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 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.

The longest shofar blast.

And a totally new initiative, the shofar flash mob, groups who got together at different places in the world to blow shofar together.

And last but not least, here is an adorable video of my nieces and nephew wishing you all a happy Rosh Hashanah. Shana Tova!

 

 

Has Anti-semitism Become Politically Correct?

bds bigotry double standards -bigotry “Anti-semitism”, has it become politically correct? Over the weekend I had the opportunity to speak about anti-semitism, BDS, Jews and Israel at the  Freedom Talk Conference in Edmonton.

Here is what I said:

I am a Hungarian born Jew who was born into the post Holocaust world.  I did not grow up with any overt anti-semitism in Montreal. Many of us thought that sharing what had happened in Europe during World War ll, would immunize  well meaning persons everywhere against the scourge of anti-Semitism, indiscriminate attacks against Jews for the sole reason that they were Jews or desendants of Jews. However, reports from all quarters of the world includng Canada report that antisemitism – prejudice and gratuitous assaults against Jews because they are Jews has returned with a vengeance. Here is a link to a report on antisemitic resurgence in Europe from an EU committee that has prepared data on this subject.

Of course, it’s impossible to have a conversation  in the present time about anti-semitism without mentioning Israel, and the Israel/Palestine conflict which has always been also an Arab/Jewish conflict.I would agree that  it is hardly anti-semitic to criticize policies between Israel and the Palestinians, or even to pressure the Israelis. However It becomes anti-semitic, when facts are distorted, problems elsewhere are simply ignored, and Israel alone is singled out to be chastised.

The record of the United Nations vis-a-vis Israel amply demonstrates this disparate and disproportional criticism. About 3/4 of all the resolutions taken up by the general assembly have condemned Israel. in spite of many other and more serious human rights violators such as China, Korea, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and the list goes on and on.

UN Watch was created to monitor this anti-Jewish, anti-Israel bias and below is  a link to the latest example posted by UN Watch.

http://www.unwatch.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=bdKKISNqEmG&b=1317489&ct=13398889

Moreover, It was a  UN UNESCO conference  in Durban 2001, on human rights, that singled out Israel and Israel alone for human rights violations, and coined the term “zionism is racism”. This goes along with calling Israel a genocidal entity, picturing Israel as a greedy Jew with a hooked nose in cartoons gobbling up Palestinians as was noted recently in “The Economist”.

You may have also heard about the BDS movement, – Boycotts Divestment and Sanctions – proposed against Israeli by Palestinians and  supported by left wing academics, human rights NGOs like Oxfam,  some churches and now the  European Union which really should know better. The BDS movement proposes that “since Israel Is an “apartheid” state practicing “racist” policies the whole world should boycott Israeli academics, Israeli artists and  Israeli industry. Anyone aware of history could easily expose that Israel does not practice apartheid as it was spelled out in South Africa and that Israel is not and has never been racist.  But how do you defend yourself against these “wifebeating” charges?

Every year in the guise of a “conference” the pro Palestinian factions organize a one week BDS conference on campuses all over the US and Canada, espousing their one sided narratives demonizing Israel as an apartheid state and promoting the BDS (Boycotts Divestment and Sanctions) against Israel. I have attended  these conferences where those opposing these ideas are booed and hissed. Even when these resolutions fail to pass, as they usually do, the battle itself counts as a success for Israel’s enemies, as the Jewish state assumes a cumulatively negative image in the public mind. The influence-makers of tomorrow on campuses today are likely to graduate with the idea that Israel is a rogue, or at least quasi-rogue, nation. Students must actively seek out objective information if they wish to approach Israel with an open mind.

Recently Oxfam was “appalled” that Scarlett Johannsen who has been one of their ambassadors, became a spokesman  for Soda Stream, a successful Israeli enterprise on the West Bank that actually provides jobs to Palestinians. She chose to resign rather than withdraw from her support of Israel and Soda Stream. You can see here  to what degree Oxfam assumes that their attitudes toward Israel is the only true one  and the one which has beome “politically correct”.

We can also see the extent to which anti-Israel feeling has become politically correct in the responses to Harper’s visit to Israel in Canada in the left wing Canadian media. Many were “shocked and disappointed” by Harper’s support of Israel asking whether his stance was “balanced”. Steven Harper  is the only world leader who has grasped the insidious nature of the Arab hatred of Jews, and how that hatred and demonization is what is actually maintaining a state of war between Israel and the Arab population: a hostility that Israel has been contending with since its inception during the war of 1948 and 1967 and which is a threat which continues to manifest in Iran’s nuclear ambitions expressly “to wipe Israel off the map”. In addition, Hamas and Hezbollah, fuelled by Islamic fundamentalists,  refuse to recognize any Jewish connection to the Holy land, threaten Israel’s very existence, and continue to be supported by the left wing human rights mafia.

Fortunately the academic left leaning world is an ivory tower and Israel enjoys amazing support across the board from average Americans and Canadians like yourself who understand her plight and are not taken in by this perfidious and increasingly “politically correct” propaganda machine.

Israel, Jewish organizations, Jews and non-Jews, have taken up the challenge to expose and educate regarding this new antisemitism. I refer you to several organizations that you can access over the internet that were created to expose the bias of the UN, left wing academia, and the antisemitism that has infected the dialogue regarding Israel in the Middle East.

CIJR Canadian Institute for Jewish Studies
ISGAP Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy
SPME Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
MEMRI Middle East Media Research Institute

As well as individual journalists, scholars, and observors, who have spoken out, like the Winnipeg  born scholar Catherine Chatterley, the historian Andrew Roberts, The Washington Post journalist, Bret StephensRobert Wistrich, Jonathon Goldhagen, David Nirenberg, and  even some of my own blogs which have focused on exposing these trends.

Footnote:  3/8/2014
Today I discovered on the internet a study by University of Warsaw regarding the current state of antisemitism in Ploand: Anti-semitism, The Indelible Stain. It bears out the notion I discovered in two recent books about antisemitism that antisemitism has very little to do with Jews and that it can exist even more virulently in places where there are no Jews: Poland since World War ll is virtually Judenrein or Jew-free.

However the best analysis of antisemitism that I have seen is by Ruth Wisse 

Podcast: Ruth Wisse on the Nature and Functions of Anti-Semitism

 Author: Abigail Hirsch, MSW, filmmaker, blogger, journalist, citizen of the world

 

 

 

Rosh Hashanah: Angst

Rosh Hashana is the season of Jewish angst. It is the Jewish New Year, a time when Jews are supposed to grapple with their own demons. It is a time for self assessment, for asking forgiveness from those we have harmed and making resolutions for the future. Life however is not entirely in our hands and we reflect also on the fragility of life and ask for a new year of joy, good health and continued life, all the time knowing that none of us has any guarantees in this regard.  Our prayers meditate on the question “Who will be raised up, and who will be brought down? Who will live and who will die in this new year?” And this suspense is the suspense of life itself. And this is the drama of the Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur Holiday cycle to which we have to bring our mind and soul.

A friend sent me the following parody of New Years wishes.

May your hair, your teeth, your face-lift, your abs, and your stocks
not fall .And may your blood pressure, your triglycerides, your cholesterol, your white blood count and your mortgage interest
not rise.
May you get a clean bill of health from your dentist, your cardiologist, your gastroenterologist, your urologist, your proctologist, your podiatrist, your psychiatrist, your plumber, and the Internal Revenue.
May you find a way to travel from anywhere to anywhere during rush hour in less than an hour, and when you get there may you find a parking space.
May this Yom Tov, find you seated around the dinner table, together with your beloved family and cherished friends, ushering in the Jewish New Year ahead.
May what you see in the mirror delight you, and what others see in you delight them.
May the telemarketers wait to make their sales calls until you finish dinner, may your checkbook and your budget balance, and may they include generous amounts for charity.
May you remember to say “I love you” at least once a day to your partner, your child, and your parent(s). You can say it to your secretary, your nurse, your butcher, your photographer, your hairdresser or your gym instructor,
but not with a “twinkle” in your eye.
May we live as intended, in a world at peace with the awareness of the beauty in every sunset, every flower’s unfolding petals, every baby’s smile and every wonderful, astonishing, miraculous part of ourselves.
Bless you with every happiness, great health, peace and much love during the next year and all those that follow.

And here is an Israeli musical video that says it in a different way: Wishing everyone a “Shana Tova Umetooka”: A good and sweet year to everyone.

 

L’shanah Tova to all of us.

 

 

 

Montreal World Film Festival screens Yiddish: A Tale of Survival

You don’t have to be Jewish to love Yiddish.

After a successful launch of “Yiddish: a tale of survival” at the New York City International Film Festival, the documentary will now be screened at the Montreal World film festival (MFF).

The resilience of Yiddish since the Holocaust which wiped out six million potential Yiddish speakers is revealed by exploring the lives and careers of three Yiddish performers. The first, Shmuel Atzmon, an Israeli actor who at the age of fifty, after a lifetime spent in the Hebrew Theatre in Israel, founded the Yiddishpiel  Repertory Theater in Tel Aviv. The second, Bryna Wasserman, heir to the legacy of her mother, Dora Wasserman who championed Yiddish Theatre in Montreal, has continued her mother’s legacy and shepherded it into the twenty-first century, by commissioning new Yiddish plays, and also initiating the International Yiddish Theatre Festival in Montreal. And lastly, we meet singer and actress Milena Kartowski, who at the young age of 23 has discovered Yiddish and is helping to bring it to a new generation.

The film explores the paths that brought each artist to Yiddish and how it has shaped their lives. In the words of one reviewer, “The film is deeply moving and surprisingly entertaining. Watching it, one hears the sounds of the almost forgotten language of Yiddish from the echoes of Sholem Aleichem to the young people’s YaYa group performance, Raisins and Almonds. We are reminded of the legacy Montreal’s Jewish community and of Yiddish culture worldwide.”

This subject is particularly poignant in Quebec where awareness of the vulnerability of culture and language is so strong.

The film will be screened twice at the Montreal World Film Festival:

Thursday, August 29, 7:30 pm and Sunday, September 1st at 10am in the Quartier Latin Cinema: Salle 15

Tickets can be acquired from the MFWW Website

There will be a Q&A after the screening with Abigail Hirsch, the filmaker and Bryna Wasserman will be in attendance at the Sunday Morning screening.

Yiddish: A Tale Of Survival on Radio Shalom in Montreal

Did you know Montreal has an all Jewish radio station? Radio Shalom Montreal 1650 AM, is located in Ville St. Laurent and is the only Radio station in the city dedicated to a religious group. Radio Shalom plays 24hrs, 6 days a week (sabbath off of course).

RadioShalom

 

I was recently invited onto the program to speak with long time host, Stanley Asher. We discussed my forth coming documentary, Yiddish: A Tale Of Survival, as well as Yiddish culture in Montreal.

It was a pleasure to speak with Stanley, and he is such a professional, I hope to be back soon!

You can listen to the whole interview with 

      1. Abigail Hirsch
here.

      2. abigail-hirsch

.

And for more about the film visit, Yiddish: A Tale of Survival