For his 50th birthday last fall, 120 friends gathered to surprise and honor Jeff Martin. It was a show worthy of Broadway: Friends who work in theater sang to him, others wrote tributes, his drama teacher from Jamaica High School spoke. “It was the kind of memorial I would probably pray to have at my death,” the entertainment producer and director said, “And it happened when I was there.”
There’s 22-year-old Emma saying the blessing over the Shabbat candles with her mother, delighted by the light, humming a synagogue tune and then covering her mother’s face with wet kisses. Together, Emma and Judith remember out loud all the people to whom they want to wish Shabbat Shalom. The pair could be an advertisement for Jewish living, and at first glance they hardly look unconventional or revolutionary. In fact, they’re pioneers in the — Jewish community, for there’s no daddy — at least, not yet — on their list of Sabbath greetings.
The copy of Leon Uris’ “Exodus” that Mark Tsesarsky read as a teenager was fragile, having passed through many hands before his. This was a samizdat copy, published underground and secretly circulated among Jews in the former Soviet Union. In the 1970s, reading it could have gotten Tsesarsky arrested, but, as he told Uris many years later as a new citizen of the United States, it made him “a Zionist in hiding.”
The Bettouns are a traditional kind of family. They decorate their homes with menorahs and affix mezuzahs to their doorposts. They gather in the synagogue for bar mitzvah services and celebrate in lavish style. And when someone dies, they immediately say the Shema: even when that person has just been thrown from a helicopter into the backyard of the family compound.
Mass gatherings of Israeli youth known as "raves," may bring to mind a besotted Bacchanalia, but a proponent of the popular celebrations says present a spiritual side of Israeli life that can combat the negative images being broadcast from the region.
Berlin: The memory of World War II crops up in unexpected places here. In idyllic-looking neighborhood parks, at busy intersections and along the streets in lively neighborhoods, one is suddenly confronted with a reminder of the city's bloody past: plaques, small monuments and conceptual art installations recall Berlin's former life as the home of some 173,000 Jewish citizens and their fate under the Third Reich.