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SPECIAL REPORT: IsraAid helping Syrians off the boats in Greece

Jewish Israeli News - Thu, 10/08/2015 - 10:27am
From JewishNewsOnline UK

Volunteers from Israeli aid agency IsraAid are helping Syrian refugees off the boats in Greece. But they need your help, hears Stephen Oryszczuk
The man supervising Israel’s rescue of Syrian refugees off the Greek coast is lost for words. He’s been asked to sum up the scale of the crisis. “You’re standing there on the beach, with all these little rubber boats bringing thousands of people every day,” he says finally. “Honestly? It’s like a tragic scene from a Hollywood epic.”
This is Yotam Polizer, regional director at IsraAID, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that relies on donations to offer emergency medical and psychological support to Syrian refugees arriving in Greece, Serbia, Croatia, Jordan and Iraq.

His social activism has taken him from the Negev to Nepal via Japanese tsunamis and typhoons in the Philippines, but only now is he speechless. It’s not surprising. He is on the front-line of a mass migration, the biggest movement of people in 70 years, with 70,000 arriving in Europe every week. And he has just 12 people to help him.

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Torahportion Recon - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 7:00am
Genesis 1:1−6:8

By  Mel Scult for Jewish Reconstructionist Communities

Kaplan on Creation: An Explanation of Jewish Mission
The account in Genesis is perplexing to the modern person. We inevitably get bogged down with the first chapter of the Bible because it seems to conflict with our knowledge that comes from the scientific study of the natural world. Mordecai Kaplan being the modern man par-excellence accepted the scientific view of the universe but realized, of course, that the Torah has a different perspective in telling us about the origin of things. In this selection he focuses on the connection between the creation of the world and God's attention to Israel. Though Kaplan did not believe in the concept of the chosen people, he did see a special task and destiny for the Jewish people.

While only a few may be chosen, every person and every group may have a special destiny depending on their ability and their character and their history. Kaplan explains here that insofar as the rabbis are concerned, God created the world that it might be perfect and turned to the Jewish people as the special agents in that perfecting process.

In Kaplan's Own Words [ From his notes]

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Torahportion Reform - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 7:00am
Genesis 1:1−6:8

Deconstructing Adam
D'var Torah By: David Segal for ReformJudaism.org

Biblical literalism is on the rise. You can see it in the growth of Bible-based mega-churches where the "word of God" is preached as inerrant truth. But any serious reader of the Bible knows it contains contradictions, ellipses, and vague commands that require interpretation to be understood, let alone followed.

The most apparent challenge to biblical literalism occurs at the beginning of the Bible. The first two chapters of Genesis tell two starkly different stories of the Creation of the world and of humanity.

In the first story, humanity is created "in the image of God" (Genesis 1:27), with no mention of the physical body's creation. In the second story, man is created from dust, and God breathes life into his nostrils (Genesis 2:7). Similarly, the first Creation story culminates with humans created together, "male and female" (Genesis 1:27). In the second, Adam is created first, followed by the fish, birds, and beasts; only then does God derive the woman from Adam's rib. While the first account mentions only the word Elohim to refer to God, the second uses the Tetragrammaton (the Hebrew letters, yud-hei-vav-hei) as well as Elohim.

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Jewish Teen Funders Network

Teens - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 7:00am
The Jewish Teen Funders Network (JTFN) serves as a central resource for the quickly growing field of Jewish teen philanthropy. We work to grow and strengthen the field of Jewish teen philanthropy in North America.

We support professional and lay leaders to create and improve Jewish teen philanthropy programs in synagogues, Jewish federations, summer camps, JCCs, Jewish community foundations, social service agencies and day schools. We provide training and networking opportunities, educational and programmatic resources, and one-on-one consultations to help troubleshoot challenges or brainstorm new ideas.

Jewish teen philanthropy programs introduce teens to collective grantmaking. This group process is guided by Jewish values and provides teen philanthropists-in-training with opportunities to gain new leadership skills. We believe that this early experience with strategic philanthropy will both strengthen their engagement with Jewish life and ensure their commitment to lifelong giving based on Jewish values.

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Torahportion Conserv - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 7:00am
Genesis 1:1−6:8

The Two Creation Stories
An attempt to reconcile two opposing views of nature.
By Rabbi Ismar Schorsch. Reprinted with permission of the Jewish Theological Seminary for MyJewishLearning.com.
The opening chapter of a book is often the last to be written. At the outset, the author may still lack a clear vision of the whole. Writing is the final stage of thinking, and many a change in order, emphasis, and interpretation is the product of wrestling with an unruly body of material. Only after all is in place does it become apparent what kind of introduction the work calls for.

I often think that is how the Torah came to open with its austere and majestic portrait of the creation of the cosmos. An act of hindsight appended a second account of creation. One, in the form of chapter two–which begins more narrowly with the history of the earth and its first human inhabitants–would surely have been sufficient, especially since it argues graphically that evil springs from human weakness. All else is really quite secondary.

two creation storiesI should like to suggest that the inclusion of a second creation story from a cosmic perspective, with all its inelegant redundancy and contradictions, was prompted by a need to address a deep rift that had appeared within the expanding legacy of sacred texts that would eventually crystallize as the Hebrew Bible. The unfolding canon spoke with many voices. Chapter one of Genesis was intended to reconcile conflicting views toward the natural world. Does reverence for nature lead to idolatry or monotheism?

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Mayim Bialik: The Hebrew Prayer That Brought My Son & Me Together

Kids - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 7:00am
Mayim Bialik for Kveller

How did it happen? How did he do it? How did we do it?

He’s almost 10 now. He still has so many echoes of his tiny self. Those big eyes. The rosy cheeks. The sweet cuddles and the smile that melts my heart.

But now the eyes have a better-proportioned head around them. The rosy cheeks once porcelain and smooth now have freckles and even a well-earned scar or two. The cuddles are only in private. The smile is older, and it’s wiser.

It doesn’t seem long ago that we hired a Jewish studies/Hebrew tutor. We homeschool our sons, so Hebrew and Jewish education are one of the things we “outsource.” His tutor noted early on how much he loves the structure of learning, how much he wants to do more and more, how astute he is. I was like that in Hebrew school. I remember.

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College students thrust into campus spotlight as Israel advocates

Students - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 7:00am
Ed Wittenberg, Jewish Cleveland News

Becky Sebo and Daniel Pearlman seemed to be on parallel paths as advocates for Israel while growing up in different suburbs on Cleveland’s East Side.

Sebo, of Pepper Pike, and Pearlman, of Solon, spoke about how their experiences shaped them and the challenges they faced while defending Israel on their college campuses at the launch event for the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s 2016 Campaign for Jewish Needs Sept. 10 at the Mandel Jewish Community Center in Beachwood.

Sebo, 23, graduated from Ohio University in Athens in the spring. Active in BBYO as a teenager, she said she discovered Israel as a sophomore at Hathaway Brown School in Shaker Heights.

“I was accepted into Cleveland’s Ambassadors for Unity program, and a spark was ignited in me,” she said. “That year I participated in a cultural exchange with an Israeli teen living in our sister city, Beit She’an, and then made my first journey to Israel. I was hooked.”

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Chief Rabbi Claims Jerusalem 'Disgusted' by Gays

LGBT - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 7:00am
In The Jewish Daily Forward

Only months after an Israeli teen was murdered by an ultra-Orthodox man during the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade, the city’s chief rabbi Shlomo Amar has lashed out at the LGBT community, saying “I believe that this phenomenon will wane and disappear, because most of the public is disgusted by it and detest it.”

Amar, who was chief rabbi of Israel until two years ago and remains a member of the High Rabbinical Council, was speaking in an interview with the ultra-Orthodox website Behadrey Haredim.

“The level of shame has been breached and trampled these days,” he said. “There’s almost nothing left. And since then, we’ve seen impudence and brazenness which previously no one would have even thought of. People do them publicly and we need to find ways of dealing with it.”

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Whatever Happened to Gut Yontif? Why Jews Started Saying Ḥag Same'aḥ

Traditions - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 7:00am
The history of holiday greetings.
Philologos, for Mosaic

The eight days of Sukkot (seven in Israel) are, like those of Passover, of two kinds. The first, second, seventh, and eighth days of the holiday (the first and seventh in Israel) resemble the Sabbath in their festive meals with kiddush, the blessing over wine; their additional prayer service of Musaf; and their restrictions on work, travel, commerce, and other things. In Hebrew, they are known as yamim tovim, literally, “good days,” the singular of which is yom tov. The intermediate four days (five in Israel) lack these elements and are called ḥol ha-mo’ed, “the non-sacred part [ḥol] of the festive [literally, “appointed”] time [ha-mo’ed].”

Which raises the question: when two traditionally minded Jews meet on a yom tov of Sukkot or Passover, and then again on ḥol ha-mo’ed, do they exchange the same holiday greeting on both occasions, or two different ones?

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Categories: All

My Son’s Bris Was Going Fine–Until I Needed to Prove I’m Jewish

Family - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 7:00am
Daisy Alpert Florin for Kveller

The smell of butter and onions from the omelette station drifts upstairs to the room where I am changing into my mother-in-law’s clothing. It is the day of my son Sam’s bris, and even though I gave birth eight days earlier, I still look like I’m five months pregnant. My stomach is loose and flabby and looks like a wrung-out piece of cheesecloth. My previously non-existent breasts have ballooned to C-cups. None of my own clothing fits me so my mother-in-law, Annette, who has arranged, paid for, and is hosting this party at her Long Island home, has lent me some of her clothes. I have never loved her more.

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Israel’s Happiness Revolution

Jewish Music - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 7:00am
What my preschooler’s taste in Mizrahi pop says about where the country is at
By Matti Friedman for Tablet Magazine

The Israeli culture wars arrived in my kitchen a few months ago when I discovered that the cure for my daughter’s grumpy preschooler moods was a Hebrew dance hit called “Happiness Revolution.” The song is of the genre known loosely as Mizrahi, a blend of Middle Eastern, Greek, and Western influences associated with Israelis who have roots in the Islamic world. In the country’s early decades Mizrahi music was deemed primitive and generally kept off radio and TV, shunted instead into an underground of small clubs, cheap wedding halls, and cassette stores clustered around the grimy bus station in Tel Aviv.

It turned out that my daughter not only knew the words (“A happiness revolution / Because we’re all family! We’ll dance like crazy / Because it’s time to fly!”) but also dance moves that she performed while watching her reflection in the oven door. She had learned the song at her Jerusalem kindergarten from the music teacher, a young ultra-Orthodox woman with no Middle Eastern roots that I can discern. When I attended the year-end party at the kindergarten, the kind of affair where the customary soundtrack has always been Naomi Shemer, the kids put on a performance involving a dozen songs, more than half of which were Mizrahi.

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Israeli Couscous Stuffed Acorn Squash

Jewish Cooking - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 7:00am
By Shannon Sarna on The Nosher for MyJewishLearning.com

It’s autumn, and sure, we all love pumpkin. But there are also an array of other squash and seasonal veggies that are pretty exciting too, including the adorable acorn squash.

Growing up my dad would prepare acorn squash in a very simple way: cut in half and roasted with butter and maple syrup. Nothing bad about that.

But I have been searching for other ways to prepare the cute squash. Finally a few weeks ago I came across this recipe for Orzo and Cheese Baked in Acorn Squash and I thought: ok, I have to make this! Not only is it cheesy and easy, but making a stuffed dish during Sukkot was also Jewishly appropriate.

I didn’t have orzo, but I did have Israeli couscous, a favorite ingredient. I also wanted to get in a little extra vegetables in this dish, so I added some onion and pepper. Want to make this healthier? You could substitute whole wheat couscous, quinoa and even add some lentils.

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How Peggy Guggenheim Re-Invented Modernism

Jewish Books - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 7:00am
By Elaine Margolin for The Jewish Daily Forward

Peggy Guggenheim: The Shock of the Modern
By Francine Prose
Yale University Press, 240 pages, $25

I feel compelled to begin my review of the novelist Francine Prose’s biography of art dealer and collector Peggy Guggenheim with a lengthy quote from another writer, in this case the Russian playwright Vladimir Sorokin, who wrote about Guggenheim with an intensity of feeling, empathy and perception that is missing from Prose’s new work. He wrote:

    “Peggy Guggenheim was a seeker of adventures, a lioness in the private fashionable world of her father, who ended up at the bottom of the Titanic; an American exile from a family of millionaires, inclined towards changes of place, partners, lovers and Bohemian circles, a woman who spent her stormy existence nourishing her fascination with the new, never before seen art. She had a nose for genius, excellent taste and the tigerish cunning of an ambitious collector of the new. It is largely down to her that the world heard about Marcel Duchamp… Peggy helped Max Ernst become himself. She personally knew the geniuses of pre-war Paris. She snapped up paintings by the European Surrealists, Dadaists, Abstractionists, Futurists and Constructivists. After the war she was able to recognize the genius of Jackson Pollack, Mark Rothko, Robert Matta and Willem de Kooning. She assured herself of the cream of Modernism with meticulous consistency, filling her container with it. By 1951, it was full. Peggy sealed it and chose a place, in Venice, on the Grand Canal.”
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He Says He Wants To Be Christian and Bar Mitzvahed

Interfaith - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 7:00am
The Seesaw for The Jewish Daily Forward

We are a Christian dad and a Jewish mom and have been raising our son with exposure to both religions. This summer my son went to a popular Christian camp because all his friends were going and we didn’t want him to feel like he is missing out. He is 11 and heading into middle school next year.

He just came back from camp and is expressing interest in becoming more Christian. However, he still says he wants to have his Bar Mitzvah. Now I am wondering, can he really be both Christian and Jewish? Also, how can I help him navigate this?

You Need to Figure Out Your Priorities First
You can’t begin to help him navigate this until you and your spouse know exactly what you are trying to accomplish. As an observant Jew, I have a clear goal to raise my Jewish children as Jews, with all the richness, beauty and meaning that Judaism can offer them.

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Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah 101

Holidays - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 7:00am

Coming at the conclusion of Sukkot are the two holidays of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. In Israel and among liberal Jews they are combined into one holiday on the day after the conclusion of Sukkot. Among more traditional Jews outside of Israel, they are observed separately from one another on two consecutive days. Shemini Atzeret means the “Eighth Day of Assembly,” while Simchat Torah means “Rejoicing in Torah.”

Shemini Atzeret is mentioned in the Bible, but its exact function is unclear. In Second Temple times, it appears to have been a day devoted to the ritual cleansing of the altar in the Temple. With the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, this function of the day became obsolete. Although it marks the beginning of the rainy season in Israel and, therefore includes the year’s first prayer for rain, its lack of clear definition may have provided the impetus to celebrate it in conjunction with Simchat Torah, a celebration of the conclusion of one and the beginning of another annual cycle of readings from the Torah. This latter holiday probably originated during the medieval period.

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Going Green Jewishly - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 7:00am

Jewish Eco Seminars is proud to feature a wealth of new Jewish environmental teachings.
ShiloFrom food, energy and waste to consumerism, Shabbat and prayer, the materials cover eighteen topics on Judaism and ecology. Each of the 18 topics includes a short article (800 words) with a brief overview of the topic for blogs and articles; a long article (2000-2500 words) for in-depth study of the topic; a study guide with Hebrew/English sources and discussion questions for chavruta study or group learning, a podcast with a teaching on this topic; and a short video for sharing.

The materials were developed by Canfei Nesharim in partnership with Jewcology.com and released as a “Year of Jewish Learning on the Environment.”  The director of Jewish Eco Seminars, Rabbi Yonatan Neril, worked with Canfei Nesharim on a consulting basis in developing the materials on all eighteen topics.

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Jewish Routes // San Francisco

Feature Article - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 7:00am
by Sala Levin for Moment Magazine

San Francisco, the gleaming mecca of all things tech, got its big break during another era of innovation: the Gold Rush of the mid-19th century. Before then, several hundred people lived in Yerba Buena, which became San Francisco in 1847, after the territory was seized by the United States during the 1846 Mexican-American War. After gold was discovered in 1848, the population began to explode. Jews were among the first people to arrive; coming mostly from Bavaria, they sought both to escape anti-Semitism at home and to set up new businesses in a just-beginning-to-boom town. “In many ways, they were the founders of San Francisco,” says Jackie Krentzman, executive producer of American Jerusalem, a documentary film about San Francisco’s Jewish history.

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Move Over, Matzo Balls. Here Come Kreplach, the Metaphysical Dumplings

Jewish Israeli News - Sun, 10/04/2015 - 7:00am
On Hoshana Rabbah, as the High Holidays’ period of judgment comes to a conclusion, give your chicken soup a taste of something meaningful
By Carol Ungar for Tablet Magazine
Hoshana Rabbah—the holiday that falls on the seventh day of Sukkot—includes one of the strangest of Jewish rituals: beating willow branches against the floor.

This beating occurs right after the Hoshana prayers, long liturgical poems whose main theme is visceral request for God’s mercy. The word hoshana literally means “save us.” After all of the Hoshanas have been said (on Hoshana Rabbah there are seven; during the rest of Sukkot, only one) everyone takes out their bundles of five willow branches (not by dismembering the lulav but from another arava set purchased specifically for this day), and then comes the high point of the holiday: Everyone bends down and whacks their bundles against the floor five times.

This is nothing new; Jews have been doing this since the First Temple was standing, in preparation for the following day’s holiday of Shemini Atzeret, when the prayer for rain is recited. Willows are related to rain and water; that is how the plant is able to thrive. But what is the beating all about? No one seems to have a good answer. Even Eliyahu Kitov, the leading expert on the Jewish holidays and their lore, seems to throw up his hands at this one: “The custom of beating of the arava on the ground contains profound esoteric significance and only the Great of Israel merit the knowledge of those secrets,” he writes in his classic work The Book of Our Heritage.

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Reconstructionist Rabbinical College Will Accept Students With Non-Jewish Partners

Jewish Israeli News - Thu, 10/01/2015 - 9:09am
Josh Nathan-Kazis for The Jewish Daily Forward

The rabbinical seminary of American Judaism’s smallest mainstream denomination will become the first major rabbinical school in the United States to admit and ordain rabbinical students who have non-Jewish spouses and partners.

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, which made its announcement September 30, has been debating the issue for years. Some leaders of Reconstructionist congregations had said they might leave the movement over the change.

“The issue of Jews intermarrying is no longer something we want to police,” said Rabbi Deborah Waxman, RRC’s president, in a press release.

The long debate was finally resolved in a lengthy RRC faculty meeting September 21, culminating in a vote. Waxman would not share the vote tally, citing the confidentiality of faculty deliberations.

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Chol HaMo-eid Sukkot

Torahportion Reform - Mon, 09/28/2015 - 7:00am
Holidays Exodus 33:12–34:26

D'var Torah By: Shira Milgrom for ReformJudaism.org

The Torah reading for the Shabbat of Sukkot (Exodus 33:12–34:26) includes the reconciliation between God and Moses following the Golden Calf, the inscription of the second set of the Ten Commandments, and the verbal covenant that accompanies this second giving. Two brief sections have direct connections to the holiday of Sukkot. The first is God’s response to Moses’s request for more knowledge of the Divine Essence. Moses, in essence, has said to God, “I can’t go on unless You tell me more about Yourself.” This answer has been parsed as the Thirteen Attributes of God, and is included as a liturgical addition to the Torah service on festival mornings:

    “The Eternal! The Eternal! a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin—yet not remitting all punishment, but visiting the iniquity of parents upon children and children’s children, upon the third and fourth generations” (Exodus 34:6–7).

The second section with connection to Sukkot is a listing of the three—or more—festivals themselves. The mention of the festivals is part of what may be seen as an alternative (older?) version of the Ten Commandments. This is a summary of Exodus 34:10–26:

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