Some odds and ends this first day of 2010.
from The Toronto Star:
Danielle Leboff is just 12, but she’s already looking to adulthood and the responsibilities that come with it – and topping the list is making the world a better place.
Gil Troy writing in The New York Jewish Week:
It is tragic yet emblematic that Bernie Madoff, the billion-dollar Ponzi schemer, is this last decade’s most influential American Jew. In fairness, if this great economic recession recedes, thanks to Time’s 2009 Person of the Year, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, historians will remember Bernanke more than Madoff. But it is premature to assess Bernanke’s success, while the damage Madoff caused was clear.
Madoff epitomizes American Jewry’s decade of decadence, a time of excess spending, perverted priorities, lapsed morals and staggering selfishness. True, Madoff was extreme – and unique. But Madoff succeeded so spectacularly, ruining so many lives, because too many of us internalized the greed-is-good ethos, believing that he who makes the most and spends the most must know the most and be the best – especially if, like Madoff, he tempered his materialism with a patina of piety and charity.
… we are also experiencing a Golden Age of American Jewry. During this decade we have seen observant Jews working in the White House, competing for Nobel Prizes, improving lives through miraculous innovations. We have also seen pockets of American Jewish resurgence, from the proliferation of egalitarian, non-hierarchical, peer-led and vibrant minyanim with intense, soulful praying to the mainstreaming of Chabad as a powerful, effective source of Jewish renewal. Educationally, the Jewish day school movement has flourished, becoming a more popular alternative to public or prep school for non-Orthodox Jews by creating exciting Jewish environments breeding great students and good values. Organizationally, an entrepreneurial spirit has energized many Jewish institutions, with guerilla philanthropists, passionate volunteers and creative professionals often compensating for the shrinking rank and file. Ideologically, the commitment to tikkun olam, fixing the world, and to more openness has inspired many. We should be proud of American Jewry’s efforts in sensitizing all Americans to the Darfur tragedy.
… The brightest spot in this often dark decade has emanated from the dazzling smiles of the more than 220,000 young Jews, aged 18 to 26, who have spent 10 days in Israel thanks to Birthright Israel. I don’t write these words because I am involved on a volunteer basis with Birthright, chairing its international education committee; I became involved – after initial skepticism – because I believe these words. Birthright offers the formula American Jewry needs for its revival – passion, purpose, peers, pep and pride – celebrating Israel and Judaism, engaging our past, embracing our present, building a future – and, hopefully, leading the way to a decade of enlightenment and engagement after 10 years of too much decadence, drift and despair.
One day before Taglit-Birthright Israel celebrated its 10th anniversary with a lavish event Tuesday morning, 88 young North Americans had arrived in Israel for a free 10-day trip. These participants, however, were not here courtesy of Birthright, the popular organization famous for providing these trips. They were they guests of Shlomo Lifshitz, the president of a private company that used to work with Birthright but says he left after being told to stop urging participants to marry Jewish partners and consider moving to Israel. Birthright had reportedly received complaints about Lifshitz from participants whose parents were intermarried or felt disparaged for dating non-Jews.
No longer bound by Birthright’s ideological neutrality, Lifshitz, 53, unabashedly touted his views when he addressed his guests Monday night, encouraging them to “make Jewish babies,” which has become somewhat of a catchphrase of his. While not all agree with his principles, telling Anglo File they would continue to marry whomever they want, most participants said he had a right to his opinions and that nobody had any reason to feel offended.
from The Jewish Chronicle (London):
A renowned Israeli master of kabbalah, Rabbi Dovid Batzri, has attempted to remove a dybbuk, or disembodied spirit, from a Brazilian man via the internet.
A video posted on Charedi website ladaat.net, shows Rabbi Batzri, surrounded by dozens of supporters, reciting kabbalistic verses and praying for the exorcism of the dybbuk. He connected with the possessed man via Skype.