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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 18 min ago

Federation's Annual Meeting to recognize community leaders

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 11:49am
From religious life to education, to young leadership to pro-Israel advocacy, the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston's upcoming Annual Meeting will recognize leading contributors from across the community. Marking the completion of another year addressing crucial Jewish needs here in Houston, in Israel and around the world, the Federation will hold its 81st Annual Meeting on Tuesday, June 6, at 7 p.m., at United Orthodox Synagogues, 9001 Greenwillow St. The Annual Meeting chairs are Olivia and Eric Barvin. "The evening's honorees have made a significant impact on the community which will be cherished for years to come," the Barvins noted in a joint statement. Honorees this year are Rachel Strauss (Barbara and Harold Falik Young Leadership Award), Zachary Silverman (Ben Susholtz Young Leadership Award), Ricki Komiss (Harold Reingold Yavneh Award for Jewish Educators), Rabbi Aryeh Wolbe (Mae and Edmund Hecht Rabbinic Award) and Elias Saratovsky (Hans Mayer Jewish Communal Award). 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.

Israel gave Trump the royal treatment he longs for back home

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 5:39pm
JERUSALEM (JTA) - President Donald Trump must have felt like he was back behind his desk at Trump Tower. During his whirlwind visit to Israel and the West Bank on Monday and Tuesday, the U.S. leader was treated with the deference befitting a CEO. His words were greeted with rapturous applause and vows of support. After one of multiple standing ovations during his speech Tuesday at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, a beaming Trump joked with the crowd, "Thank you. I like you, too." And instead of headlines describing the latest twist in the Russian elections probe or his firing of FBI Director James Comey, he woke up to the front pages of Israel newspapers celebrating his visit to the Western Wall. Trump even made a photograph of his brief moment of solitude there the cover image on his Twitter page. Beyond the niceties, Trump won some real concessions during the trip. As he noted repeatedly, both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas pledged to work with him toward his "ultimate deal" - without mentioning preconditions. But there is little faith in either leader's ability to deliver much for peace and no specifics were announced. Speaking ahead of Trump at the Israel Museum, Netanyahu said, "President Trump, working with you, I believe we can advance a durable peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, as well as the Palestinians, because of the common danger that the Arab world and Israel face from Iran, and because of the leadership that you bring to this process." In Bethlehem hours earlier, Abbas said he hoped Trump "will go in history" as the president who finally achieved Middle East peace. Daniel Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador to Israel under President Barack Obama, said both leaders appeared eager to accommodate the new president -- partly in fear of how he would react to rejection. "Because he's an unusual person and unpredictable, he has some leverage," Shapiro told JTA. "Nobody wants to get caught saying no, and they haven't. They haven't necessarily said yes, but it explains why the initial resistance others have encountered, that we encountered, may not be as strong this time." Trump made it relatively easy for his hosts to agree with him by demanding little during the visit. Apparently satisfied with recent tweaks in Israel's West Bank policy, Trump made no reference to Jewish settlements in the territory. Nor did he mention the Palestinian state that the United States and Israel officially support establishing there, but which Netanyahu has ceased referring to. On Monday, responding to a request by Education Minister Naftali Bennett at Ben Gurion Airport to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, which would reverse decades of U.S. neutrality on the city, Trump replied simply, "That's an idea." Trump did, however, subtly repeat his admonition of the Palestinian Authority to stop encouraging terrorism, telling Abbas, "Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded. We must be resolute in condemning such acts in a single unified voice." And he seemed to reject Netanyahu's preferred plan to normalize Israeli-Arab relations as a step toward a peace agreement with the Palestinians, describing the reverse chronology: "I also firmly believe that if Israel and the Palestinians can make peace, it will begin a process of peace all throughout the Middle East." Shapiro said that Trump has already said enough to make clear his vision of peace is not much different from Obama's: direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks toward a two-state solution, with Arab support from the outside. While Trump benefits from growing Arab interest in working with Israel to counter Iran and the Islamic State group, Shapiro said, not much could be inferred from Israeli and Palestinian acquiescence to talks. "The parties are very well practiced at making generally positive noises without really changing their behavior," he said. "It's possible the president and his team are going through a learning process where that's the nature of the conversation they're having." Shlomo Brom, the head researcher on Israeli-Palestinian relations at the Institute for National Security Studies, said if and when Trump presents a more concrete peace plan, Israel and the Palestinians would likely go along -- each waiting for the other to play spoiler. But ultimately, he said, they would struggle to summon the necessary political will. Netanyahu, who leads a pro-settler government, struggled much of Sunday to get his ministers to approve even modest measures aimed at improving the Palestinian quality of life. Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, both of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, voted against a measure to boost Palestinian building in Area C of the West Bank, which Israel fully governs. It does not help that Netanyahu is under police investigation for alleged corruption, which he denies. For his part, Abbas is historically unpopular with his people and, at 82 years old, likely in the twilight of his presidency. Popular discontent in the West Bank has taken the form of violent protests on behalf of a mass hunger strike of prisoners in Israeli jails that has now gone on for six weeks. Oded Eran, a former Israeli ambassador who served as the deputy chief of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., said Netanyahu and Abbas are not the only ones who are perceived as weak. He said Israel and the Palestinians do not expect Trump to be around for long given the investigations into potential collusion between his associates and Russia. "If I put myself into the shoes of the ministers or MKs [Knesset members] right now, why should we get excited?" he said. "The clock is ticking, the countdown has begun and all we have to do is wait and see - and not get into too many confrontations with the administration." But Brom and Shapiro agreed that Trump's domestic situation does not affect his clout with Israel and the Palestinians. They said if Trump managed to convince each side to call the other's bluff for long enough, he might just end up making significant progress toward peace. But that would require skillful diplomacy. "When the United States has a serious policy and people who are good at moving forward this policy, to some extent it can move the two sides to agree on things they didn't previously agree on," Brom said. "So far there is no reason to be optimistic that this administration is capable of doing that. We've seen complete chaos."

Trump, family make private visit to Western Wall

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 1:42pm
JERUSALEM (JTA) - President Donald Trump visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to go to the holy site. Trump arrived there under heavy security Monday afternoon, May 22, with his wife, Melania, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner. No Israeli politicians or officials accompanied the family. U.S. officials reportedly had rejected a request by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit the site with Trump. Trump was presented with a Book of Psalms with his name printed on it by the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz. The inscription printed inside read: "This ancient book will safeguard you so you can safeguard the entire world. With appreciation and admiration for being the first United States president to visit the Western Wall." Following a brief description of the history of the wall, Trump went to the men's side, with his daughter and wife heading to the women's section. Trump, who wore a black kippah, stood in front of the wall with his hand resting on it for several moments before placing a note in its cracks and backing away. In the guest book, Trump wrote "This was a great honor - Peace!" The entire Western Wall plaza was closed off, with the area in front of the wall covered by cloths to allow the First Family to enjoy a private visit, except for the pool television cameras. The Trump family walked to the wall from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the holiest sites in Christianity, which they visited first, arriving there on foot from the Jaffa Gate. Most of the major streets in the Old City of Jerusalem were shut down for the visit, preventing storeowners from opening their businesses and tourists from visiting the sites.

Israel reportedly provided intel Trump gave to Russia

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 2:32pm
(JTA) - Israel was the source of the highly classified intelligence President Donald Trump disclosed to Russian officials, according to a report by the New York Times. The Washington Post reported Monday that Trump revealed the intelligence to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in an Oval Office meeting last week. The intelligence concerns a terror plot by the Islamic State involving the use of laptops on aircraft. The Times reports that, according to a current and a former American official, it was information that Israel relayed to the United States. The intelligence was deemed too classified to share with other United States allies, let alone a rival state like Russia, the Washington Post's sources said. Russia is the main supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and an ally of Iran, one of Israel's principal adversaries. The country supplying the intelligence to the United States was identified in the Post story only as "an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State." Israel and the United States are close allies whose leaders often refer to the countries' "special relationship." The United States provides Israel with some $4 billion of defense assistance annually, and the countries share intelligence and participate in joint military exercises. Trump will be visiting Israel next week on his first foreign trip as president. White House Spokesman Sean Spicer did not comment on the New York Times report, but said he appreciated the U.S.-Israel relationship. "We appreciate the relationship we have with Israel and appreciate the exchange of information we have with them," Spicer said in a press briefing Tuesday. Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador to the United States, also did not comment directly on the report. "Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump," Dermer said in a statement. In January, an Israeli newspaper reported that American intelligence officials warned their Israeli counterparts not to share sensitive information with the Trump administration because of the threat that it could be leaked to Russia. At a press briefing Tuesday, H.R. McMaster, the president's top security adviser, discussed the meeting between Trump and the Russian diplomats, in which he took part. "In the context of that discussion, what the president discussed with the foreign minister was wholly appropriate to that conversation and is consistent with the routine sharing of information between the president and any leaders with whom he's engaged," McMaster said.

Med Center Orchestra wins prizes, presents upcoming concerts

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 2:22pm
The Texas Medical Center Orchestra has been awarded The American Prize as the best community-based orchestra in the United States for the 2016-2017 season. TMCO also recently won third place in The American Prize Ernst Bacon Memorial Award in the Performance of American Music, Community Division 2016. The award was for their performances of Bernstein - "Candide Overture," Ron Nelson - "Savannah River Holiday" and Grofe - "Mississippi Suite." The American Prize is a series of new, nonprofit national competitions in the performing arts, providing cash awards, professional adjudication and regional, national and international recognition for the best recorded performances by ensembles and individuals each year in the U.S. at the professional, college/university, church, community and secondary school levels. Administered by Hat City Music Theater, Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Danbury, Conn., The American Prize was founded in 2009 and is awarded annually. The competitions of The American Prize are open to all U.S. citizens, whether living in this country or abroad, and to others currently living, working and/or studying in the U.S., its protectorates and territories. Established in November 2000, Texas Medical Center Orchestra is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and is one of very few community orchestras in the United States and the world with its origin in the health professions. It includes physicians, dentists, nurses, medical students, biomedical scientists, social workers and other allied health professionals who are dedicated to making music. The orchestra currently has 87 members. The mission of the orchestra is to provide health care professionals with a high-quality outlet for creative expression through the world of symphonic music; perform regularly at affordable concerts that are open to the public and in an accessible venue; attract a diverse audience by commitments to select popular programming reflecting Houston's diversity; and bring public attention to, and provide programmatic support for, medically related and/or educational charities. Russian-born conductor Libi Lebel, founder and artistic director of TMCO, has a strong and growing reputation in the music world. She has been listed as one of the 50 most influential women in Houston. She holds Bachelor's and Master's degrees from Julliard School of Music and Westminster Choir College, in piano performance and conducting. Conducting appearances in New Jersey, New York, Texas, Russia and Romania have been met with high praise. In 2013, Lebel led the TMCO in a well-received program at Carnegie Hall. Upcoming concerts include "The Three B's - Bach, Brahms & Berlioz," Saturday, May 20, 6 p.m., at The Hobby Center for Performing Arts, Zilkha Hall; and again on Tuesday, May 23, 6 p.m., in the Methodist Hospital Lobby. The May 20 performance will feature soloists Jacqueline and Kathy Audas, twin granddaughters of Shelly Cyprus. The sisters are students at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. On Saturday, Aug. 12, TMCO will perform "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th Anniversary with Beatles Tribute Band: The Fab Five," at Miller Outdoor Theatre. For more information and tickets to the Hobby Center performance, go to tmcorchestra.org.

A Mother's Marathon: One step at a time

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 3:18pm
My daughter Ranya is a senior, and will graduate from Plan 2 this May, and from Moody College of Communication in December. She and I are both runners. Looking back over these past four years, I can say that parenting her through college has felt like training for another marathon. I know each training program is different; one size does not fit all. I knew if I wanted to train for a good race, and be the best support for my daughter, I would have to be willing to let go, be flexible and go with the flow. A Mother's Marathon - sending my first child to college, set on 40 acres of The University of Texas, Austin, would be my most challenging and rewarding marathon yet. Freshman year training started: I made my running schedule building up to my longest endurance run of 22 miles. The months of training build endurance, stamina and mental strength. Training taught my mind to stay focused and strong, my heart to believe and my spirit never to give up as I visualized the finish line on every run. I began using this strategy to help my daughter through her challenging moments, reminding her of the journey ahead - one step at a time. Sophomore year: The required tapering two weeks before the marathon begins. I realized Ranya was able to "run" on her own, and it was time for me to let her run her own race. This can be difficult and nerve wracking, but I had to trust the training over the prior months. "Carb loading" or "course loading," no pun intended. And, hydration begins a few days before the race - love it or hate it, you have to do it. You know you have to build up your glycogen reserves and prepare your body for those 26.2 miles - those two more years of college. Sleep is essential and you get to bed sooner, and learn to say "No!" when you want to say "Yes!" Marathon training and parenting is a major commitment, as is staying on task with the class load, extracurricular activities, sorority life, tailgating and work. The dedication of training translates to dedication in all areas of life - a philosophy we both embrace. Junior year is race day: It was also the year my daughter wanted to run her first marathon in Houston on Jan. 17, 2016, and asked me to help her train for it. Being flexible, and committed, was the philosophy we both adopted. Race day morning is exciting, and the nervousness is palpable, as you know this is it: "I'm 26.2 miles away from completing my first marathon." "I'm just a year away from graduating." The National Anthem is sung, and a tear is shed as you realize you are on the threshold of being a marathoner and a graduate. The gun goes off and you go. You don't start out too fast for the first couple of miles - breathing, smiling for the photographer and embracing the moment with your fellow runners; each one has trained for this amazing day. They are also my fellow parents and my daughter's classmates. You run one mile at a time, stop at the Gatorade and water stations, hydrate and take quick walk breaks. You remember to thank the volunteers, police officers, race officials and your friends and family who are along the race course cheering you on, even if it's freezing cold, hot and humid, or raining. Senior year: Mile 18 of the marathon is like midterm exams. You feel the miles wearing your body down, and you begin to dig deep, and then deeper as you approach Mile 20 - the infamous "Wall," when you think, "I can't do this!" But, you reframe your thoughts and tell yourself, "I believe I will!" You look around and tell your fellow runner who wants to stop, "You can do this; I know you can!" And, when you're 0.2 after running 26 miles, you pick up the pace, even if your legs feel like lead, and sprint toward the finish line, smile and raise your arms high as you cross 26.2 miles. You're a marathoner! You're a graduate! You're a mother! My role as a mother over these last four years has evolved from being my daughter's guide to letting her guide herself. And, I have remained available to listen, reflect and advise when needed. When we ran her first marathon together - at Mile 20, she looked at me and said, "Mom, I'm in unchartered territory, I don't know what to do." I looked at her and said, "I'm here for you, sweetheart, and I will see you through. We're going to run one step at a time and cross the finish line together." We did. Except, I let her finish 0.03 seconds ahead of me. She was waiting and we hugged each other and cried as she said, "Thank you Mommy, I couldn't have finished without you!" On Jan. 15, she ran her second Houston Marathon. At Mile 4, I told her to go on ahead of me. She finished with a new PR (personal record). Ranya will run many more of her own marathons - both through life and in races. There will be hill repeats, long runs, tempo runs, easy runs, rest days and endurance runs; and I know she is ready to cross each and every finish line. This article was originally featured in UT Austin's Texas Parents Association eNewsletter.

Authors teach reading is key to writing during BYDS Young Authors' Celebration

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 10:24am
Elementary school students learned the value of diversity, while gaining practical advice on how to become a published author. Beth Yeshurun Day School held its annual Young Authors' Celebration on April 21. The school-wide event, created in memory of a language arts teacher, Deborah Komorn Baruch, included a series of workshops and book readings by half-a-dozen celebrated authors from across the country. BYDS librarian, Monica Woolf, coordinated the event that, for the first time this year, included participation by students from another local Jewish day school, Yeshiva Torat Emet. Chris Helene Bridges is a Houston-based writer who presented her picture book, "The Same Heart," at this year's Young Authors' Celebration. "As different as we all are, our hearts are all the same," Bridges told the JHV. "Given all the conflict we see in the world today, it's important for kids to hear that we are more the same than we are different," she said. "We don't need to be afraid of people who aren't exactly like us, because most of our differences are really on the outside. "What's on the inside - our heart - is really what's matters," she said. Several of Bridges' books are bilingual, English and Spanish, and contain artwork created by young students. "The Same Heart" is adorned with a collection of self-portraits, drawn by children from HISD's Poe Elementary. BYDS fourth-grader, Stella Frank, arrived early to school on April 21 in order to meet the guest authors and have them autograph copies of their books. "I love everything about Young Authors' Celebration - it's one of my favorite days of the year," Frank told the JHV. "I want to be a writer when I grow up, so it's really inspiring to meet all these famous authors." Frank noted that she recently wrote her first book - a story about dolphins. She said her school places great emphasis on language arts. BYDS' Young Authors' Celebration was launched in 1999 as a tribute to language arts teacher and BYDS graduate, Deborah Komorn Baruch, of blessed memory. The program is underwritten by the Deborah Komorn Baruch Excellence in Education Fund, created by her parents, Dr. Bob and Judy Komorn. 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.

Holocaust education begins with 'memories in the living room'

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 2:56pm
Braced by her daughter Fredda Friedlander, child Holocaust survivor Ruth Steinfeld retold the story of how she and her older sister, Lea, were saved from the Nazis during World War II by poor Catholic farmers in France. Steinfeld shared her story in front of a small gathering of young adults on April 20 in the living room of her grandchildren, Allison and Freddy Feldman. Five similar presentations by Holocaust survivors took place in other local homes and at Houston Hillel the same evening. Organized by Israeli shlicha Herut Gez, the talks were held as part of a program - Zikaron BaSalon, or "Memories in the Living Room" - that began in Israel in 2010 and this year took place in more than 50 countries around the world. "My story is one of great people we now call 'Righteous Among the Nations,' " said Steinfeld, who was placed in the care of a Catholic family in France, due to her mother's brave decision to give her two girls away to a rescue agency, posing as the Red Cross, following the Jewish family's deportation to a Nazi concentration camp in 1940. Years later, Steinfeld returned to France in hopes of finding her rescuers. Though the parents of the family that took her and her sister in had since died, the couple's daughter, Paulette, whom Steinfeld remembered as a little girl, was still living in France. The two were reunited. "I asked: How was it, Paulette, that your parents were brave enough to give a home to two little Jewish girls in Occupied France, knowing the consequences?" Steinfeld said. "Her answer was very simple. All she said was: 'Wouldn't you?' " This was the first year that Houston participated in Zikaron BaSalon. Besides Holocaust survivors sharing their stories, the programs included presentations by local artists, coupled with discussion questions for each group. The programs were hosted by, and were geared for, young adults. "The idea was born from the understanding that the connection between us and the memories of the Holocaust have significantly deteriorated," said program co-host Allison Feldman. "Zikaron BaSalon ... offers a new, meaningful and intimate way to commemorate this day and address its implications through discussions that come among family, friends and guests." She added, "I grew up always going to the big [Yom Hashoah] ceremony that switches between temples in Houston. While it's really meaningful, I think this [program] is a lot more intimate and special to all get together and actually hear a survivor speak and be able to discuss the Holocaust." Young adults at Steinfeld's talk debated the question: At what age children should begin to learn about the Holocaust? "We grow up knowing about the Holocaust," said Roy Uri, who was raised in Israel. "They teach you to respect it." Uri's wife, Ayli, who grew up in South Africa, said she, too, learned about the Holocaust from an early age. American kids are more sheltered, parents agreed. "The more educated the parents, the more sheltered the children," said Susie Aronstein, Steinfeld's daughter. Her sister, Fredda, added, "You have to know your child and what they can handle." The program's organizer said parents set the example for their children. "As young adults, we need to ask ourselves: How do we commemorate the Holocaust?" said Gez. "Even more important than obligating schools to teach this subject, it's what we do in our own homes to teach about the Holocaust that matters, because children follow their parents' examples. "We need to ask ourselves everyday about what we've learned from the Holocaust," she said. "Have we learned the lessons?"

Yom HaShoah program comes to Houston for first time

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 9:45am
Zikaron BaSalon, an annual Israeli-inspired global event for Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) that seeks to enhance the communal and interpersonal nature of Holocaust memory, is coming to Houston for the first time. Houston community shlicha, Herut Gez, has organized the city's first Zikaron BaSalon program, scheduled for Thursday, April 20, at 7 p.m., in six local living rooms - three for young adults, one for adults, one for college students and one for an intergenerational mix of participants. Gez is an Israeli emissary who works to expand Israel-relevant education, understanding and engagement throughout the Houston Jewish and Greater community. The Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, through the Jewish Agency for Israel, funds her position. Translated from Hebrew as "memories in the living room," the program offers meaningful and intimate ways to commemorate Yom HaShoah and to address the implications of Holocaust remembrance through discussions at home among family, friends and guests. Zikaron BaSalon started in Israel in 2010, when a few friends gathered in a living room to delve into Holocaust memories. What began as one discussion has transformed into an international tradition where events consist of three parts, including testimony - personal or documented accounts from a Holocaust survivor, second-generation survivor or field expert; expression - through songs, text or stories; and discussion - conversations about Holocaust memory and its personal significance. "It is a unique and authentic tradition of people gathering together to open their hearts to the stories of the survivors, sing, think, read, talk and most importantly - listen," Zikaron BaSalon states on its website, zikaronbasalon.org. The Jewish Federation's YAD, Holocaust Museum Houston, Next Gen and Zikaron BaSalon's international movement are partnering with Gez on the Houston event. The committee members are Allison and Freddy Feldman, Steve Finkelman, Fredda Friedlander, Helly Kimhi, Natalie Lepow, Niki Lessig, Elinor Miloh, Mallory Mincberg, Ben Proler and Carolyn Whiteman. "I look forward to hosting Zikaron BaSalon to teach the lessons of the Holocaust in contemporary society to young professionals," Proler said. "We hope the intimate setting and vulnerable discussion will lend to an impactful evening. It is critically important the next generation meet and interact with Holocaust survivors to carry their story from generation to generation." Register for one of Houston's Zikaron BaSalon living room discussions at houstonjewish.org/memories. For registration for college students, contact JCC shaliach Miki Plotkin, [email protected]. For more information, contact Gez, 713-729-7000, ext. 318, or [email protected] jewish.org.

Rice University will respond to hate with kindness

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 4:51pm
The Chabad Jewish Student Center at Rice University, in response to hate incidents on campus earlier this year, is organizing a Mitzvah Marathon (Good Deeds Drive) on April 6, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., in the central quad (outside Brochstein's Pavilion). The event, co-organized by Rice Boniuk Institute For Religious Tolerance, Houston Hillel, Joint Campus Ministers and the Program In Jewish Studies At Rice University, will encourage students and the general public to pledge acts of goodness and kindness to counter hate and bigotry. There have been at least four hate incidents on the Rice campus during the past few months, including an anti-Semitic incident on Feb. 3, when a swastika was drawn on the plinth of Rice University's William Marsh Rice statue. In addition to condemning these acts, Rice University Dean John Hutchinson praised Chabad's Mitzvah Marathon initiative and urged students to participate in signing up to perform acts of kindness. "I am delighted that our students have taken the initiative of bringing the Mitzvah Marathon to Rice," said Hutchinson. "In a time when many of us have become divided by corrosive speech and acts of bigotry, these student leaders are elevating our community by rallying all of us to acts of kindness and generosity which can overcome the darkness of division." Students also have expressed their enthusiasm for the marathon. "I am so honored and excited to be a part of this event which showcases Rice at its best," said Rice sophomore Gary Dryer. "I am deeply humbled to be a student at this university I call home where I get to be a part of so many different communities. It is my sincere hope that the Mitzvah Marathon/Good Deeds Drive will bring our campus together during these trying times and unite us in the name of making the world a better place." Rice sophomore Abby Shulman also expressed hope that the Mitzvah Marathon will foster unity. "It's going to be a really exciting opportunity for the whole campus to engage in positive acts collaboratively. The event is designed to be extremely accessible, so that we get maximum participation." "It's moving to see both students and the faculty so passionate about performing acts of kindness," said Rabbi Shmuli Slonim, director of the Chabad Jewish Student Center at Rice University. "Hate has shown its ugly face once again, but it takes only a small flame to dispel a lot of darkness. "The leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, of blessed memory, advocated for everyone to increase in acts of goodness and kindness, for even 'one kind word or one good deed can change the world.' With Dean Hutchinson's encouragement of the Mitzvah Marathon, the Rice community is sending a clear message that it's up for the challenge and will spread its light far and wide," Rabbi Slonim said.

Jewish bomb threat arrest undermines narrative on anti-Semitism

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 10:37am
NEW YORK (JTA) - Many Jewish groups blamed white supremacists, emboldened by Donald Trump's campaign, for the bomb threats that have plagued Jewish institutions since the beginning of this year. It appears the groups were wrong. The news that one Jewish teen - an Israeli, no less - was behind most of the approximately 150 bomb threats that have hit Jewish community centers since the start of 2017 is a shocking twist in light of months in which the Anti-Defamation League and other groups pointed their collective finger at the far right. "We're in unprecedented times," said Oren Segal, director of the ADL's Center on Extremism, at a March 10 news conference on the bomb threats. "We've never seen, ever, the volume of bomb threats that we've seen. White supremacists in this country feel more emboldened than they ever have before because of the public discourse and divisive rhetoric." But the perpetrator of the anti-Semitic acts, while his political opinions are not known, does not fit the profile of a white supremacist. According to Israeli reports, he's a mentally ill Israeli-American Jewish teenager. He worked from home, using a computer lab with sophisticated equipment, encryption and transmission systems, and a powerful antenna, according to reports. And his father may have known what he was doing. Israel's anti-fraud squad arrested the 19-year-old suspect at his home in southern Israel and searched the premises on Thursday. He was brought to court and ordered held until March 30. The other suspect in the bomb threats, arrested earlier in March, also does not appear connected to the far right. He's a left-wing African-American former journalist who apparently made the calls in a convoluted vendetta against a former romantic partner. Denis Braham, chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston's board of trustees, stated, "We are thankful that police have finally made an arrest and appreciative of all the law enforcement involved." Lee Wunsch, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, added, "Hopefully this period of disruption has come to an end. However, it did create an opportunity to review and assess community security protocols and procedures. This experience allowed us to come together as a community to support one another. ... We especially want to thank the ERJCC leadership for stepping up their protocols in such a challenging time." The ADL has repeatedly charged Trump with emboldening extremists, anti-Semites and far-right groups in the U.S. Other groups were even more explicit in linking rising anti-Semitic acts this year to the new president. On Jan. 10, following the first wave of JCC bomb threats, Bend The Arc, a liberal Jewish group, said that "Trump helped to create the atmosphere of bigotry and violence that has resulted in these dangerous threats against Jewish institutions and individuals." ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told JTA on Thursday that the organization stands by its prognosis of a surge in anti-Semitism and hatred in the U.S. since the campaign. Aside from the JCC bombings, Greenblatt pointed to a range of other hateful activities tied to white supremacists, from abuse of journalists on Twitter and harassment of Jews in Whitefish, Montana, to a South Carolina man who plotted a mass shooting at a synagogue. "The impact is still the same: You've got children, families, the elderly, teens and others who have been terrorized by these attacks," Greenblatt said. "We've seen rising levels of bigotry in ways that are brand new. The emergence of the 'alt-right' and the rising levels of abuse they perpetrated during the campaign against Jews and other minorities is despicable."

We've got to get our thumbs out of the way

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 5:09am
The sun is about the biggest thing we ever see with our plain eyes. It is enormously enormous and the role it plays in maintaining an incredibly delicate balance for the earth and our living on it is astounding. And yet, if we close one eye, hold up our thumb in the sun's direction and then line up the site of our open eye with our thumb, we can actually block it out from our field of vision. Isn't that amazing!? And how easy it is to get so lost in the seemingly big things of the day that we literally miss seeing the "smaller" but so much more real things in our lives. The news, the issues of the day, the many and varied TV shows, online and print newspapers, magazines and journals, not to mention the constant production of breaking news (of personal or national interest) broadcast on social media, can easily crowd out our focus on our family, our colleagues and our friends. We, all of us, have so much more in common than what seemingly separates us. And we are far more complicated than any one survey could ever define. We therefore must remind ourselves that so much of the energy behind the production of all of this news is a business that seeks to sell more and more advertising. Now, I don't at all mean to be a total cynic and claim that there is no value in the news in and of itself. Or that journalism is dead or that investigations are always biased or anything like that. I still very much believe in the existence of truth. But we have to be willing, at least occasionally, to move our voracious appetite for the newest and latest information off the top shelf so that we don't forget what and who really matters: we and the people we love. Our guts matter and our points of view matter and our feelings matter and our hopes and dreams matter and even our fears matter. Our fears matter not because they are necessarily the best determinants for what is truly dangerous, but rather, because they remind us that we are scared. And this is something we can and should talk about and would talk about if only we could move our thumbs out of the way and experience life in all of the varieties of light with which it shines. Fear may be the most universal feeling of all. Check out my first podcast, "Conversations with the Rabbi", now available on iTunes, to hear more on this topic by visiting shmakoleinu.com.

AIPAC headliners pledge to strengthen US-Israel ties

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 2:37pm
WASHINGTON - American leadership's support for Israel "is at record levels," according to Vice President Mike Pence, who addressed some 18,000 delegates at the 2017 AIPAC Policy Conference. Closing out the first day of the three-day parlay on March 26 at the Verizon Center in Washington, the vice president told pro-Israel activists from all 50 U.S. states that America's "commitment to Israel's defense is non-negotiable - not now, not ever." He said, "Under President Donald Trump, if the world knows nothing else, the world will know this: American stands with Israel." Some 4,000 students - including several dozen from Houston - participated in this year's conference, whose theme is "Many Voices, One Mission." "It was amazing to see how many people support Israel and to see how many people came out, today, to show their support for Israel," said Goldie Serwatien, a senior from Robert M. Beren Academy who traveled to Washington with a delegation of students in the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston's Teen Israel Ambassadors program. "Vice President Pence definitely gave a strong statement when he said that Americans will always stand with Israel," Serwatien told the JHV. "I stand with Israel - we all stand with Israel." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the AIPAC delegates the following morning, March 27, via satellite link from his office in Jerusalem. "Israel has no greater friend than America, and America has no greater friend than Israel," said Prime Minister Netanyahu. "Israel is fast becoming a global technological power," due in part to the Israeli people's "ingenuity and determination," the prime minister said. "Israel wouldn't be the country it is today without the steadfast support of the United States of America," he added. On the third and final day of this year's Policy Conference, delegates met with elected officials on Capitol Hill to strengthen the alliance between the U.S. and the world's only Jewish state. In particular, AIPAC delegates asked Congress to stand with Israel on three agenda items: to check Iranian aggression in the region; to provide Israel with the means to defend itself; and, to combat efforts in the United Nations and other international forums to delegitimize Israel. Pence received his longest standing ovation after recalling a recent visit he and his family made to the former Nazi concentration camp in Dachau, Germany. Leading the tour was a 93-year-old Holocaust survivor who was imprisoned at the forced labor camp when he was 17. The survivor described the "hellish" conditions he endured and the mass murder he witnessed. "Then, he stopped and looked up at me with tears in his eyes and said something I'll never forget," Pence said. " 'Then, the Americans came.' " The survivor's words "underscored the imperative of American strength," the vice president said, "and they powerfully remind us of the immutable bond between our people and the people of Israel. "Under President Trump's leadership, America will be strong - stronger than ever before," he said. "Our nation's friendship with Israel will become even stronger. Together, we will reach even greater heights for the benefit of our two peoples and the world." The vice president's remarks won over students who said they otherwise take issue with other positions held by the new Trump administration. They said support for Israel provides opportunities to find common ground across the political aisle. "Today was the first time I heard someone talk about something that I care so much about, but coming from someone who I've disagreed with a lot," said Ilana Vines, a junior from The Emery/Weiner School and participant in the Teen Israel Ambassadors program. "I hadn't realized how close-minded I had become. "I felt very uncomfortable when Vice President Pence started talking because of other things he's said that I oppose," she said. "But, then I realized that there can be common ground and you can compartmentalize some of those disagreements. "Support for Israel provides that common ground," she said.

JEFFREY CHARLES LERNER

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 11:38am
Jeffrey Charles Lerner, age 89, of Houston, Texas passed from this life into the arms of his heavenly Father on Feb. 22, 2017. Born in the Bronx, N.Y. on Jan. 15, 1928, Jeffrey was the son of Anne Kaliner Lerner and Morris "Murray" Lerner. He attended Tallowood Baptist Church and is survived by his loving wife of 23 years, Susan Barnes Lerner; his children, Steven Lerner (Nancy), Seth Lerner (Karen), Arlis Brodie (John) and Nathan Lerner; grandchildren, David Lerner (Jessica), Cathy Lerner (fiancé Bryan Sistano), Meredith Lerner, Michael Brodie, Morgan Lerner, Nicole Brodie and Jordan Brodie; and sister, Joan Alef of Eugene, Ore. After graduating in January 1944 from Evander Childs High School at age 16, he studied science and music at City College of New York and Brooklyn College. During this period of WW II, he performed weekly war bond concerts in Carnegie Hall with the National Orchestral Association Orchestra. Upon turning 18, he enlisted in the United States Army, during which time he began studying with renowned clarinetist, Daniel Bonade. Later, he would study saxophone with acclaimed pedagogue, Joseph Allard. After completing three years of military service, he was awarded a full scholarship to The Juilliard School, where he earned baccalaureate and master's degrees in music. Upon completing his studies in 1952, he was appointed second clarinet of the Houston Symphony Orchestra. In 1955, he was appointed principal clarinet of the HSO by Maestro Leopold Stokowski, and began teaching at the University of Houston. The following year, he resigned from the HSO to accept a professorship in clarinet and saxophone at UH, an appointment he would hold until retiring in 2009. He holds the title professor emeritus in the Moores School of Music at UH. He returned to the HSO as a member in 1959, holding full-time appointments with both HSO and UH until 1967. Having played first clarinet with the famed Goldman Band in New York for several summer seasons, he also performed as principal clarinet with Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet, Texas Opera Theatre and many other symphony, opera and show orchestras in Houston. An ardent champion of chamber music, he was a founding member of the Woodwinds of Houston and Winds of Texas. Until the time of his death, he continued his work as one of Houston's leading contractors of musicians, which, over the years, included many premiere local performance organizations and national touring productions presented in Houston's most prestigious venues. Having performed extensively in seven decades, and worked in such a wide and diverse array of musical settings, he ranks among the most active and impactful music professionals ever in the city of Houston and the state of Texas. A longtime member of the International Clarinet Association, he was featured multiple times at European and American conferences of this, the largest professional society of clarinetists in the world. His musical legacy continues in the multitude of students he taught and other musicians he mentored. A memorial service celebrating the life of Jeffrey Lerner will take place on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. at 11 a.m. at Tallowood Baptist Church (555 Tallowood Rd. - Houston, Texas). Memorial gifts may be made to University of Houston-Moores School of Music, P.O. Box 867, Houston, TX 77001-0867. Please designate "Jeffrey Lerner Scholarship Fund."

NCSY mishloach manot

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 3:25pm
Rabbi Sammy Soussan, Emma Lapin, Lauren Blachman and Clay Cohen were part of an NCSY-J Serve Houston partnership project on March 8 that assembled Purim mishloach manot packages for families served by Houston's kosher food bank, Tomchei Shabbat. Hosted at the home of NCSY member Rebekah Grzebinski, the project was part of the Orthodox Jewish youth group's Latte & Learning program that fosters a comfortable environment for teens to ask real questions, voice their opinions and form a strong, non-pressured connection to their Judaism. The project also was used to recruit teen leaders for J Serve, a community service and advocacy organization for middle school and high school students.

Community Calendar

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 2:46pm
<?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. WEDNESDAY, MARCH 8

ADL Women's Initiative presents &quot;The Art of Perception,&quot; 7:30 p.m., at the River Oaks Theatre. Speaker is Amy Herman. For tickets, go to houston.adl.org or adlhouston on Facebook.

An immersive exhibition designed to honor the heroes, victims, and survivors of the Holocaust, &quot;A Celebration of Survival,&quot; by Barbara Hines, addresses the Holocaust framed in a message of redemption and forgiveness. On view at Holocaust Museum Houston's Mincberg Gallery, &quot;A Celebration of Survival&quot; inspires visitors to focus on what &quot;could be,&quot; rather than the horrors of the past.

Avital Hadassah will hold its March meeting at the JCC, 5601 S. Braeswood Blvd., at 12:30 p.m. &quot;American and Israel Relations after the Election&quot; is the topic. Refreshments will be served. RSVP to Gladys Kaplan, 713-771-2114 or [email protected].

THURSDAY, MARCH 9

The Bryan Museum presents Rabbi Cohen: Galveston's Shepherd, 5:30-6:30 p.m., at 1315 21st St., Galveston. (Enter from the guest parking lot behind the museum.) Speaker: Rabbi James Kessler, B'nai Israel rabbi emeritus.

Congregation Emanu El's 2016-'17 Endowment Fund Speaker Series, &quot;Pathway to the Future: A New Look at Reform Jewish Worship,&quot; will conclude at 7:30 p.m. Rabbi Samuel Karff will present &quot;The Changing Face of Reform Judaism &ndash; An Eyewitness Account.&quot; Free and open to the community. More information is available at emanuelhouston.org, or call 713-529-5771.

SUNDAY, MARCH 12 Emoji Purim is the creative twist to The Shul of Bellaire's Purim celebration, which will be held at Bellaire Civic Center, 7008 S. Rice Ave., Bellaire, 4-6:30 p.m. For information, contact Rabbi Yossi Zaklikofsky, 713-839-8887 or email [email protected] or visit jewishbellaire.com/purim. MONDAY, MARCH 13 Annie Leff Hadassah Dinner and Movie. The group will meet at the JCC for dinner at 6:30 p.m., then attend &quot;The Women's Balcony,&quot; 7:30 p.m., showing at the Houston Jewish Film Festival. Ladies interested in joining the group may contact Linda, [email protected], for meeting details. THROUGH MONDAY, MARCH 13

Blood drive in honor of Eljay Waldman, member of Temple Beth Tikvah. Credit donation to group code R417. Call 281-447-0053 for an appointment or go to giveblood.org.

TUESDAY, MARCH 14 &quot;Yours, Mine and Ours&quot; birthday bash, honoring the memory of Evelyn Bell, 7-8:30 p.m., at the JCC. RSVP to [email protected] or to Jamie, 713-667-9336. Donations may be made &ndash; to benefit Celebration Company, Nite Owls, Friendship Circle and Project Shalom &ndash; at jfshouston.org/giveonline.php. THURSDAY, MARCH 16

Anne Frank Hadassah March meeting, 10:30 a.m. at home of Beth Wolff. Rabbi Jimmy Kessler, rabbi emeritus of Congregation B'nai Israel, Galveston, will discuss &quot;The Ghosts of Houston.&quot; RSVP by March 10 to Paulette, 713-827-7227, or [email protected].

FRIDAY, MARCH 17 Houston Congregation for Reform Judaism will celebrate the Heritage of Irish Jewry with a sumptuous Irish feast at 6 p.m., followed by Shabbat services at 7:15 p.m. Make reservations at hcrj.org/event/irish-shabbat by Friday, March 10. HCRJ is located at 801 Bering Dr., 713-782-4162. THROUGH SUNDAY, MARCH 19 Houston Jewish Film Festival, presented by the JCC, will screen 27 Jewish and Israeli films at the JCC and several other locations. For a guide, go to erjcchouston.org/arts/filmfest or on social media. MONDAY, MARCH 20

Friends of the IDF Texas Region 2017 Gala, reception 6 p.m., dinner and program 7 p.m., at Royal Sonesta Hotel, 2222 West Loop S. For reservations, visit fidftxgala.org or call 713-955-0225.

TUESDAY, MARCH 21

&quot;A Not So Kosher Night of Comedy,&quot; with Josh Gondelman, 7:30 p.m. at The Secret Group, 2101 Polk St. Sponsored by YAD and JCC's Get Cultured, for ages 22-45. RSVP to [email protected].

Paint and Sip with a Jewish Twist, 7 p.m., during Celebrating Women Month at the JCC. For a schedule or to register, visit erjcchouston.org/adults/celebratingwomen or contact Morgan Steinberg, 713-595-8170.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 22

Jewish Federation's Commercial Real Estate Society Dinner, 6:15 p.m., at Westin Oaks Hotel. RSVP at houstonjewish.org/cres.

&quot;Celebrating Women Month&quot; with &quot;An Evening with Dina Hurwitz: A Story of Hope and Inspiration,&quot; 7:30 p.m., at the JCC. RSVP erjcchouston.org or call 713-729-3200.

THURSDAY, MARCH 23 Congregation Emanu El's Sisterhood hosts an evening starring Kinky Friedman, beginning at 7:15 p.m. A pre-event patron reception begins at 6:30 p.m., with dinner in Feld Hall at 7:15. Friedman begins at 8 in the Barish Sanctuary. For information on the fundraising event or the Jewish Family Service project associated with the event, contact Sisterhood at 713-529-5771, ext. 233, or [email protected]. Register for the fundraiser at emanuelhouston.org. FRIDAY, MARCH 24 &quot;Beatles Shabbat VI&quot; at Congregation Beth Israel, 5600 N. Braeswood Blvd., 6:30 p.m. More at beth-israel.org. SUNDAY, MARCH 26

Program on understanding medications and drug interactions, with pharmacist Gary Cheema of Medic Pharmacy, will be held at Congregation Brith Shalom, 4610 Bellaire Blvd., in Bellaire, at 2 p.m. Free for Hazak members; small fee for nonmembers. RSVP by March 23: 713-726-8745 or [email protected].

&quot;Celebrating Women Month&quot; with Lisa F. Smith, author of &quot;Girl Walks out of a Bar,&quot; 7 p.m., at the JCC. RSVP erjcchouston.org or call 713-729-3200.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 29 &quot;Night in White,&quot; Beth Yeshurun Day School gala, will honor Rabbi Brian and Lisa Strauss, 6:30 p.m. Register at byds.org/gala. FRIDAY, MARCH 31 In anticipation of her July arrival as a member of the Congregation Emanu El clergy team, Cantor Rollin Simmons will make the second of her scheduled visits during the final Shabbat weekend of March. At 6 p.m., Cantor Simmons will join Rabbi Pam Silk and Barbara Loeser in leading Shabbat worship in the Proler Chapel. SATURDAY, APRIL 1

Gadi Lehavi Trio, Live in Concert, 8 p.m., at the JCC. RSVP erjcchouston.org or call 713-729-3200.

TUESDAY, APRIL 4 Senior Safety Fair &amp; More, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Westbury United Methodist Church, 5200 Willowbend Dr. Sponsored by JFS' N4NN. SUNDAY, MAY 21 &quot;Big Gig&quot; with Seth Meyers at the Smart Financial Centre in Sugar Land. Sponsored by the Jewish Federation. Tickets at JFedBigGig.com. THROUGH-SUNDAY, MAY 14, 2017 Holocaust Museum Houston will open its first Spanish/English bilingual exhibit, &quot;Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964.&quot; The exhibit showcases the Bracero program, the largest guest worker program in U.S. History, which brought millions of Mexican nationals north to work on short-term labor contracts. THROUGH TUESDAY, MAY 30 An immersive exhibition designed to honor the heroes, victims and survivors of the Holocaust, &quot;A Celebration of Survival,&quot; by Barbara Hines, addresses the Holocaust framed in a message of redemption and forgiveness. On view at Holocaust Museum Houston's Mincberg Gallery, &quot;A Celebration of Survival&quot; inspires visitors to focus on what &quot;could be,&quot; rather than the horrors of the past. The J on the Go ... 60-Plus

J RIDE
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].

Ongoing

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 bjchouston.org. 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 hmh.org, 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, chabaduptown.org.

SUNDAYS, 9 A.M.
BLT &ndash; Bagels, Lox &amp; Tefillin
Boost your week by laying tefillin and enjoying
Torah study over a delicious breakfast.

WEDNESDAYS, 8 P.M.
Contemporary Themes &amp; Social for Young Professionals Exploring Torah's view on the modern world, over dinner. Topics posted at chabaduptown.org/youngadults.

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

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


ADL: Juan Thompson's arrest alone won't stop 'unprecedented' wave of anti-Semitism

Sat, 03/04/2017 - 7:33am
NEW YORK - Thanking the FBI and police for the arrest of Juan Thompson, who allegedly made eight bomb threats to Jewish institutions, the Anti-Defamation League called the current wave of anti-Semitic acts "unprecedented." "Law enforcement at all levels is a close friend to the Jewish people in America," Evan Bernstein, ADL's New York regional director, said at a news conference Friday. "Just because there's been an arrest today around our bomb threats does not mean that the threats have disappeared or will stop." Earlier in the day, sources told the media that Thompson was a "copycat" and that the investigation continued into finding the hoaxers behind the dozens of other bomb threats reported since January. The news conference was convened after law enforcement announced Friday that Thompson had been charged in connection with the deluge of bomb threats received this year by Jewish institutions. Thompson, 31, of St. Louis, allegedly made bomb threats to JCCs, Jewish schools and an ADL office as part of his cyberstalking of a former romantic partner. The ADL and several other Jewish groups had met Friday with FBI Director James Comey. According to a statement from the groups in attendance, which were not listed but included the ADL, the Jewish Federations of North America and the JCC Association of North America, the meeting concerned recent anti-Semitic acts and collaboration between Jewish institutions and law enforcement. "All the organizations in attendance expressed the deep gratitude of the entire community for the extraordinary effort that the FBI is applying to the ongoing investigation," the statement said. "The representatives of the Jewish community left with the highest confidence that the FBI is taking every possible measure to resolve the matter as quickly as possible." According to statistics compiled by the New York Police Department, anti-Semitic acts have nearly doubled in early 2017 as compared to one year earlier. The ADL said that due to the reach of the internet and the quantity of recent bomb threats, white supremacists are more emboldened than ever. "We're in unprecedented times," said Oren Segal, director of the ADL's Center on Extremism. "We've never seen, ever, the volume of bomb threats that we've seen. White supremacists in this country feel more emboldened than they ever have before because of the public discourse and divisive rhetoric." In total, more than 100 Jewish institutions, mostly JCCs, have received bomb threats since the beginning of the year. The last two weeks saw vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia, St. Louis and Rochester, New York, as well as two more waves of bomb threats called into JCCs, schools and institutions across the country, representing the fourth and fifth waves of such harassment this year. No explosive device was found after any of the calls. The ADL called on President Donald Trump to take action against anti-Semitism, including by directing the Department of Justice to launch a civil rights investigation into the threats, and by creating a federal interagency task force on combating hate crimes chaired by the attorney general. "We need action to stop these threats," Bernstein said. "History shows that when anti-Semitism gains the upper hand, courageous leaders need to speak out and take action before it's too late." Segal said the ADL has been tracking Thompson, a disgraced former journalist, since he fabricated the identity of a cousin of Dylann Roof, the gunman who killed nine at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. On its Twitter feed Friday, the ADL posted information gleaned from the U.S. Attorney's complaint and media portraying Thompson as a former journalist - he was fired from his job at the online news site The Intercept for inventing quotes and sources - who had recently "became more hostile to whites in general." According to the ADL, he has posted inflammatory tweets about white police officers and the "white New York liberal media."

A conversation with Perl Wolfe, who will be at JCC March 1

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 8:43am
A concert featuring the Jewish indie rock band Perl will open a month of activities "Celebrating Women" at the Evelyn Rubinstein JCC. Perl, composed of lead singer Perl Wolfe, cellist Elisheva Maister, violinist Dana Pestun and drummer Gloribel Castro, describe themselves as a "Hasidic alt-rock girl band straight out of Crown Heights, Brooklyn," They will perform on March 1 at 7 p.m. in the Kaplan Theatre. Perl's sound has been compared to Fiona Apple, Florence and the Machine and The White Stripes, and is inspired by Torah and Chassidus. Wolfe spoke to the JHV's Aaron Howard from New York. JHV: Will your Houston concert be for women only? Wolfe: Yes JHV: Could you please explain your understanding of "kol isha?" Wolfe: That's not the reason why we perform for women only. Growing up in the Hasidic community, I had the opportunity to experience women-only spaces. These spaces empower women. I think it's healthy for women to hang out with their own sex and have a bonding experience. I'm not saying it's the only way to empower women. I think it should be accepted the same way as having mixed spaces. It's not discriminatory to want to hang out with women. It's been a blessing for us to make it come to fruition. What I keep hearing from our fans is: Keep making this space; it's inspiring. JHV: Just to be accurate, you can listen to men singing in live performance and on recordings? Wolfe: Correct, I do. JHV: Could you tell us how your original band, Bulletproof Stockings, came together? Wolfe: I started writing music about five years ago. I was classically trained in piano and sang in choirs but never wrote music until I was 25. I was going through a difficult time. Music opened new channels and original music just started pouring out of me. Within a week, I had enough songs to put on an EP. People responded, and I felt like I was supposed to do this. I was also struggling religiously and wasn't sure I wanted to remain frum. The lyrics in my songs were about G-d and longing, about me as a Hasid. I was living in Chicago at the time and I thought about creating an all-women's band there or should I return to New York. I came to the conclusion: Yes, I'm a Hasid; yes, I'm a musician; and yes, I'm going back to New York and form an all-woman's band. My mom begged me to stay in Chicago and think it over. I definitely thought: What if nobody likes this? What if the music sounded too goyish for the frum community? What if the secular community thought the women-only space was too sexist? Bu,t the diversity of women at the Bulletproof Stockings shows proved the idea worked. When I felt Hashem wanted me to do it, I had faith to make it happen. He opened the door. I keep getting the "yes." JHV: Could you talk about the direction your new band, Perl, is taking? Wolfe: We've only been together since July. Donna and Elisheva are the violinist and cellist from my old group. Gloribel is our new drummer, and she's not Jewish. I write all the lyrics and manage the band. Our new music is much more focused and vulnerable, with blues, jazz and indie art rock influences. We've had articles on the band in the Huffington Post, the Wall Street Journal, major TV stations and the Jewish media, like Tablet. Everybody in the media likes a different part of the story. JHV: Who has influenced you the most? Wolfe: Hashem and what I feel He wants from me. And, the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He was a proponent of the idea that everybody should use their innate abilities to uplift others. And, he was a proponent of women being leaders. My musical influences include Chopin. There's a clarity to his music that can pull on your heartstrings. And, Bob Dylan. I appreciate how he has conversations in his songs that leave room for the listener to interpret. Dylan breaks the rules in songwriting, which I do. Other influences include Radiohead and White Stripes. Compared to my old stuff, my new music is wiser and more confident. The songs pull you, rather than hitting you over the head. I've learned how to make myself more vulnerable. JHV: Any message for the people in Houston? Wolfe: I hope people in Houston will walk away from our concert transformed and inspired.

Learn how to survive an active shooter situation

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 5:27am
The Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Temple Sinai will host a program entitled "How To Survive An Active Shooter Situation" on Wednesday, March 1 at 7 p.m. The program will be presented by Stephen Daniel, the senior community liaison with the Houston Police Department. There is no charge for the event, which will take place at Temple Sinai, 13875 Brimhurst Drive. For more information contact Temple Sinai, 281-496-5950.

Beren basketball ends season with playoff loss, all-district honors

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 12:37pm
Playing with a lineup full of underclassmen, Beren Academy coach Chris Cole knew the 2017 basketball season would be a learning experience. The final lesson took place Feb. 16 with a 70-36 first-round playoff loss to Covenant Christian School inside the Beren Academy gym. Despite the early playoff exit, Cole said Beren grew as a team and rebounded from an 0-4 start to finish 11-11, including a 6-3 record and second place in TAPPS District 7-2A. This is the seventh straight year Beren finished first or second in district. "Our goal was to make the playoffs and that wasn't guaranteed going in and we accomplished that," Cole said. "There is a lot to be proud of." "Hopefully (the first round loss) is a reality check for us on how difficult life can be. It is a great experience and hopefully we can get better from it." The Stars earned several accolades from their strong district showing. Junior Jonny Abitbol and sophomores Yisroel Yanowitz and Akiva Garner earned first-team all-district honors. Freshman Noah Diner earned second team honors, while Jeffrey Collins and Ariel Schneider were honorable mention. With all the key players returning next season, Cole said it is up to them to reach the next level. "We have to figure out how much does (the first-round playoff loss) hurt," Cole said. "Does this hurt enough to be upset about it today or does it hurt enough to put us in the gym and work and improve."

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