April 17th, 2014

A miracle in Uganda

In a short 35 years, there are African children learning Hebrew, and men and women are celebrating Shabbat


NABAGOYE, Uganda (JTA) — As we celebrate Passover, it is important to remember that as great as the miracle of the Exodus was, freedom was only the beginning. I know this from reading the Torah, but I also know from personal experience.

I was born in Uganda to Jewish parents at a time when it was illegal to be a Jew in my country. Uganda’s dictator, Idi Amin, was a modern-day Pharaoh, outlawing everything Jewish from prayer to practice. Many of our Jewish elders, including my father, the community rabbi, were beaten and imprisoned. Our synagogue was destroyed. Under these dangerous conditions, most of the 3,000 Jews in Uganda abandoned their faith.

Rabbi Gershom Sizomu (Photo: Courtesy of Be'chol Lashon)

Rabbi Gershom Sizomu (Photo: Courtesy of Be’chol Lashon)

Nearly a decade later, on April 11, 1979, corresponding to 14 Nisan 5739, Amin was deposed. It was the first night of Passover when the government declared freedom of worship. For us, it was a true Passover miracle.

However, as exciting and meaningful as the Passover celebration was for us that year, it was, as in ancient times, only the beginning. In the days, months and years that followed, we have engaged in the task of rebuilding our community. Like the journey of the Israelites in the desert, that work has been filled with many joyous moments as well as challenges.

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April 17th, 2014

Upcoming: The Idan Raichel Project, May 14

Idan Raichel-2 short hair FB

Idan Raichel

Israeli music luminary Idan Raichel talked with the American Jewish World this week, via telephone from his home in Tel Aviv. Topics included his group’s most recent album, Quarter to Six; his four-month-old daughter; and the upcoming U.S. and Canada tour of the Idan Raichel Project, which includes a May 14 stop at The O’Shaughnessy in St. Paul.

The show is presented by The O’Shaughnessy and the St. Paul JCC.

A feature story will appear in the AJW’s April 25 edition.

Raichel last appeared here about two years ago, at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis, with the Malian singer Vieux Farka Touré.

Raichel mentioned that his musical ensemble is marking 10 years of recording and performing. In 2003, the Idan Raichel Project’s song “Bo’ee (Come to Me)” got radio play in Israel, and introduced the sounds of Ethiopian music — and the Amharic language — to the mainstream. The group continues to meld ethnic musical modes from around the globe into its unique and exciting sound.

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April 13th, 2014

Gunman kills 3 at Kansas City JCC, old-age home

The alleged gunman in a shooting spree at two Jewish sites in Kansas City yelled ‘heil Hitler’ to reporters after he was apprehended by police

(JTA) — Three people were killed in separate shootings at a JCC and a Jewish assisted-living facility in suburban Kansas City, Kan.

One person was in police custody for the shootings on Sunday at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park at about 1 p.m. and at Village Shalom in Leawood three blocks away, according to local news reports.

Among the dead were a teenager auditioning for a show at the JCC and a resident of the retirement community. The two JCC victims were males; the retirement community victim was a woman.

An Overland Park police vehicle sitting in front of the JCC of Greater Kansas City, Kan., following shootings there and later at a nearby assisted-living complex that killed a total of three people on Sunday. (Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

An Overland Park police vehicle sitting in front of the JCC of Greater Kansas City, Kan., following shootings there and later at a nearby assisted-living complex that killed a total of three people on Sunday. (Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass said at a news conference that the man in custody was in his 70s, had a white beard and was not from Kansas. He said the gunman used a shotgun and police were investigating whether he also used a handgun and an assault rifle.

KCTV news identified the shooter as Glenn Frazier Cross, 73. Cross, who also goes by Glenn Miller, is a known white supremacist. He is a former grand dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

Cross, a perennial candidate for office, made headlines in his 2010 campaign the U.S. Senate from Missouri for his racist and anti-Semitic campaign ads. Federal law required broadcast stations to air the ads even though they did not want to put such vile rantings on their airwaves.

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April 11th, 2014

Win free tickets to ‘Walking with the Enemy’


Inspired by a true story, Walking with the Enemy is an unforgettable film of love, courage and sacrifice.

Set in Hungary during the final months of World War II, a young man sets out to find his displaced family by using a stolen Nazi uniform to pose as an officer. Filled with suspense and danger, he undertakes extraordinary measures to save his family and thousands of lives from the German invaders.

The films stars Jonas Armstrong, Ben Kingsley and Hannah Tointon.

To enter the drawing for tickets to a preview screening 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 23 at AMC Eden Prairie, click HERE.

Winners will be drawn and notified on April 20.

Walking with the Enemy opens in theaters April 25.


April 11th, 2014

‘Noah’: A wrathful God, his main man and CGI

The film loosely based on the biblical story of Noah’s Ark comes with a disclaimer that it ‘is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide’


In February, Faith Driven Consumer (faithdrivenconsumer.com) conducted a survey that found that 98 percent of its supporters were not “satisfied” with Hollywood’s take on religious stories such as Noah. The survey question posed was: “As a Faith Driven Consumer, are you satisfied with a biblically themed movie — designed to appeal to you — which replaces the Bible’s core message with one created by Hollywood?”

On Feb. 17, more than a month before Noah’s March 28 release, Variety published the results of the survey, declaring that “Noah may face some rough seas with religious audiences, according to a new survey by Faith Driven Consumer.” The media ran with this story, casting doubt on Noah’s chances at the box office.

Jennifer Connelly is Naameh and Russell Crowe is Noah in “Noah.” (Photo: Niko Tavernise)

I followed all of this with heightened anticipation. The promotion of my own book hinged on projections of the movie’s success. Sinners and the Sea: The Untold Story of Noah’s Wife was written years before Noah, the movie, came out, and my book was published 11 months earlier.

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April 9th, 2014

CTC’s ‘Balloonacy’ is fun for all ages

The show — a story of friendship between a man and a red balloon — is intended to evoke the joys of recognition and discovery


Balloonacy, now playing at the Children’s Theatre Company (CTC) showcases the considerable talents of two of the most acclaimed Jews in the performing arts today whose names you almost never hear. This situation goes to the extreme in Balloonacy, considering that you don’t really “hear” the play, either.

Balloonacy is done entirely in mime, inviting its intended audience of “under fives” and their parents to fill in the silence with their own thoughts and feelings about what is happening on stage. And how much is happening!

The sole human performer, “The Old Man,” and his unexpected new friend, a red balloon, have a wild and crazy birthday party full of fun, food, games, magic and other surprises — all intended to evoke the joys of recognition and discovery in those in the seats.

Robert Dorfman is the sole human performer in the Children’s Theatre Company production of Balloonacy. (Photo: Dan Norman)

Robert Dorfman is the sole human performer in the Children’s Theatre Company production of Balloonacy. (Photo: Dan Norman)

Seeming to be a one-man show, Balloonacy is really an ensemble production, including its headliner balloon. Victor Zupanc’s original score provides musical offerings that set and enhance the mood of the moment while providing the young audience with their first introduction to the sounds of France; the use of the concertina evokes a street musician entertaining casual diners near the Place de l’Opéra, and “La Marseillaise” will have them wondering, years from now, “When did I first hear that song?”

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April 9th, 2014

Israel’s single mothers from the East

Israeli anthropologist Smadar Lavie returns to Minnesota to speak about her new book on Mizrachi mothers versus the bureaucracy


In her new book, Wrapped in the Flag of Israel, Smadar Lavie, the offspring of an Ashkenazi father and a Mizrachi (or Mizrahi) mother, describes her physical appearance: “To all, I am a dark female form. A Mizrachi woman. And in the fauna and flora of Israel’s professors, Mizrachi women are a rare species.”

Lavie’s book is subtitled “Mizrahi Single Mothers and Bureaucratic Torture”; and, as one might guess, the anthropologist and author takes an extremely dim view of how the State of Israel treats Mizrachi women. Lavie looks at attempts to protest the inadequacies of the social welfare system, starting with 43-year-old single mother Vicky Knafo’s 2003 march on Jerusalem, and analyzes how such demonstrations have failed.

Mizrachim (Hebrew for “those from the East”) constitute the majority of Israel’s citizens, Lavie writes in the book’s introduction. They are Jews from families with origins in the Arab and Muslim worlds, and on the edges of what was the Ottoman Empire.

“Mizrahim also constitute the majority of Israel’s disenfranchised,” writes Lavie. “Their parents immigrated to Israel mainly in the 1950s from places such as Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Bulgaria, former Yugoslavia, and India.”


American Jews mainly think that the Israeli populace is divided up between the Ashkenazim, Jews of European ancestry, and Sephardim, our swarthier co-religionists. However, Lavie writes that Mizrachim “are often mistakenly called Sephardim, derived from the Hebrew word sfaradim (Spaniards). Sephardi (adjectival form) is a religious term,” which refers to the nusach, the type of liturgical melodies for chanting Torah. Keep reading →


April 9th, 2014

The expanding role of the Sabes JCC

Annual Benefit on May 1 will celebrate the JCC’s commitment to promoting Jewish culture, identity and community


Building on the success of the Emanuel Cohen Center, the original vision that the founding board of directors had for the Jewish Community Center of Greater Minneapolis is as relevant today as it was in 1959: a central place to gather, socialize and connect.

Times are different, to be sure. Back in the ’50s, blatant anti-Semitism necessitated an independent center where Jews would be welcomed regardless of their religious affiliation, and where they could also engage socially and culturally in ways that engendered pride and connection to each other and their roots.

While the social barriers that compelled the community to create the JCC have withered, the opportunity to gather and celebrate Jewish culture continues to be a critical aspect of maintaining a strong and vibrant Jewish community.

And in the spirit of celebration, the Sabes JCC Annual Benefit, aptly titled “Generations Ahead: Touching Lives Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” will take place on Thursday, May 1 in the North Star Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis. Event chairs are Molly and Sid Bader, and Kerry and Scott Bader.

The 2014 Sabes JCC Annual Benefit will honor Merle and Mort Kane (left), and Gail and Howie Milstein. (Photos: Courtesy of the Sabes JCC)

The 2014 Sabes JCC Annual Benefit will honor Merle and Mort Kane (left), and Gail and Howie Milstein. (Photos: Courtesy of the Sabes JCC)

The event will recognize two generations of community leadership by honoring Merle and Mort Kane, and Gail and Howie Milstein. All proceeds will support the widest array of Sabes JCC life-enriching programs, including those that are exceptionally meaningful to the Kanes and the Milsteins: programming for youth and teens, including early childhood, summer camp and BBYO

In addition to cocktails, a live auction and dinner, the evening will feature entertainment by mentalist Craig Karges.

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