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December 8, 2016 / 8 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘light’

Light A Fire Of Motivation

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

It’s back to school season – with new hopes, new visions, new plans for the future. Everyone starts the new year with a sense of anticipation. This time I’ll try harder. I’ll do better. I’ll pay attention. I’ll give it my best shot. And many times people do achieve a greater degree of success.

But often those new hopes are dashed just as soon as the new notebook gets scratched, the pencils gets chewed up, and the backpacks show wear and tear. Children, like all of us, are creatures of habit. They fall into the same patterns year after year. And all too often those hopes and dreams for a better and brighter future fall to the wayside.

What’s missing here? In a word, “motivation.”

What is motivation? It’s the ability to improve our efforts and rouse ourselves into action. It’s the magic ingredient that adds a measure of oomph to the day. It’s an essential factor in learning.

As soon as we wake up, we are (hopefully) motivated to join the world. Some of us are motivated by the salary we get at the end of the week. Others by the screaming baby who wants her bottle now. And still others by the fact that a chavrusa is waiting.

Sometimes motivation comes from external factors, such as these. We need to accomplish certain things because others expect it of us, because we have a responsibility to be there, or because we will be rewarded in some way. Other times, motivation is internal. We may be motivated by a passion to work to our fullest potential. We may be motivated because we believe in ourselves, or because we wish to attain a personal goal.

What’s the secret to motivating students? It’s probably one of the most perplexing issues facing educators and parents alike. And whose job is it anyway? The answer to this question is clear. It’s the responsibility of every adult who comes in regular contact with kids.

 

Fires in the Mind

Kathleen Cushman, a journalist and documentarian, researches motivation in students. In her more recent books, Fires in the Mind: What Kids Can Tell Us about Motivation and Mastery and The Motivation Equation: How Youth Learn, Cushman shares decades worth of research as to how motivation works and how parents and teachers can help increase it.

She interviewed thousands of teens asking the question: “What does it take to get really good at something?”

And, in her book she writes, “A simple question, it reverberates at many levels. It matters equally to youth and adults, rich and poor, professional, artist, and tradesperson. Its answers have the potential to transform our schools and communities. And exciting research on the question of developing expertise has emerged in recent decades from the field of cognitive psychology.

Powerful new evidence shows that opportunity and practice have far more impact on high performance than does innate talent.”

She explains that success comes from the following: “We believe in what we are doing. We value it and doing it really matters to us. We believe that, providing we work hard, we can do it. We expect that we can succeed.” And, when we are motivated to do something (even if it is a non-academic pursuit), we are more likely to succeed in all other areas (academic included).

The actual equation, according to Cushman, looks like this: Value x Expectation of Success = Motivation

 

How to Motivate

Below, I’ve compiled a list of different ways parents or teachers can help children find their own motivation.

            Help them “catch a spark” from family talents. Find out what family influences exist. Maybe someone is really talented at sewing or basketball at home; maybe someone else watches his mother writes short verses of poetry on napkins. If those activities already have value, then the child has half of the motivation equation.

            Help them “catch a spark” just for fun. Sometimes you can help a child place value on something he or she has never done before. Cushman shared a story of a student who had the freedom at a school retreat to do anything from among the several activities they offered. The student chose to canoe, something she had never done before. And, when she realized how much fun she had doing something completely new, she was more open to trying other new things like math problems.

            Be a guide. As a teacher or a parent, when kids get stuck (and start to doubt their ability to succeed), we can step in and coach them through that difficult zone. Then, we can step back once they have regained their confidence. Help them connect their efforts to the success that they have achieved in the past. Cushman writes, “As they savor each moment of success, we can help them connect it to those moments that came before – and those that will follow.”

            Provide time to try and try again. Resilience, grit, whatever you want to call it, this is an important piece of the motivation puzzle. And, by giving children the opportunity to keep coming back to the same problems and to master them, they gain a sense of confidence and success. And, for teachers looking to help students do “deliberate practice” rather than rote repetition, Cushman suggest that the practice should include the “four R’s”: readying themselves for new learning, repetition and application of knowledge and skills, reviewing material learned earlier, and revising their work.

 

 

Register now for a Social Thinking workshop by Michelle Garcia Winner on November 16. Call Mrs. Schonfeld at 718-382-5437 for more information.

Rifka Schonfeld

World Vision Collusion with Hamas Throws Harsh Light on Its Israeli Partner NGOs

Friday, August 5th, 2016

Eugene Kontorovich, a professor at Northwestern University School of Law and an expert on constitutional and international law, tweeted Thursday night, following the indictment of the director of the World Vision charity in Gaza for diverting to terrorist ends the millions in charity contributions from evangelical Christians intended to support Gaza’s indigent population, noted Thursday night that WV was not an innocent bystander in this story of deception and terror. He pointed to a World Vision official publication titled, “Advancing a Just Peace in the Holy Land,” which states clearly:

“WV is committed to supporting initiatives, whether exclusively Palestinian, Israeli, or joint, operating from a framework of ‘coresistance.’ We welcome Israeli actions that resist the occupation and work towards restoring rights for Palestinians living in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.”

Clearly, despite their hectic claims to the contrary, WV saw its mission in Gaza, Judea and Samaria as going much farther than feeding the children of the Holy Land, as its Australian CEO claimed Thursday.

Kontorovich then asked, speaking of innocent bystanders, “Can Israeli ‘human rights’ organizations that are World Vision’s ‘partners’ in ‘co-resistance’ please comment on that partnership?”

The same WV publication lists the charity’s numerous local partners in supposedly improving the lives of the suffering civilian population in Gaza. In a separate section headlined “OUR PARTNERS,” the charity lists “a number of local Israeli and Palestinian partners” with whom it collaborates, “along with international partners,” on “advocacy campaigns that focus on issues affecting the wellbeing of children in the Holy Land.”

We’ve already learned from the state prosecutor on Thursday that the work carried out by World Vision’s director and staff had nothing to do with the wellbeing of those children, but supported instead the murder of Jewish children and other Jewish civilians on the other side of Israel’s border. Now it’s time to examine who was in cahoots on the ground with the Hamas-run organization, and they should conceivably provide a record of their activities with Mohammed El Halabi, the Hamas-member director of the charity in Gaza.

Would a Knesset committee assemble the following NGOs’ representative for a hearing on their ties with El Halabi? According to World Vision, these NGOs are:

B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Hamoked, ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions), Rabbis for Human Rights, as well as local advocacy partners in “Palestine,” such as the Defense for Children International-Palestine Section, Ma’an Development Center, and Grassroots Jerusalem.

Israeli legislators and policymakers should find out the extent of the cooperation between these organizations and the man who was central to the advocacy campaign against Israel in the past decade, and who was also an agent for a major terror organization condemned by the civilized world.

David Israel

Shavuot: Heavy On The Customs, Light On The Laws

Friday, June 10th, 2016

Where is the section called “Hilchot Shavuot” in the Shulchan Aruch? Actually, there is no section called Hilchot Shavuot because Shavuot does not have its own section in the Shulchan Aruch.

Instead, the last chapter of Hilchot Pesach is called “Seder Tefillat Chag HaShavuot” and it contains just three short sentences. The Shulchan Aruch simply lists the order of davening for Shavuot, the Torah portions that are read, and the prohibition of fasting on the Yom Tov.

What stands out is the lack of any specific halachot for Shavuot. There is no matzah, no sitting in a sukkah, no shaking a lulav, and no blowing of the shofar.

There is nothing that marks Shavuot as a unique Yom Tov from the halachic prospective of the Shulchan Aruch. The Rama adds some Shavuot customs but not halachot. The customs he mentions are putting out plants in shuls and houses and eating dairy foods.

Even staying up all night on Shavuot is only a custom, not halacha.

It’s a seemingly odd situation. Even the shtei halechem and bikurim were brought only during the time of the Beit HaMikdash.

So we are left with the phenomenon of a festival that is heavy on minhagim but light on halachic imperatives, making this Yom Tov different from all others,

The Talmud (Pesachim 68), in discussing the best way to celebrate the festivals, relates a dispute between R’ Eliezer and R’ Yehoshua.

R’ Eliezer says Yom Tov should be spent either kulo laHashem – entirely praying to God and learning Torah –or kulo lachem – entirely as a day of eating and drinking and other physical enjoyment.

R’ Yehoshua says the festivals should be divided in half, chetzyo laHashem and chetzyo lachem – half for God and half for us.

But even R’ Eliezer agrees that Shavuot must also include physical enjoyment through feasting, because it is the day on which God gave us the Torah.

Rashi explains that we need to show we are still joyful about accepting the Torah and therefore we need to celebrate in a physical manner. Shavuot cannot be only a day of ritual halachic structure; in order for us to demonstrate our joy and happiness at accepting the Torah, Shavuot must include our human input.

Our physical and human enjoyment of Shavuot is described in the Talmud as involving eating and drinking. Of course, over the generations Jews have added various customs to the celebration of Shavuot, but food and drink remain the central focus of our minhagim.

To show our joy in accepting the Torah anew every year, we imbue this festival with delicious new meaning, such as eating cheesecake, cheese blintzes (my favorite), and decorating our synagogues and homes with flowers.

This is how we demonstrate our love for the Yom Tov that celebrates the great gift God gave us when He entrusted us with His holy Torah.

Rabbi Ephraim S. Sprecher

Jerusalem Light Rail Targeted by Arab Attackers

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

Arab terrorists attacked the Jerusalem Light Rail in the evening on Tuesday.

The attackers hurled large rocks at the train as it passed through the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat.

None of the passengers were physically injured but at least one of the windows in a car on the train was smashed, requiring the train to be taken out of service.

The train is often attacked by Arabs in northern Jerusalem, costing the CityPass company that owns the rail line hundreds of thousands of shekels each year in repairs.

Hana Levi Julian

A September Evening

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

For a while, the eyes still seemed to see them there, perfect straight lines rising into the sky, an empty space on the horizon that your mind filled in without even thinking. You walked past, and thought, “Of course they’re there. They’re always there” and you saw them as they were, grey ghosts of steel rising above the rubble. You saw the city as it was and then you remembered that city is gone.

New York, the old grimy bustling city, has made way for two cities. The Bloombergian city of the yuppie toting a bag of organic groceries to her Citibike and the miniature Detroits of housing projects and endless grievances.

The old imaginary city still exists in the countless movies being filmed on every block where space aliens, monsters and superheroes regularly rampage past stereotypical cabbies with Brooklyn accents, but that city is fading away.

The tourists flock to see the shadow of that city which lingers on like the shadow of the towers.

On September 11, Ground Zero was New York. Today you can see Mexican and African vendors peddling commemorative patriotic knickknacks made in China and on a bad day the Truthers show up howling their contempt for the site. Tourists stop by and pose for snapshots with their families. Office workers walk by without thinking. The site, like the towers, is just something that’s there.

Tonight and the night before as the towers of light cast blue beams across the sky, we remember but memory is a destructive medium. Each year the memories grow fainter. People ask each other where they were that day but the stories grow fainter each year and the memories of walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, stumbling through the ash or handing out sandwiches to rescue workers have dimmed.

To walk through the darkness toward the towers of light is to pass through a city of shadows. In a stray glimmer of light reflecting from a storefront or a puddle you can still see the old MISSING posters covering every face and dark trucks filled with grim men tearing apart the street asphalt. You can catch glimpses of a city reeling from the incomprehensible.

New York City is used to tragedy. Terrible things happen here all the time. The oldest photos of the city show the same stunned faces, legs lying in a puddle of blood, gawking children and stern cops frowning at something we cannot see. And relentlessly the blood is washed away, the tears are dried and the city moves on. September 11 left behind more blood, more legs and more frowning police… but the ashes have still been dumped in a landfill, the tears dried and the city moved on.

September 11 has become a tragedy and tragedy is an experience, not an explanation. It is a bonding experience that gives way to catharsis. The dead are mourned, the grief is expelled and the horror of it takes on the faint tinge of memory. It is no longer what is, but what was. It is not how we live now, but how we lived then. There is no longer a need for answers and that for many is also a relief.

“It is ridiculous to set a detective story in New York City. New York City is itself a detective story,” Agatha Christie said.

Most people who live here have given up on solving the city’s detective stories. The weathered New Yorker is expected to meet the  inexplicable with a shrug of the shoulders. Everything is strange, but the strangeness is the point. Everyone is living in a postmodern detective story with no solutions and no need for them.

In Murder on the Orient Express, Poirot arrives at the solution by realizing that only in America could such an unlikely collection of characters have met. By America, he means New York, and the city is still the ideal place to find unlikely collisions of characters.

There is still a murder to be solved  and the suspects come and go in the streets below. The crime did not end with the murder of 3,000 people and the destruction of two towers. New schemes of mass murder are hatched every day across one river or the other. Maps are studied, charts are drawn up and the tools of the trade are gathered up by men who during the day sell papers or drive food trucks.

The murderers are still on the loose and what happened that terrible day was not an isolated incident, but part of a pattern of attacks taking place in a clash of civilizations. New York, the crossroads of civilizations, is a natural target for the attacks. New York is to the world what Mecca was to Arabia and the new Mohammeds are eager to do to it what Mohammed did to Mecca.

Bin Laden is dead, but the Muslim Oilsphere is full of other wealthy sons warring against the West. His backers are alive and the drone attacks that kill Al Qaeda leaders don’t touch their money men in the Oilsphere. The clerics who teach young Muslim men about the glories of martyrdom can rest easy. They can even open up a mosque at Ground Zero.

This conflict of ideologies and collision of cultures is nothing less than the perpetuation of the great Islamic crusade against the Other. And where better to wage that war than in the places where others meet others every day? What better target than a World Trade Center for a violent ideology built on merchants turned robbers and robbers turned merchants?

In a city where everyone is different, it can be difficult for some to understand that the attackers were motivated by those differences. Their war against us is an attack on people who are fundamentally and incomprehensibly different than they are.

Islam is xenophobia written into unholy writ, a long chain of conquest, subjugation and cultural destruction by desert nomads who know how to drive a sharp bargain, but despite their claims of golden ages and scientific discoveries, have never been anything more than the jackals sniffing around the ruins of greater civilizations.

It is as natural for them to attack us as it is for us to wonder why we were attacked.

Americans hold the peculiar belief that life need not be a zero sum game. That we can learn from other people without turning them into our subjects. That we can make more of something instead of stealing from a finite amount that someone else has and then destroying them so that they can never get it back.

That is the great creative power of American Exceptionalism. It is a transcendent force that turned a land full of refugees into a world power brimming with technological wonders.

New York, that strange part-Dutch, part-English, part-Everything-else city, runs on the creativity of the impossible. Starving artists, aspiring actors, failed musicians, flailing poets, real estate mavens without a dime and brokers trading thin air gamble on the impossible. New York always seems on the verge of total anarchy and destruction and yet keeps going on in that strange half-mad creativity.

For Islam, the game is zero sum. If American civilization thrives, then their civilization is shadowed. If people are happy here, then they cannot be happy. If there are two towers in New York, that detracts from the glory of Islamic civilization. Islam is the bitter beggar forever looking to steal what it cannot have, worrying over the imaginary history of its own greatness and cursing the upstarts in the streets of a foreign city for taking the glory was rightfully theirs.

The American who shares his good fortune with the rest of the world cannot understand that there are some people who would rather steal than accept a gift, who would rather destroy than build and who would rather drown the world in darkness than accept someone else’s light.

With some difficulty he might accept the existence of a small number of people who think this way, but an entire civilization built in this mold is too obscene an idea.

As with so many other strange things that wash up in the concrete streets of a strange city, it is easier to leave the mystery unsolved, to let the blanket fall back over the clash of civilizations and go on forward. It is the way that things have always been done in the city and as twin rays of light bisect the sky, they remind New Yorkers of their own fortitude, and not of the enemy waiting outside the light.

Outside a shadow war is waged with drones and hackers, spies and journalists, men in mosques speak quietly of terror and other men listen over the phone. There is little truth in this shadow war, but in some moments the light pierces the darkness and those who have forgotten why we are doing this, remember. And then they remember to forget.

Daniel Greenfield

The Collective Jew

Monday, August 19th, 2013
I keep trying to make this point to show what I believe is the unique Israel. In the last few weeks, three incidents have happened that once again reinforce what I have known all my life. Am I wrong to believe there is no other country in the world that would do these things?

Here’s the first amazing story:

A young cancer patient on the way to the US with a bunch of other sick kids can’t find her passport.

With no other choice, the young girl was removed from the plane and the plane prepared to depart after a fruitless search on the plane, in the airport, everywhere. Minutes before takeoff, while the plane was taxiing to the runway, they found the passport in another child’s backpack.

Too late, no? The stewardess told the pilot – the pilot radioed the tower and was given permission to turn back. The story appears here.

As the child cried, so too did people on the plane – and the stewardesses, and people on the ground. Amazing.

And the second story…

David Finti is 19 years old. He is a Romanian Jew. While boarding a train, David was electrocuted and severely burned. The local Jewish community contacted the Jewish Agency. They recognize the collectivism of our people just as on the Israeli side it was recognized as well. And so, Israel flew the young man to Israel, making him an Israeli citizen so that he could get critical care free of charge. David and his parents were flown to Israel and are now at Hadassah’s Ein Kerem hospital. The story appears here.

Yet another story in the last few days has come to light. Israel recently managed to bring in another 17 Yemenite Jews – leaving 90 left.What amazes me is that we were able to bring another group here to Israel and more, that we know how many remain. We are watching, waiting, hoping to bring the last remnants of what was once a great community here to Israel.

It is what we do. Three stories of how Israel watches, Israel waits, Israel acts.

Visit A Soldier’s Mother.

Paula Stern

A Ray of Light Behind the Clouds

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Some years ago I was invited to speak at a secular high school for exceptionally bright students. The student body was mostly non-Jewish. Since I am a Holocaust survivor, they asked that I address that subject. After my presentation the principal asked if I would agree to a Q&A session. “By all means,” I answered.

The first student at the microphone asked a question that I sensed was on the minds of many there. “Where was G-d?” he asked. “How can you keep your faith?”

I replied:

“You asked me a question and I will respond with a question of my own. Where was man? And I do not refer only to the satanic Nazis but to all the nations that were complicit in this unspeakable evil.

“As far as faith goes, in what and in whom could I have placed my faith? In twentieth-century enlightenment, education, culture, science? I saw university graduates use their scientific know-how to create gas chambers where millions of lives were snuffed out. I saw doctors maim, torture and kill. I will simply ask once again, ‘Where was man – where was modern Western civilization?’

“Whenever I seek answers I turn to the pages of our Torah, for everything is to be found within it. I invite you to meet the very first family who lived on this planet. Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. They lived in paradise. No one had to go to work. The climate was perfect – not too hot, not too cold. There was no illness and no death. G-d intended for man to live forever but then man debased himself. He became corrupt and evil.

“Cain and Abel made a deal. ‘Let’s divide the world between us,’ they said. And so they did. Livestock was to belong to Abel, real estate to Cain. But no sooner had Cain received his portion than he said to Abel, ‘The land is mine, get off it.’ And with that he killed his brother. G-d asked Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ To which he responded, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’

“To this day Cain’s question echoes in the wind. Man plunders, kills, rapes – but instead of accepting accountability for his heinous deeds he shifts the blame to G-d and asks with audacity, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’

“Thousands of years have passed and man has yet to respond, ‘Yes G-d, I am my brother’s keeper. Forgive me. It was all my fault. I take responsibility. Almighty G-d, give me another chance. Allow me to try again.’

“The question ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ means, in essence, ‘You, G-d, created the world; You, G-d, are in charge. Why did You allow this to happen? Where were You? How can I believe in You if You allowed this monstrous atrocity to occur?’

“Has anything changed in thousands of years? Yes, things have changed. Cain killed his brother with his hands or a primitive instrument but today modern man has harnessed his scientific brilliance to create hell on earth. The way of the first murderer Cain has become the reality by which modern man justifies his abominable deeds.”

* * * * * Recently I shared with readers my experiences when I spoke in South Africa. More than 5,000 people gathered for Torah study at the Sinai Indaba organized by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein. In one of my presentations I spoke about the Holocaust. After the program a distinguished gentleman came over and introduced himself. He was a Christian living in Johannesburg. With tears he spilled out his heart.

“Rebbetzin,” he said, “we need to repent, to make atonement for the sins committed against the Jewish people. And we have to make that real, not just an empty declaration. I would like to convene multitudes of people and have you address them. Tell them about the Holocaust so they might all know and pass it on to future generations.”

This glimmer of light amid the dark clouds of anti-Semitism that once again are engulfing the world reminds us that dormant within the human heart is the spark of G-d. We must only plug into it and the voltage could light up the entire world. Whether or not that convention of Christians in Johannesburg will take place remains to be seen but the words were said, the call was made, and that in itself is significant.

Let’s return to the question that bright young student asked me: Where was G-d? Let us understand once and for all that G-d is not a puppeteer and we are not puppets. We have choices; that is what separates us from the animals. It is all recorded in this week’s parshah. “Behold I give you today blessing and curse.”

That choice is the challenge to every generation. The Torah speaks for all time. When will man choose good over evil, blessing over curse? Is it possible that that day will ever come? Of course it is.

There is a spark in the hearts of all men and I believe that one day that spark will burst forth into glorious light and banish all evil – and the world will know that “G-d is One, His Name is One.”

May that day soon come speedily in our own time.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/a-ray-of-light-behind-the-clouds/2013/07/31/

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