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Shabbat Zachor; T'tzaveh

Torahportion Reform - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 7:00am
Exodus 27:20−30:10

D'var Torah By Rabbi Peter S. Knobel for ReformJudaism.org

Finding Satisfaction in Others’ Success
Parashat T'tzaveh opens with the following words. "You shall further instruct (V'atah t'tzaveh) the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives for lighting, for kindling lamps regularly" (Exodus 27:20). Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, in her commentary, The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus, points out the unusual use of the pronoun V'atah, which she translates as, "And as for you," as we read in this excerpt:

With unusual emphasis, God turns to Moses: Ve-atta tetzaveh – "And as for you, you shall instruct . . . " The redundant pronoun in ve-atta, "and as for you," substitutes for the more usual imperative form, tzav – "Instruct . . ." or the simple future form, tetzaveh – "You shall instruct . . . " Such an insistent, abrupt focus on Moses has aroused much discussion among the traditional commentators on the Torah. . . . What shift in focus requires the sudden use of ve-atta, in a context where Moses is everywhere the subject of God's address?1

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Shabbat Zachor; T'tzaveh

Torahportion Recon - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 7:00am
Exodus 27:20−30:10

Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton for Jewish Reconstructionist Communities

Creating Sacred Space
Our congregation, Beit Tikvah, rents space from a wonderful community. The sanctuary of First Christian Church/Disciples of Christ offers a peaceful haven to both of our religious communities and to other groups as well. Its distinctive shape can be seen by all those driving up Roland Avenue, towards Lake.

Glance up towards the west as you approach the end of the boulevard, and you see an uncommonly-shaped building. The sanctuary itself also offers a relatively uncommon vista. There is no stained glass, no organ pipes. There is nothing imposing in the architecture, but rather, a great deal that is inviting. Softly colored wood. Pews arrayed in circular ranks, three quarters of the way around the space. Simple furnishings. Very little overtly religious symbolism.

The sanctuary is very easily transformed into Congregation Beit Tikvah's space prior to our Friday night services, or on holidays. Our ark is easily wheeled in from its resting place in a discreet corner of the social hall. A few details - including a beautiful six-pointed cloth for the reading table - and our sacred space is ready.

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Shabbat Zachor; T'tzaveh

Torahportion Conserv - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 7:00am
Exodus 27:20−30:10

The Routine vs. The Novel
The rituals of the tabernacle and Temple called for strictly defined roles--but also allowed for new expressions.
By Rabbi Joshua Heller; Provided by the Jewish Theological Seminary, a Conservative rabbinical seminary and university of Jewish studies for MyJewishLearning.com


The latter part of the book of Exodus describes the construction of the mishkan, the portable
tabernacle that served as the focus of God's presence during the Israelites' wanderings in the desert and beyond.

These sections are characterized by a love of regularity and order. The same carefully selected few carry out the same intricately prescribed rituals the same way each day, using sacred objects, which have been standardized down to the last detail.

Each aspect is described twice, first as God commands Moses, and then in its actual implementation, which matches the plans almost to the letter. In contrast, extemporaneous religious expressions, like the Golden Calf, are hazardous at best. There is no room for the novel amid the routine.

Continue reading.  These sections are characterized by a love of regularity and order. The same carefully selected few carry out the same intricately prescribed rituals the same way each day, using sacred objects, which have been standardized down to the last detail.

Each aspect is described twice, first as God commands Moses, and then in its actual implementation, which matches the plans almost to the letter. In contrast, extemporaneous religious expressions, like the Golden Calf, are hazardous at best. There is no room for the novel amid the routine.

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DIY Israel Advocacy

Teens - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 7:00am
by: Bella Adler freshinkforteens.com

Useful tips on creating meaningful Israel programming from a skilled teen advocate.
Are you the vocal student who stands up for Israel when it is “cool” to condemn the country? Do your Facebook statuses include hashtags such as #IHeartIsrael,  #IsraelUnderFire or #ISWI? Are you that student who intends to change the way society views Israel, but doesn’t know how to engage your passion?

The best way to help Israel, while living in America, is to teach our fellow citizens that Israel is an incredible ally for the United States and other countries to have. So how do you do that? How can teens create educational programs about our beloved Israel? Here are some helpful tips to get you started:

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Why We Love Mayim Bialik and Why You Should Too

Students - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 7:00am
I'm a 'product of federation,' Mayim Bialik tells UJA closing event  
by Jodie Shupac, Staff Reporter, The Canadian Jewish News

TORONTO — In nearly every sense, Mayim Bialik is an atypical Hollywood star.

It would be difficult to come away with a different impression of the accomplished actress, writer, scholar and observant Jew after listening to her keynote speech at the Feb. 2 UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s annual campaign 2015 closing event.

Held at downtown event space The Carlu and attended by 800 campaign donors, the evening featured speeches and a dessert reception, all to celebrate the $53.1 million – the product of about 16,000 gifts – raised so far to support UJA projects in the 2015 fiscal year (donations are expected to roll in until the fiscal year begins in July).

Funds from the campaign, which launched in September, will go toward Jewish social service delivery in the GTA, as well as community building, education, strengthening bonds with UJA’s partner agencies in Israel and advocacy through the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

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Health committee: Allow gay men to give blood

LGBT - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 7:00am
Health Ministry set to overturn ruling that branded all homosexual males as potential HIV carriersBy The Times of Israel Staff

A special Health Ministry committee is expected to recommend overturning a decades’ long policy barring gay men from donating blood, Channel 2 reported Tuesday.

Blood donations by homosexual men are currently not accepted in Israel due to health officials’ concerns the potential donors may be carriers of the HIV/AIDS virus.

The Channel 2 report comes a week after the Health Ministry committee announced it would accept blood donations from people of Ethiopian descent, who, like gay men, have for years been barred from giving blood based on fears they were carriers of the HIV/AIDS virus.

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The Purim Story for Kids

Kids - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 7:00am
Is Purim just a fun-filled dress up holiday? Or is it something more? Perhaps it's a flip-flop, upside-down, full of surprises kind of day...not at all what you'd expect.
by Yaffa Ganz for aish.com

Over 2,000 years ago, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. The Jewish people were sent away from the Land of Israel and were forced to live in Babylonia.

Fifty years later, Babylonia was defeated by Persia. Achashverosh (that's pronounced: Ah-chash-VEY-rosh) was the second Persian king. He ruled 127 provinces from Hodu (India) to Kush (Africa) the largest, strongest kingdom in the world.

A new king needs a new capital, so Achashverosh chose the city of Shushan. To celebrate, he made a tremendous feast for all the important people in the kingdom. It lasted for 180 days. Then he made a second feast just for Shushan. Everyone in the city was invited, even the Jews.

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For more information, recipes and great ideas for Purim, check out Jvillage's Purim Holiday Kit

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The ideological roots of media bias against Israel

Traditions - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 7:00am
by Matti Friedman for FathmJournal.org

On 26 January 2015 the former AP reporter Matti Friedman delivered the keynote speech at BICOM’s annual dinner in London. Expanding on a widely-noted argument first set out in Tablet and The Atlantic, Friedman spoke about how the media dissect and magnify Israel’s flaws while purposely erasing those of its enemies. He spoke about a fashionable and extravagant disgust for Israel among many in the West, and the rise of a ‘cult of the Occupation’ which positions Jewish arrogance and perfidy at the heart of all the problems of the Middle East.

One night several years ago, I came out of Bethlehem after a reporting assignment and crossed through the Israeli military checkpoint between that city and its neighbour, Jerusalem, where I live. With me were perhaps a dozen Palestinian men, mostly in their 30s – my age. No soldiers were visible at the entrance to the checkpoint, a precaution against suicide bombers. We saw only steel and concrete. I followed the other men through a metal detector into a stark corridor and followed instructions barked from a loudspeaker – ‘Remove your belt!’ ‘Lift up your shirt!’ The voice belonged to a soldier watching us on a closed-circuit camera. Exiting the checkpoint, adjusting my belt and clothing with the others, I felt like a being less than entirely human and understood, not for the first time, how a feeling like that would provoke someone to violence.

Consumers of news will recognise this scene as belonging to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, which keeps the 2.5 million Palestinians in that territory under military rule, and has since 1967. The facts of this situation aren’t much in question. This should be an issue of concern to Israelis, whose democracy, military, and society are corroded by the inequality in the West Bank. This, too, isn’t much in question.

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Spotlight On: Israeli Cellist Maya Beiser

Jewish Music - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 7:00am
The renowned musician and feminist pioneer performs at New York’s Jewish Museum.
By Rachel Delia Benaim for Jewcy.com

“Where are we? What the hell is going on?”

These lyrics filled the 180-person hall at New York’s Jewish Museum on Thursday evening, as Israeli cellist Maya Beiser launched into the fourth piece of her performance—an original interpretation of Imogen Heap’s chart topper Hide and Seek.

It was an unorthodox choice for a classically trained cellist, but Maya Beiser has always been bold: that’s why she plays the cello, and why she took to the stage for the museum’s Bang on a Can series, which is dedicated to promoting innovative music.

On the small kibbutz in northern Israel where she was raised, every child was given an instrument to play at the age of six. Most kids asked for violins, Beiser remembers, but “being the rebel that I am, I asked for a cello.” She wanted an instrument that no one else on the kibbutz played.

This choice set her on her path towards becoming the world-renowned cellist that she is today. Beiser, educated at Yale University, trained on the classical masters—Brahm, Bach—but then she started to listen to rock and roll.

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Recipe: Haman's fingers

Jewish Cooking - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 7:00am
With Purim just around the corner, here's an alternative to Haman's EarsFrom LA Times

Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Servings: This makes 36 to 40 pastries.

Note: To thaw the filo dough, place the package in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours and up to overnight. Remove the box from the refrigerator 2 hours before using, leaving the sheets in their packaging. (Return remaining filo sheets to their plastic sleeve, re-roll and return to the package; refrigerate or refreeze until needed.) You can keep the pastries for 1 day in an airtight container at room temperature; they can be frozen up to 1 month (thaw the pastries before sprinkling over the powdered sugar). Pareve margarine can be found at kosher markets.

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For more information, recipes and great ideas for Purim, check out Jvillage's Purim Holiday Kit.

Giving to the Needy: A Purim Mitzvah

Family - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 7:00am
The PJ Library Blog

AS YOUR FAMILY gears up for hamantaschen-baking, mask-making, delivering gifts to friends (mishloach manot), feasting, and the costume parade, don’t forget the needy this Purim.MATANOT L’EVYONIM

Giving to the Needy: A Purim MitzvahIt is said that during 356 BCE in ancient Persia, the Jews were saved from disaster by brave Queen Esther and her uncle, Mordechai. To celebrate and give thanks for being saved, the Jews were directed to fulfill four Purim mitzvot, one of which is the giving of gifts to the poor (matanot l’evyonim).

As explained on the Jewish Federation website’s article, “Purim: Acts of Kindness on Purpose,” fulfilling the mitzvah of matanot l’evyonim can be “as simple as dropping coins into a tzedakah box or making donations of food or clothing to a local pantry or shelter.”

For families looking for a more narrow interpretation of matanot l’evyonim, the AISH.com article, “Gifts to the Poor,” explains the “in-depth laws for how to do matanot l’evyonim correctly.”

Either way, giving gifts to the needy presents a fulfilling, hands-on Purim activity for PJ Library families of any size.

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For more information, recipes and great ideas for Purim, check out Jvillage's Purim Holiday Kit

For more Purim news, check out our    page.


J: A Novel by Howard Jacobson

Jewish Books - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 7:00am
Review by Bob Goldfarb for Jewish Book Council

The word “Jew” does not appear even once in Howard Jacobson's dark, urgent new novel, but Jews haunt its world. That world is an imagined England of perhaps the 2070s, in the aftermath of a nameless social cataclysm. Though set in the future, it sounds a warning for our own time.

A man and a woman meet, seemingly by accident, in a small coastal village. Who are they? They are not entirely sure themselves. Like everyone else, they know very little of their family history. Personal and national history has been suppressed; technology has been repudiated. Family names and place names have been erased and replaced in a national mandate called Project Ishmael. The result is that everyone's new surname is something like Cohen, Solomons, Rabinowitz, Nussbaum, Heilbronn, Kroplik, Gutkind—but no one is Jewish.

At least, not any more. A couple of genera­tions before, the question was “What to do with those about whom something needed to be done... foreigners who had what they called a country only by taking someone else's.” The final solution, it can only be whispered, was a "campaign to drive them from the face of the earth, to make of them vagabonds and fugitives."

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Purim

Interfaith - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 7:00am
This article has been reprinted with permission from InterfaithFamily 


Purim is a Jewish Halloween, a Jewish Mardi Gras and a secular New Year rolled into one. And it is not just a holiday for children who know immediately that anything with a costume will be fun. All Jews are commanded to be silly and celebrate the ancient victory against their adversaries by giving gifts of food to friends and to the poor.

Purim comes in the late winter or early spring. Jews have celebrated by dressing up as both the heroes and villains of the Purim story, as they chase away their winter doldrums and acknowledge that Purim brings springtime.

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For more information, recipes and great ideas for Purim, check out Jvillage's Purim Holiday Kit

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A great way to prevent food waste and say Happy Purim The Leket Israel Printed Greeting Cards

Holidays - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 7:00am
It is a mitzvah to send gifts to the poor on Purim.  Leket, the National Food Bank of Israel, would be a great organization to support by sending greeting cards to your friends while supporting this worthy organization.

This Purim send Mishloach Manot Cards to all your friends and family. The proceeds will enable Leket Israel to rescue food for the needy. Each package contains 18 cards.


Leket Israel will do all in its power to send your cards out within 24 hours of your order from our offices in Israel, Canada and the US. Unfortunately, we have no control over the speed of the postal service, so please order with enough time in advance.

For more information and great ideas for Purim, check out Jvillage's Purim Holiday Kit.


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We Need Green Rabbis

Going Green Jewishly - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 7:00am
By David Krantz on HayimHerring.com

Meals served on Styrofoam plates with plastic utensils. Trays of leftover food simply thrown away. And the lights left on all night. From synagogues to Jewish student centers, these are very common Shabbat experiences. Clearly there is a gap between modern Jewish practice and environmental values. But there’s also a large gap between modern Jewish practice and the environmental tenets of Judaism.

Judaism is an inherently environmental religion, with so much written about it, by myself[1] and many others — particularly rabbis Ellen Bernstein,[2] Fred Scherlinder Dobb,[3] David Sears,[4] David Seidenberg,[5] Lawrence Troster[6] and Arthur Waskow,[7] and profs. Richard Schwartz,[8] Hava Tirosh-Samuelson[9] and Martin Yaffe[10] — that I don’t need to repeat here the extent of environmental values present in Jewish laws, customs and practice. Still, outside of the nascent Jewish-environmental movement, I rarely meet rabbis who are familiar with Jewish-environmental wisdom. Usually, as a leader of a Jewish-environmental nonprofit, Aytzim: Ecological Judaism, I am asked by rabbis what’s Jewish about environmentalism. It is the extent to which Jewish clergy and, in turn, their communities, are unaware of the environmentalism that flows through Judaism that is troubling. And that lack of knowledge, in part, can be traced to the lack of Jewish-environmental education in rabbinical schools.

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Presenting: A cross between a pomelo and an orange and other novel Israeli produce varieties

Feature Article - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 7:00am
From The Jerusalem Post

Researchers at Israel's Volcani Institute show off their new produce varieties to eager chefs.
Would you like your tomatoes with extra lycopene? How about a sweet, easy-to-peel grapefruit, or even chickpeas that don't make you gassy?

These products - among many others - are what scientists at the Volcani Institute's Agricultural Research Organization (ARO) - the research arm of the Agriculture Ministry - are working on bringing to the market.

At an event for several dozen chefs from around the country, researchers presented their work - and its tasty applications - to an eager and hungry group at ARO's headquarters in Beit Dagan. The cooks from the Israel Chefs Association heard from four scientists about their fields of specialty: fresh herbs, citrus fruits, strawberries and chickpeas.

Dr. Nativ Dudai, who specializes in aromatic and medicinal plants and herbs at ARO's Neve Ya'ar branch and also lectures at the Hebrew University, says the "perrie" basil strain developed by the ARO is the most popular fresh herb in Israel, and also exported overseas.

"It's not just about the quality of the herb, but also their ability to grow year round, and their shelf life," said Dudai.

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Danish Jewish radio silenced ‘for security reasons’

Jewish Radio - Tue, 02/17/2015 - 10:21am
For the first time since going on air, Radio Shalom Copenhagen suspends broadcasting; host refuses police protection
By Amanda Borschel-Dan for The Times of Israel

Danish Security and Intelligence Services advised the Jewish community to cancel its Radio Shalom broadcasts Monday.

On the recommendation of the Politiets Efterretningstjeneste (PET), for the first time since going on air, host Abraham Kopenhagen did not broadcast his mix of Jewish music and culture Monday evening, reported the Copenhagen Post.

Denmark is on high alert following the dual terrorist attacks Saturday in which a free speech protestor at a Copenhagen cafe and 37-year old volunteer security guard Dan Uzan were killed. Uzan was slain while protecting some 80 attendees of a bat mitzvah at Copenhagen’s Great Synagogue.

The terrorist, who was shot by Danish police, was identified as 22-year-old Muslim extremist Omar El-Hussein.

Kopenhagen told Danish-language DR Nyheder, “PET says it’s too dangerous. We do not feel that it is too dangerous, but we respect the information we are given.”

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My Response to Terror

Jewish Israeli News - Mon, 02/16/2015 - 8:55am
Michael Melchior for The Times of Israel

I woke up this morning to a grim reality. Of  all the recent terror attacks by ISIS, the present one in the  synagogue and  community center in Copenhagen, is one closest to me personally. This is the community in which I grew up. This is the community in which my son, Yair, is serving as its Rabbi, and is now living  with his family, my daughter-in-law and my grandchildren. They are living on the site that was attacked, at which my brother serves  as  Director General.

It’s a difficult day. As attacks grow closer to home, it hurts more and it’s harder to stop the tears. From Jerusalem, I send my condolences to Dan Uzan ‘s ז”ל family, a charming young man who was murdered while voluntarily guarding the bat-mitzvah celebration, which included  many guests, and the entire community.

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Terumah

Torahportion Reform - Mon, 02/16/2015 - 7:00am
Exodus 25:1−27:19

D'var Torah By Rabbi Peter S. Knobel for ReformJudaism.org

Sacred Space Is Where God Dwells and Hearts Are Moved
Parashat T'rumah begins, "The Eternal One spoke to Moses, saying: Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart is so moved. . . . And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them" (Exodus 25:1-8). And eleven chapters later we read, " 'The people are bringing more than is needed for the tasks entailed in the work that the Eternal has commanded to be done.' Moses thereupon had this proclamation made throughout the camp: 'Let no man or woman make further effort toward gifts for the sanctuary!' So the people stopped bringing: their efforts had been more than enough for all the tasks to be done" (36:5-7). The standard joke is that this was the first and last Jewish building project that was oversubscribed.

Two themes are central to this Torah portion:

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Terumah

Torahportion Recon - Mon, 02/16/2015 - 7:00am
Exodus 25:1−27:19

Rabbi Steven Pik-Nathan for Jewish Reconstructionist Communities
The Golden Calf and the Mishkan
This week's parashah, Terumah, begins the section where God gives Moses the instructions on how to build the Mishkan/Dwelling Place - the portable sanctuary that will follow the people through the desert.

It seems strange that following the spiritual high of the Revelation at Sinai the first thing that God tells Moses once he ascends the mountain for his 40-day stay is what material objects are needed for the building of the Mishkan.

Aviva Zornberg mentions two different classical interpretations of this narrative. The first states that the Mishkan is given by God to the people because after the encounter at Sinai they are holy and prepared to accept the instructions and to receive the gift of a divine dwelling place in their midst. This interpretation also views the Mishkan as a kind of "portable Sinai," as much of the language describing the Mishkan echoes the description of Sinai. In this way the Mishkan enables the people to take the unique spiritual high of Sinai with them wherever they go.

However, Rashi and others have another interpretation, which is actually more prevalent. This interpretation again relies on the belief that there is no true chronological order to the Torah, and so the instructions for the building of the Mishkan are placed after the building of the Golden Calf (rather than before, as it would appear from reading the actual text). In this interpretation the gold used for the Mishkan "atones for the gold of the calf." This interpretation is often read simply as meaning that, after the Golden Calf, God realized that the people needed a physical representation of the Divine presence, and so God designed the Mishkan. However, in Zornberg's analysis it becomes clear that it is much deeper and more complex than that.

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