Around The Jewish World: The Sheen Family Tree, Tefillin On A Plane, TribeFest Numbers
03/16/2011 - 17:47

Earlier this month I reported the news of Charlie Sheen’s jaw-dropping “I can’t be an anti-Semite, I’m Jewish” announcement. Given the astonishing number of people in Hollywood with Jewish lineage, I took Chaz at face value. Not so the Jewish World Review’s Nate Bloom, who actually climbed up the Estevez family tree and shook, coming up with the conclusion that Janet Sheen, nee Templeton, is highly unlikely to be a member of the Tribe, based on her geographic lineage. Plus, Charlie’s brother Emilio Esteves reportedly once said his mom’s a southern Baptist. Doesn’t rule out conversion, but if Charlie fibbed or somehow stretched the truth it would explain the lapse between the initial Abe Foxman condemnation of Sheen and his reply on Access Hollywood that he’s Jewish, beyond “I just got caught sleeping. Caught napping. Which is rare for me.”

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Speaking of flying high: A group of Mexican Jews gets on an Alaskan Airlines flight to LA … sounds like the setup for a Purim joke, but there was nothing funny about what happened when these Orthodox travelers strapped on their tefillin and started the latest FWD scare (flying while davening.) After the last incident, which forced some Jewish teens to have to be diverted to Philadelphia, the TSA with the help of the OU and other initialed organizations handed out some material to flight attendants to enlighten them to the fact that shel roshes and shel yads are neither explosive nor part of a suicide ritual, but apparently Alaska Airlines wasn’t on the list, maybe because it’s so rare they actually see Jews, much less Orthodox ones.

Here’s a great, though lengthy,  account on one Chabadnik’s feelings about davening on the plane, (an apprehension I definitely share) which if you fly most often on El Al, you will take for granted as about as routine as fastening your seat belt and being overcharged for drinks.

But here, Bill Maher style is a New Rule, that should apply to Orthodox travelers: Sensitivity swings both ways. Prioritize your principles. When someone asks what you’re doing don’t assume the rule against talking mid-prayer is more sacred than offering an explanation so the people around you won’t think you’re in a martyrs meditation.

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Here’s a really good article about Jews for Jesus on college campuses written in the student magazine New Voices. Back in my college days, I used to be very active covering this issue as the Hebrew Christian crowd was very active on my Brooklyn campus, so this brought back some memories.

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This will be my last post about TribeFest, seriously. But JFNA, which sponsored the confab in Vegas where I had a ball (while working diligently, of course) is now out with figures about just how well the organization did in reaching their target demographic: people aged 22-25 who have never before been to an organized Jewish community or federation gathering and might be open to getting more involved. According to my JTA counterpart Sue Fishkoff, who also scoured the crowd looking for those newbies, the JFNA’s own survey indicates that:

  • 30 percent of the first 150 people to answer were not federation donors;
  • 42 percent never participated in or organized a local program;
  • 45 percent never served on a federation committee;
  • 62 percent said Tribefest was their first national federation conference.

Here’s a blog from someone who doesn’t think it was worth the cost. But it’s worth noting that more than a week after it ended, people are still tweeting about it via #TribeFest, sharing videos and articles. One person suggested that they continue all year by using the hashtag “TribeFestMovement,” – although as of Wednesday evening that was the only post to use it.

I always say, if you’re still talking about a movie when you get home from the theater, it’s done its job. Whether TribeFest was a hit because it reached the right people thematically or because it was just a fun time in Vegas remains to be seen, and hopefully the federation data they collected will bring some answers.




Couldn't agree more about Tefillin on a plane or for that matter Mincha out loud in the middle of a mall. Tolerance swings both ways. While being diligent in keeping tradition is wonderful, we must always keep our eyes on the fact that it may be a Mitzva habah B'averah (a positive commandment that results from the breaking another commandment) in this case Hilul Hashem (desecration of G-d's name).
Last year I was at a NY airport when someone needed a Minyan for Kaddish. The guy wanted to daven at the gate. A young Chabad Rabbi suggested that we move to an unoccupied gate an inform the security person who was there that we wanted to pray for a few minutes at the empty gate. The security person was curious and asked further questions. The Chabad Rabbi in the most polite and caring way explained the need to say kaddish. That was a Kiddush Hashem and the way to do it.

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