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Is Chabad about to make the most calamitous mistake in its history? – Haaretz

Posted By on June 24, 2020

Is Chabad-Lubavitch, the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic outreach movement, returning to the political wars? Apparently so, in Israel at least. And its rabbis are doing so by promoting a "not one inch" approach to territorial concessions and identifying with the most fanatic elements of the settler population.

And if past experience is any guide, whileChabadattempts in the weeks ahead to influence the political process in Israel, it will conceal its involvement fromAmerican Jews.

Evidence of the new campaign is a lettersentby Rabbi Yitzchak Yehuda Yaroslavsky, seen by many as the senior Chabad rabbi in Israel, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, urging himto rejectthe "deal of the century" the Trump administration peace plan. Here, Yaroslavsky is echoing the claims of the most radical settler leaders that annexation is unacceptable,because it lays the groundwork for a Palestinian state, no matter how tiny or how tenuous its borders.

Yaroslavsky pointsout that Chabad had long opposed territorial concessions of any sort, and quotesthe late Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, as saying that "giving away territory threatens the lives of Jews." "This plan, Yaroslavsky wrote, "will only bring the opposite of good and security for the Holy Land."

Kikar Hashabbat, a website that covers political and religious developments in the Haredi world,quoteda number of Chabad rabbis who expressed views either similar to or even farther right than those of Yaroslavsky.It notedthat the opposition of prominent Chabad figures was of special interest, given the close ties between Chabad in America and President Donald Trump and the fact that Jared Kushner and his familyattenda Chabad synagogue; the Kushner family aresubstantial donorsto the movement.

Rabbi Tovia Blau, also a senior Chabad figure in Israel, wrote that the Trump annexation plan represented an explicit willingness to relinquish parts of the territories and constituted a continuation of the process ofunfortunate concessionsbegun at Camp David.

The writings of the late Rabbi Schneerson often stressed the centrality of the interrelated concepts ofshleimut haam,shleimut haaretz, andshleimut hatorah(the wholeness of the people of Israel, the wholeness of the Land of Israel, and the wholeness of the Torah).

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According to Blau, commitment to the Land of Israel and the people of Israel followed directly from a commitment to the entirety of the Torah, and there could be no right-wing politics that was not completely faithful to Torah thus understood. Blau was stingingly critical of those who put loyalty to Prime Minister Netanyahu ahead of their devotion to Torah and the Land of Israel.

Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber Wolpe, also a Chabad rabbi, who is known for his extreme language and opinions, organized a group letter that was sent to PresidentDonaldTrump. The letter referred to those currently protesting the killing of George Floyd in the United States as "terrorists."

"We have no doubt," he wrote, "that what we have here is a reminder from the Holy One Blessed Be He, who is reminding our great friend in America of the delusion of making concessions to terrorists.And this is true whether we are speaking of the United States itself or of agreements that America is formulating for the Land of Israel." Kikar Hashabbat also mentioned other Chabad leaders, whose remarks were along these same lines.

Will President Trump see any of these letters or statements? Will the notoriously sensitive and criticism-averse President care? It is hard to tell, just as it is hard to tell how far Chabad will push its anti-Deal of the Century campaign.

Generally speaking, Chabad is exceedingly cautious about political involvements and is especially concerned about its image in America, where it raises much of its money. The last time that Chabad played a major role in the political process was in the 1980s and early 1990s, when the Rebbe was still alive and was the sole source of authority in the Lubavitch movement.

The Rebbes major focus at the time was his call to amend the Law of Return, which grants automatic citizenship to Jews who immigrate to Israel, including converts from all streams of Judaism. In a series of newspaper ads, lectures, and sermons, the Rebbe demanded that the law be amended so that the only converts considered Jewish were Orthodox converts. Non-Orthodox converts, he claimed, were not Jewish and were undermining the purity of the Jewish people and the principle ofshleimut haam.

Amending the law became a Chabad obsession. For example, in full page ads in the Israeli dailyMaariv,the Rebbe was quoted as calling for daily protests in the Knesset against the unamended Law of Return, and for the religious parties to withdraw from any government that did not promise to amend the law immediately.

Prior to the election of 1988, the Rebbe saw his chance. Chabad extracted a promise fromthe ultra-OrthodoxAgudat Yisraelpartyto amend the law if included in the coalition. Chabad then formally abandoned its non-partisan stance, and Chabad activists asked potential voters to commit themselves in writing to vote for the Agudah, in return for which they were promised a blessing from the Rebbe.

But despite the fact that more than 100,000 voters signed the forms, and Agudat Yisrael joined the government, the effort failed. AnenergizedAmerican Jewry opposed the suggested amendment, and Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamirs coalition was unable to pass it.

But religious issues were not the Rebbes only concern. When Shimon Peres attempted to becomeprimeminister in 1990 by getting Agudat Yisrael to switch sides and support him, the Rebbe played a major role in convincing the Agudahs Knesset members to change their minds and stick with Shamir. His reasoning was that only Shamir could be depended on to reject any and all territorial concessions.

Later, when Shamir began considering some form of autonomy for the Palestinians and agreed to President George H.W. Bushs demand to attend the Madrid Conference, the Rebbe was furious.

Moshe Katzav, then Shamirs transportation minister, was dispatched to the Rebbe to calm his concerns. Katzav promised that Shamirs actions, including any talk of autonomy, would never lead to concessions on territory.

But the Rebbes response, as noted inHaaretzon February 2, 1992, was unequivocal: "Even talk of an autonomy plan is achilul hashemand achilul hakodesh" (a desecration of Gods name and a desecration of the holy).

Shamir, the uncompromising nationalist, became an object of contempt for Chabad. And what was true for the Rebbe was true for other right-wing forces in Israels political system. Following Madrid, they withdrew from Shamirs government, leading to an election that he lost.

Two factors should be noted about Chabads political activism.

The first is that during a decade of intense political involvement, which included high-profile campaigns and a central role for the Rebbe himself through ads, pictures, and direct quotations in various publications and campaign literature, Chabad did not say a word in America about its political work in Israel.

In Israel, Chabad and the Rebbe aspired to be a major political force in promoting their political agenda. In America, they were intent on enjoying the image and support that came with being a non-partisan, non-political religious body, engaged in Jewish education and outreach.

The second is that after the Rebbes stroke in 1992, the political efforts more or less stopped. One assumes that, with their charismatic leader ill and severely disabled, and lacking an authoritative voice to give direction on sensitive and difficult political issues, Chabad quickly reverted to its more traditional role of Jewish outreach work.

And so the questions that now arise are: What is happening today? Why the flurry of statements by Chabads major leaders in Israel on annexation and territories? Do they signal a return to a more activist political role on issues of major consequence?

Perhaps. As the Chabad leaders have rightly noted, the Rebbes views opposing territorial concessions and a Palestinian state of any size or type are clear and consistent. What is being said in the Rebbes name is completely accurate. And the Rebbe, of course, remains admired and adored among the Chabad masses, the unchallenged Chabad authority on matters large and small.

Some in the Chabad leadership are undoubtedly thinking that with the Deal of the Century on the table, Israel faces an existential moment. For the first time since the Rebbes death, decisions are about to be made that will determine Israels territorial destiny, and therefore the fate of the Rebbes vision. As a result, they have no choice but to speak up, oppose the Trump plan, and fight a Palestinian state of any sort.

On the other hand, the 2020s are not the 1980s. It is not clear that absent the Rebbes voice, Chabad can mount any kind of systematic campaign, even if it attempts to do so. It is not clear that the Rebbes radical positions, extreme even for the Israeli right-wing, can ever win more than marginal support in Israel or the Diaspora.

And, especially important, it is completely clear that Chabads two-faced game of political radicalism in Israel and political neutrality in America is impossible in todays interconnected world of social media and instant communication.

I have my disagreements with Chabad, to be sure, but I also admire their sense of mission and their spirit of service to the Jewish people. If they are going to embrace the fanatic right on the Israeli political spectrum, American Jews will know and be appalled, and Chabads ability to do the good work that they do will be threatened in a significant way. This would be a calamitous error for Chabad, and a mistake, one hopes, that they will not make.

Eric H. Yoffie, a rabbi, writer and teacher in Westfield, New Jersey, is a former president of the Union for Reform Judaism. Twitter:@EricYoffie

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Is Chabad about to make the most calamitous mistake in its history? - Haaretz

Facebook removes Trump ad that identifies Antifa with red triangle similar to Nazi symbol – Forward

Posted By on June 24, 2020

Image by Facebook

A screenshot of a Facebook post on Donald Trumps account, linking Antifa to the upside-down red triangle.

In two Facebook posts, Donald Trumps reelection campaign tied the loose network of anti-fascist activists known as Antifa which he suggests naming a terrorist organization to an upside-down red triangle, a symbol strikingly similar to one used by Nazis in concentration camps to identify political prisoners and communists.

Dangerous MOBS of far-left groups are running through our streets and causing absolute mayhem, the post reads, citing no evidence for the claim. Please add your name IMMEDIATELY to stand with your President and his decision to declare ANTIFA a Terrorist Organization.

Related story: Trump abbreviates Secret Service as S.S. although he knows the right way to do it

Facebook later deleted the ads, saying the ads went against the companys policy against organized hate.

Our policy prohibits using a banned hate groups symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol, a spokesperson for Facebook said in a statement.

The triangle symbol does not appear to be widely used by people or groups aligned with Antifa, which is more commonly identified by a red and black flag logo. Some people aligned with Antifa, however, will carry a flag used by anarchist movements, which is solid red and black, bisected on the diagonal, creating one red and one black triangle. One Antifa Facebook page, based in Utrecht, in the Netherlands, has a red triangle in its logo.

Beginning in 1933, when Adolf Hitler came to power, Nazi-run concentration camps used a system of different colored triangles, sewn into their prison clothes, to mark prisoners, according to the Holocaust Encyclopedia. Political prisoners wore red, gypsies and vagrants wore black, queer people were given pink triangles and Jehovahs Witnesses purple. Jews wore the infamous yellow star, unless they were part of another group in the case of a Jewish communist, for example, the upside-down red triangle would be sewn over a yellow right-side up triangle.

The post drew condemnation on social media, including from Jewish figures and groups, like Bend the Arc.

Yet Rabbi Yaakov Menken, the managing director of the conservative Jewish group the Coalition for Jewish Values, said that he did not believe the ad represented an instance of anti-Semitism by Trump or his campaign, and instead suggested that it was Antifa that was at fault for unknowingly using a Nazi symbol.

Antifa has been and is very threatening to Jewish houses of worship and schools, et cetera, Menken said, citing reports mostly false and exaggerated that Antifa was targeting synagogues in some cities during the recent wave of protests. The fact that Trump is fighting so hard against Antifa is only to the benefit of the Jewish community.

Trump, and other Republican politicians, have seized on false reports of people aligned with Antifa inciting rioting in cities where thousands of people have participated in overwhelmingly peaceful protests against racism in policing. In one instance, a white nationalist group created a fake Twitter account under the name @ANTIFA_US, which tweeted calls for violence.

Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. Contact him at feldman@forward.com or follow him on Twitter @aefeldman

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Facebook removes Trump ad that identifies Antifa with red triangle similar to Nazi symbol - Forward

Synagogue axes Judah Benjamin from window – The Jewish Star

Posted By on June 24, 2020

By Ben Sales, JTA

About 15 years ago, a large Reform synagogue in Northern California installed a set of windows in its religious school engraved with the names of some 175 prominent Jews, from biblical figures to famous actors.

One of them, sandwiched between Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, was Judah Benjamin, the most prominent Jewish official in the Confederacy. Benjamin, who enslaved 140 people on a Louisiana sugar plantation, served variously as the Confederate attorney general, secretary of war and secretary of state.

The inclusion of Benjamins name on the wall didnt arouse much protest until 2013, about eight years after the installation at Peninsula Temple Sholom in Burlingame. That was when congregant Howard Wettan listened to a podcast about the Civil War and I connected the dots.

Benjamins name is now covered in tape and will be replaced, along with two other names, later this year.

Across the country, Confederate monuments have drawn challenges for years from people who say they glorify those who enslaved Black people and fought against the United States. Defenders of the monuments, including some white Southerners, have argued that the monuments are necessary to teach about a painful moment in American history.

But the statues that memorialize those leaders were largely erected long after the Confederacy was defeated, many in the 20th century in support of white supremacy at a time when Southern governments were fighting to maintain legal racial segregation.

Peninsula Temple Sholom did not put Benjamins name on the window to glorify white supremacy. The original intention was to create a wall that was somewhat educational, said Karen Wisialowski, the synagogues chief community officer. It hasnt really served that purpose.

Relatively few memorials to Benjamin exist as opposed to, say, the plethora of monuments to Jefferson Davis or Robert E. Lee. But Peninsula Temple Sholom was not alone in honoring the Confederacys most senior Jewish official.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, according to Jewish historian Shari Rabin, a general American tendency to paper over the worst aspects of the Confederacy coincided with a general interest in the war. Jews of that time, she said, celebrated Benjamin in that context, including by publishing a childrens book about him.

In the decades after the Civil War, there was a general celebration of service, and Jews wanted to write themselves into that history, said Rabin, a professor of Jewish studies at Oberlin College.

Benjamins opponents tarred him for his Judaism, but he never embraced being a Jew, Rabin said. He married a Catholic woman, raised his kids Catholic and was not involved in Jewish institutions. He fled to the United Kingdom after the war.

By the time of the Civil War, he was pretty far removed from organized Jewish life or personal Jewish commitment, Rabin said. The people who were calling Benjamin a Jew were the people who didnt like him.

At first, Peninsula Temple Sholom responded to Wettans complaint by doubling down on the wall as a teaching tool.

There was a lot of concern about how weve got names literally etched in glass and someone who we think is perfectly fine on the list today we might not think is fine on the list tomorrow, Wisialowski said. Should we pull the whole wall down? Should we pull them down and recognize that we might need to make changes in the future as well, if issues come to light that are counter to our values as an organization?

In the end, the congregation opted to keep the wall but replace three windows bearing what they deemed to be problematic names at a cost of approximately $7,500. Along with Benjamin, the congregation is removing the names of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, who died in 1994, and the actor Dustin Hoffman. Both Hoffman and Carlebach have been accused of harassment and assault by several women, in Carlebachs case posthumously.

The congregation has taken the new windows as an opportunity to include more womens names. The names will be replaced by those of the biblical figure Deborah, the prominent Jewish musician Debbie Friedman and Regina Jonas, the first woman to be ordained as a rabbi.

Looking back, Wettan says the years-long process gave the congregation an opportunity to articulate its values and come to a deliberate decision. He said it also showed him how fraught it can be to deal with historical memory and an engraved memorial.

Its easy for someone in Northern California to look at the South and say thats them, not us, he said. Its hard to change. To change, you cant be afraid to acknowledge that maybe you didnt get something right the first time.

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Synagogue axes Judah Benjamin from window - The Jewish Star

Largest IDF synagogue opened in southern Israel – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on June 24, 2020

A new IDF synagogue, the largest to date, is now open to the soldiers of Camp Ariel Sharon in southern Israel. The Or Olam Synagogue, located at the center of the base, was fitted with a new Torah scroll, about 350 seats, a study room for Torah lessons and special classes for soldiers undergoing conversion to Judaism. The donation was from the FIDF Western Region chapter.It will serve all the soldier deployed at the base. The inauguration of this new building took place on Tuesday, and was attended by FIDF Executive Director in Israel Brig. Gen. (Res.) Effi Idan, who represented the main benefactor for the synagogue.We are here today to congratulate and express gratitude to the IDF soldiers as this synagogue is for them," Idan said. "This is probably the most beautiful, and definitely the largest, synagogue I have seen in the IDF, and it could not be possible without the donation from Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF)."FIDF was established by a group of Holocaust survivors in 1981, as a not-for-profit organization with the mission of offering educational, cultural, recreational, social programs and facilities to provide hope, purpose and life-changing support for soldiers in Israel.FIDF builds, refurbishes, and maintains buildings for the well-being of IDF soldiers - among them sports centers, culture halls, synagogues, memorial rooms, swimming pools, sports facilities, and soldiers homes throughout Israel.

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Largest IDF synagogue opened in southern Israel - The Jerusalem Post

West London Synagogue spent 138000 in the wake of bullying allegations – Jewish News

Posted By on June 24, 2020

West London Synagogue has spent 138,000 in the wake of bullying allegations levelled against its co-senior rabbi, David Mitchell.

Of the total sum, which was spent on appointing professional advisers, 113,000 came from very generous benefactors, who were not named in a report published ahead of its annual general meeting last week.

The synagogue will only be required to bear 25,000 of these costs, the report says.

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Rabbi David Mitchell, who denies all the allegations against him, was accused of bullying and inappropriate behaviour by former members of staff.

He took up his senior role at the synagogue on 1 April after agreeing to take time away following the claims, which dated back to 2016.

Sir Michael Burton, a former High Court Judge and president of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, led an investigation which found no grounds to the claims.

West London Synagogue was contacted for comment.

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West London Synagogue spent 138000 in the wake of bullying allegations - Jewish News

Jewish youth urge Oakland school district to eliminate school police – The Jewish News of Northern California

Posted By on June 24, 2020

A large contingent of youth from Temple Beth Abraham, a Conservative synagogue in Oakland, is urging the citys school board to pass a resolution that would eliminate the school districts police department.

Dubbed the George Floyd Resolution, the proposition would get rid of the Oakland Unified School Districts police force and reallocate funds to provide social workers, psychologists, restorative justice practitioners and other mental or behavioral health professionals, as the budget supports, to meet the needs of students, the proposal reads.

A vote is expected to take place during todays virtual board meeting, scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m., according to KPIX-TV.

The resolution was created by the Black Organizing Project, an Oakland-based organization that has fought to reform the citys school district policies around policing. The group has been trying to eliminate the districts police force since 2011, but protests sparked by Floyds death while in police custody, and other black Americans at the hands of police officers, have injected new energy into the effort.

Several dozen teens and adults from Beth Abraham signed a June 14 letter to Jody London, a member of the synagogue and a longtime Oakland school district board member, requesting a meeting and urging her to vote yes on BOPs resolution.

When someone dies in the Jewish community, we say, May their memory be for a blessing, the letter reads. In this age of unrest following the murder of George Floyd and countless other Black people by the hands of police, there is heavy demand for not only holding cops accountable, but for defunding and divesting in policing as we know it today.

London, who is the school boards president, accepted the offer and met with the synagogues youth on Zoom a few days ago. A teen from Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont, Satya Zamudio, 15, was also on the call.

We just tried to stress that [the resolution is] very well-researched and there is a plan in place that [BOP] has been trying to do for so long, said Zamudio, a rising sophomore at Oakland Technical High School. It was really important to have this conversation with Jody. To just urge her to stand in solidarity with people of color and to really stress the point that Jews should be on the side of racial justice in this moment.

Maera Klein, 16, a rising junior at Berkeley High School, said, I really wanted to bring it to London from a Jewish lens, from within her synagogue, to show her that people from her own Jewish community care a lot about this issue. I would be super proud if my congregation had an influence on passing such a powerful resolution that would really change peoples learning experiences for the better.

The Oakland Unified School District Police Services Department was created in the 1950s, and out of approximately 1,000 districts in the state, Oakland is one of 23 school districts that has its own police force. The department consists of 20 sworn personnel and 120 school site officers, according to OUSD.org.

While support has been mounting for the districts police force to be disbanded, there are concerns that it could lead to worse outcomes for students if future situations are dealt with by the Oakland Police Department.

I would be super proud if my congregation had an influence on passing such a powerful resolution that would really change peoples learning experiences for the better.

I think that it is disingenuous to sit here and think that OPD is going to show up with the same kind of compassion and the same kind of understanding about what is happening with our teachers and what is happening with our systems, Jumoke Hinton-Hodge, an OUSD board member, said during a March 4 meeting.

Hinton-Hodge also expressed concern that OPD officers dont go through the same 40-hour training that the school police personnel go through, according to an Oaklandside article.

I dont want OPD, untrained, not thinking about young people first, to be the first people I pick up the phone to call [in an emergency], Hinton-Hodge said at the March meeting.

In an interview with Oaklandside, OUSD police chief Jeff Godown said that his officers have developed relationships with students, teachers and staff, much more than any officer within the citys force. Moreover, if the OUSD police force is disbanded, schools will be calling on a city police department that itself is facing increased pressure to be defunded.

Londons position on the elimination of the school districts police force has changed over time.

In March, when the school board voted to make $18.8 million in budget cuts, London voted against cutting any positions from the school districts police force in a 4-3 decision. Two months after that, BOP members led protests in front of Londons home and those of other board members.

Shortly thereafter, London released a statement that she was planning to support the BOPs resolution.

It is critical that the $2.3 million budget of the [Oakland School Police Department] be strategically reinvested in support for the whole child and students with disabilities with an eye to supporting authentic students safety, she wrote.

She added that shed prefer a timeline to eliminate the police force by Dec. 31.

Support for the resolution has come from dozens of administrators in schools in the district and Oakland community organizations.

The resolutions origins, in part, come from data BOP has compiled over the last five years. One of the findings is that while black students make up 26 percent of OUSD enrollment, they represent 73 percent of the school police forces arrests, a phenomenon that has been documented similarly nationwide.

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Jewish youth urge Oakland school district to eliminate school police - The Jewish News of Northern California

Rural synagogues and Jewish non-profits should apply for PPP loans before June 30 – Forward

Posted By on June 24, 2020

Image by iStock

As our nation recovers from the challenges of the last few months, your ministry has an opportunity to amplify your mission and support the people you serve.

The last three months have challenged Americas synagogues and religious non-profits as the coronavirus closed doors and changed the traditional mediums of ministry. While your teams navigated unknown waters, the U.S. Small Business Administration stepped up to offer a lifeline. Through the creation of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) which includes eligibility for faith-based groups the SBA delivered support to Americas religious organizations through one of the largest economic recovery efforts in our nations history. To date, the agency has approved more than half a trillion dollars in PPP loans for millions of small businesses and faith groups and saved tens of millions of jobs. More help is available, too. Small businesses, non-profits, and faith institutions are able to apply for the PPP through June 30.

Here are four reasons non-profit organizations should consider applying for a PPP loan:

The PPP offers small businesses and 501(c)(3) non-profits payroll assistance to help alleviate the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic and keep employees on payroll. If organizations use 60% of the loan on payroll costs, the loan is eligible to be forgiven it does not have to be paid back. The other 40% of the loan can be used for debt obligations, including mortgage interest, rent payment, or utility payment. By keeping your staff on payroll, you are equipping your synagogue or non-profit to continue ministering to your community in new and innovative ways.

For many faith leaders, the question of religious freedom is of utmost concern when considering the inclusion of faith-based organizations in federal assistance programs. The good news is that receiving a PPP loan does not limit the authority of religious organizations to define the standards, responsibilities, or duties of membership. It does not limit your hiring freedoms, and it does not impact your First Amendment rights. Simply put, a faith-based organization that receives a loan will retain its independence, autonomy, and right of expression.

After hearing from industry leaders, Congress passed, and SBA implemented, an extension of the timeframe to use a PPP loan from 8 weeks to 24 weeks. Businesses and organizations also have until December 31 to rehire previously laid-off employees and can qualify for some flexibility in rehiring as well. This flexibility is especially helpful if your doors are still closed due to the coronavirus lockdown and will allow you to use the loan and qualify for full forgiveness.

Over the years, numerous studies have demonstrated the positive impact strong faith institutions have on a towns economy, social health, and overall community wellbeing. This is especially true in rural America. As our nation recovers from the challenges of the last few months, your ministry has an opportunity to amplify your mission and support the people you serve. The PPP is here to help keep your team intact and assist your organization during this financially challenging time.

To learn more about the PPP and resources available, visit sba.gov/ppp.

Dan Nordberg is the SBA Director of Rural Affairs, and Marcus Harris is the SBA Director of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

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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Rural synagogues and Jewish non-profits should apply for PPP loans before June 30 - Forward

Navajo and Jewish: Navajo Nation Council member contends with COVID-19 – Jewish News of Greater Phoenix

Posted By on June 24, 2020

As COVID-19 swept across the Navajo Nation this year, one member of the Navajo Nation Council turned to a community he knew would step up to help: Congregation Beth El of Montgomery County, his familys synagogue in the Washington, D.C., area.

Beth El stepped up to be a fiscal sponsor, to be a nonprofit that can accept donations. And theyve really helped our communities out here on Navajo, said Carl Roessel Slater. I think that the one thing that has fallen by the wayside is telling that story.

Slater was elected to the council in a special election last year, and took office in October 2019. He serves as vice chairperson on the Health, Education and Human Services Committee, and since March, hes been fighting to protect his constituents from the COVID-19 pandemic.

His vision for a sustainable and self-sufficient Navajo Nation comes from both Jewish and Navajo values. Growing up, Slater had one foot in both worlds, he said. He attended services and became a bar mitzvah at Congregation Beth El, and he also spent summers in Round Rock, Arizona, where his grandparents were well-known educators and advocates for education based in Navajo traditions and led by Navajo people.

I just feel incredibly blessed to be both Navajo and Jewish, Slater said. Within both cultures, I think there is this concept of trying to repair the world or return it to the state that is closer to harmony and beauty, and they really complement each other in my mind.

Slater has been dealing directly with the fallout from COVID-19 in Round Rock, where he lives, as well as his district in general. With 7,088 positive cases and 336 deaths from the virus as of July 24, the Navajo Nation has among the highest infection rates and death rates in the country.

Ive lost a lot of constituents. And some of my communities are tiny, theyre very small relative to Phoenix, but youre losing 14, 20 people in a community, or youre losing households, Slater said. Today, I just found out about a family that had to bury two of their children within the last three weeks.

Slater thinks a lot these days about how hes using his time. Hes one of 24 elected members of the Navajo Nation Council, which means a lot of calls and committee meetings. At the same time, hes looking for ways to prevent tragedy for the communities he represents, whether thats organizing deliveries of food and water or driving it to constituents himself.

Thats the difficult part: How do you use your time? Slater said. Is it literally just trying to get the material support and going out and physically bringing it to your people or to people who can distribute it? Or is it working on those broader public policy issues that could strengthen the whole system? That balance is so hard to define, theres no formula for it and it changes daily. Sometimes I have to get off calls so that I can go help with delivery or try to figure out an insurance issue.

And at the same time, Slater is continuing to move forward with legislation to advance the self-sufficiency of the Navajo Nation. He has plans to support agricultural infrastructure and to restore windmills and ranches that are part of the nations traditional food systems, in addition to fulfilling basic needs for residents of his district such as running water, electricity and housing.

Those are just the basics, but building a nation that is sustainable, aligns with our values and has pushed out a lot of these detrimental forces takes a broad-based effort, Slater said. Its not operating within each issue in isolation its finding those connections, because that creates a durable and sustainable society.

Slaters vision for the Navajo Nation, and how he approaches his role as the youngest member of the Navajo Council, is inspired by his upbringing: his parents passion for public service, summers at his grandparents house in Round Rock and the overlap that exists, he said, between the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam with Hzh, a Navajo concept of harmony, balance and beauty.

Its not just about progress for progress sake; its not just about advancement. Its actually taking a moment to meditate on what existed that worked in the past, Slater said. What would this world be like without all the structures and acrimony that human beings cause? And how do we put ourselves into this world, where we respect creation and we build sustainable systems that are supportive of creation and not destructive of it?

Growing up in both cultures deeply informs Slaters worldview.

I grew up with one foot in both worlds and I feel like theyre 100% my identity, he said. Its not like one is less than the other.

Carl Roessel Slater with his parents.

But in addition to the harmony between the two sets of values, there are cultural differences that Slater had to learn to navigate: communication styles, for example.

This kind of brash, maybe confrontational, overbearing stereotype of the Ashkenazi Jewish family, the type of communication, people talking over each other that communication style is not something that you can use on Navajo, because we communicate differently, and the language is different and the descriptors and the construction of grammar and everything, Slater said. So growing up, I had to balance that.

Ultimately, learning to code switch between those two styles and to navigate two different worlds has served him well, he said.

While there are no synagogues on the Navajo Nation, Slater still tries to attend services at a synagogue once in a while, whether thats a conservative congregation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a Chabad house or Reform congregation in Flagstaff or a synagogue in Durango, Colorado. For Shavuot last year, he visited Beth El Congregation in Phoenix. The name, he noted, is something of a family tradition: I grew up going to a Beth El, my dad grew up going to a Beth El I like supporting our Beth El.

Not being able to attend services regularly weighs on him, though.

Its something where I can go a few months without getting to synagogue, and it definitely weighs on me spiritually, Slater said. Having grown up doing both [Navajo and Judaism], I cant just do one or the other, I need both to feel whole. And its really tough as someone who believes the stuff and cares about it, cares about its perpetuation and what that obligation means.

His family has also influenced him in ways beyond faith. Slater is named after his paternal grandfather, a lawyer who died before he was born.

Im somebody who never knew his grandfather and has kind of felt the weight of being named after someone who was a lion within the family, even the extended family. Its weighed on me a lot, Slater said. In this job, I know that my grandparents would be proud of me and the work that Im doing, because its reflecting the values that they raised their children with and they passed on to me.

Slaters own passion for public service came from witnessing his parents in action.

His father is a lawyer who worked for a judge on the United States Court of Appeals and eventually was appointed principal deputy general counsel of the U.S. Air Force. His mother worked for New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman, reestablished the Navajo Nation Washington Office and served as the deputy assistant secretary for Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior. When Slaters youngest brother was born, his mother stopped working in an office and started working as a board member for organizations that focused on protecting women and children.

They shaped, through their actions, the values and issues that I care about today, Slater said.

With both parents involved in politics, law and government, policy and legislation is a natural fit for Slater.

Its in our blood, he said. I think that it came naturally to me. I dont know what it is, but its talking to people, its human interaction, its trying to understand what motivates folks and what vision they have for their lives and their communities.

Summers at his grandparents house in Round Rock also influenced Slaters understanding of his place in the world. Ruth and Robert Roessel were visionaries in Navajo education, founding both the Rough Rock Demonstration School, a school founded on principles of Navajo language, history and culture, and Din College, the first tribally controlled college in the country.

They had me thinking from a very young age about what are these bigger forces that contribute to our lives and what we can do and what we can imagine and what obligations we have, Slater said. I get a lot of inspiration from them.

Today, Slater is focused on reimagining what the Navajo Nation could be.

A big part of that for me is thinking about how we build a sustainable Navajo nation that has local communities that are either self-sustaining or regionally self-sustaining and dont require a lot of inputs or interactions with dominant society or the United States, Slater said.

His goal is to bring those resources directly to the communities that need them, including access to food and medical care. During the COVID-19 crisis, there are only five hospitals to serve the 178,000 members of the Navajo Nation, and ICU beds are almost nonexistent. Some members have to drive two hours to reach the nearest grocery store. Changing that, Slater said, is going to take some reimagining of the relationship between Navajo and the United States.

Weve been here from the beginning, were not going anywhere anytime soon, and the prosperity of Navajo and the United States are intertwined, Slater said. So we need strong federal support to build those self-sustaining institutions and imagine a future for Navajo that is more divorced from a lot of people would say these dominant capitalist forces that pull apart societal connections, community connections and reinforce consumption instead of sustainability.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, theres a number of ways that the Greater Phoenix community can help, Slater said, from monetary donations to help volunteers distribute food to donation drives for sanitation supplies and backpacks, education materials and toys for kids who are out of school for the time being.

More than that, though, Slater wants the Greater Phoenix community to learn about the history of the citys relationship to the Navajo Nation, and to be advocates for a more just future.

The second part and this actually should be before any sort of donation or anything is to educate yourself, Slater said. Its not incumbent upon Indian people; its not incumbent upon those that you are worried about for them to teach you. Its for you to learn about your role in this system that quite frankly exploits the resources of Indian peoples and transfers that wealth or potential for prosperity to the quote unquote dominant society, those off the reservation.

Thats what I want to see the Phoenix Jewish community reckon with the prosperity and the beauty that comes from that community down there is by definition premised on the power and water that came from up here. JN

See original here:

Navajo and Jewish: Navajo Nation Council member contends with COVID-19 - Jewish News of Greater Phoenix

On Tuesdays, the cantor sings – The Jewish Standard

Posted By on June 24, 2020

The Jewish Home at Rockleigh has seen many changes over the last several months as it adapts to the limitations imposed by the novel coronavirus. Now, according to Sunni Herman, its executive vice president, it is a time of healing.

Weve been doing a lot of [covid-19] testing and its coming back with people testing negative, Ms. Herman said. Our elders are strong and getting stronger every day.

To help residents transition from isolation to sanctioned interaction, the Jewish Home has launched Project Outside. While were very lucky that every room is private, were trying to get our seniors out of their rooms, and outside, to the courtyard and the lake, Ms. Herman said.

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Sunni Herman

Burgeoning lakefront activities now include exercise programs, music programs, singing, and even refreshments. Were trying to get elders outside whenever possible, she said; staff helps members go outside, ensuring that they are appropriately distanced from each other. Project Outside has been a very big part of healing, even just opening windows, and people waving their hands. Ms. Herman also noted the importance of eating and drinking. Were giving out tons of shakes and high-calorie healthy drinks to keep up spirits.

Windows have taken on a new importance for the seniors. In recent weeks, families were been allowed to visit their elderly relatives only through the windows of the rooms. That has just changed as of June 21, visitors have been permitted to see residents outdoors on our premises, according to the guidelines set by the New Jersey Department of Health, Ms. Herman said.

Israel Singer has been the cantor at Temple Emanu-El of Closter for the last 30 years; before he came to the United States from his native Israel, he sang at the Great Synagogues of Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan, and he was a guest cantor at the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem. Recently, he has worked hard to raise the spirits of Jewish Home residents from the other side of their windows.

But, he says, the pleasure is all his.

Im in heaven, he said, describing his Tuesday evening serenades. I used to visit the residents, many of whom are from our shul, on a regular basis. Its a kind of frustration. I cant go to the hospital and we dont have normal services in shul. So when congregation member Danny Rocke asked him to sing for his wife, Jill, at Rockleigh, he was immediately receptive.

Lets go to the window, he said.

When Mr. Rocke suggested bringing Cantor Singer to sing outside the building, Ms. Herman realized that his concert could reach all the residents. So every other Tuesday at 7 p.m., we open up all the windows facing outside and use the in-house system to livestream his concert to TVs and Facebook. That way, listeners can also enjoy the music from their own rooms.

I stand in the courtyard with a microphone, Cantor Singer said, clearly enjoying his experiences, seeing people at their windows swaying from side to side, like in Italy and Israel, where people sang from the porches. Because they came to their windows, The singing caused them to come and see each other and strengthen each other. They saw their neighbors. It caused a lot of emotional enthusiasm.

Although the Jewish Home has residents there for a large number of reasons, most of them are Jewish, Cantor Singer said. That explains his repertoire. At his first hour-long concert, I sang some upbeat songs and some older songs people would be familiar with. The next time, I sang a mix of religious, Israeli, and some Broadway music, plus some popular songs they know. They love everything. The audience is amazing.

For his part, I enjoy it tremendously. It warms my heart. I can actually help people by using my own talent. Its an amazing thing, and I thank God for giving it to me. It was nothing I expected.

Ms. Herman said that when she looks around during the cantors concert, everyone is at their windows. One song is more uplifting than another. Cantor Singer provides introductions to each piece, and its purely magical. They love it. The staff love it. Everyone is clapping; the TVs are on. Its a one-man cabaret show.

The Jewish Home has an incredible relationship with Cantor Singers synagogue, where members go monthly for minyan and Kiddush, she added. When Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner put together a virtual seder this year, it was shown on all the residents TVs.

Its awesome watching Cantor Singer dance around uplifting spirits through music, Ms. Herman said. And hes doing this as a volunteer. You can tell how much he feels hes getting from it. He thanked me for giving him the opportunity to do this mitzvah.

See original here:

On Tuesdays, the cantor sings - The Jewish Standard

"She was very shaken and told me that she is pregnant." – PoPville

Posted By on June 24, 2020

Photo by nevermindtheend

Dear PoPville,

I wanted to see if you could post something about a disturbing assault I witnessed yesterday. Ive seen others post about recent random attacks on joggers and pedestrians in DC. I was on my bike heading southbound on 6th St NW towards Gallery Place at 2:55pm. I approached a stop light at the corner of 6th & I. The 6 & I Synagogue and La Colombe coffee are both at this intersection. My attention was caught by a woman falling on the crosswalk as I slowed down to the light. I then saw a man with an angry look on his face behind her and it immediately dawned on me that he had possibly pushed her. I yelled Hey and he shouted she fell as he kept walking.

Another woman was also crossing the street near the victim but she didnt stop either. I spoke to the victim and she confirmed that this man she did not know had just pushed her down. He apparently had said something or was behaving in a way that scared her right before the incident and she thought he would avoid her being next to another woman on the sidewalk. She was very shaken and told me that she is pregnant. I offered to wait so she could speak to the Police. She said she didnt want to call the Police and would be ok. The suspect is a white man, approximately 58, with scraggly blonde hair. I spoke to two Metro Police officers standing outside the Gallery Place Metro. While the incident location is not their jurisdiction, I asked if they could alert DC Police about what the woman told me had just happened.

Excerpt from:

"She was very shaken and told me that she is pregnant." - PoPville


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