COLUMN FOR FEB. 23, 2017
And once again there is proof of our long presence of Jews in Jerusalem. Jewish history records that during the Second Temple period, pilgrims would walk up a stepped street from the Siloam Pool in the City of David, to the Temple Mount. The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAI) recently uncovered a pyramid-stepped structure along a stepped street in Jerusalem’s City of David, in part of the Jerusalem’s Walls National Park. The structure has been dated to about 2000 years old, though its exact purpose remains a mystery. Some think it is a monumental podium but there are no parallels for the structure so no one is really sure. It could well be a platform from which the government made announcements to the citizenry. However, several rabbinic sources mention “stones” that served public purposes such as the “Stone of Claims” mentioned in the Talmud and the Mishnah. (Bava Matzia 28b). The Talmud speaks of the “Stone of Claims” as perhaps a “lost and found.” When someone lost an article they would go to the “Stone of Claims” and if someone found an article they too would go to the “Stone of Claims” and announce what they had found. Perhaps, further excavations will reveal that the structure recently found is the actual “Stone of Claims.” But whatever it actually is, can there really be any doubt that we Jews have been in continuous residence in Jerusalem for over 2000 years? I don’t think so.
COLUMN FOR Feb. 16, 2017
So last week I spoke about Abraham Lincoln in honor of his birthday and this week I want to talk about George Washington whose birthday is actually Feb. 22, 2017 but we commemorate it, along with Lincoln’s and all the other President’s on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. We all know that Washington was the “Father” of our country. But did you know he was also the father of the Mammoth Jackass? In Washington’s day, the jack donkeys were short in stature and did not have a lot of stamina. Washington imported donkeys from Spain and France in the hopes of solving this problem. When he didn’t find an appropriate donkey he bred one he had received from the Marquis deLafayette (a male jack) to his jennys (female donkey) and produced the first American line of Mammoth Jacks–a new breed of Jackass which was larger, stronger and had more stamina–just like Americans compared to Europeans, or so Washington thought. So Washington created the Mammoth Jackass and today Washington is full of them. And if that wasn’t bad enough I recently came across an article about President Richard Nixon who once told a heckler that: “The Jawbone of an ass is just as dangerous today as it was in Samson’s time.” I wonder if he was talking about one of Washington’s Mammouth Jackasses?
COLUMN FOR FEB. 9, 2017
This Sunday, February 12, 2017, is Lincoln’s Birthday. And though we no longer celebrate it as a separate holiday, bundling it together with George Washington’s and all the other Presidents (celebrated this year on Monday, February 20, 2017) it is still worthy of note. Lincoln may well have been our most important President next to Washington–and Washington only because he refused the crown and set the model for all those to follow. But Lincoln was the first nominee of the Republican party and gave us the most moving Presidential speech ever written. He did it in 271 words comprising 10 sentences in 3 paragraphs: The Gettysburg Address. With brevity and eloquence he set forth our creed: a nation dedicated to liberty and equality for all. He was dedicating a cemetery but noted that it was the blood of the fallen who had dedicated it and consecrated it more than anyone else could have, and that the hopes of those who gave, what Lincoln deemed their death to be, “the last full measure of devotion” so that “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” 271 words in 10 sentences, yet he beautifully captured the essence of the American Creed. Let us take this year’s remembrance of Lincoln’s Birthday to rededicate ourselves to that creed. In this day and age it is increasingly important that we act to protect ALL our citizens, especially the weakest amongst us just as Lincoln did. And perhaps we should remind everyone that Lincoln was a progressive Republican. There was, at one time, such a thing My grandmother was even one. She believed in Lincoln and his tradition and served as a Republican committee-women in, of all places, Bayonne, N.J.. It was even progressive Republicans who gave birth to the environmental movement. Teddy Roosevelt’s Antiquities Act created national monuments and parks, and it was Richard Nixon who created the Environmental Protection Agency. Let us rededicate ourselves to these progressive Republican initiatives and make sure that the heritage Lincoln so eloquently elucidated continues to burn bright, rather than our lakes and rivers.
COLUMN FOR FEB. 2, 2017
So while winter continues (I can’t say rages–the temperature has not been that low and the snow...let’s not talk about snow) I thought I should talk about something warm. Global warming perhaps? Or maybe something about Italy–always a warm country at least in the south. In fact, in Rome today, on the inside view of the Arch of Titus you will find a representation of the golden Menorah being carried off from Jerusalem as part of the loot from the fall of the Jewish state in 70 c.e.. The original Menorah is described in Exodus 25:31-40 as a golden seven-branched lampstand that was meant to illuminate the Tabernacle and was then moved into the first Temple. That Temple was destroyed in 586 b.c.e.. The second Temple, which was rebuilt and later enlarged by King Herod before Rome destroyed it in 70 c.e. also had a golden menorah or lamp-stand. The Romans carried off the lamp-stand along with other treasures of the Temple. It is thought that the wealth of these treasures were used to build the Colosseum in Rome. But there was no other proof of the existence of the Menorah until recently. The late Nahman Avigad, while excavating in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City (where the U.N. says there is no historic Jewish claim to the land) found a menorah graffito incised in the plaster of a house wall just 300 yards from the Temple Mount dating to the first century b.c.e.. And in Horvut Kut in the Galilee, a unique menorah mosaic was recently uncovered on the floor of an ancient synagogue dating to the Byzantine period (fourth-seventh centuries). Proving how deep many of our traditions go, the mosaic even contains the names of three people above the menorah, no doubt the three men who donated the money for the floor or the synagogue itself. Nothing ever changes. Now where was that leaf I donated again?
COLUMN FOR JAN 26, 2017
One of the frequent items I love to report on is scientific proof that our Torah (the Hebrew Bible) is actual history–that it records real historic events. So we know that a group of scribes, known as the Masoretes, set down a definitive rendering of the text of the Torah. The Masoretes were principally two groups of Scholar-scribes one working in present-day Israel (Tiberias and Jerusalem) and the other working in Babylonia (modern day Iraq). They each compiled a system of pronunciation, grammatical guides, paragraph and verse divisions and trope (cantillation) marks to indicate how to read and pronounce the Torah for Jews worldwide. Different communities later developed different readings of these marks so that emphasis and pronunciation still differ when chanting Torah. Nevertheless, their work is considered definitive in terms of how to read the text. They also standardized the way the Torah was written. Over 50 years ago a small charred lump of parchment, which had been rolled-up for almost 2000 years and which could not be opened without destroying it, was found in the ark of a synagogue on the western shore of the Dead Sea, near Ein-Gedi. Computer scientists working at the University of Kentucky in conjunction with biblical scholars in Jerusalem used a computer, a new program and a copy of fine resolution scans of the scroll made using a micro-computer tomography machine (the same type of machine used to scan biological material) to unlock the secrets contained in the scroll. Turns out the only secret was that there were no secrets. The scroll has a text identical to the Masoratic text handed down to us today. The scroll dates to around the year 50 C.E.. That makes the scroll and its text almost 2000 years old. So for 2000 years our text of the Torah has remained the same, and its probably a much older text than that.
COLUMN FOR JAN 19, 2017
Today is the 21st of Tevet, the birthday of Eliezer BenYehudah, the father of modern Hebrew, and this is Hebrew Language Week. Ben Yehudah immigrated to Israel from Russia in 1881. He was an ardent Zionist and believed that for there to be a Jewish State there must be a Jewish language and that language must, of course, be Hebrew. He firmly believed that Hebrew must be a spoken language not just a holy language for prayer. He wrote the first modern Hebrew dictionary, and established the Committee of the Hebrew Language, now known as the Academy of the Hebrew Language. The Academy he founded is constantly creating new Hebrew words, usually borrowed from other languages, but often with Hebrew roots. Can you imagine that after 2000 years as an unspoken language he led a successful effort to restore our ancient language to a spoken tongue again. Had haShem only granted us the resurrection of the state we would have said Dayainu–but to give us back our language too, that also was a miracle. By the way, two other milestones passed this month, the first on January 4, when, in 1915 Moses Alexander, the first Jewish governor of a State in the United States was sworn into office. He was an Idaho businessman and former Boise Mayor. He served two terms as Governor and fought for women’s rights, and the rights of the average man. Can you imagine, in Idaho no less. And then there was January 14, National Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day. I’ll talk more about this in March when B’nai B’rith will show the movie “Deli-Man” at Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael in Springfield. But its winter, and everyone could use a hot pastrami sandwich now. So if you didn’t have one on January 14 its not too late. Enjoy!
COLUMN FOR JAN 12, 2017
This Monday, January 18, 2016 we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The holiday was signed into law at the White House on Nov. 2, 1983 by President Ronald Reagan. President George H.W. Bush moved the holiday to the third Monday in January and on January 17, 2000 all fifty U.S. states observed the federal holiday for the first time. Dr. King was a great leader of the Civil Rights movement, but he was not the only one, nor was he the only one martyred to that cause. The Spike Lee film “Selma” tries to portray Dr. King and the historic march on Selma, Alabama, which he led, and which directly influenced the passage of the voting rights act, and the entire Civil Rights Movement. Unfortunately, the film has redacted the role that Jews played in the movement. Many Rabbi’s and Jewish activists marched on Selma that day and many Jewish students, acting in accord with our tradition of social justice, had been Freedom Riders before that. Well over a 1000 people volunteered as Freedom Riders to go to the southern U.S. and register black citizens to vote. They were mostly white, and over half of them were Jewish. They risked their lives to bring civil rights and social justice to our nation. And they are not depicted in the movie. Two of those Jews were Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, both of them lost their lives in 1964 while serving as Freedom Riders. Their contributions and their sacrifice deserve better treatment by those for whom they gave their lives. Jews were active in the movement, and not only as Freedom Riders. In 1909 Henry Moskowitz, a Jew, helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Jewish philanthropy was responsible in whole or in part for the founding of more than 2,000 primary and secondary schools and black colleges including Howard, Dillard and Fisk universities. Others like Arnie Aronson helped organize the 1963 March on Washington. Let’s honor Dr. King by remembering the whole truth of the movement with clear glasses–not clouded ones. And let’s renew our commitment to civil rights for ALL of our citizens. This commitment is ever more important in this day and age.
COLUMN FOR JAN. 5, 2017
This Sunday is the Tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tevet. The 10th of Tevet is one of the minor fasts observed from before dawn to nightfall. The fast commemorates the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia—an event that began on that date and ultimately culminated in the destruction of Solomon's Temple (the First Temple) and the conquest of the Kingdom of Judah (southern Israel).
The day has no relationship to Chanukka, but it happens to follow that festival by a week. Whether the 10th of Tevet falls 7 or 8 days after Chanukka depends on whether the preceding Hebrew month of Kislev has 29 or 30 days in the relevant year. According to the Bible, during the reign of Zedekiah, (which we date to 588 B.C.E.) Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, began the siege of Jerusalem. The siege ended in 586 B.C.E., when Nebuchadnezzar broke through the city walls and destroyed the Temple on the 9th of Av. King Nebuchadnezzar then carried off the Jews (not to mention our treasures) to Babylon and our first exile from our land. This is why we mark this event with a fast. Also because, on this, most despised day, other calamities have befallen us: King Ptolemy of Egypt ordered the translation of the Bible from Hebrew to Greek, Ezra the Scribe, who brought us back from exile in Babylon, and Nehemiah both died, It is a minor (sun-up to sun-down) fast and mourning day. Many Rabbi’s prefer this day as the mourning day for those who perished in the Holocaust.
However you observe, have an easy fast.
COLUMN FOR DEC. 29, 2016
HAPPY HANUKKAH! This Saturday night, after the conclusion of Shabbat, and before we begin any secular new year’s eve festivities we light the seventh candle on the Chanukiah (Menorah) as we celebrate the second to last night of Chanukah. We will light the last candle at sundown on January 1, 2017. But, there is something else we need to celebrate on December 30, 2016; the 115th anniversary of the establishment of the Jewish National Fund! On December 30, 1901, Theodore Herzl, the visionary founder of modern Zionism, made an impassioned plea to the delegates of the Fifth Zionist Congress to establish a fund to raise the money necessary to buy real estate in what would eventually become the State of Israel. I remember fondly the little blue and white metal boxes in my grandmother’s homes, and in ours as well, growing up. Coin after coin would be placed lovingly in those boxes, first to help buy the land, and later to buy, and plant trees, to reforest the land, and now to engage in numerous water projects to help the land bloom. In 1901 the land was controlled by the Ottoman Empire, today it is controlled by a modern and dynamic Jewish state, much of it bought, not stolen as some would have you believe. And bought with coins collected by our people. The pennies, nickels and dimes do make a difference and you too can make a difference. Help JNF today and donate. There has also been much commotion about the Settlements in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). Unlike the early JNF land purchases, this land was acquired by right of conquest, an accepted principal of International Law, at least when I studied it in Law School. It was not captured from the Palestinians but from Jordan almost 50 years ago. And for all that time the International Community has been claiming Israel should yield it back to form a State of Palestine. (Not that Jordan isn’t already a Palestinian state consisting of 70% Palestinians.) And in all that time, the so called “Palestinians,” have been unwilling to compromise with Israel, make peace, settle the dispute and live in peace with Israel. Perhaps the world needs to tell them we are done, declare Jordan, Palestine, declare Judea and Samaria part of Israel (though we will need to figure out an answer to the demographic bomb that doing so may bring,) and move on. It will take guts, and better U.S. leadership than we have had to date to resolve these issues. Just remember;
Kal Yisrael Z’BeZe–All Israel Is Responsible One For Another.
Have a happy and safe new year!
COLUMN FOR DEC. 22, 2016
So Hanukkah begins this Saturday night at the conclusion of Shabbat. Guess its not too soon to talk about the holiday. So, as my regular readers know, I have been reviewing the ancient history and the events that gave rise to the political situation which caused the revolt that we celebrate. Antiochus IV Epiphanes, ruled over a large part of what was Alexander the Great’s empire centered in what is modern day Syria (there’s a misnomer). But he was constantly in contention with some of the other heirs of Alexander, specifically, Ptolemaic Egypt in the west and the Parthians on the east, not to mention Rome itself. His aggressive Hellenizing activities angered the Jews and after being weakened economically and militarily by his contending with Egypt, the Parthians and the Romans, a full scale revolt ensued. Ultimately he died in 164 b.c.e. and in 63 b.c.e. the Roman general Pompey began to remake the East creating new client kingdoms and pulling down the old ones. Nothing new for this part of the world. It seems to have been going on forever. The Maccabees or Hasmonean dynasty lasted from 164 b.c.e., (the death of Antiochus IV Epiphanes) until 63 b.c.e. when the Romans arrived and recognized the Hasmonean’s as a client Kingdom, a condition which lasted until about 67 c.e. and led to the last destruction of our ancient Temple in 70 c.e.. But before that, the Macabees cleansed the Temple of the Seleucid “contaminations” and rededicated it using the one remaining “kosher” jug of oil which, according to our beliefs, lasted 7 days even though it was only enough for 1 day. A great miracle happened there–now if I could find where I put the dreidels from last year, that would be a real miracle.
Hag Semeach Hanukkah to everyone!
COLUMN FOR DEC. 15, 2016
Winter begins next Wednesday and Chanukah shortly thereafter. So while we have some time I thought I would talk about some interesting history which has come to light lately. Over 1000 years ago, Jewish traders, probably from the Persian empire, traveled east into China. A small group is known to have settled in Kaifeng, then an Imperial City on the banks of the Yellow River. That community, which over the years, grew and shrank saw an influx during WWII as Jews looked for refuge wherever they could find it. After the war, and the rebirth of the State of Israel, some Chinese Jews left China for Israel. A small community stayed and the city government tolerated their activities as good for business and for other reasons. Last year, Chinese authorities began cracking down on spiritual groups, not only the Buddhist monasteries in Tibet and Crosses on Churches in eastern China but on all such spiritual groups including the tiny Jewish community remaining in Kaifeng. The government has taken steps to prohibit residents from gathering to worship in any way including the Jewish community in Kaifeng. There are only about 1000 people who claim Jewish ancestry in a city of 4.5 million and only 100-200 have been active. China has five officially recognized religions and Judaism is not one of them. (The five include Buddhism, Catholicism, Islam, Protestantism, and Taoism.) There are no reports of anti-Semitism but rather a general anti-religion attitude common in Communist countries. Currently, the crackdown may finally end a community that has existed for over 1000 years. But one member of the community summed things up perfectly–Judaism is about endurance.
COLUMN FOR DEC. 8, 2016
Last week I mentioned the Babylonian Chronicle. This was a recently published stone tablet which reveals details of Judean life in exile in Babylon (modern Iran/ Iraq/Syria). The stone tablet seems to corroborate the conquest of Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah and corroborates the Biblical account of the King of Judah being taken into exile as set down in 2 Kings 25:30 and in the book of Jeremiah 52:31-34. Both recount that the King of Judah, Jehoiachin, his mother, sons and the “mighty men of valor, 10,000 captives and all the craftsmen and smiths” were taken to Babylon. The Babylonian tablet also confirms that the King of Judah along with members of the court were taken captive and brought to Babylon. Other cuneiform tablets excavated from the lands once occupied by ancient Babylon and now housed in the British museum show that Judeans were in Babylon during the period of the exile and provides further proof of the historicity of the story, and the Biblical text. In fact, Jews remained in Persia, modern day Iran, until the founding of the State of Israel, when a great migration of Jews out of Iran began, going back to Israel with some going to the United States. But before that happened, we want to look at what happened in Babylon. The Babylonian or Achaemenid empire was ultimately defeated by Alexander the Great who died without an heir. Alexander’s General’s carved up their Empire and each was given a territory to rule over. One of these was Seleucus I who founded the Seleucid Empire, which ruled over the territory that had been ancient Israel until the ultimate conquest of the entire area by Rome. It was the Seleucid Empire under the son of Seleucus I, Antiochus IV Epiphanes that Mattisyahu (Mattithias and his sons, the Maccabees) rebelled against, and it is that rebellion that we will celebrate at the end of the month when Chanukkah arrives.–And you thought I had forgotten to talk about Chanukkah.
COLUMN FOR DEC. 1, 2016
Since Chanukkah does not arrive this year until December 24, I thought I would discuss some news in the world of archeology. The Cyrus Cylinder, found in Babylon in 1879 (modern day Iran), resides in the British museum, and is often pointed to as proof that Cyrus authorized the return of the Jews from Babylon to Jerusalem, to restore our ancient Temple in 539 b.c.e.. The last native Babylonian King was Nabonidus. He was defeated by Cyrus, an Achaemenid in 539 b.c.e. and his dynasty reined until Alexander the Great defeated the Persian Emperor Darius in 331 b.c.e.. But when Cyrus defeated Nabonidus, and established his dynasty, he authorized the restoration of all the Temple’s in the Babylonian Empire. Ezra, the scribe, who was the leader of the Judeans then led the Jews from Babylon back to Jerusalem. It may have just been political propaganda (not something we are unfamiliar with after this past year’s U.S. Presidential election). Just like Lincoln is credited with ending slavery in the U.S. through the Emancipation Proclamation. (That proclamation only freed the slaves in the states in rebellion and Lincoln probably lacked the authority to issue it as well. It took the 13th, 14th, and 15th, amendments to the Constitution to resolve the issue of slavery.) So too, the authority for Ezra and the Judeans return to Jerusalem probably served Cyrus’ purposes, whether authorized or not. Thankfully, the Temple was rebuilt and lasted for another 400 years until the Romans destroyed it in the year 70 c.e.. This history is important in understanding the timeline for the defeat of our independent Jewish state in history, and its restoration, celebrated during Chanukah. Next week, the Babylonian Chronicle!
COLUMN FOR NOV 24, 2016
HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I hope everyone enjoys their Thanksgiving feast, but did you ever wonder about the particular foods we serve for Thanksgiving, or any holiday for that matter. Often, foods are linked to a specific holiday in some way we may not fully understand. So, the traditional Thanksgiving feast, which is meant to re-enact that first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims and the native Americans after the first harrowing winter and first harvest, finds a meal centered around the Turkey with corn, squash, cranberries, pumpkin pie and all the other usual suspects. All of these foods are native to the Americas, and many of them may have been unfamiliar to these European immigrants. But the Turkey would not have been one of them. Though native to the Americas the Spanish had brought domesticated turkeys to Europe in the early 17th century and they became popular fare in England and other places in Europe. In England, the Turkey became a popular alternative to Goose at Christmas, though the Pilgrims did not observe Christmas. They also did not play football on Thanksgiving day but that’s another story. And whatever your feast contains...
Have A Happy Thanksgiving
COLUMN FOR NOV 17, 2016
Next Thursday is the fourth Thursday in November and therefore, Thanksgiving. So I always like to explore Jewish connections to any secular holiday. This one is obvious. The Pilgrim father’s knew their Bible very well and while they didn’t celebrate the Jewish holidays they had a knowledge of our customs. The Puritans, in fact, did not celebrate fixed holidays, however, whenever there was a bountiful harvest they would hold a “thanksgiving” to praise G-d for all that the land had brought them. That is exactly what we do on Succot, the Jewish thanksgiving or harvest festival. And though the Puritans did not build huts, to remember our time in the fields, as our ancestors did, and we do today, they did hold a great feast in the fall to celebrate the harvest. That feast may, in fact, have coincided with Succot. According to some scholars that first thanksgiving observance occurred between Sept. 21 and Nov. 11, 1621 with Sept. 29 being the most likely date. We all learned the story of the first Thanksgiving, and we know that the holiday was celebrated on and off since that first harvest, and nationally, on and off, since 1789 by virtue of Presidential Proclamations starting with that made by President George Washington. There is also a special NJ connection. In 1789, before Washington’s proclamation, NJ Congressman Elias Boudinot proposed that the House and Senate jointly request that President Washington proclaim a day of thanksgiving for “the many signal favors of Almighty God.” On October 3, 1789 Washington declared Thursday, Nov. 26, 1789 as a Thanksgiving Day throughout the nation.
In 1863 during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” Lincoln declared that the holiday would be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. Until 1941 the day was set by Presidential Proclamations each year. In 1941 FDR moved the holiday from the last Thursday of the month to the fourth Thursday of the month to give merchants more time to sell goods in the Christmas season. On October 6, 1941 Congress ended the issue by passing a joint resolution fixing the holiday as the fourth Thursday in November. So however you observe...
Have A Happy Thanksgiving!
COLUMN FOR NOV. 10, 2016
Veteran’s Day falls on Friday, Nov. 11, this year. I usually tell some rather lame jokes about Jews in the military but I would like to take a more serious turn this year. As our country wages an ever increasing war on terrorism I have found more and more Jews are enlisting. It is a strange turn of events but one we should support and welcome. New Jersey has 6 military bases/installations which is an unusually high number. They are; Fort Dix, Fort Monmouth, Lakehurst Navel Air and Engineering Station, McGuire Air Force Base, Earle Naval Warfare Center and the Picatinny Arsenal. I have no doubt that there are Jews serving at these bases who might welcome a home cooked Shabbat meal. If you are interested in helping our fellow Jews in uniform you might want to reach out to the Jewish Chaplans at these bases or take a look at www.operationsupportjewsinthemilitary.com. And while we are at it, let’s remember all of our Veterans who have guarded and protected our liberties every single day they were in service. They all deserve our support and certainly better treatment then they have been receiving.
COLUMN FOR NOV. 3, 2016
Next week we finally reach election day! Since November begins on a Tuesday, election day is the following Tuesday, November 8, (The first Tuesday after the first Monday.) This may be the most important Presidential election in our lifetimes. So I want to talk about anything but the election. If you want to discuss that, I’m sure you can find a collection of talking heads on cable television. All I will say is please remember to vote, no matter who you vote for. This is still a democracy and that is how we select our leaders, regardless of what some may say.
Having said that, I thought I would talk about some history. Did you know that the first Jewish Congressman was born on Nov. 10, 1808. His name was Lewis Charles Levin, and he was elected to Congress in 1844. He served for a total of three terms before being defeated in 1850. He was a founder of the American Republic Party, which has nothing to do with the modern Republican Party. Levin created the party in New York, as a protest, strangely enough, against immigrant voters and officeholders. The party carried municipal elections in New York City and Philadelphia and expanded rapidly. In 1845 it changed its name to the Native American Party and called for a program requiring residence for 21 years before becoming an American citizen. It also advocated that only people born in the US could be elected to government office, whether you were the child of American citizens or not, you still had to be born here. The party was unable to pass any part of its platform, and disappeared from the political landscape. What I find amazing is that a Jew could advocate such a nativist, anti-immigration platform. Given the Jewish need to periodically flee for our lives, this strikes me as paradoxical. The closure of the US borders to immigration prior to WWII was one factor which contributed to the destruction of European Jewry. The anti-immigrant bias of this program was rejected, but, unfortunately, it periodically makes a return in US politics. I urge you all to reject this type of racist, xenophobic, thinking. Such thinking is never good for the Jews, as we say.
COLUMN FOR OCTOBER 27, 2016
Wow! The high holidays are finally over and we have a break. Back in September, before the holidays began, I had a chance to attend the B’nai B’rith International Policy Forum, International Council and International Executive Committee meetings in Washington, DC. As a member of the B’nai B’rith International Executive Committee I am privileged to be given information about the state of our people not only here in the U.S. but throughout the world, to meet with diplomats and others from the US and Israel, not to mention our own delegates from throughout the US and the world. We met with Scholars, diplomats and intelligence officers and our own leaders to discuss many topics including; Jewish Women and American Politics, the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, The State of Affairs In Europe, Free Speech and Social Media and got to hear from the Ambassador of Israel to the U.S. and the Ambassador of Spain to the U.S. on the growing relationship between Spain and Israel. Some of the presentations were frightening, especially when we were briefed on the state of the European Jewish Community or the effect of Social Media on free speech and privacy (what privacy). I was proud to be asked to participate in one of the Leadership programs involving “sharing-the-wealth” fundraising techniques not to mention discussions on the future of our organization. B’nai B’rith has been around for over 170 years, advocating for and in defense of the State of Israel as the only Jewish NGO accredited by the United Nations, defending Jews throughout the world where ever and when ever the need should arise, aiding in disaster relief and advocating on behalf of our senior citizens. I am proud to be able to carry on the work of my father, who was also a national leader of B’nai B’rith. I invite you all to join us in our work of tikun olum, repairing the world.
And on another note-- this coming Monday marks the annual search for free candy, better known as Halloween. Danielle and I will be lecturing that afternoon for the Institute For Continuing Legal Education on the laws concerning funerals including pre-planning and estate planning in this area as well as other matters. For our fellow attorneys we hope to see you there. And to everyone, we hope you have a safe and happy Halloween. (I was going to go as a scary clown but Robin says my jokes are just not funny. I said that's what makes it scary.)
(In light of the coming holiday of Succot, which begins tonight, I am posting this column on Sunday. Hope you all have a great Succot--hag Semeach Succot!)
COLUMN FOR OCT. 20, 2016
As Succot begins to draw to a close we look forward to the celebration of the Torah as we end one cycle of reading the Torah and begin another. But before we get to the end of Succot and the additional holiday of Simchat Torah we have Hoshana Rabbah on the last day of Succot. But what is Hoshana Rabbah? According to the Zohar (the book of Jewish Mysticism) on Yom Kippur the final judgement of who shall live for the new year and who shall perish is made, but it is not delivered until the end of Sukkot on Hoshana Rabbah. It is still possible, until Hoshana Rabbah to change the judgement. In some communities not only does the Hazzan wear a kittel (a special white garment which is also worn on the high holidays–and, incidentally, resembles tachrichim, the traditional burial garments) but the shofar is sounded and the melodies are a blend of those from the high holidays, the festivals, Shabbat and weekdays. Many of the observances of the holiday have their origin in the practices from the ancient Temple as recorded in the Mishnah. It was customary to make a procession around the alter during Succot, once each day for the first six and seven times on the last day. The priests would also carry palm branches or willow in their hands to thank G-d for a fruitful harvest. Each procession is meant to honor a patriarch as well: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David. And after Hoshanah Rabbh comes Shemini Atzeret with Yizkor and then Simchat Torah to end the high holidays. And then maybe we can finally get some work done.
Hope You Have Great Holidays!
COLUMN FOR OCTOBER 13, 2016
This Sunday night, October 16, 2016, we celebrate the holiday of Sukkot and gather in the harvest. In the past I have provided instructions for a craft project to do with your children or grandchildren celebrating the holiday like a graham cracker sukkah, but I think this year I just want to reflect on endings and beginnings. Remember Sukkot celebrates the end of the growing season in Israel and the in-gathering of the crops along with a chance to thank G-d for a plentiful harvest. I remember fondly growing the tomatoes and other vegetables in my parents backyard. I was not a great farmer–I hated to bend down or kneel to weed, etc. but there was nothing like a fresh Jersey tomato on a slice of bread, or on a bagel with cream cheese, even without the lox. But by the time we hit Sukkot you really knew that the summer was over, fall had begun, and the last vestige of the summer, the sweet taste of those tomatoes, was drawing to a close. Fall was in full swing and winter was coming. (Yes–I am a GOT fan.) So enjoy the harvest, eat plenty of apples (especially with Israeli honey) and enjoy a bit of time outdoors before winter actually gets here; hopefully in your sukkah. And while your at it, consider adding a Moroccan Jewish custom to your celebration. Moroccan Jews have a custom of inviting a poor person into their sukkah every night. They reach out to the needy and make them feel like royalty, placing them at the head of the table and providing a lavish feast. Much to our surprise we do have needy in our communities. As the great recession eases there still remain those who have not yet recovered, and are in need of our help, if not directly, as the Moroccan custom would have it, but you can collect food each evening and donate it to the local food pantry or community kitchen. So from all of us to all of you
Have A Happy Succot!
COLUMN FOR OCTOBER 6, 2016
In the past at this time of year I have always told the story of the man who had herring for breakfast on Yom Kippur and then pleaded with the Rabbi to let him have a drink of water. So even though I love that story, I thought it was time for a new tale or two:
Here’s one from a student newspaper: “Wanted, six foot male to accompany little old Jewish women to shul on Yom Kippur. Answers to the initials A.M.R., signed–his mother.”
Then there is the story of the Rabbi who went out on Rosh HaShana afternoon to play a quick 9 holes of golf and was having the best round ever. Moshe, looking down from heaven called out to haShem–how could haShem allow it? And haShem said to Moshe–but who can he tell?
Nah–I still like the schmaltz herring story best.
Wishing you and yours a Tsom Kal v'Gamar Hatimhah Tova, an easy fast and a good sealing.
Robin and Mark
And don’t forget to stop by and pick-up a copy of our new wall calendars at either our Springfield or Chatham locations.
COLUMN FOR SEPT. 29, 2016
Rosh Hashanah begins on Sunday night, October 2 this year, and so it is time to reflect on this past year and all the changes it has wrought. But more importantly, it is time to cast away our sins like bread on the water. Oh wait, that’s what Tashlich is. So we need to decide what kind of bread to use. In the past I have always opted for corn bread but I am not sure, in light of the fact that I have not been telling corny jokes in this blog for a while. So what should I use: rye bread–no, there has not been a lot of irony or wry humor (get-it). How about whole wheat? That would be fine for whole grain sins but I am not sure that applies to me. I love multi-grain bread but I’m not sure I have committed any complex sins to warrant its use. Portuguese rolls, Irish Soda bread, Greek flat bread or Italian bread would be fine if I had any sins of monetary mismanagement but that really does not apply either. (Can’t use British scones for that one either, they are in a whole different class.) Bagels might work if I kept repeating the sins around and around again, but I didn’t. So I think I will have to use plain old white bread. Its really a wonder. (O.K. that should get me back to corn bread.)
And from our family to yours
And don’t forget to stop by and pick-up a copy of our new wall or desk calendar at either our Springfield or Chatham locations.
have a happy and healthy new year–
Robin and Mark
COLUMN FOR SEPT. 22, 2016
Fall begins today and this Saturday night we start saying the Selichot prayers, if your of Ashkenazic descent. If you are of Sephardic origin than you have been saying Selichot prayers since the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul on September 4 this year. At one time Selichot was also accompanied by a fast. That practice has long been abandoned but the recitation of these penitential prayers and poems is meant to remind us of G-d’s Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. Many think that Selichot are only recited once at midnight after the conclusion of the Shabbat just before Rosh HaShana but in fact are read daily from that point until Rosh HaShana for the Ashkenazim while the Sephardim will say them daily for the entire month of Elul ending at Rosh HaShana. In the Ashkenazic tradition there are five types of Selichot: Selichah (the majority) asking for forgiveness; Pizmon, the chorus or refrain of the Selichot; Akeidah, a reminder to G-d to answer our prayers for the sake of the Binding of Isaac; Chatanu, “we have sinned,” an admission of sin; and Techinah, which is Hebrew for petition, an appeal to G-d’s mercy. For Ashkanazim the Selichot begin at midnight after the Shabbat before Rosh HaShana and continue through Yom Kippur. In most American communities there is a study session or other activity in the synagogue before the start of the recitation of the prayers which begins the real start of the High Holiday Season. Hope your Selichot find favor with G-d.
COLUMN FOR SEPT. 15, 2016
Last September, Dr. Jens-Christian Wagner, the director of the Bergen-Belsen Memorial wrote a letter to Google Germany calling for the removal from YouTube of offensive songs by the neo-Nazi band Kommando Freisler. These songs glorify Hitler and the Nazi regime and condone the mass murder of six million Jews. It was my understanding that such songs are, in fact, illegal in Germany as they incite hate against Jews. Google Germany did, in fact, block access to the videos for people in Germany, but Google still has not removed the offensive videos nor block them for others. However, while the law in Germany requires that such material be blocked, the videos also violate YouTube’s own terms of service and should, on that ground, let alone on any sense of decency, be blocked. The World Jewish Congress issued a call to petition Google CEO Sundar Pichai to remove the offensive material from its site. These anti-Semitic videos and lyrics are all too common around the world and the hatred such videos inspire is all too dangerous. We live in troubling times, and the hatred and fear mongering of a few could, again, lead to far worse consequences. Remember what Edmund Burke said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I urge you all to not only petition Google but to be on alert to all such issues and to take action. The rise of global anti-Semitism and hate is quickly getting out of hand and we must all say something if we see something. That phrase must apply to everything, not just unattended packages.
COLUMN FOR SEPT. 8, 2016
September is here, the school year has begun, and summer will soon draw to a close. We now know who the presidential candidates are and the election season starts to heat up in earnest. It is has been a heck of a primary season, more exciting than we have seen in years and more of our younger voters have shown interest than they have in years. It will be interesting to see if our youngest voters will, in fact, participate in the electoral process. If they do, it could really change the direction of our nation. It would be wonderful to see, but the last time something like this happened was when JFK ran for the Presidency, and after that, once the Vietnam War and its draft started, things really took off. But since then apathy seems to have set-in, until this year. Hopefully, those young Bernie Sander’s supporters will continue to be active and involved in our political system. This year is an historic one, but not, perhaps, for the reasons you may think. Yes, for the first time a major party has nominated a female candidate for the highest office in the land (and its about time, regardless of how you feel about this particular nominee). But, as some of you may know, my undergraduate degree is in political science, and this election has seen not only the first women nominee of a major party but also the return of populism in the person of the Republican Party’s standard bearer. We have not seen such a candidate rise in our country for many years. When I was in school we were taught that populist mass movements are irrational and introduce instability into the political process. In the US we have had populist candidates like John Edwards’ 2004 bid where he talked about two Americas or George Wallace’s reactionary racist populism, though we haven’t seen agrarian populism since the 19th century, But the other problem with populist movements is that they can be easily turned into fascism, and we know where we have seen that before, and what that has led to. I will not suggest who you should vote for this year but I will implore you to vote!
COLUMN FOR SEPT. 1, 2016
September is here and the good news is that we have an entire month until the Jewish holidays begin. This year Selichot begins on September 24, the last Saturday night in September (though we Ashkanazim commence with a midnight service so its really Sept. 25). This is because this year is a leap year on the Jewish calendar and we have to add an entire month–28 days to the calendar. So Erev Rosh HaShana falls out on Sunday, October 2, 2016 with the first full day on Monday, October 3, 2016. (We added the second month of Adar back in February.) So now the High Holidays will go from being the earliest they can be in relation to the Gregorian (secular) calendar to the latest they can be. Looking ahead it also means that Chanukah will coincide with that other seasonal holiday and we will light the first candle at sundown after the conclusion of Shabbat on December 24, 2016. So the first day of Chanukah will be on December 25, 2016 and will end on New Year’s day, January 1, 2017. This also means that Columbus Day will fall on the Monday, right in between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur and that Yom Kippur will fall on a Wednesday. It also means that if you are religious, or work with religious Jews, you can expect to do no work on Monday’s (or Tuesday’s for that matter) in October; they are almost all holidays. And another odd quirk of the calendar this year concerns election day. Since November 1 is a Tuesday, election day will not be held until November 8, the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. And if your wondering, as I write this column I have just finished working on the new calendar for the funeral home. Copies will be available this week at our funeral homes in Springfield and Chatham. Feel free to stop by or give us a call. So have a great September and to all the children– welcome back to a new school year! Also, remember that this Sunday begins the Hebrew month of Elul– time to visit the relatives in the cemetery. I like visiting the cemetery at this time of year– unlike at family dinners I get to speak without the relatives arguing or criticizing.
Have A Happy Labor Day Holiday!
COLUMN FOR AUG. 25, 2016
Monday, September 5 is Labor Day. This is a national holiday to salute the social and economic achievements of American workers created by an Act of Congress passed on June 28, 1894 which made the first Monday in September a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and all U.S. States and territories. The law was passed after 23 other states had already adopted similar measures. Doubt still remains as to who started the movement for a national day to honor the American Worker, but who had the idea is not as important as the idea itself. The American Worker and the movement they formed is probably responsible for the greatest middle class in the history of the world, not to mention U.S. growth and development into the world’s only superpower. Well done! Many economists credit the broadening of the middle class with making the U.S. economy the wonder of the world. But that status is threatened by the decline of the middle class. Donald Trump says the answer is not global free trade and that we have to bring back good paying manufacturing jobs to the U.S. by tariffs, walls and any means necessary. Other’s say that global free trade is the answer; “raise all boats and everyone wins.” Still others believe that protectionist tariffs on goods and services are not all bad and that they can be used judiciously to protect the American worker. The truth is that no one knows for sure. Free trade, maybe, but it should be free AND FAIR! And when has that ever happened? Tariffs, are, perhaps, the answer, when trade is not free and fair, but no one really knows, and anyone who says they do is lying. Some say the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act was a prime contributor to the great depression while others disagree. However we decide the debate, please know that it is a complex one, to which there are no simple answers or slogans. Economics is an incredibly complex field and you can’t manage it with a slogan. But whatever job you do, we should all salute you, the American worker.
HAVE A GREAT LABOR DAY!
COLUMN FOR AUG. 18, 2016
This Friday is the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av. But did you know that it is the Jewish answer to Valentine’s Day. In ancient times beginning in the Mishnaic period, the 15th of Av was designated as the day for singles to mingle. The single daughters of Israel would dress in white and dance in the vineyards as the single men watched, hoping to find their mate. It is a perfect time for singles events and to search for your B’sheret. Today, in Israel it is deemed the Holiday of Love. So to all you singles out there I say go out and mingle, find someone to love. And to those who have, its not a bad idea to remind each other how much you love one another.
And its vitally important. According to a new Pew Research Center study, due to higher rates of immigration into the U.S. and higher birth rates the Muslim share of the U.S. population will increase to 2.1% by 2050. Currently, there are around 3.3 million Muslims living in the U.S., which makes them 1.0% of the population, while Jews comprise 1.8% of the population, and our percentage is not expected to increase. This means that by 2050 there will be a larger percentage of Muslims in the U.S. than Jews. What implications do you think that means for U.S. foreign policy, Israel’s security or our own for that matter? Children–get busy. And while your at it, join, join, join!. You must do all you can to strengthen our synagogues and organizations. It is imperative! Another Shoah can happen. In France Jewish leaders are cautioning their fellow Jews not to wear a yarmulke or Star of David in public. Anti-Semitic acts in France have soared with the number last year increasing 84%. And don’t think that we, in the U.S., are immune. Another Holocaust can happen–we must not let it.
COLUMN FOR AUG. 11, 2016
This Sunday we observe the fast of Tish B’Av to commemorate the destruction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. This year we should also lament the destruction of all of the ancient Temple’s by ISIS as well. Even though they were temples to pagan gods, and we certainly don’t venerate them, they were UNESCO World Heritage Sites and were important in the history of human development. There were sites in Palmyra and Aleppo Syria, not to mention the Bamiyan Buddhas of Afghanistan destroyed by the Taliban, along with other cultural treasures destroyed by these fanatics. The destruction is widespread as the fanatics leave a trail of destruction and utter indifference to scholarship. It is a loss of heritage for all mankind. But they are not the only fanatics who have abused and distorted the true history of humanity. For example, we honor Columbus in October each year for his discovery of the American continent. But did you know that Columbus set sail for the new world on August 3, 1492, the day after Tisha B’Av. And that his voyage was not really funded by Queen Isabella, a Catholic fanatic who was also responsible for starting the inquisition, but by two Jewish conversos, Louis deSantangel and Gabriel Sanchez. They had both converted to Catholicism but secretly continued to practice Judaism. They, along with Don Isaac Abrabanel, a rabbi and Jewish statesman, advanced Columbus an interest-free loan of 17,000 ducats. Perhaps we should remember not only the loss of our ancient temple and all the temples destroyed by hate and fanaticism but also all the people who perished at the hands of the fanatics as a part of our Tisha B’Av commemorations as well.
In Italy, part of local Jewish practice is to light a candle and read the Book of Lamentations only by candlelight. At the conclusion they put the candle out and store it in a safe place until Hanukkah when they take it out and use it as the Shamash in their Hanukkiah. In this way they connect the darkness of mourning for the lost Temple to the light of Hanukkah and the restoration of the Temple.
COLUMN FOR AUG. 4, 2016
It’s the middle of the summer and the height of the archeological dig season in Israel, and throughout the middle east, so I thought I would look and see what’s going on. One bit of news is that the royal seal of King Hezekiah of Judah has been found in an archaeological excavation. The clay bulla was found in the ophel excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The excavation is in the area between the City of David and the Temple Mount and was found by wet-sifting the dirt from a refuse dump created by the Palestinian excavation in the area known as Solomon’s Stables. (I have spoken about this disastrous situation before. The wholesale destruction of humanity’s history really must be stopped–but is it any different from what ISIS is doing in the lands they control?)
King Hezekiah reigned between 715 BCE and 686 BCE and while is seal image is quite well known, this is the first time it was found on an archaeological project, though not on site as the excavation moved it as “refuse.”. And, if you want more proof of the historicity of the Bible how about something from the Babylonian Exile. About 200 clay tablets written in cuneiform called the Al-Yahudu Archive records events from the daily lives of the exiled Judahites. Many of the tablets were written in Al-Yahudu (the City of Judah) in ancient Babylon, and from which the archive derives its name. The archive, which dates to the time of the Babylonian Exile (604-587 B.C.E.) makes it clear that the Judahites were not slaves but state dependents and is extra-Biblical proof of the Babylonian exile recorded in 2 Kings 24. The archive also contains a replica of the Cyrus Cylinder which is often used to prove that King Cyrus of Persia allowed the Judahites to return to their homeland and rebuild their Temple. Which, of course, we did, only to have the Romans come along and destroy that Temple too in the year 70 C.E.. Still it did stand for about 657 years–good construction. I wonder who the contractor was?
COLUMN FOR JULY 28, 2016
It is now the height of dig time in Israel so I thought I should really look at some of the more recent developments in archaeology. It now seems that the scientists and archaeologists finally are convinced that the tiny Ivory Pomegranate is from the Temple of Solomon and dates to that time. It constitutes the only relic from the first Temple of Israel. The piece is small, only 1 ½ inches tall and bears an inscription saying it belongs to G-d, meaning the Temple. The problem with the Ivory Pomegranate is that it came from the antiquities market and not as a result of a scientific dig. This meant that its origin was subject to question and could only be proven by scientific examination. In fact, the owner of the piece was accused of forgery of antiquities but was later acquitted. The piece will probably be returned to the Israel Museum for display in the near future. But it is further proof that the Temple did exist.
And if that was not enough it also seems that the Biblical Altar on Mt. Ebal has been found. Adam Zertal, during a survey of the lands of Biblical Manasseh has found a late bronze age/Iron Age I structure on Mt. Ebal. At a level below the top of Mt. Ebal he located a rectangular structure built on bedrock, with a 6-foot wide circular depression in the middle containing a layer of ash and charred animal bones. He also discovered a chalice nearby with scattered hearths, excessive ash, potsherds and animal bones all suggesting a small cultic site where offerings were made and a small 4-room house (typically ancient Hebrew). At the top of the mountain he found a monumental structure 30 by 23 feet filled with layers of bones of male bulls, caprovids and fallow deer, as well as ash and Iron I pottery characteristic of Israelites of the period. Zertel believes this may be the site referred to in the book of Joshua at 8:30-31. “At that time, Joshua built an alter to the Lord, the God 0f Israel, on Mt. Ebal, as Moses, the servant of the Lord, had commanded.” That it’s a cultic site is no longer in question. That it is the one set-up by Joshua, is still a questions.
COLUMN FOR JULY 21, 2016
This Sunday, July 24 is the 18th day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, but we commemorate the 17th of Tammuz on that day, because you can’t have a fast day on Shabbat, so we bump the commemoration over a day. What, you never heard of a fast day in July on the Hebrew calendar. Well, its true! This is one of those sunrise to sunset type fasts, which really means you skip breakfast and lunch, but you can eat before sunrise, so maybe you just eat a very early breakfast and skip lunch. So what is it we are commemorating, you ask. It is the beginning of a three week mourning period commemorating five calamities which befell our people; the breaking of the two tablets which Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai, the termination of the daily tamid offering in the ancient Temple, the breaching of the walls in Jerusalem prior to its destructions (both times–though the breach in the first Temple’s walls happened on the 9th of Tammuz), the placement of an idol in the Temple by the Romans and the burning of a Torah scroll in the Temple by Apostomus. Every so often this fast day will coincide with American Independence Day on July 4 as it did in 1776 itself. It will not happen again until July 4, 2036. So I suggest in 2036 all July 4 celebrations (at least the bar-b-ques) take place after sundown so we can all enjoy a hot dog with our fireworks that evening. In the meantime, during the day we can watch out for anti-Semitic incidents and take steps to avoid any additional calamities. There have been enough, and even a few lately we could all do without.
COLUMN FOR JULY 14, 2016
Earlier this year, I was appointed to the Executive Committee of B’nai B’rith International. I was serving as the President of the Tri-State Region at the time and the BBI board wanted a representative from our area on the International Board. I was only too happy to answer the call. Since that time I have become even more aware of how precarious things are both here in the U.S. and abroad. B’nai B’rith has a strong presence in South America as well as the U.S., Canada, Australia, Europe–over 50 nations in all. The reports we are getting back are worrisome. While the Jewish percentage of the U.S. population continues to fall, the Muslim percentage continues to rise. The situation in France, with its high population of Muslim immigrants is frightening, while other nations, including members of our own country, continue to advance the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movements’ agenda. Acts of anti-Semitic violence have erupted in France, most notably, but throughout Europe as well. The U.S. is also not free of these incidents. The U.S. Congress has only recently passed legislation to curtail the BDS movement’s effectiveness in this country but the backlash will continue. And if you think the current civil unrest and mass shootings in the U.S. were not bad enough, the bombings continue throughout Europe. Why do you think Britain voted to leave the EU? They are in fear of the attacks reaching their country. It is frightening! Most of all we must remember that ALL LIVES MATTER! Everyone is someone’s loved one and no one has a right commit murder. No religion sanctions murder, and if anyone thinks it does, they are mistaken. It is a scary time but I urge you all to organize for our mutual protection and to fight for life–all life. Only together can we put an end to this violence.
WE ARE ALL OUR BROTHERS KEEPERS!
COLUMN FOR JULY 7, 2016
Now that all of the holidays are behind us the summer can start in full. The kids have gone off to camp and the streets are...as noisy as ever. The Presidential selection process is in full swing with the party’s nominating conventions being held this month in Cleveland for the Republicans and Philadelphia for the Democrats. While this was going on I thought it would be a good time to look at issues of anti-Semitism around the world and the situation in the middle- east, which should be a prime concern for the next president. And regardless of what they said at the AIPAC policy conference back in March, we do need to consider the present reality and our historical experiences. At the end of 2013 the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency did a sweeping survey of the Jews in Europe. Things have not improved since then. According to the survey 2 out of every 3 Jews in Europe say anti-Semitism is a problem. More than 75% say that anti-Semitism has worsened since 2008. Nearly half of Europe’s Jews fear being a victim of anti-Semitic language and 1/3 fear physical assault. In England, which has since joined in the academic boycott of Israel, Jewish professors or instructors have left their jobs because they felt threatened by colleagues and students, because the Professors were Jewish. In Manchester, England four young Jews were attacked and one 17 year old was put in the hospital with a brain hemorrhage. In France there is also a real danger of physical attack given the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper, the Kosher supermarket and other incidents. In Zurich Switzerland a member of the neo-Nazi rock group Amok spat in the face of a man leaving a synagogue while he shouted “Heil Hitler.” Two thugs in Amsterdam accosted two elderly Holocaust survivors calling them “dirty Jews” and stealing their jewelry. And there have been incidents in Italy, Austria, Poland, and other places throughout Europe. I have been on conference calls with our brethren in Europe and I can tell you they are scared. Please consider carefully who you should support for U.S. President. Our very survival may be at stake. And while your at it remember too that we all must strengthen our defenses, and that means our synagogues and organizations. The U.S. Congress Anti-BDS Movement resolution is helpful, but alone, not enough. United and strong we may yet survive.
Kal Yisrael Z’B’Ze,
COLUMN FOR JUNE 30, 2016
All Israel is responsible one for the other.
This coming Monday is July 4, 2016. So this really is a weekend to celebrate the founding of our nation its also a month that includes the birthdate of Emma Lazarus, the Jewish American poet who wrote the poem inscribed on what is, probably, the ultimate symbol of freedom in America: the Statue of Liberty. Lazarus wrote “The New Colossus” which is inscribed on the base of the Statue. She was the fourth child of Moses Lazarus and Esther Nathan, a Sephardic Jew whose family’s were originally from Portugal but came to America in colonial times. This July 4th why not take a trip to see the Statue of Liberty. You can get there from Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J. where you will find another remarkable statue and dedication area which is part of the N.J. Holocaust Memorial. The Nathan Rappaport sculpture called “Liberation.” It depicts a U.S. Army Vet carrying a Holocaust survivor. The dedication area behind the statue was designed to resemble the fence of one of the death camps of the Holocaust, with a gray pillar of stone in the center representing the smoke from the ovens. I say this with some knowledge, having designed the dedication area, arranged for the manufacturing of the pieces and the engraving on the base of the statue when I was in the monument business. And lets not forget the artist who created the actual sculpture, Nathan Rappaport, the man who created the scrolls of fire in Israel. A gifted artist, a magnificent sculpture and the dedication area’s not bad either. And whatever you do this 4th of July.
HAVE A HAPPY 4TH OF JULY!
COLUMN FOR JUNE 23, 2016
Its been a while so lets take a look around the world and see what’s going on:
I previously reported about Spain’s revoking the edict of expulsion and the new law which allows those of Spanish descent to reclaim Spanish citizenship. But now, Spain’s King Felipe has issued a formal apology for the “historic mistake” made in 1492 when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella forced the 200,000 Jews in Spain to leave the country. The King thanked the Jews for having kept Sephardic language and customs and for “...making love prevail over rancor and for teaching your children to love this country.” There are now an estimated 3.5 million Jews with Spanish ancestry and an estimated 20,000 Jews living in Spain. Though I’ve been to Spain twice and I couldn’t find them.
Meanwhile in the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq a ceremony was held to mark the deportation of Jews from Iraq 70 years ago.
The law seems to have changed and now states that “if there is one person from the followers of any religion, his rights are preserved.” A Jewish representative now sits at the Kurdistan region’s Religious Affairs Ministry. So I really don’t know what to think. There are about 400 Jews in Kurdistan today who self-identify themselves as such but they are officially registered as Muslim. The number who converted to Islam but are “Jews in origin” number in the thousands.
And in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Israel is scheduled to open a diplomatic liaison office in Abu Dhabi. This is the first time an Israeli Foreign Ministry official is permanently stationed in a Persian Gulf Country even though Israel does not have formal diplomatic relations with any Middle Eastern state except Egypt and Jordan. So what is going on? A thaw–perhaps, but I would still keep the bags packed.
COLUMN FOR JUNE 16, 2016
This Sunday is Father’s Day. And I haven’t told a joke in months. So here are a few I thought you would enjoy:
A father was complaining to his wife about his children: “This younger generation does not know the value of money! We gave our daughter one of those mini compact cars for her eighteenth birthday so she would have something to go shopping in and she went shopping for a bigger car.”
Several father’s were comparing notes on their income when one turned to the other and said: “What do you mean I don’t make enough money–my salary runs to six figures...my wife, my 2 sons, my 2 daughters and my dog!”
A father was complaining to the Rabbi–“I don’t know what to do about my son. He can’t play cards.” The Rabbi replied: “That’s nothing to be concerning about why do you worry?” The father replied: “Certainly its something to worry about, he insists on playing anyway.”
What’s the difference between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day? On father’s day you get to buy a cheaper gift.
And to all my fellow fathers:
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO YOU AND
TO OUR FATHERS, FATHERS-IN-LAW AND GRANDFATHERS!
COLUMN FOR JUNE 9, 2016
This Saturday night we begin the celebration of Shavuot, the giving of the law to Moses at Sinai. Of late I have been teaching an Ethics class which, amongst other things, explores the ethical precepts set forth in not only the 10 Commandments but in the development of law and how these ideas of law and ethics developed to reinforce each other. One of my favorite lessons is how early law codes often called for “10 eyes for an eye” while Judaism taught “one eye for an eye.” The popular canard is that if you enforce Biblical justice we will all be walking around blind and toothless. But the fact of the matter is when the Bible speaks of an “eye for an eye” it is really speaking of the concept of equal recompense or equal justice–that the punishment should fit the crime. When the older law codes spoke of “10 eyes for an eye” they were establishing the principal that recompense for a wrong should be 10 times the value of the wrong. It didn’t mean literally “10 eyes” because no one has “10 eyes” obviously. But it also does not mean that when they are speaking of “an eye for an eye” they did not mean an actual eye. The Bible is rarely literal but often speaks in metaphor that must be interpreted. Equal justice is a difficult concept but as we go through the Shavuot holiday perhaps we should think about issues of fairness, not only in our daily lives but in such difficult situations as Israel and the Palestinians. There are claims on both sides, some are legitimate, some are not. Finding a resolution that is fair to all parties may mean that no one is happy with the outcome–that is often the way with arbitration– but all parties can live with it and that is the important lesson. To be able to live with it, that is often as close as we can come to justice.
And don't eat too much cheescake!
COLUMN FOR JUNE 2, 2016
June is finally here, so we have a week before the next holiday–oops! No we don’t, its Yom Yerushalyaim, Jerusalem Day this Sunday. Yom Yerushalyaim falls on 28 Iyar, and commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem in the 6 Day War. The war, you may remember, took place from June 5-11, 1967 and ended with Israel capturing all of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the West Bank of the Jordan River including the entire old city of Jerusalem. This permitted Israel to clean up the garbage dump that the Western Wall Plaza had been turned into, and restore access to the Western Wall. It also allowed for archeological excavations of the Temple Mount and other areas of Jerusalem, and the ensuing discoveries of the synagogue under the Western Wall, the cisterns which date back to the time of, at least, King Herod and innumerable other discoveries. One of the most recent discoveries was the Magdala Stone. Unearthed in 2009 near the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel the stone contains a three dimensional depiction of the Temple in the period before Herod’s rebuilt Temple was destroyed in 70 CE. It includes a depiction of the Aron haKodesh, the Holy of Holies. So it may have been used as a symbolic representation of the Temple for Jews living in the area. Remember that the journey from the northern Galilee region down to Jerusalem in year 1 of the common era was a substantial undertaking by foot or even by Donkey or Camel. The Magdala stone is about the size of the table used today as a Torah stand or small table. At present the actual stone is locked up in the vaults of the Israel Antiquities Authority warehouse in Beit Shemesh while a copy has been made and left on display in the ruins of the first century synagogue in which it was found. The ruins were discovered not as part of an archeological dig but during an excavation for a Christian pilgrim resort center. The land is owned by a Roman Catholic religious order, the Legionaries of Christ, while the archeologists who are now managing the dig and who found the stone, are Dina Avshalom-Gorni, an Israel Jew and Arfan Najar, a Muslim. Strange bedfellows all, but promising and exciting.
COLUMN FOR MAY 26, 2016
While today is Lag B’Omer I spoke about that last week. So lets look ahead to this Monday when its our Memorial Day in the U.S.. Memorial Day is a federal holiday when we remember all of the people who died while serving our nation in our armed forces. It originally began as Decoration Day after the Civil War as a way of getting people to decorate the graves of Union veterans who had fallen in the war. By the 20th century competing Union and Confederate traditions had merged and Memorial Day went on to honor all those who died while in military service. The practice from Decoration Day was to honor all of our veterans with the placing of a small U.S. flag at their graves. Others put flowers at the graves as well. The later practice is not a traditionally Jewish one, and therefore not common at Jewish cemeteries but the placing of a U.S. Flag at the graves of our veterans is certainly not objectionable. Growing up I took great pride in the fact that my grandfather was a veteran of WWI and a U.S. Veteran star shaped flag holder was at his grave along with a small U.S. flag. This practice is continued today by many volunteers and veterans organizations, particularly at national cemeteries. It should not be confused with Veteran’s Day when we honor all those who have served in our armed forces unlike Memorial Day when we celebrate those who have died while in service. But we need to make a commitment to not only honor the service of those who died while in service but those who survived and now need our help. Our Veteran’s services and hospitals are in a woeful state and we need to find a way to fix the situation to honor those who have fallen while in service and all those who have stood in harms way for our safety and that of our nation's.
COLUMN FOR MAY 19, 2016
Next Thursday is May 26, 2016, it is also Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer and, for many, the anniversary of their marriage. This is because traditionally, the period from Passover until Lag B’Omer was one in which marriages were not celebrated. (Some extend this ban until Shavuot.) But on Lag B’Omer marriages were celebrated. That’s because it is said that on this date, at the time of Rabbi Akiva a plaque was ravaging the land and 24,000 of his students had died. On this day, the plague lifted but only five students were left alive. Among the five was Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai who, it is believe, went on to write the Zohar, the landmark text of Jewish mysticism. Because of this Lag B’Omer became a day of celebration of the great light or wisdom Rabbi Shomon bar Yochai brought into the world. That is also the reason we celebrate this holiday with great light–bonfires. Many Orthodox communities both in Israel and throughout the world continue this practice and add carnival like activities to the festivities. It can be a great day of rejoicing, and shouldn’t we look for any excuse for a great day of celebration? Hope you all have fun and a special
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO ALL WHO SHARE THIS SPECIAL DAY
AND TO MY OWN BELOVED AS WELL.
COLUMN FOR MAY 12, 2016
Today is Yom Ha’atzma’ut, Israel’s 68th Independence Day. It is interesting that in Israel the day is preceded by Israel’s Memorial Day. So a very solemn day of morning is followed by a day of joyous, riotous celebration for the re-birth of the State of Israel. Usually it is celebrated on the 5th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, the anniversary of David Ben-Gurion’s declaration of Independence of Israel. This year it, along with Yom HaZikaron, are moved back a day to the 3rd and 4th of Iyar respectively, because otherwise it might interfere with preparations for Shabbat. Each year in Jerusalem, an international bible contest, sponsored by the Israeli government is held in celebration. The winner of the contest gets a four year college scholarship to Bar Ilan University and the first runner up and the winner of a separate Diaspora contest each wins a scholarship to Mechon Lev, the Jerusalem College of Technology. The students all must take and pass an initial fifty question written test. The top 16 students go on to compete in the international championship and the top scores from the top 16 countries (other than Israel) go to the Diaspora Contest. And, of course, the students get a chance to tour Israel. There are contests in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Mexico and other places. Though little known, this contest was originally started by David Ben-Gurion at the birth of the state. And this is but one of the activities taking place in honor of the re-birth of the Jewish State. Only in Israel would they celebrate the birth of the nation with an intellectual contest about the bible. What a country! Am Yisroel Chai!
COLUMN FOR MAY 5, 2016
Today is Yom HaShoah, this Sunday is Mother’s Day, next Wednesday is Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, and next Thursday is Yom Ha’Atzma’ut, Israeli independence day. Yom HaShoah is Holocaust Remembrance Day here in the U.S. and in Israel. Unlike the U.N. which holds an International Holocaust Remembrance Day, as an international memorial day on January 27 and commemorates the victims of the Holocaust as well as the genocide that resulted in the death of an estimated 6 million Jewish people, 2 million Romani people, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 9,000 homosexual men by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. (What, we couldn’t have a day for the Jewish dead alone could we? Not from the U.N.). It was designated by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 60/7 on November 1, 2005. (January 27 is also the day in 1945 when Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau.) It only took the U.N. 60 years to act. Some Jews today, particularly amongst the Haredi community, commemorate the Holocaust on one of the traditional morning days, such as Tisha b’Av (the 10th of Av), or on the tenth day of the Hebrew month Tevet.
Yom HaZikaron, which was established in 1953 by a law passed by the Israeli Parliament under the leadership of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, only 5 years after the founding of the state, was established to remember all those who have fallen in service to the State of Israel. Later on it was broadened to include all those who died as a result of terrorism as well. At sundown the night before and again at 11:00 a.m. on Yom HaZikaron, sirens throughout Israel blare and everyone stands in a moment of silence in memory of the fallen. I have been in Israel on Yom HaZikaron and it was a truly moving experience. I have been in our own country, of course, on Memorial Day, and in other countries on their memorial days and I have to tell you that Israel is unique among the nations. On Yom HaZikaron, Israeli motorists stop their cars in the middle of the road on a busy day, and everyone stand in silence and respect for those who perished in service to the state, either in the armed forces or as a result of terrorism. It is a moving and unique moment of absolute quiet.
And this Sunday, May 8, is Mother’s Day. So in honor of all the mother’s out there, and the mother’s of our children, here is my story for mother’s day: Her only son was away at college, and the semester finally ended and he rushed home to make it in time for Sunday morning and the brunch the family usually had on mother’s day when Dad went out for Bagels and lox. He even brought something home for his mother to put in water–his laundry.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL THE MOTHER’S OUT THERE.
COLUMN FOR APRIL 28, 2016
We’ve almost reached the end of Passover, can the May trifecta of remembrances and other holidays be far behind. Next month we begin with Yom HaShoa, Holocaust Memorial Day which falls on Thursday, May 5th this year, not to mention Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day on May 11th and then the U.S. Memorial Day on May 30th. And we also have a few celebrations; Mother’s Day on May 8, Yom HaAtzma’ut, Israeli Independence Day on May 12 and Lag Ba’Omer on May 26. But did you know that next month, the month of May, has been officially designated as Jewish American Heritage Month? That’s right. Since 2006 by Congressional resolution and Presidential proclamation May is Jewish American Heritage Month. So while we remember the Holocaust all those whose lives were taken Al Kiddush HaShem, for the Sanctification of G-d, not to mention those who gave their lives to protect and defend the state of Israel, let us also celebrate not only the rebirth of the State of Israel but all those Jewish American’s who’ve had an impact on our history, culture and society like: Henrietta Szold, the founder of Hadassah; Groucho Marx and the Marx Brothers, great comedians, the incomparable singer Barbara Streisand, composers George Gershwin and Irving Berlin, magician Harry Houdini, satirists Joan Rivers, Mel Brooks, American patriots Haym Salomon and Uriah Levy, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, scientists Dr. Gertrude Elion, Dr. Garrett E. Reisman, Jonas Salk, Poet Emma Lazarus, clothiers Ida Cohen Rosenthal and Levi Strauss, author Edna Ferber, Rabbis (of course) like Isaac Mayer Wise, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Joachim Prinz, and so many others. I’ve included a few in this list which you might have to look up. Please do, I think you will be surprised. And check out www.jewishamericanheritagemonth.us online for more information. The list includes entertainers, engineers, astronauts, scientists, Rabbis, clothiers like the creator of the modern blue jeans as well as the modern bra. We are quite a people!
COLUMN FOR APRIL 21, 2016
Today we are charged with getting rid of all the Chametz. But why are we supposed to do this and what is Chametz anyway. To answer the second question first, Chametz (also transliterated Chometz, Hametz) comes from the Hebrew and means foods that are leavened. These foods are forbidden to be eaten or to benefit from during the festival of Passover. The punishment for violating this restriction is Kareth (“spiritual excision” or exclusion from the Jewish community, literally to be “cut-off”). Chametz is a product that is both made from one of the five types of grain and has been combined with water and left to stand raw for more than 18 minutes. The restrictions on Chametz comes from the bible in Exodus (12:15, 12:19 12:20 and 13:3) and is repeated in Deuteronomy (16:3 and 16:4). So why can’t we eat Chametz on Passover? Deuteronomy 16:3 says that you can’t eat leavened bread for the seven days of Passover so you will remember the Exodus from Egypt. (Like we would ever forget.) And Deuteronomy 16:4 says that there should be no “leaven seen ...in all they borders for seven days....” All bread is leaven but not all leaven is bread. Leaven includes beer and other liquor such as whisky (which is derived from grains). So no bagels, bread, challah, danish or other pastry, no beer, scotch, or most other liquor and this is supposed to be a fun meal? But there is wine–a lot of it. After the Seder there is no television or other forms of entertainment, but after all that wine, the food, the schlepping dishes, pots pans, etc. up and down, I just want to go to sleep. But wait, there’s more: singing. Moses’ sister, Miriam loved music. She is said to have taken up a tambourine to lead the people of Israel in song and dance as they crossed the Yam Suf, the sea of reeds, on their way from Egypt. To this day the Hebrew word for tambourine is the Tof Miriam, And so, after the Seder is concluded ...”I’m going to bed, I’ll clean up in the morning.” HAVE A ZISSEN PESACH!
COLUMN FOR APRIL 14, 2016
As we begin to prepare for Passover in earnest, remember the search for Chametz (levened stuff) is next week on April 21, (Passover begins Friday evening, April 22) after which we search for all of the usual artifacts of the holiday–the Passover pots, pans, dishes, silverware, lugging and schlepping, down from the attic, up from the basement, in from the garage. OY! But do you have a cup for Pharaoh? We all know about the Kos Eliyhu, the cup of Elijah the prophet, but what about Pharaoh’s cup. It seems that in Cochin, India Jews there set a cup known as Pharaoh’s cup on the seder table next to that of the sedar leader. When the Haggadah comes to the story of the ten plagues the seder leader dips a finger in the wine in Pharaoh’s cup as he calls out each plague, dropping the wine onto a special plate. In some homes the Pharaoh’s cup is passed to each Seder participant to similarly remove ten drops of wine from the cup. And if you think that particular custom of giving Pharaoh his own cup of plagues is unusual here is another custom from another Jewish community. Dating back to the 18th century, the Jews in China (yes there were Jews in China) used to put a chair near the ark called The Chair Of Moses. When the Torah scroll was removed from the ark it was first set on the Chair of Moses and then carried to the Bima for the Torah reading. The custom honors Moses, our great teacher, but has nothing to do with Passover except that it is named in Moses’ honor and holds the law which Moses received from haShem at Sinai. HOPE YOU ALL HAVE A ZISSEN PESACH!
COLUMN FOR APRIL 7, 2016
Did you know that on April 30, 1789, our first President, after the adoption of the Constitution, George Washington, had his inauguration? But 100 years later, when we celebrated the centennial of that inauguration, it coincided with Passover. In New York a free picture of George Washington was given out with every 10-lb. box of matzah purchased. Many synagogues across the U.S. were decorated with red, white and blue bunting as part of the centennial and Passover celebrations. But in 1789, April 30 coincided with the 4th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar. Today, on the Jewish calendar, though it has no relationship to President’s day, Washington’s Birthday falls out on May 12, and, it should be noted that, the 4th of Iyar is also Yom Ha’atzma’ut, Israeli Independence Day. Coincidental– I don’t believe in coincidence. And if you think our founding father’s were unconcerned with such things, just take a look at the great seal of the United States on the back of a dollar bill. Above the eagle’s head are a collection of 13 stars for the 13 original colonies. But look how those stars are arranged in the shape of a...(wait for it) Star of David. So as we prepare for Passover, which this year falls out beginning on April 22 (first seder that evening) extending to the last day on April 30, the anniversary of George Washington’s first inauguration– unless you live in Israel, or are following the Israeli liturgical calendar, where Passover is only 7 days long and ends on April 29. Is it too late to book one of the places Washington slept in for Passover– maybe in Boca?
COLUMN FOR MARCH 31, 2016
So March is just about over and Passover is still 3 weeks away so we have time to talk about ...archeology? Knowing that Passover will soon be here I thought we should look at the question of who was the world’s first monotheist. We all believe that would be Abraham. Everyone remembers the story of him smashing the little statutes in his fathers’ shop. This dates to the Bronze age which began around 3000 B.C.E. but many believe the stories were literary constructs and not stories about actual people. I tend to disagree and believe its just that we have no proof yet. (Faith does not need proof, however.) The scholars of archeology believe it may have been Egyptian Pharoah Akhenaten, at least as far as non-Biblical recorded history goes, for which we do have some proof. Akhenaten (a.k.a. Amenhotep IV) worshiped the sun god Aten as the one and only god. Akhenaten established a new capital at el-Amarna, half way between the previous power center cities of Memphis and Thebes, ordered tombs to be built for himself and his wife, and a temple built to Aten, the sun god. This all took place five centuries before Moses challenged the then ruling Pharoah to let his people go (but not before the period when Abraham may have had his revolation). Akhenaten who was, by the way, the father of Tutankhamun (King Tut), reigned for only 11 years from 1350 B.C.E. to 1339 B.C.E.. Once his son ascended to the throne in 1332 B.C.E. his son banned monotheism from Egypt and restored the old pantheon. King Tut was himself deposed by one of his father’s generals, Horemheb, who was also a religious conservative and so, monotheism passed over Egypt and ruled for only a brief period. Tablets found at El-Amarna shed light on the everyday goings on for the Pharoah and Egyptian administration and even tell of a band of nomads, called the Hapiru, who some scholars have suggested were the Hebrews of the Bible. In any event this is the only recorded evidence of monotheism, and even in the case of Moses, we have no contemporaneous evidence of his existence, other than the Bible. Of course if you believe, that is enough. How’s that for a Passover story and a cue for a song?
COLUMN FOR MARCH 24, 2016
This Thursday we celebrate Purim–I hope you will all hear the Megillah on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, and enjoy the Humantaschen and other treats this holiday brings. In the meantime, if Purim is here Passover can’t be too far behind; 29 days actually. So lets talk about something else in the interim. The only comment I have to make is start preparing now. And I don’t mean just for the sedar, I mean to secure our community. Security for Passover must be stepped up, particularly for those synagogues hosting second night sedarim. We must also step-up our security in our buildings on an every-day basis. The recent attacks in Paris and now Brussels makes this a necessity here and around the world. The Department Of Homeland Security has a number of publications which can help secure our buildings. Our local police departments can also be of great help in doing a security survey of your building and providing you with an outline of steps you can take to make our synagogues and communal buildings more secure. Over the past two years I have served as my synagogues VP of buildings and grounds and have tried to make our facility more security without blowing the budget. Its not an easy task but it can be done. I urge you all to begin the process now. Purim is a great and appropriate time to begin the process to make our communities safer and more secure. In the meantime–try not to eat too many Humantaschen.
COLUMN FOR MARCH 17, 2016
This Sunday Spring begins and next Wednesday evening we celebrate the holiday of Purim. If Spring has finally sprung can warmer weather and Passover be far behind? We have already begun daylight savings time, which began on Sunday, March 13, 2016 so we moved the clocks an hour ahead. This also means that while Shabbat begins an hour later on Friday (candle lighting at 6:48 pm this Friday evening) Shabbat also ends an hour later on Saturday night (7:59 pm this Saturday evening.) I do love the extra daylight, I can get home later, get up earlier and work longer–wait, that’s a good thing? What can I say, I like getting things done and once the sun sets I tend to want to end my workday. This is, in fact, the reason for daylight savings time (DST). But not all countries observe DST. In the tropics its not very helpful as near the equator you have approximately 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night. Some studies done by the U.S. Dept. Of Transportation indicated that DST does save energy, but by a small amount, about 1%. Indiana did not observe DST in all counties of the state until 2005. The idea of DST was originated by Benjamin Franklin in an essay he penned while in Paris. The idea slowly took hold since then, until now it is observed in many countries including our own. However, many people are now questioning whether DST should be continued and whether the energy savings and safety benefits are, in fact, true. We shall see. Have a safe and happy spring time.
COLUMN FOR MARCH 10, 2016
I would like to take a break from Purim spiels to talk about world-wide anti-Semitism (anti-Jewish sentiment). The ADL has released a new survey of anti-Semitic/anti-Jewish attitudes in the wold. In seems that while Muslims tend to hold anti-Jewish views where they are makes a big difference. Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa are much more likely to harbor anti-Jewish/anti-Israeli attitudes than those in Asia, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, or Sub-Saharan Africa. The countries with the highest anti-Jewish/Israeli attitudes are Greece (69%), Malaysia (61%) and Armenia (58%). The survey also reports that the three countries with the lowest rates are Laos (0.2%), The Phillippines (3%) and Sweden (4%). It also seems true that there is a gender split with male respondents evincing higher rates of anti-Jewish/Israeli attitudes (29%) then females (24%). And just to show that the old canards remain, the survey indicated that 48 out of 102 countries and territories surveyed indicated that Jews have too much power in the business world while 51 out of 102 countries and territories surveyed reported that Jews are likely to be more loyal to Israel than to their own country where they lived. Where people get their news also makes a difference with those in the Muslim world harboring anti-Jewish/Israeli attitudes. Those who depend on the internet are 73% anti-Jewish/Israeli, those who get their news from religious leaders are 54% anti-Jewish/Israeli, from TV 54%, Newspapers 49% and word of mouth 40%. We will never make progress with this level of misinformation and organized prejudice being officially endorsed by the State. We must find a better way
to move forward. And don’t forget to turn the clocks ahead this Sunday–its time to spring ahead (and loose and hour’s sleep too).
COLUMN FOR March 3, 2016
So March is finally here–can Purim be far behind. So rather than debate cookie dough Humantaschen vs. yeast dough how about a different argument. Since when are “ears” triangles? Remember, Humantaschen actually means Haman’s ears. So what shape were Haman’s ears? Dutch Jews, it turns out, do not make Humantaschen in the shape of triangle pockets filled with jelly or poppy seed but bake cookies in the shape of actual ears by dipping dough into a deep pan of hot, bubbling oil, and then shaping them like ears. Once the cookies are brown they are removed from the oil, drained (on brown paper perhaps) and then sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar. They sound good, but I’m still longing for those Humantaschen of my youth; poppy-seed filled yeast dough pockets, basted in honey. My waist line and blood sugar don’t, but once a year for purim? That’s a treat! And, here is another bit of Purim trivia. Did you ever hear of Santa Esterita? That’s right, Saint Esther. During the Spanish Inquisition many Jews were forced to convert to Christianity and practiced their Judaism in secret. One way they sought to preserve Purim was to create a holiday accepted by the Church and named it the Festival of Saint Esther. In some homes of the descendants of these crypto-Jews living in New Mexico you can still find images of Saint Esther.
So remember to get ready to celebrate Esther and to start eating those Humantaschen. Purim falls on March 24, 2016, with the Megillah reading the night before. So enjoy your Humantaschen while you can, Passover can’t be too far behind.
COLUMN FOR FEB 25, 2016
We made it all the way to February and its been months since I discussed the world of Biblical Archaeology so I guess its time. First I want to observe the horror of archaeological destruction. ISIS has committed not only war crimes against the people under its control and caused the death of innocents throughout the world but it has also destroyed the heritage of all mankind. They have destroyed archaeological remains at Palmyra in Syria, Mosul, Aleppo, Nineveh and Nimrud. The cumulative destruction of antiquities at their hands, not to mention the lives they have taken, represents an irreversible loss to our heritage and to scholarship. Many nations deride Israel for many different reasons, but Israel takes extreme care as the steward of an archeologically sensitive land to ensure that the patrimony of humanity is not lost through careless disregard. Many people have said that you can’t blame an entire people for the acts of a few. However, when you see the work done by the Waqif, the Muslim Religious Authority, which controls the top of the Temple Mount and the tons of archaeologically sensitive “debris” tossed into the Jezrael Valley, along with the destruction of the sites in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, you have to wonder if perhaps the blame is not misplaced. Now I’m no fan of the U.N. but some worldwide body has to take responsibility for these sites in the name of all humanity and our cultural heritage and protect them from those who would rampage through the remnants of our history. Let us not repeat the tragedies of WWII with peoples lives or our cultural heritage. The Muslim religious authorities must also speak out against these lunatics.
COLUMN FOR FEB 18, 2016
So here is an odd story I came across which I thought you might enjoy. Did you know that there is a Jewish connection to Hawaii? (It’s the middle of the winter–I thought dreaming about a beautiful warm place with white sand beaches might be fun.) A Jewish connection to Hawaii goes all the way back to the 1798 when a sailor on a whaling ship recorded in the ship’s log that the Hawaiian king had come aboard and brought a Jewish cook with him! We know that fifty years later Jewish merchants began arriving in Hawaii to supply the sugar and coffee plantations but for the Jewish presence in Hawaii to go almost to the time of the American revolution was something I was astounded by. It seems that some time prior to 1886 a gentlemen by the name of Elias Abraham Rosenberg became the royal soothsayer for King David Kalakaua and even brought a Torah Scroll to the King. Mr. Rosenberg would prepare horoscopes and prophecies for the King, taught him Bible stories, and taught him how to read Hebrew. He also called himself “Rabbi,” though there is no record of him being ordained or recognized as a Rabbi. Mr. Rosenberg left the Torah scroll with the King for safe-keeping when he left Hawaii in 1887 to go to San Francisco. He was never heard from again but the Torah scroll survives to this day and can be seen on display at Temple Emanu-El in Honolulu. So while we are all dreaming of visiting Hawaii, if any of us get there, don’t fail to stop by and see the Royal Hawaiian Torah Scroll.
COLUMN FOR FEB 11, 2016
So this Sunday most of the U.S. celebrates love on Valentine’s Day. The question we must ask is whether its O.K. for us, as Jews, to participate in this holiday. Perhaps the best answer comes from
the Rama (Rabbi Moshe Isserlis, Poland, 1520-1572) who said that there are four criteria that must be met to permit this (Rama Y.D. 178:1)
1) Does the debated activity have a secular origin or value?
2) Can one rationally explain the behavior or ritual apart from the gentile holiday or event?
3) If there are idolatrous origins, have they disappeared?
4) Are the activities actually consistent with Jewish tradition?
In the case of this holiday it would seem to meet his criteria; sending cards with loving sentiments and giving gifts of flowers and chocolates to express love seem to be independent of any Christian roots. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church has removed the day from its calendar. Any idolatrous origins no longer exist and how can anyone say to express love is not Jewish. The idea of a special day set aside to encourage coupledom is also well rooted in the Jewish tradition: Tu B’Av, the 15th day of the Jewish month of Av, was an ancient day of matchmaking that has experienced something of a revival in modern times, not to mention so many cell phone applications to encourage Jews to meet other Jews that its clearly a Jewish value.
So to all you couples out there and especially to my b’shert–HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY, and don’t forget President’s Day, which falls out on this Monday, Feb. 15, 2015.
COLUMN FOR FEB 4, 2016
Next Wednesday is the first day of the Hebrew month of Adar I. That’s because this is not only a secular leap year (there is a February 29, 2016) but a Jewish leap year as well. To bring the holidays and the seasons into alignment, the lunar calendar needs to be adjusted by a month every so often to avoid this drift. The lunar year is actually 12.4 lunar months long, while the solar year is 365.25 days long. So the solar calendar has to be adjusted every four years by adding one day to make up for the .25 day lost each year. The solar calendar also adjusts the number of days in the months so 30 days hast September, April, June and November, the rest have 31 except February which has 28 and 29 in a leap year. Haha. But the Jewish calendar is based on the moons cycle which is about 29 ½ days. The Jewish calendar endeavors to correlate 3 distinct astronomical phenomena; the revolution of the moon around the Earth (approximately 29 ½ days) the Earth’s revolution around the sun (approximately 365 1/4 days) and the rotation of the earth around its axis (one day). Remember the times for prayer and the holidays are also controlled by these factors so if your observant you want to get this stuff right. The problem with a strictly lunar calendar is that there are 12.4 lunar months in every solar year so a 12 month calendar causes a short year (by 11 days) while a 13 month lunar calendar causes a long year (by 19 days) with drift in either direction. To compensate the Jewish calendar consists of 12 months with an extra month occasionally added. This is why the holidays are never on-time. The extra month we add is Adar I, and that’s why Purim is not celebrated until Adar II. We also adjust the calendar to prevent Shabbat from falling adjacent to Yom Kippur or Hoshanah Rabbah falling on a Saturday. Either occurrence might interfere with the celebration of the holidays.
COLUMN FOR JAN 28, 2016
This Shabbat's Torah portion is Yitro, the story of Moses father-in-law, the high priest of Midian. So its an appropriate time to consider the question of intermarriage. If its good enough for Moses....The winter edition of B’nai B’rith Magazine features a cover story about interfaith marriage, and it poses and interesting, if not age old question: is it good for the Jews? The article points out how different branches of Judaism have dealt with the issue of non-Jewish “members” of the synagogue community and the challenges posed by the inter-faith family. But, perhaps the real 800 lb. gorilla in the room is the fact that the Pew Research Center has found that the intermarriage rate has passed 50%. So like it or not, we have to find a way to welcome the “stranger in our midst” or we may not have any midst left to welcome them into. There is no question, and the Pew Research Center backs this up, the best way of ensuring that there will be Jewish families is by marrying within the faith. The study found that nearly all Jews with a Jewish spouse were raising their children as Jews, while only 20% of those whose spouses were not Jewish were doing so, and 25% said they were raising them as “partly Jewish” children. These numbers are staggering for our survival. Ever wonder why synagogue membership is severely declining? The numbers are not there. Its bad enough we have hit zero population growth in terms of reproduction, but when you add in a 50% intermarriage rate and that only 20% of those raise their children as Jews the population decline is staggering. We have to find a way to be warm and welcoming to all, to provide a way for those who have found love with someone from another faith to consider joining their lot to our people or we may not have a people for much longer.
COLUMN FOR JAN 21, 2016
Last week I spoke about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the missed opportunity and the stilted history contained in the film “Selma.” I want to continue to try and set the record straight in speaking about two of our own local Rabbi’s who participated in Dr. King’s historic mission to promote civil rights and equality for all. One of these Rabbi’s was Israel Dresner and the other is Joachim Prinz. Rabbi Prinz was a fabulous orator, a giant and the spiritual leader of the Berlin Jewish community before being appointed the rabbi of Temple B’Nai Abraham (originally in Newark, N.J. and currently in Livingston, N.J.). His charisma and presence were overwhelming but can you imagine what it took to speak before Dr. King gave his historic “I have a dream” speech and Rabbi Prinz did. It’s a shame that no one will remember what Rabbi Prinz said as he was a powerful speaker, but in retrospect I can only believe that Dr. King’s speech was inspired by the Almighty because it remains, to this day, one of the pivotal pieces of American rhetoric which inspired a nation to act. And then there were the clashes in St. Augustine, Florida in the spring of 1964. Dr. King was arrested for his activities there and he wrote to his friend, Rabbi Israel Dresner of Temple Sha’arey Shalom in Springfield asking Rabbi Dresner to recruit rabbis to go to St. Augustine to protest. It was the biggest mass arrest of Rabbis since the Roman era. Many Rabbis stood shoulder to shoulder with Dr. King, including Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who joined Dr. King in Selma. Sadly there is not a yarmulke to be found in the movie. I would hope this was just an oversight, but frankly, recent history would suggest otherwise.
And don’t forget to plant a tree in Israel–its Tu’B’Shevat next Monday and Shabbat Shirah, Sabbath of Song, this week, so remember to feed the birds, our feathered friends, who bring us song.
COLUMN FOR JAN 14, 2016
This Monday, January 18, 2016, we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The holiday was signed into law at the White House on Nov. 2, 1983 by President Ronald Reagan. President George H.W. Bush moved the holiday to the third Monday in January, and on January 17, 2000, all fifty U.S. states observed the federal holiday. Dr. King was a great leader of the Civil Rights movement, but he was not the only one, nor was he the only one martyred to that cause. The recent film “Selma,” tries to portray Dr. King and the historic march on Selma, Alabama, which he led, and which directly influenced the passage of the voting rights act and the entire Civil Rights Movement. Unfortunately, the film has redacted the role that Jews played in the movement. Many Rabbis and Jewish activists marched on Selma that day and many Jewish students, acting in accord with our tradition of social justice, had been Freedom Riders before that. Well over a 1000 people volunteered as Freedom Riders to go to the southern U.S. and register black citizens to vote. They were mostly white and over half of them were Jewish. They risked their lives to bring civil rights and social justice to our nation. And their role is not depicted in the movie. Two of those Jews were Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner who lost their lives in 1964 while serving as Freedom Riders. Their contributions and their sacrifice deserve better treatment by those for whom they gave their lives. And Jews were active not only as Freedom Riders. In 1909 Henry Moskowitz, a Jew, helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Jewish philanthropy was responsible in whole or in part for the founding of more than 2,000 primary and secondary schools and black colleges and universities including Howard, Dillard and Fisk universities. Others, like Arnie Aronson helped organize the 1963 March on Washington. The truth is we played a role that should not be overlooked.
COLUMN FOR JAN 7, 2016
The New Year is all of one week old so lets look around the world and see how things have been going: Last year Reykjavik, Iceland’s City Council considered a resolution to boycott Israeli products but was withdrawn by the Mayor following strong reaction from the World Jewish Congress and others. In Norway, a documentary film festival refused to screen an Israeli film that deals with the lives of disabled children in Israel, stating that they supported the academic and cultural boycott of Israel. And while hate crimes in Sweden reached record highs, predominantly with anti-Semitic and “Islamophobic” incidents, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Filaret spoke of the good relations his church maintains with the Jewish community in the Ukraine, saying: “The Ukraine Orthodox Church is not interested in anti-Semitism. A good Christian cannot be an anti-Semite, as a good Christian must love everyone.” And in Monaco, Prince Albert II issued a formal apology for his country’s role in deporting Jews to Nazi death camps, unveiling a monument bearing the names of the deported Jews. And in the land down under, Australia’s new prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, expressed his hope of improving relations with Israel saying that: “We need to collaborate more with Israel, particularly on matters of science and technology. The more we can do with Israel, the better.” This is a turn-around from a nation that only last year considered banning Jewish ritual slaughter. Who knows, we may yet convince everyone to like us, and then where will we be!
COLUMN FOR DEC. 31, 2015
We have finally arrived at the last day of 2015. It has been an interesting year and we now come to the final 3 day weekend of the year. That assumes that you don’t work in retail or your store or office has opted to close for the New Year’s day weekend. So here’s hoping you have Friday off and can enjoy a 3 day weekend. And while your loafing about, I want you to ask yourself where you would rather live? The Public Religion Research Institute recently released and published (in the Jerusalem Post), the list of the most Jewish cities in America. They are: New York with a population that is 8% Jewish, Boston at 6%, Miami, Philadelphia and San Francisco each at 4%, while Chicago and Washington, D.C. are at 3% each. Nationally Jews make-up only 2% of the U.S. population. And yet the world seems pre-occupied with us. How is it that a people comprising only 0.2% of the total global population, and whose maximum population reached a world-wide height of 0.8% in 1939 (17 million as opposed to 13-14 million today) has had such an effect on the world. So small a community should have been unheard from. It is an interesting question to ponder and begs other questions. For example, why is Israel, the only country with a majority of Jews also the only country that the U.N. and so many countries vigorously attack on a regular basis? In words more suited for Passover, why is the Jewish nation different from all other nations? An interesting question as we head into the new year. May you and yours...
HAVE A HAPPY AND SAFE NEW YEAR!
COLUMN FOR DEC. 24, 2015
The nice thing about the calendar this year is the year end abundance of three day weekends, not to mention the one four day weekend some of us enjoyed back in September when Rosh HaShana fell on Monday and Tuesday. So while we are enjoying some time off with the family let’s consider celebrating with some pomegranate juice and dates from Israel. It seems that researchers at the Technion in Israel have found that half a glass of pomegranate juice each day, along with 3 dates can significantly reduce therosclerosis, the accumulation of fatty cells in arteries that can cause heart attacks and strokes. The doctors found that if used regularly, the antioxidants contained in the pomegranates and dates could lower cholesterol in the arteries by 28%. The scientists noted that the combination in the two fruits gave the best results–and they taste good too! And I found that it mixes well with orange juice in the morning–a little sweet and a little tart. Pomegranates– who knew. So given the time of year I wondered if pomegranate juice would mix well with champagne–and wouldn’t you know it, a quick search came up with dozens of recipes for a cocktail. Sounds good doesn’t it? And dates–they had me at choreset. (And they keep things moving nicely too.) However you celebrate the year end festivities– Enjoy! And may you be blessed with a sweet and happy new year.
COLUMN FOR DEC. 17, 2015
So now that Chanukah is over, and the other two year end events are almost upon us, we should have the final seasonal change of the year with the arrival of winter on Tuesday, December 22, 2015. (Weren’t we wearing shorts the other day?) Next Tuesday is also a Jewish Fast day, the 10th day of the month of Tevet. It’s also one of my favorite days of the year on the English calendar because, its the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. From now on the daylight increases each day. But it also means that 2015 is drawing to a close, and that its time to look back on the year that was, and to look ahead on the year to come. Despite the rise in the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement, the U.S. Episcopal Church rejected a motion endorsing the movement; and Amnesty International issued a report detailing the crimes committed this past summer by HAMAS during the Israeli military actions in Operation Protective Edge. The report details a brutal campaign of abductions, torture and unlawful killings directed against Palestinians in Gaza by Hamas. And despite the record departure of Jews from France during the last year, and a great increase in anti-Semitic Acts, the $11 million European Center for Judaism is still on track to open in 2017 and a consensus is building to stop ISIS. Maybe there is still hope? Just remember, this Tuesday we also commemorate the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II. Ultimately, this led to the destruction of the first Temple and the conquest of the kingdom of Judah. Let us hope we never live to see Jerusalem destroyed again. Have an easy fast.
COLUMN FOR DEC. 10, 2015
This Sunday night marks the end of Chanukah. So we hope you have all been having a great holiday. So here is a game I thought you would like to play to. I’ll bet you can name the seven dwarfs from the Disney movie Snow White (at least 5 of them anyway) but can you name the five sons of Matisyahu? (And I don’t mean the modern singer. He’s also known as Mattathias.)
1. Judah the Maccabee (aka as Judas Maccabeus and Y'hudhah HaMakabi. Judah was the eldest son of Matisyahu and is acclaimed as one of the greatest warriors in Jewish history alongside Joshua, Gideon, and David.)
2. Eleazar the Maccabee (aka Eleazar Avaran, Eleazar Maccabeus and Eleazar Hachorani/ Choran.)
3. Simon the Maccabee, (aka Simon Maccabeus and Simon Thassi.)
4. Johanan the Maccabee (aka Johanan Maccabeus and John Gaddi.)
5. Jonathan the Maccabee (aka Jonathan Apphus)
(And here is a simple mnemonic to remember them by: JES–JJ.)
The cast also includes: the villain, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Judith who was acclaimed for her heroism in the assassination of Holofernes and Hannah and her seven sons. Hannah and her seven sons were arrested, tortured and killed one by one, by Antiochus IV Epiphanes for refusing to bow to an idol.
The lesson of Chanukah is to REDEDICATE ourselves (that is what Chanukah means--rededication) to defeating all idols, whether they be money, fame, power,...you get the idea. Hope your having a great holiday.
COLUMN FOR DEC. 3, 2015
This Sunday we light the first candle on the Chanukiah and commence the holiday of Chanukah, the festival of lights. For many years my family would vacation in Mexico during the winter break. We even found a resort hotel under Jewish ownership, and the owners family would also vacation there at that time. They even held daily minyanim. There was also a Chanukiah in the lobby with an appropriate Chanukah display as well as a Christmas tree displayed in the lobby, though a bit more prominently than the Chanukah display. But the real delight was Burmelos, Mexican fried fritters drenched in either sugar or syrup. They are eaten by Mexican Jews in place of the jelly doughnuts, which are common to eastern European Jews and in Israel today. (By the way, Robin’s Chanukah nut horn recipe is on this website under the recipes tab.) It is also tradition to construct a slightly different type of dreidel–a dreidel shaped pinata, which the children bang open and are treated to a shower of sweets and toys. Sounds like a lot of fun. Think we could find one of those at the local party store? I was finally able to find one on, of course, Amazon, for $22.99 plus shipping.
COLUMN FOR Nov. 26, 2015
So if we are talking about Chanukah, that other holiday must be here soon as well. But did you ever think where gentiles in Israel would get a Christmas Tree? It seems that the Jewish National Fund grows Arizona Cedar trees in Israel for those interested in having one for their holiday celebrations. They are grown in the north and center of Israel and are provided to churches and monasteries (paid for by Israel’s Interior Ministry), and to embassies, consulates and foreign diplomats (paid for by Israel’s Foreign Ministry). After all, if they could grow cedars in Lebanon why not in Israel? And from Robin and I and our kids, hope you all have a
This week we celebrate Thanksgiving, and it will soon be Chanukah. In fact, Chanukah falls out in exactly 9 days, on the evening of December 6, 2015. In honor of Chanukah I thought I would share some information with you about the Hasmonean period, the time of the origin of the Chanukah celebration. Did you know that there is a museum, underneath a private home in Jerusalem which was built on top of homes dating to the Hasmonean period? Some even go all the way back to the time of King David. In 1970 Theo Siebenberg and his wife bought a parcel of land in the ancient Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. He was certain that there was a Jewish home underneath the site. For 18 years he conducted an archeological excavation of the basement and beyond. Lo and behold in 1972 they found historic artifacts proving that Jews lived there as long as 3,000 years ago, the time of Kings David and Solomon. During the excavation and construction of the new home they first found a key ring dating to the Second Temple period. Later they found burial vaults at lower levels with carvings dating back to the time of David and Solomon. They also found parts of the lower aqueduct system which came from Solomon’s Pools, near Hebron, along with two huge water cisterns and two mikva’ot dating to the Second Temple Period. As well as proof of a big fire which laid down a layer of ash in the year 70 C.E., the year of the destruction of the Second Temple. So once again modern archeology shows that what is recorded in our Torah is historically accurate and that Jews have been living in the holy land for over 3,000.
COLUMN FOR Nov. 19, 2015
Next week we celebrate one of my favorite holidays of the year, Thanksgiving–no, my kids birthday. It always falls around Thanksgiving so we usually celebrate it along with the holiday. And while I grant you that some years they coincide I try and explain that it could be worse. After all, Thanksgiving and Chanukah could coincide (and it has) and then you get Turkey with latkes and pumpkin or apple pie with the birthday cake. On reflection, I don’t think potato latkes with turkey is so bad–in fact I think it’s a great combination. Add a little applesauce it makes a great meal. But is it really fair? On behalf of all those who get stuck with a holiday falling on their birthday I will raise an objection. We should not detract from the individual celebration or the holiday. Each deserves to be honored in their own right. So let’s celebrate each holiday and each individual. Besides, this year Chanukah and Thanksgiving are 9 days apart. So there is no need to mix the milhig with the fleish. Besides, my wife prefers her latkes with sour cream and apple sauce and that just doesn’t go with turkey. Now kashe, that’s another matter entirely.
Hope you all have a great Thanksgiving!
COLUMN FOR NOV. 12, 2015
As 2015 begins to draw to a close I thought I would take this week to look back and reflect on some of the things that have happened in the past year: In January we observed the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and the U.S. law that striped presumed Nazi war criminals of their U.S. citizenship and social security benefits went into effect. Ebola struck African and Israel sent more than a million shekels worth of medical equipment and manpower to help. Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that Jews in Poland could continue to practice Kosher slaughter, overturning a prior ban. Anti-Semitism is on the rise throughout Europe, nothing new, but also in Australia, the U.S. and the U.K. as well. A survey by the Louis D. Brandeis Center reported in May of 2015 that 54% of U.S. Jewish college students said they had witnessed or experienced an anti-Semitic incident in 2014. Italy’s Senate voted to criminalize Holocaust denial. If it passes Italy will join France, Germany, Great Britain and other European countries that have criminalized Holocaust denial while anti-Semitic incidents continue to rise. Police in Norway and Sweden have increased police security around synagogues in that country, but only after a guard was murdered at the main synagogue of Copenhagen, Denmark. Swastikas were spray-painted on a Jewish fraternity house at Vanderbilt Univ. in Nashville, TN and on a Hollywood, Florida synagogue that serves over 700 families. Following deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, the French Prime Minister pledged more that $100 million to finance a plan to fight racism and anti-Semitism, over a 3 year period. And finally, the ADL released a report which claims that anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. rose by 21 percent last year. Is anywhere safe for us?
COLUMN FOR Nov. 5, 2015
Next Wednesday, November 11, 2015, marks the celebration of Veteran’s Day. In the past I have explained why Veteran’s Day falls on November 11 (the armistice of World War I). But that is not the only thing we celebrate during the month of November. No, I was not referring to Thanksgiving, but to Jewish Book Month. Beginning in 1925 Fanny Goldstein, the first women to direct a branch library in Massachusetts, set up an exhibit of Judaic books and called in Jewish Book Week. Word got out and it became popular, especially after it was moved to November, making it a perfect pre-Chanukah promotion. But that is not all! Did you know that the vote to partition Palestine into two countries, one for Jews and one for Arabs, was voted on by the United Nations on November 29, 1947? That’s right. We celebrate Israeli Independence Day in May when Israel finally declared its Independence and the battle began, but the U.N. approved the resolution in November. Unfortunately, many Arab nations remain steadfast in refusing to recognize the legitimacy of that November vote.
November 11 also marks Canadian Remembrance Day for our friends from the north. So let’s all remember and honor our Veteran’s as well as all the other great things that come with November including Thanksgiving, which is only 2 weeks away.
COLUMN FOR OCT, 28, 2015
This is a very unusual weekend for most of us, and an extremely difficult one for our dog. The American holiday of Halloween will take place on Saturday. This means that little ghouls, goblins, witches, warlocks, and others will be visiting our house looking for treats. It also means that we are asked to deal with a ringing doorbell all day during Shabbat, or to disconnect the bell and be a Scrooge. Either way we will still have to deal with a barking dog all day long. I hope all the children and their parents will show some respect for our Shabbat observance but I wouldn’t bet on it. A Shabbat afternoon nap is simply out of the question, but then, naps in the afternoon, even on non-Halloween Shabbats, are usually out of the question. This Saturday, it will be an impossibility. So what do we do? Leave the door open and invite who knows who into our homes. This has not been an issue in the past but I wouldn’t bet on that continuing. Shut and lock the door and let the door bell ring and the dog bark? Not a very pleasant prospect either. Help! I really don’t have a good answer. I know, how about a vacation–run away! Whatever you decide to do please have a wonderful and safe holiday and enjoy all those creatures that come to your door looking for treats–the tricks I can do without.
And please don’t forget, Election Day is next Tuesday, November 3. Regardless of who you vote for please remember to vote. Every vote really does count.
COLUMN FOR OCT. 22, 2015
We are finally holiday free until next month. That gives us 3 weeks to talk about something else. During Shemini Atzeret, we prayed for many things including rain. We recited Tfilat Geshem, the prayer for rain and we will continue to pray for rain in the land of Israel until the first day of Passover on April 23, 2016. Interesting thing about rain, Israel does need it but the situation is such in Israel that the state has decided that the ocean is a far more dependable source of drinking water, once you desalinate it, than praying for rain. In typical Jewish/Israeli fashion and with the help of our brains, ingenuity, and the Jewish National Fund and its Parsons Water Fund, Israel is building desalination plants around the country. Israel invented the Shamir Drill, which can access water more than a mile underground. Lake Kinneret, Israel’s fresh water lake was so low that it almost exposed the pumping equipment at the bottom of the lake. Today desalination plants provide 50% of Israel’s drinking water and the drought has been mitigated. Israel even supplies water to both the West Bank and Jordan, as required under the Oslo accords. JNF continues to work to help fund other water projects throughout Israel including the creation of small desalination plants for parts of the country that are off the national water grid. Meanwhile, the Hebron stream flows through the Bedouin village of Um Batin which has a population of about 1,000 and is located about 10km north of Be’er Sheva. It is not connected to the national water system nor to the wastewater treatment system and its untreated sewage flows into the Hebron stream, which continues to the city of Hebron, and the river of Be’er Sheva beyond. Israel manages both its water needs and its wastewater, too bad the others in the region are not similarly inclined.
COLUMN FOR OCT. 15, 2015
This week, on Wednesday, October 14, 2015 the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, also known as Mar Cheshvan, bitter Cheshvan, begins. Is is called bitter because there are no holidays during the month. The next holiday is not until December 7, 2015 when Hanukkah begins. So, in the meantime, we will pray for rain, particularly for Israel and, it seems, California as well. So let’s look at what’s going on in Israel on the water front and see if it can help California and other drought stricken lands too.. JNF reports that Israel boasts a modern, structured and well-thought out water system with five desalination plants, the highest worldwide reuse rate of wastewater (85.6%), extensive monitoring of the underground water supply system to detect leakage, and the development of the Shamir Drill, which can access water more than a mile underground. And, of course, Israel created drip-irrigation systems which are now used throughout the world to conserve water and promote agriculture in otherwise barren areas. Today, 50% of Israel’s drinking water comes from desalination plants. Perhaps Governor Brown should give Israel a call. I’m sure that Israeli expertise could solve California’s water problems. Its not like California doesn’t have access to a large body of water which could be used for irrigation if only they could find a way to desalinate it. And JNF continues to grow, expand and fund new and innovative ways to develop the water infrastructure of Israel, which also benefits other countries. JNF–its not just buying land and planting trees anymore. Israel–what a country!
COLUMN FOR OCT. 8, 2015
Finally, the holidays are over? Not so fast! Monday, October 12, 2015, is not only Columbus Day but Canadian Thanksgiving Day. What do the Canadian’s have to be thankful for you may ask. Didn’t the Pilgrims do all the hard work here in the U.S.? And let’s not forget Columbus’ contribution, in finding the land in the first place–though some would argue that the Native Americans found it first coming from modern day Russia, across the pre-historic Aleutian land bridge. And let's not forget that Columbus was an Italian who sailed for Isabella, the Queen of Spain after she and her husband, Ferdinand, kicked the Jews out of Spain. (Columbus, by the way, was thought to have some Murano’s, hidden Jews, amongst his crew.) In the meantime, Spain, has finally revoked the edict of expulsion that forced the Jews to leave Spain and are welcoming back any Jews who could prove they had Spanish ancestors. Tell me, how can you do that? Though I do have friends in Gibralter who still have the key to the fence around their house in Spain. The key sits in a display case in their home -- on the British side of the Gibralter. Do you think they could reclaim their old home? After more than 500 years I don’t think so –maybe reparations would have been better than Spanish citizenship, especially given the state of Spain's economy. So enough of this ramble, Have a...
HAPPY COLUMBUS DAY!
COLUMN FOR OCT. 1, 2015
Next week we celebrate the conclusion of the holiday season with Shemini Atzeret and Yizkor on Monday, October 5, 2015 and Simchat Torah on Tuesday, October 6, 2015. We look forward to dancing with the Torah on Simchat Torah but did you know that in Yemenite communities it was the custom for fathers and grandfathers to dance with a different kind of sacred object other than a Torah scroll. They would carry those babies born during the previous year in the procession around the neighborhood. It was a way of honoring the newborns on the first Simchat Torah after their birth, for indeed, as one Mishnah recounts, it was our children who we pledged as security to haShem at Sinai that enabled us to receive the Torah and it is for that pledge, our children, that the Torah was given to us. So get those babies out and dance! dance! dance! And don’t forget, its that time of year when we begin saying Tfilat Geshem, the prayer for rain, particularly in the land of Israel. Beginning on Shemini Atzeret we add the prayer for rain into the service, and we continue to recite it until the first day of Passover. So remember to get out there and...dance for rain–what are we Jewish Indians?
And to everyone a Hag Shemini Atzeret v'Simchat Torah Semeach
COLUMN FOR SEPT. 24, 2015
Succot is finally here starting this Sunday evening. Succot is the holiday when we celebrate the harvest. In the past I have provided instructions for a craft project to do with your children or grandchildren celebrating the holiday but I think there is a more important issue we need to address as a community, and this is the holiday for it. In ancient times Succot and the harvest were cross-linked as a fertility festival. The symbols used during Succot, the lulav and the etrog are obvious in their meaning. We walk around the synagogue seven times waiving these objects just as a bride walks around her groom during a traditional wedding ceremony. But, our numbers are declining. Our children are getting married later and later, and having fewer and fewer children of their own. And some of our communities are dying, such as the one in Calcutta, India, a community dating back to the 18th century. Only 20 Jews remain there. The recent Pew Research Center population report I discussed last week, shows that based on our population, we will continue to loose numbers and the influence numbers bring. Our synagogues, organizations and other institutions are already feeling the decline in affiliations. Now add a decline in the overall numbers of the members of the tribe and it is a dire picture indeed. We must find a way to get our children to understand the importance of not only affiliating, but of reproducing. And if that means helping them financially, then that is what we must do. It is, in the end, a matter of our very survival as a people. So let’s provide opportunities for them to meet one another and the funding to make it happen. Of all activities, it is the most important. And here's hoping you have a great holiday next week.
Hag Sukkot S'meach!
COLUMN FOR SEPT. 17, 2015
Yom Kippur falls this Tuesday night and Wednesday. Wednesday is also the beginning of the fall. The days start getting shorter, the leaves begin to fall off the trees and the harvest festival approaches (Succot). In our part of the country the summer harvest is indeed being finished up, and the farmer’s markets will soon all be closed up for the winter. It is a time to wax reflective as we look back upon the past year. Have we brought joy or sorrow. Have we lessened someone’s burdens or increased them. It is also, traditionally, time for our Jewish singles to search for a mate. Some of you will remember back to your youths when it was customary to have a great singles dance at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, or, if you lived in the city, to go “Shul hopping” to visit friends and perhaps meet someone new. Sadly, these traditional activities no longer take place and our singles are forced to “meet” someone “online.” Adding to this dilemma, new research indicates that by 2050 there will be more Muslims in the U.S. than Jews. The U.S. Muslim population will increase from 0.9 % to 2.1% of the U.S. population while U.S. Jewish population will drop from 1.8% to 1.4%. The Jewish global population is expected to rise to 16 million by 2050 up from 14 million in 2010 but will amount to a declining percent of the overall population while Muslim’s, which were 1.6 billion in 2010, are expected to increase to 2.8 billion by 2050: 3 out of 10 people will be Muslim. Nearly 95% of all Jews live in just 10 countries, and by 2050 51% of the Jews will live in Israel and 37% in North America with the number of European Jews expected to decline dramatically. This is not promising. So to all our Singles out there I say–get busy!
And to everyone we wish you all an easy fast, and a good sealing,
G’mar HaTimhah Tova!
COLUMN FOR SEPT. 10, 2015
Rosh HaShana begins this Sunday night, Sept. 13, 2015. On behalf of
Robin and I and our kids, we want to wish everyone a Shana Tova–a happy
and healthy new year! May you all have a meaningful holiday. One of my
favorite parts of the holiday was the chance to renew old friendships
and see people I hadn’t seen all summer long for one reason or another.
We used to all pile out of the synagogue at the end of the service onto
the great lawns and it would take what, to a young boy, seemed like
forever to leave. We all wanted to see and greet everyone. It must
have added an extra half hour or more to the service. And I say “to the
service” because it was just as important a part “of the service” as
the service itself in building a sacred community. A sacred community
involves, being concerned about the lives of its members, their triumphs
and defeats, the blessings and their joy and sadness as well. That
half-hour or so spent catching up with what was going on in everyone’s
lives was vital in making us feel that we were all connected to one
another. Kal Yisrael Zeh’b’zeh, all Israel is connected one to the
other. In our frantic and frenetic lives we need to take time to
catch-up with each other and to express concern for the lives of those
in our community. This Rosh HaShana take the time to wish everyone a
Shana Tova and find out what they have been up to, you will not only
enrich their lives but your own as well.
Shana Tova Tikatevu
COLUMN FOR SEPT. 3, 2015
At the conclusion of this coming Shabbat we will observe Selichot, which means, Rosh HaShana is actually on time this year, falling on the weekend immediately following Labor Day, which takes place this Monday, September 7, 2015. (Spoiler: the new year is also a leap year which means Rosh HaShana in 2016 will be celebrated in October!) But for now we can consider Rosh HaShana to be “on-time.” The other important fact is that since Rosh HaShana falls on a Monday (starting Sunday night), so too does Succot (Sept. 28, 2015), Shemini Atzeret (Oct. 5, 2015), Chanukah (Dec. 7, 2015–also Pearl Harbor Day), and Tu B’Shvat (Jan. 25, 2016), The remainder of the holidays do not fall on Monday–can you guess why? They fall after the leap month, Adar I. (Adar I is the month that is added, which is why we celebrate Purim on 14 Adar II (Thursday, March 24, 2016). After that, Passover begins on a Friday night (first sedar April 22, 2016) and Shavuot begins on Saturday night June 11, 2015. If your looking for a good Jewish calendar feel free to stop by the funeral home. I have printed up quite a few, or just download it directly from our website at www. rosschapels.com. And while your at it, have a ...
HAPPY LABOR DAY!
COLUMN FOR AUG. 27, 2015
A recent article indicated that the Jewish community of a small city in Turkey, known today as Antakya, located 20 miles north of the Syrian border, had dwindled down to just 17 Jews, all over 60 years of age. Never heard of the city. What if I told you that about 40 years ago the city boasted a population which included several hundred Jews in a metropolis of 200,000? Still not sure of the name of the city? How about if I told you the Jewish community of Antakya dates back over 2,300 years and that the city was a very prominent metropolis in the Roman era? Still not sure? How about if I tell you that it was a provincial capital in the Roman era and played a key role in the birth of Christianity, and Islam, that the city has been occupied since the Calcolithic era, and that it saw early Christians, Crusaders, Mamluks, Mongols and Ottomans? Here’s another clue: its role as a port city was replaced by Alexandretta (Iskenderun). (Hmm-that sounds familiar from some movie with a guy who carries a whip, a great hat and there were some great pictures of Petra in the Jordanian desert in it as well.) Give up? OK, the ancient name of the city is Antioch, and there have been Jews there since before the Roman conquest of the Middle East dating to the second Jewish commonwealth/second Temple period. Unfortunately, most Jews have had to leave Arab/Muslim lands and many Jews have fled Turkey, which used to have great relations with Israel. I am sorry to report that it is no longer safe for Jews anywhere in Muslim lands, as the 17 remaining Jews in Antioch/Antakya can verify. I just hope its not too late for Europe’s Jews. And with stock markets dropping, watch out for a rise in world-wide anti-Semitism.
COLUMN FOR AUG. 20, 2015
Did you know that U.S. Law had permitted presumed Nazi war criminals, who had been granted U.S. citizenship by false pretenses after WWII, to retain their Social Security benefits, if the person voluntarily left the country, and renounced their U.S. citizenship? The “No Social Security for Nazis Act” which became law on December 18, 2014 (Public Law 113-270) amended the Social Security Act (SSA) to make additional people involved in Nazi persecution ineligible for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, ending this practice. In 1988, Congress enacted legislation to revise a section of the Social Security Act to include deportation as a basis for termination of Social Security benefits. This deportation category pertains directly to activities associated with Germany’s Nazi government, or its allies during World War II. Prior to the 1988 legislation, SSA terminated benefits of beneficiaries under other offenses contained in the SSA that resulted in deportation. Effective November 10, 1988, the amendments prohibited payments of retirement and disability benefits to beneficiaries placed under a final order of deportation for participating in Nazi persecution. Benefits were not payable beginning the month after the final order of deportation, whether or not the deportee left the United States. It was expected that those leaving the U.S. voluntarily, and not under an order of deportation, would avoid prosecution in the U.S. for their fraudulent entry, but would in fact be prosecuted by the European countries to which they returned. Unfortunately, that was not the case. So in 2014 Congress again amended the law to bar social security benefits being paid to any who participated in Nazi persecutions, whether or not the person was deported or left the U.S. The amendments became law on December 18, 2014.
COLUMN FOR AUG 13, 2015
This is the season when many of us vacation in far off places like Alaska. My wife has been pestering me for years to take a cruise there and I keep telling her my idea of a vacation involves warm weather, a swimming pool and a golf club. To which she usually responds 2 out of 3. In any event many people like to cruise to Alaska this time of year, but did you know that Alaska was proposed as a place to settle Jews. This proposal came in 1939 from Harold L. Ickes, President Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Interior, and it involved settling Jews in the area around Sitka Alaska. The proposal was made by Ickes two weeks after Kristallnacht. Since Alaska was not yet a state the U.S. could bypass normal immigration quotas and Europe’s Jews would find a refuge from the Nazis. It would also strengthen an area thought vulnerable to Japanese attack. Nothing came of it except that today there are in fact 6,000 Jews, who identify themselves as such, living in Alaska– the Frozen Chosen. Jews came to Alaska beginning in the late 1800's with fur traders coming up from San Francisco while a Jewish steamboat operator, Lewis Gerstle, provided transportation to the Yukon during the Gold Rush. And it was not the first time areas other than Israel have been proposed as a refuge for Jewish settlement. Other plans included using part of Argentina, Ararat City by Mordecai Manuel Noah, Uganda/Kenya, Jewish Autonomous Oblast in the USSR, Madagascar, British Guiana (now Guyana), and others. But none have worked except for our return to Eretz Yisrael. I doubt any other land would have worked either. Am Yisrael Chai!
COLUMN FOR AUG. 6, 2015
So where did you come from? Many Jews claim they came from Poland, Russia, Germany, the Pale of Settlement (that strip of land that vacillated between those countries) as well as Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, or maybe Czechoslovakia, or one of its constituent entities. According to Israeli historian Shlomo Sand in his latest book most of the Jews of today did not originate in the Middle East at all but were descendants of people who lived elsewhere in the world and had been converted to Judaism. Meet any Khazars lately have you? However, according to Bennett Greenspan, founder and president of Family Tree DNA, 75 percent of today’s Jews have their roots in the Middle East, whether they claim to be Ashkenazim, Sephardim or Mizrahim. Their DNA indicates that they originated in the Middle East and did not, as Sand claims, come from Eastern Europe or Serbia. The DNA, according to Greenspan indicates our place of origin and that is in the Middle East. In previous columns I have discussed the DNA evidence particularly as it relates to the Cohanim and how it shows the consistent genetic markers for those of a single family. Place of origin is even less difficult and I’m sure, as science expands our understanding of genetics, that we may even find all the Maranos we left in Spain. Who knows, there may be more of us out there than they think.
COLUMN FOR JULY 30, 2015
We’ve reached the end of July and there are no holidays the whole month of August so how about some news from Israel. Israel’s HealthWatch Technologies company has developed a T-Shirt that could literally save your life. The shirt is embedded with an electrocardiogram (ECG) device that passively collects ECG signals for cardiac events like arrhythmia and ischemia. It can use a smartphone to alert both the patient and the doctor to problems automatically. The shirt uses a mix of high-tech nylon threads with conducting fibers placed in the same location as the leads of an ECG machine would be. Not only does the shirt send out alerts if there is a cardiac event but also if the wearer falls or is immobile for an unusual period of time. And the data immediately prior to and after a cardiac event would also be available. And if that is not enough another Israeli company, BrightWay Vision, has found a way to eliminate the glare of oncoming headlights, the gloom of stormy weather conditions and poor visibility. BrightEye was adapted from existing military technology and is offered to car manufacturers or as an after-market option and works by using an illuminated screen on the dashboard providing the driver (as long as we continue to drive our own cars) with a clear, panoramic view of the road. It is expected to hit the market within four years–unless the self-drive cars get there first. Can you say autopilot?
COLUMN FOR JULY 23, 2015
This Saturday evening at the conclusion of Shabbat begins the Tisha B’Av commemoration of the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem and other tragedies which have befallen our people throughout our history. Given last weeks column I find myself worrying about what new calamity may be lurking around the corner for our people, especially as Tisha B’Av approaches. On Tisha B’Av in 135 c.e. the Romans slaughtered 500,000 Jews at Betar, in 1096 the first crusade begin killing 10,000 Jews in France and 1.2 million Jews in the Rhineland starting on the 9th of Av. Jews were expelled from England in 1290, from France in 1306 and from Spain in 1492. Germany entered WWI in 1914 on this date and on Aug. 2, 1941 (9 Av, 5701) “The Final Solution,” the Holocaust, was commenced by Nazi Germany. This year the 9th of Av falls on a Saturday so the commemoration is moved to Sunday, the 10th of Av. Traditionally, there are 5 prohibitions on Tisha B’Av and it bears a strong resemblance to Yom Kippur. On Tisha B’Av there is no eating or drinking (it’s a fast day), no washing or bathing, no application of creams or oils, no wearing of (leather) shoes and no marital relations. And Torah study is forbidden on Tisha B’Av except for the study of such books as Lamentations, Job, portions of Jeremiah and certain chapters of the Talmud that discuss the laws of mourning. It is my sincere hope that this year nothing new is added to the list of tragedies which have befallen our people, and that includes passage by the Congress of the nuclear agreement with Iran. I believe that the best way to prevent this is to be ever vigilant and organized. So please, support your synagogue and our Jewish Organizations such as B’nai B’rith, JWI, Hadassah, etc. Join today!
COLUMN FOR JULY 16, 2015
John Boehner announced recently, that Pope Francis will address a joint session of Congress on September 24, 2015. Shortly after Speaker Boehner’s announcement the Vatican issued a statement that they will recognize an independent Palestine as a State in the community of nations. At the same time the U.S. proposes a nuclear deal with Iran that is opposed not just by Israel but by Saudi Arabia.. At the same time the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Britain and France reach the highest levels since before WWII, and it was reported that Anti-Semitic incidents in Austria doubled in 2014. The monument at Babi Yar and the sign at the entrance to the Warsaw cemetery were defaced with anti-Semitic symbols and words. And here in America on college campus’ across the nation Student Governments are calling on their universities to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel (the BDS movement). This movement, fomented by advocates of a Palestinian state are really using it as a code-word for anti-Semitism in America. Just as in the 1930's anti-Semitism is on the rise throughout the world. Our Jewish communal organizations were no match the last time for this Cabal and 6 million of our brothers and sisters were marched into the gas chambers. We must not fail on our watch– NEVER AGAIN! Please help strengthen our Jewish communal organizations by joining, supporting them and encouraging others. We must not drop the torch or this time it might be us who perish.
COLUMN FOR JULY 9, 2015
Now that summer is in full swing and the next holiday, Tisha B’Av does not come for two more weeks I thought I would look around the world of Biblical Archaeology and see what’s new. Did you ever wonder about the origin of the synagogue or whether there were synagogue’s prior to the destruction of the ancient Temples? Archeologists have discovered nearly 200 ancient synagogues throughout Israel and the diaspora. Prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 c.e. there were synagogues in the land. The central feature of these buildings before the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple was the absence of a Torah Shrine before the destruction and its presence after. The Torah Shrine (Ark) was always placed on the wall oriented toward Jerusalem. Prior to the destruction there was no central point and it would seem the service/lecture/etc. was actually conducted from the center of the room while stone benches were often built into the walls on all four sides of the room. After the destruction of the Temple the Torah Ark became the focal point of these rooms and the service became an adaptation of the Temple rituals, in what was essentially a re-enactment with prayer taking the place of the animal sacrifice itself. Thus wherever we wandered we could take our Temple with us. The Sephardim, kept the reading platform in the middle of the room even though the Torah Shrine was on the Jerusalem facing wall. So next time you consider renovating your synagogue you might want to keep these thoughts and layouts in mind.
COLUMN FOR JULY 2, 2015
HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!
This July 4, 2015 we celebrate the 239th year of American Independence. When the Revolutionary War began there were only about 2,000 Jews living in America. But the idea of equality was so enticing to the Jews of Europe that many more emigrated to America to join the fight for freedom and equality, a central Jewish value. Benjamin Nones, one such Jew, left a prosperous wine business in France to enlist in the Continental Army and wound up commanding a battalion of 400 men known as the “Jews’ Company” because so many of the soldiers were Jewish. Between 1900 and 1924 1.75 million Jews came to the shores of America, mostly from Eastern Europe. This marked the largest influx of Jews into the U.S. in our history. Today, according to the Pew Research Center’s new survey of Jewish Americans about 4.2 million American adults say they are Jewish by religion. This represents 1.8% of the U.S. adult population. Others assert that the Jewish population of the U.S. is closer to 6.8 million. The world Jewish population is now near 13 million, down from its historic high of 17 million in 1939. And in the U.S. today there are 13 Jewish senators out of 100 senators and 27 U.S. Representatives out of 435, one of whom even rose to the rank of Majority Leader. We have had Supreme Court Justices who are Jewish (Ruth Bader-Ginsberg, Elana Kagen, Louis D. Brandeis, and others), and one Vice-Presidential Candidate in Joe Lieberman. There has even been a Jewish Miss America (Bess Myerson who died last June). Boy have we come a long way. However you celebrate I hope you have a great 4th of July!
COLUMN FOR JUNE 25, 2015
Summer has finally arrived. This was, without doubt, one of the toughest and wettest winters on record. Summer, which officially arrived this past Sunday, June 21, 2015, the longest day of the year, brings with it, baseball, hot dogs, ice-cream, and the start of the dig season in Israel. Its been a while since I spoke about recent discoveries in Biblical Archeology so lets have a look. Next time you visit Israel and perhaps take an excursion to Petra in Jordan you might want to visit ancient Machaerus. Machaerus you say you never heard of it. It sits on a precipice high above the Dead Sea on the Jordanian side of the river and it was a royal palace-fortress in the ancient kingdom of Judea from the first century b.c.e. through the first century c.e.. Originally it was constructed by Alexander Jannaeus in the Hasmonean period (you know–the Maccabees, around 90 b.c.e.) It was remodeled by Herod the Great (around 30 c.e.). It served as an important strategic position in preventing attacks from the east and it had a line of sight view of other fortresses and citadels so it could warn them if trouble threatened. During the first Jewish revolt against Roman rule the rebels took refuge there (around 66-72 c.e.). Today only two original Herodian columns remain and have been reassembled. One column was Ionic and the other Doric but there are many column bases and parts scattered about the ruins of this once great palace-fortress. According to the historian, Pliny the Elder, Machaerus was the strongest citadel in Judea–next to Jerusalem.
COLUMN FOR JUNE 18, 2015
This Sunday, June 21, 2015 is Father’s Day, a day when we get to show all our father’s how much we appreciate them. But does anyone know where the holiday came from? Actually, on July 5, 1908 in Fairmont, West Virginia the first celebration of fathers took place. 1908 also marked the first celebration of Mother’s Day. In 1910 another celebration of Father’s Day took place in Spokane, Washington. A bill was introduced in Congress in 1913 which did not pass even though President Woodrow Wilson spoke in favor of it in 1916. In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge also recommended that the day be observed by the nation but issued no proclamation. In 1957 Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers while honoring mothers for the previous 40 years to no avail. It was not until President Johnson issued a proclamation in 1966 that fathers were officially honored and it was finally made a permanent national holiday in 1972 when President Richard Nixon signed a bill into law making the third Sunday in June “Father’s Day.” Which just goes to show that having the vote first did not get us honored first.
COLUMN FOR JUNE 11, 2015
This Sunday, June 14, 2015 is Flag Day. But did you ever wonder why the flag is red, white and blue? We all remember from grade school that the 13 stripes of red and white represent the 13 original colonies as did the original 13 stars on the blue field. And while more stars were added as more states were incorporated into our federal union the stripes remained in tribute to our original 13 states. When Congress adopted the great seal of the U.S. the lawmakers noted that red is for courage, white is for innocence and blue is for justice. Benjamin Franklin thought the great seal should depict the dramatic scene described in Exodus where people confronted a tyrant to gain their freedom he also thought that the national symbol should be the turkey, good thing that this too was not accepted. Franklin was a brilliant man, and a great inventor, but perhaps not a great graphic designer or public relations expert. Flag day celebrates the adoption of the flag of the U.S. on June 14, 1777 by resolution of the second Continental Congress, though it is not an official federal holiday unless so proclaimed by the President, which no president has yet done. So Happy Flag Day and don’t forget to fly “old glory” today!
COLUMN FOR JUNE 4, 2015
I’m sorry to say I’m not a professional baseball fan. I know, its almost un-American but watching a game takes forever. I do like playing baseball, but not watching it. However, I am a fan of Jewish American History. And here’s where baseball becomes interesting to me. On June 12, 1930 the National Baseball Hall of Fame was established and Hank Greenberg, the Jewish first baseman for the Detroit Tigers was elected to membership. Hank Greenberg was the first Jew so honored, and the first person to refuse to play in a World Series game because it fell on Yom Kippur. The Tigers lost the game. Edgar Guest wrote a poem which was printed in the Detroit Free Press. The last stanza read:
We shall miss him in the infield
Greenberg is not the only one. Sandy Koufax famously refused to play a game in the 1965 World Series for the same reason. And while neither team they played for was prevented from taking the field due to their absence, that has not been the case for Israeli teams in International competition. In July of 2014 the Israeli national women’s lacrosse team forfeited a World Cup game because it was scheduled to be held on Shabbat. And this past September the Israeli Tennis Association refused to play a Davis Cup match against Belgium which was scheduled to take place on Yom Kippur. The match was rescheduled but the Israeli team was fined $13,000.00 for the costs to move the game to Sunday. It speaks volumes about how little the world has grown in tolerance after the Holocaust. Is it any wonder nation still makes war upon nation and prejudice abounds?
and we shall miss him at bat.
But he’s true to his religion,
and we honor him for that.
COLUMN FOR MAY 28, 2015
Now that Shavuot has come and gone most of the years holidays are over, with the exception of Father’s Day on June 21, July 4, and Labor Day, until the year begins anew with Rosh HaShana on Sunday night, September 13. But wait, there is one other major event. The 59th Annual, Union County Wide, B’nai B’rith Dinner Dance on June 17, 2015. This year B’nai B’rith is honoring five worthy individuals; Lois Kaish with the International Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award; Stanley Kaish with the International Citizenship and Civic Affairs Award; Lisa Glass with the Eshet Chayil Award, David Glass with the Keter Shem Tov Leadership Award and Danielle Leah Ross, Esq. with the International Young Leadership Award. The party begins at 6:30 p.m. with a deluxe cocktail hour followed by a brief program, dinner, dancing to live music with an open bar throughout the evening. The cost to attend is only $100.00 per person in cash or through ads. A great evening to honor some really great people and their contributions to our community. For more information you can go the the BBNJ-Alumni page on Facebook or send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope to see you there.
COLUMN FOR MAY 21, 2015
This Sunday, May 24 is the 6th day of the Hebrew month of Sivan and the first day of Shavuot. The holiday will begin at the end of Shabbat on Saturday, May 23, 2015. And this year, we have an extra treat in as much as Monday is also an American Holiday, Memorial Day. The problem is, how do you make blintzes on the grill? Traditionally, Shavuot, which marks the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai after the Exodus from Egypt. It is also traditional to refrain from eating meat and the eating of dairy meals. Shavuot is also one of the three pilgrimage festivals (along with Passover and Sukkot). Shavuot also marked the end of the grain harvest with the start of the wheat harvest at the conclusion of the barley harvest (the omer for the prior 49 days). It also marks the first day on which individuals could bring Bikkurim (first fruits) to the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. The Bikkurim were brought from the Seven Species which the land of Israel was praised for: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. The Torah contains no mitzvot associated with the holiday other than a holiday meal and refraining from work, but many customs have grown up around it: Akdamut, reading liturgical poems; Chalav, consuming dairy products (oh the cheesecake); Ruth, the reading of the book of Ruth; Yerek, the decoration of homes and synagogues with greenery; and Torah, the all-night study session.
However you celebrate, have some cheesecake, blintzes or ice cream for me–just not with the hot dogs and hamburgers at Memorial Day. Then again, if you follow the Israeli calendar, Yizkor is on Sunday and Monday is just another day.
HAPPY SHAVUOT AND MEMORIAL DAY!
COLUMN FOR MAY 14, 2015
This Sunday we celebrate Yom Yerushalyim, the holiday in Israel which celebrates the re-unification of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Days War. The holiday was established on May 12, 1968 and in 1998 it became an Israeli national holiday and the Israeli Chief Rabbinate declared it a minor religious holiday to mark regaining access to the Western Wall. In 1967 Israeli forces captured the old city of Jerusalem and united it again for the first time since the partition of the land by the U.N. in 1948. It should be noted that at the time the city was re-captured, the area adjacent to the western retaining wall of the Temple Mount was being used as a garbage dump by the Arab residents of the city. It was the Israeli’s who cleaned out the dump and established the plaza where today everyone who visits the historic site can walk up to the Wall to pray. It is Israeli troops who also guard and protect the Temple Mount with the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Many in the world criticize Israel and call them an occupying power in Arab lands. The truth could not be any different. When Israel controlled the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock everyone could go inside. During my first trip to Israel in 1973 my family and I stepped onto the top of the Temple Mount and went inside the Dome to see the top of Mount Moriah. It was an awe-inspiring site, which I cannot see today, as the Arab authorities, to whom control was granted by the Israelis, will not let non-Muslim’s into it. Just like the lunatics of ISIS/ISIL, who destroy ancient artifacts in Mosul, like the Assyrian Winged Lions, the fundamentalists who hold sway over the Arab world preach intolerance and hatred toward all those who are “not-us” and would destroy the heritage of humanity. Peace is important but at what price. We must not let the history of humanity be destroyed in the name of appeasement. We know how that turns out.
COLUMN FOR MAY 7, 2015
First I want to wish my wife, and everyone else who celebrates an anniversary with us, a Happy Anniversary and to everyone, a happy Lag B’omer. Today is the 18 day of the Hebrew month of Iyar and thus the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer. The reason so many people celebrate their anniversary today is that in the time of Rabbi Akiva, there was a plaque ravaging the land including Rabbi Akiva’s students. The plaque finally lifted on the 18th of Iyar. One of the surviving students was Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, one of the greatest teachers of Torah in his generation and the author of the Zohar, the book of Jewish mysticism. It is a celebration of the great wisdom that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai brought into our world. It's also around this time that we celebrate Mother’s Day and honor our mothers. This year Mother’s Day falls on the 21st of Iyar, better known as Sunday, May 10. So in honor of all the mother’s out there and the mother’s of our children I thought I would share this tale: A son came home to visit his mother for Mother’s Day and brought her something to put in water–his laundry.
Happy Anniversary and
Happy Mother’s Day
COLUMN FOR APRIL 30, 2015
A recent Gallup Poll asked the American People to indicate which of three statements best represented their view on the Bible’s historical accuracy:
“1. The Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.
2. The Bible is the inspired word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally.
3. The Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man.”
In the Gallup Poll of 1000 people 28% agreed with the first statement, 47% agreed with the second, 21% with the third and 4% didn’t respond. I find it incredible that 28% of those polled believe that the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word. To begin with we know that not all of the sections of the Bible were written at the same time. A linguistic examination proves to us that some parts, such as the “Song of the Sea,” attributed to Miriam at the crossing of the Sea of Reeds, is amongst the oldest parts of the Bible. The words and structure are far older than even some of the surrounding text. This may be due to the fact that songs are easy to remember while plain text before being written down may not be. It is heartening that the majority believe that the Bible is at least the inspired word of G-d and is more than just an ancient book of fables and legends. The problem with the first statement, of course, is that it leads directly to a conflict with modern sensibilities, laws and science, absent interpretation. Just take a look at Leviticus some time and the penalties it would exact–and then there is the problem of evolution and Genesis and all that begatting. Oy!
COLUMN FOR APRIL 23, 2015
HAPPY BIRTHDAY ISRAEL! Today we celebrate the 67th birthday of the modern state of Israel. Israel–what a country. Those of you who have read my column since it was in print know that I frequently extol the accomplishments of Israel. From biotechnology to home soda makers the range of Israeli invention has been remarkable. So while I did not find it strange that an Israeli company had developed security software to block cyber attacks I was astounded when I heard about the company on CNBC’s Mad Money show, which is hosted by Jim Cramer. Its my understanding that Mr. Cramer is Jewish and has been known to speak favorably about several Israeli companies but this one was unique in that its clients, according to Mr. Cramer, were large multi-national banks. Traditionally not viewed as places where Jews work. I was so intrigued that I bought some stock in the company for my retirement fund. (That’s my required disclosure.) The company is known as Cyberark Software. So this is one area that I hadn’t thought Israeli firms would be able to get a foot in the door. It seems that is wrong. The Israeli companies are getting in everywhere, making money and remaking their economy into a high tech dynamo. Intel in Israel has had a number of advances and the biotech list goes on and on. So invest in Israel, invest in ourselves–and make a little money while your at it but please consult your own financial advisor before making any investments to ensure that they are appropriate for you. You’ll be glad you did.
COLUMN FOR APRIL 16, 2015
Next week we celebrate the rebirth of the State of Israel. I am reminded that when David Ben Gurion was first questioned about the historicity of the Bible he expressed reservations saying that he was interested in building a modern state. Years later, in 1953 he publicly announced that he had changed his mind, after living through events far more incredible than anything reported in the Israelite story of its national beginnings. Consider that the Jewish people were dispossessed from their land for two millennia, when a group of European wanderers who were not particularly religious hit on the idea of saving their people by resurrecting their ancient nation, a nation whose restoration they had continually prayed for throughout those 2,000 years. William F. Albright, the dean of Biblical Archeology, whose unpublished manuscript has only recent been found, opined, before his death in 1971, in that manuscript, that the formation of the ancient state of Israel from a group of state slaves into a religious community and nation-state was no greater a miracle than the influx into Palestine in the late 19th century of Jews from eastern Europe who went on to defeat vastly superior forces of European-trained Arab armies. Both facts are just as likely to upset rational historians. (By the way, Albright points out that if the ancestors of Israel spent any length of time as Semites in Egypt, they could have done so only as state slaves, since the Egyptians reacted violently against the domination of the prevailingly Semitic Hyksos, who had invaded Egypt some time before Jacob’s family went to buy food and settled. For Albright, the slavery of ancient Israel was without question.)
COLUMN FOR APRIL 9, 2015
As Passover draws to a close and we prepare to say Yizkor this Shabbat, we look ahead to the next three commemorations, Yom HaShoa, Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 16, 2015, Yom HaZikaron– Israel’s Memorial Day on April 22 and Yom HaAtzma’ut– Israel’s Independence Day on April 23, 2015. This is an interesting time. We have just completed the celebration of the formation of our nation with the Exodus from Egypt and the Passover holiday, and now we look ahead to the commemoration of the Holocaust, the worst calamity in our history, the Memorial Day for those who died in service to our people and Israel, and finally the celebration of the rebirth of our nation on the 4th of Iyar, April 23, 2015. I am reminded of the time I spent learning Torah trope and how despite the notes rising and falling we always came back to the baseline to finish each sentence. Our history seems much the same way. From triumph to calamity and back again in, an unending arc. This Shabbat, and in the weeks ahead let us remember all those who have died al-kiddush-haShem, for the sanctification of His name and let us redouble our efforts to make sure that we don’t perish to another tide of rising anti-Semitism in Europe and in this country as well. Maybe we can finally break this unending cycle and live in peace. Prime Minister Netanyahu has implored the Jews of Europe to come home to Israel. I implore all of us to recommit to our Judaism and to take steps to keep our synagogues and organizations alive and strong so that they can better protect all of us. Please join today!
COLUMN FOR APRIL 2, 2015
Go, find the Chametz–quick! Tonight, in preparation for Passover, which begins tomorrow evening with the first Seder, we search for the Chametz, and Sunday the Christians will search for chocolate eggs. Personally, I’d prefer to search for chocolate covered matzoh or maybe an egg cream with Fox’s chocolate syrup? If your not from the New York area you may not know what an egg cream is and even if you are from this part of the country you may not know. Egg creams like yeast dough Humantaschen and other culinary delights of our childhood are rapidly vanishing. I’d talk about Ratner’s Onion Pockets but Pesach is almost here. The doctor’s have forbidden chopped liver, chicken fat, and let’s not even start on Gribnes (Griven) or Pastrami for that matter. Dr. Brown’s no longer makes Cel-Ray soda, and you shouldn’t drink soda anyway–too much sugar. Pretty soon you’ll be able to loose all the weight you want–there’ll be nothing left to eat but a carrot stick. So I was surprised to learn that there is a movement, which started in Brooklyn no less, to bring back all of those wonderful foods from our youth, and in some cases made with healthier ingredients. A similar movement is afoot in Philadelphia and San Diego. And in some sports stadiums you can now get really good Kosher food. But the sad reality is that fewer and fewer of us keep Kosher on a regular basis and as a result there are fewer and fewer Kosher butchers, while more and more regular food stores carry Kosher meat and chicken in limited varieties. I can’t explain it but I suppose the marketplace will control all things. Just so long as I can still get a good Kosher Corned Beef sandwich with cole slaw and a kosher pickle, I’m happy. Now if only I could get a yeast dough Humantaschen.
COLUMN FOR MARCH 26, 2015
So this Shabbat, March 28, 2015, we observe Shabbat haGadol–the great Shabbat, the Shabbat before Passover, which begins next Friday evening. When the Temple still stood in Jerusalem, it was incumbent upon all Jews to “go up to” Jerusalem for the Passover and to have their Passover offering sacrificed by the Priests in the Temple. The Temple was destroyed in 586 b.c.e. and then again in 70. c.e. by the Romans. But did you know that the Romans did try and rebuild the Temple. In 363 c.e., the Roman emperor Julian ordered the Temple to be rebuilt under his policy to tolerate all religions in his empire. According to accounts of the time when efforts to rebuild the Temple began the workers were met with “...fearful balls of fire” which broke out near the foundations, scorching the workmen, who eventually had to give up the effort. It is interesting to note that in 363 there was a great earthquake in the Galilee, which may have been the source of the fire. It could just as easily have been caused by sabotage or an accidental fire. And, of course, there is always Divine intervention as a possibility. The Romans never completed the project as a result. In 691 c.e., at the order of the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik, the Dome Of The Rock was constructed on the site of the Temple Mount, not as a new Jewish Temple, but to commemorate the Hijra, the flight Muslims believe Mohammad and the angel Gabriel took to Heaven and back, though Jerusalem is not named as the point of origin. The Dome houses the rock top of Mount Moriah, the spot where, it is believed, Abraham sacrificed Isaac, and what many believe is the holiest spot on Earth. I have seen it, and it is awe-inspiring. So perhaps next year in Jerusalem?
HAVE A ZISSEN PESACH!
COLUMN FOR MARCH 19, 2015
Passover will begin on Friday night, April 3, 2015, a scant two weeks from this Shabbat. Not a lot of time left to prepare. And Spring will finally begin tomorrow, March 20, 2015. This has been one of the coldest and most snow filled winters in recent memory. I am currently serving as a V.P. at my synagogue and have the building portfolio, which means the snow removal budget has been my responsibility. As they say: “fuhgeddaboudit.” Hopefully, the snow is done but its only the middle of March. We know from past experience that we can still get hit so lets hope that the snow is finally finished and Spring will begin in earnest. We could use it. As always, in preparation for Passover, my Choroset recipe is on this website under the “Recipes” tab above. If you try it or any of our recipes please let me know if you enjoyed them. And while we consider the coming Passover holiday, did you ever wonder how we know where events in the Bible and in history took place. For the Christians it’s a little easier, Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, designated many of the important sites in Jerusalem when she visited around 326 c.e.. Even though it was over 300 years later she felt able to designate the important locations of Christian history. And remember that in the year 70 c.e. the Emperor Hadrian, after destroying Jerusalem, exiled us from the city and banned our return. Technically, we would have been out of the city until 363 when the Emperor Julian ordered the Temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt and vacated Hadrian's order. The Temple was never rebuilt and we were never really out of the city, but maintained a continual presence in the holy city since David conquered it. We have done so right up to this very day.
COLUMN FOR MARCH 12, 2015
So now that Purim is behind us can Passover be far away? It is, actually, only 3 weeks away with the first seder set for Friday night, April 3, 2015. Between now and then we should note that Spring will begin on Friday, March 20, though its still cold outside, and the 1st day of the Hebrew month of Nisan begins that evening as well, which means Shabbat HaGadol begins Friday evening March 27. This is the great Shabbat before Passover, called such because in ancient Israel everyone had to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem to make the Passover offering at the Temple. Can you imagine, all the Jews in Israel and throughout the ancient world all trying to find a hotel room in Jerusalem. Oy! Not to mention booking a time at the Temple for the priests to take their sacrifice “– let’s see we have an opening at 10:00 and 10:15.” Another Oy! Its not like you could make a reservation on El-Al and get there the next day. Plans had to be made well in advance, especially if you lived outside of Israel itself, as was common during the second Temple period. Some of us ventured all the way to Persia (modern Iran), some had gone back to Egypt and some claim that the Tribe of Meneshe ventured as far away as India. Once the Temple was destroyed the obligation to return for Passover ended, though we still end our seder each year with the prayer; “next year in Jerusalem.” Hope you have a great three weeks before Passover and don’t work too hard getting ready. If you want me, I’ll be shlepping stuff up and down.
COLUMN FOR MARCH 5, 2015
This Shabbat we read Parsha Ki Tisa, the story of the Golden Calf. You will remember that when the children of Israel made their exodus from Egypt we did so to receive the law of G-d. We were encamped at Mt. Sinai waiting for Moses to return from the mountain with the law. But Moses was kept on the mountain for many days and the people grew distraught, fell back on the practices of their former masters in Egypt and forced Aaron to make them a visual image of G-d. And while many scholars will tell you that the sin Aaron and the people made was to concretize the abstract idea of G-d and thus limit G-d. Aaron, in fact, thought that the people would not part with their new found wealth of gold earrings and rings to make this idol. But they did. Many ancient peoples of the period worshiped golden calves, but until 20 years ago we had never found one. In 1991 Harvard archeologists digging near the port of Ashkelon, in Israel, found a four inch, one pound calf. It was not made entirely of gold, the arms, legs, horns, and tail were of different metals while the body of the calf was bronze. It was dated to around 1550 b.c.e. which makes it Canaanite. It certainly fits the description of calf idols which were worshiped in this period. Fortunately for us, but unfortunately for archeologists, the golden calf that our ancestors worshiped was destroyed by Moses and no trace of it or the gold which was used to make it survived. So the gold from Egypt was destroyed by our own impatience and folly and then we wandered around for a while and found the one place in the middle east without oil. Oy! We just can’t catch a break.
COLUMN FOR FEB. 26, 2015
Next week, on Wednesday night, March 4, 2015, we begin the celebration of Purim. Frankly, I’ve been eating Hamantaschen for a month already, but don’t tell my doctor or Robin. So I thought, in honor of Purim I would take a critical look at the Megillah. It is, literally, the whole Megillah in that it has all the letters of the Hebrew alphabet in one of its chapters. (Chapter 3.) It would seem that this would not be an unusual occurrence but it is. Not only that, but the longest sentence in the Bible is in the Megillah in Chapter 8, at verse 9. It is also the only book of the Bible that does not contain the name of G-d. In fact, it makes no reference to G-d at all. So we take from this that G-d often works through others, and His hand is not always seen. Another way of saying this is G-d helps those who help themselves. Many scholars have claimed that Haman, the villain of the story was aryan, as were the Germans who perpetrated the Holocaust–a modern version of the Purim tale–though the Germans managed to achieve more than Haman did. It has also been noted that in the Megillah, Haman and his 10 sons were hanged (Esther 9:13). In 1946 Hitler’s 10 top associates were also hanged for their crimes against humanity including the murder of 6 million Jews. Hermann Goring, one of Hitler’s top associates committed suicide the night before his scheduled execution as did Haman’s daughter (Talmud: Tractate Megillah 16a). As a side note, did you ever wonder about Shushan Purim, which is always a day after Purim on the calendar. This is because in Shushan, a walled city, the deliverance from the attempted massacre was not complete until the next day. So however you celebrate, and whichever humantaschen you like,
have a great Purim.
COLUMN FOR FEB. 19, 2015
Today is the first day of the Hebrew month of Adar. In Israel (and some places in Florida) it is now that the weather starts to moderate and begins to warm. We have a saying, “be happy, it’s Adar.” And that is perhaps because Adar contains what is arguably our happiest holiday– Purim, which this year falls out on the evening of March 4, 2015–two weeks away (and hopefully will also see the end of this interminable winter). So its time to get those costumes together and plan for the big Megillah (reading that is). But here is some interesting facts about Purim that, perhaps, you did not know:
– During Purim we read the story of Queen Esther’s fight for religious freedom and to save the life of her people as well as the bravery of her cousin Mordechai. In Iran, where the story is believed to have taken place, in the city of Hamadan, there is a shrine which, according to tradition, is where Esther and Mordechai are buried. In 1970 the Iranian Jewish Society commissioned Architect Yassi Gabbay to renovate the Shrine. Later, after the Iranian revolution, Iranian authorities removed ornamental motifs containing the Jewish star diminishing, the beauty of the site.
– Masquerading on Purim originated in Italy toward the end of the 15th century. They were probably trying to imitate the Italian carnival practices of the period.
However you celebrate, have a great time,
and try not to eat too many Hamantaschen.
COLUMN FOR FEB. 12, 2015
This coming Monday, February 16, 2015, is President’s day, which means that today is Lincoln’s birthday while Monday is Washington’s birthday. The Washington's birthday holiday was originally established in 1885 to honor George Washington, and the federal government still calls it Washington’s Birthday. It is a Federal holiday, even though our first president’s real birthday was on February 22. Following the death of President Washington in 1799 February 22 became a perennial day of remembrance. Though it did not become an actual holiday until 1879, when President Rutherford B. Hays signed it into law. Originally, it only applied to the District of Columbia but in 1885 it was expanded to the whole country. Many states later went on to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday on February 12 as well. The Uniform Holiday Act of 1968 merged these two holidays into one and fixed it to the third Monday of February. It is now used to recognize the achievements of all of America’s chief executives. Some efforts in early 2000 were set on restoring the individual holidays for Washington and Lincoln but they had no effect. I personally am perfectly content to celebrate President’s Day, and if you want to restore Lincoln’s Birthday as a holiday and move Washington’s Birthday back to Feb. 22 it’s fine with me–3 for 1. However, it wouldn’t help this year, Feb. 22 is a Sunday. Oh wait, I work on Sunday–sounds good to me.
COLUMN FOR FEB. 5, 2015
Do you remember your grandmother or great-grandmother’s cholent? Do you even know what cholent is? Observant Jews, who do not cook on the Sabbath, make a meal which can be slow cooked for lunch on Shabbat afternoons after shul. It is usually a meat and bean meal which is started before Shabbat begins and cooks overnight in the oven at a low temperature so that it finishes by the end of Shabbat morning services. Irving Nixon was a Jewish electrical engineer and inventor, raised on stories about how his grandmother took her cholent to her Lithuanian hometown’s bakery each week to cook it overnight. Looking for a simple way to slow cook the dish, he invented the Naxon Beanery All Purpose Cooker, better known to you today as the Crock Pot. In 1970 Rival bought the rights to the appliance and mass marketed it. Today few people still make cholent. Personally I'm not a fan and would rather eat a cold meal than cholent, but to each his own. By the way, if you suffer from gout don’t go anywhere near the cholent. With all those beans–oy!
COLUMN FOR JAN. 29, 2015
Next Sunday, February 1, 2015 is Superbowl Sunday, but it has also been designated by the Conservative Movement as “World Wide Wrap” day. Conservative Jews from around the world will gather for morning minyan on this day and perform the Mitzvah of Tefilin, wrapping themselves in Tallit and Tefillin at morning minyanim at Conservative synagogues throughout the world. The mitzvah itself comes from the book of Deuteronomy where we are commanded by G-d to “...bind them (the commandments) as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead.” The Tefillin, the phylacteries, are little black boxes with leather straps and they contain portions from the Torah. They are usually worn during morning prayer (except, of course, on Shabbat and holidays). The idea for this special observance was to encourage men, (and perhaps some women too,) around the world, to engage in this mitzvah. Many local Men’s Clubs have scheduled special events in connection with the World Wide Wrap, and some activities continue from the morning minyan into an evening Superbowl party. So regardless of which team you are rooting for, I hope you will celebrate by going to morning minyan this Sunday, and layning tefillin. Maybe with His help your team will prevail. It couldn’t hurt.
And don’t forget, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015 is Tu’B’Shevat–the birthday of the trees! So perhaps you could also by a tree to be planted in Isrel while your at Shul? Let’s help make Israel bloom.
COLUMN FOR JAN. 22, 2015
Girl Scouts have been raising money all month in our area by selling Girl Scout Cookies but did you know there is a Jewish connection to Girl Scout Cookies? Congregation Mikve Israel in Savannah, Georgia, is the third oldest synagogue in the United States, and is just a few block from the original headquarters of the Girl Scouts of America. The Congregation also boasts that three of the first five Girl Scout troop leaders were members of the congregation. On top of that, the first commercially produced Girl Scout cookies (oatmeal flavor) were made in the city’s Jewish bakery, the Old Gottlieb Bakery. As the younger son of a troop leader I was often “schlepped along” on trips and I have fond memories of one particular visit to the Burry Biscuit Company in Elizabeth when they were making Girl Scout Cookies. (The best part was the bag of broken cookies at the end of the factory tour.–They still tasted the same.) And I have to credit the Girl Scouts with being the origin of my chili recipe, which started out as “Girl Scout stew.” So regardless of which Girl Scout Cookie is your favorite buy some and support a great organization–and the cookies are good too. (Especially the thin mints.)
COLUMN FOR JAN. 15, 2015
This Monday, January 19th we will celebrate Martin Luther King Day. Dr. King was a great American champion for civil rights and many Jews in the 1960's marched right along with Dr. King in the fight to advance the cause of civil rights. Today, many black Americans find themselves sympathetic with the Palestinian cause, seeing in the Palestinian’s another oppressed people and blaming the Jews for that oppression as they once blamed white Americans for their own oppression. The problem is, the situations are vastly different. I don’t say that the Palestinians are not oppressed, I just say that the blame for their condition does not rest with Israel or the Jewish people. Israel is frequently held up as the poster child for the oppression and yet when Egypt demolished homes in Rafah in Oct. of 2014, an area bordering the Gaza stip, to create a buffer zone between the Palestinians and Egypt, they were hurting their own people and the Palestinians. When, in 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973 Jordan, Egypt and Syria failed to destroy Israel, and the Palestinians, who were rendered homeless in each conflict, were shunted into refugee camps rather than welcomed and integrated into their societies were oppressed by their own Arab/Muslim compatriots not Israel? And yet the world only condemns Israel. Martin Luther King understood that hate and recrimination only leads to an unending cycle of violence, and that only through non-violent protest can justice and peaceful co-existence be achieved. I believe we have substantially reached that point in race relations here in America, now if only we could find a way to do so in the middle-east.
COLUMN FOR JAN. 8, 2015
The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (B.D.S.) is at it again. This time they targeted a SodaStream factory in Mishor Adumim on the West Bank. The plant was owned by the Israeli company, SodaStream, which makes home soda making systems with various flavorings. The B.D.S. movement objects to the plant using Palestinian labor to manufacture its products and further Israel’s “occupation, colonialism and apartheid.” The plant is old and SodaStream’s new plant in the Negev town of Lehavim is state of the art. SodaStream had no commercial or economic reason to keep the plant in the West Bank open but it did, and provided 500 good well paying jobs to the residents of the West Bank. Those 500 residents will soon be out of work, while SodaStream will open a new, economical, state-of-the-art plant fully inside Israel’s uncontested borders. SodaStream, amazingly, has asked the Israeli government for permits to allow the Palestinian workers to continue to work for the company in Lehavim. So while the B.D.S. movement continues to demonize Israel all they have done is cost 500 Palestinian’s their jobs and destroyed a plant which provided an opportunity for Israelis and Palestinians to work side by side and perhaps develop the real path to peace. Can you say disingenuous? Who really has been hurt by their actions? Not the Israeli company who will move production to a more economical and therefore profitable plant, but the Palestinians themselves whose citizens may have lost 500 good jobs.
COLUMN FOR JAN. 1, 2015
Today, January 1, 2015 is the first day of the new year, it is also the 10th of Tevet and a minor fast day on the Jewish calendar. Fortunately, it is a sunrise to sunset fast so if you partied and ate late into the night your still o.k.. The fast starts just before dawn and ends at nightfall and commemorates the start of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, which ultimately ended with the fall of the city and the destruction of the Temple built by Solomon. It is also observed one week after Chanukah. I recently read an interesting story about Israel’s closing of the Temple Mount to prevent an outbreak of violence by Palestinians after the drive-by shooting of activist Rabbi Yehuda Glick. Rabbi Glick is an advocate of Jewish access to the Temple Mount and for the restoration of Jewish prayer at the site. It is believed that the site is where G-d gathered the dust of the earth to create Adam, where Abraham is said to have nearly sacrificed Isaac, where the first and second Temples were built and where the tablets containing the original Ten Commandments were housed. Muslims believe that it is also the site from which Mohammed ascended to heaven. Today it is where the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aksa Mosque sit. In 2000 Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount and shortly thereafter the second Intifada began. The mount was recaptured from Jordanian control in 1967 by Israeli troops under the command of Moshe Dyan. When I visited Israel shortly thereafter I was able to ascend to the mount and even entered the Dome of the Rock (shoeless, I might add). When I went back to Israel with my children that was, sadly, no longer possible. (By the way, if your wondering why this column appears darker and a little larger, it is because I've received a number of comments and I myself, though I hate to admit it, am getting older and a little darker and larger is not a bad thing. Here's wishing you a happy new year!)
COLUMN FOR DEC. 25, 2014
This past August comedian Elon Gold and his family were walking home from Friday night dinner at a friends house when they were subjected to a “hate incident,” as the L.A.P.D. termed it. The family had stopped at a street corner waiting for the light to change when four “middle-eastern” men in their 20's traveling in a black Mercedes S.U.V. pulled up alongside them. One of them rolled down his window and yelled, “Free Palestine!” Mr. Gold turned to confront them in an effort to protect his family, when the men began to chant: “free Palestine from the river to the sea.” The man then got out of the S.U.V. and yelled at Mr. Gold and his wife and four young children saying:” I hope your children die! Just like you are killing children in Gaza!” The man then got back in their car and drove off. Mr. Gold was with his four children. One was10 and she could not stop crying. His 5-year old kept asking him why they want her to die. Mr. Gold no longer feels safe walking on Shabbat with his family in Los Angeles, CA.. His children’s innocense is lost but Mr. Gold, surprisingly does not blame the four men. They are a product of a world in which the media would rather focus on the death’s of children in Gaza then the fact that Israel had to deploy the Iron Dome to protect its own civilians from attack by the Haters of Hamas and their rockets. Hamas does not want a state, they just want to keep killing Jews. You say it couldn’t happen here–that this is not Nazi Germany in the 1920's and ‘30's. YOUR WRONG. It is happening in Europe, South America and here in the U.S.A. I urge you, if you are not a member of a synagogue AND a Jewish Organization like B’nai B’rith, JWI, Hadassah, Federation–JOIN–JOIN–JOIN TODAY! We need to stay strong for our children’s sake if not our own, and let’s pray for peace in the new year.
COLUMN FOR DEC. 18, 2014
So Chanukkah is finally underway and I thought I would talk about the differences between a Chanukkiah and a Menorah. We tend to use the terms interchangeably and they both mean a candelabrum but they are really two different things. A Chanukkiah is used to celebrate Chanukkah. It is an 8 branched candelabrum with an additional 9th candle, the shamos, used to light all the other candles. A Menorah is really a 7 branched candelabrum and was the shape of the lampstand used in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. It also became one of the earliest symbols of our people. The two are not, however, interchangeable. Not just because of the difference in the number of candles or lights it holds but also because of its use and function.
And here is some other interesting information that relates to Chanukkah. Did you know that the potatoes, which we make into latkes, have been cultivated for over 400 years. First cultivated in South America, it is the world’s largest crop, followed by rice, wheat and corn. So if they have only been cultivated for a little over 400 years, what did we do for the other approximately 1700 years since the Jewish revolt and the establishment of Hasmonian rule? Its kind of like the question about the Chinese and the Jews, if the Chinese say the year is 4712 and we say its 5775, what did we eat for the first 1063 years? It wasn’t latkes.
Whatever you eat...
Have A Happy Chanukkah
COLUMN FOR DEC. 11, 2014
Chanukah is almost upon us. We kindle the first candle on the evening of Dec. 16, 2014, next Tuesday night. I hope you have all gotten your gelt ready to play dreidel. and the accompanying presents. I know, this giving of gfts for Chanukah is not a Jewish custom and is only really done to make our children not feel left out, given what’s going on all around us. But I would like to suggest another way to celebrate the holiday. Chanukah, at its core, is a holiday that celebrates rededication. The Maccabees defeated not only the Seleucid (Syrian) Empire, rededicated the Temple, and founded the Hasmonean dynasty, they also reasserted the Jewish religion over the Hellenism of both their non-Jewish neighbors AND the Jews themselves. The Maccabees destroyed pagan alters in the villages throughout Judea and Samaria (ancient Israel) and reestablished worship in the Temple, which was restored and which Herod, the last ruler in the Macabbean line rebuilt. (King Herod was actually an Idumian who married a Hasmonian princess. He was later recognized by Rome, the great power of the age, as the King of the Jews.) Given this history I would like to suggest that we find a way to move away from giving gifts at this time of year, as is the custom of those in whose society we live. If we don’t find ways to strengthen our Jewish community and institutions we may not have them. And we can’t depend on others to provide it to us–we should be doing it ourselves. However you do celebrate...
Have A Happy Chanukah
COLUMN FOR DEC. 4, 2014
Before I start with the Chanukah and year-end look backs I thought I should recap the world situation. Earlier in the year I voiced my concern about the growing threat of anti-Semitism in Europe and implored our brothers and sisters to leave for Israel or the U.S.. Now it seems the threats continue to rise. In Germany for the first time since the end of World War II a political party which uses Nazi imagery and idolizes Adolf Hitler will have a voice in the European Parliament. The Golden Dawn party won about 10% of the Greek vote in the EU-wide elections. Jewish leaders attending a conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe decided to seek funding for enhanced security at their respective Jewish community centers. We here in the U.S. should also keep a close eye as events in the middle east could effect us here in the U.S.. Poland and Denmark have banned kosher slaughter and Britain’s Veterinary Association has joined the call to ban kosher slaughter. Sweden’s Medical Association has called for greater restrictions on ritual circumcision requiring the child be 12 years of age or older and requiring a doctor or nurse be present. The Danish College of General Practitioners has sought a total ban on religious circumcision. And, largely due to increasing anti-Semitic, events more French Jews immigrated to Israel in 2013 and again this year than did American Jews. Jews in France constitute only 1 percent of the population but are the victims of 40 percent of the reported hate crimes. And here in America a Rabbi was murdered in Miami, FL. on his way to shul on Shabbat. It is time once again to ban together for our mutual protection. If you are not already a member join a synagogue, join a Jewish organization like B'nai B'rith, JWI, Hadassah, Federation, and support our communities, stay safe.
COLUMN FOR NOV. 27, 2014
Today is Thanksgiving and it corresponds to the 5th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev. So if Kislev has started, can Chanukah be far behind? So before I move on to other matters I wanted to share with you some little known facts about Thanksgiving. Everyone knows that Benjamin Franklin thought that the Wild Turkey should have been our national bird and not the eagle. But did you know that the Turkey is actually native to Mexico and not native to either Turkey or the United States? The English named the bird “turkey” thinking it came from one of the vast lands of the Turkish empire, but Mexico was called New India. Thus, the name for the bird in many European countries and semitic languages is “bird of India,” tarnegol hodu in Hebrew. I love chicken fajitas but turkey fajitas I’m really not so sure about. And after some 8 or 9 trips to Mexico for vacation I have to tell you, I never saw Turkey on the menu. And whoever heard of Turkey Mole or a Turkey Burrito? I supposed you could substitute Turkey in any recipe that uses Chicken but would you want to? Though I do make a mean turkey and avocado sandwich–it goes particularly well with honey mustard on a multi-grain or whole wheat bread with a little cranberry sauce. (By the way, just to note in passing, 899 Bnei Menashe from India, Jews thought to be descendants of the tribe of Menashe that ended up in India, will have completed their emigration to Israel by the end of the year.) They will be able to enjoy the “bird of India” this year in Israel. And however you celebrate, Robin and I wish you all
A Happy Thanksgiving
COLUMN FOR NOV. 20, 2014
November is known as Jewish Book Month–so before I talk about Thanksgiving, I just wanted to mention it and remind everyone to read a good book. Also, did you know that the first Hebrew book was printed in 1475, 35 years after the invention of the printing press. It was a copy of the Bible with Rashi’s commentary.
So next Thursday is Thanksgiving day–the day we celebrate football and turkey–no Pilgrims and the founding of America. So the perennial question is what to do with the leftover turkey. So here is one of my favorite recipes for either turkey or chicken with my apologies for the lack of measurements– I was taught to cook by people who measured nothing–better known as “schittarein” cooks. (And I hope I transliterated the Yiddish correctly.) So take some mayonnaise (I prefer light mayo as does my cardiologist) add a little bit of orange juice, some chopped turkey (or chicken), some diced apple, celery, scallions or onions, dried cranberries or raisins and some nuts (I prefer almonds and/or peanuts) but anything really works–use whatever you like. Mix it all together and chill before serving. Its really the cranberries/raisins and the nuts that make all the difference, assuming you like those things. I think the cranberries with the turkey make it particularly appropriate on a sandwich the the day after Thanksgiving, maybe with a little stuffing or cranberry sauce on the side. I have also been known to mix cranberries or raisins in with tunafish–maybe I should just eat the dried cranberries and skip the rest? Whatever you do with the leftovers, on behalf of Robin and the kids let me wish you and yours.
A Happy Thanksgiving!
COLUMN FOR NOV. 13, 2014
It has been awhile since I spoke about what’s new in the world of Biblical Archaeology. Two years ago (very recently in archaeological terms) several small pieces of pottery were found in Jerusalem from a storage jar that was used to level an uneven patch of a building, much as I have to put shims in almost anything I build to level it. (Please don’t ask Robin about my non-existent construction capabilities–this story sounds like one of my ancient relatives must have been at work there.). The pieces come from the rim of a storage jar (an amphora or something similar) and there is writing on it just below the rim (a label perhaps). There are only 5 complete letters and they have been dated by experts to the 11th or 10th century b.c.e.–the time of King David or his son, King Solomon). Elat Mazar who found the pieces had them examined by experts who have confirmed the dating by the shape of the letters. It was also reported that it comes from a time before the distinction between Hebrew, Aramaic and Phoenician had developed and it can’t be determined whether to read the inscription left to right (like English) or right to left like Hebrew. It seems that during this period things hadn’t quite formalized. The 7 experts who have examined the pieces proposed 7 different opinions (and they are not all Jewish no less). Two experts reading from left to right (like English) thought it translates roughly to “wine belonging to Ner” while another thought it said “Ner’s pot.” Still another expert reading it like Hebrew, from right to left, thought it meant “in year 20/30 low grade wine from...” Perhaps it was King Solomon’s version of “two buck chuck.” I wonder if there was a “Trader Yosef’s” back then?
COLUMN FOR NOV. 6, 2014
The Tri-State Region of B’nai B’rith, in honor of Veterans Day (on Nov. 11, 2014) and all our Veterans, will be holding a clothing drive to benefit our U.S. Veterans' resident at the N.J. Veterans Home in Menlo Park, N.J.. You can support the effort by sending checks payable to B’nai B’rith c/o Mark Ross, P.O. Box 125, Springfield, N.J. 07081-0125. We will take the funds collected and purchase the items needed by those in the Veterans Home. Those interested in joining B’nai B’rith should know that new
member dues is currently only $36.00/year and supports B’nai B’rith and it’s philanthropic endeavors, as well as its world-wide advocacy on behalf of our Jewish brothers and sisters throughout America and the World. If you would like more information please feel free to contact me or go online to www.bnaibrith.org. I am proud to serve the Tri-State Region as its current President and representative to the B’nai B’rith International Board of Governors. In unity there is strength and B’nai B’rith, because it is not part of any religious stream, is The Global Voice Of The Jewish People
, and has been for the past 170 years. Aside from some great social programming in the area by the local groups, such as the Springfield Unit, the Chavarim Unit, and the BBNJ-Alumni group not to mention the Young Professionals Network, we also hold regional, national and international activities. This past summer B’nai B’rith International's Policy Conference was held in Panama and addressed issues of Jewish communal leadership and the growing threat of anti-Semitism around the world. Your support to any of our Jewish organizations helps rebuild the world and strengthens our entire people. Please consider joining today.
COLUMN FOR OCT. 30, 2014
In America, tonight marks mischief night–the night for all the bad children to play pranks and do mischief, and while I do have concerns for synagogue safety, this year seems no different in that regard than previous years– thank G-d. And tomorrow night is dress-up and go door to door “schnorring” candy. Even though Halloween has its origins in Christian theology and pagan myth before that, America has, through the alchemy of its ever powerful capitalism, morphed it into a holiday to have fun being scarred. Horror movies are a constant and both Vampires and Zombies have been all the rage for quite a few years. Perhaps, finally, with the series finale of shows like True Blood and the flood of Zombie movies, this will soon end. But these ghouls and goblins are not limited only to Christian and early pagan traditions. We have our own tales of demonic possession and even a ritual for exorcism. The name of a spirit which has not crossed over into the “afterlife” or “Olam HaBa,” the “world to come” is a “dybbuk” or demon. This unquiet spirit can posses someone and influence them. There is an old black and white movie made many years before the “Exorcist” called “The Dybbuk” based on a play written by Shloyme Zanvi Rapporport, aka S. Ansky. It has been portrayed in popular culture in such films as A Serious Man
(2009) The Unborn
(2009), The Possession
(2012) and even in the Rugrats Monster In The Garage
episode. But the best is the 1968 black and white movie titled The Dybbuk
staring David Opatoshu as The “Zadik.” However you celebrate–have a safe and enjoyable fright.
COLUMN FOR OCT. 23, 2014
So now that all the holidays are over I thought I would take a look around the world and its not good. The situation in Gaza remains unresolved, Lebanon and Syria are still falling apart, there is a military government once again in Egypt, Russia and the Ukraine are each other’s throats, Ebola and AIDS continue to ravage Africa, and anti-Semitism is on the rise. In the meantime, our Jewish organizations in America are failing for lack of membership. My generation has not stepped up to take the torch to protect our people and simply expect it to get done somehow. I have to tell you that its not going to happen unless we will it, as Theodore Herzel said. We need our Jewish organizations like Federation, B’nai B’rith, Jewish Women International, Hadassah, the Synagogue Women’s Leagues and Sisterhoods, the Men’s Clubs and Brotherhoods, along with our National Synagogue Organizations like United Synagogue, Union for Reform Judaism, and the Orthodox Union. If you don’t belong to a synagogue or one of the other organizations you are depending on others to protect you. Remember that great piece by Martin Neimoller:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist.”
“Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.”
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew”
EXCEPT– I AM A JEW! And they could come again for me. I would remind all of my non-Jewish friends that ISIL has vowed to make the world “one Umma” one nation under Islam. They are coming–join us– help be the canary in the coal mines to sing out the warning before its too late. It could happen here! Never forget that
COLUMN FOR OCT. 16, 2014
Today, Oct. 16, 2014, is Shemini Atzeret, Yizkor and tonight we begin Simchat Torah. For those of you who fear to leave a lit candle in the house we have a supply of electric yahrzeit lights available at our funeral homes in Springfield and Chatham or Whippany, when we are there. I know of at least one home which has burned down from an unattended yahrzeit light put too close to the drapes, so if you have a concern please feel free to use one of ours. They have replaceable batteries and can be placed anywhere, they don’t even need an outlet. They should stay lighted for 100 hours and that allows for at least four days of the year, when we say Yizkor. We have also published a pamphlet with the prayers to be said when visiting the cemetery. These are similarly available at no charge.
And tomorrow, Oct. 17, 2014 (erev tonight, Oct. 16, 2014) begins Simchat Torah, and marks the end of the Jewish holiday season which began with Selichot, way back on September 20, 2014. Almost 4 solid weeks of holidays, interrupted by a few weekday work days. Kind of like a golf game, a nice walk interrupted by a few swings of a club (or in my case a lot of swings of the club–and that too is coming to a close soon with the arrival of colder weather.) So from Robin and I to you and yours we hope you have a nice dance with the Torah and we wish you all...
A Chag Semeach, Happy Simchat Torah
COLUMN FOR OCT. 9, 2014
Today is Sukkot so Happy Sukkot! In the past I have told you how to make a model Sukkah. So how about I explain why we have the extra holiday of Shemini Atzeret? Think about a great Bar/Bat Mitzvah or wedding celebration which lasts all weekend. How often have you thought to yourself how great it would be if everyone stayed just one more day. That’s what Shemini Atzeret is, the one more day. Imagine G-d throwing a party and wanting everyone to stay over just one more day–that’s Shemini Atzeret! With Shemini Atzeret we also begin to pray for rain. Water was vital to the agricultural society of ancient Israel. (There were no desalination plants like the ones used today.) So a drought could literally mean death. We actually pray for three kinds of rain: Yoreh, a light autumn rain that softens the ground allowing it to receive seed, Geshem, a winter heavy rain which enables the seeds to grow, and Malkosh, springtime showers which helps the barley and wheat grow (how else can you make beer). So enjoy the extra day, not to mention Simchat Torah, which begins at sundown on October 16, 2014.
And on top of everything, this Monday is Columbus Day, not to mention the last of the pre-winter season holiday sales. Those used to start as of Thanksgiving, that is no longer the case. They are creeping up, first beginning before Thanksgiving and soon, I’d imagine, starting before the end of October and probably making it all the way to Columbus Day. So however, you celebrate please accept Robin’s and my best wishes to you and yours for a...
Great Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret
and Columbus Day!
COLUMN FOR OCT. 2, 2014
This year Yom Kippur falls on this Saturday, October 4, 2014 with Kol Nidre starting on Friday before sundown. At this time of year I usually tell the joke about the man who had herring for breakfast on Yom Kippur which made him so thirsty that he begged the Rabbi repeatedly for a drink of water. The Rabbi finally relented and after the man slaked his thirst promised the Rabbi he would not have herring again for breakfast next Yom Kippur. (I promised the kids I would stop telling that joke.)
So how about I tell you something new about Yom Kippur for this year? This is an unusual Yom Kippur because it coincides with Shabbat starting on Friday evening Oct. 3, 2014 and continuing through Saturday after sundown on Oct. 4, 2014. Because it is still Shabbat we do not sound the shofar. My friend Barry, who in the past has always been one of our Congregations' major fundraisers, in charge of the High Holiday Appeal, is always upset by this because it eliminates an entire group of Aliyot. But I pointed out to Barry that it makes the service shorter. People might enjoy a shorter service and maybe you should tell them their "free will offerings" (donations) should be greater in consideration of the shorter service. Then I thought of the old routine by Groucho Marx when he asked Chico how much Chico would charge not to sing and Chico said “you couldn’t afford it.” What if people could donate in lieu of attendance? The Rabbi’s would, I think, all respond: “You couldn’t afford it.”
On behalf of Robin and I and our kids, let us wish you all...
An Easy And Meaningful Fast
COLUMN FOR SEPT. 25, 2014
Today is Rosh HaShana–so Happy New Year 5775! One of my favorite traditions on Rosh HaShana is to engage in the custom on the afternoon of Rosh HaShana (assuming I’m not still napping) of Tashlich. We gather together on the banks of a river, lake or stream and toss breadcrumbs into the water to symbolically cast away our sins. Several Midrashim explain this custom by saying we are like fish, helplessly caught in the net of life. Or that fish always have their eyes open like the Almighty who see everything we do so he knows what we should repent. And my favorite is the proper list of bread to use for Tashlich:
For plain sins, white bread:
For the sin of irony, rye bread
For complex sins, multigrain bread
For repeating sins over and over, bagels
For twisted sins, pretzels
For the sin of indecision, waffles
For sins committed in haste, matzah
For the sin of chutzpah, fresh bread
For the sin of substance abuse, stoned wheat
For the sin of car theft, caraway
For the sin of acting holier than thou, Munchkins
For the sin of pride, puff pastry,
For the sin of immodesty, tarts
For the sin of not giving full value, shortbread
For dark sins, pumpernickel
For causing injury to others, torts
For tasteless sins, rice cakes
For the sin of ill-temper, sourdough
For the sin of gluttony, stuffing
And of course, my favorite;
For the sin of telling bad jokes, corn bread.
And from Robin and Mark to you and yours
have a happy and healthy new year - Shana Tova!
COLUMN FOR SEPT. 18, 2014
O.K.–the big day will soon be here. This Saturday night we observe Selichot and next Wednesday evening, the day after the fall begins is Erev Rosh HaShana– this means, that, possibly for the first time in history, the Jewish Holidays are on time! OY! The Jewish calendar predates both the Julian and the Gregorian calendars and is predicated on the moon rather than the sun. (By the way, you can download our calendar for printing or to retain on your smart phone from this website or stop by our funeral home sin Springfield or Chatham for a printed copy in both wall and desk sizes.) Since the moon cycles in 12 lunar months 354.37 days it is necessary to intercalary an extra month (Adar II) every two or three years to bring the holidays into alignment. Otherwise the seasons and the holidays would drift each solar year by 11 to 12 days. Our Hebrew months also vary between 29 or 30 days. The Gregorian Calendar was an attempt to fix the calendar with the fewest adjustments possible. The Gregorian Calendar is, of course, one of 365 days but the earth revolves around the sun in 365.25 days. Since this calendar is off by a quarter of a day/year we still have to add one day every 4 years. Most early calendars were based on observation, thus the reason many ancient calendars are based on the moons’ cycles. These were observable phenomena. Today, we can calculate things a bit more precisely. Nevertheless, it’s pretty remarkable to consider how accurate it really is. The system produces a calendar which is off by about 6 minutes and 25 25/57 seconds a year. So every 224 years the Hebrew calendar will be a full day behind the Gregorian calendar. I’ll worry about it then. In the mean time, from Robin and I, let me wish you a...
A Happy And Healthy New Year
COLUMN FOR SEPT. 11, 2014
As Rosh HaShana approaches (we begin saying the Selichot prayers on Saturday night, Sept. 20, the Shabbat before Rosh HaShana, which begins at sundown on Sept. 24, 2014) I am saddened to report that Kutsher’s, the last remaining Borscht Belt hotel has been demolished. It will be replaced by a health and wellness spa on the 1,300 acre property. Kutscher’s was famous for its Kosher food (and lots of it) as were most of the other Borscht Belt hotels, not to mention an entire generation of “tummlers” and entertainers. These included Jerry Lewis, Don Rickles, the father of the insult comedians, Groucho Harpo, and Chico Marx, Rodney Dangerfield, George Burns, the recently deceased Joan Rivers (one of my favorites), Sid Ceaser, Red Buttons, Sheckey Green, and a personal favorite, Henny Youngman also worked the Borscht Belt. I was staying at the Concord once and Youngman was headlining the show. We ended up sitting all the way up front and it felt like he did the entire show to us. (He liked to make fun of the red heads, and as a kid, mine was fire-engine red.) Alan King was another of my favorites. I saw King play Carson the night before we went to the B’nai B’rith District convention at the Concord hotel. He told the same jokes he had told the night before but it was still funny. He also played at the very first B’nai B’rith Jewish Fair at the Garden State Arts Center run by my father, and I got a chance to meet him. Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David may be the closest thing to that kind of humor still working today with the recent death of Joan Rivers. Here’s a taste of Alan King: “Marriage is nature’s way of keeping us from fighting with strangers.” Hope you don't fight with yours.
COLUMN FOR SEPT. 4, 2014
I know it’s a hostile world out there and I have been talking about it for awhile so how about something a little lighter, now that Labor Day has passed and the new school year has begun I would like to call on everyone to rededicate themselves to not only the synagogue but our Jewish communal organizations as the new Jewish year approaches. Many of our communal service organizations have provided much needed services to the poor of our community but also to our community as a whole. Each organization needs help and new members as do our synagogues. Throughout the world and here at home anti-semitism is on the rise and only by being organized can we try and protect ourselves. If you are not now a member of a synagogue I urge you to find one to your liking and join. And while your at it consider joining B’nai B’rith (the oldest Jewish Service organization celebrating its 171st year and which I happen to have the honor of serving as its Regional President) or Hadassah (which my wife is very involved in) or Jewish Women International, Jewish Family Service, and, of course, Federation. These organizations help us all and help protect us all. There is a great poem which is often read during the High Holidays about the person who did not protest because he was not a member of the group being persecuted and when they came for him there was no one left to help. This continues to be true, we really must join and strengthen our Jewish service organizations for our own sake and those of our brothers and sisters throughout the world. For B’nai B’rith please contact me or go to www.bnaibrith.org; for Hadassah contact my wife or go to www.hadassah.org; for Jewish Women International go to www.jwi.org; for Federation go to www.jfedgmw.org; for Jewish Family Service by county go to www.jfsmetrowest.org or www.jfscentral.org.
COLUMN FOR AUGUST 28, 2014
Earlier this summer the Presbyterian Church voted to divest itself of the stock of any companies which it alleges support Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. The resolution also reaffirmed Israel’s right to exist, endorsed a two-state solution, encouraged interfaith dialogue and travel to the Holy Land and instructed the church to undertake “positive investment” in endeavors that advance peace and improve the lives of Israelis and Palestinians. The companies targeted for divestment were Caterpillar (they make the bulldozers used in the territories), Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions (they make surveillance and other equipment used by Israel). Frankly, at the time the Presbyterian Church made this announcement those were three companies on my stock “buy” list. The Church divested approximately $21 million in the stock of these three companies. Many Jewish Organizations lobbied strongly to stop the Church from divesting and many Presbyterian Churches share facilities with Jewish congregations throughout the country making it a bit of a problem. I really don’t understand how divesting the Church of the stock of those three companies will effect Israel, particularly in such relatively small amounts. Furthermore, I would hope that the Church does not invest in any companies which manufacture I.E.D.s or the components of I.E.D.s. That would also include the manufacturers of fertilizers used to make improvised bombs and similar products used by terrorists. Of course there was no talk of such divestment, just punishing companies whose products Israel uses. You know what, my next printer is going to be from HP, and if I ever need a bulldozer it will be a Cat. Now if only Motorola could come up with a decent phone.
Have A Happy Labor Day!
COLUMN FOR AUGUST 21, 2014
The Hebrew month of Elul begins next Tuesday 8-26-14 at Sundown. It is Rosh Hodesh Elul. This is important for two reasons. The first is that Elul is the month before Tishre, and Rosh HaShana. And the second because it is an excuse to eat Ice Cream. I’m not sure where this custom arose and can’t find it but I know many who practice it. (Actually, any excuse to eat ice cream in the middle of the summer is fine with me–even in the winter too.) The actual custom is to add a prayer into the Avodah during the Amidah and to eat a special meal. I like the special meal part and suspect that was the origin of the practice–doesn’t ice cream make everything special! The Talmud (in Tractate Megillah 22b) says that women are forbidden to engage in work on Rosh Chodesh and Rashi says that women must refrain from spinning, weaving, and sewing. Unless you count needlepoint, my wife doesn’t do any of these things. In fact the only time sewing goes on is when I have to sew a button back on. But that is another story. Today, many orthodox women have groups whose practices center on the new moon and the Shekinah, the feminine aspect of G-d. It is an appropriate time for women to discuss women’s issues with each other, according to the Kabbalah and Kabbalistic practices. Or just another day off for women– and that’s when the fight began. And don’t forget, Elul is also the month we visit the graves of our loved ones. We have prepared a collection of prayers to use when visiting the grave. Feel free to stop by at either our Springfield or Chatham locations and we will be happy to give you as many as you need.
COLUMN FOR AUGUST 14, 2014
Things are not going well for us in Europe. A top British Veterinarian has joined the anti-Shechita (kosher slaughter) movement. Denmark has also effectively banned Shechita by stipulating that animals must be stunned prior to slaughter, an act in direct violation of kosher practice. Furthermore, Sweden and Denmark both have acted to increase the cost of Brit Milah (circumcision). The new proposal would require that a doctor and a nurse be present during any such procedure. Furthermore, the circumcision could not be performed until the boy is 12 years of age (unlike Jewish law which requires that circumcision take place on the 8th day after birth. And it also requires that the act not be done without the boys consent. In Poland, the Sejm, the Polish legislature, has reversed a ban on Shechita so long as the meat is for Jewish consumers in Poland, but still bans the meat’s use by anyone else or for export. A government proposal would have granted Jews a general exemption from the law but that was defeated. And lets not forget all the lectures from the European states on the “immoral” way Israel has conducted the war in Gaza. That’s a laugh, Europe lecturing anyone on morality after WWII. And in France, 500,000 Jews still live, but more and more are immigrating to Israel. 2013 saw 3,120 Jews move from France to Israel which, for the first time, exceeds the number of American Jews who have immigrated to Israel. Maybe someone is getting the message that its time to get out of Dodge, ie. Europe, and South America is not much better. How long till America also becomes a problem–wait until the body bags start arriving at Dover AFB from Iraq. Somehow, they will find a way to blame us.
COLUMN FOR AUGUST 7, 2014
Previously I have reported that Scarlett Johansson is Jewish and the celebrity spokesperson for the Israeli home beverage company SodaStream. She was also a longtime global ambassador for Oxfam, the international humanitarian organization, a post which she has now resigned due to the position they have taken on the issue of boycotting products made by Israeli companies in the “occupied territories” using Palestinian labor. SodaStream does have plants in the disputed areas but the Palestinians who work there receive a decent wage and the plants are models of cooperation achieving benefits for both Israel and the Palestinians. Ms. Johansson is to be applauded for her principled position and for resigning from Oxfam, which supports the boycott-divestment-sanctions movement.
In other celebrity/Israel news, Paula Abdul finally “came of age” in Israel. The 51-year old was on her first visit to Israel and celebrated her Bat Mitzvah at a ceremony in the northern town of Safed. Ms. Abdul was born in the U.S. of a Syrian-Jewish father and a Canadian mother with Jewish roots. I wonder if anyone bought her a pen?
And finally, did you know that when Pope Francis travels to Israel, he will be traveling on his Argentinean passport. The Pope, as the head of Vatican City, is recognized under International Law as a head of state, and is entitled to travel under a diplomatic passport issued by the Vatican. He has chosen not to do so in an act of humility.
A COMMENT ABOUT THE WAR ON HAMAS IN GAZA-AUGUST 3, 2014:
As I write this on August 3, 3014 Israel has, according to the Prime Minister, completed its destruction of the terror tunnels and is now redeploying to achieve "other operational objectives." Hamas, on the other hand, has accomplished nothing. They have built tunnels under homes, schools and hospitals and used U.N. schools to store and launch rockets. These are all defined as "War Crimes" according to International Law (at least they were when I was in law school). Israel, under International Law has a right to not only defend itself but to destroy both the tunnels and the civilian facilities from which the rockets were launched. It is Hamas which is guilty of war crimes, not Israel. And why are we talking to Hamas anyway? The U.S. State Department has deemed Hamas a terrorist organization and its U.S. policy not to negotiate with terrorists. We should not be speaking to Hamas even through Egypt. If those living in Gaza have something to complain about its not that Israel attacked in self-defense, its that their leaders took the cement, other building supplies and money transferred to their elected government and used those items to build terror tunnels into Israel (an act of war) and buy rockets which they launched at Israeli civilians (also an act of war). And let's not forget what else is going on in the Arab world, there are civil wars raging in Syria, Libya, Lebanon is a mess, Iraq is not stable and neither is Afganistan. Iran is a religious state run by fanatics and then there is ISIL (the Islamic State in wherever.) and Egypt is a military dictatorship. What country in the entire middle-east is a stable, democratic country--Israel! And the U.N. wants to accuse it of war crimes. Perhaps the real criminal is the U.N. itself in allowing weapons to be stored in its schools, tunnels to be built under its facilities and rockets launched from its facilities by Hamas at Israel. SUPPORT ISRAEL IN ANY WAY YOU CAN, AND THROUGH ANY OF THE WONDERFUL ORGANIZATIONS COLLECTING FUNDS ON HER BEHALF.
COLUMN FOR JULY 31, 2014
Next Tuesday, August 5, 2014 we commemorate Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. On Tisha B’Av we remember the many tragedies which have befallen our people, many of which have occurred on the ninth day of Av. It commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples, both of which were destroyed on the ninth of Av (first by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. and the second time by the Romans in 70 C.E.). It also marks the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290 and from Spain in 1492 and earlier, the sin of the spies, the ten (out of twelve sent into Canan by Moses to report on the land before we invaded) as well as the failure of the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Romans. Tisha B’Av marks the end of a three week period of mourning which began on the 17th day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz which marks the first breach in the walls of Jerusalem before the fall of the first Temple. During this three week period weddings and other parties are not permitted by Jewish custom and people refrain from cutting their hair and, for the last nine days, refrain from eating meat or drinking wine. It is very similar to the restrictions we are supposed to follow for Yom Kippur. The fast is observed for about 25 hours and we observe many of the same customs we observe during mourning. It is also used to commemorate the start of the First Crusade (8-15-1096 which corresponded to 9 Av 4856), the Jewish expulsion from France on July 21, 1306 (9 Av 5066) and the approval by Heinrich Himmler and the Nazi Party for the “final solution” on Aug. 2, 1941 (9 Av. 5701). It should also be noted that the mass deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto also started on the 9th of Av 5702 (7-23-1942 ). Let’s all pray that the War in Gaza does not bring anything else to add to this list.
COLUMN FOR JULY 24, 2014
While we remain holiday free I thought I
would look around the world and see what’s going on. The World Jewish
Congress reported, in its April/May edition of the World Jewry Digest
that the southern supermarket chain, Winn-Dixie has opened a “huge
in-store kosher bakery (with fresh pizza pies), a meat and deli counter
(including hot potato kugel and meatballs), a refrigerated case with
cold salads and lots of pre-packaged kosher goodies (like chicken soup,
knaidle and carrot tzimmis) and even a kosher sushi chef.” The store in
question, much to my surprise, was in Boca-Raton, Florida. As some of
you know, I have a home in Boca and have been to that particular
Winn-Dixie many times. And while the kosher section is interesting I
wouldn’t call it “huge.” I simply assumed that with the large
concentration of kosher-keeping clientele it would pay for the store to
do so. After all, Albertson’s (another southern supermarket chain) used
to have great kosher roast chickens and other kosher items. But
Albertson’s in Boca closed. So why does Winn-Dixie think the $3 million
investment will pay off? It already has. Business in the new kosher
departments have tripled in the past year reports the Jacksonville-based
company, which has 480 stores in 5 southern states. Similar
arrangements have been made in their stores in Aventura and Tamarac,
Florida. So when are they coming north? I don’t know but I wish they
A BRIEF WORD ABOUT THE "WAR" IN GAZA: I did not want to fail to wish our braves sons and daughters fighting for Eretz Yisrael a safe journey. Please know that their efforts are being made to stop Hamas, a brazenly terrorist organization that oppresses its own people as well as our brothers and sisters in Israel. No country could or should have to tolerate the endless barrage of missiles being hurled against its civilian citizens and not act in their defense. The mere threat of Soviet missiles in Cuba brought us to the brink of nuclear war with the Soviets. Israel has borne attack after attack from an enemy bent on its destruction not on creating a homeland for its people. The missile attacks must end and Israel must act in defense of its civilian citizens. There can be no peace while missiles rain down on Israel despite the Iron Dome. The world can wring its hands and bemoan the loss of Palestinian civilian lives yet say nothing about the innocent Israeli lives Hamas seeks to destroy. Enough! Please support our brave sons and daughters fighting in Israel in any way you can.
COLUMN FOR JULY 17, 2014
So much for holidays or world news how about a look at what has been going on in the world of Archeology since I last looked. Construction of any sort in Jerusalem is one of the most difficult tasks in the world. Not only do you have the usual construction issues with unions, building inspectors, the cement industry, etc. but you can hit archeological problems as well. Just south of the Temple Mount across the road from the Dung Gate of the Old City sits the Givati Parking Lot. The site sits on a spectacular location in the northern part of the City of David, and beneath it lies an extraordinary remains dating back to the Second Temple period (first century c.e.). This structure may turn out to be the palace of Queeen Helena of Adiabene. Who? You may ask, and you would not be alone in doing so. Adiabene was a small city-state located in the upper Tigris region of Assyria in the ancient world (modern-day Arbil in the Kurdistan region of Iraq). The story is told that a Jewish merchant passed through Adiabene and “brought Queen Helena to the Jewish tradition along with her son Izates,” or so says the historian Josephus. Once they completed their conversions and after Izates ruled for some time, Queen Helena traveled to Jerusalem to worship. She arrived in the middle of a famine and gave food to the poor, and did other charitable works. Though she did return to her people, in her old age, she and her son remained Jews until their death. Though, in an unusual twist, few if any of her people converted. This was unusual. Usually when a monarch changed faiths others adopt the new faith in the hopes of currying favor. So somewhere in Iraq, there may today be descendants of Helena’s converted son, though I suspect they are no longer Jews of any sort.
COLUMN FOR JULY 10, 2014
Next Tuesday is the 17th of the Hebrew month of Tammuz. So here’s what you may have missed in religious school growing up about this fast day: The 17th of Tammuz is a public fast, though only a minor one so we only fast from sunrise to sunset of the same day, and fasting is the only restriction imposed. So if you get up before sunrise I guess you can have an early breakfast, a late diner (after sunset) and skip lunch–no big hardship. But the fast was imposed to mark the beginning of the destruction of the city of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 c.e.. It also commemorates the first destruction of Jerusalem and the breach of its walls in 586 b.c.e. on the 9th of Tammuz. It also commemorates the breaking of the original Ten Commandments by Moses, the cessation of the daily sacrifices in the Temple during the Roman siege of Jerusalem and the erection of an idol in the Temple by Apostomos during the period preceding the Maccabean revolt. It also marks the start of the period known as the three weeks– a mourning period during which we refrain from celebration and weddings which ends on the 9th of Av which corresponds to August 5, 2014.
...Have an easy fast.
COLUMN FOR JULY 3, 2014
Tomorrow is American Independence Day. And in honor of that momentous event I thought I would take a look at one particular early Jewish American, Haym Solomon. Solomon bought and sold financial papers to raise money for Robert Morris, the superintendent of finance for the Continental Congress. Salomon believed that America would be a safe haven for the Jews while we waited for the eventual restoration of our homeland, Israel. Salomon loaned Congress his entire personal fortune, over $800,000.00 to the cause of the Revolution–a debt which was never repaid. Salomon died sick and penniless at the age of 45 on January 6, 1785. But Salomon believed that the rebirth of Israel would happen and that we could wait in America until then. There is not even a memorial from the U.S. Government to this great American, though his great-grandson, William Salomon placed a plaque on the wall which borders the Mikvah Israel Cemetery in Philadelphia indicating that this was where Salomon was buried. The plaque was erected in 1917, the same year that the British issued the Balfour Declaration. Many think Salomon’s prediction came true but after reading the Pew Research Center’s Study of Jews in America I’m not so sure. But whatever you believe, have a Kosher hot dog and
Happy Fourth of July!
COLUMN FOR JUNE 26, 2014
Next week (Friday, July 4, 2014) to be precise, we celebrate American Independence Day. This will be our 238th year since the revolution. So, to paraphrase Ed Koch, former mayor of New York: how we doing? According to the Pew Research Study “not good.” 93% of the aging “Greatest Generation” identify as Jewish on the basis of religion while 7% describe themselves as having no religion. By contrast among Jews in the youngest generation of U.S. adults, the so called “Millennials only 68% identify themselves as Jews by religion while 32% describe themselves as having no religion and identify as Jewish on the basis of ancestry, ethnicity or culture. The shift is in line with the general U.S. population as a whole. The share of U.S. Jews who say they have no religion is 22%, while those in the general public who claim to have no religion is 20%. 62% of Jews say that being Jewish is mainly a matter of ancestry and culture while just 15% say it is mainly a matter of religion. Intermarriage is a related problem. 79% of married Jews who say they have no religion have a spouse who is not Jewish while only 36% of those Jews who say they are of the Jewish faith (i.e. by religious affiliation) are married to a non-Jew. Among Jews with a non-Jewish spouse only 20% say they are raising their children as Jews by religion (i.e. practicing Jews in any stream of Judaism). 25% are raising their children “partly” as Jews by religion, while 37%, over one-third of intermarried Jews, are raising children who are not Jewish at all. And intermarriage rates are rising. Since 2000 six-in-ten have a non-Jewish spouse, while among those who married in the mid-‘80's, the intermarriage rate was roughly four-in-ten and before 1970 it was just 17% who had a non-Jewish spouse. This is not good for the Jews!
COLUMN FOR June 19, 2014
Don’t tell Putin! It seems that the Lithuanian government is granting what it calls “symbolic reparations” to Jews who suffered under Nazism and Communism. Nearly 1,800 Holocaust survivors from Lithuania who also suffered under the Communists qualify for a one-time payment of $622.00. Before the Holocaust Lithuania’s Jewish population totaled 250,000. Today it is estimated at 5,000.00. Let’s do the math: 5,000 x $622.00=$3,110,000.00. For a modern state budget it’s indeed a token. Then again, if Putin hears about it, who knows what he’ll do. And meanwhile, in Poland, a controversial film has been released. Called “Aftermath” it details the story of two brothers who uncovered a road in Poland paved by its German occupiers with headstones of Jewish gravesites. The film depicts one town’s horrific role in the slaughter of its Jewish population of about 1,600 Jews. Having been to Poland I can tell you that the anti-Semitism remains virulent amongst the people despite the efforts of its government. Meanwhile in Argentina, Pope Francis hosted a Kosher lunch for a delegation of 15 Argentinian Jewish leaders at the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse in Rome. And in Paraguay, the 1,000 member strong Jewish community there has opened a Holocaust Studies Center. On the whole a mixed report but I still believe its probably time for our people left in Russia, Ukraine, the Asian FSU republics and eastern Europe to leave. And it would seem that western Europe is not such a haven either. That leaves Israel and the U.S., and possibly parts of South America but I wouldn’t bet on it. Maybe it is the end of days and the ingathering of the exiles is happening. In any event stay safe.
COLUMN FOR JUNE 12, 2014
This Sunday, June 15, 2014, is Father’s Day. Now, as I’ve pointed out in the past, Father’s Day while started in 1910 in Spokane, Washington by Senora Smart Dodd, and despite repeated attempts by Presidents Wilson and Coolidge it was only made a true national holiday by Presidential Proclamation of Richard Nixon in 1972. Today, Father’s Day is celebrated by many nations, though not all do so on the same day. Dates vary widely from February 23, to the second or third Sunday of May each year, the first, second and third Sunday or last Sunday of June, the second Sunday of July or last Sunday of July and others. The date varies. In Israel the 30th day of Shevat, usually, some time in June, the “Day of the Family” is celebrated. This is the Birthday of Henrietta Szold, the founder of Hadassah, who had no biological children. Szold also founded Youth Aliyah which rescued many Jewish children from Nazi Germany and took care of them. Szold is considered to be the mother of those children and their descendants. Thus, Israel chose the date, initially, for its Mother’s Day, which eventually expanded into the “Day of the Family” which is not an official holiday. Proving that its all about the Jewish Mother–we father’s can’t even get a holiday of our own. Oy!
Did you hear the one about the difference between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day? On Father’s Day you get to buy a cheaper gift.
And to all my fellow father’s out there–
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!
COLUMN FOR JUNE 5, 2014
Finally, a week with no holidays, once Shavuot ends today. So I thought I would take a look around to see what’s going on. Previously, I reported on anti-Semitism rising in Eastern Europe, the Ukraine and Russia. I also spoke about the Council of Europes attempt to ban circumcision, but now comes Ireland. Historically, we have done well in Ireland and there is little history of persecution of Jews there. In 1746 a bill was introduced in the Irish House Of Commons “naturalising persons of the Jewish religion in Ireland.” Jews have been in Ireland since, at least, the year 1079. In 1876 a Jew, Lewis Wormser Harris, was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin but died before he could take office. Cork has also elected a Jew and he actually did serve as Lord Mayor. Support for Ireland from Jews in America goes back at least to 1847 when, during the Irish Potato famine, Rabbi Jacques Judah Lyons of New York persuaded his congregation to provide assistance and raised over $1000.00 ($80,000.00 in today’s dollars). There are presently four synagogues in Ireland, three in Dublin and one in Cork not counting the one in Bellfast in Northern Ireland. So please explain to me why Ireland is supporting a boycott of Israel and other punitive measures against the Jewish state. And despite the support for a boycott, it was an Irish company, Covidien PLC., which, in 2012 acquired three Israeli firms, one of which makes the PillCam, the swallowable camera which can be used to diagnose digestive tract problems and which I’ve spoken about in this column. Hopefully, the Republic of Ireland will reconsider its position and hypocrisy, and not support a boycott of Israel.
COLUMN FOR MAY 29, 2014
This coming week we celebrate Shavuot, the giving of the Ten Commandments at Sinai and the end of our Exodus from Egypt. Shavuot literally means “weeks” as it connotes the seven weeks which passed between the Exodus and the arrival of the Israelites at Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments. It also marks the conclusion of the Counting of the Omer as the wheat harvest begins the next day and the sacrifices in the ancient Temple change from an Omer of barley to wheat. Outside of Israel the holiday is celebrated over two days while in Israel it is only celebrated for one day, though Reform Jews and those Conservative Congregations outside of Israel who have adopted the Israeli liturgical calendar only celebrate it for one day. The Talmud refers to Shavuot as Atzeret, which means “refraining” or “holding back” because of its prohibition of work on the holiday. It is also called Hag ha-Katsir, the festival of reaping (referring to the wheat harvest) and Yom ha-Bikkurim, the day of the first fruits, (referring to the fruit harvest). When the Temple still stood people could bring one of the Seven Species for which the Land of Israel is praised: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. (And if you think I’m kidding about the grapes check out my prior column about Passover Wine and the French grapes whose origins can be traced to ancient Israel.) It is also customary to eat dairy foods (love that cheesecake) and to study all night long and read the book of Ruth because King David, a descendent of Ruth, was born and died on Shavuot, and because the story of Ruth is connected to the harvest time. (Check out what goes happens on the threshing floor!) So however you celebrate Shavuot...
Have A Hag Semeach Shavuot!
COLUMN FOR MAY 22, 2014
This Monday we celebrate Memorial Day, and on Thursday, May 28, 2014, particularly in Israel, we celebrate Yom Yerushalyim. While Memorial Day is celebrated every year on the last Monday in May, Yom Yerushalyim falls on the 28th of Iyar each year, which could be on any day of the secular week.
Memorial Day started out as Decoration Day after the U.S. Civil War to commemorate the soldiers who fell in that war. It was called Decoration Day because people would visit the cemeteries and graves of the fallen soldiers and put flowers on their graves “decorating” them around May 5–not to commemorate a battle but just because the flowers were at peak bloom. (This should not be confused with “Veterans Day” when we honor those in the military for their service and sacrifice.) Memorial Day commemorates only the fallen, those who, in the words of President Lincoln, “...gave their last full measure of devotion.” The holiday started on a State by State basis with its origin officially dated to May 5, 1866 in Waterloo, New York according to the Presidential Proclamation issued by President Johnson on May 26, 1966. On June 28, 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act which moved Memorial Day to the last Monday in May to create a three-day weekend.
Yom Yerushalayim or Jerusalem Day, by contrast, does celebrate a military victory, in a sense. It is an Israeli national holiday commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem and establishing Israeli control over the Old City in June, 1967. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel declared Jerusalem Day a minor religious holiday to give thanks to haShem for victory in the Six-Day War and for answering our prayers to regain control over our ancient capitol. So we, outside of Israel, are also required to commemorate it.
Have A Safe And Meaningful Memorial Day
And A Happy Yom Yerushalayim
COLUMN FOR MAY 15, 2014
This Sunday we celebrate the Jewish Holiday of Lag BaOmer, the 33 day of the counting of the omer, the 18th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar. The Omer was a unit of measure in ancient Israel when the Temple stood in Jerusalem. It was the measure of barley required to be sacrificed from the second day of Passover until the day before the wheat offering was brought to the Temple on Shavuot (49 days). The idea of counting each day is to prepare us for receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai which we celebrate on Shavuot, 49 days after Passover. The origin of this minor festival are unclear. It is usually attributed to the lifting of a plaque which afflicted the students of Rabbi Akiva until the 33rd day of the counting of the omer. The plaque, after killing all but 5 students, lifted. leaving Rabbi Akiva with only 5 students, Rabbi Shimon barYochai amongst them. Rabbi Shimon barYochai would go on to become the foremost Torah scholars of his age and is purported to have authored the Zohar, the landmark text of Jewish mysticism. The period of the counting of the Omer is considered a semi-mourning period amongst observant Jews and thus wedding parties, listening to music and haircuts are commonly prohibited except for this day, though some hold that the restrictions end with Lag BaOmer. On a personal note, Lag BaOmer also marks my own wedding anniversary, along with many other observant couples who could not marry for the 33 days after the start of Passover, until Lag BaOmer and then for another 20 days until after Shavuot. So let me wish my bride, and all of you who share this anniversary with us...
A Happy Anniversary
COLUMN FOR MAY 8, 2014
This Sunday, May 11, 2014, is Mother’s Day, when we celebrate and honor our Mother’s and motherhood, and the maternal bonds and influences of mothers in society. Most commonly, it is a spring-time celebration in the northern hemisphere, while in other places it is celebrated in the fall, such as in Argentina, which celebrates it in October. And while Mother’s Day in the U.S. dates to 1908 and only became an official holiday in 1914 it is now celebrated all over the world, it can be traced back over thousands of yeras. The ancient Greeks had the cult to Cybele, while the Romans had the festival of Hilaria. By the way, do you know why the word “Mother’s” in “Mother’s Day” appears as a singular possessive and not a plural (i.e. “Mothers”)? The founder of the day, Anna Jarvis thought it should be a chance for each family to honor its mother not all mothers of the world. In fact, she even trademarked the phrase. President Woodrow Wilson issued a presidential proclamation in 1914 establishing the second Sunday in May for a celebration of our Mother’s. And though for Jewish Mother’s we’d like to believe every day is Mother’s Day, Israel recognizes the 30th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, which can fall anywhere between Jan. 30 and March 1, as the official “Day of the Family” in Israel for both Mother’s and Father’s. So to all our Mother’s (singular possessive) and to the mothers or mother (this could be either singular or plural depending on the circumstances) of our children...
Happy Mother’s Day
COLUMN FOR MAY 1, 2014
Since I discussed Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzma’ut last week I thought I would look around the world and see what’s going on. Anti-Semitic incidents continue to rise in the Ukraine as the situation there worsens. An Israeli-born Hebrew teacher in Kiev was viciously beaten in an anti-semitic attack. But what can you expect with the Russian Prime Minister behaving like Hitler. Meanwhile, a recent poll by the European Union‘s Agency for Fundamental Rights shows that fully a third of the European Jewish population said that they “did not feel safe” in their home countries and have thought of emigrating. Seventy-six percent of respondents thought that Anti-Semitism was rising in Europe and has been for the past five years. Meanwhile the Council of Europe has agreed to change its stance in regard to ritual circumcision. Previously the Council had banned the practice as a violation of children’s rights. The new resolution recognizes the practice of Jews and Muslims as “a religious rite which does not present risks for children and should be respected as a longstanding religious tradition.” It took pressure from Israel and other Jewish organizations including the World Jewish Congress and B’nai B’rith to bring about this change. The more they change, the more they stay the same. I’m wondering if its time the Jews left Europe–I have no doubts about Russia and the Ukraine–LEAVE NOW!
COLUMN FOR APRIL 24, 2014
So now that Passover is over we still have a few holidays to look forward to; Yom HaShoa (April 27,) a commemoration not a holiday like Yom HaZikaron (on May 5 this year)–Israel’s memorial day) and then the fun begins again with Yom Ha’atzmaut (on May 6 this year), followed by Mother’s Day, Lag B’Omer (Robin's and my anniversary), Memorial Day, Shavuot, Father’s Day and, of course, American Independence Day.
I have very fond memories of being in Israel with my family for Yom HaShoa, Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut. We all remember commemorating the Shoa after visiting the camps in Poland on the March of the Living. It was a very moving experience as was Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day. We were sitting in traffic in Tel Aviv when suddenly everything stopped. Everyone got out of their cars and off the busses while the horns sounded to mark the day and the loss of all of those who died, Al Kiddush HaShem–as martyrs for the Sanctification of haShem. The silence, the horn, the lack of movement was awe inspiring. No sales, no bar-b-ques, just honor and respect for those who have fallen in service to our people. And then we were off to the seaside resort of Tiberious, the Asbury Park of Israel, complete with Boardwalks, street vendors, games attractions and fireworks. A great time was had by all. Next stop, Mother’s Day on May 11. If you get a chance I recommend visiting Israel in time for Passover, and, if you can manage it, staying through Yom Ha'atzmaut. You'll be glad you did.
COLUMN FOR APRIL 17, 2014
We hope you all had a wonderful sedar and start to the Passover holiday. For the second time in many years we are blessed to have both of our children home for the holiday. While they were at Brandeis we had them home every year but while they were away in law school, they could not always come home and we had to rely on the computer for their company. So for the second time in a while we had the chance to make Haroset together and we had their help in getting the house ready. Our haroset recipe has been on our website for a while but in honor of the kids I thought I would look for a few new fruit recipes for Passover to add to the haroset. So we have added recipes for skillet based stewed fruit, fruit chutney, grilled or broiled fruit and like haroset even uncooked fruit macerated and Mexican style for a little more exotic flavor. The recipes are on the website under the "Through My Father's Eyes" tab and then the “recipes” tab above. I hope you will give it a try and on behalf of all of us at home we wish you all...
A Zissen Pesach
COLUMN FOR APRIL 10, 2014
Passover starts this Monday night, April 14, 2014 and this shabbat April 12, 2014, is Shabbat HaGadol the great Shabbat. When the Temple still stood it was the practice to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover and arrive for the Shabbat before the festival. A later tradition involved the writing of Techinot, women’s supplications before Passover which were then recited over the Passover candles. They usually concerned childbirth and the health of the family. Today, I think the most common of the Techinot would be to give thanks for having the means to visit a Kosher for Passover resort and avoid all the work involved in getting the house ready for Passover–oy, where did we put those pots last year? And why should only women write these Techinot. How about this one: Dear Lord, thank you for the strength to climb the ladder to get the pots down from the attic and to carry the dishes up from the basement, and for the insurance policy which covers visits to the chiropractor for my back. Thank you Lord for enabling me to send airplane tickets to the children so that they could join us for this festive holiday, even though two of the three of them have jobs and are earning more than I do. Thank you for giving us the strength to remove all the chometz from the house, the car, the office. Maybe next year you could grant me the wisdom to remember to book the hotel in time? Amen! And may you all have
a Zissen v’Kosher Pesach
COLUMN FOR APRIL 3, 2014
Passover will soon be here (first night, first seder is held Monday night, April 13, 2014). On Passover we consume a great deal of wine. For years the French have claimed to be the ultimate authorities on wine making, especially that quintessential French wine, Chardonnay. However, according to Dr. Shivi Drori, the co-founder of Gayot Winery in the Shromron region of Israel, Chardonnay actually has its origin in Israel and, the Chardonnay grape was actually transplanted to France by Frankish crusaders who brought seeds back. The vineyard in Israel claims that the name Chardonnay actually comes from two Hebrew words meaning “gate (Sh’ar) of G-d (Adonnoy).” The winemakers claim that the indigenous grapes, grown in Israel, the land of their origin, actually tastes much better than its French transplants. That may be true, so I would suggest that we all do a little taste testing this Passover with a few cups of the Israeli and French vintages. (Kosher for Passover only please--no cheating!) And if, by the end of the night, you can tell the difference, you didn’t have enough. Go back and drink some more and...
Have A Zissen Pesach
COLUMN FOR MARCH 27, 2014
So before I start with the columns for Passover I thought I would talk about some recent news from the world of archeology. A Hebrew University-led team working at wet-sifting an archeological site near the Temple Mount has uncovered 36 gold coins, gold and silver jewelry and a gold medallion. The treasure has been dated to the first Temple period and confirms a Jewish presence in Jerusalem at that time and to the existence of a Jewish State and to a Jewish Jerusalem. Whether this helps bolster our historic claim to the land of Israel and to Jerusalem is another matter. Scholars will have a hard time disproving the hypothesis but will it make any practical difference with the Palestinians? I doubt it. The historic truth is that there has been a Jewish presence in Jerusalem and Israel since before the first Temple period. The political truth is that we have to find a way to make peace with those who presently inhabit the land. It is certainly easier to prove the first than to manage the second. In the meantime, one of the most persistent sources of modern conflict in the middle east, the lack of water and the food shortages it causes, may have been eliminated by, you guessed it, Israeli scientists. A scientific team from Kinneret College claims to have discovered a way to genetically engineer plants to automatically “shut down” after not receiving water for a time, without dying, and with no damage to the plant’s structure. After renewed watering the plants would revive. This could help eliminate drought and famine in much of the world.
COLUMN FOR MARCH 20, 2014
Spring begins today! I hope you are having a happy Adar II–yes this is a Jewish leap year so we have two months of Adar. The interesting part is that the leap month was actually last month, Adar I which added 29 days to the Hebrew calendar this year to bring the holidays back into alignment with the seasons. So from here on out, all the holidays should be at the “right” time. To illustrate, Passover will be in the middle of April, with the first Sedar being held on Monday night, April 14, 2014, Yom Ha’atzmaut on May 6, 2014 (Israel’s independence was declared on May 14, 1948) and Rosh HaShana begins on Wednesday evening, September 24, 2014.
So the addition of the extra month puts things back where they should be. Without this fix we could end up celebrating Passover in January and Rosh HaShana in June. But with Spring here and Purim over, can Passover be far behind? Passover is actually about 4 weeks after Purim, so its time to start getting ready. Robin and I will soon be cleaning out an area to store the Passover food which she will buy over the next few weeks and I will begin helping her with the cleaning process. OY! Such a to-do list! So before we start with that I thought I would take a look around and see if there is anything else to talk about. So here is an interesting story: Israel’s ministry of tourism is putting together a program for Evangelical Christians modeled on Taglit-Birthright Israel to spark a personal connection with Christians who feel a strong affinity with the Jewish state, and to generate tourism and support for the State of Israel. It is expected to be funded by private donations from both Christian and Jewish philanthropies and individuals. The Evangelicals have always been strong supporters of Israel, so perhaps now they will get a chance to see what they have been supporting.
COLUMN FOR MARCH 13, 2014
This Saturday night we celebrate the holiday of Purim. As those of you who have read this column for years know, I am a big fan of yeast dough humantashin but a few years ago I was forced to give up and admit defeat in favor of cookie dough humantashin. I have even posted a cookie dough recipe on our website. But did you ever wonder where this practice of eating Hamantaschen came from? To begin with it is an Ashkenzi custom while Sephardim eat a fried pastry called Fazuelos and Orejas de Haman (Hamn’s Ears). Hamantaschen literally means “Haman’s pockets. They originated in Germany and come from the popular German pastry known as “Mohntaschen,” or “poppy seed pockets.” One Midrash tells us the Haman was notorious for accepting bribes and his pockets were filled with them. So the Mohntaschen were morphed into haman’s pockets filled with seeds (poppy seeds), as numerous as the bribes he took. Another sais that the pastry is three corners to remind us of the three patriarchs, Abraham Isaac and Jacob which Esther derived her strength from. And another Midrash says that Haman would enter the King’s treasury with “clipped” ears, meaning covered with shame for his acts. And still another said that Haman wore a three-cornered hat and eating the Hamantaschen is a way of symbolically destroying his memory. The real irony is that without us who would remember Haman at all? However you like your hamantaschen enjoy and have
A Happy Purim
COLUMN FOR MARCH 6, 2014
This Sunday is my favorite day of the year (but the day my son hates.) Sunday morning at 2:00 a.m. we move the clocks ahead, which means we loose one hour of sleep. (Thus the reason my son hates it.) And while I am not a fan of losing sleep (I do enough of that without any help) I do like the extra hour of daylight at the end of the day, which lets me run errands after work while still enjoying the daylight. I also know that this means winter is drawing to a close as Spring begins 11 days later on March 20, 2014. And it also means that Purim will also soon be here: therefore, it's Humantashen time. Purim is preceded by the Fast of Esther, which this year is commemorated next Thursday, March 13, 2014, and that means that Purim will fall out on Saturday evening, March 15, 2014 and Sunday, March 16, 2014. I have always believed that we have allowed our children to appropriate Purim as a dress-up holiday like Halloween, when, in fact, it’s a very adult holiday, with adult themes, including sex and genocide. Let's take back Purim from the kids–they have enough fun. Have an adult Purim Party on Saturday night and delve into the story behind the story. You might just be amazed.
COLUMN FOR FEB. 27, 2014
So while things are quiet I thought I would take a look around the world and see what’s going on: In Poland the ban on ritual slaughter of animals according to Jewish law, known as Schechita, continues, despite the Polish Bishops calls on the Polish government to reverse its position. The Council of Europe passed a resolution (which, fortunately, is non-binding) calling male circumcision a “violation of the physical integrity of children according to human rights standards.” Furthering this, a Danish political party is seeking to ban circumcision there. In 2012 an attempt was made in Germany to ban circumcision which was ultimately reversed before it went into effect. The ban on circumcision has been an historic precursor to the rise in anti-semitism and campaigns of oppression. One of the first things that foreign powers have banned in the past, after conquering us, was circumcision. Until modern times circumcision was an outward sign of our difference and commonly practiced only by Jews. Today many Western people engage in this practice however, there has been a backlash of late against it, using the claim that it is an “assault on our children;” like we would harm them. We must be ever vigilant. I urge you to support organizations like B’nai B’rith and the World Jewish Congress who often combat such efforts throughout the world and defend the rights of our brothers and sisters in distant lands.
COLUMN FOR FEB. 20, 2014
This past February 17, 2014 we commemorated a new holiday in Israel, “Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries Day.” The day was instituted to commemorate the 850,000 Jews who were forced to leave their homesteads in Arab lands during the 20th century. The date was selected because on Feb. 17, 1948 the Arab League mandated severe restrictions against resident Jewish populations in Arab lands. Shortly after this date the Arab league members started ousting Jews from Arab lands and seizing their property, homes, lands, facilities and institutions. There have been no reparations nor any form of redress for this wholesale misappropriation nor has the United Nations ever addressed the matter. The Arab nations make a great deal about Israel’s supposed misappropriation of Arab land, even though much of Israel was legally acquired by purchase, and what part of Israel was acquired by conquest is still being contested even though historically conquest was a legally cognizable method for nations to acquire territory under International Law. Furthermore, in almost all cases of acquisition by conquest, Israel was not the initiating aggressor. As I have pointed out in the past more Jews were expelled from Arab Lands in the 20th century than Arabs were forced out of Israel. Not to mention Spain, which has finally acknowledged its over 500 year old debt to those Jews expelled from Spain with an offer to come back as citizens. Too little, too late.
COLUMN FOR Feb. 13, 2014
So last week I spoke about Abraham Lincoln in honor of his birthday and this week I want to talk about George Washington whose birthday is actually Feb. 22, 2014 but we commemorate it, along with Lincoln’s and all the other President’s on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014. So we all know that Washington was the “Father” of our country. But did you know he was also the father of the Mammoth Jackass? In Washington’s day, the jack donkeys were short in stature and did not have a lot of stamina. Washington imported donkeys from Spain and France in the hopes of solving this problem. When he didn’t find an appropriate donkey he bred one he had received from the Marquis deLafayette (a male jack) to his jennys (female donkey) and produced the first American line of Mammoth Jacks–a new breed of Jackass which was larger, stronger and had more stamina–just like Americans compared to Europeans–according to Washington. So Washington created the Mammoth Jackass and today Washington, D.C. is full of them. And if that wasn’t bad enough I recently came across an article about President Richard Nixon who once told a heckler that: “The Jawbone of an ass is just as dangerous today as it was in Samson’s time.” I wonder if that was one of Washington’s Mammouth Jackasses?
COLUMN FOR FEB 6, 2014
Next Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014 marks Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday. And though we no longer celebrate it as a separate holiday, bundling it together with George Washington’s, and all the other Presidents, it is still worthy of note. Lincoln may well have been our most important President next to Washington–and Washington only because he refused the crown and set the model for all those to follow. But Lincoln gave us the most moving Presidential speech ever written and he did it in 271 words comprising 10 sentences in 3 paragraphs: The Gettysburg Address. With brevity and eloquence he set forth our creed: a nation dedicated to liberty and equality for all. He was dedicating a cemetery but noted that it was the blood of the fallen who had dedicated it and consecrated it more than anyone else could have, and that the hopes of those who gave, what Lincoln deemed their death to be, “the last full measure of devotion” so that “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” 271 words in 10 sentences, yet he beautifully captured the essence of the American Creed. Happy Birthday to President Lincoln and thank you to all our fallen warriors who have defended that creed.
COLUMN FOR JAN. 30, 2014
My children recently returned from a birthright trip to Israel. This peer trip was a truly unique experience for them. It was their third trip to Israel. The first was for their B’nai Mitzvah in 2000 on a synagogue sponsored trip which I had the honor to chair, while the second was in 2005 for the March Of The Living which Robin and I chaperoned. This was their first trip to Israel without us. They had a fantastic time–whether that was because they were on their own or not, I can’t say, but the peer experience is a unique one. We are fortunate that both of our children view Israel as their ancestral homeland and love the land, the people and, of course, the falafel. But most important, they have formed a lifetime commitment to the land and people of Israel, and that is the point of the Birthright Program. I have no doubt that they will be ardent supporters of Israel in the future, wherever they end up living, and will make many more trips. I urge you to urge your children and grandchildren to make this important trip. Persuade them to send in the application and make the effort to try and go. Israel takes monumental steps to ensure visitors safety, especially our kids on birthright, and other such trips. On one of our trips, we were locked in at the Kosher McDonalds Restaurant in Jerusalem, surrounded by young Israeli soldiers with guns. There was a package on the street being removed. It turned out to be nothing, but I never felt safer. Those were our kids with those guns and they were prepared to defend us! I know that there are risks, but we can’t let the terrorists win. The first time I visited Israel was after the six-day war and I actually was able to not only walk on the Temple mount but enter the Dome of the Rock and go into the Well of the Souls, under the rock. It was awe inspiring. Unfortunately my children did not have that opportunity on any of our trips, though we did get to walk along the first century streets under the Temple Mount. Go before other opportunities are lost.
COLUMN FOR JAN. 23, 2014
According to the Bible Joshua conquered the lands of the Canaanites including the city of Hazor and burned Hazor to the ground. Israeli archeologist, Yigal Yadin, first examined the remains of biblical Hazor and partly excavated down to the Biblical level. In doing so he was able to locate the “burn layer” and prove that the ancient city was in fact burned to the ground. Since that time many have challenged this “theory” explaining who burned Biblical Hazor but no one has put forth a plausible alternative. Now a consensus has developed that Yadin may have been right. This also means that the Bible is correct and it was Joshua or the early Israelites who invaded Canaan and burned Biblical Hazor to the ground. One question, which caused some to doubt that it was Joshua who burned Hazor is the fact that the burn layer shows that the fire burned at an extremely high temperature, which Joshua should not have been able to create. Later excavations uncovered the fact that over 1000 amphorae of oil were stored in Hazor and that the city used a great deal of wood in its construction. These two facts explain the high heat of the fire and further support the account in Joshua and the book of Kings. Once again modern archeology is proving that the biblical text is history as well as religion.
COLUMN FOR JAN. 16, 2014
This Monday, January 20, 2014 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, commemorating his birthday. The holiday commemorating Dr. King was signed into law at the White House in a Rose Garden ceremony on November 2, 1983 by President Ronald Reagan, who signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor Dr. King. The holiday was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986, it is called Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. In 1992 President George H. W. Bush's issued a proclamation, moving the observance of the holiday to the third Monday of January each year, near the time of Dr. King's birthday. On January 17, 2000, for the first time, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was officially observed in all fifty U.S. states. Dr. King was one of the great leaders of the Civil Rights movement and I would like to think that had he lived, race relations in this country would have been much better than they are and we would have gotten here sooner. Dr. King, you will be remembered and you are missed.
COLUMN FOR JAN. 9, 2014
So now that there are no holidays to talk about I thought I would look around and see what’s going on in the world of Biblical Archeology. The ancient city of Hazor was located in northern Israel at the time Joshua conquered the Canaanites and the city of Hazor was burned to the ground. “Joshua turned back at that time and took Hazor, and struck its king with the sword, for Hazor was formerly the head of all those kingdoms. And they struck all the people who were in it with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them....Then he burnt Hazor with fire.” (Joshua 11:10-11.) In modern times the site that was Hazor has been extensively excavated. Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority has been developing the site and took some dirt fill to create a visitor’s path from the excavation dump. To their surprise they discovered two fragments of cuneiform tablets in the fill material they took from the dump. These tablets seemed to be taken from a law code which was written around the same time as the famous Code of Hammurabi. This would mean that Biblical Hazor was one of the few city/states which issued its own law code. This also makes the case for wet sifting excavation dumps like the one at Hazor and the one at Megiddo not to mention the dump in the Jezreel Valley where the Arab authority that controls the Temple Mount placed the excavation dump from its work in the area of the Temple Mount known as Solomon’s Stables. If we don’t carefully examine this material, and wet sifting is one way of doing so, who knows what history will be lost..
COLUMN FOR JAN. 2, 2014
Today, January 2, 2014 is the first day of the Hebrew month of Shevat. According to the Book of Deuteronomy, on the first day of Shevat, Moses called the Jewish people together in a great assembly and began a review of the Torah which review lasted for 37 days, ending on the 7th day of the month of Adar (next month), when Moses died. This month which occurs in the winter months also marks the new year of the trees when the almond trees in Israel begin to flower. (It’s a little warmer in Israel than here, though it does, occasionally, snow in Jerusalem, as it did in December of last year.) The almond trees will, G-d willing, blossom again this year and spring will follow. In the meantime, those of us who don’t live in the promised lands (that would be Israel or Florida) need to try and keep warm. I guess we can eat a few almonds to remind us that in Israel its already warming up and spring is only 11 weeks away–OY! But more importantly we can help the trees in Israel by contributing to the Jewish National Fund and its water treatment projects which help not only the trees, but our brothers and sisters in Israel. Israel is in desperate need of fresh potable water and JNF is a prime developer of water reclamation projects. Its project, dubbed “Blueprint Negev,” has helped the desert bloom and Be’er Sheva thrive. There are 8 new communities being developed in the Negev. Eliav, Givot Bar, Sansana, Carmit, the Halutza Communities, Be’er Milka, Merhav Am, and Zuqim. The populations of these communities are estimated to total almost 50,000 people. With the help of JNF, water, and you they are making the desert bloom. Please consider giving to JNF this Tu B’Shevat, Jan. 16, 2014..
COLUMN FOR DEC. 26, 2013
The holidays are over, and winter is here, I hope you are all sitting by the fire, with lots of good cheer. (Preferably with bourbon or some other similar beverage--hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps comes to mind.) But I thought I would look back over the past year, as this is the last column of the year and reflect on events and the lives of the famous and infamous who are no longer with us:
• Lou Reed of the Velvet Undergound, a legendary influence on generations of musicians–I listened to him as a kid and tried to imitate his style in my rock band in high school
• Marcia Wallace who made us all laugh in “The Bob Newhart Show” was also the voice of Edna Krabappel in “The Simpsons” and made my son laugh. Two generations enjoyed her humor.
• Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter who had the right stuff and whose voyages I listened to on my transistor radio, under the covers, in my camp bunk.
• Tom Clancy, one of my favorite authors, who will hunt for Red October no more.
• Hiroshi Yamauchi, President of Nintendo, who pioneered the video game industry, and created all those levels on the Super NES. No comment about who "accidentally" erased them and who had to put them back.
• David Frost, veteran British journalist and one of my favorite broadcasters who won fame for his interviews with former President Richard Nixon.
• Gus, the Central Park Zoo polar bear who delighted children of all ages. Died at the age of 27, which is old for a polar bear–glad I’m not a polar bear.
• And Nelson Mandela--Madiba You brought an end to apartheid and helped to liberate your people and garnered the worlds love.
You will all be missed.
COLUMN FOR DEC. 19, 2013
Its about this time of year when I have offered a poem or comment about the general state of the season. Winter begins officially this Saturday and haShem willing it will be a mild one, though the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a hard cold winter. I don’t like the cold but I really hate the snow, so hopefully, it won’t snow. I know, many of you enjoy the winter, and particularly winter sports, but I prefer to swim in the sun. So here are a few tales for you winter lovers:
The first Macy’s Day Parade was held on Christmas Day in 1924 and was the marketing brainchild of Jesse and Percy Strauss, sons of the German Jewish immigrant Isidor Strauss who became a co-owner of Macy’s with his brother Nathan in 1896. The parade featured floats, balloons, and live animals. In was moved to Thanksgiving the following year in 1925 and has marked the unofficial start of the winter and holiday season ever since.
And though Chanukah ended over two weeks ago, I thought you would appreciate this story which I came upon recently about the longest spinning dreidel. Jewish astronaut, David Wolf, spent four months aboard the Mir space station and celebrated Chanukah during that period. He could not light the Hanukiah due to the danger of fire but he did spin his dreidel. One spin lasted for a record 1 ½ hours when it finally spun away from him. He found it a few weeks later stuck in an air filter. He estimated that the dreidel spun for 25,000 miles. That’s a long time to wait to find out the outcome of the bet: Neis-Gadol-Haya-Sham! Then again, the space station itself was a great miracle.
COLUMN FOR DEC. 12, 2013
This Friday morning begins the fast of the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Tevet. Traditionally, this is a fast day (not to mention that candle lighting is at 4:10 p.m. tomorrow evening, and I don’t mean it will go quickly–I mean you just can’t eat). The 10th of Tevet is a minor fast which runs from sunrise until sunset. The fast commemorates the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia which culminated in the defeat of the first Jewish nation, the destruction of the first Temple built by King Solomon, and our exile to Babylon. (By the way, it is that exile which led to our custom of wearing yarmulkes/head coverings to show that we were servants of haShem and not masters. The siege of Jerusalem began on the 10th of Tevet and on the 17th day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz the city walls were breached. On the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av the Temple was destroyed. You should note that Tammuz and Av both correspond to summer months. (If you want to learn more about the Hebrew calendar I will be happy to send you one of ours. Just send me an email, a note or give me a call.) This is also a time we commemorate many other calamities that have occurred to our people throughout history.
COLUMN FOR DEC. 5, 2013
Today marks the end of Chanukah, our celebration of our ancestors victory over Antiochus of Syria, the restoration of the Jewish commonwealth and the miracle of the oil. So while we sample a few end of Chanukah donuts I thought I would look around the world and see what’s been going on. The European Union has labeled a modern day evil, Hezbollah, as a terrorist group. Hopefully, this will help to dry up its sources of funding in Europe. Hezbollah is also wrecking havoc in modern day Syria and was responsible for last year’s lethal bus bombing in Bulgaria. And as the year draws to a close we finally have a report from the U.S. State Department on the number of deaths attributed to global terrorism last year. It seems that 12,000 people died as a result of terrorism, 10 of them were American non-combatants and ten were Israelis. Unfortunately, the count on the number of Israeli citizens and children terrorized by almost 2,000 rocket attacks launched by the Palestinian and Hezbollah Jihadists in 2012 remains unreported and continues with no end in site. Meanwhile, many in the international community remain cautious about the new President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani. Despite speaking more moderately at the U.N. and toward the U.S. he continues his nations anti-Israel rants, calling for Israel’s destruction. There cannot be a solution and normalization with Iran until Iran becomes “normal.” And in Germany some good news for Holocaust Survivors. The German government has announced that it will increase its payouts to Survivors by an additional $1 billion. This will help some 56,000 victims of the Shoah worldwide. Given the budget austerity in the west, including Germany, this is indeed remarkable.
COLUMN FOR NOV. 28, 2013
and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
So enough about Chanukah, Thanksgiving and my kids birthdays coinciding for the first time ever, and not again until the year 79,811. Onto something really amazing. Did you know that Adam and Eve ate jelly donuts on their expulsion from the garden of Eden? “Sof” is a word meaning “end” and “gan” in Hebrew means garden. “Ya” it turns out is another word for haShem (which, of course is another word for G-d) and so Sofganya or sufganiyot means, “the end of G-d’s garden.” OK, if you don’t buy that one how about this etymological tale: “Sfog” in Hebrew means sponge but in Greek the word “sufgan” means “puffed and fried.” And other than the connection to oil, the miracle of the lights burning far longer than they should have, and donuts, (which are fried in oil, and usually give me heartburn,) I have no idea where this is going. All I know is that I’m really not a fan of jelly donuts and have no idea, and could not find out, what the jelly in the jelly donuts has to do with Chanukah. The fried food I get–though my cardiologist says I don’t get–or at least I shouldn’t. And here is a little bit of Chanukah trivia–Chanukah is the only holiday celebrated in two different Hebrew months, Kislev and Tevet. By the way, the first day of Tevet begins on Tuesday night, December 3, 2013 which marks the beginning of the 7th day of Chanukah. So as I said at the beginning...
Hope you all have a
COLUMN FOR NOV. 21, 2013
(however you transliterate it)
And A Happy Thanksgiving
Next week we celebrate a holiday tri-fecta, at least in my home (though my son claims it’s a quad-fecta). Not only is Thursday, Thanksgiving but its also the first day of Chanukah and its my twin children’s birthday, thus the quad-fecta. (Adam claims he hates it when the two of them are referred to as if they were a singular entity such as “The Ross Twins.” So that would make it two other birthdays in the family.) And while their birthday’s often coincide with Thanksgiving it has never coincided with Chanukah. That’s because Chanukah and Thanksgiving have never coincided before and, if the Hebrew calendar is not adjusted, it will not happen again until the year 79,811–we should only live so long! By the way, the last time it could have occurred was in 1861 but since Thanksgiving was not established by President Lincoln until 1863 it never happened.
Don’t believe me? Here is the proof: Thanksgiving is set as the fourth Thursday in November, meaning the latest it can be is 11/28. 11/28 is also the earliest Chanukah can be. The Jewish calendar repeats on a 19 year cycle, and Thanksgiving repeats on a 7 year cycle. You would therefore expect them to coincide roughly every 19x7 = 133 years. Looking back, this is approximately correct – the last time it would have happened was in 1861. However, Thanksgiving was only formally established by President Lincoln in 1863. So, it has never happened before.
Why won't it ever happen again? The reason is because the Jewish calendar is very slowly getting out of sync with the solar calendar, at a rate of 4 days per 1000 years (not bad for a many centuries old calendar!) This means that while presently Chanukah can be as early as 11/28, over the years the calendar will drift forward, such that the earliest Chanukah can be is 11/29. The last time Chanukah falls on 11/28 is 2146 (which happens to be a Monday). Therefore, 2013 is the only time Hanukkah will ever overlap with Thanksgiving.
Of course, if the Jewish calendar is never modified in any way, then it will slowly move forward through the Gregorian calendar, until it loops all the way back to where it is now. So, Chanukah will again fall on Thursday, 11/28 in the year .....wait for it..... 79,811.
So From Robin and I-
COLUMN FOR NOV. 14, 2013
Happy Chanukah, Thanksgiving, Birthdays-- All The Best!
This weekend I will be in Washington, D.C. with my Daughter for the B’nai B’rith Policy Conference and meeting of the International Board Of Governors, as well as the commemoration of the 170th anniversary of B’nai B’rith. Danielle is going as President of the NJ Chapter of the B'nai B'rith Young Leadership Network. Last week we celebrated this milestone here in New Jersey with a Friday evening Young Leadership Network Shabbat Dinner at the Summit Jewish Community Center, a Shabbat morning service and gala Kiddush luncheon at Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael in Springfield complete with birthday cake, hosted by Springfield B’nai B’rith and a number of proclamations and resolutions including a Special Letter Of Commendation from Governor Christie and a joint resolution of the N.J. Legislature. I was proud to be a part of the festivities held in honor of this great organization. Growing up I was very active in the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO) in high school. I had a great time and learned many things which would come in useful later in life. I credit BBYO with giving me a chance to learn parliamentary procedure, run a meeting and plan an event with no funding and no facilities. We liked to say we learned to do the impossible with next to nothing. It was a lot of fun and we all made a great many friends, some of whom I still speak to. I hope your children have had a similar experience with their youth groups and I invite those of you who did to join or re-join B’nai B’rith and our BBNJ-Alumni group and have some fun again!
COLUMN FOR NOV. 7, 2013
This Saturday we mark the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, the start of the Holocaust which destroyed the European Jewish Community that existed before WWII. It is hard to believe that it has been 75 years since the start of the Holocaust. Many in our survivor community have passed on and preserving their oral testimony becomes more and more critical. Yad VaShem and the other Holocaust Museums throughout the world are doing all they can to preserve this first person oral history and overcome those who will came later and deny it ever happened. But we too must do our part. Several years ago my daughter took part in a project of Federation to help preserve these oral histories by having a young person “adopt-a-survivor” and agree to tell their story in the future to their children’s generation and to try and perpetuate the stories thereafter. To be a living link in that chain of memory. There is much that has been written on the holocaust but there are those who will call the books a lie and a fabrication. There are those who will deny, deny, deny as long as there are people willing to listen to those denials and believe them. But its hard to deny a number tattooed on the arm of a survivor, or the stories of those like the women who my daughter adopted, even when retold by my daughter. So I encourage all of you to hear the survivors stories, speak in public and pass on this oral history, make opportunities for those who have taken on the burden of the survivor’s stories for the lessons of Kristallnacht are not just for us as Jews, but for all mankind as a warning against what hatred and bigotry can lead to. We must be the canary in the coal mine warning all that the air is getting dangerous.
COLUMN FOR OCT. 31, 2013
Next Tuesday is Election Day so I hope you will all remember to vote. Let me also remind you to set your clocks back one hour this Sunday morning as Daylight Savings Time ends at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013 and we gain an extra hour of sleep. So in honor of election day, as well as Veteran’s Day, which will be celebrated on Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, I thought I would share some interesting American humor and anecdotes with you:
• Remember the great Chicago Fire supposedly started by Mrs. O’Leary’s cow knocking over a lantern. Whether Mrs. O'Leary's cow started the fire or not, her barn and house is now the home to the Chicago Fire Department Training School.
• And how about this one: On the night the Titanic hit that fatal iceberg they were showing the movie The Poseidon Adventure
(an old (though not old then) black and white silent picture). The movie began at 11:00 p.m. and people were so enthralled by the action on screen they did not notice that their own ship was jolting.
• And then there is the story of Casey Jones, the legendary folk hero who was a real railroad engineer from Jackson Tennessee named John Luther “Casey” Jones. Jones stayed at the controls of his train knowing that a signal error caused a train to head right for his own train on the same track! He was able to reduce the speed of his train, and saved the lives of everyone on his train, except for himself.
• And how about that famous picture of the joining of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railroads meeting at Promontory Point Utah. All the men were gathered around in frock coats and finery, yes? No! They were actually wearing work cloths, holding liquor bottles, looking drunk, and leering at the camp prostitutes. Of course, as the saying goes, the history books cleaned it up a bit, not to mention the artist.
COLUMN FOR OCT. 24, 2013
Next week, children all over the U.S. will dress up and go from house to house all asking the same question. Can they have a candy or does the homeowner want them to play a trick. “Trick or Treating” in the U.S. only goes back about 100 years and its origins are unknown. Some believe that Halloween itself has its roots in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain where the dead are believed to return to earth for the one night. During Samhaim villagers disguised themselves in costumes made of animal skins to drive away these dead phantoms and often banquet tables were filled with edible offerings left out to placate the unwelcome spirits. In later centuries people began dressing as ghosts, demons and other evil spirits to obtain food and drink. The practice became known as mumming and dates back to the Middle Ages. In 1000 c.e. the Catholic Church designated Nov 2 as “All Souls Day” to honor the dead. Later the poor would visit the homes of the rich promising to pray for the souls of the homeowners’ dead relatives in exchange for pastries called soul cakes. Later children took up the practice and instead of praying they would sing a song, recite a poem, tell a joke or perform some other form of “trick” in exchange for a treat. This practice is also associated with Guy Fawkes Day in England, celebrated on the 5th of November. (This is in commemoration of the foiling of the conspiracy to blow-up Parliament on Nov. 5, 1605.) Both these traditions came to America with Irish, Scottish and English settlers and later morphed into the practice we have today, which doesn’t resemble Purim dressing-up celebrations at all. Hope you and yours have a safe holiday.
COLUMN FOR OCT. 17, 2013
So there are no holidays to write about and nothing much has been going on right–WRONG! This week is the actual anniversary of the oldest Jewish service organization still in existence–B’nai B’rith. 170 years ago on the lower east side of New York a group of men met in a small café to find a way to help support Jewish widows and orphans. That meeting gave birth to B’nai B’rith. Founded to serve the Jewish community B’nai B’rith has been doing some remarkable things. I have the honor to be serving this year as the Tri-State Regional President of the Organization and have asked the New Jersey legislature to issue a resolution honoring B'nai B'rith and they have done so, declaring November 9, 2013
B'nai B'rith Day in New Jersey. Governor Chris Christie's office has confirmed that the Governor will be issuing a Special Letter Of Commendation as well, in honor of B’nai B’rith’s 170th anniversary. Similar resolutions have been passed by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, and the Townships of Springfield and Monroe Township. My fellow Ben Briths in New York and in Pennsylvania have acted similarly with their state governments and, hopefully, President Obama will also issue a proclamation in honor of this great organization which gave rise not only to many lodges and units of men (and now women) but to what is now Jewish Women International, the Anti-Defamation League, Hillel and the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (of which I was an active part in high school). We are trying to reinvigorate the organization so if you are interested feel free to contact me or check out our group on Facebook at BBNJ-Alumni or any of our units throughout NJ. Hope to see you at an event.
And Mazel Tov To All My Fellow Members Of B'nai B'rith
WITH A NOTE TO MY LOYAL READERS--I'M NOT SURE WHAT HAPPENED AND WHERE THE COLUMNS FOR SEPTEMBER 26, 2013 AND OCTOBER 3, 2013 WENT. I POSTED THEM BEFORE THE HOLIDAYS BUT THEY SEEM TO HAVE DISAPPEARED. I HAVE RE-POSTED THEM AND HOPEFULLY YOU WILL HAVE A CHANCE TO READ THEM.
HOPE YOUR HOLIDAYS WERE GREAT!
COLUMN FOR OCT. 10, 2013
Next Monday, October 14, 2013 we will celebrate Columbus Day. I always find it interesting that Columbus left Spain in 1492, the same year King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain issued the infamous Edict Of Expulsion, casting the Jews out of Spain. Of course the edict had been issued after Ferdinand and Isabella completed their conquest of the remainder of the Iberian Peninsula with the fall of the city of Granada. Initially it was the Umayyad’s who conquered Iberia in the 8th century. The Umayyads' were Arabs and Berbers but later came to be predominantly Iberian Christian converts to Isalm. The Moors were the medieval Muslim inhabitants of Morocco, western Algeria, Western Sahara, Mauritania, the Iberian Peninsula, Sicily and Malta. The Christian monarchs set out from their kingdoms of Castile and Aragon in the north to reconquer all of Iberia. They did so, forging the territory into one nation-state. They viewed the Jews, who had come to Spain with the Umayyad’s, as their enemies and the allies of the Arabs–imagine that. Many prominent Jews had been court Jews to the Umayyad rulers including one notable physician and rabbi, Maimonides. So, like the Pharaoh of Egypt there arose a new King who knew not the contribution the Jews had made to Iberia and ordered them to convert or die, rather than just become slaves. (In this respect we did make a little progress.) Many Jews left to new lands–some may have journeyed with Columbus and others got here later. But however, our forebears got here we should all celebrate Columbus’ epic voyage, and the discovery of this wonderful land of religious tolerance.
COLUMN FOR OCT. 3, 2013
Before next week, when I want to talk about Columbus day, and now that all the Jewish holidays are finally over, I want to take a moment to look around the world and see what has been going on.
• Over five centuries ago we were expelled from Spain and Portugal. Portugal has now decided to finally grant the right of citizenship to the descendants of those Jews who were expelled. Can anyone find their key? Actually, I know a family who live on the Island of Gibralter who do, in fact, have the key to the front door of the house they left in Spain long ago. It sits in a box frame on the wall in their living room.
• And in Rome, Israeli President Shimon Peres invited Pope Francis to visit Israel. Israel and the Vatican have had formal diplomatic relations since 1993 so it could happen.
• France, Germany and Great Britain seem ready to list the military arm of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. It seems that the murder of five Israeli civilians last year in Bulgaria is the driving force behind a UK initiative for an EU ban.
COLUMN FOR SEPT. 26, 2013
Today we celebrate the holiday of Shemini Atzeret, recite the Yizkor prayer in remembrances of our loved ones who have passed on and tonight we dance with the Torah as we celebrate the end of Succot and the start of Simchat Torah. I have very fond memories of eating jelly apples and waving flags but did you ever wonder how jelly apples and flags came to be associated with Simchat Torah? Because we want to encourage our children to study Torah and believe that the words of the Torah are sweet we concretize this abstract idea by giving out candy at the completion and restart of the annual Torah reading cycle. And just so it should be a little healthy we add an apple. I have put a jelly apple recipe on the website’s recipe page if you want to make your own. And flags to waive have been around for centuries. Last year the Masorti Olami, the Worldwide Conservative Movement had a new flag designed which shows, children, parents, grandparents, historical figures including Moses, Miriam and Theodor Herzl along with the flags of nations which have an active Masorti community. I would have preferred the flags of any country where Jews can be found but I suspect it would be the same thing. Its just that saying its limited to Conservative communities is a bit parochial–don’t you think.
Happy Simchat Torah–
And Dance A Little
COLUMN FOR SEPT. 19, 2013
Today is the first day of Succot. I hope you have all built your Sukkah (or made a donation to your synagogues youth group to let them put it up and take it down (–what am I a carpenter). So as we begin the holiday of Succot (and the weather should be warm enough to actually eat outside this year) I would hope everyone would take the opportunity to enjoy nature and dine “al fresco.” Succot is a harvest festival and we should celebrate the bountiful gifts nature and haShem have provided. This Sunday also marks the first day of fall, right in the middle of Succot. Who says the holidays are early this year–I think Succot is right on time. So enjoy the apple dipped in honey especially if its honey from Israel (which in ancient times was a major producer of honey). And enjoy that picnic outside under the stars in a harvest booth, just as our ancestors lived in, while bringing in the harvest. And remember, Ruth (the grandmother of David haMelech) and Boaz. Maybe you should invite your beloved to a picnic too. After all, it worked for Ruth and Boaz. Whatever you do Robin and I hope you have a great Succot.
Hag Semeach–Happy Succot!
COLUMN FOR SEPT. 12, 2013
Tomorrow evening we read the Kol Nidre prayer to start Yom Kippur and on Saturday we read many prayers including the recitation of the Yizkor prayer in memory of our dear departed, and next week we celebrate Succot. By the end of the month we will have slipped in two more holidays, Shemini Atzeret with another recitation of the Yizkor prayer and Simchat Torah and then the holiday/September marathon will be over. Is it any wonder that Cheshvan, the Hebrew month that follows Tishre has no Jewish holidays in it (though for this reason its called Mar Cheshvan or bitter Cheshvan). I don’t think its bitter at all but a chance to take a break. As I reflect on this past year I note that it has been a year of change for many. Even the Orthodox movement has seen change. In June of this past year an Orthodox seminary in the Bronx bestowed the title “maharat” on three women graduates. The title is meant to be a female counterpart to the title “rabbi.” Two of the three already have taken congregational jobs. And the Supreme Court of the U.S. in striking down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has taken another step toward equality of the sexes. And my daughter has joined my law practice. What a great year!
Shana Tova v’Tsom Kal,
an easy fast and a good sealing to you all.
COLUMN FOR SEPT. 5, 2013
HAPPY ROSH HASHANA– AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE WORLD! This Thursday, September 5, 2013 (erev Sept. 4) we celebrate the birthday of the world for our tradition teaches that on this day haShem created the earth. And why, you may ask are we celebrating the holiday so early? The answer is written in the stars or to be more precise our star, the sun, sol, which we circle around once every 365.25 days. However, the Hebrew calendar is based on a lunar cycle which has 12 months with each month having 28-30 days.. This causes us to have to add a month in years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17 and 19 of a 19 year cycle to bring the Hebrew calendar back into alignment with the seasons. This year, 5774, which begins today is a leap year, so we add one month in the spring, the month of Adar I. So Purim gets celebrated in Adar II not Adar I since Adar I is the added month. Is it confusing, sure, but we read from right to left anyway. The holidays eventually will be back in their proper place, early or late and next year we won’t celebrate Rosh HaShana until September 25, 2014 so it all balances out in the end. If the holidays would be on time–now that would be something. However you and yours celebrate the world’s birthday please accept Robin's and my hope that you be blessed with all that you would wish for.
A Happy And Healthy New Year
To You All
COLUMN FOR AUG. 29, 2013
Next Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013, is Rosh HaShana and this Monday, Sept. 2, is Labor Day. I don’t ever remember the holidays falling so early. And Selichot actually begins on Saturday night, Aug. 31! Selichot are penitential prayers recited at midnight the Saturday night before Rosh HaShana and many are sung to the same melodies used during the High Holidays to get us in the mood. Another thing that is supposed to get us in the mood is the pomegranate. It has become a popular fruit to eat in Israel on Rosh HaShana. According to the Talmud, if you dream of pomegranates, your business ventures will bear fruit (get it) and the Kabbalah tells us that the pomegranate has 613 seeds, the number of mitzvot in the Torah. Pomegranate juice has been reported to have pronounced health benefits including keeping your teeth clean, regulating cholesterol and slowing arthritis. And its juice tastes good too. Though I prefer the pomegranate flavored Greek yogurt myself.
I did see a recipe for pomegranate relish involving walnuts, unpeeled oranges, brown sugar, mint leaves and pomegranate seeds. But honestly, who can taste the pomegranate with all that other stuff. However you like your pomegranate have a great labor day and an enriching Selichot.
COLUMN FOR AUG. 22, 2013
This November 9th (erev Nov. 8) we will commemorate the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass which marks the official start of the Holocaust. And the Claims Conference has announced that Jews whose properties were lost to Nazism and Communism in the former East Germany will have a final chance to file a claim for compensation. They have published a list of thousands of known Jewish property owners and set up a “Late Applications Fund” with 50 million Euros. But you must act fast, before Dec. 31 2014. To date the Claims Conference has paid out $800.00 million since 1992 to property owners and their heirs.
And if you think 75 years is a long time to wait for peace and justice just think of this. 17 Jewish souls were massacred in Norwich, England 800 years ago. In 2004, while constructing a shopping mall, construction workers uncovered 17 skeletons who were thought to be those members of the Jewish community that thrived there during the 12th-14th centuries. The 6 adults and 11 children were massacred during an outbreak of the plague and their bodies dumped in a well. They have finally received a proper burial.
COLUMN FOR AUG. 15, 2013
So you thought your kids playing all those video games were a giant waste of time? Not so fast. The Israeli military is adopting advanced digital simulators to help produce battle-ready soldiers. The sophisticated “advanced shooting simulator” improves shooting capability and aims to turn out soldiers who are better equipped to handle real life events. Similarly, the Israeli Navy and Air Force are also using simulators specifically adapted for their crafts to quickly prepare soldiers. I just knew our kids generation would figure out how to play video games all day and make a living at it..
In other news from Israel it seems that the Tazbit News Agency, an Israeli concern, has forged a link with the Weekly Press Pakistan (WPP), a Canada-based Pakistani media outlet to share stories and features. This is the first time an Israeli news agency has entered into such an arrangement and has provided WPP with more balanced coverage of events in Israel and the Middle East. Fundamentalists immediately denounced the arrangement as “a Zionist plot to influence Arab media.” Someone should tell them to stop quoting from old KGB manuals.
COLUMN FOR AUG. 8, 2013
The Hebrew month of Elul has begun which means its only one month until the High Holidays on Sept. 5. So while we begin to take our spiritual inventory in preparation for Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur I thought I would take a look at the worlds spiritual inventory and see how we are doing. I was on a conference call the other day with acquaintances in Britain and France and they tell me that anti-Semitism is rising in Europe. A new study by Israeli researchers backs them up. The study by Tel Aviv’s Kantor Center reports that anti-Semitic violence soared 30 percent in 2012 with 686 attacks in 34 countries. There were incidents in France, Greece, Hungary and the Ukraine and neo-Nazi groups are flourishing in parts of Europe. Meanwhile, in France, President Francois Hollande, while speaking to CRIF, the umbrella organization for French Jewry, pledged his administration to eradicating the fear of violent persecution. My friends in England are also concerned about the influx of Muslims into the country fueling an increase in anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic acts. Meanwhile, Poland has run out of Kosher meat. It seems that Poland had banned ritual slaughter which leaves Poland’s 6,000 remaining Jews without Kosher meat. However the ban on Kosher slaughter, enacted after a campaign by animal rights advocates, may be repealed. Prime Minister Donald Tusk has called for the repeal of the ban. There is also some other promising news. There is a thaw in Israeli-Turkish relations. Prime Minister Netanyahu has apologized to Turkey for the May 2010 Gaza flotilla incident and relations have been restored. So maybe there is hope yet.
COLUMN FOR AUG. 1, 2013
Next week we begin the Hebrew month of Elul. During the month of Elul it is a tradition to visit the graves of our loved ones and to say prayers in their memory. It is also a tradition to place a small stone on top of the grave marker or monument but did you ever wonder why we do this? We are uncertain when this custom developed but some think it may date back to biblical times when people would bury someone under a pile or cairn of stone. “And so Rachel died and he erected a tomb for her on the side of the road.” (Genesis 35:20). The site some believe to be Rachel’s tomb is venerated as such to this day and though it is located in a Palestinian area, Israel retains possession of it. This custom may also be a way to show others that someone has visited the grave and that the decedent is remembered. (But here is some practical advice–don’t use the soft brown stones. They are not really stone, just compacted earth and when rain hits them they may cause a mud stream on the face of the monument and stain the stone.) I have also prepared a pamphlet which contains the prayers to use when visiting the grave. It contains the 23rd Psalm, the mourner’s Kaddish, and Yizkor for a mother, father, wife, husband and some other Psalms, meditations and the El Moley Rachamim memorial prayer. They are available at our funeral homes in Springfield and Chatham or we can mail you one–just call, send a note or email and we’ll pop one in the mail.
COLUMN FOR JULY 25, 2013
It is now one month since I took the helm of the Tri-State Region of B’nai B’rith. As the Chinese proverb says; “oh to live in interesting times.” It has indeed been interesting. I have participated in discussions with B’nai B’rith leaders from around the world and in our own backyard and I have come to a few conclusions. The first is that our problems are very much the same throughout the Jewish community, though our brethren in Israel and Europe have it harder. Europe is dealing with an increase in anti-semitism while Israel has to deal with the perennial problems of its Arab neighbors which have not been helped by the Arab spring. And, all of our Jewish organizations seem to be having a problem attracting new members. I would ask all of my readers to consider joining at least one Jewish service organization (aside from a synagogue) and supporting the continuation of their existence. Our Jewish service organizations are a vital link in the chain which binds our communities together. They are a critical resource in times of threat. If we don’t support them and they close we will not have them when we need them. I, of course, would hope you would choose B’nai B’rith, which celebrates its 170th anniversary this year. But I’m also a Hadassah Associate and know its value along with Mogen David Adom and others. For more information about our local B’nai B’rith groups please feel free to contact me or check out our website at www.BnaiBrith.org or our group on Facebook, BBNJ Alumni..
COLUMN FOR JULY 18, 2013
On display at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City until August 4 is the Cyrus Cylinder, a prime example of an archaeological artifact which independently corroborates a Biblical account. The Book of Ezra begins with a recounting of the issuance of an edict by King Cyrus of Persia which permitted the Jews, exiled from their land in 586 B.C.E. by the Babylonians, to return. Cyrus had defeated the Babylonians in 539 B.C.E.. The Cyrus cylinder dates to 539 B.C.E. and records Cyrus’ command permitted the Jewish exiles in Babylonia to “go up to Jerusalem in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel.” The clay cylinder is usually on display at the British Museum in London. The cylinder is 9 inches in length and was discovered in 1879 during an excavation in modern day Iraq. The cylinder’s nature was not uncovered until 2010. There are several copies of the cylinder and tablet versions of the edict including a replica on prominent display at the U.N. Headquarters in New York as one of the first declarations of human rights and religious tolerance. Sadly, its something that Cyrus’ heirs in Iraq and Iran know little of.
COLUMN FOR JULY 11, 2013
Next week we celebrate Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. On Tisha B’Av we commemorate the many tragedies which have befallen our people, many of which have occurred on the ninth day of Av. It commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples, both of which were destroyed on the ninth of Av (first by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. and the second by the Romans in 70 C.E.). It also marks the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290 and from Spain in 1492 and earlier, the sin of the spies, the ten (out of twelve sent into Canan by Moses to report on the land before we invaded) as well as the failure of the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Romans. Tisha B’Av marks the end of a three week period of mourning which began on the 17th day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz which marks the first breach in the walls of Jerusalem before the fall of the first Temple. During this three week period weddings and other parties are not permitted by Jewish custom and people refrain from cutting their hair and, for the last nine days, refrain from eating meat or drinking wine. It is very similar to the restrictions we are supposed to follow for Yom Kippur. The fast is observed for about 25 hours and we observe many of the same customs we observe during mourning. It is also used to commemorate the start of the First Crusade (8-15-1096 which corresponded to 9 Av 4856), the Jewish expulsion from France on July 21, 1306 (9 Av 5066) and the approval by Heinrich Himmler and the Nazi Party for the “final solution” on Aug. 2, 1941 (9 Av. 5701). It should also be noted that the mass deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto also started on the 9th of Av 5702 (7-23-1942 ).
COLUMN FOR JULY 4, 2013
This week we celebrate the birth of American Independence. Last week I spoke about Jews in America. This year I want to tell you some strange tales from American history. Did you know that Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War had previously served in the Union government as, amongst other things, Secretary of War? In 1856 he imported 70 camels from the Middle East to create the U.S. Camel Corps at Camp Verde, Texas (north of San Antonio). He thought they would be better suited to cross the desert regions of the U.S. than horses or mules. But, it turned out, the camels were stubborn, required special handlers and scared the horses. The U.S. Camel Corps lasted less than 2 years. In the mid-1870's one of these camels, which had been abandoned in the desert to fend for themselves, wandered into Fort Selden in the New Mexico territory. The strange beast terrified the post commander’s young son. That young son would grow up to become General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, who, in one of his speeches said, “I am proud to join in saluting the memory of fallen American heroes of the Jewish faith.”
HOPE YOU HAVE A HAPPY 4TH OF JULY
AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO AMERICA!
COLUMN FOR JUNE 27, 2013
Next week marks America’s Independence Day. We Jews have played an important part in the United States’ birth and growth from the time of the first settlements right up to the present day. And though there has never been a Jewish President there have been Jews on the Supreme Court and many Jews in Congress and in the Cabinet. And, of course, we even had a Jewish candidate for Vice-President. Who knows, someday we may even have a Jewish President. But you know what, at his inauguration his/her mother will probably be overheard to say; “you see that man taking the oath, his/her brother/sister is a doctor.” But seriously folks, Jews first came to North America in 1654 from Recife, Brazil where the Dutch had lost their colony to the Portuguese. 23 Jews came to New Amsterdam and were not turned away by Peter Stuyvesant because the Dutch West India Co. was dependent on Jewish investors who blocked him doing so. By 1776 there were an estimated 2,000 Jews in America. Today there are between 6.4 and 6.6 million Jews in the United States representing 1.8% of the population. But perhaps our acceptance into society is really proven by the fact that the intermarriage rate has climbed to 47%. Almost half of our children are involved in an interfaith marriage. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I don’t know but sometimes our imports are more observant than our own. So maybe we will live to see a Jew in the White House yet.
COLUMN FOR JUNE 20, 2013
This coming Tuesday, June 25 (erev Monday) is the start of the 17th day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, a fast day which begins a three week mourning period. This is a dawn to dusk fast unlike that of major fast days like Yom Kippur. We commemorate five calamities which befell our people; the breaking of the two tablets which Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai, the termination of the daily tamid offering, the breaching of the walls in Jerusalem prior to its destruction, the placement of an idol in the Temple by the Romans and the burning of a Torah scroll in the Temple by Apostomus, a Roman soldier who was later beheaded by the Roman Governor. Traditionally, these are the calamities we recall, but there are others: In 1080 the 1st Crusade slaughters the Jews of Werelinghofen, Germany and in 1298 the Rindfleish persecutions kill 250 Jews in Rothenburg, Germany. And there are other unfortunate events on this day in history as well: in 1749 a general fast is declared in Massachusetts due to a drought, 1789 the U.S. passes the Alien Act allowing the president to deport dangerous aliens, in 1876 the Battle of Little Bighorn took place resulting in the loss of the 7th calvary and General Custer, and in 1940 Adolph Hitler viewed the Eiffel tower and the grave of Napoleon in Paris, and Crematory III at Birkenau was finished. Not a good day.
Hope you have an easy fast.
COLUMN FOR JUNE 13, 2013
This Sunday is Father’s Day. A day when we get to show all our father’s how much we appreciate them. But does anyone know where the holiday came from? Actually, on July 5, 1908 in Fairmont, West Virginia the first celebration of fathers took place. 1908 also marked the first celebration of Mother’s Day. In 1910 another celebration of Father’s Day took place in Spokane, Washington. A bill was introduced in Congress in 1913 which did not pass even though President Woodrow Wilson spoke in favor of it in 1916. In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge also recommended that the day be observed by the nation but issued no proclamation. In 1957 Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers while honoring mothers for the previous 40 years to no avail. It was not until President Johnson issued a proclamation in 1966 that fathers were officially honored and it was finally made a permanent national holiday in 1972 when President Richard Nixon signed a bill into law making the third Sunday in June “Father’s Day.” Which just goes to show that having the vote first did not get us honored first.
COLUMN FOR JUNE 6, 2013
This is the first Thursday in June. I have always thought that June starts the unofficial summer holiday season even though it won’t be summer until June 21. So I thought I would reprise my infamous summer ice cream flavors and my wife and children begged me not to. Its also my birthday this week so I could talk about that but growing older is not one of the things I wanted to be reminded of. So how about the revival of the Jewish community in Portugal. It seems that the first Jewish cultural and religious center in Portugal in over 500 years will soon open. It was funded and built by the city of Transcoso and is an attempt to reach out the the Bnei Anousim, the descendants of the Conversos who still live in northeast Portugal. In the 14th and 15th centuries the area was the home to a flourishing Jewish community including Isaac Cardoso, a Portuguese physician and philosopher born in Trancoso in 1603 to a family of Bnei Anousim. The center will be run by Shavei Israel, an Israeli organization that helps far-flung communities worldwide. The center will house a synagogue and an exhibition about Portuguese Jewish history, though I question why they would include a synagogue without any Jews to pray in it. This is similar to the synagogue being maintained in Poland by the Polish community, the decedents of those who destroyed the Jewish community there. I really don’t understand it, but perhaps it’s a sign that after 500 years of exile the Portuguese would like...I don’t know what. The Iberian peninsula has been pretty bereft of Jews since the Expulsion from Spain in 1492 and I don’t see why this would change things. Unless the descendants of the Conversos are considering returning to their roots? Who knows--maybe they could just give up the ham and bacon or cut back its consumption a bit? Unlikely.
COLUMN FOR MAY 30, 2013
While there are no upcoming holidays to discuss I thought I would take a moment to look at what’s gone on in the world of Biblical archaeology. As many of you know the Arch of Titus in Rome was erected in 81 C.E. to commemorate the defeat by Titus of the Jewish revolt and the subjugation of Israel.. A recent project of my Alma Mater, Yeshiva University and its Center for Israel Studies (in partnership with the Soprintendenza Speciale per I Beni Archeologici di Roma) focuses on the restoration of the Arch and the information we can glean from such restoration. The project has undertaken high resolution three-dimensional scans of the relief shown on the Arch, which depicts the Triumphal parade of Titus after the conquest and destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The scans show the Temple menorah, the showbread table, and the trumpets which were deposited in Rome’s treasury after the parade and ultimately used to finance the construction of the Colosseum. It is believed that the menorah, the showbread table and the trumpets were all made of gold and the high resolution scans show that there are traces of yellow ochre on the arms of the menorah consistent with Biblical descriptions. Yeshiva University plans on creating a three-dimensional color model of the arch’s panel for display at the university museum in 2014. Once again, science is proving that the Bible is historically accurate.
COLUMN FOR MAY 23, 2013
This Monday, the last in May, we celebrate Memorial Day, a day to honor all those who died while serving in our armed forces–who gave, what President Lincoln called “...the last full measure of devotion.” The first well-known observance of a Memorial Day type observance took place after the Civil War in Charleston, South Carolina on May 1, 1865. Originally known as “Decoration Day” it became customary to decorate the graves of the fallen soldiers. In 1865 the federal government began creating national military cemeteries for the dead Union soldiers. On May 30, 1868 the first Decoration Day ceremony was observed in the North. It had already become custom in the South. In 1868 events were held at 183 cemeteries in 27 states. The next year there were 336 such events. In 1871 Michigan made Decoration Day an official state holiday and by 1890 every northern state had done the same. The holiday became a federal holiday by an act of Congress in 1967 and was moved to the final Monday in May in 1971.
HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY
AND THANK YOU TO ALL OUR HONORED DEAD
COLUMN FOR MAY 16, 2013 HAPPY SHAVUOT! Just don't eat too much cheesecake
As you know we recently celebrated Israel’s anniversary. But did you know that The Economist magazine named Israel a “high-tech superpower?” I have owned stock in the Israeli generic pharmaceuticals company, Teva, for many years and have done quite well with it. It is also one of Israel’s most successful multinationals and is listed on the N.Y. Stock Exchange. But it is not alone. I’m sure you know that the U.S. and China have the most companies listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange but did you know that the the nation with the third most companies so listed is Israel? It has over 50 firms listed. Among those companies is the Internet security firm CheckPoint. And then there is seltzer. No this is not a joke. SodaStream is a manufacturer of a consumer product which makes seltzer at home. It was named the NASDAQ’s IPO of the Year in 2010. And the Israeli branches of Microsoft, Intel, Google, Cisco, General Electric and Johnson & Johnson have extensive and productive installations. Some of the credit for this creativity belongs to the Israeli military culture as well as the Israeli entrepreneurial spirit and the influx of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are scientists and engineers. Also, Israel’s limited natural resources provide a further incentive for entrepreneurial development. Who knows, maybe Israel will eventually develop the answer to the Arab stranglehold on world oil supplies. And you can help by investing in these companies while enhancing the State of Israel and the preservation of the environment. It’s a win-win-win.
COLUMN FOR MAY 9, 2013
This Sunday is Mother’s Day and next week is Shavuot. (I hate when they fall out in such close proximity. I have to combine two columns into one.) So, I have added my wife’s recipe for Shavuot Blintz Casserole (after all, as much as I love cheesecake it does not agree with my waistline) to this website under the recipe’s tab and for mother’s day I thought I would tell a few jokes:
• A boy came home from college for Mother’s Day weekend and brought his mother something to put in water– his laundry.
• A women went into the store to complain about the eggs she bought the day before saying that two of them stank and wanting to know if she should bring them back. The counter-man said: “No lady, your word is as good as the eggs.”
• Why is mother’s day celebrated before father’s day. Because you should spend most of your money on mom, Dad is usually happy with anything anyway. But seriously– Thank you to all our mother’s and the mother’s of our children. If we didn’t love you we wouldn’t make jokes.
Hope You Have A Happy Mother’s Day!
COLUMN FOR MAY 2, 2013
This coming Wednesday, May 8 (erev Tues. May 7) marks Yom Yerushalyim, the celebration of the reunification of Jerusalem during the Six-day War in June of 1967. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel declared Jerusalem Day a minor religious holiday to thank G-d for the victory and for answering the 2,000-year-old prayer of "Next Year in Jerusalem." In Israel the day is marked by state ceremonies, parades and the recitation of the Hallel prayer and Pesukei Dezimra of Shabbat and High Holidays. I was fortunate to have an opportunity to visit Israel and Jerusalem for the first time shortly after the 1967 war. It was a united city and I felt I could go anywhere even inside the “Dome Of The Rock” and its “Well Of Souls” (though not the one from Indiana Jones). In fact, I did go into the Dome and under the rock where Abraham is said to have tried to sacrifice Isaac. It was an amazing experience which I looked forward to sharing with my own children when we returned in 2000 for their B’nai Mitzvah. Sadly it was not to be. Not only could we not go up to the top of the Temple Mount it was no longer safe to go to Bethlehem (where we had purchased some great olive wood carvings on the last trip). This was sad and it was no better when we went back in 2005 on the March Of The Living. Jerusalem has, in fact, been re-divided and if it brought peace it would have been worth it, but sadly, it has not. War is not the answer but peace did not seem to work either. Is there another way?
COLUMN FOR APRIL 25, 2013
This Sunday (erev Saturday night) is Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer. So to my wife and partner and all of you who share our day–Happy Anniversary! For many traditional Jews Lag B’Omer holds a very special meaning. Its their wedding anniversary on the Hebrew calendar. This is because the period of the counting of the Omer from the end of Passover until Shavuot is a morning period and weddings are prohibited. However, in recognition of the fact that a plaque which had afflicted Rabbi Akiva’s students lifted on the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer, Jews have traditionally been able to marry and celebrate on this day. So for those who couldn’t wait for a June wedding and wanted to get started a little early there was Lag B’Omer. It is also important to note that Lag B’Omer also precedes Mother’s Day which this year falls out on Sunday, May 12, 2013. So let’s see, my anniversary, Mother’s Day, my wife’s birthday followed by my birthday and finally Father’s Day. Is it any wonder my kids run out of money by Father’s Day.
Wishing all those who share this joyous anniversary day (especially my wife) a
COLUMN FOR APRIL 18, 2013
Twelve years ago United Synagogue and the Conservative Yeshiva launched the Mishna Yomit project. It was an electronic online study system for those interested in daily Mishna study. For the past twelve years I have spent my lunch time eating at my desk (most days) and reading the email with each days page. This summer will mark the completion of the entire Mishnah and I have been proud to be a part of this daily Torah study project. We will have the summer off and in the fall a new daily learning proje1ct will begin with a page of Talmud (Daf Shevui) each week. Each day a portion of the daf with an explanation will be sent by e-mail and we will start with Tractate Sukkah. United Synagogue and the Conservative Yeshiva do not charge for this service. If you would like to join us in this new daily study project you can contact United Synagogue at email@example.com and they will be happy to put you on the listserve. I have enjoyed this bit of Torah at lunch time each day and I invite you to join us. Sometimes I am even amazed at some of the things the Rabbi’s have said.
COLUMN FOR APRIL 11, 2013
This Saturday evening starts the 4th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar on which Israel normally celebrates Yom HaZikaron, memorial day followed on the 5th of Iyar by Yom HaAtzma’ut, Israel’s Independence Day. However, when the 4th of Iyar starts on a Saturday night it is moved to the next day so this year Yom HaZirakron will be observed starting on Sunday evening April 14 and Yom HaZikaron will be celebrated starting on Monday evening, April 15, 2013. If you have ever been in Israel at this time it is an amazing experience. At one point during Israel’s Memorial Day the entire country comes to a stop as the sirens are sounded for those who gave the last full measure of devotion for their homeland. All traffic comes to a halt wherever you are and everyone observes the moment of silence. It is a fitting tribute to those who have fallen defending our people. And, at the end of the day, the fun begins. From the Kinnert in the north with its fireworks over the sea, to Tel Aviv with its clubs and night spots, to Jerusalem with its reunited city all the way down through the Negev to Eilat with its resorts the entire nation celebrates the modern miracle of its rebirth. A somber day of reflection followed by the celebration of the rebirth of Eretz Yisrael–what an amazing country–
Am Yisroel Chai!
COLUMN FOR APRIL 4, 2013
Yom HaShoah will be observed this Sunday (erev Saturday night). In the past I have tried to take a survey of our progress in Europe and the growth or decrease in anti-semitic events. However a recent article in the New York Times (Feb. 21 headlined: Vienna Jewish Museum Chided Over Nazi Loot”) caught my attention and my utter disbelief. It seems that the Jewish Museum of Vienna which was founded in 1988 BY JEWS, has been accused of dragging its feet on returning valuable articles looted by the Nazis during the war. The Jewish Museum of Vienna claims its situation is unique in that it has a dual mission to preserve the cultural heritage of the Jewish community of Vienna but also to return recovered objects to their rightful owners. In 1988 the Austrian Parliament passed a law requiring restitution for Jews whose property was plundered during the Nazis’ reign. The museum claims that part of the problem is funding. They just don’t have enough money to research the ownership of every item in their collection which is the repository for community which once had more than 185,000 Jews. And most of the objects have no identifying marks as to their ownership. I don’t have an answer but we, as a community need to help find one in the interest of justice.
COLUMN FOR March 28, 2013
We hope you all had a wonderful sedar and start to the Passover holiday. For the first time in many years we are blessed to have both of our children home for the holiday. While they were at Brandeis we had them home every year but for the past three years they have been away at law school and we have had to rely on the computer for their company. So for the first time in a while we had the chance to make Haroset together and we had their help in getting the house ready. Our haroset recipe has been on our website for a while but in honor of the kids return I thought I would look for a few new fruit recipes for Passover to add to the haroset. So we have added recipes for skillet based stewed fruit, fruit chutney, grilled or broiled fruit and like haroset even uncooked fruit macerated and Mexican style for a little more exotic flavor. I hope you will give it a try and on behalf of all of us at home we wish you all
A Zissen Pesach
COLUMN FOR March 21, 2013
Passover starts next Monday night, March 25, 2013 and this Shabbat March 23, 2013 is Shabbat HaGadol the great Shabbat. When the Temple still stood it was the practice to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover and arrive for the Shabbat before the festival. A later tradition involved the writing of Techinot, women’s supplications before Passover which were then recited over the Passover candles. They usually concerned childbirth and the health of the family. Today, I think the most common of the Techinot would be to give thanks for having the means to visit a Kosher for Passover resort and avoid all the work involved in getting the house ready for Passover–oy, where did we put those pots last year? And why should only women write these Techinot. How about this one: Dear Lord, thank you for the strength to climb the ladder to get the pots down from the attic and to carry the dishes up from the basement, and for the insurance policy which covers visits to the chiropractor for my back. Thank you Lord for enabling me to send airplane tickets to the children so that they could join us for this festive holiday, even though two of the three of them have jobs and are earning more than I do. Thank you for giving us the strength to remove all the chometz from the house, the car, the office. Maybe next year you could grant me the wisdom to remember to book the hotel in time? Amen! And may you all have
a Zissen v’Kosher Pesach
COLUMN FOR March 14, 2013
Passover will soon be here (first night, first seder is held this Monday night, March 25, 2013). On Passover we consume a great deal of wine. For years the French have claimed to be the ultimate authorities on wine making, especially that quintessential French wine, Chardonnay. However, according to Dr. Shivi Drori, the co-founder of Gayot Winery in the Shomron region of Israel, Chardonnay actually has its origin in Israel and that the Chardonnay grape was actually transplanted to France by Frankish crusaders who brought seeds back. The vineyard in Israel claims that the name Chardonnay actually comes from two Hebrew words meaning “gate (Sh’ar) of G-d (Adonai).” The winemakers claim that the indigenous grapes, grown in Israel, the land of their origin, actually tastes much better than its French transplants. That may be true, so I would suggest that we all do a little taste testing this Passover with a few cups of Israeli vintage. And if by the end of the night you can tell the difference, you didn’t have enough.
Have A Zissen Pesach
COLUMN FOR March 7, 2013
While we have a break between holidays I thought I would look around the world of archeology and see what’s new.
•The Israel Antiquities Authority and Google Israel launched the Dead Sea Scrolls digital library which includes some 4,000 scans of high definition images of the scroll fragments. Eventually all 10,000 scroll fragments will be online and available to the public. The images were taken with cameras originally developed by NASA. Not only that but a team from Tel Aviv University has started working on software that will make it possible to play with the fragments so as to reconfigure them, because no one knows if the researchers of 60 years ago, who put the texts together out of even smaller fragments, got it right, and there may be other ways of combining them. To see them go to http://www.deadseascrolls.org.il.
• And paleographer Ada Yardeni has announced his belief that several of the Dead Sea Scrolls were penned by the same hand that wrote several of the manuscripts found at Masada. This supports the theory that many who fled Qumran went to Masada in the final days of the revolt against Rome.
COLUMN FOR Feb. 28, 2013
Now that Purim is behind us can Passover be far behind. One of our good friends has written an interesting Haggadah which he is selling on the internet at www.rhyminghaggadah.com. As the name suggests, the entire Haggadah has been done in verse, some of which is very tongue in check and requires a sense of humor to appreciate. I thought it was very funny and enjoyable. It has all the highlights including the prayer over the wine (in its simplest one line form) and the matzoh, though not most of the full prayers and rituals in Hebrew. For that you need a more traditional Haggadah. But for fun it was one of the more enjoyable Haggadot I have ever read. I was particularly fond of his comment on the four kinds of sons: “....Although in Jewish families there are really only three The doctor, the lawyer and the PhD.” It reminds me of the story that Jackie Mason tells about smart Jewish sons being doctor’s, while the not-so-smart ones become lawyers and the rest become accountants. Whichever Haggadah you choose have a fun seder and from Robin and I to you and yours....
Have A Happy Passover
COLUMN FOR Feb. 21, 2013
This year Purim will be celebrated this Saturday night, February 23, 2012. This would seem to be very early for Purim but as you know all Jewish holidays are either early or late. And when they are this early a Jewish leap year can’t be far behind. We’ll stick in an extra month (28 days) to fix the “drift” and lo and behold the holidays will be late once again. But for now lets talk about Purim. I gave up the cookie dough vs. yeast dough battle two years ago and last year I gave up the fight against chocolate humantaschen. What’s next? The next thing I know you’ll be telling me they have developed rolls that are Kosher for Passover–they have: Uncle! Enough already. As Tevye would say: Tradition! Eh! So how about a new tradition for Purim. Several years ago I suggested that the shul should have an adult Purim party whenever Purim fell on a Saturday night. Have a masked ball, make the annual dinner dance a Purim party and I ultimately got nowhere. But I can understand the arguments about trying to do this in February and risking a snow storm in the northeast. I do recall, however, a few events in the early fall, well before snow season, which got wiped out by Super Storm Sandy. Perhaps there is no fool-proof time of year only a holiday to act the fool on. However you enjoy your Purim, have a great time.
And from Robin and I to you and yours...
COLUMN FOR Feb. 14, 2013
So last week I spoke about Abraham Lincoln in honor of his birthday and this week I want to talk about George Washington whose birthday is actually Feb. 22, 2013 but we commemorate it, along with Lincoln’s and all the other President’s on Monday, Feb. 18, 2013. So we all know that Washington was the “Father” of our country. But did you know he was also the father of the Mammoth Jackass? In Washington’s day, the jack donkeys were short in stature and did not have a lot of stamina. Washington imported donkeys from Spain and France in the hopes of solving this problem. When he didn’t find an appropriate donkey he bred one he had received from the Marquis deLafayette (a male jack) to his jennys (female donkey) and produced the first American line of Mammoth Jacks–a new breed of Jackass which was larger, stronger and had more stamina–just like Americans compared to Europeans. So Washington created the Mammoth Jackass and today Washington is full of them. Hope You Have A Great President's Day!
COLUMN FOR Feb 7, 2013
Next Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013 marks Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday. And though we no longer celebrate it as a separate holiday bundling it together with George Washington’s and all the other Presidents it is still worthy of note. Lincoln may well have been our most important President next to Washington–and Washington only because he refused the crown and set the model for all those to follow. But Lincoln gave us the most moving Presidential speech ever written and he did it in 271 words comprising 10 sentences in 3 paragraphs: The Gettysburg Address. With brevity and eloquence he set forth our creed: a nation dedicated to liberty and equality for all. He was dedicating a cemetery but noted that it was the blood of the fallen who had dedicated it and consecrated it more than anyone else could have, and that the hopes of those who gave, what Lincoln deemed their death to be, “the last full measure of devotion” so that “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” 271 words in 10 sentences, yet he beautifully captured the essence of the American Creed.
COLUMN FOR Jan 31, 2013
As you know Hugo Chavez has “won” a third term as President of Venezuela. Chavez has never been a friend to the West and has run hot and cold toward his own Jewish community. Currently persecution and attacks on Jewish institutions in Venezuela is on the rise while Chavez has been developing a relationship with Iran. And if that wasn’t bad enough Argentina seems to have discontinued efforts to investigate the 1984 terrorist attack on Jews in Buenos Aires while taking a meeting with Iran at the foreign ministerial level. This does not bode well for the Jews of South America. And if that weren’t bad enough Jews are also under attack in Sweden of all places. In September of 2012 the Jewish Center of Malmo Sweden was bombed. And though no one was hurt it marks a further escalation of violence against Jewish institutions. And the response of Swedish authorities has been described as tepid at best. This is real cause for concern yet India foiled an attack by three Muslim terrorists in October of 2012 and Canada, a staunch ally of Israel has broken off diplomatic relations with Iran concurrent with the Iran-Argentina meeting, and has closed its embassy in Tehran. I think the world is just getting to be a more dangerous place and its important to know who your friends and enemies really are.
COLUMN FOR Jan 24, 2013
In Europe today there is a little
publicized serious threat to Judaism. More and more European countries
are debating whether ritual circumcision as practiced by Jews and
Muslims should be permitted to continue or prohibited as harmful and
barbaric. In Hoff Germany, four German citizens filed a complaint with
the local prosecutor against Rabbi David Goldberg for performing ritual
circumcisions. As of yet, the authorities have not taken any action on
these complaints and it is unlikely that they will. Chancellor Merkel
has introduced legislation which will expressly permit circumcision to
continue. There are currently over 100,000 Jews living in Germany and
around 4 million Muslims. I suspect it is more likely a sign of
intolerance between secular and religious societies rather than an
anti-Jewish event. Meanwhile, Switzerland has enacted a ban on minarets
and France has prohibited women wearing veils covering women’s faces.
But the issue of circumcision goes to the core of both Jewish and Muslim
belief. In the U.S. baby boys are routinely circumcised for health
reasons and the World Health Organization has recommended it as a way to
reduce the spread of AIDS. It seems that Theodore Herzl was right
about us needing our own country.
COLUMN FOR Jan 17, 2013
Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday will be celebrated this coming Monday, January 21, 2013. The holiday commemorating Dr. King was signed into law at the White House in a Rose Garden ceremony on November 2, 1983 by President Ronald Reagan who signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor Dr. King. The holiday was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986, it is called Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. In 1992 President George H. W. Bush issued a proclamation, moving the observance of the holiday to the third Monday of January each year, near the time of King's birthday. On January 17, 2000, for the first time, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was officially observed in all fifty U.S. states. Dr. King was one of the great leaders of the Civil Rights movement and I would like to think that had he lived, race relations in this country would have been much better than they are and we would have gotten there sooner. Dr. King, you will be remembered.
COLUMN FOR JAN 10, 2013
There is a controversy raging over a scrap of papyrus from the fourth century which, according to the New York Times, includes the phrase “Jesus said to them, My wife...” Later on the text seems to continue “...she will be able to be my disciple.” The text is written in Coptic which is an Egyptian written language of the period. And what does this mean to us as Jews and to our Christian friends? How should we react to this startling discovery. I doubt very much that this scrap will prove to be an earth shattering discovery or that it will ever be proven to be accurate nor will there ever be any consensus on its meaning. In the end, matters of faith are just that, matters of faith. You either believe or you don’t. I, as a Jew, certainly do not believe in Jesus as the savior but I do understand that there may well have been a man by that name in that time and place who has had a profound impact on humanity and on Judaism as well. My studies have taught me that the period we are discussing cannot be understood simply from the available texts but must also be understood as a dialectic, an argument about how humanity was created and what humanity should believe. The argument was between two great belief systems of the age Judaism/Christianity vs. Paganism with Paganism the loser. Some would say Judaism too lost but we are still here. Will this scrap of papyrus change the outcome? Certainly not. Will it change the Catholic Church or the Christian faith–that is another question which only they can resolve. As a Jew I find it unlikely that a Rabbi of the first century in his 20's who went around the country preaching was unmarried; but then again its certainly possible.
COLUMN FOR JAN 3, 2013
Now that the New Year has begun I thought I would check out what’s
been going on in the world of archeology. In a recent edition of the
New York Times Magazine there was an interesting story of the return of a
piece of a marble column taken from Corinth, Greece 40 years ago, and
finally returned. By removing the piece from the site, the person had
deprived the historical artifact of what archeologists call its
provenance. Knowing where an ancient object came from, how it was
situated, etc. helps archeologists date the piece and determine its
historical significance, if any. Even today, many historical sites are
in remote locations with minimal security. When coalition forces
invaded Iraq much of the museum in Baghdad was looted and while most of
the objects have been returned all of them have not. I am very proud of
the 2000 year old oil lamp which sits in my collection but before I
purchased it, it was documented in site and catalogued. I don’t know if
any of the Jerusalem Rabbi’s who wrote the Talmud studied by its
light–I’d like to think so–but I am glad to know I have not deprived the
world of knowledge about our past.
COLUMN FOR DEC. 27, 2012
As the secular year draws to a close I thought I would look back, as I have in the past, on the famous and infamous who have left us during the past year:
Larry Hagman most famously known as J.R. Ewing from the hit TV show “Dallas.” He was dreaming of Jeannie long before he was drilling for oil, yet both roles brought him gold.
Neil Armstrong, the first man to step foot on the moon. He really took the next step into the unknown.
Jerry Nelson, the puppeteer on “Sesame Street,” who taught millions to count as the voice of “The Count.”
Phyllis Diller, revolutionary comedian, who paved the way for other female comedians. It is said she died peacefully in her sleep with a smile on her face.
Maurice Sendak, who knew where the wild things were. He was a friend to millions of children.
Dick Tufeld, the actor who said those immortal words: “Danger Will Robinson.”
And Marvin Hamlisch, composer of so many songs that made up the soundtrack of our age.
COLUMN FOR DEC. 20, 2012
This Sunday (erev Saturday night) is the
10th day of the Hebrew month of Tevet. That is to say the 10th day of
the 10th month. It is a minor fast day on the Jewish calendar and
always falls 7 or 8 days after Hanukah. The fast commemorates the start
of the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia. The siege
ultimately ended with the fall of Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah as
well as the destruction of the first Temple in 586 b.c.e.. We
commemorate the destruction of the Temple itself on the 9th of Av (one
year and 7 months later). Other calamities have been associated with
this period including; the death of Ezra the Scribe who brought the
Jewish community back to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile; and the
translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, called the Septuagint. (72
sages were placed in isolation and given the task to translate the
Hebrew–all 72 are said to have made the exact same translation which was
hailed as miraculous and a defeat for the Egyptian King who ordered the
translation.) It is a minor fast day starting at sunrise and
concluding at nightfall with no other restrictions. And next year, on
December 13, 2013 the 10th of Tevet will fall on a Friday and result in a
Torah and Haftarah reading during the afternoon, Mincha service, right
before Shabbat. This is a rare event. The last times it happened were
on Dec. 17, 2010, Jan. 5, 2001 and Dec. 20, 1996. Hope you have an easy
COLUMN FOR DEC 13, 2012
Chanukah is almost at an end so I have one question?; where did latkes come from? According to Faye Levy, author of 1,000 Jewish Recipes (Hungry Minds Inc., 2000), potatoes were unknown in the land of Israel at the time of the Maccabees. In point of fact it was Spanish Conquistadors who went to South America looking for gold and silver who found the potato and took it back to Spain (yellow gold potatoes maybe?) English explorers brought the potato back to England, but it took awhile to catch on. Ireland became famous for potatoes due to the cool rainy weather, until a blight in 1845 devastated the crop. An acre of potatoes can feed four times as many people as an acre of wheat or rye so its very nutritious. During WWI American soldiers in Belgium bought a fried potato snack and called them French Fries, even though they were in Belgium; what, “Belgium Fries” doesn’t sound good? Europeans thought that potatoes were not fit to eat as they belonged to the nightshade family of plants–then again so do tomatoes and eggplant and the Italians had no trouble with either. In Germany, potato pancakes are called kartoffelpuffers and are served with applesauce and sour cream–the way my wife likes them. And however you like yours...
Robin and I wish you and yours a
COLUMN FOR DEC. 6, 2012
WE SHEP NACHAS
On Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012 my wife and I had the pleasure of seeing our “children” sworn in to the practice of law at the state-wide swearing-in ceremony in Trenton before the Justices of the Supreme Court and the judges of the federal bench in N.J.. It was a great day for all of us and for all the newly minted attorneys and their families. Congratulations to you all and Mazel Tov!
It is interesting that the swearing-in is followed by our celebration of the Chanukah holiday which starts this Saturday night. At the time of the Hasmonean revolt Judea had been part of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt. About the year 200 b.c.e. King Antiochus III of Syria defeated King Ptolemy V Epiphanes of Egypt at the Battle of Panium and Judea became part of the Seleucid Empire of Syria. The king allowed his Jewish subjects to continue practicing their religion. His son, however, had another view. Some believe that there was a civil war going on between the traditionalists and the Hellenizers and the king intervened on the side of the Hellenizing faction. Around 175 b.c.e. Antiochus IV Epiphanes invaded Judea and in 167 b.c.e. ordered an alter to Zeus erected in the Temple in Jerusalem, banned circumcision and ordered pigs to be sacrificed in the Temple. By 166 b.c.e. Judea was in open revolt and by 165 b.c.e. the Jews defeated the Seleucids and restored the rule of Torah law to the land. So Chanukah also celebrates the end of the rule of the emperor and the restoration of the rule of law. So it really was appropriate to swear-in our new lawyers at this time of year.
Happy Chanukah To All
–Especially To All Our New Attorneys
COLUMN FOR NOV. 29, 2012
Chanukah falls on Dec. 8, 2012 this year and we light the first Chanukah candle after the conclusion of Shabbat on Saturday night. And of course, we also celebrate by eating things fried in oil to remind us of the miracle of the oil found in the Temple which was only enough for one night yet it burned for eight, just enough time to find and return to the Temple with properly consecrated oil to rekindle the lamp stand (and you thought I was going to say Menorah) on the alter in the Temple. So if you want a great latke recipe go to our website at www.rosschapels.com where I’ve posted Robin’s latke recipe but fair warning they are wicked good and hard to stop eating. The secret, which we will share with you, is that she grates the potatoes by hand–no food processor or other electric device. It gives the latkes that extra special ingredient–some would say love–I think it could also be some skin, maybe a little blood–that grater can really hurt. Just kidding. You can also try my nut horn recipe, also on our website. Nut horns are also a Chanukkah treat and my favorite cookie. You could also just buy some fried donuts but where is the fun in that. However you celebrate the holiday and however many gifts you get here’s wishing you and yours a
From Robin and Mark
Happy Thanksgiving To You And Yours!
COLUMN FOR NOV. 22, 2012
Today is Thanksgiving day so I thought I should write about the early settlers of our adopted home. We all know the story of the Pilgrims and their flight to escape religious persecution in Europe–it’s a very Jewish story, though the principal actors are not Jewish, or are they? Certainly the Pilgrims were not Jewish and they were left in MA. on a swindle–they were supposed to go to a colony in the milder climate to the south such as Virginia. But what about the Indians, particularly Pocahantas, the Indian Princess whose efforts saved the earlier settlers in Virginia’s Jamestown settlement. Pocahontas was the daughter of a Chief and deemed herself a princess. She thought her father ruled the world, and he could deny her nothing, even the head of that blond Englishman, John Smith. (Whom she did not marry.) She went away from home promising to return but really looking to dance at a ball, maybe even in a Palace. In fact she went to England as a captive, changed her name from Matoaka to Rebecca, converted to Christianity and married tobacco planter John Rolfe. She even attended a masque ball at Whitehall Palace in 1616 with her husband. She did finally try and return home in 1617 but died at Gravesend and was buried in a Church cemetery there. Her son, Thomas Rolf, did return to Virginia and though not Jewish, their descendants include many members of the first families of Virginia, first ladies Edith Wilson and Nancy Reagan, and who knows, maybe a Jew or two can number her as one of their ancestors.
COLUMN FOR NOV. 15, 2012
(To make up for the delay in posting the Nov. 1, 2012 column here is an advance look at next week's column)
Next Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012 we celebrate the American holiday of Thanksgiving. But did you know that the roots of the pilgrims' celebration actually is derived from our Sukkot celebration? The pilgrims, after spending years living amongst the Sephardic Jews in Holland, learning about Jewish holidays and rituals like the Sukkot holiday and thinking themselves the "new Israel" escaping the religious persecution like the ancient Jews escaped Egypt, celebrated their deliverance with their first harvest festival. While turkey and corn were not dishes usually eaten for Sukkot in Holland, yams or sweet potatoes and acorn squash may have been. So here is Robin's Grandma Dora's Sweet Potato recipe which I have also posted on the recipe page of this website along with my acorn squash recipe (which is also good for diabetics): Take the sweet potatoes (or yams), unpeeled, and boil them till cooked but firm. Remove from water and peel once cooled. Dip the peeled sweet potatoes in orange juice and then roll them in a mixture of crushed corn flakes and brown sugar. Place them in a greased baking dish and dot with Crisco. Bake at 350 degrees till crispy (approximately 30-40 minutes).
COLUMN FOR NOV. 8, 2012
This year, Veterans Day, which is
commemorated on Nov. 11, 2012 each year, falls on Sunday so we
celebrate the holiday on Monday, Nov. 12, 2012. But did you ever wonder
why Veterans Day is celebrated on a fixed day and not on a day like
“the second Monday in November,” as other federally created holidays
are? Veterans Day was originally Armistice Day, a holiday honoring
armed service veterans on the anniversary of the signing of the
Armistice that ended World War I. (Major hostilities of WWI were
formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in
1918.) Which is why Veterans Day falls on Nov. 11. And remember that
Veterans Day celebrates the service of all US military veterans unlike
Memorial Day which honors the memory of those who died while serving in
uniform. The first Armistice Day was celebrated on Nov. 11, 1919 by
proclamation of Pres. Woodrow Wilson. A Congressional Act was passed in
May of 1938 establishing Nov. 11 as a day dedicated to the cause of
world peace. On June 1, 1954 the Act was amended to rename it Veterans
Day. In 1971 the Uniform Monday Holiday Act would have moved Veterans
Day to the 4th Monday in October but in 1978 it was moved back to its
original date, except when it falls on a Saturday or Sunday and then its
observed on either the Friday before or the Monday after. Who knew
Veterans Day acted like the other Jewish holidays.
COLUMN FOR NOV. 1, 2012
(with my apology for the delay in posting this weeks column. The Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy knocked out our power and thus our internet until last night when, thankfully, the power was restored. Our hopes and prayers go out to all who are still struggling with the storm's aftermath. Thankfully our funeral homes in Chatham and Whippany were unaffected by the storm and we never lost power in either facility and in Springfield we only lost power. So, without further delay, here is the column for November 1, 2012:)
I have two things I want to remind you about. The first is that
daylight savings time ends this Sunday so remember to move your clocks
back one hour and secondly, election day is Tuesday. I won’t voice an
opinion about who to vote for but please vote. We all must participate
in our democratic process if we expect to enjoy the liberty that comes
from democracy–and remember, if you don’t vote you can’t complain about
the outcome. So in honor of election day here are a few stories:
If you think our Congress is a bunch of greedy...(expletive) you
should look at the 42nd Congress of 1873. They voted themselves a 50
percent salary increase and then made it retroactive for two years.
the best was a constitutional amendment proposed by Congressman Victor
Berger of Wisconsin in 1911 to abolish the Senate, calling it an
“...obstructive and useless body, a menace to the liberties of the
people, and an obstacle to social growth.” The amendment was quietly
quashed. Oh Well!
And I still think it’s a good idea to vote.
And for all of
you parents and grandparents out there with college grads still looking
for that special someone please check out the group Novat on Facebook
which my daughter is forming. While the name is an homage to the
singles group I started back in the day, she is trying to recreate it
for her peers. The first event will be on November 8. There should be
an ad in this paper somewhere or just send me an email and I’ll forward
it to her.
COLUMN FOR October 25, 2012.
Next week in America we celebrate a very important holiday–at least to the children. (I won’t comment about what it does to our dog or what it did to my waistline.) And in the past I have often reminded our readers that the gothic horror story is really a Jewish one–i.e. that Frankenstein is really an adaptation of the story of the Golum while the Exorcist is a Catholic version of the Dybbuk. But this year an even more important event is observed on October 31, 2012, the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass. The beginning of a real horror story–the Holocaust. Kristallnacht was a pogrom, an attack throughout Germany on the Jews which took place on the evening of Nov. 9, 1938. The attack left the streets covered in broken glass from the windows of Jewish owned stores and synagogues. At least 91 Jews were killed and 30,000 Jews were arrested. Jewish homes and institutions were ransacked while over 1,000 synagogues were burned. There was a pretext for the attack, the assassination of a German diplomat, Ernst vonRath by Herschel Grynszpan, a German-born Polish Jew living in Paris, France. But this was nothing more than a pretext to begin the Nazi campaign to eradicated Europe’s Jews. Fortunately, like all the plots against our people, it failed. Hope your little ones never have to encounter the real monsters.
And for a sign of hope check out the following video on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIq9d-gC91U about a group of Germans on the March of the Living broadcast on Israeli Channel 10 T.V.. Its in Hebrew with English subtitles and is quite amazing. Maybe there is hope yet.
COLUMN FOR OCT. 18, 2012
There was a recent article in The New York Times concerning the Palestinian village of Battir in the West Bank, near Bethlehem. It seems that the village is still using a Roman-era irrigation system to water their crops, planted along an agricultural terrace which they claim has worked for centuries using natural springs located on the land. The water flows down the side of a mountain into a deep valley where a section of the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway, built during the Ottomon rule, is situated. The area is dotted with tombs and ruins upon ruins of past civilizations. The villagers are trying to apply to UNESCO to have the area declared a World Heritage Site. Doing so would also work to block the installation, by Israel, of a section of the security wall. The villagers have also petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to have the barrier rerouted. I have long been in favor of preserving humanity's cultural heritage and have objected to the destruction of historical sites throughout the globe. There is just no reason to destroy historical sites. But remember that what is good for one should be good for the other. I did not hear anyone from the Palestinian side crying when the Muslim Religious Authority excavated on the Temple Mount and simply threw dirt from the excavation into the Kidron Valley. You can't have it both ways--oh, and we would all be better off without your suicide bombers and other terrorists too.
COLUMN FOR OCT. 11, 2012
I keep bumping into old friends from my days in BBYO (B’nai B’rith Youth Organization) and Novat (the B’nai B’rith singles’ group I started to help myself and others find a spouse). We all remarked about how much fun we had “back in the day.” And I thought to myself, why did it have to stop? So, along with a few of us “old-timers,” we started talking about getting the group back together. At the same time, we thought we could help revitalize B’nai B’rith. Over the years B’nai B’rith has lost a great many members and is no longer the group I remember growing up, but it still serves a purpose and I would hope we can use it to strengthen our community
and have some fun too. We are going to have our first good, old-fashioned house party (remember those “socials” ?) this Sunday, Oct. 14, at a home in Springfield (not mine). If you’re interested, give me a call and I’ll let you know where. There will be the Jets vs. Colts on the big screen, food (kosher, of course), and fun. Why wait for a reunion — we can do these the way we used to. You can also check us out on our Facebook page at “BBNJ Alumni.”
COLUMN FOR OCT. 4, 2012
Monday we celebrate Columbus Day and its also Shemini Atzeret a day we recite the yizkor prayer. It is a solemn day marking the end of Sukkot but Monday night we celebrate receiving the Torah at Sinai with the start of Simchat Torah. So instead of a Sukkah project to do with the children and grandchildren, how about a paper Torah. To make a paper Torah you will need plastic or paper straws, white paper (legal size), crayons, markers, scissors, tape, colored paper and ribbon or yarn. Cut a long strip of paper 4" high. Tape each end to the middle of a straw and roll up. Tie with a piece of ribbon or yarn. Cut a strip of colored paper big enough to fit around the Torah. Draw designs on the paper and then tape the edges together. Who knows, you may find that your child or grandchild is a potential artist. And remember, there is a connection between Columbus and the Jews of Spain. Many believe that his crew consisted of a great many Marranos, secret Jews evading the edict of expulsion.
So from Robin and I to You And Yours
Hag Sameach–Have A Good Holiday
COLUMN FOR SEPT. 27, 2012
This Sunday is Erev Succot when we celebrate the harvest. In the past I have provided instructions for a craft project to do with your children or grandchildren celebrating the holiday but I think this year I just want to reflect on endings and beginnings. I remember fondly growing the tomatoes and other vegetables in my parents backyard. I was not a great farmer–I hated to bend down to weed, etc. but there was nothing like a fresh Jersey tomato on a slice of bread or a bagel with cream cheese, even without the lox. But by the time we hit Succot you really knew that the summer was over, fall had begun and the last vestige of the summer, the sweet taste of fresh tomatoes, was drawing to a close. Fall is in full swing and winter will soon be here. So enjoy the harvest, eat plenty of tomatoes not to mention apples and honey and enjoy a bit of time outdoors before the winter.
And from Robin and I to you and yours
Chag Sameach–Have A Good Holiday
COLUMN FOR SEPT. 20, 2012
In the past at this time of year I have always told the story of the man who had herring for breakfast on Yom Kippur and then pleaded with the Rabbi to let him have a drink of water. So even though I love that story, I thought it was time for a new tale or two:
Here’s one from a student newspaper: “Wanted, six foot male to accompany little old Jewish woman to shul on Yom Kippur. Answers to the initials A.M.R., signed–his mother.”
Then there is the story of the Rabbi who went out on Rosh HaShana afternoon to play a quick 9 holes of golf and was having the best round ever. Moshe, looking down from heaven called out to haShem–how could he allow it? And haShem said to Moshe–but who can he tell?
Nah–I still like the schmaltz herring story best.
Wishing you and yours a Tsom Kal, an easy fast.
Robin and Mark Ross
Don’t forget to stop by and pick-up a copy of our new wall or desk calendars or our "Prayers and Meditations When Visiting The Grave" brochure, at our Springfield or Chatham locations
COLUMN FOR SEPT. 13, 2012
Our sages tell us that one year the land was afflicted with a drought. So the king opened his vaults to help the people. His family unanimously arose in opposition to his magnanimous gesture shouting that his forefathers had expended much effort to accumulate his vast wealth and who was he to squander it. The king replied; “my fathers have gathered a treasure on earth, stored it without profit in an unsafe place while I am storing a treasure in Heaven, secure in the benefit to my people and invested in their well-being. I will have a fortune in Olam-haBa, the world to come.” As this New Year begins, may we all be permitted to serve our people and to build up our treasure in the world-to-come and blessings in this one.
Robin and I wish each of you a
A Happy And Healthy New Year
And don’t forget to stop by an pick-up a copy of our new wall or desk calendars, or our Prayers pamphlet for visiting the graves of your loved ones at our Springfield or Chatham locations.
COLUMN FOR SEPT. 6, 2012
Selichot are penitential prayers which we say beginning the week before Rosh HaShana. We have said these prayers as supplications to G-d to forgive us our sins throughout the past year. I was recently on YouTube and was astounded by the number of video clips posted under the search term Selichot. I expected a few clips of the Kotel (the western retaining wall of the Temple mount) but there are clips of Selichot services from Jerusalem and around the world. From Australia and Belz Russia, from famous Hazzans and not so famous Hazzans. The audio is, in some cases, breathtaking as are some of the vistas. I am always moved by images of our people praying at the Kotel but when the audio is so moving it is just remarkable. Take a look and a listen, you too may be moved as I was. And with thanks to all those around the world who sent in those videos to share and to all my readers
K’siva V’chasima Tova
A good writing and sealing in the book of life
Calendars and Prayers and Meditations When Visiting The Grave Now Available
Ross’ Shalom Chapels is proud to be able to provide our community with our new publication: Prayers and Meditations When Visiting The Grave, in addition to our Jewish Appointment Wall and Desk calendars for 5773. It is customary during the Hebrew month of Elul, which begins at sundown on Saturday, August 18, to visit the graves of our loved ones and to say prayers in their memory. We have included; the 23rd Psalm, Mourner’s Kaddish, the Yizkor prayers, the El Moleh Rachamim and several meditations. You can stop by our funeral homes in Springfield or Chatham to pick-up a copy before visiting the cemetery along with one of our calendars for the new year. Why wait for September! You can also order a calendar online by pressing the calendar tab at the top of the page and completing the form. This way, you can start writing your fall appointments in the calendar immediately. If you would like some calendars or the Prayers and Meditations publication for your synagogue or organization just send me an email and we will be happy to take care of it.
COLUMN FOR August 30, 2012
This weekend marks the official end of the summer with Labor Day being celebrated on Monday. Robin and I hope you have had a great summer and are looking forward to the start of a new year (school, Jewish, etc.). For us, it also marks the anniversary of the start of Ross’ Shalom Chapels. But it’s also the last chance for some summer fun. So here are a few jokes which I hope you will enjoy in honor of Labor Day:
• Why do we call it “Labor Day” if most people don’t work on it–shouldn’t it be “no labor day?”
• 1/7th of your work is done on Monday but only one person ever managed to get his work done by Friday– Robinson Crusoe.
• Harry Truman said: “It’s a recession when your neighbor losses his job but a depression when you lose your own.”
So don’t forget to have a hot dog, go for a swim, eat some ice cream (though not with the hot dog) and enjoy the day–remember its back to work on Tuesday.
And From Robin and I
Have A Happy Labor Day
COLUMN FOR August 23, 2012
The Hebrew month of Elul is now in full swing. It is customary during this time to visit the graves of our loved ones in anticipation of the New Year. Such visits are intended to foster a sense of continuity through the generations that came before us, our generation, and those who will come after us: our children, grandchildren, etc. Our tradition also imagines that our late relatives will function as intercessors wit the Almighty on our behalf. To that end I have prepared a set of prayers and meditations you can use when visiting the cemetery. If you would like a copy, please feel free to stop by any of our funeral homes or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to send you one.
And from Robin and I:
"K'siva v'chasima tova"
--"May your name be written and sealed
for good in the Book of Life"
COLUMN FOR August 16, 2012
This Shabbat is Rosh Hodesh Elul, the start of the Hebrew month when we begin to prepare for the High Holidays. I know that it is the middle of the summer, but for those who attend the daily minyan we begin to blow the shofar in preparation (or practice) for the coming holidays. The shofar is the oldest symbol of the Jewish people. One Midrash tells us that the shofar was blown at the creation of the world and again at the Exodus from Egypt. We blew the shofar when Israeli troops liberated the Western retaining wall of our ancient Temple. And we have continued to blow the shofar every year on Rosh HaShana to mark the start of the new year and on Yom Kippur to mark the close of the holiday. And in Israel, as well as some communities in the U.S. we blow the shofar to alert everyone to the coming of Shabbat. We have chosen to display a Shofar in our funeral homes to remind us of the sound of the shofar as a herald of the passing of our loved ones. Too bad I’m unable to blow the shofarot we have. (I have a small shofar at home with an oval mouth opening which I can blow, though not well, according to my family). The ones in the funeral home are beautiful Yemenite polished shofarot with round mouth openings, which is fine if you learned to play a brass instrument as a kid, unfortunately, I played drums growing up–no help but it did give my parents many a headache.
COLUMN FOR August 9, 2012
As the summer continues, many of our children and grandchildren are away at summer camp and some are learning about Native American lore and skills. Growing up my father (of blessed memory) used to tell the story about the Jewish summer camp he once wrote advertisements for with the caption: “Who Needs Jewish Indians.” Well, it seems that a New Mexico Indian Pueblo had a governor who was, in fact, a Jewish Indian. Solomon Bibo was a Jewish immigrant from Prussia whose father was a cantor and who immigrated to the U.S. in 1869. He opened a trading post atop a mesa and married a native American woman from the Acoma Pueblo, making him a member of the tribe and a Jewish Indian. He was elected governor of the Pueblo (equivalent to tribal chief). Later he and his wife moved to San Francisco, joined the Ohabei Shalom Synagogue and celebrated their oldest sons’ bar mitzvah at that shul. Both Solomon and his wife are buried in a Jewish cemetery. So it seems there are Jewish Indians after all.
COLUMN FOR August 2, 2012
So its now the middle of the summer and there are no holidays in sight. I even looked ahead and the Jewish holidays are right in the middle of September so they are on time for a change. I thought I would take a look at Israel again and all some of the contributions it has made to the world:
In Chemistry Dan Schechtman discovered Quasicrystals and Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover (along with American Jewish biologist Irwin Rose) discovered role of the protein Ubiquitin. All received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
In medicine Israel has created the world’s smallest video camera designed to fit in a tiny endoscope and the “Pillcam,” the first Capsule endoscopy. Israel has developed a drug for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, Copaxone immunomodualtor. Israel also developed the Interferon protein and a drug which received approval from the U.S.F.D.A. for the treatment of Type 1 Gaucher’s disease–a Jewish genetic disease.
And the number of inventions in the area of defense, not surprisingly, goes on and on. From the Uzi submachine gun to the Arrow anti-ballistic missile system to the Lavi fighter jet, the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and the Iron Dome air defense system, as well as others.
What a country!
COLUMN FOR JULY 26, 2012
This Sunday, July 29 is Tisha B’Av (erev Sat. July 28) the commemoration of the tragedies which have befallen our people on 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av. (The 9th of Av actually falls on Shabbat this year but we move the commemoration to the next day so as not to diminish the Sabbath.) It is a fast day to commemorate the five calamities and others which are believed to have occurred on this day:
• The report of the 12 spies sent by Moses
• The destruction of the first Temple in 586 b.c.e. 9 Av 3175)
• The destruction of the second Temple (in August, 70 c.e., 9 Av 3830)
• The Roman defeat of Bar Kokhba’s revolt and the destruction of the city of Betar, July 8, 132 c.e. (9 Av 3892)
• The Roman destruction of the Temple mount following the destruction of the Temple. 133 c.e. (9 Av 3893)
• The First Crusade declared by Pope Urban II on July 20, 1095 (9 Av 4855)
• The Expulsion of the Jews from England on July 25, 1290 (9 Av 5050)
• The expulsion of the Jews from Spain on July 31, 1492. (9 Av 5252)
• The start of WWI on Aug. 1, 1914 (9 Av 5674)
• The mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka on July 23, 1942 (9 Av 5702).
We hope you have an easy fast
AN UPDATE ON MY JULY 12, COLUMN ABOUT the Presbyterian Church (USA):
It seems that the motion to divest assets from Israeli companies by the Presbyterian Church's Social Witness Committee has been defeated--sort of. The motion was altered to encourage investment in companies which seek to promote participation amongst Christians, Jews and Muslims, and build Palestinian infrastructure. The vote was close (369-290) and it may be that the "hate mongers" were defeated--this time. But it was a close vote nevertheless. I will keep an eye out as we all should. These attempts to delegitimize Israel will continue and we must all be ever vigilant--it is, after all, the price of freedom.
COLUMN FOR JULY 19, 2012
So while we have some time before the next holiday I thought I would take a look and see what’s going on in the world of Archeology in Israel. The summer dig season has begun in earnest and many young students are scattered all through Israel and the middle east. Hopefully, some of them will make some new discoveries that enhance our understanding of our history. In the meantime, Mark R. Fairchild, reported in the July/August issue of Biblical Archaeology Review that he believes he has discovered two of the world’s earliest synagogues buried amid rubble in modern day Turkey at Korykos and at Catiὂren. Along the inner wall at the castle at Korykos the lintel clearly depicts a menorah, a common symbol used to denote a synagogue. It was well known that ancient Cilicia had a sizeable Jewish population attested to by ancient literary sources. During the Roman period Korykos was an important harbor and trading center and was near Tarsus as well. So was Catiὂren where a door lintel bearing a Menorah was also found along with inscriptions referring to “Sabbath Keepers” and synagogues. It is interesting that some of the proofs actually came from Christian literary sources as well as Roman records of the period. Sometimes you just have to look outside your community to find out what’s going on within it.
COLUMN FOR JULY 12, 2012
I recently read that the Presbyterian Church (USA) is at it again. Its social witness committee has endorsed a divestment resolution concerning companies in Israel. They claim that “Israel’s laws, policies, and practices constitute apartheid against the Palestinian people....” But if you are going to recommend divestment why not go all the way and boycott. And while you are at it stop using all products produced by Israel, not just the foodstuffs that you probably don’t eat anyway. Let’s make it a really meaningful act–GIVE UP YOUR CELL PHONE! That’s right, your cell phone. The cell phone was actually invented in Israel by Motorola. And while your giving up your cell phone you also should give up your personal computer. Intel Israel changed the face of the computing world with the 8088 processor (the “brain” of the first PC), MMX and Centrino mobile technology. So that would include your desktop and your laptop computers. And don’t worry about the data on your USB flash drive–you can’t use that either, it was invented in Israel. Shall we look at the medicines you take? Probably not a good idea for your health. Are there problems in the middle east? Yes. Does calling Israel an “apartheid state” and encouraging divestment from the only functional democracy in the region help? No. Perhaps encouraging democracy in the other Arab countries would be more beneficial.
COLUMN FOR JULY 5, 2012
This Sunday (erev Saturday night) we commemorate the fast of the 17th day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz and begin a three week mourning period. This is a dawn to dusk fast unlike that of major fast days like Yom Kippur. We commemorate several (5) calamities which befell our people; the breaking of the two tablets which Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai, the termination of the daily tamid offering, the breaching of the walls in Jerusalem prior to its destruction, the placement of an idol in the Temple by the Romans and the burning of a Torah scroll in the Temple by Apostomus. In U.S. history some surprising things also occurred on this date; The issuance of the Declaration of Independence (passed July 4, 1776 but issued the next day), the surrender at Vicksburg in 5623 (July 4, 1863 but July 5, this year) and the withdrawal of southern troops from PA. Though, like most things, whether these were calamities or not I suppose depends on ones point of view. If you were British in 1776 (or a loyalist) or a southerner in 1863 I suppose they were all calamities. It’s a short fast anyway–hope you have an easy one.
COLUMN FOR JUNE 28, 2012
Next Wednesday is July 4 and in honor of the founding of our nation I thought I would look into the of pledge of allegiance to the flag and the nation for which it stands. The Pledge was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy. It was created as part of the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America. It started off as a way to sell flags and instill “Americanism” into schools and school children. The original Pledge read:
I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Bellamy and others obtained the support from the National Education Association for the recitation of the Pledge in schools for the Columbus Day observance. By 1892 President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation making the public school flag ceremony the center of Columbus Day celebrations.
It has been modified several times since 1892 with the last modification by the Presidential Proclamation of President Eisenhower who, in 1954, added under God
. to the Pledge which now reads:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
And from Robin and I to your and yours
–have a great Independence Day
COLUMN FOR JUNE 21, 2012
Summer has finally blossomed and today is its first full day. Hopefully, the pollen count will drop and we will all be able to breath a little easier. So now that the sneezing is over I thought I would look around and see what progress has been going on with medicine and Israel:
GE has invested in the company that created the “pill colonoscopy.” GE has invested NIS 170 million and acquired 5 percent of the company’s shares. The swallowable imaging capsule is an x-ray source capable of providing a total 3-dimensional view of the colon for early cancer detection. A 2014 market launch in Europe is expected first and U.S. approval thereafter. I’m waiting.
And then there is Ambrosia-Sup Herb, a Galilee based vitamin company which produces Kosher supplements and has established a formidable presence in the North American vitamin market. Founded in 1986 it is Israel’s second largest vitamin company. They also market a line of biblical aromatic herbs. (Should we tell the girls from TV’s GCB?)
COLUMN FOR JUNE 14, 2012
This Sunday is Father’s Day. A day when we get to show all our father’s how much we appreciate them. But does anyone know where the holiday came from? Actually, on July 5, 1908 in Fairmont, West Virginia, the first celebration of fathers took place. (1908 also marked the first celebration of Mother’s Day.) In 1910 another celebration of Father’s Day took place in Spokane, Washington. A bill was introduced in Congress in 1913 which did not pass even though President Woodrow Wilson spoke in favor of it. In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge also recommended that the day be observed by the nation but issued no proclamation. In 1957 Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers while honoring mothers for the previous 40 years to no avail. It was not until President Johnson issued a proclamation in 1966 that fathers were officially honored and it was finally made a permanent national holiday in 1972 when President Richard Nixon signed a bill into law making the third Sunday in June “Father’s Day.” Which just goes to show that having the vote first did not get us honored first.
And From One Father To All You Fathers Out There
Hope you have a great Father's Day
COLUMN FOR JUNE 7, 2012
As many of you who are regular readers of my column know I was a major comic book fan growing up. Mostly a DC fan I sometimes strayed into the Marvel Universe but my favorite was and remains Superman. And everyone knows that Superman was the creation of two Jews, Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster, but did you know that most of the comic book industry was also created by Jews? It would be hard to tell because many of the creators of comic books changed their names as was the practice in the ‘30's and ‘40's to avoid anti-semitism. And most of these men were the sons of eastern European immigrants who had been raised in New York City. You could say that all the super-heros of the comics were in fact Jewish since their parents were Jewish. Bob Kane who created Batman was Robert Kahn, Joel Simon and Jack Kirby created Captain Marvel but Kirby was born Jacob Kurtzberg. Stan Lee of Spiderman, the Hulk and Marvel fame was born Stanley Martin Lieber. Al Capp was born Alfred Gerald Caplin and he created Li’l Abner. Harvey Kurtzman who created Mad Comics (which became Mad Magazine, my wife’s favorite) had a stable of Jewish artists. The themes in many of the comics were Jewish themes in the Golden Age of the industry (1933-1955) with good always triumphant over evil. There was no moral ambiguity in those comics. Unfortunately, today, our world is ripe with it.
COLUMN FOR MAY 31, 2012
With the passing of Memorial Day this past Monday, the summer
vacation season soon begins. I know that summer will not actually be
here until June 20 this year but most people begin to plan their summer
vacations now so I thought I would make a few suggestions. I was
reading the AAA news and found an interesting article about our National
Parks. Like the author, my idea of “roughing it” is a hotel without
room service. But I do have quite a few friends who venture out into
the woods as I did in my days as a Cub and Boy Scout. And our national
parks are a great place to do so. Our parks have wonders not found
elsewhere in the world. You all know about the Presidents on Mt.
Rushmore, Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Geyser and, of course, The Grand
Canyon. But did you know Encounters of the Third Kind
Ford’s 1939 classic, starring John Wayne, Stagecoach
, both were filmed in Monument
Valley, Utah. And how about the smallest national park in the country
right in Springfield, N.J.. On Morris Avenue in front of the
Springfield Presbyterian Church is the revolutionary war monument which
sits on grounds dedicated as a National Park. Take a look, they all
have something unique to offer. And have a good summer vacation.
COLUMN FOR MAY 24, 2012 (with my apology for posting this column late)
This Saturday night begins the holiday of
Shavuot with Memorial Day falling on Monday as well. Shavuot is known
by many names, reflecting its historical and agricultural significance.
Remember that in ancient Israel we were really an agricultural
society. The holiday is known as Chag HaShavuot, the festival of weeks
because it is celebrated seven weeks after Passover. It is also known
as Zman matan Toratenu, the time of the giving of the Torah and we read
the parsha involving Moses and the 10 comandements on Mt. Sinai. It is
also known as Atzeret, the closing festival because it is considered
the end of the Passover, the Exodus from Egypt, as the Exodus was for
the purpose of receiving the Torah. It is also known as Chag Hakatzir,
the festival of the wheat harvest (wheat is harvested in Israel at this
time) and Chag Habikkurim, the festival of the first fruits, because
they are also harvested at this time of year and were brought to the
Temple in ancient times. And remember that we usually eat dairy on the
holiday perhaps because Moses stayed on Sinai for 40 days and the
numerical equivalent of milk in Hebrew is also 40. That’s also about
how much weight can be gained by overindulging in the cheesecake. Put
some strawberries on mine–it should be a little healthy!
COLUMN FOR MAY 17, 2012
This past weekend both of my children graduated from law school, my son
from the University of Miami School of Law and my daughter from Nova
Southeastern’s Sheppard Broad Law School in Fort Lauderdale, . My wife and I (and my mother) attended the graduations which, of course,
brought tears to our eyes, and I was reminded of the words of “Sunrise,
Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof. Was it really only 30 years ago that I
myself graduated from law school? Time really does fly. And while we
were both overjoyed at our children’s accomplishments, it was a little
bittersweet as I realized that their careers were just starting while
mine, while perhaps not drawing to a close, is certainly in midlife.
Time for a crisis? Should I buy that new little sports car? And then
someone reminded me that I am looking at it all wrong. While I did get
an AARP card, I am nowhere near ready to retire. And our generation can
look forward to a life expectancy approaching in excess of 100 years. So
there is a lot to look forward to —like discounts for senior citizens, many of which kick in at age 55. So get that AARP card and don’t forget to ask if there is a senior discount. You never know!
And let me add what a special treat it was to have my mother at the graduation and all the celebrations. We weren't sure if she was going to attend and were delighted when she finally agreed to join us for all the festivities. We know how taxing it can be. Unfortunately Robin's father was not able to be there as his health would not permit it. They had both been at their graduation from Brandeis but this simply involved too much traveling for Grandpa. But Grandma was already in Florida--she just stayed a little longer and Sheped Naches!
COLUMN FOR MAY 10, 2012
Today is Lag B’Omer–Happy Anniversary!
(especially to my wife). For many traditional Jews Lag B’Omer holds a
very special meaning. Its' their wedding anniversary on the Hebrew
calendar. This is because the period of the counting of the Omer from
the end of Passover until Shavuot is a morning period and weddings are
prohibited. However, in recognition of the fact that a plague which had
afflicted Rabbi Akiva’s students lifted on the 33rd day of the counting
of the Omer, Jews have traditionally been able to marry and celebrate
on this day. So for those who couldn’t wait for a June wedding and
wanted to get started a little early there was Lag B’Omer. It is also
important to note that Lag B’Omer also precedes Mother’s Day which this
year falls out on Sunday, May 13. So let’s see, my anniversary,
Mother’s Day, my wife’s birthday followed by my birthday and finally
Father’s Day. Is it any wonder my kids run out of money by Father’s
Day. Wishing all those who share this joyous anniversary day a
Happy Anniversary and a Happy Mother’s Day To All Our Mothers
COLUMN FOR MAY 3, 2012
Finally, there are no holidays to speak about so how about some humor in the form of some adult truths which have been flying around the net:
I sometimes look at my watch a few times and still don’t know what time it is. Remember when you were younger and you didn’t want a nap–bet you’d like to have that time to nap now. What the smartphones really need is a sarcasm font. Why did we ever learn cursive writing–does anyone write by hand anymore? When was the last time I wasn’t a little tired?–I can’t remember. Don’t you hate that moment at work when you just know you should quite for the day because you just aren’t going to get anything done? Why does the refrigerator have a light but not all freezers? I think the Jeweler got it wrong–more kisses begin with beer, wine or a martini than “K.” Aren’t you amazed when an entire line of cars all agree to keep one jerk from cutting in line at the front? Does anyone really know where the line between boredom and hunger is? First came the record, that was followed by the audio tape (reel to reel, 8-track (remember those) and cassettes), the video tape, the DVD, and now the blue-ray disc. How many times do I have to upgrade the same recording? Why is it that people have trouble finding their car keys in a pocket, their cell phone in a purse, and can’t pin the tail on the Donkey but can find and push the snooze button from 3 feet away in the dark, eyes closed, first time every time?
COLUMN FOR APRIL 26, 2012
I was recently doing some legal research and came across a very interesting New Jersey state appeals court ruling in the case of Lowy v. Lowy, a divorce case which actually dealt with the problem of the Agunah–the chained women. Under Jewish law a Jewish divorce decree can only be obtained upon the complaint of the husband. Women can’t divorce their husbands under Jewish law. This can lead to the situation where the couple obtain a secular divorce but not a religious one and are, according to Jewish law, still considered married. This is a major problem in Israel where matters of personal status like marriage and divorce are handled by the religious authorities. In this country the problem is that the First Amendment prevents courts from ordering husband’s to issue a Get a Jewish religious divorce to their wives. New York adopted a law which requires the parties seeking a divorce to assure the court that before any entry of a final judgement of divorce is entered any barrier to the spouse’s remarriage has been removed. In the Lowy case our State Appeals Court has said that if the marriage contract, the Ketubah or a pre-marital agreement provides for the granting of a Get then the court has the authority to enforce such a contractual agreement. If there is no such contract then the court lacks jurisdiction on First Amendment grounds. It also seems that Muslim women face an even greater problem, particularly if they return to visit or live in a Muslim country where adultery may be punished by death, stoning, etc..
COLUMN FOR APRIL 19, 2012
Today is Yom Hashoa —Holocaust Remembrance Day — and April 25 is Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day. It is followed the very
next day by Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, which is always on the fourth of Iyar, the day that the rebirth of the modern State of Israel was declared. The juxtaposition of the Holocaust with Israel’s memorial day for its fallen and honored dead just before the celebration of the rebirth of Israel is amazing. We as a people suffered an unimaginable calamity in the Holocaust and yet we still went on to bring about the rebirth of our ancient state on the land that the Torah says was given to us by HaShem. A few years ago my family had the experience of joining the March of the Living: a primarily youth trip to Poland and the concentration camps followed by a journey to Israel — a true journey from darkness to light. And while I was not a fan of the trip regarding its organization and
accommodations, the existential experience was quite remarkable. If you can find a good trip it is worth considering, but don’t just tour
the camps; you have to follow it up with a trip to Israel to really appreciate how far we have come.
Am Yisrael Chai!
COLUMN FOR APRIL 12, 2012
As Passover draws to a close I hope everyone has had a wonderful time. Passover has always been one of my favorite holidays and I have posted a few recipes on our web-site to make it more enjoyable. But next week is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. And while preparing this column I came upon an interesting item. Did you know that Schindler was not the only one to make a list? It seems that Ernst Leitz of Leica camera and lens fame also made a list. Prior to Germany sealing its borders Leitz used his company to transfer over 200 Jews from Germany to Leica offices in France, Britain, Hong Kong and the U.S.. The relocated employees were paid a stipend until they could find work. Leitz’s daughters and another executive suffered prison sentences for the participation in Leitz’s efforts. I always knew there was a reason I liked his cameras and optics.
COLUMN FOR APRIL 5, 2012
In the past, I have included Passover recipes (such as my haroset recipe) in my column but now that I have a web-site, I have published the recipes here. Many of my recipes can be easily adapted for Passover use, and I invite you to visit the recipe page on this website to check them out. I have also told you that with our children often away at school, we have had to resort to some unique adaptations concerning Passover, including using our Mac laptops (plugged-in and left on in iChat mode before sundown) to see and hear our children and allow them to participate in the seder from Florida. (Not to mention making the haroset together, as we have always done.) This year looks to be no different as the holiday coincides with Easter and it was impossible for them to get a flight without missing far too much class time. So once again the computer has come to our rescue. Believe me when I say that I am really looking forward to their return from Florida. Hopefully they will both stick around for awhile.
And from our family
to yours —
A Zissen Pesach
COLUMN FOR MARCH 29, 2012
Passover starts next Friday night and this Shabbat is Shabbat HaGadol the great Shabbat. When the Temple still stood it was the practice to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover and arrive for the Shabbat before the festival. A later tradition involved the writing of Techinahs, women’s supplications before Passover which were then recited over the Passover candles. They usually concerned childbirth and the health of the family. Today, I think the most common of the Techinot would be to give thanks for having the means to visit a Kosher for Passover resort and avoid all the work involved in getting the house ready for Passover–oy, where did we put those pots last year? In any event, I have posted such a traditional Techinah below thanking HaShem for the strength to get the house ready for Passover. Feel free to use it, alter it, or write one of your own. And why should only women write these Techinot. How about this one: Dear Lord, thank you for the strength to climb the ladder to get the pots down from the attic and to carry the dishes up from the basement, and for the insurance policy which covers visits to the chiropractor for my back. Thank you Lord for enabling me to send airplane tickets to the children so that they could join us for this festive holiday, even though two of the three of them have jobs and are earning more than I do. Thank you for giving us the strength to remove all the chometz from the house, the car, the office. Maybe next year you could grant me the wisdom to remember to book the hotel in time? Amen!
A TRADITIONAL TECHINAH: I thank and praise You, Lord, for having given me the precious mitzvah of lighting the candles on this fesitval.... Accept favorably the great effort and expense to which we have gone in preparation for this holiday--cleaning the house of chometz, and bringing in all the necessary things for Passover. Grant us enough liveliness so that we don't fall asleep at the seder, and are able to relate to our children the wondrous deeds You wrought for our ancestors at the Exodus....
Feel free to add alter all or any part of the foregoing as your heart moves you. Remember always that prayers are nothing more than conversations with G-d.
COLUMN FOR MARCH 22, 2012
The Shofar, A Witness To History is the newly published exhibit catalog from the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem. Museum Curator and editor of the catalog, Filip Vukosavovic, says that unlike the Star of David or even the menorah, “the Shofar is one of the oldest and most recognizable symbols of Judaism...in continual use...for more than 3000 years.” The blowing of a Shofar has seen us through triumphs like the Battle of Jericho and the recapturing of the Western Wall in 1967 when Rabbi Shlomo Goren sounded the Shofar when Israeli troops succeeded in reaching the Old City and in tragedies to proclaim herem (expulsion) against a member of the Jewish community and in everyday life in Israel when it is sounded to herald Shabbat and throughout the Jewish world on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. We have placed a beautiful Yemenite Shofar on display in our Chapel in keeping with this tradition. It is much larger than the one I have at home and is supposed to be easier to sound. Could have fooled me. I can’t get a note out of it. But it does look beautiful.
If you would like to see a picture of the shofar on its Gary Rosenthal Shofar Stand please feel free to visit our facebook page which contains a photo of the installation of the stand and the eternal light in our Springfield Chapel.
COLUMN FOR MARCH 15, 2012
And here is another hot item from the world of archeology. Up until recently the Merneptah Stele was the oldest extra-biblical reference to ancient Israel. It has been dated to sometime between 1210 and 1205 b.c.e.. Now, in the storerooms of the Egyptian Museum of Berlin a new candidate has been found which may push the date back another 200 years. University of Munich Hebrew Bible scholar and Egyptologist Manfred Gorg has found what he thinks is a reference to Israel in a name-ring on an 18" high by 15.5" wide gray granite slab. A name-ring was used to decorate monuments marking a Pharaoh’s victory over another people or city-state. These are often grouped together at the base of a statue and often depicts the racial or dress characteristics of the people conquered. In this case it is clearly a west-Semitic people next to two others whose hieroglyphic name is intact and reads “Ashkalon” and “Canaan. The broken name-ring looks like Israel but has a slightly different spelling. The Merneptah Stele has the same names next to that of Israel. Who knows, maybe the ancient scribe simply was a bad speller. If its true we have another reference to Israel 200 years before the Merneptah Stele. Who knows, Indiana Jones may yet find the lost Ark!
COLUMN FOR MARCH 8, 2012
HAPPY PURIM! Now that we have celebrated Purim and eaten all the humantaschen we can I thought I would look around and see what’s going on in the world of archeology before I start with the Passover stuff. (There are only four weeks until Passover.) So here is what I found. Dr. Eilat Mazar continues to excavate in the City of David and has found two very interesting bullae, or seal impressions. These are small clay disks with the names of important personages used on documents–kind of like notarized signatures. The tiny bulla have a three line proto-Hebrew inscription. The first one says “Belonging to Yehucal, son of Shelemiyahu, son of Shovi.” The second one reads “Belonging to Gedaliah, son of Pashur.” If you check out the story found in the book of Jeremiah you will see that Yehucal son of Shelemiyahu and Gedaliah, son of Pashur are both mentioned as persecutors of the Prophet Jeremiah and as Princes of Israel who opposed surrendering to the Babylonians. And here is the best part–want to take a trip to Edmond, Oklahoma? These bullae are on display now through October 16, 2012 at the Armstrong Auditorium there. You can also read the story in the book of Jeremiah. It is a real thriller.
COLUMN FOR MARCH 1, 2012
Next Thursday is Purim. So should I continue the cookie dough vs. yeast dough debate. No–I give up, cookie dough wins. I couldn’t even find yeast dough last year in Boca Raton, Florida, never mind Springfield, N.J.. Having said that I really feel compelled to continue the fight against the erosion of our traditions. What’s with chocolate humantashen? I understand, apricot, raspberry, prune and poppy seed but chocolate? What kind of flavor is that for a humantashen? Now don’t get me wrong–I love chocolate too, and my favorite cookie (next to hazelnut horns) is a chocolate chip cookie but a chocolate humantashen–that’s just wrong! And once again, Robin and my kids are yelling at me that I am wrong. They all say chocolate is a great flavor for a humantashen. I can see where this is going–I should give up now, shouldn’t I? (O.K.–I put a cookie dough humantashen recipe on the web site. Feel free to check it out at www. rosschapels. com.
And from our family to yours...
Have A Happy Purim!