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E-News - July 2, 2015

July 2, 2015  |  15 Tamuz 5775

Always Talk to Strangers
The Torah has many references to welcoming the stranger and extending hospitality. Leviticus commands us to "welcome the stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt." The idea of being warm and welcoming to strangers is such a basic tenet of Judaism that it is emphasized even more frequently than are the laws of Shabbat or Kashrut.

Jewish Omaha had a wonderful opportunity to extend hospitality earlier this week when we received an unexpected call on Monday evening. Israeli Scouts touring the heartland were leaving Cheyenne, Wyoming headed to Des Moines when its overnight accommodations fell through.

"Could you house us overnight?" they asked. Of course we could. And we did. 11 Scouts arrived early in the evening, Star Catering served them a hot meal, and they bunked down happily in the community room on campus.

As these pictures illustrate, the next morning our JCC campers enjoyed special songs and games with our Israeli visitors before they departed.  

How does this mitzvah shape the work of our Jewish Omaha community? Surely "welcoming the stranger" means that we must be warm, gracious and friendly and that we foster an environment whereby everyone's presence in our community is anticipated, fully accommodated and truly valued.

We do this when we provide Kosher meals to our homebound community members, offer educational and social programming for all ages and abilities and open our doors and hearts to Jews everywhere. We include everyone when we make engagement and opportunity possible for all within our Omaha community.

Is this the kind of community we want to be? Absolutely. We work hard at it each and every day.  And we should all be proud of our collective efforts.

Todah Rabah - our thanks -- to JCC Executive Director Mark Martin and his staff for making our guests welcome, comfortable and well fed! We hope everyone enjoys the 3rd of July party tomorrow at the JCC in honor of our Independence Day and that you have a meaningful Shabbat.

Alan Potash
Friday Learning Series - Human Rights: Controversy and Clarity
July 17, 24, 31 Center for Jewish Life
11am - 12pm in the Kripke Jewish Federation Library
Taught by Dr. Ari Kohen, Schlesinger Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a member of Beth El Synagogue.  "People are often firm in their convictions and beliefs," commented Ari. "Human rights is a topic that inevitably leads to much discussion and controversy."

Tuition is $26, reduced to $21 for those in good standing with their contribution to the Annual Campaign of the Jewish Federation of Omaha.  To register, call (402) 334-6463 or email
Campaign in good hands
The Jewish Press reports that this month Steve Levinger, Federation senior development director, will assume Annual Campaign professional responsibilities and take over the role of chief development officer. Marty Ricks commented, "He has all the right characteristics to lead the Jewish Federation in its fundraising efforts."

We are fortunate that Marty will remain on staff through the completion of the 2016 Annual Campaign season. His wisdom, guidance and deep donor knowledge will be invaluable to both Levinger and Director of Community Impact and Special Projects Louri Sullivan.

"It's not about 'them', Levinger said, 'it's us.'  We have to continually keep our mission in mind and ask ourselves how to best serve the community."

To share your thoughts with Levinger, email him at or call 402-334-6433. He would love to hear from you!
World Jewish population rebounds
Seventy years after the Holocaust, the global Jewish population is nearly 16 million - close to the number before the Shoah.
  • The past decade, 2005-2015, saw the biggest jump since the end of the war, with an over 8 percent population increase.
  •  In 1948, Jews were 82 percent of the newly-created State of Israel. In 1958, that number jumped up to 89 percent.
  •  A gradual decline has occurred ever since, bringing the Jewish population in Israel to 75 percent in 2015.
To learn more, click here
ADL poll: anti-Semitism declines in France, Germany and Belgium
In the aftermath of this year's violence against Jews in Western Europe, a new report indicates a dramatic decline in anti-Semitism among the general population in France; Germany and Belgium registered significant reductions.
JAFI announces Major Expansion to combat delegitimization on college campuses
Early last week, Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky said the Agency will increase the number of Israel Fellows dispatched to college campuses abroad by more than 30% in order to help combat rising efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel.

JAFI is a major part of the JFO's overseas allocations. 85 Israel Fellows will be sent to 170 university campuses across North America, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, and - for the first time - South Africa and Germany. The 31% increase in the number of Israel Fellows and the 42% increase in campus coverage represent the program's largest expansion since it was created in 2003.
Who knew?  The most popular variety of tomato is an Israeli invention
The Israeli pavilion at the 2015 Milan World Expo, titled "Fields of Tomorrow", touts agricultural innovations and illustrates the nationwide dream of turning desert into fields and forests.  Israel is the only county in the world whose number of trees increased in the last century.
What we're reading and watching
Israeli startup offers prevention tactics for religious-based terrorism (JTA)

New political poll says Americans more likely to back Jewish candidates than any other?

Commentary on the Iran deal continues in the Times of Israel, a Fox News Op-ed, and from Michael B. Oren, Knesset member and Israel's former ambassador to the United States.

JFNA convened Federation leaders from across the U.S. last week in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, close to the center of continuing conflict. Ukraine is home to 350,000 Jews, many of whom have been trapped by fighting or forced to flee. Read the  mission update from Chair Fred Zimmerman, of the Jewish Federation of Nashville.
You and Federation
Together with the  Jewish Federation of Omaha, you make our Jewish community more caring and connected. We've made a difference in the lives of so many - by providing for those in need, building Jewish identity, and celebrating Jewish life.

2016 Annual Campaign Community Kick-off
Campaign Cabaret
Sunday, October 11
Look for more information in the July 17 Jewish Press
Upcoming Events
Brachot & Bourbon
Beth El Synagogue
July 4 immediately following Shabbat services

The Omaha Jewish Playgroup
presented by Beth El Synagogue
July 5  |  10 am
Benson Sprayground
7002 Military Avenue

Supreme Court: A Review
presented by the anti-Defamation League
July 8  |  10:30 am
JCC Social Hall
Open to the entire community

Temple Israel
Shabbat Speaker Series
July 10 | 6-7 pm
Rabbi Ari Dembitzer

Beth El Summertime
Speaker Series

July 11  |  10 am
Congressman Brad Ashford, 2nd district  

Beth El YAC
(Young Adult Committee)
Schmidley's Outing
July 12  |  3-7pm
Information 402-492-8550

Eye on Israel returns!
Eliad Eliyahu Ben Shushan is back from Israel to share his observations
July 14  |  12-1pm
Kripke Jewish Federation Library  

Beth El Volunteer Day
Habitat for Humanity
Sunday, July 19  |  8am - 3pm
Questions? Matt Shapiro
Register at

The 15th Annual Omaha Jewish Film Festival
Now a collaboration of the Center for Jewish Life and the Institute for Holocaust Education
August 2, 9, 11, 16, 23
7pm  |  JCC Theater

Backyard Concert Series
August 16, 23, 30
Sundays, 5-7 pm

Jewish Federation of North America General Assembly 2015
November 8-10
Washington, D.C.
New to Jewish Omaha?
We'd love to meet you! 
Contact Louri Sullivan to find out about all the programs and services we offer. Become a part of one of the most vibrant and active Jewish communities in the country. 
Louri Sullivan
Director of Community
Impact & Special Projects
What's Happening
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Jewish Federation of Omaha   |   333 South 132nd Street   |  Omaha, NE 68154   | 402-334-8200