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Val Weisler’s ‘Validation Project’ empowers bullied teens

Teens - 3 hours 4 min ago
By Suzanne Kurtz Sloan for JTA

The Teen Heroes column is sponsored by the Helen Diller Family Foundation. To learn more about the foundation’s $36,000 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, visit http://dillerteenawards.org.

(JTA) — For Val Weisler freshman year of high school was marred by tears and unhappiness as classmates bullied her daily for being shy and withdrawn.

“I was a different person and I didn’t feel comfortable,” said Weisler, now a 16-year-old junior at Clarkstown High School South in West Nyack, N.Y. “I was hiding myself and hating myself. I didn’t feel welcomed.”

She soon realized, however, that “there were so many other teenagers who had bigger problems than me.”

Weisler set about to create a community of support for teens experiencing bullying. In January 2013, with money that she had saved from babysitting, she launched a website, The Validation Project. The site encourages teens to become “Validators” by matching them with a mentor to learn a set of specific skills that can then be applied to local community service. In addition, the teens can work with others in the project’s network to spread positive messages through social media or brainstorm together to develop and implement social action campaigns. To date, Weisler said there are more than 5,550 teenagers and 2,000 mentors with chapters in all 50 states and in 100 countries involved with the project. They have also raised a collective $25,000 in goods and services for people in need, she added.

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Stanford Student Slams 'Anti-Semitic' Question About Jewish Faith

Students - 3 hours 4 min ago
Molly Horwitz Objects to Group's Quiz on Israel Divestment
By Drew Himmelstein for The Jewish Daily Forward

(j weekly via JTA) — A junior at Stanford University who is running for the student senate says she faced anti-Semitic questioning from a student group whose endorsement she was seeking.

During a March 13 interview in front of eight members of the university’s Students of Color Coalition, Molly Horwitz, 21, alleges that the lead interviewer asked, “Given your strong Jewish identity, how would you vote on divestment?”

“SOCC is a pretty major influential group on campus,” said Miriam Pollock, Horwitz’s friend and campaign manager. “Their endorsement is the most influential.”

To secure the interview, the Paraguay-born Horwitz had submitted a written application to the student group in which she discussed reconciling her identity as both a Latina and a Jew. As she later recounted to Stanford campus newspapers, the Anti-Defamation League and Stanford officials, she felt the question about her Jewish identity was over the line.

“It is not OK that they brought my Jewish identity into this and implied it might impact my decision-making ability,” Horwitz said in an email to the J. weekly. “I interpreted the question as anti-Semitic.”

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Don't Be Shocked by Jewish Honor for Anti-Gay Pastor Charles Stanley

LGBT - 3 hours 4 min ago
Far Right Views Part of Israel Alliance With Evangelicals
By Jay Michaelson The Jewish Daily Forward

Here’s why I’m not on board with the growing chorus protesting JNF’s honoring Dr. Charles Stanley, one of the most prominent evangelical leaders in the country, and the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention (membership 15 million).

It’s not that he isn’t anti-gay. He is, and I assume he’d be proud to admit it. Over his half-century-long career, he’s said some nasty things, some ignorant things, and some really offensive things like AIDS being Divine punishment.

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What They Never Tell You About Being a Mom

Kids - 3 hours 4 min ago
Shaindy Urman for Kveller

If she’s anything like me, one day my daughter will Google the people she cares about. And I hope–as she’s scrolling and searching through as many stories as she can about those dear people in her life–I hope she will find this.

Because as much as she thinks she knows how big of a space she holds in my heart, there are some things you can never fully know until you become “Mom.”

You think you know what you’re getting into when you’re trying to get pregnant. You dream in blues and pinks and your thoughts become those of colorful onesies and elegant strollers, miniscule socks and gorgeous nurseries, gifts and well wishes and a fabulous baby shower.

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The New Site That Lets You Snoop Around an Old Polish Jewish Kitchen

Traditions - 3 hours 4 min ago
By Sarah Zarrow for Jewniverse

Have you ever wanted to step into the past? Not into a famous battle, or a momentous event, but into someone else’s home, to be able to see how that person lived and worked?

A new project from Indiana University lets you do just that. “In Mrs. Goldberg’s Kitchen“ is a digital panorama that visitors can “walk” through, clicking on objects to learn more about the Goldbergs, a real family who lived in a heavily Jewish district in Lodz, Poland, between the two world wars. (Those families would later be the location of the Lodz Ghetto.) A physical version is on display in Lodz’s Central Museum of Textiles.

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Categories: All

Where Star Trek and the Great American Songbook Meet the Jews

Jewish Music - 3 hours 4 min ago
By Avishay Artsy for Jewniverse

What happened to the classic songs of the 1930’s and ‘40s? The standards of the Great American Songbook crooned by Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee or Ella Fitzgerald (and later made unforgettable by Star Trek‘s Data)?

“The B-Side” by Ben Yagoda reads like a detective story sniffing out a homicide, and the deceased is Tin Pan Alley, New York’s epicenter of songwriting and music publishing for decades. A surprising number of its authors and composers – George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Richard Rodgers, Harold Arlen – were Jewish. In fact, Yagoda points out, they were almost all the same age, raised in middle-class New York families, and attended Columbia University.

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Sephardic Fried Eggplant with Sesame Seeds, Mint and Honey

Jewish Cooking - 3 hours 4 min ago
Joanna Pruess for specialtyfood.com

While the Arabs are credited with introducing the eggplant into the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century, it was the Sephardic Jews who embraced the fruit and used it in numerous dishes. This sweet and savory version is a favorite tapa in Seville. It can also be served as a side dish for roasted or grilled chicken, meat or fish. Honey and sesame seeds are also legacies of the Arabs.

See other related recipes in Tasty Bites of Seville.

Yield: 24 (3 slice) portions
Preparation time: about 1 hour 15 minutes including unattended soaking time
Shelf life: best in 1 day

4 (1-pound) purple eggplants, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices (about 18 slices per eggplant)
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
4 large eggs, beaten
1 quart olive oil, for frying
½ cup honey (preferably not very flowery honey), heated
½ cup sesame seeds, toasted
½ cup chopped fresh mint leaves

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How Orthodox Jews in Fiction Hurt the Ones in Real Life

Family - 3 hours 4 min ago
By Yvette Alt Miller for Kveller

“He was so cruel!”

This was uttered–in a tearful, anguished voice–by a cousin my family was visiting when I was 19 years old, in what was possibly the most embarrassing moment of my life.

I’d just transferred colleges at the beginning of my sophomore year, and had met Orthodox Jews for the first time. From my first encounter with this new group at Hillel dinner, I was intrigued: drawn to their passion; their eagerness to discuss weighty questions; their joy in their religious observance. I’d grown up “Conservative,” and in our home, that meant following a few commandments, both real and imagined: eating gribenas and schmaltz on major holidays; having strong feelings for our local Chinese restaurants; and the strict observance of exactly one mitzvah–thou shalt not eat pork. Everything else seemed negotiable. Now that I was getting to know a very different type of Judaism, I’d started keeping some new Jewish rituals, too: attending Shabbat services; eating kosher foods; even saying the traditional “Shacharit” morning prayers each day.

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My Teacher’s Son: A Memoir of Heresy Is Marked By a Father’s Unnerving Piety

Jewish Books - 3 hours 4 min ago
In and out of the fold of ultra-Orthodoxy, Shulem Deen and his father Dovid both pursued honest religious feeling
By Shaul Magid for Tablet Magazine

I have a friend who was once summoned to the principal’s office in his son’s Jewish day school. His son apparently had stopped praying during communal morning prayers. He attended the compulsory prayer service but refused to pray. “This is a problem,” began the principal, “prayer is a religious obligation.” “I think you misunderstand my son,” replied my friend. “He is being religious precisely in refusing to pray to a God he doesn’t believe in.”

Many of us unconsciously think we understand faith, or piety, even if we were not taught about it in school or do not live inside it. We are often taught that faith is generally good but too much of it is generally bad. We then choose the degrees to which we separate ourselves while still trying to remain connected to its roots. As the Jewish joke goes, “Everyone to the left of me is a heretic, and everyone to right of me is crazy.” But what if we err in our orientation? What if we modern Jews are a spiritually dis-oriented people?

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Your Intermarriage Obsession Is Just So Offensive

Interfaith - 3 hours 4 min ago
From the Seesaw at The Forward

I am a non-Jewish person who works for a Jewish organization. How do I politely tell my bosses and other colleagues how offensive I find their focus (un-Godly obsession?) on battling intermarriage? In my opinion it’s pretty much racist to focus on who anyone else should date or marry — and I would never tell my own child to do so.

If I was working with regular white people (or blacks or Puerto Ricans) who constantly discussed the need for their children or other members of their community to only date or marry within that community, I would tell them to keep their bigoted opinions to themselves. Why is it any different for Jews? Why do they think it’s at all appropriate to reveal their biases like that?

I find it especially disturbing since they are extremely liberal in most ways and even laud the ‘diversity’ in our neighborhoods and even within the Jewish community. How can you be a fan of diversity while fiercely fighting the relationships that boost that diversity. What hypocrites!

—Befuddled in Brooklyn

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A Torah for Lag B'Omer: Open My Eyes That I May See Wonders in Your Torah

Holidays - 3 hours 4 min ago

 Lag B'Omer is celebrated this year on Thursday, May 7th

Rabbi Avraham Arieh Trugman, Director, Ohr Chadash: New Horizons in Jewish Experience for Huff post Religion

According to the wisdom of arranging the letters of Hebrew words in various ways, in order to extract multiple layers of meaning, the letters of the word Lag (as in Lag B'Omer, the 33rd day of the Omer) when reversed, spell gal. The root word gal has many meanings, one of which is "to open" or "reveal." This meaning is expressed in the verse: "Open (gal) my eyes that I may see wonders in your Torah" (Psalms 119:18). This verse clearly relates to Lag B'Omer, the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. In the Zohar he and his students reveal sublime and lofty secrets of the inner dimensions of Torah.
Paradoxically, the words in Hebrew for exile (galut) and redemption (geulah) are both derived from the root gal. The fact that both words share the same root points to the intrinsic, cyclic connection of exile and redemption, as it has accompanied human kind and especially the Jewish people throughout its history. It is stated in the Zohar that on the merit of learning its teachings, the Jewish people will go out of exile. Learning the inner dimensions of Torah will create a critic mass of light and spiritual energy sufficient to turn exile (galut) into redemption (geulah).
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Extinct Tree Resurrected from Ancient Seeds is now a Dad

Going Green Jewishly - 3 hours 4 min ago
APRILHOLLOWAY for Ancient-Origins.net

Ten years since the Judean Date Palm was miraculously brought back to life following the chance discovery of seeds in the 2,000-year-old ruins of Masada, the male date palm tree named Methuselah, the only one of his kind, has become a father.

For thousands of years, the date palm was a staple crop in the Kingdom of Judea, as it was a source of food, shelter and shade.  Thick forests of the palms towering up to 80 feet and spreading for 7 miles covered the Jordan River valley from the Sea of Galilee in the north to the shores of the Dead Sea in the south.

So valued was the tree that it became a recognized as a symbol of good fortune in Judea.  It is chronicled in the Bible, Quran and ancient literature for its diverse powers, from an aphrodisiac to a contraceptive, and as a cure for a wide range of diseases including cancer, malaria and toothache.
However, its value was also the source of its demise and eventual extinction.  The tree so defined the local economy that it became a prime resource for the invading Roman army to destroy.  Once the Roman Empire took control of the kingdom in 70 AD, the date palms were wiped out in an attempt to cripple the Jewish economy. They eventually succeeded and by 500 AD the once plentiful palm had completely disappeared, driven to extinction for the sake of conquest.

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A Journey Through French Anti-Semitism

Feature Article - 3 hours 4 min ago
By Shmuel Trigano, jewishreviewofbooks.com

If after the horrors of January 2015 there is any consolation for the Jews of France, it would seem to lie in the words of Prime Minister Manuel Valls. “How can we accept that people are killed because they are Jewish?” he cried out at a special session of the French parliament a week after the massacres at the Charlie Hebdo editorial offices and at the Hypercacher kosher supermarket. “History has taught us that the awakening of anti-Semitism is the symptom of a crisis for democracy and of a crisis for the Republic. That is why we must respond with force.” We are at war, he said, “with terrorism, jihadism, and Islamist radicalism” (he has spoken more recently of “Islamofascism”), but not, he added, “Islam and Muslims.” And yet, as someone who has lived through and documented the last two decades and more of anti-Semitism in France, I note that there is a problem with the inevitable reflexive warnings after every vicious attack not to slip into Islamophobia by conflating Islam and terrorism. It is a kind of automatic discourse in which the existence of a threat to Muslims erases the recognition of the hatred to which Islamic texts and doctrines have given rise, as expressed by the terrorists themselves. For there is a long history of Islamic anti-Judaism, and it is the reason for the attacks against the Jews.

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11 Reasons Why Israel is One of the Happiest Countries

Jewish Israeli News - Wed, 04/29/2015 - 9:59am
Nerys Copelovitz for Kveller

It’s pretty unbelievable, but for the third time running the World Happiness Report says that Israel is one of the happiest nations in the world–11th to be precise. It’s easy to understand why peaceful, orderly, and affluent Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, and Australia are at the top of the smiley nations, but Israel?

What could Israelis have to be so happy about? Yes, we’re a bunch of Jews living the Zionist dream in Eretz Israel but–and it’s a ginormous but–that reality is tempered by war, terrorism, unstable governments, corruption, abuse of power, international condemnation, mandatory army service, high taxes, lack of affordable housing, crowded schools–should I go on?

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Young Arabs Agree: Israel Isn’t Arab World’s Major Problem

Jewish Israeli News - Tue, 04/28/2015 - 11:36am
Evelyn Gordon Analysis from Israel

One of the most positive strategic developments for Israel of the past few years has been its marked improvement in relations with significant parts of the Arab world. Three years ago, for instance, the most cockeyed optimist wouldn’t have predicted a letter like Israel received this week from a senior official of the Free Syrian Army, who congratulated it on its 67th anniversary and voiced hope that next year, Israel’s Independence Day would be celebrated at an Israeli embassy in Damascus.

Yet many analysts have cautioned that even if Arab leaders were quietly cooperating with Israel for reasons of realpolitik, anti-Israel hostility in the “Arab street” hadn’t abated. So a new poll showing that this, too, is changing came as a lovely Independence Day gift.

The ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey, which has been conducted annually for the last seven years, polls 3,500 Arabs aged 18 to 24 from 16 Arab countries in face-to-face interviews. One of the standard questions is “What do you believe is the biggest obstacle facing the Middle East?”

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How the IDF prepares for their rescue mission in Nepal

Jewish Israeli News - Tue, 04/28/2015 - 9:16am

What is your community doing to help?  Let us know.

How the IDF prepares for their rescue mission in Nepal:
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Posted by StandWithUs on Monday, April 27, 2015

Acharei Mot / K’doshim

Torahportion Recon - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 10:58am
 Leviticus 16:1-20:27

Ethical Mitzvot
Rabbi Steven Pik-Nathan for Jewish Reconstructionist Communities

Kedoshim is one of a series of three parashiot whose focus is the development of societal norms and the creation of what has come to be called the Holiness Code. The name of the parasha Kedoshim comes from the imperative with which it opens "You shall be holy people (kedoshim ti'hyu) for I the Eternal your God am holy." As beings created in the image of the Divine we are meant to be holy. The parasha explains what this means by listing numerous rules focusing on holy behavior within the framework of creating a new society. The central mitzvah of this parasha, indeed of the entire Torah, is "v'ahavta l'rayakha kamocha" - "you shall love your fellow human being as yourself." All of the mitzvot, as arcane and absurd as some of them may seem to us today, are meant to teach us how to treat others with love as fellow human beings created in the image of God.

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Acharei Mot / K’doshim

Torahportion Conserv - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 10:52am
Leviticus 16:1-20:27

Rabbi David Hoffman, Scholar-in-Residence, Development Department, JTS

Theirs are more pleasant than ours!Healthy (and Maybe Even Holy) Ambivalence
Building identity is complicated and sometimes painful work. This is true both on an individual level and when it comes to nations. What makes thinking about identity even more complicated is the fact that identity is really never completely "formed." Sure, a national identity should have core commitments. But I would suggest that we shift our understanding of identity from something that is fixed to a subjective process by which one group comes to recognize itself as being different from other groups. Understood in these terms, identity is dynamic—always emerging and continually being transformed over time.

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Acharei Mot / K’doshim

Torahportion Reform - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 10:49am
Leviticus 16:1-20:27

D'var Torah By: Rabbi Dalia Marx for ReformJudaism.org

What Does It Mean to Be Holy?
In the democratic society of Israel, we with struggle the concept of what it means to be am chofshi b’artzeinu, “a free people in our land.” We ask, “What does the responsibility of freedom require from us?” Every year, it seems the answers are less obvious and the search to find them becomes more demanding.

Maybe our parashah can help by guiding us to approach freedom from the perspective of holiness. This week, we read two parashiyot, Acharei Mot and K’doshim. K’doshim starts with God’s call: “You shall be holy, for I, the Eternal your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). This difficult demand is directed to “the whole Israelite community” (19:2). It is addressed not only to the priests, elders, and respected ones, but also to all men, women, and children; young and old; and leaders as well as average people.

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Lag Ba'Omer

Holidays - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 7:00am
The thirty-third day of the Omer is an occasion for happiness during an otherwise mournful period.
By Francine Klagsbrun for MyJewishLearning.com

Few of the many couples who marry on Lag Ba'Omer give much thought to why this is one of the very few days between Pesah and Shavuot when Jewish law permits weddings.

If they were to investigate, they would find a conflicting array of explanations, all appealing, none definitive.

Why We Celebrate
The explanations begin with the Omer period itself, those forty-nine days that are counted off one by one between the two festivals. This is a time of semi-mourning, when weddings and other celebrations are forbidden, and as a sign of grief, observant Jews do not cut their hair.

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