Ariely Brings Israel Realities to Baltimore

Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership director Sigal Ariely spoke at Beth Tfiloh Congregation Monday night about what it’s like to live in Israel during the recent upheaval.

“You read about it, you see the pictures on the news, but it just doesn’t compare when you hear firsthand how one person, one community or one family is affected on a daily basis,” Ellen Ginsberg Simon, vice chair of the Baltimore Israel Coalition, said of the program.

Ariely spoke about her family, what life is like in the Ashkelon community and about the shelters. A slide show accompanying her presentation further illustrated life during wartime.

As a mother, Ginsberg Simon said the emotionally charged account hit home with her when Ariely spoke about her son, who is training for the military, and her scared daughter sleeping under the staircase.

“What do I worry about? I worry about if my daughter takes a nap or my son eats right,” Ginsberg Simon said. “I don’t worry about survival.”

The talk, the first in a series of four being put on by the coalition concerning the current conflict, was a way to educate the community on how the war affects people that Baltimore supports emotionally and financially, Ginsberg Simon said. “It is important to get these personal stories out there, and you can spread these anecdotes to people who aren’t attending these events and remind people that there are two sides.”

Commitment to Activism

Holocaust survivor Hedy  Epstein, 90, is arrested during a protest of the Michael Brown shooting in St. Louis. (Nancy Cambria/MCT/Newscom)

Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, 90, is arrested during a protest of the Michael Brown shooting in St. Louis.
(Nancy Cambria/MCT/Newscom)

Hedy Epstein made headlines around the world last week when she was arrested at a protest in St. Louis.

The 90-year-old Holocaust survivor was one of nine people arrested in front of Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s office at an Aug. 18 protest against the governor’s handling of the fallout from the Michael Brown shooting.

When she was taken to the police station for booking, a local friend was notified, and that friend called Epstein’s son, a call that Epstein said was probably not too surprising to her son given her history of political activism.

“In the past, when I’ve been arrested, my heart beat a mile a minute, and this time I was very calm, like I was going to a picnic or something,” the elder Epstein said of being handcuffed and transported to the police station for booking.

Epstein spent the first years of her life in Germany. When Hitler came to power, she was 8 years old, her personal website documents. Six years later, her family placed her on a children’s transport to England and within a few months, her parents and other family members were sent to a concentration camp in France. After two years of correspondence through letters, her family was transferred to Auschwitz, and she never heard from them again.

Growing up in England during World War II, Epstein began her political education at a young age, and when she moved to the United States in 1948, she was already very interested in human rights and social justice issues.

When she moved to St. Louis with her husband in the 1960s, she took a job with the local fair housing agency, working to ensure that everyone might have equal access to housing.

“It’s not only something I did 9-to-5,” said Epstein of her involvement in civil rights advocacy in St. Louis. “It was a 24-hour involvement.”

St. Louis, from her experience, has long been a troubled city, but with the shooting of Michael Brown, “the cup runneth over,” she said.

“If I walk down the street with my white skin and a policeman comes by, he’ll probably say, “Good afternoon, ma’am. How are you?’ [But] if an African-American walks down the street at the same time in the same place, he’s immediately suspected of having stolen something, having murdered somebody, having committed some kind of crime. And why? Only because he has black skin,” said Epstein.

“This kind of violence has to stop,” she said of the shooting of the unarmed Brown and police actions against protest attendees. “Because violence begets more violence, and it’s just, it’s really scary.”

In addition to her involvement in civil rights issues in St. Louis, Epstein is part of the speakers bureau of the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center and has gained notoriety in the past for her involvement in pro-Palestinian causes, having made five trips to Israel, according to her website. She has opposed both Israeli settlements and the security fence along the West Bank.

While Epstein said the only thing that kept her from attending the rallies right from the start was the festivities her friends and family had planned around her 90th birthday, she noticed the vast majority of the Jewish community was not nearly as eager to travel north to Ferguson.

A letter with more than 50 signatures from St. Louis’ Jewish community condemning both racism and the looting that had plagued the protests was released by the St. Louis Jewish Community Relations Council on Aug. 19. But the smallness of the Jewish presence at the rallies was noted by one St. Louis Jewish Light guest essayist, who said in an Aug. 13 column that she had only seen three familiar Jewish faces when she attended. An Aug. 24 Jewish Federation of St. Louis-Jewish Community Relations Council event titled “A response to Ferguson” was canceled late last week.

For now, Epstein said her phone has been ringing off the hook with interview requests from around the globe, but she plans on heading back to the protest line soon.

By then, said Epstein, “hopefully, it won’t be necessary anymore.”

hnorris@jewishtimes.com

A Second Family

Ron Gordon (left), who joined the Israel Defense Forces after growing up abroad, says lone soldiers act as surrogate family for each other after they leave the battlefield. (Courtesy Ron Gordon)

Ron Gordon (left), who joined the Israel Defense Forces after growing up abroad, says lone soldiers act as surrogate family for each other after they leave the battlefield.
(Courtesy Ron Gordon)

TEL AVIV — When Shir Kleyman, an infantry instructor for the Israel Defense Forces and a Los Angeles native, found out that someone named Sean had died fighting in Gaza, she knew the army had lost a fellow lone soldier.

The official announcement came soon afterward as Kleyman, 19, was sitting in a Tel Aviv cafe on furlough: The fallen soldier was her friend, Texas native Sean Carmeli.

“I asked Sean’s last name and said, ‘Please don’t be Carmeli, please don’t be Carmeli,’ “ Kleyman said. “You find this out and don’t know what to do with yourself. I didn’t know how to handle it. You feel it because you know that you’re one of them.”

Kleyman, who joined the IDF in January, knew both Carmeli and fellow Californian Max Steinberg, who died alongside each other in Gaza on July 20. Though Steinberg and Kleyman grew up in the same Los Angeles neighborhood, they met only when serving kitchen duty together in the army.

At Steinberg’s funeral, Kleyman stood in the honor guard across from Steinberg’s parents. She called the funeral “the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with in my life.”

About 2,800 soldiers are serving in the Israeli military despite not growing up in the country, according to the Lone Soldiers Program, which provides them with social and other services. Three have died in the current conflict with Hamas: Along with Carmeli and Steinberg, French immigrant Jordan Bensemhoun was killed on July 20.

Most native Israelis, for whom army service is both a national obligation and a rite of passage, have networks of family and friends who served before them to help handle the deaths of comrades in war. But military volunteers whose families remain abroad say their strongest support is each other.

“They become your second family,” said Ron Gordon, who joined the IDF in 2012 after stints growing up in Europe, Atlanta and East Asia. “You don’t have anyone else here. You live with your friends.”

Because of the shared experience of joining an army while struggling with a new language and culture, lone soldiers say they relate to each other even if they never served or lived together. For those who join the army soon after moving to Israel, fellow lone soldiers are often their first friends in the country.

Infantry instructor Tal-Or Cohen joined the IDF five years ago after growing up in Maryland. When she was called to reserve duty during the current conflict, Cohen made sure to befriend and help out younger lone soldiers serving with her.

“Culturally, the army is a place we’re not raised to know,” Cohen said. “The different sects and cliques, we don’t know what to do with them. Who do we trust? When I meet other lone soldiers, there’s an automatic connection because it takes a lot of strength and determination to be here and continue to be here.”

Many lone soldiers meet each other through Garin Tzabar, a program that houses groups of lone soldiers together on kibbutzim and provides a framework for guidance and support. Cohen left the program three years ago, but she remains in near-daily contact with her cohort. During her reserve duty last month, she would often check in with fellow lone soldiers by text message.

During fighting, Gordon says the distinction between native Israeli and lone soldier stops mattering because everyone is focused on staying alive. But the divide returns, he said, once soldiers take leave.

“The first thing you want is to throw off your uniform, get in the shower and eat mom’s food,” Gordon said. “For lone soldiers at the kibbutz, you don’t have that.”

Josh Flaster, who runs the Lone Soldier Center, said the first weeks after returning from the front are critical. His organization, which was founded in memory of Philadelphia native Michael Levin, who died in combat in 2006, has hosted barbecues in recent weeks to help returning soldiers begin to unpack their experiences.

“There’s lots of stigmas in the army and society about therapy and mental health,” said Flaster, a former lone soldier who joined the IDF in 2006. “If you don’t start talking about it and dealing with it, this type of stuff can mess up your life for decades.”

A Long Time Coming

082914_art-lootFour deputies of the French National Assembly visited Washington, D.C., and New York City last month, but this was no sightseeing holiday.

The French officials met with representatives of B’nai B’rith International in the District and visited New York State’s Department of Finance, two very different organizations that share the same expertise sought by the French lawmakers: restoring stolen Nazi art to its rightful owners.

Almost seven decades after World War II, some 2,000 works of looted art are hanging in French museums. The politicians’ visit was part of a
renewed push by the French government to find the owners — most of them Jews or their descendants — of the collection of unreturned works, known as the Musees Nationaux Recuperation, or MNR. The restitution process has proceeded by fits and starts since the Allied victory over Germany in 1945. Some familiar with the story of the MNR collection say that the French have been reluctant to do much that would remove art from the walls of their museums.

Representatives of the French Embassy in Washington, which arranged the politicians’ visit, could not be reached for comment.

The MNR collection includes work by art-world celebrities: Claude Monet, Paul Cezanne and Edgar Degas among them. It also includes paintings by lesser-known artists such as Marie Laurencin, Othon Friesz, Maurice Utrillo and Maurice de Vlaminck.

As the Nazis systematically murdered the Jews of Europe, they also spent money and manpower looting the Jews’ artwork, warehousing it to be sent to a museum in Austria planned by the art-loving Fuhrer.

“Some of this stuff may have come from families that are or were important, or conversant with art,” said Ori Soltes, former director of the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum and co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project. “I would imagine that the lion’s share belonged to people who were not big collectors or a family that had one painting for some reason.”

Today’s masterpiece was probably yesterday’s speculation, he said. “In the 1870s, you could get a Monet for a fairly small amount of money.”

But returning the art to its rightful owners is no easy task, said Eric Fusfield, director of legislative affairs for B’nai B’rith International.

“Most survivors are deceased now. We’re really talking about descendants now, and most don’t have documentation. They have anecdotes and might not be able to name a specific work. That’s part of the challenge.”

Are the French not only withholding works of beauty from owners, but also depriving them of a fortune? Works by big-name artists could “easily be in the multimillion dollar” range, Soltes said.

In 1999, the Seattle Art Museum returned “Oriental Woman Seated on Floor” by Henri Matisse to the descendants of the influential French Jewish art dealer Paul Rosenberg after the family filed suit in federal district court. As the Nazis advanced on France, Rosenberg attempted to hide part of his extensive collection. He ultimately failed and spent the postwar years until his death in 1959 trying to reclaim the lost works.

Marianne Rosenberg, Rosenberg’s granddaughter, subsequently sold the painting for $9 million, Soltes said. “Today, it would easily command twice that.

“But plenty are not at that level,” he added.

Not just a French problem
As the story of the Matisse painting in the Seattle Museum of Art attests, looted paintings are not solely a French problem. It is one of the unintended consequences of the Allied victory in World War II.

Faced with a devastated continent, the Allies decided they did not have the resources to return the items to their owners. So they decided to
return the art to their countries of origin and let the various governments sort out ownership, a policy called “external restitution,” according to Wesley Fisher, director of research for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, also known as the Claims Conference, which did not participate in meetings with the French parliamentarians last month.

The approach had mixed results. The Soviets took the paintings that fell under their control and shipped them to hang in their museums.

In France, about 100,000 stolen artwork claims by French citizens, most of them Jews, were filed with the French government, Fisher said. By 1949, about three-quarters of the claimed artworks had been returned to their owners, Fisher said. That left about 15,500 works whose owners could not be found. Of those, 13,500 were sold. The remaining 2,000 “better quality works” became the MNR collection, he said.

The French have mostly paid lip service to restituting those works, say Fisher and others. That’s why in the 60 years since the bulk of works were returned to their owners, only 100 of the MNR pieces have been restituted.

“They claimed for the longest time that they were doing a lot about the MNR collection,” Fisher said. “But they were hiding the fact that they hadn’t really done research on the collections in their museums.”

Added Soltes: “They like having the stuff in their collections. Which is why the Renoirs and Monets were there for so long.”

Hollande’s new initiative
Interest in France in returning the art has grown and ebbed over the decades. There were attempts in the 1990s and 2000s to make progress in restitution, with few results. Hector Feliciano’s book “The Lost Museum,” about the wartime looting of art, caused a furor for a while when it was published in 1997. A 2008 exhibit at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem showed 53 looted paintings and invited rightful owners to take them home.

Last year, French President Francois Hollande announced a new initiative to track down families rather than wait for them to come forward. But how do you do that? That’s one of the questions the French delegation was asking in Washington and later in New York, in meetings with Sotheby’s and New York State’s Holocaust Claims Processing officials.

Fusfield said that in meeting with the French legislators, he was “mindful that there are difficulties, such as how to find survivors and heirs and how to ease legal and bureaucratic obstacles.”

The question of determining a record of ownership, or establishing “provenance,” was the subject of the group’s meeting at the National Gallery of Art, said Deborah Ziska, chief of press and public information.

“During the meeting some members of the delegation inquired about our WWII provenance research project, and we briefed them on this,” she said.

But with B’nai B’rith, the group talked about specifics, according to Gerard Leval, the organization’s general counsel, who took part in the meeting.

“It was good to hear people who sincerely want to do the right thing,” he said. “Almost nothing during the Holocaust was random [including the theft of art]. We said, ‘Go to your documents — when it was taken, from whom it was taken and from where it was taken.’”

The B’nai B’rith group suggested that the French advertise in publications with Jewish readers in the United States and Argentina, Leval said. They also pointed out that with anti-Semitism and xenophobia flaring up in France, the government could score propaganda points by showing that it “was doing its very best in areas where it can help the Jewish population,” he added.

Fusfield isn’t ready to declare victory yet. He recalled the March ceremony in Paris where the French culture minister returned three looted works to the grandchildren of the original owners. The restitution coincided with the French premiere of the George Clooney movie “Monuments Men,” about GIs working to recover looted art.

“So that’s three,” Fusfield said.

“Hollande has opened the doors and that’s great,” Soltes said. “But there is other stuff, French decorative arts — tables, chairs, Louis XIV,
XV, XVI owned by Jewish families. The French have stonewalled on them. You can see how interestingly self-contradictory this whole effort can be.”

The tag MNR means nothing to most people, he said, and someone visiting a French art gallery would likely have no idea that the painting they are enjoying was stolen from a Jewish family seven decades ago. Likewise, a descendent of that family would have no tipoff that the work, with its MNR tag, might have been the painting that hung in the parlor before the war.

Clock Ticking

An El Al plane. The Israeli airline has been among the companies receiving loan guarantees from the United States Export-Import Bank, which faces an uncertain future. (Steve Fitzgerald via Wikimedia Commons)

An El Al plane. The Israeli airline has been among the companies receiving loan guarantees from the United States Export-Import Bank, which faces an uncertain future.
(Steve Fitzgerald via Wikimedia Commons)

For the first time in 80 years, the United States could find itself without an international export credit agency if Congress does not reauthorize the charter of the United States Export-Import Bank, which is set to expire on Sept. 30.

Little controversy surrounded the bank’s reauthorization process before 2012, but the slow recovery from the world’s financial crisis, the rise of Tea Party politicians in Congress and allegations of bribery and corruption within the bank by former employees have led a growing chorus of voices to argue for the bank’s abolition.

House and Senate Democrats want to see the charter extended with a $20 billion increase in the bank’s lending authority requested by President Barack Obama, but many Republicans are opposed, including new House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and House Financial Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas).

The list of detractors also includes members of the Senate, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who called it a “corrupt crony-capitalist fiasco” and urged Republicans to “kill it” in an op-ed for USA Today.

There, Cruz argued that even though the Ex-Im Bank claims to serve American interests, its record shows instances where subsidies may interfere with American companies and are in conflict with American principles.

“Contrary to the values that keep America strong, safe and free, the Export-Import Bank has facilitated lending to governments in Congo and Sudan, countries with horrific human-rights records,” Cruz wrote. “It has financed Chinese power plants and backed Russian billionaires buying luxury planes. And, it has provided lots and lots of financing to oil companies in Russia, Brazil, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia that compete directly with America’s energy companies.”

The bank is what’s known as an export credit agency — international, government-run organizations that makes loans to companies to help them compete in the heavily subsidized global marketplace.

For example, if a foreign airline needs to purchase additional aircraft, an American firm like Boeing can’t compete with foreign manufacturers that can undersell Boeing with the use of subsidies from their own countries’ export banks.

In order to give a company like Boeing a fighting chance in these circumstances, the Ex-Im Bank can do the following: make a loan to the foreign company looking to purchase from Boeing; lend money to Boeing to cover production costs of making its planes if the purchaser is unable to pay up front; or, in another alterative, it can insure loans made by private lenders to facilitate these deals.

The bank’s goal is to increase exports by U.S. companies, especially to markets in rapidly developing regions such as the Middle East, Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Supporters of the bank argue that it is an essential tool enabling U.S. exporters to compete with countries such as China, whose outreach in the developing world, using its own export credit agency, has given that country a sizable head start.

According to Ex-Im’s 2013 annual report, cited in this month’s report by the Congressional Research Service, there are an estimated 60 export credit agencies around the world. With the landscape so skewed by international subsidies, critics here have argued that the federal government should actively engage in ending all international lending subsidies and that Ex-Im only exacerbates the economic arms race.

“There’s a very strong case here for unilateral disarmament. Basically what we can do is say that we’re going to eliminate our subsidies, and if other countries then eliminate their subsidies, that’s great,” said Matt Mitchell, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. “If they don’t, we can say that instead of bringing our subsidies to [their level], we’ll do something like put a retaliatory tariff for countries that don’t cooperate.”

But would getting rid of Ex-Im be a prudent move by the United States if other nations subsidize their companies’ exports?

“Other export credit agencies throughout the world are supporting their country’s exporters, and those countries are not going to close their export credit agencies if Ex-Im’s charter expires,” said Lawton King, spokesman for the Ex-Im Bank. “Just the opposite. They’re going to move into our market share and back sales that otherwise would have gone to American companies and therefore would have supported American jobs.”

Another GOP complaint is that the bank favors large companies over small businesses, making it harder for smaller businesses to compete and that the federal government begins to choose winners and losers, something they believe should be determined by the free market.

Although the Ex-Im Bank is charged with supporting small businesses, the numbers show that despite a greater number of small businesses working with the bank, most of the money goes to approximately 10 large corporations.

According to data compiled by the Congressional Research Service from Ex-Im reports, 90 percent of the bank’s loans in fiscal year 2013 were made to small businesses. But those loans represented a very small amount of money.

More than 80 percent of the bank’s funds were disbursed last year to corporate giants such as Boeing and Caterpillar.

“The bank is demand driven. Though 90 percent of our transactions are small businesses, those small businesses are not requesting the large amounts of credit that the larger businesses are,” said King.

King said that even though it is easy to brand large corporations as not contributing to the strength of America’s small business environment, the figures exclude the often thousands of small businesses that make up their supply chain, giving Ex-Im a larger footprint.

Mitchell said that despite the bank’s claim of contributing to the growth of jobs and small businesses, the negatives outweigh the positives.

According to Mitchell, subsidized loans to foreign buyers, loan securities and production loans to companies raise prices for American purchasers by increasing demand on the product.

“The problem is that there are losers. The first group of losers are anybody else who tries to buy airplanes, they end up paying higher prices,” said Mitchell. “Every other American carrier also buys airplanes. So Delta, Southwest, United — all of them end up having to pay a higher price because Air India or Air Nauru or whatever foreign buyer” creates greater demand due to the loan those foreign companies received from the Ex-Im Bank.

“So that ends up making airplanes more expensive, and it ends up making air travel more expensive for you and me,” he said, adding that these American air carriers are hurt a second time when they have to compete on shared routes against companies that received loans from the U.S. government to purchase their airplanes.

Diane Katz, research fellow in regulatory policy at the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, believes that the economic benefit from the bank on U.S. foreign trade is highly overrated.

“The vast majority [of U.S.-based] exporters, more than 98 percent, don’t get Ex-Im benefits and rely strictly on other financing” from private lenders, she said.

According to Ex-Im Bank’s annual report, in fiscal year 2013, Israeli companies received $105.5 million in direct loans and $256 million in loan guarantees from Ex-Im. Most of the loan guarantees went to El Al Israeli Airlines for purchasing planes from Boeing — more than $190 million. The rest of the loan guarantees supported the purchase of General Electric turbines by Mashav-Initiation and Development Ltd., an Israeli construction supply manufacturing company.

The direct loans were given to Space Communication Ltd. for the purchase of satellite launch vehicles and launch insurance from SpaceX, a private space exploration company based in California, but with large offices in Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, Qatar, which sponsors Hamas, received $775 million in loan guarantees within the same period; $4.3 billion in loan guarantees and $883.7 million in direct loans went to Turkey, whose president has threatened Israel and U.S. interests in the Middle East.

Congress’ additional appetite to hinder Ex-Im’s reauthorization is further fed by allegations of corruption — both among employees and borrowers.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, held a hearing to look into the allegations on July 29, with Katz testifying.

“There has been building opposition to the bank, and this year it has culminated like it hasn’t before,” said Katz. It “represents general public vexation with cronyism and corporate welfare.”

“Anytime you have a policy that benefits a small group but harms a widely dispersed group, then we would predict that it would persist, and the reason is that small, concentrated groups have an advantage in getting organized and lobbying,” said Mitchell, pointing to the strong presence of major company offices in the Washington D.C. area. “Those firms have a very strong incentive to get organized, hire lobbyists, and contribute to the right political action committees and to do expensive campaigns in favor of these.

“There’s no such thing as an effective taxpayers’ alliance,” Mitchell continued, and, he said, it’s the taxpayers who lose.

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

Enough’s Enough

082914_amsterdam

Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs and his wife, Bluma, by the glass window of their home damaged in an attack on July 17, 2014.
(Cnaan Liphshiz)

AMERSFOORT, The Netherlands — After the latest attack on his home, Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs sat down on his couch, picked up the phone and made three calls.

A chief rabbi of the Netherlands, Jacobs first phoned police and a Jewish community leader to tell them that late on the night of July 17, just more than a week after the onset of a round of hostilities between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, four bricks were hurled through a window of his home. It was the fifth time in recent years that Jacobs’ residence had been attacked.

Then Jacobs called his friend, Roger van Oordt, director of the Netherlands-based Christians for Israel organization. Within an hour, van Oordt, his wife and two of their children were at the rabbi’s door, with its prominent mezuzah and Hebrew sign bearing the name of the Chabad Hasidic sect to which Jacobs belongs.

“They didn’t allow Bluma, my wife, and me to touch anything, they cleaned up all the mess,” Jacobs said in an interview at his home 25 miles southeast of Amsterdam. “The attacks do not inspire much hope. The response by Christians, Muslims and other friends do.”

To Jacobs, a 65-year-old rabbi who has worked intensively to build bridges between non-Jews and Holland’s Jewish community of 40,000, the latest
attack sharpens the dilemma facing Dutch Jews.

A perceived rise in anti-Semitic incidents this summer has led many Dutch Jews to consider leaving the country, according to Jacobs. Yet, the country’s reputation as a liberal bastion has not entirely dimmed their hopes that the situation can be reversed.

After the latest attack, Jacobs shocked many Dutchmen when he told local media that if not for his obligations to the communities he serves, he would leave, in part because of the anti-Semitism problem. His statement grabbed headlines and generated a passionate response from other religious leaders.

“No one will tell us when to leave Holland,” Jacobs said. “I’m staying here because it’s my shlichut, or mission. But would we stay here if we were private people? I don’t think so.”

Anti-Semitism is only part of the problem, Jacobs says. Along with intermittent threats and violence, much of it sparked by events in the Middle East, he cites the 2011 passage of a law that effectively banned kosher slaughter — a measure later reversed by the Dutch Senate.

“And then there’s assimilation in a liberal society where many people have anti-religious sentiments,” Jacobs said. “It all comes as part of a package.”

Immigration from the Netherlands to Israel has remained relatively stable over the past decade, with an average 63 new arrivals in the Jewish state each year. Still, the growth in anti-Semitism has created significant unease for Jacobs and his family, who now have six police cameras installed outside their home.

In 2010, a stone was hurled at his front window, missing him by a few inches. Jacobs says he tries not to walk near schools in his middle-class neighborhood and elsewhere in Holland because he doesn’t want to be cursed at by children.

“It’s a very uneasy feeling when someone attacks your home like that,” said Bluma Jacobs, the rabbi’s British-born wife. “When I come to the door at night, I switch on the light of my cellphone so people think I may be filming.”

Six of the Jacobs’ eight children live outside the Netherlands.

Jacobs was born and raised there and is the country’s senior Chabad emissary. He also serves as president of the Rabbinical Council of Holland. In 2012, he became an officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau, a civic honor similar to British knighthood, for his interfaith efforts, among other activities.

His comments about leaving the country prompted a passionate response from the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, the country’s second largest church. On July 28, the church’s secretary, Arjan Plaisier, published an open letter in which he vowed to oppose anti-Semitism with other church leaders.

Plaisier concluded with a plea: “Chief Rabbi Jacobs, please stay in the Netherlands.”

Esther Voet, director of CIDI, the Dutch watchdog on anti-Semitism, says she is confident of Dutch Jewry’s ability to weather the storm. Dutch authorities are taking the issue seriously, she says, as are other civic groups.

But Voet acknowledges that Jacobs encounters a different reality.

“I’m not recognizably Jewish and I live in the Jordaan,” she said, referring to her central Amsterdam neighborhood. “But Rabbi Jacobs, in his travels across the country and in his own neighborhood, faces a different set of problems.”

Christian Leaders Travel to Israel to Show Support

A dozen leaders from the National Religious Broadcasters traveled to Israel last week to make public their support of Israel.

The Christians in Solidarity with Israel trip, which was organized through a partnership between NRB, an international organization of Christian media professionals, the Israel Ministry of Tourism and EL AL Israel Airlines, took off from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City and the Newark Liberty International Airport on Aug. 17 and returned Aug. 22.

“Countering rising anti-Semitism in the international press and on the streets, this friendship visit will communicate to Israel and to the Palestinians who stand in opposition to Hamas that we, leaders who represent the Christian community, stand with them. It will also show the world that Christians in general support the Jewish people and their right to security,” said NRB President and CEO Jerry Johnson.

“In addition, this visit should serve as an example to all followers of Jesus Christ, specifically encouraging them to pray for the peace of Jerusalem so that the lives of all those living in this region can be secure” Johnson continued. “We are thankful to the Israel Ministry of Tourism for coordinating this trip.”

The NRB has a close relationship with Israel, said EL AL spokeswoman Sheryl Stein. In addition to regular sponsored trips to Israel for NRB leadership and board members, the group also includes a large Israel pavilion at its annual convention and hosts an annual Israel breakfast attended by hundreds of members.

Mumbai Jewish Center Reopens

Almost six years after terrorists stormed the Chabad-Lubavitch center in Mumbai, India, and murdered its directors and four guests, the storied building known as the Nariman House officially reopened Tuesday during a celebration attended by rabbis from across Asia and their guests.

“Today, as we look to the future, our message is one of perseverance and unshakable belief in the power of light over darkness,” Rabbi Yisroel Kozlovksy, the new director of Chabad of Mumbai, announced, according to Chabad.org. “We’re not moving into a new building. … We are returning to our original building, and we will be continuing all of the activities that took place here, and, hopefully, grow even more.”

The website reported that the reopening paves the way for the building of a $2.5 million museum in the apartment where the late Rabbi Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg lived. Having arrived in Mumbai in 2003, they served an eclectic mix of Jewish business travelers and Israeli backpackers from the Nariman House. They and their guests fell victim to gunmen the night of several attacks across Mumbai that claimed 164 lives.

Their 2-year-old son, Moshe, famously escaped in the arms of his nanny, Sandra Samuel.

Sailing Forward

Instructor Maggie Flanigan teaches campers the ropes during their first day on the Chesapeake Bay. (provided)

Instructor Maggie Flanigan teaches campers the ropes during their first day on the Chesapeake Bay. (provided)

The scene couldn’t be more picturesque: placid waters hugging a sandy shore and several small JY-15 sailboats bobbing along on a sea that expands far into the distance. A mere miles from Baltimore City, a secluded haven of sorts on the Chesapeake Bay proves to be the perfect place for young sailors at an Orthodox girls sailing camp to hone their skills.

At the Baltimore County Sailing Center at Rocky Ridge Point, these campers have the chance to learn how rig and de-rig a boat, steady the tiller (the part that steers the boat) and adjust the sails, all while avoiding getting hit by the boom, the pole along the foot of the sail. This group is one of many that BCSC hosts throughout the summer, but during the last week of August, the site exclusively accommodates the Orthodox camp.

There’s something about sailing that seems to inspire enthusiasm and confidence in even the most inexperienced novice, say organizers. You don’t have to be good at sports to gain competence at sailing or even be the most popular at school. Many of the young participants in this year’s program expressed a zeal for sailing their very first day on the water.

“It’s in the water and it’s fun — why not?” a couple of young campers pointed out.

But it’s more than just fun. In their own private world, these campers have the opportunity to master something uniquely their own. Sailing
promotes natural cooperation, mindful participation and a strong sense of personal responsibility. No one wants her boat to be the one that tips over.

“Based on my experience with teenagers, I would say that those who have a hobby or something they are good at are more likely to be satisfied and happy,” said Rabbi Aaron Tendler, a local educator who founded the sailing program three years ago. “It can be music, art, sailing or something like it, but they need to have these opportunities.”

At the camp, there is an unusual mixture of feelings: on the one hand, mounting excitement at the prospect of manning a boat; but on the other, an anchoring serenity born from the ebb and flow of the water. Especially for young sailors, sailing seems tied to atmosphere as much as it is to skill.

Campers from the 2013 Orthodox girls sailing camp pose at the Baltimore County Sailing Center. (provided)

Campers from the 2013 Orthodox girls sailing camp pose at the Baltimore County Sailing Center. (provided)

The camp has grown to offer a one-week program for both boys and girls. This year, the boys’ camp drew 14 while the girls’ camp, which ended Aug. 29, accommodated 11. The program’s success underscores the need for more programs like it, said Tendler.

While campers and their parents continue to give Tendler positive feedback, the BCSC staff is equally enthusiastic about the program. With this smaller and more attentive group, an instructor can get through the sailing curriculum at a quicker pace and offer more one-on-one attention. The program also gives the staff an opportunity to interact with members of the Orthodox community.

“My staff really looks forward to having this camp because of the chance to get insights into this community,” said Eileen Fahrmeier, the BCSC director. Her experience has already taught her a lot: “At the boys’ camp, we fish yarmulkes out of the water while in the girls division, they have to learn how to get on the boats in skirts.”

Fahrmeier, who once designed a T-shirt with the logo, “Sailing — the original video game,” understands its appeal.  On the water, sailors develop a natural spatial awareness and accountability for the direct outcome of their choices. Children who love sailing theory are often motivated to pursue an education in science or math.

And ultimately, it may just be the isolation of the site that allows kids to find themselves on the water, giving them room to experiment and learn. As long as thunderstorms or strong winds don’t interfere, sailing will continue to provide that opportunity to explore deeper waters.

“My job is to serve the people who want to know how to sail and to enable them to do so,” said Fahrmeier. “We can’t give these kids the keys to the car, but we can give them the tiller on the boat.”

Hanni R. Werner is a local freelance writer.

ADL Documents Rise in Global Anti-Semitism

The Don Isaac Abravanel synagogue in central Paris, which was recently attacked by pro-Palestinian demonstrators. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Don Isaac Abravanel synagogue in central Paris, which was recently attacked by pro-Palestinian demonstrators. (Wikimedia Commons)

A new report from the Anti-Defamation League details what it calls a “dramatic upsurge in violence and vitriol against Jews” related to Operation Protective Edge.

The ADL reported incidents linked to anti-Israel protests that involved attacks against Jews and Jewish buildings in Western Europe, South America, Canada, Australia and North and South Africa. The report did not include incidents in the U.S.

“There was a dramatic upsurge in violence against Jews and Jewish institutions around the world during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge,” Abraham Foxman, national director of the ADL, said in a statement. From France to Argentina, from Canada to Chile, synagogues were attacked, Jewish cultural centers were vandalized, Jewish shops were threatened, and identifiably Jewish individuals [were] beaten on the street. Anti-Semitism was in the air, and in the streets.”

The ADL will share its report with members of Congress and world leaders in effort to raise awareness of the problem. The ADL Global 100 poll, a survey of anti-Semitic attitudes, found that one-quarter of those surveyed in 100 counties harbored anti-Semitic attitude.

The ADL detailed some examples in a statement that included shouts of “Jews to the gas!” at an anti-Israel rally in Germany; a newspaper in Spain publishing an op-ed with blunt anti-Semitism; a sign that said “Well done Israel, Hitler would be proud” at a London protest; signs showing [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu drinking the blood of Palestinian children in various places; and pro-Palestinian protesters pelting Jews with cans and eggs and shouting at them in Manchester, England.

mshapiro@jewishtimes.com