Fledgling startups looking to set up shop in Manhattan, a city teeming with venture capitalists prowling for the next Google, have traditionally hooked up with university-linked incubators. In addition to nurturing entrepreneurial companies by providing office space and facilitating connections with investors and potential clients, university-affiliated incubators offer intellectual capital in the form of access to professors (many of whom are experts in their chosen fields) and the cheap labor of hungry MBA students.
Fifteen months ago, with Lower Manhattan engulfed in ashes, the idea of building a Jewish community center here might have seemed like a bizarre joke.
Jewish parenting classes, arts programming (maybe even a swimming pool) within blocks of the most horrific scene of Islamic fundamentalist-inspired destruction?
But, ironically, momentum is now building for a Jewish center below Canal Street: and it is because of, rather than in spite of, the Sept. 11 attacks.
It’s 8:30 on a Saturday night and 29-year-old “Ilana,” dressed in a sweater set and skirt that falls just below the knees, is in the hallway of a Brooklyn synagogue, its faded cappuccino-colored walls decorated with black-and-white photos from the 1950s and ’60s.
Nathan Englander's first book, "For the Relief of Unbearable Urges," caused considerable buzz when it was released in 1999. Tall and slender, with a mane of dark curls and soft features befitting a biblical hero, the 30-something author became the darling of the Jewish book-fair circuit, drawing swarms of potential book buyers in Jewish Community Centers and synagogues nationwide.
Zviya Lushe, Chana Ben-Shoan, Yitzchak Caravani and Dorit Baxter didn’t know the five disabled Israeli athletes who came here last week to compete in the New York Marathon, but the former Israelis who now live in the New York area opened their homes and businesses to the visitors.
“Most of all, their hearts,” said Yoel Sharon, executive director of Etgarim (Hebrew for challenges), an 8-year-old organization that brings outdoor and adventure sports to Israel’s disabled population. Etgarim sponsored the Israeli delegation in the marathon.
Shortly after the 1979 revolution in Iran, which made many of the country’s Jews nervous about their future in a fundamentalist Muslim country, Iranian Jewish families arranged for a few thousand of their children to come alone to the United States to attend Jewish schools.
A few summers at day camp changed Alan Siskind’s life.
Siskind, who retired in the fall as executive vice president of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services after 16 years in that position and 33 years at the agency says his days as a counselor at the Mount Vernon Y’s summer camp, influenced him to become a social worker.
At the camp he observed the directors, all trained in social work.
Today, the once-struggling Y is in excellent financial shape.
Today, the Y is at the center of the post-9/11 revival of Jewish life in Lower Manhattan, the home to scores of activities and to the Downtown Kehillah, the umbrella group for a dozen local Jewish institutions.
I've always admired Hannah Rosenthal. When she was executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), she brought a new energy and edginess to a group that was having a hard time finding its identity in a changing Jewish world and a strong, consistent dedication to progressive Jewish politics – which is where a majority of Jews remain, despite persistent claims to the contrary.
So I'm even more mystified than most by her recent gaffe.