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Jerusalem family finds 2,000-year-old ritual bath under living room

Jewish Israeli News - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 9:18am
By Ilan Ben Zion for The Times of Israel

Home renovation usually entails picking paints, buying furniture, and dealing with contractors. For the Shimshoni family living in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem neighborhood, it meant calling in archaeologists after stumbling upon a perfectly preserved 2,000-year-old ritual bath under their living room.

Last week the Israel Antiquities Authority finished excavating the subterranean bath, which archaeologist Amit Reem said Wednesday was “a significant find” and may have belonged to a private home in a first century Jewish village.

The ritual bath adheres to Jewish halachic requirements and measures 1.8 meters (5 feet, 11 inches) deep, 3.5 meters long and 2.4 meters wide.

More intriguingly, it lends some support to Christian tradition linking Ein Kerem, today a quaint neighborhood clinging to a hill on Jerusalem’s southwestern edge, with the birthplace of John the Baptist.

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Balak

Torahportion Recon - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 10:00am
Numbers 22:2−25:9

By Rabbi Ellen Dannin for Jewish Reconstructionist Communities

A Curse Turned Blessing
I - maybe we - tend to think of Our Story as encapsulated in the exodus from Mitzrayim and the entry
into the Promised Land. But our story is more than leaving and arriving. Most of it is the story of living in the desert, of journeying, and of being on the way. And that certainly captures most of my life - and maybe our lives. Just as we want to skip over all those endless details of sacrifices, priestly vestments, sanctuaries, red heifers, and bizarre diseases, so too do we want to skip over or regard as of less interest the minutiae of each day. Between the high points, there is a lot of desert. Yet, can it be that what makes up the bulk of our lives is not worth paying attention to?


This week's parsha has one of the best stories of being on the way - the story of King Balak and Baalam. In fact, we remember this story in each service when we sing "Ma Tovu." This is a story of curses turned into blessings. And, surely, there is nothing more important for us than blessing in living through our personal "desert days."

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Balak

Torahportion Conserv - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 9:57am
Numbers 22:2−25:9

Rabbi Jonathan Lipnick, Jewish Theological Seminary

Reading Parashat Balak along with Rashi, the medieval 12th-century French exegete par excellence, one quickly discovers how vilified Balaam is in Midrash. But not all biblical commentators side with Rashi. There's a fantastic chapter by Nehama Leibowitz (1905–1997) in Studies of Bamidbar entitled "Prophet or Sorcerer?" Rabbi Jacob Milgrom (1923–2010), too, has an article on the subject entitled "Balaam: Saint or Sinner?" in his extraordinary The JPS Torah Commentary: Numbers.

The biblical accounting of Balaam's behavior, without rabbinic interpretation, is rather straightforward. Balak, king of the Moabites, has asked Balaam, a non-Israelite sorcerer, to put a curse on Israel. Balak, aware that the Children of Israel have been blessed by God, hopes that a curse will allow the Moabites to be victorious in their battle against the Israelites. After several entreaties from Balak, along with permission from God and a stop along the way with God's angel, Balaam ends his journey at a mountaintop, where he sees from a distance the Children of Israel encamped. From this vantage point, Balaam proceeds to bless the Israelites four times (Num. 23:7-10, 18-24; 24:3-9, 15-24). It is some of the most beautiful poetry in all of biblical literature.

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Balak

Torahportion Reform - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 9:52am
Numbers 22:2−25:9

D'var Torah By: Steven Kushner for ReformJudaism.org

"Blessed is the One who spoke and the world came to be . . ." (P'sukei D'zimrah, morning liturgy). It is among the most central of Jewish values. The power of the word. God created the universe by "speaking" it into being. The Torah, the link connecting God and Israel, is also known as mikra, "that which is (verbally) called." And the most essential communications of that sacred text, the Ten Commandments, are not actually referred to in the Jewish tradition as "commandments" but rather Aseret HaDib'rot, the "Ten Utterances."

The word is the currency of covenant. God speaks to us and we listen (Sh'ma Yisrael). Among the most serious breaches of our relationship with the Divine is to utter God's name in vain. Conversely, when our daughters and sons come of age to assume their place within the structure of that covenant we ask them to master the word. The list goes on and on.

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Twenty-Five Years of Pride: My Journey as a Gay Reform Jew

LGBT - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 8:42am
By John E. Hirsch, Brought to you by RAC.org

As the site of this year’s 25th Annual Long Island Gay Pride Parade and Festival, Huntington, Long Island, was a bright, sunny, and joyful place on Saturday June 13th. My husband, Herb, and I led a 50-person Reform Jewish contingent in the parade, joined behind a Union for Reform Judaism banner by members of Temple Sinai in Roslyn, Temple Avodah in Oceanside, Temple Beth El in Huntington, and Temple Beth-El of Great Neck.

Complementing our presence in the parade was a beautiful, full-page color advertisement in The Pride Guide, whose signatories included 21 of Long Island’s 26 Reform congregations, as well as the National Association for Temple Administration, the North American Federation of Temple Youth, and the Women of Reform Judaism, all of whom unequivocally support the message that everyone can find a welcoming home in one of our synagogues. Indeed, Reform Judaism embraces all!

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The Value of Human Life: Acknowledging and Addressing Deaths at the Hands of Police

Teens - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 7:00am
Brought to you by RAC.org; By Claire Shimberg

According to The Guardian’s investigation, the deaths of Isiah Hampton, 19, in New York City, and Quandavier Hicks, 22, in Cincinnati on Wednesday, brought the number of people killed by police in the United States in 2015 to 500. The total number includes both unarmed victims and encounters when responding violent altercations. Through a project called The Counted, The Guardian is using reports and crowd-sourcing to keep track of American deaths at the hands of law enforcement. The Counted keeps track of data such as the names, races, ages and other information about those who have died. 

The lack of official, federal reporting of the number of people who die in police custody each year represents a significant obstacle to addressing the problem. Fortunately, in late December of 2014, Congress passed the Death in Custody Reporting Act. The law mandates that all states receiving federal criminal justice assistance grants must report, by gender and race, all deaths that occur while people are in law enforcement custody- from arrest to release. Additionally, the law requires the collected data to be reported to the US Attorney General for analysis. The RAC was proud to advocate for the Death in Custody Reporting Act and is optimistic that it will increase accountability, transparency and trust between law enforcement and communities.

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Tattoos: Hip. Cool. Artsy. Permanent. Kosher?

Students - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 7:00am
by Hillel News

Tattoos, once considered off-limits for Jews, are becoming increasingly popular, for some as a form of rebellion, while for others as a prideful marker of Jewish identity. Tattooing and body art are classic forms of religious expression among people of some faiths, yet have been historically viewed unfavorably by the Jewish tradition.

As more young hip Jews make the choice to emblazon inky Jewish stars, Hebrew lettering, and kabbalistic imagery across their skin, it begs us to ask the question: What does Jewish tradition actually have to say about tattoos?

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The Importance of Chores

Kids - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 7:00am
Studies show that giving kids chores is key to their personal growth.
by Emuna Braverman for aish.com

Great news for parents! According to research by Marty Rossmann, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, giving children household chores at an early age helps to build a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance. (It seems the boy scouts were on to something.) “Chores also teach children how to be empathetic and responsive to others’ needs,” notes psychologist Richard Weissbourd of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

There’s going to be a lot of housekeepers out of work!

Without getting carried away, this is an important finding – that of course seems obvious. Contributing to the family, giving to others is better for our character than an extra language and other resume-padding activities. It’s time to pull back from the brink.

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Ask the Expert: Joint Aliyot

Traditions - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 7:00am
Can two people be called up to the Torah at once?
By MJL Staff-MyJewishLearning.com

Question: I’ve been to synagogues where groups of people are called up together for one aliyah to the Torah. Sometimes it’s a couple who are about to get married, having a joint aufruf. Other times it’s a whole confirmation class, reciting one blessing in unison. Does this practice have any halakhic justification? Where did it come from?

–Charlie, Washington DC

Answer: I used to have a teacher who told me that the answer to every question in Jewish law is, “There’s a mahloket“–it’s up for debate. This holds true in regards to your question, Charlie. Some synagogue rabbis have decided to offer joint aliyot in their congregations, and others have chosen not to. Who’s right and who’s wrong? It depends who you ask, of course!

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Categories: All

All Star - Shabbos Melodies 2014 FREE

Jewish Music - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 7:00am
From MostlyMusic.com

Ok, so it's 2015.  Does Shabbos really change? 
Shabbos Melodies is a FREE album that was compiled in honor of The Shabbos Project to inspire the many thousands of people all over the world who will participate in this historic Shabbos, Oct. 24th and 25th Parshas Noach 2014. We’re keeping it together!

You can either stream the music right from here on this page, or, login & download the album to your device.

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How to make the original kosher dill pickle

Jewish Cooking - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 7:00am
By Linda Ziedrich for MyJewishLearning.com

Since the publication of the first edition of my book, The Joy of Pickling, several New Yorkers (or former New Yorkers) have asked me why I failed to include any sour cucumber pickles.The first time I heard this question, I was bewildered. All the pickles in my book are sour; pickles are by definition sour. But the New Yorkers were looking at recipe titles for the term sour or full-sour–or maybe New York or kosher–anything to reassure them that the pickles would turn out like the ones from their favorite sidewalk shop in Lower Manhattan. They all urged me to go to one of these shops and taste the pickles and peer into the barrels, and I did.

For all you New Yorkers, here’s a recipe for pickles as close as I can get to the ones you pine for.

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5 Keys to a Happy Home

Family - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 7:00am
How to infuse your home with genuine joy.
by Slovie Jungreis-Wolf for aish.com

A woman approached me after a recent parenting lecture. “I own three houses but I don’t have any place that I can really call home. My family is filled with unhappiness and it’s miserable spending time together.”

Without joy, even the most beautiful surroundings feel dark. How can we help build an atmosphere of happiness in our homes?
1. Happy families take work

Looking at everyone else’s Facebook and Instagram pictures makes some people feel as if all other families are experiencing bliss. Photos of smiling kids, loving couples and exotic vacations… Don’t fall into this ‘happiness trap’. No photo ever gives you the full picture. Every family struggles with moods, dynamics, and challenges. True happiness takes work. There is never a home where it is “all fun, all the time.”

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The Best Place on Earth: Stories Ayelet Tsabari

Jewish Books - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 7:00am
Review by Nat Bernstein for Jewish Book Council

2015 Sami Rohr Prize winner Ayelet Tsabari deftly applies the influences of her American short story contemporaries to a collection of narratives from that other country of immigrants. Set between Israel and Canada of the past few decades, The Best Place on Earth flits through the day-to-day life of modern history, alighting on the Persian Gulf War, the Second Intifada, the occupation and withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula, and the countless, nameless campaigns on Gaza. Imbuing the difficult circumstances and realities of Israeli (and expat) life with the softening sweetness of its details, Tsabari imparts a yearning for home that resonates across the globe.

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Michael Douglas Credits Son and Dad at Genesis Ceremony

Interfaith - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 7:00am
The Jewish Daily Forward

Actor Michael Douglas credited his son and celebrity father for helping him reconnect to Judaism as he accepted the Genesis Prize, “the Jewish Nobel,” in Jerusalem.

Douglas, an Academy Award winner, accepted the $1 million award on Thursday night for his commitment to Jewish values and the Jewish people. His wife, the actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, and children, Dylan and Carys, were on hand for the ceremony.

In his address, Douglas noted his new ties to Judaism at age 70.

He said his son’s decision to have a bar mitzvah “made me think and it made me strong. And for that I will always be grateful.” His voice broke as he thanked Dylan, who had his bar mitzvah last June, and later his whole family for their support.

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The Three Weeks

Holidays - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 7:00am
The three Weeks begins this year on Friday night, July 3, 2015 (Since it falls on Shabbat, the fast is observed on Sunday, July 5 at dawn)

Overview and laws of the period leading up to Tisha B'Av.
by Rabbi Shraga Simmons for aish.com

The "Three Weeks" between the 17th of Tammuz and the Tisha B'Av have historically been days of misfortune and calamity for the Jewish people. During this time, both the First and Second Temples were destroyed, amongst other terrible tragedies.

These days are referred to as the period "within the straits" (bein hametzarim), in accordance with the verse: "all her oppressors have overtaken her within the straits" (Lamentations 1:3).

On Shabbat during the Three Weeks, the Haftorahs are taken from chapters in Isaiah and Jeremiah dealing with the Temple's destruction and the exile of the Jewish people.

During this time, various aspects of mourning are observed by the entire nation. We minimize joy and celebration. And, since the attribute of Divine judgement (“din”) is acutely felt, we avoid potentially dangerous or risky endeavors.

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Agrolan Develops Portable Pollution Monitor

Going Green Jewishly - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 7:00am
Israel’s Agrolan Ltd. has unveiled a new mobile device that can measure air pollution. This is a groundbreaking development since until now only huge machines – which obviously must be kept stationary – could detect minute contaminants in the air. Now people will be able to take pollution monitors with them wherever they go.

The Golan Heights based Agrolan engages in the development of products that improve the environment. It has begun to market the first air pollution gauge of its kind in Israel. It is only slightly larger than a mobile phone and with it people can easily measure the amount of fine particulate matter suspended in the air at any point. The display has 6 background colors which highlight various pollution levels and with it pollution can be detected both indoors and outside.

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Zumba’s Jewish Matron Saint

Feature Article - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 7:00am
By Shannon Sarna for Jewniverse

One day in the mid-1990s, dancer and choreographer Alberto “Beto” Pérez forgot his usual music for the aerobics class he taught in Bogotá, Colombia. In a pinch, he reached for his favorite salsa tape and taught the class like a dance party. He and his students had so much fun that he gave it a name— “rumba”—and began teaching it all the time.

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Why I need to tell my truth about serving in Israeli army

Jewish Israeli News - Thu, 06/25/2015 - 9:07am
We must counter the hypocrisy of Breaking the Silence and show that IDF has thousands of soldiers who try to live up to high ethical standards.
By Matan Katzman, Opinion for Haaretz

I admit, I was nervous.

My heart was racing because this was the first time I had addressed a foreign parliament, but I knew the courage of my convictions in the justice of the cause would see me through. As they called my name to speak at the EU Subcommittee on Human Rights in Brussels last week, I knew that I was representing not only myself but the men and women of the Israel Defense Forces.

To my right was a representative of the NGO Breaking the Silence. For years, their representatives have regularly traveled the world to speak in parliaments, on campuses and in communities. Their message is a litany of horror stories about the actions of IDF soldiers, which are often void of context and unverified. Their global travel undermines the credibility of their claim to be an organization that seeks to influence Israeli civil society from within.

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Israeli start-up freezes breast cancer in its tracks, without surgery

Jewish Israeli News - Wed, 06/24/2015 - 12:54pm
IceCure says that its cryoablation system can kill 
early-stage growths within minutes without surgery, let alone scarring.
By Inbal Orpaz for Haaretz

Breast cancer is the most common malignancy among women. Usually, treatment involves mastectomy and chemotherapy or radiation therapy. But there is a lesser-known alternative: cryoablation – to freeze the tumor in its tracks. Literally. No scarring, no hospital stay, though chemotherapy or radiation will still apply, IceCure Medical stresses.

This would be good news for women, given the American Association for Cancer Research projection of 440,000 breast cancer cases in 2030, compared with 283,000 in 2011. (Yes, that rate is faster than population growth, because of rising incidence in elderly women.)

Cryoablation has been around for 25 years and is commonly used to remove external skin blemishes, such as warts. Some companies, like IceCure, have developed it to freeze tumors too, but the Israeli company claims its technology is better.

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Too Late for Moses: New Israeli App for Stutterers

Feature Article - Mon, 06/22/2015 - 10:59am
Haifa-based startup has picked up a handful of innovation awards and has sparked interest from around the globe.
By Arutz Sheva staff

An Israeli mobile app that uses the world’s first stuttering detection algorithm to help stutterers overcome their condition comes 3,500 years too late for the most famous Jewish stutterer, Moses, but not a moment too soon for present day sufferers of the condition.

NiNiSpeech is a mobile health solution that helps people who stutter (PWS) maintain fluent speech, and allows speech-language pathologists (SLP) to monitor their clients’ fluency in everyday settings, Yair Shapira, founder & CEO of NiNiSpeech, told ISRAEL21c.

The mobile solution, which will cost $50 to $100 monthly, provides the stutterer with immediate feedback on speech fluency by means of a buzz or vibration. This gives the stutterer a chance to monitor performance, improve fluency, achieve speech goals and gain rewards. The second stage of the solution, which is unique in the field, measures stuttering.

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