BY DEBRA FERTIG for Kveller
In our home, we talk about God as if He is a member of our extended family, like Zeydie or Uncle Maury. We also talk about the soul. Our boys, who are 6 and 9, ask questions that are impossible to answer:
“Mom, how do you know God is real? Does He talk to you?”
“Mom, how do you know there is a place we go to when we die?”
“Mom, how do you know that my soul will always be alive?”
“I don’t know exactly how,” I respond. “It’s more of a feeling than anything else.”
This seems to be enough for my kids. At least for now, at these ages.
Jewish Book Council
Aside from the book and your friends, asking questions about what you’ve read is, obviously, a key to any good book club. The right questions can keep your book club lively and engaged (and avoid any awkward silences). And since no one wants to sit through a book club discussion that is halting and uninspiring, we have discussion questions available for all of the titles below, plus some general questions that you can use to start a conversation on any book. CLICK BELOW for the complete selection of discussion questions.
Rachel Lynn Solomon for Jewish Book Council
Growing up, I only saw Jewish protagonists in Holocaust literature. The kind of books I loved—realistic YA—occasionally had a main character with a Jewish friend, but that was it.
While I don’t believe we should ever stop writing about the Holocaust, for a long time, that was the only narrative I thought we had as Jewish people. People like me didn’t get to be protagonists. For a while, this stuck in my mind: the first four manuscripts I wrote before my debut, You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, had no Jewish characters.
But there is so much richness to explore in a modern setting that hasn’t been explored nearly enough. The following novels feature my favorite representations of Judaism in contemporary realistic YA.
By Liel Leibovitz for Tablet Magazine
History, too, recognizes the city as the Jewish capital
Earlier this week, Israeli archaeologists revealed a recently discovered 2,700-year-old clay seal impression, unearthed not far from the Western Wall and belonging, according to the inscription, to one of the governors of Jerusalem mentioned in the bible.
About as big as a small coin, the seal carries an inscription in Hebrew that reads “belonging to the governor of the city.” Having studied it, Hebrew University professor Tallay Ornan and Tel Aviv University Professor Benjamin Sass described the image it depicts: “Above a double line are two standing men, facing each other in a mirror-like manner. Their heads are depicted as large dots, lacking any details. The hands facing outward are dropped down, and the hands facing inward are raised. Each of the figures is wearing a striped, knee-length garment.”
From economist.com. This article appeared in the Middle East and Africa section of the print edition under the headline "Shalom alaykum"
A moment of religious harmony
Essaouira sets an example for the rest of the Middle East
ONCE a year the little seaside town of Essaouira, in Morocco, reclaims its lost Jewish community. Sephardic trills echo from its whitewashed synagogues. The medieval souks fill with Jewish skullcaps. Rabbis and cantors wish Muslims “Shabbat Shalom” and regale them with Hebrew incantations. “It’s our culture,” says a merchant from Marrakech, who travelled 200km (124 miles) to hear them this year.
The revival is the initiative of André Azoulay, a 76-year-old Jew from Essaouira (one of just three) and a former counsellor to Morocco’s kings. Each autumn he stages a colourful festival of Andalusian music aimed at bringing hundreds of Jews and Muslims together for a weekend of concerts and dialogue. Locals pack the small stadium to watch Hebrew cantors and Koran-reciters sing arm-in-arm. Israelis and Palestinians flock there, too. “Essaouira is what the Middle East once was and might yet be again,” says Mr Azoulay.
Philologos, for Mosaic
It’s not why you think.
Viktor Kappel, a reader of Mosaic, writes:
I am a Christian who happens to believe that the Jewish people are indeed God-chosen. Please explain to me, though, why it has become so important to a part of this people to replace AD and BC with CE and BCE. I believe that this is not helpful to the Jewish cause.
As a Jew, I must say that I sympathize with the Jew in the story who, while reciting the words “Thou has chosen us among all people” in the holiday kiddush, stops, raises his arms to heaven, and asks in exasperation, “Why don’t You pick on someone else for a change?” Still, I welcome Mr. Kappel’s question. Since, between this column and my next, 2017 CE or AD will become 2018 AD or CE, it couldn’t have been timelier.
By Abigail Klein Leichman for Israel21c
Ben-Gurion University launches company to commercialize the unique underwater vehicle for research, security, communications or military uses.
Under the surface of waterways across the globe, small remotely operated submarines are busy checking pipelines, mapping underwater minefields, taking geological and biological samples, scouting locations for communication cables, and searching for sunken vessels.
A group of 20 undergraduate and graduate engineering students from Ben-Gurion University in the Negev saw that existing autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) have several limitations and they worked with Prof. Hugo Guterman in BGU’s Laboratory for Autonomous Robotics (LAR) to build a better model.
MIDBAR-the Swiss Society for the Revival of Desert Areas embarks on a tour of the Negev with KKL-JNF to learn how the organization combats desertification in Israel.
Combating desertification is one of the central values KKL-JNF has championed under its banner. Friends the world over aid KKL-JNF in combating desertification, and one of the most prominent among them is MIDBAR - the Swiss Society for the Revival of Desert Areas.
Over the past several years, MIDBAR has supported several projects including planting a grove of trees in the green belt surrounding Beersheba, plantings in the Duda’im Forest and soil conservation and tree plantings along the Karkur Stream.
“When I see the trees grow here in the middle of the desert, I draw strength from them”, said Armand Rudolf von Rohr, CEO of MIDBAR, during a study tour of the Negev with KKL-JNF. “I believe that trees are the natural solution to global warming.”
BY LILI KALISH GERSCH for myjewishlearning.com
A history of Jerusalem since Israel's establishment.
Following the 1948 War of Independence, the Israelis declared military control over West Jerusalem, extending the law of Israel to the territory for purposes of administration. Palestinian notables called on King Abdullah of Transjordan to annex eastern Jerusalem, and meetings with the Israelis were arranged in order to discuss the terms of the truce and perhaps plan for a peace agreement. While a peace agreement was not reached, Israel and Transjordan did sign an armistice agreement in April of 1949, freezing the borders of Jerusalem and formalizing the partition of the city.
BY ALY MILLER for The Nosher for myjewishlearning.com
With the popularity of Israeli cuisine, the Jewish foods of Yemen, Ethiopia and Egypt are becoming more and more well-known. Buzzy ingredients like hawaij, turmeric and the fruity liquor called arak have made their way into North American cupboards. The history of food in this region is celebrated and explored here.
In these desert-like regions, Jewish cooking was shaped by the hot, arid climate and trade with India. Turmeric, curry powder and fenugreek are all prominently used in soups and stews of the region. Cool, refreshing vegetable salads that combated the desert heat became common fare in Jewish Egyptian communities.
Broaden your culinary repertoire with some Nosher recipes that come from these parts of the world:
Rabbi Joshua Gutoff for myjewishlearning.com
The Life Of The Oppressed
The antidote to the terror of living in a dangerous world is to participate in the liberation of others.
Here’s part of the Exodus story they didn’t teach in Hebrew school:
Exodus, Chapter Four. Moses, in Midian, has encountered God at the burning bush, received his commission, and is on his way back to Egypt. Then this:
Now it was on the journey, at the night-camp, that God encountered him and sought to make him die. Tzippora took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin, she touched it to his legs and said: Indeed, a bridegroom of blood are you to me! Thereupon he released him. Then she said, “a bridegroom of blood” because of the circumcision. (Exodus 4:24-26)
An amazing story. It reads like a passage from Genesis; it has that mythic, mysterious quality. I think of Isaac, meditating in the fields. This is the kind of story that could have happened to him.
by: Sheila Levy for Fresh Ink for Teens
Everyone faces adversity at some point in life, so learning how to cope is extremely important.
“Dancing in the rain” — the phrase that kept coming to mind as I sat in a room filled with my closest friends. As the hours went by, eyes watered and voices cracked, we continued to think about those four words. Inspirational story after story, chills started running up and down my body as we spoke about the deceased. The group healing was helpful and allowed us to think about how we can dance in a world that is filled with rain; how can we have a positive perspective on life when all we see is the negative.
By Cnaan Liphshiz for JTA
Portugal’s tallest mountain range, the Serra da Estrela, is famous for its breathtaking waterfalls, turquoise lakes, terraced hillsides and challenging bike paths amid vast woods.
In winter especially, tourists from all over northern Europe flock to the sunny Serra, a thinly populated plateau the size of Rhode Island, for its exquisite wines, world-renowned sheep cheeses and exotic regional dishes (think breaded sweet sardines and Juniper beef stew).
In addition to these delicacies, Serra da Estrela in recent years has also emerged as Portugal’s undisputed powerhouse for kosher food – an unlikely development in a region with about 50 Jews.
By Jennifer Richler for Tablet Magazine
Jewish organizations are at the forefront of the battle for greater inclusion of people with disabilities, particularly in the performing arts
When the movie Wonder opened last month, some criticized the choice to have a nondisabled actor play the role of Auggie, a boy with severe facial disfigurement. For these critics, the decision was yet another example of the way people with disabilities are excluded.
Advocates for the disabled have long been fighting for greater inclusion of people with physical and cognitive disabilities in all spheres of life, particularly in education, recreation, and employment. Among the most vocal of these advocates are leaders of Jewish organizations who say Jewish values are at the core of their work. “Everything comes back to treating someone well. If you’re not doing that, you’re not living up to Jewish values,” said Lauren Appelbaum, communications director of RespectAbility, based in Rockville, Maryland. Though it is not a Jewish organization, several of its core staff have strong ties to the organized Jewish community. As such, the agency has made Jewish inclusion a priority, choosing students to serve as Jewish Inclusion Fellows and maintaining a Jewish Inclusion Facebook page.
By Marjorie Ingall for Tablet Magazine
Party favors are Satan’s carnival prizes and other bits of wisdom from a seasoned organizer of rites of passage
My second daughter became a Bat Mitzvah a couple of weeks ago. Would you like to know what I’ve learned after ushering two girls through this process? Of course you would.
1.Choose the date well: If you can avoid a mortifying or stultifying Torah portion, do.
2. Pay attention to who your kid is: I had one child who wanted to lead every prayer, read the entire portion (plus hey, toss her the ones from the week before and after and she’d crush those, too), and fight with the entire synagogue about gendered language. I had another kid who… did not. Respect and understand that your child is their own person. Their concerns and values may not be yours. And HELLO, this is a celebration of Jewish adulthood, so insisting on calling all the shots yourself is hypocritical. Work with your kid, rabbi, cantor and education director to figure out how much your kid can and should do in the service. Steer between the Scylla of obsessiveness and the Charybdis of slackerdom. This is not easy.
By Alexander Aciman for Tablet Magazine
Bookworm: Jacob M. Appel’s life-affirming elderly suicide novel ‘Millard Salter’s Last Day’ is a highwire act balancing tragedy and comedy
Hidden beneath a perplexingly nondescript book jacket is one of the best novels of 2017, Millard Salter’s Last Day by Jacob M. Appel. Millard Salter is a wry old New Yorker who after 75 mostly satisfying years wakes up on his birthday determined to leave the party fashionably early. With the exception of a single dodo son, Millard’s children are successful, his practice as a shrink is in good shape, and the state of his love life means he has likely contributed to the growing STI epidemic among senior citizens. What better moment to commit suicide?
By ISRAEL21c Staff
Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian environmental group wins European awards for its Program on Water Security and its Water & Energy Nexus project.
During November, two prizes were garnered by EcoPeace Middle East, a unique organization that brings together Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli environmentalists.
The Geneva Center for Security Policy chose EcoPeace Middle East’s Program on Water Security for this year’s Prize for Innovation in Global Security from among 114 entrees from 50 countries.
Members of the jury included the director-general of the United Nations Office at Geneva; former chief of the Swiss Armed Forces, head of the Division for Security Policy in the Swiss Directorate of Political Affairs and others.
By Suzanne Selengut for Tablet Magazine
Hispanic crypto-Jews use social media and DNA testing to reconnect with their heritage
When retired civil servant Carl Montoya arrives for prayers at Mikveh Israel Synagogue in Philadelphia, he has a routine. He expertly wraps tefillin, dons his Sephardic prayer shawl, and greets his many friends in the pews. The Hebrew prayers can be tricky for him, but he is slowly mastering them all, together with the rest of Jewish ritual life. As a convert to Conservative Judaism and an active member of an Orthodox synagogue, Montoya has definitely broken from his past as a Catholic with deep roots in New Mexico’s historic Hispanic community. But what makes his story truly remarkable is not just that he is a Jew by choice, but that he is a Jew by birth.
From challah covers to yahrzeit candles, what they are used for, how they look and where you can find them.
Jewish practice involves a number of special objects, referred to as ritual objects or Judaica. Many people like to use, or even collect, beautifully crafted objects, honoring the concept of hiddur mitzvah, beautification of the mitzvah.
The objects below are listed in alphabetical order. All can be purchased from most Judaica stores and online. (Prefabricated sukkah s and sukkah-building kits are available for purchase, although many people prefer to build their own.) Most of the objects listed — with the exception of the yad, shofar and Torah scroll, which are generally reserved for synagogue use —are commonly found in Jewish homes.
By Josefin Dolsten for JTA
On Thursday, The New York Times announced that its publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., 66, is stepping down at the end of the year and will be succeeded by his son, 37-year-old Arthur Gregg (A.G.) Sulzberger.
The familial exchange of power wasn’t unexpected. The younger Sulzberger is the sixth member of the Ochs Sulzberger clan to serve as publisher of the prominent New York newspaper. He is a fifth-generation descendant of Adolph S. Ochs, who bought the newspaper in 1896 as it was facing bankruptcy.
The family’s Jewish history — Adolph Ochs was the child of German Jewish immigrants — has often been the subject of fascination and scrutiny, especially during and after World War II, when the paper was accused of turning a blind eye to atrocities against Jews.