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October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Jew’

The Importance of Day Schools

Monday, August 12th, 2013

I never thought I would have to make this argument in 2013.

Jordana Horn, the former New York bureau chief of The Jerusalem Post,  has written an article in the Forward defending the premise that one can be raised as a proud and productive Jew without ever attending a day school. She proceeds to document her own attendance in public school and that of her siblings to prove her point. Which is that one can be fully Jewish, relatively knowledgeable about one’s Judaism and fully proud and participatory in it at many levels. She then presents a list of suggestions instructing us how to go about doing so successfully. It is a list of very practical suggestions with which I agree. But it falls woefully short in my view.

I have to ask, is her definition of being a Jew the correct definition? Is Judaism only about marrying Jewish? Or reading Hebrew? Or the ability to read the Torah? As laudable as these things are, they fall far short of what being a Jew is all about. The entire concept of following Halacha is missing from her definition. And in my view being an observant  ‘Halakhic Man’ is the essence of being a Jew. Everything we do as a Jew should be viewed through the lens of Halacha. That is what God desires of the Jewish people… and no less. That many of us fail in that regard one way or another does not make it any less so.

That said, I must concede that it is possible to raise a child to be Halachic Jew without sending him to day school. I am sure that there are some cases where that has happened even in our day. But I would not recommend it.

I understand the incentive for a parent too try and do something like that. The tuition crisis in America is real. There is no two ways about it. Any parent with children in a day school will verify that. But there is a reason that is so

Day schools today are not what they used to be in their early days (…fifties and early sixties) – a school with teachers so underpaid that they could barely survive even with second jobs. No enrichment programs. No school psychologists. No real curriculum development. No special classes for learning disabled children.  Nothing except the bare bones of studying Limudei Kodesh  (religious studies) in the morning and Limudei Chol (secular studies) in the afternoons.

Funding Jewish education in those days was a joke. Tuitions were tiny back then because day schools were struggling just to get parents to send them their children – even for free. Generous philanthropists didn’t exist yet. As a result, religious teachers sometimes went unpaid their meager earnings for months at a time. I don’t know how they existed.

And yet, somehow the day schools of that time managed.

Today, things are much better. Teachers make livable wages. Fundraising is much better. Teachers are paid mostly on time. Schools are therefore much better now. It is easier to recruit good teachers for a school if you pay them a livable wage. And as a school grows – so do programs they offer their students. All this costs money. Hence the increased tuitions today.

Meanwhile parents who themselves have gone through the day school system recognize their value and no longer need convincing to send their children.  All of this translates to the impossibly high tuition that are demanded of parents today. Even though scholarships are given to those who need them – every spare dime a parent may have is asked for by the schools that have no choice but to demand it in order to fund their exploding budgets. Budgets that are for the most part necessary in order to serve the demands made by parents who expect the best and most enriching education possible. (Although trimming what is in some cases bloated school budgets is a subject for legitimate discussion – it is beyond the scope of this post.)

For parents with four, five, six or more children who feel they are squeezed to the max for every dime, the thought of sending a child to a free public school while teaching them about Judaism at home must be very tempting. But it is a losing proposition in most cases. It would take a most unusual family and an unusual child to overcome the influences in a public school.

What Does It Mean to Be Jewish?

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

The question “What does it mean to be Jewish?” has often been asked. I suppose you could invoke the old joke “Ask two Jews a question and you’ll get three opinions” to better comprehend how different Jews would respond to this question, so when I weigh in here, I hope readers will forgive me if my opinions don’t always accord with theirs.

But the question is legitimate and should be asked. Jewish people share a common heritage and are affected by many of the same issues today. They face a world in which their religion is part of their identity; no matter how far apart they are on the religious and political spectrums (not to mention any others), they share a common bond that unites them in terms of how they relate to each other and to the outside world.

So what does it mean to be Jewish? To me, it means the following:

● To believe in God. Divine affirmation is the foundation of Judaism. Everything else comes after.

● To observe Shabbat and the various yom tovim. What could be more meaningful, spiritual, and fulfilling – more Jewish – than practicing the religious aspects of Judaism?

● To lead an honorable life. Shouldn’t we all aspire to become tzaddikim, righteous people?

● To keep kosher. Certain things just seem to go together, like lox and bagels, gefilte fish and horseradish – and being Jewish and keeping kosher.

● To do mitzvot. There are 613 mitzvot in the Torah, including the above. Carrying out mitzvot is part of our code.

● To carry on Jewish traditions. There’s life after davening, and it’s called Jewish culture. Chanukah gifts, hamantashen, and singing niggunim on Shabbat are just a few of the wonderful customs that have evolved from the religion and its people.

● To be proud of your Jewish heritage. Wear it on your sleeve – you’re a member of a tribe that has nearly 6,000 years of history.

● To feel an immediate bond with fellow Jews. Have you ever felt like you can be anywhere in the world and if you find a fellow Jew, you feel an immediate kinship?

● To involve yourself in a community of Jews. As birds of a feather flock together, it’s only natural for Jews to be immersed in a Jewish world – having Jewish friends, engaging in Jewish activities, living in Jewish neighborhoods.

● To feel a Jewish identity. Even if you’re not as religious as you could or should be, what could possibly make you more Jewish than feeling Judaism is an indelible part of your soul, or that being Jewish is simply who you are?

● To feel a special connection to Jewish history. Who can feel the pain of Jewish persecutions, expulsions, and genocides more than a Jew? Who can feel the catastrophe of the Holocaust more deeply than a Jew?

● To take great pride in Israel. Do you get the chills when you hear “Hatikvah”? After 2,000 years of Jews living in the Diaspora as a weak, defenseless, persecuted people, what greater modern miracle could there be than the resurrection of the Jewish homeland?

● To place an emphasis on education. Jewish parents may be the original “tiger moms and dads.” Perhaps that is why some professions are disproportionately populated by Jews.

● To feel empathy for the poor, oppressed, and downtrodden. You only have to consider how much we’ve suffered as a people to understand how this got into our DNA.

● To have a Jewish funny bone. You can relate to Jewish humor because you’re laughing at yourself and other Jewish people you know – and, nu, do you think there’s any shortage of Jewish foibles?

● To think in “Jewish ways.” How do Jews think? Oy vey iz mir. We think the number 18 brings good luck, so we sometimes give gifts in denominations of 18, like $36 or $180. We try to ward off the evil eye after hearing compliments or wonderful news by saying “kenohora” or mimicking spitting by going “pooh-pooh-pooh.” Oh, and there’s the proverbial Jewish guilt, as well as our inimitable designation of “mishagas” to explain a panoply of crazy behavior with a Jewish edge. Is there such a thing as a Yiddishe kop? Suffice it to say that when you do something stupid, you’re not using it.

Stoudemire Seeking Israeli Citizenship

Monday, August 5th, 2013

Israel may be about to import another self-anointeded Jew, this time New York Knicks start Amar’e Stoudemire, who claims he has Jewish roots.

His agent Happy Walters told New York magazine that the Knicks’ power forward is ”getting citizenship.” He added, ”He applied, and he’s there now,” meaning he is touring Israel.

Stoudemire went to Israel for the Maccabiah Games as the assistant coach of the Canadian basketball squad. The games ended earlier this week.

At his wedding last year to Alexis Welch, Stoudemire donned a kippa and prayer shawl for the “Hebraic” ceremony. In July, he announced he had become a part owner in the Israeli basketball club HaPoel Jerusalem.

He told the JTA in an exclusive interview last month that, he is in regular dialogue with New York rabbis, studies Torah and observes the High Holidays.

“I’m not a religious person, I’m more of a spiritual person, so I follow the rules of the Bible that coordinate with and connect with the Hebrew culture,” Stoudemire told JTA.

In other words, he picks and chooses from the Torah whatever suits him.

The JTA contributed to this article.

Fla. County Chairwoman Apologizes for Use of ‘Jewing’

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

The chairwoman of a board of commissioners in Franklin County, Fla., said she apologized to those who questioned her for using the word “jewing” to describe salary discussions at a public meeting.

Cheryl Sanders told Jim Romenesko, who runs an eponymous news business blog, that her use of the word at a July 2 meeting had “been blown out of proportion.” She would not share with Romenesko the email she sent that included the apology, he reported Monday on his blog.

A July 10 account of the meeting published on ApalachicolaTimes.com reported that the board of commissioners in a 3-2 vote to name Howard Nabors to head the Florida Panhandle county’s roads department even though he does not have a high school degree.

An argument ensued over whether Nabors deserved a $45,000 salary, which Sanders had proposed.

“Today’s not the day to do it,” the Times quoted Sanders as saying. “We’re here [for Nabors’ salary], not to be up here jewing over somebody’s pay. I can’t believe that you all would put a man down who has worked here for 26 years because he don’t have a high school education.”

Orthodox Jew in Coma after Fainting at Aharon’s Tomb

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Jordan has transferred to an orthodox Jewish tourist to Eilat after he collapsed at the tomb of Aharon in Petra and was driven in an ambulance towards Eilat, when he suffered another attack. The ambulance turned around and rushed to a hospital near Petra. He was reported to be in a coma.

The chairman of the Jordanian Parliament’s Committee of Tourism and Antiquities, Adnan Farajat, denied an Israeli newspaper report that an Israeli helicopter had airlifted the man to Israel via Taba.

 

Fresh Complaint on Twitter Anti-Semitism Filed in France

Monday, April 15th, 2013

A French Jewish group which last month sued Twitter for hosting anti-Semitic content has lodged a fresh complaint against the company and accused it of lying.

The latest complaint by the Union of Jewish Students of France, or UEJF, was filed on April 12 with the Paris Public Prosecutor’s office against Twitter President and Director Dick Costolo. UEJF and another group, J’ACCUSE, said in the complaint that Costolo was “responsible for racial defamation and publicly inciting to discrimination, hate or violence toward Jews.”

The complaint concerns tweets which appear on Twitter and which call for killing Jews and praising the Holocaust. UEJF last month sued Twitter for $50 million after Twitter failed to honor a ruling from January by a French judge who ordered the company to divulge within 14 days details of users who posted anti-Semitic statements. The ruling was on a lawsuit brought by UEJF against Twitter, an American California-based company.

France and other European countries have laws against hate speech that are considerably stricter than in the U.S., where the First Amendment to the Constitution is more lax on free speech.

In its ruling, the Paris court also ordered Twitter to set up a system for flagging and removing such messages, but UEJF said Twitter has not complied.

Additionally, UEJF accused Twitter of lying when it reportedly announced in October that it will remove similar tweets. The tweets are still available to any user who does not self-identify as being French, UEJF said.

Despite the tweets still being available, Le Nouvel Observateur reported in October that Twitter announced it had removed the tweets. It followed public outrage that erupted after the phrase #UnBonJuif (meaning “AGoodJew”) became the third most popular hashtag on French Twitter thanks to what Le Monde termed “a competition of anti-Semitic jokes” that evolved around it.

Twitter did not respond to JTA’s request for a comment on the latest Union of Jewish Students of France complaint.

Geneva Assailant of Jew ‘Too Mentally Ill’ to Stand Trial

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

A man who stabbed an Orthodox Jew in Geneva was found unfit to stand trial in Switzerland because of his clinical paranoia and “irrational fear of an international conspiracy.”

A court in Geneva earlier this month found that the 22-year-old man, who was not named, was too “mentally ill” to stand trial for stabbing and seriously wounding a 32-year-old French Jew in 2011, the Tribune de Genève daily reported.

The attack occurred in the parking lot of Geneva’s Natural History Museum while the victim, a citizen of France from Aix-les-Bains, was putting a baby carriage in the trunk of his car. His attacker stabbed him four times in view of the victim’s family. The victim arrived in the hospital in critical condition and spent several weeks there recovering.

The defendant, who grew up in Britain, was arrested a year after the attack in the Netherlands and extradited to Switzerland at the end of what the CICAD, a Swiss watchdog on anti-Semitism, termed “a long investigation by the police.”

The court declared the attacker unfit to stand trial based on a psychiatric evaluation that said he was a “paranoid schizophrenic suffering from visual hallucinations as well as hallucinated voices and fears of an international conspiracy.” He will be locked up in an institution for mentally ill people who pose a serious risk to their environment, the paper said.

Johanne Gurfinkel, the secretary general of a CICAD, told JTA the defendant belonged to far-right circles. “The perpetrator of this act may have suffered from mental problems, but he clearly attacked his victim out of anti-Semitic hatred,” Gurfinkel said.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/geneva-assailant-of-jew-too-mentally-ill-to-stand-trial/2013/03/24/

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