Friday, January 9, 2004

January 9, 2004 and Tevet 16, 5764



January 9, 2004 and Tevet 16, 5764

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman, Temple Beth El, Stamford, Connecticut


Shabbat Shalom

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January 23-24



with Nigel Savage of Hazon

Schedule of Topics:

 Friday @ 6:30 (during our monthly Carlebach-style service):

“The History and Future of Tu B'Shevat - Thinking about Judaism and the Environment"

(A special 4th week-of-the-month edition of Tot Shabbat will be taking place at the same time so that kids can frolic with Nurit while parents hear the speaker)


Shabbat morning, during services:

"The Stones & the White Mules - Two Great Texts" 


And late Saturday afternoon, beginning at 5:00 PM with a little nosh and Havdalah, Nigel’s special, multi-media presentation for all ages:

..."Eco-Judaism & The Art of Bicycle Maintenance"



Nigel Savage is the founder of Hazon, New Jewish Vision and the Jewish Environmental Bike Rides, a resident project of UJC/JESNA's Bikkurim Incubator for New Jewish Ideas.

Are you interested in learning more about Hazon?  Go to

Sponsored by Penny and Michael Horowitz…

In loving memory of Bessie Silver




Shabbat Unplugged !!!!

(formerly Friday Night Live)


Feb 6, @ 7:30 (note new date)


Whip out that datebook...

Plug in for February 6th...


Join Rabbi Hammerman, Cantor Jacobson,

and an all-star lineup of musical talent…


We bring the music and food - You bring the friends!  On February 6th the HOTTEST PLACE IN TOWN will be Temple Beth El! 



We’ll have a simultaneous children’s program for the kids with Nurit Avigdor…

Thank you to Shelley and Larry Leibowitz for sponsoring our first SHABBAT UNPLUGGED





Temple Beth El Congregational Shabbaton – Jan. 16 – 18

At the now completely renovated

Nevele Grand Resort

(the place now looks really great)

 Theme – Dreams: The Spiritual Quest

Guest Scholar: Rabbi Seymour Rossel

Here are some of the highlights:

Friday night - d'var Torah: "Religion, Magic & Meaning"

Saturday morning: a brief d'var Torah about the parashah, plus a talk after services:

Title: "A Stairway to Heaven"

Saturday, late afternoon - topic: "Wrestling with Angels"

Saturday evening, following Havdalah, a brief talk entitled: "Dream Gifts"

Sunday morning: wrap-up talk entitled: "Awakening Your Dreams"

Plus plenty of time for family activities, winter sports, swimming, etc.

And of course, more great food than Bubbe could ever make!



Services will also be held here at the regular times next Shabbat, but there will be NO TOT SHABBAT next week because Nurit will be with us on the Shabbaton!!! A special 4th week of the month Tot Shabbat will be held in it’s place on 1/23 at the regular time of 6:45 (in conjunction with our scholar-in-residence weekend)







You may have received a little invitation in the mail regarding a certain Bar Mitzvah taking place on Feb. 21.  Since most people aren't used to sending an RSVP via a Website, and since we really need to know who's coming, I'll try to make it as easy as possible.  All you have to do is click on (or cut/paste into your browser).

Please feel free to leave Ethan a message.  Some of them will be included in the Bar Mitzvah booklet.







Our main services on Shabbat morning and Friday evening are never cancelled, regardless of weather conditions.  Please use your better judgment when deciding how and whether to get here. Tune to WSTC radio for announcements on Tot Shabbat and religious school.  On weekday mornings when Stamford public schools are cancelled or have delayed openings, or on Sunday mornings when religious school is cancelled, the morning minyan is also cancelled for that day.


Healing Service at Stamford Hospital (every 1st and 3rd Friday): 2:30 PM – at the second floor chapel, or on the hospital’s channel 46.  The next one will be on the first Friday of Feb.  If you know of anyone in Stamford Hospital, please let him or her know.


Friday Evening – Shabbat

Candles: 4:26 PM –  (for candlelighting times, other Jewish calendar information, and to download a Jewish calendar to your PDA, click on

Services: 6:30 PM, in the sanctuary - FAMILY FRIDAY, always loads of fun!

Tiny Tot Shabbat: 4:00 PM, in the lobby

Shabbat Morning

Service: 9:30 AM

Sisterhood Shabbat – featuring our sisterhood women, with a delicious lunch being cooked up by the men’s club (in the kitchen, where they belong!)

This is also the first national Hazak Shabbat.  On Shabbat Vayehi 5764, January 10, 2004, USCJ synagogues with HAZAK chapters and other congregations will have special programs to honor their “mature” members, ages 55 and up. There are now 81 congregations with HAZAK chapters, including TBE.  Fred Golove is spearheading this national effort, as well as helping to set up out own group. For information on our new group, contact Roberta Aronovitch at

Children’s services: 10:30 AM (for younger children in the Kindergarten room, for grades 3-6 in the chapel; 7th graders should be in the sanctuary. 

Over the past few vacation weeks, we’ve had an especially nice turnout of students and their parents at our main service.  It’s been very comfortable and informal, as is so often the case.  Families should always feel free to join us in the “big room” – and come as you are!  If the kids are coming to and from a game and need to come in uniform, no sweat!  (Well, let me rephrase that – if they are sweating, they should wash up – but they shouldn’t worry about what they are wearing, as long as it is relatively modest attire…and not a Yankee uniform).

Torah Portion – Genesis 47:28 - 50:26 Va-Yehi – the end of the Joseph story.  Jacob blesses his children and he and Joseph die. 

Our Torah discussion will connect the portion to the legacy of Rachel and the pain and glory of Jewish women.  We’ll discover out who gave the first sermon ever delivered in an American synagogue by a woman – and we’ll discuss her timeless message. 

Haftarah I Kings 2:1 - 2:12

Our reading is from the third triennial cycle (with slight adjustments). Click on these to see the text in the original and translation and to hear it chanted.

1: 49:27-30
2: 49:31-33
3: 50:1-6
4: 50:7-9
5: 50:10-14
6: 50:15-20
7: 50:21-26
maf: 50:23-26

See a new weekly commentary now available from the UJC Rabbinic Cabinet, at

Read the Masorti commentary at JTS commentary is at: USCJ Torah Sparks can be found at UAHC Shabbat Table Talk discussions are at Other divrei Torah via the Torahnet home page: Test your Parasha I.Q.: CLAL’s Torah commentary archive:  World Zionist Organization Education page, including Nehama Liebowitz archives of parsha commentaries: For a more Kabbalistic/Zionist/Orthodox perspective from Rav Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Israel, go to For some probing questions and meditations on key verses of the portion, with a liberal kabbalistic bent, go to To see the weekly commentary from Hillel, geared to college students and others, go to For a Jewish Renewal and feminist approach go to or to


Morning Minyan: Daily at 7:30 AM IN THE CHAPEL, Sundays at 9:00 AM IN THE SANCTUARY






Spiritual Journey on the Web

Subversive Prayer

This week is the yahrzeit of Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of the great spiritual leaders of the 20th century.  He often spoke of the need for 
prayer to be “subversive.  As he wrote in an essay entitled  "On Prayer," found on pp. 257-267, of  a superb collection of his essays entitled,
 Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity,”

"The beginning of prayer is praise. The power of worship is song. To worship is to join the cosmos in praising God. . . . Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism, falsehoods. The liturgical movement must become a revolutionary movement, seeking to overthrow the forces that continue to destroy the promise, the hope, the vision."


            To explore further this notion of  subversive prayer, check out an article by Rabbi Gerald Serotta, entitled, Praying with Our Whole Bodies:
Subversive Prayer and Sacred Activism,” at

He writes: When Jewish spiritual search is understood in terms of our active pursuit of justice for God's reflected images, we can begin to understand the deeply powerful currents which have led generations of Jews to be involved in social justice movements. But for many Jews in the last two centuries, the ascendancy of rationalism and an exaggerated faith in human nature have created a deracinated Jewish liberal and radical politics, divorced from the texts and the historic rhythms of the Jewish people. Nevertheless, even so-called "secular" Jews have spiritual needs and surely experience deeply spiritual moments in their Jewish lives. The breakdown of the meaningless and anachronistic secular/religious distinction in Jewish life can return us to the integration of spirit and politics demanded by the ancient prophets. The words and the actions of the prophets in our generation like Rabbis Abraham Joshua Heschel and Marshall Meyer teach us that such a life is possible.

Also, check out  Art Waskow, a disciple of Heschel’s, chellaneges us all by saying:

At every traditional evening and morning service, the second paragraph of the Sh'ma reminds us that if we act in accord with Torah, the rains will fall, the rivers will run, and the earth will feed us; but if we follow strange gods, the rivers will dry up and the sky itself will turn against us. Many congregations race through this paragraph in a muttered mumble, or even drop it entirely from the prayer book. But we would do well to "flag" this passage instead. Imagine asking that on every Shabbat morning, a different congregant choose one news story to illustrate its lessons--that the gods we may whore after are greed and wealth and laziness, that the consequences of worshipping them can be rain turning to acid, rivers flooding because the rain cannot soak into the paved countryside, ozone depletion and global scorching. Or imagine taking the moment of bar/bat mitzvah celebration inside the synagogue to remember the torment of the earth. The 12- and 13-year-olds who are celebrating are indeed more likely to suffer from the poisoning of the local river and the scorching of our global atmosphere than their elders.

Democratic candidate Howard Dean, in an attempt to embrace religion, last week declared that the book of Job is his favorite “New Testament” book. Thanks, Howard!  He later gave us back our book and announced that it is actually in the Old Testament.  William Safire wrote a book about Job, considered to be the most subversive figure in the entire Hebrew Bible (the correct term for Jews, not Old Testament) – that is except for those who read the epilogue of the book, which makes Job into the most submissive figure, not the most subversive.  A cogent discussion of Job as an example of ancient Wisdom Literature can be found at  Safire’s article on the subject last Monday in the Times is also well worth reading.

Since this is Sisterhood Shabbat, read about some subversive female voices in this article by Naomi Ragen, at

And finally, the Women of the Wall have paved the way for women of all denominations to express their Jewish spirituality freely, wherever they want, even and especially at our holiest site, the Kotel in Jerusalem.  Go to and see how the group defines itself and justifies their difficult undertaking in challenging the Israeli rabbinic authorities:

Jewish women who have created new rituals for themselves, like wearing women’s prayer shawls and donning teffilin, acts permitted by some of the greatest Jewish lawgivers, deserve the same benefit of the doubt as to their sincerity.  In general, one cannot help but wonder at the fat-cat arrogance and lack of respect shown by these men, party functionaries in saintly guise, in the name of our holy Torah. After all,  people with the extreme delicacy to cover the challah bread so as not to shame it when we bless the wine first, show a shocking disregard for the feelings not only of Women of the Wall, but of Jewish women in general. 

Because I have a hot flash for you, fellows. The rules have changed. When you mock women for daring to have their own opinions, or trying to enrich their religious experience in ways that they find meaningful, look behind you: you’re not leading anyone in the Jewish world but men like yourselves.  Certainly no one from the modern Orthodox world. In fact, we can’t even tell if your own wives agree with you, voicelessness being a quality nurtured in your women from early childhood through old age. 

I understand you better than you realize, Rabbi Porush and Rabbi Gafni: it’s not the prayer shawls, or even the teffillin. It’s those women’s voices rising out of obscurity; those women’s voices speaking to Hashem without your permission. 


I conclude on this Sisterhood Shabbat, with this wonderful example of subversive prayer at work – living, breathing, challenging: all that prayer is supposed to be!


Prayer for Women of the Wall

by Rahel Jaskow


"May it be Your will, our God and God of our mothers and fathers, to bless this prayer group and all who pray within it: them, their families, and all that is theirs, together with all women’s prayer groups and all the women and girls of Your people Israel. Strengthen us and turn our hearts to serve You in truth, reverence and love. May our prayer be as desirable and acceptable before You as the prayers of our holy foremothers, Sarah, Rivkah, Rahel and Leah. May our song ascend to Your Glorious Throne in holiness and purity, like the song of Miriam the Prophet and Devorah the Judge, and may it be as a pleasant savor and sweet incense before You.


And for our sisters, all the women and girls of Your people Israel: let us merit to see their joy and hear their voices raised before You in song and praise. May no woman or girl of Your people Israel or anywhere else in the world be silenced ever again. God of Justice, let us merit justice and salvation soon, for the sanctity of Your name and the restoration of Your world, as it is written: Zion will hear and be joyful, and the daughters of Judah rejoice, over Your judgments, O God. And as it is written: For Zion’s sake I will not be still and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be silent, until her righteousness comes forth like great light and her salvation like a torch aflame.


For Torah shall go forth from Zion and the word of God from Jerusalem. Amen, selah.




Beth El Israel Tour – Next Aug. 1-16



The chance to go to Israel with your congregation doesn’t come around all that often.  Israel is a safe place to be (terror incidents have declined markedly over the past year, in part because of the world situation and in part because of the security fence) – this is the opportunity of a lifetime.  This trip will be super for all age groups. Even younger children will get a lot out of it.  And singles or couples without children or grandparents with adult children – all will love this trip.  If you would seriously be thinking of coming along, but have reservations about security, cost or the duration of the trip, TALK TO ME!  I want to do anything I can to get as many as possible to Israel this year.


This unforgettable journey has something for everyone:


n      Bar/Bat Mitzvah affirmation service and celebration (with Klezmer music)

n      Wilderness experience in the Negev

n      Exploring Tel Aviv and the mystical city of Safed

n      Visit to an army base

n      Kayaking on the Jordan River, climbing Masada and floating in the Dead Sea

n      Bedouin dinner in the middle of the Ramon Crater

n      Tree-planting ceremony near the home of the Maccabees

n      Visit to our sister city of Afula

n      Visit with Ethiopian families near Jerusalem

n      Briefings from journalists on the current situation

n      Archeological dig in the Judean Hills

n       Tzedakkah project at the children's ward of Hadassah Hospital

n       A glorious Shabbat in Jerusalem


To get the flavor of Israel, read my recent “Letters from Israel” at



Required Reading and Action Items


The Lord--and the Lord of the Rings
"Frodo holds the office of priest, Gandalf is a prophet, and Sauron is the lieutenant of the devil," says one of the Tolkien scholars Beliefnet invited to talk about "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Learn more about the religious themes they see in the books and movies--and decide if you agree with them. More...


Assad Defends Syria's Chemical, Biological Weapons
Syria is entitled to defend itself by acquiring its own chemical and biological deterrent, President Bashar Assad said Monday, coming closer than ever before to admitting that his country possessed stockpiles of WMD. "It is natural for us to look for means to defend ourselves. It is not difficult to get most of these weapons anywhere in the world and they can be obtained at any time," he said. It is the worst kept secret in the Middle East that Damascus has one of the largest stockpiles of chemical agents in the region. (Telegraph-UK)
    See also Assad Still Blames Everybody But Himself - Editorial
The notion that Syria is powerless to rein in rejectionists sounds bizarre coming from the mouth of a man whose father ruthlessly suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood in Hama in 1982. (Telegraph-UK)

Report: Syria Hiding Iraqi WMD
(Israel TV Channel 2/ WorldNetDaily/Hazofe-Hebrew)
    A relative of Syrian President Assad is hiding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in three locations in Syria, Syrian journalist and human rights activist Nizar Najoef told a Dutch newspaper Monday, according to Israel Channel 2 television.
    The weapons were smuggled in large wooden crates and barrels by Zu Alhema al-Shaleesh, known for moving arms into Iraq in violation of UN resolutions and for sending recruits to fight coalition forces.
    One weapons-cache location is a mountain tunnel near al-Baidah in northwest Syria, the report said.
    In west-central Syria, weapons are hidden at a factory operated by the Syrian Air Force, near Tal Snan, between Hama and Salmiyeh, while others are located in tunnels at Shinshar which belong to the Syrian Air Force.

Handle with Care: Words Like "Conflict," "Terrorist" - Tom Fiedler
(Miami Herald)

  • When a Palestinian woman walked into a crowded restaurant in Haifa a few weeks ago and detonated a bomb, she killed 19 people, including three children. According to Reuters, she had waged an ''attack'' - the verbiage of war. The account also said the bombing showed that Palestinian leaders had failed to ''rein in militants,'' an apparent reference to the bomber.
  • Webster's definition of terrorism is, ''The systematic use of terror as a means of coercion.'' Had someone had the chance to interview the bomber prior to her entering the restaurant, I doubt she'd disagree with that definition as a description of her motive.
  • On the other hand, Webster defines militant as someone who is ''engaged in warfare or conflict.'' That definition can be deemed as accurate only from the extremist Palestinian point of view where attacks against Israeli civilians are justified as a fight for freedom. By any logic, militants engaged in warfare don't blow up little babies.
  • Unlike some of our colleagues, we see a line where a militant becomes a terrorist. When a suicide bomber blows up a bus carrying innocent civilians, it's an act of terrorism, not militancy.

The writer is executive editor of the Miami Herald.


Looking Over the Horizon - Moshe Arens
There is almost no chance of reaching a settlement with the PA, regardless of who the prime minister, selected by Arafat, will be. But to conclude that Israel therefore should now withdraw from most of Judea and Samaria and uproot the settlements there is myopic vision at its utmost. Staging a unilateral Israeli withdrawal means bringing terrorism back to the doorstep of Israel's cities. The belief that the fence currently being built can serve as adequate protection and make unnecessary the presence of the IDF in the areas beyond the fence is an illusion. Israelis will not be able to live peaceably as long as terrorists reign in the areas across the fence. The writer is a former minister of defense. (Ha'aretz)


Not the Slightest Regret - Yoel Marcus
I would like to know why there is no one on the other side crying out against the Palestinian Authority's policy of hatred and bloodshed. Where is their B'Tselem? Where are the Palestinian refuseniks who object to the murder of women and children? How come, when civilians are accidentally killed in one of our military operations, everyone clamors right away for an investigation, while their suicide bombers have no qualms about boarding a bus packed with children or entering a crowded restaurant and blowing themselves up, fully aware of who they are taking with them? Not only are they not denounced, but their families are treated with respect and showered with perks and pensions. (Ha'aretz)


Can Technology Defeat "Low-Tech" Terrorism? - Uzi Eilam
There is no single technology, no single group of people, and no single line of defense that will supply a comprehensive answer to the threat of terrorism. Instead, it is necessary to construct "layers of defense." Layers of defense around air travel, for example, will include biometrics to confirm the identity of travelers and means of fortifying the cockpits and arming the pilots. They will also address the threat to civil aviation of shoulder-fired missiles and will develop new technologies and systems for perimeter defense for the airports. All in all, technology can play an important role in the construction of a comprehensive defense against the threat of terror. But international cooperation in this area - in the form of an integrated, coordinated worldwide effort - is crucial. (Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies/Tel Aviv University)


"We Can Redeem Death"
After losing his father, journalist Ari Goldman found comfort in the Jewish mourner's prayer, the Kaddish. When people lose a loved one, he says, "one natural inclination is to question or even reject God." But the Kaddish asks mourners not merely to praise God, but to lead others in doing so. Learn more about this beloved prayer and about other faiths' funeral rites. More...

America and the Middle East After Saddam - Kenneth M. Pollack
(Foreign Policy Research Institute)  The Arab states are broken. They are absolutely stagnant, politically, economically, and socially. And their people know it. The vast majority of Arab schools don't teach anything useful to their students and don't produce students who have useful job skills. Most of the students specialize in humanities, many of them aspire to be lawyers and Islamic scholars: two-thirds of all of the Ph.D.s issued in Saudi Arabia every year are in Islamic studies.

How to Reform the UN: Create a Caucus of Democracies - Max M. Kampelman
Since 1964, the UN Security Council has passed 88 resolutions against Israel - the only democracy in the region - while the General Assembly has passed more than 400 such resolutions. Under UN auspices and with UN funding, three separate entities with large staffs advance the PLO's anti-Israel agenda: the Division for Palestine Rights; the Committee for the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; and the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Human Rights Practices Affecting the Palestinian People, while no Arab state has ever been chastised by the UN for actions against Israel and for its defiance of the 1948 UN resolution. At a minimum, it is essential that the U.S. take the lead in establishing and strengthening a Caucus of Democratic States committed to advancing the UN's assigned role for world peace, human dignity, and democracy. (Wall Street Journal)




Good News about Israeli companies:  From : .... there has been a program going on advocating "buying Israeli" Osem noodles or snacks, Tnuva cheese, Yarden or Carmel wines, Maccabee beer, Jaffa Oranges.  And... a few more ways to buy Israeli:

Use more ... prescription drugs. And when you do, have your doctor check the box that permits dispensing a generic version. Teva Pharmaceuticals of Petach Tikva is the world's largest manufacturer of generic pharmaceuticals.  One out of every 16 prescriptions filled in the United States is for a Teva product made in Israel (or outside Israel but by Teva, an Israeli company).  And they earned over $2.7 billion in revenues last year, and their market cap, at $15 billion is at an all time high.
 ....Spend too much time talking on the phone and you will touch on the products of Amdocs, the world's largest provider of complex billing systems software for communications service providers, market cap $5-1/4 b, also of Ramat Gan.....These companies and over 100 other Israeli companies are traded in the United States on Nasdaq or the NYSE, and in addition to buying Israeli you can buy their stock.
....And it isn't just stocks.  Of course we all know about Israel Bonds.  But if you are an institutional investor, you can also buy the Government of Israel's 10-year bond...Yield 4-5/8 pct., priced at 153 bps. over the 10-year Treasury, rated single A....Or on the corporate level: Israel Electric Corp's 100-year bond, maturing in 2096....yields over 7%.
....Or funds.  First Israel Fund, traded on the Amex, tracks Israeli companies.... Or invest in Markstone Capital, ... sharing in the growth of Israel's old economy companies, its banks, its infrastructure.  ....




A Background Report, with links for further research


From (great maps on this web page!) "From the western Golan, it is only about 60 miles -- without major terrain obstacles -- to Haifa and Acre, Israel's industrial heartland. The Golan -- rising from 400 to 1700 feet in the western section bordering on pre­1967 Israel -- overlooks the Huleh Valley, Israel's richest agricultural area. In the hands of a friendly neighbor, the escarpment has little military importance. If controlled by a hostile country, however, the Golan has the potential to again become a strategic nightmare for Israel.

From 1948-67, when Syria controlled the Golan Heights, it used the area as a military stronghold from which its troops randomly sniped at Israeli civilians in the Huleh Valley below, forcing children living on kibbutzim to sleep in bomb shelters. In addition, many roads in northern Israel could be crossed only after probing by mine-detection vehicles. In late 1966, a youth was blown to pieces by a mine while playing football near the Lebanon border. In some cases, attacks were carried out by Yasir Arafat's Fatah, which Syria allowed to operate from its territory.


....Israel repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, protested the Syrian bombardments to the UN Mixed Armistice Commission, which was charged with policing the cease-fire. For example, Israel went to the UN in October 1966 to demand a halt to the Fatah attacks.... Nothing was done to stop Syria's aggression. A mild Security Council resolution expressing "regret" for such incidents was vetoed by the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, Israel was condemned by the UN when it retaliated. "As far as the Security Council was officially concerned," historian Netanel Lorch wrote, "there was an open season for killing Israelis on their own territory."


After the Six-Day War began, the Syrian air force attempted to bomb oil refineries in Haifa. While Israel was fighting in the Sinai and West Bank, Syrian artillery bombarded Israeli forces in the eastern Galilee, and armored units fired on villages in the Huleh Valley below the Golan Heights.  On June 9, 1967, Israel moved against Syrian forces on the Golan. By late afternoon, June 10, Israel was in complete control of the plateau. Israel's seizure of the strategic heights occurred only after 19 years of provocation from Syria, and after unsuccessful efforts to get the international community to act against the aggressors.


Six years later, in a surprise attack on Yom Kippur, the Syrians overran the Golan Heights before being repulsed by Israeli counterattacks. After the war, Syria signed a disengagement agreement that left the Golan in Israel's hands.  On December 14, 1981, the Knesset voted to annex the Golan Heights. The statute extended Israeli civilian law and administration to the residents of the Golan, replacing the military authority that had ruled the area since 1967.


Since 1974, Syria has adhered to the cease-fire on the Golan, largely because of the presence of Israeli troops within artillery range of Damascus. But during this time, Syria has provided a haven and supported numerous terrorist groups that attack Israel from Lebanon and other countries. These include the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP); the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Hezbollah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine­General Command (PFLP­GC). In addition, Syria still deploys hundreds of thousands of troops-as much as 75 percent of its army-on the Israeli front near the Heights.  As the peace process faltered in 1996-97, Syria began to renew threats of war with Israel and to make threatening troop movements. Some Israeli analysts have warned of the possibility of a lightning strike by Syrian forces aimed at retaking the Golan. The Israeli Defense Forces have countered the Syrian moves; however, and -- to this point -- preserved the peace.


For Israel, relinquishing the Golan to a hostile Syria could jeopardize its early-warning system against surprise attack. Israel has built radars on Mt. Hermon, the highest point in the region. If Israel withdrew from the Golan and had to relocate these facilities to the lowlands of the Galilee, they would lose much of their strategic effectiveness.


After losing the 1999 election, Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed reports that he had engaged in secret talks with Syrian President Hafez Assad to withdraw from the Golan and maintain a strategic early-warning station on Mount Hermon. ....The election of Ehud Barak stimulated new movement in the peace process, with intensive negotiations held in the United States in January 2000 between Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa.  ...the discussions did not bear fruit. President Assad died in June 2000 and no further talks have been held as Assad's son and successor, Bashar has moved to consolidate his power. Rhetorically, Bashar has not indicated any shift in Syria's position on the Golan....


From for 12.29.03:  ·  Syrian Schools Drenched in Anti-Semitism - Melissa Radler
Virulent anti-Semitism, calls for jihad, and support for the elimination of Israel are entrenched in every level of Syria's school system, according to a study released by B'nai B'rith International of 68 Syrian school textbooks spanning grades 1-12. Conducted by the New York-based Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, the 30-page study titled "Jihad, Jews and Anti-Semitism in Syrian School Texts" found that Syrian children are taught to hate Jews and Israel with such ferocity that genuine reconciliation between the two peoples appears unlikely in the near future. (Jerusalem Post)


For another view on what's happening in Iraq, read


Powell Rejects Abu Ala's "One-State" Idea
Secretary of State Colin Powell said at a press conference Thursday:
  Question: The Palestinian Prime Minister said in an interview that if the Sharon government goes forward with some of the ideas that were outlined in Prime Minister Sharon's December 18th speech, that the Palestinians would effectively abandon the idea of a two-state solution and demand full rights with the Israelis in a single state. I wonder if you think this idea of a single state has any sort of viability?
  Powell: No, we're committed to a two-state solution. I believe that's the only solution that'll work: a state for the Palestinian people called Palestine; and a Jewish state, the state of Israel, which exists. And what we have to do is get to a table where we can negotiate the terms of existence.
    What we need right now is for the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority to get control of security forces and to use those forces and use the other tools available to him to put down terror and to put down violence. And if that happens and we see that kind of commitment, then I am confident that we can move forward on the roadmap. Mr. Sharon begins all of his discussions by saying he would like to see a solution; he is looking for reliable partners he can work with. And his plans that he has spent some time presenting recently suggest what he feels he might have to do if he doesn't have a reliable partner. What we are trying to do is to get that reliable partner to stand up and start acting. (State Department)
    See also Powell Faults Palestinians for Impasse (AP/Washington Post)


Lebanese Chafe under Syria's Quiet Occupation
Lebanon's devastating civil war ended following the 1989 Taif Agreement, which gave Syria limited rule over the wrecked country. The agreement called for Syria to withdraw its troops and hand power back to a reconstructed Lebanese government after two years. Yet today, 20,000 Syrian soldiers remain in Lebanon, and Syria's grip on Lebanese politics is stronger than ever. It is an invisible occupation, in which Lebanon's leaders must seek Damascus's approval of their policies, and Syrian plainclothes agents roam back streets, ears cocked for political dissent.
    Syria also supports the terrorist Islamic group Hizballah and allows it run of the Lebanese-Israeli border. Syria has allowed 1 million Syrian workers into Lebanon (equal to a fourth of Lebanon's population) and flooded the country's market with cheap Syrian goods. Beirut's renovation, which Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri contracted to his own company, has pushed Lebanon's foreign debt to $33 billion. (Christian Science Monitor)


Israelis Reexamine Warfare - Joshua Brilliant
Imagine a battlefield saturated with sensors, drones, intelligence-gathering balloons, and planes that see everything the enemy has. All data is fed into very advanced communications, command and control systems that fuse it, identify targets, transfer the information hundreds of miles away to systems that fire accurate weapons, attack the targets in quick succession, and destroy them. "Who would want to enter such a battlefield (knowing) that in a short time he would be destroyed?" asked the outgoing Head of the Israeli army's Strategic Planning Division, Brig. Gen. Eival Gilady at a Tel Aviv University conference last week. The Israeli army is already developing such a capability, Gilady and other generals indicated.
    Israel still faces "a danger to its existence," stressed Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon. Israel needs "a strong defensive army in the foreseeable future. It should be able to react to current security activities along the borders, fight terror, engage in a high intensity (conventional) conflict, (cope with) the threat of rockets and surface-to-surface missiles, as well as a non-conventional threat," Yaalon added. It should seek "a relative advantage in every arena so that it could contribute to deterrence," he said. Should Israel's deterrence fail, the most likely scenario would see a deterioration along the Lebanese border spread to Syria, prompt Palestinians to escalate their attacks, and possibly lead Egypt to violate the peace treaty and send troops into the Sinai Peninsula, several recently retired generals and security experts said. (UPI/Washington Times)


After Saddam - Editorial
The coalition's swift victory against Saddam Hussein and, more recently, the circumstances of his capture have been the single biggest factor in convincing the old guard in the Middle East that it has to change. The exception to all this has been Syria. President Assad came to power with promises of overdue reform, political liberalization, and a new realism. The result has been deeply disappointing. There have been no real steps to domestic reform. During the Iraq war, Syria behaved with duplicity, bordering on outright hostility. The evidence that it has allowed weapons and terrorists to cross into Iraq and encouraged Baathists to cross the other way is incontrovertible. Assad has foolishly boasted of his weapons of mass destruction which he intends to keep. (London Times)

Israel Scientists Make Colon Cancer Cell Breakthrough (AFP)
Researchers at Israel's Weizmann Institute said Tuesday they have managed for the first time to halt the spread of colon cancer cells in laboratory tests. "It offers hope of reversing the metastatic process or even preventing it in the future by designing a drug that targets" a cancerous gene, said chief researcher Avri Ben-Zeev.

Israel Philharmonic to Open U.S. Tour in March (Cleveland Jewish News)
The world-renowned Israel Philharmonic Orchestra will open its 2004 U.S. tour on March 7 in Cleveland, followed by concerts in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and seven other cities.

From the Shalom Center, at




The lead story on our Home Page is now an examination of what  Jews could do about earthquake relief for Iranians, with a number of new items:  Arthur Waskow's thoughts, plus reports of non-governmental Israeli responses,  comments by a Jewishly committed Persian-American Jew, comments by an Iranian-American who supports the Iranian government's rejection of Israeli governmental aid (and my response), and comments from the American Jewish World service about the question.


2. NEW LIGHT ON EARTH & JEWS We have added several important articles to the "Earth" section -- a troubling report by the Israeli eco-activist organization Adam Teva v'Din ("Humanity, Nature, & Law") on eco-hazards throughout Israel, and a scholarly article that finds a very rich vein of ecological thought in Hassidism.


And for a view from above this planet, as we approach the anniversary of the Columbia disaster, see what Ilan Ramon saw of Israel from outer space, at  I

“THINK-ISRAEL” features essays and commentaries that provide context for current events in Israel. Check it out at




Summary of Editorials from the Israeli Press, January 8 2004

Two papers comment on the breakthrough in Syrian-Turkish relations.

Haaretz writes: "The political developments evident in the Middle East in recent weeks are creating the impression that the region is on the verge of a new order of forces... The official visit by Syrian President Bashar Assad to Turkey, at a time when Ankara is strengthening its ties with Jerusalem, could be evidence of a maturation of Syrian readiness to give up past precepts under which a country that is friendly with Israel cannot be a friend of Syria. The important developments between Iran and Egypt should also be viewed in the same light... In contrast to all this, Israel appears to be wallowing in the mud of a tribal conflict, not allowing any of these regional developments to get in the way. Israel's fixation with the Palestinian conflict blocks any attempt to seriously examine Assad's proposal, or to offer a realistic plan to solve the conflict."

The Jerusalem Post comments: "Syria has traditionally dreaded any warming of relations between Israel and Turkey. Budding cooperation between its two neighbors had significantly intensified its ruler Bashar Assad's sense of claustrophobia. He faces the mounting prospect of American sanctions, his country's economy is in shambles, and neighboring dictator Saddam Hussein fell ignominiously. That Assad needs a breather is indisputable, but why should Turkey give him one?... Turkey is clearly being pulled in different directions. On the one hand it looks westward. Turkey yearns to be considered part of Europe, part of the West and the democratic free world. On the other hand, neighboring tyrannies aggravate its fear of regional instability. Hence Turkey's surprise refusal to allow American forces to launch from its territory during the war in Iraq and its willingness to cozy up with Assad, despite his assistance to anti-coalition forces in Iraq. Caught between two worlds, Turkey must decide where it wishes to fit itself and where its future lies... It is a mistake for Turkey to attempt to straddle the bipolar divide that has emerged since September 11, 2001... Turkey should be a leader in helping to break the iron grip of dictatorships on the Middle East, a grip that threatens the peace and security of the world. Giving Bashar Assad a hand up is not a promising start."

Yediot Aharonot comments on the IDF: "Image is power. An organization whose image is compromised is an organization with less power. The IDF understands this well, and is worried about the continual damage to its image." The editors offer various reasons for this phenomenon and note that, "Israeli support of the military strengthens specifically at a time when terrorism hits us badly, since at such a time the feeling that there is no choice increases."

Hatzofeh reproaches various left-wing MKs for demonstrating tolerance, openness, and sensitivity to other religious celebrations and ceremonies, while at the same time denouncing those who encourage and publicly display commitment to Jewish religious traditions as "religious coercion." The editors call on their readers to "join together against the trend which threatens to remove the Jewish flag from the state."




The Highest Level of Tzedakkah


For many months we have been posting job information and situation wanted blurbs on behalf of congregants seeking to change their professional situation. We are now going to be taking our concern to the next level, with the creation of a job bank jointly with Temple Sinai.  The committee will be kept intentionally small, with one person from Sinai and one from Beth El administering it, along with the rabbis.  The goal will be to enable congregants and others to post resumes, queries and job openings where they will get maximal exposure.  I will also continue to use the Shabbat O Gram and individual e-mails to help match people with job opportunities.  If you would like to be the Beth El lay representative on this project (the Sinai person is already in place), please e-mail me ASAP.


I’ve received a request from Ziv Baratz.  Ziv is the brother-in-law of Yifat Meiri, the emissary we hosted last year.  It seems that he is out of work, and is asking for any and all help in finding a job.  Ziv and his family are willing to relocate, and in fact expressed an interest in coming to the States several months ago.  If you're able to get the word out, I'm sure he would appreciate it.



Ziv Baratz

Kibbutz Beit Hashita, 18910, Israel

Phone No: +972 4 6546778


Birth Date: May 7th, 1971

Married, 2 children



Senior logistics executive position in a medium to large company or management of major logistics projects.



Highly experienced in management of logistic systems and projects in industrial and commercial organizations, including procurement, export, import, transportation, storage, inventory planning and management, financial systems management, taking products from planning to production and/or outsourcing phases and implementation and assimilation of QA procedures and standards.

Efficient, fast learner, takes and shares responsibility, good management, social and marketing skills, strong technical background and excellent knowledge of supply chain IT systems and QA management.

(the rest of the resume is available upon request – I encourage you to contact Ziv directly for more information)








On February 1, 2004 at 10am, Sisterhood will present special guest speaker 

Rabbi Alan Silverstein,

renowned lecturer on Jewish Continuity

 and author of It All Begins With a Date: Jewish Concerns About Intermarriage  and Preserving Jewishness in Your Family After Intermarriage Has Occurred.  

Learn how to raise your children to value Judaism and to date within the faith, as well as how to preserve Judaism within interfaith marriages. 

For parents of children of all ages.  RSVP to 322-6901, ext. 306. 

Admission Free.




WEDNESDAY, JAN. 21, @ 7:30





"Sacred Passages: A Multicultural Exploration of the Peak Moments of Our Lives."



Rabbi Joshua Hammerman -- Temple Beth El

Rev. Douglas McArthur - First United Methodist Church

Dr. Behjat Syed -- Dr Syed is a lay representative of the Stamford Islamic Center and a chiropractor, who has spoken in Islam before many groups locally.



Find out about Westchester/Fairfield Hebrew Academy
Sunday, January 11th - 2-4pm
300 East Putnam Ave
(Temple Sholom building)




Lunch and Learn Series

Led by Rabbi Joshua Hammerman


Judaism, Business and Ethics for Our Time –


Using rabbinic sources, the group will explore the ethics of the marketplace, including deceptive advertising, employer-employee relations, consumer rights (and wrongs) and insider trading.


Meets Monthly, next one is Feb. 4 @12:30


At Benjamin and Gold, P.C., 350 Bedford Street 4th floor

Parking in rear of building (at corner of Pedigree Ski Shop), or metered parking on the street in front of building and also behind Baby and Toy Superstore, across the street.

(many thanks to Dan Benjamin for providing the space)




TGIS (Thank God it’s Shabbat)


A rotating series of Friday night experiences

For all tastes and all ages

At 6:30 PM

Week 1 --- in the chapel, a traditional Beth El Service

Week 2 --- in the Sanctuary, Family Friday

Week 3 --- in the chapel: a creative Theme services


Week 4 --- a Carlebach-style service, featuring Hasidic nigunim and joyous meditation.


Plus our ongoing Tot Shabbat series (weeks 1 and 3 at 6:45, and Tiny Tot Shabbat on week 2 at 4)





KESHER  (3rd 4th 5th Grades)


SNOW TUBING! at Woodbury Ski AreaWoodbury, CT

Monday January 19th, 2004 (Martin Luther King Day) RSVP BY JANUARY 16th

Call Scott at (203) 322-6901 ext. 324 for details. CHAPERONES NEEDED!


KADIMA (6th 7th 8th Grades)


HAVDALAH PARTY This Saturday night 7 - 10 PM; NO RSVP NECESSARY. GAMES PRIZES FRIENDS FUN. What could be better?


SNOW TUBING! at Woodbury Ski AreaWoodbury, CT

Monday January 19th, 2004 (Martin Luther King Day) RSVP BY JANUARY 16th

Call Scott at (203) 322-6901 ext. 324 for details. CHAPERONES NEEDED!


SHABBAT DINNER and Guest Speaker on Teen Issues (SpeakerTBA) January 30th


USY (9-12th)

MID WINTER KINNUS - February 6-8th. Applications can be picked up at the Temple.


SHABBAT DINNER and Guest Speaker on Teen Issues (SpeakerTBA) January 30th






(thanks to Shelley Berman for this Beaut)


Jews on Mars


Houston (JTA) - In a stunning development, it has been learned that there is life on Mars -- but not the kind that had been anticipated. The first
indication, based on the current U.S. space mission, came when the small roving vehicle called Sojourner spotted a sign on the rocky terrain of the Red Planet that read, "Welcome To Chabad House -- Bring Moshiach Now."

The sign, in English, thrilled and confused NASA scientists at the NASA Space Flight Centre in Houston,who had no idea what it meant.
Only after thorough research did they learn that it revealed the presence of a dedicated and particularly hearty group of Lubavitch Chasidim, known
 for their tireless efforts to reach Jews in the most remote regions, urging them to perform mitzvoth. "We've been here for some time now doing our work," said a cheerful Rabbi Lou Steinwalker, mission commander of the spaceship "Mitzvah 613", in an exclusive phone interview..    


When asked how long he had been on Mars and how he got there, he said only, "where there's a will, there's a way."

He then excused himself, explaining that it was time for prayer and he was looking for a minyan. In a subsequent phone call, the Rabbi noted that in
recent days another synagogue has been formed on Mars - -- a Reform congregation that he would not set foot in. Following up on that information, we contacted Rabbi Uri Negev, a Reform leader in Israel, who said that when he had met secretly with the chief rabbis of Israel in Jerusalem recently, they told him  that if Reform Jews wanted to pray in peace, they should go to Mars.
 "So we did," said Rabbi Negev, "and no one has bothered us, except the local Conservative congregation that keeps trying to borrow our membership list." A Conservative congregation on Mars? Yes, it is true, acknowledged a leader of the Jewish Theological Seminary. "We discovered that blending Jewish law and modernity just doesn't work on Earth, and we're always looking for new venues," explained Rabbi Ismore Sources. The rabbi complained bitterly of financial competition from the United Jewish Appeal's Interplanetary Division, which has been scouring Mars via satellite in search of potential donors.

Stephen Solomon, the chief executive of the charity acknowledged that highly motivated fund-raisers have been active throughout the galaxy for
several light years. "We've determined through a Strategic Planet Plan that our most compelling marketing strategy is rescue," he said. "The trouble is that we haven't found anyone out there to save!"

That's been a problem, as well, for Abraham Loxsmith of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League. "We are prepared to open a major branch on Mars, and we've already ordered the press releases and fax papers. But, so far, no one has defamed us." Loxsmith is considering whether the lack of defamation may be due to a form of active, even hostile, disinterest in Jews that qualifies as anti-Semitism.

All this sudden interest among Jews about Mars has motivated Malcolm Phoneline to form a new umbrella group, the Conference of Presidents of Major Martian Jewish Organizations (CPMMJO). He said the group has already received several calls from anonymous rabbis inquiring as to whether there were any Pell grants available on Mars.

Meanwhile, a number of kosher-for-Passover tours have scouted out the Red Planet as a unique alternative to places like Palm Springs and Hawaii for jaded holiday vacationers. One tour operator noted that Rabbi Orson Vells has already been hired to conduct and broadcast the communal Seders, to be called "The War Of The Words," and that space stations are under construction to transport large supplies of oxygen, horseradish and shmura matzah for the eight-day festival. "It will be out of this world," the travel expert said, "and, I assure you, very tastefully done.."

Tourism might be affected adversely, though, by a late report that Palestinian authorities are claiming entitlement to 92 percent of Mars, asserting
that Arab ties to the planet can be traced to the Koran.



Previous Shabbat-O-Grams can be accessed directly from our web site (


The Web link for this week's Shabbat-O-Gram is - - The site is continually updated during the week with corrections and additions.  Feel free to forward this link to your friends. People can subscribe to the weekly Shabbat-O-Gram at   I also send out mailings to college students, Gen Xers and teens, so let us know if you wish to be placed on any of those lists.  If you wish to unsubscribe, contact  

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