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August 2, 2013

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 2, 2013 Wall From page 1A ago, Women for the Wall has emerged as the public face of the traditionalists vying to maintain the status quo at the Western Wall, where rules mandate separation of the sexes and restrict the ability of women to lead public prayer groups. Women for the Wall was able to bring a critical mass of women to the site that far outnumbered the several hundred people who showed up with Women of the Wall, and the traditionalist group was able to physically block the renegade group from approaching the Kotel itself. Women for the Wall per- forms a tricky balancing act be- tween defending traditionalist values and using the language of women's empowerment to oppose the objectives of a Jewish feminist group while presenting itself as an advocate for women's rights. In a community in which male rabbis often are the pri- mary spokespeople, Aharoni hopes to galvanize Orthodox women to speak for them- selves. But the success of the monthly prayer gatherings depends in large part on the endorsement and encourage- ment of those same rabbis. The debate between the two women's groups "is not a discussion between rabbis and women," Aharoni says. "It is a conversation between women and women." Aharoni hardly fits the pro- file of what one might expect of an activist opposed to the expansion of women's rights at the Kotel. Formerly a mem- ber of the liberal Orthodox Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, a New York congregation led by Rabbi Avi Weiss, Aharoni, a mother of six, has participated in women's prayer groups and runs a company that fosters female entrepreneurship. Her issue is not Jewish feminism, but decorum. "This site has 1,700 years of tradition," Aharoni said of the Western Wall. "It's un- thinkable for a small group to upset the tradition against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of worshippers. It doesn't happen in the Vatican, in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, in Mecca or in Westminster Abbey. And it cannot happen here, either." As if to underscore that theirs is the majority view, Women for the Wall have joined in efforts to bring thou- sands of girls to the wall each Rosh Chodesh, when Women of the Wall gather to hold their service marking the beginning of the Hebrew month. But Women for the Wall says it is not the primary cata- lyst for these shows of force. That distinction belongs to the haredi Orthodox leaders who have endorsed the initia- tive and asked Orthodox girls' schools to send their students. In May, thousands of girls filled the women's section of the plaza and much of its larger back section. In July, they packed the women's section again. Numbers were down significantly in June--a drop-off attributed variously to final exams at the girls' seminaries and police alleg- edly blocking women from entering the plaza. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told JTA that the barriers set up in June were meant to ensure only that Women of the Wall exited the space safely, not to block worshippers. PAGE 15A Barring a court ruling or legislative change, the month- ly race between the groups is likely to continue each Rosh Chodesh (the next one falls on Aug. 7). And though the two groups do occupy some common ground--both sides reject violence and support women's activism--both are choosing to continue the fight, with one side singing and the other silent. "I think they're trailblaz- ing," Women of the Wall chair- woman Anat Hoffman said of Women for the Wall. "They're women supporting the rabbis, but they're expressing their opinions in the public square. We have our struggle and they have theirs, and God bless." Prize From page 1A "Murad and my love is about saving lives," Beer continues. "We've been do- ing this for over 20 years and that's why we overcome anything that could be a barrier to our relationship. And the same goes for our volunteers, who come from different sectors--haredi, settlers, secular, Arabs. They all love saving lives and that's what connects us." Alyan adds, "People think that peace is only for politi- cians. We save lives with no political agenda or opinions. This can lead to peace. You can do it anywhere." In fact, Beer tells IS- RAEL21c, a United Hatzalah team is soon traveling to New Delhi to help establish its model there. "We're going to start a process in India of having people of different cul- tures and religions saving lives together, just like in Israel." Goldberg is a longtime trustee of the IIE, an inde- pendent nonprofit founded in 1919 to forward the inter- national exchange of people and ideas toward achieving lasting peace. The organiza- tion has 1,000 member insti- tutions and administers the Grossman From page 4A months ago, a similar scenario unfolded in Germany when a court banned ritual circumci- sion-another fundamental element of the Jewish reli- gion-on the grounds that it mutilated children without their consent. There, too, anti-Semitic motivation was not hard to discern in certain quarters amid the talk about physiological and psychologi- cal harm. Fortunately, Chancellor Angela Merkel navigated a bill through the German parliament overruling the court and reestablishing the religious freedom of Jews to continue an age-old tradition U.S. government's Fulbright Student Scholar Program among other study and train- ing initiatives. A retired corporate vice president of IBM, Goldberg instituted his prize with an endowment in 2005. Among the past winners are Amal Elsana Alh'jooj and Vivian Silver, co-executive direc- tors of the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development. He related that as a teen in 1948, living in a diverse immigrant Chicago neigh- borhood where he sometimes experienced anti-Semitism, the founding of the state of Israel "entranced" him for its promise of a safe haven based on the moral and cultural val- ues on which he was raised. "But after decades of wit- nessing strife in the Middle East, I wondered what, if anything, could bring peace to this Jewish homeland I so che'ish," he said. "Maybe, only work at the grassroots level could form the basis of lasting peace down the road. And so I envisioned this prize." He had serious doubts that the IIE could find a Jewish Israel and a Muslim Israeli whose joint achievements fit the criteria for awarding the peace prize. "But in fact we have done so, with no shortage of candidates, for nine years." He lauded Beer and Murad "for their brilliant conception and brilliant execution of an idea that goes to the very core of humanity--man's responsibility for his fellow man" and called them models for other agents of change. Goldberg and his entou- rage had the opportunity to meet some of the multicul- tural volunteers--including a religious Jewish settler and a Muslim East Jerusalem Arab who had just come from tending to an unconscious child in the Arab neighbor- hood of Silwan. "The blend- ing of human feeling with advanced technology blew me away," Goldberg remarked. "It's just the beginning," said Beer, who previously won a Presidential Award for Volunteerism and was named a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. "We want to get to 3,000 volunteers and we want to reduce response time to 90 seconds. No doubt, this will bring a better environment between everyone ... in this part of the world." of their faith. Whether Poland will successfully follow her example and push through a law guaranteeing the right to kosher slaughter remains to be seen. Such attacks on Jewish religious practice, in fact, constitute just one front in a wider struggle over the future of Jewish life in Europe. Anti- Semitic incidents are on the rise, increasing by 30 percent between 2011 and 2012. In France, there was an astound- ing 58 percent jump over that same period, including the targeted murder last year of four Jews, three of them small children, in Toulouse. Vocally anti-Semitic politi- cal parties are represented in the Greek and Hungarian parliaments and are gaining power on the local and regional levels in othercountries. Public opinion polls show alarmingly high levels of anti-Semitic at- titudes. Demonization of Israel in the media and among some intelligentsia is often indistin- guishable from Jew-baiting. No wonder that opinion surveys point to a striking number of European Jews contemplating emigration. Alas, left uncorrected, the ban on kosher slaughter in Poland could be another bleak portent for the Jewish future in Europe. Lawrence Grossman is the American Jewish Committee's director of publications. United Hatzalah of Israel Eli Beer and Murad Alyan are united by their passion for saving lives. Release From page 1A to convince Abu Mazen (nora de guerre of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas) to come to the table. If he really wanted peace, he would come with no preconditions." A poll commissioned by the mass circulation Yisrael Hayom newspaper last week found that 84 percent of Israe- lis oppose releasing prisoners in exchange for returning to the negotiating table. The prisoners are due to be freed in four stages - with the first coming as early as later this week when Israel's Justice Minister Tzipi Livni is slated to meet Palestinian negotiator Sa'ib Ariqat in Washington. Ahead of the cabinet vote, Israeli Prime Minister Bin- yamin Netanyahu appealed directly to the Israeli public to support the release. Taube "This is an indescribably difficult decision to make-it is painful for the bereaved fami- lies, it is painful for the entire nation and it is also painful for me," Netanyahu wrote in an open letter released by the prime minister's office. Netanyahu said Israel has freed some 10,000 Palestinian prisoners over the years as goodwill gestures and in ef- forts to restart peace talks. He said that now, too, he believes that restarting talks with the Palestinians is important for Israel. "I believe it is of the utmost importance for the state of Israel to enter a diplomatic process," he wrote. "This is important both to exhaust the possibilities of ending the con- flictwith the Palestinians and to establish Israel's position in the complex international reality around us." Some Israelis, including somewho have lost close rela- tives to terror, agree. "Look how much Israel was prepared to do to re- lease just one soldier," Robi Damelin, whose son David was killed by a Pal- estinian sniper in 2002, told The Media Line. "For them, these prisoners are soldiers. Why can't we un- derstand how important this is to them? Damelin, who immigrated to Israel from South Africa, is active in the Parents Circle, a group of Israelis and Palestin- ians who have lost loved ones to the conflict. "If we don't release these prisoners, nothing will ever happen and things will never move forward," she said. "I saw in South Africa how people can change and I want it to happen here too." From page 4A The museum commands a square on the heritage site of the Warsaw Ghetto, a place of special meaning to Jews around the world. There, at the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the ghetto uprising earlier this year, the Taube and Koret Foundations, together with a Bay Area delegation of 50 supporters, watched as the entire hierarchy of the Polish leadership--from President Komorowski to religious lead- ers to the Polish Army, Navy and Air Force commanders-- witnessed the ceremonial laying of wreaths at the base of the Rapoport Memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto Heroes. They were honoring Polish Jewry's past, present and future, and there was not a dry eye among the 2,000 or so people in attendance. I never thought I would live to see anything like it. The ancient Chinese phi- losopher Lao-Tzu once wrote, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step." Poland already has taken many steps in its relationship with its Jewish present and future. Along the journey, it will invariably make missteps, but happily the destination remains clear and firm. Tad Taube is chairman of the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & Culture, presi- dent of the Koret Foundation and honorary consul for the Republic of Poland in the San Francisco Bay Area. Kampeas From page 5A "Been tough week, then this," Cohen said in a tweet. "Sad 2 say I'm not perfect." Political observers attri- bute the various scandals to the same factors that have led other politicians into the halls of shame: arrogance, insular- ity and just plain loneliness. "Anyone who wants to run for Congress has to be a little bit crazy, and that includes Jewish members of Congress," said a longtime Capitol Hill staffer who has worked for a number of Jewish lawmak- ers-none tinged by scandal. The perpetual fundraising, unfettered accolades from supporters and the rarity of staffers who push back when a boss crosses the line insu- late lawmakers from reality checks, according to a number of Hill staffers. The rigors of living one's life under the con- stant glare of media scrutiny may also be a factor. "When people are separated from their families for a long period of time, things occur that wouldn't necessarily oc- cur if your family was there," said Robert Wexler, a former congressman who described his first months in Wash- ington as hellish, eventually leading to his decision to move his family north so he could spend more time with them. The move was not without a price. In 2008, Wexler came under fire when itwas revealed he no longer maintained a residence in his Florida con- stituency. "Eventually, your political opponent will claim you are of Washington," he said. Sex scandals have not al- ways sounded the death knell for political careers. Frank continued to serve in Congress for more than two decades after revelations that he patronized a male escort and then hired him as a per- sonal aide. Weiner is leading in several recent polls, and has never polled lower than second since declaring his candidacy in May. And Spitzer enjoys a commanding lead over his Democratic primary opponent, Scott Stringer, the Jewish Manhattan borough president. "It's not the end of the world." Lewis said. "They have a lot of work to do, but ifI go back and think about Jewish tradition, you are encour- aged to give people another chance." But the scandals have cer- tainly exacted a price. Barbara Goldberg Goldman, a leading Democratic fundraiser, said the Weiner scandal was a fac- tor in her decision to fundraise for one of his opponents, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "Because I am Jewish, be- cause I am a Democrat and I am active in that arena, I see it as a tragedy" that Weiner and Spitzer are running again, Goldman said. "There are many fine quali- fied candidates out there who do not come with the bag- gage," she said. "Find another day job. It's chutzpah."