Local people, places, travels and simchas

(L-R) Birthday celebrant Ellis Friedman, Steven Stiglitz, Marnie Friedman and Irene Friedman

70th in shul The day before his 70th birthday on Feb. 12, Ellis Friedman led the Shacharit and Musaf services and chanted the Maftir (Torah reading before the Haftorah) at Congregation Anshei Israel’s Shabbat morning service. His wife, Irene, gave the D’var Torah. Members of their havurah — Vivien… Read more »

Creating modern Israel didn’t come easy

Guy Gelbart

The state of Israel,” “Israel independence,” “the Israel Defense Forces,” “the prime minister of Israel” … it seems, nowadays, we tend to take all those for granted. We refer to the existence of a Jewish state as a solid fact. Young Jewish adults are focused on the Arab-Israeli or… Read more »

Surprise: Israel ranks 7th on happiness index

Guy Gelbart

The month of Adar is here, “Mishenichnas Adar marbin b’simcha!” — It’s Adar, be happy! The month of Adar is considered the month of joy in Jewish tradition. As my grandmother used to say, “That’s the way we are; you need to tell us to be happy.” It seems… Read more »

Local people, places, travels and simchas

Jenna Kloosterman with project apparatus during testing in Antarctica

A Super Sunday Years ago, the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s Super Sunday consisted of a phone-a-thon only. On Jan. 29, not only did volunteers exceed the day’s projected fundraising goal but they performed acts of loving kindness. Activities on this expanded Mitzvah Day included an American Red Cross… Read more »

For some schoolkids in southern Italy, meeting their first Jew on Holocaust Day

Amendolara Mayor Salvatore Antonio Ciminelli, left, standing next to JTA's Ruth Ellen Gruber, after presenting award certificates to some of the 100 schoolchildren who attended a Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony in the town hall, Jan. 27, 2012. The children received awards for art or writing projects about the Shoah. (Photo courtesy Amendolara Town Hall)

AMENDOLARA, Italy (JTA) — It was International Holocaust Memorial Day, and when I told my audience that I was a Jew, they burst into applause. I was speaking at the City Hall in this ancient seacoast town in Calabria, deep in southern Italy on the instep of the Italian… Read more »

Alternative winter break on Navajo Nation blends social action, adventure

Aodhan Lyons volunteers at a food bank on the Navajo Nation

I went to the Navajo Nation on Young Judaea’s alternative winter break program with few expectations except that it would be a fun time. It ended up being that and more. We did a lot of local volunteer work for the Navajo Nation, in Tuba City mostly, but also… Read more »

Shaliach’s view: Haredi attack highlights growing tensions

Guy Gelbart

What does it mean to be a Jewish and democratic state? This question came to light with the story of Na’ama Margolis. Na’ama, an 8-year-old modern Orthodox girl, was the victim of an offense by a small radical haredi (ultra-Orthodox) group called the Sicricim (Latin: Sicarii, the dagger man).… Read more »

P.S.: Jazz in Tucson, a Phoenix exhibit on the pope, helping kids at Homer Davis

Joan Elder in front of one of the Blessing Project exhibits

And all that jazz Jeff Lewis, past president of the Tucson Jazz Society, was responsible for bringing world-renowned Israeli jazz pianist Tamir Hendelman to Tucson on Nov. 19. The previous month, Jeff was watching a PBS airing of Barbra Streisand’s “One Night Only at the Village Vanguard” and knew… Read more »

“Rabbi, Matisyahu shaved off his beard! Should I shave off mine?”

NEW YORK (JTA) — As if the Jewish world doesn’t have enough problems with Iran on the brink of starting a nuclear war and the radical Muslim Brotherhood making gains in Egypt’s phased elections. This week we were rocked by another close shave with disaster: “Chasidic reggae superstar” Matisyahu… Read more »

Shlichim explore issues of identity, priorities

Guy Gelbart

I recently came back from a four-day conference held by the Jewish Agency for Israel, with 250 of its shlichim (emissaries) posted across North America. Each year, hundreds of shlichim from Israel are sent to work with Federations, youth movements, Hillels on college campuses, Jewish community centers, people interested… Read more »

Seeking Kin: Did Shoah survivors settle in Argentina?

Hillel Kuttler's great-great grandmother, Leah Eisen, sitting, poses in her native Lodz, Poland -- but who is standing behind her? (Courtesy Helen Markowitz)

JTA’s new column, “Seeking Kin,” aims to help reunite long-lost relatives and friends. BALTIMORE (JTA) — Thanksgiving brings together families, and this November marked the first anniversary of a personal “Seeking Kin” success. Like all genealogy searches, it yielded ever-more mysteries to crack. I turn now to JTA’s readers… Read more »

P.S.: Sukkah hopping in the Old Pueblo

The Bregmans — Phil, Charlotte, Breanna, Emily, Lady and Dani — in their family sukkah

Sukkot 5772 Sukkot, Judaism’s weeklong season of rejoicing, celebrates life, community and autumn’s bounty. Originally an agricultural holiday, this festival also commemorates the 40-year trek of the Israelites through the desert to the Promised Land. One builds a sukkah (plural, sukkot) — a temporary dwelling with a roof made… Read more »

Israel so much more than conflict, politics

Israel is right,” “Israel is wrong,” Israel should do this or that … wherever I go, whatever I do, it seems many American Jews try to keep their engagement with Israel on a political basis. Sometimes it feels as if the only connection to Israel is through the Israeli-Arab… Read more »

Care-A-Van takes social action on the road

Hebrew High Care-A-Van participants (L-R) Michelle Jafee, Hila Lamdan, Emma Goldblatt and Sarah Robins in downtown Denver.

This summer I took part in the 10th annual Care-A-Van trip organized by Hebrew High in Phoenix. I heard about the Care-A-Van opportunity from Sharon Glassberg, director of Tucson’s Hebrew High. From June 13 to 29, we visited 18 different cities in seven different states: Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado,… Read more »

Despite price, Gilad’s freedom brings joy

I am writing this several days after Gilad Shalit was released, Muammar Gadhafi was killed and the Jewish people worldwide have celebrated Simchat Torah, which marks the end of Torah readings for one year and the start of Torah readings for the new year. First there was darkness, the… Read more »

Jewish women can build homes — literally

Nancy Mellan

As Jewish wom­en, we come from a tradition that honors our role in home, family and community. In the Eshet Chayil Shabbat blessing recited by husbands to their wives, we are honored: “A good woman, who can find. She reaches her hand out to those in need. She is… Read more »

After the fire: A Torah’s trip to a secular kibbutz

MONTCLAIR, N.J. (JTA) — We land at Ben Gurion Airport in the heat of winter, on the first day of Chanukah.  At 11 a.m. Dec. 2, already it is 82 degrees in Tel Aviv — unusual weather for the rainy season in Israel. And it will get hotter. Much… Read more »

How a new Israeli attache renounced his U.S. citizenship

Eric Groner says he revoked his U.S. citizenship with a "heavy heart" when he became Israel's minister for economic affairs to the United States.

TEL AVIV (JTA) — After being named Israel’s minister for economic affairs to the United States, Eli Groner was required by U.S. law to revoke his U.S. citizenship. The following is the statement he submitted to the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv upon his renunciation. Because I love America,… Read more »