Archive | October 2015

Mother Rachel is Crying Again: Why skimping on teaching Jewish History is a dangerous thing

When I penned this last week for the Detroit Jewish News, Joseph’s Tomb had not been set on fire by Palestinians twice. Yet. The thought of the Palestinians petitioning UNESCO that the Western Wall should be declared a Muslim holy site went beyond the pale of imagination.

But here we are. According to the world authorities, Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Machpelach have no Jewish connection. Will this be enough of a shakedown to shake us out of our complacency?

On Oct. 8, The New York Times published an article that disregarded any Jewish historical claims to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  Ask the average pre-bnei mitzvah adolescent attending a supplementary congregational Hebrew school why this is so troubling and you may get some blank stares.

In a 2007 study from the AVI CHAI foundation, one Jewish educator lamented that in the ever-shrinking hours of a child’s Jewish education, “we have lost the battle for time.” The paucity of contact hours spent at Hebrew school means that our Jewish kids are getting a minimal Jewish education. They learn to decode Hebrew enough for Hebrew prayer and bnei mitzvah preparation. Through experiential learning, they get the basics of the Jewish holiday cycle and maybe a sprinkling of Torah stories.  Teachers need to accomplish this within five or less hours of weekly instruction, all the while dealing with the disruption of kids arriving late or leaving early because of extra-curricular activities.

That means teaching Jewish history – from our most ancient beginnings in Judea, through the Roman exile and all the way up to the birth of the modern State of Israel – has mostly met the chopping block. If you need evidence, visit the resource room or library of any temple or synagogue and you will see volumes of history textbooks printed in the last decade languishing on the shelves.

I speak from experience. I have taught Hebrew school in one capacity or another here in Detroit and in Western New York for 13 years. I have been trained on several curricula that attempt to infuse experiential history lessons into the classroom using both traditional and the most up-to-date methods of the Digital Age, only to scrap carefully constructed lessons for the sake of time.

As a parent, a Jewish educator, and a writer who has been observing media coverage of the Israeli-Arab conflict since college, I cannot help but notice an ominous connection between the neglect of teaching Jewish history and the rise of the distortion and demonization of Israel and of Jews in Israel, on the American campus and throughout the world.

American Jewish kids with a minimal education, or no Jewish education after their bnei mitzvah, are blindsided when they reach the college campus and do not know how to respond when confronted with organizations on college campuses calling to boycott “apartheid” Israel.

As parents and Jewish professionals, we are doing ourselves a disservice when we let our children’s Jewish education take a back seat to our many other priorities. Our children need to learn Jewish history – to see where we have come from and what past generations endured to maintain their Judaism – to shape their own Jewish identity and destiny.

This year, after much soul searching, I decided to “home Hebrew school” my own child. I do not recommend this for everyone. Ideally, Jewish learning needs to take place in a communal setting and with lively discussion. Believe me, getting your own kid to take you seriously as a teacher is no cakewalk, but with the promise of a treat after a certain amount of studying has been accomplished, we settle down and get to work.

Each time, we get through one chapter from an age-appropriate textbook. Fortunately, there are many educational resources and videos online to make ancient Jewish history come alive. Right now, we are working our way through learning about ancient Judea and the Jewish revolts after the Romans conquered Jerusalem.

Even as Israel works hard to preserve its antiquities, there are some who wish to erase them.  As we sat learning the other night, an online news source reported that Palestinians had destroyed a 1,900-year-old cave in the Gush Etzion region that dated back to the Bar Kochva revolt. If you had never heard of this era in Jewish history, I encourage you to look it up.

Detroit Dreamin’ With Michael Bolton

Detroit Jewish News

October 15 • 2015
arts & life
Michael Bolton’s tribute
to our fair city premiered
with a red-carpet celebration.

Stacy Gittleman | Contributing Writer

It’s hard to believe that Grammy Award winning
recording artist Michael Bolton is from Connecticut — and not from Detroit.

During his 30-year career, Bolton has literally sung the praises of Motown all over the globe.

Now, he is so confident that this city is on the “tipping point of greatness” that he is in the
final phases of releasing a $400,000 full-length documentary he personally financed, which
previewed at an exclusive sneak peek event last week at Detroit’s Fox Theatre and was attended
by some of the city’s most prominent leaders, businesspeople and entertainers.

Bolton, 62, walked the red carpet at the Fox on Friday, Oct. 2, for the premiere of Gotta Keep
Dreamin: Detroit’s 21st Century Renaissance, drawing a crowd of several hundred, including
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and U.S. Rep. John Conyers, along
with Chris Ilitch and Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert. Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom emceed a panel of the film’s stars before Martha Reeves closed out the night with a surprise performance of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”
with Bolton.

DSCN3037 DSCN3027 DSCN3007

In addition to featuring Gilbert’s contributions to the city’s comeback, the movie
highlights a number of big names, including John Varvatos, Francis Ford Coppola, Alice
Cooper, Jerry Bruckheimer and more, as well as several young Jewish entrepreneurs
— such as Jacob Cohen, partner at Detroit Venture Partners, who participated in Jewish
Federation of Metropolitan Detroit’s inaugural Entrepreneurial Mission to Israel last April, and
dPOP CEO Melissa Price.

Price, who designs interior spaces for new businesses within once-decaying buildings
in Detroit’s rapidly growing downtown, spoke onstage about her recent move into a
Downtown Detroit apartment and the “endless” places to dine and explore within walking distance
of where she lives.

“There is an emerging belief system taking hold in Detroit that anything is possible,” Price

Gilbert said Detroit’s history and its comeback “lies in the intersection of muscle and
brains” of its determined youthful population and the willingness of older, established businesses
to embrace and understand the culture of a digitally driven new generation.

“We can no longer operate with the old ways of thinking, that this is the way things have
always been done,” Gilbert said. “We need to build corporate cultures that attract young talent.
It is a culture that is proving that ideas, thoughts and beliefs are greater than money
when it comes to building businesses.”

Bolton, 62, was born and raised in a middle class Jewish home in 1950s New Haven, Conn.,
where he was taught by his family “not to hate,”even though his own family at times faced
discrimination as Jews. His connection to his Jewish heritage lies not in practice but in fond
memories of his Ukrainian-born grandparents, who taught him to believe in the American

“My grandparents came to America with nothing more than the confidence and belief
that they could provide a better life for their children,” Bolton said at a press conference
at the Westin Book Cadillac Detroit the day before the premiere. “That is the American
dream, and that dream is still alive right here in Detroit.”
What truly inspired Bolton to make this documentary was his lifelong love of Motown
music — he opened for Detroit’s own Bob Seger in his early years and, in 2013, he recorded an
album of Motown covers, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. Recently, he discovered Hitsville
U.S.A., the nickname given to Motown studios’ first headquarters, and an introduction to
Gilbert by Bedrock Real Estate Services’ Detroit Ambassador Bruce Schwartz helped seal the

Bolton, who has had his share of uncomplimentary press, knows the sting of being
portrayed in a bad light by the media. His film comes on the heels of much negative national
coverage about Detroit, including the 2012 documentary Detropia, the book Detroit: The
American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff (Penguin Books) and national coverage of the city’s 2013

“When the media wants to cover Detroit, they cannot resist the bloodiest part — the
blight and the decay — and I know how painful that can be,” Bolton said. “This film project
represents the greatness and the dignity of the people of Detroit. In the three years since I
started this project, more people with no roots in Detroit are increasingly interested in all the
good that is happening here.”

Bolton is back in Los Angeles making final edits with 2929 Entertainment to meet the
deadline to distribute the film for the 2016 film festival circuit. But this is not his last trip to
Detroit, not by a long shot.

“I do not have a kind of house-flipper, short-term relationship with Detroit,” he said. “The people I have met who helped me make this film are so inspiring. I hope this film has a long-lasting afterlife, and I intend to make it
reach as many people as possible to show off the town that keeps getting better every time I
come back.”

For Every Arab Day of Rage, I declare a Day of Hugging a Jew


Okay folks

These last 18 months or so have been rough for your friends who are Members of the Tribe.

There was last summer. 

And now attacks that stab us in the back and leave us for dead.

We really thought that after the Holocaust and after the State of Israel was formed that the horrid days of the pograms and the persecution were behind us. How wrong we are.

Again we feel persecuted.

Lied about.



Mad as Hell.


And utterly alone.

If you are not Jewish and have a Jewish friend, girfriend, boyfriend or spouse or co-worker, ask us how we are doing today.

If you are in the same town, please give us a hug.

Give us a call.

Send us a text.

An email.


Tell us, without condition, that you cannot believe the barbarism that is going on in Israel, where Jews are supposed to feel safe. Tell us that you stand strong with us and if the hatred comes here, wherever that might be in the Jewish diaspora,  you will speak out for us and protect us.

Please. We need your friendship now.

“Just Another double Murder.” Here is proof that #NPR no longer even tries to hide its anti-Israel bias

Sukkot. The Feast of Booths. In Hebrew, the fall Jewish holiday is also known as “Zman Simchateinu,” the time of our joy.

Sadly, this week has been anything but.

It has been a season of Jewish blood.

It has become a season of terrorizing Jews in their own Jewish homeland.

It has become a time of complete isolation for Israel and the Jewish people, when at the United Nations not even the United States, with Kerry boycotting Netanyahu’s speech, stands strong with Israel.

Last week, I watched in horror as the Palestinian Flag, the same flag that was waved in triumph by throngs of celebrants in Judea and Samaria on 9/11 – was raised in recognition at the United Nations.

I was disgusted yet hardly surprised, at the raising of this flag, when Abbas announced in his speech to the United Nations as Abbas said his people are no longer held to the stipulations to the Oslo accords, as if they ever did have peaceful intentions of co-existence.

A shred of me was hopeful. If these people really want a nation, than perhaps that wavering flag would signal them to show the world that they can indeed conduct themselves with peaceful dignity. That they are ready to do the hard work it takes to create a country. That they are now more concerned with building up a nation of their own rather than destroying another.

In the morning, I woke to the news – on my Facebook feed, that a Jewish couple   driving home from a Sukkot celebration were murdered by Palestinians in cold blood as four of their children sat in the back seat.

So, I turned on #National Public Radio and I waited to hear the coverage. Surely, after they dedicated so much coverage to another senseless death in Jerusalem when Israeli extremists torched an Arab home in Jerusalem, killing a baby and burning other family members.

I waited.

Yes, the news cycle was a crowded one: another mass shooting. Another hurricane barreling towards the East Coast. Th endless war in Syria.

But surely, there must be some time to dedicate 1 minute, 30 seconds to report the murder. Especially since Abbas’ Fatah Wing declared full responsibility immediately following his scathing speech at the UN General Assembly.


So, I called NPR on it.

I questioned them directly in a message on their Facebook page. Here, I screen captured the exchange:


Does this lift any doubt just how blatantly biased NPR is towards Israel?

Are you really still a supporter of NPR?

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