U.S. Embassy in Israel Finally Has Some Good News for Americans Parents Trying to Get Passports and Poles and Israelis Are Piecing Together Fragments of a Jewish Cemetery and where does the Titanic sit? and today is Hoshana Rabba, and tomorrow is Shemini Atzeret, V’Zot HaBracha and Simchat Torah: The End is Really the Beginning
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement.
Still counted among the days of (intermediate days of the festival), this day's name means "the great hoshanah." A hoshanah is a series of seven liturgical poems calling upon God to rescue and redeem the Jewish people, primarily by sending rain.
Hoshanah Rabbah was viewed by the rabbis of the Talmud as a mini-Yom Kippur, a day on which the entire Jewish community is judged by God to be worthy or not of the seasonal rains. All seven hoshanot prayers are recited in seven hakkafot, or processions, around the sanctuary.
At the conclusion of the seven processions, a special ritual is conducted in which the branches of the willow (the aravot) are struck upon the ground. This is a symbolic attempt to rid ourselves of any remaining sins (the leaves representing these transgressions) that might influence God's decision to send the seasonal rains.
On the night before Hoshanah Rabbah, many Jews stay up late to study Torah — some even study Torah the entire night long. It has become traditional to read the Book of Deuteronomy, both because it can serve as a summary of the entire Torah and because it is the last book of the Torah and Jews everywhere are about to conclude the yearly cycle of reading the Torah on Simchat Torah (the day after Hoshanah Rabbah). Some also recite Psalms, and Sephardic Jews also recite Selichot prayers.
On the evening following Hoshanah Rabbah, the festival of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah begins. While for many Jews, Hoshanah Rabbah is the last day one shakes the Luluv and dwells in the succah, a number of traditional Jews continue to dwell in the sukkah through Shemini Atzeret.
U.S. Embassy in Israel Finally Has Some Good News for Americans Parents Trying to Get Passports
The embassy is offering video interviews for 'pandemic babies' to get U.S. passports. The goal is to break a logjam in appointments. Both parents must be U.S. citizens who have used the embassy's services before
A video-interview initiative of the U.S. Embassy in Israel aims to break the logjam that has prevented American families with babies born during the pandemic from traveling to the United States.
The pandemic, which got the embassy closed for months last year, created a tremendous backlog in appointments for U.S. citizens who needed to renew or replace their passports, part of a worldwide problem that was unusually acute in Israel due to its high number of U.S. citizens.
The embassy knows that "it can be difficult to get an entire family, including young children, to our consular sections," it said on its website.
"We hope that the option of speaking to us by secure video (no special equipment will be needed, an internet and camera-enabled cell phone, laptop, or desktop will be fine) will reduce the stress, and it will allow us to schedule more in-person appointments of others as we increase our services."
In the spring, the backlog was partially alleviatedwhen Washington announced that American citizens could use expired passports until the end of 2021 to enter the United States. At the time, there was a backlog of 15,000 passport applications and renewals.
Permitting the use of expired passports solved a problem for children needing the document renewed, even if they still required a face-to-face appointment to get this done and may not do it by mail.
But citizens with children born just before or during the pandemic still had to make an in-person appointment for a Consular Report of Birth to obtain a U.S. passport. Due to the backlog, such appointments are nearly impossible to obtain on the embassy's website.
In the announcement of the video initiative on Twitter, a link to the embassy's website said the embassy was "collecting data on the number of parents who are interested and eligible for this new program."
Applicants were asked to fill in a form to apply for the interview, which includes both parents and the child, previously required to be an in-person event. After the video discussion, one parent will be called to a consular section of the embassy "for a final interview and to provide original documents/copies, pay for services, and sign the applications."
The criteria for eligibility show that only certain families will benefit from the program. Only children with two parents holding U.S. citizenship are eligible, and many families seeking consular reports of birth and new passports have only one parent with this status.
Plus, only children under age 2 are eligible, and if they are the first-born child of a family that has never used U.S. Embassy services, they're out of luck. To qualify, a child must "be a member of a family who has previously obtained a passport or birth report from the Jerusalem Embassy or Tel Aviv Branch Office."
According to the embassy, more than 100 families have registered for the video interviews since the initiative was announced.
"We will miss the fun of having our littlest customers brighten our day, but fewer people needing to come in person frees up additional space to serve others," said Consul General Andrew Miller.
No island "has" the Titanic. She lays in two pieces on the bottom of the North Atlantic off the coast of Nova Scotia.
Poles and Israelis Are Piecing Together Fragments of a Jewish Cemetery
Two Poles discovered hundreds of pieces of Jewish headstones torn out decades ago and used in construction of a railroad station. Israeli students are helping them decipher the writings on the stones
Near the old train track in the city of Bedzin, Poland, Meir Bulka, of Sha'arei Tikvah, found a stone bearing the Hebrew word "Sukkot." Bulka, a 54-year-old religious Jew, considered it symbolic that he had discovered the stone just before the High Holy Days. The stone was part of a broken tombstone, the rest of which has not yet been found; the person who it belonged to died during the holiday of Sukkot.
Bulka, who has worked in recent years to preserve Jewish heritage sites in Poland, was called to the abandoned location after a local historian and businessman found hundreds of Jewish headstones at the site. Historical research showed that tombstones in one of the city's Jewish cemeteries from before World War II were not demolished by the Nazis, but were removed after the war by communists to use as raw material for construction of the train platform.
Historian Adam Szydlowski says that in 2008 he tried to pry the stone from the platform but stopped when he was unable to obtain the proper equipment. Work was renewed this year after he raised special funding from businessman Marcin Majchrowicz. Majchrowitz explains that his investment in conserving local Jewish heritage is a way to give back to the Jewish community who contributed to culture and education in the city before World War II, and allowing them to rest in peace.
Stories of this type are common in Poland in recent years. In more and more villages, towns and cities throughout the country, local people are popping up who are dedicated to looking for remnants of forgotten Jewish sites. The mission requires Hebrew speakers to help decipher writing on tombstones, to catalogue them, and, more importantly, to reunite their fragments.
The excavations at Bedzin began last April. After it turned out how many fragments there were – apparently around a thousand – Bulka enlisted participants in the Gideonites project from the Re'ut School in Jerusalem, who have been refurbishing and documenting Jewish cemeteries in Poland since 2004. At present, because of coronavirus restrictions, computer work has replaced the students' field work.
"When I visited the site I realized that we needed to decipher the words on the tombstones to try to put them back together," says Bulka, who heads J-nerations, the Forum for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in the EU. The coronavirus caused them to work on "two fronts" – local and virtual, he adds.
The Polish team photographs all the fragments and sends them to israel, where the Israeli team deciphers them and helps put the pieces back together. "There is fine Polish-Israeli cooperation here, without any involvement of political figures and completely on a volunteer basis," Bulka says.
Szydlowski says enthusiastically: "In many cases the headstones can be put back together, and more importantly, the names and family names of the Jewish inhabitants of Bedzin can be read." According to Bulka, after the work is completed, it may be possible to locate descendants of the deceased. Dina Weiner, coordinator of the Gideonites, says she hopes in the near future that the students will be able to see the headstones not only on a computer monitor. "It's very hard to work long-distance. We want to touch them," she adds.
The cemetery from which the tombstones came was established in 1871 on Zagorska Street in Bedzin. It was the third Jewish cemetery in the city and was in use until 1916. According to Szydlowski the cemetery was damaged before the war by stone factories in the area. The German occupation added more destruction to the site but the worst came during the 1960s, when the communist authorities demolished the tombs to use the area for other public purposes. The tombstones themselves were used to build the train platform. "Eye witnesses say trucks came into the cemetery and bones were loaded onto them," Szydlowski says. One witness told him he saw wheelbarrows full of bones being taken from the site and later bulldozers came in and prepared the ground to be asphalted.After the tombstones are reassembled, construction of a monument incorporating them nearby will be considered. It will be a unique cemetery – constructed for existing tombstones. It seems that only one possibility cannot be realized – to return them to their original sites. Where the cemetery once stood, there is now a bus stop.
See you Wednesday bli neder after Shmini Azaret and Simchat Torah
Bli neder we will be back from our trip to Czechia with fresh insights