A veteran of international relief work for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Amos Avgar has a set routine when he leaves for points overseas. He gets a visa, makes his hotel reservations, checks that his inoculations are up to date, does some research and puts a "Lonely Planet" travel guide in his suitcase.
And, if the country where he is headed may pose some dangers, he kisses the front-door mezuzah on his apartment in southern Jerusalem.
Two weeks ago Avgar kissed his mezuzah.
Auckland, New Zealand: Roy Netzer first came here as a backpacker, after finishing his five years in the Israeli army and university studies, because he wanted to "experience another country."
He liked what he saw.
Netzer married and worked for a year in Israel, then returned here eight years ago with his wife and without a job lined up.
"I got the 'New Zealand bug,' " he says. "We came with four suitcases."
Sydney: A nearly capacity crowd filled the sanctuary of North Shore Temple Emanuel on a recent weeknight. In the seats were Jews, Christians and "a few Aborigines," said Rabbi Allison Conyer. As part of a forum, "The Aboriginal Challenge: Where To Now?" sponsored by the congregation's Social Action Group, a series of Aboriginal speakers discussed the native Australians' history and current social problems, and the event's Jewish moderator urged the Jewish community to get involved.
The proprietors of the small kiosks in The Diamond Exchange on West 47th Street, the heart of Manhattan's Diamond District, decorate their working areas with artifacts to give each an individual touch. There are family photos, religious icons and homeland decals.
John Kaufmann, a native of Germany, has attached a pair of small stuffed koalas to the spine of his desk lamp. They're a reminder of Australia, where as one of the Dunera Boys he spent eight years.
Sydney, Australia: One by one, the elderly men with white hair or bald heads raised their hands.
Sitting in the sunlit Terrace Room of the Australian National Maritime Museum, at the edge of Sydney Harbor, they listened as Henry Lippmann, a fellow octogenarian, stood with hand-written notes and microphone in hand reading brief snippets of their life stories, asking each to acknowledge his presence.
Israel's new Interior minister for five months has declined to carry out a cabinet decision that would speed up the emigration of the Falash Mura from Ethiopia, their advocates claim.
This week Avraham Poraz, who succeeded Eli Yishai in March as head of the ministry, must tell the Supreme Court why.
An Israeli law firm last month brought suit in the Supreme Court against Poraz compelling him to enforce the cabinet resolution.
The day after terrorist attacks rocked the Jewish community of Casablanca (four of the damaged buildings were identified as Jewish) Natalie called to check on her relatives who still live there. She had moved to Queens five years ago from that Moroccan city.
"They are scared, for sure," she said.
Natalie's relatives are looking to leave after Israel issued an open invitation to Morocco's remaining 5,000 Jews to make aliyah, she said, but added they aren't likely to immigrate soon.
Belgrade: With some 3,300 Jews, Serbia, now unified with neighboring Montenegro, has one of the smallest Jewish communities in Europe.
Like the other once-communist countries in Eastern and Central Europe, Serbia has experienced an increase in Jewish life since communism fell a decade ago, with a growing number of Jews affiliating with the organized Jewish community and returning to Jewish traditions.
Belgrade: Svetogorska Street is crowded tonight. Across from the Karenjim clothing store and a small food kiosk, scores of Serbians, some in jeans, some in business suits and dresses, walk up a wide set of stairs, through the front door, and file down a narrow staircase to a room where an old Jewish man, a black kipa atop his head, sits on a ratty, overstuffed chair.
Soon there is a knock at the door.
And another night of "Visiting Mr. Green," something of a Jewish cultural phenomenon in a land where there are few Jews, is under way.