Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Did You Get Invited to Obama's Hanukkah Party?

By Nathan Guttman for The Jewish Daily Forward

Obama's Hanukkah PartyIt’s time to check your inbox. The White House has sent out invitation for this year’s Hanukkah reception hosted by President Obama.

It is a good way of measuring one’s status in the world of Jewish leadership. If you’re not invited to the White House reception you’re either from the wrong party (in that case you might want to check out the RJC’s party) or you’ve just no longer a “Jewish leader.”

The good news is that this year’s list of invitees, which usually reaches 300-400 members of the tribe, is expected to be even bigger. In fact, the traditional White House Hanukkah reception will, for the first time, be divided into two receptions, one after the other.

The events, an administration source promised, would be identical, so no need to fret over which reception is better. They’ll be plenty of Jewish VIP’s at both events. Israeli-born Grammy winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari is expected to perform, and, just as in previous years, the White House kitchen will be made kosher for one day, to provide for the crowd.

For those who did not get a White House invitation, they’ll be a host of other opportunities to light the Menorah with Washington movers and shakers: at the Congress, the Pentagon, and of course the traditional lighting of the National Menorah sponsored by Chabad at the Ellipse just south of the White House, next to the national Christmas tree.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Eight Giving Rituals for Your Family: Making the Most of Thanksgivukkah

Stefanie Zelkind, JTFN Director

From menurkeys to sweet potato latke recipes, there are many creative ways to celebrate this year’s unique overlap of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving. In an effort to move beyond the kitsch, I would like to offer some additional ideas for blending the Hanukkah tradition of giving with the Thanksgiving ideal of gratitude. Here are eight suggestions (sorry, I couldn’t resist) of how to use Thanksgivukkah as a launch pad for learning, giving, and values-based family activities.

1.  During Thanksgiving dinner, take a “gratitude break.” Ask everyone to take a moment to think about the best gift they have ever received (Was it a tangible gift? Was it an experience? What is a key lesson learned? Who gave it to you? What made it so special?) as well as the best gift they’ve ever given (To whom? Why did you give it?) Go around the table and share. You may just learn that your daughter’s favorite gift was that quiet morning you spent snuggling together on the couch, and not the iPod Touch you got her last Hanukkah.

2.  Make the tzedakah box the centerpiece on the table, and invite guests to give - a quarter, a dollar, or more - to a collective tzedakah pool. Over dessert, ask each guest to suggest an organization or cause to support and give a 60-second pitch explaining why it’s important. Then, talk about the different issues raised, hold a straw vote, and come to a shared decision about which organization(s) you’ll support. Don’t focus on the amount of money (although you may be surprised at how generous people are); it’s about the discussion and the feeling of giving together as a family. Thanks to my own family for creating and modeling this Thanksgiving tradition.

3.  Dedicate each night of Hanukkah to an organization that inspires you. After you light candles, share a bit about the organization’s work with your family. Visit the website together, read a brochure, describe an experience you had, then make a donation to support their efforts.

4.  If your family tradition is to give your children gifts each night, set aside one night as a night to “give to others.” Go to a toy store together and pick out a toy to donate to a local drive. You can present your children with pre-loaded giving cards, such as the ones and offer, and let them decide which project they want to support. Another approach is to find an age-appropriate, meaningful volunteer opportunity to allow them to give of their time and energy as well; DoSomething and VolunteenNation have great resources.

5.  Pull out the crayons, stickers, scissors, and glue for a make-your-own tzedakah box activity. For the artistically challenged, there are kits available online. As you decorate, talk about tzedakah, what it means to give Jewishly, and why it’s important. Drop the first coins in together as an opportunity to recite the Shehecheyanu blessing.

6.  Another gift idea: Books! Read about giving, tzedakah, and philanthropy. Check out these tzedakah-related books for younger kids from PJ Library and these for older kids and adults.

7.  Watch a movie with a philanthropic message, like Pay it Forward or The Pursuit of Happyness, and talk about its key messages. Here’s a full list of movies and discussion questions, along with some other great activities for raising philanthropic kids.

8.  Unlike Thanksgivukkah, giving should occur more than once every 70,000 years. Use the holiday as a chance to make a long-term commitment by setting out a course for ongoing giving. Open up a donor-advised fund for your child through your local Jewish federation or community foundation. Encourage your teen to join a teen foundation board at your synagogue, JCC, federation, or summer camp. Establish a giving tradition that works for your family (Put money in the tzedakah box every week? Give a portion of allowance to tzedakah? Make an annual gift alongside a family day of volunteering over winter break?).

Although Thanksgiving and Hanukkah won’t meet again in our lifetimes, each holiday on its own is a chance to the think about the gifts we give and the gifts we’ve been given. Many of these ideas can be applied beyond the rare Thanksgivukkah occurrence. What ideas do you have for exploring philanthropy with your family? Share your suggestions in the comments section below.

Stefanie Zelkind serves as the Director of the Jewish Teen Funders Network, a growing community of teen philanthropy program professionals. She also serves as mommy to two-year-old Ari, who can’t wait to celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime holiday mashup. Stefanie can be reached at

Coen Bros. Torture Another Schlemiel While Imagining They Are Dylan’s True Heirs

‘Inside Llewyn Davis,’ opening December 6, pits the existential victim against the very possibility of Jewish success

By J. Hoberman for Tablet Magazine

There’s an art of contempt—Alfred Jarry opening Ubu Roi with a bellowed expletive, Marcel Duchamp exhibiting a urinal as art, Johnny Rotten snarling “God save the Queen,” or the young Bob Dylan hurling accusations at “Mr. Jones” over a wailing wall of sound. And then there’s the artful contempt perfected by filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen.

Llewyn DavisAn undeniably talented two-man band of brothers, the Coens take pleasure less in confronting their audience or authority in general, than in bullying the characters they invent for their own amusement. Theirs is a comic theater of cruelty populated by a battered cast of action figures and a worldview that might have been formulated not from a Buick 6, à la Dylan but the Olympian heights of a bunk bed in suburbia.

Beginning with their neo-noir Blood Simple, the brothers have delighted in ridiculing their hapless creations—the yokels in Raising Arizona or O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the garrulous gargoyles of The Man Who Wasn’t There, the idiot schemers who come to grief in The Ladykillers or Burn After Reading, the doomed victims of No Country for Old Men, even the likable police officer in Fargo. The urge to play capricious deity is occasionally suppressed, but it’s striking that with regard to A Serious Man, the movie they considered their most personal, Ethan Coen bragged or confessed that “the fun of the story for us was inventing new ways to torture” their Job-like anti-hero, Larry Gopnik.

While most Coen characters could be considered garden variety shmeggeges, Larry Gopnik is something more culturally specific: a schlemiel. A shmeggege is merely a nitwit. The luckless and self-deceiving, well-intentioned but ineffectual schlemiel, defined by the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia as one who “handles a situation in the worst possible manner” is an existential victim—or maybe the embodiment of an existential condition. It’s been suggested by Ruth Wisse in her published doctoral dissertation The Schlemiel as Modern Hero (a title sounding like a Woody Allen gag) that for writers like Sholem Aleichem the Jews were “a kind of schlemiel people” and that his American heirs, Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud et al., perfected the schlemiel as literary type.

Abandoned by his wife, betrayed by his colleagues, ignored by his children, confounded by his rabbis, Larry Gopnik could be the most fully fledged schlemiel in American fiction since the eponymous anti-hero of Bruce Jay Friedman’s Stern. Stern, however, was a schlemiel in a gentile world; Gopnik is surrounded by Jews so grotesque that the movie might have been cast by Julius Streicher. (A Serious Man, as outraged Village Voice reviewer Ella Taylor wrote in a memorable rant, was “crowded with fat Jews, aggressive Jews, passive-aggressive Jews, traitor Jews, loser Jews, shyster-Jews, emo-Jews, Jews who slurp their chicken soup, and—passing as sages—a clutch of yellow-toothed, know nothing rabbis.” They are, to say the least, uniformly unlovely.)

Continue reading.

Monday, November 25, 2013

It’s Only Natural

Why Israel is the foundation upon which the house of Jewish culture can be most safely built

By Ran Baratz for Mosaic Magazine

It’s Only NaturalHillel Halkin’s Letters to an American Jewish Friend first came into my hands serendipitously. I knew of its existence in English but was unaware of a Hebrew translation. Then, on one of our regular visits with my wife’s parents at Kibbutz Maoz Haim in the Beit Shean valley, I found myself rooting through sacks of dusty books that the kibbutz library was offloading before sending them the way of all paper. There, among other finds, it lay—and in my native tongue.

Walking back to my in-laws’ house under the scorching sun, I opened to the first page, the second, third, fourth, and finished inhaling the rest in the cooling mercy of their air conditioner. I was struck not only by Halkin’s abundant intelligence but also by his intellectual honesty and courage. Of course, I already agreed with much of his thesis concerning the nature and meaning of Judaism after the establishment of the Jewish state. For his American Jewish readers, his analysis of their condition must have struck like an arrow.

Well established by now are Halkin’s all too accurate forecasts of the demographic decline of American Jewry. But that’s the least of it. The question is: why. And the answer, from my perspective, is related to a motif that runs like a scarlet thread through his book: the artificiality of Jewish identity in the Diaspora versus the natural identity of Jewish life in Israel. As a native Israeli, I hope I can contribute something to this trans-Atlantic conversation.

For Jews living outside Israel, especially in the liberal West, it can be hard to grasp the extent to which Judaism in Israel is predominantly a religion of the people.

I recall a Friday afternoon in the northern town of Rosh Pina. From the karaoke machine at a nearby swimming pool, Mizrahi music with a hip-hop beat reverberates incessantly. Suddenly, the yowlings of the immodestly dressed Jewish girls and their male counterparts in swimsuits and flip-flops are interrupted by an announcement crackling over the public-address system: “Shabbat begins soon!” Silence falls. Soon, showered, in white blouses, kippot out of pockets and on heads, they are making their way to synagogue, secular rock lyrics yielding to traditional sacred melodies.

Ask most of these pious young shul-goers: who is your favorite Jewish philosopher? How can Torah and science be reconciled? Do you think that choosing Judaism is an existential decision? They will think you insane.

Now ask:

Is there a chance you will marry a Gentile? “No way.”

Would you risk your life to fight for the Jewish people? “Absolutely.”

Do you believe in God? “Yes.”

Will you bequeath all this to your children? “A hundred percent.”

Are you proud to be a Jew? “With all my heart.”

Are all Jews brothers? “Yes.”

Continue reading.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Eight Nights of Tikkun Olam

 By Emily Rosenbaum for Raising Kvell

“Guys,” I said at dinner. “You know how every year on the first night of Hanukkah, we send gifts to kids on the Pine Ridge Reservation instead of getting gifts ourselves?”

Their mouths were filled with beans and their hands with burritos, but there was nodding and grunting. I pressed on, taking advantage of their momentary inability to object. “Well, I was thinking this year–since we have everything we need and some of the things we want–instead of doing eight nights of gifts, we could do eight nights of tikkun olam.”

Eight Nights of Tikkun Olam“Yeah!” 7-year-old Benjamin exclaimed through a not-quite-finished mouthful.

“Do you know what tikkun olam means?” I asked.

“Yes. It’s ‘healing the world.’”

“Like in the Rebecca books!” That was his 5-year-old sister. It’s all about the American Girl books with Lilah.

This was going better than I expected. We tossed around some ideas, like donating a Thanksgiving dinner or visiting a retirement home. Nine-year-old Zachary, however, was uncharacteristically quiet.

The idea had been inspired by bumper stickers that are popular in my Boston suburb. “Do you tikkun olam?” I pull up at stoplights behind these stickers at least three times a week. My reaction is always pretty much the same.

“Um, sometimes.”

I give to charity. I hold the door open for people and use canvas bags and compost. However, it doesn’t feel like enough. The vast majority of my days are spent living my life while feeling confident that tomorrow my kids will have access to fresh fruit and dental care.

More importantly, I’m doing a mediocre job teaching my kids to heal the world. We did the Walk for Hunger last year. They put a portion of their allowance aside to give to charity, and once they held a lemonade stand to help fund a homeless man’s move into an apartment. But, for the most part, the kids don’t know about our donations to Oxfam and Save the Children.

This is why my husband and I decided to ask our children to sacrifice a little to help others. Well, a little from an adult perspective. It looms pretty large from a child’s point of view.

We’re getting into that time of year during which our society seems based almost exclusively around the consumption of vast quantities of plastic toys and electronic items. Children go to school and talk about their gifts, which we tell them not to do but we all know they do anyway. This is when the lights get twinkly and the malls get nasty.

I love the happiness and peace Christmas brings some of my Christian friends. I have friends for whom Advent is a time of spiritual reflection and others who see distant relatives or reconnect with their loved ones. It’s a beautiful, meaningful holiday for many people. However–and I know I’m not alone in saying this–the frantic push to buy, buy, buy with ever-increasing urgency makes me want to curl up in a ball in the back of my closet and sing Maoz Tzur until January.

Buying my children lots of crap during this time of year feels like I’m subscribing to the happy-holidays-really-means-buy-Christmas-gifts school of thought. So, we asked our children to say “no” to stuff and “yes” to tikkun olam.

During that first dinner conversation, my younger two were enthusiastic about the idea. Zachary, however, still seemed to be mulling it over.

Finally, he spoke up. “We could donate books!” It had taken him a few minutes to respond because he had been thinking about what he would hope for if he had only some of what he needs and very little of what he wants.

They’re in–all of them. Eight days of tikkun olam instead of eight days of presents.

A week later, I was brushing Lilah’s hair after her bath and she mused quietly to herself, “We’re not getting anything for ourselves for Hanukkah. We’re getting things for other people.”

“That’s right, baby.”

She looked up at me. “We’re going to heal the world a little bit.”

“Yes, yes we are.”

Her eyes widened into a smile. “We could go to a soup kitchen and bring bread. Like in the Kit books!”

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ukrainian game has players kill Jews

In ‘Nationalist simulator,’ users strafe the motherland’s ‘enemies,’ including gays, Russians, Americans and communists

By Ilan Ben Zion for Times of Israel

If you were a kid between the late 1970s and the early ’90s, chances are you’ve played Space Invaders, while the more adventurous among us have also tried Papers, Please.Ukranian Video GameNow, a Ukrainian website features a throwback to those games with one that challenges players to defend the motherland against Ukraine’s enemies: gays, Russians, Americans, communists and Jews.

Egged on by occasional chants of “Kill, kill!” in English and an unrelenting stream of invective in Ukrainian, players move a small Ukrainian flag icon armed with an AK-47 and fire on successive waves of targets.

The objective of the game is to shoot the rainbow flags, Russian flags, American flags, red balls and Jews, who are represented by orange circles adorned with yarmulkes and sidelocks.

If you let too many enemies pass by unscathed, the game, titled ”Nationalist Simulator — Defend Ukraine,” is over.

One Twitter user remarked that no matter how hard he tried, he found it impossible to defeat the unending wave of Jewish icons in the game. A Russian Twitter user asked, “God, why had no one come up with this amazing game?”

Another Russian Twitter user called it “a masterpiece.”

According to information about the site on Wolfram Alpha, the website’s servers are hosted in Berlin, Germany.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

TIME names ReWalk among ’25 Best Inventions of the Year 2013′

Futuristic Israeli medical device developed by ARGO Medical Technologies gives paraplegics their freedom.

By Viva Sarah Press for Israel21.c

Israeli-developed exoskeleton for paraplegics is one of TIME magazine’s 25 Best Inventions of the Year 2013. The medical device developed by ARGO Medical Technologies is hailed for the autonomy it gives back to those who need it most.

“Call it an exoskeleton or a bionic suit, but for paraplegics, it’s freedom. This innovative device, developed by a quadriplegic Israeli scientist, relies on sensors that anticipate shifts in the user’s balance and translates them into movements like walking and standing,” writes the magazine about ReWalk.

At the 2012 London Marathon, a 32-year-old paraplegic chiropractor ran the race wearing the ReWalk suit.

ISRAEL21c was the first media outlet to write about the quasi-robotic exoskeleton which includes leg braces with motorized joints and motion sensors, a brace support suit and a backpack with a computer and battery.

The story exploded across world media and even landed the futuristic suit a prime time slot on an episode of Glee.

“What makes an invention great? Sometimes it solves a problem you didn’t think could be solved. Skyscrapers can’t turn invisible. Pens can’t write in midair. Paraplegics can’t walk. Except now they can,” TIME writes in its introduction to this year’s list. ReWalk is available in Europe and has received FDA approval.

Other inventions to make the coveted list include the cronut, a new fusion food of donut and croissant; Motorola’s Edible Password Pill, which does exactly what its name implies; 3Doodler, a pen that doodles in three dimensions instead of two; an artificial pancreas, that detects dropping sugar levels and shuts off regular insulin delivery for Type 1 diabetics; and Volvo’s Solar Pavilion, flexible solar panel that charges the car and folds up to fit in the trunk, among others.

Read more

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Brandeis halts alliance with Palestinian university after Nazi-style demo

At recent rally, Al-Quds U. featured banners with images of Palestinian suicide bombers, and some students portrayed dead Israeli soldiers


Brandeis University has suspended its partnership with the Palestinian Al-Quds University.

Brandeis SuspensionBrandeis University President Frederick Lawrence made the announcement Monday, saying the university will re-evaluate the relationship in the future. The universities have been sister institutions since 1998.

The decision was made in light of recent events at the university — which has campuses in Jerusalem, Abu-Dis and Al-Bireh — including a Nov. 5 Nazi-style demonstration at the main campus.

During the demonstration, protesters marched in black military gear with fake automatic weapons while waving flags and offering the traditional Nazi salute. Banners with images of Palestinian suicide bombers decorated the campus’ main square, according to a statement from Brandeis. Several students also portrayed dead Israeli soldiers.

Following the demonstration Lawrence called on Al-Quds President Sari Nusseibeh to issue in Arabic and English a condemnation of the demonstration.

In a statement issued to Al-Quds students Sunday, Nusseibeh said that “Jewish extremists” were using the demonstration to “capitalize on events in ways that misrepresent the university as promoting inhumane, anti-Semitic, fascist, and Nazi ideologies.” Without these ideologies, he said “there would not have been the massacre of the Jewish people in Europe; without the massacre, there would not have been the enduring Palestinian catastrophe.”

“As occurred recently, these opportunists are quick to describe the Palestinians as a people undeserving of freedom and independence, and as a people who must be kept under coercive control and occupation. They cite these events as evidence justifying their efforts to muster broad Jewish and western opinion to support their position. This public opinion, in turn, sustains the occupation, the extension of settlements and the confiscation of land, and prevents Palestinians from achieving our freedom,” Nusseibeh wrote.

The Brandeis University statement called Nusseibeh’s message “unacceptable and inflammatory.” It added: “While Brandeis has an unwavering commitment to open dialogue on difficult issues, we are also obliged to recognize intolerance when we see it, and we cannot – and will not – turn a blind eye to intolerance.”

It said that the partnership was formed more than a decade ago with an eye toward “opening a dialogue and building a foundation for peace,” and called the relationship “productive in many respects.”

Monday, November 18, 2013

Seeking Shelter

Why I am filing for asylum in my own country

By Annika Hernroth-Rothstein for Mosaic

AnnikaHere in Stockholm this fall, we in the Jewish community have enjoyed our 21st annual Jewish film festival, a klezmer concert, and a number of other cultural diversions. I choose the word “diversions” advisedly. It’s thanks to such entertainments that so many of my fellow Jews can allow themselves to say that we’re doing okay here—that there’s no need to rock the boat or cause trouble.

But you know what? We are not okay, and this is not okay.

Kosher slaughter has been outlawed in my country since 1937, and a bill is now pending in parliament that would ban even the import and serving of kosher meat. Circumcision, another pillar of the Jewish faith, is likewise under threat. In my job as a political adviser to a Swedish party, I have dealt with two bills on this issue in the past year alone; a national ban is rapidly gaining political support in the parliament and among the Swedish public. When it comes to our religious traditions, those on both the Right and Left in Swedish politics find common ground; they take pride in defending both animals and children from the likes of us, and from what one politician has called our “barbaric practices.”

The avenues of aggression may be new, but the rhetoric is old and familiar—and so are the effects. In today’s Sweden, home to all of 20,000 Jews amidst a national population of some nine million, the public display of Jewish identity, like donning a kippah or wearing a Star of David pendant, puts an individual at severe risk of verbal harassment and, even worse, physical harm. Synagogues are so heavily guarded that Jewish tourists are turned away if they try to attend services unannounced. Inside the sanctuary, we celebrate our festivals and holy days under police protection. On the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, during the five-minute walk to the water for the ceremony of tashlikh, my young son asked a guard why so many policemen were accompanying us. Replied the officer: “so that no bad people can hurt you.”

This is the self-image—the reality—that Jewish children in Sweden grow up with: being Jewish means being under threat of harm from bad people. This is where we are at. One by one, our practices are being outlawed. Attacks on us are going unpunished. Politicians, journalists, and intellectuals describe us as barbarians. On November 9, the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, a few hundred neo-Nazis marched through Stockholm in solidarity with their Greek allies in the Golden Dawn party. They marched legally, with police permits. Another few hundred leftists turned out in protest; a significant number were waving Hamas flags and sporting Palestinian kefiyahs. It made for a perfect synergy: a solemn anniversary, a day of shame, hijacked, with official permission, by two extreme and nominally opposite sides of the political spectrum, united by their hatred of Jews.

Continue reading.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Caught on Tape, a U.N. Interpreter Wonders Aloud at its Israel Bashing

“There’s other really bad s**t happening, but no one says anything”

By Yair Rosenberg for Tablet Magazine

Yesterday was “bash Israel” day at the United Nations–which is to say, Thursday. The U.N. General Assembly, which last year passed 22 resolutions condemning Israel and only four against other individual countries, approved nine such resolutions lambasting the Jewish state. Naturally, it had nothing to say about violations in the rest of the world, though it did manage to lament the situation in Syria–that is, Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights.

You don’t have to be a Zionist or a supporter of Israeli policy to recognize the profound injustice at work in the U.N.’s treatment of the Jewish state. In fact, as it turns out, even an official U.N. interpreter would be hard pressed not to notice it. Thus, during yesterday’s session, between the sixth and seventh resolution against Israel, the interpreter on the floor expressed her mystification with the body’s obsession with Israel at the expense of other global concerns, not realizing her microphone was still on:

    I mean, I think when you have five statements, not five, like a total of ten resolutions on Israel and Palestine, there’s gotta be something, c’est un peu trop, non? [It’s a bit much, no?] I mean I know… There’s other really bad shit happening, but no one says anything, about the other stuff.

As you can see in the video below, the remark was greeted by laughter among the assembled delegates, after which the mortified interpreter apologized. The proceedings then continued, with Mauritania asking to retroactively add its voice to the sixth resolution condemning Israel’s human rights abuses. Mauritania, of course, boasts nearly a million people in chattel slavery. It is also the vice president of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Watch the whole circus below (the hot mic moment occurs at 1:56):

Thursday, November 14, 2013

35 Signs You Were Raised By A Jewish Mother

Now for something a little lighter today...

Jewish MOther1. You know to always bring a jacket no matter what the temperature is.

5. She asks, “Are you eating?” every time you talk on the phone.

6. But she’s not above telling you that you’ve put on weight.

8. She has the best recipe for brisket, all others be damned.

13. She’d prefer you marry a Jew, but if you don’t, it’s not the end of the world. Just raise the children Jewish.

18. Twenty years later, she’s still talking about your Bar or Bat Mitzvah on a regular basis.

19. But only because she doesn’t have a wedding to talk about yet. HAVE YOU MET ANY NICE JEWISH BOYS OR GIRLS LATELY? Continue reading.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Germany's Nazi Past Is Back

by Jacob Heilbrunn for Mosaic

Nazi Art LootingIt won't go away. It's uncomfortable, clammy, damp, noxious. Two events this past week testified to the lingering hold that memories of Nazism have in modern Germany. The further distant it seems, the more it resurfaces.

The first is the discovery that Adolf Eichmann's superior is apparently buried in a Jewish cemetery in the former East Berlin. East Germany, which prided itself as an "anti-fascist" redoubt facing down the revanchist West Germany, never sought to face up to the Nazi past. Instead, it tried to claim that it had nothing in common with the Nazis. So perhaps it should not be surprising that it never really tried to explore what happened to Gestapo chief Heinrich Muller, who participated in the Wannsee Conference which formally authorized the destruction of European Jewry in January 1942. Now Professor Johannes Tuchel, who heads the German Resistance Center in Berlin, says that Muller's corpse was thrown into a mass grave in the Jewish cemetery in 1945.

The second is another discovery. It's that hundreds of priceless paintings seized by the Nazis, often as "degenerate art,"--Hitler staged an entire exhibition of it in 1939 in Munich, only to discover to his consternation that the public actually flocked to see it out of interest rather than contempt--have been residing for decades in the apartment of the son of a Nazi era art dealer. Art was central to the self-conception of of Hitler. Much of Nazism, as Frederic Spotts has suggested in Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics, was a form of stagecraft with Hitler as the impresario of an entire country--the emphasis on Wagner, the torchlight parades, the tours of Weimar, the city of Goethe and Schiller, for German troops, the planned art museum in Linz. The Fuhrer spent much time fussing with his pet architect Albert Speer over their plans for Linz even as the net of doom came ever closer. The failed Viennese painter was convinced that he could purify the German race and conceived of himself as a political artist. Thomas Mann even called him "Brother Hitler."

But the Nazis were also running a criminal enterprise. Looting was a core principle of Nazism. So they stole from the Jews anything they could, down to the gold in their teeth. After the war much of it went missing. Now it appears that the elderly Cornelius Gurlitt had about 1,400 pieces stashed that he had inherited, if that is the appropriate word, from his father. The German government seems to have kept the find secret for over a year until Focus magazine broke the story. So far, the German government is hanging tough in the face of calls to restore the art to the Jewish families or descendants who originally possessed it. Why did it keep mum about the discovery? Protests are mounting inside Germany:

'Transparency and a swift procedure are important here,' Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told German regional newspaper the Passauer Neue Presse.

'We are talking about the stolen inheritance of Jewish collectors, who could now experience delayed justice in (getting) belongings of their families ... returned to their rightful owners,' Graumann said.

Presumably, international pressure will be intense enough to force the German government to back down. Or will it? Germany, the paymaster of Europe, as it is known, is feeling somewhat emboldened these days. Piqued at American spying and proud of its economic prowess, Berlin could remain defiant. For now, it's simply engaging in foot-dragging, which has all along been the German response, by and large, to revelations about Nazi era crimes, at least when it comes to making restitution for them. But the two revelations of the past week are unlikely to be the last ones from a tenebrous era that continues to shadow Germany.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Israel Dispatches Team to Philippines

If you cannot view video, try here.

JERUSALEM, Israel -- Tiny Israel is always one of the first countries to respond to natural disasters around the world and the Philippines' Typhoon Haiyan is no different.

Authorities estimate the super-typhoon killed at least 10,000 people and displaced more than 600,000.

A six-person advance team from Israel's military reserves headed to the Philippines on Sunday. They'll assess the situation and prepare for a larger contingent.

Navonel Glick is the program director of IsraAID, the organization funding the mission. He said they'll partner with Christians to deliver their help.

"We have the partners on the ground," Glick told CBN News.

"It's trying to use the network, the incredible network that they have there and that they've prepared already, that they're getting together maybe all different churches, all different communities, maybe their connections, making sure that we get onto a plane first and trying to get there as quickly as possible," he explained.

"And we're coordinating everything with them. They're a very, very precious partner that we've had for a long time and we're happy to go back and help as much as we can," he said.

Israel's team will probably include medical and trauma experts.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Brewing Israel-U.S. crisis || Kerry: No deal on Iran yet, Netanyahu's opposition premature

Speaking in Abu Dhabi, U.S. Secretary of State says time to oppose a deal is 'when you see what it is'; Peres downplays reports of Israeli-U.S. divisions on Iran.

By The Associated Press

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says said Monday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "needs to recognize that no agreement" with Iran has been reached and his opposition is premature. "The time to oppose [a deal] is when you see what it is," Kerry said to reported in Abu Dhabi.

Kerry Talks on Iran In a tense meeting with Kerry ahead of his departure to Geneva last week, Netanyahu said that Israel does not see itself committed to any deal reached between the P5+1 and Iran in their negotiations.

Kerry called off making a statement before the meeting in an attempt to avoid a public confrontation. But Netanyahu decided to go ahead with a statement on his own, in which he slammed a possible agreement between Iran and the six world powers.

Iran got "the deal of the century and the international community got a bad deal," Netanyahu told reporters. "Israel utterly rejects it and many in the region share my opinion, whether or not they express that publicly. Israel is not obliged by this agreement and Israel will do everything it needs to do to defend itself and the security of its people."

In an address to the annual General Assembly of Jewish Federations of North America on Sunday in Jerusalem, Netanyahu made a direct appeal for Jews worldwide to join him in speaking out against the deal. It is a "bad and dangerous deal" that threatens Israel’s survival and “on matters of Jewish survival, I will not be silenced,” Netanyahu said.

Kerry also said that the major powers were unified on Saturday when the proposal was presented to the Iranians. He said "The French signed off on it, we signed off on it." But he said that Iran wasn't able to accept the deal "at the particular moment."

Speaking at General Assembly Monday, Israeli President Shimon Peres and United States Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro expressed confidence in the U.S.’s determination to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Swastikas, Slurs and Torment in Town’s Schools

Pine Bush, N.Y., School District Faces Accusations of Anti-Semitism

By BENJAMIN WEISER for the New York Times

The swastikas, the students recalled, seemed to be everywhere: on walls, desks, lockers, textbooks, computer screens, a playground slide — even on a student’s face.

 A picture of President Obama, with a swastika drawn on his forehead, remained on the wall of an eighth-grade social studies classroom for about a month after a student informed her teacher, the student said.

For some Jewish students in the Pine Bush Central School District in New York State, attending public school has been nothing short of a nightmare. They tell of hearing anti-Semitic epithets and nicknames, and horrific jokes about the Holocaust.

They have reported being pelted with coins, told to retrieve money thrown into garbage receptacles, shoved and even beaten. They say that on school buses in this rural part of the state, located about 90 minutes north of New York City and once home to a local Ku Klux Klan chapter president, students have chanted “white power” and made Nazi salutes with their arms.

The proliferation and cumulative effect of the slurs, drawings and bullying led three Jewish families last year to sue the district and its administrators in federal court; they seek damages and an end to what they call pervasive anti-Semitism and indifference by school officials.

The district — centered in Pine Bush, west of Newburgh, and serving 5,600 children from Orange, Sullivan and Ulster Counties — is vigorously contesting the suit. But a review of sworn depositions of current and former school officials shows that some have acknowledged there had been a problem, although they denied it was widespread and said they had responded appropriately with discipline and other measures.

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And the Thanksgivukkah Videos keep coming!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Turkey's Jewish community in decline

by Shlomi Eldar for Al-Monitor’s Israel Pulse

Turkeys JewsRumors that Jewish families are leaving Turkey have been making the rounds for a long time now, but as relations between Turkey and Israel deteriorate, those rumors are slowly becoming facts. Turkey’s Jews interpret the hostility to Israel they hear day and night from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as a personal attack against them. The change in mood and in Turkish public opinion as a result of those leaders’ anti-Israeli policy can be felt by the local Jews on a daily basis. Turkey's Jewish community has thrived for decades, but it now feels that its future can no longer be assured.

Until very recently, the leaders of the community boasted that there were never any open manifestations of anti-Semitism in modern Turkey, or in the Ottoman Empire for that matter. Jews not only enjoyed religious freedom, but maintained a relationship of camaraderie and friendship with the Muslim population. Many Turkish Jews remained in the country even after the wave of immigration to Israel in the 1950s. They regarded the country as their homeland and planned their futures there. But recently, all that has changed. As of now, the heads of the Jewish community are struggling to conceal their deep concern that within just a few years, nothing will remain of Turkey’s glorious Jewish legacy, which flourished throughout Turkey's history. More families leave every week in search of a safer future for their children elsewhere.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Anti-Zionist Civil War on the Left

Jonathan S. Tobin for Commentary

Some in the pro-Israel community are having a good chuckle at the feud that has erupted between Jewish left-wingers in the past couple of weeks. But rather than laughing, those who care not only about Israel but also the direction of the conversation about Israel in the post-Oslo era and what it portends for the future should be concerned.

Anti-Zionist Civil WarThe exchange between the anti-Zionist Max Blumenthal and his antagonists among the ranks of left-wingers who are often critical of Israel but defend its existence shows how pointless much of the debate that has been carried on between the left and the right about borders and settlements has been. As risible as the arguments put forward by Blumenthal trashing Israelis as “non-indigenous” interlopers in the Arab world who must be made to surrender their sovereignty, culture, and homes may be, they represent the cutting edge of left-wing thought that has come to dominate European discussions of the Middle East.

The dustup centers on Goliath, a new anti-Israel screed by Blumenthal, the son of Clinton administration figure Sidney Blumenthal, published by Nation Books. But to Blumenthal’s chagrin, the magazine (which is no stranger to anti-Zionist articles) allowed columnist Eric Alterman to write about it in The Nation. Alterman is himself a fierce and often obnoxious critic of Israel and defenders of Israel, and has been a major promoter of the myth that the pro-Israel community has been seeking to silence the Jewish state’s critics. Yet Blumenthal’s book was so appalling that Alterman took it apart in the magazine that spawned it. Calling it “The ‘I Hate Israel’ Handbook,” Alterman scored it for its frequent comparisons of the Jews with the Nazis and its complete absence of any acknowledgement of the Muslim and Arab war to destroy Israel. As Alterman wrote in a subsequent blog post, “It is no exaggeration to say that this book could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club (if it existed).”

To give you a taste of how outrageous this book is, Blumenthal even has the nerve to recount a conversation with Israeli author David Grossman who has been an important figure in the peace movement in which he lectured the Israeli about the need for the state to be dismantled and for its citizens to make their peace with the need to rejoin the Diaspora rather than to cling to their homes. Grossman responds to Blumenthal by walking out and telling him to tear up his phone number. Blumenthal attributes Grossman’s reaction to Israeli myopia.

But it gets better. As the Forward’s J.J. Goldberg writes in his own column on the dispute, Blumenthal appeared at a Philadelphia event with the University of Pennsylvania’s Ian Lustick (whose recent anti-Zionist diatribe in the New York Times was discussed here).

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Monday, November 4, 2013

U.S. to propose Israeli-Palestinian peace deal in January, senior MK tells Haaretz

Meretz chairwoman says U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of plan during Rome meet.

By Barak Ravid for Haaretz

The Obama administration plans to present in January its own plan for a draft framework agreement on permanent status between Israel and the Palestinians, a senior Knesset Member told Haaretz on Monday.

Kerry with NetanyahuMeretz chairman Zahava Gal-On said that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of this during their seven-hour meeting in Rome two weeks ago. Kerry is due to arrive in Israel Tuesday night and will meet Wednesday with Netanyahu and with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Gal-On said she was basing her information on conversations she has had in recent days with senior Palestinian, American and Arab officials.

“The Obama administration plans to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough at the beginning of 2014,” said Gal-On. “The Americans want to move from coordinating between the two sides to a phase of active intervention. This coming January, they will present a new diplomatic plan that will include all the core issues and will be based on the 1967 lines, with agreed-on land swaps. The plan will include a gradual timetable for implementation and will also address the dimension of regional peace based on the Arab Peace Initiative. It will also include an economic plan to invest billions in the Palestinian economy.”

Israel and the Palestinians resumed negotiations in late July and since then their negotiating teams have held 15 meetings. They are coming to the end of the first phase of talks, which included presenting their opening positions on the various core issues. However, there has been no breakthrough at this stage and the gaps between the parties are substantial. Moreover, Israel refuses to present clear positions regarding the borders of the future Palestinian state.

In the three months between now and January, the parties, with the help of U.S. envoy Martin Indyk, will conduct negotiations in an effort to bridge the gaps. The assessment is, however, that each side will remain entrenched in their basic positions. Therefore, during the final stage of this period, in January, the United States will apparently present a plan with its own proposals for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Friday, November 1, 2013

France: Anti-Semitism Now Mainstream

by Guy Millière for Mosaic Magazine

"You show that it is possible to be of the Jewish faith without being completely disgusting." — Standup comedian Sebastian Thoen introducing Elie Semoun on Canal Plus TV.

When a leading Jewish organization complained about "a dangerous trivialization of anti-Semitism," the President of the TV channel responded by saying that the Jewish community had "no sense of humor."

Sebastian ThoenA few weeks ago, when French Jewish actor Elie Semoun was a prime-time guest on one of the main French television channels, Canal Plus, the words of Sebastian Thoen, a standup comedian who introduced him may have been meant to be to be laudatory, but took quite a different turn: "You never plunged into communitarianism [Jewish activism] ... You could have posted yourself in the street selling jeans and diamonds from the back of a minivan, saying 'Israel is always right, f*** Palestine, wallala.' You show that it is possible to be of the Jewish faith without being completely disgusting."

Semoun was obviously ill-at-ease, but did not react. A couple hours after the show, the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF) issued a statement denouncing a "dangerous trivialization of anti-Semitism." The President of the TV channel responded by saying that the Jewish community had "no sense of humor." The incident occurred, however, in a context where the French Jewish community has no reason to have a sense of humor.

At the end of 2012, Jewish France was republished. The book is a tirade of extreme anti-Semitism, originally published in 1886 by the author Edouard Drumont, and reprinted repeatedly until after World War II and the fall of the Vichy regime.

The publishing company sent a press release for the latest book launch: "A classic of French literature is finally available again." When Jewish organizations protested, articles in Le Monde and Le Figaro (the two leading French daily newspapers) said that Jewish organizations had "overreacted." The publishing company that reprinted Jewish France issued or reissued other books at the same time, such as The International Jew by Henry Ford; The Controversy of Zion by Douglas Reed, the first anti-Semitic writer to deny Hitler's extermination of the Jews, and an Anthology of Writings Against Jews, Judaism and Zionism, including excerpts from the most libelous anti-Semitic writings of the last two centuries. These books are now available at all the most popular French bookstores. Thousands of copies of each have been sold. The CEO of the publishing company Kontre Kulture [Counterculture, with a play on words] is a famous French anti-Semitic writer, Alain Soral; his last book, Understanding Empire, purports to explain the "Jewish hold" on the world; it has been on French bestsellers lists for more than two years.

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