Friday, May 29, 2009

“The anusim revolution starts here”

“The anusim revolution starts here”

By Ben Harris · May 28, 2009

Of all the rabbis ordained last week at the Jewish Theological Seminary, few have journeys to the rabbinate quite as unlikely as Juan Mejia. Raised as a Catholic in Colombia and educated at Christian schools, Mejia was on his way to becoming a monk when he discovered that his family had Jewish roots. His grandfather would recall men gathering in darkened corners to place towels on their head and pray from a strange book.

After a torturous journey, which involved his rejection by the tiny Jewish community in Bogota and several years of study in Jerusalem, Mejia converted and began training for the rabbinate.

The plight of descendants of conversos, those Jews forced to publicly recant their religion under threat of execution by the Inquisition, but who continued to practice their religion in secret, has gotten more attention in recent years. I've written several stories about Rabbi Rigoberto Emanuel Vinas, a Cuban-born rabbi who teaches classes for anusim, as forced converts are known in Hebrew. JTA has two stories out in recent days on the subject (see here and here), including one about Spanish marranos being trained as Israeli propagandists.

Mejia promises to take the type of outreach Vinas has pioneered to a new level. With many anusim shunned when they turn for help to Jewish communities in Latin America -- those communities are beset by a “colonial mindset,” Mejia says, and have contempt for the claims to Jewish ancestry of the locals -- Mejia hopes to reach them over the Internet. “I fight the Inquisatorial frame of mind,” he says. He already runs a Web site that offers online instruction in Jewish topics. And with his rabbinical training now complete, he hopes to relocate with his wife, also ordained last week at JTS, to the southwest, where many anusim are located.

Mejia believes that only in the United States, with its large, secure, and welcoming Jewish community, can anusim be educated and brought back to their roots. “The anusim revolution starts here,” he says.

Marranos helping Israeli PR effort

Marranos helping Israeli PR effort
By Dina Kraft · May 26, 2009

BARCELONA (JTA) -- On the top floor of this city's Jewish community center, a group whose ancestors were cut off from the Jewish people more than 500 years ago are receiving tips and training to become pro-Israel advocates in the 21st century.

“We can use cyberspace to circumvent the traditional media,” Raanan Gissin, a former Israeli government spokesman, tells them.

His voice rises with excitement as he outlines the potential for coordinated pro-Israel messaging through blogs and Web sites.

Listening intently, scribbling notes and asking questions is a gathering of what might appear to be an unlikely band of foot soldiers for Israel advocacy: the descendants of Jews who converted in Spain and Portugal in the Middle Ages, during the Inquisition.

They have traveled from small towns and cities across the Iberian Peninsula to Barcelona for a three-day conference to learn more about their Jewish roots. Amid talks on Jewish history, theology and identity these people -- known as Marranos or Anusim, Hebrew for “the forced” -- also learned how they could be voices for Israel in their communities.

Anti-Israel sentiment runs particularly high in Spain, where the mass media tend toward highly critical reporting of Israel and public opinion surveys suggest hostile attitudes toward Jews and Israel. Several top Israeli military commanders are being charged by Spain’s high court for possible war crimes for their authorization of the bombing of a Gaza apartment bloc in 2002 that killed a top Hamas commander and 14 civilians.

“Spain is one of the most difficult countries in terms of Israel’s image, and the Anusim see and feel it on a daily basis,” said Michael Freund, chairman of Shavei Israel, which organized the seminar.

Shavei Yisrael reaches out to so-called "lost Jews" around the world who seek to know more about their heritage.

“Many of them have expressed a desire to do something about it, to speak out about it, to speak on Israel’s behalf,” Freund said.

“I think the potential is vast for Israel and the Jewish people because the Anusim -- because of their personal background and historical connection with the Jewish people -- feel an affinity towards Israel, and they are perfectly positioned as citizens of Spain and Portugal to serve as unofficial ambassadors,” he said. “I think it’s time for the State of Israel to realize that and to make use of the goodwill that exists here.”

Several of the 60 people attending the conference already have become involved. Some recounted fear facing anti-Israeli sentiment in their hometowns.

A middle-aged doctor from Barcelona who preferred not to have his name used said he was threatened by a local Muslim in response to articles he wrote under a pseudonym defending Israel.

“Israel is considered a criminal state, and people are always looking to see how they can further frame Israel,” he said. “I fear officials in Israel do not view Europe importantly enough and that’s a mistake. We have to change the mentality here.”

In recent years, Spain’s centuries-old anti-Semitism based on religious dogma has taken a new form in anti-Israeli sentiment, he said.

Einat Kranz-Nieger, the deputy chief of mission at the Israeli Embassy in Madrid, outlined some of the major themes Israel is trying to transmit internationally: Its commitment to the Israeli-Palestinian peace effort, improving Palestinians’ security and standard of living, and the global and regional threat posed by Iran.

In a tense moment in the discussion, several participants raised the potential risks they face in speaking out for Israel and asked whether Israel would assist them if needed. They did not receive a clear answer.

Seminar organizers said their comments underscore the sensitivity of those seeking some sort of return to Judaism, whether through official conversion or a connection with local Jews.

“People feel they live in a gray zone; they are not officially Jews," said Rabbi Eliyahu Birnbaum of Shavei Yisrael. "But some are identifying themselves as Jews in very non-Jewish communities.”

Estimates for the number of people with Jewish roots in this region vary. Many Spanish and Portuguese have family names that indicate a Jewish past. Some at the conference spoke of families observing unexplained traditions such as lighting candles followed by a grandmother’s mumbling of unintelligible incantations and the washing and salting of meat.

According to a recent genetic study, about 20 percent of Portuguese and Spanish citizens have Jewish backgrounds.

Rafael Peretz, 47, is from the town of Saragossa, about 150 miles west of Barcelona, where only three Jewish families live. He recently started a Web site about Anusim,, which features a section on Israeli advocacy. There are links to several Spanish-language pro-Israel bloggers, and Peretz sends messages on online social networking sites and posts videos on the video-sharing site YouTube to help get out what he calls more balanced information on Israel.

“In Spain there is not much information about the reality of life in Israel,” said Peretz, who started investigating his Jewish roots several years ago.

As a child, his father had brought him to a synagogue and startled him with the announcement “We come from the Jewish people.”

At the seminar, Gissin said that one must think creatively in order to advocate for Israel successfully.

“You have to learn how to fight, how to speak: short sentences, use stories,” he said.

Gazing around the room, Gissin said, “You are a living testament to what we are talking about. Each of your stories is a living document to the eternity of the Jewish people.”

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Book of Proverbs

The Book of Proverbs
King Solomon (or someone like him) brings wisdom to the people.
By Elana Roth

The Book of Proverbs is the second book in the Ketuvim (or Writings), the third section of the Tanakh. The full Hebrew title is Mishlei Shlomo, or The Proverbs of Solomon, a reference to King Solomon, who, according to Jewish tradition, is the author of Mishlei.
Who Wrote the Book of Proverbs?

In spite of this attribution, it is unlikely that he, in fact, authored much of Proverbs. For one, several other authors are credited throughout the book, such as the officials of King Hezekiah, Agur son of Yakeh, and King Lemuel. Also, while much of the material may have been produced prior to the Jewish exile from Israel, some modern scholars set the book's true completion in the post-exile period, long after King Solomon's actual reign.

The attribution more likely stems from the tradition of tying a book to a biblical figure known for a certain quality. For example, the Book of Psalms is associated with King David, who was known to be a poet and musician. King Solomon was known for his wisdom, and so Proverbs might have seemed like a natural fit.

Much of the book may be unfamiliar to many; however, it does include a few notable passages. One in particular, has become a focal point of the Torah service--etz hayim hi lamahazikim ba v'tomkheha m'ushar or "It is a tree of life to those who grasp her, and whoever holds on to her is happy (3:18)."

The Book of Proverbs fits within the genre of wisdom literature, as it is unconcerned with Israelite practices such as Temple worship or sacrifice.

Instead, Proverbs offers statements about how to conduct one's life wisely. While the book does not offer a systematic presentation of specific doctrinal principles, Israelite or otherwise, Proverbs does convey a clear view of reward and punishment connected directly to God. Chapter 1, verse 7 sets the tone: "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." Then the text delves further: "For the upright will abide in the land, and the innocent shall remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it (2:21-22)."

Everything begins with God. The good shall be rewarded, and the evil punished. And those who truly pursue wisdom will find reward greater than material wealth: "Happy are those who find wisdom…for her income is better than silver, and her revenue better than gold (3:13-14)." Wisdom itself is the greatest reward of all.
Wisdom, Personified

One of the most defining characteristics of Proverbs is the recurring figure of Hokhma, Wisdom. This figure is a goddess-like being, similar to the Sophia of Greek philosophy. At first she appears almost like a prophet of Israel: "Wisdom cries out in the street, in the squares she raises her voice (1:20)."

She appeals to the people directly, urging them to follow her guidance, much the way that biblical prophets urged the sinning Israelites to atone for their sins. Her role shifts, though, when she speaks directly in Chapter 8. Her divine qualities come through, when she places herself right alongside God in the creation story: "When He established the heavens, I was there…when He marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker (8:27-30)."

The Book of Proverbs also presents, as a counterpart to Wisdom, the loose or "strange" woman, who is prominent throughout the book.

Nearly all of Chapter 5 is dedicated to warning young men away from this evil woman: "For the lips of the loose woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil…She does not keep straight to the path of life, her ways wander, and she does not know it (5:3-6)."

This figure might be a metaphor for the folly that opposes Wisdom, but it might also be a more literal fear. This would accord with some of the book's broader themes, such as preparing for adult responsibilities and choosing a suitable wife.
Warnings, Good Advice, & Righteous Women

In warning young men away from temptresses, the text assumes a parental tone. Fitting with the theme of constant parental concern (many chapters begin with some variation of the entreaty "My child, accept my teachings"), children maturing into adulthood are instructed to choose the right path.

For example, Polonius's words to Laertes in Hamlet are reminiscent of Proverbs 3:25-31, "Do not quarrel with anyone without cause, when no harm has been done to you." In Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3, Shakespeare writes: "Beware of entrance to a quarrel…give every man thy ear, but few thy voice." The parental investment in both texts is clear--a family that upholds the right qualities guarantees that God's will is followed.

All these themes are summed up in the final 22 verses in Proverbs, better known as Eshet hayil. The simplest reading of these verses yields an acrostic poem that describes an ideal woman. While that simple reading might yield a lovely poem to read to one's wife, it may also be seen as a dedication to this figure of Hokhma that figures so prominently throughout the book.

The same qualities of courage, kindness, and piety expounded throughout Proverbs are embodied in this woman--or in the spirit of Wisdom. Some scholars point to earlier references to Wisdom, such as (31:10) "worth greater than jewels," which nearly replicates the "she is more precious than jewels" of Chapter 3, verse 15. Whether it's simply a song to one's wife, a dedication to an idea, or something else, the themes of Proverbs are neatly summed up in Eshet hayil: build a worthy family, stay on the path of virtue, and you shall be rewarded.

The secret Jews of the Southwest

EL PASO, Texas (JTA) -- Three strange things happened to Rabbi Stephen Leon the first week he moved here in 1986 to lead Congregation B'nai Zion, the Conservative synagogue in this border city.

“Rabino,” said a Catholic man calling from Jaurez, Mexico, about 30 minutes away. “I need to talk to you.”

Every Friday night from the time he was little, the man's grandmother took him into a room, lit candles and said some prayers in a private language he didn't understand. His grandmother had just died, and he asked his mother if she would continue the tradition. She told him to go find a rabbi.

Three days later, a Catholic woman from El Paso came to the rabbi after visiting a relative in mourning, where she noticed that all the mirrors were covered.

“Why are you doing this?” she asked her relatives.

They said it was a Jewish custom.

Then the cable guy came, and the rabbi told him, “Shalom Y'all.” The man -- a Catholic Hispanic -- opened his shirt and showed his Jewish star necklace -- he had just found out about his Jewish roots.

“Three incidents in a week and a half?” Leon recalled. “There has to be something going on.”

Twenty-two years later that something is still going on: A steady trickle of Hispanics in the Southwest, from Juarez to Texas to New Mexico, are discovering Jewish roots.

Some are set on their search because of a mysterious tradition practiced by an older relative, such as not eating pork or working on Saturday. For others the clue is an artifact like a trompito spinning top that resembles a dreidel, or a set of tefillin that a Catholic grandmother on a road trip once insisted on depositing with the rabbi.

But for the majority of people it's something more tenuous: a word here (bubbe, tzedakah), a Jewish name there (Rael, from Israel). Very often it's just a feeling about Catholicism, Jesus, their past or what they say is their soul that leads people to wonder if their family was once Jewish.

Crypto-Jews. Marranos. Anusim. Judios. Conversos. They are all terms with different nuances referring to Jews and/or their descendants who were forced to convert after Spain and Portugal expelled all non-Catholics, but continued to practice Judaism or maintained some Jewish customs even as they and their children migrated to Latin America, Europe and finally the United States.

Some Crypto-Jews are interested in the genealogical knowledge but are not planning on leaving Catholicism; others practice a dual Messianic faith with both Judaism and Jesus. A very few give up their Catholic faith and convert -- they prefer the word “return” -- to Judaism.

“Who do you count?” asked Stanley Hordes, one of the foremost experts on the Crypto-Jews and author of “To the End of the Earth: A History of the Crypto-Jews of New Mexico” (Columbia University Press, 2008).

“Chances are really good that many people have Jewish ancestors going back 500 years,” he said, estimating that after half of Spain's several hundred thousand Jews left the country, half converted to Catholicism -- half of those Jews converted willingly, assimilating and eventually blending into Catholic society.

“There were certain families that held onto ancestral Jewish faith and continued to practice,” he said. “Today, the overwhelming majority are perfectly content in their Protestantism and Catholicism. Only a handful of cases people are exploring a relationship with mainstream Judaism.”

This Shavuot, as Jews around the world celebrate the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai and read the Book of Ruth -- the story of the world's most famous convert to Judaism -- some of these Crypto-Jewish returnees will celebrate their bar and bat mitzvah with Leon at Congregation B'nai Zion, a synagogue with 400 families.

Ten percent of the members are Crypto-Jews, yet “without my anusim I might not have a minyan,” Leon said.

He's not kidding. On a hot Saturday morning in May, in the imposing angular white B'nai Zion building set starkly against the mountain range dividing El Paso, about 30 of the 50 people sitting in the circular sanctuary topped by a Jewish star skylight are Crypto-Jews. (The larger sanctuary is used on the High Holidays to accommodate the 1,500 members.)

One is Blanca Carrasco, 43, who returned to Judaism last year and is about to celebrate her bat mitzvah on Shavuot, which this year begins on the evening of May 28.

As the rabbi takes the Torah around the sanctuary to be kissed, the congregation sings "Etz chayim chai, l'amachazikim bah" (“A tree of life to all those who hold fast to it ...”) and Carrasco tears up at the last verse: "Hashiveinu hashem elecha v'nashuva" -- “Return us to you, God, and we shall return.”

Carrasco's return to Judaism started as a curious Catholic child in Mexico, where she was infatuated with everything in the Bible. By the time she was 20 she converted to Evangelical Christianity, but the doctrine was still lacking for her and her husband, Cezar, who considered himself more of an atheist. Then, about 14 years ago, her mother invited her to a Passover seder at a Messianic congregation in El Paso.

“We felt it was familiar -- it felt like home,” Blanca Carrasco said.

“Right in that instance, our life changed,” she added. “I needed to know more.”

Like a number of Crypto-Jews who now attend B'nai Zion, the Carrascos began their religious transformation by praying at the Messianic Center in El Paso, where they learned about Judaism, important rabbis, the Jewish festivals and history, and Crypto-Jews. She found some family names -- Espinoza, Israel, Salinas -- and a great-aunt who said her grandmother spoke Ladino.

Eventually Carrasco began to believe only in the Jewish traditions, and three years ago she decided to leave the Messianic congregation after a decade there.

“How can I explain to what is in my heart?” she said. “People would tell us, 'You don't have to do it,' but we just love it and want to learn and want to do it.”

A year ago the couple underwent a “return ceremony,” which is technically a conversion, replete with a conversion certificate, since it requires at least a year of study, mikvah immersion and a declaration of faith.

For the Carrascos, their b'nai mitzvah ceremony on Shavuot is just another rite of passage on their journey to Judaism.

“Now we belong -- we are not longing anymore, we are here," Blanca Carrasco said. "We reached the place we were heading to.”

Talk to a number of the 50 anusim families that Leon has returned to Judaism -- some of whom will be b'nai mitzvah this week -- and you'll hear a similar story.

Margarita Luna remembered that her grandmother always lit candles on Friday night before saying the Rosary. But her mother didn't want to talk about it -- perhaps that was because during the Mexican wars in the 1920s they had to hide in a well for a few days. “Always in my heart I feel that I love the Jewish traditions,” she says, fingering her mezuzah necklace. “And always I say I am Jewish and I need to go back to my roots.”

She and her husband, Victor, converted five years ago, and after their b'nai mitzvah on Shavuot, they plan to have a Jewish wedding ceremony and, hopefully one day, move to Israel with their teenage daughter.

Is finding historical proof important to them?

“It's not a determinant for my actual connection with God,” Victor said. “I think my heart, my feelings, my soul is Jewish. That is most important thing.

For Leon, who led a New Jersey congregation for 22 years prior to coming to El Paso, this has become his mission.

“God said to me, 'I cannot bring back the 6 million who were killed in the Holocaust, but there was another group before who are alive in much larger numbers than Holocaust survivors because it's been 500 years, generation after generation of generation," he said. "Their souls are still alive. … You have to do something about it.’”

Not everyone agrees with this mission. Rabbi Yisrael Greenberg of Chabad of El Paso says he receives his share of phone calls from Mexicans who think they have Jewish roots but discourages conversion.

“I think the Crypto-Jew is a real thing -- 500 years ago in the Inquisition hundreds of thousands of Jewish boys and girls disappeared from the Jewish community … Jews always disappeared from the Jewish community -- most of it by force,” Greenberg said.

But, he added, referring to the strong religious ties of Mexican families and the community, “We have to be careful -- we break families.”

“We should put our energy into the Jewish people rather than to try and bring anusim back,” Greenberg said. “If the anusim have a desire to understand Judaism, then let's teach them about their ancestors and let them have an understanding,” he added, implying that the best thing to do would be to leave it at that.

Such an approach would be fine with Elay Romero, a retired pipe fitter, who has been retracing his family's lineage through state records and was considering some DNA testing. He discovered Hordes' book about Crypto-Jews and came to Taos, N.M., to hear the historian speak on the topic at the New Mexico Jewish Historical Society.

“I'm just curious," Romero said. "If I had Jewish blood, it's fine. But we've been practicing Catholics for generations, and I won't change my affiliation with the Church.”

The rabbi, meanwhile, has big plans. In addition to welcoming Crypto-Jews, he helped start an anusim/Sephardic learning center and yeshiva in El Paso with Juan Pable Mejia, a graduate of the rabbinical program at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and Sonya Loya, the director of Bat-Tzyion Hebrew Learning Center in Ruidoso, N.M. The goal would be to bring awareness to the Jewish and general public about the Inquisition and Crypto-Jews on par with Holocaust remembrance.

“The anusim will come back eventually; there is a yearning. There is a divine plan out there,” Leon said.

With Hispanics being the fastest-growing population and the Jews constantly concerned about their diminishing population, Leon says the Jewish community should welcome those Hispanics who want to explore their Jewish ancestry.

“I think the anusim are the only answer,” he said. “They are returning one way or another.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Will Eisner Moving beyond superheroes to tell his people's story.

Will Eisner
Moving beyond superheroes to tell his people's story.
By Matthue Roth

Will Eisner did not invent the graphic novel, but he was among the first to apply the convention of comics to novel-length stories.
Self-Taught Artist

Eisner was born in Brooklyn in 1917, the son of Austrian Jewish immigrants. His father, a renowned church painter in Europe, first painted sets for theatres after moving to New York. Eventually, to better provide for his family, he opened a retail store.

When that business prospered, the Eisners moved to the quieter, more affluent, and relatively more suburban Bronx. They left a neighborhood that was nearly all Jewish, and moved into an area with a more varied ethnic makeup of Irish, Italian, and Eastern European presences.

Eisner’s experiences from his youth created a tableau for many of the recurring themes in his work: new immigrants, crooked landlords and store-owners, salesmen with wandering eyes, and housewives with wandering affections. Eisner watched these seedy characters, absorbed their stories, and used them later in life to paint vivid character portraits.

Even as a child, Eisner was a gifted artist. At a young age, his father took Will to drawing lessons at an inexpensive art school. When the school turned out to be a fraud -- the "school" was a machine that was attached to the student's arm in order to draw shapes -- the senior Eisner didn't give up. He was determined to find a suitable place for Will to develop his skill.

That "suitable place" ended up being their apartment. Self-taught, Will sold his first cartoon in 1936 to Wow What a Magazine. Soon thereafter, he joined one of the many assembly-line comic art studios springing up all over lower Manhattan. There, he met and collaborated with many of the era's finest talents--among them, Jack Kirby (co-creator of Spider-Man and The Eternals) and Max Gaines (Wonder Woman, Famous Funnies).

Eisner became so successful that he and cartoonist Jerry Iger created their own studio in 1936. They hired a new team and began to produce high quality work, quickly. In 1939, the two had an amicable split. Eisner ended up selling his half of the studio and started work on his own ventures.

Though the overwhelming majority of early comic book creators were Jewish, anti-Semitism still persisted in the industry. Eisner had experienced anti-Semitism in his youth--the kind that provoked street fights in his neighborhood. In the workplace, Eisner encountered people who tried to stop him and other Jews from getting ahead.

When Eisner didn't give Bob Powell, creator of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, permission to leave his company, Powell accused Eisner of pulling a "Jew trick." In his early career, Eisner also did business with several publishers and businessmen who, seeing him as an uneducated child of immigrants, attempted to steal his creations and claim them as their property.
The Spirit

The next year, Eisner began writing and drawing The Spirit as a weekly comic book insert for a newspaper syndicate. Episodes followed the pattern of a classic noir story, with an overarching plot: Denny Colt, a young detective captured by villains, is presumed dead by the greater world, but makes his way through the seedy underbelly of Central City. He meets dames and fights gangsters, all while wearing a loose costume of an eyemask, a fedora, a business suit and a red necktie.

The series was notable for breaking down genre walls between adventure, horror, folktales, humor, and romance. It was also the first comic to feature a black character, Ebony White, in a prominent role.

Most importantly, The Spirit brought comics to a mass audience. No longer relegated to the realm of adolescent boys, The Spirit was in mainstream newspapers. The Spirit also elevated Eisner into the public consciousness. With a rate of production that was almost superhuman--a new 16-page comic once a week--he wrote and drew The Spirit for the next 12 years, even remaining involved in production after he was drafted into the U.S. Army for WWII.

During these 12 years, Eisner also started writing more long-form stories in pairings of graphics and words, usually focusing on the lives of New York Jews. Eisner’s stories featured artists and lovers faced with the harsh realities of money, manual labor, broken dreams, and unhappy marriages. Husbands and wives either yelled at each other or cheated on each other. Kids fought, stole, and lied.

Eisner stopped production of The Spirit in 1952 in order to focus more on these longer graphic novels. The most popular of these, A Contract With God, focused on Jewish immigrants torn between small paychecks and a religion and culture that seemed increasingly out of touch with the modern world in which they now lived. Less novels in the classical sense than extended vignettes with stream-of-consciousness segues, these books gradually became Eisner's primary interest, as well as the focal point of all his later work.
The Storyteller's Responsibility

The Jews that populated Eisner's stories were often portrayed negatively, in consonance with prevailing cultural stereotypes. These stereotypes were based in part on his own autobiographical details, which manifested in works like The Dreamer and Invisible People. Yet they also focused on stereotypical Hasidic rabbis and secular Jewish businessmen, who populated the New York of Eisner's daily life. Despite these portrayals, Eisner was committed to fighting anti-Semitism on all levels, both in his own life and on a greater social level. This commitment is apparent in his final project, The Plot.

Eisner finished The Plot in 2004, shortly before he died. It is a comprehensive graphic history of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, depicting the Protocols' origin as Russian anti-Semitic propaganda, and subsequent use in other cultures and by other enemies of the Jews. In his introduction to the book, Eisner wrote, "I have spent my career in the application of sequential art as a form of narrative language. With the widespread acceptance of the graphic narrative as a vehicle of popular literature, there is now an opportunity to deal head-on with this propaganda in a more accessible language."

Eisner's monumental legacy continues among contemporary comic creators. Writers from Umberto Eco (The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loanna) to Neil Gaiman (Sandman) have borrowed Eisner's characters and alluded to his storylines in their work. Frank Miller, the creator of Sin City and 300, chose to adapt The Spirit into film for his own directorial debut.

The comic industry's highest awards, their equivalent of the Oscars, are known as "The Eisners." But the most enduring part of Eisner's legacy will be his own work--a form which, as Eisner himself always hoped, would speak for itself.

Jon Stewart Not your ordinary Jewish funny man (okay, maybe he is).

Jon Stewart
Not your ordinary Jewish funny man (okay, maybe he is).
By Saul Austerlitz

There is a voice that Jon Stewart trots out on certain occasions. High-pitched, wheedling, and nebbishy, it immediately summons to mind legions of nerdy young men wearing glasses. It is less an original impression and more an homage to every contemporary Jewish comedian's hero, rival, and guiding star, Woody Allen, the comic genius who shucked his last name while retaining his famously conflicted stance toward Judaism.

Like Allen (born Allen Konigsberg) Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz transformed himself into the more gentile sounding Jon Stewart without actually becoming any less Jewish in affect or sentiment.

Any comedian with a Jewish last name (or the remnants of one), and a literate, bookish shtick, will inevitably face the Woody comparisons. Jon Stewart's Woody voice is a small, telling indication of his willingness to not only attack those comparisons head-on, but make it a part of his own persona. The same could be said of Stewart's relationship to Judaism as a whole.

In many ways, Jon Stewart is only nominally a Jewish comedian. His enormously popular Comedy Central series, The Daily Show, is a comedic take on current events and public affairs--a sort of alternative front page for an audience who prefers Stewart to the New York Times.

Stewart rocketed to fame during the lowest years of the Bush administration, when liberal wrath at the excesses and incompetency of Republican leadership propelled The Daily Show's brand of snarky outrage into cultural ubiquity.
The Road to The Daily Show

Born in 1962 to a middle-class Jewish family in New Jersey (his father was a physicist, and his mother a teacher), Stewart has served longer in the trenches of comedy than many Daily Show enthusiasts might be aware. Debuting as a standup comedian shortly after graduating from William & Mary in 1984, Stewart scuffled through various low-profile gigs before becoming a featured presence on MTV in the early 1990s. Graduating from writing sketches to hosting his own show, Stewart took the reins of his pleasingly lackadaisical talk show--named, conveniently enough, The Jon Stewart Show--in 1993, with B-list celebrity guests like John Stamos sharing time with the comedian's off-kilter musings.

The MTV series was a cable hit, eventually making the leap to syndication, where it was forced into competition with the big boys of late night. Stewart's show flopped in its new time slot and was canceled in 1995. Following his show's cancellation, Stewart filled his time with mostly forgettable roles in movies like Half Baked, Playing for Keeps, and The First Wives Club (from which his scenes were ultimately deleted).

Meanwhile, Comedy Central had debuted a new program of its own called "The Daily Show" in 1996. Hosted by former SportsCenter anchor Craig Kilborn, it was meant to be a snarky news roundup with an emphasis on entertainment reporting. The show was popular, and when Kilborn took a job hosting CBS' Late Late Show in 1999, Stewart was hired as his replacement. Under Stewart's guardianship, The Daily Show brought in a remarkably gifted group of correspondents (including Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Rob Corddry, and Ed Helms), and shifted the focus from popular culture to politics.

The timing was ideal; with the contested 2000 election, the September 11 attacks, and the war in Iraq just around the corner. The Daily Show would tap into a growing public desire to stay abreast of current events without being bored stiff by the nightly news. The Daily Show not only has come to fill in it viewers in on the news, but also offer its own deliciously witty, rip-roaring take on the day's events, often leaning on cleverly culled video footage to poke holes in the well-maintained façade of public discourse.
All Those Jewish Jokes

As his show's master of ceremonies, Stewart plays the Jewish court jester, offering gleefully impolite, impolitic observations from an outsider's perspective. The frame of reference for Stewart's jokes, and those of his correspondents, is often a Jewish one. On one episode, Stewart compared then-President Bush's United Nations speech castigating Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to that of a classical Jewish mother rebuking her children: "But go ahead, burn me in effigy, for all I care…sue me for loving."

In another episode, Stewart gleefully announced the presence of actor--and fellow Semite--Seth Rogen for that night's taping. With Rogen's presence, Stewart noted, "our show…will be kosher for Passover." Pausing for laughter, Stewart went on: "Is it Passover now? Does anybody know? Anybody? No? Is it Purim? Hanukkah? Kwanzaa?"

It was, truth be told, none of the above--although Passover was only a week away. The joke, though, was multifaceted: It was first a winking recognition of Stewart's place near the apex of the Hollywood Jewish cabal, using the platform of his television show to usher another member of the tribe into America's living rooms. It was, as well, an acknowledgement of Stewart's tenuous--or mock-tenuous--grasp of his own Jewish heritage. Was it Passover? Which one was that again? The one with the candles, or the one with the fasting?

Jewish holidays are a notable preoccupation of The Daily Show, which enjoys having Stewart and his correspondents poke gentle fun at the onslaught of celebrations that remain mostly unfamiliar to Gentile America. Sukkot, according to Stewart, is defined as "a Hebrew word meaning 'how many holidays can Jews fit into one month?' The answer, of course, is 'I can't be in tomorrow. It's a Jewish holiday.'"

Stewart is the assimilated Jew writ large, joking about raising his child to observe Christmas and Hanukkah before wryly noting that "Christmas blows the doors off Hanukkah." In his Jewish mode, Stewart resuscitates the kind of awkward, neurotic Jewish-themed humor associated with USY events and bar-mitzvah instructors. The Festival of Lights, Stewart observes, "celebrates the birth of our savior, Hanukkah Harry."
A Typical American Jew

Stewart's is the voice of contemporary American Jewry, his own self-stated unfamiliarity with the nitty-gritty of religious observance complemented, and partially offset, by a deep-seated sense of his own roots. The Woody voice, the Jewish jokes, the constant references to the Hollywoodization of his name, these are all witty, self-congratulatory, sometimes-pained acknowledgements of Jon Stewart's playful affection for, and occasional ignorance of, his Jewish background.

Somehow, the experience of seeing those jokes writ large, on the television screen, in close proximity to the mandarins of American politics, makes them funny all over again, no longer moldy but brash reminders of Stewart's unapologetic Jewishness (Stewart's having changed his last name becomes, in this mindset, less a pathetic caviling to the gentile powers that be than a personal foible, ripe for mockery).

The Daily Show becomes a strange inverse of American life, with assimilation taking place from the inside out. There is something truly charming about watching African-American correspondent Wyatt Cenac awkwardly stumble through the phrase "just because I'm goyim doesn't mean I don't have mechutanim" (never mind the improper use of the plural). Judaism, in Stewart's world, becomes a cool kids' club everyone is desperate to join.

What is the Jewish view on organ donations?

What is the Jewish view on organ donations?

The Short Answer:

Jewish law distinguishes between donating organs during your lifetime and organ donation after death. While you are alive, it is one of the greatest acts you could do. In theory, the same should apply to donating organs after death. But in practice, consenting to have your organs removed after death presents some major halachic problems.

The Askmoses Answer:

Judaism holds life as being sacred. For this reason, donating an organ to save a life is one of the highest act of virtue one can do. But sometimes, precisely because life is sacred, organ donation is problematic.

Jewish law distinguishes between donating organs during your lifetime and organ donation after death. While you are alive, to donate an organ that you can live without, like a kidney, or parts that will replenish themselves, like bone marrow or blood, in order to save or vastly improve another life is one of the greatest acts you could do.

In theory, the same should apply to donating organs after death. Being that saving lives overrides almost any other moral concern, the opportunity to do so after our death should be not only acceptable but even obligatory. So for example, though the Torah commands us to be buried whole, this command would step aside for the greater command to save lives.

But in practice, consenting to have your organs removed after death presents some heavy problems.

It is forbidden to tamper with a corpse in any way unless it is in order to directly save a life. But when you sign a consent form to have your organs removed, not all of those organs will necessarily be used for an immediate transplant. They may be used for research, or stored away, or even discarded if not needed. Jewish law only allows organ donation if it can be ensured that the organs will indeed be used to save lives.

But there is a much more serious concern: to be usable in a transplant, most organs have to be removed from the deceased donor while the heart is still beating. While the medical and legal world has accepted brain death as a new definition of death, this remains the subject of great dispute in the Halachic world. Many experts in Jewish law maintain that if the heart is still beating, the person is still alive. They say the moment of death is defined as when the heart stops. According to this view, to remove organs from a brain dead patient while the heart is still beating is tantamount to murder.

To tamper with the definition of death is to start on a path that can lead to major ethical problems. Imagine a case where 89 year old patient X is partially brain dead and, according to the doctors, certainly going to die. Patient Y in the next bed, aged thirty five, urgently needs a heart transplant. Why not pronounce X dead now rather than risk losing both patients? It may sound reasonable, but it can be taking one life to save another. For those who see life as sacred, this is unconscionable.

Some countries offer an option to give consent to organs being removed on condition that a rabbi is consulted beforehand, who will ascertain that they will only be removed after absolute death and be used only to save lives. In countries where no such option exists, we don't consent to the removal of organs after death.

This is a life and death question. We need higher wisdom to guide us. I wouldn't want to have to decide what is right and wrong based on my own subjective opinion and feelings. Thank G-d we have the Torah to give us clarity in these ultimate issues.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Hannah Solomon: Founder of the National Council of Jewish Women

Hannah Solomon: Founder of the National Council of Jewish Women
by Seymour "Sy" Brody

Hannah Greenebaum Solomon founded the National Council of Jewish Women in 1893, the oldest active Jewish women's volunteer organization in America. She was also active in philanthropy and the civic life of Chicago.

She was bom on January 14, 1858, the fourth of ten children of Sarah and Michael Greenebaum. Her parents emigrated from Germany and her father soon became a very successful hardware merchant in Chicago. Hannah's parents were important figures in Chicago's growing Jewish community and belonged to the Reform temple. She went to their religious school where German and Hebrew were taught.

On May 14, 1879, she married Henry Solomon, a young merchant who shared her interest in classical music and the arts. They had three children: Herbert, who died in 1899, Helen and Frank, who replaced his father as the head of the business when he died in 1913.

Hannah Solomon and her sister, Henriette Frank, were always active in many social clubs and organizations. They became the first Jewish members of the Chicago Women's Club. Henriette became its president in 1884 and the club became more involved in the problems of children and women.

In 1890, Hannah Solomon was asked to organize a national Jewish Women's Congress for the World Columbian Exposition Parliament of Religions to be held three years later. She managed to get together many Jewish leaders and their organizations for the first such assembly in America. This Congress made this assembly a permanent organization called the National Council of Jewish Women. Their goals were to teach all Jewish women their obligations to their religion and community.

Hannah Solomon was elected as the Council's first president and served until 1905 when she was made honorary president for life. During her tenure, local chapters sprung up throughout the country and they became active with the social issues confronting women.

Solomon was active in many other organizations in the Chicago area. She and Susan B. Anthony represented the Council of Women of the United States at a convention of the International Council of Women in Berlin in 1904.

She was involved in helping the Russian-Jewish immigrants who were crowding into Chicago in the 1890s. With funds received from the Chicago section of the National Council of Jewish Women, she formed the Bureau of Personal Service, an organization designed to give guidance and legal advice to these new Jewish immigrants.

Her interests were wide when it came to working for the betterment of life for women. Solomon worked with the Illinois Industrial School for Girls in 1905 and had the school rehabilitated and moved to a more desirable area. In 1907, she became president of the school and insti- tuted many positive changes. She was an active member of the Women's City Club and was responsible for many civic reforms.

Solomon was involved in the founding of the Chicago Juvenile Court and was on the board of the Chicago Civic Federation. She was instru- mental in helping to improve the laws and city ordinances affecting juvenile delinquents and the underprivileged.

Hannah Greenebaum Solomon died on December 7, 1942. Her legacy to the United States and Judaism was the establishment and the development of the National Council of Jewish Women, an outstanding Jewish women's volunteer organization.

Israel Today - The Death of Modern Zionism

Israel Today - The Death of Modern Zionism from Joseph Katzman on Vimeo.

How can you resist? Jewish Boy is Drafted by the StL Rams

Bar Mitzvah Boy.

Mark Harrison Rubin, 23, laughed at the question: What’s a nice Jewish boy doing playing professional football?

For anyone with preconceived notions about the fact that Jewish boys don’t play football, a conversation with Rubin will quickly dispel that myth. He played for a Big Ten School - Penn State - and was drafted to play this year for the St. Louis Rams as a strong safety.

Rubin, 6’3 inches and 213 pounds, was born and reared in upstate New York, the son of David and Mary Ellen Rubin. He has an older sister Rachel, 25, with whom he’s very close. Rubin knows where he comes from and where he is going. His roots are grounded in Judaism. He grew in Buffalo, NY., studied Hebrew and had a Bar Mitzvah. His family still belongs to the local JCC.

Rubin's not only physically strong, he’s a “smart jock” who maintained a 3.8 GPA in high school, finished undergraduate school at Penn and entered the MBA program at the University’s Smeal College of Business as a finance major. He's interrupting his studies to play pro ball, but plans to finish at some point.

Because of an outstanding college record, one newspaper referred to him as “an intelligent and versatile player, he combines toughness with physical prowess.” In 2007 Rubin was named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District Team and is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree.

Those of us in St. Louis will have the good fortune to see a young Jewish athlete launch a professional football career and hope it takes him on a skyrocketing trajectory. We welcome Rubin into our community with open arms.

In an interview with, Rubin said he’s never been in the Midwest and discussed his Jewish roots, what they mean to him, whether he’ll seek out the St. Louis Jewish community and, of course we had to ask – whether he has a significant other.

Rubin Family and the proud future NFL player
Question: Tell us about your family?

Answer: My Dad, David, was born and raised in Cincinnati and my mother, Mary Ellen, is from Buffalo. He’s a teacher who’s doing substitute teaching right now. My mother is a clinical psychologist who works with families and kids. She got her PH. D. at Indiana University, where my parents met. My sister, Rachel, was a division swimmer for the University of Buffalo. Currently, she’s in a Ph.D. program for cognitive neuroscience at the University of Illinois, Champaign.

Q: How do they feel about their Jewish son opting to become a football player versus the Jewish parents’ stereotypical dream of their son becoming a doctor or a lawyer?

Answer: As far as my parents’ reaction to my passion for football, they’ve have been great about my choices. I couldn’t have made it where I am today without their support both athletically and academically. Growing up with athletics has been a big part of my life… and my sister’s life. We get it from my Dad’s side…he played all kinds of sports -- high school football, track and baseball. I was always interested in football, but my parents wouldn’t let me play until I was in 7th grade. (I did other sports until then.) Since I was a big kid for my age and they arranged teams based on weight, I was grouped with 15-year-olds when I was 10 or 11. By 8th grade, I was on the JV high school team and as a freshman I played varsity.

Q: You make no bones about being Jewish. What denomination are you?

A: We are Reform and members of Temple Beth Am in Buffalo. My mother was non-Jewish before she met and married my father at Indiana. After they were married, she converted. Neither my parents nor I have been to Israel but my sister is currently looking into going on a Birthright Israel trip.

My sister and I attended Hebrew and Sunday school two days a week. I learned Hebrew but I don’t remember much. I wasn’t involved in youth groups or any other Jewish groups, but we did belong as a family to the Jewish Community Center where I worked out from time to time.

Q: Have you ever experienced a conflict about playing a football game on a Jewish holiday?

A: I haven’t had any conflicts, per se, like having to decide whether to play on Yom Kippur. However, I remember we had a game one year the evening after Yom Kipppur ended. I couldn’t fast Yom Kippur day because we had a game that night.

Q: Were you the only Jewish player on the Penn State team?

A: No. There were two other Jewish football players and they are among my good friends today.

From Torah to ... tackles?
Q: What can the Jewish community of St. Louis do for you once you settle in?

A: Just to be supportive of what I do and do what you’re doing with this interview…reaching out to me and making me aware of the different programs and options in the city.

Q: How would you like to connect to the Jewish community?

A: I want to learn what the Jewish community has to offer…your website will help. I’m open to trying new things. Will I join a congregation? I don’t know at this point. I have to see if I have time and where I’ll be living.

Q: I know this is personal, but we have to ask because almost every Jewish mother will wonder: Do you have a significant other?

A: No. I’m single.

Q: Do you have any friends or family in St. Louis?

A: No and I’ve never been to this part of the country before. I know about the Arch and I read about the city Museum in an airline magazine. It will be nice to be close to my sister who’ll be at the University of Illinois.

Q: Do you have any role models who are Jewish…or non-Jewish?

A: My Jewish role models are my parents. They’ve always been there to support, teach me and guide me in everything I’ve ever done. They’ve always made time to help me in any way they could. I look up to my sister too. She is a great athlete and student. She taught me how to manage my time efficiently.

My non-Jewish role model is Jerry Rice, when he played for San Francisco. He had a tremendous work ethic.

Q: What have been the highlights in your football career?

A: The 2005 and 2008 seasons at Penn State when we won the Big Ten Championship. When I got to Penn State, the football record was 2 wins and 8 losses in 2004. They weren’t doing well. We got lots of media attention and people were screaming should Coach Joe Paterno retire? Be fired? We applied ourselves to bring Penn State back to glory and by my senior year I was playing in the Rose Bowl.

Q: If you didn’t play football, what would you like to do?

A: I’m interested in learning more about diverse groups of people…I suppose I’m intrigued by sociology. I came close to majoring in it. I’d like to study and learn more about demographics and society and how people interact. I’m also interested in finance. After all that is what I was studying in grad school.

Q: What do you consider your most marked characteristic?

A: I’m very focused on the goals I want to achieve. I’ve always been able to balance lots of different things – school, athletics, friends and to create an even balance among all three. I bring 100% of myself to anything I try.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hitler's Volunteers

French priest interviews Hitler's willing executioners in Ukraine
By Cnaan Liphshiz
Tags: jewish world, Holocaust

A horrific page of history unfolded last Monday in Ukraine. It concerned the gruesome and untold story of a spontaneous pogrom by local villagers against hundreds of Jews in a town south of Ternopil in 1941.

Not one, but five independent witnesses recounted the tale, recalling how they rushed to a German army camp, borrowed weapons and gunned down 500 Jews inside the town's Christian cemetery. One of them remembered decapitating bodies in front of the church.

The man heading the research that led to this discovery discussed it in Israel last week; Father Patrick Desbois was in Pope Benedict XVI's entourage.
Desbois is a French Roman Catholic priest. His team has been investigating mass executions in the former Soviet Union during the Holocaust for more than six years. In 2004, he founded Yahad-In Unum, a Paris-based organization devoted to Christian-Jewish understanding.

Oral testimonies from these events in Ukraine and Belarus are but a part of Desbois' research. Using metal detectors, his team uncovers German-made cartridges and bullets as well as victims' jewelry from killing pits. The findings are transferred to an archive in Paris, where the testimonies are translated.

Earlier this year, Desbois helped start the first Holocaust masters program at the Sorbonne, focusing on the extermination in the former Soviet Union.

To Desbois, there are two holocausts: a western one and an eastern one. The western holocaust was more organized, whereas the eastern one, "the one that happened away from Berlin," was chaotic, decentralized and undocumented.

"German officers wanted to appear efficient, so they documented one mass grave and declared the place judenfrei. In reality, the killings went on for years," he says. "The only way of documenting these [other] graves is asking the locals. Time's running out, and we're the only organization on the ground there."

The Ternopil story is not unusual because of its extreme cruelty but because it's so rare for perpetrators to openly admit playing a voluntary role. Most stories Desbois hears are from people who claim that the Germans forced them to take part in executions. "[Securing testimony from five participants in] a pogrom is a historic achievement," Desbois told Haaretz.

He notes how "we couldn't have achieved this a few years ago. We didn't have the skill." He says his team's success reflects the ability to keep a poker face.

"If I react with shock, it's all over," he explains. "Often I don't react at all to what the witnesses say. I just give them an interested expression and ask very technical questions about where they stood, where the victims lay, the time of day. I keep them talking and it pours out."

Desbois' full-time, nine-member team includes a cameraman who films the testimonies, while the others listen to stories of murder and human degradation.

But sometimes the poker face cracks, he says. For instance, when one woman described how her mother would "finish off" wounded Jews with a shovel blow to the head before burying them. "My team started to react, so I kept her talking, asking in a matter-of-fact way how exactly her mother would administer the blows."

Often with local help, the Germans killed nearly 1.5 million Jews in Ukraine after their invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Most of that history has gone untold. Unlike in Poland, where Jews were killed in death camps, in the Soviet Union most were mowed down and dumped into open mass graves in woodlands.

"I understand those who ask if Ukrainians and Poles were willing allies in the extermination of Jews," he says. "But I don't ask myself that, since most people I interview were children at the time. I'm only concerned with reconstructing the crime and knowing where the bodies are."

Desbois says one of his most surprising discoveries is institutionalized sexual slavery. In several interviews, he found witnesses who said German soldiers would set up houses in ghettos where they raped Jewish women. The Germans and their accomplices usually executed the women near the end of the war.

This discovery challenged perceptions that ideologically-motivated Germans would not sexually exploit a member of what the Nazis termed an inferior race.

Such accomplishments landed Desbois an honorary doctorate last week from Bar-Ilan University.

He says he arrives at a small town with five researchers and an interpreter. One approaches elderly people, who often lead the team to unmarked mass graves.

He began working in Ukraine in 2002, when he traveled to the village of Rava-Ruska. He went there in the footsteps of his paternal grandfather, who was deported to a prison camp for French soldiers.

Having researched the fate of French prisoners, Desbois discovered that 10,000 Jews had been killed at Rava-Ruska, but the town's mayor said he knew nothing.

So far, Desbois' organization has interviewed nearly 1,000 witnesses. His team has dug up mass graves only in one locale, at the request of the French Jewish community: "We do not uncover graves because of Jewish religious restrictions."

For the witnesses, the return to the killing ground is often the first time back in decades. "There, they recall more details," Desbois says. "Where the Germans stood, where this or that family was gunned down, a woman who couldn't walk and was dragged to the killing pit, or a woman who wouldn't take her clothes off."

Debois says easterners are more eager to talk about the Holocaust than westerners. "People in Ukraine want to talk. They wait on benches to be interviewed and filmed. They take us to grave sites, they welcome us into their homes - homes that used to belong to Jews," he says. "Imagine what would happen if I went around churches in Munich asking people if they helped kill Jews?"

Not another John Paul II

According to Father Patrick Desbois, the disappointment with the pope's speech at Yad Vashem -which officials at the memorial authority described as "lacking compassion" and "too general" - stems from a misunderstanding of the Holy See.

"People were expecting another Pope John Paul II. But Benedict is very different," Desbois says. After teaching mathematics as a French government employee in West Africa and working in Calcutta for three months with Mother Teresa, Desbois joined the priesthood. His secular family was horrified.

When he first began researching the extermination of Jews in the former Soviet Union, he preferred to keep it a secret for a long time. "A priest, a goy, a Catholic who does what I do.... I was afraid people would call me a fool," he says.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Window For Pluralism

by Stewart Ain
Staff Writer
Israel’s Reform and Conservative movements began calculating Tuesday how much money they would receive hours after Israel’s top court ordered the state to fund their conversion programs.
The government currently provides $410,000 to conversion preparatory programs run by the Orthodox. It provides no money for non-Orthodox programs, and in 2006 The Movement for Progressive Judaism, which handles Reform conversions, filed suit.
In its six-page decision, the court also directed the government to retroactively fund the Reform and Conservative conversion institutions for the past three years.
“The decision gives me goose bumps,” said Anat Hoffman, director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the Reform movement’s public and legal advocacy arm in Israel. “It’s sheer joy. It’s a recognition of one of our core programs.
It’s an historic day.”
“The government was ordered to stop discriminating against us,” she explained. “The word pluralism was written again and again in the six-page decision. It said pluralism is a principle that Israel should be following. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to hear this.”
“Our claim has been that there is more than one way to be Jewish,” Hoffman added. “Your readers think this is trivial, but in the Jewish state all religion is seen through the Orthodox stream. And for the purpose of state funding or state recognition, the only rabbis who count are Orthodox rabbis. This decision says that all rabbis who work on conversions will be getting state funding.”
In its decision, written by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, the court said: “All streams of conversion have the same purpose — the cultural and spiritual incorporation of Israeli citizens and residents into the society and community in Israel. ...
“We are of the opinion that the legal relevancies of the conversion procedure vis-à-vis the private citizen cannot justify distinction between groups that pursue activities that are essentially similar and which are aimed at attaining identical ends, the cultural and spiritual assimilation of Israeli citizens.”
“In accordance with the principle of freedom of religion and pluralism,” Beinisch added, the state must allow the different conversion institutions to “coexist.”
Should the state continue to fund these programs, the court said it must develop a mechanism that would ensure equal funding for all streams of Judaism.
In an e-mail interview, Rabbi Avi Shafran, a spokesman for the fervently Orthodox Agudath Israel of America called the court ruling “unfortunate” and said it is “in the end, a meaningless decision to those of us who respect halacha.
“Religious authorities will still consider non-halachic conversions to have no religious standing,” he continued.
Tuesday’s decision was the second this week that undercut Orthodox hegemony in Israel, observed Rabbi Andrew Sacks, head of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement’s religious services and director of the movement’s Rabbinical Assembly in Israel.
“The court on Monday implied the rabbinic courts do not have the right to retroactively cancel a person’s conversion,” he said, explaining that the court gave the Supreme Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem 90 days to show cause why it should be allowed to cancel a person’s conversion.
The court acted on the petitions of several rights groups after the Supreme Rabbinical Court in May 2008 relieved Rabbi Chaim Drukman, former head of the Israeli Conversions Court, of his duties and soon thereafter nullified all conversions he performed for the last 10 years.
The High Court of Justice asked the rabbinical court to explain why it believed it had the authority to annul the conversions, which cast doubt on the halachic [Jewish law] status of thousands of people.
Rabbi Sacks said it is unclear how much money the Reform and Conservative conversion programs would receive because the Ministry of Justice must decide the criteria for determining payment. It might be based upon the number of classroom hours taught or the number of students who completed the program.
Last year, 120 students completed the Conservative conversion program, 180 the Reform one and all were then converted, Rabbi Sacks said.
In 2008, the Joint Institute for Conversion completed training of 1,100 students and the Israel Defense Forces trained another 600 to 700. But Rabbi Sacks said that despite their training “the majority were not invited to appear before the rabbinical court” for the actual conversion.
“Once they graduate, the Chief Rabbinate has no interest in converting these people,” he said, adding that the Joint Institute was created to handle the 340,000 non-Jewish citizens of Israel who were primarily from the former Soviet Union.
Uri Regev, founding director of the Israel Religious Action Center, said the money the court has ordered the government to give the two movements “makes it possible for them to set up additional programs that were not feasible before because of a lack of funding.”
He called the court’s action a “great decision.”
Yizhar Hess, executive director and CEO of the Masorti Movement in Israel, said he viewed the ruling as “another stage that would get us toward achievements down the road.”
For instance, he said there are 3,000 rabbis who are hired by the government for different rabbinical positions in ministries, municipalities and the military. They are all paid by the government, and all are Orthodox. Hess said it would be a “big achievement” to get the government to hire non-Orthodox rabbis as well.
He said he would also like the government to fund the construction of non-Orthodox synagogues just as it does Orthodox synagogues.
“There have only been six non-Orthodox synagogues funded by the government in the last two years,” Hess said.
In addition, Hess said that for many years non-Orthodox rabbis have sought to have the marriages they perform in Israel recognized by the state.
“Right now 20 percent of couples who could marry with the Chief Rabbinate are not, opting to do it in other ways,” Hess said. “That’s a sign that society is more ready than before to deal with the question of identity in a pluralistic way. ... We have a window of opportunity now to change Israeli society, to have it become more pluralistic.”

Pulpit Of Color

“For me, Judaism was where I found a home,” says Rabbi-to-be Alysa Stanton.
by Stewart Ain
Staff Writer
As a student rabbi, Alysa Stanton — who next month becomes the first ever African-American woman rabbi — was assigned to intern in a congregation in Dothan, Ala.
But no sooner did she arrive than the president of the congregation called the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati to complain.
“He said, ‘Are you kidding,?’” recalled Rabbi Ken Kanter, director of HUC’s rabbinical program.
Stanton said she was told that a “black person ministering to a white congregation in the Deep South was unheard of.”
However, Rabbi Kanter said, the congregation “very quickly recognized they had a rabbi who happened to be a woman and who happened to be African-American. She quickly became their rabbi ... and at
the end of the year they wanted her to stay because she was so well loved.”
Stanton said the challenge had been to “put aside mutual stereotypes and prejudices and get to know each other on our own merits. We did it and [developed] phenomenal relationships. I will always hold a special place for them in my heart.”
That experience gave her the confidence to consider another congregation in the South when it came time to apply for her first full-time position, which she will assume after her ordination June 6. The synagogue is Congregation Bayt Shalom in Greenville, N.C., about 70 miles east of Raleigh in the eastern part of the state.
Stanton and a half-dozen other candidates from both the Reform and Conservative movements were interviewed by phone by the congregation’s 10-member search committee, according to Michael Barondes, the congregation’s president. Stanton and a Conservative rabbi were then invited for a visit.
“She led an adult education class and met with the youth group and made a tremendous impression on the congregation,” Barondes said of Stanton. “She has musical skills and a singing talent that was impressive. And she has interpersonal skills and the ability to engage people — adults and children. She was also able to articulate the desire to help us come up with a plan to unite the diverse Jewish community in a one-synagogue town.”
About 70 percent of the 56-family congregation is Reform and the rest Conservative. The congregation is affiliated with both movements.
“The fact that she is a convert was not a factor [in her selection],” Barondes said. “She was not the only Jew-by-choice who applied for the position. ... And the fact she is African-American played no part. During her three-day visit, she was able to impress so many people that the congregation overwhelmingly supported her candidacy.”
Stanton, 45, grew up in a Pentecostal Christian home in Cleveland, Ohio. At the age of 6, her family moved to a Jewish neighborhood in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.
It was there that her Uncle Ed, a devout Catholic who also occasionally attended the local synagogue, explained to her what the mezuzahs meant on the neighbors’ doorposts. When she was 10 and already on her own spiritual quest, he gave her a Hebrew grammar book.
“My mother is a woman of faith,” Stanton said. “She taught us that we need to have a spiritual base and she gave us the freedom to chose what that is. For me, Judaism was where I found a home.”
At the age of 11, Stanton moved with her family to Lakewood, Colo., and by the time she was in her early 20s, she said she had decided to convert to Judaism.
“I sought out a rabbi and each week I traveled 144 miles to meet with him in Denver for intensive, one-to-one study,” she said, adding that after a year she converted, appearing before a bet din [Jewish court] and going to the mikveh.
“Initially when I converted my family was shocked,” Stanton said, adding that her mother (her father is deceased) and sister and two brothers have been “very supportive — my rock during this long journey.”
For about the last 15 years, her rabbi in Denver has been Steven Foster of Temple Emanuel, a Reform congregation. He said he found Stanton to be “a very spiritual person who brings the best of two different cultures together. She is a terrific person and we will be lucky in the Jewish community to have her as a rabbi.”
Rabbi Foster said that although Stanton was converted by a “right-wing Conservative rabbi,” she later “connected with us because of our history with social justice issues. ... She used to teach for us and sing for us and when she decided to become a rabbi we all supported her.”
One of her professors at HUC, David Weisberg said the fact that Stanton landed a job already in this tight job market — only about half of the graduates have jobs — is evidence of her special qualities.
“She has a love of Judaism and a pull for the study of the Torah,” he said. “She is very sensitive about the issues of piety and love of Torah.”
Steve Sunderland, a friend at the neighboring University of Cincinnati, called Stanton a “remarkable young lady who has a spiritual commitment to Judaism that is rare. ... She has it clear in her mind that she is a Jew who happens to be African-American. She sees being an African-American one additional gift she brings to Judaism.”
Those thoughts were echoed by Rabbi Samuel Joseph, an HUC professor of Jewish education and leadership development, who said he has “never met anyone more determined.”
“She loves being Jewish and wants to serve the Jewish people,” he said. “It’s always tough being the first, but she wasn’t going to let anything stop her. I don’t believe she ever thought about becoming a pioneer.”
Stanton said, in fact, that she did not know she was the first until after she started rabbinical school.
Rabbi Kanter said Stanton’s prior career, as a licensed psychotherapist specializing in grief and loss – she was called upon to counsel people after the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 – “is an important talent to bring to the rabbinate.”
Stanton is a single mother of a 14-year-old, Shana, who she adopted at the age of 14 months. Stanton later married and divorced. Because of complications from gastric bypass surgery, she was forced to complete her rabbinical studies in seven rather than five years.
Steven M. Cohen, an HUC research professor of Jewish social policy, said it is “no coincidence” that Stanton is being ordained the same year Barack Obama was sworn in as president.
“He is a man who represented the aspiration to cross ancient boundaries, rivalries and conflicts,” he said. “She crosses both religious and ethnic boundaries in her own life, representing a pioneering model of Jewish continuity. ... She is not alone in that the number of converts and others coming to Judaism from non-conventional backgrounds is probably at its peak in American life.”
The Institute for Jewish and Community Research in San Francisco estimates that 20 percent of the six million American Jews are racially and ethnically diverse by birth, conversion and adoption. And there have been an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 marriages between Jews and African-Americans since the civil rights movement.
Diane Tobin, the institute’s associate director and director of its Be-Chol Lashon program, said her organization has worked with Stanton as part of its mission to “advocate for the growth and diversity of the Jewish people.”
Although Stanton is the first female African-American rabbi, there are many black male rabbis worldwide, Tobin said.
“With the election of President Obama, the Jewish community is very interested in its diverse roots,” she said. “We have always been a diverse people and young people in particular want to see themselves as part of a global people. ... Mainstream Jewish communities want to partner with us and introduce diversity as part of their programming.”
Although Stanton and her daughter will be the only black members in her Greenville congregation, Tobin said she would be interested to see if they attract blacks to the congregation.
Ernest Adams, 62, an African-American in Manhattan who converted to Judaism in 1997, said he is “meeting more and more black folks in synagogues.”
“In the South the Jewish community couldn’t be as liberal as the Jews up North, where you could find Jews marching with Martin Luther King,” he said. “In the South, the rabbis had to be cautious. But now that a white Southern congregation can hire a black rabbi, there is a significant change. The fact that it has been greeted with equanimity means there’s a big shift. The culture is changing.”
Stanton said graduation day will be something special, not just because she is the first African-American woman to be ordained a rabbi but because of the medical problems she had to overcome to get there.
“I went back to school in a wheelchair [at one point],” she recalled. “So to be finishing now is so poignant on so many levels. God has sustained me.”

Monday, May 18, 2009

Brigitte Gabriel: A Lebanese Christian Journalist Battles for Israel

Brigitte Gabriel: A Lebanese Christian Journalist Battles for Israel

By Deena Yellin

Brigitte Gabriel lectures worldwide about Israel's valiant quest to preserve the ideals of democracy and human rights, she writes books defending Israel's right to exist and has founded an organization dedicated to raising awareness of the threat radical Islamic fundamentalists pose to Israel and Western civilization. She insists that the only way to defeat Muslim extremism is to stand up to it. "The more concessions you make, the more they will pick on you," she said.

Surprisingly, Gabriel is not Israeli. She's not even Jewish. She is a Lebanese Christian.

In fact, the mother of two has even received death threats because of her staunchly pro-Israel views, which she professes loudly and often.

Gabriel didn't always sing Israel's praises. Growing up in an Arab country, she was raised in a culture that espoused that Jews were evil and Israel was the enemy. "I was told that the only time we will have peace in the Middle East is when we kill all the Jews and drive them into the sea," she recalled.

Growing up in Southern Lebanon, that's what many children were educated to believe. But as Gabriel grew older, she encountered experiences that led her to change her mind for good.

In 1975, the Muslims and Palestinians declared a Jihad on the Christians in Lebanon, massacring thousands of Lebanese Christians. At age ten, Gabriel saw her childhood home destroyed. Her family moved to a bomb shelter, where they remained for the next seven years. To stay alive, Gabriel had to eat grass and crawl under sniper bullets to get water from a spring.

The bomb shelter was hit by mortar shells in 1982, leaving her mother badly wounded. She was taken to an Israeli hospital for treatment. Gabriel accompanied her.

For her mother, the visit to the hospital was a life-saving experience.

For Gabriel, it was a life-altering experience that would change the way she took in information and the way she would believe the news as conveyed through the news media.

When Gabriel entered the emergency room, she was shocked by what she saw around her: hundred of wounded people, Muslims, Palestinians and Christians being treated by Israeli doctors. The doctors treated everyone according to their injury, not according to their background, said Gabriel, who was in disbelief at the time.

"They didn't see religion, they didn't see political affiliation, they saw people in need and they helped."

Had she been a Jew at an Arab hospital, she said, she would likely have been thrown out to die.

She became friendly with the relatives of the Israeli soldiers in the hospital and, as she grew to know them, she was impressed with their ardent desire for peace and ability to reach out to the enemy.

For the first time in her life, she experienced a human quality that she realized her culture would not have shown their enemy. "I experienced the values of the Israelis who were able to love their enemy in their most trying moments."

It dawned on her then that she had been sold lies by her country about Jews and Israel. "I was betrayed by my country and rescued by 'my enemy' Israel, the Jewish state that is under attack for its existence today."

She had to return to Lebanon to care for her aging parents but vowed that someday she would return to Israel. Two years later, she moved to Israel and, in 1984, began working there as a journalist.

Rising quickly to the position of news anchor for World News, an evening Arabic news broadcast for Middle East Television, she covered the Israeli security zone in Lebanon and the Palestinian uprising in the West Bank.

She married an American journalist and moved to the U.S., where she launched a TV production and advertising company.

After September 11, she founded American Congress for Truth, "I experienced the values of the Israelis who were able to love their enemy in their most trying moments." a non-profit educational organization devoted to motivating Americans to take action against terrorism and the threat radical Islamic fundamentalists pose to Western civilization. While 9/11 had a dramatic impact on most Americans, it struck a particularly sensitive chord with her. "It reminded me that the entire world is threatened by the same radical Islamic theology that succeeded in annihilating the 'infidels' in Lebanon."

Her inside information enlightens unsuspecting Western-thinking audiences. She has appeared on news and radio shows. She lectures all over the world, speaking in several different languages.

Today, she has a sister organization called ACT for America, also a non-profit political activism arm that has grown to 60,000 members and 270 local chapters across America.

Her books, part memoirs and part instructional manuals, "Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America" (St. Martins Press) and "They Must Be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It" (St. Martin's Press) were New York Times Best Sellers.

Although Gabriel speaks to many audiences throughout the world, she finds that her biggest fans are Orthodox Jews and Evangelical Christians, "who understand the reality of Arab hatred and don't care about political correctness," she said. "They stand up and cheer for anyone who states the case for the protection of Israel without apologizing for their love of Israel."

And what about her former neighbors back home in Lebanon? Most of them secretly applaud her efforts. Secretly, because if they expressed support for her or for Israel in public, they may be punished by the authorities. "Lebanon was torn and ruined by Muslim radicals. Even though the Christian Lebanese says things against Israel in public, inside their homes they cheer Israel on, hoping Israel will crush the Islamic fanatics. They would never dare express these views in public out of fear of death threats. They write me letters and thank me for speaking out, telling me that I am their voice."

Nazi Nexus: America's Corporate Connections to Hitler's Holocaust

The Nazi nexus
Mar. 26, 2009

Adolf Hitler was completely responsible for the Holocaust. But Hitler had help.When zealous Nazis were motivated to wage war against an imaginary generation-to-generation Jewish conspiracy, when Nazis created ghastly extermination plans to help ensure their master race would rule the world, when the German military was enabled to smash across Europe with lightning speed in heavy Blitz trucks, bomb mercilessly from the air in advanced JU-88s and create carnage across the seas with deadly torpedoes, when Josef Mengele saw the scientific need to undertake heinous medical experiments on twins in Auschwitz, when the Reich was enabled to identify the Jews everywhere in Europe and then systematically pauperize and destroy them, when all these terrible things were done, the shape and scope of the horror was pivotally determined by major American industrial giants.

Now the dots can be connected. They create an undeniably Nazi nexus between iconic American corporations and the greatest crime of the 20th century: the Holocaust.

Who gave Hitler the initial basis for transmogrifying centuries of outgroup religious hatred into a new 20th-century political anti-Semitism? It was Henry Ford, acting directly through the Ford Motor Company. In 1920, the gullible but mercurial Ford acquired a forged typescript convincing him of an evil international Jewish cabal determined to subjugate the world through devious manipulation of the world's governments, newspapers and economic systems. The revelations were contained in the notorious and fake Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

To purvey this new brand of Jew hatred to the world, Ford purchased a failed newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, which serialized the Protocols for 91 weeks. His company then published the series as a book, The International Jew. Using the techniques of mass production, Ford was able to escalate the Protocols from a negligible, randomly circulated irritant to a national sensation of 500,000 copies. Devoting the national sales force and the assets of the Ford Motor Company to the task made Henry Ford the first to organize political anti-Semitism in America. Indeed, he was the hero of anti-Semites the world over.

In Germany, where Ford was venerated, The International Jew was translated and published in February 1921. It enjoyed six editions in two years with thousands of copies in print. Ford's book quickly became the bible of German anti-Semites and early incarnations of the Nazi party. Nazis shipped the work throughout the country "by the carload." Among the many Germans massively influenced by the book was Hitler. He read the work at least two years before Mein Kampf was written.

It shows. In Mein Kampf, chapter 11, Hitler wrote, "The whole existence of this people is based on a continuous lie [as] shown incomparably by the Protocols of the Elders of Zion... With positively terrifying certainty, they reveal the nature and activity of the Jewish people and... their ultimate final aims." Hitler described Ford as his hero. No wonder Ford received Hitler's German Eagle medal in a lavish Berlin ceremony. The medal was reserved for foreigners who rendered special service to the Reich.

Who gave Hitler the pseudoscientific medical rationales to justify a war to achieve a blond, blue-eyed master race with the duty to obliterate all other races deemed inferior? It was the Carnegie Institution, the philanthropic incarnation of America's greatest steel fortune, that propagated the deadly American race science of eugenics. Beginning in 1911, Carnegie Institution scientists argued successfully that millions worldwide who did not conform to a blond, blue-eyed Nordic stereotype were unworthy of existence.

AMERICAN EUGENICS believed such social traits as poverty, prostitution and laziness were genetic. The continuation of racially inferior bloodlines - a broad swath encompassing some 90 percent of humanity - was to be combated by various methods. These methods included organized identification, seizure of assets, marriage prohibition or nullification, forced surgical sterilization, segregation into camps and publicly operated gas chambers. Various eugenic notions were enacted into law in 27 states. Ultimately, some 60,000 people were forcibly sterilized, thousands more incarcerated in state camps, and untold numbers unmarried and in some cases subjected to organized lethal medical neglect.

US Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes enshrined these policies as the law of the land when he ruled such acts justified. "It is better for all the world," Holmes wrote, "if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind."

The Carnegie Institution and its sponsored movement spent millions to propagate American eugenic theories in post-World War I Germany, financing race science programs in universities and official institutions. These included the idea that Jews must be eliminated.

While in prison, Hitler closely studied American eugenics. In Mein Kampf, he insisted, "There is today one state, in which at least weak beginnings toward better conception... are noticeable. Of course, it is not our model German Republic, but the United States." Hitler proudly told his comrades, "I have studied with great interest the laws of several American states concerning prevention of reproduction by people whose progeny would, in all probability, be of no value or be injurious to the racial stock." Hitler merely exchanged the American term "Nordic" for the Nazi term "Aryan" and then medicalized his preexisting virulent anti-Semitism and fascist nationalism, to formulate the concept of the blond, blue-eyed master race he deified in Mein Kampf.

Hitler was so steeped in American race science that he even wrote a fan letter to American eugenic leader Madison Grant, calling his writing "my bible." The Third Reich implemented all American eugenic principles with great ferocity and velocity backed up by a conquering army. "While we were pussyfooting around," fawned Leon Whitney, executive secretary of the American Eugenics Society, "the Germans were calling a spade a spade." As Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess insisted, "National Socialism is nothing but applied biology."

WHO GAVE Hitler's odious medical eugenic experimentation the wherewithal to commit unspeakable crimes against innocent twins? It was the Rockefeller Foundation, the philanthropic incarnation of Standard Oil. The foundation acted as a full partner with Carnegie in establishing eugenics across America and in Germany. In the quest to perfect the master race, millions of Depression-era dollars were transmitted by Rockefeller to Hitler's most anti-Jewish doctors. In this quest, one specimen was desired above all: twins.

Rockefeller funded Hitler's chief raceologist Otmar Verschuer and his insatiable twin experimentation programs. Twins, it was thought, held the secret to industrially multiplying the Aryan racial type, and quickly subtracting biological undesirables. Verschuer had an assistant, Josef Mengele. Rockefeller funding stopped during World War II. But by that time, Mengele had transferred into Auschwitz to continue twin research in a monstrous fashion. Ever the eugenicist, he sent precise clinical reports weekly to Verschuer.

Who took Hitler off the horse and put his killing armies into trucks to wage Blitzkrieg or lightning war against Europe? It was General Motors which built the Blitz truck for the Blitzkrieg. As the Reich's largest car and truck maker, GM became an indispensable partner in Hitler's war. From the first weeks of the Third Reich, GM president Alfred Sloan committed the company and its German division, Opel, to motorizing a substantially horse-drawn Germany, preparing it for war. Prior to this, Germany had been a nation devoted to legendary automotive engineering, but only one vehicle at a time built by craftsmen. GM brought mass production to the Reich, converting it from a horse-drawn threat to a motorized powerhouse.

Sloan and GM knowingly prepared the Wehrmacht to wage war in Europe. Detroit even secretly moved massive stores of spare Blitz parts to the Polish border in the days just before the September 1, 1939, invasion to facilitate the Blitzkrieg.

Using a charade of interlocking boards and special executive committees, Sloan kept GM's role secret as long as possible. Where Opel lacked parts or foreign currency, Detroit ordered other international subsidiaries to stealthily assist.

In addition to motorizing the military, Sloan launched massive reemployment programs to help revive the Nazi economy - this at a time when the company declined to put Depression-racked Americans back to work. GM's success led to the need for the autobahn. GM's chief executive in Germany James Mooney received the same medal Ford was awarded, for special service rendered to the Reich.

WHO CUSTOM-designed and co-planned the Nazi solutions to Jewish existence? It was International Business Machines, inventor of the Hollerith punch card, precursor to the modern computer. IBM enjoyed a monopoly on information technology. Under the micromanagement of its president, Thomas Watson, and advertising itself as "a solutions company," IBM in 1933 reached out to the new Hitler regime. It offered to organize and systemize any solution the Reich desired, including solutions to the Jewish problem.

With IBM as a partner, the Hitler regime was able to substantially automate and accelerate all six phases of the 12-year Holocaust: identification, exclusion, confiscation, ghettoization, deportation and even extermination.

As it did with any other customer, IBM simply asked the Hitler regime what result was desired. Then company engineers devised custom-tailored punch card systems to deliver the results. First, who was Jewish and where did the Jews live - exactly. IBM's solution: A customized racial and religious census was designed and tabulated by the company. Second, once identified, systematically expel Jews from all segments of society. IBM's solution: Create databases cross-tabulating ordinary organizational and community directories from association membership rosters to lists of marriages, deaths and births.

Third, confiscate Jewish assets. IBM's solution: All banks and financial institutions were run by IBM cards which could be programmed to seek out the Jewish names and their accounts for seizure. Fourth: ghettoize the Jews. IBM's solution: Cross-match families from their existing residences into crowded dilapidated slums so that in a single day, thousands of people could be efficiently transferred from point A to point B. Fifth, deport the Jews to camps. IBM's solution: Most of the railroads in Europe were routed by IBM punch cards. Create special depots to ensure that trains with cattle cars were made available to transport Jews to camps. Inbound, these trains were crowded with helpless humans. Returning, they were empty.

Sixth: the Jews were to be systematically and industrially murdered. IBM's solution 1: Establish different codes for each classification of concentration camp prisoners. Prisoner Code 8 designated a Jew. Status Code 6 designated killed by gas chamber. In this way, the Reich always knew how many Jews it was killing. In extermination camps, almost all Jews were murdered upon arrival in an IBM-aided system that metered victims from ghettos to train to death camp in murderous synchrony. IBM's solution 2: Create the "Extermination by Labor" program using custom IBM punch card programs that matched the skills of Jewish prisoners wherever they were to Reich labor needs wherever they were. Once moved to the labor site, Jews were worked to death. There was an IBM customer site in every concentration camp.

Had it not been for the continued conscious involvement of iconic American corporations in Hitler's war against the Jews, the speed, shape and statistics of the Holocaust as we know it would have been dramatically different. No one knows how different, but the astronomical dimensions could have never been achieved. For their part, American corporate collaborators have long tried to obscure or hide the details of their collusion using the well-known tools of corporate misinformation, financial contributions and bought and paid-for historian reviews. But in era when people no longer believe big corporations, the dots can be fully connected to unveil the outlines of an indispensable Nazi nexus.

The writer is The New York Times best-selling investigative author of IBM and the Holocaust, and the just released Nazi Nexus: America's Corporate Connections to Hitler's Holocaust (Dialog Press). He can be reached at