Feature Article

Hospitality on Sukkot - Ushpizin

Mon, 09/28/2015 - 7:00am
From the iCenter

One of the shalosh ha'regalim (שלוש הרגלים, "three pilgrimage festivals"), Sukkot is rich with customs, symbols and a long list of mitzvot to fulfill. Of these mitzvot, hachnasat orchim (הכנסת אורחים, "welcoming guests") and matan tzedakah l'aniyim (מתן צדקה לעניים, "giving tzedakah to the poor") – while important all year round – are given special importance during Sukkot.

Sukkot is associated with hospitality. We welcome friends, family, and the community into our sukkah and we visit others. We eat, we sleep, we study, and we spend seven days and nights in the company of neighbors and friends.

We also invite Ushpizin (Aramaic for "guests"). According to tradition, each sukkah is blessed with visits by seven honored guests, shepherds of the nation: Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David. A more modern tradition is to invite the Ushpizot: Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Avigail, Hannah, Huldah, and Esther. The Usphizot were chosen based on the Babylonian Talmud, which lists seven biblical women who were prophetesses.

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For more information and ideas visit our High Holidays Spotlight Kit

The Personal Prayer at the Heart of the High Holy Days

Mon, 09/21/2015 - 7:00am
“Here am I, poor in deeds,” it begins. Where did it come from and, more importantly, what does it say to us?
Atar Hadari for Mosaic

Just before the start of the musaf (“additional”) service in Ashkenazi synagogues on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the prayer leader chants a personal entreaty begging God to be merciful to His people, gathered at this season in repentance of their sins. The prayer is known by its opening words hineni he’ani mimaas, “Here am I, poor in deeds. . . .”  In all of halakhic literature there seems to be only one reference to it, by Rabbi Ephraim Zalman Margolis of Galicia (1762–1828), who wrote:

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 The High Holidays are upon us, check out our High Holidays Spotlight Kit

What millennials believe

Mon, 09/14/2015 - 7:00am
By Cristela Guerra for The Boston Globe

FRIDAYS AT DUSK, Casper ter Kuile, 28, begins his “tech Sabbath.” He puts his iPhone away. He lights a candle and sings a song. From sunset to sunset, he unplugs from technology and reconnects IRL, “in real life.”

This ritual is how he resets after the work week. It’s a time to walk, read, and meditate. It’s also part of his training as a minister for non-religious people. In conversations and relationships, ter Kuile, a master’s candidate at Harvard Divinity School, seeks substance and depth beyond the digital realm.

Like nearly one in three millennials, ter Kuile is not affiliated with an individual house of worship. He loves to create communities of meaning and belonging, but hasn’t found a home inside an established church. He might find fulfillment in reading Harry Potter as a sacred text, as he will at a book club he’s leading every Wednesday starting Sept. 30 at the Harvard Humanist Hub. Or discussing the significance of gratefulness at Thanksgiving.

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For Orthodox, Addiction Is Unspoken Problem

Mon, 09/07/2015 - 7:00am
Rachel X. Landes for The Jewish Daily Forward

On the surface, Asher Ehrman had a great childhood in Monsey, New York. Growing up in an Orthodox family, his parents loved him and his sister. It had its ups and downs, but until he was about 13 or 14, he really couldn’t complain.

But then he came home wearing a blue shirt instead of the usual white and his parents kicked him out of the house to protect his sister’s shidduch , or marriage prospects and future. Ehrman went to live with his friend, whose mother took him in for the next three years.

Ehrman says, “Life is a bit of a blur from then on.”

At 19, Ehrman smoked marijuana for the first time, and within six months he was popping Adderall pills, and then Oxycontin.

He says now that he fell into the wrong crowd, but at the time he really didn’t think so. After all, “they were all guys in yeshiva,” Ehrman said.

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What Does it All Mean? Glossary of Jewish & Hebrew Words

Mon, 08/31/2015 - 7:00am
From Mazeltot.org

Latke? Mechitza? Mohel? What does it all mean?
Here we offer definitions of some Jewish and Hebrew words you may have heard before. If there's a word you'd like defined, email Josh Gold. For more information about Jewish holidays, terminology and teachings, visit www.myjewishlearning.com.

Aleph-bet: The Hebrew alphabet

Aliyah: The honor of being called up in synagogue to read from the Torah - or - a term used to describe Jewish immigration to Israel

Avodah: Work, often used in reference to work that serves God

Bar/Bat Mitzvah: A 13 year old Jewish boy or girl who is seen as an adult in the eyes of the Jewish community - or - a religious ceremony in which a 13 year old boy or girl reads from the Torah and/or leads a prayer service for the first time

Birkat Hamazon: Grace after meals

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Named for Fiddler on Roof’s Anatevka, new village to house Ukraine Jewish refugees

Mon, 08/24/2015 - 7:00am
Fleeing conflict, 100 residents set to move in next month; Kiev rabbi raises $6 million for first phase

A prominent Ukrainian rabbi and Israel’s ambassador to Kiev attended the groundbreaking ceremony for a village for Jewish refugees from the conflict raging in eastern Ukraine.

At the ceremony earlier this month near the village of Gnativka, which is located 15 miles from the country’s capital, Israeli Amb. Eliav Belotserkovsky watched as cement trucks poured the foundations for the village, where 100 new residents are expected to settle next month, the village’s initiator, Rabbi Moshe Azman, said Friday.

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Israel and Japan Are Finally Becoming Friends. Why?

Mon, 08/17/2015 - 7:00am
After decades of wariness, the two nations are being drawn together by common interests and shared fears.
By Arthur Herman for Mosaic

Walk down a side street in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Eshkol and you may came across a group of students chatting loudly in Hebrew as they review their Bible lessons of the day. Hardly an extraordinary sight in Israel—except that these aren’t Israelis. They’re young Japanese on student visas who have assumed hybrid names like Asher Sieto Kimura and Suzana Keiren Mimosa. And they’re Makuyas: members of a Japanese religious group that’s been fervently supportive of Israel since 1948.

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‘Commie Camp’ Documentary Captures Camp Kinderland’s Idealism, and Its Imperfections

Mon, 08/10/2015 - 7:00am
Once a utopian getaway for children of socialists and left-wing organizers, the camp remains an essential haven for ‘weird Jews’
By Nona Willis Aronowitz for Tablet

A 12-year-old professes his love for the Marx Brothers and Buster Keaton. A middle-schooler defines the “buffer zone” mandated around an abortion clinic, a regulation won by the Center for Constitutional Rights. A 9-and-a-half-year-old explains that Hannah Senesh “went to Pakistan during World War II, and she parachuted into Hungary and tried to save her country, but she got caught by the Nazis and was killed.”

These are a few of the slightly dorky, very adorable, comically precocious city kids at the heart of Commie Camp, a new documentary about a Jewish socialist summer camp in the Berkshires called Camp Kinderland, premiering June 28 at VisionFest. OK, so the kids get a few facts wrong (Hannah Senesh went to Palestine, not Pakistan). But, in the words of Katie Halper, a Kinderland veteran and the film’s director: “How many female anti-fascist paratroopers who suffered capture, torture, and death in an attempt to free her country from Nazi invasion can you name?”

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The Penniless Immigrant Behind a Hot Dog Empire

Mon, 08/03/2015 - 7:00am
By Zachary Solomon for Jewniverse

Coney Island is famous for its seashores, sideshows, and salty breezes. But, of course, it’s also famous for its hot dogs—Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, that is. You may know it as the site of the similarly famous gut-clogging hot-dog eating contest.

Just in time for the iconic Brooklyn hot-doggery’s centennial is Famous Nathan, a new documentary by Lloyd Handwerker, grandson of Nathan Handwerker—yes, that Nathan.

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Lilith, Lady Flying in Darkness

Mon, 07/27/2015 - 7:00am
The most notorious demon of Jewish tradition becomes a feminist hero
By Rabbi Jill Hammer for MyJewishLearning.com

“Half of me is beautiful

but you were never sure which half.”

            Ruth Feldman, “Lilith”

Lilith is the most notorious demon in Jewish tradition. In some sources, she is conceived of as the original woman, created even before Eve, and she is often presented as a thief of newborn infants. Lilith means “the night,” and she embodies the emotional and spiritual aspects of darkness: terror, sensuality, and unbridled freedom. More recently, she has come to represent the freedom of feminist women who no longer want to be “good girls.”

Biblical and Talmudic Tales of Lilith
The story of Lilith originated in the ancient Near East,where a wilderness spirit known as the “dark maid” appears in the Sumerian myth “The descent of Inanna” (circa 3000 BCE). Another reference appears in a tablet from the seventh century BCE found at Arslan Tash, Syria which contains the inscription: “O flyer in a dark chamber, go away at once, O Lili!”

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The Life and Death of Steven Sotloff, Part 2

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 7:00am
A reporter’s friends use Facebook to try and save his life: Driven by a growing sense that the U.S. government could not or would not save Sotloff from captivity, a group of family members, colleagues, and Jewish communal leaders coalesced into a ragtag—and tragically unsuccessful—rescue effort.
By Jonathan Zalman for Tablet Magazine

This is part 2 of The Life and Death of Steven Sotloff. Read part 1 here.


A Year in Captivity

Late one Saturday last fall, I met Gregg Roman, the director of the community relations council for the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh, in the lobby lounge of the DoubleTree hotel in midtown Manhattan. Roman, 29, was in town to attend a meeting of the board of directors for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. He and Sotloff met as students at the IDC, in Herzliya, Israel, while Roman was trying out for the debate society.

“It’s not enough for us to learn about [the Middle East] in class,” Sotloff would say to Roman as they puffed away at Romeo y Julieta cigars and took in the view from his friend’s apartment—Lebanon to the north, Jordan to the east, Egypt and Gaza to the south. “We have to go there to really understand what’s going on.”

On his way toward my table, Roman ran into Ronald Halber, the executive director of the Jewish Community Council of greater Washington, and invited him to sit with us. Halber, I was told, was the main point of contact for all governmental and Jewish media relations for the family of Alan Gross during his imprisonment in Cuba. “That could be your next story,” he said.

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The Life and Death of Steven Sotloff, Part 1

Mon, 07/13/2015 - 7:00am
How a freelancer’s Heaven turned into Hell: Inspired by a blend of bravery, wanderlust, and humanism, a budding journalist ventured—without the kind of institutional structure and support that would have been common a decade ago—into an inflamed Middle East.
By Jonathan Zalman for Tablet Magaine

On July 15, 2013, Steven Sotloff arrived in Israel, a place he once called home. He planned on spending a week there, beginning with the wedding of his former roommate Benny Scholder, before heading off to report from Egypt, Turkey, Syria, and wherever else his vagabond reporting career might take him in the region.

It was familiar territory. In just under three years—from September 2010 to August 2013—Sotloff had published over 30 articles in 12 different publications while reporting from eight Middle Eastern countries. As a frontline freelancer, Sotloff often managed to be in the right place at the right time. He found and highlighted voices of marginalized people, and his writing rarely shied away from explaining deep-rooted and often ancient conflict. He witnessed violence and life under long-standing despotic regimes. He witnessed uprisings and civil revolutions, war and death. He was attacked and jailed. He found hope and he lost hope. He was often broke.

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Akhenaten and Moses

Mon, 07/06/2015 - 7:00am
Did the monotheism of Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten influence Moses?
Robin Ngo for Bible History Daily
Defying centuries of traditional worship of the Egyptian pantheon, Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten decreed during his reign in the mid-14th century B.C.E. that his subjects were to worship only one god: the sun-disk Aten. Akhenaten is sometimes called the world’s first monotheist. Did his monotheism later influence Moses—and the birth of Israelite monotheism?
In “Did Akhenaten’s Monotheism Influence Moses?” in the July/August 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, University of California, Santa Barbara, emeritus professor of anthropology Brian Fagan discusses this tantalizing question.

Egyptian King Akhenaten, meaning “Effective for Aten”—his name was originally Amenhotep IV, reigned from about 1352 to 1336 B.C.E. In the fifth year of his reign, he moved the royal residence from Thebes to a new site in Middle Egypt, Akhetaten (“the horizon of Aten,” present-day Tell el-Amarna), and there ordered lavish temples to be built for Aten. Akhenaten claimed to be the only one who had access to Aten, thus making an interceding priesthood unnecessary.    

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Zumba’s Jewish Matron Saint

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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Too Late for Moses: New Israeli App for Stutterers

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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Genes Of Most Ashkenazi Jews Trace Back To Indigenous Europe, Not Middle East

Mon, 06/15/2015 - 7:00am
By Matthew Mientka For Medical Daily

A genetic study of Ashkenazi Jews shows a “whiter” heritage drawn more from prehistoric Europe than from the Levant, home to the modern state of Israel.

A team of international researchers from Malaysia to Salt Lake City found in a study published Tuesday that most variance in mitochondrial DNA — passed from mother to daughter, like Judaism — derives from the indigenous peoples of Western and Central Europe, as opposed to the Levant, as previously thought. Four of the major “founders” of Ashkenazi Jewry derive most variance from European sources, accounting for some 40 percent of the genome. The remaining 60 percent from minor founders, too, comes mostly from Europe.

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