Set in New York City in 2003 and told mainly from Liat’s point of view, All the Rivers takes the Israeli and Palestinian conflict to a more intimate level.
“[Liat] takes [Hilmi] out of the multitude and acknowledges his humanity, her humanity,” author Dorit Rabinyan said. “He’s not the Palestinian people. He’s one person.”
Israel’s Ministry of Education believes the book “could do more harm than good.” According to an education ministry official, the book romanticizes relationships between Jews and non-Jews and doesn’t account for the “significance of assimilation.” On the heels of this news, education minister Naftali Bennet claimed on Israeli TV that All the Rivers described Israeli soldiers as war criminals.
(He also admitted he had not read the book.)
Once the Ministry of Education weighed in, the book’s popularity surged—and so did public backlash against its author.
“If I had imagined this maelstrom of persecution, this loneliness, I would have been too frightened to write,” Rabinyan, wrote in Time in April.
Hear more about Dorit Rabinyan’s stories—her best-selling story of star-crossed lovers as well as her experience being in the center of a scandal— on October 23 at Congregation Darchei Noam.
This event is co-sponsored by The Israel Center of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation, Congregation Darchei Noam, and the Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest.
Below is a letter in response to the recent decisions made by the Israeli government written by the Rehovot and Minneapolis Partnership2Gether steering committee members. This letter will also be published in the Rehovot newspaper.
Tammuz 5771, July 9, 2017
To the Honorable Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Ministers of the Israeli government
Re: A call for honoring the understanding with American Jews about the Western Wall prayer space and the conversion law
We, the undersigned, Israeli citizens from Rehovot and members of the Jewish community in Minneapolis (Minnesota), voluntarily serve as members on the steering committee of Partnership2Gether within the framework of the Jewish Agency.
Our partnership – along with its 46 members of this global network of communities – connect Jewish communities in Israel and around the world, with an emphasis on deepening our Jewish identity and Jewish Peoplehood awareness, community building, and leadership development. We run a variety of programs for children and youth, college students, educators, and social entrepreneurs. Our activities are funded by the Jewish community in Minneapolis, the Jewish Agency, and the Rehovot Municipality.
For us, the citizens of Rehovot, our personal acquaintance with our friends in Minneapolis revealed the rich diversity of the Diaspora Jewry, in which Jews from different streams manage to maintain a cohesive community, to address issues, to respect each other and at the same time strengthen the common values, culture, and awareness.
This exposure enriched both our own world as well our Jewish identity and deepened our commitment to fight for Jewish pluralism in the State of Israel. We are dismayed and concerned with how the persistence of one particular interpretation of Judaism in the Jewish state achieves the exact opposite of what is intended, and even contradicts the Declaration of Independence. It distances many Israelis from the Jewish component of their identity rather than uniting.
For us the Jews of Minneapolis, who see firsthand (as a result of our partnership with Rehovot) the challenges in the Israeli society, the June 25th government decisions are yet another slap in the face with the ongoing saga of non-recognition and humiliation towards us, in the Diaspora. We are shocked that the Israeli government has chosen to cancel a historic agreement that was reached with great effort amongst representatives of the various Jewish streams: to establish a dignified area at the Western Wall to be run by the government and the liberal streams. We are equally appalled with the Conversion Law, which reinstates the monopoly of conversion to the Chief Rabbinate and affects thousands of Jews who have been converted in recent years placing them into alternative tracks that the Israeli establishment does not recognize.
The decisions of the Israeli government are equivalent to turning a blind eye to the strategic challenge of connecting Diaspora youth to the Jewish people and the State of Israel. These government decisions directly affect the ability of the young to view Israel as their home. Needless to say, government decisions also undermine the efforts to recruit and train Jewish students to protect Israel from BDS supporters on campuses.
The media frequently indicated the potentially damaging effect on the level of support from the Diaspora Jews through their donations, however, in our opinion, this is not the main thing. The unfortunate government decisions on June 25th directly affect our common future as a nation, the security and economic interests of the State of Israel, and the original purpose of the State for the Jewish Nation.
We stand a few days before the seventeenth of Tammuz, and it is our duty to remind you that because of hatred, the Temple was destroyed twice. We stand before you, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu and every member of the government, demanding that you recognize the seriousness of this matter and act decisively to cancel the government’s June 25th decisions.
Learning to “make” Shabbat through Hillel
Benjie Kaplan, the Executive Director of Hillel at the University of Minnesota, explains that there are between 80-100 students who attend Shabbat on campus each Friday.
On the third Friday of every month, a few of the students volunteer to host Shabbat for these 80 students in their dorms or apartments. Hillel gives them songbooks, candles, and challah, and students get reimbursed for their grocery receipts.
Young adults know how to attend Shabbat, but they generally don’t know how to make Shabbat. Hillel is giving our kids a venue to figure out how to create their own Jewish homes.
There’s something so beautiful about going off to college and unexpectedly finding Shabbat is part of one’s education, too. You make that happen.
Ukraine is home to 200,000 Jews—and a lot of turmoil. According to Federation partner, The Jewish Agency for Israel, the political crisis of 2013 has “evolved into war and near humanitarian catastrophe in Eastern Ukraine. The Jews of Ukraine, the world’s fifth largest Jewish population, are not immune. They face a crumbling economy, terrifying war reality, political instability, ethnic tensions, and anti- Semitism.”
But amidst it all, they celebrate.
Between our global partner agencies, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Jewish Agency for Israel, Jews in Ukraine are taken care of—whether they need protection or simply community. This is thanks in part to your support of Federation, which funds these programs through the Community Campaign.
2016 was a relatively calm year in Eastern Ukraine, but this year, the fighting has escalated. Ceasefire violations are on the rise, and dozens of civilians are injured daily.
The people of Ukraine were just beginning to have hope. Since the crisis began, Federation’s global partners have remained on the ground, providing assistance to refugees, internally displaced persons, and those who choose to stay.
The Jewish Agency’s Mayak Center for Displaced Persons is a lifesaver for many Ukrainians—if they can get there. Getting from the zones controlled by Separatists to the Ukrainian zone (where the Center is located) costs 500 hryvnia ($20), which is more than 10% of the average local monthly salary. The border crossing is only open eight hours a day, when it isn’t closed due to fighting.
But the trip is worth it.
Once they arrive at the Mayak Center, refugees stay an average 20 days as they await aliyah visas. While there, they attend seminars to prepare for life in Israel and receive top-of-the-line mental health support. Since 2013, more than 21,000 people have made aliyah from Ukraine.
Support for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
Across Ukraine, JDC has assisted more than 2,000 IDPs with rent, winter relief, and more. Many, like Valeriya, left their close-knit communities only to be discriminated against in their new homes.
“You’ll steal my furniture,” Valeriya remembers hearing. Landlord after landlord, biased against IDPs, refused to rent an apartment to her.
When Valeriya and her family finally found an apartment, JDC stocked their new home with household supplies, clothes, and toiletries. But even as they continue to receive psychosocial support and rent assistance from JDC, the family can’t help but long for a past that no longer exists. “We had a car, an apartment, a country house,” says Valeriya. “We live with a new reality now.”
Those Who Stay
Banks are closed. Food is hard to get. Medicine is limited. Anti-Semitism is almost expected; swastika graffiti is not uncommon; Jewish gathering places are often targets of attacks. Not many choose to stay, but some are unable to leave. Dedicated volunteers risk their lives to deliver food to elderly couples stuck in the conflict zone. In times of conflict, this support is one constant source of comfort in an otherwise nightmarish situation.
The fact that Odessa’s Migdal JCC exists—much less that it has been open for twenty-five years—is worthy of celebration. 600 people gathered to celebrate the JCC’s 25th anniversary. The center was the first in the former Soviet Union, starting out small with a handful of programs offered on Sundays. “We started from scratch,” says Kira Verkhovskaya, chair of the board. “We now have over 100 programs offered in three locations.” But the main achievement, she says, is that the center has become a Jewish family that offers a home forever. “You come here as a kid; you grow up, meet your future spouse, create a family, and then bring your own child here again.”
Just a few months ago, Odelia and Ohad Brat celebrated one of the happiest occasions of their lives: their son’s bar mitzvah. They’ll never forget when he received his brand-new tefillin—special leather boxes worn during prayer—from his beloved grandparents. Everyone was so filled with pride.
And they’ll never forget grabbing those tefillin as they and their six children quickly fled their home. A raging fire was only minutes away. So they took what was most precious to them.
It was a smart split-second decision. Flames destroyed much of the Brat family house. The entire upstairs was charred. When the family returned, they barely recognized what used to be their home.
The Brats did make one unlikely discovery, though. A bank tin, badly burned. Inside was the money one of their sons had earned mowing lawns for neighbors. It was dirty and damp, but it was there.
It’s a symbol for what it will take to rebuild their home and their lives. It’s not going to happen overnight. But they have each other. And they have Federation partner The Jewish Agency for Israel, which is delivering grants of $1,000 to families across Israel who lost everything in the fires.
With the grant, the Brats are able to buy clothing, medicine and other essentials for their large family. Odelia says that the care, concern, and support they’ve received from The Jewish Agency has left her speechless.
People just like us, our children, our parents or grandparents, desperately need our help. Your gift to Federation removes obstacles. You bridge gaps. A hot meal is delivered to a homebound elderly person. An emergency loan feeds a struggling family. A bus brings a child to camp. A ramp opens up Jewish life for a disabled person.
People just like us, our children, our parents or grandparents, desperately need our help. Your gift to Federation removes obstacles. It bridges gaps. It delivers a hot meal to a homebound elderly person. It feeds a struggling family. It brings a child to camp. It allows a disabled person to lead a vibrant Jewish life.
Your gift makes this possible. Please give generously so we can continue doing this important work.
“We Want People to Know They’re Still Women”
It started, like so many revolutions these days, with a blog.
Breast cancer is a taboo subject in much of Eastern Europe, and women there often feel alone in their struggles against the disease.
Bori Halom started blogging in 2012, largely out of a need to break this silence. Soon the platform grew into a support group for fellow Hungarian breast cancer patients and survivors that now connects over 900 women on Facebook under Bori’s motto “Together, it’s easier.”
These words also describe her relationship with Federation partner the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). Her support group is a partner in JDC’s Women’s Health Empowerment Program (WHEP), which works in Hungary and Bosnia and Herzegovina to educate about the importance of early detection, offer mammograms and provide support for women currently wrestling with the disease.
“We want people to know they’re still women,” she says. “My main goal is to break down the taboos, to shake the stigma, to end women being gawked at for wearing headscarves or having shaved heads. We never asked for cancer, it just happened.”
In partnership with the Susan G. Komen ®, WHEP also provides survivors like Bori with leadership training, empowering them to start NGOs, run peer-support groups and become advocates for better women’s health services.
Once a year, Bori’s group gathers at Budapest’s JDC-supported Jewish Community Center for a daylong summit of mutual comfort and support. Women swap stories of chemotherapy and tragedy, remission and resilience.
From Zero to Recovery
About 350 miles away, Stoja-Mira Simic is standing adrift in a sea of pink. Growing up in a remote village in the former Yugoslavia, electricity was a late addition to her life, let alone mammograms. Besides, she had always had perfect health. So when a friend told her a WHEP mobile mammogram unit was coming to her village, she went because it was free.
Ten days later, she got the results. “I had cancer. I had to keep saying it to myself over and over—I have cancer,” she recalls.
A WHEP representative also led Stoja-Mira down the road to recovery, delivering first-aid packages and making sure she never felt alone. “It was as if we’d known each other our entire lives,” she says.
Once healed, she learned that women from a nearby town were traveling to Sarajevo for the annual WHEP co-sponsored Race for the Cure ®. She immediately bought a ticket.
“When we arrived in Sarajevo, I suddenly saw a sea of 500 other women in pink around me,” she says. “I felt sadness that there were so many of us, but also joy that I’d survived and that my life was saved. I’ll attend the Race every year.”
For herself, Stoja-Mira and countless others affected by breast cancer, perhaps Bori says it best: “I’m very grateful to JDC. We started from zero. It’s amazing that they believed in my vision and were willing to follow me.”