Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan says she had 'a very strange Jewish upbringing'

Supreme Court Justice Elena KaganSupreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, appearing at a Jewish day school in Brooklyn, spoke about her Jewish background and how her family jumped from synagogue to synagogue.

“I had a very strange Jewish upbringing actually,” Kagan, 58, told journalist Dahlia Lithwick, who moderated the Wednesday evening conversation. “You would think Lincoln Square Synagogue, she comes from a Modern Orthodox family. Actually my family didn’t really know what it was.”

Though Kagan had her bat mitzvah at that Modern Orthodox synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, she did not grow up in a strictly observant household, the associate justice told an audience of about 280 at the Hannah Senesh Community Day School.

Kagan said her mother grew up in “an extremely, extremely religious family,” but had abandoned many aspects of Jewish observance by the time she had children. “[We] kept a kosher home so that my grandparents would eat there, but otherwise we were the kind of Jews who kept a kosher home and then went out and ordered shrimp at the Chinese restaurant,” the jurist recalled.

Before Lincoln Square, the family were members of B’nai Jeshurun, which belonged to the Conservative movement (today the congregation is unaffiliated) and Congregation Rodeph Sholom, a Reform synagogue.

“My mother’s view was that everything depended on how good the rabbi was, and she would go from synagogue to synagogue to synagogue to find a rabbi she liked,” Kagan said.

Kagan said she “loved” attending Hebrew school at Lincoln Square, but hit a snag

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Paul Mccartney Says He Never Meant To Offend Jews With 'Hey Jude'

Paul MccartneyIn 1968, The Beatles put the title to their upcoming single, “Hey Jude,” on the front of their record label’s boutique store in London. The idea was to intrigue passersby before the release, Paul McCartney told GQ in a new interview.

However, the song’s name didn’t go over well with everyone. McCartney said a furious Jewish man called him up about the name (because this was the ’60s, when celebrities were apparently reachable by phone) and threatened to send his son over to beat the Beatle up.

The word “jude” (Jew in German) conjured up bad memories in the post-Nazi era, and Jews in London had enough to deal with, the man fumed. “I said ‘hey baby, let’s cool it down, nothing to do with that,’” McCartney said. “You’ll hear when you hear the record, it’s just a name in a song and it’s all cool.” The man relented.

McCartney explains in the video that the song was originally titled “Hey Jules,” a reference to John Lennon’s son Julian. McCartney was feeling bad for young Julian at the time, just after Lennon had divorced his first wife Cynthia Powell.

But in the end, he just liked the name Jude better.

These days, McCartney — who is about to start a tour after recently releasing his 18th solo album — sees the iconic tune, which he plays at every one of his concerts, as a way of bringing people together.

“In these times, when it’s a little dark and people are sort of separated by politics and stuff, it’s so fantastic just to see them all come together singing the end of ‘Hey Jude,’” he said.


How A Rabbi Got Caught Up In A Belgian Spy Scandal

Moshe Aryeh FriedmanMoshe Aryeh Friedman may be mild-mannered, but the Antwerp rabbi certainly has a knack for publicity. Friedman's daughter is a rising politician in Antwerp, is best friends with a woman whom authorities say is a spy serving Morocco.

An anti-Zionist activist from New York, Friedman, 47, has been accused — falsely, he has said — of denying the Holocaust during a 2006 conference organized by then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran.

He has since repeatedly riled the Jewish community of the Belgian city where he has lived with his family since 2011.

In 2013, Friedman got a judge to force a Jewish school for girls to admit two of his boys – a blow directed at a congregation that treats him like a pariah. This year he went after another communal soft spot, telling the media that Orthodox Judaism does allow the stunning of animals before they are slaughtered (despite a rabbinical near consensus to the contrary).

But even Friedman outdid himself this summer when he landed himself and his family in the middle of an international scandal involving suspected espionage by a young Moroccan woman whom the Belgian security service recommended deporting, saying she threatens national security.

The relationship between Friedman and 32-year-old Kaoutar Fal, who left Belgium on July 23 amid suspicions that she is a Moroccan spy, began several years ago when they met at various conferences about “achieving peace,” he told JTA. “We became good friends. Best friends,” he said. Friedman and his wife, Lea Rosenzweig, have been at the forefront of an effort to clear the name of Fal, who describes herself as an entrepreneur, women’s rights activist and journalist, and has denied gathering intelligence for any country, including Morocco.

The couple’s involvement began on July 11, when Rosenzweig called police to report that Fal had been abducted in front of the European Parliament in Brussels.

In reality, Fal had been taken for interrogation by security services, according to VRT 

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Yom Kippur: Welcoming the Evil Inclination

“For the sin that we sinned before you with the evil inclination”.

Yom Kippur: Welcoming the Evil Inclination

The double alphabetic acrostic of the al chet lists a wide range of areas in which we have not lived up to our potential. Misuse of speech, lack of integrity in our monetary dealings, getting caught up in the loose moral values of our society, infighting, and our general lack of respect for man and G-d are some of the sins mentioned.

“And G-d saw that the wickedness of man was great upon the earth; every impulse of his innermost thought was only for evil, all day long” (Breisheet 6:5). Man is engaged in a constant struggle between his natural desire to sin and his yearning to live up to the Divine image in which he was created. “If this disgusting thing (the desire to sin) encounters you, drag him to the study hall” (Sukkah 52b). Why do we need a specific al chet relating to the evil inclination? Is not all sin the result of the evil inclination itself?

We must constantly be on guard against the evil inclination—and this yetzer hara is a very cunning and conniving creature, appearing in many guises and forms. However, the yetzer hara is not all bad; it can actually help us in our service of G-d. Without it, very little—if any—good could be accomplished. Our sages teach that if not for the yetzer hara, people would not be proactive; they would not build nor procreate (Breisheet Rabba 9:7). Without the potential for bad, no good would be able to come about. If this were not so, we would all be angels—flawless, but without any potential for growth. Since one’s natural desire to do bad is stronger than the desire to do mitzvot—just witness our efforts to exact revenge when we are angry at someone, as opposed to our efforts to help a friend—by channeling our evil impulse into a positive activity, we are actually increasing the good that would have otherwise been possible. One can grow only through struggle.

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Burying Ari the Lion of Israel

Ari the “Lion of Israel” FuldThis week, Rabbi Ari Fuld was stabbed to death by a Palestinian teenager outside a shopping mall near Efrat, at the Gush Etzion Junction south of Jerusalem.

Fuld is an alumnus of Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh, the school where I am studying. I have been living in Israel for less than a month and already someone to whom I feel connected has been killed in a terrorist attack. When Fuld was buried yesterday at midnight, I was one of the thousands in attendance.

Over the last 24 hours, I have learned about this extraordinary man from his family, from our school’s staff and older students, and from the news.

After graduating from New York’s Yeshiva University High School for Boys in 1991, Fuld came to study in Israel and eventually made his home here. He served in the Israeli Defense Forces in an infantry brigade and was lightly injured in the Second Lebanon War. As described in his father’s eulogy, “he went to reserve duty even after he was exempt.” He tore up his papers when they came saying he was no longer required to serve. When asked by his mother how long would he continue to do milluim (IDF reserve duty), Ari replied, “till my dying breath.” He was still fighting as he died, chasing the terrorist and shooting at him, despite being critically wounded from a stab wound to his back.

Fuld worked at Standing Together, an organization that provides support to Israeli soldiers. He worked to make Israeli soldiers more comfortable, recently running a campaign to help IDF soldiers cope with the scorching Israeli summer heat by purchasing cooling devices that go around their necks.

He was perhaps most well-known for his tireless work on social media defending Israel. His Facebook page, “Ari Fuld’s Israel Defense Page” contains numerous posts and self-made videos advocating for Israel’s right to exist. He participated in a weekly televised panel where he routinely argued with his political enemies. Even ideological opponents like Yariv Oppenheimer, former director of Peace Now, and Uri Zaki, one of the leading figures in the Meretz party, publicly mourned the loss of their political foe

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US Vets Combat PTSD By Sifting Through The Past At Archaeological Dig In Israel

American Veterans Archaeological RecoveryAmerican Veterans Archaeological Recovery sends demobilized servicemen to excavate historic Israeli Beit She’arim site as gateway to healing.

Seven United States military veterans recently completed an unusual tour of duty — at Israel’s Beth She’arim archaeological excavation. The group participated in one of a growing number of international programs which send former servicemen back into the field — with shovels, not swords.

By digging into the dirt, the veterans — most of whom suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder — hope to find piece of mind, connect to the roots of their trauma, and be part of a cohesive team reminiscent of their former military units.

For the group of US vets in Beth She’arim, coming to Israel offered an added therapeutic element: returning to the Middle East, the source of their trauma, and working alongside a diverse team of Israeli Arabs and Jews, mostly military vets themselves.

During their two-week stint of physically digging into the past, the US veterans’ stereotypes about Israel and the Middle East also crumbled, according to founder of the American Veterans Archaeological Recovery (AVAR) Stephen Humphreys.

“The team was excavating alongside Israelis from all walks of life — Jews who had served in the military, Muslims. They saw how multicultural the people are, but also how kind,” said Humphreys in a phone conversation this week.

Israelis are known for candid speech peppered with no-holds-barred opinions. That, said Humphreys, was very comfortable to the vets, who were accustomed to a similarly straight-forward culture from the military.

Being in Israel, he said, was “a little eye-opening” for the seven former servicemen. “As American vets, we tend to segregate ourselves and think no one else understands. But then we come to a society where everyone does understand, and being a vet is not that big of a deal.”

In coming to Israel, the US vets were met with a proliferation of soldiers on the streets and a culture that embraces its military as family. With the mandatory conscription of most Israeli men and women, servicemen are not the “other,” but the “us.”

This widespread service, said Humphreys could help veterans conceptualize their own post-military transition. “For the Israelis, this [IDF service] is something I did, and now I’m doing something different,” he said.

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Vostok 2018: Russia launches the biggest war games ever with China – Pentagon Watches Closely

Russia launches a week of massive military exercises in the far east of the country this week and the Pentagon will be watching the “war games” very closely, experts told CNBC. As many as 300,000 Russian troops are expected to take part in large-scale military drills as part of “Vostok 2018,” Russia's annual military training exercises taking place between September 11-17.

Russia war games

Aside from personnel, up to 36,000 tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armoured personnel carriers and other vehicles will be involved, Russia's Ministry of Defence said in a statement on their website on Tuesday. In addition, over 1,000 aircraft, helicopters and drones, and 80 ships and supply vessels will take part. Vostok 2018 will also see the Russian military practice massive airstrikes and measures against cruise missiles.

This year's military exercises, widely known as “war games,” are set to be the biggest to take place since 1981 when the Cold War overshadowed international relations.



Russian President Vladimir Putin met with China’s President Xi Jinping Russia is showing a diplomatic pivot to the east with China this year, with several thousands of its troops, participating in some of the military exercises taking place in the Siberian and the Far Eastern regions of Russia. Mongolia is also sending troops to be involved in the drills.

The Pentagon will be watching Russia and China's expanding military capabilities, as well the upcoming “war games,” very closely, according to a former U.S. national security official.

“I'm not sure that the Pentagon is terribly surprised by this (military exercise),” Lincoln Bloomfield, Distinguished Fellow and Chairman Emeritus at the Stimson Center, a nonpartisan policy research center, told CNBC on Tuesday.

“The Russians have been investing in some fairly sophisticated and troublesome systems, they're looking at the growing access to the Arctic and developing submarines, and I think the Pentagon is watching Russia very closely,” he told CNBC's “Capital Connection”.

“Because (Russia has) an experienced military that understands expeditionary operations whereas China is a little bit new to that and the culture of China has not demonstrated itself to be overtly aggressive in a military way against important powers like the U.S. So, I think the Pentagon is watching very closely but they're looking at it (Russia and China's military cooperation) as a long, incremental process,” Bloomfield, who served as a national security official in three previous administrations, noted.

Netanyahu Praises 'Correct Decision' By the United States To Shut PLO Mission In Washington

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday praised the Trump administration for its decision to shut the Palestine Liberation Organization mission in Washington DC, saying it was “the correct decision.”

“The US took the correct decision,” Netanyahu said in a statement at the end of the Rosh Hashanah holiday. “Israel supports these actions that are meant to make it clear to the Palestinians that refusing to negotiate and attacking Israel in international forums will not bring about peace.”

PLO office in WashingtonMichael Oren, a deputy minister and a former ambassador in Washington, also praised the US move. “With the closing of the PLO office in Washington, the American administration is not changing the rules of the game, but simply restoring them after years of neglect,” Oren said, noting that under the Oslo Accords forbids them to act in order to recognize a Palestinian state outside negotiations with Israel.

“It should be noted, that in contrast to previous administrations that would reward the Palestinians for abandoning the negotiations with Israel, President Trump is forcing the Palestinians to pay a price, Oren said. “As we have seen in the past – giving gifts to the Palestinians only keeps them away from the peace talks, and now the Americans are punishing them in order to make them return to the table.”

Earlier Tuesday, the Palestinian envoy to Washington said his staffers have been given a month to pack up after the US ordered the mission closed. Husam Zomlot, until recently posted to DC as the Palestinian envoy, told The Associated Press the closure would not deter Palestinians from seeking a state with east Jerusalem as the capital.

“We lost the US administration but we … “

US Warns Syria! The Response Will Be 'Stronger' Than Ever Before If Assad Uses Any New Chemical Weapons Again

Donald-Trump-Mike-Pence-John-BoltonWhite House National Security Adviser John Bolton warned Syria on Monday that any use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people will result in a “much stronger response” than those following two previous incidents.

The warning comes as Syrian, Russian, and pro-regime forces surround Idlib, the last rebel stronghold and the final obstacle for the Syrian government led by brutal Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the deadly civil war.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Dunford said over the weekend that the Pentagon is already preparing military options should President Donald Trump order a military response to the use of chemical weapons. Both the Pentagon and the White House have stressed that the response to any use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime will be swift.

President Donald Trump's national security adviser issued a crystal clear warning to Syria on Monday, stressing that if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons again, it will face a “much stronger” response than before.

“We've tried to convey the message in recent days that if there's a third use of chemical weapons, the response will be much stronger,” White House National Security Adviser John Bolton said Monday, “I can say we have been in consultations with the British and the French who have joined us in the second strike, and they also agree that another use of chemical weapons will result in a much stronger response.”

chemical weapons against the Syrian people

The United Nations has accused Syria of launching dozens of chemical weapons attacks using both sarin and chlorine gas, and in response to two particularly devastating incidents, the US used military force to persuade the Syrian regime to adhere to acceptable warfighting methods.

The US first struck Syria on April 7, 2017, striking the Shayrat Airbase in Syria with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from the Mediterranean Sea in response to the use of chemical weapons (sarin) at Khan Shaykhun just three days earlier.

The chemical weapons attack, attributed to the Syrian regime, reportedly killed more than 70 people and injured over 550 more, at the time making it the deadliest such attack of the Syrian civil war since the chemical weapons attack in Ghouta four years prior. The devastating attack just a few months into Trump's presidency reportedly

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