The Jewish Observer,
27 Cheshvan-3 Kislev, 5779 Nov. 5-11, 2018 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES -- 614th Web Ed.
ISRAELI PSYCHOTRAUMA UNIT CONNECTS WITH PITTSBURGH COMMUNITY DURING AID MISSION
Courtesy United Hatzalah Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit
JERUSALEM -- United Hatzalah of Israel’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit volunteers have spent the past five days in Pittsburgh working with various community members to help them process their grief following the heinous attack that took place in the Tree of Life Synagogue last Saturday.
Unit Director Miriam Ballin, together with Deputy Director of the Unit Rabbi Avi Tenenbaum, Dr. of Psychology Einat Kauffman and Social Worker from Laniado Hospital Hadas Ruham, undertook the mission to help the members of the Jewish community as well as others who were affected by the attack in Pittsburgh.
“When we arrived we began meeting with and talking to as many people as we could,” said Ballin. “However, we quickly realized that we won’t be around to help treat people on a continuous basis and that the best thing we could do for the community would be to empower them to help themselves.”
Ballin and the team quickly switched focus and began training leaders of the community, both adults and teens who are old enough, to use the models and tools that the unit uses in crisis situations, within their own community to help those whom they recognize to be in need of assistance. “We sat with educators, the staff of schools and the JCC and we’ve trained them to be able to deal with the immediate psychological needs of the people that they are caring for.”
In addition to working with students at Pitt University, the Hillel organization, and the Jewish Federation in the city, team members also held a number of open houses for community members who felt that they wanted advice or help following the incident. “Dream doctors sent a medical clown named Nimrod to work with the children, while we worked with the adults. He was a terrific addition to our team and complimented our work tremendously,” said Tenenbaum. “We wanted to reach out to as many different groups in the community as possible during our short stay here, with that in mind we also worked with Friendship Circles, and with the staff of the children’s Institute and as many day schools as we could get to,” he added.
Members of the unit said that the sense of solidarity they feel from the community is beyond what they had expected. “We came on behalf of United Hatzalah and the Ministry for Diaspora Affairs to show the community here that we stand with them and will offer our help during their time of need. But it is the community here who has shown us what solidarity really means. Whenever we walk around the street, people recognize us and automatically know that we have come from Israel and they do everything they can to show us how much they respect that,” said Kauffman. “People have stopped to buy us coffee and invited us for meals. Whenever people see us they scream out of their doors, “No one is like Israel… Thank you.” It is really incredible,” she said.
Ballin said that a lot of parents have asked for advice as to how to talk to their children about what happened. “People call us for advice about how to speak about what transpired to their children and how to reassure their children that they are indeed safe. It is a tough situation to try and explain, especially to young children,” she said. “We’ve met with a lot of the parents and provided them with instructions on how best to handle the conversation. The most important thing is to let the children express themselves and their feelings, and then help the children recognize that their feelings are okay and that the parents understand them and love them.”
Numerous dignitaries from the community, as well as emergency service personnel, also met with the team members to express their thanks for the work that the unit has been undertaking. The Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh was one such dignitary who invited the unit to meet with her in an effort to thank them for their efforts.
The team is wrapping up their operations on Friday morning and heading back to Israel. “We feel that we have accomplished a lot, but we know that there is still a lot to be done. Our hope and prayer is that we have helped empower the community enough so that they will be able to continue the work that we have begun here. From what we’ve seen, through the unity displayed by the various groups in this city, shows us that our hopes and prayers will likely be answered.”
TREE OF LIFE SHOOTING NOT INTIMIDATING JEWS OF PITTSBURGH
Despite concerns in the general Jewish community that the shooting at Pittsburgh’s “Tree Of Life Congregation” that took 11 lives [recently] is a sign of growing anti-Semitism in America, the Jewish community of Pittsburgh is sending a very different message to American Jewry.
Jewish life is continuing in Pittsburgh unabated and without fear that there will be other similar acts of violence. Speaking on JBS’ “In The News’ program [recently] (ET), was Rabbi Danny Schiff of the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh explained that Jews in the community have not stopped wearing “kippot, Hassidic garb, and all things that one would expect to find” in public. In addition, Jews continue their active participation in Jewish life – attending adult study and joining in minyanim.
Asked if the Jews of Pittsburgh have expressed any fear of anti-Semitism, Rabbi Schiff answered: “By and large, no.”
Rabbi Schiff also described that when he asked those in his adult study classes where they thought it was unsafe to wear a kippah in public in America (as it is in some places in Europe), there was virtual consensus that there is no place in America where a Jew need fear wearing a kippah in public.
“I do a great deal of teaching of adults across-town, and so I have the opportunity to discuss anti-Semitism with them a lot. And I frequently ask, the question: where in America would you feel unsafe to go as a Jew. I wear a kippa full time. Where would I want to take my kippa off? If I was going somewhere in America that would be dangerous, because certainly when I go to Europe I take my kippa off. And almost universally the Jews that I teach would say: well I really can’t think of anywhere that you’d have to take your kippa off in America. “
When asked directly if the murders at the Tree of Life Congregation will change the level of fear within the Jewish community of Pittsburgh, Rabbi Schiff responded:
“Right now we’re in a very, very emotional time. … My hunch is that six months from now, people will say that it is an aberration. That what happened was an event that was utterly shocking, and utterly singular. And that while one can never rule out these things happening again of course, that this is not characteristic of either our city or American society more generally.”
So if you’d asked people the question up until this last Shabbat, how they would rate the level of risk, the level of danger, I think they would’ve said its very low.”
JBS is a non-profit "PBS-style" Jewish channel which relies on viewer support to remain on the air -- informing, educating and entertaining Jews and non-Jews on all aspects of Jewish life.
INTERNATIONAL FELLOWSHIP OF CHRISTIANS AND JEWS CALL BRAZIL’S PRESIDENT-ELECT ‘COURAGEOUS’
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (“The Fellowship”) recently lauded Brazil’s President-elect, Jair Messias Bolsonaro, after he vowed to fulfill a campaign promise to move Brazil’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Brazil to become third nation with growing evangelical Christian community to move embassy to Jerusalem
The Fellowship’s Founder and President, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, called Bolsonaro’s pledge “courageous” and, in a congratulatory letter, said the organization would work with Bolsonaro to create closer ties between Brazil and Israel.
“With the support of Brazil’s growing Christian community and so many other Christians and Jews worldwide, The Fellowship hopes to provide a bridge for a joint journey between the Jewish nation and Brazil,” Eckstein said. “President-elect Bolsonaro’s courageous promise to move Brazil’s embassy to Jerusalem heralds a new era of rapprochement and closer ties between Brazil and Israel.”
Brazil would become the third nation to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, after the United States and Guatemala, both of which also have sizable evangelical Christian communities.
For several years The Fellowship has been building strong relationships with Brazil’s growing evangelical Christian community, which overwhelmingly supported Bolsonaro in the Oct. 28 presidential election. Eckstein has visited Brazil several times and worked with Christian leaders across the country.
The rise of Brazil’s Christian community reflects a global rise in evangelical Christian membership and activity. Eckstein is scheduled to travel to Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore this fall to meet with church leaders and build support for Israel and the Jewish people.
ANTI-SEMITISM: 600 TOP DELEGATES DECLARE DUTY TO FIND EFFECTIVE WAYS TO COMBAT
MOSCOW – The World Jewish Congress co-organized this week the Second Moscow International Conference on Combating Anti-Semitism, Xenophobia, and Racism, under the leadership of the Russian Jewish Congress, with 600 delegates from more than 35 countries, including government representatives and law enforcement officials, as well as international experts in the field.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder had been scheduled to speak at the conference but canceled his visit to Moscow in order to travel to Pittsburgh to stand in solidarity with the community in the wake of the deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue.
The WJC delegation was headed by WJC Commissioner for Combating Antisemitism Julius Meinl and CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer, as well as 47 members of the WJC Jewish Diplomatic Corps from nearly 40 countries, alongside the Russian Jewish Congress and its president, Yury Kanner.
Conference participants released on Tuesday an official declaration emphasizing that it is “our duty to develop an effective system of measures to combat any and all manifestations of racial, ethnic, and religious intolerance.”
“There is only one short step from appeals inciting interethnic and sectarian strife to murder and pogroms. A shattering example of this is the horrible Pittsburgh shooting," reads the declaration. The task of the co-signatories now is to draw public attention, stimulate changes in legislation, and support cultural and educational projects and civil initiatives aimed at countering antisemitism, racism, and xenophobia.
Lauder sent a message to the conference explaining his absences, and saying: “The Jewish community in the United States just suffered the greatest anti-Semitic attack in our country’s history. We cannot and we will not be silent. We must all speak in one, loud, unified voice and say: Enough. The World Jewish Congress, the Russian Jewish Congress and all Jewish communities throughout the world, large and small, must join together and say this: We will not tolerate these attacks on the Jewish people.”
At the conference, the RJC released a study, conducted with the support of the WJC and the EuroAsian Jewish Congress. Among the key findings was that 8-15 percent of Russians harbor xenophobic tendencies, a decline since 2013.
The study also found that xenophobia in Russia tends to target “ethnically different” groups rather than Jews, who are still considered by Russians to be “one of us.” The main targets today are natives of the Caucasus, Central Asia, and black people. The study also found that antisemitism and xenophobia were promoted by those adhering to a neo-Nazi ideology, and that Russian antisemitism has no anti-Zionist component, unlike in the European countries, where the antisemitism is closely related to Israeli policies.
Read the full studies here:
Qualitative Research: The issues of anti-Semitism as perceived by the Jews and other urban Russian population groups
Research Report: anti-Semitism as perceived by the Jewish population of Russia
Sociology Report: Xenophobia, Racism and anti-Semitism Parameters in Russia
In his address to the delegates, WJC CEO Singer said: “Today, our greatest enemy is indifference and inertia. We have to resist the idea that non-violent anti-Semitism can be ignored or accepted.”
Singer also noted that Jews are safer today in Moscow than in many other parts of Europe but urged the Russian government to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism. “I am especially pleased that the Russian government, including at its very highest level, is confronting anti-Semitism with great seriousness, and I am certain that our deliberations today will help us better continue the war against intolerance and hatred.”
Representatives of the Russian government and law enforcement agencies, as well as leading domestic and foreign experts, comprised the high-level participation and speakers, including Advisor to the President of the Russian Federation, Mikhail Fedotov, Chairwoman of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko, Chairman of the Moscow City Duma Alexy Shaposhnikov, Chief Rabbi of Russia Berl Lazar, Secretary of the Vatican Commission for religious relations with the Jews Fr. Norbert Hofmann, Mufti of the Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of Russia Albir Kgranov, and former UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova, among others.
The conference was organized in partnership with the Russian Jewish Congress, the World Jewish Congress, Genesis Philanthropy Group and Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, with official supported by MFA of Russia, Moscow Government and Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs of Russia..
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