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We are living in unprecedented times. Everywhere we turn, there’s a whole lot of crazy going on. The political scene is a daily Theatre Of The Bizarre.
France has seen numerous anti-Semitic incidents in recent times but none that touched so many lives as the senseless attack at the Hyper Cacher market. A routine Shabbat afternoon suddenly became a worldwide event that brought attention to the French Jewish community and growing European anti-Semitism. The global Jewish community responded and offered political, financial and emotional support. As part of that ongoing response, world Jewish leaders made a solidarity visit to Paris last week to show our support to our Jewish family and learn how our funds are being spent.
I didn’t really cry until the press conference.
On June 12, we witnessed the largest mass shooting in U.S. history at Orlando, Florida’s Pulse nightclub – an attack targeting the LGBTQ community, claiming 49 precious lives and wounding over 50 more.
I have a former professional colleague who used to cynically joke that his idea of horse-trading was “first, you give me your horse.” The moral of his tongue-in-cheek business humor is that entering into a collaboration sounds like a good idea at first but, often, it just doesn’t work out so well.
I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to what to say about the Better Together program and what it has meant to its participants, along with what it should mean to all of us.
A month ago, Jewish families around the world could be found sitting together at their tables and celebrating one of our most important holidays: Pesach. We are all familiar with the smells and memories that a seder brings. We are also all familiar with the family members who attend our seder. Some we love dearly, some we love less. Some share our values, some do not. Some make us feel good and important, and some make us uncomfortable. But we are all there together celebrating not only the pivotal moment of the formation of the Jewish people, but we also are there celebrating Jewish family, Jewish community. We are there around that table to proclaim that we are one family, one community. We have been here for the past thousands of years and we will be here for the next thousands of years celebrating and honoring our heritage, religion, values and community.
Regarding the recent article “Senior rides split from federation” (Jewish News, May 6), I’d like to offer some clarification about the events that led to the split. First, we didn’t “pull out” of the agreement; we terminated it, even though it had only been two months.
While many good-hearted people have encouraged supporting Prop 123 because they claim it is a good start and injects badly needed money immediately into the classroom, unfortunately, they are wrong. First, there will be a lawsuit regarding whether the enabling act requires congressional approval to implement the proposition. During the lawsuit, which could take several years, no monies will be sent to classrooms.
Attending a policy conference with 18,000 participants can be overwhelming or invigorating. For me, it was the latter. Mostly because, the policy sessions I attended at the AIPAC Policy Conference were on a topic of importance for me: Latino-Jewish relations. Listening to leaders like Daniel Hernandez, Lydia Aranda and Daniel Valenzuela, to name a few (and all Arizonans), about the ongoing work they’re doing to advance dialogue, cooperation and understanding between both communities was heartening.
Rabbi Jeremy Schneider of Temple Kol Ami recently returned from a mission to Cuba with his synagogue; here are his reflections about the trip, written on the plane making the journey back from Havana to Phoenix via Miami.
Absorbing 30,000 new immigrants, addressing inequality of religious funding, providing pensions for Soviet olim from 35 years ago, negotiating egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall and providing Israeli shlichim at college campuses around the world to combat the BDS [boycott, sanctions and divestment] movement describes a small part of the work the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) does. I was thrilled to attend my first Board of Governors meeting in Tel Aviv. Through it, I gained a deeper appreciation for a small part of what the Jewish Agency is tasked with doing.
Something is conspicuously missing from the current political cycle: meaningful attention to the ethnic identity of the candidates. It is interesting to note that Judaism does make an appearance among the principals. Donald Trump, current leader of the Republican pack and longtime supporter of Israel and Jewish causes, is a Presbyterian. However, his daughter, Ivanka, is an Orthodox Jewish convert whose husband is an observant Jew. She has two children and is expecting a third. Thus, Trump has a Jewish daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren.
While as Americans, we are, indeed, free to worship as we wish without government interference, the reality is that there are blocs of citizens who feel uncomfortable with alternative religious groups’ desire to express their deep spiritual convictions (or lack thereof).
Esther and I would like to start by thanking you all for allowing us the incredible honor and experience of leading the 2015 Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix annual campaign. We are proud and grateful that this campaign is the most successful since the beginning of the Great Recession (“Federation campaign raises $3.5M in 2015,” Jewish News, Jan. 29). Your generosity made it possible.
The implementation of the Iran deal on Jan. 16 by executive action with the aid of the European Union and the blessing of the United Nations is a dark cloud that has settled across world Jewry and civilized nations as well. The forced normalization of Iran, the world’s largest sponsor of international terror, by lifting crippling sanctions that have kept Iran rightfully as a pariah state, was heralded by President Obama as his crowning foreign policy achievement.
I was born in the Bergen-Belsen DP (Displaced Persons) camp just after the end of World War II. Most people think that after the concentration camps were liberated, things were fine. To the contrary, at Bergen-Belsen approximately 15,000 people died after liberation, and I was almost one of them. It was a place of hopelessness. People had lost entire families and had nowhere to go. My father, of blessed memory, one of 13 children, was his sole family survivor. My mother, of blessed memory, one of seven children, thought she was the sole survivor, but several years later found a surviving sister. My parents, brothers and I languished in that DP camp for almost five years until it closed and we came to the United States, through the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS).
“This is Am Yisrael,” she said, pointing to the enormous crowd. Noa Litman whispered these words in my ears Nov. 26, in the midst of her daughter’s wedding. I couldn’t believe it. Just days before, Rabbi Yaakov and Netanel Litman – her husband and son – had been murdered by terrorists.
In waging war against terrorism, it is vitally important to identify the sources from which the enemy is activated. It is not enough to capture and kill every terrorist fighter. If the organizations and institutions that generate the warfare remain intact, the problem will persist as other fanatics will fall prey to the noxious indoctrination.
I write this as the global community is unhinged, shaken and afraid. We are struggling to see through the darkness wrought by violence in God’s name. We are disoriented in the wake of the massacre of 130 people in Paris – an escalation of an ongoing campaign of terror waged by ISIS, the Islamic State; religious fundamentalism desecrating God’s name.
Another spate of violence has been brought to Israelis and Palestinians. Many simply reply “here we go again.” But that is not the way it has to be. The normalization of violence, incitement and hate in Palestinian society can and must end. It starts by holding accountable all leaders and media outlets that incite violence. In the Valley, that means holding accountable Bishara Bahbah, a Palestinian delegate at the Oslo peace talks and a member of the board of directors of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
In “Failure of American Jewry” (Jewish News, Oct. 2), Chaim Jablonowski expressed the opinion that Jewish Americans who support the nuclear agreement with Iran (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) or who failed to either oppose or support it were failing in their duty to Israel and the Jewish people. I honestly cannot support such a conclusion. However, that isn’t the point. The problem with all the arguments is that neither the proponents nor the opponents of the agreement have thoroughly raised and openly discussed any other options or alternatives.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As a grass-roots organization dedicated for the past 122 years to protecting families, women and children, this is a topic of great importance to the National Council of Jewish Women.
Throughout history and over thousands of years, there always seems to be someone or some group or some government that desires to wipe us out. The startling reality of that fact was recently demonstrated by Rabbi Yerachmiel Milstein during a Discovery program at the Scottsdale Hilton. He pointed out that the two oldest existing calendars belong to the Jews and the Chinese. A few thousand years ago, both Chinese and Jews numbered approximately 11-14 million people. Today, there are approximately the same number of Jews while there are now approximately 1.5 billion Chinese. While our enemies have not succeeded in totally destroying us, we have been prevented by evil perpetrators from becoming as multiple as the stars, as promised in the Torah.
Life is strenuous: There are careers to build, marriages to plan and begin and, most cherished of all, children to raise and give our love and support. It is not easy to juggle all the challenges that life presents us. Indeed, it is even more difficult to thrive without a strong community to provide attention for young families and to have their best interests at heart. At the same time, the Jewish community – as a whole, but also on the local level – needs to do its due diligence to ensure that new families, within the chaos of their lives, have a place to feel warm and secure, a place where their intellectual and spiritual needs are met and where they are not only encouraged to be active members, but also sought out to become leaders with crucial voices on the challenges facing Jews today.
This Rosh Hashanah, a Jewish service was held at 333 E. Portland St., in downtown Phoenix, the former home of Beth Hebrew Congregation, for the first time since the congregation left the building in the 1970s. More than 100 people attended the informal service. The following is a Facebook post by the great-grandson of one of the founders of the congregation, posted after his participation in the service.
This past summer, I had the opportunity to visit a variety of tourist shops in some of the quaint towns that Cape Cod has to offer. As I entered the T-shirt section of one particular store, I was greeted by several different T-shirts each expressing New England Patriots patriotism. One proudly exclaimed “Pats-Beat Baltimore, Deflated Indy, Silenced Seattle,” while another said, “The Butler did it (With a pick. In the end zone.)” and of course several varieties with the now famous slogan “Free Brady.”
Standing with the marginalized, remembering the stranger and recognizing our human interdependence goes to the heart of religion. I was struck last summer, as a participant in an interfaith clergy gathering in Chicago (organized by the Industrial Areas Foundation), when my brother, Pastor Les Shannon, of St. Paul’s Community Baptist Church in Brooklyn shared his simple truth, “You have no idea what it means to be a black man in America.” Those words have been ringing in my ears, weighing on my heart ever since. Of course, as a white man, I’ll never know the experience. Yet, my Jewish tradition agitates me to recognize that we are all created in the image of God, and we are inextricably bound as brothers and sisters. Jews know what it is to be the “other.”
On my last night in Jerusalem, my mom and I had plans to meet my aunt and uncle at the old train station for dinner and an outdoor concert. On the way there we walked to the Pride Parade and decided we’d rather attend the parade instead of our original plans. During my L’Taken trip to D.C. with my confirmation class, we spoke to our congressmen to express our support of gay marriage. Knowing that homosexuals are murdered in other countries in the Middle East, I was excited to watch the parade in Jerusalem. The feeling was overwhelming to be in Jerusalem to watch people have the right to openly show who they are. I felt so fortunate that my timing was such that my last night in Jerusalem I could be at this important event supporting people’s freedom.
This summer, I interned with the Ethiopian National Project at their headquarters in Jerusalem. ENP provides aid to Ethiopian immigrants to Israel and Ethiopian-Israelis to help them integrate into society and be able to compete with other Israelis at school or in jobs. They provide lessons for parents, a six-year school program for kids to prepare them for the army and their matriculation exam, camps for their kids to go to during the summer, and centers for teens to have a safe environment after school. I spent my days in the office working on fundraising and social media and also traveling to tutor and meet kids at outreach centers.
A couple of months ago, I commemorated an anniversary. I didn’t throw a party. I didn’t have an elaborate dinner. I didn’t even do anything special. But it was my 20th anniversary.
Tikkun olam, the concept of repairing the world, has always been important to me. So this summer, I wanted to do more than sit around Phoenix in the grueling heat. I decided to go to Washington, D.C., and do something meaningful with my summer. I have been fortunate enough to be part of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s Machon Kaplan (MK) summer internship program.
I used to think that talking donkeys were impossible, but then the impossible happened: the Supreme Court of the United States has legalized marriage between two people of the same sex throughout the country. We are now equal before the law. What a profound blessing.
"For you are with me, your staff is there to support me" (Psalm 23:4). These words written by King David during a very trying time in his life indicate his faith and devotion to the salvation offered by God in times of distress. Sometimes we witness the tragedy of tragedies, the taking of innocent life for no reason other than uncontrollable hate. How does color enter into the picture? Everyone is created in the image of God — no color, no religion, just a soul and a vessel that carries the soul.
Our hearts are heavy over the tragic loss of life in Charleston including the death of the church’s pastor, South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pickney and we send prayers for the families and members of the Emanuel AME church of Charleston.
The Greater Phoenix Jewish community is growing and changing at a rapid pace. Synagogues and community organizations have been working hard to recruit leadership to meet their needs for today. Unfortunately, only a small number of these groups have made it part of their mission to recruit and train the leaders of the future. Two Valley Beit Midrash programs have sought to change that. Start Me Up! focuses on giving innovators the tools to build their own projects. But this was only one piece of the puzzle. There was still a gap that needed to be filled. So it was, through the help of the Jewish Community Foundation, that the Jewish Leadership Corps (JLC) was established.
I was impressed to read Larry Gellman’s opinion piece (“Baseless hatred of one Jew toward another over Israel,” Jewish News, May 29) attacking my article that called out J Street for half-truths about its support for Israel, because, apparently, my piece hit a nerve with him. He claimed that the points I made about J Street were “lies and slanderous rumors.” As Elvis Presley had famously said: “Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away.” All the facts in my article were taken directly from J Street’s own national website and from the mouths of J Streeters and their supporters as documented in videos from official J Street events. His comments are the living embodiment of J Street doublespeak. His high-browed chastisement of my article as sinat chinam, creating hatred among Jews, is misplaced.
I was disappointed to read Dr. Matthew Karlovsky’s attack on J Street (“J Street: The Jewish enemy within,” Jewish News, May 15). Disappointed that the Jewish News would publish an opinion piece which included so many allegedly factual statements that were either lies or distortions without checking with people at J Street or making any effort at all to determine the accuracy of many of the unfair and slanderous accusations that were made. (Editor’s note: Jewish News fact-checked the article, but the writer does not agree we did enough.)
In late March 2015, a New Yorker article concluded that despite the difficult economic conditions of many Israelis, the Israeli public by and large did not trust Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, who head the Zionist Union political bloc, with Israel’s security. And if it’s one thing Israelis understand more than anyone, it is that security matters more than any issue. Self-preservation, not suicide, is enjoined by Jewish law and common sense. To borrow a line from Bill Clinton, “It’s the security situation, stupid” – and that is the crux of where J Street fits in. Social justice movements for American Jews arrogantly apply ideals of democracy and justice based on American jurisprudence to make Israel out to be 100 percent guilty and the only party that requires direct pressure for results. The reality of the Middle East today, where Israel must not only survive, but also thrive, is that Israel is mortally threatened. Naïve Western idealism cannot be expected to negotiate and win with adversaries who believe might makes right. This is where liberal Zionism breaks down. Both ideals cannot continue to co-exist: Either there is a Jewish state for Jews in Israel and all others can take it or leave it, or there is pure democracy where Israel dies through majority vote as championed by those who wish a “Palestinian Right of Return” and voting rights and citizenship for all Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
Almost everything we have seen, read, or heard regarding education in Arizona over the past few months has been negative and sometimes, downright depressing. We are also often treated to dire predictions and hand-wringing descriptions of today’s kids and teenagers. In fact, such things are only a very small part of the picture. I was a professional educator at the secondary level for 39 years before retiring to Arizona, and am now on the Arizona Regional Board of Directors for the Anti-Defamation League. A very special occurrence took place last month that brought both of these parts of me together.
Last week, I was privileged to join Elie Wiesel, Michael Douglas, Natan Sharansky, Michael Bloomberg and other luminaries of the Jewish world at an award ceremony in New York for the Genesis Prize, an annual $1 million award that recognizes exceptional global Jewish leadership. Actor Douglas was selected as this year’s laureate for the prize and announced that he intends to allocate the prize to support interfaith Jewish families.
At the Valley Beit Midrash panel discussion on the “Rising Tide of Global Anti-Semitism” on March 1, one rabbi stated that there was a movement to expel university students who were opposed to the boycott of Israel. He emphatically demanded that those who wanted the boycott opposers expelled, should themselves be expelled.
When I attended this year’s Passages lecture by Charles Small, Ph.D., on the “Flourishing of Radical Islam in Democratic Western Societies,” which by the way was packed to overflowing, he called upon American Jews to be “loud, vocal, proactive and to demonstrate and protest” to combat this rise in anti-Semitism and the growing menace of the BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] movement across our universities. He also rightfully chastised us for being too complacent. Several folks in the audience yelled out things like, “What can I do? I want to do something, but how can I? I’m just one person.” These sentiments of helplessness were expressed every time I attended last year’s Passages lectures.
It was one of nature’s minor miracles that I was able to attend l4-year-old Jewish piano virtuoso Ethan Bortnick’s concert on Sunday, March 29 at the Tucson Music Hall. With my extreme heat sensitivity and the forecast high an unseasonable 93 degrees, my hope to attend his performance was dimming. By mid-morning that day, clouds started to move in. The concert began at 2 p.m. and I was there – to listen, to enjoy, to be inspired.
On the recent 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, we heard the same phrase repeated throughout social media: “Never again.” We’ve all heard it said almost robotically, as a way of showing solidarity with the 6 million Jews massacred during the Holocaust. But do we really mean “never again”?
About 10 years ago, I attended a winter holiday luncheon where I knew most of the people, though none very well. I overheard a woman – an acquaintance whose name I still remember – invite another woman to a New Year’s Eve party to which I had not been invited. A wave of hurt came over me at that moment, but I never did tell anyone I had heard. Although I can’t remember too many other details of that luncheon, I will never forget the feeling of being excluded that accompanied me on the drive home.
March Madness is rapidly approaching. I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest college basketball fan in the world, but I love filling out a bracket. Picking which teams will lose and which teams will advance is like becoming a Greek god, sitting on the mountaintop (or, in this case, the computer) and picking who lives and who dies, chucking thunderbolts based on how much you like a head coach or hate a mascot.
Passers-by that February evening might have assumed that the women sitting in a circle in the cozy community clubhouse were just socializing.
At Hillel at Arizona State University, I work with students who are exploring their own connection to Israel. Some grew up with knowledge and experience about the Jewish homeland. Others are just now exploring their relationship to Israel after their own Birthright experiences. And still others haven’t yet forged a connection to the Jewish state.
We are having a party at Pardes Jewish Day School and want you all to come. No fees, no tickets, no suggested minimum contribution. Just come on Sunday, Feb. 22. It’s our Chanukat ha’Bayit, our campus dedication, and it is a monumental accomplishment for us. The achievement extends beyond those of us in the Pardes community. This is an achievement for all of us in the Greater Phoenix Jewish community. After almost 21 years, Pardes Jewish Day School is all grown up.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix Campaign for 2015 will launch with a kickoff event the evening of Feb. 26 at Temple Chai. We are honored to be asked by the board of directors of the Jewish Federation to co-chair the campaign. To us, federation is one Jew asking a second Jew to help a third Jew. What better way is there to practice tikkun olam?
The backyard is alive with new faces, new ideas and new beginnings, all leading to a fresh start for Hillel at Arizona State University. Interns mill around the beautiful Scottsdale home of Ron Davidow. An outdoor pool sits inside a rocky outcropping, the rushing of a small waterfall blending with soft music emanating from speakers. Davidow is a Jewish pillar of his community: a retired architect, golf enthusiast and prolific artist with a soft spot for Jewish youth whose help was greatly appreciated.
Last fall, Arizona was reeling with the news that over 6,500 reports of abuse and neglect against the most vulnerable members of our communities went uninvestigated by Child Protective Services – the agency taxpayers entrusted to protect our children. At the same time, the public also discovered that Child Protective Services was failing in its duty to effectively manage 10,000-plus existing cases of abuse and neglect. Last fall, there were approximately 15,000 children in Arizona’s foster-care system.
I continue to be impressed with what I see going on at the Valley of The Sun Jewish Community Center.
Amid the heart-wrenching terrorist attacks that were committed in Jerusalem this week, we face the unfortunate fact that anti-Semitism has spread throughout the United States, specifically on university campuses.
Today is a tremendously sad day for Har Nof and Jews everywhere. Har Nof, for those of you who do not know, is a quiet and secluded Jewish suburb of Jerusalem, and the place where Lindsay Simon, Sophie Gibly, myself and many other Arizonans currently reside and learn at our respective yeshivas and seminaries.
Publisher Jaime Stern was among the panelists discussing what our community’s priorities should be at a Valley Beit Midrash event held at Congregation Beth Israel on Oct. 22. Jewish News published a recap, “Panel addresses community priorities,” in the Oct. 31 issue. Readers have asked that we provide more information on what was discussed. What follows is an adaptation of her prepared remarks.