Israel: Not a Time for Zealotry or Shyness with Children

IDF Protective Shield

by Cyd Weissman Minutes after coming out of the bomb shelter last week, I saw a father and his twin daughters finish a meal and quietly chat in a Tel Aviv restaurant as if nothing had just happened. On the streets of Jerusalem a mother told me that her 7 year old son was managing the incoming rockets just fine. "Can we do it again" (go in the shelter), he asked? "I want to hear the boom, like the video game." What can we do as parents and educators when our children are experiencing danger either in real time or in virtual space? Firstly, we can’t be shy about it. Educators and parents often avoid the subject of Israel for reasons including their own uncertainties or the potential divisiveness of the subject. On the other hand, some adults approach children on the subject of Israel with a … [Read more...]

A Third Gen Professional Takes the Reins in Vancouver

Ezra_JF_Donor Event_ks175

by Abigail Pickus These days, Ezra Shanken looks out his office window and sees snowcapped mountains. It’s a long way from Manhattan, where Shanken recently served as Director of Emerging Leaders & Philanthropists (ELP) at UJA-Federation of New York. But as the newest Chief Executive Officer of Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver - and arguably, at 33, one of the youngest to ever assume such an executive role in the Jewish communal world - Shanken seems up to the challenge. “This has been a dream that I’ve had from the beginning,” said Shanken. “I’ve come up within the Federation world. I believe in it. I have had a lot of great mentors. And each step has led me towards this opportunity to lead a community.” “It’s a lot of responsibility and such an incredible privilege to do … [Read more...]

Jewish Teens in Boston Embrace Design Thinking

Design Thinking_2

by Maya Bernstein and Charlie Schwartz Last fall, in partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Brandeis University’s Office High School Program, decided to replicate their highly successful summer programs year-round. They wanted to engage both the teens who attend their summer programs, and teens less engaged in Jewish communal offerings throughout the year. After sifting through various ideas regarding how to approach this new initiative, the staff decided to use Design Thinking as a methodology - both because it is a cutting-edge initiative in education that they had not yet tapped, and also because they were hoping to use the methodology as a way of engaging teens to design their own Jewish experiences. They hired UpStart Bay Area to collaborate on 5 … [Read more...]

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...]

Educators Are Real People Too

by David Bryfman Over the last few weeks, as sirens have filled our collective heads, and passion, compassion, and vitriol consumed our Facebook feeds there has been one tune that has been playing over and over in my head. The Last War (Ha Milchama Hachrona) sung by Yehoram Gaon, whose haunting chorus is: “I promise you - my little girl, that this will be the last war.”[1] Hamilchama Ha'achrona - Yehoram Gaon from David Bryfman on Vimeo. We have sung this song many times before, and can only imagine the countless number of parents who over time have cited lyrics similar to these to their children in many languages in all corners of the world. Once again these lyrics have failed us. My friends and colleagues, some here and some in Israel, have expressed almost every emotion … [Read more...]

An Orthodox Rabbi in Bulgaria’s Secular Community

The Sofia Synagogue, a building of the Sephardic community, was opened in 1909.

by Liam Hoare Being a rabbi in Bulgaria, and particularly an Orthodox one, presents certain challenges. The vast majority of the Jewish community is secular - happily and securely so. Through the central institutions of the community as well as other Jewish and Zionist programmes like Minyanim and Hashomer Hatzair, there are a multitude of ways to explore, express, and strengthen Jewish identity without the need to set foot in the synagogue. The prevalence of intermarriage in the community also means that while members are Jewish according to the Law of Return, oftentimes they are not according to halacha. I discussed these matters and more with Rabbi Aaron Zerbib, sitting down with him at the grand Sofia Synagogue over which he presides. Completed in 1909, this neo-Moorish building in the … [Read more...]

Generation X-ile

Generation X-ile

by Allen Selis Silicon Valley specializes in creating new things. Silicon wafers with brains. Eyeglasses with cameras. Cars without drivers. To that list, I’d like to add one more innovation: a model of religious life for Israelis that gets beyond pointless divisions between religious and secular Jews. For the last three years, I have served as headmaster of the South Peninsula Hebrew Day School, Silicon Valley’s one Orthodox day school for grades PK-8. The school is a unique institution. Its students include the children of Chabad rabbis, Modern Orthodox entrepreneurs, and Haredi kollel leaders. By far the most interesting families to me are the secular Israeli software engineers. They have come to the Valley to chase the dream of startups, venture capital, and the potential for enormous … [Read more...]

Roman Vishniac (Re)Discovered in Amsterdam

Roman Vishniac
[Girl in plaid dress, Mukacevo], ca. 1935–38.
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

Roman Vishniac is most famous for his photographs documenting Jewish life in Eastern Europe in the 1930s, but his career and the impact of his work are much broader. In 2013, the International Center of Photography in New York exhibited a collection of his photographs that spanned a period from the early 1920s until the late 1970s. The same collection is now being shown until August 28 at the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam. If you did not see this exhibit in New York, then make the trip to Amsterdam: it will be well worth the trip. Vishniac was born in 1897 near St. Petersburg; his family soon moved to Moscow where he spent his childhood and completed his university education, earning an MA in zoology. After the Bolshevik Revolution, like many wealthy business owners, his family emigrated … [Read more...]