Monday, December 28th, 2009
I’ve always admired Hannah Rosenthal. When she was executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), she brought a new energy and edginess to a group that was having a hard time finding its identity in a changing Jewish world and a strong, consistent dedication to progressive Jewish politics – which is where a majority of Jews remain, despite persistent claims to the contrary.
So I’m even more mystified than most by her recent gaffe.
In a synagogue library in northern Westchester, a dozen senior citizens sit around a long table discussing current events. In a temple conference room on the Upper West Side, a young family talks about the tensions raised by a child’s serious illness. In the meeting room of a Long Island JCC, a group of recent widows share photographs and memories of their late husbands.
Thursday, December 24th, 2009
Those Minnesota Jews sure are polite.
I was wondering when Minnesota Jewish leaders would respond to last week’s bizarre outburst by Garrison Keillor, the longtime host of the Prairie Home Companion. In the process of trashing Unitarians for diluting the religious meaning of Christmas music he also took shots at Jewish composers he seems to think abetted the war on the holiday.
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.
The fate of the fenced-in compound in northern Ethiopia that serves as the central feeding and education location for thousands of Falash Mura awaiting immigration to Israel is now likely in the hands of local Jewish federations.
This follows the recent decision of the United Jewish Communities to halt its financial support of the programs, which became effective last week.
The compound will have to curtail many of its activities to forestall closing the entire site, in Gondar, according to spokesmen for the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry.
Rabbi David Gedzelman, the creative and rabbinic director at Makor, is leaving the Upper West Side cultural center founded by Michael Steinhardt to lead another of the mega-philanthropist’s Jewish communal ventures.
In January, Rabbi Gedzelman, 43, will become executive director of the New York-based Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation. He’ll assume the post previously held by Jonathan Joseph (J.J.) Greenberg, who died in September at age 36 in a traffic accident in northern Israel.
The superhero Spiderman has made the leap from printed page to movie screens across the country, but one giant of the comic-book industry says he is still battling for mainstream legitimacy.
Will Eisner, the creator of the 1940s comic book hero “The Spirit,” is not after box-office proceeds or merchandising spin-offs. Instead he wants recognition for comic books as a literary art form.
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is preparing to return to Ethiopia, just four months after it virtually shut down its operations in the African nation at the request of the Israeli government. Reports of death, illness and impoverished conditions among the thousands of Ethiopians who have flooded into the capital city of Addis Ababa and Gondar City prompted the move by the relief agency.
The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeiter Ring started more than a century ago in a tenement on the Lower East Side. It developed over the decades from a mutual-aid society for immigrants into an activist organization bristling with radical ideologies and aimed at promoting secular Jewish education. Next week, the group marks the start of its second century with a celebration of Yiddish culture at Town Hall.