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WASHINGTON (JTA) – In his annual Rosh Hashanah call with American rabbis, President Obama focused on crises in the Middle East.

“He spoke about the complexities and dangers of the Middle East and the challenges facing the world,” said Rabbi William Gershon, one of two rabbis who posed questions to the president during the call. Gershon said there were 900 clergy who called in.

“In general, he spoke about seeking our help in domestic issues, and more importantly foreign policy issues,” said Gershon, the president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly and also senior rabbi at Congregation Shearith Israel in Dallas.

Why Gaza Matters: The War and its Consequences, was the theme of a teach-in at Brown University Sept. 10 at the Starr Auditorium. The program was sponsored by the Brown University Middle East Studies department and the Watson Institute. The room was filled to capacity with an audience of more than 110 that included several members of the Rhode Island Jewish community. The event was open to the public, and the program was also webcast.

The purpose of the program was to educate, and inform the community about the people of Gaza and the ramifications of the recent war. The program featured five speakers: Professor Beshara Doumani, a Watson faculty fellow and director of Middle East Studies; Omer Bartov, professor of European History as well as German Studies; Sa’ed Atshan, a postdoctoral fellow in International Studies, Melani Cammett, a member of the Watson Institute and professor of Political Science; and Nina Tannenwald of the Watson Institute, director of the International Relations program and a senior lecturer in Political Science. Doumani acted as the moderator.

Having a baby is a seminal moment in the life of a family. Most traditions have some way of marking that event and welcoming the baby as a blessing into the family and the community. Judaism is no exception.

For boys a clear way of doing so has been in existence for centuries. The Torah tells us that all boys are to be circumcised eight days after birth; and the basics of the ritual surrounding this act (called a bris or brit milah), including the giving of his name, have been formalized for many years. Having a naming ceremony for a girl (called a brit bat or simchat bat) is a relatively recent development, leaving more open both the when and the what of the ritual.  Also recent is the advent of the brit shalom, a ceremony for boys that does not involve circumcision, often because the circumcision has already occurred in a hospital.

Aristides de Sousa MendesAristides de Sousa MendesThe Portuguese section of the URI Department of Modern Classical Languages & Literatures with co-sponsorship from URI Hillel and the Holocaust Education and Resource Center of RI will screen the documentary “…With God against Man” followed by a discussion facilitated by Professor Dan Subotnik of Touro College on Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. at the URI Multicultural Center, 74 Lower College Road, Kingston.

The film honors the memory of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, a Portuguese consul in France during WWII who disobeyed the orders of his government, granting visas to 30,000 refugees including 12,000 Jews. This heroic feat was characterized by the Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer as “the largest rescue action by a single individual during the Holocaust.” 

Scott Laurans, left, and Brian Pacheco in the produce department of the Eastside Marketplace.Scott Laurans, left, and Brian Pacheco in the produce department of the Eastside Marketplace.You’ve been looking forward to an uneventful weekend during which you could pretend you’re having a “staycation.” A call from a faraway relative threatens the beckoning indolence – you now have to retreat to the kitchen for some unwanted baking, boiling and broiling. No need to steam, though – Eastside Marketplace is just a ride away. Your secret is safe with us – don’t worry. Your uncle will have no doubt that you, the great chef, have prepared the feast in honor of his arrival.

So, go ahead, offer him some brisket to go with the mashed potatoes – its recipe is a special treat created by Monica, the wife of the store’s president, Scott Laurans. In the morning, you can continue the charade by unveiling the lox-and-chive cream cheese to spread on the bagels. Is the beloved curmudgeon staying through lunch? Don’t despair – serve him some chopped liver to accompany such fare as knishes, kugel and whitefish.