You’re in synagogue, about to begin the shmoneh esrei, the heart of the prayer service. You’re ready to take the three steps backwards, then three quick steps forward, the ritual that brings each worshiper to a physical and spiritual place standing before God.
First, the person leading services speaks: Let us all get up and stand in a comfortable way. We must ensure there is enough space in front of us and in back, so we each can take several steps forward and backward.
The murder of a dozen high school students and one teacher by two classmates in Colorado forced the Jewish community once again to find a balance between its support for civil liberties and desire to put its religious values in the cultural marketplace.
The killings were committed by Dylan Klebold, who had Jewish lineage, and Eric Harris, both of whom were reportedly influenced by neo-Nazi ideology and carried out their yearlong designs on Hitler’s birthday, April 20.
Who remembers Alfred Hajos-Guttman? He was the Mark Spitz of his day — 1896.
At the first modern Olympic Games, in Athens, the Hungarian swimmer won two gold medals, in 100-meter and 1,500-meter freestyle.
Jewish athletes won eight more medals at the inaugural Games, starting a sporting tradition that continues until today.
Sofia, Bulgaria — Lili Vrangova and Richard Kanter invited only their closest friends to their wedding here the other day. But Sofian Jewry showed up. Some 500 members of the city’s Jewish community, about one-sixth of the Jews who live in the capital, came to the synagogue one Sunday morning. Uninvited but welcomed, they crowded into the sanctuary of the 91-year-old building, listened to the ceremony on loudspeakers in the courtyard and danced in the aisles.
Plovdiv, Bulgaria — Albert Alkalai put on his raincoat, the one with the small yellow Jewish star on the lapel, left his family’s house and walked to work a quarter-mile away in the central square at 8 a.m. on March 10, 1943.
The morning was sunny. “A little bit chilly, as in March,” Alkalai remembers.
Warsaw — At the podium was the prime minister of Poland, who began his speech with a quote from the Talmud.
In the crowd were several hundred Polish Jews — parents and grandparents of children enrolled in Warsaw’s only Jewish day school.
In the front rows sat some of the most prominent leaders of American Jewish organizations and a few hand-picked American philanthropists.
Channah Gutnick didn’t make it back to Melbourne. In the summer of 1968, Channah was headed home to her native Australia after a few months visiting in Israel. On the way she came to New York City for some shopping and shidduchim. She was fixed up with Sholem Ber Hecht, then a yeshiva student — she was his first arranged date.
Both were in their early 20s, from chasidic families. They went out for a few months — dinners in kosher restaurants, visits to an antique show — and the relationship clicked. One night Sholem Ber borrowed a car.
This school is painting a new picture of the Orthodox women’s seminary. The Lea Rothstein Judaism & Arts Institute, located on the Ramot Shapira campus 15 minutes west of Jerusalem, will combine traditional religious studies with advanced training in fine and graphic arts, literature and music when it opens in September.
David Rosenn did not intend to become a rabbi. After graduating college with a philosophy degree, he spent three years — in Israel and the United States — finding an answer to one question: “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?”
He took a variety of jobs, for anti-poverty and civil rights organizations. Later Rosenn heard about a Christian group that recruited young volunteers to work in poor neighborhoods. Where was the Jewish version, he wondered. “There was no Jewish version,” he says.
‘I don’t go to shul,” Leon Bernhardt declares. Raised Conservative, he stopped attending synagogue shortly after his bar mitzvah four decades ago in Crown Heights, when he and his brother were saying Kaddish for their father and were berated, publicly, for showing up for mincha one day sans jackets.
Now he’s a psychiatrist, lives in Manhattan and doesn’t belong to a congregation.
Elaine Wohl does go to shul.