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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Jan. 6, 2003 / 12 Teves, 5764

The Davinsky Code

By Jeff Dunetz


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The story of a 2,000 year-old scroll and a secretive society that continues to operate within Jewry


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Almost 2000 years ago, a clandestine society was formed in what is now Iran. Since it was created, the group, called Opus Vey, has operated as a kind of shadow Sanhedrin, debating and creating revisions to Jewish law. Today the group still exists, run by direct descendants of the founders who set up the Society.


I found out about Opus Vey when some friends sent me copies of recently uncovered documents from the group. These documents talk about the group's goals while naming some of its very prominent members. The documents were found in the wreckage of an abandoned supermarket in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, buried beneath aisle 4 (frozen foods).


The papers were written by three of the groups most famous members: Morris Davinsky the renowned painter, who once covered an entire Brooklyn townhouse in only two days and with just one coat of paint; Melvin Adler the author of the prize-winning winning novel, "Fear of Flayshik;" and Barbara Joan, the famous singer and political activist, who has created four Christmas albums that have gone platinum.


Apparently the secret society was created right after the destruction of the second Temple in Jerusalem. The original members were the children of the Jewish Hellenists defeated by the Maccabees. They felt bad about the problems caused by their parents and resolved to protect Jews everywhere. Initially they were directionless. But within a few short centuries they found their way.


The elders of the group decided that if the Jews are supposed to be a "light unto the Nations" then they must learn to fit in. They also felt that children must have the heavy load of observance eased or they will move away from their faith. In order to meet their goals, senior members of Opus Vey got together every year to suggest the nuance changes in Torah commandments that will allow Jews to fit in. After the basic ideas were agreed upon by senior members, the individual branches were empowered to determine how they are to be implemented.

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Let me give you an example of how the group works. In the early 1950's the Society met and decided that Jews needed to assimilate even more. One of the first things they discussed was that the observance of Kashrus (kosher dietary laws) must be watered down. They ruled that Jews shouldn't eat differently that their host countries. Not only does it make them stand out as being too different, but it deprives the children of the cheap little toys they can get at McDonalds and besides it really cuts down on the number of early bird specials that the seniors can go to during their winters in Boca Raton, Florida.


The elders decided on a gradual approach. The first step was to have its members teach people that that all the rules of being kosher were man made, they had nothing to do with G-d wanting Jews to eat certain foods, and they were created for health reasons. Since being Kosher was now a tradition not a heavenly commandment it became easier to wean Jews away from the practice. The local Opus members (called Veyismeres) created new Jewish traditions such as three sets of plates (Dairy, Meat and Chinese), having a barbeque for non-kosher meat and of course, keeping kosher only in one's house. Soon those who stayed within the rules of kashrus were thought of as some kind of religious freaks.


It was also the Opus Vey group that created the tradition of auto-walking to shul. You remember that one… it's when you drive your car on the holidays, but park it three blocks away from Shul. Then you walk to synagogue from there. That way everyone thinks that you've walked the entire distance. Through further investigation I have heard rumors that Opus Vey might be working at changing that rule because over the last few years this tradition has become so popular it seems that the Gentiles are complaining about the lack of parking spots in front of their homes.


According to these once hidden papers, Opus Vey deemed to make worship really impactful by concentrating it. The elders felt that going to a synagogue every week creates over-exposure. Again the brilliance of the Society's step-by-step approach was incredible. They started by changing the purpose of a Bar Mitzvah. It was originally spiritual occasion, marking the beginning of adult Torah responsibilities; a religious coming of age that was an early step in a long process of learning. Sometimes the ceremony would be followed by a celebration. Opus Vey kept all the pieces of the program and just changed the emphasis. Bar Mitzvahs were now considered an ending, a graduation from religious leaning with emphasis being on the big party that followed.


Once those changes were made, it was very easy for the Opus Vey field team to teach fellow Jews that once their Bar Mitzvah training was over, attendance at Synagogue was only necessary three days a year, on the High Holidays. A side benefit, of course, was that instead of being stuck together doing family activities on the Sabbath, parents were free to drop off their children at soccer, dance and Little League.


In the same meeting the elders of the society decided to turn Chanukah, a minor holiday created by the Rabbis, into a major holiday. This new Chanukah was even more important than the three major festivals in the Torah which were commanded by G-d. This change was important because it allowed Jewish families take advantage of the pre-Christmas department store sales and it enabled Jewish children to be able to celebrate a holiday at the same time as their Gentile neighbors.


Recently there has been some turmoil in the Society, one of its senior members, named Sammy Benark, has been thrown out and other members have also quit as a result of all the fuss. A major part of the papers is a transcript of those proceedings.


Benark had grown disillusioned by the rulings of the society. His behavior became very unusual for Opus Vey. He desired a more traditional observance of Judaism. First it was the little things: he started to go to Synagogue every Friday night and Saturday, then he started to eat only kosher meat. He began to publicly attribute things to his maker-- it seemed that almost everything he said ended with "thank G-d" or " G-d willing." It was too corny for words. Finally, when he began to have Shabbes dinners in his home on Friday nights he was brought up on the charges of conduct detrimental to the Opus Vey Society, public displays of faith and endangering the future Jewish people by making them look different.


The elders of the judicial committee tried to cut Sammy some slack; before all this he was a member in good standing. They begged him, "Sammy" they said, "You weren't like this when you signed on. We will help you. First, you must show us that you want to come back into our good graces." They encouraged him take a small step, give up one Saturday, miss services and go to the beach. Sammy was steadfast, "This is a matter of faith!" He said that he would go to the beach on a Saturday as soon as G-d moved the Sabbath to a different day.


Sammy then tried to turn the tables on the committee. He asked them if they considered themselves Jewish, they all nodded their heads yes. He asked if they believed in G-d, they all nodded again. Sammy admonished the committee, "If you are Jewish" he said, "and you believe in G-d, who are you to decide which of his commandments to observe?"


According to the Davinsku papers, that's when thing really got heated, "Don't you get it?" the Chairman said, "It's for the children. If we saddle them with all this ritual and observance, they will never fit in. They will get resentful and we will lose them to the faith. The chairman called Sammy a hypocrite because he wasn't fully observant.


"I may not be fully observant now," Sammy said, "but every day I do a little more, each day I try to get closer to G-d, that's the important part." He went on, "You folks have it all wrong, we are supposed to be a little different ---through our observance of the Torah we are like a lightning rod to draw people to G-d." Then came the kicker. "Before you make decisions about the whether kids feel saddled by Jewish observances, go watch them dance on Simcah Torah, or look at the warmth of a family sitting at a table for a Shabbes dinner, giggling as they are singing songs together." You light candles every Chanukah, but you act like our ancestors, the Hellenists. Fitting in to this world and this culture has become more important than being close to G-d and the beauty of your own traditions."


That did it. The committee was so angry they broke their own protocol. Instead of retiring to make a ruling, they threw out poor Sammy right then and there. He was last seen in a department store, buying Christmas lights on the after holiday close-outs so he could use them to light his Sukkah come October.


As far as the society goes, my understanding is that they have turned their efforts to peace making. Opus Vey was a major player in the creation of the Oslo Accords, and most recently, they have been working to though their people in the U.S. State Department, trying to convince the Israeli Government that by turning the Temple Mount and the Tomb of Rachel over to Palestinians they will finally achieve peace. They need to be more careful though, the lack of consistency in State Department Mid-East policy is starting to make people a little suspicious.

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JWR contributor Jeff Dunetz is a 20-year marketing veteran, and a freelance writer. He is married and the father of two kids who ask lots of questions about being Jewish that he can't answer. Jeff has been active in Jewish organizations since his USY days. Presently he is a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Dix Hills (Long Island) Jewish Center. He reads and responds to all of his mail, so comment by here.



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© 2003, Jeff Dunetz