10th Annual Yom HaAtzmaut Barbeque for Lone Soldiers

The Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levine celebrated Israel’s 71st Independence Day with their 10th annual BBQ for lone soldiers, those without immediate family in the country. Over 500 pre-draft, currently serving, and post-service lone soldiers enjoyed a fully loaded barbeque, beer on tap, mechanical bull riding, gladiator Knockout, food trucks, and a live DJ.

The Parents of Michael Levin also attended the event. “This is our biggest event. And then it is Thanksgiving,” chuckled Mark Levine. “With both joy and pride, Mark and I were thrilled to attend this year’s annual Yom HaAtzmaut Lone Soldier Bbq. As they continue to put their lives on the line defending the nation of Israel, we will continue to support them in every way possible,” added Harriet Levin.

Amar’e Stoudemire, former NBA player and current American-Israeli professional basketball player, joined the celebration. Tzvi Maller, the proprietor of Crave Restaurant, served 165 pounds of beef,185 pounds of brisket,110 pounds of chicken wings,and 8 pounds of lamb bacon.This delicious feast was paired with unlimited home baked side dishes, salads, and desserts by the incredible communities of Chashmonaim, Beit Shemesh and Ramat Beit Shemesh.

“All these kids that are here alone. It cannot be easy. It just can’t be. Anything that can make it a little easier for somebody is what I want to do. There are over 7,000 lone soldiers, so if local volunteers can be a little bit of a help, we are honored to be associated with these guys,” said Tzvi Maller.

Speaking Out for the Voiceless

The Honorable Irwin Cotler was the Keynote Speaker at the American Jewish Committees’s Murray Friedman annual lecture. Murray Friedman was a passionate advocate for human rights and this program honored his memory. Professor Cotler is the Chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, an Emeritus Professor of Law at McGill University, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and longtime Member of Parliament, and an international human rights lawyer.

Mr. Cotler is passionate about the struggle for human rights of minorites all over the world. He has worked tirelessly for the protection of human rights internationally. His mission is to give a voice to the voiceless. Mr. Cotler discussed the human rights abuses occurring in Venezuela, Iran, China, and Saudi Arabia. He decried the world’s indifference to the suffering of political prisoners and genocides of persecuted minorities.

Mr. Cotler described the laundering of the delegitimization of Israel under the guise of human rights. He described the selective use of words and images to present Israel as a human rights abusing nation that should not exist. According to Mr. Cotler, the United Nations’ Human Rights Council is populated by human rights violators. There is a culture of impunity, in which only Israel is condemned internationally, while other countries are ignored. With the passage of time, this condemnation becomes internalized, accepted, and adopted by journalists, academics, and politicians around the world.

What is to be done? Mr. Cotler believes that it is our individual and collective responsibility to speak on behalf of the voiceless. We cannot allow ourselves the luxury of indifference to suffering just because it is occurring far away from us.

Photo credit: Christopher Brown.

FIDF Poland Trip for Holocaust Survivors

More than forty Friends of the Israel Defense Forces(FIDF) supporters from across the country will join Holocaust survivors on a mission to Poland and Israel from May 2nd to May 10th. They will be accompanied by forty five soldiers and officers representing all branches of the Israel Defense Forces(IDF.

Joining the delegation will be Holocaust survivor Sophie Tajch Klisman, 89, of Detroit. Klisman, along with her sister Felicia, survived the Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, and Salzwedel concentration camps. The youngest of four children, she was only 10 years old when Nazi Germany occupied Lodz, forcing the family into the Lodz ghetto of 68,000 Jews. Both sisters were liberated from Salzwedel in April 1945, and immigrated to the U.S. in 1949, settling in the Detroit area. The remainder of their family perished.

“If I look at the rest of the family, they were already adults and grown-ups and here was this child; that was just a miracle that I survived; it was meant for me to survive,” Klisman said. “I just hope in conclusion, that nobody, nobody should have to live through such terrors, such horrible conditions at such a young age, or at any age. It was a horrible experience, but I’m glad that I finally was able to tell it.”

Also joining will be Holocaust survivor Gizella “Gita” Mann, 89, of Israel. Mann’s community in Hungary was forced into a ghetto and later brought to Auschwitz, where she and her sister were separated from their family. Gita was later separated from her sister and sent to Germany, where she worked for most of the war. After narrowly escaping death, she was taken to Sweden and stayed there until 1946. She returned to Hungary after the war and reunited with her sister and three brothers. In 1948, she moved with her then-fiancé to Israel, where she stayed until emigrating to the U.S. in 1964, and finally returning to Israel five years ago. Mann has two children who live in New Jersey, and she currently lives in Jerusalem.

Led by FIDF National President Bobby Cohen and FIDF National Director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir, the nine-day “From Holocaust to Independence” mission will span Jewish history, from its darkest moments to its most triumphant. Israeli soldiers and Holocaust survivors will accompany the FIDF supporters on a trip across Poland, starting in Krakow, once home to more than 60,000 Jews, and tracing the community’s steps from the city’s ghetto to the Buczyna forest, where the Nazis executed more than 800 children, and then to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camps.

The entire delegation will then fly to Israel on an Israeli Air Force (IAF) airplane, after the IDF Chief of the General Staff granted the FIDF delegation exclusive access, and land at an IAF base. The group will visit IDF bases and meet soldiers serving on Israel’s front lines, commemorate Yom HaZikaron – Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror – and celebrate Israel’s 71st Independence Day.

“This historic mission will survey Jewish modern history through the eyes of those who survived the horrors of the Holocaust and those who risk their lives to defend the Jewish homeland,” said Klifi-Amir. “We’ll celebrate our story of heroism – from near annihilation, to the triumph of establishing the state of Israel. When we march tall and proud through the gates of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps, together with Holocaust survivors, FIDF supporters, and 45 Israeli officers in uniform, gratefully flying the Israeli flag, we will send a clear message: that we are here, we will never forget, and we will do whatever we must do to protect our country and our people to guarantee – Never Again.”

“This mission serves as one of the last opportunities for survivors to return to Auschwitz and share its dreadful stories,” said Cohen. “We will walk through the gates of hell, where countless Jews suffered and perished at the hands of the Nazis. We will ensure the stories of survivors live on, safeguarded by those brave soldiers who defend and protect the state of Israel, and Jewish people around the world.”

Anti-Semitism in Europe Today and What it Means for America

Photo by OsamaK https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:OsamaK

Eldad Beck is a multilingual, Sorbonne-educated Israeli journalist based in Europe. He has spent the past several years walking about the streets of Berlin, Paris, Budapest, and other cities listening to the people. According to him, anti-Semitism is alive and well in the hearts and minds of regular Europeans. The trends in Europe may be a roadmap for the Jewish community in the United States.

Since he covers the whole continent, he spoke of the situation in several countries. For the sake of brevity, we will focus on his experience in Germany.

Mr. Beck was curious about what young Germans think about Jews these days. Do they know what anti-Semitism is, and if it exists in Germany? Why is Israel so negatively seen in Germany?

He asked a class of college students about the news media. What do the reports say, and how does that make them feel? The students analyzed all the major German newspapers. They discovered that whether they were politically to the left or to the right, regardless of the other conflicts in the Middle East, all of the publications have an anti-Israel slant.

Mr. Beck wondered how Germany arrived at this place. He asked the students why they think Jews are negatively portrayed. The students shared three reasons that German gentiles don’t like Jews.

The first is that they feel like there are many Jews in Germany. Mr. Beck asked them how many Jews they thought live in Germany. They thought the community numbers one million. In reality, the Jewish population of Germany is two hundred thousand.

The second reason Germans don’t like Jews is that they think that there are many Jews in politics, with an outsize influence. The truth is that there is not a single Jewish politician serving in the Bundestag.

The third reason the students gave is that there are many Jews in the media. There are very few Jews in the German media.

How did these German college students come to have these beliefs?

They never learned about anti-Semitism. These young Germans were never taught about the process in Germany that led up to the Holocaust. Anti-Semitism is only one part of the hatred of Jews. It is possible to have anti-Semitism in places where there are no Jews.

The hatred of Jews started as a religious hatred. The issue was over who has the true religion. When Jews were faced with a choice of life or death, they could change their religion in order to save their lives. This is what occurred during the Inquisition.

The Inquisition was the root of the second type of hatred of Jews, a hatred of a race. Jews who converted to Catholicism, or “New Christians,” were not really considered clean by the Old Christians.

“Semite” replaced the word for “Jews” in Europe. Historically, anti-Semitism was hatred of Jews, and of no other Semites.

The State of Israel was founded after the Holocaust. Zionism was not a response to Nazism. It had originated much earlier, in the late 1890s, with Theodor Herzl.

Anti-Zionism is the political hatred of Jews. According to the anti-Zionists, Jews are not allowed to have their own state. In Europe, the word “Zionist” is a curse.

Germany has a double crisis. There is a revolt against the elites and a conflict between “old” Europeans and “new” immigrants and refugees. The one point of agreement between all these people is their hatred of Jews. This engenders all sorts of conspiracy theories.

One such theory is that Angela Merkel is a Jew. Mrs. Merkel supports Israel. She promotes good relations between Israel and Germany. Some Germans compare what the Nazis did to the Jews with what Israelis do to the Palestinians. This is a way for them to clean their conscience and memory from the Holocaust.

Germany has allowed so many Muslim immigrants into the country that the Germans now feel threatened by them. The German authorities refuse to acknowledge Muslim anti-Semitism. When anti-Semitic attacks occur, the police are afraid of interfering and escalating the situation. In 2014, three men of Palestinian descent threw a Molotov cocktail at the Wuppertal Synagogue near Dusseldorf. A German court ruled that this is considered a legitimate expression of anger at Israel.

Mr. Beck concluded that the difference between today and the past is the existence of the State of Israel. Jews all over the world have a country they can go to. Standing by Israel is one of the best guarantees against all forms of hatred of Jews. The fight against hatred must not stop. The battle today is against the existence of the State of Israel. Those who oppose Israel want the Jews to be weak and dependent on them. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement is not a boycott movement. It is a movement to annihilate the Jewish State. The political slogan chanted by members of the BDS, “Palestine from the river to the sea,” means all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. This means the destruction of the State of Israel.

There are 1.6 million Jews in the European Union. 38% of these Jews are considering immigration. 80% will not wear external Jewish symbols such as a Star of David or yarmulke, or go to Jewish public events. If the Jewish community in the United States does not open its eyes to the threats against it, it will inevitably face the same situation.

Tabouli Cuisines: Philly’s Israeli Druze Outpost

As I was perusing the Ardmore Farmer’s Market for dinner ideas, a perfectly formed Maqluba, or molded savory cake made with rice, meat, and vegetables, caught my eye. It is so difficult to get this recipe to come out just right that I felt compelled to find out who the skilled cook was! Mona and Mohammed, the proprietors of Tabouli Cuisines, introduced themselves to me in flawless Hebrew.

Mona and Mohammed are from the Druze community of Majd al Shams in the Golan Heights. The Druze are Unitarians, who believe that they descend from Jethro of Midian. Mohammed’s father served in the Druze Battalion of the Israeli Defense Forces, and was killed in combat in the Yom Kippur War. Mohammed’s mother was left alone to care for her ten children. Mohammed was only ten years old. “It has been a very difficult road, but we have built something,” Mohammed told me.

The inspiration for their food stand came from Mona’s homemade Levantine cuisine. When they came to the United States, their children’s classmates would stay for dinner. When they extended these invitations to the adults as well, their guests loved the food so much that they starting placing special orders to cater festive occasions. Mona prepared everything in her home kitchen.

Eventually they decided to open a food stand. They have built up a loyal following, and I must say that after tasting their food I will be returning too. Everything is made from scratch, with recipes that have been handed down over generations. Apart from their incredible Maqluba, there are colorful, freshly cut salads, stuffed vegetables, kibi (bulgur croquets stuffed with meat), falafel, and baklava. There are many vegetarian and vegan options.

You may purchase their delicious foods at their stand at the Ardmore Farmer’s Market. Tabouli also offers a catering menu and delivery.

Tabouli Cuisines
Address: Ardmore Farmers Market,, 120 Coulter Avenue, Ardmore, PA 19003
Phone: (610) 896-3800

Celebrating America’s Pioneer Jewish Congregations

In his latest book, author and documentarian Julian H. Preisler leads readers on a virtual Jewish-themed journey across the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Along the way, he gives us a historical introduction to each of the oldest Jewish congregations still in existence in America today, and wows us with 195 vintage and present-day images of their synagogues. Published late last year, Preisler’s book is aptly titled America’s Pioneer Jewish Congregations: Architecture, Community and History,

The book depicts historic congregations from the earliest days of Colonial America up to the present day. Reflecting the wide diversity found in the American Jewish community, the congregations featured are in large cities, suburban locales and small towns. And they represent many of the largest Jewish communities, as well as some of the smallest. The synagogues portrayed in the book range from small, functional ones to large, architecturally significant ones, with many different styles of architecture represented, from Classical-Revival and Moorish-Revival to Mid-Century Modern and Contemporary.

An excellent choice for summer reading, Preisler’s book combines travel log, photographic essay and historical background to take readers on a comprehensive tour of American Jewish congregations and their synagogues over the past 363 years.

Aunt Katy’s Hungarian Yeast Cake

Photo: Alex Gall.

Shabbat in Israel has unspoken rituals. People eat lunch at around noon, and then rest until 4 p.m. No one calls or rings door bells during those four hours. After the siesta, social life begins again with cake and coffee. The streets fill with people on the way to their friends’ homes for an afternoon visit. Most hosts eschew the convenience of cake mixes or store-bought cakes. They take pride in their family recipes and the pastries they bake themselves. One of my most memorable coffee klatsch experiences was with my Aunt Katy. She baked her family’s Hungarian yeast cake, filled with walnuts from the tree in her garden. [Read more…]

This Is Not Peaceful Resistance

Hamas admitted that 50 of the 62 people killed in the recent violence on the Israel-Gaza border were Hamas members, while others among the dead have been identified as members of Islamic Jihad. In fact, organizers of the violence had laid out their intentions clearly, with the co-founder of Hamas saying unequivocally, “This is not peaceful resistance.”

We should take the organizers of this confrontation at their word. Orchestrated by Hamas, approximately 40,000 rioters gathered at the border and several thousand tried to storm into Israel at 13 locations. The campaign’s title “March of Return” reflects Hamas’ aim: to break the border fence and storm Israeli towns in order to attack and kidnap Israeli civilians. The closest Israeli communities are only half a mile away from the border. Israeli soldiers have been defending the border from what could lead to a successful breach of the fence. In this way, Israel has been acting as any sovereign nation would be expected to.

Israel made relentless efforts to prevent the Palestinian masses from violently breaching the border. These efforts included early warnings by leaflets, direct phone calls, radio and social media in Arabic, and other means.

In contrast, Hamas is taking steps to exacerbate the difficulties faced by its own people, as a play for international condemnation of Israel. Hamas turned back aid trucks containing medical supplies donated by Israel after the supplies had already entered Gaza. Despite the deteriorating health situation in Gaza, Hamas refused this humanitarian aid, returning it to Israel. This happened a week after Palestinians had sabotaged the Kerem Shalom aid crossing multiple times, including blowing up gas pipelines, in an attempt to bring about total chaos.

Israel’s need to defend itself and Hamas’ efforts to aggravate the plight of its own people are fundamental issues at the very core of the current violence. However, the way recent events have been framed does not do justice to the realities on the ground for either Israelis or Palestinians.

Latino Jewish Entrepreneurial Summit

Alan Weisleder, Nelson Diaz, and Wayne Kimmel at theLatino Jewish Entrepreneurial Summit. Photo: AJC

American Jewish Committee and its Latino Jewish Coalition hosted a Latino Jewish Entrepreneurial Summit at Temple University’s Fox School of Business on May 15th. Established in 2013, the coalition works in a collaborative manner to expand interactions and works in areas, such as immigration reform, economic empowerment, civic engagement and homeland/diaspora relations.

[Read more…]

Ten Commandments Surprise Cookies

My favorite inauthentic part of eating at a Chinese restaurant is the fortune cookie at the end of the meal. Many modern Chinese restaurants won’t serve fortune cookies because they are not part of the Chinese tradition. I decided to bake my version of these biscuits for Shavuot. Rather than containing fortunes, each cookie will celebrate the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai by revealing one of the Ten Commandments. My new tradition may be as American as the creation of the original fortune cookies. [Read more…]