When we talk about Jewish values, we usually refer to things like justice, compassion, generosity, humility, honesty, faith, wisdom and so on. We rarely talk about beauty.
“Organized Judaism is in trouble.” I’ve been hearing that refrain for years now, from rabbis and Jewish leaders in speeches, sermons, op-eds and conferences. The litany of complaints is familiar: Synagogue membership is down; the new generation doesn’t like organized religion; people want something new; and so on.
It is not our place to judge the neighbors of Ariel Castro. We don’t know enough about the particular circumstances of those who lived near this man who allegedly held three women hostage for a decade to be able to judge whether things could have been different had they been paying closer attention
Phil Rosenthal, creator and executive producer of the sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” was leading a game of Bingo in the annex dining room at Canter’s Deli on the morning of May 5 — not a bad way to spend Big Sunday Weekend, the annual festival of community service that featured more than 150 projects this year.
In a crummy economy, people are always looking for good investments — a promising stock, a real estate opportunity, a star mutual fund. It’s really not that different in the “mitzvah economy”— donors and do-gooders are also looking to squeeze the maximum amount of goodness out of every charity investment.
It is quite something to read Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion dean Joshua Holo’s caricature Dennis Prager as reckless, heedless, gratuitously hostile and a provocateur “painting in broad strokes of facile caricature” (Letters, Dec. 21), when that is precisely what he, not Prager, does.
Jack Kessler, 14, completed his mitzvah project last summer by working at a Friendship Circle camp for teens on the autism spectrum. He says the volunteer effort, which some synagogues require of their b’nai mitzvah students, helped him realize his priorities.
“The most unfortunate thing that happens to a person who fears failure is that he limits himself by becoming afraid to try anything new.”
Remember that 2009 episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” when as part of a plot to coax Michael “Kramer” Richards to go along with a “Seinfeld” reunion, Larry David’s African-American housemate, Leon Black, pretends to be the Jewish accountant Danny Duberstein?
This is not the time to extinguish the many institutions that have risen up to create a civil society. The arts nourish the soul, schools nurture the potential of our youth and promote the scientific and creative research that will secure our future.
Parshat Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9) One of the biggest misnomers in the Jewish vocabulary is the translation of tzedakah as "charity." This mistranslation has gone on for so long in the American Jewish community that it's a hard habit to break.
What is the dream of the future president of the United States? For the answer, check out your e-mail or a pocket-sized, 36-page booklet called "Jewels of Elul IV," which is subtitled "29 Dreamers and Their Dreams." Among the dreamers who sent in their thoughts and hopes are the presumed presidential candidates, Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama.
Right there, in the shadow of the ever-popular "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," another mitzvah quietly sits: "Thou shall surely rebuke thy friend." And while this may seem rude or intrusive, the Torah regards the obligation of mutual rebuke as the engine of communal righteousness.
Although they live more than 12,000 miles apart, Yosef Eliezrie and Moshe Price have a lot in common. In October 2006, Eliezrie received a bone marrow transplant provided by Price. It was his only hope for survival after a recurrence of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow. This month, Eliezrie got the chance to meet Price in person, thank him for his lifesaving gift and embark on a unique new friendship.
"Numbers don't keep me up at night; Israel keeps me up at night," Eisen said. "I'm worried about the security of Israel, and I'm worried about the apparent decline in attachment on the part of American Jews to Israel. This literally, from time to time, keeps me up at night."
Along with her family and friends, Leora Nimmer then traveled to the Galilee to visit Migdal Ohr, Grossman's remarkable institution for 6,000 boys and girls in what was once one of the poorest and most crime-ridden areas of Israel. There the Nimmer group visited a nursery school, helped in a soup kitchen, and presented the homemade jewelry to bat mitzvah girls in a school where the students put on a performance in honor of their American visitors.
On her big day, Yael spoke with maturity and depth about the concepts of oz and hadar, strength and splendor, for which the Jewish woman is praised in Eishet Chayil. She explained that this is the kind of strength that springs from faith in God and from the courage of one's convictions.
As my son's bar mitzvah day inched closer, I began to see the world in a whole different light -- a disco ball light, to be exact -- for as my child grew, so did his friends, officially putting us both on the b'nai mitzvah circuit.
This, for me, is the Chabad genius: a knack on the deed, not the talk. They don't get turned on by grand debates that lead to more grand debates. While the Jewish world agonizes over "profoundly important" issues, Chabad agonizes over getting to Kinko's on time to get their flyers out for their Chanukah event.
In the Jewish schools of today, Jewish literacy can have new and special meaning. It calls for a refocus on the linguistic, textual and ethical dimensions of learning, which will be the legacy we leave our students.
One of the great rituals of Jewish life: The sukkah.
World War I, Fascism, Nazism, Stalinism, Maoism, Auschwitz and Hiroshima: I, for one, was delighted to see the 20th century end. Because how could the next one be worse? But halfway through the first decade of the 21st century, we are beginning to see how.
One of the most daunting and intimidating experiences in life is walking into a new synagogue for the first time. You enter the sanctuary, and it feels like 1,000 eyes
are focused only on you. You're not sure what prayer book they're using, what page they're on, and where you can find a tallit.
As any Jewish parent knows, it is not unusual for children to resist attending Hebrew school, just as they complain about doing their homework or practicing the piano. During the preteen years, childrens' comprehension of what God means to them is still under development. However, some say parents need to think about how committed they are to raising Jewish children.
Being a bar/bat mitzvah tutor can be a little dangerous. Parents expect you to be a wizard. The synagogues are suspicious if you want to fiddle with their "perfect bar mitzvah" product. And then there's the kids, who are becoming full-blown teenagers. It's not always emotionally easy -- in sometimes surprising ways.
When we think of bar and bat mitzvah gifts, many things come to mind: fountain pens, cuff links, picture frames, checks. But the true gifts of this religious rite of passage extend far beyond the envelopes and boxes piled up at the party door.
I don't know about how others think about gift giving, but I am honestly confused about it myself. Year after year, questions continue to gnaw at me like: What is the right amount for a gift? Should I support Jewish organizations first and then donate to other charities, like my alma mater or the Red Cross, only after I have made my Jewish gifts?
At 7 a.m., after a long, grueling red-eye journey from Los Angeles, our plane landed on a narrow runway carved out of the lush rainforest deep in a remote island area of the Panamanian outback. As my son, Adam, 13, and I trudged off the plane, 40 smiling Kuna natives eagerly welcomed us to the exotic island of Playon Chico. With vivid memories of Adam's bar mitzvah just a fortnight prior replaying in my mind, I couldn't help but think that this would be the adventure of a lifetime. Indeed, it was.
Farmar stands a natural leader at 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds and has been extensively covered in the Daily Bruin since before his entrance into UCLA in fall 2004. A psychology major with a 3.0 grade point average, he has been described in the Daily Bruin as having innate leadership skills, a competitive spirit and a dedicated work ethic.
On Jan. 25, 1997, my oldest son, Zachary, became a bar mitzvah, a ceremony that inaugurated him into the Jewish community as a responsible young adult. It also catapulted me into the world of Jewish journalism as a family columnist. Call it writing therapy. Call it black humor. Dealing with the bar mitzvah preparations -- from the trivial to the transcendent -- sent me scrambling for books explaining the ritual's history and meaning.
Selecting an environmental mitzvah project is a good starting point. But consider adding eco-friendly substitutes for white plastic tableware, Styrofoam centerpieces, Mylar balloons and elaborate banners. Are your invitations printed on recycled paper with soy-based inks?
Here's a verse that should be written in Psalms: "He who is lenient about Purim is a truly unhappy person." Or, as one rabbi put it: "Who doesn't enjoy a bacchanalian feast where it's a mitzvah to get drunk?"
Generally taught once a year, with 10 to 20 girls enrolled per class, the program affords mothers and daughters special time together. It also introduces the girls to peers from other schools, allowing them to view bat mitzvah as a more universal experience.
Post-Bar Mitzvah Stress Disorder (PBMSD) usually follows a case of Pre-Bar Mitzvah Stress Disorder. This is characterized by speed-dialing your caterer several times daily until you actually hear him chewing antacids while you speak; zipping around so frantically from errand to errand that you have no time to eat anything other than large brownies in the car (perversely, this still causes weight gain), and bursting into tears with no warning because your little boy is no longer a little boy but a newly minted teen who has the audacity to catapult into puberty before your very eyes.
This year, traditional Christmas Day volunteering is being spread out across December. The shul's ATID young adult leadership group's annual Dec. 25 Mitzvah Day is being merged with templewide volunteering on Dec. 18, the formal start of Sinai's yearlong centennial anniversary.
Less than a 100 years ago, the average age of menarche for American girls was almost 16. Today, 12 is considered late. Theories for such early onset range from the amount of growth hormones injected into the food we eat to the amount of electrical light we absorb. Regardless, it creates a dangerous duality in girls which I often see when working with a bat mitzvah.
Authors Roger Bennett, Jules Shell and Nick Kroll discovered in one long B.S. session that nothing quite engaged their friends, Jew and non-Jew alike, as a trip back down memory lane to the day of their or their friends' bar or bat mitzvah.
One week, I would ambitiously attempt to devour the entire "Box Car Children" series; another I would host a Judy Blume marathon and vigilantly try to sneak the purportedly trashy "Deenie" home in between my "Sheila the Great" and "Blubber."
Inch by Inch, Row by Row! This week's Torah portion, Tazria, means: "If a woman gives birth," but it can also mean "plant." And so, being the beginning of spring, that is exactly what it is time to do!
Every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., a group of eight mothers and grandmothers meets at Lani's Needlepoint in Studio City. There, under Lani Silver's expert guidance -- one diagonal, tied-down or decorative stitch at a time --they have cumulatively needlepointed more than 20 tallit bags.
I woke up Christmas Day morning with no tree, toys or eggnog, and I understood how Jewish children could feel left out on Christmas mornings as non-Jewish neighbor kids ride new bikes and try out other presents. Like Jewish kids, I had no gifts that morning.
Quietly studying a page of the Talmud on a crowded plane, the great Orthodox teacher and thinker Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik was interrupted by a passenger in the next seat.
When Lori Marx-Rubiner underwent a bilateral mastectomy two years ago, she lost the use of her arms for a few weeks. She couldn't brush her teeth, let alone tackle cooking dinner or driving her son to school.
In the debate over a possible Israeli withdrawal from Gaza -- 80 percent of which was already surrendered by Israel in 1994 according to the Gaza-Jericho First policy -- little has been said about Gaza's Jewish roots.
"Danny Siegel's Bar and Bat Mitzvah Book: A Practical Guide for Changing the World Through Your Simcha," by Danny Siegel (The Town House Press, $12). This is a book that we have long needed.
"At age 76, I'm finally coming of age," said Arthur Oaks, who read directly from the Torah during the b'nai mitzvah service, which is more traditional. "I never thought I would have the opportunity. When they announced the class, I jumped at the chance."
In Ki Tetze, we are given many mitzvot to do -- 613, actually. What's a mitzvah? A commandment to do a good deed, or to follow directions to perform a certain ritual. As a Jew, it is important to do both. We become role models for the world in our acts of charity, and we remember who we are and where we came from through our ritual.
No, you didn't have to leave New York to discover Jewish observance, but something had to plant the desire. In my case, it was my bar mitzvah.
"We only have your dad and my mom left," I told my husband then. "The rest of the week is too hectic for visits. We've got to get them over here for Shabbat."
I could never imagine how much more precious this time would become, having had no inkling that it would be so limited.
"Did you book the Lakers cheerleaders?" asked Rabbi Steven Leder, referring to a notorious bar mitzvah party in Los Angeles, where he is rabbi of Wilshire Boulevard Temple.
Who is Marion Pritchard and why would a Jewish girl choose to share her special day with a non-Jew more than six times her age?