The scene at Hagafen Cellars after wildfires raging in Northern California burned land, vegetation and equipment, Oct. 10, 2017. (Courtesy of Hagafen Cellars)
(J. The Jewish News of Northern California via JTA) — A kosher winery in Northern California sustained widespread damage from a wildfire still raging along the southern part of the Silverado Trail in Napa County.
Ernie Weir, owner of Hagafen Cellars, the North Bay’s only kosher winery, said Wednesday that all employees are safe and the main winery building is intact, but that the fire destroyed fencing, all of the agricultural equipment, a guest house, nearly an acre of Cabernet Sauvignon vines and all of the property’s trees.
“What this all will mean for vintage 2017 is yet to be determined,” he wrote in an email. Weir said he is “reasonably certain” that the winery will be able to recover from the destruction “and continue” in business. The winery was founded in 1979.
As wildfires continue to rip through the North Bay Area, the Jewish community is reaching out to help those most affected by the devastation — including Jewish families who have been evacuated, some of whom have lost their homes.
There have been 17 confirmed deaths, dozens of injuries, and more than 2,000 homes and structures destroyed. The majority of the fatalities are from Sonoma County, where the city of Santa Rosa sustained heavy damage.
Rabbi Mendel Wolvovsky of Chabad of Sonoma has been fielding calls from members of his community and with his wife, Altie, has been visiting those affected. They are making the rounds of nearby shelters that are housing people displaced by the blaze and handing out home-cooked meals.
“There are people in our community who have lost their homes, who have lost everything they have,” he told J. “We have been visiting with them, comforting them, seeing what they need, making sure everyone has proper housing.”
“A lot of Jews live in the Fountaingrove neighborhood,” he said, referring to an area of Santa Rosa that has been heavily damaged.
Congregation Beth Ami in Santa Rosa is canceling its Sukkot celebration planned for Wednesday evening, and instead will hold a healing service at 6 p.m. in the synagogue. Four member families have lost their homes in the fires, according to an email sent to the community.
Chabad of Sonoma’s Rabbi Mendel Wolvovsky has been out visiting shelters, bringing food, comfort and other necessities. (Courtesy of Wolvovsky)
The B’nai Israel Jewish Center in Petaluma is holding a joint Simchat Torah celebration Thursday at 6:30 p.m. with Congregation Ner Shalom of Cotati. In an email sent to the general community, Rabbi Ted Feldman of B’nai Israel noted that several Ner Shalom families have taken shelter in the B’nai Israel building, not knowing whether their homes are still standing.
“This is a good time to bring our communities together to celebrate Simchat Torah and express our yearnings for healing in these difficult moments,” he wrote. “Even if Simchat Torah has not been on your agenda, I would propose your participation as an opportunity to help find each other’s strength as our community members struggle.”
The Jewish institution most affected so far by the wildfires was the Reform movement’s Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, where most of the buildings were reported destroyed on Monday afternoon. On Wednesday, the staff tried again to reach the property and assess the damage, but could not get near enough to tell.
“We couldn’t get within five miles of the property,” said communications director Alaina Yoakum. “The fires are still very active, and the roads are blocked.”
This Friday night, a number of congregations in the Bay Area and Los Angeles will be holding what they are calling Camp Newman Pop-Up Shabbat services.
“We told the clergy we reached out to that it can be whatever they want it to be,” Yoakum said. “Many will sing ‘Hashkivenu,’ which is about spreading a shelter of peace over us. I think that’s so beautiful, a temporary shelter of peace over the community.
“It’s a testament to the love in our community, their willingness to come together to support and help one another. I’m sure camp music will be playing this Friday in all corners of the Bay Area.”
A leading Jewish human rights organization has expressed its relief at the defeat of Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari – the Qatari candidate for the post of UNESCO Director General who was tainted by antisemitic links – urging at the same time that “now is not the time for democracies to abandon” the UN’s cultural, scientific and educational organization.
BUCHAREST, Romania (JTA) — When the roof of the Jewish State Theater collapsed during a 2014 snowstorm, its director reluctantly knew it was finally time to abandon the century-old building in this capital city..
Following years of neglect by authorities, the Bucharest Jewish community had fought for decades to keep the storied theater afloat. The Jewish State Theater had been a major cultural institution for Central European Jews prior to the Holocaust. Later, during communism, it was the Romanian Jewish community’s only independent institution.
Audrey Azoulay (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) chose Audrey Azoulay, France’s former Minister of Culture, as their Director General on Friday.
UNESCO’s executive board voted 30 to 28 in favor of Azoulay, rejecting Qatar’s Hamad Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Kawari, who has been accused of anti-Semitism. Azoulay must still be approved by UNESCO’s 195 members when they meet in November. If accepted, she will be the second French head of the organization, the second woman, and the first Jewish director general of UNESCO.
I am a Catalan Jew. Even though I’ve been based in Chicago for more than a year now—I moved there, of course, for love—I’ve spent most of my life in lively and lovely Barcelona, a city in which antiquity and modernity walk gracefully hand in hand. Even so, work in Barcelona has been scarce and poorly paid since the Spanish financial crisis started in 2008. This ongoing event has contributed to the rise of the Catalan independence movement among other factors. I have witnessed first-hand how independentism went from being marginal to becoming central.
Dutch documentary about the beloved Israeli fiction writer, a cult favorite in Holland, opens at the 33rd Haifa Film Festival
It seems unlikely to have two Dutch filmmakers behind “Etgar Keret: Based on a True Story,” a documentary about the beloved Israeli writer and humorist, currently premiering at the 33rd Haifa Film Festival.
Yet it is their nationality that offers filmmakers Stephane Kaas and Rutger Lemm the ability to gaze lovingly and critically at Keret, known locally and internationally for his wry, humorous short stories and essays.
The “reconciliation” accord they reached in Cairo paves the way for creating a state within a state in the Gaza Strip. The Egyptian-sponsored deal does not require Hamas to dismantle its security forces and armed wing, Ezaddin Al-Qassam. Nor does the agreement require Hamas to lay down its weapons or stop amassing weapons and preparing for war.
This is a very comfortable situation for Hamas, which has effectively been absolved of any responsibility toward the civilian population. Hamas could not have hoped for a better deal. Like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip will be permitted to maintain its own security force, while Abbas’s government oversees civilian affairs and pays salaries to civil servants.
A sigh of relief was heard last week from the New York Times to many newspapers and media outlets around the world, even in Israel, accompanied by a sneer toward the political right: He’s not a Muslim! Wow. It turns out that the mass murder in Las Vegas was committed by “only” a lunatic, Stephen Paddock, and one doesn’t have to be a jihadist to carry out a merciless massacre.
Reporters continue scratching their heads about what President Trump meant when he spoke of the “calm before the storm” recently as he was hosting a dinner for military commanders and their spouses. It seems clear to me that he was sending a powerful message to North Korea and Iran: change your behavior now or prepare to face new but unspecified painful consequences.
Most know the name of Israel’s famed spy group. The Mossad (“The Institute”) has helped protect Israel since 1949. Until recent years, the head of the Mossad was a secret. I well remember interviewing Ariel Sharon in 1998 at his office in Tel Aviv. After going through a maze of metal detectors, we waited in an outer room. Soon, a man walked down a hallway and stood before an elevator. He smiled and got on the elevator.
The New York based Center for Jewish History (CJH) remains embroiled in controversy weeks after it has been revealed that the new CEO, David N. Myers is an active leader of the New Israel Fund, If Not Now, When, J Street and other organizations that are hostile to the State of Israel. While Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) has Myers listed in their propaganda as an academic advisor, he claims that this is inaccurate. His writings reveal hostile-to-Israel viewpoints, including the affinity for boycotts of Israel and sympathy for the Palestinian “Nakba.”