an email arrived in my inbox, at 3:13 pm to be exact. The sender was not a member in their own right, but a child and grandchild of congregants. I officiated at the wedding a few years ago, and knowing me, I imagine the question occurred to me in our pre-wedding meetings and at the Saturday night ceremony, how it could be possible that this bride and groom, both accomplished beyond their young years, just couldn’t get around to sending in a shul membership form. I never said anything, we celebrated their wedding, and I never really heard from them again. So you can imagine my smile when I read the following words yesterday: “Dear Rabbi Cosgrove, We just wanted to reach out because although we already feel like we belong in the PAS community, we are interested in becoming official members of the synagogue and, in particular, getting involved in the young couple activities. How should we go about this? Thanks. Happy Pesach! Sent from my iPhone.” Nobody, not even a rabbi, can predict the timing or path of a person’s return. But Passover teaches that if we leave our doors open, we never know who might just walk in. There are, in every generation, those longing to return, some who realize it, and others who don’t. The story of redemption is ongoing. May the doors of our community, our shul and our homes be wide enough to provide a homecoming to all who seek entry.
Kosher oc Magazine // April 2015 |
Why Bibi Won and What It Means By Ilene Schneider
It was a time for high drama. The polls in Israel predicted up to the last minute that the March 17 election for the twentieth Knesset would be close and that the incumbent party might lose. Israelis went to bed not knowing which way it was going to go. Initially, exit polls reported a virtual tie between the Likud and the Zionist Union, a coalition headed by Leader of the Opposition Isaac Herzog and former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dissolved the previous government in December, necessitating an early election. The ruling coalition disagreed about the budget and the definition of the state of Israel. The Labor Party and Hatnuah formed a coalition, called Zionist Union, with the hope of defeating the Likud party, which had led the previous governing coalition along with Yisrael Beiteinu, Yesh Atid, The Jewish Home and Hatnuah. The final election turnout was 72.3%, 4.6% higher than in the previous election and the highest since the 1999 elections, which saw a 78.7% turnout. Both Netanyahu and Herzog 44
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began attempts to build a coalition in preparation for a possible government. The next morning it became evident that Likud had won by a wide margin. The Israelis had spoken, but many American Jews, as well as the President of their country, were less than pleased. Israelis were quick to point out that it was democracy in action. Those supporting Likud expressed concern for Iran’s intentions, coupled with the instability of many governments in the Middle East. While some acknowledged the need for various social reforms in Israel, the priority for the majority of Israelis is to be sure that there is a Jewish state. Netanyahu looked strong and leaderlike when he addressed the U.S. Congress about Iran, but he did it against the wishes of U.S. President Barack Obama. Historically, Israel – the only real democracy in the Middle East — has been able to count on the United States for support. Several years ago Martin Fletcher, the news correspondent, alluded to a change in American-Israeli relations when
he spoke at the Merage Jewish Community Center. It appears that we might be at that point, unless it is simply a personality conflict between leaders. During the final hours of his campaign, Netanyahu said that a two-state solution would not happen under his watch. He later clarified that he was not convinced that he had a negotiating partner to create a peaceful Palestinian state, but Obama does not seem to accept or believe it. Some Congressional Democrats, as well as leaders of Jewish organizations, have expressed their concern. “The U.S. now has to climb off, climb down, tone down and find an opportunity to say something positive,” said Abraham Foxman, the AntiDefamation League’s national director, who had encouraged Netanyahu not to speak to Congress before the election. We can only hope that the President takes Foxman’s advice.
Defining “Pro-Israel” Is a Serious Matter By Ilene Schneider
When Eric Fingerhut took over as president and chief executive officer of Hillel International in 2013, he said that he sought to build the Jewish future by “welcoming, engaging, inspiring and supporting Jewish students of all backgrounds.” Fingerhut wanted to allow universities to have some freedom about the inclusion of Jewish organizations on campus, because there are various interpretations of Zionism. At the same time he wanted campuses to adhere to Hillel International’s “Guidelines for Campus Israel Activities” of not inviting speakers or organizations who deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state or support boycott, divest and sanction (BDS) against Israel. Shortly after Fingerhut assumed his position, Hillel experienced a major controversy when the chapter at Swarthmore College declared itself an “Open Hillel,” choosing to welcome all guest speakers and student organizations, whether or not they support Zionism. Fingerhut said, “Let me be very clear – “anti-Zionists” will not be permitted to speak using the Hillel name or under the Hillel roof, under any circumstances.” Chapters of JStreet U, the college arm of JStreet – a left-leaning organization that describes itself as “pro-Israel, propeace” — were just beginning to take hold on some campuses. Fingerhut favored an approach where Hillel organizations on campus could decide
on a case-by-case basis whether they wanted to affiliate with JStreet. Fingerhut’s reasoning was that it is the mission of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to support the government of Israel. Because a large percentage of students are raised in the homes of parents who identify with liberal politics, they might take issue with the policies of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. JStreet, he believed, would give them another perspective. In fact, Fingerhut made a commitment to speak at the JStreet National Conference March 21 to 24. A few days before the conference, he withdrew from participation because of the presence of Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator who has made inflammatory statements in the past and has recently compared Israel to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the terrorist group battling a U.S.-led alliance. JStreet U delegates were so angry that they staged a protest in which they marched from the Washington Convention Center to Hillel’s offices, where they criticized Fingerhut’s decision to withdraw from his speaking engagement at the conference and asked him to commit to meeting with them. He committed to doing so, noting the gap that exists between approaches to Israel programming.
JStreet participants were and what they ostensibly said makes us wonder how the organization can call itself pro-Israel and pro-peace. One of the speakers was James Baker – George H.W. Bush’s secretary of state and advisor to Jeb Bush — who was known to be hostile to the Jews during the “Bush 41” administration. Another of the speakers, Marcia Freedman, reportedly said in a JStreet panel discussion on Liberal Zionism, that the Jewish people should not have a state and that instead they should live in an Arab Palestine as a “protected minority.” Giving people a forum to air their views is the democratic way, and debate is encouraged as the Jewish way. It has come up many times on many college campuses that free speech is not only acceptable but necessary. When it degenerates into hate speech, those in charge have to draw the line. While a college campus can be considered an open forum for all views, a pro-Israel organization has to be sure that its speakers promote what is best for Israel. Differences of opinion can and should exist, but when an organization welcomes as speakers people who advocate that Israel should not be a state or that the so-called Israel lobby in the US is irrelevant, that’s where we draw the line.
Hearing who some of the other Kosher oc Magazine // April 2015 |
Trial by Peers or Jury? By Robin Silver-Zwiren
When Moses came down Har Sinai with the first set up tablets, he saw the Golden Calf and was so shocked he dropped his precious package. Moshe had left his brother, Aaron, and other tribal leaders in charge, so he may have well been quite dismayed by the actions. However, the citizens greatly outnumbered their leaders. Moshe had told them he would return in 40 days. They miscounted when getting confused with whether it was 40 days or 40 nights. All those years in slavery, and now they were free. In their minds, another ruler had let them down and they revolted. They made an idol of their own, the Golden Calf, like so many other gods that adorned Egypt. There is nothing worse than feeling let down by a leader. Any mentor should be a leader, whether political, a parent or a teacher. My 87-year-old father still screams that he demands
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respect from his children. Decades ago, when I was a teen, I used to reply “to get it you have to give it!” Not that it has done any good in this case, but I have chosen to raise my own children differently. I try to live by example, to be as fair and just a ruler as I can be. I try to be consistent. Although there is a commandment to honor parents, I want them to do so because they also love and respect me. I don’t want them growing up fearing that if they disagree, they will be slapped either. From a young age, I have valued their opinions even if we do not always agree. Sometimes I do have to pull the “because I am your parent, that is why” card, but just as often I am the friend they reach out to in times of need. When I was a youth group leader and then a teacher, I was much the same. Not every rabbi or principal thought my methods were best. In my Orthodox
youth group, my methods were not always approved of, as I would put my arms around a teen in need, whether female or male. In classrooms I would often get down on the floor to be on the same level as my students. When I was chaperone on a senior class trip, I was not with the group of teachers who stayed amongst themselves. I walked around with a group of the students from my all girls’ yeshiva high school because they asked me to join them. I was more than a dozen years older than them but I was filled with pride that they wanted me to be with them. Many years have passed since those girls have graduated from high school. They are married with kids of their own. A few weeks ago one posted something on Facebook about the teachers who have impacted her most, and I was one of the three. I think that is really amazing. Rachel had/has
learning issues. I taught her English and history for two years. I taught her that it was okay for her to express herself in her writing without being ashamed of her grammatical mistakes. In fact, because I was teaching several students with dyslexia, I created a new marking system. Rather than giving one total grade which would result in their getting a less than perfect score, I gave one “M” for mechanics and an “E” for effort. So if their paper was marked in lots of red for spelling and sentence structure errors, but I knew they tried hard, they got a boost in the effort component. The “ME” scores were then averaged to give them a grade. It worked really well. It must have, because more than 25 years later, my students are still writing about how I helped give them a way to improve and grow. Too bad other teachers I have mentioned this to have not tried it out in their classrooms too! Growing up with an authoritarian father who insisted I say it is black, even if it was white, just because he said so, made me question all that much more. However, I try hard to know the answer before commenting on it – even if others think I am too brash and judgmental. I do not believe that a Rabbi has every answer because they too are human. However I do expect more of those who are our rabbis and teachers. Then again, I expect the same of other parents as we are all teachers. When people tell us how wonderful our children are, every parent is filled with pride. When our children act kindly towards others, it is a reflection of our parenting skills. If our children are self centered, booze and drug addicted, it also says something about the household role models. My kids are certainly not perfect, but all in all I think they are okay. I know this, because others use them as examples when they speak, and people reading this tell me so. Teachers should feel as if every student is their child — that if a student succeeds it is because these teachers made a positive impact. Teachers, like parents, must understand that every child is different and may need to learn different teaching styles. Not
every child can write or memorize well. Teachers must be creative. They must be able to “think outside the box” or textbook, so that their classrooms are a positive environment for all. Kindergarten classrooms are bright and cheery. Teachers greet their students with big smiles on their faces. Each child feels safe and loved. If only the Upper School experience were the same? How much more could our children learn if they felt their teachers believed in them? How much more productive could they be if they felt that teachers truly valued their opinions? When students meet with a teacher who sincerely listens to their words, who says they have a lot to offer, it means so much. When another teacher tells them one thing and a peer another, thus lying to both, the relationship will not blossom. It will fester like a raw, open wound. Which one is the successful teacher? Which is the one the student will still be talking about with admiration and gratitude 25 years later?
them along the way by being strong, The Passover Seder service concludes with “L’shana Haba b”Yerushalayim,” next year in Jerusalem. We may not all be in Israel, but that is fine. The “goldineh medina” our Eastern European ancestors meant was America where they thought the streets were paved with gold and life would be easy. Their journeys were not always easy, but they paved the way for the lives we have now. We have been blessed with so many opportunities, but our Jewish heritage is supreme. The hardships B’nai Yisroel, the children of Israel, lived with: what our ancient ancestors schlepped through the desert to receive is ours now. How the world views the Jewish people is because each and everyone of us represents our Jewish tribe. Hoping we continue to have positive role models to help us with the journey.
I think we all know who is the better role model and advisor. It is unfortunate that the worst teachers do not often see themselves in that light. How often are the tenured college professors the worst teachers? They publish a lot and are admired by their community of peers, but their students are displeased with their leadership skills. The same goes for any teacher who has been at a school so long that he or she feels safe and above reproach. This should not be. Actions have repercussions. The tribal leaders standing by Har Sinai who could not control even their extended family members, without Moshe’s guidance were not doing their job well enough. They needed the Ten Commandments to set rules and standards for everyday life. The people needed accessible, brilliant mentors who could help guide them along the way. The only way to have better leaders for the future is to give them the skills they need as youngsters. It is up to us as parents, youth advisors and teachers to give them the skills to succeed and to help Kosher oc Magazine // April 2015 |
Blind Faith By Robin Silver-Zwiren
Blind faith, like the adage “Love is Blind,” is true in so many circumstances. Blind faith is believing in someone and ignoring his or her faults. Blind faith is putting someone so high up on a pedestal that the person seems to be superhuman -- so high up that the person himself also begins to believe he is above the rest of us. Blind faith can sometimes be a dangerous thing. Take those who follow people like Al Quada’s Osama bin Laden so far as to believe that flying planes into the World Trade Center buildings is a positive thing. Then there are those who kidnap women because Boko Harem leaders say it is necessary. Or what about ISIS, a militant force, that tortures its captives? Or Hamas who now controls Gaza and hopes one day to have all of the State of Israel? All these militant forces believe nonMuslims, “infidels,” should suffer hell on earth and they make sure to make it happen. Not all our devotion goes to people as dangerous as these terrorist groups. Many people believe that the spoiled Kardashian sisters are fashion icons and we should follow their trend. Should Kim’s huge derriere really be something that should be accentuated by her wardrobe? Cher certainly pushed the limits, but few people copied her style on a daily basis. 48
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Personally, I think that certain areas need to be covered up, and it has less to do with my religious bent than common sense. It does go to these people’s heads, which is sad. We are all part of the paparazzi that follow them around, whether it be in a shopping mall, Facebook or Twitter. I know I am guilty of reading magazines like People but keep away from The Enquirer. For some reason Beyoncé and Jay Z feel it necessary for a cavalcade to bring their 3-year-old to preschool. Even if they have followers, is it right for them to disrupt the lives of other parents at their school because they believe their child is more special? If our own devotion was not so strong, maybe there would be fewer divas. It is not just terrorists and superstars who are put high on pedestals by their followers. What about the rabbis, and priests, individuals that people believe are infallible? These people are only human, and they too make mistakes. Rabbi Barry Freundel certainly proved that with his peeping at ladies going to the mikveh. This case really bothers me, because decades ago when he was still a college student, he was one of my advisors. I would never have believed that such a well known and respected rabbi would stoop to this level, but he did. If only his “rabbi” title could be revoked in the same way a
doctor or lawyer could lose his license if he is caught doing something as disreputable. Is it any different for people to follow Chassidic Rabbis so blindly? Chassidut is an Eastern European, Ashkenazi tradition. The Sephardim of Arab lands did not have Chassidic masters teaching them. They followed sages like Ramban and Ibn Ezra more than Rashi. Sephardi Chabad Center’s are a bit of an oxymoron. Then again, so are Sephardim who wear Chassidic garb. The Chassidic movement that started with the Ba’al Shem Tov was not too popular at first. Then emissaries were sent out to communities not as close to major cities. The people in the shtetls were less educated. They may have spoken several languages, especially as the borders changed so frequently. However, many were illiterate. They only davened the prayers they knew by heart. The rabbis showed them a new way to reach a spiritual high. They sang and danced to niggunim tunes. Some adopted one style black hat while other communities a different style brim. Some wore knickers with white socks; some wore long pants and black ones. Even today, you can tell which Chassidic sect someone is from by his hat and side curls.
Before long, people were quoting their rebbes as if they were demigods. In pre-WWII Eastern Europe, many of these rebbes told parents not to let their children go to Palestine, because the country was not religious enough. Instead, they were herded into cattle cars and slaughtered at Auschwitz and other camps. Yet, there are those who continue to follow blindly, and this is not a Jewish concept. It is just like those who believed Shabbatai Zvi was the Messiah, which he was not any more than he was a prophet. Although a prophet is someone who speaks to people and has many followers, we can’t just dole out the title to people nowadays. Biblical stories introduce us to prophets, great people given the title not because they could see into the future but because they spoke for G-d. Miriam the prophetess was the first anointed with the title by Hashem. Moshe/ Moses, Yehoshua/Joshua, Shmuel/ Samuel, Eliyahu/Elijah and the others mentioned in Tanach are hard acts to follow. There may even be 10 prophets in each generation. Maybe the Lubavitcher Rebbe was one, but Mashiach he was not. There was no way that once he was dead, he was coming back to life. Some devout followers have yet to come to terms with that. One of my much-cherished uncles passed away within minutes of the rebbe. At the time my cousin said maybe they were all believing in the wrong one. For our family my uncle meant just as much. Nevertheless, neither was resurrected, just as Jesus was not thousands of years ago. Our devotion to people, no matter how great they are, should not control our everyday thoughts and actions. Hashem gave humans freedom. Living in a democracy, we should be able to express our thoughts and ideas. That is something that the extremist Muslim leaders are trying to stifle in their citizens. I just watched a YouTube video of a flash mob scene in Israel. Dozens of people young and old rose to dance. Belly dancers in their colorful,
immodest outfits joined in. The crowd of Jews, Muslims and Christians clapped along to the music. Religious men and women did not turn away either. What a vibrant life, especially for a Middle Eastern land! Israel, unlike the countries that surround her, is a democracy. The flash mob scene certainly proved it. Israel is a democracy that so many leaders worldwide are trying to end. As I wrote this, they were counting ballots in Israel. Regardless of the outcome, the citizens are certainly better off than most countries -- people get to vote for who they want and it actually counts. Women in burkas head to the polls, and my thought was where else in the Middle East would their vote count? Where could they even vote, let alone drive a car to the polling center! Yet the democracy in the US is unhinged. The so-called leaders are still kvetching about how Bibi spoke in Congress without the okay from the President. Get over it, Obama! Better for you to be making deals with Iran, even though that is not what the citizens of this country want? In November the electors voted, and now both the House and Senate are controlled by Republicans. What that means is Democrats have a minority government. That occurred in Canada, and when the majority won a vote, the Prime Minister was out. PM Trudeau was back in power thankfully. If only US policy could do the same. Instead, Obama thinks himself a prophet to the people. Unfortunately, all too many continue to believe in him and the Democratic Party. My Russian-born Zaydie was a socialist to the core. That meant voting for anyone other than a liberal was not acceptable. My father used to believe the same but now even votes conservative. PM Steven Harper continues to be a staunch supporter of Israel. Kudos to him and his party for believing that there should always be a democratic state of Israel in the Middle East. When Alan and I married, we said we were a mixed family. He has always been a Republican, and I followed my
family tradition (of that time) and voted Democrat. Skip forward and even he says I am further right in my leanings than he is. However as a proud Jew, I just can’t support a party that denigrates Israel. Obama, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton continue to do that as they negotiate with countries like Iran. The blind faith so many have in being Democrats instead of being free thinkers really upsets me. We need more citizens of this free country opening their eyes and seeing the future if we continue to vote for Democrats who do not really stand for democracy. It is time to stop listening to Obama kvetch about how Bibi shamed him when his own actions shame our citizens daily. I remember Benghazi. I remember the World Trade Center. I remember how Obama played golf on Christmas instead of going to church. When was the last time the President of these United States saluted the flag or wore a flag pin on his lapel? When will his staunch supporters realize that he is human and has (many) faults? Look at what is happening worldwide and ask yourself if you want your children growing up with Sharia law? Did your ancestors come to the “free world” so that their descendants could once again live in a land of pogroms? A land where kippot are not accepted by a hijab? A land where you are embarrassed to say you are Jewish, or even Christian, because you are a repressed minority. A land where Nazi signs deface public buildings and our children fear. Bad enough those in terrorist-controlled lands have to fear daily life, but we should not. We don’t live with demi-gods. We live amongst humans, some with more faults than others. It is time for us to use our G-d given free will to see that Hollywood stars should not be put on a pedestal any more than politicians. Don’t let your “blind faith” make you so blind that you can’t see the light in front of your eyes. Use the light, that of a reasonable G-d, to pave your way into finding truth and morality.
Kosher oc Magazine // April 2015 |
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