Registering minority voters, campaigning for stricter environmental laws, performing agit-prop theater against economic inequality — much of my free time in graduate school in New York in the 1990s was spent working with activist Jewish groups like Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ). When I moved to Central Pennsylvania a decade and a half ago, I assumed that the Jewish community here would be similar, in its political orientation, to the one that I had left behind on the Upper West Side.
A Queens rabbi gets a little goofy for a good cause.
Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik
Jewish Week Online Columnist
Story Includes Video:
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, and particularly if you’re on Facebook, as I am, you’ve no doubt been (wait for the pun!) deluged with brief videos of people like me pouring buckets of ice water over their heads, or, more commonly, having someone else do the pouring. Were I to stop here, and you were, indeed, unaware of this phenomenon, you might simply think that it was some kind of fraternity initiation rite, or maybe a practical joke that had caught on.
The Genesis Philanthropy Group, best known for the $1 million Genesis Grant awarded to a member of the Jewish community who has achieved international renown in his or her chosen field (ex-Mayor Bloomberg was the first recipient), recently announced the promotion of Ilia Salita, the organization’s North American executive director, to CEO. In his new position, Salita, a native of Russia, will lead the private foundation’s global initiative to “develop and enhance a sense of Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews.”
The first I’d ever heard of 137 E. Houston St., on the Lower East Side, was when I went to the Ellis Island website recently to search for information about my grandparents coming to America. It was the address listed for Sam Bloomfield, the first name on the manifest of the SS New York when it arrived at Ellis Island on Oct. 14, 1906, from Southampton, England.
Long before I was a rabbi, during the Musaf services of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I wondered how it came to pass that the Aleinu prayer became such a liturgical centerpiece of what are arguably the most important prayer services of the entire Jewish calendar year.
Jonathan Fine is a researcher at the International Institute for Counter Terrorism in Israel and an expert on the Middle East and Israeli studies. He is a member of the International Counter-Terrorism Academic Community and the International Center for Study of Radicalization and Political Violence in Kings College, London. He is also the author of the book, “Religious Violence in Judaism, Christianity and Islam: From Holy War to Terror.” The Jewish Week caught up with him for a conversation about ISIS and the radical Islamist group’s potential threat to Israel. This is an edited transcript.