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Trump economic aide Gary Cohn chides him on Charlottesville – BBC News

Posted By on August 25, 2017

BBC News
Trump economic aide Gary Cohn chides him on Charlottesville
BBC News
US President Donald Trump's top economic adviser has criticised the White House's response to a far-right rally this month in Virginia. National Economic Council director Gary Cohn told the … In his FT interview, Mr Cohn said: “As a Jewish American

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Trump economic aide Gary Cohn chides him on Charlottesville – BBC News

La Crescenta Park’s Nazi ties reflected in new historical marker – Jewish Journal

Posted By on August 25, 2017

The Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation unveiled a historical marker at Crescenta Valley Community Regional Park in La Crescenta on Aug. 18that includes an explanation of the parks historical ties to Nazis.

The new marker takes note of the parks past, acknowledging that in the years before World War II and as Hitler and the Nazi Party rose to power in Germany, supporters of Hitler at times paraded in this park.

[Peter Dreier: A tale of two cities Charlottesville and La Crescenta]

The unveiling followed a controversy that arose last year from the installation, and subsequent removal, of a previous sign at the entrance that read, Welcome to Hindenburg Park, recognizing former German President Paul von Hindenburg, a World War I hero who appointed Hitler as chancellor in 1933. The installation of that sign angered Jewish community members who knew of Hindenburgs history.

Mona Field, an Eagle Rock resident and former member of the L.A. Community College District board of trustees, who is Jewish, was among those who advocated for the removal of the Hindenburg Park sign, which was paid for by the Tricentennial Foundation, a nonprofit German-American heritage organization, with the countys approval. The sign was removed last May, about one month after its installation.

Hans Eberhard, 85, the German-born chairman of the Tricentennial Foundation, was 17 when he immigrated to the United States in 1949. At that time, Crescenta Valley Community Regional Park was a private park owned by the German-American League. As Hindenburg Park, it was the setting for dances, picnics and other community events for Germans in the area.

Probably in the late 50s, I started to go to the Hindenburg Park, he said. When I first came [to Los Angeles], I didnt know anybody here. People get to know you and find out youre from Germany, that youre German, [and say] We have an affair, come on down.

By paying for the earlier sign, Eberhard said he was attempting to honor the parks history. But part of that history in the years before World War II, during Hitlers rise to power included rallies staged by the German American Bund, a pro-Nazi group.

Following the removal of Eberhards sign, the L.A. County Commission on Human Relations appointed an ad hoc task force to create a replacement historical marker. Eberhard and Field, who both attended the unveiling, were among the people on the task force.

Field was instrumental in developing the language for the new marker, which features text, photographs and captions. It is titled German-American History at Crescenta Valley Community Regional Park. The photographs include an image showing members of the Bund party, in 1936, posing before a flag with a giant swastika. The photo is courtesy of the special collections and archives of the Oviatt Library at Cal State Northridge, which maintains an archive titled In Our Own Backyard: Resisting Nazi Propaganda in Southern California, 1933-1945.

Eberhard, who is not Jewish, is concerned that the image of the swastika could foment anti-Semitism.

The history [as depicted by the marker] is OK. What I dont like is the picture with the big swastika. I think that attracts undesirable elements. Thats a little offensive, dont you think? he said, suggesting that there might be other ways to convey what happened in the past.

Field said she did her best in working with multiple interests in creating a marker that reflects a part of history that has implications today as the United States debates the ascension of neo-Nazis.

My thing is not to confront people, she said. My thing is to fix a problem.

Jason Moss, executive director of The Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, also attended the new signs unveiling. He said he was pleased that after more than a year of debate, Fields and Eberhards task force overcame differences and created something tangible.

What I love about the marker is that it captures the true history of what took place at the park, he said. The ad hoc committee was able to come together and work through something that was very difficult, and in the end, I dont think history was whitewashed.

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La Crescenta Park’s Nazi ties reflected in new historical marker – Jewish Journal

How Mayors Can Fight Hate – CityLab

Posted By on August 25, 2017

KKK members in Charlottesville, VA. Steve Helber/AP

In absence of leadership from the White House, says the director of the Anti-Defamation League, cities need to step up.

Our nation has a long history of presidents standing up to bigotry and hate. But President Trump did the opposite in response to the largest gathering of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and KKK members in more than a decade. The bigotry-fueled violence led to the death of an innocent woman and two state troopers, dozens injured, and a deeply rattled country.

The events in Charlottesville are just the latest time in recent memory where we have seen an escalation of a hatred and bigotry in America. Recently, there has been an increase in violence and hate incidents targeting Muslims, Jews, and other minorities. Hateful rhetoric that once lived in the darkest corners of society has crept into the mainstream. We all must push back loudly to show such vile language and actions are unacceptable in our communities.

Times like these require both moral leadership and strong action. It was profoundly disturbing when President Trump equated racist white supremacists in Charlottesville with counter-protesters who were there to stand up against hate. The entire Unite the Right rally was built on racial and conspiratorial anti-Semitism. There is no rationalizing white supremacy and no room for this vile bigotry. It is un-American and it needs to be condemned without hesitation. The president has equivocated on something unequivocal.

Moreover, the presidents inability to take action to prevent such events from happening again is unacceptable. He needs to direct the Department of Justice and the FBI to ensure all law enforcement is trained on how to deal with hate and extremists. He needs to task the Department of Education to prioritize anti-bias and anti-hate content so kids learn that in America our differences are cherished, not seized upon. He needs to engage the Department of Homeland Security to re-fund the countering violent extremism grant program, and ensure it fights all forms of extremism. But he has done none of this.

Fortunately, mayors across the country are stepping up.

For decades, Americas mayors have taken a strong position in support of civil rights and in opposition to racism and discrimination of all kinds. They have spoken out against injustice and worked to build tolerance and understanding within their communities. They have undertaken efforts to integrate immigrants and have adopted a variety of policies to ensure their LGBT residents are treated equitably. Mayors have condemned the bigotry and violence seen in Charlottesville, and have now come together to do what is needed to heal their communities — and to ensure that the U.S. continues the progress weve made as a country in the five decades since the murder of Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi, the bombing that killed four young girls in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and the March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Together, the Anti-Defamation League and the U.S. Conference of Mayors have announced a Mayors Compact to Combat Hate, Extremism and Bigotry that will become a key component of a broad new Alliance Against Hate. Through the partnership, mayors will take advantage of ADLs expertise, including its renowned anti-hate education program for grade schools, and the anti-bias training it delivers to law enforcement agencies, including every new FBI agent.

More than 270 mayors have already signed the Mayors Compact to Combat Hate, Extremism and Bigotry and pledged to implement the joint plan. They will take a fresh, comprehensive approach to unwind divisive forces in their cities, stop hate crimes, and work to create new bonds in their communities. They have pledged to vigorously speak out against all acts of hate; insist that bias-motivated violence be punished to the fullest extent of the law; promote law enforcement training on hate crimes and anti-bias education in schools; encourage community activities that celebrate cultural and ethnic diversity; and advocate for aggressive enforcement of civil rights laws and strengthening of hate crimes laws. They will ensure public safety, while safeguarding freedom of speech and other fundamental rights protected by the Constitution.

Regardless of leadership in the White House, we have the power to enact meaningful and lasting change at the local level.

Mayors and their cities will be a beacon for inclusion, tolerance, and respect for all. We will continue to build stronger cultures of kindness in our communities, and ensure those responsible for extremist and bias-motivated criminal conduct are brought to justice. Together, we will find a path forward and restore our great nation.

Jonathan Greenblatt is the CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

The small Wisconsin city is enjoying a cultural revival, thanks to its gorgeous setting, a few well-placed boosters, and a knack for smart development.

When inequality goes up, so, too, does the rent burdenespecially for the lowest income residents.

Some of the monuments in this small Pennsylvania town arent telling the truth about the battle that was fought here.

The catastrophic fire that killed at least 80 in London was the inevitable byproduct of an ideology that vilified the poor.

A speedy transition to wind, water, and solar could avert catastrophic climate change. For the 139 countries that backed the Paris agreement, its within reach.

CityLab is committed to telling the story of the worlds cities: how they work, the challenges they face, and the solutions they need.

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How Mayors Can Fight Hate – CityLab

Mayor Pugh pledges to fight bigotry, build tolerance in Baltimore – ABC2 News

Posted By on August 25, 2017

BALTIMORE – Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is one of 200 mayors nationwide to pledge to fight bigotry and build tolerance.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors and The Anti-defamation League announced the joint plan to fight extremism and promote equality following the violent protest in Charlottesville, Virginia that left one woman dead and dozens hurt.

Under the The 10 point plan, mayors commit to vigorously speak out against all acts of hate; punish bias-motivated violence to the fullest extent of the law; encourage more anti-bias and anti-hate education in schools and police forces, using ADL experts and resources for both; encourage community activities that celebrate their population’s cultural and ethnic diversity; and ensure civil rights laws are aggressively enforced and hate crimes laws are as strong as possible.

Mayor Pugh is one of 18 city leaders in the Maryland, DC, Virginia and North Carolina to commit to the plan. So far, more than 200 mayors have pledged to carry out the plan across the country.

List of Signatories in Maryland, DC, Virginia, North Carolina:

Muriel Bowser, Washington, District of Columbia Catherine E. Pugh, Baltimore, Maryland Patrick L. Wojahn, College Park, Maryland Candace B. Hollingsworth, Hyattsville, Maryland Jacob R. Day, Salisbury, Maryland Jeffrey Z. Slavin, Somerset, Maryland Esther E. Manheimer, Asheville, North Carolina Lydia Lavelle, Carrboro, North Carolina Jennifer W. Roberts, Charlotte, North Carolina William ‘Bill’ V. Bell, Durham, North Carolina Nancy Barakat Vaughan, Greensboro, North Carolina Miles Atkins, Mooresville, North Carolina Nancy McFarlane, Raleigh, North Carolina James Allen Joines, Winston-Salem, North Carolina Allison Silberberg, Alexandria, Virginia Mike Signer, Charlottesville, Virginia McKinley L. Price DDS, Newport News

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Mayor Pugh pledges to fight bigotry, build tolerance in Baltimore – ABC2 News

Birds of a feather: White supremacy and Zionism – Middle East Eye

Posted By on August 24, 2017

Birds of a feather: White supremacy and Zionism
Middle East Eye
But the reasoning behind the linking of the two symbols – white supremacy and Zionism – is far from torturous. The two are not strange bedfellows, but rather natural allies. Both represent a desire to establish and maintain a homogeneous society that

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Birds of a feather: White supremacy and Zionism – Middle East Eye

Sanhedrin 33 and 35 – Jewish Link of New Jersey

Posted By on August 24, 2017

May these words of Torah serve as a merit leiluy nishmat Menachem Mendel ben Harav Yoel David Balk, ah.

This week we learned Sanhedrin 33 and 35. These are some highlights.

Sanhedrin 33: Why cant a contemporary rabbi rule against the conclusions of a rabbi in the Talmud?

Our gemara teaches that when a rabbi or court issues a ruling and then discovers that the ruling is against a mishnah, the ruling is reversed. A sage cannot rule against a mishnah. The Gemara adds Rav and Shmuel and the Talmud to this category. A rabbi cannot rule against Rav and Shmuel or against the conclusions in the Talmudwritten by Ravina and Rav Ashi. Why is this so? Why cant a contemporary sage rule against the rulings of earlier rabbis?

Kessef Mishna (Hilchot Mamrim 2:1) suggests that when the Mishnah and Talmud were completed they were accepted by the entire Jewish community as the last and final word. The sages of the time accepted that no one would dispute the conclusions of the Mishnah and Talmud. Chazon Ish (Kovetz Inyanim Hearot Hachazon Ish ot 2) adds that the sages of those times, based on truth, accepted that the issues dealt with by the Mishnah and Talmud could not be reopened. They acknowledged how they were inferior intellectually to the rabbis of the Talmud and Mishnah. If I cannot reach the intellectual levels of my predecessors I cannot argue with them. Only someone who understands fully as much as someone else can engage in a dispute. The sages right after the Talmud and Mishnah all saw that they were not on the level of the rabbis of the Mishnah and Talmud. The laws of those rabbis therefore cannot be overturned. According to Raavad, it is not only the Talmud and Mishnah. Later sages, such as Rishonim, cannot disagree with a sage of an earlier and greater level, such as a Gaon (Rosh Siman 6). Contemporary rabbis are nowhere near the level of Geonim or Rishonim. We cannot issue a ruling against their conclusions.

Rav Elchanan Wasserman (there) disagrees with this explanation. He points out that sometimes a contemporary sage is greater than those who preceded him. It is said that Rav Chaim of Volozhin testified that his teacher, the Gra, was as great as the Rashba and possibly on the level of the Ramban. Rav Hai Gaon was the youngest of the Geonim yet he was greater than all the other Geonim. Rav Elchanan therefore argues that the Gra was entitled to argue with Rishonim. No one can argue with the Talmud and Mishnah, for the acceptance of the Jewish nation is the equivalent of a ruling of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin represent the entire Jewish nation. Rambam writes that when the entire Jewish nation agrees to make one sage a musmach, the chain of semicha can restart. The reason for this is that the entire Jewish nation together has the status of the Sanhedrin and the ordained sages. The acceptance of the Mishnah and Talmud right away by all the Jews of the time rendered the compositions rulings of the Sanhedrin. No one can overturn conclusions of the Sanhedrin.

In Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 25:1) we are taught that a judge cannot issue a ruling against an established halacha. If poskim of earlier generations, such as Rama or Beit Yosef, have ruled on an issue and their ruling has been widely accepted, a contemporary sage does not have the power to rule against them (Meorot Daf Hayomi).

Sanhedrin 35: Is lifting the hands necessary for the priestly blessing?

Kohanim bless us by lifting their hands and reciting three verses to the community. Shut Noda BeYehuda (Kama Orach Chaim Siman 5) was asked about a kohen whose hands shook and was unable to lift his hands. Could the priest recite the blessing with his hands down? Is lifting the hands an essential component of Birkat Kohanim?

Noda BeYehuda quotes Shut Shevut Yaakov (Chelek Bet Siman Aleph) who addresses this question. Shevut Yaakov rules that it is only in the Mikdash where there is a necessity to lift hands. Outside of the holy Temple, a priest can recite the Birkat Kohanim with a blessing and not lift his hands when it is impossible for him to lift his hands. Shut Haradbaz (Chelek Vav Siman 117) also allows a kohen who cannot lift his hands to recite the blessing.

Noda BeYehuda disagrees. He feels that just as it is a requirement to stand, it is an absolute necessity to lift the hands. If the priest cannot lift his hands he cannot recite the blessing. Minchat Kenaot (Sota 38a) seeks to prove Noda BeYehuda correct from Tosafot on our daf. Tosafot (s.v. Sheneemar) say that a priest who killed is allowed to perform the service of sacrifices. He is only disqualified from duchaning. Duchaning is done with the hands. We have a rule: the prosecutor cannot also serve as the defense advocate, . To lift hands in blessing that are soiled with spilled innocent blood is impossible. The murderer cannot bless; however, he may perform sacrificial services. It emerges from Tosafot that the essence of the priestly blessing is the raising of the hands. If Shevut Yaakov is right, why is the kohen who killed always disqualified from blessing the community? Let him bless the community without lifting his hands. From Tosafot, Minchat Kenaot argues that a priest who cannot lift his hands cannot recite the priestly blessing.

Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim 128:21) rules that lifting hands is a necessity for the priestly blessing. Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 128:23), Birkei Yosef in Shiyurei Beracha (128:1), and Mishna Berura (128:52) all rule against the Shevut Yaakov and require lifting hands for Birkat Kohanim (Mesivta).

By Rabbi Zev Reichman

Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.

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Sanhedrin 33 and 35 – Jewish Link of New Jersey

This iconic San Francisco synagogue is no longer ‘just’ for LGBT Jews – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Posted By on August 24, 2017

Rabbi Mychal Copeland took over as spiritual leader of Congregation Shaar Zahav in July. (Norm Levin/J. The Jewish News of Northern California)

SAN FRANCISCO (J. The Jewish News of Northern California via JTA) At Congregation Shaar Zahav in San Francisco, Rabbi Mychal Copeland leads Shabbat services with a rainbow tallit around her shoulders. The synagogue newsletter is called The Jewish Gaily Forward.

But the shul, which since its 1977 founding has been known as San Franciscos gay synagogue, is now reaching out to a broader community and de-emphasizing its identity as an LGBT-specific congregation.

A similar transformation is occurring at other LGBT synagogues. Notably, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York City now identifies itself as an LGBTQS shul the S standing for straight that serves Jews of all genders and sexual identifications, according to Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum. The synagogue was founded in 1973 as a home and haven for LGBTQ Jews, according to its website.

At the same time, there has been an evolution in attitudes toward LGBT people in the greater Jewish community. Many synagogues today have become increasingly welcome to homosexual, bisexual and transgender congregants and clergy.

This year were marking 40 years, and thats a significant number in Judaism, said Michael Chertok, the president of Shaar Zahav and a member since 1993. Its hard to say weve come into the Promised Land, but were really in a new place as far as LGBT rights in this country.

Arthur Slepian, who joined Shaar Zahav in 1989 and has served as its president, said he is proud of the Reform synagogues leading role in the move to greater inclusiveness in the Jewish community and happy it can now broaden its appeal.

I think that there are always going to be people that feel a bit marginalized or not completely at home at other places, and I think Shaar Zahav is striving to always be the home for that part of the community, said Slepian, founder of A Wider Bridge, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that supports Israels LGBT community. And I think its a great thing for the Jewish world that people who are not LGBT will walk through the doors of Shaar Zahav and celebrate its history.

Still, the congregation intends to keep its queer values core. The changes, which include three new board members who dont identify as LGBT, do not mean Shaar Zahav is ready to toss out its rainbow flags or stop participating in Pride Week events. Occasions such as the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance will continue to be a congregational focus.

The stained glass on one side of Shaar Zahavs ark has the Hebrew inscription Hinei mah tov umanayim, shevet achim gam yachad (How good and pleasant it is to sit together as brothers). On the other side, the inscription is the same except the word achot (sisters) replaces achim (brothers).

So much has changed in 40 years, especially in the Bay Area, with regards to inclusion of LGBT people, said Copeland, whose tenure as Shaar Zehav spiritual leader began July 1. At the same time, I see this as not necessarily a break in any way in what this community has been doing for so many years.

I want to be sitting with and praying with and learning with anyone who wishes to be in a Jewish space, exploring life together.

Founded four decades ago as a home for gay and lesbian Jews, the synagogue was a leader in the 1980s in caring for those with AIDS. In recent years, it has openly welcomed people who are transgender.

Leaders of the 250-family congregation decided in 2012 to begin a strategic planning process to guide it forward in a Bay Area that had become younger, less religious and more diverse. In 2015, the Walter and Elise Haas Fund awarded Shaar Zahav a grant to further explore its evolving identity and the synagogue hired interim Rabbi Ted Riter, who specializes in transforming synagogues, to lead it through the process.

When we look back at our history, we recognize that our synagogue has committed to a multigenerational exploration of what it means to be queer, reads a case study of the changes. The Shaar Zahav that is emerging is nourished by our LGBT-specific roots, while also recognizing that what unifies us runs so much deeper than sexual orientation and gender identity.

Members of Congregation Shaar Zahav march in the San Francisco Pride parade. (Courtesy of Congregation Shaar Zahav)

Both Chertok and Copeland say queer values emphasize a refusal to conform and a questioning of authority, even while honoring tradition. Those values include support for refugees and reaching out to interfaith families.

Queer values overlap with some deep-seated Jewish values such as otherness, always looking out for whos not being treated well, whos being oppressed, Copeland said. Those values were imbedded in the founding of Shaar Zahav as a place where gay and lesbian Jews could come and pray at a time when that was very difficult.

Still Kleinbaum, who has served at New Yorks Beit Simchat Torah since 1992, noted that focusing on self-identification misses the point: Shaar Zahav doesnt have to worry about gay Jews flocking to other San Francisco shuls. She said the larger problem is that most LGBT Jews avoid synagogue altogether.

Our competition is not other synagogues that are opening to LGBT folks, Kleinbaum said. Our real competition is the fact that most LGBT folks dont care about synagogues. So the issue is how were going to make ourselves relevant for the 90 to 95 percent of LGBT Jews who dont go to a synagogue.

Nonetheless, that doesnt diminish the role the synagogue played in helping lead an evolution within the Jewish community.

Shaar Zahav was born out of a sense of necessity that there wasnt any other place LGBT people could go and feel included, Slepian said. But out of that necessity, something holy was created. Shaar Zahav and many other gay shuls really elevated the Jewish world by setting an example of what it meant to be inclusive.

I think [de-emphasizing its identity as an LGBT-specific congregation] is just whats needed today, and I think it is a sign of progress that there are many places that LGBT people can go in the Jewish world and feel welcomed and celebrated. I dont know many LGBT people in their 20s and 30s who feel compelled to be part of an all-LGBT community. We live in a very different world.

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This iconic San Francisco synagogue is no longer ‘just’ for LGBT Jews – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Good deeds performed during Tamarac synagogue’s Mitzvah Day – Sun Sentinel

Posted By on August 24, 2017

Mitzvahs recently abounded at Temple Beth Torah Sha’aray Tzedek in Tamarac.

Some of the projects the volunteers participated in during TBTST’s recent mitzvah day/open house included decorating Rosh Hashanah apple plates for needy Jewish residents, bringing school supplies for children in foster care and assembling sandwiches for a local feeding program.

Jody Glass, a coordinator for this mitzvah day/open house, said, “We started doing the combination of the open house/mitzvah day three years ago because we realized that just having an open house doesn’t really show who we are.”

“By having the community come in, since this is open to everybody, they get a chance to do something good for the community, see what we do for the community and meet us,” Glass continued.

The congregation was happy with the event’s turnout of approximately 150 people.

“We have our youth group, our sisterhood, our Hebrew school and our younger children all here and having them all here on a variety of projects puts us in a good light,” said Rabbi Michael Gold, the synagogue’s spiritual leader.

Some of the local organizations the congregation and the volunteers helped that day included Covenant House Florida, Broward Partnership for the Homeless, Broward Cooperate Feeding Service and Harvest Drive.

“We’re helping all these different organizations and we have people in the temple who are volunteers for these different organizations that we’re helping,” Glass said.

Another organization that the congregation helped during the event was Goodman Family Services of Broward County’s The Cupboard, a kosher food pantry aiming to help wipe out Jewish hunger in the county. Volunteers made 75 apple plates for the needy Jewish residents served by The Cupboard so they can enjoy them for Rosh Hashanah.

“Many Jewish families will buy a new item to place on their holiday table to enhance the beauty of the table. These items are handed down from generation to generation to continue to beautify the next generation’s table and to remember those who passed and are no longer around your holiday table,” Glass said regarding the apple plate project. “I feel that someone who, due to their circumstances, needs to ask for help to put food on their table will appreciate that another person has not only provided the essentials but also provided that one item that will make their holiday special.”

Volunteers who participated in this apple plate project commented on their experience.

“This is going to help somebody have a meal on their dinner table and it feels good to do this mitzvah that is also fun,” said Amy Dockler, adviser for the congregation’s United Synagogue Youth.

Hunter Gold of Plantation said, “It makes me feel empowered to know that others are going to get helped as well.”

Robin Wyckoff of Coral Springs said, “I’m an artist so this is great and it’s extra special for me that this is going for a good cause.”

Another project the event’s volunteers took part in was creating dog shoes for dogs at the Humane Society of Broward County.

Jackie Jaffe, 17, of Plantation who took part in this project, said, “I volunteer there so I know that making dogs feel more at home at the Humane Society makes me feel good.”

Lawrence Jaffe, Jackie’s father who also took part in this project, said, “I’m very proud that my daughter is spending time from her busy schedule to come here and it’s very good to support the temple on Mitzvah Day and it’s very important for the Humane Society.”

Visit or call 954-721-7660 for more information on the congregation and its programs.

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Good deeds performed during Tamarac synagogue’s Mitzvah Day – Sun Sentinel

Black September – San Diego Jewish Journal

Posted By on August 24, 2017

On September 5, 1972, at the Olympic Village in Munich, Germany, eight Palestinian terrorists breached lax perimeter security and broke into two apartments being used by the Israeli Olympic team. They captured, held hostage, and eventually killed 11 athletes and coaches in what came to be known as the Black September attack, after the faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization that carried out the act. The news was met with horror around the world.

The As were in Chicago in advance of a series against the White Sox when the news reached them. With a rare night off, the teams two Jewish players, Ken Holtzman and Mike Epstein, found themselves independently pacing their rooms at the Ambassador Hotel, unable to sit still. The information filled the space around them, drawing the walls in close. Neither man had been to Israel, but both felt a visceral connection to the events. Beyond even the religious connection, Epstein had participated in the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, when baseball was a demonstration sport, and couldnt stop thinking about how proud he had been as The Star-Spangled Banner was played at Meiji Jingu Stadium. For such terror to happen to people representing their country, as he had, who had been bursting with pride, as he had been, was beyond his ability to reconcile. Unable to stand his solitude, Epstein went to the lobby seeking… something. There he found Holtzman, who had descended from his room for the very same reason.

When Holtzman joined the team at the beginning of the season, he had approached his Jewishness as something that hardly merited undue public attention. Teammates nicknamed him and Epstein Jew and Super Jew, respectively, a lighthearted homage to their heritage and respective bulk. (Rollie Fingers, Holtzmans roommate and close friend, took to calling him Regular Jew to lend some heft to the nickname.) Holtzmans wife Michelle was all too happy to play it up. When the Oakland Tribune contacted her for a profile of her husband shortly after he was acquired, she cut right to the chase.

Is Ken a big eater? she said. Well, no more so than any other Jewish boy. Do you want me to go through the whole ethnic bit? You know, the chicken soup, the matzo balls and the rest? Yes. He loves chicken soup. Yes, I cook it all the time for him. No, it doesnt help him win games. When I married him, Ken was tall and rangy. But after feeding him for the past nine months, hes now short and fat.

Things hadnt been so different for Epstein, who upon reaching the big leagues was labeled a kosher Lou Gehrig by one writer and Mickey Mantle bred on blintzes and gefilte fish by another.

This, though, was different. Holtzman never sought to play up the differences between his own heritage and those of his teammates, but at that moment he wanted nothing more than the companionship of somebody who understood who he was. When he saw Epstein enter the lobby, neither of them had to say a thing; within moments they were out the front door, walking the streets of Chicago.

We just wanted to be with each other and bond, said Epstein. We tried to understand what it was all about. What did those athletes do? What is it they did that was wrong?

The ballplayers paced off block after block, hour after hour, hands dug deep into jacket pockets in the September chill. They werent just Jews but Jewish athletes, going about their professional lives in a strange city, as the Israelis had been doing a day earlier. They were down, and they wanted explanations they knew would never come. In that moment each was all the other had.

It was one thing to be quietly Jewish inside a major league clubhouse, but some moments called for more. Something like the decision by Detroit Tigers Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg not to play in a tight pennant race in 1934 on the most important day on the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur. Like Sandy Koufax doing the same thing 31 years later, only this time in the World Series. It was easy to avoid identifying as Jewish within the context of baseball… right up until it wasnt.

This is who I am, said Epstein. I put on tefillin at different shuls in different cities. I was Bar Mitzvahed. I can read Hebrew. Im a Jew.

The walk helped, but it wasnt enough. Both men wanted to make a deeper statementto themselves, to each other, and, as athletes, to the world. Much of it was personal, but part of it wasnt; at the time there was no way to be sure that the atrocity in Munich was even an isolated incident.

Believe it or not, some people thought that the ramifications were that other Jewish athletes could be at risk, said Holtzman. Whos to say it wont happen to Jewish athletes in the United States, or that me or Mike wouldnt become targets? We just didnt know.

The players wanted a physical manifestation of their feelings. As they walked they hit upon the idea of armbands, black armbands, to wear in remembrance of the deceased and to acknowledge the terror. Upon returning to the hotel, they tracked down clubhouse manager Frank Ciensczyk to see if anything could be done. He said hed get right on it.

At the ballpark the following day Epstein and Holtzman arrived to find black strips of fabric already attached to their uniform jerseys. They also learned that they had a partner in their endeavor. Reggie Jackson had heard about the plan and asked Ciensczyk to make him one too. The action precipitated deeply held and wildly divergent feelings from the Jewish duo about the teams most mercurial player.

Reggie had no business putting it on, said Epstein, whose issues with Jackson had culminated with Reggies no Jews in Texas comment that led to their fistfight in May. It had nothing to do with him. It called attention. He wanted to be known, he wanted to be seen. Kenny and I had a bond, and he was not part of that. But would we expect anything else?

Holtzman disagreed. Everybody recognized that for me and Mike it was kind of a special situation, he said, looking back. And Reggie just chose to… its funny about Reggie.

With that, the pitcher launched into a story about Jacksons father, Martinez, a tailor from the predominantly Jewish township of Wyncotte, Pennsylvania. Holtzmans own father, Henrywho, like his father before him, dealt in industrial machinerysat next to Martinez Jackson while watching several of their sons games, and the two became friendly.

Mr. Jackson knew some Hebrew and Yiddish words because he had a largely Jewish clientele, so Reggie must have been exposed to that, said Holtzman. He had contact with Jewish people growing up and was not entirely unaware of Jewish cultural characteristics. So when I saw Reggie with that armband, I felt that he was understanding what me and Mike were going through. He didnt have anything to do with being Jewish, but felt it appropriate to show solidarity not only with his own teammates, but with the fact that athletes were getting killed. Reggie is often accused by other players of grandstanding, of showboating, of trying to be the center of attention. Call it whatever you want, but Reggies a lot deeper than that, okay? A lot deeper than that.

The press immediately latched on, racing to each man for comment. Beyond statements of solidarity with the Israelis, none of them took a firm stance. This was not a political statement, they said, but a personal one.

It was sorrowful, said Holtzman. Thats what it was.

Four days after the tragedy, Epstein was faced with a choice similar to those encountered by Koufax and Greenberg generations earlier. Jewish holidays begin and end at sundown, and that Friday night was the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, second only to Yom Kippur in terms of importance. Holtzman, not scheduled to pitch, was excused from the ballpark. Epstein, however, opted to play and went 4-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs. With Saturdays game scheduled at night, both men could attend synagogue in the morning, Epstein returning to the ballpark in time for the game. The armbands stayed on their uniforms all week… and through the next… and right on into the playoffs. They came off for the World Series, but by then the statement had been made. It was an emotional period, said Epstein, looking back. Were Jews. Im just glad we did something.

This month marks the 45th anniversary of the Black September Olympic massacre in Munich, Germany. The excerpt from Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic was re-published with permission from Jason Turbow. The book is available now. On Twitter, @DynasticBook offers day-by-day accounts of the As championship seasons.

Read the rest here:

Black September – San Diego Jewish Journal

Another perspective on the Wall – The Jewish Standard

Posted By on August 24, 2017


Six months ago, a few days before I left New Jersey for a sabbatical in Israel, I said goodbye to a beloved teacher and friend of mine, who is Orthodox. Having lived in Israel for an extended period, he had many helpful suggestions and one plea. Whatever you do, just promise me that you wont go to the Kotel on Rosh Chodesh with Women of the Wall. I was shocked. Why in the world not? I asked. Because its provocative, he explained. No it isnt, I protested. Its davening. Throwing chairs is provocative.

We didnt have time before my departure to get past these talking points. However, we know and respect one another well enough that we could disagree vehemently and still part lovingly. After all, we study rabbinic texts together, so debate and discussions are always to be continued.

As I write this, newly back in New Jersey and looking forward to seeing my friend, there has never been more controversy about Women of the Wall.

Various commitments prevented me from joining Women of the Wall on Rosh Chodesh during my sabbatical. Before I knew it, the month of Sivan had begun, and there were no more new moons left in my stay. I was disappointed, but I looked forward to telling my friend how things had worked out. I could just imagine his smile and, likely, a crack about divine providence and human inefficiency. The best-laid plans of mice and women or mahn tracht un gut lacht (human plans meet with divine humor).

On my penultimate Shabbat in Jerusalem, I went to Yedidya, a proto-egalitarian modern Orthodox synagogue. The role of women is similar to what it was 40 to 60 years ago in the Conservative movement: women carry the Torah, deliver sermons, read from the Torah, and lead some of the prayers, but are not counted in the minyan or allowed to have aliyot. (One notable difference is that women rarely sat separately from men in Conservative congregations, but they still do so in virtually all modern Orthodox synagogues.)

In the crowd at Yedidya, I recognized my roommate of almost 30 years ago at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Cheryl Birkner Mack. We had lost touch, and I didnt even know that she had made aliyah. After services we reconnected, and she invited me to daven with her and a group of women at the Wall.

It was a second chance, and I would not miss it! The davening was planned for a Wednesday morning not Rosh Chodesh and not a Torah-reading day. This womens davening group was called Original Women of the Wall. Cheryl promised me more information on it, and she filled me in, as promised.

The original charter of Women of the Wall was just six Hebrew words, which translate as: to advance womens prayer in the womens section at the Kotel. The group was relatively small; about 20 women turned out each month. All movements and nations of origin were represented, with modern Orthodoxy and the United States predominating. The women would daven as a group. To hear them, you would have to be standing right next to them. Yet they were noticeable, because of the rare sight of group prayer on the womens side, and because many of them wore tallit and tefillin.

Passersby at the Wall would make comments, often nasty ones. The women wearing prayer garb would be stared at, at best; insulted, most typically; or assaulted, at worst.

Women of the Wall primarily has grown in response to attacks. When fellow Jews spat or threw chairs at the women, or when the police arrested them, sabras and Jews visiting from the diaspora began to show up, in solidarity and in protest.

A watershed moment occurred on Rosh Chodesh Kislev 2009. The small group of women who attended Rosh Chodesh services month in and month out had an inspiring and peaceful experience. Their souls were directed on high, their sense of community was strong, the weather was beautiful, and everyone seemed to treat them like the benign presence they intended to be. At that time, women did not read Torah at the Wall. An Israeli-born medical student was about to lead the women out of Western Wall area to conduct the Torah service at Robinsons Arch, the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount area, where egalitarian services are held. Instead, she suggested on the spur of the moment: Why dont we read the Torah right here? It had been such a wonderful morning, and she wanted to remain together in that special place. Everyone who attended Women of the Wall services regularly, including my friend Cheryl, had been appointed as a board member. After a two-minute board meeting, they decided unanimously to read the holiest Jewish book at the holiest Jewish site.

Almost immediately after they opened the Torah scroll, three men approached and questioned them. When it became clear that these men were contacting the police, the women, wanting to avoid further confrontation, rolled up the scroll and began to leave the Kotel. The medical student carrying the scroll was apprehended by the police on her way out, however. They detained her, together with the scroll she carried, for three hours of interrogation.

As a result, Women of the Wall garnered more press and support than ever before. The following month, a crowd of about 300 attended. From that point on, diaspora Jews traveling to Israel have come in large numbers to show their support. Over the years, at least five rabbis have been arrested, as well as many lay leaders. In some cases, they were arrested for wearing a prayer shawl (or, believe it or not, a too brightly colored prayer shawl). In other cases, they were arrested for carrying a Torah into the Kotel plaza or for reading from the Torah.

Likewise, many Israeli women who dont usually daven at the Kotel or daven with a womens group or, in some cases, daven with a minyan of any kind have given of their time and risked detention. They do so not only because they find meaning in this prayer group and location, but because they fervently support the value that everyone should be welcome to gather in prayer at the Wall.

To my mind, it is a shanda (a public shame and embarrassment) that women who wish to read the Torah at the Western Wall have no more right to do so today than they did when this holy Jewish site was controlled by the Kingdom of Jordan.

For many years, the Women of the Wall refused any compromise that would trade away their right to pray in community at the main Western Wall site. The suggestion long had been floated to move the womens prayer group to Robinsons Arch, the southwestern corner mentioned above, which already was home to minyanim that the ultra-Orthodox do not approve. Women of the Wall argued that Robinsons Arch never had the crowds or cachet of the Western Wall. In the first century, stores were erected there, conveying a lesser degree of holiness. Foreign dignitaries have not been brought there. Pilgrims did not seek it out. The Women of the Wall characterized offers to pray there as akin to an invitation to ride in the back of the bus.

In October 2013, the Women of the Wall nevertheless decided to accept a compromise in which they would have a representative on the board of the Robinsons Arch area and hold all their prayer services there. In exchange for leaving the Kotel plaza area, they could be assured of an end to harassment. Natan Sharansky, who helped broker the deal, also lobbied for Robinsons Arch to be available for prayer and pilgrimage 24/7, as the Kotel is.

The liberal movements, which conduct egalitarian services at Robinsons Arch already, were pleased. Many people including me pointed to the significant archaeological and spiritual significance of Robinsons Arch. It is no also ran. The rocks gathered askew here, archaeologists tell us, are exactly where they fell from the arch during when the Temple was destroyed 1,947 years ago. At Robinsons Arch, you can find a directional sign to the Shofar Blowers area, from which all of Jerusalem was summoned to prayer.

Its true that there were stores there; probably many travelers bought animals there to offer in sacrifice as part of the Temple rites. The massive arch, one of the largest of the ancient world, served a massive number of pilgrims.

For many of the founders of Women of the Wall, this compromise was unacceptable. Several modern Orthodox women, original members who had shown up to the WOW Rosh Chodesh Services for decades, no longer would be able to pray with the group, because there is no mechizah at Robinsons Arch. Some of the women who are comfortable with open seating objected to the compromise, both because they didnt want to exclude their Orthodox sisters and because they continue to regard the Plaza area as the true Kotel. They believe that the Wall belongs equally to all Jews and should be available for prayer and gatherings that reflect that full range of contemporary Jewish piety.

So that is how I found myself at a Wednesday morning service sponsored by Original Women of the Wall, who have filed their own law suit with the Israeli Supreme Court. They assert that the directive issued by the rabbinic administrator of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation forbidding anyone from bringing a Torah scroll into the plaza in fact is discriminatory to women, since men have access to dozens of Torah scrolls stored on their side, and women have access to none. Many Original WOW members attend WOW services, as well as egalitarian services at Robinsons Arch. At the same time, they have chosen to meet in the womens area of the main Kotel plaza at a time that does not conflict with the Rosh Chodesh services of Women of the Wall. They assert that no one has the standing to trade away their right to pray at the Kotel plaza.

I like this group and not just because I like and missed my old roommate. I appreciate that Original Women of the Wall are pursuing meetings and conversations with Conservative, Reform, and Orthodox leaders, as well as with the board of Women of the Wall. I like the fact that they are neither discounting nor competing against the way anyone else prays. They simply show up and daven together as a group at the Kotel, as many of them have been doing for decades.

On the morning I prayed with them, one man interrupted his own davening to lean over the mechizah and film us praying. One woman made some nasty comments. Several women gave us curious looks. In other words, it was a normal, relatively uneventful morning. We gathered a dozen chairs together in a semicircle toward the rear of the plaza, a good distance away from the Kotel, and sang together in soft voices. Dr. Shulamit Magnus, who led the prayers, brought meaning and beauty to the morning service. The stones, in my hearing, at least, said Amen. Afterwards, we went out to breakfast, where I learned some of this history.

At breakfast, several of the women spoke passionately about inclusion, and regretfully about the Orthodox women who arent able to pray in a womens group that meets at Robinsons Arch. Its a serious dilemma, I agreed. But your davening isnt inclusive, either. One womans eyes widened in surprise, and she asked me what I meant. At a prayer service on the womens side of the Kotel, men are obviously excluded, as are women who are uncomfortable praying with a mechizah. The women around the table had been aware of this, of course, but some had not considered the restrictions and exclusions that stem from their mode of prayer.

Women of the Wall no longer works for women who must, in good conscience, pray with a mechizah. Original Women of the Wall does not work for women who must, in good conscience, pray without one.

Its not easy to unite the Jews, but it is, nevertheless, our sacred task.

One way of inching toward unity would be for liberal Jews to provide dividers or ropes at Robinsons Arch and thus accommodate womens davening groups that want to pray with a mechizah at Robinsons Arch. Mens davening groups pray with dividers at the Western Wall and at almost every synagogue in Israel so their need is met. If liberal Jews can stretch our spiritual eruv and comfort zone to include people who daven differently than we do, it would be a wonderful stride toward peace and unity in our community and a great example for the Orthodox and charedi communities to follow.

We also have to address the role of the Ministry of Religion in religious life in Israel.

If the Western Wall were under control of the National Parks Department instead of the Office of the Rabbinate, it would, like the synagogue at Masada, be open to everyone. What does it say that the involvement of rabbinic officials increases the likelihood of exclusion, conflict, and even violence?

When I went off to the Kotel that Wednesday morning, I told my husband, I should be back by 10, but if I get arrested, it will be later. He answered, You go, girl! affirming once again my excellent choice in a life partner. But it is wrong that possible assault or arrest by fellow Jews (or anyone) should be a consideration in praying at the Kotel.

We can do better. And sometimes we actually do.

My grandparents traveled to Israel in 1968, almost exactly one year after the Kotel came into Jewish hands. They stood at the Wall together and prayed. There was no mechitzah. The Wall, at that time, united Jews and inspired only gratitude, not controversy.

I have been to the Kotel on half a dozen Friday nights when young women from Birthright groups sang the Friday night prayers in full voice, and Shabbat peace prevailed. Calls and responses and hora dances among the women occasionally have eclipsed the excitement on the mens side. And no one minded. In fact, its beautiful to see soldiers in their uniforms, mixing with tourists and civilian locals in all kinds of garbs, representing the glorious variety of Jewish communities and practices.

Daily, a variety of mens minyanim overlap and adjust their voices and locations to make sure that those praying together can hear one another. On the womens side, which is about one third as large as the mens, women often stand in line to touch and pray at the wall. It may be the only line in all of Israel where no one is hurried or jostled.

Cheryl told me about one Rosh Chodesh when Women of the Wall were praying at the Kotel, as usual. As usual, too, the mechitzah at the Western Wall was imperfectly honored, with many husbands and wives talking over the partition, and some women standing on chairs, leaning over to witness the goings-on on the mens side. Before the womens service started, Cheryl noticed one woman who was peering over the mechitzah to see what appeared to be her sons bar mitzvah service. It was clear from the mothers repeated glances back at Woman of the Wall that she was anxious about hearing her sons reading. Cheryl talked to the mother and asked her to signal the women when the boy began his aliyah to the Torah. At her signal, Women of the Wall lowered their voices to a whisper. Shortly afterward, the mother exited, together with the rest of her female family and friends, and she thanked the Women of the Wall profusely.

It may not be possible to achieve full inclusion or perfect pluralism, but we can all do better. Lets imitate God, who retracted the Self to make room for the Other. Lets imitate Cheryl Birkner Mack and the Women of the Wall, who did the same on that Rosh Chodesh/bar mitzvah morning.

First, we have to be willing to see that there is another: another Jew who wants to daven in another way, which has its own claims to and in Torah.

Speaking of which, I shared this essay with my Orthodox friend before going to print. He pointed out that individual prayer by women is approved at any time at the Kotel. He felt that true tzimtzum (holy retraction) would require women to abstain from praying in groups there altogether. He also offered a challenge to the liberal Jewish community: come pray at Robinsons Arch in large numbers. Develop a commitment to regular prayer on a par with that of the Orthodox community.

I look forward to continuing the conversation.

Continue reading here:

Another perspective on the Wall – The Jewish Standard

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