Author Archives: Mark Berch

About Mark Berch

Since 2002, Mark Berch has been providing Jewishly oriented web links to members of his shul (Tifereth Israel, a small Conservative synagogue in Washington DC where his family has been members for almost 40 years). In real life, he is a Patent Examiner.

The Loyalty Oath

This entry was posted in Israel on by .

Yossi Verter looks at how the oath issue came about–and argues it is bad for both Israel and the Jews. (Ha’aretz)

Some Likud members, most notably Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intelligence Services Dan Meridor, are opposed to the oath. (YNet News)

Chaim Gans says this oath means Arabs must “agree that their inferior existence is not only a de facto reality they are forced to accept, but a matter of principle as well.” (Ha’aretz)

Ze’ev Segal attacks the wording of the Neeman-Lieberman loyalty oath because “it would be perceived as open or tacit discrimination against non-Jews.” (Ha’aretz)

Defense Minister Barak accepts that wording, but wants to tack on “in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence”–but his party is opposed to the oath. (Ha’aretz)

Shlomo Avineri says for those seeking citizenship, “a general pledge of allegiance to the laws of the state of Israel” is not enough, but “a declaration about accepting the legitimacy of the state of Israel” is legitimate and should suffice. (Ha’aretz)

Posted on October 18, 2010

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

The Peace Process

This entry was posted in Israel on by .

Prospects for Israel’s cabinet even voting on a compromise proposal for a construction freeze look poor. (Ha’aretz)

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert urges Israel to agree to an international trusteeship in Jerusalem’s Holy Basin, permit non-Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem to serve as the Palestinian capital and offer to solve the Palestinian refugee problem within the framework of the Arab peace initiative offer. (Jerusalem Post)

Professor Shlomo Sand attacks Israel’s insistence on being referred to in a peace deal as just a recent “whim,” and not consistent with the stance taken by other advanced countries. (Ha’aretz)

Caroline Glick argues that the left’s reason for wanting to dismantle the settlements is in order “to destroy religious Zionism. It is religious Zionism, which looks to Jerusalem rather than to Tel Aviv, that drives the Left to distraction.” (Jerusalem Post)

A new poll shows a majority of Palestinians support negotiations with Israel. (Jerusalem Post)

How much secrecy is really needed for the Peace Process negotiations? (Ha’aretz)

It is argued that the left, and Peace Now in particular, are all to blame for the failure of the peace process. (YNet News)

Posted on October 4, 2010

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Yom Kippur Roundup

This entry was posted in Holidays on by .

Is the Kaparot ceremony a “mere superstition?” (Arutz Sheva)

To get the most from Neilah, you need some “Neilah training.” Here’s how. (Chicago Jewish News)

Is our fate determined on the Day of Atonement? And if God is writer of our fate, “What kind of writing would God prefer? Fiction? Journalism? Scholarship?” (Jewish Exponent)

Could Yom Kippur be changing from a day one feels oppressed by religious rules, to a day one feels liberated from driving and shopping, and living an environmentally better day? (Ha’aretz)

Rabbi David Greenspoon leads a guided imagery for the Yom Kippur Yizkor service, and he talks about how this works, and how those at Yizkor services seeking to reclaim their wholeness can find the power, and the understanding of time, needed to accomplish this. (Baltimore Jewish Times)

Jay Michaelson complains: “On Yom Kippur, ostensibly the holiest of days, suddenly we’re left to fend for ourselves in a confusing haze of outdated theology and deracinated ritual….Yom Kippur is often the holiday of confusion and befuddlement.” (Forward)

The problem with Yom Kippur in the synagogue is that “it is too complete and comprehensive. It creates the myth of putting all of one’s life and behavior up for judgment, where we confront every one of our failings and repent for them all.” (Shalom Hartman Institute)

Posted on September 13, 2010

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Environmental & Energy Issues in Israel

This entry was posted in Israel, Practices on by .

A mere 0.5% of Israel’s energy comes from renewables. Why? (Ha’aretz)

It is argued that Israel faces a looming electricity shortage crisis, because of failure to build the necessary production facilities. Despite a 2001 goal of 20% production from private hands by 2009, by 2009, it was only 3%. (Ha’aretz)

Preventing the further collapse of seaside cliffs in Israel requires remedial action over large sections of the coast in Netanya, Herzliya and Ashkelon —and a lot of money. (Ha’aretz)

An environmental group urged the Israeli government to close down a baptism site at the lower Jordan River visited by 100,000 tourists annually, until water quality standards for tourists and pilgrims bathing at the holy site can be met. (Ha’aretz)

The past five years “has been the worst uninterrupted period of aridity for 80 years.” But steps to cope, such as abolishing the water subsidy for farmers, are stalled. (Ha’aretz)

Posted on August 30, 2010

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The Peace Process

This entry was posted in Israel on by .

Abbas sets a total construction freeze as the price for direct talks. (Ha’aretz)

Israel’s demands for West Bank security arrangements appear to involve appear to entail “turning the West Bank into another Gaza: a demilitarized state, in which Israel would control everything entering by land and air, as well as the electromagnetic spectrum and much else”–and are not consistent with it being a sovereign state. (Ha’aretz)

Is the peace process not proceeding because the leaders, and the peoples, on both sides simply aren’t sufficiently motivated? (Ha’aretz)

For getting to peace, Palestinians say: political settlement first, then understanding. For Israelis, it tends to be the other way around, and therein lies part of the problem, says J.J. Goldberg. (Forward)

Uri Savir argues this is a promising moment for the peace process. (Forward)

But Moshe Elad says the PA has neither desire nor ability to finalize agreement with Israel. (YNet News)

And Barry Rubin insists “there won’t be any comprehensive peace agreement on the horizon for many years” because “A very high standard of proof would be needed that things would be different” on the Arab side. (Jerusalem Post)

And Sarah Honig insists the high level advocates for a two-state solution cannot possibly believe any such thing is possible. (Jerusalem Post)

Posted on August 9, 2010

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Day Schools & Jewish Education

This entry was posted in Life on by .

An emerging Jewish education nonprofit, Kevah, by the fall will have 25 learning circles, typically 8-12 people meeting in homes in the Bay Area, taught by seven highly trained Jewish educators. (JWeekly)

Using materials from Centropia, educators y who teach Holocaust historare giving more focus to prewar lives of Jews. (Jewish Post & News)

Should Jewish schools be required to allot 50% of their seats without reference to religion? (Jewish Chronicle)

With mega-givers increasingly focused on experiential Jewish learning initiatives such as overnight camping, Hillel, youth groups, Birthright Israel, Moishe House and Reboot, how will day schools provide for their long term financial needs? (Jewish Week)

In Dallas, a form of non-Hasidic Haredi Orthodoxy takes hold, centered on largely free adult education. (Forward)

Posted on August 2, 2010

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A One State Solution?

This entry was posted in Israel on by .

With the peace process at seeming standstill, some academics and policy analysts have revived calls for a single state. (VOA News)

And indeed, some push for such a plan, involving giving Israeli citizenship and equal rights to all the Palestinians in the West Bank, is coming from Israeli right-wingers and settlers. (Ha’aretz)

In fact, even the Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) says “I would prefer for the Palestinians to be citizens of this country…rather than divide the land.” A single state in which there are equal rights for all citizens would be preferable to dividing the land. (Ha’aretz)

And a number of Palestinian officials have spoken in favor of abandoning the two-state plan and focusing instead on a fight for citizenship within a one-state framework. (Ha’aretz)

But Yossi Beilin is opposed: “a border, in an agreement, is a vital thing, and anyone who’s ready to give up on borders is really talking about the end of Zionism…no one on the right is really proposing to grant citizenship to all the Palestinians, and no one is ready to have a Palestinian prime minister or a Palestinian defense minister.” (Ha’aretz)

Posted on July 26, 2010

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Immigrant & Migrant Worker Issues in Israel

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Longtime residents of some south Tel Aviv neighborhoods angrily protest the influx of foreign workers and asylum seekers. (Jerusalem Post)

A majority of Israel’s 300,000 foreign workers are women, and they face a wider range of difficulties than men. For example: “pregnancy means a foreign worker must choose between her visa and her baby. If Israeli authorities discover that a migrant laborer has given birth here, she automatically loses her legal status.” (Jerusalem Post)

How is it that “many of the same people against deporting illegal non-Jewish immigrants support a Palestinian state for the sake of keeping a Jewish majority in Israel?” Peace advocates also stress the need for officially recognized borders for the Palestinians “but are indifferent to the sieve-like quality of our official border with Egypt.” (Ha’aretz)

Does the hiring of illegal foreign workers really take jobs away from Israelis? (Ha’aretz)

Israel believes that it can use ex-soldiers to replace foreign construction workers. (Jerusalem Post)

Meet three Ukrainian women whose family saved Jews during the Holocaust (and were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations) who now fear deportation from Israel. (Ha’aretz)

Says Yossi Sarid: “Instead of launching a xenophobic media campaign, the government should publish “thank you” notices for the aliens living among us. Without them–cutting trees, pumping water and wiping the asses of the feeble among us – the state would grind to a halt. The helpless would be abandoned.” (Ha’aretz)

Israel has some 1,200 children of illegal migrant workers, and Israel hopes to expel them this summer. A look at the controversy. (Tablet)

Posted on June 15, 2010

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American Jewish Attitudes Toward Israel

This entry was posted in Israel on by .

Daniel Gordis sees a paradox: “were the State of Israel to be vanquished, the vibrant American Jewish life that we now too easily take for granted would wither away within a generation”–and yet, American Jews increasingly have distanced themselves from Israel, any everyone seems to be ignoring the disconnect. (Jerusalem Post)

In an interview, Peter Beinart talks about the attitudes of younger, liberal American Jews toward Israel. (Ha’aretz)

Is American liberal Zionism even a tenable position any more? (Tablet)

A range of responses to the Flotilla affair make it a kind of “Rorschach Test” for American Jews. (Forward)

Interviewed on All Things ConsideredPeter Beinart and Alan Dershowitz talk about the increasing alienation of “fairly secular, liberal-minded American Jews” from Israel, and how this could lead to rising support for the extreme of “an uncritical Zionism and the increasing non-Zionism of a one-state solution.” (National Public Radio)

Posted on June 8, 2010

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Synagogues in the News

This entry was posted in Practices on by .

The experimental Nashuva (“We will return”) Friday night service involves “a band, meditation, reinterpreted prayers on a handout sheet, and a PowerPoint presentation” all in under 45 minutes. (New Jersey Jewish News)

A synagogue finds itself in a legal battle over its large sign “Lyndi and Rodney Adler Sephardi Centre.” (Australian Jewish News)

In Northeast Queens, Orthodox, Conservative and Reform shuls all adapt in order to survive and grow. (Jewish Week)

A merger between a Reform congregation (325 families) and a neighboring Conservative synagogue (250 families) in Miami leaves religious services and clergy separate, the rest combined. Is this a recipe for “increased conflict,” or a wave of the future? (Jewish Week)

The grand neo-classical style White Stork Synagogue in the Polish city of Wroclaw, which was ransacked and desecrated by the Germans on Kristallnacht, was formally rededicated after years of renovation work. (Jerusalem Post)

Posted on May 26, 2010

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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