After Gaza Conflict, Preparing for a Potentially Stormy Year on Campus

“We are expecting that things can get very ugly this year on many college campuses, including some that were quiet in the past.” Kenneth L. Marcus, president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law By Alina Dain Sharon JNS.org This summer’s 50-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, which has come to a close if a cease-fire reached last week holds, has spurred a sharp rise in both anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incidents around the world. At the same time, the boundary between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism has become increasingly blurred, particularly on American college campuses. … [Read more...]

U.S. Jewish Young Adults React to the Gaza Conflict

The Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies has released "U.S. Jewish Young Adults React to the Gaza Conflict: A Survey of Birthright Israel Applicants." This study examines the reactions of a diverse group of Jewish young adults (applicants to Taglit-Birthright Israel) to the 2014 conflict in Gaza. The report compares their responses to the opinions of young adults in the U.S. The findings are based on a survey conducted in early August 2014 of a sample of U.S. based individuals who applied to the trip - both participants and nonparticipants - from 2011 to 2013. Survey questions focused on media consumption, opinions about Israel's and Hamas' action during the conflict, and support for Israel. From the report: The present survey was designed to understand the reactions of Taglit-Birthright … [Read more...]

Newly Released: Israel Studies Report and Directory

The Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies has released the "2012-13 Israel Studies Report and Directory." The Report and Directory builds on the work of previous directories through inclusion of aggregated course enrollment data and identification of faculty. A key change is the recognition and addition of upper-level Hebrew language courses as Israel-focused. The Directory this year documents three important findings about the field of Israel studies: growth in the number of Israel-focused courses, albeit at a slower rate than seen in the past; the importance of institutional and external support for professorships, chairs, centers, and programs to prepare scholars to teach in the field; and student demand for Israel-focused courses in enrollment numbers and the number of faculty teaching about … [Read more...]

Three Thoughts for Jewish Educators as We Start the New School Year

By David Steiner This article is for directors of education, those people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make the next generation of Jews worthy of the proud traditions of our people. At this time of year, while you are thinking about family services during the days of awe and school openings and curriculum nights, please try to leave room in your overflowing brains for some of the most important ideas behind our work. School is not a natural phenomenon. Teaching is. School may have existed in different forms over the years, from Socrates and his discourses to the cheder in the shtetle, but the organization of groups of children in learning places, away from the families where they live their Jewish life, is not ideal. Parents and guardians are the natural conveyors of treasured … [Read more...]

Strange Bedfellows

Aish HaTorah NY and the Union for Reform Judaism Find Common Ground with Bring Israel Home By Naomi Abelson and Rabbi David Markowitz We’ve heard the story before: a young woman goes on a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip and returns home with fun stories and an iPhone full of pictures. She also returns home energized and enthusiastic about the new friends she’s made and the knowledge she’s gained about Judaism and Israel. She’s questioning how Judaism fits into her life, looking for ways to explore her new found interest in Israeli culture, society and politics, and wondering how to access Jewish experiences at home. Yet upon return, she - like many of her peers - is not sure where to turn. Eventually, the flame dies out and her Jewish journey stalls. But what if we could capture that … [Read more...]

Ready to Prove a Prediction Wrong?

What does a more perfect Jewish world look like in the eyes of the Conservative Movement? And how does that world intersect with and influence the broader world? [This essay is from "Philanthropic Priorities in Light of Pew," reprinted with permission from Contact, a publication of The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life.] By Rabbi Hayim Herring The Reform and Conservative Movements are accidents of history and will disappear within 50 years.” Michael Steinhardt delivered that death sentence on September 6, 2000, before a group of about 150 people, mostly rabbis, at the formal launch of STAR (Synagogues: Transformation and Renewal). Thirteen years later, I want to assess Michael’s prediction within the shadow of the Pew study. Individual Conservative leaders correctly note that “there … [Read more...]

The Porch: It’s Southern, It’s Open, and It’s Jewish

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By Cantor Mary Rebecca Thomas When I was ordained a cantor in 2011, I never imagined that leading a congregation’s young adult group would fall within my professional portfolio. I’d never taken the much-lauded community organizing class and I didn’t think informal education was my thing. (In retrospect, it would have been great to have developed community organizing and informal education skills in advance.) As a part-time assistant cantor in Charlotte, NC, I expected to teach b’nai mitzvah kids and adult ed, lead services, and attend lots of meetings - all of which I do. Even a year after moving to Charlotte, however, I didn’t have many local friends, and I missed the ones I’d left behind in New York. Looking to enrich my life, I asked to take on our young adult group and our Tot Shabbat … [Read more...]

Just How Big Is Intermarriage? You Don’t Really Know.

By Paul Golin Even if you’re a very casual observer of the U.S. Jewish community and a friend who knows nothing about it asks you, “How big a phenomenon is Jewish intermarriage?” you’d probably be able to answer, “It’s pretty big.” There is a pantheon of proudly Jewish celebrities from Jon Stewart to Natalie Portman to Michael Douglas to Scarlett Johansson who have intermarried. (Douglas and Johansson are also children of intermarriage themselves.) If you’re more than just a casual observer of American Jewry, let’s say you’re a rabbi, you may know a bit more about the magnitude of Jewish intermarriage. You may know the rate at which Jews intermarry. The intermarriage rate is a number that the organized Jewish community has fixated on for decades, at least since the 1990 National Jewish … [Read more...]