Among the many informative and enlightening articles you usually include in the magazine I found the one “Uncovering UNRWA” by Uriel Heilman especially significant and important.
That UNRWA is and has been staffed by essentially all Palestinians is something most people and politicians worldwide do not know.
Several years ago when I was in Israel visiting family, they held a lunch for their friends to greet us. Among them was a member of UNRWA (not a Palestinian) who said that 98 percent of their employees were Palestinians and no one realizes it. It explains why no progress has been made in all these years to solve the problem.
Quite the contrary. Children have been taught to hate, as you know, and that clouds any future peace.
I suggest that the article be sent to everyone in the Trump administration (and why not to Obama’s as well), including the children, and to as many news outlets and social media as possible.
Thanks for doing such a great job with the magazine.
New York, N.Y.
Concerning the article, “Uncovering UNRWA: An Exception to the Rule,” the narrow focus of this article represents its tragedy.
While correctly focusing on how UNRWA perpetuates the misery of Arab refugees since 1948, the article concludes that UNRWA cannot be eliminated, while efforts to reform UNRWA are not even mentioned.
Donor nations, beginning with the U.S., the biggest donor to UNRWA, to the tune of $400 million a year, could make conditions for their contributions to UNRWA.
Donors could demand that teachers in UNRWA who are members of terror organizations be fired.
Donors could demand that UNRWA resettle these descendants of Arab refugees from the 1948 war into decent, permanent housing.
Donors could demand that Israel, a member of the U.N., not be wiped off of maps in the books used in UNRWA schools to indoctrinate 490,000 students.
The author’s quote from a former commissioner of UNRWA—when she asserts that if you did not have UNRWA schools, then terror groups would run UNRWA schools—is an insult to the intelligence of the reader.
Does the author not know that the UNRWA teachers and workers associations in Gaza are run by Hamas, which won 90 percent of the vote to lead both associations?
The unkindest cut of all was the author’s insertion of a smiling picture of Muhamad Assaf, the UNRWA youth idol. The author forgets to mention that he sings to promote the murder of Jews.
A 2015 press release from B’nai B’rith states: “Assaf’s songs explicitly glorify violence … with gory scenes of bloodshed and footage of Palestinian rioters … Assaf’s standing among Palestinians highlights the ubiquity of vile anti-Israel incitement … and his ‘status’ within UNRWA demonstrates that agency’s complicity in ignoring and even sustaining violent hatred.”
Israel Resource News Agency
Center for Near East Policy
Daniel Mariaschin's fall 2016 article "Democracy Depends on Your Vote" just goes part way in encouraging voter turnout, but overlooks the obvious way of obtaining a maximum voter turnout--enacting federal legislation making Presidential and mid-term Congressional election days national holidays. In a 1996 survey of 31 nations, only three nations have a lower voter turnout than the United States.
Most voters would not have to take time off from work or wait in line up to 10 hours on Election Day. I am not aware of any Jewish organization that has advocated this common sense step designed to encourage and make it easier to vote in our democracy.
The federal Election Day Holiday Law could be quickly enacted in time for the next election. Congress in 2005 was almost instantly convened in connection with Terri Schiavo (the comatose woman the center of national debate over the removal of her feeding tube).
The Election Day holiday may appeal to those who believe that there should be maximum participation in a democracy but may be opposed by those who believe it is in our country's best interest to limit voter participation. I urge the B'nai B'rith and every other Jewish organization to support the enactment of an Election Day Holiday Law.
Edward L. Koven
Highland Park, Ill.
September 21, 2016
Thank you for your article on the long and rich history of the Jews of India. Your writer did well in portraying India's diverse Jewish communities.
I would like to point out that the caption below the photograph of the Magen David synagogue is incorrect. It is not in Mumbai (which has a different Magen David Synagogue) but in Calcutta, where it was built in 1884 by philanthropist Elia Ezra, in memory of his father David. My family worshiped there for generations, and my father, Ezekiel N. Musleah, was rabbi of Maghen David from 1952-1964, until we left for the United States. On the Jewish heritage tours I now lead to India, we hold services with the Calcutta community in that very same synagogue—one of the rare occasions during the year that there are enough people for a minyan. The experience is heartfelt and unforgettable (www.explorejewishindia.com).
Port Washington, N.Y.
By Cheryl Kempler
A town with a unique history, Woodbine, N.J. was founded as a community for Russian and Polish Jewish immigrants at the end of the 19th century. It came about through the philanthropy of Baron Maurice de Hirsch, the German Jewish railroad magnate, who purchased 5,300 acres and provided the necessary tools to the settlers to become farmers, cultivating their own property, and raising cows and chickens.
In the center of town, Jewish-owned businesses sold supplies for this insular, ultra Orthodox community. The Baron de Hirsch Fund also established an agricultural school for both the children of locals and for boys and girls from all over the United States who worked at the school in exchange for training in agriculture, horticulture, floriculture and even bee keeping.
Today, the Sam Azeez Museum of Woodbine illuminates the town’s story and pays tribute to its original families and subsequent generations who worked and lived there. Located on the lower level of Woodbine’s restored Brotherhood Synagogue, consecrated in 1896, the museum offers tours and educational programs in which Woodbine’s citizens take center stage.
Retired machinist Lawrence Levy, who was bar mitzvah’d at the Brotherhood Synagogue more than 60 years ago, is a committed museum docent. His strong community ties are evident as he shares his memories and engages visitors in an interactive discussion, focusing on the evolution of Woodbine, from its original settlement through the 1970s, when it functioned as both a farming community and an important factory town.
Levy, who ancestors were among Woodbine’s first families, cherishes most his memories of the spirit of the Brotherhood Synagogue in action, his childhood and coming of age in a place where all, including Woodbine’s African American citizens, were treated with dignity and respect. Non-Jews, who moved to Woodbine to work in manufacturing during World War II, inevitably altered the insular quality of life there. Five churches were built. Later, concentration camp survivors from Europe arrived; most raised poultry.
Levy attributes empathy, derived from a shared history of suffering and discrimination, as the impetus that forged friendships among people of differing cultures, and the positive ways in which they dealt with each other. Although Woodbine had become multi-ethnic by the middle of the 20th century, Jewish culture and customs still dominated. A special dispensation from the New Jersey Sunday Blue Laws continued in effect. On Saturday, Shabbat, no business was transacted, but on Sunday, shops were busy, as merchants welcomed customers from nearby towns that purchased Kosher meat, bought clothes or had their hair cut.
For many, Woodbine became a stepping stone to a better life for their children. Jacob Kotinsky, for one, received little formal education but became a leading entomologist (engaged in the study of insects). Honored as the museum’s namesake, Sam Azeez was a pioneer in the computer and technology fields. Gregory Pincus earned his doctorate at Harvard and served as part of a team of scientists and physicians whose research contributed to the development of the birth control pill. Eugene Feldman, a noted artist and author of numerous books, established the Philadelphia-based publishing company, Falcon Press.
Today, displays at the museum provide documentation—dates, facts and figures—that support the narratives of docents like Levy and give other residents and former residents the chance to contribute to an installation named “The Wall of Memories.” In addition, the museum is now the designated site for the N.J. Commission on Genocide and Holocaust Education, giving students of all ages the opportunity to learn and interact directly with those who were victims of persecution during World War II, and in more recent times. The Brotherhood Synagogue sanctuary continues as a place of worship, and is made available to Jews and people of other faiths for religious services.
Sam Azeez Museum of Woodbine Heritage
610 Washington Avenue
Woodbine, NJ 08270
Open Wednesday Thursday and Friday 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and by Appointment
By Cheryl Kempler
In the spring of 1940, thousands of Jewish refugees who had left Germany, Austria and Central Europe to build new lives in England were taken into custody by the British government, declared to be “enemy aliens” and spent anywhere from a few weeks to two years in internment camps throughout the country. Among those imprisoned were composers and musicians, some of whom had achieved fame in their former homelands.
Many men were housed in quaint seaside rooming houses and hotels ringed by barbed wire on Britain’s Isle of Man. There, they put their skills to use, in performance and in teaching and mentoring the young and talented in their midst. The gifted teenage violist Peter Schidlof studied harmony and music theory with the eminent pianist Ferdinand Rauter, whose efforts made possible his later success. After meeting on the Isle of Man, Schidlof joined forces with another internee, violinist Siegmund Nissel, to establish the Amadeus Quartet, a chamber music group renowned during the post war era. They played together for more than 35 years.
Coordinating auditions and rehearsals, music committee members in several camps produced “House” concerts of familiar repertory— beloved works by Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Schumann——which were performed in whatever space was available, including the bed rooms. Audience members paid a small fee which was donated to charity. Since music making in the home by friends and family had been a staple of cultural life in Austria and Germany, these recitals in intimate settings must have conjured bittersweet memories for all involved.
Although suicides were common in the camps, the presence of music buoyed the spirits of many and could sometimes make the difference between life and death. Cellist Fritz Ball recollected:
“In the camp, I met a man, with whom I had played chamber music in Berlin. He was...so broken that [he] had not played a note in years. I asked him if he would play with me but he refused, until the evening of the first concert, when all the inmates were in the theater and the camp was empty, that he finally gave in. And from that day we played together, and he was my best accompanist. I could see that the music was freeing him from his depression.”
A well-known piano duo, Marjan Racwiz and Walter Landauer, had immigrated in 1935 to England, where they were frequently heard over the BBC. King Edward VIII, later the Duke of York, was one of their biggest fans. The team’s celebrity status did not prevent their arrest, but British authorities contrived to have them both sent to the Isle of Man, to entertain in the camps. Soon released, they resumed their successful international touring schedule and later made a number of best-selling recordings.
Han Gáls’ life in Germany as a well-known opera composer and pedagogue was decimated after Hitler came to power in 1933. Arriving in England in 1939, he joined the faculty of Edinburgh University before he was taken into custody by the police in the spring of 1940. Gál was first at Huyton, a camp near Liverpool, and then was sent to Central Camp in Douglas, on the Isle of Man, where he remained for five months. Describing this time as “the worst period of my life,” Gál kept a diary whose entries document the remarkable resiliency of his creative impulse, which endured despite physical and emotional privations.
All the musicians in Central had either worked together or had known of each other during their former lives in Europe. Their recognized leader, Gál composed two works which were premiered by the inmates before his release.
The sprightly music of the Huyton Suite, a trio scored for two violins and flute written for Central’s best soloists, imitates the sounds that Gál associated with his time at Huyton—the playing of reveille, the whistle for roll call, the horns of passing boats. In its third movement, a wistful motif conveys the sadness that he probably did his best to conceal. Conflicted and perhaps traumatized by his situation, Gál confided to his diary:
“In my sober moments it is clear to me that I am mad. Here I am writing this music, completely superfluous, ridiculous, fantastic music for a flute and two violins, while the world is on the point of coming to an end.”
His fellow inmates assisted with everything, from working the lights to designing and printing the program, which was illustrated with the figure of a minstrel playing a barbed wire harp. What a Life!, a show featuring Gál’s music, was staged in Douglas’ Palace Hotel ballroom on September 2, 1940. Gál stayed past his release date to conduct the opening night.
Much of What a Life! focuses on the small annoyances and tribulations encountered by Central’s residents, gently poking fun at the cacophonic mishmash produced by a bunch of musicians practicing different—but always discernible—solos in one small common room, to the embarrassing etiquette of bed sharing, a situation resulting from a shortage of space and furniture. Although most of the Gál’s skits were classical in style, he ventured out of his comfort zone for songs with a serious content by drawing on more popular sources, earthy ballads and jazzy cabaret tunes that his audience would have associated with the politics of Weimar Germany during the 1920s. It is music written in this style which accompanies the poetic lyrics of The Barbed Wire Song:
The seagulls are in a curious mood
Maybe they are getting much food
One thing they all very much deplore
Is the ugly barbed wire that grows up the shore
So in the seagulls’ parliament
There was a great debate on that end
Many of them did there inquire
Why are human beings behind a wire
As scholar Suzanne Sinek notes in her thesis on Gál and the works he composed on the Isle of Man:
“Years later, Gál was asked if he, a serious composer, had found it ―somewhat trivial‖ to write the music for this revue. He remarked, ‘Not at all, because it was such a genuine improvisation, written within days [...] with gifted performers, gifted singers, actors ... everything there was real, it was a real community.’”
After reading the wonderful article in the summer magazine, “Remembering the Refuseniks and the Movement That Didn’t,” it brought back a special memory in my life from my fourth trip to visit Refuseniks in the Soviet Union.
In October 1989, as a longtime B’nai B’rith member and Soviet Jewry activist, I was asked to be part of the six-person B’nai B’rith International mission to the Soviet Union with Leon Uris, the author of “Exodus.” We were led by Dr. Michael Neiditch of B’nai B’rith, and our purpose was to visit new B’nai B’rith units in Moscow and Leningrad in Russia and Riga in Latvia.
At every meeting, Leon Uris personally inducted new members and gave each one a membership menorah pin. We gave 249 of these menorah pins away and I kept one for myself, which I still wear. We also brought B’nai B’rith new member applications printed in Russian.
Today, the president of the B’nai B’rith Moscow unit in 1989, Alexander Smukler, who brought Leon Uris close to tears when he presented him with an underground handmade copy of “Exodus,” is the president of the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry in Washington, D.C., located next door to the B’nai B’rith office.
Past President, Adelphi Lodge
I saw the article “Gays and Judaism: A Dramatic Evolution” in the summer edition of your publication. All of this was enlightening but did not deal with an analysis of the text of the Torah.
I wrote a book titled “The Legacy of Moses and Akhenaten: a Jewish Perspective.” In an appendix, I dealt with textual analysis regarding homosexuality, as follows:
“The prohibited [sexual and marital] relationships are enumerated in Leviticus 18:6-21…
“There is a sequel to the publications of sexual relationships and prohibited marriages. This is contained in Leviticus 18:22, which states, very tersely: ‘Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind, it is an abomination.’ These thoughts prohibiting male homosexuality are repeated in Leviticus 20:13: ‘And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed abomination; they shall surely be put to death.’
“The short sentences in Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 have caused great difficulties throughout history, so they deserve further analysis. An examination of the earlier quoted verse shows that they relate to heterosexual prohibitions. The insertion of a prohibition pertaining to male homosexuality appears, therefore, to be largely gratuitous. In this regard, if one posits that God has spoken and that the expressions contained in the verse are the immutable word of God, there is nothing to consider. However, if one considers that Leviticus was written by priests or scribes several hundred years after Moses/Akhenaten, it is more likely that the expressions against homosexuality were a reflection of the mores of Jewish society in the years of the fifth century (in approximately 450 BCE), rather than a reflection of the values of Moses/Akhenaten. The two sentences in Leviticus may well reflect Jewish ‘pushback’ in the fifth century to Greek influence in the Jewish society of that time.
“At various times, ancient Judaism was, to some degree, in competition with Hellenism (i.e., Greek philosophy and culture). The Greek philosophers stressed logic and the beauty of the physical body. These concepts competed with Jewish values pertaining to spirituality and to a requirement of doing good actions. These competitive interrelationships existed from at least the time of Moses/Akhenaten…
“… a quick review of sources, from the most respected scientific journals to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, shows that homosexuality is not limited to humankind. It is found in various other living species, certainly among mammals and reptiles. It would appear that 10-17 percent of human beings are homosexual.
“The Torah does not proscribe anal sex within the context of heterosexual marriage. So, it is not the ‘act’ which is an ‘abomination’.” The Torah text merely indicates rejection and disapproval of the male homosexual relationship. It was more important for Jews to perpetuate their existence as people by following the Torah’s admonition to be “fruitful and multiply” than to submit to, and follow, the Hellenistic lifestyle.
“Under this analysis, currently discriminating against a significant percentage of the population in the name of God is inane. Certainly, if living things are all results of God’s acts of creation, those who discriminate against homosexuals are rejecting God by discriminating against God’s handiwork and creations… Therefore, it would appear to be more responsible to reject the substance of the anti-homosexual verses and conclude that… such discrimination is a perversion of all that is good and proper in ethical monotheism. In this regard, consider the statement of Rabbi Hillel, who said: ‘That which is hurtful to you, do not do to your neighbor.’
“Again, proscriptions of Leviticus 18:6-21 are a reflection of a disapproval of the incestuous lifestyle of Akhenaten/Moses. The additional two sentences pertaining to homosexuality, are, I believe, a subsequent addition to the original text and are an anomaly. They do not deal with, or proscribe, female homosexuality. And they certainly do not easily tie into an analysis of the ethical monotheism created by Moses/Akhenaten.”
While the foregoing analysis will not be convincing to all readers, I believe that the majority of open-minded readers will glean a new perspective, which supports, rather than opposes, LGBT and same-sex marriage rights.
Very truly yours,
Sheldon L. Lebold
In the Fall 2015 issue of B’nai B’rith Magazine, we feature an article on Jewish humor. For the piece, we interviewed four very funny Jewish comics. Watch these kvetching comedians by clicking on the videos below:
Robert Klein: http://www.hulu.com/watch/823531
Judy Gold: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwoI_AQ4VY
Jon Fisch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSn-RsbES7g
Ophira Eisenberg: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2YDGHymqmo
In Ethiopia, 6,000 members of the Zera Israel community face persecution at home and dream of making aliyah to Israel. In the meantime, there are two main organizations working to improve their lives at home:
10 Camley Park Drive
Phone: +44 (0)7526 189352
North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry
255 West 36th St. Suite 701
New York, NY 10018
Phone: (212) 233-5200
Aaron & Cecile Goldman Theater
Washington DC Community Center
1529 16th Street NW
Washington DC 20036
Mosaic Theater Company of DC
1333 H St NE
Washington, DC 20002
350 South Dalia St.
Denver, CO 80246
1501 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20005
133 Heather Rd,
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
Jewish Women’s Theatre
2912 Colorado Ave,
Santa Monica, CA 90404
National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene
(212) 213-2120 x204
Hand in Hand is a state-supported organization that operates five Israeli schools with 1,100 Jewish and Arab students learning together. Photographer Debbie Hill visited the largest of these schools, the Max Rayne Hand in Hand School, in Jerusalem, and captured these images.
Carasso Science Park, located in Beersheba, is the largest of its kind in Israel, at 4.25 acres. The park, which opened in 2013, was a project eight years in the making. It was originally proposed to the Education Ministry in 2005.
It features 12 exhibitions, designed for children in grades four through nine. It features lessons on science and technology—aimed at providing accessible technical, scientific education. Each exhibition focuses on a different area of science and uses creative methods to reach children.
In “Vision and Light,” for example, visitors explore the brain’s reaction to light by looking through machines that simulate distance, speed and other variables. In “Energy,” children manipulate mechanical arms and pretend to handle radioactive materials at the center of a nuclear reactor. Outdoors, the park has a “Science Garden,” with large interactive sculptures and games about sound, mechanics and energy.
To find out more about Carasso Science Park, visit: http://en.sci-park.co.il/
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