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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The Hamas Flotilla

Gaza Flotilla Captain Tells of Planned Armed Provocation in Video Tape

June 14th 2010
Gaza Topics - Gaza flotilla 2

A new videotaped interview with the captain of the largest ship in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla has surfaced, revealing that the ship had been overrun by members of the Turkish humanitarian group İnsani Yardım Vakfı (IHH) preparing for a confrontation with Israel.

The whole truth of the incident has yet to come out, but with each day that passes, new information gets presented that helps piece this puzzle together. Mehmut Tuval, Captain, Mavi Marmara tells Israeli officers of a very different type of voyage than that of a pure humanitarian mission. The video opens with Tuval talking about a group of IHH members cutting steel pipe from the rails of the ship and cutting chains, preparing them on the deck three hours before the IDF commandoes boarded. To do this, they used cutting disks that were brought on for this purpose.

Tuval was asked if he was worried that violence would ensue. He asserted that he was quite worried, yet, he did say that no one was able to control the IHH members. In the video tape, the ship’s Chief Officer Gokkiran Gokhan confirms that under IHH control, people who were unknown to the IHH members were unable to move freely about the vessel.

If nothing else, the interviews bring more clarity to what was truly a chaotic situation, in that it indicates that there were those with other than humanitarian motives aboard. Even more, it suggests that the Mavi Marmara, if not the flotilla itself, was willingly sailing toward confrontation.

Israel’s blockade of the waterways to Gaza was established to limit the flow of munitions and tools that could yield weapons into Gaza. At the same time, critics condemn Israel for quarantining Palestinians. The fact that the Gaza Strip is a place from where rockets into Israel fall frequently and lawlessness and anti-Israel sentiment prevail gets overlooked or brushed aside as trivial. Critics fail to acknowledge that food and supplies go through the checkpoints into Gaza constantly by truck, after the content is inspected for materials that could be exploited for malice. Other ships carrying supplies meant for Gaza before the deadly flotilla and even after have been peacefully sent to Israeli ports and the content has been sent into Gaza by land. It is clear today that while there were some unassuming people aboard the pack of boats sailing that night, the purpose was to provoke Israel and cause an international incident.

For its role, the government of Turkey may not be an honest broker in this event. Its Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been ratcheting up the harsh rhetoric against Israel for some time, and was among the first nations to recall its ambassador and used some of his harshest words yet, calling the Israeli Navy’s actions a “bloody massacre,” and declared that outright murder by an “aggressive country” was committed. Allusions then were made that Turkish Navy would escorting future ships, risking an armed confrontation with Israel. Yet, to a small degree, its rancor has cooled a bit as more evidence like this interview appears.

It is still unclear how much of a clear role Erdogan’s government played in planning the confrontation with Israel in the Mediterranean on May 31. Whether it was direct, having been on the ground floor of planning, or veiled, allowing it to sail knowing what was likely to happen, is an important piece of the puzzle. The former would be tantamount to an international crime, and would put the United Nations to task having to rein in the republic with a near 100% Moslem population. The latter would signal that the leadership of Israel’s most reliable Moslem population in the region has joined the forces to delegitimize and undermine the Jewish state.

Almost to the hour after the news of the bloodshed aboard the fateful ship, advocates, politicians and throngs of regular people throughout the world clamored for justice with unforgiving tirades against Israel. With the word that Israeli naval troops boarded the Mavi Marmara, and that people trying to bring aid to Gaza were killed, the jury seemed to have been out on the cause and effect. The United Nations Security Council, as sure as the sun rising, condemned the “Acts” in the Israeli raid, without seeing any evidence other than the news of gunshots and death.

What the evidence so far shows is that there was a concerted effort afoot to bring Israel to its knees and release the blockade of Gaza. Being that aid and supplies do flow into the region, the wisdom of ending the blockade is a design to help fuel Hamas and ready them for more aggression against Israel. The captain and the chief officer both acknowledge that there was something going on other than the delivery of needed goods, and the IHH contingent who boarded in Istanbul were prepared for battle.

As Egypt lifted opened the Rafah Crossing into Gaza in the wake of the international cries, cracks in the wall Israel has tried to maintain to keep Hamas from strengthening its abilities have formed. Even while the evidence seems to mount in support of Israel’s suspicions about the flotilla and its subsequent actions, world opinion intensifies against Israel. Should the Obama Administration agree to a United Nation designed investigation of the incident, it would signal an unquestionable implication that the flood of criticism and pressure rushing in by anti-Israel opportunists has pervaded the thinking in the White House to such a degree that facts are less important than political expedience.

Juda Engelmayer is President and Partner with the NY PR agency, HeraldPR

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While Thomas is Going Home, Jews are Already there

Helen Thomas is Going Home, and Jews Are Already There

Listening to the now infamous Helen Thomas interview, I either can be disgusted with her, or I can focus on and be revolted by the real issue here: the state of education, knowledge and bias in the world. Sad as it is, Ms. Thomas-a bright, worldly and cultured member of our elite press corps for over a half-century either does not know or does not care about what the truth really is. Sadder still is the fact that there are millions of people out there who agree with Thomas. In most cases, however, it is not because they ignore the truth but because they do not know it. Instead, they repeat the lies that are consistently told by the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel racists who have made it their mission to delegitimize Israel and degrade the Jewish people.

Thomas’ sentiments that Jews should go back home to Poland and to Germany reveal a deep-rooted animosity. That Jews should go back to the places where they were slaughtered en masse is a sure sign of extreme hatred. Yet, that is not the most troublesome part for me. Thomas, exposed as an intolerant bigot, advises Jews to go home-but the same opinion is rooted even among the people who openly support Israel. The Thomas affair brings to light just how well the anti-Israel lobby has succeeded in distorting the truth that even Israel’s friends repeat the propaganda that the Jews have no legitimate claims to a place in the Holy Land.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said as much when he criticized Thomas-and he is a strong supporter of Israel, her existence and right to defend herself. He recalled the Holocaust in his rebuke of the 90 year old columnist, speaking of how inappropriate it is to tell Jews to go back home. Appreciative as I am to hear him do that, he fails the Jewish history test too.

Then Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar chided Thomas on The View, and once again, reminded the viewers of the horrors that occurred at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Goldberg, in imploring for a peaceful solution to the Middle East, alluded to a time when Jews did not live there, but came to the region. She too failed the Jewish history test.

Here is the bottom line. It truly is set in stone: Jews never left what they and the Bible call the Land of Israel. From the day the Israelites under Joshua crossed over to the west bank of the Jordan River 3,200 years ago until today, Jews have lived in the Land of Israel. They lived there during the Babylonian exile; they lived there during Persian rule; they lived there under the Roman thumb; they lived there throughout the Byzantine and Ottoman empires; they lived there during the days of Mandatory Palestine.

In 1929, for example, 67 Jews were killed in Hebron and the rest of the Jewish population was forced to leave. These were not immigrants from Europe; they and their families had lived in Hebron for at least 800 years. That same year, 20 Jews were massacred in Safed-again a community in which there had been a continuous Jewish settlement for at least 800 years. (Earlier Jewish communities in both places were eradicated by Christian crusaders in the 12th century.)

Jews lived in Jerusalem and Jericho, Nablus and Nazareth, Beersheba and Beit Shean-and these are provable facts, not Zionist fairy tales.

Towards the end of the 19th Century and through the first half of the 20th, Jews indeed came to Israel from other areas of the Near East, Africa and Europe. Most either were expelled from their homes or were fleeing persecution. Persian Jews were expelled from Iran. Jews from Iraq, Syria, Algeria, Yemen, Libya, and so many more, all fled to the one place they knew they were permitted to live freely. Jews from Russia and Germany fled pogroms, anti-Jewish riots and bloodshed. They left their material homes for their ancestral one because they were no longer allowed to live in the place they themselves were born and raised. So they joined up with the Jews who had always lived in “Palestine” to create a home for the Jews that truly was their home.

As an aside, we never see international calls for Jewish justice; no calls for return to or compensation from the lands they fled. It is always a one way street when it comes to Jews and Israel

Even Israel’s supporters forget the demographics of the Middle East, or they ignore it. They forget-or ignore-other truths, as well, such as that the Jewish Settlement in Palestine on Nov. 29, 1947, announced its acceptance of a United Nations resolution that called for the creation of two separate Palestinian states, one Jewish and one Arab; that the Jews were the only ones in the region to accept this; that seven Arab states immediately invaded the lands set aside for the Palestinian Arab state and occupied those lands for the next 19 years; that the Palestine Liberation Organization was founded in 1964, three years before the first Israelis in a generation set foot in the West Bank and Gaza, before any settlement was ever an issue; that Jordan, which illegally occupied the West Bank, denied the Jews access to their holy places from 1949 through 1967; that in the wake of the Six-Day War in June 1967, the Arab states and the PLO meeting in Khartoum adopted the infamous “three no’s”-no peace with Israel; no negotiations with Israel; no recognition of Israel; and so many other truths.

Israel and the Jewish establishment must bear most of the blame for these misperceptions. They have failed to do their jobs effectively. They have allowed anti-Semites old and new to kidnap the truth and subvert the dialogue. They have allowed the message to be obscured by false rhetoric. Helen Thomas is not the real problem, as someone with her views would not be inclined to report the truth anyway. The outwardly pro-Israel contingents of public figures, newsmakers, celebrities, advocates and such who defend Israel to the world every day are more worrisome. If even Israel’s friends do not know the truth, how can anyone expect a world, inclined to vilify Israel, to treat her justly?

The Mavi Marmara incident has marred Israel and given the anti-Semites new ammunition to fire, but it triggers an even bigger calling for Jews and for Israel right now – to find a way to change the dialogue about Israel and Jewish people as it comes to the Middle East. Israel’s supporters and historians need to do much better to present the truth and purge the spin meant to delegitimize her:

Jews have always been in Israel, and in many ways, 1948 just opened the gates for Jews to return.

Juda Engelmayer is President and Partner with the NY PR agency, HeraldPR

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All I Know I Learned in High School

It was back in Washington Heights, Manhattan in 1986, I was sixteen years old and in 11th grade at the Marsha Stern Talmudic Academy/Yeshiva University High School for Boy – lovingly referred to MTA to this day, and we were quite a group of misfits. That school taught me everything I would need to survive; not much in the area of academics, though. Imagine Lord of the Flies set in Anatevka. Not to reinvent the wheel here, as I believe that my comrade Shalom Auslander who trailed me by a year, accurately captured my experiences in his brilliantly illustrated autobiography, A Foreskin’s Lament.

It was there in MTA, where often timid little naive Jewish kids, many from suburban neighborhoods, descended daily on the Dominican Republic’s satellite city in the very upper corner of Manhattan, that I learned valuable lessons on life. Some of us found drugs, some found religion, others found new friends and even new found inner strength. All of us, however, learned the value of money – that if you had it, you were treated one way, and if not, you were just cast out.

Two juniors took a freshman for a magic carpet ride on his first marijuana high. The kid broke down and told his parents who then told the principal. The junior whose father was a school benefactor was given probation and the junior from a family with somewhat less money and who was likely on scholarship, was expelled. That didn’t come as a shock, but it was one of the most blatant hypocritical contrasts to what we were taught about God and religion and the reality of everyday life. Yet, I cannot complain because I benefited too, no doubt.

My advantage wasn’t money, for I didn’t grow up with much. It was the next valuable lesson, influence. My father – who by the way, just successfully survived major surgery – was the executive editor at the New York Jewish Week back then; the Jewish publication with the largest circulation at the time and was also an important propaganda engine for the Yeshiva University network of schools. I had a bad habit of getting myself thrown out of school for doing little more than expressing my concerns for the quality of my education.

There was the time I was sitting in Talmud (Gemara) class, referred to as a Shiur, and the head of school came in to test us young men on what we knew – or didn’t. It was a random thing. Rabbi Yitzchok Cohen, a tall, thin, beady eyed man with a long white beard, soft spoken, with a deliberately and distinctively enunciated diction that sounded like a throaty Bostonian accent with an Eastern European twinge will always be remembered by me and hundreds of my fellow inmates for his performance in the Wilf Auditorium of the high school decrying the message of the one-hit-wonder pop song by Samantha Fox, “Touch Me!”

That day, he stood up in front of an entire school of young impressionable lads and started flailing his arms wildly, touching himself and yelling “touch me’, “touch me” as he went into a rant over inappropriate messages of modern music. Any one of us that day who did not know the song before hand, went out and bought it, or borrowed the cassette to copy. Good thinking rabbi.

That same approach was successfully employed by Mel Gibson’s folks earlier this decade when they had the Anti-Defamation League publicly oppose his movie The Passion of The Christ. ADL successfully raised funds for its organization, and Mel got better advertising than he could have otherwise afforded to fund for this project. Yet, I digress…

So, we were in Bobo’s class (not his real name, but we kind of referred to our rabbi by it; it was passed down for years before we ever got to his class), well known for being a den of miscreants. One of our esteemed class clowns was comedian Elon Gold, who had a sitcom on network television, many cable comedy programs and does stand-up. I like to believe that he tested many of his early jokes in this class. Now, Rabbi Cohen walked into our class one day and picked up the book of the Talmud that we were presumably learning from and he randomly called on students to answer questions.

We were learning from Tractate Bava Kama, but that didn’t really matter to most of us. He would pick out a word or a phrase and then call on a student to explain it. After a few students had their turn to varying degrees of success, he points his finger into the Talmud and quietly read the words “Esnan Zonah,” simply defined as money paid to prostitute for her services. Now the issue here was about whether an item given in exchange for this money may be offered as a sacrifice, but more to the point.

Rabbi Cohen stated the term and looked up from the book and called out, “Yehuuuudddaa En-Gel-May-errr.” I looked up at him and asked him, “Yes Rabbi?” He continued, “What does ‘Esnan Zonah’ mean?”

Being in an uncomfortable situation here, having to talk to a rabbi about such issues, I simply stated, “money given to a prostitute for her services.” He came back at me with, “What does it mean… what are you paying for, why does it matter?” I stared at him, and just restated “it is money paid to a prostitute for her services.” The rabbi looked at me, clearly bemused by what he saw as my vacant answer and said, “Services? Did she go down to Heshy’s (local coffee shop) and buy you a danish?” I gulped. All that I could mutter from my mouth, caught somewhere between fighting my instinct to be a wise ass and not wanting to have a conversation with this rabbi about what turning tricks is all about, was “Rabbi, if you’re not clear, I don’t think that I should be the one to tell you.” Bobo spit his soda out of his mouth laughing.  Sure it was funny, but I got kicked out of class and “expelled” for it.

So, I did what became habit for me, and I called my father and told him my version of the truth. He moaned, yet still did his part and called his friends at the Yeshiva University Board of Directors who wanted to maintain a positive relationship with the newspaper.  I was told to report back to school the next day. When I approached the school steps the next morning, the principal was standing there and said to me, “I don’t appreciate getting calls from the Board of Directors about you,” and I just said smugly, “Then don’t kick me out anymore.”

Lesson learned here: it’s not what you know, but who you know.

I graduated, life goes on. I learned so much about life at MTA; valuable lessons in street smarts, politics and diplomacy, and surviving. It was the kind of school where the smart kids did just fine and those who struggled continued to do so, just keeping their heads low so to stay off the administrator’s radar.

Fortunately, my children will never be in a place like that. Our hope is that the schools they are in will help them grow academically and spiritually, and will also gain some of the moxie we found in the dark corridors of that old musty building in Washington Heights.

Juda Engelmayer is President and Partner with the NY PR agency, HeraldPR

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