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The Jewish Herald-Voice newspaper is the only recognized source of Jewish news in Houston, Texas, the Houston area and along the Texas Gulf Coast, in print and online. Distinguished as being the oldest (since 1908) Jewish newspaper in the Southwest.
Updated: 1 hour 51 min ago

Film screening aims to make Holocaust education accessible for young families

Wed, 10/17/2018 - 10:48am
....Holocaust educators are using a documentary film to help parents teach family history and lessons of the Holocaust to their young children. On Sunday, Oct. 28, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., Holocaust Museum Houston and Houston Holocaust Survivors & Descendants are hosting a film screening at HMH of the HBO documentary, "The Number on Great-Grandpa's Arm." Afterward, the museum's education department will facilitate group discussions and provide tools for families to continue the conversations at home. The program is open to children, ages 7 to 13, and their families. "The Number on Great-Grandpa's Arm" is an 18-minute film, created for young audiences as a "gentile introduction" to the Holocaust. It features a conversation between a 10-year-old boy and his 90-year-old great-grandfather, who is an Auschwitz survivor. The exchange is braided together with historical footage and animation to share a story of Jewish life in Eastern Europe before, during and after the Holocaust. Lisa Stanton worked with Tobi Cooper, Elyse Kalmans, Alisha Klapholz and Alberta Totz to organize the film screening at HMH, after seeing it with her own young children. Stanton described the film as "a wonderful tool to initiate a meaningful discussion about what their great-grandparents endured as survivors." "Personally, it's so important for me as a third-generation survivor to make sure my own children keep their grandparents' legacy alive and be able to eventually speak about it and become advocates against hate and atrocities of any kind," Stanton told the JHV. "I hope the program will present other kids with the same opportunity as watching the film provided mine, in sparking a dialogue about the Holocaust and its lessons," she said. Tobi Cooper, a second-generation survivor and chair of Houston Holocaust Survivors & Descendants, said Holocaust education for young people has evolved over time. When she was a kid, Holocaust education focused on the horrors of that time period, she noted. As a result, there was a reluctance by parents and educators to teach children, under the age of 13, about the Holocaust. Decades later, Holocaust education shifted focus on using lessons of the Holocaust to teach empathy and to show how the past is relevant to the present and future. "We don't want to traumatize little kids," Cooper told the JHV. "But, we want to make them aware of who they are and what their history is." Cooper said it's important for young people to learn that the Holocaust isn't just a history of 6 million Jewish lives that were lost. Each individual's story is unique, she said. "In considering different ways to talk to our children and grandchildren about the Holocaust, today, we can focus on how we treat other people - that we always have to treat other people with respect," Cooper said. "I think those are very important lessons that any age can learn." Dr. Mary Lee Webeck is HMH's director of Education. She said it's important for young children to have a safe place to ask questions about the Holocaust and to learn about experiences that family members and other survivors have had. "One of the takeaways we're hoping families have from this program is the understanding that survivors are people with stories and lives that extend far beyond their experiences during the Holocaust," Webeck told the JHV. "There are ways that this story can be introduced to children, not in the full depth in its depravity and darkness, but through personal stories, like the one shared in this film, that focus on what a survivor did after the Holocaust," she said. "Those are things that make him a person to a child." By learning about the Holocaust through personal stories, young children, today, can learn empathy, according to HMH. "We want young children to think about what it means to take care of other people, and what it means to hurt other people," Webeck said. "The Number on Great-Grandpa's Arm" also reveals how the Holocaust remains relevant to future generations, according to Alyssa Weinstein-Sears, HMH's Learning Experiences manager. "This film opens a window toward making sure that students not only build empathy, but making sure they understand how relevant this history is and how important it is to affecting change in the present and in the future," Weinstein-Sears said. After viewing the film, Stanton said her own children were prompted to call their "Bubbie" and ask her questions about her experiences in Auschwitz. "I believe that is a conversation they will never forget," Stanton said. "Really, that's the point and hope of this program - that another generation of children have a way to connect to this sad time in our history, to engage with older generations and learn their insights about this dark time, and to commit to never forgetting the lessons they learn," Stanton said. To participate in HMH's film screening and discussion of "The Number on Great-Grandpa's Arm," sign up at Holocaust Museum Houston is located at 9220 Kirby Dr., Suite 100.

'Great Challah Bake' to strengthen unity, community

Thu, 10/11/2018 - 10:40am
....Houston is participating in a global challah bake. The Great Big Houston Challah Bake will take place Thursday, Oct. 18, at the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC, 5601 S. Braeswood Blvd, beginning at 7 p.m. More than 900 cities in 75 countries around the world are hosting community challah bakes this year, in an effort to braid together Jewish women of all backgrounds. "Challah is a special mitzvah just for women," said Avigayil Helprin, who is coordinating Houston's event with Michal Jacknin, Tzivia Weiss and a host committee. "We want to show people how special it can be together with so many women and, of course, delicious!" Helprin told the JHV. Organizers are expecting some 500 Houstonians - women and girls - to participate in the bake. Participants will learn how to make and braid challah, and will enjoy dancing, light refreshments and opportu-nities to build and strengthen community, according to the program. Chabad emissary Kesem Mia Hetsrony will speak about "the beauty of the special mitzvah of challah." The 2018 event will be the third time Houston has taken part in global challah bakes. Organizers are hoping to build on the success of previous efforts. "The Great Houston Challah Bake in 2016 was a smashing success," Helprin said. "It was a night of unity between all Jewish women from all affiliations, coming together to learn how to make and braid challah. "We are hoping to achieve the same goal this year, so please come again and bring all your friends," she said. "It's an uplifting, inspirational and fun night out. We look forward to seeing you there!" The event is open to all Jewish women and girls over the age of 8. Mothers are encouraged to bring their daughters. To sign up, visit For more information, email [email protected].

Emery football undefeated entering district play

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 1:08pm
....The Emery/Weiner School came into the 2018 football season with an expanded roster and some rare depth that new coach Jason Reimers was excited to put into action. That strength was on full display Oct. 4, when the Jaguars took on High Island at Helfman Field. Senior quarterback Josh Strauss threw five touchdowns to five different receivers in the 59-14 win over the Cardinals. The victory kept the Jaguars (5-0) undefeated as they begin their TAPPS Division I, District 3 schedule Oct. 11. EWS will host Giddings State School at 7:30 p.m., at Helfman Field. "So far, so good," Reimers said. "We had a big crowd out with the stands packed for homecoming. You can definitely feel the energy. We've had some nice pep rallies, and fans are excited." EWS began the season with big wins over Azle Christian, Alpha Omega, Brazosport Christian, Lakeland Christian and High Island. The Jaguars scored 49 or more points in four of the wins. The Jaguars have used speed to their advantage, but also matched the physicality of other teams. The Jaguars have been led by Strauss, who has completed 49 of 73 passes for 899 yards and 16 touchdowns and no interceptions. "We set ourselves up for early-season success with our hard work in the offseason," Strauss said. "Now, we are seeing it pay off, as we have continued to work hard every day this season. "Knowing it is our [senior year], we just want to leave everything on the field. We don't want to look back at this season knowing we could've worked harder or done more. We also want to set a good standard for the younger kids and leave this program in good hands." Senior Sam Kasser has been his top target with 14 catches for 265 yards and three touchdowns. "The key has just been focusing on each day, individually, and not getting too far ahead of ourselves," Kasser said. "Also we just come out and try to work hard each day and focus on winning each day." Freshman Leo Gerst has also hauled in six catches for 197 yards and three touchdowns, while senior Troy Hayes has caught nine balls for 174 yards and five touchdowns. Mitchell Robbins has led the way on the ground with 217 yards and four scores, while Austin Smith, who has been battling a foot injury, has 123 yards and five touchdowns. Robbins also leads the way defensively with 53 tackles and six sacks, while senior Simon Gerst follows with 41 tackles and seven sacks. "The key to the early season success has been the brotherhood we have built together," Robbins said. "We are all so close with each other that we really do see each other as brothers. "Once we started strapping up for games, we realized we had to go out there and fight for each other. We don't let brothers down." EWS will open district play with three straight home games, following Giddings with games against San Antonio Lutheran (Oct. 20) and Logos Prep (Oct. 27). "District is a whole different animal," Robbins said. "Harder hits, all effort is given, the games are more intense. We just need to keep grinding everyday. We all understand the importance of these games. It's time to step it up another notch." The Jaguars will finish the district schedule with road games against San Antonio Castle Hills (Nov. 3) and Katy Faith West (Nov. 10). "The district schedule is kind of like the third phase of our season," Reimers said. "First, we had camp and preseason, then we had non-district. We mastered all of those, but the challenges will definitely increase now. These are the games that will determine everything going forward. "We are 5-0, so we are going to get people's best punch," Reimers said. "We've already topped last year's win total, but we want to maximize our potential, see how far we can go and peak at the right time."

Nikki Haley, fierce defender of Israel, resigns as US ambassador to the UN

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 5:09pm
....NEW YORK - Nikki Haley, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations and a strong defender of Israel in the world body, will leave her post by the end of this year. President Donald Trump in an Oval Office appearance with Haley on Tuesday morning praised the former South Carolina governor and said that about six months ago, she told him that she was ready to leave by the end of this year. "She's a fantastic person, very importantly, but she's also somebody that gets it," Trump said. Haley, a moderate on Trump's foreign policy team, had a warm relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who frequently praised her for criticizing what she saw as bias against the Jewish state at the U.N. The most consequential actions she took had to do with Israel: She pulled out of UNESCO, the United Nations cultural affiliate, and pushed for the defunding of UNRWA, the agency that administers assistance to Palestinian refugees and their descendants. She threw a party for countries that did not vote to condemn the United States for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Haley at the Oval Office event said Trump earned international respect by delivering on his warnings, including on Iran and Israel. "They get it when the president says he means business," she said. "If you look at the anti-Israel bias and the strength and courage the president showed in moving the embassy" to Jerusalem. She especially praised Jared Kushner, Trump's Jewish son-in-law. "Jared is a hidden genius that no one understands," she said. Haley recently joined Kushner in shaping his Middle East peace proposal, which no one outside the small team has seen. "It is so unbelievably well done," she said of the proposal. Ivanka Trump, Kushner's wife and Trump's daughter, returned the compliment on Twitter. "She is a bold reformer and has been an unwavering champion of truth, principled realism and integrity within the United Nations," Ivanka Trump said on Twitter. "Jared and I are grateful for her friendship - a true blessing in our lives!" Haley was a star in the center-right pro-Israel community, consistently earning the loudest plaudits at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference. "Her departure was unanticipated and took the pro-Israel community by surprise," Matt Brooks, the Republican Jewish Coalition CEO, said on Twitter. "Stunned and shocked by the surprise resignation of @nikkihaley as UN Amb. She was a consequential and impactful force at the UN." She was the rare Trump Cabinet official who earned praise from Democrats. "I want to thank Ambassador Haley for her willingness to express moral clarity to the world and to President Trump, and promote American values and leadership on the global stage, even when she lacked the backing of the White House or State Department," Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., a pro-Israel leader in the party, said in a statement. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement thanked Haley "for leading an uncompromising struggle against the hypocrisy of the UN and for the truth and justice of our country." Haley downplayed reports of tensions between her and Trump. Born to immigrants from India, she comes from the wing of the Republican Party that favors a robust interventionist foreign policy, while Trump is an isolationist. Haley condemned another senior aide who favored foreign policy interventionism and expressed opposition to Trump in an anonymous op-ed in The New York Times last month. "If I disagree with something and believe it is important enough to raise with the president, I do it," Haley wrote in her own op-ed in The Washington Post. "And he listens. Sometimes he changes course, sometimes he doesn't. That's the way the system should work." The Washington scuttlebutt at the time was that Haley published the op-ed to squash rumors that she had written the original anonymous op-ed in The Times. It may have backfired; there were reports that Trump resented even the notion that his top staff disagreed with him. Haley backed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, another fiercely pro-Israel interventionist, during the 2016 presidential primaries. In her appearance with Trump, she again denied ambitions of mounting a 2020 primary challenge against Trump. "No, I am not running in 2020," she said. If she changed her mind, Haley could tap into a Republican Jewish donor class that fetes her pro-Israel credentials and has never been wholly comfortable with Trump. At least one hawkish pro-Israel voice was unabashed in making that wish. "Thank you @nikkihaley for your remarkable service," Mark Dubowitz, the director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies said on Twitter. "We look forward to welcoming you back to public service as President of the United States." Separately, an ethics watchdog, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, criticized Haley this week for accepting $24,000 in private flights last year to her home state of South Carolina from a businessman friend.

Mayor Turner - 'Buck the trend': Vote in the Nov. 6 Election

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 10:25am
When there is no presidential election on the November ballot, many people don't vote, even though they are eligible to vote. They don't think that stakes are high enough for them to spend the time to cast a ballot for candidates and on referendums. They could not be more wrong. Yet only a third of the 2 million people registered to vote in Houston and Harris County cast their ballots in the November 2014 election, when the choices included candidates for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, governor, lieutenant governor and many other offices. Now, four years later, I urge all registered voters in the city of Houston to buck the trend in the Nov. 6 election, for which early voting starts Oct. 22. Again, the choices include candidates for Congress, governor, lieutenant governor and dozens of other important positions. Also on the ballot are city Propositions A and B, which are the ReBuild Houston vote and the vote on the firefighters' union salary referendum. There's so much at stake at the voting booth! But first you have to be a registered voter to take part. For qualified residents who are not registered to vote, the sign-up deadline is Oct. 9. For instructions on all the ways you can register to vote, and who is qualified to register, go to or call the Harris County Registrar's Office at 713-274-8200. Not sure if you are registered to vote in Harris County? Look at Some city residents live in Fort Bend ( and Montgomery ( counties. They should contact their county officials for voting information. Voter registration in these counties is handled by the voter registrar while the election and the counting of the votes are handled by county clerks' offices. For information on how, where and when to votes in Harris County, look at or call (713) 274-9550. At you can find a list of locations and hours for early voting locations and eventually a list of polling places for election day. There's also an explanation of who can vote, and how to vote, by mail. The information is available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Chinese, as required by law. Only residents of the city are qualified to vote on Propositions A and B, and I hope all voters will make selections on these propositions at the end of the ballot. Voters using the straight ticket option to vote for all candidates of a single political party must make additional "yes" or "no" votes on the propositions for their selections on those items to count. Last month, I described the issues involved in both propositions. The information is now online at, where there is also a list of town hall meetings I am conducting about the propositions in each City Council district. The last one is Oct. 18. I hope every voter will study these issues and also make educated choices about the candidates for office.

Rabbis apply Jewish law and ethics to help understand Kavanaugh allegations

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 12:31pm
....NEW YORK - When Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 27, he answered questions about sexual misconduct allegations leveled against him. In recent weeks, three women have said the judge engaged in inappropriate behavior or assaults as a high school or college student. The allegations have ignited conversations across the political spectrum, from how assault survivors often keep their accusations private out of fear or trauma, to whether people should be held accountable for actions they committed as teenagers, to how the credibility of the allegations is to be assessed. JTA asked rabbis how Jewish law and ethics can help us understand the misconduct claims. Here are their answers, via email, which have been lightly edited for grammar and style. The path to repentance Rabbi Meesh Hammer-Kossoy is an instructor at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, a nondenominational yeshiva in Jerusalem. She has taught about how the Talmud helps us understand the #MeToo movement and the ethics of anonymous allegations. Jewish tradition gives us several important lenses for understanding the accusations against Judge Kavanaugh. On the one hand, the Talmud tells us, "A priest who kills a person is disqualified from performing the priestly blessing" (Berachot 32b). Some acts - even if they are not prosecutable in court - forever stand in the way of high leadership. On the other hand, as of Sept. 27, the accusations against Judge Kavanaugh pertain to incidents in the far past. Is there no chance at all for a person to move on from mistakes? Commenting on the above statement in the Talmud, the Shulchan Aruch preserves a debate about whether repentance restores the killer's priestly privilege (SA OH 128:35). According to Rabbi Joseph Karo, "a prosecutor cannot turn defense attorney" - spiritual rehabilitation doesn't privilege a murderous priest to bless the nation. Rabbi Moses Isserles disagrees: Jews forgive. Maimonides lays out clear steps for repentance, including recognizing the sin, confessing it, making amends and changing future behavior. Has Kavanaugh confronted his offenses? Even if he has, will that be sufficient to allow a "prosecutor" - someone who has been responsible for grave violations of human dignity - to become a "defense attorney," entrusted with protecting all people, including women? Of course, all of this depends on substantive evidence of Judge Kavanaugh's acts and character. For that, we await the upcoming Senate hearing and investigations that may follow. Regarding the victim Rabba Sara Hurwitz is the co-founder and president of the New York-based Yeshivat Maharat, the first institution to ordain Orthodox women as clergy. She has written about women leadership in the era of #MeToo. The #MeToo movement has compelled society to grapple with many key questions: Do people lie about assault for their own gain? Should we extend statute of limitations? How should we define the parameters of sexual harassment? Do perpetrators deserve redemption? But, I believe the most fundamental question we should ask, and of primary concern in our Jewish tradition is: Has the victim suffered? Indeed, the Gemara's posture is to protect the victim from physical harm. "One who wounds his neighbor is liable to pay for five damages: permanent impairment, pain and suffering, healing expenses, unemployment, and shame" (Mishna Baba Kama 8:1). The rabbis understood that there are multiple layers of harm that can be inflicted on another person. In addition to physical pain and suffering, a victim may also suffer from inability to be productive and successful at work. He or she may need "healing expenses," in recognition that there is real work and time to the healing process. The damage caused may be permanent, no matter how far back it occurred. Finally, a victim also experiences shame, emotional distress, beyond visible physical wounds. So, the question that I believe we all must instinctively grapple with first is about the welfare of the victims. Have they suffered? And, have appropriate damages been paid? The rights of the accused Rabbi Pesach Lerner is the president of the Coalition for Jewish Values. The Torah says: "Lo yakum eid echad b'ish ... Al pi shnei eidim oh al pi shloshah eidim yakum davar" - "A single witness shall not stand up against any man ... according to two witnesses or according to three witnesses shall a matter be confirmed" (Deut. 19:15). Those two witnesses, neither of whom was the accuser or any close relative of the accuser or the accused, were fully investigated and interrogated before they were accepted. The Torah is very concerned about the rights and reputation of the accused, and that is the Jewish view. A deeply flawed process Rabbi Hara Person is the chief strategy officer for the Reform movement's Central Conference of American Rabbis and the publisher of CCAR Press. She has written about how Jewish communities should deal with harassment of female rabbis. The text of Deuteronomy 16:20 comes to mind: "Justice, justice, shall you pursue." The repetition of the word "justice" in this verse reminds us how critical the pursuit of justice is to a healthy society. Commenting on this verse, Rashi proposes that it is the appointment of honest judges that allows society to thrive. Ibn Ezra goes even further, suggesting that the duplicated word means that each side in a suit must pursue justice, whether each party will benefit or not, implying that the pursuit of justice is a higher value than partisanship. In contrast, the Kavanaugh hearings are a deeply flawed process, driven by partisanship and designed to obfuscate rather than illuminate the truth. The minimal amount of documentation on Kavanaugh that has been provided is problematic enough. Added to that the accusations of sexual assault that have arisen that are not being properly investigated, and the rush to bring the hearings to a rapid close, all seem intended to circumvent the path of true justice. That this is being done in order to name someone as a judge to the highest court of the land is a perversion of justice that is destined to bring about chaos and mistrust of the legal system, the opposite of a healthy and thriving society that Judaism posits as an ideal. Holding leaders accountable Rabbi Aviva Richman is a faculty member at Hadar. Her areas of study include Jewish law, gender and sexuality in Judaism. The Bible makes a distinction between sex crimes in a city and a field. The rabbis interpret the"city" not as a matter of population density, but culture.  A city is a place where people care about sexual assault and respond. In this context, the rabbis focus on the responsibility of the community and leadership to respond to and ideally prevent sexual violence.  Under this rubric, one medieval Talmud scholar characterizes the entire Persian empire under King Ahashverosh (Ahasuerus) as a field. Since the supreme leader of the land was a womanizer, acting like he was sexually entitled to any woman he wanted, no one in his kingdom took sexual violence seriously. When our national leaders dismiss accounts of sexual assault because "nothing happened," or refuse to put in place and follow clear protocols to respond to these accounts, they are setting a tone that has ripple effects well beyond the bench of nine justices. This is a moment where we have to ask ourselves: Do we live in a city or a field? We must hold our leadership accountable to take sexual assault seriously. Otherwise, the most robust system of courts and justice is really just an empty field. How we treat the other Rabbi Jacob Staub is a professor at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Penn. He has written about gender dynamics and sexuality in light of #MeToo. A central teaching of Musar, Jewish ethical literature, is that we each are obligated to treat the other according to his or her needs. It is upon us not to assume that we know what they need. Rather, we must go out of our way to uncover what they lack and serve them according to what they need. By contrast, the behavior described by Judge Kavanaugh's accusers reflects an orientation that is diametrically opposed to this Jewish principle. Their stories paint a picture of men using women to satisfy their own needs, without any concern for the lifelong traumatic impact that treatment may have upon them. May it be the case that one consequence of the Kavanaugh nomination is that all of us will examine how we can treat other people with the respect and care that is the right of those created in the image of G-d. Public service is a privilege Rabbi Mira Wasserman is director of the Center for Jewish Ethics and assistant professor of rabbinic literature at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. At RRC, she organizes a project to collect responsa on Jewish ethics and the #MeToo movement. A story in the Talmud (Moed Katan 17a) anticipates current events: Terrible rumors about a local rabbi reach Rav Yehuda, a leading rabbinic authority in Babylonia. Rav Yehuda deliberates about what to do: On the one hand, the accused rabbi offers valuable services to a local community; on the other, the rabbi's tarnished reputation degrades his office (in Talmudic language, "profanes the name of G-d"). In the end, Rav Yehuda decides to act on the allegations and ostracize the accused. On his deathbed, Rav Yehuda expresses satisfaction that he did not bow to pressure to flatter an important man, but was rather governed by principle. These are the principles I draw from the story: 1. For the rabbis, there is a high standard of evidence. In the absence of corroborating testimony, a plethora of allegations - no matter how persuasive - does not suffice to convict the accused of a crime. 2. Public service is a privilege, not a right. Judges, like rabbis, are to be held to the highest ethical standards. Serious allegations - even in the absence of evidence - suffice to exclude the accused from a respected office of leadership. 3. True leadership means applying these principles to everyone, without regard for the status of the accused. Bias vs. the search for truth Rabbi Avi Weinstein is the head of Jewish studies at the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy, a community day school in Overland Park, Kan. He has written about how Jewish texts address the concept of truth. The classic rabbinic assumption is not that "we can't handle the truth";  it's just that we can't get to it. The dialectic method so familiar to traditional learners is meant to mitigate personal biases in order to approximate arriving at the "truth." We aspire to know the truth. Ultimately, realizing it is always elusive. When the esteemed senators arrive with publicly announced foregone conclusions regarding the candidate, this does not augur well for this, the most lofty of aspirations. A judge in Jewish tradition had to be wary of his own biases, as well as the limitations of clever argument. The charges levied against the judge would most certainly be disqualifying, but would the suspicion alone be enough for him to be dismissed? How much smoke does there have to be before we assume that there is a fire? On this, there could be a variety of opinions, but all would agree that acumen alone would not be sufficient for a Jewish judge to be acceptable. It comes down to how one evaluates suspicion without hard evidence, and that brings us back to our biases, which inevitably cloud our aspiration to learn what is true.

In J.K. Rowling's new novel, a villain is an Israel-hating anti-Semite

Wed, 09/26/2018 - 12:43pm
....For months, author J.K. Rowling has been warning about the dangers of anti-Semitism in England, sparring on Twitter with critics who either downplay the phenomenon or say its proponents are confusing criticism of Israel with Jew hatred. Now, in her newest book, she includes a character whose obsessive anti-Zionism morphs into anti-Semitism. "Lethal White," the fourth series in Rowling's Cormoran Strike mystery series, written under the pen name Robert Galbraith, features a pair of hard-left political activists, who believe "Zionists" are evil and have a stranglehold on Western governments. Extortionist Jimmy Knight's extreme hatred of Israel has led him to hate Jews. "I wouldn't trust him if it was anything to do with Jews," Knight's ex-wife tells a detective. "He doesn't like them. Israel's the root of all evil, according to Jimmy. Zionism: I got sick of the bloody sound of the word. You'd think they'd suffered enough," she says of Jews. Rowling's depiction of a far-left anti-Semite comes at a time of record high anti-Semitism in Britain, where she lives. Britain's Labour Party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, have been accused of insensitivity to Jews and condoning anti-Jewish sentiments within the party's ranks. Corbyn previously defended a grotesquely anti-Semitic London mural depicting Jewish bankers, and referred to his "friends" in terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah, though he's said he now regrets these positions. A September 2018 poll found that nearly 40 percent of British Jews would seriously consider emigrating if Corbyn became prime minister - as polls show he might. The latest novel isn't the first time the author of the Harry Potter series has commented on the dangers of anti-Semitism. "Most UK Jews in my timeline are currently having to field this kind of crap, so perhaps some of us non-Jews should start shouldering the burden," she wrote in April, in response to a critic who said Judaism is a religion, not a race. "Antisemites thinks this is a clever argument, so tell us, do: were atheist Jews exempted from wearing the yellow star?" Rowling, who is not Jewish, also shared with her 14.4 million Twitter followers examples of posts she'd received that denied anti-Semitism was a problem. To a commenter who posted that Arabs cannot possibly be anti-Semitic because Arabs are Semites, too, Rowling tweeted a photo of a dictionary definition of anti-Semitism: "hostility to or prejudice against Jews." She also included a spirited defense of Jews: "Split hairs. Debate etymology. Gloss over the abuse of your fellow citizens by attacking the actions of another country's government. Would your response to any other form of racism or bigotry be to squirm, deflect or justify?" When a Jewish mother tweeted Rowling to say her son had faced anti-Semitic bullies in school, Rowling tweeted back "so sorry" and wrote, "Know that you aren't alone and that a lot of us stand with you xx." A few months later, on Aug. 26, after a fellow mystery writer, Simon Maginn, tweeted that British Jews' outrage over Corbyn's views were "synthetic," Rowling defended the Jews. "What other minority would you speak to this way?" she posted, before quoting from Jean-Paul Sartre's essay, "Anti-Semite and Jew." In 2015, Rowling declined to endorse open letters calling for a cultural and academic boycott of Israel and signed by over 1,000 British authors and opinion leaders. Instead, she joined 150 other writers and artists in penning an alternative letter opposing singling out Israel for opprobrium. "Israelis will be right to ask why cultural boycotts are not also being proposed against ... North Korea," her Oct. 23, 2015, letter declared. Instead of boycotts, the letter said, "Cultural engagement builds bridges, nurtures freedom and positive movement for change." Rowling has been critical of the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but is adamant that Israel, its people and its supporters should not be subjected to a double standard by their opponents.

Grandparents Day at Seven Acres and The Medallion

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 2:19pm
....National Grandparents Day is a traditional observance celebrated every September, beginning in the '60s, and continues as an opportunity to remind us to honor our elders. This year, the Seven Acres Grandparents Day was held on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 16, as a way to honor the contributions that The Medallion and Seven Acres residents have made to their families and to the community, and to reflect on how we nurture and support them in their golden years. The party rocked the halls with musical entertainment from the Quik Tones, a band that specializes in rock 'n' roll tunes from the '60s and '70s. The auditorium was packed with people of all ages dancing, clapping, swaying and singing to the music. In addition, for the young and young at heart, there were clowns who did face painting and made balloon animals and headdresses. Clowns Fluffy, Ditsy and Sweetie enjoyed visiting with resident Allah Ford, who also had volunteered as the clown, Crayola, for many years. She brought a scrapbook to the party to share her photos with family and the other clowns. An extra treat was a visit from the pet therapy group, which brought dogs to visit with the residents at the conclusion of the celebration.

Draw out the artist in you at the J's adult art classes

Thu, 09/20/2018 - 11:47am
....How often, when a person says they are an artist, the response is "How wonderful! I wish I could draw ..." followed by a statement such as, how one would love to draw but can't draw a stick figure, or that someone else in the family is the artist. Compare learning art to learning a sport. Some people who are more gifted initially might learn faster, but eventually they do learn the sport. This also is true of art. "The tools of art are learned, as well as the skills to handle them. With time and good support, every person can find their own voice," said Maxine Silberstein, program coordinator for Adult Visual Arts at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center of Houston. Join the J's staff of instructors, which include Stacy Kuropata, Susan Wingfield, Ruthi Drori-Mitelman and Caitlin Scott, and find your voice with the medium of watercolor, pottery, drawing or painting. Registration is open for the fall session of adult art classes in the J's newly renovated art studios. Check class schedule at For more information, email [email protected] or call 713-551-7217.

Russia blames Israel after aircraft shot down over Syria

Tue, 09/18/2018 - 11:04am
....JERUSALEM (JTA) - Russia is blaming Israel after one of its military aircraft was shot down over Syria. The plane disappeared Monday, Sept. 17, from radar following an alleged Israeli airstrike on a Syrian air base near Latakia. Israel used the Russian reconnaissance aircraft as cover for its mission, Russia's Ministry of Defense charged in a statement on Tuesday. "A Russian Ilyushin Il-20 plane was downed by Syrian Air Defense missile after Israeli F-16 pilots used it as cover, thus setting it up to be targeted by [anti-aircraft] defense. Such actions can only be classified as a deliberate provocation," the statement said. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied that it launched such an attack. Israel rarely comments on such reports. Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigo on Tuesday told his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Liberman that his government holds Israel responsible for the downing of the plane. Fifteen Russian servicemen were killed in the crash. Russia says that Israel gave it one minute of warning before it launched its airstrikes on the Syrian targets in Latakia, which was not enough time to get its planes out of the area. Russia's Defense Ministry said it could respond to what it called Israel's "provocative actions." "We regard the provocative actions of Israel as hostile. As a result of the irresponsible actions of the Israeli military, 15 Russian servicemen were killed. This is absolutely not in keeping with the spirit of the Russian-Israeli partnership. We reserve the right to adequate response," the ministry's statement said. Syrian state media said its air defense system was activated at about 10 p.m. and that the projectiles came from the sea. CNN cited what it called a U.S. official with knowledge of the incident as saying that the Syrians were trying to stop a barrage of Israeli missiles when the Russian aircraft was hit. A second official confirmed that Israel was responsible for the missile strikes on Syria, CNN reported. Syrian media reported earlier in the week that Israel targeted the Damascus International airport with missiles on Sept. 15.

'But Do I Matter?' - an evening with Rabbi Taub at The Shul of Bellaire on Sept. 14

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 3:20pm
On Friday, Sept. 14, The Shul of Bellaire will partner with Jewish Family Service of Houston to host a community Shabbaton. The Shabbaton, as in the past years, will include an elegantly catered dinner and an inspiring and uplifting guest speaker, all making for a memorable Shabbat experience. Rabbi Shais Taub of New York will be the guest speaker. The dinner and presentation will be held at The Shul of Bellaire's new location, 5307 Bissonnet St., in Bellaire. The evening service begins at 6:30, followed by dinner at 7. A parallel children's program and babysitting will take place during the lecture. Reservations are required. "Jewish Family Service is proud to be a co-sponsor of this program with The Shul of Bellaire," said Linda Burger, CEO of Jewish Family Service. "Rabbi Taub is an inspirational speaker, who delivers a message of hope and recovery. How fortunate our community is to host a speaker of his caliber. Hope you can join us, too." Rabbi Taub has lectured to audiences on six continents. He writes a popular weekly advice column in Ami Magazine and is the author of the bestselling book, "G-d of Our Understanding: Jewish Spirituality and Recovery from Addiction," as well as several groundbreaking works on Tanya. He currently serves as scholar in residence at Chabad of the Five Towns in Cedarhurst, N.Y. "I'm so pleased to be able to again attend The Shul of Bellaire's Shabbaton on Sept. 14," said Ellen Taer. "It's wonderful to see how our community, made up of so many different facets, comes together to participate and support the good work that The Shul does in our community. Alongside JFS, it's very special to have so many congregations represented at this event. It will be an especially meaningful topic, as this event falls right between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a time of reflection for all Jews." "The feedback from previous Shabbat community dinners has been truly phenomenal," said Esty Zaklikofsky. "They attract an extraordinary crowd of people from across the spectrum, transcending synagogue affiliations. All enjoy a scrumptious and elegant Shabbat dinner, entertainment and Jewish inspiration, charged with the unique Shabbat energy! "Standing only days before Yom Kippur," said Zaklikofsky, "we thought Rabbi Taub would be the perfect fit for guest speaker. We are very excited to be hosting him, a true Jewish scholar and a mentor to thousands." Rabbi Taub will try to answer questions like, "Are we replaceable?" or "Does life have inherent value? Why do we go on?" In today's "connected" society, the problems of disconnectedness, loneliness and despair have reached epidemic proportions. Rabbi Taub will share what Jewish wisdom teaches us about how to find self-worth and a deep sense of well-being for the New Year. Advanced reservations are required at or call 713-839-8887.

'Connecting with kids' enabled Israeli to overcome challenges at camp

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 10:40am
....Taly Tegene arrived at Camp Young Judaea Texas with high expectations for herself. The 18-year-old Ethiopian-Israeli expected to immediately connect with other CYJ staff members, as well as the kids she worked with as a camp counselor, during Session II. She eventually did make many of those connections, but they took more time, Tegene told the JHV. And, despite some difficulties she faced during the summer, she said she is grateful for having had the experience of working at CJY and expressed thanks to those who made it possible for her to do so. "It was a challenging experience, but I learned a lot," Tegene said. "I loved working with the children, and I'm proud of myself for coming here on my own for the first time." Read the full story right now in our e-edition. Lots of stories and special features are only available in the print and E-editions of the Jewish Herald-Voice. To make sure you are not missing out, subscribe to the print edition or subscribe to and read the E-edition right now.

Beth Yeshurun Day School honored with national anthem, city proclamation

Wed, 09/05/2018 - 3:43pm
....One year after Hurricane Harvey flooded their building, students from Beth Yeshurun Day School, on Wednesday, Aug. 29, took the field at Minute Maid Park and sang the national anthem to a crowd of 32,926 Astros fans. The festivities continued two days later. On Friday at Beth Yeshurun's All School Shabbat, Houston City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Cohen presented the school with a proclamation - that Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, will hereby be known in Houston as "BYDS Strong Day." The two events were meant to commemorate a difficult year, in which BYDS was forced to relocate its students to The Emery/Weiner School and The Shlenker School, while its facilities were being repaired, and its families and staff dealt with the aftermath of the flooding. To sing the national anthem before an Astros game, an organization first must "qualify" by performing in an Anchor Show, which takes place in the upper-level performance area of the stadium. Two years after performing in its first Anchor Show, BYDS was invited back to sing the national anthem. The date of the invitation, Aug. 29, was the one-year (plus two days) anniversary of the Harvey flooding. Beth Yeshurun's sanctuary reopened only two weeks ago, on Aug. 31. At the game, the students experienced life in the big leagues, as they waited in the same tunnels the players use. Before taking the field, the youngsters received a surprise visit from Hall of Famer Craig Biggio. In the stands, in Section 106, a sea of blue "BYDS Strong" shirt-wearing family and friends shed tears of joy as their kids sang the national anthem to a cheering crowd. News of the school and story spread quickly throughout the stadium. "You'd see a line of 80 kids, plus chaperones, all wearing the same shirt, and everyone was giving them high fives: 'You did great, you did awesome!' I think they felt famous for a minute," said Ariel Rozen, director of Judaic Studies at BYDS. The students were notified of their upcoming performance when they returned for the start of the school year. Without much time to prepare, music teacher Christine Phares set aside five minutes each day to sing with the second- through fifth-graders, and to practice harmony. "They had to learn it - it wasn't just singing the anthem," said Erica Goldberg, director of Marketing and Communications at BYDS. "They did a great job." The game concluded in storybook fashion, as first baseman Tyler White launched a memorable ninth inning walk-off homerun, propelling the Astros to a dramatic win. "I felt proud," said Dalia, a fourth-grader who sang. Although the Astros dubbed Aug. 29 "BYDS Strong Day," Goldberg wanted to take it a step further. She filled out an application with the city of Houston for an official proclamation. After it was approved, she invited both Mayor Sylvester Turner and Mayor Pro Tem Cohen to attend the service. Cohen accepted. Two days after the game, she joined BYDS for its first All School Shabbat of the year, where she delivered the proclamation. It declared that Beth Yeshurun's actions over the past year were an outstanding example to the city of Houston, and that Aug. 29, 2018, will hereby be known as "BYDS Strong Day." During the service, song leaders Christine Phares, Jomel Birnbaum, Erik Truelove and head of school Dan Ahlstrom brought palpable, joyous energy to the sanctuary, as the kids and staff sang, clapped and danced. During one song, a blow-up dinosaur (a regular at All School Shabbat) shimmied and bounced its way through the crowd. "I feel wonderful, knowing what we were standing in a year ago. It's such a credit to this synagogue, and a credit to the city," Cohen said after the service. She also expressed optimism, not only for the Beth Yeshurun community, but also for the city of Houston, who she said is waiting on Harvey relief funds to be released from FEMA and the state. "I hope that people who are not yet made whole and that haven't been able to return to their homes can do so as soon as possible, and I wish all my fellow Jews a happy and healthy New Year," added Cohen. For the Beth Yeshurun community, the proclamation and the anthem offered a welcome conclusion to this past Jewish year, one marked by destruction and ultimately, repair. "We've done more than just put us back together better than before and after Harvey. We have taken a deeper look at our program. We have taken a deeper look at everyone involved in our program," said Goldberg. As part of the rebuild, BYDS has committed to modernizing its curriculum and updating its facilities. Two new STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) labs have been added, and new computer equipment has been purchased. The kindergartners are even using iPads to learn how to code. "We're lucky to come out so well on top. To celebrate this with the city of Houston, proclaiming that Wednesday was 'BYDS Strong Day,'" said Goldberg. "Look at our kids, look how far we've come. We're singing on the field of an Astros game!"

Community Calendar

Wed, 09/05/2018 - 3:37pm
....<?xml version="1.0" encoding="iso-8859-1"?> CommunityCalendar Upcoming

Send event listings to [email protected], including contact person's name, phone number and email address. THURSDAY, SEPT. 6 Seven Acres' Volunteer Gift Shop is having a grand reopening, 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. in the gift shop in the Seven Acres lobby. The public is invited. For information, call Sue Cororve, director of Recreation and Volunteer Services, 713-778-5719. SUNDAY, SEPT. 9

First evening of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year

TUESDAY, SEPT. 18 Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, begins before sundown. SUNDAY, SEPT. 23

Artist talk and reception: Mike Kaplan | Gotta Dance Too: The Art of the Dance Movie Poster at Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center of Houston, 2 p.m. For more information, visit

THURSDAY, SEPT. 27 AJC's Southwest Diplomatic Marathon will provide opportunities for members of the community to interact with consular corps members. For information and to RSVP, call 713-439-1292 or email [email protected]


Mommy &amp; Me Tot Shabbat on the first and third Shabbat (Saturday) morning of each month, 11 a.m.-noon, in Meyerland Minyan Synagogue Kid's Room. For children, infants-4 years old. For more information, email [email protected] or call 713-398-1566.

Weekly mah-jongg game, Mondays, 1 p.m., City of West University Senior Center, Rice Blvd. at Auden. For information, contact Eileen Barrett at [email protected]

Congregation Shaar Hashalom's Rabbi Stuart Federow hosts free, open to the public, discussions about Judaism or religion in general, on the second Thursday of each month, Victor's 1425 NASA Pkwy., Houston 77058 (next to the &quot;space&quot; McDonald's), at 7 p.m.

Line By Line With the Prophets sessions, guided by Rabbi Federow, are conducted on Sundays, 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., at Congregation Shaar Hashalom, 16020 El Camino Real, Houston.

Israeli folk dances are held at Congregation Shaar Hashalom on Mondays, 7:30-9:30 p.m. Sessions will take place on March 7, 14, 21 and 28.

For information about sessions, contact the synagogue office, 281-488-5861, or at [email protected]

TOPSoccer, a community-based soccer skills training and team program for special needs youngsters, takes place every Sunday, 5-5:45 p.m., at the ERJCC, 5601 S. Braeswood Blvd., inside the indoor gym. Volunteers are needed. For information, contact Mark K., parent volunteer, at [email protected]

Big Tent Judaism announces that local Jewish institutions will host public-space programs to help those interested in starting the New Year with a fresh start. Contact Elise Passy at 832-779-1564 or [email protected]

Senior ladies' poker, daytime, twice weekly, Monday and Thursday, at homes in the southwest and Stella Link areas. More players are sought. email [email protected], or call 713-560-9494.

Bellaire Jewish Center Tuesday Lunch n Learn, noon. Contact Rabbi Gavriel Jacknin, 832-971-3781.

Holocaust Museum Houston's exhibition, &quot;Life: Survivor Portraits,&quot; began during HMH's 18th anniversary. The series by local artist Kelly Lee Webeck includes 18 portraits by local survivors of the Holocaust. For information, go to, email [email protected] or call 713-527-1640. &quot;Life: Survivor Portraits&quot; will remain on view through Oct. 12.

CLASSES AT CHABAD OF UPTOWN, 4311 Bettis Dr., 713-419-3960,

BLT &ndash; Bagels, Lox &amp; Tefillin
Boost your week by laying tefillin and enjoying
Torah study over a delicious breakfast.

Contemporary Themes &amp; Social for Young Professionals Exploring Torah's view on the modern world, over dinner. Topics posted at

Lunch hour, Thursdays, noon-1:15 p.m.
Evenings: Thursdays, 8-9 p.m.

Tanya &ndash; Jewish Mysticism. 9 a.m.

The J on the Go ... 60-Plus

Provides safe, reliable, non-emergency transportation for Jewish adults age 60 plus and special needs adults.

Sign up Now for Art and Mah Jongg Classes

Contact Esther Bethke at 713-595-8186 or
[email protected].


Roseanne won't watch her TV spinoff because ... she will be studying in Israel

Tue, 09/04/2018 - 3:24pm
....Roseanne Barr said she is planning to take a trip to Israel. She told Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in a new appearance on his podcast that she is not planning to watch the "Roseanne" spinoff, titled "The Conners," which brings together the entire former cast except for her iconic character, when it premieres on Oct. 16. "I have an opportunity to go to Israel for a few months and study with my favorite teachers over there, and that's where I'm going to go and probably move somewhere there and study with my favorite teachers," she said during the podcast, Deadline Hollywood reported. "I have saved a few pennies and I'm so lucky I can go. She said that she is going to go and study "with any rabbi that I can ask to teach me." She also said, "It's my great joy and privilege to be a Jewish woman." The interview comes days after John Goodman, the television husband of star Roseanne Barr, confirmed in an interview with the London-based The Times that Barr will be killed off for the spinoff. Barr told Rabbi Boteach that she will neither "curse it or bless" the spinoff show. "That's what I gotta do ... I have some mental health issues of depression and stuff. I got to stay in the middle or I'll go dark and I don't want to go dark again," she said. She also said that she is working on a new sitcom. Barr last appeared on the rabbi's podcast two days after ABC canceled her popular show, a reboot of her late 1980s' sitcom, over a tweet mocking Valerie Jarrett, a former adviser to President Barack Obama and an African-American woman. The actress later deleted the tweet and issued an apology, saying she had made "a bad joke about her politics and her looks." Rabbi Boteach did not release the podcast right away, saying, "I want to give her space to reflect on the recent events and releasing the recording is a decision she will make at the appropriate time." He later released the podcast, a day after the announcement of plans to launch "The Connors." Rabbi Boteach has had a 20-year friendship with Barr.

Jewish Cultural Club of Taylor High in Katy donates dollars, time to JFS

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 11:06am
....Brenna Hymowitz, a senior at James E. Taylor High School in Katy, came to Jewish Family Service recently with several bags of coins and bills, totaling nearly $600, to donate to the agency's Harvey Relief Fund. Hymowitz re-created the Jewish Cultural Club, with nine other Jewish students in the school, in order to provide a Jewish community for the Jewish students at Taylor High and to educate the other students about anti-Semitism, treating all with differences with kindness and about the Jewish culture. "I also wanted to do something to give back to Jewish Family Service, since they helped me and my family and many others following Harvey," Hymowitz said. One of the first things the club did was hold a bake sale. The students made Israeli chocolate balls, hamentaschen and chocolate chip cookies. Brenna created a cookie form for orders and students and several parents got together and made 1,200 cookies. They were bagged, named and taken to school the next day and the club collected nearly $600 to be donated to Jewish Family Service. Brenna gave the envelopes of cash to Linda L. Burger, JFS CEO, and explained to her their club's story. "Meeting Brenna brought a ray of sunshine to my day," Burger said. "I was very impressed by her poise, commitment and leadership. What a delightful young leader, who makes me optimistic about the future of our faith and of our country." Four years earlier, Brenna had come to JFS as a Bat Mitzvah and participated in the JFS Shabbat Boxes program as her mitzvah project. The three-month commitment helped create Shabbat boxes for Jewish patients at area hospitals. Each box contained challah rolls from Three Brothers Bakery, mini bottles of grape juice, Shabbat prayers and information on Jewish Family Service. The project introduced the teenager to JFS, and now she wanted the club members to work together on another project for JFS. Brenna told both Toby Brown, JFS chaplaincy teen volunteer coordinator, and Burger that the boxes would be the club's next project - for all the members to make Shabbat boxes for the next three months for Methodist Hospital. "I am so excited to be working with Brenna again," Brown said. "She is the spark that has ignited those nine Jewish students to do exciting service at Taylor, as they begin to give back to their community."

Houston ulpan offers community a 'gateway to Israel'

Wed, 08/29/2018 - 12:31pm
....Houston has its first ulpan. Founded by Rinat Alatin, M.Ed., Ulpan Shemesh offers courses for adults in Hebrew literacy and Israeli culture. There is also a parallel program designed specifically for children. The former Robert M. Beren Academy Hebrew teacher opened Ulpan Shemesh in August. The ulpan is located at 5802 Holly St., near Bellaire in Southwest Houston. The facility includes classroom spaces, a kosher kitchen and a large library, containing Hebrew-language books for children, teens and adults. Group classes and private lessons are available, and Ulpan Shemesh is partnering with Xavier Academy to offer Hebrew foreign language credits for Xavier students. Alatin said Ulpan Shemesh is open to anyone interested in learning Hebrew and strengthening one's connections with Israel. "We're bringing Israel to Houston," Alatin told the JHV during an open house event on Aug. 19. "Hebrew is a gateway to Israel." Three levels The ulpan contains three levels - Aleph, Bet and Gimmel - Alatin explained. Aleph students begin by learning the Hebrew alphabet, including cursive and block letters. Next is gaining some basic Hebrew conversational skills. From there, students will learn verb categories, present and past tenses, and will practice conjugation. By the end of Aleph, students will have learned sentence structures and will be reading some basic texts. The second level, Bet, introduces students to future tense and will expand knowledge of prepositions. Bet students also will practice gerund and learn complex sentence connectors and transitions. By adding passive tense and noun conjugation, as well as learning nominal verb forms and conditional sentences, Bet students will be familiar with most of the structures of modern Hebrew and will be ready to advance to the third level. Gimmel is designed to give confidence to students who have learned the basics of Hebrew language, Alatin noted. "The mission of this level is to become a real Hebrew speaker," she said. "We want people to be able to accurately express themselves, take part in conversations, extract the main idea from texts and have confidence to communicate in Hebrew." Upon completion of Gimmel, students will have acquired the ability to engage in conversational Hebrew, to read and understand Hebrew-language media and to be able to work in a Hebrew-requiring environment, according to Alatin. 'All about games' The ulpan takes a different approach for its children's classes. "The curriculum for children is all about games," Alatin said. "There's also lots of Israeli music and cultural introductions, and everything will be very interactive." While the methodology may differ from the adult classes, young students also will be taught Hebrew vocabulary, conversation and grammar, with the goal being to teach children to be confident Hebrew speakers and readers, Alatin explained. Children's courses run by semester, with each semester containing about 14 sessions. Alatin also offers special education classes. Ulpan Shemesh was named after Alatin's three daughters. She launched Houston's first ulpan, in part, to ensure that Israeli kids growing up here maintain connections to their homeland. "Israeli kids need to learn Hebrew," she said. "Even for my own daughters, I am concerned that they speak English more than Hebrew." The ulpan is designed for Israeli families and anyone else who wants to learn Hebrew, including church groups, Alatin noted. "If a church group is traveling to Israel, they can give me their itinerary, and I will develop a curriculum based upon everything they plan to see and do in Israel," she said. One of the first families to enroll in the ulpan did so in preparation of making aliyah, Alatin noted. Being able to converse in Hebrew and having a solid foundation in Israeli culture will help ensure that the family makes an easy transition upon its arrival, according to the ulpan's founder. Looking ahead, Alatin would like to provide training classes for teachers from local Jewish day schools and congregational schools. Her vision is for the ulpan to grow into an "Israeli center" in Houston, where it will host a wide variety of Hebrew-language and Israeli-cultural programs, lectures, activities and workshops for parents, she told the JHV. For more information about Ulpan Shemesh, call 713-396-9575 or visit the ulpan's Facebook page.

Houston Hillel welcomes students back to campus

Tue, 08/28/2018 - 3:39pm
....Houston Hillel's Kickoff BBQ drew students, young professionals and members of Houston's Jewish community for an afternoon of friends, fun and food. Rabbi Kenny Weiss, Houston Hillel's executive director, said, "It's a great tribute to our staff and lay leaders, that Houston Hillel attracts such a diverse range of students to our kick-off barbecue and throughout the year. We also had a number of young professionals, who regularly attend programs sponsored by Jewston, Houston Hillel's community for Jewish twentysomethings." Liza Abrams, Houston Hillel's director of Undergraduate Engagement, said, "It's great to see so many students take some time to come to Houston Hillel for the barbecue, just before their first day of classes. It was very exciting to talk with so many freshmen, who have just moved to Houston. I met with our student leaders just before the barbecue started, and they're anxious to involve our freshmen." Hanging around Gary Swartz's grills, and helping with food preparation and serving, were Grant Beiner, Jeff Berlat, Alan Cohn, Eric Cohn, Scott Friedman, Sandy Jackson, Sharon Mellon, Jeremy Penner, Dan Pickelner, Randi Plante, Jason Plotkin, Rozanne Rubin and Marilyn Steiner. Rabbi Weiss said, "Alan Cohn deserves much of the credit for the successful barbecue. Alan brought his culinary expertise and made sure the food was delicious, and we had all the accessories - cole slaw, chips and condiments. Of course, we couldn't have done anything without Gary Swartz's grills. Because of Alan, Gary, and the many volunteers who helped with the food, Liza Abrams, Emily Moses, our director of Jewston, and Nofar Salam, our Israel fellow, and I were able to concentrate on meeting new students and greeting those who returned from summer break." Students were treated to free Houston Hillel T-shirts. Rice students' T-shirts are blue and have "Rice" in Hebrew on the front, while University of Houston students received red T-shirts with "Go Coogs!" in Hebrew. For information about programming and a free Birthright Israel trip during winter break, call the Hillel Student Center, 713-526-4918, or visit

John McCain, senator who made human rights and Israel central to his foreign policy, dies at 81

Mon, 08/27/2018 - 10:11am
....WASHINGTON (JTA) - Sen. John McCain made human rights and Israel centerpieces of his advocacy for a robust U.S. influence across the planet. The Arizona Republican died Saturday, Aug. 25, at the family ranch in Sedona, Arizona, one day after declining further treatment for brain cancer. He was 81. "With the Senator when he passed were his wife Cindy and their family," a statement from his office said. "At his death, he had served the United States of America faithfully for sixty years." Never-Trump Republicans and not a few Democrats during the campaign and presidency of Donald Trump have held up McCain as an avatar of what the Republican Party once was and still could be: the national security flagship ready to overcome partisan differences to advance U.S. interests. Indeed, the relationship that was perhaps most emblematic of his dedication to national security and bipartisanship was his close friendship with Joseph Lieberman, the Orthodox Jewish senator from Connecticut. McCain became in his final years the reluctant un-Trump. He was the hero who spent 1967-1973 in a Vietnamese jail for American POWs, when Trump was a swinging young businessman who won five deferments from service. McCain was the victim of torture who led advocacy against the practice, while Trump embraced it. McCain was the flag bearer for robust American interventionism abroad, while Trump counsels conciliation and isolationism. McCain was candid about his flaws while Trump seldom apologizes; McCain took long meetings and delved into detail, while Trump eschews particulars for the big picture; McCain forgave his enemies while Trump nurtures his enmities. McCain failed where Trump succeeded: Barack Obama defeated McCain in the 2008 presidential election and Trump defeated Obama's handpicked successor, Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 election. It is a difference that Trump reportedly has emphasized in recent weeks in explaining to his advisers his reluctance to praise McCain even as he neared death. (That and their acrimonious relationship.) The very same qualities that perhaps cost McCain the presidency helped make him a hero of the Jewish and pro-Israel communities. The robust interventionism that he insistently espoused, even as the chaos engendered by the war he championed in Iraq turned Americans off foreign adventures, included a fierce commitment to standing by Israel. "A passionate advocate for American global leadership, Senator McCain rightly bemoaned those who favored a U.S. pullback from world affairs," David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, said in a statement. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee called McCain "an extraordinarily courageous defender of liberty. "Throughout his congressional career Senator McCain stood with Israel because throughout his life he stood up for America's allies and our shared democratic values," its statement said. And McCain's willingness to reach across the aisle even to liberal Democrats, which likely kept some conservatives away from the polls, extended to the Jewish community, where he worked with human rights activists. "He was a tireless champion of the issues and principles that he held dear, from reforming the broken campaign finance system, to the effort to bar the use of torture by U.S. authorities, to his pivotal vote just last year to save the Affordable Care Act," said Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, who directs the Reform movement's Religious Action Center. "On those issues and others including combating climate change and strengthening US-Israel relations, we were honored to work with him. And when we engaged him around areas of disagreement, Sen. McCain was always honest and straightforward." In its statement mourning McCain, the Jewish Democratic Council of America noted that he "rose above politics and represented his values." McCain was a scion of a fighting family. His grandfather and father had graduated the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and he did as well and was soon a combat pilot flying missions over Vietnam. His plane was shot down and he was captured in 1967. Upon his release in 1973, he remained in the Navy and eventually became its liaison to the Senate, which is where he became interested in politics. It was in that capacity that he first visited Israel in the late 1970s, and a scene at Ben Gurion Airport fused what were to become two overarching passions in his political career: Israel and human rights. McCain was accompanying Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson, D-Wash., who had spearheaded pressure on the Nixon and Ford administrations to squeeze the Soviet Union into allowing Jewish emigration. "And I will never forget at the airport there was a crowd of people that were there to show their appreciation for Scoop, and he stopped some in the crowd and told us to stop so that he could greet Nathan Sharansky's wife, and I will never forget that one as long as I live," McCain said in a 2008 campaign interview with the Los Angeles Jewish Journal. Sharansky at the time was a Prisoner of Zion. McCain left the Navy in 1981 and went to work for his second wife's father, who ran an Arizona beer distributorship. He won a race for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982 and for the Senate in 1986, and since has been re-elected to the Senate. Two years later, Lieberman joined him in that body and they soon formed a fast friendship. They traveled together countless times to Israel, and in the mid-2000s, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joined them on their overseas trips, to Israel and everywhere else where McCain determined the United States should make its strength known to allies and enemies. They were often photographed together - they called themselves "the Three Amigos" - each grinning, wearing the senator-abroad uniform of a blazer and an open collar button-down shirt. They seemed to have had a blast together, and McCain went deep blue at an Israeli Embassy reception in 2012 that honored Lieberman as he retired from the Senate. He described the alternating sensations of alarm and boredom that was the job of being a companion to an Orthodox Jew. "Why in every f***ing kosher menu do we have to have salmon?" he said. And then there was the time McCain fell asleep on a plane and woke up next to Lieberman davening in a tallit. "I hear this mumbling and I look and there's this guy wearing a shawl - I thought maybe I'd died," the Arizonan said. The friendship even earned a gibe from Jon Stewart, the late-night comedian who was both a friend and nemesis of McCain. Someone ought to tell the senator, he joked on the "The Daily Show," that there are plenty of Jews in Israel, he doesn't have to bring his own. Lieberman by 2008 was no longer a Democrat but was still caucusing with the party. That didn't stop him from endorsing his friend, and McCain thought seriously of repaying the compliment by naming Lieberman his running mate. The Republican establishment mightily resisted, saying Lieberman's backing for reproductive rights would drive away conservatives, and McCain at the last minute chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. "It was sound advice that I could reason for myself," he wrote this year in "The Restless Wave," his final book, describing the GOP insistence that Lieberman was a bad bet. "But my gut told me to ignore it and I wish I had." It will never be known if Palin - who seemed callow and unprepared - cost McCain the presidency, but she appeared to have cost him Jewish votes. In polling before the pick, Obama was at 60 percent, low for a community that tends to vote for Democrats in the 70s. On Election Day, Obama garnered at least 74 percent of the Jewish vote. McCain in that election and subsequently was a vigorous advocate of using all means of pressure to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. "I have to look you in the eye and tell you that the United States of America can never allow a second Holocaust," he told Israel's Channel 2 during the campaign. McCain repeatedly hammered Obama for his expressed willingness to meet with Iran's leaders and later on led the charge against the 2015 deal spearheaded by Obama that swapped sanctions relief for a partial rollback of Iran's nuclear program. (Trump despised the deal and pulled out of it this year.) McCain's willingness to buck his party was perhaps most pronounced in his outspokenness on torture, and that was an issue where he found common cause with liberal Jews. He had a long meeting with Rabbis for Human Rights (the group now known as T'ruah) in 2005 and it left an impression. The group briefed McCain on Israel's High Court ban on torture in 1999 - and it subsequently became a talking point for him. He also joined with Jewish former Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., in passing an act informally named for them that limited campaign giving. His party leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., led one of the legal challenges to the law that culminated in its gutting by the Supreme Court in 2010. McCain had difficulty cultivating evangelical Christians - their support for George W. Bush in 2000 was a factor that kept McCain from winning the GOP nomination that year - but in 2008 he secured the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee, who founded Christians United for Israel. McCain dumped Hagee, however, after it was revealed that Hagee had espoused a theology that cast the Holocaust as a means of ingathering the Jews in Israel. "Obviously I find these remarks and others deeply offensive and indefensible, and I repudiate them," McCain said at the time. "I did not know of them before Reverend Hagee's endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement as well." His credo was forgiveness - seeking it from others and proffering it. Appearing with Obama at a 2008 faith forum, McCain said his Christian faith "means I'm saved and forgiven. Our faith encompasses not just America but the world." In the 1980s and 1990s, he joined then-Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., another Vietnam War veteran, in leading the normalization of relations with Vietnam. He was magnanimous to those who opposed the war at home as well. An anti-war activist, David Ifshin, traveled to Hanoi to speak out against the war, and his words were piped into McCain's cell. Years later Ifshin, who had become a lawyer with AIPAC and came to appreciate a robust U.S. military posture, sought out McCain for his forgiveness. They became fast friends. Ifshin died of cancer in 1996, and McCain spoke at his funeral. "What David taught me and, I suspect, what he taught a great many people," McCain said, "was how narrow are the differences that separate us in a society united in its regard for justice, in a country in love with liberty."