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Texas school board that banned Anne Frank book invited Messianic ׳rabbi’ charged with sexual assault to open meeting with prayer



(JTA) – On Monday, the board of Keller Independent School District in Texas introduced that evening’s prayer leader as “Rabbi Griffin.”

A man wearing a suit and kippah then approached the podium and recited the priestly blessing in Hebrew. “Grant us, Adonai, your mind tonight so we can be a blessing to our community, to our children,” he continued. “Bring ‘Shalom,’ nothing missing, nothing broken, to this meeting tonight.”

But this was not an ordinary rabbi, nor an ordinary school board meeting. Keller is the district that, earlier this year, had ordered its libraries to remove all copies of a 2018 graphic novel adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary from shelves. And “Rabbi Griffin” is Mark Aaron Griffin, a Messianic Jew who last year was charged with multiple counts of sexual assault.

“Last night we were shocked but excited when we saw a man who said he was a rabbi come up to pray,” Laney Hawes, a parent in the Keller district who regularly sounds off about the board’s policies, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. But, she said, “a quick Google search” revealed Griffin’s true identity. 

Griffin, who heads a congregation in nearby Saginaw, Texas, that blends Christian beliefs and Jewish practices, is currently awaiting trial on four counts of sexual assault. According to reports of the indictment, he is accused of using his stature as a “rabbi” to sexually assault a woman in March 2020 after coercing her to become his “concubine” and citing Abraham and Jacob as examples of spiritual figures who enjoyed multiple partners. The victim claimed she had been assaulted in Griffin’s congregation, including in his office, which DNA samples seemed to corroborate, a warrant said.

First indicted in late 2020, Griffin faces trial next month, local county records indicate.

A spokesperson for the school district did not return a JTA request for comment. The district had ordered the removal of “Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation” this summer, resurrecting a months-old parental challenge to the book following a new school board election. The new board then launched an effort to revise its policies around book challenges and bans — which have become a major rallying cry among right-wing parent activists in public schools. 

Keller returned “Anne Frank’s Diary” to circulation a week later following massive public outcry.

Griffin’s congregation, Sar Shalom Synagogue, says its adheres to “Yeshua Centered Judaism,” using a Hebrew name for Jesus. Mainstream Jewish denominations consider the movement to be Christian and hostile to traditional Jewish beliefs, although Messianic Jews often advertise themselves using Jewish signifiers: On its website, Sar Shalom (which identifies “Rabbi Aaron” as its founder) claims to have “the very first kosher mikvah [or Jewish ritual bath] built for a Jewish community centered on Messiah Yeshua in modern history.” 

Keller’s board reportedly began its opening convocation policy after its most recent members, several of whom were backed by right-wing groups, were elected in May. According to Hawes, they have never invited spiritual leaders from non-Christian faiths to lead the convocation.

“We then realized why the school board was letting [Griffin] pray, because he was praying to Jesus,” Hawes said.

Hawes claimed that after the meeting, she asked two board members if they had known about Griffin’s indictments, and that their response was that he had not yet been convicted.

Hawes also said she asked the board “why they weren’t allowing members of other faiths and beliefs to participate” in the opening prayer, and said she was told that the prayer was intended only for the school board trustees, who all believe in Jesus.

Later at the same meeting, a Jewish student at Keller High School spoke out against what she said were “rather offensive and antisemitic comments” she received after wearing a Hanukkah sweater to her school’s Ugly Sweater Day.

“Unfortunately, these incidents will only become more common with minority students of diverse backgrounds when you actively seek their removal in educational settings,” the student, who identified herself as Allison Perlman, said while holding a “Nazis Banned Books” sign, accusing the board of “removing all possible books and curricula that don’t align with your narrow-minded Christian nationalist views.”

The post Texas school board that banned Anne Frank book invited Messianic ׳rabbi’ charged with sexual assault to open meeting with prayer 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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