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The Great War Novelist America Forgot

Holidays - 4 hours 28 min ago
With no Jewish holidays coming up immediately, we bring you profiles of some well known and some not so well known Jews. Enjoy.
Herman Wouk deserves more critical acclaim than he’s enjoyed.
By David Frum for The Atlantic

On May 27, the American novelist Herman Wouk will attain the prodigious age of 100. Over his long career, Wouk has achieved all the wealth and fame a writer could desire, or even imagine. His first great success, The Caine Mutiny (1951), occupied bestseller lists for two consecutive years, sold millions of copies, and inspired a film adaptation that became the second highest-grossing movie of 1954. Wouk’s grand pair of novels, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, likewise found a global audience, both in print, and then as two television miniseries in the 1980s.

Wouk won a Pulitzer for The Caine Mutiny. From then on, however, critical accolades eluded him. Reviews of the two “War” novels proved mostly dismissive—sometimes even savage. Critics assigned the proudly Jewish Wouk to the category that included Leon Uris and Chaim Potok rather than Saul Bellow and Philip Roth.

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Torahportion Reform - Mon, 05/25/2015 - 6:00pm
Numbers 4:21−7:89

The Torah on Women: Think Again!

D'var Torah By Rabbi Laurie Rice for ReformJudaism.org

Our ancient sages were obsessed with organization. As such, they categorized most everything, which is best reflected in the Talmud’s 63 tractates, which address a variety of subjects including Jewish ethics, philosophy, customs, history, lore, and much more. Nearly every topic has its place and order, with the exception of women. Women must have perplexed our dear Rabbis. We can imagine the discussion: Are they women or are they chattel? They bleed, but do not die, yet they must be impure, but they create new life, something we certainly cannot do. And while there is indeed a tractate attributed to women, Nashim, we find the ambiguity of women’s roles in the Bible and within ancient Israelite society reflected in this inability to “categorize” women as one might the Jubilee year or the subject of ketubot.

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Torahportion Recon - Mon, 05/25/2015 - 6:00pm
Numbers 4:21−7:89

Rabbi Richard Hirsh for Jewish Reconstructionist Communities

The Nazirite
Jewish tradition teaches that the Torah yields 613 commandments, which are incumbent on the Jewish people. One would think that this daunting total would be sufficient for most Jews, yet this week's Torah portion, Naso, teaches of additional regulations which one could assume under the status of being a "Nazirite", one consecrated to the service of God. The haftara (additional) reading for this Shabbat narrates the story of Sampson, who according to the Bible was himself a Nazirite.

The biblical information about Nazirites is inconsistent, and the Torah and haftara portions for this week indicate the instability. In the sixth chapter of Numbers, the Torah teaches that one who wishes to become a Nazirite does so through the following rituals: the taking of a vow, the avoidance of grape products (especially wine), abstaining from cutting of the hair, and keeping adequate distance from a corpse (a prohibition normally only incumbent on Kohanim, descendents of the line of Aaron.)

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Torahportion Conserv - Mon, 05/25/2015 - 6:00pm
Numbers 4:21−7:89

By Rabbi Bradley Artson, provided by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, for MyJewishLearning.com

Situational Ethics And God
The importance of preserving the relationship between a husband and wife provides an example of the Torah's use of relative morality.
Often, we define the moral position as the one that adheres to objective standards of right and wrong.  Consequently, someone who evaluates an action in the light of eternal, immutable values demonstrates a higher level of moral development than a person who uses other, more situational standards.  The roots of this perspective lie in ancient Greek thought, which associated the true with the eternal–what was perfect never changed.  Similarly, the highest level of morality would be immutable.

The Greek mind sought out "laws of nature" which functioned in the realm of human morality no less than in the realm of astronomy.  Modern psychologists of moral development–primarily students of the late Lawrence Kohlberg–looked to those Greek suppositions and found confirmation in the moral development of boys and men.  Apparently, the highest level of moral development among males involves recourse to external rules of ethical standards that are always true and always definitive.

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Teen scientist advances research on the cancer she survived

Teens - Mon, 05/25/2015 - 7:00am
19-year-old Elana Simon recently co-authored a study published in the prestigious Science magazine about a genetic mutation she helped discover

JTA — At 12 years old, Elana Simon was diagnosed with fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma, a rare form of liver cancer that largely affects adolescents and young adults.

“I didn’t know much about [fibrolamellar] and it was pretty scary,” said Simon, now 19. “But I was extremely fortunate to have an incredible surgeon.”

After having her tumor removed, Simon, who grew up in New York, where her family remains active members of Temple Shaaray Tefila on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, has been “totally fine ever since.” Currently a freshman at Harvard University, Simon is majoring in computer science.

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How to Fight Anti-Semitism on Campus

Students - Mon, 05/25/2015 - 7:00am
Advice for today’s Jewish college students: build and affirm, don’t plead and apologize.
Bari Weiss for Mosaic

During the fall of 2005—my sophomore year at Columbia—I took a lecture course on the history of the Middle East taught by a then untenured professor named Joseph Massad. One of my classmates, whom I’d met the previous year in a freshman literature seminar, was a Californian and a genuine Valley girl—naturally blonde and thin, but without the attendant ditziness. On one of my frequent weekend forays downtown, I ran into her in the subway. She had gotten to know me fairly well in that small freshman seminar, but now she confessed she had a question. You’re a reasonable, good person, she said. So how can you be a Zionist?

Her question was entirely sincere. The farthest thing from an activist or rabble-rouser, she was simply curious how I, certainly no obvious racist, could support the last bastion of white, racist colonialism in the Middle East—which was what she was now learning about Israel. We certainly heard nothing from Massad himself to suggest that, contrary to the infamous 1975 resolution of the UN General Assembly, Zionism was not racism. Nor did we encounter any text to that effect. Our one assigned book on the Jewish state was Israel: A Colonial-Settler State? by the French Marxist scholar Maxime Rodinson. Suffice it to say that the question mark in the title was superfluous.

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Arthur Shani’s Inspiring Story

LGBT - Mon, 05/25/2015 - 7:00am
Yuval Niv on A Wider Bridge

During the broadcast of the inaugural of new Knesset members, the TV cameras caught attorney Arthur Shani next to MK Ksenia Svetlova from the the Zionist Camp. He is her parliamentary advisor. Arthur was a boy whose mother wasn’t able to raise him by herself, a boy who was transferred to a boarding school institution, who was sent to a class that didn’t suit his skills, who was forced to fight for the right to go to a regular high school and serve in a proper military unit – and he’s reached the Knesset.
Arthur was hoping that among the television viewers were some of the people who over the past 26 years created difficulties for him, though he wasn’t sure that they would recognized him: the fat boy who weighed more than 330 pounds, is now young, slim and athletic; the religious kid who studied at a Yeshiva in a conservative institution managed by the Orthodox party Shas is now in a committed relationship with another man; the poor kid, whose mother’s refrigerator was empty, now holds two university degrees, is working on the third, and is the owner of an independent law firm. He’s the ultimate Israeli dream come true.

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Me, My Adopted Sons, and Our War with Food

Kids - Mon, 05/25/2015 - 7:00am
Dr. Gary Matloff for Kveller.com

I’ll never forget the explosive temper tantrum my oldest son, at 12 years old, had only a couple of months after I adopted him and his younger brother. I innocently thought we’d skip lunch in favor of a quick snack and an early dinner out on the road. He wasn’t happy with this decision, and the language barrier between us proved detrimental, with his still having trouble beginning to learn English. Without being able to quickly communicate my thoughts and intentions that might have reassured him, his deepest, most suppressed fears took a life of their own. It wasn’t until a desperate drive through at a nearby McDonald’s, where he began to devour the contents of the Happy Meal he firmly held on his lap, did he begin to calm down.

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Star Wars’ Jewish Themes?

Traditions - Mon, 05/25/2015 - 7:00am
Ask The Rabbi, from aish.com

I recently watched an old Star Wars film and couldn't help but think about the spiritual undertones throughout the movie: the Force, the Dark Side, Jedi Knights and Lightsabers. What's the Jewish perspective on all this?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

While there is no comparison between the fantasy of technicolor and the reality of life, some have suggested a few Jewish ideas reflected metaphorically in the film series:

The Force is the ultimate power of the universe: God. The Jedi Knight strives to perfect his awareness that God is constantly watching and teaching us through the events of life. Walking with God is the highest utilization of the power of the intellect. With Lightsaber in hand, the Jedi never allows his mind to lose focus of the message the Almighty seeks to convey.

Jedi master Yoda teaches a wisdom simple, yet profound. He makes his student unlearn what he had been taught, helping tune him in to the subtle world around him to learn its truths. The Jedi clears away layers of gunk, connecting with his internal compass. This opens the fountains of innate goodness and releases flow from the Light Side.

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The Jewish Songwriters Behind the Elvis Presley Hit Machine

Jewish Music - Mon, 05/25/2015 - 7:00am
By Zachary Solomon for Jewniverse

Like Rodgers and Hammerstein before them, Leiber and Stoller were a songwriting duo to the stars.

Jerome Leiber and Mike Stoller, both born in 1933 to Jewish families in Baltimore and Long Island respectively, met in Los Angeles as teenagers and bonded over a mutual love of blues and R&B. With Stoller’s compositional acumen and Leiber’s talent as a wordsmith, they quickly found between them a sparkling collaborative energy.

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Ask the Expert: Meat and Fish

Jewish Cooking - Mon, 05/25/2015 - 7:00am
Why do some people avoid eating meat and fish together?
By MyJewishLearning.com Staff

Question: I’ve been told that it’s not kosher to eat or cook fish with meat. Why not?
–Margaret, Florida

Answer: It’s always tricky answering “why” questions about kashrut, (Jewish dietary laws). The commandments in the Torah were divided into two groups by some rabbis, mishpatim, and hukkim. Mishpatim are the reasonable and self-evident laws, such as the prohibitions against murder and adultery. Hukkim represent those commandments impenetrable to reason. In theory, we do them simply because we’re told to, not because they make empirical sense to us. Kashrut is the quintessential example of one of the hukkim–it simply does not make sense.

So, for many people, the answer to most “why” questions that concern kashrut is simply that we don’t know. But the prohibition against eating fish and meat has an interesting history.

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What My Parents' Deaths Taught Me About Family

Family - Mon, 05/25/2015 - 7:00am
By Rabbi Robert Orkand for ReformJudaism.org

My brother the doctor said the cause of my dad’s death was a “medical mystery.” I claim that he died because he willed himself to do so.

For the past six years, my parents had lived together in the same room in a small nursing home in Los Angeles. My mom, who had a bit of dementia, was content. My dad, who was physically frail but mentally sharp, was miserable, but in his mind, he needed to stay alive to take care of my mom as best he could. He did just that, and at my mom’s funeral, he said, “My job is done. I can now die, too.” And so he did, peacefully and without any regrets.

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The Sun And Fun Capital Of The World?

Jewish Books - Mon, 05/25/2015 - 7:00am
Miami Beach in 1972 is the backdrop for Thane Rosenbaum’s antic new Holocaust novel.
Diane Cole; Special To The Jewish Week

In his new novel, “How Sweet It Is!” (Mandel Vilar Press), Thane Rosenbaum rolls back the clock to 1972 and transports us to the less-than-sweet, unglamorous side of Miami Beach. Here, as in his previous works of fiction, Rosenbaum strives to balance moral seriousness with outrageous antic humor as he tries to make sense of what can never make sense: the Holocaust.

As in the musical “Cabaret,” there is a gregarious master of ceremonies at the center of the passing show. Here it is the entertainer Jackie Gleason, serving as our guide to the quirky characters who populate the town he highlighted on his weekly variety show in the 1960s. But by the time we meet him, he’s already in decline, a depressed and lonely clown bemoaning the loss of his former prestige. Instead of hosting a must-watch television variety show, he holds court as a patient at Mt. Sinai Hospital.

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The Interfaith Couples of 'Connected'

Interfaith - Mon, 05/25/2015 - 7:00am
By Gerri Miller

This article has been reprinted with permission from InterfaithFamily 

Lori Levine met now-husband Jan Van Arsdale in summer 2013 on Tinder, after unsuccessfully trying other online dating services including JDate, eHarmony and Match as well as being set up on blind dates. “When I joined Tinder, it was so new that I would complain that there weren’t enough people on it. I kept seeing the same five guys!” she tells us. “That was June 2013 and by the time August rolled around there were a lot more people on it and that’s when Jan and I met.”

There are many reality series about people like Levine and Van Arsdale—hip, good-looking people and their love lives. But the new AOL original unscripted series Connected, which began streaming March 31, is a bit different. There’s no camera crew, and of the six New Yorkers who document their stories via personal camcorders, two of them, including Levine and Van Arsdale, are in interfaith relationships.

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Why Do We Read The Book of Ruth on Shavuot?

Holidays - Mon, 05/25/2015 - 7:00am
 Monday, May 25, 2015 - Second Day of Shavuot

A special reading for Shavuot
By Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs; From MyJewishLearning.com

Excerpted with permission from Every Person’s Guide to Shavuot (Jason Aronson, Inc).

In traditional settings, the Book of Ruth is read on the second day of Shavuot. The book is about a Moabite woman who, after her husband dies, follows her Israelite mother-in-law, Naomi, into the Jewish people with the famous words “whither you go, I will go, wherever you lodge, I will lodge, your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” She asserts the right of the poor to glean the leftovers of the barley harvest, breaks the normal rules of behavior to confront her kinsman Boaz, is redeemed by him for marriage, and becomes the ancestor of King David.

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For more information about the upcoming holidays, check out our Shavuot & Summer Holiday Kit

How Jewish Is Jewish Environmentalism?

Going Green Jewishly - Mon, 05/25/2015 - 7:00am
The wildly popular movement relies on simplified and selective readings of traditional sources. We deserve better.
By Julian Sinclair for Mosaic

A remarkable feature of American Jewish life over the past 40 years has been the growth of Jewish environmentalism. From origins on the fringes of the community, dozens of organizations today enlist tens of thousands of Jews every year in a plethora of activities that include the “greening” of synagogue buildings, organic farming, and environmental lobbying under a Jewish umbrella. The Union for Reform Judaism devotes several pages of its website to a programmatic initiative aimed at “integrating Jewish values, learning, and actions that promote shmirat ha-adamah—protection and renewal of the world.” In the annual observance of Tu b’Shvat, once a footnote on the liturgical calendar, Jewish environmentalism has even created its own holiday.

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Natalie Portman Hits Her Stride

Feature Article - Mon, 05/25/2015 - 7:00am
What the most visibly Jewish actress of her generation can teach us about being ourselves—and handling tough questions about Israel
By Rachel Shukert for Tablet

It’s happened to all of us.

You’re at a trendy wine bar or dinner party—a nice one that uses cloth napkins and serves appetizers separately from the main course—when the dreaded “I” word comes up. And no, it’s not “isometrics” or “Ireland Baldwin.” It’s Israel.

At your table, the consensus is that Israel is full of whiny and hypocritical racists and bullies. A tight knot forms in your stomach: Do you assert support for the Jewish State, causing everyone to treat you as some kind of hateful right wing reactionary for the rest of the night? Or do you agree without caveat and feel ashamed of yourself?

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Why Shavuot Is Jewish Mother-in-Law’s Day

Jewish Israeli News - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 8:00am
A convert to Judaism reflects on the Jewish woman who embraced her, and honors her with a holiday recipe
By Marcia Friedman for Tablet

As someone who converted to Judaism, I consider Shavuot, the festival on which we read from the Book of Ruth, an especially meaningful holiday. Ruth, a Moabite woman, is considered the first convert to Judaism. Following the death of her husband, Ruth decides to remain with her mother-in-law, Naomi, instead of returning home to her Moabite family.

But Shavuot, with its emphasis on acceptance—the festival marks the day the Israelites received the Torah—isn’t just significant for those who have converted to Judaism. It’s a time to honor all the modern-day Naomis: the Jewish mothers-in-law who accept converts not only into their faith, but also into their families.

My Naomi is named Gloria. The day we met at her son’s graduate-school graduation, Gloria—my then-boyfriend’s mother—seemed overjoyed to meet me. A few years later, when I began conversion classes, however, I feared that I would never truly bridge my knowledge and cultural gap and feel completely “Jewish”—or be considered so by my future husband’s family. Gloria had a concern, too. But it wasn’t about any of that. She later told me she worried that abandoning my family’s religious traditions would be a sacrifice that would ultimately make me unhappy. Even then she placed my well-being above her own interests, just as Naomi urged Ruth to return to her family upon being widowed. But once I completed my classes, Gloria understood: I, too, was along for the journey. And as a gift following my conversion, she and my future father-in-law, David, sent their son and me on a trip to Israel, where I could walk in the footsteps of Ruth.

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The Unbelievable Story of a Kuwaiti Muslim Who Finds Out he is a Jew

Jewish Israeli News - Thu, 05/21/2015 - 10:48am
Touching story for this Thursday.

Illinois State House unanimously passes anti-BDS bill

Jewish Israeli News - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 10:52am
If Gov. Bruce Rauner signs bill, Illinois will become first state to legislate againt Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.
By JTA   

The Illinois State House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill that would bar state pension funds from including companies that participate in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.

The bill passed the state House on Monday by a vote of 102-0. It previously passed the Illinois State Senate unanimously, 49-0.

The legislation now awaits Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signature. With the governor’s signature, Illinois will become the first state to legislate against BDS.

The bill requires the state’s pension system to remove companies that boycott Israel from their portfolios. The bill, an amendment, is based on existing legislation that the Illinois Investment Policy Board currently enforces, mandating that state pension funds be divested from foreign firms doing business in Iran, Sudan or other countries with known human rights violations.

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