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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘summer’

A Different Kind Of Camp: An Interview with Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Kenneth Brander

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future seems to expand with each passing year.

Founded in 2005, the Center – among other activities – now educates hundreds of ordained rabbis through its Rabbinic Training Placement and Continuing Education program; sends 1,000 students every year to help communities around the world through its Experiential Education and Service Learning program; makes 60,000 shiurim of YU rabbis and others available online through YUTorah.org; helps YU students and alumni find their Intended through YUConnects.org; and sets up kollelim around the country through its Community Initiatives program.

This summer, the Center ran day camps in five Israeli development towns: Dimona, Arad, Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malachi, and Beersheba. Staffed by 60 YU students, the camps serviced over 350 Israeli children.

The Jewish Press recently spoke with Rabbi Kenneth Brander, the Center’s dean, about the summer camps.

The Jewish Press: What was the logic behind Yeshiva University students from America organizing summer camps in Israel?

Rabbi Brander: One of the things that attracted the campers to our programs – each one was sold out and there were waiting lists – was the fact that you had American students coming over to Israel. It was cool that they were American.

Some of these kids have lived very challenging lives; they come from poor homes, foster homes, one-parent homes, etc. I’ll give you an example. We took the campers from Kiryat Gat and Kiryat Malachi to the airport to welcome in a Nefesh B’Nefesh flight; most of them had never been to an airport before.

Is the poverty really that bad in these cities?

There’s a significant divide between the wealth in the center of Israel and the south of Israel. The south is a very, very poor area. In a place like Dimona, two out of every three children are beneath the poverty line, which is significantly lower than the American poverty line.

One day, one of the kids from Dimona took a donkey to travel to camp. That’s what we’re talking about.

What’s the purpose of these camps?

They’re English-immersive summer camps. So, for example, we’ll take mishnayos and translate them into English.

Our other thing is that we want to build the campers’ self-esteem because they have very poor self-esteem. They’ve been told by everybody that they can’t accomplish – that for the rest of their lives they’re going to live in this cycle of poverty. But then, all of a sudden, they see – through arts and crafts, martial arts, dance, etc. – that they actually have skills and talents.

Are all the campers in the “poor self-esteem” or “troubled homes” categories?

They all come from challenging situations – some of the cities more than others. The population in Arad is nowhere near as financially challenged as the populations in the other camps. I would not put Arad and Dimona in the same category as Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malachi and Beersheba.

In the latter cities, we only worked with kids who were basically on the cusp of failing out of school, who are classified by their schools as being in the “Nachshon group.” In Dimona and Arad, though, we had a mixture of all different kinds of kids.

Were these campers mostly Sephardim? Ashkenazim? Russian? Ethiopian?

It’s a klal Yisrael program. You have everyone. Development towns such as the ones we were in have a lot more Ethiopians and Russians than maybe other towns, but it’s a mixture….

You’ll also have kids who wear kippot along with kids who don’t. But I have to tell you – it’s such an unbelievable thing to see – even the kids who don’t wear kippot are very traditionally inclined. For example, they’ll say a berachah before they eat or they’ll put on tefillin in the morning. It’s an interesting perspective, which I don’t think we see as much in America.

What ages are the campers and what are the hours of these camps?

Ages 12 through 16 or 17. They start at eight in the morning and go to very late in the afternoon. But our students live in the towns, so the relationship doesn’t end at the end of the day. They hang out with our students on Shabbos or they’ll join us for Seudat Shlishit. It’s a fully immersive experience.

16 Retired Couples Make Aliyah on Nefesh B’Nefesh Flight

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

A group of 16 retiree couples ages 50 to 80 made Aliyah to Israel in mid-August on Nefesh B’Nefesh charter Aliyah flight that left out of JFK airport in New York. The retirees joined their children and grandchildren who had made Aliyah over the last decade.

The mature Olim, who wore specially made T-Shirts saying “Aliyah: A Family Tradition,” reinforced the Nefesh B’Nefesh vision that western Olim successfully making Aliyah encourage others to do the same. They were greeted in Israel by PM Benjamin Netanyahu as well as a countless number of relatives at Ben Gurion Airport; sporting signs and various family t-shirts, all overjoyed to be welcoming their parents and grandparents to Israel.

Nefesh B’Nefesh is celebrating its tenth anniversary this summer, marking a decade since its inaugural charter Aliyah flight in 2002. The milestone comes as the organization prepares to welcome more than 2,500 North American and British Jews making Aliyah this summer on two charter and seven group Aliyah flights, in cooperation with the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption and The Jewish Agency for Israel. Nefesh B’Nefesh is expecting to bring a total of 4,800 newcomers to Israel in 2012.

Through The Ages In Jewish Song: Itzhak Perlman on His New CD Collaboration with Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Internationally renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman and acclaimed Chazzan Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, chief cantor at Manhattan’s Park East Synagogue, have collaborated on a forthcoming CD titled “Eternal Echoes: Songs and Dances for the Soul.”

The Jewish Press recently interviewed Perlman at his summer home in the Hamptons.

The Jewish Press: The combination of you on violin and Cantor Helfgot singing will be a unique treat to listeners. How did this collaboration come about?

Perlman: Someone close to my family kept telling my wife and me that we must go hear Cantor Helfgot. Last year we were in Israel and we found out he was performing, so we went to hear him. It was extraordinary. A voice like that comes around once in a generation. After hearing him sing I knew I wanted to do something with him. We contacted him and he was equally excited at the prospect of collaborating on a CD.

Is the music on the CD related to the upcoming High Holidays? And have you done any High Holiday instrumentals in the past?

I have never done High Holiday instrumentals. There are three selections for the High Holidays on this CD. We do Kol Nidre. As you know, there are many different tunes for Kol Nidre. Helfgot is a devotee of the late Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt and he models his tunes after his.

But these are not just compositions for the High Holidays. “Eternal Echoes” takes one through the ages in Jewish song, and people will relate to all ten pieces.

Who chose the pieces?

I did. We discussed them, and Helfgot would tell me if he wasn’t comfortable with something, but for the most part he appreciated everything I suggested.

Do you play your Stradivarius on this CD?

Yes, of course.

You were born in Israel. Is that where you first started violin lessons? How supportive were your parents?

I started playing violin at the age of four. When my parents saw how much I wanted to play, they helped me accomplish it. By the time I came to America I had been studying in Israel for quite a few years.

There is more consideration and public accommodation today for people with physical disabilities than was the case years ago. Was it very hard to manage then?

It isn’t as easy today as people imagine. With all the laws that have been enacted, there still are many places I cannot enter, even in Manhattan. But when I was growing up in Israel I didn’t think I needed any special accommodation. My music lessons were up a flight of stairs and my father carried me up. I did whatever I had to do and didn’t think about it.

Itzhak Perlman performing at a White House state dinner in 2007.

Today when I travel all over the world it can still be hard to find a hotel with wheelchair-accessible rooms. Let me tell you a story about the time I was performing in Santiago, Chile. The hotel was supposed to have rooms that were suitable. When I got to my room, it was indeed all right, but the bathroom had a big step up to enter. I called the manager and he told me he would take care of it. When I returned to my room many hours later, workers had chiseled the step away and in its place was a smooth surface. Of course, that doesn’t always happen.

Did your children inherit your talent?

My three daughters all play musical instruments and are very talented, as is my wife, who also is a violinist. My two sons have talent but are not at the present time doing anything in the music field.

Do you spend the summer in the Hamptons?

My wife started the Perlman Summer Music School out here. We take about forty students each summer and I teach them and they have the chance to devote themselves to their music during this time. In fact, on the new CD there are some pieces with orchestra backing, and it is these students who are performing.

I have granddaughters in Israel who have been playing violin since they were very young, and a few years ago when you were in Israel you had an evening in Tel Aviv for students of violin to come onstage and play with you. These two granddaughters were among them. And it was a wonderful experience for them.

Who Is Behind the Wave of Fires in Israel?

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Firefighters cannot remember a summer like this in many years. For the past few weeks, the country has been burning. But this story is not about the blazes, according to Channel 2 News reporter Shay Gal, rather it is about the blame that is immediately flung into the air, usually even before the fires subside. As renowned Journalist Ed Murrow put it: A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.

Two Intifadas and continuous hostilities have solidified the idea in Israelis’ minds. It’s not as if there aren’t cases of arson based on nationalistic motives, but those take place mainly in areas along the line of demarcation between Israel proper and the disputed territories. Still and all, every time a wave of fires sweeps through our country’s forests, we are quick to suspect that the Intifada has returned.

The fire that broke out in June at Kibbutz Maale Hachamisha served as a good example of this worrisome phenomenon. There it happened because of a Molotov cocktail that was thrown from a neighboring village – in other words – arson. Minutes later, a fire was lit in Motza as well. The immediate assumption was that the arsonist continued directly there. However, in Motza it was actually workers at an archeological site that went out to lunch and left the fire burning, and so that story was gone.

Last Wednesday, there was a fire on a mountain adjacent to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. The first suspicion here was also arson. The following day, Gal returned to the mountain with arson investigator Moshe Elazri of the Fire Department. “We discovered signs of beer bottles here,” he relates. People from the village even related that they had seen people making a barbecue in the area.

As the fire investigator was talking, the wind that had caused the coals to burn began to blow and the fire broke out again. Everything started again right in front of their eyes. The picture becomes clear; a command center was established and fire trucks rushed to the area. Then, inevitably, a report came over the wire: “Listen, there are some individuals here that are starting fires all over the place.”

“I don’t know what they’re talking about here,” said Elazri and thereby clarified the absurdity in the flammable situation.

And, as the command center was preparing to alert helicopters to search for suspects of an arson that had never been committed, Elazri tried to calm everybody down. “Eli, I was just at the scene where the fire started again – no arsonists.” A short while later, the fire was extinguished; for the prejudice to be extinguished will take more time.

On the way to the next destination, Elazri looked at a tree trunk that was still burning, a clue that the fire could once again break out. From there, they continued to another, heavy-topped tree, the kind that started the fire in the Carmel forest tragedy. Officials back then suspected two children who were playing in the area.

“We’re referring to a 75 square dunam area that was burnt – almost half the area of the forest,” explains Dr. Leah Wittenberg that has been researching the effects of the Carmel fire for years. She estimates that it will take 40-50 years before the forest will get back to its original, green state. The recovery process, surprisingly enough, has not even begun.

According to Israel Police statistics, 500 new arson files have been opened since the beginning of the year. At least 400 suspects have been arrested. However, be aware, nationalistically motivated arsons constitute less than one per cent of the incidents, or about 10 incidents. The rest of the fires are either criminal arson or simple negligence.

Jewish Identity Runs Strong as Russian Speaking Teens From Around the World Gather in Israel

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Close to 300 Russian speaking teens from around the world gathered in Israel for a two-week summer camp organized by the Jewish Agency and the Genesis Fund.

The camp, part of an ongoing effort called Project Rimon, is focused on a commitment to instill Jewish identity within the campers and use Israel as the common denominator that unites Jews of Russian origin from diverse locales around the globe.

“This project is part of The Jewish Agency’s activities to strengthen Jewish identity among the younger generation in Israel and throughout the Jewish world,” said Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky. “The camp will provide youth from abroad with the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the State of Israel and with Israeli society, while Israeli youth will expand their familiarity with Jewish life abroad.”

Now in its third year, Project Rimon is divided into two camp sessions, IsraCampus and Ma.Com, comprised of 140 campers each. Besides the traditional camp activities, attendees are able to choose from different tracts of focus and include options in theater, design, media, music and education among others.

A major educational goal of the Jewish Agency and Genesis Fund’s activities in the former Soviet Union, these camps help reinforce the bond Russian speaking youth have with the global Jewish community. The program works to foster leadership and promote dialogue about Israel and Judaism among the younger generation.

“If you asked me last summer when I was a camper at Makom what ‘Shabbat’ is I would not know how to answer,” said Danik, 15, who came to camp from Russia. “When my friends ask me about Shabbat I can now talk about what it means to me and how it is part of my personal story. I now enjoy discussing my feelings about our traditions with my friends at camp and hearing everyone’s opinions on our joint heritage.“

“I am very surprised by the stories I hear from the campers that come from Russia,” said Michal, 14. “My mother has always taught me about anti-Semitism, but I was sure that these were stories from the distant past. It turns out that my friends from Russia have to deal with this ugly phenomena in their schools and on the streets of their towns and have to decide on a daily basis whether or not to stand up for Israel. I have so much respect for them for doing so.”

“Our goal is to create modern and attractive Jewish educational environment in Israel, the heart of the Jewish people, to unite Russian-speaking teens from Israel and around the world,” said Sana Britavsky, Executive Director of the Genesis Fund in Israel. “We use traditional and innovative camp experiences and activities to highlight the exciting world of Jewish culture, an important instrument in the process of self-discovery and the development of Jewish identity.”

35 Hours

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

http://haemtza.blogspot.co.il/2012/08/35-hours.html

“Camp directors waited about 35 hours before calling a criminal lawyer, who advised them to alert authorities.”

This line from a story in the New York Post about an alleged sex abuse case is why we ought to be reporting  suspicions of sex abuse directly to the police. The accused, 31 year old Yoel Oberlander is a delivery person for Golden Taste – a Kosher food company. He was delivering milk to Camp Shalva, an Orthdodox Jewish summer camp in Monsey. He snuck into one of the bunks at night under the cover of darkness when the boys were asleep.

Although according to the article there are no allegations of any sex abuse… this fellow’s hands are not clean. He is a convicted pedophile who in 2002 sexually abused an 11 year old girl.

The camp’s directors twiddled their thumbs for 35 hours and then called a criminal lawyer who advised them to make the report. 35 hours is a long time. As the advocacy group Survivors for Justice (who reported the incident to the police after they received reports of it and the fact that boys were told not to call their parents) said:

An immediate report would have protected kids in other camps where this driver was making deliveries that day and the next. We hope the children were not pressured into changing their stories.

Has this community not learned anything?  This community still feels that they can handle things. At the expense of the victims and their families.

And how in heaven’s name does a pedophile who is convicted and registered sex offender get a job delivering milk late at night to a summer-camp full of children? Don’t they do background checks?

I had a discussion recently with an individual who works very closely with victims of abuse and their families – a man who has been ‘around the block’ on this issue and knows the score. I happen to know that he is highly respected by the right wing and he knows that world well.  He is grieved by the way sex abuse is being treated there. He doesn’t seem to think there is going to be any change unless… (verbatim quote):

1) there are high-level arrests and convictions of their roshei kehilla and (certain) rebbes for the unbelievable terror campaigns they are conducting against the poor victims and their families.

2) there are huge lawsuits against their mosdos that result in yeshiva building sold at auction to satisfy tens-of-millions in damages.

3) both of the above.

Perhaps that is what it will take!

Invaders from Outer Space

Monday, July 30th, 2012

http://sultanknish.blogspot.co.il/2012/07/invaders-from-outer-space.html

New York City has been invaded, its buildings blown up and its citizens slaughtered hundreds of times. The invaders come every summer, descending from the sky and under the earth. Sometimes they aliens or gods or monsters. They are, however, never Muslims.

Every summer, for 10 dollars you can see a fantasy version of September 11 reenacted with invading enemies who deserve no mercy and receive none. They come in swarms, buildings fall, people run for cover and then they are beaten back and banished. And then, as summer fades, we pause for that obligatory week in which attention must be paid to commemorating the attacks of September 11 while seeing no connection between the discharges of tension through fictional victories used as an escape mechanism from a war that we dare not fight.

The Dark Knight, the previous Batman film, contained an elaborate analogy to the War on Terror, a shadow version of the real war fought out by men in costumes proving that it was possible to release a big-budget movie supportive of the War on Terror so long as it was dressed up in the right costume.

Since then, and before, New York City has been attacked by meteors, ice ages, mythical skeletons, more costumed criminals, the year 2012, and every possible imaginary scenario that can be dreamed up. It just hasn’t been attacked by Muslims because that’s something that doesn’t happen in movies. Only in real life.

The actual enemy rarely shows up in movies. There have been more movies made attacking the War on Terror than movies showing American soldiers and law enforcement officers fighting terrorists. After ten years of war there have hardly been any movies made about the war in Afghanistan and the most watched movie about the War in Iraq began with an anti-war quote, just so no one made any mistakes about where everyone involved stood. And all of these are a drop in the bucket.

Our cinematic world is a relentless barrage of anxieties; week after week, movie theater screens light up with depictions of civilization collapsing into chaos, overrun by hordes of zombies and monsters, our cities torn down, buildings burning, police and military forces helpless in the face of the enemy. These collective anxieties are packaged up and exported to audiences at home and around the world who sit watching our unacknowledged fears of invasion and collapse play out in movie theaters.

A culture’s art, no matter how tawdry it may seem, is also its dreams. They are the stories we tell, and they are full of conscious and unconscious meanings. Legends are created by a culture to battle its unspoken fears. Its great hunters and warriors, whether born of a god, risen from the sea or wearing a cape take a society’s terrors and defeat them in a story that is reenacted over and over again to bring courage to the people and remind that all obstacles may be overcome with a strong spirit.

No matter how degenerate a culture may be, its people still need such legends because they still have fears that need calming. The more troubled the time, the more they have need of such legends and the more they may even escape into them to find comfort against the coming of the long night.

The Islamic invasion is only dealt with through such legends where the enemy is reduced to metaphors, as the Soviet Union and the threat of Communism were in earlier generations. In earlier generations, we saw the Nazi on screen, and he is still a reliable villain, but the Communist is a more elusive fellow and the Islamist is more likely to show up in British movies than in American ones. Instead, the Communist became subsumed in stories of pod people and zombies, in depersonalized bombs falling from the sky and enemies with accents but no ideology. Even brainwashing was distanced as a technological trick in the Manchurian Candidate rather than an ideological practice.

If Communists occasionally showed up in movies, Islamists are as rare as white elephants. There is plenty of work for Muslim actors portraying unjustly accused men being persecuted by bigoted and ignorant law enforcement officers. But there is hardly any work for them portraying terrorists. Much as negative portrayals of Communists was Red-Baiting, negative portrayals of Muslims is Islamophobia. And it is better to be afraid of imaginary things than real ones.

Just Keep Doing What You’re Doing

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

An elephant at Ramat-Gan’s Safari park is receiving the heat prevention treatment from a park employee. In fact, the list of measures taken by Safari employees working with elephants to deal with the summer heat goes:

1. Hose elephant with water.
2. Did we say Hose elephant with water already?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/photos/just-keep-doing-what-youre-doing/2012/07/25/

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