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From Moses to Memphis, the work of liberation remains unfinished



(JTA) — Rereading Exodus this month in synagogue reminds me of when I first learned about Moses’ role in freeing the Children of Israel who had been enslaved to Pharaoh. I grew up in Monsey, New York. My mother was Black and my father was white; my family identified with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. I discovered the Passover story through ultra-Orthodox coloring books that depicted the liberation of the ancient Israelites from bondage in Egypt.

One illustration depicted Moses as an 18th-century Hasidic Jew clad in a shtreimel (fur hat) and long kapote (robe), with abundant sidelocks flowing down to his shoulders. I brought home my masterpiece, fully crayoned in purple, and showed it proudly to my mother. She gave me a puzzled look and said, “You know, Moses didn’t look like this. He had brown skin like mine.”

It was an enlightening idea that hit me like a thunderbolt. Seeing Moses as a Black person changed my whole idea of Jewish history and religion in one fell swoop — it made me feel my Black and Jewish roots even more profoundly, and that I was a descendant of great Jewish and African men and women who founded our tradition.

As time went on, though, and I went “all in” and studied to become a rabbi, I realized that Moses’ skin color mattered much less than his role as a liberator. Although many Jews do see in color, Judaism does not. The way to follow in his footsteps, I grasped, was to become an educator, a leader and a champion for freedom. I’ve devoted my career to empowering Jewish communities across the continent to become more welcoming and inclusive, to overcome racism and prejudice, and to create a more just, equitable and loving society.

The Biblical narrative of the Exodus is a call to stand for freedom and against tyranny in every generation. It says, in effect, “You are able to speak, and to be carried away on the wings of words from millennia ago, bound to no Pharaoh’s story, but liberated by your own.”

Neither my Black nor Jewish forebears could have imagined how far their descendants would come in terms of participation and even leadership in our society. As the Black visual artist Brandon Odums has reflected, “We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams.”

But there is, alas, still so far to go, as last month’s brutal killing of Tyre Nichols at the hands of the police in Memphis reminds us. Both Black History Month and the Book of Exodus teach that we can only fulfill our destiny if we fight for the liberation of all peoples.

Earlier this month, we celebrated Shabbat Shira, in which we read about the Children of Israel’s miraculous escape from Egypt by crossing the Red Sea. I was reminded of what the late 20th-century Slonimer Rebbe, Sholom Noach Berezovsky, said about the ancient Hebrews wading into the water because they had faith not just in their hearts and minds, but in their bodies — in their very bones, he said.

What does it mean to believe with your bones? The Prophet Jeremiah declared that the word of God was like “fire shut up in his bones” (20:9). Dr. Martin Luther King quoted Jeremiah in his last speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” saying, “Somehow the preacher must have a kind of fire shut up in his bones. And whenever injustice is around, he tell it.” King gave that speech on April 3, 1968 — in Memphis — on the night before he was assassinated.

Early in the speech, King imagined “God’s children in their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of Egypt through, or rather across, the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the Promised Land.” He concluded with these uncannily prescient words: “I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land. So, I’m happy tonight, I’m not worried about anything, I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

Our commitment to creating a better world — making it to the Promised Land — must always be so much more than merely skin deep. Only when we believe in our bones that change is possible, and that we can be agents of that change, will fear melt away and we will be able to defeat the Pharaohs who seek to deprive us of our dignity, whether in Memphis or anywhere in our land.

We shall reach the Promised Land — someday. We shall recognize that we are all God’s children—someday. We shall overcome — someday.

May that day be very soon and may we all unite in joy, peace and celebration to usher it in.

The post From Moses to Memphis, the work of liberation remains unfinished appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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