STEM Education: No Longer Enough

By Danny Aviv, Ph.D. Walk into my classroom at 9 a.m. and you might see a team of entrepreneurial students pitching a big idea. Come back mid-morning and you will find them building a fire-extinguishing robot. After lunch, a class might be on Skype with an executive from an Israeli tech start-up. And at 5:15 p.m., three students - who could have gone home an hour earlier - are completing a circuit to a new wearable heart monitor they’ve created. … [Read more...]

Making Day School Work for Working Parents

day school kids

By Tamar Snyder Earlier this year, several Jewish day schools in the northern New Jersey and Manhattan areas announced that they would be starting the 2015-2016 year on September 8 because Labor Day falls late this year. I quickly did some math and discovered that this meant my children would be off for 17 days during the summer, without camp or school. To put things in perspective, the average American employee is entitled to only 16 days of paid leave each year, including holidays. Scrambling to arrange child care is always a Herculean task for dual-income working parents, but this year it will be even tougher. My husband, who works in the corporate world, barely gets enough vacation days to cover all the Jewish holidays. I am lucky enough to work in the Jewish not-for-profit world, where I … [Read more...]

From Apps to Advocacy: The Israeli-American Millionaire who Made Israel an Ivory-Tower Brand

photo courtesy FIDF

After succeeding beyond his wildest dreams in America, Israeli-born high-tech maven Benny Shabtai has sold off his family's stake in Viber and is now devoting his energies to garnering support for his homeland and preparing future Jewish leaders. By James Kirchick “America was extremely good to me,” says Benny Shabtai, a wall of windows showcasing the Atlantic Ocean behind him. We are sitting in the living room of his magnificent home on the 25th floor of a luxury condominium complex at the southern tip of Miami’s South Beach. No one could fault the Israeli businessman for invoking the clichéd immigrant adage of appreciation for his adopted country. Earning his initial fortune as the founder of the Raymond Weil luxury watchmaker’s U.S. brand, Shabtai last year sold off his family’s stake in … [Read more...]

Framing the Israel Debate: Beyond the Rhetoric of Hate Speech


A thoughtful and essential conversation on Israel is needed, so that both the supporters and opponents of the contemporary political condition can be invited to participate. By Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. Words can be employed as destructive weapons or they can be seen as supportive tools. The conversation around Israel often revolves around defining words or phrases, such as being identified as “pro Israel” or “anti Israel.” In December (2014) I presented on these pages a description of what I defined as “An Unsettling Jewish Environment” offering a commentary on the state of discourse around Israel. This piece seeks to expand upon that presentation in light of Israel’s recent election cycle. Realizing how essential political discourse can be in promoting one’s argument, any effort to label … [Read more...]

(A) Building with Heart: The Torah of Capital Campaigns


By Shai Held Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei 5775 In conveying instructions for the building of the mishkan (tabernacle), God instructs Moses, “Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts (terumah); you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him (yidvenu libo) ... And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:2, 6). These opening words make two crucial points. First, God does not simply seek a place to dwell; God seeks, rather, a place constructed by human hands. Second, God has no interest in a structure erected through coercion or taxation; what God wants is an edifice built from freely-bestowed gifts. As Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann puts it: “Constructing an adequate place for the holiness of God is indeed human work, wrought in … [Read more...]

Gabriel Negrin, The ‘Little Rabbi’ Now Leading Athens’ Community


By Laim Hoare Let’s start by clearing one thing up: Rabbi Gabriel Negrin is not, as has been erroneously reported elsewhere, the Chief Rabbi of Greece. For historical reasons, the Jewish community of Greece has not had a Chief Rabbi since the Holocaust. Since January 1, Rabbi Negrin has been the Rabbi of the Jewish Community of Athens. At the age of twenty-six, he is the spiritual head of the largest community in Greece. 3,000 of the country’s 5,000 Jews live in the capital city. “I don’t think there are many young people who say their dream is to be a rabbi,” Negrin told eJewishPhilanthropy, discussing his education. “I was religious - I was shomer mitzvot. I was involved in the life of the synagogue with the former rabbi, studying with him. The community saw that and proposed the study. I … [Read more...]

The Next Mark Zuckerberg? Meet the Kid Crowdfunding His Way to Summer Camp

When he learned his entrepreneurship camp was a bit too pricey, one resourceful 11-year-old turned to crowdfunding. By Rabbi Jason Miller It’s a known fact that many Jewish kids head out to overnight camp each summer. In fact, Jeremy J. Fingerman, the CEO of the Foundation for Jewish Camp, believes that in any one summer, as many as 11% of the approximately 700,000 Jewish kids ages 7-17 in North America are enrolled in a Jewish camp. These are no longer simply the traditional overnight summer camps of previous generations in which campers and counselors swim, sail, and sing Jewish songs by the campfire while roasting s’mores. Today’s listing of Jewish summer camps includes dozens of “specialty camps” that focus on specific interest groups like science and technology, the culinary arts, … [Read more...]

Unseen, Unheard, Poor Philadelphia Demographic Becomes Community Concern

A human assembly line at Philadelphia’s Jewish Relief Agency warehouse.

By Rena Greenberg It is 9:00 am on a Sunday morning in a Northeast Philadelphia warehouse. Over 1,000 volunteers position themselves round hundreds of tables lined with cardboard boxes and a rich variety of kosher food items. A human assembly line forms; children begin tossing packages of macaroni and bags of split peas into boxes. Once brimming with an array of edibles, they are carried to the parking lot where young college students load them into waiting minivans and SUVs. Jokes and chitchat punctuate the organized chaos, and within 90 minutes, the last few vehicles head out to their designated delivery routes. Mission accomplished. This well-oiled operation is a monthly event run by the Jewish Relief Agency (JRA), under the auspices of Chabad-Lubavitch. Established in 2000 and based in … [Read more...]