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December 29, 2014 / 7 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘decision’

The Safety Net You Need

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

The last time you were at the circus did you gasp as the trapeze artist swung through the air?

Even though his antics might be scary, there’s a strong safety net catch him in the event of a fall. Hopefully, the trapeze artist won’t ever need to use it. But it is always there – just in case.

Even the world’s best acrobats have safety nets to catch them if the unfortunate occurs. So what does that say for the rest of us, who aren’t the world’s best?

Even if you’re not a trapeze artist, you need a safety net. As long as you have dependents, you need a safety net to save you from fiscal free fall.

Sometimes, the “fall” can be the result of poor financial planning and decision-making, but often it’s due to circumstances that are beyond your control.

For this reason, it’s important to make sure you have a safety net in place. In terms of personal finance, this is a two-pronged approach: making sure that you have adequate insurance and having an emergency savings account.

If you have young dependents, insurance is absolutely vital. What would happen if your family’s breadwinner(s) died or was seriously injured? While insurance won’t solve every problem, it definitely helps alleviate some fiscal concerns.

And in a situation that is far less drastic, but still costly, emergency savings can make all the difference between being unable to put food on the table or repairing the car.

Review your insurance portfolio to make sure that your family is covered in the event of a possible disaster, and evaluate your bank accounts to ensure that you have an emergency savings plan in order to catch you in case you fall. And like the trapeze artist, let’s hope that you never actually need to use it.

Arab Teachers’ Rejection of Holocaust Education Highlights Arab Anti-Semitism

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard once commented that, sometimes, the only proper reaction to a particular event is despair. The following represents such an example.

According to a recent report, rumors of a U.N. decision to introduce Holocaust studies in schools in Palestinian refugee camps run by UNRWA  have outraged Jordanian teachers, who say they will refuse to teach history that “harms the Palestinian cause.”

Roughly two million Palestinian refugees are registered with UNRWA’s Jordan offices, and they operate 172 schools in 10 refugee camps across the kingdom.

The Executive Committee of UNRWA teachers in Jordan responded to news that Holocaust studies would be added to the curriculum on ‘conflict resolution’ by issuing a statement stating that, “We condemn this decision, which equates the butcher and the victim,” (emphasis added).

The teachers’ statement demanded instead classes on the Palestinian “right of return” to Israel.

The statement continued, objecting to the fact that “Teaching UNRWA students about the so-called “Holocaust” as part of human rights harms the Palestinian cause … and changes the students’  views regarding their main enemy, namely the Israeli occupation.

“We shall monitor the curriculum being taught under the title ‘concepts of human rights’ [which is] aimed at reducing [Palestinian] students’ awareness of the right of return…”

The reaction by Jordanian teachers follows a decision last year, by the association of UNRWA employees, to ban the introduction of Holocaust studies in UNRWA schools.

Remember that these are not Islamist extremists we’re talking about, but middle-class Jordanian educators, ordinary men and women who evidently are outraged by “rumors” of a U.N. decision to teach children about the Nazi slaughter of one out of every three Jews on earth.

Identifying with six-million victims of Nazi genocide is evidently seen as harming the Palestinian cause.

Moreover, it’s important to understand that though the Holocaust did not come close to putting an end to anti-Semitism across the world, news of the unspeakable horrors in extermination camps such as Auschwitz, Sobibor, Treblinka and Majdanek did attach to expressions of Judeophobia, in most of the enlightened world, a significant moral stigma.

Holocaust memory in our times creates a bulwark of sorts against the most virulent expressions of antisemitism, as it demonstrates the potential deadly consequences of unchallenged racism against Jews – and, indeed, against other minorities.

It is indeed telling that the central address of anti-Semitism in modern times is the Arab and Muslim Middle East, where the cultural antibodies against Jew hatred have failed to materialize.

If the citizens of the Middle East were to internalize the lessons of the Holocaust they would be forced to confront their own society’s often homicidal  anti-Semitism – a self-reflective habit of mind which the honor-shame culture of the Arab world does not promote.

The reaction by Jordanian teachers to the suggestion that they educate Palestinian children about the unspeakable crimes committed against Jews is, therefore, not surprising, as such a curriculum would necessarily turn a mirror on their own extensive moral and cultural shortcomings.

Finally, how can anyone seriously contemplate Palestinian peace with living Jews if they are often unable to reconcile themselves with even the humanity of murdered Jews?

The only healthy response to such stories is simply despair.

Originally published at the CifWatch blog.

Making Amends

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Where I now work, there is a small kitchen where workers can have lunch. We take our lunch breaks at different times, and I usually take mine at the same time as an unassuming young man named Benny Green, a 25-year-old who works in the company’s stockroom.

In conversation, he asked me if I am a ba’alat teshuvah. I answered in the affirmative. He then said that he was a ba’al teshuvah.

“At what age did you do teshuvah?” I asked.

“Thirteen,” he said. “At the end of seventh grade.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“Thirteen is kind of young to do teshuvah,” I commented. “I mean, it’s hard by yourself.” He agreed but said that his parents were okay with his decision, and even sent him to a religious school upon request.

“It started with your bar mitzvah?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, recalling that his mother always knew he would become religious because he told her so when he was just four years old.

Certain children, from a young age, display sensitivity to religion whether or not they are raised in religious homes. Benny’s mother attributes it to zechut avot. Her father, the grandfather he never merited to know, had been an illui at the Chochmei Lublin Yeshiva in Lithuania before the war. After the Holocaust, he came to Israel and left some of his faith behind.

Benny started attending shul Friday nights while learning for his bar mitzvah.

“It felt good,” he said. He was happy to be there. “There was this old man, Naftali; I think he must have been 90 years old. There wasn’t a place on his face that wasn’t wrinkled, but it’s his fingers that I remember. He used to show me the place in the siddur. I remember always watching his hands.”

Naftali, who has long since been collecting his reward for turning Benny on to prayer, not only influenced a young bar mitzvah boy but all of Benny’s family eventually followed in his footsteps and are now at least partially observant.

That’s the first part of the story. Benny took me aside a few weeks after our conversation and told me the rest of it.

His grandfather had left a diary. Benny’s cousin recently found it and was perusing it when he came across an interesting entry. It seems that his grandfather had transferred Benny’s mother from a religious school to a secular one that was closer to home. That was a decision, he wrote, that he regretted his entire life. He described it as his worst mistake and hoped that he would one day be able to make a tikkun. The cousin, intrigued, asked Benny when he had switched schools. Benny told him that it was around the time of his bar mitzvah, at the end of seventh grade. His cousin told him that it was at that age when his grandfather transferred his mother to her new school.

“But there’s more,” Benny told me. The reason his mother had wanted to change schools was because of social problems related to being overweight. Benny had wanted to change schools for the same reason.

Apparently Benny’s grandfather wasn’t as much at peace with his decision as his family had thought.

Today, Benny’s mother is quite thin (and has been for years) and Benny has managed to shed the unwanted pounds that caused him discomfort as an adolescent in a secular school.

And Benny’s mother and brothers have followed in his footsteps – and are now religious.

Benny’s grandfather never did personally get to see his tikkun; instead he got it with the help of another grandfatherly figure – literally pointing the way.

The symmetry of Divine Providence never ceases to amaze me.

New Brit Mila Legislation May Be Weeks Away in Germany

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Ritual circumcisions have resumed in the Cologne region of Germany, ending a controversy started in a Cologne court in June, when judges decided ritual circumcision constituted “bodily harm” to boys and religious coercion.

Though the court decision only prevented Jewish and Muslim circumcisions in one portion of Germany, religious rights groups decried the decision and feared the legal precedent would lead to the ban of circumcisions throughout the country.

The groups invoked Germany’s history of religious intolerance and vowed to fight for ritual circumcisions in the courts and through public campaigns.

The Justice Ministry has issued new legislation to reinstate ritual circumcisions, but only provided that families endure a thorough medical elucidation of the risks and processes of circumcision by a professional, and utilize “the most effective pain relief possible” when performing the ceremony.  The legislation is still pending.

Approximately 4 million Muslims and 120,000 Jews live in Germany.

Are Your Investment Decisions Rational?

Friday, September 28th, 2012

As a financial planner, I often ask new clients why a particular investment is included in their portfolio. One answer that I find somewhat worrying is: “I don’t really know how to explain it, but I just had a gut feeling that this stock was going to be a winner!”

Often the stock in question is anything but a winner, but that isn’t the point. If you were to fit a new kitchen, would you simply walk into a builder’s showroom and say that you wanted the kitchen cabinets that are in the storefront window because you had a “gut feeling” about them as soon as you saw them, or would you first visit several showrooms, research the types of materials used and other factors that are important to your decision? Of course you wouldn’t order home renovations based on gut feelings, because thousands of dollars are at stake, as well as the fact that you will have to live with the results of your decision for a very long time.  Just like investing.

Yet very often, investors base their financial decisions on irrational reasoning.

The way that emotions affect investing has become a science and much research is conducted into various phenomena such as loss aversion, mental accounting, and herding. Emotions influence investors’ decisions in many more ways than you would expect. Sometimes fear drives an investor to sell a stock because a sudden dip in the market makes him afraid he’ll lose everything. And, at the other end of the spectrum, is the person who did well with a certain small investment, and figures that because he did well once, he’s bound to do even better if he does it again. He continues to invest in something that might not be appropriate at increased levels, just because he wants to duplicate his previous “win.”

On my radio show, Goldstein on Gelt, I interviewed several researchers who study behavioral investing, including Professor Terrance Odean of Berkeley University, Nobel Prize Winner Professor Daniel Kahneman, and best-selling author Professor Dan Ariely (click on their names to watch videos of these interviews). Watch the videos and let me know if the research on behavioral finance jives with your investment decisions.

Germany Initiating Pro-Circumcision Legislation

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

A spokesman for German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said his office is working on an outline for new legislation that will permit circumcision of minor males after a controversial court decision in the summer that criminalized the rite.

The new law will allow circumcision with some provisos, including that it be carried out with the “most effective pain relief possible,” the spokesman said, according to AFP. Parents must also receive a full explanation about the procedure, which may not be carried out in cases where the child is ill or suffers from hemophilia.

The outline also states that, as a rule, circumcisions are to be conducted by doctors but can also be done on babies younger than six months by someone chosen for their religious credentials. That person must be as skilled at circumcision as a doctor, according to the new bill.

“Circumcision remains permitted in Germany,” the spokesman said, referring to the outlines for the new law.

Chairman of the Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora, MK Danny Danon, sent a message to German ambassador to Israel Andreas Michaelis, saying: “Germany’s commitment to the Jewish people and the State of Israel has been tested – and I’m glad that Germany passed successfully.”

Ayşe Demir, deputy director of the Turkish community in Germany, also welcomed the new bill. “If circumcision is banned, the practice will go underground and prompt circumcision tourism,” she said in a statement. “We approve of the proposal,” she added.

The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann, said that the draft met many of the expectations of the Jewish community, Deutsche Welle reported. “For this the justice ministry deserves respect,” he said.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine said the ministry had sought submissions of reactions from interest groups by Oct. 1, ahead of a parliamentary debate.

Israeli Company Wins Tender to Build Milk Parlors for Belarus

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

An Israeli company has won a 12 million-euro tender with the Belarusian government to build 135 advanced cow milking parlors across the country.

The Israeli dairy herd management firm AfiMilk will help Belarus bring its dairy system up to European standards following Russia’s decision to stop purchasing Belarusian dairy products due to violations of its packaging laws.  The decision was a major blow to the Belarusian dairy industry, which previously exported 95% of its dairy to Russia.

The systems will include all the necessary hardware, as well as computer software to mange the cattle.

AfiMilk is jointly owned by SAE from Kibbutz Afikim in the northern Jordan Valley, and Israeli private equity investment group Fortissimo Capital.  AfiMilk technologies are in use in 50 countries across the world.

The company won a gargantuan tender in China a month ago to build milking parlors for 50,000 cows at a price of $500 million.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israeli-company-wins-tender-to-build-milk-parlors-for-belarus/2012/09/20/

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