Recently, I was sitting crossed-legged on the floor of my mother's house, digging in her old green cardboard suitcase full of photographs and thank you cards. I poured over the black and white photographs from Odessa, depicting our family and close friends. There were also many pictures in color, of my mother surrounded by her former piano students, whom she taught over the years of her life in Philadelphia, which were proudly taken after numerous concerts my mother had presented. There were pictures of my mother's students, and even her students acting in a musical play that she had directed based on the lives of Clara and Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt and Felix Mendelssohn. Strewn among the photographs were dozens of cards from the parents of my mother's students, with words of gratitude for changing their children's lives through her teaching. With deep sincerity they thanked her for bringing forth their kids' potential and talent in music. They described her as being not only a teacher, but a great mentor and role model.
B'nai B'rith Plays Key Role in Bipartisan Congressional Action
(B'nai B'rith International) Shortly before the recess a bipartisan bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would recognize the nearly 1 million Jews displaced from their homes in Arab nations due to the Middle East conflict. Under the bill, the president and other government officials would be urged to note Jewish refugees each time a reference to Palestinian refugees is made at international events.
This new bill takes a 2008 House resolution on the matter a step further, requiring the president to report on how the original resolution is being implemented. The State Department would be required to issue a report every two years explaining what the administration has done to advance the issue and offering recommendations for future action.
The plight of Jewish refugees is often overlooked. Jews living in Arab countries have had their human rights violated, their property and businesses confiscated and have been displaced from their homes. By most estimates, fewer than 5,000 Jews remain in Arab countries. Not one of the more than 100 United Nations resolutions that refer to Palestinian refugees mentions Jewish refugees.
President Barack Obama hosted the annual Jewish American Heritage Month celebration at the White House to honor and celebrate the Jewish community's contributions to America. Obama welcomed everyone to the celebration by remarking upon the Jewish community's long and important history of civic involvement. 400 Jewish leaders from across the nation attended. A partial guest list follows the jump below.
Remarks by President Barack Obama White House, East Room, May 30, 2012
This year, we celebrate Jewish Heritage Month — Jewish American Heritage Month, and we're also commemorating an important anniversary. One hundred-fifty years ago, General Ulysses Grant issued an order — known as General Orders Number 11 — that would have expelled Jews, "as a class," from what was then known as the military department of the Tennessee. It was wrong. Even if it was 1862, even if official acts of anti-Semitism were all too common around the world, it was wrong and indicative of an ugly strain of thought.
But what happened next could have only taken place in America. Groups of American Jews protested General Grant's decision. A Jewish merchant from Kentucky traveled here, to the White House, and met with President Lincoln in person. After their meeting, President Lincoln revoked the order — one more reason why we like President Lincoln. (Laughter and applause.)
And to General Grant's credit, he recognized that he had made a serious mistake. So later in his life, he apologized for this order, and as President, he went out of his way to appoint Jews to public office and to condemn the persecution of Jews in Eastern Europe.
Today, we have a few documents on display -- maybe some of you saw them when you walked in. There are two letters of protest from Jewish organizations to President Lincoln. There is President Lincoln's handwritten reply, saying that he had taken action. And there is a receipt for the donation that President Grant made to the Adas Israel Synagogue here in Washington, when he attended a service there in 1876.
So together, these papers tell a story, a fundamentally American story. Like so many groups, Jews have had to fight for their piece of the American dream. But this country holds a special promise: that if we stand up for the traditions we believe in and in the values we share, then our wrongs can be made right; our union can be made more perfect and our world can be repaired.
Today, it's our turn, our generation's turn. And you guys, your generation's turn. You're younger than us. (Laughter.) We got some later generations here in the front. We're the ones who have to stand up for our shared values. Here at home, we have to rebuild an America where everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same rules.
Beyond our borders, we have to stand alongside our friends who share our commitment to freedom and democracy and universal rights; and that includes, of course, our unwavering commitment to the State of Israel and its security and the pursuit of a just and lasting peace. (Applause.)
It's no secret that we've got a lot of work to do. But as your traditions teach us, while we are not obligated to finish the work, neither are we free to desist from that work.
So today, we don't just celebrate all that American Jews have done for our country; we also look toward the future. And as we do, I know that those of you in this room, but folks all across this country will continue to help perfect our union; and for that, I am extraordinarily grateful.
The Obama Administration will be asking Congress for additional funding to support Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system. NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris praised this decision:
In making this crucial announcement today, the Obama Administration-working in close cooperation with Israel-is ensuring that Israelis will have the resources they need to defend against the deadly wave of rockets being launched into the heart of Israel from Hamas-controlled Gaza.
These indiscriminate attacks against Israeli civilians-men, women and children alike-are horrific, and Iron Dome has been at the forefront of helping to protect Israelis during this deeply trying time. It was President Barack Obama's initiative and request that brought Iron Dome into being, and funding for missile defense cooperation between Israel and the United States has more than doubled under this Administration than under the previous administration. We thank the President for his leadership on the Iron Dome — as well as key supporters of Israel and Iron Dome in Congress — for taking a firm stand to support the people of Israel.
Hearts have their own natural biological pacemaker that allows them to beat on their own accord even when the brain dies.
— Robby Berman
People don't like to talk about death. But I can't help it. It's my job. I encourage Jews to donate organs upon death to the general public. It is a difficult profession and journalists are constantly making my job even tougher. Recently a four-month-old Israeli baby boy died. Some Israeli media reported he died on Friday while others reported he died on Sunday. Why were they confused? Because his brain died on Friday and his heart died on Sunday.
The past, as William Faulkner said, is not even past.
-- by Rabbi Arthur Waskow
At about 11 o'clock on 9/11 ten years ago, I casually phoned New York to talk with my beloved life-partner, Rabbi Phyllis Berman. Phyllis founded and directs an intensive English-language school for newly arrived immigrants and refugees. The school is housed in Riverside Church on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and every weekday Phyllis commutes back and forth from/ to Philadelphia.
But that morning, my telephone gave back only a frantic bzz-bzz-bzz, a super-busy signal. After trying for 30 minutes, I called the Operator. "There's a glitch in the phone system to New York," I said.
"Haven't you heard?" she answered -- and explained.
I knew that once a month or so, Phyllis had a business breakfast in the World Trade Centers. So now my call was not a casual "How you doing?" I finally got through to learn that she was safe at Riverside, shepherding her frightened non-English-speaking students to walk their ways home through a frantic, fearful city -- with no means of public transportation.
In 2001, September 11 came three weeks before Sukkot, the Jewish harvest festival whose major symbol is a thatched hut, a sukkah, utterly open to the wind and rain.
Through that day and night, I was haunted by two images: the proud, massive, sky-penetrating Twin Towers on Manhattan's edge, and the utterly vulnerable sukkah we were soon to build.
During the next weeks, as we move toward 9/11/11, I will share with you some prayers and liturgies that might help us build new sukkahs in our souls.
On September 12, I wrote the meditation that follows the jump.
This week, GOP House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) proposed 2012 budget will become the basis for negotiations between Congressional Republicans and President Barack Obama. Ryan's budget effectively cuts off bubbie, zadie, and the neediest among us from the social safety net that enables America's seniors - along with women, children, and working families - to live dignified and secure lives.
Ryan's GOP budget contains deep cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and other vital social safety net programs including food stamps, Pell grants, and housing aid. It even contains a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act - Obama's health care reform package - which is on track to help millions of Americans receive better health care while cutting the deficit.
A budget is more than just a fiscal spreadsheet - it's a statement of our values. And we need your help to defend our Jewish values! Take a look at what leaders from the American Jewish community have said about this GOP budget and then take action! (You can click each name to read more about Ryan's GOP budget and its negative consequences.)
"Anyone can cut the budget by arbitrarily capping programs. The real challenge we face is to reduce the deficit without decimating help for the neediest among us, or making retirement impossible for the next generation." - B'nai B'rith interim President Alan J. Jacobs
JTA also reported Representative Howard Berman's (D-CA) reaction to the impact that Ryan's proposed budget cuts would have on foreign aid — which could pose significant risks for Israel. Berman "said the proposal, which would slash the international affairs budget by 40 percent, sets 'a new standard for recklessness and irresponsibility.'" Berman also dubbed the plan "a slap in the face" to military leaders, who have "long argued time and again that diplomacy and development are key pillars of U.S. national security."
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