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‘The Rabbi of Timbuktu’ to speak at Canton synagogue – Wicked Local Randolph

Posted By on September 27, 2020

Professor William Miles, who wrote The Rabbi of Timbuktu, will speak at an event held by Cantons Bnai Tikvah Adult Education at 8 p.m. Oct. 16 via Zoom.

Until joining the Peace Corps after college and being sent to rural Niger in West Africa, Miles had no idea that his Jewish education would facilitate his entre into a traditional Islamic society. But from the outset, his religious studies proved to be a great asset.

Even before we had finished our Peace Corps training in Niamey, Nigers capital, said Miles, a professor in the Political Science Department at Northeastern University, in a previous interview, one of my Nigrien language instructors informed me that we were cousins. Why? Because as a Fulani, one of Africas great nomadic peoples, he had grown up with the teaching that his was a tribe that, unlike the other Israelite ones, had travelled west during the Exodus rather than east, towards the Land of Israel.

That the Fulani had long since become Muslim was beside the point; what mattered was the belief in a common ancestral heritage. Even today, Miles also observed, rural Fulani live more Biblically than do modern-day Jews.

Knowing Hebrew greatly aided my learning of Hausa, the lingua franca of Niger, Miles goes on. A Hamitic language, Hausa shares several distinctive grammatical similarities with Hebrew. The vocabularies, too, have much overlap, on account of Arabic influence and shared religious terminology.

One of Miles first publications as an assistant professor at Northeastern more than 25 years ago related these and his other Afro-Judaic observations in an article, Jewish in Muslim Black Africa, for the African Studies Association. Since then, Miles has expanded his research and writing to encompass Jewish themes not only elsewhere in Africa but throughout the Jewish and African diasporas more widely.

He also has written on Holocaust commemoration in post-communist Poland and Germany, the treatment of Jews under Vichy in the French Caribbean, judaizing of the Rwandan genocide, and Holocaust denial in Iran. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. selected him to spend a summer seminar for faculty at its Center for Advanced Study.

Miles is a professor of political science at Northeastern University. He is a five-time Fullbright Scholar and author.

The will program will follow the 7 p.m. Shabbat services.

For more information, call 781-828-5250.

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'The Rabbi of Timbuktu' to speak at Canton synagogue - Wicked Local Randolph

How this Birmingham synagogue reinvented its New Year celebration + takeaways for other religious holidays anywhere – Bham Now

Posted By on September 27, 2020

Author Sharron Mendel Swain - September 24, 2020September 24, 2020A congregant blew the shofar at a safe distance from the crowd. Photo via Audrey Nicole Photography

Mid-March, most religious organizations moved online. In the Jewish world, the big question was What about Rosh Hashanah? Each fall, the Jewish New Year is usually a time for the largest in-person gathering of the year. Temple Beth-El Birmingham got creative with the holiday. Now they have concrete takeaways for other faith communities as they begin to plan their own upcoming holidays. Keep reading for all the details.

Scenes from two days of prayer walks at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Photos via Audrey Nicole Photography

The pandemic presented rabbis everywhere with a challenge. How could they create a meaningful fall holiday experience while keeping people safe?

Most settled for Zoom services this year. Not Rabbi Stephen Slater of Temple Beth-El Birmingham. He was determined to bring people together and to find a way to do it safely.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said he prayed with his feet during the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march with Dr. King, John Lewis and others. This inspired Rabbi Slater, who realized that a walk had precedent in many cultures experiences of pilgrimage.

This past weekend, 440 congregants and a dozen guests gathered at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. The prayer walks were masked, socially-distanced and with staggered arrival times.

Congregants walked along a path punctuated by a number of stations. A thoughtfully-crafted program booklet included instructions for individual and group prayers and reflections.

Participants encountered either a new or traditional element at each station, ranging from a Torah reading to a bonsai tree. Organizers chose sensory elements and questions to provoke deeper connections to the spirit of the holiday.

Back in May, Rabbi Slater was moved by the outpouring of grief following George Floyds killing. He went to pray with fellow clergy, honoring the loss the way you would that of a beloved family member.

One rich friendship that grew out of that time was with Pastor Terry Ellison of Montgomery. Ellison pastors eight churches, ministering to 5000 people. Slater also wanted to connect with other clergyacross racial and religious divides.

To help bridge those divides, Slater invited Mayor Randall Woodfin plus dozens of Birmingham-area clergy:

This yearafter a difficult time of upheaval, illness, and death across our nationwill you join us in conversation and prayer? As we begin the new year, we want to start out the right way, together in prayer.

I spent Saturday morning walking with Rabbi Slater, Pastor Ellison and the Reverend Melissa Self Patrick, Director of the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center. We also spent some time with Mayor Woodfin, who came to learn and share with us for part of the morning.

When I asked Pastor Ellison about the impact the morning had on him, he said:

Walking through the service did more than sitting in a sanctuary could have ever done.

The main thing that impacted me was when we read a quote by The Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto from Rosh Hashanah 1941: We return to who we are meant to be, but have not yet become.

The idea of being able to repent and go back to what we were originally called to be changed the way I thought about everything.

Reverend Mary Bea Sullivan and her husband Malcolm Marler, Senior Director of Pastoral Care at UAB, also attended.

It was an honor to walk our prayers with the gracious and welcoming Beth-El community. The beloved grounds of the Botanical Gardens were an ideal setting for turning our hearts to Godin repentance, renewal, and reflection. The meditations were thought-provoking and provided a balm I didnt even know I needed.

Rabbi Slater wanted to ensure that a sense of isolation or spiritual alienation wasnt anyones biggest takeaway from the holiday. To him, it was essential to find a way to gather people in person.

I asked Rabbi Slater and Bethany Slater, Temple Beth-Els Director of Programming and Jewish Education, for their takeaways from the experience. Why? To help other religious leaders as they begin to plan their own holiday observances.

Their responses fell into two main categories: practical and spiritual.

My personal experience of the holiday was wonderful. I loved seeing old friends in person after six months apart. Walking in the Gardens with reflection prompts was a rich way to connect with tradition and with the future.


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How this Birmingham synagogue reinvented its New Year celebration + takeaways for other religious holidays anywhere - Bham Now

Offline and in synagogue: How Orthodox Jews learned about RBG’s death –

Posted By on September 27, 2020

(JTA) Shlomo Zuckier was walking out of his in-laws house Saturday morning to go to outdoor synagogue services when he saw the newspaper on the ground. Through the plastic bag, he could read the headline with the biggest story of the previous evening: Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died.

Most Jews would have heard the news on Friday evening, not long after the 87-year-old Supreme Court justice passed away of complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer. Many Reform and Conservative synagogues addressed the news in their Zoom services Friday night or Saturday morning.

But for Orthodox Jews the news arrived differently. Some, like Zuckier, a postdoctoral fellow in Jewish studies at McGill University, learned about it from the newspaper, the way one would have heard news of that sort in an earlier era. Others heard from fellow congregants or neighbors over the course of the holiday. And still others found out when they turned on their phones or checked the news online after the holiday ended Sunday evening, a full two days after the rest of the world.

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While for some Orthodox Jews, particularly those with more progressive politics, the news of Ginsburgs passing added to the emotions of Rosh Hashanah, for many it was just another important news story but with less emotional heft. Thats partially because of the way they found out, separated from the online news cycle and social media reactions, and partially because of the way they see their Judaism.

The whole thing was surreal, Zuckier said of seeing the news in the newspaper on Rosh Hashanah and later seeing the posts about Ginsburgs death on social media after the holiday ended. But for me it didnt define my Rosh Hashanah. I had other things to focus on.

Zuckier said some of that comes down to the way Orthodox Jews see politics and religion.

Its not a right-versus-left thing, he said. I think its just to what extent you see politics as central to your religion.

While for Reform and Conservative Jews, the Judaism Ruth Bader Ginsburg embodied, with her focus on social justice over traditional practice or dogma, represents many of their dearest values. Even her appearance cut a familiar figure, reminiscent of many a Jewish grandmother.

But for many Orthodox Jews, for whom traditional practice is a more central focus, the type of Judaism she represented is less resonant. While for Reform and Conservative Jews, Democratic politics are often viewed as consistent with the Jewish value of social justice, for Orthodox Jews, who have trended increasingly rightward politically over the past several years, the relationship between politics and religion is more complicated. And for haredi Orthodox Jews, many of whom do not consume popular cultural offerings like movies and documentaries, Ruth Bader Ginsburg never became the cultural icon she did in the rest of the liberal Jewish world, a status she only assumed there in recent years.

If a big rabbi had passed in the Orthodox world, thats what we saw in the liberal Jewish world, said Elad Nehorai, a politically progressive writer who has written extensively about politics in the Orthodox community.

And for many in the Orthodox community, Ginsburgs politics were not the cause for celebration that they were for many Reform and Conservative Jews.

Still, for some Orthodox Jews, particularly Modern Orthodox ones, her death was a serious blow.

For Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman, a member of the clergy at Ohev Sholom The National Synagogue in Washington, D.C., learning about the justices death right before Saturday morning services from a congregant left her feeling deflated. But she didnt address it at services.

Our services were abbreviated, she said, noting that her synagogue, like many Orthodox services, had shortened the service to minimize the amount of time people would be gathering in-person. Part of abbreviating the service was cutting out the sermons.

But even if there had been a sermon, she said, addressing the news felt like the wrong fit during a High Holiday season that was already more emotional than a typical year. And with fewer people at services and social distancing hampering the feasibility of side conversations in synagogue many people would not have heard the news by the time services began.

I think it would be too tricky to deal with in shul and I knew some people would be hearing it for the first time, said Friedman.

For Nehorai, who lives in California, hearing the news before the holiday began on the West Coast left him feeling gutted. But after the holiday ended, he said, he was glad he had heard about it before beginning Rosh Hashanah.

All Jews have had this horrible experience where we come out of a Shabbos or yontif [holiday] where we find out about something Yom Kippur last year was when we found out about the shooting in Germany, Nehorai said of the attempted shooting at a synagogue in Halle, Germany.

I think were in this age when its very hard to process grief and trauma because so much of it is so online so were constantly reacting, he said. It was really helpful to have two days of none of that.PJC

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Offline and in synagogue: How Orthodox Jews learned about RBG's death -

Yom Kippur synagogue closure will be ineffective among haredim – Analysis – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on September 27, 2020

One of the principal battles at present within the government over what new restrictions to impose due to the massive spike in COVID-19 infections is whether or not to close synagogues on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.

But regardless of whatever decision is taken, it is highly unlikely that any order to shutter synagogues over Yom Kippur will be effective in the ultra-Orthodox community.

Large sections of the sector have for several months stopped adhering to social distancing regulations, while the high population density in many ultra-Orthodox cities means that finding enough open spaces to conduct prayer services outdoors for everyone is practically impossible.

Benny Rabinowitz, a prominent ultra-Orthodox commentator and journalist, said there was no way that prayer services could be moved outdoors entirely, and that any such policy would have required several months preparation to arrange the necessary logistics.

Where in Bnei Brak is there enough outdoor space, where are the chairs, where is the shade, its not possible, he said.

He acknowledged that many hassidic communities have for many months not been adhering to any coronavirus restrictions, and that thousands of hassidim had gathered in the various hassidic communities to pray indoors without masks or distancing over Rosh Hashanah.

The non-hassidic so-called Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox community has generally been more compliant with the restrictions and employed social-distancing in synagogues with mask wearing, but nevertheless continued to pray inside synagogues.

The Sephardi ultra-Orthodox community has behaved in a similar manner.

Moshe Weisberg, editor of the Bhadrei Haredim ultra-Orthodox news website, says likewise that a closure order of synagogues on Yom Kippur will be widely violated.

He estimated that at least 80% of the ultra-Orthodox community, including the hassidim and various extremist factions, have not been obeying social distancing in synagogues in recent months, and that that figure would climb even higher on Yom Kippur.

In Bhadrei Haredims editorial on Wednesday, the site described a closure of synagogues on Yom Kippur as a declaration of war on God and his Torah, and that thousands of worshipers and synagogue administrators will not comply with such a decision.

Weisberg said that there would not be enough outdoor prayer space for the number of worshipers, including in non-religious neighborhoods and cities where many traditional and secular people go to synagogue on Yom Kippur, some for the only time during the year.

He said that despite the high infection rate, large parts of the general public in the ultra-Orthodox community did not believe that the risk of contracting COVID-19 and the dangers of the disease are high enough to dissuade them from prayer on Yom Kippur, or indeed any other time, especially given the low rate of severe cases in the sector.

Rabinowitz laid the blame for the lack of adherence to COVID-19 regulations in the ultra-Orthodox community, and beyond, squarely at the foot of the government, saying that the inconsistencies in policy and messaging had destroyed public faith in its management of the crisis.

He said that even the senior rabbinic leadership of the community, whose instructions the sector obeys, was confused as to whom to listen to and what information to trust, meaning that even their ability to influence the situation has been reduced.

Rabinowitz insisted, however, that the frequent cries from within the ultra-Orthodox community and the political leadership about the protests against the prime minister were insincere, saying that synagogues and yeshivas would not suddenly close if the protests stopped.

Amid the fight over prayer in synagogues, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau came out in support on Wednesday for closing them on Yom Kippur if medical professionals believe that this is the correct step to take.

At the same time, his colleague Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef is still of the opinion that synagogues should remain open in accordance with the previously adopted plan for prayer on the High Holy Days, as long as they strictly adhere to hygiene and social distancing regulations.

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis and politicians have been loath to support closing synagogues at all, and for Yom Kippur in particular, arguing that if other mass gatherings take place, especially the protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, prayer in synagogue should also be permitted.

On Tuesday, Lau told Netanyahu that closing synagogues while allowing the protests and other gatherings to continue would lead to mass violations of the synagogue closure order.

The Ashkenazi chief rabbi is now supporting closing synagogues regardless of the governments position on the protests, if medical professionals support such a policy.

In guidelines issued by Yitzhak Yosef on Wednesday, he said that large synagogues should reduce the number of worshipers allowed into the prayer hall, divide up the area into capsules separated by thick plastic sheeting, and open all the windows.

He also said that women should pray at home if there wasnt enough space in the synagogue, and that women should not come to synagogue in great numbers this year.

He did not say that there was a need to close synagogues.

David Yosef said in a video message on Wednesday that the COVID-19 outbreak in Israel had reached awful levels and said therefore, please, close all the synagogues and study halls immediately, and to pray and study only outdoors.

These things have already happened in previous generations and the great Torah leaders gave these instructions, he continued, citing the passage in the Torah commanding people to greatly protect your lives.

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Yom Kippur synagogue closure will be ineffective among haredim - Analysis - The Jerusalem Post

Fundraising in a Pandemic: Metro Detroit Synagogues and Organizations Adjust to an Unusual Year Detroit Jewish News – The Jewish News

Posted By on September 27, 2020

At some point during the solemn Kol Nidre service, Dr. Mark S. Roth, president of Congregation Bnai Moshe, will step up to his designated microphone in a practically empty sanctuary to deliver the synagogues annual fundraising appeal. Roth, the clergy, a few Torah readers and a handful of choir members will be the only ones there.

This yearly campaign is one of the congregations prominent fundraisers, and, for the first time, its one that Bnai Moshe members will hear during a live-stream service.

Because of COVID-19, there will be no packed sanctuaries or security guards directing traffic. Synagogues and temples will be empty this year as Jews gather in front of screens or at scaled-down outdoor services.

Congregation leaders spent the last several months planning for High Holiday services amid a global pandemic that prevents large gatherings. Part of their planning included how to address the various fundraising campaigns that typically take place in conjunction with the start of the Jewish New Year.

Among the congregations responding to the Jewish News inquiry about this years fundraising efforts, some indicated that funds generated this year would be allocated to help members impacted financially by COVID. Others are giving dollars to capital improvements and programming.

We typically have a High Holiday Appeal that is launched at the holidays, said Brian D. Fishman, executive director of Temple Shir Shalom. This year will be no exception except that the money we raise will go to our COVID-19 Emergency Fund campaign.

Similarly, Alan Yost, executive director of Adat Shalom Synagogue, saidmoney generated from this years appeal would help the congregation provide membership dues adjustments, religious school tuition scholarships, camp tuition assistance and other needs based on financial need. Funds raised in years past went to projects such as building upgrades and renovations and purchasing new siddurs for the congregation.

At Bnai Moshe, campaign revenue will help move the synagogue forward rather than maintain the status quo, Roth said. Were trying to develop innovative programs to attract more young adults and young families to the synagogue as well as cover the costs of routine expenses.

Before making his pitch for donations, Roth will spend a few minutes thanking clergy and leadership for making necessary modifications to meet the congregations needs, especially during the High Holidays.

They recognized that no one was going to sit in front of a screen for five hours, and they worked hard to shorten the service while maintaining the traditions. Its a lot like in ancient times when Judaism could have died out after the temples destruction but didnt. They modified and persevered.

The impacts of High Holiday fundraising will also be felt by Israel Bonds and Yad Ezra, as both entities have in-service appeals. However, the unprecedented online connectivity will allow Israel Bonds to reach out to a broader audience through virtual tab cards and a video message.

According to Israel Maimon, president and CEO of Israel Bonds, $100 million in bonds are typically sold during the High Holiday period. During this pandemic, his goal is to maintain that level, he said.

This year marks the 29th anniversary of Yad Ezras holiday appeal, in which congregants bring bags of nonperishable food and monetary donations to Kol Nidre services.

Typically, the organization collects between 24,000 and 28,000 pounds of food. This year flyers went out asking that collected food be dropped off at the food bank. Some congregations requested envelopes to distribute to members.

While its not Yad Ezras largest fundraising campaign, the holiday appeal is crucial because it helps the organization raise awareness and maintain community visibility.

The beauty of the food drive is that its a way to remind people to teach their children that there are others who are struggling and people who dont have a choice of three different kinds of cereal in the morning, said Lea Luger, executive director of Yad Ezra.

As an organization, we can buy cereal cheaper than a family donating it, but this is a way to remind children that there are people in need.

While our High Holiday appeal does help support our bottom line, its more of an educational promotion.

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Fundraising in a Pandemic: Metro Detroit Synagogues and Organizations Adjust to an Unusual Year Detroit Jewish News - The Jewish News

Nontraditional Sweets to Break the Fast – Jewish Exponent

Posted By on September 27, 2020

Photo by Keri WhiteIn many Sephardic cultures, the first bite to break the fast is traditionally something sweet a piece of cake, dried fruit, sugared nuts, a spoonful of jam or a milky, sweet drink made from an infusion of rosewater and toasted seeds.

Some Ashkenazi Jews serve zimsterne, a star-shaped spice cookie, to start their break-fast.

Todays column takes that theme and varies it a bit, featuring three different cookie recipes for your Yom Kippur buffet: white chocolate coconut raspberry jam cookies, flourless chocolate chocolate chip cookies and pecan snowball cookies.

White Chocolate Coconut and Raspberry Jam Cookies Makes 3-4 dozen cookies

Even though they seem to be a variation on simple, homey chocolate chip cookies, these cookies are incredibly rich and sophisticated. They are also pretty, with the ribbon of raspberry jam running through each one.Some people dont like chocolate or coconut this is mystifying but true nonetheless. In such cases, you can omit the coconut and dark chocolate and double the white chips.

Dough:2 cups flour teaspoon baking soda teaspoon baking powder teaspoon salt1 stick butter at room temperature cup sour cream cup granulated sugar1 cups brown sugar2 eggs1 teaspoon vanilla teaspoon almond extract cup white chocolate chips cup semisweet chocolate chips cup sweetened, flaked coconut

Swirl:4 tablespoons raspberry jam cup white chocolate chips

Make the batter: Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.Add the egg and vanilla; mix, then add the sour cream and mix well.

Add the dry ingredients and mix. Add the chocolate chips.

Make the swirl: In a heatproof bowl, melt cup of white chocolate chips in a microwave oven on 30% power for 1 minute. Watch it carefully; white chocolate can burn easily.

Once melted, add the raspberry jam and mix well.

Put them together: Add about 1 tablespoon of the jam mixture in various spots throughout the dough in the bowl and just barely fold it in. Do not to overmix the jam into the dough, or your dough will turn pink. You want more of a swirl effect, so once that is achieved, stop mixing.

Drop the mixture by spoonfuls onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, flatten slightly and place in a 350 F oven for 10-12 minutes. Repeat the second step in batches until all the dough is used.Flourless Double Chocolate CookiesMakes about 18 cookies

These are so rich and delicious, they elevate the mere cookie to something really special. Be sure not to overmix or overbake as that will impact the texture.

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips stick butter1 egg cup powdered sugar cup cocoa powder teaspoon baking powder cup chopped walnuts

Heat your oven to 350 F.

Melt cup of the chocolate chips and the butter in a microwave-safe bowl at 50% power.

Remove it from the heat and whisk in the egg, sugar, cocoa powder and baking powder.

Add the remaining chocolate chips and nuts.

Drop the mixture by spoonfuls onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

Leave the cookies on the sheet for 5 more minutes after baking.

Pecan Snowball CookiesMakes 3 dozen cookies

These humble round cookies are an oldie but a goodie; every time I make them, someone asks for the recipe. Rolling them in powdered sugar twice may seem like a pain, but it is worth it. The first pass brings some additional sweetness; it almost melts the sugar to the cookie. The second pass, after the cookies cool, makes them look pretty with the dusting of powdered sugar.

1 cup butter, softened cup powdered sugar1 teaspoon vanilla2 cups flour teaspoon salt cup finely chopped pecans teaspoon baking sodaAdditional powdered sugar for coating cookies

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Cream together the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla.

Mix the remaining ingredients together and add to the butter mixture; continue mixing until dough holds together.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls, and place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes do not allow the cookies to brown.

While the cookies are still warm, roll them in powdered sugar. When they cool, roll them in powdered sugar again.

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Nontraditional Sweets to Break the Fast - Jewish Exponent

LISTEN: Israeli band Yamma has millions grooving to ancient Hebrew poetry – The Times of Israel

Posted By on September 27, 2020

Its not every day that President Reuven Rivlin posts a music video to his social media accounts. But its also not every day that Bahrain makes peace with Israel. The two coincidentally coincided on September 11 when Rivlin posted Israeli band Yammas aptly named new video, Atem Shalom (You Are Peace).

Yamma lead singer Talya G.A. Solan told The Times of Israel Podcast that Rivlins social media coordinator had reached out earlier in the week to notify the band of her intention to post the video ahead of the Jewish Sabbath but only if no breaking news preempts it. (The Bahrain announcement came shortly after Atem Shalom was posted.)

The video for Atem Shalom is a cooperative project between the band, currently locked down in Israel, and dozens of grassroots fans from across the globe. With participants from countries such as Iran, Egypt, Serbia and scenes from the tropics to the deserts, the video embodied a message of peace and cooperation that caught the presidents ear. Its a message that is set in an ear worm, a tune catchy enough that it burrows into listeners brains.

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This week on The Times of Israel Podcast were speaking with two members of the world music ensemble Yamma (literally, to the sea), singer Solan and winds player Yonnie Dror, about how the decade-old band has become viral among world music lovers and what theyre up to during the pandemic lockdown.

, ,

Reuven Ruvi Rivlin - , 4 2020

Along with band members Aviv Bahar, Nur Bar Goren and Avri Borochov, the band incorporates Jewish music traditions from across the Mediterranean and Africa, and draws on the musicians musical and ethnic backgrounds.

Incredibly enough, their runaway hit is a setting of Psalm 104. The YouTube video alone has gotten almost 6 million views. Winds player Dror explains that its based on an ancient Babylonian Jewish tune he began carrying around with him about 15 years ago. He played it to his Iraqi-born father, Dror said, who remembered it from his childhood.

Dror said that he despaired of ever finding a band that could manage his arrangement of such a complex tune. And then, a decade ago when Yamma was formed, all the pieces fell into place. The result is a five-minute musical journey that begins with a whisper a minute-long oud solo and ends with a bang as the full band belts out the ancient Hebrew lyrics.

Solan explains that while she prefers to sing in Hebrew ancient or modern several of the bands songs draw on members Sephardic roots and are sung in Ladino or Arabic dialects. Likewise, the pieces reflect the band members diverse musical styles, injecting jazz improv into a traditional Bukharan niggun, or a Klezmer trill into a psalm.

Learn more from band members Solan and Dror and hear song samples on this weeks episode of The Times of Israel Podcast.

Members of the band Yamma, including singer Talya G.A Solan (center),Yonnie Dror (far left), Aviv Bahar, Nur Bar Goren, and Avri Borochov (Zohar Ron)

The Times of Israel podcasts are available for download oniTunes,Soundcloud,TuneIn,Pocket Casts,Stitcher,PlayerFMor wherever you get your podcasts.

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LISTEN: Israeli band Yamma has millions grooving to ancient Hebrew poetry - The Times of Israel

The problem of the EUs golden passports – The Economist

Posted By on September 27, 2020

Sep 26th 2020

AN EU PASSPORT is one of the most desirable documents on the planet. Its bearer can live and work in 27 different countries, all of them prosperous and peaceful. Many have excellent food, too. In the birthright lottery of citizenship, those with a burgundy ticket marked European Union are among the lucky winners. Putting a pricetag on this is hard, but Cyprus has managed it. Invest 2.2m ($2.6m) in the island and a Cypriot passport with all the benefits of EU citizenship can be yours. Malta runs a similar (and, at just over 1m, rather cheaper) scheme for anyone tired of travelling with papers that open fewer doors.

Not everyone thinks this is a good idea. In a recent speech Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commissions president, mentioned such golden passports as one of a list of threats to the rule of law in Europe, alongside judge-nobbling. Her annoyance is understandable. Since anyone with an EU passport can move anywhere in the bloc, a quick buck for the Cypriot government can create problems for the rest of the EU. Cyprus has made 7bn from the scheme since its launch in 2013, which amounts to a quarter of the islands annual GDP. It has sold passports to plenty of rich but disagreeable folk, who are now free to settle in Germany or France.

Banning such sales would be popular. But it is no simple matter. Deciding who is and is not a citizen is a jealously guarded right of EU member states. All EU countries issue passports for reasons beyond the bog-standard naturalisation of those who marry a local or live in the country in question long enough to qualify. Some countries hand them out to curry favour with diasporas, atone for historic wrongs or create new voters. Being an EU citizen may come with common rights. But there is stark disagreement among the member states as to who should be allowed to be one.

Some EU countries, particularly those with large diasporas, dish out the burgundy like a wine wholesaler at Christmas. Ireland allows anyone with an Irish grandparent to claim Irish citizenship. Given Irish enthusiasm for emigration, this leaves an uncountable number of potential Irish abroad. In Britain alone, an estimated 6m people would qualify for an Irish passport. That is about 20% more than live in Ireland, and thanks to Brexit, many have good cause to apply for one. Italy is even more generous to its diaspora. Anyone with a male Italian ancestor has a shot at an Italian passport. Along the patrilineal line, there is no upper limit, so the right goes back to 1861 and the creation of Italy. (The rights of descendents of women only start in 1948.) Between 1998 and 2010, 1m people obtained an Italian passport in this way. According to one estimate, 60m potential Italian citizens lurk around the globe. (However, many have settled in even richer places, such as America, and are unlikely to return.)

Passports can be given out for political purposes. Hungarys prime minister, Viktor Orban, has been the most cunning in this regard. After the first world war redrew eastern Europes borders, ethnic Hungarians were left scattered across neighbouring countries, such as Serbia and Romania. Mr Orbans government has eased citizenship rules in an attempt to naturalise and enfranchise 1m of them. Between 2011 and 2016, 180,000 new Hungarians were created every yearmore than the number of naturalisations in France and Germany, according to Yossi Harpaz in Citizenship 2.0, a book on dual nationality. Anyone who can trace lineage back to the right part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and is willing to learn Hungariana notoriously difficult languagecan claim a passport. (Predictably, Hungarian language schools have popped up across Serbia.) The strategy has worked: when these new Hungarian citizens vote, they overwhelmingly support Mr Orban.

Offering citizenship as a form of atonement is common. Austria, which normally restricts dual nationality, now allows descendants of Jews who were expelled, or fled, during the 1930s and 1940s to claim a passport. A similar right can be found in Germany, where it is embedded in the countrys constitution. Spain goes back even further, allowing descendants of Sephardic Jews kicked out in the 15th century to reclaim Spanish citizenship. (Descendants of Muslims kicked out in the same period have no such luck.)

A few countries take the opposite path and hoard their passports. Along with Austria, the Netherlands and Germany both have strict rules on dual-nationals from outside the EU. In the days when citizens were regularly conscripted to butcher their neighbours, restrictions on dual citizenship made sense. Now they seem outdated, serving only to leave immigrantswho may not want to give up their other nationalityas perpetual outsiders.

If passports can be seen either as a commodity or political tool, on the one hand, or a life-long civic commitment on the other, devising common rules for handing them out is close to impossible. Although member states are happy to slam Malta and Cyprus, they do not appreciate criticism of how they themselves distribute citizenship. Some may balk at the idea of limiting dual nationality. Others may be uncomfortable with the unknown size of the Irish and Italian diasporas who could turn up as EU citizens. How countries seek to atone for the Holocaust is a deeply inappropriate question for an EU ruling. A clear definition of who qualifies for an EU passport is the obvious next step for any passport-selling ban; it is also a nightmare.

An Al Capone approach may be enough for the EU to crack down on the current schemes operated by Malta and Cyprus. Rather than stop them from selling passports outright, Brussels could pursue them via money-laundering legislation and make life difficult for the dodgier newcomers. But a determined stateand some canny lawyerscould keep the golden passport trade going. Granting citizenship is a huge power and member states are unlikely to give it up. That means they will probably have to tolerate their neighbours selling passports to plutocrats.

This article appeared in the Europe section of the print edition under the headline "The right to sell passports"

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The problem of the EUs golden passports - The Economist

Facebook critics take on its Oversight Board – Axios

Posted By on September 27, 2020

A group of high-profile Facebook critics on Friday announced the launch of what they are calling the "Real Facebook Oversight Board," an effort that aims to counter an independent board established by Facebook last year to oversee its decisions on content moderation.

Why it matters: The opposing effort represents how political the fight between Facebook and its critics has become in the lead-up to the presidential election.

Driving the news: The group includes leaders from the Stop Hate for Profit boycott, like Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, and Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, as well as prominent Facebook critics like Roger McNamee and some journalists and pundits.

Between the lines: The response comes just after the actual Facebook-funded appeals board announced that it would be launching earlier than expected.

A document obtained by Axios that appears to be a pitch deck for the project alleges that the Facebook-funded oversight board is "little more than a corporate whitewashing exercise."

The big picture:Pressure on Facebook to address misinformation and hate speech on its platform has increased ahead of the election.

The bottom line: The tension between Facebook and accountability groups is increasing ahead of the election, and the company's independent oversight board is the latest target.

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Facebook critics take on its Oversight Board - Axios

Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ginsburg – The Jewish News of Northern California

Posted By on September 27, 2020

President Donald Trumps pick to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court is Amy Coney Barrett, a devout Catholic and conservative midwestern judge who commentators compare to the late justice Antonin Scalia.

Barrett, nominated Saturday, lives in Indiana and is a judge on the Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, but has a spare political record. The 48-year-old, who clerked for Scalia, has only been on the appellate court since 2017.

A number of liberals havefalsely attacked her for extremist views, and Republicans have warned Democrats not to make her religion a test.

I will be mindful of who came before me, Barrett said at the White House announcement. Ginsburgs life of public service serves as an example to us all, she added.

Barretts confirmation hearings in the Senate will be closely watched by Jewish groups who are invested in the tensions between more liberal justices, who have tended to elevate discrimination protections over religious freedoms, and conservative justices, who tend to favor protecting the rights of religious individuals and institutions over discrimination protections.

The National Council of Jewish Women expressed concerns, noting that she has in the past questioned whether Roe V. Wade, the 1973 ruling upholding a womans right to an abortion, is settled precedent. Additionally, Barrett criticized the chief justice, John Roberts, for voting with the liberal minority in 2012 to uphold the Affordable Care Act.

Her lack of respect for precedent is further called into question by her open criticism of Roe v. Wade, and her gross mischaracterization of the landmark ruling, NCJW CEO Sheila Katz said in a statement. Barrett is also on record in opposition to the Affordable Care Act, and even criticized Chief Justice John Roberts for his decision to uphold the law in 2012.

Jewish Women International said it was not enough to replace a woman judge with a woman judge.

Unfortunately, Barrett has proven that she will not defend equality or fairness, JWI CEO Meredith Jacobs said. Her appointment is a direct threat to reproductive freedom, survivors of sexual assault, civil rights, health care access, racial justice, voting rights, gun safety, and legal protections for marginalized groups.

Legacy Jewish civil rights defenders like the Anti-Defamation League and the Reform movement have in amicus briefs favored discrimination protections while Orthodox groups tend to favor expanding protections for the religious.

Democrats are furious with Trump and with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for rushing through a confirmation so close to the election, especially after McConnell refused in 2016 to consider President Barack Obamas proposed replacement for Scalia, Merrick Garland, who is Jewish, saying then it was inappropriate to nominate a justice in an election year. Obama nominated Garland in March of that year.

Republicans have a majority of 53 in the Senate, and only two Republicans have said they will be mindful of McConnells 2016 precedent and not vote to advance a judge until after a president is elected, meaning barring an unseen circumstance, Barrett will be confirmed.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat who is the minority leader and who is Jewish, said his caucus would be united in opposing Barrett. He noted that Bader Ginsburg died on Rosh Hashanah. At our Rosh Hashanah dinner, we heard that Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, our daughter turned to her wife and said, will our right to marry be constrained by this court?

The Democratic Majority for Israel, a center-left pro-Israel advocacy group, alluded to a decision the court is due to decide soon on the Affordable Care Act.

With the nomination of Judge Barrett, President Trump and Republicans come ever closer to achieving their long-desired goals for the Supreme Court: eliminating the Affordable Care Act and its protections for those with preexisting conditions; overturning Roe v. Wade and outlawing all abortions; and undermining democracy by deciding Trump is reelected, regardless of how Americans vote, the group wrote in a statement.

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Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ginsburg - The Jewish News of Northern California

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