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December 19, 2014 / 27 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Georgia’

Writing A Kosher Will

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Many people decide against having a last will and testament. They do not want to think about what it implies. Putting one’s head in the sand can be disastrous. A person who dies without a will is considered “intestate.” In the absence of a will, state laws determine how a decedent’s property is to be distributed. In Florida, Florida Code Section 732.101 et seq. delineates the persons who are entitled to receive probate assets (after the payment of claims, debts, taxes and expenses). Having a will helps ensure that you decide who inherits your property, and not the state.

What should you do if you wish to execute a will? Seek out a qualified lawyer to ensure that your will is correctly memorialized under the laws of your state, in this case Florida. Failure to create a will that satisfies the requirements of Florida law could result in a court finding that the document is void and unenforceable. One of the most important aspects of these requirements is proper signing and witnessing of the will.

The next piece of advice may surprise you. Before drafting your will, it would be advisable to pass it by your rabbi. The reason it makes sense to consult a rabbi is that while many people are familiar with the basic requirements of Jewish law as it relates to holidays or kosher products, far fewer individuals remember to consider Jewish law when deciding how to apportion assets upon death.

The Torah addresses many civil law issues including the laws of inheritance (see Numbers 27:6-11 dealing with who inherits, under what circumstances, and in what order). A potential conflict arises when a person wishes to have property divided after death in a manner that differs from the biblical injunction.

A rabbi can suggest how to best structure the planned transfer so that at least the technical requirements of Jewish law are not abrogated. Part of the solution involves adding a clause to the secular will stipulating that so as to satisfy the strictures of Jewish law the assets should transfer to the heirs as a gift in the moment prior to death. This language is included because Jewish inheritance laws do not restrict a person’s ability, while alive, to distribute assets however the person chooses.

Secular and religious laws of inheritance and will writing can be complex, and a much longer article would be required to treat these matters in depth. Raising this topic will hopefully create greater awareness of this issue and also encourage attorneys to discuss with their clients the option of drafting “kosher wills.” In this way, more people will be able to effectively protect and bequeath assets within a framework that also respects and honors our Jewish legal traditions.

Rabbi Yelenik is a member and founding partner of the civil practice law firm of Yelenik, Lisbon & AssociatesThe firm has partners and associated attorneys holding bar membership in Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey and Israel. Jacalyn Scott, Esq., provided research for this topic drawing upon her background in elder law and wills and estatesFor further discussion and comment please call 786-449-6238 or write the author at dyelenik@yla-law.com. Nothing in this article is intended to serve as nor should be relied upon or considered to be in any way legal advice.

The Early Jewish Community Of Charleston

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Note: Unless otherwise indicated all quotes are from “The Jews of Charleston, A History of an American Jewish Community” by Charles Reznikoff in collaboration with Uriah Z. Engelman, Jewish Publication Society of America, 1950.

 

The English first settled at Albemarle Point in what is now South Carolina in 1670. In 1680 this settlement was moved to a peninsula between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, and became Charles Town (named in honor King Charles II). The new location was more healthful than the original settlement, and, since it was behind the islands of a land-locked harbor, provided safety from attack. The name was changed to Charleston at the end of the War of Independence.

 

“By the late 1680s, the colony was beginning to enjoy prosperity, especially in the coastal areas. Its economic base depended initially on the fur trade, which fostered generally good relations between the Carolinian settlers and the local Indian tribes.”1

 

In 1695, four Indians from Florida (then Spanish territory), who had been captured by the Yamasee Indians, were brought to town: the captives “could speak Spanish,” wrote the governor of the colony afterwards, “and I had a Jew for an interpreter, so upon examination I found they profess’d the Christian Religion as the Papists do; and the governor, accordingly, sent the captives back to St. Augustine.” [Page 4]

 

This is the first mention we have of a Jew in the Carolinas. Given that he knew Spanish, he may very well have been a Marrano.

 

The constitution of the colony was heavily influenced by the political philosopher John Locke, resulting in a veritable Magna Charta of liberty and tolerance.

 

In 1697, the colonial Assembly declared that religious persecution had forced aliens to settle in South Carolina and acknowledged that these had proved themselves law-abiding and industrious; accordingly, the Assembly enacted that “all aliens … of what nation soever, which now are inhabitants of South Carolina” should have all the rights of any person born of English parents. Full freedom of worship was granted, however, only to Christians – “Papists excepted”; but all other rights were granted every alien who applied by petition if such alien would swear allegiance to the king. [Page 4]

 

It is little wonder, then, that Jews as well as other persecuted minorities such as Huguenots and German Palatines found South Carolina a save haven and settled there in increasing numbers.

 

The Jews who first went to Charles Town came, almost all of them, from England and English possessions in the western hemisphere: from New York to the north, from Georgia to the south, and, like the English from Barbados, from the British West Indies. For the most part they came to the growing port as merchants; but like other merchants in Charles Town some hoped, no doubt, to buy land and become planters. If a few were men of consequence with transactions involving large sums, others, as stated above, were no more than petty tradesmen, ready to sell a loaf of bread or of sugar, a ribbon for a lady or a cut of rough cloth for a slave.

About 1741, Jews, as well as many Christians, who had been among the earliest settlers in Georgia, left Savannah because the trustees of the colony would not let them have the use of Negro slaves. (Many returned to Georgia when slavery was permitted in 1749.) [Pages 11-12]

 

Synagogue and Social Life

 

After the arrival of the Jews from Georgia, there certainly were enough Jews to sustain a regular minyan. However, it was not until 1749 that a congregation, which they called Beth Elokim Unveh Shalom, was formed. The synagogue soon became known as Kahal Kodesh (Holy Congregation) Beth Elokim (KKBE).

 

From 1750 to 1757, Kahal Kodesh met for worship in a small wooden house – that had been most likely used for a dwelling – on Union Street (now State Street and so since the days of the Secession). From 1757 to 1764, the Charles Town congregation met in a house “back in the yard,” afterwards 318 King Street, near Hasell Street; and, from 1764 until 1780, on Beresford Street near King Street. [Pages 17-18]

 

The synagogue was Orthodox and followed the Sephardic ritual (as was the case with all synagogues founded in the American colonies). Moses Cohen served as the first chazzan and reader and Joseph Tobias was the first parnas (president).

 

In 1820, the estimated Jewish population of Charleston was 700 as compared to 550 in New York City, 450 in Philadelphia, 200 in Richmond, 150 in Baltimore, 100 in Savannah and 500 to 600 others scattered in the balance of the United States.

The religious, cultural and economic climate of Charleston was favorable to Jews and Jews were accepted easily in community life. Jews voted in an election in 1703, probably the first time in the Western world, and participated actively in almost every area of life. Many of them had fought in the Revolution. Leading Jews of Charleston brought steam navigation to the Savannah River, established a line of steamships between Charleston and Havana, reestablished the Chamber of Commerce, introduced illuminating gas to the city and pioneered in other industrial enterprises. The community abounded with well-known Jewish writers, painters, teachers, lawyers and physicians. At one time, during this period, of the four newspapers in Charleston, two were edited by Jews. Of the nine people who founded the Supreme Council of Scottish Rite Masonry in Charleston in 1801, “Mother Council of the World,” four were Jews. And Jews were also prominent in the social and charitable life of the region.2

 

Not all was well, however. Many of the Jews of Charleston were influenced by its long tradition of liberalism and pluralism as well as the new waves of thought that were affecting various segments of Protestant America at this time. They were certainly aware of the beginnings of the Reform movement in Germany. In addition, some of Charleston’s Jews undoubtedly were affected by the development of the Unitarian Church in Charleston under the leadership of Samuel Gilman.

 

Some of the Jews compared the Orthodox services conducted at KKBE with those of their fellow Christians and found them lacking in decorum and dignity. It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that in 1824 forty-seven members of the KKBE presented a petition to the congregation which in part said that while they believed the “present system of worship” had “certain defects,” they sought “no other end than the future welfare and respectability of the [Jews] . We wish not to overthrow, but to rebuild; we wish not to destroy, but to reform and revise the evils complained of; we wish not to abandon the institutions of Moses, but to understand and observe them 3

 

Their initial request for change was modest – they wanted the Hebrew prayers translated into English, a shortening of services by the omission of some of the prayers, the abolishment of monetary pledges during services, and an English sermon based on the portion of the week.

 

This petition was rejected by the officers of KKBE on the grounds that it violated the Constitution of the synagogue. However, this was by no means the end of the matter. Indeed, it eventually led to the establishment of the first Reform temple in America.

 

Part II will appear in next month’s Glimpses column.

 

http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h637.html

2 “The Charleston Organ Case” by Allan Tarshish, Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, 54, 1965. This article is available at no cost at http://www.ajhs.org/reference/adaje.cfm

3 Ibid.

 

 

Dr. Yitzchok Levine served as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey before retiring in 2008. He now teaches as an adjunct at Stevens. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.

Mordecai Sheftall – Revolutionary War Patriot

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

   In Savannah, Georgia, there is a memorial to the American Revolution called Battlefield Memorial Park. One of the markers there is for Colonel Mordecai Sheftall.
   As deputy commissary general of issues for Georgia and South Carolina, Col. Sheftall was the highest-ranking Jewish officer during the Revolutionary War. He was captured by the British in the Battle of Savannah and imprisoned for two years.
   Sheftall’s parents, Benjamin and Perla, were among the first 42 Jews to arrive in Savannah on July 11, 1733. Mordecai was born on December 2, 1735. His mother passed away the following October, and his father married Hannah Solomons in 1738. In 1739 Hannah gave birth to Mordecai’s half-brother Levi.
   The Sheftalls were Orthodox Jews, despite the difficulties of maintaining religious observance in a city like Savannah that had a very small Jewish population.
   When Mordecai became bar mitzvah, his father had neither a siddur nor a pair of tefillin for him. Such religious items had to come from abroad, and King George’s War (1740-1748) made it difficult for British ships to come to Georgia.

   Benjamin’s anguish at the thought that son would be improperly prepared for full-fledged membership in the Jewish community is reflected in a March 1748 note to his friends in England (spelling and wording of the original have been preserved):

  

            As I have received some letters five days ago from one of our relation, Samule, who writes me that you was so good as to send mee some books and other things, which I to my misfortune never have received, and as I do not no [know] which way they wear [were] sent, nor no [know] the name of the captain or the name of the ship, so I can’t enquier for them. I hope your honour will soon find it out wether that ship is taken by an enemy or lost at sea.

            If she is not taken nor lost, I hop your honour will let me no [know] where to inquier for them. I live [leave] your honour to guess in what grife I am in to be so misfortenabel, my eldest son binq [being] three months ago thirten years of age and I not to have any frauntlets [phylacteries] nor books fit for him. I won’t troubel your houner with much writing, for my heart is full of grife. [On Love, Marriage, Children and Death, collected and edited by Jacob R. Marcus, Society of Jewish Bibliophiles 1965]

 

   This letter demonstrates Benjamin’s determination to raise his children as observant Jews, despite the obstacles of living in a place where there were few Jewish families and no formal Jewish education.

   

            [Mordecai] Sheftall was only eleven years old when his formal education ended, for lack of schools. By the time he was seventeen, he had begun what was to be a highly successful career as a merchant, buying and tanning deerskins to sell at a profit. When he was just eighteen years old, he had accumulated enough money to purchase fifty acres in Vernonburg, near Savannah.
            Throughout his life, Sheftall speculated in real estate. His pre-Revolution holdings were immense. Well-connected with friends and family in mercantile and shipping in England; the Caribbean; Charleston, South Carolina; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he developed a network of contacts to help build up his own business by his mid-twenties. Sheftall married Frances Hart, the sister of one of his Charleston merchant contacts, in 1761. The couple had six children, all but one living to adulthood. A year after their marriage, they owned 1,000 acres of land and nine slaves. Sheftall took up cattle ranching, acquiring another 1,000 acres in St. George Parish (later Burke County) in 1767 for grazing and timber harvesting. The cattle business led to his building a tanning facility with his half-brother Levi, and in 1768 the Georgia Houses of Assembly appointed him Inspector of Tanned Leather for the Port of Savannah.

            . In 1772 he donated one and a half acres of land for the establishment of Georgia’s first large Jewish cemetery. Known familiarly as the Sheftall Cemetery until the mid-1800s, it was open to all Jews in good standing with their community. [www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/ArticlePrintable.jsp?id=h-3183]

 

   By nature a political activist, Mordecai strongly supported the colonies in their differences with England and played a key role in the political affairs of Georgia.

  

            During the summer of 1775, when the crisis between the recalcitrant colonies and unrelenting Britain was moving steadily beyond the possibility of a compromise solution, Mordecai Sheftall served in Savannah as chairman of the “Parochial Committee,” comparable to the county committees of safety in other colonies. Conscientiously enforcing the First Continental Congress’s boycott of British goods, Mordecai’s committee prevented ships from unloading their cargoes and offered “fresh insults” to British authority everyday.

            In October, 1775, “Committee Men,” among whom were Mordecai and Levi Sheftall, entered the Customs House and demanded that the officials on duty hand over the ship’s papers of the sloop Charlotte so that they could send the ship, which customs officials had seized, on its way. When their demand was rejected, the “Committee Men” forced the locks on the desks in the office, rummaged “for the space of two hours,” and took the Charlotte’s papers . 1

  

   The following summer, colonial resistance became all-out war.

   

            In 1777 Sheftall was appointed commissary-general to the troops of Georgia and to the Continental troops also; in October of the following year he became “Deputy Commissary of Issues in South Carolina and Georgia”; and he figured as a staff-officer in the Continental line of the Georgia brigade during the war [with the rank of colonel, making him the highest ranking Jewish officer on the American side]. When the British attacked Savannah in 1778, Sheftall not only took an active part in its defense, but he also advanced considerable sums of money for the American cause. After the city had been taken he was captured, but he resisted all inducements to give up the cause of liberty; as a result he suffered severely from persecution on the part of the British, and was placed on board a prison-ship. The British appear to have spoken of Sheftall as “a very great rebel.”2

  

   In 1780 Sheftall was freed in a prisoner exchange and then made his way to Philadelphia, where he was eventually reunited with his wife and children. While residing in Philadelphia, he became one of the founders of Congregation Mikveh Israel in 1782.
   Unfortunately, Sheftalls’ financial situation was not good. Mordecai asked Congress to have consideration for a man who had “sacrificed everything in the cause of his country.” He requested back pay due him, but was willing to settle for the repayment of funds he’d contributed to the war effort.

   The Sheftalls, who loved Georgia, returned to Savannah in December 1782, five months after the British left.

  

            Mordecai was approaching fifty years of age now, but the ordeal of war, even with the suffering and sacrifice it had imposed, had changed him little. He was still the energetic businessman, the dedicated family man, the political activist, the friend of the poor, the devotee of his religion, and the leader of the Jewish community.
            There were about fifteen Jewish families in the Savannah area, and they all looked to Mordecai Sheftall for leadership. In the late summer of 1790 he led the local Jewish congregation, which “was again Established on … the 7th Day of July, 1786,” to seek a state charter for the purpose of incorporating its synagogue. Succeeding in this endeavor, the Savannah Jews re-constructed themselves as Congregation Mickve Israel, Mordecai, Levi, and Sheftall Sheftall being among the first officers chosen by the congregation.

            The Sheftall brothers demonstrated that Jews could do in Georgia what others did, simply by insisting upon their rights as citizens and conducting themselves in such a way as to prove that they deserved no less than others. They bridged the gap between the Jewish and gentile communities, setting an admirable example in race relations and interfaith cooperation. The Sheftalls of Savannah, ambitious businessmen, patriotic Americans, generous humanitarians, and dedicated Jews, left behind them a name worthy of remembrance.3

  

1“The Sheftalls of Savannah” by David T. Morgan, American Jewish Historical Quarterly (1961-1978); Sep 1972-Jun 1973; 62, 1-4; AJHS Journal (www.ajhs.org/reference/adaje.cfm).

 

2 The Jewish Encyclopedia (www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=581&letter=S&search=sheftall).

 

3 “The Sheftalls of Savannah.”

 

 

   Dr. Yitzchok Levine formerly worked as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.

The Past, The Present, The Future: From Generation To Generation

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

I don’t remember how I met him! Yet, he was there.

“Time waits for no man” is an old saying, though I’m not sure where it originated. Other such sayings like, “time flies by too quickly” or “the older you get, the faster time flies by,” also contain meaningful messages. For me, I can’t believe how quickly the days and years go by. When I think about it, I realize how we must make the very most of each day to accomplish what is important while we still have the opportunity.

A few months back, I read in The Jewish Press of the death of Dr. Morris Mandel. With his passing, I would like to make a confession. As many of you know from a previous article, I arrived in New York in 1964 from Macon, Georgia. I knew the bare minimum about yiddishkeit and came to New York to go to a yeshiva for Ba’alei Teshuvah that year. In those days, Ba’alei Teshuvah were few and far between and to the best of my knowledge, Yeshiva Hachel HaTorah, right in the midst of Harlem, was the only yeshiva taking boys with little to no background who wanted to know more about their Yiddishkeit.

I really don’t remember how I met him, but Dr. Mandel became a supporter, a mentor, a caring person to me. He helped me get through some rough days after coming to New York on my own. He helped me understand that my search for my unknown religious beliefs was the right thing – at least for me. I wonder how I found out that he loved green grapes. I used to travel from Manhattan to Brooklyn to visit him and stop along the way in a fruit store to buy him grapes. Then, we would sit, eat grapes and talk about so many things. He knew how to listen, share ideas, tell stories and had a way of making one’s ideas sound right. I fondly remember the article in The Jewish Press that he wrote about me and my search for Yiddishkeit. He never identified me by name but I remember someone in Washington Heights, where I was then living, asking if the article was about me. Likewise, it is with fond memories that I remember his invitation to a Shabbos at the Pioneer Country Club in the Catskills where he would go every summer. After that Shabbos he arranged for me to have a job at the Pioneer the next summer. It was there that I started dating the woman who would become my wife and six weeks later became engaged.

I remember how very important his wife was to him. I am told that things were just not the same for him after losing her. I sent my condolences to his family.

* * * * * * * *

How else do we understand the passing of time? How do we grow and teach our children over time? What is the phenomenon of improving with maturity all about? In my anger management courses, I often talk about how our past affects the present, which sets the stage for our future. Without any form of intervention, or calamities, our future can often be understood by our past. Another way of saying this is, “we are today because of whom we have been.” When I ask people if they can tell me about the first computer, I receive all kinds of intellectual answers. The fact is our brains were the first “computers” because everything we have experienced has been stored there and it has input and output. “We are today because of who we have been” simply means that our likes, feelings and decisions are all affected by our lifetime of experiences, thoughts and happenings.

If this can be readily accepted, then we can better understand why our relationships with our children, even at very early ages, are so critical. Our past, present and future affects each generation. How we develop our relationships with our children and partners depends on our past experiences. What we teach our children today, their experiences, their happiness and hurt, will all have a direct influence on their future. It’s true that we sometimes see our children taking very different directions in their lives than we had in mind for them when they were younger. This sometimes leads to great heartache, while at other times great pride. Nevertheless, the directions they take, as foreign as it might be to us as their parents, have been influenced by something within their past.

Every day the tefillah of Shema Yisroel is said by Jews around the world. It is usually the first things we teach our children and often the last thing on our lips before returning to the “true world” after death. It has no time barriers, no limits. Its importance and stability for the Jewish people is obvious in the frequency with which it is said on a daily basis. In fact we learn that in the first line of the Shema, each time we say Hashem’s name, we should think that He was, He is and He will always be. There is no element of time, just constancy of existence.

We parents all have expectations and hopes for our children. Those hopes are partially based on who we are but also on who we want our children to develop into. The definition of frustration is not getting what we hope, or plan, for. Needless to say, parents often have frustrations regarding their children. Sometimes the best way to deal with such frustrations is to reassess our expectations and adjust them accordingly. That doesn’t mean we necessarily have to lower the bar, rather we must try to better understand the context of those expectations and life events affecting them.

When it comes to understanding the affects of the past on the present and future, we would be negligent not to discuss these effects on the development of the child. One area of development that is often overlooked is the long-term affect of a child’s self esteem. Where does self esteem come from? Is self esteem stagnant or does it fluctuate? What causes changes in our confidence and competency? Self esteem is developed by the people and events around us. The development of a child’s self esteem is as critical as his developmental milestones. Self esteem is not the same as one’s confidence, although they are closely related. Self esteem is how I feel about my self, my sense of self worth. Confidence is how well I believe I can do or accomplish something. I can be very confident in one area of my life and not in another. For example, I have high confidence in my ability to help others in therapy, though little to no confidence that I could go mountain climbing. Variances in confidence is normal in individuals. Variances in self esteem are more event or time related. On the other hand, one could have consistent high, or low, self esteem. However, most people’s self esteem fluctuates with events. How well a person bounces back to a healthy level is usually more dependent on past events and experiences.

As the High Holiday season approaches and we have time to spend with our children and grandchildren, let’s be aware of the influence we have on them. What I do today will influence not just my life, but also the life of my children and grandchildren and their children for generations to come.

Have a happy and healthy New Year. I encourage my readers to share with me their thoughts and stories related to my articles.

Mr. Schild is the Executive Director of Regesh Family and Child Services in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Regesh runs many programs helping families and youth dealing with personal and family issues in their lives. He is currently open to speaking engagements. He can be reached at 416-495-8832 extension 222 or eschild@regesh.com. Visit www.regesh.com.

The Russian Bear And The Israeli Ant

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

About a year ago I saw a Russian television broadcast in which Vladimir Putin, riding a noble steed, reaches the edge of a lake, deftly removes his shirt and in an impressive display of muscle, leans over and washes his face in the crystal- clear water.


That is when I began to worry. The leader determined to restore the great nation’s lost honor and days of glory was playing the macho worship card. It reminded me of an old Italian propaganda film in which Il Duce – Mussolini – is riding in his official car when he sees a farmer struggling to load bundles of wheat onto his wagon. Il Duce descends from his car and – just like Putin – takes off his shirt and, with an impressive display of macho and muscle, quickly loads the wheat onto the wagon of the grateful farmer. Both Hitler and Stalin also played the macho worship card.


Thus, the Russian invasion into Georgia did not surprise me at all. Whoever thinks that the latest Russian offensive is in retaliation against Georgian provocation does not – in my opinion – understand Putin. When Hitler annexed the Sudetenland, some pundits thought that he would be content. And in truth, millions of Germans did live in the “separatist regions” of Czechoslovakia – and the Western world was eager to “understand” the Germans. After all, what did everybody want – a Second World War? So the Sudetes were sacrificed to appease Hitler. In Churchill’s words, “You were given the choice between war and dishonor . . . you chose dishonor, and you will have war.”


It would have been easy then to stop Hitler. The Czech army alone was larger than the German army and its Skoda factories produced topnotch weapons. But the post-World War I world craved quiet. It chose to give Hitler what he wanted in the hopes that he would just leave well enough alone. Hitler got what he wanted and the world got a brief respite. The rest is history.


Putin will not suffice himself with Georgia. The Georgian test case has provided him with all the incentive he needs. We do not yet know exactly where or when the next eruption will occur. But if Barack Obama wins the U.S. presidential election and the process of disintegration there continues, the new Russian bully will feel confident enough to initiate more wars.


Does Russia present a direct threat to Israel?


The Syrians have explicitly invited the Russians to man both their ground and naval bases. It is possible that Russia will begin to expand in our direction. That is a most undesirable eventuality. But if it happens, it will not be the first time. Israeli pilots have already waged air skirmishes against Soviet pilots who defended Egyptian skies during the War of Attrition. The Israeli pilots even downed a number of Russian-piloted planes.


Israel is not Georgia, and the Russians know that. But Israel today is not the Israel of the War of Attrition. Today, Israel displays a weakness that tempts every neighborhood and international bully to come in for a piece of the action.


The restoration of Israel’s deterrence factor is not a matter of increasing the security budget, as the security lobbyists would have us believe. Just two years ago, Israel’s army collapsed in the face of an enemy the size of a mere division – in a war that Israel itself initiated. The problem was not budgetary. The problem was a loss of our sense of justice and common goals that create our cohesiveness and national might. Our lack of deterrence is not due to a lack of tanks or fighter jets. Our lack of deterrence is due to the fact that our enemies think that our society is disintegrating and that the State of Israel is “weaker than spider webs,” in the descriptive words of Hizbullah terrorist leader Hassan Nasrallah.


I would not invest one more shekel in security. The huge sums that the security lobbyists are demanding should be funneled to Israel’s social needs. A just society understands what it is doing in its land and can produce the power of deterrence that Israel used to have – when it believed that it was right.


(Translated from the article that appeared on Israel’s NRG website.)


Moshe Feiglin is the founder and president of Manhigut Yehudit, the largest faction inside the Likud party. Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) strives to restore Jewish values, pride and integrity to the State of Israel. For more information or to order Feiglin’s newest book, The War of Dreams, visit www.jewishisrael.org.

Russia, Georgia, And The Left’s Double Standards

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

As a shrewd and brutal ploy to break up Georgia, Putin’s Russia is in the process of inventing a new “nation in need of “self-determination. The Russians have coordinated moves by separatists inside Georgia to serve as a justification for their own invasion.

The Putin regime articulates outrage about the mistreatment of the Ossetians while being totally callous about its own human rights abuses, especially in Chechnya. It is obvious the Russians are preaching human rights and self-determination as a weapon to engage in aggression.

The story brings to mind two historical parallels. The first is the campaign by Nazi Germany on behalf of “self-determination” for the Sudeten Germans inside Czechoslovakia in the 1930s. Germany also invented a “people in need of self-determination inside the small state on which it had designs. Thus, it invented claims of human rights abuses and then used the separatist activities of the Sudetens as an excuse to invade and demolish Czechoslovakia.

It goes without saying that human rights were respected much more in Czechoslovakia than in Nazi Germany. And ethnic Germans already had their own sovereign countries they could migrate to if they were unhappy in the Sudeten areas of Czechoslovakia.

The other historical parallel concerns the invention of a “Palestinian people. The Arabs use the Palestinian separatist movement in a manner similar to how Russia uses the Ossetian separatists. The Arabs and their apologists invent tales of human rights abuses of Palestinians by Israel, much like Russia invents stories about Georgian mistreatment of Ossetians.

Never mind that the human rights of Arabs in Israel are respected to an infinitely higher degree than are those of Arabs in Arab countries, and that non-Arabs in Arab countries are treated even worse. The world is up in arms about so-called Israeli apartheid, while in reality Israel is the only Middle East state that is not an apartheid regime.

Yes, the Georgians did sometimes mistreat the Ossetians, who have a far stronger case for self-determination than the Palestinians. The Ossetians speak their own language unrelated to that of their neighbors and have their own culture. By comparison, the Palestinians are far less different culturally and less distinct linguistically from the Arabs in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria (from where most of them migrated to Palestine in the late 19th and early 20th century).

These phenomena raise a serious question: If the world is horrified at Russian aggression and behavior toward Georgians, where is its outrage at Arab aggression toward Israel and behavior identical to that of Russia? Why are those who dismiss the claims of a right to self-determination by Ossetians not dismissing as a similar Sudeten-style ploy the demands for “Palestinian self-determination?

Why are Palestinians – who are treated far better than the Ossetians and the Chechens – the focus of countless media exposes about their imaginary mistreatment by Israel?

And where are all those left-wing humanitarians? Where are the International Solidarity Movement protesters who like to attack Israeli troops and police and serve as human shields to protect the Palestinian “victims of Israeli self-defense? Why are they not rushing to Ossetia and Georgia to stand up to the Russian troops, throwing rocks at them and singing folk songs?
Where are the leftist human shields blocking the path of Russian military vehicles the same way they block Israel Defense Forces operations? Are they afraid they will not be served the same nice gourmet lattes they get when Israeli forces apprehend them for hooliganism in the West Bank?

Why are leftists not organizing ships to break the Russian blockade of the Georgia coast the same way they are trying to provide sea-borne aid to Hamas in Gaza? Where are the Rachel Corries and why are they not challenging Russian bulldozer crews? Why are the Anarchists against the Wall not hopping planes to Tbilisi to challenge Russian construction crews erecting walls in Abkhazia and Ossetia?

Why are Israeli leftist professors not holding pro-Ossetian poetry readings and solidarity rallies in Tbilisi?

Here we have leftist hypocrisy exposed for all to see.

Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com

Sweet Home Savannah

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007


         There’s the old joke about two Jews deserted on an island who build three shuls. Like many attempts at humor, there is a certain degree of truth to this adage. On several three-block radii in Flatbush, Kew Gardens Hills or Borough Park there may be as many as 10 shuls. Of course, each individual has every right to seek out the minyan that is best suitable for him/her. But in the inviting city of Savannah, Georgia, options for an Orthodox minyan are pleasantly limited to only one Orthodox synagogue, and it has been that way for nearly 150 years.

 

         The history of the Jewish community in Savannah goes all the way back to 1773, with the formation of the Georgia colony and immigration of Spanish-Portuguese Jews. But it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that Eastern European Jews found their way to Savannah, and in 1861 Congregation Bnai Brith Jacob (the BBJ) was founded. At the time it was one of two Orthodox shuls in Savannah, along with the Sephardic synagogue. But over time the latter became a Reform temple, and today the BBJ is the only Orthodox shul in town.

 

 


Congregation Bnai Brith Jacob

 

 

         Since its establishment, the BBJ has moved buildings twice, and now is home to perhaps the most fascinating and beautiful artwork of any shul in the world. Opposite the synagogue’s massive ahron hakodesh stand two 30-foot murals depicting the symbols of the 12 tribes, historic events from Tanach, symbolic images for each Jewish holiday, and many more intriguing designs. One can literally spend hours looking at the 56-year-old paintings. But these mesmerizing pieces of art are just one facet of what makes Savannah so unique.

 

         Savannah has only one synagogue, and the people follow one rav. What also sets Savannah apart from many of the Jewish communities in America, aside from the magnificent Spanish moss that decorates the city’s trees, are its deeply seeded roots. In fact, some of the Jews living there today are fourth and even fifth generation Savannians.

 

         “We don’t get caught up in politics between different shuls as other neighborhoods might,” said Harry Portman, who is a fourth generation Savannian on his father’s side (third on his mother’s). Harry, a junior at YU, hopes to attend medical school near Savannah, and eventually start a practice in town. “I look forward to coming home. Growing up in Savannah was great. There are real feelings of being a family with the community. Everyone is either ‘uncle’ or ‘aunt,’ even if they aren’t related to you.”

 

         While Savannah is rich with Jewish history, there are only an estimated 3,500 Jews in the whole city. There is only one Reform temple and one Conservative synagogue. But it is the Orthodox synagogue that has the greatest numbers, with 475 families as members. Average Shabbos attendance is closer to about 250 people on Saturday morning. The answer to this large discrepancy is kiruv.

 

         At least 50 percent of the shomer-Shabbos Jews in Savannah are baalei teshuva. In fact, the very first chapter of NCSY was started in Savannah over 50 years ago. The NCSY and BBJ have spent decades promoting and maintaining the aspects of a frum life in the community. Members of the BBJ kollel are all active in community outreach, teaching classes, involving themselves in shul functions, and setting up private chavrusahs with members of the neighborhood. The fact that some of the kollel members are baalei teshuva themselves is part of why kiruv has been so successful in Savannah. The BBJ doesn’t charge for seats during the high holidays when more than 800 people attend services. Some of these people strike up relationships with the more active shul goers, and slowly start becoming more interested in Orthodoxy.

 

 



Rabbi Adam Singer of the local kollel and Rabbi Ephraim Travis, formerly in the kollel


 

 

        But despite the growth in Orthodoxy in the area in recent years, the community’s growth has remained somewhat stagnant. The rav of the BBJ, Rabbi Avigdor Slatus, says that the key to growth in Savannah is dependent on one factor: a high school.

 

         Savannah has one lower and middle school under Orthodox auspices: Rambam Day School, which has approximately 200 students from nursery through 8th grade. But when it comes time for high school, the young Orthodox teens of Savannah have several options, none of which is attending a yeshiva day school near home. Some parents send their sons and daughters to boarding yeshivas in Chicago, Memphis, Milwaukee and Baltimore, among other cities, while others decide to enroll their teens in local private schools, and hire Jewish tutors for them on the side.

 

 


Rambam Day School

 

 

        Opportunities to start a new school have come and gone. While there is an empty building standing right next to the BBJ, built explicitly to be the high school the community is lacking, it has only been used for Shabbos groups till now. The main issue preventing the start of the high school is that some families would not want a co-ed high school, but to have large enough class sizes, the high school would have to be co-ed. Rabbi Slatus, who received his s’micha from the Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn, seems determined to have the school begin. “With a high school, the community would have more to offer young families. Some of the young men and women who grew up in Savannah are weary to return here because they don’t want to have to send their kids away for school,” said Rabbi Slatus, “A high school would change everything.”

 

         Certainly real estate prices aren’t preventing any families from moving in. Lovely three-bedroom, two-bathroom homes sell for as little as $195,000, and gorgeous five-bedroom, three-bathroom houses (with large backyards and/or pools as well) go for about $500,000. “Most people up north are shocked when they hear how inexpensive it is to buy a home here,” said real estate appraiser Edwin Cooper, who is a fourth generation Savannian, and member of the BBJ. Like many of Savannah’s Jews, Cooper was born and raised in the community, and has raised his own three children there as well.

 

 


Rabbi Avigdor Slatus

 

 

         Savannah has a fully functional mikvah and even an eruv. While there are currently no kosher eateries, there are two kosher Krispy Kreme doughnut shops in Savannah. There have been kosher eateries in the past, yet none has been able to get by solely with the support of the Jewish community. In recent years the owners of a meat restaurant switched to a (successful) kosher catering service, providing a wide variety of foods (including baked goods) for the kashurus observant in southeast Georgia. A kosher coffee shop that did in fact do well for a few years saw its business evaporate when a Starbucks opened up down the block. Several stores sell kosher wines and packaged goods.

 

         There may be no kosher restaurants, but Savannah does have an abundance of heart. Call it hachnachus orchim or call it southern hospitality, either way the people of Savannah are as warm, friendly and giving as any Jewish community across the globe. Their accents exude an inviting sense of calm. Smiles are abundant and sincere, and it’s easy for visitors to get sucked in to the sweetness of Savannah.

 

         Take this recent example. The BBJ, in collaboration with the local NCSY chapter, wanted to have a family-friendly concert during Chol Hamoed Succos. After interviewing several candidates, they hired the up-and-coming Jewish rock band Yaakov Chesed. Jerry Portman, a member of the BBJ, sponsored the concert in memory of his parents. As owner of the Portman’s Music Superstore chain in Georgia, Portman provided all the equipment for the performance free of charge.

 

 


Rambam students displaying their school pride

 

 

        However, some members of the group had to come erev yom tov for the Sunday afternoon gig. Having never been to Savannah before, Yaakov Chesed was a bit apprehensive about spending so much time with “southern strangers.”

 

         But from the moment they arrived, the young men in Yaakov Chesed were treated like royalty. Rabbi Moshe Rose, the beloved NCSY director in Savannah, made sure the band members had not only a nice house to stay in over the chag, but also “booked” the band at six different homes (including a meal with the Portman family) for the three-day yom tov.

 

         “It wasn’t very hard,” said Rabbi Rose, originally of Toronto. “Once people heard there would be guests who needed meals, we had more than enough offers for them. In fact some families were upset that they didn’t get to have the guys over.” Two of these families ended up having the band over for a Malaveh Malkeh Saturday night and dinner Sunday night. “We couldn’t believe how amazing the people down there are,” said band guitarist Michael Shapiro of Woodmere, N.Y. “Every meal was literally a feast! I was nervous my fingers would be too fat for my guitar by Sunday. We all feel so blessed to have been able to spend so much time with such an incredible and friendly community.”

 

         As things stand, Savannah is currently working on plans for a yeshiva high school to open in the fall of 2009. And with its advent, the community will be primed for growth. But one of the women in the community, who wished to be quoted anonymously, is just a tad nervous about things getting too big. “I’ve lived in Savannah my whole life, and raised my kids here. I do hope the community grows, but also hope that we don’t get too big. I love the fact that we’re such a close, tight-knit town . . . We’re the secret of the south.”

 

         But even without the addition of a high school, many of the young men and women who were raised in Savannah couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. “I definitely plan to move back here when I’m done with school,” said Yeshiva University sophomore Shaka Berry, who has lived in Savannah his whole life. “Savannah is home.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community/sweet-home-savannah/2007/10/24/

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