August 2016

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Table of Contents FEATURED 3. Justice for All 4. Marcus-Dubinsky Wedding

ORANGE COUNTY 6. Investing in Education 8. Creative and Collaborative 9. Aloha to our Heritage 10. Opinions of Israel 11. Jewish Events in Orange County

NEWS & POLITICS 14. Turkey: After the Failed Coup, Fascism

LIFE + RELIGION 16. Interest and Introspection

OPINION + MORE 19. Where’s the Beef?

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Hello Readers

Welcome to Jewish Orange County Kosher OC Magazine 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. ZACH MILLER




Justice for All

TVT Speakers Series begins with judicial activist Bryan Stevenson. By Ilene Schneider

TVT Community Day School in Irvine is launching the 2016-2017 speakers series that will feature “leading experts that promote our values of truth, kindness, respect, repairing the world, justice and community,” according to Dr. Jeffrey Davis, TVT head of school. He added, “The series explores the past, present and future perspectives to bridge multigenerational understanding within our community.” Leading off the series is Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Montgomery, Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative, on Wednesday, August 24, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Stevenson will be available to sign his book, Just Mercy, after the talk. “Mr. Stevenson is one of the most acclaimed and respected social justice lawyers in the nation,” said Dr. Davis. “He has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned.” Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a legal practice dedicated to defending the poor, the wrongly condemned and those trapped in the furthest reaches of the U.S. criminal justice system, asserts

that the opposite of poverty is justice. The organization has won legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill and aiding children prosecuted as adults. EJI recently won an historic ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court holding that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger are unconstitutional. As a result of Stevenson’s work fighting poverty and challenging racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, he has won him numerous awards. A graduate of the Harvard Law School and the Harvard School of Government and the recipient of 22 honorary doctorate degrees, he was named to the Time 100 recognizing the world’s most influential people in 2015. Recently, he was named in Fortune’s 2016 World’s Greatest Leaders list. Just Mercy is Stevenson’s memoir of a young lawyer fighting

to defend Walter McMillian, a young man sentenced to die for a notorious murder he did not commit. The case drew Stevenson into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination and legal brinksmanship – and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever. The book, a New York Times best-seller, “is as gripping as it is disturbing,” wrote Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu, “as if America’s soul has been put on trial.”

answers from 7 to 8 p.m. and the book signing from 8 to 8:30 p.m. General-admission tickets are $18 for the event or $36 for the series, which also includes a program featuring Deborah E. Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, on March 16. For the VIP reception and ticket, the cost is $36 per event or $72 for the series. The book, Just Mercy, is $20. 

The event will include a VIP reception from 6 to 7 p.m., the program with questions and


Community Breakfast WITH SPECIAL GUEST SPEAKER MICAH HALPERN “Inside a Terrorist Mind” Sunday, September 11, 2016 9:30 – 11:30 am Merage Jewish Community Center of Orange County One Federation Way • Irvine, CA 92603 Register by September 5 to or 949.260.0400 x964. EVENT CHAIRS:

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Marcus-Dubinsky Wedding Mushka, daughter of Rabbi Zalman and Bassie Marcus, marries Zalmy Dubinsky. By Kosher OC Staff

Mushka, the daughter of Rabbi Zalman and Bassie Marcus, married Zalmy Dubinsky on July 6. This is a recap of the event. Mazel tov to all! – Ed. The first glimpse of the wedding festivities, held at the Norman P. Murray Community Center of Mission Viejo, was of the beautiful wedding chupah. The large wedding canopy was designed with florals, a cut glass chandelier and a curtain of crystals glimmering like diamonds in the background.

Hundreds of white chairs fanned out on the lawn for guests. The Marcus family first came to Mission Viejo when Mushka was just a tiny child, the oldest of nine children. Because the congregation has watched her grow up, Bassie and Zalman Marcus made sure to invite the entire CJC community to be a part of this milestone family simcha. Mission Viejo’s community center is a spectacular event venue. Combine this sensational setting

with the extraordinary decorating concepts of Batsheva Bollinger from Shevi’s Events (working closely with Bassie), and you get an unforgettable wedding masterpiece! The extensive patio, with tables and chairs, plus curtained cabana style seating nooks, rocky fountains gently splashing and attractive trees providing a refreshing bit of breeze was where guests gathered for the Kabbalat Panim. The beautiful bride sat upon a pretty white “throne” against a backdrop of artistic floral design where she greeted guests and received a chorus of lilting “Mazel Tov’s” from the women. Over on the other side of the patio, the groom was being feted by the fellas. Then the Badeken or veiling ceremony began with the arrival of the chatan (groom), escorted by the fathers, with the procession of guests following. As they arrived at the bride’s throne, the groom, Zalmy, then covered Mushka’s face with a veil, a custom originating from the matriarch, Rebecca. Mushka’s veil was a special family heirloom brought by her maternal great aunt. Guests then proceeded to the chupah, which was set up



beneath the open sky, even as it was flanked by the big, beautiful trees. This symbolizes the home the couple will make where their commitment to Torah and heavenly ideals will be expressed. Rabbi Marcus welcomed the large crowd and explained a bit about the parts of the ceremony — including the marriage contract or ketubah — and how the underlying spiritual themes of a Jewish wedding are so holy that they connect the bride and groom to G-d with his creation. Later, as the circling of the bride around the groom occurs and the circular rings are exchanged, these also symbolize creation and the infinite connection to the divine. Rabbi Marcus then figuratively switched hats (both black of course), from Rabbi to Father of the Bride. The procession of the groom accompanied by fathers and grandfathers (brides and grooms), and the young sisters and nieces, in their matching gowns, dropping petals on the walkway, followed eventually by the queenly arrival of the bride, escorted by the mothers and grandmother, was indeed a royal, stately and enthralling entrance! Candles were held by the escorts to symbolize the


fervent wish that the couple’s life together be filled with light and joy. The entire entourage joined in the seven revolutions around the groom by the bride, again symbolizing creation, completion and commitment. Chaim Marcus, brother of the Rabbi provided wisdom and wit with microphone in hand as he guided guests through the chupah happenings. Mushka’s Uncle Eli Marcus sang a traditional song welcoming this new union of souls and then her Uncle Zalman Kantor read The Rebbe’s letter blessing the marriage. Following were the Kiddushin, the Ketubah and the Sheva Berachot. Honored participants in those ceremonies were special relatives and family friends. With one last symbolic breaking of the glass by the groom (including a rehearsal stomp), the crowd joyously chanted “MAZEL TOV” as Mushka and Zalmy Dubinsky were proclaimed united, body and soul, in matrimony! At the reception Pedouth Isti from Elegance & Kosher Catering, put on a buffet of carved fruit followed by an assortment of breads and mini challot, a luscious hummus

spread, salad bar, spring greens salad with toppings and dressing choices, salmon and sushi rolls and a full Moroccan feast — meat kabobs, borrekas, sautéed summer veggies, huge platters of rice and a Middle Eastern eggplant and olive melange treat. The celebratory dancing brought everyone inside the NPM Center’s large ballroom, decorated with tables on either side of the center divider separating the men and women. Purple and pink mood lighting gave the room a party feel. Dessert was served on a buffet table outside in the garden off the patio. More dancing got underway following the Birkat Hamazon (grace after meals) and another recitation of the Sheva Berachot, the same seven blessings that were recited beneath the chupah. 

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Investing in Education

Merage JCC launches new education initiative with Mark Lazar at the helm. By Kosher OC Staff

The Merage Jewish Community Center has launched a new education initiative to “invest in the future of Jewish education for all in Orange County,” according to a press release. The closure of the Bureau of Jewish Education left no central resource in Orange County for Jewish education. The JCC intends to “deliver multiple and flexible forms of Jewish education to all ages,” including everything from informal education to professional development.

years’ experience spanning diverse global settings, topics and audiences. Lazar, a native Californian who has lived in Israel, “is known for his handson, experiential learning style,” the JCC said. According to the press release, “He has been a member of the Screen Actors Guild, the Writers’ Guild and the American Guild of Variety Artists. With long hair and a penchant for tie-dyed t-shirts, Mark promises to surprise Orange County in many ways.”

Heading the program is Mark Lazar, a professional Jewish educator with more than 20

The JCC is planning to start the first year of its education initiative with a professional

development curriculum for teachers and staff at all 14 preschools in Orange County. Additionally, religious school and Hebrew school teachers in Orange County will take part in high level professional development programs. Another aspect of the program is Jewish education for families and youth through a menu of learning experiences. Included are Young Philanthropists, a giving circle for teens; concerted and family social action experiences based on the JCC Cares Family Initiative that recently garnered the 2016 Zahav Award, or gold medal, nationally

for inspirational programming; and JCC Global Teen FellowsAmitim, an exchange program for teens with partners in Mexico and Israel. In an effort to strengthen the community’s connections to Israel, the JCC will “host outstanding speakers and offer seminars on various aspects of Israeli life, arts, and culture will increase Jewish OC’s knowledge of the modern State of Israel and foster a stronger connection to the Jewish homeland.” There is also a program called Interfaith Connections, giving interfaith couples information and

Available at


resources to make Jewish choices for their families. In the future, the JCC plans to put a teacher resource library online with a blog, resources and links. Other objectives in the second and third year of the initiative are to lead educational tours to Israel; host teen, tween and family weekend retreats/ Shabbatons; establish an Israel program desk dedicated to providing individuals with information, resources and links to Israelrelated organizations; add a teen trip to Poland and Israel with a focus on in-depth Holocaust education; and develop teen and adult programs on leadership and models of Jewish leaders. “The JCC’s mark of innovation on Jewish education lies in expanding from the traditional JCC priorities on fitness, early childhood education and camps to include equal emphasis on Jewish space and Jewish education,” explained Merage JCC’s President and CEO Dan Bernstein. “Under this new strategy, we embrace the concept of becoming a ‘destination’ for Jews – a Jewish space to experience and learn Judaism in everyday activities. We intend to pioneer Jewish space strategies in Orange County.” 




Creative and Collaborative Temple Beth El of South Orange County has history of innovation. By Ilene Schneider

“Temple Beth El has a long history of creating a congregation that reflects who we are, of creating a synagogue that meets the community members’ needs,” said Rabbi Rachel Kort, one of two staff rabbis at the Aliso Viejo-based congregation. She explained how Temple Beth El developed a Shabbat-based education program that helped students to learn hands-on lessons about Shabbat while bringing families into the building on Friday. At the same time as the Shabbat Chai program started, the congregation became dually affiliated with the Reform and Conservative movements. One of a few congregations in the country that are affiliated with both movements, Temple Beth El “embraces the pluralism of the greater Jewish community within our congregation so we can provide a Jewish home for those who identify with either of these movements and for those who are just looking to connect and express their Jewish selves,” according to its website. “We have two main stories that are unique,” added Rabbi K’vod Wieder, the other staff rabbi. “We’re moving forward 8


in a collaborative and nonhierarchical way as co-rabbis with neither of us higher than the other. We partner with Cantor Natalie Young, Executive Director Bonni Pomush, the board and other lay leaders to create our future direction.” While each of the two rabbis was ordained in a different stream of Judaism, both are full partners in the life of the congregation, providing pastoral care and spiritual counseling to everybody. As Rabbi Kort said, “We’re one community with multiple practices, and the rabbis embrace and embody those values.” Rabbi Wieder explained that the rabbis are “trying to help the congregants articulate values important to them and values shared by both Reform and Conservative Jews.” That means making ritual accessible, looking at broader issues and keeping the approach both creative and grounded in tradition. “Most of what we do has little to do with denominationalism,” Rabbi Kort said. “We have a successful, supportive, caring community – a Jewish home for people, a place to engage with the world about social justice and issues such as addiction and

bullying, an environment that helps teens to navigate life and a venue for Jewish engagement about education.” Rabbi Wieder added that the congregation “could not do a lot of things if it did not honor the collaborative aspect.” Lay leaders, he said, are committed to address the needs of the community to connect, making such programs as Jerusalem Shabbat possible. “The goal is to create a synagogue where partnership, respect and relationships are the focus of all that we’re doing,” Rabbi Kort said. “Our collaboration is rooted in Torah. We’ve studied texts from our tradition together as models for the partnership and shared them with the community. We serve as each other’s rabbis, colleagues, equals and friends.” “People need to see and understand how this works to transcend the denominations,” Rabbi Wieder added. The two rabbis, who have been working together for five years, emphasized that there would be “new structures and dynamic programming” along with acknowledgement of the shared history of the congregation. After the High Holy Days, there

will be opportunities to join small groups for meaningful discussions, aiming to make meaningful connections. In December there will be a scholarin-residence program celebrating a book by the late Founding Rabbi Allen Krause about the role of Southern rabbis in the civil rights movement, followed by a social justice campaign. Other plans include participatory musical programs led by Cantor Young, “a premier composer, songleader and clergy colleague,” emphasizing that Temple Beth El is a “musically driven, joyful place to pray.” Rabbi Kort concluded, “We have developed a special relationship that makes us all stronger. We are truly one community with different options for worship services, and there is so much strength in not doing this alone.”


Aloha to our Heritage Life at Heritage Pointe includes fun, haimish activities. By Robin Silver-Zwiren

Aloha Heritage Pointe was the focus of the Hawaiian themed lunch on Wednesday, July 20. Residents listened to uplifting music while sporting lei necklaces. Living at Heritage Pointe is living a dream come true for so many seniors — sharing moments like this with new-found friends and often reuniting with childhood pals of long ago and bridging heritage to a positive point. The Aloha luncheon was just one of the many activities Heritage Pointe staff put on the calendar yearly. Heritage Pointe celebrates each resident’s birthday and all holidays. There are dances and other occasions that make life truly haimish. Ralph Resnick, the new spiritual leader, is upbeat and very excited to be part of such an amazing facility. He runs regular Shabbat services that take place in a beautiful, spiritual sanctuary. Heritage Pointe is truly a community where people with shared interests get time together and where opportunities to learn different things are also available.

Sheila remembers her days as a Morasha parent when the students came to build the first Sukkah at Heritage Pointe. Sandra’s son, Jake, did his Bar Mitzvah project centered around Heritage Pointe. Nowadays Sheila and Sandra do card making with interested residents. Whether it be a birthday card for another resident or family member, a Rosh Hashanah New Year’s Card or get well, the class is exciting and therapeutic. Just as important is the fact that the Stopnitzky and Greenberg families have taught their children the importance of giving back to the community and they certainly do. Heritage Pointe says that, “Our objective is to provide lifeenriching activities and events that benefit you in every aspect of living — physically, intellectually, socially, emotionally, creatively, spiritually, and vocationally”- and they succeed.  To tour Heritage Pointe or volunteer, call: (949) 364-9685.

Volunteers like Sheila Stopnitzky and Sandra Greenberg give residents a reason to get out of bed for one type of extraordinary monthly activity. KOSHER OC MAGAZINE // AUGUST 2016



Opinions of Israel Gordis and Beinart will debate at CBI. By Ilene Schneider

Two of the most engaging speakers about Israel are slated to hold a debate about Israel at Congregation B’nai Israel on Sunday, September 11, at 7 p.m. Rabbi Elie Spitz will moderate the debate, which is entitled “Israel, American Jews; What Matters Most?” Israel experts Dr. Daniel Gordis of Jerusalem and Peter Beinart of NYC will exchange contrasting opinions on how American Jews support Israel. The two wellknown political commentators have engaged in three public debates so far, marked by sharp distinctions in thoughtful and civil debate, and received with

rave reviews. Peter Beinart is an American columnist, journalist and political commentator who is often seen on Sunday morning national talk shows. He is associate professor of journalism and political science at City University of New York, a senior columnist at Haaretz and a contributor to The Atlantic and National Journal. A former editor of The New Republic, he has written for Time, The New York Times and The New York Review of Books, among other periodicals. He is the author of three books. Dr. Daniel Gordis is senior vice President and the Koret

Distinguished Fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem. He is a frequent speaker to AIPAC audiences. The author of numerous books on Jewish thought and current events in Israel and a recent winner of the National Jewish Book Award, he was the founding dean of rabbinical students at the University of Judaism. Bringing Gordis and Beinart to Orange County for this event will contribute to a better understanding of the issues surrounding the relationship between Israel and American Jews and give our community additional information and tools

to engage in our own respectful conversations and debates, according to event organizers. The community is invited to the event, which is underwritten by The Roslyn and Joseph Baim Family Foundation, Barbara and Joseph Baim in cooperation with The OC Community Scholar Program and Jewish Federation & Family Services, Orange County.  Tickets are available at www.cbi18. org. Prices are $50 reserved seating and 6 p.m. speakers’ reception; $25 reserved; $18 unreserved and $10 students. Congregation B’nai Israel is at 2111 Bryan Ave. Tustin 92782; (714) 730–9693;


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Turkey: After the Failed Coup, Fascism

Erdogan has established himself as a dictator and Turkey is dismantling what precious few civil liberties remain. By Ben Cohen and

We live in an era of resurgent, strongman leaders. Some of them, like Russian President Vladimir Putin, carry an aura of invincibility, a sense that they effortlessly control the levers of power at every level of state activity, from parliament to intelligence operations to the military. Some of them cling to power even as the states they created crumble under the weight of corruption, mismanagement, political repression, and economic degradation; Venezuela’s leader, Nicolas Maduro, is a prime example of this. Still others cling to power through brute force and mass murder, propped up by outside allies. The most obvious case here is the Syrian tyrant Bashar alAssad, who has lived another day thanks to his friends in Moscow and Tehran. There’s another class of strongman leader, who accumulates more and more power by presenting himself as the innocent victim of murky outside conspiracies, spinning his unfortunate condition as an attack on the sovereign will of the people, and not just upon himself or his political party. Case in point? Enter Turkish President 14


Recep Tayyip Erdogan. For a few hours on Friday, July 15, the world believed that Erdogan had been the target of a coup. Media attention that had been focused on the previous day’s terrorist atrocity in Nice, France, suddenly lurched towards Ankara and Istanbul, where tanks were in the streets, fighter jets were flying overhead, and state media was announcing the existence of something called a “peace council” that would henceforth manage the country’s crisis. Erdogan himself was rumored to have left the country, and there were even reports that he had requested asylum in Germany. But by Saturday, Erdogan and his cohorts were back in control. We will perhaps never know the true story of what happened during those fateful hours, but it is striking that this coup appears to have been so incompetently executed, all the more so in Turkey, which has had its fair share of violent transitions of power in the recent past. Certainly, Erdogan has reaped great rewards in the aftermath, which has seen him move several steps closer to the Sultan-like status he craves. Does that he

mean he staged the coup? I’ve always been highly skeptical of “false flag operation” theories, but if you’re hunting for one, you’re probably on more solid ground with the attempted coup in Turkey than you are with 9/11 in America or the assault on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris. Erdogan has named and blamed his most hated enemy, the Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, for the coup in which around 200 people were killed. The figurehead of a movement that blends fealty to Islam with a commitment to scientific inquiry and interfaith dialogue, Gulen was a close ally of Erdogan until 2013, following an enormous corruption scandal that was centered upon leading figures in the Turkish president’s ruling AKP Party, including Erdogan himself. Rather like Leon Trotsky, the founder of the Soviet Red Army who was hounded and chased out of the USSR by Joseph Stalin, Gulen has become an all-encompassing explanation for the existential threats, as Erdogan perceives them, that are currently plaguing Turkey. Stalin saw the influence of “Trotskyite counterrevolutionaries” everywhere, and

brutally purged every element of the Soviet apparatus. Erdogan is now doing much the same with the “Gulenist terrorists.” Since Trotsky himself was eventually assassinated in Mexico City in 1940, after more than a decade of wandering the globe, Gulen can be forgiven for wondering whether he will face a similar fate at his home in the Poconos— assuming, that is, that the Obama administration doesn’t accede to Erdogan’s demand that the cleric be extradited to his homeland. In Turkey itself, Erdogan has embarked up on a rapacious state-wide purge. Around 60,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants, and teachers have been suspended or detained, or are under investigation by the regime. At Istanbul University alone, nearly 100 academics have been ousted from their positions and all academics are now banned from traveling abroad. Nearly 700 private schools have been summarily closed down. The crackdown on the media— long the subject of Erdogan’s hatred, which means that Turkey is at number 151 in the global press freedom rankings, just below Tajikistan—has been especially fearsome, with 24 broadcasters having their licenses

revoked and dozens of Internet portals blocked. Erdogan can, at this time, claim the support of around half of Turkey’s population. The other half detests him. There were many anti-regime Turks who laughed bitterly when they saw Erdogan, as the coup was underway, imploring his people to get into the streets and demonstrate. They remembered, of course, the defeated uprising against Erdogan in 2013, when more than 8,000 were injured in clashes with the authorities and thousands more were arrested. Internally, Erdogan is far stronger now than in 2013, when more than 3 million Turks openly defied him. In terms of Turkey’s regional status, that is a slightly different matter. The regime has been humbled in its dealings with both Russia, with whom Erdogan has been at loggerheads over the war in Syria, and Israel, which endured his vulgar anti-Semitic rhetoric for more than a decade before reaching a reconciliation deal with Turkey in June. One might even marvel at the fact that Erdogan has purged more than 600 leading military officers at a time when you’d think he needs them, but remember that Stalin

did exactly the same. Erdogan has established himself as a dictator and Turkey—a NATO member and still a candidate for membership of the European Union—is dismantling what precious few civil liberties remain. There was a time when Turkey’s apologists, particularly in the American-Jewish community, sycophantically described the country as “the only democracy in the Middle East besides Israel.” Only the most foolish of them would do so now. This is what fascism looks like.


Interest and Introspection CSP: Marc Michael Epstein and the Lost Tribes Quest By Robin SIlver-Zwiren

More than 100 people bounded through the doors of University Synagogue to hear Marc Michael Epstein entertain us with his vast Jewish knowledge. This particular discussion took us on a trip through Jewish history and the dispersal of the lost tribes. Where did they go? Are those claiming to be our descendants really the lost tribes of Israel? After King Solomon died, the region was split into two with Judaea to the south and Israel to the north. When the Assyrians conquered the land of Israel in 701 BCE, they were not kind to the inhabitants. The Hebrews who escaped were integrated into the tribes of Judaea. Others were enslaved and/or forced to flee to other lands. The Assyrian Empire that besieged not only Israel but Egypt, Babylon, Cyprus, Syria and Mesopotamia lasted about 75 years. Assyria is no longer a nation with a homeland, unlike Israel where Hebrew-Jews have lived continuously. Nevertheless, the Assyrians left destruction and horror during their reign. The Hebrews who fled had to go somewhere. These lost tribes continue to be cause of interest and introspection. Many genetic studies today try to prove the 16


Hebrew-Jewish lineage of these ten lost tribes of Israel. Many historians even try to tie small tribes of people across the globe with “Jewishlike” traditions as one of the lost tribes. So if they circumcise their sons, greet others with some “shalom” like gesture and don’t eat pork, then they must be Jewish. However, are they really? Marc Michael Epstein reviewed the course of their travels and the historians that lay claim to their existence. However, Epstein himself denies that many of those who claim Hebrew lineage are in fact the lost tribes of ancient Israel. Manasseh ben Israel lived from 1604 to 1657. His parents left Lisbon after the auto-de-fe, and he spent most of his life in Amsterdam. He was tutored by a rabbi and became his successor. Ben Israel was married and had three children. He devoted his life to studying Jewish texts and Messianic probability. He believed that in order for the Holy Land to be restored and the Messiah to come, Jews needed to be able to settle across the globe. “Esperanca de Israel,” the “Hope of Israel,” was published in 1650. It attracted other theologians, artists and community leaders. Rembrandt was even included in

his circle of friends. Even Oliver Cromwell listened and began to settle Jews in England in hopes that the resurrection would occur sooner. Jesus may not have returned, but thousands of Jews found a new life in the United Kingdom. Why is Manasseh ben Israel so interesting to those studying the Lost Tribes of Israel? Ben Israel was very interested in the Lost Tribes. In 1644 Antonio de Montesinos (Aaron Levi) tried to convince ben Israel that the Native Americans were the Ten Lost Tribes. Their correspondence continued, but ben Israel was much more concerned with European Jewry than American. Mateo Ricci, a Jesuit priest, was one of the 16th century missionaries sent to China. The Ten Commandments, a moral code that the Chinese value system appreciated, was translated, printed and distributed. Ricci’s knowledge of science got him an entry to serve the emperor in the Forbidden City. This gave him an excellent opportunity to make many valuable acquaintances. In 1705, while living in Beijing, a member of the Kaifeng Jewish community

met with him and explained how his community believed in one G-d. Ricci then sent a junior emissary to Kaifeng to meet with the chief rabbi. It is possible that a group of Jews made their home in China as it was on the “silk route.” It may be that some artifacts are Judeo-Persian and therefore from the 8th century, further proving that this is not a lost tribe of Babylonian times. These Jews intermarried with Chinese locals. Most probably, Hebrew men married Chinese women, thus making their offspring not halachically Jewish. The group did not keep many traditions, and when their rabbi died, so did any link to a Hebrew heritage. Any descendants who chose to make Aliyah to Israel must convert to Judaism per the Rabbanut. (Note that the Shanghai Chinese Jews who settled in the 20th century are a totally separate entity.) Marc Michael Epstein agrees with those who believe the Kaifeng Jews are not one of lost tribes. He mentioned the Jews of Japan for a brief moment to say that Rabbi Marvin Tokayer, another former CSP Scholar-in-Residence, is the expert on that area. From China “we” toured to Africa….


In Nigeria the Igbo Jews claim lineage to Efraim and Menashe. They circumcise male children on the 8th day, wear tallit and kipot, keep laws of kashrut, separate women during menstruation and celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Several thousand practice the religion and attend one of the 26 synagogues. However, halachically they are not at all Jewish because of the rate of intermarriage. Several rabbis, scholars and filmmakers have taken an interest and this has gotten the Igbo Jews financial support from some American communities. They claim lineage to Ya’akov’s (Jacob’s) son Gad. Some even say the word “Igbo” which was originally “ibo” comes from “Hebrew.” Until recently, the Benei Yisrael of Nigeria had no desire to make Aliyah as the Ethiopian Jews desired, but that too is changing. There is no doubt that the Rabbanut will demand that they convert. Epstein agrees that even if they claim to be descendants of ancient Hebrew tribes, they have mingled with Nigerian society for too long to be accepted as Jews. Genetic studies do link the Kohanim of Beta Israel of Ethiopia to other Kohanim, which is an interesting fact. A

marker has been discovered linking the male descendants of Aaron, the first Kohen Gadol. However, this genetic marker can also exist in Lebanese and Palestinian men! As in the case of the Menasse Jews, there was often mingling with the rest of the population. These people who emigrated from Israel so long ago only know of the Oral Traditions. Therefore, they do not follow the established halachot and minhagim. So, upon making Aliyah to Israel, the Rabbanut forces them to convert and remarry.

Hebrew tribes. As always Mark Michael Epstein always gives his audience a lot to absorb and think about. CSP scholars easily enrich the minds of the OC community, and we should be grateful to Arie Katz for bringing this unique program into our lives. 

In the Middle East, for example, there are also some peoples who claim they are descended from lost Jewish tribes. Unfortunately, a group in Petra is politically driven, deciding to be of Jewish heritage when convenient and Palestinian Arabs at other times. The Native Americans that Aaron Levi wanted Menasse ben Israel to study also have some traditions similar to ancient Jewish ones. They use the sun and moon to guide them and dance around praying for rain, but that does not make them ancient Hebrews. The fur trade introduced some Jews to native tribes, but that too does not make them one of the lost KOSHER OC MAGAZINE // AUGUST 2016



Where’s the Beef? Antics take focus off of real election issues. By Ilene Schneider

There are a few concepts that seem to have gone out of fashion in the 21st century. Among them are dignity, decency, decorum, appropriateness and civility. Some people have no regard for the difference between public and private arenas, even in the most public of circumstances. One would expect that the gravitas of being a candidate for the highest office in the country or a delegate to the convention to nominate such a candidate would preclude some of the behavior we have witnessed. I thought I had seen rock bottom during the Presidential debates. Shameful behavior earmarked every debate, causing many people to turn off their

televisions or lose interest in what little substance there was. In previous years, politicians cleverly insulted one another diplomatically by calling someone “the distinguished congressman from…” Everyone understood that the speaker meant anything but that, and the debate continued in a dignified way. Now, if the insult fails to hit below the belt, the candidate probably feels that he or she has failed to make the point. Throughout the primary season, the candidates of both parties have cited the anger felt by many Americans – about everything from the frustration with the less-than-stellar economy to the fear of terrorism to the dismay • • • • • •

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over the lack of opportunity experienced by some segments of the population. The question is how the next President is going to channel that anger into action or provide leadership that dissipates the anger with effective programs. The scripting of the conventions was supposed to change the perceptions of the candidates to some degree as members of the candidates’ families tried to paint verbal pictures of a kinder, gentler Donald and Hillary. Still, aided and abetted by the media, the Republican and Democratic conventions gave Americans a look at a different view of the events – one of disunity, dissent and distractions. In both cases,

things seemed to coalesce at the end, but there are still unhappy campers. Somebody is going to get elected, and there is a lot at stake. While it is always easy to cite the flaws in the candidates, we have to be diligent enough to dig deeper to make sure the choice we make is the best one for America, Israel and a world view compatible with our values. During the coming months, Kosher OC will be exploring the real issues of this election and sharing the opinions of representatives of both parties. It is likely to be a wild ride, so stay tuned. 


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