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PAGE 14A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 10, 2017 (JNS.org)--The U.S. House of Representatives announced its relaunch of a bipartisan taskforce for combating anti- Semitism in the wake of a recent wave of anti-Jewish incidents. Since January 2017, there have been 90 bomb threats called into Jewish organiza- tions, including more than 60 to Jewish community centers, with the latest threats coming Feb. 27. Last week, an estimated 170 Jewish graves were found toppled at the Chesed Shel Emeth Society cem- etery in University City, Mo., and on Sunday, Feb. 26, an estimated 100 head- stones were toppled at the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia. The latest FBI statistics show that the number of anti- Semitic criminal offenses in the U.S. rose from 635 in 2014 to 695 in 2015. The lawmakers heading the taskforce include U.S. Reps. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Kay Granger (R-Texas), Marc Veasey (D-Texas) and Peter Roskam (R-Ill.). "At home and abroad, we continue to witness anti-Semitism that is both dangerous and complex," the taskforce members said in a statement. "The recent des- ecration of Jewish grave sites and bomb threats targeting Jewish community centers and Jewish day schools across the country are deplorable. And overseas, the anti- Semitic threats, vandalism, and violence aimed at Jewish schools, synagogues, kosher supermarkets, homes and property are unacceptable. In light of recent events, it is more important than ever that Democrats and Republicans work together to root out hatred and rac- ism in all its ugly forms. We look forward to working with our colleagues in Congress to find innovative solutions that match the 21st-century face of this ancient bigotry." The taskforce--with more than 100 Republicans and Democrats--works to ensure that Congress plays an inte- gral role in condemning anti- Semitism and spearheading initiatives that promote toler- ance worldwide, according to its statement. The group said it "serves as a forum for educating [House] members on this distinct form of intolerance and to engage with the Trump administra- tion, foreign leaders and civil society organizations to share best practices and col- laborate on solutions to rebuff this systemic problem." Its members also vow to promote Holocaust remembrance in concert with exploring inno- vative ways to teach tolerance and confront hate. From page IA of worship, and collect money for charitable purposes? If from an egotistical per- spective we consider human kind the only ones worthy of God's special attention we might readily conclude that "this is all there is." And that is what many rabbinic sages believed. What is fascinating however is that a significant body of opinion in traditional sources not only validates the possibility for alien life on other planets but actually finds biblical and midrashic confirmation for this view, even as it suggests that belief in an all-powerful God forbids placing any limitations on the extent of his creative powers. Dr. David Weintraub, pro- fessor of astronomy at Vander- bilt University and the author of"Religions and Extraterres- trial Life: How Will We Deal With It?," affirms that Judaism is spiritually prepared for little green men. "Judaism accepts the possibility of extraterres- trial life. Jewish theology may actually require a belief in ex- traterrestrials since there are no limits on the power of the creator. Thus, for Jews to say that no life beyond the Earth could possibly exist would be unacceptable, as such an idea would appear to place shackles on God's creative power.., the universe belongs to God and God can do what God wishes to do with the universe." Going back many centuries, the great Jewish philosopher Hasdai Crescas (1340-1411), in his classicwork"Ohr Hash- em," wrote an entire chapter in which he maintained that the possibility of life on other planets is not in conflict with Jewish belief. Moreover, Torah sources in fact offer support for them. He invoked the words of Psalm 19:2: "The heavens declare the glory of God"--the rich cosmic land- scape with all of its wonders continues to impress us with the infinite possibilities of God's creations. As further evidence for the possibility of extraterrestrial life, Crescas mentions the Talmudic teaching that"God flies through 18,000 worlds" [Babylonian Talmud Avoda Zara 3B]. Furthermore, Psalm 145:13's statement that"Your kingdom is a king- dom spanning all olamim (worlds)" could imply the existence of extraterrestrial life, since if there were no existence on these other worlds, what kind of kingdom would God have? Another biblical allusion to alien life are the words in the song of Debora in the book of Judges: "Curse Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, curse bit- terly its inhabitants'[5:23] In his book Sefer HaBrit ('Book of the Covenant'), Rabbi Pinchas Eliyahu Horowitz, (18th cen- tury) quotes as his authority a clear Talmud reference -the statement that contends that Meroz is an inhabited planet somewhere in outer space. Furthermore, he affirms em- phatically that God created an infinite number of worlds, of From page 1A new immigrant in Israel in the 1950s stroking a relief map of Israel. "I call it, 'Seeing the Home- land,'" Rubinger told Halevi. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin eulogized Rubinger in a statement. "There are those who write the pages of history, and there are those who illustrate them physical, spiritual and inter- dimensional nature. This view is upheld by the Ari'zal (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria), who also spoke of an "infinite number of spiritual worlds." Speaking of the verse (Song of Songs 6:8),"Worldswithout number," the Zohar, the clas- sic masterwork of Kabalah, Jewish mysticism, states: "The stars certainly are without number. But each star is called a separate world. These are the worlds without number." What was left unsaid by the sages willing to accept the possibility of life on other planets was a further descrip- tion of what these beings are like, what relationship they have to the Almighty, by which laws if any they are governed, in what "image" they were created, and most fundamental of all whether they share with us free will, the capacity for independent choice, which we as humans have been granted and which allows us the descriptive of being created "in the image of God." We simply do not know the answers to these questions. But in terms of our openness to the questions and our willingness to pursue them we might well ponder the response of the Lubavitcher Rebbi to Dr. Velvl Greene, a prominent microbiologist who years ago was enlisted by NASA in their project to determine if there is life on Mars. Dr. Greene asked the Rebbe privately if this was something he should be do- ing. The Rebbe replied, "Dr. Greene, look for life on Mars! And if you don't find it there, look somewhere else in the universe for it. Because for you to sit here and say there is no life outside of planet Earth is to put limitations on the Cre- ator, and that is not something any of His creatures can do!" New insights into the won- ders of the universe can bring us a step closer to greater love and understanding of God. Rabbi Benjamin Blech, a frequent contributor to Aish, is a professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University and an internationally recognized educator, religious leader, and lecturer. Author of 19 highly acclaimed books with combined sales of over a half million copies, his newest, Redemption- Then and Now, commentaries and essays on the Passover Haggada is presently available to be pre-ordered. See his website at rabbibenjaminblech.com. through their camera's lens," Rivlin said. "Through his pho- tography, David eternalized history as it will be forever etched in our memories. His work will always be felt as it is seen in the eyes of the paratroopers as they looked upon the Western Wall, and in the expressions on the faces of the leaders of Israel, which he captured during the highest of highs and lowest of lows. 381 92 6457 David Rubinger doing what he loved most. David Rubinger Rubinger's favorite photograph. 492751 836 756483129 943875612 615342798 827 169543 539618274 264537981 178294365 From page 4A a detailed report document- ing 45 years of anti-Semitic incidents. The 42-page chro- nology only catalogues shootings, arsons, explosive devices and hostage situa- tions, and does not include hoax bomb threats and cemetery desecrations. Two entries from 2016 in the CSS report are a foiled bombing attempt at an Aventura, Fla., synagogue in April and explosives thrown at the homes of two Chabad- Lubavitch rabbis in Rock- land, N.Y. Although those acts caused actual property damage and were intended to inflict physical harm, even death, they received little media coverage. The FBI has been com- piling statistics on hate crimes since 1999. From 1999-2015, the most re- cent year for which data is available, Jews have always been the biggest target of religious hate crimes by a wide margin. In 1999, Jews were on the receiving end of 76 percent of all religious hate crimes in America. That figure was 56.5 percent in 2001 and 65.3 percent in 2002. No other religion suffered half as many hate crimes as Jews during those years. Jews have been the targets of between 500 and more than 1,000 hate crimes every year since the FBI began its documentation. While news headlines and politicians decry the "ris- ing tide" of hatred against Jews, the Pew Foundation's recently published report-- "Americans Express In- creasingly Warm Feelings Toward Religious Groups"-- belies such claims. Between June 2014 and January 2017, according to the study, non-Jewish Americans' feelings toward Jews grew warmer, from 63 "degrees" to 67 degrees. The survey was conducted from Jan. 9-23, 2017. Friedman, meanwhile, said he sees a silver lining in the possible uptick in the reporting of anti-Semitic incidents--that it encour- ages Jewish institutions to be forward-thinking and proactive.