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in] . i: .: '  : - "-i111  , " - PAGE 18A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 2, 2009 Priest donates 82-year-old Scotch to synagogue fundraiser By Janice Arnold Canadian Jewish News MONTREAL Have you heardthe one about the priest. the rabbi and the bottle of Scotch? The priest is Father Vittorio Tucci. curate of Holy Cross Church in the Ville Emard neighbourhood of Montreal; the rabbi is Avrohom Jacks. spiritual leader of Congrega- tion Zichron Kedoshim in Snowdon: and the whisky, a 1926 Dewar's still in its original wrapper. The bottle was the most expensive libation up for auc- tion at the synagogue's recent Scotch-tasting evening, a fundraiser that featured a dozen premium single malts for sampling and the counsel of two experts. The 82-year-old distillation was donated by Father Tucci, who received it as a gift from awealthy parishioner lastyear for his 65th birthday. Father Tucci is friendly with Rabbi Jacks and has attended the synagogue and the rabbi's classes. Rabbi Jacks says the Catholic priest asks some of the most perceptive ques- tions and he knows why. When he heard the Zichron Kedoshim was holding the Scotch-tasting benefit. Fa- ther Tucci gladly offered the gift bottle, not giving much thought to its value. He was even more delighted to learn that the proceeds would be shared with Con- gregation Shomrim Laboker, which he has also visited and with whose rabbi, Yonah Ros- ner. he is also acquainted. It was a generous act in the "spirit" of the season, for sure. But Father Tucci's connection with the Jewish community goes deeper than interfaith dialogue. As he told the CJN, his mother was Jewish and his father, a Roman Catholicl was of Italian descent. The future Father Tucci was brought up in New York in both faiths and, in fact. had a bar mitzvah. His Jewish name is Yankel. Today, he prefers to be called Victor. He grew up and became a priest, has served most of his vocation in Montreal, and worked for many years with the public school boards as a spiritual animator, taking thousands of kids on syna- gogue tours. He really hit it off with Rabbi Jacks. an affable Lubavitcher from a secular family in South Africa, who has lived here for "15 winters." Neither really knew what the value of the 1926 Scotch was. Father Tucci had writ- ten to Dewar's in Scotland, but he didn't receive a reply. The original price tag still attached was $5. After surfing eBay and con- sulting young Scotch experts, who went by the names of Jason and Josie. itwas decided to open bids at $1,500. Volunteer auctioneer Ross Paperman, an undertaker by day, joked, "You can get a bigger box at my office for the same price.'" When no one offered to put up that milch. Paperman decided to auction off the bottle collectively. About a dozen people chipped in various amounts, and Paperman sounded his imaginary gavel when bids stalled at $2,700. What to do when there are so many new owners? The spirit of generosity continued, and they decided to open the bottle right then and there and let everyone present have a wee dram. [f there was any concern about its quality, it was dis- pelled after the first brave soul in line pronounced the liquid gold "smooth as silk." Fortunately, no one had heard that another bottle of 1926 Scotch had gone for $54,000 (US) in a Christie's auction in New York a year ago. The priest and rabbi can console themselves in the knowledge that itwas a single- malt Macallan. the choice of connoisseurs, and a Dewar's is a more down-to-earth. blended whisky. The Scotch-tasting eve- ning, which also included comedy by Joey Elias, was the first collaboration be- tween Zichron Kedoshim and Shomrim Laboke.r, two Orthodox synagogues at the opposite ends of Westbury Avenue. but not the last, their rabbis agree. Both congregations have known better times, when Snowdon was home to a large Jewish community, and are trying avariety of imaginative programming to get people back. Pooling their resources just makes sense, they say. Rabbi Jacks. who is mark- ing his 10th Chanukah at Zichron Kedoshim, says the effort is starting to pay off and his synagogue is enjoying a modest revival. It has been decided to make Scotch tasting an annual event. As Paperman said, it's all right to "get shikker in the name of tzedakah." Both congregations have a reputation for the quality and quantity of schnapps quaffed at their Shabbat kiddushes and after morning prayers. Rabbi Jacks. a pretty good standup comedian himself. explained that raising a glass in l'chaim is an important part of Jewish tradition and alcohol can be found at many ceremonies. "My father always said that one of the reasons for the very low rate of alcoholism among Jews is that we do not drink in the closet. Drinking is out in the open and not hidden or shameful.'" Drunkenness to the point of impairment of judgment is proscribed, however, he added. Alcohol should be used in moderation and, being highly responsible drinkers. guests offered lifts at the end of the evening for anyone in need. Rabbi Jacks told the story of the rabbi who missed observ- ing his father's yahrzeit. The deceased's spectre visited him in a dream, saying he could forgive his son for not recit- ing Kaddish or leading special services in shul or undertak- ing new studies but not for missing "saying a l'chaim in my honor. His soul could not rest easily." Negev From page iA how Israeli technology is at the forefront of these efforts to combat encroaching deserti- fication, while encouraging sustainable living in dryland environments for the benefit of local populations. "The challenge of desertifi- cation is one that has not yet been met. There are techni- cal solutions to prevent soil degradation. We are collecting the experts to think together. They come from around the world to learn from us. We are to be the light unto the nations, but let's do it without thinking of the commercial advantage." said conference organizer Professor Alon Tal. a professor of environmental policy at BGU. The conference was held under the auspices of UNES- CO with the support of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and others. UNESCO representative Thomas Schaaf praised Israel's lead in devel- oping solutions for desert living. "Israeli scientists are probably among the leading experts when it comes to management of desertifica- tion," Schaaftold the opening, plenum. Professor James Reynolds, a world expert on desertifica- tion from Duke University and a featured speaker, raised the idea that the term desertifica- tion has been given a negative connotation and went on to say that the challenge was mainly to cope vith creating a sustainable existence on drylands. "It is essential that rural people are not seen as the COS From page 1A Shalom on Friday evening,. Jan. 16. Services follow im- mediately at 7:30 p.m., after which Rosenblum will present "Shlomo Carlebach: The Man and His Music." This will be an interactive session focusing on the legendary Carlebach's persona interspersed with the singing of many of his songs. Services on Shabbat morn- ing begin at 9 a.m., Saturday, problem or the victims, but instead as part of the eco system," Reynolds said. "We are determined to emphasis the positive. Historically the negative images of 'woe is me' dominate the literature." Keeping that thought in mind, Reynolds. who advo- cated proper farm manage- ment in drylands, then gave a rare negative critique of the cereal quinoa, which has come to be known as the "super food from the Andes." He shared his research that showed how farmers in Southern Bolivia - anxious to take advantage of the quinoa food fad - have introduced tractors to their fields. This has resulted in the over farming of the land. resulting in soil erosion while destroying their traditional ctflture. "There's tremendous local knowledge among the native people who live there that needs to be taken advantage of." Reynolds said. "Then. mixed with some good solid science, there are many op- portunities to improve these lands so they won't be de- graded in the future." Academic sessions during the conference included land restoration, vegetation and irrigation, as well as political ecology and the role of women as agents of social change in desert regions. The conference saw a mosa- ic of participants from across the world, including some 90 Africans brought by the Israeli Foreign Ministry's MASHAV program, which brings people from developing countries to study farming management and new agriculture technolo- gies. Other countries repre- sented included Pakistan. China, Mongolia, Europe, the Americas and Australia. The purpose of the confer- ence was not just about find- ing and discussing scientific cures for desertification. It was also about figuring out just how to build and maintain sustainable communities in drylands. For this reason. organizers took participants Out into the Negev for a first- hand look at some of Israel's successes in confronting desertification, much of it due in part to research and technologies stemming from BGU's Blaustein Institutes. "We are anxious to see and hear from others how to cope with arid and semi-arid lands." said Xuehu- Li. a scientist from Xian. China. explaining that half of her country fell into this category. While some field trips showed off desert agriculture, like fish ponds and irrigated olive groves, others witnessed the challenges of the local Bedouin. or saw solar power developments, and efforts to preserve historical sites. Sitting in the tent of Bed- ouin entrepreneur Farhan Azzazme, some participants debated the benefits of eco- tourism. After visiting living examples of Israeli eco-tour- ism sites such as boutique desert wineries, camel ride caravans, adobe cabins, cot- tage industries and more, some suggested the better path to sustainable existence for the indigenous population desert conditions could be better served by mass tourism proj- ects (i.e., casinos) instead. "Cultural exoticism is a touristic draw," said Suhasini Ayer-Guigan, an architect from Madras. India. "But in most developing countries eco-tourism would only be good if it could at least break even. Otherwise it only destroys cultures and reduces them to the lowest common denominator." David Mutekanga, a university lec- turer from Mbarara. Uganda chimed in: "Most cultures will agree to close their eyes to this if they can make a profit. Perhaps mass tourism would be better for them?" Later that night they would roll from laughter at the self- depreciating jokes of Azzat. likely one of the world's only Bedouin stand-up comics, a living example ofeco-tourism in the Negev. By the final day, there was an underlying sense of ur- gency in the conference and the need for stronger action. not only by the countries suf- fering from desertification. but by the developed world to increase its support to combat the spread of drylands. Elizabeth David, from the secretariat of the United Na- tions Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). agreed that the issues of bio- diversity and climate change had garnered a much higher awareness across the world. She attributed this mainly due to investments made in scien- tific research and the media focus. "Desertification has traditionally been seen as a South (southern hemisphere/ developing nation) issue far away so it suffered from lack of interest," David said. "Now Jan. 17, during which Haz: zan Rosenblum will explore a fascinating topic while teaching about "Masoretic Midrash: Were They ]Yying to Tell Us Something Hidden in the Text?" This will be an exploration of selected Bibli- cal portions through an ex- amination of the Cantillation marks or tropes. In addition to addressing the grammar of the text, do the specific signs assigned give us an additional layer of understanding that illuminate the words inways we never considered? At the end of Shabbat, the community is once again invited for Havdalah at 7 p.m. and a final session with Hazzan Rosenblum entitled "Evolution of Synagogue Song: How It All Began and Where Is It Going?" This presentation will focus on the legacy of Salomon Sul- zer, Louis Lewandowski, and Israel Goldfarb, andhow their own particular vision shaped the music thatbecame the ba- sis of Jewish prayer services for the past 150 years, and on the contemporary phenomenon of Debbie Friedman, Craig Taubman, Shlomo Carlebach, Shira Hadasha, Hadar and more. A dramatic change has taken place in the music in many synagogues through- out North America and Is- rael. What is this new sound? there is growing awareness because land is a core issue that has global consequences. If we don't protect the land the whole world is affected." This had been hinted at earlier by Professor Rattan Lal, a so-called "godfather of sequestration." who told a packed room that the progno- sis for preserving soil fertility was essential for world peace. Lal argued that soil quality was the anchor for keeping world woes at bay and there- fore the soil needed to be replenished with carbons. "Soil is like a bank: you can't get more than what you put into it." he lamented. He estimated that there would be 10 billion humans on earth by the end of the century and if soils are not restored conflict would erupt. On this theme, a closed round-table discussion was held between Jordanian and Israeli participants who raised to the fore areas of coopera- tion. but also difficulties en- countered along the way. Mansour Abu Rashid, a retired general fromthe Royal Jordanian Army, who now heads the Amman Center for Peace and Development, revealed some of the stigmas Jordanians face when they are seen forging ties with Israelis. He said that often government officials - even though the two countries signed a peace treaty in 1994 - refuse to recognized degrees earned by Jordanian students in Israeli institutes. "The [Jordanian] students here are courageous and true believers in peace," Rashid said. Osama Suliman, one of the dozen Jordanian graduate students currently studying at the BIDR. modestly shrugged off the compliment. "When you believe in peace, when you have a vision that you can change things, you go ahead despite the frustrations." said Suliman, who is involved in a solar-energy project between Israel and Jordan in the Arava. This small incident il- lustrates the complexities involved in confronting de- sertification and while a major conference like this can gather participants from across the globe, enormous perseverance is needed for Israel to facilitate environ- mental cooperation with its own neighbors. "Israeli innovation is driven by necessity and circumstanc- es. We are a small country sur- rounded by a hostile environ- ment. Fortunately, Israel has a lot of experience in drylands development. We may have madealot of mistakes along the way, but we have learned and acquired an enormous body of knowledge," said BIDR director Prof. Avigad Vonshak, who was awarded the UNESCO Chair on Combating desertification during the conference. "Israel is often on the world's agenda in a negative light," Vonshak added. This conference was an excellent opportunity to show the world that while we may not be perfect we aren't so bad either." The conference was twice a large as the first one held two years ago and Prof. Tal an- nounced at the closing that its success ensured a third would be held in late 2010. Where is it from, what does it do, why does itworkandwill it last? This interactive session may include some musical treats and performance with Cantor Allan Robuck. The Dr. Edward S. Acker- man Memorial Scholar-in- Residenceweek-end is funded by an endowment by Dr. Ackerman's widow, Dr. Shelley Fleet, and their children, Brad. Andrew, and Hillary. This special musfi:al presentation honors Ed's memory and his love of music. The services and presentations are open to the whole community and are all free of charge. Reservations are only re- quired for the Shabbat dinner. For more information on the Dr. Edward S.Ackerman Schol- ar-in-Residence week-end, or to make reservations for the Erev Shabbat dinner, contact the COS office at 407-298-4650 or office@ohevshalom.org.