Tisha B’Av is July 22nd

TISHA B’AV

Tisha B AvTisha B’Av is the ninth day of the month of Av, which falls during the month of July or August. This day of mourning and fasting traditionally commemorates national calamities, such as the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem (by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.E. and by the Roman general Vespasian in 70 C.E.), the fall of Bar Kokhba’s fortress in 138 C.E., and the Spanish expulsion of Jews in 1492. Some scholars believe the origins of the holiday lie in primitive people’s fear of the scorching sun at the height of the summer.

Traditional observance of Tisha B’Av focuses on fasting, prayer, reading the Book of Lamentations, and observing prohibitions against certain activities such as getting a haircut, wearing freshly pressed clothing, drinking alcohol, and, in some communities, eating meat.

Humanistic Jews do not observe Tisha B’Av by looking forward to the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem. Rather, they use this time for reflection and to affirm the power of human connection in times of need and tragedy.

The picture above is of the burning of the Olomouc Synagogue on March 15, 1939, in the first months of the Holocaust.  Observe Tisha B’Av this year with a remembrance of the plight of European Jews in World War II.  Resolve to engage in Tikkun Olam, Repairing of the World, to insure that such horror is never forgotten, and will never happen again.

Pavel’s Violin is now Available

Pavel’s Violin is now available on Amazon

All Proceeds go to the US Holocaust Museum.

Pavel Cover FrontList Price: $24.95
6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on White paper
466 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1539335221 (CreateSpace-Assigned)
ISBN-10: 1539335224
BISAC: Fiction / Historical / General
From 1942 – 1945, Paul (Pavel, in Czech) was a prisoner in the Terezin and Auschwitz concentration camps. He survived the camps, and the final Death March from Auschwitz. Pavel had been a violinist before the war, and after his escape his brother found a “not so new but nice” violin for Pavel to play. Pavel lost many members of his family in the camps, but a few survived. A descendent of one of those survivors inherited the violin and, many years later, became my violin teacher. This is how I came to play “Pavel’s Violin.” The violin itself is a beautiful Jakob Stainer model, built perhaps in the mid-1800s. In the novel, it is made by Stainer in 1670, and we trace its journey from Stainer’s home in Absam, Austria, to the Prince-Bishop’s Palace in Kromeriz, Moravia, to the Jewish community in the Moravian countryside, to the great synagogue at Olomouc, to Terezin, then Auschwitz, and finally to the Carpathian Mountain, where it finally becomes “Pavel’s Violin.” Along the way, the Violin is a metaphor for the human condition: our joys, fears, sorrows, hatred, loves, and our hope for a good future.

“Pavel’s Violin” is a work of historical fiction, a genre peculiar enough to be seriously misunderstood. Historical fiction is not literal history that has been fictionalized to the point that its details are not reliable news accounts of what happened. It is fiction inspired by historical events in order to convey truths which are deeper than literal. Historical fiction, at its best, serves as a metaphor that can draw a reader into a story as a first hand participant, rather than as a consumer of facts. This is what I have tried to do with the story of “Pavel’s Violin.” I hope you will not just learn about what happened, but that you will become part of the story, yourself. That you will stand beside Jakob atop Kartellerjochl, with Pavel in a cattle car transport on its way to Auschwitz, with Nurse Ilse and her children as Zyklon B pellets fall among them in the gas chamber. And more. I hope you will not only hear the Violin, but will experience the playing of it. The sound of its music under your left ear. The vibrations of the wood upon your chin and shoulder. Most of all, I hope you, too, will realize the compulsion of the story, and the obligation to recount it, in your own way, to others.

MegillatPurim for KidsYoung and Old

esther-hamanmegillat-esther-2

Megillat Esther
The Story of Purim

Once upon a time, in a city called shushan in the land of Persia, there lived a man named mordechai, which means servant of god. he was a very good man, and always tried to help people, and do the right thing.

now Mordechai lived with his niece, the daughter of his sister. her name was esther, which means star, for she was as beautiful as the morning star.

Mordechai and esther were jewish, just like many of us, which means they liked eating challah, and lighting Hanukkah candles, and singing Shabbat songs, just like you do.

in the same city there lived the great king of Persia, he was called ahashverosh meaning, king. king ahashverosh lived in a big palace, and had lots of money, and a beautiful wife named queen Vashti. her name means most beautiful.

one day king ahashverosh was having a big party just for the men in the palace, and he decided to send for queen Vashti, so she would come to the party and all the men would be impressed by what a beautiful wife ahashverosh had, and they would respect him more.

king ahashverosh sent for queen Vashti, commanding her to come to the stag party. but queen Vashti had grown tired of being treated this way. she said no to king ahashverosh, and went to live with a good friend in another town.

all the men in the palace told king aashverosh he should get a new wife, and forget about queen Vashti. well, king ahashverosh thought that was a good idea.

so king aashverosh had another party, to which he invited all the beautiful young women in the kingdom, so he could look them over and pick out a new wife. its good to be the king, he thought.

the one he liked best was esther, who was not only beautiful, but also very smart and very kind. Wow said king ahashverosh, all that, and brains too! after the party king ahashverosh sent a command to modechai, esther’s uncle. I wish to have esther for my queen, king ahashverosh said.

so Mordechai spoke to his niece esther. this is a good idea, he said, for we jews are strangers in this land. who knows, one day the king and the people may decide they do not like imigrants, and turn upon us, and we will be in danger. if you are the queen, you may be able to influence king ahashverosh to be on our side. so go and be the queen. but do not let on that you are jewish. keep that a secret. esther went to the palace where she married king ahashverosh and became the queen.

now there was a man working in the palace who was mean, and wanted king ahashverosh to only like him. and this man especially did not alien imigrants. his name was…haman…now the name haman means a really evil dude, haman had big ears, and a jacket with really big pockets.

haman was an important man in the palace, and expected all the people to obey him, and to bow their heads down whenever he passed by. if they didn’t haman got really angry.

well, as luck would have it, one day haman passed by Mordechai in the street. and Mordechai did not bow down to haman. haman became very angry, and went to tattle to king ahashverosh.

haman told king ahashverosh, there are some people living around here who are not like us, he said. they do not look like us, and they do things differently than we do. I think we should get rid of them, haman said. now haman did not mention Mordechai the jew.

well, king ahashverosh did not know that haman wanted to get rid of Mordechai, and queen esther, and all their jewish friends. so king ahashverosh said he did not like foreigners any better than haman did, so haman should get the border patrol and round up all those strange people and get rid of them.

when the jewish people found out about haman’s new plan to get rid of them, they were very sad and very scared. sad because they liked ling in sushan, and scared because the did not know what might happen to them. what could they do? aha! thought Mordechai, this is the very reason I sent esther to be the queen. so Mordechai sent a message to queen esther at the palace.

queen esther, we need your help, Mordechai wrote. that nasty haman wants to get rid of all us jews. talk to king ahashverosh and ask him to stop haman from doing this.

queen esther thought, I must be very brave. she made a special dinner for king ahashverosh, with all his favorite food. then she invited king ahashverosh and haman to dinner.

haman was very proud that he had been invited to have dinner with king ahashverosh. they had dinner on the patio of the palace restaurant, and all the other people could see haman dining with the king.

king ahashverosh thought the dinner was great, and when they finished he said to queen esther, queen esther, the dinner was great. how can I thank you?

queen esther said, oh please, my king, I need you to help me and my uncle Mordechai, and all my jewish friends, because someone wants to get rid of us!

king ahashverosh was surprised, and said to queen esther, that’s odd, you don’t look jewish. but he really liked esther and did not want anyone to get rid of her. besides, he did not want to lose another queen. what would all the men think of him?

that’s terrible, said king aashverosh. who wants to get rid of you and your uncle Mordechai and all your jewish friends?

queen esther pointed right at haman. it’s haman. haman wants to get rid of us.

oh, no shouted king ahashverosh, and he became very angry. and it was haman’s turn to be very afraid.

he had done everything he could to get rid of queen esther, nevertheless she persisted.

king ahashverosh called for his guards. guards! he called. take haman and get rid of him instead. so haman was gotten rid of, and queen esther and her uncle Mordechai, and all the jewish people were saved.

king ahashverosh, who turned out to be good and kind after all, invited Mordechai to come and live at the palace along with him and queen esther. and so Mordechai took haman’s place of honor. of course mordechai was much nicer than haman, and so after that no one had to go live anywhere else if they didn’t want to. and everyone lived happily in the kingdom.

Mordechai did a great job working for king ahashverosh, a really great job. so great, I can tell you.

and to celebrate, queen esther baked delicious cookies, which are called in Hebrew oznei haman after haman’s big ears, or in Yiddish, after haman’s big pockets, hamantaschen.

and that is the story of esther and Mordechai that we tell on purim. now purim means lots, for on purim we eat lots of hamantaschen!

32 Jewish Centers Receive New Bomb Threats

This is the way it starts – and it has already started.

jta-bomb

Albany Jewish Community Center closed briefly during bomb threat, January 18.

This is a developing story.

WASHINGTON (JTA) — At least 32 Jewish community centers across the United States have received bomb threats, Jewish security officials said, in the second wave of such mass disruption in two weeks.

Paul Goldenberg, the director of Secure Community Networks — an affiliate of the Jewish federations of North America, which advises Jewish groups and institutions on security — said the threats were called in Wednesday to JCCs. Media reported additional threats called into schools and other Jewish institutions.

There were threats in, among other places, Miami Beach; Edison and Scotch Plains, New Jersey; Cincinnati; Alabama; Albany and Syracuse, New York; Nashville; suburban Boston and Detroit; West Hartford and Woodbridge, Connecticut; suburban Minneapolis, and the Orlando area. All the alerts were false.

Whether the community centers evacuated depended on the practices of local law enforcement, Goldenberg said.

“It’s the second salvo in 10 days, we’re asking people to ensure they stay in contact with local law enforcement,” he said.

On Jan. 9, bomb threats were called into 16 institutions across the Northeast and South, forcing the evacuation of hundreds.

In many cases Wednesday the callers were live, Goldenberg said, as opposed to the previous threat, when calls were recorded. He said the caller in most cases was a woman, who kept the call brief: leveling the threat and then hanging up.

In some cases, calls to communities near one another came within minutes. News 10 in upstate New York reported that a call came into the Albany just a minute after a similar threat was called into the JCC in the Town of DeWitt, near Syracuse, about a two-hour drive from Albany.

Goldenberg said his organization was consulting with federal authorities, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. He said there was no information as to the perpetrator, but noted an increase in social media threats, particularly from the far right.

“The neo-Nazi or white supremacist hate groups seem to be becoming much more vocal,” he said. “Their threats are much more specific, in some cases they’re calling for armed marches,” citing as an example a march in Whitefish, Montana, that was planned and then canceled. “In some cases, leaving very specific threats against Jewish communities — bombing threats, harassment.”

Operations at the Gordon JCC in Nashville returned to normal approximately an hour after a receptionist received a call stating that there was a bomb in the building, said Mark Freedman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee. The threat was delivered in a woman’s voice, but it was unclear whether the call was live or recorded, he told JTA.

Freedman said the community, which was targeted in last week’s series of threats, would not be intimidated by the incidents, which he termed “telephone terrorism.”

“These people, whoever they are, that are making these threats are trying to intimidate, create anxiety and fear, and we are going to do what we have to do to ensure the safety and security of our valued members and constituents, but we are not going to give in to what they are trying to create, which is to drive us away from our valued institutions,” he said.

“Clearly it’s a pattern of intimidation, and it’s likely to continue in the current atmosphere that we have in this country, where hate groups feel that they can come after good-standing members of the community.”

The bomb threats Wednesday are the latest incident in a recent wave of increased anti-Semitism in the U.S. The Anti-Defamation League documented rising anti-Semitic abuse on Twitter last year, as well as a spike in hate crimes following the presidential election.

Elise Jarvis, associate director for communal security at the ADL, said she anticipates more incidents like this in the future.

“These things often come in cycles,” she told JTA on Wednesday. “All these things, when you bring them together, it paints an intense picture.”

Goldenberg also described an intensity of threats.

“We have seen in the last several weeks an uptick in activities and threats to Jewish institutions across the United States,” he said. “There has been a tremendous amount of rhetoric out there.”

Jarvis said institutions need more training in how to deal with bomb threats, including which questions to ask the caller — where the bomb is, for example — and how to handle other threats like suspicious mail. If staff are aware of security procedures, she said, being prepared doesn’t have to be costly.

“We need to be providing a lot more training, specifically on how to respond to bomb threats,” Jarvis said. “The longer you can keep someone on the phone, the better.”

Carol Brick-Turin, the director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Miami Beach, said training and preparation led to a smooth evacuation of the JCC there.

“The JCC staff was very well prepared, there was coordination between JCC staff, law enforcement and the federation, and it was handled correctly and they communicated appropriately,” she told JTA. “We all know how important it is to remain vigilant 24/7/365.”

News reports across the country described similar scenes. Preschoolers being evacuated in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, and West Hartford; sniffer dogs in Scotch Plains and Maitland, Florida, near Orlando.

Stephen Posner, the JCC Association of North America’s director of strategic performance, said “best practices” were on display across the country on Wednesday.

“While we’re extremely proud of our JCCs for professionally handling yet another threatening situation, we are concerned about the anti-Semitism behind these threats,” he said in a statement. “While the bombs in question are hoaxes, the calls are not.”

Secure Community Networks held a conference call later in the week of the Jan. 9 threats with top FBI and Homeland Security officials for over a thousand callers from Jewish groups across the country.