Saturday, February 28, 2009

Jewish heritage site: city of Hebron

Hebron contains many sites of Jewish religious and historical significance, in addition to the Tomb of the Patriarchs. These include the Tombs of Othniel Ben Kenaz, the first Judge of Israel (Judges 3:9-11); Avner Ben Ner, general and confidante to Kings Saul and David; and Ruth and Jesse, great-grandmother and father of King David. Victims of the 1929 pogrom, as well as prominent rabbinical sages and community figures, are buried in Hebron's ancient Jewish cemetery. The site of the Terebinths of Mamre ("Alonei Mamre") (Genesis 18:1), and King David's Pool, also known as the Sultan's Pool (II Samuel 4:12), are also located in Hebron.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Mel Brooks Starts Nonprofit Foundation To Save Word 'Schmuck'

Mel Brooks Starts Nonprofit Foundation To Save Word 'Schmuck'

Saying he could no longer stand idly by while a vital part of American culture is lost forever, activist and Broadway producer Mel Brooks has founded a private nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the word "schmuck."

An emotional Brooks stopped short of kvetching at a schmuck fundraiser Monday.

"Schmuck is dying," a sober Brooks said during a 2,000-person rally held in his hometown of Williamsburg, Brooklyn Monday. "For many of us, saying 'schmuck' is a way of life. Yet when I walk down the street and see people behaving in foolish, pathetic, or otherwise schmucky ways, I hear only the words 'prick' and 'douche bag.' I just shake my head and think, 'I don't want to live in a world like this.'"

The nonprofit, Schmucks For Schmuck, has compiled schmuck-related data from the past 80 years and conducted its own independent research on contemporary "schmuck" usage. According to Brooks, the statistics are frightening: Utterances of the word "schmuck" have declined every year since its peak in 1951, and in 2006, the word was spoken a mere 28 times­17 of these times by Brooks himself. The study indicates that today, when faced with a situation in which one can use a targeted or self-deprecating insult to convey a general feeling of disgust, people are 50 times more likely to use the word "jerk" than "schmuck," 100 times more likely to use "dick," and 15,000 times more likely to use "fucking asshole."

Perhaps more startling, only 23 percent of men know what schmuck means, and only 1.2 percent of these men are under the age of 78. If such trends continue, Brooks estimates that by 2011, such lesser-used terms as "imbecile," "dummy," "schlub," and "contemptible ne'er-do-well" will all surpass schmuck, which is projected to completely disappear by the year 2020 or whenever Brooks dies.

"We must save this word!" Brooks said to thunderous applause as those in attendance began chanting "Schmuck! Schmuck! Schmuck!" "How will we be able to charmingly describe someone who acts in an inappropriate manner? Especially given the tragic loss of the word 'schmegeggie' in 2001. So I urge you: Tonight, when you get home, please, call up your family, your friends, your loved ones, and tell them they're a bunch of schmucks."

Hundreds turned out at a Boca Raton, FL demonstration to show their support for the dying word.

"I've never told anyone this before," Brooks added, choking back tears, "but my father was a schmuck."

The foundation has already raised more than $20 million, thanks to donations from supporters such as Jackie Mason, Albert Brooks, the Schtupp Institute, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), and the Henny Youngman Endowment for the Preservation of Schmekel. The money will go toward projects aimed at reintegrating "schmuck" into the English lexicon, including billboards and flyers plastered with the word "schmuck," the upcoming 5K Schlep for Schmuck Awareness, and a new Mel Brooks film.

"The world cannot afford to lose this valuable and versatile word," Brooks told reporters during a charity auction in Manhattan's Upper West Side Tuesday, where attendees bid for the chance to have a private lunch with Brooks and repeatedly call him a schmuck. "You can be a poor schmuck, a lazy schmuck, a dumb schmuck, or just a plain old schmuck. A group of people can be collectively referred to as schmucks. You can call someone a schmuck, and you can be called a schmuck. You can even call yourself a schmuck."

"Plus, it's just so fun to say," Brooks added. "Schmuck."

Many of the foundation's volunteers say they share Brooks' passion for the word "schmuck," as well as his outrage that it is slowly disappearing from everyday use. They claim that if they do not act now, the trend could create a snowball effect.

"Today it's schmuck, tomorrow it might be toochis," said SFS volunteer Harry Steinbergmann, 82. "What's next, schlemiel? Putz? Schlimazel?"

Steinbergmann went on to classify this scenario as farcockteh.

Brooks will be appearing at Brooklyn's Francis Scott Key Junior High on Nov. 12 to give an informal lecture about his experiences using the word "schmuck," and build grassroots support among a key group of young Americans by explaining that "schmuck" is a Yiddish term for the foreskin on the head of a penis. In addition, he has hinted at the possibility of a reunion with longtime comedy partner Gene Wilder, during which the two will call each other schmucks.

If God is everywhere, then why did the Jewish people need to build the Holy Temples?

The Divine Dwelling
In Judaism, there is a strong focus on the city of Jerusalem and the first and second Holy Temples that were built in that city. And while Jerusalem was the place God chose for His spirit to manifest itself, the Temple itself was not built until hundreds of years after the Jews received the Torah at Mount Sinai.

During those hundreds of years of wandering in the wilderness and then conquering and settling the land before the First Temple was built in Jerusalem, the Shechina (Divine Presence) dwelled in the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The Mishkan was built to very exact specifications that are set down in the Torah. It was designed to be portable, so that it could easily be taken apart, carried to a new location and put together once again.

If God, as the children’s song puts it, “ is here, there and everywhere,” then why does God need a specific dwelling place? The answer is that God does not need the Mishkan or the Temple as a place to dwell, but rather that God wishes to grace the Jewish people with the special gift
of His Presence. But since God truly is everywhere, His Presence in the Mishkan /Temple might better be defined as a special concentration of the Divine.

This is a true gift, because human nature is such that a person will focus better and be more aware of his/her actions in the presence of authority--and there is obviously no higher authority than God! When the Shechina dwelt in the midst of the Jewish People, it was easier for them to strive toward holiness.

Alas, today we are without both the Mishkan and the Temple. We can, however, try to grasp an understanding of the spiritual greatness that existed then and look forward to an time when we will once again be able to experience the concentrated holiness of the Shechina.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Yiddish literature archive goes online

February 19, 2009

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- An archive of over 10,000 works of modern Yiddish literature has gone on-line.

The collection of full texts, comprising the National Yiddish Book Center's Steven Spielberg Digital Library, can be read, downloaded and printed free.

The project of putting 3 million pages online was undertaken by the Yiddish Book Center and the Internet Archive of San Francisco.

“It’s an historic moment for Yiddish culture,” said Aaron Lansky, founder and president of the nonprofit Yiddish Book Center. “The magnificent record of a civilization the Nazis sought to destroy has been brought fully into the 21st century.”

The collection includes original novels, stories, poetry, drama and nonfiction titles published in Yiddish over the past 150 years. Most out-of-print Yiddish works are already in the public domain.

Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, said, “This is the first time a full literature of a people has been available online. We hope others follow the Yiddish Book Center’s pioneering example.”

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Historic Jewish Haven In Shanghai Faces Demolition

Part of Shanghai's Jewish history is under threat from bulldozers.

In the 1930s, Shanghai was the only place in the world to offer visa-free sanctuary to Jews fleeing Nazism — 20,000 ended up in Shanghai. In 1943, the Japanese restricted them to a one-square-mile area, which became known as Little Vienna.

A pianist and a violinist used to play popular music for customers at the White Horse Inn, or Das Weisse Rossl. The waitresses wore dirndls — traditional Bavarian outfits — and the menu featured Wiener schnitzel.

But the White Horse wasn't in Austria or Germany, it was in wartime Shanghai. And for the city's wealthier Jewish refugees, it offered a memory of homes that no longer existed.

"My wedding party was in White Horse Inn, which was fantastic," remembers Kurt Mosberg, now 90 years old and living in Sydney. "It was mostly my friends, mostly Jewish people, about 120 people. Thinking that it was in Shanghai, it's an amazing thing, you know."

Mosberg's parents started the White Horse Inn in Shanghai in 1939 and ran it for five years as a nightclub.

Uncovering Layers Of the Past

Today, the building still stands. It's easily identified by a distinctive fluted circular turret. Below that, painted on its wall is the Chinese character "to be demolished." The White Horse Inn is among a number of buildings inside the Jewish district to be knocked down to make way for a widened road.

As they start work, the demolition crews are uncovering layers of the past, like unwitting architectural archaeologists. By knocking down shop facades, old shop signs beneath are revealed, like one for Wuerstel Tenor, a sandwich shop, which had been covered for decades.

They will pull down other fading shop fronts at the heart of Little Vienna, as well — those of Cafe Atlantic and Horn's Imbiss-stube (Horn's Snack Bar).

"The existing refugee coffee shops [and] restaurants were a shining light in the lives of the refugees, who did not know how long their isolation and misery would last, should they survive," says Rena Krasno, who has written about her experiences living through World War II in Shanghai.

"In these eateries, they felt they were back in Europe … and for a short time eliminated their painful fate from their minds," she says.

Dvir Bar-Gal is an Israeli journalist who is writing a book about Shanghai's Jewish past. He also leads tours around the Jewish quarter. For him, the question is how important it is for a society to keep its past. If the demolitions go ahead, he fears there will be less and less to show visitors, and he fears the little-known story of Shanghai's Jewish past will be in danger of being completely forgotten.

"People will stop coming. There will be no interest in the almost forgotten story of the 1940s, the people who were saved here from the Nazis," he says.

Preserving History Difficult, Unpopular

In 2005, the Chinese government declared 70 acres of the Jewish ghetto a conservation zone. The White Horse Inn and buildings slated for demolition are inside that zone, but aren't designated protected buildings.

Ruan Yisan, a professor at Tongji University in Shanghai, oversaw the designation of the conservation zone three years ago. Yet he had no idea about the demolitions until alerted by NPR. After visiting the area, he vowed to take action.

"I'll start making appeals to see what options there are," he says. "These are important historical sites in the conservation zone. If you knock them down, it will never recover."

But the professor notes that preserving history is difficult — and unpopular — in China.

"Normal people all want these buildings knocked down, the government wants to knock them down, the developers want to knock them down. It's only us conservationists who want to keep them."

Officials Try To Strike Balance

For local government officials in Shanghai, the case is a classic example of the challenge they face in balancing the city's modernization with conservation of its past. But Cheng Jun from the Hongkou district urban planning and management bureau says the demolitions are necessary to form part of a larger road network.

"In the future, the amount of traffic will be far greater. And we must build roads for that, otherwise the traffic in the city center will be a catastrophe," he says.

"When we drew up the conservation zone, we decided then to widen this particular road, as the impact would be relatively small."

Another official, Chen Jian from the Hongkou district government, emphasizes that many other historic buildings, dating back to the time of the Jewish ghetto, still remain, including the Ohel Moshe Synagogue, which has become the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum.

"We'll do our best to remove and save some of the most valuable artifacts, if feasible," he says. "But that's not to say that we won't demolish these buildings."

Vanishing Without A Trace?

That decision will not be welcomed by Gary Matzdorff, an 83-year-old refugee who now lives in California. He remembers the White Horse Inn clearly, because his father went there every afternoon to sip coffee and chat.

"I'm very saddened to hear that it's really going to be demolished," he says. "It's not a happy thought that this area is going to be destroyed for the purpose of so-called progress."

Back in 1983, one former refugee, Fred Marcus, returned to Shanghai. His first reaction, noted in his diaries, which have just been published posthumously, was shock.

"It was as if we had never been there!" he wrote. "More than 20,000 people vanished without a trace!"

His initial confusion was due to the rundown nature of the area, rather than demolitions. But his words now sound like a prediction, as building for China's future obliterates its past.

Israeli Singer Ohad & Black Jewish Choir

February 15 was the 100th birthday of Miep Gies who helped Anne Frank and her family stay in hiding.

Miep Gies, my story

'I was born in Vienna as Hermine Santruschitz (spelt later in the Netherlands as Santrouschitz), on February 15, 1909. My parents did not have the means to take proper care of me, so that was an unfortunate start. The lack of food as a result of the First World War meant that I became undernourished and was often ill. But in the autumn of 1920 I was suddenly presented the opportunity to spend three months in the Netherlands, together with other malnourished Austrian and Hungarian working class children, to regain strength with a foster family in Leiden. So that was a fortunate twist, I dare say. My foster parents, heeding the doctor's advice, then decided to make me part of their family permanently. With the situation in Austria remaining as it was, my parents realized that I would be better off in the Netherlands than I could ever be in Austria, so they agreed. Fortune again smiled on me, and then we moved from Leiden to Amsterdam, where I felt at home immediately.

Miep Gies, early 1930s.
Miep Gies, early 1930s.The 1930s were difficult years for those seeking jobs, but once again, luck was on my side. An upstairs neighbor told me that a certain company she knew had a temporary vacancy for office assistant. I went there and talked to the owner of the company, a German man from Frankfurt. His name was Otto Frank. Of course, there were several candidates for the job, but again I was fortunate: my native tongue was… German! So I got the job. And what's more, I was allowed to stay even after the sick employee that I was replacing recovered and returned to the office.

In 1938, my native country of Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany and renamed as Ost-Mark. Sad to say, many of my fellow countrymen supported this. On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands and after 5 days of bitter fighting, we were occupied. A problem arose when I wanted to get married in 1941: my passport had expired and if I didn't marry a Dutchman, I would have to return to Vienna. And even if I married a Dutchman, I had to prove my Aryan (or non-Jewish) descent, which could only be done in the town of my birth, Vienna. The Germans said that there was not enough time to satisfy all the formalities (I had refused to join a Nazi association of women and girls, and the Nazis had noted the fact), and I was deliberately hindered. If I hadn't had Uncle Anton in Vienna, who moved heaven and earth to obtain an approved proof of Aryan birth… but fate again smiled on me, everything worked out and on July 16, 1941, Jan Gies and I got married.

My husband became member of a resistance group that worked alongside the National Organization to assist hiders and that arranged all manner of things for people that wanted to go into hiding or already were. He never wanted to talk about it, but he must have saved scores of people. As for me, I got actively involved in the hiding of the families Frank and Van Pels and Dr. Pfeffer in the rear annex of our office at Prinsengracht; as did my husband, by the way. Following the betrayal on August 4, 1944, the annex was cleared out and a number of helpers were arrested. This was awful, since being arrested in connection with helping Jewish hiders meant deportation to a concentration camp and certain death. But then, in an incredible way, my luck turned again. The Nazi that was responsible for deporting the hiders and their helpers was named Karl Josef Silberbauer, an arrogant and yes, Austrian man from Vienna. And he just wasn't having his day, for while interrogating Otto Frank he discovered that Mr. Frank had fought for Germany in the First World War and that he held a higher army rank than himself. Silberbauer didn't quite salute him but he did offer to do everything calmly.

October 1945, Otto Frank seated in the middle with Miep Gies and Johannes Kleiman on the left, and Bep Voskuijl and Victor Kugler on the right.
October 1945, Otto Frank seated in the middle with Miep Gies and Johannes Kleiman on the left, and Bep Voskuijl and Victor Kugler on the right.Then it was my turn. The Austrian barked at me: 'Schämen Sie sich nicht, Judenbagage zu helfen?'('Are you not ashamed of yourself for helping Jews?') I said that I came from Vienna, just like he. Silberbauer hesitated and stomped through the room. Finally he decided that I was allowed to stay in the office. 'Aus persönlicher Sympatie'('Out of personal sympathy'), he said. But he added that he would be coming back and warned me that fleeing was not an option. My colleague Bep Voskuijl was also allowed to stay. That was not the case for the helpers Johannes Kleinman and Victor Kugler, however. They were deported along with the eight hiders. After some time (I was afraid that the Nazis would come back), either later that same day or the next day, I can't quite remember, I entered the Secret Annex with Bep and stockroom manager Van Maaren. There we gathered together all the loose papers and books belonging to Anne. Without reading them we stored them in the drawer of my desk, thinking we could give everything back to Anne after the war.

The craziest plan that we came up with after the raid on the Annex was that I, after collecting money from everyone in the company, would go to the headquarters of the Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service)to bribe the Nazis into releasing the hiders and helpers. With wobbly knees, I made my way there.

In the building of the SD I met the Austrian that had supervised the arrests in the Annex, and he told me to go upstairs. On the landing I saw a door half open, and I entered. In a bare room stood a table with a radio, and around it stood a group of high-ranking Nazi soldiers. The voice that came from the radio was English; they were listening to the BBC! I should probably have been arrested right away, but they were too astonished to react, and I fled from the building as fast as I could. The plan had failed, but my personal lucky charm (I had left the SD headquarters unharmed) had not deserted me.

In the spring of 1945 the war was finally over, and the waiting began for those who would return from the concentration camps. Of the eight hiders in the Secret Annex, only Otto Frank returned. As soon as it became clear that Anne had perished, I gave her father all her papers with the words, 'This is the legacy of your daughter Anne'.

The rest of the story is well-known. My husband kept silent about his noble deeds, and Anne became after her death what she had wanted to become in life: a famous writer. I considered it a tremendous honor, in later years, to represent Anne in speaking at schools and fully packed auditoriums, all over the world.

Looking back at my life it seems that fortune, for ever perched on my shoulder, is the red thread that runs throughout. I am fully justified in saying: this is the way things were meant to be for me, I have had all the luck in the world. Perhaps I was guided, I do not know, but I am anyhow very grateful.'
Otto Frank seated in the middle with Miep Gies and Johannes Kleiman on the left, and Bep Voskuijl and Victor Kugler on the right. October 1945,


Miep and Jan Gies at home in Amsterdam, ca. 1986-1988.

A brief summary of how George Washington and Abraham Lincoln interacted with, and impacted on, the Jewish community.

There are no specific instances of direct interaction between George Washington and the Jews that stand out in history (although he certainly interacted with Haym Solomon, who financed the revolution). However, Washington’s letter to the Jews of Newport, RI, (written in response to their salutation to him) has become a well-known statement regarding religious freedom for all:

“...For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens....May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

There are two particular situations in which Abraham Lincoln showed himself to be a friend of the Jews:

1) In 1861, Congress passed a law that all army chaplains had to be ordained Christian ministers. When, shortly thereafter, Rev. (Rabbi) Dr. Arnold Fischer was denied a position, he brought his case before the President. Lincoln immediately acknowledged the injustice of the law. Rather than issue a specific exemption for Rabbi Fischer, Lincoln asked Congress to amend the law -- which it did.

2) In late 1862, General Ulysses S. Grant issued an order expelling all Jews from his theater of action (Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi). The cause of the order was Grant’s desire to stop the black market smuggling and selling of cotton, which he blamed on Jews. Cesar Kaskel of Paducah, KY, traveled to Washington and petitioned Lincoln, who immediately canceled Grant’s order of expulsion.

Monday, February 16, 2009

There is a God (Yesh Elokim)

A 12yr old cancer patient sings about his battle.
Yisrael Chaim loved to sing but he woke up and his beautiful voice was gone. A few days later he was diagnosed with cancer. He worried if he would ever be able to sing again. Between chemo-sessions he spent time at Zichron Menachem's Day Center composing, arranging and trying to keep his voice fit under professional musical guidance. This resulted in a song about his illness, his hopes and fears. Three days before his Bar Mitzvah he left the hospital after a week of intensive chemo therapy, and headed straight for the studio to record his song.

At the day of his Bar Mitzvah he went to the Kotel to pray and give thanks. Later that night a few hundred guests joined him at ZM's Day Center for a Bar Mitzvah celebration that none of the guests will ever forget. This video was played at the highlight of the night.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Noah's Ark Jokes

What did Noah say as he was loading the Ark?
"Now I herd everything"

Why did the people on the ark think the horses were
They kept saying neigh

What animal could Noah not trust?
The cheetah

What kind of lights did Noah have on the ark?
Flood lights

Who introduced salted meat to the Navy?
Noah--he took Ham with him on the ark

What did God say when Noah told him he wanted to build
the ark out of bricks?
"No, Noah -- go for wood"

Why couldn't they play cards on the ark?
Noah was sitting on the deck

Who was the first canning factory run by?
Noah-he had a boat full of preserved pairs

Was Noah the first one out of the Ark?
No, he came fourth out of the ark

Additional Noah Riddles from Richard Lederer's book,
"Literary Trivia"

Which animal took the most baggage into the arc?
What animal took the least?
The elephant took his trunk.
But the fox and the rooster took only a brush and comb
between them.

Why weren't there any worms on the arc?
Because worms come in apples not in pairs.

What creatures were not on the arc?

Where did Noah keep the bees?
In the ark hives.

Who was the best financier in the Bible?
Noah. He floated his stock while the whole world was in

Where was Noah when the lights went out?
In d'ark.

Why couldn't Noah catch many fish?
He only had two worms.

When is paper money first mentioned in the Bible?
When the dove brought the green back to the ark.

What did the cat say when the ark landed?
Is that Ararat?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Footage of Israel in 1951

An Air France video encouraging tourism to Israel has amazing footage of the cities, kibbutzim and villages of Israel in 1951:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Jimmy Carter and the Camp David Myth

It was only by putting aside the Palestinian issue that Mideast peace progress was made.

Will Jimmy Carter be President Barack Obama's role model on how to bring peace to the Middle East?

Some, especially in Israel, view that prospect with apprehension. Others, like Ralph Nader, have greeted the possibility with enthusiasm, urging Mr. Obama to rely on Mr. Carter's "wise and seasoned counsel" in dealings with the volatile region. After all, Mr. Carter is renowned as the master craftsman of the historic accord between Egypt's Anwar Sadat and Israel's Menachem Begin at Camp David in September 1978, which opened the way for a formal peace agreement three months later.

The myth of Camp David hangs heavy over American foreign policy, and it's easy to see why. Of all the attempts to forge a Middle East peace, the 1978 treaty between Egypt and Israel has proved the most durable. Mr. Carter's admirers extol Camp David as an example of how one man's vision and negotiating skill brought former enemies together at the peace table, and as proof that a president can guide America toward a kinder, humbler foreign policy. Camp David was indeed Mr. Carter's one major foreign policy accomplishment amid a string of disasters including the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the rise of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and Ayatollah Khomeini's ascent in Iran.

But the truth about Camp David belies this myth. The truth is that Mr. Carter never wanted an Egyptian-Israeli agreement, fought hard against it, and only agreed to go along with the process when it became clear that the rest of his foreign policy was in a shambles and he desperately needed to log a success.

As presidential candidate, Jimmy Carter was sharply critical of the kind of step-by-step personal diplomacy which had been practiced by his predecessors Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. President Carter's preferred Middle East policy was to insist on a comprehensive settlement among all concerned parties -- including the Arab states' leading patron, the Soviet Union -- and to disparage Nixonian incrementalism.

Mr. Carter and his advisers all assumed that the key to peace in the region was to make Israel pull back to its pre-1967 borders and accept the principle of Palestinian self-determination in exchange for a guarantee of Israel's security. Nothing less than a comprehensive settlement, it was argued, could ward off future wars -- and there could be no agreement without the Soviets at the bargaining table. This was a policy that, if implemented, would have thrust the Cold War directly into the heart of Middle East politics. Nixon and Mr. Kissinger had strained to achieve the opposite.

Interestingly, the man who ultimately prevented this Carter-led calamity from unfolding was Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

After the Yom Kippur War of 1973, Sadat decided that Egypt needed to start from scratch in its relationship with Israel. Sadat found natural allies in Nixon and Mr. Kissinger after throwing out his Soviet patrons in 1972. With American support, he came to a disengagement agreement with Israel in 1973, and again in 1975. The culmination of this process was Sadat's historic trip to Jerusalem in November 1977, where he discussed a separate peace between Egypt and Israel, and forestalled Mr. Carter's plan for a Geneva peace conference.

It was this trip -- not Camp David -- that marked the true seismic shift in Middle East relations since Israel's founding. It came as an unwelcome surprise to the Carter foreign policy team, who still wanted their grandiose Geneva conference. In fact, for the better part of 1977, as Israel and Egypt negotiated, the White House persisted in acting as if nothing had happened. Even after Sadat's trip to Jerusalem, Mr. Carter announced that "a separate peace agreement between Egypt and Israel is not desirable."

But by the autumn of 1978, the rest of Mr. Carter's foreign policy had crumbled. He had pushed through an unpopular giveaway of the Panama Canal, allowed the Sandinistas to take power in Nicaragua as proxies of Cuba, and stood by while chaos grew in the Shah's Iran. Desperate for some kind of foreign policy success in order to bolster his chances for re-election in 1980, Mr. Carter finally decided to elbow his way into the game by setting up a meeting between Sadat and Begin at Camp David.

The rest of the story is now the stuff of legend: For 13 days Mr. Carter acted as the go-between for the two leaders. Yet for all their bluster and intransigence in public, Begin and Sadat were more than ready for a deal once they understood that the U.S. would do whatever was necessary to stop the Soviet Union and its Arab allies, such as the PLO, from derailing a peace. An agreement was hammered out for an Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai, coupled with vague language about Palestinian "autonomy." The item Mr. Carter had really wanted on the agenda -- a Palestinian state -- was kept at arm's length.

Camp David worked because it avoided all of Mr. Carter's usual foreign policy mistakes, particularly his insistence on a comprehensive solution. Instead, Sadat and Begin pursued limited goals. The agreement stressed a step-by-step process instead of insisting on immediate dramatic results. It excluded noncooperative entities like Syria and the PLO, rather than trying to accommodate their demands. And for once, Mr. Carter chose to operate behind the scenes à la Mr. Kissinger, instead of waging a media war through public statements and gestures. (The press were barred from the Camp David proceedings).

Above all and most significantly, Camp David sought peace instead of "justice." Liberals say there can be no peace without justice. But to many justice means the end of Israel or the creation of a separate Palestinian state. Sadat and Begin, in the teeth of Mr.Carter's own instincts both then and now, established at Camp David a sounder principle for negotiating peace. The chaos and violence in today's Gaza proves just how fatal trying to advance other formulations can be.

The true story of Camp David is one of two ironies. The first is that, far from being a symbol of a more modest foreign policy, Camp David rested on an assertion of go-it-alone American power. Both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush would be bitterly criticized later for following this winning technique. The second irony is that if any one man deserves credit for Camp David, it is not Jimmy Carter but Anwar Sadat. It was Sadat who managed to save Mr. Carter from himself and revealed the true secret about forging peace in the Middle East: The Palestinian issue is the doom, not the starting point, for lasting stability in the region.

Mr. Herman is the author of "Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry That Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age" (Bantam, 2008).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hora Hey

Hands clasped, feet flying, and the room spinning as the giant circle of dancers turns round and round to the pulsing klezmer music from the band. It’s the Hora--that fabulous circle dance taught at Jewish camps and Israeli dance classes everywhere. When people picture traditional Jews dancing, it’s often the Hora (or a similar circle dance) that come to mind.

The Hora, however, is not a purely Jewish form of dance. It became a Jewish folk dance only after being adopted culturally by the Jewish communities of the Balkans (such as Romania) from the dance common to that region. In fact, the word Hora is derived from the same Greek root as the word “choreography.”

While the Hora was known in the larger Jewish community in the early 20th century, it became an authentic “Jewish dance” when the first chalutzim (pioneers) in Israel claimed it as their own. The young chalutzim found that the music of the Hora (there are many songs written for Horas) was a joyful way to release the emotions of their chosen life--which was filled with physical hardship.

The dance itself is rather simple. Hands held, the dancers form a circle. The dancers then step forward toward the right, crossing the left foot over the right. The right foot sweeps around to the right while the left foot moves back a little. The steps pick up speed and the circle begins to move. Often there will be break away groups of faster dancers who move to the middle, forming concentric circles of dancers.

While the Hora may not have begun as a Jewish dance, it is now. Performed at most Jewish weddings and celebrations, the Hora is a spirited way of expressing the joy of life.

Judaica Sound Archives

Great Jewish music can be found here!
Despite these difficult economic times the JSA continues to fulfill its
mission of collecting, protecting and preserving Judaica sound recordings
from the past and present. The website now has 31 featured performers, 5 complete collections by
record label, and 8 special collections.

Yet this is only the tip of the iceberg of the treasures in the Judaica
Sound Archives. Over 90% of the JSA holdings will never be on the public
website due to copyright restrictions. This issue of the Sounding Board also
has an article about the Judaica Sound Archives Research Station
(JSA-RS) which was
developed so that library researchers, teachers and Cantorial students, can
be provided with digital access to a growing percentage of the entire JSA
collection. You can find out more about this exciting and innovative project
on our website.

To view the Sounding Board (complete with images) in your browser, please

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Dr Suess Revisited

I will not eat green eggs and ham.
I will not eat them, Sam-I-am.
But I'll eat green eggs with a biscuit.
Or I will try them with some brisket.
I'll eat green eggs in a box.
If you serve them with some lox.
And those green eggs are worth a try
Scrambled up inside some matzoh brie!
And in a boat upon the river,
I'll eat green eggs with chopped liver!
So if you're a Jewish Dr. Sues fan,
But troubled by green eggs and ham,
Let your friends in on the scoop:
Green eggs taste best with chicken soup!

Adon Olam - Moshe Skier Band 2006

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Yiddish Library Goes Live Online

More than 10,000 works in Yiddish are now accessible online as part of a joint project between the National Yiddish Book Center, based in Amherst, Mass., and the Internet Archive in San Francisco, the two institutions announced on Friday. The scanning began more than 10 years ago as part of a $5 million effort to create the Steven Spielberg Digital Library, said Aaron Lansky, founder and president of the book center. The books will be available for downloading in a variety of formats at

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Top 14 Biblical Ways to Get a Wife

The Top 14 Biblical Ways to Get a Wife

1. Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home,
shave her head, trim her nails, and give her new
clothes. Then she's yours. - (Deuteronomy 21:11-13)

2. Find a prostitute and marry her. - (Hosea 1:1-3)

3. Find a man with seven daughters, and impress
him by watering his flock.- Moses (Ex 2:16-21)

4. Purchase a piece of property, and get a woman
as part of the deal. Boaz (Ruth 4:5-10)

5. Go to a party and hide. When the women come
out to dance, grab one and carry her off to be your
wife. - Benjaminites (Judges 21:19-25)

6. Have God create a wife for you while you sleep.
Note: this will cost you.- Adam (Gen 2:19-24)

7. Agree to work seven years in exchange for a
woman's hand in marriage. Get tricked into
marrying the wrong woman. Then work another
seven years for the woman you wanted to marry
in the first place. That's right. Fourteen years of
toil for a wife. - Jacob (Genesis 29:15-30)

8. Cut 200 foreskins off of your future father-in-law's
enemies and get his daughter for a wife - David
(I Samuel 18:27)

9. Even if no one is out there, just wander around
a bit and you'll definitely find someone. (It's all
relative, of course.) - Cain (Genesis 4:16-17)

10. Become the emperor of a huge nation and
hold a beauty contest. - Xerxes or Ahasuerus (Esther 2:3-4)

11. When you see someone you like, go home
and tell your parents, "I have seen a ... woman;
now get her for me." If your parents question your
decision, simply say, "Get her for me. She's the
one for me." - Samson (Judges 14:1-)

12. Kill any husband and take HIS wife (Prepare
to lose four sons, though). - David (2 Samuel 11)

13. Wait for your brother to die. Take his widow.
(It's not just a good idea; it's the law.) - Onana and
Boaz (Deuteronomy or Leviticus, example in Ruth)

14. Don't be so picky. Make up for quality with
quantity. - Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-3)

The Plumber

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Great Sanhedrin

The Great Sanhedrin
In ancient times, the court system of Israel was dominated by two forms of large courts. The smaller courts, known as “small sanhedrins,” were composed of 23 sages each and were located throughout the land of Israel. The large court, composed of 71 of the greatest sages of Israel, known as the Great Sanhedrin, served as both a judicial court and a legislative body and sat in the semi-circular "Chamber of Hewn Stones" in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

As a legislative body, the Great Sanhedrin played a critical role in interpreting Jewish law. In fact, the Torah scholarship of the 71 sages was considered so great that the members of the Great Sanhedrin were empowered to enact new laws, if necessary.

The judicial system of ancient Israel revolved around the testimony of witnesses. In order to convict a person of theft or of a physical crime, a minimum of two witnesses was necessary. To disprove his accusers, the defendant could also bring witnesses.

In capital cases, the Sanhedrin appointed different judges to investigate the evidence of both sides and report their findings to the assemblage. One interesting provision of the Sanhedrin's procedures was that if a person in a capital case was convicted unanimously, the conviction was overturned and the person was acquitted on the grounds that the defense had not been properly and thoroughly presented, as evidenced by the unanimous guilty verdict.

After the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., the Great Sanhedrin reconvened in Yavneh and afterwards in various cities in the Galilee, before being disbanded in 425 C.E.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ukrainian Jews honored

KIEV, Ukraine (JTA) -- The Ukrainian government cited several Jews for their "extraordinary" contributions to society.

They were among a group of Ukrainians to receive national honors Wednesday from President Victor Yuschenko on National Reunion Day in the town of Baturyn.

Among the Jews recognized were Yevgeny Chervonenko, the first deputy mayor of Kiev and a prominent Jewish leader; Yliya Levitas, the president of the Jewish Council of Ukraine and the Council of National Associations of Ukraine; and Aleksandr Feldman, the director general of the Industrial and Scientific Center Trubostal and vice president of the Jewish Council of Ukraine.

Yuschenko’s decree, dated Jan.16, said the honorees were honored for their “extraordinary contribution to consolidation of Ukrainian society, establishment and development of the democratic, social and law state on the occasion of National Reunion Day.”

Chervonenko was presented with the Order of Yaroslav the Wise, fifth degree; Levitas received the Order for Merit, first degree; Feldman received the Order for Merit, the second degree; singer Tatyana Liberman, also known as Tina Karol, received Honored Artist of Ukraine; Semyon Tzydelkovsky, director of the Chernovtzy House of Aesthetics, received the Honored Worker of Art; and Yuriy Vaysberg, a head physician of the Zhytomyr Regional Medical Center, was given the Order for Merit, third degree.

Speaking at the celebration, Yuschenko noted the contributions of the recipients.

"Each of you made in your own sphere what we can call now a unique contribution into the establishment and development of the Ukrainian independence, the strengthening of democracy and law, the development of science, culture, spirituality, strengthening of economy," he said.

Sixteen Jews among Chronicle of Philanthropy’s top 50 donors

Sixteen Jews among Chronicle of Philanthropy’s top 50 donors

By Jacob Berkman · February 3, 2009

The Chronicle of Philanthropy just came out with its annual list of the country’s top givers, and somewhat surprisingly found that the country’s most generous citizens gave almost double in 2008 than they did in 2007.

(You can check out the complete list here. Thank you to the Chronicle of Philanthropy for making the subscription-only story available for free to Fundermentalist readers.)

In 2008, even as the economy started to tank, those on the Chronicle’s top 50 list gave $15.5 billion, compared to $7.3 billion in 2007.

Granted, that number was bolstered by Leona Helmsley’s $5.2 billion bequest to her foundation – and only three of the top 10 givers are still living, compared with all 10 in 2007.

Those on the list said that 2009 could be tight, as they might hold back on giving for now.

"We'll all bounce back," Mr. [T. Boone] Pickens wrote, "but it's going to be tough for businesses and nonprofits for a while."

Other big donors echo that sentiment.

"2009 is going to be a year of sitting back and protecting capital," says Lorry I. Lokey (No. 37), founder of Business Wire, who in October announced a $42-million gift to a donor-advised fund at Stanford University.

The Chronicle singled out casino mogul Sheldon Adelson for having a particularly tough year.

The Birthright Israel Foundation benefited from $30-million in support from the real-estate mogul Sheldon Adelson (No. 40) last year, but because of other fund-raising losses, the New York group still must cut back on the number of young people it can send to Israel this year.

The Adelson Family Charitable Foundation, meanwhile, posted an announcement on its Web site last year that it would not accept new requests for support until June. Mr. Adelson lost an estimated $24-billion last year, according to Forbes magazine.
As usual, the top 50 list was made up of a fair number of Jews, including the top giver Helmsley and Adelson.

While last year Adelson was expected to become the Jewish commmunity’s most significant benefactor, he was only the 14th most generous Jew we found on the list.

Here are the Jewish givers that I found on the list. I’ve included their overall ranking in the top-50, as well as the amount they pledged and the amount they actually paid up in 2008.

1) Leona M. Helmsley -- $5.2-billion (bequest) $5.2-billion
9) Michael R. Bloomberg -- $235-million $235-million
12) Helen L. Kimmel -- $156.5-million $6.5-million
15) Jeffrey S. Skoll -- $110.8-million $110.8-million
16) Stephen A. Schwarzman -- $105-million n/a
18) Eli and Edythe L. Broad -- $100-million $33.2
20) David H. Koch $100-million -- $15-million
26) Ronald O. Perelman -- $63.5-million $16-million
31) Stewart A. and Lynda R. Resnick -- $55.3-million $9.5-million
32) Donald J. and Ruth Weber Goodman -- $52.7-million (bequest) $52.7-million
33) Jerome and Anne Fisher -- $50-million n/a
34) Michael Moritz and Harriet Hayman -- $50-million n/a
37) Lorry I. Lokey -- $46.7-million $4.7-million
40) Sheldon G. and Miriam Adelson -- $41.9-million $6.9-million
42) Lawrence J. Ellison -- $40.3-million $40.3-million
48) Andrew H. and Ann Rubenstein Tisch -- $35-million

Developers destroy Sholom Aleichem house in Kiev

February 2, 2009

KIEV, Ukraine (JTA) -- One of Sholom Aleichem's homes in Kiev was demolished
on the eve of the anniversary of his birth.

A building in Kiev where the famed Yiddish writer, born Solomon Rabinovich
on Feb. 18, 1859, lived in 1905 was destroyed over the weekend by the
private company KievZhytloInvestManagement, despite instructions by city
authorities to the company to suspend the demolition in order to clarify the

The site is being prepared for a new hotel for the Euro-2012 soccer
tournament, according to reports.

"This is a disgraceful act to destroy that building," said Ilya Levitas, a
president of the Jewish Council of Ukraine, who addressed a petition to the
deputy prime minister of Ukraine and Kiev authorities on Jan. 21, requesting
that the city order a stop or suspension of the demolition.
"Activities of KievZhytloInvestManagement Company, that is an owner of the
building, shocked the public this past weekend," Irina Zalyuzhenkova, an
inspector for the Association for the Protection of Monuments of History and
Culture, told JTA. "In spite of city authority instructions and a visit to
the site, the company destroyed the building. They could find no other site.

"Now we can see that money is more important than the memory of a famous
Yiddish writer," added Zalyuzhenkova, a native Ukrainian who earlier had
sent a petition to city authorities.

Mikhail Kalnitzky, a historian of Kiev, said Sholom Aleichem lived at 35
Bolshaya Vasylkivska St., apartment 1 in Kiev.

"The local authorities' fault is that they didn't put the building on the
register list of state or municipal monuments of architecture," he said.
"That is why the private company is destroying the building."

Evgeny Chervonenko, a first deputy of the Kiev mayor and a prominent Jewish
leader, told JTA that the Kiev authority will establish a committee to
clarify the case properly.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What Happens to Enemies of Israel
In response to my article Hamas Military Handbook, reader Amr commented: "Armies can be built, arms can be bought, soldiers can be trained, imagine the will of 1.5 Billion people if we had the right leadership, and if big states and empires were removed or collapsed . . what make you think that the so called Israel is eternal?"

My dear sweet, misinformed Amr, I am not the only one who thinks Israel is eternal, so does one of the greatest writers in history - from the book Beyond a Reasonable Doubt by Shmuel Waldman, quoting Leo Nikolaivitch Tolstoy who wrote this in 1908:

Page 146

"The Jew is the emblem of eternity. He who neither slaughter nor torture of thousands of years could destroy, he who neither fire, nor sword, nor Inquisition was able to wipe off the face of the earth. He who was the first to produce the Oracles of God. He who has been for so long the Guardian of Prophecy and has transmitted it to the rest of the world. Such a nation cannot be destroyed. The Jew is as everlasting as Eternity itself."

How about Blaise Pascal, French mathematician, physicist, and religious philosopher and one of the greatest minds in history:

AISH, Crash Course in Jewish History Part 4

In the 17th century when Blaise Pascal, the great French enlightenment philosopher, was asked by Louis XIV for proof of the supernatural, he answered, "The Jewish people, your Majesty."

Why? Because he knew Jewish history and he realized that for the Jewish people to survive to the 17th century, violated all the laws of history. Can you imagine what he'd say seeing the Jews made it to the 20th century?! Jewish history is a supernatural phenomenon.

And this from Mark Twain:

Wikiquotes, Jewish quotes

"...If statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky way. properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and had done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.

The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed; and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?"

- Mark Twain ("Concerning The Jews," Harper's Magazine, 1899, see The Complete Essays of Mark Twain, Doubleday [1963] pg. 249)

Mark Twain was on the right track: all other empires have disappeared but the Jew is with us forever. I'd like to expand on his theme a bit more: here are nations that warred against the Jews with the most powerful armies of the known world at the time and what happened to them:

* The Egyptian Empire - gone.

* The Amalekites - gone.

* The Assyrian Empire - gone.

* The Hittite Empire - gone.

* The Chaldean Empire - gone.

* The Philistines - gone.

* The Babylonian Empire - gone.

* The Persian Empire - gone.

* The Greek Empire - gone.

* The Roman Empire - gone.

* The Byzantine Empire - gone.

* The Ottoman Turkish Empire - gone.

* The Soviet Empire - gone.

* The Nazi Empire - gone.
There is something to learn from this list, Amr - and that is: anyone who has ever even looked funny at Jews has disappeared from the face of the Earth. There is a lesson there for Hamas and Hezbollah and Iran and other enemies of Jews everywhere. Take heed or disappear from the face of the Earth. Muslims may be one-fourth of mankind now but they rule over very weak and small kingdoms. Previous empires that ruled more than half the globe and a hundred times mightier than Islam have all disappeared - their only crime - hating the Jews. So pardon me Amr, if I laugh at your 1.5 billion pipsqueak Muslims whose total gross domestic product among the 57 Islamic nations (including Russia) combined is barely more than half of the GDP of the United States (1). All the Muslims in the world combined do not amount to even one great power so I doubt that America will collapse from force of Islamic arms. The only way for Islam to conquer America is through immigration. Now you know why I do not worry about Islamic terrorists but do fear moderate Muslims.

That Jews have outlived all their enemies seems nothing short of a miracle.
Deut. 30:3-5

"And the Lord, your God, shall return you from your captivity, and have compassion upon you. He shall return and gather you from amongst all the nations. And the Lord, your God will bring you back into the land your fathers inherited. He will make you even more prosperous and numerous than your fathers".
Sigmund, Carl and Alfred, Jews, Christians, Muslims And Time.

For the Jews, empire was never a defining characteristic. Jews did not need a homeland or any specific piece of geography to be identified as Jews or possessing a culture. In fact, Jews had many diverse cultures defined by geographical location. There were Ashkenazi Jews, Sephardic Jews, Mizrahi Jews and derivatives thereof. What tied these disparate groups together were values. Geography played no role in their identity, save for the desire to someday return to Zion. The idea of time was important in that it was in how we spent time relating to each other in the here and now and in reinforcing community values.

Nations that were to embrace democracy and allow for religious freedom saw no need for empire. Those nations came to understand that relationships with other democracies were far more advantageous than relationships defined by colonial rule. Social, economic and political alliances forged with shared values are more enduring and productive than forced social, economic and political alliances. Time was to be used to improve the lives of all, in the here and now.

In much of the Arab and Islamic world, how time and empire are defined account for much of their failure as nation states. It must also be said that these definitions have been authored by dysfunctional leaders driven by corruption, for whom Islam is no more than a tool to be employed as a hammer.

Monday, February 2, 2009

For such a small country, Israel is doing amazing things in the world of science

New Developments In Israeli Research

by Amy Spiro
Editorial Intern
• Researchers at Hebrew University and the University of California, Berkeley have developed a process to transmit medical images via cellular phones. This development has the potential to allow for sophisticated radiological diagnoses and treatments to the three-quarters of the world’s population that has no access to ultrasounds, X-rays, MRIs and other medical imaging technology. The technology allows smaller, more streamlined data acquisition machines to be used in Third-World countries; the information is then transmitted elsewhere and an image is received back, thus reducing the cost and widening the accessibility of medical imaging.

• Man’s best friend may be more than just a loyal companion, according to a study by Dr. Michael Balaish of Israel’s Agriculture Ministry. The study revealed that in homes
that had dogs, children maintained lower blood pressure than in homes without them. Previous studies expressed this link in adults, but this was the first time the effect was tracked among children. The study was conducted in cooperation with the Gertner Institute for Epidemiology, the children’s ward at the Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

• New research at the University of Haifa could one day help develop medications and treatments to slow the memory loss of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients. A research team led by Professor Kobi Rosenblum was able to identify a specific protein that is essential in the transformation of short-term memories into long term ones.

• Brushing your teeth may actually provide more benefits than just removing plaque, according to a new study from Tel Aviv University. Brushing three times a day can cut the risk of developing hospital-borne pneumonia, a lung infection that develops in about 15 percent of people who are ventilated. Contamination can occur two to three days after the tube is removed, but having the teeth of patients brushed three times a day can reduce the risk of pneumonia by as much as 50 percent.

• We may be feeling the benefits of robots in our daily lives sooner than we think, courtesy of the new Autonomous Systems Center at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. The Center, which is one of only five in the world, includes performance-enhanced unmanned aerial vehicles, swimming medical micro-robots that can travel through the human body, unmanned submarine, land-based, and space exploration, environmental disaster cleanup operations, weapons and explosive detectors and a wealth of other implementations that will drive progress in defense, medicine, and industry.

• Soot, long assumed to have a cooling effect on the climate, could actually be doing the opposite, according to scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science, the University of Maryland and NASA. Airbone particles of soot rise into the atmosphere and may actually either heat or cool the clouds depending on the reaction that takes place. Dr. Ilan Koren and Hila Afargan of the Weizmann Institute have developed an analytical model that shows when each occurrence takes place and how we can predict it. This research may be crucial in further studies of global warming and its effects.

• Nano-sized “bullets” that seek out cancerous cells, non-toxic rechargeable batteries, conversion of light into consumable energy and anti-bacterial bandages and hospital clothing are among the innovations to be pursued at Israel’s largest nanotechnology complex opening in the spring at Bar-Ilan University. It is to house 40 laboratories and more than 250 chemists, biologists, physicists and engineers.

• Renewable fuels may be just around the corner, if Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has its way. The university just signed a multi-year and multimillion dollar deal with Primafuel Inc., to focus on developing renewable fuels from algae.