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I Survived the Halle Synagogue Shooting. One Year Later, I Faced My Attacker in Open Court. – Jewish Exponent

Posted By on July 31, 2020

By Rabbi Rebecca Blady

Across the room sat a man, a murderer, who had tried to kill me and 51 others praying in the Halle Synagogue last Yom Kippur. Responding to question after question from the judge, he espoused the most hateful ideology, showing no shame at his open contempt and cruel rhetoric toward Muslims and Jews, people of Arab and Turkish descent, Black people, women even other white people who didnt support his cause.

During the first day of the trial in Berlin for the Halle attacker, an exchange between the judge and the assailant took well over three hours. As a victim of attempted murder by this person, I had been petrified of this moment. It drained me. Yet rather than feel angry, sad or afraid at his awful statements, I sat there feeling relieved and even empowered.

This man displayed in open court that he was exactly who we thought he was. Even in a court of law, he stood by his convictions and his quest to act on them. This person was rendered psychologically fit to stand trial by psychiatrists; his statements were not born of insanity or delusion. This man possesses a worldview that kills people. And he is not alone.

I decided to be a co-plaintiff in this trial in order to play a role in the fight against right-wing extremism, to bring to surface policy issues in need of systemic change and to seek a form of personal justice. I am the granddaughter of four Holocaust survivors. For the two still living in my home state of New York, not to mention the rest of my immediate and extended family, my choice to live in Germany is complicated.

I am here to help strengthen the Jewish community in Germany, focusing primarily on students and young adults through my work with Hillel Germany, using my credentials as a rabbi and organizer. And I am also here in order to be closer to my personal history and to the emotional reality of miraculous existence. In Berlin, one cannot ignore history. Steppinginto a synagogue is an act of counterculture; we are here, persevering, despite the odds. Unlike many of my Jewish peers growing up in New York, this mentality feels natural to me. Here it is a norm.

I had long thought that the concept of miraculous existence would be one I simply inherited from my grandparents. Epigenetically, the trauma would recur in unexpected ways throughout my adolescent and young adult years. Through personal practices like writing and therapy, I worked to put the trauma to bed, to convince my brain and body that it was past truly, the Holocaust is no longer here.

What I experienced in Halle changed that indelibly.

On Oct. 9, 2019, I became a direct victim of anti-Semitic, right-wing nationalist, white-supremacist violence. For the first time in my life, I experienced the feeling of nearly losing my life, my daughters life and the lives of community members I cherished. I experienced the feeling of life-or-death responsibility that comes with choosing to engage in the act of counterculture that is stepping into a synagogue.

But unlike my grandparents, I have the ability to resist. To name his crimes and have them heard in a German court of law. To connect them to the dark history of this country that allowed a spread of this ideology that killed my family. To stand up, as a Jew, as a third-generation-turned-first-generation survivor, and turn that moment of horror into an opportunity to correct countless moments of injustice.

Germany is a nation that has claimed to learn from its errors, and in many ways it has. I believe in the Jewish future in this country. Yet in order for there to be a robust, empowered Jewish future, Germany must express deeper, more concrete forms of solidarity and action. Follow the empowered voices, like that of Anna Staroselski, president of the Jewish Student Union Deutschland (one of our local partners), who said at a solidarity rally on July 21: I was born and grew up here, and yet you are always rubbed in the face with you are other!

Today, a significant part of our work at Hillel and beyond is leading the charge in modeling how as Jews, we can shape our own narrative and beyond that, how we ought to hold our governors accountable to that narrative. Growing up with the sense of needing to hide ones identity, to fear violence from schoolmates, to expect to be treated with prejudice and even violence over ones entire lifetime this is not a safe way to live. Politicians, law enforcement and ministers of justice ought to be asking themselves: How might we uproot this prejudice from the system? How might we show that we are committed to combating anti-Semitism not only in name and in retrospect, but also in the internalized prejudices that lie at its roots?

At the same time, the Jewish story is about more than anti-Semitism, and yes, it is also about more than miraculous existence. Here, and around the world, as a minority Jews are in a sort of maturation process, as we find ourselves with greater privileges than ever before. How might we draw upon our own history in order to build a more just world? How might we apply the clarity weve obtained from our past particularly around such fatal ideology and learn from it in the present, perhaps acting not only for our sake but for the sake of others who are threatened today?

One day in a German court reminded me of the opportunity we have, within the Jewish community and outside of it, to recommit to our moral responsibility in the world.

Let slanderers have no place in the land; let the evil of the lawless man drive him into corrals. I know that the LORD will champion the cause of the poor, the right of the needy. Psalm 140

Rabbi Rebecca Blady is executive director of Hillel Germany and co-founder of Base Berlin, an initiative of Hillel International. This piece first appeared at

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I Survived the Halle Synagogue Shooting. One Year Later, I Faced My Attacker in Open Court. - Jewish Exponent

In Western Europe, a Jewish ‘Community’ is like an expensive members-only club – The Jewish News of Northern California

Posted By on July 31, 2020

In the United States, when Jews say they identify as part of the Jewish community, they are saying they belong to a broad cultural and religious framework. They could be referring to the community of Jews in their city, their state, the country at large or the world and it doesnt necessarily mean that they belong to a synagogue.

In Western Europe, that applies in some situations. In others, however, saying that one is part of a Community (capital C) carries different connotations. Thats because Jewish communities and congregations here are arranged in a system that is radically different than the one in the United States.

The European model is called Kultusgemeinde, German for cultural community. Most major cities have organizations called communities for instance, the Jewish Community of Milan, the Jewish Community of Berlin and so on. Membership usually involves genealogical vetting and an annual fee thats determined by income level. (For instance, belonging to the Jewish Community of Amsterdam, a nonprofit that deals with Jewish Orthodox affairs, on average costs over $600.)

Belonging to the communities comes with several tangible benefits, notably free access to Jewish schools in most countries with sizable Jewish populations. That typically costs American families tens of thousands of dollars.

But there are downsides to the model, too, including a culture of homogenization that leaves little room for religious innovation.

The U.S. equivalent would be belonging to the Jewish Community of Seattle, if that existed, instead of just a synagogue in the Washington city.

The decentralized American model and its Western European antithesis were born out of different historical circumstances and today have advantages and disadvantages that both shape and reflect some key differences of Jewish communal life in those parts of the world. Heres what belonging to a European Jewish Community means.

The Kultusgemeinde model came about in the 19th century in Central Europe because European governments wanted to oversee Jewish communities in an organized way, said SergioDellaPergola, an expert on Jewish demography at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

It ended up being, at times, a pretty effective tool for Jewish communities to pursue their interests through their own elected leadership, he said.

According toDellaPergola, who was born in Trieste, Italy,and raised as a member of the Jewish Community of Milan, the Kultusgemeinde model has allowed Jews to lobby governments effectively on core issues for centuries. It has helped them unite to successfullyfightsome attempts to curtail their religious freedoms; pool their communal resources in order to hire rabbis and other communal services; streamline fundraising; care for their poor; and make powerful political alliances,DellaPergolaand other advocates of the European model said.

Some of the largest today are in places with large Jewish populations, such as Paris, London, Berlin and Amsterdam.

Many Kultusgemeinde communities receive funding from their state or city governments, which tend to allocate those payments according to membership size. Being a state-recognized religious charity means a Community can receive tax-deductible donations. In Hungary and Italy, for example, taxpayers can choose one charity to which the government will transfer 1 percent of the sum it collects as income tax each year.

To become Kultusgemeinde members, applicants are vetted on their Jewishness. For Orthodox communities, applicants need to prove that their mothers are Jewish. In some cases, applicants also need to choose and commit to one synagogue in a given city under the Communitys jurisdiction.

Reform and Masorti congregations also operate on the Kultusgemeinde model in Europe.They are less strict regarding admissions, but they also have a vetting process.

Once in, members have access to communal facilities and services things like a bris or a wedding chuppah cost less for members. Besides schools and synagogues, the communities can include other organizations such as JCCs, libraries, eateries and even individual media outlets. In France, for instance, the Consistoire, an organization set up in the 19th century by local Jews on the request of Napoleon Bonaparte, operates one of the worlds newest and glitziest community centers, the $17 millionEuropean Center of Judaism.

Operating outside the Kultusgemeinde model in relatively small Jewish communities means a huge disadvantage in terms of funding and recognition, said Emile Schrijver, a professor of Jewish book history at the University of Amsterdam and director of the citysJewish Cultural Quarter(a nongovernmental organization that is not a Kultusgemeinde, but serves as the umbrella structure for five Jewish museums and institutions).

The centralized model of organization can reap great benefits.

In the Netherlands and Belgium, Kultusgemeinde organs the Belgian CCOJB and the Central Jewish Organization of the Netherlands have served as legal entities that were necessary to fight proposed national bans on kosher slaughter, which would have dealt a major blow to observant communities. This fight succeeded in the Netherlands in 2012 and is currently being foughtby the Belgian Kultusgemeinde community.

In France, where Napoleon essentially forced the Jews there to form the Kultusgemeinde-like Consistoire, that structure is now disseminating aid to help thousands of French Jews overcome the financial repercussions of the coronavirus crisis.

The central design of the community means there is a clear address, in Frances case, for financial issues, DellaPergola said, noting theFonds Social Juif Unifi, or United Jewish Social Fund, where Jews can get assistance.

The Kultusgemeinde model also means that Western European Jews have chief rabbis who act as a supreme religious authorities and, at times, help give Jews a voice in social debates.In England, for example, Britains current and former chief rabbis (Ephraim Mirvis and Jonathan Sacks, respectively) have helped amplify the claims of antisemitism surrounding the Labour Party in national media, partially because of the authority that their title assumes.

Then theres the free schooling.

Many European governments, including France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Italy, have agreed to allow religious Jewish schools to operate as public schools as long as they also teach the minimum required curriculum. This mixing of church and state has led to repeatedclashesbetween education officials and Jewish faculty who critics say fail to teach such subjects as evolution and sexual education.

In normal times, being a member of a Kultusgemeinde community can get expensive.

Even after paying several hundreds of dollars a year for membership a tax-deductible expense in most European countries additional substantial payments are required for rabbinical and other services at ceremonies such as weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs.

(The situation is different in the revived Jewish communities of post-communist Eastern Europe, where membership fees are mostly covered by external donations, government funding and Holocaust restitution funds.)

The model also has pitted multiple communities against each other for government recognition and funds and led to decades-long tensions between the in crowd and the outsiders. Its even started legal battles.

In Hungary, a notable fight between two competing federations of Kultusgemeinden has gone on for years. It pits the Mazsihisz federation, which is largely Neolog, a local denomination akin to Masorti or Conservative Judaism, against EMIH, the Chabad-affiliated Orthodox federation of communities.

In Poland, a 2012 court ruling forced the Orthodox Jewish Community of Warsaw to allow in a non-Orthodox congregation called Ec Chaim. When the non-Orthodox congregation joined the Community, some local Reform Jews a minority within the Jewish population of most European countries dismissedEc Chaim as a sham group meant only to give the illusion of inclusion while other non-Orthodox communities remained outside the umbrella.

We are prone for infighting, and when you create a polity and give it leaders, they will become targets, increasing the impression of division,DellaPergolasaid.

The model also disincentivizes attempts at modernization in many Western European communities including the largest of them in France, where some 500,000 Jews live. That in turn alienates younger Jews,said Nigel Savage, who was born in Britain and is the CEO of Hazon, an environmental organization based in New York City.

Whether over the costs, or this sense of conservatism, the numbers show that the model is becoming less popular. In the Netherlands, where there are 45,000 Jews, less than a quarter are community members, whereas before the Holocaust about 75% of Dutch Jews were members, said Ruben Vis, the secretary-general of the Orthodox Organization of Jewish Communities in the Netherlands, or NIK.

In the United Kingdom, where 250,000 Jews live, a reportfrom 2017 showed that only about 80,000 Jewish households, many of them older individuals, are registered members. That figure constituted a 20% decrease in membership from 1990.

DellaPergolastill favors the European model, in part because he believes the American alternative has been less successful at bringing Jews together over common causes.

I think that attempts to achieve union end up increasing it, and thats preferable to the chaos that defines Jewish communal life in the United States,DellaPergolasaid.

That chaos, hesays, is also costing U.S. Jewry money.

In the American Jewish community there is crazy replication and overlaps, which arguably leads to a certain waste of money, said Savage, who has lived in New York for 20 years. At this point there are far too many synagogues and synagogue buildings, for example.

But, he added, the adaptive freedom that Jewish communities have in the U.S. has led to an explosion of creativity thats being exported across the Jewish world.

Savage referenced the establishment in 2018 ofAdamah, the first Jewish environmental farm in the United Kingdom, styled after the successes of thatgrowing movement in the U.S.The creation in 2013 of amodern Jewish communitycenter in London also was inspired by New York institutions.

In a world with so many interest groups and clubs competing for people to engage with them, the Kultusgemeinde needs to become a community of values much like the American one, Vis said. I think thats where were headed, like it or not.

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In Western Europe, a Jewish 'Community' is like an expensive members-only club - The Jewish News of Northern California

Albany rabbi’s next life chapter will be in Israel – Times Union

Posted By on July 31, 2020

ALBANY Rabbi Don Cashman says he never expected to end his 45 years at Albanys Bnai Sholom Reform Congregation as the rabbi of the Temple of Zoom. But the coronavirus pandemic swept America in the months before his long-planned retirement, forcing him to adapt. Nonetheless, the beloved rabbi, who is as well known for his eloquent sermons as he is for his colorful Purim costumes, did not disappoint his congregation as he shared insights about civil unrest and racism during his final sermon on June 26.

He tackled an epic theme: what humans owe to each other in the fight to create a just and compassionate world.

He quoted from the Pirkei Avot (often translated as Chapters of the Fathers), a collection of Rabbinic wisdom and maxims from Rabbinic Jewish tradition.Its not upon you to complete the task. However, you are not free to ignore it.

He loves that sage observation so much, its on his license plate: AVOT 221.

Over the decades, Cashman helped develop a Hebrew high school that held its first classes in his synagogue's library. He's raised money for scholarships to send youths in his congregation to tour Israel. And he's helped organize tours for his congregation.

Now, the next chapter of his life will be written in Israel. He and his wife, Sharona, will be moving permanently to a new Jerusalem home.

We realized years ago that would be where our lives would be after retirement, Cashman told the Times Union. Weve been to Florida. We dont want Florida.

Israels hot, dry climate is even more appealing when he thinks of Albanys snowy winters and humid summers. The move wont happen this year. But Cashman is already enthused about Jerusalems vibrant visual arts and music scene, its cultural treasures. And he can clearly envision living on what he calls Jewish time.

Stores close before sundown on Fridays, he said wistfully. Cashiers and waiters wish you Shabbat Shalom. You arent overwhelmed by Christmas every December.

And there are moments of solemn unity such as the annual Yom HaShoah. When a siren sounds, drivers promptly pull over and stop on the sides of streets and roads to stand at attention, to show reverence toward those killed in the Holocaust.

Cashmans embrace of the next stage of life is part of his core belief that theres always time to grow and improve.

In his final sermon, he recalled buying an antique Gibson mandolin as a gift to himself for his ordination.

Thirty-seven years later, am I a mandolin player? Not yet, he said. Each of us has things we want to do that we havent gotten around to yet. We all have plans or hopes for the future which may or may not come to fruition. Still, we keep them on our to-do list.

Exploring Israel will be a new adventure yet hes confident he wont be homesick. He recalls visiting the Masada, the ancient fortress on a high desert plateau that was the stronghold of a Roman garrison and then the Jewish rebels who overwhelmed them. As he moved through the fortifications that once seemed as remote as the end of the earth, he bumped into Rabbi Matt Cutler from Schenectady who was with a different tour group. Rounding a corner, Cashman was surprised to seeRabbi Dan Ornstein from Albany's Ohav Shalom who was traveling with yet a different group from Albany.

.Its not like Im leaving friends or colleagues here behind; they'll be coming to Israel where I'll see them sooner or later, he said.

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Albany rabbi's next life chapter will be in Israel - Times Union

Temple Menorah is holding indoor, in-person services – The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Posted By on July 31, 2020

Temple Menorah, on Milwaukees north side, has been holding indoor, in-person services for weeks.

The minyans are held twice weekly, on Sunday and Thursday mornings.

We did a few outdoor services, and when we were given permission by the city of Milwaukee to reenter the building, we moved all the furniture out from the Daily Chapel into the lobby so we could social distance, said Rabbi Gil Ezer Lerer, who leads the shul at 9363 N. 76th St.

The lobby of the synagogue has its own air conditioning and ventilation system, he said.

I oversee all the disinfecting, Lerer said. We sing less, and we move through the service as quickly as possible.

Many synagogues have chosen to forego indoor and in-person services, but Lerer said he is continuing, at least for now. The first of the services during the pandemic was held in June, he said.

I hope God gives me the foresight that I make the right decisions, he said.

People will go out to their health clubs, to their restaurants and whatnot, but they wont come to temple? I dont go to health clubs. I dont go to stores. I do everything delivery, he said. Its safer to come to Temple Menorah than it is to go to the supermarket.

The services include social distancing, and everyone wears masks, he said. The congregation also shares the minyans over Zoom. There are people who are not comfortable going, Lerer said. Others live out of town.

Synagogues nationwide are navigating a fluid situation in real time, and while many have closed their synagogues to congregants during the pandemic, there are those who are making different choices or experimenting carefully.

The main thing is that everybody has to be safe and healthy, Lerer said. He said that if circumstances change, Temple Menorah will shift to a different strategy.

Temple Menorah does not allow the use of electronics on Shabbat, and it is not holding in-person services on Shabbat. Lerer said he has yet to figure out how to handle Shabbat.

The rabbis of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism issued a statement in May allowing the use of electricity for video on Shabbat and holidays. But Temple Menorah is an unaffiliated traditional shul, and it is not following the ruling.

Rabbi Gil Ezer Lerer led services at Temple Menorah on Thursday, July 23, at 7:30 a.m.


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Temple Menorah is holding indoor, in-person services - The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

JUF News | Some things stay the same – Jewish United Fund

Posted By on July 31, 2020

The date is set, the Torah portion is learned--then the world pauses for a pandemic. What happens to bar and bat mitzvahs planned years in advance?

"Although we had the option of postponing, [we] agreed that it was important to honor this milestone now, even if it would look drastically different than what we had envisioned," said Hillary Coustan, mom of bar mitzvah boy Eli Coustan reimagined Eli's bar mitzvah service on Zoom, including figuring out options for people who do not use technology on Shabbat; adapting cherished traditions like passing the Torah down the family line; and ordering takeout to their families' houses for a Zoom kiddush.

She and her family received feedback from guests that they were more engaged with the service due to its more intimate setting. Coustan agreed: "In some ways, the tightened restrictions ended up being a good thing in terms of us feeling our community embracing us during the service," she said.

Trying to find the positives in this complicated situation also helped Maya Freedman and her parents, Jessica and Ross, make the best of the situation. When they heard that their synagogue's sanctuary would be closed, "we were adamant about wanting to keep the date" and figure something out, Jessica said.

Rabbi Aaron Melman of Congregation Beth Shalom in Northbrook lent the family a Torah scroll from the synagogue's ark and Maya's grandfather, Rabbi Victor Mirelman, performed the service over Zoom. The family created an entire virtual Saturday morning service followed by a special kiddush with bagels flown in from New York City.

Maya's father, Ross, managed the technology to ensure the day went smoothly. "At first, we didn't think she was going to have the same experience she should have had, but I don't think we lost anything," he said. "The bat mitzvah went so well that we felt it was just as special as it would be in person."

Chaya Leah Carlsen felt similarly about her son Tzvi Meir's bar mitzvah. "It was a really good learning experience for him to see that sometimes things in life don't always work out the way you're hoping, and you have to be able to roll with it," she said.

Tzvi Meir made his virtual bar mitzvah special by creating matching sweatshirts with the logo from his bar mitzvah and sending them to friends and family, as well as completing his mitzvah project by collecting and donating toys to Chai Lifeline from quarantine

The Carlsens pre-recorded the service on the Thursday before, which came in handy when they experienced problems with Zoom on the big day. Even with the complications of changing to Google Meet, Chaya Leah described the day as "very manageable and easy to maneuver.

Adapting to change was also important for the Hartman family and their daughter, Juniper. The family ended up driving to be closer to family, conducting a socially-distanced backyard service, and streaming the service on Zoom

Juniper designed a special service, including a video montage of photos and music and a presentation of art based on her Torah portion. Mom Anna felt like the family took ownership of the service in a way more traditional services don't allow, for both the in-person and virtual elements

One particularly special element was the video recording of the service: "On the day of, it was a challenge to be present in the moment," Anna said. "I wouldn't have videotaped her bat mitzvah [before], but now I have this great Zoom recording that enables me to relive it."

All four families found deep meaning in services that looked very different from how they were originally planned. "On the surface, our son's virtual bar mitzvah looked very different from an in-person one," Hillary said. "Yet, in every way that mattered to our family, the day exceeded our hopes and expectations."

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JUF News | Some things stay the same - Jewish United Fund

Now is the time for more women to emerge as leaders – Tallahassee Democrat

Posted By on July 31, 2020

Gene Hall(Photo: special to the democrat)

Joel 2 foretold a time when God would pour out his Spirit on all flesh: "Your sons and daughters will prophesy." Upon arriving in Philippi, Apostle Paul found no synagogue, but he did find women praying at the river. One of them, Lydia, offered hospitality to Paul and Silas (Acts 16: 14-15).

Even more astounding, Mary Magdalene was the first to see the risen Lord (John 20:14). According to Scripture that I read recently, she was the first person Jesus sent with the message of hope.Lord knows we still need our women to spread messages of hope throughout America and the rest of the world.

Amid the national tumult over COVID-19, racial unrest, and economic recessions are high-level calls for us to have honest ongoing efforts to bring about social, economic, and political equality, not just to placate our citizenry.

The new Viola Liuzzo statue by Detroit artist Austen Brantley dedicated to the civil rights activist murdered by the Klan has been unveiled at Viola Liuzzo Park in Detroit, Tuesday, July 23, 2019.(Photo: Kathleen Galligan, Detroit Free Press)

We must concentrate on what unites us our commonalities, and not so much what divides us our differences. Although we have had and will always have dynamic men to lead our nation and its institutions, I believe now is a good time for more women to step forward, enlighten, and lead our international society into a place of peace and prosperity.

Scientists from a myriad of professional disciplines support my belief that if we can eradicate the ignorance, we can eradicate future generations of racism, bigotry, and poverty.

Malala Yousafzai, youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize recipient, has completed her Oxford University degree, June 19, 2020.(Photo: Getty Images for EIF & XQ)

A May 8, 2020, an op-ed in Company Culture magazine by Jessica Grounds and Kristin Haffert contend that having more women in leadership positions does make a difference in improving outcomes meaning, we all might be better off during this pandemic. The authors go on to say beginning with leadership style, we start to see differences. For example, women tend to exhibit a collaborative and democratic style; men more often use a command and control approach.

Which style do we need to transform our fears during times of COVID-19, racial unrest, and economic stagnation? I believe it may be the right time for women to step up and do as researcher Alice Eagly calls the androgynous leadership style known as transformational leadership.

Transformational leaders act as inspirational role models, foster good human relationships, invest in their teams, develop the skills of followers, and motivate others to reach beyond the scope of their job descriptions.

Without question, I see the current social ills affecting our nation and the rest of the world as platforms that enable new insights on how our leaders handle the biggest modern crises of our time. What evidence is there that women can lead this charge?

Well, lets take a look at capable women leaders who were the catapults of change during times past.

Mary McLeod Bethune, approximately 1943.(Photo: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory)

Among female heroes who inspire me and (if they are willing to admit) many other men are: Anne Frank, Sojourner Truth, Malala Yousafzai, Viola Liuzzo, Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer, Eleanor Roosevelt, Grace Hopper, Alice Walton, Melinda Gates, Naomi Parker Fraley, Betty Friedan, Indira Gandhi, Portia Miller, Benazir Bhutto, Judge Sandra Day OConnor, Cathy Hughes, Elizabeth Taylor, Madeleine Albright, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Dr. Katherine Johnson, Dr. Patricia Bath, Aretha Franklin, Celia Cruz, Junko Tabei, Miriam Makeba and Meryl Streep.

Epidemics such as COVID-19 and even racial unrest may occur on an intermittent basis.

But what seems to be more perennial are declines in our economies. We need stability as we acknowledge that America is just a microcosm of these global tensions. Who can we depend upon to ensure our kids, grandkids and other generations prosper in their chosen vocations?

Again, I predict that our country will have to lean upon the wherewithal of our women. Not convinced yet? Well, just take a look at these Fortune 500 companies being led by women. Among them are: Mary Barra (General Motors), Carol Tome (United Parcel Service), Corie Barry (Best Buy), Phebe Novakovic (General Dynamics), Tricia Griffith (Progressive Corp.), Lynn Good (Duke Energy), Vicki Hollub (Occidental Petroleum), and Beth Ford (Land OLakes, Inc.).

Wheres the Christian compassion so many of us subscribe to, that our women leaders so clearly possess? Let us consider what confronts todays children our future leaders of tomorrow.

A philosopher once said: our solidarity is our strength, and the fight for what is just and reasonable is a marathon and not a sprint. Ratified on Aug. 18, 1920, the 19th amendment guarantees all American women the right to vote. Achieving this milestone took over 100 years.

Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune so eloquently said, Invest in the human soul.Who knows, it might be a diamond in the rough. In order to overcome many of the socio-economic cataclysms facing our world today, I believe we must inculcate the love and nurturing mother wit of our women.

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Now is the time for more women to emerge as leaders - Tallahassee Democrat

Build me a sanctuary, and I will dwell in Minecraft –

Posted By on July 31, 2020

I press my palm against the cold, blue iron door and enter the sanctuary. Gliding over the lush red carpet, I reach for my prayer book on the bookshelf. As I stride towards my usual seat in the fourth row, a cow wanders past me.

A cow?

Such is reality when your only way to experience the inside of your home synagogue is by building it on Minecraft.

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After four months of quarantine of praying alone in a corner of the dining room that faces the alley behind my house I needed to go someplace else. Of course, we cant go someplace else. Praying in an indoor communal space with a minyan of other people is a no-no. In a religion that teaches us to choose life, we must also choose to be by ourselves or in small groups a lot until an effective vaccine is discovered. That doesnt make the experience any easier.

But I missed everything about my Saturday mornings at Congregation Beth Shalom. The deep blues of the light as it refracts through the stained glass windows. The oddly pleasing aesthetic of the high-backed, seldom used chairs on the bimah. Everything about the space is calming and peaceful for me. So, living without that spiritual space since February has been lousy.

Enter: Minecraft.

Minecraft, for the uninitiated, is a video game. Since its 2011 release, it has become the most popular video game of all time, having sold 200 million copies on over a dozen different digital platforms. The gameplay is pretty simple in that there isnt really any one specific objective. You start in a forest with absolutely nothing, and through mining and crafting, you make items that allow you to build houses for defense from bad guys and weapons and such. The goal is to survive, and maybe find some cool stuff to build things with.

Ultimately, the gameplay of Minecraft allows the user to create nearly anything that can be imagined. Minecrafters have built re-creations of famous landmarks, whole cities, aircraft carriers. You can watch reenactments of famous battles or scenes from your favorite movies in Minecraft. The entirety of J.R.R. Tolkiens Middle Earth from the Lord of the Rings series has been painstakingly built in Minecraft, to the very last detail.

My 9-year-old son has been playing Minecraft for a few years. With quarantine suddenly limiting the number of options for things to do, I thought Id give the game a whirl. I was stunned by how much I enjoyed the building the calm and methodical process of planning where to put a staircase or trying to make a facade look just right. I built houses, then graduated to castles and bridges. Then I built a village.

But of course, a good village needs a synagogue. And what better a model for a synagogue than Beth Shalom in Pittsburgh. It took around 30 hours of mining, crafting, and building.

Im satisfied with the finished product. I cut the actual building down to a smaller scale I didnt need all five floors, or a gym, or an early childhood center. My Minecraft Beth Shalom is just four rooms: the ballroom, the sanctuary, the coat room and the lobby. I took a few liberties in the building process replacing the giant granite Spock hands of the Cohen over the Torah ark with two giant blue fires, removing the balcony, eliminating dozens of rooms that are useful in the real world, but less so digitally. I probably fell off the roof a dozen times during the building process. And in my quests across the Minecraft world to get the necessary items crates full of sandstone for the building; Warped Nether Wood for the doors; soul torches; pink granite I probably died 10 times.

Its not quite an actual replacement for praying in the real thing, but it feels a little more comforting to know that I can flip on my PlayStation and go to Beth Shalom. Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshischa once said, You find God wherever you let God in. And after a little bit of work, now I can find God with the help of Minecraft. PJC

Rabbi Mark Asher Goodman is rabbi at Brith Sholom Jewish Center in Erie, Pennsylvania. He lives in Pittsburgh.

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Build me a sanctuary, and I will dwell in Minecraft -

Mitzvot from the Heart: Henry Rosenblum | Mitzvot From The Heart – St. Louis Jewish Light

Posted By on July 31, 2020

Henry Rosenblum followed what is now a family tradition: a bar mitzvah abroad.

Henrys eldest brother, Myles, became a bar mitzvah in Jerusalem, joined by extended family on both sides. Then Spencer, the middle son, traveled with his family to Budapest, Vienna and Prague where they visited Jewish sites in each city and ended with a ceremony in the Jubilee Synagogue in Prague.

Henrys parents, Steven and Andrea Rosenblum of Clayton, wanted to combine the familys love of animals (he worked at the St. Louis Zoo for eight years), with their love of travel and settled on Cape Town, South Africa for their youngest son.

Henry celebrated his bar mitzvah in Cape Town on Dec. 24, 2019 with a traditional service held at the historic Garden Shul Synagogue. Some of the familys South African cousins joined the Rosenblums, along with 12 family members from the U.S.

For part of his mitzvah project, Henry chose to participate in Pack for a Purpose to give back to the community which was so welcoming to him and his entire family. A student at Wydown Middle School (starting eighth grade this fall), Henry collected books, soccer cleats, socks, pens, pencils, markers and other supplies from friends, family and neighbors in the U.S. These supplies were delivered to the Backpack Hostel accommodation center to help support several youth group projects with which they were involved.

I really liked the idea of assisting in this way; to help children in the area have the opportunity to play sports and participate in arts and crafts, just as I am able to do at home in the U.S., said Henry.

Pack for a Purposes mission is to positively impact communities around the world by assisting travelers who want to take meaningful contributions to the destinations they visit and expand their generosity beyond their own communities.

After spending five days in Cape Town, Henry and his family visited Zimbabwe and went on a safari, visiting several camps in Botswana and Zambia, where he was also able to leave school supplies for a local school in Livingstone, Zambia. It was the trip of a lifetime that Henry hopes affected many other lives, too.

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Mitzvot from the Heart: Henry Rosenblum | Mitzvot From The Heart - St. Louis Jewish Light

Chabad of Yonkers Hosts Drive Thru BBQ – Yonkers Times

Posted By on July 31, 2020

2020 RobertKalfusRabbi Mendy Hurwitz and his wife Rebbetzin Chanie Hurwitz celebrated his 37th birthday with their daughters by serving a BBQ to the community who drove through the Chabad of Yonkers/ Greystone Synagogue Yonkers driveway.

By Robert Kalfus

Chabad of Yonkers/Greystone Jewish Center Rabbi Mendy Hurwitz celebrates his birthday in July, and for the past decade, has invited the community to enjoy a lavish BBQ at the synagogue at which Yonkers residents, synagogue members, elected officials and those running for office attended, meeting and greeting, and pressing the flesh a practice now known to spread and infectious disease. Safety has become the overriding concern for all gatherings and all social interactions due to the need to prevent transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

Adapting and rising to the need, Rabbi Hurwitz literally served the community and celebrated his 37th Birthday on Sunday, July 19th, with a Grand BBQ celebration, delivering an extensive menu of kosher hot dogs and hamburgers in buns, French fries, watermelon, cotton candy, a bottle of water, and birthday cake for dessert, to the more than 100 people in more than 40 cars to people driving in and through the synagogues driveway, for three hours on Sunday, July 19th. Determined to not let the COVID-19 virus interfere with his welcoming and serving the community, Rabbi Hurwitz devised the BBQ Drive thru to meet, greet, and feed, old friends and make new friends.

Rabbi Hurwitz sweated over a hot grill cooking the fresh and tasty meals on one of the hottest days of this summer, and enlisted the assistance of his wife, Rebbetzin Chanie, and his daughters, who helped prepare and wrap the food, and deliver bags of fresh cooked food to the steady stream of friends celebrating his birthday.

Rabbi Hurwitz spoke about how we should best manage difficult times and experiences by quoting the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who said, We need to recognize what brought about sad times was lack of kindness to one another. The best way to reverse that is to exhibit kindness to all!

Noting his latest birthday, Rabbi Hurwitz said As you age and get older, you need to continue your education and acquire knowledge and wisdom. You also do not lessen your activities, but you instead increase all the good that you can do and accomplish, and you never stop helping others

In addition to Rabbi Hurwitz regular Thursday night Torah discussion and learning class on ZOOM, the synagogue is adding additional activities and classes on ZOOM. Please contact the Chabad of Yonkers/Greystone Jewish Center for info on upcoming activities, religious services and dinners, Hebrew school and Bar Mitzvah preparation, Shabbat morning and the upcoming High Holiday services, at (914) 963-8888, or

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Chabad of Yonkers Hosts Drive Thru BBQ - Yonkers Times

This Tisha BAv, the Hagia Sophia teaches us about reclaiming sacred spaces – Forward

Posted By on July 31, 2020

Image by Getty Images

An aerial view of the Hagia Sophia, empty during coronavirus.

When the Roman Emperor, Justinian I, dedicated Istanbuls Hagia Sophia as a cathedral, he is said to have proclaimed, Solomon, I have surpassed thee. Indeed, the church-turned mosque-turned museum is an architectural wonder of the world, a gem that inspires devotion.

Understandably, therefore, faithful Muslims were distraught when in 1934 Ataturk secularized the mosque. How painful it must have been to see it serve as a mere museum. It was an ongoing reminder of their subjugation and victimization. Finally, last Friday, their prayers were answered when worship returned to Hagia Sophia.

Putting aside President Erdogans political motivation to rededicate the mosque, the story holds particular interest for us today. As Jews approaching Tisha BAv, exiled from our Temple and from our synagogues, we ask: What is the value of sacred space?

A recent Jewish tour of Jewish Spain and the upcoming holiday point to answers.

Standing in front of a small neighborhood church in Granada, my synagogues tour guide directed our attention to the right of the entrance. It was a sunken area with an arch in the wall and a drain in the floor. Anyone know what it is he asked? After a moment it was clear we were stumped. Our guide explained that this was a place to wash in preparation for prayer- a clear indication that the church was once a mosque. A detail we might have overlooked revealed a complicated past.

Throughout the trip, we saw a similar pattern. In Seville, the placement of an upper window hinted that a church was once a synagogue. In Cordoba, Moorish columns surrounding a Renaissance nave were a clear give-away that the exquisite Mezquite was a church built inside an earlier mosque.

Architectural features like these are presented as a sign of cultural harmony that swept the Iberian Peninsula in the middle ages. Gift shops sell ceramic tiles painted with crosses, crescents and Stars of David to highlight the countrys multi-ethnic heritage. But eclectic building styles and co-exist postcards belie a discordant past.

It was not called Reconquista (re-conquest) for nothing. This was architectural supercessionism indicating the displacement of a population and the disdain of a faith. Walking through these sacred sites, I couldnt help but wonder, what was the craftsman thinking as he converted a synagogue into a church or a church into a mosque? What did the worshipper think as she walked past a washing station or a Hebrew inscription on her way to pray? Did she humbly honor those who came before her? Did his heart swell with pride, proclaiming his ascension?

Tisha BAv offers an important corrective to the pull of religious triumphalism. On this day, we mourn the loss of our Temple. We recall its destruction and pray for its restoration. For political reasons, I object to attempts by radical Jewish groups to pray on the Temple mount. For theological reasons, I have no desire to return to Temple worship of sacrifices. But I understand the longing, the desire to reclaim what was taken from us. I understand the power of certain places to inspire prayer.

Enter King Solomon to warn us against turning a sanctuary into an idol. Upon completing the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, with humility and with hagia sophia (holy wisdom), he asked, But will God really dwell on earth? Even the heavens to their uttermost reaches cannot contain You, how much less this House that I have built! (1 Kings 8:27).

When we mourn the loss of sacred spaces and especially when we reclaim them, we do so knowing that God dwells not in a building but in the heart of the faithful. Renew our days, is not a call to rebuild the Temple but Return us unto You, God.

Rabbi Alexander Davis is a senior rabbi at Beth El Synagogue in St Louis Park, Minn., where he frequently leads Jewish travel tours.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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This Tisha BAv, the Hagia Sophia teaches us about reclaiming sacred spaces - Forward

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