Archive for January 23, 2010

San Diego Jewish World headlines~January 24, 2010

January 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Middle East
Israel/ Palestinian Territories

Has U.S. eliminated Israel’s qualitative edge over possible Arab foes?

Hamas politician hints of possible change in attitude towards Israel

Greek deputy prime minister accuses Israel of practicing Nazi-style mass punishment

University of Haifa creates new hearing research center

Sleepless in Jerusalem over whether Israel is becoming as bad as any other nation … by Rabbi Dow Marmur in Jerusalem
The ominous quiet in the Middle East … by Rabbi Dow Marmur in Jerusalem

OECD mischaracterizes Israel’s economy … by Ira Sharkansky in Jerusalem

Arab World

Petraeus says references to biblical verses have no place on rifle scopes

Two Guantanamo detainees transferred to Algeria

United States of America

Tefillin use scares flight crew; plane makes emergency landing in Philadelphia

B’nai B’rith wants airline personnel to be educated about Jewish religious articles

Military drops charges in 9/11 cases to clear way for civilian prosecution

Cardin seeks review of reported plans to hold some Guantanamo detainees indefinitely

Hoekstra calls on Obama to rescind decision to close Guantanamo Bay prison

Napolitano, Europeans discuss airline safety upgrades

Congressman Bilirakis calls for increased U.S. visa screening overseas

ADL: Limbaugh should apologize to Jewish community for stereotyping

In first year, Obama’s promise eclipsed his performance … by Ira Sharkansky in Jerusalem

Sexual abuse of children in the Jewish community: difficult but important to face … by Donald H. Harrison in San Diego

Haiti Relief

SDJA collecting material donations for Haiti quake victims

Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School Responds to Haiti Crisis

Haiti field hospital demonstrates Israel’s humanitarianism, technical skills … by Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal in San Diego

Seattle-based Internet hate-monger spreads ‘organ harvesting’ rumor about Israel in Haiti

Renegade bishop questions Israel’s legitimacy

Muslim police say British anti-terror measures fan Islamophobia

Jewish leadership urges Britain to maintain ban on Muslim Council of Britain

Security guard at Auschwitz dismissed in aftermath of sign theft

Arrests made in Crete synagogue arson case

Muslim forms anti-Zionist party in Sweden


Debate over God’s authorship of the Torah also a debate over meaning in the world … by Rabbi Philip Graubart in La Jolla, California

The blessing that led to a fortune …. by Rabbi Baruch Lederman in San Diego

Looking at who wrote the Bible — from the scribes’ viewpoints … by Fred Reiss, Ed.D, in Winchester, California

San Diego County

Adventures in a Jewish pre-school … by Donald H. Harrison in San Diego

Letter to the Editor: Mikvaot in San Diego … from Nechama Eilfort in Carlsbad

Adventures in San Diego Jewish History, March 19, 1954, Part II… Compiled by Gail Umeham
–Jolly Sixteen Sponsors Purim Dinner And Dance For Military
–Local Council Joins Nat’l Advisory Group
–Simon Takes Lead In Oceanside Campaign
–Jews Want To Be Jews (Editorial)
–Chaim Weitzman Branch, Poale Zion
–Cottage of Israel
— Histadrut Council

My Shtetele California: 19th Century proposal to make Baja California the Jewish homeland … Reprint of a 1971 story by Rabbi Will Kramer


Susan Denaker Hits NCR on a High Note (Kind of) … by Carol Davis in San Diego

Book Review: ‘Once Jews, Stories of Caribbean Sephardim’ … Review by Charlene Neely in La Mesa, California

I’m Still Here — Memoirs of Laura Simon, 104
–Blind Wife
–A Rat Is Not A Rose
–Crazy Hair
–Blind Support Group
–Eye Exercises
–The Alarm
–Hearing Secretary
–Indian Casino
–The Refund

Links to Jewish-interest storiesin other publications

European Jewish Congress: Jewish-Muslim understanding; making twins out of synagogues and mosques.

Herb Keinon in Jerusalem Post: Porous Sinai border presents threat

John Marelius in San Diego Union-Tribune: Poizner trailing Whitman in GOP gubernatorial polling

Greg Moran in San Diego Union-Tribune: Dumanis calls off boycott of judge

Hoa Quach on San Diego News Network: Shana Hazan, JFS development associate, named to SDNN’s ’35 under 35′ list

Barry Rubin on Rubin Reports: The decline of the Obama administration in Massachusetts and the Middle East

Jonathan Tobin in Commentary: Muslims attack Christians and the church blames the Jews

U.S. Department of State: Secretary Clinton and Yemen’s Foreign Minister Al-Qirbi tell of joint plans to fight terrorism


To dedicate an issue of San Diego Jewish World to a loved one, contact our advertising director, Nancy Harrison, at 619 265-0808.

My Shtetele California: 19th Century proposal to make Baja California the Jewish homeland

January 23, 2010 1 comment

By Rabbi Will Kramer
(December 24, 1971)

Not long ago, we reviewed Sam J. Lee’s Moses of the New World the story of the life and work of Baron de Hirsch. It made us de Hirsch-conscious.

In 1896, Rabbi Jacob Voorsanger of San Francisco admired Hirsch’s success in South America and hoped that Baja California might become a new Israel with Hirsch-like help. Voorsanger wrote:

“It is encouraging to learn that the De Hirsch colonies in Argentina are
no failures. In California, we have not been successful with colonization.
Our means were too limited, our lands too rich and expensive. Isolated as we are, locked in between the sea and the mountains, we could not command the attention of the world.

“And yet, there are opportunities here, which, in their extent and character,
are larger than those offered in the sub-equatorial republic.

“Right across from San Diego, in Lower California, an empire is still  awaiting fostering hands. The time will come when the inevitable migration of large numbers of colonists must be directed to these sunny slopes, which are Mexican in name only and which have a welcome for all honest men.

“These slopes, coasting a princely area of uncultivated, rich lands, need the exploring power of modern commerce and enterprise, and the impetus of population.

“It is still a comfort to know that whilst governments are restricting the right of admission, and nations cry out against the wanderers from abroad, there is still room elsewhere to make a new cradle forgrowing nations.

“The earth is still large enough to hold the children made of its dust.
Where to send them is often the question.

“But, like the mariners of old, when we go far enough, we are sure to
find land. We are always hopeful for lsrael, particularly now when
its hopes are enlarging.”


Can you imagine Ti-Aviv and not Tijuana?

Preceding was reprinted from the Winter/Spring 2010 issue of Western States Jewish History.  Rabbi Kramer wrote his column for the Jewish Heritage newspapers of California.

Book Review: ‘Once Jews, Stories of Caribbean Sephardim’

January 23, 2010 3 comments

By Charlene Neely

LA MESA, California — Looking for Jews in strange places, try the Caribbean islands for the last 400 years. Although little historical research has been done on the Sephardim of the Caribbean islands and the surrounding area in the past, there is a new growth of information thanks in part to the work of Josette Capriles Goldish, in her book Once Jews, Stories of Caribbean Sephardim

The author is a descendent of one of these families, born in Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles and to a great extent her book is the story of several centuries of cousins. However, only a handful of these families are Jewish today, most are strong Catholics who acknowledge that their ancestors were Dutch Jews who settled on the small island Curaçao in the 1700s and over generations spread across the area. These families were descendents of Sephardim from Spain and Portugal who had fled to Amsterdam and established new lives.

Unlike their counterparts who fled to the colonies of Spain and Portugal and tried to remain hidden, these families  willingly settled for adventure and future economic growth in the Caribbean islands controlled by the Dutch, Danish Virgin Island, French and British. They were never forced to hide their identities and established active Jewish communities.

The first part of the book gives the reader a rare personal glimpse of Jewish life at this time. The synagogue in Curaçao, Mikveh Israel, which remains a tourist attraction today, was established in 1732. The building seats 400 men downstairs and 200 women upstairs. By the end of the century there “were over 1500 Jews on this one island which represented some 38% of the white population.” This is when it seems that the community hit a critical mass. The rate of intermarriage among families (mostly uncles to nieces and cousins to cousins) meant that younger men went off the island to find brides, both Jewish and non-Jewish and established family trade centers on other islands.

Another factor was friction in the congregation over the Cantor from Amsterdam, Joshua Piza, who arrived in 1815. The Rabbi before had served the congregation for over 50 years. The Cantor “question” resulted in a historical division of the community which remained even after Cantor Piza went to St. Thomas. Cantor Piza had three wives in one year, the first two died and then he married 17 year old Hannah Sasso, born of a religious family in Curaçao.  After the move of the family the stories of Hannah’s dedication to faith and running a trading business are astounding. The family grew in number and wealth. The Sephardim began to spread among the islands and little by little they married non Jews. They lost touch with their faith as Jews but never with their family ties with Curaçao. Over the generations both Jewish and non-Jewish members of these families would do business and have family reunions in Curaçao.

The book offers a personal glimpse of how difficult it was to be Jewish in Spanish controlled areas of the New World, when several families moved to Caro, Venezuela, and anti-semitic pogroms broke out. The families appealed to officials but in the end retreated back to the islands, and were later supporters and friends of Simon Bolivar who fought for Venezuelan independence.
Once Jews is, as its title says, stories of families which are carefully retold and recorded. Goldish’s work has opened new primary resources for historians of this community, which had remained mostly in the hands of these families.

However, the author never deals with the question of how these families were able to amass wealth so quickly.  Slave trade was rampant at this time in the Caribbean, did this affect these families? The author stresses that the majority of these families were large, economically well off, well educated (mostly men) and accepted among the elite of the Caribbean and later Colombian and Venezuelan society although by this time they were Catholic.  The author discusses this assimilation, fast even for Jews in relatively free societies, was it due to a lack of Jewish education, a desire for economic wealth and social/business contacts? Why did so few remain Jews and so many convert to Catholicism? Why do they use the phrase “I am Catholic, but I am Jewish” even to this day? What part of being Jewish is relevant to their lives?

Family histories in strange places around the world are fascinating and they can enlighten us about our own communities and our own future Jewish generations. As Josette Capriles Goldish remarks on the effect of intermarriage as it lessens the size of the American Jewish population, “Eventually, if this trend continues, the vicious circle of size and religious assimilation becomes undeniable and many once viable communities will, over time, disappear”. This is of course a question for all Jewish communities to ponder today.

Other books of this topic.

The Jewish Nation of the Caribbean: The Spanish-Portuguese Jewish Settlements in the Caribbean and the Guianas, Mordechai Arbell (Author)
Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean: How a Generation of Swashbuckling Jews Carved Out an Empire in the New World in Their Quest for Treasure, Religious Freedom–and Revenge, by Edward Kritzler (Author)

Internet site: Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Curaçao, N.A.
 Commemorating 350 years of existence

Neely is a longtime Jewish community educator in San Diego County

Letter to the Editor: Mikvaot in San Diego

January 23, 2010 1 comment

Editor, San Diego Jewish World

In your article “Community Mikvah to locate on Tifereth Israel grounds” (September 22, 2009) you write “Although there are three mikvaot operated under Orthodox auspices in San Diego, none are available for conversions by the other movements. This means that many people who convert to Judaism under Conservative auspices, for example, now must go to American Jewish University in Los Angeles, where they meet with a beth din (three-member rabbinical court) and then immerse in a ritual bath. Some ritual immersions have taken place alternatively in the Pacific Ocean.”

Not one of the three Mikvaot that are operated Orthodox auspices are available for conversion to anyone.

Your statement ‘…none are available for conversions by the other movements’ is misleading and divisive.

The mikvaot are used by married women and for toiveling vessels. No conversions are done in any of them.

On Erev Yom Kippur they are open to the public and can be used by anyone in the community, married or single. There are separate hours for men on Erev Yom Kippur as well.

People who convert to Judaism under Orthodox auspices must also travel to Los Angeles to meet with a Beth Din there and immerse in a mikvah there.


Nechama Eilfort
Carlsbad, California
You make a  fair comment.  But it should be noted that the chief difference was that for the Orthodox community, the decision not to have conversions in the mikvah was a matter of  their leaders’ choice. — Donald H. Harrison, editor

Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School Responds to Haiti Crisis

January 23, 2010 1 comment

SAN DIEGO (Press Release)–One late night Rabbi Israel Salanter walked by the home of a shoemaker and noticed the man working late by the light of a
flickering candle.

“Why are you still working?” he asked. “It is very late and soon that candle will go out.” The shoemaker replied,

“As long as there is even a little light, I can repair the sole.”

Soille Hebrew Day School families and friends are joining in helping the victims of the Haiti earthquake by bringing in during the week of January 25th to the 29th, gently used men’s, women’s and kids shoes to drop off in the school’s lobby. Sports Chalet will generously send them to Haiti.

The earthquake in Haiti is a reminder just how fragile our world is, and seeing the devastation that has affected so many, we have partnered with Soles4Souls to lend a helping hand. All the shoes collected will be sent directly to Soles4Souls for distribution to the Haitian people.

Many of us live with the threat of an earthquake every day, it’s only a natural response to want to do something to help… please stop by our lobby at Soille, 3630 Afton Road,  and drop off one, two, or even three pair of shoes that can help someone in need today. Make sure they are tied together or placed in a zip lock bag so the pair is together. You can also bring in gently used jeans and cokes.

The drive is being coordinated by Soille Hebrew Day School Chesed (Kindness) Committee members Paula Leos Matthews and Lea Wolf.

Preceding provided by Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School

Adventures in San Diego Jewish History, March 19, 1954, Part II

January 23, 2010 1 comment

Compiled by Gail Umeham

Southwestern Jewish Press March 19, 1954 Page 2

Home From College–Nelson Olf and a classmate of Oregon State College Edward Elliott, will arrive in town March 22, for a short stay with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Abraham Olf.  Enroute to San Diego, Nelson and Edward, both Midshipmen at O.S.C. will be taken on a tour of Camp Pendleton and the El Toro base.

Palm Springs Calls–The Bob Gordons took off for a brief vacation to Palm Springs before daughter, Jeanie, left to take up her studies at the University of Washington.

New Home–Mr. and Mrs. Ben Harris wish to thank their friends for their many kindnesses during her recent hospitalization.

Ben and Gert are now in their lovely new home at 5489 Dorothy Dr. and are anxious to have their friends call.

San Berdoo Loses–Welcome to newcomers Mr. and Mrs. S. Cornell now living at 1029 Emerald St., Pacific Beach.  Originally from Canada, the Cornells are most recently of San Bernardino.  It was the ocean breezes that lured them to San Diego.

Short Rest–Recent guests of the Highland Springs Guest Ranch in Beaumont were Helen and Vic Schulman and Pearl and George Martin.

Bon Voyage–The South American cruise planned by Rose and Leo Greenbaum touched off a round of parties given in their honor by their friends.

The Greenbaums left San Diego Monday and sailed from New Orleans yesterday (Mar. 18).  They will visit Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina, making the boat their headquarters for the entire six week cruise, except for three days in Buenos Aires.

Fellowship Winner–David Feldman, son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Schwartz was one of 124 students throughout the country to win the Woodrow Wïlson Fellowship.  A graduate of State College, Mr. Feldman is now studying for his Master’s Degree in Sociology at U.C.L.A. and with his family has just moved into a new home in San Fernando Valley.

Mrs. Schwartz, having returned from a visit with her son, is now entertaining, with her husband, his brother and sister-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. M. Schwartz of Peeksville, N.Y.

Bar Mitzvah–Allan Bruce Lipitt, son of Dr. and Mrs. J. H. Lippitt, will be called to the altar by Rabbi Baruch Stern, for his Bar Mitzvah at the Beth Jacob Synagogue on Saturday, March 20 at 9:30 a.m.

Allan is the grandson of the late Cantor Abraham Silverman who was affiliated with the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and the late Cantor Aaron Lipitz.

Dr. and Mrs. Lipitt cordially invite their friends to the Bar Mitzvah services and the reception immediately following in the Reception Room of Beth Jacob.

Happy Birthday!–A Birthday Party honoring the March birthdays of Mrs. Chaya Cysner, Mrs. Anna Blinstein, and Mrs. Bessie Shapiro, guests of the Home; and Mrs. Connie Perez, nurse at the home, was held at the Hebrew Home for the Aged on March 13.  Corsages were presented to the honorees by Mrs. Alex Cohn.

Chairmen of the Birthday Parties held each month are Isabelle Tennebaum and Rosalie Sonnabaum.

Jolly Sixteen Sponsors Purim Dinner And Dance For Military
Southwestern Jewish Press March 19, 1954 Page 2

The annual Purim dinner and dance for military personnel and their immediate dependents sponsored by Jolly Sixteen, will be held on Wednesday, March 24th, at Temple Center, it was announced by Mrs. Rose Neumann, USO-JWB Senior Hostess chairman.

As in past years, Jolly Sixteen goes all out on Purim preparing and serving in the Shalach Monos tradition a complete dinner, replete with all of the Purim treats.

All Jolly Sixteen members, including President Julia Steinman, are involved in this program of playing host to the military.  Special guests have been invited to participate as well.

Cantor Joseph Cysner of Congregation Tifereth Israel will present a program of community singing in the Purim vein.

Southwestern Jewish Press March 19, 1954 Page 2

Mr. and Mrs. Carl Prager are pleased to announce the birth of their second child, a daughter, Susan Lee, born February 19, weighing 7½ pounds.  Eighteen month old Jeffrey Richard greeted his sister upon her arrival.

Mr. and Mrs. Lester Loeser are happy to have in their home a newly adopted baby boy, Larry Mark.  His new grandmother is Mrs. Berta Zucker.


Local Council Joins Nat’l Advisory Group
Southwestern Jewish Press March 19, 1954 Page 3

The Community Relations Council of San Diego was accepted as a community member of the National Community Relations Advisory Council, it was announced last week by Harry Wax, local chairman.

The acceptance by the national body is recognition of the services rendered to the local community in combating anti-Semitism and working in the field of human relations by three local councils.

Consisting of community leaders who are members at large of the Council, the membership also consists of representatives from the B’nai B’rith lodges, Jewish War Veterans, Jewish Labor Committee, the three San Diego synagogues, the Zionist Council, and the United Jewish Fund.

The National Community Relations Advisory Council is the joint planning and coordinating agency in the field of Jewish community relations for six national agencies, the American Jewish Congress, Jewish Labor Committee, Jewish War Veterans Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, and the United Synagogue of America, and of local Jewish Community Relations Councils which now number 31 with the addition of the San Diego group.


Simon Takes Lead In Oceanside Campaign
Southwestern Jewish Press March 19, 1954 Page 3

Oceanside’s Jewish community began its work on behalf of the United Jewish Fund yesterday when Albert A. Hutler, executive director of the Fund, spoke to the membership of the North County Jewish Community Center in Oceanside.

A committee has been set up which will be the driving force in the Oceanside campaign.  The movement to join in the campaign of the Fund was led by Mr. Harold Simon, Vista attorney, who is president of the Center and Mrs. Saul Collen secretary of the newly organized North County group.

Elmer Glaser and Irwin Sklar, members of the board of directors of the United Jewish Fund representing Oceanside, will again give direction to the drive in that community.

Jews Want To Be Jews (Editorial)
Southwestern Jewish Press March 19, 1954 Page 4

A report recently released by the American Jewish Committee on a study of the Jewish Community of Trenton, New Jersey proved to be interesting.  Since this is a preliminary report, strong conclusions cannot be drawn from it but the indications are that most Jews wish to retain their identity and maintain a Jewish Community within the framework of the American Society.

The report also shows that the majority, young and old, feel more comfortable with fellow Jews than with non-Jews.  However, and this is significant, adolescents accept the non-Jew more easily than do their parents even though they reject intermarriage in a large majority of cases.  The study also goes on to point out that most Jews have experienced anti-Semitism at one time or another in their lives.  In most cases it was the “name calling” kind and in fewer instances other varieties of prejudice or discrimination were met.  Most of the Jews interviewed, when asked to define Jewishness, replied in terms of religion.  Eight out of ten adults and 97 percent of the teen-agers replied in these terms.  Apparently the gradual disappearance or weakening of older symbols of identification with Jewishness has intensified the search for other forms of belonging.  Religion seems to offer such a symbol to teen-agers.

On the subject of Israel 94 percent expressed generally warm, favorable attitudes..  However, very few (seven percent) expressed any desire to live in Israel.  This was true of both adults and children.

We hope that the American Jewish Committee will continue to make these studies in other communities across the land.  An objective study will act as a mirror to the Jewish Communities and show them the picture in a clear and unbiased manner.


Chaim Weitzman Branch, Poale Zion
Southwestern Jewish Press March 19, 1954 Page 4

The first of our monthly cultural evenings will take place on Saturday, March 27th at Tifereth Israel Center at 8 p.m.  The cultural committee consisting of Chaveras Dora Richlin, Rose Brooker and Chaver Leon Elkind are planning an interesting program and all our members and friends are asked to reserve this evening for a pleasant get-together of our chaverim.

The Joe Richlins have offered the use of a vacant store for a rummage sale.  It was therefore decided at the last meeting to make a concerted effort at collecting as much rummage as possible within the next two weeks in order to conduct this sale.  Any member having rummage for pick-up can phone either Chavera Richlin at AT-4-3028 or Chavera Brooker at CY-6-4587 and they will have the rummage collected.


Cottage of Israel
Southwestern Jewish Press March 19, 1954 Page 4

May seems to be the month of Independence Day celebrations and while we tried to reserve a Sunday in May for the Israeli Independence celebration as early as possible, we found every Sunday already booked.

We regret therefore that we will be unable to offer this annual even for our lawn program but instead will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Theodor Herzl’s death sometime in June.

Our Sunday afternoon Open House on April 18th and 26th will be devoted to a special Passover holiday display.  The community is especially invited to visit the Cottage of Israel on either of these Sundays.


Histadrut Council
Southwestern Jewish Press March 19, 1954 Page 4

The Histadrut Council of San Diego recently held a meeting to which delegates from the various Labor Zionist organizations were present.  The meeting was called for the purpose of organizing a committee of delegates to represent their organizations through the Histadrut Council in the forthcoming United Jewish Fund drive.

Mr. Ruben Umansky is chairman of the Council as well as of this specially organized committee.


“Adventures in Jewish History” is sponsored by Inland Industries Group LP in memory of long-time San Diego Jewish community leader Marie (Mrs. Gabriel) Berg. Our indexed “Adventures in San Diego Jewish History” series will be a regular feature until we run out of history.

Sexual abuse of children in the Jewish community: difficult but important to face

January 23, 2010 1 comment

Tempest  in the Temple:  Jewish Communities & Child Sex Scandals edited by Amy Neustein, Brandeis University Press, 2009, 272 pages, $35.

By Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO—This is a difficult book to read, not only because it primarily is written for other academics, but because of the subject matter itself.  While we are cognizant that there may be sexual offenders in the Jewish community, as there are in others, it’s difficult emotionally to accept that the people whom we trust most—our spiritual leaders—may make victims of our children.

Yet, not only does this occasionally occur, but in some cases religious institutions close ranks around the offenders, attempting to minimize their offenses or to marginalize their accusers.  Something deep in the  psyche sometimes militates against facing the truth, so deep that the process results in victims being  emotionally re-traumatized.

Two of the essays were written for general audiences.  One described the turmoil that overtook  one congregation after a cantor was accused of engaging in predatory conduct towards his bar mitzvah students.   Another described a writer’s efforts to shed sunlight on the case of a rabbi who fled to Israel to escape prosecution after details emerged of  his alleged sexual misconduct with minors.

For comparative purposes, there also is an informative essay by a Catholic woman who founded an organization for former child victims of priests. Coupled with other essays in this book, the account of the Catholic experience leads inescapably to the conclusion that when under pressure, some religious institutions—whether Roman Catholic or Jewish—may stop being compassionate and switch, instead, to a mode of corporate self-preservation. One assumes that such situations also prevail among other religious groups.

Even journalists are taken to task in this book that asks how such matters are allowed to persist.  Regrettably, too many journalists can be steered away from investigative stories –either because they think their readers will be offended, or because they simply can’t make the commitments of time and financial resources that covering such stories may require.

If the book’s  authors had simply wrung their hands over child abuse in the Jewish community, they would have served little more purpose than  the journalists they criticize.  However, in the event that your congregation , or day school, or Jewish affinity group should somehow face such a situation, the book does offer some guidelines  concerning  making responsible inquiries into the situation, anticipating the inevitable fallout and polarization that might occur as a result of those inquiries, and  working with  police and prosecutors to help victims get justice, and thereby put them onto the road to recovery.

The authors do not dismiss  sexual offenders as irredeemable; rather, they endeavor to differentiate among types and contexts of sexual offenses, and suggest that communities wanting to help rehabilitate the offenders understand the range of treatment programs.

While this book offers little in reading pleasure, it provides much in resources should a situation of sexual abuse by a leader in the Jewish community arise.  It’s the kind of book that belongs on a communal library shelf, to be consulted  as needed.   Statistically, incidence of child abuse is likely to occur  in the Jewish community at no less a rate than in the general community.

Harrison is editor of

San Diego Jewish World


In first year, Obama’s promise eclipsed his performance

January 23, 2010 1 comment
By Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–Barack Obama is one dramatic guy. His rhetoric is world class. His life story adds to the magic. Inauguration as president, aspirations for economic stability, engagement with the world, peace in the Middle East, reform of health care for the unhealthiest of the wealthy countries, and a Nobel Prize were his highlights for 2009.

Less than stunning successes for engagement, the Middle East, and health care have not dimmed his aspirations. Now he is going after the big banks. The details are not any clearer than were his desires for health care in a thousand page bill he sent to Congress. Reports are that he wants to tighten regulation and limit what they can do with their own money and that which they hold for others. He wants to prevent the kind of threat against the nation’s economy that came from irresponsible gambles, most notably sub-prime mortgages that gave houses to people who could not pay for them. The experts are still arguing how much of the responsibility for that came from the banks, and how much should be given to presidents who reduced regulations in order to put more people in their own homes.

There is one commentary that the big banks will not suffer from the as-yet unrevealed reforms, but the essence of that prediction is more ridicule than analysis. It is saying that “President Barack Obama’s latest broadside against big banks may have more bark than bite.”

The first sign of Obama’s success in this venture was a dismal week in the stock market. The S&P 500 dropped by almost four percent. The indices for German and British exchanges declined by three and four percent. It may be too simple to link the declines to the Obama proposal, but that is what people with more expertise and larger audiences than me are saying.

It is not too much of a stretch to expect that the president will trigger the same kind of reactions as his proposal for health care. The banks now in his sights are no poorer and no less savvy than the HMOs and insurance companies. And as in the case of health reform, the political battle will not focus on fat plutocrats bringing their cigars and selfish demands to the hearing rooms of Congress. Again there can be town meetings and accusations of big government, socialism, and the dictates of uninformed bureaucrats. The underside (or is it the good soul) of America will show itself, again paid for and organized by those who have learned the trade of public relations.

The White House has not given up on its other missions. The president and his advisers are rethinking their strategy for health care after Massachusetts. George Mitchell has come again to the Middle East, and the results have been no more encouraging than the drop in the stock market that greeted the president’s comments about banking. Prime Minister Netanyahu told Mitchell that the Palestinians should start negotiations without preconditions. And if they want more concessions from Israel (like the 10 month partial settlement freeze on which the clock is running) it is their turn to make concessions first. Palestinians have told Mitchell that without a complete freeze on settlements, including neighborhoods of Jerusalem, there can be no negotiations.

Further east, Iraq is not yet a stable democracy, Iran continues to spin out enriched uranium and to thumb its nose at the international community, Afghanistan remains out of control, and the spill over to Pakistan has now spread to Yemen and Somalia.

There is a good sign in the effort to keep terrorists out of airplanes. A brave crew landed safely and security personnel disarmed a young man of his tefillin.

Remember Obama’s campaign. Not only did he promise a great deal, but people heard even more than he was offering in the open-ended theme of Change. It was common to brood about the extent of expectations, and to worry that they assured disappointment.

Here it is, and it may not yet be the bottom.

And here is one of those occasional reminders that I welcome comments.

Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

The ominous quiet in the Middle East

January 23, 2010 2 comments

By Rabbi Dow Marmur

JERUSALEM–Years ago when Israeli leaders began to have meetings with Yasser Arafat and his entourage, and later still with his successors, usually under the auspices of the Americans, it was reasonable to assume that peace between Israel and the Palestinians was imminent. It seems that even as late as a year ago, President Obama was under the same impression. It now appears that such optimism was premature. Even Obama admits it.

Though Israel has halted settlement expansion for ten months, a couple of which have already passed, it continues to build in East Jerusalem probably to make sure that a Palestinian state won’t find room in any part of Jerusalem for its capital. And though even a limited gesture by Israel would warrant corresponding moves by Abu Mazen and his team, they’re not budging. Even hopes of getting back Gilad Shalit are fading.

Perhaps most people on both sides are getting used to it. Israel is emerging as an ever stronger economy which assures perhaps the majority of its population that the status quo isn’t bad after all, even without peace. Some of that prosperity is filtering through to the West Bank, where Abu Mazen is the titular head (though not to Gaza, which remains in the grip of Hamas) and this may also contribute to a growing number of Palestinians learning to live with the status quo, however unacceptable it may seem to them on paper. A kind of ominous calm is descending on the region.

Therefore, Israeli politicians who, like all politicians, measure success in short time spans, not in long terms, may be reasonably satisfied that at least their own positions aren’t under any immediate threat. Internal divisions within Israel’s Kadima party indicate that it’s unable to challenge the Netanyahu government. And Hams hasn’t enough wherewithal, not least in view of the stumbling blocks that Egypt is now putting in its way, to topple Abu Mazen’s Fatah faction. Whatever the rhetoric, most people seem to be where they want to be. Another pointer to that ominous calm.

Even the Iranian threat, though still very real, may not endanger Israel as much as feared, because experts say that Iran couldn’t attack Israel without risking the destruction of many Muslims and Muslim sites including the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. In any case, should the Iranians wish to attack, they’ve bigger fish to fry than Israel, e.g., European targets and American bases. This, in turn means, that, unless its leaders have lost their senses (which is always possible), Israel won’t attack Iran.

And as long as there’s no peace with the Palestinians, there isn’t likely to be much progress in negotiations with Syria. Though Syria’s alliance with Iran is troubling, it doesn’t seem to constitute an immediate threat to Israel. This means that Hezbollah, its proxy in Lebanon, may make a lot of noise but, mercifully, engage in little action.

Trying to follow events here gives the impression that most of what the leaders are saying – the government of Israel; the Palestinian Authority; Syria; Hamas;  Hezbollah – is primarily grandstanding with relatively little substance. If that impression becomes widespread, things may begin to go wrong because of maverick surprise moves that can endanger us all. The calm may indeed become unbearably ominous.

All we can do, I surmise, is to hope that though Obama has now declared that he was too optimistic at first, he won’t give up on the challenge but continue to find ways to move the peace process. Any alternative can only be tolerable in the very short run.

Rabbi Marmur is spiritual leader emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto.  He now divides his time between Canada and Israel


Looking at who wrote the Bible — from the scribes’ viewpoints

January 23, 2010 1 comment

Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible By Karel van der Toorn, Harvard University Press, Cambridge ISBN 978-0-674-03254-5, $18.95,  265 pages  plus 125 pages of notes and selected bibliography

By Fred Reiss, Ed.D

WINCHESTER, California — Who wrote the Hebrew Bible, that is, the so-called Old Testament? Jewish tradition says that Moses wrote the Five Books of Moses and the Book of Job, Joshua wrote his book and the last eight verses of Deuteronomy, and Samuel wrote his books along with the Book of Judges and the Book of Ruth. Most of the prophets wrote, or at least dictated, their own books. King David wrote most of the Book of Psalms, while Solomon is the author of Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, and the Song of Songs.

Biblical scholars disagree.

Beginning in the late nineteenth century, Julius Wellhausen applied textual analysis to the Bible, and arrived at his Documentary Hypothesis. This proposition states that the Five Books of Moses are actually the result of the editing of four independent scrolls that did not exist until many centuries after the death of Moses. Numerous scholars and biblical archeologists now believe that the authorship of the Book of Deuteronomy occurred during the reign of King Josiah, in the sixth century B.C.E. By applying textual analysis to other books of the Bible, these same scholars have come to accept the idea that the same author wrote Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles.

Karel Van Der Toorn in his newest book, Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible, concludes that anonymous scribes wrote the Book of Deuteronomy over a two hundred year period. During this interval, as a result of social, political, and religious needs, they changed the books focus no less than four times. He also concludes that the books of the prophets are the result of numerous scribes working over hundreds of years, and the Book of Malachi, the last of the books in the Jewish canon, is a pure invention of the scribes—Malachi never existed.

To arrive at these conclusions, Dr. Karel van der Toorn, a scholar of religion and Near Eastern languages, former dean of the Faculty of Humanities and now President of the University of Amsterdam, takes his readers on an scholarly journey to discover as much about the academic, social, political, and religious milieu of the Hebrew scribes as history and archeology will allow. Because little remains of the everyday work of the Hebrew scribes, van der Toorn draws on Israel’s nearest neighbors, the Assyrians and Babylonians. He builds a strong case about their training and the role they played, serving both kings and priests.

The Book of Deuteronomy mysteriously appears during the time that King Josiah is in the middle of renovating the Temple and centralizing sacrifice and worship in Jerusalem. By the time of its final revision, two centuries later, The Book of Deuteronomy evolved from obeying God’s Law (the Torah) to studying the Law as the highest form of wisdom. Van der Toorn denies that any of the prophets wrote their own books. They were all written by scribes who based their work on oral history, or other written scrolls. As one example, he cites the fact that the Jeremiah scrolls, which comprise part of the Dead Sea Scrolls found in Qumran, contain two editions. One used by the Masoretes and incorporated in the Hebrew biblical canon, and the other based on a Greek translation, known as the Septuagint, and used by the early Christians.

According to Jewish tradition, the Five Books of Moses were canonized about 400 B.C.E., the books of the prophets around 200 B.C.E, and the Writings about 100 A.D. at the Council of Jamnia. However, according to van der Toorn, the council never took place, and the Hebrew Bible has a canon for two reasons. First, the scribes used many of the books found in the canon as part of their curriculum. Second, sometime in the middle of the second century B.C.E, they put an end to prophecy by creating the fictitious Malachi, which Rabbinic literature equates with Ezra, as the twelfth and last of the Minor Prophets.

Scribal Culture is a worthy book not so much for what it contains, because much of the history and disclosures are not new, but rather because it presents the material from a new perspective—the point of view of the Hebrew scribes—a group of people about whom we know so little.


Dr. Fred Reiss is a retired public and Hebrew school teacher and administrator. He is the author of The Standard Guide to the Jewish and Civil Calendars; Ancient Secrets of Creation: Sepher Yetzira, the Book that Started Kabbalah, Revealed; and Reclaiming the Messiah. Email:  Website: