“I Not only ‘Can’ March, but I MUST March”

LGBTQ flag

By Sarah Weil Last night the stakes of LGBTQ activism in Jerusalem became clearer than ever for me. If the attacker had waited only a few minutes more to begin stabbing people, it would have been me who might have wound up in the hospital last night, or worse. At the time, I was holding my friend's new born baby in my arms. At first we didn't know what was happening. As we backed away from the center of the commotion, there were people running everywhere, masses of police, on motorcycles and horses, loud ambulances, media crews, all flocking in the direction we were moving away from. I held onto the baby and put my hand over her head and covered her ears. She didn't cry. Perhaps she was in shock too... It didn't take long for the news to travel to us, from mouth to ear, that there had been a … [Read more...]

Rivlin Hosts Big Jewish Pow-Wow

Photo courtesy President's office

By Judy Maltz Haaretz.com It was an unusual scene at the Israeli president’s house on Thursday morning, almost surreal. Gathered under one roof were roughly 100 Israelis from across the religious spectrum, all participating in a Jewish studies class led by Orthodox, Reform and Conservative rabbis - not to mention a token secular kibbutznik. And it was not just any president hosting this multi-denominational affair, but Reuven Rivlin - not exactly the friendliest head of state to the non-Orthodox movements. By inviting Conservative and Reform rabbis to his home, Rivlin was clearly trying to make amends, but he almost didn’t pull it off. Earlier this week, the rabbi chosen to fill the Orthodox slot on today’s teaching panel, Uri Sherki, notified Rivlin that he wouldn’t be coming. He cited … [Read more...]

Special Report: In Many Communities, Sense of Crisis Surrounds Connection to Israel

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“A sense of crisis has emerged in many Jewish communities regarding their relationships with Israel, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to discuss Israel because of the bitter political disputes these discussions spark.” Shmuel Rosner, one of the study's authors A special report of the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI), based on a comprehensive dialogue process with Jewish communities throughout the world, found that Diaspora Jews widely agree that Israel operates ethically in wartime, and is careful to uphold its values even in the most difficult battlefield circumstances. The report also notes that world Jewry, similar to Israeli Jewry, is overwhelmingly certain (over 90%) that Israel receives an exaggerated amount of unfair criticism from the international community. … [Read more...]

70 American Teachers Arrive to Work with Underprivileged Israeli Kids

The 2015 TALMA teachers gather after landing in Israel.

Seventy young teachers from across North America are working with 2,500 underprivileged Israeli elementary school students to boost the students’ English skills. Meanwhile, the visiting teachers are getting a rare look behind the headlines of Israeli life. It’s all part of a novel immersive educational experience called TALMA, which provides under-privileged Israeli children in the periphery and in some urban areas with a three-week supplemental summer English program. TALMA aims to improve the students’ English-language skills, reduce those with learning gaps and significantly enhance those with outstanding English skills. TALMA also aims to boost the students’ confidence with English and increase their chances of entering university. TALMA is a national program operated in partnership with … [Read more...]

The Long, Hot, Miserable Summer for Reform and Conservative Jews in Israel

Is the Rabbinate feeling empowered because the current government depends on ultra-Orthodox support? Or are the pluralistic movements getting bolder because they have nothing to lose? By Allison Kaplan Sommer Haaretz.com Struggling against the unchecked power of the ultra-Orthodox Chief Rabbinate in religious and family matters is nothing new for Israeli liberals. This summer, however, the battle has been heating up on several fronts. Most prominently, one woman has stepped forward to state boldly that she would rather face a stint in prison than be forced into divorce proceedings under the Rabbinate’s authority. Nathalie Lastreger, a French immigrant and a rabbinical student, has cast herself as a modern-day Joan of Arc in Israel’s wars of religion and state. After she was served … [Read more...]

Discovering Selflessness during a ‘Selfish Gap Year’ in Israel

ALEH student volunteer

By Chana Devorah Levine JNS.org I had looked forward to my year in seminary with great anticipation because I knew that living and learning in Israel would open up a whole new world to me. In fact, everyone I encountered informed me that my “gap year” would consist of one life-altering experience after another and that I needed to make the most of every opportunity that came my way. But I was a little anxious about my ability to truly maximize the year. After all, I had only a few short months to achieve so many important things. In addition to increasing my Torah knowledge and enhancing my spirituality, I wanted to volunteer, to give of myself, and to make an impact on others. Even though an incredible opportunity to volunteer with special-needs children fell into my lap, I wasn’t sure if I … [Read more...]

Lessons in Philanthropy from Paul Newman

EJewish Philanthropy Paul Newman Picture6

By Clea Newman My father, Paul Newman, was an actor, a race car driver, a jokester, a philanthropist, and to a newer generation, he is the face on our Newman’s Own food products. But to me, he will always be my mentor, my hero, and just my Dad. This year, Dad would have been 90, and although I miss him so much, it’s an opportunity to reflect on the remarkable impact his philanthropic efforts had and continue to have on children and families around the world. In fact, for the last 4 years, this impact has been felt strongly in Israel at the Jordan River Village, a year-round, free camp for children with serious illnesses. Dad’s work has inspired me to reflect on the philanthropic lessons he taught me and so many others: Be inspired. Jordan River Village started with Murray and Marilyn … [Read more...]

Fighting for Independence

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By Ziv Azmanov An important part of my time is invested in a great program called A3i. This is the world’s first startup accelerator that is solely dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities. The purpose of A3i is to encourage and assist entrepreneurs to realize their ideas that aim to solve problems, and address the important needs of people with disabilities. The goal is to create a more inclusive society where people with special needs can lead a normal life like each and every one of us. I serve this program as a member of its steering committee, as well as a mentor to some of the entrepreneurs. It’s one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my life. It’s so refreshing and inspiring to meet entrepreneurs that really want to make a difference. That are not … [Read more...]