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Inside The Synagogue Where Broadway’s Biggest Stars Used To Pray – The Australian Jewish News

Posted By on November 19, 2019

NEW YORK (JTA) On a recent Friday night, about 20 people gathered for Shabbat services at the Actors Temple, a synagogue just a few blocks from Times Square.

Rabbi Jill Hausman greeted each one by name with a kiss on the cheek and a Good Shabbos. Some sang along and others listened as she led the small crowd in a service using a prayer book and a packet she had printed out just minutes earlier in her upstairs office.

Its a far cry from the era when some of the biggest celebrities in the country used to gather at the West 47th Street shul. The Three Stooges, actors Shelley Winters and Aaron Chwatt (better known as Red Buttons), baseball stars Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg, and TV host Ed Sullivan all prayed there. Sullivan, whose wife was Jewish, also hosted the annual temple benefit at The Majestic Theater. Headshots of stars who frequented the synagogue hang on a wall.

The synagogue was founded in 1917 for a much different crowd: Orthodox shopkeepers who worked in Hells Kitchen, a neighborhood lined today with bars and restaurants catering to the pre-theater crowd but at the time was rife with gangs.

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In the 1920s, the synagogue, formerly known as Congregation Ezrath Israel, hired Bernard Birstein as its first rabbi. Birstein had his eyes on Broadway, which was home to many Jewish actors and actresses but few regular synagogue-goers.

They werent socially acceptable, their morals were questionable because they were all in vaudeville, and they toured all around the country and they werent really welcome in the large wealthy synagogues, Hausman said.

The synagogue was founded in 1917 and has been in its current building since 1923. (Josefin Dolsten)

One of Birsteins first recruits was the popular Ukrainian-born entertainer Sophie Tucker. At first she resisted his advances, but after multiple visits the rabbi swayed her with a heavy load of Jewish guilt.

He said to her, Sofele, whos going to say Kaddish for your Yiddishe mama? Andthat was one of her big numbers,and he really touched her in the heart, Hausman said.

After Tucker, other stars started flowing in and the synagogue became known as the Actors Temple. In addition to the famous members, a number of other big names would perform at its annual gala, including Barbra Streisand, Bert Lahr, Danny Kaye and Jimmy Durante.

At some point after Tucker joined, the synagogue became Conservative. Hausman isnt sure of the year, but she says that at one Shabbat service, a wealthy woman decided to sit in the mens section with her husband rather than in the womens balcony, as is the Orthodox custom. She was joined by Tucker and eventually the rest of the women. Today the synagogue is nondenominational and welcomes interfaith couples and members of the LGBTQ community.

The synagogue continued to attract Broadway stars through the 1960s, when membership started declining.

When Hausman, who is in her 60s, came on board 14 years ago, the temple had only 12 members and was struggling financially. The board thought it may be time to close its doors, the rabbi recalled.

But Hausman was able to turn things around by returning the synagogue to its show business roots. She took out the pews and converted the sanctuary into a space that she rented out as a dance studio.

Shortly after, she met a theater manager who suggested that she rent out the synagogue as an off-Broadway performance space. The manager helped install a stage and put theater lights in the balcony where the women once sat.

It was economic necessity because our dues are $180 per person per year, Hausman said. Were not built on a dues model.

The Actors Temple can host shows up to eight times a week. (Josefin Dolsten)

The first show opened in the fall of 2006, and since then the synagogue has been renting out its stage for performances almost every week. It can host up to eight performances a week only Friday nights and High Holidays are out. The synagogue also rents out space to a program that provides enrichment classes for children who are homeschooled.

Hausman estimates that there are between 150 and 200 members today and about 20 show up on a typical Friday night. She said around 40 percent of regulars are involved in show business in some way.

We are not a family congregation the way most congregations are, she said. Not that we dont like families, but our membership is mostly singles and couples from early through late middle age.

Rabbi Jill Hausman converted the sanctuary into a space that she rents out for off-Broadway performances. (Josefin Dolsten)

Though most shows have nothing to do with Judaism, for some the setting resonates. For four months this spring and summer, the Actors Temple hosted performances of The Last Jew of Boyle Heights, a play by Steve Greenstein about a Los Angeles neighborhood that once was home to a large Jewish population and now is predominantly Latino.

Greenstein, who is a member of Actors Temple, said that putting on his play in a Jewish setting carried special meaning. Thener tamid,the eternal light hanging above the synagogue ark, peaked out behind the stage during performances and the stained glass windows were visible when one of the characters recalled an old synagogue in Boyle Heights.

The space fit the play, Greenstein said. And thats important when youre creating a piece of theater.

Originally posted here:

Inside The Synagogue Where Broadway's Biggest Stars Used To Pray - The Australian Jewish News

After staying while other congregations fled to Baltimore burbs, Beth Am synagogue celebrates $5.5M overhaul – Baltimore Sun

Posted By on November 19, 2019

At some point, we realized that being in the neighborhood was not sufficient, we needed to get involved in the neighborhood, Burg said. So, we started doing social action work, volunteerism at the local school, neighborhood cleaning efforts, collections for social charities. ... We do a lot of relational work, a lot of kind of softening boundaries, getting to know our neighbors, hosting them in our building, going out into the community and participating in community events in Reservoir Hill.

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After staying while other congregations fled to Baltimore burbs, Beth Am synagogue celebrates $5.5M overhaul - Baltimore Sun

Jews and Blacks – Arutz Sheva

Posted By on November 19, 2019

Like he succeeded in achieving the booming economy and strong employment numbers we see today, canPresident Trump be askedto improve the growing tensions between Jews and Blacks especially in Democrat Party-run areas?

Almost daily, unfortunately, headlines scream of hate crimes as Jews are being physically attacked by blacks we have the proof from videos and surveillance tapes. As a New Yorker, it especially pains me.

Partlybecause I dont approve of any hate crimes. Second, because I work and socialize withblack people. These thugs dont represent them, nor mirror their pride in America and their respect for Jews and Israel.

They also happen to be Trump supporters.

Many of you know how important Black-Jewish relations areto me. As an education activist, I witness firsthand the policies in our schools that deliberately hurt the black community and their students. Not only did I speak up about it, but I even proved how unions, local school boards and local and state governments led by Democrats were and still are the biggest enablers of minority failure.

I recently interviewed Teisha Powell, immigration attorney and Trump supporter about why President Trump can be the person to fix the the troubling hate growing between these minority groups and stemming from the Democratic Party.

Teisha Powell is a nationally recognized legal analyst and author ofTrump Must Win: Discover the Dark Days Americans Will face if Trump Isn't Re-elected In 2020.

In her book, readers are given facts about the dark days Americans will face if Trump isn't re-elected for office inNov 2020. Warren, Biden and Sanders are a bunch of crazy socialists, who will turn this country upside its head, she claims. This is a must read for anyone who will cast her/his ballot come Nov 2020. Look at the ways Warren, Biden and Sanders plan on sinking this country into a hell hole. Do not be fooled. Go ahead and re-elect Trump, the defender of the Constitution. A big part of the craziness is the anti-Israel agenda from even the moderate candidates as witnessed by their own remarks just during the past month.

So why is the black community, especially in areas like Brooklyn, initialing violence against the Jews?

Powell, a devout Christian, stated the following; "Ignorance and a deliberate attempt through a failing public school system to mislead, not teaching actual facts."

Here are some points she stated that are not taught in schools, in homes or by the media:

She links a strong family and Christian religious values to future success.

You can read more in her book here.

President Trump Could Make History and Rebuild The Black-Jewish Relationship

Just last week, the Trump-Pence 2020 Team introduced the Black Voices For Trump Coalition. Their advisors are featured guests at events and doing press interviews. They are pointing out the current facts, such asthe lowest black poverty rate in American history.

We need a Jewish Voices For Trump Coalition. We need this triumphs publicized by our voices. His accomplishments for our community are historic. Where we feel there are deficiencies, are not Trumps fault. Most fall into the hands of the state and local officials

We need to redefine school choice. We need to help educate the public that its not a war among public schools and other options, but that competition will only improve public schools and be the most budget friendly.

We also need more oversight in classrooms. Just as current curriculums are rewriting Jewish history, schools are rewriting Black history, undermining safety and merit.... hurting blacks, especially in schools located in blue states and heavily supported by a Trump-hating teachers union. President Trump should have Secretary of Education take this on... and perhaps initiate some executive orders regarding safety and oversight in classroom texts, handouts, assignments, teacher guides, teacher professional development and school trips.

We need to have our leaders stand together and support President Trump during this impeachment trial by the media. As long as this goes on, issues relating to healthcare, the economy and safety are neglected.

Powell shared with me some interesting personal information Her brother-in-law, David DeSouza, is a Rabbi in Jamaica. The island has a unique Jewish heritage and strong Black-Jewish roots.

We need to make our case positive, not through advocating hate and violence like Al Sharpton or Louis Farrakhan.

President Trump can and should take the lead even blue states will come our for him as California and New York face economic, health and safety issues.

Blacks and Jews have a long history of supporting one another. We walked hand-in-hand with a Republican, Martin Luther King, Jr. Its probably no coincidence that his niece, Alveda King, works tirelessly for President Donald J. Trump.

Mr. President, Jews and Blacks need your help now. Cuomo, DeBlasio, Schumer and Gillibrand can mock you all they want....but their leadership in New York and their inability to control black on Jew hate crimes almost daily is their failure, not yours.

Help us, please.

Cindy Grosz is an Advisor for the National Diversity Coalition for Trump. She created the National Jewish Voter Registration Drive. She is also the Long Island Chair for Jews Choose Trump. She is also a committeewoman for The Exodus Movements Nassau County chapter. She has been acknowledged as the Jewish Patriot Award recipient from the Queens County GOP and has received multiple Aishes Chayil awards from Jewish Organizations. She will be co-hosting during the new season of The Jersey Joe Show, WOR710AM in NY, Sunday nights at 7PM, or anytime on iHeartRadio. You can reach her at or on social media at @cindyscorners


Jews and Blacks - Arutz Sheva

Centuries-old Sephardic music plus bawdy songs about Virgin Mary in concert – The Jewish News of Northern California

Posted By on November 19, 2019

Bay Area friends Phoebe Rosquist and Shira Kammen were hiking a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail a few years ago when they spontaneously started singing a song they both knew from the 14th-century.

We were looking out on one of these huge mountains and began to harmonize, Rosquist recounted.

Thats how the two musical friends started down the path to founding a new ensemble that specializes in songs of the Spanish diaspora including Jewish songs in Ladino that have been sung for more than 500 years.

They decided to call the group Aquila, which means eagle in Ladino. We wanted to name it after something from nature, Rosquist said, in a nod to their musical hike.

Now, Aquila is off the trail into the concert hall.

From Nov. 22 to 24, the ensemble will be performing with another early music group, Tres Hermanicas, in three Bay Area concerts titled Roses and Almonds. The shows in Palo Alto, Berkeley and San Francisco are part of the San Francisco Early Music Societys 2019-20 season.

The concerts will alternate between Tres Hermanicas specialty (Sephardic songs from when Jews inhabited the Iberian Peninsula, between the 8th and early 16th centuries) and Christian pieces from the Cantigas de Santa Maria (a collection of devotional, and sometimes bawdy, songs to the Virgin Mary that have survived thanks to a 13th-century compilation by a Spanish king).

The reign of Alfonso X [of Castile] was all about scholarship and art, and his court included people who were Jewish and Muslim, Rosquist said. It was not strange at all for [the cultures] to be side by side.

So the choice of mixed music for these concerts makes a lot of sense to us.

One song is about seven ways to make eggplant.

Tres Hermanicas (which El Cerrito native Kammen also founded, about a year ago) and the recently formed Aquila are comprised of singers and instrumentalists who perform on a mix of Western and Middle Eastern instruments: vielle, recorders, saz, oud, rebec, ney, and various hand drums including darbuka and riq.

Rosquist can play the medieval bell tree and harmonium, but shes chiefly a vocalist who will be singing the Cantigas de Santa Maria excerpts.

Kammen also sings, but shes perhaps better known as a multi-instrumentalist whose specialties include bowed instruments and harps. According to her website, she has been in more than 15 musical groups, has played on a few TV and movie soundtracks, and has performed and taught all over the world including one performance in the elephant pit of the Jerusalem Zoo.

Most of her career has been in the field of early music, which generally includes medieval times (500-1400) and the Renaissance era (1400-1600).

In most places in the country, you might have trouble finding an audience for this kind of music, but in the Bay Area, they really show up for it, said Rosquist, who was born in Germany to American parents. She now makes her home in Albany, California.

Although she is not Jewish, Rosquist said she really enjoys getting into the language of Sephardic songs, the actual text, tackling it with a Ladino dictionary.

In the beginning, I would accept whatever translation I was given, but lately, I like to do it myself from scratch, making translations that are more literal, she said. The poetry is still there, but I like for people to know what these words really mean.

Rosquist said the songs in the program are about diverse subjects from miracles to romance to bodily topics which she believes will appeal to a broad audience.

They run the gamut from food to god, she said. One song is about seven ways to make eggplant.

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Centuries-old Sephardic music plus bawdy songs about Virgin Mary in concert - The Jewish News of Northern California

She Grew Up on a Remote Italian Island. Then Came the Holocaust. – The New York Times

Posted By on November 19, 2019

Four years ago, while researching the war years in Italy, I was introduced to Stella Levi, now 96, probably the only New Yorker among the handful of remaining members of the Jewish community of Rhodes, a now Greek island with a multinational past.

I went to her apartment on a Saturday, intending to ask her a few questions; several hundred Saturdays later, she is still answering.

It turns out that other people are interested in Ms. Levis memories, too. Centro Primo Levi, a nonprofit focused on exploring the Italian-Jewish experience, along with the Rhodes Jewish Historical Foundation, have created a pop-up installation in Greenwich Village, a few doors down from Ms. Levis home. The show is using concerts, conversations, films, artifacts, and even food to evoke Ms. Levis life and Jewish culture generally in prewar Rhodes.

The title of the exhibition is Los Corassones Avlan, which means hearts speak, an old Sephardic saying in Judeo-Spanish, the language Ms. Levi spoke during her childhood in the Juderia, the Jewish neighborhood of Rhodes. Ms. Levis mother and grandmother would use this phrase when they found themselves thinking of a friend, neighbor or relative and suddenly she appeared at the kitchen door.

This is an edited and condensed version of my most recent conversation with her.

You grew up on the Island of Rhodes, which had belonged to the Greeks, the Turks, the Knights Hospitaller, and the Italians, among other people. Why did you speak in Judeo-Spanish and what is it, exactly?

STELLA LEVI Essentially its Spanish with some Hebrew words folded in. We spoke it because, while a Jewish presence was recorded on the island in the Hellenic period, my ancestors, like most of the community, presumably made their way to Rhodes at some point after Spain expelled its Jews in 1492.

And 400 years later, they were still speaking Spanish?

LEVI The older generation clung to their language, their food, their habits and beliefs. Although one of my grandmothers traveled, she only went to Jerusalem she hoped to die there, but that never happened. My other grandmother barely left the Juderia. She never so much as stepped into a shop that was a mans job. Or swam in the sea, which was a 10-minute walk from our house. It simply wasnt done.

The women of your grandmothers generation had some very Old World practices, didnt they?

One of the strangest was the enserradura, which was what was done to a young girl who fell victim to a depression or a fit of anxiety: your grandmother, or an older woman in the community, insisted that the entire street be emptied out so that you would be engulfed in silence, and she closed you up in the house for a week. All you ate was a thin broth.

This woman sat by your bed, and in her hand was a pinch of mumia ashes, they believed, of Jewish saints. Her hand circled your face while she said a prayer over you. She kept praying, and circling, for seven, eight days and as many nights, until you yawned and she yawned. Then you would go to the hammam and come out as good as new.

Did you ever have an enserradura performed on you?

Certainly not!

Despite its old ways, the younger members of the community crossed cultural lines, though.

My father had Turkish business partners, my mother Greek friends, my sisters studied French at school. I grew up in a multicultural world before anyone used that word.

You also grew up in a world that had recently undergone a dramatic opening up toward the west. In 1912 the Italians won Rhodes from the Turks after the Balkan Wars. They introduced their language and, eventually, their government. They brought music, cuisine, books, cinema, fashion and ideas.

From one generation to the next, younger people began to think more boldly about their futures. My older siblings left to seek their fortunes abroad my brother Victor set off for the Belgian Congo before I was even born; my sister Selma went to America. Other people changed the way they thought about their lives. My sister Felicie, the intellectual of the family, devoured every book she could put her hands on. She rarely came swimming with the rest of us. If you are swimming, she said, you must concentrate on your strokes. You cannot talk about Kant!

You were the baby of the family.

I was also a young woman, excuse me, with a dream: I was going to work hard in school and leave the confines of the island to attend university in Italy. I saw my future laid out like the chapters in a book.

Only the story unfolded differently. In 1938 Mussolinis racial laws extended even to Rhodes.

I was kicked out of school me! Overnight I felt like Id gone from being a person to a nonperson. You do not recover from that easily. Or ever.

And yet you took action.

Five boys and I accepted the offer of Professor Noferini, who taught in the high school, to organize classes at night. We met in secret, illegally. I was determined not to lose my way.

In September 1943, after Italy surrendered to the Allies, the Italian leadership in Rhodes continued to side with the Germans.

To give you an idea of how what is the word? surreal it all was, I met the secretary of the officer put in charge of the island, General Ulrich Kleeman, on the beach, which is where all the young people congregated. I went to see Kleeman once, on behalf of my friend Vittoria, who was engaged to an Italian soldier who was about to be deported from Rhodes. He let the young man stay a bit longer. Kleeman even asked me and my friends to sing our pretty Italian songs one evening the balcony of the house he occupied overlooked the garden where we were having a birthday party.

On July 24, 1944 not long after that party the order came, and Kleeman deported the entire Jewish community, all 1,700 of you.

I was 21 and my sister Renee was 23. We were wearing our summer dresses and cork-soled sandals. We had no idea what was ahead. We had heard reports about what was happening to the Jews in Europe, but we thought that was another world, far away. Poland, Germany: what did those places have to do with us? For almost half a millennium wed lived in the Mediterranean, on our own little piece of the earth. Thats how we thought of Rhodes, as belonging to us. All these people the rulers, the conquerors, the generals they were just passing through.

The deportation from Rhodes to Auschwitz lasted 14 days, by boat and train.

My father was ill the whole time. When we arrived at Auschwitz, I never saw him again, or my mother, my cousin, her baby. Dozens, hundreds of people I knew perished. Only 161 of us survived.

Did you go home after the war?

Not a single one of us returned to live in Rhodes. I didnt even visit until the 1970s. It was too painful. Time had to pass. After the war, once I was able to obtain a passport, I went to Los Angeles and met my brother Morris when I got off the train at Union Station, it was the first time Id ever laid eyes on him.

For a brief moment I considered living in L.A. All the Rhodeslis as the members of the community referred to themselves lived together, worked together, worshiped together. Wherever people from the Juderia went to settle, it was like that. I found it claustrophobic. And then there was Los Angeles itself.

You chose New York instead.

New York was open to the world of possibility. There was and is every kind of person here. My friend Fanny, whom I met on the boat coming from Naples, said to me, New York lEuropa con qualcosa di pi (New York is Europe and then some). And she was right.

You learned English in night classes at Columbia. You married, had a son, divorced and worked in the garment industry. But you never fulfilled your dream of going to college. Why not?

After the camps, I was a different person. For years I found it impossible to complete ambitious projects. But I have studied all my life: the history of Rhodes and the Jews, the war, Italian literature, American literature. And every time anyone who had family in the Juderia comes to New York, they visit me and I tell them what I recall, which is a great deal. I remember how people were related, where they lived, what they wore and talked about and ate. Rhodes is as clear to me as if I left it yesterday instead of 75 years ago.

Los Corassones Avlan is on view Sundays through Thursdays, from 1 to 9 p.m., Fridays, 1 to 4 p.m., and Saturdays, 5 to 10:30 p.m., in a 19th-century carriage house at 148 West 4th Street through Nov. 24th. For more information, visit

Michael Franks most recent book is What Is Missing, a novel.

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She Grew Up on a Remote Italian Island. Then Came the Holocaust. - The New York Times

Are You Legally "Hispanic" if You are One-Quarter Mexican but Don’t Have Ties to the "Hispanic Community?" – Reason

Posted By on November 19, 2019

In Major Concrete Constr., Inc. v. Erie, 521 N.Y.S.2d 959 (NY. App. Div. 1987). a New York appellate court upheld an administrative ruling that an applicant for Minority Business Enterprise certification with the Erie/Buffalo Joint Certification Committee who was 25% Mexican, 25% Irish, and 50% Italian did not qualify as Hispanic. The local rule for "Hispanic status" was that an applicant must be "[a] person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Central or South American or other Spanish culture, regardless of race." The applicant claimed that he qualified as Hispanic because his grandmother was 100% Mexican. However, he admitted that he did not keep any ties with the Hispanic community, did not belong to any Hispanic groups or clubs, did not have any Hispanic friends, and that no Hispanics live in his neighborhood. His attorney told the Committee that he was of Italian background. The Committee denied his application on the grounds that: (1) he is only 25% Mexican, (2) he keeps no contact with the Hispanic community or its culture, and (3) neither he nor members of members of his family identify as Hispanic. A trial court reversed, but the appellate court reinstated the denial, finding that the decision was supported by a rational basis, all that was required under relevant administrative law.

Note that in other jurisdictions, being of Spanish descent or culture is sufficient to claim identity. At some point, I'll blog a federal administrative decision that a Sephardic Jew who didn't speak Spanish, didn't have a Spanish-sounding surname, and had no ties to the "Hispanic community" was Hispanic for purposes of federal MBE qualification.

General research note: Like almost everyone, I thought that ethnic/racial identification in the U.S. for legal purposes was solely a matter of self-identification. I've learned that this isn't always true, and I've been researching various rules, administrative rulings and cases accepting or rejecting someone's claim of minority status.

More here:

Are You Legally "Hispanic" if You are One-Quarter Mexican but Don't Have Ties to the "Hispanic Community?" - Reason

How the Armenian diaspora forged coalitions to push for genocide recognition – The Conversation UK

Posted By on November 18, 2019

When Turkeys president Recep Tayyip Erdoan visited the White House on November 13, he said a landmark resolution passed by the House of Representatives in October recognising the Armenian genocide had hurt deeply the Turkish nation, and had the potential to cast a deep shadow over our bilateral relations.

In 1915, the collapsing Ottoman Empire massacred an estimated 800,000 to 1.5m Armenians, but Turkey denies this was a genocide.

A subsequent resolution introduced in the US Senate also aimed at genocide recognition was blocked by the Republican senator Lindsay Graham after a meeting with Trump and Erdoan. But the landmark House of Representatives resolution is nevertheless a significant step in an effort to recognise the massacres as a genocide for which the Armenian diaspora have fought for more than a century.

Although there have been previous mentions of the 1915 atrocities as a genocide by US legislators, and most US state legislatures have passed their own recognition, the House resolution formally acknowledges the Armenian genocide.

It states that it is the policy of the US to commemorate the Armenian genocide through official recognition and remembrance, and to refuse association with genocide denial. It also asks the government to encourage education and public understanding of its facts, including to treat Armenian genocide in the context of modern-day crimes against humanity in order to prevent them.

These have been longstanding goals of the Armenian diaspora, which continues to seek official acknowledgement of the genocide in the US and across the globe. So far, 32 countries have recognised the Armenian genocide, in addition to the European parliament, the Council of Europe, the Catholic church and the International Association of Genocide Scholars, among others.

The diaspora has taken a lead role in pushing for the recognition of the 1915 genocide, particularly as Armenia itself has historically taken a back seat in this quest. It was a Soviet republic until it declared independence in 1991, and during the Soviet era the goal of genocide recognition was associated with diaspora parties based in the West and the Middle East that were banned from operating within Soviet territory.

The first Armenian post-communist government clashed with the diaspora over diverging foreign policy priorities. It sought to restore some neighbourly relations with Turkey, while the diaspora insisted on the pursuit of genocide recognition. Diaspora circles and local opposition eventually prevailed, and soon after a 1998 change in government, Armenia infused genocide recognition in its foreign policy.

Revered or attacked for its central mission of genocide recognition, the Armenian National Assembly of America (ANCA) has been a major lobby in the US since 1972. It maintains strong relationships with legislators in the two houses of Congress, and the Armenian caucus, a group of legislators pursuing common objectives on Armenia-related issues.

ANCA has a strong organisational structure of grassroots chapters across the US, launches regular campaigns among citizens, and holds annual gala dinners. As my ongoing research shows, diaspora activists in Europe see ANCA as an important institution not simply for the US, but more widely, as it serves as a paragon to others with its lobbying practices.

Several high profile congresspeople, instrumental in the recent vote in the House, have been connected to ANCA, while driven to act on behalf of their Armenian-American constituencies. They have emerged from the Democratic Party and primarily from California, where over 150,000 Americans of Armenian descent live in Los Angeles and tens of thousands of others in Glendale and Fresno. The sponsor of the recent bill was Adam Schiff, the representative of a congressional district in California with the largest Armenian-American constituency in the country.

Read more: Denial of the Armenian Genocide should concern us all

The politics of pushing for recognition of the Armenia genocide also relates to strategic friends and foes among other diaspora communities. Some Jewish diaspora organisations recognise the genocide, even if Israel still refrains from doing so. The American Jewish Committee (AJC) supported the House resolution prior to the vote in October. During the events marking the 100th anniversary of the genocide in 2015, AJC joined the commemoration to pause in mournful tribute. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs recognised the Armenian genocide in 2015, while the Holocaust Museum in New York hosted an exhibition for that centennial.

My research in Europe, recently published in the Ethnic and Racial Studies journal, shows that the Armenian diaspora has also built coalitions with other groups to pressure Turkey against genocide denial.

Most notable are alliances with Assyrians and Pontus Greeks, smaller Christian communities. They are much less organised than the Armenians, but were also dispersed by Ottoman violence during the same period. Such coalitions have changed the nature of the campaign for recognition: not simply recognition of the Armenian genocide, but to counter wider atrocities. More recent recognitions in Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany also acknowledged these smaller groups.

Armenians have also formed on and off coalitions with Kurds, especially in Europe where Kurds are numerous and well mobilised. These coalitions have been more instrumental, pressuring Turkey to stop genocide denial and other human rights violations something required of Turkey if it wants to join the European Union. Combining energy for a common cause has not been easy here, as Armenians still remember that Kurds participated in the 1915 genocide, though many Kurdish organisations have acknowledged their participation in it and have already apologised.

In Armenia, some analysts and members of the opposition see the diaspora as standing in the way of efforts to improve bilateral relations between Armenia and Turkey. This is because diaspora groups demand that Turkey recognises the Armenian genocide as a precondition for meaningful negotiations between them.

Campaigning for genocide recognition has been a matter of survival for diaspora Armenians, creating common identities among them for generations in the absence of the Armenian state. Genocide recognition is also a source of hope for obtaining future reparations from Turkey. The Armenian diaspora has stood up for a principled issue and brought attention to mass atrocities that must never be repeated.


How the Armenian diaspora forged coalitions to push for genocide recognition - The Conversation UK

Non-profit wins approval for 60 affordable apartments off VFW Parkway in West Roxbury – Universal Hub

Posted By on November 18, 2019

Update, 11/14: The BPDA board gave its OK today.

The Zoning Board of Appeal today approved plans by B'nai B'rith Housing New England for 60 affordable apartments in a building between VFW Parkway and Baker Street, to the rear of Savers.

The proposal now goes before the BPDA board this Thursday for final approval.

The board and the BPDA had previously approved a 60-unit condo project in two buildings at the site. Property owner Richard Olstein then agreed to sell the project to the non-profit group, based in Brighton.

Under revised plans submitted to the BPDA, B'nai B'rith says that 41 of the units would be rented to people making no more than 60% of the Boston area median income, with the rest rented to people making up to 100% of that amount (2019 area median income figures).

The new plans also show 60 parking spaces, rather than the 90 that Olstein won approval for. The number of one-bedrooms was increased and the number of two-bedrooms decreased, which means the project will have a total of 15 fewer bedrooms than under Olstein's proposal. B'nai B'rith said this was partly to help win funding from the city Department of Neighborhood Development for the units.

Project documents.

Non-profit wins approval for 60 affordable apartments off VFW Parkway in West Roxbury - Universal Hub

What Really Was the Sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? – Getting down to the core of evil –

Posted By on November 18, 2019

Joe the Sodomite

Sodom and Gomorrah have come to represent the epitome of evil. After all, Gd destroyed them with fire and brimstone. But, perhaps surprisingly, the Talmud does not associate Sodom principally with idolatry, murder, sexual impropriety, thievery or even corrupt business practices.

The Talmud uses term midat Sdom (roughly translated as a Sodomite attitude) to describe the person who cannot bear someone else benefiting from his property, even when it doesnt hurt him in the slightest.

Heres a classic example mentioned the Talmud:

Joe owns a large tract of land that is not in use and that he doesnt wish to lease, and discovers that some homeless individual is camping out on it. So he tells him to get off. We say to him, The other guy gains and you lose nothing, so whats your problem? And Joe answers, Its my property. I want him out.

Joe is infected with a Sodomite attitude. The Talmud even discusses whether the homeless camper can ask the court to prevent Joe from throwing him outbecause the Torah says, You must do that which is good and upright. What Joe is doing, from Talmudic eyes, is pure evil.

The final judgment is that we cant legally compel Joe in this case, since that would be limiting the statutes of property ownership. But there are cases in which property ownership is not diminished and no significant inconvenience is caused. In such instances, the court can indeed compel or restrain someone with a stubborn Sodomite attitude.

Theres another description in the Talmud of the Sodomite attitude: One who says, Whats mine is mine and whats yours is yours. Or, as Rabbi Obadiah Bartenura reads that, I dont want to give you anything, and I would appreciate if you dont give me anything.

Okay, so hes not the kind of guy you want on your baseball team, but is he really the core of evil? He hasnt ripped anyone off. He hasnt lied to anyone. In fact, hesTurns out that worse than running a corrupt business is having no business at all. brutally honest. He tells you his approach to life and sticks to it. Hes not running a corrupt business. He doesnt want to engage in any commerce at all. He desires total independence and isolation. He says, Let me be and Ill let you be.

Turns out that worse than running a corrupt business is having no business at all. But why is that?

A pinch of Lurianic Kabbalah could help us here. When the world was created, as Genesis says, it was at first tohu. Tohu, explains Rabbi Isaac Luria, is a state of isolated ideals.

A world of tohu is a world where no two things can work together. A world where the weather is either hot or cold but never warm, where people are either super-friendly or hostile but never just chill, where either I run things or you run things but we cant cooperate, where I dont need you and you dont need me and so no one has any business with the other.

Gd was not pleased with that world. But that was okay, because it rapidly erupted all on its own. Fragments of it fell and reorganized to become our world, a world where harmony, or tikun, is possible.

Now for some words from a more recent kabbalist and chassidic master, Rabbi Sholom Dovber of Lubavitch, writing in 1914:

The souls of the people of Sodom originated from the realm of Tohu. That explains why they were isolationistsneither wishing to benefit anyone nor to receive from The souls of the people of Sodom originated from the realm of anyone. In this way, their land was isolated from all other lands and they managed their own resources so that they didn't need to receive any goods from any foreign land. Even amongst themselves, each one was isolated and independent.

But when Gd made the earth, He did so with wisdom, so that all the world functions in a way of tikunthe diametric opposite of Sodom's isolationism. The world is made so that each region must receive its needs from some other region. Indeed, that is what trade is all aboutthat each land both receives from others and gives to others.

This is the meaning of the verse, "And He established His agudah upon the earth." An agudah is a collaboration of individuals, such as a collective, in which everyone works together and no one is complete without the other. This is how Gd created the world to operate.

But Sodom did not operate that way. No one would accept anything from anyone else. They said, Whats mine is mine and whats yours is yours.

How do we see that among the people of Sodom? Well, they werent hospitable. Not only did they not take in guests, they couldnt even allow others to have guests stay in their home. Thats the central point of the story with Lot, Abrahams nephew who lived in Sodom. When Lot, had some guests in his home, the people of Sodom staged a protest outside his door and threatened to harm the guests and their host.

The Talmud tells more stories about the people of Sodom and their nasty, even brutal treatment of visitors. You can read some of them here.

How did Sodom get this way? The Talmud explains that as well.

You see, Sodom, Gomorrah along with three other cities formed a large settlement at the terminus of the Jordan River. Its a deep valley and before these cities were overturned the Jordan branched out into a delta, watering the earth well and sprouting rich, lush greenery. The earth was rich in nutrients, as well as precious minerals. All in all, a virtual garden of Eden.

So the people who settled there decided, We dont need to trade with anyone. We have everything we need right here. And we dont want them coming here, either. Why should we share any of this with anyone else?

Next thing, they constructed a bridge at the gateway to their land and charged a toll to entereven if you would choose to swim across. They established laws prejudiced against visitors and found every way they could to discourage any passerby.

Things only got worse from there, until there was no friendship, no It all began with a need not to need anyone.camaraderie even amongst each other. Eventually, the peoples treatment of merchants, transients, the homeless, the downtrodden and the needy became heartless and viciously cruel.

And so the prophet Yechezkel (Ezekiel) describes the sin of Sodom as arrogance, saying She and her daughters had plenty of bread and untroubled tranquillity; yet she did not support the poor and the needy.

Certainly there were many detestable sins in Sodom and her daughter cities. But it all began with a need not to need anyone.

What we learn from the story of Sodom is that commerce is good. Just the fact that one person sold and the other bought is good. Because people needing people is good. Being insufficient is good. Good for the world, good for the community and good for the individual.

Self-sufficiency, on the other hand, is a bad deal all around. We all say we want to be perfectly self-sufficient, but deep down we recognize that would be a nightmare.

Ultimately, its our interpersonal needs and the commerce between us that bind all of humanity together as a single, healthy organism. Whats a healthy organism? A counter-entropic entity united by circulation of energy. And that is what makes a healthy human world as well: A world where people add value to life by discovering how much they need one another.

The ancient Midrash describes King David asking of Gd, Why couldnt You make everyone in Your world equal in means?

Gd replied, If I would do so, how would kindness and truth be sustained?

When someone wrote to the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of righteous memory, that the final redemption cannot be complete until the needy disappear from the earth, the Rebbe responded that he did not concur. People must always need one another. There will always be poverty and inequality. Not poverty of basic meanswe will live in a prosperous world where delicacies will be as plentiful as the dust. Rather, there will always be a healthy imbalance of commodities that will require commerce for redistribution.

One person may be richly steeped in abstract knowledge but poor in application, while another does not fair well in abstractions but has a knack for putting ideas to work. One has water while the other has bread. One has a fire inside him while the other stays cool. All have in common one thing: They all need one another for their own wholeness.

And it must be that way because every person, every created being, indeed even the Creator and Manager of the universe at times in some way must act not only as a provider but also as a recipient. Neither role is less important than the other. Its that dynamic that makes a beautiful world.

Perhaps it was the Talmudic take on Sodom that inspired David Ricardo, the great Jewish economist, to come up with his highly influential theory of competitive advantage which explains why specializing and trading is beneficial not only for individuals but for nations as well.

People need to need each other, not only in commerce, Make yourself a person who is needed and you will acquire at least one true friend.but in every aspect of life. Thats perhaps the most ignored but vital need of the human being: the need to be needed. Yet deeperand even more vitalthe need to need others.

Acquire yourself a friend! our sages taught. People ask, Why use the word acquire? That makes it sound like you have to buy friends. Why not just make friends?

But now it makes sense. People are friends and stay friends because they need one another. Even with all the love in the world, they are only truly bonded when they find a need for one another in their hearts. Make yourself a person who is needed and you will acquire at least one true friend.

And allow yourself to need that friend. Really need.

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What Really Was the Sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? - Getting down to the core of evil -

7 Jewish Texts You Must Read Profs Choose Their Favorites – Forward

Posted By on November 18, 2019

Want to stump a professor? Just ask: Whats the most important text on your syllabus?

The question posed a challenge to some who couldnt bear to name just one.

Its a tough one! Samuel Hayim Brody, assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas, wrote in an email. I am probably just thinking about it too much. The answer isnt obvious, which I know doesnt help you at all.

Judith Bleich, professor of Modern Jewish History at Touro College, also shared her answer, but with a footnote, writing that in a sense it misses the mark.

In graduate courses the goal is to acquaint the student with numerous works and rarely with a single most important one, whatever ones personal predilection might be, she said. Even focusing on a single author, as for example, in studying the writings of the Maharal, one would opt for comparisons of selections from several of his works even while focusing on one particular book in its entirety.

Nevertheless, these Jewish studies professors were bold enough to share what they consider to be their most valuable reading material.

Its the most important text, because it echoes the old mode of Jewish petitioning, whereby leaders would write fawning letters to new leaders, with the radically new approach of citizenship. In the early republic, Washington echoed Seixas call for religious liberty, rather than the blander Enlightenment model of tolerance David Shneer, Director of Graduate Studies for the Program in Jewish Studies, Louis P. Singer Endowed Chair in Jewish History, University of Colorado Boulder

Aside from introducing me to the distinctive discourse of the Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin also introduced me to key questions in Jewish Studies that Ive been exploring ever since. How do Jews define norms for themselves and police their violation? What assumptions about difference ethnic, religious, gender, sexual, species underlie those norms? What are the aspirations for authority of rabbis, priests, Jewish political leaders, and Jewish parents? Tractate Sanhedrin also addresses existential questions that have a universal stamp: Is it possible for human beings to ascertain truth? What is the basis of value of a single human life? Who will be rewarded with a portion in the world to come, and who will be punished with none? All these questions, and more, are raised by Tractate Sanhedrin. The tractate thus serves as an excellent primer for the most intriguing and intractable problems in Jewish thought and history. _ Beth A. Berkowitz, Professor of Religion, Ingeborg Rennert Chair of Jewish Studies, Barnard College_

Its very helpful for getting discussions going on the forms and nature of Jewish politics, beyond the basic exile vs. statehood dichotomy. Samuel Hayim Brody. Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies, University of Kansas

It introduces the student to the transformative changes in European society of the nineteenth-century. - Judith Bleich, Professor of Modern Jewish History, Touro College

This is a seminal text in study of the movement for counter-Reform Judith Bleich, Professor of Modern Jewish History, Touro College .

It makes such a strong impression on the students. This is one of several biographical or autobiographical works that students in [my] class read. Each of them allows students to enter a world of sensory, intellectual, spiritual, or practical experience, which highlights how alien and different the past is, but also how similar. Glikls text, however, invites students to witness early modern Jewish life from a womans perspective. No other text on this syllabus which includes Inquisitorial trials, letters about Shabbtai Tzvie, Spinoza, as well as less well known primary sources - generates as much identification, passion, and empathy among students. Nina Caputo, Associate professor in the Department of History, University of Florida

It is a semi-autobiographical novel whose narrator undertakes, in midlife, a journey to the Bulgaria of her Sephardic ancestors. Tela de sevoya: demonstrates that a return-to-the-roots narrative can still be captivating if it is beautifully composed. But, more significantly, Moscona communicates to her readers her fascination with Ladino and its potential as a medium of contemporary literature. Readers of the Spanish original learn a good deal of Ladino almost without realizing it. Moscona has since continued to pursue her literary life in a mix of Spanish and Ladino. Naomi Lindstrom, Gale Family Foundation Professor in Jewish Arts and Culture, University of Texas at Austin

This article is part of a Forward series on Jewish graduate studies. Find more stories in the series below.

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7 Jewish Texts You Must Read Profs Choose Their Favorites - Forward

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