An unusual scene took place recently in the West Bank Jewish community of Efrat, where a group of about 75 residents met with the former head of the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret service, who sought to convince them to consider giving up their homes and move back to Israel proper.
Not surprisingly there was deep disagreement. But both sides concurred that the discussion was civil, serious and dealt not only with the fate of the settlers themselves but the fate of the State of Israel.
Is it true, as Peter Beinart suggested in his widely read New York Review of Books essay in June, that young American Jews are increasingly alienated from Israel because of its allegedly declining commitment to democratic ideals?
Agree with him or not, the former New Republic editor hit a raw nerve among many Jews when he wrote “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment,” setting off a discussion that continues to stir debate six months later.
Zeba Khan was born and raised in a middle-class home in Toledo, Ohio, and for nine years attended the local Jewish day school, The Hebrew Academy, going to morning minyan every day. She graduated in 1993.
She says she would have continued on with her Jewish education but the school only went through sixth grade.
“I knew Hebrew better than most of my classmates,” she recalled in a recent interview, “and I wanted a bat mitzvah.”
I got the feeling that my extended hour with Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, late in the afternoon last Wednesday, was going to be more shmooze than interview when his assistant, on entering my office with him, asked if I would mind if the prolific scholar and author ate the chocolate rugelach she brought for him during our chat.
One of the enduring images of Hurricane Katrina for the Jewish community of New Orleans, and well beyond, was of a kipah-wearing rescue worker, in waist-high water, carrying one of seven Torahs out of the sanctuary of the century-old Orthodox congregation, Beth Israel.
The Torahs did not make it; water-logged beyond repair, they ultimately were buried in the synagogue’s cemetery, along with 3,000 prayer books.
New Orleans — For a long time the 79th General Assembly of The Jewish Federations of North America had been scheduled to take place this week in Orlando, Fla. But after a top consultant scouted that city last winter, and concluded that it would add little to the spirit of the annual gathering of the federation movement — and that Disney World might prove a major distraction — the decision was made to move the three-day GA here to New Orleans.