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Gil Shefler
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Remembering the Shoah

Nearly 70 years after liberation, Holocaust memorials continue to proliferate

WorldPublished: 14 June 2013

No earth actually was broken last month at the groundbreaking of one of the nation’s newest Holocaust memorials.

Instead, the gatherers stood silently, symbolic shovels in hand, on the immaculate lawn where the privately funded $400,000 monument soon will rise. A succession of speakers delivered somber homilies remembering one of the darkest chapters in human history.

“It was an absolutely unbelievable world that I lived in,” survivor Fred Lorber was quoted as saying by local media. “It’s hard for me to describe, but whatever time I think about it, it’s there. It never left my memory.”


Portland’s hip, unconnected Jews

As the Oregon city’s young Jewish population surges, community leaders try to reach them

WorldPublished: 03 May 2013

PORTLAND, Ore. — Jessica Bettelheim, a business ethics lecturer at Portland State University and a young Jewish mother, has little time to spare on weekends.

Like other professionals her age, she’s busy spending time with her husband and 4-year-old daughter, meeting friends at one of Portland’s many fine restaurants, or gardening, a favorite pastime in this verdant metropolis known as the City of Roses.

So when Bettelheim received an email from the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland last month advertising Food for Thought, a festival that included a tour of the Portland Art Museum, she put it on her maybe list.


Venezuelan Jewish expats set down new roots

WorldPublished: 29 March 2013

SUNNY ISLES BEACH, Fla. – Sitting outside a Starbucks coffee shop in this small city north of Miami Beach, Paul Hariton recalls the dramatic night in 2002 when he and his wife decided to leave their native Venezuela.

Leftist leader Hugo Chavez had just returned to power following a failed coup, and the Haritons feared the political fallout.

“We thought he was gone already,” Hariton, 56, said. “We came back from a big opposition demonstration in the city center where several people were shot, including one member of the community. A girl was shot in the head. She survived.”


Israeli economist peddling new plan to equalize Arab university presence

WorldPublished: 08 March 2013

Unlike most economists, Manuel Trajtenberg does not spend his days cloistered in university classrooms and think tanks, far from the public eye.

The Tel Aviv University professor gained attention in 2011, in the aftermath of massive social protests that gripped Israel, when he led a high-profile committee that recommended a series of wide-ranging economic reforms for the country.

Now, as chairman of the Israeli Council of Higher Education, the charismatic Trajtenberg has taken up a new cause: closing the education gap between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens.


New York, it’s a charedi-izing town

Ultra-Orthodox account for bulk of population growth, says new survey

LocalPublished: 25 January 2013

Most of the growth of the parts of the New York Jewish community in UJA-Federation of New York’s catchment area during the last decade was in two Brooklyn neighborhoods, according to new data from a survey first published last year.

Researchers interviewed 6,000 people living in 26 primary areas to compile information for the study, which covered UJA-Federation’s catchment area.

Last week, UJA-Federation released more details from its 2012 demographic study to show that two-thirds of the rise in the number of Jews living in New York City and Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties occurred in Borough Park and Williamsburg, two largely charedi Orthodox communities.


Should Israel be a model for U.S. airport security?

WorldPublished: 08 January 2010

As U.S. officials try to figure out how to improve airport security in the aftermath of the failed Christmas Day bombing attempt on a Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit, many North Americans are looking to Israel as a model.

The New York Times opened a forum for readers to discuss the pros and cons of Israeli airport security. The Toronto Star interviewed an Israeli airport security expert who said the best way to nab terrorists is to “look them in the eye.”

David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, wrote a piece for The Huffington Post about the lessons U.S. airport security officials can learn from their counterparts in Israel.

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Israeli women oppose bus segregation

WorldPublished: 01 January 2010

Three years ago, a 57-year-old grandmother got on a bus in Israel departing Rechovot for Givat Shmuel and sat in a vacant seat in the front.

Shortly after taking her seat, the woman was approached by a fervently Orthodox man who demanded she move to the back of the bus with the rest of the women.

Unbeknownst to the woman, who asked JTA to be identified only as H., she had boarded one of the so-called mehadrin (super kosher) bus lines, on which the predominantly ultra-Orthodox, or haredi, ridership imposes sex-segregated seating. The man told H. that segregated seating had been sanctioned by the rabbis and by Egged, the state-owned bus company that operates the line.

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Heroes or rabble-rousers?  The real story of the Maccabees

Published: 18 December 2009

In 165 BCE, a group of warriors led by Judah Maccabee and his band of brothers ushered in a new era in Jewish history when they routed the soldiers of the Greek-Syrian empire and rededicated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

That victory, and the miracle of the menorah that followed, is celebrated every year by Jews around the world at Chanukah.

But if the same thing had happened today, would contemporary Jews hail the Maccabees as heroes?

The place in Jewish history of the Maccabees — a nickname for the first members of the Hasmonean dynasty that ruled an autonomous Jewish kingdom — is much more complex than their popular image might suggest.

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Maccabees still making news

Published: 18 December 2009

Some 2,200 years after the Maccabees’ revolt, historians and archeologists are uncovering new information about their era.

This year’s biggest discovery is a correspondence between Seleukes IV, whose brother and heir was Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Chanukah story, and one of Seleukes’ chiefs in Judea, found on parts of an ancient stele.

Prof. Dov Gera of Ben-Gurion University, who studied the stone’s inscription, said it confirms the account by the Jewish historian Josephus regarding the tightening grip of the Greek-Syrian empire over its subjects’ religious practices.

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Jewish support for Israeli-Arab causes goes mainstream, irking some

WorldPublished: 20 November 2009

When the Reform movement passed a resolution endorsing advocacy for Israeli Arabs, it wasn’t the first time an American Jewish group had backed the cause of Israeli-Arab equality.

In recent years, a growing number of American Jews have thrown their support toward Israeli-Arab causes, including civil rights and advocacy organizations, women’s empowerment courses, student-exchange programs, and even film festivals.

More than 80 Jewish groups belong to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli-Arab Issues, which works on behalf of equal treatment of Israeli Arabs and Jews.

The Jewish federations’ Venture Fund for Jewish and Arab Equality and Shared Society, a mix of 21 private family foundations, federations, and philanthropists, has raised more than $1 million for Israeli-Arab causes since its launch in 2007. And in 2006, the Jewish Agency for Israel announced it would invest in projects benefiting Israeli Arabs, scrapping a policy, in place since its founding in 1922, of exclusively helping Jewish causes.

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