Do we know how to love? If we did, wouldn’t things be better in the world, and specifically better for the Jewish nation? Have we lost a sense of the family concept of love? In this week’s program, Rabbi’s Shlomo Katz and Ari Abramowitz delve deep into this weeks Parsha Matot, by reminding ourselves what family truly feels like.The Land of Israel
Posts Tagged ‘family’
President & First Lady Rivlin on Sunday hosted at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem the family of Shira Banki, along with representatives of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance (JOH), ahead of the gay pride march scheduled for next week, which marks a year since Shira was murdered in the same march.
“Shira was murdered for the freedom of every woman and man to express themselves and their sexuality freely,” said the President and continued, “The right of every man and woman to be who they are, to love as their heart desires, love that can be expressed openly. We must promote a safe public space in which even if there is disagreement, there is respect for each and every person. We must differentiate between disagreement and violent, hurtful, and destructive dialogue that at times also incites hatred.”
The President stressed, “We must end the incitement against the LGBT community, and any support that such views receive. I must say that the statements heard from the mouths of rabbis, leaders, and faith leaders have pained me greatly. I want to reiterate and remind everyone, that ‘Beloved is man created in God’s image’, any person, regardless of religion, race, or sex.” He added, “I am certain that the rabbis whom so many pupils look up to — some of them members of the LGBT community themselves — will also find a way to clarify that they don’t think otherwise.”
He continued, “Since Shira’s murder, I have initiated meetings between secular and ultra-Orthodox, right and left, men and women, so they will get to know one another, and come together united to learn, pray, and work in partnership in Shira’s memory. Political or religious differences, or differences in sexuality do not justify violence an incitement. This is not our way, not the way of Israeli society. We still have much work to do. Shira’s murder and the horrific terror attack in Orlando show that there needs to be a true effort to teach tolerance, and that a great struggle still lies before us. I congratulate the representatives of Open House for their work on behalf of the LGBTQ community, for an egalitarian, inclusive and tolerant discourse in Israel.”
Uri, Shira’s father, thanked the President for the meeting: “Such a clear, strong, firm, and public official statement calling for moderation, tolerance, and acceptance of others is something that the State of Israel needs today maybe more than anything. This is not a simple statement and it has a price as we have seen from time to time. It is a statement lacking in many places, and the words coming from this house are clear and consistent. For this our thanks go to the President and his office.”
The President responded, “Nechama and I are simply representing Shira.”JNi.Media
What is the most important challenge facing Israel today? Most of us can recite by heart the usual answers: Terrorism, lack of unity, anti-Semitism. But according to virtually every one of the twenty speakers at last month’s ninth Ramle Conference, the answer appears to be the threats facing the nuclear Jewish family.
Organized by several groups, principally Hotam and Komemiyut, the conference brought together experts from various fields, all of whom had a significant take on the subject. Attendees represented a varied cross-section of the population, from Ramle pensioners to policewomen, as well as National Service girls, social workers, legal experts, a Hesder yeshiva dean, yeshiva students and rabbis, grandmothers, and others.
What are the threats to the family that render the topic so critical? The most immediate threat has apparently been neutralized – for now – but many of the speakers feel the ideology that drove it is still very much in force. The reference is to a proposed drastic change in Israel’s “Parents and Children Law” – and it was only intense lobbying by pro-family activists that prevented the change from being voted on in the Knesset.
The proposal would have stricken the clause defining parents as a child’s legal guardians (authorized to represent the child before the authorities, to decide where the child will live and go to school, etc.), replacing it with one defining a new concept of “parental responsibility” consisting mainly of parents’ obligation to respect and uphold a series of “children’s rights” as defined by the bill. This “parental responsibility” could be limited or obviated by a court, should the authorities decide a parent is not carrying out his or her “parental responsibility” properly.
Social worker Ronit Smadar-Dror, founder of an organization called L’tzidchem (By Your Side), spoke of another threat to normative family life.
“Contrary to common misconception,” she noted, “it is not mainly women who are the victims of male violence but the opposite: In 50 percent of the cases of family violence, both spouses are violent, while in 26 percent of the cases it is the woman who is violent; only in 24 percent is it the man alone who is violent.
“Yet the wrong picture is constantly promoted. The problem with this misrepresentation of reality is that it causes men not to seek help because they know they will be mocked, disbelieved, and/or likely distanced from their families by the police and courts – and thus the families continue to suffer. What is a child to do or feel when he sees his father being victimized, yet is taught everywhere that men are violent?”
Another problem was highlighted by Rabbi Azriel Ariel of Ateret. “In my role as a marriage counselor I see that many couples simply don’t have time for their marriage or to deepen their relationship,” he said. “This requires not only work on their part, but also a public policy change. For instance, the Ministry of Economic Affairs forces its female employees to work full-time – meaning that the government does not allow them to invest in their families. This has to be changed.”
Gil Ronen, founder of the Femilistim pro-family organization, posited that the above examples, and others, are driven by nothing less than a Communist agenda, and that feminists in Israel have, wittingly or not, bought into a wide-ranging campaign to destroy the family unit.
“The dialogue in the country has changed, by design: Every flirting or untoward remark is reported as sexual harassment, and men are constantly portrayed as violent, instead of as protective. This is all part of a campaign to change the way we think.”
Predictably, those remarks elicited some strong objections, but Ronen was not deterred. He noted that some weeks ago, the gang assault of a Jewish woman by five foreign workers in Tel Aviv “was barely covered in the press, because it did not fit the agenda… while not long before that, an offensive remark by former MK Yinon Magal at a party [was dragged out in] headlines until Magal finally surrendered to the media charges of ‘sexual harassment’ and resigned.”
Michael Puah, father of 12 and a leader of the Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) organization, told the audience that is “unfortunate that the religious-Zionist public does not take part in the struggle on behalf of the family the same way it did against the Oslo agreements. There are forces at work that wish to dismantle the family structure. These forces soon concluded, however, that if they could not beat them they would join them, and instead of destroying the family unit they would just call everything a family: two mothers, two fathers, etc. They are trying to replace the ‘biological family’ with the ‘contractual family,’ so that it can be dismantled at will…”
Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Zini, former rabbi of the Technion and now the dean of Yeshivat Ohr V’Yeshuah, related a story of a Muslim preacher who “told his flock of worshipers one Friday how dangerous and terrible the Jews are, but then said that in reality, the Jews are really only the agents of our real enemies, the Americans – who want to destroy our family structure.”
“Traditional Jews are therefore in a precarious position,” Rabbi Zini continued, “because we are fighting simultaneously against Western culture and against extremist Islam – and both of them are distorted versions of what we Jews gave the world.”
After the audience digested this point, Rabbi Zini added, “The Western world…believes in only one thing: the individual. But this is poison to our belief system, which believes in the community and family structures…”
One of the conference’s two panel discussions dealt with the matter of work environments vis-à-vis the family unit. Rabbi Ariel agreed with some of the other speakers that the danger of extramarital relationships is enhanced in mixed-gender workplaces:
“Great caution is required. It must be remembered that while work is an important value, it is not an obligation – whereas adultery is a capital crime. One goes to work to support his family, and he must be careful that he does not do the opposite – causing the collapse of his family by what he does at work.”
The rabbi enumerated some guidelines, drawing nods of agreement in the audience but not necessarily on the panel. Police Brig.-Gen. Yael Idelman, who has served for three years as the Israel Police Department’s first adviser on women’s affairs, said she could not accept this approach:
“When I agreed to sit on this panel, I had no idea we would be talking about things like separation between men and women and the like. I view my role as creating the conditions to bring about equal opportunities for women serving on the police force, and to thus bring out their abilities – and I believe that we have done this successfully. Regarding marital infidelity and the like, this can happen anywhere, not just in the police force, and it is up to each individual.”
Asked why male and female police officers serve together on night shifts, she said, “This is how it must be, because they sometimes have to deal with women who will only open up to a policewoman.” The questioner was not satisfied with the response, saying afterward, “The police department just recently experienced a rash of sexual harassment cases on the part of senior police officers, and yet they continue on as if nothing ever happened.”
MK Betzalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) presented a general approach of “thinking positively” and doing what we can now to avoid problems later: “If we see that the divorce rates are very high, let us provide government-subsidized pre-marital counseling. If we want to encourage large families, how about subsidizing larger cars for those with four or five children or more?”
Rabbi Menachem Burstein, head of the Puah Institute, which works with couples who have fertility problems, urged that every teen register with a genetic testing service to prevent genetic diseases and strongly recommended that unmarried women over the age of 30 undergo a relatively new process to freeze egg cells, which can later be fertilized by their husbands and transferred to the uterus as embryos.
Demographer Yaakov Feitelson, who served as the first mayor of the Shomron city of Ariel over 30 years ago, presented encouraging statistics and charts showing that Israel’s Jewish population growth is positive in comparison not only with the rest of the world but also with its Arab population.
In terms of average first-marriage age, Israel is in second place in the 41-member OECD; first-marriages in Sweden, Iceland and Chile, for example, typically take place when the bride and groom are in their mid-30s – eight years older than in Israel. Similarly, Jewish fertility rates are climbing while the Arab numbers are slumping, and equality has nearly been reached.
Feitelson, who is not outwardly religiously observant, says he is in favor of ending the compulsory military draft of women, for three reasons: “It will help the country economically if they can go out to work earlier, religious men will have no reason not to serve, and it will lower marriage age and increase Jewish population growth.”
Highlighting the optimism of those fighting the battle on behalf of the nuclear family in Israel, conference organizers awarded plaques of recognition to two Israeli organizations for their success in imbuing and preserving family values: Internet Rimon, which filters out unacceptable Internet sites and content, thus enabling families to use the Internet without fear, and Binyan Shalem, whose annual three-day seminar is attended by thousands of men and women, with many dozens of classes on topics related to the Jewish family and its values.
“It all started in a living room one day several years ago,” said the Binyan Shalem representative accepting the award, “which shows us how much can be done simply with patience, perseverance, and the desire to do good.”Hillel Fendel
Editor’s Note: This is the tenth installment of a multipart series on the life and times of the author’s grandmother, Freida Sima, who as a young woman came to America on her own in the early 1900s and made her way in a new country. The ninth part (“Freida Sima’s Family and the Holocaust”) appeared as the front-page essay in the June 24 issue; part eleven will run in August.
On May 8, 1945, hundreds of millions throughout the world celebrated V-E Day, marking Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender to the Allied Forces. As droves of rejoicing New Yorkers filled the streets, Freida Sima Kraus stood at her window with the three blue stars, symbolizing her three stepsons in the American army, and blessed the Almighty for keeping them alive and well throughout the war.
Soon the boys will be coming home, she thought, and life will begin anew. Soon we will hear from the family in Europe, and bring those who survived to America. Untying her apron and hanging it behind the kitchen door, she decided to make her way over to her brothers, uncles, and aunts to celebrate with them.
Maybe Shirley wants to come along, she thought, walking toward the living room where her daughter had been earlier. Instead of rejoicing, the sixteen year old was now sitting in a corner, silently weeping.
“The war is over, Mama, but who knows what’s going to happen in the world!” she tearfully said. “Nothing will ever be the same again!”
Taking her daughter’s hand, Freida Sima once again rued her husband Mordche’s communist polemics and political pessimism that Shirley had grown up with.
“No, my Shirlinkeh, nothing will be the same,” she answered quietly. “Some circles will close but others, maybe better ones, will open.”
* * * * *
Over the next few months a number of circles indeed closed, but there were also new beginnings. One by one the Kraus boys came home from the war and began new lives. After being engaged for years, Harry married his Shirley and the two moved out to California where the other brothers were living. Stewart and Ben married as well, and the next generation of Krauses began to grow in California.
In New York as well, the family went through changes as cousins came back from the army. For many of the older generation – to which Freida Sima, now fifty, belonged – it felt as though they were living in two dimensions at once, mourning their relatives lost in Europe while celebrating their soldiers’ safe return.
This interplay of sorrow and joy was strongly felt and played a major role in the gala celebration the Scharf-Eisenberg family circle held to mark the war’s end and the safe return of the cousins who had served in the military.
The next generation, the small children who had sat on the floor in the family portrait taken when Baba Devorah had visited the U.S. (“Freida Sima’s Mother Comes to America,” Jewish Press, April 8), was growing up as well. Mordche had been working full time since the war began, and there was enough money for Shirley to finish high school instead of going to work at sixteen as her older brothers had.
Freida Sima was thrilled when her daughter decided to attend Brooklyn College and become a language teacher. It was compensation for Freida Sima’s not having been able to complete her own formal education. Knowing her daughter’s socialist tendencies, she had feared that Shirley intended to join her aunt Rose, Mordche’s older sister, on an extended visit to the Soviet Union the older woman was planning. After all, this was the daughter whose high school yearbook opened with her homeroom teacher’s parting note: “Come the revolution, Shirley, don’t forget to take care of me.”
Abie’s daughters, Sheila and Muriel, were also growing up. Unlike their socialist cousin Shirley, they had joined the Zionist Betar youth movement and even attended its summer camp. Muriel took her Zionist indoctrination seriously, and at the end of her second year at Hunter College made plans to sail to Israel and fight for the Jewish homeland. In early May 1948 she packed a bag and pretended to go out with a girlfriend. Instead, she secretly boarded the export liner Marine Carp, along with sixty-nine other Americans, and sailed for Palestine.
When Abie learned what his daughter had done, he swore to send a telegram to the authorities and have her taken off the boat, as she was underage. Cousin Abe Scharf, the immigration lawyer, counseled against it, but Abie was too incensed to relent.
Finally, Freida Sima, who had come right over as soon as she heard of her niece’s disappearance, locked Abie in the bathroom, refusing to let him out until he promised to send Muriel a very different telegram – one that expressed love for his daughter and support for her choice.
Muriel fought in Israel’s War of Independence and eventually married one of her Camp Betar leaders. Her husband, Moshe Arens, would go on to become one of Israel’s most outspoken and respected defense ministers.
* * * * *
As she entered her fifties, Freida Sima’s life was changing. Mordche was making a living and she no longer needed to run a boardinghouse to support the family. One by one her boarders left until only “Rosie,” the elderly Mr. Rosenthal who had no family in New York but was like an honorary member of the Kraus household, remained.
At eighteen, Shirley finally had her own bedroom instead of sleeping in the corner of the living room as she had done since she was seven. Catering to his beloved youngest child’s fantasies, Max painted the ceiling black and pasted tin stars on it, which at night reflected the streetlights coming through the window.
One evening, having fallen asleep on her daughter’s bed while waiting for her to return from college, Freida Sima opened her eyes in shock. “I thought I had died and gone to heaven!” she recalled, laughing about it years later.
Now that the boardinghouse had closed, Freida Sima not only had free bedrooms, she had free time. For a change she could allow herself the luxury of sitting and reading to her heart’s content. But years of caring for others had taught her that life was more than self-indulgence. The war, and especially the fact that she hadn’t been able to save her family, still weighed heavily on her mind. She and her brothers had been instrumental in participating in the Bukoviner relief committee that sent packages to survivors, including her own family, now in Bucharest, but she wanted to do more.
The kitchen had always been Freida Sima’s kingdom and she was known as one of the best cooks in the family. She decided to put these skills to use and volunteered to cook and serve lunch at a local yeshiva, whose student body and faculty included Holocaust orphans and survivors. For several years Freida Sima spent three mornings and early afternoons each week cooking and serving delicious food to the students and staff, often sitting with the younger children to tell them stories while they ate and acting as a mother figure to those in need.
Meanwhile, the Enzenberg family (as the Eisenberg family was called in Europe) was on the move. Elish, Lola, and Max came to America in 1948, right before Muriel left for Israel, and changed their name to Eisenberg to match the rest of the family. Working at first in his brother Benny’s butcher shop, Elish soon moved into the tie business, eventually opening his own store on the Lower East Side.
A year and a half later, the rest of the European Enzenberg clan joined the first wave of Romanian immigrants to Israel. Initially sent to various immigrant tent camps around the country, the family coalesced in the central region and moved into tzrifim (shacks) and more permanent housing.
* * * * *
Around that time, Freida Sima announced to Mordche that more than anything else she wanted to visit her family in Israel, to meet the brother and sister she had never seen, and to become reacquainted with the two brothers who had been small children when she left for America.
And so Freida Sima left for Israel laden with food and presents for everyone she was to meet. Unlike her journey to America by boat forty years earlier, this time she traveled by plane. The trip to Israel took almost three days, with refueling stops in Greenland, Ireland, France, Switzerland, Italy, and Greece. A cousin who accompanied her to Israel recalled, “By the time we got off the plane in Lod, seventy-two hours later, everyone on the flight had become good friends.”
Sheindl and Tuleh had never met Freida Sima; Elish had been eleven months old when she last saw him; and Srul had been five (he had a faint memory of what Freida Sima looked like as a girl).
Sheindl remembered her excitement when she greeted the sister who was more than twenty years older than her. “All along I used to say, ‘I have a sister on paper whom I have never seen,’ and now I finally met her!”
Unlike her American brothers, who for years had called her “Boitee,” their pronunciation of “Bertha,” these siblings called her Freida Sima, the name Nachman and Devorah had used for their eldest daughter. Only years later, after Tuleh and Sheindl moved to America, did they begin calling their sister Boitee as well.
The contents of Freida Sima’s suitcases caused a minor sensation when she arrived in Israel, which was still in its tzena (austerity) period, with all the rationing and deprivations the word implies. Trying to think of what the family might need and enjoy, Freida Sima had packed her suitcases with food, clothing, and small luxuries.
Brothers Abie in the dry goods store, Elish in the tie business, and Benny in the butcher shop had done her proud. Out of one suitcase came shirts, pants, ties, socks, and underwear for the men and boys; out of the other, skirts and blouses for the girls and dresses and cologne for the women. From her hand luggage she pulled out numerous salamis, which had given the plane a distinctive and unforgettable odor, familiar to anyone taking the long flights to Israel in those days, along with chewing gum and candy for the children.
The Enzenbergs were always a very emotional family, easily shedding tears at both sad and happy occasions. Sure enough, no one’s eyes were dry when they got together for a festive gathering at Sheindl’s little house. After eating, the entire family went to take pictures to send to America, just as Freida Sima and her brothers had done in New York before the war, when they sent pictures to family members still in Europe.
After initially posing in different groupings, everyone came together for a full family portrait, similar to the one the American family had taken when Baba Devorah had come to visit. Unlike that picture, for which all had worn their best dresses or suits, this one was more informal, taken outdoors in the summer heat. Nevertheless, Srul, Tuleh, and Leibush dutifully wore the ties and crisp new white shirts they had received from the family in New York.
* * * * *
Freida Sima’s six-week stay in Israel passed like a dream, and much too soon it was time to begin her three-day flight home. Before leaving, she reiterated what Abie had already told his siblings when he visited them: life in Israel was very hard and the family would help any of them and their families come to America.
Tuleh was the first to express interest, and the family soon brought him, followed by his wife and daughter, to New York. Later on he was joined by Sheindl, followed by her daughter and Naftula, whose daughter had married and decided to stay in Israel. Tuleh became a butcher, like his brother Benny, and changed his name to Eisenberg, while Naftula found work as a baker. Srul and Leibush and their families remained in Israel, although Srul’s older son moved to New York and married an American girl.
By the early 1960s, six of the eight siblings lived in New York, five in the Bronx, not far from one another. Fifteen years after the war’s end, Freida Sima’s dream from the end of the First World War had come true. She, together with Abie and Benny, had finally managed to reunite most of the family in America.
And there were always new dreams. Soon after Freida Sima returned from Israel, Mordche turned sixty-five and could retire from painting.
“Don’t get too comfortable, Mordche,” she told him when he sat down in a living-room chair with a cigarette the first morning of his retirement. “I have a list of things I’ve been waiting for us to do for years!”
Their adventures in the years that followed were more than even she had dreamed of, but that’s a chapter of their lives that requires its own installment.
(This installment of the Freida Sima series is dedicated to the memory of Freida Sima’s brother Abie Eisenberg (whose yahrzeit is 15 Tammuz, which falls this year on July 21), and his wife, Freida’s sister-in-law and first cousin Minnie Scharf Eisenberg (whose yahrzeit is 13 Tammuz – July 19 this year).Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz
Some 200 Jews gathered Tuesday morning by the entrance to the Temple Mount compound, to commemorate Hallel Yaffa Ariel, 13, HY”D, who was murdered two weeks ago by an Arab terrorist in her bedroom in Kiryat Arba. Police then permitted some 50 to enter the Temple Mount, the largest group to ascend there this year—under heavy guard.
Following negotiation with the grieving family, Jerusalem police agreed to a more flexible visit, permitting the Jewish group a longer stay and not attempting to silence the uttering of blessings or saying Amen—as opposed to the 15-person limit in normal times and the complete prohibition of even the appearance of prayers or blessings.
The Muslims at the site cursed out the group and made repeated references to Allah, who is, they said, great.
One Jewish person was arrested earlier, according to Temple Mount activists, for the sin of closing his eyes and placing his hand over his eyes — an obvious criminal inclination to recite the Shema Israel.
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel and MK Bezalel Smotrich of Habayit Hayehudi, and MKs Yehuda Glick and Oren Hazan (Likud) participated in the event at the foot of Temple Mount, but were not allowed t ascend, by order of the prime minister. The ceremony at the entrance to the holy site ended in dancing and singing.
The murdered child’s parents said they’d like to change the name of the gate from “Mugrabim Gate,” after the north-African Arab dwellers in the area before 1967, to “Hallel Gate,” after their daughter and after the Hallel prayer which accompanies every religious Jewish holiday rejoicing.
Profs. Maya Schuldiner of the Molecular Genetics Department, Nirit Dudovich of the Physics of Complex Systems Department and Michal Sharon of the Biomolecular Sciences Department were discussing the challenges their female students undergo as they move from childlessness to motherhood, and they reflected on the difficulties they had experienced during this time in their lives.
The three professors approached Prof. Daniella Goldfarb, the President’s Advisor for Advancing Women in Science, who was happy to allocate funds for the course. They then consulted Orit Viterbo, Head of Social Work at the Institute, and she joined them in the planning and execution of the course. Finding interested participants for the course was the easy part; the difficulty was in having to turn away others. To maintain an intimate and open environment, the course is limited to twenty women.
The course consists of six sessions, in which the young women are taught practical solutions for managing their career and family life, emphasizing the need to maintain open communication with their advisors and set realistic expectations. Decision making is another area they work on, as is learning to define their own interpretation of success and learning to pay less attention to the expectations of others.
Although the presence of women in the field of science has seen notable increase, there is still much progress to be made. At the Weizmann Institute 85 percent of the principal investigators are male. In the life sciences 70 percent of the PhD students are female, but they make up only 15 percent of the principle investigators. The childbearing period is also the critical juncture where women often decide not to proceed to the next stage in a scientific career. Indeed, many women at the Weizmann Institute of Science have their children while they are doctoral students. According to Schuldiner quite a few women obtain advanced degrees; it is the lack of support just when they are deciding whether to continue that often leads them to abandon their careers. This, she says, is why the course is vital. The women who participate are learning how to navigate a challenging situation, but during this process they also become confidantes who encourage one another and continue to meet after the conclusion of the course.
Schuldiner, Dudovich and Sharon all say that the biggest lesson they hope the participants will take away is that they are the sole proprietors of their careers. Balancing motherhood and a scientific career is difficult, but with the correct approach it is doable and can be very successful.
The family of Oron Shaul continues to fight to get their son’s body back from Hamas in Gaza. Oron Shaul was killed in the Gaza war, and his body was stolen by Hamas.
In their previous attempt to put pressure on Hamas to free their son, the family blocked humanitarian aid trucks from passing through the crossing into Gaza, demanding their son’s body be returned from Gaza in exchange for the aid.
They tried to get the prisons to not allow Hamas prisoners to watch the Euro game, but their legal attempts were rejected.
Today, the Oron family and their friends and supporters are blocking buses from Gaza and Hebron that are headed to the Nifcha prison for family visitations with the jailed Hamas terrorists.
The family is calling on the visiting relatives of the Hamas terrorists to tell Gaza chieftain Ismail Heniya to release Oron Shaul’s body from Gaza.
As of 10 AM, the family has blocked 3 buses.
Jewish Press News Briefs