Jewish learning conference attracts 2,000 — but not chief rabbi.
Editor and Publisher
Two of the most successful efforts to strengthen Jewish identity in recent years were created, and have been sustained, in opposite ways.
Much has been written, here and elsewhere, about Birthright Israel, which has provided a 10-day Israel experience to more than 250,000 young people in its first decade. A top-down creation, Birthright was conceived and funded by a small group of mega-philanthropists, offering these memorable trips as a gift, free of charge to participants ages 18 to 26.
These words and phrases recall some of the challenges and controversies that cropped up for Israel and the Jewish community in 2010, a year of increasing assaults on Jerusalem’s legitimacy on an international scale, and blame from Washington for the lack of progress in Mideast peace efforts.
It is demeaning, 65 years after the fall of Nazi Germany, to acknowledge that Joseph Goebel’s Big Lie theory — that if you repeat a falsehood aggressively, and often enough, people will believe it — still holds true.
But when I look at the persistent, illogical and hateful charges against Israel in the Arab world and the international community, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
An unusual scene took place recently in the West Bank Jewish community of Efrat, where a group of about 75 residents met with the former head of the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret service, who sought to convince them to consider giving up their homes and move back to Israel proper.
Not surprisingly there was deep disagreement. But both sides concurred that the discussion was civil, serious and dealt not only with the fate of the settlers themselves but the fate of the State of Israel.
How Zionist education, Birthright can strengthen Israel support.
Editor And Publisher
Is it true, as Peter Beinart suggested in his widely read New York Review of Books essay in June, that young American Jews are increasingly alienated from Israel because of its allegedly declining commitment to democratic ideals?
Agree with him or not, the former New Republic editor hit a raw nerve among many Jews when he wrote “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment,” setting off a discussion that continues to stir debate six months later.
Zeba Khan was born and raised in a middle-class home in Toledo, Ohio, and for nine years attended the local Jewish day school, The Hebrew Academy, going to morning minyan every day. She graduated in 1993.
She says she would have continued on with her Jewish education but the school only went through sixth grade.
“I knew Hebrew better than most of my classmates,” she recalled in a recent interview, “and I wanted a bat mitzvah.”
I got the feeling that my extended hour with Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, late in the afternoon last Wednesday, was going to be more shmooze than interview when his assistant, on entering my office with him, asked if I would mind if the prolific scholar and author ate the chocolate rugelach she brought for him during our chat.
One of the enduring images of Hurricane Katrina for the Jewish community of New Orleans, and well beyond, was of a kipah-wearing rescue worker, in waist-high water, carrying one of seven Torahs out of the sanctuary of the century-old Orthodox congregation, Beth Israel.
The Torahs did not make it; water-logged beyond repair, they ultimately were buried in the synagogue’s cemetery, along with 3,000 prayer books.
For a federation system hurting in tough times, New Orleans was a natural site for the GA.
Editor And Publisher
New Orleans — For a long time the 79th General Assembly of The Jewish Federations of North America had been scheduled to take place this week in Orlando, Fla. But after a top consultant scouted that city last winter, and concluded that it would add little to the spirit of the annual gathering of the federation movement — and that Disney World might prove a major distraction — the decision was made to move the three-day GA here to New Orleans.