The “Cash for Clunkers” experiment has come and gone, but what was intended for car owners to benefit from increasing their vehicles’ fuel efficiency could be applied to improve Jewish life as well.
The premise would be the same - a valuable voucher or reward going to folks who trade in something less efficient for something on the next level - but our community could make use of it by having consumers of Jewish practice and education be rewarded for stepping up their commitment.
When Efrem Epstein was in the 11th grade at Ramaz, a Jewish day school in Manhattan, he told his father that he had not read the entire Bible.
"How can I graduate without having read it all?" Rabbi Jerome Epstein recalled his son saying. "I said that I had read a lot of it, but that I, too, had not read it all.
"So he said that from that day on he would a chapter a day. I thought it was a fad, but 21/2 years later he finished it and then started reading it again. He has now been through it three times; I started doing it myself in early 1997."
Observing that more and more grandparents are quietly paying their grandchildren's Jewish day school tuition, UJA-Federation has announced a program under which grandparents can underwrite not only their grandchild's Jewish education but those of other youngsters: at no additional cost.
"We really want to make what is happening more formal and to make it financially beneficial for grandparents," said Alisa Rubin Kurshan, executive director of Jewish Educational Planning and Continuity.
The board chairman of Yeshiva University's boys and girls high schools expressed confidence Tuesday that his board would raise the $1 million in pledges the university has sought before allowing the schools to become independent.
It has been tried many times before, but the organizers of a new initiative to recruit and retain top Jewish educators insist that this time their efforts will pay off.
What's changed, they say, is that a growing number of people are choosing their professions based on how rewarding they are personally rather than monetarily.
Efforts are under way to resolve a 3-year-old stalemate that has kept the Austrian government from paying a $210 million Holocaust-era property claims settlement and to provide the Austrian Jewish community with the money it needs to continue operating.
Israel Singer, president of the Conference on Jewish and Material Claims Against Germany, said he has proposed funding the Jewish community using unallocated money from a $400 million fund created to pay surviving slave laborers. The deadline for filing slave labor claims expires Dec. 31 and about $150 million remains.
When Rabbi Jonathan Snowbell was taking undergraduate and graduate classes at Yeshiva University, he never dreamed the State of Israel would find his YU degrees unacceptable.
The problem: the Ministry of Finance changed the criteria in 2003 of what it requires to pay Israeli teachers a higher salary for their college and graduate degrees.
"I was told my degrees are legitimate except for salary evaluation purposes," said Rabbi Snowbell, 30, a high school teacher in Jerusalem who has lived in Israel since 1998.
Even as Modern Orthodox Jews see themselves as embattled and on the decline within Orthodoxy, eclipsed by the ascendancy of the haredim to the right, new demographic data offer quite a different picture.
For the last quarter-century, Jewish Renewal has been a grassroots, anti-establishment movement embraced by Jews searching for spirituality in their lives. Now, itís becoming mainstream.
One of the four pillars of the new United Jewish Communities is being called Jewish Renaissance and Renewal. Its 36-member committee is slated to meet in Washington next month to develop ways to make Jewish life more meaningful. Because it is to be the committee's first meeting, it is unclear which areas it plans to address.
Elie Rekhess is a senior research fellow at Tel Aviv University's Moshe Dayan Center for Middle East Studies and an adviser to the Abraham Fund, which promotes coexistence between the Jews and Arabs in Israel. Born in Haifa, Rekhess, 53, served as a strategic adviser to Ehud Barak during his successful campaign for prime minister. He is currently an adviser to the Ministerial Committee on the Arabs in Israel. He was interviewed during a recent visit to the city.
Jewish Week: How has the attitude of the Arab citizens of Israel changed since the Oslo peace accords in 1993?