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Israeli FM: Biden Will Sign Amended Nuclear Deal with Iran and We Must Be Involved – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

Posted By on November 17, 2020

Photo Credit: Dean Calma/IAEA

According to sources inside the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (Blue&White) said on Wednesday at a closed session of the committee that he believes the Biden administration will endeavor to return the United States to the nuclear agreement with Iran with minor amendments, Reshet Bet radio reported Thursday morning.

Ashkenazi added that Israel should want to be involved in the process of formulating the revised agreement, after having being kept away from the process during the Obama administration. One of Israels goals will be to include in the agreement a reference to Irans missile program.

According to US media outlets, President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday told French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday that he plans to work with Americas European allies on a unified policy regarding Irans nuclear program. The Biden transition team put out a press release following the call from Macron saying Biden expressed his readiness to work together on global challenges, including security and development in Africa, the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, and Irans nuclear program.

On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his administration would make use of every opportunity to lift the US sanctions against Iran.

Whenever we see that theres a situation for the lifting of sanctions, we will make use of that, Rouhani said at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Our goal is that cruel sanctions would be lifted.

In May 2018, the US announced an intention to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA the Iran nuclear deal), and later imposed several new sanctions against Iran, some of which were condemned by Iran as a violation of the deal. In 2018, the United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered the US to stop the sanctions. In response, the US withdrew from two international agreements.

In June 2019, President Trump imposed sanctions on Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, his office and those closely affiliated with his access to key financial resources. In July 2019, The US placed sanctions on Irans foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. In August 2018, French gas and oil conglomerate Total SA officially withdrew from the Iranian South Pars gas field because of sanctions pressure from the US. In June 2020, the US imposed new sanctions on Iran Shipping Lines and its Shanghai-based subsidiary, E-Sail Shipping Company Ltd.

Thousands of individuals and hundreds of companies have been added to US sanctions list against Iran since 2018.

Back at the closed Knesset committee, the Foreign Minister also referred to the effort that Israel is making to get more countries to move their embassies to Jerusalem, and revealed that the Jewish State was willing to pay good money for countries to make the move. Minister Ashkenazi explained that this meant paying for the expenses of moving and maintaining the embassy. He said that moving the Malawi embassy to Jerusalem, for example, would cost Israel four million shekels ($1.2 million).

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Israeli FM: Biden Will Sign Amended Nuclear Deal with Iran and We Must Be Involved - The Jewish Press - JewishPress.com

Researchers Suggest Breast Cancer Screening in Black Women be Initiated by Age 40 – Cancer Network

Posted By on November 17, 2020

An article published in the Journal of Breast Imaging indicated that breast cancer occurs at a younger age in Black women and is more likely present as the triple-negative (TN) and HER2-positive subtypes.1

Moreover, the paper also revealed that though the incidence rate of breast cancer in Black women is slightly lower than in white women, the mortality rate is much higher. Altogether, these findings suggest that guidelines, which recommend initiating screening mammography at age 50, may be putting Black women at a disadvantage.

If African American womens lives are to be saved, these aggressive breast cancers must be diagnosed and treated early, co-author of the paper Murray Rebner, MD, a diagnostic radiologist at Beaumont Health who specializes in breast imaging, said in a press release.2

In order to review why this discrepancy is occurring, researchers examined the biology of breast cancer among Black and white populations, the barriers to screening for some of these groups, the imaging features of highly aggressive breast cancers, and how some screening guidelines may be having an adverse effect on this segment of the Black population.

Ultimately, the investigators discovered that breast cancer diagnosed before age 50 represents 23% of all breast cancers in African American women, and only 16% of all breast cancers in white women. White women were instead found to have a higher incidence of breast cancer over the age of 60.

Moreover, tumor subtypes also varied among racial and ethnic groups. The TN subtype, which typically has a poorer outcome and occurs at a younger age, represents 21% of invasive breast cancers in Black women and only 10% of invasive breast cancers in white women. However, the HR-positive subtype, which is more common in older women and often has the best outcome, has a higher incidence in white women (70%) than in Black women (61%). The BRCA2 mutation was also revealed to be more common in Black women than in non-Ashkenazi Jewish white women.

Further, researchers indicated there are also many barriers to screening for Black women, including the lack of contact with a primary health care provider, pain, embarrassment, low income, and a lack of health insurance.

Certainly, the higher risk of breast cancer death in Black women is multifactorial, the authors explained. There are opportunities to improve education about breast cancer risk and utilization of screening mammography as well as screening MRI in those who are at a high risk for breast cancer. There are opportunities to improve access to primary care providers and ensure that they are aware of the younger age at diagnosis for Black women, particularly for those less than 50years ofage.

Risk assessment and genetic counseling may be important to implement more widely given the higher incidence of BRCA mutations in Black women, added the authors.

However, health care providers who follow national organization recommendations for screening mammography may be unintentionally putting Black women at a disadvantage. The US Preventive Services Task Force, the American Academy of Family Practice, and the American College of Physicians all advise for mammography screening to begin at age 50, with the option to initiate screening between the ages of 40 and 49years based on individual risk factors and personal choice. Additionally, the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American College of Surgeons now recommend starting screening mammography at age 45, with the option to begin at age 40.

Since Black women are more likely than white women to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age, initiation of screening mammography should be strongly encouraged by age 40, the authors wrote. Likewise, because Black women have a higher likelihood to be diagnosed with the TN subtype, which has a faster tumor doubling time, screening should take place annually.

Of note, organizations which currently support annual screening from age 40 to 49 years include the Society of Breast Imaging, the American College of Radiology, the American Society of Breast Surgeons, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.

Fact one is earlier onset. Fact two is a more aggressive cancer type, said Rebner.

Be aware of your own risks and feel empowered to discuss your risk of breast cancer and when and how often to get screened with your doctor.

References:

1. Rebner M, Pai VR. Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations: African American Women Are at a Disadvantage. Journal of Breast Imaging. doi: 10.1093/jbi/wbaa067

2. Breast cancer screening by age 40 or younger for Black women advise Beaumont researchers [news release]. Beaumont Health. Published October 26, 2020. Accessed November 5, 2020. https://www.newswise.com/articles/breast-cancer-screening-by-age-40-or-younger-for-black-women-advise-beaumont-researchers?sc=sphr&xy=10021790

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Researchers Suggest Breast Cancer Screening in Black Women be Initiated by Age 40 - Cancer Network

Life, Death, and the Levys | by Sara Lipton – The New York Review of Books

Posted By on November 15, 2020

Family of Leon Levy

Saadi a-Levi and his second wife, Esther, circa 1890s

Salonica, the historic city on the Aegean Sea (now called Thessaloniki), was at the turn of the twentieth century probably as close to paradise as a European Jew was likely to get. The salon cultures of Berlin, Vienna, or Paris may have been more glittering, but there Jews sat uneasily on the edges of elite society and public life, warily eyeing growing anti-Semitism. In this vibrant, multicultural, and multiconfessional Mediterranean port, by contrast, Jews were the dominant population, preeminent in various commercial sectors, pillars of municipal life, and enjoying close relations with the ruling Ottoman Empire.

The pride felt by Salonican Jews in their Ottoman citizenship, civic stature, and cultural attainments is palpable in the epitaph on the tombstone of Saadi a-Levi (18201903), the patriarch of the Sephardic clan whose story is told by Sarah Abrevaya Stein in Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century. The epitaph opens by proclaiming that hewas the chief poet who composed several poems for the visit of the sultan and his entourage [in 1859], and closes by noting that Saadi published newspapers in both Ladinothe primary language spoken by Salonicas Sephardic Jews, whose ancestors had been expelled from Spain in 1492and French, embraced as a second language by Salonican Jews, Sephardic and otherwise, who favored Westernization and modernization.

Yet the tombstone no longer exists; the four-hundred-year-old Jewish cemetery was seized by German occupying authorities and dismantled by the municipality in 1942. We only know of the epitaph from a book about the Salonican Jewish cemetery published in 1931; all that remains of Saadis grave is one small fragment found in 2013 paving a suburban walkway. If the inscription testifies to the accomplishments of the Salonican Jewish community, its shattered state signals the fragility of its apparently secure earlier existence.

The Sephardic Journey traced in Family Papers is similarly bounded by confident cosmopolitanism and aching loss. The nineteen men and women we meet in its pagesSaadis children, in-laws, and descendantslived rich, expansive lives. One of his sons became an Ottoman imperial official; another moved to Paris and founded a journal dedicated to Sephardic culture; a daughter crisscrossed the Mediterranean during a long teaching career. Subsequent generations include a soldier, a dairy farmer, an engineer, a doctor, and a film actor. The Levy men and women (as Stein comes to call them, after the spelling adopted by younger generations) frequented cafs; wrote music; started businesses and saw some fail; built houses; traveled; learned new languages (with impressive facility); married, divorced, and remarried; raised children; and eventually fanned out over five continents.

Many of the siblings and cousins shared certain characteristics: they tended to be strong-willed, ambitious, well-traveled, linguistically gifted, forward-thinking, and outward-looking (first toward Vienna, then toward Paris and beyond). Yet in the end, in spite of their distinctiveness, the modern history of the Levy clan echoes that of all too many Jewish families, Ashkenazi and Sephardic alike: it is characterized by geographical scattering, economic struggle, political insecurity, and, inescapably overshadowing it all, the Holocaust.

Family Papers is organized chronologically, as Stein, a professor of Jewish and Mediterranean history at UCLA, follows the family members, one at a time, through the decades. Although the years covered were dramatic ones in Salonican and European historyencompassing two regional and two world wars; regime change and dictatorship; fire, famine, earthquake, and pandemicStein does not offer a sweeping historical narrative. Instead, her focus is on the papers she has tracked down and the individuals whose lives they document, piecing together intimate stories from letters, diaries, photographs, and legal, medical, or governmental records, as well as interviews with descendants. Stein guides the reader through these sources with a restrained but humane voice, occasionally providing useful context or foreshadowing troubles to come, but mostly limiting her discussion to the circumstances at hand. We consequently experience the Levy family history in the way the Levys themselves did, and as all humans go through life: as it happens, with little idea of what is taking place elsewhere, much less what will happen in the future. The result is a book of unusual emotional power and immediacy.

A personal tone is set from the start, in a preface entitled Writers. As the title signals, Steins primary interest here, as throughout the book, is not with events but textschiefly the letters she has collected and the people who wrote them. The Levys are introduced by way of their record-keeping, as Stein describes the various family archives she consulted, the individuals who created and guarded them, and the precious contents they contain. But the most prominent writer in this chapter is Stein herself. In a narrative that is part detective adventure and part ethical meditation, she details the process that led her from editing Saadis memoir almost a decade ago to tracking down Saadis great-great-grandson in Rio and gaining access to his rich trove of documents, to wrestling with the decision to reveal a painful family secret uncovered during her research.

Thanks to the survival of Saadis memoir, Stein is able to provide a vivid portrait of the a-Levi patriarch. In a photograph dating to the 1890s he looks the embodiment of a bygone era, arrayed in a traditional Ottoman fez and kaftan, but Saadi was anything but old-fashioned. He used his memoir not to muse about the past but to rail against the intolerance and intransigence of the Salonican rabbinical establishment, with whom he clashed at various points in his life (while remaining an observant Jew). Already as a young man he had enraged a rabbi by setting a Jewish prayer to a melody based on a secular Turkish song, and the two newspapers he founded became vehicles for promoting progressive causes and attacking what he considered to be fanatical or exploitative rabbinical practices. He ensured that his children would receive a modern, Western-oriented education by enrolling them in the local French-language Alliance Isralite Universelle school, which he had helped establish in 1873.

The women closest to Saadi remain more enigmatiche doesnt even tell us the names of his mother or his first wife, who both died quite young. But the a-Levi matriarchs seem to have shared, perhaps to have inculcated, his progressive tendencies. Saadis maternal grandmother had immigrated to Salonica from Italy in the eighteenth century and imparted a taste for and expertise in making European-style clothing to her daughter. When this daughter, Saadis mother, was widowed at a young age, she used her sewing skills to support her family, eventually building a thriving business that catered to the citys diplomatic and commercial elites. Saadis sisters, also seamstresses, inherited their mothers talent.

The next generation is represented by four of Saadis fourteen children (three died young, three are mentioned only briefly, and four proved difficult to trace). All four benefited from excellent Alliance educations, but they took very different paths. The eldest daughter, Rachel, attended a teacher-training program in Paris, married a fellow educator, and taught in a dozen different Alliance schools in cities and towns around the eastern Mediterranean. Her letters to her employers, brimming with complaints about her students and the conditions of her postings, reveal a strong, demanding, sometimes abrasive personality.

A second daughter, Fortune, married young, soon after graduation, into a prosperous Sephardic merchant family. Though still practicing Jews, she and her husband were even less traditional than Saadi. They partnered and socialized with Muslims, sent their children to a Catholic school, and left Salonicas Jewish neighborhood for an Italian-style villa in a fashionable, multi-ethnic suburb. Fortunes personality is inaccessible, as she left no letters of her own, but Stein was able to plot her life through photographs, documents, material artifacts, and relatives reminiscences.

Saadis son Shemuel Saadi moved on from the Alliance school to study at an imperial Ottoman lyce, where he acquired a Turkish nickname (Kemal) and became fluent in Ottoman Turkish; upon graduating he went to work at the Anatolian Railway Company. But he was evidently a restless soul, not cut out for a desk job, and after a visit to Paris during the height of the Dreyfus Affair, he became radicalized. Adopting the name Sam Lvy, he took over his fathers newspapers and plunged into activism and political journalism, first as a socialist, then as an antisocialist Ottoman patriot. Sams older brother David, by contrast, was a disciplined and meticulous young man who thrived in an administrative setting. After briefly reading law, he was appointed to the influential position of director of the Ottoman Passport Office. Now known by the Turkish name and title Daout Effendi, he became a pillar of Salonican society.

During Saadis last years, the future of his family must have seemed stable and secure. Yet within a decade of his death in 1903, a great deal had changed. The Young Turk revolution of 1908 caused little upheaval for the Levys (and was ardently welcomed by Sam the political firebrand), but the effect of the First and Second Balkan Wars (19121913) proved to be dire. Life during wartime was hard enough, as the city was flooded with refugees and soldiers, business and transport came to a halt, and food was in short supply. But the greatest changes came after the war, when the new Greek rulers of Salonica (renamed Thessaloniki) began to introduce measures promoting Hellenic culture, favoring Greek Orthodox Christians, and marginalizing Jewish and Muslim elements of Salonican society. These stresses were swiftly followed by World War I; the Great Fire of 1917, which ravaged nearly two thirds of the city; and the Greco-Turkish War of 19191922, which led to widespread forced population displacements, as Balkan Muslims were relocated to Turkey and Greeks were moved out of Turkish lands.

All these developments placed Salonican Jews, the Levys included, in an increasingly precarious position. The Great Fire took a particularly heavy toll on Jewish propertymany Jewish businesses were destroyed, and 70 percent of the people rendered homeless were Jews. The devastated community faced further economic hardship when the new Greek municipal government passed laws banning Jews from working at the port and changing Salonicas official day of rest from Saturday to Sunday, placing Jewish merchants and laborers at a severe disadvantage. Daout Effendi, loyal subject of the sultan though he had been, stayed in Salonica and adjusted to the new regime. He became general director and financial manager of the Jewish community, doing his best to protect the interests of his fellow Jews even as rabbinical and Zionist leaders attacked him for (allegedly) lax observance. But by 1920 three of Daouts siblings and both his sons had left the city. Other relatives sought out non-Greek passports in anticipation of eventually having to leave.

The subsequent experiences of these siblings and sons diverge with their destinations. Fortunes family followed a brother-in-law to Manchester. Despite rocky beginningsa son interned by the British as an enemy alien during World War I, financial struggles, encounters with anti-Semitismthey thrived in England. Her children were educated in Christian schools, married British subjects, and opened businesses or entered respectable professions, becoming solid members of the British middle class. (In a surprising twist, Stein discovered that one of Fortunes granddaughters played Miss Moneypenny, the secretary to James Bonds superior in the British secret service.)

Daouts son Leon, after several unsettled years shuttling between Paris, Switzerland, and Germany with his wife and baby boy, accepted an invitation to join his brother-in-laws import-export firm in Rio de Janeiro. Leons life there was not trouble-free: he missed his home and his relatives, he worried about his place in his fathers heart (and estate), his business occasionally floundered, and his marriage ended. But overall, Leon did well in Brazil. He was able to send money to distressed relatives back home, he remarried happily, and his son became a prominent surgeon and devoted father of four. Family Papers owes its existence to Leons determination to stay in touch with his relatives and to preserve family photographs and papers, including his grandfather Saadis memoir; his collection forms Steins most important archive.

The tale is very different for those who remained in continental Europe. Though a chief characteristic of Sephardic historiographywhich seeks to balance perceived overemphases on Ashkenazi Jews and experiences of suffering in Jewish studieshas been its resistance to putting the Holocaust at the center of its narrative, for most of the Levy clan there was no escaping the Final Solution. Between those who had fled to France and those who had remained in Salonica, at least thirty-seven members of the Levy family were murdered by Nazis and their collaborators. Perhaps the most shocking revelation in the book is that one of these collaborators, a notorious bounty hunter who tracked down Greek Jews on the Nazis behalf (and apparently terrorized and murdered many of his fellow Salonican Jews for his own pleasure), was Saadi a-Levis great-grandson Vital.

Stein relates each of these livesfrom Vitals dark history to the restless, resentful wanderings of Leons brother Emmanuel and the courage and endurance of Saadis grandson Jacqueswith a storytellers skill and with deep empathy. But the greatest strength of Family Papersits authors thoughtful guiding voiceis also its primary weakness. A puzzling feature of this archival tour de force is how little we encounter the actual sources. A letter from Vitals sister, Julie, expressing anguish at her postwar ostracism in Salonica is quoted at some length. But often the Levys thoughts and feelings are filtered through Steins words; we rarely get to read their own.

Saadis life is clearly outlined, but we do not hear the tones or cadences of his memoir. At one point during Rachels often-rocky teaching career, when she was posted to a small, backwater Bulgarian town in the midst of a typhoid pandemic, her husband was accused of attempting to rape the rabbis daughter-in-law. Steins summary of the letter Rachel sent to her employers at the time says merely that Rachel declared the situation totally insupportable. We are left wondering in what context Rachel addressed the charge, and whether and how she defended her husband against the allegations. Similarly, Stein notes that in Sams diary he was judgmental of his brothers intellect, but we do not know how severely he judged them or what provoked his remarks.

We are told that the thirteen surviving letters exchanged between Leon and Emmanuel were harsh and angry, but from this emotional correspondence we see a total of two words and two sentences. One can well believe that Leons first wife, Estherina, was moody during an unstable decade in which she was plagued with poor health and deteriorating eyesight, but Stein doesnt share her source for Estherinas state of mind. We are assured that Rachel was treasured by her family, but Stein quotes only the briefest of formulaic snippets (a true mother, my much loved wife) from what presumably were warm testimonies.

Toward the end of the book Stein poses a question: What, if anything, ties [these people] together? She is here referring to Saadis great-great-great-grandchildren, some of whom were raised as Christians, none of whom speak Ladino, and almost all of whom were ignorant of their family history and of one anothers existence until Stein contacted them. But the same question might be asked of the Levy clan at almost any point in their pastor indeed of the Jewish people at any point in theirs. Family Papers provides no easy answers. As with any family, love and a sense of connection coexisted among the Levys with alienation, indifference, and silence. Long periods went by during which siblings and cousins of the same generation neither wrote nor spoke to one another. Sam and his wife cut off contact with their daughter upon her marriage, disapproving of the husband she had chosen. For years the young daughter of Vital, the brutal cousin whose violent nature made him a willing and useful servant of the Nazis, languished unhappily in a Catholic boarding school, largely neglected by a family that preferred to forget her existence.

Such family tensions and ruptures are intimate examples of larger divisions within European Jewish communities. Sams son Jacques, the sole Levy to survive deportation to a Nazi camp, hailed sublime Jewish solidarity when he was helped by a Jewish Soviet officer. But as Saadis and Daouts clashes with rabbinical authorities and Zionists alike testify (and as Stein notes of Saadis living descendants, who practice very differing forms of Judaism or do not practice at all), Jewishness can mean different things to different people. European Jewry encompassed many ethnicities, languages, and practices. The decades before World War II contained lively, sometimes fierce, debates between secular and observant Jews; members of Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities; Zionists, socialists, and capitalists.

Jewish solidarity was not inevitably on display even after the war, when one might think shared suffering would transcend other differences. Survivors who had been interned in Bergen-Belsen, considered a favored destination, were shunned by those who had endured Auschwitz, or who had spent the war in hiding. The same treatment or worse was meted out to relatives of suspected collaborators. Israel and Zionism, so often held up as central pillars of modern Jewish identity, were of little importance in the Levy familys consciousness.

The story of the Levy clan suggests that identity, connection, and survival, whether of a family or of a people, is to a considerable extent a matter of contingency, and even luck. It would be bracing to be able to discern a pattern in this journey. One might be tempted, for example, to prescribe as an antidote to intolerance a multiethnic or multicultural state along the lines of the Ottoman Empire. But the same empire that provided such a welcoming haven to Jews was responsible for the Armenian genocide. No easy patterns determined the fate of individual Levys either. Jews tend to feel safer in liberal democracies, but Leons family fared better under a dizzying succession of coups, military dictatorships, and regime changes than their relatives who sought refuge in the City of Lights. Life or death depended upon the mood of a Portuguese official issuing passports, or upon whether an in-law set up shop in England or Brazil rather than France.

Family ties were reduced to a thread. Had Leon not been determined to assuage his loneliness by keeping in touch with the relatives he left behind, and then to track them down after the end of World War II, Saadis surviving offspring might never have found one another or reunited. And had he not decided to collect and preserve all those letters, Family Papers could not have been written. We can be grateful that he did, and that it was. But we also remain painfully aware of all the blank pages in the family history.

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Life, Death, and the Levys | by Sara Lipton - The New York Review of Books

The return: "A Long Journey" explores the legacy of the Conversos – Santa Fe New Mexican

Posted By on November 15, 2020

On Dec. 8, 1596, Luis de Carvjal the Younger, his mother, Doa Francisca, and his sisters Leonor, Isabel, and Catalina, were burned at the stake in Mexico City after being tried in court by the Inquisition. Their crime was practicing Judaism in secret. This was no small matter. De Carvajals uncle, who was known as el Conquistador, was the governor of the New Kingdom of Len, in northern Mexico. They were a family of Conversos, Jews who took great pains to hide their true heritage and religious convictions from the authorities, presenting themselves as practicing Catholics. But, in private, they remained faithful to Judaism.

In a new documentary feature, A Long Journey: The Hidden Jews of the Southwest, genealogist Dennis Maes says that a good 80 percent of the genealogies hes done for Hispanic families in New Mexico can be traced back to de Carvajal. Some of those who rediscover their Ashkenazi (Eastern European-Jewish) and Sephardic (Spanish-Jewish) heritage have returned to the faith of their ancestors, facing the condemnation of their Catholic communities and families. They do so as a matter of conviction. If their ancestors could endure the trials of the Inquisition, which included torture, and persist in their beliefs, they could honor that legacy by converting. This is their story.

We always have very essentialist ways of looking at heritage, says Long Journey director Isaac Artenstein. Youre Mexican, youre Jewish, youre Catholic, youre American. But the fact is, were all a product of hybrid cultures, hybrid ethnicities.

Artensteins film premieres on New Mexico PBS (channel 5.1) at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 19, and repeats at 1 p.m. on Nov. 22. The Thursday premiere is a bi-national simulcast, which also airs in Mexico City on Canal 22.

A Long Journey is a fascinating look at a little-known but significant part of the history of Jewish heritage in North America and its legacy, which, for some, is only now coming to light. For the San Diego-based filmmaker, who grew up in Tijuana, Mexico, its a story thats close to his heart.

My father was born in Sonora, in northern Mexico, he says. My grandparents on my fathers side came from Poland. They couldnt get into the United States because of immigration quotas in the 1920s. On my mothers side, there are Sephardic Jews from Turkey. When they met, the border town of Tijuana was really booming. It was right after World War II. There was a lot of opportunity. It drew a lot of Jewish immigrants and immigrants from all over Mexico. My dad had a curio shop on the main drag in Tijuana. There was a small community that I grew up in, and we had our Jewish community center. So I have the Sephardic and the Ashkenazi but, at the same time, a very vivid Mexican culture that really influenced and defines me in many ways.

Tracing the story of the Conversos spread throughout the Southwest was a massive undertaking that took Artensteins production team to four states in Mexico and four U.S. states, including Texas and New Mexico. We meet Blanca Carrasco, a native of El Paso, Texas, who traced her genealogy back to Converso families who had settled the Mexican city of Monterrey. We meet her rabbi, Stephen Leon of BNai Zion congregation, and accompany him across the border to Ciudad Juarez, where he meets with Jewish families who have no synagogue. What struck him about these Mexican families, he says, is their passion for learning about the Jewish faith. In lieu of a formal gathering place, they meet at a congregants home to observe their rites.

Closer to home, Artenstein interviews Tim Herrera, a formerly Catholic rancher who was moved to embrace Judaism after discovering his Sephardic ancestry. Once he and his family began openly practicing their newfound faith, they experienced pushback from their community. That felt lonely in the midst of all these people I grew up with, he says. But, now, this is who we are.

Tim Herrera and Rabbi Jordi Gendra

Not all Hispanics who find that bloodlines connect to the Conversos return to the Jewish faith, however. Charlie Carrillo, a prominent santero (saint maker) in Northern New Mexico, is content to remain a practicing Catholic and a Penitente. However, he honors his Converso heritage through his art.

We drove up to his home and studio in Abiqui, Artenstein says. It was around Easter, and he was getting ready to prepare the morada for the Penitentes. At the same time, he was packaging a set of retablos with Jewish themes for a collector in New York.

Carrillo took the film crew to Santa Fes Santa Maria de la Paz parish, where the chapel houses an altar screen, made by the artist. In the film, he describes the altar screen as one of the most important pieces hes ever done. Created in the Spanish Colonial style, it depicts moments in the lives of Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. One panel shows Joseph and Mary joining their hands in unity before a high priest, who wears a breastplate adorned with 12 stones representing the 12 tribes of Israel. Once again, its our ancestral connection to the Jewish people, Carrillo says.

He has such clarity about that hybridity, Artenstein says of Carrillo. Even though he embraces his Sephardic background, he feels comfortable staying Catholic as a devotional artist in that santero tradition. He talks about la raza csmica [the cosmic race], which is something that Chicano and Mexican American culture really embraces. As Latin Americans, we really are a product of practically every continent. Theres the African, the European, the Indian, the Asian. Charlie is really focused on that background as an artist.

A recent piece by Carrillo, a retablo made specifically for the film, depicts Luis de Carvajal the Younger chained inside his prison cell, his head downcast, a quill and writing papers on the table beside him.

Charlie Carrillo, Luis de Carvajal the Younger inside the Inquisition Jail, retablo

Luis de Carvajals experiences, and the tragedies he endured because of his faith and his religious beliefs and his conviction to Judaism as his religious identity, really resonate with me, says interview subject Bill Carvajal, president of the Anusim Center in El Paso and a descendent of Luis de Carvajal. I think it makes my Judaism much stronger because it tells me that if someone was willing in our family to give up their lives and be burned at the stake, but they were willing to preserve that at all costs, then its important to our family.

The fate of Luis de Carvajal was contemporaneous with another: that of the conquistador Juan de Oate and his 1595 expedition into what was then unknown lands (present-day New Mexico), which were annexed into the New Kingdom of Len. The route he followed was El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (The Inland Royal Road) from Mexico City, which also passed through what is now El Paso. Accompanying Oate were the Conversos.

Oate was calling for colonialists to go north and settle New Mexico, Artenstein says. [Author and historian] Ron Harts theory and it makes sense when you look at the genealogies of Northern New Mexicans is that a lot of Converso families in Mexico probably thought, if the governors family cant be protected, what about us? Ive interviewed a lot of Converso Jews that descended from families that came up with Oate.

Hart, whos done extensive research into Converso Jews, as well as collaborative work with historian Sara Koplik, director of community outreach for Jewish Federation of New Mexico, wrote a companion book to the documentary: Crypto-Jews: The Long Journey (Gaon Web, 252 pages, $29.95).

Hart describes how the mountains of Northern New Mexico became a refuge for Conversos. But escaping the Inquisition wasnt really an option. Those Converso families who helped settle New Mexico were forced to keep their Jewish identity secret.

When we think of the Inquisition we do not think of Mexico or the United States. We think of Spain.

In Mexico, the office of the Inquisition was a very powerful political entity, says ethnohistorian Frances Levine, president of the Missouri Historical Society and Museum in St. Louis and former director of the New Mexico History Museum. It also extended north to New Mexico. The Inquisition was a lot about sustaining conformity in the colonies that were so distant from royal control. There had to be something that sustained authority in a place where lots of aspects of the monarchy were being questioned.

The Alhambra Decree, or Edict of Expulsion, signed by Catholic monarchs in 1492, extended beyond Spains borders to the provinces and territories under Spanish control in the New World. We learn this silly rhyme, In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, Levine says. But we dont learn the rest of that story, and thats when Jews were expelled from Spain. When I read the Writ of Expulsion, I understood the terror of the Inquisition. That terror spread all over the world. It was not confined to Spain. That document really began a worldwide diaspora.

And on the heals of the diaspora, came the Inquisition.

The pueblos had their own brush with the Inquisition, Levine says. It was not just a search for Jews. It was a search for nonconformity. There were prohibitions of all kinds of things, including sexual practices.

Mexico Citys Palace of the Inquisition still stands. And few who were sent to its jails ever returned. When the Jews come to Mexico City, there are some attempts to practice secretly, Artenstein says. They felt a little bit safer in the beginning. But Mexico City, being the capital of New Spain, the Inquisition came down in a big way. We did drone shots of the Palace. Ironically enough, it eventually became a medical school, then a museum of medicine, of healing. This use of drones that all of us filmmakers are doing now, it just gives you this opportunity to look at natural landscapes as a large canvas where all these individual stories take place.

Artensteins drone shots of Mexico and the Southwest also indicate another kind of landscape: a cultural one that transcends national borders. As a border filmmaker, which is what I call myself, its deeply philosophical. Weve had all these years of building the wall. I can probably say that this film, the work that I do, is about building bridges, not walls.

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The return: "A Long Journey" explores the legacy of the Conversos - Santa Fe New Mexican

Pioneers: Remembering the First Jews in America – The Media Line

Posted By on November 15, 2020

Thursday, November 19, 2020, 2 to 3 pm Eastern Standard Time (UTC-5)

Register here.

Jews immigrated to North America in the earliest days of the colonial era, long before American independence and before the great waves of immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries. These early Jewish settlers represented a wide diversity of backgrounds and experiences, and the rich communities they formed together in New York, Rhode Island, Georgia, and elsewhere became the foundation for close to 370 years of American Jewish life.

Join the Museum, American Friends of Beit Hatfutsot, and the Jewish Heritage Alliance for this special Thanksgiving program exploring the lives and communities of the earliest American Jews.

The program will feature:

Andre Aelion Brooks, award-winning journalist and biographer of Doa Gracia Nasi;

Jane S. Gerber, the founder and director of the Institute for Sephardic Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York;

Joseph Lovett, notable filmmaker and Children of the Inquisition director; and

Jonathan Sarna, the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History and Director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University.

Program attendees will receive a link to At the Crossroads of Sefarad: In the Footsteps of the Crypto-Jews, a digital exhibit created by The Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot in partnership with the Jewish Heritage Alliance which explores the long history of the Jews in the Iberian Peninsula.

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Pioneers: Remembering the First Jews in America - The Media Line

Valley of Tears Is Historical Fiction for Todays Grim Reality – Vulture

Posted By on November 15, 2020

Aviv Alushas Yoav Mazuz andShahar Tavochas Avinoam Shapira in Valley of Tears. Photo: VERED ADIR / HBO MAX

For a little more than six years, there was a widespread belief in Israel that the country had found something resembling peace. A brief, preemptive, deliriously successful war in 1967 resulted in a massive expansion of the territory controlled by the Israeli military and, so the thinking went, a significantly improved range of options for self-defense. The armies of neighboring Arab nations, hostile toward Israels presence in the Holy Land since the country was founded in 1948, had been humiliatingly defeated. A free-floating notion in Israeli culture and politics took hold, one that came to be known, simply, as the conceptzia the conception. It held that Israel had become strong and daring enough that its foes would never beat it, perhaps not even try to do so. It was a self-image born of lethal force. And it was a self-image that died of it.

Valley of Tears, a new television series that premiered in Israel a few weeks ago and launches in the U.S. on HBO Max today, begins in the conceptzias final moments of life. We are dropped into 1973 and shown a montage of triumphant archival footage: streaking jet planes and lumbering tanks propelling themselves forward at celebrations of Israels 25th birthday, glistening Israelis building homes in the cities and growing grapes in the orchards, winsome pop singer Ilanit belting out her countrys debut entry in the Eurovision Song Contest, and so on. Contemporaneous news footage shows the smiles of Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, defense minister Moshe Dayan, and military chief of staff David Elazar as they assure the public that all is well. Well fight the battle, the stubborn Meir says in her Yiddish-inflected Hebrew, and win again.

But entropy is typically the true winner after moments of foolish pride. The show offers up a half hour of scene-setting in which Israeli Jewish characters of many stripes religious, secular, old, young, soldier, civilian, white, nonwhite prepare for and enter the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are technically on guard, but understaffed and distracted due to the holiday. So when Egyptian and Syrian forces launch a surprise attack, everyones on their back foot. Chaos ensues. The conceptzia is shattered beyond repair, never to fully return.

As it turned out historically, Israel regained the upper hand and technically won the conflict in just a little over two weeks. But it was a Pyrrhic victory: There were somewhere around 10,000 Israeli casualties, making up roughly .27 percent of the countrys population (for comparison, that percentage in the U.S. today would add up to more than a quarter million people). As such, its hard to overstate the wars impact on the country. The first air-raid siren meant the first Israel had died and a second Israel was born, says Valley of Tearss co-creator, writer Ron Leshem. Everything changed at one point in 1973. It was a different country. And when it ended, it was the most awful trauma.

He pauses for a beat, then adds, An unnecessary trauma.

History has a nasty habit of rhyming in the most tragic way, and such a rhyme has been glaringly obvious in the timing of the series release. A different kind of self-conception had emerged in Israel during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, when it appeared that the populace was handling the disease relatively well, thanks to the technological superiority, can-do mass mobilization, and sense of collective purpose that they have prided themselves on. However, recent weeks have brought a devastating second wave of infections and subsequent massive protests that are bringing the government and the governed to their knees. Valley of Tears, filmed before the disease emerged on the world stage, has inadvertently been launched against the backdrop of a new fatal failure of leadership, giving the series an unsettling significance for Israelis and, its creators hope, a similar one for Americans.

The show which took its two co-creators, Leshem and writing partner Amit Cohen, a decade to make into a reality is a daring gambit insofar as it depicts one of Israels psychological third rails. The 1973 war, known to Jews as the Yom Kippur War and to Arabs as the October War or Ramadan War (to add to its tragic significance, it also took place during the Muslim holy month), was a defining moment in the history of the Jewish state and, indeed, the entire Middle East. But Israels filmmakers have produced precious little work about it. A well-regarded, impressionistic meditation on the war, Amos Gitais Kippur, was released in 2000, and thats about it. For us, in a way, its our Vietnam War, but nobodys making movies on it, says Valley of Tears director Yaron Zilberman. It shows you that its very hard for people to touch the story.

Given all that, the team of creators feel they have a higher threshold of quality to reach in order to justify touching the topic. We wanted Israelis to ask themselves at the end of the show, did they become better? says Leshem. Did events change us for the better? Are we better people after this war? I dont know. Everyone will judge. As with all the best historical fiction, its only partially about history at all, Leshem thinks: We really wanted it to, through the story of 1973, talk about us in the present, he says.

And what of the audience in the U.S.? The show is making a play for such viewers in a rare way for an Israeli TV series, in that its a big-budget project released here at almost exactly the same time as it is there. Its just the latest step in a growing market for Israeli TV in America, exemplified by adaptations such as Homeland and Euphoria (the Israeli version of which was created by Leshem, in fact) and direct exports like Fauda and Our Boys. The Valley of Tears creative team have their theories about how the Israeli Wave came to be: Co-creator Cohen says the shows have dynamite core premises because Israeli TV budgets are so low that you cant shine up a turd with fancy bells and whistles; Leshem thinks it has to do with intense international hustling on the part of Israeli creators, who know the Israeli market is too small to offer much of a payoff.

Whatever the case, the show is a major opportunity to reach Americans who know little to nothing about the 1973 war. Its creators want to use their platform to play with universal themes of war, trauma, and national upheaval without being didactic. They also want to delicately pull at the knotted moral quandaries of the bloodshed between the Jewish state and the Arabs that live both within and near it. If they play their cards right, they hope, Americans will gain a new perspective on that clash. We dont want to say, Okay, this is a history lesson, says Cohen. I really hope that [Americans] will watch it the same way as Gomorrah or Babylon Berlin. You look at a period in time, you look at a different society that you didnt know about, and you learn about it not in the way of whos right or whos wrong or to push them toward a specific direction in the Israeli-Arab conflict.

We really wanted it to, through the story of 1973, talk about us in the present, says Valley of Tears co-creator Ron Leshem. Photo: VERED ADIR / HBO MAX

Its a tough balance to strike, and one that at least in the episodes released to media pre-premiere relies greatly on a single scene in the fourth episode where a Jew and an Arab abruptly find themselves conversing. Without spoiling the scene, which is indelible and surprising, suffice it to say it feels like nothing else in the show for better and for worse. For the vast majority of the series, Arabs are spoken of and depicted as little more than killing machines with unexplored motivations. The action takes place almost entirely in the Golan Heights, a region to the northeast of Israel proper, to which the country had no prior claim other than having taken it from Syria in the 1967 war. (Leshem says, if there are future seasons, theyll be set during the same war but in other geographic locations.) One can make a pretty compelling argument for Syrian revanchism, but Valley of Tears doesnt seem interested in exploring it.

If the show marginalizes Arabs from neighboring countries, it entirely ignores the Palestinian Arabs who live under Jewish rule. That means no airtime for Palestinians in the territories Israel has militarily occupied in defiance of international law since 1967 who undergo daily human-rights abuses and lack all political self-determination; nor for the Palestinian citizens of Israel proper, who account for roughly 21 percent of Israels population and are regarded with racist disdain by much of the countrys people, leadership, and legal system.

As such, few, if any, Palestinians are interested in watching a show that valorizes the bravery of Jewish soldiers. They dont want to contribute to it financially or put themselves through the mental anguish of watching it, says Palestinian Israeli commentator Amjad Iraqi, who is an editor at the left-leaning online magazine +972. These Israeli shows are coming from very particular places that dont accurately reflect realities on the ground. They dont interpret the conflict in a way that centers the biggest victims of the entire place. The boom in Israeli television exports is, for Palestinians, a bust, says Iraqi: As he puts it, To see these shows being praised and getting this massive attention and seeing [Jewish] Israeli voices be super-amplified to the international community and international watchers, its a really difficult thing to see.

Be that as it may, the show does tackle another form of prejudice, which is discrimination against Sephardim, Jews whose proximate origins lie in the Middle East and North Africa. Often darker-skinned and occupying lower economic strata, such Jews were (and, to a great extent, still are) greatly abused in Israel by the light-skinned Ashkenazim, Jews from Europe. A trio of major characters in the ensemble are Sephardim, all of them involved in a controversial radical group that was ascendant in the 70s and called itself HaPanterim HaShkhorim, which literally translates to the Black Panthers a very deliberate homage to the Black American faction of the same name. These Sephardic characters find themselves caught between their dueling instincts to defend their country and to burn it down.

Dealing with the Black Panthers was a way to show how the war changed Israel, says Cohen. And that change was not necessarily for the better, in the creators eyes. Without getting too far into the weeds of identity politics in Israel, its fair to say the abuse that the Sephardim suffered in the countrys first three decades of existence, when left-leaning Ashkenazi politicians regarded them as a political nonentity, led to a deep-seated resentment that rightist Ashkenazim figured out how to harness in the late 70s to major political effect. Today, in a situation that looks off-kilter to an American but makes all the sense in the world to an Israeli, nonwhite Jews tend to vote for the right wing, even today. If the Sephardim had been embraced by the likes of Golda Meir, perhaps the history of the country would have been very different. But in reality, the prejudice held by her and her ilk was just another form of fateful hubris, one which inadvertently helped create the phase-two Israel the show aims to ask such wrenching questions about.

So, what is that second Israel that the war birthed? In the eyes of Valley of Tearss creators, it is one in which the population became so disillusioned with the architects and leaders of the country that they gave up on pursuing national unity. The Yom Kippur War fractured the Israeli society, says Cohen. It symbolized the shift from a unified society, a society that feels its more important than the individual, to a different society, where the individual is almost sacred. You call it being selfish, perhaps, but its about looking at yourself first and not your country. There is still an Israeli national idea that everyone is in it together, in no small part due to the constant threat of horrific conflict. But, listening to the shows creators, one wonders whether the 1973 war and its aftermath turned that unifying idea into little more than a myth.

And now, just as the show airs, perhaps a third Israel is being born, thanks to the novel coronavirus. What that Israel will look like is in the hands of every Israeli. Valley of Tears challenges its viewers to see themselves through its relentless focus on how individuals react to a cataclysm. No person or nation survives a war unchanged, and thats all the more true when the wars origins lie in the idiocy of one conceptzia or another. Now, for the first time in history, Americans and Israelis are fighting the same enemy: the plague that is ravaging our planet. Both countries societies simply werent ready for this war, and it remains to be seen what will be built upon the ruins. Will there be greater equality and cohesion? Or will the cynicism and division generate something even more awful than what we see today?

Leshem isnt sure, but he hopes against hope that people in Israel and the U.S. at least ask themselves that question as they watch the show. Its not a historical piece, he says. This is something that is relevant for now. And even for next year.

Correction: an earlier version of this article misstated the percentage of the Israeli casualties in relation to population. It has been updated.

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Valley of Tears Is Historical Fiction for Todays Grim Reality - Vulture

Smithsonian Associates Kicks Off the Holiday Season With Virtual Programs – The Southern Maryland Chronicle

Posted By on November 15, 2020

Smithsonian Associates Streaming offers plenty of ways for people to celebrate the holidays from the comfort of their own homes. Individual programs offer insights into holiday traditions, studio arts workshops add a touch of nature to participants holiday dcor and a guided wine tasting unlocks an award-winning sommeliers secrets to perfect seasonal food and wine pairings.

Programs include:

Non-Traditional Holiday Ornaments

Saturday, Nov. 14; 1:30 p.m. ET

Using mini-canvases as the base and adding decorative embellishments, photos and other personal mementos, participants create small hanging artworks that can be individualized to fit any occasion for giving.

Perfect Food and Wine Pairings (With a Holiday Twist):

Friday, Nov. 20; 6 p.m. ET

The holidays are meant to be filled with friends, family, cheer and great meals. So why stress over the right wines to pair with the seasons traditional foods? Participants can sip along at home with sommelier Erik Segelbaum in a guided tasting of the perfect wines to accompany holiday menus.

Natural Milkweed Floss Ornament

Sunday, Dec. 6; 1 p.m. ET

Participants learn to transform a milkweed pod and its floss into a whimsical nesting swan using both wet and needle-felting techniques that will add a touch of nature to their holiday dcor.

Orchids for the Holidays

Sunday, Dec. 6; 2 p.m. ET

Participants can take a break from the stress of the season to enjoy an entertaining and informative afternoon with an orchid expert and learn how to make an elegant orchid centerpiece. A supply list is provided in advance that gives ideas for orchid genera, containers and decorations.

Moroccan and Sephardic Cuisine

Sunday, Dec. 6; 3 p.m. ET

Chef Danielle Renov, a Moroccan Jew born in New York and at home in Israel, shares the cultures and traditions that inform her recipes in a lively conversation with cookbook author and Jewish cuisine maven Joan Nathan.Renov also suggests several recipes, including festive Hanukkah ideas from her new cookbook,Peas, Love & Carrots(Mesorah Publications Ltd.).

Holidays at the White House

Sunday, Dec. 13; 10 a.m. ET

Historian Coleen Christian Burke highlights how first ladies have left their mark on White House Christmas celebrations, illuminating first ladies holiday themes, which while personal, have at times reflected events beyond 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

First Ladies Crafting Traditions: The Art of Decorating at the White House

Sunday, Dec. 13; 1 p.m.

Inspired by the first lady crafting tradition, participants create a holiday ornament for their house: Michelle Obamas meaningful hanging envelope.

The Nativity in Art: Centuries of Storytelling

Wednesday, Dec. 16; noon ET

Generations of painters have been inspired to capture the momentand intense spiritualityof Christs birth. Art historian Elaine Ruffolo examines how the artistic evolution of the Nativity reflects developments in European art, from the earliest known image in a second-century catacomb through 17th-century presentations of the Holy Family in dramatic Baroque style.

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Smithsonian Associates Kicks Off the Holiday Season With Virtual Programs - The Southern Maryland Chronicle

Readers Write: GN must combat Covid spike – Opinions – The Island Now

Posted By on November 15, 2020

I make no claim about Covid morbidity or recovery rates. I also believe it difficult to assess whether recent Halloween parties, weddings, college students, travelers, political rallies are the cause. Likely, they all play a part. In any case, what is done is done. Nevertheless it is incontrovertible that local Covid numbers are rising.

Readers may track them here:https://covidhotspotlookup.health.ny.gov/#/home

I write simply because readers need to internalize that if local Covid cases continue to rise, local schools, public and private, will be forced to close.

Hundreds of people, including me, worked for months to effectuate a workable, safe schools re-opening plan. We endured the consternation and projected anxieties of many parents, staff and residents. Personally, I endured it because of my fervent belief that every day students can have in-person experiences is a triumph after last springs devastating closures.

Of course, we also ensured masking, distancing, and a full-remote option for all the families who preferred it.

If the recent spike does not get under control, local schools both public and private will be forced to pivot to remote only. Families and businesses will suffer more emotionally and financially.

For goodness sake, please continue to mask, to distance and to keep children home under observation if they have not masked and distanced!

Rebecca Sassouni

Great Neck Public Schools

Alternate Vice President

SHAI, Sephardic Heritage Alliance, Inc.

President

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Readers Write: GN must combat Covid spike - Opinions - The Island Now

Armed guards providing protection for synagogues | This Is Local London – This is Local London

Posted By on November 15, 2020

Since the awful ascent of anti-Semitic views into the mainstream, the armed security at my local synagogue has taken on a terrifying new significance. At every entrance, two guards each carry a rifle across their armour-clad chests, and stand at the side of the doors. This has been the case for as long as I can remember. But only recently has it begun to instill me with fear.

The West London Synagogue of British Jews (WLS) is a Reform Judaism synagogue established in 1840, and is one of the largest in London. It has always, in keeping with Judaism, served the local community, no matter their race or religion. It supports many homeless people in the area, and refugees of all races and religions economically and spiritually. However, it has come under increasing threat from hate groups that once existed on the violent fringes of society but, because of disinformation and polarisation, have spread its tendrils into even the upper echelons of politics.

I have attended WLS from birth. I currently volunteer for schemes which aim to feed and clothe the impoverished who want to attend. It is ironic that, in order to enter a building established with altruism and love, I need to walk past two armed guards at each gate, and then only enter once the door locks behind me and I am buzzed through by more security. Such a presence insults and poisons our hard-won freedom of religion in general, and my Jewish faith in particular.

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Armed guards providing protection for synagogues | This Is Local London - This is Local London

Staying Apart, But Praying Together – The New York Times

Posted By on November 15, 2020

Emilio Artea, the beloved longtime deacon at St. Agathas, a Roman Catholic church in Brooklyn, died from Covid-19 on Good Friday this year. It was not until 10 days later that just a handful of priests and nuns were able to mark the occasion by reciting a single prayer over his casket, in the middle of 49th Street.

It was so painful, said Rev. Vincentius Do, the churchs pastor. They brought the hearse in front of the church, we came out, said a prayer, sprinkled holy water and off he went.

Like many other houses of worship in New York, St. Agathas has reopened, with clergy and congregants a bit battered. Theyve adapted their centuries-old traditions in order to worship safely.

Religious services were shut down by the state at the end of March and werent allowed to resume until June. Since reopening, churches, synagogues and mosques throughout the city have mandated masks, limited the number of people in each service, employed strict cleaning regimens and abbreviated the length of services.

Those efforts, however, may no longer be enough. As the infection rate in the city rises, new restrictions may soon be put in place.

At St. Agathas, parishioners recite prayers by memory because all the prayer books Spanish, English and Mandarin have been removed from the pews. There are no processions or recessions, and during Holy Communion priests do not serve sacramental wine. Congregants no longer hold hands during the Lords Prayer or greet each other during the Exchange of Peace.

St. Agathas had to close again after the March shutdown, on Oct. 9. The governor placed it in a red zone because of an increase in coronavirus cases in nearby neighborhoods although there had been only one known case in the parish in the previous month. The building was allowed to reopen two weeks later.

It has been like riding a roller-coaster with a blindfold on, said Father Do.

The congregants of this predominately Latino parish struggled at times to get used to the openings and closings and safety measures, said Father Do, but the church has been able to provide its members solace and support.

At least for now. As the infection rate climbs in the city, the churchs members fear more restrictions and closings are still to come.

This modern Orthodox synagogue didnt wait for the state they closed down a week before the March shutdown went into effect, and didnt restart services until August.

In Judaism, the preservation of life is of the highest priority, and that has to come before all other considerations, said Rabbi Yosie Levine, who has served at the synagogue since 2004.

The sanctuary at The Jewish Center accommodates more than 500 people but only 60 are now allowed inside at a time. Attendees must preregister online, answer a coronavirus exposure survey and have their temperature taken at the door.

When weather permits, shortened services are held outside on the rooftop.

While individual prayer is important, Judaism elevates worshiping with others, said Dr. Michael Wolfe, a gastroenterologist who attends the daily morning minyan at the Jewish Center.

I missed the communal aspect of praying together, Dr. Wolfe said. Reopening enabled me to continue the activity that I have been doing every morning for the last 30 years.

Attendance has been limited to 64 people at this Queens mosque, and attendees bring their own prayer rugs that they set up in designated spots, six feet apart.

Since June, the mosque has added extra sessions on Friday of jummah, the most important prayer of the week, so that all who want to can pray in person.

At the door, temperatures are checked and hand sanitizer is dispensed to the congregants, who must also wear masks.

Muslims pray five times a day, and they can do so at home, said Sheikh Akram Kassab, Dar Al-Dawahs imam. Being closed in March was difficult, he said, but safety came first.

In our religion, we have to keep our soul and our body healthy, Sheikh Kassab said. We have to respect the religion and we have to respect our neighbors and keep them safe, whether they are Muslim or not.

Priests wearing white robes, surgical masks and plastic face guards continue to perform services, ceremonies and rituals at the Hindu Temple Society of North America, also known as the Ganesh Temple. Only 30 people are allowed inside at a time, and only for 15 minutes each. At the door they are scanned by a wall-mounted infrared scanner that checks their temperature and whether they are wearing masks.

Worshipers are no longer allowed to touch the shrines of deities, and offerings cannot be directly handed to the priest. Since March, services have been also live-streamed daily.

Though the digital experience is better than nothing, said Dr. Uma Mysorekar, the president of the temple, it is lacking. And the current in-person restrictions while essential for safety are not ideal for worship, she added. But at least people are able to see the deities, have their services done and experience the energy that happens in the temple.

Nineteen members of this Brooklyn megachurch have died from Covid, and hundreds more were infected, including the pastor, Dr. A.R. Bernard, who said he spent a week in the hospital in March with every symptom imaginable.

After a month of quarantining at home, Dr. Bernard returned to work, broadcasting services on YouTube and Facebook that are viewed by tens of thousands of congregants.

Like many other large, predominantly Black churches in New York City, the Christian Cultural Center has not reopened its building since March because of deep concerns for the safety of congregants, Dr. Bernard said.

The virus has hit Black and Latino people in the city particularly hard, with their rate of death twice as high as it is for white people.

We witnessed the inefficiencies and inequities in health care when it came to certain communities, he said.

The church plans to broadcast services through the end of the year, Dr. Bernard said. And, since it first began the giving recorded services, they have evolved into a much better interpretation of our worship experience, he said.

Different parts of the Sunday service are recorded during the week, with four cameras and even sometimes a smoke machine. Instead of a sermon, Dr. Bernard holds a conversation with his son Jamaal Bernard, connecting biblical passages to current events. The edited service is then streamed three times on Sunday and participants can ask questions or comment and exchange greetings in a live chat room.

An additional daily prayer conference call attracts about 1,300 people every morning.

We are still doing community, Dr. Bernard said. Isolation is antithetical to our sense of purpose. The building is closed, but church is open.

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Staying Apart, But Praying Together - The New York Times


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