A cartoon depicting three stereotypically haredi Orthodox Jews praying in front of the Western Wall, which is labeled Wall Street, won an Iranian cartoon contest.
Dining, shopping, living, praying -- VideoJew Jay Firestone shows you how it's done Los Angeles-style.
Every year, the college tour is a rite of passage for students and parents alike, but for some it becomes an occupation. I wanted to make it simple, that is, wait until after my son was accepted, but before we had to give notification to colleges, a two-week period between April 15 and May 1. Had I known that our three-day, three-state, three-college tour was going to be so hectic I might have planned otherwise. I worried: Was this too much pressure, in too little time, to make such an important decision? What was the best approach?
Although there were no right or wrong answers, this rite of passage was harder than I thought to get right: for every decision, another better one could have been made. Of course, I get to do it all over again in four years when my daughter goes to college.
The high concrete walls of the little-used cafeteria at the Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles hardly spoke to Passover’s concept of freedom found and bondage ended. But this is where a dozen inmates gathered for their seder, in a setting that cried out Egypt rather than the promised land.
Rabbi Yossi Carron, the jail’s Jewish chaplain, held up a sprig of parsley to redefine the bleak surroundings.
“This is a real great symbol for you,” the Reform rabbi said. “I really want you to believe in the green parts of yourself. This symbol is you.”
After spending the summer at Lishma, an intensive yeshiva-style program for young adults at Camp Ramah in Ojai, sisters Olga and Anna Dramchuk expected to be teaching Torah to fellow university students at Hillel in Novosibirsk, Siberia. Instead, they're back in Los Angeles in search of more Jewish life and learning.
"Lishma was one of the best experiences we ever had as Jews, but it was only the beginning," said Anna Dramchuk, 18.
One of the great frustrations of growing up is that in the process of learning how the world works we often lose our sense of curiosity in and surprise at how it works.
North American Modern Orthodox Jews say they can explain their connection to Israel in one word: Torah.
"It's an organic existence. An Orthodox Jew grows up and believes that Eretz Yisrael and the people of Israel are one. The fulfillment of Torah is Eretz Yisrael," said David Cohen, director of Orthodox Union (OU) activities in Israel. "It's not about connection. It's who we are."
We are driving to pick up our son from camp. He's been there three weeks, the longest stretch he's been away from us since his birth.
In this age of e-mails and BlackBerrys and cell phones, the rule at Camp Alonim at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Simi Valley is no e-mails, BlackBerrys or cell phones. He's sent us a few postcards home, clearly written by an 11-year-old who has put away childish things, like parents.
"Dear Family: We prayed and prayed and had havdalah end of story. Love, Adi. P.S. I love you. P.P.S. Tomorrow's our overnight and we're creating our own fire and no letters on Sunday."
The oldest and most primitive human dates back about 7 million years, according to a skull found by scientists in Central Africa.
"That's so depressing," I say to my husband, Larry. "I can't believe that in 7 million years we haven't evolved any further than this."
"This" being a world in which half the people live on less than $2 a day; in which 1 billion people go to bed hungry every night; in which 115 million children never go to school at all; and in which 27 million people live in some kind of slavery.
"You're looking at this all wrong," Larry assures me. "Seven million years is an insignificant blip in the history of the cosmos."
And, Jewish tradition tells me, the first 6,994,235 years hardly count.
Last week, I stood on stage at Milken Community High School with an escaped Sudanese slave, Francis Bok. We had come out to Los Angeles from Boston to thank the school's students for their help in our abolitionist campaign and their continued commitment to make a difference.
When friendly strangers find out I'm a convert to Judaism, they want to know why.
And I've learned to be ready.
I have two stories: One is
respectable, and one involves comic books and video games.
One of my students once asked me what was the greatest gift that my teacher Reb Shlomo Carlebach gave me. My reply was immediate: "He gave me a new pair of eyes."
When my daughter was born, I walked the floors of our Atlanta home night after night, day after day, holding her while she slept or when she cried, stopping always in front of the wall of backyard windows framing a forest of trees. As I grew into my unexpected role of single motherhood, I watched the bare trees bend, and sometimes break under the weight of silver winter icicles. Then, as if reborn, I saw the same trees stretch tall and proud with tight spring blossoms of white, pink and lavender, before expanding, under the summer rains, into a lush landscape of green. Finally, these magnificent trees transformed, as if to colored music, into passionate reds, singing oranges and dancing yellows of fall, just as we packed our boxes and moved away.
In this week's Torah portion, Vayechi, we have the most intimate description of a deathbed scene and the most elaborate description of a le'vayah (funeral) contained in the Torah.
A rabbi's voice must often give expression to the feelings of those with whom he or she worships on Shabbat.
There is a new High Holiday book on my shelf that I have been avoiding assiduously, if only for the exalted title: "This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared." Rabbi Alan Lew's book, subtitled, "The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation," reminds me that the summer is ending, and the time has come to prepare for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
Judaism's moral imagination describes that King Ahashuerus was not able to sleep because of all that was going on around him: Esther was involved with planning and preparing her next feast; Haman was busy building gallows; Mordecai was upset, praying and wearing sackcloth.
For The Kids
Dark clouds covered the European skies, threatening the children of Israel in the fall of 1939. The Nazis had tightened their grip over Eastern Europe and, as it often happens, nature acted with unfriendliness toward the oppressed. A cold winter came upon us -- the refugees -- after the traumatic and dreadful fall, when the German occupation began.
Am I the only one who goes to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services to listen and participate?
Probably not. But why do I feel that way sometimes?
What did Moshe want? When it all came down to it, after Moshe accepted that he wouldn't be leading Israel into the land, what did he request of God? Not surprisingly, he asked nothing for himself, focusing instead on the people who would need to go on without him. As we read this week, "Lord of the spirit of all flesh, appoint, I pray thee, a man to lead the congregation who will go out before them and who will come in before them, who will lead them out and who will bring them in."
In past Yom Kippurs I've been known to bring a stack of books with me to synagogue, works both historic and intellectual, to focus on when neither prayer nor imagination can fill the time. Not this year.
I recently visited a hospital patient, an elderly gentleman with a name, a gaze and a life story from the old country. His deterioration had advanced to the stage of inhibiting verbal communication, so he spoke to me instead through gestures, nods and stares. But slowly, we drew closer. We shared sorrow, distress and worry. Eventually, exhausted, he told me he wanted to get some rest. I recited the "Shema" for him, and he closed his eyes in fatigue.
Every morning as Rabbi Samuel Graudenz prays, he asks for the safe return of Chandra Ann Levy.
Eating and Praying Near Downtown
My parents were Elderhostel students this week at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, and I shared Friday night services with them in the Conservative tradition of my youth.
When Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that not only he, but all of Israel, was praying for Jordanian King Hussein's recovery from lymph cancer, Netanyahu might have been exaggerating for effect -- but not by much.
Predictably, it happened again. Conservative and Reform Jews choseto demonstrate their right to worship at the Kotel in their way, menand women together. This time, however, the worshipers had officialclearance. But their permit did not help. Sadly, but alsopredictably, Orthodox Jews prevented them from praying in their way.Passions flared. The scene became ugly. Religious extremists,unconcerned about Torah prohibitions against striking another person,became violent. Hurt and humiliated, the non-Orthodox worshipers wereforcibly removed by the police. And, of course, the media had beenprepped. The cameras were ready. They captured the tears of thevanquished and the jeers of the violent. The angry scenes wereflashed across the world.