Monday, December 19, 2016

A Story I Thought I'd Never Read

Jared and Ivanka
From Politico:

At the intimate, light-brick synagogue in Georgetown, members don’t fuss over their famous-for-Washington congregants. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew prays at Kesher Israel just like everybody else in the tight knit Modern Orthodox community.

And when longtime Kesher congregant Joe Lieberman became the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2000, the shul addressed a unique question in order to accommodate him: Could practicing traditional Jews pass through magnetic detectors without violating the strict rules of Shabbat? No, ruled Kesher’s rabbi at the time. Congregants would need to be swiped by wands, so that the Secret Service would do the work that observant Jews couldn't.

But even for a congregation accustomed to dealing with power brokers, the potential arrival of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner is being treated as something extraordinary.

The possibility that influential members of the first family could attend services at Kesher next year — the only Modern Orthodox synagogue servicing downtown D.C. — has become the premier topic of conversation at Shabbat dinners, and among members gossiping after services.

Nobody is certain where Trump and Kushner, who comes from a devout Orthodox family and typically observes the Sabbath, will ultimately end up. A source close to Ivanka Trump said the couple has yet to decide where they will attend synagogue. They will be choosing from several Modern Orthodox synagogues in the area. They could settle in Potomac, Maryland, and attend Beth Sholom, or they could head to Silver Spring and join the Kemp Mill Synagogue.

But many Kesher members assume their shul is the front-runner because of its central location, prestigious reputation and experience handling famous congregants. It is Washington’s answer to the establishment congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on the Upper East Side that Kushner and Ivanka Trump attend regularly. Plus, Kesher’s most direct Washington competitor, Ohev Shalom, is seen as a long shot after its rabbi blasted Donald Trump as a bigot earlier this year.

Ivanka Trump and Kushner will make history next month as the first members of a presidential family who are practicing Modern Orthodox Jews. They observe the Sabbath, walk to synagogue regularly and attend services on the High Holidays. The eldest of their young children, who is 6, is expected to attend a Jewish day school, according to a source close to the incoming first daughter. 

The question now gripping the Washington Jewish community is where the Kushner-Trump family will build out the community necessary to live a traditional Jewish life, as the family decamps from its Trump-branded building in Manhattan to serve as West Wing advisers.

The community is buzzing over all the potentially awkward scenarios that Ivanka Trump and Kushner may confront in the Washington area, where everyone's livelihood seems to be politics.

Kesher members can't help but wonder: Will Kushner really sit in the wooden pews next to Norman Eisen, the former Obama ethics czar who has been railing against Donald Trump’s ethics conflicts and who has publicly questioned his fitness for office?

Will the most powerful first daughter in history occupy the small area on Kesher’s
second floor where VIP women, like Hadassah Lieberman, have prayed before her? Will the Trump-Kushner family spend the high holidays with Kesher member and writer Leon Wieseltier, who recently penned an op-ed in The Washington Post imploring Americans to "stay angry" about Trump’s election?

A source close to Ivanka Trump denied a report Sunday that the family had inquired about membership at Ohev Shalom, a synagogue in Shephard Park whose rabbi, Shmuel Herzfeld, protested Trump when he delivered a speech in March at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in Washington. “This man is wicked,” Herzfeld stood up and proclaimed, before being escorted out of the arena by security. “He inspires racists and bigots. He encourages violence. Do not listen to him.”

The source close to the couple said the family “never heard of that rabbi and never inquired about that synagogue."

The couple declined to comment on the search.

For families connected to Kesher Israel, according to interviews with half a dozen members, many have mixed emotions about praying next to the first family of the most divisive incoming president in history. They are torn between deep discomfort and some excitement at getting a close-up look at two of the most powerful people in America.

But for the most part, even Trump’s fiercest critics said they would welcome Kushner and Ivanka Trump into their community and check their politics at the door.

“We have a concept in traditional Judaism of muktseh,” Eisen said in an interview. “Money is muktseh, something forbidden on the Sabbath. Before Shabbat, you take your money, your cellphone, you put it aside. Politics is muktseh. I would welcome them exactly the same as I would any other family that wanted to join our community.”

Eisen, who has publicly defended Kushner for walking to Trump Tower on a Saturday for emergency transition-related work, added: “For what it’s worth, I think the two of them are among the more moderate voices advising the president-elect.”

That they are considered modifying influences on Trump helps in the Jewish circles that are preparing themselves for close contact with the Trump-Kushner family.

But even for people willing to check politics at the door, some are concerned about their relatively quiet synagogue becoming the eye of a political storm.

“This is a disaster,” said one anxious, liberal Kesher Israel congregant who declined to speak on the record.

For now, the congregations are staying mum, protecting any conversations they are having with the Kushner family with the seriousness of doctor-patient confidentiality.

“I can’t say whether they have contacted us or not,” said Elanit Jakabovics, the
president of Kesher Israel. “Congregant interactions are private.”

But Jakabovics said she expects that even the more liberal members of the community would accept Trump’s adult children. Since it is the only full-service Modern Orthodox synagogue in downtown Washington, D.C., members also don’t have the luxury to leave as an act of political protest.

“Whether it's Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner or anyone else coming to D.C. to work or visit," said Jakabovics, "Kesher's community is open to all."
And some members are pitching Kesher as the place for VIP Jews, in part because they’ve handled all the related issues before.

“What’s great about Kesher Israel is we’ve had people in the past with Secret Service, vice presidential candidates, and everyone is treated the same,” said Robbie Diamond, a member of the synagogue and the founder and CEO of Securing America’s Future Energy. “We’re used to having people like that. We don’t fuss over those people, so they feel comfortable going.”

Kushner and Ivanka Trump are also old pros at socializing with liberals who dislike the president-elect’s style and substance. So far, they have preserved their personal brands and relationships.

One potential drawback is that Kesher is still operating with an interim rabbi, as it searches for a replacement for Rabbi Barry Freundel, who plunged the community into scandal in 2014. Back then, the scholar was found spying on women with hidden cameras as they undressed to enter the mikvah, a ritual bath.

Freundel is now in jail, but the scandal still hangs over the shaken community, which also seems almost happy for a new kind of spotlight. And some of Kesher’s most prominent members are hoping that the synagogue could be an outlet for Kushner and Ivanka Trump to take a step away from the work of the administration.

“People focus on individuals and not political leanings,” added Diamond. “At Kesher, you can also enjoy friends and people as people — not just what defines them during the week, or by what they believe.” 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

We Are the World’s Most Educated Religious Group

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images - via JTA
Another favorable study by Pew Research about the Jewish people:
(JTA) — Jews are the world’s most-educated religious group, with an average of more than 13 years of formal schooling, according to a new study.
The Pew Research Center study published Tuesday found that Jews worldwide have four years more of schooling on average than the next-most educated group, Christians, who average about nine years of schooling. Muslims and Hindus are the least-educated religious groups, each with about 5 1/2 years of formal schooling. The global average is less than eight years.
Jews led the groups in several other categories. Jewish men and women have the smallest average gap in years of formal schooling at zero (Hindu women, on the other extreme, trail men by 2.7 years). Jews were the most educated in the 55-to-74 category. Sixty-one percent of Jews have at least some post-high school education; the global average is 14 percent. Ninety-nine percent of Jews have had some formal schooling.
Among Jews worldwide aged 25 to 34, women are more educated than men. Jewish women in that age group have more than 14 years of formal schooling on average, and nearly 70 percent have attended some form of higher education. Jewish men in that cohort, by contrast, have an average of 13.4 years of formal schooling, and 57 percent have had higher education.
While 81 percent of American Jewish men aged 55 to 74 has had higher education, the number drops to 65 percent among those aged 25 to 34. Pew attributes the decline to the growth of America’s Orthodox Jewish population, which attains formal secular education at lower rates than non-Orthodox Jews.
American Jews have the highest rate of higher education, at 75 percent (compared to 40 percent of Americans generally), and have an average of 14.7 years of schooling. Jewish Israelis have an average of 12 years of schooling, and 46 percent have had higher education.
The least educated Jewish population is in South Africa, where Jews have an average of 12 years of schooling, and only 29 percent have higher education. In the country as a whole, only 3 percent of the population has higher education.
Jews in Israel have far more education, on average, than Muslim Israelis, though the gap is narrowing. Among the oldest Jews and Muslims, there is a nearly six-year gap in formal schooling. Among Jews and Muslims aged 25 to 34, however, the gap shrinks to 3.7 years.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Cubs Win!

Arie Crown Hebrew Day School has joined the celebration! (Love that school!)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

An Orthodox Jewish Doctor on Chicago Med

Ato Essandoh (right) as an Orthodox Jewish Doctor on Chicago Med
I watched the season premiere episode of Chicago Med that featured this character. Although still not perfect, I must say that this is probably the most accurate portrayal of an Orthodox Jewish professional I have ever seen on TV. That he is a recurring charcater gives me hope that Hollywood finally recognizes that Orthodox Jews are not just the oddballs that they have always been portrayed as. Its also nice to see him located in Chicago. From the Forward:

Fans of “Chicago Med,” which debuted last year, may have noticed a slight discrepancy in its casting. The major-city trauma center did not have a single Jewish doctor on staff. Jewish moms everywhere were aghast.
But, for season two, problem solved.
“I never thought I’d play an orthodox Jewish man,” said Ato Essandoh, who’s played major recurring roles in “Blue Bloods,” “Vinyl” and Elementary.
Some background: Last year, Dr. Connor Rhodes (Colin Donnell) was taken under the wing of famed heart surgeon Dr. David Downey (Gregg Henry). Downey, a pot-smoking hippie with a bum ticker, died in one of the final episodes. Enter Dr. Latham.
“We knew our young surgeon, Dr. Rhodes, needed a new teacher,” said Andrew Schneider who executive produces the show along with his wife Diane Frolov.
“We didn’t want the same [laid back] dynamic we had with Dr. Downey, so we started thinking about what kind of character and personality would make the relationship different,” explained Frolov.
“I came from a medical family,” said Schneider. “Both my parents were MDs in Los Angeles. It was a very secular Jewish family, but they had friends who were very religious, orthodox and I always found that interesting, the intersection of very devout Jewish observance with medicine.”
There was no single epiphany that transformed the orthodox Jew to an orthodox Jewish black man. “It just evolved,” Schneider said.
Judaism is not something Essandoh was totally unfamiliar with. His parents are from Ghana and met while students in the US. He grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in New Rochelle, NY. “All of my friends on the street we’re Jewish. I went do a lot of bar and bat mitzvahs. I even learned a little Hebrew.”
He went on to get a degree in chemical engineering from Cornell University, his father’s alma mater, and was planning on a career in that area when a woman intervened.
“My girlfriend at the time dared me to do a play at Cornell. She just saw something in me. I should send her residual checks, because as soon as I got on stage I was just stunned that people did this. That got stuck in my mind even after I graduated and started working. I took [acting] classes at night and broke my parents heart because of all the money they spent to put me through Cornell.”
“When you get a roll like this, there’s a certain sensitivity. You don’t want to be a gimmick,” Essandoh said. “You don’t want to be a set piece, where people go, ‘hey that’s weird.’”
Essandoh has been working with Chicago Rabbi Capers Funnye, Jr., a distant cousin of Michelle Obama and spiritual leader of Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation of Chicago.
“I wasn’t aware there were black Jews,” Ato said. “Rabbi Funnye had been to Africa and told me there were even black Jews in Ghana. I never heard about tefillin. I was unfamiliar with the deep history and ritual of being an Orthodox Jew. Before you get out of bed you say a prayer and then you get out of bed say another one.”
Although the doctor uttered a brief Hebrew blessing over a patient in the premiere episode, viewers won’t see him perform any overtly religious acts.
But “we’re very respectful of his religious beliefs,” said Schneider. In an upcoming episode, he will have to come to the hospital on a Saturday to save a patient’s life. But “Chicago Med” does not have a Shabbos elevator and he won’t push the elevator button.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Death of a Skverer Chasid

Steven Hill as DA Adam Schiff on the hit series, Law and Order
The New York Times announced the death today of a Skverer Chasid, Reb Shlomo Hill of Monsey New York. He was a Baal Teshuva that used his considerable talents to do some work for Agudath Israel of America. I had the pleasure of meeting him in Shul one Shabbos when he was in Chicago on location doing a film: Here is the rest of his story:

Steven Hill, who originated imposing lead roles on two notable television series, “Mission: Impossible” in the 1960s and “Law & Order” in the 1990s, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 94.

His daughter Sarah Gobioff confirmed his death. He lived in Monsey, N.Y., a hamlet in Rockland County.

Mr. Hill was 44 and a veteran stage and television actor in 1966 when he was cast as Daniel Briggs, the leader of an elite covert-operations unit, in the new series “Mission: Impossible.” But he left after the first season, paving the way for Peter Graves’s six-season run as the show’s lead.

Even decades later, Mr. Hill declined to discuss his reasons for leaving the series, other than to say that the first season had been a bad experience. Other sources, including Patrick J. White, author of a book on the series, “The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier,” said Mr. Hill was dismissed and learned the news only when he read a Daily Variety announcement that Mr. Graves was being hired.

According to Mr. White, Mr. Hill had developed a reputation for being difficult. His refusal to work late on Fridays, because of his observance of the Jewish sabbath, was also reported to be a problem. In Mr. White’s book, Mr. Hill’s co-star Martin Landau is quoted as saying, “I felt he was digging his own grave.”

Almost a quarter-century after that experience, Mr. Hill took on the role of the district attorney Adam Schiff on a new cops-and-lawyers series based in New York, “Law & Order.” He played the role, said to be modeled on the long-serving Manhattan district attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, from 1990 to 2000.

In a 1996 interview with The Washington Post, Dick Wolf, the creator of “Law & Order,” called Mr. Hill “the Talmudic influence on the entire zeitgeist of the series.”

“Steven has more moral authority than anyone else on episodic TV,” Mr. Wolf said.
Steven Hill was born Solomon Krakowsky on Feb. 24, 1922, in Seattle, the son of a furniture-store owner. He graduated from the University of Washington and at first moved to Chicago to work in radio.

He soon moved to New York and did frequent stage work in his early years there, making his Broadway debut in a small role in “A Flag Is Born” (1946), a pageantlike production written by Ben Hecht, with music by Kurt Weill, that starred Paul Muni and advocated the creation of the state of Israel.

In 1948, Mr. Hill played a sailor in the Tony Award-winning wartime comedy “Mr. Roberts,” which starred Henry Fonda. “It was a thrilling time in my life,” Mr. Hill told The New York Times in 2005. 
“You could almost smell it from the very first reading that took place — this is going to be an overwhelming hit.”

Two years later Mr. Hill played Bernie Dodd, the stage director who tries to help a washed-up alcoholic actor, in Clifford Odets’s drama “The Country Girl,” with Uta Hagen and Paul Kelly.
Mr. Hill worked in the very early years of television, beginning in 1949 with four episodes of the series “Actors Studio.” (He was a charter member of the prestigious organization that gave its name to the show.) He made his film debut in 1950 in “A Lady Without Passport,” a crime noir, starring Hedy Lamarr, about a smuggling ring in Cuba.

Mr. Hill gave up acting from 1967 to 1977 and, in the interim, took a variety of jobs, including real estate sales. When he returned to show business, he was welcomed back and appeared in a string of 16 feature films in the ’80s. They included the romantic comedy “It’s My Turn” (1980); the women’s-film remake of “Rich and Famous” (1981); Barbra Streisand’s “Yentl” (1983); Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” (1986); and “Running on Empty” (1988), in which he played the estranged father of a former student radical (Christine Lahti) living underground.

He continued his film career for a while, appearing in “White Palace” (1990), “Billy Bathgate” (1991) and “The Firm” (1993). But his final screen appearances were as Schiff on “Law & Order.”

Mr. Hill married Selma Stern in 1951, and they had four children. The couple divorced in 1964. He and his second wife, the former Rachel Schenker, were married in 1967 and had five children. She survives him.

Besides his wife and his daughter Ms. Gobioff, he is survived by three more daughters, Betsy Hill, Pamela Hill and Hanna Hendler; five sons, John, Matthew, Jacob, Joshua and Samuel; a sister, Joan Weiss; a brother, Charles Hill; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Mr. Hill summed up his long career, not necessarily with regrets but with a clear eye, in a 1996 interview with The Times. “What we have here is a story of profound instability and impermanence,” he said. “This is what you learn at the beginning in show business; then it gets planted in you forever.”

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Charedim Got Talent

Who said Charedim aren't  cool?!

Monday, May 9, 2016

10th Most Admired Man in the World

Isreali Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu (Jerusalem Post)
From the Jerusalem Post:

Among Americans Netanyahu was voted the tenth most admired man in the world, but he failed to rank in the top 20 in any of the other 30 countries polled.
Israel's Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu has been ranked as the tenth most admired man in the world by Americans polled in a worldwide survey conducted by YouGov.
Netanyahu polled in with 3.7% of responders listing the prime minister either as their "most admired man" or among the people who they "truly admire." 
In the US rankings, Netanyahu trailed the Dalai Lama in 9th place, Donald Trump in 8th, Bernie Sanders in 6th, Pope Francis at 2nd and Barack Obama in 1st place. Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton and Ellen DeGeneres made up the top three among the most popular women.
Despite requiring nominations in at least two countries of the 30 polled, Netanyahu failed to make it onto any other country’s top 20 list of admired men. Other countries surveyed included the UK, Germany, Canada, China and the UAE. Israel was not among those surveyed.
Globally, the most admired woman was found to be Angelina Jolie, followed by the UK’s Queen Elizabeth II, and Hillary Clinton in third. Bill Gates, followed by Barack Obama and Chinese leader Xi Jinping made up the top three ranked men in the world.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Monday, April 11, 2016

Chasidic Heroes

Binyomin Zev Unger, and Yitzchok Greenberg (YWN)
Always happy to report a Kiddush HaShem. From YWN:

Two Jewish construction workers who worked in New Square are being hailed as heroes, after helping rescue occupants from a home that exploded in Hillcrest, and making a tremendous Kiddush Hashem.

Sources tell YWN that the two men – Binyomin Zev Unger, and Yitzchok Greenberg, were working in New Square when they heard an explosion and saw a plume of smoke. The pair ran through the woods to a home that had turned into a fireball.

When they arrived at the home, there was one family member sitting on the front steps with bloody and and burned face. They helped move them away from the burning home, but then realized that another family member was still inside the home. They were unable to gain access due to the home being fully engulfed in flames, but began screaming to the occupant to run out as quickly as possible.

The explosion and fire sent a mother and her adult son to the hospital.

According to News12, fire officials say the fire broke out around 9 a.m. on 4 Stark Court in Hillcrest, not far from the Palisades Parkway. Firefighters think the explosion happened in the son’s second-floor bedroom, and the fire spread to the rest of the house.

Much of the multimillion-dollar home has been destroyed. It is unknown at this time what caused the explosion. A spokesman from Orange and Rockland Utilities say there is no indication that the explosion was gas related.

Both people were taken to Good Samaritan Hospital. The son suffered burns, and the woman has a medical condition that first responders wanted to have checked.

Ramapo Police gave YWN the following statement:

At approximately 8:43 am today, Ramapo Police were advised of a structure fire on Stark Ct., in the New City section of the Town of Ramapo. An adult male resident sustained minor injuries. He was transported to Good Samaritan Hospital by Spring Hill Ambulance Corp. Rockland Paramedics assisted with the injured person. Hillcrest FD, Spring Valley FD, Suffern FD, Haverstraw FD, West Haverstraw FD, New City FD, and Orangetown FD assisted with fighting this fire. The fire has been deemed suspicious. It is being investigated by the Ramapo Police Detective Bureau. Rockland County Sheriff’s Office BCI was assisting RPD.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Reserve Cut, Zagat, and Chaim

The distinguished rabbi featured in this video is my nephew, Chaim Maryles. I watched him grow up right here in Chicago. He has traveled many trails, and had many trials and tribulations. But he has triumphed. God bless him. (Love that guy!)


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

First Responders: Orthodox Jews

View of damage at Zaventem Airport in Brussels following a terrorist attack 
Another Kiddush HaShem. Sad, though, that it came through a horrific terrorist attack where 32 people died. From JTA:

(JTA) – Four haredi Orthodox paramedics from Antwerp who rushed to the main airport in Brussels following a terrorist attack there reportedly were among the first medical professionals on the scene.

The paramedics, who use motorcycles, are part of the Hatzolah emergency service that primarily serves the 12,000 haredi Jews living in the Jewish Quarter of Antwerp, the Gazet van Antwerpen daily reported Wednesday.

Certified ambulance service providers under Belgian law, the paramedics were able to reach the scene of the March 22 terrorist bombings at Zaventem Airport soon after the attack. The bombings there and at subway station in central Brussels about an hour later killed 32 people and wounded 300.

Hatzolah Chairman Samuel Markowitz told the daily he was the only Hatzolah volunteer who arrived at the scene in a car, with his treatment kit in the trunk. The other paramedics sped there on motorcycles and began treating the wounded immediately.

“The images I saw there, I will never forget,” Markowitz said, adding that the response was part of Hatzolah’s commitment to serving all Belgians, not just Jews.

“We didn’t know whether there were Jewish victims, we only knew they could use our help there,” he said.

While identification of all the dead may take weeks and require DNA testing, it is already known that at least three Jewish people were wounded in the attack.
Walter Benjamin, who was en route to be with his daughter in Israel, lost a leg in the attack. In addition, two seminary students from Antwerp were wounded. One is in a coma, according to the daily.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

BDS? Really? Well... Boycott This!

Is this a country that should be boycotted? ...or divested from? ...or sanctioned?


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Kiddush HaShem by a New Square Chasid

New Square Chasid, Heshy Gottdiener
I love featuring stories like this one from North Jersey:

Heshy Gottdiener had been on the Hudson River for about four hours Tuesday, just about a half-mile south of the George Washington Bridge, when he saw something drop from the span a little before 5 p.m.

It was an unseasonably warm and clear afternoon, but Gott­dien­er still couldn’t tell if the object that plunged into the frigid water was debris or something more horrific.
It was only when he saw the splashing, that Gottdiener realized a person had jumped — and survived. Screaming, he thrust a pair of binoculars into the hands of a companion while another person, Joseph Margaretten, dialed 911.

In a bizarre twist of fate, Gott­dien­er, a 36-year-old father of seven, was helping volunteers from the tightknit, ultra-Orthodox enclave of New Square, N.Y., search for the body of another jumper, David Ahronowitz, who leapt from the bridge on Jan. 22. Ahronowitz, 46, was the second person to jump from the span this year.

Gottdiener had just witnessed the third.

Gottdiener explained that the New Square community had hired two boats and a pair of divers to search for Ahronowitz’s body. “We know a person has to be buried in order that the soul should rest in peace,” he said.

Fortunately for the latest person to jump from the bridge, this group of Orthodox Jews and their helpers were about to perform a rare rescue.

Immediately, Scott Koen, the boat’s captain, shouted for the volunteers to haul the divers and their gear out of the water. Seconds later Koen waved off an NYPD helicopter, which had swooped down over the boat following the 911 call and had mistaken the divers for a rescue effort. Following Koen’s arm signals, the helicopter flew under the George Washington Bridge and hovered about 40 feet over the spot where Gott­dien­er had seen the splash, flashing its lights for the boat to hurry over.
Koen, 58, a volunteer firefighter from Rutherford, rushed to the bow of his boat and cut the anchor rope. As he sped toward the bridge he was sure this would be a recovery. Since 2009, only one person had survived the 200-foot plunge from the bridge; 95 people died. But as Koen got closer, “I could see there was an eighth of a face above water.” It was a woman lying on her back, kicking gently with her legs.

Miracle on the Hudson

Koen has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. During 30 years as a “river rat,” he said, he has been involved in 11 rescues. Koen just happened to be on the river in January 2009 when US Airways Flight 1549 landed on the Hudson. That time, he helped passengers off the plane using the dive ladder on the back of his boat, a 46-foot buoy tender called the Michael P. Murphy.

This time, Koen circled around the woman so that she could climb up the ladder and divers threw her a rope. Gottdiener said her eyes were wide open and she was screaming for help. The woman said that she couldn’t climb the ladder because her legs were broken. “She started to sink,” Koen said. “I just jumped in the water and supported her while I got a line under her arms.”

The divers and Orthodox volunteers pulled the woman onto the boat. Her left leg was badly broken just above the foot. They covered her with coats and blankets while a medic from New Square’s volunteer emergency medical service, Hatzolah, administered first aid.

The 25-year-old woman from Somerset County gave her name and date of birth. She told the men that she had left some clothes and belongings on the bridge. A Port Authority spokesman said later that her car was found on Fort Washington Avenue in Manhattan.

Koen knew that the closest dock was more than a mile away in Edgewater. After speaking with fire department officials from New York, he turned his boat toward a large rock on the Manhattan shoreline under the George Washington Bridge. Koen nosed his boat up against the rock and a fireboat pulled alongside. Firefighters boarded, strapped the woman to a body board and carried her over the rock to shore where police cars and ambulances were waiting to ferry her to Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital. A Port Authority spokesman said that the woman was suffering from trauma, but that she was conscious when she reached the hospital.

Suicide-proof walks

Suicides have become an increasing problem for the Port Authority, which runs the George Washington Bridge. A Port Authority spokesman said the agency is working to deter jumpers. It has put up signs every 250 feet along the bridge’s walkway encouraging people to call a suicide prevention line, and the Port Authority Police Department has stepped up foot patrols.

Yet suicides from the bridge are rising. Between 2005 and 2009, an average of five people jumped from the bridge each year. Over the past five years, an average of 15 people have died annually jumping from the bridge. Attempted suicides are rising too, from single digits 10 years ago, to dozens of people in each of the past few years.  Port Authority police said they intervened in 86 suicide attempts last year.

The Port Authority has spoken for at least a couple of years about installing a fence along both sides of the bridge to stop people from jumping. But the project, which is expected to cost between $35 million and $50 million, has not yet begun. The first suicide-proof sidewalk is scheduled to open in 2020.

Gottdiener said he is convinced that the woman would not have survived if he and his fellow volunteers hadn’t been searching for Ahronowitz’s body. “There were no other boats in the water at that time,” he said. “I never knew I am going to be in such a situation, literally helping to save someone’s life.”

Gottdiener will be back out on the water today and, if necessary, for days to come, looking for Ahronowitz’s body. Gottdiener said that the community won’t stop searching “until we find him.”

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thank You, Mr. President

President Barack Obama at Yad Vashem
This is why I believe that the President is a friend of the Jewish people. Cynics might say that he is not sincere. That he has gone to the Israeli Embassy in Washington (the first American President to do so) to speak on Holocaust Remembrance Day as a PR stunt. to try to ingratiate himself to Jewish citizens after his controversial nuclear agreement with Iran. An agreement that I opposed. And that Israeli Prime Minister lobbied so hard to defeat. 

But I disagree. I believe he in sincere in his friendship. I am not going to get into all the indicators that lead me in that direction. But I will publish in full a Forward article about his remarks that evening at the embassy. I believe it more than demonstrates his friendship to us. It follows.

Anti-Semitism is on the rise worldwide, and the United States must lead the fight against it, President Barack Obama said in remarks at the Israeli embassy.

“Here, tonight, we must confront the reality that around the world, anti-Semitism is on the rise,” Obama said Wednesday at a ceremony marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“We cannot deny it,” he said. “When we see some Jews leaving major European cities — where their families have lived for generations — because they no longer feel safe; when Jewish centers are targeted from Mumbai to Overland Park, Kansas; when swastikas appear on college campuses — when we see all that and more, we must not be silent.”

Obama said that he has made fighting global anti-Semitism a priority, and cited Hungary as a case where the United States made it clear that the failure to address anti-Jewish bias would impede strong bilateral relations.

“It’s why, when a statue of an anti-Semitic leader from World War II was planned in Hungary, we led the charge to convince their government to reverse course,” he said. “This was not a side note to our relations with Hungary, this was central to maintaining a good relationship with the United States, and we let them know.”

Obama also addressed criticism of Israel that veers into anti-Semitism. “It’s why, when voices around the world veer from criticism of a particular Israeli policy to an unjust denial of Israel’s right to exist, when Israel faces terrorism, we stand up forcefully and proudly in defense of our ally, in defense of our friend, in defense of the Jewish State of Israel,” he said.

The president cast anti-Semitism as a manifestation of intolerance that afflict other minorities, and praised Israeli President Reuven Rivlin for combating anti-Arab bias in Israel – notably, because Rivlin has chided Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not doing enough in that arena.

Learning from the past “means cultivating a habit of empathy, and recognizing ourselves in one another; to make common cause with the outsider, the minority, whether that minority is Christian or Jew, whether it is Hindu or Muslim, or a nonbeliever; whether that minority is native born or immigrant; whether they’re Israeli or Palestinian,” Obama said.

He appeared at one point to allude to the candidacy of real estate magnate Donald Trump, leading in the polls among Republicans, and who has called for sweeping actions against undocumented migrants and against Muslims.

“It means taking a stand against bigotry in all its forms, and rejecting our darkest impulses and guarding against tribalism as the only value in our communities and in our politics,” he said.

Obama’s appearance was unprecedented; no president has ever given a speech at the embassy, something Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer noted in his remarks. Both governments have endeavored in recent months to overcome bad blood created by last years’ Iran nuclear deal, which Israel opposed, and the failure of the Obama administration’s efforts to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Netanyahu delivered brief remarks via a video recording, thanking Obama for speaking at the embassy, and for advancing talks on extending and expanding U.S. defense assistance to Israel.
The event, co-hosted by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, included the formal recognition of four people as righteous among the nations for the rescue of Jews during the Holocaust.

They were Roddie Edmonds, a U.S. army sergeant who while being held captive in a German prisoner of war camp, refused orders from a German commander to identify Jewish POWs under his command; Lois Gunden, an American teacher in France who made the children’s home she ran a safe haven for Jewish children, and Walery and Maryla Zbijewski, a Polish couple who cared for a Jewish girl who had managed to flee with her mother from the Warsaw Ghetto.

Families of the rescuers and survivors they saved, and their descendants, attended. Obama in his speech picked up particularly on Edmonds declaration to the German commander, who was furious with Edmonds for not identifying the Jewish soldiers in his ranks: “We are all Jews,” Edmonds said.

Obama, alluding to Edmonds’ devout faith, said: “I cannot imagine a greater expression of Christianity than to say, I, too, am a Jew. Obama’s appearance was unprecedented; no president has ever given a speech at the embassy, something Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer noted in his remarks.

Both governments have endeavored in recent months to overcome bad blood created by last years’ Iran nuclear deal, which Israel opposed, and the failure of the Obama administration’s efforts to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Netanyahu delivered brief remarks via a video recording, thanking Obama for speaking at the embassy, and for advancing talks on extending and expanding U.S. defense assistance to Israel.

The event, co-hosted by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, included the formal recognition of four people as righteous among the nations for the rescue of Jews during the Holocaust.

They were Roddie Edmonds, a U.S. army sergeant who while being held captive in a German prisoner of war camp, refused orders from a German commander to identify Jewish POWs under his command; Lois Gunden, an American teacher in France who made the children’s home she ran a safe haven for Jewish children, and Walery and Maryla Zbijewski, a Polish couple who cared for a Jewish girl who had managed to flee with her mother from the Warsaw Ghetto.

Families of the rescuers and survivors they saved, and their descendants, attended. Obama in his speech picked up particularly on Edmonds declaration to the German commander, who was furious with Edmonds for not identifying the Jewish soldiers in his ranks: “We are all Jews,” Edmonds said. Obama, alluding to Edmonds’ devout faith, said: “I cannot imagine a greater expression of Christianity than to say, I, too, am a Jew.”

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

If I had $1,400,000,000...

.No I did not buy a lottery ticket. I spent the $2.00 on a delicious doughnut at Tel Aviv Bakery on Devon in West Rogers Park. And I have money left over. I think I'll put it in the Pushka. However if I find a ticket in the street... well, you never know. I will check the numbers to see if I won. Whats that? You don't think it's very likely to find a lottery ticket on the street? You're kidding - Right? Likely??? Well... it may not be likely. But it's possible. People lose things all the time.

Did  not find a lottery ticket. So I didn't win anything. On the bright side, it didn't cost me anything either.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Public Rebuke of Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn

The controversy over the release of a woman from her status as an Agunah has been the subject of the Daas Torah blog run by Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn for quite some time now. In virtually all of his posts on the subject he wasted no time besmirching the reputation of 2 respected Rabbis - elders in their 90s - for permitting that woman to re-marry. 

He and many other rabbis rejected outright the Heter (Halachic permission)  they used for her to remarry. Since she has remarried based on that Heter, Rabbi Eidensohn and the rabbis who rejected it characterize this couple as adulterers in the Halachic sense.

I am not here to dispute or support that Heter. But even assuming Rabbi Eidensohn is correct, the way he is handling this is beyond disgusting. His latest post has actually asserted that he will no longer publish any comments critical of him. Thus it will be Rabbi Eidensohn that has the last word. 

I responded nonetheless with the following:
You won't be publishing this, but I'm going to tell you anyway since you will in fact be reading it before you delete it.  
It is not your view about the halachic issues involved here that is in question. You may in fact be right. Indeed the consequences of those actions are serious. It is the way you handled it by besmirching the Chashuva Rabbonim whose views and actions you criticized. In doing this in such a public manner, you have lost your Chezkas Kashrus among so many of your former supporters - of which I counted myself as one. 
How sad it is for someone with your talent - and all the contributions you have made to Klal Yisroel in other areas - to have fallen so low. I cannot tell you how disappointed I am in you - someone I used to admire so much.  I'm actually thinking about publishing this comment on my blog so that my views will be known by more people than you. Because you deserve a public rebuke.