Making a difference

We are incredibly fortunate to have Professor William Jacobson here in Ithaca.

Professor Jacobson is an inspiring speaker, educator and all-round mensch.  I have previously written about his talk on “Standing up for Israel”, and his ability to engage young people here.

On campuses around the country, the anti-Israel narrative on campus is fueled by professors who dishonestly and divisively promote a biased agenda. Sadly, it is possible to spend all day every day fisking such fraudulent academics. But simple demonstration of facts are not sufficient if the academic and his/her audience refuse to acknowledge and correct the errors. One general characteristic of such academics is a refusal to engage in discussion. An example of this is Prof. Jacobson’s recent talk at Vassar. NOT A SINGLE ONE of the 39 Vassar professors who had signed a letter containing egregious slurs against Israel agreed to meet Professor Jacobson in debate.

So it is great to see an opinion piece in the local newspaper, the Ithaca Journal, that is an excellent rebuttal to one such nebulous academic. Here is the article (click on picture for larger version):

guest viewpoint

For additional background on Cornell campus and around Ithaca, see these links:

Cornell Student Assembly rejects BDS motion

The case for Israel and academic freedom – watch the video of Prof. Jacobson’s talk

Kudos to the fantastic work of Prof. Jacobson and his efforts to expose and rebut BDS. I think that these assaults on truth, freedom and justice are matters that should concern us all, across the political spectrum.

And again, as has been pointed out by Prof. Jacobson and others, happiness is the best response to the haters.


From Poland to upstate NY

arm tattoo

Vestal High School will host the premier of the film “Blue Tattoo“, about Holocaust survivor Dina Rosenberg.

The documentary will showcase the personal testimony of Dina Jacobson including her friendship with local folk artist, Joe Crookston and her work with Elmira and Binghamton high school students sharing her experiences as part of the global history curriculum.

Blue Tattoo

The film will be officially released at the International Jewish Film Festival in Buffalo May 18th.

Entrance is free, donations will be accepted to benefit the Raise the Roof campaign to rebuild the synagogue and Hillel Academy. Vestal’s Temple Israel’s roof collapsed in December causing extensive damage to the building.

Dina Jacobson will be present at the screening together with the film’s producers, Rich Kellman and Marty Kerker. DVDs of the film will be available to purchase.

Dina JacobsonDETAILS: Vestal High School auditorium, 205 Woodlawn Drive 6.30PM April 25th. Running time 37 minutes.

Jewish films in Ithaca

All movies buffs and anybody who enjoys cinema can be very excited about the Jewish and Israeli Film festival coming up with some wonderful, sublime movies and documentaries. This is a combination of two festivals, one with a general Jewish theme hosted at Cornell’s Willard Straight cinema, and one with a contemporary Israeli theme hosted at Ithaca college. The Ithaca college Israeli film festival also features panel discussions exploring the themes of the movies.

I’m particularly excited about the Israeli film festival as this festival is showing the two fictional movies of the entire series, “The Ballad of the Weeping Spring”  and “Mabul“. Using the power of fiction to explore Israeli cultural issues is an opportunity that young people in this country encounter less often than documentary and historical approaches.

For practical, logistical purposes I list the movies by calendar date:

Wednesday, February 26, 7:00PM The Last of the Unjust” documentary by Claude Lanzmann. Location Cornell Cinema Willard Straight Theatre.

Lst of the unjust

Saturday, March 1, 2014, 7:15PM “The Ballad of the Weeping Spring Location Ithaca College Park Auditorium.

Ballad Weeping Spring

Sunday March 2, 11:00AM   “Sukkah City” (documentary). Location Cornell Cinema Willard Straight Theatre. Hosted by the TBE Arts Committee, with free bagels and coffee.

sukkah city

Sunday, March 2, 2014, 2:00PM Mabul (Flood). Location Ithaca College Park Auditorium.


Sunday, March 2, 2014, 5:00PM “The Garden of Eden”. Location Ithaca College Park Auditorium.

Garden of Eden

Saturday March 8, 7:00PM Ilya & Emilia Kabakov: Enter Here (documentary). Location Cornell Cinema Willard Straight Theatre.  Note this movie is also shown Sunday March 9th.

Sunday March 9, 11:00AM  Ilya & Emilia Kabakov: Enter Here”. Location Cornell Cinema Willard Straight Theatre. Hosted by the TBE Arts Committee, with free bagels and coffee.


Sunday March 16, 11:00AM Beautifully Broken: The Life and Work of Rafael Goldchain(documentary). Location Cornell Cinema Willard Straight Theatre. Hosted by the TBE Arts Committee, with free bagels and coffee. Rafael Goldchain, the subject of the documentary, will be present.

beautifully broken picture

For more information go to: and

I haven’t seen any of these movies and they all look amazing. Does anyone have a personal recommendations?

Academics and Israel

As a student in the UK, I witnessed first-hand how negative memes about Israel gain rapid traction in campus settings.

The nature of these “academic” debates have generated a climate where a significant fraction of British society sees nothing untoward about the following image, taken from a rally held in the heart of London:

Trafalgar Square, London, 21st August 2011

Trafalgar Square, London, 21st August 2011

With the recent news of the ASA vote to boycott Israel it is concerning that a campuses in the US are embarking on a similar journey. Although the US is very different to the UK, it would seem prudent not to be complacent.

As a college town, Ithaca can expect to be ensnared in these debates (see this recent editorial in the The Ithacan for a classic example of misinformation).

What can you do? If you are an academic, you can join the effort to contact the academic institutions who are members or support the ASA so they can take an appropriate stand against academia being hijacked in this discriminatory manner. This response is being coordinated through the Legal Insurrection blog.

As community members and parents, we should be cogniscent of the fact that our college-bound children will increasingly be required to address issues arising from the activities of those who seek to delegitimize Israel.

Now is the time to pay attention to our children’s education and strengthen their connections with Israel. Let’s make sure that our children have the historical facts and understanding that will enable them to rebut anti-Israel propaganda and stay confident and secure in their minority identity.



Lech Lecha

Scene: It’s an evening a long time ago and Terach (who’s in the idol manufacturing business) is lounging around with his wife on their prized sheepskin rug.

Other characters: Avram, son of Terach and Avram’s wife Sarai

TERACH’S WIFE: Terah sweetie, something is really wrong, you’re looking a quite troubled. What’s going on?”

TERACH: Honey, had a terrible day today, the business is in tatters. Literally.

TERACH’S WIFE: What are you talking about? Don’t be so pessimistic, as soon as the winter is over people are going to start needing new idols and business will pick up.

TERACH: Honey, I’m going to be straight with you. Our son Avram went crazy today, he says that there’s only one God, a God you can’t see or touch, idol worship is wrong. It’s a 180˚ from everything he grew up with. And, I hate to tell you this but you’re going to find out sooner or later. I came back to the shop after my lunch break. The entire stock was smashed to pieces except for that huge idol, you know, the one that’s been on special for weeks. Abram claimed that this idol lost his temper and smashed the other idols. When I pointed out how utterly crazy this all was, our son just looked at me, asked me how I could worship something that couldn’t do anything. He laughed in my face and walked out the shop. Honey, where did we go wrong, our son has everything, a beautiful wife, I just adore that girl Sarai. I’m going to set him up in a great business. Why can’t he settle down? What’s going on?

TERACH’S WIFE: Darling darling, calm down, I’m going to call him, let his mother talk to him.

Some time later, Avram’s phone rings. He picks it up, rolls his eyes when she sees who’s calling but answers it nonetheless.

TERACH’S WIFE: Son, it’s your mother here. Your Dad is really upset, I’ve never seen him so upset. What is going on? And when are you and Sarai going to settle down and start having kids? I’m not getting any older you know. We’re your parents and we love you. You’ve got to realize, there is nothing wrong with idols. Everybody worships idols. EVERYBODY. We all do it. We’ve done it for years and years. You’re saying that everybody is wrong?!? You think you’re better than everybody else? Avram! Avram! I can’t hear you, your voice is breaking up, you sound really distant! What? You’re not at home? Where are you? . . . . . .  You’re on a journey? This is crazy! We need you back here, helping fix the damage to the business. Where are you going? You don’t know where you’re going? You’re just “on the road”? Hand the phone to Sarai, let me talk to her.

Avram hands over the phone to Sarai. His mom is silent for a long time as she listens intently. Her expression is very serious. Sometime later Avram’s mum puts down the phone and turns to her husband Terach:

TERACH’S WIFE: Sweetie, Avram and Sarai have left town. They tell me they’re on their life’s mission. They have left and they are never coming back.

Terach and his wife look at each other. Their lives are changed forever. No more sweeping Avram’s idiosyncrasies under the sheepskin rug and pretending he’ll settle down soon. They feel big changes in the air and are bewildered. Beyond the confines of the immediate family drama they have no idea that their son and daughter-in-law are on a journey to become Abraham and Sarah, a journey with monumental consequences for human history.



ETA More on Abraham’s mother here.

Fun songs for Sukkot

With many many thanks to the Saars who introduced us to these wonderful songs! Click on the pictures for links.

Shlomit Bona Sukkah (Shlomit builds a Sukkah)

Old 70’s style:


Children singing the song accompanied by Naomi Shemer (who composed the song) on the piano:

Naomi Shemer

Patish, masmer (Hammer, nail) פטיש מסמר

From a children’s TV show:

Hammer nail

Sukati Hasuka (my Sukkah)

סוכתי הסוכה

From a children’s TV show:

enjoy sukkah

Mal’u Asamenu Bar (our barns are filled with grain) מָלְאוּ אֲסָמֵינוּ בַּר

A classic 70’s performance by the Gevatron choir


Sukkot: Back to Basics

Totally love this one, the tune is so evocative and dreamy.