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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, SEPTEMBER 13, 2013 Sandy From page 1A founded the center in Staten Island, a New York City borough, with her husband, Zeev. "Now there are different things to consider, like debt and trauma. Everyone is just trying to manage." Since the storm, Kushnir- sky and his wife have found themselves serving many roles in the community's re- vitalization, from emergency response to guiding families through the financial chal- lenges of rebuilding. Chil- dren's events at the center have featured counseling from Project Hope, a program of Ohel Children's Home and Family Services that helps children heal from the trauma of the storm. Shlomi Yagur, a South Beach resident and tugboat operator who worked in New Orleans after Hurricane Ka- trina and during the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, said the damage to his neighbor- hood "was one of the worst things I have ever seen." Yagur said the Kushnirskys have been very helpful in the aftermath of Sandy. He and his neighbors continue to rebuild and renovate after the storm, doing everything from replanting destroyed gardens to ripping up and rebuilding water-ravaged basements. The Jewish Russian Learning Center, he says, has helped his community come together. The Kushnirskys are mak- ing accommodations for a community saddled with the crushing debt associated with Sandy, offering many programs for free or at a steep discount for storm victims, Esther Kushnirsky said. They include a Hebrew school program to begin after Rosh Hashanah. But an initiative that was launched before the storm-- the free installation of me- zuzahs--has seen the most post-Sandy interest. Zeev Kushnirsky attributes the vast increase to the spiritual quali- ties of the mezuzah, which he calls "the ultimate home security device." And as the community prepares for the High Holidays, the mezuzah requests have increased even more. "Many people in our community are Russian im- migrants, with the Russian mentality of not needing help from anyone," Esther Kushnirsky said. "But they lost their mezuzahs during Sandy or never had one in the first place, and after their homes were destroyed in the storm, they want that kind of spiritual protection over the house. So we have a very long waiting list for mezuzahs." PAGE 15. A Natalia Dernidova The devastation in the South Beach neighborhood of Staten Island immediately after super storm Sandy hit in October 2012. Russia From page 1A weapons peacefully. So maybe the military option does have value? Perhaps it has value in Iran as well? And maybe the winner is Assad, because after Syria Obama threatened him with a "limited" attack, he threat- ened in his interview with Charlie Rose to set the Middle East on fire, and Obama then settled for a compromise? We are still far from the end of the story, while it is still entirely unclear what Obama wants. Simultaneously, how ironic is it that the role of the U.N. Security Council is to maintain international peace and security through "prompt and effective action," as stipulated by article 24 of the U.N. charter? What a joke. We only have one lingering problem: Will Assad go unpun- ished for exterminating 1,400 civilians (the world is prepared to forgive the 100,000 others he has killed with conventional weapons)? The Americans, not unexpectedly, will explain that a regime change will also be on the table at the Geneva 2 sum- mit. But also sittingprominently at the table will be delegates from Iran and Syria. While we're at it, why not invite Assad, too? Boaz Bismuth is a colum- nist and correspondent for Israel Hayom, where this column first appeared. From page 2A Until Obama declared his readiness to strike Syria on Saturday, Jewish groups had been reluctant to weigh in--in part because of the hangover from unwarranted attacks blaming Jewish lobbying for the Iraq War. But in the wake of Obama's "[edirti0fi 6ver fhe Wek- end, those fears seemed to evaporate. "The president has made his decision and we're not ahead of it," Abraham Foxman, the ADL's national director, told JTA. "He's not doing this for Israel. This may have serious Rosenblatt ramifications for Israel which are negative." U.S. administrations have traditionally sought Jewish support for foreign policy initiatives, but in this case, congressional insiders say the influence of AIPAC and other Jewish groups may be checked by the emergence of other foreign policy constituencies. Since the 2010 midterms, the Tea Party caucus among Republicans, which has a prominent isolationiststreak, has resisted AIPAC pressure to back a robust foreign as- sistance program. Among Democrats, the insiders said, progressives wary of another foreign war are likelier to heed anti-war voices than the pro- Israel lobby. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), who is Jewish and has been a pro-Israel and progressive stalwart, has been a leading voice of skepticism about a strike. Other Jewish lawmak- ers have robustly backed a strike, preeminent among them Rep. Eliot Engel (D- N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the chairwoman of the Demo- cratic National Committee and one of the highest profile Jewish lawmakers. Wasserman Schultz in- voked the Holocaust in mak- ing her case. "As a Jew, the concept of 'Never again' has to mean something," she told CNN over the weekend. Some groups have been lobbying for weeks. An of- ficial in the office of Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said the office has been flooded with calls and emails from Jewish federations and constituents urging the lawmaker to back Obama's plan. Obama already has won backing from several promi- nent Republicans, includ- ing Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), as well as the House Republican leadership, Speak- er John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the most senior Jewish member of Congress. Cantor cited a key Israeli concern--that an Assad un- scathed after using weapons of mass destruction would embolden Iran--in explain- ing his support for the president. "America has a compelling national security interest to prevent and respond to the use of weapons of mass destruc- tion, especially by a terrorist state such as Syria, and to prevent further instability in a region of vital interest to the United States," he said in a statement. The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Ne- tanyahu has remained silent on the Syria matter in part, its officials said, because it sees no good outcome. Such a posture is mark- edly different from late 2005, when Israeli officials urged U.S. Jewish groups to talk President George W. Bush out of considering a regime change in Syria. The Israelis argued that as bad as Assad's government was, the alterna- tives were worse. From page 4A you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heeded the cry of the boy where he is.'" The angel then promises to make a great nation of Ishmael, which of course is the Arab nation. One traditional explanation for why this passage is read on Rosh Hashanah is that it shows the depths of God's forgiveness, a message of hope to us all. The key phrase here is that God heeded the cry of the boy "where he is." Since we are taught that the Torah does not use extra words, we could well ask why Messinger the phrase is necessary. After all, the text would make sense by simply saying that God heeded the cry of the boy. But our rabbis point out that despite the fact that Ishmael would grow up to be a hunter and destined to lead a life of violent acts, God did not take that into account at the time. Rather, the boy's cries at the moment of pleading were sincere, and that was enough to evoke God's compassion. That's why the Torah notes that God responded to the boy "where he is." And the mes- sage is clear to us as well--if our prayers are heartfelt, they can be heard on high "where we are" and answered favorably. A final thought. The senti- ments above were written 20 years ago, in the days before Rosh Hashanah and on the eve of The Handshake on the White House Lawn between Yasir Arafat and Yitzchak Rabin, seemingly heralding the path to a resolution of the long and bloody Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Amidst the deep skepticism at that time on entering a pact with the world's leading terrorist, there was also a sense of hope- fulness for many Israelis, and Jews here, bolstered by the belief that Rabin, the flinty former defense minister, was an analytical, grounded leader, not about to jeopar- dize Israeli security. I closed the column by wondering if Arafat could be seen not for his past bloody deeds but in the present, for "where he is," or appeared to be, at a moment fraught with smiles, handshakes and pledges and promises of peace. Could he be trusted? I asked. We all know the answer. Two decades later we look back on those dark times of suicide bombers, two intifadas, untold tragedy and countless reasons to conclude that Jews and Arabs are fated to forever fight over Abraham's birthright. Yet now--and yes, again-- haltingly, and skeptically if not cynically, we find our- selves on the verge of another round of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. The leaders have changed but the bitter- ness and distrust have not. Only God knows if there is honesty in the hearts of Pal- estinian leaders, though of- ficials in Jerusalem will have to make that determination for themselves in protecting the state, land and people of Israel. All of us, though, can inter- nalize the message in our own lives as we begin a new year, planting today for tomorrow, as Abraham did, and opening our hearts, asking heaven to judge our prayers "where we are." Shanah Torah. Gary Rosenblatt is editor and publisher of the New York Jewish Week, www. jewishweek.com, from which this column is reprinted with permission. From page 5A dire. Girls who marry early are more likely to drop out of school, suffer from health problems, live in poverty and experience gender-based violence. These same girls are more likely to either die in childbirth or lose their newborn infants. Despite this sobering real- ity, I've witnessed the power of change when women and girls are at the helm, and when they have the political, social and economic tools to shape their own destinies. Not long ago, I met a Mus- lim girl named Munija who lives in West Bengal, India. When Munija turned 15, her father, who had abandoned her family, announced that she was ready for marriage. Munija's mother wanted a better life for her daughter. She allowed Munija to con- tinue her education, against her father's wishes. Before school, Munija would wake up at 5 a.m. to wash the dishes and clean the family home. After school, she would help her mother prepare dinner and study for three hours by kerosene lamp. Even though Munija worked hard, she still feared she would be married off against her will. Fortunately, Munija learned of a grassroots organization in India known as MBBCDS that works with marginalized women and girls, and advocates for their right to an education. Through tutoring, counseling, song, dance and sports, the organization helps girls build the self-confidence to pursue their education and avoid being married at an early age. I am proud to lead American Jewish World Service, an in- ternational development and human rights organization that supports MBBCDS and hundreds of other groups in Africa, Asia and Latin America that work tirelessly for the dignity and justice of women and girls. Surely we do not need the stories of Sarah, Hagar and Hannah to focus our attention on 21st-century problems of gender-based violence, sexual assault and child marriage; headlines suf- Sukkot From page 10A holiday," she said. "Thanks- giving proclamations were issued by state governors." During the Civil War era, southerners associated the concept of a thanksgiving holidaywithYankee abolition- ists, and therefore the holiday "did not become popular in the South until the end of rice. But during this season of new beginnings--a time for returning to our truest, most compassionate selves--let's revisit the stories of biblical women to reawaken our em- pathy and ignite our sense of accountability for women and girls around the world today. Ruth Messinger is the president of American Jewish World Service. the 19th century," according to Applebaum. Whether or not its forma- tion was actually influenced by Sukkot, the parallels between the holidays serve as meaningful symbolism for individuals like Rabbi Lieberman. "Both of these splendid holidays encourage us to stop and acknowledge the manifold blessings God be- stows upon us each and every day," Lieberman said. "Whetherwe accomplish that stock-taking over a slice of Thanksgiving pumpkin pie or beneath the leafy branches of a sukkah roof--or both--we understand and embrace the impulse which inspired our Pilgrim and our Israelite ancestors."