NewCAJE3 announced

The Jewish educator’s love-in and conference, resurrected and reinvigorated, now known as NewCAJE holds its 3rd annual conferences this year  August 5-8th at Montclair State University in New Jersey, two commuter train stops from Manhattan.  I attended the inaugural “newCAJE” a couple years back in Boston and had a wonderful experience.

 NewCAJE3will bring together Jewish educators from North America and Israel to learn and share the new and innovative ideas in Jewish education, network with each other and celebrate the field of Jewish education.

Your residential registration includes access to the hundreds of workshops led by our colleagues and experts in the field, the inspiring evening programs, 3 nights in a brand new residence hall and meals provided by Foremost Kosher Caterers.

Note that there is once again a special Young Professional Cohort track for those who are youthful and available… for Post-Conference activities… get your mind out of the guttter!  Limited slots are available for commuters (for those who call New York or New Jersey home).    Visit www.newcaje.org for more information on how to register for the entire conference or for day passes to the pre and post conference intensive sessions.   Early registration (by May 18) saves you up to $110 on fees!

If you’re planning to go, leave a note in the comments as we’ll try to plan a meetup.

 

Crowe to play Aronofsky’s Noah

Russell Crowe
Dario Cantatore/Getty Images Russell Crowe

Following Earth Day it seemed appropriate to share that Academy-ward winning actor Russell Crowe will star in director Darren Aronofsky’s (Black Swan) feature film about the biblical boat builder, Noah. The film will be released spring 2014.  Crowe’s depiction of Jewish detective Richie Roberts in American Gangster keeps coming to mind, how he was such an everyman.  Now he’ll get to be an ish tzaddik tamim haya b’dorotav (A righteous man in his generation). Exciting. Hunky. Noah.  I can’t wait for the musical. I wanna hear Crowe say, “I’m on a boat!”

The news comes on the heels of the quite public demise of another epic on The Maccabees following a biblical meltdown by esrt-while anti Semite Mel Gibson toward his scriptwriter Joe Ezterhaus, who brought us quality films like Showgirls.

“The news prompted the “Basic Instinct” writer to allege in a letter posted by the Wrap that Gibson, who was to produce and possibly direct the film, never wanted to make it because, as Eszterhas said of Gibson, “You hate Jews.”

N0 kidding, Joe?  News to us… Who wants to eat?

Bring out your Bread!

Bring out your bread
Its 48 hours before Pesach, and having read  ”The Year of Living Biblically”, I’m preparing a lamb to meet its end so that I can smear its blood on the lintel of my door… What’s that? I don’t have to do that? Okay, the neighbors will be so relieved…

I will still have to rid myself of my chametz, however, as I can not possess or own any during Pesach.  Before I engage in Bedikas Chametz, the search for chametz, I simply open my pantry- BAM! Bits of cereal at the bottom of the box. Legumes of all shapes and sizes, pasta and so on and so forth. On to the fridge. I half-eaten kugel from last week.  Some fruit salad. Cheese slices. Egg Beaters.

Anyone else find themselves snarfing down whatever odds and ends remain the week before Pesach?  Some people hate Passover cuisine.  After a week of leftover crumbs, I’m ready to tear into Matzah.   Whatever is sealed, I sell through a duly appointed process involving a Rabbi, pretzel logic and a certain number of he-goats and zuzim.

Those who do not avail themselves of the Rabbinic end-around of selling it on contract for a week with an option to an agreeable gentile have three options.  1. Keep your chametz and incur the wrath of the almighty and the sneers of neighbors.  2. BURN IT!

WOO HOO! Let’s burn everything in sight! It’s like Black Rock but with Bread! Its PAN-demonium!  After all, we wont have another huge bonfire for 40 days when its Lag B’omer so let’s have a Biscuit Inferno! Cue the Music!

But wait, isn’t burning things bad, like crossing streams in ghostbusters?  And can’t we do something with that stuff?  There may be some excellent items sitting around. A bag of flour. A whole cake. A loaf of bread. Peanut Butter. Perfectly good food.  Option 3: Donate.

In the Hagaddah we’re instructed Kol Difcheen- let all who are hungry come and eat. So how about it then? Donate your Chametz. You wont miss it.  Fine, keep that bottle of Blanton’s, but the rest?  Drop it at your local food pantry. Many congregations have a system set up for this.  And in Israel, Modi’in’s Biur Hametz Project is coordinating the distribution of hametz to needy African refugees and migrant workers.   That sounds so much more sensible.

It could be given to other as well.  In Morocco, it was apparently the custom to give Hametz to one’s Arab or Berber neighbors.  The Muslim neighbors would then repay the favor by supplying the pastries for the Mimouna festival at the end of Pesach.  Such a healthy symbiotic way to coexist. Maybe that’s fantasy and maybe there’s a broader lesson. But in the interim, donate your your Hametz. To paraphrase Monty Python, BRING OUT YOUR BREAD! (to which the matza replies, I’m not quite bread yet…)

Tova Benjamin Bombs

Louder Than a Bomb is Chicago’s High School Poetry competition, though that is not the spirit found among its participants.  Founded by local poet, author and jew Kevin Coval, Louder Than a Bomb is something of a Chicago darling. WBEZ covers the finals event every year (Coval was a contributor to the station’s 848 program).  Now in its 10th year, its is the subject of a new and inspiring documentary film getting rave reviews.

One of the previous winners, and a subject of the film, is one Adam Gottlieb, whose poem Maxwell Street surprised many with its thick references to his Jewish identity.  Coval himself has explored his Jewishness in his work, and this year, another young poet, Tova Benjamin, emerged from the Orthodox stronghold of West Rogers Park.  Her poem, Not an Envelope Opener, is getting a bit of notice for similar reasons.  Benjamin has apparently strayed from the derech, but one hopes that means a deeper exploration of her faith and identity and not a departure from it. Indeed, I would like to hear more from her on the subject.  Check her out below, or listen to this interview on WBEZ.

Mobius is for the #Occupation

The enemies of my enemies are my enemies.

The enemies of my enemies are my enemies.

As many know, Mobius, activist and founder of this blog, is known for his outspoken views ending on the Occupation and more recently for his leadership in Jewish slice of the the #Occupy movement (among his prodigious other accomplishments).

In a somewhat surreal turn of events, earlier this week as police evicted Sieradski and the rest of #occupy wall street from Zucotti Park, the Electronic Intifada denounced him for  being a tool of the Zionist PR machine. Got that?  They associated him with his twitter and real-life debate partner, William Daroff, who proudly clams that title.  Clearly, having posed together for a photo makes them philosophical bunk mates. Confused yet? It gets better.

Those who believe that Mobius was against the occupation are apparently incorrect, according to Adam Greenhouse and Electronic Intifada.  Huh?

Not only this, but he is, or was, and now is again- FOR the #Occupation.  Of course- and apparently Electronic Intifada is as well. But not THAT occupation.  And  Mobius is not entitled to be thus as he hasn’t been nearly outspoken enough about his views. Which E.I. is against because, well, he’s so clearly in bed with the rightwing Zionists. And Muppets.

Which they’re for- no wait, against.. Okay, I’m confused. Blame the Jews!

Stranger still, Electronic Initifada did this in the context of announcing the delivery of a message of Palestinian solidarity with the #Occupy movement in NYC.  They announce solidarity, denounce Sieradski for being an anarchist statist capitalist communist jew sellout.

And btw, since we’re off the topic, the Muppets also deserve a state of their own too. Who doesn’t anymore (except Kurds, Boriquenas and American Indians)?  Personally, I believe the @Muppets should be free to live everywhere.  As long as its not in my backyard because my 6th cousins are moving in as soon as UNESCO declares their right to return to my #basement.  I also wish to denounce those who would deny them the right to both have the state of #Muppestine and the right to denounce such states on principle!  Really, this totally made sense when explained by the Electric Meyhem.

Somewhere I hear Bill Murray turning to Harold Ramis and saying, “Wait, I thought you said the Occupation was baaaaad.”  DOWN! with the evil #occupiers of the anti-zionist non-entity!  No wait- FREE Palestine! End the #Occupation! Muppets!  No, wait, we support the occupiers just not the #occupation!  Reverse that.  We are with the 6 million!  Wherever we stand, it is in opposition to the opposition of the opposition of the occupation, except when we’re not.  And then we are.

At least the Palestinian Solidarity movement got its support of #occupy straight on one point, and that was… failing to make a clear point. Nice work and way to muddy the waters for the enemies of progress.  Thanks for the giggles!  But not really.

Throw the Jew down the well


Every once in a while, somebody accuses Jewschool contributors of ignoring or belittling anti-Semitism. For those who found Borat to be a hilarious take-down of the haters, here’s a reminder from JTA of why some of us actually found Barron-Cohen’s shtick just a bit offense:

Bones found in a medieval well in England are probably the remains of Jews murdered in the 12th century, forensic scientists say…. The scientists, who along with archaeological investigations also work on contemporary crime-scene forensics, have speculated that the individuals were thrown into the well — victims of Jewish hatred that was rampant at the time.


A whole Jewish family. Still think its funny? Funny as the murdered Fogel family, I’d say.

Half Shabbos txt

Jewish Week reports on the growing phenomenon of Modern Orthodox teens keeping ‘Half Shabbos’ and texting on Shabbat both in private and also in full view of peers and event adults.

Some observers describe teens as experimenting with the limits of sanctioned and non-sanctioned actions in a Jewish version of the Rumspringa practice in which Amish 16-year-olds are free to engage in banned behavior before formally affiliating with the church and abiding by their community’s norms of behavior.

The article does note that the phase seems to end when many teens return from gap year in Israel when they frum out. I guess between episodes of getting blotto and into trouble, they wander into the wrong neighborhood on Shabbos, texting blithely away and get violently assault. Welcome to Mea Shearim… Frum satire also fisks…

Forward moves Forward


Founded 1897, The Jewish Daily Forward is the only publication that I can safely say that I have read with the same regularity as my grandfather. Of course, when he read it, it was in printed on broadsheet, published daily and had a local Chicago edition. In Yiddish.

100 years after he landed on America’s shores and picked up a copy, I read at least one article from it daily, sent to me in e-mail or via rss and viewed online or via tablet. I read it in English. Suffice it to say, The Forward is still relevant, and since I read it daily, can once more safely be called a daily.

It has a new look online (Lookey lookey) and the publication has a new blog focused on news analysis called, cleverly, Forward Thinking, which I plan to check out regularly. Kudos. Oh, and if you want to read Forverts in Yiddish on your iPad, you can.

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Changes at Zeek


Zeek, the journal of Jewish culture and thought, a source of insightful articles and art from the emerging generation of Jewish thinkers, has announced that it is going through some transitions. (Read on after the jump) More »

Twilight of the Gold’s Borscht?


I’ve long agreed with the sentiment of this Wall Street Journal article- that Borscht is an underrated, under-appreciated food among the under 40 set. Though I know Russians my age who enjoy a bowl now and then, most of my generation has never heard of it let alone tried it. It is a low calorie, no-fat food but it somehow never has caught on as an item either among hipsters, health-niks or beet-niks (couldn’t help myself..). The Borscht Diet! Borscht-tinis! Hey, did you hear that new eastern european brass band, Borscht!

Somehow, outside of pockets of immigrants, this delicious cold soup has never made it to the culinary heights of other foods. Its interesting to read the inner workings of the Gold family struggling with the flagging sales of their flagship product. With all the Jewish foodies out there, I’m wondering if maybe they’ve missed something or if any has some sage advice for Borscht producers (hey- sage in Borscht?).

NewCAJE2 Learning Boogaloo


NewCAJE2 is gearing up for its second year as a reconstituted gathering and organization. This year’s conference will meet in Greensboro, NC on the campus of American Hebrew Academy.

For those unfamiliar, NewCAJE is the successor to the Conference on Alternative in Jewish Education, which inspired the Limmud movement. The conference is an opportunity to learn from and with other educators, both formal and informal. There was minor Jewschool meetup at NewCAJE last year and if anyone is planning to go, please comment so we can connect with one another.

Jews. In. Space. No, really.


We periodically post on Mel Brook’s classic, as yet to be made ‘farsheyst und farbesert’ take on the “Star Wars” because its irresistible.  There are several other posts on the subject , but what’s one more?

Now it seems that many Jews (or at least Israelis) are actually among the already paid customers for commercial space flight on Virgin Galactic…    At $200K a pop and given the price of real estate in Tel Aviv, one questions the wisdom, but hey, they’re “saving the Hebrew race…”

What did you do on Yom Haatzmaut?

I really dot israel

I really dot israel

Really, I want to know- what did you do today?  Were you longing for Israel non-stop? Were you thinking about that hot guy/girl you once met in Tel Aviv?  Or your time at a Kibbutz or at the Kotel?  Were you struck by the idea of making aliyah and day-dreaming about Herzl?

Or were you just stuck at work, day-dreaming about a Starbucks latte?

We constantly hear the rising generation is distanced from Israel.  Rather than being a passive product of comfortable middle class American living, a reaction to certain Israeli policies or to the simplistic approach our communal institutions take toward our fealty to Israel, something in young people’s lack of indoctrination is the real problem crisis.

They must be taken to Israel for free to walk their arba amot, their minds re-trained and their loyalty made unflinching.  Yet most Jews, even young Birthright alumni, were not aware it was Yom Ha’Atzmaut.  Most think that’s a holiday for shoe-shining or something.  Is this passivity, this ignorance and laisaez-faire attitude really a problem or one of our own creation, a reflection of our ongoing anxiety?

I get the desire to express moral ‘support’ for our brethren. I applaud celebrating the birth of the State. Surely, those really interested will do more than attend purile “Get Wasted for Israel or-the terrorists-win” Zionism-themed Bar Parties.  Most would never dream of davka, marking the Nabka. That’s beyond the pale, but is the only other positive outcome mindless flag-waving and cheer-leading for a nation they will rarely visit and never live?

How do young Jews actually spend Israeli Independence Day?  Are they really ‘distanced’ from Israel, are their feelings and actions more nuanced or are they just, you know, typically self-absorbed Americans?

Share what you actually did on Yom Haatzmaut  in the comments and lets find out.

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A Prayer for Snow?

blizzasterHaving now dug out of the Chicago storm code-named Blizzaster, I’m hearing some interesting stories emerging beyond the spontaneous Parking Lot formed on Lake Shore Drive. So much parking so close to the lake is a miracle unto itself, but what about the snow?

One cool story is the Chuppah of Sarah Finkel and Shmulie Schochet (they had a Ketublizzard).

“It’s a happy occasion that the snow cannot deter. The snow does not change anything,” said Bernie Finkel, of Evanston, the bride’s grandfather. “There is thought in the Jewish religion about luck: the dew in the spring at Passover, the rain in the fall during Sukkot. And now I am saying snowfall is lucky too. This is a special time. There should be a special time to pray for snow.”

By now, most of us are pretty tired of snow. But Finkel (who hosts a local Jewish radio program) raises an interesting point. It is truly a wonder to get such an amount of snow. Surely we should acknowledge HaShem’s hand in such an event, yes? What would the text be for a Prayer for Snow (or its speedy removal)? I wanna hear it. Make it snow!

New Hope for Ethiopiolim

Finally, after so many years, Federations are working to complete the Ethiopian Aliyah. JFNA has announced at $5.5 Million Dollar campaign to fund bring 7800 Ethiopian Olim, many of whom have been waiting for close to a decade, to Israel. This is a considerably more modest effort than the last, more ambitious effort to raise $100 Million in 2005, which did not meet its goals. If they only needed $5.5 Million, why has it take so long? In the world of Federation funding, this is chump change.

Of course, the concern once they arrive is, where and how will they be absorbed? I’m thrilled they are finally coming home, but over 1,000 Olim are still stuck in centers years after their arrival. How will the Israeli government handle seven times that? Will there be a balance to integrate them into Israeli society, housing and community? Or will they retain their unique culture only due to segregation?

“We must not make the mistakes of yesterday – Ethiopian olim should be helped to get permanent housing and integrate in Israeli society” Natan Sharansky, Nov. 16 2010

One hopes Sharansky’s words are taken to heart.

Rahm’s Dharma Drama

The ongoing saga of Rahm Emanuel’s mayoral aspirations have seen a lot of back and forth.  First, Rahm’s residency during his work in the White House was challenged in the Cook County Electoral Commission.  He got by that.  This last week, an Appellete Court ruled  Emanuel ineligible on those same residency issues.  Immediately following, his campaign sought and won a ‘stay’ order by the Supreme Court so that ballots for the upcoming election would not be printed without his name. 

The Supreme Court of Illinois announced it would hear the case and handed down a ruling the Emanuel is eligible to run and is to be included on the ballots. Polls put Rahm as the front runner, and the candidate enjoys solid support from the city’s Jewish community, Obama’s team and his old boss Bill Clinton.  Though many disparagingly view him as the anointed successor to Mayor Daley or the practitioner of a particular brand of hardball politics, it seems to me he’s likely the right guy for the job.

It is his destiny. His dharma. Meet the new Boss… Chicago’s first Jewish mayor.

Speaking of Tunisians

Remember the ‘Macaca’ incident that ended the Senatorial campaign and presidential aspirations of George Allen?   You may recall that in the ensuing fallout he denied his Sephardic Jewish heritage, inherited from his Tunisian mother Etty Allan (nee Lumbroso).

Allen is working to revive his political career, and is owning up to his roots at Chabad’s National Jewish Retreat.  Weird? Or no?

Rev. Jackson comes to Shul

http://cdn.abclocal.go.com/images/wls/cms_exf_2007/_video_wn_images/7757195_448x252.jpg Many may recall Jackson’s tsuris in 1984 when, during a presidential bid, Jackson referred to NYC as Hymie-town. Ever since, he has made strides to make amends and build bridges to the Jewish community.

This fall, when bombs were sent to Chicago synagogues from Yemen, Jackson showed up at Anshe Emet Synagogue to show his solidarity.  It would have been better had it been on Saturday during services, but ‘A’  for effort.

Still, there is always room to improve relations between African-Americans and Jews. And so Rabbi Michael Siegel took the opportunity to invite Jackson back to the Synagogue for Shabbat services… on Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend.

Rev. showed up at Shul for a lively Kabbalat Shabbat service with Cantor Alberto Mizrahi, gospel choir in tow. They belted out a few numbers (and made a few people uncomfortable with the mention of Jesus). The messages of solidarity were reinforced, and all were reminded of the time when a previous Rabbi of Anshe Emet marched with Dr. King. “We Shall Overcome” was sung. Kaddish was recited for Dr. King by a crowd of hundreds. Then we all hit the oneg buffet.

All in all, an inspiring evening. Though part of me is always a little cynical about such symbolic acts, it’s easy to put it in check when you think about how far we’ve come since 1984.  We’ve got a long way to go still toward fixing the rift between Blacks and Jews, but with more events like these, we shall overcome… someday.