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December 6, 2016 / 6 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘future’

Securing a Future for Religious Minorities in the Middle East

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

{Originally posted to the JNS website}

You have to wonder if the barbarians fighting under the flag of the Islamic State still believe that 72 virgins will be waiting for them in paradise once they become “martyrs.”

I say this not because the leaders and foot soldiers of ISIS have suddenly woken up to the possibility that this belief is based, according to several scholars, on a mistranslation of the relevant verse of the Qu’ran; that would be expecting too much of them. I say this because they have already had a taste of that paradise here on earth, as a result of their campaign of genocide against the Yazidi religious minority in Iraq and Syria. One aspect of this horrific slaughter has been the kidnapping of thousands of Yazidi women and girls to serve as sexual slaves to these savages.

A recent report from the U.N. Human Rights Council – a body that spends most of its time condemning Israel for alleged human rights violations – sheds some light on both the scale and the nature of the genocide, which was ignored by the international community for far too long. The campaign against the Yazidis was launched by ISIS over two years ago, in Aug. 2014, when its forces began an assault upon the Yazidi villages in Sinjar, a district in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh. At least 5,000 Yazidis have been killed during the genocide, while 3,200 women and children remain in ISIS captivity. About 70,000, estimated to make up 15 percent of the overall Yazidi population, are reported to have fled Iraq.

The stories related by the U.N. report will be depressingly familiar to anyone who has studied genocide over the last century. Men and boys are either executed or forcibly converted, while women and girls exist solely for the use and pleasure of ISIS terrorists. The manner of the persecution is gruesome. “After we were captured, ISIS forced us to watch them beheading some of our Yazidi men,” said one 16-year-old girl. “They made the men kneel in a line in the street, with their hands tied behind their backs. The ISIS fighters took knives and cut their throats.”

Despite this reign of terror, the Yazidis have not been destroyed as a distinctive group. Before the ISIS attacks began, around 700,000 Yazidis are said to have lived in Iraq, the largest single concentration of the religion’s followers. Kurdish in terms of their ethnicity, the Yazidi faith is described by scholars as syncretic, which means it combines elements of other religions, including Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam. Based on that, it’s worth noting that ISIS isn’t the only Islamist group that regards the Yazidis as infidels. The theology of more mainstream Islamist groups, like the Muslim Brotherhood, assigns them a similar status.

Presently, the main focus for the Yazidis is the rescue of their women and girls from the clutches of ISIS. Often this is done through ransom payments, involving middlemen who collect huge sums from their families – one recently reunited family paid a total of $34,000 for their two daughters – which are then paid to ISIS. After their release, both girls said they didn’t expect that they would see each other again, describing their captors as “dirty and abusive,” who subjected them to regular beatings.

What this illustrates is the need for greater physical security for the Yazidis, as well as for other religious minorities in the region, if and when ISIS is defeated. Without that concrete measure, continued religious and ethnic conflict in the Middle East will target vulnerable minorities first and foremost.

For that reason, the decision of the Iraqi parliament on Oct. 4 to reject Yazidi and Assyrian Christian appeals for separate provinces should spark concern. “The Iraqi people reject any decision that partitions the Nineveh province. The people of the city determine the destiny of their city in the post-Islamic State (IS) stage,” said Ahmed al-Jabra, a Sunni member of parliament, justifying the vote. Conveniently, for the Sunni Arab population, the vote also means that Yazidis and other minorities, who have been dispossessed from the region, will be reluctant to come back. Viyan Dakhil, a Yazidi member of the Iraqi parliament, has already said that Yazidis will be wary of returning to the Nineveh province without significant changes in its administration.

It was Dakhil who first alerted the world to the slaughter of the Yazidis in 2014, when her emotional plea to the world to save her people went viral on the internet. In a speech earlier this year at the U.N. in Geneva, arranged by the dedicated staff of the U.N. Watch nongovernmental organization, Dakhil declared, “The international community has to support us, to call upon the U.N. Security Council to recognize what is happening to us as genocide, and to refer our case to the International Criminal Court.” And there are signs that process is in motion, with both the U.S. and British governments formally acknowledging that the Yazidis have experienced a genocide in the legal sense of the term.

What is worrying is that measures to protect the Yazidis from future brutalities have been set back by the Iraqi parliament decision. As Jews from Middle Eastern countries know only too well, being a minority in the midst of profound instability in Arab and Muslim societies is not a fate anyone would want. The only way to protect yourself is by exercising some significant degree of self-determination, including the right of self-defense, secured by international guarantee. After all, we Jews were only able to say “Never again” once we secured the means to prevent further persecution, in the form of the state of Israel. The other religious minorities of the Middle East deserve no less.

Ben Cohen

IDF Huge Data Consolidation Tender to Complement Future IDF Cloud

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

Israel’s Defense Ministry has issued the largest ever technology tender, aiming to consolidate all the IDF data centers, in conjunction with the future project developing an IDF cloud, to the tune of an estimated $270 million. The plan calls for the winner, which must be an Israeli company, to contract with a foreign partner for the project of consolidating the entire IDF data into a few computer centers which will serve the IDF land, air and sea units.

The move, according to the Defense Ministry’s statement, is crucial to enabling the IDF to maintain the ongoing upgrading of its systems over the next decades. The migration of all this data will require a detailed examination of the existing systems, involving millions of decisions regarding what to keep and what to discard. Which is why the ministry is encouraging local IT companies to coalesce in order to qualify for the bid, and to then work in collaboration with one chosen foreign company.

The ministry is not interested in using the services of local data farm companies, at least not directly. The IDF wants to build its own data farms. Also, the new tender does not deal with buying cloud technology, because the military is already engaged in defining a tender for an exclusive IDF cloud. In their meeting with the press Thursday, IDF and Defense Ministry spokespersons assured reporters the two projects will remain distinct, so that the development of one will not hinder the other’s. At the same time, they expect the two systems — the future IDF data farms and the future IDF cloud — to act together eventually.

As the IDF is in the process of clearing out of its very expensive real estate in downtown Tel Aviv and moving to a new military city near Beer Sheva in the south, it is safe to assume that at least part of the new storage system will also be erected there, in the Negev desert.

Many in Israel’s technology media have noted that the biggest challenge facing the new data storage system would be the requirement that the Infantry, Armored Forces, IAF, and Navy be able to share it effectively, making the system work for them instead of against them. The challenges in this case have less to do with technology and more with ego. Back in 2006, the IDF decided to kill its Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, one year after the $200 million project had been launched. The problem, according to a Globes report at the time, was that each corps selected a system that was specifically tailored to its requirements (either SAP- or Oracle-based), without regard for the need for a uniform technological and operating capacity across all branches.

Hopefully, the planners of the new tender have taken those issues into consideration. The IDF insists that the 2014 Gaza war marked a watershed in the new collaboration among the branches, and, besides, the IDF Chief of Staff has ordered collaboration as a priority, so they better collaborate.


Goldstein on Gelt: Is Being an Entrepreneur the Way of the Future?

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Do you have more job security as an employee or as an entrepreneur? Taylor Pearson, author of The End of Jobs, explains why becoming an entrepreneur does not mean giving up the security of having a job, why jobs are becoming a thing of the past, and how entrepreneurial skills can help you write your life script. What does the future hold for traditional jobs, and what are the growing industries that today’s university graduates should be focusing on?

Should you be concerned about a drop in the bond market? Today, Doug Goldstein, CFP® looks at reasons why a bond may decrease in value, and what you can do if you decide to invest in bonds instead of stocks.
The Goldstein On Gelt Show is a financial podcast. Click on the player below to listen. For show notes and contact details of the guest, go to www.GoldsteinOnGelt.com

Doug Goldstein, CFP®

Emes Ve-Emunah: The Spiritual Leaders of the Future

Monday, July 25th, 2016

{Originally posted to the author’s blog, Emes Ve-Emunah}

It seems that I am not the only one that has predicted the future of Orthodoxy lies in the Charedi world. Based on data he saw, Rutgers Professor Emeritus, Dr. Chaim Waxman made the same prediction recently. It was made during a presentation at the Center for Kehillah Development (CKD). He claimed that studies now show that the rate of growth in Orthodoxy now exceeds the dropout rate. “Increasingly, Orthodox Jews are choosing to remain Orthodox” says Professor Waxman.

Not that any of this surprises me. I never believed that the dropout rate outpaced the growth rate – if only by virtue of the exponentially higher birth rate in the Orthodox world than in the rest of world Jewry. And as you go up o the ‘Charedi’ ladder so too does the birth rate. From Yeshiva World News (YWN):

(Professor Waxman’s) research indicates that Chassidishe Jew have 12 times as many children as the non-Orthodox, and even the Modern Orthodox have 4 times the number of children as the non-Orthodox.

This is not an insignificant difference to say the least. The implications of which are profound. It will surely change the way Jews will be seen by the rest of the world. We will go from being seen as liberal humanists seeking social justice as our primary role in society to being seen more like Evangelical Christians that focus more on the fundamental precepts of the bible.

Not making judgments here. Just observations. As a Modern Orthodox Jew I will however say that the two are not mutually exclusive. One can and should focus on what the bible says – which includes pursuing social justice… Or as Rav Ahron Soloviechik put it, ‘the building up of the world’.

This exponential growth of Orthodoxy will obviously effect the way Israel operates. Once the Orthodox demographic exceeds the non Orthodox demographic, Halacha will become more of a factor in governance. The repercussions of which are unclear. For example, how will a Charedi Prime Minister – (should it happen) deal with populating an army?

My focus here, however, will be how it will affect those of us living here.

While the reproductive rate of Modern Orthodox Jews outpaces that of the non Orthodox world, the Charedi reproductive rate seems to be four times greater than that. I therefore do not see any other scenario. Charedim will rule the Orthodox World. They will produce the religious leaders of the future who will serve all of us. Which is why the CKD was formed. To provide those leaders. Which is troubling. On the one hand I am very glad to see an affirmation of my beliefs by virtue of Orthodoxy’s growth. On the other hand I am dismayed at the kind of leadership this may provide. From YWN:

According to Rabbi Leib Kelemen, founder of the CKD, this sudden growth in Orthodoxy requires urgent action… (T)he responsible strategy would be to help the biggest talmidei chochomim get the background and skills they need to assume communal leadership. “We have giants in Torah who have tremendous maalos and beautiful middos,” Rabbi Kelemen said, “and many would be excited to take responsibility for the Klal.” This is precisely the mission CKD has accepted – in Rabbi Kelemen’s words: “To give chashuve avreichim the time and training they need to become quality leaders.”

Rabbi Keleman said nothing about defining Orthodoxy in the full dimension of all of its Hashkafos. The impression I get is that Modern Orthodox rabbis need not apply. Recruits will be coming entirely out of the Charedi world – whose Hashkafos increasingly reject secular education in their curricula – placing little if any value on it. And they denigrate the general culture which they say should be avoided as much as possible! This Hashkafa is the opposite of Modern Orthodoxy. Which places a high value on secular education. And looks favorably on those aspects of the general culture that do not contradict Halacha.

Will the fact that Charedim will by far be the largest segment of the Orthodox population… and the fact that Charedim are far more likely to go into all manner rabbinic positions mean that Modern Orthodoxy will not have a voice? Not that this suggests that Modern Orthodoxy will die. It just asks how it will be looked at by the future leadership. Will it be marginalized? Or even tolerated?

I should add that the non Orthodox will not be ignored. Outreach will still exist and will probably increase. There is no legitimate Orthodox Hashkafa that rejects any Jew – not matter how far they are removed from Torah. But their outreach will focus on a Charedi Hashkafa as the most legitimate form of Judaism and will likely discourage a Modern Orhtodox outlook.

So I go back to my original prediction. The Orthodoxy of the future will consist mostly of what I call Moderate Charedim. These are the Jews that accept the Charedi doctrine with respect to secular studies and the general culture, but have nonetheless utilized the former to enable them to earn decent incomes for their families – and participate in the culture albeit from a position of guilt. Their lifestyle will therefore not differ significantly from the right wing Modern Orthodox Jewry. They will do the same things but will see them from a different perspective. Hopefully the leaders that come out of the Charedi world will at least appreciate that fact and learn to be more tolerant of a Modern Orthodox Hashkafa since their own people involve themselves with it.

What about the extreme right and extreme left? What about the secular Jew? They will still be around. But in my view they will not be a significant influence on the overall Jewish population of the future. I believe the dominant moderate Orthodox culture of the future – and the real world will combine to impose its will and prevent extremism from taking root… all while the secular Jew will increasingly reject their Judaism altogether if we don’t succeed in reaching out to them.

Harry Maryles

Does The Israeli Family Have A Future? Notes from the Ramle Conference

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

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.”

Moderator Aya Kramerman and a panel. Gil Ronen is on the far left.

Moderator Aya Kramerman and a panel. Gil Ronen is on the far left.

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

Why Robert Wistrich Is Required Reading on Past, Present and Future Antisemitism

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

{Originally posted to the JNS website}

A year ago, the world of Jewish academia suffered an irreplaceable loss with the passing of Prof. Robert Wistrich, the head of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Wistrich died in Rome on May 19, 2015, shortly after arriving in the Italian capital to deliver a lecture on anti-Semitism.

Many of his friends, colleagues, and admirers — myself included — took this tragedy as a sign of Wistrich’s dedication to his mission to examine, expose, and combat the world’s “longest hatred,” one that he pursued until his last breath. After all, as his wife Danielle reminded the audience at a recent memorial event in Germany organized by the Berlin International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism, “In academia, some subjects are taboo, and Robert had the courage to bring them to light.”

Few subjects these days have the aura of a taboo as does anti-Semitism. That’s not to say it isn’t researched and studied in academe — there are fine institutions doing just that at American universities like Yale and Indiana, as well as at Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University in Israel. If anything, serious academic study of anti-Semitism, in significant part because of the efforts of Robert Wistrich himself, is a growing and welcome trend. It is a fascinating subject because deciphering its ugliness involves so many disciplines, among them history, sociology, philosophy and psychology, and so many globally critical historical episodes, such as the Dreyfus trial and the ethnic cleansing of the Jews of the Arab world—both subjects close to Wistrich’s heart.

The problem emerges, however, when it comes to contemporary anti-Semitism. There are plenty of academics and activists out there who view the entire subject through the prism of “solidarity” with the Palestinians, and who therefore dismiss any identification of a person or a statement as anti-Semitic as an attempt to prevent — as former London mayor Ken Livingstone has repeatedly charged — “criticism of Israel.”

There lies the rub: While the definition of what constitutes anti-Semitism is, in the hands of Zionism’s adversaries, continually squeezed so that only a zombified white guy in a Nazi uniform can be deemed a Jew-hater, their parameters for what constitutes “criticism of Israel” are far more generous. Is expressing the fabricated claim that “Hitler was a Zionist” merely criticism of Israel? According to Livingstone, who has repeatedly stated this falsehood, it is. To those who continue to protest that the claim is, in fact, a virulent example of anti-Semitism, Livingstone’s response is to talk about unnamed “Jews in the street” who have apparently approached him offering encouragement. (Which doesn’t sound, shall we say, hugely plausible.)

There were few people more qualified than Wistrich to comment on events like the latest Livingstone scandal, because of the weight of historical knowledge that he brought to bear. Thanks to Wistrich and the scholars with whom he worked, we have a comprehensive historical account of the Soviet campaign against Zionism and Judaism, as well as the New Left’s adoption of anti-Semitic tropes as part of its support for the violent Palestinian struggle against Israel. Both these milieus influenced Livingstone and his cohorts and explain why he, and they, continue to trade in abject falsehoods. The lie that Israel is an apartheid state, the lie that a Jewish sense of “Chosenness” underlies Zionism, the lie that the Zionist movement collaborated with the Nazis during the Holocaust — all of these were being actively circulated in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, whether by the Soviet diplomatic mission at the United Nations, or by Trotskyists on provincial university campuses in the United Kingdom.

I have many friends and colleagues who have told me, wistfully, that Wistrich’s loss has deprived us of the most cogent analyst of anti-Semitism then and now. And I agree with them — as I said earlier, Wistrich is irreplaceable. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of his prolific writings when it comes to informing our response to both antisemitism and the denial of antisemitism.

Look, for example, at the next two years. In June 2017, Israel will mark the 50th anniversary of its triumph in the Six-Day War. In November 2017, the centenary of the Balfour Declaration will fall. In May 2018, Israel will mark the 70th anniversary of its creation as a sovereign state.

All these occasions will be cause for celebration, but it also doesn’t take a mystic to foresee that Israel’s foes will use each of them as a platform to level their standard accusations — and perhaps some new ones? — and call for a boycott. All of us can counter that offensive by educating ourselves.

That’s why I want to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Wistrich’s passing with a plea to my own readers to read his books. If you want to understand the relationship between the Jews and the left, read “From Ambivalence to Betrayal.” If you want understand the epic historical sweep of antisemitism, get a copy of “A Lethal Obsession” — if its size is daunting, you can read individual chapters rewardingly. And if you just want to learn why Wistrich was such a good historian, read “Fate of a Revolutionary,” his study of the Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky.

I issue that plea not from a feeling of anxiety, but from one of confidence. After all, more and more good scholarship on antisemitism is coming to the fore, at the same time as important political and moral victories over the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign are being won. In that sense, the Jewish community owes an important debt to Wistrich in getting us to where we are now.

And if that doesn’t inspire you, let me end by explaining how Wistrich’s center at Hebrew University came to be named after Vidal Sassoon. The celebrity who daringly transformed women’s hairstyles and created a line of beauty products came from humble beginnings, a Jewish boy growing up in a one-parent home in London. In his teenage years after the Second World War, Sassoon regularly battled with the fascists who had returned to the streets, recounting how he would turn up for work with bruises and a black eye. That experience led him to fight for Israel during its War of Independence. Sassoon’s abiding belief that anti-Semitism had to be studied properly if it was ever to be expunged brought him together with Wistrich.

The importance of that connection, and its legacy to our generation, can’t be overstated.

Ben Cohen

Innovation in Jewish Education – “Investing in the Jewish Future”

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

For years, Jewish education has been searching for a means to inspire, to innovate, and redefine the standard curriculum to engage the next generation of Jews.

Schools across the Jewish spectrum have received constant pressure to re-package and teach classic content in a style that speaks to the students. The fast-pace of today’s technology is forcing educators and the institutions they represent to connect, and to remain relevant.

There are sparks of a burgeoning renaissance in the field of Jewish education. Among the leaders in the groundbreaking initiative are Yeshiva University, who has begun to offer an Experiential Education Certificate to offer Jewish leaders a new set of tools with which to transform teaching material. The premise of the certificate is to encourage the educator to tap into creative, less formal teaching styles that can present the materials in a new light.

The Mayberg Family Foundation is hosting this week (June 1-2) its annual Jewish Education Innovation Challenge (JEIC) retreat. In contrast to the slow process of traditional funding, the Mayberg innovation challenge more closely resembles a Jewish education version of a “pitch night.” At the retreat, finalists have 12 minutes to pitch their projects to a panel of judges, (think “Shark Tank”), who have then discuss and question them. All participants and audience members are invited to access all elements of the grant applications in Mayberg’s Guidebook app, opening the process to the public. Winners will receive notice and a $50,000 grant later this month. Manette Mayberg, trustee of the foundation, views their refreshing funding style as “Investing in the Jewish future.”

This year’s Lead Facilitator at the retreat is Aryeh Ben David, an innovator in education, founder of Ayeka and their “Soulful Education” method. The Soulful Education methodology works with existing schools’ educators and curriculum, but with a new approach to both that changes the emphasis of Judaic Studies from amassing knowledge to processing information for personal transformation and growth.

The argument made is that the innovation needed in Jewish Education is to replace the traditional information accumulation model with one that uses Jewish wisdom as a means to personalization and internalization for teacher and students alike.

The organization’s has recently received grants for the coming school year from The Avichai Foundation, Lippman-Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, and The Kohelet Foundation for a “start up” program that will provide training, mentoring and ongoing work with 18 faculty members from three Day Schools for an extensive 10-month training period.

“Ayeka isn’t changing the what or the who so much, but rather the how. Jewish educators are being presented with an opportunity to transform the way we reach Jewish learners, not just through conveying information, but by having the students personalize their learning and bring it into their lives.” Ayeka sees its paradigm shifting, unapologetically open approach as a necessary step for improving Jewish education.

While Mayberg places the responsibility on the schools to work and change from within, some more grassroot, independent projects are approaching Jewish education from the perspective of an outsider or consultant.

Shinui is a network of six organizations focused on innovation in the “part time” education sector, such as Sunday school, JCCs, adult education classes and more. While they are not dealing with full time day school, they are challenging boundaries in the non-orthodox world. Collaboration based, they are using platforms of engagement to effect 6 different geographical areas, from Houston to San Francisco.

Kevah, a self-described DIY project, invests in a ground-up educational group. To start a new chapter, a local host convenes a group of learners interested in a certain topic, and then Kevah provides them with an educator, administrative platform, and a curriculum which matches their style. It is up to the group to continue their learning. Their method banks on group dynamics and commitment to make learning a source of enrichment rather than a chore.

When seeking answers to the need for innovation in traditional learning, pioneers are finding communities and learners most responsive when they educate and inspire the personal and spiritual connections each individual forms with Judaism. Recognizing the imperative of continuing Jewish life, they are pushing into the world of the informal and spiritual realms, emphasizing fresh approaches in an effort to disrupt the status quo and keep the Jewish future bright.

Ayeka training retreat in Glencove, NY (

Ayeka training retreat in Glencove, NY (

Rachel Moore

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/innovation-in-jewish-education-investing-in-the-jewish-future/2016/06/01/

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