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    Ultra-Orthodox Celebrate Rollback of Israel Draft Law

    8. May, 2015BlogComments are off

    In an online article in the Forward, Naomia Zeveloff wrote the following article. At the very end of the article I have responded to the overall concept of the Ultra Orthodox being allowed to study as opposed to serving in the military and Benjamin Netanyahu’s brazen attempt to pay back the far right arm of his coalition for their votes. Here is her article.

    At 21 years old, Yaakov Liwer is eligible to join the Israeli military. But instead, the tall redhead spends his days studying at a yeshiva in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Geula neighborhood.

    “I wanted to go [to the Israeli Defense Forces],” he explained. “I feel a connection. But Halacha says that people that learn are not allowed to go.” Until recently, Liwer’s choice of Torah study over military service would have exposed him, at least in principle, to the threat of a jail sentence. But no longer. In late April, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu effectively reversed a law to impose jail time on members of the ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi community who dodge the draft. The 2014 law was one of the most controversial pieces of legislation in recent Israeli history, sparking massive protests in Israel and even among New York’s ultra-Orthodox Jews.

    The reversal was one condition of a deal the prime minister forged with United Torah Judaism to bring the Haredi political party into the governing coalition he was attempting to assemble by a May 6 deadline following Israeli elections in March. Netanyahu’s concession is a symbol of renewed Haredi power in the new Israeli government, whose completion was expected soon. And it had the law’s original proponents fuming.

    “I am asking you and asking everybody, why should my children sacrifice their lives and my neighbor, who is Haredi, sit in a yeshiva and study?” said Yaakov Peri, a lawmaker with the centrist Yesh Atid party, which pushed the law through.

    Representatives for UTJ did not respond to several requests for comment.The law aimed to force Haredim, who have been effectively exempt from such service for decades, to shoulder an equal burden of national defense. Besides the principle of equity, their service in the Israeli military, the foremost platform for advancement in Israeli society, was billed as the linchpin for lifting Haredim out of the poverty in which many are mired and into prosperous Israel.

    Military conscription is mandatory for most Israelis over the age of 18. But not everybody serves. Arab citizens of Israel, who make up 20% of the population, aren’t drafted into the IDF (though the country’s Druse minority do serve, as do some Bedouin). While their secular and nationalist Orthodox counterparts serve in the IDF, Haredi men typically spend their late teens and much of their 20s, and even beyond, in yeshiva, by which time the army has lost interest in them. Over the past several years, Haredi enlistment has been on a slow upward climb. According to Gilad Malach of the Israeli Democracy Institute, only some 25% of eligible Haredi men complete national service.

    The 2014 legislation was pushed through to change this. It contained both short-term and long-term goals, said Malach. For the first three years, until 2017, Haredim would be integrated into the military in small numbers that increased yearly. Men between the ages of 22 and 28 were exempt from service, whether they worked or studied Torah. After 2017, all males were expected to report to the military, save for 1,800 high-achieving yeshiva scholars. If they didn’t, they would be subject to the same punishment as other Israeli draft dodgers — typically a 30-day jail sentence followed by enlistment.

    Though the threat of jail time for Haredim never materialized, the mere suggestion sparked a conflagration in the Haredi world. Opponents said that mandatory service was an affront to the Haredi lifestyle. “Even if criminal sanctions are never imposed, the mere fact that a Jew learning Torah full-time might theoretically be subject to criminal sanctions makes a statement that Torah learning has no societal value and constitutes a criminal failure to contribute to the state,” columnist Jonathan Rosenblum wrote in Yated Neeman, a Haredi
    newspaper, in 2014.

    According to several observers, the 2014 law had set Haredim — a portion of whom reject the premise of the modern state of Israel on theological grounds — on a collision course with the Israeli government. Pundits predicted that come 2017, thousands of young Haredi men would camp out in Israeli jails rather than report for duty, with hundreds of thousands of supporters rallying to their defense on the outside.

    “I think it creates a situation where people become martyrs in their own community: ‘I would rather go to jail than do this,’” said Bobby Brown, a former Netanyahu speechwriter and political observer. Not only was the law itself a source of controversy, the law’s effects were, too. Peri claimed that Haredi enlistment was up by 40% in the year span 2013 to 2014, when the law was passed. But Hiddush, an Israeli organization focused on religious pluralism and ending the privileged position of Orthodox Judaism in Israel, said that Peri was conflating figures from before and after the law went into effect. In fact, Hiddush reported, the law actually provoked a 40% downward trend in enlistment. When asked for the most up-to-date figures, the IDF said that in 2014 the government set a goal of enlisting 2,000 Haredim and drafted 1,972.

    To Brown and others, the UTJ coalition agreement has done more than reverse the 2014 law, it has derailed the collision course. “I think the country in many ways breathed a little sigh of relief,” he said.

    Some say the averted clash could also potentially open up a healthier dialogue about how to get Haredim into the military. One proposal on the table is for the government to cut public aid to Haredi institutions and individuals if the IDF fails to meet enlistment quotas. “We felt that economic measures are the only realistic measures,” said Uri Regev, Hiddush’s president.

    But Peri, who was part of a governmental committee tasked at looking at the issue, is convinced that economic sanctions would simply not work. “First of all, it is almost impossible to implement, and secondly, Haredi society can raise a lot of money from abroad in order to pay fines,” he said.

    Malach said it could be difficult to implement economic sanctions at this time, given that the coalition agreement has also produced higher budgets for Haredi yeshivas. “The Haredim that learn Torah will get a lot of money, so maybe there will be another reason that they won’t go in a growing number to the army,” he said. “The economic motivation to stay in yeshiva might be stronger than the motivation to go in the army.”

    For another Geula yeshiva student, Naftali Gottesman, the threat of jail and economic sanctions are one and the same. “Either way, you are fighting with us,” he said. “You hit us in the front or hit us in the back.”

    He and several other military-aged boys, including Liwer, outside the Geula yeshiva said that they felt they were fulfilling their national duties by studying Torah. Jewish law, Gottesman said, commands part of society to be scholars and the other part to be soldiers. They were not opposed to the principle of enlistment, per se, but they said that the military did not operate under Jewish legal standards, which made it an iffy proposition for people like them.

    So what should a young Haredi man do if he’s interested in the military? “He should ask his rabbi,” Liwer said. These are my own feelings about Netanyahu’s capitulation to the extreme right in order to forge a coalition government, not the author of this article.
    In truth, the far right control much more than their numbers would seem to warrant. Their percent is very small, but they vote in blocks and are willing to bring down any government that doesn’t bow to their will. But there’s a solution to this problem of what Netanyahu did as simple as “ABC.” All Israeli men 18 and older are subject to joining the army. Every single one of them for the next three months ought to refuse to be part of the IDF on the grounds that they want to study. Netanyahu could not possibly order them to go to jail without doing the same to his far right base Yeshiva students. One would see unprecedented a very fast change in Netanyahu’s position. It might even bright down the government and elect a government that is representative of the regular Israeli citizen. One can on;y wish it to happen.

    A SPLIT IN HAMAS THAT MIGHT BRING CALM BUT NO PEACE FOR ISRAEL

    8. May, 2015BlogComments are off

    This is the headline of an article written by J.J. Goldberg as an opinion in the online Jewish Forward. While I agree with him on most of his assessments I truly believe that Netanyahu could be just the perfect person to promote peace with the Palestinians. He is at the top of his political strength and just as Began did with Egypt, maybe, just maybe, Netanyahu will end up doing with the Palestinians. Below, is the article by Mr. Goldberg.

    While Benjamin Netanyahu’s defense philosophy continues to prompt grumbling among his generals and spymasters, it turns out that the Israeli prime minister isn’t the only political leader in the neighborhood who’s at odds with his military echelon.

    New intelligence reports indicate that the military and political wings of Hamas are feuding over relations with Iran and continuation of the cease-fire with Israel. The military wing in Gaza has reportedly begun receiving massive financial aid from Iran to restock its missiles and dig new attack tunnels, despite opposition from the political wing. The political wing, meanwhile, has been conducting indirect talks with Israel over reconstruction of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure and a possible multi-year truce.
    The Israeli-Hamas dialogue is said to be infuriating the Palestinian Authority leadership in the West Bank, which sees Israel helping to entrench Hamas in Gaza as a rival Palestinian leadership. That, in turn, angers Washington and Cairo, which want to see Mahmoud Abbas’s P.A. regain control in Gaza at some point in order to become a credible partner in a two-state peace agreement. Weekly talks in Gaza between the P.A. and Hamas appear to be going nowhere.

    The new Gaza channel is reinforcing U.S. suspicions that Israel is backing away from the goal of a two-state solution. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, addressing the biennial conference of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism on April 27, pointedly warned that if Netanyahu’s new right-wing coalition “is seen as stepping back” from the two-state goal, America’s “job” defending Israel “in the international community” will be “a lot tougher.” That’s a thinly veiled reference to the upcoming French proposal that the United Nations Security Council call for Palestinian statehood along modified pre-1967 lines. Washington hasn’t yet decided whether to veto such a resolution, whose content would reflect longstanding U.S. policy.

    Accounts of the feuding between the two wings of Hamas appeared April 29 in nearly identical reports in an array of Israeli news outlets, all without attribution, typically an indication of a background press briefing from IDF military intelligence.

    The reports all led with the news that the commander of the military wing, Mohammed Deif, who had been reported killed by Israel during last summer’s Gaza war, is now confirmed to be alive and fully in command of the terror group. They went on to describe Deif’s overseeing of the new tunnel excavations.

    Tensions between Hamas’s political and military wings Walla News and Ynet, the leftist Haaretz, the right-wing NRG and the Orthodox Kikar Shabbat. The pro-Likud Israel Hayom and a few smaller outlets ignored the factional feud, simply reporting that Deif is rebuilding Hamas’s military infrastructure. Israel Hayom also made no mention of Hamas’s offer of a long-term truce.

    Iran ended its financial backing of Hamas in December 2012 because of Hamas’s support for the Sunni rebels fighting the Assad regime in Syria. Hamas political secretary Khaled Meshaal was expelled from Damascus and set up new headquarters in the Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar, where he continues to be based.

    Meshaal further angered Iran earlier this year by announcing support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-backed Shi’a Houthi rebels in Yemen. Meshaal’s goal is an alliance with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, according to the Israeli intelligence reports. The Saudis have told Hamas in the past that it can’t gain legitimacy unless it recognizes Israel.

    Iran set up a competing terror organization in Gaza last year, based an account in Ynet by Arab affairs researcher Yaron Friedman. The new organization, known in Arabic as Harakat as-Sabareen Nasran le-Filastin, or the Movement of those Patiently Awaiting the Liberation of Palestine, is apparently modeled after the Lebanese Hezbollah organization. It’s pressuring Hamas to end the August cease-fire and resume rocket attacks on Israel. Its relationship to Deif’s Iran-backed military wing is unclear.

    A separate account by Yediot Ahronot military commentator Alex Fishman, which appeared on Ynet’s English-language site several days before the unsourced reports on Deif and the factional feud, reported that Israel has been conducting detailed negotiations with Hamas for weeks via mediators from Egypt and Qatar as well as the Swiss attaché in Ramallah.

    That was confirmed the next day by Ahmed Yousef, a senior leader of the Hamas political wing in Gaza, in an interview with the independent Palestinian news agency Ma’an. Fishman wrote that Hamas sent Israel a detailed offer in December for a five- to 10-year “calm.” The Israeli government didn’t formally respond, but the Israeli military has taken up the thread, apparently with the permission of the civilian authorities though without a cabinet vote. The government has kept a hands-off approach to the talks, Fishman wrote, in order to avoid damaging its right-wing image during the election campaign and coalition negotiations, as well as to avoid undermining its international efforts to portray Hamas as a terrorist organization.

    The motives of Israel’s political and military echelons appear to be somewhat at cross-purposes, though hardly matching the venom of the feuding Hamas leaders. The army sees the dialogue with Hamas as a way to prevent the outbreak of new hostilities, which appeared to be inevitable if no progress were made by summer to ease the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Moreover, there were intelligence reports that Hamas was preparing to expand its zone of confrontation with Israel from Gaza to the northern borders, where Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria are seething in the wake of the brutal ISIS assaults on the Yarmouk camp south of Damascus.

    Israel’s army doesn’t have the authority to negotiate without the government’s approval for the sort of long-term agreement that Hamas reportedly seeks, but it can increase the flow of goods into Gaza to calm the waters. Since the start of 2015, according to Fishman, the number of trucks carrying material into Gaza has doubled from the 255 daily average last year to 523 per day in April. The number of entry permits into Israel has also increased, half of them for merchants seeking to market goods in Israel and the West Bank, the other half mostly civil and humanitarian.

    As for the government, it’s divided between those who back the army’s goal of keeping the peace and those who’d like to retake Gaza and destroy Hamas. There’s also a division between those who want to see the P.A. restored to power in Gaza and those who prefer keeping the West Bank and Gaza feuding in order to render Palestinian statehood moot.

    The military would like to see the government think a little bigger. With Syria in flames, which have also engulfed Hezbollah, and Iran at war with both ISIS and the Saudis, Israel’s generals grumble that this would be a great time for some bold, imaginative long-term thinking. But boldness and imagination are in short supply in Jerusalem this year.

    Some Positive and Negative Thoughts on Israel’s Independence Day

    23. April, 2015BlogComments are off

    In an online article by Alan Eisner of the World Post and slightly edited by me, as well as adding in some of my thoughts. Overall, I agree strongly with Mr. Eisner as he discusses Israel’s challenges and the special relationship with the number 67.

    Tonight, Israel will begin to celebrate the 67th anniversary of its modern rebirth as an independent state on its Independence Day.

    Founded in the face of enormous challenges and in the shadow of the Holocaust, Israel has much to celebrate over the course of its tumultuous history. Its Declaration of Independence lays out a solemn promise that the “State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

    But for a people who have always attached great symbolic significance to numbers, the figure 67 has other connotations. Of course, the Six Day War of 1967 was a moment of tremendous triumph and relief as Israel defeated Arab armies that massed against it. But it was also the starting point for an Occupation which has now extended for 48 years with no end in sight. This was the moment Israel began controlling the lives of millions of Palestinians against their will. As such, it reminds us that Israel’s promise will not be redeemed until it finds a way of making peace with the Palestinians.

    Sadly, that dream seems further away now than it has for some time. Just about this time last year, the peace initiative launched by Secretary of State John Kerry collapsed and since then there has been little desire on either side to resume negotiations. Last summer, we witnessed a tragic war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza with an awful death toll that achieved and resolved nothing. And last month, Prime Minister Netanyahu used racist fear mongering as part of his reelection campaign. Now, Netanyahu is busy constructing what will be the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history. The Prime Minister has shown that he is not serious about a two-state solution and has no intention of negotiating in good faith with the Palestinians.

    (These are my words in these parentheses—Of course Hamas launched over 4,000 rockets into Israel before Israel took action. Also, Hamas refuses to even recognize Israel’s right to exist and still maintains its goal is the eradication of ALL Jews everywhere, starting with Israel. Although I totally disagree with Netanyahu’s approach and refusal to negotiate, it is also very sad that the entire Arab world refuses to put any pressure on the military arm of Hamas to cease its provocative actions).

    (Again, my words. But Hamas still carries no blame with the world. Perhaps Mr. Netanyahu believes that the non-Jewish world is anti-Semitic … a view held by many Jews throughout the world).

    Bolstered by a coalition, which will be a partnership of ultra-nationalists and the ultra-orthodox, his policies will likely deepen Israel’s international isolation and quickly lead to further clashes with the Obama administration.

    With the US-Israel relationship under growing strain, someone has to step forward to act as its guardian. American Jews have a crucial role in that. We need to begin by laying out the contours of a normal, healthy relationship between Israel and the United States. At the centerpiece must be those same shared democratic values laid out so eloquently in the Israeli Declaration of Independence 67 years ago. We must rally in their defense and vigorously oppose any attempt to erode them.

    Secondly, both sides should recommit to a two-state solution, not just as a vague aspiration to be realized at some undetermined time in the distant future, but as an active strategic and policy priority now. Taking steps away from that outcome endangers not only Israel’s Jewish and democratic nature, but its relationship with the US as well.

    Third, both sides should refrain from meddling – or even the perception of meddling – in the other’s domestic politics. One of the most damaging developments of recent years has been the way that some wealthy, right wing donors have worked to turn Israel into a partisan wedge issue in the United States. That shortsighted policy will ultimately be strategically disastrous for Israel.

    Clearly, the health of the relationship can no longer be left solely in the hands of politicians in either country. The last few years have demonstrated that all too often we cannot trust them to resist the temptation to try to reap a short-term political gain at the expense of the long-term health of the relationship itself. We must hold them to account when they put narrow partisan interests above the long-term health of the relationship.

    Ultimately this relationship does not belong to Netanyahu or President Obama; it does not belong to House Speaker John Boehner or any other politician. It does not belong to Sheldon Adelson, despite his billions. It belongs to us and we must fight for it.

    Here’s The Fascinating Origin Of Almost Every Jewish Last Name

    6. April, 2015BlogComments are off

    Richard Andree’s 1881 map of the Jews of Central Europe.

    Ashkenazic – Jews were among the last Europeans to take family names. Some German-speaking Jews took last names as early as the 17th century, but the overwhelming majority of Jews lived in Eastern Europe and did not take last names until compelled to do so. The process began in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1787 and ended in Czarist Russia in 1844.

    In attempting to build modern nation-states, the authorities insisted that Jews take last names so that they could be taxed, drafted, and educated (in that order of importance). For centuries, Jewish communal leaders were responsible for collecting taxes from the Jewish population on behalf of the government, and in some cases were responsible for filling draft quotas. Education was traditionally an internal Jewish affair.

    Until this period, Jewish names generally changed with every generation. For example, if Moses son of Mendel (Moyshe ben Mendel) married Sarah daughter of Rebecca (Sara bat rivka), and they had a boy and named it Samuel (Shmuel), the child would be called Shmuel ben Moyshe. If they had a girl and named her Feygele, she would be called Feygele bas Sora.

    Jews distrusted the authorities and resisted the new requirement. Although they were forced to take last names, at first they were used only for official purposes. Among themselves, they kept their traditional names. Over time, Jews accepted the new last names, which were essential as Jews sought to advance within the broader society and as the shtetles were transformed or Jews left them for big cities.

    The easiest way for Jews to assume an official last name was to adapt the name they already had, making it permanent. This explains the use of “patronymics” and “matronymics. ”

    PATRONYMICS (son of …) – In Yiddish or German, “son” would be denoted by “son” or “sohn” or “er.” In most Slavic languages, like Polish or Russian, it would be “wich” or “witz.” For example: The son of Mendel took the last name Mendelsohn; the son of Abraham became Abramson or Avromovitch; the son of Menashe became Manishewitz; the son of Itzhak became Itskowitz; the son of Berl took the name Berliner; the son of Kesl took the name Kessler, etc.

    MATRONYMICS (daughter of …) – Reflecting the prominence of Jewish women in business, some families made last names out of women’s first names: Chaiken — son of Chaikeh; Edelman — husband of Edel; Gittelman — husband of Gitl; Glick or Gluck — may derive from Glickl, a popular woman’s name as in the famous “Glickl of Hameln,” whose memoirs, written around 1690, are an early example of Yiddish literature. Gold/Goldman/Gulden may derived from Golda; Malkov from Malke; Perlman — husband of Perl; Rivken — may derive from Rivke; Soronsohn—son of Sarah.

    PLACE NAMES – The next most common source of Jewish last names is probably places. Jews used the town or region where they lived, or where their families came from, as their last name. As a result, the Germanic origins of most East European Jews is reflected in their names.

    For example, Asch is an acronym for the towns of Aisenshtadt or Altshul or Amshterdam. Other place-based Jewish names include:

    • Auerbach/Orbach; Bacharach; Berger (generic for townsman)
    • Berg(man), meaning from a hilly place
    • Bayer — from Bavaria
    • Bamberger; Berliner, Berlinsky — from Berlin; Bloch (foreigner)
    • Brandeis; Breslau; Brodsky; Brody; Danziger; Deutch/Deutscher — German; Dorf(man), meaning villager
    • Eisenberg; Epstein; Florsheim; Frankel — from the Franconia region of Germany
    • Frankfurter; Ginsberg; Gordon — from Grodno, Lithuania or from the Russian word gorodin, for townsman
    • Greenberg; Halperin — from Helbronn, Germany
    • Hammerstein; Heller — from Halle, Germany
    • Hollander — not from Holland, but from a town in Lithuania settled by the Dutch
    • Horowitz, Hurwich, Gurevitch — from Horovice in Bohemia
    • Koenigsberg; Krakauer — from Cracow, Poland
    • Landau; Lipsky — from Leipzig, Germany
    • Litwak — from Lithuania
    • Minsky — from Minsk, Belarus
    • Mintz — from Mainz, Germany
    • Oppenheimer; Ostreicher — from Austria
    • Pinsky — from Pinsk, Belarus
    • Posner — from Posen, Germany
    • Prager — from Prague
    • Rappoport — from Porto, Italy
    • Rothenberg — from the town of the red fortress in Germany
    • Shapiro — from Speyer, Germany
    • Schlesinger — from Silesia, Germany
    • Steinberg; Unger — from Hungary
    • Vilner — from Vilna, Poland/Lithuania; Wallach—from Bloch, derived from the Polish word for foreigner
    • Warshauer/Warshavsky — from Warsaw
    • Wiener — from Vienna; Weinberg

    OCCUPATIONAL NAMES

    Craftsmen/Workers

    • Ackerman — plowman
    • Baker/Boker — baker
    • Blecher — tinsmith
    • Fleisher/Fleishman/Katzoff/Metger — butcher
    • Cooperman — coppersmith
    • Drucker — printer
    • Einstein — mason
    • Farber — painter/dyer
    • Feinstein — jeweler
    • Fisher — fisherman
    • Forman — driver/teamster
    • Garber/Gerber — tanner
    • Glazer/Glass/Sklar — glazier
    • Goldstein — goldsmith
    • Graber — engraver
    • Kastner — cabinetmaker
    • Kunstler — artist
    • Kramer — storekeeper
    • Miller — miller
    • Nagler — nailmaker
    • Plotnick — carpenter
    • Sandler/Shuster — shoemaker
    • Schmidt/Kovalsky — blacksmith
    • Shnitzer — carver
    • Silverstein — jeweler
    • Spielman — player (musician?)
    • Stein/Steiner/Stone — jeweler
    • Wasserman — water carrier

    Merchants

    • Garfinkel/Garfunkel — diamond dealer
    • Holzman/Holtz/Waldman — timber dealer
    • Kaufman — merchant
    • Rokeach — spice merchant
    • Salzman — salt merchant
    • Seid/Seidman—silk merchant
    • Tabachnik — snuff seller
    • Tuchman — cloth merchant
    • Wachsman — wax dealer
    • Wechsler/Halphan — money changer
    • Wollman — wool merchant
    • Zucker/Zuckerman — sugar merchant

    Related to tailoring

    • Kravitz/Portnoy/Schneider/Snyder — tailor
    • Nadelman/Nudelman — also tailor, but from “needle”
    • Sher/Sherman — also tailor, but from “scissors” or “shears”
    • Presser/Pressman — clothing presser
    • Futterman/Kirshner/Kushner/Peltz — furrier; Weber — weaver

    Medical

    • Aptheker — druggist
    • Feldsher — surgeon
    • Bader/Teller — barber

    Related to liquor trade

    • Bronfman/Brand/Brandler/Brenner — distiller
    • Braverman/Meltzer — brewer
    • Kabakoff/Krieger/Vigoda — tavern keeper
    • Geffen — wine merchant
    • Wine/Weinglass — wine merchant
    • Weiner — wine maker

    Religious/Communal

    • Altshul/Althshuler — associated with the old synagogue in Prague
    • Cantor/Kazan/Singer/Spivack — cantor or song leader in shul
    • Feder/Federman/Schreiber — scribe
    • Haver — from haver (court official)
    • Klausner — rabbi for small congregation
    • Klopman — calls people to morning prayers by knocking on their window shutters
    • Lehrer/Malamud/Malmud — teacher
    • Rabin — rabbi (Rabinowitz—son of rabbi)
    • London — scholar, from the Hebrew lamden(misunderstood by immigration inspectors)
    • Reznick — ritual slaughterer
    • Richter — judge
    • Sandek — godfather
    • Schechter/Schachter/Shuchter etc. — ritual slaughterer from Hebrew schochet; Shofer/Sofer/Schaeffer — scribe
    • Shulman/Skolnick — sexton
    • Spector — inspector or supervisor of schools.

    PERSONAL TRAITS

    • Alter/Alterman — old
    • Dreyfus—three legged, perhaps referring to someone who walked with a cane
    • Erlich — honest
    • Frum — devout
    • Gottleib — God lover, perhaps referring to someone very devout
    • Geller/Gelber — yellow, perhaps referring to someone with blond hair
    • Gross/Grossman — big
    • Gruber — coarse or vulgar
    • Feifer/Pfeifer — whistler
    • Fried/Friedman—happy
    • Hoch/Hochman/Langer/Langerman — tall
    • Klein/Kleinman — small
    • Koenig — king, perhaps someone who was chosen as a “Purim King,” in reality a poor wretch
    • Krauss — curly, as in curly hair
    • Kurtz/Kurtzman — short
    • Reich/Reichman — rich
    • Reisser — giant
    • Roth/Rothman — red head
    • Roth/Rothbard — red beard
    • Shein/Schoen/Schoenman — pretty, handsome
    • Schwartz/Shwartzman/Charney — black hair or dark complexion
    • Scharf/Scharfman — sharp, i.e intelligent
    • Stark — strong, from the Yiddish shtark
    • Springer — lively person, from the Yiddish springen for jump

    INSULTING NAMES

      These were sometimes foisted on Jews who discarded them as soon as possible, but a few may remain:

    • Billig — cheap
    • Gans — goose
    • Indyk — goose
    • Grob — rough/crude
    • Kalb — cow

    ANIMAL NAMES

    It is common among all peoples to take last names from the animal kingdom

    • Baer/Berman/Beerman/Berkowitz/Beronson — bear
    • Adler — eagle (may derive from reference to an eagle in Psalm 103:5)
    • Einhorn — unicorn
    • Falk/Sokol/Sokolovksy — falcon
    • Fink — finch
    • Fuchs/Liss — fox
    • Gelfand/Helfand — camel (technically means elephant but was used for camel too)
    • Hecht—pike
    • Hirschhorn — deer antlers
    • Karp — carp
    • Loeb — lion
    • Ochs— ox
    • Strauss — ostrich (or bouquet of flowers)
    • Wachtel — quail

    HEBREW NAMES

    Some Jews either held on to or adopted traditional Jewish names from the Bible and Talmud. The big two are Cohen (Cohn, Kohn, Kahan, Kahn, Kaplan) and Levi (Levy, Levine, Levinsky, Levitan, Levenson, Levitt, Lewin, Lewinsky, Lewinson). Others include: Aaron — Aronson, Aronoff; Asher; Benjamin; David — Davis, Davies; Ephraim — Fishl; Emanuel — Mendel; Isaac — Isaacs, Isaacson/Eisner; Jacob — Jacobs, Jacobson, Jacoby; Judah — Idelsohn, Udell,Yudelson; Mayer/Meyer; Menachem — Mann, Mendel; Reuben — Rubin; Samuel — Samuels, Zangwill; Simon — Schimmel; Solomon — Zalman.

    HEBREW ACRONYMS

    Names based on Hebrew acronyms include: Baron — bar aron (son of Aaron); Beck —bene kedoshim (descendant of martyrs); Getz — gabbai tsedek (righteous synagogue official); Katz — kohen tsedek (righteous priest); Metz — moreh tsedek (teacher of righteousness); Sachs, Saks — zera kodesh shemo (his name descends from martyrs); Segal — se gan levia (second-rank Levite).

    OTHER HEBREW- and YIDDISH-DERIVED NAMES

    Lieb – means “lion” in Yiddish. It is the root of many Ashkenazic last names, including Liebowitz, Lefkowitz, Lebush, and Leon. It is the Yiddish translation of the Hebrew word for lion — aryeh. The lion was the symbol of the tribe of Judah.

    Hirsch – means “deer” or “stag” in Yiddish. It is the root of many Ashkenazic last names, including Hirschfeld, Hirschbein/Hershkowitz (son of Hirsch), Hertz/Herzl, Cerf, Hart, and Hartman. It is the Yiddish translation of the Hebrew word for gazelle: tsvi. The gazelle was the symbol of the tribe of Naphtali.

    Taub – means “dove” in Yiddish. It is the root of the Ashkenazic last name Tauber. The symbol of the dove is associated with the prophet Jonah.

    Wolf – is the root of the Ashkenazic last names Wolfson, Wouk, and Volkovich. The wolf was the symbol of the tribe of Benjamin.

    Eckstein — Yiddish for cornerstone, derived from Psalm 118:22.

    Good(man) — Yiddish translation of the Hebrew word for “good”: tuviah.

    Margolin — Hebrew for “pearl. ”

    INVENTED ‘FANCY SHMANCY’ NAMES

    When Jews in the Austro-Hungarian Empire were required to assume last names, some chose the nicest ones they could think of and may have been charged a registration fee by the authorities. According to the YIVO Encyclopedia, “The resulting names often are associated with nature and beauty. It is very plausible that the choices were influenced by the general romantic tendencies of German culture at that time.” These names include: Applebaum — apple tree; Birnbaum — pear tree; Buchsbaum — box tree; Kestenbaum — chestnut tree; Kirshenbaum — cherry tree; Mandelbaum — almond tree; Nussbaum — nut tree; Tannenbaum — fir tree; Teitelbaum — palm tree.

    Other names, chosen or purchased, were combinations with these roots: Blumen (flower), Fein (fine), Gold, Green, Lowen (lion), Rosen (rose), Schoen/Schein (pretty) — combined with berg (hill or mountain), thal (valley), bloom (flower), zweig (wreath), blatt (leaf), vald or wald (woods), feld (field). Miscellaneous other names included Diamond; Glick/Gluck — luck; Hoffman — hopeful; Fried/Friedman — happiness; Lieber/Lieberman — lover.

    Jewish family names from non-Jewish languages included: Sender/Saunders — from Alexander; Kagan — descended from the Khazars, a Turkic-speaking people from Central Asia; Kelman/Kalman — from the Greek name Kalonymous, the Greek translation of the Hebrew shem tov (good name), popular among Jews in medieval France and Italy; Marcus/Marx — from Latin, referring to the pagan god Mars.
    There were Jewish names changed or shortened by immigration inspectors or by immigrants themselves (or their descendants) to sound more American, which is why “Sean Ferguson” was a Jew.

    Finally, this long list of the origin of Jewish names doesn’t list converts to Judaism. I have known Jewish people with the last name of O’Hare or Milano who were Jewish. So, when someone says, “What’s in a name?” The answer to that question, is there’s a lot to be said about a name.

    White House Scolds Bibi for Dumping 2-State Solution and Anti- Arab Rhetoric

    20. March, 2015BlogComments are off

    According to reports from Reuters News Agency, with some edits and questions from me, the White House on Wednesday scolded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following his re-election victory for abandoning his commitment to negotiate for a Palestinian state and for what it called “divisive” campaign rhetoric toward Israel’s minority Arab voters.

    Even as U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration congratulated Netanyahu for his party’s decisive win in Tuesday’s ballot, the White House signaled its deep disagreements – and thorny relationship – with Netanyahu will persist on issues ranging from Middle East peacemaking to Iran nuclear diplomacy.

    In a hard-right shift in the final days of campaigning, Netanyahu backtracked on his support for eventual creation of a Palestinian state, the cornerstone of more than two decades of peace efforts – and promised to go on building Jewish settlements on occupied land. Such policies could put him on a new collision course with the Obama administration. White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Wednesday reaffirmed Obama’s commitment to a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict and said that based on Netanyahu’s comments, “the United States will evaluate our approach to this situation moving forward.” He said the United States believes that establishment of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish state of Israel is “the best way to defuse regional tensions.”

    Netanyahu’s insistence that there will be no Palestinian state while he holds office – seen as a maneuver to mobilize his right-wing base when his re-election prospects were flagging – angered the Palestinians and drew criticism from the United Nations and European governments. Chances for restarting long-stalled Middle East peace moves already had been very low.

    DEEP CONCERN

    Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on the way to Cleveland, Earnest said the administration would communicate its concern directly to the Israeli government over much-criticized rhetoric used by Netanyahu’s campaign.

    He charged on election day in Israel that left-wingers were trying to get Arab-Israeli voters out “in droves” to sway the election against him.

    “The United States and this administration is deeply concerned about rhetoric that seeks to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens,” Earnest said. “It undermines the values and democratic ideals that have been important to our democracy and an important part of what binds the United States and Israel together.”

    Arabs comprise about 20 percent of Israel’s population of eight million and have long complained about discrimination. They emerged from Tuesday’s vote as the third largest party in parliament.

    Two weeks ago Netanyahu defied Obama with a politically divisive speech to Congress attacking U.S.-led nuclear talks with Iran. The final days of campaigning only served to deepen tensions with the White House.

    Despite U.S. concerns, Earnest said Secretary of State John Kerry had called Netanyahu to congratulate him on his election victory and Obama would follow suit “in coming days.” “The unprecedented security cooperation between the United States and Israel, including our strong military and intelligence relationship will continue and that relationship will continue,” Earnest said.

    U.S. officials had left little doubt they hoped for an election outcome that would create a new ruling coalition more in sync with – or at least less hostile to – Obama’s agenda, especially with an end-of-March deadline looming for a framework nuclear deal in negotiations between Tehran and world powers.

    But Netanyahu’s Likud party looked set to win 30 seats in the 120-member Knesset, comfortably defeating the center-left Zionist Union opposition with 24 seats.

    Although Netanyahu must still put together a coalition to remain in power, his victory all but guarantees that Israel’s president will give him the first opportunity to form a government, putting him on course to become the longest-serving leader in Israeli history.

    Why Bibi decided to go back on his word about the two state solution is anyone’s guess, but most pundits believe that Bibi had to shift hard to the right to ensure his reelection. These people do not want a two state solution with the Palestinians having as their capital East Jerusalem. Well, now that Bibi has been reelected what will happen to the peace process? Why was Bibi willing to sacrifice the peace process in order to be reelected? Will it be worth it in the end for his beloved Israel? Or will the hardliners in the Arab world be strengthened by Bibi’s open refusal to discuss the two state solution? And what of his relationship with President Obama? Certainly it has gotten worse after Bibi’s reevaluation of the two state solution…as if it could get any worse. Time will tell whether or not Bibi’s gamble will work for the betterment of Israel.

    Does ‘Ida’ Misrepresent Poland’s Treatment of Jews?

    9. February, 2015BlogComments are off

    Oscar-Nominated Film Draws Fire for Occupation Portrayal

    Every year since 1963, Poland has submitted a movie for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Nine of the country’s past submissions have been shortlisted for the prize, and 2015 marks the 10th: “Ida,” a black-and-white film about a Polish nun (Agata Trzebuchowska) who discovers she is Jewish and that her parents were murdered by those who offered them sanctuary. It is bleak, slow and concise, while also offering a cast of ciphers for the complex history of 20th-century Poland.

    English language critics have lauded the movie as an artistic triumph: A.O. Scott of The New York Times named it the second best movie of the year, and The New Yorker’s David Denby was “thrown into a state of awe by the movie’s fervent austerity.” But groups on both the Polish left and right are far from content with Ida’s treatment of Polish, particularly Polish Jewish, history.

    One aspect of “Ida” that such groups find problematic is the fact that the only murder of Jews portrayed in the film is carried out by a Pole. Considering the outrage whenever Nazi death camps on Polish land are labeled Polish in the media or by officials, this might not be entirely surprising.

    Critics also took issue with the character of the aunt, Wanda Gruz (Agata Kulesza), an ex-judge under the Stalinist regime who sentenced many people to death. Because she is the only middle-aged Polish Jew in the movie, some find her to be an unflattering avatar for those Jewish citizens who joined the secret police in Stalinist Poland.

    The Polish Anti-Defamation League, which is circulating a petition that has 36,000 signatures, has asked the moviemakers to add contextualizing captions before the movie’s start, to make clear that Poland was occupied by Germany during the war and that many Poles did hide Jews even at the risk of death. In an email to The New York Times, one of the film’s producers, Eric Abraham, objected to the request. “It is telling that a fictional film about two women traumatized by National Socialism and Stalinism should so get under the skin of Polish nationalists,” Abraham wrote. “It’s as if anything that picks away at the scab of the nation’s unprocessed history of Stalinism and anti-Semitism remains a clear and present threat.”

    According to Sheila Skaff, director of the master’s program at New York University’s Gallatin School and author of “The Law of the Looking Glass: Cinema in Poland, 1896-1939,” the film’s nomination caused anger in part because the director Pawel Pawlikowski is not seen as particularly influential in the Polish film scene. His work, Skaff says, is “more reminiscent of Ozu and Japanese cinema than postwar Polish cinema.” She noted that the film lacks the complex narrative and fast tempo of most contemporary Polish movies, and that this simple narrative structure coupled with heady political topics might not sit well with some.

    “This is one of the gloomiest movies ever to come out of Poland,” said Skaff. “There’s a darkness that’s very hard for people to accept.”

    Padraic Kenney, a history professor at Indiana University and vice president of the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies, contends that the film’s role as “Poland’s business card to the world” has bred discord because large swathes of Polish political history are represented by just two characters: the orphaned Jewish girl Ida as a symbol of the war, and the hardened Jewish “comrade” Wanda as a avatar of Stalinism.

    According to Kenney, Poland now has arrived at a place of maturity and open discourse about its role in World War II, and has come to terms with much of its Jewish history too, as witnessed by last year’s opening of the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews in Warsaw.

    But Poland’s communist history has not yet been sufficiently parsed, “and it was during communist reign in 1968 that most of Poland’s remaining Jews were forced into exile or assimilation. It is this far murkier period that is embodied in the character of Wanda, who is supposedly based on the alleged war war criminal Helena Wolinska-Brus.

    “Ida,” Kenney says, is a highly unusual Polish film to be submitted for an Oscar. While other countries have settled on very specific formulae for their submissions — World War II biopics or “quirky comedies that make Norway or Estonia seem like a real fun place” — Poland varies its choices from one year to the next. Last year, Poland’s choice was a biopic of Lech Wałesa. “I can’t imagine a biopic ever winning the Oscar,” said Kenney, “because it’s made to speak to a Polish audience.”

    “Ida” may be the only Polish movie in its category, but it is not the only Polish movie up for an award, Skaff said. Two Polish documentaries (“Joanna” and “Our Curse”) are up for the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject and both, she says, are centered on illness but are less dour than “Ida.” They endeavor to show viewers that Poland shouldn’t be seen as too glum a land.

    Still, according to Kenney, the majority of Poles are unconcerned with the fate of “Ida” overseas. “We don’t think people will watch ‘Selma’ in France and get the wrong idea of the United States,” he said. “If this film wins the Oscar, it won’t be because people think it’s about Poland.”

    My opinion is somewhat different. I believe that the movie does indeed show what Poland was like during the Holocaust and also during Stalin’s rule. These views were based on the perception of these young ladies and their perception is their reality. Certainly, it was not the perception of the non-Jews because persecution was not part of their lives.

    There is a short story that I remember and I’d like it to share with you. Either in the middle or late 1970’s when there was a recession in Poland poll was taken. The question on the poll asked the people of Poland what the reason for the recession was and the majority of the people blamed the Jews for the recession. When the Polish people were told that Poland contained virtually no Jews the vast majority of them basically said that they didn’t care and continued to blame the Jews for the recession. That was their perception, and thus their reality.

    To me, this is the reason that ant-Semitism is so difficult to get rid of. People have these beliefs and it is very difficult to change their minds. This doesn’t mean that we should stop trying or calling out anti-Semitism or anti-anything having to do with peoples’ lives and religions.

    A Very Brave German Family

    13. January, 2015BlogComments are off

    Throughout the beginning of the Holocaust there have been brave people who have put their lives in danger in order to save members of our people. Some of them have even paid the ultimate price…death in the camps. The Leitz family falls into the category of brave and righteous people. The members of their family took risks and were sometimes themselves put into prison trying to help Jews. This is in part their story.

    The Leica is the pioneer 35mm camera. It is a German product – precise, minimalist, and utterly efficient. Behind its worldwide acceptance as a creative tool was a family-owned, socially oriented firm that, during the Nazi era, acted with uncommon grace, generosity and modesty.

    E. Leitz Inc., designer and manufacturer of Germany’s most famous photographic product, saved its Jews. And Ernst Leitz II, the steely-eyed Protestant patriarch, who headed the closely held firm as the Holocaust loomed across Europe, acted in such a way as to earn the title, “the photography industry’s Schindler”.

    As soon as Adolf Hitler was named chancellor of Germany in 1933, Ernst Leitz II began receiving frantic calls from Jewish associates, asking for his help in getting them and their families out of the country. As Christians, Leitz and his family were immune to Nazi Germany’s Nuremberg laws, which restricted the movement of Jews and limited their professional activities. To help his Jewish workers and colleagues, Leitz quietly established what has become known among historians of the Holocaust as “the Leica Freedom Train,” a covert means of allowing Jews to leave Germany in the guise of Leitz employees being assigned overseas.

    Employees, retailers, family members, even friends of family members were “assigned” to Leitz sales offices in France, Britain, Hong Kong, and the United States; Leitz’s activities intensified after the Kristallnacht of November 1938, during which synagogues and Jewish shops were burned across Germany.

    Before long, German “employees” were disembarking from the ocean liner Bremen at a New York pier and making their way to the Manhattan office of Leitz Inc., where executives quickly found them jobs in the photographic industry. Each new arrival had around his or her neck the symbol of freedom – a new Leica camera. The refugees were paid a stipend until they could find work. Out of this migration came designers, repair technicians, salespeople, marketers, and writers for the photographic press.

    Keeping the story quiet, The “Leica Freedom Train” was at its height in 1938 and early 1939, delivering groups of refugees to New York every few weeks. Then, with the invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, Germany closed its borders. By that time, hundreds of endangered Jews had escaped to America, thanks to the Leitzes’ efforts. How did Ernst Leitz II and his staff get away with it? Leitz, Inc. was an internationally recognized brand that reflected credit on the newly resurgent Reich. The company produced cameras, range-finders, and other optical systems for the German military. Also, the Nazi government desperately needed hard currency from abroad, and Leitz’s single biggest market for optical goods was the United States.

    Even so, members of the Leitz family and firm suffered for their good works. A top executive, Alfred Turk, was jailed for working to help Jews and freed only after the payment of a large bribe. Leitz’s daughter, Elsie Kuhn-Leitz, was imprisoned by the Gestapo after she was caught at the border, helping Jewish women cross into Switzerland. She eventually was freed but endured rough treatment in the course of questioning. She also fell under suspicion when she attempted to improve the living conditions of 700 to 800 Ukrainian slave laborers, all of them women, who had been assigned to work in the plant during the 1940s. (After the war, Kuhn-Leitz received numerous honors for her humanitarian efforts, among them the Officer d’honneur des Palms Academic from France in 1965 and the Aristide Briand Medal from the European Academy in the 1970s.)

    Why has no one told this story until now?

    According to the late Norman Lipton, a freelance writer and editor, the Leitz family wanted no publicity for its heroic efforts. Only after the last member of the Leitz family was dead did the “Leica Freedom Train” finally come to light. It is now the subject of a book, “The Greatest Invention of the Leitz Family: The Leica Freedom Train,” by Frank Dabba Smith, a California-born Rabbi currently living in England.

    The Story of Chanukah

    23. December, 2014UncategorizedComments are off

    The story of Chanukah has been told to millions and millions of Jewish children for over two thousand years. Most of those children learned about the “miracle of the lights.” The miracle of the lights story is that when the Hebrews defeated the Assyrian soldiers and retook the Holy Temple they found only one cruse of oil; enough to last for only one day but miraculously lasted for eight days. However, many historians believe that the eight days of Chanukah is rooted in another eight-day (and much more holy) week. The holiday of Sukkot. Here is the story, which I hope you will read with your parents and see which story they believe.

    About 2,200 years ago, in the land of Judea, which today lies in Israel and the West Bank, and was part of the Seleucid Empire (this was the empire formed by some of Alexander the Great’s generals after he died, so technically, it was Greek). Judea had long been the epicenter (most important part) of Jewish civilization; its capital, Jerusalem, was home to the Holy Temple.

    The country of Israel was split into two separate and independent nations. They were known as the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah, which lasted from 722 to 586 Before the Common Era (known as BCE, which really means before Christ, but 2 non Christian countries were offended by that term, so now we use BCE), Judeans had seen the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah and the forced exile of the Jewish elite, (religious leaders, scholars,
    professionals and business people) to Babylon. In the centuries since, Judea had been ruled by a series of foreign powers: the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Macedonians, and now the Greek-Syrian Seleucids. Yet regardless of the regime in power, generation after generation of Judeans (by the way, that is probably how we got to be called “Jews”) had steadfastly continued to live and pray as Jews.

    In Antioch, the capital of the Seleucid Empire, change was afoot (coming). The Seleucids had once been the dominant empire in the Middle East, but a series of military defeats had weakened them. After Seleucid armies lost battles in Greece and Turkey to the Romans, the rising regional power, the Seleucids had lost valuable territory in the west of their empire. Seleucid power was waning.

    Then after a series of power grabs, Antiochus, the younger brother of a deposed king, seized the throne in 175 BCE. Having restored his family to the head of the empire, Antiochus was determined to return the empire to its former glories. In order to shore up control of their lands in the east, the Seleucids turned their focus toward Judea.

    Antiochus was convinced that weakness in the east was undermining Seleucid power, and considered Judean Jewish cultural and religious life unacceptable. The Jews’ national culture was not only a conspicuous (obvious) dissent (opposing) against Seleucid Greek culture; it was borderline seditious (almost open
    rebellion). As this was Seleucid land, Antiochus believed, anything religious or cultural should be Greek (or Hellenistic). So he passed laws aggressively promoting Hellenism—Greek language, Greek art and culture, Greek gods.

    These new laws changed life in Judea. Jewish life receded, while Greek and Hellenistic culture became more (prevalent or majority). Many Jews took to Hellenism. They dressed as Greeks; they attended Greek wrestling matches; some even ate pork and worshipped Greek gods. Of course, other Jews were strongly
    opposed. But what could they do? They were but a small people ruled by a much larger imperial power. So the unhappy Judeans did what they could: they resisted by practicing Judaism at home and in their temple in Jerusalem, while trying not to antagonize (anger) the Seleucid authorities. But the situation was tense—many Judeans felt their way of life was under threat from the powers in Antioch.

    Yet although the pro-Hellenism laws had been established, Antiochus did not believe they went far enough. Sure, Greek culture was increasingly prevalent and popular in Judea, but far too many 4 Judeans persisted with their Jewish life for his liking. So Antiochus ordered his troops to make a bold statement—in 168 BCE they seized the Jewish temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the Greek god Zeus.

    Religious Jews were aghast (horrified): their most sacred place had been violated. It had always been dedicated to their one, true God, the Judeans believed, but now the temple was dedicated to what they saw as a false idol. This was not just degradation (lowering or bringing down); it was desecration (ruin or defilement). The temple was the holiest of holies. But although Jewish anger rose, once again, what could they do? A small group of Jewish rebels, centered on the village of Modi’in, ten miles outside of Jerusalem, proposed rising up against the Seleucid forces but they were just a bunch of angry priests. They could do nothing against the imperial troops guarding the temple. Judea was occupied. The Judeans were a disorganized, divided and colonized people.

    Then, a year after taking over the temple in Jerusalem, Antiochus passed a draconian (totally terrible) new law strictly forbidding any Jewish activity. Any Judean found observing Judaism was to be punished by death. But he wasn’t done. Not only did Antiochus prohibit any form of Jewish religious life, he also mandated (ordered) that Jews must worship Greek gods. This was a law too far—Jews 5 began to resist, especially in Modi’in. Antiochus ordered his troops to crush any resistance and a band of Seleucid soldiers entered the village.

    Once inside Modi’in, the Greek troops forced the Jewish residents to gather in the center of the village. Then the soldiers ordered villagers to bow down before a Greek idol. They ordered the Jews to make a sacrifice to their gods. And they ordered the Jews to eat pork. They were demanding the Jews commit the ultimate transgressions (to do things that the Jewish religion said not to do) of their faith. The Seleucid troops, weapons at the ready, were
    forcing the Judeans to profane (show tremendous disrespect) to all that they held holy.

    The situation was tense. Some Jews acquiesced (gave in), but many did not. When a Seleucid officer demanded a Jewish high priest named Mattathias obey their orders and make a sacrifice to the Greek gods, Mattathias refused. This enraged the officer, who drew his sword. Seeking to pacify (calm down) the Seleucid officer, a Judean villager offered to make the sacrifice on behalf of Mattathias. But what Mattathias saw as craven (cowardly) collaboration outraged him.

    “Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him and have chosen to follow his commandments instead of the religion 6 of their fathers,” Mattathias said, “I and my sons and my brothers will live by the covenant of our fathers.” He took out his sword and killed first the Jew, then the Greek commanding officer. After that, Mattathias shouted: “Let everyone who has (passion) for the Torah and who stands by the covenant (the agreement with God) follow me!”

    Mattathias’ five sons followed him, as did many other villagers. They drew up arms and attacked the stunned Seleucid soldiers. After bloody sword battles, all the imperial troops that had entered Modi’in were dead. But having killed them, Mattathias, his sons, and the other Judean rebels knew they had become wanted men. And sure enough warrants went out for their arrest. The Judean resistance movement was now official—and now officially in trouble.

    With the Seleucid authorities after them, Mattathias and his sons— Judah, Eleazar, Simon, John and Jonathan—fled Modi’in for to the remoteness of the Judean hills. While they hid out in the wilderness, Mattathias’ rallying cry spread throughout Judea. Jews unhappy with the terrible laws of Antiochus went to the mountains to join Mattathias, first in trickles (just a very few), then in torrents (tremendous amounts). Before long, there was a large group of
    rebels massed together in the hills. They called themselves the Maccabees, from the Hebrew word for hammer. The Maccabees were dedicated to one aim: to overthrow the Seleucids and retake 7 their land of Judea.

    To do so, they needed a plan. But then Matthias was taken gravely ill. As he died, Matthias instructed his son Judah take charge of the Jewish rebels in the hills. Judah knew that the Seleucid (really, the Assyrian army under Greek control), made up of professional soldiers, was not only better prepared than his (Judah’s) men but also outnumbered them. So Judah instructed the Maccabees to avoid direct confrontation with the Seleucid forces. Instead, the
    Maccabees engaged in guerilla warfare. They would attack Seleucid garrisons unexpectedly, or engage only isolated Seleucid units. The Maccabees also attacked Hellenized Judeans (their own people that sided with the Greek way of life), destroyed their altars dedicated to Greek gods and forced many of the formerly fellow Jews to join the rebel cause.

    In the relative safety of the hills, which the Seleucids could only access through a few exposed canyons, Judah trained his men to become fighters in secret caves. The Maccabees trained and studied religion, developing their skills and spirit. Eventually they were ready for their first battle. The rebels engaged the Seleucid troops as the Greeks, complete with a formidable herd of war elephants, scaled the mountain via canyons. Enjoying the high ground, the Maccabees won this first fight. The revolt was now alive 8 and succeeding. And there would be many battles to come.

    After the Maccabees emerged victorious in battle after battle, more and more Hellenized Jews joined them and the Seleucid soldiers became increasingly demotivated (not really wanting to fight the Jews). Three years after the revolt started with a motely crew of Judeans, the Maccabees were by 164 BCE a large, well-trained band of fighters. They were ready to retake Jerusalem, home of their sacred temple. Judah Maccabee led his mean into their holy city and
    the Judean rebels retook the temple. Their moment of triumph was rudely interrupted, however, when the Maccabees saw what the Seleucids have done with their temple. The Greeks had turned it pagan; pigs were sacrificed at the altar. As pigs wandered around the destroyed temple, the Judeans saw that their sacred candelabrum, the menorah, which must always been lit, was about to burn out.

    Story one why we celebrate Chanukah for eight days:

    As the menorah must always burn, the Judeans were in a race against time: to make the requisite (required) holy olive oil. A Maccabee found one unbroken jar of oil. But one jar was supposed to last one day—still insufficient time for them to prepare more oil for the menorah. But, of course, the miraculous happened: the oil from 9 the sole jar burned for eight nights, giving the Jews enough time to make a new batch and ensuring their sacred candles remained
    aflame.

    Story two why we celebrate Chanukah for eight days:

    A month or so before their big victory, the Hebrews were supposed to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot, which, coincidently, was observed (followed) for eight days. Because the Hebrews were fighting the Seleucids they couldn’t construct (put up) huts and follow the rules of this very important holiday. After the victory defeating the enemy the Maccabees decided to celebrate Sukkot Shay-nee (shay-nee means the second), the second Sukkot for eight days. And they did! When Sukkot came around the next year, the Hebrews celebrated the holiday. They then decided to make candelabra with eight regular places for those candles and one special place for the ninth candle (which is the helper, or in Hebrew sham-as) to light the other candles with.

    Whichever story you believe, the other facts remain the same,
    including what happened after the Maccabees took back the Holy
    Temple. Here is what happened:

    But the Judeans weren’t safe yet. The Seleucids ordered a huge army to finally quash the revolt. But just as they were approaching Jerusalem, they were ordered back home to Greek Syria. Antiochus had died. The capital city, Antioch, was again a place of political jockeying and intrigue. The troops were needed to keep the peace at home, as the Seleucids, an empire on the wane, was preoccupied with internal fighting. Unable to dominate the region as before, the Seleucids agreed to a compromise law in Judea. The Judeans had their religious freedom restored.

    No matter which story you believe, there is one miracle that no one can dispute: a small, weak group of men, who couldn’t even call themselves an army was able to defeat the world’s strongest and well equipped army and retain (keep) our religion alive.

    Much of my information about the story of Chanukah came from a very good website called Jspace. I highly recommend it if you are interested in anything Jewish, including Israel.

    Shame on The New York Times

    11. December, 2014BlogComments are off

    I was astonished and dismayed that the New York Times allowed such a virulent anti-Semite to voice his opinion about the politics of Israel or for that matter, anything Jewish because Mr. Blumenthal comes from a position of hate. What you also gave him was credibility in terms of his position and the editorial staff should be ashamed of themselves. How come you haven’t done the same for those who hate Arabs, Islam, or Christianity? Are there no people as angry and crazed as Max Blumenthal that are against these groups? Are the Jews and Israel so vulnerable that even the New York Times thinks that it is okay to use them as a scapegoat and lie as well as distort the truth about the Jewish people and Israel? And for Blumenthal (and the Times to print the article), to have the chutzpah (unmitigated gall), to compare Israel with the German Nazi party is way beyond the pale, especially when there has been a huge increase in anti-Semitism around the world. Is the New York Times going to help these anti-Semites by allowing a member of the Bund (that’s Max Blumenthal) to articulate his beliefs? It is incredibly ironic that the very people that Mr. Blumenthal and the rest of his self-hating Jews that want to destroy the Jewish people will end up themselves being destroyed. And how far does the editorial staff of the New York Times want to travel before you help spread anti-Semitism?

    In the introductory paragraph on the Algemeiner website, it said, “Less than one month after being indefinitely banned from entering the German parliament following an attempted violent assault on Gregor Gysi, the parliamentary leader of that country’s Left Party, the American anti-Semitic propagandist, Max Blumenthal has been handed an opportunity to rescue his sullied reputation by no less than the New York Times” – a move decried by a prominent American Jewish leader as “breaching a red line.” The article by Mr. Max Blumenthal in the “Room for Debate,” section of the New York Times Blumenthal showed his hatred of Jews and Israel by attacking the Jewish State bill by calling it the “Zionist project as being an inherently racist endeavor. This article by this self-hating Jew and his father Sidney (who is obviously another self-hating Jew, based upon his support of his son’s position vis a vis’ Israel and the father’s attack on Mr. Alterman for disagreeing with his son. Sidney, defended his son’s actions by attacking Mr. Alterman in emails, because he had the nerve to slam Max’s book as well as Max himself as being, “a profoundly unreliable narrator.” Daddy even held a book launching party for his son’s book. Throughout his book, Max Blumenthal, compared Israel to Nazi Germany. This is nothing new to Mr. Blumenthal; he spent his career slandering Israel and in 2013, Blumenthal appeared in ninth place on that year’s Simon Wiesenthal Center list of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel slurs. The reasons given were that chapter titles in Blumenthal’s book, Goliath were used to “equate Israel with the Nazi regime” and that Blumenthal had quoted “approvingly characterizations of Israeli soldiers as ‘Judeo-Nazis.”

    To me, it is very sad when non-Jews attack and lie about Israel and its political system; but when Jews do it, it hurts ten times more. This is so because other anti-Semites propagandize the fact that even Jews agree with them, when in reality, most Jews are embarrassed and sickened when their brethren betray them. I just wonder if Mr. Blumenthal has the courage to go into an Arab nation of his choosing and decry the fact that Arab governments don’t offer equal rights to women; or that they refuse to let Jewish people visit their counties simply because they are Jews, or that they persecute their Jewish populations, or that they take donated funds and instead of using them to help their people, used them to kill Israelis; the same way he went into Israel and ripped apart their people. Go to it, Mr. big brave honest reporter of facts; see if your courage ends with slamming the one country in the world that would protect you from terrorists and all who want to see all Jews killed. Go see if you can do it. I sincerely doubt it because you’re a coward, sir, you and your self- hating Jewish father and supporters who attacked Mr. Alterman simply because he had the audacity to slam your book as being something akin to infantile.

    Go into Gaza City and tell the military arm of Hamas that they had more Palestinian people killed than the Israelis. They did this by hiding missiles in Mosques, schools, hospitals and apartment buildings and also refusing to let their own civilian people hide in the tunnels they built to sneak men into Israel to kill civilians when Israel announced that the area would be struck. Why didn’t they try and save their own people. Are the lives of their people less important to them than the political points they wanted to gain at the death of their civilians? When was the last time that Hamas announced that they were going to send a missile into Israel in a certain area so that the Israeli population could go to the bomb shelters that were built to protect their civilians? How many shelters did Hamas build for their people with the concrete that Israel provided to them? Exactly none!

    For edification purposes, I will never say that all that Israel does is correct. In my opinion, when Israel does something wrong or unfair, I will take issue with it. But you, Mr. Blumenthal, think that everything Israel does is wrong and compare her to Nazi Germany. How naïve, childish and immature you are Mr. Blumenthal. And on top of that, you had the audacity to attack Mr. Alterman because you questioned “Alterman’s right to call himself a critic of Israel, since he sometimes defends it.” Wow, you make Islamic extremists seem like they’re liberal. By the way, why not travel to Syria and hang out with Isis for a while. Tell them you think that their treatment of women as chattel should end immediately, or else you’re going to expose their treatment of them. See how fast your friends give you a “heads up,” or is it a heads off? When you insult Israel and the Jews we throw words back at you. Do that to your fundamentalist Arabs and see what they throw at you.

    I wonder if you’ve ever once thought about how the leadership of the Palestinians, going back to the original leader of the PLO, Yasser Arafat and then up to the present leader of the Palestinians, President Mahmoud Abbas, and ask them why they refused to peacefully settle their problems. All know that Mr. Arafat turned down Israel’s peace proposal although Mr. Arafat was offered 97% of everything he had asked for. He turned down the offer because he knew he would be assassinated if he accepted the offer, just the way Anwar Sadat was assassinated by the Moslem Brotherhood after having made peace with Israel. Mr. Abbas, who heads the political arm is totally impotent when it comes to negotiating with the Israelis. The true power lies with the military arm of Hamas, referred to as Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. The political arm wants a negotiated settlement; the military arm wants all Jews everywhere killed, starting with the Israeli Jews and anyone that is allied with them. Sounds like The Gaza Strip or Palestine is run the way Nazi Germany was run back in the 1930’s and 40’s, doesn’t it Mr. Blumenthal? Do you not study history and political systems Mr. Blumenthal? Are you so blind that you can’t see the destruction and chaos the Arab extremists have brought upon the area? I truly feel sorry for a man so blind that he thinks the destruction of his very own people will bring peace and tranquility to the Middle East. What it will bring is the end of Judaism and Jews…which means you and also your father because no matter how left of center you both may be, the rest of the world still sees you as … Jews.

    Here is the Jspace website article.

    New York Times ‘Breaches Red Line’ In Publishing, United States, Anti-Semite Max Blumenthal

    Less than one month after being indefinitely banned from entering the German parliament after an attempted violent assault on Gregor Gysi, the parliamentary leader of Germany’s Left Party, the American anti-Semitic propagandist Max Blumenthal, has been given an opportunity to rescue his tarnished reputation by the New York Times—a move decried by a prominent American Jewish leader as “breaching a red line.” In an article for the New York Times’ “Room for Debate” section on the proposed “Jewish State bill” that is being enthusiastically discussed in Israel, Blumenthal attacks the “Zionist project” as an inherently racist endeavor.

    However, in an indication of Blumenthal’s contempt for accurate reporting about Israel, the paper was forced to publish a correction within hours of the piece’s appearance, after Blumenthal falsely claimed that the Prawer Plan, which was a bill that would have regulated the settlement of Beduin in the Negev area, but was shelved last December, had been implemented.

    Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, criticized the New York Times for “insulting” those on the Zionist left in Israel who are opposed to the bill by selecting Blumenthal, “who believes Zionism is racism,” to make the case against it.

    Cooper told The Algemeiner that he welcomed a “healthy, multi-layered” debate about the bill. “But when you invite someone who conflates the illusory crimes of Israel with the Holocaust, then a red line has been crossed,” he said. Blumenthal, who is of Jewish descent, has made a career of sorts in demonizing Israel as a carbon copy of Nazi Germany. More recently, Blumenthal has begun describing Israel as JSIL, an acronym that stands for “Jewish State in the Levant,” which is designed to provoke a direct comparison with the genocidal ISIS terrorist organization.

    Blumenthal’s book-length screed “Goliath,” which had chapter titles such as “The Concentration Camp” and “How to Kill Goyim and Influence People,” was harshly criticized by critics on the right and left. Eric Alterman, a left-wing writer and academic, scorned Blumenthal for his “juvenile faux-cleverness” and accused him of being “deliberately deceptive.” However, such appraisals did not prevent Blumenthal’s father Sidney, a close adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton, from waging a private email campaign against Alterman and from holding a launch-party for his son’s book.

    In November, Max Blumenthal traveled to Germany with an obscure Canadian filmmaker named David Sheen at the invitation of anti-Zionist members of the Left Party, the successor organization to the old East German Communist Party. Yet when party leader Gregor Gysi was alerted to Blumenthal’s anti-Semitic statements and accusations— as Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and Fraizer Glenn Cross, a neo-Nazi who murdered two people during a shooting spree at a Jewish Community Center near Kansas City have both praised Blumenthal—Gysi immediately canceled the meeting at the German parliament. Shortly after this announcement, Blumenthal and Sheen cornered Gysi and chased him along a corridor in the German parliament. As the terrified Gysi, who suffers from a heart condition, tried to escape them by locking himself in a bathroom, Sheen, who at this point was consumed by a fit of violent hysteria, attempted to force the door open, flanked by an equally outraged Blumenthal. Their combined action forced Norbert Lammert, the president of the German parliament, to announce an indefinite ban on their entry to the building, saying, “every attempt to exert pressure on members of parliament, to physically threaten them and thus endanger the parliamentary process is intolerable and must be prevented.”

    Gilead Ini, a senior analyst with media watchdog CAMERA, described Blumenthal’s subsequent appearance in the pages of the New York Times as evidence that the “downward spiral at the New York Times Opinion pages continues.” “Now they are publishing the fringe demagogue Max Blumenthal, whom far-left German politicians recently described as an anti-Semite,” Ini said.
Rabbi Cooper noted that in 2013, Blumenthal was featured in the Wiesenthal Center’s “top 10” list of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel slurs and revealed that Blumenthal would again make their list in 2014 because of Blumenthal’s attack on Gysi. Cooper called on Jews at both “the grassroots and leadership” levels to make clear to the New York Times Management that publishing the anti-Semite has “nothing to do with freedom of speech, but is about mainstreaming someone who hates Israel.”

    The Israeli writer Petra Marquardt-Bigman outlined a similar concern about Blumenthal’s impact on mainstream coverage of the Middle East in a briefing paper on Blumenthal that was published by the Louis Brandeis Center, a legal advocacy group. The acceptance of Blumenthal’s analogizing of Israel and Nazi Germany, Marquardt-Bigman wrote, sends an “unmistakable signal that it is now ‘salonfähig’ – acceptable in polite company – to assert that Israel is like Nazi Germany and to insist that this is a reasonable, well-supported view that must be considered perfectly valid unless proven wrong.”

    The Conflict in Israel

    6. December, 2014BlogComments are off

    British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, warned Israel that if it sent troops into Gaza to confront Hamas, it risked losing the sympathy of the international community. A Jewish woman in Britain, Mindy Wiesenberger, sent the following letter to Mr. Hague, in response with a number of edits on my part. The letter has been published in many newspapers, including the Times of Israel.

    “Dear Mr. Hague, You have stated that if Israel tries to defend its population through a ground offensive in Gaza ‘it risks losing the sympathy of the international community.’ Let me tell you something about the sympathy of the international community, Mr. Hague.

    My father was liberated from Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945, having lost his entire family but gaining the sympathy of the international community at the time. After 6 million Jews had been annihilated at the hands of the Nazi regime, the international community had plenty of sympathy for the Jewish people. There is always plenty of sympathy for victims.

    Israel doesn’t need the sympathy of the international community. What it needs is to defend its citizens. When as a tiny country it gained its independence in 1948 it had to absorb 800,000 Jews who were thrown out of Arab lands in the Middle East, and it did so without fuss and with dignity giving them shelter and a place of security in which their children could grow up to become productive citizens. When Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria tried to destroy Israel in 1948 and again in 1967 they took in hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs, but did they give them dignity or shelter? No, they left them to rot in refugee camps in order to maintain a symbol of grievance against Israel and use them as a political tool against the Jewish state. What has arisen in those camps is a complicated situation, but it is what has led to Gaza today.

    So don’t lecture Israel on international sympathy Mr. Hague. Not when Israel has just sent in 120 trucks loaded with food into Gaza to feed the Palestinian people there, because their own leadership is more interested in using its population as human shields, launching rockets against Israel from within major civilian centers. Don’t lecture Israel on international sympathy Mr. Hague. Not when Israel targets, with as much military precision as it can, only terrorists and their bases, trying its utmost to prevent civilian casualties. However, as much as Israel targets their military, their military surround themselves with civilians, causing more of their people to die than their military. The Palestinian government spent the billions donated to them on buying weapons to destroy the Israelis, while the Israeli’s spent their money on the dome to protect their people. The Palestinians used the concrete donated to them by Israel for their tunnels to sneak into Israel to kill Israeli civilians while hiding their rockets in schools, Mosques, hospitals and apartment buildings. On the other hand, the Israelis built bomb shelters to protect their people. And yet, people like you lecture us on defending ourselves.

    What would your great country do, Mr. Hague? What did your country do after Argentina invaded the Falklands years ago, Mr. Hague? An island with no strategic value and few people? You protected your interests that what your country did by invading that tiny island and taking it back. Don’t lecture Israel on international sympathy Mr. Hague. Not when the Palestinian media deliberately uses images of victims of the Syrian civil war and presents them as casualties in Gaza to gain international sympathy.

    Go read your history books Mr. Hague, go see that since the beginning of the twentieth century all the Arabs wanted to do was destroy Israel.
    Go look at the country of Israel now since the Jews have established a state there. Go read what advances in science, medicine, biotechnology, agriculture and high tech Israel has developed, and dedicated that knowledge to making the world a better place for humanity. Can you imagine any other country that after 60 years of continuously being under attack could have achieved so much.

    So Mr. Hague, don’t lecture Israel on international sympathy. Israel will do whatever it takes to defend itself from outright attack on its citizens, whether it is from Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran or any other country or terrorist group that attacks it. And if it loses the sympathy of the international community so be it. We don’t need the international community’s sympathy. We don’t need another six million victims.”

    So, Mr. Hague, tell the Palestinians to sit down and negotiate with the Israeli government. Israel has been willing to give 97% of the Palestinian demands. Do you know any government, politician or union negotiator who would turn down that kind of offer? My guess would be, one that has billions of oil to threaten YOU with.

    Sincerely,
    Mindy Wiesenberger

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