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Article Archive for May 2011

Philanthropy from a Catalogue
Philanthropy from a Catalogue

Much has been made of those successful businessmen who have put their talents to work for philanthropy. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Oprah Winfrey, and Michael Dell are just a handful of examples of famous and successful people who have worked hard to give their money away.

Of course, corporate philanthropists are not a new phenomenon (e.g. Andrew Carnegie,1835-1919; John D. Rockefeller, 1839-1937; and Cornelius Vander Starr, 1892-1968).

One of the less well-known philanthropists was Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932), whose name is not nearly as famous as that of his partner, Richard Sears. But, in 1895, he became a partner in Sears, Roebuck and Co. Sears, as the company was, and is, known, issued its first mail order catalogue in 1893, offering only watches. Within two years of the new partnership, the Sears mail order catalogue offered clothing, agricultural tools, athletic equipment and table furnishings. In 1908, when Richard Sears retired, Rosenwald became president of the company. He retired in 1924, and was named chairman of the board, a position he held until his death in 1932.

Around 1908, Rosenwald was introduced to William H. Baldwin and Booker T. Washington, two prominent proponents of African-American education. In 1912, he began what was to become a lifetime position on the Board of Directors of the Tuskegee Institute, one of the first educational institutions for African Americans. In addition to endowing Tuskegee, Rosenwald built over 5,000 schools, shops and homes (for teachers) specifically for African-Americans throughout the south. These came to be known as Rosenwald Schools.

When Rosenwald passed away, his philanthropic efforts were continued by his daughter Edith Stern, whose Stern Family Fund was a major contributor to civil right efforts.

In honor of Jewish American Heritage Month (May) Jewish Treats will be highlighting and celebrating exemplary Jewish Americans and exploring interesting points of Jewish American history.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Strawberry Shortcakes
Strawberry Shortcakes

My favorite spring dessert is simple and classic. I do not want any bells and whistles in my old fashioned shortcakes, just butter and juicy berries. This recipe is only really delicious with butter and real whipped cream. It is simply not the same with margarine and non-dairy whipped topping. The best berries deserve the best ingredients and this recipe delivers. Short on time? No problem. Make the shortcakes ahead of time and freeze them. Allow them to thaw at room temperature before serving.

Jennifer and Jeff
Jennifer and Jeff

“Within weeks we knew we each had found the right one. In fact, after years of not dating someone for more than two months, I proposed before we’d even been dating for nine months.”

David Ben Gurion, An Introduction
David Ben Gurion, An Introduction

David Ben-Gurion is best known as the first Prime Minister of Israel. But, his role in the creation of the State was far greater than can be reflected in any single title.

Born in 1886, in Plonsk, Poland, David Gruen (Green)’s father was a dedicated Zionist who founded the Hebrew school that his son attended. In his late teens, as an activist member of Poalei Zion, a Socialist-Zionist group, David Green found himself frequently at odds with the Polish authorities, and in 1906, at the age of 20, he moved to Palestine. He immediately turned his dreams into action and labored with his fellow Zionists on an agricultural settlement. During this time period, he also helped to found the Jewish self-defense organization, Hashomer.

After six years in Palestine, David now called Ben-Gurion (a Hebrew name meaning lion cub) traveled to Salonika and Istanbul to study Turkish and Ottoman law. In 1914, with the outbreak of World War I, he was deported by the Ottoman authorities. He spent three years in the United States, where he met and married Paula Monbesz. Ben-Gurion subsequently returned to Palestine as a member of the Jewish Legion, a unit of the British Army established by Ze’ev Jabotinsky.

During the British Mandate years, Ben-Gurion helped found the Histadrut, the National Federation of Jewish Laborers, and served as its Secretary General from 1921-1935. In 1935, Ben-Gurion was named Chairman of the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency, a position he held until the founding of the State.

This list of Ben-Gurion’s activities before May 1948 is staggering, even more so when it is noted that this is hardly a complete list. What becomes clear upon reading about this first part of Ben-Gurion’s life (he died in 1973) is his genuine passion for the Land of Israel and his uncommon talent for leadership.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

The Battle of Kibbutz Yad Mordechai
The Battle of Kibbutz Yad Mordechai

At the time of the Declaration of the State of Israel (May 14, 1948), Kibbutz Yad Mordechai was a five year old settlement, ten kilometers south of Ashkelon, just north of the Gaza border. Its 250 or so members, most originally from Poland, had been part of an earlier settlement that had been relocated to a larger parcel of land. They named their new kibbutz after Mordechai Anielewicz, the leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

On May 16th, an Egyptian force of over 1,000 troops, armed with artillery, tanks and aircraft, approached from the south. The only resistence point between the Egyptians and the city of Tel Aviv was Yad Mordechai.

The Haganah, the pre-State defense force, was aware of Yad Mordechai’s strategic importance. In the months before independence, the kibbutz was armed and prepared for defense (communication trenches, fortified firing posts, etc.). However, the kibbutz defenders were vastly outnumbered.

The attack began at dawn of May 19th, the morning after the children and most women were secretly evacuated. The first battle lasted through the next day. Overnight, however, a platoon of reinforcements snuck into Yad Mordechai.

May 21st and 22nd were not days of battle. The Egyptians continued to shell the kibbutz, flattening its buildings, but outright warfare was at a standstill. The battle, however, resumed on the 23rd. With many injured and many dead, the kibbutzniks could not hold out any longer. That night, in secret, they withdrew. On the 24th, the Egyptians resumed shelling Yad Mordechai, and only realized several hours later that the kibbutz was empty.

The five days that the heroes of Yad Mordechai held off the Egyptians was long enough for the newly created IDF to complete the plans for the defense of Tel Aviv.

Today, May 9, 2011, is Yom Ha’Zikaron, Israel Memorial Day for the fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Thank You, Mom
Thank You, Mom

In honor of all our favorite Jewish Mothers, we’ve decided to re-Treat this special Mother’s Day edition of Jewish Treats!

Don’t forget to call your mother today, or send her flowers or a card. For those very, very out of the loop, Today is Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day is a day set aside to show the moms in our lives how much we appreciate them. It’s a sweet and wonderful idea…but according to the Torah, every day is Mother’s Day.

The very first commandment that God gave to Adam was to “be fruitful and multiply.” Traditionally, this mitzvah is only considered obligatory upon men, not women.

This seems strange. After all, women are the ones who carry the children in the womb, nourish the infants from their breasts, and, traditionally, take the brunt of the child-rearing responsibility. If anything, “peru oo’revu,” be fruitful and multiply, should be a woman’s mitzvah!

According to the sages, however, the mitzvah of “peru oo’revu” is not obligatory on a woman because of the inherent dangers in childbirth. It has only been in the last 100 years or so that the number of fatalities during birth has become minimal, and Torah law does not command people to put themselves in life-threatening situations.

Perhaps, however, the danger inherent in motherhood is not just physical. Motherhood changes a person, restricts her and demands that she sacrifice many of the things she most values in life (sleep, independence, etc.). At the same time, through motherhood, a woman has the chance to not only experience the immense power of creation, but also to emulate God’s endless ability to give.

Motherhood, therefore, is both a choice and an opportunity. And it is because of this choice, and the sacrifices inherent therein, that one must give his/her mother honor, respect and even gratitude, not just on Mother’s Day, but everyday.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

For Your Jewish Mother
For Your Jewish Mother

If one were to believe the jokes, Jewish mothers enjoy nothing more than nagging their children to eat, encouraging grown children to get married, and bragging about the children’s professions. Are Jewish mothers more protective of their children than other parents? Probably not. But the reputation for the tight bond between Jewish mothers and their children might stem from the Bible’s emphasis on what a blessing it is to be a mother.

Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel, three of the four matriarchs, had difficulty conceiving a child. Both Sarah and Rebecca conceived only once (Sarah bore Isaac, Rebecca bore Esau and Jacob). Rachel waited many years before the birth of Joseph and then another eight years until Benjamin was born. On the other hand, Leah had four children one after another, and then another three. Indeed, the Midrash explains that Pharaoh’s fear of the Jewish people was due to the fact that they had greatly increased in numbers over a few generations.

Another famous stereotype of the Jewish mother is that she is ever-sacrificing. “No, no, honey, you take the last piece, I’ll just starve.” Of course this is an exaggeration, but it too has its sources in the Torah. Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, was barren for many years. When she finally had a son, she raised him for three years and then brought him to the High Priest Eli to spend his life in the service of God. This fulfilled the promise that she made to God when she prayed to conceive.

As we celebrate Mother’s Day this Sunday, let us rejoice in the many ways that Jewish mothers in our lives both fulfill and challenge those old stereotypes.

Now, would you like something to eat?

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

A Wine for all Reasons
A Wine for all Reasons

Filtering through hundreds of potential mates is daunting, and your chances are only as good as your mind is open. It’s no easy chore to express oneself in the space of a few words and pictures.  In order for the big picture to come into focus you’ll have to widen your glance and make room for possibility.

Appreciate The Teacher Appreciate The Teacher

“No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks…”

It’s an old childhood rhyme that reflects every child’s longing for the freedom of summer. It is also an excellent example of the negative attitude of children in our modern western civilization to education, and, more importantly, to teachers. School is often presented as a “bother” that children have to bear, making teachers the “bad-guy.”

The Jewish attitude toward education and teachers, however, is the exact opposite. Judaism places great importance on showing absolute respect to one’s teachers. As with parents, it is considered a mitzvah to stand when a teacher enters a room. In fact, the sages question whether one should recline at the Passover seder in the presence of one’s teacher, lest it show disrespect for the teacher (Pesachim 108a).

“Rabbi Hiyya bar Abba stated in the name of Rabbi Yochanan. ‘A man who prevents his student from serving him [showing him proper honor] it is as if he deprives him of [an act of] kindness…’ Rabbi Nachman ben Isaac said: ‘He also deprives him of the fear of Heaven’” (Ketuvot 96a). Many modern teachers struggle to find a balance between gaining the children’s respect and being liked by their students. The sages of the Talmud, however, were quite clear that a teacher who relinquishes his/her honor is actually doing a disservice to the students.

In the United States, the first full week of May is recognized as “National Teacher Appreciation Week.” Teaching the children in our lives to appreciate their teachers (year round) is the first step in helping our children understand the important Jewish value of honoring one’s teacher.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Questions With a Rabbi Questions With a Rabbi

When getting to know someone new, whether on a date, at a party or at a social gathering, one can expect to hear their fair share of questions.  But what happens when the line is crossed and basics such as, “what do you do?” and “what’s your favorite movie?” devolve into the prying, personal inquiries of bad date folklore?  Moment asks a spectrum of rabbis whether there is such a thing as asking too many questions, and here’s what they said.

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