Part way through an interview, search Rabbi Moshe Bensalmon becomes particularly animated. He’s been talking about his interpretation of Jewish law as it pertains to insects that can be found in vegetables and fruits, but when the discussion turns to his reputation he becomes angry.

A letter had been put up at a midtown Toronto yeshiva in 2011 questioning his ability to determine what is kosher and what is not. The letter, he said in a raised voice, embarrassed him in his role as kashrut administrator of the Badatz Toronto kosher certification agency, which he, along with Rabbi Amram Assayag of the Sephardic Kehila Centre, founded in 2008.

The document questioned Badatz’s certification of lettuce that may contain bugs and suggested the produce should not be considered kosher enough for the retail trade.

“That embarrassed me, as I’m the head mashgiach [kashrut supervisor],” said Rabbi Bensalmon. “My reputation is at stake.”

The incident is one of several since Badatz began to challenge the market domination over kashrut supervision in Toronto that has been held for years by the Kashruth Council of Canada, which administers the COR hechsher and is also known by that name.

Several suppliers and caterers contacted by The CJN had their own complaints about COR. Among them were allegations that its rules appeared arbitrary and are subject to inexplicable change, costs are uncertain, as if subject to whim, and that COR’s practices have led to unnecessarily high fees.

There are also concerns that COR’s practices have limited the availability of Badatz-supervised products to the kosher market.

To date, Badatz has attracted around 25 clients. Rabbi Bensalmon believes it could be more but for questions being asked about the company’s kashrut credentials. More egregious, he said, is that COR has let its clients know that if they switch to Badatz, their products won’t be permitted in COR-sanctioned premises.

“We did lose many clients, caterers, manufacturers,” he said.

For more than 20 years, Rabbi Bensalmon worked for COR, supervising the kosher food operations at Sobeys Clark Avenue supermarket for much of that time. His departure from COR did not end amicably. Issues pertaining to his termination ended up in arbitration before a rabbinical court, or beit din. The court’s 2008 decision called on COR to pay Rabbi Bensalmon $100,000, including $10,000 for injury to reputation. The beit din also called on COR to provide a favourable letter of reference – which Rabbi Bensalmon says he never received – and on the parties to “obligate themselves not to disparage or speak negatively regarding the other.”

While Badatz is a relative newcomer to the kosher certification scene, COR has been around for more than 60 years.

It started life as the Kashruth Committee of Canadian Jewish Congress, but after rapid growth, “which made the job of effective management by Congress difficult… it was decided that COR should become its own legal entity,” COR stated in an ad that is running in today’s paper. It was incorporated as a non-profit entity in July 2000 and began to operate independently in 2004.

Critics say COR charges too much for its services. Caterers and manufacturers who have moved to Badatz say the rival agency’s fees are lower and the supervision just as extensive as under COR.

One company, Hubberts, which produces cooking oil, ended a longstanding contract with COR when it forecast its annual bill would reach $45,000. Instead, it found alternative supervision under Triangle-K, an American kashrut agency, and Badatz for about half that price. Prior to Hubberts’ decision to let its contract with COR lapse, it was involved in several disputes with the agency over practices at its Brampton plant that COR felt jeopardized the kashrut of its product and that required a full review. COR suggested several changes to Hubberts’ practices and proposed raising its supervision fees from $67 a visit to $90.

Craig Simpkins, systems manager at Hubberts felt the disagreements with COR were a pretext for raising the fees.

Raphy Amar and his wife, Joelle Edery, operate Beverly Hills Catering. From 2004 to 2008, they ran Gladstone’s, a kosher restaurant. That business folded because of high operating costs, including a $2,000 monthly fee to COR, said Amar.

According to Morley Rand, a former COR mashgiach who has been involved in litigation with his ex-employer on several fronts, COR faced competition last year for its kashrut supervision at Sobeys store in Thornhill. The Montreal Vaad Ha’ir, which administers the MK hechsher, offered to do the job for $100,000, about half of COR’s annual fee. COR dropped its fee by $60,000 to retain the contract, Rand said.

MK would not comment on the amount of its bid. Sobeys did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

COR refused to answer questions posed to it by The CJN. In an emailed statement, the kashrut agency wrote, “COR is not afraid of competition and indeed, we work closely with all of the major kosher certifiers.”

Zuchter Berk, one of the city’s biggest kosher caterers and a longstanding client of COR, has had a positive relationship with the kashrut agency.

“The relationship with COR is the same as we have with the health department,” says Zuchter Berk’s co-owner, Isaac Drookman. “At the end of the day, you have rules and regulations, and you have to follow the rules and regulations.”

COR, he added, “is flexible, there’s always give and take. I think they proved to me that they showed flexibility in many areas. There’s give and take and [the relationship with COR] is collegial.”

Edmund Duarte, founder of Uptown Gourmet, which has had the catering contract at Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue for 5-1/2 years, says COR initially refused to grant him kosher certification because he is not Jewish, but said he could overcome that by taking in a 25 per cent partner who is Jewish.

After 18 months with his partner, Duarte bought him out. “It cost me [a lot of money] to get back what belonged to me,” he said. “It appears the religion is very elastic and the rules change.”

A few years ago, Applause Catering, was approached by Beth Tzedec Congregation to bid on its catering contract. With Badatz providing its hechscher, Applause won the contract in 2011. When COR found out, it sent an email to board members of COR. The email, sent by Rabbi Tuvia Basser, CEO of COR, on Sept. 14, 2011, noted that the Beth Tzedec had solicited bids for its catering service, including from a “high-end treif caterer who also operates a rarely used kosher division under Badatz Toronto, who gives certification even to caterers who run treif catering as well.”

Later that day, Badatz responded with an email of its own. Addressed to COR board members, Badatz alleged the earlier COR email was meant “to protect COR’s financial interests at Beth Tzedec” and “misrepresent[ed] the facts.”

The Badatz letter noted that Applause Catering is not a treif business, that one of its partners is shomer Shabbat, and that “Badatz only certified premises that are completely separate where only a kitchen under lock is operated with a full-time mashgiach.” The Badatz letter also pointed out that two COR-certified establishments prepare both kosher and non-kosher foods and operate on Shabbat and Passover.

Beth Tzedec also responded angrily to the COR email.

In a letter dated Sept. 27, 2011, sent to Rabbi Yacov Felder, vice-chair of COR and to Rabbi Basser, Carolyn Kolers, president of the synagogue, called the suggestion that the shul was considering hiring a “treif caterer… untrue and defamatory.” She asked that COR send a retraction notice to all recipients of the previous email.

On Oct. 6, 2011, Rabbi Basser wrote COR board members saying his “lack of precision in the wording of that email… led to a misunderstanding of his position.”

As a “clarification,” Rabbi Basser wrote that “Beth Tzedec Congregation has always provided, and intends to continue providing, a high standard of kashrut and would only hire a caterer that upholds those values. I retract any implication otherwise.”

Only a few months before the Beth Tzedec incident, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto had looked into its kashrut policy and agreed to sanction events supervised by Badatz Toronto.

In a May 19, 2011, letter to Badatz representative Moti Bensalmon, UJA Federation stated that the organization’s executive committee “voted to approve using venues and caterers under Badatz Toronto supervision. We have confidence in the high level of kashrut supervision provided by your agency and look forward to working with Badatz approved caterers and venues.”

Despite the approval of an important community agency, Badatz has found it difficult to attract clients.

“Once COR heard we were getting into the catering business, they spoke to those people to persuade them not to go with us,” said Rabbi Bensalmon.

“They claim sovereignty on an entire city that belongs to them, and nobody else is allowed to open up another kosher organization,” he said.


The Israel Prisons Service (IPS) is making preparations for receiving former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who has been sentenced to six years in jail in the Holyland corruption case.

Olmert possesses state secrets and might be subjected to blackmail if he comes in contact with other prisoners.

A former senior officer in the IPS said Tuesday that holding a prisoner like Olmert is “a serious headache” for the service. He estimated that Olmert will be isolated from other prisoners and that the IPS may even have to build a special cell block for him.

The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) will ultimately decide on the conditions of Olmert’s incarceration. If it decides that he cannot be held along with Arabs, a problem will be created, since there is no cell block in Israel that answeres this description.

Former Prisons Service officer says a special wing may have to be built for Olmert, who possesses state secrets.

The Israel Prisons Service (IPS) is making preparations for receiving former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who has been sentenced to six years in jail in the Holyland corruption case.

Olmert possesses state secrets and might be subjected to blackmail if he comes in contact with other prisoners.

A former senior officer in the IPS said Tuesday that holding a prisoner like Olmert is “a serious headache” for the service. He estimated that Olmert will be isolated from other prisoners and that the IPS may even have to build a special cell block for him.

The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) will ultimately decide on the conditions of Olmert’s incarceration. If it decides that he cannot be held along with Arabs, a problem will be created, since there is no cell block in Israel that answers this description.

“We’ve never had anything like this,” said a source in the IPS Monday.

Most of the Jews living in Ukraine are now filling out paperwork to prepare for emigration to Israel if necessary, sick Ukraine’s chief rabbi, order Yaacov Dov Bleich, said Sunday in a radio interview.

While he stopped short of calling for mass evacuation, Bleich said he is encouraged by those Ukrainian Jews who are making Aliyah, or emigrating to the Jewish state, to “take care of themselves.”

In an interview on Aaron Klein’s Sunday night radio show on New York’s 970 AM The Answer, Bleich squarely blamed the violence ripping the country apart on Russia and its allies in Ukraine.

He stated, “All of the violence, and when I say all, I mean every single case of violence of Ukrainian against Ukrainian has been instigated and implemented by the pro-Russians – initiated, implemented, instigated.”

Regarding Ukraine’s Jewish community, which has been facing an increasingly hostile environment, Bleich stressed he is not calling for mass evacuation “and we aren’t telling people to run away because who knows what will happen, what will be.”

He continued: “We still are quite optimistic. However, at the same time, most of the Jews and whoever has a possibility is preparing documents so that if they want to make Aliyah there will be nothing to hold them up.”

Rabbi Yaacov Dov Bleich
Bleich told Klein that of Ukraine’s estimated 360,000 Jews, about 120,000 are elderly and would have difficulty moving to a new country.

“So it’s not so simple to just call for mass evacuation, because we don’t have right now the ability, the possibility, the funds or the manpower to evacuate elderly people and people who don’t have any way or any means to make Aliyah,” Bleich said. “However, those that could and are, like I said, it’s a great thing. And they should make Aliyah. They should take care of themselves.”

Earlier today, a group of 19 Ukrainian Jews reportedly arrived in the Jewish state, with the Jewish Agency releasing statistics showing 2014 has so far evidenced a 142-percent increase in Ukrainian immigration to Israel compared to 2013.

Bleich addressed Friday’s deadly gunfights between pro- and anti-Russian groups in the Ukrainian city of Odessa, telling Klein he has information the death toll has reached at least 40 amid media reports of 31 killed.

He said Friday’s clashes were “also instigated and initiated by the pro-Russians, who attacked a peaceful demonstration of Ukrainian unity as they have done dozens and dozens of times throughout eastern and southern Ukraine over the last two months. They were attacked by baseball bats, and what was added is that people were shot.”

By WorldNetDaily

Finding a kosher chicken in Toronto hasn’t been easy since a Montreal processor became the sole supplier in Canada.

The closure of Chai Kosher Poultry’s Toronto operation in May 2013 created a shortage, pharm and it’s affected all of Ontario and other parts of Canada, said Richard Rabkin, managing director of the Kashruth Council of Canada, which is known by the name of its hechsher, COR.

He said Montreal’s Marvid Poultry has “worked diligently to meet increased demand, but from all feedback, it’s not sufficient.”

Rabkin said his family has been eating chicken patties from Israel because of the kosher chicken shortage.

“In my family, my kids are not eating regular chicken. They’re eating what’s known in our house as ‘dinosaur’ chicken, processed chicken patties in the shape of dinosaurs.

“Other people are eating more fish. Some people prefer to eat kosher chicken, but given no choice, will buy non-kosher chicken, which is really unfortunate.”

Rabkin said COR has been working to address the problem with the Chicken Farmers of Ontario (CFO), which represents more than 1,000 independent Ontario chicken farmers, as well as other stakeholders in the chicken-manufacturing community, including the Association of Ontario Chicken Producers, which represents the processors.

“Both of those groups have been quite supportive and have been working to find a solution for the shortage of kosher chicken in Canada. We’re very thankful for their efforts.”

Some “entities” have already stepped forward and expressed an interest in processing the chicken, Rabkin said. “It’s an expensive endeavour, and there are a lot of logistical challenges an entrepreneur will have to navigate.”

The CFO recently put a request for proposal on its website (, seeking business plans from interested parties that articulate their interest, intent, experience and ability to process Ontario chicken, in Ontario, for kosher markets. The deadline is May 30.

The request for proposal gives parties who haven’t already expressed interest in processing kosher chicken the chance to do so, said CFO spokesperson Michael Edmonds.

“As a responsible supply management board, we will make the chicken available to an entity that comes up with a successful business plan that meets the needs of Ontario’s kosher community.”

He said the board will review the submissions, but a structure to evaluate the business plans has yet to be determined.

“We may work with other consultants,” he added.

Edmonds said the CFO is anxious to work with partners who can serve the kosher market and is looking forward to reviewing the proposals as they come in.

Rabkin said COR is very concerned about the shortage of kosher chicken.

“We share the concern of kosher consumers at the lack of availability of kosher chicken and we’re working with all our stakeholders and are hopeful that a solution is forthcoming.”

By The Canadian Jewish News

Are Lev Tahor Hassidim?

Our friends at Bill613 took a look at the Lev Tahor group and did an analysis of their practices compared to Hassidic practices. With their permission we share their analysis:

With recent intense media coverage of the allegations of abuse against the Lev Tahor and their dramatic move from St. Agathe to Chatham, sickness Ont., many Outremont/Mile End Hassidim have been alarmed at how many people, Jews and non-Jews alike, are assuming that the Lev Tahor (LT) are Hassidic.

This confusion is understandable. The Lev Tahor men dress in a Hassidic style and are depicted in the media as “Ultra-Orthodox” and even “Hassidic.”

Unsurprisingly, Pierre Lacerte, the anti-Hassidic blogger, gleefully takes this perception even further. In November 2013 he posted a photo of a couple that had escaped the LT cult with a caption that read, “Hassidic Taliban on Durocher,” insinuating that this is a normal sight in Outremont. (As an aside, the woman in the picture has since abandoned the black garb). In the accompanying article, as in others, he desperately tries to tie Lev Tahor together with, what he calls, the “fundamentalist” or “extremist” Hassidim of Outremont.


Because of this, we feel an obligation to clarify this faulty perception once and for all. We won’t discuss the child abuse allegations brought against LT, nor are we going to advocate for any action to be taken against their followers who might be innocently entrapped in that cult. We leave that to the authorities. We are simply going to point out how depicting them as “Ultra-Orthodox” or “Hassidic” might be inappropriate and inaccurate.

Are the Lev Tahor Orthodox let alone “Ultra”-Orthodox?

The word “Orthodox” is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “Following or conforming to the traditional or generally accepted rules or beliefs of a religion, philosophy, or practice.” With that in mind, let’s examine whether LT can legitimately define itself as that.

1. LT’s full black garb from head-to-toe for women and girls from age 3 up: Although Judaism in general and Hassidism in particular ask that women dress modestly, it also puts a strong emphasis on women dressing in an elegant and royal manner. Never in Jewish history was there a time that women, let alone young girls, wore black from head to toe as part of the Jewish tradition. The only recorded instance of women wearing this style of black robe was when they were living in some Arab lands and conformed to local dress codes.

2. LT’s shunning of Talmud study: Former members relate, that in LT, followers are taught to avoid Talmudic study; anybody caught studying Talmud is disciplined, thus depriving them of very basic critical thinking skills and knowledge. While many customs and rituals might differentiate between one Orthodox/Hassidic group and the other, there is one basic tenet that unifies them all, it is the belief in the Oral Torah with the Talmud at its core. The study of Talmud and the traditional Code of Law that is derived from it, is seen, from the most Modern Orthodox communities to the most pious Ultra-Orthodox groups, as one of the most important components of Jewish education that has been handed down from generation to generation for over 2000 years. Why would Lev Tahor ban this study? Perhaps because Talmudic study demands constant questioning and debating. It is this rigorous intellectual pursuit that cult leaders want to avoid at all costs; they don’t need their followers to have any questions regarding their leadership. They also don’t want their followers to have the knowledge to disparage their outlandish interpretations of traditional Jewish law.

3. Lev Tahor rips families apart: In traditional Judaism, even when one chooses a stricter way of life, the obligation to respect one’s parents is of utmost importance. It is one of the Ten Commandments. Former members relate how in Lev Tahor, followers are dissuaded from keeping contact with parents and relatives living outside the community. Subsequently, many families have been ripped apart by their children joining Lev Tahor.

Is Lev Tahor Hassidic?

Lev Tahor members wear the garments of Hassidic Jews but they have very little in common with the Hassidic traditions.

1. One of the core Hassidic tenets – taught by its founder, the Baal Shem Tov – is the importance of serving G-D with joy, happiness and zest. In contrast, according to the testimony of former members, Lev Tahor uses severe punishments to enforce their strict interpretations of traditions.

2. Part of Hassidic tradition is to choose a Rabbi – a spiritual leader – that one feels inclined to follow. It’s common practice even amongst the most pious Hassidim to leave one Rabbi to follow another in the search for the right fit. In Lev Tahor, however, those who attempt to leave their community are severely intimidated and punished. Former members relate, how in LT, followers end up relinquishing control of their bodies as well as their finances. The leadership alone decides who will marry who, and the leadership alone controls all the finances of all the individuals of the community.

Is Lev Tahor a cult?

The Oxford dictionary defines a cult as “A relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or as imposing excessive control over members.” After reading all the above it is self-evident that Lev Tahor perfectly fits this description.

We truly hope that the media come to this realization and will consider specifying that Lev Tahor is simply a “cult,” thus clearing up the confusion of seeing them as Hassidim or Orthodox.

It important to note that since Lev Tahor moved to Quebec about a decade ago, the Montreal Hassidic community has looked upon Lev Tahor as simply a bizarre and weird but innocent community. Out of pity we have sometimes offered them charity. Only once some members began leaving LT did some of the details start to leak out. It was then that several prominent Hassidic and Ultra-Orthodox Rabbis have come out and officially condemned LT conduct as being against traditional Judaism and the Hassidic community came to the realization that the leaders of Lev Tahor are much more sinister and dangerous than previously perceived.

By Zvi Hershcovich –

More than 70 years after she escaped the gas chamber at Auschwitz, 86-year-old Betty Toporski came to Phillips Square on Tuesday to celebrate the founding of the state of Israel 66 years ago.

Toporski joined thousands of members of Montreal’s Jewish community in a boisterous march from Phillips Square to Place du Canada on Israel Independence Day. Thousands of blue and white Israeli flags swayed in the breeze as participants of all ages marched along René-Lévesque Blvd. at lunch hour.

“I’m an old woman but I have to come and give my support,” said Toporski, who once worked for Oskar Schindler, the entrepreneur who saved the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories.

Toporski said it’s important that she and her fellow Jews come out each year to support Israel. “It’s the umbrella of the Jewish people,” she said.

Before the march began, excited schoolchildren gathered in the square waving flags and soaking up the atmosphere. Music blared from a loudspeaker as revellers danced in the square.

Jon Frajman, 12, was there with his classmates from Herzliah High School, draped in the Star of David.

“If we didn’t support Israel, we wouldn’t have a place to call home,” Jon said.

Joseph Davis was attending his first Israel Day rally and was beaming as he looked out at the large, happy crowd that had gathered in Phillips Square. “It’s nice to see a happy demonstration,” he said.

Howard Staviss, who volunteers at the rally most years, said being a Jewish person is the best thing in life. “You have a belief and a cause,” he said.

Across the street from the rally in Place du Canada, about 15 ultraorthodox Jews protested against the existence of Israel, as they do each year.

A line of police officers kept the marchers away from the protesters, who were denouncing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

Rabbi Baruch Arbramovitz, of Hebrew Academy, was also on hand to make sure his students stayed clear of the protesters.

“They represent a very small minority and we are here to celebrate a great day,” he said.

By Montreal Gazette

1.     Yom Ha’atzmaut in Israel is always preceded by Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for the fallen soldiers. It is often argued that these two days are linked because Israelis owe their independence to the soldiers who scarified their lives for it.


2.     Lavish celebration of the day is seen in Israel with solders carrying Israeli flags often forming shapes that represent Judaism, including a seven-branched candelabrum (Menorah) and a regular hexagram (Star of David) while the speaker of the Israeli parliament holds speech in a dramatic televised presentation.

3.     Yom Ha’atzmaut is also widely celebrated by Jewish people who live outside of Israel. In the United States, for example, large festivals are organized by a number of Jewish communities including special synagogue services, dance events and more.

4.     Israel’s Independence Day is not celebrated by everyone. Some Jewish groups feel that the creation of the state of Israel was a sin. Additionally, many Arabs feel that the day (which they call ‘al-Nakba’, the disaster) represents a loss of national identity when the state was created.

5.     The Idea about the state of Israel dates back long into history and is mostly attributed to the ideas of Theodor Herzl, a Jewish man born in Pest, now part of Budapest, Hungary. Considered to be an instrumental person in setting up the Zionist Organization and organizing the First Zionist Congress held in Basel, the man is known for campaigning relentlessly for a Jewish state in the Middle East.

6.     Calls for an independent Jewish state were further intensified after the horrendous atrocities committed against Jewish people in Europe in the run up to and during World War II.

7.     David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel publicly read the Declaration of Independence of Israel on May 14, 1948 and is known as Yom Ha’atzmaut. The day before Yom Ha’atzmaut  is Yom Hazikaron officially known as “Israel’s Day of Remembrance for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism”.

8.     The Flag of Israel is considered to be the most important symbol for the Independence Day. The Star of David, or Megan David – the hexagram of blue colour – present in the flag is said to represent a Jewish prayer shawl, known as a tallit. It was reportedly introduced in 1897 as a symbol of the Zionist Organization at the First Zionist Congress.

9.     According to some historical accounts, Jewish people of the earlier times used to colour threads or fringes of their prayer shawls using the dye calledtekhelet – said to be obtained from a certain type of shellfish and gave a dark blue colour. Over time, it became common to weave blue or purple stripes into the edges of their prayer shawls – the same pattern seen in Israeli flag.

10.   The use of blue hexagram to symbolize Jewish pride seems to have originated from the medieval times in Prague, now in Czech Republic, although not much is known about its origin.

By: International Business Times

Last Tuesday, and residents of Kiryas Tosh discovered a swastika painted on the entrance to the small Chassidic settlement. Harassment of the Tosh Chassidim had escalated ever since families had started moving into areas neighbouring Boisbriand residents.

While some Chassidim feel that the community should reside in the original settlement purchased by the Tosh community, viagra 60mg others point out that they’ve outgrown Kiryas Tosh and have moved into homes on Kiryas Tosh’s outskirts.

Following the swastika incident, many Chassidim believed the harassment incidents would drop. But over this past weekend, residents living inside and outside of Kiryas Tosh experienced more attacks and harassment.

During Shabbos, several young students went for a walk and were verbally abused by a passing car, and traffic cones placed at the entrance to Kiryas Tosh for Shabbos were found in the garbage.

After Shabbos, several cars drove into Kiryas Tosh and the occupants of the car screamed Nazi slogans and “Heil Hitler” at Chassidic residents. A Chassidic man walking to his new home on the outskirts of Tosh from Synagogue together with his three children had raw eggs thrown at him by a passing car on Riviere Cachee Street. One of the eggs landed on the suit of his son, ruining it. The children were frightened and are now afraid of walking outside at night.

Shomrim coordinators had a meeting in police station with the night sergeant who promised to send more patrols to the area, but many Chassidim find it very unsettling that some of their neighbours appear to have such a violent hatred toward them.

By Zvi Hershcovich –

Some 22, search 000 Israeli soldiers have died since the establishment of the Jewish state, check including 40 soldiers between March 2013 and March 2014, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

“We in Israel are fighting—and dying—on behalf of every Jew in the world. … We are maintaining a safe haven for every Jew to escape to. Jews in the Diaspora live safer lives and hold their heads higher because Israel and its army exists,” said Chantal Belzberg, executive vice chairman of OneFamily, an organization dedicated to the rehabilitation of Israeli victims of terror attacks and their families.

On Yom HaZikaron, the fourth day of the Hebrew month of Iyar (sundown on May 4, 2014), Israelis will pay tribute to the country’s fallen soldiers in a solemn day of mourning. On its official Memorial Day, Israel also mourns the loss of civilians who were killed as a result of terrorism.

Among the soldiers killed during these past 12 months was 20-year-old Gavriel Kobi, a combat soldier in the Givati Brigade, who was shot and killed on Sept. 22, 2013 by a Palestinian sniper while on guard duty outside Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs. Also killed were 18-year-old Eden Atias, stabbed in the neck on Nov. 11, 2013 while on a bus in the northern Israeli city of Afula, and 31-year-old Shlomo Cohen, a Petty Officer 1st Class in the Israeli Navy, who was fatally shot by a Lebanese sniper while driving near the Israel-Lebanon border fence in an unarmored military vehicle. Cohen was on operational duty on Dec. 15, 2013 at the time of his death.

OneFamily’s Belzberg said that when a young soldier is killed, it has a “radically shocking, traumatic and debilitating” effect on the soldier’s parents and family.

“Siblings suffer tremendously, but not as deeply as a mother losing her son, the son she bore, nursed, dressed, walked to school, took to his school’s football practice and whose game she watched proudly,” Belzberg told “Siblings suffer because they don’t just lose a brother; they also lose their mom and dad. … They wallow in their grief and have no energy to care for the living. The dead child occupies a lot more time than a living one.”

Yehudit Rotenberg, whose son Sgt. Nadav Rotenberg, 20, was killed January 7, 2011 by a stray Israel Defense Forces mortar shell in an incident near the Gaza border, still remembers the day she learned of her son’s death. The family had seen a report on a border incident in which four soldiers were injured.

Israel Defense Forces Sgt. Nadav Rotenberg, 20, who was killed January 7, 2011 by a stray IDF mortar shell in an incident near the Gaza border.

“It was a Friday night,” Rotenberg recalled. “We learned of the incident at around 6:10 p.m. I was worried, but I didn’t believe he could have died. They said there were injuries on the news. Eating Shabbat dinner was very stressful; it was hard to eat the food. … We kept thinking he would call, that he would tell us he was OK. … Then there was a knock at the door, and we saw an army uniform collar through the window.”

She said the hardship, the emotion, came quickly.

Avital Yahalomi has a similar story. Her brother, 20-year-old Cpl. Netanel Yahalomi, was killed on Sept. 21, 2012 while on patrol along the Israeli border with Egypt. Three heavily armed terrorists attempting to infiltrate Israel attacked the soldiers. One terrorist was wearing a suicide belt, which went off during the battle.

Cpl. Yahalomi was a deeply religious solider and a Zionist; three Jewish books were found on his body after his death. His sister, Avital, told JNS.orgthat her brother dreamed of being the strongest and best combat soldier. He was upset when he learned that because he wore glasses, which reduced his profile, he could not join the unit of his choice, but instead would be part of the Artillery Corps. This knowledge, however, put his family more at ease. They knew he was on the Egyptian border, but they assumed that he was safe there.

“In general, we have peace with Egypt,” Avital said, noting that her brother was careful about what he told the family, never wanting to worry them.

On the afternoon of Cpl. Yahalomi’s death, his family was preparing for Shabbat at their home in Nof Ayalon, near Modi’in. When an IDF representative came to deliver the news, then 9-year-old Yitzchak opened the door.

“He didn’t know what was happening,” Avital said. “He thought they were coming to kick us out of our home and he called to mother. My father was in the shower. … One by one we learned what happened. Then we all just sat on the couch and we cried and cried. This is something that never goes away. It will never go away.”

“When you say goodbye to your son as he gets on the bus with all of the new soldiers, you’ve offered up your son as a potential sacrifice to the country,” explained Belzberg. “Your heart sinks. The worst may happen. But most parents say to themselves, ‘It won’t happen to me.’”

She added, “Then, in the middle of the night, there’s a knock at the door. … Three soldiers stare sadly into your eyes. Your worst nightmare has happened. Your son is dead. You scream and your whole body shakes. You collapse.”

But you have no choice except to go on. Today, Nadav Rotenberg’s younger brother is in his second year in the army. The first year, said Yehudit Rotenberg, “I worried a lot.” Yet she is also very proud.

“These are brave children,” said Rotenberg. “Even though I lost a child, I still believe the army is very important and we have to support it.”

Avital Yahalomi has similar ideas. “I am happy to be Israeli, even though it cost me so much. … I plan to stay here, to raise my children here, to send them to the army to defend my country,” she said.

“Yom HaZikaron is about remembering a larger family, about saying to each bereaved family that their child, the apple of their eye, is remembered,” said Rebecca Fuhrman, manager of marketing and communications for OneFamily. “Their loss is our loss.”

For a full listing of soldiers (in Hebrew) who died between last Yom HaZikaron and this one, visit For a list of soldiers and victims of terror killed in 2013, visit

The leading Jewish umbrella organization in the United States voted Wednesday against admitting the liberal-leaning Israel advocacy group J Street, pharmacy highlighting the often contentious rifts that exist within the American Jewish community.

The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, comprising 50 voting members of varying size, voted to deny J Street membership. Of the 42 groups represented at the vote, 17 supported J Street’s membership, 22 opposed and three abstained, the New YorkTimes reports, citing people present because the actual count was private. J Street needed 34 votes to join.

The dovish group has ruffled feathers since its inception six years ago, when it sought to be an alternative to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful pro-Israel lobby group that has dominated debate of Israeli issues in Washington. Billing itself as both pro-Israel and pro-peace, J Street has taken stances that are critical of Israeli government policy toward Palestinians and out of line with the typically lockstep stances of major American Jewish groups. J Street has, for example, backed the Obama Administration’s nuclear talks with Iran and opposed Israel’s 2008 military incursion into Gaza.

But the group has tapped into frustration with the existing pro-Israel political movement in the U.S., particularly among younger, more liberal Jews, claiming almost 60 university campus chapters. In a Pew poll last year, almost half of American Jews said they didn’t believe the Israeli government was making a sincere effort to bring about a peace settlement with the Palestinians

During Wednesday’s vote, J Street received the support of several mainstream Jewish groups, according to a statement from J Street, including representatives of the Reform and Conservative movements as well as the influential Anti-Defamation League. The vote was reportedly divided between the Orthodox groups and non-Orthodox members.

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, told the Jewish newspaper The Forward that the groups backing J Street’s membership represented a larger number of Jews, meaning the group effectively “won the popular vote.”

Some of the groups that supported J Street’s membership have not been public about their decision, and others said they supported its membership even if they still disagree with some of its stances.

“A mistake was made today,” Schonfeld said. “It is of crucial importance to the future of the Jewish community that a full range of views is represented, and that we be part of a robust dialogue to achieve what we are all committed to, which is a safe, secure and thriving Israel.”

In its statement Wednesday, J Street said it was “disappointed” with the decision.

“In many ways the vote illustrates one of the key reasons that J Street was created in the first place and why we continue to grow,” J Street said. “A large segment of the American Jewish community feels that it does not have a home or a voice within its traditional structures.”

The Conference of Presidents released a statement Wednesday announcing that J Street did not receive enough votes and noting that some current member organizations were rejected when their were first up for a vote.