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Shabbat Shekalim - Mishpatim

weekly-torah-portion - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 12:00am

Exodus 21:1−24:18 

Rabbi Mordechai (Mitchell) Silverstein, senior lecturer in  Talmud and Midrash at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

Haftarah Commentary: 2 Kings 12:1-17

Shabbat Shekalim is the first of four special Shabbatot which precede Pesah. In the Maftir Torah reading, we read a reminder of the half-shekel tax incumbent on every Jew as a means of support for the Temple, the sacred center of Jewish worship. In the haftarah, we read of an episode involving this tax during the rule of King Jehoash. Jehoash is described as a good king, but with a single flaw: “All his days Jehoash did what was pleasing to the Lord, as the priest Jehoiada instructed him. The shrines, however, were not removed; the people continued to sacrifice and offer at the shrines (bamot).” (12:3-4)  

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Visit colleges around the world without leaving home

young-adults - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 12:00am
by Ilana Strauss for FromtheGrapevine

You Visit offers 3D and virtual reality campus tours for students.

With college on the horizon, high school seniors might be thinking about attending a school far from home. Luckily, you don't have to go to a campus to see it anymore. Online college tours have been gaining popularity for years, and they're finally starting to come into their own, thanks to virtual reality.

A new site appropriately named You Visit offers virtual college tours with both virtual reality and 360-degree tours of various college campuses around the world, from the U.S. to England to Israel.

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Visit colleges around the world without leaving home

young-adults - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 12:00am
by Ilana Strauss for FromtheGrapevine

You Visit offers 3D and virtual reality campus tours for students.

With college on the horizon, high school seniors might be thinking about attending a school far from home. Luckily, you don't have to go to a campus to see it anymore. Online college tours have been gaining popularity for years, and they're finally starting to come into their own, thanks to virtual reality.

A new site appropriately named You Visit offers virtual college tours with both virtual reality and 360-degree tours of various college campuses around the world, from the U.S. to England to Israel.

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Talking to My Daughter About Her Friend’s Transgender Parent

LGBTQ - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 12:00am
Sharrona Pearl for Kveller 

Will she go by Ms. Lynne or Mrs. Lynne?

That was my oldest daughter’s first question when I told her that her friend’s parent was transitioning from a man to a woman, and transitioning from being called Max to being called Lynne. Ms. or Mrs. She wanted to get the naming right. And the pronouns weren’t the confusing part.

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How American Jews Have Detached Themselves from Jewish Memory

news-in-the-jewish-world - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 12:00am
Daniel Gordis for Mosaic

In recent years they’ve let go of both ancient communal memory and recent political memory. No wonder they’re now letting go of Israel.

Elliott Abrams is clearly correct in asserting both that American Jews are moving away from support of Israel and that this tectonic shift is traceable much less to Israel’s policies than to the manner in which American Jews now constitute their worldview and their Jewish identities.

As it happens, I am somewhat more critical than Abrams of the policies (or lack of policies) pursued by the Netanyahu government. Admittedly, there are few if any good moves that Israel can make on the international chessboard these days; but the optics have been significantly worse than they could have been. Still, nothing one might say on this point diminishes the rightness, or the importance, of Abrams’ thesis: the root cause of the growing gulf between the world’s two largest Jewish communities lies in the way that most American Jews now conceive of themselves and their Jewishness.

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Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ Is One of the Greatest Jewish Films Ever Made

jewish-arts-and-media - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 12:00am
By Liel Leibovitz for Tablet Magazine

Sure, it’s about Portuguese Jesuits in Japan, but the movie’s theological message is one we should all embrace

Martin Scorsese’s Silence, which tells the story of two 17th-century Portuguese Jesuits who travel to Japan to find their missing mentor and spread their imperiled faith in a land that bans it, may very well be among the greatest Jewish movies ever made.

Ignored, foolishly, by the Academy in this year’s Oscars race, and celebrated, rightly, by Catholic commentators for being a pure and profound meditation on faith, the film is not only a masterwork but also one we Jews would do well to take seriously. That’s because the idea at the core of the film is the thick theological trunk both Jews and Catholics share, and with which both have wrestled for millennia: the problem of doubt.

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The Secret to Perfect Falafel

jewish-food - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 12:00am
By Carolynn Carreño From Forward.com

My friend Nancy Silverton went to Israel last year and came home with a rough, scribbled- down secret “recipe” for how to make what she promised were falafel so crispy, crunchy, and flavorful that they turned her, a falafel skeptic, into a believer. The first time I looked at it, I thought there was something wrong or missing from the recipe. If I’d been locked in a room until I could figure out what falafel was made of, I would have died an old woman before I would have guessed that those light and crunchy balls of savory, goodness were made from ground, uncooked chickpeas. Yes, the chickpeas are soaked, but they’re still hard as rocks, and it’s still amazing. Sparkling mineral water is supposedly the key to making these as crispy as they, in fact, turned out to be. The chickpeas must soak overnight, so plan ahead because this here is the one place in life where you can’t substitute canned chickpeas.

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Travels In The Land Of Pluralism

children-and-families - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 12:00am
BY MICHELE CHABIN for The Jewish Week

Expat Israelis give their Sabra kids a lesson in N.Y. style multiculturalism

Last July, for the first time in three years, my husband and I travelled from Israel, where we live, to the U.S. with our two sons.

Although our 14-year-old twins had visited America several times, the previous trips had focused mostly on purely fun outings to amusement parks, 7-Eleven (Slurpees) and Toys R Us.

We wanted this visit to be different, or at least deeper.

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Our Kind of Traitor

jewish-books - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 12:00am
By Amy Newman Smith for Jewish Review of Books


"I am not a fan of spy thrillers,” Uri Bar-Joseph said recently. “The only good spy novel author is John le Carré.” That gives readers fair warning not to expect exploding wristwatches and car chases from the Haifa University professor and former intelligence analyst’s latest book, The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel. Even the subtitle might be a bit inflated, he said, since there’s no way of really knowing what the outcome of the Yom Kippur War would have been without the spy code-named The Angel. What Bar-Joseph does offer is a comprehensive account of how a well-placed Egyptian became Israel’s most valuable intelligence asset, and how disagreements between Israeli spymasters over the information he provided ultimately led to his death.

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Israeli team named finalist in international race to moon

israeil-news - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 12:00am
By Abigail Klein Leichman for Israel21c

Only five teams remain in the $30m Google Lunar XPrize contest to land a robot on the moon, move it 500 meters and transmit images back to Earth.

Israel’s SpaceIL was announced yesterday as one of only five finalists remaining in the multi-million-dollar Google Lunar XPrize race to the moon.

The other finalists are teams from India, Japan and the United States, as well as an international team of individuals from about 15 countries.

The competition began 10 years ago with 33 teams vying to be the first to soft-land a privately funded, unmanned robot on the moon, move it 500 meters across the moon’s surface and transmit high-definition video and photos back to Earth.

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How My Journey To Find God Brought Me To A Synagogue

interfaith - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 12:00am
Farrah Alexander HuffPost

When I was a child, the Christian church my family attended and where my grandma played the organ felt like home. I loved Sunday school. The youth ministers were like family. I enthusiastically chose to be baptized. I could recite all the books of the bible in order, although now I’m not sure why.

As I got older, my skepticism heightened and my faith lessened. When I attended church, I no longer felt the serenity I once felt after walking in those doors. I felt nothing but a newfound sense of apathy, which made me feel ashamed and profoundly sad. I knew I believed in and had faith in G-d, but I couldn’t find G-d within the walls of the Christian church I called home anymore.

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Kosher Explained: Simplifying Jewish Food Laws

celebrating-judaism - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 12:00am
From Jewish Food Hero

Judaism has many faces, and even among those who keep kosher not everyone observes the Jewish food laws in the same exact way. But if you’re just getting started with keeping kosher or want to know what it’s all about, this is a guide to the basics of traditional kosher laws.

The Torah doesn’t explain the reasoning behind keeping kosher and, unlike some other laws, it is not obvious. Some of the reasons suggested for kosher laws are:

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Israeli NGO doesn't monkey around when saving rainforest

green-living - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 12:00am
Jacob Dembitzer for YNETnews.com

For the first time, an environmental non-profit has raised enough money to buy part of a biodiversity hotspot in Amazon rainforest; purchase might be able to save critically endangered woolly monkey from extinction.

Israeli non-profit This Is My Earth (TiME) has managed to buy almost 200 acres of Peruvian rainforest using a crowdfunding campaign in what is being seen as a first in environmental conservation.

TiME was able to raise over $30,000 using a crowd funding platform to purchase land in the El Toro District rainforest region of Peru.
The El Toro region is under constant threat of being sold by the Peruvian government for the establishment of new farms, making its protection all the more urgent.

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Interviews With Interesting Jews: Rebecca Melsky, Co-Founder of Princess Awesome

featured-articles - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 12:00am

When Rebecca Melsky, a Jewish Day School teacher in Washington, D.C., found out she was having a girl five years ago, she and her husband were determined not to put her in pink. But when her daughter became a pink-loving, dress-wearing toddler who also enjoyed space ships and dinosaurs, Rebecca was surprised that she couldn’t find a dress featuring a science theme. She teamed up with her friend Eva St. Clair to start Princess Awesome, a small clothing company offering hand-sewn dresses with patterns from pirates to pi, trucks to trains, and of course, dinosaurs. After their first run of dresses nearly sold out, they launched a Kickstarter to fund factory production of their designs and quickly became the highest funded children’s clothing project on Kickstarter to date. Rebecca was kind enough to talk with me about how Princess Awesome got started and the overwhelming response they’ve received so far.

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weekly-torah-portion - Mon, 02/13/2017 - 12:00am

Exodus 18:1 - 20:26 75 

By Rabbi Ismar Schorsch. Reprinted with permission of the Jewish Theological Seminary for MyJewishLearning.com

The Word Made Animate

Seeking the living soul of our sacred texts.

Christianity turns on the doctrine of incarnation as formulated famously by the Gospel of John: "So the Word became flesh; he came to dwell among us, and we saw his glory, such glory as befits the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth" (1:14). It is a doctrine that Jews tend to identify as uniquely Christian. Whereas both Judaism and Christianity equally acknowledged that at creation "the Word dwelt with God" (1:1) as both wisdom and instrument, Judaism refrained from ever endowing it with human form. Though valid, the distinction does not preclude the appearance in Judaism of the doctrine. For Judaism, the Word became incarnate as book.

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Meet the Jewish Teen Who’s Capturing What Mental Illness Looks Like

young-adults - Mon, 02/13/2017 - 12:00am
Joanna Valente for MyJewishLearning.com    

Haley M. is a college freshman at the College of New Jersey majoring in art education. Her recent series of paintings, seen throughout this piece, were inspired by her experience with mental illness. We talked with her about life as a college student, what keeps her going as an artist, and how she hopes to break down the stigmas of mental illness.

What was the first thing you listened to today?

My alarm clock.

But if this is supposed to be a question that reveals my music taste, I love Cage the Elephant, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sublime, Led Zeppelin and Fall Out Boy.

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Raise Game: Jewish and LGBTQ Heroes

LGBTQ - Mon, 02/13/2017 - 12:00am
By Jay Stanton for MyJewishLearning.com

“Raise game.” When I began rabbinical school, a friend of mine who was already ordained offered me these two words of wisdom when I asked for advice about how to handle the instantaneous increased authority that comes even from studying to be a rabbi. The point is clear: when more is expected, more must be delivered. Grow into the shoes you’re being given.

A rabbi is our quintessential token Jew. Unlike other forms of tokenization, this one is voluntary. Those of us who pursue a rabbinic path do so by choice. We’re signing up to be tokenized and scrutinized. We volunteer to be knowledgeable representatives of our religious culture. The title “Rabbi” is a giant “ask me” button.

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Largest Collection of Hebrew Books Sold to Israel Library

news-in-the-jewish-world - Mon, 02/13/2017 - 12:00am

The National Library of Israel has just acquired the largest private collection of Hebrew books and manuscripts in the world — including rare treasures such as a 1491 chumash from Lisbon, Portugal, and one of only two surviving copies of a 1556 Passover Haggadah from Prague.

The complex deal for the famed Valmadonna Trust Library, was brokered by Sotheby’s New York, which called it “the finest private library of Hebrew books and manuscripts in the world.” The deal involved an agreement between the National Library of Israel and the private collectors Dr. David and Yemima Yazelson, according to the National Library of Israel’s website.

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In 'La La Land,' Mia asks if jazz still matters. Here's 4 reasons why it does

jewish-arts-and-media - Mon, 02/13/2017 - 12:00am
by Ilana Strauss for FromtheGrapevine

A renowned jazz guitarist explains how the genre brings cultures together in real time.

"La la Land," the critically acclaimed musical that set records for Golden Globes and Academy Award nominations, centers around Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) who wants to open a jazz club. In the movie, he tries to teach his love interest Mia (Emma Stone) what's so amazing about jazz, even though the genre continues to wane.

But Israeli jazz musician Nadav Remez says that jazz is alive and well. Remez, who currently lives in New York and grew up in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, has performed in jazz festivals around the world. We sat down with the accomplished musician to find out how this historical music genre is adapting to modernity.

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Rainbow Israeli Salad

jewish-food - Mon, 02/13/2017 - 12:00am

On our most recent trip to Israel, my husband and I were invited to Shabbat dinner at the home of our friends, film director Doron Eran and his wife Billy Ben Moshe. Shabbat at their home in Tel Aviv is cozy and fun, a weekly celebration with family and friends. Billy goes all out when she cooks for Shabbat, serving course after course of beautiful food. Her family is 7th generation from Tiberias, Israel, a city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. She serves dishes from a variety of backgrounds, all home-cooked with love and care. She spends hours cooking for Shabbat, presiding as the chief mama in charge over a weekly celebration of life, love and family.
See the full post:http://toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/2017/01/rainbow-israeli-salad/#jQhH7BK...

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