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May 4, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 4, 2012 By Chaim Peri Israel&apos;s educational system needs fresh start YEMIN ORDE, Israel (JTA)--The wildfire that raged through Mount Carmel near Haifa in December 2010 was devastating for northern Israel. At Yemin Orde, the educational village for at-risk and immigrant youth that I ran for many years, the fire destroyed nearly half of our facilities. But when it came time to rebuild our cloistered safe haven for 500 youths, we had the opportunity for a fresh start. On the eve of Israel's 64th birthday, the nation's whole educational system could use a fresh start. The utopian ideals of Israel's early days have been replaced by post-modern confusion, namely the worship of school By Gary Rosenblatt New York Jewish Week PAGE 5A OK, so there are these three guys in the hospital, and they're very bad off, and the doctor is making the rounds. He goes over to the first pa- tient, a Catholic, and explains that there's nothing more he can do medically for him and asks him his last wish. "I'd like to see a priest and make a confession," the man says. The doctor says fine, and moves on to the next patient, a Protestant. And when the doctor asks him his last wish, the poor guy says, "I'd like to see my family and say goodbye." So the doctor says OK, and comes over to the third pa- tient, an elderly Jewish man. "And what is your last wish?" the doctor asks. "My last wish," the old man scores and OECD rankings, while basic human values lag behind. Contemporary Israel struggles to piece together a fragmented social puzzle of extremes, with a staggering 15 percent of its children and youth physically and socially at risk, mentally impoverished and alienated. Undoubtedly this situation forebodes ill for the social fabric of a country. There is an urgent need to "restart" the concept of education, to re-examine the connection between scho- lastic scores and the school culture. It is time to go back to the basics--to educational environments motivated by human values, not compari- sons and numbers, but rather to healthy "sanctuaries" for children and youth. At the Yemin Orde Youth Village, education transforms survivors into leaders. It is a microcosm of what the State of Israel had inscribed on its banner from its very on- set-inclusiveness, tolerance, spirituality and benevolence. Its mentschen graduates from Ethiopia, the former Soviet Union or the most impoverished neighborhoods of Israel are a living testimony to the validity of the village's educational philosophy and methodology. Graduates find comfort knowing that the Yemin Orde community will always be there for them, much like in a functional family. Current U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, when she was the first lady, made famous the African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child." The Youth Village edu- cational concept as applied in Israel has been one of the building blocks of the Zionist ethos. It gave birth to the Vil- lage Way, whichwas designed to introduce wholeness and coherence to young lives that otherwise are bombarded by the chaotic onslaught of 21st century stimuli. The Village Way is a blue- print that allows teachers to re-create their own version of the plan for their children, which incorporates cultural identity, pride, and having a sense of direction and se- curity about the future. The children's personal abilities and strengths are reinforced. They learn life skills that enable them to grow into successful, compassionate members of society, and they begin to heal wounds of the past and learn to give of themselves. Celebrating cultural holi- days geared toward a diverse population, community service, individual attention, positive role models and mentors as educators, and ongoing graduate support are core elements of the Village Way blueprint. Edu- cation will be empowered to provide an antidote to social alienation and helplessness among children and youth. The Village Way can lead Israel back on track in terms of scholastic achievement in literacy and science--as in the days when learning and educating joined forces to produce Israel's foremost leaders. The Village Way allows The ever-dying art of Jewish humor whispers, "is to see another doctor." Funny? Well, according to some sophisticated research, the odds are you thought so--or at least there was a time when Jewish readers would have thought so. In a survey by Psychology Today, Jews among the 14,000 read- ers who sampled 30 jokes rated this classic joke higher than non-Jews. But that was more than three decades ago, and it's reasonable to wonder if things have changed. After all, the Golden Era of Jewish Comedy, marked by scores of Borscht Belt "tummlers" who went on to national fame, including Sid Caesar, Danny Kaye and Red Buttons, are gone or have faded from the scene. Who under 35 would remember Lou Goldstein, the Grossingers fixture who made "Simon Says" his own act? ("Simon says jump up... Come down.") He died earlier this month at 90. And how could Generation Xers or Yers appreciate the nostalgic sadness over the recent fire that destroyed the former Browns Hotel, one of the last vestiges of the Catskill Resorts that spawned genera- tions of comics? Jewish humor has always been easier to enjoy than define. Bill Novak and Moshe Waldoks, in their classic"Big Book of Jewish Humor," characterized the genre as "anti-authoritarian in tone, mocking pomposity, gran- diosity and self-indulgence." Our brand of ethnic humor is also known for a sense of superiority, with the little guy outsmarting everyone else, a kind of defense mechanism to ward off aggression and hostility. But American Jews are far less insecure these days, with little to be worried about in terms of acceptance by the majority society. Once banned from Ivy League colleges, Jews now note with pride that most of those universities have, or in re- cent years have had, Jewish presidents. So without all that angst is there still an audience for jokes about Jewish mothers (and mothers-in-law), rabbis and priests, food, doctors, elusive sex, unhappy spouses, getting old and dying? Sam Hoffman and Eric Spiegelman can prove there is. After long enjoying his father's stories and jokes, Hoffman, now in his mid- 40s, got a group of 20 of his father's friends and relatives to come to an abandoned storefront in his hometown of Highland Park, N.J., several years ago and tell some of their "good stories" in front of his camera. Spiegelman, a native of Los Angeles, did the same there. The result was a website called, simply, Old Jews Telling Jokes, which has had millions of page views. Then came a book (same name) two years ago, a DVD, and next week previews of an Off-Broadway play (same name) co-created by Peter Gethers and Daniel Okrent, and based on the website, will begin at the Westside Theater, reinventing classic jokes and adding a few songs. Hoffman describes the jokes on the website as "time capsules, revealing the fears and anxieties and celebrating the joys of all aspects of life." A lot more about the anxieties than the joys, from the ones I've heard, and definitely not for the prudish. There's something espe- cially funny, though, about Israel's educators to again assume their rightful place in society--the status of nation builders (not unlike contemporary "educational stars" in Finland and South Korea, or America's Teach for America and charter school movement). In laying out a distinct blue- print for education, the Village Way offers the State of Israel not only a beacon of hope in the aftermath of flames, but also the means to achieve an educational environment or homeland inwhich every child deserves to grow. Chaim Peri, who served as director of the Yemin Orde Youth Village <www.yemi-> for three decades beginning in 1978, is the au- thor of "Teenagers Educated the Village Way.") hearing a wide variety of everyday bubbes and zaides-- all Jewish and over 60--with a sprinkling of celebrities like former New York Mayor Ed Koch and former New York Times public editor Daniel Okrent, telling jokes that would make a stripper blush. Hoffman says that about a quarter of the visitors to are under 35. "For them it's com- fort food," he told New York magazine several years ago. "It's a visit with Uncle Steve, who isn't around anymore. And it channels an element of the culture that isn't re- ligion but still makes them feel connected." Max Weisberg, a 65-year- old insurance salesman in Phoenix, is one of the many gifted storytellers who appear on the site. He says his adult Humor on page 15A Iron Dome is an investment in Mideast stability By Howard Berman tory, puttingabout 15percent United States--had changed will emergewhen the Iranian investment in diplomacy-- The Iron Dome enhances WASHINGTON (JTA)-- This is a unique time in the Jewish calendar, a period when bitterness and sweet- ness are mixed together. The just concluded Passover holi- day marks the journey of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Holy Land. Holocaust Remem- brance Day commemorates the murder of 6 million in- nocent Jewish martyrs and heroes. Israeli Memorial Day is observed with solemnity as Israelis gather by the grave- sides of their fallen soldiers, and is followed immediately by Israeli Independence Day, a joyous and celebratory oc- casion. In many ways this is the Jewish experience, where life is celebrated with zest but is tinged with a history that at times is painful. While we celebrate the modern-day miracle that is the State of Is- rael, a nation that is blooming in a desert oasis, the ominous threats surrounding the Jew- ish state remain ever present. Only four years ago, an informal Israeli-Hamas cease- fire collapsed and Palestinian extremists in Gaza began firing a relentless barrage of rockets into Israel aimed at the heart of Israeli population centers. In 2008, more than 3,000 rockets and mortar shells landed on Israeli terri- of Israel's population at risk. For years Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups had been attacking Israel in this way, with their rockets gaining greater range and accuracy as time passed. Numerous Israelis were killed or wounded, and entire com- munities were paralyzed. No country on the planet would tolerate this type of terrorist brutality. Israel was left with no choice but to defend its population and went to war in Gaza in December 2008. Unavoidably, many died in the ensuing warfare, most of them terrorists. But predict- ably, many in the international community condemned Israel for its necessary defensive war, including through the issuance of the notoriously biased Goldstone Report. The Obama administration did the right thing by defending Israel at the United Nations, but both Jerusalem and the United States became precari- ously isolated in the court of public opinion. Fast forward to March 2012. Again a massive barrage of rockets were fired from Gaza at Israeli population centers by Islamic Jihad and its ter- rorist cohorts. But this time, Israel wasn't defenseless. The development and deployment of three Iron Dome rocket and artillery interceptor bat- teries--funded in part by the the rules of the game. Ac- cording to the Israel Defense Forces, Iron Dome intercepted a remarkable 90 percent of incoming rockets aimed at population centers. This time there was no need for Israel to defensively enter Gaza. There were no Gazan civilian casualties, no international protests, and no isolation for the U.S. and Israel. In 2008, Hamas left Israel virtually no choice but war, but this year Israel felt no need to make war. Iron Dome has given Israel the operational flexibility to decide if and when to make war. And if war against terrorism indeed becomes necessary, Israel will be better able to protect its homeland. The success of the Iron Dome is great news for Is- rael-and for the United States. Not only does it reduce the likelihood of Israeli-Pal- estinian armed conflict, but it also eliminates the ability of Palestinian extremists to draw Israel into deadly armed conflict. Reducing that prospect has many salutary effects. It removes an impediment to negotiations, should Pales- tinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ever decide he is ready to negotiate. And it limits the prospect that another Middle East crisis nuclear threat, the civil war in Syria and uncertainty in Egypt already pose a signifi- cant threat to U.S. and Israeli security. Only three Iron Dome bat- teries are now operational, which is a problem for Israel. Israel was lucky this time because it was only attacked on the Gaza front. But Israel is also vulnerable in the north of the country, where just across the border, Hezbollah has its own arsenal of Iranian- provided rockets laying in wait. A two-front rocket war is a distinct possibility in the future. And the collapse of law and order in the Sinai, from where a rocket was recently fired at Eilat, adds an ominous new threat. In order to strengthen Israel's defensive capabilities and reduce the prospect of cri- sis and war, I have introduced legislation authorizing the United States to provide Israel with financial support for ad- ditional Iron Dome batteries. Helping Israel defend itself and averting regional crises is squarely in the U.S. inter- est. Contributing to Israel's purchase of additional Iron Dome batteries would be the epitome of money well spent. As Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the U.S., has written, "For America, as well as for Israel, an investment in the Iron Dome system is an helping to create the condi- tions conducive to peace." The Iron Dome is no guar- antee that Palestinian ex- tremists won't pick a fight with Israel. But it is a near guarantee that Israel will only commit its soldiers to combat when it alone chooses. stability in Middle East. That's why the United States should get behind it and sup- port Israeli efforts to build more. U.S. Rep. Howard Berman of California is the top-rank- ing Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Dry Bones RE--B.B:Tt0N REALITIES E REAL THREAT l FACE ONLY I e TO ]