December 13th, 2017

Benjie Kaplan of University of Minnesota Hillel House honored

Benjie Kaplan, executive director of Minnesota Hillel at the University of Minnesota, was one of five recipients of Hillel’s Richard M. Joel Exemplar of Excellence Awards at the Hillel International Global Assembly at the start of December.

The award is described on the Website for Hillel International as rewarding “outstanding commitment to fulfilling Hillel’s mission of service to Jewish students around the globe.” Kaplan explained in interview with American Jewish World, this is the highest award in the Hillel community.

Kaplan was hired by Hillel in 2014 to address student involvement and develop local resources. He was, as he explains, unusually well-connected for the job. “I went to Talmud Torah of St. Paul,” the Mendota Heights native explained. “I went to Herzl Camp. I was a member of Beth Jacob. My wife was a member of Temple Israel, and we married at Temple Israel.” Keep reading →

December 13th, 2017

Mark Mazower: When Zionism was seen as a dangerous fantasy

What You Did Not Tell: A Russian Past and the Journey Home, by Mark Mazower, Other Press, 381 pages, $25.95

Reviewed by NEAL GENDLER

Seventy years ago, few Londoners would have guessed that quiet businessman Max Mazower, speaking flawless English, had been a Russian socialist revolutionary.

Multilingual Max had been a leader of the Bund, at its 1905 peak only about 34,000 strong, yet “the largest and most effective revolutionary force in the Tsarist empire,” says grandson Mark Mazower in What You Did Not Tell.

The Bund, formally the General Jewish Workers Union in Lithuania, Poland and Russia, was founded in then-Russian Vilna in 1897 — the same year Theodor Herzl convened the first Zionist Congress.

The Bund considered Zionism “a fantasy, and a dangerous one, at that,” Mark Mazower says. But opposition was doubly the wrong choice for Russian Bundists who — unlike Max — misread the tea leaves and remained after 1917. “Many of his closest comrades ended up in violent deaths, shot either by the Bolsheviks or the Nazis.”

Taciturn Mordchel (Max) Mazower took his revolutionary secrets to his grave, but with extensive archival research, period correspondence and interviews, Columbia University history professor Mazower has reconstructed essential parts of the story. Keep reading →

December 13th, 2017

Rabbi Arik Ascherman: A Torah of social justice

Rabbi Arik Ascherman’s criticism of Israel is motivated by his vision of the country living up to our highest Jewish values


In a widely distributed 2015 web video, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, then the director of Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel, is seen being attacked by a knife-wielding Jewish settler in the West Bank.

Fortunately, Ascherman, who was trying to stop a group of settlers from setting fire to Palestinian olive trees, suffered only minor injuries in the attack. Campaigning for social justice in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories comes with some risks.

Rabbi Arik Ascherman spoke during a panel discussion about human rights abuses in the occupied territories at the J Street national conference in Washington, D.C., Feb. 26. (Photo: Mordecai Specktor)

Ascherman, 58, recently visited the Twin Cities and spoke Nov. 29 at Macalester College. The tall, lean rabbi, a native of Erie, Penn., led Rabbis for Human Rights — which was founded, in 1988, by the late Rabbi David Forman — from 1995 to 2016. Last September, Ascherman formed a new human rights group called Torat Tzedek (Torah of Justice).

The interview with the Jerusalem-based rabbi took place at Temple Israel in Minneapolis. The remains of a tasty buffet was set out in the conference room, where Ascherman and a group of local rabbis had just finished a Torah study session. Frank Hornstein, a DFL state representative from Minneapolis, helped facilitate the meeting between the AJW and Ascherman, who visits the States two or three times a year on fundraising and speaking junkets.

After some light conversation, the rabbi steered the discussion to the dire situation faced by Palestinians living in Susya, a community in the South Hebron Hills. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has notified Israel’s High Court of his intention to demolish about 40 percent of the village, where families already are living on the margins.

The misfortune of the Palestinians in Susya is a complicated story. Ascherman traced recent developments to the tenure of the late Plia Albeck, who ran the Civil Department of the State Prosecutor’s Office for more than two decades. Albeck’s rulings led to many areas beyond the 1967 Green Line border being declared state land.

Keep reading →

December 1st, 2017

AJW Hanuka Cover Contest Winner: Chana Goldberg

We are proud to announce that Chana Goldberg is the winner of this year’s Hanuka Cover Contest. And as it happens, she also won the contest in 2014.

The 26th annual AJW Hanuka Cover Contest, for students in grades 1-8, again inspired young artists in the community to reflect on the meaning of the Festival of Lights.

The judges were challenged to choose a winner from numerous entries that were skillfully executed and creatively reflected our suggestion that drawings “should be visual representations of the meaning of Hanuka.”

(To see artworks by the four runners-up in the contest, click HERE.)

Chana, 13, is in the eighth grade at Lubavitch Cheder Day School in St. Paul. Next year she will attend Lubavitch Girls High School in Chicago.

She’s the daughter of Rabbi Yisroel and Rivkah Goldberg. Her father is the principal of Lubavitch Cheder in St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood.

When we last talked two years ago, Chana had four sisters and three brothers (she’s the second oldest). Now she has five sisters, including one-year-old Golda Ita.

Keep reading →

November 29th, 2017

Secret Hanuka: Festival of Lights onscreen

The best place to find Hanuka onscreen is hidden in Christmas movies

Community News Editor

A Vox article from last year asked why there are so few Hanuka movies, and settled on one theory: the holiday is not festive enough (“all Jewish holidays are oriented around austerity and guilt,” they wrote).

The 1988 Pee-wee Herman Christmas special included a scene revealing that animated characters on the show were Jewish. (Binder Entertainment)

Perhaps, although I expect the answer is simpler: It’s because Jews are too busy making Christmas movies. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Christmas movie that doesn’t have significant Jewish involvement (even “It’s a Wonderful Life” had uncredited rewrites by Dorothy Parker), and even the most Jewish-identified actors in Hollywood make Christmas movies, such as Seth Rogen, who made The Night Before in 2015 with fellow Jewish actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lizzy Caplan, Ilana Glazer and a cameo by James Franco as himself.

So where do we find Hanuka in this season? Keep reading →

November 29th, 2017

William and Shirley Siegel Schulman: Marriage and art are a great combination

A lifetime of creativity with William and Shirley Siegel Schulman


Throughout history, there are numerous examples of outstanding artists who are married to other artists: Clara and Robert Schumann in classical music; Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy on Broadway (as well as the Guthrie during its earliest years); and artists William and Shirley Siegel Schulman in Menomonie, Wis.

William and Shirley Siegel Schulman (Photo: Courtesy Sabes JCC)

Bill and Shirley Schulman were a duo who spent nearly a combined century creating and teaching the visual arts in West Central Wisconsin. From our neighbor state’s rolling landscape and dairy farms, their students and arts have traveled and are represented around the region in homes, synagogues and on exhibition center walls.

It has been 22 years since Bill Schulman’s work appeared in exhibit, then at the St. Paul JCC; now Jews and art lovers on the Mississippi’s west bank can have their turn to enjoy this eclectic collection.

To describe Bill’s output as prolific would be an understatement. The exhibition catalog contains 228 pieces, but only a fraction of them are on the walls of the Tychman-Shapiro Gallery, with a few more spilling out onto the walls and hallways of the building. Similarly, to describe his choice of media as varied would only tell a small part of his story.

The story begins in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where William Schulman was born in 1929 and raised. He came south to follow his artistic drive and study at the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee. A summer job at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Ox-Bow Summer School of Art introduced him to another artist working there that summer, Shirley Siegel. Shirley had fled small-town life in Hawthorne, Wis. (near Superior), to pursue her artistic passions in Milwaukee too. After Bill’s military service in Korea, the couple married in 1956.

Bill’s interest always included art education and he did advanced academic studies at the Ohio State University. After teaching art in Milwaukee schools for six years, he was tapped to develop an art education program at UW/Stout in 1966; he worked there — graduating some 200 art educators — until retiring in 1992. Bill says that his motivation in teaching was “… to take the fire in my stomach for art and put it in theirs!”

Keep reading →