In medieval times in the Middle East, translators in synagogues would render the reading of the weekly Torah portion from Hebrew into the vernacular Arabic or Aramaic.
Something similar took place in Manhattan this week.
During an academic conference in Boston last month, Sasha Toperich, a multilingual native of Bosnia-Herzegovina, presented a speech on recent political developments in the Balkans.
That was appropriate — Toperich is a diplomat.
Toperich also gave a concert during the two-day conference.
That, too, was appropriate — he’s a concert pianist.
Dozens of young Israelis have traveled to three continents on a privately sponsored public relations campaign for the Jewish state because Joey Low asked himself a question two years ago.
Low, a national Hillel board member who lives in Purchase, found that “college kids knew nothing about Israel” and he wondered, “What can we do to change that?”
The New York Kollel, a 12-year-old adult education program that has met at the Reform movement’s rabbinical seminary in Manhattan and offered advanced yeshiva-style studies from a non-denominational, non-Orthodox perspective, is giving its last classes this summer.
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, which has housed and helped support the Kollel since 1995, announced this spring that it would close the program, following a two and a half year “strategic planning process” that found the Kollel to be a financial drain.
The product of a Modern Orthodox home and a longtime resident of Boston, Yehuda Kurtzer reached an important spiritual decision while he was living in Washington, D.C., for a while three years ago. He and his wife, Stephanie Ives, had become active in the D.C. Minyan, an independent prayer group that meets in the capital’s Dupont Circle area, and wanted to start a similar minyan when he moved back to Boston with her for graduate school.
“We knew we had to have something like this in Boston,” Kurtzer says.
Today they do.
None of the 45 people in the kosher Chinese restaurant on Flatbush Avenue had ever been to Zembrov, a town in northeast Poland, and some even had trouble spelling it. But all had relatives who came from there, and they gathered two weeks ago to keep their memories alive.
Houston — If our communal organizations were to follow the Torah, in letter and spirit, they would overhaul their fund-raising strategies completely.
Instead of concentrating on the “big givers,” the 10 percent of donors who contribute about 90 percent of the total dollars in Jewish federation campaigns, our pros would focus on maximum participation rather than “major gifts.”
In a move that promises to speed fare collection on its 240 trains nationwide, Amtrak has contracted with Motorola to automate the system using equipment developed and manufactured in Israel.
Amtrak, announcing the $24 million contract, said the new system would be introduced on its new Acela Express high-speed rail service linking Boston, New York and Washington. That service had been expected to begin this year, but wheel problems have delayed it until next spring, according to a spokesman for Amtrak, John Wolf.
When Natan Sharansky, the ex-Soviet refusenik turned hard-line Israeli cabinet minister, visited several local universities here last month, he brought a pointed message: Yasir Arafat, he told students at Columbia University and New York University, is an unrepentant ìdictatorî who is an ominous presence dooming peace and must be removed.
Walking the streets of Manhattan, it’s not uncommon to hear snippets of Hebrew conversation every few blocks or so — a young dad pointing out the “kelev gadol” [big dog] to his toddling son — or to witness an Israeli waitress serving hummus to pay for her university studies.