Category Archives: Education

167 Jewish sites and cemeteries saved by Muslim nation of Morocco; King Mohammed VI honored at New York Museum of Modern Art

At the New York Museum of Modern Art on November 19, distinguished guests from a multitude of faiths converged to pay tribute to King Mohammed VI of Morocco. The Moroccan royal was honored for his work in preservation of Jewish cemeteries in his mostly Muslim nation. King Mohammed’s efforts reflect how citizen and leadership majorities can still successfully join together in harmony to provide for the interests of minorities.

Attendance of this distinguished event was also a successful joining, with many religious dignitaries standing to applaud the king. His Eminence Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York, was present for the ceremony, as was His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. President of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, Rabbi Arthur Schneier lauded King Mohammed’s efforts, as did Imam Mohamed Hamagid, the Islamic Society of North America’s President.

Despite increasing tensions and ever present cultural stressors throughout the world, this convergence indicates the willingness of peoples from all faiths to work together for common good. Hosted by the Council of Jewish Communities of Morocco and produced in conjunction with religious leadership and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Thursday event proved well-attended by diverse peoples with the goal of honoring King Mohammed VI for his rehabilitation of Morocco’s Jewish cemeteries.

A photo journal produced as part of the cemetery rehabilitation project chronicles efforts from start to finish. The project has become known as “The House of Life.” The Conference of Presidents and King Mohammed hope that the photo collection will one day be exhibited within a museum such as the New York Museum of Modern Art.

Religious historic sites today often suffer the wrath of disrespect and wanton destruction. It is rare that one religious group will work diligently to restore damaged sites of another faith, as this project entailed. The House of Life is seen as a positive example of interfaith historic preservation in a time when so many faiths fail to find common ground or work together with mutual respect. It is a project of hope.

Launched in April 2010, the House of Life project of Morocco spent five full years rehabilitating Jewish cemeteries throughout the kingdom. King Mohammed VI oversaw efforts and directed the course of action for restoration of 167 Jewish burial places. As part of the project, 159 new doors were installed. 140,000 feet of fencing was constructed. Perhaps most heartrending, over 12,600 graves were repaired.

Of the project, Ambassador Serge Berdugo quoted the king as saying that House of Life is a testimony of the kingdom’s spiritual heritage, as well as its richness and diversity. The king paid tribute to the country’s Jewish legacy and called its rituals and other aspects an “intrinsic part of our country’s heritage for more than three thousand years.” He referred to the new Moroccan Constitution, wherein Hebrew heritage is recognized as a facet of the national identity.

As part of his speech, Rabbi Arthur Schneier noted appreciation and thankfulness for the work of His Majesty Mohammed VI. Schneier called him a “role model of interreligious peaceful coexistence between the children of Abraham.” Schneier then recognized united pursuit of tolerance and peace through diversity. He said, “United we shall prevail over the terrorist scourge that has metastasized, united we shall prevail over the wreckers of civilizations.”

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The Need To Be Responsive

responsive

You may have heard the word “responsive” when it comes to the internet and the public relations industry. But what does it really mean to be responsive? Catering to the needs and demands of your customers by creating a customized experience through your products and services is what it’s all about. Because of the wide range of devices and technology that is available today, it is more important than ever to make sure that your company website and digital media is user friendly across many different platforms.

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Effective Communication in the Healthcare Industry

healthcare-prOne of the most valued qualities in a job candidate is the ability to speak, listen and write effectively. Organizations that communicate effectively with their internal and external stakeholders benefit in many ways than those that view communication as an internal matter. Effective communication in the healthcare industry encompasses many factors.

Structure

This is one of the most important components of good communication. Professionals in the healthcare industry should organize information in a logical, easy-to-understand manner. For example, avoid using technical and medical jargon when relaying information to people who are not in the medical field.

Transparency

Effective communication in the healthcare industry should be transparent. For example, in a hospital setting, transparency refers to how much information should be revealed about the hospital, its dealings, policies and developments. Honesty and integrity are important elements of effective communication in the healthcare industry because they inspire trust between the industry and its internal and external stakeholders. Transparency in communication also ensures that everyone has the information they require to make the right decisions.

Accuracy

Many factors in the healthcare industry affect people’s lives directly and indirectly. Inaccurate information in research and other factors in the healthcare industry may even lead to loss of lives. Accuracy in communication can be enhanced mainly through research.

Sensitivity

The workforce in the healthcare industry is highly diverse. Therefore, the ability to practice sensitivity in communication is highly valued. Sensitivity in communication involves taking account of cultural differences in communication styles and adapting your messages so that they can be well received by your intended audience.

Effective communication in the healthcare industry is a broad field that encompasses many factors. Many companies are now hiring public relations managers to handle their internal and external communication. There are many benefits of hiring Public relations managers to handle communication for businesses in the healthcare industry.

• By hiring public relations managers, you receive experienced professionals who can brainstorm and tell the story of your company in a unique way.

• An external PR firm provides third party objectivity in communication. Effective communication may involve stepping back, assessing the situation and offering fresh ideas and perspectives.

• Public relations managers have the expertise to tailor creative messages that can break through misunderstandings and negative public opinions.

• PR managers have established communication with the media. While internal PR managers may be more passionate about their firms, news coming from them may seem biased and non-credible, which the media may not buy.

• Experienced PR managers work with company spokespeople and teach them how to deliver catchy sound bites, answer tough questions from the media and stick to important messages.

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Sharp PR for American Knives

american-made-knifeFrom 1998 to 2012, the number of American knife makers dropped by nearly 30 percent. This is just one aspect of a declining American manufacturing industry, but it is no small loss. For example, according to Businessweek, one Massachusetts knife maker employed 500 workers consuming 200 tons of steel annually. This was way back in 1864, though, and today, things are very different. That company recently filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. And they are not alone. Today there are only 188 knife makers in the States. That’s a tiny number when you consider how many knives are bought and sold in the U.S. each year.

Consider the sheer number of steak knives used at restaurants across the nation. Then, think about every carved turkey or family dinner or wedding reception. Every butcher, meat cutter, caterer, event facility, or breakfast bistro. Relatively few of them are buying American anymore.

Ronn Torossian admits that these companies have more than an image issue. They are facing the same challenges all American low tech manufacturers are. Rising prices for raw materials, lagging technology, and expensive labor costs are forcing many companies overseas. Sure, product quality sometimes suffers, but it’s better than closing their doors.

Still, is there something these American companies can do from a public relations standpoint? Well, first, most of these manufacturers are far too anonymous with regard to the general consumer market. Sure, chefs and meat cutters might have a favorite brand, but the average American consumer really has no clue what brand means quality. They buy on price and try not to go home with junk.

Knife manufacturers have only themselves to blame for this. American consumers love to be loyal both to American made products and to quality merchandise. Yes, they will buy the cheap junk when they have to, but only because they don’t know any better.

For the beleaguered blade industry, step one should be to build brand recognition, and create a story for their brand. Consumers want to know what they are buying … it’s up to the brand to tell them.

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Cars That Drive Themselves

Highway 101 in Silicon Valley is no stranger to headless drivers, that is, cars that drive themselves. Google is experimenting with driverless cars that will eventually do just about everything but donate themselves to Kars for Kids when it’s time to buy the next, newer model. Auto manufacturers are sitting up and paying attention and drawing plans for their own prototypes of these automated cars.

Those of us who don’t live in the Valley, however, may find the concept of driverless cars hard to take in, while those responsible for coming up with the technology behind these wonders are beginning to think about how these cars will change the city they know and love. For example, imagine what will happen when you have to fly out of town. You won’t need to worry about getting from the long term parking lot to the airport entrance with your luggage. Maybe your driverless car will drop you off at the airport entrance and park on its own.  Or perhaps there will be some kind of automated system to cart away all the vehicles at once and deposit them into parking spaces.

Schlepping In Heels

Ditto for finding parking spots in the crowded city—your driverless car will receive input about available spaces. It can drop you off where you need to be and go park. When you’re ready, you can summon your car by remote control, or maybe by phone, and your driverless car will come to you so you don’t have to schlep in high heels a long distance away to where your car is parked.

Traffic lights will become redundant since sophisticated sensors located in cars and streets will manage traffic without them. Parking tickets will be phased out since driverless cars will know better than to park where they have no right to be. The sightless will be able to go anywhere they please on their own driverless steam.

Engineers and city planners are trying to envision how city spaces will change as driverless cars become the norm. But a spokesman at Audi says we still have a decade to figure it all out. And even after that, there are still other details that must be ironed out in advance of city planning, such as regulatory issues, for instance.

Way Ahead

Still, California is way ahead of the, um, curve. As early as last year, California governor Jerry Brown signed legislation allowing for driverless car traffic on state roads. Federal agencies are also beginning to issue policy regarding these cars, in an effort to encourage cities to begin testing autonomous vehicles. In general, driverless cars are thought of as a positive and timely innovation. There seems to be no doubt that driving will become a thing of the past.

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Last Minute Tax Tips On Tax Day

Tax Day is upon us. The fear, the anxiety, the pressure comes down to now. Most of us wonder if we’re really ready—or doomed to make mistakes. No one can take the anxiety away, but we can help you make a list and check it twice. Here are some of the most common mistakes made during tax season:

Math mistakes: The IRS regularly catches math errors, over 2.7 million of them on tax returns filed in 2012. Most of the time, the error is in calculating the amount of taxes taxpayers owe. Most people find it more efficient to file electronically. But check and double check you are inserting the correct amounts into the right boxes.

Incorrect account and routing numbers: It’s convenient to have your tax refunds deposited directly into your account, but make a mistake in citing the account number and your return may end up in someone else’s account. At the very least, the error will cause your refund to be delayed. Check that number once, twice, and thrice.

Forgotten tax deductions: Did you donate your car to a car donation charity such as Kars4Kids? Don’t forget to claim the deduction. You have it coming to you, after all.

Keep a copy: Just before you file the return, make a copy of the signed return for your records. File it away and keep it for reference.

Missed deadline: This year’s deadline was shorter by two weeks, which may have made it difficult for you to either get an accountant to help you or gather things together to do it yourself. It’s likely that the IRS will be generous with granting extensions, as a result. You can probably get an automatic 6-month extension by filing a Form 4858.

Forgotten payment: Many people are asking for extensions this year, but that works only for the actual filing. You still need to pay your taxes today, April 15th. Did you forget? You can pay electronically or send a money order payable to the United States Treasury.

Prominent Philanthropist Elie Hirschfeld noted, “When I give I feel good, I help people – and it’s the right thing to do.”

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Did Exremism Cause the Fall of the Second Temple?

Shammai Engelmayer • Columns

Published: 06 July 2012

The Three Weeks begin this evening, and with them once again comes the question of why Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. The standard answer is this: Jerusalem was destroyed because of the sin of “baseless hatred” (sinat chinam); the Talmud says so, so it must be true.

But the Talmud does not say so. Sinat chinam was a contributing factor, but extremism was the cause.

Actually, the Talmud offers many reasons for why Jerusalem was destroyed. In the Babylonian Talmud tractate Shabbat (119b), for example, there are several from which to choose. Among them are that “Shabbat was desecrated there,” “Jerusalemites neglected reading the Shema,” they “neglected [the education of] school children,” acted without concern for how their actions looked to others, acted as though those among them who were the most ignorant of the law were the equals of those who were most knowledgeable, “closed their eyes to the evil around them and did nothing,” and because “scholars there were despised by the general population.”

BT Yoma (9b) offers different possibilities, including sinat chinam, which is by far the most popular one: “But the second Temple… why was it destroyed? Because there existed there sinat chinam. That is meant to teach you that baseless hatred is considered even worse [a sin] than the three sins of idolatry, sexual immorality, and bloodshed combined.”

What is absent in Yoma, however, is what is meant by “baseless hatred.” For that, we must turn to BT Gittin (55b-56a) and the infamous tale of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, which is used as the prooftext that sinat chinam was the cause of Jerusalem’s destruction and our exile. There is only one problem: The text makes no such claim. Those who cite it either have never studied the text, or deliberately cut off the tale at its knees to distort its true — and unwanted — message.

“The destruction of Jerusalem came through a certain Kamtza and a Bar Kamtza in this way,” Rabbi Yochanan explains in the text. “A certain man had a friend named Kamtza and an enemy named Bar Kamtza. He once made a party and said to his servant, ‘Go and bring me Kamtza.’ The man went and brought him Bar Kamtza instead. When the [host] found [Bar Kamtza] there, he said, ‘Behold, you are the one who tells stories about me. Why are you here? Leave.’ Said [Bar Kamtza to the host]: ‘Since I am already here, let me stay, and I will pay you for whatever I eat and drink.’”

The host said no, and all the efforts of Bar Kamtza to avoid being embarrassed proved futile. He even offered to pay for the whole party, but the host literally dragged him to the street, while all of Jerusalem’s elite reportedly stood by in silence.

“Said [Bar Kamtza], ‘Since there were rabbis sitting there and [they] did not stop him [from behaving so boorishly], I understand from this that they agreed with him. I will go to the [Roman] government and inform on them.’”

Thus, according to the testimony of Bar Kamtza, the reason for his perfidy was the silence of the rabbis, not the animosity shown to him by the anonymous host. That animosity, in fact, may not have been baseless, at all. The host cites his reason: that Bar Kamtza spread tales about him, presumably of an evil nature. Bar Kamtza does not deny the charge. Rather, he pleads not to be embarrassed in front of Jerusalem’s elite.

The story, however, is not over. Rabbi Yochanan has more to say:

“[Bar Kamtza] went and said to [the local governor, personal representative of] Caesar, ‘The Jews are rebelling against you.’ [The Roman] said, ‘How can I tell?’ Said Bar Kamtza to him: ‘Send them an offering and see whether they will offer it [on the altar].’”

Bar Kamtza, of course, had a plan. He knew that the Romans would choose a calf for the offering that was ritually acceptable. He would then see to it that the animal would not be acceptable once it arrived at the Temple. “While on the way,” said Rabbi Yochanan, Bar Kamtza “made a blemish on its upper lip, or some say that it was on the white of its eye, in a place where according to our way of thinking it is a blemish [thereby rendering the calf ineligible as a sacrifice], but according to [the Roman] way of looking at it, it is not [considered a blemish].”

Now Rabbi Yochanan gets to his point: The rabbis were prepared to allow the offering “in order to keep peace with the government,” but a rabbi named Zechariah ben Avkulas insisted that the law be followed to the letter.

And so it was. Said Rabbi Yochanan: “Because of the humility of Rabbi Zechariah ben Avkulas, our House was destroyed, our Temple burnt, and we ourselves exiled from our land.”

For “humility,” read “extremism.” Rabbi Yochanan’s point is clear: Jerusalem was razed and the Temple set afire because one rabbi insisted that God’s law was immutable and uncompromising, and the consequences be damned.

The true lesson of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, is that consequences must be considered. If God was the ultimate author of the calamities of 70 C.E., then it was God Himself who rejected following a strict interpretation of halachah in the face of impending disaster. It was He who punished His people for not allowing a more liberal interpretation of the law to hold sway long enough to avert disaster.

Sometimes, God was saying, religious authorities must set aside their aversion to compromise. When the fate of the People Israel is at stake, they must be more accepting of other views and must be more honest in admitting that their views may not be the only ones that will please God. They can hold to their views, but they must neither demonize nor delegitimate those who think differently.

Shammai Engelmayer is rabbi of the Conservative synagogue Temple Israel Community Center in Cliffside Park and an instructor in the UJA-Federation-sponsored Florence Melton Adult Mini-School of the Hebrew University. He is the editor of Judaism: A Journal of Jewish Life and Thought.  This article was originally printed in the Jewish Standard of NJ.

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