July 11, 2002
Sephardic Temple Gives Sefer Torah to IDF
Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel in Westwood sent a five-man delegation to Israel last month to bring a Sefer Torah to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and $250,000 to aid the IDF and families victimized by terrorism.
"As we walked into the Ben-Gurion terminal holding the Sefer Torah, I was immediately reminded why Israel is such a special place," said Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, who had raised the money through appeals. Bouskila was accompanied by Albert Cohen, the temple's president; Ray Mallel, senior vice president, and Ralph Amado and Clement Cohen, past presidents and board members.
"In what other country would you be greeted with scores of people, old and young, religious and secular, crowding around to kiss the Sefer Torah? Walking through Ben-Gurion terminal with a Sefer Torah was one of the most spiritually empowering moments of my life," he said.
Having served in the IDF 18 years ago, Bouskila said he maintains very close ties with high-ranking officials in the IDF, and was able to coordinate the entire visit through the IDF, including donating the Torah to the Tel-Hashomer induction base.
"Our presence in Israel is intended to send a message to our own local Jewish community: Do not be afraid to visit Israel. The gifts we bring today are a reflection of our deep connection to Israel and its soldiers," Cohen said.
The delegation then met with an IDF Paratrooper Battalion in the West Bank, just above Bethlehem. In his briefing, the commander spoke about religion and spirituality within his unit, lamenting the fact the unit does not have a synagogue of their own. "As you see, I do not wear a kippah, and I am not religious, but I feel this is sorely missing," the commander said. After the briefing, the delegation decided to donate funds to build a mobile synagogue for the battalion; Bouskila subsequently raised the additional $20,000 needed.
The delegation also donated money to 50 families who suffered from terror attacks. The families attended a special luncheon at the Sephardic Educational Center in Jerusalem's Old City, which was also attended by Israel's Sephardic Chief Rabbi Bakshi-Doron. "We preferred to deal directly with the families, because we wanted our trip to have a more personal, rather than ceremonial, touch," Mallel said.
The delegation plans to return to Israel before the High Holy Days for the dedication of the paratrooper's synagogue, and to bring more direct aid to families who were victimized in the recent bombings in Jerusalem. "Our fund and bank account in Israel is still active," said Bouskila, referring to his temple's Israeli bank account to which members can deposit directly. "As long as there are families and soldiers in need, we will be there to help them." -- Staff Report
Missionary Groups Target Jews
Christian missionary groups have been planting literature targeting Jews at unsuspecting Jewish venues in the Los Angeles area recently, according to an alert sent out by Jews for Judaism, an anti-missionary group. Rabbi Benzion Kravitz, director of Jews for Judaism, says that a 75-page booklet containing the "Gospel According to Luke" in Hebrew and English has popped up at several synagogues.
Stacks of The Jewish Journal at newsstands were also targeted by the Hope of Israel missionary group, which slipped into the stack a flier depicting a Torah, a scroll, a lamb and the word "messiah," and questions and answers about sin. A third item, found both at synagogues and with copies of The Journal, was a four-color broadsheet brochure in Hebrew, distorting the prophecies of Daniel to "prove" that Jesus was the messiah.
In addition, Adat Y'shua, a messianic Hebrew-Christian congregation, is advertising its High Holy Day services on fliers posted on light poles in the West Valley.
"It's important for people to know this can happen," Kravitz said. "We urge people to contact us if they find any material like this."
For more information, contact Jews for Judaism at (310) 556-3344 or visit www.jewsforjudaism.org. -- Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Religion Editor
Rabbi Personally Delivers Prayers to Jerusalem
The Jewish chaplain at the UCLA Medical Center left for Israel June 27 to personally deliver prayers to the Kotel (Western Wall) and the Dome of the Rock. Rabbi Kalman Winnick sent an e-mail to the hospital's faculty and staff, offering to take their prayers with him to Jerusalem. He left two envelopes in the medical center chaplain's office, one for each destination.
The envelopes quickly filled with handwritten prayers from doctors, nurses, staff, patients and their families: Jewish, Christian and Muslim. "Some people shared their prayers with me," said Winnick before he left. "They range from, 'May all human beings learn to bond and realize the dignity of all' to, 'My 3-year-old needs a liver transplant, please help her.'"
Winnick, who has been a chaplain at the UCLA Medical Center for five years, made a similar trip in 2001.
After delivering prayers to the Kotel, he plans to find, as he did last year, a Muslim going to pray at the Dome of the Rock to deliver prayers there. -- Mike Levy, Staff Writer