Do you know a younger gal or guy that is actively working to make the New York Jewish community a better place? Nominate them for 36 Under 36 – an annual competition that recognizes activists, educators, artists and other folks who are standouts.
The only restrictions are age (36 and under as of December 31, 2018) and location (must currently live or work in New York).
I think it’s extremely important that younger folks are encouraged to be active in Judaism and Zionism. They are the future, after all, and a little well-deserved publicity can make a huge difference.
The following is a snippet from a series of emotional emails that a reader sent to me. It has been reprinted with her permission. I share it not to create controversy, but to clarify. I think this is a very sensitive topic that many people are afraid to address.
“My name is Bethany and I have been subscribing to your blog since 2015. Since I’ve been reading for so long, I feel like I know you. I am intrigued by your ideas and it’s obvious you are genuine, but I worry so often that you are missing out on life’s greatest gift: Jesus Christ.
Christ unifies us. I pray that you will come to know Christ and accept him as your Lord and Savior. Jesus is the Messiah for all mankind, not just Christians. I wish that Jews could see what they’re missing. Jesus is here for you, for everyone. All you have to do is be born again and you will become whole through His love. Jesus is the only truth.”
Because Bethany and I have discussed this at length, in a respectful and honest way, I think she’s being sincere. (I receive enough hateful comments to know the difference.) When someone approaches me politely, I am willing to provide an equally polite answer.
Throughout my life, I have heard similar statements. When I was much younger, it would upset me. At this stage of my life, it doesn’t concern me one bit, because I don’t need other people’s approval. I am secure in myself and my faith. Their opinion, their faith, and their truth does not determine what I believe.
Jews and Christians have many things in common. We both acknowledge the same God, yet we interpret Him differently. Every human being has a soul and each soul will connect with God in their own way. There isn’t one road; there are many and each one is equally valid.
While I would never claim to know all the answers, I am positive that Judaism is right for me and other religions are not. What is right for another person, I would never dare to say, because it’s none of my business and quite frankly, I don’t care.
I do not need Jesus Christ. He is not my Messiah. He is not my truth. He is not, in any way, a part of my belief system. Why? Because I am Jewish and that is not part of the Jewish faith. I have never felt that I’m missing out or inferior because of it.
If someone wants to believe in Jesus, that’s perfectly fine, provided it’s their free will. There is no lack of literature regarding Christianity and any curious person can access it, for free, anywhere, at any time. I seriously doubt there is a member of the Jewish community that has not heard about Jesus at some point. I am not confused, or misinformed, or rejecting “the truth” as other people may see it. I believe my way and they can believe their way.
I understand that for many Christians, spreading the Gospel is huge. They knock on doors, send flyers in the mail, and dispatch missionaries all around the world. They feel “it” and they want others to feel the same.
Judaism is the complete opposite—we don’t advertise, we don’t encourage conversion and faith is always regarded as a private matter. It’s a “Live and Let Live” attitude, which is the best way to be—no force, no coercion, no judgment.
Open dialogue and constructive discussion is great. Anyone who is firm in their own faith should welcome it. Jews and Christians should be friends, not enemies. Interfaith activities are important, and if each side is there to listen, rather than instruct, we can learn so much. We should have an open door policy, in our houses of worship and our homes, and welcome others.
I am not offended by Bethany’s statements and I hope she isn’t offended by mine. But there is nothing she can say, nothing anyone can say, that will change my mind about Jesus Christ. If thousands of years of persecution, an Inquisition, Pogroms, and a Holocaust hasn’t dissuaded the Jewish People, nothing will. We’ve made our choice and we’re not budging. Please let us go; I promise we’ll be fine.
Contrary to popular opinion, Jews and Muslims in America are not enemies. Both communities deal with constant abuse and isolation. This should bring us together and a recent tragedy in Texas demonstrates how easily it can.
Three churches and an office space were also offered, showing that the entire community at large is pulling together and being good neighbors. I fully support interfaith activities and believe we must help others who are in need. This isn’t about favoring one religion over another or proselytizing; it’s about different faiths coming together as a human race to love, support, and encourage each other.
Despite the different ways in which we worship and the different beliefs we hold, all Jews, Muslims, and Christians have the same God. We are brothers and sisters in faith. Let’s stop the petty fighting and concentrate on what’s important.
As for the mosque, they’ll have no trouble rebuilding—over one million dollars has already been raised through GoFundMe. Pretty amazing!
While Purim is my favorite Jewish holiday, there is one thing about it that I dislike: An excess of alcohol, and the problems that can result from overindulging.
Because it’s the only holiday that actually encourages unrestrained drinking, many folks take it to an unfortunate extreme, especially the young people. This can cause dire consequences like car accidents, domestic disputes, property damage and unwise (possibly unwanted) romantic encounters.
There is nothing wrong with having a good time. We are meant to celebrate and enjoy ourselves. That doesn’t mean, however, that we can drink ourselves into a coma and pretend it’s ok. Many people have experienced firsthand what happens when too much alcohol is combined with too little common sense (it’s not pretty!).
All of the guidelines I’ve seen recommend no more than 2 drinks per day for women. Doubling that amount to 4 drinks during a holiday celebration may be risky. Tripling it would be asking for disaster, yet so many do it anyway. (Binge drinking, in particular, is even more dangerous for the mind and body, and puts you at greater risk for physical harm.)
Anyone who is hosting or attending a party needs to be extra careful. The cost of a taxi or an Uber can literally save a life. There is never, ever a reason to drive drunk! Pay attention to those around you. If someone seems unsteady on their feet, or confused, or is vomiting, they need immediate attention. I once knew someone who passed out after a wild night and tragically asphyxiated in his sleep. That sort of accident is almost entirely preventable.
And, let’s not overlook, the large number of alcoholics in every community. Individuals who are problem drinkers should not be left unsupervised while the punchbowl is full. It’s always smart to offer soft drinks and water for anyone who may need it or simply prefers it.
I don’t say all of this to be a killjoy. I say it because a fun time can turn into a tragedy in the blink of an eye. Have a glass of champagne, by all means, just don’t make it an entire bottle.
Would you dress up as the President for Purim? Our friends in Israel are scooping up Trump masks in record numbers, for the third year in a row. There are five different options, including a “Joker” fright version. According to this article, American political figures are always in demand, and Obama masks were just as popular during his term in office.
It goes to show that American culture is truly international and our bond with Israel is unbreakable.
In an outrageously biased move, Iceland is proposing a bill that would ban circumcision. Immediately denounced by Nordic Jewish leaders, there is a legitimate fear that such a ban would prevent growth in the small Jewish community. (Currently, there are approximately 250 Jews in Iceland, but Chabad is sending a rabbi and his family to jumpstart needed services this year.)
Is this bill based solely on religious persecution? Certainly, there is a disturbing history of anti-Semitism—banning kosher slaughter, aiding a Neo-Nazi website, sheltering WW2 criminals, offering chess chump Bobby Fischer citizenship, and trying to ban Israeli-made goods are just a few of their most shameful decisions.
However, with the relatively small number of Jews in the country, I think it’s mainly targeted towards the Muslim migrants who are desperate to relocate. Circumcision, perhaps, is the only issue Jews and Muslims fully agree on and it’s so unfair for any government to target Religious beliefs and practices. (Just another reason why I thank God everyday for America!)
Far from being a progressive paradise, Iceland is actually one the most hateful, intolerant places on earth. Let’s not forget that this nation is so heartless, they forcibly abort all babies with Down Syndrome—an act that is so vile and immoral there are no words.
I can’t even imagine living in a place so humanist that they are advocating eugenics and trying to eliminate religious freedom. (Incredibly sad and should not be allowed anywhere on earth.) Maybe some folks would say that it doesn’t matter, that Iceland is too small, too cold, too far away to bother with.
I disagree. History has proven that hate spreads like wildfire and we can’t tolerate it anywhere, at any time. That’s why I’m so impressed that a wonderful Chabad family, the Feldmans, are willing to sacrifice their personal comfort and build a Jewish community in Iceland. Against all odds, I’m praying they can do it.
The idea for this remarkable project came from my friend, Risa Borsykowsky. She is a talented artist, owner of the popular Judaica website Jewish Gift Place, and a well-known philanthropist who raised over $10,000 for the Holocaust Resource Center in Manhasset, NY. Her vision is to inspire others by learning the attitudes and behaviors of successful Jewish women and the role that Jewish values play in their lives.
The group includes a diverse range of fields—publishing, writing, entrepreneurship, blogging, Rabbis, motivational speakers, tour guides, community organizers, etc. Yours Truly was invited to participate and I am so honored! As you can see, I’m in very good company here:
Yvette Alt Miller
Chaya Appel Fishman
The interview 30 minutes long and discusses how each one of us followed our hearts into a vocation we’re passionate about, while staying grounded, giving back, and helping others. Watching the series is both uplifting and enlightening!
By signing up here, you will receive one interview delivered to your inbox daily. All of these ladies are informative and their stories inspired me tremendously. This is the type of project I love and even if I wasn’t participating, I’d definitely be watching.
The Reconstructionist community has adopted a new-ish name: Reconstructing Judaism (Are you laughing? I am). According to Rabbi Deborah Waxman, who’s also the movement’s president: “We are committed to ‘doing’ Jewish. With our new name, we are defining ourselves by what we do, and not just what we believe or how we feel.”
Because they focus more on universal values and consider Halacha to be non-binding, that’s to be expected. With approximately 50,000 members, this small movement never held much appeal for the greater Jewish community, even though it was originally an offshoot of Conservative Judaism.
It’s sometimes confused with Humanist Judaism, another fringe group, but they’re not the same. It is interesting to note, however, that Reconstructionist and Humanist are the only forms of Judaism that were created in America.
Its most prominent family, the Golubs, were instrumental in the creation of Reconstructionist Judaism. Many of you will recognize Rabbi Mark Golub of Shalom TV fame. I used to watch regularly when it was an On Demand option through Comcast. Currently, they’re not in production, but I hope it comes back. While I don’t agree with many of Rabbi Golub’s ideas, he is a powerhouse of innovation and has truly dedicated his life to Judaism. Wonderful person who does great work.
Reform Judaism is plenty liberal enough for me, and I don’t see the appeal of these other groups. That said, there’s nothing wrong with someone choosing to embrace it. Different strokes for different folks, as they say, but surely they could’ve picked a better and more meaningful name. Otherwise, why make the effort at all?
If you have any firsthand experience with the Reconstructionist movement, I’d love to hear your opinion. Personally, I have never met anyone who was interested.
Many studies have shown that attending a Jewish summer camp is a positive and formative experience for kids. Beyond being a fun time, it contributes to a positive Jewish identity that can last well into adulthood and helps to preserve our communal heritage and values.
While there are many different camps available, Camp Kimama is truly one of a kind: an international Jewish overnight camp, serving ages 7-17, with locations around the world. Camp owner, Avishay Nachon, was kind enough to contribute the following guest post that offers an in-depth view. He is also generously offering a $100 discount for TJL readers that want to register here.
Every parent wants their child to create special summer friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. I know because this past summer was the 14th year that we’ve run our camps! Each time that camp begins, I find myself as excited as if it was our first summer, and every time that camp ends, I reflect on the amazing experiences shared by campers and staff alike!
After spending 20 summers at Jewish Summer camps in America, I knew I wanted to bring the best of my worlds together and marry the American overnight experience with true Israeli culture. The “secret” of Kimama’s success, which is actually quite apparent, is our fantastic Israeli and international staff that give 100 percent, many of whom return year after year.
At Kimama we work around the clock to create the ideal experience. In addition to our Israeli camps, we expanded over the past year, with new camps in Venice and Barcelona, alongside our ski camps in Italy and Austria. Very soon we will be opening a surfing and diving camp in the Canary Islands.
We’ve had new campers from Austria, Canada, Germany, Peru, Russia, Scotland, France, Thailand, South Africa, Nigeria, Singapore, Bulgaria, Denmark, England, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, USA, Sweden, Brazil, Venezuela and Poland.
We invest great resources and energy in strengthening our connection with our foreign clientele, with awareness that the international interaction adds an important dimension to the campers’ experience. In recent years our efforts have proved successful, as our enrollment of campers from overseas has increased dramatically.
In recent years, the field of summer camps, both in Israel and internationally, has undergone a major change. Parents are starting to view summer camp as an investment in education and in the future of their children. They no longer see it as merely a way of giving the kids a ‘good time’ or keeping them busy during the summer vacation. Parents expect to receive added value; therefore, summer camps must constantly improve – be innovate, creative and exciting. They must invest in new facilities and programs, add creative activities, emphasize values, and give participants social tools.
In order to accomplish all of this, a summer camp system requires strong financial backing, professional management, and qualified staff, focused on the fields of customer service, registration, operation, training, maintenance and development of educational-experiential programming. We are committed to providing a wonderful experience for Jewish youth around the world and look forward to serving your family.
About the Author:
Avishay Nachon is an Entrepreneur and Educator. He has been heavily involved for over two decades as a leader in social programs, managerial roles, training and consulting.
He holds an MA in Labor Studies and a BA in Education Policy and Management, as well as a degree in Conducting and Composition, from the University of Tel Aviv, Israel.
Currently, Avishay serves as CEO and owner of Camp Kimama and splits his time between New York and Tel Aviv.
Although it’s a fairly minor holiday on the Jewish calendar, Tu B’Shevat is a lovely celebration of nature and definitely deserves more attention. Similar to Earth Day, it’s great for raising environmental awareness, and there is also a long tradition of planting trees in observance.
Because I live in a cold and snowy part of New England, planting a tree during the winter isn’t an option. Folks who lives in Florida or California can get to work right in their own backyard; for the rest of us, planting a tree in Israel is the best option.
A lot of companies do it, but the Jewish National Fund has arguably got the market cornered. Each tree costs only $18.00 and the buyer receives a personalized certificate similar to this sample.
Anything that helps to beautify and enrich the Holy Land is very important because it reinforces our commitment and connection—to the country, to the people, and to our culture. Jews outside of Israel sometimes forget that our Israeli brothers and sisters live in a state of perpetual war. Evil forces target them in physical, psychological, and financial ways that are breathtakingly cruel and wrong.