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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘assistance’

Rabbi Elyashiv’s Condition Improves, But is Still Critical

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Shaare Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem announced on Sunday that there has been a significant improvement in Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv’s condition, and that he has regained consciousness after two weeks.

Doctors reported that they began lifting the Lithunian Orthodox sage out of artificial anesthetization over the weekend, and were satisfied with his response. Elyashiv, who turns 102 next month, has opened his eyes and is alert, is gesturing with his hands, and is reported to have gotten out of bed and sit in a chair.

The hospital clarified that although the Rabbi is conscious and responsive, he is still in critical condition. He is still breathing with the assistance of an artificial respiration machine, and is therefore still unable to speak.

“The condition of the Rabbi is improving, but it is still defined as serious. This coming week is very significant in determining whether the Rabbi be himself again or not. Members of the family ask that people to continue to pray,” said a spokesman for the Rabbi.

The public is asked to pray for the recovery of Harav Yosef Shalom ben Chaya Mousha.

Obsession With Tuition Hurts Jewish Education

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

There is constant talk of a tuition crisis, of the growing number of yeshiva and day school parents – and potential parents – who say that full tuition or anything close to it is beyond their financial reach. Recently completed research I conducted for the Avi Chai Foundation of Modern Orthodox and non-Orthodox day school enrollment points to a loss of students that, while perhaps attributable to other factors, is certainly in large measure due to more parents deciding that a day school education is too costly.

There is a new Boston-area initiative that seeks to attract children from day school families in kindergarten through the fifth grade. The children would attend public school in the morning and part of the afternoon and then be enrolled in an afterschool program that presumably would be far more intensive in its Judaic studies than the typical congregational supplementary school. This is but one of a number of developments that in the aggregate may affect a significant portion of the day school world.

From a family and communal perspective, what the tuition crisis means is that there are children who will not receive a day school education, increasing the likelihood that their Jewish future will be significantly diminished. From the school’s perspective, the loss of students is translated inevitably into a loss of income, which, in turn, exacerbates the financial difficulties confronting many of our schools.

In the fervently Orthodox sectors of Jewish life, there is scant likelihood of students dropping out entirely because of high tuition. There are children who are shifted from school to school by their parents who seek to evade tuition obligations. There are schools that wrongfully turn away scholarship applicants. There are also an indeterminate number of Orthodox children, perhaps primarily from fervently Orthodox homes, who are home-schooled, with tuition being a critical but not necessarily the only factor triggering this option.

Enrollment continues to climb in yeshiva world and chassidic schools because of high fertility. In these schools, the tuition crisis is manifested in a greater number of parents seeking tuition reduction and, tellingly, in some parents not making the tuition payments they agreed to when their children were registered.

The designation of a situation as a crisis is meant to indicate that there is no ready solution around the corner, that the problem that needs to be addressed is either intractable or cannot be dealt with without painful or risky consequences. The notion of a tuition crisis is not a recent coinage; it has been talked about for more than a decade. There have been conferences and speeches and much more. For all the talk, the situation is worsening.

The financial challenges confronting our schools have intensified, in large part because expenses have risen at a time when a sour economic environment has meant a decline in contributions, as well as more parents being unemployed or under-employed. In some schools there has been a decline in income from government programs, a decline that is itself attributable to the economic downturn.

How should our schools respond to the financial pressures they face, many on a daily basis? It’s certain they need to have tuition arrangements that require parents to pay their fair share. But what is a fair share? Tuition and its collection are not scientific exercises for which easy to implement formulas are available. Sooner or later, the notion of fair tuition runs into tough realities, at least in schools that are not cold and uncaring, and do not tell parents of lesser or low income that if you cannot pay the full tariff or nearly close to it, send your children elsewhere.

What are schools to do when parents and school officials disagree about how much should be charged? Is it acceptable for the school not to accept the children? What is to be done when parents shirk their tuition responsibilities?

Tuition issues vary, often radically, from school to school. At the high end, meaning many Modern Orthodox and non-Orthodox institutions, fair tuition is another way of saying high tuition and, invariably, limited scholarship availability. A pool of money is set aside each year for scholarship assistance and applicants must compete to get a share of the pie. Low-income and even middle-income families sense there is a “do not apply” sign hung on the front door of the school building.

These are generally schools that engage in limited fundraising, except perhaps in connection with the annual dinner or for building purposes. They are not, however, entirely immune from the tuition crisis, as they are experiencing pressure from parents whose economic situation has worsened or who have concluded that the standard formula of yearly tuition increases is something they can no longer afford or won’t sacrifice other priorities for, including expensive vacations, summer camping and home improvements.

Experts say Stuxnet Neutralized by Iran

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

According to Reuters, based on European and U.S. officials and private experts, Iranian engineers have succeeded in neutralizing and purging the computer virus known as Stuxnet from their country’s nuclear machinery.

In 2009, the malicious code penetrated equipment controlling centrifuges Iran is using to enrich uranium, dealing a significant setback to Iran’s nuclear weapons work.

Many experts believed at the time that Israel, possibly with assistance from the United States, was responsible for creating and deploying Stuxnet. But so far no reliable account of Stuxnet’s creation and its entry into Iran’s nuclear program has surfaced.

U.S. and European officials said their governments’ experts agreed that the Iranians had succeeded in disabling Stuxnet and removing it from of their machinery.

Congress Unfreezes $40 Million in Aid to Palestinians

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Members of Congress have released some $40 million of frozen U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority, according to an Associated Press report.

The $187 million in economic and humanitarian assistance was frozen in September 2011 after the PA submitted a unilateral bid for UN membership.

The funds were released as a result of intense lobbying on the part of the Obama administration.

Achim Academy Begins Gifted Program

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Achim Academy’s Center for Education in South Florida is celebrating not only the beginning of another great new school year but also the start of a much anticipated gifted program. Students and administrators are excited to begin this new phase in the institution’s growth.

“Over eleven years of the school’s existence, we found that students who have difficulty learning are often also gifted, a dual exceptionality,” said Dr. Dolly Aizenman, academic director of the AACE school.

“They need and greatly benefit from individualized assistance in learning how to learn, and how to maximize their natural talent and gifts. Some need more assistance than others, but that’s the beauty of our school. An individualized plan is created for each student to suit his needs, abilities and to best develop his talents.”

Rabbi Bukspan teaches PowerPoint to boys in computer class.

The gifted program is open to boys 13 years and older. In addition to Judaic studies and academic course work, gifted students receive an individualized study plan in their area of strength.

Achim Academy offers younger students an array of exciting programming as well.

The school’s teachers are known for combining different aspects of study into fun and challenging lessons. For example, Rabbi Bukspan teaches his boys how to make PowerPoint presentations in computer class illustrating their Mishnayos or Gemara study topic of the week.

Achim Academy also addresses the needs of students who may need behavior modification and/or social adjustment as well as academic intervention.

For more information about Achim Academy, call 305-945-7443, e-mail info@aaceschool.org,  or visit www.aaceschool.org

Has Israel Given Up The Fight Against Human Trafficking?

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

In June, Israel’s police commissioner, Yochanon Danino, announced the dissolution of Sa’ar, a unit that specializes in cases dealing with the exploitation of foreign workers and refugees along with other issues related to migration and human trafficking.

In response, a special committee hearing was called by MK Orit Zuaretz, head of the subcommittee against human trafficking. All in attendance, including government representatives and numerous NGOs, opposed the decision to dismantle the only law enforcement agency equipped to deal with these increasingly important issues.

Following a petition filed by MK Zuaretz and NGOs Kav La’Oved and the Hotline for Migrant Workers, Supreme Court president Dorit Beinisch summoned Danino to explain his decision, one that is clearly regressive in the face of Israel’s new immigration dynamics.

Toward the end of the 1990s, Israel became one of the top destination countries for human trafficking, particularly for purposes of forced prostitution. Women from newly independent post-Soviet countries were brought to Israel by the hundreds to work in what became a brazen sex industry. Held captive without rights, these women were nothing short of modern slaves. In 2000, the U.S. State Department ranked Israel alongside Cambodia as one of the world’s worst human trafficking offenders.

Thankfully, the situation improved significantly over the past decade as police, MKs, and NGOs prioritized the issue. The Inter-Ministerial Committee Against Human Trafficking was formed alongside the Sa’ar unit with the goal of getting this issue under control. Trafficked women were identified and provided with medical assistance, legal aid, and diplomatic assistance to return home.

In 2004 alone, over 900 women were returned to their families. This was due to the successful cooperation of NGOs, the government, and the police.

Though Israel’s progress is commendable – and has been recognized by the international community – trafficking still exists in Israel. There are also a quarter-million foreign workers in Israel who do not enjoy basic civil rights or humane work conditions and are, therefore, vulnerable to exploitation.

Because closing one avenue for human trafficking will not immediately dismantle the lucrative trade, the problem requires renewed attention and vigilance. Robust and focused policing coupled with the promotion of rights and protection for the victims are paramount for addressing these issues appropriately.

While we should all be proud of Israel’s progress in combating human trafficking, we must realize our work is far from over. It is essential that a specialized Israeli police unit be tasked with understanding the trends, closing the borders and protecting the victims.

The urgency with which the Supreme Court is attempting to reverse the decision on the Sa’ar unit is not only an appropriate course of action but a critical one. We have a moral, political and legal duty to help end human trafficking in Israel and around the world, and we must not rest until the battle is won.

Kayla Zecher is projects coordinator for ATZUM’s Task Force on Human Trafficking (www.atzum.org).

Jewish Groups Grapple With Expected Cuts In Funding

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

WASHINGTON – Even before the debt deal was signed Tuesday in Washington, U.S. Jewish groups and recipients of government largesse were asking the same question: Who’s going to get cut?

It’s still too early to say. But the new “super committee” created to hash out the details of $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in spending cuts by the end of the year, and the arguments that surely will arise from the committee’s work, will provide the clearest sign yet of which government grants or programs are on the chopping block.

In the Jewish community, the areas of concern range from funding for elderly care to environmental issues to democracy promotion overseas. Federal funding makes up a significant chunk of the budgets of many of the groups that operate in those fields.

Joyce Garver Keller, the executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities, which lobbies state lawmakers for Ohio’s Jewish federations, said Ohio Jewish service providers already are reeling from cuts mandated last month in the state budget. That included up to 14 percent in cuts for nursing homes and 3 percent cuts for home- and community-based providers.

The largest Jewish facility for the elderly in the state, in the Cleveland area, already is dealing with $2 million in cuts on the state level even without any cuts at the federal level.

Keller said the homes for the elderly were examining solutions including freezing salaries and retirement benefits for staff, and cutting back on utilities such as electricity. Others are considering opening up in-house medical practices to outsiders to create revenue.

The National Council for Jewish Women expressed concern particularly about cuts that could affect women and children.

“The deal does require deep cuts in government spending, cuts that will likely affect Head Start, K-12 education, Title X family planning, job training, domestic violence prevention, meals on wheels and other services for vulnerable people,” NCJW said in a statement.

Mark Olshan, the associate executive vice president for B’nai B’rith International, which runs 38 homes for the elderly across the country, said federal cuts would burden a system coping with a growing number of retirement-age baby boomers.

“The reality is we’re probably not going to be building a lot more buildings, but there will be more people who need these kinds of programs,” he said.

Jewish groups are also closely watching cuts in areas where they do not receive direct assistance. Jason Isaacson, the director of governmental and international affairs for the American Jewish Committee, anticipated cuts in programs promoting energy alternatives and democracy overseas.

Isaacson said cuts in democracy promotion would be especially unfortunate just as reform was sweeping the Arab world, noting the upcoming elections in Tunisia in October as an example.

“We need to lower the deficit, but we have big opportunities and responsibilities around the world,” Isaacson said.

The key to preserving funding is to intensify lobbying between now and when the new super committee votes in November on proposed cuts, said William Daroff, the Washington director of the Jewish Federations for North America.

“We will be lobbying heavily to ensure that the $550 billion in immediate discretionary domestic cuts do not come from the programs that fund key Jewish federation services to the vulnerable,” Daroff said. “No decisions have been made yet on the Hill as to where those cuts will come from.”

Under the deal struck over the weekend and passed by both houses of Congress – in the House of Representatives on Monday and the Senate the next day – about half the cuts are to come from the defense sector and the other half from domestic programs, with some cuts designated for foreign assistance.

When The Only One Left Is The Puppeteer: A Spiritual Perspective on the Gulf Oil Spill

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

The ongoing crisis in the Gulf of Mexico has been declared the worst oil spill in American history. It occurred when an offshore drilling rig exploded on April 20, killing eleven crew members and causing an oil pipe, 5,000 feet below the ocean’s surface, to rupture. BP, the oil company responsible for the spill, is the fourth largest company, of any type, in the world. Shockingly, BP’s efforts, backed by America, have not stopped the flow.

Although God’s ways are beyond us and each individual bears responsibility for his actions, God uses life events to teach us what we need to learn. Let us not add to this tragedy by remaining unchanged by it.

Two possible lessons may be derived from this disaster. The first is that we can’t do anything without God’s help. As I watched images of the oil gushing out of the pipe and read reports of the resultant economic hardship and environmental damage, I felt a sense of helplessness. Even though we believe in God, there is still some part of us that usually thinks we can manage on our own. When our experience belies that, we feel helpless.

The truth is that with God’s help we are never helpless; without it, we are always as helpless as a crying infant. Unlike an infant who realizes his powerlessness and cries out for help, many of us deny our total dependence on God. We sometimes think, especially with all the breakthroughs in medicine and engineering, that we can go it alone. It’s humbling to discover that while we can split the nucleus of an atom, without God’s backing we can’t even fix a broken pipe. Advertisement

Everyone relies on something to feel secure. Before 9/11, we relied on our military might. Before the economic downturn, we relied on our financial institutions. Before this oil spill, we relied on our sophisticated technologies. Now there is nothing material left to rely on; all pretenses have been stripped away; all the puppets are gone. The only one left is the Puppeteer Himself.

We are now at a pivotal crossroad. Will we try to fashion new puppets in our search for security? Or will we find that security in God’s guidance and assistance?

God is our Father in Heaven, and just like a parent wants to hear from children regularly and not only sporadically, God wants to hear from us every day. He does not want to be the option of last resort. He is the only option, as nothing can help us independent of His will. As King David says in Psalms (127:1), “If God will not build the house, in vain have its builders labored on it.”

The oil emanating from the bowels of the earth, traveling many miles to distant shores, is perhaps God’s dispatch to us, saying, “You need Me and I want to be needed by you.”

The second possible lesson is the importance of boundaries and how they relate to theft. What is unusual about this environmental disaster is that the polluting agent – the oil – is natural; one natural element contaminating another. The oil was a precious resource when it was kept separate; it only became a menace once its barrier was breached inappropriately. Although the investigation is ongoing, the chief mechanic on the rig testified that shortcuts had been insisted on from the top, despite workers’ concerns.

Everything God creates has innate holiness and needs to be treated with respect and care. Things only become evil when they are misused. The Torah, God’s instruction manual for life, teaches us how to mine the holiness in everything without overstepping our bounds and causing a breach. Sin is in essence a breach – a breach of the trust God has in us, His creations, to follow His will, and a breach in the guidelines God set as to how things He created may be used.

Our Sages say it was the sin of thievery that caused God to flood the world during the time of Noah. When people breached the separation between what was theirs and what was not, God acted in kind. He unleashed His wellsprings, which were ensconced deep in the earth and unknown to humanity, and that water then joined with their oceans and rivers. The combined waters, together with the rain, flooded the world.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/when-the-only-one-left-is-the-puppeteer-a-spiritual-perspective-on-the-gulf-oil-spill/2010/06/30/

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