Lecturer says Trump’s dealmaking could work in Middle East

Shai Feldman, a professor of politics at Brandeis University, believes President Donald J. Trump could broker a deal that ends the Arab/Israeli conflict, because the most contentious issues contradict a golden rule of negotiation.

“In the Arab/Israeli conflict the devil is not in the details, in the Arab/Israeli conflict the devil is in the principles — the details are bridgeable,” said Feldman.

Feldman was the keynote speaker at the fourth annual Jeffrey Plevan Memorial Lecture series presented by the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies on Tuesday, March 21.

It’s unclear whether the reason for more U.S. troops in Syria is to topple Daesh, or prevent a violent confrontation between Turkey and the Kurds following their defeat, he explained. The greatest concern, for countries like Turkey, is not defeating Daesh, but who replaces them when they fall and how to assure this terror group doesn’t simply reconfigure.

Read the entire Arizona Jewish Post article here.

Originally published on March 31, 2017.

Holocaust expert explores difference between religious hostility, anti-Semitism

From the Catholic Church, to occupied Europe and the United States, the world failed to prevent the Holocaust because they were too vested in their own interests, Peter Hayes, a former professor at Northwestern University, told about 40 people who packed the Holocaust History Center at the Jewish History Museum on March 13.

“Everyone else always had something more important to do, and everyone else always had an interest that to them was more important than protecting Jews,” Hayes said.

Hayes discussed some of the major factors that lead up to the Holocaust in his lecture, “The Holocaust: What Do We Need To Know Now?”

Read the entire Arizona Jewish Post article here.

Originally published on March 31, 2017.

Israeli Partnership2Gether delegates get inside look at Tucson community

Hosting the annual Partnership2Gether leadership mission in Tucson this year was ambitious and quite successful, says Oshrat Barel, director of the Weintraub Israel Center.

The partnership among Tucson, Israel’s Hof Ashkelon region and the Israeli city of Kiryat Malachi began in 1996. This year there are 651 children taking part in its school twinning program, which pairs 15 Tucson classrooms with their Israeli counterparts.

The local enterprise is part of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Partnership2Gether Peoplehood Platform, formerly known as Partnership 2000, a global initiative that connects Jewish and Israeli communities. The program links about 450 communities, creating a global network of more than 350,000 participants annually.   

Isaac Amar, Israel chair of the local partnership, says its annual leadership mission helps grow the partnership network as well as strengthen the bond between Tucson and Israel.

Amar is a school principal in Rishon LeZion, so visiting Tucson Hebrew Academy and various Jewish afterschool programs in Tucson was a highlight of this year’s mission. “It warmed my heart to see children from the community,” he says, “come to study Hebrew and Jewish identity,” especially after their regular academic day.

Read the entire Arizona Jewish Post article here.

Originally published on March 31, 2017.

Tucson City Council considers pilot program to quell homelessness

Fred Fisher said one way to stay sane when you are homeless is to accept the harsh reality.

Fisher came to Tucson via a two-year contracted position that required him to travel. He chose to stay in town, and when his savings ran out he wound up homeless. That was nine years ago come July.

He applied for public housing through the City of Tucson’s Housing and Community Development Department program, and was placed on a waiting list about three years ago.

The Tucson City Council discussed the Permitted Overnight Sleeping Pilot Program, on Wednesday, Feb. 22, an initiative that will provide temporary housing at designated safe spaces for people facing homelessness. The city unanimously voted to revisit a properly vetted proposal within 120 days.

In its current draft, the program will authorize 10 overnight sleeping areas throughout Tucson. Local ministries, non-profit organizations and businesses will be allowed to house up to four vehicles or micro-housing structures on their property.

Michele Ream, director at Community Supported Shelters Tucson, said part of Tucson’s homeless problem is the extensive wait for affordable housing, so providing temporary safe spaces can make all the difference.

Ream is working with a local architect to develop a prototype for the city’s proposal, which will be housed on her property. The model will be easy to assemble, and upon completion Ream plans on inviting Tucson’s Mayor and Council to stay overnight.

Homeless people simply don’t have a legal right to be anywhere, Ream explained. And the concept is to provide a temporary space for people facing homelessness. From there, they can apply for housing, local programs and stabilize in general, she said.

“The idea behind the hut is that it’s going to provide basic shelter … security, that you can lock your stuff when you leave during the day, and you can lock the door so no one’s going to come in and beat your head in when you’re sleeping,” she said. “And then just the stability that’s going to come from having a place that you’re allowed to be.”

The proposal recommends these sites be located within 1,200 feet of other rehabilitation centers or homeless shelters. The sites will also provide services such as restrooms and garbage collection, and participants will not be charged any fees.

Site rules may prohibit alcohol use or possession, designate a set time for participants to vacate the location and ask them to perform some type of community service, according to city documents.

Local leaders will also require that service providers notify their neighbors before allowing participants to utilize the sites. Furthermore, the city of Tucson will not provide any funding towards the project, and the city must be exempt from any type of legal recourse, according to the first draft of the proposal.

The local initiative is based on a few successful programs launched in Eugene, Oregon including: SquareOne Villages, formerly known as Opportunity Village Eugene, which is a 30-unit compact housing property for the homeless; and the Overnight Parking Program, which provides a legal camping space, garbage pickup and restrooms for people or families living in their cars.

‘Homeless by a Wall’ (Garry Knight / Creative Commons)

About 77 percent of Arizona’s homeless population live in either Pima or Maricopa counties, according to data collected by the Department of Economic Security in 2015. The report stated, the density of Pima County’s homeless population remains the highest in Arizona, and although the amount of homeless people has decreased it’s still larger than the national average. In FY 2014, about 1 in every 180 people were facing homelessness in Pima County, according to DES’s report on homelessness in Arizona in 2015.

Ream said the DES’s estimate is conservative at best.

Council Member Regina Romero, a Democrat representing Ward 1, said finding solutions to Tucson’s homeless problem is an ongoing discussion. The city’s collaborative efforts with faith-based groups and nonprofit organizations to combat homelessness is certainly moving forward, she said, and fine tuning this pilot project is worth the effort.

“And if Eugene, Oregon has piloted a program like this, I don’t see why the city of Tucson should not follow suit,” Romero said.

Council Member Richard Fimbres, a Democrat of Ward 5, said this would be a valuable addition to the city’s efforts.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild was concerned about naming an arbitrary amount of sites before the city is approached by organizations that are interested in participating in the program. He also said providing security at the locations is a key talking point.

And a major player in this program needs to be the city’s planning and development staff, Rothschild said.

Council Member Karin Uhlich, a Democrat representing Ward 3, said this project is designed to alleviate the pressure for people living on the street, as well as help local homeowners who are forced to deal with the liabilities of homelessness.

“And the goal of this program is to help people to join back into the community,” she said. “I think if people are hosted by a known congregation, by a known entity and have a better, formalized structure — their chances will be much better at succeeding.”

Brianda Torres-Traylor, a council aide for Ward 3, said this initiative can act as an essential transitional program for people dealing with chronic homelessness.

Assuring the participants, sites and surrounding communities remain safe is of utmost importance, Torres-Traylor said. This pilot program could serve as a flexible, community-based response to providing housing for those in need, a model that Council Member Uhlich is interested in exploring, she added.

“This could be one way to address the fact that folks aren’t getting into traditional programs,” Torres-Traylor said.

Attending a city council meeting was a first for Fisher, and he hopes local leaders can draw a conclusion about the pilot program soon than later. As Fisher waits for affordable housing to become available, he lives in a shed on Ream’s property, a luxury he’s enjoyed for the last three years.

“And when I’m out looking for work, I don’t have a backpack with my life on my shoulder, I have clean clothes and I can put two words together — I hope,” he said, with a laugh.

Greetings Tour

Aching for mercy, my shell wondered two blocks west of Fourth Avenue. Time stopped that day; weeks after I noticed the Greetings Tour piece.

Muralist Victor Ving and photographer Lisa Beggs make up this RV-propelled mural project. The pair are traveling around the United States beautifying cities from coast-to-coast. Their stateside trek began in April 2015.

Ving is a former graffiti artist from Queens, New York. I caught him on the humble when he finished Tucson’s alleycat aerosol fresco. He’s drawing inspiration from Americana postcard art used between the 1930s and ’50s. I was excited when Ving told me local muralist Rock ‘Cyfi’ Martinez helped this piece along.

The day I ventured back to snap a few flicks, my soul needed a taste of the supernatural. The arts always provide.

A high school student from Des Moines, Iowa just copped a new DSLR. Here’s Dan in action, capturing a short reel for his first video project. He was all shy smiles when I introduced myself. His mom was supportive and genuinely bored, clicking a few photos with her mobile. It was a joy to see someone creating just because, then I realized we were one of same that day. Thanks, Dan.

I was losing light fast. Up with my bike, away with my phone and in a flash the evening escaped. My heartache dissipated as the night sky bled heavily overhead.

Journalist David Gregory to speak on spiritual path at JFCS event

David Gregory, political analyst for CNN and author, says reconnecting with Judaism centered his life in the right way.

Gregory’s book, “How’s Your Faith? An Unlikely Spiritual Journey,” is an autobiographical tale about his return to faith in adulthood. Simon & Schuster published the book in September 2015.

“The path of faith can be very meaningful — for anybody,” says Gregory. “I think there’s a lot of people asking themselves, ‘How do I live life with more meaning and more purpose?’ And I think a lot of people are looking for that, and not always finding the way in.”

Read the entire Arizona Jewish Post article here.

Originally published on March 17, 2017.

At Jewish History Museum, 26 take oath of citizenship

The Jewish History Museum/Holocaust History Center hosted its first naturalization ceremony on Friday, Feb. 17.

Barbara Brumer, board president of the Jewish History Museum/Holocaust History Center, was one of the 26 people who became a United States citizen that day. 

The setting was perfect for this type of ceremony, Brumer says, considering that the museum building was erected before Arizona became a state, and now has the first state commissioned flag on display. 

During the modest commencement, Judge Scott Gan asked if anyone would like to speak. One after another, more than half of these new Americans shared heartfelt stories about their journey toward citizenship and hopes for the future.

“It was really moving; it was a wonderful morning,” says Brumer.

Read the entire Arizona Jewish Post article here.

Originally published on March 3, 2017.