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      Fundamentally Freund
      by Michael Freund
      An alternative approach to Israeli political commentary.
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      Michael Freund is Founder and Chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), which reaches out and assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people. He writes a syndicated column and feature stories for the Jerusalem Post. Previously, he served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Israeli Prime Minister´s Office under former premier Benjamin Netanyahu. A native of New York, he holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He has lived in Israel for the past decade.
      Tammuz 28, 5764, 7/17/2004

      Lighting up a Miracle


      With so much bad news coming out of Israel these days – from the chaotic political situation to the sluggish economic recovery – it is easy to forget the things that make this country so special.

      Indeed, just the other day, I had an experience that helped to remind me why we must never despair regarding the future of the Jewish state.

      In my role as chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), which reaches out and assists “lost Jews” seeking to return to the Jewish people, I often meet with a wide range of people from various backgrounds – from a former Catholic monk who is now a Hasidic Jew living in Jerusalem to a former Japanese minister who now studies Torah full-time at a kollel.

      Yesterday, after completing a meeting with a Russian Jew who was an aliyah activist under the Soviets and now works for the Jewish Agency, I got up to escort him to the door. In the process, we walked by my next appointment – an Ethiopian Jew who is leading the struggle on behalf of the Falash Mura still in Ethiopia (the Falash Mura are descendants of Ethiopian Jews whose ancestors were forcibly converted to Christianity in the past century or two).

      As I was standing there, it suddenly occurred to me that quite a meeting of cultures was taking place – there we were, Jews from different backgrounds, traditions and languages (I venture to say that I was probably the only baseball fan among them), yet each of us in our own way was working to ensure a better Jewish future – whether by reaching out to Russian, or Ethiopian or other types of Jews and trying to bring them back to their people and to their land.

      It might sound corny – but that, I think, is what Chanukah is all about. The High Holidays are behind us, and it is easy to get caught up in the daily flow of events, in the process losing sight of the miraculous events that are all around. By lighting the Chanukah candles, which symbolize the miracles of old, we are reminding ourselves and those around us that even when the chips are down, G-d has a way of stepping in and saving us (even, it seems, from ourselves).

      So, no matter how pessimistic you might be around the current situation, don’t let the events of the day get you down. Because the bottom line is that just as G-d “performed miracles for our ancestors in those days at this time”, He can surely do so once again.

      Menorah Happy Chanukah.