The New Dynamic Between Israel and the Jewish World

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by Dvir Kahana Over the next few weeks, the Government of Israel will decide upon a crucial resolution which will have a lasting impact on Diaspora relations. The Joint Initiative of the Government of Israel and World Jewry is a new blueprint we expect will strengthen Jewish identity and bolster Israel-Diaspora ties for years to come. … [Read more...]

In Ukraine, Caring for Caregivers

by Alan H. Gill JNS.org My first visit to Odessa - the “pearl of the Black Sea” - was in the 1990s after the Soviet Union’s collapse. The city, even after decades of communist rule, remained a historical gem with its Potemkin Steps and ornate Opera House. It was also home to a significant Jewish population that has earned a distinct reputation for its special brand of pride. Having survived the Nazis and the Soviets, these Jews were eager to reclaim their identity and embrace the challenges of a post-communist existence. And they had a legacy of Jewish greats to draw from: Isaac Babel, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Boris Goldstein, and even the Olympic medal-winning swimmer Lenny Krayzelburg. In the more than 20 years that have passed since I first visited, the community has blossomed. A … [Read more...]

The “Wicked” Child of the Pew Study

by Rabbi Danny Burkeman Pesach is coming, and at sedarim across the Jewish community we will once again label four children as wise, wicked, simple, and the one who does not know how to ask. I have always struggled with this part of the seder for two reasons. All of my work with young people has taught me that we should avoid labeling children because it gives them a negative message, often encouraging them to live up to the label we ascribe. And on a secondary level, I have always found it hard to understand why the respective questions correspond to the labels which the Hagaddah gives them. While we could analyze each of the children and their corresponding labels, I would like to devote my focus on the wicked child. He asks: "What does this service mean to you?" The Hagaddah's preoccupation … [Read more...]

When Do We Force Our Teens To Partake In Jewish Life?

by Emeri S. Handler As a parent, I value giving my teenage daughters autonomy over their down time. I believe that they need space to relax, reflect, and develop interests outside of school that will help them grow as individuals. My children attend a Jewish day school; one that is rich with profound Jewish experiences that enhance their lives and help them solidify their Jewish identities. So what is the balance between giving them individual control over their non-academic time commitments versus setting requirements, particularly around Jewish activities? As a member of the Board of Moving Traditions, I know the impact that our programs - Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing! and Shevet Achim: The Brotherhood - have on helping teens explore the central questions of their lives, such as “What … [Read more...]

Fixing the Seder

by David Steiner “When a truth is not given complete freedom, freedom is not complete.” Vaclav Havel My favorite non-fiction is a collection of essays by the belated former president of Czechoslovakia, the playwright, Vaclav Havel. It’s called Living in Truth, and it is about the complexities of truth in a world of nations, countries, “isms” and religions. Jews have an abridged version of Living in Truth in the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Kittubot, 16b-17a. Standing on one foot, the tradition tells us to lie when it is appropriate, despite Torah’s command to keep far from false matters. This was a radical decision of the rabbis. They had to choose between the literal text of Torah and the spirit of Torah, to “be pleasant with people.” Their decision opened two Pandora’s … [Read more...]

Memories For Everyone

Children and youth in the U.S. have already internalized inclusion. They live it every day at school, on the playground, at youth groups. To them, inclusion is the norm. This is mainly because the national culture in the U.S. has surpassed the American Jewish community in its embrace of inclusion. by Jay Ruderman The late nights in the bunks with friends, swimming in the lake, color war breakout that always came as a surprise and the ‘bug juice’ at lunch. Those memories for a lifetime were and are priceless for the tens of thousands of Jewish youngsters who had the privilege of attending a Jewish summer camp. But they should be memories for everyone in our community - not just for the “privileged.” Our foundation was proud to co-sponsor the recent Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) … [Read more...]