Cindy Mirsky, past president of Temple Beth El of South Orange County in Aliso Viejo, is one of a select group of Reform Jewish leaders in North America chosen to sit on the Board of Trustees for the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ). The URJ represents the congregational arm of the Reform Movement with nearly 900 congregations and approximately 1.5 million members.
Representing Reform congregations in North America, URJ offers them ways to strengthen and grow, engage the next generation in Jewish life and extend their reach to unaffiliated Jews. As a member of the URJ Board of Trustees, Mirsky will contribute to this effort through quarterly board meetings and work on one or more focused committees. She is currently a member of the URJ MUM Committee, which helps determine congregational dues to the URJ.
Mirsky and her family joined Temple Beth El of South Orange County in 1992. Her first volunteer role was as the religious school children’s librarian, a job she held for seven years. She then served as the temple’s vice president of education and later as president. During her time as president, she worked with the board to revise the temple by-laws, hire an executive director, change the governance structure, hired two rabbis and establish an organizational savings account. She also wrote a president’s column in the temple’s newsletter and conceived the idea of a satellite Hebrew school for families living in more distant areas.
Mirsky was also involved with the Jewish Community Center’s strategic planning by participating in focus groups and heading the committee to get the Maccabi Games to South Orange County. She recently joined the board of directors at Heritage Pointe, volunteers in the “Reading Partners” program offered through Women’s Philanthropy of Jewish Federation & Family Services and sits on the foundation board of directors at Mission Hopsital in Mission Viejo.
In the for-profit world Mirsky is the director of marketing for Pacific Rim Capital, Inc, a leasing company in Aliso Viejo, which she co-owns with her husband and Marc Mills. In May 2012, Mirsky will receive the 2012 Distinguished Alumni Award from CSULB.
United Synagogue Responds to Board Vote Supporting New Bylaws
The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s board took a bold step, approving a new set of bylaws that will modernize the organization’s governance and change the way it works.
As a result of the new bylaws, United Synagogue’s board will become smaller and more nimble, and there will be more philanthropic demands placed on it. The new bylaws will increase the organization’s accountability to its affiliated kehillot – the sacred communities that are United Synagogue’s members – demand a new focus on priorities, use metrics to measure whether those priorities have been achieved and empower staff to implement the changes.
United Synagogue was founded in 1913 to represent the synagogues that declared themselves as Conservative Jewish institutions, and over these 99 years it has provided the bedrock for the Conservative Jewish world. Conservative Judaism, at the center of the North American Jewish world, always deals with the tension between timeless Jewish wisdom and law and the ever-changing world. As United Synagogue’s centennial approaches, so must its organizational priorities.
Increasingly, United Synagogue has begun to see its mission as helping its member kehillot to transform and strengthen themselves into places that inspire meaningful prayer and a culture of lifelong Jewish learning, places that nurture religious and spiritual growth as well as deep friendship and a sense of connection and belonging. The vision that fuels that mission is the understanding that our kehillot make up a community committed to a dynamic Judaism that is learned and passionate, authentic and pluralistic, joyful and accessible.
Rabbi Steven Wernick, United Synagogue’s CEO and executive vice president, said, “The vote is a major achievement in United Synagogue’s reorganization. It aligns new strategies with governance, staff and structures. Our leaders affirmed the wisdom of our mission, vision and strategic plan, our commitment to excellence and the value we add both to our affiliated kehillot and to the larger Jewish world.”
Birthright Trip Addresses Special Population
Taglit-Birthright Israel: Amazing Israel and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles are offering a 10-day visit to Israel in July for young Jewish men and women 18 to26 years old with inflammatory bowel disease. The Taglit-Birthright Israel gift covers round trip airfare (from designated cities), hotel, transportation, two meals and other associated land costs. A physician and registered nurse will accompany the group on the trip.
Those who are eligible should contact Beverly Daley, Ph.D., LCSW, Social Work Faculty, USC Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, 4650 Sunset Blvd., Mailstop 38, Los Angeles, CA 90027; (323) 361.2490; firstname.lastname@example.org.
French Jewish school attack that killed four linked to shootings of soldiers
The shooting attack that killed four people — a teacher and three students — at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, is linked to recent deadly attacks on French soldiers, forensic tests indicate.
In March a man riding a motorbike reportedly opened fire outside the Ozar Hatorah School, where students were waiting to enter the building at the start of the school day. The shooter then entered the building and continued shooting at students and teachers before fleeing on his motorbike.
Several students also were injured inside the building. The dead were a 30-year-old rabbi and his 3-year-old and 6-year-old sons, as well as the 10-year-old daughter of the school’s principal. Some 200 students attend the school.
Forensic tests found that the weapon used in the attack at the school was the same one used in a pair of fatal shooting attacks targeting off-duty French soldiers in and near Toulouse. Those shootings, which were also committed by a gunman on a motorbike, left three soldiers dead and another seriously wounded. The soldiers who were shot were of North African or Caribbean background.
French Interior Minister Claude Gueant ordered security to be tightened around all Jewish schools in France after the attack, the French news agency AFP reported. Gueant and French President Nicolas Sarkozy traveled toToulouse. Sarkozy called the attack a “national tragedy” and vowed to find the killer.
John Demjanjuk, Convicted of War Crimes in Germany, Dies Stateless and in Limbo
While the death last weekend of John Demjanjuk brought a close to the seemingly never-ending quest for justice in the case of a man long accused of being a Nazi war criminal, it also brought a premature end to the legal battle over his legacy.
Though Demjanjuk, 91, was convicted by a German court of being an accessory to the murder of 27,900 Jews in the Sobibor concentration camp, he was living freely in a German nursing home pending appeal. His son said Demjanjuk’s death before the legal process was exhausted meant he had died an innocent man. But the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Jewish leaders said he should be remembered as being guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Demjanjuk died Saturday at an old-age home in southern Germany, where he was free while he appealed his conviction last year for his role as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in Poland. “My father fell asleep with the Lord today as both a victim and survivor of Soviet and German brutality from childhood till death,” Demjanjuk’s son, John Demjanjuk Jr., said in a statement from his home in Seven Hills, a Cleveland suburb.
The elder Demjanjuk, who was born and raised in Ukraine, moved to suburban Cleveland after immigrating to the United States following World War II. In 1952, living in the U.S., he changed his first name to John from Ivan. He died stateless, in the process of trying to regain his U.S. citizenship.
“Ivan Demjanjuk died guilty of his service in the Sobibor death camp, and that is how he should be remembered, not as a person falsely accused, but as an individual who volunteered to serve in the SS, and who at the height of his physical powers spent months helping to mass murder innocent Jews deported to that death camp,” said Efraim Zuroff, the Jerusalem-based chief Nazi hunter for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, in a statement following the announcement of Demjanjuk’s death.
Demjanjuk in the 1970s had been identified as “Ivan the Terrible,” a notoriously sadistic guard at the Treblinka death camp. Holocaust survivors had identified his photo during a photo spread as part of the investigation of Treblinka concentration camp guard Feodor Fedorenko. The U.S. Justice Department in 1977 requested that Demjanjuk’s citizenship be revoked since he lied about his Nazi service on his application to enter the country.
In 1986, U.S. authorities deported Demjanjuk to Israel to stand trial on charges of being Treblinka’s “Ivan.” A special Israeli court sentenced Demjanjuk to death, but the Israeli Supreme Court in 1993 in a 400-page decision overturned the verdict, saying there was reasonable doubt that Demjanjuk actually was “Ivan the Terrible.” However, substantial evidence did emerge during the trial identifying Demjanjuk as a guard at Sobibor.
Demjanjuk returned to the Cleveland area in 1993, where he was greeted by protests outside his home by Holocaust survivors and activists, some wearing striped prison garb, led by activist Rabbi Avi Weiss of Riverdale, N.Y. Demjanjuk’s citizenship was restored by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Matia in 1998.
One year later, the Justice Department again filed a request to strip Demjanjuk of his citizenship, citing his service in Sobibor. Matia ruled in 2002 that Demjanjuk’s citizenship should be stripped. His attorneys appealed the case up to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the lower court rulings.
Demjanjuk was deported from the U.S. in 2009 and flown to Germany, which had requested his extradition. Judge Dalia Dorner, who sat on the Jerusalem District Court panel that convicted John Demjanjuk of war crimes and crimes against humanity in 1988 — the ruling that was overturned — remains convinced that the verdict was just.
“I believe without a shadow of a doubt that he was ‘Ivan the Terrible,’” Dorner told Ynet following his death. “But I still support the Supreme Court verdict that ruled he could not be convicted due to reasonable doubt. The most important thing is that these terrible times are on the public agenda again and they must be remembered, so such things never happen to us again.”