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July 29, 2014 / 2 Av, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Jewish.’

Despite Rockets, 64 New American Olim Arrive in Israel Today

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Ben-Gurion Airport – Despite the deteriorating security situation, 64 new immigrants from the United States made aliyah to Israel today. The new Israelis hail from Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Virginia, and range in age from eight months to 92 years.

Lottie Herman, the oldest member of the group, fled Germany to America in 1939. She will be settling in Jerusalem.

Another olah chadasha (new immigrant), 26-year-old Becky Kupchan, said she was moving from her native Chicago to Beer Sheva, the capital city of the Negev.

“Although the security situation in Israel is very tense right now, and in Beer Sheva where I’m about to move rockets are falling, I am not afraid. I trust the Israeli government and the IDF,” said Kupchan, after she arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport. “I’m a Jew and I’ve always dreamed about making Aliyah to Israel, my home — and at home you always feel safe.”

“The Olim who’ve chosen to make Aliya to Israel during these challenging days are real heroes, and each one of them fills our heart with pride and great inspiration,” said Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nefesh B’Nefesh. “Becky from Chicago, who has chosen to live in the city of Beer Sheva in the South, is one of them and we will do whatever we can to assist her in her new home in the State of Israel.”

Tuesday’s group aliyah was made in partnership with the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, the Jewish Agency for Israel, KKL and JNF-USA, and Nefesh B’Nefesh.

According to Nefesh B’Nefesh 97% of its olim have remained in Israel thanks to its support programs and comprehensive social services to more than 38,000 newcomers.

The new Israeli citizens will be moving to Beit Shemesh, Givat Shmuel, Hadera, Jerusalem, Karmiel, Modiin, Nes Tziona, Ra’anana, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv and Beer Sheva.

US Lawmakers Meet with Cuba’s American Jewish Prisoner, Alan Gross

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Four U.S. lawmakers met in Cuba on Monday with imprisoned American Jewish hostage Alan Gross. The legislators visited the jailed social worker at a prison hospital due to his medical condition, which is precarious.

Gross was arrested in December 2009 while visiting Cuba to provide internet access for the Jewish community there. According to a report posted by the Havana Times he was employed at the time by Development Alternatives, Inc., and contracted by USAID, an American government agency.

Gross was subsequently sentenced to 15 years in prison for “crimes against the integrity of the State.” Cuban authorities said he was caught “carrying sophisticated telecommunications equipment prohibited on the island, working for a well-funded, secret USAID program designed to topple the Cuban government.”

Speaking to reporters in Havana following their visit, delegation leader U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee said in a brief statement, “It is in the interests of both our countries to start negotiations, not just talks. It is time for both countries to make a serious commitment to enter into negotiations without preconditions.”

For years, Cuban leader Raul Castro has been trying to persuade the Obama White House to enter negotiations to free the “Cuban Five” — spies who were caught and jailed for espionage in the United States in 1998. Two have already been released, having served their terms. One is serving a double life sentence. President Barack Obama has reportedly shown no inclination to discuss the matter with Cuban officials, and no apparent interest in a swap deal for Alan Gross.

(Likewise Obama has had no interest in discussing a deal to commute the sentence of American-Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard to time served. After having agreed to a plea bargain, Pollard was nevertheless sent to prison on a life term in 1987 on a single count of passing information to an ally. Often jailed under harsh conditions at the prison where he is held in North Carolina he is presently in extremely frail health. Hundreds of appeals to U.S. presidents through the decades have left all unmoved — including Obama, who has been approached by the current Israeli government.)

U.S. Representatives Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Sam Farr (D-CA) and Emanuel Clever (D-MI) also took part in the delegation to Cuba. They met with Alan Gross for 90 minutes, according to the report. The delegation reportedly then met with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

There have been no diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana in more than half a century. But Gross, age 65, has vowed that by the end of this year, he is determined to return home to the United States, either “dead or alive.”

‘Muslim’ Boy Escapes Arab Village and Holds Bar Mitzvah at Kotel

Monday, April 7th, 2014

A 13-year-old boy born to a Jewish mother and raised in an Arab village celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall last week after she had escaped with him and her two daughters from her “prison at home.”

Details of the dramatic rescue mission cannot be published, said the anti-missionary Yad L’Achim organization, which engineered the escape.

The location of the Arab village is not known, and lips are sealed on how the woman, identified as “R,” was able to contact Yad L’Achim despite prison-like conditions imposed on her by her Arab husband. No information has been released about the ages of her two daughters.

The boy, identified as “S,” recited the blessing over the Torah in a tear-jerking celebration last Monday at the Kotel in Jerusalem. On his way to the Western Wall, a social worker who accompanied him asked what he would have said a year ago if told that he would be celebrating his Bar Mitzvah at the Kotel the following year.

“S” replied, “I would have asked, ‘What’s a Bar Mitzvah.?’ My father forbade my mother to speak anything about it, and I didn’t even know I was Jewish.”

“R” suffered two decades in what is a common story of a young Jewish woman falling into the charms, and usually gifts, of an Arab and then marrying him, converting to Islam and becoming a prisoner in his house and a victim of wife-beating.

Her Arab husband prohibited her from making contact with other women in the village, and he did not allow her to step out of the house alone.

After the rescue, Yad L’Achim took the woman and her children to a “safe” house and helped provide the means to help her rehabilitate back into normal life.

Relying on the organization’s legal advice, she filed a complaint with the police, charging her husband with violence, and she nullified her conversion to Islam in a Rabbinic Court.

Haredi Grandfather from London Assaulted In NY

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

A 65-year-old Haredi Orthodox man from London visiting New York for his grandson’s wedding was attacked early Tuesday morning in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park as he left the wedding reception.

The attackers smashed their victim’s face into the sidewalk, and he was treated at a local hospital for a split lip and chipped tooth.

Nothing was stolen, indicating the man was a victim of “knockout punch” attackers, but New York police and a Brooklyn councilman differ on whether that was the case.

A spate of knockout attacks in New York in recent months appeared to target identifiably Jewish people. Other incidents have occurred in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., as well as other states.

“Simply put, there is no place for this type of heinous behavior in our city, as nobody should be afraid to walk the streets of their community at any time of day or night,” New York City Councilman David Greenfield, who represents Brooklyn, said in a statement. Greenfield believes it was a knockout attack.

New York police are not calling it a knockout attack because the victim was not punched as they were in previous attacks, according to the New York Daily News.

Orthodox NY Father of Seven Missing

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

A father of seven from New York’s Rockland County is missing after making suicidal comments.

Search efforts continued on Tuesday for Peretz Sontag, who has been missing since Friday morning. Sontag lives in Pomona, located nearly 40 miles north of New York City. He made references to harming himself before he left home on Friday, according to reports.

Sontag, 50, is well known in the Orthodox community for his work for charitable causes, The Journal News reported. Special prayers were held Monday night at a synagogue in nearby Monsey for his safe return.

Sontag’s last-known location, when his cellphone was pinged by police, is in or near Harriman State Park, according to the newspaper. About 60 volunteers searched the park on Monday.

The family is offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to his safe return.

 

Josh Fattal Says Iranian Captors Knew He Was Jewish

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Josh Fattal, an American hiker freed by Iran in September 2011 after two years in captivity, said the Iranians knew he was Jewish even though it was never explicitly stated.

“I was so scared in those first months about being a Jew with an Israeli father, but at a certain point I embraced it,” Fattal told the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. “They know already. If they are going to do something to me for my heritage, then they will — but I am not going to change myself. I am not going to hide who I am.”

Fattal’s father, Jacob, emigrated from Iraq to Israel in 1951, and after serving in the Israeli army moved to the United States. Jacob Fattal’s siblings still live in Israel.

JTA had refrained from reporting on his capture until his release for fear of connecting him to something Jewish during his captivity in Iran.

Fattal is now a doctoral candidate in history at New York University and has a 7-month-old son.

He and his friend Shane Bauer, as well as Bauer’s girlfriend, Sarah Shourd, were arrested in 2009 as they were hiking near the unmarked border between Iran and Iraq. Iran said they crossed into Iranian territory.

The three were held and not allowed contact with the outside world, and were denied access to a lawyer. They were not charged officially for months and then were convicted of spying following a show trial. Shourd was released a year before the two men.

Fattal told the Jewish Exponent that in the early days of his captivity, he thought often about Daniel Pearl, the Jewish Wall Street Journal reporter killed by Islamic extremists in Pakistan in 2002.

Fattal’s Iranian interrogators learned the truth of Judaism within a few weeks, but he said he was never treated differently than Bauer and Shourd, neither of whom is Jewish.

He said he tried to observe some Jewish traditions while in solitary confinement for 100 days, but returned to his secular lifestyle once he was reunited in a cell with Bauer.

The Clown Therapist Who Sees No Borders

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Reuven Singer can often be seen wearing two very different uniforms that seem worlds apart.

The 33-year-old father, who lives in Karnei Shomron in northwestern Samaria, dons his bullet-proof vest and carries his M16 to protect his community in an event of a terrorist attack, as a volunteer in his neighborhood security watch team. But Singer’s other uniform – a far jollier one – consists of a red rubber nose, clown shoes, and a colorful tie and crazy hat that he wears during clown therapy sessions at a Tel Aviv hospital.

The religious settler travels once a week to the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov Hospital), where he works to uplift patients, through jokes, laughter and improvisation.

“A hospital is not a fun place,” Singer tells Tazpit News Agency. You want the patients to feel more comfortable.

“I’ve worked with children and parents who are hysterical before blood infusions, check-ups, or surgery. My job is to relax the parents and help the child overcome the pain and tension. That helps the staff and doctors too. Once you give the parent and child a chance to smile and breathe more easily, it helps everyone,” Singer told Tazpit News Agency in an exclusive interview.

Singer, who has been volunteering as clown therapist for three years, has worked with many different sectors of Israeli society including Palestinian children from Gaza who have been brought into Israel for treatment. “You don’t look at the person before you – I don’t see an Arab, Eritrean, Russian, or whatever ethnicity person is – all I see is the pain.”

“To me, it doesn’t matter if it’s an Arab child or a Jewish child – I want to help bring that person out of the pain and give him or her some positive energy,” Singer explains.

“Sometimes, I throw in a word in Russian or Arabic during a joke and the smile in return is worth everything.”

Singer has found himself in situations where rocks have been thrown at his vehicle on his way home to Samaria from the hospital.

“Palestinians throwing rocks at my vehicle won’t stop me,” he says. “I believe that when Arab patients see me, it will give them a chance to see that a religious settler is not a monster and maybe in turn it will make them stop throwing rocks.”

Singer’s day job is aerial photography but he says that it’s his volunteer work that is most meaningful. “I volunteer in two very different professions, but both save lives in different ways.”

He describes a unique Purim two years ago in Karnei Shomron when he dressed up in the clown costume he usually donned for clown therapy session. Suddenly in the middle of the Purim seuda (festive holiday meal) the community was alerted to a potential terror threat.

“Here I was, dressed as a clown with a red rubber nose, and I had to go out with my M16 for a security check,” he says. “That was truly a bizarre experience.”

Today an estimated number of 320 clown therapists operate across Israel. Following a chance meeting with a clown therapist who treated Singer’s daughter when she was hospitalized five years ago, Singer decided to take a six-month clown therapy course where he learned how to be a medical clown himself.

“I go to the hospital every week and act as a clown to make someone feel better. I want to change a child’s reality for good and this is how I do it.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/the-clown-therapist-who-sees-no-borders/2014/03/17/

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