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October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘JTA’

Rabbi Asher Lopatin to Succeed Rabbi Avi Weiss at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Rabbi Asher Lopatin of Chicago is set to succeed Rabbi Avi Weiss next year at the helm of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, the Modern Orthodox rabbinical school founded by Weiss.

Lopatin is the spiritual leader of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation, a high-profile Modern Orthodox synagogue in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago that counts Mayor Rahm Emanuel among its occasional congregants. A former Rhodes Scholar, Truman Scholar and Wexner Fellow, Lopatin was ordained by the late Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik of the Brisk yeshiva in Chicago and by Yeshiva University’s rabbinical school, the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS).

Rabbi Lopatin has been listed among Newsweek’s America’s 50 top rabbis.

“We at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School (YCT) believe that the future of Orthodoxy depends on our becoming a movement that expands outward non-dogmatically and cooperatively to encompass the needs of the larger Jewish community and the world,” the school says on its website.

That would be an apt description of Lopatin’s approach to Jewish life, say those familiar with his 18-year tenure at Anshe Sholom.

Under Lopatin’s stewardship, the synagogue has “become really cutting-edge in progressive approaches to Orthodox tradition while remaining firmly Orthodox,” Rabbi Paul Saiger, the president of Rabbi Lopatin’s shul, told JTA. “I moved to the community because he was the rabbi and he was revitalizing the congregation. He helped build a community day school, an eruv, a mikvah.”

Reached by telephone, Rabbi Weiss said that Rabbi Lopatin’s appointment wasn’t official yet, and Lopatin told JTA that an announcement would be premature, but the succession plan already has been shared with insiders at YCT, and Lopatin told his Chicago congregation about a month ago that he’d be stepping down in June of 2013.

Tzohar Launches Campaign to Improve Israeli Rabbinate, Rabbinic Services

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

The Tzohar Rabbinical Organization has launched a public information campaign designed to encourage a new approach to religious leadership within the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.

The campaign, which was launched Friday, includes newspaper and bus advertisements, as well as a mission statement outlining the organization’s vision for a revised Chief Rabbinate, which will be distributed to more than 200,000 people over the weekend.

Among the items that Tzohar is calling for will be to elect new rabbinical court judges who would be more open to the needs of the general public, not just the religiously observant sectors; and new guidelines for managing the marriage, divorce and conversion processes in Israel – three areas that have been particularly alienating to secular Israelis.

“The Israeli public demands a rabbinate that responds to the needs of all Israelis and not just those of specific segments within society,” Tzohar President Rabbi David Stav said in a statement. “We need to wake up and say that now is the time to make substantial changes in the structure and mandate of the rabbinate so that it becomes an agency that is relevant for each and every Jew who calls Israel home.

“As a result of the policies of the Chief Rabbinate, restaurants across the country are foregoing kosher supervision, obstacles are being placed in front of people interested in halachic conversions, and more and more Israelis are opting for a non-Jewish marriage ceremony abroad,“ Stav added. “With this growing wave of assimilation and abandonment of Jewish tradition, the result will be a de facto detachment between the State of Israel and its Jewish identity.”

The campaign was launched on the yahrtzheit of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the historic founder of the Chief Rabbinate and widely regarded as the founding father of religious Zionism.

Tzohar, which helps to involve non-religious couples and their families in religious wedding ceremonies – marrying, free of charge, about 3,000 couples a year – had been embroiled in a fight with the Chief Rabbinate over this service. Earlier this summer, the Chief Rabbinate agreed to lift restrictions on rabbis from Tzohar and permit them to conduct weddings. In return, Tzohar pledged to withdraw a lawsuit against the Rabbinate and to try to stop legislation that would have taken away the Rabbinate’s hegemony over who conducts marriages.

The national pool of Tzohar rabbis is prepared to conduct wedding ceremonies for anyone who approaches them, without financial remuneration. These rabbis have all agreed to the following principles:

1. The Tzohar rabbi will meet with the couple for a conversation and a study session of various topics related to marriage and the wedding.
2. The rabbi will arrive on time for the chupah ceremony.
3. Tzohar rabbis do not conduct more than one wedding in the same evening.
4. Tzohar rabbis do not get paid for conducting the wedding.

And should the couple, with God’s help, bring a baby boy into the world, Tzohar offers its own Mohel service. All their mohels have earned a certification from the Ministry of Health and the Chief Rabbinate; they are experienced; they all carry medical insurance; and they all take a special Tzohar course preparing them to help non-religious families feel comfortable and connected to the ceremony. They are also available throughout the healing process, and they charge according to a set, official rate. They are also committed to arriving on time.

Tzohar rabbis are available to all Israelis, religious and otherwise, with answers regarding Bar Mitzvas, Bat Mizvas (for girls), female baby celebrations, Pidyon Ha’Ben (redemption of the first born son), Chanukat Ha’Bayit (entering a new home), and, finally, burials and mourning.

The Hebrew language website of Tzohar is chock-full of content on the groups rich activities. Unfortunately, its English language page leads, from every single menu item, to a donations page.

Probably just a temporary glitch…

JTA content was used in this report.

Torah Scrolls Returned to Polish Village

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Two Torah scrolls, one complete and one incomplete, were found in Poland’s Sokolow Podlaski district.

The Torah scrolls found Aug. 20 are believed to have belonged to a synagogue in nearby Wegrow.

A local policeman brought the scrolls to the municipal offices in Sokolow and gave them to Marcin Pasik, Sokolow Commune Head. “The policeman is known in the local community because of his interest in history. That’s why he was contacted by a woman living in a nearby village. She asked him to help her sell the old scrolls. The policeman thought, however, that such a precious treasure should go to a museum,” Slawomir Tomaszewski, Sokolow police press officer, told JTA.

The woman wants to remain anonymous. She first claimed that her father had saved the scrolls from a burning synagogue in Wegrow. Later, she said that the Torah scrolls were brought to her father by a Jewish friend who asked him to hide them during the war.

The woman did not want to relinquish the scrolls for free. She reportedly has already tried to sell them to some people in Sokolow county, but her asking price was too high.

Since the Torah scrolls are likely from Wegrow, Pasik gave them to Krzysztof Fedorczyk, the mayor of Wegrow district, on Tuesday. The mayor placed the scrolls in a safe. “We wondered for a long time about what to do with them. Our lawyer might tell us what the next steps should be. It’s all quite complicated,” said Fedorczyk.

“This Torah scroll apparently was lost to the Jewish people during World War II,” Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich told JTA. “The Torah was written so that it should be used during Jewish religious services. The appropriate home both morally and historically would be with a living Jewish community in Poland.”

Don’t Be Fooled By BDS Campaign’s Failures

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

For more than a decade, anti-Israel activists have sought to shoehorn Israel into the nomenclature of apartheid-era South Africa through the use of a tactic named BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions). Apartheid was a universally decried racist system. BDS activists argue that Israel is the second coming of apartheid South Africa and must be treated the same.

BDS activists may claim success, but they are certainly aware that their efforts have failed. No American university has divested from Israel. When a British academic union voted on a boycott of Israeli academics in 2007, more than 400 American university presidents jointly declared that if these Brits insisted on dividing the academic community into two groups – Israelis who should be shunned and everyone else – their U.S. institutions should be counted as Israeli, too.

As University of Miami President Donna Shalala has said, “I know of no American university that would support such a boycott.”

BDS proponents at best can point to isolated, near-meaningless “victories,” such as the recent decision of a socially responsible investment index to remove the Caterpillar Corp. from its list. The BDSers, of course, generally ignore that the decision was based on a variety of factors (including the company’s treatment of its workers), or that many other companies doing business in or with Israel are still listed on the index.

Perhaps their one “victory” was to get a single food co-op in Olympia, Wash., to remove Israeli ice cream cones, crackers, chocolate bars, baby wipes and hand sanitizers from its shelves.

Antics aside, the point of BDS is to change the way Israel is viewed, to focus the debate on whether it is a “pariah” state.

Lately, however, the BDSers seem to be a bit more candid about their motives. While still asserting that Israel is in effect wrong all the time, now they are increasingly comfortable suggesting that Israel should not have been born and this “mistake” should be undone.

Judith Butler, a philosopher and a leading scholar in feminist theory who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, makes this point in her new book Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism, published by the prestigious Columbia University Press. Butler underscores why BDS proponents do not limit their campaign to products made in the territories.

To do so would “forget the claims of 1948, bury the right of return, [and] also accept forms of unjust majority discrimination within the present borders of Israel,” she says.

In essence, the point of BDS – articulated by Butler and others – is to revert to a world without Israel, irrespective of its policies. That was the theme of the One-State Solution conference last spring at Harvard. That is why many of the pro-BDS materials circulated during the recently failed efforts to pass divestment resolutions at three major conferences of church groups – Presbyterians, Methodists and Episcopalians – distorted Jewish history by ignoring the religious, cultural and physical connection of Jews and Judaism to the land of Israel in order to paint Jews as interlopers in a region where they have no right to be (let alone a right, like other peoples, to national self-determination in their historic homeland).

Anti-Israel Christians recently circulated a document titled “Call to Action: U.S. Response to the Kairos Palestine Document.” The Palestinian document was a one-sided political and theological denunciation of Israel; the U.S. version goes a step further, promoting a belief that Jews as a people do not have “an exclusive or preeminent right to the Holy Land,” but rather a right only “to create a vibrant Jewish culture in historic Palestine.”

So while BDS has yet to have any tangible economic impact on the state of Israel, it continues to be a vehicle through which the questioning of Israel’s basic right to exist is, for some, a “legitimate” issue to be raised without embarrassment. This is much more worrisome than a vote about Caterpillar stock or a co-op refusing to sell Israeli ice cream cones. BDS can change the perception of Israel by creating space for respectable people to have calm debates about the “merits” of a world without a Jewish state.

Fighting BDS, then, is not just about preventing or defeating motions and referenda. It requires paying attention to and challenging the distortions of history and language used by BDS advocates. And it requires reiteration that the two-state solution, in which Jews and Palestinians have a right to national self-expression, is the only path to sustainable peace.

Adelson Gives $500,000 to Shmuley Boteach Super PAC

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Billionaire philanthropist Sheldon Adelson and his wife have donated $500,000 to an independent super PAC that endorses Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s congressional run for the 9th Congressional District in northern New Jersey.

The casino mogul and his wife, Miriam, each gave $250,000 to the Patriot Prosperity Political Action Committee, which is supporting Boteach’s candidacy against the incumbent – Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, according to the Wall Street Journal, which cited “people close to the Adelsons and the PAC.”

The Adelsons previously gave $10,000 directly to Boteach’s campaign. Sheldon Adelson and Boteach are personal friends, and Boteach recently wrote an article in The Jewish Press harshly condemning the “below-the-belt attack” by David Harris, President of the National Jewish Democratic Council, who accused Adelson of personally approving prostitution in his casinos.

In a statement to The Jewish Press Boteach said,”I treasure the Adelsons’ support. They have been dear friends for a long time and were among the earliest backers of my campaign. Not only are they heroes in the Jewish community for their mega-philanthropy, but they are among the most generous and sophisticated political donors in the country.

“Their decision to support my campaign – and, apparently, to help fund a group that will be backing my campaign – proves that there’s a passionate need in American politics for a values-based candidacy. This donation is a game changer.”

The donation is only the most recent contribution the Adelson’s have made to Republican candidates this election season. They have contributed $10 million toward Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign, and contributed $10 million to Newt Gingrich during the Republican primaries.

The Adelson’s have been active philanthropists in a variety of Jewish causes, giving close to $100 million to Birthright Israel, $25 million donation to Yad Vashem, as well as donations to the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and the Zionist Organization of America, among other groups.

Boteach’s platform includes support for school vouchers and making marital counseling tax deductible in an effort to lower the divorce rate. He has criticized his opponent for signing a letter with 53 other Congressmen which condemned Israel for “collective punishment” against Palestinians in the Gaza blockade.

JTA content was used in this report.

Republican Congressman Skinny-Dipped in the Sea of Galilee

Monday, August 20th, 2012

A group of Republican lawmakers on a trip to Israel last year jumped into the Sea of Galilee for a late-night swim, during which one congressman swam naked.

The incident, which took place on August 18, 2011, was first reported on Sunday by Politico.

The late-night swim, which followed an evening of dinner and drinking in Tiberias, involved over 20 people, including families and staff members of the congressmen, according to Politico, citing unnamed sources.

Most swam in their clothes, or partially clothed, but Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) completely disrobed, according to the report.

The 36-year-old first-term Republican, in a statement to Politico, said: “A year ago, my wife, Brooke, and I joined colleagues for dinner at the Sea of Galilee in Israel. After dinner I followed some Members of Congress in a spontaneous and very brief dive into the sea and regrettably I jumped into the water without a swimsuit.

“It is my greatest honor to represent the people of Kansas in Congress and [for] any embarrassment I have caused for my colleagues and constituents, I apologize.”

In comments to the Kansas City Star, Yoder added that it was dark when the group went for the swim and he was only in the water for about 10 seconds.

The other congressmen who went into the lake, according to the unnamed GOP sources in the Politico article, were Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) and his daughter; Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and his wife; and Reps. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) and Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.).

Some of the congressmen said they entered the lake because of its religious significance; others said they were cooling off and that alcohol may have contributed to their decision to jump in.

The Sea of Galilee has religious significance in Christianity, as it is where Jesus is said to have walked on water.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the most senior GOP lawmaker on the Israel trip, did not take part in the late-night swim. According to Politico, Cantor censured the 30 lawmakers the morning after the incident, saying they were distracting from the mission of the trip. A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R – Ohio), told Politico that Cantor “handled the situation swiftly and appropriately.”

The FBI investigated whether any inappropriate behavior occurred, but no formal allegations of wrongdoing were leveled. Yoder’s chief of staff told Politico that “neither Congressman Yoder, nor his staff, have been interviewed by the FBI.”

Yoder is running unopposed for re-election in Kansas’ 3rd District.

JTA content was used in this report.

Canadian Singer Wins International Hallelujah Song Contest

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Canadian singer songwriter Evan Malach won an international Hallelujah music competition.

Malach, 27, sang the Israeli rock classic “Canaanite Blues” before a live audience in Hod Hasharon. The 14 finalists performed personally selected Hebrew songs.

Malach won an $8,000 prize and will be invited to record a duet with Israeli singer Dudu Fisher. The song will be distributed to Jewish radio stations throughout the world. He will also go on tour, singing in Jewish venues around the world.

The contest’s 30 entrants had spent three weeks in Israel touring and performing.

Courtney Simons of New York finished in second place and won $4,000. Polina Zizak of Russia was third, winning $2,000.

Last year’s winner, Mexican singer and distant cousin of David Ben-Gurion Adam Kleinberg—who made aliyah earlier this year—concluded the evening with Meir Banai’s “Geshem” (Rain). What followed was the rainiest year in recent Israeli history.

Looking forward to a year drenched with sad Canaanites…

JTA content was used in this report.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/canadian-singer-wins-international-hallelujah-song-contest/2012/08/20/

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