Thursday, January 25, 2007

Missing Jewish Girls -- Amber Alert

Rachel Smith, from North Potomac, Maryland, along with her friend Rachel Crites, have been missing since Friday, January 19, 2007. They were going to a movie in Georgetown on Friday afternoon and haven't been seen since. Rachel Smith, who is currently a junior at Wootten High School, also ran track last year. She is 5'1" tall and weighs about 118 lbs. She has green eyes and medium-length brown hair (the photo below is a fairly current one of her). Rachel Smith is 16 years old. Her mom, Marian, is a preschool teacher at B'nai Tzedek. Marian just learned today that the last phone call she received from her daughter on Friday afternoon was actually traced to a cell tower in Charlestown, WV -- so the girls could be anywhere at this point.

They were last known to be travelling in a dark blue Subaru Outback Station Wagon with a black cargo box on the roof. The license plate number is MD: MBJ 485. Anyone who has any knowledge of where these girls might be or has seen the vehicle, please call Montgomery County Police ASAP at 301/279-8000 or 240-773-5400 or call 911.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

BlueStar PR

BlueStar PR is a not-for-profit organization that creates some really great posters helping the Israeli PR cause. (Which, as we all know, has not really been one of Israel's strengths!)
See poster at right for an example. Interestingly, BlueStar lets people comment on the posters, and this particular one drew a lot of ire as being "subjective." My favorite comment was the one that using the term "valued" was a cultural choice -- that Arab cultures value their women just as much as other cultures, it just shows up differently. I think that I find this claim to be a little bit (?) unbelievable -- honor killings don't really count as "valuing" women, imho.
Anyway, check out their site and you can download any of their great posters to hang anywhere you'd like! I wish there was a way to download the whole set at once...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Working Mom/Stay Home Mom?

Today's Oprah show was all about the topic of working moms vs. stay-at-home moms. Frankly, it all comes down to guilt -- how do we all really feel about the choices that we make in our lives? I thought it was so interesting to watch the different moms judge each other -- why can't we all just get along? It seems like each mom, even the ones who claim to be completely secure with their own lives, feels a need to judge the choices of other moms.

Click here to read the poll that the Oprah website conducted.

Some interesting statistics:
Stay at home moms -- 62% of their moms worked outside the home
Working moms -- 68% of their moms worked outside the home

Wouldn't you have thought there might be some difference? I would have.

When asked if stay-home moms get the respect they deserve, BOTH kinds of moms overwhelmingly (85%) said NO. So why aren't they all being respectful of each other!?

I find the whole thing to be incredibly interesting...what do you think?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Stop the Genocide! Is it working?

Nicholas Kristof is one of my favorite op-ed writers at the New York Times. He has been writing about conditions in Africa for quite some time now, and I was so touched by his column yesterday, that I share it with you here now. So many people wonder if their actions really matter. I think that Kristof answers the question with a resounding "yes." I certainly hope that our students and others who have participated in various efforts to raise money and awareness feel the same way. (I'm posting the whole thing because you'd need to login to the NY Times for the whole thing.)

Genocide may be the worst of crimes, but historically it has also brought out the best in some people.

The Raoul Wallenbergs of 2007 speckle America and the globe. And I don’t just ean the aid workers — 13 of whom have been murdered for their efforts in Darfur since ast May — but also those ordinary Americans who have united in a grass-roots campaign to try to stop genocide half a world away in Sudan.

President Bush and other world leaders have dropped the ball on Darfur. But that vacuum of moral leadership has been filled by university students, churches and temples, celebrities like George Clooney and Mia Farrow, and armies of schoolchildren.

Their arsenal — green armbands, phone calls to the White House, bake sales to raise money — all seem pallid. How can a “Save Darfur” lawn sign in Peoria intimidate government-backed raiders in Sudan or Chad who throw babies into bonfires? Yet, finally, we see evidence that those armbands and lawn signs can make a difference. Last week, the Save Darfur Coalition — the grass-roots organization that puts out those lawn signs — sponsored a trip by Bill Richardson, the New Mexico governor, to Khartoum to negotiate with President Omar al-Bashir.

Sure, it’s a little weird when a private advocacy group undertakes freelance diplomacy. But if George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac and Hu Jintao twiddle their thumbs, then more power to the freelancers.

Mr. Richardson worked out a joint statement in which Sudan agreed to a 60-day cease-fire to allow peace talks to resume, provided the Darfur rebels go along as well. Mr. Bashir also agreed that Sudan would prosecute rapes and stop painting its military aircraft to look as if they belong to the U.N.

The first thing to say is that Mr. Bashir has repeatedly broken his pledges in the past. Count me deeply skeptical about whether it will be any different this time. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, a Sudanese human rights campaigner, told me he thinks that President Bashir simply made cosmetic concessions in hopes of winning the chairmanship of the African Union later this month.

That said, there may be a path forward here. While U.N. peacekeepers and a no-fly zone are needed, ultimately the only way to end the slaughter is to achieve a peace agreement in Darfur. And that seems more feasible today than it was a week ago.
Most striking, it’s clear that the cease-fire was a consequence of all those armbands
and lawn signs. Mr. Richardson told me that Mr. Bashir was motivated by concern at the way the killings have been spotlighted by Darfur activists. Mr. Richardson quoted him as saying, “These guys have caused me a lot of damage.”

Ken Bacon, who heads Refugees International and accompanied Mr. Richardson, said of President Bashir: “One thing that was very clear was that the Save Darfur movement has gotten under his skin. The vilification of the Khartoum regime in columns and editorials and ads is making a difference.”

So cherish this historical moment. The long record of genocide is one overwhelmingly of acquiescence, but this time ordinary citizens are trying to write a different
ending. There are the students at Santa Clara University in California who replicated a mini refugee camp and slept in it. They limited themselves to 1,000 calories a day — because that’s what Darfuris are limited to — and donated the savings to aid groups.

Or there’s Jason Miller, a California M.D./Ph.D student who in his spare time has become the foremost expert on how investments by foreign companies underwrite the Sudanese genocide. Or Beth Reilly, a stay-at-home mom in Indiana who works on Darfur a little bit every day. Or the legions of schoolkids who organize car washes, and ask for donations in lieu of birthday presents, in hopes of saving other children halfway around the globe.

Sudan’s leaders are used to bullying everyone. Jan Pronk, who was the United Nations envoy in Sudan until Khartoum ejected him, reports in his Weblog that a U.N. official recently went to the authorities in Darfur to complain about human rights violations. A Sudanese official retorted: “You better shut up. We can always expel you, as we have proven.”

But finally President Bashir is confronting people whom he can’t bully. Let’s have no illusions about how much more pressure will be necessary to stop the slaughter, but let’s also celebrate this moment. Mr. Bashir has blinked, showing that it just may be
possible to fight genocide with moral courage and lawn signs.

You can read more from Nicholas Kristof at his blog: "On the Ground."

Friday, January 12, 2007

Reform Judaism on PBS

The Religious Action Center (RAC)'s 100-Hour Agenda initiative is going strong! Between now and the President’s State of the Union address on January 23, the 110th Congress will vote on many pieces of legislation of vital importance to the Reform Jewish Movement.

Reform Jewish leaders went to Capitol Hill this week and presented Members of Congress with the RAC’s Agenda on issues including the minimum wage and stem cell research.

A film crew from PBS’s ”Religion & Ethics Newsweekly” shadowed the delegation. The 30-minute program is scheduled to air this weekend, and we encourage you to see the RAC in action (subject, of course, to changes over which we have no control)!

Check for your local station and time (press “refresh” if it doesn’t work when you first load the page).

Be part of the Reform Movement’s prophetic tradition of speaking truth to power. Learn what you can do by going to for legislative information, insights from our Jewish values, and policy positions adopted by the Reform Movement.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Cool Facts about Israel

Check this out!

Monday, January 01, 2007

A Safer Way to Fly?

This is what we've all been waiting for, of course. I knew there was something that would make air travel safer, didn't you? (from Ynetnews 12.28.06)

Israir Airlines introduces 'Sky-Torah'

Israir Airlines will soon become the first airline to maintain an authentic Torah scroll on board its aircraft. The "Sky-Torah," handwritten according to Jewish custom by a professional Jewish Scribe especially for the airline, is the first of its kind.

The Torah will enhance the prayers of those who are in the skies, praying in the closest place to God in the world.

Keeping a traditional Torah scroll on an aircraft is the idea of Rabbi Shlomo Elharar, Chief Rabbi of Colombia, South America. After years of hard work towards this dream, the Torah is finally ready to be installed permanently on board one of Israir's aircraft.

The Torah will be completed December 27 in Aventura, Florida, and will be escorted to JFK Airport in New York for a welcome celebration, and then to Israel.

The Torah will be welcomed on its way to Israel with a grand celebration in JFK Airport, Terminal four. The Torah will be carried under a traditional "chuppah," with singing, dancing, live music, children and important Rabbis and dignitaries in attendance.

The Torah is dedicated to the Chief Rabbi of Colombia and to the fallen soldiers of Israel, and those still in captivity.

Established in 1996, Israir Airlines is the second largest airline in Israel. Its elite fleet of Boeing 767-300 and 757-200 aircraft offers international flights between Israel and New York, the Mediterranean and Europe, as well as domestic flights between Ben Gurion and Eilat.

What do you think!?