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May 3, 2016 / 25 Nisan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Union’

Mendelevich: ‘Educating Young Jews Is at the Core of my Being’

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

In Unbroken Spirit: A Heroic Story of Faith, Courage and Survival (Gefen Publishing), the newly released English translation of his memoir, internationally renowned former Soviet refusenik Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich tells a compelling story of struggle and victory. He spoke to The Jewish Press during his recent U.S. book tour.

The Jewish Press: You’d already published your memoir in Hebrew years ago. Why an English version at this particular time?

Rabbi Mendelevich: A group of American Jews who were involved in the struggle to free Soviet Jewry came up with this idea about a year ago. Pamela Cohen, the president of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews from 1986 through 1996, called and asked me why I never published my book in English. She and others like her saw my life as more than a simple story. It is the story of a young boy struggling to find his Jewish identity in a spiritual wasteland and of a young man challenging the draconian dictates of the Communist monolith in a struggle for freedom.

She came to the conclusion that my story published in English would inspire young and often alienated Jews searching for their own identity.

Describe your life as a young child in Stalinist Russia.

I grew up as an atheist. My parents were not interested in me having a Jewish education. My father was involved in the Communist underground in Riga, but both my parents spoke Yiddish and I was taught Jewish history. Back then in the Soviet Union Jewish tradition did not exist but Riga was the center of the renaissance of the Jewish movement. Before World War II, books were published in Russian about the great Revisionist Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky.

In the 1960s an underground movement of Jews supporting Israel began to take hold. One could tell the difference between life under Stalin and life under Khrushchev. You could sit in jail forever under the Stalin government for learning about Jewish culture, language and thought. In 1963, the first book on Jewish vocabulary was printed and many books on Hebrew poetry served as a catalyst for Jews to become closer to their identity. It was like a miracle.

When did you take an interest in activism on behalf of Israel and Jews?

While still a teenager, I gravitated toward activism in 1964. I attended a technical college for four years and studied electronics and computers. I worked as an engineer in a big plant in Riga, and in terms of technology it was advanced. The moment I became an engineer, I wanted to leave the Soviet Union and go to Israel. I had a big decision to make. If I obtained my degree I would have to stay in the Soviet Union forever, so I sacrificed my career by not getting the degree. It boiled down to either staying in the Soviet Union or living as a free man whose destiny is in his hands.

Where was your life heading after you finished your studies?

In 1968 I was fired from my job as an engineer for inquiring about emigrating to Israel. At that juncture I was also heavily involved in various Zionist organizations and in 1969 I assumed the position of editor of a national journal on Jewish issues. Everything had to be top secret so we met clandestinely in forests or perhaps in someone’s apartment. I was in charge of deciding what to write and what articles to publicize, and it was sent all over the Soviet Union. We had only published two issues before my arrest.

Why did you hijack a plane in 1970?

Soviet antipathy toward Israel continued to increase in the years following the 1967 Six-Day War. Israeli soldiers were called hooligans in the Soviet press but we in the Jewish underground only yearned for the freedom to go to Israel, study in yeshiva and be part of the Zionist dream. We decided to hijack a plane to the West to spotlight our plight, even though we knew how risky it was. While undertaking this action, we dreamed about fighting in the Golani Brigade in Israel. We also wanted to counter the incessant Soviet propaganda that told the world there was no Jewish issue in Russia and that Jews were very happy to be proud Soviet citizens. We wanted the world to know there was a growing number of Jews who wanted to connect to their Jewish heritage, to study Hebrew and dedicate themselves to studying Torah.

Fern Sidman

An Anglo in the Knesset: Catching Up with Jeremy Saltan

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Why don’t you tell our readers a little about yourself. Where are you from? When did you make aliyah? What is your professional and education background?

My name is Jeremy ‘Man’ Saltan. I am 28 years old and I am married with one daughter. I made aliyah with my family from Chicago to Bet Shemesh in 1995 at the age of 11. I have been a resident of Mevaseret Tzion since 2006.

I spent my IDF service as a commander in the PDCs (Palestinian Detention Centers) for Security Prisoners. My first post was in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield. I had an eventful service, and received ‘soldier of the year’ honors in 2005 for the Efraim district near Tulkarem. By the end of my service I was Deputy Warden of one of the jails. I’ve been in the reserves since my release from active duty, and I am a veteran of the second Lebanese war.

Following my army service, I worked for the OU (Orthodox Union) in Jerusalem as Assistant Director of NESTO (Native English Speaking Teen Olim), a sister youth group of NCSY that helped integrate Anglo teens into Israeli society.

I also opened Israel’s first comedy club in Jerusalem, Off The Wall Comedy Basement, with a partner. I served as manager for the club’s first two years before taking a more backseat role. I am in my fifth year as a house comedian. My routine focuses mostly on Israeli politics.

Aside from comedy, I have been active in other areas of the entertainment industry as a director, producer, actor, writer and model in theater, television and film.

I also spent a short while as managing director of a Jerusalem commercial real estate company.

I founded “Knesset Jeremy,” the only blog in English that documents all plenum discussions and bills passed, in 2010, and I write about Israeli politics in the Times of Israel.

I graduated two ICPT (Israel Center for Political Training) Bar-Ilan University programs on Knesset legislative work and political campaign management. I have an associates degree in political science from Liberty International University. I also completed various Dale Carnegie Business and Managment programs.

What do you do in the Knesset? How did you get that job?

I work in the Knesset for National Union Chairman Ya’akov “Katzeleh” Katz. I work on his social media and run his personal website. I also draft legislation and persuade Knesset Members from other parties to co-sponsor his bills. My most well-known work was on the Grunis Law, which canceled the minimum tenure for the Supreme Court president position, clearing the way for Asher Dan Grunis to get the job. I also worked very hard on the Outpost Bill which did not pass. I also work for the Faction Manager Uri Bank and help him with the factions’ daily Knesset tasks. When Bank was on vacation I led the weekly faction meeting with the MKs and I take over Bank’s role when he serves in the reserves.

I have volunteered for the National Union in each election since 1999. In the 2009 election I was the head of the party’s campaign in the Bet Shemesh area, which gave the National Union the highest percentage of the vote among the top 20 largest cities in Israel. After completing my studies at the ICPT in 2010 I started working with MK Katz.

Are there many Anglos in Israeli politics? Do you work with many? If so, what do they do?

I wouldn’t say there are many Anglos in Israeli politics but there are around a dozen of us. I work with them from time to time. To name a few of the Anglos I work with: National Union Faction Manager Uri Bank; Jonathon Javor, the Foreign Affairs Advisor to the Knesset’s Defense and Foreign Affairs Deputy Chairman Otniel Schneller; and Jonathon Daniels, who works for the Knesset’s Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee Chairman and Deputy Speaker Danny Danon.

What would you say is the general attitude towards Anglos amongst Israeli politicians, if any?

Most Israeli politicians don’t understand why Anglos would make Aliyah because of the financial difficulties of living here. Some of the more cynical politicians think that Jews will do a better service to Israel if they stay in their home countries and make Israel a campaign issue there. The ideological politicians appreciate Anglos the most.

Jewish Press Staff

Germans to Pay Holocaust Restitution to Former Soviet Union Victims

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

In what the Holocaust Claims Conference is calling a “historic breakthrough”, the German government decided on Monday at pay restitution to victims of Nazi Germany now living in the former Soviet Union.

The group of 80,000 living survivors of the German genocide attempt had never received any compensation.

Former US Ambassador to the European Union Stuart Eizenstat, the Claims Conference’s Special Negotiator, praised Germany  for “its willingness, so long after World War II, and in such challenging economic times today, to acknowledge it’s still ongoing historic responsibility.”  The Chairman of the Claims conference claimed the group has been working for decades to get the country to pay restitution to this group of victims.

The compensation package comes just days after a German court’s decision to ban ritual circumcisions, halting one of the most fundamental practices of Jewish faith and raising an uproar of protest throughout the Jewish world.

Estimates are that the new compensation package will be worth approximately $300 million.

Most of the money will come from the Hardship Fund, and will consist of one-time payments of approximately $3,150 to Jews who fled the Nazis during their eastward push. Applications for Jews from Ukraine, Russia and other non-European Union countries in Eastern Europe will begin November 1.

Victims from the east will also now receive as much restitution as victims from western countries – approximately $370 per month.

Germany also decided to relax eligibility rules for those who receive restitution payments for being forced to go into hiding. Eligibility had only been for those who went into hiding for at least 12 months.  Now the eligibility threshold will be six months.

German restitution to victims of the Holocaust was controversial when the idea was originally floated by West German leadership in the 1952 Luxemborg/Reparations Agreement.  Signed by Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Sharett and West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, the agreement held Germany responsible for paying Israel for Jewish slave labor used by the Nazis and paying damages for persecution of Jews during the Holocaust.  Private victims would also be paid for property stolen by the Nazis.

Advocates of the measure argued that the funds were a significant contribution to the building of Israel, helping Israel to absorb 500,000 refugees from war-torn Europe, and also helped create awareness of the Holocaust around the world.  In the ten years following the signing of the agreement, West Germany paid three billion marks to the State of Israel for victims who left no surviving heirs.  The money was used to build Israeli infrastructure and other projects.  Half a million private victims have been paid over $60 billion.

Menacham Begin, then Herut party MK in Israel’s first Knesset, former Irgun fighter and future prime minister of Israel, was vehemently against the agreement, leading a large and violent demonstration against the measure.  At the event, Begin told protesters  “Our honor shall not be sold for money, our blood shall not be atoned by goods, we will wipe out the disgrace!”.

The opposition of some members of Israeli society of being given money to appease the loss of the Holocaust was so great that many attempts were made to thwart the agreement.  In 1952, Dov Shilansky, a Holocaust survivor and former commander in Europe’s  Jewish underground tried to bring explosives into Tel Aviv’s Foreign Ministry building in order to stop Israeli-German negotiations.

That same year, an assassination attempt on Adenauer led investigators back to Israel’s Herut party and its members from the Irgun.

Malkah Fleisher

Title: When General Grant Expelled the Jews

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Title: When General Grant Expelled the Jews Author: Jonathan Sarna Publisher: Schocken

Not all Civil War-era Jews were speculators, peddlers or smugglers, and not all Civil War-era speculators, peddlers and smugglers were Jews. But Americans living through the rebellion – and many crises before and since – often cast blame on the tiny minority that 19th-century Northerners and Southerners often referred to as “the Israelites.” Shocking as it seems, one of the most notorious offenders was the greatest Union hero of the war: Ulysses S. Grant.

That Grant harbored anti-Semitic inclinations should come as no surprise. He was educated at West Point and spent years in the Army, both bastions of period intolerance. In 1862, he assumed a particularly chaotic military command, including border states technically loyal to the Union but filled with slave-owners and Confederate sympathizers. Into this combustible mix swarmed speculators eager to turn chaos into cash – among them, certainly, Jewish ones. Grant and his chief lieutenant, William T. Sherman, groused about the Jews’ presence repeatedly but initially kept their concerns to themselves.

What apparently sent Grant over the edge was the arrival of another camp follower – his greedy father, accompanied by three Jewish business partners, all eager to use the general to secure profitable cotton-trading permits. Grant blamed the Jews.

Still, no historian has been able to fully understand – much less justify – why, on Dec. 17, 1862, Grant issued his notorious General Orders No. 11 deporting Jewish citizens. “The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade,” went the chilling text, “…are hereby expelled from [his command in the West] within twenty-four hours.” Those returning would be “held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners.” Just two weeks before, while Abraham Lincoln was scheduled to extend freedom to one minority group with the Emancipation Proclamation, his most promising general thus initiated a virtual pogrom against another.

In the end, as the gifted and resourceful historian Jonathan D. Sarna points out in this compelling page-turner, General Orders No. 11 uprooted fewer than 100 Jews. But for a few weeks, he suggests, it terrorized and infuriated the Union’s entire Jewish population. It also inspired one of the community’s first effective lobbying campaigns. Jewish newspapers compared Grant to Haman, of the Purim story. A delegation of Jewish leaders traveled to the White House to protest directly to the president, who quickly but quietly had the order revoked, eager to right a wrong but reluctant to humiliate a valuable military commander. As Lincoln carefully put it, “I do not like to hear a class or nationality condemned on account of a few sinners.” He never mentioned the episode publicly.

Grant tried not to as well, understandably omitting it from his otherwise exhaustive memoirs. In 1868, however, he did issue a letter confessing: “I do not pretend to sustain the Order…. [It] was issued and sent without any reflection and without thinking of the Jews as a sect or race…. I have no prejudice against sect or race.” But Sarna notes that this weak and “self-serving” statement – neither an admission nor an apology – “did not actually bear close scrutiny.” Besides, it was motivated as much by politics as regret. At the time, Grant was running for president, and Jews were threatening to block-vote against the Republican. Although no statistical evidence survives, most Jews probably did vote Democratic in 1868. The general won anyway. And to his credit, he continued to evolve.

The Jewish tradition encourages atonement and makes forgiveness mandatory. Grant made amends; the Jews forgave. As president, Grant appointed Jews to official posts, welcomed Jewish delegations, supported Jewish relief efforts in Europe and once attended a worship service at a Washington synagogue, the first president to do so. When he died, Jews mourned him as a hero.

Sarna’s account shines brightest around the edges of the story, offering valuable new insights into ethnic politics, press power and the onetime ability of leaders to flip-flop with grace. In a particularly stunning, if disturbing, argument, he suggests that many Northern Jews brought suspicion on themselves by questioning emancipation, fearful that freed blacks, abetted by anti-Semitic abolitionists, would compete with immigrant Jews for economic opportunity. Sarna shows how ineffective communications within Grant’s command further ignited unfounded calumnies against Jews. And he posits that the general’s military subordinates might have urged their overworked chief to ban Jewish speculators in order to leave the field open for their own graft.

Some quibbles: The illustration of “Grant, about 1860” is a photo of a beef contractor mistaken for the general; and Sarna’s occasional embrace of au courant phrases (“He was a one-man Anti-Defamation League,” “speak truth to power”) proves jarring.

What is still the best analysis ever offered about Grant’s greatest mistake came from his widow. In her own unsparing memoirs, Julia Dent Grant called General Orders No. 11 “obnoxious,” admitting that her husband “had no right to make an order against any special sect.” Sarna’s excellent study offers no excuses either and comes closer than ever to an explanation.

Harold Holzer

Nationwide Local Authorities Strike Ends

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

The director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office and the head of the Union of Local Authorities have signed a Memorandum of Understanding ending their dispute and the two-day old strike that paralyzed towns and cities nationwide.

The details of the agreement have not yet been released.

Jewish Press Staff

Seven Likud Mayors Break Local Authorities Strike

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

At least nine local authorities’ responded to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ‘s call to continue to provide services as usual.

Jewish Press Staff

Beis HaMikdash – Spiritual Power Source

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

The Bach, commenting on Tur Shulchan Aruch, explains that the decrees of the Yivanim against the Jewish people occurred because the Jewish people became “lax in their service.”

Earlier in history, the Beis HaMikdash had been the center of life, the pride of every Jew. Going up to Yerushalayim three times a year was looked upon with excitement and great anticipation, and the effect of the service was appreciated by all. However, by the time of the Chanukah events, that appreciation was long gone. While the kohanim still brought the korbonos, the service in the Beis HaMikdash had lost its luster and glory.

The Bach seems to be saying that all that was to befall the Jewish people was because we no longer approached the Avodah with the appropriate sense of purpose, and therefore it was taken from us. This, however, becomes difficult to understand when we take into perspective what was actually happening in those days.

State of the Union

At the time of Chanukah, there was much wrong with the spiritual state of the Jewish people. Ignorance had become profound, and entire generations were no longer brought up in the ways of Torah. The Greek/Syrian philosophy had taken hold, and many Jews considered themselves more Greek than the Greeks. In their homes they spoke the language of Yavan. They schooled their children in the ways of Yavan, and all that they aspired for was acceptance in Greek society.

According to Megillas Chasmonaim, the Jews of Yerushalayim asked Antiochus to rename their city Antioch in his honor. They even sent a contingency asking him to erect a gymnasium in Yerushalayim. A gymnasium was not merely a hall for the practice of Greek sports; it was a center of idol worship. It represented a house of Greek culture for the specific function of propagating Greek ideology and all that it stood for. Initially, Antiochus refused. Finally the Jews of Yerushalayim gathered together 360 talents of silver – a king’s ransom – to bribe Antiochus to erect such a building. He agreed, and Megillas Chasmonaim begins with the statement: “They erected a gymnasium in Yerushalayim.”

The Ramban on Chumash says, “If not for the Chasmonaim, Torah would have been forgotten from the Jewish people.” If so, why did the Bach say that the reason for the decrees was the Jews being lax in the Avodah? There seem to be many other things going wrong.

Spiritual Fuel Source

The answer seems to be that in spiritual manners there is no stagnation. A person is either going up or going down. The concept of remaining static doesn’t exist. If a person has the spiritual fuel he requires, he ascends level after level. If not, he declines. That is the reality. That is the way Hashem created the world. The Bais HaMikdash was the nuclear reactor that fueled the spiritual needs of the world.

The nation as a whole took a downturn because the source of all ruchnius was no longer potent. It had lost its luster in the people’s eyes, and so it was no longer providing the life-giving nourishment Hashem created it to give. The Jewish people are one unit, inextricably tied together in fate and spiritual level. The core of our spiritual energy in those days was the Beis HaMikdash. The Avodah was the lifeline and fuel source for the nation. Since it was no longer practiced properly, it couldn’t maintain the spiritual needs of our people. The reason the Jews of Yerushalayim became enamored with Greek culture was because the furnace providing the level of spiritual power was no longer functioning at capacity. The Avodah no longer accomplished its desired effect, and the Jewish nation itself was in grave danger.

The only cure was for the Jewish people to reach a new understanding of the primacy of the Avodah and to rededicate themselves to the service in the Beis HaMikdash. When led by the Chasmonaim, kohanim who did the Avodah and who were willing to sacrifice their lives for it, the nation was rededicating itself to the centrality of the Avodah. Then the Beis HaMikdash could be reestablished and pump out the spiritual nourishment needed to keep Klal Yisrael whole.

Kiruv – Mitzvah of our Generation

This concept is especially relevant in our times when as much as 90 percent of our nation is made up of non-practicing Jews. While the numbers may seem daunting, we nevertheless live in amazing times. There is a powerful receptivity among our people – religious and not yet religious – for growth. People hunger for truth and meaning in their lives, and the Torah is the only pure source that fills that need. Clearly, the mitzvah of our generation is kiruv. As such, it is an obligation on each of us to do all that we can to help our brothers who were brought up bereft of their heritage. From that aspect, the work is clear.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/beis-hamikdash-spiritual-power-source/2011/12/21/

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