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March 21, 2014

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PAGE 14A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 21, 2014 a in 9 John Moore/Getty Images A man shoots a slingshot at nationalguard troops follow- ing one of the largest anti-government demonstrations yet on March 2, 2014 in Caracas, Venezuela. By Uriel Heilman (JTA)-- They left after Venezuelan secret police raided a Jewish club in 2007, and after the local synagogue was ransacked by unidenti- fied thugs two years later. They left after President Hugo Chavez expelled Is- rael's ambassador to Cara- cas, and when he called on Venezuela's Jews to condemn Israel for its actions in Gaza in 2009. They left when Caracas claimed the ignoble title of most dangerous city in the world--and when inflation hit double digits, food short- ages took hold and the coun- try's murder rate reached 79 per 100,000 people. With Venezuela now roiled by anti-government dem- onstrations-the death toll reached 18 last Saturday-- Venezuelan Jews who remain have yet another eason to leave their country: growing despair. "There's less hope about the future," said Andres Beker, a Venezuelan Jew- ish expatriate in the United States whose parents still live in Caracas. "My parents are huge fans of Venezuela. Until last year I thought they would stay no matter what. Now, for the first time, they're talking about Plan B: leaving Venezuela." Over the last 15 years, from the time Chavez came to power and in the year since Nicolas Maduro has ruled the country, the Ven- ezuelan Jewish community has shrunk by more than half. It is now estimated at about 7,000, down from a high of 25,000 in the 1990s. Many of those who left were community leaders. It's not just Venezue- lan Jews who are leaving. Hundreds of thousands of middle- and upper-class Venezuelans have relocated in recent years, swelling the size of expat communities in places like Miami, Panama. Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Colombia. The exodus of Venezuelan Jews has put a great strain on the community's institu- tions, "Emigration has really played a big factor in the community--that's our main problem," said Sammy Eppel, a Caracas Journal- ist and Jewish community member who also serves as director of the B'nai Brith Human Rights Commission in Venezuela. "When we were a numer- ous and prosperous commu- nity, we built numerous and heavy institutions," Eppel said. "A lot of our members have left, and we are left with the same institutions but with less people to take care of them. We have to make serious adjustments while making sure the services we provide to the community don't suffer." A high school junior named Allan who attends the Jewish community school, Hebraica, says his grade has shrunk to 85 students from 120 six years ago. The younger grades are much smaller, with 40-50 kids each. The school is now con- sidering combining the first and second grades, he said. Interested in keeping as low a profile as possible, leaders of Jewish institu- tions in Venezuela declined to be interviewed by JTA for this story. The massive anti-gov- ernment demonstrations that began on Feb. 12 were sparked in part by new lows for Venezuela's economy and an upsurge in violence. "It started deteriorating to the point where a couple months ago you Couldn't get milk. thicken, eggs, toilet paper," Beker said. "It's really started to affect all families." Allan, the high schooler. said the streets long have been off limits for him and his friends, due to threats of violence and kidnapping. But these days, it's hard to leave the house to go any vhere. "Now it's more danger- ous," Allan said. "Nobody goes out, nobody goes to par- ties, nobody goes to dinner. Everybody's in their houses." Outsiders might puzzle over why anybody would stay given the challenging circumstances of daily life. But Venezuelan Jews say leaving home is never easy. There are those with jobs that can't be shifted over- seas, and those who lack the money or energy to leave and start over somewhere else. And the changes have been gradual enough that, time and time again, Venezuelan Jews like their gentile countrymen simply have adjusted to the new reality. "It's a matter of adjust- ing, I think, not a matter of survival," Eppel said. "That's what the community has been trying to do: adjust to adverse circumstances.".+ Sandra Iglicki. who left Venezuela for South Florida a decade ago but still goes back often, says it's also been emotionally difficult to leave a country that for decades was good to Jews, serving as an anti-Semitism-free refuge for European rewish families who fled the Nazis. "It's very painful for the community in Venezuela." she said. And there's still some hope, even among expats, that the country eventually will right itself. "If you talk to a lot of Venezuelans that are here, they're waiting for this to be over," Iglicki said in a phone interview from Florida. "I would love to go back to Venezuela." Many emigrants still work in Venezuela, commuting back for weekdays to run their businesses while their families adjust to life in a new country. In Miami, the last few weeks have been particu- larly fraught for Venezuelan expats, filled with anxious phone calls to relatives back home and endless agitation on social media. With state media in Ven- ezuela blacking out news of the massive demonstrations, the expats have occupied the peculiar position of funneling news to relatives back home in Caracas about what's happening in Ven- ezuela, often via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Of- fline, there have been large demonstrations in Miami against the Maduro govern- ment, which is blamed for Venezuela's tailspin. "This is something that in Miami is top news every day," said Juan Dircie, associate director of American Jew- ish Committee's Latino and Latin American Institute in Miami. "The exile com- munity of Venezuelans has been holding rallies, doing interviews on TV, writing letters to the editor. The demonstrations are in favor of democracy and human rights, but of course there is a big component of opposition to the Maduro government." Beker, who left Venezuela eight years ago at age 17 to go to Emory University, said he recently did a quick tally to calculate whether he had more family members in Miami or Caracas. He said he was shocked when he realized Florida won out. "It's a little sad," Beker said. "You think: I'm just go- ing to college for a couple of years and coming back. But that never happens." PBS From page 1A written Bible, and our sense of modernity would be com- pletely different. So the his- tory of the Jews is everyone's history too, and what I hope people will take away from the series is that sense of con- nection: a weave of cultural strands over the millennia, some brilliant, some dark, but resolving into a fabric of thrilling, sometimes tragic, often exalted creativity." The Story of the Jews draws on primary sources, which include the Elephan- tine papyri, a collection of fifth-century B.C. manu- scripts illuminating the life of a town of Jewish soldiers and their families in an- cient Egypt; the astonishing trove of documents--the Cairo Geniza--recording the world of the medieval Jews of the Mediterranean and Near East; the records of disputations between Chris- tians and Jews in Spain; and correspondence between the leader of the Arab revolt dur- ing the First World War, Emir Feisal, and the leader of the Zionist movement, Chaim Weizmann. Schama talks about the turning points of the drama, with living wit- nesses like Aviva Rahamim, who, as a 14-year-old, walked across the Sudanese desert to try and reach Israel; Yakub Odeh, the Palestinian whose village was destroyed in the war of 1948; and Levana Shamir, whose family mem- bers were imprisoned in Egypt at the same time. He debates the meaning of new archaeology of the bibli- cal periodwithYosef Garfinkel of Hebrew University; the Dead Sea Scrolls with their chief curator Pnina Shor; the character of the Talmud with Leon Wieseltier, literary edi- tor of the New Republic; the photographic record of Israel's history with Micha Bar Am; German cultural treasures from Enlightenment Ger- 528173649 143986527 967425183 many; and the music of Felix Mendelssohn with the critic Norman Lebrecht. First broadcast in the United Kingdom on the BBC, the series was acclaimed in the British press as "an astonish- ing achievement, a TV land- mark, idiosyncratic, accessi- ble but always authoritative." Festival From page 1A inflatables, face painting, a petting zoo, and camel rides. New to this year's festival will be an area reserved for a health fair, where attendees can obtain valuable informa- tion on health and wellness from area providers. There also will be exhibits including a Holocaust Me- Beth Am From page 1A already responded. Some of these questions that will be addressed during the com- ing weeks are: Why do Jews wear a head covering when worshiping and everyone else uncovers their head as a sign of respect? Do Jews believe It includes new archaeological research that is transforming our understanding of the earliest world of the Jews and highlights evidence from the visual arts--synagogue mo- saics, spectacularly illustrated Bibles, the brilliantly colorful decoration of synagogues (contrary to impressions of a monochrome religion), as well as the glorious music that carried Jewish traditions through the centuries.. Whether he is amidst the stones of 11th-century Judea, the exuberantly decorated cemeteries of Ukrainian ha- sidic rabbis, the parlors of Moses Mendelssohn's Berlin or the streets of immigrant New York, Schama brings together memory and actual- ity, past and present, sorrows and celebrations, vindications and challenges, and makes felt the beating pulse of an epic of endurance that has been like no other--a story that belongs to everyone. morial and Jewish Hall of Fame that will host hourly speakers. One of the speakers will be motivational speaker Jacques Wiesel, cousin of Elie Wiesel of whom Jacques said, "He wrote 40 books. I wrote four. The only thing separat- ing us is a zero." When he was seven years old, Jacques Wiesel fled Brussels with his family to North Africa. They were interred in a detention camp in Casablanca for three years before being freed by American troops in 1942. Known as"Mr. Motivatr," (the monogram on his polo shirt didn't have room for the "o," he said) Wiesel shares the importance of laughter for health and longevity. This year's event is sponsored by Bright House Networks and the Endowment Committee of the Jewish Federation of Volusia and Flagler Counties. For more information about the 2014 Jewish Heri- tage Festival, please visit the Festival website at www.Jew- or contact Jeff Bigman, festival chairman, 386-316-3626, or via e-mail at Chair@Jewish- that God tests humanity with illness and disaster as in the Book of Job? Is it possible that sacrifices came to an end be- cause Jesus was the ultimate sacrificial Lamb? Did Jesus, Peter and the Apostles misuse Jewish Scripture? Debbie Davids, president of Congregation Beth Am, enthusiastically welcomes the entire Jewish and Christian communities to attend this groundbreaking service. Da- vids offered, "Shabbat is the traditional day oftheweekwhen Jews come together to focus on the intangibles of life like shared relationships, love and laughter. It is only appropriate that the tent expand to include peoples of many faiths. This is the first of many steps that we will take at Beth Am to build bridges instead of barriers." For more information on this Fellowship Shabbat and activitiesat Beth Am consult the-synagogue's web site at ,~L.,c 856317492 3"19842765 472569831 785294316 234651978 691738254 Foxman From page 5A and continues to be. Peace with an Arab neighbor was something Israelis had only dreamed of for decades, and while flawed, on the most practical level it meant that young Israeli men were no longer being killed on Egypt's battlefields. Today the idealism and hope of peace can seem very far away. Israelis are abuzz speculating over the details of Secretary of State John Kerry's framework for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. While poll after poll shows support for negotiations, they also demonstrate an ingrained Israeli skepticism about the Palestinian commit- ment to reconciliation and willingness to make hard decisions for peace. At the same time, there are renewed worries over a new wave of Gaza rockets raining down on southern Israel and persistent fears about Iran's nuclear weapons program. And yet, amid the very legitimate doubt and uncer- tainty, Sam Lewis' passing is a moment to remember that we cannot allow ourselves to lose the idealism and promise of peace--a peace which ensures the security and well- being of the Jewish state, and whose realization will surely be difficult and imperfect. Yet, a peace whose promise, as Sam described, can bring tears to the eye of even to the most hardened Israeli. Abraham H. Foxman is the national director of the Anti- Defamation League.