At her bat mitzvah last month at Beth El Temple in Harrisburg, Pa., my daughter Hannah spoke about the concept of hiddur mitzvah, the aesthetic enhancement of Jewish customs. Bathed in the light of the synagogue’s new stained-glass windows depicting Jewish holidays and allegorical representations of biblical figures, Hannah eloquently linked the Torah portion, which dealt with the ancient Israelites’ building of the tabernacle in the desert, with the creation of Jewish art and artifacts in our own day.
When we think of the challenges of hosting a seder, the physical – the cleaning and cooking – immediately spring to mind. Another challenge is negotiating the tension between the meal’s ritual requirements and the obligation to make the story actually speak to the participants who are there.
Overlooked and underrated, the French city of Perpignan reveals its charms to those with the patience to look.
Perpignan, best known as a transit hub for the beaches of the Languedoc-Rousillon, has the misfortune to be located amid a region of surpassing visual splendor and historic import. Were it a city in Hungary or Romania, it would surely be a major draw. But Perpignan’s quintessentially Gallic streetscapes, riverside quays and plethora of medieval architecture are hardly unique in this corner of France.
For as long as I can remember, Pesach has conjured up the image of a mound of whole walnuts on a white kitchen table. My mother, grandmother, sister and I encircled it, as if sitting around a campfire telling tales. We dismantled the shells with unwieldy nutcrackers, filling three bowls: one with the shards, another with the meats, and the last, with the mortar wrought by a hand-cranked nut grinder.
It was a day of blue and white, of orange and green.
On a recent Sunday morning, men’s lacrosse teams from Israel and Ireland met for a “friendly” — sports talk for an exhibition game or match — at Centre Island Beach Park in Bayville, L.I., near the edge of the Long Island Sound.
Roger Ailes, the eminence of Fox News, has been coming to the annual benefit dinner of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) ever since he was guest of honor in 2005. Last week he hobbled into the Pierre Hotel with the aid of a cane, which startled Michael Miller, longtime JCRC executive vice president and CEO.
Under the retiring Peter Willner, American Friends of The Hebrew University increased its fundraising considerably.
Peter Willner will be stepping down this summer after 12 years as national executive director of the American Friends of The Hebrew University. During his tenure, AFHU increased its annual fundraising from $18 million in 2002 to $500 million by the end of 2013; last year the group raised $50 million. Willner spent more than 30 years in executive positions in the nonprofit sector, the Anti-Defamation League and UJA-Federation of New York. The Jewish Week caught up with him recently for a discussion about the philanthropic landscape in the Jewish community and the so-called “brain drain” of Israeli academics. This is an edited transcript.
A few months ago I reunited with a stranger who was an important part of my life more than three decades ago. For a few years in the late 1970s, while I was working as editor of Buffalo’s weekly Jewish newspaper, I decided I wanted to personalize the plight of Russia’s imprisoned refuseniks, the Jews who lacked the freedom to live as Jews in their homeland, or leave for freedom elsewhere.