Friday, April 29, 2011

Day 2 in Poland on the March of the Living 2011

Friday, April 29, 2011
After staying awake for the past two days, we finally had a chance to get a good night sleep. We all checked into the Novotel Hotel in Warsaw and ended the day with a Mifgash, a chance for everyone to take a look back at the day. After visiting the Warsaw Ghetto and the Warsaw Cemetery we a chance to see how big the city of Warsaw is and to think that all of the Jews that once lived here were killed by the Nazi’s was very scary. This morning we started the day with Tefiila and I had the opportunity to once again lead an explanatory service. We had a great crowd for a discusision about the meaning of Teffilah and why we pray in the first place. It was so refreshing to see how at any age we can all learn new things and find new ways to grow.
After breakfast we left Warsaw and headed to the Lodz. This is the first time that the March of the Living has ever been to the city so I really dint know what to expect. There was a very impressive memorial to the Jews that once lived in this city and were led to the Concentration Camps. Once of the most important pieces was the catle car that was used to transport the Jews to the CCamps. Theis was a genuine car and not a replica. It was ado important to realize that alyhough you can see a catle car in a number of holocaust museaums in Aneica, there is nthing that can compare to seeing one In the actual place that it was once used. After lunch, we packed up and are headed for Krakow for Shabbat.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

MOTL 2011 - JFK

We just had a our first group meeting in the airport and got to see who will be on our bus for the next two weeks. The teens don't realize it yet, but regardless if they know one another yet, they will all become friends for life. We are all about to embark on a journey that is life changing and I can't even tell you how excited I am to share the experiecnce with everyone here. I can tell that this years crew is very special and I look forward to getting to know everyone and develop a meaningful relationship. We are about to go the ElAl checkin and from there we will board the plane.

March of the Living 2007 Video

Friday, April 22, 2011

It's not over yet...

The Second Seder is not always as exciting as the first night's experience, since everyone is not as hungry and because and you already read the Hagadah the previous night. Well, I can honestly say that if you would have been at our Seder at Boca Raton Synagogue, you would have been inspired. For the second year in a row we hosted an outreach "beginner" Seder. Almost a hundred people attended the program and everyone had a great time. The difference between last years experience and this year's program was clear. Last year, we were just starting and had to advertise and really promote the Seder in order to attract enough people to participate. Even when people finally signed up, we didn't know the participants all that well.

This year, everyone that came had been participating in our programs on a regular basis. It was like joining your extended family at a large celebration. There was no advertising required because of the genuine relationships that we have built over the past few months. I want to thank NJOP for all providing the Beginner Hagadah's and providing the material for Passover Across America. I also want to thank Eli & Shula Amsalem for catering the delicious meal, Matthew, and the office staff for all of the logistics, and my family for helping make the Seder so enjoyable. The Seder was both educational, meaningful and lots of fun and we are all looking forward to Passover next year - hopefully in Jerusalem!!

Even if you couldn't join us, I hope that you had a meaningful Passover Seder and if you have any great stories to share please email them to me. This Friday night is the last Friday Night Live before I leave on the March of the Living for two weeks, so I really hope to see you at 6:00pm for a fantastic program.

Inspire yourself to inspire others...

Shabbat Shalom and may God bless you.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Coca-Cola Goes Kosher for Passover,28804,2065531_2065534_2065847,00.html

If you've noticed Coca-Cola bottles with yellow-colored caps materialize each March and April, what you're looking at is the result of a burgeoning market in kosher for Passover soda. Jews don't eat products made from wheat, corn or many other grains during the eight days of Passover. So most commercial sodas, with their heavy doses of corn syrup and traces of alcohol from grain, are forbidden.

Thirsty Passover observers have an Atlanta-based Orthodox rabbi, Tobias Geffen, to thank. In the 1930s, Geffen was given Coca-Cola's famously secret list of ingredients and managed to persuade the company to create a real-sugar alternative for his congregants. "Because Coca-Cola has already been accepted by the general public in this country and Canada and because it has become an insurmountable problem to induce the great majority of Jews to refrain from partaking of this drink, I have tried earnestly to find a method of permitting its usage," he said.

According to one of the leading kosher certifiers, OU Kosher, Passover Coke will be available this year throughout the New York City metropolitan area, Boston, Baltimore-Washington, Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. And since some foodies think cane-sugar-sweetened sodas taste better anyway, it isn't just the devout who stock up. Not wanting to be left out, Pepsi, Sprite, Sierra Mist and many others are now available in kosher form for Passover.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

West Boca family joins global letter-writing campaign for Israeli soldier's freedom

West Boca family joins global letter-writing campaign for Israeli soldier's freedom

By Rebekah Monson, Sun Sentinel

April 19, 2011

WEST BOCA— — The empty chair at the Kaskel's Passover table bears a photo of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier whom Hamas has held captive for five years.

"This is when we celebrate freedom, but Gilad Shalit is not free, and we hope this is the last year his parents will be without him at Passover," Sue Kaskel said.

The Kaskels have undertaken a global letter-writing campaign to free Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was captured by Palestinians in 2006 at 19.

Mother's Day contest: Share your favorite mom story and you could win a $100 gift card
Shmuely, 12, and Shayna, 11, with the help of their parents, Dan and Sue, sent 164 letters asking for Shalit's release to heads of state across the globe — some to countries they never knew existed.

"It began as a bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah project, but this was not only a lesson for the kids in Jewish law, it's also a social action project," Sue Kaskel said. "On top of that, they've gotten a great lesson in geography."

The Kaskels spent hours poring over a globe, scouring Wikipedia for the addresses of capitols and stuffing envelopes to send to countries large and small, Dan Kaskel said.

"It's important to send them to the smaller countries, because maybe some of the smaller countries would have a better chance of getting him free," Shmuely said.

Shalit's captivity has become a cause célèbre among many Jews. Shalit has been held since 2006 without diplomatic or humanitarian aid, and Hamas demands the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for him.

"We are very optimistic," Dan Kaskel said. "We think maybe someone will receive this letter from a family in the U.S. and realize how important this is. Even if they don't release him, maybe we could help get him a visit from the Red Cross."

The Kaskels did not send letters to countries actively engaged in conflict with Israel, and they avoided sending one to Japan because the country is struggling to recover from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, he said.

"We're not really students of world politics, and we did send letters to many Arab countries; Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt," he said. "We're just hoping that someone who receives these letters might listen."

The Kaskels campaign demonstrates why it's important to get teens involved in social justice, said Josh Broide, director of the Jewish Student Union of South Florida.

"People are so critical of teens," he said. "But, when you give them an opportunity to do projects to serve others, they have great ideas. They really feel like they're a part of something big; something important."

Earlier this year, Jewish teens in South Florida distributed stickers for cell phones featuring Shalit's face and theWhite House phone number to encourage people to call for his release, Broide said.

The Kaskel's work to free Shalit is especially relevant at Passover, which began Monday night, he said.

"There's a point in the Seder when we get up and open the door to welcome the prophet Elijah," Broide said. "That's what it takes — getting up out of your chair. It's not going to happen just by sitting there. You have to get up and take action." or 561-243-6624

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bangitout SEDER SIDEKICK 2011

Click above and print out the SEDER SIDEKICK and instantly become the coolest person at your Seder. The Seder Sidekick is action packed with Torah, Jokes, Songs, Stories and hysterical Seder Top 10 lists.

The official Seder Sidekick of the Boca Raton Jewish Experience Passover Seder -

For a look at the ABC's of Passover check out Jewish Pride Radio's show on Passover
Jewish Radio has a new sound, check it out!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

From the Desk of Rabbi Efrem Goldberg - Share One Seder

Rabbi Efrem Goldberg speaking at
Iranium the Movie
Ignorance is least for the ignorant. For those listening to them, the ignorance is a great source of sadness. I had a number of interactions this week with unaffiliated and uneducated brothers and sisters of ours around Boca. Here are a few of the things they said innocently, sweetly and sadly with profound ignorance.

“I just don’t eat bread on Passover, I didn’t know you can’t have crackers or pasta or bread crumbs.” “My family can’t make it Tuesday night for a seder so we are having them this year on Sunday night and Monday night instead.” “What are second days? Isn’t Passover just the two nights of the seders?” “Rabbi, we would love for your family to come for a meal to our home (10 miles away and non Kosher) over the holiday.”

I share these true quotes not God forbid to degrade, judge or look down on those who don’t know as much as we. Rather, I hope you will feel the same thing as I did when I heard them – sadness and optimism at the same time. You see, on the one hand, it is truly depressing to recognize the level of ignorance the overwhelming majority of Jews have regarding our magnificent heritage, faith and tradition. Almost every one of them will say, “You know, my grandparents were orthodox or strictly kosher.” However, due to assimilation, millions of our brothers and sisters have been denied access to the greatest treasure, our Torah.

On the other hand, the depth of the ignorance provides the easiest of opportunities to educate, inspire and teach. One does not need to be a Rabbi, Talmud scholar or be super knowledgeable to engage in outreach. Every single one of you knows more than the people we are reaching out to and you have the tools to inspire them, I guarantee it.

Pesach is just a few days away but it isn’t too late to invite someone for a seder or Pesach meal. Think of someone at your gym, the office, your neighbor or family member whom you can invite over. Having a conversation with them about what are the things we are enslaved to and how can we achieve freedom from them, can change their lives.

All we are asking is S.O.S. – Share one Seder, because after all – sharing is caring.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Passover Playbook - A Super Bowl champion shares inspiration from the Haggadah

Throughout my career in the NFL, every year at the start of training camp I would get handed a playbook the size of the yellow pages. I was expected to study it and know every single play, backwards and forwards. Each play was strategically designed, and more than anything else, the team’s success depended on how well we executed those plays.
At times, a player will come up short in his execution, but as long as he wins his share of the battles, all is well. The worst thing, though, is getting the play wrong because you failed to study well. Besides messing up on national television – talk about embarrassing! – your teammates and coaches would all watch the videotape together the next day – in slow motion. Pro Football Hall-of-Famer and legendary Coach Forrest Gregg, who coached me in Green Bay, once told the team: "If I open up your playbook and don't find ketchup, mustard and coffee stains all over it, you didn't study well enough."
In Judaism, we have several "playbooks" to help achieve our spiritual objectives. One of my favorites is the Haggadah – the playbook for the Passover Seder. We have a lot to accomplish on this special night and we've got to make the most of it.
Like a playbook, the Haggadah is full of specifics: drink the wine, wash your hands, dip a vegetable in saltwater, break the middle matzah, ask questions, etc. Each of these strategies is designed to achieve the objective – enhanced Jewish identity, and a deepened sense of freedom.
Three Essentials
In the Haggadah, Rabban Gamliel identifies the Pesach lamb, matzah and bitter herbs (marror) as the three essential aspects of the Seder experience.
For me, matzah has a very special meaning. As an offensive lineman, I had to constantly build my body bigger and stronger, to wage those battles in the gridiron trenches. During those years I ate with an animalistic, gorge mentality – consuming huge quantities like a dozen egg whites in order to keep up with the 10,000 calories I was burning every day.
Today, when I sit down at the Seder table, the act of eating is totally different. This eating is a refined, elevated act. I recite the blessing, and introspect on the deeper meaning of matzah as both the bread of affliction and the symbol of our redemption.
After the hip injury I thought my career was over.
Marror, the bitter herbs, teaches another important lesson. To achieve our goals in life, there is often bitter pain involved. In 1988 I missed the entire season with a hip injury. The Packers pretty much wrote me off and I thought my career was over. I was depressed. After seeing a number of orthopedic specialists, I finally found one who correctly diagnosed my problem. He performed surgery, structured a rehab program – and three months later I had no more pain in my hip. It was a miracle.
At that point I became intensely focused on building myself up, and I got into in the best shape of my life. I was lifting weights and pushing my friend’s pickup truck up and down the street. I returned to Green Bay and throughout training camp I became stronger and stronger. Things completely turned around. I started every game that year and it was my best season as a pro. So when I see that marror on the Seder table – and recall the bitter oppression that the Jews faced in Egypt – I know that though things sometimes look horrible, there is a turnaround waiting and it will work out for the best. The pain eventually pays off.
The last symbol the Haggadah emphasizes is Pesach – the Pascal lamb. The lamb was worshipped as the god of the Egyptians. So the Jews took that very symbol of enslavement, tied it to the bedpost, slaughtered it, ate it, and smeared its blood on the doorpost. It was clear which “God” was in charge.
I got an insider’s look at the way athletes are worshipped.
In the world of professional sports, I got an insider’s look at the way athletes are worshipped. It’s good for kids to aspire to something and have a role model, but a famous athlete is not necessarily the kind of human being you want to become. Many times these guys appear one way for the media hype and endorsements, but are plagued by personal problems like drugs, anger, overweight. I think our role models need to be community leaders, teachers, rabbis, parents.
Even better, aspire to become your own hero. Everyone has their own role to play. The quarterback may get the headlines, but the offensive lineman is just as crucial to the win. In 1992 when I played on the world champion Dallas Cowboys, every teammate got the same Super Bowl Ring. Take pride in the team. Find your own unique contribution. We all have a Super Bowl ring waiting to be earned. What’s yours?
Moving the Chains
Coming out of the huddle to the line of scrimmage, we didn't focus on crossing the goal line; we focused on making progress and "moving the chains." How often do we see the referee holding up his fingers, motioning that you need just one more inch for a first down?
The Hebrew name for Egypt is Mitzrayim, which means boundaries or limitations. Passover is the best opportunity of the year to break out of our own personal limitations, symbolized by the slavery of ancient Egypt. At the Seder, we can gain more yardage toward our ultimate freedom than at other time of the year. We just have to keep moving those chains down the field – inch by inch, yard by yard, and mitzvah by mitzvah – away from the "Egypt" keeping us down.
The secret of success is right there in the Haggadah. But it’s more than just X's and O's on a chalkboard. Great players – and great people – don't just read the playbook. They study it and understand the depth behind it.
Here’s wishing you a happy, kosher, and meaningful Passover.

Adapted from an article in American Jewish Spirit Magazine -
Parts of this article appeared in a different version in American Jewish Spirit Magazine, Spring 2011.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Eichmann Trial Uploaded to YouTube

The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial project has marked the passage of 50 years since the trial of Adolf Eichmann by uploading footage of the entire trial Eichmann, one of the major planners of the Holocaust genocide, was put on trial in Israel in 1961, after having been captured by Israeli agents in Argentina.

Eichmann Trial on YouTubeHe was found guilty, and was put to death in 1962.

The footage “gives a new generation the opportunity to view one of the most significant turning points in humanity's attempt to grapple with the Holocaust,” a Yad Vashem spokesman explained.

Yad Vashem has previously posted Holocaust victims' names online, followed by a collection of photographs from the Holocaust, and a YouTube channel explaining the Holocaust in Farsi. The organization ultimately hopes to put all of its Holocaust documents online.

The Eichmann trial was originally conducted in Yiddish, German, and Hebrew, but footage has been dubbed into English as well. The trial channel includes 200 hours of footage and a compilation of testimonies.

In a second project commemorating the trial, Yad Vashem has created a video titled A Living Record. The video provides insight into the trial from three participants: Gabriel Bach, who argued for the prosecution, investigative officer Mickey Gilad, and witness Yisrael Gutman.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Congressmen at Boca Raton Synagogue

Reps. Deutch, West to appear together at ‘Iranium’ screening in Boca

U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, and Allen West, R-Plantation, don’t agree on many issues, but both have been staunch defenders of Israel and opponents of the Iranian regime.
Boca Raton Synagogue, under the leadership of Rabbi Efrem Goldberg, has become a leader in the area of Social Action. They have put together a powerful Social Action Committee that has been very vocal in the Palm Beach area.
The two congressmen are scheduled to appear together Sunday night in Boca Raton for a screening of Iranium, a documentary about nuclear ambitions and Islamic fundamentalism in Iran.
The event is sponsored by Boca Raton Synagogue and the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County. It begins at 7: 30 p.m. Sunday at Boca Raton Synagogue at 7900 Montoya Circle. The program includes a screening of the hourlong film and a Q-and-A session afterward with Deutch and West.
See the news clip from WPTV Chanel 5 below.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Iranium with responses by Congressmen Ted Deutch and Allen West

The Movie You Must See IRANIUM
Now you can watch the movie that the regime does not want you to see

Iranium exposes the actions and intentions of Iran’s leaders. The film presents the dangers Iran poses to America, Israel, and the rest of the free world.

After the movie, hear responses by Congressmen Ted Deutch and Allen West. Who will join us for this viewing

Sunday, April 10, 2011 at 7:30 PM
Boca Raton Synagogue - 7900 Montoya Circle N., Boca Raton

Co-Sponsored by:
Boca Raton Synagogue, Boca Raton Jewish Experience and The Jewish Community Relations Council
Of South Palm Beach County

Friday, April 8, 2011

JSU Israel Education 101

For more information about JSU,
please visit
This past week I attended a two day conference in New York with Jewish Student Union (JSU) regional educators to learn how to teach unaffiliated Jewish public school teenagers about Israel advocacy. This was the first of four conferences that will be offered to every informal educator in the JSU network so that we will all be well equipped to deal with the important issues that take place in Israel. The event was run by the OU's new Israel Education Director and the iCenter, a new organization based in Chicago that serves as a national address and advocate for high-quality and meaningful Israel education.

The iCenter is dedicated to developing and enhancing the field of pre-collegiate Israel education in North America, in both formal and informal settings. By building upon existing strengths in the field, the iCenter supports the work of Israel educators; identifies compelling educational resources and initiatives; and fosters the creation of a cadre of lay and professional champions of Israel education.

The iCenter envisions generations of young North American Jews for whom contemporary Israel is an integral and vibrant part of their personal and collective Jewish identity. This vision includes a pre-K through grade 12 Jewish educational system in North America that fully incorporates Israel - people, land, history, language and culture - into the very fiber of its overall mission.

It was an extremely informative experience and we will begin to implement the valuable strategies into our current educational program.

There are many challenges to leaving for a few days for a conference or a convention. First and foremost is being away from family. I have to say that I have an unbelievable wife, who is so supportive of everything I do, and there aren't even words that would describe how thankful I am. Another issue is not being able to respond to people in a timely manner, because regular work gets put on hold. I am grateful to a good friend who helped me strategize how to ensure that items don't fall through the cracks. I wouldn't have even known had I not got a call that pointed it out. You are all very special people and I want to thank you for your continued support.

Inspire yourself to inspire others...

Shabbat Shalom and may God bless you,


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Rabbi Efrem Goldberg - Invocation before US House of Representatives

Rabbi Efrem Goldberg, Senior Rabbi of Boca Raton Synagogue, delivered the Invocation before the US House of Representatives on April 5th, 2011.

Opening Prayer Given by the Guest Chaplain:

Our Father in Heaven – guard the members of our esteemed House of Representatives. Instill within them the wisdom, courage and determination to provide for the physical, as well as the spiritual, well–being of the citizens of this great country.

May this body which hosts rigorous and robust debate continue to embrace diversity without resulting in divisiveness. May it seek and celebrate unity without imposing uniformity.

May this House of Representatives, together with Houses of Worship across the land, promote justice, moral clarity, ethical living, righteousness, and acts of kindness.

As a grandchild of immigrants, who fled the Nazis and came to this country 72 years ago this month to find refuge, freedom, and opportunity, I join this House in a prayer of profound gratitude and deep appreciation for the blessings we, the people of the United States of America, are privileged to enjoy.

Master of the Universe – protect our courageous armed forces, watch over our elected leaders, grant peace and prosperity to these United States and the entire world, and let us respond, Amen.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and war crimes

The final report by the U.N. committee of independent experts — chaired by former New York judge Mary McGowan Davis — that followed up on the recommendations of the Goldstone Report has found that “Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza” while “the de facto authorities (i.e., Hamas) have not conducted any investigations into the launching of rocket and mortar attacks against Israel.

Our report found evidence of potential war crimes and “possibly crimes against humanity” by both Israel and Hamas. That the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying — its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets.

The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion. While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.

For example, the most serious attack the Goldstone Report focused on was the killing of some 29 members of the al-Simouni family in their home. The shelling of the home was apparently the consequence of an Israeli commander’s erroneous interpretation of a drone image, and an Israeli officer is under investigation for having ordered the attack. While the length of this investigation is frustrating, it appears that an appropriate process is underway, and I am confident that if the officer is found to have been negligent, Israel will respond accordingly. The purpose of these investigations, as I have always said, is to ensure accountability for improper actions, not to second-guess, with the benefit of hindsight, commanders making difficult battlefield decisions.

While I welcome Israel’s investigations into allegations, I share the concerns reflected in the McGowan Davis report that few of Israel’s inquiries have been concluded and believe that the proceedings should have been held in a public forum. Although the Israeli evidence that has emerged since publication of our report doesn’t negate the tragic loss of civilian life, I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes.

Israel’s lack of cooperation with our investigation meant that we were not able to corroborate how many Gazans killed were civilians and how many were combatants. The Israeli military’s numbers have turned out to be similar to those recently furnished by Hamas (although Hamas may have reason to inflate the number of its combatants.

As I indicated from the very beginning, I would have welcomed Israel’s cooperation. The purpose of the Goldstone Report was never to prove a foregone conclusion against Israel. I insisted on changing the original mandate adopted by the Human Rights Council, which was skewed against Israel. I have always been clear that Israel, like any other sovereign nation, has the right and obligation to defend itself and its citizens against attacks from abroad and within. Something that has not been recognized often enough is the fact that our report marked the first time illegal acts of terrorism from Hamas were being investigated and condemned by the United Nations. I had hoped that our inquiry into all aspects of the Gaza conflict would begin a new era of evenhandedness at the U.N. Human Rights Council, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted.

Some have charged that the process we followed did not live up to judicial standards. To be clear: Our mission was in no way a judicial or even quasi-judicial proceeding. We did not investigate criminal conduct on the part of any individual in Israel, Gaza or the West Bank. We made our recommendations based on the record before us, which unfortunately did not include any evidence provided by the Israeli government. Indeed, our main recommendation was for each party to investigate, transparently and in good faith, the incidents referred to in our report. McGowan Davis has found that Israel has done this to a significant degree; Hamas has done nothing.

Some have suggested that it was absurd to expect Hamas, an organization that has a policy to destroy the state of Israel, to investigate what we said were serious war crimes. It was my hope, even if unrealistic, that Hamas would do so, especially if Israel conducted its own investigations. At minimum I hoped that in the face of a clear finding that its members were committing serious war crimes, Hamas would curtail its attacks. Sadly, that has not been the case. Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel. That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The U.N. Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms.

In the end, asking Hamas to investigate may have been a mistaken enterprise. So, too, the Human Rights Council should condemn the inexcusable and cold-blooded recent slaughter of a young Israeli couple and three of their small children in their beds.

I continue to believe in the cause of establishing and applying international law to protracted and deadly conflicts. Our report has led to numerous “lessons learned” and policy changes, including the adoption of new Israel Defense Forces procedures for protecting civilians in cases of urban warfare and limiting the use of white phosphorus in civilian areas. The Palestinian Authority established an independent inquiry into our allegations of human rights abuses — assassinations, torture and illegal detentions — perpetrated by Fatah in the West Bank, especially against members of Hamas. Most of those allegations were confirmed by this inquiry. Regrettably, there has been no effort by Hamas in Gaza to investigate the allegations of its war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

Simply put, the laws of armed conflict apply no less to non-state actors such as Hamas than they do to national armies. Ensuring that non-state actors respect these principles, and are investigated when they fail to do so, is one of the most significant challenges facing the law of armed conflict. Only if all parties to armed conflicts are held to these standards will we be able to protect civilians who, through no choice of their own, are caught up in war.

The writer, a retired justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and former chief prosecutor of the U.N. International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, chaired the U.N. fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Please take a moment and pray for the wounded

Please pray for the wounded

DSC00006.JPG DSC00747.JPG
The following information is based on updates from OneFamily case workers who are visiting the victims wounded in the most recent attacks, in hospitals and at their homes.  Please credit OneFamily when forwarding this information.
Please pray for the following civilians injured in the Jerusalem bombing on March 23:
Natan Daniel ben Shulamit - a 17-year-old student who is in serious condition.  He suffered massive internal injuries and has had a number of internal organs removed. He also suffered serious injuries to the neck and shoulder and will be in hospital for a while.
Leah Bracha bat Shoshana Batya - is a 19-year-old seminary student.  She suffered burns to her legs and arms as well as serious shock.  
Odelia Nechama bat Michal - suffered serious head injuries and is in intensive care.  Odelia had more surgery performed on March 29, and was put on a respirator.  Her family is asking for increased prayers for her recovery.
David ben Janette - David is the owner of the snack stand next to the bus stop.  He told everyone to run away and then called the police, and was on the phone with them when the bomb exploded.  He suffered injuries to his legs and feet and lower body.  He is recovering in the hospital.
Sasson ben Shulamit - This is the second time Sasson has been injured in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem.  He suffered lower body injuries and serious post-traumatic symptoms.  He was released from the hospital the day after the attack and is slowly recovering at home.
Ad Shapira - Ad is 18 years old and just about to complete high school.  She suffered light orthopedic injuries and is in good condition in hospital.
Shilo ben Zehava Ofra - Shilo is 15 years old, and suffered burns and fractures to his legs and lower abdomen.  He is sedated in intensive care.
Daniel Yehuda ben Rachel Nurit - Daniel is 13 years old, and suffered lacerations and shrapnel injuries to his lower extremities, and was released from the hospital on Sunday morning.
Elchanan Ovadya ben Alona - Elchanan is 14 years old, and suffered serious injuries to his feet.  One ankle and three of his toes were crushed.  He has had one operation and will require more surgery.  He will likely be in the hospital at least 2-3 weeks.
Netanel ben Shlomit - Netanel is 18 years old and works as a security guard at the bus station.  He was injured in the abdomen had surgery.  He is still in serious pain but was released from the hospital on Sunday and will remain under observation at home.
Yishai Chaim ben Bruriah
Reuven Chai ben Mala
Shaindel bat Raizel
Yisrael ben Dina
The following are victims wounded in rocket attacks in southern Israel:
Osnat bat Mamit She was woken by the warning siren at 5:30 in the morning, and while running from her room, she tripped over her baby's bed and sustained injuries to her legs and back.
Miriam bat Rubikhi  is an 81-year-old women who was running in response to the siren, and tripped and fell, breaking her knee.


Friday, April 1, 2011

What could go wrong?

A black swan isn't just a ballet role played to perfection by Natalie Portman that won her an Oscar for best actress.
As developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his masterful scholarly work The Black Swan, praised by many as one of the most important books of the century, the black swan is a metaphor about the significance of unexpected events in history. As he explains it, it is an event with three attributes. First, it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme impact. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.

Simply put, black swans are things we were certain could never happen.

And recent tragedies that have captured world headlines have been perfect illustrations of experiences that were supposedly out of the range of possibility. Japan is today struggling to cope with its largest disaster since the nuclear devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Years ago, architects and engineers joined to create quake-proof buildings and planned backup generators and thick containment vessels at nuclear plants. Nothing could ever go wrong they assured their countrymen. Their mantra was that humankind had triumphed over risk. Technology had finally achieved mastery over the vicissitudes of nature.

Recent events make clear how wrong they were. They had foreseen the possibility of an earthquake, but not one of a magnitude of 9.0. They built a sea wall to protect against an expected tsunami, but not one that rolled six miles inland, devastating towns, obliterating villages, and causing partial meltdowns at three major nuclear reactors. The tragedy in Japan revealed the fragility of our knowledge of the world and its workings. This disaster was not a failure of human engineering, but of human imagination. No one dreamt it could happen; that made everyone certain that it was impossible.

The tragedy in Japan revealed the fragility of our knowledge of the world and its workings. The wisest fell back on the lame excuse, "But no one could have expected this..." Black swans happen. We choose to disregard them due to hubris, human arrogance that prevents us from acknowledging that with all of our knowledge we are still not divine masters of the universe. Surely, we all thought, the engineers and the scientists and the weather forecasters and the technicians and the nuclear specialists were intelligent enough to make proper plans to stave off catastrophe. But they weren't. And human mastery of events was not as total as we presumed. The experts were wrong.

Hurricane Katrina also couldn't happen. We built walls around New Orleans to contain raging waters. We felt secure because we arrogantly told ourselves we were so smart the forces of nature no longer threatened us. And we were similarly mistaken. The financial collapse of 2008 and 2009 couldn't happen. Our Wall Street wizards were too brilliant to allow for a financial meltdown. The people who annually received multimillion dollar bonuses couldn't have created prime loan strategies that would prove worthless. The real estate market couldn't collapse forcing an untold number of foreclosures when "those in the know" assured investors there was absolutely no risk involved. And yet they too were all wrong.

The oil industry finally figured out how to pump liquid gold from beneath the ocean without any fear of spillage or contamination - or so they assured us. Until the BP catastrophe last summer proved them wrong. Again, it couldn't happen because that's what the experts told us - until it did, with all of the horrible consequences. The collective wisdom of the marketplace and the scientists proved wanting. It was yet another Black Swan. Black swans remind us that in spite of all of our achievements, we are still ultimately mortals. The unexpected overwhelms us because our egotism doesn't allow for considering the possibility of human error.

The ancient Greeks understood overweening pride as the underlying cause of man's downfall. Human hubris, they said, "is the pride that comes before the fall". The greatest antidote to man's exaggerated sense of self-importance was, for the longest time, a religious sensitivity that acknowledges a Higher Power. Recognition of God could at least place a limit on man's ego. But a contemporary world that could make Christopher Hitchens's book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything an international bestseller is a world that suffers from the delusion that we are all self-made heroes who have no need to worship anything but ourselves. As Dorothee Sölle put it so beautifully in The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance, "With the disappearance of God, the Ego becomes the sole divinity."
Without faith, we worship our own truths as if they were the sole reality. Without faith, we believe we are the sole captains of our destiny. Without faith we put our trust in the works of our own hands and confuse our talents with divine perfection, our limited knowledge with the possession of infinite wisdom.

That is why we continue to be stunned by black swans. They starkly remind us that in spite of all of our achievements, we are still ultimately mortals. And if the many tragedies we have endured in the past decade can teach us that lesson, perhaps we may, in spite of their horrific consequences, salvage a measure of blessing from them.

Finally, I would like to thank Rabbi Buchwald for joining us last Friday night at Friday Night Live. Each week I try to introduce you to special people and leaders in the Jewish community and tonight is no exception. Please join us for a very special Friday Night Live program at 6:00pm and you will have the chance to hear from Rabbi Kenneth Brander, the Dean of Yeshiva University's Center for the Jewish Future and Rabbi Emeritus of Boca Raton Synagogue. I hope to see you tonight and please invite a friend to join you as well.

Inspire yourself to inspire others...
Shabbat Shalom and may God bless you.