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August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘summer’

My Park

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

I grew up a few blocks from the Ramat Gan National Park, a man made urban park, which isn’t really national, with a nice, little man made lake. It’s only 0.7 square miles, but when I was growing up it was plenty.

Googlemaps screen shot

Googlemaps screen shot

On summer afternoons, my dad would come home early from work and we’d drive over, rent a boat (you had to leave your watch as deposit in the rental booth, to make sure you didn’t steal your boat, which occasionally made it difficult to come back on time).

They made the artificial lake in 1959, and dad and I were regulars there. They also built a restaurant in the middle of the lake (see top picture), which I don’t think ever actually operated. I could be wrong. Throughout my childhood it was just this cement shell you’d circle with your rowboat.

I suppose some ideas need to be thought through better. But the park continues to be a source of safe fun for the locals. It’s gotten more Haredi in recent years, but it’s still as happy as it used to be, I think. I don’t go there much these days, since we live in Netanya. I don’t know if they still rent boats. I should take my daughter one day and check it out.

The local ducks and the cats are very happy.

ducks in the park

Kite-Flying Festival

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

The Kite-Flying Festival, held annually at the Israel Museum, has become a Jerusalem tradition. Professional and amateur kite lovers from all over the country gather in Jerusalem every summer to fly kites that they designed themselves or created at the workshops held at the museum during the festival.

During the festival, the museum’s skies are transformed into a vivid display of color and shape that is visible from miles away.

Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Tossing a Jewish Lasso over Wyoming’s Wild West

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Originally published at Chabad.org.

By Carin M. Smilk

Summer is winding down in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It’s a short season, weather-wise, but it’s also a season that brings in tourists, lots of them, who come for the mountains and national parks, the outdoor sports and the wide open spaces. They come to make good on the state slogan: “Like No Place on Earth.”

Not long after they leave, winter beckons a slew of other travelers, those lured to the skiing and snow activities. It’s another bustling time; the two seasons bring in about 4 million visitors a year.

And about 1 percent of them—an estimated 40,000 people—are Jewish.

That helps make life busy for Rabbi Zalman Mendelsohn, co-director of Chabad Jewish Center of Wyoming with his wife, Raizy. Not that it’s so quiet the rest of the year. The couple, based in the town of Jackson—in western Wyoming near the border of Idaho, almost completely surrounded by mountains and in the well-known valley of Jackson Hole—serves the roughly 500 permanent Jewish residents there, out of a general population of nearly 10,000. It’s an interesting mix, says the rabbi, of singles, couples, families, retirees, tourists and those with second homes in the area.

“We have a very small community,” acknowledges Mendelsohn, “but we offer quality services—substantive services. We’re reaching out to individual Jews in a very personal, warm, inviting way.”

Since their official 2008 move to Jackson, they have started all kinds of programs. There’s the annual Jackson Hole Jewish Music Festival, which brings in bands and performers from all over, coupled with Camp Gan Israel, a Jewish women’s circle, a “Mommy & Me” class, Torah study, lectures, “Coffee & Kabbalah,” and Shabbat and Jewish holiday dinners and services. Currently, they rent space for High Holiday services but are looking for a place to buy.

 

Also on tap are lecture series, including one to take place this weekend, Aug. 16-17. The Shabbaton will include services and a Friday-night dinner, then Saturday-morning services and a three-course lunch, with lectures both days by guest speaker David N. Weiss. A Hollywood film writer with several blockbusters to his credit, Weiss has traversed religiously from being a secular Jew to a Christian youth worker, and now follows a life of observant Judaism.

“His story is very compelling,” says Mendelsohn. “He never really had the opportunity to study Judaism in-depth. It shows that you can always start fresh and new, even if you’re very famous or a celebrity. You can always rediscover your roots.”

The series has attracted 50 to 60 people on average, and the rabbi expects a similar turnout for Weiss.

‘Very Much at Home’

 Ben from San Francisco put on tefillin for the first time in his life. Photo credit: Chabad.org

Ben from San Francisco put on tefillin for the first time in his life. Photo credit: Chabad.org

So how has life changed for a couple raised in completely different living environments? The rabbi, in his early 30s, hails from Miami, Fla., and Raizy, in her late 20s, grew up in Israel. What’s it like to live in the least populated state in the nation?

“We felt very much at home right away,” says the rabbi. “People are warm and welcoming; there’sthe renowned Western hospitality. It’s a cowboy town, it’s the Wild West, but people also have a more spiritual character here. And our goal is to introduce a Yiddishkeit element to it.”

That sense of spirituality could have something to do with the physical backdrop. Jackson is a stone’s throw from Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Teton Mountains. The rabbi talks of the everyday appearance of bison, moose, deer, wolves and bears. “There’s wildlife in the streets,” he says, pausing to add that he just saw a herd of elk run up the side of a nearby mountain.

He also notes the atmosphere—both scenically and spiritually—is good for the couple’s four young children. After all, for kids in such a place, aside from their home-schooling time, “life is surrounded by G-d’s great outdoors.”

Of course, it’s not all vales and wild flowers. There’s no kosher food, no Jewish schools, no other Orthodox presence and no mikvah. The closest mikvahs are in Bozeman, Mont., and Salt Lake City, Utah—both a five-hour drive or one-hour flight away.

“Still,” says Mendelsohn, “we have a wonderful community, and we are honored to also accommodate visitors who come through. I travel around the state quarterly visiting Jewish people. We’ve put up about 60 mezuzahs in the last three years all over the state. One by one, we’re connecting Jews with their heritage.”

“That’s the story of Wyoming. We may be one of the most remote Jewish communities in the country, but I want people to know that Yiddishkeit is alive and well and thriving in Jackson Hole.”

Laura Goldstein, 34, can attest to that. Originally from New Jersey, she now lives in Victor, Idaho, which borders Wyoming and is about a 45-minute drive from Jackson. She and her husband Howard, a wildlife biologist, came to live out West in 2009, and she says the rabbi was one of the first people they met.

“We were looking for a way to connect with other Jewish people, and we knew Chabad would be a good way to do that,” says Goldstein, an administrative assistant. “They invited us over for Shabbat dinner, and it was lovely. They were so gracious. They make you want to be part of the community.

“And every opportunity they have of doing a mitzvah, they do. It’s incredible.”

She’s also seen Chabad grow as an organization. At Rosh Hashanah, there used to be three men, not even a minyan; now there may be 14. And Shabbat dinners in the summer can draw 40 to 50 people. She even mentions that just this year, she met a Jewish woman from New York who runs a clothing store/jewelry shop in Victor.

Learning by Example

Most of all, Goldstein says she and her husband have modeled their Shabbat observance at home on the Mendelsohns’ example. “Knowing them has been a huge part in that direction. We feel that we’re better Jewish people out here. It probably wouldn’t have been as big a part of our identity” back East.

She adds that Raizy has shown her how to make challah, light Shabbat candles and recite the Havdalah prayers.

“It’s great to see how they bring in what they need,” says Goldstein. “These people are making it work; they’re doing it.” So she figures she can, too.

“Rabbi Zalman,” as Josh Beck and other local residents call him, “is involved in everything. He’s an amazing man.”

“And he’s one of my closest friends here.”

Beck, 41, an orthopedic surgeon from New Jersey, has been living in Wyoming for seven years. He says he considers himself a very big supporter and very active with Chabad there.

He attends Shabbat dinners (the true reason, he says, is because of “Raizy’s fantastic cooking”) and various programs, but admits to preferring “the off-season, when there’s a handful of locals.”

He says that he, his wife and 3-year-old daughter “love living out here.” Beck hunts and fishes and skis; in fact, he notes, he found his job there while on a ski vacation.

A Spiritual Change of Scenery

Cross-country skiing also appeals to Stephen and Linda Melcer from Boca Raton, Fla., who have rented a house in Jackson the last two winters and intend to come again this year.

“It’s a nice change of scenery, of climate,” says Stephen Melcer, a 61-year-old lawyer. “It’s also a nice change religiously and a change in diversity.”

The couple belongs to Boca Raton Synagogue, an Orthodox shul. “Whenever we travel, we look for a place to be for Shabbos, and a good place to start looking is Chabad. We’ve noticed here that a lot of people attending are travelers, and a larger percentage of people are not observant.”

Melcer says he appreciates “going into an environment where a rabbi is focused on the less observant.”

“They are very warm,” he says of the Mendelsohns. “I think they enjoy the challenge of it. And they certainly have a lot of challenges. The incredible thing is that challenges never cross their minds.”

Ken Begelman is glad that’s the case. He and his wife, Helen, helped the Mendelsohns come to town.

Twelve years ago, the Begelmans moved to Teton County, about 8 miles outside Jackson, from Palm Beach County, Fla. When they arrived, they wanted a shul—a congregation of some type. Begelman says he was familiar with Chabad rabbinical students coming to Wyoming temporarily (they have for decades, as part of the “Roving Rabbis” program), and got in touch with people in Brooklyn to work to make it happen permanently.

“He’s a very outgoing guy, very inclusive; he gets along with everybody,” says Begelman, a 66-year-old retired cardiac surgeon, of Mendelsohn.

He notes that there’s a large number of 20-year-olds who come to work during ski season or in the summer who have never had any religious affiliation or education, and “the rabbi has turned a lot of these kids around.”

As for Wyoming, the former Floridian insists that “it’s wonderful here. It’s what America should be. Everybody respects everybody else. You don’t have to lock your house or your car. There’s no crime.”

Sure, the winter temperatures can fall to 20 below and the snow can average 38 feet a year in the mountainous regions, but residents insist that it’s an invigorating experience.

In regards to future expansion, Begelman says that if “one new Jewish family a year comes permanently, that would be a lot.” Population growth is indeed slow; Begelman has seen signs in the state that note there are 10 horses for every one person residing there.

As far as the rabbi and his family go, “I’m very happy that they’ve fit in well in the community and that they like it here. It’s a wonderful place to live.”

Israelis Should Avoid Visiting Turkey, Govt. Says

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

The Israeli government issued an unequivocal travel advisory on Monday warning Israelis to avoid visiting Turkey, a popular vacation destination for Israelis over the summer and during the upcoming Jewish holidays, Israel Hayom reported.

The Prime Minister’s Office issued its routine semi-annual travel warning, formulated by the office’s Counterterrorism Bureau, stating that all non-essential visits to Turkey “should be avoided.”

The threat issuing from Turkey is defined as an “ongoing potential threat,” a mid-level threat on the bureau’s five-level scale. Turkey is now on the same threat level as countries where jihadi terror cells are known to be operating, including Nigeria, Kenya and Azerbaijan.

The travel warning is for the upcoming Jewish holidays in September. So far, over the summer months of July and August, tens of thousands of Israelis have visited Turkey.

The Counterterrorism Bureau also recommended that Israelis avoid visiting the two countries with which Israel shares a border and a peace agreement: Egypt and Jordan. In those two countries, the threat facing Israelis was defined as a “basic concrete threat,” one level higher than the threat facing Israelis in Turkey. For Morocco, another popular destination for Israelis, an “ongoing potential threat” warning was issued.

‘Quarter of New York City Underwater in 40 Years’

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

“Move over Sandy, the Worst is Yet to Come” might be the headlines in New York City in 2050 if scientists’ projections are correct.

Studies that a quarter of the city will be under water by 2100 have been updated and show that the disaster resulting from climate change could come by 2050, the Associated Press reported Monday.

Summer weather in 2050 is projected to be similar to the sunny South of today, with the number of 90-degree days doubling or tripling. Aides to Major Michael Bloomberg are scheduled to study the new findings on Tuesday and come up with ideas how to deal with the crisis.

Chauncey Gardner Is Alive and Well and Living in Foggy Bottom

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

On Monday, December 10, 2012, State Dept. Spokesperson Victoria Nuland, during her regular Daily Press Briefing, started sounding like Jerzy Kosinski’s memorable character in Being There, Chance the Gardener, immortalized by Peter Sellers in the 1979 movie by the same name.

Here’s a short scene from the movie:

President: Mr. Gardner, do you agree with Ben, or do you think that we can stimulate growth through temporary incentives?

Chance: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.

President: In the garden.

Chance: Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again. President: Spring and summer.

Chance: Yes. President: Then fall and winter.

Chance: Yes.

Benjamin Rand: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we’re upset by the seasons of our economy.

Chance: Yes! There will be growth in the spring!

Benjamin Rand: Hmm!

Chance: Hmm!

President: Hm. Well, Mr. Gardner, I must admit that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I’ve heard in a very, very long time. … I admire your good, solid sense. That’s precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill.

And here’s yesterday’s exchange over the Quartet meeting in Brussels this coming Wednesday, dealing with the “peace process”:

MS. NULAND: We continue to work with Congress to make the case that continued U.S. support for the Palestinian people is in our national interest, is in the interest of the peace process. But again, there are a lot of views in the Congress, particularly in light of the move at the UN.

QUESTION: Just on this, there’s a Quartet meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, envoy level. Do you expect anything substantial or significant to come out of this, or is this just kind of a stock-taking exercise in looking at how dismal the chances are to get the peace process started again?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think it’s been a while since David Hale has met with his Quartet counterparts, so I think it’s an opportunity to look at where we are and if and when we might be able to be in a position to get these parties back to the table, obviously, in light of all of the factors. So it’s – let’s say that at this stage, it is gardening, but it is important gardening.

QUESTION: Gardening. You mean like weeding?

MS. NULAND: No, it’s nurturing of the soil. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Are they actually planting? Are they –

MS. NULAND: Nurturing of the soil.

QUESTION: Are they planting any seeds? (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: They’re always trying to plant seeds, as you know.

QUESTION: There’s more gardening? (Laughter.)

And here’s the rest of Monday’s exchange regarding freezing settlements as the surefire way of bringing peace and brotherly love to the region, which preceded the above botanical discussion:

QUESTION: On the Palestinian issue, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas stated today that he, in fact, called for the resumption of direct negotiations with Israel from the point where they were last and during the last negotiation session, and – provided that all settlement activity be frozen for the time being. Do you support such a call, or is that – you consider that to be conditional?

MS. NULAND: As the President has said all the way along, as the Secretary has said, we are prepared to be full partners in supporting negotiations if and when the parties are ready to enter into direct negotiations. So it always takes two to tango, as we say. So – and we’ve also called for both sides to come to the table without preconditions.

QUESTION: Do you consider it reasonable to call for resumption of negotiations from the point where they ended?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, we support any scenario in which the parties can get back to direct talks, because it’s going to be the only way to settle all of the longstanding issues between them. It’s the only way to get to the two states living next to each other in peace that we all seek.

Oh No, Not Him Again: Anthony Weiner Testing the Water?

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

In one of politics most recent ignominious flights from respectability, former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner resigned his office in June, 2011, after it was exposed that he had a habit of “sexting” young women he met online with pictures of his barely clad private parts.

But if  you have consigned Weiner to the bin of history or source of tasteless jokes, you may have underestimated him.

Weiner, 47, who used to represent part of the Rockaways section of New York City which was slammed by Hurricane Sandy a few weeks ago, wrote an op-ed along with Congressman Meeks, who still represents the area.  The op-ed, published in the New York Daily News yesterday, Nov 28, was essentially a call for more funding, better transportation and improved protection from natural disasters – some might also describe it as a stump speech – for a community that was devastated by the storm.

This is not the first time Weiner has reared his head since his awkward exit from office less than 18 months ago.  In fact, Weiner reactivated his infamous twitter account during Hurricane Sandy, when he issued a call for help for the besieged community.

Other than these few forays, Weiner has largely been mentioned in the news only as the other half of a power couple – his wife, Huma Mahmood Abedin, works as Deputy Chief of Staff and Assistant to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Abedin, an American of Pakistani descent, was the target of criticism by a small group of conservative members of Congress who were alarmed by her alleged connection to Islamist extremists, including the Muslim Brotherhood.

Cong. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and four other Republicans, including Cong. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Cong. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) sent a letter to the U.S. State Department Deputy Inspector General this past summer.  In the letter, the congressmembers asked that there be an investigation into whether there has been an Islamist infiltration of the U.S. government, based upon research presented in various publications.  Abedin was specifically mentioned in that letter because her mother, her late father and her brother all were allegedly members of, or had connections to, Muslim Brotherhood organizations.

Those allegations ended up doing more harm to Bachmann and her colleagues than to Abedin, as not only Hillary and Bill Clinton defended her, but prominent Republicans such as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Speaker of the House, Cong. John Boehner (R-OHIO), blasted Bachmann for conducting what they essentially called a witch hunt.

Anthony Weiner is Jewish and was widely considered one of Israel’s most ardent defenders in Congress.  Weiner and Abedin had a son, Jordan, over the summer.  The reception for Jordan’s bris was held in the multi-million dollar Park Avenue apartment the couple moved into after Weiner resigned from office.  The apartment is owned by Jack Rosen, head of the American Jewish Congress and a huge financial supporter of the Clintons.

If Weiner is considering another political run, he already has a potential campaign war chest of $ 3.9 million.

There has been talk that Weiner might be eying the New York City mayoral seat.  If so, a poll conducted this summer by NY1-Marist poll shows New Yorkers are not enthusiastic, with 58% responding that they did not want Weiner to run, and just 25% in favor.

That same poll asked New Yorkers for their take on several other potential NYC mayoral candidates, including another disgraced Jewish New York Democratic politician, Eliot Spitzer.  Spitzer fared only slightly better than Weiner, with 57% opposing his run and 30% in favor.  Spitzer, New York State’s former governor, was forced to resign his office in March, 2008, after his repeated liaisons with prostitutes was exposed.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/us-news/ny/oh-no-not-him-again-anthony-weiner-testing-the-water/2012/11/29/

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