When Sara Losch decided to add a computer-learning program to her Hebrew school’s curriculum, she thought it would give her students a dose of positive reinforcement. Little did she realize that the program would also provide an emotional boost to the staff.
Mark Weisstuch is interim executive director of the Skirball Center for Adult Jewish Learning at Temple Emanu-El, which he co-founded in 2001. Weisstuch has a doctorate in theater history from City University of New York and teaches Jewish history at the center on topics such as Jews in Poland and Eastern Europe, the Holocaust and the Second Temple period. In addition, he is administrative vice president at Temple Emanu-El, a post he has held since 1985.
Former British chief rabbi has new bully pulpit, URJ’s Hebrew curriculum goes digital, the state of the art of adult ed.
Amy Sara Clark
When he steps to the head of the class later this month at New York University and Yeshiva University, former British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks likely won’t be shying away from controversy. At NYU, where he’ll teach a graduate-level course on “Jewish Leadership in a Secular Age,” and at YU, where his undergraduate course will focus on Judaism and political theory, he says he’ll hit some touchy issues — his argument that American society is better aligned with Jewish principles than Israeli society, and the “inward” turn of traditional Jews.
“No deal is better than a bad deal!” That was Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s pronouncement on the interim deal hammered out in Geneva to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But the complexity and thorniness of that issue could hold for any of the stories that will likely resonate in 2014. As 2013 comes to a close, Jews in New York and nationally are looking at Iran; at the governing coalition in Israel — will it address the haredi dilemma?; at Jewish security in Europe; at the peace process; and at nothing less than the present and future of America’s Jews in light of new demographic data.
Of course, there are mikvehs in New York. The city is filled with ritual baths serving its many observant Jewish communities. What the city doesn’t offer is a bath along the lines of Mayyim Hayyim in the Boston area, which was the brainchild of “Red Tent” author Anita Diamant. She dreamed of an aesthetically appealing “community mikveh” that would expand the definition of immersion to mean a ritual that could mark any passage.
Jeffrey Yoskowitz is definitely a young Jewish leader to watch; it’s just sometimes hard to figure out exactly which Yoskowitz you’re watching. Recently returned home from Sweden, where he spoke at the Limmud Jewish education conference, Yoskowitz is a polymath in the Brooklyn mold. He’s a writer, researcher, pickler and social entrepreneur, a kosher foodie educated at Solomon Schechter schools in New Jersey who has never tasted pork — yet is writing a book about the pork industry in Israel. Yes, it’s non-fiction. Yoskowitz, 29, has been studying the industry since 2007, when he received a fellowship to do so after graduating from Brown University.
Modern Orthodox advocates trumpet a “revival” of daring intellectual excitement and halachic experimentation. Literacy is high. Intermarriage is low. But growth is dwarfed by the booming demographics in the yeshivish and chasidic worlds. Just one chasidic girls’ school (Beis Ruchel) in Brooklyn has 15 first grades, about as many as all the Modern Orthodox first grades in Manhattan, Riverdale, and Westchester combined. Haredi yeshivas will ordain scores of rabbis in 2014; liberal Yeshivat Chovevei Torah will ordain only two rabbis.
Who would have expected The Jewish Museum to host an avant-garde fashion show during the Performa festival or invite Lena Dunham to host a Purim party at the Park Avenue Armory? The 109-year-old institution — led by its new director, Claudia Gould — has been shaking things up and increasing its relevance. The shift in exhibitions and programming has been alienating to more than a few longtime members who feel they do not connect with the roster. For its part, the museum is showing that it is trying to reach a greater balance by continuing to offer familiar names such as Chagall, albeit in a new light. It continues to offer mainstay family programs and daytime lectures.