Facebook has become far more than a social network; it is a virtual social necessity. The Jewish community has created a haven for there, claiming hundreds of groups, applications and pieces of Jewish flair.
Growing up an observant Jew in the small city of Palm Springs with a Jewish minority was sometimes difficult, but I have always been proud of my Jewish heritage, of who I was and of what I believe.
In 1909, an impoverished Jewish immigrant arrived in Hamilton, Texas, hawking 1-cent bananas from his pushcart.
Haskell Harelik had fled Russia to escape pogroms, docking not in Ellis Island but in Galveston, Texas, via a plan to route Eastern European Jews to the West. He spoke no English and was the first Jew the Hamilton residents had ever seen. But he found some friendly faces, and he stayed in that Baptist town, founding a dry goods store and raising three sons there.
Hillel centers on university campuses were viewed not long ago as little more than the local Jewish hangout, a place where students could come for kosher meals or socialize with other Jews. But in a move that Hillel leaders say has been forced upon them by this generation's altered social landscape, the organization is throwing open its doors to everyone, designing programs that appeal to Jews and non-Jews and hyping its contribution to university -- not only Jewish -- life.
Three new scholarly reports on intermarriage argue for increasing Jewish educational opportunities, encouraging Jewish behaviors among both intermarried and inmarried Jews and opening the doors even further to intermarried couples and their children.
Who would have guessed that a 15-year-old boy born and raised in West Los Angeles would befriend a 49-year-old elephant named Yom who lives in a conservation reserve hidden deep in the jungles of Lampang in Northern Thailand?
But this is 21st century America, not 18th century Poland or 20th century Germany. Pew tells us that Americans are switching religions like never before. Do we want to enter the competition armed with our wonderful 3,000-year-old history, or kvetch about assimilation, intermarriage and our dwindling numbers?
As a counselor at Camp Kimama in Michmoret, Israel, I learned that the only connection these children from all over the world need is their passion and love for Israel. Camp Kimama is Israel's first international camp, where Jewish children spend two weeks forming a multicultural group of friends and exploring the different worlds that these friends come from. I spent one month of my summer working at Kimama, every day discovering more about myself and my fellow Israelis, Jews and Zionists.
Book review of "The End of The Jews", a literary family saga built around three narratives in different time frames, opening with Tristan Brodsky, "15 years old, the sum total of five thousand years of Jewry, one week into City College, a mind on him like a diamond cutter."
Some 5,000 to 6,000 American students participate in Israel gap year programs, Avi Rubel, North American Director of MASA, estimates, which is 1,000 more than last year, and he expects the number to climb. In previous years, Rubel explained, Orthodox yeshiva students were the dominant majority among participants. However, the trend is changing, with the largest number yet of non-Orthodox kids enrolling this year, he said.
American Jews are adopting and discarding their Jewish identities with increasing rapidity in a country that is becoming less white and less Christian, according to a new study of religious affiliation in the United States.But just hours after the study's publication Monday, Jewish demographers already were disputing some of the findings on Jews, contending that the sample is too small to draw meaningful conclusions.
It is commonplace that the best comedy is essentially serious. Of course, clichÃÂ(c)s often have an underlying truth, so maybe that explains why Rob Tannenbaum, one half of the comedy-music duo, Good for the Jews, playing at the Knitting Factory on Dec. 14, is both a very funny guy, and nevertheless someone who discusses his work in surprisingly sober terms.
The principal authority for contemporary American Jews, in the absence of compelling religious norms and communal loyalties, has become the sovereign self. Each person now performs the labor of fashioning his or her own self, pulling together elements from the various Jewish and non-Jewish repertoires available rather than stepping into an "inescapable framework" of identity -- familial, communal, traditional -- given at birth. Decisions about ritual observance and involvement in Jewish institutions are made and made again, considered and reconsidered, year by year, and even week by week. American Jews speak of their lives, and of their Jewish beliefs and commitments, as a journey of ongoing questioning and development. They avoid the language of arrival. There are no final answers, no irrevocable commitments.
The results of a new study, "Beyond Distancing: Young Adult American Jews and Their Alienation from Israel," on young American Jews' attitudes toward Israel, were released recently, and the news is disheartening. These Jews, who represent American Judaism's prospects in the next generation, are growing increasingly alienated from Israel, the study finds. They are less concerned with its welfare than previous generations and, unbelievably, less comfortable with the very idea of a Jewish state.
For generations, the North American Jewish federation system has stood as the central address of Jewish philanthropy -- demonstrating from generation to generation the power of our collective to build our community.The 155 federations of United Jewish Communities and 400 smaller networked communities boast an annual fundraising campaign nearing $900 million and endowment assets of more than $13 billion.UJC's lay and professional leadership recently set out to look at our philanthropic landscape. In June, the UJC launched a strategic plan that tackles the major challenges and opportunities facing Jewish federations and our entire community.
Jewish philanthropy in Israel is at a crossroads. Powerful trends are marginalizing its impact on Israeli society. More than a billion dollars of philanthropic giving from Jews worldwide, spurred by endless goodwill, passion and care, are not impacting Israel or contributing to global Jewish peoplehood to the extent they should. The current system is in dire need of an overhaul.
It's not uncommon for well-established, wealthy members of a community to donate money to various causes, but these days, there's a new breed of philanthropist in town -- the college student.
In its own oddball way, "I'm Not There" is among the best pieces of music criticism I've seen or read on the subject of Bob Dylan. It is a jigsaw puzzle, with its various pieces scattered around the table by a deft, if quirky hand. It's a film that rewards close attention and deserves repeated viewings. The film's one significant omission is the place of Judaism in Dylan's life.
The Jewish Journal invited writers who will be featured at Sunday's Festival of Books to answer the simple, essential question that every Jewish writer is often asked: "What Jewish sources -- ideas, writings, traditions -- inspire you, and how do they show up in your work?" The following show that there is no easy answer to what defines a Jewish author, but there is no question that there's much to draw upon within the faith.
Kiril Alexandrovich's Cafe Hillel, which was expected to open last week, is the first effort in Odessa at co-branding undertaken by Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. The partnership aims to transform Jewish youth organizing in the former Soviet Union, leaving behind the club model and heading out into the cities, where young Jews work and play.
Interview with author Charlotte Mendelson about her novel "When We Were Bad".
My advice to teens and adults alike is to take advantage of every moment you can learn, whether through speaking to someone knowledgeable, reading a book, or even taking a quick peek at the explanation of the week's Torah portion online. You will be surprised how quickly these fragments influence your daily life and improve the foundation of your faith and Jewish identity.
The idea of hunting for Jews in the Australian outback may sound as ridiculous as combing the streets of Jerusalem for Aborigines. But when two Chabad emissaries set out this summer to find landsmen in the desolate outback, they were not disappointed.
Michael Lynton's quick rise to become chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment -- at 47 he's already led divisions at Disney, Penguin/Putnam books and AOL -- has subjected him to countless interviews about the performance of his companies. But one topic Lynton has never liked to discuss is himself.
"I'm feeling shtetl fabulous," singer Ari Gold confesses on the opening track of "Transport Systems," his fourth studio album and the first to reflect his creative vision from concept to completion.
Talking with Dana Mase is like listening to her sing. Her gentle voice calms, even soothes, and you find yourself compelled to listen as she recounts experiences of her troubled childhood and her passionate faith.
And let me tell you, there's nothing quite like a Jewish summer camp. At a time when Jewish identity struggles to compete with the complexities and distractions of the 21st century, the Jewish summer camp experience has somehow continued to thrive on its simplicity.
In last week's column I proposed addressing the pain of Jewish women approaching the end of their childbearing years who cannot find a Jewish mate. One solution, I wrote, would be to encourage them to date non-Jews, and for our rabbis and community leaders to create pathways for inclusion and conversion for the non-Jewish partners. The idea sparked dozens of responses pro and con, and in fairness to the idea's detractors (and supporters) we reprint a sample on these pages, with a brief coda by me.
And other letters to the Editor.
A growing number of synagogues around Los Angeles and throughout the country are upending the time-honored idea of Sunday school.
Is anti-Semitism good for American Jews? Yes; in moderate doses it may be the antidote to assimilation and declining support for Israel among American Jews, argues UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh.
The Bronfman Foundation, which sponsored the conference last week in Deer Valley, Utah, is set to launch something called the Bronfman Vision Forum that will offer new ways to invigorate and revitalize Jewish life, and this conference was designed to help generate new ideas and programs, and, yes, more conferences. What an endearing and Jewish idea -- that talking will save the Jewish people.
Kirk Douglas is not done yet, not by a long shot. Just out is his ninth book, "Let's Face It: 90 Years of Living, Loving and Learning." It is a mix of reminiscences, anecdotes, tributes to Hollywood luminaries now faded or gone, a critique of America's present leadership and somber thoughts on the drug-induced suicide of Eric, the youngest of his four sons.
In May 2006, Harlan Ellison received the Grand Master Award from The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, taking his rightful place among such literary giants of the genre as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury. And now the celebrated writer is the subject of a new documentary, "Dreams With Sharp Teeth," the title taken from a three-volume collection of Ellison's stories.
The Jewish world has a problem with the way Renee Kaplan defines herself: half-Jewish. Kaplan, a television producer in her mid-30s, is the daughter of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother who was raised Jewish.
A friend sent me an e-mail telling me I "can't miss" this Jerusalem rabbi's one-man show Sunday night at Beth Jacob Congregation. I opened the e-mail a few minutes before show time, so, on a whim, I ran over to catch "The Four Faces of Israel," starring Rabbi Benji Levene. After two hours of Benji, my head was spinning.
Diana Tehrani has been busy at UCLA, and the 22-year-old biology graduate now has the awards to prove it.
She was absolutely right. Movements don't start with specifics or 10-point plans. They start with people meeting up and talking. Ideas are generated, plans are made and one day, action is taken. It's a slow process. This is where Reboot is now. Perhaps from this generation -- prompted by leaders like Levin -- an articulate minority will emerge and point the Jewish community in a fresh direction, just as Heschel and Herzl did many years ago.
When you have spent time away from what feels like a Jewish home, Los Angeles becomes the new Israel. Los Angeles is a gateway to the prospect of positive Jewish American identity. There is a fearlessness to the Hebrew on the walls, the Jewish labor movement mural on the building. There is a fearlessness to having a kosher Subway sandwich shop.
"I was raised Jewish, was always told I was Jewish," said the 35-year-old, who did not want his real name printed. "I went to Jewish camps, even had a bar mitzvah." But when Levine joined a Conservative congregation after his marriage, the rabbi told him that because his mother was not Jewish, he needed a legal conversion.
I was born in Tel Aviv, in 1936, and, quite naturally, my feelings toward Israel are suffused with the love, pride, memories, music and aromas that nourish and sustain all natives of any country. Yet, remarkably, as the years pass, I discover that these same feelings towards Israel are echoed by people everywhere, including many who have never set foot in that country.
The U.S publishers hated the title of A.B. Yehoshua's latest book "The Mission of the Human Resources Manager." It was, they argued, better suited to a personnel manual than the work of one of Israel's most venerated authors. Ignoring Yehoshua's pleas, they christened the novel's English translation "A Woman in Jerusalem," and the book became a nominee for this year's prestigious Los Angeles Times Book Prize, to be announced at the Times' Festival of Books this weekend (see story page 36).
Maya Nahor learned she wasn't Jewish from an Israeli bureaucrat.
Just four years ago, Nextbook got its start as an organization committed to promoting public library programs dedicated to Jewish topics. In short order, the ever-evolving nonprofit has conquered a swath of territory in the contested realm of Jewish arts and ideas, steadily expanding while maintaining its focus on Jewish cultural and intellectual life.
Charles Dickens' classic, "A Tale of Two Cities," begins with the famous line: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Sociologist Steven Cohen's new study on intermarriage has a similar title but a different spirit.
Animal sacrifices are rather messy, and most of us would have a hard time imagining ourselves offering them up upon a Temple altar.
Before a "Mac mansion" in Beverly Hills was ever marked by a mezuzah, or a store in Encino stormed by a balabustah - coloring these singular suburban communities with the conspicuous consumption and cultural aspirations of a striving Jewish bourgeois -- there was Great Neck, Long Island.
We love to play Jewish Geography. Whenever we meet a fellow Jew for the first time, we try to find mutual people or places we might have in common.
When it comes to film festivals, Calabasas is far off the beaten path for the Sundance crowd. But there's method to the madness of film lovers who beat a path to Calabasas in the first week of April.
The seventh annual Method Fest claims to be the nation's only festival that specifically celebrates actors and their performances. This year's lineup includes significant works with Jewish themes. There are films about the Holocaust, contemporary Jewish families and Israeli-Palestinian issues among the 25 feature films and 47 short films. The festival also features panel discussions, workshops and special events.
Years ago, Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom would run up and down the Hebrew school carpool line handing out cassette tapes of his and Rabbi Harold Schulweis' sermons.
"If you're not going to come inside, at least listen to this," he'd tell parents.
On the third night of Chanukah my true love gave to me, an Olympic swim cap signed by Lenny Krayzelburg, a game of Horse with the Houston Rocket's Bostjan Nachbar and a chance to be on the set of ESPN's Cold Pizza.
Thanks to the Center for Sport and Jewish Life's online Chanukah auction (www.CSJL.org), gift giving just got more interesting.
t's not that Jeanne Weiner wanted Aunt Leonie's Indian Tree dishes for herself. She hadn't used the hand-painted china in five years -- since just before her husband died -- and last Passover she was on the verge of giving the entire service for 31 to her daughter Joelle Keene, who had taken charge of the family seder.
But when it came to actually giving up the china, she balked. And even though this year she is making the transfer, these dishes -- more than the Thanksgiving dishes or all the furniture she gave to her daughters -- call up a wave of emotion and tears.
Three words, among the last uttered by journalist Daniel Pearl before his murder two years ago this month (on Feb. 21, the public learned of the murder), have become a nucleus for thoughtfulness and creativity. "I Am Jewish," edited by his parents, Judea and Ruth Pearl (Jewish Lights), is a collection of brief essays by almost 150 noted contributors who tease out meaning from these words and compose personal statements of Jewish identity.
Summer is often a season of travel and vacation. Whether travel is a part of our plans for this summer, most of us have had the experience of being a tourist.
For The Kids
There were no books about Jewish children when writer Lesléa Newman was growing up.
"I was hungry for a book with characters like [me] to make me feel valid and normal, and to make me think there wasn't something wrong with my family," because it lacked Christmas trees and Easter egg hunts.