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Sue Fishkoff
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It’s official: Jewish camp strengthens Jewish identity

WorldPublished: 04 March 2011

Hundreds of thousands of Jewish camp alumni — and their parents — have long known that those halcyon weeks spent at Jewish summer camp don’t just cement lifelong friendships, they strengthen Jewish identity.

Now they have it in writing.

A new study on the long-term impact of Jewish overnight camp concludes that those who have attended camp are more Jewishly engaged as adults, according to 13 key variables, than those who did not go to camp.


Jews joining union showdown in Wisconsin

WorldPublished: 25 February 2011

A growing number of Jews in Wisconsin are joining the protests in Madison against a budget-cutting proposal by the governor to eliminate most collective-bargaining rights for public-sector employees.

“Judaism has long stood for the rights of the worker, beginning with the biblical injunction of Deuteronomy: ‘Do not take advantage of the hired worker who is poor and needy,’” said Rabbi Bonnie Margulis.

Margulis joined two other Madison rabbis on Tuesday at a news conference at the state capitol building organized by the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal.


Tiger Moms tamed by American experience

WorldPublished: 28 January 2011

Rabbi Jacqueline Mates-Muchin earned two As, one A-plus, and one A-minus during her first semester at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

When she told her Chinese grandfather, she was disappointed but not shocked by his response.

“He said: ‘You got an A-plus, but an A-minus, too,’ “ recalled Mates-Muchin, 36, now the associate rabbi of Temple Sinai in Oakland.

Mates-Muchin, whose mother is second-generation Chinese-American and whose father is the son of Austrian Jewish immigrants, recognizes a lot of her own childhood in “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” Yale University Prof. Amy Chua’s controversial book about raising her daughters with traditional Chinese norms of strict discipline.


A half-century later, rabbis recall marching with Martin Luther King

Cover Story Published: 14 January 2011

At least that was the case in the 1960s, he says, when Dresner, now rabbi emeritus of Temple Beth Tikvah in Wayne, was one of dozens of rabbis who answered the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call for clergy from the North to join the civil rights movement in the Jim Crow South.

From the Freedom Rides of 1961 to the famous march in Alabama from Selma to Montgomery in March 1965, when Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel walked in the front row with King, Jews were prominent participants in the battle for civil rights that dominated the first half of the ’60s.

Of the thousands of white activists who headed South, nearly half were Jewish, according to “Jewish Dimensions of Social Justice,” a 1998 publication of the Reform movement.


Debbie Friedman, inspiration to thousands, dies at 59

WorldPublished: 14 January 2011

Over the weekend, as singer-songwriter Debbie Friedman lay dying in a hospital bed in Southern California, the call went out to Jewish congregations around the world to pray for the popular musician.

But early Sunday morning Friedman, who composed “Mi Shebeirach,” a popular Hebrew-English version of the Jewish prayer for healing, was unable to find healing herself. Friedman died at 59 after years of suffering from an undisclosed illness. The funeral was held on Tuesday at Temple Beth Sholom in Santa Ana, Calif.

“One of the blessings that Debbie gave us” was helping people understand that the “healing of the body is something somewhat distinct from the healing of the soul,” said Rabbi Jacqueline Koch Ellenson, director of the Women’s Rabbinic Network, at the start of a memorial Sunday night at the Manhattan JCC just hours after the singer’s death.


For deaf Jews, Jewish community slowly opening up

Cover Story Published: 07 January 2011

Alexis Kashar was listening intently to the speaker at a recent Jewish federation event in White Plains, N.Y.

A closer look revealed that her eyes were trained not on the podium but on Naomi Brunnlehrman, who was seated in front of the speaker translating the lecture into American Sign Language.

Kashar, 43, a longtime civil rights lawyer, has been deaf since birth. Five years ago she and Brunnlehrman, co-founder of the Jewish Deaf Resource Center, asked the UJA-Federation of New York to subsidize ASL interpreters, so Kashar and other deaf Jews in the New York area could take part in Jewish communal events.

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Some Arab conspiracy theorists seeing WikiLeaks-Israel link

WorldPublished: 07 January 2011

Unless you’re a reader of Islamist websites, you’d probably be surprised to learn that the WikiLeaks trove of U.S. diplomatic cables is an Israeli conspiracy.

Wonder why there was so much material about Arab regimes petitioning the United States to contain Iran’s nuclear program? How about why there was conspicuously little in the trove of data that was embarrassing to Israel?

It’s because WikiLeaks founder and director Julian Assange struck a deal with Israel and the “Israel lobby” to withhold documents that might embarrass the Jewish state — at least that’s what Al Manar, the Hezbollah-run media outlet, and Al Haqiqa, which is affiliated with a Syrian opposition group, are writing. The conspiracy theories are percolating as well on far-left and far-right websites.

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In U.S., Israeli expats turn to growing number of Israeli rabbis

WorldPublished: 07 January 2011

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Itzik Abu-Hatzera rarely attended synagogue in his native Haifa when he lived in Israel.

But last December his family was among those of nearly 200 other Israelis in South Florida at a Chanukah party sponsored by the Chabad Israeli Center in Boca Raton.

“In Israel you don’t need it, Jews are all around you,” says Abu-Hatzera, who moved here 10 years ago.

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Israeli population in U.S. surges, but exact figures hard to determine

WorldPublished: 31 December 2010

The number of Israelis living in the United States grew by about 30 percent over the past decade, according to newly released U.S. Census Bureau figures.

Some 140,323 people living in the United States today were born in Israel, up from 109,720 in 2000. Of the Israelis living here, 90,179 have U.S. citizenship and 50,144 do not.

But Israeli expatriates and Israeli government sources say the true figure is actually much higher. An Israeli Foreign Ministry study in 2003 reported that 500,000 Israelis were living in the United States, according to the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot.

“Estimates of Israeli emigrants in the U.S. are difficult to make and often subject to controversy,” said Professor Steven Gold of Michigan State University, author of the 2002 book “The Israeli diaspora.”

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Reform looks at ways to reinvent the movement

Cover Story Published: 17 December 2010

After the Reform movement broadcast online its first session devoted to reassessing itself, in mid-November, the comments poured in.

One viewer suggested that the movement create a network of schools, camps, shuls, and seminaries focused on “tikkun olam,” the Jewish injunction to repair the world. Another said the movement should train five times as many rabbis and cantors to provide more entryways into Judaism through music, social action, and prayer.

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