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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.
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Trump administration to move US Embassy to Jerusalem in May, Israel's 70th birthday

Fri, 02/23/2018 - 12:50pm
WASHINGTON (JTA) - The Trump administration will formally move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in May to coincide with Israel's 70th anniversary. "We're planning to open the new U.S. Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem in May," a State Department spokesman told JTA in an email. "The Embassy opening will coincide with Israel's 70th anniversary." The spokesman did not reveal a specific date, but May 14 would mark 70 years since Israel's establishment. The spokesman said the embassy would be located in a southern Jerusalem neighborhood on the side that Israel held before 1967 but running along the seam of what was then the border. "The Embassy will initially be located in Arnona, on a compound that currently houses the consular operations of Consulate General Jerusalem," he said. Building a new embassy will take at least three years, and the spokesman suggested that at least for now, much of the daily operation of the embassy would remain in Tel Aviv. "At least initially, it will consist of the Ambassador and a small team," the spokesman said of the Jerusalem operation. Trump administration officials had said previously that the embassy move would take place in 2019. President Donald Trump has heralded his Dec. 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital as one of the highlights of his administration. He earned lengthy applause on Friday from the CPAC annual conservative conference in Washington when he mentioned the Jerusalem recognition. Another source apprised of the move provided JTA with a timeline for the move: In the first phase, starting in May, Ambassador David Friedman and some staff will begin working out of the consular section at a cost of about $300,000 to $500,000. In the second phase, by the end of 2019, an annex on site will be constructed for a more permanent working space for the ambassador, staff and a classified processing site. That will cost $10 million to 15 million, and the security arrangement will cost at least $45 million. The third phase, the site selection and construction of a new embassy, will take up to nine years.

Billy Graham, who championed Israel in public and derided Jews in private, dies at 99

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 2:19pm
WASHINGTON - Billy Graham, the giant of American evangelism who was exalted by Jews for his championing of Israel at its hour of need and then condemned when a nasty anti-Semitic streak was revealed, has died. Graham, 99, died at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, media reported. He was a counselor to Democratic and Republican presidents and, with his massive arena appearances, was a precursor of the Protestant televangelism that helped reshape the American religious and political landscapes. His son, Franklin, is one of President Donald Trump's highest-profile religious supporters. The elder Graham was an early and avid backer of Israel. A tour of the country in 1960 raised the country's profile among American evangelicals, establishing the seeds of strong pro-Israel support that persist in that community until now. In 1967, he urged Israeli leaders not to yield to diplomatic pressures that could endanger the country's security; such entreaties, commonplace now on the American right, were unusual at the time. He made a film, "His Land," about Israel that continues to be screened among pro-Israel evangelicals. Graham also was a champion for the Jews persecuted in the former Soviet Union and counseled his evangelical brethren not to proselytize Jews. "Just as Judaism frowns on proselytizing that is coercive, or that seeks to commit men against their will, so do I," Graham told an American Jewish Committee delegation that met with him in 1973. He received awards from the organized Jewish community and was so beloved in its precincts that in 1994, when H. R. Haldeman, a former top aide to President Richard Nixon, revealed Graham's lacerating anti-Semitism expressed in private talks with Nixon, the Jewish community dismissed Haldeman's account out of hand. Tapes from the Nixon Library released in 2002 validated Haldeman's account, however. "A lot of Jews are great friends of mine," Graham told Nixon in 1972. "They swarm around me and are friendly to me. Because they know that I am friendly to Israel and so forth. But they don't know how I really feel about what they're doing to this country, and I have no power and no way to handle them." Graham also said that the Jewish "stranglehold" on the media "has got to be broken or this country's going down the drain." In 2002, Graham apologized for the remarks, and Jewish community leaders accepted his apology - but the relationship would never again be the same. "We knew that Nixon was an anti-Semite," Abraham Foxman, then the Anti-Defamation League's national director, told JTA at the time, whereas Graham is "a guy we all felt comfortable with ... And he was so infected with this virulent anti-Semitism." Rabbi A. James Rudin, the AJC's senior interreligious adviser, wrote in a statement Wednesday that Graham regretted his remarks about Jews and Judaism. "He publicly apologized for them and asked for forgiveness during his 2002 'Crusade' in New York City," Rudin wrote. "I had a private conversation with him at that time, where he expressed deep personal remorse and asked me to convey his sincere apologies to the entire Jewish community."

Join the top senior softball league in Texas

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 3:30pm
The Harris County Senior Softball League is looking for senior age players for the upcoming season. Players must be 50 years of age or older. Tryouts are Saturday, Feb. 24 at 9 a.m, at Bayland Park, 6400 Bissonnet St. All tryout players will be drafted into one of four divisions. All games are played at Bayland park in southwest Houston. For more information, visit Hcssl.org

FotoFest Exhibit: Jewish leading ladies of Bollywood

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 10:10am
Congregation Beth Israel's The Margolis Gallery is participating as a Fotofest Biennial presenter, and invites the Houston community to attend "Jewish Leading Ladies of Bollywood," a groundbreaking exhibit beginning Thursday, March 15. This exhibition presents 30-plus pieces that spotlight Jewish stars of the Bollywood screen, sampled from the extensive collection of Kenneth X and Joyce Robbins of Washington. Nadira, Sulochana and Pramila - three of the most famous Jewish leading ladies of Bollywood - dominated Indian movies for decades. These pioneering and alluring Baghdadi actresses are featured during the prime of their careers, along with other "greats" in photographs, posters, postcards and fan magazines meticulously collected, researched and maintained by Robbins. These early trailblazers wielded tremendous power, both on and off screen, raising the bar for women in film by owning and running production companies, and asserting significant control over their own careers. Friends of The Margolis Gallery will host an Opening and Talk, featuring expert Dr. Robbins on March 15 at 6:30 p.m. RSVP to Sara Kaiser at [email protected] by Monday, March 12, to attend the opening event and talk. All are welcome and invited. The Jewish Film Festival will present "Shalom Bollywood: The Untold Story of Indian Cinema" at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in tandem with the opening of The Margolis Gallery exhibit on Sunday, March 11. Visit mfah.org for more information. Dr. Robbins, a psychiatrist, collector and scholar on South Asian culture developed a fascination with Indian documents and court papers when he was a child. The India Gandhi National Centre for the Arts is circulating his comprehensive exhibit on the Jews in India. His exhibit, African Elites in India, has been displayed on five continents. The ongoing exhibition is free to the community and on display Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Friday, until 4 p.m. The Margolis Gallery is open Sunday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and after Shabbat services on Friday night. For more information, call 713-771-6221. The gallery is inside Congregation Beth Israel. More at beth-israel.org .

TMO to hold Accountability Session for District 7 candidates

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 5:37pm
The Metropolitan Organization will hold an Accountability Session for U.S. Representative District 7 candidates on Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 7 p.m., at Congregation Beth Israel, 5600 N. Braeswood Blvd. More than 100 people from congregations and schools in District 7 will be in attendance. The Accountability Session will address concerns collected from hundreds of conversations in congregations across the metro area. Primary concerns are: Harvey rebuilding, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), health care costs and workforce investment. There have been many compelling stories from house meetings. Many synagogue members have been directly affected by Harvey, so the decisions candidates will make will directly impact thousands. Also, there are many parents and educators in the congregations who are concerned about support for public schools. This is one of four Accountability Sessions held by TMO-member institutions. To date, the following candidates are confirmed to attend: Alex Triantaphyllis, Lizzie Fletcher, Jason Westin and Edward Ziegler. More are expected. The public is encouraged to be there to help hold their candidates accountable for campaign promises! TMO is a non-partisan organization of institutions that works on issues coming out of hundreds of face-to-face conversations in its communities. TMO brings together institutional leaders across lines of race and class to work on issues of their choosing to create more common good.

Florida school shooting's Jewish victims remembered for their kindness

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 1:56pm
They volunteered. They played soccer. They went to camp. They were sweet, mature and easygoing. They were just beginning their lives, or helping others on their way. And one may have died so that others could live. Jewish students and staff were among the 17 people who were killed when a gunman entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday afternoon and began shooting. Among the Jewish victims are first-year students Jaime Guttenberg and Alyssa Alhadeff, senior Meadow Pollack, student Alex Schachter and Scott Beigel, a geography teacher who saved students' lives by closing a door as he was shot. "It's chaos here and devastation," Rabbi Jonathan Kaplan of the local Temple Beth Chai told JTA on Wednesday on his way to console bereaved parents in his congregation. "Everyone is just waiting and praying. No words can describe what happened here." Jaime Guttenberg and her brother Jesse were students at Stoneman Douglas High School. While her brother managed to escape the school, Jaime was killed. "My heart is broken. Yesterday, Jennifer Bloom Guttenberg and I lost our baby girl to a violent shooting at her school," her father, Fred Guttenberg, wrote on Facebook. "We lost our daughter and my son Jesse Guttenberg lost his sister. I am broken as I write this trying to figure out how my family gets through this." Guttenberg and her brother were volunteers at The Friendship Initiative, a program that pairs neurotypical students like them with special needs kids. Another volunteer at the center, Gina Montalto, also was killed in the shooting. Jeb Niewood, president of The Friendship Initiative, remembered Guttenberg as a genuine person who loved helping others. "Jaime was quite an amazing human being, she had a maturity and compassion far beyond her years, she had an aura, a glow, that radiated from her smile and her eyes, she was beautiful in every way," Niewood told JTA. Niewood said the Guttenberg family had faced tragedy just months earlier when her paternal uncle, a first responder, passed away from complications of an illness contracted during the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. In her free time, Guttenberg also loved to dance, and she was involved with a local dance studio, according to Facebook posts. "Her huge passion aside from helping people was dance, and [she was an] extremely dedicated and talented dancer," Niewood said. "She's the daughter that everyone wanted." Guttenberg's cousin, Marc Pollack, said his family was reeling from her death. "My heart is broken from the loss of this awesome young girl and the pain that our entire family is enduring," Pollack wrote in a Facebook post. Alyssa Alhadeff was a mature, laid back girl who loved soccer and made friends easily. She played midfield for the school soccer team, earning newspaper coverage for her achievements on the field. "She's the sweetest," Alhadeff's grandmother, Vicky Alhadeff, told Miami's Channel 7 News on Wednesday night. "She's a big soccer player, very smart, she's in track. She's very popular, a very beautiful girl. Oh my God, she's my life. How could I not love her? She's my granddaughter." Alhadeff had attended Camp Coleman in Georgia, a Reform Jewish camp, for one summer, and was planning on returning this year. Staff there remembered her as being "like an angel," always happy to help out and quick to adjust to a new environment. "She was one of the easiest campers, very mature," said Lotem Eilon, Alhadeff's unit head. "She was very friendly and didn't have to deal with drama per se. Alyssa was very mature and friendly and fit into camp right away, even though she came in older." Camp director Bobby Harris remembers Alhadeff as a sweet girl who was a pleasure for the counselors to supervise. Several of Coleman's campers go to Stoneman Douglas High School, and the camp will be hosting a service on Facebook Live Thursday evening in the victims' memory. "She was a very sweet camper," Harris said. "Her counselors always said she did exactly what she was told to do, always helped out whenever she was needed to help out. She was like an angel. She was just a bright light and was very positive." Meadow Pollack, a senior, had gone missing and was confirmed dead Thursday morning. In a photograph posted on Facebook, she is wearing a gown in preparation for graduation. She planned to go to Lynn University in nearby Boca Raton next year. "Please say a prayer for the family of an amazing girl I got to call my bestfriend growing up," wrote Gii Lovito on Facebook. "[H]er life was taken way too soon and I have no words to describe how this feels. Rest In Peace my beautiful angel... you are and forever will be loved." Another victim was Alex Schachter, Congregation Beth Am wrote on Facebook. He was a member of the school's marching band. "He will be missed immensely," Sarah Schwartz, a relative of Schachter's, told ThinkProgress. "Everybody is just broken up and beyond shocked... His family adored him and we're all really just in shock." Scott Beigel was reported to have been shot as he shut the door to protect students from the gunman, an expelled student identified as Nikolas Cruz. One of the students in his class, Kelsey Friend, recounted how Beigel, 35, let her and other students into his classroom and then attempted to lock the door. "I had talked to my teacher and said 'I am scared.' And then we all heard gunshots, and he unlocked the door and let us in. I had thought he was behind me, but he wasn't," Friend told ABC News. "When he opened the door, he had to relock it so we can stay safe, but he didn't get the chance to [stay safe]." Friend said she would likely not be alive had Beigel not opened the door for her. "I'm so thankful that he was there to help everybody who did live in that classroom because he was in the doorway and the door was still open and the shooter probably didn't know we were in there because Mr. Beigel was laying on the floor," she told ABC. "If the shooter would have came into the room, I probably wouldn't be speaking with you right now." Friend called Beigel "a really amazing teacher." "He would explain things easier to a lot of us in the classroom," she said. "It was just easier to comprehend the subject when he taught it." Beigel was a staff member at Camp Starlight, a predominately Jewish summer camp in Starlight, Pennsylvania. In a Facebook post, the camp called him a "beloved friend and hero." "[H]e was someone who could make you laugh in any situation and those kids were very lucky to have him as a teacher and protector," Liza Luxenberg, a friend from Camp Starlight, wrote to JTA. "I am not at all surprised to hear that he endangered his own life to save others. He has always been a hero to me as a friend and now unfortunately the rest of the world gets to learn of his heroism in this tragedy." Other campers also shared fond memories of Beigel. "Today is a really sad day as we learn about your passing Scott Beigel," Adam Schwartz, a Starlight camper, wrote in a post. "You were one of my favorite counselors growing up and my Olympics General my senior year. Those kids were incredibly lucky to have you, you are a real hero." Melissa Strauss wrote: "A man with strength and wisdom has died, protecting his students during the school shooting in Florida yesterday. Scott Beigel was not only a teacher and a counselor but he was the biggest role model."

'Berlin 1936' looks at politics, life during Games before WW II

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 11:43am
The Olympic Games are more than sports. Politics often has overshadowed the athletic competition. The obvious example that first comes to mind is the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Palestinian terrorists broke into the Olympic Village, murdering 11 Israeli athletes. There were other Games affected by boycotts: the 66-nation boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the boycott by 29 mostly African nations of the 1976 Montreal Games, protesting the inclusion of the New Zealand rugby team that had defied a sports boycott against South Africa. Probably, the most politically charged Games were the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. That spring, Hitler had sent 32,000 German troops into the demilitarized Rhineland, in violation of the treaties of Versailles and Locarno. Neither Britain nor France reacted militarily or with sanctions. Hitler had gambled on European inaction and won. As Oliver Hilmes writes in his history, "Berlin 1936" (Other Press), the Summer Games were "the icing on the cake of the violation of international law ... the high point of Hitler's massive hypocrisy." As the Games (and the book) play out over 16 days, Hitler assumes the role of the reliable statesman. The Games are a massive propaganda ploy, designed to paint the Nazis as peace-loving members of the European family. Meanwhile, the lives of a rich cast of international characters unfold. Some of the minor characters appear briefly: There's a German transvestite police officer; a gigolo who has an affair with Joseph Goebbels' wife, Magda; Sir Henry Channon, a Tory member of the British parliament, who favors an alliance with Hitler; and Sir Robert Vansittart, a British diplomat who has long argued not to trust Hitler, but becomes increasingly seduced by the Nazi regime's charm offensive. Then, at a lunch, German ambassador to Britain, Joachim Ribbentrop, blurts out his view that there will be war between the two nations. And, there are a few athletes like Jesse Owens and his German rival, Ludwig Long. Hilmes casts American writer Thomas Wolfe as one of the book's major characters. Like other American innocents abroad, Wolfe begins by enthusiastically praising German spirituality (and German beer). There's a key scene where Wolfe is eating dinner with Mildred Harnack, an American who, with her husband, Arvid, had moved to Germany in 1929. Wolfe, with a few beers in his belly, tells Harnack he's impressed by the extent of free speech in Germany. For example, in Germany, one has the freedom to speak and write that one does like Jews. Harnack is stunned. Surely Wolfe doesn't believe German anti-Semitism is nothing but a matter of free speech. And, she proceeds to enlighten Wolfe on the state-organized boycotts of Jewish businesses, the removal of Jews from the civil service, universities and medical professions, the Nuremberg Laws and the concentration camps, like Dachau. "That evening, cracks begin to appear in Wolfe's sanitized image of Germany," writes Hilmes. What, unfortunately, is missing from the book is more detail about the Harnacks. The couple become agents for the Soviet Union and part of a small resistance group inside Germany. They were arrested in September 1942 and executed three months later. Aside from Nazi officials, various collaborators and villainous types pop up in the book. One such type is Avery Brundage, then-president of the American Olympic Committee. Asked to check the situation of Jewish athletes in Germany in 1934, Brundage reported "against all evidence, that German Jews were happy with their sporting situation," writes Hilmes. This is the same person who, after the deaths of the Israeli athletes, made the decision to continue the 1972 Games after a 34-hour suspension. This is not a book aimed at sports fans. Though, if you seek an understanding of what the Olympics and situations around the 1936 Games actually meant for the people who lived during the period, you'll enjoy this book.

Rescuing Houston Jewish history, one document at a time

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 11:41am
Hurricane Harvey washed away part of Houston Jewish history. Photos, documents, diaries, artifacts - destroyed by floodwaters. The loss pains Dr. Joshua Furman. He's the inaugural director of the Houston Jewish History Archive. "We've lost so many scrapbooks and photos to Harvey," Furman told the JHV. "So, it's all the more urgent that we save and preserve what has not been lost to us." Our understanding of history is largely shaped by the source materials collected in archives. Historians rely on primary sources to understand the past. Oral histories are also used for that purpose. But, as Furman explained, sometimes oral histories are "clouded by distance in time and perspective." "We need a documentary record in order to recapture what life was like. There's a balance between memory and documents that allows historians to begin to interpret history. In the case of the Houston Jewish community, there's never been a centralized attempt to collect this history." A grant from the Stanford and Joan Alexander Foundation made the HJHA possible. Furman is the Alexander postdoctoral fellow in Jewish Studies at Rice University. The archive is housed at the Woodson Center on the Rice campus. Talks began last summer about projects the Rice Jewish Studies program could undertake to nurture bonds between the university and the community. Since the Woodson Research Center already existed at Rice, there was no need to reinvent the wheel. The archive would have a home. "We first envisioned a primarily oral history project," said Furman. "We had just begun to craft a mission statement when Harvey hit. That changed everything. We realized the documentary record of Houston Jewish life was being washed away before our eyes. It was a historical emergency." One post-Harvey rescue operation involved extracting documents out of the flooded United Orthodox Synagogues. The papers were sorted, dried out and transported to Rice. The goal of the HJHA is to collect, preserve and make available documents, photos and oral histories that tell the story of Jewish life in Houston and South Texas. Furman hopes to make the archive a center of study for Jewish history, a destination scholars will want to come to. "I define our mission in terms of families, institutions and neighborhoods," he said. "We want to tell the stories of the families that call Houston home, the institutions they built and the neighborhood in which they lived - from MacGregor to Meyerland to Fondren Southwest.  "I'm also interested in the history of how we assisted Soviet Jewry and in documenting the story of South African Jewry. We need to document the old JCC on Hermann Drive and the synagogues that existed before the mergers that created UOS and Beth Yeshurun. "We tell people that if they donate, their documents will be saved, used and appreciated by scholars and the community." Preserving history and heritage has rarely been a Houston passion. An extreme example of opposition to the preservation of community heritage was evidenced by Rep. Gary Elkins, R-Jersey Village, who introduced HB 3418 in the 85th Texas Legislature. The bill would override significant portions of historic preservation laws enacted by municipal governments. It would create statewide rules that would make it harder for governments to preserve properties and easier for owners to demolish them. Hurricane Harvey may have altered attitudes somewhat. From an oral history project launched at the University of Houston to the HJHA at Rice, local scholars appear to recognize the need to document themes related to the flood and preserve materials that might otherwise be lost. Early donations to the HJHA include a World War II banner from the Beth Jacob congregation that has names of more than 200 Jewish men and women who fought in that war; a notebook from the Refugee Services Committee, organized under the auspices of the Jewish Community Council, to assist German-Jewish refugees who came to Houston from 1939-'43; a large collection of sermons and recordings of sermons of Rabbi Hyman Schachtel, senior rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel of Houston from 1943 to 1975; and a collection of early Meyerland photos donated by Karen Rogers, granddaughter of Meyerland founder, George Meyer. While most of the archival material is paper-based, Furman predicted that documenting and preserving the history of 21st century life will be a challenge. "Will our history be stored only online or in paper form? That raises interesting issues," said Furman. "If there's one lesson that we're learning from the floods, it is to make copies of everything. If you have family photos or important records, make copies and store them so they don't get lost. We can preserve things that got wet. So, if you have questions about preserving materials, get in touch with me." * * * To donate materials to the Houston Jewish History Archive, email [email protected].

Students build support for children's literacy program

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 11:36am
Ellie Erwin installed cedar roofing shakes on a little library box that she and her fellow seventh-graders at Congregation Brith Shalom built earlier this month for PJ Library. Kehillah High students and other teens are building similar boxes that will be installed at local Jewish preschools to help distribute free children's books to families who participate in PJ Library, a program run by the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston.

Seven Acres receives major gifts to aid flood recovery

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 11:33am
The Lester & Sue Smith Foundation surprised Seven Acres Jewish Senior Care Services with a $1 million gift toward Seven Acres' Hurricane Harvey recovery effort. The gift includes an additional $1 million through a matching grant that, if maximized, would result in a combined gift of $3 million. The Smiths announced their gift at Seven Acres' 75th Anniversary Gala on Feb. 3, which was held some six months after Harvey caused severe flood damage to the facility's first floor. Heading into the gala, Seven Acres was told to expect a $250,000 gift from the Smiths. "I love a surprise," said Lester Smith, as he and his wife, Sue, presented their gift through Renee and Alan Helfman, who were honored by Seven Acres with this year's Joyce Proler Schechter Spirit of Life Award. Smith, whose philanthropy is made possible by his success in the oil industry, described himself as a "proud" American, Texan and Jew. "It's with great pleasure to be able to do this and to be able to do this for this organization," Smith said. Alan Helfman described Seven Acres as a "true diamond in this community." He said the institution, which offers skilled nursing, rehabilitation, on-site specialty clinics, hospice services and kosher meals, represents Houston's response to Hurricane Harvey. "Houston folks take of their own," Helfman said. "To me, that means everybody who's in need, who's hurting, suffering, struggling to make ends meet, praying for help to grow their educational programs or expand health services to the under-served." He continued, "We chose to be your first responders, the go-to people, the folks who always, always say: Yes. "We can, we will help you - whatever it takes," Helfman said. "We'll roll up our sleeves, get it done and do it now." He added, "Our lives have been so blessed, and we share our gratitude through mitzvahs. We see so much need in this community. What we need is each other." Malcolm Slatko, Seven Acres' CEO, said it was a "heartbreaking experience" to see the damages caused by Hurricane Harvey. "Many of our residents have dementia and are unable to comprehend what was going on," Slatko said. Through its dedicated staff and generous supporters, Seven Acres will recover, Slatko promised. "We're full of optimism and hope that a new Seven Acres, a rebuilt Seven Acres, is on the way," he said.

Survivors to share testimony at UH Holocaust conference

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 11:31am
University of Houston is hosting a conference to commemorate the Holocaust. "Remembering the Holocaust: Perils of Indifference" will take place March 21-22 at UH's Honors College, M.D. Anderson Library, 4333 University Dr., second floor. The program will feature presentations by Holocaust surviv- ors, a rountable discussion on geno- cide and a film screening of Elie Wiesel's "Perils of Indifference." The conference is jointly sponsored by UH's Center for Public History and an anony- mous donor in UH's English department. "A two-day program commemorating the Holocaust has been designed so that those attending understand the lasting impact of this historical reality," said Irving N. Rothman, Ph.D., professor of English at UH, who is encouraging students and faculty to attend the conference. UH is hosting its Holocaust remembrance conference at a time when few survivors remain alive to share their testimonies firsthand. Survivors Robert Geminder and Gabriella Karin will share their stories on the second day of the conference, March 22, from 3-5 p.m. A question-and-answer session will follow their formal remarks. Geminder was born in Poland in 1935 and was smuggled out of the Warsaw Ghetto by his mother. Later captured, the family was put on a train to Auschwitz but managed to escape shortly before arriving at the concentration camp. Geminder spent six years in hiding. After the war, he immigrated to the U.S. At 70 years old, he went back to school and became a teacher in the Los Angeles school system. Karin was born in Slovakia and survived the Holocaust, in part, by spending three years in a Catholic convent where nuns protected her identity. Karin and her family were rescued by a 25-year-old lawyer, who later was recognized by the State of Israel as "Righteous Among the Nations." Karin found life anew in the U.S. and became a celebrated fashion designer and sculptor. "The year 2018 is the right time [to host this conference] since the number 18 is chai in Hebrew, the word for 'life,' " Rothman said. "Two survivors, the living, will discuss their experience in escaping from the Holocaust. "The survivors who have 'life' will discuss the 6 million Jews who were exterminated," he said. "Mr. Robert Geminder and Ms. Gabriella Karin have a poignant message for us. They speak around the world and lead hundreds of students and adults on birthright visitations to the concentration camps and then Israel." The conference's roundtable discussion will take place March 21, from 4-6 p.m. The panel will include UH Honors College faculty - Irene V. Guenther, Ph.D.; Dustin Gish, Ph.D.; and Ted Estess, Ph.D - who have published on the Holocaust.

ReelArt opening showcases local talent

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 11:29am
ReelAbilities Film Festival's ReelArt opened Monday evening, Feb. 12, at Jewish Family Service's Center For Art and Photography at Celebration Company. Visiting artist Brandon Lack (Austin, Texas) displayed works of art, along with 20 Celebration Company artists. Among the artists were Nicholas Vasquez and Harry Samelson. See more pictures 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.

Federation helps schools, camps offset Harvey revenue shortfalls

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 11:26am
The Jewish Federation of Greater Houston has continued its fundraising efforts to help offset revenue losses by local Jewish day schools, camps and institutions impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Schools, in particular, are unsure of how great their revenue losses will be for next year, given that pre-registration for the 2018-2019 school year remains open through March. For many families, which were able to afford day school and preschool tuition for the current year, now have the added expenses of paying monthly rent on an apartment, plus storage fees, on top of needing to replace lost vehicles, make home repairs and pay mortgages on their flooded homes. With mounting financial pressure, many families are asking the question: Is day school tuition a luxury they no longer can afford? Houston's Jewish Federation is responding to that question with a record-setting fundraising campaign, aimed at supporting families that view Jewish day school as a necessity. Within the first six months after Harvey, the Federation raised $20 million for Harvey relief. Of that figure, $16.1 million has been allocated, to date. To bolster its fundraising efforts, the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston has organized a series of fly-ins, led by Kari Saratovsky, where Federation leaders from other communities across North America come to Houston to see the devastation and recovery process and to meet with local families and Jewish institutions that flooded. Joe Kornfeld heads the Houston Federation's flood allocations committee. Speaking to a fly-in group on Feb. 6, Kornfeld said the committee's main priorities are "sustainability" and "continuity." "We have approximately 500 Jewish students in days schools who have flooded, and we don't know what the impact on all the schools will be," Kornfeld said. The two Jewish day schools that were temporarily displaced by Harvey - Bertha Alyce Early Childhood Center and Beth Yeshurun Day School - likely are facing a $1 million shortfall this year, due to flood damages to their facilities and losses suffered by families with children at those schools, according to Federation estimates. Kornfeld said that overall enrollment in Houston Jewish day schools for the current school year was protected, in part, by the fact that many families prepaid tuition prior to Harvey. Thus, Harvey's impact will be more evident in enrollment figures for next year, Kornfeld noted. "Whether [families] can send their kids to day school or not is going to be dependent upon whether they can get assistance and how much the school can afford to give them and how much we, as a Federation, can give them," Kornfeld said. "We're committed to doing our best to making sure we have resources to help them," he said. Harvey is expected to impact enrollment at Jewish overnight camps, as well. A majority of Jewish kids from Houston, who attend overnight summer camp, either go to Camp Young Judaea-Texas or URJ Greene Family Camp. While both camps have reported overall strong enrollment for the coming summer sessions, enrollment of new campers from Houston, thus far, significantly is down. Federation leaders attribute the latter trend to Harvey. In response, the Federation's flood committee, at its latest board meeting, allocated an additional $250,000 through a matching grant to Jewish overnight camps. That allocation, Kornfeld noted, will enable camps to better promote their programs in Houston and let Houston families know that they can receive additional financial assistance. "For the last five months or so, we've been in survival mode," Kari Saratovsky told the fly-in group on Feb. 6. "We're making a transition now, moving from survival to figuring out how we actually move forward as a thriving Jewish community." She added, "Out of all the devastation that the storm caused, we also have this unique opportunity to think about our future and how we'd like to create that future."

The U.S.-Israel honeymoon may not last

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 11:23am
President Donald Trump has taken two unprecedented steps highly favorable to Israel: recognizing Jerusalem as its capital and cutting funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, an organization ultimately devoted to eliminating the Jewish state. These long-overdue actions break antique log-jams dating back nearly 70 years and offer fresh opportunities to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Bravo to Trump for enduring the slings and arrows of conventional thinking to take and then stick with these courageous steps. That said, there's a problem. Both moves were undertaken for what appear to be the wrong reasons. This is not an abstract worry, but implies that today's celebration could turn into tomorrow's fiasco. First problem for Israel: Trump says he recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital to settle the Jerusalem issue. Listen to him ruminate on this: "The hardest subject [that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators] had to talk about was Jerusalem. We took Jerusalem off the table, so we don't have to talk about it anymore. They never got past Jerusalem." This suggests Trump thinks recognition solved the knotty Jerusalem issue, as though this were a New York real estate transaction, and he made a side deal about zoning regulations or union representation. But, it's not. Far from being "off the table," Trump's action made Jerusalem an unprecedented center of attention and contention. For example, members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation overwhelmingly condemned his step, as did members of both the U.N. Security Council and the General Assembly. In addition, recognition caused Palestinian violence against Israelis to triple. Thus, Trump made Jerusalem a more disputed issue than it had been previously. How will Trump react when he eventually realizes that Jerusalem remains very much "on the table," and that his grand gesture had the opposite effect from what he intended? My prediction: With a frustration and fury that could sour him on the Jerusalem recognition and on Israel; it could even prompt this temperamental and spontaneous figure to rescind the recognition. Second problem: Trump intends to exact an unspecified price from Israel for the recognition, stating "Israel will pay for that" and it "would have had to pay more." For the moment, with the Palestinian Authority boycotting American mediation and personally insulting Trump, that price is in abeyance. But, the American door is permanently open to Palestinians, and when they wise up, some fabulous gift awaits them in the White House. (This dynamic of extracting quid pro quos from Israel explains why I generally prefer low-simmering tensions between Washington and Jerusalem.) Third problem: Trump did not withhold $65 million from UNRWA out of a scheduled $125 million tranche to punish an execrable organization for its record since 1949. That of inciting Palestinians against Israel, encouraging violence against Jews, engaging in corruption and expanding (rather than reducing) the refugee population. Rather, he withheld the money to pressure the PA to restart negotiations with Israel. As Trump tweeted: "with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?" So, once PA leader Mahmoud Abbas gets over his extended snit about Jerusalem and agrees to "talk peace," he has a bevy of benefits awaiting him: the possible reversal of Jerusalem recognition, some fabulous reward and the resumption of full, maybe even expanded, U.S. funding. At that point, the pope, the chancellor, the crown prince, and The New York Times will congratulate a glowing Trump; and Israel will find itself coldly thrust out of favor. Abbas already has slightly edged back from his histrionics, which are anyway for domestic consumption, showing a radicalized Palestinian body politic that he is just as tough, nasty and delusional as his Hamas rivals. Of course, he well knows that the United States of America is the one and only power that can pressure Israel to make concessions. So, after a decent interval, Abbas inexorably will mumble apologies, lavish praise on Trump, fire up the Palestinians' horde of proxies, "talk peace" with Israel and worm his way into the administration's good graces. When that happens, the current U.S.-Israel honeymoon will likely crash and burn, replaced by the usual bickering, where Washington wants Israelis to "take chances for peace" and "make painful concessions," and they resist those pressures. I've been wrong many times about Trump in the past. I hope I am wrong this time, too. Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2018 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

The month of Adar

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 11:23am
The occasion of the celebration of the new month of Adar, whose first day this year is Friday, Feb. 16, is as good a time as any to speak about "secrets" of the Hebrew lunar calendar. After all, Jewish tradition says: "When Adar begins, we make merry." To begin with the basics: If you know something about a lunar calendar, you know that it has about 354 days, as compared to the 365 days of a solar calendar. Because Judaism's two key festivals are tied to the seasons, with Passover in the spring and Sukkot in the fall, every two or three years an entire additional month is inserted into the calendar. In a leap year, there are, thus, not one but two "merry" months: Adar I and Adar II. Interestingly, Muslims, who also follow a lunar calendar, are not concerned when their holiest period falls, and so Ramadan cycles backwards over the decades through the course of the seasons of the entire solar year. There are plenty of (almost exclusively religious) Israelis who celebrate their Hebrew/lunar birthday, rather than their secular/solar one. (I am father to two of them.) This is not such a big deal for those born during the leap month of Adar I. While leap years might seem special to that person, allowing them to celebrate their birthday during Adar I, it will seem perfectly normal to them to celebrate during a "regular" non-leap year month of Adar. It turns out, however (and this is kept pretty secret), that the Hebrew calendar has not just one but two months similar to February, in the sense that these months are "unstable" and do not have the same number of days each year. The months occur toward the end of the solar year and are called Cheshvan and Kislev. In a normal year, Cheshvan has 29 days and Kislev has 30; in a "longer" year, Cheshvan has 30 days, and in a "shorter" year (much more unusual), Kislev has 29 (the difference has to do with rules for when Rosh Hashanah falls). What this means is that for those born on the 30th of Cheshvan or Kislev they, like people born on Feb. 29, do not get to celebrate their birthday every year. However, unlike solar "leapies," these people only have to wait, at most, three years for a birthday, usually only two, and sometimes they can go crazy and celebrate in consecutive years. Other than Cheshvan and Kislev, the other 10 months rigidly adhere to a boring sameness year in and year out, alternating between a 30-day month, followed by a 29-day month. The former are known as "full" months and the latter as "missing" months. Here is another secret: A "full" month is marked with an extra day of Rosh Chodesh festivities: the New Moon is celebrated not only on the first day of the new month (as it is following a "missing" month), but also the day before, on the 30th day of the preceding month. And now, to put it all together for a final secret: Jewish tradition mandates that the shofar be sounded at the conclusion of morning services during the month of Elul, which precedes the first of Tishri (aka Rosh Hashanah). Since the Hebrew month of Av is always "full," the succeeding new month of Elul is always a two-day affair. And yet, the shofar is only sounded on the second day of the two-day Rosh Chodesh observance. Why? If you have followed my explanations above, you realize that the first day of Elul's New Month celebration is actually the 30th day of the month of Av, and so the shofar is not sounded for the first time until the next day, the first day of Elul. Whew, it's time to celebrate: Happy Adar! Copyright 2018, Teddy Weinberger

A summer of 'doom and gloom'?

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 11:22am
The clash between Israeli jets and Syrian missiles on Feb. 10 is lightyears away from being an example of the Gaza-style Israel-Hamas tit-for-tat we've become so accustomed to reporting. It's safe to report that the weekend's dramatic events left no one any safer; and, unless the lessons gleaned from the excitement are processed with sobriety and restraint, forecasts of a summer of doom and gloom could prove omniscient. Understanding that nothing happens in a vacuum, utmost among imperatives is to understand the reason behind the trigger, event: sending the Iranian drone into Israel. A key factor not receiving much play is that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, itself, sent the drone - not proxies or allies. Its significance - all but forgotten in the sensational "man-bites-dog" part of the story - is the loss of an Israeli F-16. The loss is underscored by the planned intensity of the Israeli retaliatory mission and the amount of damage it inflicted. And, while the oft-repeated framework of the standard version of events recounts an Israel - Iran - Syria contretemps, the godfather-like entrance of Vladimir Putin and the respect his input generated in all players Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu perhaps foremost) foreshadows numerous speculative permutations relative to the worsening tension. The confrontation on Saturday, Feb. 10, involved - to different degrees - Israel, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Russia and, for a number of reasons, the United States. * * * Since candidate Donald Trump became president, Prime Minister Netanyahu has walked a careful line, exhorting his minions not to rock the boat with such a "friendly administration," and leading by deferential example. The latest manifestation: Netanyahu pulled a controversial bill that is important to his own constituency, so it would not embarrass the Trump administration or be seen as provocative. The bill, which would have applied Israeli sovereignty to the areas it conquered in the 1967 war, would have been construed, as another gesture of support, for "settlements" by the American administration with all the fallout it entails. * * * Until Trump's Dec. 6, 2017, declaration, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel, it had become a strange anomaly that, among all of the new president's many policies, it was the Israeli-Palestinian track of the Middle East conflicts that generated the least - virtually no - public outcry. Most simply, it was an affirmation of the unifying - if albeit coincidental - effect that a mandatory mantra [read: "two-state solution"] repeated by all who deem to be taken seriously, can have on a policy issue. The incongruity righted itself, as sure as a stock market sell-off, when Trump gave voice to what he claimed was merely a reading of existing realities: Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel. As is the wont of foreign policy matters, in addition to a divided domestic populace, foreign voices fuel the debate. In this case, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's counter-declaration ostensibly ends the American ownership of the peace process for lack of honest-broker status, while seemingly teasing Europeans, from Paris to Moscow, about prospects for replacing the U.S. as interlocutor. Those who see Trump as a businessman, reading the realities rather than an ideologue pandering to partisan interests, were not surprised by his comments to a right-wing Israeli newspaper on Friday, Feb. 9. In it, he expressed uncertainty with Israel's desire to make peace. Asked by his Israel Today interviewer when the long-awaited Trump Mideast peace proposal will be released, POTUS replied, "Right now, I would say the Palestinians are not looking to make peace. And, I am not necessarily sure that Israel is looking to make peace. So, we are just going to have to see what happens." * * * For a free subscription to Mideast Daily News, The Media Line's five-times-per-week news blast, send your email address to [email protected] and tell us you're a JHV reader. We'll be In Touch from Jerusalem again next week. ©2018. The Media Line Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Terumah - Tabernacle's furnishings

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 11:21am
In this week's Torah portion, Parashat Terumah, we learn of the very first house of worship: The Mishkan, or Tabernacle. We also learn about some of the furnishings which were essential to the construction of this house. I want to suggest that these furnishings are not merely of historical import but are necessary in both the public synagogue and the private home. The first three components mentioned in this week's Torah portion are the Ark, in which the tablets with the Ten Commandments, and according to some the entire Torah, are contained; the holy Table upon which twelve breads were placed every Sabbath; and the golden Menorah, exquisitely decorated. These three vessels are also prominent features of both synagogue and home and indeed should be so. Like the Tabernacle of old, every synagogue today has an ark in which the Torah scrolls, often along with scrolls of the Prophets and of the Megilot, are contained. In our faith, traditional holy texts are at the core of our worship. The original holy texts were housed in the Tabernacle's Ark, and later in the Ark of the holy Temple in Jerusalem. So too, in the contemporary synagogue, the holy texts are central to our worship experience, and every occupant of the synagogue faces those texts as he or she prays. Every synagogue has a bima that is analogous in many ways to the table in the Tabernacle. The synagogue's table is the place from which the Torah is read and from which G-d's spiritual nourishment is shared. In traditional synagogues, this table is not placed up front, on stage as it were, for spectators to behold. Rather, it is placed in the middle of the synagogue sanctuary, among the people. The message is clear: The table symbolizes G-d's spiritual providence and bounty and as such is something of which every member of the congregation should partake. The table in the home, equally sacred, is the place for physical nourishment. A beautiful Talmudic expression has it that "the table is like an altar." Whereas the Jew of old expressed his ultimate sense of worship by offering a sacrifice upon the altar, the contemporary Jew worships G-d by sharing the food on his table with other individuals. To read more articles and essays by Rabbi Weinreb, visit his blog at www.ou.org/rabbi_weinreb.

Joy: Take it up a notch!

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 11:21am
Happy Rosh Chodesh Adar! The Talmud states, "When the month of Adar enters, we increase in simcha (joy)" (Taanit 29a). Isn't the presumption here that we are joyful already, and come the month of Adar, we just have to take it up a notch? Didn't the sages ever hear us kvetch? I went to college in Boston, so what do you think I wore? Aside from a heavy down coat? Argyle socks! From the outside, you see a preppy pattern of New England perfection, with different-colored diamonds and stripes. But, from the inside, there are a million toe-trapping threads. So, you wake up one freezing winter morning, rushing to venture out to class in a blizzard of snow, but first, you must battle with the toe-trapping argyles! If we only see our life as the inside of a sock, as a tangled web of tumultuous threads and daily toe-trapping challenges, how could the Torah expect us to be a joyful people? But, if we can see, with our mind's eye, the beautiful pattern that is woven on the other side, our feet can feel warm on even the coldest winter nights. Two students of the Maggid of Metzrich could not understand a certain Talmudic passage. The Mishnah says, "A person is obligated to bless the bad, just as he blesses the good" (Mishnah, Tractate Berachot 9:5). The Maggid sent them to visit Reb Zusha of Anapoli to explain. The students travelled in the bitter Russian cold to find the humble, dilapidated abode of Reb Zusha. They gently knocked on the door, fearing it would fall off its hinges. A cheerful Reb Zusha opened the door, greeting the two students with a warm smile. When they entered the poor man's home and were invited to sit down on benches of straw, the students wondered how such a simple man could know the answer to such a complicated query. Nevertheless, they presented him with the quandary. Reb Zusha turned serious and pensive, until he responded, " 'A person has to bless the bad, just as he blesses the good?' I'm really sorry, I just can't answer you what the Talmud means by this, for I've never had anything bad happen to me." I imagine the students had much to think about during their long journey back. Most of us will never achieve Reb Zusha's state of mind - one in which the physical world is just an inconsequential detail, which doesn't impact our mood, our emotions. It presents no challenge at all. Yet, we all can grasp and work on the concept behind Reb. Zusha's response: That my attitude, how I view things, changes my entire reality. Not surprisingly, the word, simcha, is connected to the Hebrew word for mind, machshava. Happiness is in our mind! (And, I don't mean in losing our mind.) What I mean is what Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi explained in the holy Book of Tanya: "The brain rules over the heart." We can use our mind to control our emotions and that, says Rabbi Shneur Zalman, is an inborn trait of every human being. We just have to utilize it. There's a direct connection between experiencing joy and appreciating the blessings that we have been given. As the Torah reminds us: "Because you did not serve the L-rd, your G-d, with joy and gladness of heart for the abundance of everything" (Deuteronomy 28:47). Being happy rests in our ability to use our mind to appreciate the abundant blessings in our lives! Judaism doesn't offer a life without challenges. For whatever reason that we can't fully understand, G-d created a world in which challenges will be part of the fabric of existence (and our socks!). Judaism offers a life where happiness is within our reach. For it is in our mind. And thus, if we use our mind to celebrate the beauty that is our life throughout the year, come Adar, all we'll have to do is take it up a notch! Yael Trusch is the creator of the bilingual Jewish lifestyle blog and podcast, "Jewish Latin Princess." She is an influencer, communicator and promoter of 'a joyful, richer Jewish life.' A renowned international speaker, Trusch captivates a diverse audience of Jewish women with her honest, relatable, yet profound approach to Jewish life. You can reach her at [email protected].

Women's Seder remembers those still enslaved

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 11:20am
The National Council of Jewish Women, Greater Houston Section will hold its annual Women's Seder on Monday, Feb. 26. This will be the 26th year in which membes of the Greater Houston community are invited - men and women, Jewish and non-Jewish, grandparents and parents with their children - to hear the story of the Exodus from a woman's perspective. NCJW will honor and celebrate the part women have played in the history of the Jewish people, and in the spiritual history of all people, with original readings, uplifting songs and delicious food. Cantor Marilyn Ladin will lead the Seder, with music by Marcia Sterling and Dr. Isabelle Ganz. Cantor Ladin's Women of Wisdom ceremony, which she created for this Seder to honor women over age 70, will be featured. Laykie's Gourmet Café at the J is catering. Sharon Rance is a sponsor of this event. The Seder includes the tradition of reciting a special prayer for those still enslaved, a prayer NCJW urges the Houston Jewish community to include in their Seders as the Hillel sandwich is eaten. The following is an excerpt from the prayer: "As we recall our time of slavery in Egypt, we place an extra portion of marror in our Hillel sandwich to remember that, in our lifetime, we were also slaves during the Holocaust. Slavery continues today in the form of human trafficking. Remembered, also, are those entrapped by criminals who promised them a better life here. ... We, who are free, understand the bitterness of today's slaves. Let us resolve to educate ourselves and the community to end human trafficking for all time." Check-in begins at 6 p.m. at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center, The two-hour Seder starts at 6:30. Pre-registration is strongly encouraged. To reserve a place, visit ncjwhouston.org and click on the event under "upcoming events." Non-perishable Passover food items will be collected and given through the J's Meals on Wheels.

Beth Israel study groups explore Mussar for everyday life

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 11:19am
On Tuesday evening, Jan. 30, a group gathered at Congregation Beth Israel to learn more about Mussar, a Jewish ethical practice, and how to create ongoing Mussar study groups. Mussar is from a treasury of Jewish teachings, and offers a Jewish pathway into leading a more meaningful, spiritually fulfilled life, taking what is in the head and moving it to the heart. Mussar is not just a cerebral activity. It is a practice ... a full body experience. Six members of Congregation Beth Israel led the information session. They were trained as facilitators of a curriculum designed by Alan Morinis, a master of Mussar education, who served as a recent scholar in residence at the Temple. 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.

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