First Person

Going ‘Inside Out’ on Tisha b’Av

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — Does the hit Pixar movie “Inside Out” hold a clue as to why many Jews find it so difficult to engage with Tisha b’Av? Could its cast of characters — Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust, who are anthropomorphized in the animated film — help… Read more »

On Migrant Trail, connecting Jewish history with modern desert crossers

Eve Rosenberg at the Bureau of Land Management campsite at Ajo Way and San Joaquin Road, before setting out for the final day of the Migrant Trail, May 31. (Deborah Mayaan)

When I joined the Migrant Trail for the last day of its 12th annual week-long solidarity walk from El Sásabe, Sonora, Mexico, to Tucson, we stepped single-file along Ajo Highway in a walking meditation. Periodically, we called out names of those who had died crossing our Sonoran Desert. Some… Read more »

Supporting worshippers at Phoenix mosque, local Jews met with gratitude

Sarah Johnston, center, a Jewish woman from Tucson, with other proponents of religious tolerance who gathered May 29 outside a Phoenix mosque to counter an anti-Muslim protest. The photo includes representatives of the three Abrahamic faiths, Islam, Judaism and Christianity, says Johnston. (Marty Johnston)

Recently, Jon Ritzheimer, a former Marine and self-described “patriot” announced on Facebook that he was holding a “protest” and a “draw Muhammed” contest at the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix during their May 29 Friday night prayers. He invited bikers whom he encouraged to come armed. My husband heard… Read more »

Tucsonan celebrates festival of freedom in Nepal

At an impromptu Passover seder in Nepal, ginger chutney took the place of horseradish and traditional flat chappati bread was a substitute for matzah.

In April, I spent three weeks in Nepal as a volunteer for Elephant Aid International. Life for captive Asian elephants is a miserable existence of slavery, including painful iron chains around their legs. In cooperation with the government of Nepal, EAI and volunteers from all over the world built… Read more »

What to do when your daughter believes in God and you don’t

Evelyn Becker (Courtesy Evelyn Becker)

My daughter’s first-grade class hosted a Mother’s Day tea last week. Coffee, pastries, an adorable booklet titled “All About My Mother” written and illustrated by mine truly, and two poems about how I am the best mom ever. Pure fabulousness. So what’s there to write about? Well, before I… Read more »

Mother’s Day gifts from mom that money can’t buy

Edmon J. Rodman shared his mother's taste for Impressionist art, thus the purchase of this umbrella as a Mother's Day gift. (Edmon J. Rodman)

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — What gifts do our mothers give us? Not the kind we see in the mirror. Like me, you’ve probably already accounted for where your eye color, nose shape and eyebrows that seem too close to each other come from. I’m talking inner gifts, those money… Read more »

A transformed Berlin beckons to Jewish Federation representatives

Stuart Mellan, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin on Feb. 19. “The photo,” he says, “does not even begin to capture the power of walking through and finding the pillars dwarfing you as they grow to 15 feet in the center of the installation.”

I sat between Grandmother and Aunt Etta. I never had a chance. Grandmother would point to her forearm, the numbers tattooed there … and that’s how I learned to count.   I sat between Grandmother and Aunt Etta. Between spoonfuls of regret they fed me: “From this you shouldn’t… Read more »

Mayim Bialik’s reflections on the Paris attacks

Actress Mayim bialik reflects on what it means to be Jewish today and is grateful for the existence of Israel. (Shutterstock)

(KVELLER/JTA) — I grew up in a public school that had enough Jewish kids that I felt represented. I went to Hebrew school twice a week and had a chavurah, or fellowship, through my Reform synagogue with kids my age. A portion of my family was Orthodox. I was… Read more »

At White House Chanukah party, Obama emphasizes freedom and food

President Obama speaking at the first of two White House Chanukah parties in Washington, D.C., dec. 17, 2014. (Steve Sheffey)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — I’ve been JTA’s Washington bureau chief for 11 years, but this was the first time I scored a coveted invitation to the annual White House Chanukah  party. A Washington tradition started by President George W. Bush, the party has actually expanded (to meet demand) to two:… Read more »

At Thanksgiving time, an exercise in mindfulness

Cindy Sher

CHICAGO (JTA) — Last year, for a month before Thanksgiving I jotted down one thing for which I was grateful every night before I went to bed. Here are some of the 30 blessings I recorded: • A warm bed. • Airplanes that fly me to visit my family… Read more »

At Thanksgiving time, making a leap to feed the needy

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — As we prepare for our Thanksgiving feasts, a 90-year-old Jewish man named Arnold Abbott is stirring the pot in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., about hunger and homelessness in America. Or is it that Abbott, who in defiance of a controversial new city ordinance has been cited… Read more »

In Israel, keeping an appointment made 80 years ago

Rabbi Israel Becker of Tucson (left) and former Chief Rabbi of Israel Meir Lau in Tel Aviv in May

One winter night in the mid-1960s, when I was a young teenager, the stage was set for a very important meeting in Israel this past May. Unbeknownst to me, the true genesis for this meeting had begun some 80 years ago. On that winter night, a man arrived at… Read more »

Greece, Israel mission sparks visions of future

Holocaust memorial stars on the railroad tracks at Salonika, Greece

We sang “Happy Birthday” in Hebrew to 9-year-old Miriam in the Athens Jewish Community School;  we talked with teenagers Gala and Tal at a summer camp near Salonika;  we listened in Tel Aviv as Yuval who lost both arms and Tzipi who was paralyzed told us how they used their abilities… Read more »

Praying for three boys whose plight hits close to home

Racheli Frenkel, center, mother of kidnapped teenager Naftali Frenkel, stands with the mothers of the other abducted teens, Eyal Yifrah and Gilad Shaar, outside her home in Nof Ayalon in central Israel, June 17, 2014. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash 90)

KARNEI SHOMRON, West Bank (JTA) — Four days into the search for three kidnapped Israeli teens, I attended a group prayer session dedicated to their safe return. Dozens of women gathered together to read responsively psalms seeking God’s mercy and intervention before the start of our morning Jewish studies… Read more »

At prayer vigils, Israelis gather in moment of unity over kidnapping

Israelis at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv praying for the release of three kidnapped Jewish teenagers, June 15, 2014. (Gideon Markowicz/FLASH90)

GIVAT SHMUEL, Israel (JTA) — On the rolling green fields of a suburban Tel Aviv park, hundreds gathered to pray for the imminent rescue of three kidnapped Israeli teenagers. Rabbis delivered speeches, singer Yonatan Razel performed two pieces based on liturgical invocations of God’s mercy, and a prayer was… Read more »

At Shavuot, celebrating the giving of the law — and the mother-in-law?

What does my mother-in-law have to do with my married life, columnist Edmon J. Rodman recalls foolishly asking soon after he was married 32 years ago. (Edmon J. Rodman)

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — In the Ten Commandments, the Torah tells us to “Honor your father and your mother,” but on mothers-in-law, it’s mum. That is until we come to the two-day holiday of Shavuot and read the Book of Ruth, which records the relationship between Ruth and her… Read more »

Restoring my German roots

Gabrielle Selz

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (JTA) — Four years ago, I applied to re-obtain German citizenship on behalf of my son and myself. Neither of us was born in Germany. I was born in sunny California and my son on Long Island. But I had learned that under the German Constitution, “Former… Read more »

Visiting Kiev’s wounded in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Artem Zaptotski, from Lutsk, in western Ukraine, sits in Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, sharing his room with a French Hasid. Seeing that I speak Hebrew and wear a kippah, the Hasid asks if he should encourage Zaptotski to put on tefillin. No, I tell him. Zaptotski… Read more »

Rings and things: Remembering loss, moving toward life

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — During shiva for my mother, my father gathered my brothers and me to share a letter in which she expressed some musings and last wishes. The letter also said that as the sole daughter, I had inherited her jewelry box. In the room in which… Read more »