People in Boro Park tend to stick with traditional Hasidic clothing like headscarves, shtreimels, and rekels. But on Purim you’re bound to see people dressed as clowns, princesses and even SpongeBob SquarePants. Here are a few Instagram photos from around the neighborhood that give a sense of what it’s like on Purim in Boro Park.
The rally in Washington D.C. last Sunday on climate change, organized by the Sierra Club, 350.org, and hundreds of other groups, was the largest of its kind in U.S. history, attended by up to 50,000 people, from all over the country. Buses came from all over, some traveling for several days to bring people to Washington DC from places like Montana.
Nili Simhai of the Teva Learning Alliance, which teaches nature programs to Jewish day school children called it “an historic moment.”
“it’s important for us to be here,” Simhai said. “Sustainable climate policies are at the core of what Teva has been teaching for years.”
A few thousand people were there to represent religious groups, like Quakers, Lutherans and Catholics, and of course there were thousands of Jews at the climate rally, but just a few Jewish organizations. The Shalom Center and the Green Zionist Alliance were there, as was my own organization, neohasid.org. And of course, the First Nations people from Canada, whose land is being destroyed by the tar sands development, brought all of their passion and vision to the rally.
One of the chants I heard most often was, “We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!” Another was, “Hey, Obama, we don’t want no climate drama!”
Speakers praised President Obama for finally finding his voice on climate change, but plenty of people in the march were skeptical about whether Obama would match words with deeds. All are closely watching whether he acts to stop the Keystone Pipeline.
But is climate change a Jewish issue? We all thought so, and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life has been making the case in print. The students from the Central Reform Synagogue in St. Louis who were there with their rabbi and Hebrew school teacher think so too, but what the Jewish community thinks is still up in the air.
Far be it from me, a Jew and a rabbi yet, to get involved in the internal decision making of the College of Cardinals as they ponder this most weighty decision of the election of a pope. But I do want to make a comment about the poignancy and power of names as well as make a prediction as to what the name of the 267th pontiff will be.
“What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” Juliet opines. Let’s put this proposition to the Biblical test, shall we?
According to our Hebrew Bible, which is essentially accepted by 3.5 billion people on the planet as the nonpareil inspired, sacred text for humanity, the first conscious activity of created man was the assigning of names.
Think about it. The first creative gesture of humanity as represented by First Man, adam harishon, was the act of naming. With the truism and axiom that suggests: ‘you’ve got one shot to make a first impression,’ it would seem that our Tradition is making a rather searing and profound one!
Not yet convinced? Consider. When Moses had his fateful encounter at the burning bush with the Eternal One, he was told that his people, the Jewish people, would be redeemed.
Here, the context adds depth and dimension which cannot be ignored. After 210 years of languishing in Egypt, after 210 years of suffering the spiritual ignominies of subjugation and the moral debasement of slavery, after 210 years of bearing the excruciating physical pain of bondage, the Jewish people were to be liberated.
But rather than blindly accept this longed for hope, our preeminent Biblical leader Moses asks a question of the Divine. When I go back to my people and share the news of imminent redemption, he says, they will ask me but one question. “Ma Sh’mo? What is His name?”
A name is just a name, you think? I think not.
Modreck Zvakavapano Maeresera comes from the southern African nation of Zimbabwe with a message of shared faith.
A leader of the Lemba group that claims ancient Jewish ancestry, Maeresera is on a monthlong tour of the U.S., meeting with Jewish communal leaders and giving lectures about his community.
“We are all joined together by our faith,” said Maeresera, 38, a married father of two. “That is what joins us together.”
He is hoping to build awareness about the 100,000-strong community and raise funds for a synagogue in Zimbabwe’s rural district of Mberengwa.
After appearances in New York (at the 92nd Street Y), Chicago and Texas, he will speak on Wednesday, February 20 along with Florida International University professor Tudor Parfitt at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU in Miami Beach.
The tour was organized with help from Kulanu, a group that supports isolated Jewish communities worldwide.
“We are told of our history by our oral tradition, which is handed down from generation to generation,” Maeresera said.
Scattered across six separate districts in Zimbabwe’s vast rural hinterland, the Lemba maintains kashrut dietary rules and celebrates Shabbat. They were forced to abandon newborn circumcision and instead circumcise boys at age 8, a symbolic nod to the eight-day rule that Jews worldwide observe.
Others in Zimbabwe — an overwhelmingly Christian nation of 14 million — are keenly aware of their faith and mostly respect it.
“They call us maJuda, which means the Jews,” he said.
In the coming weeks and months, Congress will enact sweeping reductions in federal spending, finalize the 2013 federal budget and raise the debt ceiling. The cuts that will come with these decisions are not merely numbers on a ledger; they will decimate programs that directly impact the lives of the most vulnerable among us and the ability of social service agencies to serve them.
For individuals with disabilities who are aspiring for healthy, independent lives, this is a particularly critical time. The unemployment rates we associate with the slow recovery from the Great Recession pale in comparison to the persistent lack of employment opportunities that have ever been available to the disability community. The disincentive to work inherent in our social safety net, and the inability for those relying on it to build assets, makes upward mobility even more difficult.
The growing challenge for non-profit agencies to provide home- and community-based care makes independent living for many individuals with disabilities an impossibility.
This is why dozens of advocates representing a broad range of Jewish communities, religious streams, social service providers and public policy organizations traveled to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to promote the Community First Choice (CFC) option in Medicaid and the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, both of which further the goals of ensuring individuals with disabilities can lead healthy, independent lives.
During the month of February, Jewish communities across North America observe Jewish Disability Awareness Month. It is an opportunity to raise awareness of the needs, strengths, opportunities and challenges of individuals with disabilities in our communities and to ensure we are building more inclusive communities that celebrate everyone among us. It is also an opportunity for us to engage with lawmakers and express support for public policy initiatives that lead to better outcomes for the disability community.
As far as Sami Rahamim knows, the seating at the State of the Union address is random. He told the Forward that there “were couples invited who were separated.” His seat, as the guest of his congressman, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), was “up in the gallery, facing the President on the left side.”
The man he was seated next to was Ruben Reyes, a district director for the Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the congressman from the district bordering that of former representative Gabby Giffords. While waiting for the president’s entrance, Rahamim chatted with his seatmate and found that they were “aligned” on many issues and spoke about being an immigrant and “what it takes to make it in this country.” Another coincidence is that Reyes shares a first name and the same initials as Sami’s late father Reuven, who was fatally shot at his workplace, Accent Signage in Minneapolis, the day after Yom Kippur, September 27, 2012.
Sami was at the State of the Union along with 120 other survivors of gun violence sponsored by the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns They are spending the day after the address in small groups, “visiting our members of Congress, particularly the swing votes, to show what we really mean in this fight,” he said.
He had met many of the other survivors at a press conference sponsored by Mayor Michael Bloomberg on December 17 in New York, and says of the others that even though they have only met a few times “we are a close community, and share something extremely powerful.” In a dvar Torah he gave at his synagogue, Beth El in St Louis Park, Minn., on January 5, he wrote of how being with other survivors, there was a “profound lump sum of grief” and “yet, there was an immense feeling of strength and unity among us” because “we were all there to stand for something together.”
It will be President Obama’s first State of the Union address in his second term and White House leakers are already promising an aggressive speech, designed to push Republicans ahead of the upcoming battle over budget sequestration cuts. It will also be a chance for Obama to outline a vision for his second term and to introduce two key issues which were largely ignored for four years: immigration reform and gun control.
Here are some of the Jewish issues you might want to look for in Tuesday night’s speech:
Guests: When camera’s cut to the balcony, take a good look at the invited guests and chances are you’ll see some Jewish faces. Each member is allowed to invite one guest to the speech and the First Lady traditionally invites several more. The idea is to bring to the event people whose life story demonstrates some of the themes in the President’s speech. This year, gun control is one of the key issues and among the guest will be many involved in the battle.
Democrats have invited families of Sandy Hook survivors and first-responders, as well as other key figures in the fight against gun violence. Republicans will have at least one pro-gun guest: musician and NRA member Ted Nugent. Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who has recently emerged as the leading voice for gun control legislation, will be sitting in the gallery alongside her husband Mark Kelly. This week, Giffords released the first video ad for her gun control super-PAC. “Take it from me. Congress must act. Let’s get it done,” she said, facing the camera.
Other Jewish gun violence victims will also be in attendance. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, a leading voice in the gun control debate, invited Joshua Stepakoff, who in 1999, was shot in the attack on the North Valley Jewish Community Center. Stepakoff, who was six at the time, was attending a summer camp at the JCC. He is now a student at California State University Northridge.
The stories of Ariel Sharon and Happy Fernandez are a study in contrasts.
Sharon, as we all know, is being kept alive in an Israeli hospital seven years after suffering a massive stroke. He was prime minister at the time, had just dramatically pulled Israel out of Gaza and founded a new centrist political party, Kadima. The man who once was feared and reviled as a ruthless military leader had begun to look and act like, well, a statesman.
And then his body stopped.
Sharon, who is now 84, lies in an Israeli hospital through the wishes of his two sons, who are in charge of his care. A couple of weeks ago came a flurry of stories suggesting that doctors were able to detect “significant” brain activity when he heard familiar voices and was shown family photographs. In an interview last year, Gilad Sharon said that his father sometimes responds to requests and, even though he is fed intravenously, has put on weight.
But the chances of him regaining any sort of normal human function are, his doctors say, very, very slim.
Contrast that with the way Happy Fernandez’s family dealt with her massive stroke.
Fernandez was an extraordinarily brave and smart woman known to just about everyone in Philadelphia for a long life of service, first as an education and peace activist, then as a city councilwoman, and finally as president of Moore College of Art & Design. Though deeply wedded to her Christian faith, and married to an ordained minister, a celebration of her life was held in a large synagogue, reflecting her family’s interest in religions beyond their own faith.
The National Rifle Association compiled a list of its enemies and it reads like a Jewish who’s who list. The list, prepared by the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action includes 506 individuals, organizations, media outlets and corporations that “have lent monetary, grassroots or some other type of direct support to anti-gun organizations.”
The groups listed by the NRA as enemies of the gun-rights cause could easily populate a Conference of Presidents meeting room. They include major Jewish national organizations, including the Anti Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith, and the Jewish Labor Committee; two major Jewish women organizations: Hadassah and National Council of Jewish Women; and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which is the Reform movement’s rabbinical arm.
Reform Jews, the list suggests, are among the NRA’s worst adversaries. The list includes not only their national rabbinical group but also names specifically the Union for Reform Judaism’s former president Eric Yoffie and David Saperstein, director of the group’s Religious Action Center, as individuals fighting for gun control laws.
Chuck Hagel will step into the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday morning to face what is expected to be the toughest grilling any Obama nomination has yet to encounter.
It will be long, grueling, and could easily draw some sweat from the Vietnam veteran sitting across the room from his former Senate colleagues. But at the end of the day, if Democrats have done their math right, Hagel will be confirmed by the committee, and later by the entire Senate. Democrats believe they’ll have all of their caucus on board, which will provide for 55 votes, and some more votes from the Republican side, to make sure filibuster attempts, like the one suggested by Senator Lindsey Graham, do not succeed.
Here are few things to watch for as the Senate Arms Services Committee begins the confirmation process.
There are two of them on the committee: chairman Carl Levin from Michigan and Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal and both have made clear they back Hagel. As chairman, Levin gets to ask the first round of questions and he could use this privilege to defuse the contentious Israel-related issues by throwing Hagel some soft balls. Hagel’s critics will, of course, get their chance to pose tough questions on these issues, but Levin could help set the tone at the outset of the hearing.
Grand Central Terminal turns 100 this year, and the party kicks off February 1 with celebrity appearances, musical entertainment and vendor promotions, including vintage 1913 prices at selected shops in the terminal.
But six-cent loaves of rye bread at Zaro’s aren’t the only Jewish connection to the famed station.
Here are five Jewish things to know about one of the world’s busiest transit hubs.
• It’s been called the gateway to a million lives, but for some, Grand Central Terminal provides a place to transcend worldly concerns. Orthodox Jews gather in a corner near Eddie’s Shoe Shine and Repair to pray at 1:40PM on weekdays.
• In the 1980s, Grand Central functioned as a de-facto homeless shelter, with hundreds taking refuge in the terminal. Mayor Ed Koch drew fire from homeless advocates for cracking down on loitering, particularly after the death of an elderly homeless woman on Christmas Day 1985.
Sitting in my living room wearing pajamas on an especially frigid night watching a live stream of the Yuri Foreman fight, I could not help but marvel at the ability to watch a non-title boxing match in such a small arena (a Times Square blues club!) live over the Internet. Truly, we are in the golden age of the micro-broadcast.
Yuri Foreman stood in the center of the ring wrapped in an Israeli flag with the referee holding Foreman’s right glove awaiting the results. After a scheduled six round fight that went the full six rounds it was now up to the judges to declare a winner.
A loss for Foreman would most likely abort his nascent comeback. A win for Foreman would be a small step closer to his goal of reclaiming a middleweight championship belt.
Foreman fought a well-defended fight and displayed his trademark blistering lateral movement throughout the entire six rounds. Foreman did show the expected rust after a two-year layoff in terms of offense and lack of rhythm. He landed plenty of left-hand straight jabs at will, but multiple punch combinations rarely materialized. Though Foreman was never considered a power puncher, he did seem to hold back on setting his feet and throwing a strong right a little more than usual.
President Obama’s first inauguration in 2009 was full of Jewish side events. There was a fancy ball at a downtown hotel co-sponsored by major Jewish groups and attended by Jewish politicos, activists and even Dr. Ruth Westhehimer, plus a string of private events hosted by Jewish Democratic donors and supporters.
WATCH President Obama’s inauguration LIVE:
This time around, the entire inauguration has been downsized as the president looks to send a message that he is taking into account the tough economic climate. And after all it’s his second term.
The Jewish community is also taking a low key approach. But here’s a few things to watch out for. And if you find a way into the inaugural lunch, Sen. Chuck Schumer is making apple pie for dessert.
Two Jewish groups, Repair the World and the D.C. Jewish Community Center, participated in the Day of Service volunteer fair on the National Mall on Saturday. The event aims highlighted volunteering opportunities, all part of the inauguration’s theme of community service.
The two groups shared the stage with 90 other organizations offering ways to help those in need.
“We hope to reach a part of the population we don’t usually reach,” said Erica Steen, director of community engagement at the DCJCC, which organizes throughout the years volunteers food drives for the homeless, house repairs for low income families and work with local schools.
This week, the Forward’s web site was overwhelmed by traffic from the social news site Reddit, which featured my piece about the Newtown school rampage, “Wrestling With the Details of Noah Pozner’s Killing.” In the post, I outlined and explained the Forward’s decision to publish Noah’s mother’s description of her son’s body during our December 23 interview.
“[Noah’s] jaw was blown away,” Veronique Pozner told me. “I just want people to know the ugliness of it so we don’t talk about it abstractly, like these little angels just went to heaven. No. They were butchered. They were brutalized.”
Why, a month after the killings, does the story of a Newtown mother’s insistence on sharing the brutality of her son’s death continue to resonate so strongly? The answer might be found in the Reddit thread, which attracted thousands of comments. Several users compared Veronique Pozner to Mamie Till Mobley, the mother of Emmett Till.
Emmett Till was a 14-year-old African-American boy whose 1955 murder helped galvanize the civil rights movement. Originally from Chicago, Till was visiting relatives in Mississippi where he was accused of flirting with a white female shopkeeper.
Two confessions: I am neither a speaker of Yiddish nor a fan of professional cycling. But as we hover in the halftime break of Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, I can’t help but wonder if the televised confession has implications for the meaning of chutzpah.
Most of us are familiar with Leo Rosten’s classic definition: chutzpah denotes “gall, brazen nerve, effrontery…presumption plus arrogance as no other language can do justice to.”
As an illustration of the word’s usage, Rosten famously offered the man who, having murdered his parents, then seeks the court’s mercy because he’s an orphan. There is decidedly a dark element to chutzpah, one that smacks of the ineffable, the awesome, even the amoral. There is nothing cute to chutzpah, though there may well be something sublime.
Can Lance Armstrong’s cheating be justified under Jewish law? Read Micah Kelber’s assessment.
But one needn’t be a lexicographer, much less a Jew, to notice the word has changed. We have moved from the sublime to the slick. Passing through the Cool Hand Luke or Sky Masterson type we now seem mired in the bog of Disney heroes, where chutzpah morphs into pluckiness.
I think about my kids who ask to be paid for doing their homework. I chuckle in admiration before I send them packing to their rooms.
Israel has the PETA stamp of approval.
Animal rights advocates are kvelling over a new law that bans animal testing on all cosmetics or toiletries produced, imported to or sold in Israel.
Kathy Guillermo, a top official at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, told The Forward that her organization is “just over the moon” about the new Israeli law.
“Israel has already been at the forefront in this area, so this is not unexpected. But it is a wonderful example,” she said.
If you happen to have bought cosmetics or toiletries made in Israel since 2007, you may have already have noticed a statement on its label that it was made without animal testing. As of January 1, its reach is being extended to include any products sold in the Jewish State.
The ban has actually been on the books since 2010, but only went into effect at the beginning of 2013. MK Eitan Cabel, head of the Knesset’s animals rights lobby spearheaded efforts to get the law passed. “Animal testing in the Cosmetics Industry inflicts horrific suffering on these animals. Each product requires between 2,000-3,000 tests, and animals die in agony,” he was quoted as saying. Cabel called the newly enforced law “a true revolution in animal welfare in Israel. We’ve come a long way in the last Knesset term and this law in the pinnacle of our efforts.”
It could come down to a tale of two Chucks.
Chuck Hagel’s chances of getting confirmed as Pentagon chief could hinge on whether Sen. Chuck Schumer is satisfied with Hagel’s stance on Iran.
Schumer, perhaps the most influential Jewish senator, is not pleased with Obama’s choice of Hagel for Secretary of Defense and has yet to decide whether to vote in favor of the nomination, Politico reported. Supporting Hagel, Schumer reportedly said, would be “very hard.”
Schumer, according to the report, expressed his misgivings about Hagel in private conversations and in discussions with Jewish leaders. But the New York senator would not make any direct comments on the issue and has pointedly refused to commit to supporting Hagel.
Given his position as the third ranking Democrat in Senate and his standing in the Jewish community, a refusal by Schumer to back Hagel could set the tone for other Jewish and pro-Israel Democrats in the Senate and potentially derail the nomination.
You’ve seen it. President Obama has seen it. Now you get to try it out yourself.
We at the Forward are proud to present the Jack Lew signature widget, which allows you to recreate the wonderful, amazing, crazy curlicues of the first Orthodox Jew to be nominated as treasury secretary.
Go ahead, test it out (Hat tip to Yahoo News). You know you want to.
Does Jack Lew need to tighten up his penmanship if he’s going to be treasury secretary?
The Orthodox Jew whose signature is going to be on every single dollar bill in the land has a pretty weird — actually, an incredibly, startingly weird — signature.
And it seems to be the main thing the world is noticing about the man who’s President Obama’s choice to take over from Timothy Geithner.
See how YOUR own signature would look if you wrote just like Jack Lew
“A lesser-known but extremely pertinent fact about Lew is that he has the world’s worst signature,” writes Kevin Roose over at New York Magazine’s Daily Intelligencer blog. “And pretty soon, that signature could be on every single one of your dollar bills,” he writes with horror.
Roose notes that Geithner had to neaten up his already somewhat legible signature before it could be printed on dollar bills. If so, then Lew is going to have to do a complete overhaul of his John Hancock.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) wants the government to mint a platinum coin worth…a cool $1 trillion..
Nadler, a Jewish Upper West Sider, thinks the minting of a ridiculously valuable coin could foil GOP attempts to hold Democrats hostage in debt ceiling negotiations. It would allow the government to pay its debts without going through Congress, which seems intent on dragging its feet on anything President Obama wants, especially after the bruising fiscal cliff drama.
“It sounds silly but it’s absolutely legal,” Nadler told the website Capital New York last week.
The idea’s gained some traction recent days. Economist Paul Krugman endorsed the trillion dollar coin on Monday, as have others.
So here comes the backlash.
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