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PESACH 5770

Published by Mizrachi South Africa

LEADERSHIP: Moses and Mandela The right to die Jews and the FIFA 2010 World Cup

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LEADING THE WAY THIS PESACH ‘Torah is about giving our children the fibre with which to confront the modern world in the belief that we, as the Jewish people, can and must lead.’ – Richard Joel, President of Yeshiva University

PUBLISHER:

Mizrachi South Africa PO Box 29189, Sandringham, 2131 60 Mejon Street, Glenhazel

EDITORIAL BOARD:

Melissa Chipkin, Ryan Davis, Julian Gecelter, Beverley Goldman, Gary Herbert, Wendy Kahn, Avrom Krengel, Natalie Liknaitsky, Rabbi Laurence Perez, Basil Platsky, Rabbi Doron Podlashuk, Ilana Stein, Rabbi Ramon Widmonte

EDITOR:

Ronit Chaya Janet

SUB-EDITOR: Fay Humphries

EDITORIAL CONTRIBUTORS:

ADVERTISING TEAM:

Ariel Resnick, Gaby Lazarus, Ashley Lazarus, (011) 485-3624, observer@mizrachi.org.za

PHOTOGRAPHS: Dan Elkabir

If one had stopped a stray Jewish teenager, perhaps a young Nachshon ben Aminadav, as he strode past Pithom, and asked him: “What mark will your people make on the world?”, one wonders what the answer would have been. But that same Nachshon, not seven days later, glanced over his shoulder at the Egyptian chariots thundering along the shore towards his people, then back again at the storm-tossed Sea of Reeds; and jumped in. We know not his thoughts before he plunged in up to his neck, but we see his life’s thrust – to lead from the front. And so the sea split and destiny was forged. This issue of the South African Jewish Observer (SAJO) shines the light of Torah thinking on the areas where it fulfils its purpose – practical, moral and ethical guidance in thorny, difficult life challenges. Leading the way is exactly that – a discussion of leadership styles from our greatest leader, Moshe Rabbeinu, to more modern practitioners, such as our beloved Madiba. We examine living wills – the legal, medical and Halachic aspects of quality of life and healthcare in extreme situations. We cover mood disorders and a programme to increase resilience and immunise children against depression. We look at how to use the Haggadah as a profound educational tool. We stare into the future, with some words of wisdom from the Mizrachi Leadership Development Programme and then plunge into the Twilight Zone – gleaning a view into our children’s mindspaces. Once again, we hope our Pesach edition of the SAJO provides thought inspiring reading at a time of inspiration and redemption. Wishing everyone a Chag Kasher v’Sameach,

DESIGN AND LAYOUT: Terri Dedeu

PRINTER: D&S Press

WORDS OF WELCOME

Tamara Blieden, Candice Damelin, Ronit Chaya Janet, David Lawrence, Robyn Shapiro, David Saks, Stan Smookler, Shereen Suckerman, Rabbi Ramon Widmonte

3 322 YEARS ago we left Egypt. What must have been going through the minds of that fearful group of ex-slaves? One surmises that they were asking how they would survive out there in the big, bad world without the comforting, if cutting, chains of slavery? How would they eat? How would they earn a living? Where would they live? Would they see another morning?

GENERAL CONTACT DETAILS: (011) 485-3624, observer@mizrachi.org.za

Rabbi Ramon Widmonte

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WHAT’S INSIDE 6. MOSES AND MANDELA – PLACING RECONCILIATION OVER REVENGE

34. IS LEARNING TORAH AN HONEST PROFESSION?

12. THE RIGHT TO DIE

38. INTO THE TWILIGHT ZONE

BOTH OF THESE LEADERS CHOSE TO WORK TOWARDS A GREATER GOOD, RESULTING IN THEIR FOLLOWERS BEING ABLE TO MOVE FORWARD INTO A BETTER FUTURE

ADDRESSING THE LEGAL AND HALACHIC VIEWPOINTS SURROUNDING LIVING WILLS

18. SA JEWRY’S HANDS-ON APPROACH TO THE WORLD CUP DAVID SAKS GIVES AN UPDATE ON LOCAL ACTIVITIES AND INITIATIVES AS THE DEADLINE FOR THIS EVENT APPROACHES

CONTENTS

RABBI RAMON WIDMONTE TAKES A CLOSER LOOK AT THE IMPACT STEPHANIE MEYER’S TWILIGHT SAGA HAS HAD ON TEENAGERS

40. TASTY EATS AND TREATS DURING PESACH

STILL NOT SURE WHAT YOU’LL BE SERVING DURING THE FESTIVAL? HERE’S SOME SUGGESTIONS...

28. IN PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

SHEREEN SUCKERMAN THINKS POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY CAN BRING PEACE OF MIND

41. SAJO EDITOR RONIT CHAYA JANET REVIEWS SOME BOOKS TO SETTLE DOWN WITH DURING PESACH

31. THE TRUTH BEHIND MENTAL ILLNESS

42. STAN, THE GOOD SHABBOS MAN

IT REMAINS DEBATABLE IF MENTAL ILLNESS IS A JEWISH PROBLEM BUT IT CERTAINLY IS A JEWISH ISSUE

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DAVE LAWRENCE EXPLORES THE TENSION AROUND TIME SPENT IN FULL-TIME LEARNING AND EARNING A LIVING.


MOSES AND MANDELA

– PLACING RECONCILIATION OVER REVENGE BOTH OF THESE LEADERS CHOSE TO WORK TOWARDS A GREATER GOOD, RESULTING IN THEIR FOLLOWERS BEING ABLE TO MOVE FORWARD INTO A BETTER FUTURE

MOSES AND MANDELA

BY RONIT CHAYA JANET

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WHILE I watched Matt Damon perfect an Afrikaans accent, I also cringed as Morgan Freeman’s American twang slipped in and out of his lines in Invictus, one of the more recent film offerings from Hollywood. I was, however, amazed at how authentically Clint Eastwood was able to capture the true Madiba Magic through his direction of both of these actors in the movie. The film authentically reflects a proud time in the history of South Africa – a time when Mandela’s deep and profound insight allowed him to lead the country through a political minefield. His leadership qualities were unpacked in an article in Time entitled Mandela – His 8 lessons of Leadership by managing editor Richard Stengel. Here the writer explored the principles of leadership as drawn from the life and experiences of our former President. Mandela’s principles are simple. Their power lies in their practicality and their realism – the way they demand each person strives to play a part in making the world into a better place. While each of his principles are thought-provoking, I find that his attitude towards his enemies and his approach towards reconciliation reminds me of the ultimate leader – Moshe Rabbeinu.

Even as early as the 1960’s, Mandela sought to understand and speak Afrikaans, the language of the oppressive apartheid regime. Even though he knew that his comrades would ridicule him, he wanted to understand his enemy, his language, his sport, his world view. In doing so, Mandela was able to gain insight into their strengths and weaknesses, and begin formulating a way of engaging in negotiations at a later point. Stengel reflects in the article on how Mandela knew that one day he would either be “fighting or negotiating

Mandela believed in the adage: “Keep your friends close and your rivals even closer”. He let members of the previous Nationalist government into his first cabinet, which meant that men who had tried him as a traitor and sent him to jail for 27 years, served with him in the first democratically elected government of South Africa. Remarkably, he was able to put aside his personal feelings of anger, bitterness and resentment in order to achieve a greater good, an example of true reconciliation.

Reconciliation of biblical magnitude It is impossible not to marvel at his almost inhuman ability to refrain from revenge and his lack of bitter resentment. Yet one need not look any further than our greatest leader to see that this quality was observed and perfected thousands of years before. In Parashat Vayakel, the Greatness of Moshe Rabeninu is observed and noted. Rabbi Doron Podlashuk, assistant Rabbi of Mizrachi South Africa, explains in the name of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein how strange it is for the Torah to use the word ‘Vayakel’ – ‘gathered’ – when Moshe was talking to the people. It is therefore so odd that the Torah uses a different verb to introduce this speech. In fact, he points out, it cannot be found anywhere else in the Chumash. It therefore seems strange in the context of the simple speech that follows, to use such a strong verb. Podlashuk continues to explain this through a contextualisation of the time period just prior to the ‘Gathering speech’.

MOSES AND MANDELA

Madiba and his foes

with his apartheid enemies. Either way, his destiny was inextricably tied to theirs.”

When Moses received the Luchot, the Ten Commandments, on Mount Sinai

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he was at his highest spiritual point. He then returned back to earth to find his nation at their lowest – dancing around a golden idol. He smashed his Holy tablets and purged his nation of these collaborators, from the highest high to the lowest low.

concomitant anti-semitism as demonstrated by the Dreyfus affair – that without a return to our Jewish homeland, Jewish identity would become totatally obliterated by the twin forces of secular assimilation from within and Gentile anti-Semitism from without.

MOSES AND MANDELA

Only if we were to become a nation among nations, ceasing to be a beggar-outsider forever depending upon the largesse of other nations to “take us in” and provide us with land and luxury, would we have a chance to be on equal footing with other nations and gain the respect of the international community. may have been overly optimistic about the role of the Jewish State in removing anti-semitism – much the opposite, our very Jewish State has become the object of the most virulent anti-Semitism, often emanating from the sullied halls of the United Nations itself – there is no question but that the most hopeful expressions not only of Jewish survival but also of Jewish vitality are to be found in Israel. While American and European Jewry are almost halving themselves due to assimilation and inter-marriage (in the case of South African Jewry, due to emigration), Israel has grown from barely 600 000 Jews in 1948 to close to 6 000 000 Jews today - and this despite the wars we have fought and are still waging against the bad neighbors who are trying to destroy us The standard of living of the average Israeli is on par with that of most MOVIE POSTER FROM INVICTUS

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At this point, Moshe chose to remove himself from his nation and live outside of their camp. And here, Podlashuk continues, is where we are able to see the greatness of Moshe. At the time when he lived outside the camp, the commentators explain that Bnei Yisrael would ‘Stare’ or ‘Glare’ at him. Now what was going on? There are some opinions of Chazal which explain that at this point Bnei Yisrael were in fact accusing Moshe of either stealing money or committing adultery. A shocking interpretation. But as Podlashuk explains, it is in fact not so illogical as Moshe’s very presence highlighted the downfall of the entire nation – the way that they had been cheating and being unfaithful to their Beloved. So how did Moses respond? As the leader of this degraded nation, Moshe went up the Mountain again to beg G-d for forgiveness and the redemption of his people – an amazing step for any man to take. But there was more, say the commentators, as Hashem responded that he wished to wipe out the entire nation and make Moses the father of a new people. Finally says Podlashuk, do we see the ultimate lesson in leadership. Knowing what his people where accusing him of, knowing how much they had pained him in the past – Moses refused the offer and then responded that Hashem should wipe him out together with his people – even his portion of Olam Haba – the World to Come.

Above and beyond It would be understandable in this case not to forgive. It would be amazing to accept an apology, but Moses went beyond any of these and

loved his nation despite everything. This is a level of reconciliation that is yet to be matched. So it therefore seems more than poetic but not quite prophetic to look at the words of William Ernest Henley, in his now famous poem Invictus: Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds, and shall find, me unafraid. It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.

The humble leader One of Moses’ most remarkable character traits was his humility. In fact in Bamidbar it states that:“The man, Moses, was exceedingly humble, more than any person on the face of the earth.” It is interesting that world-renowned commentator on modern day leadership and author of From Good to Great, Jim Collins, recognises that humility is a key ingredient in leadership. His simple formula for leadership is the embodiment of the paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will. This is what he refers to as the Level 5 leader on his hierarchy of executive capabilities. Moses revealed his deep humility as early in his political career as when he argued with Hashem for seven days in Parashat Shmot. Many commentators reflect that Moses was in fact arguing that his older brother Aharon, should assume the position of leader of the Jewish people – the illustrious role that G-d had recently bestowed open him. Moses reveals a great level of humility. One could even suppose that Moses could have possibly inspired the humility that reverberated in the powerful words uttered by Mandela on 11 February 1990 as he walked free from Victor Verster Prison: Continued on pg 10


concomitant anti-semitism as demonstrated by the Dreyfus affair – that without a return to our Jewish homeland, Jewish identity would become totatally obliterated by the twin forces of secular assimilation from within and Gentile anti-Semitism from without.

MOSES AND MANDELA

Only if we were to become a nation among nations, ceasing to be a beggar-outsider forever depending upon the largesse of other nations to “take us in” and provide us with land and luxury, would we have a chance to be on equal footing with other nations and gain the respect of the international community.

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may have been overly optimistic about the role of the Jewish State in removing anti-semitism – much the opposite, our very Jewish State has become the object of the most virulent anti-Semitism, often emanating from the sullied halls of the United Nations itself – there is no question but that the most hopeful expressions not only of Jewish survival but also of Jewish vitality are to be found in Israel. While American and European Jewry are almost halving themselves due to assimilation and inter-marriage (in the case of South African Jewry, due to emigration), Israel has grown from barely 600 000 Jews in 1948 to close to 6 000 000 Jews today - and this despite the wars we have fought and are still waging against the bad neighbors who are trying to destroy us The standard of living of the average Israeli is on par with that of most

“I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place my remaining years of my life in your hands.”

Podlashuk further explains, Moses was the leader who inspired a nation of slaves, born beholden to their Egyptian tyrants. Bnei Yisrael needed a strong inspirational guide to draw them out of their slave mentality into a self reliant and G-d fearing nation.

Jay Naidoo, former Minister of Telecommunications, believes that it was Mandela’s absence of malice and political arrogance – his defining humility that transformed him into an icon of human dignity for billions of people world-wide. His leadership, even after the end of his term, remains palpable because it was earned and not imposed.

The Gemora in Bava Batra says the “face of Moshe was like the face of the sun; the face of Joshua was like the face of the moon”. Moses led his nation by inspiring them to greatness. He then passed the onus of leadership to Joshua who led a matured nation into the land of Israel, and the wars that followed, by being the reflection of G-d’s presence in the world in the same way as the moon’s reflected light.

Moses and Madiba – let go Both Moses and Madiba were leaders at critical times of their people’s development. They played essential roles in the creating of their nations. But each of them, in their own way, showed remarkable leadership, through their ability to let go. Mandela was the first democratically elected President of the Republic of South Africa, beloved by not only his people, but internationally as an icon of peace and reconciliation. And yet he chose to step down after his five-year term – honouring the democracy that he had helped to create. He passed the torch to another, showing up his Zimbabwean neighbour for the tyrant he is. As Stengel reflected, Mandela was determined to set the precedent for all who followed him. Cyril Ramaphosa once remarked that: “His job was to set the course, not to steer the ship.” It is uncanningly similar to millennium before when Moses was also put in the position of handing his leadership mantle over to another – Joshua. How challenging it must have been to have brought his people through the challenges of the desert, the hardships and turmoil, and to let them go forward towards their ultimate goal, Israel, without being at the helm. But as Rav

This is visually depicted in the ways Bnei Yisrael crossed two different bodies of water and different times in their journey. With Moshe, they crossed the Sea of Reeds with a miraculous splitting – a demonstration of G-d’s glory. However when they crossed the Jordan River, Joshua, the leader, took a step back and allowed the Kohanim and the Holy Ark to enter the waters first, which resulted in the second miraculous splitting.

Love is proven Chief Rabbi of Great Britian Sir Jonathan Sacks reflects on G-d’s role as a parent taking us through periods of what Jewish Mystics refer to as ‘Tzimtzum’ - withdrawal or contraction. This signals the way in which G-d conceals Himself to make space for man to grow. In a reflective view of both of these great leaders, they assumed the role of a father figure for their respective nations. The qualities they demonstrated stem from their deep love for humanity, a love of one’s fellow man which is so aptly captured in the words of poem Walking Away by Cecil Day- Lewis: “How selfhood begins with the walking away, and love is proved in the letting go.” ■


A LIVING WILL 12

THE RIGHT TO DIE ADDRESSING THE LEGAL

AND HALACHIC VIEWPOINTS SURROUNDING LIVING WILLS BY ROBYN SHAPIRO


FROM BIRTH to death, every aspect of a Jew’s life is governed by halacha. However even with the freedom we are granted, we still find ourselves challenged by society’s ethics and morals. This is exacerbated by the advances in medicine and rising health care costs, especially when we face our own mortality and end-of-life decisions for ourselves and our loved ones. The living will is the oldest form of advance directive. According to Wikipedia, it was first proposed by an Illinois attorney, Luis Kutner, in a law journal in 1969. Kutner drew from existing estate law through which individuals can control property affairs after their death. He devised a way for individuals to outline their wishes regarding their health care when they were no longer able to express themselves. Because this form of will was to be used while an individual was still alive, it was dubbed a ‘living will’ .

The legal view However, according to Prof Pieter Carstens, Professor of Criminal and Medical Law at the University of Pretoria, living wills are far from commonplace in South Africa. “But there is a greater awareness thereof and sensitivity thereto, mainly due to the recognition of end-of-life decisions and palliative care. Essentially the media, be it the newspapers, TV or Internet at large, has also been more

A LIVING WILL

In July last year President Barack Obama became the first US head of state to announce that he had a living will and to encourage others to get one too. He said: “So I actually think it’s a good idea to have a living will. I’d encourage everybody to get one. I have one, Michelle has one. And we hope we don’t have to use it for a long time, but I think it’s something that is sensible.”

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informative than in the past in sensitising the public to living wills.

concomitant anti-semitism as demonstrated by the Dreyfus affair – that without a return to our Jewish homeland, Jewish identity would become totatally obliterated by the twin forces of secular assimilation from within and Gentile anti-Semitism from without.

A LIVING WILL

Only if we were to become a nation among nations, ceasing to be a beggar-outsider forever depending upon the largesse of other nations to “take us in” and provide us with land and luxury, would we have a chance to be on equal footing with other nations and gain the respect of the international community. may have been overly optimistic about the role of the Jewish State in removing anti-semitism – much the opposite, our very Jewish State has become the object of the most virulent anti-Semitism, often emanating from the sullied halls of the United Nations itself – there is no question but that the most hopeful expressions not only of Jewish survival but also of Jewish vitality are to be found in Israel. While American and European Jewry are almost halving themselves due to assimilation and inter-marriage (in the case of South African Jewry, due to emigration), Israel has grown from barely 600 000 Jews in 1948 to close to 6 000 000 Jews today - and this despite the wars we have fought and are still waging against the bad neighbors who are trying to destroy us The standard of living of the average Israeli is on par with that of most

“It is also submitted that the advent of the HIV/Aids epidemic and the effects of diseases such as cancer, Alzheimers and Parkinsons, in the context of end-of-life decisions, have prompted the medical profession and some NGO’s, such as the TAC, to educate the public about the option of a living will, specifically in view of many legal glitches and the fact that active voluntary euthanasia is still not recognised and legal in South African law.”

in South Africa. In such circumstances a living will not only allows one patient autonomy, but also the right to die with dignity. “A living will also allows one to appoint a trustworthy person to ensure that one’s wishes are carried out. In the absence of a living will, one will more often than not be kept alive artificially or burden one’s loved ones to obtain a court order to instruct the medical staff and/or hospital to cease treatment which may be costly and emotional traumatic.”

“A living will is arguably the ultimate expression of patient autonomy.” – Prof Carstens Carstens emphasises that living wills are not like other wills. “It is called a living will because it is a document which deals with how one wants to be medically treated while one is still alive. In essence a living will is a document that one writes when one is well. It contains directives about what one wants to happen when one becomes very ill and is not able to communicate one’s wishes any more. “The benefits of this from a legal point of view are is that it is arguably the ultimate expression of patient autonomy as contemplated in section 12 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. It is an effective way to stay in control over decisions about medical treatment after one has lost one’s mental ability to make decisions,” he says. “It is particularly effective in the context of end-of-life decisions with reference to voluntary passive euthanasia, such as when one is biologically alive but in a permanent vegetative state and connected to a feeding tube. If there is a living will directing medical staff to remove the feeding tube in such an instance, this is passive voluntary euthanasia which is lawful

The Halachic view From a legal viewpoint, having a living will is highly beneficial. However, a Jew’s life is governed by halacha and currently the standard living will is at odds with traditional Jewish law. In recent years, due to the increase in demand for a halachic living will in America, the highest policy making body within the Agudath Israel of America – the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah (Council of Torah Sages) – arrived at a historic decision to develop and initiate a major national campaign to encourage people to sign a ‘halachic health care proxy’. This is a standardised form designed to help ensure that all medical and post-death decisions made by others on an observant Jew’s behalf would be made pursuant to halacha. But according to Rabbi Anton Klein, director of the Beth Din South Africa, this type of form is too blunt an object when dealing with issues of life and death that are highly specific to each individual. Because of this, the Beth Din does not offer halachic living wills and in addition, according to Rabbi Klein, “we have not seen an increase in desire Continued on pg 16

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for halachic living wills in South Africa.”

concomitant anti-semitism as demonstrated by the Dreyfus affair – that without a return to our Jewish homeland, Jewish identity would become totatally obliterated by the twin forces of secular assimilation from within and Gentile anti-Semitism from without.

A LIVING WILL

Only if we were to become a nation among nations, ceasing to be a beggar-outsider forever depending upon the largesse of other nations to “take us in” and provide us with land and luxury, would we have a chance to be on equal footing with other nations and gain the respect of the international community.

16

may have been overly optimistic about the role of the Jewish State in removing anti-semitism – much the opposite, our very Jewish State has become the object of the most virulent anti-Semitism, often emanating from the sullied halls of the United Nations itself – there is no question but that the most hopeful expressions not only of Jewish survival but also of Jewish vitality are to be found in Israel. While American and European Jewry are almost halving themselves due to assimilation and inter-marriage (in the case of South African Jewry, due to emigration), Israel has grown from barely 600 000 Jews in 1948 to close to 6 000 000 Jews today - and this despite the wars we have fought and are still waging against the bad neighbors who are trying to destroy us The standard of living of the average Israeli is on par with that of most

As more and more people are exposed to end-of-life situations, many are being confronted by what is often the indignity of dying. According to Rabbi Gidon Fox of the Pretoria Hebrew Congregation: “Watching the withering of the body and mind can be very painful and the trauma experienced both by the patient and especially by the family – as the patient is often unaware of the situation – is extremely hard to watch and certainly experience,” he says.

it would seem evident that one is not allowed to make a living will as it presumes an ownership which the individual may have over their life and body, a presumption which is fallacious.” Rabbi Fox continues: “A further problem exists in that every Jew is enjoined, “Lo ta’amod al dam ray’echa”, one must not stand by idly as something detrimental is occurring to one’s friend. How much more so is this true when one sees a person losing their life. A living will, ipso facto, requires us to ignore the terminal

“To spare oneself the indignity of such a long and drawn out death, many have written a living will.” – Rabbi Fox “To spare oneself the indignity of such a long and drawn out death, many have written a living will which essentially requests that no medical interventions be undertaken under certain medical circumstances. However, it must be pointed out that even with the presence of a living will, determining which cases have no hope, and as such need not be treated, is less than clear, causing the will to be ignored nonetheless.

nature of the patient and allow his life to ebb away.

“The first point of departure is the question of autonomy from a Halachic viewpoint. Does a person have the right to determine their medical treatment or lack thereof?

According to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, these basics include the abovementioned hydration, nutrition and oxygenation. An example is the case in the United States of Terri Schiavo, a woman who was in a persistent vegetative state.

“According to Jewish law, while all items which a person owns do indeed belong to the individual and the individual may treat them and discard them as they may feel inclined to do, the same is not true for the person’s body of which the person is a mere custodian and not an owner. “Therefore, one is not allowed to wound oneself, kill oneself or prevent oneself from accessing medical care. This being the case,

“Another issue that halacha has with regard to the living will is the general blanket refusal for any medical intervention and treatment, including hydration, oxygenation and nutrition. While one may indeed be entitled not to provide ‘heroic’ medical treatment, (described later), the basic needs and rights of a human being must, at all times, be administered.”

The courts ruled that her feeding tube could be removed. Mrs Schiavo died 13 days later, making it evident that she died of starvation, clearly something that cannot be condoned by halacha. The presence of a living will would merely have avoided a court battle, but the outcome would have been the same. As a result it should be evident that the blanket refraining from treatment as indicated by the


standard living will would not be acceptable according to halacha. “The other format that a living will may take is the confirmation of a proxy vis a vis medical treatment decision-making power. This is often given to a member of the family, affording them both the right and the responsibility to determine if and when medical treatment should be withheld. Apart from the tremendously onerous responsibility it places upon the individual, it too presents us with a number of halachic concerns,” explains Rabbi Fox. “Firstly, as all such decisions must be made in keeping with halachic principles, conferring the power of such decisions into the hands of an individual unversed in this area of halacha, may indeed lead to some very serious transgressions. “Furthermore, halacha is concerned with the emotional suitability of a family member to make an unbiased decision in this regard. The Talmud in Nedarim states that one who visits a sick patient and does not pray for them either to get better or die, has not fulfilled the Mitzvah of visiting the sick.

“The reason is quite understandable. There can be no question as to the enormous burden, be it emotional, physical, financial and familial, that is placed on a family that is perpetually at the bedside of a dying patient. As the process can take weeks or months, the entire family environment and life can be severely impacted.

“There is one final critical point that has to be made,” says Rabbi Fox. “Rabbi Moshe Feinstein acknowledges in a Responsum, that one need not always undertake ‘heroic’ medical treatment in a case where all that can be achieved is a prolonging of a life of suffering. Under such prognosis, one need not necessarily resuscitate and one may be allowed not to place an individual on life support. In fact, extending such a life may indeed, according to Rabbi Feinstein, be prohibited. Even when such proactive and aggressive interventions are not mandated according to halacha, the basics mentioned above would nonetheless have to be provided.

concomitant anti-semitism as demonstrated by the Dreyfus affair – that without a return to our Jewish homeland, Jewish identity would become totatally obliterated by the twin forces of secular assimilation from within and Gentile anti-Semitism from without. Only if we were to become a nation among nations, ceasing to be a beggar-outsider forever depending upon the largesse of other nations to “take us in” and provide us with land and luxury, would we have a chance to be on equal footing with other nations and gain the respect of the international community.

Although it is legally acceptable to have a living will in South Africa, the standard living will is not acceptable according to halacha. “An acceptable living will would have to allow for the provision of hydration, nutrition and oxygenation, or at the very least must not restrict its use,” explains Rabbi Fox.

may have been overly optimistic about the role of the Jewish State in removing anti-semitism – much the opposite, our very Jewish State has become the object of the most virulent anti-Semitism, often emanating from the sullied halls of the United Nations itself – there is no question but that the most hopeful expressions not only of Jewish survival but also of Jewish vitality are to be found in Israel.

“In addition, an acceptable living will would be one that essentially is a proxy, authorising all such decisions to be made, in consultation with doctors and the family, by a competent halachic authority, well versed in this area of halacha. The chosen halachic authority should be clearly identified in the document as well as a second option, in the event that the chosen authority is not present at the time when the case has to be decided.” ■

While American and European Jewry are almost halving themselves due to assimilation and inter-marriage (in the case of South African Jewry, due to emigration), Israel has grown from barely 600 000 Jews in 1948 to close to 6 000 000 Jews today - and this despite the wars we have fought and are still waging against the bad neighbors who are trying to destroy us The standard of living of the average Israeli is on par with that of most

In conclusion

A LIVING WILL

“The Ran, a commentator on the Talmud, suggests that one sees from this Talmudic passage, that one may in fact pray for an individual in a terminal state of illness to die. This point is debated at length by the Poskim with various divergent conclusions. The one position states that while one may in fact pray for someone to die, this is not true for a family member.

As a result, praying for a patient to die may be more in the interest of the family than the patient themselves. This is especially so, given the Rabbinic dictum, it is better do one hour of repentance and good deeds in this world, than all the life in the world to come. Consequently, such a proxy would best be given to an emotionally uninvolved party and a halachically competent party.”

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SA JEWRY’S HANDS-ON APPROACH TO THE WORLD CUP

DAVID SAKS GIVES AN UPDATE ON LOCAL ACTIVITIES AND INITIATIVES AS THE DEADLINE FOR THIS EVENT APPROACHES FOR SPORTS-MAD South Africans, the long count-down that began four years ago when South Africa was chosen to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup is at last drawing to a close.

FIFA 2010 WORLD CUP

This is the first time that the tournament, arguably the world’s premier sporting event, is being held on the African continent and there is a palpable sense of excitement throughout the country as kick-off day – 11 June - approaches.

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One need only look at the 35 ton fibreglass soccer ball that now adorns Johannesburg’s iconic Hillbrow Tower to see just how World Cup fever has gripped the nation. For their part, South African Jews are opening their homes and hearts to welcoming their Jewish co-religionists from around the world who will be visiting their country during the World Cup. Most of these visitors will have little knowledge of the country’s large and vibrant Jewish community. Recognising this, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) decided to provide a comprehensive, easily accessible information resource making use of modern communications technology.

Working via the Web A website being run in partnership with Chabad SA will allow visitors to source information on a variety of topics. www.jewish2010.com covers practical matters such as accommodation, transport companies and translation services, religious issues such as where to find synagogues, times of prayers, kosher food and restaurants, and cultural topics such as historical information and tours of Jewish South Africa. Private individuals are welcome to make use of the 2010 website. Anyone who has accommodation to offer, or a service or product to sell, and would like to have it listed free of charge on the website, is cordially invited to do so. They may contact Jenni on (011) 645-2521 or jenni@ beyachad.co.za. Hundreds of people and communal bodies have already taken advantage of the facility, and hopefully many more will do so as 11 June approaches. In addition to the 2010 website, visitors will also find very useful another resource compiled by a member of the Jewish community. Mercia Strieman’s On the Ball – Getting to know you is a lively, eye-catching guidebook that provides a host of historical, geographical and cultural

information on South Africa, and specifically on the various centres where the 2010 World Cup matches will be held. Commenting enthusiastically on Chabad’s agreeing to partner on the 2010 project, SAJBD National Director Wendy Kahn said that such partnerships worked to strengthen both the project and the community, since everybody was able to bring something different to it. Indeed, this is an ideal project for Chabad, an organisation famed for its commitment to reaching out to Jewish travelers around the world by providing them with any Jewish requirements they need. Services Chabad SA will provide include Shabbat times and services, Eruv information, kosher food, directions/maps attached as links to all restaurants, shuls and other facilities, Shabbos food and candle packages and booths at airports providing information, candles, tefillin etc. Chabad will have a particularly visible presence in Village Walk in the heart of Sandton’s hotel district, where it can best serve the needs of the visitors.

The Amajuda Makaraba Recently, a delegation from the SAJBD proudly presented MuseumAfrica


with its unique Amajuda Makaraba, a Jewish-themed contribution to the flood of eye-catching World Cup paraphernalia that is flooding the country. For those who still don’t know what a makaraba is, this is township slang for the distinctive safety helmet commonly worn by local fans at football matches. Ever since an enterprising South African football fan decided to advertise his team loyalties on his makaraba, these gaudy headpieces have become an established feature of the local football culture. Bold and eye-catching, the SAJBD’s Jewish-themed makaraba features an athlete holding up an Amajuda (colloquially, ‘Jewish people’) sign, a Magen David, tzitzit and the South African flag. The Amajuda Makaraba was gratefully accepted and immediately added to the Museum’s existing temporary exhibitions of makarabas past and present. Amajuda Makarabas, each of which is individually handcrafted and painted, are now on sale through the SAJBD. In years to come, they will provide wonderful items of memorabilia recalling this exciting time in the nation’s history.

Charisse Zeifert, Head of Communications at the SAJBD, has found that speaking about the Jewish community’s FIFA project is the perfect icebreaker in her meetings with editors and prominent journalists. As she puts it: “I love to take out our Jewish makaraba and boast, ‘This is what we are doing for the World Cup. We are showcasing the vibrancy of the South African Jewish community and saying to the hundreds of Jews who will be visiting our shores, this is what we have to offer you’. The response I

Joining hands with international Jewry To publicise its activities throughout the Jewish world, the SAJBD has invested much time and effort in engaging with its counterparts overseas to let them know about the project and get them on board. Press kits have been sent to journalists and communal leaders in Israel and all the major Diaspora communities, and a growing number of media items in the international Jewish press are reporting on it. In addition to strengthening the Jewish community’s ties with such Anglophone countries as Australia, the UK and the USA, it has also provided a rare opportunity to establish contacts with the non-English speaking Jewish world, such as in Argentina and Russia.

Football as a tool of social upliftment Beyond the confines of specifically Jewish-related needs, a number of prominent Jewish community members are harnessing the public’s enthusiasm to promote their own social upliftment projects in underprivileged areas (details of which also feature on www.jewish2010.com). One of them is former CNN sports journalist and now the popular 94.7 Highveld Stereo presenter Graeme “Joffers, my man” Joffe. His company, Township TV, is now listed on the website. The project (see www. townshiptv.co.za/) provides free big screen TV entertainment in a safe environment for underprivileged children. Kevin Fine is another popular South African radio personality who has come on board. A “recognised voice of youth culture and action sports in

South Africa”, one of his most notable achievements has been his phenomenally successful “Bury Me in Books” campaign (see (/www.burymeinbooks.co.za). Since leaving broadcasting, Kevin has become involved with FIFA’s Festival 2010: Development through Football project.

Promoting understanding and reconciliation If a love of football can bring hope to the underprivileged, it can also do much to foster understanding and build bridges between those of different racial, ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds. This is what underpins the Football for Hope Festival which will take place during the final week of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The event will bring together 32 delegations in a very different international tournament in the township of Alexandra in Johannesburg. The cultural diversity of the participating teams, comprising youngsters of both sexes drawn from all over the world, will be celebrated. Films and live performances will portray the importance of football as a tool for social development. Of particular Jewish interest is the participation of a mixed IsraeliPalestinian Peace Team. This is being organised through the Peres Centre for Peace, in conjunction with the FIFA World Cup committee. Tryouts have begun to choose players from participants in the Israel Sport Department’s new Apprentice Coaches Training Programme. The initiative has been described as “an inspirational opportunity to demonstrate, on one of the world’s greatest stages, how Israelis and Palestinians can overcome conflict and hostility and build positive and cooperative relations”.

FIFA 2010 WORLD CUP

The flamboyantly Judaized makaraba image also acts as the portal for the Jewish 2010 website. Clicking on the tallit icon, for example, brings up the relevant information on religious services, while a click on the football icon brings up information on venues and fixtures.

get is always the same – a smile that unites all South Africans excited over the prospect of hosting the World Cup”.

David Saks is the associate director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies. ■

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GOOD DEEDS IN THE FACE OF DISASTER

RONIT CHAYA JANET REPORTS ON THE ASSISTANCE RENDERED FOLLOWING THE EARTHQUAKE IN HAITI BY SA JEWRY

HELPING IN HAITI

“DO NOT stand idly by while the blood of your neighbour is spilled.” This famous quote from the Torah, Vayikra (Leviticus), certainly rings true in the hearts and minds of two South African doctors. Professor Ephraim Kramer, Head of Emergency Medicine at the University of the Witwatersrand, and Dr Maurice Goodman accompanied a team of 40 South Africans to assist in the relief effort in Haiti in January this year. Even from the other side of the world, these Jewish doctors heard the call of the millions of bereft human beings injured and suffering from the effects of the devastating earthquake.

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A doctor with many years of experience in trauma and emergency care and Head of Health Profession Strategy at Discovery Health, Goodman explained that the tragedy that affected Haiti in January this year was in fact one of the worst earthquakes ever recorded. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and has nowhere near the infrastructure and resources required to cope in the face of such an immense natural disaster. So while the Haiti quake registered lower on the Richter Scale than the Chilean quake in February, the effects and repercussions were much more dramatic and far-reaching. Upon arriving in Haiti just days after the quake, Kramer, Goodman and the entire team of Rescue South Africa – an NGO made up of emergency response specialists – saw for themselves the devastation that befell this poor country. According to the International Red Cross, over three million people were affected

when around 20 000 commercial buildings and 225 000 residences collapsed or were damaged during the quake. Goodman found it particularly poignant how because of the time factor, many students were in fact trapped while writing examinations at their institutions. The two were responsible for the health and well being of the rescue technicians, civil engineers, rescue dogs and handlers and media who joined 52 international urban search and rescue teams in Port au Prince. They were also responsible for the medical care of any survivors rescued from the carnage. Both doctors set to work immediately, ensuring those in their care were adequately hydrated, administering prophylaxis, and inspecting and treating any wounds in order to prevent septicemia or the spread of infectious diseases.

An emotional challenge The need to focus very specifically on their designated task proved to be an emotional challenge, says Goodman, as with their limited medical supplies and facilities they were unable to effectively deal with the multitudes of locals they came into contact with. Both doctors felt that this was in fact their greatest challenge in the devastated city. While it was “a necessity that can only be regretted” it left an “indelible mark on those who were unable to offer more assistance to the displaced, disposed, diseased and disfigured.” Having worked in a rescue team in Phuket after the tsunami, as well as

on other international rescue responses, Goodman and Kramer already had experience in being Observant Jews on a mission. On one particular occasion, Goodman recalls davening in front of the Muslim United Nation Guard protecting the rescue teams. Says Goodman: “How remarkable that in tragic time, we were able to work side by side with rescue missions from Muslim countries. Here politics and religion did not have as loud a voice as the pleas for help.” Goodman knew of three Israeli missions helping in Haiti and was proud to discover that humanitarian aid bodies such as the UN advised international medical responders to send all serious medical cases to the Israeli field hospital that had been set up in Haiti. Goodman had also heard of the presence of the ZAKA, who arrived with the Mexican delegation. Another powerful message that Goodman was able to reflect on, was the lack of immunity that mankind has before these tragic natural disasters. “Even with all of mankind’s progress, we are still humbled by the magnitude of events such as these,” he says. In Haiti Kramer and Goodman were forced to confront humanity, its limits and its tragedy. They witnessed horrific stories and rejoiced in the glimmers of hope that filtered through. They remember the sights, the sounds and the smells. They feel humbled by nature and awed by those around them working together to make a difference. Here were two men, out of many, who were able to lend a hand, and not stand idly by. ■


THE DREAM TEAM

BY RABBI RAMON WIDMONTE

‘TWAS THE night of our second seder. We had several couples with us and were being gloriously showered by the sweet cacophony of young Jewish voices. In an ultimately successful attempt to create a great vibe, my wife and I had made costumes for each of the visitors. As they entered the door they were welcomed by myself, King Pharaoh, and handed a slave robe, a Middle-Eastern headdress, a cardboard brick, a big name tag with their new identity (we had a Moshe, Aharon, Miriam and Yocheved) and

greeted with a hearty “Welcome to Egypt, here’s your brick!” To further incentivise the kids, I was handing out sweets and prizes and the sugar-high induced din was wonderful (they weren’t my kids). As my wife tried in vain to stem the tide of sugar (the kids’ parents by this stage were looking a bit catatonic – ‘How are we going to put them to bed?’), the youngsters were bellowing out every Pesach song they knew, running around the house like banshees and dancing Dayeinu jigs with yours truly.

In the midst of all this blessing, I stopped for a second to think – quite an accomplishment given the pandemonium and the two cups of wine – and two questions bubbled up through the haze. Firstly, what is the real educational goal of the Pesach seder? I mean, if one examines the seder carefully, it is easy to note that the structure is not in any way exclusively child-focused. Most of us proclaim that it is the night for education of the next generation, but when it Continued on pg 22

MESSAGE FROM THE RABBI

HOW TO STRIVE FOR A GOAL FOR LONGER THAN MOST OF RECORDED HUMAN HISTORY AND THEN ACTUALLY ACHIEVE IT!


comes down to it, the seder itself, if followed faithfully as it is set out, just isn’t all that kid-friendly. We do have a Mah Nishtanah at the beginning of the seder and a couple of rousing songs, but the vast majority of the central section, called maggid, is too dry for children. By the time we’ve gotten to 200 plagues versus 250, with the finger or the hand, they’re out of it. So what is the night really trying to teach?

concomitant anti-semitism as demonstrated by the Dreyfus affair – that without a return to our Jewish homeland, Jewish identity would become totatally obliterated by the twin forces of secular assimilation from within and Gentile anti-Semitism from without.

MESSAGE FROM THE RABBI

Only if we were to become a nation among nations, ceasing to be a beggar-outsider forever depending upon the largesse of other nations to “take us in” and provide us with land and luxury, would we have a chance to be on equal footing with other nations and gain the respect of the international community. may have been overly optimistic about the role of the Jewish State in removing anti-semitism – much the opposite, our very Jewish State has become the object of the most virulent anti-Semitism, often emanating from the sullied halls of the United Nations itself – there is no question but that the most hopeful expressions not only of Jewish survival but also of Jewish vitality are to be found in Israel. While American and European Jewry are almost halving themselves due to assimilation and inter-marriage (in the case of South African Jewry, due to emigration), Israel has grown from barely 600 000 Jews in 1948 to close to 6 000 000 Jews today - and this despite the wars we have fought and are still waging against the bad neighbors who are trying to destroy us The standard of living of the average Israeli is on par with that of most RABBI RAMON WIDMONTE

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Secondly, I thought about the seemingly unrealistic nature of much of what we do say on the night. As I pronounced the words, I wondered to myself, how, in good conscience, could I tell these kids: “This year we are slaves, next year we will be free. This year we are here, next year we will be in the land of Israel?” Am I being truthful and honest? I said it last year and the year before, both in the very comfortable confines of my African abode, and this year, I am still here. This year we are still enslaved, the M’shiach has not yet come, Ahmadinejad can still pontificate freely about a judenrein Middle East. Surely our words must ring hollow in the ears of our children, at least the older ones? Surely we emerge sounding like phonies? Thankfully, later, when we reached the section of the Four Sons, in the middle of the response to the ‘wicked’ son, an answer to both my questions came to me – a dual epiphany. But to understand it fully, we need to take a short detour and learn from Randy and the ‘wicked’ son himself. First, Randy. The video of The Last Lecture by computer scientist Randy Pausch has become a virtual sensation on YouTube, having received 10,982,272 views at last count. So who was he? Randy was a professor who was invited to give a ‘Last Lecture’, an academic tradition where a speaker is challenged to deliver the lecture

he would present if he knew it would be the last one of his life. Just before this invitation, Randy learned he had terminal pancreatic cancer, transforming the academic tradition into frightening reality. One of the simple truths Randy in his lecture presents is a fundamental method of education. He describes what he calls a ‘head fake’. A ‘head fake’ is a powerful method of teaching, where you get someone to perform a task they enjoy doing, but without them knowing it, they are actually learning a skill or absorbing information relevant to a completely different area of life. Randy’s example, which he actually implemented, was to create a video game based on the Sims, where kids get to create a story with the Sims characters and even get to control them by typing in some simple sentences. So what’s the catch, the ‘head fake’? Well, the ‘simple sentences’ are actually the Java programming language. Without knowing it, the kids become computer programmers while believing they are playing a game. I believe that this is the key to understanding some of the real thrust of the Haggadah and the Seder, which I believe are both unbelievably good head fakes. If we place ourselves in the mind of a four-or five-year old kid, what would we see on this night, through their eyes, that is really different? It’s not the reclining, not the Matzah and not the dipping. Those are not fundamental changes. What is really different is not the what but the who and the how.

The who... A child learns very quickly that there are two concentric circles of people in their lives. The innermost circle is family. Outside of that are friends. Friends are kids whose ears you stuff with sand, or their crotchety parents. But everything outside of those two


inner circles is dark and foreboding and a child learns this quickly. We tell them: “Don’t speak to strangers!” But what happens on this night?

Or, even better, the child and his/ her parents get to conquer someone else’s house. The normal rules of ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ appear to fall by the wayside. We behave almost like an extended family. We behave like a community. We talk like a community (‘we were slaves in Egypt’, ‘our forefathers’...)

has been) and it highlights both key elements of the seder. He looks back at years of sitting at the seder table and he unleashes a torrent of sneering vitriol.

Now we can turn to the ‘wicked’ son.

“Are you all mad!? Look at yourselves! Sitting here pretending you are some sort of community with some special destiny! You believe you belong to a dream team! Well wake up! The dream is just a dream, perhaps a nightmare. You have no destiny. For two thousands years you have said: “Next year in Jerusalem!” and “Next year we will be free men!”

The ‘wicked’ son asks: “What is this service to you?” The Haggadah responds to him with a frightening comment – since he intentionally uses the term “to you”, excluding himself from the community, he has committed a cardinal heresy (kafar b’ikar). Why such a brutal response? The question of the wicked son is a contemporary one (perhaps it always

Children in concentration camps and pogrom-ridden hovels were fed this tripe and look at them all believing it. And moreover, there is no unity and no team – as much as you were two thousand years ago and even more now, you are divided by fractures which multiply by the year. If your temple was destroyed by baseless hatred then, how much more so

The how...

Continued on pg 24

MESSAGE FROM THE RABBI

On this night what is different is that a Jewish child learns that there is a third circle, called community. But they do not learn it explicitly, it is not in the Haggadah, it is not in the Seder. Rather, it surrounds, embraces, undergirds and encompasses them all. It is a ‘head fake’. All of a sudden, people who you don’t see often, people not part of ‘family’ or ‘friends’ invade a child’s home and behave like it’s their own.

We don’t point it out explicitly. It is a superb ‘head fake’. We simply create the reality of communal life around our children so that they grow up breathing in the heady aromas of kneidlach, potato kugel and nationhood. It is less important how tunefully and accurately they sing Mah Nishtanah but it is critical that they sing it before a wide audience of adoring, supportive members of the congregation.


MESSAGE FROM THE RABBI

would it fall today. Dream Team my foot”.’ The truth is that his analysis of our beliefs is spot on but his dire predictions are way off. We do believe that we belong to a dream team – a team with a dream. We believe that all of us are needed and that our conscious awareness of this is even more vital to achieving our ultimate goal. We feel we are a crew piloting the vessel of Jewish destiny and world destiny to a sublime destination. But how can we infuse the team members with those twin inspirations: the feeling that they are on a team and the hope and belief that they will reach the destination? This, in my mind, is the seder. First there is the ‘head fake’ which implants the identity of being a crew member. And then there is the ‘head fake’ which implants hope. Today we can answer the ‘wicked’ son differently. We can say: “You sneered at us. The entire world mocked us,

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“the wandering Jews”, as you did – people with no destination. But now, you see, after two thousand years, we actually have returned. No other nation has kept together or kept any dream alive for even half that time.

The who is that great extended family, the Jewish community whom we welcome into our homes as we did that very first night of redemption. The how is that awesome atmosphere of hope and destiny which

“This year we are in Jerusalem.” – Rabbi Widmonte But we did and it actually worked! Two thousand years of seders, two thousand years of team-building, two thousand years of hope-planting, all finally paid off. This year we are in Jerusalem. Even if all those Jews felt for every one of those two thousand years that there was no way they could see how they would get there, they knew that if they ensured the team remained a team and remained alight with hope, they would pilot this vessel home.” We now see that the true education of the seder lies not in the actual content of what is said and taught, it is not the what but the who and how.

we also felt on that self-same night so long ago. These twin elements of Jewish identity filter down like warm chicken soup, into the depths of all levels of the Jewish mind until they are so present they become indetectable, percolating through all our thoughts, beliefs, feelings and actions. This night is different because during it we learn how to form our Dream Team. We don’t need Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson or Larry Bird. Just Cohen, Levi and Israel. We’re shorter, but we have a much longer reach. An eternal reach. ■


FINDING A LIGHT THROUGH THE DARK

A NEW VIRTUAL WORLD IS CHALLENGING PEOPLE’S PERCEPTIONS BY CANDICE DAMELIN

PARTICIPANTS IN the Dialogue in the Dark virtual experience enter the world of virtual blindness through a maze. As their vision is compromised, their other senses are heightened. But it is more than just a sensory experience in a virtual world created by German journalist and social activist Andreas Heinecke. It’s his way of challenging preconceptions of all kinds; his way of encouraging people to rethink their reactions to issues such as physical disabilities, gender and race. Dialogue in the Dark opened at the Children’s Museum in Holon in June 2004. Since then, more than 550 000 people have discovered their dormant senses and learned to adapt to the challenge presented by blindness.

BLIND MUSEUM

Why it was developed The concept was pioneered by Heinecke when he was charged with developing a rehabilitation programme for a colleague who had lost his sight in a car accident. Meeting blind people fundamentally changed his view of human nature. His idea was to create an opportunity for sighted people to connect with blind people and he believed that darkness was the ideal context. It is the blind who assure and direct sighted people at Dialogue in the Dark, and lead them through a series of situations in the dark.

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During the tour, the visitors’ goal is to guess where they are. Once the tour is finished, guests are encouraged to discuss their experience of blindness with their guide as they adjust to the light in the cafeteria. On Thursday evenings, those daring enough can even have Dinner in the Dark, a surprise meal served by blind waiters. A team of 30 guides, all of whom are blind, work at the Dialogue in the Dark expo in Holon. Among them is Liran Frank. He has been involved with the expo since he lost his sight four and a half years ago. He can still distinguish between light and darkness, so his first venture through the expo was as overwhelming for him as for a sighted participant. “Every time I take a group I remember that feeling. I understand the process the guests undergo. People react differently. The darkness is completely intimidating. Most people panic at first. Some are more fearful, some become aggressive, some become cynical, some remain tense throughout the experience,” Liran says.

self-pity and believes firmly that any challenge in life can be borne with dignity, Dialogue in the Dark alerts sighted people to the fact that the blind need not be pitied nor patronised. “A person is what he presents. Selfpity is a choice. If you believe in yourself, you can do anything within the laws of nature and society,” he states. Prior to losing his vision to a degenerative eye disease, Liran worked as a computer technician and was studying towards a master’s degree in Jewish Mysticism. His disability forced him to give up both these activities. However, a month later he discovered Dialogue in the Dark. Through his interaction with participants, he even found himself a job as an English teacher in a remedial school for sighted children.

What it achieves

The expo in Holon is one of more than 160 sites where Dialogue in the Dark is open to the public. Its success led Heinecke and his wife, Orna Cohen, to create Invitation to Silence, an interactive exhibition about non-oral communication.

“Everyone is the same in the dark. In the dark you are talking to a person whose disability is not obvious. The darkness forces people to look beyond their physical differences,” he observes. For Liran, who dismisses

During Invitation to Silence, which has been running at the Children’s Museum since 2007, participants adapt to the silence by learning or developing alternative ways of expression and discourse. ■


IN PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

SHEREEN SUCKERMAN THINKS POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY CAN BRING PEACE OF MIND

POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY

IN THE American Psychologist (2000) University of Pennsylvania psychologist and creator of positive psychology, Dr Martin Seligman, describes the moment when he realised that a movement towards positive psychology was needed. It occured when he was out weeding in his garden with his five-year-old daughter, Nikki. As a goal-oriented person he was intent on getting the job done, while Nikki was happy to throw the weeds up into the air, sing and dance around. Nikki could see her father was getting upset and after walking away she returned and said: “Daddy, do you remember before my fifth birthday? From the time I was three to the time I was five, I decided not to whine anymore. This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And if I can stop whining you can stop being such a grouch.”

An epiphany Seligman’s daughter’s wise words led him to believe that happiness is not the result of good genes, or luck. Behaviour is learnt, as is our deci-

sion to be happy and to respond to situations in a certain way. The heart of Seligman’s work involves discovering what makes humans happy. And unlike traditional psychology, which focuses on curing the patient of mental illness and depression, positive psychology is preventative and assists patients by providing them with a variety of strategies for sustained happiness. Claudia Wallis in The New Science of Happiness (Time Magazine, 2005) reports that the goal of traditional psychology practitioners is to bring patients from a negative, ailing state to a neutral normal state, or in the words of Seligman “from a minus five to zero”. He says: “It wasn’t enough for us to nullify disabling conditions and get to zero. We needed to ask, what are the enabling conditions that make humans flourish? How do we get from zero to plus five?”.

The happy person In order to understand what makes us flourish, positive psychology explores the spectrum of human emo-

tions and different ways of creating a mind that can foster positivity, creativity, joy and contentment. Positive psycholgy is interested in providing one with the tools for self-development. These tools assist a person with problem-solving and coping with difficult situations and emotions. The hedonic treadmill theory shows that expectations tend to rise along with changes in fortune and achievement, which results in no gain in permanent happiness for the individual. Even though this belief shows that it may be difficult to prolong one’s overall happiness levels, it prompted positive psychology experts to develop ‘happiness’ exercises for sustained happiness. These practical interventions include the ‘Three Blessings’ – jotting down three things you are most grateful for, the ‘Gratitude Visit’ – expressing genuine gratitude to another person, and ‘Active and Constructive Responding’ – an exercise designed to help you respond actively and constructively to an event as reported to you. All of these help produce more Continued on pg 30

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resilience, optimism and less depression.

What makes you happy? So what makes you want to bounce out of bed in the morning, sing in the shower, and dance like nobody’s watching?

emotional traits consist of an emotional maturity over the outcome of events in the past, being happy with your situation in the present, and having hope for the future. Positive individual traits consist of strengths and virtues, such as the capacity for love and work, courage, compassion, resilience, creativity, curiosity,

“It wasn’t enough for us to nullify disabling conditions and get to zero. We needed to ask, what are the enabling conditions that make humans flourish? How do we get from zero to plus five?” – Dr Seligman

POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY

Some of the findings by positive psychologists will sound like common sense, other findings will prove rather surprising. Research by Myers, Ryan and Deci (2000) has found that activities such as shopping, eating and money making only provide short-term happiness. And the work of Denier (1996) has found that once all your basic needs are met, wealth is only weakly related to happiness levels. Higher levels of IQ, good education and youth do not contribute to greater happiness, but strong family and religious ties, and social support systems do. Observing others behave altruistically (Haidt, 2000) is one way to become inspired to perform your own good deeds and lead a meaningful life, thereby making you a happier person. Danner, Snowdon, and Friesen (2001) have found that people with a positive outlook in young adulthood tend to have healthier and longer lives. One of the best ways to happiness, Seligman advises is by “leading our lives according to our strengths and becoming more engaged in what we do”. By focusing on what we are good at, rather than what we are not, we build our self-esteem and abilities. A positive disposition can help to make you a happier person. Positive

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integrity, self-knowledge, self-control, and wisdom.

Resilience training and children Most exciting about the belief that compassion, courage and integrity can be learnt is the hugely positive effects it can have on children and teenagers. If happiness is a skill, then with a little practice every day, becoming compassionate, courageous and more positive is well within everyone’s reach. The Penn Resiliency Programme (PRP), developed by Jane Gillham, Karen Reivich and Lisa Jaycox at the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Centre and researched extensively by the authors, Seligman and the rest of the positive psychology team, helps students develop emotional intelligence.

Central to PRP is Ellis’ AdversityConsequences-Beliefs (ACB) model. This is the notion that our beliefs about the outcome of events can impact on our emotions and behavior. Through this model, students learn to detect inaccurate thoughts, to evaluate these, and to challenge negative beliefs by considering alternative interpretations. Says Gillham: “PRP focuses on more than just cognitive skills which help us make sure that we are thinking realistically about the problems we encounter. Sometimes the cognitive skills aren’t enough. Often they are just a starting point to successful coping and problem-solving. We also teach a variety of skills (assertiveness, relaxation, creative brainstorming, etc.) to help children and adolescents cope with stressful situations and solve problems in their lives more effectively.” Gillham, together with Steven Brunwasser from the University of Michigan and Eric Kim from the Univerity of Michigan, recently completed reviews of 17 controlled evaluations on resilience training. They found that PRP participants had fewer depressive symptoms for up to a year following an intervention, compared to youths who had received no intervention.

PRP helps children break away from negative thinking habits with techniques for assertiveness, negotiation, decision-making, social problemsolving and relaxation.

The overarching results of studies into positive psychology show that although traditional psychology has and continues to play an important role in identifying mental illnesses and depressive character traits, it is an incomplete way of helping people improve their mental wellbeing.

The skills taught in the programme can be applied to many contexts, including relationships with peers and family members as well as achievement in academics and other activities.

Positive psychology is not a replacement theory for psychology but provides supplementary methods of prevention to maximise the effectiveness of the more traditional methods. ■


THE TRUTH BEHIND MENTAL ILLNESS

BY TAMARA BLIEDEN

MICHELLE BOISKIN’S family has felt the pain of mental illness firsthand. “I had heard about it but I never really understood the complexity of this disorder until my family were confronted with it in a very intimate and heart-wrenching way,” explains Michelle. Her daughter suffers from paediatric bipolar disorder. She is 13 years old.

But why and how did this illness affect a child brought up in a stable, Jewish home? The question must be asked: Did Michelle’s daughter have a propensity to suffer from a mental disorder because of her Jewish genes? The proposed link between Jews and mental illness has raised controversy for centuries. Back in 1889 French neurologist,Jean-Martin Charcot

expressed the belief that Jews had a tendency to develop “hysteria and neurasthenia” adding that “nervous illnesses of all types are innumerably more frequent among Jews than among other group.” It seems that certain genetic disorders tend to be more common among Jews, Ashkenazi Jews in particular and this, it is believed, is due to the homogenous nature of the Jewish Continued on pg 32

MOOD DISORDERS

IT REMAINS DEBATABLE IF MENTAL ILLNESS IS A JEWISH PROBLEM BUT IT CERTAINLY IS A JEWISH ISSUE


MOOD DISORDERS

people. “Whether it’s due to centuries of persecution which have become expressed in our DNA, or due to the small gene pool from which we originate – it’s a contentious issue – but nevertheless clinical evidence shows our particular propensity,” says Michelle, who since her child’s diagnosis has researched, read and gained as much information as possible in her quest to know more.

Recent research results And like her, researchers, scientists and those affected by mental illness in any way, have set out to determine if there is any truth to this idea. A 1962 New York study found that Jews in America showed slightly higher rates of manic depression, while more recent 1992 research said that: “Compared with Catholics and Protestants, Jews had significantly higher rates of major depression and dysthymia.” Dr David Pelcovitz, Professor of Education and Psychology at Yeshiva

University, has also seen such a trend. He explains that: “Statistically, there is a higher risk of depression in Jewish men than in the rest of the population. In the general population, for every depressed man there are two depressed women. In the Jewish population, the ratio is one to one; therefore it is double the risk.” But many have not supported this notion. “There has been significant research on this topic, but so far, it appears that Jews are at no higher risk than any other group for mental illness,” explains Dr Dora Wynchank, a prominent Johannesburg psychiatrist. This is particularly apparent when it comes to the study of schizophrenia. Experts estimate the incidence of schizophrenia in the Ashkenazi Jewish population to be no higher than that of the general population, says Dr Wynchank. She adds that: “Ashkenazi Jews have similarities genetically due to centuries of mar-

rying within the faith, so they are a good group in which to study genetic inheritance. However, there does not seem to be an increased risk among Ashkenazim for any of the major psychotic illnesses.” Researchers at The Johns Hopkins University continue to perform genetic studies on the Jewish population. They do not feel that previous studies on the link between affective disorders and Jews have been adequately substantiated. There may be no definite evidence to show a link, but mental illness is certainly an issue that the Jewish community needs to address. “The community needs to be more caring of each other and support each other,” says Michelle. Michelle knows that her family is not alone in the struggle, as research reveals that one in five families are affected by mental illness. In South Africa alone, the National


addition, when children do present with a psychiatric condition, they often manifest very different symptoms to adults.”

A new support system

However she adds that over the past few years there has been a massive four-fold increase in the diagnosis and treatment of paediatric bipolar.

With such a high prevalence the Jewish community needs to come together to raise awareness. And this is exactly what Michelle is doing. She’s started a group in Cape Town to support and inform those who have children affected by mood disorders. “Families dealing with such a child can quickly become exhausted, traumatised and isolated, and this new group intends to provide support, friendship, information and referrals to the parents and siblings, grandparents and friends,” she says. Dr Wynchank explains that: “The diagnostic criteria of most psychiatric conditions were developed for adults and do not apply to children. In

Despite this it took eight long years to properly diagnose Michelle’s daughter. “When she was correctly diagnosed with bipolar type two and given the correct medication, she responded almost immediately and we ‘got our daughter back’,” says Michelle. Michelle’s only hurdle is getting past the stigma and shame attached to mental illness. Perhaps it is the overemphasis on achievement in the Jewish community or the fear of the unknown but the New Jersey Jewish News explains that just two-thirds of people who need treatment seek help.

Michelle’s daughter now spends her weekends socialising, a vastly different person from the irritable, reactive child she was a few months ago. “I feel euphoric. I finally get to understand what is going on with my child. I can’t tell you the relief,” says Michelle. We may never know if Michelle’s daughter was bound to suffer from bipolar disorder because of her genetic make-up, but we do know that mental illness affects and will affect almost all of us in some way and so support and awareness is crucial to the wellbeing of our community. As Michelle adds: “The more people I connect with, the more clout there is behind promoting sensitivity. I want to make changes so people are able to have understanding.” For further information about the group you can contact Michelle on 072 100 4666 or reach her on michelleboiskin@gmail.com ■

MOOD DISORDERS

Institute of Mental Health believes that almost seven percent of people aged 20 or older have a personality disorder.


PAID TO LEARN

IS LEARNING TORAH AN HONEST PROFESSION? DAVE LAWRENCE EXPLORES THE TENSION AROUND TIME SPENT IN FULL-TIME LEARNING AND EARNING A LIVING. THERE ARE halachik arguments for which the sages of later generations gave a certain finality and clear outcome. Then there are those which have survived for centuries. The notion of receiving payment to learn Torah continues to cause much controversy in the Jewish world today. The centrality of Talmud Torah (learning and teaching Torah) has

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forever been a feature of authentic Judaism. Yet the means through which this is implemented on an individual, private level and on a broader, social level has been up for constant debate. Maimonidies (Rambam) is a key figure in the argument. He states emphatically that someone who is engaged in Torah study and does not

work, and is supported through charity “desecrates God’s name, degrades the Torah, extinguishes the light of our faith, brings evil upon himself and forfeits life in Olam HaBa.” In his commentary to Pirkei Avot he writes at length how there is no basis in the Torah and in the lives of the sages of the Talmud that legitimises such a practice.


Moreover he shows how many sages sought the means to support themselves (the Gemara states that the great sage Hillel was a woodchopper by profession). Yet the Rambam stands alone in his opinion.

It would be difficult to achieve greatness in Torah while simultaneously supporting oneself. The claim is that a model for being supported to learn Torah does indeed exist – the tribe of Zevulun which was involved in business would finance the tribe of Yisachar to channel its strengths into learning. This partnership entails a real agreement from both parties – a commitment to learn and a commitment to support the learning.

After the Holocaust during which the Torah centres of Europe were destroyed, rabbinic leaders made major decisions in the attempt to rebuild the Jewish world. It is widely reported that one of the great figures of the time said that men should devote themselves to full time learning in a yeshiva or kollel. These men would be supported through community funding in an attempt to rebuild the Torah world.

It provides one with an insular environment that is intensely committed to Torah and mitzvot. Consequently many men pursue this as a lifelong occupation. Yet it has had its negative effects particularly in Israel where a significant work force is not working while being supported through community funding. This has led to poverty in many cases and the sustainability of such a model continues to be questioned.

“We aim to provide a centre which calls on all to live Torah lives in their chosen field, and for the committed few to direct this change through Torah leadership.” – Rabbi Podlashuk Beyond the strict halachic debate of whether it is permissible to get paid, the kollel system today reflects a certain approach to Judaism. Learning in a kollel can be attractive.

The local context The nature of such a kollel or yeshiva that exists in Israel is vastly different to one that exists in South Africa. Continued on pg 36

PAID TO LEARN

Rabbi Yosef Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch as well as a commentary to the Rambam, disagrees with the position of the Rambam as do many other sages. If the Jewish people held strictly like the Rambam, the Torah would have been lost.

The impact of the Holocaust


PAID TO LEARN

Recently Mizrachi founded the Beit Mordechai Campus Kollel under the leadership of Rabbi Doron Podlashuk. “The rationale behind the kollel,” says Rabbi Podlashuk, “is to create a real makom torah [place of Torah] in our community on the Yeshiva College Campus.” Rabbi Simcha Krauss from Israel has been the Rosh Kollel for the first semester.

nity, which is dedicated to offering the highest level of shiurim and learning as well as nurturing the growth of aspiring Talmidei Chachamim.

While there are people getting paid to learn, the primary goal is create a community centre where men, women and children are committed to learning and strengthening their Jewish identity.

However, reflects Rav Podlashuk, while a thriving beit midrash is vital in every community, “it should not be the goal for everyone to be learning in kollel as a lifelong vocation. This privilege should be reserved for the exceptional few.”

Most batei midrash (houses of study) that exist in Johannesburg serve this purpose. This particular kollel is made up of students and older working individuals who are devoting their spare time to learning. The Beit Mordechai Campus community has already become a Torah institute in the heart of the commu-

Says Rabbi Podlashuk: “We aim to provide a centre which calls on all to live Torah lives in their chosen field, and for the committed few to direct this change through Torah leadership.”

“If there is no flour there is no Torah, if there is no Torah there is no flour.” – Rabbi ben Azarya

The big picture The Campus Kollel also aims to impact the larger community. It endeavours to enrich our schools, youth movements, shuls and ultimately transform our Jewish community into one of Torah-based businessman, doctors, artists and musicians.

More than 3 000 years of Jewish history have taught that Torah provides the vitality of Jewish living. But it needs to remain vital; healthy and energising. The tension is reflected in the statement by Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya: “If there is no flour there is no Torah, if there is no Torah there is no flour.” If one does not have the means to support himself and his family, one cannot sustain his Torah learning. Yet if a commitment to Torah is not a central feature of one’s life, then even his means will not yield any substantial benefit. ■

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much deeper connection – the People connecting with the Land, the connection of spirit with matter. And as you connect with the Land (and the Dream), you yourself awaken. To celebrate this connection being made we have opened our Aliyah VAV flight leaving 12 Iyar 5770/26 April, 2010 as well as our Israel Connect EXPO end of May - a complete new, all encompassing expo that will include Aliyah, High Education in Israel, Partnership 2000 volunteer programs, business investments in

Israel Centre and JAFI (Jewish Agency for Israel) are also launching our Coat for a Rainy Day campaign. It’s always good to know you’re covered and ensuring that you are, we suggest you get your Unabridged birth certificates and POJ (Proof of Jewishness from the Beit Din) in order ASAP – even if you are not thinking of making Aliyah soon. Please do not delay on this issue, seeing that it sometimes takes up to six months for Home Affairs to process the paperwork. Get in touch: for Aliyah phone Sue or Sheila at (011) 645-2574/30. For our Coat for a Rainy day and monthly Let’s Talk sessions phone Anneri at (011) 645-2528. For Educational projects contact Tanya at (011) 6452561. For general enquiries phone Debbie at (011) 645-2560. ■


INTO THE TWILIGHT ZONE RABBI RAMON WIDMONTE TAKES A CLOSER LOOK AT THE IMPACT STEPHANIE MEYER’S TWILIGHT SAGA HAS HAD ON TEENAGERS

THE TWILIGHT Tsunami – gripping, sensual, teen novels teeming with vampires, werewolves, ‘vegetarians’ and Voltur – has smothered Teensiltown.

TEENS AND TWILIGHT

Now every girl wants an Edward and every boy dreams of a Bella. But for most parents and educators seeking to understand its appeal and meaning, it is literally a very thick, closed and concerning phenomenon.

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This article is the first (hopefully) in a series which aims to examine the values and significance of the books and films which are popular among our youth and to guide parents in using these media sources to connect more deeply with their children. So why does Twilight matter and what it is really all about? It matters because the mind is the foremost battlefield for the future of any culture – we Jews know this better than most. What we think and how we think it, hews our destiny from the bedrock of the future. Written and electronic media are the true superpowers and our young adults are inundated constantly through all

channels with values and assumptions with which many parents would be uncomfortable. As an educator, I have to know what youngsters are reading, seeing, writing, thinking, watching, blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, MySpacing and Buzzing. Not knowing would make it impossible for me to connect profoundly with their issues and their mindspaces which are strongly influenced by the cloud of societal values (or lack of values) raining down in their heads every day. Recently, I presented a series of shiurim to a group of 15-year-old female students, on the Torah outlook on male-female relationships. While preparing, I asked one or two of them what books were going around the class and I was told that the latest hit was Knocked out by my Nunga-nungas. Yes, there is no spelling error there. It’s an excruciating tale (I couldn’t get through too much of it and ended up skimming) of a teenage girl’s hapless attempts at romance. It’s rife with blatant sexuality, objectification of the opposite genders and back-stabbing cattiness. Lovely stuff!

Why get involved? We need to know that what our children and teenagers watch and read affects them profoundly. I would encourage parents regularly to sample their children’s reading matter and favourite websites, so as to provide themselves with conversation matter, at the very least, and perhaps with greater insight into their children’s issues. Now, what caught my attention about the Twilight series was that it presents a whole old world of values, albeit with many of the downsides of Nunga-nunga’s and company. At the outset let me make it clear that Twilight is a teen-romance novel and it’s got sexual undertones, overtones, midtones and semitones, you name it. It has no pretences in this respect and as such I’m in no way giving a hechsher to the series. However, the blatant, searing, standout message is one of self-control and discipline in all areas of human appetite and desire. In this, it is unique. Twilight boasts vampires galore and they like blood as vampires do, but


the heroes are those who realise that despite their ‘nature’ telling them to ‘just do it’, it’s just wrong to kill.

Twilight themes There are many themes raised throughout which parents can use

Again, I’m in no way giving a hechsher to the series but for those parents whose children are already exposing themselves to Twilight, I think there is a lot more sunshine than darkness between its pages, and as such, its message is discordant in our era. It is a rare delight to find such a runaway hit teaching any Torah value and I rejoice in the fact that there are those so talented, focused and passionate about teaching right from wrong that they are able to glorify it in our post-modern dusk. As the Gemara in B’rachot says, there is a twilight which comes before night but there is also one before daybreak and the coming of the sun. ■

Reader feedback on Twilight “I was happy to know that it was ‘safe’ for my teenager to read, and for her to consider the difficult dynamics within a non-physical relationship. We did debate many hours over whether ‘the perfect man’ exists, and if something as fundamental as his being a vampire negates all else positive that he is.” – Gabey Gordon, mother of a teenager

“We liked it because it was a combination of fairytale and reality and it taught us lessons which will help us in our real lives. Like how the character, Bella, gave up everything, even the love of her life, her entire world, for the sake of her mother.” – Gabi Lew, Chavi Immerman and Sarit Aronowitz, Grade 10 learners

TEENS AND TWILIGHT

So, they end up struggling with themselves day and night to overcome this urge, they find alternatives to harming people and in the end, their reward is that they become less feral, more loving, more compassionate and happier. Similarly, the heartthrob hero vampire (Edward ‘He’s to die for’ Cullen) refuses point-blank to consummate his physical relationship with his human girlfriend (Bella) until they are married. He thinks it’s wrong and he’s constantly preoccupied with the belief that he has a soul and the desire to have something of spiritual value to show for his life when he reaches the world to come. These are uncommon sentiments and they’re positive sentiments.

as springboards to discuss issues with which their young adult may be struggling, such as self-image, social popularity, self-control, sexuality and how to handle one’s appetites.


TASTY EATS AND TREATS DURING PESACH STILL NOT SURE WHAT YOU’LL BE SERVING DURING THE FESTIVAL? HERE’S SOME SUGGESTIONS... BY SHARON NEWFIELD

Beef ribs

Boil six racks of beef ribs in water seasoned with salt and pepper for between one and one-and-a-half hours until they are soft.Mix up a marinade using the following ingredients: •1 bottle of grape jam •1 cup of tomato sauce •1 ½ cups of chutney •1/3 cup of oil •¾ cup of white vinegar •2 teaspoons of lemon juice •1 tablespoon of grated fresh ginger •3 crushed cloves of garlic •1 teaspoon of salt •1 teaspoon of paprika •1 teaspoon of pepper Dip the ribs into the marinade in a Season Serve for two days. Then bake them in the oven at 180°C for between 45 minutes and an hour. Remember to baste the ribs regularly during cooking.

FOR THE PESACH KITCHEN

Granadilla Sorbet

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You’ll need the following ingredients: •1 ¾ cups of sugar •5 cups of water •The peel and juice of a lemon •2 ½ cups of granadilla pulp •1 egg white Dissolve the sugar in the five cups of water in a saucepan . Add the lemon peel and bring the mixture to the boil . Let it boil for five minutes and then cool and strain the syrup. Stir in the granadilla pulp and lemon juice . Then chill the syrup for half an hour. Then place the syrup in a shallow metal tray and freeze it until firm. Break up the frozen granadilla ice and transfer the mixture into a large mixing bowl . Using a K beater beat the mixture together with the egg white . Then pour into a mould and freeze until firm. Decorate with extra granadilla pulp and fresh mint.


SAJO EDITOR RONIT CHAYA JANET REVIEWS SOME BOOKS TO SETTLE DOWN WITH DURING PESACH THE GIFTS OF THE JEWS: HOW A TRIBE OF DESERT NOMADS CHANGED THE WAY EVERYONE THINKS AND FEELS Written by Thomas Cahill It’s a bit confusing to pick up The Gift of the Jews by Thomas Cahill, as you expect to find yet another historical rendition of the achievements of the Jewish people throughout history. However you should not be misled, as this book is so much more. In the distinctive style that made him famous for How the Irish saved civilization, Cahill explores the origins of western culture. He comments that “the Jews started it all” and makes use of the Torah to illustrate how the Jews altered the way that the world viewed time and history. Prior to these Hebrew nomads, he explains, the regular approach to time was cyclic, spinning in the perpetual motions of birth, life and death – commonly known as the Great Wheel. Only the Jews, says Cahill, saw history and the world as moving forward. In Cahill’s words “most of our best words, in fact – new, adventure, future, freedom, progress, spirit, faith, hope, justice – are the gifts of the Jews.”

In a review by Joanne Brichetto, she reflects how works like the Gifts of the Jews “encourage greater understanding, tolerance and hope concerning ourselves, our neighbours and our own place in history…and the great readership of books like these give reason for hope for the future.” Get it at www.amazon.com

This book give a unique insight into the life and opinions of Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik, from a writer who was privy to spend many years at his side as his shamas and close personal attendant. The book details the Rav’s views on many varied issues which he and the author discussed, such as Zionism, women in Halacha, medical ethics such as birth control, cloning and autopsies, alien life and many other fascinating topics. Holzer includes a particularly interesting section on Hallel for Yom Ha’atzmaut, exploring all the intricacies surrounding this controversial issue. He also shares a number of personal recollections of the Rav’s family history, as well as the Rav’s early days as a student in Berlin alongside the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Here Holzer includes several photographs to illustrate these stories. The book engages the reader in a particularly unique way as it is written in a style that leads one to feel that you are in the presence of the Rav, involved in a conversation and witnessing him “thinking aloud”. The books has an intimate tone as the information is based on actual tape recordings of the Rav sharing ideas , and is then supplemented with notes and other material, thereby truly giving the reader the impression of standing in the presence of one of the leaders of our generation. The style does get confusing at times as sentences can be incomplete as a result of the tape recordings which may not be 100 percent clear. Says Holzer: “The Rav has been portrayed as a great halachist, philosopher [and] intellectual giant but the personal side and sensitivity is sometimes less apparent. I wanted to share that side that I was able to experience.”

RECOMMENDED READING

But this was not the only gift of the desert nomads. He writes of numerous other contributions made by the Jews through history, such as the idea of G-d being a real personality involved in history, and the notion of human freedom. These gifts also include a day of rest, the value of education and the concept of the spiritual – all of which are discussed in great detail in the book.

THE RAV THINKING ALOUD: TRANSCRIPTS OF PERSONAL CONVERSATIONS WITH RABBI JOSEPH B. SOLEVEITCHIK Written by David Holzer

Get it at the Kollel Bookshop

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STAN, THE GOOD SHABBOS MAN BY BY STAN STAN SMOOKLER SMOOKLER

‘SOKKA 2010’ is upon us. Oey vey!

THE BACK PAGE

The Stan The Good Shabbos Man website has been very busy the past few months with World Cup 2010 ‘Chazerai’. It is quite e-mazing how many ‘Yidden’ are actually planning on coming. I’m not sure how many will actually get here eventually, but the ‘GEES’ (spirit) is there!

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There are many ex-Pats with timeshare available, and those not coming are offering this accommodation to those that are. At this stage there have been a few requests for kosher accommodation as well. The Beth Din has issued a comprehensive list of kosher establishments, which has been a great help. The Board of Deputies has launched a ‘Yiddisher Souff Effriken’ friendly website, which helps ‘Sokka’ fans to access to information on shuls, museums, kosher eateries, etc. You can find it at www. jewish2010.com There is definitely a good vibe among the ‘Yiddisher Community’ and I reckon that ‘Sokka 2010’, with all the Bobbameises and Faribles that are going on, will still be an event to remember forever more and the ‘Beloved Country’ will never see another spectacle like this again. The website has been getting around two million hits a month, and should get many more once we get closer to June. My website offers a lot of assistance to

‘Wannabee’ tourists and locals, and I receive thousands of e-mails monthly asking about various things. 2010 promises to be a ‘Humungous’ year for the Stan The Good Shabbos Man website, as it is its tenth anniversary. I have helped so many ‘Yidden’ with so many various things that it actually has served a great purpose. I’ve sent about 480 letters and who knows what the future holds... 2010 also marks 40 years since I got my matric and Highlands North High School will be having its 70th Reunion at the end of June, which I am helping to promote. . Have a Good Freiliche Pesach, and don’t forget to get onto the website sometime at www.stantgsm.com Here’s something to keep you smiling...

The Four Sons (a funny version) There are four types of children who ask questions on Pesach – the wise one, the bad one, the simple one, and the one who does not know to ask. What does the wise one ask? I don’t know. I couldn’t understand him either. Him you must send to a school for gifted children. What does the bad one ask? He says: “What is this festival to you?” Because he excludes himself from the

community, you must exclude him from your table, and he will go back to his employer and get paid timeand-a-half for working during Pesach. What does the simple one ask? He simply asks: “What is this?” You say to him: “This is dinner.” As for the one who does not know to ask, you must go to his room, wake him up and say: “Next year, remember to come to the table!”

The 10 Commandments This is a little known tale of how G-d came to give the Jews the 10 Commandments. G-d first went to the Egyptians and asked them if they would like a commandment. “What’s a commandment?” they asked. “Well, it’s like thou shalt not commit adultery,” replied G-d. The Egyptians thought about it and then said: “No way, that would ruin our weekends.” So then G-d went to the Assyrians and asked them if they would like a commandment. They also asked, “What’s a commandment?” “Well,” said G-d, “it’s like thou shalt not steal.” The Assyrians immediately replied: “No way. That would ruin our economy.” So finally G-d went to the Jews and asked them if they wanted a commandment. They asked, “How much?” G-d said: “They’re free.” The Jews said: “Great! We’ll take 10!” ■



Jewish Observer - Pesach 2010