Special Sections

Ghosts And Giants


Among visitors from the Old Country, Emek Refaim in the German Colony is the second-best known street in Jerusalem after Ben-Yehuda. The latter, where you buy mezuzahs and gorge on falafel, is named for a fabled fanatic who helped revive the Hebrew language. Emek Refaim, a three-minute walk from my house, goes back to the Hebrew Bible, and means either “Valley of the Giants” or “Valley of the Ghosts.”  According to the First Book of Chronicles, David fought the Philistines here. I count them, too, as neighbors.

Architecture Unseen

Staff Writer

As an architect, I believe it is not the literalness of what one sees in the built world that creates a Jewish environment. Instead, a Jewish urban space is more like street theater, which can be set against any backdrop. The Jewish people have never been identified by the material things of our culture (a building type, a style, a constant aesthetic), but rather by events, ideas, concepts, dialogues and other intangibles in the public realm.

High-Wire Act


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.  

Town and Country


From the beginning of our history, we Jews have felt a tension between the city and the wilderness.

Where Aleppo Feels Closer Than Manhattan


I was only 16 when I left my community of Syrian Jews in Brooklyn, convinced I was on an upward trajectory. I was, after all, trading the prospect of Brooklyn College for Vassar, abandoning the staid, simple streets of Bensonhurst for the lush opulence of the quad in Poughkeepsie and later Manhattan, leaving behind the little shul where I sat with my mom in the obligatory women’s section for the vast progressive egalitarian temples that were sprouting everywhere in America.

A Walk in the City


The Lord appeared to him and said: “Do not go down to Egypt. Stay in the land that I shall say to you. Sojourn in this land so that I may be with you and bless you….”
— Genesis 26.2-3

Isaac is the only patriarch who does not leave the Land of Israel. Abraham and Jacob both go to Egypt, but when famine strikes in his lifetime, God says to stay put.

The Question Of Community


"What indeed is "community"?

Are we bound together by common purposes and goals? (This approach is beloved by the community organizers.) Or is there something deeper, more intimate, in the idea of community, something that reaches down to family? In this construct, the community provides the individual much of what the family provides; it’s the idea of kinship.

Setting Limits Is An Act Of Love

Special To The Jewish Week

One of the most dramatic changes I have observed over the course of my 35-plus years practicing psychotherapy is that when a phone call interrupts a therapy session nowadays, it is most often the patient’s phone that is ringing and not the therapist’s.

Trying to resist the urge to tap my foot to the lively beat of the ring tone, I could not help smiling as a patient of mine recently retrieved her blaring cell phone from her purse.

Health Briefs


* (JTA) — Jewish groups praised President Obama for reversing a Bush administration order banning U.S. assistance to overseas groups that provide abortions or information about other providers.

“The repeal of the Global Gag Rule represents a major victory for international family planning programs and renews America’s position as a leader in the global community,” Mark Pelavin, the associate director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center, said Friday.

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