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This News Will Shock the Hellenist Out of You
by Lieba_Rudolph
 How I Got This Way
Dec 18, 2014 | 640 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink


It's not the latkes or the jelly donuts. It's not the dreidel or the gelt. It's not even the quality family time. (Sorry, family.)

No, my favorite part of Chanukah is...the fight.


I am an unapologetic Maccabee, at least I try to be. In fact, when I was considering writing my blog under a pseudonym, I actually purchased the rights to the name, Lady Maccabee.

I get my marching orders from the prayer, Ve'Al HaNissim, commemorating the Jews' military victory over the Greeks, when G-d "delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few."

This prayer reminds me not to be intimidated or disheartened by opposition, no matter how formidable it appears.

Why the addition of Lady?

Because to truly win in anything, especially anything spiritual, the victory must be a feminine one--not through intimidation or physical subordination, but through understanding and transformation. The womanly way to win is to carefully nurture ideas so they are internalized willingly. (Of course, for the times when the enemy can't be transformed, the Chanukah story includes brave, clever, and beautiful Yehudis, who decapitated a Greek general to save her besieged town--apparently we Jewish girls have it in us to do what's necessary when victory requires more than just sharing ideas.)

There's a lot more to the Chanukah story than many people know, so I will try to be delicate as I share how I experience its eternal lessons.

Because the Hellenists worshipped physicality, they appreciated the intellectual wisdom and beauty of the Torah. That's why they allowed the Jews to observe the rational mitzvos-- mishpatim are "judgments" that make for peaceful society and eidos are "testimonials" regarding the Jewish nation's experience.  But the mitzvos that transcend human intellect--chukim,  the "decrees" that we follow because we understand that G-d is beyond our understanding--were forbidden.

To preserve this supra-rational G-dliness of the Torah, the Maccabees waged war.

And when the Jews wanted to rededicate the Temple after their victory on G-d's behalf, they actually found several vials of oil in the Temple with which to light the menorah.

There was one slight problem with these vials-- on each one, the Greeks had deliberately broken the seal from the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest. The Hellenists' intent was to defile the oil spiritually, but preserve it physically. The Jews found only one vial of oil that met the prerequisite for ritual purity-- the seal of the High Priest still intact-- and this was the vial they used.

Interestingly, Torah law permits the use of  "impure" oil for communal purposes when there is no alternative. The newly rededicated Jews demurred, however, and insisted on using this one spiritually pure vial--after all, the whole war was waged over spirituality--even though they knew it would take a week for the High Priest to prepare more. For this transcendent commitment to G-d and His Torah in the most scrupulous manner possible, G-d contravened nature and performed a miracle; the pure oil burned for an extra seven days until the new shipment arrived.

This is not the Chanukah story of my youth. I may have been distracted, thinking about my eight presents or wondering if Hannukah Harry really existed, but I distinctly remember hearing that the Jews found only one jar of oil that miraculously burned for eight days. And I don't remember anything about Greeks allowing certain mitzvos but not others. I never even heard of Yehudis.

I understood Chanukah as another story of how they were out to get us and how G-d came through yet again to save His Little Chosen People from annihilation. There was no discussion of anyone's supra-rational commitment to Torah.

But now I know that there was more to the story. I also know that every Jew has an inner Maccabee that connects us to G-d beyond the natural order and that, sometimes, just a little new information is all we need to be ignited spiritually. Towards that end, please share this post with anyone whose inner Maccabee you feel you could ignite, so that G-d sees our commitment to Him and redeems us from the spiritual and physical enemies that become more threatening every day!








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Bush library and museum<br>
Tom Janssen, The Netherlands
Bush library and museum
Tom Janssen, The Netherlands
Grumpy Fat Cats
Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune
Grumpy Fat Cats
Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune
Reality Check
December 18, 2014
The JNS.org website (Jewish and Israel news) posted a venomous, anti-Armenian article by Arye Gut with a bombastic headline: “Anti-Semitism in Armenia: A Clear and Present Danger.” JNS.org identifies the author as “an Azerbaijani Israeli” who is “a board member of the Israeli-Azerbaijani International Organization, official coordinator of the ‘Justice for Khojaly!’ international campaign in Israel, and an expert in international relations.” Dozens of Azeri and Turkic media outlets rushed to reprint this Armenophobic propaganda, stressing that it originated from a ‘popular’ Jewish news source. The article may have been written in Baku, planted in Israeli and Jewish publications, and then reprinted in Azerbaijan to lead readers into thinking that it comes from an objective third party source. Gut claims that Armenia’s Jewish minority “shrunk dramatically” after the end of “a more tolerant” Soviet rule! He admits, as an afterthought, that “Armenia’s ongoing economic collapse” is equally responsible for the dwindling number of Jews “from more than 5,000 to just a few hundred.” Gut fails to mention, however, that during the same period over one million Armenians also left their homeland due to abysmal economic conditions. The Azeri-Israeli author further accuses Armenians of “cultural violence,” referring to the existence of anti-Semitic books and TV programs. Yet he grudgingly acknowledges that “such unfortunate incidents” occur “in many countries.” If that is the case, why is he singling out Armenia? Could it be that he has ulterior motives? As “official coordinator of the ‘Justice for Khojaly!’ international campaign in Israel,” is Gut a paid agent or doing all this hard work — writing pro-Azerbaijan/anti-Armenia articles — out of the goodness of his heart? Gut goes on to defame Armenians, claiming that “around 1.3 million out of 2.2 million adults in Armenia expressed anti-Semitic attitudes.” He misleads readers into thinking that he has personally interviewed 1.3 million Armenians all of whom supposedly made anti-Jewish statements! What Gut is referring to is Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) flawed global survey which reported that 58% of a random sample of 500 Armenians, interviewed mostly by telephone, expressed anti-Semitic views. As Gut’s figure of 1.3 million Armenians comes from ADL’s survey, he should have also mentioned the results of the same survey for his beloved Azerbaijan — one of the worst violators of human rights in the world — which shows that 2.4 million Azeris harbored anti-Semitic sentiments, almost double the number of Armenians! Since Gut is concealing Azerbaijan’s figures, let’s expose them to see how they compare with those of Armenia, based on the results of ADL’s 11-question survey: 1. 3.2 million Azeris and 1.5 million Armenians replied “probably true”: “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the country they live in.” 2. 3.4 million Azeris and 1.6 million Armenians replied “probably true”: “Jews have too much power in the business world.” 3. 3.2 million Azeris and 1.5 million Armenians replied “probably true”: “Jews have too much power in international financial markets.” 4. 2 million Azeris and 1 million Armenians replied “probably true”: “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust.” 5. 3.4 million Azeris and 1.3 million Armenians replied “probably true”: “Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind.” 6. 2.5 million Azeris and 1.1 million Armenians replied “probably true”: “Jews have too much control over global affairs.” 7. 2.5 million Azeris and 1.1 million Armenians replied “probably true”: “Jews have too much control over the United States government.” 8. 2.4 million Azeris and 1.2 million Armenians replied “probably true”: “Jews think they are better than other people.” 9. 2.3 million Azeris and 0.9 million Armenians replied “probably true”: “Jews have too much control over the global media.” 10. 2 million Azeris and 0.8 million Armenians replied “probably true”: “Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars.” 11. 2.4 million Azeris and 1.4 million Armenians replied “probably true”: “People hate Jews because of the way Jews behave.” ADL’s Global Survey results are even more devastating for Turkey — 34 million Turks out of an adult population of 49 million are found to be anti-Semitic. Gut concludes his anti-Armenian diatribe by depicting the so-called “Khojaly massacre” as “one of the worst tragedies of the 20th century,” thereby raising the alleged killing of “613 people” in Khojaly during the Karabagh war to the level of 6 million victims of the Jewish Holocaust and 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide! Gut must be unaware of Benjamin Franklin’s famous words: “Don’t throw stones at your neighbors, if your own windows are glass!”
Putting the Pittsburgh Jewish Community Scorecard into action
Dec 18, 2014 | 554 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Pittsburgh Jewish Community Scorecard (jewishscorecard.com) “went live” on Feb. 18, 2014. The Scorecard is a catalyst for a vibrant, thriving and engaged Jewish community.  As a Pittsburgher, I am proud that we are the first Jewish community in the United States to initiate and create a community scorecard.  
As you can see when you go online, the Scorecard is a constantly changing and expanding set of data that tell us, in the aggregate, how well we are doing as a community.
 From the beginning, those of us involved in the process asked each other, when we have the data, what will we do with it? How exactly do we use data to evaluate how well we are doing as a community in order to truly become a more vibrant, thriving and engaged community?
On Dec. 1, 70 people sat together to begin to answer this question.  In two-and-a-half hours of thoughtful, spirited and focused discussion, we began to talk about the challenges and strengths of our Jewish community that emerge from the Scorecard data we have already collected and how we can use these insights to shape the future of our Jewish community.  We also talked about what other kinds of data we might collect to deepen and broaden our vision for the community.
This group, the Leadership Roundtable, sought to emulate some of the most successful aspects of the Allegheny Conference by bringing together influential leaders from around the community to talk about actions we can take to improve Jewish Pittsburgh, while focusing on the Scorecard findings.
Chaired by Stuart Hoffman and Jeffrey Letwin, the Leadership Roundtable was the newest chapter of the Community Scorecard.  With a year of data under our belt, we asked renowned researcher (and consultant to the Scorecard) Jack Ukeles to prepare a “State of Jewish Pittsburgh” that outlines the strengths and challenges of our community based on Scorecard data and to present this report to the Roundtable. Then, community leaders identified the most pressing challenges facing Jewish Pittsburgh and helped chart the Scorecard’s next phase of data collection.
Roundtable participants spanned the spectrum of our community: leaders from all denominations, social service professionals, leaders from suburban synagogues, funders of programs directed toward unaffiliated Jews, board members from agencies committed to care for seniors, local government officials, people passionate about Israel, people passionate about Jewish education — all connected by their influence within Jewish Pittsburgh and by their desire to see us grow stronger.
After Ukeles’ presentation, participants spent time in groups discussing what strategies are most likely to move the community toward becoming more vibrant and engaged.
I walked around the room during these working groups and watched with admiration as attendees pored over these strategies, struggling with them, debating one another and learning about the issues impacting their neighbors. Then, a most inspiring – and surprising – turn of events occurred.
One by one, representatives from each working group stood up to summarize their teams’ discussions and present an overview of their suggested priority list. One by one, the same themes and issues kept arising. Across this broad tapestry of backgrounds and interests, there somehow emerged a consensus of issues that should inform our communal agenda.
The top concerns were: the need to reduce the cost of being Jewish; the need for more leadership-development programs for young adults (22-45) and to increase the relative low number of young adults who sit on Jewish organizations’ boards; the need for more Jewish educational programming for Jewish families and Jewish adults; and the value of increasing the number of Jewish children and teens participating in immersive Jewish experiences.
So now, we – as a community – will be taking these concerns and addressing them. We will form task forces to research these challenges and begin the process of identifying strategies to combat them. We will collect more and better measures so that we can continue to chart our progress. The Scorecard will continue to grow, improve and inform our decisions.
And through this process we can become more data-driven, make better decisions because we have more information and see how we’re progressing.
The value of collective impact was demonstrated last Monday night. A group of committed leaders took the next step in bringing together a segmented community to face common challenges. Together, we are moving closer toward a brighter future. And as we continue to build upon this foundation for a stronger community, we’ll stop for a brief moment to appreciate the progress we’ve made so far. As Ukeles noted, the Leadership Roundtable was a historic moment for Pittsburgh and for Jewish community life in general.  Now, we turn our attention to creating a plan of action to address the challenges that will impact our future. This is when the hard work truly begins.
Meryl Ainsman volunteers as chair of the Community Scorecard Steering Committee.
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