In Brooklyn Next Sunday? Come Make Shofar-blowing History

Calling all Jews with horns (and their allies)–

You are hereby welcomed to take part in a historical mass shofar-blowing gathering this       coming Sunday in Prospect Park. The event will consist of a shofar-blowing workshop, a  series of collective blasts, and a vegetarian potluck picnic.

At 5:30pm, we will meet at the corner of 15th St. and Prospect Park West and proceed to enter the park. Please arrive on-time so everyone can find each other.

If you own a shofar and/or a phone which can film, please bring it with you, as well as something for the potluck, if you can stay after.

Our rain location is the Park Slope Jewish Center (1320 8th Ave, located at the SW corner of 14th St and 8th Av).

This event is free, open to the public, family-friendly, and intended for experienced and novice shofar-blowers alike, so please do come and invite friends. We hope you can join us as we herald in the new year with great fanfare.

It will be…a blast

Tuesday Night 17 b’Tammuz / Ramadan Break-the-Fast Event at Masjid Malcolm Shabazz

NYC-area Jewschoolers,

We hope you can join us tomorrow night (Tuesday, July 15) at 7:30pm for a special break-the-fast communal gathering in Harlem at the Malcolm Shabazz Mosque (Malcolm X’s mosque, located near the corner of W 116th St and Lenox Ave.).  Especially in light of the tragic violence besetting the Middle East, we want to come together as a community in the spirit of peace and unity.

This event is part of the broader בוחרים בחיים – اختيار الحياة – Choose Life Ramadan-17 b’Tammuz fast to support a message of peace and coexistence.

Everyone is welcome to join in for prayer, food, and reflection. We hope you can join us for what we know will be a meaningful conversation.

If you can make it, please BYOS (bring your own siddur) and bring some nosh along to share.

Tzom Qal and let us pray for peace.

Throwback Thursday: the Price of Jew$chool

Nearly all of the issues I raised in my 2011 post,The Price of Jew$chool,” which lamented the state of Jewish Day School tuition and the weaknesses of its alternatives in formal Jewish education, unfortunately remain quite relevant today.  Then again, statements such as the 25-year-old Greek Chief-Rabbi elect‘s recent reflection that the internet was his Jewish education, stand as sobering reminders that beyond the U.S. and Israel, Jewish education, even in its most modest forms, is a scare resourceAccording the 2013 Pew Report Forum findings on Jewish life in America, 23% of Jews report having attended Jewish Day School or yeshiva in their youth, and nearly 60% have attended some other form of (non-Day School) formal Jewish education. What does the future hold? How can we respond to this continuing crisis?

The Price of Jew$school

Before you panic, rest assured: we’re not about to start charging you when you read more than 20 posts per month.  No, we’re talking about the ever-skyrocketing expense of sending children to Jewish day school in the U.S.

With $7,000 you might be able to fly back and forth to Israel six times, but for the same price you could stay put in Overland Park KS and learn at the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy for one year.  One thousand dollars more will buy you—show them what they’ve won—one year of 1-8th grade education at the Cincinnati Hebrew Day School. If you want to send your child to the Solomon Schechter of Atlanta, be prepared to shell out upwards of $17,000 per year starting with first grade.  $26,650 might be a fine price for a Toyota RAV4 Sport, but did you know that for the same price, you can ‘kaneh likha rav’—or maybe even four—and enroll for one year of high school at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr, PA? $29, 955 would be a steal for a small, foreclosed apartment in a depressed real estate market, but it could also buy you one year’s education at Milken community high school in LA.  These numbers don’t even include the usual “give and get” $1,000+ minimums typically imposed upon day school families on a yearly basis. More »

FASHION ALERT: In U.S., SS Guard uniforms “aus;” in Israel, KKK “glory suits” “in”

You may have seen the controversial photos released this past week: patrons of a German restaurant in Minnesota decked out in SS Guard uniforms; Harel High School students in Mevasseret Tzion parading in Klansmen “glorysuits” before an Ethiopian absorption center.

"Nazi Party" at Gasthof zur Gemütlichkeit (photo credit: City Pages)

Whereas the local city council did nothing official to condemn the high school students who on Purim masqueraded as members of the KKK for such an egregious display of racism, a group of local Minnesotans banded together to express their disappointment and hurt at the Minneapolis restaurant’s shocking display of insensitivity in hosting the now-notorious annual “Nazi Party.”
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a freylikhen shushan purim!

Wishing you and yours a most joyous Shushan Purim from New York!

The following Purim schtick video is brought to you by some of your favourite Jews from the Jewish Theological Seminary:

Be a National Havurah Committee Fellow at this Summer’s Institute

Previous NHC Fellows

Short of a J-Street conference or a Limmud event, you’d be hard-pressed to find an annual gathering that attracts as many Jewschool writers as the National Havurah’s Summer Institute. This, my friends, should be reason enough to register right this moment.

But a little context always helps, so here is some more description to further entice you:

Now in its 35th year of empowering local do-it-yourself, community-based Judaism, the National
Havurah Committee is gearing up for what promises to be an incredible Summer Institute. With
over two dozen courses, a social justice fellow, two extraordinary artists-in-residents, and
dozens of local havurah communities represented, the National Havurah Summer Institute guarantees you an unparalleled experience which is equal parts spiritually, intellectually, and culturally fulfilling.

Whether you enjoy midnight walks in the woods, guided meditations, heated (but respectful!)
theological debates, hands-on crafts, in-depth chevruta text study, late-night sing-alongs and
spontaneous jam sessions, alternative prayer experiences, early-morning hikes, community
discussions about social justice, or just meeting some of the most thoughtful and creative
individuals you will ever meet–all against the idyllic backdrop of breathtaking rolling green mountains and a sparkling lake  in Southern New Hampshire–the National Havurah Committee’s Summer Institute promises to deliver an experience that will both uplift and inspire.
As if this alone were not exciting enough—there’s more!

If you are a college student, we invite you to participate in our special college program, where
you will work together with your peers, guided by two talented facilitators,  to cultivate new
leadership skills. The College Leadership Program is specially designed to empower current college students to build and sustain Jewish communities on their campuses.

For recent college graduates between the ages of 22 and 32, the National Havurah Summer Institute offers the NHC Fellows Program (formerly, the Everett Program).     This program offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to connect with fellow young Jewish leaders in order to share and build your skills together. All NHC fellows will receive free tuition and room-and-board and will  participate in additional programming geared particularly to the specific interests and needs of participants in this group.

As a former participant in the Fellows Program, I can personally attest to the extraordinary impact that it  has had on my life.  In addition to introducing me to a cohort of wonderful new friends, the then-Everett Program helped me think critically and creatively about building vibrant, relevant local Jewish community and inspired me to return home (then Minneapolis) to start a new Havurah. Incidentally, one of this year’s institute’s planners met her now-fiancée when she was an Everett Fellow.  So apply now, and who knows where this simple act may lead you??

The deadline for the NHC fellows is May 1, so if any of the above speaks to you, apply right away! General registration can be found here.

 

JustCity Summer Pre-College Program at JTS

 

This summer, the Jewish Theological Seminary’s List College is introducing an exciting new pre-college summer program focusing on service learning.  Inspired by the success of its undergraduate program in social and entrepreneurial initiatives, List College wants to extend its resources to a wider audience of rising junior and senior high school students from across the country looking for a hands-on combination of Jewish traditional text study and internships in social change agencies in New York City.

Participants will have the opportunity to choose from a wide array of internship sites, including government NGOs, sustainability and environmental non-profits, interfaith groups, and education and youth organisations.  Before beginning the internships, which will include direct mentorship, students will participate in an orientation, in which they will be trained to work as service professionals in social change agencies. Throughout the program, participants will reconvene together regularly to engage in facilitated Jewish text study, focusing on the theological and historical underpinnings of social action.  Additionally, participants will enjoy a guest lecture series and a college prep workshop series offered by Barnard College.

According to Aliyah Vinikoor, assistant Dean of List College and director of their Fellowship for Jewish Social Entrepreneurship, JustCity hopes to empower pre-college students to engage in direct service while also building Jewish community across denominational lines. The program also aspires to reach out to other faith-based groups to help build a multi-faith social change network.

The program dates this summer are from June 30-July 28; participants have the option of living on JTS’ campus. Partial need-based scholarships available. Registration is currently open and applications are due May 1.  You can learn more about Just City here. You can also email JustCity at justcity@jtsa.edu

 

Pluralism 2.0: Decision Making on Pluralism’s Boundaries

The National Havurah Committee is proud to co-sponsor the Academy for Jewish Religion’s upcoming conference, Pluralism 2.0: Decision Making on Pluralism’s Boundaries. The event is being held Sunday, March 10th from 2-5:30 pm in New York City at Town and Village Synagogue. The conference is free and open to the public. Speakers include AJR’s dean, Dr. Ora Horn Prouser, Rabbi Brad Hirschfield of Clal, and UPenn Hillel’s Rabbi Mike Uram. More information on the conference can be found here. More information on the Academy for Jewish Religion can be found at www.ajrsem.org.

Meet Csanad Szegedi, Your New Favourite Jewish Anti-Semite

Csanad Szegedi was enjoying a fine career as a politician in Hungary’s nationalist Jobbik Party. The 30-year-old Hungarian helped market Hungarian nationalist merchandise online, acted as an EU lawmaker, and did not skimp on the Jew-bashing in his public speeches.

Csanad Szegedi, your new favourite Jewish anti-Semite

This all came to screeching halt upon his recent discovery that his maternal grandmother was a Jew who survived the Holocaust.  Shortly after learning of his Jewish ancestry, he resigned from his positions in the Jobbik Party.

That’s right  ladies: Mr. Szegedi is a Jew by halakhic standards. And he’s available.

 

This is almost as good as if the recently-declared U.S. Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan would suddenly find out he’s really a woman.  Almost.

Friday Challenge: Can You Match These Musicians to the Jewish Day Schools They Attended

Indie Rocker and Jewish Day School Alumna Regina Spektor

As those of you who have been following this season’s America’s Got Talent and/or have read my previous post know, one of the most promising contenders in the show is a religious Jew who is a singer. Not only that, but he is an incoming freshman at the Jewish high school I attended. Curious if any ICJA alumni before have ever enjoyed success and fame as popular musicians, I did some searching but could not find anything. To my knowledge, the only music icon to have graduated from ICJA was Disturbed front man David Draiman  (who first spent some time at the Wisconsin Institute of Torah Study, WITS, and Torah Valley High in California).

I then expanded my search to include alumni rockers from any major Jewish day school in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Australia.  (Incidentally, this search revealed volumes about the institutional identities of the individual schools. While some schools mention Nobel Prize winners and Rhodes Scholars among their graduates, others mention only male ‘notable alumni,’ and some only rabbis, major Jewish community leaders, and mega-machers.  And some even mention convicted murderers. I’m looking at you, Charles E Smith Jewish Day School.) Interestingly, the rock star Jew-school grads hail disproportionately from Orthodox day schools.  Care to interpret?

Anyway, on to the challenge (answers after the ‘more,’ but no peeking!):

which of these famous musicians attended which of these Jewish Day Schools?                                                                                                              Hint: two or more may have attended the same school

1. Ari Gold                                                       a. Jews’ Free School (London)

2 Mike Gordon (Phish)                            b. Moriah War Memorial College (Sydney)

3. Jay Kay (Jamiroquai)                            c. Ramaz School (New York)

4. Ben Lee                                                         d. Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy

5. Coby Linder (Say Anything)               e. Shalhevet High School (LA)

6. Achinoam Nini (aka Noa)                   f. Solomon Schechter Day School

                                                                             of Essex and Union (West Orange, NJ)

7. Kathleen Reiter                             g. Solomon Schechter Day School of                                                                                                                  Greater Boston (Newton, MA)

8. Gabe Saporta (Cobra Starship)     h. United Talmud Torahs of Montreal

9. Regina Spektor

10. Juanita Stein (Howling Bells)

 

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Edon Pinchot is Titanium

Lest there be any doubt in your minds, Skokie, IL is the bastion of cool these days. Jewschool’s very own Adam Davis just moved there, I grew up there, and…oh yeah, the likely winner of this season’s America’s Got Talent hails from there too.

AGT Contestant and Skokie native Edon Pinchot, 14

Singing sensation AGT finalist Edon Pinchot is 14 years old and about to start high school at Chicago’s Ida Crown Jewish Academy this coming fall. He and his family live just blocks from my parents (who are long-time friends of his grandparents), and his parents are pillars of the orthodox Jewish community there.   I remember his mother, Laurie—an exquisitely refined, thoughtful woman, from the Skokie Women’s Tefilla Group which I regularly attended in my pre-adolescent years. The rest of the family are also substantial folks who excel at what they do.
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This Just In: KOACH Saved

In a recent development, after much concern about the USCJ’s funding priorities, Save Koach has announced today that the Conservative Movement’s college outreach program will, in fact, not be cut:

June 14th, 2012 (New York, NY) – The Save KOACH coalition is pleased to hear of the recent news regarding the intent of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) to continue funding KOACH, the college outreach program of the Conservative movement in North America.  While we understand the financial concerns which necessitate a decrease in funding for KOACH, as well as the expectation that the program is now faced with hefty fundraising goals, we are disappointed by the limitations on service to college students that these require.  USCJ, as well as the many other faces of the Conservative movement, must seize this opportunity to reinforce the importance of maintaining a presence on college campuses.  It is essential that this be a time of growth, not retrenchment.  We thank Women’s League for Conservative Judaism for their continued support of the annual KOACH Kallah and look forward to the collaboration of other movement partners in this very important work.

As future leaders of the Jewish community, and the Conservative movement in particular, Save KOACH appreciates that the students of KOACH have been heard and that there is a clear interest in working together to develop a long-term strategic plan for the sustainable growth of KOACH.  We look forward to building an organization which will fulfill the goals of fostering continued campus participation in the Jewish community, as well as provide opportunities and spiritual growth for collegiate Conservative Jewry.

We are committed to being active partners in the dual goals of visioning and fundraising.

We encourage supporters of the KOACH program to visit savekoach.org, and to donate in any manner they see fit.  We have made great strides in sustaining KOACH through the end of December 2012, but are in need of significant financial support to help us through the remainder of the academic year.  This will greatly help to ensure the continued koach (strength) and evolution of the movement’s programming for college students across North America.

 

About KOACH
KOACH provides college-age students the opportunity to maintain and develop connections to Conservative Judaism. KOACH nurtures a love of Torah, the Jewish people, Israel and God through a variety of activities, including social, religious, educational, cultural and social action programs. We seek to create a passionate Jew who is committed to the future of the Jewish people and the improvement of the world.

 

 

Filed under Conservative, USA

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Eshel in Eden: LGBT Jewish Summer Vacation Retreat in an Orthodox/Traditional Environment

Introducing: The first-ever Orthodox LGBT Vacation Retreat in the Midwest

July 5th through 8th, 2012 at Ronora Lodge and Retreat Center, Watervliet, Michigan

Whether you are Orthodox, Traditional or just want to spend a relaxing Shabbat with others, this retreat is for you.

 

Retreat will include inspiring learning, spirited davening (prayer), delicious locally grown kosher food, and an Eshel Speaker and Leadership training. Retreat will take place in a beautiful, natural setting with lots of time in between for relaxation, beauty and summer fun, including trip to Warren Dunes. Stay tuned for more details!  Have questions about the summer retreat? Email miryam@eshelonline.org

 

*Eshel builds understanding and support for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people in traditional Jewish communities. www.eshelonline.org

Jews in the House: the Antisemitism Edition

When recently asked if he detects any Antisemitism among the House Republican caucus, Rep. Eric Cantor answered by not answering, rambling on about the continuing struggle to improve “religious and racial matters” in this country.

“We’ve continued to provide, ya know, equal treatment to everybody,” Cantor remarked. Best of all was his uncomfortable silence when pressed yet again to comment specifically upon his colleagues in the House.  See for yourself:

 

Vide Ante: Generational Identity Crisis and Joseph Cedar’s Footnote

In the 1920’s, Soviet filmmaker maverick Lev Kuleshov demonstrated how the juxtaposition of distinct, isolated filmed images can suggest psychologically-charged narratives: for example, a shot of a relatively ‘neutral’ gazing face followed by a shot of a bowl of soup leads viewers  to understand that the person in the first shot is hungry. This all-important editing technique in cinema routinely forces us to forge narrative meaning and continuity by connecting isolated images and scenarios. It takes a particularly gifted filmmaker to transcend and even reverse such a tendency in the process of creating dramatic tension.

Such a filmmaker is Joseph Cedar, who most recently directed the dark comedy Footnote.  At the very start of the film, the audience is required to interpret the context—in this case, the induction ceremony of the Israeli Academy of Arts and Sciences scene—based on the face which confronts us, and not vice versa. Via a tight medium close-up shot, we are introduced to Uriel and Eliezer Shkolnik, a son and father situated side by side amidst the assembled crowd. We later learn  that  have both spent their professional lives as academics. Uriel ultimately disappears from the frame (as we soon learn, from the off-screen dialogue, to ascend to the podium and accept the honour of his induction to this society), but the camera remains fixed on the singularly disturbed visage of his father. As we watch Eliezer’s almost haunted, blank expression, which suggests a deeply repressed quiet fury, we also listen to Uriel’s acceptance speech, in which he relates an anecdote from his early childhood involving his father. Read or heard in isolation, the speech would most likely appear benign–even gracious. However, as we absorb the tortured, humiliated look of defeat fixed on Eliezer’s face as the camera gradually positions him in the frame’s center throughout this long take, and as we listen to the polite collective laughter punctuating Uriel’s clever moments of public oratory, it is nearly impossible to not interpret the son’s words as anything but the severest cruelty.
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The 2012 Yiddish Farm Summer Program

It’s like this

+ this

Learn more about how you can dig in here

!!זאָל זיין מיט מזל

In Memoriam: Adrienne Cooper (1946-2011)

Just over a week ago, the world Yiddish community lost the greatest Yiddish songstress of our time, Adrienne Khane Cooper, who died on December 25, 2011 at the age of 65.   Adrienne was a person of enormous passion and talent who, as both a performer and teacher, molded a whole generation of young Yiddishists and klezmorim.

In her short 65 years on this earth, Adrienne zigzagged the map, both domestically (living in Oakland, Chicago, and New York), and internationally, touring and studying far and wide, bringing with her a love of Yiddish that was contagious as it was deep.  A scholar, a writer, a performer, and an innovator, Adrienne was a trailblazer in demonstrating to the world that the adventure of Yiddish has only begun. Adrienne’s profound love and respect for language, combined with her progressive politics made her the ideal figure for spearheading the contemporary Yiddish renaissance.

 

After working at the YIVO Language, Literature, and Culture summer program in New York City, Adrienne envisioned an intensified Yiddish cultural experience, and so, along with Henry Sapoznik, she created KlezKamp, the renowned annual Klezmer and Yiddish culture gathering in the Catskills, now nearing its 30th year.  These two programs, both of which Adrienne had a significant hand in shaping,  are  responsible for the outpouring of new Yiddish cultural expression—fueled largely by the enthusiasm of their young participants—that has emerged in recent years.

Among the countless Yiddish scholars and artists whom Adrienne mentored are such prominent figures in the Yiddish world as Yiddish scholar Jeffrey Shandler, acclaimed Yiddish singer Lorin Sklamberg, and outstanding Klezmer violinist Alicia Svigals. The assembled crowd at the New York memorial service for Ms. Cooper (which packed Ansche Chesed’s main sanctuary on Sunday, January 1st) was a veritable ‘who’s who’ in the Yiddish world, and each person in attendance seemed to have at least one story of how Adrienne had changed her/his life. Each of the twelve speakers who eulogised Adrienne at this memorial service shared thoughts regarding the varied and far-reaching aspects of Adrienne’s life and legacy. Upon exiting Ansche Chesed after the memorial service, I overheard an older man ask his friend, “Did you work with Adrienne?” his friend replied, “Of course. Who didn’t??”

As one  who delights in all things Yiddish and also sees in it a larger social mission, it warmed my heart when I heard dramatist and political activist Jenny Romaine read an excerpt from the Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Risk Taker award, which was presented to Adrienne by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) in 2010: “For all of this, and for never working from a place of chosen-ness or nostalgia but from a place of justice, empathy, and complex Yiddish polyphony, JFREJ is deeply honored to present the 2010 Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Risk Taker Award to Adrienne Cooper. ” Indeed, for Adrienne, Yiddish language and culture was not a quaint novelty trapped in a glass box in a museum,  but rather a living, breathing, and evolving hands-on process which could help create a better world.

Perhaps my favourite memory of Adrienne was a Yiddish song workshop she facilitated at the 2008 YIVO summer program, where both myself and Adrienne’s daughter, Sarah Gordon, who is a talented and innovative Yiddish songstress in her own right, were students.  At the aforementioned workshop, I witnessed the special beauty of the bond between Adrienne and Sarah, a bond, spanning the generations, of shared  dedication and love, both for Yiddish language and culture  and for each other.  This special bond was best summarised by the final eulogy delivered at the memorial service last Sunday by Sarah, who stated simply, but most eloquently, “She was my mother.”  All too often, when we speak of great figures, we forget the unique and personal relationships that  are truly the defining aspects of life—the relationships that make us who we are. After hearing eleven people speak beautifully of Adrienne as a legend, Sarah reminded us that she was also a “Yidishe Mame.”

Because of her dedication to helping create a better world, Adrienne served on the Board of Directors of JFREJ, and the family requests that donations in her memory be made to them: www.jfrej.org/Koved ir ondenk.

New Music Review: Chana Rothman’s Beautiful Land: A Labour of Love

In today’s popular American culture, expecting celebrities often recede from the limelight while pregnant. In her new EP, Beautiful Land, singer/songwriter Chana Rothman actively embraces the opportunity to channel her creative energy into an unforgettable musical journey, specifically during her pregnancy. The result is a celebration of life, brimming with heartfelt empathy, mesmerising grooves, and earthy splendor.

 

Photo by Elise Warshavsky

In just six tracks, Rothman creates a universe, transporting the listener to a different realm, one in which emotional honesty and whimsical funkiness reign supreme. Rothman’s music resides somewhere between the intersection of pop, folk, and ethnic, but she transcends all of them. As Rothman’s music demonstrates, we live in a thoroughly cosmopolitan, interconnected time, when such designations are essentially irrelevant labels.

The opening track, Shine, offers a life-affirming message to young people, with its light, breezy groove.  The title track, Beautiful Land, showcases Rothman’s impressive stylistic and thematic versatility. Inspired by her travels in Jamaica, Rothman wrote this loving, polyrhythmic reggae-infused piece as a tribute to its people. Accented with hints of a West African groove, Beautiful Land conjures up distant times and lands, while insisting on a temporal and spatial immediacy with its hypnotic rhythms and gentle melody.

 

Of all the pieces on this EP, Inadequate packs in the most nerve and verve, with its brutally honest lyrics, reflecting on body image. Other reviewers likened Rothman’s lyrically-driven Inadequate to Ani DiFranco—and this was my initial association.  One could also compare this track to India Arie’s I’m Not My Hair, but Rothman’s upbeat and bluesy piece has much more flavor, political punch, and lyrical colour.

In Come on Home, Rothman shifts gears again, this time offering a poignantly understated elegiac ballad. A modern-day Psalm of sorts, this piece never names the subject of its mourning, but rather evokes a flood of feeling and taps the core of the experience of loss.  The following track again radically departs into an entirely different feeling and space.  Listening to Baby Do That Dance for Me, one almost expects Django Reinhardt to surface magically and rip into one of his legendary hot jazz guitar solos.  This joyful and jazzily ambient piece certainly makes you want to rise to your feet and dance along.

Remember Your Name, the other ballad on this EP, is the final track and mourns the loss of Michael Jackson, while also reflecting on his legacy and memory. Enlisting Soulfarm guitarist C Lanzbom’s help on the slide guitar, this track serves as an apt coda to an album which amply attests to the restorative power of music. Beautiful Land, which is available  in stores starting today (and will be available digitally beginning Thursday, December 8), would make a gloriously soulful Hanukkah gift for the music lovers on your list.

'Beautiful Land' cover art: Graphic design by Michelle Nichols; Artwork by Michele Kishita