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New York Congregation Owns Oldest Synagogue in the US, 180 Miles Away, Court Rules – New York Times

Posted By on August 4, 2017

It was those ornaments, known in Hebrew as rimonim, that sparked the latest dispute. In 2011, Jeshuat Israel, seeking money, decided to sell them to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for more than $7 million. When Shearith Israel tried to stop the sale, Jeshuat Israel sued, claiming it owned the objects, and the synagogue itself.

The courts found Shearith Israel helped maintain the unused synagogue and its cemetery in Newport through the 19th century. Finally, in the late 19th century, enough Jews moved to Newport to warrant the reopening of the synagogue. The newcomers organized as Jeshuat Israel and entered into a 1903 lease agreement with Shearith Israel, for use of the building and its fixtures, for a nominal rent of $1 a year.

The lower court, Justice Souter wrote, had relied on a conscientious and exhaustive historical analysis, in coming to its ruling. But instead of entangling itself in history, and with it, doctrinal arguments being made by the groups Shearith Israel was historically Sephardic, while Jeshuat Israel was mostly Ashkenazi he wrote the court should just look at the 1903 agreement and other contracts as it would in any other civil law case.

You should do what you would do if there were two bowling leagues who had some contracts with each other, said Eric Rassbach, an attorney with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who wrote a friend of the court brief supporting Shearith Israel in the case. Its just a lot cleaner that way.

Shearith Israel was founded in the Colonial period by 23 Spanish and Portuguese Jews in what is now Lower Manhattan. Since 1897, the Orthodox congregation has met in a Tiffany-designed neo-Classical building on 70th Street and Central Park West.

Congregation Shearith Israel is gratified by the First Circuits unanimous decision reaffirming our lawful, outright ownership of Newports Touro Synagogue and the precious rimonim at issue here, said Louis M. Solomon, the lead attorney for Shearith Israel and also the congregations president.

Looking ahead, he said, I really dont see any reason why we cant go back to the relatively harmonious relationship that existed between our sister congregations for more than 100 years before they decided to sell something that didnt belong to them.

Gary P. Naftalis, a lawyer representing the Newport congregation, said it was considering an appeal. We are disappointed with the panels ruling and are reviewing our legal options, he said.

A version of this article appears in print on August 4, 2017, on Page A20 of the New York edition with the headline: New York Congregation Owns Oldest U.S. Synagogue, Court Rules.

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New York Congregation Owns Oldest Synagogue in the US, 180 Miles Away, Court Rules – New York Times

Australian municipality: Don’t blame us for banning synagogue on terror grounds – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Posted By on August 4, 2017

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) A municipal council in a suburb of Australias largest city said it was not to blame for a decision to ban the construction of a synagogue because it could become the target of a terrorist attack.

In a statement Friday, the Waverley Council asserted that the decision to reject the synagogue was made by a local land use court, which said the congregation had not addressed the security concerns raised by the congregation in its own development application.

Waverley Council did not refuse this development application, it said in a statement Friday. It was a decision of the Land and Environment Court and confirms that a synagogue is a permitted use at this location.

The congregation, known as Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe, or FREE, sought to build a synagogue near the popular Bondi beach. It called the applications rejection, on the grounds that it posed a potential risk to users and other members of the general public, a reward for terrorism.

According to the council, as part of their development application, FREE submitted a risk analysis report prepared by a counter-terrorism consultant. It described a number of potential risks and threats to the synagogue. The council noted that FREE sought a ruling from the Land and Environment Court, which ruled that the potential risks were not sufficiently addressed.

The Waverley community is enriched by our diverse faiths and places of worship including our synagogues, the council said in a statement. Waverley Council has a strong history of partnerships with the Jewish community and will continue to work closely with the Jewish community and Jewish organisations.

One of Waverleys three Jewish councilors,Leon Goltsman, told JTA: The record shows exactly how much this council actually does for the Jewish community, and its distressing the way mainstream media is so quick to jump onto a story without first researching the facts.

Community leaders were nevertheless shocked at the decision.

The decision is unprecedented, Rabbi Yehoram Ulman, a spokesman for FREE, told news.com.au. Its implications are enormous. It basically implies that no Jewish organization should be allowed to exist in residential areas. It stands to stifle Jewish existence and activity in Sydney and indeed, by creating a precedent, the whole of Australia, and by extension rewarding terrorism.

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Australian municipality: Don’t blame us for banning synagogue on terror grounds – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Former Brockton synagogue finds new home in Easton – Wicked Local Stoughton

Posted By on August 4, 2017

Anna Burgess The Enterprise @AnnaBurgess_ENT

After nearly two transient years, the congregation of Temple Beth Emunah will have a new home in Easton inSeptember.

Temple Beth Emunah, which was located on Torrey Street in Brockton until October 2015, will begin holding services next month at 15A Plymouth St., in South Easton.

For almost 100 families in the Beth Emunah congregation, Plymouth Street will become our own, distinct home, said Rabbi Andrea Gouze.

Gouze has been the rabbi at Beth Emunah for almost a year, and is thrilled to bring her new congregation to its new location.

Im incredibly enthusiastic and optimistic about what well be able to do with the synagogue, Gouze said. The way the space is configured will allow for lots of different types of programs, so we can take a very holistic approach to meeting the needs of the Jewish population of this region.

After a long search for a space that fit their needs, synagogue leaders signed the lease for the Plymouth Street building in June.

Gouze said theyre restructuring some of the rooms within the building, expanding the sanctuary area for larger services, and adding a handicapped-accessible bathroom.

Synagogue president Howard Shore said Easton officials have made the permitting process very easy, which he appreciates.

Shoresaid hes excited the synagogue is moving to Easton, because many members live in town, and he hopes the relocation is attractive to other Jewish families who are currently unaffiliated with a congregation.

Shore said they also anticipate the return of a number of families who have been on the fringes of the congregation since it left Torrey Street.

The synagogue, which was founded on Cottage Street in Brockton, was then located at the corner of Torrey and Pearl Streets in Brockton for 45 years, Shore said.

When it left that space in 2015, it marked the first time in 125 years that Brockton was without a Jewish place of worship.

SinceOctober 2015, Temple Beth Emunah has existed in a more fluid fashion, holding services at members homes, other synagogues, and even outdoors, at Sheep Pasture in Easton.

Though Temple Beth Emunah discussed apossible merger last year with Temple Beth Am of Randolph, Gouze said the congregation ultimately decided it was not a direction we wanted to go in.

Temple leaders will dedicate the new space on Sept. 10, and services will begin that week.

Less than two weeks later, the congregation will mark the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

Its very nice to feel those dovetail together, Gouze said. A new year, and a new synagogue.

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Former Brockton synagogue finds new home in Easton – Wicked Local Stoughton

Egypt to bear cost of Alexandria Synagogue renovation Middle … – Middle East Monitor

Posted By on August 4, 2017

Egypts Antiquities Ministry on Thursday announced plans to carry out extensive renovations of a synagogue in Alexandria despite the fact that, under Egyptian law, the local Jewish community should bear the cost of such restorations.

The renovation of Alexandrias Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue will take about eight months and cost some 100 million Egyptian pounds [roughly $5.5 million], which will be provided by the Egyptian government, the ministry said in a statement.

According to the same statement, the government had already allocated 1.27 billion Egyptian pounds (roughly $70.5 million) towards eight major historical renovation projects.

In July, Al-Said Helmy Ezzat, head of the ministrys Islamic and Coptic Antiquities Department, announced that proposals to renovate the historical synagogue had been approved and the appropriate financial allocations made.

Read:Balancing the poverty of the poor in Egypt

Under Egyptian law, however, Egypts small Jewish community should bear the cost of the project and the reason for the apparent exception remains unclear.

Cash-strapped Egypt continues to face difficult economic circumstances, with the government implementing an IMF-approved reform program, which includes the reduction of government subsidies and which has led to skyrocketing commodity prices.

Built in 1848, Alexandrias Eliyahu HanaviSynagogue is one of the largest Jewish synagogues in the Middle East region, capable of accommodating up to 700 people.

It also houses an impressive library containing dozens of ancient Torah scrolls, some of which date back to the 15th century.

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Egypt to bear cost of Alexandria Synagogue renovation Middle … – Middle East Monitor

Seattle’s Sephardic synagogues bake very unique Jewish treats – MyNorthwest.com

Posted By on August 4, 2017

Sephardic Bikur Holim congregation members Regina Barkey Amira and Al, holding a tray of pastelles. (Photo by Rachel Belle)

LISTEN: Seattle’s Sephardic synagogues bake tens of thousands of traditional pastries for their annual bazaar

In Seattles Seward Park neighborhood there are two Sephardic synagogues. Dont know what Sephardic means? Let me briefly explain.

There are two subgroups of Judiasm. Ashkanazi Jews are of eastern European descent and Sephardic Jews are from Spain, Portugal, North Africa and the Middle East. Each have their own dying language, Yiddish and Ladino, respectively, and very distinct cultures.

But there are also cultural differences between Sephardic synagogues. Seattles 101-year-old Ezra Bessaroth Synagogue follows traditions from the Greek Island of Rhodes and just a mile away is Sephardic Bikur Holim, a Turkish congregation. Each hold a bazaar every summer, where they sell thousands of homemade delicacies.

At Sephardic Bikur Holim, volunteers spend three months sitting around long tables, stretching homemade phyllo dough, crimping edges and sprinkling sesame seeds.

We have made approximately 3,500 bulemas, which are a spinach and cheese filled phyllo pastry, said congregation member Terry Azose. We will be making yaprakes, which are grape leaves that are stuffed with rice and onion and parsley and delicious and lots of lemon.

Azose says theyll hand make a total of 20,000 sweet and savory pastries for the bazaar, and every last biscocho (a doughnut shaped, sesame seed topped cookie) will sell out.

Born and raised an Ashkenazi Jew, Azose married a Sephardic man, joined his synagogue and has been baking these traditional foods for 30 years.

I think that its a dying tradition in a lot of ways and it brings community together, Azose said while rolling out dough for pastelles, a little meat pie. I think thats really important to keep the older generation and the younger generation together and the younger learning from the older. I think its also something that a lot of people dont want to put that much effort into making at home anymore. So the opportunity to buy it from the pros makes it very special for our community.

Keeping tradition alive was a sentiment expressed by everyone I spoke to. Ive spent a few mornings baking at the synagogue, and most of the other volunteers have easily been several decades older than me. There are women in their 80s and one smiley man in BluBlocker sunglasses in his 90s. This is partly a result of younger people having day jobs. But Marlene Souriano-Vinikoor says theres more to it.

I think part of it is whats happening nationally; is that young people arent being represented in their synagogue, Souriano-Vinikoor said. So they dont feel a connection to come. Its a big social factor, its not just the religious part of it. If you dont have people your age and your lifestyle, the religion itself isnt going to keep you there.

Souriano-Vinikoor is a member of the Ezra Bessaroth synagogue, a mile down the road, but she does volunteer baking at both. Which brings up something interesting: theres a lot of social crossover between the two synagogues, and both have dwindling memberships and large buildings. But the idea of merging the two synagogues is political and controversial. So much so that two community members declined going on the record with me about it.

Financially, Im sure it would be better for the two synagogues to merge, Souriano-Vinikoor said . I think whats holding the decision back is that were different enough that people want to maintain their individuality. Some of the vocabulary is different, some of the food is different, the tunes are different. If we merged, all of that would become extinct. Theyd have to decide whats most important: the survival of the community or maintaining your individuality. Im not opposed to the merger because Ive straddled both synagogues. Id be happy at either. I could adapt to those differences.

I grew up in an Ashkenazi synagogue, so all of the foods being prepared for the bazaar are brand new to me. Which isnt a surprise to Souriano-Vinikoor. She says the media only features Ashkanazi food.

The Jewish food that theyre showing and describing isnt Jewish per se, its eastern European,Souriano-Vinikoor said. Its corned beef, its matzoh balls, theyll have gefilte fish. Thats what some Jews eat and its not all Jews. It happens to be the food that the majority of Jews know about and eat but its not all what Jewish food is. Its not accurate. That bothers me because its misrepresenting a whole community, which isnt right.

If youd like to taste some homemade Sephardic cuisine, Sephardic Bikur Holims annual bazaar is on August 27, 2017.

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Seattle’s Sephardic synagogues bake very unique Jewish treats – MyNorthwest.com

Holocaust education in Moldova is about to get (slightly) better – The Times of Israel

Posted By on August 4, 2017

CHISINAU, Moldova In a Moldovan secondary school history textbook, seven pages are devoted to the crimes of communist leader Joseph Stalin an entire chapter with numerous photos illustrating the horrors of the gulag.

The Holocaust, on the other hand, gets a page and a half in the chapter on World War II, right after the section entitled The Liberation of Bessarabia, which covers the occupation of Moldova by Romanian fascists. During that time, the dictatorship deported to concentration camps about 10 percent of the countrys population including more than 110,000 Jews and approximately 25,000 Gypsies. Less than half returned.

But Holocaust education in Moldova is about to improve. Earlier this month, the countrys Ministry of Education signed an agreement of cooperation with the Jewish community, committing to teach the Holocaust as the ultimate form of genocide. The July 14 agreement also stipulates that the Ministry of Education will develop new training programs for educators to help them address this difficult subject in school.

Taking into account the increase in cases of vandalism at Moldovas Jewish cemeteries in recent years, we cannot underscore the importance of educating the young generation in the spirit of tolerance, mutual respect, fairness and social unity in order to prevent and fight anti-Semitism, xenophobia and extremism, said Alexandr Bilinkis, the Jewish communitys president and signatory to the agreement.

A current Moldovan textbook with a page and a half dedicated to the Holocaust. (Julie Masis/Times of Israel)

In addition to special training for history teachers, the Jewish community would like Moldovan schools to organize competitions for the best research papers on the Holocaust and to offer field trips to places connected to the Holocaust, said Elena Tsurcan, the manager at the Jewish Community of Moldova. The Jewish community would like all the schools in the country to observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, a commemoration which was officially adopted by the Moldovan government in 2015.

We really hope there will be research paper competitions that will allow students to study the Holocaust right here in Moldova, so that, for example, in Balti they could research more about what happened in the north of Moldova, Tsurcan said. Also we want more days dedicated to the Holocaust [in the curriculum], so that its not only on January 27.

Currently, Moldovan schools devote about a day to the Holocaust in 9th grade and a second day in 12th grade, according to Irina Shihova, the curator of Moldovas Jewish Heritage Museum.

If someone missed that day, they wouldnt know anything about the Holocaust at all, Shihova said.

But the official from the Moldovan Ministry of Education who signed the agreement did not agree that the amount of time given to the Holocaust needs to be increased.

Irina Shihova, curator of Moldovas Jewish Heritage Museum. (Courtesy)

We signed an agreement with the Jewish community on the measures we will take together to integrate the Holocaust in the educational process. We will teach about the Holocaust the same way that we teach all historical events, said Corina Lungu, a senior consultant at the Ministry of Education who is responsible for secondary education. I wouldnt say that we need to pay more attention to the Holocaust. We have a curriculum and every subject has a few hours.

I wouldnt say that we need to pay more attention to the Holocaust. We have a curriculum and every subject has a few hours

Lungu did confirm that steps will be taken to better train teachers on how to address the Holocaust because its a topic that is emotionally difficult for children. She also said that an extracurricular competition on research papers dealing with the Holocaust will take place in high school as well as at the universities.

We hope that all the schools interested in participating will be able to do so. We will start in September, said Lungu.

The agreement between the Moldovan Ministry of Education and the Jewish Community was signed just days after a roundtable event announcing the results of a survey conducted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on what Moldovan high school students think about the Holocaust and about ethnic tolerance. The survey suggested that Moldovan teachers need extra training to address the Holocaust in the classroom, said Shihova, who attended the event.

I understood that teachers want to teach this subject, but its very hard for them because they dont know how to teach it from the psychological standpoint, she said.

The Holocaust is a touchy subject in Moldova because the crimes were committed by Romanian soldiers during the fascist occupation, and Romanians are of the same ethnic group as most Moldovans. Romanian soldiers executed thousands of Jews, and ordered Jews and Gypsies on death marches and into the concentration camps.

If they acknowledge the Holocaust, theyll have to acknowledge that there were collaborators among the local people not mythological fascists, but real people, said Victor Reider, deputy director of the Jewish community of Moldova. Its very inconvenient to tell your citizens that their ancestors participated in this tragedy.

Ion Duminica, a Roma representative at the Academy of Sciences in Moldova who fears the the Roma might be deported again. (Julie Masis/Times of Israel)

Another controversial issue is whether Ion Antonescu, who was Romanias leader during WWII and executed for war crimes, only deported the Jews and Gypsies at Hitlers orders, but ultimately refused to carry out the Final Solution by murdering all the people in the camps or if he actually was responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people.

For some, Antonescu is a hero, Shihova said. One time, a teacher brought children here for a Holocaust program and the teacher told me that Jews were very happy under Romanian rule and that Antonescu tried to save the Jews.

But, Moldovas attitude toward the Holocaust has been changing and textbooks have already been improving over time, said Ion Duminica, an ethnic Roma and the head of the ethnic minorities department at Moldovas Academy of Sciences.

Despite its limitations, the latest textbook, published in 2013, is the first of its kind where the Holocaust is discussed as something that happened under Romanian occupation in Moldova, rather than something from Poland and Germany, said Duminica.

There was nothing at all about the Holocaust until 2005. In 2005, they put a photo of Auschwitz

There was nothing at all about the Holocaust until 2005. In 2005, they put a photo of Auschwitz, he said. Now there is a page and a half, but it still doesnt say that Antonescu was put on trial [because of the part he played in the Holocaust] and that it was his fault.

The reason that Moldova is finally coming to terms with the Holocaust is because Romania itself has done so, Duminica said. Romania changed its attitude toward the Holocaust when it entered the European Union, he explained.

Romanian historians were invited to train our teachers, and only then our teachers understood the Holocaust. They were shocked that in Romania they teach about the Holocaust, because in our textbooks Antonescu did it at Hitlers orders, Duminica said. Until then, Antonescu was a martyr who was sentenced to death by a Bolshevik court.

Antonescu was a martyr who was sentenced to death by a Bolshevik court

It is crucially important to teach about the Holocaust because attitudes toward ethnic minorities such as the Gypsies have not changed much since World War II, Dumnica said. His biggest fear is that if a new government orders to deport the Gypsies again, the people of Moldova might simply accept this order, he said.

To fight prejudice, Shihova is taking matters into her own hands.

She will train about 50 teenagers from Chisinaus Jewish schools to explain a bit about Judaism to their peers, as well as the events of the Holocaust. The teens will travel in pairs to speak in front of classrooms all around Moldova.

The project, which starts in September, is part of the Likrat (Hebrew for Approach) initiative that is already in place in Switzerland, Germany in Austria. This is the first time it will be tried in Eastern Europe.

I dont know how it will work out, Shihova admitted. I really hope that the children will be polite, that at least they wont whistle at us.

Galina Kargher, the director of the International Center for Training and Professional Development at the Jewish Community Center in Moldova showing the materials they developed for teaching about the Holocaust in Moldova. To the right, a current textbook used in Moldovan schools. (Julie Masis/Times of Israel)

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Holocaust education in Moldova is about to get (slightly) better – The Times of Israel

Jerusalem Chief Rabbi: Pride Parade is causing more damage than benefit – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on August 4, 2017

Jerusalem gay pride parade_311. (photo credit:MELANIE LIDMAN)

Holding the LGBT pride parade in the streets of Jerusalem is contradicting its characteristics as a holy city, said the capitals Ashkenazi chief rabbi Aryeh Stern on Thursday.

Stern stressed that he objects and condemns any form of violence against the parade, but believes that there is no room for such events in Jerusalem.

It is sad that a couple of days after Tisha BAv, when masses visited Jerusalem and remembered it being a holy city The essence of this parade is contradicting the trend of Jerusalem as a holy city, and that is the city we want, said Stern in an interview to Army Radio.

My views are known when it comes to violence, Stern added. I participated in the memorial ceremony for Shira Banki, and came to her house to console the grieving family. But holding the parade in the city streets is causing more damage to its supporters than benefiting them.”

The theme of this years parade, that will take place on Thursday, is LGBT and religion. It will be the 16th consecutive year that the parade will be held in the capital.

Sarah Kala, CEO of LGBT advocacy NGO The Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, told The Jerusalem Post that this comes as an answer to all of those who claim to oppose the LGBT community in the name of religion.

Our main message is saying No, this is not our [way of practicing] religion, said Kala. There are many religious people who are willing to accept the LGBT community, and we intend that the parade will be a platform for dialogue and understanding, not for hatred.

The parade will include a 1 km. march, to Independence Park, where musicians will perform. The concert will be held in memory of singer and activist Amir Fryszer Guttman, who was supposed to host the event but died two weeks ago after saving his niece from drowning at an Atlit beach.

Hundreds of policemen, border policemen and police volunteers will secure the march. All of the streets surrounding the parade will be closed for traffic during the afternoon and evening. This includes King George Avenue and Hillel, Agron, Keren Hayesod and Beeri streets.

Police have issued a permit to extreme-right groups, such as Lehava, to hold a counterprotest, several hundred meters away from the march, under police guard. Police have warned around 50 individuals not to disrupt the parade, with some told that they cannot be in the capital on Thursday.

Lehava CEO Bentzi Gopstein told the Post that some 50 protesters plan to attend the event. He added that their main themes will be Jerusalem is not Sodom and Do not let them adopt children.

The Jerusalem Municipality told the Post that Mayor Nir Barkat will not attend the parade, due to a trip abroad. The municipality added that recently, Barkat allocated some NIS 500,000 in support of the Open House.

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Jerusalem Chief Rabbi: Pride Parade is causing more damage than benefit – The Jerusalem Post

Revered Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat awaits lifesaving lung transplant – Los Angeles Times

Posted By on August 4, 2017

Saeb Erekat, the legendary Palestinian leader and chief negotiator with Israel for the last two decades, is renowned for his persistence against all odds and for a steel-trap legal mind.

But the challenge he faces today may be his most daunting. At 62, Erekar is suffering from advanced pulmonary fibrosis, a debilitating condition that can be cured only by a lung transplant.

He requested to be added to the waiting list in both Israel and the United States, but the odds are long. In Israel, Erekat, like other foreigners, will qualify for a donated lung only if it does not match the needs of any Israeli patient.

In recent months, friends and colleagues report seeing a steep deterioration in his health. Erekat has lost a significant amount of weight and appears in public tethered to an oxygen tank. He has admonished his associates to refrain from speaking about his condition.

Few people have been more crucial to the Palestinian cause than Erekat.

Uri Savir, Israels former chief negotiator for the Oslo peace accords, has known Erekat since 1994.

Saeb is a brilliant man. A brave man. A man of peace, very moderate, with all the normal critique of the occupation, he said. I dont think hes really a political animal, but he ended up in a top leadership role because his particular talents were essential for the team.

Those talents, said Savir, who is the co-founder of the Peres Center for Peace, include an unusual gift for negotiation, an uncanny ability to formulate the precise lines necessary for a legal document in this he is second to none and an extremely rare ability to represent his leader, who was Yasser Arafat, and represent matters to him.

Eighty-nine Israelis are on the waiting list for a lung transplant, said Dr. Tamar Ashkenazi, director of the transplant center at Israels Ministry of Health. Last year, 50 patients received donated lungs.

Ashkenazi said that in the event an available organ has no match in Israel, she will reach out to the deceaseds family and request special permission, above and beyond the legal necessity, to offer the organ to foreigners. Under similar circumstances, she once sent a childs liver to Germany.

Erekat, who is of average height, suffers yet another disadvantage.

I have no idea why, but we have many tall donors here, Ashkenazi said, noting that height is a crucial factor for matching lungs. A tall patient might wait two weeks, and a shorter person can wait two years.

The order of transplant precedence is determined solely according to medical criteria.

Khaled Abu Toameh, an expert on Palestinian affairs who has known Erekat for 25 years, said his illness has been an open secret. You could tell by looking at him.

Erekats physical deterioration comes laced with irony. As his body has succumbed to illness, his political stature has only grown.

For one, Abu Toameh said, It is important to underscore that his name has never been associated with corruption. Ever.

In recent years his position has gotten a lot stronger, Abu Toameh said. Hes become the leading candidate to replace Abu Mazen, another name for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, 82. Among Palestinians he is considered the most prominent symbol of the Oslo process, and hes taken a lot of flak for being the flag bearer of ongoing negotiations and contacts with Israel.

In part, Erekats popularity can be attributed to renewed Palestinian enthusiasm for the peace process he spearheaded. On Thursday, a poll released by Tel Aviv Universitys Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research showed that 52% of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip supported the two-state solution, an increase of 8 percentage points since December. Fifty-three percent of Israelis, a decline of 2 points, agreed.

A peace process waiting for redemption may be awaiting only the renewed vigor of one of its most devoted proponents.

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Revered Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat awaits lifesaving lung transplant – Los Angeles Times

Justice Souter, the First Amendment and the case of the synagogue standoff – Reuters

Posted By on August 4, 2017

(Reuters) – Thanks to the First Amendments Establishment Clause, U.S. courts have to be extremely wary of taking sides in doctrinal disputes between religious groups. On the other hand, as retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter pointed out Wednesday in his opinion for the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Congregation Jeshuat Israel v. Congregation Shearith Israel, the Free Exercise Clause means courts cant interfere with religious autonomy.

Judges have to navigate between those twin risks, Justice Souter said, using the map the Supreme Court provided in 1969s Presbyterian Church v. Mary Elizabeth Blue Hull: When property disputes reflect religious cleavages, courts should avoid entanglement with the doctrinal issues and hew closely to civil law.

So, according to the 1st Circuit, no matter how fascinating the history of one of the oldest synagogues in the U.S. nor how rich the tale of the divide between the Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews who worshipped there, the dispute between two warring congregations comes down to ordinary documents: 1903 and 1908 leases, a 1945 agreement with the U.S. government and a 2001 deal with the National Trust.

It is these common instruments for establishing ownership and control that most readily enable a court to apply the required, neutral principles in evaluating disputed property claims, wrote Justice Souter for a panel that also included Judge Sandra Lynch and 10th Circuit Judge Bobby Baldock, sitting by designation. When such provisions of deeds, charters, contracts, and the like are available and to the point, then, they should be the lodestones of adjudication.

Reversing an epic 2016 decisionby U.S. District Judge John McConnell of Providence, the 1st Circuit found that the documents proved New York Citys Congregation Shearith Israel to be the rightful owner of a 250-year-old synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, even though Newports Congregation Jeshuat Israel has worshipped there and maintained the building for more than 100 years.

The Newport synagogue – formally known as the Touro Synagogue in honor of two brothers who bequeathed thousands of dollars to keep it standing in the 1800s embodies the divide between Americas original Jewish settlers from Spain and Portugal and those who arrived two hundred years later in a wave of immigrants from Central Europe.

The first Jews to arrive in Newport, in 1658, were Sephardim, mostly of Spanish and Portuguese descent. By the mid-1700s, their community was sufficiently well-rooted to begin raising money to build a synagogue. Sephardic Jewish communities from around the world, including the New York City congregation known as Shearith Israel, contributed to the Newport appeal. In 1763, the Newport congregation, Yeshuat Israel, or the Salvation of Israel, celebrated the dedication of its brand-new synagogue. Myer Myers, a colonial silversmith who was a member of the congregation, created elaborate silver-and-gold finials, known as rimonim, to adorn Yeshuat Israels Torah scrolls.

Alas, most of the Sephardic Jews who founded Yeshuat Israel left Rhode Island when the Revolutionary War decimated Newports shipping industry. The last of Newports Jews died in 1822, according to Judge McConnells utterly compelling 2016 opinion.

As Judge McConnell recounted the story, many of the Sephardic Jews who left Newport ended up joining New York Citys Shearith Israel. The New York congregation cared for the Newport synagogue and the synagogues contents for several decades in the 19th century, when Newport didnt have enough Jews to sustain it.

But over the last half of the 1800s, a new wave of Jews arrived in Rhode Island. Unlike their Sephardic predecessors, these Jews were mostly Ashkenazi from Russia and Central Europe. The two cultures followed slightly different religious rituals. The crucial doctrinal difference, as it would turn out, is that the Sephardim prohibit the disposition of ritual objects and the Ashkenazi do not.

At the turn of the nineteenth century, the Newport Ashkenazi staged a year-long occupation of Touro Synagogue at the turn of the century, after the New York Sephardim from Shearith Israel shut them out of the building in a dispute over the appointment of a new religious leader. The warring congregations eventually put aside their differences to execute a 1903 lease agreement allowing Congregation Jeshuat Israel to use the building, although the lease specified that the Ashkenazis must conduct services according to the ritual rites and customs of the (Sephardic) Jews as at this time practiced.

The two congregations renewed the lease in 1908. In 1945, the New York group reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of the Interior to preserve Touro Synagogue as a national historic site. The Newport congregation signed the agreement as a leaseholder. Congregation Jeshuat Israel similarly affirmed its leaseholder status in a 2001 agreement between the congregation, a group known as the Society of Friends of Touro Synagogue and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. That contract, according to the 1st Circuit, described the Newport congregation as having possession of the site through a lease with Congregation Shearith Israel as owner.

Despite their mutual respect for Touro Synagogue as a landmark of American Jewish history, relations between the New York and Newport congregations were prickly. (Justice Souters exceedingly dry description: a want of cordiality.) Matters exploded in 2011, when the Newport group proposed selling the historic Myers Torah ornaments to establish an endowment for their congregations activities. Bostons Museum of Fine Arts offered more than $7 million. The New York congregation protested that a sale would violate the terms of the lease agreement, which required adherence to Sephardic practices. Litigation ensued.

Judge McConnell concluded after a nine-day bench trial and copious historical research that the New York congregation was actually a trustee for Touro Synagogue, not the owner, and that the Newport congregation has a right to oust the New York group as trustee. The judge also found the Newport congregation to be the outright owner of the Myers Torah adornments.

The judge tried to follow the U.S. Supreme Courts directive from the Presbyterian case, grounding his opinion in the legal agreements between the two congregations, as well as ancient deeds, wills, trust documents and congregation account books.

But when the 1st Circuit reviewed his opinion, it concluded Judge McConnell wasnt quite careful enough. As Justice Souter put it, with great delicacy: These are circumstances in which we think that the First Amendment calls for a more circumscribed consideration of evidence than the trial court’s plenary enquiry into centuries of the parties’ conduct by examining their internal documentation that had been generated without resort to the formalities of the civil law.

In a strict reading of the documents, the 1st Circuit found no reference to a trust in the lease agreements between the New York and Newport congregations, which assumed the New York group owned Touro Synagogue. The appeals court also held the Torah ornaments are encompassed in the leases reference to paraphernalia, so the New York congregation owns them as well.

The New York congregation is represented by Greenberg Traurig and Locke Lord. Greenberg partner Louis Solomon, who argued before the 1st Circuit, told my Reuters colleague Chris Kenning that his clients will continue to uphold their obligations to Touro Synagogue and look forward to putting this unfortunate litigation behind us. Gary Naftalis of Kramer Levin, who argued for the Newport congregation, said hes exploring the groups options.

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Justice Souter, the First Amendment and the case of the synagogue standoff – Reuters

Zionism: Quo Vadis – HuffPost

Posted By on August 3, 2017

I feel that Zionism as initially conceived has run its course. It is in need for review to reconsider its mission and political platform.

Zionism was created as a reaction to anti-Semitism. Theodor Herzl, the founding father of this movement, being exposed to the Dreifus trials, came to the conclusion that Jews should go back to their origins, Palestine at the time, and be like all nations, with a country of their own, and stop being dispersed in the diaspora.

From its inception the basic tenet of Zionism is the immigration to Israel.

This works well in countries where anti-Semitism is rampant. In USA and other countries where anti Semitism is not so pronounced, not all Jews feel compelled to do aliya, immigrate to Israel. This gave birth to the question: can one be a Zionist and still live in the diaspora.

Since Israel needed financial support, donations from the Jewish community abroad, pure Zionism compromised its demands on immigration – One can be a Zionist if one supports Israel by donations or politically in the country they inhabit.

This has been the first crack in the armor called Zionist political ideology.

One major factor that kept Jewish communities Jewish in the diaspora is the religion.

Zionism negated the diaspora and thus, indirectly, not only the diaspora but the Jewish religion as such; For a Zionist one could be Jewish and not practice the Jewish religion. All that was needed for being Jewish was to just be an Israeli, i.e., living in Israel.

This is not true of Jews in the diaspora. If one does not practice the religion or identify oneself as belonging to the Jewish religion one denounces being Jewish.

The result is that Zionism separated national identity from religious identity. It had many repercussions.

First it made the secular Israeli not feel part and parcel of the world Jewry.

Israelis abroad keep themselves in a separate community from the Jewish community.

Furthermore, not having religious limitations, secular Israeli are more prone to marry out of the religion. This creates further separation of Israel vs. world Jewry.

The whole question what does it mean to be Jewish is now wide open and asking for an answer.

As long as being Jewish meant being of the Jewish religion this question did not have to be answered. With secular Zionism it IS a burning question.

Moreover, if Israel ceases to exist and nations, as different from religion, do have a shorter life cycle.

There is more to the emerging rift between Israel and the Jewish community in the diaspora.

Israeli occupation of Palestine has created a strong backlash worldwide. It has ignited long dormant anti Semitic sentiments. It is endangering the physical safety and social standing of Jews in the diaspora. Increasingly, the interests of Israel to hold on to the territories are clashing with the interests of the world Jewry to be accepted by the people they live with. It is not strange that the leaders of the BDP movement to impose sanctions on products produced in occupied territories are all Jews.

I think that a new Jewish identity is being created not related to religion. It is the identity of the Israeli.

But is that what we want? A nationalism without the religion to be like all nations?

Nations have a shorter life span than religions. No nation has the track record of two thousand years the Jewish nation has. It has it because it is based on religion.

So may be the answer is religious nationalism.

Religious nationalism has its own drawbacks. The settlers embraced it. They are the ones who are giving the headache to Israeli politics by insisting on occupying the West Bank which prohibits the Palestinians to have their own country. This is the source of rising anti-Semitism around the world and the break down of Israeli society.

The concept of Zionism, and what it means to be Jewish needs review and redesign.

We need to extract what it means to be Jewish values wise. For instance, Tikun Olam, repair the world, is one value I cherish and consider as the corner stone of being Jewish. Mutual support is another one. One more: The commitment to seek the truth in whatever we do. High conscience is another one.

Can we extrapolate what it means to be Jewish as a value system. Then how do we reinforce it. How do we institutionalize it beyond the prayer book?

Culturally. Socially. Behaviorally.

Once that is done we can proceed to what is modern Zionism based on the new definition of being Jewish.

Post script to those who know Adizes theory:

Religions start with (I). That is why they are usually created in time of social crisis. Religions have a life cycle too and over time (A) is developed, rituals, prayer books. As (A) grows, (I) declines. And that is what has happened to Jewish religion too.

I am suggesting going back to the (I) component of being Jewish or we are losing many young people to spirituality away from Judaism.

Another point, with the establishment of Israel (P) became dominant in Jewish Israeli culture. Nationalism. Another reason for (I) to suffer. For religion to be rejected. Nationalist religion (PI) has political burden. The paper above suggest going back and redefine (I) in what it means to be Jewish and subsequently a Zionist.

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Zionism: Quo Vadis – HuffPost


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