The eruv — that ethereal yet physical boundary enabling observant Jews to push strollers and use wheelchairs on Shabbat — fosters community even as it sparks tensions.
Before the Internet Age rendered geography irrelevant to community there was the eruv, the rabbinic response to spatial separation. A strategically placed wire here, a natural hedge border there, the inclusion of a fence or a highway, turns a neighborhood into an imaginary walled community of halachic intent, as such a deliberate remembrance of pre-diasporic Jerusalem.
Did anything good happen in 2009? It’s hard to find the silver lining in this year of crisis and shame for the Jewish world — as hard as finding a likable character in “A Serious Man,” a film whose dark Joban overtones of unjust absurdity fit the zeitgeist perfectly. Hope was most definitely last year’s poster. We’ve had worse years, to be sure, but rarely have we suffered so much from wounds that were primarily self-inflicted.
Jerusalem — Conference organizers usually frown on participants who Facebook, Tweet or Google during a seminar, but no one objected when some of the 14 participants in a new fellowship program for Jewish educators did just that during a lively lecture.
When Jewish leaders talk about underserved populations in need of attention, they often mention the poor, the elderly, unaffiliated 20-somethings, nontraditional families, people with disabilities and so on.
Ironically, those whose needs often go overlooked, however, are right under our proverbial shnozzes: the rabbis.
For Yeshiva University sophomore Josh Zimmerman, one of the highlights of his winter break was a day of harvesting peppers, plucking up tangled vegetable roots, picking up garbage from the sand and repairing a decrepit greenhouse for a community of Jewish refugees — all with 11 of his peers in Israel’s Negev Desert.
When her parents last year asked her if she wanted to attend a sleepaway summer camp for the first time, Lucy Nye, a third-grader at a Jewish day school in Los Angeles, left no doubt what she thought of the idea.
“Mom, I hate camp” is what she told her parents, recalled her mother, Jennifer Nye, a rabbinical student at the Academy for Jewish Religion. Her reluctance may have had something to do with the fact that “she never even had a sleepover away from home,” her mother added.
Six months ago, there was a lot of talk in the area about the urgent need to address the crisis faced by yeshivas and tuition-paying families as the economic crisis pushed an affordable Jewish education further more out of reach.
There was movement toward scaled-down, low-cost yeshivas, a push toward cost-sharing and more involvement by the general Jewish community, efforts to open Hebrew-themed charter schools and political activism to maximize the extent of public funding for private schools allowed by law.
This really seems to be the moment for Evonne Marzouk’s vision. Hoping to educate the Orthodox world about the environment and climate change is particularly apropos in a time when movements like eco-kashrut and events such as the once-in-28-years Birchat HaChamah have gained such popularity in the Jewish community.