Getting Sets Quickly in Columbus

Available at the special price of $21 through 9/15/2016 with discount code EX097

Available at the special price of $21 through 9/15/2016 with discount code EX097

Hannah Gordon won the championship for the game Set in 2006 the one time it was held. She returned to Columbus, Ohio, this week with her parents Liz McMahon and Gary Gordon, for the Mathematical Association of America MathFest 2016. She challenged conference attendees to the game. In the unlikely event she were to be defeated, attendees would get a free copy of their book The Joy of Set.
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Congressional Candidate Forum

Since 2006, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El’s Men’s Club, Sisterhood and Israel Action Committee have jointly organized candidate forums to provide the community an opportunity to discuss issues with our Congressman and his challengers during each Congressional election.

This year we welcome the four Democratic candidates and one Republican candidate vying in the primary for Pennsylvania’s 2nd Congressional District.

  • 7:00-7:30: Dwight Evans (D) – Pennsylvania State Representative, 203rd district (Philadelphia), since 1980.
  • 7:35-8:05: Chaka Fattah (D) – Congressman, 2nd district (Philadelphia, Lower Merion, Narberth), since 1995.
  • 8:10-8:40: Brian Gordon (D) – Lower Merion Township Commissioner, 12th ward (Merion), since 2008.
  • 8:45-9:15: Dan Muroff (D) – Democratic Ward Leader, Philadelphia’s 9th ward
  • 9:20-9:50: James Jones (R) – businessman, ran for Congress in 2010

Please come and engage the candidates on the issues.

The forum is free and open to the community. Please tell us if you are interested in attending. (RSVP suggested but not required.)

If Gaza Were Near the U.S.

— by Steve SheffeyHamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel this week.Can you imagine what the U.S. would do if hundreds of rockets were coming into it from the Delaware Bay? It would not exercise a tenth of the restraint Israel has exercised.Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) spoke for all of us last Tuesday: 

Families in Israel are once again hearing incessant alarm sirens and racing to bomb shelters as Hamas launches hundreds of rockets from Gaza targeting Israeli civilians. No nation would, nor should accept such attack without firm response. I support Israel’s right to defend herself against threats to her citizens and efforts to restore quiet to the region

The fundamental duty of any state is to protect its citizens. The reason so few Israelis die from rocket attacks is that Israel does everything it can to protect its citizens from rocket fire. The reason so many Palestinians die from Israeli air strikes is that despite Israeli leaflets and other warnings that attacks are imminent, Hamas launches rockets from hospitals and densely-populated areas, and deliberately keeps civilians in harm’s way.Some people urge a “proportionate” response on Israel. What would that be? Firing dozens of rockets randomly into Gaza?The correct amount of force is the amount necessary to stop the Hamas rocket attacks. If anything, the Israeli response has been insufficient, as the rocket attacks keep coming.The Jewish Federations of North America have issued a statement commending President Obama “for his continuing support of Israel’s right to self-defense.”

You may have seen misleading headlines about White House Middle East coordinator Philip Gordon’s major speech last Tuesday. However, it was a good summary of the U.S. policy on Israel, Syria, Iran, and the peace process:


Over the past several days, Hamas and other terrorist groups have launched dozens of rockets at Israeli towns and cities, forcing local populations into their shelters.The United States strongly condemns these attacks. No country should have to live under the constant threat of indiscriminate violence against innocent civilians.

We support Israel’s right to defend itself against these attacks. At the same time, we appreciate Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call for acting responsibly. We, in turn, call on all sides to do all they can to restore calm, and to take steps to protect civilians.

Israel is doing exactly what Gordon urges. The only way to restore calm is to stop the rocket attacks, and Israel is doing all it can to protect civilians.

Unlike previous administrations, the Obama administration has never condemned, threatened, or punished Israel for using military force to protect its citizens. Who can argue with what Gordon said?

Gordon also discussed the specifics of President Obama’s commitment to Israel’s security, preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, removing chemical weapons from Syria (a huge success that was achieved without firing a shot), and the prospects for peace with the Palestinians, even as rockets are striking Israel. This is where the headlines have been misleading.

I urge you to read what Gordon said, all of it, and decide for yourself if these are the words of a friend or if he is “blasting Israel.”

The Israeli Right’s Evolution: From Jabotinsky to Begin to Netanyahu

— by the staff of the Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors

Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors presented an evening devoted to exploring the historical roots of the Israeli right, from Vladimir Jabotinsky to Menachem Begin to Benjamin Netanyahu, and a discussion of its current relevance to what is happening in Israel today.  Rick Richman, the editor of Jewish Current Issues, was one of the presenters.  Steven M. Goldberg, the National Vice Chairman of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), spoke as well.  Professor Louis Gordon,  whose work has appeared in the Forward, the Jerusalem Post, the Jerusalem Report, and numerous other publications, shared additional insights.

More after the jump.

Vladimir Jabotinsky was a journalist, essayist, translator, author, novelist, orator, military leader, and head of the Revisionist Zionist movement, which attempted to return Zionism in the 1920s and 1930s to its Herzlian roots. Menachem Begin was one his principal followers, the head of Jabotinsky’s youth movement in Poland and later the leader of its military wing, the Irgun. Benjamin Netanyahu’s father was Jabotinsky’s personal secretary, and Prime Minister Netanyahu has frequently cited Jabotinsky as an influence on him in considering the current threats against Israel.

Understanding the current status of the right in Israel requires an understanding of the connections – and also the differences — between these three historic figures. It may also provide some insights into the approach of the current Israeli government as it faces a continuing existential threat.  

The evening concluded with an excerpt from the documentary film, Flames of Revolt: The Story of the IRGUN, which includes rare footage of those who participated in the events leading up to the re-creation of the modern State of Israel.

Book Review: God’s Prayer: The Sacred Task of Living

The focus of God’s Prayer: The Sacred Task of Living by Michael Kagan, is to inspire effective co-existence and collaborative care for the planet among members of three faiths: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. This slender volume packs a unique punch because of the author’s ability to weave, intelligently and respectfully, core metaphors, principles and teachings from the three Abrahamic faiths. At the same time, it reprimands and exhorts each equally to reframe perspectives and behavior toward the greatest good for all that lives. The material affords a novel stimulus for interfaith study and has a number of components that might be productively integrated into religious services within each faith. The raging tenor of the text renders it best utilized by selecting pieces for specific occasions.

More after the jump.
The author, Michael Kagan, is an interfaith peace activist, author of the Holistic Haggadah (Urim Publishing), entrepreneur and inventor. For example, he created strips for the food industry that highlight when a product’s expiration date is approaching. The introduction of this book explains how the text came to him in a stream of consciousness after meditative prayer. Kagan writes that he filled eight notebooks with rapidly penciled writing; we receive them in ninety-three pages of printed verse in the tone of the prophetic tradition.

Endorsed at the beginning of the volume by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, founder of Jewish Renewal, Reverend Richard Cizik of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, and the Nazarene Sufi Sheikh Ghassan Manasra, Michael Kagan’s vision coalesces most clearly by drawing on a shared mystical metaphor — the Tree:

A triad of faith was formed,
the three strands intertwined.
From the trunk, three great branches spread
Roots deep in the heavens.
Sap flowing from above,
The light of my Prophets from below.
The Holy Tree restored,

A place for all to worship in its shade.

The text succinctly states the problem:

The branches of the Holy Tree are intertwined:
they fight each other for the light,
They compete for the juices of life,
They poison each other and crush each other…

The Courage to Vent Toxins and Voice Opportunity

God’s Prayer: The Sacred Task of Living engages in extensive and inspiring, equal-opportunity exhortation, using prophetic voice.  Here is a small sample regarding contemporary Muslims:

Followers of the Messenger,
I call upon you to heed this message.
Release the bound!
Free the enslaved
Make Jihad (Holy War) against unholy extremes
Temper yourselves, and put down the sword.
The infidels are no longer,
Only brothers and sisters remain.

The verse above shows how this tract takes ideas from triumphalist scriptural readings war and inter-group prejudice and turns them on their heads. When he addresses those who find their way to experiences of Divine awareness through Christianity, Michael Kagan, a pious Jew, also finds holy ways to enter into the sacred metaphors of Christian tradition:

How could you have erred?
The cross became the sword!
Didn’t you understand?
Didn’t you hear?
The sword should have become the cross!

Jews are addressed with equal honesty and somewhat more anguished frustration, in language both personal and harsh:

Now hear this:
you have become arrogant…

Power is corrupting you.
Out of the depths of darkness you have arisen,
But you are off.

You are no longer in your hearts,
You are no longer in your heads.
By the sword art thou ruling.
All that you have learned has passed like a cloud…

You are worshiping false gods…

The language of the verse evokes at the same time the exhortative prophetic tradition and the vernacular of the modern lament. A geshrei is not always an elegant combination.

Potentially Meaningful Applications

One can imagine a version of this book with parallel translations beyond the English and German versions that are now available. This might be a best means to advance use of this work – particularly if were available in French, Arabic and Hebrew. The text lets us skip over one of the most awkward steps of interfaith dialogue by setting out on the table a number of each group’s foibles and dreadful acts; we can then get on with the hard work of confronting assumptions, projections, fears and dogmas. Hebrew and Arabic parallel translations would also further the mystical possibilities of the text.

Further, by way of applications, many years ago I was asked by Rabbi Miriam Senturia, then a member of Philadelphia’s Dorshei Derekh congregation, for an idea of how to bring women’s ways into the weekly practice of chanting the haftorah — chapters from the Prophets at Sabbath morning services. My idea was to commission capable women to create new Haftarot reflecting contemporary, inclusive Jewish values, to be rotated into the sacred sequence. Many such Haftarot were created, whether designed for chanting and or reading in Hebrew or one’s native language. God’s Prayer: The Sacred Task of Living would fit naturally into such a genre.

Speaking of the Feminine

A rather sudden shift of focus comes in the text’s expression of high hopes for the balancing potential of the Divine Feminine. It proclaims this in a full chapter that declares:

“For the time has come for the moon to shine,
for the Queen to arrive, for the sisters to unite,
for the healing to begin.”

Herein men are termed “Brothers of Blood,” while women are deemed “Daughters of Light.” Clearly, the text provokes much discussion. While the balancing value of fully empowered women and welcoming of the Divine Feminine in the text are most appreciated, the expectation of these being distinctly healing forces seems more grounded in early feminist idealism than current reality. Let’s be honest, traditions and energies derived from Shechinah, Mary and Rachel, among other maternal figures, fuel the interpretive fires of all camps. The aggressions among and between women in communities are very real. Some women are like niche fish, which dart out to block anyone approaching their turf; others like to help women climb up beside them, to create a menorah of talent and inclusive possibilities. It is a thin line between being hopeful that restoring women to equal roles in society can make a huge positive difference and a Pollyanna vision.

The meta-vision in God’s Prayer: The Sacred Task of Living, does not account for the different stages of civilizational development in sovereign states and cultural pockets worldwide. Every generation bears the capacity for fundamentalist flares that create regions, minds and hearts where modernity doesn’t enter. Terrorist passions are then concentrated, exported, and cycles of persecution travel throughout all time. The text provokes questions: Are these dynamics endemic to the human condition? How much power do we have? Can a text like this, if well disseminated, help us to buy enough time for the “evolution of the possible human,” to borrow a phrase from Jean Houston?

New Age or Real Experience: What Is a Channeled Text?

The experience of “automatic writing,” is well-documented in Jewish tradition and many others. This is where we feel the text has been dictated to us from beyond our current dimension of being. That inner voice is known as a maggid or “teller.” An extended discussion of this form of maggid, inner “storyteller,” is described by several Kabbalists and can be found in comments by Hayyim Vital and Luzzatto’s disciple Yekutiel Gordon regarding Yosef Karo. Similar experiences are reported in Hassidic and Jewish Renewal communities today. Even I have had this happen in my own writing. Things happen that we cannot explain.

In truth, God has gotten quite a bit more awesome in the 21st Century where multiverses and trillions of light years are within sight. God’s Prayer: The Sacred Task of Living reads less like a God’s-eye perspective, than a resonance of Michael Kagan’s soul. It echoes our own lament, or crie de coeur, at yet another apocalyptic downturn in the global capacity for mitzvah-centered, rather than self-interest based, living.

The mitzvah primarily fulfilled by God’s Prayer is that of yirah l’tatah, action emerging from the awe and fearsomeness of impending consequences. Kagan also directs us to the inspirational mitzvah of yirah l’malah, the possibilities that derive from appreciating God through the lens of transcendent awe:

This is a time for a new song,
A new breath.
Look around and see.
Is it not clear?
A new gate has opened.
It beckons you in.

What’s Missing?

Most humans realize that we can’t really know the Mind of the Big Picture (so to speak); that form of humility is really not evident in this work. The seemingly prophetic stance of the language may leave some readers yearning for the leavening effect of the mystic’s intoxication with God’s love which appears only on the last few pages. Further, this is not a text that comes from a transcendent respect for the destructive and constructive inherent forces of creation. It is not an expression of “tzuri v’lo avlata bo-You are my rock and in It [God] nothing is out of alignment.” It does not ride the roller-coaster of human nature that the Psalmists do so well – appreciation of God as “seter li – my hiding place,” and, as the Adon Olam conveys both intimately with “b’yado afkid rukhi-Into Its hand I entrust my soul” and cosmically: “v’acharei kikhlot hakol, l’vado yimlokh norah, v’hu haya, v’hu hoveh, v’hu yikhyeh v’tifarah-after the end of it all-on Its own It will govern awesomely, It was, It is, It will be glorious.” Missing is the Kabbalists’ Godsense of “maayan raz-the Wellspring of Mystery.” God’s Prayer is primarily a holy rant, railing against the misappropriation of religious values and an attempt to set a healthier course.

God’s Prayer is also not a prayer. We know that sustainable change requires the language of support and not exhortative accusation – in either direction. Humanity doesn’t get a chance to answer back in the text “Dear God, this amygdala that provides protective aggression is excessive – can’t we evolve more quickly towards coexistence?!”

In Conclusion

Like the Prophets in their attachment to earth, land and embodied experience, in God’s Prayer: The Sacred Task of Living, Michael Kagan gives full voice to the fears the majority of our souls are screaming, while painting the highest hopes of many into a unified, multi-faith expression. Lu y’hi, may it be so, bimheyrah v’yameynu, quickly and in our time.

2012 Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge Continues

— by Benjamin Suarato

Rabbis and cantors in communities across the country representing all four major denominations are committing to living for one week on a food budget of $31.50, the average allotment for individuals on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly SNAP), as part of the 2012 Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge, running from the lead-up to the High Holy Days starting September 7 and continuing through Thanksgiving. Participating clergy will take the challenge in order to educate congregations and communities about the realities of hunger and raise a loud collective Jewish voice about this crisis.

“Hunger and food insecurity touch every one of our communities, but it is rarely talked about and frequently misunderstood,” said Rabbi Leonard Gordon, co-chair of the Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge representing the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and a member of the JCPA board. “The Food Stamp Challenge is a way for rabbis and cantors to make the invisible daily struggles of congregants and neighbors real while demonstrating the Jewish community’s deep commitment to help those in need. This includes education about the programs and assistance available.”

More after the jump.
“The involvement of rabbis and cantors from all streams of Judaism, in every region of the country is a testament to the centrality of ending hunger to the work we do as Jewish leaders and the unity of our community in elevating the conversation on poverty,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “This will be my third Food Stamp Challenge and each time, I am reawakened to the true struggle faced each day by those who depend on SNAP to put food on the table. It is a lesson that is now being brought to communities across the country through this committed involvement of religious leaders.”

SNAP participation has been functioning as intended, steadily increasing with the needs of those still struggling during the slow economic recovery, yet the program, one of the key instruments to addressing hunger in America, has been facing proposals of severe cuts to funding.

“On a budget of only $1.50 per meal, many SNAP recipients must settle for unsatisfying meals that lack the necessary nutrition and energy to meet the demands of work and family,” said Abby J. Leibman, President & CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. “By trying to understand, even in a very small way, the challenge these families face, we will be better armed to protect SNAP from the threat of cuts.”

The 2012 Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge is being led by a unique partnership of organizations spanning the religious spectrum, including:

    the Jewish Council for Public Affairs,

  • MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger,
  • the Rabbinical Assembly,
  • the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism,
  • the Union for Reform Judaism,
  • the Central Conference of American Rabbis,
  • the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association,
  • Uri L’Tzedek,
  • American Conference of Cantors, and
  • the Cantors Assembly.  

Resources created for this mobilization, include sample sermons, advocacy opportunities, programming ideas, and other tools for engaging congregations and communities. The Food Stamp Challenge is open for others besides clergy who are interested in participating in this experience.  More information and registration can be found online.  

The Steering Committee that is providing leadership for the Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge includes:

  • Chaired by Rabbi Leonard Gordon of Congregation Mishkan Tefila in Chestnut Hill, MA (representing the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Lenny is also on the JCPA Board of Directors)
  • Rabbi Jay Kornsgold of Temple Beth El in East Windsor, NJ and Rabbi Ed Bernstein of Temple Torah of West Boynton Beach in Boynton Beach, FL  (both represent the Rabbinical Assembly)
  • Rabbi Harold Kravitz, Senior Rabbi at Adath Jeshurun Congregation in Minnetonka, MN (representing the committee as Chair of the Board of Directors of MAZON:  A Jewish Response to Hunger)
  • Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis, MO; Rabbi Neil Borovitz of Congregation Avodat Shalom in River Edge, NJ; Rabbi Nancy Kasten, an active teacher and volunteer in the Dallas Jewish community, board member of Hebrew Union College; and Rabbi Judith Siegal of Tempe Judea in Coral Gables, FL (representing the Union for Reform Judaism/Central Conference of American Rabbis)
  • Rabbi Shawn Zevit, who worked for the Reconstructionist Movement for fourteen years and now serves as the visiting rabbi at T’Chiyah Reconstructionist Congregation in Detroit, MI (representing the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association)
  • Rabbi Ari Weiss, Executive Director of the Orthodox social justice organization Uri L’Tzedek
  • Rabbi Sharon Brous, the founding rabbi of IKAR in Los Angeles, CA
  • Cantor Jack Chomsky of Congregation Tifereth Israel in Columbus, Ohio (representing the Cantors Assembly)
  • Cantor Shannon McGrady-Bane, co-chair of the ACC Social Action and Justice Committee (representing the American Conference of Cantors); and
  • Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs

For more information about the 2012 Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge, please contact Robin Rosenbaum, JCPA Poverty Campaign Coordinator, at: [email protected] or (202) 212-6037.

Jewish clergy in all communities have been weighing in about how the goals of the Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge have resonated with their varied experiences:

“I am taking the Food Stamp Challenge along with my family because it is important to not only talk about the fact that so many people in America are in need of food assistance, but also that we take action. When I take the Food Stamp Challenge I will have a better understanding as to what people who receive food stamps are feeling each and every day. By encouraging the members of my congregation to join me in this endeavor we will be making a statement that we must continue this important work of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) and advocate on behalf of those who are in need. This is what Judaism asks of us and what we must do.”

— Rabbi Jay Kornsgold of Temple Beth El in East Windsor, NJ

“With so much at stake in terms of how we are providing healthy, accessible and affordable sustenance in our country, inaction was not an option for me, challenged by my preparation for High Holy Days as visiting rabbi of Reconstructionist Congregation T’Chiyah in Detroit, to do more than only utter words and offer prayers for those in need. I have been spurred on by the wonderful response from friends, family, and clergy and members of faith communities everywhere. Let’s collect food for those in need this Yom Kippur and Thanksgiving and invite those who live with food insecurity to our sukkot, AND let’s work for systemic change for the millions who live on Food Stamps every day in our own communities, congregations and nation.”

— Rabbi Shawn Zevit who worked for the Reconstructionist Movement for fourteen years and now serves as the visiting rabbi at T’Chiyah Reconstructionist Congregation in Detroit, MI

“In my congregation, publicizing the Food Stamp Challenge has galvanized the community’s youth and social action leadership to make this a year to focus on hunger and food insecurity locally and in Israel.  Our students have adopted the slogan “Hunger is no Game” as the theme for the year (basing themselves on the recent movie, The Hunger Games”).  At a time when the social safety net is shredding and the alienation of rich and poor from their common humanity is increasing, taking the Food Stamp Challenge reminds us, in a small way, of our interconnectedness.”

— Rabbi Leonard Gordon of Congregation Mishkan Tefila in Chestnut Hill, MA (representing the United Synagogues of Conservative Judaism,  Lenny is also on the JCPA Board of Directors)

“We move about our communities like ships on non-intersecting courses across a vast ocean, not realizing how many among us are really struggling to feed themselves and their families on a daily basis.  The maze of public assistance in food and other resources is unknown to many of us — but is becoming known to more and more of us, even as powerful forces in our society seek to decrease the resources available to the growing number in greater need.  

“I hope that our involvement with this project will enable people to see and feel more clearly — and to remove the stigma attached to those who receive help.  I have long suspected that there are more needy among us than we know — that people internalize the idea that if they are Jewish they can’t be needy, so if they are needy, they mustn’t be Jewish — or full members of our Jewish community.  A project like this may shed some light and some heat.”

— Cantor Jack Chomsky of Congregation Tifereth Israel in Columbus, Ohio

“Our society is short on empathy for those in need. The Food Stamp Challenge is a tool to channel us away from indifference towards empathy for the food insecure. I’m taking the Food Stamp Challenge as a personal reminder to avoid indifference and to work with others to fight food insecurity.”

— Rabbi Ed Bernstein of Temple Torah of West Boynton Beach in Boynton Beach, FL

“The 18th century Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin said, ‘If you want to raise a person from mud and filth, do not think it is enough to keep standing on top and reaching a helping hand down to the person. You must go all the way down yourself, down into mud and filth. Then take hold of the person with strong hands and pull the person and yourself out into the light.’

“As Jews we know that it is not enough to make sure that others have enough to eat. We need to challenge ourselves to experience what those in need actually experience- the anxiety, the pain, and even the humiliation- so that we always remain motivated to fight for economic justice for all. At this time, when more children in this nation are food insecure than ever before, I feel compelled to motivate myself to find solutions in every way I possibly can. The Food Stamp Challenge is one path I am taking to motivate and inspire me to do my part to bring more light and wholeness into this New Year.”

— Rabbi Nancy Kasten, an active teacher and volunteer in the Dallas Jewish community, board member of Hebrew Union College

JCPA, the public affairs arm of the organized Jewish community, serves as the national coordinating and advisory body for the 14 national and 125 local agencies comprising the field of Jewish community relations.

Barrack Multimedia Museum of Czech Jewry opens Sunday, May 1

Opening in Partnership with Centropa coincides With Holocaust Remembrance Day, May 1.

— by Beverly Rosen

Highlights: Over 70 Six-foot Story Panels, Student Videos, and Guided Tours

All during the spring trimester, Barrack Hebrew Academy 9th graders researched Czech history; the richness of Jewish life in Czechoslovakia prior to the Holocaust, including vibrant music, theater, and art scenes, in addition to daily life; the horrors of the Shoah; and life after World War II. They turned their research and photos into larger than life story panels and videos based on key historical happenings, personal family histories, and interviews with Holocaust survivors and children of survivors to create the Barrack Museum of Czech Jewry.

Pictured (left to right) are 9th graders Jacob Reich, Sarah Wolfson and Avi Gordon.

More after the jump.

The student exhibit, that will be displayed throughout the school, will be complemented by six-foot story panels from Centropa, an organization based in Vienna, Austria dedicated to keeping the memory of Jewish life alive in Central and Eastern Europe. The multi-media exhibit debuts with a Community Opening Night reception, program and guided tours by student docents on Sunday evening, May 1, 7:30 pm at Barrack and coincides with nationwide Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies. The exhibit runs through Friday, May 6

The exhibit is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Igor Laufer, a special friend and member of the Akiba-Barrack family and a Czech survivor. The Opening Night program includes a student tribute to Mr.Laufer; welcoming remarks by Dr. Steven M. Brown, Head of School; greetings from Peter A. Rafaeli, the Honorary Czech Consul of Philadelphia; a presentation by Hannah Lessing, General Secretary of the Austrian National Fund for Victims of National Socialism and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor; and instrumental and vocal performances of Czech music by Barrack students.

Ninth grade docents will provide guided tours of the exhibit on May 1 and throughout the week. “Area schools and community groups will be invited to tour the exhibit,” share faculty advisers Ivy Kaplan and Lilach Taichman. “The community also is invited to Opening Night,” adds Sharon Levin, Humanities Department Chair. For details, contact [email protected]

Barrack Hebrew Academy provides a dynamic dual curriculum of college preparatory and Jewish studies to students from all Jewish backgrounds in grades 6-12.

The Immorality of Moral Equivalency

— Rabbi Mark S. Golub

On Friday night, March 11, Hamas terrorists crossed into the West Bank to the Jewish community of Itamar where they murdered a Jewish family as they slept in their beds. The victims included a mother and father, Udi Fogel (36) and Ruth Fogel (35), and their three children, Yoav (11), Elad (4), and Hadas (3 months).

The sheer brutality of the Hamas act takes one’s breath away. In highly uncharacteristic fashion, the Israeli government made the decision to display graphic photos of the death scene–photos which are visible though a link at the bottom of this editorial.

More after the jump.
Sadly, there are many Jews who, wittingly or unwittingly, facilitate Palestinian violence by failing to make a moral distinction between wanton murder on the one hand and occupation and military actions on the other.

A chilling example of this loss of perspective among ideologues in the Jewish community is revealed in a press release published by Americans For Peace Now. Although APN characterized the attack as “horrifying,” and praised the Palestinian Authority for condemning the attack, APN then went on to urge leaders of Israel and the Palestinians “to fight violent extremists on both sides.”

To suggest that Jewish extremists engage in acts similar to those of Arab extremists such as Hamas is to distort Jewish and Israeli reality beyond measure.

Have Jewish extremists ever snuck into an Arab home and murdered a family sleeping in their beds?

Any death in war is a cosmic tragedy of divine proportion. The loss of life and the pain inflicted on any family is beyond limits, whether the life lost is that an Israeli or an Arab.

This does not mean, however, that all reasons for taking a life are morally equivalent.

Only hard-line ideologues would argue in the shadow of this outrageous brutality that there is an equivalency of Israeli and Palestinian policy. Yet, this has become more and more commonplace in some circles.

An Israeli group of soldiers visiting North American college campuses [Our Soldiers Speak] reports how from the University of Western Ontario to Wilfrid Laurier, from Hampshire College to the University of Pittsburgh, from Oberlin to Oklahoma, students–even some Jewish students–not only accuse Israel of war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and genocide, but also justify terror attacks against the Israeli People.

The Nazi propaganda machine of Adolph Hitler proved that when a lie is repeated often enough, it becomes accepted as fact–especially by people who have no access to the truth.

The Jewish world will never relinquish its sacred obligation of self-criticism, and Israelis have well demonstrated from the moment of the birth of the Jewish State that Israeli policies will come under the fiercest of internal moral scrutiny. No serious Jew ever suggests that Israel be given a pass on the way it treats Arab Israelis or Palestinians on the West Bank. There will always be Jews pushing Israel toward its highest goals.

But there is no way to overstate the degree of damage done to the State of Israel and, ironically, to the possibilities for ever finding a peaceful resolution of the conflict that tears at both Israeli and Palestinian families, by arguments of moral equivalency. In fact, such arguments are without moral grounding themselves.

A fitting response of tribute to the slain Fogel family would be for Jews everywhere to decry the outrageous brutality that took their lives and to condemn murder without needing to soften that condemnation by suggesting Israel is somehow also at fault.


Copyright Rabbi Mark S. Golub, President of Shalom TV.

Reactions to the Tucson Tragedy

Announcement on the Pima County Republican website promoting an event last June organized by Republican challenger Jesse Kelly. There is nothing wrong with holding a gun-themed campaign event, but the way they worded the ad is just sick and encourages borderline personalities to engage in this kind of violence.

Bonnie Squires reached out to a number of Jewish leaders for their comments on the tragic shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and nineteen other people who were shot outside a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona.  

Here are their comments.

Betsy R. Sheerr,  former President of JAC-PAC, a pro-choice, pro-Israel advocacy organization:

I’ve had the privilege of knowing Congresswoman Giffords since she first ran for office six years ago. Even then, we knew were in the presence of a rising star: knowledgeable, passionate about public service, unafraid to take a bold stand politically, and genuinely warm and approachable. Supporting her candidacy has been gratifying: she is a devoted Member of Congress and a thoughtful, bright woman.

This tragic shooting is an affront to all Americans. Perhaps, just perhaps, it will shock our country into reexamining our accepted standards of civility and the ways we permit extremism and hatred to fester in our midst.

Pennsylvania State Representation Josh Shapiro (D-Abington and Upper Dublin)

The attack on Rep. Giffords was an attack against all who serve and our democracy. My thoughts and prayers go to each of those injured and the families of those slain.  

Our country was founded on the promise and hope of words from common people. We need to restore a sense of civility and purpose in our public discourse by encouraging all points of view be heard and consensus be sought.  

Marcia Balonick and Gail Yamner, Executive Director and President of the Jewish Women’s Political Action Committee (JACPAC)

Yesterday Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), was shot while at an event known as “Congress-on-your-Corner” in a grocery store parking lot in Tucson, AZ. Eighteen other people, including six members of her staff, were also shot. There were six fatalities, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old child. Giffords survived surgery at University Medical Center in Tucson. Although she is in critical condition, her surgeon stated he is as “optimistic about her recovery as it is possible to be” given the extent of her injuries.  

The shooting of Congresswoman Giffords has caused shock and dismay in many quarters. One of 27 Jewish members of Congress, she is a special friend to JAC. Marcia Balonick, executive director, said the JAC contingent that attended the Congressional swearing-in ceremonies on Wednesday attended a reception in her honor. “I met and spoke with her mother and we talked about how special she is. Her mother told me how lucky she was to have such a wonderful daughter and that life was ‘always an adventure with Gabby.’ The attempted murder of any member of Congress would be tragic to me, but this is personal.”    

In 2009 Giffords spoke for JAC at the Detroit chapter’s membership event. She was extremely well received. Lisa Lis, chair of that event, also considers the shooting a personal matter. “This is truly heartbreaking. She is a bright star in the Congress, passionate about bringing positive changes to the country. When she spoke at our meeting, we were so impressed by her dedication to public service. She was genuinely approachable and touched everyone’s heart.”

Gabrielle Giffords is a positive force on issues of concern to JAC. She is a staunch advocate for Israel, reproductive rights and separation of religion and state. Her door is always open to JAC and the PAC’s relationship with her is very close.

She stood on principle when it came to health care reform even though it could have cost her her re-election. As a member of the Armed Services committee, she is well respected and well liked even by her political opponents. Gail Yamner, JAC President, said “You cannot help but like her. She is a warm, caring woman who wants only to serve her country. She is an incredible woman who believes in an America that is for everyone.”

We do not fully know the shooter’s motivation, but Arizona’s laws that permit easy access to guns make it too easy to commit a heinous crime such as this one. His violent act is likely to have a chilling effect on the public’s access to elected officials. American democracy is ill-served by a violent gun culture and by security barriers erected between the people and their government. Neither is consistent with Gabby’s modus operandi.

The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is a personal affront, an affront to the Jewish community, to her Arizona constituents and to the country.

Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL 20)

I am sickened by the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, her staff, and others today in Arizona.
“Gabby is one of my closest friends and my thoughts and prayers are with Mark, Gabby’s parents, and their family as they struggle to get through this unimaginable tragedy. I pray for her full recovery and the recovery of the other victims of this horrific act of senseless violence.

Anyone who knows Gabby, knows that she is one of the nicest people you will meet. I’ve never heard her raise her voice in anger or express anything but optimism for our future and our nation.

Just two days after she stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and read from the 1st Amendment of the Constitution guaranteeing free speech, she was shot while speaking with her constituents. The interaction of a Member of Congress with the people they represent is one of the greatest tenets of our democracy. I know how strongly Gabby feels about being accessible to the people that she represents.

I know from our many hours spent together that Gabby ran for Congress for one reason, to make America a better place and after her recent reelection, she made the following statement: ‘Our country must be strong enough to solve problems and that means we must learn how to work together again. Our children are counting on us.’

To her staff and the family members of her staff and Judge John Roll killed in this shooting I extend my deep sympathy and prayers. No one, not a Member of Congress, nor a dedicated public servant should have to fear for their safety while working to uphold our democracy.

And to the people and family members of the public attacked at this event, you are in my thoughts and prayers. The American public should not have to worry that they will suffer a violent attack while carrying out their right to petition their government.

My husband and I will be praying as hard as we can that Gabby pulls through this and makes a full recovery so she can be the bright light that she has always been to her family and friends.

Nancy Gordon,  Pennsylvania Coordinator, Million Mom March (2000), Co-founder, CeaseFirePA

This a terrible tragedy, but it is not the first and it will not be the last.  Also tragic are the shooting deaths of Chief Judge John Roll, the other victims of this shooting (including a 9-year-old girl), and the 13 Americans, on average, who lose their lives to gun violence every single day.  An effective way to reduce the incidence of gun deaths and injuries would be to restrict access to guns, through meaningful background checks, licensing of gun owners, registration of guns, and a prohibition on civilian ownership of assault weapons.  Most of our legislators have refused to take these steps.  While this shooting was horrifying, anyone who’s been paying attention should not be shocked by it; with over 300,000,000 guns out there in civilian hands, and virtually no regulation of who’s allowed to have them, we are all at risk, all the time.  No wonder that 13 people are killed each day, and almost 300 people are shot and injured every day, according to the Brady Campaign.

Phil Goldsmith, president of CeaseFirePA

It is a terrible tragedy and our prayers are with her and the familes of all the victims. Once again, it demonstrates how easy it is for guns to get in the wrong hands in this nation.

Anti-Defamation League, Arizona Chapter

Phoenix, AZ, January 9, 2011 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today condemned the tragic shooting rampage that wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed and wounded more than a dozen innocent bystanders in Tucson, with reports of six dead and 14 wounded.                    
 Miriam Weisman, ADL Arizona Regional Board Chair, and Bill Straus, ADL Arizona Regional Director, issued the following statement:  
      We are shocked by this unconscionable and horrific act of violence against one of our highly respected public servants.  We agree with President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner that this was more than an attack on one member of Congress – it is an attack on all public servants and the very fabric of our democracy.

      During her years in the statehouse, Rep. Giffords served on the ADL Arizona Regional Board.  Her affiliation with ADL, which monitors and exposes hate and extremist groups, contributed to her awareness of the nexus between hate ideology and violence.  It is a testament to her dedication to her constituents that despite past threats against her, Rep. Giffords has always been so accessible to the people she represents.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Congresswoman Giffords and the other victims and their families.

ADL remains in contact with law enforcement as investigators endeavor to establish a motive for the attack. It is critical to determine whether the alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, acted alone or with others, and whether he was influenced by extremist literature, propaganda or hate speech.  While it is still not clear whether the attack was motivated by political ideology, the tragedy has already led to, as Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik put it, “soul searching” about the connection between incivility and violence. We applaud Sheriff Dupnik’s statements
condemning the volatile nature of political discourse in America and for taking this investigation seriously.

Lynne Honickman, Founder, Moms Against Guns (now merged with CeasefirePA)

It was the worst of times! devastating… unbearably sad…senseless… a beautiful young representative reaching out to her constituency…a child beginning a proud life of service…a judge who had devoted 40 years to our benefit, and many  others who had come together to dialogue for the welfare of all. But, in the way of all evil acts, there is its opposite side, the best in our country will rise above politics and self serving rhetoric -and will demand not only  justice but a new kind of civility that will not tolerate illegal guns, automatic weapons in wrong hands and anyone or anything that jeopardizes our hard fought and hard won freedoms.

We are all heartsick—– but, non-the-less hopeful Americans, praying for Gabby Gifford’s recovery as well as her companions and the families of all those stricken….May G-d Bless them and our country…and keep us all strong and just.

Affiliations are provided for identification purposes only and do not imply endorsement of the organizations indicated.