Jewish life

A Theology of Rain

Facing the uncertainty of water.

Special to the Jewish Week

I never gave much thought to the significance of rain until I moved to Miami. Rabbis in Miami face the High Holiday season with more than the usual rabbinic anxiety. In South Florida, the High Holiday season coincides with hurricane season. In the last three years of Florida living, I have reflected often on the ways in which Judaism invests rain with religious meaning. Prayers for rain mark the culmination of the High Holiday season.

Jewish refugee aboard the S.S. Serpa Pinto, en route to New York from Portugal, c1943. PHOTO: AMERICAN JEWISH JOINT DISTRIBUTION

Oasis Fruit

Jujubes once took center stage at Algerian Rosh HaShanah celebrations.

Special to the Jewish Week

The French-Algerian author Albert Bensoussan remembered a clear moment from his childhood during Rosh HaShanah. His mother, busily shopping in the Arab marketplace, let go of his hand for a brief moment. Little Albert was lost, with a cone-shaped news-paper filled with jujubes (pronounced juJOOB) in hand. To the young Algerian boy, jujubes were equivalent with Jews, right down to the alphabetical resonance.

Grosser, Krivoi Rog district, Ukraine, c. 1930. PHOTO: AMERICAN JEWISH JOINT DISTRIBUTION COMMITTEE

Bread and Water

The ritual of Tashlich brings together all kinds of Jews and all kinds of sins.

Special to the Jewish Week

It’s a glorious late summer/early fall evening in Riverside Park on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The setting sun smiles like in a 6-year-old’s art-work, dappling the surface of the lazily flowing Hudson. Cottony clouds slowly turn crimson. And the park promenade is thronged four and five deep—with Jews.



in producing Jewish music, trombonist Rafi Malkiel found inspiration in water.

Special to the Jewish Week

When John Zorn invited the Israeli trombonist and composer Rafi Malkiel to record an album exploring his Jewish roots for Zorn’s Tzadik label, Malkiel was delighted. He was also stumped. “I don’t know how to do Jewish music,” Malkiel told me; which is ironic, because he seems to know how to do everything else, from straight-ahead jazz to Middle Eastern music and salsa.

Being Ruth Gruber

The pioneering, nonagenarian Jewish journalist is a perfect documentary subject; fortunately, the film landed the perfect director as well.

Special to the Jewish Week

Ruth Gruber, the subject of a wonderfully economical and crisp documentary, "Ahead of Time," is a magnificent one-of-a-kind figure in 20th-century Jewish history. Gruber is the product of, she recounts with a grin, "a shtetl called Brooklyn. … Everybody there was Jewish." She was a prodigy who entered New York University at 15 and earned a doctorate from the University of Cologne at 20. But the attractions of the academy couldn't compete with the turmoil of worldwide economic depression, the New Deal at home and the rise of Fascism in Europe.

Ruth Gruber

Editor’s Note


I write this with a view of the Atlantic Ocean, listening to the roar of the waves breaking at the shore. It’s a soothing sound, even as it hints of danger. Water is both gentle and fierce, creative and destructive, as we’ve seen with this summer’s flooding in the Indus Valley of Pakistan, washing away precious lives and displacing millions of people.

JILL NATHANSON. In Our Image, by Our Likeness, Courtesy of Messineo Art Projects/Wyman Contemporary

Reeling In Brooklyn’s Sabras

Park Slope Reform temple is first in area to target reticent Israelis with outreach effort.

Staff Writer

In a Brooklyn coffeehouse one day this summer, Isabel Burton, a 30-year-old native of London, discussed local social activism opportunities with a 40something Jewish woman who lives in the borough. What issues move you, “what keeps you up at night?” Burton asked.

Beth Elohim’s Rabbi Andy Bachman: “So much Israeliness we have not tapped.”

New School Head Optimistic

Staff Writer

Rabbi Michael Druin arrived on Long Island about a month ago with his wife and four children to become the new head of school at the Jewish Academy in East Northport, the only day school in Suffolk County, which this year added a fourth grade.

Rabbi Druin, 43, previously served for five years as rabbinic dean of the Hillel Community Day School in North Miami Beach. Born in California, he was 14 when his family became religious and decided to join Chabad.


Rabbi Michael Druin says Suffolk County has 90,000 Jews, one day school.

Table For One: For Singles, A Different Kind Of Judgment

The Days of Awe and the nagging marriage question.

Special To The Jewish Week

The days of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are supposed to be days of judgment by God. But for singles, they are often days of judgment by family and friends who ask the inevitable — and inevitably annoying — question: “Why aren’t you married yet?”

Queens Cantor Yossi Lisauer said praying for a mate is good, but praying and taking action is better.

Old Year/New Year: Letting Go


I write these words on the last day my brother and I say Kaddish for our mom, who died 11 months ago.

After reciting the mourner’s prayer more than 2,000 times, the looming prospect of completing this meaningful mitzvah leaves me feeling more adrift than fulfilled.

I am anxious to be relieved of the burden — and yet part of me doesn’t want to let go.

It’s a strange place to be, but on reflection, not a unique one.

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