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87 2018
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JUNE 29, 2018


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Felice Gaer of Paramus fights for human rights around the world Page 16 Page 16
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Rock star Perry Farrell — Lubavitch? Lovebavitch?


l Perry Farrell isn’t a very Jewish name, is it? And most lovers of rock know Per- ry Farrell as the charismatic frontman of the band Jane’s Addiction, and as the creator of Lollapalooza, the popular music festival. But wait! Perry Farrell started out as Peretz Bernstein — he was born in 1959 in Queens and, yes, of course he’s Jewish. And he’s been one of the more prominent celebrity proponents of Kab- balah, or Jewish mysticism. And he seems to have moved on. These days, Farrell is really into the writings of the late Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the influential leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. (Who as an instance of things turning full circle is buried in Queens.) “Really into” might be an understatement for full-on obses- sion; he told Rolling Stone in an inter- view earlier this month that he studies Schneerson’s teachings through most of the night. “One of my heroes currently is the great Schneerson. His writings and his teachings are amazing. I’ve been read- ing them like crazy lately,” he said when asked by interviewer Brian Hiatt about his heroes. Hiatt asked Farrell if he calls himself a Lubavitcher. “I’m a love-bavitcher,” Farrell replied.

Perryfarrellperformsatthe  hollywoodPalladiuminlos  angelesondecember8,2017�

emma mcinTyre/GeTTy imaGeS For rhonda’S KiSS

“I don’t know what you call it. I’m just in love with the study. I study through

ed in his Jewish heritage. He has ties to

Purimpalooza and he went to a public


existence of his servants,” he said there, MTV News reported.

Gabe Friedman/JTa Wire Service

the night. I don’t sleep more than three hours at a time. I’d like to change that.” It’s not new for Farrell to be interest-

the Jewish community of Los Angeles. In 1999, he joined in a party there called

Chanukah menorah lighting in 1998. “God’s existence is verified in the



Kapara eleichem, Prince William of Cambridge

l Traffic in central Tel Aviv stopped on Wednesday morning when Prince William, duke of Cambridge, and Netta Barzilai, Queen of eurovision, went for a stroll on Rothschild Boulevard. Yes, William’s five-day trip included far more weighty moments, including his tour of the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, a visit with Israel’s top political leaders, a trip to the West Bank, and a somber visit to the Mount of Olives, where his great grand- mother, Prince Alice of Battenberg (who was the great granddaughter of Queen Victoria) is buried. Yad Vashem recognizes Princess Alice as Righteous Among the Na- tions for saving Jews in Athens during the Holocaust. But possibly none was a picturesque as his stroll with Barzilai, who won the eurovi- sion contest in May with her song “Toy.” Prince William, dressed casually in a lightweight summer blazer— it was really hot and really really humid — and Netta soon stopped for gazoz, a carbonated soft drink, at one of the kiosks dotting the tree-lined street. Netta gave William a looper, the digital sound mixing tool that is a vitally important to her music. The prince

tool that is a vitally important to her music. The prince laughed when he got it.

laughed when he got it. “You haven’t heard me sing!” he said. “You wouldn’t want that!” Kensington Palace later tweeted about the meet- and-greet, using Barzilai’s trademark greeting “kapara eleichem” as a hashtag.


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Noshes MUSICAL NOTES: Allee sounds a clarion call On June 14, at a ceremony in New


Allee sounds a clarion call

On June 14, at a ceremony in New York, ALLEE WILLIS , 70, was inducted

On June 14, at a ceremony in New York, ALLEE WILLIS, 70, was inducted into the prestigious Songwriters’ Hall of Fame. Eight songwriters were inducted this year;

Willis is the only woman.

in tears as he listened to an induction speech delivered by his son, ac- tor STEPHEN DORFF,

44. The elder Dorff’s hits include “Every Which Way but Loose” (an Eddie Rabbitt hit) and “Through the Years” (a


multimedia artist, Willis

Kenny Rogers hit).

known best for writing


such megahits as “I’ll Be There for You” (the theme from “Friends”), “Neutron Dance” (a Pointer Sisters hit), “What Have I Done To Deserve This?” (a hit for the Pet Shop Boys); and “September” (an Earth, Wind & Fire hit). Willis won over the crowd first by telling a

NEIL DIAMOND, 77, received the Hall’s Johnny Mercer Award. It


given to a songwriter

who already has been

inducted (Diamond was


1984) for “a history

of outstanding creative work.” Diamond closed out the ceremony by performing a rousing version of his megahit “Sweet Caroline.”

few real-life stories, in- cluding an amusing tale about how the sex life


was an inspiration for many of her songs. Then she responded to what she called the elephant

a frisky female friend

At the movies and on Netflix

The film “Leave No Trace” is opening on June 29. BEN FOSTER, 37, stars as the father of a teenage

and on Netflix The film “Leave No Trace” is opening on June 29. BEN FOSTER ,


the room — the fact

daughter. For years, they

that she was the only female inductee. She

live happily off the grid in


huge Oregon park. A

said”: “I really started thinking about how, at the time, mentally painful

mistake causes them to be discovered and a social service agency


was that the girls were

places them in urban shelters. They hate their new surroundings and attempt to return to the wilderness together. The director is DEBRA GRANIK, 55, who also directed “Winter’s Bone” (2010), an acclaimed film about a poor Appala- chian teen’s struggle to hold her family together.

Propelled by a good

not getting the chances the boys were. So I just want to say, ‘We’re here. We’ve always been here.

And we’re no longer the little wilting flowers that we were when it comes


equality.’ So wipe off

the seats because here

we come.” Country songwriter STEVE DORFF, 69, was

“I do a lot of things that make various ancestors roll over in their graves, but this morning, I enjoyed a bagel with hummus and avocado and roasted red pepper on it, so that’s it, I’m done, I have o cially brought all the shame upon my family.”

— Yonit Friedman on Twitter. Ms. Friedman writes the Emma Scoldman advice column for Jewish Currents magazine.

Emma Scoldman advice column for Jewish Currents magazine. Steve Dorff Alison Brie BRIE , 35, in

Steve Dorff

advice column for Jewish Currents magazine. Steve Dorff Alison Brie BRIE , 35, in the lead

Alison Brie

BRIE, 35, in the lead role earned her a Golden Globe nomination this year. Co-stars include MARC MARON, 54, and JACKIE TOHN, 36.

New facts

on Monticello

MARON , 54, and JACKIE TOHN , 36. New facts on Monticello July 4, of course,

July 4, of course, marks the day that the Declaration of Independence was released to the world. Its principal author was Thomas Jefferson. His famous home, Monticel- lo, is in Virginia, near Charlottesville. In the last

few weeks, the media

near Charlottesville. In the last few weeks, the media Ben Foster Jackie Tohn has been full

Ben Foster

Charlottesville. In the last few weeks, the media Ben Foster Jackie Tohn has been full of

Jackie Tohn

has been full of reports that the Monticello room in which Jefferson’s slave Sally Hemings lived has been opened. Now, finally, there is an exhibit at Monticello that honestly addresses the almost certain fact that Hemings was the mother of six of Jefferson’s children. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which runs Monticello, refused to give any credence to the centuries-old story of Jefferson’s relationship to Hemings until DNA

tests of known Jefferson

and Hemings descen- dants proved that is was “very likely” that Jef- ferson fathered children with Hemings. Lesser known is the fact that Monticello was falling into ruins in 1834 when it was bought by URIAH LEVY (1792-1862), a U.S. Navy admiral and a hero of the War of 1812. Levy, whose family had lived in America for generations, was a great admirer of Jefferson. His nephew, JEFFERSON MONROE LEVY (1852-1924), took control of Monticello in 1879. He poured his own funds (a fortune) into restoring the build- ing and its grounds. Well, around 1910, some prominent non-Jewish families, which had sat on their hands for gen- erations and did noth- ing to save Monticello, decided it would be

proper if a foundation took over Monticello. There was more than a whiff of anti-Semitism in their comments. Levy, ill and facing some finan- cial difficulties, sold the property to the Jeffer- son Foundation in 1923. Finally, in 1985, a new foundation head promi- nently featured the Levy family’s critical role in the preservation of Mon- ticello through onsite exhibits. Before then, the Levys, like Ms. Hemings, were virtually written out of Monticello’s on-

site history.


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Answering women’s questions

Teaneck gets a new yoetzet halacha — a person who responds to intimate halachic inquiries


Fertility, contraception, sexuality, family dynamics, and genetics. Those are among the complex and intimate topics about which Englewood native Tova Warburg Sinensky has answered thousands of ques- tions from Jewish couples over the past five years. This summer, Ms. Warburg Sinensky returns to Bergen County to take up the post of yoetzet halacha — female adviser about the laws of family purity — for the Teaneck community. The outgoing yoetzet halacha, Shoshana Samuels, is moving to Israel with her family after seven years in Teaneck. Women in the community are invited to meet Ms. Warburg Sinensky and bid fare- well to Ms. Samuels at the annual commu- nity-wide Teaneck Yoetzet Initiative’s “fun- draiser and friend raiser” at Congregation Rinat Yisrael on July 18. (See box.) The yoetzet halacha certification pro- gram was founded in 1997 by Chana Henkin, the head of Jerusalem’s Nishmat Center for Advanced Jewish Study for Women. Until then, Orthodox women had no choice but to ask male rabbis their questions concern- ing “taharat hamishpacha” (family purity) practices relating to a woman’s lifecycle in the context of her marital relationship. Ms. Warburg Sinensky was one of five women in the historic first cohort of U.S.- educated yoatzot certified in 2013. (The singular form is pronounced yo-EH-tset; the plural is “yo-ah-TSOTE.”) Today there are 119 certified yoatzot, 100 in Israel and 19 working in 21 diaspora communities. “The major contribution of yoatzot hala- cha is establishing an address for women and couples to feel comfortable sharing more information when asking questions of an intimate nature, so they can receive halachically appropriate answers,” Ms. Warburg Sinensky said. The cornerstone of taharat hamishpacha is a woman’s immersion in a mikvah (a rit- ual bath) seven days after the cessation of

What: Community-wide Teaneck Yoetzet Initiative fundraiser

Where: Congregation Rinat Yisrael, 389 W. Englewood Ave., Teaneck

When: Wednesday, July 18, at 8 p.m.

SPONSORS: American Friends of Nishmat, AMIT, Emunah, Lamdeinu, Nechama Comfort, Project S.A.R.A.H., Sharsheret, Yesh Tikvah

her menstrual period; after that immersion, she may resume physical intimacy with her husband. But the guidelines cover all stages

in a woman’s married life, and therefore yoatzot field many inquiries about contra- ception, fertility, as well as issues arising postpartum and in perimenopause. Typical questions yoatzot receive include: “We are doing IVF. Can you walk us through the process from the perspec- tive of Jewish law?” “I have tried many contraceptives, and the adjustment phase is making our intimate life challenging. Any advice?” “I am going to an island for a vacation where there is no mikvah. Can I immerse in the ocean?” and “My husband and I do not engage in any physical contact at all when I am a niddah. We know this is do-able, but I just need some moral sup- port and tips!” There are two other yoatzot halacha in Bergen County: Shira Donath at Congre- gation Darchei Noam in Fair Lawn, and Nechama Price, the director of YU’s Grad- uate Program for Women in Advanced Tal- mudic Study, who is based at Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood and Kehillat Kesher of Tenafly and Englewood. In Teaneck, which brought in its first yoetzet in 2007, the position is funded by

a consortium of three of the township’s 14 Orthodox congregations — Rinat Yisrael, Shaare Tefillah, and Netivot Shalom — as well as by individual members of other shuls, Tirza Bayewitz, a Rinat member

and chair of the Yoetzet steering commit- tee, said. Ms. Bayewitz said that members of all the synagogues in Teaneck and Bergen- field and women in faraway locales that do not have a resident yoetzet consulted with Ms. Samuels frequently. (There also

is a hotline for questions — (877) 963-8938

— as well as an online address for them, “In one three-month period in 2017, Shoshana received about 100 calls or emails per month,” Ms. Bayewitz said. “That’s pretty consistent at different times during the year.” Ms. Warburg Sinensky, a 37-year-old mother of three, just completed five years as the yoetzet halacha of greater Philadel- phia and will continue as the yoetzet for the Young Israel of Toco Hills in Atlanta, which she visits several times a year. She has been the interim yoetzet halacha of the Riverdale Jewish Center twice. The job also involves planning and lead- ing community educational programs. The local schedule is on the Facebook page of

programs. The local schedule is on the Facebook page of Tova Warburg Sinensky the Teaneck Yoetzet

Tova Warburg Sinensky

the Teaneck Yoetzet Initiative. “I am passionate about making Torah learning exciting and accessible to women of all ages and stages,” Ms. Warburg Sinen- sky said. She has a master’s degree in sec- ondary Jewish education from Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School and has completed YU’s Graduate Program for Advanced Talmudic Studies for Women. Earlier in her career, she chaired the Tal- mud and halacha departments at Ma’ayanot

Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck and

at the Kohelet coed yeshiva high school serv-

ing greater Philadelphia. There she also was

a “reflection coach,” mentoring new and

veteran teachers. This fall, she will mentor teachers and teach Bible at her alma mater, the Frisch School in Paramus. “I’m also working on a curriculum focused on intimacy and healthy relation- ships in a collaborative effort with the teach- ers at Frisch,” she said. The material will be presented separately to boys and girls by teachers of their own gender. “It has been helpful to me as a yoetzet and as an instructional coach to have a common skillset that I use in both of my fields to help people grow, and to connect with them,” she continued. “I think the most critical piece to success is establishing

relationships and making people feel com- fortable and safe.” Yoatzot can be most effective, she added, when they develop relationships not only with the people who ask questions but also with such stakeholders as the community’s rabbis and their wives. Striving to package halachic information in creative, appealing, and accessible ways to meet the needs of each community, Ms. Warburg Sinensky has innovated unusual educational events. In one, women are pro- vided with questions and halachic, medi- cal, and social/emotional “clues” and try to answer them, in order to understand hala- chic process. She’s led webinars for women who can’t come to in-person events, and a “Taharat Hamishpacha Hacks” class offer- ing 10 pieces of advice based on frequently asked questions. Ms. Warburg Sinensky serves on the advisory committees of the Georgia-based Jewish Fertility Foundation and of the Jerusalem-based Eden Center, whose goal is to enhance the mikvah experience and connect it to women’s health and intimacy education. On behalf of the Jewish Fertility Foundation, she created a sensitivity train- ing document used in sensitizing some 100 Atlanta-area doctors who deal with



Orthodox Jews. Talking about the level of commitment to taharat hamishpacha among observant Jews, Ms. Warburg Sinensky said, “I have seen a growth mindset about this area of law. People are open to learning and hear- ing. The way the halacha is presented and packaged is critical to it being observed and adopted, and that’s something leaders and educators really need to think about in order for people to want to keep this area of law. “As a yoetzet and as a female who can relate to this, I try to make it more palatable.” The Miriam Glaubach U.S. Yoatzot Hala- cha Training Program, based in Teaneck, involves two years of study with experts in halacha and in obstetrics and gynecology, fertility, psychology, psychiatry, and lead- ership development, followed by a certifi- cation exam. The program’s dean is Rabbi Kenneth Auman, rabbi of the Young Israel of Flatbush; longtime YU faculty member Rabbi Gedalyah Berger of Teaneck is the head teacher. If a yoetzet receives a question requiring rabbinic expertise, she will investigate the opinion of the questioner’s own rabbi, if there is one, or will consult with a specialist

in the laws of taharat hamishpacha such as rabbis Auman or Berger, Ms. Sinensky said. Rabbi Yosef Adler of Congregation Rinat Yisrael was the first Teaneck rabbi to hire a yoetzet halacha. “As the founding shul of the Yoetzet Hal- acha program in Bergen County, I and the entire Rinat community are delighted to welcome Tova Warburg Sinensky as our next yoetzet,” he said. “Our previous yoat- zot, Shayna Goldberg and Shoshana Samu- els, have been invaluable additions to our shul and the broader Teaneck community, and Tova has huge shoes to fill. I am fully confident that with her scholarship and experience in Philadelphia and Atlanta, she, too, will significantly elevate our com- munity to greater adherence to one of the most difficult areas of Jewish law to absorb.” Rabbi Kenneth Schiowitz of Shaare Tefil- lah said that the Yoetzet Halacha program has greatly benefited his congregants “by providing a comfortable way for women to access additional religious, halachic, and personal guidance. Tova is a caring, com- petent educator and yoetzet halacha and we very much look forward to welcoming her into the community.” Congregation Netivot Shalom’s Rabbi Nati Helfgot said that having yoatzot

The major contribution of yoatzot halacha is establishing an address for women and couples to feel comfortable sharing more information when asking questions of an intimate nature, so they can receive halachically appropriate answers.

halacha in the community “has increased observance of critical areas of Jewish law and added to family harmony in a sig- nificant fashion. The Yoetzet Halacha program is part of a tapestry of positive developments that have emerged in the last three decades in the Modern Ortho- dox community, as a result of the growing access of talented and committed women to the core halachic texts of our tradition and opportunities to receive training to serve in rabbinic, pastoral, and educa- tional leadership roles.” Rabbi Helfgot said the Teaneck commu- nity “owes a debt of gratitude to Shoshana Samuels, who served as yoetzet halacha with such dignity, sagacity, and deep

empathy for each and every person she interacted with. I deeply appreciated part- nering with her over the years in dealing with questions of Jewish law and pastoral challenges, as well as hosting her for vari- ous lectures over the years. We are look- ing forward as Tova Warburg Sinensky, a talented educator and emerging leader, steps into the role of yoetzet halacha here in Teaneck.” Ms. Warburg Sinensky’s husband, Rabbi Tzvi Sinensky, grew up in Teaneck. He is a doctoral candidate at YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies and will be director of interdisciplinary studies and community outreach at the Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston.

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WPU begins investigating professor for conspiracy theories, Holocaust denial

University president responds to videos of anti-Semitic lectures posted by student


I n

our June 8 issue, the Jewish Stan-

dard’s Larry Yudelson broke the story that a longtime sociology pro- fessor at William Paterson University

in Wayne, Dr. Clyde Magarelli, had regaled his students with conspiracy theories, prominently including Holocaust denial, for years. And for years the stories had been down- played, the students who reported them ignored. But this semester, a Jewish stu- dent, Benny Koval of Fair Lawn, whose offi- cial complaint was met with silence from the university, videoed Dr. Magarelli on her phone, and then posted the videos on Twitter. Now, William Paterson has reacted. In a June 22 email addressed “To the Wil- liam Paterson University Community,” the school’s president, Kathleen Waldron, wrote that in response to the video, she had requested a preliminary review of Dr. Magarelli’s conduct. That review has been completed; now, “The University will

engage in a formal investigation of miscon- duct allegations, including but not limited to meeting with the professor and determin- ing appropriate action, including potential disciplinary action, in accordance with all statutory and due process right,” she wrote in the email. “As per standard procedures, the professor will be relieved of all Univer- sity responsibilities during the pendency of this investigation.” (Dr. Waldron is planning to retire at the end of this month.) In response, William Paterson’s Hil- lel posted a petition at, urging the university and its incoming president, Richard Helldobler, not to drop the investi- gation, and to have it end in Dr. Magarelli’s removal from the school’s faculty. “We thank President Waldron for sus- pending Professor Magarelli while the Uni- versity investigates the misconduct allega- tions,” the petition reads. “With this first step, we feel confident in placing our trust in the William Paterson administration to maintain the highest academic standards and commitment to diversity and tolerance

which are among its core values. Therefore, we urge the administration to take action regarding Professor Magarelli’s offensive and prejudiced statements and put into motion all efforts to remove him from the faculty of our esteemed University.” “We are happy with President Waldon’s statement, and we are grateful for it as a first step,” Talia Mizikovsky, the director of Jew- ish student life for the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, who leads the area’s Hillels, said. “But we want to hold the uni- versity responsible for continued action and follow-up. We want to make sure this issue doesn’t disappear, as so many other issues have. “And we are proud that this is an oppor- tunity for our community to come together and share its voice and connections with the larger community, not only at William Paterson but with the larger community in northern New Jersey,” she added. “It’s unfortunate to have to come together in these circumstances, but it is an opportu- nity to show our strength.” She’s also proud to say that the petition,

strength.” She’s also proud to say that the petition, Dr. Clyde Magarelli and the video that

Dr. Clyde Magarelli

and the video that accompanies it, was made by the president of Paterson’s Hillel, Esther Fellin of Fair Lawn. It’s alarming that despite’s Dr. Magarelli’s ideas — he’s “been recorded on video,” as Mr. Yudelson wrote two weeks ago, “espous- ing a series of anti-Semitic beliefs about Jews — including the ideas that Askenazi Jews are not genetically related to the ancient Israel- ites, that 175,000 German Jews found safe harbor in the German army during the

‘Changemaker’ receives Diller Award

Local teen lauded for creative efforts to prevent drug addiction


I the summer of 2013, when Stepha-

nie Reifman of Upper Saddle River was 13, Cory Monteith — one of her favorite actors — died of a heroin

overdose. “I was devastated,” she said. “I loved him and I loved ‘Glee,’” the TV program he starred in. “I was also curious. I didn’t really know about the problem of drug abuse, so I started to do some research.” What she found as she continued to explore the issue was that in 2013, 26 people in Bergen County alone died from a heroin overdose; in 2014, that number rose to 42. “And it continues to climb,” she said. “I know that law enforcement offi- cials go to schools to speak about this and show montages of people who died, but I thought that if I could tell my peers that this was something I cared about, it might help them relate to it at a more personal level. And I wanted to incorporate them into the conversation.” To accomplish her goal, Stephanie cre- ated what she called H.A.P.P.Y. Week — the acronym stands for Heroin Addiction Prevents People’s Years. Students in the


program go to an assembly where they see a short informational video — which

Stephanie created — followed by a segment in which she interviews both a recovering heroin addict and a parent whose child has died of an overdose. “I draw out their stories through inter- view questions,” Stephanie said. When she was 13, Stephanie approached the alcohol and drug abuse division of the Bergen County Department of Health and Human Services for advice on securing potential speakers. She was put in touch with Spring House, the county’s halfway house for women recovering from alcohol and drug abuse. Since then, Spring House has provided speakers — generally ranging in age from 22 to 28 — for each of the 40 presentations Stephanie has arranged for schools, syna- gogues, and youth groups. The first one was at her own middle school, and fea- tured a recovering addict. At other times, the speaker has been a bereaved parent. The network of speakers grew organi- cally. A father whose child died of an overdose “read a news article about my program and reached out and offered to speak,” Stephanie said. “Four other

out and offered to speak,” Stephanie said. “Four other Stephanie Reifman parents stepped forward also. It

Stephanie Reifman

parents stepped forward also. It helps them to talk about it.” It helps other stu- dents as well. “Kids don’t think about the impact addiction has on relationships. Get- ting to hear how it affects a parent — whose only relationship now is putting flowers on a child’s grave — is very powerful.”

Following each presentation, students can ask questions. And they do, Stephanie said, “sometimes going up to the speakers after the session to hug them or offer their condolences.” Now 18 and a recent graduate of North- ern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale, Stephanie estimates that her program has reached some 15,000 students Indeed, her tremendous success in educat- ing her fellow students has been recognized with a Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award. The statement announcing this year’s awards noted that they “recognize young changemakers who are committed to undertaking the most urgent and pressing challenges faced by communities around the globe.” Fifteen students were selected. Each will receive $36,000 “in support of their philanthropic vision.” In her application, Stephanie wrote, “Upon researching heroin addiction, I found that it was an epidemic and it was right in my own backyard. I knew then that I wanted to prevent more senseless deaths from occurring, so I created H.A.P.P.Y. Week to educate students on the dangers of heroin.” As simple as it sounds, it was a challenge.



Holocaust, and that Judaism has degenerated from a universal religion, with roots in ancient Egypt, to a rac- ist religion.” He also told his students that the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust was vastly overstated. On a different note, he insisted, among other things, that the moon landings were faked, and physically impossible anyway, and that it was Irish Catholics who started the institution of slavery. “It is alarming having a conspiracy theorist in a posi- tion of power, teaching young adults who might take him seriously,” Ms. Mizikovsky said. “It is a general edu- cational issue, overlaid with an anti-Semitism issue. It’s both insulting science and history and diminishing the lived trauma and atrocity of millions of people.” Although he went after “just about every marginalized group, there was a marked slant of Holocaust denial within his conspiracy theories that alienates and deeply disturbs the Jewish students who take his classes,” she said. “Our petition uses the words competency and aca- demic integrity.” It also accuses him of misogyny and purveying “crack- pot history and science.” Jason Shames, the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey’s CEO, also reacted to the university’s email. “I want to thank the Jewish Standard for breaking this story, and giving the Federation the opportunity to mobilize our expertise and resources around Profes- sor Magarelli’s insensitive and offensive comments and behavior,” he said. “We are grateful to President Wal- dron and William Paterson University for their imme- diate and appropriate response to our inquiry, and we look forward to a successful conclusion to this unfortu- nate incident.”

When she was 13, “I had to push people to believe in me,” she said. “I had to fight to prove I could do it. But the principal gave me a chance.” The Diller Award, she said, helps validate her efforts. She is also excited about the opportunity to meet and network with 14 other young social activists, and to talk about their projects as well as her own. Rabbi Shelley Kniaz, the director of congregation education at Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley in Woodcliff Lake, nominated Stephanie for the Diller Award. Rabbi Kniaz said, “I knew that Stephanie was a perfect candidate for this award. My biggest challenge in nominating her was that she had so many chesed and tzedakah activities and leadership roles that I struggled mightily to limit my responses to the word limits provided for each question in the form.” Rabbi Kniaz has known Stephanie since 2008, when she was in third grade. “She was an excellent student, beloved by all her teachers and peers. When she entered the eighth grade, Stephanie began volunteer- ing as a classroom aide on Sundays and on holidays. She is also very active in BBYO, which is housed in our building.” For her work on preventing heroin addiction, Rabbi Kniaz said, “Stephanie has been recognized as one of the 50 CBS New York People to Know, received the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, was invited by her mayor to serve on the town council, and inducted into the Hall of Fame by the American Association of University Women. I am in awe of what she has accomplished.” Stephanie, who maintains a website, happyweek. org, said that her 15-year-old sister, Melissa, who will begin her sophomore year of high school in September,


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Raising women’s voices in study

Lamdeinu in Teaneck offers series of four scholars teaching high-level Torah


of four scholars teaching high-level Torah JOANNE PALMER Rachel Friedman Shuli Taubes Miriam Krupka Berger Alisa

Rachel Friedman

teaching high-level Torah JOANNE PALMER Rachel Friedman Shuli Taubes Miriam Krupka Berger Alisa Danon Kaplan R

Shuli Taubes

high-level Torah JOANNE PALMER Rachel Friedman Shuli Taubes Miriam Krupka Berger Alisa Danon Kaplan R achel

Miriam Krupka Berger

PALMER Rachel Friedman Shuli Taubes Miriam Krupka Berger Alisa Danon Kaplan R achel Friedman of Teaneck,

Alisa Danon Kaplan

R achel Friedman of Teaneck, the founder and dean of Lamdeinu, is devoting her- self to creating an institution

of learning that is as passionate as she is, as in love with text, with the intellec- tual and logical and spiritual engagement with words and the ideas that underlie them, as she is. That is a tall order, but Ms. Friedman is making progress. She has committed her energies to creating a place that is a home for Jewish learning and a magnet for Jewish learners. Both men and women teach its classes, and both men and women are welcome as learners, although some classes are for women only. One of Ms. Friedman’s interests has been in the development of women as serious Torah scholars; the world of Jew- ish text study is changing, she said, as women have been given the opportunity to study more rigorously. Now they are teaching. On four Thursday mornings in July, Ms. Friedman and three other women — Shuli Taubes, Miriam Krupka Berger, and Alisa Danon Kaplan, will offer classes. (See box.) These talks — Torat Nashim, Women’s Torah, as it is called — are both similar to and different from classes at other insti- tutions in other historical periods, Ms. Friedman said. According to Lamdeinu’s flyer, “What we believe is unique about these women is that they represent a new brand of female Torah scholarship in the Orthodox world that is largely con- nected to their advanced Torah scholar- ship rather than to ritual or title.” “The level of advanced Jewish educa- tion that these women had is different than what would have been available to them 20 years ago,” Ms. Friedman said. “I see this next generation of Torah scholars, who are teaching both men and women, who are playing roles not just in women’s schools but in the professions, are affecting the entire community in a

certain sense, whether in an obvious way or in a more subtle way. They are reshap- ing those professions by virtue of their advanced Torah scholarship, their com- munications skills, their charisma, their dynamic natures — and also because the Orthodox community is open to the voices of women as it never was before.” Women’s voices are not the same as men’s voices, she continued, although of course no one person’s voice is like another’s, gender notwithstanding. But beyond that, “women have a different way of engaging with text,” Ms. Fried- man said. “They bring to it their own life experiences, a certain sensitivity, a cer- tain way of learning. “One thing I’ve noticed, and that’s maybe because women often end up learning Talmud later than men do — men often start very young, in first grade, so they read the text before they learn the language — women tend to be more focused on learning the language. “Each of these women is having an impact in a different way — but with- out their scholarship and the commu- nity’s openness to hearing the voices of women, this wouldn’t be happening.” Ms. Friedman will give the first talk. Although she often uses the word Torah broadly to encompass a range of ancient Jewish texts, here she will discuss a lit- eral Torah text, from the book of Bamid- bar — the book of Numbers. She’ll be

Women have a different way of engaging with text. They bring to it their own life experiences, a certain sensitivity, a certain way of learning.

describing the Israelites’ journey from

enslavement to liberty, and their trans- formation from slaves to a goy kadosh,

a holy people. She’s entwining that talk

with the idea of a tent, which represents

a home, and what happens when that

holiness is violated. But as involved as Ms. Friedman is with her own learning and teaching, she’s interested in providing the next genera- tion of women scholars with a platform, and in giving her students and commu- nity the chance to learn from them. The first speaker, Shuli Taubes, lives in Washington Heights with her hus- band; she’s chair of the Jewish philoso- phy department and teaches Tanach and comparative religion at SAR High School in Riverdale. But she grew up in Teaneck, the oldest of the five children of Rabbi Michael and Bassie Taubes. Learning was “the centerpiece of everything we did in my home” when she was growing up, Ms. Taubes said. That came not only from her parents but from her grandparents too. “I had a chevrutah” — a learning part- nership — “with my grandfather, Chaim Shulman,” she said. “It started when I was 13. He died two years ago, so it lasted for almost 20 years. My being a girl didn’t affect it at all.” They learned Torah together. And that wasn’t all. “My father’s father, Leo Taubes, and his mother, Rina Hyman Taubes, were among the founders of

the Orthodox community in Teaneck,” Ms. Taubes said. “They moved there in the 1960s, and had a shul in their base- ment.” Her grandfather, who was a hid- den child during the Holocaust, became

a professor of English at Yeshiva Univer-

sity. Like her mother’s father, he also had

a chevrutah with his granddaughter. “Any time I was assigned a Shakespeare play, he would come over and we’d read

it out loud together,” she said. “We’d read

Milton together. “I had a very blessed childhood.” She wasn’t the only grandchild her grandfathers studied with. “My Torah chevrutah grandfather, who lived in Mon- sey, had a bunch of granddaughters who lived in Teaneck,” she said. “We would order a pizza and learn high-level texts

together. His method was to talk to us as

if we were all very capable. He pushed us

to think creatively.” That background, ranging from Torah to Talmud to Shakespeare to Milton, with its exposure to complexity and subtlety and vast cultural differences and assumptions, with its understand- ing of human nature in normal life and in extremis, seems to have been a perfect medium to grow a theologian. Ms. Taubes earned her undergraduate degree at Barnard and then went to Har- vard Divinity School. “I am very inter- ested in the human/Divine relationship, and about both what God expects of human beings and what human beings expect and mean about God. So God is the centerpiece of the way I think about meaning.” God is the lens through which she sees the world. She’ll teach about multiple messiahs at Lamdeinu. What does that mean? “We have an interesting tradition of them,” she said. “Most people just think of the Moshiach ben David” — the mes- siah who comes from the line of David

Who: Lamdeinu, led by its dean, Rachel Friedman

What: Offers “Torat Nashim”

When: On four Thursday mornings in July, from 10:15 to 11:30

July 5, Rachel Friedman teaches “Endangering Our Ohel: The Challenge of Baal Peor”

July 12, Shuli Taubes teaches “Ani Ma’amin: I Believe in the Coming of the Messiahs”

July 19, Miriam Krupka Berger teaches “Eicha: Analyzing a Language of Grief”

July 26, Alisa Danon Kaplan teaches “Texts and Tachlis: Talmud’s Practical Advice on Bikur Cholim”

Where: Lamdeinu is housed at Congregation Beth Aaron, 950 Queen Anne Road, Teaneck

How much: Each class is $25; the series is $90.

For more information: or



— “but we also have an earlier concept,

a moshiach from the house of Joseph.”

David descends from Judah; if you look at the two biblical characters, Judah and Joseph, “Joseph represents physical and material power and strength, and Judah represents spiritual strength. You need both of those voices. “The messiah son of Joseph would come first, the Gemara and the midrash tell us. Rav Kook” — that’s Abraham Isaac Kook, the famous scholar and mystic who became the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of mandatory Palestine — “made a reference in his eulo�y of Theodor Herzl that Herzl was not the messiah ben David but poten- tially the messiah ben Joseph. He devel- oped the concept as the birth pangs of the messiah.” There are other messiahs hinted at in other Jewish texts, she added; they’re all intermediate steps to get to the one whose coming will change the world entirely. “What I like about the concept of mul- tiple messiahs is that it gives regular peo- ple some agency,” Ms. Taubes said. “We can be harbingers of a better future. If there is only one person who can be the savior, that takes away our responsibility, but if there are many, that gives us both

responsibility, but if there are many, that gives us both I will look at the female

I will look at the female voice of Eicha. It’s the voice of a woman, a virgin, a bride, a widow, a daughter of the city. I will look at why the language of tragedy is so feminized.

responsibility and agency.” Miriam Krupka Berger of Teaneck is the dean of faculty at the upper school at Ramaz on Manhattan’s Upper East Side; she also chairs its Tanach depart- ment. At Lamdeinu, she will look at Eicha, the Book of Lamentations that will be read on Tisha B’Av, just a few days after her talk. “I will look at the female voice of Eicha,” she said. “It’s the voice of a woman, a virgin, a bride, a widow, a

daughter of the city. I will look at why the language of tragedy is so feminized. “In Eicha, she is the city itself, and an outsider observer, a desperate observer looking at it,” Ms. Berger said. “Then the book moves into the first person singu- lar, and then the first person communal.

It moves into the we. And then, in Perek

Gimmel” — the third chapter — “it becomes male. Why is that? There is a lot of mili- tary imagery there, weapons, spears, war.” Then the voice becomes female again. “Why is it structured like that? “You are taking just about every kind of pain a woman can experience and trans-

lating it into Eicha. And it’s not just that women are more vulnerable. That’s obvi- ous. There’s more. “I want to look at the way the female voice is used in the rest of the Tanach. Is it different from the way it’s used in Eicha?” Ms. Berger’s formal background is more in Tanach and philosophy than in English literature — her master’s degree, from Columbia, was in Jewish philosophy, and her thesis was about the mystic Isaac Abarbanel — but her connection to litera- ture is longstanding and deep. “I love to read, and I read all the time,” she said. “I always have. I incorporate what I read into my teaching, because I think that it is both relevant and beautiful. “I take an interdisciplinary approach, with literature and history and philosophy and language, but you have to know all of

it to know Tanach.” Alisa Danon Kaplan, also of Teaneck, is

a chaplain at the oncolo�y department of

Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livings- ton, where she works with outpatients

Center in Livings- ton, where she works with outpatients I take an interdisciplinary approach, with literature

I take an interdisciplinary approach, with literature and history and philosophy and language, but you have to know all of it to know Tanach.

who are getting infusion medication or radiation treatments. “It takes many hours and many visits,” she said. “Patients are often there for five, six, seven, eight hours, and a lot of issues come up during that time.” As patients wait out their treatments, with not much else to do but sit and think about mortality, about life, about mean- ing, about fear and courage and hope and love, they often ask chaplains for help. Ms. Kaplan, who has masters’ degrees from the University of Judaism and the Jew- ish Theological Seminary, and who has trained as a chaplain by getting credits in clinical pastoral education, is now part of a new initiative set up by the Jewish Federa- tion of Greater Metrowest, headquartered in Whippany. “I am going to be talking about bikkur cholim” — helping the sick — “and what the Gemara has to teach us about the practi- cal details of visiting someone who is sick,” Ms. Kaplan said. There is much abstract to be said about the importance of such work, but there also is much practical advice to be given, and there is a strong case to be made for the greater founda- tional importance of the practical over the theoretical. “It’s what I refer to as tachlis,” Ms. Kaplan said. It’s like getting down to the brass tacks, the here-and-now reality. “It is important to keep in mind that we

can utilize these stories and ideas in the Gemara to actually impact visiting the sick and taking care of those in need. “There are stories in the Gemara of peo- ple doing bikkur cholim,” she continued. “It’s walking in God’s ways — it’s imitatio Dei. That’s doing God’s work. “In Nedarim” — one of the Talmud’s tractates — “Rabbi Akiva enters the house of one of his students, who is sick, and what does he do? Either he or some other students sweep and sprinkle the ground in front of the sick student. He cleans up. “It is a reminder that bikkur cholim is not just about saying nice things about helping people who are sick. It’s not about saying ‘Please let me know if there’s any- thing I can do for you.’ It’s about finding the things that have to be done and doing them. It’s about saying ‘I see your shoes need to be polished. Let me polish them for you.’ It’s about seeing a mountain of unwashed dishes in the sink and saying ‘May I wash them for you.’ “In the Gemara, the disciple says to Akiva, ‘You have revived me. Doing this was medicine for me.’” Back at Lamdeinu, Rachel Friedman is not saying nice, upbeat things about text study, or about applying women’s voices to that study. Instead, “I spent a lot of time now cultivating the next generation,” she said. “I am very excited about it. “At Lamdeinu, I will never hire any- one who is not a good human being. That is part of the program. All of our teachers, men and women, are aca- demically trained, religiously trained, and good human beings, who care pas- sionately about the future of the Jewish community. “If you want to bring along the whole community, you have to make Torah study part of everyone’s life. The Jewish commu- nity will look different in 20 years because of it, there’s no doubt. I think it is a won- derful, fabulous thing. Because of Torah study, because of the new generation of women whose voices are being joined with their brothers’ and husbands’ voices, which always have been raised in learning, “I think we have a won- derful future,” Ms. Friedman said.

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New officers for Teaneck shul

At Shabbat morning services on June 16, Cantor Ellen Tilem, left, and Rabbi Ste- ven Sirbu, right, installed Temple Emeth’s new officers. With them are assistant secretary Jill Kantor of Leonia, financial secretary Michael Robinson of Teaneck, treasurer Gary Richards of Cliffside Park, assistant

financial officer Emily Hodjis of Fair Lawn, first vice president Nicole Falk of Glen Rock, president Amy Abrams of Tenafly, and second vice president Flip Bernard of Teaneck. Third vice president Michael Goldberg of Teaneck and secretary Risa Rosenberg of Tenafly are not pictured.

Family open house and Shabbat dinner

The JCC of Paramus/Congregation Beth Tikvah hosts an open-house dinner for prospective religious school families and their 4- to 13-year-old children, Friday, June 29, at 6 p.m. Regular Shabbat ser- vices follow at 8.

The shul is at East 304 Midland Ave. The dinner is free, but reservations are required. For information, call (201) 262- 7733, email eduDirector@jccParamus. org, or go to

Abrams to serve as JFNNJ president

Roberta Abrams will become the new presi- dent of the Jewish Fed- eration of Northern New Jersey on July 1. The orga- nization’s headquarters are in Paramus. Ms. Abrams, who was born and raised in north- ern New Jersey, attended

nursery school at the YM/ YWHA in Hackensack, which became the YJCC and now the JCCNJ without walls, and she went to Hebrew school at Tem- ple Beth Or in Washington Township. In high school she was active in BBYO and became president of the local chapter. She has been involved in the


Roberta Abrams

federation since 2002, and she’s been on the executive committee for more than five years. She also was president of Temple Beth Or and a par- ticipant in the first cohort of Berrie Fellows. When discussing her upcom- ing presidency, she said, “I’m a planner, I’m a strategic thinker,

I believe in consensus building, I’m open minded, and I’m not afraid to take a stand when necessary.” According to Jason Shames, the federation’s CEO, “I am looking forward to working with Roberta and her straightforward style, decisiveness, and heartfelt commitment to our community.”

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President, board are installed at Woodcliff Lake temple

Susan Bromberg, right, the outgoing president of Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley, congratu- lates the incoming president, Marc Mandelman. The new Temple Emanuel board was installed on Friday, June 15, after Shabbat dinner at the shul.


Clifton shul celebrates 75 years

The Clifton Jewish Center, an egalitarian Conservative congregation serving Pas- saic, Bergen, and Essex counties, cele- brated its 75th anniversary at a gala at the Richfield Regency on June 24. Since its inception, the Clifton Jew- ish Center has provided religious and

community service programs to its con- gregation and people in Clifton and the surrounding municipalities. In celebration of its 75th anniversary, the synagogue is opening its Hebrew school to unaffiliated families at a nominal cost. For informa- tion, call (973) 772-3131.

at a nominal cost. For informa- tion, call (973) 772-3131. Chana and Len Grunstein with Representative

Chana and Len Grunstein with Representative Hakeem Jeffries.


Congressman Jeffries hosted at Teaneck Norpac meeting

Chana and Len Grunstein hosted a Nor- pac pro-Israel meeting in their Teaneck home to support Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). Mr. Jeffries’s congres- sional district encompasses parts of Brooklyn, including Canarsie and East New York. Since 2017, he has been the chair of the Democratic Policy and

Communications Committee. During the meeting, Mr. Jeffries answered questions about the future of U.S.-Israel relations in the Democratic party. He is serving his third term in Con- gress and is running for re-election this year.

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Valley Chabad gala celebrates chai life year

More than 350 guests celebrated at Valley Chabad’s gala, “Celebrate 18. Celebrate Life,” on June 5 at the Rockleigh Country Club. The party marked the 18th year of Valley Chabad’s community-based ser- vices to the Pascack Valley and Saddle River communities, and it honored key members for their support of its educa- tional and outreach programs. The evening began with a musical “To Life” tribute by Valley Chabad cantors Mottie and Yoni Zighelboim and their band, with welcoming remarks from Jayne Petak of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, and from Rabbi Dov Drizin, Valley Chabad’s executive director. Hindy Drizin presented the awards, noting Valley Chabad’s mission of outreach and commu- nity service to people of all ages and across all Jewish denominations. Bernie and Bernice Gola received the Chai Life award for their decades of service and as champions of humanity. Bernice Gola talked about their commitment to the Valley Chabad community and to helping others, born of her husband’s own wartime

experience. Bernie Gola, a Holocaust survi- vor and philanthropist, frequently talks to students and adults about his experiences. Warren and Esther Feldman were given the Shem Tov award for the impact of their many years of service to Valley Chabad and their community. The Feldmans stressed the love of family and appreciation of com- munity that powers their ever-growing list of philanthropic achievements. Lawrence and Elana Bibi and their three children were the Young Leadership award recipients for service, learning, and education. They were cited as exemplary members of a new generation with a drive for outreach and community involvement. Teen honorees Maddy Gold and Mitch- ell Bloom were the Our Future award winners. Both are graduating high school seniors and outgoing CTeen leaders; they share a passion for service. Maddy Gold, an avid student and athlete, thrives on learning about her identity and giving back. Mitchell Bloom, a varsity quarter- back, has been a leader on and off the field in volunteerism.

has been a leader on and off the field in volunteerism. Elana Bibi, back row, center,

Elana Bibi, back row, center, with her friends at the dinner.

Bibi, back row, center, with her friends at the dinner. David and Jayne Petak, center, with

David and Jayne Petak, center, with Rabbi Dov and Hindy Drizin.

and Jayne Petak, center, with Rabbi Dov and Hindy Drizin. Hindy and Rabbi Dov Drizin with

Hindy and Rabbi Dov Drizin with Bernice and Bernie Gola, front.

and Rabbi Dov Drizin with Bernice and Bernie Gola, front. Warren and Esther Feldman, center, with

Warren and Esther Feldman, center, with Rabbi Dov and Hindy Drizin.

and Esther Feldman, center, with Rabbi Dov and Hindy Drizin. Honoree Mitchell Bloom, center, flanked by

Honoree Mitchell Bloom, center, flanked by his parents, Joyce and Eric Bloom; his brother, Evan, left, and grandfather, Marty Weintraub, right.

Evan, left, and grandfather, Marty Weintraub, right. Maddy Gold, honoree, left, with her parents, Sue and

Maddy Gold, honoree, left, with her parents, Sue and Shelly Gold, and brother, Billy.



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Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia

Visit for the first time or revisit one of the world’s leading collections of impressionist and post-impressionist art. In addition to the Barnes’ astounding permanent collection, there’s a special exhibit, Renoir: Father and Son/Painting and Cinema. Explore the works of acclaimed director Jean Renoir. Luxury bus to and from the JCC, museum admission and special exhibit. Lunch on your own.

Wed, Aug 29, 8:30 am-6 pm, $100/$120

Play Fore! The Kids:

Golf, Tennis & Games

Join us for an incredible day playing your favorite sports or games with friends and enjoy a delicious brunch, dinner reception, and sensational online, fisherman and exciting live auctions. All proceeds support the JCC's programming, services and camps for children with special needs.

Mon, Aug 6, Montammy Golf Club, Alpine, NJ

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Beginner Mah Jongg


This ancient Chinese game is fun and challenging, yet surprisingly easy to understand. Learn the basics and how to play skillfully in our relaxed, no pressure atmosphere. Come with a group or we will set you up with one.

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Cover Story

Felice Gaer fights for human rights

Among the many committees on which Ms. Gaer sits is this one, about election monitoring, at the Carter Center in Atlanta.

Joanne Palmer

W hen you meet Felice Gaer, you don’t immediately realize that you are sitting across a café table from

someone who has stared down dictators,

has listened to shattering stories of abuse and torture, and has had the brains, tenac- ity, stomach, and overall decency to make

a difference — a very real difference — in

this often terrifying and senseless world. You think, at first, that you are meeting

a calm, soft-spoken, certainly worldly but still regular person. Then you ask about her life, and the more you hear, the more you stare in wonder.

Ms. Gaer has lived in Bergen County for most of her life. She was born in Engle- wood and grew up in Teaneck; after she married in 1975, she moved to River Edge. Now she and her husband live in Paramus.

When she was a child, Ms. Gaer’s father was in a business that must have made her the envy of all her friends. He owned a toy store in Englewood. “It was called Gaer Toys, and it was on the corner of Palisades and Dean,” she said. “It was okay, having him have a toy store. You’d go in and pick out whatever you wanted, and he would scowl, and then he’d say okay.” Her father, Abraham Gaer, grew up on a truck farm in Patchogue, out on eastern Long Island; her mother, Beatrice, grew up in Hackensack and graduated from Hack- ensack High School. “I have only positive memories of Teaneck,” Ms. Gaer said. “It was progres- sive. I had a top-level education.” Stu- dents had concerned, involved parents, who valued education. Many of them, as stereotypical as it seems, were Jewish. “And there were really smart kids in my grade, and in the school,” she added. The school offered many advanced placement

courses; it also had typing classes that were mandatory for all seventh graders, girls and boys alike. “I was interested in science, and we had advanced placement biology,” Ms. Gaer said. So she took it. But it wasn’t biology that set Ms. Gaer on the path she’d follow for her entire career. It was Russian. As a result of the launch of Sputnik in 1957, Russia’s first satellite, American poli- ticians rushed to beef up U.S. education to counter the threat of Russian technology through the National Defense Act of 1958. Schools adjusted to the challenge, offer- ing many more science and math classes. They also occasionally offered Russian. Teaneck High School was among those schools. “I wasn’t going to sign up for Rus- sian, but I couldn’t be in band and take advanced math and also take the language I wanted — I don’t even remember what that language was anymore — so I took Russian,” Ms. Gaer said. “It probably was

the most significant thing I did.” Ms. Gaer went to Wellesley College in 1964; she was one class ahead of Hillary Clinton. “We were in a class together in my senior year,” she said. She majored in political science and took as many classes as she could in Rus- sian history and “Russian-related stuff.” There had been no Russian-born stu- dents in her high-school class, she said, and none in college either. “It was only when I was in college that we began to hear complaints about Soviet Jewry. I remember an argument on campus about whether Russian Jews were treated worse than or the same as other Russians.” The consensus back then was no, Jews were not treated worse than other Russians. After college, Ms. Gaer went to gradu- ate school, studying political science in general and at the Russian Institute there in particular. “I worked with Zbigniew Brzezinski and Marshall Shulman there,”

16 Jewish standard JUne 29, 2018

Cover Story

Cover Story Felice Gaer’s work takes her around the world; here, she talks to women in

Felice Gaer’s work takes her around the world; here, she talks to women in Sudan.

she said. Both were famous and influen- tial statesmen and scholars. “Brzezinski

was Carter’s national security adviser,” she said. “He was a hawk and a founder of the Trilateral Commission. Shulman was

a specialist on Russia for Cyrus Vance; he

was for détente and working things out. The two of them were very different.” She learned much from both of them. “I got my master’s degree and took my doctoral exams, and then one day

I got a note asking ‘Would you be inter-

ested in a job in New York?’ I said I might, although I was told that it might delay my dissertation. “The note was from the Ford Founda- tion.” The delay in writing her dissertation became infinite — she never did finish that degree — but Ms. Gaer’s move to the Ford Foundation, as an assistant program offi- cer, in 1974, “opened up another world. A world not of books and learning and the like, but of people and processes and insti- tutions, and the power of philanthropy.” As Ms. Gaer described the wide world that opened in front of her as she left the confines of uptown academia for the mid- town east glass tower that housed Ford, with its hanging gardens and atrium and “huge doors of brass and leather with the interior all glass, literally transparent for a nontransparent organization,” it sounded as if she were describing Dorothy opening the door once her house had landed in Oz, and going from the black and white of Kan- sas to the glittering land of Oz. Of course, Ms. Gaer was an extraordi- narily sophisticated Dorothy. “I was responsible for a number of things dealing with Soviet and Eastern European arms control,” she said. “I was assistant program officer and then pro- moted to program officer and I was on the foundation’s public policy commission,” she said. She analyzed defense systems

and worked on arms control. “We were trying to address the global desire of peo- ple in the military to have new toys,” she said. “We looked at whether it was neces- sary for what they needed to accomplish.” Her expertise in both analytics and in firsthand experience — her job then, like her job now, and all her jobs in between, entailed huge amounts of travel — allowed her to put together the plan that she said “probably is the most influential thing I did in my life. “I decided that there was an enormous division between experts on Soviet East- ern Europe and the people who worked on arms control, on bombs and bullets,” she said. One side knew about technol- ogy and the other knew about the emo- tional truth of people’s lives, “but there was an enormous gulf between them.” The elegant answer to a gulf is a bridge. “So I came up with a dual program where they would study each other’s stuff,” Ms. Gaer said. Condoleezza Rice, later President George W. Bush’s secretary of state, was in that program. “Hers was an unusual appli- cation,” Ms. Gaer said. “She was a special- ist on the Czech army. That was unusual. And all the others were from the Ivies and Stanford. She came from the University of Denver. Almost all of the others were men — not all, but most. And she was African American. Not one of the others was Afri- can American. “So we had a number of telephone con- versations, and I pushed for her, and she got it.” But as much as the two women knew each other’s voices, they never met. “And then, when I was on the U.S. Com- mission on International Religious Free- dom in 2001, she came to the meeting, walked around to shake everyone’s hand, I told her my name, she stopped dead in her tracks, turned around to the rest of them,

and said, ‘I don’t know if you have any idea how important this woman has been to my career and my life.’” Ms. Gaer was at Ford from 1974 to 1981. “In my later years in graduate school, and then when I was at Ford, the dissi- dent movement was growing in the Soviet Union,” she said. “I had gotten involved in supporting Soviet émigrés when I was at Ford. They were professionals in the Soviet context — scholars, teachers, engi- neers, social scientists — but they lacked skills in the American context. We set up a program to help them with their resumes, with learning how to interview, and some- times we subsidized their first year. It was an enormously important program. Imperfect, but enormously important.” In 1981, she became the executive director of a small New York-based NGO, the International League for Human Rights. It was “closely aligned with Andrei Sakharov, the dean of the Soviet dissident movement,” who won a Nobel Peace Prize. She also “worked on human rights in the rest of the world outside Europe,” Ms. Gaer said. “I developed an expertise on Chile, on China, on some African countries, on how multilateral institutions really operate. “I was there for 10 years, and when the Clinton administration was elected I was asked to be what they called a public mem- ber of some commissions.” Through that role, which no longer exists, “the commis- sions had State Department officials and also experts to serve the delegation and to be part of it. Some of the public members were honorific — they didn’t work — but not me.”

Those commissions were the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations World Conference on Women, and the World Conference on Human Settlements. During those busy years, Ms. Gaer and her husband had two children. Her hus- band, Dr. Henryk Baran, is a retired profes- sor who was at SUNY Albany’s department of languages, literature, and culture; he specialized in Russian language and litera- ture. Unsurprisingly, he has had a highly distinguished career. The couple’s two sons are Hugh, a filmmaker, and Adam, an attorney. Meanwhile, she kept adding more pro- fessional commitments as well. “In 1999, the Clinton administration nominated me to be an independent expert member of the committee against torture,” she said. “It’s a treaty-monitoring body adminis- tered by the U.N., but it has an indepen- dent mandate. I’m vice-chair. “You get to engage with officials from all the ratifying countries,” Ms. Gaer said. “There now are 163 of them. We meet face to face and raise issues of how their laws and practices conform with what the treaty requires. “The treaty requires criminalizing tor- ture and taking a whole series of very specific measures to prevent it, includ- ing investigating alleged torture, provid- ing complaint mechanisms, and ensuring that places of custody are inspected and that both torture and ill treatment are addressed. “It’s a 10-member committee, and we divide the work up by country. When I

committee, and we divide the work up by country. When I Felice Gaer beams, standing next

Felice Gaer beams, standing next to Andrei Sakharov, in the late 1980s.

Cover Story

started, it was five weeks a year; now, we spend 12 weeks a year in Geneva, where we meet. We have challenged the Chinese, the Russians, Saudi Arabia, the Uzbeks, Qatar, and Ireland. “I have been the person who pushed the issue of the Magdalene laundries at the U.N. level,” she added. The laundries were church- run institutions that imprisoned women who were not considered adequately respectable or responsible; they were horrific places,

places of torture and confinement, shrouded in secrecy. The first one opened in 1765, the last one did not close until 1996, and the Irish government finally offered apologies and reparations in 2013. “I will never forget the junior minister in charge of justice for Ireland, when we asked him questions about the Magdalene laundries,” Ms. Gaer said. “First of all it was run by the church, he said, and second of all the girls who were there all were there

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voluntarily, or with the consent of their parents. I said, ‘Consent. What does that mean?’ We went through a scenario. I asked, was the door locked? Was there barbed wire? Were the girls locked in cells? If they escaped, did the police bring them back?” The answers to all those questions were yes. In fact, Ms. Gaer said, she as was told informally that one of the reasons that the laundries ceased to exist might have been human rights, but another was “when they invested in automatic wash- ing machines, all that went away. “This was a story about transparency,” she continued. “Before this, our meet- ings had been audiotaped, but now they were videotaped. Someone took the clip and sent it to the media and to the Irish Senate, and there were exposes written about it. “Within three weeks, the president of Ireland appointed a state commission to look into it, and within six months he apologized.” In 1993, Ms. Gaer left the League. “I went to the American Jewish Commit- tee, where I have been ever since,” she said. She’s the head of the AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, “which works trying to make the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other instruments a little closer to reality.” The institute, according to its website, “focuses on pro-Israel, human relations, as well as human and civil rights.” “Jacob Blaustein was an industrial- ist,” Ms. Gaer said. “He was the inventor of the gasoline pump and a founder of Amoco and a president of the Ameri- can Jewish Committee. He believed, as people did in the 1940s, that you can’t protect one group of people without protecting all groups of people. You can’t protect Jews unless you protect everyone. “He was at the U.N.’s founding meeting in San Francisco, and he ensured that human rights would be in its charter. Russia and England didn’t want it, but it’s there. And he stayed with the issue of human rights until he died in 1970.

“He created the institute; the focus on multilateral institutions came from

there, and we have stayed with it. It is our pre-eminent focus. “I bring my philanthropic experi- ences together with my advocacy expe- riences together here,” she said. “It’s an unusual perch.” Her move was “logical,” she added. “When I got there, I was appointed, first by “ Gephardt” — the Missouri con- gressman who was the House Minority Leader — and then Nancy Pelosi” — the Californian who has that position now — “and the Obama administration, to the U.S. Commission on International Reli- gious Freedom” — where she finally met Condi Rice — “where I was able to bring both a human rights and a Jewish per- spective. I was the only Jew there for a number of years. “I remember going there and saying ‘What about anti-Semitism?’ There were

a lot of evangelicals there, and a Catho-

lic bishop, and they said ‘Anti-Semitism is not a religious issue,’ and I said ‘The heck it isn’t religious.’ And I made sure

that we put a lot of effort into the issue.” She recalls talking to the Saudis about anti-Semitism in meetings both in Wash- ington and in Saudi Arabia, which she visited twice. “We sat there with the Sau- dis’ minister of religious endowments. I asked about their textbooks, and the fact that they appeared to teach the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in higher education. “The Saudi minister said, ‘We are against anti-Semitism. I have to tell you that we opposed anti-Semitism. It is not accepted. “‘But this book, the Protocols — well,

it is a different matter. It has quite a his-

tory in this country. My father used to have it at home. We are not prepared to denounce it.’ “And we said ‘This is a forgery. It pro- motes anti-Semitism. It establishes Jews as demons trying to establish world control.’ And he said, ‘Well, we will have to see.’ “When you have a commission like this, with the right people on it, you can raise issues like that. And we were able

on it, you can raise issues like that. And we were able Ms. Gaer sits across

Ms. Gaer sits across a table from her Wellesley classmate, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

18 Jewish standard JUne 29, 2018

Cover Story



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Ms. Gaer has chaired the Commission on International Religious Freedom.

to report accurately on the Saudis.” It’s not as if more clarity on Saudi Arabia has changed official U.S. policy. “Before we started pressing on the issue of Saudi Arabia, all we got were excuses for Saudi conduct from our govern- ment,” Ms. Gaer said. “In about 2003 or ‘04, we were able to get the Bush 43 administration to designate Saudi Arabia as a severe violator of religious freedom. But the bad news is that they would waive any penalties. Everyone else, even Obama, has waived sanctions against Saudi Arabia.” When she went to Saudi Arabia, “I did not wear a chador,” she said. “I asked about it, and they said, ‘You are not Mus- lim, so you do not have to. I would have in a mosque, as a sign of respect, but not in an office building.” In all her work, “I raise individual cases within countries,” she said. “I ask about people who were tortured or ill treated. I also raised issues about gen- der-based violence.” She makes a point to visit minority religious communities whenever she can, Ms. Gaer said. “That means Bahais in Egypt and Iraq. When we went to Syria in 2007, we met with Yazidis. We meet with Jewish groups whenever we can. We meet with Catholics in Protes- tant countries and with Protestants in Catholic countries, and whenever we are in Muslim countries we try to meet with Jews.” Now, at the AJC, “I am able to focus on religious freedom for everyone, not only for Jews, but all my work is based on Jewish values. “Human rights do not defend them- selves,” she said. The world is in a perilous place just now, Ms. Gaer said, and she is not san- guine about the future. “We are not seeing American leadership,” she said. “Instead, we are seeing American leavership. “Instead of mobilizing our resources and using our diplomatic clout, we are denouncing and leaving institutions rather than shaping them. “Around the world, we haven’t been

appointing top people, and we’ve been leaving the second-tier people on their own out here. It is really sad and trou- bling. We have spent years building up connections so that we can use them, not lose them. It will take years and years to rebuild them.” And, she added, talking about the neo- Nazis who marched in Charlottesville and President Trump’s statement that there were fine people on both sides of that march, “words have consequences. When you give legitimacy to that kind of sentiment, other terrible things follow. This is a terrible moment. “We need more people to speak up, because as Elie Wiesel said, ‘neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.’ “The Jewish community is stronger when it sticks to its core values,” she added. In May, the Jewish Theological Semi- nary gave Ms. Gaer an honorary doctor- ate, honoring in particular her “stead- fast advocacy on behalf of international human rights causes.” Rabbi Noam Marans of Teaneck is the AJC’s director of interreligious and intergroup relations. “It’s a remarkable gift to work at the AJC side by side with people who are acknowledged leaders in their field,” he said. “Felice is one of those people. “She is among a handful of pre-emi- nent leaders in human rights, religious freedom, the protest against torture, and women’s rights in the world. For me to have that contact with a repository of knowledge and activism every day is wonderful. And I have that gift every day at the AJC. “Felice is one of those people who is universally acknowledged as an expert. Has anyone served longer on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom? She has served five terms, sev- eral of them as its chair. “And she does it as an expression of Jewish values.” Ms. Gaer is a prime example of some- one who can blend the universal with

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the particular, Rabbi Marans said. “If we don’t care about the world, we can’t expect the world to care about the Jewish people. So we do it both because it is right, and out of enlightened self-interest. Every- thing we do of course is on behalf of the Jewish people, but it is clear that our Jew- ish values are manifest in this seemingly universal endeavor. “Felice is first and foremost about the Jewish people. In an age where we have to guard against Jewish particularism, it is this kind of work that enables us to mani- fest our concern for the Jewish people by showing that we show up for everyone who is in need. “And what else is amazing about Felice is that she knows everything. She’s what the Talmud describes as a well that never leaks. Everything comes in, and she doesn’t lose any of her knowledge. She is a voracious reader of the Jewish world. She always knows something that most of us gloss over but she does not.” And there’s something else. “Felice is a tough woman,” Rabbi Marans said. “She’s like a sabra, tough on the outside and sweet on the inside. And given what she’s done in her career, she has to be tough. Do you think she’s welcome in these countries?

No. She is not welcome in these countries. “She writes reports about the lack of religious freedom. That doesn’t make you popular in the places that she visits. “I am glad that she is out there fight- ing the good fight not only for the Jew- ish people, but for all people who care about human rights and religious freedom and opposition to torture and women’s enfranchisement.” “I am so proud that the institution that ordained my father” — Rabbi Arnold Marans — “and ordained my wife” — Rabbi Amy Roth — “and ordained me had the good judgment to present Felice Gaer with an honorary doctorate,” Noam Marans said. One other thing. It’s striking that Felice Gaer — who has worked on so many com- mittees and commissions and in so many other important groups that we can’t list them all here — is named as she is. In Hebrew, Gaer means stranger. It’s not clear where the name comes from; “I have seen ten different spellings of it,” Ms. Gaer said. The family is Russian; “I always have a crazy theory about it, that I have no backup for whatsoever, that an Irish cus- toms officer changed it, because Gaer is a place in Ireland.”

officer changed it, because Gaer is a place in Ireland.” In May, the Jewish Theological Seminary

In May, the Jewish Theological Seminary gave Ms. Gaer an honorary doctorate.

Still, it is hard not to think that there is some meaning to this consummate insider, whose life’s work has been

helping outsiders, is named “stranger.” It is her mission to make sure that strangers remain outsiders no longer.

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Jewish World

These academics want to mend Israel-diaspora relations

But can this marriage be saved across continents and cultures?


JerUSALeM — When Adam Ferziger wants to describe the “deteriorating” rela- tionship between American and Israeli Jews, he reaches back to a 2,000-year- old divide. “To use a metaphor, we have a contem- porary Jerusalem and Babylon kind of dynamic, with two truly significant cre- ative and vibrant Jewish centers develop- ing across the world from each other,” Fer- ziger said. He’s a professor of history and contemporary Jewry at Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv. Ferziger and others point to polls in recent years showing that not only are American Jews increasingly distancing themselves from both organized Jew- ish life and the State of Israel, but Israeli Jews are growing less and less interested in the views and opinions of their dias- pora cousins. It is this growing divide that Ferziger said he is trying to mend through the

establishment of the Impact Center for Research on Judaism in Israel and North America. What is needed, he said, is a “new para- digm” for looking at the diaspora-Israel relationship, one that he thinks will best be found through exploring the distinctions and commonalities of the two divergent forms that Jewish life has taken. His center is only the latest addition to a political and academic sector trying to find that new paradigm. Its establishment comes on the heels of the inauguration of a similar, though not identical, master’s program at Haifa Uni- versity. The Ruderman Program for Ameri- can Jewish Studies aims to educate Israelis about their North American cousins. It is part of a larger push by the Boston-based Ruderman Family Foundation to reach out to lawmakers, thought leaders, and other influencers here. “When we talk about bridging the gaps, often the proposed solutions are to teach American Jews about Israel,” said Dvir

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Assouline, the Ruderman Foundation’s advocacy and communications director. Among the foundation’s programs are Knesset delegations that visit the United States for an immersion in American Jewish communal culture. “Over the years, we’ve exposed MKs from multiple

coalitions and opposition parties to the history, challenges, and support of the U.S. Jewish community,” Assouline said. According to a recent study by the American Jewish Committee, the vast majority of Jews in the United States and Israel believe in the necessity of both a strong Jewish state and a vibrant diaspora. However, the two communities begin to diverge when questions related to the peace process and religious pluralism come into the picture. More significant, nearly 70 percent of Israeli Jews believe it is “not appropriate for American Jews to attempt to influence Israeli policy on such issues as national security and peace negotiations with the Palestinians.” Naftali Bennett, Israel’s minister of dias- pora affairs, tends to blame the problem on the assimilation of Jews in the United States, saying his goal is “saving the Jews” there from disappearing. He also sees a vast political divide.

see ADADEMICS page 22

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from page 21

“What the poll reflects is that Israelis are going more right- ward and favoring more traditional Judaism, as opposed to secularism, whereas American Jewry are more to the left and more liberal,” Bennett, who heads the right-wing, mostly Orthodox Jewish Home party, told AJC leaders in Jerusalem this month. “I’m not going to whitewash that, but it shouldn’t be the reason for us to fall apart. So we don’t agree on everything, but we are all Jews, for heaven’s sake. We’re all one family.”

For his part, Assouline seems happy that Bar-Ilan Univer- sity is pursuing a similar program on Israel and the diaspora. “The more people understand the importance of con- necting Israelis to American Jews, the better,” he said. “The result, of course, is that we are witnessing more activities in the field and more Israeli leaders who understand the importance of this relationship.” Unlike the Haifa program, however, Ferziger said his will focus primarily on religion: “How religion is evolving in Israel, how religion is evolving in North America, and how the gap is growing.

“There are many, many well-intentioned and super- capable people who are aware of the tensions and gaps and conflicts,” he said, “but for the most part what I’ve seen are two types of reactions: complaining on both sides” or superficial appeals to Jewish unity that gloss over the gaps. Neither approach is particularly useful, Fer- ziger said. “The point of departure for this center is that Juda- ism in Israel and America are already very different, and the distinctions between them are growing,” he said. “Judaism as it’s been evolving the last 70 years under a sovereign Jewish state is a very different entity, and has unique characteristics that are truly foreign to the privatized, voluntaristic, wonderful, rich, intellectually powerful and spiritually broad and sophisticated community in North America. “What has developed in America has certain things that are sui generis and very special and very beautiful, but it is not the same as what’s happening in Israel.” The Bar-Ilan center will include a multidisciplinary think tank side of the operation. That’s reminiscent of such organizations as the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem, which is affiliated with the Jew- ish Agency. Ferziger said the new center also will create a gen- eration of leaders through its master’s program. The most novel aspect of this undertaking, however, may be what he calls a “framework for actually doing hard- core negotiation.” The center, he elaborates, will also serve as a “back- channel” that will bring together leaders from govern- ment, religious organizations, and other groups “in a completely private, non-publicized type of envi- ronment in order to do real-time negotiating, with a caveat that this is unofficial. We are building on exist- ing models from diplomacy for how to move things forward on a real practical level through these types of backchannel environments.” Some scholars, including the sociologist Steven M. Cohen, who is a research professor of Jewish social policy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and the director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive, have said that while they find such efforts worthwhile, there are major challenges standing in the way of bridging an ever-widening chasm between two related but vastly different cultures. “The challenge is that there are deep-seated dif- ferences and contexts and identities,” Cohen said. He believes that while Jerusalem’s policies have had an impact on perceptions of the Jewish state among American Jews, “it’s still the case that differences in American Jewish identity shape American Jews’ reac- tions to Israel more than Israel’s actions.” What Cohen calls the “distancing” of American Jews from Israel is partially about a divide between Ameri- can Jewish liberals and Israel’s right-wing electorate, but mostly about the growing number of intermarried and unengaged Jews who barely identify with the Jew- ish state. The same forces propelling these changes in American Jewish self-perception also make creating

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I am careful not to draw absolute conclusions based on demography because it can be overly deterministic. I am an historian, the world is fickle, and building too much on polls and census readings is detrimental.

common ground difficult. However, he adds, it is pos- sible to have an influence by reaching out to elites and opinion makers, although he suggests this may not yield dramatic results. Ferziger said that while he respects Cohen’s work, “we have really enslaved so much of Jewish policy to demography.” “I am careful not to draw absolute conclusions based on demography because it can be overly determin- istic,” he said. “I am an historian, the world is fickle, and building too much on polls and census readings is detrimental.” In the early 20th century, Ferziger said, the prevail- ing view, which was based on demography, was that Orthodoxy was in decline and the future belonged to the Reform movement. Now, however, you see “Ortho- dox triumphalism,” he said. “The point is that things are unpredictable.” In 2013 the Israeli government announced the forma- tion of a new initiative bringing together the diaspora Affairs Ministry, the Jewish Agency (itself a partnership between the government and diaspora fundraisers) and various American Jewish organizations. It would

put billions of dollars into efforts to reach out to Jews abroad and “create a strategic plan for the upcoming 25 years that will include a common vision and more importantly an implementation of new projects for the Jewish people.” Within two years, however, the Jewish Agency left the project, and by 2016 the program, now renamed Mosaic, was coming under fire for giving out grants to primarily, but not exclusively, Orthodox organizations. The program ended up significantly smaller than origi- nally envisioned. Ferziger acknowledged the challenges that face any attempt to revamp the Israeli-diaspora relationship, but he remained upbeat. “In the end of the day no matter what, we are going to succeed because we are going to begin a process of creating a generation of Jewish leaders and thinkers and activists who are knowledgeable,” he said. Gur Alroey, who runs the Haifa University program, also believes that Americans and Israelis can think their way to a stronger relationship. “I’m optimistic,” he said. “I believe in education and I believe in long-term learning.” JTA Wire Service

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Jewish World

Jewish World Paul Krugman says Trump’s immigration rhetoric is blood libel BEN SALES Lots of people

Paul Krugman says Trump’s immigration rhetoric is blood libel


Lots of people have been comparing the U.S. government’s policy of separating migrant families to the Holocaust. But Paul Krugman, the liberal’s liberal economics columnist at the New York Times, has a different Jewish historical anal- ogy: He says the administration’s rhetoric on immigration is

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like the age-old blood libel against the Jewish people. The blood libel is an ancient, recurring smear against Jews; it falsely accuses them of killing Christian children and using their blood for ritual purposes — drinking it, or baking it into matzah for Passover. The libel has shown up throughout the centuries across Europe and parts of the Middle East, and even in the United States. Krugman says the false, fantastical nature of the blood libel is much like the accusations that Trump and his allies throw at immigrants: that droves of them take American jobs, commit a disproportionate num- ber of crimes, and kill native-born Americans. Krugman cites statistics showing that the oppo- site is true. Immigration rates are not spiking. Crime rates are lower in areas with a large number of immigrants. And most economists don’t believe that immigrants depress wages for uneducated low- income Americans. “I don’t know what drives such people — but we’ve seen this movie before, in the history of anti-Semi- tism,” Krugman wrote. “The thing about anti-Semitism is that it was never about anything Jews actually did. It was always about lurid myths, often based on delib- erate fabrications, that were systematically spread to engender hatred. “In any case, the important thing to understand is that the atrocities our nation is now committing at the border don’t represent an overreaction or poorly implemented response to some actual problem that needs solving. There is no immigration crisis; there is no crisis of immigrant crime. No, the real crisis is an upsurge in hatred — unreasoning hatred that bears no relationship to anything the victims have done.” Some bristled at Krugman’s analogy. “Krugman, don’t play around with Jewish anti-Semi- tism and the Holocaust for you own non-parallel politi- cal needs,” tweeted Yisrael Medad, a pro-settlements activist in Israel. According to at least one expert on anti-Semitism, however, Krugman’s comparison holds water. Deborah Lipstadt, the prominent Holocaust histo- rian, said that Krugman is right to note that anti-Semi- tism and modern American xenophobia share a basis in irrationality. “It’s a conspiracy theory,” she said of the blood libel. “It makes no sense. It sees Jews as the heart of the problem, just like today crime is down, immigrants are taking jobs that by and large Americans don’t want, but there’s this myth of ‘immigrants are taking our jobs.’ There’s an irrational element to it, and a lack of logic.” Lipstadt has no such sympathy for the comparisons of family separation to the Holocaust, an argument she made in an Atlantic piece published Friday called, bluntly, “It’s not the Holocaust.” “But something can be horrific without being a genocide or a Holocaust,” she wrote. “Defenders of the Trump policy self-righteously pounced on the comparison, denouncing it as hyperbolic. Although there is nothing good that can be said about Trump’s family-separation policy, it is not a genocide. Equat- ing the two is not only historically wrong, it is also strategically wrong. Glib comparisons to the Nazis provide the administration and its supporters with a chance to defend their position, something they do not deserve.”



Jewish World

This Orthodox rabbi just took a job at an LGBT synagogue


I n many ways, Mike Moskowitz is a typical charedi Orthodox rabbi. He wears a black suit and black hat. He sports a thick, curly beard

beneath a closely shaved head. He pep- pers his speech with liturgical Hebrew and Yiddish words. He quotes from Jewish legal texts. Moskowitz sometimes closes his eyes when he talks, swaying back and forth and rubbing his fingers together as if he’s engaged in deep Talmud study. He spent years upon years studying at traditional charedi yeshivas. Today he lives in Lake- wood, the shore town with some 100,000 residents, most of them charedi. On a recent weekday afternoon, Mos- kowitz is sitting in a Jewish study room at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in Manhattan, in front of shelves filled with tractates of the Talmud. But the rest of the setting is decidedly, um, unorthodox. The bathrooms around the corner are gender- neutral. A memorial plaque in the sanctu- ary pays tribute to those who have died in the AIDS epidemic. The prayer book, published specifically for this synagogue, includes a special prayer for the weekend of New York’s Pride Parade. Four rainbow flags hang in the lobby. Most charedi rabbis probably would not take a job at a synagogue that serves New York’s LGBT community. Standard Ortho- dox interpretations of Jewish law strictly prohibit not only same-sex relations but gender fluidity and cross-dressing as well. But Moskowitz says his new job as CBST’s scholar-in-residence for trans and queer Jewish studies is a perfect fit. Moskowitz, 38, says serving queer Jews is a fulfillment of his duty as an Orthodox rabbi, not a contradiction of that duty. To him, this job simply is the best way to help those in dire need. “The religious community has a unique responsibility to provide sanctuary, a lit- eral sanctuary for people who are search- ing,” he says. “How can we broaden the tent to allow people to feel communally engaged in and taking responsibility for their unique relationship with God?” Moskowitz knows what it’s like to be an outsider. He grew up in a secular Jewish family in Virginia and encountered reli- gious observance through USY, the Con- servative Jewish youth group. He went on to study for four years at the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem and for another four years at Beis Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, two prestigious charedi institutions, and work as a kosher supervisor and leader of a Torah study program, or kollel, back home in Richmond. Despite Orthodoxy’s clear boundaries

around gender and sexual orientation, Moskowitz says compassion for all people, no matter who they are, was built into his traditionalist education. His rabbis advo- cated “people being themselves in rela- tionship with God.” That idea led him, in Richmond, to reach out to intermarried couples, despite Orthodoxy’s prohibition of interfaith marriage. Moskowitz started counseling transgen- der Jews three years ago, when he worked with Columbia University students on behalf of Aish Hatorah, an Orthodox out- reach organization. He also met queer Jews while serving concurrently as the rabbi of the Old Broadway Synagogue, which draws a diverse crowd as one of the only synagogues in Harlem. Around the same time, a close family member began transitioning genders, giving Moskowitz close personal exposure to the transgen- der experience. In December 2016, Moskowitz pre- sented a sermon to the synagogue advo- cating acceptance of trans Jews, using an obscure 16th-century Torah commen- tary to make his point. At about the same time, he wrote a letter urging a Jewish day school not to expel a transgender student. Shortly after he was let go from both jobs. Neither gave his LGBT advocacy as the offi- cial reason. “It’s the holiest among us that are often the most vulnerable because their light is the brightest,” he said in the sermon, refer- ring to the symbolism of the menorah’s candlelight. “To such an extent that some aren’t even aware that darkness exists. Are we going to protect that light?” Moskowitz believes that Orthodox com- munities have much work to do in accept- ing LGBT members. While they claim to be warm, accepting places in theory, he says, often they fail to make space for the Jews who are the most vulnerable or on soci- ety’s margins. “There are absolutely ways that reli- gion can be a system for oppression like all others,” he says. “When it comes to the theoretical, they’re quick to say ‘of course we should be inclusive.’ When it comes to the practical, there’s a huge gap between the ideal and the way in which it actu- ally manifests.” Moskowitz also says that normative Orthodoxy gets Jewish law wrong when it comes to transgender identity. He says, for example, that the biblical ban on cross- dressing is actually a prohibition on mis- representing one’s gender identity — no matter what it is — through clothing. And he says the Orthodox commu- nity places undue emphasis on gender and sexual prohibitions because of social norms. Instead, he says, the Jewish reli- gious community should worry less about

the Jewish reli- gious community should worry less about Congregation Beit Simchat Torah’s senior rabbi, Sharon

Congregation Beit Simchat Torah’s senior rabbi, Sharon Kleinbaum, and Rabbi Mike Moskowitz stand in front of a rainbow flag.


biblical injunctions and more about how

to embrace transgender Jews so they don’t

succumb to the transgender community’s high suicide rate. “Transgender as an awareness is just

a presence of understanding,” he says.

“There’s no prohibition to acknowledge the reality of something when it comes to one’s identity. If a person says about them- selves ‘this is who I am,’ it’s not a space of choice.” After leaving Columbia, Moskowitz was a senior educator for Uri L’Tzedek, an Orthodox social justice group. He also began blogging for Keshet, a Jewish LGBT organization, and even shaved his beard for a time so he could fit in better with a more liberal crowd. He became connected to Congregation Beit Simchat Torah when he met its senior

rabbi, Sharon Kleinbaum. Both were arrested in January at the U.S. Capitol for protesting on behalf of immigrants. The synagogue hired him on May 1. Moskowitz serves a dual function there — he connects the Jewish LGBT experience to the tradi- tional Jewish texts he has spent decades studying, and he counsels Orthodox LGBT Jews and their families.

On the day he talked to JTA, he also had phone conversations with three parents of young transgender Jews. “He’s already working overtime,” Klein- baum said. “The demand is like a flood- gate has opened. People are reaching out to him for pastoral help. Their kids are trans, they are trans, they haven’t had an [observant] rabbi to talk to who hasn’t said to them something besides ‘you’re going to …’” Moskowitz still faces tension between his professional and personal lives. Liv- ing in Lakewood, he receives hate mail because of his work, and he has been ostracized from synagogues and other institutions there. But the rabbi appears to take it in stride. There is still a synagogue where he and his family are welcome. And the animos- ity he experiences, he says, is just a sliver of what transgender people have to deal with every day. “Do the right thing, you end up in the right space, but it’s not geshmak,” he says of his Lakewood experience. Usually that Yiddish word means “delicious.” “But again, this is what trans folks feel going to the grocery store.” JTA WIRE SERVICE


The mother of exiles

T his is a different Fourth of July for

me, and I think for many of us.

Until this year, Thanksgiving

and the Fourth of July both have

been major sources of pride. Thanksgiving, in the cold dark cusp-of-winter autumn, is about family; the golden-orange food — tur- key and sweet potatoes, for the more pro- saic among us — glowed with comfort. (No comfort for the turkey, I know…) And the Fourth of July, with its green grass and green leaves and blue skies and barbe- cued food, with its velvet darkness and glo- rious, noisy, sky-streaking fireworks, was exciting and deeply moving. The words behind it — Thomas Jefferson’s elegant, heartfelt words — were so powerful. I have always felt so proud to be an American. Last year, my husband and I went to the Folksbiene to see “Amerike — The Golden Land.” I walked downtown alone (of the two of us, I’m the walker, he’s not), pass- ing Fourth of July revelers, Americans of all backgrounds, of all colors; in all sorts of clothing and costumes; of all ages, from babies decked out in tiny little American- flag baseball hats to little girls wearing sparkly red-white-and-blue tutus to teen- agers wearing whatever it is that they call those things they were barely wearing to parents to grandparents to the oldest peo- ple, many of them, too, in the day’s red white and blue. When we got there, we saw the Statute of Liberty, holding her torch up high as she has done since 1886. I know that that torch and that statue and that Lady Liberty are what many — most? — of our parents or grandparents or great grandparents saw as they came into the harbor. It had been a harrowing trip for most of them — just trying to imagine what steerage, with its lack of air and lack of light and stench — would have felt like makes my stomach churn. But they made it, and if they weren’t turned back by the doctor who checked them for illness, they’d be in. It’s a vast country, and there was room for them. This year, it doesn’t feel the same. The same Lady Liberty is holding up the same torch over the same country, but the wel- come has soured.

torch over the same country, but the wel- come has soured. This is a different Fourth

This is a different Fourth of July for me, and I think for many of us.

We know that there are more people who want to come to this country than even its vast empty spaces can hold. We know that there have to be rules. We know that there must be a process. But we know that caging children, separating families, turning away asylum seekers with their pleas unheard, is not the American way. We know that banning people from this country for the crime of coming from predominantly Mus- lim countries is not the American way. It is, at any rate, not the way of the America I know and love. We at the Jewish Standard very much hope that the spirit of this great country returns, that the hate and division somehow go away, and that love and pride reassert themselves. We would like to leave you with the words at the base of the Statute of Liberty, the sonnet called “The New Colossus,” which of course we know were written by an American Jew, Emma Lazarus. We take heart from them, and we hope you do to.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand


mighty woman with a torch, whose flame


the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

We wish all our readers a glorious Fouth.



The ‘Great Experiment’ is under great strain

T wice each year, before the

Fourth of July and Thanks-

giving, I write about how

this country was founded on

“biblical values,” by which the founding

fathers clearly meant the values of our bible, the Tanach, and especially its first five books, meaning the Torah. Our founding fathers studied those laws, and chose them to be the moral and ethical underpinnings for the new nation they envisioned, for that “great experiment” in democracy they were so carefully creating. To be sure, this “great experiment” was not perfect then, and still is not now. Despite the beau- tiful claim that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Cre- ator with certain unalien- able rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” that was true for some, but

not for all. People of color who were slaves were con-

sidered to be only three- fifths human, only partial people. As for women, to quote Cornell history professor Mary Beth Norton, they “had no status in the Constitution of 1787.” Such inequities never fit in well with this country’s vision and promise. As a result, we continue to modify the sys- tem to bring it into greater harmony with the moral and ethical laws on which it was founded. Slavery was eliminated, although it took a Civil War to do so. The 15th Amend- ment removed racial barriers to vot- ing, and the 19th Amendment removed gender barriers. The 24th Amendment and the follow-up Voting Rights Act of 1965 removed a number of other dis- criminatory barriers to voting. The 25th Amendment extended the right to vote

to 18-year-olds, mainly in recognition of the fact that if someone 18 years old was

qualified to die for this country, then he or she also was equally qualified to help decide who should lead this country. Our system nevertheless remains imperfect. Women have the right to vote, but they are not guaranteed the right to receive equal pay for equal work. In too many communities, either they still do not have the right to deter- mine what happens to their own bod- ies, at least when faced with unwanted or life-threatening pregnancies, or they are seeing those rights being slowly taken away from them. There is more we need to do, but from the begin- ning of its history, this country has understood that even the best system can be made better and must be made better, and that the moral and ethi- cal values on which this country was founded

must remain the building blocks for an even better

America tomorrow. Based on the history of the last 20 or 30 years, however, I fear that we Ameri- cans are abandoning those very same moral and ethical values. In very large part this is because we have allowed our politics to sink into the mire and muck of partisanship, and our political discourse to plunge alarmingly into the rhetoric of divisiveness. Right now, we are seeing this play out in a most repulsive manner. Our politi- cians on both sides of the aisle have been faced with an issue that should have been a no-brainer for them from the beginning:

the forcible separation from their parents of nearly 2,400 children, from infants to teenagers, and the housing of many of these children in cages covered on top by

Shammai Engelmayer



Shammai Engelmayer is rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel of the Palisades, now in Fort Lee.



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barbed wire to prevent them from climbing out. (For the record, in addition to these children, nearly 8,900 others are in deten- tion because they came to the United States unaccompanied.) The Democrats say they care about these children, but their actions say otherwise. They do not see suffering children, and for now. at least, they care little about helping to resolve the underlying problems that got us to this point. All they can see is an issue they can keep alive until the polls close on Novem- ber 6. To do what is right and just, to do what is moral and eth- ical, those are matters that will have to wait until they are back in control. For now, the only question Democrats care about is: “How can I take this to the polls and win in November?” At least the Democrats recognize there is a need to do what is right and just, moral and ethical. The Republicans, on the other hand, have their eyes focused entirely on their districts, and their only question is, “If I go against President Trump, how will that play in my district?” I am not saying this is true. Longtime Conservative Republi- cans such as the columnist George Will and the party strategist Steve Schmidt, who managed John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, are saying this and much more as loudly as they can. Schmidt last week announced he was leaving the GOP, because it had become a “danger to our democracy and val- ues.” He called it a “corrupt, indecent and immoral” party filled with “feckless cowards.” He urged voters to sweep the Democrats to victory in November. Will, in his column last week, also wrote he was leaving the Republican Party, and also urged voters to sweep the Dem- ocrats into power this year. That, he wrote, would give the ousted Republican legislators the “leisure time to wonder why they worked so hard to achieve membership in a legislature whose unexercised muscles have atrophied because of people like them.” Will said the GOP had become nothing more than President Trump’s “plaything,” and “to vote against his party’s cowering congressional caucuses is to affirm the nation’s honor while quarantining him.” Those two questions — “How will that play in my district?” and “How can I take this to the polls and win in November?” —are not the questions to ask when children are being yanked from their parents’ arms (one of “the worst abuses of human- ity in our history,” in Steve Schmidt’s words). They are not the questions to ask when children and adults are murdered in schoolrooms by people who have no busi- ness carrying guns of any kind, much less assault weapons that have no place in society outside the military. They are not the questions to ask when poor people are denied access to quality health care, or when pregnant mothers are denied access to better nutrition, or when schools in poorer neighborhoods are unable to offer their students the same qual- ity education as schools in well-to-do neighborhoods. The values upon which this country was built are not reflected in those two questions, or in the behavior of the two major parties. Perhaps it is time to end the two-party system, which clearly no longer works for the best interests of our nation. Perhaps we should adopt California’s so-called jungle primary system, in which candidates face off against each other in a primary regardless of party, and the top two finish- ers face each other in the general election. Elections become more about issues and less about party loyalty. The victors are then free (at least in theory) to vote their consciences, rather than adhere to party lines. Will such a system work? Is there a better solution? I do not know the answer to either question. I wish I had the answers, but I do not. At least, though, I am asking the right questions. Until our politicians ask the right questions, our country will continue to backslide, until it reaches a point of no return. God forbid that should ever happen.

‘Yes,’ I should have said then

Local rabbi tells his story of immigration and separation

M y family and I have lived through the pain

of being separated at the border.

Our circumstances were different. Our

circumstances were privileged. But for

our children, and for the children of others, we cannot be silent regarding the horrific situation we are currently witnessing. Few people know the depth of our story, so allow me to tell it in detail. I began my career as a congregational rabbi in 2006, serving Emanuel Synagogue in Sydney, Australia, for seven years. I married an Australian woman, and our daughters became dual citizens of the United States and the Commonwealth of Australia. Seeking career advancement, I was appointed as rabbi of Temple Avodat Shalom in River Edge in 2013. We were told that it would take approximately five months for my wife to obtain a visa and secure permanent residency. It took 11. I moved to New Jersey to begin the next phase

be together. All they would say is, “Without the right papers it doesn’t matter.” I would ask, “If you were in my shoes, and you were separated from your daughters,

what would you do?” The response was, “I don’t have an answer for you,” or “I’m not qualified to answer this for you,” or “Well, I’m not the one immigrating, sir. Now, is there anything else I can help you with today?”


had no words. Buried in my own pain and sorrow,

I said nothing. “Yes,” I should have said then. “You can help by ensuring that parents and children remain together,

whether they have papers or they don’t, and you can help ensure that they are treated fairly, justly, kindly, humanely, and sensitively, and that you try to under- stand the circumstances behind their departure from their homeland.” “Yes,” I should have said then. “You can help by doing what you believe is morally right and you can work to reunite my family as soon as possible.”

of my career, while Lisa and our daughters, then a preschooler and a toddler, stayed behind in Sydney. Thankfully, my new congregation was kind and supportive. In October 2013, four months after I left Australia, my synagogue granted (insisted) that I take family leave for two weeks so that I could return to Australia to see my wife and daughters. My wife came to the airport;


As I look at the horrors unfolding before my eyes, I recognize that now is not a time for neutrality. And, by God, now is not a time for silence. “Yes,” I say now. “You can help by acknowledging what is grossly wrong about locking children in cages and you can help by speaking truth to power.” “Yes,” I say now. “You can help by making sure vicious behaviors perpe-

now. “You can help by making sure vicious behaviors perpe- hugging me, with tears streaming down

hugging me, with tears streaming down her face, she said, “You’re really here?”

Rabbi Paul J.

trated by the leaders of our government


are stopped and those responsible are


and then asked, “Is it really you?” Our first stop was the home where our younger daughter was being babysat. She looked at me with her wide eyes, and she burst out crying. It seemed as if she no longer recognized or realized who I was. Without words, on the heels of four months of FaceTime conversations, she could have been wondering why I suddenly had come out of the computer screen. Nearly 20 percent of her life had passed without me. Later that afternoon, I picked our older daughter up from pre- school. Her cry of “Daddy!” still rings in my ears. But my wife still didn’t have a visa then. So I separated from my family again, the anguish so blisteringly real as I struggled uselessly to fight back my tears. I returned to the United States, and waited another seven weeks, when finally, in the middle of December, I was able to bring my family into the United States, to see our new home and meet our new community. We are the lucky ones. We are the privileged ones. We had fortune on both sides of the earth, roofs above our heads, family, friends, and community who cared for us. But we were separated in the immigration process. We were a family but it was not possible for my wife and me to be together, to parent our children together. The anxi- ety of separation between an infant or preschool-aged child and their parent is so very real. We see it and we feel it in our home with both of our daughters. While we made the very correct decision of ensuring that our daughters remained with my wife, their mother, in Aus- tralia, being separated from one another still has a pro- found effect on our family’s emotional well being. What we are seeing at our borders and what we have experienced in the immigration process is cruel. Throughout our lengthy ordeal, I would communicate regularly with associates from the National Visa Cen- ter. I would express to them the need for families to

brought to justice.” “Yes,” I say now. “You can help by teaching that no human should stand for the cruelty we are witnessing, and no God teaches us to behave in such a fashion.” This situation may no longer be about my personal family. But this situation is about my human family. We may not know any single person at the border who is being separated from their children, separated from their

parents. But I know my own story, and while living with privilege, I still am a white American adult male, who for six months was separated from his wife and daughters, and who knows the pain of those circumstances.


am ashamed that my own government would sepa-

rate parents from children and treat them worse than animals. We know what is right. No one should have to go through what we went through. No one should have to go through what we are witnessing right now. No one. Take our story. Reflect it through the lens of people who are seeking refuge, asylum, and fleeing their own country. Their circumstances are not ours. Their pain is not ours. Do not confuse the two. Don’t you dare con- fuse the two. But recognize that these are people, human beings, parents and children, who are in danger, and they are seeking kindness, love, openness, and warmth. Keep- ing parents and children together is not about policy or paperwork; it is about doing what is right, what is just, what is decent, and what is moral. In order to form a more perfect Union, we the people have to believe that there is something in this nation that we value that is worth fighting for, not only for ourselves, but for oth- ers too.

The opinions expressed in this section are those of the authors, notnecessarily those of the newspaper’s editors, publishers, or other staffers. We welcome letters to the editor. Send them to


Paul J. Jacobson is the rabbi of Temple Avodat Shalom in River Edge.


Biblical reference by Sessions is malign in every respect

I cannot (entirely) fault Jeff Sessions, the attorney gen- eral of the United States, for his cynical, self-serv- ing, and spiritually bankrupt citation of Scripture in defending the Trump administration’s immigration

policy: the Constitution guarantees that “no religious test

shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or pub- lic trust under the United States.” That protection has redounded to the great benefit of Jew- ish citizens and countless others since our nation’s found- ing. Attorney General Sessions invoked Romans 13:1-2, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Con- sequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.” While a crass and selective reading of Scripture is not in and of itself disqualifying for the nation’s highest law enforcement official, Russell Kirk (author of “The Con- servative Mind” and “The Roots of American Order”) has observed that “without some knowledge of the Bible the fab- ric of American order cannot be understood tolerably well.” My objection to the attorney general’s citation of Romans is not his misunderstanding of sacred writ; it is his misunder- standing of America. The paradigmatic populist president Andrew Jackson put

it in still stronger terms: “The Bible is the Rock on which

this Republic rests.” So, too, President Calvin Coolidge (who retired to my native Northampton, Massachusetts, which he had earlier served as mayor, and where he was fondly remembered by aging elders in the congregation of my youth): “The foundations of our society and our govern- ment rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country.” The attorney general’s perversion of the nation’s biblical

heritage represents precisely the crisis that Cool Cal foresaw. The Founding Fathers frequently cited the Bible, predominantly the Hebrew Bible (which they knew as the “Old” Testament). They believed that the Israelite quest for lib- eration from a despotic Egyptian Pharaoh prefigured their own struggle for liberty and independence. They perceived in the Israel- ite covenant a model for a society and govern- ment of laws. They cited the Bible as a way of

simultaneously elevating and democratizing political discourse, as a degree of Biblical lit- eracy was all but universal among the country’s founding generation. Additionally, they focused their rhetorical attention on the Hebrew Bible — the Tanach — so as to avoid controversy born of competing and mutually exclusive interpretations of the Gospel among their diverse Christian denominational traditions. The Hebrew Bible (providentially for generations of American Jews) represented a safe, cherished, common heritage for the Founding Fathers. “It lies not in the compe- tence of Government to adjudicate theological differences beyond those essential for the common good,” Michael Novak told us in “On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Com- mon Sense at the American Founding.” Yet of all the virtues of the Tanach and the legacy of bibli- cal Israel, the most fundamental was its revolutionary moral insistence that is it to God alone that individuals and nations owe their ultimate allegiance. The Hebrew Bible absolutely rejected absolute power wielded by mere mortals. Roland de Vaux, the Dead Sea Scroll scholar, director of Jerusalem’s Ecole Biblique, and author of “Ancient Israel: Religious Institutions,” wrote: “The human rulers of this people are chosen, accepted, or tolerated by God, but they remain

Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser

Rabbi Joseph

H. Prouser

subordinate to him and they are judged by the degree of their fidelity to the dissoluble covenant.” The Hebrew Bible insists that our Israelite forbears’ desire for a monarchy was a moral failing, an affront to the Divine King. It was this defining biblical indictment of monarchy that appealed to the visionary patriots of our founding generation and to all who fought to throw off the political shackles of the despotic George III. Tellingly, Romans 13 was the text

favored by loyalist supporters of the Crown, those who opposed independence (as it also was a favorite of those who in the next century sought to justify slavery in theological terms). The Founding Fathers further understood that the kings of Israel were not merely subordinated to the Almighty: their power, authority, and legitimacy were checked by the insti- tution of the prophet. Israelite monarchy balanced power and leadership among king, priest, and prophet — a triune system of checks and balances with its own obvious parallels to the American constitutional system. Amos, Hosea, Isa- iah, and Jeremiah, among others, all reminded their earthly sovereigns that their power was at best of a penultimate nature. They had covenantal obligations and remained sub- ject to God’s universal moral law. “You are the man!” the Prophet Nathan charged the womanizing and sanguinary King David (a harsh, two-word Hebrew indictment, not to be confused with the colloquial affirmation, “You da man!”). “I have sinned before God,” David confessed, acknowledging that even kings (and presidents) are answerable to a higher authority, law, and standards of conduct. The attorney general’s approving reference to Romans 13 hearkens back to the unchecked power of absolute mon- archs — ordained by God — which was both the very cause

Mark your words

W hoever came up with that old adage “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was in serious denial about something.

Of course, I have no idea what, as I gave up mind-reading

a long time ago. What I do know is that anyone who tells you

that they aren’t affected by other people’s words is either lying to you or lying to themselves. Let me clarify before someone starts getting all linguis- tic on me. I’m not referring to words in and of themselves. Technically, individual words and their meaning are neu- tral. I am talking about words plus their meaning plus their intent. That is, the meaning that we, as a society and as users of, attribute to words that are said in a spe- cific situation. Other people’s words affect us in ways both trivial and profound. And while this premise in itself isn’t all that profound, it shouldn’t be viewed as trivial, either. Regardless of what children or judges might declare, words, unleashed unto the world, can never be “taken back” or “stricken from the record.” This goes for words that come out of someone’s mouth or that are channeled through typing fingers. Once they’re out, they’re out. In the more pleasant and inviting voice of the great American poet,

Emily Dickinson (for what is a column about words without quoting one of the greatest masters of them?):

“A word is dead when it is said, some say — I say it just begins to live that day.” The way I see it, sometimes words can damage a person

whether written, spoken, or texted

more than would sticks and stones. That’s because the pain that results from negative speech, whether that speech be of the child bully or abusive partner variety — and every- thing in between — is internal. The speech affects the psyche. Much like mental illness, the pain cannot be seen, and so it’s more difficult to identify or acknowledge as something that is “real” as opposed to all in your own head. When a person then questions the legitimacy, so to speak, of his own pain, a whole other layer

of pain is draped over the original pain.

Dena Croog

Dena Croog

(Well, that didn’t work.) One of the many reasons why I tend to choose writing over other forms of commu- nication is that there’s more time to think about how to phrase the message I want to get across. As opposed to with the spoken word, there’s more time to review it when it’s writ- ten down. Of course, as an editor, there’s also more time to fuss about every little detail— and once the finished product is in print, there inevitably will be something I wish I had

changed. At that point, I mentally slap myself on the forehead. (In my mind, there’s a permanent black- and-blue mark on that spot.) The funny thing is, no matter what you write or how you phrase it, others inevitably will read the message in the wrong way — or at least in a way that doesn’t line up with what you had intended. Okay, it’s not exactly funny, but sometimes all you can do in certain situations is laugh about the absurdity of it all. You can take hours writing something just so, and within seconds, that intended meaning gets thrown out the window by the person reading it. So then I reconsider my approach. Is the spoken word pos- sibly the better method of communicating? The spoken word, for the most part, tends to be quicker, more to the point, and less permanent. There’s the same risk of being misunder- stood, but there’s also more room for second guessing what exactly was said or how it was said. Which basically means

I think that’s a scenario with which most people can iden-

tify. The internal pang that results from negative speech is an

emotional, as opposed to a physical, reaction. In that regard, I wonder if this comparison might help people who have not encountered mental illness to better understand its “real- ness.” That certainly is an idea worth exploring. Just as words can knock down, they also can build up. And you don’t need a lot of them to send a positive message. One of the shortest and simplest sentences I know is also the most powerful: “It gets better.”

I like these three words strung together because of the sen-

timent’s universality and applicability. I actually can’t think of a more powerful message than that. In fact, I might as well end this column right now. I won’t, because I’m not yet at the allotted word count. Still, if you’d like to end on a high note, stop reading when you get to the end of this sentence.



of the American Revolution and the central motiva- tion behind the Founding Fathers’ spiritual and liter- ary attachment to the Hebrew Bible, which had so unambiguously rejected that misbegotten form of government millennia earlier. I will not quibble with Mr. Sessions over his chosen interpretation of Scrip- ture. I must insist, however, that his understanding of the place of the Bible in the history of American governance — his attempt to arrogate divine sanc- tion to a presidential administration — is diametri- cally opposed to the vision of the founders of the republic. Whatever Mr. Sessions’ familiarity with Holy Writ, the deficits in his understanding of America are egregious. Of course, Mr. Sessions was not citing the Hebrew Bible. It should be pointed out, therefore, that Chris- tian Scripture also reflects this central element of ancient Israelite morality. In Matthew 22:21, the Christian savior is asked whether it would be proper to pay taxes to Caesar. As the Nazarene was expected to answer in the negative, the question was designed to entrap him in a seditious public statement. He shrewdly responded with the cryp- tic, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and unto God that which is God’s.” While this verse often is understood inaccurately to signify a divine mandate for submission to earthly authority, it is best understood as ironic. “Silver is Mine and gold is Mine, saith the Lord of Hosts” (Haggai 2:8). “The Earth is the Lord’s and all it contains” (Psalms 24:1). Ultimately, that is to say, all power and wealth are God’s. No earthly leader properly lays claim either to ultimate power or unchecked material aggran- dizement. So — render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s — nothing! Render unto God that which is God’s — everything! That was the carefully phrased message of Matthew 22:21, solidly grounded in the

political morality of Biblical Israel and the wisdom of the Hebrew Bible. Many religious leaders, prominent rabbis among them, have responded to the attorney general’s lamentable statement by citing the Hebrew Bible’s repeated injunctions to “love the stranger” — not to persecute or oppress the alien (see Exodus 22:21, 23:9; Leviticus 19:34; Deuteronomy 10:19; Jere- miah 22:3, etc.). While such ripostes certainly are well placed, they misconstrue Mr. Sessions’ true offense. His sin is not a matter of preferring one bib- lical verse or another. His offense is in completely misunderstanding — or in willfully subverting — the entire relationship between the Hebrew Bible and the American experiment, which he consequently would place into existential peril. Still, his trans- gression certainly is compounded by the fact that his civic illiteracy found specific expression in the national conversation regarding immigration — and the treatment of strangers and aliens — about which the Hebrew Bible stakes out such a consistently compassionate and morally demanding position. If Trump’s attorney general and the administra- tion he serves are looking for divine sanction for its course of action toward immigrants seeking a better life in the United States, perhaps they would do well to ponder George Washington’s favorite verse from the Hebrew Bible, which our first President cited both in public documents and in personal corre- spondence not fewer than 50 times: “And they shall sit every one under his vine, and under his fig-tree; and there shall be none to make them afraid. the Lord of Hosts has spoken it” (Micah 4:4). Or, perhaps, 2 Samuel 12:7. “You are the man.”

Joseph Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey in Franklin Lakes.

that, if you want, you can claim that you didn’t mean what you said in the manner in which the other per- son says you meant it. I don’t know. Is a person held less accountable if he talks, as opposed to writes, negatively? And if that’s the case, doesn’t it also mean that the person doesn’t get enough credit for saying something positive? Well, now I’m all confused. It’s amazing how vague a person can be while writing a column about words. I’m aware of it, of course, and it’s completely intentional. This way, people reading can apply the concepts to their own life situations without specific examples getting in the way. Then again, anyone can take these words and read into them any number of things that I didn’t intend. Maybe we all should stick to text messaging. It takes qualities from both written and spoken words. Like spoken words, it’s often quick and to the point. Like other written words, there’s sometimes more time to think about phrasing. And of course, tone, intention and meaning never ever are misinter- preted over text. Maybe it would be easier to live in earlier times, when words were born out of necessity and there was no positive or negative message behind the definition. Those days before, when words were, indeed, neutral.

Water. Fire. Danger. Coffee. Though, come to think of it, maybe those words were even more ambiguous than full sentences:

“That caveman over there just said the word ‘water.’ Is he informing me out of the goodness of his own heart, so that I won’t die of thirst? Or does he mean that he has water and will let me have some, but he’s really saying it begrudgingly? Or is he taunting me by telling me that there’s water, but he’s keeping it for himself? Or is he telling me that there’s water so that he can keep all the coffee for himself? So many possibilities! That’s so nice! That’s so mean! Why can’t he explain himself better? Oh no, now he’s throwing sticks and stones at me! Danger! Run!” For all these words about words, I sure haven’t said anything significant. Well, at least I didn’t insult anyone. I mean, I don’t think I did. Did I? I’m start- ing to regret having written any of this. And now it’s already in print and I can’t do a thing about it. Next time, I’m going to write a column about nothing. Or did I already just do that?

Dena Croog is a writer and editor in Teaneck and the founder of Refa’enu, a nonprofit organization dedicated to mood disorder awareness and support. Learn about the organization and its support groups at, or email with questions or comments.

or email with questions or comments. Camp Ramah alumni hike the Ojai Valley in California.

Camp Ramah alumni hike the Ojai Valley in California.

Love, nature, and renewal at camp

E xcitement and energy abound. Smiles, laughter, friendship and joy permeate the soul. Jewish camps across North America

Jeremy Fingerman



are opening their gates this month for more than 200,000 children, teens, and college- age counselors who will create connections, develop skills, and strengthen identities. We have entered our season of renewal, as the fruit of the hard work of professionals and lay leaders can be seen in the intentionality of

each day at camp. Recently, I experienced the restorative powers of nature and Jewish camp firsthand while attending a wedding at Camp Ramah in Ojai, California. The camp sits on hundreds of majestic acres nestled in the lovely hills of the Ojai Valley. In early December 2017, the Thomas wildfires torched thousands of glorious acres of property abut- ting the camp. The camp facilities were spared, thanks to the heroic efforts of the California firefighters. Prepared to witness the devastation of the wildfires, I was filled with amazement and awe as I hiked up a trail above the camp and found green brush amid the singed tree branches. Beautiful wildflowers dotted the path, while chirping birds accompanied our walk among the remnants of ashes. All around me — in a place where nature had been destroyed just six months ago — nature was initiating its own powerful renewal. At the top of the trail, I looked down at camp to see the final prepa- rations for the Jewish-camp-love-story wedding I would attend later that day, and where staff training would begin days later. The wedding also was a meaningful demonstration of continuity and renewal. The bride and groom met at camp years ago. The groom’s parents also met at the very same camp, and the bride’s parents are longtime leaders in the camp community. On a backdrop of the singed landscape now beginning its rejuvenation, the young couple began their new life together. Buoyed by the place that brought them together, they enter into their Jewish future as a family. With generations of families shaped by camp, and surrounded by the budding countryside, the day’s celebration was filled with unparalleled ruach (spirit) and simcha (joy). As summer season 2018 begins, I am reminded that hopeful stories like these are being told and created across North America as families pack for camp — Jewish love stories, best friendships that span multiple generations, and tales of the resilience inspired at Jewish camp, both in nature and in spirit. Jewish camp is the site of magical regeneration, as campers become counselors, and later still camp parents, and return for family camp and year-round community programming with children and grandchildren. I am humbled that our holy mission — to support camps as they provide transformative, immersive, joyous Jewish experiences — contributes much to this vibrant Jewish landscape.

Jeremy J. Fingerman is the CEO of the Foundation for Jewish Camp. He lives in Englewood with his family; he is vice president of Congregation Ahavath Torah there. Write to him at


Defend our borders, but don’t forsake our Constitution and values

T he U.S. Constitution prohibits the removal of

illegal immigrants from America without due

process. U.S. law and every major faith on Earth

also require that we welcome the stranger seek-

ing asylum. It is important to remember these facts when we con- sider the message President Trump sent out last Sunday. As the Washington Post reported, while being driven from the White House to his Virginia golf course, the President tweeted: “When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring (sic) them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigra- tion policy and Law and Order.” I guess someone forgot to inform Trump that it is settled Constitutional law in the United States that our Founders intended due process protections for illegal immigrants and

asylum-seekers who land on our soil. U.S. Supreme Court cases going back 115

years, as accepted by conservative and lib- eral justices alike, have held that the Constitu-


through our gates, even illegally, may be expelled only after proceedings conforming to traditional standards of fairness encompassed in due process of law.” Justices Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Gins- burg, Clarence Thomas, John Paul Stevens,

tion requires that “immigrants

Steven R. Rothman

Steven R.


that we cannot admit everyone who wants to come to the United States. They all want our borders to be secure and our immigration laws to be enforced. Also, on the subject of asylum, the U.N.’s 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Ref- ugees, adopted by the United States in 1968, says that people fleeing from persecution and physical harm shall be welcomed, though allowing for a reasonable and humane pro- cess to determine if their claims are real. This follows the requirement of every major world religion that those seeking asylum from perse- cution, torture, or death shall not be turned away. Thus, since 1968, no children were separated from their parents in the United States during the consideration


Sandra Day O’Connor, and Anthony Ken- nedy, among many others, have accepted that proposition. Now don’t get the justices wrong. They all say that the Constitution is not “a suicide pact.” They all acknowledge

Zero tolerance equals less than zero humanity

I t all began quietly last autumn, not with a bang but a whimper. It was quiet until this spring, when it came out into the open that the Trump administration had initiated its most despicable policy to date.

The bang arrived with “zero tolerance,” a program to halt immigrant families caught entering the country, refugees without proper papers or families seeking asylum from hor- rors at home. The country’s borders must be secure to save our republic and our “American way of life.” Moreover, to ensure the success of this heartless new policy, the govern- ment would institute the separation of children from their parents. There was to be no structure or plan for return- ing children to their parents once the adults’ cases were disposed. Although illegal immigration across our southern border was the lowest it has been in years, the administra- tion was convinced that this policy must be implemented, and that it needed to happen now. The program was ordered by Attorney General Jeff Ses- sions and enthusiastically supported within the administra- tion by Stephen Miller, a senior Trump adviser and one-time aide to Sessions in the Senate. “A big name of the game is deterrence,” John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, told NPR in May. Perhaps a more accurate term would be “terrorism.” The program was implemented with the typical Trump thoughtlessness and lack of planning. Children were taken from their parents and then labeled “unaccompanied minors” and dumped into the foster care system, where the administration often lost track of them. Since last Octo- ber, at least 2,700 children have been taken from their parents, nearly 2,000 between mid-April and the end of May. In some cases, the families were separated by deceit. Juana Francisca Bonilla de Canjura described how her two daughters, Ingrid, 10, and Fatima, 12, were taken from her. “Nobody knows anything. Nobody says anything — just lies. They said they were taking them for questioning, and we were only going to be apart for a moment. But they never came back.” With the number of children growing beyond the foster system’s ability to deal with them, makeshift places were found or created to hold them. We don’t know all the details but we are aware of 26 different facilities scattered across the country, from facilities in Washington State to warehouses in California and Florida to a former Walmart in Browns- ville, Texas — and that’s just one of five shelters in that

state. Recently we learned of group homes in Harlem and Camden. The courts, where the parents were tried for misdemeanor pros- ecutions, have no idea where the children have gone, or how parents and children will be reunited. Indeed, as far as the courts and judges are concerned, that’s not their depart- ment, and they have said as much. While the parents may be the targets of this terrorism, the children are its most sig- nificant victims. In a letter of protest against the Trump policy of family separation, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practi- tioners wrote, “Traumatic life experiences in childhood, especially those that involve loss of a caregiver or parent, cause lifelong risk for cardiovascular and mental health disease.” The policy has evoked a rising wave of opposition. Former first ladies, both Demo- crat and Republican, have spoken out. Rose- lyn Carter declared, ““The practice and policy today of removing children from their parents’

care at our border with Mexico is disgraceful and a shame to our country.” Hillary Clinton wrote, ““Every parent who has ever held a child in their arms, every human being with a sense of compassion and decency, should be outraged.” Laura Bush tweeted, ““I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and pro- tect our international boundaries, but this zero tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.” She added, “It is our obligation to reunite these detained chil- dren with their parents — and to stop separating parents and children in the first place.” Loud voices from within the Jewish community were not silent either. More than 25 Jewish-American organizations published a letter to Attorney General Sessions strongly denouncing the Trump administration’s policy of separat- ing migrant children from their families. It said: “This policy undermines the values of our nation and jeopardizes the safety and well-being of thousands of people.” The signatories added that “as Jews, we understand the plight of being an immigrant fleeing violence and oppres- sion. We believe that the United States is a nation of immi- grants and how we treat the stranger reflects on the moral values and ideals of this nation.”

Mark Gold

Mark Gold

Hiam Simon

Hiam Simon

The groups note that “many of these migrant families are seeking asylum in the United States to escape violence in Central America. Taking children away from their families is unconscionable. Such practices inflict unnecessary trauma on parents and children, many of whom have already suf- fered traumatic experiences.” The signatories include the American Jew- ish Committee, the Union for Reform Juda- ism, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the Anti-Defamation League, and Hadassah. But politically, the most significant endorsement is that of the Orthodox Union, which earlier had hosted Sessions as a key- note speaker at an event the group held in Washington. Orthodox Jews, unlike Reform and Con- servative Jews, awarded the majority of their votes to Trump and the Republican party in 2016. The Orthodox Union, an umbrella group for the Orthodox community, has expressed

strong support for Trump’s policies on Israel, and also on key issues such as religion-and- state questions and Trump’s judicial appointments. Other Jewish groups praised the Orthodox Union for endorsing the letter on Friday. Michael Lieberman of the ADL said the group’s position is “always value added,” while Ori Nir of Americans for Peace Now wrote: “The Orthodox Union has joined a letter by American Jewish organizations condemning the separation of children from their migrant parents when they cross the border. Kudos to all signatories including the Orthodox Union. Kol Hakavod!” — ”good job” in Hebrew. Caught in a firestorm of criticism, the administration pulled out all the stops to defend this travesty. “The party of family values” sent out Jeff Sessions, who took on the role of a Bible-thumping Elmer Gantry when he said, “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes.”

Sessions elected to ignore the direct commandment from Leviticus 19:34 that “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”



of those asylum applications — until President Donald Trump’s administration announced the change in U.S. policy on April 6, 2018. Fortunately, under extraordinary pressure from the American people, Trump announced that he was ending that policy on June 18. But now Trump doesn’t want any of those illegal immi- grants, asylum-seekers or not, even to be given any con- sideration of their cases at all. He wants them to be sum- marily removed, without due process. While many bemoan the cost of detaining these undoc- umented people and caring for their children until a fair hearing, that is what our U.S. Constitution and our reli- gious traditions require. But that doesn’t mean that we must spend exceptional amounts of money creating detention centers for all those who are undeterred. Alternatives to incarceration, for non-dangerous illegals, like having them wear ankle

bracelets and turning them over to faith groups who will take responsibility for them until their cases are adjudi- cated, can and have saved many millions of dollars. We can use those savings for detention facilities that are truly needed and to add to our border security. In addition, increased aid to Central American coun- tries and Mexico, to help people at the mercy of drug cartels and criminal gangs, would be an important invest- ment to slow the march of desperate people toward the U.S. border. Trump’s lies about illegal immigrants and crime also must be addressed. Overwhelming research has shown that undocumented immigrants are much less likely to commit violent crimes (murder, rape, armed robbery, and assault) and property crimes, than native-born citizens. Even conservative think tanks, such as the Cato Institute, acknowledge that immigrants are committing less violent

crimes, drug, and alcohol offenses than people born in the United States. As long as he is president, Trump will try to remake America in his callous, unconstitutional, and irreligious image, with Congress’ help. But we can deny him that opportunity. In the upcoming November elections, the American people can cast aside those members of Congress who are determined to support every one of Trump’s policies. The challenge of illegal immigration into the United States is not new and it will continue. We must defend our borders. But we must never forsake our fundamental laws and values.

Steven R. Rothman of Englewood is a Democrat and former member of Congress who represented New Jersey’s 9th District from 1997 to 2013.

As the cry to end this moral outrage grew, Trump initially responded in his familiar fashion. He lied. “The Democrats have to change their law — that’s their law…we can not end it with an Executive Order,” Trump said. In fact, there was not then and never has been any law requiring family sepa- ration of illegal immigrants. Trump administration officials continued the lies. “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.” tweeted Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. This was explicitly contradicted by a Home- land Security fact sheet, with a section called “Why Are Par- ents Being Separated From Their Children?” which goes on to explain the new Trump administration policy. It was only when Republicans sitting in the Congress began to recognize that this policy could threaten their success in the midterm elections that they managed to put enough pressure on Trump to attempt to quell the protests. Proving his previous lie, the president signed an order end- ing family separation. America breathed a sigh of relief — until we realized that while Sessions believes that God ordained both the policy and perhaps the executive order to repeal it, as always, the devil is in the details. The order is good only for 20 days. That’s because the president has no intention of ending his zero tolerance policy of prosecution. The only difference is that now chil- dren will be penned with their parents. However, there is a 21-year-old agreement, the Flores settlement, which restricts the incarceration of undocumented minors to 20 days. That fine print in the executive order can be found in Section 3(e), which orders Sessions to ask the Los Angeles court to modify the Flores settlement and allow the government “to detain alien families together throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings for improper entry or any removal or other immigration proceedings.” Judge Dolly Gee had declined to waive this same decision when the Obama administration was faced with an influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America. Stephen Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell Univer- sity and doesn’t think the judge will modify it, said, “Assum- ing Judge Gee bars the Trump administration from modi- fying the Flores settlement, the administration can either cave, and blame the judge for illegal immigration, or defy the court, which will lead to more litigation.” While Trump and his supporters hailed the executive order as a fix to a policy that sparked public outrage and widespread condemnation, the fine print acknowledges that

it is no more than a bait and switch tactic. It’s unclear what Trump will do if the judge balks at his request. One option is for the government to just go back to taking the kids away from their parents indefinitely. Illegal immigration is not new. Previous administrations all have had to deal with border security and large-scale migration. President Obama was derided as deporter-in- chief for the large numbers of undocumented migrants who were removed by his administration. His predecessor, George W. Bush, initiated streamlined procedures for depor- tation hearings. What was common to both administrations was that first-offenders and families were not prosecuted; rather they were processed through administrative hearings and deported. It was this practice that Sessions and Miller worked actively and successfully to change. Their zero-tol- erance policy requires all entrants crossing outside of ports of entry, even entrants claiming asylum, to be prosecuted. It is this change of policy that has resulted in family separation as an administrative tool of prosecution. The real issue behind the family separation crisis is Trump’s use of a zero tolerance policy instead of using any kind of discretion, said Lori Nessel, a professor at Seton Hall University School of Law in Newark. “Discretion as to who to prosecute, target for deportation, and detain, has been an essential component of immigration regulation through- out prior administrations,” she said. “The Trump Adminis- tration’s move away from discretion and prioritization for enforcement and detention, and toward mass criminaliza- tion of all immigrants, including those seeking asylum, is costing taxpayers billions of dollars and threatening our core values as a nation.” “We should not have to choose between separating par- ents from their children and expanding the shameful prac- tice of imprisoning families,” Beth Werlin, the executive director of the American Immigration Council, said in a statement. Mark Hetfield, president of HIAS, a refugee-rights group, said, “The problem with the policy boils down to the simple truth that children don’t belong in jails. Transitioning from the cruel and inhumane policy of family separation to the cruel and inhumane policy of indefinite family detention cannot be the solution here Globally, humanitarian crises are propelling large move- ments of people to seek a safe haven, so immigration has become an issue of great concern. While these waves of desperate men, women, and children are flowing at rates in

numbers larger than can be accommodated either economi- cally or politically in the developed world, we cannot allow ignorance, racism, and cruelty to taint our response. In more unguarded moments, Trump has exploded in tirades against migrants, describing them as animals and criminals, revealing a racial animus that seems to be an essential ele- ment in the creation of his policy. Trump’s administration policy is particularly focused on asylum seekers and is particularly egregious. Many are ref- ugees fleeing extensive gang violence and gender violence in Central America. The administration is requiring asylum seekers to apply exclusively through ports of entry, claiming that any other border crossing constitutes a crime. However, the U.N. 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees recognizes the severe difficulties that getting to a recognized

port of entry entails for a refugee and therefore prohibits sig- natories from imposing penalties based on a person’s man- ner of entry into a country of refuge. Trump may not know, or if he does, he choses not to care, but the United States is

a signatory to that convention. Once we were a proud signa-

tory, but thanks to our elected president’s innate racism,

this is just one more promise America has broken.

Family separation is a terror tactic. The question is who

is being terrorized. Certainly the children are, and without

a doubt their parents are too. But we would offer that the

entire political system, our republic, and its institutions are being threatened by this terrorist act. Many have said, and we agree, that Trump wants to use these children, these bro- ken families, these tired, these poor, these huddled masses yearning to breathe free, as nothing more than bargaining chips to obtain concessions from Congressional Democrats. The American dream is being threatened by this govern- ment-sponsored terror.

Dr. Mark Gold of Teaneck holds a Ph.D. in economics from NYU. He is on the executive board of Partners for Progressive Israel, a member organization of the American Zionist Movement and an affiliate of the World Union of Meretz.

Hiam Simon of Englewood is the past chief operating officer of Ameinu, the leading progressive Zionist membership organization in the United States. He lived in Israel for many years, where he was the dean of students at what is now the Alexander Muss High School, and he served in the IDF as a noncommissioned officer in the artillery.


Women of the Wall, one year later

I t’s been one year since Prime Minister Benjamin Neta- yahu’s coalition government reneged on a deal to pro- vide a designated place for egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall.

King Herod did not live to see the wall, the retaining sup- port built to hold the Temple Mount, completed. It may be that Anat Hoffman may not see her aspirations for the Wall completed, either. Ms. Hoffman, chair of the Women of the Wall as well as head of the Israel Religious Action Center, has been leading

efforts to allow women to hold prayer and Torah services at the Western Wall for nearly 20 years. Since 1988, the group has faced a legal battle for recognition of their right to pray here. Their presence is deemed offensive by Orthodox wor- shippers at the site, because many Orthodox Jews object to the concept of women making up a minyan, wearing tallitot, or reading from — even holding — a Torah. There have been many court proceedings to settle the issue. On June 13, the first day of Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, 30 members of Women of the Wall assembled without public- ity in the women’s section and held morning services with

a Torah they brought in. The next day, as is the custom on

Rosh Chodesh, some 100 women gathered. This time, they were met with busloads of charedi children who had been brought to the site not to worship but to protest. These detractors have been increasingly disruptive each month, as adult women and yeshiva girls are prompted to scream, shriek, and blow loud whistles during tefillot (prayers). The security force at the wall — that is, the unit designated by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, not the police department — has been negligent in providing protection for the women. One video taken a year ago shows an Orthodox woman grabbing a woman from the progres- sive prayer group in a headlock, with the security guard standing there passively. The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, the organization the Israeli government designated to maintain and manage the Kotel and the contiguous plaza and tunnel, has been con- trolled by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, who, as chairman of the foundation, also has been the official rabbi of the Wall since 1995. He has called the actions of the Women of the Wall “an unbearable provocation” and earlier had authorized the arrest of at least five female worshippers for wearing tallitot. Yet, he

wrote in a 2010 article in the Jerusalem Post, “Since its sovereignty was applied to the Old City, the State of Israel maintains a clear policy of tolerance and freedom of worship.” (In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI came to the Western Wall. Rabbi Rabinowitz requested that he remove his cross; the pontiff declined. Ultimately, the Israeli diplomatic office overruled the rabbi.) The Women of the Wall (Neshot HaKo- tel) hold monthly prayer services on Rosh Chodesh exclusively for women, so that Ortho-

dox members, who comprise more than a quarter of the participants, may fully partici- pate, according to Elizabeth Kirshner, the organization’s communications director. Women have been subject to body searches to prevent clandestine smuggling of Torahs. Until 2010, Women of the Wall would pray Shacharit and Hallel at the Kotel and conduct Torah reading at Robinson’s Arch, further south of the Kotel plaza. But Rabbi Rabinow- itz implemented regulations preventing women from gain- ing access to Torah scrolls at the Western Wall. There are 100 Torah scrolls for men’s use at the Kotel, but none for women, and they have been forbidden to bring in Torahs of their own; Anat Hoffman has been arrested for doing so. This Catch-22 results in a discriminatory practice that keeps Torah scrolls out of women’s hands. Women have been subject to body searches to prevent clandestine Torah smuggling; in April 2013, women were arrested at the Kotel.

But in a court decision two weeks later, the Jerusalem Mag- istrate’s Court ruled that their arrest was inappropriate and their actions were not unlawful. Then, in January 2017, the Israeli High Court ruled that

if the government of Israel could not find “good cause” to

prohibit women reading from the Torah in prayer services at the Kotel within 30 days, women could do so. The Netan- yahu government committed to honor the court’s decision. Then, in a stunning reversal on June 25, 2017, Prime Minister Netanyahu publicly reneged on this agreement. In January 2018, the High Court ruled that the state had to report on progress toward the complaint filed by WOW by April 15. Yet now, more than 60 days beyond that dead- line, there has been no response from the government. “The

Norman Levin



Court is once again dragging the process along instead of moving forward swiftly to find a real solution,” Kirshner explained. In an interview with Rabbi Donniel Hart- man at the Shalom Hartman Institute in 2013, Anat Hoffman expressed her position. “The problem is with the secular Knesset, the secu- lar police, the secular courts; with the secular institutions which have decided to give (Rabbi Rabinowitz) sole and complete” control over all aspects of prayer at the Kotel. The ceremony installing the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, with the welcome inclusion of far- right Christian pastors, demonstrated that Netanyahu pre- fers the rigorous support of 80 million evangelical Christians to the tepid support of those American Jews who are critical of his policies. Moreover, with the violent protests by Gazan Palestinians on the border with Israel last month, American Jews, recognizing Hamas’s malevolent intent, by and large have rallied to Israel’s defense. Netanyahu therefore faces almost no negative political consequences for ignoring the pleas and arguments for equal treatment under the law. Religious and diaspora affairs Minister Naftali Bennett was absent for the June 25, 2017, vote rescinding the agree- ment. Bennett, a millionaire as a result of the sale of his high tech company, is an Orthodox Jew, and has dem- onstrated an unwillingness to provide a space, or even better security, for Women of the Wall, which has made repeated attempts to meet with Bennett in order to negoti- ate a plan for pluralistic and women’s prayer at the Kotel. He has consistently avoided and canceled meetings with no explanation. His plan for a pluralistic space at Rob- inson’s Arch was, in Anat Hoffman’s term, a paltry sun- deck, a wooden platform that does not meet their need as a women’s (not a mixed) prayer group. Bennett erected the platform surreptitiously in the night, without any for- mal approval. (Minister Bennett failed to respond to my repeated attempts for comment for this article.) Prime Minister Netanyahu had promised that physical upgrades to the Robinson’s Arch area would be made to make the site more suitable. To date, the site is still unusable. Gideon Aronoff, executive director at Masorti Founda- tion for Conservative Judaism in Israel, has been outspoken

Why we will always need a Charles Krauthammer

C harles Krauthammer would have been an inspi-

rational figure even if he hadn’t become a writer

and television commentator.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist who

died on June 21 at the age of 68 was laid low as a 22-year- old medical student when a pool accident left him a quad- riplegic. Knowing that people would consider his ability to “just muddle through life” a “great achievement” because of what had happened, he resolved to carry on as if he had never been injured at all. Rather than accept that his dis- ability would define his life, Krauthammer continued with his medical studies at Harvard University and become a

brilliant psychiatrist. But that was just the first chapter in a remarkable life that led to Washington, D.C., where, after working for the gov- ernment as a medical expert, he caught the political bug.

A self-described New Deal liberal, Krauthammer worked as

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS. Follow him on Twitter at @jonathans_tobin.

a speechwriter for U.S. Vice President Walter

Mondale. But his sympathy for the views of Ronald Reagan — the man who would defeat Mondale and President Jimmy Carter — and conservatism would define much of his sub- sequent work. Switching to political writing full-time at the New Republic and then the Washington Post and Time magazine, Krauthammer quickly became not merely one of the most impor- tant conservative writers of his generation,

but one of the most influential of any politi- cal stripe. A stalwart Cold Warrior and a foe of Islamist tyranny, he helped lead the debate on foreign

policy and domestic issues for decades. In particular, he was

a valiant defender of Israel in an era when Zionism had gone

out of intellectual fashion. Suffice it to say, his keen analyti- cal mind, encyclopedic knowledge and sharp wit brought insights to an enormous range of topics and a vast body of work on, as the title of a collection of his essays read, the

Jonathan S. Tobin

Jonathan S.


“Things That Matter.” Krauthammer’s work was treasured by his many fans and served as an inspiration for many younger conservatives. Indeed, I count myself as one of those who looked to him as a role model, and I’m particularly proud of his generous comments about my work that he shared in our few interactions over the years. But it is particularly painful to lose him now because this is a moment in history when we

need voices like his more than ever. It’s not just because Krauthammer’s work was intellectually rigorous, that his arguments were to the point, and that his ability to hone in on the weak- nesses of his opponents’ arguments and to champion the basic principles of liberty and democracy were so spot-on. We especially miss Charles Krauthammer today because he embodied a style of reasoned political argument that is rap- idly being marginalized, if not rendered extinct. Ours is a time when serious intellectual arguments


in defense of egalitarian prayer at the wall. “You have a state that is Jewish and democratic that is having difficul- ties on both the Jewish part and the democratic part.” While he is proud that the Masorti movement is well rep- resented within the Women of the Wall (one third of its members are Conser- vative/Masorti affiliated, he stated), Aronoff acknowledges that “Women of the Wall was the driving force that launched this entire activity.” However, Aronoff points out, Masorti is instrumental in making the Azarat Yisroel, the egalitarian prayer space, vibrant and active. “Every single day, people are conducting egalitarian prayer at the Azarat Yisroel site.” But this is not to be confused with a desig- nated place for women-only minyanim at the Kotel. It is evident that the restrictions on egalitarian and women-only prayer in a public space is discriminatory. Kirschner, Neshot Hakotel’s commu- nications director, pointed out that “there is no ‘designated prayer space’ for us established at the Kotel on a reg- ular basis.” There is a space carved out by “the metal barriers (the ‘cage,’ as we call it) that the Western Wall Heritage Foundation will typically set up and demand we enter and remain in for the duration of our prayer and claim that we must agree to ‘waive our right to protection’ by the Western Wall Heri- tage Foundation guards if we refuse to enter. It is usually set up on the very margin, a significant distance from the Kotel itself. “We should not have to choose between our dignity and our safety.” The issue of accessibility at the Kotel for all Jews is part of a larger struggle. The rites of life passage are affected as well, with control of weddings and


conversions under the designated management of the right-wing Ortho- dox. Tales of Israeli soldiers killed in battle defending the country who were excluded from Jewish cemeteries are galling. Rabbi Michael Boyden of Hod Hasharon’s Reform congregation Kehilat Yonatan expressed his frustra- tion with the Heritage Foundation’s discriminatory policies. “In the Six Day War, 182 Israeli soldiers died taking back Jerusalem and liberating the Wall, and not one was charedi,” he said. There are three elements that are important to enabling non-Orthodox services at the Western Wall: accessi- bility, visibility, and independence. The Wall is, after all, not a synagogue. It is a holy site — regarded as Judaism’s holi- est — and should not be in the control of any one single faction. Last Shabbat fell on the 17th of Tammuz, the day commemorating the Romans’ breach of the Temple walls, which led, three weeks later, to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Our tradition holds that the calamity was a result of baseless hatred among Jewish factions. Perhaps it also serves as a metaphor for the violence and antipathy that takes place at the Kotel every Rosh Chodesh. Jews worldwide take pride in pro- claiming that Israel is the only democ- racy in the Middle East. If this trope means anything, it must mean respect- ing the rights of the individual in the face of authoritarianism. As Elizabeth Kirschner told me, “we are fighting for all Jews to be able to come here and feel that they belong here, too.”

Norman Levin is a retired synagogue executive director. He also was the marketing director at the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey.

director at the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey. Charles Krauthammer in his office in Washington,

Charles Krauthammer in his office in Washington, D.C., on March 16, 1985.


largely have been replaced by parti- san shouting matches. We can place some of the blame for this on Presi- dent Donald Trump, whose election Krauthammer vigorously opposed. But as Krauthammer understood, Trump’s willingness to say anything about his opponents or ignore the truth in pursuit of a political point to

be scored was a symptom of the way our political culture had shifted, not its cause. The support for Trump’s counter-revolution against the elites and the dead hand of liberal politi- cal correctness were a function of both the left’s condescension to most Americans and the shameless liberal



Trump is not good for the Jews, part I

In his June 8 op ed (“Is Trump good for the Jews? It’s an easy yes”), Rabbi Boteach writes that “he is not here to get political on this issue,” but, of course, he does. He has a never- ending appetite to bash Obama for the Iran deal. I seem to remember that there were a sub- stantial number of Israeli military people who favored the deal and many who are as devoted to the welfare of Israel as he is also believed that the Obama team got the best deal possible at that time. And, unsurprisingly, he then writes favor- ably on President Trump’s dealings with North Korea, as if there is a direct comparison between the two situations. Trump is a person without a core of values and beliefs. I support his moving the embassy but fear that this lover of a deal, could easily sell Israel out. Those who choose to get into bed with our President might live to rue the day that they chose him for a bedmate.

Herb Steiner, Mahwah

Trump is not good for the Jews, part II

I was bewildered by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s June 8 column (“Is Trump good for the Jews? It’s an easy yes”), proclaiming that Trump is good for the Jews. After all, Trump is the most dishonest, malevolent, incompetent, ignorant, self-serving national leader since Caligula — hardly the role model to which Jews should aspire, and hardly comparable to Avraham. It was not until I read his June 22 column (“The difference between Obama’s Iran deal and Trump’s Singapore summit”) that I understood that Trump, the self-styled “very stable genius,” provides cover for some Jews, those who deal in half-truths, irrelevancies, and illogic. To annotate Rabbi Boteach’s column would make this letter far too long. So let me high- light several points vis-à-vis Iran: 1) There is no comparison between a multinational deal negotiated over at least two years and a quickie photo-op that required as much thought as choosing a pair of socks. 2) Obama did not “give” the Iranians $150 billion. Rather, the Obama administration returned Iranian assets held in U.S. banks since 1979. (It apparently was much less than $150 billion.) 3) Obama did not “lift” all major sanctions against Iran and “save” its economy. The sanctions lifted were those imposed by the U.N. Security Council. Sanctions imposed by the U.S. Congress and other administrations remained in place. And, in case Rabbi Boteach listens only to Fox News, the Iranians are resentful that their economy has not improved since signing the deal — precisely because Obama left the U.S. sanctions in place. Now, let us look at North Korea. There was no deal of any sort between Trump and Kim. The vague communiqué promising to denucle- arize the Korean peninsula has about as much legitimacy as a degree from Trump University. Trump agreed to cease military exercises with our ally South Korea and praised Kim publicly, saying that Kim is a strong leader and that his people love him — a sick joke considering that

Kim kills people for not applauding enthusi- astically enough. And what did Trump get for

these concessions — absolutely nothing! Kim — who runs a regime that has imprisoned people

in concentration camps for three generations,

that manufactures and sells heroin, and that

peddles nuclear technology to rogue regimes such as Iran’s — suckered Trump, playing him like a violin. Kim will get rid of his nukes the same day Trump makes his tax returns public.

In the last third of his column, Rabbi Bote-

ach discusses the Nazis and genocide, for rea- sons that defy logic completely. The topic is completely unrelated to Iran, North Korea, or Trump. Because invoking the Nazis has been shown to silence discussion, I can only sur- mise that Rabbi Boteach was trying to silence criticism of the rest of his illogic. Well, two can invoke Nazis; after all, the president that Rabbi Boteach praises as “good for the Jews” has insti- tuted his own Vel d’Hiv and baby prisons on the Rio Grande.

Richard J. Alexander, Teaneck

Keep a watchful eye on kids around pools

We hope by sharing our story it helps oth- ers. We are incredibly fortunate and pretty damn lucky. Yesterday we went to our pool club for a quick swim. The first two rules for our fam- ily are sunscreen and swim vests. We did just that. We ran into friends, and our kids played together. Emma and her friend decided to go from the big pool to the baby pool, so I fol- lowed. Emma asked if she could take her vest

off and many asks later I said okay, thinking that the baby pool is just one foot deep. Emma and her friend filled buckets and went to water the plants on the grass near the fence. They were nowhere near the big pool. I turned my head to say goodbye to another friend and noticed that Emma’s friend was back but I didn’t see Emma. Seth and I started running around searching for Emma. I found her face down in the pool.

A good Samaritan jumped in without a

second thought, before I could even process what was happening. Never in my life will I forget the blue shade of Emma’s lips. The man passed her to me. She was breathing. I passed her to Seth and she puked, which apparently is a good thing. We brought her to the hospital and she was transferred to St Peter’s, where she is doing quite well. You always hear stories like this but you never think it’s going to be your story to tell one day. If you are by a pool, keep the float on. Please learn from this. Like others say, it’s a blink of an eye, a turn of a head. Couldn’t be more true. To the man who saved my daughter’s life, we are forever grateful to you. To the lifeguard who thought Emma was

playing, I hope you learn from this. If there is any question, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

A minute later could have changed the end to

our story. Hug your kids a little tighter tonight and don’t take anything for granted. We encourage others to share our lesson.

Seth and Tracy Katzenstein, Manalapan

D’var Torah

Parashat Balak: A prophet and his donkey

T he story of Parashat Balak is well known. Balak ben Zipor, a Moabite king, is afraid of what Israel might do to his people,

since he already knows what Israel did to the Amorites. In an effort to stop Israel, he seeks the help of Bilam, a non-Jewish prophet, asking Bilam to leave his home, find Israel, and curse it. After seeking advice from God, at first Bilam refuses, but even- tually relents to accompany Balak’s men on the journey, although not without first saying: “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, big or little, contrary to the com- mand of the Lord my God.” (Numbers 22:18) On the journey, Bilam is not able to see the angel of God blocking his path, some- thing that his donkey is able to see quite clearly. (Not a very good seer, is he?) God opens Bilam’s eyes and then Bilam is able to see what his donkey could see the entire time. Bilam ends up not cursing Israel at all, but instead blessing it three times. Each blessing is powerful on its own, but together, the three teach us a great deal about Israel’s understanding of the world. The first blessing contains the verse: “As I see them from the mountain tops, gaze on them from the heights, there is a people that dwells apart, not reckoned among the nations” (Numbers 23:9). Is this verse just describing the geographic reality of what

Bilam saw, or is it teaching us that the only way Israel can survive, throughout the gen- erations, is by dwelling apart from non-Jews, by not get- ting too close to those who are different from us? Rashi, in 11th century France, understood Bilam’s first blessing to mean, “I look at their beginnings and at the first of their roots, and I see them established and strong

as these rocks and as these hills through the matriarchs and patriarchs” (Rashi, quot- ing Midrash Tanhuma). In other words, Rashi understands that what Bilam meant with his words was that the continued sur- vival of Judaism depended not on the geo- graphic reality of Israel (whether or not dwelling apart from other nations), but rather on Israel continuing its unique tradi- tions and laws. By having continuity with the past, and by never forgetting those who shaped the religion in previous generations, Israel can be as strong and permanent as the rock and the hills. Bilam’s second blessing speaks mov- ingly about the power of faith and how Israel will not be harmed because God is with them. It ends with these words:

“Behold, a people that rises like a lion,

Rabbi Joel Pitkowsky Congregation Beth Sholom, Teaneck Conservative

Rabbi Joel


Congregation Beth

Sholom, Teaneck


leaps up like the king of beasts” (Numbers 23:24). Rashi says, “When they arise from their sleep in the morn- ing, they make themselves strong like a lioness or lion to rush to do the mitzvot, such as putting on a tallit, reading the Shema and wearing tefil- lin.” In other words, Rashi is teaching us that the faith in God that Bilam spoke about

is faith coupled with action, faith that expresses itself in how we live our lives each and every day. Bilam’s third and final blessing contains the famous phrase “How fair are your tents, O Jacob, your dwellings, O Israel” (Numbers 24:5). Rashi famously said about this verse that what Bilam saw when he looked down upon the tents of Israel was their physical placement, and specifi- cally how the tent doors were positioned to guarantee that the individual members of families would have some privacy and therefore retain their dignity, despite the close quarters. Rabbi Joseph Hertz (1872-1946, former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and editor of the Hertz chumash) offers a different commentary. He said that the tents rep- resented the beit midrash, the house of

study, and the dwellings represented the

beit tefilah, the house of prayer. According to Hertz, what Bilam saw when he looked down upon Israel was the future strength of Israel, the reason that Israel was (and still is!) able to survive so much destruc- tion and calamity over so many centuries

— dedication to study of Jewish texts and

prayer. Bilam was a stranger to Israel, and yet when he saw Israel, he was able to identify characteristics that defined it thousands of years ago, and that still help to define us today: a deep appreciation for tradition, an understanding that God is at the center of the Jewish experience and that we show our belief in God through action, and a belief that the three most important build- ings in the Jewish world are the house of study, the house of prayer, and the home. All of these blessings come to us from

a non-Jewish prophet, from a person who was initially less cognizant of the world around him than his donkey was! Some- times blessings are like that. We don’t see the blessings we have even though they are right in front of us until someone else points them out to us. May we all merit the day when we can see the blessings that are right in front of our eyes and continue to strengthen our faith, our actions, and our community, so that others may see those blessings as well.

Mazel tov to our editor Joanne Palmer on winning three national awards in the 37th Annual Simon Rockower competition

2nd PlAce Excellence in Editorial Writing “Hate should have no home here,” “More about the eruv,” “Save Bennie and Josh”

2nd PlAce Excellence in Arts and Criticism News and Features “Across divides: borders and boundaries in contemporary art”

2nd PlAce The David Frank Award for Excellence in Personality Profiles “Tuvia Tenenbom discovers America”

34 Jewish standard JUne 29, 2018

The Frazzled Housewife

The hotel with a mild personality disorder

W elcome to the Ganchrow

Garden Inn. I am your

leaving for camp came. Shabbos finally ended around 9:20 p.m., and the packing was to begin. No one was packing. With 12 hours to go before we were to pack up the car, I started to unravel. Slowly but surely, I was descending into my normal state of madness. Why aren’t you pack- ing? What aren’t you pack- ing? WHY AREN’T YOU PACKING???????? It wasn’t pretty — but it did take me five days to get there. So that was something. Ya, that was something that everyone forgot when my ears started to spin and my eyes were bulging out. But then, after totally scaring my houseg- uest (who, according to son

#2, was wearing his head- phones and didn’t hear any- thing) will I ever know if that was true? I guess if he never comes back we will know that he, indeed, heard everything. In any event, I began to think about my behavior when the guests were in the house. And then about my behavior when

I think that no one is watching. And then,

because all of the mussar that has been going on in my home since son #2 has come back from Israel (what is mussar? Words of Torah that are told in a manner than anyone can understand, even me) I

concierge, Banji.

Please feel free to

leave your luggage all over the living room

and place your specific food and drink orders prior to your arrival. It is impera- tive that you let us know about any allergies and if there are any concerns you might have about your stay. Do you require one pillow or two? Feathers or foam pillows? Do you need a blanket or just a sheet? Or a sheet and a blanket and an extra comforter? Do you

prefer a bottle of water by your bed or a glass? Flat

or sparkling? If needed, please leave your laundry in a bag by the door and it will be done before you return home from minyan in the morning. Meals are served whenever you need them to be. There is a table filled with fruits, vegetables, and various cookies, cakes, and snacks. The refrigerator is filled with a vast selection of non-alcoholic bev- erages. The alcoholic beverages are not for you. Just saying. And don’t worry about throwing out your cups, plates, or bottles. That is the concierge’s job, and she does it with a smile. If you are interested in any activities — ping pong, floor hockey, iron- ing, or laundry folding — please put your name on the list posted by the hockey room and someone will get back to you. Why am I writing about the Ganchrow Garden Inn? Well, son #2 is a wonder- ful friend. And the week before camp, he welcomed some of his friends to our home for almost a week. The week before camp. When he should have been pack- ing and shopping in order to complete his packing. But why would he do that when he could entertain his friends from London, France, and Israel? Why would he do that when he has a mother who he thinks still will pack for him. Even though he is 20 years old… So the week before he is to go to camp, nothing is getting done. And I cannot gen- tly remind him that he needs to get his stuff organized (gently remind is code for scream my brains out because I am so frustrated that he isn’t doing anything to start getting organized). Why can’t I gently remind him? Because we have a house full of boys who still might think that I am a normal and well adjusted mother. Ha ha ha, little do they know. I was on my very best behavior. I even surprised myself and my kids. And husband #1. Calm mommy was a whole new personality. But then the night before we were

Banji Ganchrow



But then the night before we were Banji Ganchrow What aren’t you packing? WHY AREN’T YOU

What aren’t you packing? WHY AREN’T YOU PACKING???????

began to think that shouldn’t I be on my best behavior all of the time, because God is watching? And then I began to think that maybe God wants us to feel like he is part of the family and we should just be who we are. More or less. In my case, probably less. And then I began to think that I had better help my kids pack or they will be walking around camp for seven weeks with one pair of underwear and flip flops.

So we will save the philosophical discus- sion for another time, and I just hope that

I didn’t scare son #2’s lovely friends too


Wishing everyone who is getting rid of their kids for the summer a wonderful, safe and healthy few weeks!

Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck is still considering getting a dog because the house is way too quiet….

Kosher Crossword


GLATT KOSHERCROSSWORDS@GMAIL.COM DIFFICULTY LEVEL: MEDIUM Across Down 1. He’s (still) in charge in the West Bank




He’s (still) in charge in the West Bank

1. Summer coolers, for short


Coll. whose mascot is the Nittany Lions

2. ’at

HaOlam (creation of the world)


Gilbert and Hughes

3. Kind of Mitzvah?


Frasier or Niles

4. Late columnist Landers


Not well

5. Be very angry



To be of use

6. Breads with pockets


Name associated with gravity

7. Messy dresser




8. It parallels the radius


It finds itself in hot water

9. Took a load off





Locale of Matthew Weiner’s hit AMC


Yeshiva University’s neighborhood



Get off the ground


Asian noodles



The United Nations often seems


Defender of Isr.

biased against it


One driving fast in “Zootopia”


It beats a heart, at times


How dogs kiss



Science class, for short


All smiles


Ambassador Avner


“American Idol” winner Taylor


Squared cracker?


Chayil (Var.)


Nairobi’s land


Hurricane of 2011

40. Beer brand certified by Star-K


Like old meat



Jewish rapper whose father is the


Entry-level legal jobs: Abbr.

Prime Minister of Belize


A sukkah provides it





Sneaker cat





Those, in Mexico


Wallach and Roth


Tippecanoe’s partner, in an 1840 cam-


Barnyard honker



Birds with showy plumes


“Hotel du Lac” novelist Brookner


Way to begin


Like buffalo wings, eating-wise


Oscar winner for “Amadeus”





Early Palm smartphone


Title for Freud before Doctor


and eggs


Expressions of delight


Bird of Celtic lore


“Philadelphia” director


Mentions knowing (Jacob) Degrom,




a hint to solving this puzzle

Norman Lear character in two hit sit- coms


Teens often care a lot about it


Group leaders around the Old City




Coastal town south of Haifa


Bratislava bucks


Set up



Palindromic dogma


Aired “I Love Lucy,” e.g.


Mich. neighbor


Hall of

(sports shrines)


He loved Potter’s mom


car!” (game show prize)



Kibbutz or Camp




The solution to last week’s


Seek a seat




puzzle is on page 43.


Weasel’s sound?


Yosemite to Joshua Tree dir.


‘Vitaly: An Evening of Wonders’


L ogic dictates that you’re sit- ting in the Westside Theater in Midtown Manhattan. There are seats and audience members all

around you, so, of course, you are sitting in the Westside.

Yet there’s a sliver, a small part of you, that feels you’ve been transported to the Hogwarts Academy of Witchcraft and Wiz- ardry. And that Harry Potter has taken on the form of Vitaly Beckman. Beckman is the star of “Vitaly: An Eve- ning of Wonders,” a night you spend with your mouth agape. Beckman:

• Makes an apple fly through the air


• Draws a flower on a sheet of paper and

somehow pulls a real flower from the pad;

• Makes a brush paint a picture without

anyone or anything touching it. And he does this all in a most appro- priate venue: a small theater, not some humongous Las Vegas show room. It’s an


intimate setting that seats fewer than 300 people. We all have unobstructed views. Hidden strings and chicanery quickly would become apparent. How does he do it? Duh. It’s magic. It must be. Vitaly, who is Jewish, was born in the Soviet Union, in what is now Belarus. It is why, he claims, he sounds like Borat (the character created by Sacha Baron Cohen) and looks like Seinfeld. But he performs like Houdini. No, that’s not really correct. Houdini was an escape artist. Vitaly is — well I’m not sure how to describe what he does. At one point, he gets people to offer up their driver’s licenses. They he rubs them and they disappear from their photos. And then they reappear in someone else’s license photo. He also does his most famous trick, in which he makes a still photo come alive. It’s the trick that catapulted him to fame when he performed it on the Penn and Teller TV show, “Fool Us,” and even they could not figure out how he did it.

Beckman, 36, left the Soviet Union for Israel when he was 8 years old, shortly after Mikhail Gorbachev opened the bor- ders to Jewish emigration. Vitaly has only vague memories of being a “suppressed minority.” His parents — his mom is an economist and his dad is an engineer — had difficulty finding work. And according to the stories he was told, his older brother was regularly beaten by hooligans. The family lived in Haifa. Vitaly dem- onstrated early talent in art, but when he was about 14, he fell in love with magic, “because I realized I had ideas I wanted to fulfill in other art forms besides painting. Unlike what he would have had here in the United States, in Israel he didn’t have access to magic shops where he could buy tricks, and “there was no internet at the time,” he said. “So I started to watch as many magicians on television as I could. I tried to record them and do something similar at family gatherings.” The lack of access to pre-packaged mate- rial proved beneficial to him, because it forced him to come up with original ideas.

“It made me become more different,” he said in a telephone interview. “If you don’t walk a paved path, it is more difficult.” His ideas usually come “in the form of something visual. I observe things. I see falling leaves and I imagine leaves coming out of a painting” — something he does in his show. He considers himself an illusionist. “But I also think art is an illusion,” he said. “Art is about creating something out of noth- ing. A painter does it with paint. A musi- cian does it with sound. What I do is very similar. I blur the lines between what is real and what is not.” It is a mixture of both art and science, he says, though he won’t tell you how he does it, even if you cry and promise to write a story about him. The moment you would learn how it works, it wouldn’t be as wondrous anymore.”

“Vitaly: An Evening of Wonders” is at the Westside Theater, 407 West 43rd St., through September 30.

Arts & Culture Tim Kalkhof as Thomas prepares dough in a scene from “The Cakemaker.”
Arts & Culture
Tim Kalkhof as Thomas
prepares dough in a scene
from “The Cakemaker.”

‘The Cakemaker’


S ome of us were raised not to buy German products, never to ride in a German-made car, and certainly not to visit Germany. But that sen-

timent has been changing over the years, as Germany has become one of Israel’s greatest supporters and as the number of joint ventures between the two countries has mushroomed. Anyone who has visited Berlin in the last several years will have heard Hebrew spoken on the street, Israeli restaurants abound there, and a cadre of creative Israeli artists has made it home. As Tel Aviv has become a very expensive place to live, Berlin, with its cheaper rents, has become a go-to venue for artists, and it

has evolved into one of the innovative and creative centers of Europe, as it had been a century ago. Undoubtedly the most pro-Semitic coun- try in Europe today, Germany is a place where Israelis feel quite comfortable. As a result, we are seeing more German- Israeli film co-productions, and many Israeli movies are shot in Germany. Last year, Avi Nesher’s “Past Life” described the journey of a talented musician, the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, who goes to Germany to study and search out her grandmother’s “real” story. This year, in Eran Riklis’s thriller “Shel- ter,” Mossad agents provide a German safe house for a Lebanese informer, with the supposed assistance of its intelligence services. Now, Ofir Raul Graizer brings us “The Cakemaker,” a story about an

extramarital relationship that begins when Oren, an Israeli businessman, walks into a Berlin bakery to buy pastries for his wife, Anat, back home. When Oren goes missing, a series of events brings the baker to Jerusalem in order to search for Anat, one lover seeking out the other. Before you know it, the pas- try chef is creating amazing cakes in Anat’s new café, and she can hardly handle the business. But here we see the film director’s hand — this German is made to feel unwel- come by Anat’s brother-in-law, and the Ger- man’s cakes are deemed not to be kosher. Can this gentile turn on the oven and pro- duce food for Jewish mouths? Through his film, Graizer raises important questions about inclusiveness and acceptance of the outsider, the other, in Israeli society. These days, when Anthony Bourdain’s death eclipsed all other news, and where Michael Solomonov’s “Zahav,” about the world of Israeli cooking, was selected as the centerpiece of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey’s “One Book, One Community” program this year, cook- ing and baking are very much a part of our lives. This was not lost on filmmaker Graizer. Not only do we go to the cake- maker’s bakery in his film, we also are introduced to many German delicacies in it. It makes us want to rush out of the the- ater for a taste. And in the Jerusalem café where the pastry chef makes magic, Israe- lis seem just as excited about the sweets on the menu. As the film’s action shifts back and forth from Berlin to Jerusalem, it touches on

back and forth from Berlin to Jerusalem, it touches on Sarah Adler as Anat embraces Tim

Sarah Adler as Anat embraces Tim Kalkhof as Thomas in “The Cakemaker.”

mixed feelings about the new Israel-Ger- many love affair. It delves into questions about family, sexuality, acceptance and nonacceptance of difference, and reli- gion in Israel. It also magically pushes the power of the Shabbat experience. In an interview with the filmmaker, Graizer told me that he developed his screenplay from the story of someone close to him who lived a double life. In fact, he told me, he knew many people who had these secret lives, and he wanted to dig deeper. Graizer always has been proud of his Jewish and Israeli identities, he said; he moved to Berlin in order to “redefine himself,” as he put it. He felt freer in Berlin to develop his film than he would have had he stayed in Israel. He also told me about his love for baking and how this culinary talent was so dynamic, draw- ing from many traditions and having sym- bolic meanings. “Just consider the mixing

bowl of ingredients,” he said. Graizer succeeds in infusing these ele- ments into this powerful film. In it, the baker, whether he is kneading dough or simply opening the oven door to reveal the awesome product within, expresses a variety of feelings and passions. This is Ofir Raul Graizer’s first fea- ture film. What a terrific way to begin his career! Sarah Adler, whom you may have seen in “Foxtrot” earlier this year, is extraordinary as Anat, and the music, by Dominique Charpentier, is exceptional. This is a film definitely worth your consid- eration. “The Cakemaker” opens nation- wide today.

Eric Goldman’s interview with Ofir Raul Graizer may be seen on his television program, “Jewish Cinematheque,” this coming week over the Jewish Broadcasting Service. Check local cable listings.


“Left to Their Own Devices” Printworks by Leslee Fetner will be on display in “Making
“Left to Their Own Devices” Printworks by Leslee Fetner will be on display in “Making

“Left to Their Own Devices”

Printworks by Leslee Fetner will be on display in “Making an Impression” — including monotypes, etching, solar prints,



and more — in the Waltuch Gallery at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, Tenafly, from July 2 to August 31. A meet-the-artist reception is set for July 10 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. 411 E. Clinton Ave. (201) 408-1406.


& Islam Through the








Shabbat in Paramus:

The JCC of Paramus/ Congregation Beth Tikvah hosts an open- house dinner for prospective religious school families and their 4- to 13-year-old children, 6 p.m. East 304 Midland Ave. Free, but reservations required. (201) 262-7733 or www.

Shabbat in Fort Lee:

Congregation Beth Israel of the Palisades hosts its annual Independence Weekend barbecue, 6 p.m. 1585 Center Ave. Reservations, (201) 945-7310.

Women’s song circle in Teaneck: Join a

z’mirot song circle, for women only, at Friends of Lubavitch of Bergen County, 5-6 p.m. 513 Kenwood Place. Email WomensZmirot+owner@



Rabbi David Fine

Judaism & Islam: The

CSI Scholar Fund of the JCC of Fort Lee/ Congregation Gesher Shalom presents visiting scholar Rabbi David Fine of Temple Israel & JCC in Ridgewood, with a new series, “Judaism

Ages.” Refreshments at 12:30 p.m., program at 12:45. Series continues July 12, 19, August 2, and 9. 1449 Anderson Ave., Fort Lee. (201) 947 1735 or



Casino trip: Hadassah’s

Fair Lawn chapter takes

a trip to the Tropicana

Casino in Atlantic City. A bus leaves the Fair Lawn

Jewish Center/CBI at 9 a.m.; be there by 8:45. $30; includes $25 back from the casino. Bring

a valid ID. Park on the

street, not in the Jewish

Center parking lot. 10- 10 Norma Ave. Varda, (201) 791-0327.



Seniors meet in West

Nyack: Singles 65+ meets for a social bagels and lox brunch at the JCC Rockland, 11 a.m. All are welcome, particularly those from Hudson, Passaic, Bergen, or

Rockland counties. 450

West Nyack Road. Gene, (845) 356-5525.

Shabbaton in Passaic:

The Shidduch Project hosts a Shabbaton for modern Orthodox/ machmir young professionals, 23-39, at Young Israel of Passaic- Clifton. Includes three interactive meals, oneg with speakers including Rabbi Yaakov Glasser of YIPC and Dr. Shani Ratzker, ice-breakers, round-robin speed dating, musical Havdalah and kumsitz bonfire with singer/musician Rabbi Michael Nadata, meals, and housing. Hosted by Rachel Ruchlamer and Dr. Shani Ratzker. Shidduchprojects@gmail. com or (201) 522-4776.





From July 6 through Labor Day, Temple Beth Tikvah in Wayne will celebrate Shab- bat in a single service every weekend, at 7 p.m., begin- ning Friday, July 6. With a minyan, con- gregants will welcome Shabbat, read the weekly Torah parsha, hear a d’var Torah, and sing the weekly prayers and songs. By bringing Friday night and Saturday morning services together for the nine Shab- batot, the shul will ensure that there will be a min- yan during the summer weekends, even though many people will be away on vacation. A regular Fri- day night/Saturday morn- ing Shabbat schedule will resume after Labor Day.




We welcome announce- ments of upcoming events. Announcements are free. Accompanying photos must be high resolution, jpg files. Send announcements 2 to 3 weeks in advance. Not every release will be published. Include a daytime telephone number and send to:



201-837-8818 x 110

will be published. Include a daytime telephone number and send to: pr@jewishmediagroup. com 201-837-8818 x 110