Deborah Blausten: Defining Her Life in Terms of Her Judaism

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By Abigail Pickus Deborah Blausten is one of the most inspiring young leaders for the Reform Movement in the United Kingdom. Yet, the 23-year-old traces her earliest pull towards progressive Judaism to - of all places - her Church of England School. Growing up in northwest London (Hamstead Garden Suburb), she attended the highly regarded school (popular among families of all religions) where attending church services were an integral part of school life. At times, she even helped arrange church services, and under the guidance of a vicar with Marxist leanings, she chose all texts written by Jewish poets. “It was subversive,” said Blausten. “I was beginning to understand the Jewish tradition.” It would take a few years, however, for her to begin to define her life in terms of her … [Read more...]

L’Dor V’Dor: My Evolution Through Joshua Venture Group’s Dual Investment Program and Words of Wisdom for the Incoming Fellows

By Matt Bar Two years ago, when I learned that I had been selected as a 2012-2014 Fellow for Joshua Venture Group’s (JVG) Dual Investment Program, I couldn’t believe that I would be joining the ranks of such respected, successful, and impactful individuals. The vote of confidence it gave me that I, too, showed promise like the founders of Sharsheret, JDub Records, Keshet, G-dcast, Challah for Hunger, and numerous others who were a part of the program’s prestigious group of alumni was invaluable. I was thrilled to receive validation of my venture, Bible Raps, and of my potential as a social entrepreneur. The $80,000 in unrestricted funds, and $14,000 in funds specifically designated to growing my endeavor and my own professional and leadership development, were equally as exciting. This … [Read more...]

Between Anti-Semitism and Economic Malaise, Jewish Life in France Continues

“In today’s France, there are reasons for despair. But there are also reasons for hope.” Laurent David Samama By Liam Hoare Nowhere are the problems for Jews in Europe in 2014 more evident than in France - but not everyone is reaching for the oft-mentioned suitcase. These problems are much discussed and well-known. First and foremost, there is anti-Semitism as hate speech (particularly on the Internet) and violent action, including confrontations in the street in the vicinity of synagogues and the vandalism of Jewish-owned businesses. The one and the other have generated much fear of attack and assault, even among the many who have not experienced anti-Semitism personally. There are the present economic difficulties which impact not only the Jewish community but the whole of France. … [Read more...]

Can Hillel and ‘Open Hillel’ Smooth Out Their Differences on Israel Guidelines?

Eric Fingerhut speaks with former student board member JoHanna Rothseid. Credit: Shahar Azran for Hillel.

By Alina Dain Sharon JNS.org When Harvard Hillel refused to host a planned 2012 event titled “Jewish Voices Against the Israeli Occupation,” organized by the Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance and the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee, frustrated students wrote an open letter to the Hillel community criticizing the decision. That letter has since led to the founding of “Open Hillel,” a broader movement calling on Hillel International - the Jewish campus umbrella represented on more than 550 colleges and universities - to allow the expression of more diverse points of view, including those critical of Israel. The notion that Hillel International is not inclusive is one that the organization’s president and CEO, Eric Fingerhut, wants to dispel. On Sept. 9, Fingerhut met with … [Read more...]

Is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge a Model for Jewish Fundraising?

Anthony Quintano from Hillsborough, NJ, performs the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Credit: Kim Quintano via Wikimedia Commons.

By Maayan Jaffe JNS.org The hottest month of summer was ice cold, as thousands of people poured buckets of ice water over their heads to raise awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and money for researching the fatal neurological disease. In just a few weeks, three million donors helped raise more than $100 million, blowing the $2.7 million the ALS Association raised during the same time period last year out of the water. The Facebook frenzy created by the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has now been replaced by back-to-school photographs, but the results have left leading Jewish organizations asking themselves, “Is this the fundraising wave of the future?” “I don’t believe fundraising is going in that direction,” said J.M. Schapiro, 2014-15 fundraising campaign chair for The … [Read more...]

Mixing a Successful Fundraising Cocktail: Success of the Ice Bucket Challenge

Ice-Bucket-Challenge

“What made the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ so successful?” What worked? By Lev Herrnson Since going viral the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has raised an unprecedented $82 million (to date), nearly $80 million more than the same period last year. These are enviable results in the history of fundraising, by any accountancy. The ice bucket challenge will be remembered as a legendary campaign, perhaps one that even finances a cure for a horrible disease. The funds continue to roll in, and we’re all still cheering for the ALS Association’s doused inductees. The ingredients of this campaign cocktail are clearly all top-shelf. And, as we all sober up (and perhaps dry off) from the success of the bucket campaign, it’s time to consider, “What made the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ so successful?” What … [Read more...]

In Bulgaria, Charity and Care In and Out of the Community

In the absence of fully-functioning state institutions, the branches and programs of the Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee have become all the more important. By Liam Hoare The healthcare system in Bulgaria is inadequate. Interviewing young medical students earlier this year, Mariya Petkova writing for Al Jazeera discovered a system riddled with “corruption, nepotism, dysfunction and poor facilities”. The lowest salaries for doctors in the European Union drives young medical candidates out of the country - Bulgaria loses 500 to 600 doctors to other nations each year. Nine hospitals closed between 2009 and 2013 and residents in rural areas must travel for hours in search of care and treatment. In the absence of fully-functioning state … [Read more...]

What’s Next On The (Ice) Bucket List?

By Naomi Korb Weiss It's amazing what some buckets, ice and a little adrenaline can create in this world: over $30 million in donations and hundreds of thousands of new donors supporting treatment and prevention for a degenerative disease. Everyone from children to politicians to celebrities is jumping in to support the cause. This video alone will make you cry, and at the very least, millions more now know of the foundation’s existence. But I also feel some internal tension about this wildly successful campaign, dubbed the Ice Bucket Challenge. (And it’s not just my fear of freezing cold water). While there are varied stories about the origins of the challenge, it seems there was a large amount of luck at play with the extent of its viral success. Reports point to a golfer and a baseball … [Read more...]