The santas who sunbathe on Sydney beaches, barbecuing their lunch on December 25th are revelling in the duality of the Christmas holiday. On the one hand it’s a universal holiday, celebrating the birth of the Christian messiah who was born for us all and so it’s perfectly appropriate for Australians (and their tourist visitors) to join in.
On the other hand contemporary Christmas is a consumer-driven winter solstice festival where readily available costumes commingle with the shades of Saturnalia — the Roman festival around Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (Birthday of the Unconquered Sun). It embodies a specifically northern hemisphere hope for the short dark days of winter to soon get longer and lighter. A somewhat absurd hope on the antipodean sands.
Hanukkah, which normally falls within the orbit of Christmas normally adopts the universalist aspects of its bigger, younger brother. Kislev 25 is usually around December 25 and Jews place the emphasis on being a festival of light, of liberation and of presents. But when paired with the more local, national holiday of Thanksgiving, its parochial side comes out. And, rather than being the Jewish Christmas (swap reindeer and trees for candles and latkes) Hanukkah ends up being, though disguised by a plethora of mutually appropriate foods, the anti-Thanksgiving.
For my American friends: Its hard to describe what is going on today in Tel Aviv and all over Israel. The entire country is in a state of mourning, and even the weather has joined in with grey overcast skies.
Its days like these though, that I love being Israeli. There is an overwhelming feeling of solidarity, grief and unified love for a man who was a cultural icon. Only one voice is on the radio: people on the street are all talking about one thing. These are the days that you can’t imagine happening in America.
Late last night my husband received a text message: Arik Einstein is dead. We turned on Channel Two just as the head of Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital appeared. Flustered and sweaty — he looked as though he had just been crying, and as if he might start again at any moment — he explained that Arik had suffered an aortic aneurism and that the doctors had been unable to save him. “There is nobody to sing to us anymore,” he said, before he turned and left.
To borrow a phrase from Don McLean, here in Israel, yesterday was the day the music died.
Just as Buddy Holly, who McLean was singing about, was an American icon, Arik Einstein, who passed away aged 74, was an Israeli icon. He was the man who moved on the ideologically earnest music of the Zionist pioneers to create the modern genre of Hebrew music.
Einstein merged the folksy Hebrew style with mainstream rock and roll, and in so doing created Israel’s soundtrack to the 1960s — and to every decade since.
From the moment that news of his hospitalization broke yesterday afternoon until now, his has been the only music playing on the main radio stations here. DJs and news commentators are struggling to find words to communicate the magnitude of his passing. They are comparing him to every great singer, including Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra.
But the comparisons are in vain. Yes, he had an echo of all these stars, but he was very much his own man, and a quintessentially Israeli star. In fact, as the quintessentially Israeli musical star, there’s nobody who preceded him to compare him to.
His are the songs that characterized the slightly idealistic and very emotional style of music that became the Israeli mainstream. His “You and I Will Change the World” is the song that countless couples in Israel have dreamed to and got engaged to. His “Fly Away Chick” is the song that hundreds of thousands of kindergarten children have graduated to.
The list goes on. His songs are the soundtrack to Independence Day barbecues, youth group campfires, and long summer evenings in Tel Aviv cafes. They provided solace to the young Israelis who sat in the streets with candles in 1995 after Yitzhak Rabin was shot.
Generations of foreign Jews on summer trips and Birthright programs have heard his music, courtesy of their Israeli guides, on coaches and end-of-holiday parties. Many of them may not even know the name Einstein, but have the music etched on their minds as their own “sound of Israel.”
Israel’s musical scene today is lively. But there isn’t another star of Einstein’s stature.
(JTA) — Amid the grief over the passing of iconic Israeli singer Arik Einstein, the internet has given us a gem: Bibi Netanyahu and Shimon Peres — together, in the nineties — singing one of Einstein’s best-known songs, “Ani v’Ata” (You and I).
The clip starts with Israeli celebrities Ofra Haza and Dan Shilon singing the song on stage, but at about 1:30 they descend to Bibi and Peres, who stand and somewhat awkwardly sing along. Bibi — who wrote not one but two Facebook posts mourning Einstein yesterday — adds his confident baritone to the melody.
Peres, though, doesn’t appear to know the words to one of Israel’s most famous songs. After joining in for the opening line, his mouth hardly moves and we can barely hear his voice. I guess, unlike me, Peres was not forced to sing “Ani v’Ata” over and over at Jewish summer camp as a child.
The video’s description says it was shot in 1995 and calls Bibi the prime minister and Peres former prime minister.
But in 1995, Bibi led the Knesset opposition while Peres served as foreign minister under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. One year later, Bibi would edge Peres out in an upset election victory. Now, of course, Bibi is prime minister and Peres is Israel’s president.
See the video below:
Israel’s High Court of Justice struck down Israel’s practice of indefinitely detaining many non-Jewish African asylum seekers without due process in September. The unanimous court ruled that this detention policy violated Israel’s Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty and ordered the government to assess the individual cases of the 1,750 detained asylum seekers for release by December 15.
High Court Justice Arbel wrote in his court opinion that prolonged detention was inconsistent with Jewish values.
“We cannot deprive people of basic rights, using a heavy hand to impact their freedom and dignity, as part of a solution to a problem that demands a suitable, systemic and national solution,” he wrote. “We cannot forget our basic values, drawn from the Declaration of Independence, as well as our moral duty towards every human being, as inscribed in the country’s basic principles as a Jewish and democratic state.”
The judge even quoted Deuteronomy:
You shall not hand over to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you. He shall live with you in your midst, in the place which he shall choose in one of your gates which is beneficial for him; you shall not mistreat him.
One would have thought the Israeli government would have read the ruling and taken a different path. Whether one wants Israel to be more Jewish, more democratic, equally Democratic and Jewish, or neither for that matter, Justice Arbel summed up the legal and ethical laws and reasons why the detention policy was wrong and would now be outlawed.
Unfortunately, Israel has ignored the spirit of the ruling.
Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein have yet to sell shtreimels. But one fashion commentator — and a whole lot of YouTube viewers — think Hasidic garb is worth another look.
“The Substance of Hasidic Style,” a video posted by fashion platform StyleLikeU (and reposted by Upworthy), has garnered more than 170,000 views after it was picked up by Upworthy.com. The 16-minute mini-documentary is comprised of interviews with several Hasidim and focuses on Hasidic attitudes towards fashion, modesty, community, and belief in God.
Elisa Goodkind and Lily Mandlebaum, the mother-daughter team that runs StyleLikeU, could easily have treated the Hasidic community as some sort of oddball curiosity. When I read that they had previously produced short films on the style of monks, nuns, and ballerinas, I was skeptical about how they might portray Hasidim: would they be shown as a freakish “other,” wearing outlandish clothing, stuck in the past?
To the team’s credit, the film treats the Hasidic community quite respectfully and even admiringly. Elisa Goodkind writes that the time she and her team spent among Hasidim in the Catskills was “a 12-hour odyssey that would change us forever.”
“[N]ot only did I begin to identify with some of my own life values, but I found a new group of the coolest people I had met in a long time, who were about to become my new great friends,” writes Goodkind, who describes herself as “a reform and rebellious Jew.” Her film not only depicts Hasidic clothing, but offers a broader looks at the Hasidic way of life. Hasidic views on modesty, community, and femininity are all portrayed sympathetically.
Adam Levine meets Chiwetel Ejiofor and Nazi gold in what SOUNDS like a really bad movie, but is actually this week’s really fun Jewish news quiz. And guess who else is here? King Solomon and Brad Pitt! Ok… so maybe that’s a movie I’d see.
Who will are the change agents of our world? Is it our elected officials and politicians or the ones who march in the streets in order to hold them accountable? These questions were clarified for me in profound ways during my recent trip to the West Bank as part of a delegation of Chicago-area Jews and Palestinian Americans.
The focus of our delegation was the Palestinian popular resistance movement in the West Bank, a phenomenon that is sadly unfamiliar to the majority of Americans and American Jews. In a world far removed from the images reflected in the mainstream media and the postures of political elites, we discovered a decidedly different reality: ordinary men and women struggling to live lives of dignity while actively resisting an inequitable and oppressive military occupation.
During our weeklong stay, we were hosted in Bil’in, a village that is has, along with many other villages throughout the West Bank, long been holding weekly popular demonstrations against the occupation over the past ten years. In Bil’in, as in most villages in this movement, the focus of the protests are Israel’s Separation Wall which cuts into the heart of numerous Palestinian populations centers, devastating these communities by cutting them off from their olive groves and farmland.
These weekly demonstrations have become part of the fabric of West Bank life for the past ten years, though few Americans are even aware of their existence. They have consistently been met with overwhelming military force from the IDF. Scores of Palestinians have been injured or killed in these protests, largely from high velocity tear gas canisters, coated steel bullets and live ammunition fired directly into crowds of unarmed protesters.
As we quickly came to see, the violence faced by Palestinians under occupation is a palpable and all-encompassing aspect of their lives. While the political parameters of this conflict are often characterized by Israel’s demand for Palestinian leaders to renounce and rein in Palestinian violence, the view from the ground reveals a different picture entirely: it is the Palestinians who live within a constant daily context of violence.
This is a difficult concept to grasp for those who have not visited or lived in the Occupied Territories. Every day Palestinian mothers, fathers and children experience physical violence from soldiers and settlers who attack them with impunity. Every day, moment they experience the structural violence of checkpoints, land confiscation, and home demolitions.
Our delegation experienced three violent encounters with the IDF during our short one-week stay. While touring the refugee camp of Aida, we inadvertently walked into the line of fire as the IDF shot tear gas canisters directly at local children. One morning in Bil’in we awoke to the sounds of explosions and gunshots. When we ran outside we found the entire village shrouded in thick, choking tear gas. We later learned that the IDF had chased a suspect in a bus bombing into the area and had killed him in a cave on the edge of Bil’in. Before they left, they bulldozed olive trees, shot up the elementary school and shot tear gas throughout the entire village.
The Israeli military’s emergency mission to the Philippines packed up its field hospital today — but not before leaving giving a new x-ray machine, used only during this mission, to the local hospital.
A week-and-a-half ago the Israel Defense Forces set up the only medical aid facility in the island of Cebu. The 125 medics and technical staff who worked there are returning to Israel today, leaving rescue efforts on the island to a team that has arrived from Europe to relieve them.
Asked by the Forward this today for details on what the IDF was leaving behind, Hadar Marom, head of medical services in the military’s medical branch and part of the Philippines mission, said that in addition to the x-ray machine there is the basic equipment for a delivery room, as well as supplies needed to stock it. There are also various medicines for adults and children.
“It was only 10 days but we made a significant contribution,” she commented of the mission, saying that in total 2,686 patients were treated, including 835 children. Some 52 surgeries were performed.
Last week, a senior doctor spoke to the Forward about the 11 births that had taken place. Since then, there have been dozens more — some 69 babies were born on the island altogether, some 36 of them delivered by the Israeli team. The Israelis performed seven emergency caesarians sections, all of them successful.
The mission’s technical team rebuilt electricity infrastructure, roves and water supplies at four schools.
Marom admitted that there is more to be done, but said that as an immediate relief mission, the IDF team has met its aim. “We got to a point where they can continue this by themselves,” she said.
The Forward is partnering with other Jewish newspapers to offer our readers a peek at some of the best stories from around the country, as selected by the editors at those papers. We will offer a selection of unedited links with brief introductions from the editors of the papers.
By Jonah Lowenfeld
On Rosh Hashanah 2012, just a few weeks before the presidential election, Sinai Temple’s Rabbi David Wolpe offered his congregants a sermon titled “The Most Important Question in the World Today.” In it, he told his congregation he was, at that moment, a single-issue voter: “I will vote for whichever candidate seems likelier to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Wolpe said.
With that election long past, whom Wolpe voted for may now be immaterial, but the issue he pointed to continues to be of vital concern to Americans and, in particular, American Jewry. This week, as negotiators from the United States and five other world powers (known as the P5+1) come together in Geneva for a new round of talks with their Iranian counterparts, American Jews concerned about Israel face an even more urgent — and perhaps more uncomfortable — variation on that question: Can Jews trust the Obama administration with Israel’s future?
Read the complete story at The Jewish Journal
Eyal Golan, one of Israel’s most famous singers, is under house arrest, suspected of having sex with underage girls.
Golan is a bestselling artist from the mizrachi or Eastern music genre, as well as being a television star. He has his own show, and serves as a judge on the talent show Rising Star.
The case of a “famous singer” who is under investigation for sex acts has been the talk of Israel for a week, but a gag order has prevented proper reporting on the case, and prohibited revealing the name of the suspect.
The lifting of the gag order yesterday, as the singer was released to house arrest, allowed what had been floating around blogosphere for days, namely that it was Golan, to appear in the media. During the gag order there was the same sense of an absurd situation reminiscent of when the Anat Kamm case couldn’t be reported by the media in Israel but was known to everyone with an internet connection.
One of the weirdest aspects of the Golan case is that that his father is suspected to have been involved. A news report posted following his 61-year-old father’s appearance in court today suggested that he used the prospect of access to his son as a lure and that he gave at least one girl money and gifts to get her to sleep with him.
And so, In Israel, two weeks after one scandal ends, another begins. Eyal Golan’s appearances on his shows have been cancelled since the news broke, but his life has now become the ultimate reality television show, and the country is well and truly gripped.
(JTA) — It was, perhaps, not the most auspicious setting for Ronit Peskin’s first-ever public speech.
The 25-year-old self-described housewife stood in front of a crowded room at the biggest Jewish conference of the year, the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Jerusalem. She was about to verbally assail Women of the Wall — a group most in the audience supported. On the stage with her were Yesh Atid Knesset member Aliza Lavie, representing a party that championed religious pluralism; Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, who’s spearheading a compromise on the Kotel; and Women of the Wall’s chairwoman, Anat Hoffman, a confident public speaker with decades of experience.
By the end of the event, Lavie was telling Peskin she should run for Knesset.
A Cleveland native and mother of three who moved to Israel at age 18, Peskin says she generally tries to avoid the spotlight. Most of her frequent Facebook posts are about cooking and household economy — publicity for her blog, Penniless Parenting.
But since April, Peskin has also served as co-founder of Women for the Wall, a traditionalist group that aims to maintain the status quo at the Kotel and that opposes Women of the Wall — helping to draw thousands of girls to the women’s section to counter WOW’s monthly services.
In her GA speech last week, she didn’t hold back.
“When Anat Hoffman and other WOW board members mistakenly compare Israel to Saudi Arabia, claim that women here are oppressed and have no rights, and that Conservative and Reform Jews get arrested for praying in their way, it’s doing irreparable harm to our nation,” she said. “The answer is not to let a tiny but vocal minority ruin the experience for everyone else.”
As a first-year rabbinical student at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), I read a lot about the challenges facing “millennials.” With the recent outpouring of analysis relating to the Pew report on American Jewry, the amount of content may have quadrupled, but the number of young voices has not.
I’m often frustrated by the dearth of meaningful commentary from my generation about how we plan to transform apparent challenges (Think: dues to synagogues, intermarriage and collegiate Jewish disaffection) into our greatest opportunities. We are blessed to have so many articulate and expert Jewish leaders seeking the secret sauce for our engagement. But this is not their task — it is ours.
Recently, I was privileged to join four other millennials on a panel at the Jewish Federations of North America’s annual General Assembly in Jerusalem. Learning that I might be speaking in front of a few thousand people prompted me to spend a good chunk of time dreaming about how best to use this incredible platform to contribute to the conversation about next generation Jewishness.
My path to the rabbinate has been shaped by three vibrant themes in American Jewish life: contagious leadership, nurturing community and social justice. Dynamism and creativity defined the clergy at the synagogue of my youth, but the love for the Jewish people, the infectious excitement about the vibrancy of Jewish tradition and identity made the deepest impact throughout my years there. My role models truly loved their work.
The other day I overheard someone quip: “No one in the history of the world ever washed a rented car.”
A car, like a religious community, only sparkles when people take ownership of it. I was inspired to pursue a position of leadership in the Jewish community because I was taught from childhood that it is mine to lead. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the former spiritual leader of my synagogue (and now the president of the Union for Reform Judaism), told me so many times that I would make a great rabbi that I actually began to believe him. He turned my responsibility to my community into my own great opportunity.
At some point in the evolution of American national thought Martin Luther King Jr. went from being a political firebrand to being a national icon. You have to be pretty far outside the mainstream in 2013 to object to Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Likewise the Other Israel Film Festival started out as a way to cover those aspects of Israel that mainstream media didn’t talk about, mostly the Arab experience. Watching DAM, the Israeli-Palestinian hip hop group, rap in the auditorium of the JCC in Manhattan on November 10, 2007, felt subversive: What would Michael Steinhardt think?
But no longer.
This is the seventh annual festival and I’ve covered it as a film critic and journalist before (full disclosure) helping out on the advisory committee a couple of times. Welcoming four times world ballroom dancing champion Pierre Dulaine to introduce “Dancing in Jaffa,” the film about his dream of having Jewish and Palestinian children dancing together in his Jaffa birthplace, doesn’t seem contentious. It seems sensible, patriotic.
Max Levin makes more money sitting in his high school math class than most people do during a day at their office.
At 11, the Jewish boy from Voorhees, N.J., was making his first stock picks, guided by his grandfather, a day trader in New York City.
Two years later, he used his bar mitzvah money to move to the big leagues, buying and selling stocks daily in between classes on his phone.
It paid off. Big time.
When his grandfather died in 2012, Levin memorialized him by launching StockPick101.com, a website devoted to helping young people learn the ABCs of stocks, investing and trading. What started as Levin writing about topics he found interested has grown into a national network of college-age writers and readers, who weigh in and discuss financial strategy. Trending topics this week include “Hot Mutual Funds,” “Marijuana Stocks to Invest In,” and “Tips and Tricks for the Young Investor.”
“What we’re trying to do is reach out to the younger generation of new investors,” Levin said in a phone interview with the Forward. “The younger you do it, the better it is [and] the more familiar you’ll be with the stock market and the economy.”
Now 16, Levin also writes weekly articles for MainStreet and TheStreet, online publications connected with Jim Cramer (host of CNBC’s “Mad Money”), under the name “StockPick Whiz Kid.”
Exactly 150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln said: “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”
On its anniversary, the Gettysburg Address, which is often considered the most important speech of American history, is anything but forgotten: Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns launched a mass participation project, in which he invites Americans from all walks of life to film themselves while reciting the Address, and upload the video to the project’s homepage.
More than 300 videos are online already, which include the performances of around 60 prominent people. There are the five living ex-presidents; Bill O’Reilly and Rachel Maddow; giants of business such as Bill Gates; and celebs like Stephen Colbert and Uma Thurman.
Stephen Spielberg, Senator Chuck Schumer and Rabbi Peter Rubinstein are a few of the several notable Jewish figures who have joined in.
Burns came up with the idea for the Learn the Address project while filming a documentary for PBS at the Greenwood School, a boarding school for boys with learning difficulties, which holds an annual competition in which the boys memorize and recite the Address. Burns observed the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment among the boys that followed successful memorization and thought he could turn this challenge into something bigger.
“Mass participation does the same healing like singing in church,” Ken Burns told the Forward. “We are such a fractured society. As a famous historian [Arthur Schlesinger Jr.] said, there is too much pluribus, and not enough unum.” In addition to doing something together, he said, participants get access to “the most important speech of all of American history.”
It’s time to check your inbox. The White House has sent out invitation for this year’s Hanukkah reception hosted by President Obama.
It is a good way of measuring one’s status in the world of Jewish leadership. If you’re not invited to the White House reception you’re either from the wrong party (in that case you might want to check out the RJC’s party) or you’ve just no longer a “Jewish leader.”
The good news is that this year’s list of invitees, which usually reaches 300-400 members of the tribe, is expected to be even bigger. In fact, the traditional White House Hanukkah reception will, for the first time, be divided into two receptions, one after the other.
The events, an administration source promised, would be identical, so no need to fret over which reception is better. They’ll be plenty of Jewish VIP’s at both events. Israeli-born Grammy winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari is expected to perform, and, just as in previous years, the White House kitchen will be made kosher for one day, to provide for the crowd.
For those who did not get a White House invitation, they’ll be a host of other opportunities to light the Menorah with Washington movers and shakers: at the Congress, the Pentagon, and of course the traditional lighting of the National Menorah sponsored by Chabad at the Ellipse just south of the White House, next to the national Christmas tree.
There is no single place in Jerusalem as politically sensitive as the site that Jews call the Temple Mount, and Muslims call the Haram al-Sharif, or noble sanctuary.
In the past couple of decades, there have been riots and violent confrontations there. The Second Intifada erupted in 2000 after Ariel Sharon, then leader of Israel’s right-wing opposition, visited the Temple Mount.
While Israel annexed the Temple Mount and all of East Jerusalem after their capture in the 1967 Six Day War, the Muslim group known as the Waqf manages the site. Freedom of access to the area is enshrined in Israeli law. However, for security reasons, Israeli police enforces a ban on Jewish and other non-Muslim prayer there.
Recently, right-wing religious Zionists have been pushing to change the status quo on the Temple Mount. They want the Israeli government to assert its sovereignty over what Jews revere as the site of the first and second holy temples. These activists have gained support from elements within the current government, especially members of the Jewish nationalist Habayit Hayehudi party.
While the Waqf is in favor of tourists of all kinds visiting the area, it is wary of Jewish religious fanatics who might want to damage or destroy the Dome of the Rock and other Muslim sites. Some ultra-religious Jews believe it’s their responsibility to do so in order to clear the path for construction of a third temple.
Yehudah Glick, an American immigrant to Israel, professional tour guide and Temple Mount activist, was arrested on October 10 and barred by the Israeli police from the site. He began a hunger strike in protest, ending last Thursday after 12 days, when his permission to ascend to the Temple Mount was reinstated.
The Forward asked Glick about his being barred from the Temple Mount, his hunger strike, and why he believes Jews should have full access to the site.
(JTA) — At most Jewish conferences, speakers and participants are careful to focus on sharing only their successes and accomplishments. After all, you never know when a potential donor might be listening.
But on Monday, 120 Jewish communal professionals and lay leaders are gathering to focus on something very different: failure.
Sponsored by New York’s Jewish Education Project and San Francisco’s Upstart, Monday’s event is being touted as the Jewish world’s first-ever “Fail Forward” conference. “Fail Forward” is a new buzz phrase in management circles: the idea being that fear of failure stifles innovation and that failure is a learning opportunity.
Ashley Good, the founder of a consulting group called Fail Forward, will facilitate Monday’s events, where participants and speakers will share some of their biggest failures and learn how to “bring intelligent failure” to their organizations, according to the program schedule.
David Bryfman, director of the Jewish Education Project’s New Center for Collaborative Leadership, told JTA that “if you establish a culture whereby talking about failures is acceptable and dominant, it allows you to take more risks moving forward.”
He also emphasized that a “failure” is different from a “mistake,” in that it’s bigger and more measurable.
And what failure does he plan to share? “One of our Jewish Futures conferences in Denver was a complete bust,” he said. “We over-programmed and had too many speakers, we forgot the people in the audience were actually smart. “
Since then, he’s made sure to schedule more time for interaction at conferences, including Monday’s.
Here’s hoping the conference is a success. But if it’s a failure, well, maybe that would ultimately lead to success.