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August 9, 2013

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 9, 2013 PAGE 17A will. By Uriel Heilman NEW YORK (JTA) If you want to lead a major Reform JewiSh organization, here's a piece of advice: Go to the Westchester Reform Temple. With this week's announce- ment that Rabbi Aaron Pan- ken will be the new president of Hebrew Union College- Jewish Instithte of Religion, , the temple in suburban New York now has produced two major Reform leaders in two years. (The other is Rabbi Rick Jacobs, who two years ago ceded the pulpit of the Scarsdale synagogue to be- come president of the Union for Reform Judaism. Panken isn't new to HUC. He has beel~ at the Reform rabbinical seminary since the mid-1990s, holding such senior positions as vice presi- dent for strategic initiatives, dean of the New York campus and dean of students. In fact, almost everything Panken has done has been Jewish. He grew up on Man- hattan's Upper West Side (of- ficially a Jewish activity, even if you don't do anything Jewy), went straight from college to a job as regional director of the North American Federation of Temple Youth, was ordained by HUC. worked as an as- sociate rabbi at Manhattan's Congregation Rodeph Shalom and earned a doctorate in Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. Along the way, Panken also became a licensed com- mercial pilot. He doesn't fly jumbo jets. but in a pinch he could get you where you need to go. He also has a degree in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins University. Panken, who also flies glid- ers, told JTA he was inspired to get his pilot's license on a trip to Denali National Park in Alaska. His piloting skills might come in handy in his new job: Panken will serve as the chief executive officer of HUC's four campuses in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles and New York. He will officially assume his new role on Jan. 1; his predecessor, Rabbi David Ellenson. who has been presi- dent since 2001. will become the school's chancellor. Panken says it's a good time to be president of HUC. The institution is financially stable following its fiscal troubles of five to seven years ago. and in- teresting challenges lie ahead. Job No. 1, he says, is bring- ing people into Judaism "in a modern American context." That means engaging Jews, particularly young ones, out- side the synagogue, Panken said, echoing one of Jacobs' favorite lines. One of HUC's challenges is to recruit the "best and bright- est" to careers in the rabbinate rather than in law and medi- cine or on Wall Street. "I'd love to see more people who have had significant and meaningful Jewish ex- periences actually consider these careers," Panken said. "Unfortunately, for a lot of .young folks it's not the first thing people are talking about as a career choice. "I'd like it to become more of a household term that people really think about. It's impor- tant for us to remind them about the great possibilities. The rabbi/cantor/educator who was so inspiring for you as a young person--you can be that person." On the question of whether HUC should change its poli- cies to end the ban on ordain- ing rabbis who are married to non-Jews, he said, "I think the faculty and administra- tion will have a very serious look at that and go through a responsible decision-making process.. On something like that you want to do it right." As towhether the next head of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Reform movement's rabbinical asso- ciation, will come from the Westchester Reform Temple. too. Panken demurs. Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Rabbi Aaron Panken "It's pretty much a coinci- dence." he said of sharing the same shul with Jacobs. By Jeffrey F. Barken Mmost 70 years after the Holocaust and50 years after Germany and Israel estab- lished diplomatic relations, a textbook commission is shedding light on how the two countries are promoting their sustained cultural and historical connection. Dirk Sawdowski, chair- man of the German-Israeli Textbook Commission, de- scribes that there is a fun- damental difference between the German education sys- tem and the Israeli education system that "finds expression in each country's secondary and high'school textbooks." "Although both systems try to impart western and democratic values, the Is- raeli curriculum-is largely indebted to educational principles arising from the necessity of nation building," Sawdowski tells "German textbooks, mean- while, employ a very differ- ent. almost post-national reading of history, which is, of course, a result of Ger- many's problematic past." *Germany and Israel's school textbooks are cur- rently under review. Begin- ning in 2010, the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Israeli Ministry of Education teamed up to finance a survey of their separate educational sys- tems. Their task: assess how each country portrays the other's history in school textbooks, for ages 12-18, and make recommendations to improve future textbooks. The survey also probes different textbooks' treat- ment of geography, political treaties and issues arising from globalization. Special emphasis is placed on their comparative histories of the Holocaust. The project is ambitious. Teams in each country have examined hundreds of texts. prepared comprehensive translations, and labored to bridge significant cultural gaps. "Before we could begin it was necessary that we reconcile our methodolo- gies," Dr. Arie Kizel. the chairman coordinating the Israeli team. tells "Every textbook is writ- ten and in a cultural context. Therefore we had to work together to filter biases and strategize how we approached each fext." Developing a fair and mutually agreeable survey methodology wasn't easy. Over the course of the past three years the two teams hosted conferences in Braunschweig, Germany, and in Tel Aviv. University professors, teachers, educa- tors, and ministry experts were consulted. Their schol- arly debates led to a working strategy that brings the com- mission closer to consensus. Today, there are three groups of German and Israeli researchers working under the aegis of the commission. Communication is possible through simultaneous lan- guage translation. "We decided to work strict- ly bilingual," Sadowski says, explaining the need to facilitate accurate analysis, confronting the language barrier directly. "Of course, there are things that get Lost in translation. Hebrew is very concrete and straight- forward whereas German is much more abstract. Despite the slow pace of translations, this isstill more precise than using a third language, like English." Another early obstacle confronted by the com- mission involves textbook sample size. "Since Israel is signifi- cantly smaller than Ger- many and there is only one state-approved curriculum, the Israeli team was able to survey all of the textbooks currently being used in Is- rael," Kizel says. In Germany, however. educational matters are administered differently among the country's 16 federal states. There are also diverse curricula for different school types. Text- book publishers, therefore, try to adapt themselves to the different policies and curricula by publishing a series of schoolbooks in a number of versions. Con- sequently, there are nearly 1,200 different textbooks in Germany, all relevant to the subjects being surveyed, and the selection of texts varies depending on the region. "We could never survey such a huge volume of text- books sufficiently," Sadowski admits. "Instead we picked out five federal states: Ba- varia, Berlin, North-Rhine Westphalia~ Lower Saxony and Saxony as,the focus for our research." This choice has resulted in the exami- nation of more than 400 titles bearing either short passages or longer chapters specifically related to Israel. For Germans, this encom- passing view of the German education system is provid- ing useful demographical information. In places like Berlin~ where there are many immigrants from Muslim countries, cultural and po- litical factors lead to unique educational policies, and different teaching methods and materials are in use. Dis- crepancies in how Israel is portrayed reflect Underlying cultural evolution, revealing lingering misconceptions about the past. Already, Sadowski has ob- served some general trends. "Israel is mainly depicted in the context of the Middle East conflict," he says. "Only German geography textbooks discuss other topics relating to Israel, like agriculture, technological achievements,water use, and tourism. When Israel is pre- sented in the context of the Middle East conflict, we find texts positively depicting the Israeli position, but also textbooks with increasingly negative stances towards Is- rael. Most texts, however~ try to draw a balanced picture and to maintain neutrality." From the Israeli side, Kizel has not commented extensively about his team's early findings regarding Ger- many's portrayal in Israeli textbooks. "There have been significant changes in the way that schoolbooks are written both in the linguistic context and in their choice of subject matter," he says, emphasizing that it is still . too early to draw any conclu- sions about the textbooks his team is reviewing. The next phase of the project calls for the comple- tion of researchin 2014 and the development of bilateral recommendations for the improvement of textbooks. "Proposalswill be present- ed in 2015 in celebration of 50 years of diplomatic relations between both countries," Sadcfwski says. First person By Yvette Alt Miller Aish Hatorah Resources Jewish names speak to our very essence. As the world celebrates with William and Kate over .the birth of their baby boy, speculation over what they will name their son is over. They chose George Alexan= der Louis. But you can call him His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge for short. A name is one of the first gifts new parents bestow on their children. Names convey powerful symbol: ism about our hopes and dreams for our kids. Modern researchers have even found that names can correspond to our life choices and cir- cumstances, indicating how easy it will be for kids to be seen as competent and suc- cessful. Our names, it turns out. can determine whether we're more likely to be called back for job interviews, or researched to see whether we have a criminal record. What we name our kids within limits--can actually affect their futures, shaping the way the world perceives them, and molding their opportunities. For Jews, names have an extra layer of/neaning. In Jewish tradition, names are central to who we are. They signify something about the bearer; names can even bestow certain charac- teristics. Among Ashkenazi Jews, babies are often named after a relative who has passedway. Among Sephardi Jews, it is common to name children after living rela- tives. In all cases, parents hope implicitly to bestow certain characteristics in the namesake on their children. and to create a bond between them. Jewish names speak to our very essence; they are a way to identify our innermost, Jewish selves. Four thousand years ago, when the Jews were slaves in Egypt, they abandoned many our traditions. They ate the foods of the Egyptians, cel- ebrated the festivals of the Egyptians, and embraced the art and music of the Egyptians. Yet somehow, we re- mained worthy of God's remembrance; God still recognized us as his spe- cial people. How? Because, Jewish tradition says, the Jewish people kept three key traditions: (1) We continued to dress as Jews. (2) We still were careful in our speech. clinging to our mother tongue of Hebrew and re- fusing to say anything that would get ourfellow Jewish slaves in trouble with our evil taskmasters. (3) And we kept our Jewish names. Amongst many Jews to- day, Jewish names have fallen into disuse. Many of my friends have common English names, and I find myself surprised when I learn their Jewish names in religious contexts. I myself go by Yvette instead of my Jewish name Yitta. (And after writing this article I'm considering making the big switch!) We blend inwith thewider Western society- sometimes at a cost of neglecting a Central aspect of ourselves. How many of us maintain the three key factors of Jewish identity as our ancestors in Egypt? Few of us dress dif- ferently anymore. Not all of us speak Hebrew. And so, for many of us, possessing a special Jewish name is one of our stron- gest links with our Jewish heritage. As Kate and William's choice of name worthy of their royal baby makes headline news, this is an op- portune time to think about the meaning of one's Jewish name and how it links us with Jewish history, names deserving of royalty. And if you were never -given a Jewish name, now is a good time to consider adopting one. If you were named after someone, ask your parents about the relatives for whom you are named. Hear new stories about your namesake and learn more about his/her life. If you have children, tell them who they are named for, and why. Ask questions. Make this connection real. Understand that a Jewish name has a deeper meaning than simply something to answer to. Yvette Alt Miller earned her B.A. at Harvard Uni- versity. She completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Jewish Studies at Oxford University, and has a Ph.D. In International Relations from the London School of Economics. She lives with her family in Chicago, and has lectured internationally on Jewish topics. "ID