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Masorti Movement warns JNF move to buy West Bank land may endanger fund – The Times of Israel

Posted By on February 16, 2021

The political arm of the Masorti Movement warned Monday against a proposal under review by the Jewish National Fund on the possibility of moving to purchase Palestinian lands in the West Bank for settlement expansion purposes.

The proposed framework will damage [JNF] legitimacy in Israel and among Jews around the world and may even endanger its very existence, said a statement from the Conservative Jewish organization, calling to adhere to the principle of Zionistconsensus recognizing and respecting different approaches to the actualization of Zionism.

It warned such a decision would impose a structure that reflects and favors the settlement policy of Israels extreme right, an act which is inconsistent with what has been a basic tenet of [JNF] throughout its history.

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And it said it would severely damage Israels foreign relations.

This is not just a KKL policy issue, but a much bigger question about the future of the Zionist Movement. We will continue to insist that the National Institutions, among them KKL, not be taken over by extremists, said Emily Levy-Shochat, who sits on the KKL Board of Directors.

With the statement, Masorti joined the Reform Movement in condemning the plan.

The Jewish National Fund on Sunday held a discussion on the possibility of purchasing Palestinian lands in the West Bank for settlement expansion purposes.

The debate was seen as a major policy change for the century-old organization, though the characterization was rejected by the JNF, which maintained it has long operated in the West Bank.

Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) was considering buying private Palestinian land in Area C of the West Bank, potentially for hundreds of millions of dollars, for the development of existing settlements, the Walla news site first reported Thursday, citing a Hebrew draft resolution it had received.

The Jewish National Fund collects money through donations in boxes that look like this. (Flickr Commons via JTA)

The organization will not construct new settlements, but work in existing ones with education, environmental and other projects, the report said. Land purchases will be conducted only inside the jurisdiction of settlements or next to them.

The proposal cited a previous memorandum that said KKL could operate in all areas under Israels control, including in the West Bank.

KKL (a separate organization from JNF-USA) has until now not officially operated in the West Bank, and has worked through other entities there on some limited projects, said the report, which was also carried in English on the Axios news site.

In the face of criticism KKL said there was nothing new to the plan.

Throughout the years and till this very day, KKL-JNF has been operating in all parts of the land of Israel, including Judea and Samaria [the biblical name for the West Bank]. The preliminary discussion, that took place today revolved around general principals of action, based on a legal opinion that was requested and received during the previous management term, it said Sunday.

At this stage, there is no intention of opening up a new area in Judea and Samaria. Regardless, KKL-JNFs policy remains that every contribution for every project in Israel is confirmed by and coordinated in advance with its donor, in accordance with the laws of the donors country, it said.

A picture taken on October 13, 2020, shows new housing construction in the Nokdim settlement in the West Bank, south of the Palestinian city of Bethlehem. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

Further discussions on the matter will be held before the board of directors votes, it said.

The organizations new global chairman, Avraham Duvdevani, took over in the fall of 2020 and is acting to change the policy. Duvdevani is part of the rights gradual growing influence over Zionist organizations like KKL. The move came in response to a push from pro-settlement lobbyists and the organization tried to keep it low-key, the report said.

Foreign donations will only be used to fund such activity if the transactions are legal in the donating country, the report said.

KKL expanding activities into the West Bank could further complicate Israels ties with US President Joe Bidens administration, which is expected to resume the traditional American stance against settlements. It could also affect the Jewish states ties with the rest of the international community, which views the settlements as illegal.

Asked about the report in a briefing Thursday, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, It is critical to avoid unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and undercut the efforts to achieve a two state solution. This includes annexation, settlement building, demolitions, incitement and payments for terrorists.

KKL, established in 1901 to buy and develop land for Jewish settlement and best known for the hundreds of millions of trees it has planted throughout Israel, serves as the Jewish peoples custodian for some 15 percent of the land in the country, the management of which is carried out by the Israel Lands Authority.

A kind of NGO officially registered as a company for the benefit of the public, KKL works in the fields of forestry, water, education, community development, tourism, and research and development. The World Zionist Organization is its parent body.

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Masorti Movement warns JNF move to buy West Bank land may endanger fund - The Times of Israel

Netanyahu: Kahanist wont be in my government – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on February 16, 2021

Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir will not be a minister in the next government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday, after helping the far-right party repeatedly.

Ben-Gvir is the leader of Otzma Yehudit, established by students of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was banned from running for the Knesset in 1988 due to incitement to racism against Arabs.

Netanyahus statement came a day after he repeated his promise that Nael Zoabi, the first-ever Arab-Muslim candidate in Likud and his personal appointee to the 39th place on the list, would be Minister for Advancement of Arab Society, even if he does not make it into the Knesset.

Earlier Wednesday, Likud signed a surplus-vote sharing agreement with the Religious Zionist Party, which could help Netanyahus party gain seats in the March 23 election.

To get Smotrich to sign the deal, the Likud had to promise that the next government Netanyahu forms would take steps to maintain the land of Israel and strengthen the states Jewish identity. The Religious Zionist Party said the deal would help ensure that a center-left government would not be formed.

Last week, Netanyahu pushed far-right MK Bezalel Smotrich to form a bloc with Otzma Yehudit so that right-wing votes would not fall below the electoral threshold. Otzma had already merged with anti-LGBT party Noam.

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Netanyahu accused those who criticized his help for Otzma Yehudit of hypocrisy in the interview Wednesday.

Its interesting that all those who talk about this arent talking about how Lapids government will be with [Joint List MK] Heba Yazbak and the number-seven in Labor who said she doesnt stand for the siren on Yom HaShoah. Great. That is hypocrisy and no one buys it, he said.

Opposition party heads blasted Netanyahu for agreeing to the deal, singling out Ben-Gvirs support for Kahane.

They also recalled that Ben-Gvir had a picture of Hebron Massacre murderer Baruch Goldstein hanging in his house until recently.

Netanyahu signed a vote sharing agreement with the Baruch Goldstein and Ben-Gvir party, Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid wrote on Twitter. He is trying to obtain immunity for bribery in return for supporting terror.

Blue and White wrote on Twitter that the late Likud leader and prime minister Menachem Begin would be ashamed of Netanyahu, while Kahane would be proud.

Labor leader Merav Michaeli wrote that the deal proved that the choice on Election Day is between continuing the path that led to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and would lead to racism and immunity, or voting for Rabins path and his party.

The prime minister said that if Likud gets enough votes and we will we have a historic opportunity to establish a totally right-wing government, to have our dream governmentFor that, we need one big Likud.

The Likud leader also promised that the next government will not have a rotation agreement.

I think we all had enough from the rotation, Netanyahu said. We need one prime minister.

The outgoing government was formed with an agreement that Defense Minister Benny Gantz would be come prime minister in November, and parity between the Netanyahu-led bloc and the Gantz-led bloc. It lasted less than eight months before another election was called for March.

Surplus-vote sharing agreements, like the one Likud signed with the Religious Zionist Party, enable surplus votes for one party beyond what is needed for a mandate to move to another party and not be wasted. The method in calculating who gets the surplus votes is called the Bader-Ofer Law, after Gahal MK Yohanan Bader and Alignment MK Avraham Ofer the forerunners of the Likud and Labor, respectively who proposed it in 1973.

Yamina head Naftali Bennett and New Hope chairman Gideon Saar signed a surplus-vote sharing agreement between their two parties on January 4. Hours later, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman signed a similar deal. The four parties conspired to make sure the Likud would have no party to sign a deal with that will definitely cross the 3.25% electoral threshold.

Deals were also struck between Labor and Meretz, Shas and United Torah Judaism, and Blue and White with the New Economy Party of former Finance Ministry accountant-general Yaron Zelekha.

Such agreements tend to help the larger party at the expense of the smaller one, but there is a chance it could help Smotrichs party gain another seat. The agreement will come into play only if the Religious Zionist Party crosses the threshold.

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Netanyahu: Kahanist wont be in my government - The Jerusalem Post

Reform threatens KKL-JNF with High Court petition over West Bank purchase – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on February 16, 2021

The Reform Movement in Israel has threatened to file a petition with the High Court of Justice if Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael Jewish National Fund moves ahead with plans to purchase private Palestinian property for settlement construction.KKL-JNFs executive committee approved a proposal on Sunday for such a program after a vote in the body was tied six votes to six.Due to a clause in the coalition agreement in Octobers World Zionist Congress which discounts the vote of a KKL-JNF executive committee member from the center-left, liberal bloc in case of an even vote, the proposal to buy the land was approved.KKL-JNFs directorate now needs to vote to approve the decision, although the organizations chairman Avraham Duvdevani and deputy Shlomo Deri promised during Sundays meeting that no vote would be scheduled before the upcoming national elections on March 23.Director of the Reform Movement in Israel and currently fourth-placed candidate on the Labor Party electoral list Rabbi Gilad Kariv said the proposals threatened the very existence of the so-called National Institutions as well as KKL-JNF itself.The far rights attempt to takeover KKL-JNF is only at its beginning and we are determined to block it via public, political and judicial means, said Kariv, adding that any decision by the KKL-JNF board to approve the plans would be challenged in the High Court.Merkaz Olami, the political arm of the Masorti-Conservative movement in the National Institutions, also spoke out against the plans to buy land in the West Bank, saying similarly it would damage the KKLs legitimacy amongst Jews in the Diaspora who do not support the settlements but are part of KKLs activities and financially support the institution.

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Reform threatens KKL-JNF with High Court petition over West Bank purchase - The Jerusalem Post

Activist Marc Lamont Hill Says Black Lives Matter Supports the ‘Dismantling of the Zionist Project’ – Algemeiner

Posted By on February 16, 2021

Marc Lamont Hill. Photo: Karga Fantasma.

Marc Lamont Hill, an American academic and activist who has previously drawn fire for advocating the eradication of Israel, told a virtual discussion hosted by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) that the Black Lives Matter movement supports the dismantling of the Zionist project.

In 2018, Hill was fired by CNN, where he had been a featured commentator, after he was filmed calling for freeing Palestine from the river to the sea, a pro-Palestinian slogan used as a euphemism for destroying Israel and replacing it with an Arab state. At the time, the Daily Beastreported that network executives had been on alert about Hill thanks in part to coverage by The Algemeiner.

In a clip posted to YouTube, Hill is shown speaking at a panel discussion on Feb 6, held by the DSAs BDS/Palestine Solidarity National Working Group, as well as the National Political Education Committee, the DSA Muslim Caucus, and the Afrosocialists and Socialists of Color Caucus (AFROSOC).

In the video, Hill says, We cant dismantle white supremacy or imperialism section by section and said this applies to Israel as well, referring to it as a settler-colonial movement in Palestine.

February 16, 2021 9:54 am

The description of Israel as a settler-colonial state is a frequent libel used as an attempt to delegitimize Israel and reject its right to exist.

Hill then repeated the long-discredited claim that Israel is responsible for US police violence against minorities, saying, US police are being trained in Israel and some Israeli police are being trained in the United States.

Known as Deadly Exchange, this claim is frequently used by anti-Israel and antisemitic activists, but has been discredited by those involved in US-Israeli police training programs and considered by some to be a blood libel. While such programs do exist, they have focused on managerial strategies and anti-terrorism methods.

Hill expressly accused Israel of teaching the US to commit racist acts of murder, saying that American police dont need to be trained by Israel to kill black people and vice-versa.

All of this, Hill asserted, speaks to a global system that we have to dismantle. As a result, Black Lives Matter, very explicitly, is talking about the dismantling of the Zionist project and very explicitly embracing BDS on those grounds.

Another panelist then tells Hill, That was deep.

According to the video description, also on the panel was top BDS activist Omar Barghouti, who has likewise openly expressed support for annihilating Israel.

Many of Hills comments are considered antisemitic under the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism, which has been adopted by the US State Department and many governments around the world.

The definition states that accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing even for acts committed by non-Jews, denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology are all antisemitic.

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Activist Marc Lamont Hill Says Black Lives Matter Supports the 'Dismantling of the Zionist Project' - Algemeiner

Portugal hero of 1974 revolution shares antisemitic theories on Twitter – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on February 16, 2021

Rodrigo Sousa Castro, captain of the 1974 Portuguese Revolution, wrote on his personal Twitter account on Friday that "the Jews, as they dominate global finance [...] bought and have the vaccines they wanted. It's a kind of historical revenge."

He added, "And I won't say more until the Zionist bulldogs jump."

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The following day, after deleting his previous tweet, Castro posted another subversive statement on the social media, reading, "A post in which I speak of Zionism and its crimes in Palestine was deleted because of the support of the nazi-Zionism legion. Our page it's now sanitized."

"More than condemning antisemitic opinions of influential figures in Portuguese society, it is important to note that the State of Portugal does not prevent or punish the spread of stereotypes which, in the past, caused genocides among the world's Jewish population, and, in the present, call into question the respectability and security of Jews in general and Jewish communities in particular."

"At the same time, [Portugal's Jewish communities] have to ensure, by their own means, the protection of their members, properties, synagogues, museums and cemeteries," it said.

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Portugal hero of 1974 revolution shares antisemitic theories on Twitter - The Jerusalem Post

Iran may be more democratic than the U.S. nowadays – Tehran Times

Posted By on February 16, 2021

Can it be more evident than it now is: that U.S. foreign policy is not for the U.S. or its citizens but for the Zionists.

The Biden Administration is jam-packed with Zionists, more so than when Biden served under Obama as vice president. There is apparently nothing these people wont do for the Zionist entity despite the fact that even Israels leading human rights organization, Btselem, has declared it a full-blown Apartheid state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, and Israel is reviled more than ever worldwide. In some ways, Bidens Zionist focus is worse even than under Trump, who was just primarily seeking supporters to salve his insecurities and boost ego and justify his narcissism.

Biden is a relatively cunning shill for the Zionists. He knows how Washington has worked traditionally (Trump had little clue). He is not at all, as Trump often seemed, an anti-Semite as witnessed through some of Trumps crude statements. Biden clearly has a vision of two huge military powers, the U.S. and Israel, lording it over West Asia and securing mutual interests, the latter of which boils down to one thing: neither the U.S. nor Israel can be attacked in the region without reactive devastation, and both can continue to do as they please.

The Zionist lobby in the West, but especially in the U.S., is beyond gargantuan for power and influence. It can move policy in its favor easily and has long promoted the alleged interests of the greedy Apartheid state against the U.S. And Israel always avoids accountability for whatever it does. Just look at the confirmation hearings of Biden appointees in his administration. Discussions have centered on bashing Russia or China or Iran, and then questions about what appointees have done for the Zionist Apartheid entity. Its almost unbelievable and would be had this chicanery not been going on for decades.

Take for example Bidens appointment of General Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense. Austin may be a lot of things but one thing he is not by accepting the job and mouthing the things he has: hes not bright. His first call in his new job last week was to Israels Benny Gantz, defense minister there. Both Austin and Gantz agreed that that the two countries needed to deal with Iranian aggression. This is quite insane. What aggression? That Iran decimated ISIS in Iraq and parts of Syria by invitation? That it helped reduce other terrorists like al-Qaeda in Syria? That Iran has reasonably good and peaceful relations with Iraq and Syria now? Show anywhere where Iran has been aggressive of destabilizing except very, very occasionally in its own defense. Who by far has been most aggressive in West Asia? The U.S. Who has murdered millions of innocents in West Asia? The U.S. Who had underwritten vast Israeli aggressions in Palestine and Syria? The U.S. Etcetera. Do these points even have to be argued again? They are so evident.

And everyone in the world knows it is not Iran but the U.S. which hasnt lived up to the terms of the JCPOA and the U.S. must first drop sanctions before Iran is obliged to do anything else to return to the full terms of the nuclear deal. Meanwhile, whatever the Biden Administrations says about Iran consists of little more than pure lies and propaganda.

But consider what a longtime Jewish-born legal scholar, teacher, author and former diplomat serving in the UN, Richard Falk, has recently said about Iran. He correctly claims the Islamic Revolution in Iran just over 40 years ago turned Iran into a democracy. There is no question that the Islamic Revolution brought about a drastic transition from the Shahs absolute rule taking the form of an imperial dynasty to the current Islamic constitutional order that has important democratic elements, including the periodic election of the President and members of the Majlis, American professor Falk said.

In addition, Falk recognizes that Iranian democracy is unique in the role it has afforded to Islamic authorities like Ayatollah Khamenei. Iran, Falk maintains, has managed to surmount a range of threats for decades given its social, economic and military advances.

Falk also notes that Iran in recent years has been an effective anti-terrorism force in its operations against ISIS, whom the U.S. has falsely claimed to be trying to eradicate in Iraq and Syria as justification for its continued presence in Arab heartlands. Its clear the U.S. and Israel have little aim but to ensure they have no challengers in West Asia.

Israel is clearly not a democracy. It never has been except exclusively for Jews. Half the people living west of the Jordan River in historic Palestine have no rights at all. Iran may be a more effective, true democracy than even the U.S. is today if you push aside all the blather of the Democrats and Republicans, much of which is absurd and false like all propaganda.

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Iran may be more democratic than the U.S. nowadays - Tehran Times

Guest Opinion: America can heal when it works to become righteous –

Posted By on February 16, 2021

Matthew Greene| Erie Times-News

Calls for unity and reconciliation have gone unanswered in the aftermath of the most contentious presidential election in living memory. What olive branch was extended to supporters of the loser of the 2016 election, some ask. Others counter that the thinly veiled disdain of the victors this time around give lie to the assertion that they are interested in finding common ground.

Both are right. The divisions are too deep, the wounds too painful and the environment too acidic for any reunification of the electorate at a political level.

What ails the U.S. is more than a clash of philosophies of governance, more the traditional battle between political parties in which power swings like a pendulum between the two. It is above all a consequence of the reality that basic human values no longer sufficiently inform our political discourse or social policies.

I am not speaking of the nations founding principles, to which many claim we need to return, nor concerned about reestablishing a commitment to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and property. None of these can be protected without unity on something even more fundamental: agreement on how people should treat one another.

The values at which we nod our heads in agreement at our churches, our synagogues and our mosques seem to remain in the sanctuary as we head out to work Monday morning. Generosity. Empathy. Compassion. Mercy. Self-sacrifice. Forgiveness. All virtues we claim should govern our lives. But in too many cases, we fall short in our thoughts, in our words, in what we have done, and what we have failed to do. Our examinations of conscience seem to be limited to our personal behavior and do not extend to the actions of our communities within society, concerned with the speck in our left eye while ignoring the log in the right.

The Talmud, the Bible and the Quran are filled with instructions on proper social relationships, both within our own community and with outsiders. Not to oppress strangers. To care for the poor and hungry. To treat others as we wish to be treated.

American individualism has created a tension between the deeply ingrained idea of self-sufficiency and the social responsibility we bear toward one another. Views that helping others creates a culture of dependency, that God helps those who help themselves, that the conditions in which we live are primarily due to our own effort and accomplishment all illustrate the conflict that animates our political debate.

We rage against each other with words that lack charity and reflect a lack of openness to true dialogue. We begrudge the successful their wealth and vilify the poor for failing to drag themselves out from under the circumstances of their suffering. When times are easy, we too often clutch tightly to our purses. When they are difficult and we find ourselves in need of assistance, we conveniently forget we failed to extend a helping hand when we had the opportunity. We act as did the unforgiving servant Jesus spoke of in the Book of Matthew, withholding the mercy and charity to others we have ourselves received without deserving it.

We must do what is right simply because it is right.

We must divorce ourselves from the notion that we are the arbiters of others' lives and dispense our love and aid only when we think they deserve it. Nothing in my moral instruction led me to conclude that the rules governing my behavior are limited to my interactions with those like me. What credit is it to you, Jesus said, when you love those who love you? Instead, love your enemies, he said, do good to them and lend to them when asked without expecting anything in return.

The healing of America will occur when we resume the pursuit of doing what is right for its own sake, recognizing that the health of the entire nation is a product of millions of daily acts of righteousness. In this way, we will discover that the problems of a civilization that once seemed so impossible begin to resolve themselves.

When to the hungry man we routinely give something to eat; when we as a matter of habit provide water to the thirsty woman; when we clothe the naked; tend to the sick; visit the prisoner; when we work to empathize with those of different skin colors, religions, sexual orientations and opinions; when we abandon the self-righteous idea that engaging with any of them equals tacit consent of something we may not agree with; when we at last remove ourselves from a throne we have no right to occupy and live strictly by the law of love andleave the moral interrogations and task of reward and punishment to the more qualified; then, and only then, will true unity reemerge.

Matthew Keene, a retired senior foreign service officer, lives in Windsor Township, York County.

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Guest Opinion: America can heal when it works to become righteous -

Angry at discrimination, a rabbi creates a shul, and seminary, serving the Deaf community – Forward

Posted By on February 16, 2021

When he was just 30 days old, Rabbi Douglas Goldhamer suffered a botched radiation treatment for a skin ailment, leaving half his body discolored. Growing up he was often teased and treated differently.

Eventually, Goldhamer found his career calling in the seminary, attending Hebrew Union College in 1967.His experience as an outsider led him to focus his thesis on disability and the rabbinate. Even though he was brought up in Orthodox Judaism, he felt a great affinity towards liberal Judaism, believing in the spirit of the law and translated halachic Judaism spiritually.

I saw so much discrimination was aimed at the Deaf community, more than at the blind or other disabilities, he said. The Talmud says that theres a correlation between deafness and lav bar deah which means lack of mental acuity. Deaf people dont have the intellectual acumen as people who hear, so says the Talmud.

Courtesy of Screenshot/Facebook

Rabbi Douglas Goldhamer leads a guided Kabbalah Mindfullness Meditation

When Goldhamer read about how Deaf people were pushed around by Jewish law and discriminated against, he could relate.

Following his ordination, he heard that a student rabbi in Chicago was working with 22 deaf families but was leaving for Israel. Goldhamer went to Chicago to investigate and started working with them.

I fell in love with the Deaf community and fell out of love with the laws treating the Deaf miserably, he said. Deaf people were not allowed by the Talmud to become a rabbi, become bar mitzvah, or to even read prayers from the bimah.

Courtesy of Sheryl Robinson

An audience watches Cathy Silvern signing

In 1972 Rabbi Goldhamer founded Congregation Bene Shalom in Skokie, Illinois, the first of its kind in the United States to serve the Deaf Jewish community.

After 15 years it became a congregation that also included hearing congregants who, it turns out, reveled in the painted pictures created by ASL. These hearing individuals make up a majority of congregants and cover most temple dues. Due to limited accessibility to jobs, Deaf people often face financial hardships, so the temple relies on support from its hearing congregants.

Goldhamers services, all professionally interpreted in ASL (American Sign Language), are joyous, visually engaging, and celebratory, with plenty of clapping, dancing, and upbeat singing.

In 1992, Goldhamer started the Hebrew Seminary, training hearing and Deaf rabbis to work with the Deaf community and be fluent in ASL. To date, the seminary has graduated 20 rabbis, all but one of whom have found employment. The students have Jewish and Christian teachers.

We dont believe that Judaism is the only religion to which God manifests himself as He did to Moses, Goldhamer said, He manifested himself to Jesus, Buddha felt the holy presence, all these great people have been touched by God, no one better, no one worse. That is the theme of our seminary.

Peggy Bagley, the synagogues executive director since 1993 and Goldhamers wife, said that the seminary is a second-career institution.

Courtesy of Sheryl Silverman

Student rabbis Charlene Brooks and Sari Daybook signing from the bima

We are more flexible because students can come part time while still working a full-time job, she said, pointing out that they have ordained many women in their 30s or older who would be unwelcome in many Jewish seminaries who dont want older women. Of the rabbis teaching at the seminary, Bagley said, we have Reform rabbis, Conservative rabbis, and Orthodox rabbis, something you dont find at other seminaries.

The first woman rabbi ordained in the U.S., Sally Priesand, graduated with Goldhamer from Hebrew Union College in 1972. Following his ordination, as he was building Bene Shalom, the synagogue received unsolicited $5,000 gifts annually for several years. As the first woman rabbi, she had speaking gigs all over the country, so she would send half of what she made to the synagogue, Bagley said. Priesand recognized that, while she was able to break a Jewish barrier, there were additional Jewish barriers yet to break.

Courtesy of Sheryl Robinson

The graduating sign language class led by Sari Daybook.

Goldhamer has a knack for befriending trailblazers. He teaches a Sunday class on Zoom about Jewish and Christian perspectives on the Psalms with his best friend, Associate Reverend Richard Mercer of Tabernacle Missionary Baptist in Evanston. The two preach at each others houses of worship and lead interfaith services together. Following a recent automobile accident, Goldhamer has been re-learning to walk and Mercer comes by daily to help. Recently they have worked to raise money to support the synagogue, which has struggled during the pandemic.

Goldhamer not only painted pictures in the air with ASL, but started to paint actual pictures.

When Bagley, who has a Masters in art history, learned that Goldhamer had never been to a museum, she said Whats wrong with you?! She dragged him to an art museum in 1988 where, like a child seeing a Jackson Pollock, his first reaction was I could do this. He mostly paints on parchment and repurposes actual Torah pages which customarily were set to be buried, breaking with tradition once again. His work, which he describes as expressive, primitive, and mystical has been featured in several galleries.

Courtesy of

Birth of the Baal Shem Tov, painting by Rabbi Doug Goldhamer

In addition to the synagogue, seminary, interfaith work, and painting, Goldhamer teaches Kabbalah and has authored two books, the most recent with Bagley is Healing with Gods Love: Kabbalahs Hidden Secrets. (He is also, in full disclosure, a mentor. In 2000 I reached out to Rabbi Goldhamer with the idea of starting a Deaf film festival in Chicago. He immediately championed the idea and helped me get started in a career in fundraising, accessibility, and the arts.)

Goldhamer is grateful times are changing. Many rabbis now are knocking down the walls of bigotry, he said, Every person whether Deaf, blind, African American, Christian, Jew, should be allowed to sit in any pew in a synagogue.

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Angry at discrimination, a rabbi creates a shul, and seminary, serving the Deaf community - Forward

Comments on: Drinking on Purim (or not)? Read This First – Jewish Journal

Posted By on February 16, 2021

As someone who is Jewish, has family members in addiction recovery and now works for a treatment center for alcoholism and addiction, I wanted to learn more about Purim and the commandment to drink. How serious is this commandment, and what does it mean for the recovery community and their loved ones?

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to learn from Rabbi Dr. Chaim Meyer Tureff, the founder and director of STARS in Los Angeles, which helps individuals struggling with addictive behaviors. He is also the school rabbi for Pressman Academy and a spiritual guide on the Sobermans Estate team, where I work.

Purim is one of the they tried to kill us; we won; lets eat holidays. We learn the Purim story from the Megillah, also known as the Book of Esther, recorded around the fifth century BCE. In short, King Achashverosh of the Persian Empire had a secondhand man, Haman, who initiated a decree to eliminate the Jewish people. Meanwhile, Queen Esthers religious identity was hidden throughout her marriage to Achashverosh, but she realized that courageously revealing her Jewish faith just may save her people. When she told the king she was Jewish and that Hamans plan would result in the demise of herself and her people, the king sentenced Haman to death. Although the king could not annul Hamans original decree, he let Esther and her cousin Mordechai write a new decree of their choice, allowing the Jewish people to fight back and defend themselves.

In remembrance of this salvation, we feast and celebrate different activities specifically from the Megillah. Mordechai charged the Jewish people to observe the 14th and 15th of Adar every year as days of feasting and merrymaking, of sending gifts to one another and the poor (Esther 9:22). The word (feast) can also be translated as drink, drinking, banquet or board. Based on this, in the Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 7b, Rava said: A person is obligated to become intoxicated with wine on Purim until he is so intoxicated that he does not know how to distinguish between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordecai.

This obligation excludes individuals with the disease of addiction, which was recently proven to be 12.7% of American adults. For those who avoid drinking because it can progress their disease or simply because they dont enjoy it this obligation may negatively distract from the core of the holiday, which is, according to Tureff, unity, salvation, connection and giving back, which is why we give gifts to the poor and give gifts to friends and acquaintances; its about showing gratitude.

He continued, The Rambam codified laws for everything. In the Mishneh Torah, hes got a whole section on Purim and Chanukah. He says any holiday that youre celebrating where you are not giving back, that is not a real celebration. If youre only thinking about the food or the fun you will have, rather than what you can give back to others, youre not really celebrating correctly.

How significant is the obligation to drink, anyway? It is debated whether or not drinking is a minhag or a halacha. A minhag is a communal practice or a custom. Minhagim are different than Halacha, which is Jewish law grounded in Torah or later rabbinic rulings. However, all agree that if drinking will make you sick or cause danger, you should not do it.

I would say drinking falls into a strong category, and its codified that we drink, but its not if you dont drink, youre breaking a mitzvah. For example, not eating pork is a commandment; drinking doesnt fall into that category at all. Neither is it one of the four mitzvot that are specific for Purim, Tureff said.

When I go to Purim meals, I dont drink; some people do. Some people will just drink more than they normally do. If theyre not drinkers, they might have a drink; if they normally have a drink, say at a Shabbat meal, theyll have two; some get drunk. Ive been to places where people drink quite a bit. They dont get in a car and drive or anything like that, but they definitely drink a lot. Depending on where youre at, some people encourage you to drink, and some people dont.

Jewish teachings provide contrasting opinions on alcohol consumption. On one hand, there is a Yiddish saying that Jews dont get drunk. Yet another concept is a farbrengen. I remember in Yeshiva they would have farbrengen, which is a Chabad gathering where you learn deep mystical things, and many of the people would do shots of vodka. The idea is sometimes, when we have physical constraints, we dont allow ourselves to hit a certain element spiritually because sometimes spiritual elements are [harder to connect with]. You have to be in a certain frame of mind. Drinking was a way to open up your portal or open up your soul, said Tureff.

Jewish teachings also recognize the risks and consequences of taking alcohol consumption too far. Eighteenth-century codifier R. Abraham ben Yehiel Michal Danzig said it is better not to get drunk on Purim if one knows it will lead to the likeliness of them acting in a lightheaded way or neglecting other mitzvot, such as praying and hand washing. In fact, Megillah 7b states, The Gemara relates that Rabba and Rabbi Zeira prepared a Purim feast with each other, and they became intoxicated to the point that Rabba arose and slaughtered Rabbi Zeira. The next day, when he became sober and realized what he had done, Rabba asked God for mercy and revived him. The next year, Rabba said to Rabbi Zeira: Let the Master come and let us prepare the Purim feast with each other. He said to him: Miracles do not happen each and every hour, and I do not want to undergo that experience again.

Jewish teachings recognize the risks and consequences of taking alcohol consumption too far.

As Jeffrey Spitzer said, a car can be like Rabbas sword, and one cannot count on a miracle. Tureff volunteered as an EMT for Hatzalah, a Jewish volunteer emergency ambulance organization, and remembers materials sent out for Purim reminding people, especially young people, to drink responsibly. Youre supposed to be having this good time and happiness, and then it gets marred by alcohol poisoning or somebody having a drunk driving accident, passing out or worse.

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski (zl), world-renowned addiction expert, doctor and author, said, Experience shows that particularly young people who drink to excess on Purim are likely to engage in shameful and dangerous behaviors. Hatzalah cannot keep up with the calls to take these young men to hospital emergency rooms! Can anyone conceive that this is a mitzvah?

If you are one of the many people choosing not to drink whether based on recovery or personal preference on Purim, you can still celebrate the holiday with full meaning and joy. Here are a few of Tureffs tips to celebrating a sober Purim:

There are a number of shuls in Los Angeles that do not allow alcohol on the premise for Purim and Simchat Torah, another drinking holiday, and value being a model for the communitys young people. There are other synagogues you go to, and when you walk in, you can smell the alcohol, Tureff said. For those not drinking, the latter wouldnt be the one you necessarily should go to. You can hear the Megillah and be part of the festivities, and not put yourself in a situation fraught with danger.

Tureff noted, It can be tough, when you see other people, as recovering addicts, sometimes doing things, things that are legal, and all kinds of people are doing it, you might think why cant I do that? Why put yourself in that situation? You can focus on the wrong thing about the holiday. The holiday doesnt need to be about drinking at all. Like a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, the party is great, but its not the essence of the event.

You can find a synagogue where the spiritual practice lines up with your own spiritual practice, where the essence is about the strength of Purim and not necessarily about how many shots you can do or how drunk you can get, said Tureff.

It depends on where somebody is at in their recovery, but I would always encourage a sober Purim. Theres no reason not to have a sober Purim. There are specific mitzvot for Purim, including giving gifts to the poor, sending gifts to friends or acquaintances, eating the Seudah (Purim feast) and hearing the Megillah reading. These are the four commandments of Purim. Drinking is not included in this category. [Drinking] is like a side dish. Without that side dish, it doesnt mean I cant enjoy the meal, said Tureff.

If youre invited somewhere to a meal, I think its a fair thing to ask [about the alcohol]. Maybe its a Los Angeles thing, but people have no problem when theyre invited to a meal to say if they are vegetarian or gluten-free. Nobodys embarrassed to say that at all, so whats wrong with saying, Thank you so much for inviting me to Purim; Im so excited. I just want to know is there going to be drinking and, if so, what does that look like? Thats advocating for yourself, said Tureff.

I wish you a meaningful, joyful and safe Purim; Chag Sameach!

Hannah Prager is the Community Relations Specialist for Sobermans Estate, and a volunteer for Moishe House. Sobermans Estate is a treatment center for men with alcoholism, substance use disorders and co-occurring issues, and provides kosher food accommodations and rabbinical support. To learn more or for personalized resources, call the Admissions Director at 480-595-2222 or visit

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What I learned from starting a new job during the pandemic – CTech

Posted By on February 16, 2021

Last month I met my team face to face for the first time. Not a very surprising statement coming from a newcomer to an organization. However, in my case, it happened exactly on my 10th month anniversary of joining the company.

For me, starting a new position always meant spending a lot of time in joint breaks and random discussions in the hallways, until I got to know everyone. This usually also included quite a bit of traveling, visiting my remote teams, to personally experience the different sites.

This time I started a new job without ever leaving home, never having a chance to meet even my local team, not to mention visiting other sites.

The Challenges

Humans are social animals. Social distancing helps in controlling the spreading of diseases but it's bad for teamwork. This is especially felt when you are new to the team and trying to build knowledge and relationships from scratch.

Non-verbal communication - To be an effective leader, you have to connect with your people on a personal level, and empathize with them. A lot of this is based on non-verbal cues, which, even over video conferencing, are often lost on the digital medium.

Free flow of information - Development work is creative work. Innovation is associative in nature. A lot of great ideas come up unintentionally by overhearing a technical conversation. A lot of problems are solved at random ad-hoc discussions. All of this is significantly impacted by the fact there is no office and all conversations are planned and pre-scheduled video conferencing calls.

Dont say it cant be done, be adaptive, and find another way to do it - When everything changes, keep your focus on achieving the results and adapt your methods to the new situation. I was lucky to get a team of fighters. We worked closely remotely, got to know each other through the camera, learned with a virtual whiteboard, brainstormed along with network connection problems, pushed changes by communicating through google excels and slides, improved, and showed success.

There is no substitute for visual contact - Audio calls or emails do not fill the gap of not being able to look somebody in the eyes. Video calls are not a perfect replacement to face to face meetings but it is a significant improvement. In this case, the video part really saved me.

Good vibes and a bucket full of energy - Keeping a good atmosphere is especially important in hard times. A mixture of openness, trust, and a sense of humor can help overcome the fact that our only communication is currently, through digital media and make it feel less cold and more real.

A lot of 1:1s - Under normal circumstances, you get to meet your local colleagues on a daily basis, for coffee, lunch, or just walking past them in the hallways. In these times, the only people you meet are those you Zoom with. And so, if you don't set up a meeting with someone, you are not going to talk to them at all.

Business as usual - At Imperva, we kept up the focus - we recruited and built a new R&D site, without ever visiting it, we made a significant acquisition and we kept running at full speed as if there was no pandemic.

We are already entering 2021 and Covid-19 is still not behind us, but hopefully, this is the beginning of the end.

Although I joined at a difficult time, I am very happy with the choices I made along the way.

I have certainly learned a lot from it all: Striving for success despite the challenges, adapting to changes, and keeping a positive energy and a can-do attitude at rough times.

A good runner is someone that knows how to run when he has hurdles in hteir way. When they recognize a hurdle, they quickly calculate a new path. Team - thank you for this run.

Liat Ashkenazi is the Senior Director Of Engineering and Data Security at Imperva

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What I learned from starting a new job during the pandemic - CTech

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