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Anita Silverman Hirsch Z"l

Women of the World:

I received this amazing video:

Buddha Bar, Secret Love. Women the World -Mujeres del Mundo

featuring stunning pictures of women in their native environments from all over the world. And then as I was about to fall asleep listening to the radio, I heard this program detailing the dynamics of trafficking young women in the Netherlands. Radio Netherlands, The State We are In (TSWI)
Underage, vulnerable, and naive young women in the Netherlands are systematically seduced and entrapped into prostitution by gangs of men, who are all engaged in this deception, and work in concert to entrap and enslave  their victims.The police call this phenomenon "loverboys". It is shocking to hear one of the victims and one of the mothers of a victim share their experiences.

My loverboy
"Eline recounts how a nice first date turned out to be a dark introduction into the world of 'Loverboys' - young men who pose as potential boyfriends, then morph into violent pimps. She tells Jonathan about being both their victim – and their accomplice."

Anita de Wit (right) and her daughter Angelique
Anita de Wit (right) and her daughter Angelique
The mother who never gave up
Anita’s teenage daughter, Angelique, fell prey to 'Loverboys' not just once, but three times. But Anita never gave up hope that her daughter would one day return to her.
Angelique was forced to work as a prostitute in Amsterdam's Red Light District for two years, but she did eventually return home.
And now Anita is the driving force behind a foundation dedicated to stopping 'Loverboys'
Link - Stop Loverboys Now Foundation..."

I was a social worker in New York City, for many years, but I never heard of anything like this before.
My heart grieves for the evil in this world. The only hope for it is education, information,  and prayer for the victims and the perpetrators that they find their way back to the path of justice, and away from this extremely harmful and destructive practice. For that reason, I share it with you. If you have children, you must know about this. Please share in the interest of your communities worldwide.

The work of Rosh Hashana: 2011/5772

As I mention in my previous blog, Everything You wanted to Know about the Shofar but were Afraid to Ask the work of Rosh Hashana is the work of inner reflection on one's deeds and one's past, asking forgiveness from G-d and any person who you may have harmed, and making plans to change the behaviour to bring about a better world.  This is the work of the Days of Awe, The High Holidays, Yamim Noraim, (Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur).

I discovered this new site to help us deal with the ten Days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur called 10Q-The Questions, the ultimate self-help tool for self improvement. This site (10Q) provides you with a place to respond to introspective questions and to save your answers privately. This way you have a record you can refer back to a year later.

And then I received this poem via my Aleph e-mail list: from Karen/K'aisha Roekard
of the Aquarian Minyan in San Francisco

"I found this profound, Rumi-like, poem written by a man from Marin, a Hakomi therapist, that we will be using at Aquarian Minyan Rosh Hashanah services this year. I offer it to the broader ALEPH community for use in your lives and your services.
shana tova,
karen/k'aisha roekard

"IF YOU FORGET by Rob Fisher

If you forget how beautiful you are
I will remember

I will remember your barefoot connection to the earth,
The risks you have taken.
And the compassion in your heart

I will remember the courage of your questions.
And the tiny wrinkles that make your bright and shining eyes
So welcoming.

I will remember how you shine in your enthusiasm,
Your delicate embarrassment,
The passion and serious intensity
Behind your words.

If you forget,
Come with me.
There is a path I know
High up on the mountain
And deep in the core of the rich black earth
Where we can drink together
From the pool of your tears,
And listen as the mountains echo
With the sound of your laughter

If you forget,

I will taste,
One more time
The deep dark sweetness of your soul,
That wonderful essence that belongs only to you.

If you are tired,
Come rest in the warmth of my hands
and I will whisper
Stories of your greatness
in your ears.

Oh, how I am intoxicated by the flavors of your soul."

And here is the contribution of our own Montreal Rabbi Steinmetz, The Happiness Warrior, 
who I regularly videotape for his blog, On How to Keep Failure from Becoming a Defeat.

Shana Tova,
Bonne Travail de Nouvelle Annee
Happy Working


Everything You Always Wanted to Know about the Shofar but Were Afraid to Ask

At this time of year you are probably getting used to hearing Happy New Year, Shana Tova, and the words Rosh Hashanah bandied about and wondering what is this exactly. Rosh Hashana is a combination of penance and joy. It is hard to explain so I will share a short (2 1/2 min.) video I recently discovered that explains this weird holiday, and also contains the blowing of the shofar - the ram's horn - which I will talk more about after the video.

Now you are probably wondering what is the meaning of the shofar? The "shofar" is a ram's horn which is reminiscent of human vocal expression, and is supposed to awaken us to do the work of self-evaluation and introspection regarding the world, and our place in it, during the month prior to Rosh Hashanah, and the shofar is also integral to the High Holidays (Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur) services. And by the way it's harder to get a sound out of it than it looks. (Yes I tried and failed). But here are some examples of people who succeeded:

May we all be blessed with achieving our full potentials in the coming year of 5772, in our personal, professional, and spiritual lives. Shana Tova Vemetooka...May you all have a good year, as sweet as apples in honey.

World Religions Conference: Outlawing the Right to Criticize Religious texts?

Last Wednesday I attended the World Religions Conference featuring His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, Dr. Deepak Chopra, Robert Thurman, Prof. Tariq Ramadan, Prof. Gregory Baum, and Prof. Steven T. Katz.

The theme as I understood it was the role of religion in world affairs.
Deepak Chopra advised us that the "Religion brand" in general does not arouse a positive response. i.e according to the internet community, few people feel that religion has anything to offer the world today.

The organizers of this conference passed a resolution which Is that "to criticize the text of any religion is to criticize the text of all religions and this ought to be forbidden". Fortunately we still live in a world in which freedom of expression is a protected right.

Today I discovered Douglas Murray, an atheist speaking very clearly about morality and religions, their texts, and their current reality.

What do you think? I invite your insights and comments.

Non-Jewish Support for Israel from The Religious and from the Secular

People often disparage support of Israel from Church groups, however recently I received this from a Christian site:

Would Jesus Back a Palestinian State?

But then I noticed this review of a secular conference in Rome supporting the State of Israel which just took place in the Italian Senate.

Historical Meeting at the Senate Building in Rome

I am a citizen-observor who has been following the news regarding Israel, the West Bank, Iran, and the Middle East in general. Everyone knows about the current bid by Mahmoud Abbas for "Palestinian Statehood" but few peopke understand the deep significance that it may have on all of our lives.

I was born after World War II and in studying history, I always wondered how were the Nazis able to pull off the destruction of their enemies in full sight of the whole world? I know this information was public at the time, because I looked through archive copies of the New York Times, before the war and during the war. The news was out there.

Here is an article by Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control Policy in the Reagan Administration, currently heads the Center for Security Policy in an opinion piece recently published regarding the current events occurring in NYC and in the US senate.

‘Diplomacy of September’

He starts this way "In her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "The Guns of August," Barbara Tuchman chronicles how a cascading series of seemingly minor developments led inexorably to World War I and the worst carnage known to man up to that time. In the future, historians may point to the present "Diplomacy of September" as the catalyst for the next horrific conflict now in the offing in the Middle East, and potentially beyond..."

and this is his third point:
"...Third, it appears that meetings of OIC representatives with U.S. government officials - possibly including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton - will occur in conjunction with the U.N.'s September follies. The purpose will be to try to "bridge" differences between the OIC's 10-year campaign to prohibit expression that offends Muslims and the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Now, it is unclear how Shariah blasphemy law can be squared with freedom of speech. But Mrs. Clinton seems to be pushing forward with the idea that, by focusing on the "consequences" of expression, one can find a basis for meeting the OIC's demands for prohibiting and criminalizing what some call "Islamophobic hate speech."
Lest anyone think that Shariah blasphemy laws cannot come to the United States even if Mrs. Clinton wants them to, consider the case of Fred Grandy. Mr. Grandy, a former Republican congressman from Iowa and past president of the billion-dollar charity Goodwill Industries, was the host of the top-rated morning drive talk show in Washington - until, allegedly, he ran afoul of Shariah activists who were "offended" by the reporting about that doctrine that he and his wife, Catherine (aka "Mrs. Fred"), provided each week.
Not content with denying Mr. Grandy gainful employment, proponents of Shariah have enlisted the leadership of the Democratic Party in Maryland's legislature and Montgomery County to denounce him publicly as a "divisive" figure and to object to him addressing a private meeting of Republicans in the Washington suburbs. Such conduct by people who have sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States is a scandal. It should be strenuously denounced by their fellow Democrats, as well as by Americans of every other stripe.
The effect of the Clinton-OIC exercise, like the others at the U.N. this week, will be to reinforce the perception on the part of freedom's Islamist enemies that Israel, the West and the United States are in retreat and in decline. Recognizing Palestine, excoriating Israel and restricting free expression will seen by such enemies for what they are: acts of submission. According to the threat doctrine they call Shariah, its adherents are required in the face of submissive behavior to redouble their efforts to make, in the words of the Koran, the infidels "feel subdued."
When combined with the ascendancy throughout the Middle East and North Africa of Islamist organizations and regimes that make no secret of their determination to wipe Israel off the map, we stand at the precipice. Tragically, the weapons with which the next war will be fought - an avoidable war brought on by the "Diplomacy of September" - will make the lethal "Guns of August" seem like pop-guns by comparison.

 Another observer, Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and military historian, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal. He writes this:
Can Israel Survive
He writes an opinion piece, and his view is really pessimistic as he reviews the current challenges to Israel by the Middle Eastern Neighborhood.

But I thought that the most chilling article was this one:

If Israel Disappears

By Cal Thomas

And then I just read this article by Rex Murphy, host off CBC's Cross Country Checkup:
"Teaching Everyone How to Hate" in today's National Post.

"Anti-Semitism is, as many have said, the oldest hatred. It loses no force from its venerability.
Jew-hatred forms the template on which so many other hatreds are based. It teaches that one's enemies are vermin, fit for extermination. Those detested are subjected to grotesque mockeries and caricatures. Finally, the hatred escalates to such a pitch that it brings on pogroms or worse. Anti-Semitism is deeply noxious in itself, but it is also exemplary in this negative sense: It grooves the path to other hatreds.

These unoriginal thoughts came to mind easily after catching some of the remarks of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the UN on Thursday. He was in full 9/11conspiracy-theorist mode, delivering the kind of anti-American harangue that only Hugo Chavez could love. But, as always, he was not neglectful of Israel and the Jews. In the past, he's questioned whether the Holocaust happened. This year, he accused European countries of using the Holocaust "as an excuse to pay fine[s] or ransom to the Zionists." For all the venom poured on the United States, Israel is Ahmadinejad's perennial target. He'd embrace America in an eye-blink should Washington turn on Israel.

If you read any of these articles, all written by non-Jewish observers and analysts you will never be able to say, nobody warned you of what is transpiring right now in the UN, in New York City, at the infamous UN Durban 111 "conference for Human Rights" and in the Middle East.

And yes it affects all of us here both in the US and in Canada. I invite your comments.

Here is the first comment I received via e-mail:

Hi Abigail, Thanks for this post, for pulling together these articles. The big question, for me (as I think you know): how do we get this kind of message heard? People tend to hear what they're used to hearing - and this kind of message is outside the regular flow of "downtrodden and abused Muslims hounded by big bad Israel." Thanks for your contribution to trying to enlarge perceptions.


"...Being anti-Israel is not in itself objectionable. But I'm not talking about ordinary criticism of Israel. I'm speaking of a hatred that permits itself no boundaries in the lies and myths it pours out..."

This morning I received an e-mail with the caption: "Who says we don't have any friends?" detailing a letter sent by Dr. Denis MacEoin to the Edinburgh Student's Association after that association made a motion to "boycott all things Israeli since they claim Israel is under an apartheid regime." and I felt I had to share it: Yes I googled Dr. Denis MacEoin, he is the real McCoy.

Dr. Denis MacEoin is a middle East expert, the editor of the Middle East Quarterly since June 2009. He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on January 26 1949
He has been a scholar of Islam all his life, has lived and taught in Saudi Arabia and Morrocco, and is himself a convert to Islam (Bahai) according to this bio.

Here is his e-mailed letter to those students. I reproduce it in it's entirety because of the clarity of his expression.

FROM: Dr.Denis MacEoin, author and a senior editor of the Middle
East Quarterly,
TO: The Committee, Edinburgh University Student Association.

May I be permitted to say a few words to members of the EUSA? I am an Edinburgh graduate (MA 1975) who studied Persian, Arabic and Islamic History in Buccleuch Place under William Montgomery Watt and Laurence Elwell Sutton, two of Britain's great Middle East experts in their day. I later went on to do a PhD at Cambridge and to teach Arabic and Islamic Studies at Newcastle University. Naturally, I am the author of several books and hundreds of articles in this field.

I say all that to show that I am well informed in Middle Eastern affairs and that, for that reason, I am shocked and disheartened by the EUSA motion and vote. I am shocked for a simple reason: there is not, and has never been, a system of apartheid in Israel. That is not my opinion, that is fact that can be tested against reality by any Edinburgh student, should he or she choose to visit Israel to see for himself.

Let me spell this out, since I have the impression those members of EUSA who voted for this motion are absolutely clueless in matters concerning Israel, and are, in all likelihood, the victims of extremely biased propaganda coming from the anti-Israel lobby.

Being anti-Israel is not in itself objectionable. But I'm not talking about ordinary criticism of Israel. I'm speaking of a hatred that permits itself no boundaries in the lies and myths it pours out. Thus, Israel is repeatedly referred to as a "Nazi" state. In what sense is this true, even as a metaphor? Where are the Israeli concentration camps? The einzatsgruppen? The SS? The Nuremberg Laws? The Final Solution? None of these things, nor anything remotely resembling them exists in Israel, precisely because the Jews, more than anyone on earth, understand what Nazism stood for. It is claimed there has been an Israeli Holocaust in Gaza (or elsewhere). Where? When? No honest historian would treat that claim with anything but
the contempt it deserves. But calling Jews "Nazis" and saying they have committed a Holocaust is as basic a way to subvert historical fact as anything I can think of.

Likewise apartheid: For apartheid to exist, there would have to be a situation that closely resembled how things were in South Africa under the apartheid regime. Unfortunately for those who believe this, a weekend in any part of Israel would be enough to show how ridiculous the claim is. That a body of university students actually fell for this, and voted on it, is a sad comment on the state of modern education. The most obvious focus for apartheid would be the country's 20% Arab population. Under Israeli law, Arab Israelis have exactly the same rights as Jews or anyone else; Muslims have the same rights as Jews or Christians; Bahai's, severely persecuted in Iran, flourish in Israel, where they have their world centre in Haifa; Ahmadi Muslims, severely persecuted in Pakistan, and elsewhere, are kept safe by Israel; the holy places of all religions are protected under a specific Israeli
law. Arabs form 20% of the university population (an exact echo of their percentage in the general population). In Iran, the Bahai's (the largest religious minority) are forbidden to study in any university or to run their own universities: why aren't your members boycotting Iran?

Arabs in Israel can go anywhere they want, unlike blacks in apartheid South Africa, they use public transport, they eat in restaurants, they go to swimming pools, they use libraries, they go to cinemas alongside Jews - something no blacks were able to do in South Africa. Israeli hospitals not only treat Jews and Arabs, they also treat Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank. On the same wards, in the same operating theaters. In Israel, women have the same rights as men: there is no gender
apartheid. Gay men and women face no restrictions, and Palestinian gays often escape into Israel, knowing they may be killed at home.

It seems bizarre to me that LGBT groups call for a boycott of Israel and say nothing about countries like Iran, where gay men are hanged or stoned to death. That illustrates a mindset that beggars belief. Intelligent students thinking it's better to be silent about regimes that kill gay people, but good to condemn the only country in the Middle East that rescues and protects gay people. Is that supposed
to be a sick joke?

University is supposed to be about learning to use your brain, to think rationally, to examine evidence, to reach conclusions based on solid evidence, to compare sources, to weigh up one view against one or more others. If the best Edinburgh can now produce are students who have no idea how to do any of these things, then the future is bleak.

I do not object to well-documented criticism of Israel. I do object
when supposedly intelligent people single the Jewish state out, above
states that are horrific in their treatment of their populations.

We are going through the biggest upheaval in the Middle East since the 7th and 8th centuries, and it's clear that Arabs and Iranians are rebelling against terrifying regimes that fight back by killing their own citizens. Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs alike, do not rebel (though they are free to protest). Yet Edinburgh students mount no demonstrations and call for no boycotts against Libya, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Iran. They prefer to make false accusations against one of the world's freest countries, the only country in the Middle East that has taken in Darfur refugees, the only country in the Middle East that gives refuge to gay men and women, the only country in the Middle East that protects the Bahai's.... Need I go on? The imbalance is perceptible, and it sheds no credit on anyone who voted for this boycott.

I ask you to show some common sense. Get information from the Israeli embassy. Ask for some speakers. Do not make your minds up until you have given a fair hearing to both parties. You have a duty to your students, and that is to protect them from one-sided argument. They are not at university to be propagandized. And they are certainly not there to be tricked into anti-Semitism by punishing one country among all the countries of the world, which happens to be the only Jewish state. If there had been a single Jewish state in the 1930s (which, sadly, there was not), don't you think Adolf Hitler would have decided to boycott it? Of course he would, and he would not have stopped there. Your generation has a duty to ensure that the perennial
racism of anti-Semitism never sets down roots among you. Today, however, there are clear signs that it has done so, and is putting down more. You have a chance to avert a very great evil, simply by using reason and a sense of fair play.

Please tell me that this makes sense. I have given you some of the evidence. It's up to you to find out more.

Yours sincerely,
Denis MacEoin