Last fall, as her peers fanned out to colleges across the country, Dana Feldman made what in the leafy Chicago suburb of Highland Park, Ill., was an unusual choice: She headed for Israel to spend the year studying and volunteering.After taking Jewish studies and ulpan classes at Hebrew University during the fall semester, Feldman is spending the second half of her year abroad working with new immigrants at a Beersheva absorption center.
Eli Sinai, Gaza Strip — As Israel’s army began pulling out of Palestinian cities this week and terrorist groups pledged a three-month cease-fire, Israelis in this northern Gaza Strip settlement could find little evidence that the daily fighting going on just outside their window was really over.
“It still hasn’t proven itself yet,” Sarah Kahani, a nursery school teacher, told The Jewish Week. “I want to hope but I’m not 100 percent.”
Ashkelon, Israel — For the residents of this coastal city of 120,000, the 10 miles between the Gaza border and the center of town seemed like a comfortable buffer. But in the wake of last Thursday’s rocket hit on the northern edge of the city, the buffer has all but dissolved, nerves here are raw, and residents are wondering if their city will become the next Sderot.
Ramle — The industrial zone of this working-class Jewish-Arab city between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv is home to numerous car-repair shops, gas stations and factories. The streets are lined with broken glass and litter, the sidewalks with fancy cars awaiting a muffler or tune-up.
In the aftermath of last week’s deadly terror attack, all eyes focused on the fervent rescue effort in Lower Manhattan. With thousands of people buried under mountains of steel and concrete, cultural enterprise suddenly seemed frivolous and art openings, lectures, parties and awards ceremonies nationwide were canceled or postponed.
Now in its 17th year, the New York Jewish Film Festival, which opens Jan. 9, is truly a fixture on the local film calendar, so much so that this year’s event includes one world premiere, 10 U.S. premieres and 12 New York premieres. If you subtract the seven retrospectives (see sidebar), that means that all but one of the 32 films in this year’s festival are so new that the prints are still wet from the lab.
About 12 years ago, Joel Chasnoff had a personal crisis. Fresh out of the University of Pennsylvania, he had no idea what he wanted to do with his life. His father’s success as a doctor in Chicago made him insecure, feeling like he had too big a pair of shoes to fill. And his passions — acting, stand-up comedy — hardly promised a stable alternative. But Chasnoff did have a strong Jewish identity, the result of a day school education, and an especially romantic vision of Israelis.