Nahman Stamp - 6/14/2010

There is much to remember this week. For many, June 14 honored the 200th yahrzeit of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.

The Israeli government issued a stamp for this occasion, and some people stopped their Na Nah Nach Nachman chanting for a moment to lick it.

And for others, June 16, is Bloomsday, the day the honors James Joyce, his novel, Ulysses, and his Jewish character, Leopold Bloom. Leo Bloom spends the day, June 16, 1904, by tooling around Dublin Ireland. For all those who will not be at Symphony Space this evening, I toast you with a shot of Irish whiskey.

Facade in the good times

Speaking of whiskey, the press reported this week on a case languidly making its way through the New York court system on the sale of a black Hebrew synagogue in Harlem. Like so many other disputes at older, declining synagogues, the case refers to who actually controls the destiny of the congregation and its assets. Writers and poets, Darryl Pinckney and James Fenton, purchased a townhouse on West 123rd Street in the Harlem section of Manhattan for $1.85 million from a real estate developer who had given up on plans to convert the structure into apartments. Scott Edelstein at Marcus & Millichap served as the broker. They plan to resurrect the structure with the help of Samuel G. White of Platt Byard Dovell White. The structure served as the spiritual home of what may be the oldest African-American synagogue in America.

Current facade

The congregation was founded in 1919 by Rabbi Wentworth Arthur Matthew. In 1962, the Commandment Keepers Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation of the Living God, the Pillar and Ground of Truth purchased the structure. Prior to 1903, it was once the home of John Dwight, a founder of Church & Dwight Co., the makers of Arm & Hammer bicarbonate of soda (no relation to Armand Hammer of Occidental Petroleum.) The synagogue was sold by a group claiming to represent the last 9 members of the congregation; another group, claiming to represent other members opposed the sale. For now, the structure will sit and wait til the courts determine who or what will control the deed.

Speaking of deeds, the bastion of credibility, Al Jazeera, reports today that “the right-wing leadership of the organized US Jewish community defends Israel against international condemnation for its deadly seizure of a flotilla bearing humanitarian supplies for Gaza, a familiar clutch of neo-conservative hawks is going on the offensive against what they see as the flotilla’s chief defender, Turkey…..” It goes on to criticize neo-con groups, that are merely fronts for Israel, who are attacking Turkey.

On the topic of condemnations and a new chapter in the book titled Don’t Mess With My Holocaust, The LA Times reports that The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith called on former California Governor and current gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown to apologize for an inappropriate comment he made against his opponent, Meg Whitman. “Well, I’m sorry,” Brown said Tuesday, referring to the ADL leaders being upset. “I talked to the people at the Holocaust Center, and they completely understand.” Brown said he is sorry that the leaders were upset by comments he made to a radio reporter while he was jogging in which he compared the saturation campaign of GOP contender Meg Whitman to “like Goebbels.” (he didn’t say he is sorry for the comment, just that he is sorry that some Jewish leaders are upset)

While we are talking about being upset, NY State’s Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate, Andrew Cuomo, formerly a director of HUD, has charged a car-donation charity with fraud. As part of his office’s investigation, the Attorney General has sent subpoenas to sixteen charities, fundraisers, and individuals involved in the charitable car donation industry. He isn’t saying they have done anything wrong; it is merely a review of the paperwork and assertions (although a simple scan of charity filings show that most of these groups give NO more than 10% of their proceeds to an actual program or service). The subpoenas seek evidence to support the representations made in solicitations to potential vehicle donors. The charities that have received subpoenas include: Breast Cancer Society; Arthur Glass; Heritage for the Blind (of Brooklyn NY); Lechaim for Life; J.O.Y. for our Youth, Inc. d/b/a Kars 4 Kids (of Lakewood NJ); and Tree of Life. You can wait for the Attorney General’s report, but it looks like some more NY/NJ Orthodox Jewish institutions and rabbis will be embarrassed by financial improprieties in 2010.

With regard to heritage, before there was Blossom, there was Natalie. Natalie Green was the Jewish character on The Facts of Life TV show, which originally ran from 1979 to 1988. The character was played by the actress Mindy Cohn. Cohn was the toast of one Manhattan neighborhood this past week, when she starred in a romantic comedic, Violet Tendencies, at The NewFest. Cohn plays Violet, a woman who is tired of being everyone’s friend, and decides to strike out on her own to find someone to love her for her. Take THAT, Mayim Bialik!

Looking for love? Baby Boomers want some. The Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU issued a study this week on Baby Boomers and the Jewish Community. Dr. David Elcott finds that most Jewish Baby Boomers see retirement as a time for work and service, not rest. They want “Encore Careers with Social Purpose.” But he argues that organizations serving the Jewish community are unprepared to tap this potentially huge influx of talent and experience. They can’t all be bloggers?

As for encores, a must read is Thomas Friedman on Turkey in the NYT. He writes that Turkey, which used to look to the EU, now looks to Hamas, Iran, and Syria. Sensing weakness in Egypt and Arabia, Turkey wants to fill the vacuum by calling Israelis killers, saying that Muslims cannot cannot commit genocide, and licking the butt Sudan’s war criminal President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Turkey’s antics makes me feel Armenian.

If you have removed Ankara from your Summer travel plans, visit Minneapolis in early July instead. Leaders of America’s largest Presbyterian denomination will meet for their General Assembly and one of their meetings will review a 172 page report on whether the church should call on the U.S. government to cut Israel off from foreign aid. The report, “Breaking Down Walls,” written by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s nine-member Middle East Study Committee recommends the divorce. In 2004, the PC (U.S.A.) became the first mainline Protestant denomination to approve a policy of divestment from Israel. The policy was unpopular with many Presbyterians and was later rescinded. The meeting will be contentious.

Does all this news make you want to run away to an island paradise, somewhere like Hawaii? The Associated Press reports that Republican Governor Linda Lingle has until Monday, June 21, to announce whether she may veto HB444, the only pending same sex civil union legislation in the nation. Governor Lingl met with many constituents and lawmakers on this issue, including two rabbis on the island: Rabbi Itchel Krasnjansky and Rabbi Peter Schaktman. Krasnjansky, heads Chabad of Hawaii, is against same-sex marriage and civil unions. Schaktman, who leads Temple Emanu-El, insists Judaism teaches that all people regardless of sexual orientation are and should be treated as “children of God,” and thus should not face discrimination. He personally supports civil unions as a legal arrangement and recommends that the Governor make a civil decision, a right decision, and leave expediency and religion out of the public sector. Lingle, who is Jewish, attends Temple Emanu-El on the High Holidays. She is currently in Asia until June 19. Perhaps a plate of Hainanese Chicken Rice will help her decide on pending legislation. Sh-aloha, Baby. Peace out.

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  • The study from the Berman Policy Archive is quite interesting. It makes you want to forget about have young leadership divisions and outreach. I would instead of Mature Leadership outreach. Some smatr person out there is going to start a “Teach for America”-like group, based at JCC’s that gets semi-retired baby boomers engaged in sverice and the community.