Earlier this year in a crowded elevator at a Manhattan high school, a boy reached out and grabbed the buttocks of his girlfriend. “She turned and told him to stop,” recalled Claire Wolinsky, 15, a high school junior. “But he continued to grab her rear end. It was more liked he groped her — it wasn’t just a little pinch. After a while she became more accepting of it because everyone was watching, but she clearly did not want him to do it.”
In what is being called a “dramatic departure” from historic American Jewish behavior and values, a new study of U.S. Jews has found that a growing number no longer thinks it is important to have mostly Jewish friends, marry Jews, have an attachment to Israel or ensure the welfare of other Jews.
The study by sociologist Steven M. Cohen of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem warned that as Jews identify less and less as a group, they are withdrawing from “philanthropy, [Jewish] organizations, peoplehood, Israel and Jewish-gentile interactions.”
When a couple in his congregation told Rabbi Gordon Freeman of their infertility and asked for spiritual help, the rabbi confessed that he had not realized all of the ramifications.
“They said they wanted to deal with it in a ritual manner,” recalled the spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Shalom in Walnut Creek, Calif. “They wanted to know how our tradition could help them deal with it. They had already gone to therapists.”
Some novel methods will soon be used by UJA-Federation in the fight against breast cancer. Realizing that Orthodox women with large families will not hang breast self-examination cards in their showers, it will ask mikvehs to hang the cards in their showers.
And to entice immigrants from the former Soviet Union to get mammograms, UJA-Federation will offer them free cosmetics.
When Sara J. was a senior in high school and active participant in the National Conference of Synagogue Youth in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s, the culminating Shabbaton of the year was an all-night session for more than 100 teens. She recalled that during the awards ceremony, an emotional high point, an adviser of the Orthodox Union-sponsored group “praised me for defying my parents by choosing to study at a yeshiva in Israel for a year rather than start college at home.”“Defiance of parents,” Sara, who asked that her name not be used, said recently.
Benjamin Netanyahu is no longer on the hot seat in Mideast peace talks. He may not be in the driver’s seat, but it is clear after his five-day visit to the U.S. that the Israeli prime minister’s stock has gone up in Washington of late.
Israeli officials assert that the Clinton administration is more sympathetic to Netanyahu’s insistence that the Palestinians must live up to their prior commitments on security before Israel agrees to a second redeployment in the West Bank.
Heading into the home stretch of his three-year presidency of UJA-Federation of New York, James Tisch remains committed to increasing donors and dollars by simplifying the goal of the complex organization.“We help Jews in need — in New York, Israel and around the world,” he asserted during an interview at his office at the Loews Corp., where he is president and CEO. He has tried to keep the charity focused, rejecting proposals that it make a priority of religious or political initiatives such as revitalizing synagogues or supporting tuition vouchers for day schools.
For the first time, New York State has bought State of Israel Bonds directly from the Israeli government. The state recently purchased $5 million in Bonds from the Development Corporation for Israel.
State Comptroller H. Carl McCall said the action was prompted in part by his trip to Israel in April for a celebration of the nation’s 50th anniversary.
“Seeing what was happening with the economy and what they were doing with the money was reassuring,” said McCall.
The second time, it turns out, was the charm for Eliot Spitzer. After finishing last in a four-way primary for attorney general four years ago, the Manhattan millionaire lawyer handily defeated his three opponents in the Democratic primary for the same seat Tuesday and immediately set his sights on unseating incumbent Republican Dennis Vacco.