Dumplings and Matzahball Soup: China and the Jews Examining the Idea of Diaspora for Two Ancient Civilizations

by Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. In the fall of 2014 I will be traveling to China to meet with academic leaders and others who are interested in exploring the idea of Diaspora. China, which today may have as many as 50 million of its people residing outside of their homeland, is exploring ways to engage and connect with its expanding communities of ex-patriots. Residing in nearby nation-states including Vietnam and Singapore and in more distant locations that encompass North and South America, Africa, and the European continent, this presents a major opportunity and challenge for China. The Chinese view our story as representing the other great ancient civilization in human history. As a result, Beijing has an interest in the Israel-Diaspora connection. Beyond the elements of Jewish tradition and … [Read more...]

A Jewish Future for Europe?

Dohaney

by Marcelo Dimentstein Ever since Europe’s unification over two decades ago, observers have oscillated between pessimistic and optimistic prognoses regarding the future of European Jewish communities. Recently, and exacerbated by the ongoing economic crisis and assaults on democracy by political and religious extremism in Europe, commentators have again swung the pendulum towards the negative, openly lamenting the viability of a Jewish future in Europe. As an example, Michel Gurfinkiel’s piece in Mosaic, sounding the alarm bells once again, points to a rise in anti-Semitism that is making life for practicing Jews in Europe increasingly unsafe. On top of this, Jewish communities are dealing with a set of internal challenges that only stand to reinforce concern: the ongoing polarization … [Read more...]

Are Jewish Communal Funds in Poland Being Mishandled?

photo by Nikodem Nijaki; Wikimedia Commons

“There have been too many examples of mishandling of communal funds, in Europe and here in Israel, and ‘trust us’ is just not enough anymore.” (Rabbi Uri Regev) by Jan Jaben-Eilon When the Polish edition of Forbes magazine published an expose on the long-controversial restitution of Jewish communal property from the pre-war era late this summer, it dared to go where nearly no one else was willing to venture. As the editorial alongside the investigative piece pointed out, everyone had been treating the question of what happened to those properties worth hundreds of millions of Polish zlotys “as if it were a ‘hot potato,’ careful not to be accused of anti-Semitism.” … [Read more...]

Just a Chinese Jew and His Tefillin

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by So-Han Fan I lay Tefillin every day. I don’t consider myself a particularly good Jew. I don’t wear a kipa, I don’t keep kosher and I only observe Shabbat and the holidays when I’m with other Jews, which is seldom. I can’t speak Hebrew, I don’t know the songs; most of my friends don’t even know that I’m Jewish. But against all odds, I do lay Tefillin every day. I don’t always do it in a timely manner. I try to do it in the mornings but often I end up doing it just before sunset, because I’ve put it off all day. Sometimes I have to rush across town to make it in time, because I didn’t bring my Tefillin with me. But if that’s what I need to do, it’s what I do, because I do Tefillin every day. I always lay Tefillin by myself because most of my friends aren’t Jews, and those who are don’t do … [Read more...]

First Jewish Cultural Center in Portugal Inaugurated

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Transcoso, Portugal, July 23, 2013 - A new Jewish cultural and religious center was inaugurated today in the city of Transcoso - the first of its kind in Portugal since the country’s Jews were expelled more than 500 years ago. The center is a joint collaborative effort between the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization and the Trancoso Municipality. Over 100 people participated in the center’s Chanukat HaBayit (inauguration ceremony), at which Mezuzahs were affixed to the doors. The highlight of the event was the celebratory dedication of a Torah scroll which was brought from Israel and will be used in the center’s synagogue. It was carried into the center amid energetic singing and dancing. The center, named the Isaac Cardoso Center for Jewish Interpretation, will be administered by Shavei … [Read more...]

NGF: A Hidden Gem of the Jewish World

Only those who discover the hidden messages of mystical Kabbalistic teachings would know how I felt to experience the 25th International Nahum Goldmann Fellowship in Israel this June; it truly is a hidden gem of the Jewish world. by Lauren Kessler For one week, Jews from across the Diaspora and Israel broke bread together on the banks of the Kinneret. They came from almost every continent as both individuals and community ambassadors; with the intention of studying, debating, arguing, engaging, socialising, listening and expressing themselves as Jews. … [Read more...]