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Fire started in synagogue near Paris

Tue, 01/06/2015 - 07:19

(JTA) — Unidentified individuals started a fire inside a synagogue near Paris and drew a swastika on its wall.

The fire was started at the synagogue of the suburb of Garges on Jan. 1, according to the National Bureau for Vigilance against anti-Semitism, or BNVCA.

Police were looking into the case, the report said.

Last month, a young Jewish man was attacked by several assailants at a public park in Garges while he was walking his dog. During the Dec. 16 attack, one of the man’s three assailants said they would kill him like Ilan Halimi was killed after beating him.

Halimi, a 26-year-old phone salesman from the Paris area, was abducted and tortured to death for over three weeks by a gang of criminals who targeted him because he was Jewish.

Police arrested one of the suspected assailants in the Dec. 16 assault, Le Parisien reported.


A Leader Looks Back

Tue, 01/06/2015 - 06:00

By Rabbi Allan Smith

Rabbi Allan Smith, affectionately known as “Smitty” by NFTYites, is a great figure in the history of NFTY. He created the NFTY Leadership Academy at Kutz Camp in 1972, expanded the number of URJ Camps during his tenure, raised millions of dollars for the purchase of new camps and the improvement of others, and overall expanded the population capacity of URJ camps by 300%. Smitty is known for his total commitment to young people, and his insistence that all people, especially young people, be treated with dignity and respect.

I am not sure if NFTY, the North American youth movement, had another name at the start. After all, National Federation of Temple Youth does not seem to reflect the fact that the first members of the organization were college students or individuals preparing to go to war.

It is the fact of World War II that stole the youth from so many of our young people. In fact, so many were off to war that in order for the organization to have a significant number of members, the age requirements were lowered, first opened to high schoolers and then to post-confirmation kids.

We were a national organization at the start. During my time with the Youth Division (1971- 2001) the contribution made by the Canadian affiliates, which had been attached to what was then NELFTY (Northeast Lakes), centered around metropolitan Toronto. Eventually, members came from the Montreal area, Vancouver, and Calgary as well. Thus, the new acronym expanded its meaning to include Canada, redefining the “N” in NFTY from National to North American.

The program of NFTY throughout its 75 years was a function of the political realities of America and Judaism as a whole. NFTY flourished in the days of the Civil Rights Movement. We were social action-based; raising the awareness of the social issues of a particular moment in history. NFTY focused on the rights of minorities, the fight for women’s rights, the question of justice for all. NFTYites raised money, marched, carried banners, and sang freedom’s songs when the issues of the day were protesting the Viet Nam War, fighting for Affirmative Action, and today, fighting for immigration reform. The young people of NFTY were the voices of conscience led by the spokespersons of the Movement, Rabbis Maurice Eisendrath and Alexander Schindler, Al Vorspan, Rabbi Balfour Brickner, and many others. The torch was passed to notable rabbinic leaders like Rabbis Eric Yoffie and David Saperstein who had both grown up in the NFTY movement. NFTY’s leaders had an enthusiastic and loyal following in their membership, but it was always the voice of NFTY’s young people that dictated the character of the movement as a whole.

Another revolution began to form when the Reform Movement began to look more closely at the question of spirituality. Creativity became the rule of the day and the Hebrew language took on a special meaning. When NFTY’s influence began to spread through the URJ’s camping movement, worship services began to change. When I began my tenure at the URJ we didn’t sing in Hebrew. But along came personalities like Debbie Friedman and a whole generation of song leaders and liturgists who led NFTY’s revolution in Reform liturgy. Hebrew became more and more the language of our prayer and the expression of the mystery of spirituality.

As we have done since NFTY’s beginning, may we continue to hear the voices of our young people who step up to lead NFTY into the future, walking in the footsteps of the dedicated NFTY leaders of the past.

Rabbi Allan Smith was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in 1967, and served as rabbi in Gastonia, North Carolina, from 1967 until 1971. He served as director of the URJ Camping Program beginning in 1971, and then as director of the URJ Youth Division from 1985 – 2001.

Moshe Feiglin leaving Likud

Mon, 01/05/2015 - 17:01

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Moshe Feiglin said he is quitting the Likud Party after failing to secure a realistic spot on the candidates’ list for the March elections.

Feiglin, a Likud member since 2005 and a Knesset lawmaker since 2013, finished 36th on the Likud list in voting held by party members last week. The latest polls show the party earning some 25 slots in the revamped Knesset. Likud now has 18 spots in a combined list with Yisrael Beiteinu.

He reportedly was pushed out by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who heads Likud, and his supporters.

“Netanyahu targeted me, but I do not harbor any resentment towards the prime minister,” Feiglin said Monday evening at a meeting of his Jewish Leadership faction.

Feiglin, a major supporter of building in Jewish settlements and Jews praying on the Temple Mount, said he will form a political movement that “aligns itself with Jewish ideals, and hopefully lead.” The new party likely will not run in the March national elections.

Several other political parties have offered spots, he told his supporters, which would enable him to run for the new Knesset. Feiglin said he was “considering all options.”

Also on Monday night at a meeting to present the Likud slate, Netanyahu said that if he is reelected as prime minister, he will propose legislation within the first 100 days of his new term that would require the head of the largest party to form the new government. Under the current system, the party head who has the most recommendations from other party chiefs to form the government gets the nod.

Observers say the proposal could lead to more stable governments that would serve out their full terms.

“Gonna Light The Lights Tonight”: A Holiday Message and A Musical...

Mon, 01/05/2015 - 14:14

Rabbi Steven Blane has a deft touch at synthesizing various spiritual elements, and that skill illuminates his delightful new holiday song: “Gonna Light The Lights Tonight”...

(PRWeb December 01, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/12/prweb12360753.htm

Teens Shot After Party at Suburban Washington D.C. Synagogue

Mon, 01/05/2015 - 12:38

Two teenagers were shot outside a Maryland synagogue after attending a party there.

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Driver Who Killed Princeton Rabbi James Diamond Acquitted in Crash

Mon, 01/05/2015 - 11:18

The driver of the car that killed Rabbi James Diamond, the retired director of Princeton University’s Center for Jewish Life, was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

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From the Archive: Black Hebrews, from Chicago to Dimona

Sun, 01/04/2015 - 13:57

Members of the Black Hebrews community dancing during festivities marking Shavuot in the southern Israeli town of Dimona, May 26, 2013. The group’s spiritual leader, Chicago native Ben Ammi Ben-Israel, died Dec. 27, 2014, in Dimona. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ben Ammi Ben-Israel, the spiritual leader of the African Hebrew Israelites, a group of African-Americans who, believing they were descendants of the biblical tribe of Judah, settled in Israel in the 1960s and ’70s, died last week. He was 75.

Ben-Israel’s community now numbers about 3,000, with most living in the Negev town of Dimona. While not officially recognized as Jewish, the Black Hebrews, as they are commonly known, make up a small subculture in Israel. Their history there has been somewhat turbulent.

Three weeks after the group’s first immigrants arrived in Israel from Chicago by way of Liberia, JTA reported that the community was “apparently getting along very well in their new environment,” although “their eventual status as immigrants remains undecided.” The report went on:

Within three days of their arrival at Dimona all families found work at the nearby textile plants and in local shops and factories, according to the Jewish Agency. Their children are already attending school. All of them have Hebrew names and have some knowledge of the Hebrew language.

The group arrived penniless at Lydda Airport from Liberia. They told Israeli officials they had tried to set up a Jewish communal settlement in the West African country but were made to feel “unwanted” and decided to go to Israel “where we belong.”

But tensions increased as more Black Hebrews came. Twenty arriving in October 1971 were denied entry because Israeli authorities “said they had one-way tickets and insufficient funds to stay in Israel as tourists.” Black Hebrews who had come to the airport to greet the new arrivals “protested vigorously” and “claimed that they were the true Hebrews, ‘sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’ and that the country of Israel was promised them by God and belongs only to them.”

Over the next few years, the Israeli government and the Black Hebrews clashed over whether they should be eligible for citizenship or deported. The government deported some, while other deportation efforts were successfully appealed to the Supreme Court.

In 1979, a special Knesset committee recommended establishing an agricultural village in the Negev for the Black Hebrews “and providing them with the means to construct their own community.” The recommendations followed complaints by several Dimona residents who had appealed to the government, claiming the Black Hebrews “were having an adverse effect” on city and that they “were conducting services and carrying on practices similar to that of the notorious People’s Temple in Jones-town, Guyana.”

In 2003, when Israel granted 2,500 Black Hebrews “permanent resident” status, JTA gave an overview of the group’s history in the country to date:

… The Black Hebrews’ path toward Israeli citizenship has been long and arduous.

Originally offered citizenship under the Law of Return in 1969, the community’s status later was challenged and revoked.

From 1973 through the early 1990s, the community had no legal status, and many members of the group — who had renounced their U.S. citizenship — were left stateless.

As a result, Black Hebrews could not hold legal jobs, send their children to Israeli schools or utilize national health care services.

The Black Hebrews’ cause was not helped by their insistence that they were the true Jews and that the Israelis were usurpers. As their case made its was through Israeli courts, they mounted a campaign against the state that many saw as vitriolic and anti-Semitic.

The community’s newspapers compared Israelis to Nazis and included images of money-grubbing Jews.

Despite their struggles for acceptance, the Black Hebrews established a fast growing community. Members say it is deeply rooted in Biblical teachings, though they reject latter-day interpretations of the Bible, including such injunctions as the rabbinic prohibition against polygamy.

Adherents follow a strictly vegan diet; eschew caffeine, alcohol, drugs and cigarettes; and experiment with no-salt days, sugar-free weeks and raw-food weeks …

In 1980, the community moved from overcrowded housing in Dimona to an abandoned absorption center nearby, which they cleaned and beautified.

The call their current environs the Village of Peace or the Island of Sanity, and it includes a vegan restaurant that is open to the public.

Community members say they welcome Israeli visitors and are involved in Dimona civic life.

Also in 2003, the community hosted pop star Whitney Houston and her then-husband, Bobby Brown, on their tour of Israel.

Perhaps Houston’s visit inspired Ahtaliyah Pierce, a Black Hebrew member who in 2013 achieved a new milestone for the community: At 17 she “reached the semifinals on Israel’s edition of ‘The Voice,’ a reality show in which emerging singers compete.”

Arab-Israeli Lawmaker Ahmed Tibi Raises Palestinian Flag On Temple Mount

Sun, 01/04/2015 - 13:35

Ahmed Tibi, an Arab-Israeli Knesset member, raised the Palestinian flag on the Temple Mount.

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