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October 27, 2016 / 25 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Soviet Union’

Russia Successfully Tests Ballistic Missile in Jewish Autonomous Area

Friday, August 19th, 2016

An Iskander ballistic missile was successfully launched during an exercise in the Jewish Autonomous Area in the Far East and hit a target 185 miles away, a spokesman for the Eastern Military District, one of the four operational strategic commands of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, announced Friday.

The Iskander ballistic missile is equipped with two solid-propellant single-stage guided missiles, each one controlled throughout the entire flight path and fitted with an inseparable warhead. Each missile in the launch carrier vehicle can be independently targeted in a matter of seconds. The mobility of the Iskander launch platform makes a launch difficult to prevent. Also, the Iskander targets can be acquired not only by satellite and aircraft but also by a conventional intelligence center, by an artillery observer or from aerial photos scanned into a computer. The missiles can be re-targeted during flight in case of engaging mobile targets.

Another unique feature of the Iskander system is the optically guided warhead, which can also be controlled by encrypted radio transmission, including from AWACS or UAV. The missile’s on-board computer receives images of the target, then locks onto the target with its sight and descends towards it at supersonic speed.

“The launch was carried out from a training site in the Jewish Autonomous area. The missile hit a target at a proving ground in the Amur region 300 kilometers (185 miles) away,” the spokesman said.

The missile destroyed several military infrastructure facilities of a hypothetical enemy, including a command center. Mechanized infantry units then went on the offensive. More than 400 officers and men and 100 pieces of military equipment from a missile unit of the Eastern Military District are involved in the exercise.

The Jewish Autonomous Oblast (administration) is a federal autonomous region in the Russian Far East, bordering the Heilongjiang province in China. The Soviets established the autonomous oblast in 1934, as part of Stalin’s Soviet nationality policy, which provided the Jewish population of the Soviet Union with a territory in which to pursue Yiddish cultural heritage. According to the 1939 population census, 17,695 Jews lived in the region at the time, about 16% of the total population. The Jewish population peaked in 1948 at around 30,000, about one-quarter of the region’s population.

In 2010, according to the Russian Census Bureau, there were only 1,628 people of Jewish descent in the Jewish Autonomy, fewer than 1% of the population, while ethnic Russians made up 92.7% of the population.

David Israel

Raoul Wallenberg’s Fate Revealed in Diary of Former KGB Chief

Sunday, August 7th, 2016

For the first time ever, historians finally know, without doubt, what happened to the Swedish diplomat who saved so many thousands of Jewish lives from the Nazi hordes in Hungary during World War II.

In the 632-page tome, “Notes From a Suitcase: Secret Diaries of the First K.G.B. Chairman, Found Over 25 Years After His Death,” one finds the memoirs of one of the most important men in Soviet history, and the answer to one of the most painful questions of the last century.

“I have no doubts that Wallenberg was liquidated in 1947,” wrote state security chief Ivan A. Serov, head of the KGB from 1954 to 1958, in a memoir not only rare but in fact probably entirely forbidden to write.

Wallenberg disappeared in Budapest in 1945, and although there have been countless searches for clues to his fate, none have turned up the slightest breath of evidence as to what happened to him.

But his fate is found in this text, because the grandaughter of Ivan A. Serov, 57-year-old retired ballerina Vera Serova was wise enough, and kind enough, not to throw away the papers discovered by workers in suitcases as they renovated a garage four years ago at a “dacha” left to her in northwestern Moscow by her VIP grandfather.

The soldiers of the Soviet Union were occupying Budapest at the time of Wallenberg’s disappearance, and it was known that as a Swedish diplomat, he had strong ties with the Americans and the highest echelons of the Third Reich. That made him suspect to the Russians.

Neither ever gave up a clue, however, until this summer when the diaries of the original head of the clandestine KGB, found tucked into the wall of a little vacation cottage in Russia, were published.

Although few indeed are memoirs written by Kremlin officials – for obvious reasons – this one, penned by Serov, contained a treasure.

The multiple references to previously unknown documents on Wallenberg definitively put to rest the endless questions about the fate of the heroic diplomat. The most important of all is the fact that Wallenberg, though dead at the time of the posthumous investigation, was ultimately found by the USSR not to have been a “spy” after all.

It was Serov who carried out that probe at the behest of Nikita S. Khrushchev, who requested the inquiry after Stalin, telling Serov to respond to Sweden and help in the purge of Molotov. Although he failed to uncover the full circumstances of Wallenberg’s death, he said, he found no evidence of espionage.

There is a mention of the cremation of Wallenberg’s remains. And there is a reference to something said by Serov’s predecessor, Viktor Abakunov, who was tried and executed in 1954, in the final Stalin purge. During the interrogation of the former head of state security, his torturers learned that it was Stalin and then-foreign minister Vyacheslav M. Molotov who had issued the order to “liquidate” Wallenberg.

Serov also said he had read a Wallenberg file — despite the fact the Soviet Security Service had for years denied that any such files existed. Hans Magnusson, a retired senior diplomat interviewed by the New York Times, directed the Swedish side of the Swedish-Russian Working Group and said there should have been a file created for every prisoner. But, he said, “The Russians said they did not find one.”

Vera Serova has one, however, in her grandfather’s memoirs. She has published them now to restore his reputation, she said.

Serov did many evil things in his life: he established the secret police that were used to terrorize the population in Poland and East Germany; he helped deport thousands of minorities considered a threat to Soviet rule in Russia; he wielded enormous power as head of state security.

Hana Levi Julian

July 4th Special: 11 Jews Who Changed America

Monday, July 4th, 2016

Inevitably, when one composes a list of people whose contributions have changed America, or any other country for that matter, the first reaction from the astute readers of the list is an objection to half the choices, and suggestions for far better choices. So we encourage the astute reader to add his or her own suggestions in the comments section, as well as their enraged reactions to our audacity in including some of our choices below.

In making our selection we looked for true pioneers, people who arrived when a certain situation was at point A, and due to their investment over a lifetime, things moved on to B or even higher in the alphabet.

For the record, we wanted to keep our list at 10, but the powers that be who pay our wages intervened and inserted one additional Jewish person. We invite you to guess whom this person is, and we are certain you won’t be able to.

Our list is purely in alphabetical order, because we have no way of telling which of these ten distinguished individuals was more crucial in shaping the way America is today, and we thought going in chronological order was boring.

We’re grateful to the many online sources from which we lifted so much of the copy in this article; they are so numerous, we fear that if we mention some we’d only hurt the feelings of all the others.

And, yes, we’re aware that we’ve actually listed 15 Jews, because one of them is a pair of sisters and the other are three brothers (and then some).

Louis Brandeis Louis Brandeis

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1916 – 1939, Brandeis radically changed the way American Law regards personal freedoms in a modern society.

In 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson nominated Brandeis to the Supreme Court, his nomination was contested by many, because, as Justice William O. Douglas wrote, “Brandeis was a militant crusader for social justice whoever his opponent might be. He was dangerous not only because of his brilliance, his arithmetic, his courage. He was dangerous because he was incorruptible.” And, in that context, “the fears of the Establishment were greater because Brandeis was the first Jew to be named to the Court.” Justice Brandeis’s opinions constituted some of the “greatest defenses” of freedom of speech and the right to privacy ever written by a member of the Supreme Court.

In Gilbert v. Minnesota (1920) which dealt with a state law prohibiting interference with the military’s enlistment efforts, Brandeis wrote a dissenting opinion that the statute affected the “rights, privileges, and immunities of one who is a citizen of the United States; and it deprives him of an important part of his liberty. … The statute invades the privacy and freedom of the home. Father and mother may not follow the promptings of religious belief, of conscience or of conviction, and teach son or daughter the doctrine of pacifism. If they do, any police officer may summarily arrest them.”

In Whitney v. California (1927), dealing with the prosecution of a woman for aiding the Communist Labor Party, which was promoting the violent overthrow of the government, both Brandeis and Oliver Wendell Holmes expanded the definition of “clear and present danger” to include the condition that the “evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion.” According to legal historian Anthony Lewis, scholars have lauded Brandeis’s opinion “as perhaps the greatest defense of freedom of speech ever written by a member of the high court.” In their concurring opinion, Brandeis and Holmes wrote:

“Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burnt women. It is the function of free speech to free men from bondage of irrational fears … Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty …”

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan

This singer-songwriter, artist and writer has changed and influenced popular music and culture for more than five decades.

After initially modeling his style on the songs of Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, and Hank Williams in the early 1960s, journalist Mike Marqusee wrote that “between late 1964 and the middle of 1966, Dylan created a body of work that remains unique. Drawing on folk, blues, country, R&B, rock’n’roll, gospel, British beat, symbolist, modernist and Beat poetry, surrealism and Dada, advertising jargon and social commentary, Fellini and Mad magazine, he forged a coherent and original artistic voice and vision. The beauty of these albums retains the power to shock and console.”

Australian critic Jack Marx wrote that Dylan “invented the arrogant, faux-cerebral posturing that has been the dominant style in rock since, with everyone from Mick Jagger to Eminem educating themselves from the Dylan handbook.”

J. Hoberman wrote in 2007: “Elvis might never have been born, but someone else would surely have brought the world rock ‘n’ roll. No such logic accounts for Bob Dylan. No iron law of history demanded that a would-be Elvis from Hibbing, Minnesota, would swerve through the Greenwich Village folk revival to become the world’s first and greatest rock ‘n’ roll beatnik bard and then—having achieved fame and adoration beyond reckoning—vanish into a folk tradition of his own making.”

And in June 2014, before the sale of the original lyrics of “Like a Rolling Stone,” written on four sheets of hotel stationery by Dylan in 1965, Richard Austin of Sotheby’s said: “Before the release of Like a Rolling Stone, music charts were overrun with short and sweet love songs, many clocking in at three minutes or less. By defying convention with six and a half minutes of dark, brooding poetry, Dylan rewrote the rules for pop music.”

Betty Friedan Betty Friedan

No one contributed more to changing the way American women view themselves and their male-dominated society than this American writer, activist, and feminist. Her 1963 book The Feminine Mystique sparked the modern wave of American feminism in the 20th century. In 1966, Friedan co-founded and was elected the first president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), which aimed to bring women “into the mainstream of American society now [in] fully equal partnership with men.”

Published in 1963, The Feminine Mystique depicted the roles of women in industrial societies, especially the full-time homemaker role which Friedan deemed stifling. Friedan described a depressed suburban housewife who dropped out of college at the age of 19 to get married and raise four children. She spoke of her own terror at being alone, wrote that she had never once in her life seen a positive female role-model who worked outside the home and also kept a family, and cited numerous cases of housewives who felt similarly trapped.

The “Problem That Has No Name” was described by Friedan in the beginning of the book: “The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the 20th century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries … she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question — ‘Is this all?'”

In 1970 NOW, with Friedan at the helm, was instrumental in the Senate’s rejection of President Nixon’s Supreme Court nominee G. Harrold Carswell, who had opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act granting women workplace equality with men. On August 26, 1970, the 50th anniversary of the Women’s Suffrage Amendment to the Constitution, Friedan organized the national Women’s Strike for Equality, and led a march of 20,000 women in New York City, promoting equal opportunities for women in jobs and education, and demanding abortion rights and the establishment of child-care centers.

Friedan spoke at the Strike for Equality about “the question of a woman’s right to control her [sic] own reproductive processes, that is, laws prohibiting abortion in the state or putting them into criminal statutes; I think that would be a statute that we would [be] addressing ourselves to.”

Friedan founded the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, renamed National Abortion Rights Action League after the Supreme Court had legalized abortion in 1973.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Polish-born American rabbi and one of the leading Jewish theologians and Jewish philosophers of the 20th century, Heschel, who was a professor of Jewish mysticism at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, believed the teachings of the Hebrew prophets were a call for social action in the United States and worked for African Americans’ civil rights and against the Vietnam War.

Edward Rothstein wrote in the NY Times in 2007 that “no modern Jewish thinker has had as profound an effect on other faiths as Heschel has; the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr said he was ‘an authoritative voice not only in the Jewish community but in the religious life of America.’ Nor has any Jewish theologian since Heschel succeeded in speaking to such a wide range of readers while rigorously attending to the nuances of Judaism.”

His daughter, Susannah Heschel, recalled that in his 1965 inaugural address at Union Theological Seminary, “my father reminded his audience that the Nazis attacked Christianity as well as Judaism, and he called for both communities to unite against the threat: ‘Nazism has suffered a defeat, but the process of eliminating the Bible from the consciousness of the western world goes on. It is on the issue of saving the radiance of the Hebrew Bible in the minds of man that Jews and Christians are called upon to work together. None of us can do it alone. Both of us must realize that in our age anti-Semitism is anti-Christianity and that anti-Christianity is anti-Semitism.”

In 1963, Heschel was invited to a meeting of religious leaders with President John F. Kennedy. The day before the event, Heschel sent the president a telegram about civil rights, asking him to declare the nation’s racial inequality a “state of moral emergency” and to act with “high moral grandeur and spiritual audacity.”

King and Heschel stayed in close touch, and after the first Selma march, “Bloody Sunday,” Heschel led a delegation of 800 people to FBI headquarters in New York City to protest the Bureau’s failure to protect the demonstrators. Heschel flew to Selma from New York on Saturday night, March 20, and was one of the leaders in the front row of marchers at the next Selma march, with King, Ralph Bunche, and Rev. Ralph Abernathy. The photograph of Heschel walking arm in arm with King has become the symbol of the coalition of Jews and blacks in American politics.

Heschel later wrote: “For many of us the march from Selma to Montgomery was about protest and prayer. Legs are not lips and walking is not kneeling. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.”

Abigail van Buren and Ann Landers

Ann Landers and Dear Abby

Esther Pauline Friedman Lederer and Pauline Esther Friedman Phillips were born seventeen minutes apart on July 4, 1918. They later became advice columnists Ann Landers and Abigail van Buren (Dear Abby). The sisters were in their late thirties when Esther, and shortly thereafter Pauline, entered the advice column business. Esther, known as Eppie Lederer, won a contest to replace the original author of the “Ask Ann Landers” column for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1955. By 1993, the Ann Landers column appeared in 1200 daily newspapers with 90 million readers, making her the world’s most widely syndicated columnist. The column has also been translated into more than twenty languages. A few months after Eppie Lederer took over as Ann Landers, her twin sister Pauline Esther “PoPo” Phillips introduced a similar, competing column, Dear Abby, using the pseudonym Abigail Van Buren, which resulted a lengthy estrangement between the two sisters. Phillips wrote her column until retiring in 2002, at which time her daughter, Jeanne Phillips, took over.

Both columns used a straightforward tone, gave practical advice, and a firm but modern moral sensibility. Both sisters used humor, including sarcasm and one-liners, in their advice. “Dear Abby” once published a letter from a reader inquiring whether a woman could get pregnant underwater, responding: “not without a man.” Both columnists won millions of loyal followers. As one reviewer put it, each was “just the person you’d want to go to with a problem—the aunt with the wise mouth and the heart of gold.” Psychology Today credited Ann Landers with having a greater effect on the way people deal with their problems than any other living individual. Both women were politically liberal, and used their columns to condemn racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism and to advocate for women’s rights.

Here are one each of their famous responses:

Dear Abby: Our son married a girl when he was in the service. They were married in February and she had an 8 1/2-pound baby girl in August. She said the baby was premature. Can an 8 1/2-pound baby be this premature? —Wanting to Know

Dear Wanting: The baby was on time. The wedding was late. Forget it.

Dear. Mrs. Landers: I’ve always regarded most marital mix-ups as very humorous — until now, that is, when the noose is tightening around my own neck. We have been married 10 years and have two sons. I like auto racing, but my wife has no interest in it, so I’ve always gone without her.

I’ve fallen for a woman with three children who is also very fond of auto racing. Her husband is ignorant and impossible. This may sound corny, but I think she would be a wonderful companion for me. I suppose you think I’m a louse — but I am stumped. I would like to have your advice on this problem — MR. K

Dear Mr. K: Time wounds all heels — and you’ll get yours. Do you realize that there are five children involved in your little racetrack romance? Don’t be surprised if you wake up one of these days and wish you had your wife and sons back. You are flirting with a muddy track on Black Friday, and the way you’re headed, you will get exactly what you deserve.

Estee Lauder.

Estée Lauder

A trailblazing American businesswoman, Josephine Esther Mentzer was the co-founder, along with her husband, Joseph Lauter (later Lauder), of Estée Lauder Companies, her cosmetics company. Lauder was the only woman on Time magazine’s 1998 list of the 20 most influential business geniuses of the 20th century. She was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was inducted to the Junior Achievement US Business Hall of Fame in 1988.

Her uncle John Shotz was a chemist who created face creams in a makeshift laboratory, set up behind her family’s house. He discouraged Estée from using detergent soaps on her face and showed her how to make the cream that, years later, she would improve and market under her own name. She launched her cosmetics business during the Depression in New York and later in Miami Beach.

Estée Lauder was an exceptionally talented and ambitious promoter, pioneering the giveaway promotions, and always including a lipstick in the gift package. Women tried her products, liked them, and told other women about them. Much of her initial success came from gift-driven word-of-mouth advertising. She called her strategy “Tell-a-Woman” marketing. She moved on to invest in larger marketing concepts, using beautiful models to sell her products. Estée Lauder chose her models carefully, selecting the “Estée Lauder kind of woman,” rather than the movie star type.

In 1953, she launched Youth Dew, a bath oil with a scent that could be used as perfume. Later she brought out many other popular scents such as Azurée, Aliage, Private Collection, White Linen, Cinnabar, and Beautiful. Lauder trusted only family members with formulas for the various fragrances.

She ventured into the male cosmetic market in 1964, using her son and other men in her company to test her products. In 1965, she came out with Aramis and an entire line for men’s skin, which she re-launched in 1967. Another of her ideas was the fragrance-free Clinique line, which was launched after extensive medical testing.

When it went public in 1995, her Estée Lauder Companies was estimated to be worth about $5 billion and she was given the title of founding chairwoman. In 2003, it had 21,500 employees and an estimated worth of about $10 billion. Its products are sold in more than 130 countries across five continents.

The Marx Brothers

The Marx Brothers

The brothers Julius Henry, Leonard, and Adolph Marx, a.k.a. Groucho, Chico, and Harpo, are on the American Film Institute (AFI) list of the 25 greatest male stars of Classic Hollywood cinema, the only performers to be inducted collectively. There were also Gummo, and Zeppo Marx (Milton and Herbert respectively), but the three zaniest Jews of all times have created, working together from 1905 to 1949, an ingenious merging of Vaudeville and Hollywood that taught an admiring world just what insane things can be done with film comedy.

Five of the Marx Brothers’ thirteen feature films were selected by AFI as among the top 100 comedy films, with Duck Soup and A Night at the Opera in the top twelve.

Pleased with the success of their first two films, The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers (1930), Paramount Pictures extended the Marx Brothers’ contract, which they fulfilled with three of their greatest comedies: Monkey Business (1931), Horse Feathers (1932), and Duck Soup (1933). Among their wildest, most anarchic efforts, the three films mercilessly lampoon moneyed society, higher education, and warring governments. They were filled with Groucho’s verbal effrontery (in lines such as “Remember, men, we’re fighting for this woman’s honor, which is probably more than she ever did!”) and surreal sight gags such as a live, barking dog that emerges from a doghouse tattooed on Harpo’s chest. Monkey Business and Horse Feathers were enormously popular with Depression-era audiences, but the political satire Duck Soup was a box-office disappointment. Today, however, it is regarded as one of the great film comedies of the 1930s.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer then signed the brothers to a two-picture deal, resulting in A Night at the Opera (1935) and A Day at the Races (1937), their most successful financially and among their best efforts. The Marx Brothers’ characters were tamed, though, their surreal elements were minimized, and they were turned into likeable, even heroic characters.

There’s no doubt that the inventiveness and raw chutzpah of the Marx Brothers gave life to countless successors in post-WW2 American film, including Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Peter Bogdanovich, and several generations of TV comedy writers.

Jonas Salk

Jonas Salk

Poliomyelitis, also called polio or infantile paralysis, is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. In about 0.5% of cases there is muscle weakness resulting in an inability to move. This can occur over a few hours to a few days. The weakness most often involves the legs but may also involve the muscles of the head, neck and diaphragm. In patients with muscle weakness about 2% to 5% of children and 15% to 30% of adults die. Another 25% of people have minor symptoms such as fever and a sore throat and up to 5% have headache, neck stiffness and pains in the arms and legs. Years after recovery post-polio syndrome may occur, with a slow development of muscle weakness similar to that which the person had during the initial infection.

Small localized paralytic polio epidemics began to appear in Europe and the United States around 1900. Outbreaks reached pandemic proportions in Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand during the first half of the 20th century.

In the United States, the 1952 polio epidemic became the worst outbreak in the nation’s history. Of nearly 58,000 cases reported that year 3,145 died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis.

Three years later, Dr. Jonas Salk became a national hero when he developed the first safe and effective polio vaccine in 1955 with the support of the March of Dimes. In the two years before the vaccine was widely available, the average number of polio cases in the US was more than 45,000. By 1962, that number had dropped to 910.

Contrary to the era’s prevailing scientific opinion, Jonas Edward Salk believed his vaccine, composed of “killed” polio virus, could immunize without risk of infecting the patient. Salk administered the vaccine to volunteers who had not had polio, including himself, his lab scientist, his wife and their children. All developed anti-polio antibodies and experienced no negative reactions to the vaccine.

In 1954, national testing began on one million children, ages six to nine, who became known as the Polio Pioneers. On April 12, 1955, the results were announced: the vaccine was safe and effective. As one of the largest disabled groups in the world, polio survivors also helped to advance the modern disability rights movement through campaigns for the social and civil rights of the disabled. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 10 to 20 million polio survivors worldwide.

A few years ago, the Wall Street Journal repeated the popular Jonas Salk statement (in an Edward R. Murrow interview) about his Polio vaccine: “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?” Many use this statement as the moral impetus for refusing patents on medically important innovations (most notably Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story”). However, according to WSJ, Salk could not patent the vaccine if he wanted to. The fact is that whether or not Salk believed what he said to Murrow, the idea of patenting the vaccine had been considered by a team of patent law lawyers, who recommended not to apply for a patent because the law at the time would not have awarded it.

Which makes Salk an innovator also in his role of a scientist who chose not to litigate what he knew he couldn’t get.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, (1902-1994), the seventh and last leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch dynasty, changed the way many American Jews, and then the rest of the Jews of the world viewed their connection to the Jewish nation. Rather than impose his views and philosophy on the million of unaffiliated and non-Orthodox Jews in America and then in the rest of the world, the Rebbe created a network of Chabad Houses into which they were all invited.

The forty-four years of the Rebbe’s leadership saw Lubavitch grow from a small movement that had barely survived the Soviet Union and the Nazi Holocaust, to a worldwide community of 200,000 members, the finest among whom the Rebbe employed to establish the Chabad education and outreach centers, offering social-service programs and humanitarian aid to all people, regardless of religious affiliation or background. His corps of Lubavitch emissaries (shluchim) went out to build Chabad Houses that reached out to local Jews and to passers by with concrete offerings: a place to stay, a place to eat, a place to pray, a place to study. Today there are more than 1,400 Chabad-Lubavitch institutions in thirty-five countries on six continents.

Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz wrote in the Forward a few years ago that “Lubavitchers are sent into the street as 13- or 14-year-olds to ask passersby, ‘Are you Jewish?’ For those who say yes, they offer to help put on tefillin, the little wearable black boxes containing prayers, or, depending on the season, give them matzos or Hanukkah menorahs. They, too, may not convince others to become observant, but they are always solidifying their own observance.

“But as we know, Chabad is, in fact, quite good at persuading some Jews to become more observant. And the 4,000 or so shluchim, emissaries, who along with their wives and children have dispersed across the globe to do missionary work among lapsed Jews, or those in areas with little organized Jewish life, have also become necessary to hundreds of thousands of Jews’ religious lives. Their schools, summer camps, adult education classes, and weekly Shabbat dinners have fortified Jewish life, often in towns or countries where Jewish life had been left for toyt (dead). And the emissaries do it because the Rebbe told them to.”

The Rebbe’s model of Jewish outreach has been imitated by all Jewish movements including the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Haredi. Peggy Noonan has written that moral issues would be better addressed by leaders such as Schneerson than by politicians, and since his death, Schneerson has been referred to as the Rebbe for all people. His teachings have been published in more than two hundred volumes. He also written tens of thousands of letters in reply to requests for blessings and advice. These detailed and personal letters offer advice and explanation on a wide variety of subjects, including spiritual matters as well as all aspects of life.

Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart

From 1999 to 2015, Jon Stewart hosted the half-hour “The Daily Show,” a satirical news program on Comedy Central that changed the way younger Americans received and engaged the news. While not inventing anything new, Stewart was able to dominate the airwaves and on occasion the news cycles by lashing out at phenomena and individuals in American politics and society and, even more importantly, by putting the news in a historic and social perspective. He taught a generation of American viewers about context, nuance and morality that no one has been able to do with the same authority since, including his closest protégé John Oliver (alas, not Jewish).

Stewart also attacked with satire but also with straight-forward criticism, media personalities, shows and networks with a devastating effect. His appearance on CNN’s Crossfire on October 15, 2004 eventually killed the show. Speaking to then-host Tucker Carlson, Stewart criticized the state of television journalism and pleaded with Carlson and his co-host Paul Begala to “stop hurting America,” referring to both Carlson and Begala as “partisan hacks.” He insisted that Crossfire had failed in its responsibility to inform and educate viewers about politics as a serious topic, engaging in partisan hackery instead of honest debate. He said that the hosts’ claim that Crossfire is a debate show is like “saying pro wrestling is a show about athletic competition.”

In response to Carlson telling him, “Come on, be funny,” Stewart said, “No, I’m not going to be your monkey.” Later in the show when Carlson said, “I do think you’re more fun on your show,” Stewart retorted, “You’re as big a [expletive] on your show as you are on any show.” Carlson said, “You need to get a job at a journalism school,” to which Stewart responded, “You need to go to one!”

In January 2005, CNN announced that it was canceling Crossfire. When asked about the cancellation, CNN’s incoming president, Jonathan Klein, referenced Stewart’s appearance on the show: “I think he made a good point about the noise level of these types of shows, which does nothing to illuminate the issues of the day.”

In March 2009, exchanges between MSNBC’s financial guru Jim Cramer and Stewart led to a highly anticipated face-to-face confrontation on The Daily Show. The episode had 2.3 million total viewers, and the next day, the show’s website saw its highest day of traffic in 2009. Although Cramer acknowledged on the show that some of Stewart’s criticisms of CNBC were valid and that the network could “do better,” he later said on The Today Show that Stewart’s criticism of the media was “naïve and misleading.” But watch for yourselves, it’s obvious Stewart murdered him.

Stewart frequently accused Fox News of distorting the news to fit a conservative agenda, at one point ridiculing the network as “the meanest sorority in the world.” Stewart criticized Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson – a former Miss America and Stanford graduate – for claiming that she googled words such as “ignoramus” and “czar.” Stewart said that Carlson was dumbing herself down for “an audience who sees intellect as an elitist flaw.”

During an interview with Chris Wallace on June 19, 2011, Stewart called Wallace “insane” for saying that Stewart’s comparison of a Sarah Palin campaign video and an anti-herpes medicine ad was a political comment. Stewart also said Fox viewers are the “most consistently misinformed” viewers of political media. This comment was ranked by fact-checking site PolitiFact as false, with conditions, and Stewart acknowledged his error.

Stewart also used The Daily Show to advocate for causes such as the treatment of veterans and 9/11 first responders. He is credited with breaking a Senate deadlock over a bill to provide health care and benefits for 9/11 emergency workers; the bill passed three days after he featured a group of 9/11 responders on the show. In March 2009, Stewart criticized a White House proposal to remove veterans from Veterans Administration rolls if they had private health insurance; the White House dropped the plan the next day.

Levi Strauss

Levi Strauss

Anyone can make a pair of blue jeans, but Levi Strauss & Co. made the first blue jean –– in 1873. Levi Strauss, the inventor of the quintessential American garment, was born in Buttenheim, Bavaria on February 26, 1829 to Hirsch Strauss and his second wife, Rebecca Haas Strauss. Two years after his father succumbed to tuberculosis in 1846, Levi and his sisters emigrated to New York, where they were met by his two older brothers who owned a NYC-based wholesale dry goods business called “J. Strauss Brother & Co.” Levi soon began to learn the trade himself.

When news of the California Gold Rush made its way east, Levi journeyed to San Francisco in 1853 to make his fortune. He established a wholesale dry goods business under his own name and served as the West Coast representative of the family’s New York firm. Levi eventually renamed his company “Levi Strauss & Co.”

Around 1872, Levi received a letter from one of his customers, Jacob Davis, a Reno, Nevada tailor. In his letter, Davis disclosed the unique way he made pants for his customers, through the use of rivets at points of strain to make them last longer. Davis wanted to patent this new idea, but needed a business partner to get the idea off the ground. The patent was granted to Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss & Company on May 20, 1873; and blue jeans were born.

Prior to the Levi Strauss patented trousers, the term “blue jeans” had been long in use for various garments (including trousers, overalls, and coats), constructed from blue colored denim. Originally designed for cowboys and miners, jeans became popular in the 1950s among teenagers, especially members of the greaser subculture. Jeans were a common fashion item in the 1960s Hippie subculture and they continued to be popular in the 1970s and 1980s youth subcultures of punk rock and heavy metal. Historic brands include Levi’s, Lee, and Wrangler. In the 2010s, jeans remain a popular fashion item, and they come in various fits, including skinny, tapered, slim, straight, boot cut, cigarette bottom, narrow bottom, bell bottom, low waist, anti-fit, and flare. “Distressed” (visibly aged and worn, but still intact and functional) jeans trousers have become increasingly fashionable, making pre-sale “factory distressing” a common feature in commercially sold jeans.

In the 2010s, jeans are a very popular article of casual dress around the world. They come in many styles and colors. However, blue jeans are particularly identified with American culture, especially the Old West. As well, although jeans are mostly known as a popular fashion garment for several decades, they are still worn as protective garments by some individuals, such as cattle ranch workers and motorcycle riders, due to their high durability as compared to other common fabrics.


Jewish Agency Launches Food Co-Op in Druze Village

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israel Venture Network (IVN) this week launched their fourth food co-op in the Druze village of Beit Jann. Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky, IVN cofounder Itsik Danziger, spiritual leader of Israel’s Druze community Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif, and leaders from Beit Jann and the Druze community attended the grand opening.

The new chain of food co-ops is a joint venture of the Jewish Agency and IVN, in partnership with UJA-Federation of New York and the United Jewish Endowment Fund of Greater Washington, aimed at lowering the cost of living and strengthening communities across Israel. The first three branches are located in the southern Israeli communities of Sderot, Yeruham, and Arad. The new branch in Beit Jann was launched in partnership with Ofakim LaAtid (“Future Horizons”), a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering young leadership in Israel’s Druze community. The food co-ops operate as social business ventures, offering consumers significantly less expensive groceries and investing profits in local social empowerment initiatives. The chain is expected to reach forty branches across Israel and is based on close cooperation with local communities and various nonprofit organizations.

Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky said: “I first heard about the ‘covenant of blood’ between the Jewish people and the Druze community while I was still in the Soviet Union, fighting for our right to immigrate to Israel. But that bond must also generate a covenant of life, and we must do everything to ensure that that covenant is strong and enduring. I am confident that this new joint venture between The Jewish Agency, Jewish Federations, and Israeli business leaders will enable us to help narrow the socioeconomic gaps within Israeli society and strengthen Israel as a whole.”

IVN cofounder Itsik Danziger said: “This new chain represents a substantial new step by IVN to promote the model of social businesses, an innovative model aimed at correcting market failures in Israel. The launch of the fourth food co-op in Beit Jann demonstrates that social businesses can generate sustainable, socially conscious activity while fortifying their financial viability with independent profits. The new chain helps lower the cost of living in Israel and we look forward to expanding it into additional communities across the country.”

Spiritual leader of Israel’s Druze community Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif said: “The decision by The Jewish Agency, headed by our friend, Natan Sharansky, and IVN to launch a branch of their new food co-op chain in Beit Jann is more than a statement – it is a fitting act, because Druze communities are worthy of investment and constitute an integral part of the State of Israel.”


In Netanyahu Meeting with Putin Tuesday Syria on the Table, But Not Iran

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to hold talks on Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, on a state visit to Moscow marking the 25th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries. This is the second meeting between the two leaders in Moscow in the past month and a half, and the fourth over the past year. Netanyahu only met once with President Obama over the same period of time.

Speaking on Monday at a ceremony commemorating the Six-Day War, Netanyahu noted that the hostile Arab armies that circled Israel back in 1967 were “armed, trained, supplied and supported by the Soviet Union.” He added quickly: “Look what a tremendous difference there is nowadays. Russia is a world superpower and the relations between us are getting ever tighter. I’m laboring over tightening this connection and it serves our national security these days, and it has prevented needless, dangerous confrontations on our northern border.”

It could be said that Israel is experiencing its best relationship with Russia on record, with the volume of trade, tourism, security and political coordination at a peak—much of it credited to Avigdor Liberman’s stint as foreign minister. But there are obvious areas where Russia is not coming across as a friend of the Jewish State, if anything, it appears to be leading and supporting Israel’s most vehement enemies — Iran with its proxies, and the Palestinians.

The Russians are supplying Iran with advanced S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile systems, and are in the process of selling the Iranians many more weapons, because the Iranians can now afford it, their multi-billion dollar accounts having been restored by the Obama-Kerry team.

The Russians are fighting in Syria alongside Hezbollah, and are facilitating—actively or tacitly—the leakage of weapons, advanced and otherwise, from Syria into south Lebanon, where they will some day be used against Israel.

In 2015-16 the Russians have spearheaded several critical anti-Israel UN votes: they supported the Egyptian proposal to impose UN supervision on Israel’s nuclear facilities; they’ve been voting regularly with the anti-Israel majority at the UN Human Rights Council; they supported the Palestinian proposal to create a blacklist of companies that trade with the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria; and they’ve supported the shameful UNESCO resolution that removed all trace of recognizing a Jewish presence in Jerusalem.

So perhaps the friendship between the two countries could get a little friendlier.

According to the Kremlin press service, Putin and Netanyahu are going to have a detailed exchange of opinion on the Middle East regional issues, with special emphasis on the struggle with international terrorism. The agenda will be expansive, says the Kremlin, “since relations between Russia and Israel are at an advanced stage and have the character of partnership.”

Russian Ambassador to Israel Alexander Shein told TASS that the two sides plan to sign an agreement on pensions to Russian-born Israelis who did not keep their Russian citizenship after emigrating from the former USSR. A Russian good will gesture in this case would go a long way to boost Netanyahu’s promise to his new coalition partner Liberman, who conditioned the move into government on an increase in those pensions.

There is certainly a renaissance in Russian-Israeli ties: since the year 2000 Israeli Prime Ministers have made thirteen visits to Russia, Netanyahu accounting for seven of those visits. Putin visited Israel once during the same period.


Meet Israel’s New-Old Immigrant Absorption Minister

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

By Michael Bachner/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – While most eyes have been on Avigdor Liberman being appointed as Defense Minister, another new minister from the Yisrael Beiteinu party was sworn into office on Tuesday afternoon in the Knesset. Incoming Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, an Olah (immigrant) from Russia, has now returned to the office she headed between 2009 and 2015 and will be in charge of successfully integrating Israel’s many immigrants into society.

Sofa Landver, 66, was born in Leningrad in the Soviet Union (today Saint Petersburg, Russia) and moved to Israel in 1979. After serving in the Ashdod city council and in the Jewish Agency, she was elected as Knesset member for the Labor party in 1996 – the first former Soviet citizen to become a member of the Israeli parliament.

She was a Labor MK until the elections in 2003 when she lost her seat in the parliament. But in 2006 Landver made a significant political shift by leaving the left-wing Labor party and becoming a Knesset member for the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party headed by Avigdor Liberman, another immigrant from the former Soviet Union.

After the last elections in March 2015 Landver was forced to leave her office when her party did not join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition. Ze’ev Elkin, also originally from the Soviet Union, replaced her for one year until Liberman rejoined Netanyahu’s government last week.

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Russia to Return Israeli Tank Captured 34 Years Ago in the Battle of Sultan Yacoub

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

By Jonathan Benedek/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his gratitude to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday for signing a presidential decree ordering the return to Israel of an IDF tank that was captured 34 years ago during a ferocious battle in the First Lebanon War.

“I thank the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, that he responded to my request to return the tank from the Battle of Sultan Yacoub to Israel,” Netanyahu said.

The tank, used by the IDF during the Battle of Sultan Yacoub during the First Lebanon War on June 10, 1982, was captured by the Syrian army and eventually transported to the Soviet Union, then a Cold-War ally with Syria. The tank has since remained in Moscow, stored in a museum of armored tanks.

MK Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, the former deputy defense minister, was an officer in artillery unit 7054 that helped rescue a battalion of Israeli tanks trapped by a Syrian ambush in Sultan Yacoub, Lebanon.

“We fired the whole night, and in the morning the battalion was rescued – except for that one tank and the three missing soldiers, whose fate is still unknown today,” Ben-Dahan recalled to Tazpit Press Service (TPS), referring to the continued mystery behind three IDF soldiers, Zachary Baumel, Zvi Feldman, and Yehuda Katz, who went missing in action during the Battle of Sultan Yacoub. During the entire battle, 30 Israeli soldiers were killed and eight tanks were lost.

“Hearing about the return of the tank sends me back 34 years,” Ben-Dahan told TPS. “It gave me chills.”

Ben-Dahan also expressed hope that the tank’s return might bring news about the fate of the missing soldiers, though he said he cannot comment on any discussions or progress toward that goal.

Netanyahu raised the issue of returning the tank with Putin last month, after having received a request from IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.

“For the families of the soldiers missing in action, Zachary Baumel, Zvi Feldman, and Yehuda Katz, there is no trace of the boys nor a burial plot to go to for 34 years now,” noted Netanyahu. “The tank is the only evidence of the battle, and now it will be returned to Israel thanks to President Putin’s response to my request.”

A delegation from the IDF’s Ordnance Corps is in Moscow working with representatives from the Russian army to transport the tank back to Israel as soon as possible.

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

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