Middle East Wars: Historical Realities and Political Perspectives

by Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. Borne out of the events of history we are living today with a series of unresolved conflicts within the Middle East. Indeed, the Gaza battlefront unfolding at this hour has some distinctive and disturbing features. This will mark the first time that the Palestinian-Israel conflict has a second front. Indeed, Hamas’ battle with the Jewish State is being fought on the streets of Paris, Los Angeles and elsewhere across the Western world. There has been a concerted effort on the part of some Islamic factions to extend this war to the neighborhoods and streets of Europe, and even America, as a way to intimidate Jewish communities. Fists, sticks and death threats are the weapons of choice being introduced within the pubic square. While unable to win the battle on the … [Read more...]

A World of Expanding Knowledge and Know-How

by Chip Edelsberg This month’s reflection is different than most. It is more indicative of my personal beliefs and less a description of any specific Jim Joseph Foundation Board-sanctioned grantmaking strategy. My thoughts derive from observations and insights I want to share following two weeks of travel. During this time, I had the opportunity to step back from the day-to-day world of Jewish philanthropy and Jewish communal life. While away from the all-consuming flow of information that typifies the typical work day at the Foundation, it struck me how essential it is for the Jim Joseph Foundation to continue to endeavor to bring multiple perspectives of expertise to bear on all the Foundation’s philanthropy. I begin with the obvious by noting that new areas of academic and interdisciplinary … [Read more...]

Asking the Right Questions

by Jon Sadow During their high school years, most teenagers wrestle with what seems like endless questions, and very few answers. Who are the right friends for me? What activities should I get involved with? What should be important to me? While I was no exception, I, as well as so many of my friends and countless other young Jewish men (and women), found myself choosing to face much deeper, more meaningful questions. Questions that, as I now look back, allowed me to explore and connect with my heritage and culture, and to develop my Jewish identity. While BBYO was a foregone conclusion for me (my brother was already on International Board by the time I started high school), I started out with my fair share of skepticism. Over the next four years, BBYO would mold me into a confident young man … [Read more...]

From Victims and Heroes: Reflections on Counterpoint Israel at a Time of War

by Shuki Taylor There are 30 incredible Yeshiva University students in Israel right now on the Counterpoint Israel program. What makes them incredible is that they have chosen, of their own volition, to spend a summer in hot and humid development towns, teaching Israeli teens English and inviting them to discover their inner talents. They could have taken a job, done an internship or gone on vacation. But the powerful forces of Giving were more powerful than the motivations of personal gain. The winds of war and sounds of sirens threatened to stop them. These 30 passionate and energized students were asked to stop their work in Kiryat Gat and Kiryat Malachi - to stop the camps they were running - and move to a safer location in Jerusalem. Had they not been asked, they would not have left. … [Read more...]

Standing with Israel

photo courtesy IDF

by Christina Johns Chicago, Ill, July 9, 2014 - In the last 24 hours, 160 rockets were fired at Israel, and 23 of them were intercepted. That's one rocket for every seven minutes. It's hard to believe that it's really happening, but just as I’m having the thought - another siren is sounding in Israel. This is real, and there is no time for daydreaming, not when you have 15 seconds to get to a bomb shelter. I’m not a political commentator and I don’t claim to be a scholar in Middle Eastern policy or foreign relations. I don’t think I have the answer to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. My knowledge of Israel doesn’t come from school, books, or lectures. It comes from the time I spend there and the friends I’ve made who call it home. Today, I spoke with three of those friends, as I always do … [Read more...]

Communities of Practice: Where Commencement is Really a Beginning

by Karee Bilsky and Jill Abbey-Clark We held hands in a circle, reminiscent of our days at camp, and sang, “Lechi lach, on your journey I will bless you.” Sixteen Jewish Early Childhood Educators from around the country had just completed the fifteen-month Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Institute (JECELI). We had engaged in intensive Jewish learning, inquiry and reflective practice, leadership development, and community building. The incredible learning experience was over and we sang these words in the hopes that the journey was not over, but rather just beginning. The new task before us was to continue this meaningful experience by not only sharing our learning with our host institutions but also by deepening and strengthening the connections we had already formed. We were … [Read more...]

Why I am Funding Big Data in the Jewish Community

by Simone Friedman Rones One of my biggest challenges in managing our family’s philanthropy is knowing whether our grants - especially those we give to organizations serving Jewish young adults - are really making a difference. Are the programs we fund truly having an impact on the individual Jews who are participating in them? Are the young adults attending these programs deepening their involvement in the community by participating in other programs as well? And most importantly, are the programs we fund empowering young adults to move from being passive consumers of Jewish programming to becoming active participants in creating their own Jewish experiences? Unfortunately, the Jewish community suffers from a leaky pipeline problem as individuals move between organizations or disappear from an … [Read more...]

A JDS Graduation Speech

by Asher Weinstein When I first came to Rockwern Academy, I was 6. As a first grader, I did not have a strong perception of my own identity, either as a person or as a Jew. Now, as a 14 year old, graduating from eighth grade, I feel as if I do. Over these years, Rockwern Academy and its teachers all have helped me realize and mold my identity. Thanks specifically to my Hebrew and Judaic Studies teachers, I understand my background as a Jew and I have been able to formulate my own ideas about my Judaism. In addition, they taught me about complex moral and ethical dilemmas, and I think I am a better person for it. What constitutes a change in identity? I would say that, while you can alter your identity, the real challenge is unlocking it, finding out what you yourself truly think and feel, and … [Read more...]