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October 25, 2016 / 23 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘North America’

Jewish Community Bears Impact of Hurricane Sandy

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Less than a year into her job at North Shore Synagogue in Syosset, N.Y., Reform Rabbi Debbie Bravo sounded remarkably poised as she and her community face one of their most powerful challenges together: Hurricane Sandy.

Bravo’s land line was dead. When she picked up her cell phone Tuesday, she had just returned from the local police station.

“I have a child who takes medication that has to be refrigerated,” she said calmly.

According to figures released by The Long Island Power Authority on Tuesday, more than 930,000 families — 90 percent of all island residents — are without power after Hurricane Sandy wrought havoc Monday night across the northeastern United States. Among those 930,000 are an estimated 139,000 Jewish households.

Hurricane Sandy, which washed ashore Monday evening just south of Atlantic City, N.J., took dead aim at the most populous region of the country, home as well to the majority of the country’s Jews. In its wake, it left a trail of devastation that may take weeks to restore, if not longer.

“I went over to the synagogue a few hours ago, which is right next to a woodsy area,” Bravo said. “Ten plus trees are down, including a huge one down on the front law. Everyone’s saying this is a hundred times worse” than previous natural disasters that hit the island.

The greater New York area, home to the largest population of Jews in North America, took a harsh hit as severe winds and flooding toppled trees, triggered electrical fires and flooded public transportation systems. The result: mass evacuations of apartments and dormitories, widespread school closings and damaged homes and community institutions.

Early Tuesday afternoon, David Weissberg, executive director of the 120-year-old Isabella Freedman Retreat Center in Falls Village, Conn., posted a photo of a tree that literally sliced through the roof over the center’s main building.

“We’re looking in the short term how to work around that space and need to assess how long it will take to get that space repaired,” Weissberg said.

“It’s an amazingly precise cut,” he marveled. “It fell at an angle perfectly perpendicular to the building, which will hopefully make the repair an easier one.”

Jewish communal organizations, whose offices, landlines and in some cases e-mail servers were closed or down on Tuesday, largely set up shop remotely as they set out to formulate a response.

“The concerns of the Jewish Federations movement is focussed on both those in the Jewish community and non-Jewish community as we work with local Jewish federations as well as local, state and federal emergency management personnel to assess the damage and look forward to recovery,” said William Daroff, vice president of public policy and director of the Washington office of The Jewish Federations of North America.

Daroff noted that while watching the devastation unfold, social media was a source of comfort. “Compared to visuals from New York and the Long Island coast, having a support structure and literally thousands of friends acquired through Facebook and Twitter helped me feel less alone as my family sat shuttering with gusts of wind at 50 mph.”

The Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago set up a relief fund Monday night, with The Jewish Federations of North America and Union for Reform Judaism following suit the next afternoon.

For those without power on Long Island, finding alternative to landlines was critical.

“A lot of people are not getting cell phone service at home,” Bravo said. “For one congregant, the only time i could talk to her was when she left her house.”

As Bravo attempts to establish and maintain contact with the elderly and other congregants — including two with recent births — she also pondered the next moves for her synagogue’s two b’nai mizvah this weekend, which in all likelihood will be conducted without power.

“Truthfully in my mind, our options are try to use daylight,” she said.


The Zionist Girl the Jewish Federations Love to Hate

Friday, August 17th, 2012

My friend and colleague Lori Lowenthal Marcus writes today in Arutz 7 about her entanglements with the Jewish Federations of North America, and how, instead of confirming or denying a simple question she posed to them, they chose instead to start a campaign of personal attacks against her. (By the way, for a version of the article with all the links intact, go here.)

It began with “one former high-ranking leader of global Jewish philanthropy has claimed that the largest Jewish charity in the world succumbed to the polling/fundraising dilemma by rejecting the use of the term Zionism because that term is ‘too controversial’ – at a recent high level meeting. When this reporter tried to investigate the truth, she unwittingly became, like the title of a popular book, the Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest..”

She continues:

In writing the story, I did what reporters are supposed to do. First I researched and then interviewed the person making the claim. I then reached out to JFNA people who were at that meeting, and/or who are major players within the JFNA world. I reached out to them for hours, across several states, time zones and levels of leadership, in attempts to include in my story the JFNA response. I was explicit about who I was and what I was making contact about.

I contacted New York City UJA-Federation Chair John Ruskay, his press contact person Jane E. Rubinstein; president of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland Steve Hoffman; JFNA’s senior vice president for Global Planning, Joanne Moore; JFNA Vice President for Public Policy and Director of the Washington, D.C. JFNA office, William Daroff; and JFNA spokesman Joe Berkofsky. I was stonewalled at every turn: I got literally nothing of substance back.

Needless to say, she got bupkes. They were either out on vacation or they stonewalled her. So she—and I, her editor—went ahead with the story. “And then it really hit the fan,” Lori reports.

“What should have been a minor story about a credible critic’s claim that JFNA leadership had rejected the term Zionism as ‘too controversial,’ followed by a JFNA response denying that that’s what happened, and making clear Federation’s Zionist credentials, disappeared in a barrage of personal and unfounded attacks on me.”

“The hornets were angry; she writes, “I kept getting stung.”

“I and my article were labeled “scurrilous,” “vituperative,” “false,” “evil,” misleading,” and “lashon hara.” And in their latest statement, JFNA leadership used the most somber day in the Jewish calendar to reprimand me and to accuse me publicly of “sinat chinam”– the baseless hatred of one Jew for another that, according to Jewish tradition, caused nothing less than the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of Jewish sovereignty in Israel for 2000 years. In Federation’s narrative, I was presented as the one who needed to repent.”

My editor joked that he wouldn’t be surprised to see me being used in JFNA fundraisers the way Rachel Maddow is used by Republican fundraisers and Sarah Palin by Democrats. He wrote: “I can see it now, a local Federation brochure: ‘Lori Lowenthal Marcus wants you to hate Jewish Federations, but we won’t let her. Send your checks to the address below.'”

So now you know. As usual in these cases, the cover-up is worse than the crime. It’s possible to imagine a Jewish federation opting to dial it down on the Z word when fundraising within its constituency, seeing as some of said constituents might be busy BDS’ing Israel. But the way they went about destroying the reputation of a writer who is beyond reproach makes you wonder just what kind of hornets live in that nest…

Yori Yanover

Yishai and Malkah Welcome New Olim

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012


Yishai and Malkah present this segment from Ben Gurion International Airport as they wait for the arrival of a 747 jet full of new immigrants from North America. To continue the segment, Yishai and Malkah interview many Olim that are both fresh off of the plane and have been in Israel for some time. The segment ends with a speech presented to the new Olim by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Don’t miss this moving segment!

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Moshe Herman

JCC Maccabi Games to Hold Worldwide Minute of Silence at Opening Ceremony

Friday, August 10th, 2012

WEST NYACK, NY – Ankie Spitzer will lead a live-streamed, worldwide minute of silence this Sunday in Rockland during the opening ceremonies of the JCC Maccabi Games to honor the 11 members of the Israeli team killed in the terrorist attacks at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The minute of silence will take place between 8:00-9:00 p.m. EDT, Aug. 12, during the live broadcast of the ceremonies. The global community is encouraged to participate in the live stream (http://www.jccrockland.org/maccabi) and show its united support. Spitzer, the widow of murdered fencing coach Andrei Spitzer, has relentlessly fought for a formal commemoration during the Olympics, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) continues to deny the victim’s families’ requests.

“The actions of the IOC are unconscionable,” says Spitzer. As she recently told an audience in London that included IOC President Jacques Rogge: “Shame on you, IOC…You have forsaken the 11 members of your Olympic family.” She went on to add that, “We will come back until we hear the words you need to say because you owe them…did they [IOC] forget they are supposed to promote peace, brotherhood and fair play?”

Most recently, the IOC refused to hold a minute of silence as part of the opening ceremonies of the London Games. The decision was made despite worldwide pressure that included an online petition from the JCC – with more than 110,000 signatories representing more than 150 countries – and support from governing bodies all around the world.

“Only the IOC can give the surviving family members what they want, and ultimately deserve,” says Steve Gold, past president of the JCC and chair of the Minute of Silence campaign. “But we want them to know that we are behind them, and let the IOC know that we aren’t going away.”

Since 1995, remembering the Munich 11 has been a component of every JCC Maccabi Games: a week-long Olympic-style athletic event that brings together more than 3,500 Jewish teen athletes from around the world to compete and help promote unity and understanding. JCC Rockland took this one step further when it forged a relationship with Spitzer and the families of the victims to help bring attention to and, ultimately help redress this 40-year-old issue. The JCC also chose to dedicate the 2012 Games to the murdered Israeli athletes by hosting a series of 11 events in their memory. The 11th event will be the opening ceremony of the 2012 JCC Maccabi Games that includes this very special minute of silence.

Other leading Jewish groups, including The Jewish Federations of North America, have rallied behind Spitzer, in calling for a minute of silence. “The Jewish Federations of North America stand with the families of the fallen and the JCC in honoring the victims of this terrible tragedy,” says Kathy Manning, chair of the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America. “A formal honoring of the slain Israeli Olympians and their families is long overdue, and we fully support efforts like this one to urge the IOC to rectify this painful omission.”

The opening ceremonies of the JCC Maccabi Games will take place at the Eugene Levy Fieldhouse at Rockland Community.

For more information on the minute of silence or to learn more about the Games and JCC Rockland, visit http://www.jccrockland.org/.

Jewish Press Staff

Purim Meditation: After Rush Limbaugh Insulted Me

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

On  Purim Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh made fun of me. He said I was “so morally loose,” I should make a video of my daily behavior “so everybody could enjoy it.”

I’m not sure what prompted it, I hear he’s been badmouthing many folks recently, maybe he didn’t even mean to pick me, maybe my name just happened to be on his desk while the microphone was on, stranger things have happened.

It wasn’t a biggie, really, I’ve been called worse. When my wife heard what Rush had been calling me, she said she wasn’t surprised. So maybe it wasn’t even such a bad thing that Rush did, maybe he even meant it as a caution, so I would go ahead and mend my loose morals.

I never did anything wrong to Rush, though. Once in a while I would comment that his show wasn’t really my cup of tea. Was the term “cup of tea” offensive? Did it imply that I thought Rush was the kind of person who drank tea? Was Rush offended because I said he drank tea? Because, in reality, I didn’t. I only said his show wasn’t my cup of tea, which really implied I was the one drinking tea, except not Rush’s tea, someone else’s tea, perhaps.

Maybe Rush was just on a tear, having called Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke even worse names than he did me. Maybe Rush’s show was just plateauing, and he decided to insult everyone in North America, and just to make it interesting, he started with folks who were pretty much anonymous.

“Anonymous?” Rush must have roared at that memorable editorial staff meeting, smacking Snerdley across the back of his head the way he likes to do when he’s self-satisfied. “I’ll show you how I take this supposedly ‘anonymous’ person and turn him or her into a star overnight, faster than any of those TV shows where it takes them weeks to make you famous.”

So, maybe Rush insulted me on a dare.

But here’s the funny thing, as soon as news came out that Rush insulted me, people started empathizing with me and writing Rush’s advertisers to stop sponsoring him because of what he said about Yanover.

I was particularly touched by a guns and ammo mail order service that said they’d had it up to here with Rush’s on-air brutality, and that insulting Yanover was just something you didn’t do.

As more and more sponsors were starting to leave him, Rush’s secretary called and asked what he could do to get me to forgive him. I wasn’t sure what to ask for. Finally I told her the back yard grass was a little tall, it being winter and such.

Rachel Maddow invited me to come on her show and say something bad about Rush in return, but I can’t stay up that late, not on school nights, anyway.

Many rabbis announced they’re no longer listening to Rush because of what he said about Yanover, and they asked their congregations to tune away as well.

So, after all was said and done, it wasn’t such a bad thing to be insulted by Rush Limbaugh.

When he’s finished mowing in the back, I’ll probably ask him to fix the shed door. My wife says we should just let him go. The poor man hasn’t been himself.

I bet he’ll do a fantastic job on that door.

Yori Yanover

New Olim Are Country’s Hanukah Present

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Just prior to the start of Hanukah, 76 new immigrants from North America added light and happiness to the country, landing at Ben Gurion International Airport.

Seventy-six new immigrants from North America infused Israel with the light of Zionism by celebrating the first night of Hanukkah as new Israeli citizens.

The new Israelis were provided support by Nefesh b’Nefesh.

Malkah Fleisher

Bar Ilan University Makes Key Stop In South Florida

Monday, December 5th, 2011

The founder and director of a new gap year program at Bar Ilan University has made South Florida a key stop on a tour of North America promoting the new program that is intended to buck the trend in falling gap year numbers.

Rabbi Tully Bryks visited high school students across South Florida on November 17 to 20, making stops in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and North Miami Beach as part of a tour of North America that will take him to more than 20 cities.

Bar Ilan Campus

Rabbi Bryks was formerly regional director for NCSY in South Florida for 15 years, leaving the post in 2008 to open ‘Israel XP’ at Bar Ilan University’s Ramat Gan campus near Tel Aviv.

“The new program Israel XP is designed to appeal specifically to students looking for more of a balanced year in Israel, where students can embrace Jewish studies in a relaxed campus setting,” Rabbi Bryks explains. There are regular tours around the country as well as professional internship options accessing different sectors of society. To address financial and career pressures, students can also earn around a year’s worth of academic credits that can be transferred to most universities across North America.

“An inspiring year in Israel strengthens Jewish values ahead of college years and helps unlock a young person’s potential. We don’t want any Jewish students to have to miss out. The idea for this program was really born in South Florida and I’m excited to promote it to students in the area.”

For more information on Rabbi Bryks’s speaking dates or the Israel XP program, e-mail rabbibryks@israelxp.com or visit www.israelxp.com.

Shelley Benveniste

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community/south-florida/bar-ilan-university-makes-key-stop-in-south-florida/2011/12/05/

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