This year, more than 1,000 Los Angeles families in need received food from organizations that provide assistance specifically for Passover.
If there's one thing Gabe Goldman wishes more Angelenos would do next spring, it's get their hands dirty.
Imagine LA coordinators work with facility case managers and faith partners to determine the family's needs and set up a plan for independent living.
The difficulties of being in an interfaith family.
Eighteen months ago, when Lenard Cohen's 4-year-old daughter was enrolled in the family's congregational preschool, the Philadelphia-area father of three decided to go back to school himself.
Prominent rabbis have been urging their congregations to give generously to Hurricane Katrina relief funds, the most prominent being one set up by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which had raised more than $500,000 by early this week.
After World War II, two Jewish GIs returned to Los Angeles and founded a synagogue in Westchester. Beth Tikvah, as it was called, finally found a permanent home in 1959 on the Westchester bluffs.
But last month, the Conservative congregation -- known since 1968 as B'nai Tikvah after merging with the nearby B'nai Israel in Baldwin Hills -- held its last service at the historic Westchester building, with its 204-seat sanctuary. On Aug. 20, about 100 people showed up for a final Havdalah service to say goodbye.
Because of dwindling membership and a lack of Jewish families in the area, the congregation decided to sell the property and look for a new location on the Westside.
When I was a kid, I was a very important person in shul. My dad was not at all prominent in the greater society -- he merely worked for his brother, selling toys and stationery as a wholesaler in Manhattan's Lower East Side, starting his workday at 7 a.m. and working through 7 p.m. every day, including Sunday. (Sabbath-observant, he got to leave midafternoon on Fridays.) But at shul, he was well liked, even loved, and was the vice president of the local Young Israel. He was very important there, and I got treated great.
Then he died -- cut down by leukemia at age 45. At his funeral, everyone from shul attended and promised to love our family, to remain close. In time, though, the bonds loosened. There were fewer visits on Shabbat to our home; fewer invitations to others' homes. And then it happened. One Shabbat, amid 20 talking boys, I was singled out to be chastised -- to be quiet. That had never before happened to me.
Stepping up to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina, Jewish day schools opened their doors to evacuees, families welcomed strangers into their homes, Jewish rescue squads searched through the storm's wreckage and Jewish organizations raised millions of dollars for those whose lives were turned topsy-turvy by the deadly storm.
Houston has quickly become a major haven for victims who have been left, for the moment at least, without homes. The Jewish Federation of Greater Houston quickly jumped into action to aid the beleaguered evacuees, Jew and non-Jew alike.
The Tabach family left the settlement of Gadid last week, ahead of the Israeli withdrawal. Settlers who hadn't evacuated as of Monday were given 48-hours notice to leave, on threat of eviction.
Getting kids involved with giving isn't just for wealthy families. On the contrary, middle-class kids tend to have much more than they need -- and can benefit from the values and insights they will get from charitable activities. It's up to parents to get them going, and to figure out the best structure for the entire family's charitable activities
A lot of people my age feel pressure from their families to get married, but I think my not being married is the only thing keeping my grandmother alive. Bebe often tells me she just wants to live long enough to see my wedding. I'll say "I do" and then she'll immediately keel over. It's a lot to bear.
Bebe likes to pretend she's open-minded and doesn't care if I date non-Jewish women. I should point out that I am technically Jewish -- both my parents were born Jews. I never went to Hebrew school but we did celebrate Chanukah -- until the year we couldn't find the menorah. Then that was that: Bring on Christmas!
A guy gets a Labrador and he can't wait to show him off to his neighbor. So when the neighbor comes over, the guy calls the dog into the house, bragging about how smart the little guy is. The dog quickly comes running and stands looking up at his master, tail wagging furiously, mouth open in classic Lab-smile position, eyes bright with anticipation. The guy points to the newspaper on the couch and commands: "fetch!"
Immediately, the dog sits down, the tail wagging stops, the doggie-smile disappears; he hangs his head, looks balefully up at his master and says in a whiny voice, "Oh! My tail hurts from wagging so much. And that dog food you're feeding me tastes absolutely terrible. And it's so hot in here. And you're not giving me any treats. And I can't remember the last time you took me out for a walk...."
The neighbor's jaw drops.
"Ah," the dog owner explains, "he's a little hard of hearing. He thought I said 'kvetch!'"
Shoshanim, a magazine for Jewish teenage girls, is celebrating its fifth year in publication with a newly designed Web site, new features and an upgraded layout.
On Sunday, April 17, hundreds of Holocaust survivors from around the world, along with their children and grandchildren, gathered on the site of the German concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen to observe the 60th anniversary of the camp’s liberation.
Each year our congregation travels to a different corner of the Jewish world, and last Tisha B'Av, the day commemorating persecutions and destructions that have befallen the Jewish people, we found ourselves in Berlin.
For most parents, preparing a child for a bar or bat mitzvah is just another of many coming-of-age stresses. But for parents whose children have special needs, the stress can be almost unbearable. Yet arranging b'nai mitzvah ceremonies for such children are not impossible, with a little love and support.
Margie Kommer, whose son, Max, was diagnosed with dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), understands the loss of face some parents feel.
"It's very hard to go to a bar or bat mitzvah and see these shining stars, and see your own children struggling," she said.
And, naturally, children compare themselves to their peers. They can become so disheartened that they give up.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is picking a fight with longtime powers in Sacramento instead of trying to be everybody's pal, raising a question of whether he can bring voters along with him who are torn by their desire for good government but angry over mounting partisanship.
Voters, according to a recent Mervin Field California Poll, are open to the governor's four reform ideas heading into a probable November special election, even though voters don't personally approve of Schwarzenegger as much as they once did.
Kosher east of Western? Out here on the edge of the eruv that runs along Western Avenue (the pole-top strung boundary that allows traditional Jews to carry on Shabbat), I live with my family in an old area of Los Angeles a few miles west of downtown called Country Club Park.
The middle school girls of Emek Hebrew Academy-Teichman Family Torah Center in Sherman Oaks raised almost $35,000 (yes, that figure is correct) for Chai Lifeline, a national organization that provides support, services and programming for families with seriously ill children.
The Orthodox Union's deaf outreach came to Long Beach for a Shabbaton gathering of the deaf and their families
For thousands of young Israelis, the sun-drenched archipelagos of Southeast Asia were the perfect destination to forget the rigors of military service.
But this week, that post-Zionist nirvana became a nightmare. The tsunami that swept India, Thailand, Sri Lanka and the Andaman Islands on Sunday plunged hundreds of Israeli families into a frenzy of worry over relatives feared lost while touring.
When Amy Cohen graduated from Adat Ari El's day school in 2003, her family faced a decision: Where would she continue her education?
The goal of the Arachim program is to help teens discover the opportunities that exist in their neighborhoods and communities, where their contributions make a significant difference in the lives of other people. The unique project is being observed by numerous synagogues and may serve as a model for communities trying to develop similar programs.
Today, I am a nephew. Last weekend, the names of more than 3 million persons murdered in the Holocaust were posted on the Internet as part of a searchable database created by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
On Sunday, Nov. 14, come to the second annual Jewish Children's Bookfest at the Triangle, Mount Sinai Memorial Park (6150 Mount Sinai Drive, Simi Valley, exit the 118 West at Yosemite).
Kibbutz Nir'am, which is slightly closer to the Gaza Strip than Sderot, seemed dead that morning. The air was hot, harsh and still. Hardly anybody was outdoors.
On Sukkot we build outdoor huts. We live in them for only seven days and then we go back into our warm, sturdy houses. But there are many people out there without a home.
What does $1,000 buy you these days in Jewish life?
Maybe, if you're lucky, a full-year family synagogue membership. But what exactly does that mean? Two tickets to High Holiday services? Free parking? Entree to Kiddushes?
At a time when families have limited time and money and so much competing for it, synagogue leaders are realizing the need to offer more to potential and existing congregant.
I can't prove that allowing same-sex marriage would be bad for society.
The weekend was spectacular, not only from an intellectual standpoint, but as a Jewish parent and communal professional. It was refreshing to see so many generations of Jewish families -- some with children, some without -- learning together, singing together and laughing together.
Knowing little about Judaism, 11 Russian immigrant families in the Los Angeles area began meeting in 1991, holding Shabbat dinners together and learning Jewish teachings from their children, many of whom were enrolled in Jewish day schools.
Three of Orange County's senior rabbis have decided to take a sabbatical. While the three have decided on their own to take a respite from the 24/7 demands of being a rabbi, their congregations are taking a different approach to temporarily replacing an absent spiritual leader.
"Iam thrilled that there is justice in this world," said a jubilant Maria Altmann, after celebrating her victory with a family dinner outing.
Three families, whose children were shot by a white supremacist in an attack on the North Valley Jewish Community Center (NVJCC), can pursue their lawsuit against the makers of the weapons used in the shooting spree.
The May 28 ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco was greeted with relief by the three families and by the mother of postal carrier Joseph S. Ileto, who was slain by the same gunman in a separate attack.
The suit grew out of the Aug. 10, 1999 attack by Buford O. Furrow Jr., a self-avowed anti-Semite and white supremacist, on the Jewish center in Granada Hills, which left three children, one teenager and one adult wounded.
They are not scholarships but "camperships" in Jewish summer camp parlance. Of the 1,000 campers expected soon at Malibu's Camp JCA Shalom, which is supported by JCCGLA, about 200 parents applied for camperships.
"It's amazing, in the past few years, the income level of people who are requesting camperships," said Bill Kaplan, executive director of the Shalom Institute, which runs Camp JCA Shalom. Its campership aid this year will run about $130,000, $75,000 of which is general camp aid from The Federation. That is an increase from the $50,000 The Federation made available 2002, the boost due to the increase in cash-strapped families.
Travel agent Rina Silverman, of World Express Travel in Tarzana, said that roundtrip tickets to Israel are selling well for late June, when school gets out, with flights for some days already sold out.
"When they hear Blanche's story, they get it," Tenaya Wallace said. "She was so sick; it was an absolute transformation."
When, not so long ago, the director of an Israeli nonprofit organization noticed that an employee would appear at work every Sunday morning so fatigued that he could barely function, he issued him a stern warning to "stop partying so hard on Saturday nights."
The gaunt-looking employee burst into tears, explaining that he had not eaten since Thursday afternoon, when he received his last hot meal of the week at work.
The National Jewish Population Survey, funded for $6 million by the federation umbrella group United Jewish Communities, reported that the nation's population of 5.2 million Jews represented a decline of 2 percent from the 1990 survey, which reported 5.5 million Jews.
Part of the team readying O.C.'s Jewish Community Center for its planned relocation and expansion next year in Irvine is not staying to see the result.
Platters of apple slivers prepared for dunking in honey are a holiday ritual symbolizing hope for a sweet New Year.
The Pacific Jewish Center (PJC) has been a Venice beach landmark for the past 60 years. Always a Traditional or Orthodox congregation, PJC has been on the fringes of the larger Orthodox centers in Pico-Robertson and Hancock Park -- and a few miles too far west for some.
"I'd like to know that America is going to take actions against those who could be threatening me," said 17-year-old Ezra Pinsky, clutching his letter. "It's not going to be a pleasant year if I'm in danger."
Imagine a disease that strips a child of the routine autonomic and sensory abilities that we take for granted. A disease that affects a child's nervous system to such a degree that he or she cannot feel pain or produce tears, even when seriously wounded. The child becomes plagued with developmental delays, both physical and cognitive, and must be fed through gastric tubes to prevent inhaling food through the windpipe instead of down the esophagus. He or she experiences severe vision problems, breathing episodes, seizures, an absence of taste, cyclical vomiting, unstable blood pressure, fainting spells, excessive sweating, skin blotching and other abnormalities. The child also incurs numerous hospital stays, frequent surgeries and enormous medical bills. Worst of all, the disease statistically guarantees that the child will not live to see his or her preteens.
I am in Israel for a few days to visit the victims of terrorist acts. I'm on my own, not with a group. It's the first time I've been in Israel with a purpose other than visiting family and enjoying myself. I'm not frightened but there is something unsettling to visit Israel this way. It was the idea of my sister, Dalya. She had returned from Israel a few weeks earlier. She just heard on the radio about a suicide bombing on a bus in Jerusalem.
The following piece was written after a recent trip to Haiti, during which a delegation from MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger was hosted by the Lambi Fund, one of MAZON'S longtime grantees.
In one of the most complex legal battles in the annals of Holocaust restitution, centering on the return of art looted by the Nazis to their rightful owners, E. Randol Schoenberg is stationed on the front lines.
People can hear about the economic crisis that has affected South America in the news.
Besides limiting the TV viewing of his girls, ages 5 and 9, Finley said, "I tell them, 'I'll let you know when it's time to worry.'"
"When there's been a big battle," the rabbi continued, "I tell them the next day, 'It was time to worry, but I forgot to tell you, so now you don't have to worry.'"
And so each day goes for the Finleys and thousands of American families like them, who desperately hope to learn something about the fate of their loved ones and try somehow to deal with knowing very little.
Kayitz is one of approximately 1,000 Jewish men and woman serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. They represent a fraction of the estimated 20,000 Jews among the 1.5 million in the U.S. armed forces.
One of the purposes of the Passover seder is to teach our children the story of how the Jewish people came to be. Passover is a history lesson taught not by impersonal teachers in a sterile classroom, but by our families seated around the dining room table. When done correctly, the Passover seder should instill a sense of pride. Because with knowing who we are, we should feel proud to be Jews.
Passover commemorates the departure of the Jewish people from Egypt some 3,000 years ago and marks the birth of a nation. This is as much a celebration of our spiritual freedom as it is a jubilation of our physical liberation from slavery.
Jews in distress are being encouraged to seek out a trouble-free environment way, way down under -- in New Zealand.
n 1944, when I was 17 and a freshman at Cornell University, I introduced my mother to my new college girlfriend.
When the young lady left, my mother asked me how we met.
"We were sitting at the same table in the cafeteria and started to talk."
Her eyes opened wide. "You what? You mean you were not formally introduced?"
Look, I know you're busy. What with the spouse, the children, the job, the synagogue, the gym, the board meetings, the dinners --
it's hard to find a moment in your day, your week, your month, your life.
Before they met five years ago, searching for their besherts kept Lynn and Thad Gerber active in Jewish life: Between singles' dances,
Shabbat dinners and Jewish discussion groups, their dating lives gave way to a sense of belonging and connectedness through Judaism.
While Sharon Schatz Rosenthal's cover story notes that day schools are costly, it fails to address cost efficiency ("Who Should Pay?" Jan.31).
Objections raised by two established Reform congregations toa start-up alternative shul in Irvine has forced the new group to temporarily
postpone seeking admission to the Reform movement's national organization, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC).
David Schwartz, a counselor for preschool boys at an Orthodox music and arts camp, was sentenced to one year in residential
treatment and five years' probation for molesting a 4-year-old boy in his care at summer camp.