web analytics
April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Seattle’

Black-Hat Black Rapper Ties the Knot in Double Wedding

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

A former black hip-hop rapper has completed, along with his wife, the conversion as Orthodox Jews and married – along with another black couple who converted- under the chupah in Seattle. The ceremony took place in March but has not been widely reported until now.

“D-Black” used to rap about the violence, gang activity and drugs of his African-American ’hood and now he is Nissim Black, who attends a Sephardi synagogue in Seattle and writes songs that he describes as rap/urban alternative that “speak a message of hope and inspiration.”

The shift in his musical message will be on full display with his new album, Nissim, due for release July 16.

The changes in his personal life were underscored earlier this year, when the 26-year-old musician was one of two grooms in a double Jewish wedding ceremony that became a community-wide project.

The story starts in 2008. Newlywed with an infant girl and then called Damian Black, he found himself at a crossroad after a friend was shot and killed at a nightclub where Black had been performing. Soon after, he lost his day job working with autistic children.

“I had a ton of questions and no answers,” Black recalls. There were questions about “religion, about God, about Christianity, about why aren’t Christians Jewish if Jesus was Jewish.”

Black began researching religion, reading about the Torah and begging his wife, Jamie, to study with him.

“We almost got a divorce,” he says. “We didn’t see eye to eye.”

But, the more she read, the more she, too, found herself attracted to Judaism, ultimately taking the Hebrew name Adina. “If this is something that can give me answers, I wanted it,” she says, adding that she felt like Judaism, unlike Christianity, welcomed questions. “It’s like a breath of fresh air.”

Adina began urging her younger sister  and best friend Sheree to study with them. Nissim and Sheree together pulled in Bradley Brown, Black’s close friend since kindergarten, fellow musician and Sheree’s future husband. They, too, have taken Hebrew names, Chana and Yosef.

By 2010, the two couples — each with two young children — had moved to an Orthodox enclave in Seattle’s Seward Park and were studying for conversion at Sephardic Bikur Cholim Congregation. Their conversions were finalized with visits to the mikveh, ritual bath, on Feb. 27. As is traditional with a conversion at the congregation involving someone already married, a Jewish wedding ceremony was next.

That’s when the four of them came under the wing of congregant Beth Balkany, who was determined to make the couples Jewish wedding celebrations they wouldn’t forget.

Under Balkany’s direction the double wedding became a community project. Through the local bridal “gemach,” a lending resource, she found gowns that required just hems for each of the women. Nissim and Yosef provided a playlist for the DJ. A couple getting married the previous day donated their flowers. The caterer donated his time,  and the photographer did the same.

Someone contributed money for a videographer; someone else makeup for the brides.

Balkany pulled off a sit-down dinner for 170 people, and Rabbi Simon Benzaquen officiated at the two separate ceremonies, with his wife, Cecilia, walking each bride down the aisle.

The guests came not only from their congregation, but also from Bikur Cholim Machzikay Hadath, the Seattle Kollel and Ezra Bessaroth, Seattle’s other Sephardic synagogue.

“We had no idea that it was going to be as big and as fabulous as it was,” Adina says.

Her sister Chana added, “The love you felt in the room – it was just amazing.”

Savaged for Daring to Name Savagery: Pamela Geller Attacked by Critics of Free Speech

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Pamela Geller, conservative commentator and blogger provocateur, is the executive director of the American Freeedom Defense Initiative.  AFDI created and paid for an ad campaign to run in several urban transit systems, in response to anti-Israel ads that ran in the same spaces.

The AFDI ads contain a paraphrase from the philosopher Ayn Rand: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.”  It concludes with: “Support Israel.  Defeat Jihad.”

The ads are already running on the sides of San Francisco buses, they began running today, September 24th, in New York City, and they were scheduled to begin appearing in the Washington, D.C. metro system.  However, the DC system balked, citing the violent rioting by Muslims allegedly inflamed by a YouTube video which presents an unflattering view of Mohammad, so Geller initiated an emergency court action at the end of last week to enforce her First Amendment rights.

Because there is so much misinformation both about Geller and her ad, The Jewish Press asked her to explain what her ad means, why it is scheduled to run this week, what the responses to it have been and, most importantly, why she continues to express her views so publicly, when she is repeatedly condemned by virtually the entire spectrum of mainstream media and even by other Jewish and pro-Israel groups.

First, let’s get the chronology and the geography straight.

2010, Seattle

In late 2010, in Seattle, Washington, anti-Israel groups sought to run advertisements on the side of municipal buses reading: “Israeli War Crimes: Your tax dollars at work. Stop30billion-Seattle.org.”  Just before the anti-Israel ads were about to go up, the county executive crafted a new policy banning all non-commercial advertisements.  The new policy enabled the municipality to reject not only the anti-Israel ad, but also two counter-ads that had been submitted, one of which was one proposed by Geller, the other one offered by the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

September, 2011, New York

Last September, another series of anti-Israel ads went up in various transit systems including the one in New York City.  This ad shows two smiling dads – one Israeli, one “Palestinian,” with their young daughters.  The ad copy: “Be on our side.  We’re on the side of peace and Justice.  End U.S. military aid to Israel.” In other words, American tax dollars is being used to support Israeli militancy and injustice.  These ads ran in 18 NYC subway stops for a month, in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.

That same month, Geller’s organization, AFDI, submitted the anti-Jihad ad.  The MTA refused to run it, claiming the ad violated its advertising standards because it “demeans[s] an individual or group of individuals.”  AFDI claimed that rejection violated the U.S. Constitution. On September 227, 2011, AFDI, Pamela Geller, and AFDI’s  associate director, Robert Spencer, filed suit against the MTA claiming that the transit agency’s no-demeaning standard constitutes “viewpoint discrimination” and is unconstitutional and therefore the MTA’s rejection of AFDI’s ad unlawfully restricted their free speech.

September 2012, New York

On July 20, 2012, Judge Englemayer, the federal district court judge in New York before whom the matter was heard, ruled that the MTA’s  prohibition on “demeaning” language is unconstitutional and the ad must run.  Significantly, the court ruled that

the AFDI Ad is not only protected speech—it is core political speech. The Ad expresses AFDI’s pro-Israel perspective on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in the Middle East, and implicitly calls for a pro-Israel U.S. foreign policy with regard to that conflict. The AFDI Ad is, further, a form of response to political ads on the same subject that have appeared in the same space.   As such, the AFDI Ad is afforded the highest level of protection under the First Amendment.

While AFDI was the victor in the case, Judge Engelmayer threw more than a few crumbs to the ad’s opponents.

For example, there was a fundamental disagreement over the use of the term “savage” – Geller claims it refers only to those committing acts of barbarism against innocent victims in the name of Islam.  Judge Englemayer, however, held that a reasonable person could conclude the term referred simply to Muslims.

What’s more, the judge practically wrote a recipe for the MTA to follow for rewriting its advertising policy so that a ban on an ad like AFDI’s could, in the future be upheld by a court.

Seattle LGBT to Visiting Israeli Homosexuals: Gay Aveck!

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

In the solidarity business, life can be unpredictable. Take, for instance, the story of the LGBT commission representing the gay community in the city government of Seattle, which this month canceled a Friday reception at City Hall for a visiting delegation of Israeli gay leaders.

The Seattle Times reported that the commission had initially planned to host the meeting, which was requested by the six-member Israeli delegation. The same delegation was also visiting San Francisco and Los Angeles, exchanging “ideas on advancing gay rights.” The Israelis had been made to feel welcome in SF and LA, but in Seattle – not so much.

There was a raucous meeting of gay officials on the Thursday prior to the scheduled visit in Seattle, and a tiny but very loud group were making the case that Israel was “pinkwashing” its horrible treatment of the Palestinians by showing the world how fabulous it is on gay rights.

This is the most creative argument I’ve heard in a while, making the absurd case that the more tolerant and accepting Israel is of its gay citizens, the more vicious it is to others. Remember, it came from the folks who gave us the idea of the “homophobe,” which suggests that if you object to homosexuality it’s because, deep inside, you are homosexual yourself, and the more you object, the deeper your suppressed deviation goes.

The “pinkwashing” concept was likely the brainchild of transsexual, Seattle University law professor Dean Spade, who dubbed the gay delegation’s visit “apartheid and occupation” wrapped in the rainbow flag.

As a result of the very loud objection of very few participants, the commission, which is an important player in the political life of the city of Seattle, canceled the next day’s meeting with the Israelis, because it wasn’t ready to deal with “such complex topics.”

And other scheduled meetings of the Israeli delegation, in Tacoma and in Olympia, were cancelled or pushed off as well.

Members of the delegation told the Times they were shocked. They issued a statement saying: “We expected from the Seattle LGBTQ Commission a strong declaration of its intent to support all LGBTQ activists, regardless of their color, sex or national origin. Sadly, it appears that the commission, representing a minority that continues to face discrimination, also practices that same discrimination.”

There was one righteous voice in the bunch, Wider Bridge, a California-based gay Jewish organization which was promoting the delegation’s visit, and stuck by it. Its representatives told the Times: “The truth is that Israel is a good place to be LGBT, and it is so because there are countless people within Israel doing amazing, courageous work every day … saving lives, including the lives of young LGBTQ Palestinians who often have nowhere else to turn.”

This was backed up by Avner Dafni, executive director of Israeli Gay Youth (IGY), who stated: “In the Palestinian territories, a youth who goes to a gay party can be killed by his own family. Israeli LGBT organizations are often the only places gay or lesbian Palestinians can turn to.”

And gay Jewish activist Robert Wilkes wrote: “Israeli gays or lesbians in Israel are protected from discrimination by law and by the high moral standards of the culture and society. In some respects, Israel is more accommodating to gays and lesbians than we are. For example, the gay partner of a deceased Israeli soldier gets the same benefits as a widow, unlike partners of servicemen and women in the U.S.”

But Stefanie Fox, Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, wrote: “Many of us actively support LGBTQ friends and relatives in Israel and their struggle to live a life free of discrimination, but advances for Jews have not affected Palestinians living under occupation, including those who are LGBTQ, who suffer from discrimination, persecution, restriction, and daily threats of violence from Israel.”

And don’t you go confusing us with the facts, young man…

Children of Shame – Revisited

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

The following was a letter sent as a response to the article, “Children of Shame” (02-04-2011). The article addressed the fact that children learn at a very young age to disconnect their feelings as a mechanism to end their feelings of shame. As these children become adults, they find it difficult to reconnect those out of fear that once again they will feel the pain of shame.

Dear Dr. Herskowitz,

When I read your column I almost fell out of my chair. I was reading the story of my life! I grew up in that kind of home, where my mother made me feel ashamed of every thought, feeling and impulse. Needless to say, when I hit puberty it was exponentially worse. I have been married twice and have never found the love, closeness, partnership, and companionship that I have sought. I know that the problem is within me; I feel that I am just not there and that I am unavailable for such closeness or intimacy, although experiencing them is my dearest and deepest wish.

At this point I don’t imagine even hope that I will find myself in a place where I can trust and grow; I seem to choose men to date (and marry) who are also incapable of forming close attachments. I have endured many years of therapy, which has not helped me to deal with the core of my issues, although it has helped me navigate when I start to feel overwhelmed.

Thank you for publishing the article, as it made me feel that there is reason and validity to why I feel the way I do.

Hopeless in Seattle

Dear Hopeless,

Your unconscious mind chooses a mate who will recreate the shame and pain you suffered in childhood. As you return to the scene of the crime, your partner will push the buttons that will cause you to react defensively. In order to start the process of healing you must stop reacting defensively and begin to understand the core issues which led you into this relationship. The unconscious mind has a radar system which causes us to be attracted to and attracts us, to the very same people who will hurt us in our relationship. This way one can finish the unfinished shame of the past in their new relationship, for the purpose of healing and growth. That’s why couples often tell me that when they met they felt as if they had known each other their entire lives – for the most part they did. When their unconscious minds meet a light goes off – ” Hey. Have we met before? You look so familiar!”

We need to keep in mind that Hashem designed the world in a state of co-dependency. Husband and wife are supposed to become dependant on each other and in this way heal their most intimate needs. This process is by no means easy; they now have to start working as a team. It also means that they must stop blaming each other, and learn to relive years of painful experiences behind closed doors and defensive walls. This is why many couples believe that marriage counseling made their problems worse. While it may seem that way at first, if the couple continues working at it, therapy will offer the best opportunity to bring the core issues to the surface, and restore their shalom bayit.

Kosher Tidbits from around the Web – July 30, 2007

Monday, July 30th, 2007

From the heart of Seattle, Washington comes a spice sure to challenge your palette – Bacon Salt.  That’s right, you read correct – it is a “vegetarian kosher zero-calorie seasoning salt”that tastes like bacon.  Available in three different flavors – original, peppered and hickory it is under the supervision of the Square K.

 Hungry?  Want something for dinner, lunch, breakfast, but not sure what?  Don’t feel like shlepping to the restaurant once you figure it out?  Well your problem has been solved - if you live in the New York Metropolitan area that is.  Crazykosher.com is a new website that does it all for you with nothing more than a few strokes on your keyboard.    Choose the restaurant, choose what you want to eat, place your order, and have it delivered to you at the exact time you want.  Very convenient. 

Traveling through Europe and looking for a place that is trendy, has good food and is kosher?  Well, In the EU quarter of Brussels you can now get an authentic Italian meal with a great bottle of kosher Italian wine at Da Bruno.  While the restaurant doesn’t advertise itself as kosher, it is trying to attract a very mixed clientele, it is certified by Rav Menachem Haddad. 

‘It’s Real Cool’

Wednesday, December 24th, 2003

It is 30 years this month since I spoke in Madison Square Garden and had the zchus (merit) to
launch Hineni, our Kiruv-Outreach organization. In those days, the Jewish world was very different. Kiruv – outreach was virtually unknown, so I knew that something different had to be done to awaken our people. Thus the idea of Madison Square Garden for a tshuva gathering was born. Many in the Orthodox community greeted my efforts with skepticism – their comments running the gamut from ”Who needs those crazies?” to ”Even if you get them to come back, they won’t last,” and the Conservative and Reform camps regarded my work with, at best, suspicion, if not with outright hostility, saying, ”She’s dangerous; she’s too fanatic! She’ll make them Orthodox.” But Baruch Hashem, armed with brochos - blessings of the Gedolei haDor – the Torah leaders of our generation, we overcame all stumbling blocks and filled the Garden – SRO, twice.

It was an incredible night, one that will never be forgotten by those who were present. As the walls of the Garden resonated with ”Shema Yisroel,” sanctity permeated the air, and the ba’al tshuva movement was launched.

Following that Madison Square Garden happening, we held similar events in every major city
throughout the United States, and the world, and the miracle occurred – young people, whose parents had never taught them the meaning of Judaism embraced their ancient faith. But it was not only the young who made this discovery - men and women of all ages joined us and embarked upon the path of tshuva – return. It was awesome to behold Jews in every state, on every continent, awakening to their heritage.

Baruch Hashem, since those days, Hineni has grown into an international movement and I have had the privilege of getting to know our people near and far, in cities and hamlets - even in remote, out-of-the way places. I have discovered that there is a pintele Yid in even the most alienated, assimilated Jewish heart, a pintele Yid that, in an instant, can be ignited into a mighty flame. Nowadays, very often when I go out to speak, I meet young people who tell me, ”When my grandmother was young, she heard you speak at Madison Square Garden and came back to Torah.” One has to marvel at this awesome miracle that our generation is witnessing – the ba’al tshuva movement.

It’s more than 30 years now, and Baruch Hashem I’m still traveling, and since the publication
of my books, The Committed Life and The Committed Marriage, I find myself more than ever on the road, and every trip has its own story that relates, not only to our people, but to the journey of our Jewish life. For example, this past week, I was scheduled to speak in Seattle, Washington, to say the least, a long way from New York. Our flight was to make a stop- over in Houston and then proceed on to Seattle. To our relief, we were told that we wouldn’t have to deplane, that after a few minutes on the ground, the plane would be on its way.

When we landed in Houston, our flight, like most flights these days, was late and the captain
announced that since a number of passengers had to make connecting flights, the remaining passengers should remain seated to allow them to make a quick dash for it.

No problem for us. We weren’t planning to de-plane anyway. To disembark for just a few minutes was hardly worth-while. Besides, I find that on planes there is a respite from the constant jingle of telephones, so it’s a great place to write or recite tehillim – psalms undisturbed. But all my well laid plans came to naught. Suddenly, we were jarred by a new announcement: ”This aircraft will not proceed to Seattle.” – and that same voice which just a few minutes earlier had asked us to remain seated, now instructed us to proceed to gate ____. ”Please move quickly,” the official sounding voice added, ”because you have only ten minutes to make the flight!”

I couldn’t believe it. Did they think that we were marathon runners? Any of you who know what the Houston Airport is like can sympathize with our predicament. But this was no time to commiserate. As the saying goes, ”It is what it is.” My friend Barbara (who always travels with me) and I started to run, dragging our roll-ons behind us. We arrived at the gate breathless as the last of the passengers were boarding. Two fresh-faced high school girls were on line directly in front of us, calmly eating ice cream cones.

”Gosh, you’re out of breath. You must have been running,” one of them volunteered.

”How did you guess?” I quipped, ”And we’re not your age either.”

Laughing, she said, ”Well, you’ll have a good time in Seattle. It’s a fun place to be. There’s always lots going on there. Where will you be staying?”

”As a matter of fact,” I answered, ”We won’t be staying anywhere, because we are catching the ‘red eye’ back to New York tonight.”

”Wow, I can’t believe that – all in one day? What will you be doing in Seattle for those few hours,” she went on to ask.

I wondered to myself whether I should end the conversation and simply tell her that we had business to attend to, or whether I should share with her the purpose of my visit in a language that she would understand. I chose the latter course.

”I’ll be preaching,” I responded.

”Preaching! Oh, that’s cool! What will you be preaching on?”

”The Word of G-d.”

”Oh, that’s cool!” she repeated excitedly, ”We’re just coming from a women’s gathering and we were singing hymns to G-d all the time.”

”I’m Jewish,” I said, and then I added, ”It is written that our entire Torah, our Bible, is a song.”

”A song,” she repeated. ”That’s the most beautiful thing I ever heard. The Bible – A Song. I’ll
have to remember that. And then, as if on second thought, she said, ”but if you’re Jewish, who will save you?”

”G-d Himself saves me. He saved me in the past; He saves me in the present, and He will save me in the future.”

She had difficulty absorbing my words, and she repeated once again, ”But who will save you?” She did not mention the Christian savior, but I understood exactly what she was referring to.

”As I told you,” I repeated, ”G-d saves me.”

Her eyes conveyed that she didn’t quite get it, so I explained that our entire nation stood at Sinai and G-d spoke to us directly, and because of that, we do not need any intermediaries. We pray directly to G-d; we confess directly to Him, and we ask for His direct guidance and blessing.”

She looked at me, digesting what I had just told her, and then she exclaimed, ”Wow, that’s real cool!” And I was reminded of the passage, ”For the Torah is your wisdom and discernment in the eyes of the peoples who will hear all these decrees and who shall say, ‘Surely a wise and discerning people is this great nation. For which is a great nation that has a G-d, who is so close to it as is Hashem, our G-d, whenever we call upon Him”’ (Deuteronomy 4:6).

We need never hesitate to proclaim who we are, what we are, and what we stand for. Indeed, who is so close to HaShem, as we? We who stood at Sinai and heard His voice. What a privilege and what a tragedy not to be aware of it.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/its-real-cool/2003/12/24/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: