Stevenson University President Reports from Israel

A major reality check came for Kevin Manning when a young mother who lives on a moshav near the Gaza Strip spoke about what everyday life is like with rockets flying overhead and a constant sense of fear for her family.

“When she goes to Jerusalem and tells them they don’t have to be afraid, they ask, ‘Why should we not be afraid in Jerusalem?’ ” said Manning, president of Stevenson University, in a phone call from Israel. “It just struck us as Americans … we just don’t have these experiences. We’re not living literally in a war zone, where you have to manage the children and the bunkers and the rescue situation on a day-to-day basis.”

Manning was in Israel for the first time on the Weinberg Foundation’s Israel Mission, which departed the U.S. on May 17 and returned on May 26. It was the group’s largest mission to date, with 30 participants. The trip has been sponsored by various groups in Jewish Baltimore almost every year since 1981; the Weinberg Foundation began funding the trip in 2001 and took over trip operations in 2007.

The group consisted mostly of Maryland residents, with others from Hawaii, Alaska and California, and the trip was led by Rachel Monroe, president and CEO of the Weinberg Foundation.

The foundation said the mission of the trip was to give participants a better understanding of the complex realities of the Middle East through first-hand experiences.

“The focus leading up to and throughout the mission trip is to provide a serious, scholarly, exploration of the issues and events which have shaped and continue to shape Israel and the region,” a statement from the foundation said.

Just in the first two days of the trip, Manning, his wife, Sara, and the other participants drove to the Israeli-Lebanese border to learn about the history between the two countries,  drove to the Golan Heights to learn about the history between Israel and Syria and to tour the Golan Heights Winery and visited two historic Christian sites. After just a short time, Manning said he was left with the impression that the country has “a lot of enthusiasm and ambitions,” in addition to a complicated history.

“The thing that impresses me the most … is how extraordinarily complicated the relationships between these countries are,” he said. “Many of these conflicts have been going on for many, many years and they have to do with geography, water, religion, ideology, politics. There’s so many things that occur simultaneously, it’s very hard to sort them all out.”

In the days that followed, the mission group learned about the challenges Israel faces with its various populations from Israeli newspaper Haaretz editor-at-large Aluf Benn, visited the Google campus in Tel Aviv to learn about the technological innovation coming out of Israel, went to Ramallah to hear from a representative from the Palestinian Authority and visited two new Jewish West Bank settlements.

Another emotional moment came on the day when the group learned about the work of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. The group went to a school in Ashkelon, Baltimore’s sister city, where about 30 Ethiopian students — the JDC works in particular with Israel’s large Ethiopian immigrant population — were being tutored.

“It was a very poignant kind of experience for us,” Manning said. “It was good to put a face on the education system.”

The group heard from political and intelligence experts, who were able to further explain Israel’s place in the Middle East and how the Israeli people deal with upheaval.

“Our perception of Israel from a distance is never equal to a reality,” Manning said. “From what we’ve heard from the Jewish families and the officials here, they just move on. They’re so accustomed to this way of life they keep building buildings and keep building skyscrapers.”

Manning visited the Academic College of Tel Aviv Yaffo, where he met with college president and psychology professor Nehemia Friedland. He said he had a productive 90-minute exchange with Friedland, and found similarities with enrollment goals and budget considerations between Stevenson and the Tel Aviv school. The Israeli college is part of an expansion of 20 institutions sponsored by the government to provide higher education for underserved populations, Manning said.

The last few days of the trip included visits to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem; Shabbat in the capital’s Old City, where Manning ate dinner with two lone soldiers from London and Detroit; and a trip to Masada.

For Manning, the educational trip has provided some valuable insight into the country’s history, geopolitical situation as well as the excitement among its citizens.

“It’s not a mature country in a good sense,” he said. “A lot of building, a lot of construction, a lot of hope.”

mshapiro@jewishtimes.com

For us, the ‘core’ is tradition

runyan_josh_otWhat would the world be like without standards?

Never mind the fact that standards imply so much more than legal dictates and cultural norms, and that because “the way we do things” also encompasses familial customs and passed-down wisdom spanning ages, such a theoretical world would be practically impossible. If we were to philosophize, like the great post-Renaissance social contract thinkers, of an anarchic state of nature — where might made right and only the strongest survived — what would that look like?

Would employees run screaming through the halls like madmen? Would violence reign supreme? Would knowledge cease to be transmitted?

The fact is that standards, whether they be yardsticks, goals, benchmarks, criteria or requirements, exist to prevent the decay of society. It’s why the Common Core — that family of educational standards determined by state governors and top educators, and backed by the federal government that you will read about in the pages of this week’s JT — was both hailed and derided when it became a part of our national consciousness two years ago.

To those who champion a national set of educational standards, such a set of “need to know” items will ensure the graduation of teenagers equipped with the basic set of tools they need to survive in the real world. To those who oppose it, Common Core’s top-down universality is the seed to its own destruction. Even its critics recognize the need for standards; it’s just that they’d prefer to be the ones to determine them, thank you very much, not a governor of a state that doesn’t reflect their views.

Ultimately, the question of standards boils down not to one of existence, but to one of process: Who determines that which is acceptable, the standard to which everything else is to be judged? In the Jewish world, of course, the determination of communal, familial and individual codes of right and wrong can be traced back, as written in the beginning of Pirkei Avot, thousands of years to when the Jewish people were first grappling with the notions of peoplehood. The point is that, whether by view to tradition or to divine command, the Jewish way of setting standards keeps the focus away from the changing mores of the present. So when day schools wrestle with how exactly to implement — or whether to implement — the Common Core, they do so with a measure of humility and respect for how education has traditionally been handled in the Jewish world. Education, in this mindset, is meant to produce adults who, by virtue of their respect of their parents, teachers, traditions and God Himself, will be productive members of society. More important than how they approach a mathematical problem, this approach reasons, is how they approach questions of ethics, of raising children, of beautifying the world around them.

In this vein, it’s important to remember that “standard” can also refer to a flag, a physical embodiment of an idea higher than oneself. Were all of us to keep standards as ideals to aspire to, rather than requirements to be fulfilled, the world would probably be a much happier place.

jrunyan@jewishtimes.com

Jewish Agency Helps Ukranian Olim with Flights to Israel Amid Airport Battles

The Urina family of Donetsk pictured at their hotel in Dnepropetrovsk before their JAFI-facilitated flight to Israel.

The Urina family of Donetsk at their hotel in Dnepropetrovsk before their JAFI-facilitated flight to Israel.

The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) facilitated an alternate flight to Israel for six Ukrainians after fighting erupted near the civilian airport in Donetsk between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels following the country’s presidential election on Monday.

The group of six, including a couple from Donetsk with twin baby girls and a couple from Mariupol, was set to depart for Israel Monday night. But due to the battles, the airport was shut down, all flights were cancelled and the access road was blocked, according to a news release from JAFI.

JAFI’s Russian-Speaking Jewry unit evacuated the Ukranians to Dnepropetrovsk and put them up in a hotel until they boarded a plane to Kiev, where they then boarded another plane for Israel Tuesday morning. They arrived in Israel later on Tuesday, the release said.

“Due to the current situation in the country, we have significantly expanded our activities, assisting those who wish to immigrate to Israel, bringing young people to experience life in Israel on a variety of Jewish Agency programs, providing Hebrew classes, and so on,” Natan Sharansky, chairman of the executive for JAFI, said in the release.

JAFI’s Russian-Speaking Jewry Unit is preparing to bring additional families from the area to Israel in a similar manner if necessary. JAFI has more than 90 employees in Ukraine.

According to JAFI, immigration to Israel from Ukraine increased 142 percent in the first four months of 2014. More than 200 Ukrainians had booked flights to the Jewish state for May and June.

The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore gives approximately $3 million annually to JAFI. The federation is keeping its own tabs on the situation in Ukraine through the Baltimore-Odessa Partnership, which hired its first coordinator to work in Odessa, Marina Moldavanskaya, this year. The Associated has also raised about $100,000 in its Ukraine Assistance Fund.

Jewish Trainer’s Horse Wins Preakness

Art Sherman, who trained Preakness Stakes and Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome, has been involved in horse racing for more than 60 years. (David Stuck)

Art Sherman, who trained Preakness Stakes and Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome, has been involved in horse racing for more than 60 years. (David Stuck)

Long before he trained the horse that won the famed Kentucky Derby earlier this month and Preakness this past weekend, Art Sherman was just another student at Hebrew school in suburban Los Angeles.

“It was a little different in that era,” said Sherman, 77, who dropped out before his bar mitzvah after a case of mistaken identity resulted in his getting whacked on the head with a ruler by the morah.

“I got up and never did go back,” Sherman said, laughing.

Today, what began more than 60 years ago as a half-joking suggestion that Sherman become a jockey has landed him in the history books as the oldest trainer to ever saddle the winner of the Derby.

“I was always on the small side,” said Sherman, trainer of California Chrome, which took the top spot on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course. Horse races were always on the TVs at his father’s barbershop, said Sherman, and some of the clients told him, “Gee, you’re little enough to be a jockey.” So Sherman decided to give it a shot.

“It was great,” he said of his first experiences riding at a ranch in Ontario, Calif., where he worked as a stable hand before becoming an
exercise rider.

After spending some time breaking in young horses, Sherman, a native of Brooklyn, eventually moved up to racing.

“[Racing] is a different ballgame,” said Sherman, who had to learn to get along with the much more high-strung horses, many of which weighed 1,200 or more pounds.

He was a jockey for 23 years, during which time he won some races but said he existed mostly “under the radar.” He retired from being a jockey with a win in his last race and, after winning his very first race as a trainer, became hooked on prepping the horses for the track.

In addition to his high-profile win, Sherman enjoyed his time in Baltimore by sampling local food. Though he loves traditional Jewish food — “I call it soul food,” he said he was especially looking forward to eating some of the local delicacies.

With a Preakness win for California Chrome, the horse is just one win away from claiming the Triple Crown.

hnorris@jewishtimes.com

In a word, powerful

runyan_josh_otAs anyone who has ever lost a loved one can attest, dealing with the void created with the departure of a parent, grandparent or, God forbid, a child is never easy. The journey itself has ups and downs, moments of intense pain peppered with fond recollections of a shared smile, an inside joke or a gentle touch, but it is neither short nor determinative. Loss stays with you and, in the pre-messianic era at least, is irreversible.

While my own personal style is neither to dedicate my words nor use them in the first person in an attempt to deal with my own loss, I am charting a new path this week. For while I typically address you, dear reader, as an editor, I now write as someone in grief.

This past Sunday, I lost my grandmother.

For those who knew her as a child in Chicago or as a mother, teacher, artist and activist in Philadelphia, Barbara Lea Blinder defied definition. She could be biting in her critique but had a gift for discovering beauty in the most mundane of places. To me, of course, she was larger than life, but those around her also couldn’t help but be struck by her sense of style, her moral compass and her energetic spirit. She was, in a word, powerful; she was keenly aware of her ability to inspire high school students, synagogue members, art lovers and neighbors and of her responsibility to impart her special way of seeing the world to those who had the courage to allow themselves to be challenged.

Like those profiled in this week’s story on the 40th anniversary of the Baltimore Chavurah, my grandmother had a deep appreciation for religious investigation and social interaction. She was, along with my grandfather, among the founding members of Temple Sholom in Broomall, Pa., creating the sign that graces the entrance to the 68-year-old property. And, like those whose strong-willed spirits have become a central theme of much of the JT’s coverage in recent months, she faced adversity head-on and commanded others to do the same.

“Suck it up!” was a refrain heard throughout much of my life as was her soft-spoken way of asking to rate problems on a scale of one to 10. Not much made it past a six, so everything, she taught, was manageable. And when true disappointment or tragedy struck, her wisdom spoke with its silence as much as with its words. A student in her later years of the literature of King Solomon, she typified the ecclesiastical refrain of  “a time to speak and a time to be silent.”

Having spent a lifetime of teaching others, her time for silence has unfortunately begun, but as our tradition has taught for thousands of years, though her body has ceased to function, her soul will live on. And if there’s one eternal lesson that can be gleaned from a life that spanned 87 years — one that I try to impart to my own children — it is this: Be decisive.

Whether in politics, in a marriage or in business, don’t be afraid to take the first step, to put pen to paper or paint to canvas. There will be plenty of time to question, but now is the time for action.

Editor-in-Chief
jrunyan@jewishtimes.com

Songs from the Heart

From left: Israel Defense Forces Naval Ensemble singers Neta Barzilai, Adar Hayat, Ohad Sabagi and Zlil Halaf performed for approximately 400 attendees of the FIDF event at Beth El Congregation’s Offit auditorium. (Melissa Gerr)

From left: Israel Defense Forces Naval Ensemble singers Neta Barzilai, Adar Hayat, Ohad Sabagi and Tslil Halaf performed for approximately 400 attendees of the FIDF event at Beth El Congregation’s Offit auditorium.
(Melissa Gerr)

Four singing privates first class of the Israel Defense Forces Naval Ensemble had the audience clapping, singing and even dancing to the spirited and soulful songs they performed for the approximately 400 attendees in Beth El Congregation’s Offit Auditorium.

The event, presented by Friends of the IDF and Beth El Congregation, honored Charlie Levine, founder of the Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and Midatlantic FIDF chapters, who was described in his introduction as “the spark that started it all … and kept it going.” The event also recognized Noah Abrams, son of Cheryl and Tim Abrams, for his bar mitzvah project Buckets for FIDF, a basketball tournament that raised more than $1,100 for FIDF. Also recognized and honored were the 65 lone soldiers and their families in Maryland.

“These soldiers are laying their lives down for Israel and every Jew worldwide,” said event co-chair Shirley Cohen. “We help them every way we can. If Israel is lost, we’re all gone.”

Vickie and Eugene Meyer also co-chaired the event, which raises awareness of and funds for the FIDF and the Lone Soldier program. Israel’s lone soldiers are those who choose to leave their countries of origin to serve in Israel’s military and whose families live abroad.

Approximately 950 lone soldiers join the army each year. An interviewee in a video shown that evening explained the program’s mission succinctly: When one thinks of Israeli soldiers, it conjures images of brave men and women in uniform. The FIDF addresses the needs of “the person in the uniform.”

FIDF supports the Israel Defense Forces in many ways such as assistance for widows and orphans, scholarships after service, host family support and other social needs of the soldiers. As the FIDF tagline says: “Their job is to look after Israel. Ours is to look after them.”

An emotional point of the evening occurred when Jo Ellen and Zachary Chattler of Baltimore spoke about their lone soldier son, Daniel, now on duty in Israel. When Daniel was a child, he was in awe of men and women in uniform and said they were his heroes, his father told the audience. This feeling and image stayed with Daniel as he grew older and participated in trips such as Taglit Birthright. His love for and dedication to Israel grew as well, his father explained.

Chattler read from one of his son’s emails, which detailed a story of how he unintentionally ended up riding a public bus while still in uniform. Seated across from him, a small boy watched Daniel closely for a while and the boy ultimately smiled at him. “At that moment,” read Daniel’s father, voice quavering, “I knew I was his hero.”

The naval ensemble’s energy, enthusiasm and melodic voices filled the auditorium for two 30-minute sets. Neta Barzilai, who served as emcee, added her powerful, gospel-like voice to the performance. Eyal Bor, director of education of Beth El schools, played clarinet with the group for one of its songs.

For singers Ohad Sabagi, Tslil Halaf, Neta Barzilai and Adar Hayat, and sound engineer Dor Laniado, all in their early 20s, it was their first time in the U.S., and they had expectations of the visit. Images of big cities, tall buildings and urban spaces such as New York filled their imaginations. They were pleasantly surprised to see how clean and green Baltimore and its suburbs are, how tightly knit and welcoming the Jewish community felt to them and that there are two JCCs in one city. Halaf enjoyed the Inner Harbor visit and mentioned it felt a little different than what she is used to — while there are tourists and shops in Israeli harbors too, there are also Navy ships and soldiers with guns.

Commander and deputy head of personnel for his unit, Avraham Gaon, 46, has served in the Israeli army for 29 years. Gaon came along as “the responsible adult” with the naval ensemble. He has traveled all over the world, but this was also his first visit to the U.S. The group spent three days in Baltimore before heading to Atlanta. Gaon’s visit with the Jewish community of Baltimore gave him a lasting impression.

“For the first time just yesterday, I understand, that all of us are one nation,” Gaon said.

Gaon said that he had always wondered, why would Jews live somewhere other than Israel? He imagined he might not feel the connection to Jews he met in the U.S. Maybe they feel Jewish, he explained, but do not feel for the State of Israel.

“Yesterday, all of them — the children, the host family, the people from FIDF — for first time in my life I understand, it doesn’t matter why they are here … all the Jewish people are one nation,” he said “Yesterday, it was eureka. It made me feel that we are friends, family, that we are strong together.”

Friends of the IDF
Washington, D.C. Chapter’s Third Annual Gala

From Holocaust to Independence
Honoring Rosemary Schindler
(Family of Oskar Schindler)

Thursday May 29 at 6:30 p.m. (reception); program starts at 7:30 p.m.

Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center
5701 Marinelli Road in Bethesda

For more information and tickets, contact 301-960-3531 or midatlantic@fidf.org.

mgerr@jewishtimes.com

Never Too Late

Ava Barron-Shusho taught adult students to “tame their inner gremlins” at Chizuk Amuno Congregation’s Luv2Learn Festival on May 18. (Provided)

Ava Barron-Shasho taught adult students to “tame their inner gremlins” at Chizuk Amuno Congregation’s Luv2Learn Festival on May 18. (Provided)

Middle school students saw the tables turned when they ushered their parents and other adults to their assigned classrooms as part of Chizuk Amuno Congregation’s Luv2Learn Festival on Sunday, May 18.

“I think it’s interesting for people who have been out of school so long to come here and get a sense of what it’s like,” said Hannah Wahlberg, a sixth-grader at Krieger Schechter Day School.

She, along with fellow KSDS students Charlie Hallock, Tal Boger and Ezra Suldan and Pikesville Middle School student Alex Hellman, took part in the event as ushers.

“It’s just good to get people in the community together and get them talking,” said Ezra Suldan, an eighth-grader.

It was not a coincidence that Chizuk Amuno held its inaugural learning festival on Sunday. As director of congregational life, Rabbi Paul Schneider explained that May 18 is Lag B’Omer, a traditionally somber time that coincided with the deaths of thousands of students of the Mishnaic sage Rabbi Akiva. According to tradtion, the plague that claimed their lives stopped on Lag B’Omer. So on the the 33rd day, Jews are given a reprieve from their solemnity and are free to enjoy themselves. Lag B’Omer is traditionally a time for picnics, barbeques and learning.

In coming up with the topics for more than 25 workshops, Schneider said he and co-chairs Marsha Manekin and Howard Cohen chose to provide a broad range of learning opportunities in Jewish and secular subjects.

“We decided to model the festival loosely after Ted Talks,” said Manekin, “by giving short presentations covering a lot of different subjects. People can get a taste of learning about technology, Wall Street, advance directives, Maimonides [and] archaeology.”

Participants chose up to three 30-minute sessions including one from co-chair Cohen, who taught contemporary art glass.

“What’s really amazing is that all presentations are given by school parents and synagogue members,” said Manekin. “None of the synagogue’s staff or administrators are teaching. It’s all lay people.”

052314_luv2learnAva Barron-Shasho, a parent of one KSDS alum and one eighth- grader, taught “Identify the Voice of Your Inner Gremlin and Learn How to Tame it.” Barron-Shasho, a life coach, said the course was meant to “teach people what’s going on in their heads.”

“The gremlin is that inner critic. It’s that voice, either very loud or subtle, that tells us we can’t do what we want to do,” she said. “We give it a lot of credence, but really it’s not logical. It keeps you from moving forward.”

Audrey Polt, who taught a class called “Album-Making as a Legacy: Connections to Our Past, Present, and Future,” had trouble selecting courses to take because of the diverse options. “All of the topics are very interesting. I hope they have this again,” said Polt, who decided to attend the course on advance directives. In another classroom, 10 or so couples were practicing salsa dancing in “You Can Dance at Any Age.”

The learning sessions were followed by a wine-and-cheese reception.

“When we reached out to people in our congregation, we realized what a magnificent community with such a wide range of talent and knowledge we have,” said Schneider. “Luv2Learn is a great opportunity for people who are reluctant to commit to many weeks to have an educational experience by committing to only one afternoon.  It’s a great way to spend Lag B’Omer.”

sellin@jewishtimes.com

Jewish Trainer Has High Hopes For Preakness

051614_Trainer

Art Sherman has been involved in horse racing for more than six decades.

Long before he trained the horse that won the famed Kentucky Derby earlier this month and became one of the most popular men at this year’s Preakness Stakes, Art Sherman was just another student at Hebrew school in suburban Los Angeles.

“It was a little different in that era,” said Sherman, 77, who dropped out before his bar mitzvah after a case of mistaken identity resulted in his getting whacked on the head with a ruler by the morah.

“I got up and never did go back,” laughed Sherman.

Today, what began more than 60 years ago as a half-joking suggestion that Sherman try out jockeying has landed him in the history books as the oldest trainer to ever saddle the winner of the Derby.

“I was always on the small side,” said Sherman, trainer of California Chrome, the clear favorite to take the top spot on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course. Horse races were always on the TVs at his father’s barbershop, said Sherman, and some of the clients told him, “Gee, you’re little enough to be a jockey.” So Sherman decided to give it a shot.

“It was great,” he said of his first experiences riding at a ranch in Ontario, Calif., where he worked as a stable hand before becoming an exercise rider.

After spending some time breaking in young horses Sherman, a native of Brooklyn, eventually moved up to racing.

“[Racing] is a different ballgame,” he said. He had to learn to get along with the much more high-strung horses, many of which weighed 1,200 or more pounds.

He jockeyed for 23 years, during which time he won some races but said he existed pretty “under the radar.” He retired from jockeying with a win in his last race and, after winning his very first race as a trainer, became hooked on prepping the horses for the track.

Whether or not California Chrome wins at Pimlico, which would propel it to just one win away from claiming the Triple Crown, Sherman said he plans to enjoy his time in Baltimore. Though he loves traditional Jewish food — “I call it soul food,” he said — he is especially looking forward to eating some of the local delicacies.

Shanghai’s Jews

The city of Shanghai was home to some 20,000 Jews in the years  during and immediately following World War II. (Provided)

The city of Shanghai was home to some 20,000 Jews in the years during and immediately following World War II. (Provided)

The Jewish refugee history of Shanghai will be the topic of choice at the eighth annual Herbert H. and Irma B. Risch Memorial Program on Immigration on Sunday, May 18.

“We always think West,” said Rabbi Marvin Tokayer. “We don’t think of Jews being in Bombay or Shanghai.”

Tokayer, who spent two years living in Tokyo and leading the Jewish community east of Siberia, will be the featured presenter at the program. In the years since he returned to the United States in the 1970s, educating people about the Jewish history in Asia has been a major part of his life.

The first wave of Jewish immigration into Shanghai began in the late 1840s, when the country’s eastern coast opened to foreign traders, according to Chabad’s Shanghai Jewish Center. By 1938, the city had become a refuge for Jews escaping war-torn Europe.

“Shanghai was the pits,” said Tokayer. Penniless Jewish refugees came to the run-down metropolis by the thousands. A loophole that allowed immigrants to enter the city without a visa resulted in some 20,000 European Jews taking refuge in Shanghai from the late 1930s to the early 1950s, when the growing popularity of Communism resulted in emigration of Jews to places like Israel, Australia and the United States.

Frank Risch, who founded the program in partnership with the Jewish Museum of Maryland as a tribute in his parents’ memory, first met Tokayer when he and his wife took part in a tour of parts of Asia through the Jewish Museum. The juxtaposition of the terrible reputation of the Japanese military during World War II and the Japanese people’s willingness to take in Europe’s Jewish refugees fascinated him from the very start.

“It’s a tremendous story,” said Risch. “Most people just have no idea.”

While past programs have spread the focus to tales of immigration from all walks of life, this year’s focus is far more specific, dealing with the path of the Jews who were able to escape Europe for the East.

It’s about “how did you get here and what did you have to do to get here?” he said.

Though Risch’s family did not head east from Europe, escaping, instead, to America in 1938, he has a special fondness for this year’s program.

Risch’s own parents were members of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and his cousin, Martha Weiman, is the congregation’s current president.

“We’re very excited,” he said. Though Risch and his wife now live in Texas, they journey back to Baltimore every year from the program. This year’s, he said, promises to be especially interesting.

“We’re all descended from an immigrant experience,” he said. “Most of our knowledge as American Jews tends to focus on Eastern Europe and Western Europe and the various ways of immigration to the United States. Very few of us have been focused on the Asian experience and [Tokayer] has really made that his life’s work.”

Tokayer describes his time in Japan as a great learning experience. While anti-Semitism has been a problem woven throughout much of Jewish history, places like China, India and Japan have been all but immune to it.

The relationship between the Jewish community and the local community in most parts of Asia, he said, is a “mutually respected relationship.”

“We’re blinded by the West,” said Tokayer. But “the future is in China, India, Japan, Vietnam.”

He continued: “We have to learn from our history.”

Program Details
The Eighth Annual Herbert H. and Irma B. Risch Memorial Program on Immigration will take place on Sunday, May 18, at 2 p.m. at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, 7401 Park Heights Ave. Admission is free.

hnorris@jewishtimes.com

Ambassador Sounds Alarm

Ambassador Samantha Power calls for an end to “every assault on personal dignity.” (Olivier Douliery/ABACAUSA.com/Newscom)

Ambassador Samantha Power calls for an end to “every assault on personal dignity.” (Olivier Douliery/ABACAUSA.com/Newscom)

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power used a speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to call for Americans to confront injustice and genocide throughout the world.

“We must confront the problem at its roots by taking a stand against all crimes of hate, all violations of human rights and every assault on personal dignity,” said Power. “It doesn’t matter whether the victim of persecution is a Christian in Egypt, a Roma in Europe, a Muslim in Burma, a gay or lesbian in Uganda or even a visitor to a Jewish community center in Kansas.”

Power was the keynote speaker at the museum’s National Tribute benefit dinner on April 30. The dinner’s theme focused on taking lessons from the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s and using them to prevent further mass killings. But there was an acknowledgement that the world is far from eradicating genocide.

During her speech, Power mentioned the Syrian civil war and the killing of civilians by the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

“President Assad is deliberately targeting his own people, using indiscriminate air attacks, introducing the world to barrel bombs, denying civilians food in starvation campaigns and practicing systematic industrial torture — all this to force the Syrian people to submit to his will,” said Power. “It is no secret that the international community’s efforts have fallen short, but we must not give up on pushing for a resolution of this crisis and an end to this killing.”

Power said that President Barack Obama had made “prevention of mass atrocities a core national security priority” and urged other nations to take make a commitment to take the same “practical action that the U.S. has undertaken.”

“We must stress accountability that is neither collective nor delayed, but individual and certain,” said Power. “Our goal should be to persuade anyone plotting to commit mass atrocities that the result of pursuing that path would not be the destruction of the other, but instead will be the denial of his own life’s ambitions.”

Power presented the museum’s Elie Wiesel Award to retired Canadian Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, who commanded the United Nations peacekeeping mission to Rwanda from 1993 to 1994. With a small force of several hundred ill-equipped troops, mostly from Tunisia and Ghana, Dallaire managed to secure an area from Hutu extremist militias massacring the Tutsi ethnic group, saving 32,000 Rwandans. In total, nearly one million men, women and children, mostly Tutsi, were massacred within 100 days.

Dallaire acted in defiance of multiple orders from U.N. Secretary General Kofi Anan to pull out due to warnings that they too would be targeted by the militias.

After receiving his award, Dallaire challenged the world to back up its support for human rights with action.

“Are we not nurturing sometimes a hypocritical position of human rights meaning all humans are human and equal?” Dallaire asked.

He said there is a de facto hierarchy that places the lives of sub-Saharan Africans below those who live elsewhere. He also pointed to instances, including Rwanda, when the West turned a blind eye.

“Maybe [human rights is] a tool that we can refer to, but do we truly believe in it?” Dallaire continued. “Are we prepared for the tears and the sweat and sometimes even the blood of our youth to engage in not only stopping these catastrophes but even attempting to prevent them?”

“Like the Holocaust, [the Rwandan genocide] was preventable,” said William Levine, national co-chair of the museum’s Never Again: What You Do Matters campaign. “It marked yet another failure of the international community to respond.”

dshapiro@washingtonjewishweek.com
JNS.org contributed to this report.