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The boy Jesus in the synagogue – Early County News

Posted By on July 7, 2020

Luke 2:39-52

As we read scripture, it is often difficult for mere mortals to wrap our minds around the fact of eternity. We, as humans, are locked into the system known as time interval between two events. For the Son of God to leave the splendors of heaven, and dwell among fallen mankind, can boggle our sinful minds.

Most people in our society are familiar with the Christmas Story. Luke 2:1-7. The unfolding of this beautiful event is celebrated each year. The divine record tells of the puppet king attempting to destroy the Son of God. Matthew 2:13, 14. After the return of this family from Egypt, the Record is silent regarding events of the next few years of the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

Jewish history and tradition give us some hints regarding the early years of the life of the Son of God. The usual expectation was for the male children to attend school in the local synagogue. The major content of this education was focused on the Law of Moses.

The Gospel of Luke written to the Greeks summarized these first years. And the child grew, and waxed strong (i.e., increased in vigor) in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. Luke 2:40.

During these silent years, the family did not slack in the religious education of the household. This account is quite clear Now his [Jesus] parents went to Jerusalem [from Nazareth] every year at the feast of the passover. Luke 2:41.

To the casual observer, this particular journey would have held no great significance. However, this specific year was important for the Son and the family. The tradition at that time and it continues to this day is the celebration of bar mitzvah for the son reaching the age of twelve or thirteen. (Webster). This celebration indicates this young one to be a son of the Law. However, the is no indication in scripture that this ceremony was part of this event in the life of Jesus.

The celebration of the Passover was important to the family and the nation. This feast included the great Day of Atonement. At this time a lamb would be offered for the sins of the whole nation, and national sins were confessed by the high priest. Later, John the Baptist would introduce Jesus of Nazareth as the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. John 1:29.

When the group of pilgrims left Jerusalem following the feast, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem: and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. Luke 2:43b. This fact was not an example of parental neglect. At the age of 12, Jesus was considered old enough for personal responsibilities. Luke points out this fact in his record But they supposing him have been in the company, went a days journey. Luke 2:44a. When the caravan stopped for the night, they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. Luke 2:44b.

One can only imagine the distress that Joseph and Mary experienced as they made their frantic search. From the context, it seems that they did not delay in their return trip And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. Luke 2:45.

There must have been a frantic search in the city. We are told, And it came to pass, that after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors (teachers), both hearing them, and asking them questions. Luke 2:46. One can only imagine how this session began. We can speculate that this Young One must have begun to ask questions regarding the matters of the Law. These wise ones might have been required to re-think some of the lessons that had been taught. The applications that had, once, glibly tripped from their lips might not have seemed so simple in the light of the questions that they met at this time.

The sessions that unfolded in the temple at that time included both hearing and asking questions. As we consider teaching sessions in our day, what is the common format? Are we willing to accept questions regarding the doctrines and principles that we teach? The Apostle Peter instructed believers that we should be ready always to give an answer to every man (one) that asketh you a reason (as one with authority) of (concerning) the hope that is in you with meekness (controlled strength) and fear (reverence). 1 Peter 3:15. This admonition leaves no room for one to show any kind of great spiritual superiority. We must all learn from the same Source. See Matthew 11:29.

Those who heard the discussions in the temple that day were astonished (amazed; astounded) at his [Jesus] understanding and answers. Luke 2:46. The observers knew the age of this One who was holding these hearers spellbound.

The parents did not expect to witness the scene, as it unfolded And when they saw him, they were amazed. Luke 2:48a. Finally, his mother said unto him, Son why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father [in the foster sense] and I have sought thee sorrowing (grieving). Luke 2:48b, c.

The answer given did not come from arrogance nor rebellion. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? Wist (know) ye not that I must be about my Fathers business [implied affairs]? Luke 2:49. These are the first recorded words of Jesus. His last words on the cross were It is finished. John 19:30.

The importance of these words of the 12-year-old did not register with His earthly parents. Luke recorded that they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. Luke 2:50.

As Luke continued his record, he wrote, And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject (Note: a military term, to rank under) unto them: but his mother kept all these saying in her heart. Luke 2:51. The next eighteen years are summarized, And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. Luke 2:52. During this time, Jesus learned the trade of a carpenter. Later, this fact astonished His critics, but did not change His divine mission.

Are we faithful the mission that is our assignment? Whatever our position in life, we are all called to be witnesses for our Lord. Acts 1:8.

Rev. James C. Temples Sunday School Lesson has appeared in the Early County News each week since 1967. A native of Early County, Rev. Temples taught in public schools 32 years and 10 years at Southeastern College of Assemblies of God, in Lakeland, Fla. He also served as pastor and evangelist during those years. He can be contacted at P. O. Box 1484, Swainsboro, GA 30401; 478-299-2068. Email:

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The boy Jesus in the synagogue - Early County News

Brazil’s president has COVID-19 and the country is a coronavirus hot spot. Here’s how Rio Jews are adapting to the pandemic. – Jewish Telegraphic…

Posted By on July 7, 2020

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) The bombshell news on Tuesday was ironic for some Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, one of the world leaders who has most staunchly downplayed the potential of the coronavirus pandemic, had contracted the virus.

Despite his ardent support of Israel, Bolsonaros tempered rhetoric on the virus and controversial moves to cope with the pandemic including fiercely criticizing stay-at-home measures implemented by Rio de Janeiro and other state governments, and saying that a weakened economy could kill more than the virus have raised eyebrows even among his most passionate conservative Jewish supporters.

As of June, the country of 215 million people that is home to some 120,000 Jews had the second-highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world behind the United States: nearly 1.6 million, including some 65,000 deaths.

In March, the Rio Jewish federation established its own crisis committee to advise the states 30,000 Jews. Along with being a state, Rio is Brazils second largest city and second largest Jewish community, behind Sao Paulo. Its home to some of the nations most famous landmarks, such as the Christ Redeemer statue and the Sugarloaf Mountain, and boasts some of the countrys most storied Jewish institutions, such as the Great Israelite Temple and Brazils largest Jewish day school, the 1,400-student Liessin.

Despite the governmental guideline allowing religious temples to reopen, we have told all synagogues to wait longer and our request has been met, the federations president, Arnon Velmovitsky, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. He reiterated this sentiment in a statement this week.

Heres how Jews in Rio have responded to dealing with the virus that has taken Jewish institutions online.

Online shul

Oren Boljover, cantor at the Associacao Religiosa Israelita synagogue, sings on camera. (Courtesy of Associacao Religiosa Israelita)

Rios largest synagogue, the 1,000-family Associacao Religiosa Israelita, has been garnering over 500 people on its regular Friday evening livestreamed religious services. Its so popular that the president of the Reform temple, which was founded in 1942 by German Jewish families, says it will keep streaming services online after the pandemic.

Our online religious services stem from what was a unanimous decision by our board and rabbinate, Gilberto Lamm told JTA. They are here to stay. When COVID-19 is over, well have both onsite and online.

Orthodox synagogues in the city have been holding pre-Shabbat and Havdalah celebrations, which are presented before and after the hours in which the use of electricity is prohibited by Jewish law.

Temples from all streams offer an array of live and prerecorded material, including prayers, lectures and classes. Since the pandemic started, the Israeli Independence Day, Lag bOmer and Shavuot observances were celebrated online, and Zoom, Facebook and Instagram have been the favored platforms for Jewish institutions.

The receptivity to our livestreams has been very great, said Gabriel Aboutboul, chief rabbi of the Edmond Safra Synagogue, an Orthodox temple located a few blocks from the iconic Ipanema beach. There are many people who did not have a chance to attend an event in the synagogue and now they can. Were bringing our community together.

Immigration to Israel could spike

A group of 23 Brazilians immigrated to Israel on a flight that went through Ethiopia in May. (Olim do Brasil NGO)

Brazil is regularly among the top 10 list of countries that send the most immigrants to Israel every year. In 2019, nearly 700 Brazilians moved to Israel a record that has stayed almost constant for three years in a row. Through May, 280 Brazilians had immigrated to the Jewish state this year, but that pipeline has been nearly shut down.

Most people are very frustrated because they should already be in Israel. We cant tell anything for sure now, we have no crystal ball. Its all a big question mark, said Sprintza Laim, the head of the Jewish Agencys Aliyah department in Rio. The Jewish Agency is a nonprofit that among things facilitates Jewish immigration to Israel.

Still, immigration could increase throughout the year, especially if the COVID-19 situation in Brazil worsens.

Last year, 750 Brazilian families opened aliyah files meaning they began the process of gathering personal and religious documents needed for immigration. The 2020 tally is expected to reach up to 1,200, according to the Jewish Agency.

Rio alone currently accounts for some 45%, although it is home to only half the Jewish population of Sao Paulo.

Laim said the Jewish Agency offers livestream events to introduce prospective immigrants to each other.

There is a very high level of anxiety, which is cooled down when people meet others who are experiencing the same situation, Laim added.

Danielle Tarnovsky was among the 23 Brazilians who landed in Israel on a flight via Ethiopia in May. She was quarantined in a Tel Aviv hotel for 14 days, as mandated by Israel, from which she gave a testimonial during a live broadcast on social media with Olim do Brasil, a nonprofit that helps her countrymen.

We had a thousand obstacles, many people wouldve given it up, but I was loyal to my goal, Tarnovsky said from her new home in Nahariya. Rio is not doing well in terms of health. We left the virus behind.

Jewish schools: E-learning and a Barmobile

Barilan representatives stand on the schools Barmobile at a stop in Rio. (Courtesy of TTH Barilan)

While several private schools in Rio are providing prerecorded classes, Jewish day schools have stood out for providing real-time classes. Theyre using e-learning platforms such as Google Meet and Zoom supported by the Google Classroom platform.

The result is above our expectations, said Celia Saada, the principal of Liessin, which has three campuses. All the Jewish schools in Brazil run from preschool to high school.

Junior high and high school students have responded very quickly and positively. From first to fifth grade, it was a gradual thing. Preschool was our biggest challenge.

TTH Barilan, an Orthodox school, recently posted on Facebook some numbers documenting the schools efforts to keep things running during the first three months of the pandemic. There were nearly half a million emails and files exchanged; almost 7,500 classes on Google Meet that took more than 250,000 minutes; nearly 42,000 views of class videos on social media; and more.

Our teachers reinvented their teaching practice, families found ways to organize their homes to the new reality, students took a leap of responsibility and autonomy to keep up with the new school dynamics, said TTH-Barilans principal, Andre Frank. The pandemic will pass, but the legacy will remain.

In May, the school reached out to its 400 quarantined students to celebrate Israels Independence Day with what they nicknamed the Barmobile a mashup of the schools name and Batmans Batmobile. The car paraded through the city, playing Jewish music and reading inspiring messages and tips on how to protect from the virus through a microphone.

Since students cannot come to school, our school went to them, said its president, Rafael Antaki.

Doing the hora online

Dancers from the Kineret Institute, before the pandemic. (Courtesy of Kineret)

Israeli folk dance, a passionate national pastime, has probably its biggest Diaspora fans in the land of the Samba. Dana israeli here is popular among Jewish children, youths, adults and seniors. The choreographed circle, couple and line dances are taught in Rios Jewish day schools, youth movements, synagogues and private spaces.

COVID-19 has turned this world upside down especially since holding hands is one of the key principles of Israeli dance. The 50th edition of the Hava Netze Bemachol festival, Rios largest Jewish annual event, has been postponed to the virus.

We now hold regular classes on Zoom. Weve been recording the choreographies for our pupils to rehearse at home and training our instructors during the quarantine, said Daniel Adesse, the founder of Kineret Institute, an Israeli dance school that gathers some 250 dancers who perform in Brazil and the United States.

For choreographer Sandra Libaber, who teaches at several Jewish institutions, including the Liessin and Barilan schools, the adherence to Zoom lessons is not the same.

Memorizing the steps is hard, but the joy and the sense of belonging are of great value, she told JTA. Letting Israeli dance enter our homes in this time of social isolation boosts mental health, energy and love.

WiZoom: 1,500 chaverot in action

The Womens International Zionist Organization, based in Rio, often hits the limit of 100 participants in its meetings. (Screenshot/Courtesy of Wizo)

The Womens International Zionist Organization, a group of 1,500 activists from across the country whose headquarters is in Rio, is still holding a wide range of initiatives to raise funds for educational projects.

Lectures, panels and courses around Jewish values, Israel-related topics and more are now livestreamed on Zoom, which the activists known as chaverot, the Hebrew word for female friends have nicknamed WiZoom.

We depend on fundraising events, Danielle Balassiano Ptak, vice president of the Rio chapter, told JTA. With everything closed, we must find our ways around it.

The events constantly reach the Zoom limit of 100 participants. The goal is to plan campaigns to collect funds on the calls, but also to share the tough personal challenges imposed by COVID-19.

Younger chaverot regularly call the older ones and ask how they are, what they need or simply listen to one another, Balassiano Ptak said. They just need to talk and keep mental sanity.

Original post:

Brazil's president has COVID-19 and the country is a coronavirus hot spot. Here's how Rio Jews are adapting to the pandemic. - Jewish Telegraphic...

Is there a need for anyone over 60 to fast tomorrow on Thursday, July 9, 2020 – The Times of Israel

Posted By on July 7, 2020

Is there a need for anyone over 60 to fast tomorrow on Thursday, July 9, 2020

Tomorrow, Thursday is the Fast of Tammuz 17

The last fast we had during the Corona Crises was the fast of Esther on March 10, 2020.. At that time, we were new to the virus and no one knew what to do. Soon after, everyone agreed, however, that the preservation of life was more important than going to the synagogue and the synagogue was canceled.

Now we are at the new fast. Do you need to fast or not? Like everything else in the world, it depends on who you are.

Only a Jew has to keep 613 mitzvahs, a Gentile does not. A woman keeps fewer stringencies than a man about many religious practices as she is not obligated in many (some she is) time-bound mitzvah, and a Slave (though we dont have anymore) even less.

Judaism is the worlds oldest monotheistic religion, dating back nearly 4,000 years. Followers of Judaism believe in one God who revealed himself through ancient prophets. The history of Judaism is essential to understanding the Jewish faith, which has a rich heritage of law, culture, and tradition.

Over the past 4000 years, we have had many times questions about whether a fast is canceled or not either for medical conditions or over the safety of the Jewish People as other nations like to threaten us with either loss of life or property.

Judaism believes in the principle that life comes first in most instances (not all as there are three primary exceptionsviolating believes in Idolatry, Harming others, or sexual immorality may supersede life).

So when life is at stake, the fast may have to go. The Fast of Tammuz is a Rabbinic Fast, not a Torah Fast, so since it was created by the Rabbis, the Rabbis have the right to make the rules about who has to keep it.

So to answer the question, about keeping the fast we turn to history. The Place we start is about the most serious Torah Fast, Yom Kippur. If that fast, a Torah Fast can be put off, then certainly a less serious Rabbinic fast can be put off.

Rabbis and doctors have always considered the weighty issue of fasting.

Whether an elderly person should eat or drink on Yom Kippur depends on whether he is healthy or fragile.

Although religion should promote good health, sometimes the two can clash. In such cases for example, religious fasts clergymen and doctors should intervene to ensure that patients are not harmed.

The fast was initiated by the G-d (or in the case of Tannat Esther and the Fast of Tammuz the Rabbis), but it is meant for healthy adults, not for the sick or for children or pregnant or lactating women. If you cant fast for health reasons, its just as good to give charity instead.

RABBI YOSEF Zvi Rimon, the rabbi of JCT (The Jerusalem College of Technology, an Orthodox Jewish educational institution in the Givat Mordechai neighborhood) and head of its Beit Midrash, noted that medicine develops all the time. Doctors may have said something 20 years ago, and rabbis gave halachic rulings on the basis of that, but maybe the information is obsolete. The principles of Jewish law are the same, but conclusions may be wrong because doctors made statements based on medical evidence and research at the time

One has to go deeper. The rabbi produced a pamphlet with guidelines for patients on Yom Kippur fasting.It there is doubt, one must consult with a rabbi. If it is impossible and there is a real doubt [about whether the fast will cause harm], one should not fast and not endanger life, even if there is no immediate danger but only one that is distant. A patient must not risk his or her health and fast in contravention of doctors orders.

The rabbi added that if ones doctor and rabbi say the patient can fast, except to drink small amounts of water every nine (or even six) minutes, the permitted amount of water is easy to measure. Fill your mouth with as much water as you can and then spit it out into a cup. Half of that amount can be drunk every nine minutes by chronic patients who need to hydrate themselves. The average amount is 38 milliliters and should be less than 44 milliliters.

If necessary, to provide sick people with more energy, they can drink a sweet beverage or soup in intervals, Rimon continued. If a patient has to eat at intervals as well, the food should be able to fit inside an Israeli-style matchbox. A patient is allowed to take a shower on Yom Kippur to refresh himself (it is forbidden to healthy people) if he needs it to fast, and is advisable over eating and drinking if the doctor permits.

It is preferable to stay home, pray and fast, if permitted by a doctor or rabbi, rather than go to synagogue and forgo the fast. Pregnant and lactating women who are healthy usually are bound to fast (unless the new mother cannot produce enough milk for the baby), but pregnant women should consult with authorities on whether going without food and drink would harm them or the fetus. Chronically ill patients who must take pills during the fast are advised to take them without water, but if this is impossible, they should do so in a different way, such as adding a bit of salt or something bitter, the rabbi suggested.

DR. EPHRAIM Jaul, director of complex geriatric nursing at Jerusalems Herzog Hospital, said that ironically, there were many recommendations for vaccination for babies and children up to the age of 18, but only one recommended vaccination (against pneumonia) for those over 65.

Old age is the most heterogeneous condition, but it is treated as homogeneous. He urged pensioners to walk fast to improve their heart, brain, and gastrointestinal systems, as well as to do mental exercises.

CALLING A person old should not be determined by his chronological age but more exactly by his biological age, said Prof. Tzvi Dwolatzky, an expert in geriatrics and internal medicine at Haifas Rambam Medical Center. It used to be that kidney-failure patients were not sent to dialysis after the age of 75. Today, one can be 85 or more and still undergo it. The decision is made according to the biological age of the patient, he said, showing a photo of an 89-year-old woman who piloted a plane, and of Jeanne Louise Calment, a French woman who lived to the age of 122 and of a Holocaust survivor and Israeli named Yisrael Kristal, who died recently at the age of 113.

Whether an elderly person should eat or drink on Yom Kippur, said Dwolatzky, depends on whether he is healthy or fragile (living at the edge of his abilities and could fall at a slow walking speed). From my experience, most old people fast better than young persons.

DEHYDRATION FROM fasting is a significant risk in elderly patients, noted Dr. Ephraim Rimon of the Hartzfeld Geriatric Hospital in Gedera, who happens to be the older brother of Rabbi Rimon.

One should drink three liters of water during the 24 hours before a fast, but its hard for the elderly to drink so much. If a patient is dehydrated, the risk of a heart attack or stroke is higher. An elderly person who wants to fast and drink at intervals may forget to drink water and them harm himself.

He told the story of Rabbi Chaim Sonnenfeld of the Eda Haredit who learned of a blind woman who was fasting and endangered her health. He came to her and blew the shofar during the fast and told her it was night and the fast was all over.

But every case is different.DR. RABBI Mordechai Halperin, head of Jerusalems Schlesinger Institute for Medical-Halachic Research, added that a patient with irregular heartbeats can even die if he fasts.

If we make an error in our guidelines, we are spilling blood. If a person is sick and at risk, he doesnt need to drink at intervals. He should eat. If based on medical evidence, a person could be harmed by the fast, he must eat.

THE ONLY part of the body that needs carbohydrates is the brain, said Prof. David Zangen, a senior endocrinologist at Hadassah University Medical Center.When you havent eaten for hours and the blood sugar level is low, the liver will release sugar from the liver to reach the brain rather than to remain in storage.

If there isnt enough, a patient can fall and be seriously hurt.Working with observant adolescents with type-1 diabetes, Zangen asked if they intended to fast on Yom Kippur. Thirty-nine of 190 said they would fast no matter what the doctor said.

They want to be like all the others, but it could be dangerous. Those who nevertheless insist on fasting are advised to check their blood sugar every 2.5 hours and to start eating if they have nausea, vomiting or hyperglycemia. A diabetic should always consult their personal physician, as he or she knows the medical condition well.

Now let us turn to the current issue, not just of health, but of an epidemic condition (Bibi has told us enough times in the Paper that this is an epidemic Condition-good enough for me). One of the most famous cases was:

Following Shacharit on Yom Kippur of 5610, in

September 1849, Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, the famous

and pious Vilna rabbi -founder of the Mussar Movement, dedicated to injecting the pursuit of ethical excellence into traditional Jewish observance, ascended to the bimah of the Vilna synagogue.

He explained to the congregation that because of the raging cholera epidemic in Vilna, they must not spend the day gathered together in the synagogue, but should leave the building and walk outside. Fresh air was believed to prevent the spread of the disease.(My oh My nothing seems to have changed-same advice today!)

Furthermore, he said, it was imperative that everyone maintains their strength so that they would not fall, victim, to disease. And so, on that Yom Kippur, Rabbi Yisrael Salanter explained, everyone should break their fast, eat and drink so that they could protect their health and survive the disease.

Cholera is a horrific disease. It is painful, terrifying, and deadly. The Hebrew word for cholera- sounds similar to cholera but more literally can be translated as evil disease.

Over the course of the 19thcentury, modern medical science learned how to prevent the spread of cholera, and also how to effectively treat cholera.

However, in 1849, in Eastern Europe, nobody knew how the disease spread and there were no effective treatments.

Rabbi Yisrael Salanter was one of the mostfamed rabbis of Vilna.

He threw himself into the fight against the disease.He volunteered to care for the sick, and was instrumental in organizing the Jewish community to take care of the sick and to watch over orphans left behind in the wake of the disease

The Torah Tidbids tells us

Shiva Asar btamuz begins at 4:15 A.M. Ends at 18:18 pm.

Concerning Shiva Asar BTamus, a person in isolation should not fast, so as not to weaken his immune system, since there is a chance that he is infected or can infect others

Other Doctors and Rabbis have stated that anyone over 60 is at great risk from the new flue (younger people dont seem to be as affected). It is not much of a stretch than to Poskin, that even if you are in good health, anyone over 60 should not fast, and of course, if you are not in good health, no matter what your age you should not fast. Either go to the synagogue or not (some are afraid of the potential virus in crowds), but as my Grandfather who lived to a ripe old age used to tell me, Stay home, take a bath, safe money and be healthy!

Rabbi Yehuda Lave

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Is there a need for anyone over 60 to fast tomorrow on Thursday, July 9, 2020 - The Times of Israel

COVID-19 forces Jewish conversions to adapt to once-in-a-century challenge –

Posted By on July 7, 2020

Gwyndolyn Riddles conversion to Judaism, taking place in the midst of once-in-a-century pandemic, has been forcing her to keep socially distant from the community and the religion she is joining.

Her Introduction to Judaism course began in person at Congregation Beth Shalom but moved online in March as COVID-19 forced synagogues and classrooms to close. The South Side resident took her oral Hebrew exam with Rabbi Seth Adelson online and completed her written exam at home.

Despite the challenges, Riddle is excited about her conversion ceremony taking place on July 14, happy to be joining the Jewish community and thrilled with how adept Beth Shalom has been in reacting to the coronavirus outbreak.

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Im very excited about it. Such incredible times, Riddle said. The beit din is first at 8:30 a.m. and then we go to the mikvah at 9:30.

Even the experience at the mikvah has been affected by the virus. Typically, before entering the water, a person would take a shower on site and remove any makeup or jewelry. Instead, Riddle is expected to arrive ready to immerse herself in the pool.

I received very specific instructions, she said. It is very strict. They are trusting me to take a very intense and good shower at home. I have to show up with no make up, nothing in my hair and I have to bring my own towel, robe and slippers. I have to do a lot more home prep than I would if I were just showing up to have that ritual bathing experience.

Riddles conversion is actually a return to the Judaism abandoned by her great-great-grandmother who converted to Christian Science in the 1920s. Despite her fathers heritage, Riddle wasnt raised Jewish nor was she considered Jewish under halacha.

Riddle recounted becoming the black sheep of her family when she pushed away from the Christian Science faith at age 18.

There were hints and clues of Judaism, she remembers, but it was purposely hidden. Like a secret cupboard that I never got a key to.

It was only after moving to New York and taking a DNA test while in her 20s that the PNC project manager confirmed her Jewish lineage.

I found out that I was 25% Jewish. It was a perfect time in my life. I was alone and had all this time on my hands and a love of the library. So, I had this incredible time of learning about my ancestors and Judaism, she said.

After discovering her Jewish heritage, Riddle met her husband, Matthew, who is Jewish, but was secular. The pair eventually decided to explore Judaism together, leading to the 32-year-olds commitment to convert.

The couple traveled to Israel with Adelson in January as part of Honeymoon Israel, after being married in September in a civil ceremony.

We had unlimited access to Rabbi Adelson for 10 days and we took advantage of it, Riddle said.

While the pandemic is preventing Riddle from celebrating with her new community in person, she and her husband are marking the occasion with another type of celebration: a Jewish wedding at Beth Shalom two days after her conversion ceremony, broadcast via Zoom to friends and family, of course.

Any kind of celebration that we would have had, that kind of takes the cake. To be able to stand next to my husband and be married under the eyes of God will be an incredible celebration, said Riddle.That ceremony is also being affected by the pandemic.

There will only be five of us in a 1,600-seat synagogue, our two witnesses, the rabbi and myself and my husband. Of course, there will be a lot of people on Zoom, she said.

Riddle has already forged relationships in the Jewish community, through both her experiences at the synagogue and during Honeymoon Israel, although there were programs and speakers she would have liked to attend in person, had she been afforded the opportunity.

As for Jewish holidays, Riddle has found ways to immerse herself in Jewish culture and tradition, organizing her familys online seder for Passover this year.

Adelson acknowledged that the conversion process had to be altered because of the pandemic but was nonplussed by the changes.

Weve been meeting by Zoom, he said. In terms of the conclusion of the process, the beit din will occur in person but were meeting in the Beth Shalom sanctuary, seated far apart and will all be wearing masks. And then we will go to the mikvah, which doesnt present as much of a problem because the person goes in alone. We do have to do the conclusion of the process in person, we just have to make sure were careful.

Temple Davids Rabbi Barbara Symons doesnt view the challenges presented by the virus as a negative, believing a robust learning process can occur through classes, online services and interactions in the digital space, including virtual seders.

The Reform rabbi said that she is working with a conversion student now.

We meet regularly on Zoom; he meets with someone else for Hebrew lessons on Zoom and he is attending worship and learning sessions online, said Symons.

Riddle is upbeat about the challenges she has faced, crediting Beth Shalom with ensuring a smooth transition to the virtual classroom. They didnt miss a beat. They changed very quickly. I havent felt that anything hindered my education. That was not sacrificed in the devastation of COVID-19.

In fact, Riddle said she was shocked when taking her final exam before her conversion ceremony about how much she had learned.

I was surprised by how much I knew compared to a year ago, she said. The education that I have received over the last year, has been life-changing for me. That is what Im going to be grateful for 20 years from now.

I will have a story to tell my children and grandchildren about my conversion and Jewish wedding and add into that it was during a once in a lifetime, once in a 100-year pandemic. I like having unique experiences. PJC

David Rullo can be reached at


COVID-19 forces Jewish conversions to adapt to once-in-a-century challenge -

Houses of worship weigh pros, cons of reopening amid pandemic in Southfield – C&G Newspapers

Posted By on July 7, 2020

Parishioners head into Church of the Transfiguration, 25225 Code Road, July 5. The church recently reopened after the state shutdown order was lifted.

Attendees of the service are required to wear masks, church officials said.

Photo by Deb Jacques

SOUTHFIELD Since the state shutdown order was rescinded June 1, some local houses of worship are opting to stay closed, while others are welcoming back their members.

When Gov. Gretchen Whitmers stay at home order was signed March 23, it prohibited all public and private gatherings of any number of people not part of a single household.

However, another part of the order stated that places of worship, when used for religious worship, were not subject to penalty for violating the order.

Despite this, many religious institutions in Southfield opted to close their doors and move their worship online.

Rabbi Aaron Starr, of Congregation Shaarey Zedek, 27375 Bell Road, said the synagogue is currently taking steps to resume its regular worship schedule.

Starr said the organizations congregational prayer experiences were moved online, as well as youth and adult educational programs, and social gatherings.

We are indeed taking small steps back toward regular worship in our building, though regular somehow does not seem an apt term, Starr said in an email.

When COVID-19 began to ravage Michigan, Starr said, the congregational leadership at Shaarey Zedek formed a Building Readiness Task Force, along with a Shabbat and Holiday Task Force.

Starr said the Building Readiness Task Force was formed to make sure congregation members stay safe amid the pandemic, and the Shabbat and Holiday Task Force explores how to provide the best services to synagogue members while hosting services online and with the gradual return to the building.

Everyone who enters the building or the campus is required to wear a mask and abide by social distancing regulations. Attendees must also complete a pre-registration process, and have their temperatures checked prior to entering the building, Starr said.

Starr said keeping the community safe is a core Jewish principle.

As such, while we yearn to return fully to our beautiful edifice, we proceed slowly and carefully, mindful of the law and with extreme dedication to the health and welfare of all who participate in our experiences, Starr said in an email.

The Very Rev. Chris Yaw said the doors of St. Davids Episcopal Church, 16200 W. 12 Mile Road, are going to remain closed for the foreseeable future.

Yaw said Episcopal leaders announced recently that churches can once again hold in-person services, but the Southfield parish has decided to remain closed, opting instead to hold services online.

We sent out a survey to the membership. Most of them said, You know what? Theres a deadly virus out there, Yaw said. Its the places where a large number of people come together that become mega-spreaders of the virus, and St. Davids doesnt want to be a part of that.

In lieu of in-person services, Yaw said, the church will be hosting two drive-in type services in the parking lot of the church, July 18 and Aug. 23.

Attendees will view the service from the safety of their cars while the service is held on the churchs lawn.

You can sing in your car, Yaw said. Let the Lord be with you, honk honk.

Yaw said the church does not currently have any plans to reopen soon.

Were going to wait and see how the fall goes. I think that its important we pay attention to the doctors and see what they say, Yaw said. Its pretty easy. You just follow the experts.

Father Jeff Scheeler, of the Church of the Transfiguration, 25225 Code Road, said the church recently reopened.

We are back open for public worship, but we are under some limitations. All other parish events are suspended, like our committees, celebrations and educational programs. We can have events at the pastors discretion and in small groups of under 10 people.

Scheeler said the church has also been streaming Mass online every day on the churchs Facebook page.

The parish is also taking many safety precautions, such as requiring everyone to wear a mask and to follow proper social distancing measures. Scheeler said every other pew is roped off, and ushers help seat attendees in sections designated for families, couples and individuals. Touch points inside the church are also sprayed down with disinfectant after every service.

The church hasnt run into too many problems with members following the guidelines, Scheeler said, but the biggest difficulty throughout the pandemic was not being able to connect with the congregation.

This was a terrible time for somebody to lose someone. We couldnt have the rituals to help them grieve, he said. We also couldnt visit people in hospitals or visit shut-ins or people who are stuck at home.

Scheeler said church officials are trying their best to reconnect with the community.

Were learning as we go, he said. We are just trying to maintain a connection with people. We still have a number of people who dont feel safe yet. We called every parishioner just to see how they were doing.

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Houses of worship weigh pros, cons of reopening amid pandemic in Southfield - C&G Newspapers

Reflections on the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on July 7, 2020

When Susie and I married oh those many years ago or was it just yesterday?! we never imagined that our wedding date would become such an auspicious, global occasion, and that the third of Tamuz, which occurred this past week, would forever be memorialized as the yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson.Though I never had the merit of meeting the Rebbe, he was an important person in my life.There are three rabbis, among many others, who particularly influenced me in my formative years, inspiring me not only to pursue a career in the rabbinate, but to also engage in kiruv, bringing others close to God and to Torah.One of those rabbis was Rav Herzl Kaplan, of blessed memory, my primary teacher in Skokie Yeshiva, a brilliant, soft-spoken scholar with amazing insight into the secrets of the Torah and Talmud as well as a rare sense of humor who nurtured and trained his boys until we received our semicha (rabbinical ordination). The other two sainted men were the rabbis of my synagogue, both of whom also served as the leaders of Chabad in my native Chicago. The first was Rabbi David Moshe Lieberman, who taught me for my bar mitzvah, insisting that I not only read the Torah and haftarah portion for that Shabbat, but that I also lead the prayers both Friday night and Shabbat, as well as deliver a pilpul, a complex halachic discourse, which he wrote for me. It was a daunting challenge for a 13-year-old, but he told me, A person never knows just how much he can accomplish until he pushes himself to the limits.Lieberman left Chicago to return to his native Antwerp, where, now well in his nineties, he has served since 1981 as chief rabbi. On a visit to Belgium some years ago, I called him and asked to come see him for a blessing. Of course, Stewie! he exclaimed remembering me immediately, though I hadnt been in touch with him for 45 years! We spent an hour talking, and to this day I receive a thought on the weekly parasha from him every Friday.He was succeeded in his role as synagogue leader by Rabbi Joshua Goodman, of blessed memory. Our neighborhood had changed, with most Jews moving away, and the once bustling synagogue was not much more than a minyan or two. Nevertheless, Goodman stayed on. The Rebbe said we must never desert a Jewish community, no matter how small it may become, for in fact, these are the Jews who need us most, he told me. As I was then studying for semicha and the youngest member of the shul I became his right-hand man. When he was unable to make the hour walk to the synagogue from his home, I directed the services. And when he did come, I walked home with him, talking Torah and hearing about the Rebbe, after which I was treated to the rebbetzins legendary chopped liver with gribenes.It was Goodman who first inspired me to reach out to any and every Jew, particularly those who were distanced from Jewish life.One Sukkot, he handed me a lulav (palm branch) and etrog (citron) and a list of all the Jewish patients in our local hospital and said, Make sure everyone says a blessing. I was a bit nervous, I must admit, but he told me, Remember, the strengths and gifts and knowledge which Hashem has blessed you with are tools not to glorify yourself, but to repair the world, one person at a time.THIS WAS the Rebbes credo, and it was among his most endearing qualities a profound humility rarely found in men of genius. And the Rebbe was indeed a genius; in addition to his mastery of Torah and hassidic thought, he also studied at the University of Berlin and the Sorbonne in Paris. In his philosophy class in Berlin where both the celebrated Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik and Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner also studied it was said that the Rebbe never took his head out of the Torah work he was studying, yet he scored the highest grade in the history of the university!There are those rabbis who may have significant power members of the Israeli rabbinate among them but precious little influence. And then there are those with little or no power, yet who have tremendous influence.The Rebbe held no governmental or communal office, yet he influenced and inspired millions worldwide through his discourses, writings and, most of all, towering presence.The more than 5,000 Chabad shluchim/emissaries who serve from Argentina to Zanzibar have brought the Rebbes spirit to an entire planet (indeed, this is how we know there are no Jews on the moon there is no Chabad House there!). They not only serve global Jewish tourism if it ever returns! by serving delicious, hard-to-find kosher food, they present a face of Judaism that is wise, warm and welcoming.Most of all, the Rebbe represents the all too rare ability to focus on others and motivate them to be the best neshamot (souls) they can possibly be. If you were in the presence of the Rebbe, you felt like the two of you were the only people in the world at that moment. On Sundays in Crown Heights, the Rebbe would stand for hours, giving out Rebbe dollars to be forwarded to a good cause. When asked how he then in his 80s could stand for eight to 10 hours greeting people and yet not be exhausted, the Rebbe merely replied, When you are counting diamonds, you never get tired. Stories of the Rebbes insight into others and the accuracy of his advice are legendary. When Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks was a student at Cambridge, he came to Los Angeles to visit family. Searching for direction, he decided to take a Greyhound bus for 72 hours to meet the Rebbe. After asking the Rebbe several probing, intellectual questions, the Rebbe said, Now I will ask you some questions: How many Jews are at Cambridge? How many are involved in Jewish life? And what will you be doing to bring them in? It was then and there that Sacks knew he would have to live a life of not only study but service.The great writer and thinker Elie Wiesel would send copies of his manuscripts to the Rebbe to read and comment upon. In the years just after the Shoah, these works were understandably dark and depressing. The Rebbe would read them and write at the bottom of the last page just two words: Get married. And, sure enough, when Wiesel did marry, the tone and emotional tenor of his books became significantly more optimistic and hopeful.As is well known, there has been a lot of noise since the Rebbe died in 1994 as to whether he was or is! the Messiah. On a visit to Goodman shortly after the Rebbes passing, he tearfully told me that this is a tragic error on the part of a few misguided Chabadniks who emotionally cannot accept the death of their leader. But I believe the best response to this issue is a message from the Torah portion read last week, and almost always read on the week of the Rebbes yahrzeit. In the sidra (weekly Torah portion), we discuss the eternal purifying power of the mikveh (ritual bath). What is so unique to this ritual is that once the mikveh has sufficient rainwater in it and is declared kosher, all water, even tap water, that comes into contact with the mikveh waters then itself becomes pure.So, too, any contact with the followers, the teachings or the messages of the Rebbe perpetuate his life well beyond the grave and grant him the well-deserved blessing of immortality. The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Raanana.

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Reflections on the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson - The Jerusalem Post

Churches across the nation begin holding in-person services | News, Sports, Jobs – Lewistown Sentinel

Posted By on July 7, 2020

Sentinel photo by BRADLEY KREITZERThe door of St. Marks Episcopal Church in Lewistown. According to its website, St. Marks is still holding church services online via Facebook and Zoom. No in-person services are being held at this time.

The inability to attend church each week has been one of the most affecting consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to social distancing guidelines, its been nearly impossible for congregations around the country to gather in ways they were accustomed to prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

As states begin to reopen, however, so are religious activities. Kevin Seager, the senior pastor for the Norwalk Alliance Church in Norwalk, Ohio, said earlier this week that his church began a particular reopening of in-person services in early June. Yet even with that in mind, he acknowledged how hard its been to get things up and running again as Ohio transitions into its latest reopening phase.

This phase is actually the trickiest because we knew how to handle (being) completely shut down, he said, but this is kind of at the in-between, where you can hear a different thing every week. Eventually, this will go by, and we can get back to doing things as weve done it, but for the moment, out of love for our neighbor, were going to forego some of the things that have been one of the best ways that we like to do church for example, singing a whole bunch of songs.

Were having to do things differently, he concluded, and thats a challenge.

Our reporters spoke with churches in 11 different states to see where they are with their re-opening plans and what comes next as they hope to begin the process of regularly gathering to worship together.


Some parts of Pennsylvania have gone back to places of worship, while others have not. In Altoona, the Agudath Achim Congregation has not yet returned to the synagogue, but are meeting via Zoom.

All services are being handled at my dining room table, said Cantor Benjamin Matis, the spiritual leader of the congregation, which has about 100 families.

Matis said they havent reopened yet, as theyre being extremely careful when it comes to being cautious during the pandemic. He said there are those among his congregation who would love to get back into the building, and those that dont feel its safe to do that just yet.

The leadership within the congregation are discussing when to open, he said, especially with major Jewish holidays approaching in the fall.

Everythings still very up in the air, Matis said. Yes, wed love to reopen the synagogue its a pain in the neck using Zoom. If were going to do anything, were going to do it as safely as possible.

Matis referenced a Jewish law called Pikuach nefesh, which means that the preservation of life and health takes precedence over all other legal concerns, he said.

In Canonsburg, the congregation of the All Saints Greek Orthodox Church was very happy to get back to in-person services at 50 percent capacity.

People even had tears and were crying coming back to church, said the assistant priest Father George Athanasiou. Its a family. Its a second home for some people.

They are part of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh, which includes congregations in Ohio and West Virginia, and have been following guidelines from the metropolis. They had been doing virtual services with only a few church leaders in the building, according to Athanasiou.

Were not used to that TV or broadcast-based service, he said. We all became televangelists overnight.

Like everywhere else, theyve had to incorporate sanitizing stations, six feet of social distancing and face masks during services. They recently had a service with 80 people there, and they were wearing masks, Athanasiou said.

Its not just our own safety, but for the safety of others, he said. You want to be safe, especially for our older parishioners. We want people to feel comfortable coming back to church.


At St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Lawrence, the communion sacrament has been adjusted in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In many Catholic churches, the blessed wine believed to be the blood of Christ is shared and consumed by many congregants from the same cup.

Currently, however, wine is no longer being offered at St. Johns, said Father John Cousins, OFM Cap., a priest at the church. Instead, only the blessed bread is available. Additionally, instead of having numerous parishioners help give out communion during the service, the priest is the only person to hand it out.

Cousins said other adjustments to church services include that they are limited to just 60 people.

St. Johns offers six services a weekend, Cousins said, meaning there are a total of 360 seats available. Only about 77 percent, or 277 people came last weekend, however. Cousins said there are congregants who would like to come to mass but are still fearful.

In Kansas, churches were allowed to reopen in Phase 1 of the states reopening plan, which began on May 4. St. Johns began hosting masses again on May 16.

At St. Johns, congregants wear masks during the service, Cousins said. People sanitize their hands before mass begins and singing is limited to one person: the cantor.

Cousins said parishioners that have returned are happy to be back.

I had one comment that I think is probably indicative of others, Cousins shared it being that the parishioner said church was one of the safest places theyve felt while visiting in recent months.


In Marshalltown, Center Street Baptist Church just reopened for its first service on Sunday.

People were just chomping at the bit to get back, said the churchs administrative assistant, Linda Bailey.

Despite other churches in town opening before them, Bailey said they waited to reopen in order to get their procedures in place so that they could take as many precautions as possible.

Bailey said the church, which is medium-sized and typically would gather about 100 people per service, has many elderly congregants.

We need to make the whole population feel as comfortable as possible, Bailey said. Its hard to explain to some people that we have to think of everybody.

Among the precautions Center Street Baptist Church offered were propped open doors before services, a designated entrance and exit door, bathroom monitors who cleaned stalls after use and the suggestion that people mail in offerings instead of passing around an offering plate.

Churches in Iowa were allowed to reopen for services on May 3.


In Provo and Ogden, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is strictly following the guidance of governments to prevent the spread of the pandemic, according to media relations manager Irene Caso.

Currently, both the Ogden Utah Temple and the Provo Utah Temple are only opened under Phase 1 limited operations, meaning the temples are only open for living sealings.

At this time, only husband-and-wife living sealings are being performed for members who have already received their endowment, the respective websites state. Sealings will be performed by appointment only and limited to couples residing in a designated geographic area.

Worship services do not occur in the temples but rather in meetinghouses.

According to a May 19 article from the churchs newsroom, there is a two-phased approach to reopening church meetings and activities. Phase 1 will include worship services limited to 99 people and shortened meetings and activities at the meetinghouse, with the possibility of some meetings needing to occur virtually. Phase 2 will include services allowing more than 100 individuals and meetings and activities at the meetinghouse.

The status of the phased reopening of individual meetinghouses differs by ward at the local level.


After initial COVID-19-related shutdowns across the state, many churches closed their doors to the public. Since June, some churches have returned to hosting services with restrictions while others are waiting to welcome back members.

Eric L. Bodenstab, the pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sandusky, said the church previously hosted a Saturday evening service and two Sunday services before the pandemic. Now, theyre not worshipping at all in the building.

In the 1970s, the church started broadcasting services over a local radio station, something they have continued to do for church members without Internet access. Services are also pre-recorded, edited and posted to the churchs YouTube channel.

For the missing Saturday service, Bobdenstab has been making reflection videos that are posted to YouTube at the same time the in-person service would have been.

Its like 10 to 15 minutes at most, but its just a little reflection to stay in connection with folks who might have liked that service to give them something to see and do at that time, he said. Our faith formation folks got together and theyve taken on doing something for children a Sunday school time after the service.

He said the church also has its own app which has helped the church stay in contact with members. Sermons are also posted as a podcast. For church members without internet access, the church has been mailing out bulletins, announcements and devotionals.

We have just in this past week opened up the building for appointment visits because we have what we need to do the cleaning inside the office, Bobdenstab said. But we dont have what we need yet to do the cleaning inside the building, so we are not yet meeting in the worship space, because we dont have the hand sanitizer dispensers. Theyre on order, but were waiting for them.

Bobdenstab said the council, representatives elected by the congregation, is still planning how they will conduct in-person worship services but have maintained contact with their members.

Our council has taken it upon themselves with some other members to call the members of our congregation every week and we have about 490 households, he said. They dont always get to everybody, but they give it a shot, just to stay in contact with everybody, every week.

A few weeks ago, Bobdenstabs church began providing a drive-thru communion service.

We take those elements and distribute them to folks as they drive underneath our covered entryway, he said. The first and third Sundays, were going to be doing that and I think thats going to be our plan for the foreseeable future.

Reverend Monte J. Hoyles, pastor of the Catholic parishes of Sandusky, said between March and the end of May, there were no public masses.

Beginning on May 25, we started to offer our regularly scheduled masses, Hoyles said. The faithful were asked to reserve a pew online or to call the parish office to reserve a pew. Beginning June 27, we began to use every other pew, which is what most parishes in our area have been doing.

The Sign of Peace and distribution of communion has been suspended and hymnals have been temporarily removed from pews.

We have live-streamed Mass once each week, and originally added a number of online daily devotions, Hoyles said. One of our parish priests and several of our deacons have been telephoning our homebound parishioners to see how they are doing.

We have also offered a number of online evening chats where people can comment, ask questions and feel like they are part of the event, Hoyles added. One of these was a Facebook cooking show with the priests of the parish.

The Norwalk Alliance Church has also started welcoming back church members after becoming an online church since March.

Kevin Seager, senior pastor, said that during the first Sunday of June, they started a partial reopening of in-person services while continuing to live-stream the sermon.

The in-person had a lot of restrictions, he said. We greatly reduced our seating capacity so that all chairs would be a minimum of six feet apart in groups of five or six years so families could sit together. We actually shorten the duration of our service from about an hour and 15 minutes to about 45 minutes just to reduce overall exposure.

Seager said the church has made the difficult decision to suspend congregationally singing because doing so is a prime way to be breathing hard over everybody around you.

He said while following guidelines set by the state for COVID-19, they are also following another guideline: love for your neighbor.

More than thinking about what your personal freedoms are, think about whats good, not only for the people who want to come to church but even our greater community, Seager said. We dont want to be creating more danger.


Many worship centers in Northeast Michigan have resumed services in some capacity. Some are offering outdoor and drive-in services, while some smaller congregations are meeting indoors, with social distancing precautions in place.

Living Hope Church in Alpena started offering outdoor services on June 7, with the option to bring your own chair and sit outside, or stay in your car and listen to the service via radio.

Communion is still being served, but is offered in sealed packages of a wafer and juice that each parishioner opens themselves. Hugging and handshaking is discouraged, but some have been comfortable enough to reach out and touch each other.

Masks, meanwhile, are not required because it is an outdoor service. The church has always offered a Facebook Live service, which people can view from home if they do not feel comfortable gathering together yet.

At Temple Beth-El in Alpena, indoor services have resumed with social distancing and masks required. The synagogue has a smaller congregation, so the issue of a large crowd is not a big concern there, said Ken Diamond, president of the congregation of Temple Beth-El. The synagogue normally features visiting rabbis, but that is not possible due to the pandemic.

We are a very small congregation, and dont have enough members to have a full-time rabbi here with us, Diamond explained. So we had to cancel several of those, probably for the rest of the year, based on their travel.

He added that they have conducted services with rabbis via Zoom during the shutdown.

They started conducting in-person services a few weeks ago and tuning into sermons broadcast by other synagogues in Northern Michigan, such as Petoskey.

We have hand sanitizer available, the congregants are all wearing masks, and we are doing social distancing, Diamond said. We will continue to do that as conditions abate and we are able to move back towards a more normal schedule, hopefully.

He said the congregation consists of about 20 families.

Several members expressed concern, he noted of the threat of COVID-19 exposure. Were all concerned about meeting indoors, of course. But hopefully in taking the proper precautions, we wont have any events at all.


John Heille is one of the pastors at Grace Lutheran Church in Fairmont. Right now, they are doing drive-in worship at the Fairmont Junior/Senior High School parking lot.

He said that beginning July 12, they will be doing one service in their church building and another drive-in service each Sunday. They started drive-in services in June, which feature the service broadcast over the radio so people can listen from inside their vehicles.

We had to get a transmitter, Heille said. And once we figured that out, it was pretty straightforward. We just had to find a big enough parking lot.

He said 59 cars showed up to the June 28 service, which amounted to about 130 to 140 people, which he considered good attendance even though it is still lower than usual summer attendance at the church.

In the summertime, were usually at 250 to 300 people, he said.

He explained that the church parking lot is currently under construction, so the school district was generous enough to allow them to use their lot during the summer.

Thats honestly one of the biggest parking lots in town, Heille noted, adding that the pastors and leaders conduct the service from a small hill so everyone can see them. We ask people to bring their own elements for communion.

He added that everyone is adjusting to their new roles in a pandemic world.

Our ushers have all of a sudden turned into car parkers, he said with a laugh. Which is really awesome.

He said they use cones to direct people where to park. He also said it seemed like people enjoyed getting back together.

It was just beautiful, he said. Most of it was just visiting through their windows.

Heille added that for the older members of the congregation, the drive-in services still give them a chance to connect with others.

We had two people I know to be well into their 90s join us for worship, he said. I would feel much better to know that our older folks know that they have an option thats going to hopefully reduce risk for them. This is our goal to say church is still with us, God is still with us in this moment, but its not going to go away for a while.

When they do resume indoor services, it will be by reservation and they will only be using every third pew, Heille said, to maintain social distancing between parties.


Some worship centers in Maui have resumed indoor services, including Kings Cathedral Maui, a Christian Pentacostal Church in Kahului. Assistant Pastor Ron Moody said services are offered indoors and drive-in style in the parking lot.

For the indoor services, which resumed in June, face masks are requested for adults and children ages 6 and older, and social distancing is encouraged by leaving the pew or chairs next to your group vacant. Hand sanitizer is available at all entrances and throughout the building.

We are enforcing social distancing, and all pews are spaced six feet apart, Moody said. Were the largest church building in the state, so that lets us space things out.

He said all service people in the church are required to wear masks and gloves.

Continued here:

Churches across the nation begin holding in-person services | News, Sports, Jobs - Lewistown Sentinel

Ashkenazi on Iran explosions: Our actions are better left unsaid – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on July 7, 2020

Israel takes action to stop the Iranian nuclear threat, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said Sunday in response to a question about a series of explosions that rocked sites associated with Irans missile and nuclear program.We have a long-term policy over the course of many administrations not to allow Iran to have nuclear abilities, he said. This [Iranian] regime with those abilities is an existential threat to Israel, and Israel cannot allow it to establish itself on our northern border.Therefore, we take actions that are better left unsaid, he added.Ashkenazi spoke at a conference of Maariv and The Jerusalem Post marking the 10th anniversary of Israel joining the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).A series of mysterious explosions have occurred in Iran, starting last Thursday at a facility close to the Parchin military complex. While Iran said the explosion was caused by a gas leak, satellite photos later showed it took place at a nearby missile production facility.It was followed by an explosion at a hospital in Tehran that killed 19 people. On Friday, a large fire caused extensive damage to a building at the nuclear complex at Natanz, Irans largest uranium-enrichment facility. On Saturday, another fire was reported at a power station in the southern Iranian region of Ahvaz, close to the Iraqi border.Defense Minister Benny Gantzs comments to Army Radio on Sunday were closer to a denial.Not every incident that transpires in Iran necessarily has something to do with us... All those systems are complex," he said. "They have very high safety constraints, and Im not sure they always know how to maintain them.Everyone can be suspicious of us all the time, he added. But not every incident that happens in Iran necessarily has something to do with us.We continue to act on all fronts to reduce the possibility that Iran will become a nuclear power, and we will continue to do this part of protecting our security, Gantz said. A nuclear Iran is a threat to the world and the region, as well as a threat to Israel, and we will do everything to prevent that from happening. And we will do everything possible to prevent Iran from spreading terrorism and weapons, but I do not refer to any individual event.Ashkenazi said Israel supports US efforts to ensure that the UN arms embargo on Iran is extended past its original expiration date this October. Israel cannot accept a situation where the regime in Tehran can buy advanced weapons systems, he said.The problem is not just attaining nuclear weapons, Ashkenazi said. Its that they are arming groups across the Middle East. Look at Hezbollah in Lebanon. That is why were making broad diplomatic efforts across the world.Irans Atomic Energy Organization confirmed that an incident occurred at Natanz, where a highly sophisticated Stuxnet cyberattack took place in 2010.Although Iranian state media has blamed Israel and the United States for possibly sabotaging the sites, it stopped short of directly accusing either country.Iran says it knows who is behind the incident. Gholamreza Jalali, head of the Civil Defense Organization, told State TV last Thursday: Responding to cyberattacks is part of the countrys defense might. If it is proven that our country has been targeted by a cyberattack, we will respond.While Iran has denied seeking nuclear weapons and says its atomic program is peaceful, Israel has warned repeatedly about its nuclear ambitions and has pledged to never allow it to obtain weapons that can threaten the Jewish State.

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Ashkenazi on Iran explosions: Our actions are better left unsaid - The Jerusalem Post

Ashkenazi: Annexation not on the agenda today or tomorrow – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on July 7, 2020

Israel will not extend its sovereignty to parts of the West Bank in the coming days, Foreign MinisterGabi Ashkenazisaid on Monday.

Its not on the agenda for today or tomorrow, Ashkenazi told KAN Bet.

Asked if sovereignty plans have been called off entirely, Ashkenazi said: I dont know, but I can say the Foreign Ministry is preparing diplomatic assessments and the Defense Ministry is preparing security assessments. It has deep ramifications.

July 1 passed with no action, but US Envoy for International Negotiations Avi Berkowitz returned to Washington soon after for further discussions on the matter, after which Trump would weigh in. A US source told The Jerusalem Post that a decision would be announced this week.

Ashkenazi said he has spoken to over 30 foreign ministers, mostly from Europe.

I hear what they say, and I think its clear what were facing, in terms of their opposition to sovereignty moves, he said. We will take it into consideration when we make decisions.

I think the government of Israel, led by Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz will make sure to enact a responsible, measured process. We will hear the evaluations and then act, Ashkenazi stated.

The foreign minister reiterated his support for the Trump plan, saying it responds to the two things that concern most of the population in Israel, security and maintaining a Jewish majority.

Ashkenazi said the plan has to include negotiations with our neighbors, but he did not mention the Palestinians specifically, and said it will form a separate entity, not necessarily a Palestinian state.

We believe in a process that will bring peace, and that is not a dirty word, he said. We dont want to damage the peace treaties with our neighbors.

Ashkenazi added that Blue and White will support anything bringing us towards the goal we believe in, a Jewish state that is democratic and safe.

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Ashkenazi: Annexation not on the agenda today or tomorrow - The Jerusalem Post

On Israel’s bizarre definitions: The West Bank is already annexed – Jordan Times

Posted By on July 7, 2020

Wednesday, July 1, was meant to be the day on which the Israeli government officially annexed 30 per cent of the occupied Palestinian West Bank and the Jordan Valley. This date, however, came and went and annexation was never actualised.

I dont know if there will be a declaration of sovereignty today,said Israeli foreign minister, Gabi Ashkenazi, with reference to the self-imposed deadline declared earlier by Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. An alternative date was not immediately announced.

But does it really matter?

Whether Israels illegal appropriation of Palestinian land takes place with massive media fanfare and a declaration of sovereignty, or whether it happens incrementally over the course of the coming days, weeksand months, Israel has, in reality, already annexed the West Bank, not just 30 per cent of it but, in fact, the whole area.

It is critical that we understand such terms as annexation, illegal, military occupation, and so on, in their proper contexts.

For example, international lawdeems that all of Israels Jewish settlements, constructed anywhere on Palestinian land occupied during the 1967 war, are illegal.

Interestingly, Israel, too, uses the term illegal with reference to settlements, but only to outposts that have been erected in the occupied territories without the permission of the Israeli government.

In other words, while in the Israeli lexicon the vast majority of all settlement activities in occupied Palestine are legal, the rest can only be legalised through official channels. Indeed, many of todays legal 132 settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem,housing over half-a-million Israeli Jewish settlers, began as illegal outposts.

Though this logic may satisfy the need of the Israeli government to ensure its relentless colonial project in Palestine follows a centralised blueprint, none of this matters in international law.

Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Conventions states that Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive, adding that The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.

Israel has violated its commitment to international law as an Occupying Power on numerous occasions, rendering its very occupation of Palestine, itself, a violation of how military occupations are conducted, which are meant to be temporary, anyway.

Military occupation is different from annexation. The former is a temporary transition, at the end of which the Occupying Power is expected, in fact, demanded, to relinquish its military hold on the occupied territory after a fixed length of time. Annexation, on the other hand, is a stark violation of the Geneva Conventions and The Hague Regulations. It is tantamount to a war crime, for the occupier is strictly prohibited from proclaiming unilateral sovereignty over occupied land.

The international uproar generated by Netanyahus plan to annex a third of the West Bank is fully understandable. But the bigger issue at stake is that, in practice, Israels violations of the terms of occupation have granted it a de facto annexation of the whole of the West Bank.

So when the European Union, for example, demands that Israel abandons its annexation plans, it is merely asking Israel to reembrace the status quo ante, that of de facto annexation. Both abhorring scenarios should be rejected.

Israel began utilising the occupied territories as if they are contiguous and permanent parts of so-called Israel proper, immediately following the June 1967 war. Within a few years, it erected illegal settlements, now thriving cities, eventually moving hundreds of thousands of its own citizens to populate the newly acquired areas.

This exploitation became more sophisticated with time, as Palestinians were subjected to slow, but irreversible, ethnic cleansing. As Palestinian homeswere destroyed, farms confiscated, and entire regions depopulated, Jewish settlers moved in to take their place. The post-1967 scenario was a repeat of the post-1948 history, which led to the establishment of the State of Israel on the ruins of historic Palestine.

Moshe Dayan, who served as Israels defence minister during the 1967 war, explained the Israeli logic best in a historical address at Israels Technion University in March 1969. We came to this country which was already populated by Arabs, and we are establishing a Hebrew, that is a Jewish state here, hesaid.

Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages and I do not blame you, because these geography books no longer exist; not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there, either... There is no one place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population, he added.

The same colonial approach was applied to East Jerusalem and the West Bank after the war. While East Jerusalem was formally annexed in 1980, the West Bank was annexed in practice, but not through a clear legal Israeli proclamation. Why? In one word: Demographics.

When Israel first occupied East Jerusalem, it went on a population transfer frenzy: Moving its own population to the Palestinian city, strategically expanding the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem to include as many Jews and as few Palestinians as possible, slowly reducing the Palestinian population of Al Quds through numerous tactics, including the revocation of residency and outright ethnic cleansing.

And, thus, Jerusalems Palestinian population, which once constituted the absolute majority, has now been reduced to a dwindling minority.

The same process was initiated in parts of the West Bank, but due to the relatively large size of the area and population, it was not possible to follow a similar annexation stratagem without jeopardising Israels drive to maintain Jewish majority.

Dividing the West Bank into Areas A, B and C as a result of the disastrous Oslo accords, has given Israel a lifeline, for this allowed it to increase settlement activities in Area C, nearly 60 per cent of the West Bank, without stressing too much about demographic imbalances. Area C, where the current annexation plan is set to take place, is ideal for Israeli colonialism, for it includes Palestines most arable, resource-rich, and sparsely populated lands.

It matters little whether the annexation will have a set date or will take place progressively through Israels declarations of sovereignty over smaller chunks of the West Bank in the future. The fact is, annexation is not a new Israeli political agenda dictated by political circumstances in Tel Aviv and Washington. Rather, annexation has been the ultimate Israeli colonial objective from the very onset.

Let us not get entangled in Israels bizarre definitions. The truth is that Israel rarely behaves as an Occupying Power, but as a sovereign in a country where racial discrimination and apartheid are not only tolerated or acceptable but are, in fact, legal as well.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr Baroud is a non-resident senior research fellow at the Centre for Islam and Global Affairs, Istanbul Zaim University. His website

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On Israel's bizarre definitions: The West Bank is already annexed - Jordan Times

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