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January 22, 2017 / 24 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Jewish.’

US Jewish Schools Love Betsy DeVos for the Vouchers

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

Businesswoman, philanthropist, and now Secretary of Education Elisabeth “Betsy” DeVos did not have a graceful initiation into Washington politics at her Senate nomination hearing. She was skewered by several Democrats, most notably Senator Al Frenken (D-Minnessota), but also former VP candidate Tim Kaine (D-Virginia). At times she looked like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights.

Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-Connecticut) got the biggest raves from the aisles on the left when he asked the nominee, “Do you think guns have any place in or around schools?” DeVos responded, as she had done numerous times that day in that committee room, “That is best left to locales and states to decide.”

Murphy insisted, “You can’t say definitively today that guns shouldn’t be in schools?”

DeVos responded, possibly because she is not up on the pitfalls of the media echo chamber on guns, “I will refer back to Senator [Mike] Enzi and the school he was talking about in Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential grizzlies.”

Much laughter ensued, resulting eventually in a hilarious sketch on CBS’ Late Show with Stephen Colbert showing a big bear bullying students and giving them wedgies.

It didn’t matter, of course, she was confirmed by the Republican majority. Now, it turns out, Jewish day schools that may or may not have supported Donald Trump for president, are loving the Secretary of Education. Because she believes in vouchers.

Betsy DeVos is not a friend of the public education system. She much prefers to take the money the US government plans to spend on education each year, divide it by the number of school children and give it to the parents in the form of “vouchers.” It’s not a new idea, and the amount of these vouchers often does not begin to cover what a private Jewish day school charges these days, but it’s an improvement. In Ohio, according to JTA, at the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland, vouchers covers less than 40% of the high-school tuition, which could be as high as $12,500 a year.

Ohio director of Agudath Israel of America Rabbi Eric Frank told JTA he was grateful for the fact that there’s finally official recognition that the cost of Jewish education stops children from attending a Jewish day school

In Michigan, DeVos’ home state, charter schools have not improved the state’s ranking. Michigan ranks near the bottom for 4th and 8th grade math and 4th grade reading on a national test called “Nation’s Report Card.” In fact, the state’s charter schools scored worse on this test than its public-school, according to Politico.

It’s probably a question of economic and social factors, and charter schools have occasionally been known to be run by charlatans. Still, for Jewish parents who struggle to pay for their kids’ education every little bit counts.

Betsy DeVos and her husband, Dick, are billionaires who have contributed an estimated $7 million to support lawmakers who push school choice, meaning the idea that parents shouldn’t be locked into their local public schools but may be enabled to choose other options, including publicly funded charter schools, as well as private and parochial schools.

DeVos suggests that “Parents no longer believe that a one-size-fits-all model of learning meets the needs of every child, and they know other options exist. Why in 2017 are we still questioning parents’ ability to exercise educational choices for their children?”

So, it turns out the new Trump Administration favors Jews not only in Judea and Samaria, but in the States as well. Our recommendation: if you are the parent of a Jewish school student – lay off those protest rallies…


Effective Jewish Advocacy Begins With Jewish Education

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

Since its passage in December, UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which framed Israel′s settlement activity and sovereignty over the Western Wall as “flagrant violations” of international law, has Jews around the world concerned.  We are apprehensive about its impact on Israel’s enduring security and ability to negotiate a durable and lasting peace.

I have long believed that Israeli-Palestinian tensions cannot be meaningfully understood without experiencing Israel firsthand. That’s why I was honored to bring then-freshman U.S. Congressman Tom Emmer (R-MN) and a delegation of Jewish community leaders to Israel this past June for a weeklong leadership mission.  Our six days in Israel focused on Israel’s geopolitical and security realities and the historical connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.

Over the course of one fascinating and deeply inspiring week, we met with members of Knesset and government ministers, toured military installations with IDF generals, and dialogued with the mayors and citizens of numerous Israeli cities. We met with a wide array of Israeli residents, both Jews and Arabs, to gain a deeper and more profound understanding of Israeli society.

On the final day of the mission, Congressman Emmer, who is a religious Roman Catholic, and I met with the chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau.  Toward the end of a powerful and emotional hour-long meeting, the congressman asked the chief rabbi what message he should bring back to the United States.

While the chief rabbi could have spoken about our countries’ shared ethos and commitment to protecting religious freedom, or even the need to collaborate in our shared fight against terrorism, he took a different route entirely.

Rabi Lau turned to Congressman Emmer and said: “Congressman, you have spent the past week in Israel, learning about the Jewish people’s near-4,000 year connection to the Land of Israel. You see how integral Israel is to the Jewish people’s past, present, and future.  But there is one thing even more important to the Jewish people: Jewish education.”

Having piqued the congressman’s interest, the chief rabbi continued: “For nearly 2,000 years the Jewish people survived in exile from its homeland, but we as a people cannot survive for even a single generation without Jewish study, without Torah. When you return to Washington, remember that the chief rabbi asked you to do everything in your power to strengthen Jewish education in America.”

Spending just one day on any U.S. college campus will convince you of the accuracy of Chief Rabbi Lau’s statement and the urgency of his plea.  Across the country, Jewish students are becoming disengaged from their people.  Virulent and often violent anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism compound the problem, discouraging Jewish identification and affiliation. And though there are more ways than ever before to “do Jewish” on campus, the constant badgering by anti-Israel student groups makes Jewish expression unattractive and even dangerous.

While UN Security Council Resolution 2334 should concern us, we should be considerably more distressed by the dire state of Jewish education and affiliation. As concerned citizens and proud Jews, our Jewish advocacy work should first and foremost focus on strengthening Jewish education and empowering our youth by helping them feel connected to their Jewish heritage.

To secure the Jewish future, we need to engage the next generation of Jewish leaders, providing them with opportunities to discover their own heritage and identity, and encouraging them to connect with Judaism – on their own terms and in their own time.

As executive director of MEOR, I have the opportunity to meet with hundreds of young and idealistic Jewish students at top universities across the U.S. each year. Our young people are passionate about their academic pursuits and social lives, but are rarely as deeply passionate about their Judaism, because a positive, authentic, and empowering Judaism has never been presented to them.

We cannot take the next generation’s connection to Judaism or the Jewish people for granted.  As we begin a new year, let us redouble our efforts to advocate for a strong Israel and a strong American Jewish community.

But we cannot limit our advocacy to the political arena. We must turn our focus inward and commit ourselves to educating and inspiring our Jewish youth.  When our ranks are replete with young and ambitious leaders who value their Jewish identities and understand exactly what they are fighting for, our broader advocacy efforts will take on a whole new meaning and our Jewish future will be brighter and more vibrant than ever before.

Rabbi Hershel Lutch

Israeli Driver to become NASCAR’s First Full-Time Jewish Driver

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

Ashdod-born Alon Day, the first Israeli driver to compete in an IndyCar-sanctioned series and in one of National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR)’s top three touring series, is trying to become the first full-time Jewish driver in NASCAR, the NY Daily News reported Saturday.

Earlier this month, Day was recognized by the Ministry of Culture and Sports as Athlete of the Year in Israel for 2016. Day is a part of the NASCAR Next program, which recognizes young drivers from diverse backgrounds with a proven track record who are attempting to move up the NASCAR Ladder. His goal, he says, “is to do a full season in 2017.”

Day, 26, began his racing in go-karts as a child. He is optimistic about his chances in the US. “One of the goals I had when I came to the States was to make myself a name,” he told the Daily News. He finished 13th in his August debut in Elkhart Lake, Wisc., not too shabby for a rookie.

Coming from Israel, where track racing is a rare event, Day is used to having to train and compete abroad. “I had to fly to Europe while basically I was still a student in high school,” Day said. “More than that, in Israel one thing even more difficult is the military service. Everybody has to do three years of military service when you finish high school; when you’re 18 you have to go into the military. Every time I had to fly to a race, they let me fly, but every time I’m here in Israel I have to put the uniform on and be in the military.”

He won the Asian Formula Renault Challenge championship in 2009; finished ninth driving the German Formula Three Championship in 2010, and fourth in 2011 driving for HS Engineering; he made six starts in Formula Three Euroseries; and drove in two races in Austria Formula 3 Cup, good enough for eighth in that championship.

In 2012 Day moved to North America, where he signed to drive in the Firestone Indy Lights series with Belardi Auto Racing. He has made six starts for the team before they amicably parted ways. In August, 2016, he joined MBM Motorsports for his Xfinity Series debut at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, making Day the first Israeli to compete in a major NASCAR touring series.

Day was supported by Jewish attorney David Levin, who gave him $60,000 from his retirement account to fund his car. According to USA Today, Levin was watching TV at home in Sarasota, Florida, when he saw Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame give the invocation before a race at Texas Motor Speedway, calling on his audience to “pray that we put a Jesus man in the White House.”

“That was pretty insulting,” Levin told USA Today. “It reinforced the impression that NASCAR is a white, Christian sport. But NASCAR is for everyone. There’s no reason it can’t also include Jews, blacks and Mexicans.” So Levin put his money where his mouth was and Alon Day’s career got the boost it so richly deserved.


A Hebrew in the Heartland – Where will the Jewish Guests in Washington DC sleep this Shabbat? [audio]

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

There are signs everywhere that ‘Wahsington Slept here’, but where will the Jewish guests sleep in Washington this Shabbat? Plus more…

David’s guests include:

Sid Miller – Commissioner of Agriculture of the State of Texas and candidate for Secretary of Agriculture for the Trump Administration.

Daniel Greenfield – ‘Trump’s Jews’ in Frontpage magazine http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/trumps-jews-and-obamas-jews/2017/01/17/

Yitz Tendler – Co-founder and Director Young Jewish Conservatives – What can you tell us about plans and events for the Jewish guests in Washington DC this Shabbat?

Yossi Dagan – Chairman of Shomron Regional Council attending Presidential Inauguration

A Hebrew in the Heartland 18Jan2017 – PODCAST

Israel News Talk Radio

Rightwing Lawyers: Police Collaborated with Arabs to Entrap Jewish Teens

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Following the detention on Monday, January 16, of six Jewish youths on suspicion of assaulting Arabs who approached the community of Geulat Tzion in the Shilo Block in Mateh Binyamin Regional Council, legal aid society Honenu has leveled an accusation of provocation against police, saying the entire event had been staged.

Honenu issued a statement saying it is extremely likely that the Arabs were accompanied by either undercover policemen or Mistaravim (agents disguised as Arabs), and that police, with the cooperation of the Arabs, staged a provocation.

According to Honenu, on the morning of Monday, January 16, six youths were detained after a clash broke out near the Geulat Tzion outpost in the Shilo Bloc. Two of the youths were released after interrogation by the Central Unit of Judea and Samaria Police. Police claim that the youths, and other Jewish residents, assaulted Arab growers who came to the area between the community and the Arab village of Turmus Aya, accompanied by police forces.

In a hearing at the Jerusalem Magistrate Court on Tuesday, January 17, the police representative refused to give any specific information about the incident. He refused to tell Honenu Attorney Adi Keidar – who represented four of the detainees, three of whom are minors – whether or not the incident had involved security forces disguised as Arabs, in an attempt to harass the residents and provoke them into driving the “Arabs” away.

The detainees were held in remand overnight.

During the hearing, Keidar claimed that following the recent court ruling permitting Jewish residents to remain in Geulat Tzion, police decided to stage incidents in order to provoke the residents into clashes, resulting in their detention and eventually their removal from the area.

Police representatives asked the detainees be remanded for an additional four days, but the court only extended their remand by one day.

According to Honenu, the courts have harshly criticized the use of soldiers disguised as Arabs to provoke Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria. Honenu stated that Police have staged such incidents in Havat Gilad, Susiya, Havat Har Sinai, Givat Ronen, Bat Ayin, Kochav HaShahar, and Adei Ad, all in the Shilo Bloc region.


$10 Million Grant Awarded to Museum of Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

The Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot in Tel Aviv has been awarded a $10 million grant from the Koret Foundation, based in San Francisco. The grant is the largest awarded to Beit Hatfutsot from a U.S. philanthropic foundation in its 40-year history and one of the largest single grants made by the Koret Foundation to an Israeli institution.

According to the announcement released Tuesday, it will establish the new Koret International School for Jewish Peoplehood as the educational centerpiece of the Museum, and will offer an extensive range of personal and professional educational programs for visitors, online users, students, educators and community leaders.

Through the grant, the museum will develop new approaches to education and will design innovative programs tailored for groups and individuals attending the Museum, learning curricula for Jewish day schools and community centers, traveling exhibits, and professional training and certification schemes for educators from around the world. It will also build on the successful flagship programs already in place, most notably the My Family Story genealogy competition and the G2G volunteer scheme.

The Koret International School will oversee a global team of full-time associates and representatives in order to oversee these initiatives, museum officials said. 

“The Koret Foundation’s grant reflects an exciting and growing convergence of interests around the revised mission for the Museum of the Jewish People, bringing leading foundations into conversation and partnership with our ongoing and much-valued partner, the Government of Israel,” said Irina Nevzlin, Chair of the Board of Directors at Beit Hatfutsot.

“With the visionary support of the Koret Foundation, The Museum of the Jewish People will be the unquestioned global hub for a new conversation about what it means to be not just Jewish, but a member of the Jewish people. 

“We are gratified to partner with Beit Hatfutsot, one of the world’s leading institutions in telling the long and extraordinary Jewish story,” said Dr. Anita Friedman, President of the Koret Foundation.

“In the 21st Century, innovative Jewish institutions and meaningful new approaches are needed. The Koret International School will play a pivotal role in strengthening Jewish identity and Jewish involvement, and offers a powerful new opportunity to engage, inspire and educate.

Hana Levi Julian

The First Jewish Americans: Freedom And Culture In The New World

Monday, January 16th, 2017

It’s always nice to see an exhibit featuring the great contribution Jews have made to our country. It’s especially encouraging and validating when a secular institution like the New York Historical Society, one of America’s most preeminent institutions, dedicates a significant path-breaking exhibition examining the story of newcomers to the New World, both Jewish and of Jewish ancestry, who made their way to colonial America and engaged fully in the cultural, social, and political life of the young nation.

Isaac Pinto, trans. Prayers for Shabbath, Rosh-Hashanah, and Kippur . . . according to the Order of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews. New York, A.M. 5526 [1766].

Isaac Pinto, trans.
Prayers for Shabbath, Rosh-Hashanah, and Kippur . . . according to the Order of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews. New York, A.M. 5526 [1766].

The First Jewish America: Freedom and Culture in the New World explores the origins of the Jewish Diaspora and paths to early Jewish life in American port cities. It examines our first synagogues and the birth of American Judaism in the 18th and early 19th centuries. It also focuses on prominent Jewish Americans who made an impact on early American life.

Founded in 1804, the NYHS, which covers general educational and informative history about New York City, New York State and the country, also has a children’s floor with interactive stations. It fosters research and presents history and issues surrounding the making and meaning of history through art exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world today.

This past spring, the NYHS featured an exhibition tracing the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany, called Anti-Semitism 1919-1939. At a time of continuing anti-Semitic attacks against Jewish communities in Europe and elsewhere, it examined the rise of a culture of hatred through the gradual and deliberate indoctrination of German citizens into active hatred of Jews through the ubiquitous words and propaganda images seen daily during the Nazi era.

The current exhibition, on view until March 12, is in its own right combating anti-Semitism by educating the public about the impact early Jewish settlers had on helping to establish this country. Displaying more than 170 objects, including rare early portraits, drawings, maps, books, documents, and ritual objects, it explores the arrival of Jewish immigrants to the New World; their integral role in the colonial port cities of New York, Philadelphia and Charleston; and the growth of a uniquely Jewish American tradition in the new republic.

Myer Myers Rimonim, 1765-1776. Silver and brass with parcel gilding.

Myer Myers
Rimonim, 1765-1776.
Silver and brass with parcel gilding.

The exhibition features a number of notable Jewish Americans, including Myer Myers, one of colonial America’s preeminent silversmiths, who designed rimonim (Torah finials) for early synagogues, a pair of which are on view, and Luis de Carvajal, a Mexican Inquisition victim whose long-lost manuscripts were recently rediscovered.

Another noteworthy individual featured is German-born Rabbi Isaac Leeser, considered the father of American Orthodox Judaism, who fought to retain tradition and settled in Philadelphia, where he became the chazzan of Congregation Mikveh Israel as well as a publisher, journalist, and educator. Leeser believed that a measured openness to innovation, coupled with traditional Jewish religious observance, was necessary for sustaining Jewish life at a time when Jews were free to choose how they wanted to be Jewish. He embraced powerful new technologies like the steam engine and the steam-powered printing press to carry his message across America, publishing the first major American Jewish newspaper. He helped found the American Jewish Publication Society, established the first American rabbinical school, produced a solo translation of the Chumash, and traveled the continent extensively. Several of his publications are on display.

European Jews fleeing persecution and seeking ports of refuge were propelled westward to the distant shores of New World colonies, which offered hope for a new beginning until the infamous Spanish Inquisition followed them across the ocean.

Luis de Carvajal the Younger (ca. 1567-1596) Memorias autobiographical manuscripts , ca. 1595, with devotional manuscripts Manuscript leaves, 3 volumes, each stitched into plain wrappers.

Luis de Carvajal the Younger (ca. 1567-1596)
Memorias autobiographical manuscripts , ca. 1595, with devotional manuscripts
Manuscript leaves, 3 volumes, each stitched into plain wrappers.

The exhibit powerfully illustrates this experience through the 1595 autobiography of Luis de Carvajal, a “converso” Jew in Mexico and the nephew of a prominent governor, who was tried by the Inquisition and denounced more than 120 other secretly practicing Jews (including members of his own family) before he was burned at the stake in 1596. The exhibition showcases, for the first time on public display, the manuscripts relating to Carvajal – considered the earliest extant Jewish books of the New World. These three documents include Carvajal’s autobiography (written under the pseudonym Joseph Lumbroso), Maimonides Thirteen Principles of Faith, the Ten Commandments, and a prayer manual. These exceptional documents underscore the long reach of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions, which followed settlers of Jewish ancestry into the New World, forcing confessions and burning suspected “Judaizers” at the stake in horrific “autos-de-fé.”

The recently-rediscovered documents, which had gone missing from the National Archives of Mexico more than 75 years ago, are believed to be the only existing writings by a Jew in Mexico during the Spanish colonial period and are on view by special arrangement with the Mexican government before returning back to Mexico at the conclusion of this exhibition.

Solomon Nunes Carvalho: Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, Interior, 1838. Oil on canvas.

Solomon Nunes Carvalho:
Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, Interior, 1838.
Oil on canvas.

The First Jewish Americans also explores the paths taken by Jews who for centuries fled persecution in Europe – beginning with the little-known but remarkable stories of their experience in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Brazil during the colonial period, and following their journey toward finding freedom and tolerance in the early American Republic,” says Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the NYHS. “We are grateful for the extraordinary collections of Leonard L. Milberg and the partnership of the Princeton University Library, which will allow us to convey to the New York public the fundamental importance of the Jewish people to early American history. We are deeply grateful to Mr. Milberg for his tenacity and hard work in securing the loan of recently recovered Jewish writings from Spanish Colonial Mexico, the earliest extant Jewish manuscripts from that time period.”

The Jewish community in the New World dispersed throughout the colonies in the Caribbean, creating a network built on trade, family, and religious connections. Items of these island communities and influences include a 1718 map of the Jewish settlement in Suriname, 18th century texts of religious services for the circumcision of slaves, and Jamaican legal documents from 1823 that argued for Jewish voting rights.

During the colonial period, Jews clustered in the cosmopolitan- and commercially-minded port cities of New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston, and, within each city, an elaborate communal infrastructure grew that supported all aspects of Jewish life. Shearith Israel, the first Jewish congregation in colonial North America, built its home in Lower Manhattan in 1730. The congregation has loaned significant objects to the exhibition, such as a Torah scroll that was burned by British soldiers during the Revolutionary War and Myers’ rare set of Torah bells (rimonim) from 1765 that he designed for Shearith Israel before the American Revolution. The New York-born Myers was an active member of Shearith Israel and served the congregation in many capacities, including as parnas (president) in 1759 and 1770. As the rimonim suggest, Myers was as dedicated to his craft as he was to the rites and rituals of Judaism. This set of Torah bells, constructed in the “stacked globe” style of Sephardic rimonim, is one of five surviving pairs made by Myers for congregations in New York, Philadelphia, and Newport.

Gerardus Duyckinck I (1695-1746) Portrait of Jacob Franks (1688-1769). Oil on canvas.

Gerardus Duyckinck I (1695-1746) Portrait of Jacob Franks (1688-1769). Oil on canvas.

Also on view are six oil portrait paintings, circa 1735, of the prominent Levy-Franks family of New York, also members of Shearith Israel.

The Philadelphia Jewish community grew during and after the Revolutionary War, with the city serving as a refuge for patriots fleeing British-occupied New York. Some Philadelphia Jews opposed Britain’s harsh restrictions on American trade by signing the Resolution of Non-Importation Made by the Citizens of Philadelphia in 1765 – one of the first official protests against British mercantile policy, which is on view in the exhibit. Also featured are portrait paintings of politically-active Philadelphia merchant Barnard Gratz, a signer of the resolution who supplied American militias, and of his niece Rebecca Gratz, who in 1819 established the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society, the first Jewish lay charity in the country.

Sara Trappler-Spielman

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/the-first-jewish-americans-freedom-and-culture-in-the-new-world/2017/01/16/

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