July 23rd, 2014

Doing good around the Jewish world

AJW Staff Report

A “Global Symposium” hosted by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and Jewish Federations from around the Midwest drew around 200 attendees on Monday.

The audience gathered at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Minneapolis heard updates on the situation of Jewish communities in Ukraine, Hungary, South America, Israel and other locales.

Michael Novick (left), JDC executive director for strategic development, moderated a discussion with Julie Pulda (center), JDC Entwine Fellow, Israel, and Aliona Druzhynina, a young leader and volunteer with JDC Ukraine.

Michael Novick (left), JDC executive director for strategic development, moderated a discussion with Julie Pulda (center), JDC Entwine Fellow, Israel, and Aliona Druzhynina, a young leader and volunteer with JDC Ukraine. (Photos: Mordecai Specktor)

Following a talk by Rabbi Jeremy Fine, of Temple of Aaron Synagogue in St. Paul, Alan Gill, CEO of the JDC, talked about the choices facing Jews in countries where anti-Semitism is on the rise.

Gill talked about difficult situations for Jews in Hungary and France, and added, “Today we are very focused on helping our Jews in Ukraine.”

Of course, Gill mentioned the conflict between Israel and Hamas, where “shells are flying, accusations are flying and people are dying.”

He also mentioned the heroic work of Aliona Druzhynina, a volunteer with JDC Ukraine, during the Maidan revolution in Kiev. He said that Druzhynina, who attended the symposium in Minneapolis, put on a helmet and flak jacket and helped deliver “food, medicine and hygienic” supplies to elderly Jews in Ukraine earlier this year.

During her talk, Druzhynina talked about delivering “food packages to the most exposed elderly in the city of Kiev” and insulin to JDC Hasadim clients in eastern Ukraine. “My friends in Donetsk are under the bombing,” she said.

A breakout session attended by the AJW focused on the situation in Hungary, where the right-wing ruling party has been flirting with supporters of Jobbik, an extreme right-wing, xenophobic and anti-Semitic party, which has garnered 20 percent of the vote since emerging five years ago. Keep reading →
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July 23rd, 2014

Cease-fire or reoccupy?

Israeli leaders are divided as to what will be the Gaza endgame

By BEN SALES

TEL AVIV (JTA) — The air war has become a ground war. The Israeli population, always on edge, has become a nation in mourning.

And a military operation that nearly ended after eight days has become a bloody invasion of Gaza that could last weeks and has Israeli officials divided over how it ought to end.

With the death toll rising on both sides — more than 600 Palestinians and 30 Israelis were reported killed as of Tuesday — some Israeli leaders are calling for a cease-fire. But others argue that the only way to address the Hamas threat is to reoccupy Gaza, a step that would be very costly to the Israeli military and Israel’s international standing.

“A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can,” former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror told JTA. “Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.”

Operation Protective Edge, which began July 8 with a week and a half of Israeli airstrikes, expanded into a ground operation late last Thursday night, July 17. The Israeli government says the invasion is aimed stopping the wave of violence against Israeli civilians.

The wife and young daughter of Sergeant Major Bayhesain Kshaun cry over his fresh grave during the funeral ceremony at the Netivot military cemetery on July 22. Kshaun, 39, was killed by an anti-tank missile fired at the force responding to a terrorist infiltration incident on July 21. (Photo: Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The wife and young daughter of Sergeant Major Bayhesain Kshaun cry over his fresh grave during the funeral ceremony at the Netivot military cemetery on July 22. Kshaun, 39, was killed by an anti-tank missile fired at the force responding to a terrorist infiltration incident on July 21. (Photo: Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Destroying the network of tunnels Hamas uses to transport arms and personnel is part and parcel of that. In heavy fighting in Gaza City, Israel has uncovered dozens of Hamas tunnels, including some that lead into Israeli territory. Keep reading →
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July 23rd, 2014

Shalom to the Baseball Hall of Fame

Cooperstown’s Jewish mayor and Hall of Fame chief greet baseball’s elite

By HILLEL KUTTLER

BALTIMORE (JTA) — For Jeff Idelson, the director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., induction weekend is all about teamwork.

“When you get to signature events [and] you’re in a small community, all the pieces have to come together effectively for it to be a grand slam,” Idelson said recently from his office in the central New York village of 1,852.

The team includes Mayor Jeff Katz, like Idelson a passionate baseball fan, and they’ll be overseeing this weekend’s festivities as the unofficial welcoming committee for the game’s elite and the tens of thousands of fans who come to pay them homage.

Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, holding a bat used by Jewish Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg. (Photo: Milo Stewart Jr. / National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, holds a bat used by Jewish Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg. (Photo: Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Former players Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, and ex-managers Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox will be inducted Sunday.

Calling Cooperstown home is heavenly for the two officials.

Keep reading →
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July 23rd, 2014

For two Americans, service to Israel ends in tragedy

Sean Carmeli and Max Steinberg were among the 13 Israeli soldiers killed in heavy fighting on Sunday

By HILLEL KUTTLER

BALTIMORE (JTA) — Sean Carmeli, a sergeant in the Israeli army, was stationed in Israel’s South awaiting possible orders to enter Gaza.

He was exchanging Facebook messages with his friend Ian Benisti, a U.S. Marine reservist who was visiting Israel from California. The two had planned to get together, maybe go to the beach. But Israel was in the midst of an escalating conflict with Hamas.

“Bro’, hope this’ll be over soon, so we can meet up,” the Texas-born Carmeli wrote to Benisti in their last Facebook exchange on July 15.

The wish went unfulfilled. Two days later, Israel launched a ground invasion of Gaza.

Carmeli, 21, and another American, Max Steinberg, a 24-year-old from Woodland Hills, Calif., were among the 13 Israeli soldiers — all members of the Golani Brigade — killed during heavy fighting in Gaza on Sunday.

Israelis attending the funeral of Texas-born Israeli soldier Sean Carmeli, who was killed during combat in Gaza, at a military cemetery in Haifa on July 21. (Photo: Gili Yaari / Flash 90)

Israelis attending the funeral of Texas-born Israeli soldier Sean Carmeli, who was killed during combat in Gaza, at a military cemetery in Haifa on July 21. (Photo: Gili Yaari / Flash 90)

“He was a very sweet, nice kid — the mellow, calm, happy guy people want to be around,” Benisti said of Carmeli.

Carmeli was raised in the resort town of South Padre Island, Texas, and after his freshman year of high school moved with his two younger sisters and their Israeli parents to Raanana, a city not far from Tel Aviv. Keep reading →
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July 22nd, 2014

‘A Community Gathering for Israel’ – Thursday

“A Community Gathering for Israel” will take place 7:30 pm Thursday, July 24 at Adath Jeshurun Congregation, 10500 Hillside Lane W., Minnetonka.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has been confirmed as a speaker.

Those attending are asked to make reservations (HERE), and to allow additional time for security screening.

This event is sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, Minneapolis Jewish Federation, Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul and Minnesota Rabbinical Association.Gathering-for-Israel-7.24
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July 16th, 2014

Diaspora soul man

Trumpeter Steven Bernstein returns to Minneapolis on Aug. 6, for a show at the Dakota with Billy Martin’s Wicked Knee

By MORDECAI SPECKTOR

Steven Bernstein, an accomplished trumpeter, composer, arranger and bandleader, was set to head off to Europe last week, for shows with the sensational New Orleans pianist Henry Butler and their group, the Hot 9. They were booked for the Nice Jazz Festival, in France; and on Sunday, they played the North Sea Jazz Festival, in the Port of Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Fortunately, before he flew to Europe, Bernstein took some time to talk with the AJW. The phone conversation, from his home in Nyack, N.Y., ranged over a variety of topics, including his Aug. 6 appearance with Billy Martin’s Wicked Knee, a rollicking brass band, at the Dakota Jazz Club.

Bernstein, 52, spent most of his youth in Berkeley, Calif., then moved to the Big Apple at the age of 17. He soon became a fixture in the downtown Manhattan music scene, performing with John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards; with saxophonist Paul Shapiro in a group called Foreign Legion; and with Sex Mob, which covers pop songs, including themes from James Bond movies, and is still performing and recording. (The latter group’s rhythm section, bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wollesen, played behind jazz guitarist Bill Frisell at the Dakota last week.)

Steven Bernstein: What’s not to love about a band with a tuba, trombone, trumpet and drummer? (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Steven Bernstein: What’s not to love about a band with a tuba, trombone, trumpet and drummer? (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Bernstein, who plays both trumpet and slide trumpet, also has recorded four albums featuring his idiosyncratic take on Jewish liturgical music for John Zorn’s Tzadik label. The first record in the “Diaspora” series was Diaspora Soul, released in 1999.

He is also the leader of the Millennial Territory Orchestra, a group of top-flight players, which performed in 2008 at the Walker Art Center. The first MTO album features covers of tunes by The Beatles, Prince (“Darling Nikki”), the Grateful Dead, etc. I really like the group’s album, MTO Plays Sly, which covers the songs of funk star Sly Stone, with the help of guest artists, including vocalists Sandra St. Victor, Antony Hegarty (of Antony and the Johnsons), Martha Wainwright and Shilpa Ray.

Keep reading →
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July 16th, 2014

A better day center for the elderly

Millennium Adult Day Care offers engaging activities for seniors, which can allow them to remain independent and delay out-of-home placement

By ERIN ELLIOTT BRYAN / Community News Editor

Lena Merman was a teenager when she and her extended family — including her grandparents — immigrated to the United States from Russia. While she described the transition as an “exciting move” for the younger generation, it was very difficult for her grandparents, who struggled to learn English and to find a place where they felt they belonged.

Lena went on to attend the University of Minnesota, where she studied occupational therapy. She knew she wanted to work with people, though initially she didn’t want to work with seniors.

“When I was a student, seniors kind of scared me, because I didn’t have any experience except for my personal experience,” Lena told the AJW. “After I graduated, I went to different areas and worked with different populations, and I realized that seniors are really close to my heart, I have a soft spot for this population.”

As her grandparents continued to age, the family grew. Lena spent some time in Israel, where she met Leo, who had immigrated to the Jewish state as a teenager from Minsk, Belarus, and was serving in the IDF. The two eventually married and started their own family.

But Lena and her family were finding it increasingly difficult to balance taking care of all of the physical and emotional needs of her grandparents.

“We have kids, we had jobs, my mom had her work and my uncle also was working,” Lena said. “Even though our intentions were awesome toward our grandparents, we really couldn’t spend that much time with them, and we felt that they were feeling kind of useless.”

And when her grandmother’s health began to decline, the family felt there were only two options: move her into a nursing home or have someone stay at home with her.

Seniors enjoy breakfast at Millennium Adult Day Care before choosing an outing or activity for the day. (Photos: Erin Elliott Bryan)

Seniors enjoy breakfast at Millennium Adult Day Care before choosing an outing or activity for the day. (Photos: Erin Elliott Bryan)

Keep reading →
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July 16th, 2014

Hearing set in Hebrew National lawsuit

AJW Staff Report

A motion to dismiss the lawsuit charging that Hebrew National hot dogs are not “100% kosher,” as widely advertised over the years, will be heard July 31 in Dakota County District Court — where the lawsuit was originally filed in 2012.

The defendant, ConAgra Foods, Inc., the parent company of Hebrew National, had the case moved to federal court, which dismissed the lawsuit. Then the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled April 4 that the district court erred in dismissing the case with prejudice, and sent the matter back to the state court (4-11-14 AJW).hebrew-national-logo-6221

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case — Wallace, et al. v. ConAgra Foods Inc. — argue that the companies contracted to do kosher slaughtering for Hebrew National employed quotas to determine the percentage of kosher meat being passed through leased facilities at slaughterhouses in the Midwest, and engaged in various slipshod practices that rendered the meat not kosher.

Last month, ConAgra Foods filed a motion in the Dakota County court to dismiss the plaintiffs’ amended complaint. The plaintiffs will contest that motion in a hearing that will take place July 31 at the Dakota County Judicial Center in Hastings. Keep reading →

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