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August 2, 2015 / 17 Av, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Jewish’

African-American Converts Make Aliyah to Israel

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

“We will be a part of something so big—it is unthinkable to me,” Tracie Beavers said three-quarters of the way through a nearly 12-hour flight last week.

The Columbus, Ohio, mother of three was on her way to Israel, making aliyah with the support of the Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN) agency.

Tracie’s journey is an unlikely one that began about a decade ago, peaking in 2013 and triumphing when she boarded the plane to Israel. Tracie and her husband Aaron are both African-American converts to Judaism. Their long-winding path to the Jewish homeland began a generation ago with Aaron Beavers’ father, who “changed his lifestyle” when he discovered Torah, said Tracie.

Aaron’s father infused in him a love of yiddishkeit, though he never converted his wife or children. Aaron Beavers was raised Christian, but nearly two decades later, he came to the same conclusion as his father—that Torah is truth.

In 2009, Aaron and Tracie decided they wanted to be Jewish. In 2013, they completed their conversion. They pro-ceeded converted their oldest children—Anayah, 8, and Gabrielle, 6. Chanan, 2, was born into the Jewish faith.

About a year ago, the family decided the next step was moving to Israel.

“If you believe something, you should do it as much as you possibly can. You should be as close to it as you can,” Aaron Beavers told JNS.org.

The family has moved to Bat Hefer, a community in the Sharon plain, east of the central Israeli city of Netanya. Aaron said he plans to be a plumber. Tracie will continue to stay at home with the children. A former member of the U.S. National Guard, she said she now hopes to volunteer for the Israel Defense Forces.

The members of the Beavers family were just a handful of the 221 diverse faces—all newly minted immigrants in the Jewish state—aboard the NBN charter flight on the El Al airline that took off from New York City’s John F. Ken-nedy International Airport on July 12. It was the 53rd charter flight in NBN’s history. Other organizational partners behind the flight included Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, and JNF-USA.

NBN’s co-founder, Rabbi Joshua Fass, told the group prior to takeoff, “Returning to Zion is like dreaming. … It is a diverse group of Jews coming together for a common dream.” The other co-founder, Tony Gelbart, said each aliyah flight is as exciting as the next.

“For these olim (immigrants to Israel), it is their first time,” he said.

Aboard the plane were a four-month-old baby and a 90-year-old bubbie, as well as two sets of three-generation families. In total, there were 32 families and 95 children. NBN has helped more than 45,000 olim get to Israel since its founding in 2001.

The 90-year-old bubbie was Sue Friedman, grandmother of Rachel Azaria, a member of the Israeli Knesset for the Kulanu party. Friedman said she has wanted to move to Israel since she left Germany at the age of 13, years before the Nazis annihilated 6 million Jews during the Holocaust. She spent many years raising a family in Riverdale, N.Y., but infused in all of her children a love of the Jewish state. She is being embraced in Israel by 27 great-grandchildren.

“I am ready,” she told JNS.org. Friedman is now residing in an independent living facility in Ra’anana.

While there were mixed emotions in the air as families boarded the flight in New York, leaving loved ones behind in America and feeling unsure of what exactly the future holds in Israel, there was nothing but joy upon landing.

US Immigration Bill May Hurt Jewish Summer Camps

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

The proposed immigration bill now in the Senate has been altered to t remove requirements that would  affect Israeli and other foreigners wanting to work temporarily in Jewish summer camps, but the House may block its passage.

Provisions for the J-1 non-immigrant visa for exchange visitors  now “allow an important cultural exchange” between American youth and foreign staff members, Rachel Laser, deputy director of the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center told the Jewish Forward.

The original version of the bill contained extra requirements that were changed after Jewish camp operators said it would hurt their programs, where 1,400 Israeli counselors and almost the name number work in summer camps.

The altered Senate version could come unraveled if House of Representatives  Speaker John Boehner goes through with his threat to block its passage if he thinks a majority of republicans will not vote for the measure.

Antwerp School Must Enroll children of Anti-Zionist Firebrand

Monday, June 24th, 2013

A Belgian court has ordered a school in Antwerp to enroll the children of Moshe Aryeh Friedman, an Orthodox Jew ostracized for his anti-Zionist views.

The Antwerp court of appeals ruled last week that the Yesode Hatora School had no grounds to refuse to enroll six of the eight children of Friedman, a New York-born anti-Zionist activist who in 2006 attended a conference of Holocaust deniers organized by former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran.

Yesode Hatora School has male and female students, who study separately in accordance with the wishes of the vast majority of Antwerp’s Orthodox Jews. The school last year refused to enroll the children of the Friedman family, who have been declared persona non grata by some institutions of Antwerp’s Orthodox community

Freidman fought back in the courts and in effect threatened the Orthodox community’s relative autonomy in education while he violated the Jewish community’s principle of resolving conflicts internally without involving Belgian authorities.

Friedman registered two of his boys at the Benoth Jerusalem Public School for girls in December, after obtaining an injunction from a Belgian judge. Belgian law does not allow gender-segregated schools but in reality the practice is tolerated as long as it remains unchallenged.

The injunction has been since been lifted and the boys stopped attending the girls school, but Friedman has appealed the lifting of the injunction.

He told JTA he did not intend to withdraw his appeal until after all of his children find “the adequate educational framework they deserve.”

Antwerp Police Laughed at Brutal Anti-Semitic Attack

Monday, June 24th, 2013

Publicity in Belgium and on Israeli television of police dismissal of a brutal anti-Semitic attack on a woman on her apartment has raised the rafters in Brussels where one Jewish leader said the incident “sounds like something from 1930s Germany.”

The police not only ignored the attack but also scoffed at it after neighbors attacked Cindy Meul in her apartment after they constantly harassed her and her girlfriend, former Israeli tennis champion Ruth Sverdloff and her daughters.

When the two women moved into their apartment, Sverdloff promptly put a mezuzah on the apartment door.

The neighbors then banged on the walls and shouted,” stinking Jews,” “we do not want Jews in this building” and other expressions that cannot be reprinted here, lawyer Mischael Modrikamen told the Jewish magazine Joods Actueel in Antwerp. They said they came “to finish what the Nazis started.”

The hate language turned to violence when two neighbors burst into the apartment on May 24 and beat up Meul, who was alone at the time, and broke her nose.

‘’When the ambulance took Cindy Meul at hospital, she saw a policewoman laughing and chatting with the aggressors,” Modrikamen told the Jewish magazine. Meul was hospitalized for 15 days.

When Sverdloff complained to the police in English, she was reportedly told by a police officer, “This is Flanders and you must speak Flemish.”

The police did not act on the complaints until the publicity nearly a month later.

Sverdloff was so concerned that she sent her daughter to her grandparents “because the child was too scared to stay here any longer.”

Joel Rubinfeld, the Brussels-born co-chair of the European Jewish Parliament, said, “The reports concerning this case are extremely disconcerting: It sounds like something from 1930s Germany. Especially disquieting is the authorities’ apparent inaction.” The JTA reported.

Earlier this month prosecutors in Brussels decided not to file charges in a separate case from 2011, in which a 15-year-old Jewish girl who was identified in the Belgian media only as Oceane was attacked outside her school by five boys who called her a “dirty Jew” before hitting her repeatedly in the face. “A pattern of indifference emerges,” Rubinfeld said.

Updated: Kotel Security Guard Shot and Killed a Homeless Jewish Man

Friday, June 21st, 2013

A security guard shot and killed a Jewish man(46) at the Western Wall Friday morning. A team of Magen David Adom tried in vain to revive the victim. The man was shot as he was coming out of the lavatories.

The victim has been identified as Doron Ben-Shlush, a homeless man who most recently was living in the Chabad house near the Kotel.

The guard said that he thought he heard the man shouting Allahu Akbar and believed he saw him pulling something out of his pocket. Islamic terrorists generally yell ‘Allahu Akbar’ before they commit a terror attack.

Eyewitnesses told Wallah that they heard at least 10 shots being fired.

Reshet Bet reports that police are now investigating the security guard at the scene, and he has been placed under arrest for 5 days.

Maariv reports that the civilian guard is from Israel’s north, and this was only his second shift working as a guard at the Kotel.

Other Kotel guards said the victim was a regular visitor to the Kotel, but that he always acted in an unusually nervous manner, including giving out the occasional yell or scream.

Black-Hat Black Rapper Ties the Knot in Double Wedding

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

A former black hip-hop rapper has completed, along with his wife, the conversion as Orthodox Jews and married – along with another black couple who converted- under the chupah in Seattle. The ceremony took place in March but has not been widely reported until now.

“D-Black” used to rap about the violence, gang activity and drugs of his African-American ’hood and now he is Nissim Black, who attends a Sephardi synagogue in Seattle and writes songs that he describes as rap/urban alternative that “speak a message of hope and inspiration.”

The shift in his musical message will be on full display with his new album, Nissim, due for release July 16.

The changes in his personal life were underscored earlier this year, when the 26-year-old musician was one of two grooms in a double Jewish wedding ceremony that became a community-wide project.

The story starts in 2008. Newlywed with an infant girl and then called Damian Black, he found himself at a crossroad after a friend was shot and killed at a nightclub where Black had been performing. Soon after, he lost his day job working with autistic children.

“I had a ton of questions and no answers,” Black recalls. There were questions about “religion, about God, about Christianity, about why aren’t Christians Jewish if Jesus was Jewish.”

Black began researching religion, reading about the Torah and begging his wife, Jamie, to study with him.

“We almost got a divorce,” he says. “We didn’t see eye to eye.”

But, the more she read, the more she, too, found herself attracted to Judaism, ultimately taking the Hebrew name Adina. “If this is something that can give me answers, I wanted it,” she says, adding that she felt like Judaism, unlike Christianity, welcomed questions. “It’s like a breath of fresh air.”

Adina began urging her younger sister  and best friend Sheree to study with them. Nissim and Sheree together pulled in Bradley Brown, Black’s close friend since kindergarten, fellow musician and Sheree’s future husband. They, too, have taken Hebrew names, Chana and Yosef.

By 2010, the two couples — each with two young children — had moved to an Orthodox enclave in Seattle’s Seward Park and were studying for conversion at Sephardic Bikur Cholim Congregation. Their conversions were finalized with visits to the mikveh, ritual bath, on Feb. 27. As is traditional with a conversion at the congregation involving someone already married, a Jewish wedding ceremony was next.

That’s when the four of them came under the wing of congregant Beth Balkany, who was determined to make the couples Jewish wedding celebrations they wouldn’t forget.

Under Balkany’s direction the double wedding became a community project. Through the local bridal “gemach,” a lending resource, she found gowns that required just hems for each of the women. Nissim and Yosef provided a playlist for the DJ. A couple getting married the previous day donated their flowers. The caterer donated his time,  and the photographer did the same.

Someone contributed money for a videographer; someone else makeup for the brides.

Balkany pulled off a sit-down dinner for 170 people, and Rabbi Simon Benzaquen officiated at the two separate ceremonies, with his wife, Cecilia, walking each bride down the aisle.

The guests came not only from their congregation, but also from Bikur Cholim Machzikay Hadath, the Seattle Kollel and Ezra Bessaroth, Seattle’s other Sephardic synagogue.

“We had no idea that it was going to be as big and as fabulous as it was,” Adina says.

Her sister Chana added, “The love you felt in the room – it was just amazing.”

B’nai B’rith to Honor Baseball’s Bud Selig

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Bud Selig, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, will be honored B’nai B’rith International ,which will award him its Distinguished Humanitarian Award on June 27 in New York City for his efforts in youth education and training, diversity and environmental advocacy.

Among those scheduled to speak at the dinner honoring Selig are Sharon Robinson, the daughter of Jackie Robinson as well as an author and educator, and Joe Torre, a former player and manager, and now Major League Baseball’s executive vice president for baseball operations.

Selig, who is Jewish, has been the commissioner officially since 1993.

We are so pleased to recognize Bud Selig for all he does in the community,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel Mariaschin said. “As a lifelong baseball fan, it’s heartening to know that the game I love and follow has such a dedicated and compassionate sense of civic responsibility.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/bnai-brith-to-honor-baseballs-bud-selig/2013/06/20/

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