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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 48 min ago

AIPAC headliners pledge to strengthen US-Israel ties

7 hours 49 min ago
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.


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
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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 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].


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, 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 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

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 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 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 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 or call 713-955-0225.


&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 or contact Morgan Steinberg, 713-595-8170.


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

&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 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 FRIDAY, MARCH 24 &quot;Beatles Shabbat VI&quot; at Congregation Beth Israel, 5600 N. Braeswood Blvd., 6:30 p.m. More at 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 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 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 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 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

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].


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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."

Beren ends season with playoff loss, all-district honors

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 12:30pm
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."

ReelAbilities Film and Arts Festival rolls out Feb. 19

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 11:11am
ReelAbilities Film and Arts Festival returns to Houston for its fifth year, Sunday through Thursday, Feb. 19-23, with an award-winning film festival, live jam session, art exhibit, educational tours to local schools and seminars at offices around Houston. Events use the arts as a vehicle to educate and change perceptions about individuals with varying levels of abilities, all at no cost to participants and attendees. "The impact that ReelAbilities Houston has on the lives of Houstonians is immeasurable," said Vikki Evans, event chair. "Even if you don't live with a disability yourself, you've probably interacted with someone dealing with a disability you may not fully understand or know how to interact with. It is our mission at ReelAbilities to challenge the way people think about disabilities, and to encourage Houstonians to take action ... treating each other with more respect and compassion than ever before." ReelAbilities was founded in New York in 2007 and is presented in 15 cities. It generates and nurtures awareness of those living with disabilities of all types by showcasing their lives and stories through art, film, music and inspirational talks. The film portion takes place Sunday through Thursday, Feb. 19-23, at Edwards Greenway Grand Palace Stadium 24, 3839 Weslayan St., where 15 movies will be shown, followed by interactive panels for audience discussion. 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.

Pro-Israel supporters convene in Austin

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 2:40pm
More than 250 pro-Israel supporters convened in Austin last week to advocate for HB 89 and SB 134, anti-BDS Israel legislation. The groups included AIPAC; American Jewish Committee, Stand with US, Christians United for Israel, The Israel Project; Jewish Federations of North America, Hadassah, and high school students from Robert M. Beren Academy, Bellaire, Austin and Elkins high schools. The Houston delegation met with more than 40 legislative offices. AJC Houston also met with the consuls general of Ireland and Mexico to discuss the Trump administration and foreign policy-related issues. Members of the AJC Dallas and Houston delegations concluded their day in Austin with a discussion at the Texas General Land Office with Comm. George P. Bush. Bush outlined his recent trip to Israel, that included briefings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the late President Shimon Peres and technology-related companies. Bush discussed the technologies, from water to medical, that have dramatic impact on everyday life.

Emery senior signs letter to play football on collegiate level

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 4:01pm
A very small percentage of high school athletes have the opportunity to play a sport on the collegiate level. For Emery High School senior Michael Ran, the biggest challenge was picking which sport he would play. On Friday, Feb. 3, Ran made his decision official, signing a letter of intent to play football for Pomona College in California. Ran celebrated the accomplishment in front of more than 100 family, friends, coaches and classmates at Emery. "Rarely have we had as talented an athlete as Michael," Emery Head of School Stuart Dow said. "The opportunity to play at the next level is unique, but he's not only a great athlete, he's a terrific student and person." Ran was a two-time all-state and all-district receiver and defensive back for the Jaguars. He was a key piece to the Jaguars 2015 state championship and caught 81 passes for 1,601 yards and 34 touchdowns in two seasons with the Jaguars. He was also a key part of Emery's baseball and basketball programs, but decided to further pursue his football career during his junior season. "I just really like the fast-paced action, brotherhood and community aspect of football," Ran said. "It's just something that clicked with me and I look forward to doing it the next four years." Emery football and baseball coach Adrian Adams has see Ran grow since his freshman year. Adams did have to do a little convincing for Ran's parents, however, who weren't completely sold on their son playing football in high school. "Dynamic is the best word for what he can do on the field," Adams said. "If the ball is in the air, he is going to make a play. He has helped us out tremendous and won a championship. "He's really grown as a player, but also as a person. It couldn't have happened to a better young man." Ran has also overcome his share of injuries. He broke his arm his freshman year and played through a torn labrum his senior year, only missing one game. "He never complained and always wanted to be on the field," Adams said. Ran will report to Pomona in late July/early August for football and battle for a spot to play as a freshman. Right now, he will finish out the basketball season, before moving to shortstop on the baseball team. "Emery is a great place for sports," Ran said. "You can play any sport you want and the coaches really care about you on and off the field."

At least 17 bomb threats called in to JCCs nationwide in third wave of harassment

Tue, 01/31/2017 - 3:02pm
At least 17 Jewish community centers across the United States were targeted with bomb threats in the third wave of such mass disruption this month. Paul Goldenberg, the director of Secure Community Networks - an affiliate of the Jewish Federations of North America that advises Jewish groups and institutions on security - said the threats were called in late Tuesday morning. Some of the messages were live, he confirmed. "[I]n the past we know that the numbers can grow exponentially," he said, adding that perpetrators have been "leveraging technologies to make mass calls." Goldenberg confirmed that threats had been called into JCCs in Albany, New York; Syracuse, New York; West Orange, New Jersey; Milwaukee, San Diego and Salt Lake City. The JCC in New Haven, Connecticut received a live call at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday threatening violence. The JCC is housed in several locations following a Dec. 5 fire, and evacuated about 100 people from those places following the call. After law enforcement determined that the threat was not credible, the evacuees returned. The New Haven JCC was also targeted in a wave of bomb threats about two weeks ago. "We recognize that we live under a new set of circumstances that we have to be responsive to, and take every possible precaution to keep our people safe," said New Haven JCC CEO Judy Diamondstein. "While we are disrupted, we refuse to be daunted by this." Diamondstein said the JCC has drilled safety protocols extensively in order to be prepared for a situation like this. Diamondstein had a previously scheduled meeting Wednesday afternoon with an FBI officer to sharpen procedures for dealing with an active shooter. "We have been diligent in looking at our security for a while now," she said. Goldenberg said his organization was instructing the JCCs to be in touch with local police to determine if they should evacuate. The JCC MetroWest in West Orange, New Jersey announced an evacuation at 11:42 a.m. "In light of the newest bomb threats, we must remain a resilient community, and we need to ensure that we are back at our JCCs as soon as local police advise the all-clear," Goldenberg said. He added: "Our Jewish community centers are focusing on security today more than ever before, and in spite of these continuous bomb threats I'm confident that our institutions are taking security seriously - and in many cases Jewish institutions are more secure than institutions frequented by the general public." On Jan. 18, some 30 Jewish institutions in at least 17 states received bomb threats. On Jan. 9, such threats were called into 16 JCCs across the Northwest and South, forcing the evacuation of hundreds.

Agreement reached to fast-track Brays Bayou flood relief

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 2:38pm
According to a Jan. 24 email from Houston City Council, District C, Mayor Sylvester Turner and Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Cohen have announced an agreement involving the federal, state and county levels of government, which will fast-track long-awaited flood relief for Houston families along the Brays Bayou watershed. The new intergovernmental funding agreement seeks to solve cash-flow challenges that have delayed the Harris County Flood Control District's ability to complete Project Brays, a series of planned improvements including channel-widening, bridge replacements and new storm water detention basins. With the city of Houston's assistance, these expedited upgrades will remove hundreds of homes and businesses from the 100-year flood plain on an accelerated timeline. Known for his skill in coalition building, Mayor Turner's leadership on this issue has led to unprecedented cooperation between federal, state, city and county governments, which will lead to reduced flooding in District C's Meyerland, Marilyn Estates, Braeswood Place and other neighborhoods along Brays Bayou. At the mayor's behest to expedite these needed drainage improvements, the Texas Water Development Board has agreed to loan the city of Houston $46 million. If approved by City Council, the city will then advance the funding to the HCFCD to assist in construction to improve Brays Bayou. Once the project is complete, the HCFCD will be reimbursed this funding by the federal government and, will in turn, repay the loan to the city of Houston. Similar funding agreements are planned to promote upgrades for White Oak Bayou and Hunting Bayou, at an estimated cost of $130 million in total for all three bayous. Since 2010, when voters approved the ReBuild Houston Program, the city's drainage improvement efforts have focused on long-term projects to improve the conveyance of storm water from rooftops to bayous. Last week's introduction of the SWAT Program and the new agreement for expedited bayou funding represent a major shift in the city of Houston's approach to addressing drainage issues, emphasizing Mayor Turner's commitment to improving drainage at the local, neighborhood and regional levels. City Council is expected to vote Wednesday, Jan. 25, on the proposal to receive the $46 million loan from the TWDB and to advance this funding to the HCFCD for the Project Brays improvements.

10,000 activists march on Houston City Hall

Sat, 01/21/2017 - 4:10pm
More than 10,000 women's rights and equal rights activists marched on Houston City Hall Jan. 21, following the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. Similar marches were held in cities across the U.S. Read the full story and see more photos in the JHV's next print edition.

10,000 activits march on Houston City Hall

Sat, 01/21/2017 - 3:12pm
More than 10,000 women's rights and equal rights activists marched on Houston City Hall Jan. 21, following the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. Similar marches were held in cities across the U.S. Read the full story and see more photos in the JHV's next print edition.

Amb. Dennis Ross sketches Middle East landscape Trump administration will face

Fri, 01/13/2017 - 5:18pm
The program Amb. Dennis Ross planned on Thursday night, Jan. 12, at Congregation Beth Yeshurun didn't happen. Billed as "The Trump Administration's Foreign Policy Agenda," the topic changed when Ross approached the bimah and began speaking to an audience of approximately 900. He opened saying, "I'd love to be able to do that [speak on the foreign policy agenda]. But, I'd need to know what the Donald Trump foreign policy agenda is. I'm not sure at this point that anybody can say, with any competence, that they know what it is." Instead, Ross said he would speak about the Middle East that the incoming president will face. With more than two decades of experience in Soviet and Middle East policy, Ross served two years as special assistant to President Barack Obama. He was the U.S. point man on the Middle East peace process in the both the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations. Ross' presentation was sponsored by American Jewish Committee Houston and Congregation Beth Yeshurun. Referring to the current Middle East landscape, Ross began by telling the audience, "It would be easy for me to tell you everything is terrible. You'd go home depressed. The landscape that Donald Trump's administration is going to face in the Middle East is more daunting than any of his predecessors." Ross enumerated six points of war and/or crisis: Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, Libya and Israel and the Palestinians. Ross described Syria as a nation where 12 million people have been displaced and an entire generation has no hope of a future. To reconstruct Syria would cost around $300 billion. "The Russians assisted Assad in retaking Aleppo using a scorched-earth approach, where every school, hospital and bakery was a target," said Ross. Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin has achieved almost everything he wanted in Syria, he continued. That includes an airbase and a naval facility. Simultaneously, Russia has empowered Iran, due of their use of Shi'a militias to augment government forces. In Syria and Iraq, where Shi'a militias are engaged, sectarianism has increased, warned Ross. Even if ISIS is defeated, the sectarianism that excluded the Sunnis and allowed ISIS to grow will be re-created. If ISIS is removed, who then governs? And, who is responsible for reconstruction? "In Mosul and Raqqua, there has to be a plan to defeat ISIS, to reconstruct and to include Sunnis," said Ross. "Those are a set of challenges as serious as any president has to face. But, there's more." Ross described the conflict in Yemen as a proxy war pitting Saudi Arabia against Iran. "Iranians aren't dying in these proxy wars," said Ross, "although the price the Shi'a militias are paying is a high one." Stressing Egypt is a country of 93 million people, Ross warned that Egyptian citizens are facing shortages of cooking oil, sugar and rice. "Does that make you feel comfortable?" he asked. "The Trump administration has a stake in seeing that Egypt doesn't become a failed state. If Egypt were to become a failed state, the flow of refugees [out of Egypt] would become a major problem for Europe. There has to be, at minimum, a plan to see that Egypt doesn't become a failing or a failed state." Ross categorized Libya as a landscape of competing militias, not a state. He cautioned the incoming administration to understand the changing balance of power in the region and who the American allies are. "And, it's important to understand whenever there's a vacuum in the region, the worst forces fill [that vacuum]," he added. But, it's not all hopeless, said Ross. He described two hopeful developments that could become game changers in the Middle East: 1) the convergence of strategic interests between Israel and the Sunni states; and 2) internal changes in Saudi Arabia. An alignment between Israel and the Sunni Arab states became possible after both identified Iran as a major threat, said Ross. "It doesn't mean the cooperation in intelligence is broadcast. But, what they're doing together is profoundly real. And, this convergence is an asset to the United States." Ross stressed this convergence occurred despite President Obama's policy, which saw Iran as a source of solving problems, instead of a source of creating problems in the region. The Trump administration could build on this convergence as a means of countering Iran and the Shi'a militias, suggested Ross. Applying this asset to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ross suggested that the traditional model of relations between the two sides must change. "Today, the Palestinians are too weak, too divided and too preoccupied with the succession of [Palestinian Prime Minister] Abu Mazen. There is a competition [for leadership]. Do they compete to see who is more reasonable? No, they compete to see who is more pure. Simply coming to the table is considered a concession. To talk is considered a concession. The Palestinians can't deal with the Israelis, unless they have a cover. And, the cover would be the Arabs." Ross then spoke about Vision 2030, the comprehensive Saudi reform plan. Calling the Saudi restructuring plan "a revolution in the guise of economic change," Ross argued the reform process would lead to outcomes, such as political transparency, an overhaul of the educational system and a decrease in the power of the religious police. "What's driving these changes is completely internal. It's not us," said Ross. "We have a stake in their success because there's never been a successful model of development in the Arab world. "Everything I say requires that the new administration gets this. See what's going on in Saudi Arabia. Understand the priorities of Arab leaders." Ross warned that three assumptions have governed American political policy in the Middle East since the Eisenhower administration: 1) If the U.S. distances itself from Israel, we will gain from the Arabs; 2) If we cooperate with the Israelis, we will lose with the Arabs; 3) If we want to transform the region, we have to solve the Palestinian issue. The Obama administration focused on the settlements because Obama thought it wouldn't harm Israeli security while simultaneously distancing the U.S. from Israel to get closer to the Arabs, said Ross. "[Obama] went to Cairo to reach out to the Muslim Arabs and he didn't go to Israel afterwards," said Ross. "I told President Obama: If you don't go to Israel afterwards, all you're going to do is convince the Israeli public that [all concessions] would come at their expense. And, when he didn't go, he created a deficit of trust with the Israelis that he never recovered from." The priorities of the Arab states have always been their security and their survival. Said Ross, "They are never going to base their relationship on what we do with Israel because they need us. It's not that they're unconcerned about ISIS. It's just that they see Iran and the Shi'ite militias as a greater threat to them. "If the Moshiach comes tomorrow, and we had peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the one thing we know is it wouldn't end the war in Syria. It wouldn't end the war in Iraq. It wouldn't stop the war in Yemen. It wouldn't change Egypt's situation. It wouldn't alter Iran's aspirations in the region. Because, it was never the sole source of conflict in the region. "Why do I care about this issue?" Ross asked. "Because I care about Israel. I don't want it to become a bi-national state. Do I think we can produce two states anytime soon? I don't. The Palestinians are too divided, too weak, too consumed by a sense of grievance, too preoccupied with who will succeed Abu Mazen. The level of disbelief between Israelis and Palestinians is the worst it's ever been. "What is needed is a set of objectives that we can actually do. Focus on what you can do. What steps can be actually taken that would reflect the building of two states? We don't need more failed initiatives between Israelis and Palestinians."

Couple dedicates new sefer Torah in son's memory

Wed, 01/04/2017 - 11:14am
A new sefer Torah was written in Houston on Dec. 28, commissioned by Rabbi Daniel and Eta Cotlar, in memory of their son, Mendel, who passed away three weeks after his Bar Mitzvah in 2014. The Cotlars chose sofer (scribe) Heshy Benshimon, based on his reputation as one of the world's leading scribes. Along with members of the community, Benshimon, who writes in the style of the Alte Rebbe, completed the last words of Torah scroll he'd been working on for almost a year. "Writing a Torah, the last of the 613 mitzvot, is a great mitzvah that brings blessings to all those who contribute to it. It's one of the most joyous and beautiful mitzvos," Rabbi Daniel and Eta Cotlar wrote in a letter that was included in Mendel's Torah Dedication and Celebration program. The ceremony took place on the fifth night of Chanukah. The program began with the lighting of the Chanukah candles and singing the blessings, followed by a procession. Leading the community were children carrying a banner - "Mendel's Torah Dedication & Celebration, Chanukah 2016" - which featured Mendel's picture. A car, with a large chanukiah on top, blared festive Jewish music, while torchbearers and children carrying neon glow sticks lit the way. As many as 300 celebrants made their way, walking and dancing, along Candle, Kitty Brook and Portal lanes in Fondren Southwest to the Chabad Lubavitch Center. The event was timed to coincide with Chanukah and winter break, allowing all the Cotlar family from Toronto, North Carolina, Boston, Pittsburgh and New Haven, Conn., to attend, honoring Mendel's life and commitment to Torah and mitzvot. Community members from near and far were honored by carrying the Torah and holding the chuppah along the way. "It means everything to us that you're here," Rabbi Daniel Cotlar said. Outside the Chabad synagogue, those holding Torahs lined both sides of the stairway leading up to the building, as the Torah was brought inside the sanctuary. Everyone followed, and the celebration continued with singing and dancing with all the Torah scrolls. Many of Mendel's friends were there. Mendel Lazaroff played his version of Modeh Ani, written more than a year ago, in memory of his dear friend. Yoeli Donin, another friend, said: "Cool to see how you can take such sadness and pain and make such a happy and joyous event from it! [It's] amazing that the Cotlars are helping us live Mendel's legacy in such an inspirational way." "What does one say at an event like this?" Rabbi Cotlar addressed the crowd "At an event where Eta and I, and all of us, feel such strong emotions, such confusing emotions. You can't go on the Internet and look up 'siyum speeches for people who've lost a child.' All Eta and I can do is speak from the heart and tell you what's on our mind. "In general, we found it uplifting to learn and think about the eternal presence of a neshama's actions in the world," he continued. "In the book of Tanya, it describes the spiritual connections we make as 'yichud zeh nitzchi l'olam' lasting forever. Each memory we have, each mitzvah done by Mendel or for Mendel ... lasts forever. "And, more than just lasting forever, it increases. A few months ago, on Mendel's yahrzeit, Eta and I discovered a speech from the Rebbe from that same day, the 13th of Tishrei, which is also the yartzeit of the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe." Rabbi Cotlar shared the Rebbe's remarks: "The Rebbe explained that in the world at large, people think that as time passes all matters tend to grow weaker; but the truth is, that while physical things do fade, spiritual things strengthen. A person's neshama, their soul, and the influence that the neshama has on the world gets stronger with each passing minute, hour and day after leaving the body. The passage of time brings about an elevation and its impact on the world continues. ... Thanks to you and thousands of others, Mendel's theme of kindness and gratitude continues to spread. So now, with this siyum, with this new Torah, Mendel has one more tool, one more way to act in the world." The event culminated with a video that followed the words of the soundtrack of a modern Hebrew song about gratitude, "Modeh Ani," by Omer Adam, and inspirational remarks by Mendel's mother, Eta, as images of Mendel and his family flashed across the screen. "A few weeks ago, I read a quote describing child loss: 'Some things in life cannot be fixed, they can only be carried,' " said Eta Cotlar. "How true are those words. I read it and I immediately felt my shoulders get heavy. There are certain things a person cannot be expected to carry ... carrying something doesn't have to be a burden. We all carry so many things throughout our lives that should feel heavy, but they don't, because we don't simply carry them, we hold them and keep them safe, we lift them up and share them with others. ... We carry these things out of love, excitement, curiosity and pride. It was staring me in the face - Mendel's Torah. A Torah scroll is so heavy, but holding it is the greatest honor. "Keeping Torah is a challenge," she continued, "but it lifts us up. It gives us strength. Torah never ends. It epitomizes continuity. Just as it appears to be ending it begins again. ... This sefer Torah will forever be a reminder that the end is just another kind of a beginning, a reminder that you are here as long as we remember to live life as you did, helping others and bringing simcha [joy] to others, as long as we remember the fun, happy, loving times we shared as a family and community, you will always be here. "... Mendel, as we hold and carry you, you are carrying us, lifting us up and continuing to bring us nachas," Eta continued. "... Torah protects people. It brings people together, it shines light on dark places, just as you always did, Mendel. ..." Friends and family were visibly moved by the service. "It was beyond beautiful and very moving for me," said Miriam Fishman, a long-time family friend. "I could never understand the Rebbe's urgency to bring Moshiach until now. He felt our pain and wanted it to end. It was also so uplifting to be part of such a happy time, celebrating the life of a superb neshama." The Torah will be used in a way Mendel would have wanted, "to lift people up who are down, to make people feel special and appreciated, and to bring out the very best in people," said Rabbi Cotlar. The family hopes it will eventually be used for a children's and beginner's minyan but, until that that time, the Torah will be used regularly in the Chabad House in Cary, N.C., where Mendel's uncle, Rabbi Yisrael Cotlar, is rabbi. "We're grateful that we've found it a home so connected to us and Mendel," said Rabbi Daniel Cotlar.

Carrie Fisher, 'Star Wars' actress, dies at 60

Tue, 12/27/2016 - 12:43pm
Carrie Fisher, the actress best known for playing Princess Leia in the original "Star Wars" films, has died days after suffering a heart attack. She was 60. Fisher's family spokesman Simon Halls confirmed to multiple publications that she passed away Tuesday morning. Fisher had been in intensive care at UCLA's medical center after suffering a heart attack on Friday during a flight from London to Los Angeles. Fisher was born in Beverly Hills, California in 1956 to star parents: singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds. Her paternal grandparents were Russian Jewish immigrants. After only one major film role - in the comedy "Shampoo," alongside Warren Beatty and Julie Christie - Fisher was cast as Princess Leia in George Lucas' 1977 blockbuster "Star Wars." She reprised the memorable role in the next two "Star Wars" films and in 2015's franchise reboot, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." Also a prolific writer, Fisher wrote four novels and three memoirs. Her last film appearance will be "Star Wars: Episode VIII," set to be released in 2017. Fisher told J., the Jewish News Weekly of Northern California, in 2008 that she frequently attended Friday night services and shared Shabbat meals with Orthodox friends.

UN passes anti-settlement resolution, US abstains

Fri, 12/23/2016 - 5:16pm
(JTA) - The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution condemning Israeli settlements, with the United States abstaining. The resolution was adopted Friday afternoon with 14 votes in favor and only the U.S. abstention. It called Israeli settlements "a flagrant violation of international law" that damage the prospects of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sustained applause greeted the passage of the resolution. American presidents have long protected Israel from extreme censure at the United Nations. As recently as 2011, Obama vetoed a similar resolution on settlements that like this one was adamantly opposed by Israel. Samantha Power, the American U.N. envoy, in a lengthy explanation of the American vote, said the resolution is consistent with longstanding U.S. policy opposing Israeli settlements and accurately reflects the facts on the ground. "The United States has been sending a message that the settlements must stop privately and publicly for for decades," Power said. "Our vote today is fully in line with the bipartisan history of how presidents have approached this issue." Power said the United States could not support the resolution outright because it ignores other relevant issues and because Israel is often mistreated at the United Nations. She talked at length about the latter sentiment. "The simple truth is for as long as Israel has been a member of this institution, Israel has been treated differently from other members of the United Nations," the ambassador said. Power emphasized that the abstention did not reflect any change in the American commitment to Israeli security. "Our commitment to that security has never wavered and never will," she said. Israel was defiant in its reaction to the resolution and the U.S. vote. "Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the UN and will not abide by its terms," a statement from the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "At a time when the Security Council does nothing to stop the slaughter of half a million people in Syria, it disgracefully gangs up on the one true democracy in the Middle East, Israel, and calls the Western Wall 'occupied territory.' "The Obama administration not only failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the UN, it colluded with it behind the scenes. Israel looks forward to working with President-elect Trump and with all our friends in Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, to negate the harmful effects of this absurd resolution. Speaking to the Security Council, Israel's U.N. envoy, Danny Danon, described the resolution as "evil" and likened it to condemning Americans for building in Washington or the French for building in Paris. "This resolution today will be added to the long and shameful list of anti-Israel U.N. resolutions," Danon said. "Instead of charting a course forward, you are sending a message to the Palestinians that they should continue on the path of terrorism and incitement, that they should continue to hold people hostage, that they should continue to seek meaningless statements from the international community." The resolution was introduced by New Zealand, Venezuela, Malaysia and Senegal after a similar resolution, introduced by Egypt in coordination with the Palestinians, was withdrawn on Thursday amid intense pressure from Israel and President-elect Donald Trump. On Facebook, Trump wrote that the resolution was "extremely unfair." "As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations. This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis," he wrote. Several U.S. lawmakers also criticized the American abstention. Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Nita Lowey, both New York Democrats, and Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., all issued statements criticizing the Obama administration. "It is extremely frustrating, disappointing and confounding that the Administration has failed to veto this resolution," said Schumer, the incoming Senate minority leader. "Whatever one's views are on settlements, the U.N. is the wrong forum to settle these issues." The resolution and the U.S. vote drew differing reactions from American Jewish groups. The American Jewish Committee in a statement said it was "deeply disappointed that the United States chose to abstain on a U.N. Security Council resolution today which singled out Israel for condemnation." The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Jewish community's foreign policy umbrella group, issued a scathing denunciation of the resolution and the American vote. "There is no justification or explanation that validates the United States failure to veto the one-sided, offensive resolution adopted by the Security Council today," said a statement attributed from the Presidents Conference chairman, Stephen Greenberg, and its executive vice chairman, Malcolm Hoenlein. "The United States vote will be seen as a betrayal of the fundamentals of the special relationship that will nevertheless continue to mark the close ties between the peoples of the two countries." Liberal Jewish groups issued statements supporting the vote and the American acquiescence in its passage. J Street, the dovish pro-Israel lobby, welcomed the resolution, as did the New Israel Fund. The progressive Zionist group Ameinu called it a "reasonable response" to the situation on the ground. "The resolution is consistent with longstanding bipartisan American policy, which includes strong support for the two-state solution, and clear opposition to irresponsible and damaging actions, including Palestinian incitement and terror and Israeli settlement expansion and home demolitions," J Street said.