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When Nazi violence came to Cohoes – Albany Times Union

Posted By on August 25, 2017

Cohoes

Fifty years ago this weekend, a former American Nazi Party member killed a 59-year-old Jewish man in Cohoes.

Francis Mainville laid in wait for Harry Pearlberg, a door-to-door salesman from Troy, before gunning him down on Saturday, Aug. 26, 1967. Police arrived to find Pearlberg lying in a pool of blood and Mainville standing at the top of the stairs with a unregistered .32 caliber revolver.

“Here I am, officer,” police recalled the 29-year-old saying as his gun was snatched away. “If you’d been black, I’d have shot you, too.”

He wore a Nazi armband and a silver SS pin.

Harry Pearlberg, who was shot by avowed Nazi Francis Mainville in Cohoes in August 1967. (Provided photo)

Harry Pearlberg, who was shot by avowed Nazi Francis Mainville in Cohoes in August 1967. (Provided photo)

Francis Mainville points to an arm insignia while in the custody of Police Aug. 29, 1967. He was charged with murder for shooting Harry Pearlberg in Cohoes. (Times Union archive)

Francis Mainville points to an arm insignia while in the custody of Police Aug. 29, 1967. He was charged with murder for shooting Harry Pearlberg in Cohoes. (Times Union archive)

Francis Mainville is escorted by police during his arraignment on murder charges Sept. 1, 1967, for shooting Harry Pearlberg in Cohoes. He is bandaged after an attempted suicide. (Times Union archive)

Francis Mainville is escorted by police during his arraignment on murder charges Sept. 1, 1967, for shooting Harry Pearlberg in Cohoes. He is bandaged after an attempted suicide. (Times Union archive)

Rabbi Israel Rubin of the Maimonides Hebrew Day School speaks to summer camp students about the Charlottesville, Va. protests on Friday Aug. 18, 2017, in Albany, N.Y. (Will Waldron/Times Union)

Rabbi Israel Rubin of the Maimonides Hebrew Day School speaks to summer camp students about the Charlottesville, Va. protests on Friday Aug. 18, 2017, in Albany, N.Y. (Will Waldron/Times Union)

When Nazi violence came to Cohoes

The slaying came a day after the assassination of George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party, by another party member in Arlington, Va. Doctors who assessed Mainville’s mental state later testified at trial that he had killed Pearlberg as a twisted form of retaliation.

“Hitler was like God to me and Rockwell was next,” Mainville told a psychiatrist after his arrest. He was ultimately sentenced to life in prison after a jury rejected an insanity plea. He later died in prison.

A husband, father and grandfather, Pearlberg had fled Poland during World War II and settled in Troy, where he was a respected member of B’nai B’rith and the Jewish Community Center. At his funeral, Rabbi Herman Horowitz said, “The hour of the extreme right is still with us.”

Those fears echo in the nation’s current conversation on racial intolerance.

A white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., turned violent Aug. 12 when a car mowed down counterprotesters, killing one woman and injuring 19 more. The night before, men with torches and Nazi flags chanted, “Jews will not replace us,” as they protested the City Council’s decision to remove a Confederate statue from a public park.

Fifty years ago, Pearlberg’s murder sparked public outcry for stricter gun control laws, better psychiatric care and harsher punishment for hate crimes. Today, lawmakers and advocates are asking for many of the same measures.

“I don’t think anything has gotten better,” Pearlberg’s son said in an interview last week.

Edward Pearlberg was cautious, though, to cast his father’s killing as political. “I just want him to be remembered as my father, not as a martyr of the Jewish community,” he said. “I remember him as having a tremendous sense of humor. He was a scholar in his own right, as far as Judaism was concerned, and devout. He liked people and people liked him.”

The murder

Mainville knew Pearlberg, who had been selling dry goods to his family and the bakery where Mainville worked for four years. The morning of the shooting, the two men had coffee at the same counter and discussed Pearlberg stopping by to pick up a payment, Edward Pearlberg recalled.

Later that day, Mainville sat alone in his Ontario Street apartment, watching television with a loaded pistol in his hand, “waiting for this Jewish guy,” he said in a signed statement to police. A paperboy and grocery delivery boy had already stopped by unharmed.

When Pearlberg rang the doorbell, Mainville called out, “Who’s there?”

“It’s only Harry,” the salesman said.

Gunfire smashed through the door. One bullet grazed Pearlberg’s abdomen, another struck him beneath the left arm and ripped into his heart. He bled to death before reaching the hospital, without seeing his son or wife, Rose.

“That was probably the last day of her real life,” Edward Pearlberg said about his mother, who fell ill shortly after her husband’s death.

Mainville, on the other hand, was a “calm, cool, collected suspect who showed absolutely no remorse,” Cohoes Police Chief John Klieb told reporters. The killer told officers he was “a Nazi stormtrooper” and wrote in a signed statement, “Jew, I hope you die.”

Mainville registered as a member of the National Socialist White People’s Party five years before the killing but kept up his membership for just six months, the organization told the Times Union in 1967. After his arraignment on a first-degree murder charge, Mainville posed for a photograph pointing to an SS armband and giving a Nazi-style salute to the gathered crowd.

Mainville had a history of threats and violence. Ten years before the killing, Mainville told an Albany County judge, probation officer, sheriff’s deputy and his father, “I will get you,” after he was sent to prison on a burglary conviction. The 19-year-old later escaped but was caught two days later.

In 1963, Mainville attacked his pregnant wife just a month after they had married, nearly killing her. He brandished a machete and knife before strangling her, later telling police he’d decided to “kill my wife with my bare hands.” The attack left her hospitalized. Mainville was convicted of assault but received probation.

And a year before shooting Pearlberg, Mainville went to an Army-Navy Store on Remsen Street planning to kill the proprietor also Jewish but turned around when he noticed children inside the shop, he told police after his 1967 arrest.

The trial

Two days after the killing, Mainville set fire to his clothing and mattress in an apparent suicide attempt inside Albany County jail. He was taken to Albany Medical Center Hospital with second-degree burns and kept under psychiatric observation. Days later, he appeared in court bandaged and silent to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. The judge sent Mainville to Hudson River State Hospital in Poughkeepsie for further psychiatric evaluation.

Mainville remained in state psychiatric care for eight years before doctors ruled in May 1975 that he was competent to participate in his own defense. The trial began that September.

Mainville’s family and neighbors testified about his obsessive fear that black and Jewish people would take over the United States, while doctors hired by the defense argued his bigotry was the result of paranoid schizophrenia a theory the jury rejected.

“Is fanatical hatred by itself sufficient to classify one as mentally ill?” the prosecutor said, asking the defense’s medical expert if he considered “80 million German people fanatics and psychotics.” The doctor demurred.

After his arrest, Mainville told a psychiatrist that he’d heard about Rockwell’s death on the radio and “decided to kill the first Jew I saw. I didn’t have anything against that little guy.”

“When I shot the guy, I was not sick,” Mainville told another doctor. “This is my belief. I am a Nazi.” His statements are eerily similar to those made by Dylann Roof, the 22-year-old white man who massacred nine black parishioners during a June 2015 Bible study in Charleston, S.C.

When asked to explain the fatal shooting, Roof told jurors, “There’s nothing wrong with me psychologically.” As at Mainville’s trial, family and friends said they knew about Roof’s fanatical hatred and his violent intentions before the attack. Roof was sentenced to death in January.

Mainville was ultimately convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison after a three-day trial in Albany County Court. He died by suicide in 1979.

Edward Pearlberg, now 80, said it wasn’t until then that his family stopped looking over their shoulders in fear of Mainville’s release.

The lesson

Edward Pearlberg thinks his father was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he’s not surprised that the story of the murder has resurfaced in the aftermath of the Charlottesville riots.

Earlier this month, rabbis Israel Rubin and Leible Morrison gathered about 20 elementary school-aged day campers inside the Maimonides Hebrew Day School in Albany to explain how they saw the connection.

“There is a difference between not liking someone and hating someone,” Rubin told the children. “God made all of us in different ways. … We have to learn how to accept each other, even if we can’t love everybody.”

Rubin’s family was nearly wiped out in the Holocaust. When he asked his students if they’d heard anything about Charlottesville, roughly half raised their hands.

“It’s important for you to know this,” he said before explaining how neo-Nazis targeted a historic synagogue in the Virginia city during the protests.

Three men dressed in fatigues and armed with semiautomatic rifles reportedly stood across the street from Congregation Beth Israel on the morning of Aug. 12, as neo-Nazis marched past and shouted, “Sieg Heil!” The temple’s rabbi stood in the doorway with a security guard hired to keep the congregation safe.

“They didn’t shoot anybody but it was really nasty,” Rubin told the children, who at the mention of guns momentarily stopped fidgeting. “There was real hate. And the Jews inside were very, very worried. They had to go out the back, hiding.”

Morrison said people raised without compassion or a sense of the need to care for others grow up to hate.

It’s not an easy conversation to have with kids, but Morrison believes it’s a necessary one.

“We always have to remember: There’s hate, there’s not liking and there’s loving. So we have to do a lot more mitzvahs so that the love and caring takes away the hate,” he says, using the Hebrew word for good deeds.

Morrison pointed to Harry Pearlberg as an example.

“Neighborhoods wouldn’t matter to him. He was a grassroots kind of guy, and that’s how most peddlers were,” Morrison said, adding that it was common practice for Jewish salesmen to sell goods to hard-up neighbors with the simple promise of later payment.

“They were very trusting and compassionate,” Morrison told the kids. “And that’s the example we want to follow: They brought out the goodness in people.”

emasters@timesunion.com 518-454-5467 @emilysmasters

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When Nazi violence came to Cohoes – Albany Times Union

The Choice to Make Choices – Algemeiner

Posted By on August 25, 2017

A Torah scroll. Photo: Rabbisacks.org.

We have a number of weddings coming up in mycongregation. Therefore, I thought it wouldbe wiseto address the glaring contradiction that exists between a widely-held Jewish belief about marriage, and a fundamental aspect of Jewish faith.

The Talmud (Sotah 2a) makes a startling statement about the inevitability of spousal identity: Forty days before an embryo is formed, a divine voice declares: this persons daughter isdestined to marry that boy. Jewish folklore refers to this marriage predetermination concept as bashert the Yiddish word for destined.

In other words, no one should ever haveto remain single; all we have to do is find our beshert, marry them and live happily ever after.

To say that this idea is theologically problematic rather understates the glaring issues that it presents issues that undermine the very basis of our faith system.

August 25, 2017 11:32 am

For example, just look at asection ofShoftim, which talks aboutmilitary exemptions. Oneexemption criteria is framed as follows (Deut. 20:7):who is the man who has become engaged to a woman, but has not yet taken her as his wife let him go and return home, lest he die in battle and another man shall marry her.

Maimonides, in his famous letter to the12thcentury Italian convert known as Obadiah the Proselyte, refuted the notion of beshert by citing this verse from Shoftim.

Why, Maimonidesasks, would a man who is engaged to the woman he is destined to marry be fearful of being killed in battle and replaced by another man? Surely, says Maimonides, if the meaning of the Talmudic passage is that his fianc is destined to behis wife even before her birth, no other man could ever marry her. Why, therefore, should he be exempted from military service?

To reconcile this apparent contradiction between scripture and Talmud, Maimonides advances the idea that the Talmudic passage aboutbeshert cannot be taken at face value, and must instead be interpreted as referring to the potential that exists for reward and punishment a potential that God sets into motion even before a person is born.

According to this approach, someone who is deserving of reward will merit the husband or wife who will be their agent and partner for a wonderful life, while the opposite will be true if their behavior falls short. The point is, all the options are already in place before one is born.

Maimonides goes even further in his refutation, by quoting an alternative Talmudic source that is a cornerstone of Jewish faith and turning it on its head. In Berakhot (33b), the Talmud declares that everything is in the hands of Heaven, except for the fear of Heaven. Like so many other Talmudic statements, what seems to be a simple idea is actually very profound. The key to understanding this particular statement lies in accurately defining the exception. What is included in the fear of Heaven?

Maimonides, being the great rationalist that he was, refused to accept a notion that includes literally everything as being in the hands of Heaven. If that were true, he says, it would wreck the entire concept of free choice.

Consequently, the exception to the rule fear of Heaven turns out to be a much broader category than the basic translation implies. It includes your marriage and all your relationships; it includes your livelihood, your home, your time management in fact, it includes anything that relies on choices that you make. Because who we choose to marry, and how we choose to live our lives, all falls under the rubric of ensuring that our relationship with God is on the right footinga process that requires the careful and proactive calibration of our fear of Heaven.

The tension between determinism and free choice has vexed philosophers and theologians for millennia. Particularly in recent years, when we have begun to explore and understand the world ofbiological and psychological determinism, we have been forced to deal with the weight of inevitable consequences and our limited ability to counteract them. And yet, it is in this limited arena that our fear of Heavennamely, our relationship with God, can really come to life.

As we approach the High Holidays, the period in our calendar during which we focus on our choices over the last yearand the choices we intend to make for the nextit would help for us to reflect on the fact that it is in the arena of choice that we truly define ourselves.

The realization that we have the choice to make choices is a critical component of ensuring that everything we do never becomes a product of fate. Rather it must be the result of considered reflection and our own willful actions.

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The Choice to Make Choices – Algemeiner

Judge blocks demolition of historic Brooklyn synagogue – New York Daily News

Posted By on August 25, 2017

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Updated: Friday, August 25, 2017, 3:47 AM

Their prayers were answered.

A Brooklyn judge temporarily blocked the demolition of the oldest synagogue in Borough Park after members argued the sale of the building was based on misrepresentations.

Chevra Anshei Lubawitz, on 12th Ave. and 41st St., was sold for $3.1 million on June 14 to developer Moses Karpen, records show. The developer wants to demolish the building and convert it to a six-story apartment building.

As part of the deal, the synagogue would pay $3 million for the first floor and basement of the new building and use the space as a temple.

Seventeen members of the synagogue say they only found out about the sale a few days after it occurred. They contend two board members behind the sale made no effort to seek other offers and that the building was never offered on the open market before it was sold to Karpen, who is a friend of one of the board members.

Supporters of the sale insist there was nothing untoward about the deal, noting the congregation will have a brand-new space under the arrangement.

“The congregation wanted to make sure that they were dealing with a developer that they had confidence in and was highly respected,” said Scott Mollen, the lawyer representing the synagogue’s leadership behind the sale.

The board spoke to several other developers and had the property appraised by an expert before making the sale, Mollen added.

But critics who are seeking to block the deal in court say the building was undersold by at least $1 million, based on another sale in the neighborhood.

The purchase has been in the works for 18 months, records show.

The board filed a petition with the state’s attorney general asking for the legal signoff to make the deal, records show. That petition argued the synagogue, which opened its doors in 1914, is “old, dilapidated, in need of extensive renovation and is no longer able to house” services.

Members opposing the sale say that’s not the case.

“There’s not a single violation on the property,” said David Shor, who has prayed at the synagogue for a decade. “It’s actually beautiful.”

The synagogue has stained glass windows, chandeliers and pews in good condition, a photo shows.

But Mollen said the roof is in dire need of repair, the bathroom is a mess, stairs are damaged and there’s a mold problem.

“There are major structural issues,” he said. “Given the small size of the congregation it is not practical to raise sufficient money.”

The size of the congregation is also in dispute.

Those supporting the sale say there are only about 18 members.

Opponents contend that number is actually closer to 50. They note that there are two Friday night services during the winter months.

As for complaints that members were never notified, Mollen says the sale was brought up in two board meetings before a vote was taken.

One of the members against the sale admitted he attended three meetings where others talked about possibly putting the building up for sale, court records show.

“The congregation completely denies that there was a lack of notice and proper approval by the membership,” said Mollen.

But many say they only heard about it in June, when the synagogue’s leadership announced the building would be closed for the summer while members were away.

“I’ve been praying at this synagogue for 10 years and am so upset at this ugly turn of events which has taken so many of us by surprise,” Shor said.

The legal victory for opponents of the sale may be short-lived.

Judge Marshal Steinhardt’s temporary restraining issued on Thursday order lasts until Oct. 16. It specifically allows the synagogue leadership to proceed with the permitting process required before the demolition.

“The congregation leadership thinks that today was very positive,” Mollen said, noting the next court date is set for Sept. 7.

Still, critics of the deal have faith.

“We are very pleased that the court saw the need to issue a TRO, which will prevent this historic structure from facing the wrecking ball,” Shor said. “We are confident that the court will see the merits of our case, and prevent the destruction of Borough Park’s oldest synagogue.”

Originally posted here:

Judge blocks demolition of historic Brooklyn synagogue – New York Daily News

Synagogue to host Blessing of the New Moon today – St. Augustine Record

Posted By on August 25, 2017

First Congregation Sons of Israel will host a service and musical sing-along dinner followed by Kiddush Levana (Sanctification of the Moon) at 6:30 p.m. today.

According to the Jewish faith, the tradition of Kiddush Levana has taken place for well over a millennia, says Rabbi Joel Fox, who will lead the service.

It is found in the Babylonian Talmud where Rabbi Yochanan taught that one who blesses the new moon is regarded like one who greets the Shechinah, or Divine Presence, Fox says.

In Exodus 12:2, it is written: This month is to be for you the beginning of months. It is considered to be the first commandment in the Torah, which is to bless the new month, based on the lunar calendar.

We are taught that those who bless the new month are respecting the first commandment in the Torah, as it reflects the idea of greeting the Divine Presence, Fox says.

Kiddush levana is performed on the first sighting of the new moon, which this month immediately followed the solar eclipse of 2017.

Were not praising the moon, but rather God who created it.

This Friday evening, when the moon is fully visible and unobstructed by cloud cover, members of First Congregation Sons of Israel will stand under the open sky and gaze together at the new moon. They will then recite the blessing accompanied by songs and prayers.

This past Monday evening, Jews began Rosh Chodesh Elul, or the new month of Elul, which is a month of reflection and repentance. It is also the 30-day countdown to Rosh Hashana (the New Year) and 40 days to Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).

We have looked to the heavens and have marveled at the miraculousness of nature, space and time, Fox says. We have begun the time to reflect on our own miraculous selves and our place in the universe. Blessing the moon on its reappearance is a way of renewing our trust in Gods constant presence. We also will be restoring our awareness of all of the goodness and blessings found in our lives.

In addition to leading the Kiddush Levana celebration, Fox will also lead Shabbat service at 10 a.m. Saturday.

First Congregation Sons of Israel is at 161 Cordova St. Reservations are requested for Shabbat dinner on Friday.

For reservations, call 829-9532 or email fcsi1924@gmail.com.

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Synagogue to host Blessing of the New Moon today – St. Augustine Record

New Jewish museum seeks to showcase Sephardic culture – Arutz Sheva

Posted By on August 25, 2017

Old City of Porto, Portugal

iStock

Ahead of next months European Days of Jewish Culture project, the Portuguese town of Belmonte has renovated and reopened its Jewish museum, which is the largest in the world about crypto-Jews.

The reopening earlier this month followed extensive renovations costing $350,000 at the museum, which was founded in 2005, a municipal spokesperson told JTA. The renovations and the addition of interactive exhibitions were timed to be ready for this years edition of the Jewish culture project a framework for events highlighting European Jewish culture that take place each year in the beginning of September in 35 countries.

You could say this this a totally new museum and we are confident that it will become a reference point for Sephardic culture, Belmontes mayor, Antnio Dias Rocha, told the Lusa news agency earlier this month. The aim is for visitors to understand how it was possible for our Jews to remain so many years in Belmonte, he added.

In Barcelona, the European Days of Jewish Culture features a Jewish film festival. In the Netherlands, visitors will be able to access the Middelburg Synagogue, an 18th-century establishment which was built by exiled Portuguese Jews and is the oldest of its kind outside Amsterdam. It is generally not open to the public.

This years theme of Diasporas is particularly relevant to Belmonte, which in the 15th century saw an influx of Jewish refugees from Spain, from where they fled because of the Church-led campaign of persecution known as the Inquisition. When the Inquisition spread to Portugal in 1536, many of Belmontes hundreds of Jewish families fled, becoming refugees themselves. But many stayed and continued to practice Judaism in secrecy, becoming crypto-Jews, or anusim. The community existed as such as late as the early 20th century before disappearing.

In recent years, however, rabbis and activists from the Shavei Israel group, which seeks to reconnect the descendants of the anusim to Judaism, have re-established a small community in Belmonte.

The eastern town of Belmonte is one of only three locales in Portugal with a functioning synagogue, along with Lisbon and Porto. In recent years, local and national tourism bodies have invested millions of dollars in attracting tourists to Belmonte, including by setting up a kosher market each year in September since 2010.

The renovated museum, which includes reconstruction of murals and insight into the individual stories of Belmontes Jews, is projected to attract 100,000 visitors annually, Dias Rocha said. According to Lusa, this figure is slightly higher than the total combined number of visitors who each year come to the towns six other museums. In 2016, 92,000 tourists visited the citys seven museums an increase of 15 percent over 2015.

Separately, in Lisbon Jewish community leaders and municipal workers are preparing for the opening of that citys Jewish museum, due to take place this year. In March, two Jewish museums opened in Braganca and Porto.

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New Jewish museum seeks to showcase Sephardic culture – Arutz Sheva

We helped Blanche discover more about her famous family – Jewish News (blog)

Posted By on August 25, 2017

As every working parent will tell you, modern families lead busy lives. Mums and dads findthemselves juggling work presentations with spelling tests, interview preparation with school plays and client calls with science projects.

The death this month of Blanche Lindo Blackwell [pictured below] at the age of 104was widely reported in national newspapers. Of course, when someone of that age passes away, she suffers from a grave disadvantage, so to speak. All of her contemporaries have passed away and the friends and younger membersof the family that remain only remember heras an old lady, a relic from another age.

I met Blanche when she was aged just under 100. In fact, she was demanding to see me. Rumours of the Jewish ancestry of the Duchess of Cambridge, confirmed, it was thought, by the birth of little

Prince George in the Lindo Wing of St Marys Hospital, had led to my writing toThe Times,explaining its Jewish history, and that Kate had no known relationship to the Lindo family or, indeed, any Jewish antecedents.

In 1938, Frank Charles Lindo had been so anxious to repay the care he had received from members of the nursing profession that he built a nurses home and private wing atSt Marys Hospital, known as the Lindo Wing. Blanche hailed from the Jamaican branch of the family, and she wanted to know more.

Blanche Blackwell

This was how I found myself ringing the bell nervously to her apartment in Belgravias Lowndes Square. There, I found a sprightly elderly lady, with an engaging personality and warm smile.

She had a friend staying and we were served attentively by two devoted West Indian maids.

Explaining that she was a religious Christian but very proud of being a Jew, Blanche saw no contradiction in this.

Her family had been baptised after the deathof a young son from blackwater fever, the scourge of the tropics.

Blanchie, as she called herself, wanted me to research her English family, and invitations were extended with my husband for dinner and a tea. She was very fond of her computer, which had been adapted for her failing eyesight, and regaled us with amusing stories.

Born in Costa Rica in 1912, the second daughter and third child of two Lindo cousins, she had a wonderful time growing up in Jamaica.

Sent to boarding school, she was known as a rebel, and finished in Paris, the only West Indian debutante of the year 1933.

Her marriage to a member of the Crosse & Blackwell family ended in divorce, but her son was the owner of Island Records and the discoverer of Bob Marley, the reggae star.

She had acted as hostess to the rich and famous on the island and, indeed, to royalty. Blanche was very good company but, the last time I was invited to tea in Lowndes Square, she had forgotten she had invited me.

However, by then she had all the information on the English branch of her Sephardi family. Isaac Lindo, born about 1638, had settled in London, becoming an Elder at Bevis Marks Synagogue.

It was David Abarbanel Lindo who performed Disraelis circumcision and itwas Abigail Lindo, lexicographer, who was the only woman of her time to have publications in her own name.

It was Benjamin Lindo who supplied perfume to the royal family and Gabriel Lindo who wassolicitor to the Sephardic congregation.

It was Blanche Lindo, however,who became the first and only honorary member of The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, at the age of 100.

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We helped Blanche discover more about her famous family – Jewish News (blog)

Russian Jewish immigrant Spektor infuses music with wit, vulnerability – Jewish Post

Posted By on August 25, 2017

Even if you dont follow pop music, you may have heard pianist and songwriter Regina Spektor singing the catchy Orange Is the New Black theme song, Youve Got Time, covering The Beatles While My Guitar Gently Weeps in the animated feature Kubo and the Two Strings, or in numerous other films and TV shows that have featured her music.

But you might never have heard the Russian Jewish immigrant at all had the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society not helped her family settle in New York. At age 9, Spektor entered the United States as a refugee when her parents fled Soviet persecution in 1989. The family settled in the Kingsbridge neighborhood in the Bronx and was absorbed into the Jewish community there, receiving donations of clothes, furniture and other necessities. Experiencing religious freedom for the first time, Spektor remembers realizing how constrained and stilted the Judaism they had practiced in Russia had been.

Part of a musical family, Spektor was already a serious piano student when she left Russia. The family had to leave their piano behind, and Spektor was reduced to practicing on tabletops until she found a piano to play in her synagogues basement. Through an acquaintance of her fathers, Spektor met a piano teacher with whom she studied, free of charge, until age 17. By that time, she was writing her own songs.

Raised on classical music and contraband Beatles and Rolling Stones records, in America Spektor was exposed to punk, hip-hop, and, most important, female songwriters like Joni Mitchell. After graduating from the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College, she began recording her own CDs and performing in local venues in New York. She attracted the attention of the popular band The Strokes, who brought her on tour and gave her national exposure. She was signed by Sire records in 2004 and has since released five major-label albums to public and critical acclaim. In 2010, she performed at the White House for President Barack Obama for Jewish Heritage Month, and in 2012, she performed a benefit concert for HIAS.

Spektor who will kick off a special solo U.S. tour in Tucson with a concert at the Rialto Theater on Oct. 20 remains fluent in Russian and reads Hebrew. Her history informs much of her music. Although her relationship with religion is complicated, she describes herself as someone to whom faith comes naturally and who is drawn to traditions. The title of her latest album, Remember Us to Life, is English for the High Holy Days refrain Zochreinu LChaim. Spektors outlook was shaped by her early environment, a culture in which violence and oppression were commonplace and the history of World War II and the Stalin years was an ever-looming shadow.

Touring in Berlin earlier this month, Spektor spoke out on social media about the Aug 12 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that ended with a counterprotestor being killed in a car ramming attack.

I am in Berlin where after a dark history, it is illegal to be a Nazi or say hate speech, she said in a Facebook post. As a refugee, I have promised to protect and fight for my country when I was sworn in as a citizen. I was a teenager then. As I held up my right hand, I never dreamed of the hate speeches and the normalizing of institutionalized prejudice that would be falling over the land in such a short time. The haters coming out of the shadows, and being empowered.

Spektors lyrics reflect a deep sense of how vulnerable humans can be in a complex, often hostile world. What makes Spektors songs unique is the balance between her feel for the fragility of people and her robust sense of just how fun music and life itself can be.

Tickets for Regina Spektors Oct. 20 concert at the Rialto begin at $67.50. Visit RialtoTheatre.com or call 740-1000.

John Cafiero is a freelance writer in Tucson.

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Russian Jewish immigrant Spektor infuses music with wit, vulnerability – Jewish Post

PA wants two-state commitment from Trump administration – Heritage Florida Jewish News

Posted By on August 25, 2017

Ron Kampeas

Husam Zomlot, the PLO envoy to Washington, speaks to reporters in Washington, D.C., Aug. 17, 2017.

WASHINGTON (JTA)-The Palestinian Authority expects the Trump administration to commit to a peace deal endgame before the close of this month and prefers it would be the two-state solution.

“We need them to tell us where the hell they are going,” Husam Zomlot, the Palestine Liberation Organization envoy to Washington, said Thursday at a meeting in his office with reporters. “It’s about time we hear it.”

Zomlot said a high-level U.S. delegation comprising Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and his top adviser charged with Middle East peace; Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s top international negotiator; and Dina Powell, a deputy national security adviser, would meet Aug. 24 in Ramallah with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian negotiating team.

The meeting will come toward the end of a tour in which the U.S. officials also will meet with Israeli and other regional leaders, including from Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Zomlot said that for the Palestinian Authority, the preferred outcome remained a recommitment to the two-state solution. Trump retreated soon after assuming the presidency in January from a two-state outcome, which has been U.S. policy since 2002. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had committed to a two-state solution in 2009, also has been silent since then about his commitment. A majority of Netanyahu’s Cabinet opposes having two states.

“A two-state solution has international equilibrium, it has regional backing and it has a global consensus,” Zomlot said. “We are saying to them, we have a starting point, and letting go of this starting point is the worst thing they can do”

Zomlot said the Palestinian Authority wanted two states based on the 1967 borders, and wanted to hear from the Trump administration how best to deal with factors that would endanger a peaceful outcome, including Jewish settlements, the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip and religious tensions at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, which both Jews and Muslims claim as holy.

“The how is crucial,” he said.

He said that in the wake of serious negotiations, “the Palestinian consensus government will be tasked with two things: the ending of the situation in Gaza-the unprecedented situation in Gaza-and as soon as possible the convening of Palestinian national elections.”

A major obstruction to advancing peace talks has been the absence of P.A. control in the Gaza Strip, where the Hamas terrorist group is the authority. Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, along with Israel, have been squeezing Gaza by reducing basic supplies to its Hamas rulers, including electricity.

Zomlot would not say what the Palestinian Authority would do if the U.S. delegation did not lay out an endgame, but said uncertainty could lead the P.A. to return to seeking international recognition for statehood-a posture that Israel and the United States adamantly oppose-or to further Palestinian resistance against Israel. He said the resistance would be “peaceful.”

Zomlot conveyed an overall positive impression of Trump and his negotiators, saying they had carefully considered Palestinian positions, and that Trump’s commitment to an endgame rather than simply perpetuating the process was positive.

“The character of President Trump himself-we believe this is a person who could actually take the leap, who could exert pressure on all sides,” he said.

Zomlot and the Palestinian Authority appear to be relying on pressure by Trump as a means of delivering Israel on the two-state solution. Zomlot made clear that he did not believe Netanyahu had the wherewithal to advance to final status negotiations on his own.

“Netanyahu is behaving like a politician, not a statesman,” he said of the prime minister’s coalition maneuvering, in which he must deal with partners who oppose concessions. “Israel deserves better leadership.”

Zomlot expressed anger with Congress and the welter of proposed bills that would cut U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority and otherwise penalize it. Chief among the measures is the Taylor Force Act, named for an American stabbed to death in a 2016 terrorist attack, which would link funding to the Palestinian areas to the cessation of P.A. payments to the families of Palestinians killed in or jailed for attacks on Israelis.

He said the Palestinian Authority was ready to “revise and negotiate” its payment system, but would not submit to pressure.

“Don’t use financial pressure with us,” he said. “It does not work.”

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PA wants two-state commitment from Trump administration – Heritage Florida Jewish News

Economy crumbles, Venezuela’s Jews emigrate – Intermountain Jewish News

Posted By on August 25, 2017

Michal Levy and her three children, with Debbie Ashkenazi, right, of IFCJ, at Ben Gurion Airport.

As the political and economic situation in Venezuela becomes increasingly unstable, Jews are fleeing the South American nation, with many choosing to immigrate to Israel.

Conditions in Venezuela began deteriorating in 2013 following the death of the countrys former president, Hugo Chavez, and the ascension of his chosen successor Nicolas Maduro, a former bus driver.

Chavez aspired to dictatorship and was harshly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic. During the past four years of his successors rule, inflation has skyrocketed, leading to shortages in food and basic supplies such as medicine and toilet paper. Venezuelans stand in long lines sometimes for 12 hours just to obtain bare essentials.

There is no value to life right now in Venezuela, Adele Tarrab, a Venezuelan Jew who moved to Israel with her family in 2015, told JNS. Ive actually seen people get killed for bread.

Venezuela was once home to a thriving Jewish community, one of the largest in South America, with around 25,000 members in 1999. The crumbling economy caused many of the countrys Jews to flee, most to Miami, Mexico and Panama. Some 9,000 Jews are believed to still reside in Venezuela.

We love Venezuela, Tarrab said. Its a beautiful country. We still have family there, but they want to leave.

In late July, a group of 26 new Venezuelan immigrants arrived in Israel, with the Israeli government and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) facilitating their aliyah.

IFCJ says it is the only organization on the ground in Venezuela assisting the Jewish community with aliyah. During the past 18 months, the organization has brought 153 Venezuelan Jews to Israel, and has helped the immigrants obtain thousands of dollars in support to get on their feet.

In the past four years weve seen a deterioration in the situation of the people of Venezuela, IFCJs founder and president, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, says. Many of the olim (immigrants) that we have brought to Israel have not been able, literally, to put bread on the table.

Most of them are coming to Israel literally with the shirts on their backs, no luggage, he says.

IFCJ aids elderly and less affluent Jews who remain in Venezuela, as the majority of wealthy members of the countrys Jewish community already left for Miami before the situation deteriorated, Eckstein says.

According to Eckstein, amid the lack of law and order in Venezuela, Jews are increasingly targeted for kidnappings by criminal gangs who hold them for ransom.

Since the Jewish community has this image of being more affluent due to stereotypes about Jews, kidnappings of Jewish community members are more common, he says.

Tarrab says that Venezuela is like a jail. You dont leave your house because its very dangerous to go out, she says.

Tarrab recalls a 2009 incident in which 15 armed attackers broke into the main synagogue in Caracas on a Friday night and urinated on the Torah scrolls. It was shocking.

The assailants scrawled anti-Semitic graffiti on the synagogues walls and prevented the community from holding Friday night services.

She also detailed an incident in which government forces confiscated the central gold market in Caracas, where many of her family members, including her father Maurice, owned jewelry stores for more than 30 years.

Chavez knew that many of the stores were owned by the Jewish community. It was shocking and very sad, Tarrab said.

Venezuelas Jewish leaders dont want to present the current economic situation as a crisis, but it really is, Eckstein says.

Despite the lifeline of moving to Israel, Tarrab said the South American immigrants face many new challenges in the Jewish state. They are often frustrated by the lack of help from the Israeli government and encounter intense bureaucracy.

The government should make the process smoother, says Tarrab.

Israels Ministry of Immigration and Absorption this month announced an increase in aid to Venezuelan immigrants.

Total state benefits now amount to $9,700 for couples; $8,200 for single-parent families; $5,100 for singles; $3,000 for children up to age four; $2,200 for children ages four-18; and $2,600 for immigrants ages 18-21.

Soon after arriving in Israel, Tarrab and her family settled in the coastal city of Netanya and opened a restaurant, Rustikana, that serves home-style Venezuelan food. The family imports fresh kosher meat from South American countries such as Argentina to provide authentic flavors.

My family and I came to Israel with con las ganas, the willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed, says Tarrab.

You cannot come to Israel with the same mentality we had in Venezuela. Every day is challenging, she said.

Every day I have to fight, I am always on the defensive. Its tiring, but I love Israel. I feel safe here, and I feel like this is my country.

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Economy crumbles, Venezuela’s Jews emigrate – Intermountain Jewish News

Belarus court OKs luxury flats atop former Jewish cemeteries – Cleveland Jewish News

Posted By on August 25, 2017

A judge in Belarus approved the construction of apartments atop two former Jewish cemeteries. Separately, unidentified individuals smashed 24 headstones in a Jewish cemetery in Ukraine.

Eduard Dolinsky, the director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, in a statement wrote that the incident in Ukraine was discovered Tuesday at the Jewish cemetery of Svaliava in the countrys west. The incident was reported to police, who currently have no suspects.

Earlier this month, a mass grave was discovered during construction near the Ukrainian city ofIvano-Frankivsk. Locals initially ignored the find because they assumed the bones belonged to Jews buried in a nearby cemetery, Radio Svoboda reported, but the works were stopped because the bones were thought to be of non-Jews purged by communist authorities.

In a ruling on a motion seeking an injunction against planned construction on the former Jewish cemetery in the eastern city of Gomel, the judge of the Tsentralny District Court in Belarus on Monday stated the court lacks jurisdiction to take any action, clearing the path for the planned construction, Radio Svaboda reported Monday.

The motion was filed by Yakov Goodman, a Belarus-born American Jewish activist for the preservation of Jewish heritage sites in Belarus. Local authorities last year approved a project for the construction of two luxury apartment buildings on the grounds of a former cemetery on Sozhskaya Street. The motion also pertained to earthworks already underway in the city of Mozyr at another former Jewish cemetery, as per permits issued in 2015, according to the World Association of Belarusian Jews, which Goodman heads.

Both projects mean that bones of Jews buried in those two cemeteries will end up in city dumpsters, Goodman told JTA earlier this week.

Belarusian official have vowed to protect Jewish heritage sites in Belarus, including cemeteries.

Last year, Belarusian Foreign MinisterVladimir Makaiand Lesley Weiss, chair of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of Americas Heritage Abroad, signed a joint declaration at the World Jewish Congress headquarters stating that: Each party will take appropriate steps to protect and preserve properties that represent the cultural heritage of all national, religious, or ethnic groups that reside or resided in its territory.

The singing only encouraged authorities to further attacks on Jewish heritage sites, Goodman said.

Before the signing of the document, Goodmans association accused Belarusian authorities under the countrys authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, of destroying three synagogues one in Luban and two others in the capital Minsk and at least two Jewish cemeteries in addition to Gomel and Mozyr.

Local activists are afraid, understandably to put up a fight in local courts, said Goodman, who was briefly arrested in 2004 in Belarus for his activism. Under Lukashenko, Jewish heritage suffered irreparable losses, said Goodman, who added he may appeal the ruling Monday.

In replying to the motion on construction in Gomel, the citys urban housing and communal services department told the court that: There is no information about the location of the cemetery in this place.

But this assertion was disputed by several historians, including Evgeny Malikov, who wrote earlier this year in a report that the planned construction is strictly prohibited also by Belarusian laws. Both he and Goodman accused authorities of discriminating against Jewish buildings while showing more sensitivity to Christian ones.

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Belarus court OKs luxury flats atop former Jewish cemeteries – Cleveland Jewish News


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