Rabbi Asher Loptatin, current spiritual leader of the modern Orthodox Congregation Anshe Sholom Bnai Israel in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, will assume leadership of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in Riverdale NY beginning in June 2013. Yeshivat Chovevei Torah was founded in 2004 as a liberal Orthodox alternative Rabbinic training school to Yeshiva University’s RIETS by Rabbis Avi Weiss (Riverdale Hebrew Institute), champion of the notion of “Open Orthodoxy.”
Many people with Chicago roots had a grandparent who attended this shul. Today it is a shambles, and following a public fight to save it this spring, the once magnificent synagogue where Martin Luther King Jr. later made a famous speech has been be torn down for good, another scar on the face of North Lawndale. Nobody cares, nobody can change it, we can only mourn it and the tragic history of the neighborhood that once was home to 175,000 Jews within a square mile on the west side of the city. And so, an eicha for North Lawndale and the Russische Shul, Anche Kenesses Israel:
Eicha for North Lawndale
The Russiche Shul looms large on Douglas, decades since it changed to a church.
The now falling ceiling covered three thousand souls who traversed the world to pray freely,
and those who once gathered to hear Reverend Dr. King preach on justice and and equality. More »
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
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. More »
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.
This is a guest post by The Neo Nazir, a nomadic Jew who spends zes time worrying that the US might actually elect Santorum and that ze and everyone reading this post will be hurled into a den of wild, indigenous mountain lions, only to be devoured limb by limb.
Newsflash! Orthodox Judaism is not the bellwether of queerness. Given Orthodox Judaism’s official position on non-heterosexuality, one hardly expects Orthodox communities to offer a fully understanding dialogue on homosexual identity. But today, even the orthodox are realizing that they can no longer simply sweep LGBTQ issues under the rug.
Tonight in the Chicago area, a controversial event originally scheduled for early January, will be held at Congregation Or Torah, a large modern-Orthodox community in Skokie, IL. This event, sponsored by a number of major Chicago-area Orthodox synagogues and a local Chabad community, will attempt to broach the subject of homosexuality in the Orthodox community, featuring two out-of-town speakers, described by the event’s promotional blurb as “two of the world’s leading authorities on the Torah’s perspective on homosexuality,” Rabbi Dr. Barry Freundel and Rabbi Chaim Rapoport. More »
Having 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?
“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!
My mother remembers when Devon was a classy street with quality merchant stores, but that was in the 50′s. Since I can remember it from the mid-70′s it was always a bit run down, heavily ethnic (it is the most diverse mile of pavement in all of Chicago) but not without its charm. The Indo-Pak part of the street is now far more dense, lively and even clean.
Jewishly speaking, the locus of W. Rogers Park has been rapidly shifting North toward Touhy and even Howard. The Russian immigrants who once kept the shift at bay have moved to the burbs. In the last five years we’ve seen several new shuls open on Touhy, including Sharei Tzedek (aka Bais Barnaby’s), Mkor Hayyim, Sephardic Ohel Shalom and the new Adas Jeshurun. These are joined by Or Menorah and the Egal Minyan in the Temple Menorah building closer to Howard, where a ‘Kosher’ jewel opened 5 years back.
Is Devon dying? Of course it is. But it has been dying for three decades now. Someday I’ll drive my kids through the neighborhood and show them what once was, just as last week I drove through N. Lawndale, where my grandfather grew up a century ago. There too are the shells of shuls by the dozen, now Baptist churches. Undoubtedly the Sentinel or Forward back in the 50′s decried the “Demise of Douglas Boulevard.” And fifty years from now, my grandchildren will read a post on their iPads about the “Downfall of Dundee,” around which there is now another great cluster of Jewish life.
Of late, for a variety of reasons, I haven’t gone to my Chicago shul much. Between indie-minyans and leading services for the Jewish elderly, there’s not been much occasion for me to enter the institutions into which I purportedly refuse to set foot…
Still its scary to learn of the plot this week by getting emails from them about these bomb threats.
Mr. Al-Quesadilla, please dont’ bomb the the shul that I don’t set foot in. If its not going to be there for future generations of Jooz to use, I want it to be because of my principled stand, or at least the one I am purported to take (until I too have kids), rather than a due to your clumsy but scary terrorism attempt.
At the very least, I would prefer the aleph-bet soup Jooish defense organizations to exploit this event by soliciting funds in the name of defending Jooz from the very real turbaned boogey-men under our beds and laser printers. That way even more of us can be turned off by heavy-handed scare tactics (like we haven’t had enough of that with the elections…). It is not without irony that I hear the whir of printer drums warming up to spit out millions of fear-filled solicitation letters.
Hey everyone, this awesomeness is brought to you by the Gan Project.
Ever wonder why New York and California seem to have so many exciting and fresh, lefty and liberal, progressive and oatmeally Judaism and Jewish community events while the Midwest gets the short change of traditional, conventional, Vanilla flavors of Judaism? Three Chicago Jewish women are hoping to improve the assortment of Jewish expression here in the Midwest by way of Jewish action oriented environmental and agricultural programming, cycling workshops, and gardening. The Gan Project is in its first year of operations. It is a board run organization composed of three founding members Jill Zenoff, Anne LaForti, and Suzanne Nathan. Their inaugural workshop season is underway and includes a fermentation and food preservation series, DIY natural bath and body products, urban gardening, and more.
Their first workshop, Food Preservation 101: Strawberry U-pick, Picnic, and Making Jam was a huge success with 11 participants and 34 jars of strawberry preserves and was featured on Chicago Public Radio’s website. The Gan Project’s website, www.theganproject.org, explains that their mission is “to create a vibrant, sustainable, and healthy Chicago Jewish community. Through working the land as our ancestors did before us, Jews from all walks of life can revitalize their connection to some of the most basic principles of Judaism. By providing positive experiences in nature we can breathe life into old traditions, explore the foundation of our faith, and foster a greater understanding of Torah.” While it might sound like it is geared for the Shomer Mitzvot, it is really pan-denominational, and open to non-Jews as well.
The Gan Project has been fortunate to be able to tap into the much-needed but undeserved “greening” of Chicago’s Jewish communities. The Chicago JCC has generously donated office space and Chicago’s Birthright NEXT has agreed to co-sponsor some of the summer workshop series. Also, Hazon has been instrumental in helping the new non-profit take off.
Their next workshop is set for July 11, at a community kitchen space, to teach and learn how to make lacto-fermented pickles out of season-fresh, local cucumbers. Crunch, crunch, crunchy time!
The certification of kosher restaurants upholding the rights of their workers continues to spread across the country…
Chicago native Shmuly Yanklowitz wants to encourage kosher restaurant owners to think about another dimension to the way they make and serve food. Yanklowitz and the organization he co-founded, Uri L’Tzedek (“awaken to justice” in Hebrew), have full confidence in kashrut boards that examine a restaurant’s compliance with Jewish dietary laws. His main concern is workers’ rights in kosher establishments. The cooks and servers who make the kosher food deserve to have their rights protected, said Yanklowitz, a rabbinical student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in New York. These rights―fair pay, fair time and a safe work environment―are at the center of the Tav HaYosher (“ethical seal”) program Yanklowitz helped develop.
“Kashrut boards do a phenomenal job making sure that standards are met,” said Rabbi Ari Weiss, Uri L’Tzedek’s executive director. “Our idea is to have a second conversation with restaurant owners—one that focuses on workers’ rights and work conditions. It’s a way to add another dimension to the production of a service we enjoy.”
NOTHING IS OVER TILL WE SAY IT IS!
Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?
Cause once Purim gets going… the going gets Purim!
And thus, a week after Purim, we celebrate PurimFest on Sat. March 6th.
It’s not the same as Shushan Purim. No trappings of Megillot or Shpiels.
This one’s a festival unto itself.
The lineup includes acts that graced the stages of Summercamp and Bonnaroo.
And yes, there will be Kosher Chinese Food and yes costumes are welcome.
18+ at Logan Square Auditorium in Chicago, off the Blue Line Logan Station.
We are writing to inform you about some unfortunate news. Namely, a very part-time employee of the Chicago Jewish Day School has been arrested on the charge of transporting child pornography. No students, parents, or other staff of the school are involved in this event. More immediately, this person’s schedule in our building meant that he had absolutely NO contact with any Emanuel students.
B’H, I’m glad that in this CJDS case none of the kids were involved. Both of these people were on the periphery of Jewish schools to the extent that nobody suspected anything. So it’s got me thinking: how do day schools, or for that matter, camps, synagogues, federations, or youth groups avoid having our youth unknowingly involved in some aspect of kiddie porn?
Are there source or secondary texts in our tradition that deal with sexual crimes against children? No pun intended, even on erev Purim, but school me.
Last weekend, the first Limmud Chicago took place on the wooded campus of Oakton Community College in suburban Des Plaines. I’m on the ‘Steering Wheel’ (there are no committees in Limmud) so I’m biased, but thought I’d provide a report.
From 8am to 11pm, nearly 400 participants gorged on 80 sessions ranging from Hasidut to Queer Torah and from Text to Crafts. Check out the program here.
My most memorable sessions were led by Arthur Waskow’s Can Jewish Festivals Save the World, Shai Held’s sessions, Menachem Cohen’s How Not to Study Torah, Aaron Frankel’s Songs of Yehuda Halevi, Marc Belgrad’s Getting to God, and Mark Rothschild’s fascinating Prophets and Profits. I would have had more were I not ‘on duty’ in the prime mid-day hours. I heard raves about Asher Lopatin’s session on the Quran’s portrayal of the Akedah, the obligatory drum circle, Ruthie Gelfarb’s Introduction to Mussar, and many more.
The conference drew participants from Metro Chicago, Toronto, Colorado, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and someplace called New York. There was a good mix of age ranges and backgrounds. Upon entry, everyone, whether presenter or participant, was assigned a volunteer role. And a considerable amount of leftover food was donated to the Night Ministry, serving homeless youth.
By now we’re all familiar with the Limmud concept, and this was, if I may say so, a very ‘limmud-y’ first Limmud in the Midwest. And if it can happen Chicago… it can happen anywhere.
It was a fantastic day and a smashing success. If you want to participate next year, check out the website.
“I want to build a new type of religious Zionist,” said Lopatin, who believes that both Jews and Palestinians should be able to live where they want, be it Tel Aviv or Hebron. “I’m not talking about how many square kilometers can we touch, but how many people can we touch.”
It’s a noble and brilliant idea articulated with a precise slap. Jews and Palestinians should be able to live wherever they want? Niiiice. It’s not the amount of land, but the amount of hearts? Awww.
Settlement is an intensely political act burdened with the weight of our heritage and our future. Like in all Israel, Negev Palestinians have poorer but vibrant communities that aim to imbue their children with an identity and a vision of the future. Even if we set aside the troubled history of Bedouins in the modern State of Israel, the reality that Carmit abuts Al-Masadiyya and Hura, a series of townships of 10,000 Palestinians, stirs me a bit. How are the needs of Bedouins, who already suffered through forced settlement, met by the expansion of Jewish settlement? How are unrecognized villages, less than a 10 minute drive from Carmit’s cement foundation and without electricity or meaningful political representation, affected by the plan to increase Jewish settlement between Arad and Beer Sheva? How does a new, progressive Zionist community led by an American rabbi plan to confront the types of social and moral challenges that arise when you arrive in al-Naqab with a dishwasher, a prius and loads of seforim? According to Carmit’s wikipedia page, it will “include a community center with various amenities such as an Olympic size pool and gym facilities.” Will these facilities be open to all citizens in the Negev?
An article from way back in 2002 that details the lives of Bedouins only a few minutes drive from Carmit.
The website of Bustan, an organization working to promote sustainable development in the Negev.
An interesting article from a Palestinian perspective on the historical narrative of Bedouins in Israel.
Now that Brit Tzedek has merged with J Street, we’re witnessing the rapid growth of “J Street Locals” proliferating throughout more than 20 regions across the country. (I’m happy to be attending the launch of J Street Chicago at Emanuel Congregation this Thursday night and even happier to hear that a healthy turnout is expected.)
I’m dismayed, though, to learn that J Street Philadelphia‘s debut is receiving more than its share of ridiculous attacks from certain corners of the Philly Jewish community. I’ve just read that even Penn Hillel has come under fire for renting out its facility to this “anti-Israel” group.
A flap over Hillel of Greater Philadelphia’s decision to lease its space to J Street — for the official launch of its Philadelphia branch — is just one local manifestation of a debate that has roiled much of the national Jewish establishment since the advocacy organization was founded nearly two years ago…
Gary Erlbaum, who sits on the Jewish Community Relations Council’s Israel advocacy committee and is also a board member of the Jewish Publishing Group, has been outspoken in his opposition to J Street, and is upset about Hillel’s decision to host the group’s Feb. 4 event.
“What makes them pro-Israel? If the Palestinians had a lobby, it would be called J Street,” said Erlbaum. “The Hillel building is an inappropriate spot for a group that’s anti-Israel.”
Oh, for God’s sake. A group committed to supporting the two-state solution through a diplomatic means, while safeguarding Israel security and its future as a Jewish and democratic state, is somehow “anti-Israel?”
You know, sometimes when I’m feeling really, really optimistic, I dream about what it might feel like if the American Jewish community actually could tolerate the kind of vigorous and freewheeling debate that they enjoy in the actual Jewish state itself. (Now wouldn’t that be “pro-Israel?”)