On Community Building: What Can Be Learned from the Hong Kong Protests

copyright Erica Lyons

By Erica Lyons In the Jewish communal world, we spend a great deal of time analysing community. We engage in community building workshops and we attend conferences designed to build community. We speak broadly of the Jewish community and we allocate generous periods of time dedicated to how we can expand our definition of community and make our communities more inclusive, more pluralistic. I have spent a considerable part of the past three weeks, chagim aside, observing students of Hong Kong engaged in protests. As I walk the streets and watch their actions, I am certain that I must have run into them somewhere - ROI? WJC? AJC? Somewhere else on the Jewish conference circuit? And though it is highly doubtful that they have been to one of these conferences (or that they are able to … [Read more...]

Holy Texting! Does New App Make Smartphone Use Permissible on Shabbat?

A sample screen of the Shabbos App; via Shabbos App Facebook page.

By Maayan Jaffe JNS.org Teens love texting. Cell phones don’t jive with Shabbat. A new app seeks to address this uniquely Jewish case of “unstoppable force meets immovable object.” In 2012, teens were sending an average of 60 texts per day, according to a report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. That number was up from 50 in 2009, so it is likely even higher in 2014. Orthodox teens are no exception. In 2011, an article published in The New York Jewish Week drew attention to the high percentage of modern Orthodox teens for whom “half Shabbos” is a way of life. Half Shabbos is when one refrains from all of the 39 Shabbat prohibitions except when it comes to texting, which falls under the prohibition of using electricity in non-emergency situations. Yossi Goldstein and a … [Read more...]

Got God? Thoughts on God from a Sometimes-theist (as inspired by ELI on Air)

By Esther D. Kustanowitz The High Holidays are over, and for many, so is our most immersive “God language” experience of the Jewish calendar year. Over the course of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we read of God’s many roles: God is the supreme sovereign. God commanded us to bring sacrifices. God commanded Abraham to bring his son as sacrifice and then issued a reprieve at the last minute. God granted Hannah a child. God is the shepherd who looks at us individually as we pass under God’s staff. God searches out our innermost kishkes and discerns our heart’s intentions. God has a “naughty-and-nice” list (in the High Holidays context, it’s called the Book of Life). I’m a graduate of yeshiva day schools; I grew up with liturgy. I know that, according to Jewish texts, God has different names, going … [Read more...]

Going Global, The Shabbos Project Hits Europe

The Shabbos Project

By Liam Hoare “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath unto the Lord thy God.” The Torah gives two reasons for the need to keep Shabbat holy. In Exodus 20:10, it is said that having created the earth and sea, the Lord “rested on the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” But in Deuteronomy 5:14, one is commanded to keep Shabbat: “And ... remember that thou was a servant in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God brought thee out ... by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day.” In Europe, in modern times religious reasoning was superseded by or merged with secular demands from the international left and … [Read more...]

Tevel b’Tzedek Helps Survivors of the Nepal Trekking Disaster

By Rabbi Micha Odenheimer Last week tragedy hit Nepal when a freak snowstorm trapped hundreds of trekkers, including tens of Israelis, in the mountain pass of the popular Annapurna range. The death toll is now over 40, including 3 young Israelis, and many more trekkers were airlifted out suffering from hypothermia, frostbite and other injuries. Read more. The Tevel staff and volunteers were among the first in the field to offer assistance. I spent Simchat Torah and Shabbat at the hospital with our staff members and fellows from our year-long program, the Tevel Fellowship, supporting the survivors, several of whom were suffering from post-trauma. We distributed warm meals, blankets, SIM cards and lots of hugs and encouragement. We helped the victims of severe frostbite get the medical attention … [Read more...]

An Alternative Cultural and Community Center Reopens in Budapest

courtesy Siraly

By Abigail Pickus On Simchat Torah, Budapest’s answer to a new alternative Jewish community center will open its doors with a new name and a new location. Aurora, as it will be called, will be located on Aurora street in Budapest’s 8th district, a mere district away from its old home in the former Jewish quarter. A cultural and community center in one, Aurora will be home to a whole continuum of Jewish life - offering everything from religious programs and a place to pray and celebrate holidays, cultural events, such as music, film and art, and last but certainly not least, a hub for social activism. “We are trying to offer as many options as we are able to attract people,” said Adam Schonberger, who is heading up the center as part of his role as the executive director of the … [Read more...]

Simchat Torah, Jewish Education and the Sixth Day

By Dr. Gil Graff The fall sequence of Jewish holidays closes with simchat torah, marking the end of a Torah study cycle and starting the cycle anew. The first chapter of Genesis, read on the morning of simchat torah, presents images of creation, culminating in the appearance of humankind. The chapter concludes with the words “yom ha-shishi,” the sixth day. … [Read more...]

Our Years of Ralph

Ralph meeting with the PresenTense team in Jerusalem, October 2010; photo PresenTense.

By Aharon Horwitz There’s no way that we could not have met Ralph Goldman. In retrospect, it seems obvious: the days and evenings between 2008 and 2013, when Ralph would visit PresenTense, were destined by a higher power that saw fit to bridge two kindred generations. After all, more than anything those of us in the founding generation of PresenTense, and before that the Creative Zionist Circle, longed for the moral power and intellectual resourcefulness of those turn-of the century giants, the Zionist rebels like Katznelson, Ahad Ha’am, Jabotinsky, and the Jewish seers like Kaplan, Buber, and Rawidowicz. We diligently read their essays, debated their arguments, and reproduced their works online. We did it in formal sessions in the evenings, and in impromptu talks late into the night. In New … [Read more...]