Europe’s Jews prepare public Hanukkah events to ‘drive out darkness’

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Before Monday’s attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal had planned to invite hundreds of people to the traditional lighting of the first Hanukkah candle at a large menorah erected at the city’s Brandenburg Gate monument.

But he decided to change his original plan following the attack, whose suspected perpetrator was shot dead by police in Milan early Friday. The attack killed 12 people, including one Israeli tourist. Her husband was among the dozens injured.

And so, “Instead of one public lighting this Hanukkah, we’re going to have one on each of the eight nights of Hanukkah,” Teichtal, a Chabad rabbi who is part of the Jewish community in Berlin, told JTA on Thursday. “It’s our way of driving out the darkness that is terrorism.”

Teichtal’s determination is shared by rabbis across Europe, including France and the Netherlands, who speak of upholding and celebrating the relatively new tradition of public lightings of menorahs. Some Jewish leaders say that celebrating Hanukkah at central locales in European capitals and cities is considered an appropriate, uplifting Jewish response to the wave of Islamist terrorism hitting the continent.

On Monday, the US Embassy in Berlin recommended keeping “a low profile, and exercising vigilance” and reiterated a State Department travel warning from last month advising to “avoid large crowds.” The warning cited “credible information” of plans by the Islamic State, al-Qaida and their affiliates to carry out “terrorist attacks in Europe, with a focus on the upcoming holiday season and associated events.”

Asked whether he would heed this and similar warnings, Rabbi Mendel Belinow of the heavily Muslim Paris suburb of Saint-Denis replied with a short chuckle.

A menorah in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, December 16, 2014. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images/via JTA)

A menorah in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, December 16, 2014. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images/via JTA)

“We’ve been having public menorah lightings here for the past 25 years, and we’re certainly not about stop,” said Belinow, who like Teichtal is from the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement. He noted especially the ceremony last year, which took place not far from where police had killed two terrorists just three weeks prior to the Hanukkah event.

“We did it in 2009,” he added, noting that his synagogue was firebombed that year. “In short, we do it on Hanukkah, every Hanukkah, period.”

But not everyone shares his enthusiasm. Several planned events in the Paris region have been canceled this year, Belinow said, over security concerns that increased dramatically following the Berlin attack, which counter-terrorism experts fear could encourage copycats.

Thousands participate in Chabad-Lubavitch's annual public menorah lighting ceremony at the base of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Sunday December 6, 2015, the first night of Hanukkah. (Chabad.org/Thierry Guez)

Thousands participate in Chabad-Lubavitch’s annual public menorah lighting ceremony at the base of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Sunday December 6, 2015, the first night of Hanukkah. (Chabad.org/Thierry Guez)

“Personally, I’m not going to these events,” said Rabbi Moche Lewin, a senior aide to French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia. “It all depends on the level of security at these events organized by Chabad. If it’s perfectly secured, no problem. But if there’s a danger, it’s certainly imprudent.” Lewin is not a member of the Chabad movement.

Belinow said security was “all in place” for the event Sunday in Saint-Denis, an impoverished municipality that many in France view as a hotbed for extremism following the discovery of several terrorist cells there, including of suspected perpetrators of the November 2015 attacks in Paris that killed 130.

But he also said that he doesn’t “trust anyone — not police officers, not city officials, not the mayor, not journalists. Only Hashem,” a Hebrew word that signifies God.

Police patrol the reopened Christmas market near the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedaechtniskirche (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church) in Berlin on December 22, 2016, three days after it was attacked in a deadly truck rampage. (AFP PHOTO/CLEMENS BILAN)

Police patrol the reopened Christmas market near the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedaechtniskirche (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church) in Berlin on December 22, 2016, three days after it was attacked in a deadly truck rampage. (AFP PHOTO/CLEMENS BILAN)

“We need to do everything to make it happen, because if we start looking for excuses not to, then it’s not only Hanukkah we won’t be able to celebrate,” Belinow said. “We are in the thick of it here in Saint-Denis.”

Back in Berlin, Teichtal said a lot of thought has gone into providing security for the eight public lightings planned at Brandenburg Gate, where for the past 12 years he has been kindling the community’s giant Hanukkah menorah, which is erected there every year ahead of the holiday. It measures about 32 feet in height; Teichtal lights its branches from a crane.

“There are visible security measures and there are less visible ones,” Teichtal said. “We are working with authorities to make sure this is done in the safest manner possible.”

Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal, left, and a colleague testing out a Hanukkah menorah at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, December 22, 2016. (Courtesy of Teichtal/via JTA)

Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal, left, and a colleague testing out a Hanukkah menorah at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, December 22, 2016. (Courtesy of Teichtal/via JTA)

As one of Berlin’s most visited sites, the Brandenburg Gate arguably is not the easiest place in Berlin to hermetically seal against a terrorist attack, Teichtal concedes. But the locale’s history makes it significant for such an event, he added.

“This is the place where Adolf Hitler inflamed his followers with passionate vows to harm the Jewish people, to inflict horrible things on them, as thousands cheered,” said Teichtal, adding that he had the menorah placed at the exact spot at the Brandenburg Gate where the Nazi leader stood during those speeches. “I can think of no better place to demonstrate that the Jewish people is eternal.”

During the lighting of the first candle of Hanukkah on Saturday night at Brandenburg, Teichtal said, a minute of silence will be observed for the victims of the Christmas attack in Berlin.

Separately, the Jewish community of the Netherlands is preparing to co-host, together with Christian Zionists from the Christians for Israel organization, a public lighting in The Hague of what organizers say is the largest Hanukkah menorah in Europe. Christian Zionists built the menorah in 2013 as a gift for the country’s Jewish community.

Dutch chief rabbi Binyomin Jacobs lights a giant menorah in Maastricht, the Netherlands, in 2013 (YouTube screen capture)

Dutch chief rabbi Binyomin Jacobs lights a giant menorah in Maastricht, the Netherlands, in 2013 (YouTube screen capture)

“My parents had to hide during the Holocaust,” said Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, who will mount a crane for the December 28 lighting in front of the famous Peace Palace. “They had to take on fake names and fake identity cards. It’s something I refuse to do for anyone, let alone the barbarians of the Islamic State,” he added when questioned on the wisdom of staging an event that could draw terrorists’ attention.

Hanukkah, a holiday celebrating the defiance of Jews during the Maccabean revolt against the Syrian Greek army, is especially appropriate for such demonstrations, Jacobs said. And the venue in The Hague “makes a statement also about what goes on at the Peace Palace,” he said in reference to the International Court of Justice, which in 2004 ruled that Israel’s West Bank security fence is illegal.

But the December 28 event, he said, is “particularly symbolic because we are standing there with Christian friends, united, bringing light to the fight against enemies and forces who kill indiscriminately, bringing darkness into the lives of Muslims, Christians and Jews alike.”

Events Lydis: overweldigende interesse in Yealink-portfolio

Events Lydis: overweldigende interesse in Yealink-portfolio

Bij business partners de kennis vergroten van het Yealink-portfolio. Dat was het doel van de twee goed bezochte Yealink-seminars van deze maand. De grote opkomst laat zien dat het partnerkanaal bovenmatig geïnteresseerd is in deze vendor van IP-phones.

Het heeft Cor Heide van Lydis ook positief verrast: het aanvankelijke plan om voor acht resellers in eigen huis een kennismiddag over Yealink te organiseren, groeide in no time uit tot twee events in Van der Valk Almere met in totaal meer dan 100 aanwezige business partners. “En dat voor zoiets simpels als een IP-toestel”, zegt Cor Heide. Alhoewel, het is ergens ook weer logisch vindt hij. “Bij een communicatieoplossing is de keten zo sterk als de zwakste schakel; je kunt een prachtig Cloud Telefonie-platform hebben, maar wanneer het desktoptoestel de helft van de functies niet ondersteunt, heb je ook niks aan dat mooie platform. Het is dus belangrijk dat het desktoptoestel goed is, compleet aansluit op en alles haalt uit een telefonieplatform.”

En de business partner wil overduidelijk zijn kennis vergroten op dit vlak waar Yealink een belangrijke speler is, zo blijkt uit de grote opkomst. Cor Heide: “Dat was ook onze doelstelling van deze events: uitleggen wie Yealink is, wat het bijzonder maakt en wat je er mee kunt.”

De meer dan 100 business partners zijn op de twee events bijgepraat over de mogelijkheden van de Yealink IP-toestellen. Ook kwamen de samenwerking en unieke features van Yealink op de verschillende platformen aan bod. Afhankelijk van welk platform gebruikt wordt, werd er specifiek op de features van Yealink met de betreffende platformen ingegaan. De overkoepelende thema’s van het event waren: marktontwikkeling, samenwerking Yealink Lydis, de interoperabiliteit met onder andere Microsoft Skype for Business, security, videoncerencing (een groeimarkt voor Yealink die Lydis de komende tijd uit wil bouwen) en natuurlijk de roadmap.

Skype for Business

Hoewel meerdere audio-endpoints Skype-geceertificeerd zijn, heeft Yealink ervoor gekozen anders dan anderen te zijn. Zo is de gebruikersinterface op de toestellen identiek aan die van de Skype for Business-client en zijn via de toestellen bijvoorbeeld conferenties op te zetten.

De belangrijkste take-aways van het Yealink-event van Lydis: de platformonafhankelijkheid van de producten; een breed productportfolio waardoor er voor elke type gebruiker binnen een onderneming een oplossing voor handen is; en eenvoud, zowel voor technici (installatie/configuratie) als voor de gebruiker.

“De aanwezige business partners hebben positief gereageerd op deze kennis-events”, zegt Marc Beems van Lydis. “Gezien het aantal aanmeldingen is er kennelijk behoefte binnen het partnerkanaal aan dit soort events, dus dat zullen we volgend jaar meer gaan doen – ook in samenwerking met providers/carriers en sub-distri’s.”

Europe’s Jews prepare public Hanukkah events to ‘drive out darkness’

A menorah in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Dec. 16, 2014 (Carsten Koall/Getty Images)http://www.jta.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/menorah-1-156×103.jpg 156w, http://www.jta.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/menorah-1-350×231.jpg 350w, http://www.jta.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/menorah-1-768×506.jpg 768w” sizes=”(max-width: 880px) 100vw, 880px” /

A menorah in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Dec. 16, 2014. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Before Monday’s attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal had planned to invite hundreds of people to the traditional lighting of the first Hanukkah candle at a large menorah erected at the city’s Brandenburg Gate monument.

But he decided to change his original plan following the attack, whose suspected perpetrator remains at large. The attack killed 12 people, including one Israeli tourist. Her husband was among the dozens injured.

And so, “Instead of one public lighting this Hanukkah, we’re going to have one on each of the eight nights of Hanukkah,” Teichtal, a Chabad rabbi who is part of the Jewish community in Berlin, told JTA on Thursday. “It’s our way of driving out the darkness that is terrorism.”

Teichtal’s determination is shared by rabbis across Europe, including France and the Netherlands, who speak of upholding and celebrating the relatively new tradition of public lightings of menorahs. Some Jewish leaders say that celebrating Hanukkah at central locales in European capitals and cities is considered an appropriate, uplifting Jewish response to the wave of Islamist terrorism hitting the continent.

On Monday, the U.S. Embassy in Berlin recommended keeping “a low profile, and exercising vigilance” and reiterated a State Department travel warning from last month advising to “avoid large crowds.” The warning cited “credible information” of plans by the Islamic State, al-Qaida and their affiliates to carry out “terrorist attacks in Europe, with a focus on the upcoming holiday season and associated events.”

Asked whether he would heed this and similar warnings, Rabbi Mendel Belinow of the heavily Muslim Paris suburb of Saint-Denis replied with a short chuckle.

“We’ve been having public menorah lightings here for the past 25 years, and we’re certainly not about stop,” said Belinow, who like Teichtal is from the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement. He noted especially the ceremony last year, which took place not far from where police had killed two terrorists just three weeks prior to the Hanukkah event.

“We did it in 2009,” he added, noting that his synagogue was firebombed that year. “In short, we do it on Hanukkah, every Hanukkah, period.”

But not everyone shares his enthusiasm. Several planned events in the Paris region have been canceled this year, Belinow said, over security concerns that increased dramatically following the Berlin attack, which counterterrorism experts fear could encourage copycats.

“Personally, I’m not going to these events,” said Rabbi Moche Lewin, a senior aide to French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia. “It all depends on the level of security at these events organized by Chabad. If it’s perfectly secured, no problem. But if there’s a danger, it’s certainly imprudent.” Lewin is not a member of the Chabad movement.

Belinow said security was “all in place” for the event Sunday in Saint-Denis, an impoverished municipality that many in France view as a hotbed for extremism following the discovery of several terrorist cells there, including of suspected perpetrators of the November 2015 attacks in Paris that killed 130.

But he also said that he doesn’t “trust anyone — not police officers, not city officials, not the mayor, not journalists. Only Hashem,” a Hebrew word that signifies God.

“We need to do everything to make it happen, because if we start looking for excuses not to, then it’s not only Hanukkah we won’t be able to celebrate,” Belinow said. “We are in the thick of it here in Saint-Denis.”

Back in Berlin, Teichtal said a lot of thought has gone into providing security for the eight public lightings planned at Brandenburg Gate, where for the past 12 years he has been kindling the community’s giant Hanukkah menorah, which is erected there every year ahead of the holiday. It measures about 32 feet in height; Teichtal lights its branches from a crane.

“There are visible security measures and there are less visible ones,” Teichtal said. “We are working with authorities to make sure this is done in the safest manner possible.”

Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal, left, and a colleague testing out a Hanukkah menorah at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Dec. 22, 2016. (Courtesy of Teichtal) http://www.jta.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/teichtal-3-156×103.jpg 156w, http://www.jta.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/teichtal-3-350×231.jpg 350w, http://www.jta.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/teichtal-3-768×506.jpg 768w” sizes=”(max-width: 880px) 100vw, 880px” /

Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal, left, and a colleague testing out a Hanukkah menorah at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Dec. 22, 2016. (Courtesy of Teichtal)

As one of Berlin’s most visited sites, the Brandenburg Gate arguably is not the easiest place in Berlin to hermetically seal against a terrorist attack, Teichtal concedes. But the locale’s history makes it significant for such an event, he added.

“This is the place where Adolf Hitler inflamed his followers with passionate vows to harm the Jewish people, to inflict horrible things on them, as thousands cheered,” said Teichtal, adding that he had the menorah placed at the exact spot at the Brandenburg Gate where the Nazi leader stood during those speeches. “I can think of no better place to demonstrate that the Jewish people is eternal.”

During the lighting of the first candle of Hanukkah on Saturday night at Brandenburg, Teichtal said, a minute of silence will be observed for the victims of the Christmas attack in Berlin.

Separately, the Jewish community of the Netherlands is preparing to co-host, together with Christian Zionists from the Christians for Israel organization, a public lighting in The Hague of what organizers say is the largest Hanukkah menorah in Europe. Christian Zionists built the menorah in 2013 as a gift for the country’s Jewish community.

“My parents had to hide during the Holocaust,” said Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, who will mount a crane for the Dec. 28 lighting in front of the famous Peace Palace. “They had to take on fake names and fake identity cards. It’s something I refuse to do for anyone, let alone the barbarians of the Islamic State,” he added when questioned on the wisdom of staging an event that could draw terrorists’ attention.

Hanukkah, a holiday celebrating the defiance of Jews during the Maccabean revolt against the Syrian Greek army, is especially appropriate for such demonstrations, Jacobs said. And the venue in The Hague “makes a statement also about what goes on at the Peace Palace,” he said in reference to the International Court of Justice, which in 2004 ruled that Israel’s West Bank security fence is illegal.

But the Dec. 28 event, he said, is “particularly symbolic because we are standing there with Christian friends, united, bringing light to the fight against enemies and forces who kill indiscriminately, bringing darkness into the lives of Muslims, Christians and Jews alike.”

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Europe’s Jews prepare Hanukkah events to ‘drive out darkness’

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Before Monday’s attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal had planned to invite hundreds of people to the traditional lighting of the first Hanukkah candle at a large menorah erected at the city’s Brandenburg Gate monument.

But he decided to change his original plan following the attack, whose suspected perpetrator remains at large. The attack killed 12 people, including one Israeli tourist. Her husband was among the dozens injured.

And so, “Instead of one public lighting this Hanukkah, we’re going to have one on each of the eight nights of Hanukkah,” Teichtal, a Chabad rabbi who is part of the Jewish community in Berlin, told JTA on Thursday. “It’s our way of driving out the darkness that is terrorism.”

Teichtal’s determination is shared by rabbis across Europe, including France and the Netherlands, who speak of upholding and celebrating the relatively new tradition of public lightings of menorahs. Some Jewish leaders say that celebrating Hanukkah at central locales in European capitals and cities is considered an appropriate, uplifting Jewish response to the wave of Islamist terrorism hitting the continent.

On Monday, the U.S. Embassy in Berlin recommended keeping “a low profile, and exercising vigilance” and reiterated a State Department travel warning from last month advising to “avoid large crowds.” The warning cited “credible information” of plans by the Islamic State, al-Qaida and their affiliates to carry out “terrorist attacks in Europe, with a focus on the upcoming holiday season and associated events.”

Asked whether he would heed this and similar warnings, Rabbi Mendel Belinow of the heavily Muslim Paris suburb of Saint-Denis replied with a short chuckle.

“We’ve been having public menorah lightings here for the past 25 years, and we’re certainly not about stop,” said Belinow, who like Teichtal is from the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement. He noted especially the ceremony last year, which took place not far from where police had killed two terrorists just three weeks prior to the Hanukkah event.

“We did it in 2009,” he added, noting that his synagogue was firebombed that year. “In short, we do it on Hanukkah, every Hanukkah, period.”

But not everyone shares his enthusiasm. Several planned events in the Paris region have been canceled this year, Belinow said, over security concerns that increased dramatically following the Berlin attack, which counterterrorism experts fear could encourage copycats.

“Personally, I’m not going to these events,” said Rabbi Moche Lewin, a senior aide to French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia. “It all depends on the level of security at these events organized by Chabad. If it’s perfectly secured, no problem. But if there’s a danger, it’s certainly imprudent.” Lewin is not a member of the Chabad movement.

Belinow said security was “all in place” for the event Sunday in Saint-Denis, an impoverished municipality that many in France view as a hotbed for extremism following the discovery of several terrorist cells there, including of suspected perpetrators of the November 2015 attacks in Paris that killed 130.

But he also said that he doesn’t “trust anyone — not police officers, not city officials, not the mayor, not journalists. Only Hashem,” a Hebrew word that signifies God.

“We need to do everything to make it happen, because if we start looking for excuses not to, then it’s not only Hanukkah we won’t be able to celebrate,” Belinow said. “We are in the thick of it here in Saint-Denis.”

Back in Berlin, Teichtal said a lot of thought has gone into providing security for the eight public lightings planned at Brandenburg Gate, where for the past 12 years he has been kindling the community’s giant Hanukkah menorah, which is erected there every year ahead of the holiday. It measures about 32 feet in height; Teichtal lights its branches from a crane.

“There are visible security measures and there are less visible ones,” Teichtal said. “We are working with authorities to make sure this is done in the safest manner possible.”

As one of Berlin’s most visited sites, the Brandenburg Gate arguably is not the easiest place in Berlin to hermetically seal against a terrorist attack, Teichtal concedes. But the locale’s history makes it significant for such an event, he added.

“This is the place where Adolf Hitler inflamed his followers with passionate vows to harm the Jewish people, to inflict horrible things on them, as thousands cheered,” said Teichtal, adding that he had the menorah placed at the exact spot at the Brandenburg Gate where the Nazi leader stood during those speeches. “I can think of no better place to demonstrate that the Jewish people is eternal.”

During the lighting of the first candle of Hanukkah on Saturday night at Brandenburg, Teichtal said, a minute of silence will be observed for the victims of the Christmas attack in Berlin.

Separately, the Jewish community of the Netherlands is preparing to co-host, together with Christian Zionists from the Christians for Israel organization, a public lighting in The Hague of what organizers say is the largest Hanukkah menorah in Europe. Christian Zionists built the menorah in 2013 as a gift for the country’s Jewish community.

“My parents had to hide during the Holocaust,” said Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, who will mount a crane for the Dec. 28 lighting in front of the famous Peace Palace. “They had to take on fake names and fake identity cards. It’s something I refuse to do for anyone, let alone the barbarians of the Islamic State,” he added when questioned on the wisdom of staging an event that could draw terrorists’ attention.

Hanukkah, a holiday celebrating the defiance of Jews during the Maccabean revolt against the Syrian Greek army, is especially appropriate for such demonstrations, Jacobs said. And the venue in The Hague “makes a statement also about what goes on at the Peace Palace,” he said in reference to the International Court of Justice, which in 2004 ruled that Israel’s West Bank security fence is illegal.

But the Dec. 28 event, he said, is “particularly symbolic because we are standing there with Christian friends, united, bringing light to the fight against enemies and forces who kill indiscriminately, bringing darkness into the lives of Muslims, Christians and Jews alike.”

Harlem recognizes Human Rights Day

“What’s the call? Free them all!” a slew of multiethnic activists chanted while posted up on the northeast corner of Harlem’s African Square (125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard) this past Saturday afternoon as they withstood the cold while commemorating Human Rights Day. Although the day was initially established in 1948, it wasn’t until 1950 that the United Nations General Assembly passed resolution 423 (V) declaring Dec. 10 Human Rights Day.

On the heels of the 35th anniversary of Mumia Abu-Jamal being shot by a cop and incarcerated in Philadelphia, the plight continues for the clemency of hundreds of America’s political-prisoners.

“These are President Obama’s last days in office, and it’s great that he released nonviolent drug offenders who have served crazy amounts of time in prison. I think he should do the same thing, with the stroke of a pen, and free all the federal political prisoners,” suggested activist Gwendolyn Debrow. “For instance, Leonard Peltier, Oscar Lopez-Rivera, Mutulu Shakur, Veronza Bowers, Bill Dwaine, all of the people I mentioned have served tremendous amounts of time behind bars and all of them have been nonviolent while in prison, so it serves no purpose by continuing to punish them by serving more time—it’s unnecessary. Let them come home. It’s time.”

The Jericho Movement’s Ann McMan mentioned some of the dehumanizing conditions many political-prisoners endure that contribute to some eventually having poor health, and worse.

“It’s not medical neglect—it’s medical murder!” she declared. “They [prison officials] know what they’re doing; they do it on purpose. Merle Africa died in ’98, Abdul Majid. They are so afraid of the ideas of our political prisoners.”

Next up, MOVE Organization’s Brother Ory laid out the tragic events that occurred in Philadelphia Aug. 8, 1978, which resulted with “them charging nine people for the murder of one cop, despite overwhelming evidence of their innocence. Our family was speaking out in the community against police murders, that’s the real reason they’re in prison. They killed Phil Africa.”

For more information, visit http://thejerichomovement.com/.

Europe’s Jews prepare public Hanukkah events to ‘drive out darkness’

A menorah in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Dec. 16, 2014. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Before Monday’s attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal had planned to invite hundreds of people to the traditional lighting of the first Hanukkah candle at a large menorah erected at the city’s Brandenburg Gate monument.

But he decided to change his original plan following the attack, whose suspected perpetrator remains at large. The attack killed 12 people, including one Israeli tourist. Her husband was among the dozens injured.

And so, “Instead of one public lighting this Hanukkah, we’re going to have one on each of the eight nights of Hanukkah,” Teichtal, a Chabad rabbi who is part of the Jewish community in Berlin, told JTA on Thursday. “It’s our way of driving out the darkness that is terrorism.”

Teichtal’s determination is shared by rabbis across Europe, including France and the Netherlands, who speak of upholding and celebrating the relatively new tradition of public lightings of menorahs. Some Jewish leaders say that celebrating Hanukkah at central locales in European capitals and cities is considered an appropriate, uplifting Jewish response to the wave of Islamist terrorism hitting the continent.

On Monday, the U.S. Embassy in Berlin recommended keeping “a low profile, and exercising vigilance” and reiterated a State Department travel warning from last month advising to “avoid large crowds.” The warning cited “credible information” of plans by the Islamic State, al-Qaida and their affiliates to carry out “terrorist attacks in Europe, with a focus on the upcoming holiday season and associated events.”

Asked whether he would heed this and similar warnings, Rabbi Mendel Belinow of the heavily Muslim Paris suburb of Saint-Denis replied with a short chuckle.

“We’ve been having public menorah lightings here for the past 25 years, and we’re certainly not about stop,” said Belinow, who like Teichtal is from the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement. He noted especially the ceremony last year, which took place not far from where police had killed two terrorists just three weeks prior to the Hanukkah event.

“We did it in 2009,” he added, noting that his synagogue was firebombed that year. “In short, we do it on Hanukkah, every Hanukkah, period.”

But not everyone shares his enthusiasm. Several planned events in the Paris region have been canceled this year, Belinow said, over security concerns that increased dramatically following the Berlin attack, which counterterrorism experts fear could encourage copycats.

“Personally, I’m not going to these events,” said Rabbi Moche Lewin, a senior aide to French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia. “It all depends on the level of security at these events organized by Chabad. If it’s perfectly secured, no problem. But if there’s a danger, it’s certainly imprudent.” Lewin is not a member of the Chabad movement.

Belinow said security was “all in place” for the event Sunday in Saint-Denis, an impoverished municipality that many in France view as a hotbed for extremism following the discovery of several terrorist cells there, including of suspected perpetrators of the November 2015 attacks in Paris that killed 130.

But he also said that he doesn’t “trust anyone — not police officers, not city officials, not the mayor, not journalists. Only Hashem,” a Hebrew word that signifies God.

“We need to do everything to make it happen, because if we start looking for excuses not to, then it’s not only Hanukkah we won’t be able to celebrate,” Belinow said. “We are in the thick of it here in Saint-Denis.”

Back in Berlin, Teichtal said a lot of thought has gone into providing security for the eight public lightings planned at Brandenburg Gate, where for the past 12 years he has been kindling the community’s giant Hanukkah menorah, which is erected there every year ahead of the holiday. It measures about 32 feet in height; Teichtal lights its branches from a crane.

“There are visible security measures and there are less visible ones,” Teichtal said. “We are working with authorities to make sure this is done in the safest manner possible.”

Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal, left, and a colleague testing out a Hanukkah menorah at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Dec. 22, 2016. (Courtesy of Teichtal)

As one of Berlin’s most visited sites, the Brandenburg Gate arguably is not the easiest place in Berlin to hermetically seal against a terrorist attack, Teichtal concedes. But the locale’s history makes it significant for such an event, he added.

“This is the place where Adolf Hitler inflamed his followers with passionate vows to harm the Jewish people, to inflict horrible things on them, as thousands cheered,” said Teichtal, adding that he had the menorah placed at the exact spot at the Brandenburg Gate where the Nazi leader stood during those speeches. “I can think of no better place to demonstrate that the Jewish people is eternal.”

During the lighting of the first candle of Hanukkah on Saturday night at Brandenburg, Teichtal said, a minute of silence will be observed for the victims of the Christmas attack in Berlin.

Separately, the Jewish community of the Netherlands is preparing to co-host, together with Christian Zionists from the Christians for Israel organization, a public lighting in The Hague of what organizers say is the largest Hanukkah menorah in Europe. Christian Zionists built the menorah in 2013 as a gift for the country’s Jewish community.

“My parents had to hide during the Holocaust,” said Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, who will mount a crane for the Dec. 28 lighting in front of the famous Peace Palace. “They had to take on fake names and fake identity cards. It’s something I refuse to do for anyone, let alone the barbarians of the Islamic State,” he added when questioned on the wisdom of staging an event that could draw terrorists’ attention.

Hanukkah, a holiday celebrating the defiance of Jews during the Maccabean revolt against the Syrian Greek army, is especially appropriate for such demonstrations, Jacobs said. And the venue in The Hague “makes a statement also about what goes on at the Peace Palace,” he said in reference to the International Court of Justice, which in 2004 ruled that Israel’s West Bank security fence is illegal.

But the Dec. 28 event, he said, is “particularly symbolic because we are standing there with Christian friends, united, bringing light to the fight against enemies and forces who kill indiscriminately, bringing darkness into the lives of Muslims, Christians and Jews alike.”

Journalism great and activist Howard Bingham dies at 77

Sports and sports journalism lost a giant last Thursday when Howard Bingham, best known as the longtime personal photographer and close confidant of the legendary boxer and social activist Muhammad Ali, died at the age of age 77.

Bingham, who had been in failing health over the past several months according to multiple reports, passed away in a Los Angeles hospital. “People will remember Howard mostly for being Ali’s friend and photographer,” said boxing historian Mel “Doc” Stanley. “But the depths of his talents and accomplishments stand on their own. He was a social activist and a champion of civil rights. And every time I had the opportunity to speak with him at various events,” Stanley shared with the AmNews, “he was always such a nice man.”

Bingham’s social consciousness compelled him to run for Congress in 1978. Although he lost his bid for seat in Washington, it illuminated his deeper connection to Ali as they both viewed themselves as advocates for the masses.

Born in Jackson, Miss. in 1939, Bingham was part of the migration of countless African-American families from the Jim Crow south to some of America’s largest cities in the Northeast, Midwest and California. The son of a minister, his relationship with Ali began in 1962 when Bingham was a budding photojournalist honing his skills at the African American newspaper the Los Angeles Sentinel.

“I went off on jobs, came back with underexposed film, blurred film, no film—and I always had an excuse for what went wrong,” Bingham once explained to the Los Angeles Times regarding his early years as a photographer.

Assigned to cover Cassius Clay at one of the future heavyweight champion’s matches, they became friends from that point forward as the relationship grew into one of unconditional brotherhood. In vivid and stirring pictures, with unconstrained access afforded very few, Bingham captured and chronicled one of the most remarkable men of the 20th century, traveling around the world with Ali.

But he also covered the Black Panther Party for Life Magazine.The Panthers similarly extended unfettered interaction to Bingham, which was the basis for his 2009 book,“Howard L. Bingham’s Black Panthers 1968.” He photographed numerous other global figures and historic events.  

Bingham is survived by his wife Carolyn and son Dustin. A second son, Damon, previously passed away.

Amsterdam Expat Meetup’s NEW YEAR’S EVE in de Pijp

  • 2016 has been a very important year for Laughing Potatoes community, which reached 15,000 members on their Meetup page and 10,000 in their Facebook group! Event hosts Alessandro and Riccardo sum up the year, saying “This awesome year full of cool and fun events is nearing the end. Since a lot of Expats will be in town, why not celebrate organising something awesome for the our wonderful community?”

    Having fun meeting old friends and making new ones, while raising a glass to the coming year complemented by the fireworks lighting up the skyline of Amsterdam, is without a doubt a great way to enter 2017! The group will meet at a place its members have come to know and love well: Bar Barca iat Marieheinkenplein in the heart of DE PIJP. They will be in the left part of the bar, so you can’t miss us! Bring your friends or come on your own, you will meet lots of new ones and have a great time!

    Date Time:
    Saturday, 31 December – 22:30 till late

    Location:
    Bar Restaurant Barca
    Marie Heinekenplein 30-31
    1072 MH Amsterdam

    Tel.: 020-470 4144
    Website: www.barca.nl

    Tickets:
    Entrance is free. However, please RSVP via www.meetup.com.

    Contributed by Expat Amsterdam Meetup.

  • Best moments in live poker in 2016

    Lee Davy takes a look through the 2016 archives to capture what he believes to be the highlights of the live poker scene in 2016.

    Calvin Ayre.com’s Best Moments in Live Poker in 2016There will always be a place in my heart for the World Poker Tour (WPT). It’s right up there with my Commodore 64, Kindle and Mac. It was the first poker show that was so good I used to tape every episode. And when I started working for them I curtseyed when I first met Mike Sexton.

    So the highlight of the 2016 live tournament scene has to be Sexton’s victory in the C$3,500 buy-in WPT Montreal Main Event. I am sure this meant more to him than a barrow load of World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelets. It was a sublime moment for a man who has done as much as anyone to attract fresh fish into poker than anyone else alive or dead.

    Back in the day, the WPT was THE tour when it came to the big money prizes. The European Poker Tour (EPT) has dominated in that regard in recent years, but there were two reminders of the power of the WPT both in the Philippines and the USA during 2016.

    Fedor Holz began his CRAZY year by winning the biggest prize in WPT history when he topped a 52 entrant field in the $200,000 buy-in Super Triton Super High Roller as part of the World Poker Tour National (WPTN) stop in the Philippines. The German banked $3,463,500.

    And more recently, James Romero came from nowhere to win the $10,000 buy-in WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic for $1.9m. The event attracted 791 entrants, tying the record for a $10k WPT field.

    I Love a Good Rocky Story

     I love watching a complete nobody come from nowhere and beat the best players in the world, and two stories stick in my mind during 2016.

    The first was the incredible rise to fame by a restaurant owner from Amsterdam called Farid Yachou. In 2015, Yachou entered the €3,300 buy-in WPT Main Event in Amsterdam. It was his first time in a casino, and he only plucked up the courage to play because he had seen the WPT on TV. Yachou defeated 341 entrants to capture the €201,000 first prize.

    The fairytale didn’t end in Amsterdam.

    For winning the Amsterdam Main Event Yachou also earned a seat in the inaugural Tournament of Champions in Florida, and he won that as well taking home another $381,600 and a host of prizes that included a Corvette. And he nearly didn’t turn up because he has a fear of flying.

    The other fairytale that sticks in my mind is the one starring Troy Quenneville. The Canadian surprised everyone when he made it to the heads-up phase of the $4,560 buy-in WPT Caribbean Main Event in Punta Cana losing to the eventual winner Niall Farrell.

    After banking $220,000 in prize money, Quenneville thought he would late reg the $2,500 partypoker MILLIONS and promptly disposed of 526 entrants, including his countryman Erik Cajelais in heads-up action to take the $400,000 first prize.

    Not bad for a man with only two live cashes to his name totalling $600.

    The European Poker Tour – The End of an Era

    2016 was the year that we waved bye-bye to the EPT.

    PokerStars decision to consolidate their worldwide poker tours underneath the PokerStars Championship and Festivals umbrellas is a smart move. But it does mean the end of a tour many believe to be the most prestigious of the lot.

    The final EPT Main Event title went to Jasper van Putten who defeated a record 1,192 entrants at EPT Prague to capture the €699,300 first prize after beating a final table that included the likes of David Peters and Sam Cohen.

    The EPT signed off in style after breaching the €1 billion prize barrier for all EPT competitions. The Main Events attracted 76,414 players and created €432m in the 13-years post-John Duthie’s brainwave.

    The World Series of Poker

    But the World Series of Poker (WSOP) is still the event where all the main stories emerge from and this year was no different.

    The star of the show and one of the stars of live poker in 2016 was Jason Mercier. Fuelled by a desire to win $1.8m from Vanessa Selbst if he could win three WSOP bracelets, Mercier pushed his physical and mental powers to the limit as he played in as many events as possible.

    Mercier didn’t win that $1.8m, but he came mightily close, winning two bracelets and making two more final tables including a runner-up spot. The PokerStars Team Pro did pick up the not too shabby consolation prize of being crowned the WSOP Player of the Year.

    The 47th Annual WSOP was also the year of the bad boys. Chris ‘Jesus’ Ferguson made his first appearances since the Full Tilt scandal. Contrary to popular belief nobody spat in his face, punched him or tried to steal his hat. He was left mostly alone, and it was like he had never been away, cashing 10-times and making one final table.

    And it was also the year that Will Kassouf divided opinion.

    Was he a bad boy?

    Was he good for poker?

    Was he just a pain in the ass?

    One thing for sure, the man with more catchphrases than Michael Barrymore was the star of the ESPN coverage of the Main Event climaxing in his incredible bust out hand against Griffin Benger.

    Here is that hand.

    And just to prove that Kassouf’s run in the WSOP Main Event wasn’t a flash in the pan, he won the final €10k High Roller event at EPT Prague for half a million euros, and nobody punched him in the face while he was doing so.

    Griffin Benger went on to finish seventh at the Main Event before being killed by Negan during a game of pool.

    2016 was also a year that saw the profile of the World Series of Poker Circuit (WSOPC) increase. Not only did Maurice Hawkins create a spot of history by becoming the first man to win three WSOPC Main Events in a calendar year, and only the second behind that man Jesus, to breach the million dollars in cashes. But the WSOPC continued their global expansion with a visit to Brazil that saw over 1,000 entrants play in the Main Event and 2,000+ for one of the side events.

    And the One Drop returned in 2016, albeit in a slightly different form than in previous years. The founder, Guy Laliberte, moved the game to Monte Carlo, called it the One Drop Extravaganza and barred professional poker players from entering.

    That decision resulted in the smallest field since the event was born (28 entrants), but it did create the largest first prize of the year with Elton Tsang banking €11,111,111 after beating Anatoly Gurtovy in heads-up action. Pamela Anderson’s former husband, Rick Salomon and Cary Katz made the final table for the second time in three years.

     The Global Poker League

    The Global Poker League (GPL) also deserves a special mention. Who would have thought that one day we would see the world’s best poker players playing heads-up on their feet while inside a big box?

    Well, it happened.

    The Montreal Nationals beat the Berlin Bears to win the inaugural event held in Las Vegas, and we even got to see Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul beating Fabrice Soulier.

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