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Friday, September 29, 2006

Tickets to worship

By CARA ANNA, Associated Press Writer

At High Holy Days, more synagogues drop ticket fees

Some call it the seat tax, and not with affection. During the Jewish High Holy Days, the ticket fee to attend some synagogues can reach hundreds of dollars.

It's enough to keep some young adults away, Jackie Saltz realized. "Couples would say, 'Look, it's not that we're poor, but we have expenses. Rent comes first,"' he said.

So as the 10 days that span Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur continue through next Monday, Saltz leads one of several efforts to erase those fees. They're meant to bring a generation back to the faith while the percentage of Americans joining synagogues continues to fall.

In Atlanta, one Orthodox synagogue hosted a free, shorter, English-only Rosh Hashanah service hosted by two young men who call themselves "genuine fake rabbis." Worshippers could wear what they liked, enjoy the leisurely 10 a.m. start and eat a free meal afterward. Last year, in the service's second year, about 200 people came. Most were young professionals.

"Free -- we feel it's critical," said 32-year-old Matt Lewis, one of the "fake rabbis" who guides the service and answers questions. Regular membership at Congregation Beth Jacob is about $1,000, holiday tickets included. Six other U.S. congregations in the Orthodox Union are holding the free, so-called "Beginners' Services" this year.

To someone outside Judaism, the holiday fees may be surprising. "Why should I have to pay to pray?" said Rabbi Jeffrey Wohlberg of the Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C., echoing a common question.

Part of the reason is to fund a faith that doesn't pass the hat on the Sabbath -- and to pay for the extra staff and services required at the busiest time of the Jewish year.

The Chabad Lubavitch movement this month launched JewishNewYear.org, a search engine of more than 2,000 centers around the world that offer free holiday services. In the Boston suburbs, 26-year-old Jesse Grinberg, took advantage of Chabad after learning the closest Conservative temple charged about $700 a seat for the Yom Kippur service. The closest Reform temple charged about $400.

Grinberg was just starting his own Internet-based business and didn't have that kind of money. "I thought I'd shop around more," he said.

Saltz is leading the second year of "Come Home for the Holidays," which matches young people who grew up in the Conservative movement with free places to worship. More than 115 synagogues across the country are participating.

"It's like a free trial," said 27-year-old Gabe Taraday. Last year, the project matched him and about 75 others with free services at Adas Israel, where holiday tickets are usually $100. A free New Year's lunch and a free fast-breaking meal were included.

Since then, Taraday has organized semimonthly Friday services at Adas Israel for young professionals. But like the majority of Jews in America, he hasn't joined the congregation as a member. The 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey found that just 46 percent of U.S. Jews belong to a synagogue.

"However, 80-plus percent become members at some point," said Steven Bayme, who studies contemporary Jewish life for the American Jewish Committee. "By offering tickets, synagogues are saying, 'Look, we know you're not a member today, but we know you're interested."'

The trend to free tickets can mean an investment in possible future members. But some synagogues say they're happy just to attract and educate the curious.

Last month, Rabbi Selwyn Franklin and other members of the BMH-BJ Congregation set up card tables outside Denver grocery stores. They handed out honey cakes and invitations to a free "learner's service" at the Traditional synagogue during the High Holy Days. Free baby-sitting was included. Holiday tickets usually are $200.

"We wanted to make it as easy as possible," said Connie Susan, the congregation's membership coordinator. She said about 150 new people were expected to attend.

They included Julie Horowitz, 36, who missed holiday services last year because she was "too new" to the city. The free service attracted her this year.

Also planning to attend was Valerie Varan, 46, who isn't a practicing Jew at all. She'd meant to dodge Franklin and his card table outside the grocery store, but "he had a gentle warmth and smile. And his Australian accent was so cute."

She planned to attend the holiday service with friends. Varan is liberal in her religious approach, but fiscally conservative.

"I'm not gonna pay to explore. No way!" she said. "If it weren't free, we wouldn't be there."

On the Net:

Jewish New Year: http://www.jewishnewyear.org

Project Reconnect: http://www.projectreconnect.org/

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Bringing joy and Jewish holidays to state schools

By CLAUDIA FELDMAN
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

RICHMOND — Until Ileene Robinson jumped into the fray, her sister and the handful of mentally retarded Jews in Texas state schools celebrated Christian holidays as if they were their own.
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They had no idea about Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, which begins at sundown tonight. Or other holidays such as Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.

Robinson changed that with a simple Hanukkah party that she gave for her sister, Rita Sue Rosenfield, and other residents at the Richmond State School in 1999. She added Passover and Rosh Hashana in 2000. Each year after that, the celebrations grew.

Earlier this week Robinson, working with 90 volunteers, two rabbis and a dozen school staff members, hosted the largest Rosh Hashana service yet. The five Jewish residents from Richmond attended, along with five from Brenham State School.

Only two of the 10 can speak, so their friends raised their voices in prayer and helped bring in the new year, 5767.

Rita Sue entered the chapel fidgeting and grumpy because she didn't want to wear the brown suit jacket her sister thought perfect for the holiday service.

It was OK. She didn't have to wear it.

Seth Robertson was so delighted to be in the chapel with his mother that he wanted the two of them to clap hands.

That was fine, too.

"This is so special to me," said Dora Robertson, her arm around her son. "Seth didn't have religious experiences growing up. There were no special education classes or anything like that. This seems to reach him and gives us an opportunity to celebrate the Jewish holidays together. Every time, I cry — tears of joy."

'Sincerity and heart'
The Jewish education program has grown beyond holidays and even to other state schools. Today, a rabbi visits the Richmond school once a month. And volunteers lead simple Friday services.

"All these years," said Julius Karp, who helps to bankroll the local program, "the Jewish residents have been celebrating Christmas and Easter. They never knew what it was to celebrate their own holidays.

"You think they don't understand," Karp said. "They do."

No question, Robinson said.

"When we first started holding services, the residents were sort of disruptive. Now they are calm and very respectful. They listen. They participate. Sometimes my sister will say, 'Amen.' Today she was saying, 'holiday, holiday.' She was remembering how nice her holiday was."

The Richmond chapel was decorated with flowers. In the back, a table was set with china and crystal.

Rabbi Dovid Goldstein, representing Chabad Outreach of Houston, conducted the service.

"This room may not be as full as a synagogue," he said, "but what counts is sincerity and heart. We will commit that this year will be a better year."

After a short prayer, Max Uzick of Congregation Beth Yeshurun blew the shofar, a ram's horn.

It was as loud as a police siren. Goldstein smiled at the startled faces.

"The shofar wakes us up," he said, "and forces us to prioritize, to do what's really important."

'No deposit, no return'
Goldstein told a New Year's story about a boy who was celebrating his 13th birthday and expecting an expensive gift from his grandfather. Instead, he received a Coke bottle.

A young woman on the front row interrupted Goldstein. "I want to eat," she said.

The rabbi smiled. "One minute," and he returned to his story. "And the grandfather says, 'If you want to be successful, follow the instructions on the Coke bottle.' It says no deposit, no return."

Reaching everyone
Goldstein thanked the volunteers and said he hoped to engage them in yet another project — this one to reach mentally retarded Jews in group homes and Jewish seniors in nursing homes and assisted-living centers.

"I want to eat," the front row woman repeated.

One song, Goldstein said, and he moved to the piano to play a short version of Hava Nagila.

Everybody who was inclined got up and danced.

And then, the service ended. Guests were invited to dip apple slices in honey to ensure a sweet new year. Residents moved to the dinner table, where they feasted on a kosher meal.

Gary Swartz, past president of Congregation Beth Yeshurun, said the services are a pleasure for residents, "who never had any good luck in life."

And a pleasure for the visitors, who remember what the Jewish traditions are really about.

Swartz didn't want to seem too sentimental, so he made a joke:

"This is the best service around," he said. "It goes 30 minutes, then, lunch."

claudia.feldman@chron.com

It's all kosher at Rockaway store

Shop feeds need, offers convenience for observant Jews

BY MATT MANOCHIO
DAILY RECORD

ROCKAWAY -- Until recently, Isaac Levin got his kosher meats in New York City and other kosher products from a store in Livingston.

Now the 22-year-old White Meadow Lake resident only has to travel a couple of miles.

The Carmel Israeli Market opened this month in the Rockaway Boro Plaza on Route 46 --something Levin said was long overdue.

"I've been waiting for this to happen for a long time," he said while shopping there last week. "I'm very happy that they have meat and cold cuts."

Chicken and beef are two of the most popular products that the store carries, said Jenny Amrani, who runs the store with her husband, Yahav.

The Rockaway Township residents said they opened the store out of necessity.

"I used to drive to Brooklyn all the time to get my meat," Jenny Amrani, 30, said of the inconvenience and time it took to make those trips.

"My husband said, 'Nobody's doing it. Why don't we do it?'" she said.

So Yahav quit his job at a moving and storage company and opened his kosher shop on Sept. 10.

"To get a good stock of it, you have to drive all the way to Livingston, so this is a lot better," said Rockaway Township resident Scott Weisberger, 36, who shopped there in advance of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, which begins today at sundown.

"The best thing is you don't have to look at the labels. You know everything is kosher," Weisberger said.

The store carries a wide range of products, including, dairy, meats, juices, sauces, spices, canned food, snacks and frozen foods, among others.

Jenny Amrani said the store also carries specialty items. They include organic products; Middle Eastern, Chinese and Japanese foods; and nondairy ice cream.

"We enjoy the most the rabbis who come and shop here," she said.

Rabbi Asher Herson, of the Chabad Center of Northwest New Jersey, also was happy to see the store open.

"This is a great thing for the community, and it's the first of its kind," he said. "So it's very exciting. Word is still getting out. It offers people a tremendous opportunity."

Kosher food conforms to, or is prepared in accordance with, Jewish dietary laws. Animals, for instance, are slaughtered in such a way as to not make them suffer. The meat is soaked in salt, and the food is blessed by a rabbi.

Herson said local supermarkets do carry some kosher products.

"On the other hand, that's not their forte," he said. "(Carmel) has a full selection of meats and chicken, stuff you can't get anywhere local."

Jeff Kooper, 56, of Rockaway Township, bought a couple of items and simply told Jenny Amrani, "We need you guys here."

Happy 5767! Rosh Hashanah begins

Published on: 09/22/06

As Rosh Hashanah begins, Rabbi Yossi Lerman of Chabad Enrichment Center in Norcross explains its significance:

WHAT IT MEANS:

Translated literally from Hebrew, "rosh hashanah" means the "head of the year," and it is truly that — the beginning of another year.

WHEN DOES IT BEGIN?

The two-day observance begins on the first day of Tishri, the seventh month in the Jewish calendar. The book of Leviticus, chapter 23, verse 24 is explicit: "In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation." This will be the year 5767 in the Jewish calendar.

"We'll be changing Hebrew calendars and computers here, in Israel and everywhere else around the world," Lerman said.

HOW LONG DOES IT LAST?

From sundown today until sundown Sunday. It is followed by Yom Kippur, the day of atonement — a period of fasting and prayers for forgiveness of the previous year's sins.

HOW IS IT OBSERVED?

The faithful enjoy festive meals that include wine, meat and sweets. They also pray and ready themselves for another year. Lerman likened the period to a "report card" to the Lord.

The holiday is traditionally observed with the shofar, a ram's horn. A series of blasts on the horn hail God as the "king and teacher of the universe," Lerman said.

In a break from tradition, the shofar will not be blown on Saturday, because that day also is the Jewish sabbath, a day of rest "when we put out hands down and realize we are guests in this world."

Source: The Chabad Enrichment Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a thriving Jewish presence in Northeast Georgia. 678-595-0196.

www.chabadenrichment.org.

—Mark Davis

Bread upon waters

Jewish New Year's custom is being revitalized

12:00 AM CDT on Saturday, September 23, 2006

By ANSLEY ROAN Religion News Service

Jews around the country will visit rivers, beaches and streams this weekend as they celebrate Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. Many will have bread in their pockets.

Miami police will stop traffic at several intersections to allow members of Temple Israel to walk to Biscayne Bay. On the Upper West Side of Manhattan, hundreds of Jews will converge near the Hudson River. More than 300 people are expected to play drums at Venice Beach in California before walking to the ocean.

In Plano, those gathered for evening services at Lang Chabad Center will walk to a local stream.

In a tradition known as Tashlich, they will throw bread or something similar into the water to symbolically cast off their sins.

"Rosh Hashana is the beginning of the period of judgment and repentance," said David Kraemer, a professor of Talmud and rabbinics at Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. "You want to get rid of your sins, both symbolically and otherwise, because it will increase the likelihood that you'll be forgiven."

For Jews, a 10-day period of reflection and repentance that begins with Rosh Hashana culminates in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (which begins at sundown on Oct. 1).

Rosh Hashana is celebrated with special synagogue services where the shofar, or ram's horn, is sounded. Tashlich is usually done on the first day of Rosh Hashana, but this year that falls on a Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, so many people will opt for Sunday. Others will do it on any day before Yom Kippur.

"There's no doubt it's become more popular," Dr. Kraemer said. "It's one of those customs that has caught on. I think it has a return-to-the-earth feel, a hands-on, kind of primitive feel."

While anyone from the Orthodox to the unaffiliated may choose to participate in this custom, which dates from the 15th century, the nature of the ceremony and its interpretations vary. Tashlich, which means "you will cast away," is inspired by verses in the Book of Micah.

"The tradition is that we go to the closest body of water and say a prayer," said Moshe Elefant, executive rabbinic coordinator and chief operating officer of the Orthodox Union. "In the Orthodox tradition, men and women don't sit together when they pray, but when they say Tashlich, a family will go together."

At Temple Israel of Greater Miami, a Reform congregation in the city center, about 40 people will pass expensive condominiums under construction as they walk to Biscayne Bay.

"Temple Israel sits equidistant between almost abject poverty and incredible luxury," said Rabbi Mitchell Chefitz. "We bring an awareness with us. It's a recognition that there's more we can do to have justice flow more equitably. On Rosh Hashana morning especially, there's the tendency of this congregation to raise social consciousness."

Bet Shira, a Conservative congregation in Miami, has planned its first pre-Tashlich family service with story and songs for children. They'll then join others from the congregation at a nearby canal.

"You get a real sense of community, standing there on the grass with all your friends, and everyone's children," said Ronald Rosengarten, president of the congregation. "You have ducks and children running around. It's a Jewish experience of nature."

Traditionally, the bread is thrown into a natural body of water, such as a stream or river, rather than a pool or fountain.

"It's the idea that God's creation is that which absolves and forgives, along with God personally, the actions and mistakes we've made over the past year," said Rabbi Micah Caplan of Bet Shira.

Members of Nashuva, an unaffiliated congregation in Los Angeles, celebrate Tashlich at Venice Beach in a nontraditional service.

"Usually, the shofar is blown in the temple during Rosh Hashana, but we took the shofar-blowing to the beach," said Rabbi Naomi Levy. "We started a drumming circle at the beach.

At Nashuva, the whole theme of what we work on at the high holidays is about restoration and renewal, so Tashlich becomes this metaphor of letting go and embracing the new year with wholeness and a sense of rebirth."

Helene Rosenzweig of Santa Monica, who was raised as a Conservative Jew in New York, has attended the Nashuva service.

"My evolution of Tashlich is from this little kid, where we took baggies of Wonder Bread and sins like, 'I told a lie,' to thinking about things that weigh you down, that don't allow you to move forward emotionally or psychologically," she said. "The drums parallel the cathartic nature of the event."

As powerful as the ceremony feels, it's not a magical absolution, Rabbi Levy said.

"Judaism very much stresses the work we have to do," she said. "If you've hurt someone, it's your job to make it right with that person. The ceremony is ultimately liberating only if we've done the legwork to get to the place of true renewal."

Jewish center wins go-ahead

Council shows overwhelming support for public amenities


By Abigail Eagye
September 26, 2006

Showing unusual solidarity at Monday night's Aspen City Council meeting, all facets of the community rallied behind a proposal to build a Jewish Community Center.

The Historic Preservation Commission, the Planning and Zoning Commission, city staff, council members and neighbors all supported plans put forth by the Jewish Resource Center Chabad of Aspen.

The city council even lifted several conditions in the proposal, with no request from the applicants to do so. The plan before the council restricted the number of social gatherings at the center to 10 per year, and it required that drop-off times at the center's new preschool be staggered to help control traffic.

Both conditions were included to help minimize parking impacts in the neighborhood, since parking at the center will be limited.

But the council generally agreed that it makes no such demands of other religious institutions within the city limits, none of which offer onsite housing either.

And staggering drop-off times at the school might be more of a logistical problem than the traffic, several council members said.

"If you've ever had children and tried to get them to day care, you're not about to meet a staggered schedule," Mayor Helen Klanderud said.

Councilman Torre did have reservations about the limited parking nonetheless, but he said it wasn't enough to vote against the project.

One neighbor was concerned about the design of the city's bus stop in front of the center, but the council consented to send it to HPC for review.

Historic Preservation Officer Amy Guthrie impressed upon the council that the resource center had made a number of concessions during the approval process. The applicants asked for significantly less square footage than zoning allows, and they volunteered to preserve several buildings that are part of the L'Auberge cabins, where the new center will be built.

"I don't know that I've ever reviewed a project that didn't take full advantage of its FAR requirement or more," said Councilman Jack Johnson.

That FAR, or floor area requirement, will be available for the center to build out in the future, but it will have to submit to further review for any additions.

The council agreed with city staff's characterization of the center as an essential public facility. In particular, council members gave their enthusiastic support to the nondenominational preschool in light of the city's ongoing need for child care facilities, and they saw the value in creating a permanent home for Aspen's Jewish community.

Councilman Jack Johnson appreciated not only the function of the building but also its location.

"I think this is going to activate what is sometimes a very dead neighborhood," he said.

Rabbi Mendel Mintz was thrilled with the council's decision.

"The council not only was supportive, but to the point where they took out something that was restrictive," he said. "We're excited and appreciative of what the council has done."

The new center will house Aspen's first synagogue, as well as a kosher kitchen that will make it easier for the Jewish community to host traditional religious events, such as weddings and bar mitzvahs.

If all goes as planned, the resource center hopes to break ground in mid-May.

Designation as an essential public facility means the center may be exempt from the city's current building moratorium, although, if the council meets its new deadline of Feb. 28, no exemption will be necessary.

"Our goal is ultimately to serve the community," Mintz said. "Obviously, the sooner the better."

Abigail Eagye's e-mail address is abby@aspentimes.com

Jewish Community Center pitched as place for all to use

By Abigail Eagye
September 25, 2006

Aspen's Jewish community is looking to build a sense of community. More specifically, they'd like to build a community center.

Without a home of their own, said Rabbi Mendel Mintz, "We go hotel hopping and the like for all our programs, like this weekend for Jewish New Year."

That means lugging books from site to site, including the heavy, awkward scrolls of the Torah. It also means the Jewish community lacks a kosher kitchen, making it difficult to host lunches, dinners and life-cycle events, Mintz said.

To centralize their activities, the Jewish Resource Center Chabad of Aspen has plans for a new building to house a Jewish Community Center. The proposed center would be built at 435 W. Main St., where the L'Auberge cabins currently sit.

But the center would offer more than just Jewish services.

"We expect this to be a Jewish Community Center with the emphasis on 'community,'" Mintz said. "We'll have programs for the whole community."

In addition to creating a space for a Hebrew school and Jewish services, the proposed structure would allow the center to offer programming for the entire Aspen community - a preschool, as well as teen and adult educational programming. The center would also be able to accommodate special events for up to 200 people.

The redevelopment of the L'Auberge would preserve six of the nine existing cabins and designate those six as historic sites. The other three cabins would be relocated, assuming an acceptable site is found for them.

As part of the approval process, the City Council will decide whether to designate the center as an "essential public facility." That designation would allow for modest exceptions in some of the city's requirements for development. In this case, the notable exceptions would be for parking and affordable housing mitigation.

At the suggestion of the Historic Preservation Commission, the developers downsized the building to a smaller size than code allows and lowered it to reduce height impacts.

Lowering the building, in particular, precludes the center from building subgrade parking.

Three of the six cabins to remain onsite would be used for affordable housing, to house some of the employees the new center is expected to generate - although those cabins compensate for less than 60 percent of the anticipated new employees.

The 60 percent mark comes from the Aspen Area Community Plan, which sets that percentage as the city's goal for housing employees in the city. Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss has cast a critical eye on past developments that offer below the 60 percent mitigation standard.

But a memo from Ben Gagnon, the city planner for the project, states that essential public facilities regularly are given some leeway for affordable housing. He cited the Aspen Recreation Center and the Red Brick Arts and Recreation Center as exceptions.

The current plan has earned support from the HPC, as well as from the Planning and Zoning Commission, which noted the preschool's value to the community, Gagnon said in his memo. Preschools are "rare," he wrote, and an "extremely valuable asset to the community."

According to Shirley Ritter, director of Kids First, Pitkin County's June census showed that the county's preschools are operating near capacity. That was before the community lost roughly 40 spots - the same amount the Jewish community center's preschool would offer - when Columbine Kids in Basalt announced it was closing. City and county officials are still looking for ways to resuscitate the school, although nothing is certain. So, the addition of a preschool in Aspen could help keep options open for some families.

"I think it's always good when parents have good choices," Ritter said. But, she added, there's a greater need for infant and toddler care than preschool-age care.

The City Council will take public comment on the proposed center at tonight's meeting, scheduled for 5 p.m. at City Hall.

Abigail Eagye's e-mail address is abby@aspentimes.com

Mayim, mayim ... Victorian football in troubled waters

As the southern city nurses its wounded dignity and preps itself for another Australian Football League Grand Final between non-Victorian clubs (at least Melburnites still have the chutzpah to insist the Sydney Swans and West Coast Eagles play it at the 'Gee), a word from the president of one of the clubs that helped bring about Victoria's 2006 Waterloo. Western Bulldogs' David Smorgon mused that the Doggies had a mixed year but that "water, as they say, finds its level."


WHILE we're figuring out exactly what he meant, let's focus on box king Richard Pratt and his controversial proposal that water rates be doubled to conserve dwindling supplies.


CONCERNING, especially in a week when our tradition reminds us of the importance of water as the repository of our sins. Just ask Moshe Bryski of Chabad in Conejo, a San Fernando Valley LA 'burb. The bochers' annual Tashlich expedition to a nearby lake to ritually cast out sins was reported on the news site of the Acorn, a local paper serving the city of Thousand Oaks.


ALWAYS in the thick of it, Chabad in Thailand came to the aid of Israeli backpackers during last week's coup. Hearing rumours of the impending army putsch, local Chabadnik Rabbi Nehemya Willhelm began warning Jews to stay off the streets. With Chabad's Bangkok HQ right on touristy Khao San Road, Israelis began arriving looking for a haven in case things got ugly, which thankfully they didn't.

Sukkot in the City

by Reuven Fenton
posted 9/20/2006

In the wake of an intense set of High Holidays, Sukkot comes at the perfect time, when the autumn chill is perfect for reflection and peace of mind. Rest assured, there will be plenty of Sukkah parties (some on rooftops), dinners and lectures for you to partake in.

We recommend you try out a few of these events to get a true flavor of what makes this holiday so special in the city. On the eve of Simchat Torah (this year, October 14), when we celebrate the completion of the yearly cycle of Torah reading and begin it anew, there are cool happenings all over the city, but the heart of the action is on the Upper West Side. It is here that young Jews flock in droves to get a taste of this legendary scene, where urbanites dance in the streets with Chabad Yeshiva boys walking in from Crown Heights, and everyone is hoping to meet their bashert. Together, this colorful brew of Jews from all backgrounds hops from shul to shul, party to party, and often don’t quit until the sun comes up.

Sukkot

Enjoy a feast for the body and spirit at the 92nd Street Y. While you partake in a traditional Sukkot meal, scholars will give short stimulating talks on various Jewish topics, and offer several perspectives on this joyous time of year. Traditional prayers and lively melodies will bring in the warmth and glow of what makes Sukkot truly special. Vegetarian dinners are optional with phone reservations. (Oct. 6, 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m., Lexington Ave at 92nd Street. $36 adults/$18 children; or 8 p.m. at the Makor/Steinhardt Center, 35 W. 67th St., $30. 212-415-5500, www.92y.org)

This year, Kehilath Jeshurun has several Sukkot events planned that will surely get your holiday spirit jumping. Here’s a couple worth looking into: On October 8, the synagogue will host “A Celebration in the Hut,” where participants can check out the Sukkah, shake the lulav and enjoy refreshments (4:30 p.m.). On October 11, KJ joins up with the National Jewish Outreach Program for its annual “Sukkah Dinner Under the Stars.” Rabbis Ephraim Buchwald and Elie Weinstock will share their words of wisdom as guests enjoy fine food and music. (7 p.m., $36/person, $60/couple, 125 E. 85th St. between Park and Lexington Avenues, 212-774-5678, beginners@ckj.org)

Picture it: With Manhattan buildings setting the scenery, you bask in the warmth of friends in a rooftop Sukkah. The JCC in Manhattan will cater to a 20s and 30s crowd who are eager to meet, greet and take in the pleasures of the holiday. Savory delights, including shashlik (eastern European shish kebab), will be served. Following that will be a screening of “Ushpizin,” the critically acclaimed Israeli film about an Orthodox couple who host a pair of escaped cons for the Sukkot feast. (Party Oct. 9, 7 p.m., $35. “Ushpizin” 7:30 p.m., $8 members $10 nonmembers. 646-505-5708, www.jccmanhattan.org)

For those seeking some food for thought, join the New Israel Fund for a luncheon and talk with Professor Michael Walzer, a leading American political theorist and professor of social science at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University. Professor Walzer’s books include “Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations” and “Politics and Passion: Toward a More Egalitarian Liberalism.” (Oct. 11, 12:30-2 p.m., Central Synagogue, 652 Lexington Ave. at E. 55th St., $25 pre-paid by October 10, ny@nif.org)

The Manhattan Jewish Experience will host its annual Sukkah on the Roof Party, an event that has garnered acclaim over the years as a hot spot for learning about Judaism and making lifelong friends. There will be plenty of singles, so keep your eye out for that someone special. Traditional food and music will be in abundance, as will wine and other beverages. This event is primarily for singles in their 20s and 30s, but all are welcome. (Oct. 9, 7 p.m., 131 W. 86th St., 212-787-9533, www.jewishexperience.org)

Simchat Torah

Make Saturday night come alive with food, drink and the celebration of Torah as Chabad-Lubavich of the Upper East Side teams up with congregation Kehilath Jeshurun for their “Fifth Annual Simchat Torah Street Festival.” While you dance the night away under the stars, Chabad will salt and pepper the evening with a special brand of spirit that only it can bring. (Oct. 14, beginning at 6:30 p.m., 419 E. 77th St. between First and York Avenues)

The night before Simchat Torah, The Actor’s Temple will have a special presentation by Daniella Granit, who took part in a survey of war damages in northern Israel, and who is involved in projects in that area (Oct. 13, 7 p.m.). The following night, the temple will hold a service and choral arrangement called “Cantata: What is Torah?” written by Judith Eisenstein, daughter of Mordechai Kaplan, the founder of Reconstruct Judaism. This will be followed by a Torah procession, singing and dancing. (Oct. 14, 8 p.m., 339 W. 47th St., 212-245-6975)

The celebration begins at dusk and doesn’t end till dawn at The West Side Institutional Synagogue each year, and this year will be no different. Join the warm inner circle of Rabbi Shlomo and Shira Einhorn and the whole congregation (a welcoming bunch) for all-night dancing with the Torah that will leave you blissful, exhausted and spiritually fulfilled. (Oct. 14-15, 120 W. 76th St., 212-877-7652)

Clarinets, violins and flutes will rattle the streets of downtown Manhattan as The Village Temple celebrates its annual Dancing in the Street Klezmer event. With 12th Street closed to traffic, everyone will be able to frolic as they never have before—with Sifrei Torah in tow. This is definitely one of the more spirited and original Simchat Torah events of the year. Holiday services will take place prior to the dancing. (Oct.14, 7 p.m., 33 E. 12th St.,212-674-2340, info@villagetemple.org)

Family and friends say goodbye to Coralrose Fullwood

Coralrose Fullwood, 6, remembered as a vibrant, precious child to those who loved her.

FORT MYERS -- Six-year-old Coralrose Fullwood was a vibrant, precious child whose smile lit up a room and brought joy to everyone who knew her, Rabbi Yitzchok Minkowicz said at the girl's memorial service Monday.

Calling Coralrose a "true Jewish soldier," Minkowicz said, "She was a real happy girl. She always had a smile on her face. Nothing was ever a problem."

Close to 200 people attended Coralrose's memorial service Monday morning at the Harvey-Englehardt-Metz Funeral Home in Fort Myers. Coralrose was found murdered Sept. 17 behind a home under construction, two blocks from where she lived in North Port. No arrest has been made in the case.

Minkowicz said Coralrose's memorial service was a "very moving service" and difficult for him to take part in. He knew Coralrose well, he said. She attended the Chabad School on Winkler Road in Fort Myers.

Minkowicz recalled a story Coralrose's grandmother told him.

"(Coralrose) was visiting another school, and they were singing a song. Being the new kid in the school, she told the teacher they were singing the song wrong. The teacher, thinking she was a smart aleck, said 'show me, how do you sing it.' She sang it the right way. She also taught them a new song they did not know," he said.

Minkowicz said her grandmother also said Coralrose would lead the whole Passover Seder for the entire family.

"It was a real blessing to have had her in our school, and we miss her dearly," Minkowicz said. "It's a real loss. A tremendous loss."

"She was always happy, joyful, and that was her power," Minkowicz said. "She didn't deserve such an ending."

Minkowicz let out a sigh, paused, then said, "When you do a service, you try to connect with the people, and you try to put yourself in their shoes."

He said he gave it some thought, and said there is never a good time to die.

"When God decides, obviously that's the time," Minkowicz said.

He said usually our intellect would help rationalize a person's death, such as someone who died of an illness or in an accident. However, Coralrose's death was not an accident.

"The coldest intellect, and a most unemotional person without feelings has to be moved when a 6-year-old was taken from a family," he said. "But this was not an accident that can be rationalized."

"I don't think anybody can rationalize it. I don't think anyone can feel good or comfortable with it. I think it's a terrible thing to happen," Minkowicz said.

The North Port Police Department sent four officers, including Chief Terry Lewis, to Monday's memorial service. Detective Tom Stellar, Lt. Detective Ed Fitzpatrick, and Lt. Kevin Sullivan also attended the memorial.

"We felt it was the right thing to do," Lewis said. "We just wanted (Coralrose) to know we are there for her."

Lewis said the case has had an emotional toll on the officers, and it was a "personal thing" for them to come.

"(Lt.) Kevin Sullivan felt strongly about coming. He was the supervisor during the search for Coralrose," Lewis said.

In an earlier interview, and grieving over his granddaughter's death, Saul VanderWoulde thanked the community last week for support.

"It's hard enough to lose a granddaughter but I have to thank the community for helping out financially," he said. "The temple is handling a fund for my granddaughter."

Coralrose will be buried at Fort Myers City Cemetery in about three weeks, according to the Harvey-Englehardt-Metz Funeral Home Director Doreena Medina.

"The ground is too soft from all the rain," Medina said.

You can e-mail George McGinn at gmcginn@sun-herald.com.

BY GEORGE McGINN

Loved ones remember Rosie

Jewish ceremony honors 6-year-old slain in North Port

A menorah stood at the end of the aisle leading to the front of the chapel, where a rabbi read Torah verses in both Hebrew and English.

Men donned yamalkas and women wore veils, customary in Jewish temples.

It was a traditional service — exactly as the family of Coralrose Fullwood, 6, said she would have wanted.


Coralrose, who was found slain Sept. 17 two blocks from her North Port home, was remembered Monday as a lively child who loved playing in the dirt — but always in a pretty dress.

"How am I going to remember her?" her father Dale Fullwood asked as he stood in front of 150 people. "She was the cute little girl who loved pink butterflies. She was the one to put on a pretty dress, and minutes later, be playing with the tadpoles in the dirt. If there was a hose, she was the first one to turn it on and make mud."

Coralrose's mother, Ellen Fullwood, clutched her mouth periodically as if to keep the sobs from escaping.

"We called her Rosie," she said. "She had a red tint to her

hair, and the name fit her personality. She was always happy, even when she was getting yelled at. She did what she wanted to do. She was just a joy. She was truly an angel here on Earth, and she went home."

The little girl's grandparents, aunts and two of her sisters also spoke, remembering her love of video games and her giving heart.

Coralrose would have been 7 in November.

The circumstances of her death were not lost on those attending.

Police continued to search for Coralrose's killer Monday — eight days after her death. Authorities have checked dozens of leads.

Preliminary results of an autopsy revealed there was no sign of sexual assault, but a judge ordered her youngest siblings to undergo physical examinations.

Grandparents Saul and Doreen VanderWoude have temporary custody of the four children, ages 4 to 12, because of conditions in the home, which investigators with the Department of Children and Families told a judge was filthy.

Coralrose's two youngest brothers were not at the service.

North Port Police Chief Terry Lewis and several detectives from the agency also attended the service, sitting in the back row. Lewis declined to comment at the service.

Rabbi Yitzchok Minkowicz reflected on the "dreadful atrocity" of a stolen young life.

"The question on everyone's mind is why was this delightful, happy, healthy girl taken from this world?" he asked. "Why could this happen? Where is the God that would allow this to happen to an innocent child, and cause unimaginable heartbreak for her parents, siblings, grandparents and friends? As human beings, we can not begin to fathom the ways of God."

Minkowicz continued with an explanation meant to comfort.

"Some souls are so holy and pure and so special, God doesn't want to take the risk of them being corrupted," he said. "Those souls are here for just a short time before returning to God. Coralrose was one of those. Innocent as the first spring blossom. As pure as the first snowflake of winter."

Coralrose's body was released to her family Thursday after the autopsy was completed so they could move forward with funeral plans. According to Jewish tradition, mourning can not begin until the body has been buried.

After singing psalms, attendants followed the family outside, where dirt was tossed symbolically on the tiny white casket, nestled inside a concrete vault.

Minkowicz said Coralrose's body could not be immediately placed in the ground because of recent rain that has softened the dirt.

Tears overtook grandfather Saul VanderWoude as he spoke briefly.

"I am so sorry God took her away," he said, "But I thank him every day for the six years we had together."

Crown Heights is the focus of supercharged thriller

The Righteous Men. By Sam Bourne. Harper-Collins Publishers. New York. 2006. 419 pp. $24.95.

Reviewed by Stephanie Garber, Contributing Writer

Ever since the outrageous success of Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code, copycats, look-alikes and wannabes have flooded the book market.

Sadly, they were “nothing new under the sun,” just transparent attempts to sail on the coattails of another’s success rehashing the same plot and overworked characters. Until now.

While Brown introduced the Catholic group Opus Dei to the general public, Sam Bourne (pseudonym for Jonathan Freedland) shines the spotlight on Chabad. Brown (and his ad nauseam copycats) focused on historical Christianity, encrypted messages in artwork, and Mary Magdalene; Bourne delves into Judaism, kabbalistic mysticism, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

The book’s title is borrowed from the Jewish legend of the 36 tsadikim (righteous men) whose presence ensures that the world continues. Will Monroe, a reporter at The New York Times stumbles on a murderous plot while investigating the seemingly unrelated deaths of a couple of men in different parts of the country. His initial pursuit of the story turns into a quest to save his wife’s life after she is abducted and vanishes into the Lubavitch world of the in Crown Heights.

The Rebbe’s followers inhabit an entirely different culture from Times reporter Monroe’s — different dress, customs, language and religion. But it’s a world Monroe will get a crash course in as he desperately attempts to find his wife. As the murders spin out across the globe, Monroe tries to decipher hidden clues from ancient Jewish texts and Biblical sources in hopes of finding his wife. But there is a deadline — before the conclusion of Yom Kippur, and it’s not just one man’s spouse whose life is at stake — failure may mean the end of mankind.

Bourne (Freedland) is a columnist for The Guardian, the London Evening Standard and The Jewish Chronicle. His thorough research and attention to detail are apparent throughout The Righteous Men. Jewish readers will especially appreciate the sources he expresses gratitude to in the acknowledgments, including various rabbis and his late great-aunt Yehudit Dove, whom he credits as being the inspiration for the story.

The Righteous Men is one of those rare gems of a book that forces the reader to choose between sleeping or reading — and the book wins!

Israelis seek shelter with Chabad as military takes power in Thailand

BANGKOK, Sept. 19 (JTA) — As more than a dozen tanks were encircling Thailand’s Parliament building in a military coup d’etat, hundreds of Israeli backpackers were seeking shelter in the local Chabad House a mile or so away.

The four-story establishment on Khao San Road, Bangkok’s famous backpacker district popular with young Israelis, generally pulls down its shutters after 10 p.m. On Tuesday, though, it stayed open well into the night. Hearing rumors of an impending coup in the late afternoon, Rabbi Nehemya Wilhelm began warning Jews and Israelis to stay off the streets.

At around 7 p.m., “a Singaporean friend called to tell me that a large convoy of tanks and armored vehicles were heading toward Bangkok,” Wilhelm said.

For weeks, Thai media have been rife with speculation that several disgruntled army generals might attempt to stage a coup against the beleaguered prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Although Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai, or Thais Love Thais, party won by a landslide in elections last year, persistent allegations of corruption have severely dented his populist appeal, especially in the capital. Earlier this year, mass protests calling for his resignation rocked the capital for weeks on end.

Tuesday evening, at least 14 tanks and several armored vehicles with machine guns mounted on top closed off the avenues leading to Parliament. All local television stations went off the air.

The situation remained peaceful, however, as drowsy soldiers idled around their tanks and Humvees. A few curious onlookers braved the drizzle to take photographs.

No sooner did CNN and BBC start broadcasting pictures of the unfolding military takeover in Bangkok than frantic parents in Israel began calling Chabad House on Khao San Road.

“Interestingly, they seemed to know more about the situation back in Israel than we did in Bangkok,” Wilhelm said.

By midnight the normally rowdy backpacker strip was deserted, with bars and restaurants all closed. Inside Chabad House, dozens of Israelis were searching the Internet for international news of the situation unfolding only a couple of miles away.

“It’s ironic that we should come all this way from tanks and guns in Israel only to end up in this balagan,” or craziness, said Uri, a 24-year-old traveler from Tel Aviv.

He then typed an e-mail to reassure friends and relatives back home that he was safe.

Across Bay Area, Jews reflect and cleanse for Rosh Hashana

Jewish New Year kicks off 10 days of spiritual introspection, atonement

By Rebecca F. Johnson, STAFF WRITER
Inside Bay Area
When children crafted shofars by curing, measuring, saw-ing, drilling and polishing rams' horns Sunday, Rabbi Raleigh Resnick hoped that the experience would leave an everlasting impression on their young minds.

By using their hands to fash-ion, their noses to smell and their ears to hear the sound the instrument makes, Resnick — rabbi for Chabad of the Tri-Valley — aimed to help the youth make a connection to Rosh Hashana.

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, began Friday and heralded the start of the 10-day period called the Days of Awe that culminates on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

At various points in the synagogue services held during these days, the shofar is blown as a reminder to commence the reflection process.

"Just like an alarm clock wakes you up, as we start the new year, the shofar is a spiritual alarm clock that wakes one up," Resnick said.

The Days of Awe mark a time of deep introspection that includes asking God and others for forgiveness to begin anew.

"The grime builds up from all of our everyday stuff, all the frustrations and disappointments," said Rabbi Richard Winer of Temple Beth Emek in Pleasanton. "This is the time once a year to wipe it all off and move forward renewed.

"We take stock of the last year, fix all things that can be fixed. But at a certain point, you've got to wipe it off and move forward with a clean slate," he said.

Rosh Hashana is typically celebrated with festive meals that include dipping apples into honey, symbolizing the hope for a sweet new year. Challah, a type of bread, is baked into rounds rather than the typical oblong braided shape as a symbol of the circle of life or cyclical nature of the year.

On Yom Kippur, however, which this year will take place from sundown Oct. 1 to Oct. 2, it is customary to fast as a cleansing ritual.

Many synagogues, including Temple Beth Emek, request that congregants donate the food that they might otherwise consume on the holiday to others less fortunate.

For more information about Chabad of the Tri-Valley's Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur services, which are available without advance tickets, visit http://www.jewishtrivalley.com or call (925) 846-0700. Services will be held at the Carr America Conference Center, 4400 Rosewood Drive, in Pleasanton.

Chabad of Contra Costa will hold Yom Kippur services at the San Ramon Marriott, 2600 Bishop Drive. Visit http://www.chabadcoco.com for more information.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Wishes for a sweet, happy new year

Inside Bay Area

AS the sun sets this evening, the 48-hour Jewish new year called Rosh Hashana will begin. If you've ever attended a Rosh Hashana dinner or are joining one for the first time, you will see apples dipped in honey proudly displayed on the evening's menu.

Symbolically, these sweet foods are eaten to demonstrate our wishes for ourselves, our families and community — that we be blessed with a sweet new year.

But there is a deeper dimension to the apple and honey dish:

There is a difference between the sweetness of an apple and the sweetness of honey. An apple is a sweet fruit that grows on a tree. There is nothing surprising about that — many fruits are sweet.

But honey comes from a bee — an insect that not only is inedible but actually stings. Nevertheless, the honey it produces is sweet. In fact, honey is sweeter than an apple!

Similarly, there are two types of sweetness in our lives: We have times of family celebration, successes in our careers, personal triumphs and harmonious relationships. These are sweet times like the apple is sweet.

But there is a different type of sweetness, a sweetness that comes from times of challenge: when things don't go the way that we would like them to, when tragedy strikes, when our job is in jeopardy, when we fail to reach the goals we had aspired for, when our relationships are being strained and tested, when we feel alone.

At the time when we are facing these challenges, they seem bitter and insurmountable, like the sting of a bee. But if we are strong and withstand the difficult times and overcome the obstacles to our own happiness, we reveal layers of our personality that we never would have tapped into if we weren't challenged. Something deeper is brought out when we are tested.

Tension in a relationship is painful, but there's nothing better than reconciling after that tension. Losing a job is degrading, but how often it is that we find bigger and better things to move on to.

Loneliness can eat us up, but it can open us to higher levels of self-knowledge, too. We all have experienced events in our lives that at the time were painful, but in retrospect we say, "Thank G-d for the tough times — imagine where I would be without them!"

So we eat apples and honey on Rosh Hashana.

We bless one another that in the year to come the apples should bring sweetness. If, for some reason, we get stung, may the bite reveal a more powerful sweetness from within us!

On behalf of the Tri-Valley Jewish community, I wish each and every one of you a joyous, meaningful, sweet new year.

Rabbi Raleigh Resnick is director of the Chabad of the Tri-Valley in Pleasanton. For more information, call (925) 846-0700 or visit http://www.jewishtrivalley.com.

In God We Trust is a weekly column that rotates among local religious and spiritual leaders. Letters and inquiries may be sent to faith@trivalleyherald.com.

Zoning hearing board OKs plans for new synagogue

By: Jon Campisi , Staff Writer

Religious leaders looking to build a synagogue on Fort Washington Avenue cleared their first hurdle Sept. 18, when the Upper Dublin Zoning Hearing Board unanimously voted to grant a special exception use.
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A special exception, which differs slightly from a variance, needs to be approved when seeking to build a religious institution in a residentially zoned district. The use is permitted by law, but an applicant still has to make his or her case before the plan can move forward.
This particular proposal drew the ire of some neighbors who voiced concerns about what they viewed as a potential detriment to the residential area brought on by an increase in traffic and more impervious surface coverage.
"As a homeowner, I'm opposed because I feel it's unsafe for my children," Fort Washington resident Chris Pastore said during a public hearing last month. "Every additional car [puts] my child's life more at risk. It truly and dramatically impacts on the health and welfare of myself and my children."
The property in question is 1311 Fort Washington Ave., directly across from the Church of the Open Door, and just down the street from the intersection of Fort Washington and Susquehanna Road.
The type of congregation set to move in is known as the Lubavitch movement, an offshoot of orthodox Judaism, the strictest sect in the faith. During last month's hearing, Rabbi Shalom Deitsch, the leader of what has been operating as a roving synagogue for some time, tried to calm neighbors' worries.
As for additional traffic, Deitsch assured residents the congregation is quite small and close-knit and has no definitive plans to increase in size. Besides, the synagogue has already been operating out of homes and a school on Fort Washington Avenue, and no significant problems have arisen thus far.
Regarding flooding concerns due to the additional impervious parking area, attorney Michael Yanoff has said that Upper Dublin has very stringent storm-water management requirements. Yanoff said when the plan goes before township commissioners during the land development stage, the developer will have to make sure it is in full compliance with township code.
"They [commissioners] take a very aggressive approach to all of these issues," Yanoff said last month.
During Monday's meeting, zoning hearing board members said they took neighbors' concerns into consideration when rendering a decision.
"We've looked at this issue in depth, we heard a lot of testimony," said zoning board member George Dempster. "In my view, I think the [applicant] met their burden. I would be in favor of granting a special exception."
Zoning board member Leonard Karp acknowledged that not everyone is going to be pleased whenever a controversial issue such as this arises, "we recognize that." But he also said the zoning board has a set of rules to play by, and it cannot work outside of those boundaries, such as not granting a special exception just because a plan may be disliked by some.
Zoning Hearing Board Chairman Rodney Whitmire agreed, but added that the quasi-legislative body always does everything in its power to ensure that a building is conducive to the locale in which it is proposed to be built.
"What we can do is try to maintain the integrity of the neighborhood," he added.
The zoning hearing board granted the special exception based on the following provisions: the synagogue must be limited to a 100-seat capacity, there will be no future expansion or accessory uses, the parking area will be designed with a one-way interior traffic flow, nearby homes will be properly shielded from onsite lighting and drainage onto Fort Washington Avenue will be properly addressed.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

New Jewish congregation fills for holidays

Coty Dolores Miranda
SPECIAL FOR THE REPUBLIC
Sept. 22, 2006 12:00 AM

Jewish services will be held in Ahwatukee, Mesa and elsewhere in the East Valley today through Sunday for Rosh Hashana, which marks the Jewish New Year.

The local response has been overwhelming, said Rabbi Victor I. Beck, who moved to Ahwatukee from New York last March.

"It's hard to imagine, but eight weeks ago Congregation Eitz Chaim of Ahwatukee didn't even exist. It was merely an idea without so much as a name," he said, noting that because of limited seating, all tickets are gone for inaugural services at the Ahwatukee Foothills Prep School.

"We now have what could be considered an embarrassment of riches. We are rich in the number of Jewish families who have responded in such a positive manner," Beck said.

Weekend services in Ahwatukee will end Sunday at a local lake, where sins will be symbolically cast on the waters, the rabbi said.

"We've already begun to develop a full schedule of Sabbath and holiday services throughout the year, as well as various other ongoing programs to help the community grow and become more in touch with their Jewish heritage," Beck said.

Meanwhile, the congregation will continue its search for a permanent home, he said.

According to Beck, Ahwatukee has an estimated 800 Jewish residents, the majority of whom are unaffiliated with the two nearest synagogues: Temple Emanuel, a reform congregation in Tempe, and Temple Beth Shalom, a conservative congregation in Chandler.

In Mesa, the sound of a shofar, the symbolic ram's horn trumpet, will return for the first time in years as a Jewish-education group observes the High Holy Days.

Chabad of Arizona will hold Rosh Hashana services at the Mesa Convention Center.

Chabad officials said Mesa is a growing community, and residents responded enthusiastically when asked if they were interested in bringing the organization to the city.

Chabad received numerous calls and e-mails after sending out more than 5,000 mailings promoting the Rosh Hashana services to area residents, Rabbi Laibel Blotner said.

"Mesa is Arizona's third-largest city," said Blotner, who will conduct Chabad's services in the city. "And there's currently not one Jewish house of worship . . . anything that, really, Jews can identify with."

The services are likely the first to be held in Mesa since Temple Beth Sholom moved to Chandler in 2000.

"We're looking at the prospects of opening a Chabad center in Mesa," Blotner said. Rosh Hashana services also are being held by other groups in Chandler, Sun Lakes and Tempe.

Chabad is offering the Mesa services with prayers in Hebrew and English free of charge, and group membership is not required of participants.

Blotner said his wife, Gitty, would also conduct children's services during morning observances.

The children's services will include songs, refreshments, and arts and crafts projects, he added.



Arizona Republic reporter Brian Indrelunas contributed to this story.

A ‘boulder’ approach to art

by dan pine
staff writer

Drew Schnierow is not your typical rock star.

When a block of hewn calcite falls into his hands, Schnierow chisels it into a work of art.

The Marin County sculptor has just completed one of his biggest commissions yet, a ner tamid (eternal flame) for New York City’s West End Synagogue.

Schnierow doesn’t just carve stone. He illuminates it. Because of the bright orange hue of honeycomb calcite — his mineral of choice — he often hollows out spaces for a light source, either candle or electric. The results, as with the ner tamid, are brilliant. Literally.

“It’s the color,” he says of the calcite, which comes from a single Utah quarry. “When you cut it open, it looks like orange slices. You can carve it like marble, but it’s as soft as alabaster, the traditional stone used for lighting.”

The ner tamid is Schnierow’s first explicitly Jewish commission. Once landing the assignment, he saw his task as both mechanical and metaphysical. “The ner tamid is a channel that brings God’s energy into the congregation,” says the artist. “Making it look like a flame would have been man’s language. I had to find God’s language.”

The ner tamid is made of three freestanding pieces of stone mounted on a brass base. When lit, it glows like fire. Unfortunately, manmade light is not eternal. The LED bulb should take the synagogue through the next seven years before needing replacement.

With more than 25 lucrative commissions behind him, Schnierow is on his way to a place of prominence among local stone sculptors. Yet he’s only been doing this for four years.

Before that, the Los Angeles native had been a painter, a graphic artist, a Web designer and even a fashion designer. But stone sculpting, he says, has been “the most successful, both financially and in terms of my happiness. It is grueling though. Every day I’m covered in dust, I’m hammering, lifting. Every few days I ask ‘What am I doing?’”

That question went unanswered earlier in his life as Schnierow, 39, tried out various creative personas. Growing up in a Reform household in the San Fernando Valley, he went on to study business at Cal State Northridge. A summer drama class led him to try acting for a while (he once had a call-back for a Madonna video), but ultimately he attended NYU to earn a masters degree in painting.

In 2003, Schnierow moved to San Rafael to get away from the frenzy of big city life. “Obviously money’s important,” he says, “but a lot of the stuff society says is important, and the rules we’re supposed to follow, are not true for me. For most of my friends who stayed on the path they were told, there’s something missing.”

As for his Jewish connection, it remains strong. He describes himself as “110 percent Jewish. I’m like a tall unfunny Woody Allen.” And he can trace his family lineage back to the late Chabad Rebbe Menachem Schneerson (“My great-great uncle was his brother”), though he is not Orthodox.

As for the future, Schnierow expects to increase his commissions, and perhaps create a large-scale work someday: one a viewer can walk through, and solar powered, so that it stays lit at night, all night.

Those kind of outsized dreams may or may not be typical of other artists. But they certainly typify Schnierow. “I’m just wired a certain way,” he says. “I get visions and come up with all these ideas. The most important subject is God, the universe and how it is. I believe it’s time we all come together to find out what is God. I don’t think God is hiding.”


Playing with Picasa

Chabad Lubavitch
Sep 21, 2006 - 2 Photos

Jewisk Folklore Blog

Hello!
I just wanted to comment on the reading, discussion, and video about Chabad. I was thinking about how I feel about Chabad, what they do and their focus. Personally, I think that Chabad is good and is a positive group. The reason why is because one of their largest focus is outreach to Jewish people. But, because they also embrace other people of other religions I think speaks highly of the Chabad movement. Also, I was thinking about Chabad "missionizing" compared to Christian missionizing. Now, I don't know a lot about either Christian missionizing or Chabad for tha matter but, I do think that my opinions on this are valid. I see Chabad "missionizing" as being much more accepting than Christian missionizing because the lubavitch people are not trying to convert people from other religions into Judaism, they are just trying to bring Jews who are already Jewish BACK to Judaism (to strengthen their Judaism). Conversley, Christian missionaries try to get whoever they can to convert to Christianity. Also, it seems that the lubavitch people try to make Judaism inviting to the Jews, whereas among Christian missionies, from my experience, iseemt to try to, in a sense, FORCE you into Christianity (through Bible readings, etc.). I think there is an interesting comparison to speak of here because it is definately occurring.

To sum up my thoughts, I want to say that I do not mean to offend anyone by my comments, so please don't take offense. Also, to those Jews celebrating Rosh Hashannah...L'shanah Tova!! :)

Amber

Should High Holiday services be free?

Sue Fishkoff

It’s September, and the hunt is on among the young, the underemployed and the unaffiliated: How can I score tickets for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services without shelling out $1,000 or more for synagogue membership?
Many of these people end up at Chabad, which has built its reputation on a no-questions-asked, open-door policy. Other congregations, from Reform to Orthodox, have followed Chabad’s lead, inviting the unaffiliated to test the waters for free during the High Holidays. That’s what a Jewish community should do, these leaders argue—plus, it’s a great outreach opportunity, giving unaffiliated Jews a taste of what the congregation can offer year-round.
On the other hand, how can a synagogue maintain itself if it opens its doors for free on the only days of the year many Jews step inside? Isn’t that unfair to those members who faithfully pay dues? Many young Jews, in particular, don’t realize that these free tickets are meant to encourage affiliation---they just think the tickets are part of what a synagogue does. Doesn’t this encourage a lack of communal responsibility that runs counter to basic Jewish values?

F-358 Chabad

Observations of student apparently taking a class on Judaism...

Chabad is an organization that has not always seemed to fit right. While I agree with what they are doing by sending shalichim to different parts of the world where there are small Jewish communities that may need some help in finding a Jewish identity part of there theology just seems a little off. One line in the Fishkoff article was very hard for me to get past and changed my perception greatly. “chabad’s refusal to recognize non-orthodox Jewish denominations…” This statement really upsets me a lot. It just seems to me that the schalichim are being completely hypocritical. They are saying they don’t want to “convert” Jews to being in the chabad movement, yet don’t recognize them as being Jewish. It just doesn’t make sense. The article also talked about how the shalisim would not go into the homes of the community they were living in since according to chabad beliefs they did not follow a strict enough Judaism. Personally if some one was trying to teach be to be Jewish yet would no come to my home would be a huge insult and I would be very turned off by them. This is not to say that I am completely against what chabad is. I think I would enjoy the spirituality of their services and the life they bring to Judaism. It is great their love for the religion yet I disagree with how they are trying to get other Jewish people to be more Jewish.

Rabbi's Shabbat dinners serve as place for Jewish singles to mingle, connect

By Jessica Scarpati/ Staff Writer
Thursday, September 21, 2006

David Schimmel is sick of the bar scene.
You can't carry a conversation in a packed nightclub and those "singles events" are just awkward sometimes, said Schimmel, 36.
"Let's face it, most of us are looking for somebody to get married to," he said. "I just don't enjoy the bar scene. It's not as conducive to me for having genuine conversation."
That's exactly why you might find Schimmel among 25 other local and mostly single Jews noshing and schmoozing Friday nights on Marion Street with Rabbi Mayshe Schwartz.
"I'm looking to meet a Jewish girl - not that they wouldn't be at a bar," he explains. "But this is obviously a little more spiritual ... this is more natural."
Schwartz, who holds free Shabbat dinners for different age groups at his second-floor walkup, doesn't deny some matchmaking may take place, but calls it an unintended consequence.
"We're not a dating service," said Schwartz, whose home is also the heart of the Chabad Chai Center. "But we want to perpetuate the three endangered species of the world: whales, seals and Jews."
Schwartz, who said he met his wife, Shifra, at a friend's Shabbat table, said he often receives subtle inquiries after his dinners from guests trying to get the lowdown on potential mates.
"I have phone calls and e-mails all the time, 'What was the name of that person at Shabbos? Is he available? Is she available?'" he recalled. "It happens on its own, and I think that's the magic of it."
Something else sets Schwartz apart from other local rabbis - besides inadvertently becoming a dating liaison. At his dinners celebrating the Sabbath, there are no religious services.
"That's shocking to a lot of people," he said, pointing out there is still spiritual discussion.
In tune with the Chabad sect of Judaism that focuses more on all-inclusive religious study than worship inside a synagogue, Schwartz said he also introduced another rarity to Brookline: zero membership fees and free High Holiday services.
"It wasn't to undercut the market," he explained. "It was clearly to attract these people who feel, 'Why should I pay to pray?'"
Schwartz said he will ring in the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashana, this Friday night at the Longwood Club with a twist - he will host more than 200 singles in what he bills as "the only party geared primarily toward singles being hosted by a temple or [Jewish] organization in all of Brookline."
Schwartz plans a similar outreach for the Yom Kippur holiday, Sunday, Oct. 1, to move services from the traditional setup to a format he calls more "digestible."
"Most people have these preconceived notions of what goes on in a synagogue or a temple, and the idea to them is scary," he said. "There's a certain commitment, an unwavering commitment to God and to religion, and that's very heavy ... you have to get there 'yiddle by yiddle.'"
Although the meet market aspect of Schwartz's events is no secret, it comes with some history. The Los Angeles native said he and his father, also a rabbi, helped jumpstart jdate.com, a popular Jewish dating Web site, in 1997.
"The idea came from two entrepreneur Israeli guys [who] would come to [my father's Friday night] parties," he said. "We handed them, for free, the names of 5,000 [Jewish] singles."
Schimmel, originally from Newton, said he has gone out with women he met at Schwartz's dinners but clarified he isn't there just to score phone numbers.
"It's not a singles thing," he said, but adds the casual setting does help. "This is much more homey, so it's a different feel. There's less pressure."
Another regular of Schwartz's dinners, Paul Resnek, 30, said meeting women isn't his main agenda, but welcomes the idea.
"It's not like you're going on speed dating for Jews," said Resnek, a certified public accountant who lives on Beacon Street. "But it's on anyone's mind if you're at an event where there are girls."
More important to Resnek, he said, is the social atmosphere and the chance to enjoy the Shabbat rituals under Schwartz's leadership.
"I'm not particularly religious, but I respect people who are," Resnek said. "You feel so welcome there though. It's like showing up is doing him a favor."
Jessica Scarpati can be reached at jscarpat@cnc.com.

Torah, Torah, Torah!

Chabad Lubavitch of Alexandria-Arlington gets its own holy text.

After more than a year of careful calligraphy, the Chabad Lubavitch of Alexandria-Arlington finally has its own Sefer Torah. The last letters of the handwritten document were scripted in a special ceremony at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center before it was paraded in a grand procession to the Courtyard Marriott Pentagon South on Sept. 16.

“We like to call it the Chabad Marriott,” joked Rabbi Mardechai Newman, director of the Chabad Lubavitch of Alexandria-Arlington.

Because the congregation usually has an overflow crowd during the high holy days, its members need a large venue to hold special ceremonies. That is why the newly finished Torah was taken to the Marriott, where the book will hold a central place of significance.

“This Torah is a link in a holy and eternal chain reaching all the way back to Mount Sinai and up to the 21st century,” said Rabbi Newman.

One by one, members of the Chabad Lubavitch community participated in writing sections of the sacred text — the central document of Judaism revered by Jews through the ages. Children sang “Torah, Torah, Torah” as it was completed, initiating an afternoon of joyous dancing and celebrations.

“People from the Holocaust did not have the privilege of doing this,” said Rebecca Johnson. “Germany just got its first rabbi since the Holocaust this week.”

Johnson said that the Chabad Lubavitch was a welcoming Jewish community, warmly embracing a wide variety of congregants. She said that she was especially impressed by its women’s group — led by the rabbi’s wife — that taught about Jewish traditions, Kosher cooking and holiday celebrations.

“She tries to teach Jewish women the rituals and traditions that we need to know to be a better Jewess,” Johnson said. “Education is an important part of this community."

ACCORDING TO JEWISH LAW, a Sefer Torah is written with a quill pen on a special kind of parchment called gevil or qlaf. Its production is one of the 613 commandments. Written entirely in Hebrew, the document contains 304,805 Hebrew letters with 42 lines of text per column. The parchment is treated with salt, flour and m’afatsim — a residue of wasp enzyme and tree bark. Because of the strict rules governing its creation, any error during its inscription renders the Torah invalid.

“The Torah leads us to Israel, the Jewish state and the Jewish state of mind,” said Jerome Chapman in an address to Chabad Lubavitch congregants. “If we can’t be in Israel, let us make sure that Israel is in us.”

The Alexandria Police Department and the city government worked with Chabad Lubavitch to shut down several streets on Sunday afternoon for the procession. Festive music blared as congregants danced around the sacred document. When they arrived at the Marriot, community members enjoyed a Kosher feast and visited with their Jewish friends.

"I have a lot of emotions about this,” said Johnson. “I’m happy but also angry that others didn’t have this privilege. I think it’s wonderful that we live in a place where we have the freedom to do this.”

Jewish bikers raise $35,000 for school

A Toronto Jewish motorcycle club raised $35,000 for a Tennessee school that collected millions of paper clips in memory of the Holocaust.

Sandra Roberts, the Whitwell Middle School’s principal, appeared last week with Sid Rochwerg, founder of the motorcycle club, in an event sponsored by Chabad-Lubavitch.

Students at the school decided in 1998 to collect 6 million paper clips to help them understand the magnitude of the Holocaust, and they began receiving paper clips from all over the world as word of their mission spread.

The project attracted media attention and was the subject of a documentary film.

Rochwerg, a child of Holocaust survivors who founded the motorcycle club Yidden on Wheels, led a contingent of 70 riders from Toronto to the school in May. Hundreds of other Jewish bikers converged on the town at the same time.

Challah challenge

This traditional bread brings blessings to the home, even if it doesn't tun out perfectly.

BY SHARYN LONSDALE

CORRESPONDENT
Rivka Schmerling grew up in Brooklyn with a grandmother who would bake challah for everyone. If they needed more, they could walk to a bakery down the block.

Schmerling, 23, started the Chabad of Venice and North Port with her husband, Rabbi Sholom Schmerling, in 2005. As host of holiday and Sabbath dinners often for more than a dozen people, Schmerling had no access to a kosher bakery and no choice but to start baking the traditional Jewish yeast bread.

She soon found out it wasn't as easy as Grandma made it look to produce a bread rich with eggs and a light, airy texture.

Schmerling admits several "challah mishaps" resulting in bread she would have preferred not to serve to company. She was hoping for better luck when she taught a challah-baking workshop at her home last week to 13 women, including Ann Wacholder of Warm Mineral Springs, me and my teenage daughters.

I knew baking challah would be a particular challenge for me. My previous bread-baking experiences have resulted in a too-sour sourdough, paperweight pumpernickel and friendship bread that I wouldn't serve to my worst enemy.

Wacholder, who grew up in Brooklyn and whose grandmother, she says, "was a phenomenal challah baker," is right there with me. "I'm a great cook, lousy baker," she said.

But the memories of fresh-baked challah at the holidays were enough to draw us avowed nonbakers to the workshop.

This was the first experience baking challah for most of us. Instead of mixing bowls, we mixed our dough in dishwashing tubs, the way Schmerling's grandmother made her dough. To give us a fighting chance, Schmerling got the water to the right temperature to activate the yeast, the key to a happy challah.

"If the yeast comes out good, you've got a good challah; if not, so sorry," she said with a smile.

I was relieved when my tub started foaming up, but things weren't going as well for Helga Melmed of Venice. "It just sat there," she said as she dumped out her tub and started all over.

Wacholder and others chose whole-wheat flour for their challah. The secret to this, says Schmerling, is using flour with wheat gluten to keep the challah from getting "heavy as a rock."

Into the yeast mixture went all the other ingredients, including what seemed like an entire 5-pound bag of flour. Then we put on our plastic gloves to knead the dough.

Well, most of us did. Beth Campbell of North Port brought her 11-year-old daughter, Stephanie, to the workshop, but Stephanie wasn't up to sinking her hands into the sticky ball of dough, despite her mom's insistence that the process was "a lot of fun."

My own daughters were all for a bit of dough smackdown. We kneaded, punched, added flour, and more or less guessed when we thought the dough was ready.

Then we bagged it up while Schmerling told us of the history and importance of the woman's role of baking challah. Now it seemed even more crucial that I didn't fail Challah 101.

But back at our station, it appeared that the dough had not risen to the occasion. Comparing it to other mounds, we thought ours seemed small. Sensing my alarm, Schmerling came to check out our dough. "It feels heavy," she said, adding, "It might be OK," after she saw "another bread disaster" written all over my face.

Gamely, we attempted to braid the challah, which by the way, is not nearly as easy as I thought it would be. We also made a round loaf to freeze for Rosh Hashana, when challah is traditionally round to signify the cycle of the new year.

As we drove home, the car smelled like a bakery on wheels and when I saw that the loaves had risen more, I was almost optimistic.

We decided to pop our best loaf in the oven, but I took one look and knew that nobody outside the immediate family would ever taste it. The bread looked nothing like golden brown loaves I remember from my childhood, let alone the ones I've picked up at my supermarket bakery.

Things got worse when I attempted to move the two other unbaked loaves onto a baking sheet and they instantly deflated. But it turns out I wasn't the only one with challah problems.

"It came out of the oven flat as a pancake," said Wacholder on the phone the next day. "It tasted like nice whole-wheat bread, flat whole-wheat bread but edible."

Melmed said she left her challah overnight on the counter, and "when I woke up in the morning it was one big glob." She rebraided it, even getting a few extra rolls out of the dough. The result: "It tastes very good, but it's very heavy," Melmed said.

"Some weeks it comes out better than others. Most people, to get a perfect challah, it takes them a few times," said Schmerling, as I recounted our tales of bread gone bad. However, she said, that should not stop us from trying again. She believes that when it comes to challah, it's the process and not the product. Light or heavy, soft or chewy, it's more than a tradition. "It's a mitzvah," said Schmerling, referring to the rituals and ceremony of baking challah. "It brings a lot of blessings to the home."

Hollywood rejects attempt to name park after Oliveri

By Ihosvani Rodriguez
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

September 21, 2006

Hollywood · Despite being at the center of one the most controversial issues in the city's history, City Commissioner Sal Oliveri is considered by many living in the Hollywood Hills area as their neighborhood champion.

But the majority of Oliveri's fellow commissioners were not ready Wednesday to name the area's first park after him. Commissioners rejected a request made by a group of Hollywood Hills residents to name the yet-to-be constructed park after Oliveri.

At the same time, the commission also rejected an opposing movement to name it after the late Hollywood Mayor Maynard Abrams.

After much debate and several emotional speeches, the commission unanimously opted for a more neutral name: Veterans Park. Hollywood Hills residents suggested the name as an alternative.

The newly named park is near the intersection of 46th Avenue and Tyler Street, at the heart of Oliveri's district.

Hovering above the naming controversy is the six-year saga involving Oliveri's efforts to oust an Orthodox Jewish synagogue from a Hollywood Hills neighborhood last year.

The Hollywood Hills Civic Association wanted to name the park after Oliveri, who has lived in the city for four decades. He also is a former mayor and a popular neighborhood activist.

But others remain upset over Oliveri's battle with Chabad Lubavitch. His actions led to a federal discrimination lawsuit, which the city ultimately settled with Chabad, paying the synagogue $2 million.

The Chabad issue bitterly divided the city as the federal case dragged on for almost six years.

At the height of the ordeal last year, Commissioner Fran Russo applied to have the park named after Abrams. At the time, Russo lauded Abrams for being the first Jewish official to hold public office in the city. Abrams died in 1992.

Naming parks after people who are still alive is not unusual in Hollywood: Mayor Mara Giulianti and Commissioner Cathy Anderson have city parks named for them.

On Wednesday, about a dozen Hollywood Hills residents, including Oliveri's daughter, took turns extolling Oliveri as a public servant. And while most said they respected Abrams, they argued opponents were using politics and religion as thinly veiled dividing points.

"The commission is taking [Abrams and his family's] religion as a pawn," said the civic group's president, Christine DeMinico.

Giulianti denied the issue was about politics or religion. She said she was vehemently opposed to Oliveri because of pastpolitical battles she said ventured into personal attacks.

"There were very horrendous things that occurred to me personally and my family," she said, on the verge of tears. "I can't do this. I can't."

Oliveri said he would be honored to have the park named after him. He found it puzzling the issue stirred up so much emotion.

"It's beyond me that commissioners find it so ... difficult to name a park after a fellow commissioner," he said. "Why is that so painful?"

In the end, Oliveri supporters didn't have enough votes on the commission. Their request needed a 5-2 majority to pass, but the mayor, Russo and Commissioner Keith Wasserstrom voted against it.

Pointing to the wounds left on the city by the Chabad issue, local activist Ed Tobey was the first Wednesday night to publicly push for a neutral name.

"I don't think we need any more yelling or any more hatred," he said. "We've been through a lot."

Oliveri joined his colleagues in voting for Veterans Park.

Ihosvani Rodriguez can be reached at ijrodriguez@sun-sentinel.com or 954-385-7908.

Copyright © 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Israelis Seek Shelter with Chabad

Tibor Krausz
JTA Wire Service

SEPTEMBER 20, 2006
Bangkok

As more than a dozen tanks were encircling Thailand's Parliament building in a military coup d'etat, hundreds of Israeli backpackers were seeking shelter in the local Chabad House a mile orso away.

The four-story establishment on Khao San Road, Bangkok's famous backpacker district popular withyoung Israelis, generally pulls down its shutters after 10 p.m. On Tuesday, though, it stayed open well into the night.

Hearing rumors of an impending coup in the late afternoon, Rabbi Nehemya Wilhelm began warning Jews andIsraelis to stay off the streets.

At around 7 p.m., "a Singaporean friend called to tell me that a large convoy of tanks and armored vehicleswere heading toward Bangkok," Wilhelm said.

For weeks, Thai media have been rife with speculation that several disgruntled army generals might attempt to stage a coup against the beleaguered prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Although Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai, or Thais Love Thais, party won by a landslide in elections last year,persistent allegations of corruption have severely dented his populist appeal, especially in the capital. Earlier thisyear, mass protests calling for his resignation rocked the capital for weeks on end.

Tuesday evening, at least 14 tanks and several armored vehicles with machine guns mounted on top closedoff the avenues leading to Parliament. All local television stations went off the air.

The situation remained peaceful, however, as drowsy soldiers idled around their tanks and Humvees. Afew curious onlookers braved the drizzle to take photographs.

No sooner did CNN and BBC start broadcasting pictures of the unfolding military takeover in Bangkokthan frantic parents in Israel began calling Chabad House on Khao San Road.

"Interestingly, they seemed to know more about the situation back in Israel than we did in Bangkok,"Wilhelm said.

By midnight the normally rowdy backpacker strip was deserted, with bars and restaurants all closed. Inside Chabad House, dozens of Israelis were searching the Internet for international news of the situation unfolding onlya couple of miles away.

"It's ironic that we should come all this way from tanks and guns in Israel only to end up in this balagan," or craziness, said Uri, a 24-year-old traveler from Tel Aviv.

He then typed an e-mail to reassure friends and relatives back home that he was safe.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Lubavitch assumes high profile at U.N.

I can speak for a movement with an energetic, ongoing presence in 73 countries,” said Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Chabad’s envoy in Washington, who organized the Tharoor meeting and is spearheading the effort to establish a permanent Chabad presence at the United Nations.

Ron Kampeas/JTA

WASHINGTON, Sept. 18 (JTA) - As the U.N. General Assembly opens, diplomats vying to be the world’s top peacekeeper are taking the time to consult with a group that has emerged as a critical constituency: American Jewish leaders.

At least three of the favored candidates to replace Kofi Annan as U.N. secretary-general have met in recent months with leaders of the U.S. Jewish groups that routinely deal with the United Nations, JTA has learned.

“It’s a recognition that we’re part of the equation and the political calculus,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, who acknowledged “several” meetings with prospective candidates.

“It’s clear that no candidate can win without the support of the five permanent members, and there is thinking that American Jewry would have some impact on the thinking of the United States.”

The United States, Russia, France, China and Britain are the five permanent members wielding veto power on the U.N. Security Council, the body that recommends a candidate for secretary-general to the General Assembly for confirmation.

The casting call comes because Kofi Annan’s term lapses at the end of this year, and Jewish leaders are considering the disappointments of his term as well as its highlights.

Many of the issues that characterized the last part of Annan’s 10-year term — the Iranian nuclear threat, the aftermath of the Lebanon war and the prospect of reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks — will feature high on the Jewish agenda the week that world leaders arrive to address the General Assembly during its opening session.

“We want to gauge the international mood toward Israel post-summer conflict and get a sense of whether there’s any traction of rumors of resumption of peace talks,” said Harris, who said his organization planned 60 meetings with world leaders this week and next. “We’ll be talking about the challenges of anti-Semitism.”

After two Africans in the job - Annan is from Ghana and his predecessor, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, was from Egypt - the assumption is that an Asian will now get the position.

Of the declared candidates, Shashi Tharoor, a U.N. undersecretary-general backed by his native India, and Surakiart Sathirathai, Thailand’s deputy prime minister, have met with Jewish groups.

Another candidate, Ban Ki-Moon, South Korea’s foreign minister, has also met with Jewish leaders and is in the process of setting up a second meeting, and Jewish groups have strong ongoing relations with another candidate, Prince Zeid al-Hussein, Jordan’s envoy to the body.

Community leaders were loath to endorse a particular candidate, but Tharoor at least made a favorable impression.

“We should take him seriously as a candidate,” said Shai Franklin, director of international organizations at the World Jewish Congress. “He was instrumental in putting the Holocaust on the U.N. agenda.”

The 2005 commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and subsequent Holocaust memorials, are counted among the highs of Annan’s time at the United Nations.

Lows include Annan’s failure to directly confront Iran’s leaders on their Holocaust denial and what is perceived as his eagerness to rush to blame Israel for civilian casualties in its recent war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

“We wanted to make him understand how the community felt, how important the U.N. was in dealing with Israel issues, and some of the disappointment we felt in the past in how the United Nations could have dealt with those issues,” Jess Hordes, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Washington office, said of the Sept. 7 meeting with Tharoor.

The ADL has virtually cut off Annan because of his statements during the war with Hezbollah.

Another disappointment is the Human Rights Council that Annan initiated. It replaced the stridently anti-Israel Human Rights Commission, but if anything, in its first three months the new body has been even more persistent in criticizing Israel, a problem Annan himself has acknowledged.

“Right out of the box it went back to business as usual,” said Dan Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, who also attended the meeting with Tharoor.

“I tell diplomats, ‘Because you all go along with these resolutions, you raise expectations from Palestinians and alienate Israel. From a standpoint of making the system work, you’re not accomplishing anything.’ ”

Such concerns were shared by the United States.

The secretary-general “doesn’t represent a national government, and so the important thing is that we have a leader who’s going to help make the U.N. an effective organization in supporting democracy-promotion efforts and in defending human rights,” Kristen Silverberg, assistant secretary of state for international organizations, said last week.

“We’ve been disappointed, really profoundly disappointed, by the quality of the resolutions that are coming out of the Human Rights Council,” Silverberg continued. “We think they have an unconstructive focus on Israel, and that they really need to turn their attention to some of the key human rights problems in the world.”

In a straw poll conducted by the 15-member Security Council last week, Ban of South Korea came first, followed by Tharoor of India and Sathirathai of Thailand.

Jordan’s Hussein came a distant fourth because, according to insiders, he is an Arab who has warm ties with Israel — an outcome that underscored reluctance in the Jewish community to reveal recent meetings with candidates.

In fifth place came Jayantha Dhanapala, the top U.N. disarmament official, from Sri Lanka. A dark horse not on last week’s ballot is Chan Heng Chee, Singapore’s ambassador to the United States. U.S. officials reportedly favor her because, among other reasons, she would be the first woman in the job.

Tharoor’s meeting with Jewish leaders in Washington was organized by Chabad-Lubavitch, representing another development in the evolving U.N.-Jewish relationship.

The fervently Orthodox outreach group recently has assumed a high profile at the United Nations, and is interviewing for staff to deal full time with the world body.

“I can speak for a movement with an energetic, ongoing presence in 73 countries,” said Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Chabad’s envoy in Washington, who organized the Tharoor meeting and is spearheading the effort to establish a permanent Chabad presence at the United Nations.

Chabad’s participation is the latest signal that the movement, which for years shunned mainstream Jewish alliances, is now forging them.

Officials at other organizations said Chabad and the United Nations made a natural match because of Chabad’s permanent presence in nations that otherwise lack any Jewish presence.

“Chabad has an effective international network of Jews,” said the WJC’s Franklin.

Mariaschin of B’nai B’rith International said the more Jewish organizations involved at the United Nations, the merrier.

“We’re such a small community, and it’s a big world out there,” he said.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS: CHABAD; JEWISH; LUBAVITCH; NATIONS; UNITED

1 posted on 09/19/2006 7:55:48 PM PDT by familyop

To: SJackson; Alouette

Ping.

2 posted on 09/19/2006 7:56:32 PM PDT by familyop

To: 1st-P-In-The-Pod; A_Conservative_in_Cambridge; af_vet_rr; agrace; albyjimc2; Alexander Rubin; ...
The fervently Orthodox outreach group recently has assumed a high profile at the United Nations, and is interviewing for staff to deal full time with the world body.

FRmail me to be added or removed from this Judaic/pro-Israel/Russian Jewry ping list.

Warning! This is a high-volume ping list.
3 posted on 09/19/2006 8:00:55 PM PDT by Alouette (Psalms of the Day: 119: 97-176)

To: Alouette

Good for Chabad! Again at the vanguard when something important needs to be done.

4 posted on 09/19/2006 8:11:02 PM PDT by Seeing More Clearly Now

To: familyop; Alouette
I think I can understand why CHaBa"D wants to have a presence at the UN (after all, the Vatican does), but I don't see it really resulting in much positive change in an organization that is essentially irredeemable due to the flawed secularist philosophy (ie, that "world peace" will ever come about without the universal triumph of HaShem or by mere talks among people of every religion and no religion).

I don't understand CHaBa"D wanting to join in alliances with non-Orthodox Jewish groups. Doesn't this go against the Rebbe's teachings?
5 posted on 09/19/2006 8:27:33 PM PDT by Zionist Conspirator (Vayehi `erev, vayehi voqer--Yom Shelishi!)

To: familyop
The only potentially good news here is that Kofi Annon is reportedly leaving at the end of year.

These "Jewish leaders" are wasting their time and energy in cozying up to the UN, which has no interest as an organization in anything of import to the Jewish community, most specifically the security of Israel.
6 posted on 09/19/2006 9:12:05 PM PDT by justiceseeker93

To: Seeing More Clearly Now
Good for Chabad! Again at the vanguard when something important needs to be done.

What exactly needs to be done that's important and that the UN is likely to do? Zilch!
7 posted on 09/19/2006 9:16:22 PM PDT by justiceseeker93

To: Zionist Conspirator
I don't understand CHaBa"D wanting to join in alliances with non-Orthodox Jewish groups.

I think it is more that the non-Orthodox groups want to join in alliances with Chabad.
8 posted on 09/20/2006 2:55:26 AM PDT by Alouette (Psalms of the Day: 120-134)