Monthly Archives: October 2015

Who Cried With Sarah?—by Ayala Emmett

Abraham didn’t tell her. Sarah was never consulted. That was the way it had always been, powerful men ruled the public domain and subsumed the domestic sphere making decisions that deeply affected the family and women. Historically and with few exceptions, women life-givers were not invited to offer, resist, or refuse when life-taking decisions were made, when their sons were called to become warriors, to endure danger and face death.

Thinking history/midrash is how we know that when Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac, he did it stealthily, early in the morning when she was sound asleep, not suspecting a thing. Abraham woke up his son before dawn, when it was still dark outside, motioned him to get dressed, brought his finger to his lips to caution that Isaac was not to make a sound. When Isaac moved his head in the direction of Sarah’s tent, his father whispered, “Later, you can greet your mother when we return.” Only two young servants accompanied father and son when they left the compound, so Isaac knew that it would be a short journey, a couple of hours and they would be back. On long journeys there would have been numerous slaves, male and female, to carry, cook and set up camp. That day, however, Isaac could tell that his father was tense and deep in thoughts. As the sun rose in the sky and Isaac could see his father’s face, he heard Abraham tell the servants to wait along the road, “we will worship and we will return,” and father and son walked on together toward the Akedah, the binding of Isaac on the alter. read more

Antisemitism & Islamophobia: A Panel Discussion

interfaith dialogue
interfaith dialogue

Antisemitism & Islamophobia:  A Panel Discussion
Thursday, November 12, 2015
1:00 PM – 2:30 PM
Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester 441 East Avenue • Rochester, NY 14607

Free of charge • All are welcome


Dr. Mehnaz Afridi

Dr. Afridi is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Interfaith Education Center at Manhattan College. An observant Muslim who teaches courses both in Islam and the Holocaust at a Catholic college, many of Dr. Afridi’s publications have focused on themes of Muslim identity with an emphasis on the way that Antisemitism has been expressed by her contemporaries. read more


Miri Aloni and Yitzhak Rabin singing “Shir La'Shalom” on the night of his assassination
Miri Aloni and Yitzhak Rabin singing “Shir La’Shalom” on the night of his assassination


Tuesday, November 3, 7pm; JCC Hart Theater

A Tribute To Yitzhak Rabin On The Eve Of The Twentieth Anniversary Of His Assassination.

Join us for a screening of My So-Called Enemy, an RIJFF favorite in which six Israeli and Palestinian teens meet to share their stories. Screening preceded by a short tribute to Rabin’s legacy and unwavering commitment to peace. (Film in English, Arabic, and Hebrew, with English subtitles; 89 minutes.) For more information, contact Joy Getnick.
Free read more

We Bring Our Ancestors to America—by Ayala Emmett

I came to America with black and white and yellow photographs
rolled in oriental rugs.
Between the pages of the Exodus and inside the Haggadah
I saved the journey of my wandering ancestors.
They were refugees who crossed borders,
holding precious children and whispering hope.

In America I keep asking my ancestors,
“How did you survive when they expelled you from Spain?”
“Tell me how you escaped from Portugal?”
“Where was the shelter for religious tolerance in Amsterdam?”
“Is it still there next to the house of Anne Frank?”
“Did you write down the names of the Christian families
who saved our little cousins in the Holocaust?” read more

Netanyahu the Mythologizer Has a Dangerous Audience—by Peter Eisenstadt and Ayala Emmett

Hannah Arendt wrote, over 50 years ago, a famous and controversial book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, about (among other things) how the Holocaust led to the creation of Israel. If Benjamin Netanyahu were to write a book, a good title might be Eichmann’s from Jerusalem: How the Palestinians are Responsible for the Holocaust. For decades right-wing Israelis have been saying that the Palestinians are like the Nazis. Now they are arguing that the Palestinians were the original Nazis, and that the Nazis needed to take lessons from them in Jew-hatred. read more

Kerry’s Involvement In the Israeli Palestinian Turmoil is a Mistake—by Ayala Emmett and Peter Eisenstadt

Having failed in persuading Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate in calmer times, Secretary Kerry is making a big mistake by inserting himself in the current tragic Israeli Palestinian turmoil. He will fail again, as before, because Prime Minister Netanyahu and his right-wing government are not interested in what Kerry called a few days ago, “moving things forward.” Netanyahu opposes moving things forward; he wants the status quo, which is continued settlements and occupation. This has been the case in the previous failure to move things toward negotiation and nothing has changed for Netanyahu except the recent unrest that has been simmering all these years of occupation with no hope in sight. read more

Praying on the Temple Mount—by Peter Eisenstadt

A friend asked why I thought it was unreasonable for Jews to want to pray on the Temple Mount, which Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary. On the face of it, it sounds reasonable. Why shouldn’t Jews or anyone else, be able to pray where they want to, as long as they respect the sacred spaces of other religions? My answers are below:

First, Judaism became a world religion worthy of the name when it abandoned sacrifices and proclaimed that God could be found everywhere, not just on the top of one hill in one city in one country. And of course, until recently, orthodox Jews banned prayer on the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary, primarily to rid the Jewish religion of itchy messianists, who alas have returned in great numbers. The renewed demand for Jewish prayer exists for only one real reason—to challenge the Waqf, which has controlled access to the TM/NS since the 12th century. read more

O Canada—by Peter Eisenstadt

When I lived in Rochester, my favorite place to visit was Toronto, one of the world’s great cities. And I always loved that when we were driving there, somewhere outside of Buffalo you could pick up the CBC on the radio, and start hearing about the Premier of Ontario, by-elections in contested ridings, a whole different political world that Americans almost completely ignore, even those who lived only, as the crow flies, or the ferry runs (or not) about 30 or 40 miles away. But since I moved to South Carolina, with its own set of problems, I confess I haven’t paid much attention to goings on in our northern neighbor. read more

Hope in Jerusalem—by Ayala Emmett

Vigil for Peace in Jerusalem October 17 2015
Vigil for Peace in Jerusalem
October 17, 2015

In the midst of tragedy, fear and despair, voices for hope came last night from Israeli Jewish and Arab citizens in a peace vigil in Jerusalem. While citizens called for peace in Jerusalem, the United States has been taking a ‘wait and see’ attitude after the efforts made by Secretary Kerry failed to move Israeli Palestinian negotiations.

On the ground, however, as the vigil reveals, it is an entirely different matter, since Jewish and Arab citizens who live their daily lives side by side are deeply concerned; they want to see a policy shift from settlements and violence to engagement, peace and a two states’ agreement. read more

David Ben Gurion on Deborah: Prophet, Judge, Commander and Poet—by Matia Kam

Deborah Under The Palm Tree by Adriene Cruz
Deborah Under
The Palm Tree
by Adriene Cruz

Ben Gurion opens his discussion on Deborah with a general observation that women’s position in ancient Israel from the time of the forefathers, was not markedly different from that of the surrounding nations. In Jewish tradition it was underscored by the fact that women were not obligated to follow most of the mitzvot and they were denied some privileges in matters such as marriage and divorce and giving testimony. Yet, Ben Gurion thought that Hebrew women had on the whole a better position than women of Canaan, Egypt, Babylon and Aram. In the first biblical story the woman, Eve is seen as the enterprising person and not Adam; the foremothers as well had qualities that the forefathers did not display, Rebecca for example, emerges as more impressive and dynamic than Isaac, and Sarah measures up to Abraham in significant ways. read more