FSU Summer Camps Blogs (2007)
American Jews and the Law of Return
Any person with at least one Jewish grandparent is eligible to immigrate under Israel's Law of Return. Such an immigrant is granted citizenship immediately upon arriving in Israel and is also given a full assortment of benefits in order to ease their absorption into this country. As long as the immigrant has not formally adopted another religion, immigration under the Law of Return may proceed even if the person is not halachically Jewish (i.e., according to Jewish Law--born to a Jewish mother).
A Hopeful Story
It's no secret that Israel is turning 60 with much less joy and optimism than when it turned 50. Yet despite Israel's security, economic, and social problems, one still encounters moments of grace and hope when one least expects it. Here is a story of one such occasion.
Yad Vashem in My Backyard
If I have a free hour in Jerusalem between appointments or chauffeuring my kids, one of the things I like to do most is drop in on Yad Vashem. Admission is free and so is parking. At less busy times I might go in to the new Holocaust History Museum and sit and listen to clips of survivors telling their stories.
Aliyah and the "Push"
Toward the end of 1999, about two years after I made aliyah, I wrote a column called "Land of Civic Opportunity." In it I spoke about the numerous opportunities for volunteering in contemporary Israel.
The Chancellor's Visit
On Tuesday March 18, a German chancellor addressed Israel's Knesset for the first time in the German language. Angela Merkel began and ended her speech in Hebrew and received a standing ovation for remarks in which she pledged that her country would always stand by Israel's side.
Children in the Study Hall
Judaism places tremendous importance on "tinokot shel beit rabban" (literally, "children in the house of their rabbi"). The tradition teaches that "the world only exists because of the learning of tinokot shel beit rabban," and also: "one does not cancel the study sessions of tinokot shel beit rabban even for the building of the Temple." It would not be too much to say that in the absence of Temple sacrifices, the holiest ritual activity of the Jewish community is to be found in its children's study halls.
Obama 3, Clinton 2
February 28, 2008
Since the last presidential election, the Weinberger & Ross household picked up 3 additional eligible voters: Nathan (20), Rebecca (almost 19), and Ruthie (who, though only 17, will be 18 in September and so was also eligible to vote in the presidential primary).
Spotlight on Israel
February 12, 2008
The International Herald Tribune, published by The New York Times, arrives daily (except for Saturdays) on my doorstep along with the English edition of Ha'aretz (the Trib has similar working relationships with local papers in many different countries). Each edition has a section called "Briefly: International" that contains short articles from around the world. On Monday February 4 one of these was from Colombo, Sri Lanka and was headlined "suicide bomber kills 11 and wounds at least 90."
The Annual Hike
January 29, 2008
The tiyul shnati is an important feature of Israel's education system. All students from the 1st through the 12th grades go on an annual hike. The main purpose of this hike, from the perspective of the Ministry of Education, is to show students the wonders (natural, archaeological, historical) of the land of Israel. From the perspective of the kids, especially those in grade school, the main purpose of the tiyul shnati is to buy as much junk food as possible and eat it on the bus.
"The Mikado" Can Wait: President Bush in Jerusalem
January 2nd, 2008
When we were kids, my parents used to take me and my siblings to the LOOM (Light Opera of Manhattan) for Gilbert & Sullivan musicals. Over the past few years in Israel, a large group of talented actors, singers, and musicians has been making its way through the Gilbert & Sullivan repertoire. Two years ago, I took some of my own children to see "HMS Pinafore" and it was quite enjoyable. This year, I was looking forward to attending a performance of "The Mikado." The musical was staged at Beit Shmuel in the center of Jerusalem.
Religious and Secular Extremism
January 2nd, 2008
We were on our way to the wedding of Tamar Eini, middle daughter of our friend Eli. Shlomo was driving and his wife Naomi sat beside him. We were discussing how upset Eli was at Tamar and her rabbi for insisting upon separate seating at the wedding (Tamar became ultra-religious a few years ago).
People of the Book?
Jews in America are extremely committed to school. Throughout America, Jewish children are overrepresented in magnet schools, AP classes, and prep courses. And it's almost unheard of for a Jewish American not to pursue higher education soon after graduation from high school.
Santa Claus and Zionism
One evening last December we were having dinner and the name “Santa Claus” came up (I think we were speaking about differences between Hanukah and Christmas). Then my 12-year-old son Elie said “who’s Santa Claus?”
After a decade of Hanukahs here, one thing about the way the Festival of Lights is celebrated in Israel never ceases to amaze me: the total absence of Christmas. In the States, Hanukah’s relation to Christmas is of crucial concern. The more the two holidays overlap, the more that Jews will be celebrating their winter holiday at the same time that the majority of Americans are celebrating theirs. In Israel, Christmas is simply not on the radar screen for most Israelis, and so Hanukah goes it alone.
Where Every Friday Night is Thanksgiving
I grew up thinking that my identity as an observant Jew was perfectly compatible with my identity as an American. The wide spectrum of Americanness seemed easily to encompass my identity as an observant Jew. After all, there are all kinds of Americans--Irish, Italian, Hispanic, etc.--and just as the level of religiosity in each of these groups does not impinge on their Americanness, so I understood as a child that my being an observant Jew did not make me less American than anyone else.
This Jewish calendar year of 5768 is a shmitah year, a Sabbatical year for the land of Israel. There are a whole slew of laws concerning what can and cannot be done with the land and its produce during a shmitah year. Even though I consider myself an observant Jew, I am not overly concerned about these laws. Why not?
Every now and then some of my friends in Givat Ze'ev take off from work for a buddy day. The primary agenda is to get out into nature and do some hiking. A meal in a restaurant usually marks the end of the day.
Yom Kippur as Bicycle Day
On Sunday morning September 23, I will open my newspaper and see the traditional day-after Yom Kippur picture: one of Israel's busiest highways completely deserted during the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. Indeed, among the secular Israeli public, Yom Kippur is often thought of as "Bicycle Day," since the absence of cars makes every street in Israel safe for bicycles.
New Year in the Fall
What does it mean to live in a country where the New Year is Rosh Hashana rather than January 1? Of course, if you are Jewish and care about Jewish traditions, Rosh Hashana in Israel will provide you with a powerful sense of "group feeling" that comes from living in the only country in the world where Judaism is the majority culture.
Sephardim and Jewishness
An American visitor to Israel is immediately struck by the fact that Jews here look a lot different than Jews in the States. The presence in Israel of a large population of Sephardic Jews completely changes one’s conception of “Jewish looks,” and indeed this physical difference was what most drew my attention in the column I wrote about the Sephardim a few years after my aliyah.
Aluminum Foil and Aliyah
Before making aliyah people often go on huge buying sprees, purchasing goods that are much cheaper in America than they are in Israel. These purchases range from large-ticket items like washers and dryers (especially since new immigrants are released from import taxes), to basic household supplies like paper napkins and tissues.
Ten Years of Aliyah
Our aliyah recently hit the decade mark. To celebrate, Sarah and I and our 5 teenagers (ouch!) went out to eat. Sarah had arranged for a festive meal at a wonderful restaurant. And though we were the only diners (I guess the restaurant’s location—in the hotel at the Hadassah hospital in Ein Karem—is not a big draw), everyone was in a great mood.
Outside of Israel, Tu B’Av, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av (which begins this year on Sunday night July 29), is the most minor of holidays. If it is acknowledged at all, it is almost exclusively by Orthodox men during morning prayers, when the penitential “tahanun” prayer is omitted, as befitting a festive day.
My Tisha B’Av Problem
In traditional Judaism, the three weeks leading up to and including the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av (which this year comes out on July 23-24) are characterized by an increasing severity of mourning for the destruction of the Temples.
The 2+ 2 and High School Graduation
American kids grow up on what I call the 2 + 2. It's a philosophy that says that if you do what you are supposed to do, then everything adds up. Mr. Wolowelsky, my high-school math teacher, would regularly spell out the 2 + 2 for us
In Nitzan With the Evacuees from Gaza
I recently spent a Shabbat in Nitzan to help celebrate the bar mitzvah of Yehonatan Golan. The Golans, Sarah's cousins, used to live in Neveh Dekalim in the Gaza Strip. In retrospect, the mood for the Shabbat was already set with the invitation that we received.
The celebration of Shavuot is an excellent occasion to reflect upon Jewish culture, Jewish identity, religious Judaism, and secular Judaism. I would like to start with the following question: How many secular Jews outside of the State of Israel will not be going to work on Wednesday May 23 because of Shavuot?
Shavuot by Tnuva
May 13, 2007
As one might expect of the Jewish state, the holy days of the Jewish religion are national holidays. A good example of this is the holiday of Shavuot (Pentecost) which begins this year on Tuesday night May 22. While it is possible to go about one’s business in the diaspora without even realizing that Shavuot has come and gone, this could never happen in Israel.
Trial By Fire: Lag Ba’omer
April 25, 2007
As soon as the Purim holiday ends, Israeli children start preparing for their next big day. It’s a different sort of holiday, one that “fires” their imaginations for weeks. Of course, we’re not talking about Passover here--what kid is going to get all excited by holiday preparations that chiefly call for the cleaning of one’s room? No we are talking about a much more mysterious, primal holiday, largely unknown outside of Israel, but hallowed here with that most sacred of kid imprimaturs--a day off from school. We are talking about Lag Ba’omer.
Remembering the Fallen
The day before Israel’s Independence Day is Yom Ha-zikaron Le-halelay Tsahal (Memorial Day for the Fallen of the Israeli Defense Forces), which this year begins on Sunday night April 22.
April 12, 2007
I want to mark the upcoming Holocaust Remembrance Day (Sunday night April 15- Monday April 16) with a column about Yad Vashem, Israel's "National Authority for the Remembrance of the Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust."
Some Passover Observations
April 10, 2007
The Passover season in Israel goes into full force right after Purim, that is, one month before the holiday. Israeli employers are encouraged to purchase various gifts for their employees, and consumers are encouraged to buy anything and everything in honor of the holiday.
Kosher for Passover in Israel
March 18, 2007
We were at Sachne one day last Passover. Sachne, also known as “The Park of the Three Pools,” is located near Beit Shahn in the Lower Galilee. It was a beautiful day, and the place was packed with both Jews and Arabs, religious people and non-religious.
March 4, 2007
In the Spring of 1979, when I was a high-school student spending the second part of my senior year in Israel, I became very friendly with a family from Kiryat Arba (the major Jewish settlement in the area with a population of about 6,500, founded in 1971 adjacent to Hebron).
Mother of All Purims
February 15, 2007
If you receive a decent Jewish education in America, you are taught that Purim in Israel is a two-day holiday, with Jerusalem (a walled city from the time of Joshua) celebrating on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Adar, and the rest of the country (and world) celebrating on the 14th day of Adar.
Heleni HaMalka (Yoma 37b)
December 31, 2006
Rehov Heleni HaMalka is one of those narrow cobblestone streets winding up from Rehov Yaffo into the Russian Compound. Until last week, I had five associations with Heleni HaMalka: a Café Hillel, two popular nightclubs, a French-style restaurant called Bistro, and the imposing castle that houses the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, enclosing a Renaissance-style courtyard. Now, thanks to the tenth mishnah in the third perek of Yoma, I have a deeper understanding of Heleni herself:
Dateline 22nd August 2006
Just a brief reflection on last night: my family and I went to the International Arts and Crafts Fair in Sultan's Pool in the shadow of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Reflections on a Visit to Israel: 10-18 August 2006
By Rabbi Dr Abraham (Avi) Abrahami and Helen Avrahami,
We had several reasons for visiting Israel at this time, and it was not to enjoy a beach-style vacation.
My family live in northern Israel, in Tiberias, Naharia, and the Kraiot near Haifa. They were forced to live in shelters and leave their homes to stay with family near Tel Aviv. We were very worried about their safety and wanted to see how they coped and offer them our love and support.