The tagline of this year’s Jewish Feminist Alliance (JOFA) 8th annual gathering on Dec 7-8 has sparked a conversation: “It’s not just for feminists anymore.”
Long time JOFA supporter Jennifer Moran’s Facebook feed blew up when she posted this status: ”Just received an ad for the 8th International JOFA Conference, which proclaims, ‘It’s not just for feminists anymore…’ How I wish that I could convince my fellow women’s rights activists to stop disparaging, diminishing, or distancing themselves from feminism.” Others wondered if JOFA’s mission had changed, if social norms in the Orthodox community had led JOFA to shift its recruitment strategy away from the “radical” notion of feminism.
What’s the motivation behind this tagline and what’s happening at the conference? We spoke with Sarah Blechner, Marketing Chair for the upcoming conference. Blechner was raised in an Orthodox feminist household and has attended JOFA conferences since she was in high school.
Jewschool: What can we expect from this year’s JOFA conference that’s different from previous years?
Sarah Blechner: Whereas many of the past conferences have focused on the Orthodox community writ large, this year, while we will still be tackling those large, community issues, we are also talking in a much more personal way than ever before. We are really looking forward to bringing many of the “big” issues down to an individual level and discussing how many of these issues impact the everyday, the individual, and the quieter moments. More »
I’m not a regular attendee of the National Havurah Committee’s Summer Institute, but about ten years ago, when I was in rabbinical school, I attended my first NHI. I taught a class on psukei d’zimrah (the psalms that open the morning service) and taught tunes to which to sing them.
Last year, I returned. This year, I came back once again. Partially, I’m here because the organization for which I work recognized that it would be a benefit to have me here, talking to people about our mission and making connections, but if I didn’t love teaching, if I didn’t love the community here, I wouldn’t have spent the sheer magnitude of hours preparing 6 hours of teaching, plus workshops, for the rather short period of time of a week.
And the community here is indeed special. Despite the ongoing -in fact, seemingly neverending- discussions on how the Jewish community is fragmented into billions of little cliques, divided by generation, who don’t have any interest in what each has to say to the other, at NHI, the age range goes from the very young to the very old. There’s a kids camp for the young families so that the grownups can go to classes, but there are plenty of teens (I have a 14 year old in one of mine) attending the classes right alongside the aged for whom they have a great deal of respect. And the respect clearly goes both ways.
Today in class, I taught a session on one of the more moving sugiyot in the Talmud. One of the older individuals in the class- he reminded me of my father, although he is perhaps a bit older- was struggling with the material. In the story we were studying, one rabbi insults his friend because the friend demonstrates superior knowledge. For most of the class, my chaver really struggled with the idea that a teacher – a rabbi- could have been so small as to be insulted by his student overtaking him in knowledge.
Three quarters of the way through the class, struggling to be heard over the cacophony of the room, he told a story of his own. About a student he had had many years before, whom he had made fun of in class over a political argument that he did not agree with at the time, but which he had come to understand. And he said, “I have to find her to apologize.”
And that’s why the teacher started crying in class today.
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.
This is a guest post by William Deresiewicz, a board member of Tivnu: Building Justice. Bill is a writer and former English professor at Yale.
Who says that working with your hands can’t be a form of Jewish expression? Who says that tzedakah must be understood as charity? Who says that Jewish high school graduates have go to Israel, if they want to do a gap year program?
Tivnu: Building Justice, a new nonprofit based in Portland, Oregon, aims to challenge those assumptions. Tivnu’s model combines hands-on construction training, work on actual projects with affordable-housing organizations like Habitat for Humanity, social advocacy, and Jewish learning and living. Programs include events as short as a day or a week, two four-week summer sessions for high school kids, and our capstone program, a gap year experience for high school graduates aged 17-20 (a year or two of college is okay) that starts this coming fall.
This will be the first Jewish gap year that takes place in the United States, as well as the first of any kind that focuses on construction and housing. Our aim is not only to reach kids who have fallen through the cracks between existing Jewish programs and to overturn stereotypes of what it means to be a Jew. We also want to show them how to work with other communities in ways that go beyond the typical understanding of “service.” We don’t see ourselves as “giving” our time and energy to those who are “less fortunate,” but as working together with others towards a larger form of justice that embraces us all. This is what we mean by tzedakah.
You can come not knowing how to swing a hammer, and you’ll leave having learned to use a table saw, read blueprints, hang doors, manage a worksite, and a great deal besides. But the program is also about a lot more than learning how to build a house. Participants will develop their skills as activists and community organizers, get on-the-ground experience with non-profit work, and debate issues of poverty, inequality, social justice, and collective responsibility with the help of Jewish and other sources. They will also live together in their own house or apartment, preparing communal meals, celebrating Shabbat and the holidays, and having fun in beautiful, hip Portland and the surrounding areas: hiking, biking, skiing, kayaking, and exploring the city’s legendary food and music scenes.
The program runs from August 26 to June 9 and is currently accepting applications. Financial aid is available. For more information, click here or contact Tivnu’s founder and director, Steve Eisenbach-Budner, at email@example.com or (503) 232-1864.
Filmmaker Alexander Bodin Saphir presents on the rescue of the Danish Jews at OresundsLimmud 2013
On March 5, our almost-a-minyan who comprise the steering team of Limmud Oresund 2013 was holding the penultimate meeting prior to our second annual Limmud day of Jewish learning and culture. Over 160 people had pre-registered, and we were concerned about logistics: Would there be enough space for a Limmud that had doubled in size since last year? Had we ordered enough food for lunches and snacks? Did Folkuniversitet, an adult education school that was again openomg its facility to us free of chage, have a room large enough for all participants to close out the day together with singing, learning, thanking the volunteers, and tasting the cholent made during a morning session?
Imagine my surprise, then, to find my various in-boxes filled with messages from concerned friends all over the world. I had posted here on Jewschool about last September’s explosion at the Jewish community center of Malmö, where I live, so the Tablet Magazine artical entitled “Swedish Jews Continue Their Fight: In Malmö, kippah walks are part of a resurgence of identity” had them worried.
Do you have a social justice cause you are passionate about and want to pursue with the NHC Summer Institute community? Apply for the Hollander Social Justice Fellowship! You will receive a scholarship for Institute tuition, room, and board, and up to $100 for materials or preparation, in exchange for planning social justice oriented programming for the NHC Summer Institute community.
We expect that the strongest applications will come from people with at least three to five years of professional or volunteer experience in their area. Preference will be given to people involved in an ongoing social justice campaign (or launching a campaign) who wish to bring it to the NHC Summer Institute community. Submit an application by January 21, 2013 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know what you’re thinking – you want to refer to the 4 worlds in your Tu Bishvat seder but they’re confusing and…oh, if there were only a song that allowed you to sing through the four worlds (like we sing the order of the Passover seder) so folks could remember the order of the Tu Bishvat seder.
NOW YOU CAN. Check out track #3 here from Taya Shere. If you love it, it’s yours for 99 cents!
Last year Shir Yaakov Feit & I would sing the whole song, then sing up to the ‘world’ we are at throughout the seder.
Click here for many great free resources available for YOUR seder from our friends at Hazon.
My suggestion? Add-on a seder to your Shabbat dinner or lunch. Then if you are in NYC, head out for The Best Tu Bishvat Party in NYC.
Prefer to sit home and dream of summer? Enjoy this music video from our friends Stereo Sinai.
I Am Planting [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO] from Stereo Sinai on Vimeo.
I recall chatting with one of my favorite singer-songwriters, composer, musician and poet Alicia Jo Rabins
in a Mexican joint in Chicago after a Golem show a few years back, right after the big market crash. I asked what else she was working on, and she started talking about a project revolving around Bernie Madoff. I (and I’m sure many others) suggested she apply to the 6 Points Fellowship, which happily saw the merit in her and her work. The resulting project has finally reached its debut moment. Rabins’ new full-length song cycle, A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff
, at Joe’s Pub in New York City on Thursday, November 8th and again on the 15th. Details after the jump. More »
This guestpost is by Jonah Rank, a musician in his 3rd year of Rabbinical School at the Jewish Theological Seminary, secretary of Mahzor Lev Shalem, a writer, and a Co-Founder and Creative Co-Director of Oholiav: A Meeting Place for Pop Culture & the Arts through Jewish Eyes, alongside Israeli artist and arts educator Timna Burston.
Tomorrow night is to be the first of many Jewish events unlike anything ever seen before.
The reason: it’s explicitly secular, and therefore explicitly Jewish.
Let me explain.
Tomorrow night is the premier event of Oholiav (oh-HO-lee-AV), a “meeting place” where the secular art and pop worlds come into contact with Jewish values, philosophies and narratives.
That’s abstract. Let me break it down.
Jewish culture and secular Western culture share some basic values: don’t murder people, stand up for what is right, be a good person.
When you look into some of those deeper details though, the wide range of Jewish views on gender roles, on human rights, on politics, on the importance of spirituality, are very likely to differ from that which we have to come to know in the secular world.
So, where are these points of tension, and where are those moments of harmony?
Oholiav examines secular culture through the pop culture—films, YouTube videos, singles, albums, TV shows, Broadway musicals, plays—and the world of art—literature, art galleries, dance. In pinpointing those moments when values are espoused in the secular world, or stories are told or beliefs are “preached” in the secular world, Oholiav compares these moments with their Jewish counterparts.
Does Dinner For Schmucks parallel the Jewish value of hospitality towards guests (hakhnasat orehim) or slam the door on the face of the ideal? Does Francisco Goya’s “The Disasters of War” series serve as a reprimand of oppression, unconsciously echoing Jewish discomfort with militarism? Do these elements perhaps meet somewhere in the middle? Perhaps the twain shall never meet? (Not to mention, the Jewish people rarely hold similarly with only one point of view on anything.)
Tomorrow night, the Oholiav Meeting Place is meeting for its very first event. At the Columbia/Barnard Hillel Kraft Center, in an evening co-sponsored with The Jewish Art Salon, we’re coming together to CELEBRATE TEXT/CONTEXT. At 6 PM, we’ll gather to view the opening of Ellen Alt’s exhibit Text and, alongside it, the group art exhibit Context, featuring over 25 artists from all over the world (Mark Podwal, Miriam Stern, Arza Somekh Cohen).
At 7 PM, in celebration of the art openings, we’ll gather together on the 5th floor of the Kraft Center for special performances by OMG Poetry, Ezra Benus, Lori Leifer and ChEckiT!Dance; followed at 8 PM by a Q&A Talkback with questions from the audience, in conversation with Ellen Alt and with ChEckiT!Dance about both artistic and Jewish elements of their biographies and bodies of work.
This is the first of many events we’ll be hosting throughout the future. At this same location, we’ll be hosting two grand events on October 25, featuring chamber-pop music selections from Scott Stein & His Well-Groomed Orchestra, and November 29, a night of multimedia artistic expression coded as “Shenanigans,” featuring Amazon #1 Best-Selling Author Lisa Alcalay Klug (Cool Jew).
In any event, things should be pretty awesome, and you should definitely feel free to E-mail us if you have any questions.
Many thanks to Jewschool for letting us get the word out there!
We can’t wait to meet you.
Michael Walzer’s book In God’s Shadow: Politics in the Hebrew Bible makes a slightly controversial though eminently plausible argument. The book is an interesting analysis of the politics of the Bible by a political scientist, who is not a biblical scholar, but has written an important book on the uses of the Exodus story by liberation movements (Exodus and Revolution). After all the caveats, Walzer’s central claim is that the Bible writes in the tension between being born into the covenant, and affirming the covenant or taking it on of one’s own free will. This is the central theme of the Bible, and not any specific manner of governance. There is no room, according to Walzer for politics in the Bible, since all authority ultimately rests with God. There is also no call for communal action. The Bible, according to Walzer has an anti-politics. Isaiah, for example, rails against those who would ignore the widows and the poor on their way to the Temple, yet he does not try to organize the poor or lobby the priesthood. Or when Ezekiel castigates Judah for rehearsing the sins of Sodom—the sins of hoarding their riches and not sharing them with poor—he is not looking for a legislative or political remedy—he is channeling God’s rage at injustice.
It is an interesting book, and Walzer recognizes and notes all the difficulties in making specific claims about a text whose interpretation has been contested for centuries. He notes the usefulness of the scholarly and traditional interpretive literature for understanding certain questions, but not others.
Walzer apparently reprised the gist of his argument at a YIVO conference on the demise of the historical partnership between Jews and the left. Some on the right trumpeted Walzer’s presence as a final sign that there is no basis in traditional Judaism for a politics of the left. Walzer, after all, is the long-time editor of Dissent and a social-democrat—and he is claiming that the left-Jewish alliance is as a castle on sand. Check-mate. There is no, nor has there ever been a basis for leftist politics, for social justice advocacy grounded in any traditional Jewish textual framework. The Tablet’s Adam Kirsch and Jewish Ideas Daily‘s Alex Joffe could barely contain themselves.
Something, however, is seriously off here.
(read the rest at Justice in the City then come back here to discuss)
THIS looks awesome. Finally, an event that appeals to Jews who speak Ladino, Jews who speak Yiddish and Jews who speak neither. Its inclusive of all, and even caters to, literally, the kosher set with delicious dainties from the kitchen of Leah Koenig.
Yes, whether you like baklava or babka, this 1st Non-Annual Festival of Pan-Judeo Music and Pastries has something for you. It features the three major streams of Jewish culture and geography- the Mediterranean Sephardi, the Eastern European Ashkenazi and the ubiquitous New York Indie.
The Sephardic rock of Delon and the power pop of Yiddish Princess will be paired with pastries from those respective traditions by acclaimed food writer Leah Koenig. In a city rich with festivals, this is the one you can’t afford to miss.
Tickets are only $8 so get yours early.
702 Union St, Brooklyn, NY 11215
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 email@example.com
*Eshel builds understanding and support for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people in traditional Jewish communities. www.eshelonline.org
Event postings do not constitute endorsement by Jewschool or contributors.
GO AND LEARN: JEWISH COMMUNITIES AND BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT, AND SANCTIONS
What: A community workshop and open conversation hosted by Young, Jewish, and Proud NYC
When: Sunday, May 27, 3-5 PM
Where: The 14th Street Y Jewish Community Center, 344 E 14th St, NYC
How big is the Jewish tent? Across the US, Jewish communal institutions are restricting what young Jews CAN and CANNOT discuss when it comes to our relationship to Israel. But YOUNG JEWISH, & PROUD NYC believes that a strong Jewish community needs space to wrestle with difficult issues like Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israeli human rights violations. More »
Thursday, May 17 at 7-10 PM
Hub San Francisco in the SF Chronicle Building, 925 Mission St.
RSVP at nif.org/lovehate
Share your story. Leave the boxing gloves at home.
“Love, Hate, and the Jewish State” is a civil dialogue for Jews in our 20s and 30s to share our personal experiences about Israel and social justice. We are creating a space where authentic discourse and diverse opinions are welcome – about love and hate, and everything in between. You get to own and author the content of the discussion. We will just provide exercises to help you talk, listen, ask questions, and create meaningful interactions around Israel and social justice.
Brought to you by New Israel Fund’s New Generations. Co-sponsored by A Wider Bridge, Berkeley Hillel, Congregation Beth Israel Judea, Congregation Beth Sholom, Bureau of Jewish Education, CalGrads, East Bay Moishe House, Hazon, Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewlicious, J Street and J Street U, Keshet, Pursue, Rabbis For Human Rights-North America, San Francisco Hillel, San Francisco Moishe House, Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, The Kitchen, Urban Adamah, USF program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice, World Zionist Organization, and Zeek.
Jewschool founder Mobius aka Dan Sieradski is part of the panel at this very interesting event at the 14th Street Y on “The Future of Jewish Culture.” A full press kit is here. A quick look at the panel shows it covers not only various sectors but geographies and aims to address a significant amount of ground in an evening:
“After a decade of flourishing Jewish creativity, major Jewish cultural enterprises are being forced to scale
back operations or close entirely. Using recent funding cuts as a springboard to examine the most pressing
issues facing new Jewish arts and culture, “Now What?” addresses:
- New perspectives on American Jewish identity
- Waning support for quality Jewish art and culture
- Strategies for cultivating Jewish art and culture in the future”
May 15, 2012 7pm, 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street (between 1st and 2nd Ave.), New York, NY 10003
If you’re in the area and are interested, sign up here. Naturally, this is a subject that deserves and requires significantly more time than a single evening. The need to advocate for, plan and implement a national Jewish Cultural Policy could be the focus of a week long conference with representatives from major communal institutions and umbrella organizations, local presenting arms and various elements from artists and performers to independent organizations. It could also be a great panel to recreate at the General Assembly because the message points need to be heard by people who hold the purse strings and those who put the money in that purse
Michael Dorf has attempted similar efforts at International Jewish Presenters Association Schmooze conferences which tried to create a Jewish SXSW on the heels of the annual APAP Conference. FJC did a bit of planning and even implementation with its New Jewish Culture Network. All of these have been significant achievements but none go far enough. We need buy-in from establishment organizations and entities, these efforts fall short.
As someone who runs a Jewish cultural initiative, I’m very interested in this and am excited that its taking place. I’d be interested to know who’s attending and if any funders or folks from the institutional community will be within earshot. And of course, as a non-New Yorker, I’m glad to see there’s three other regional centers represented on the panel.
Cultural folks- what are your thoughts?
Happy 64th Birthday State of Israel, with all your triumphs and tragedies, accomplishments and faults, diversity and difficulties, defense of the Jewish people and the attendant imperfections.
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.