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June 20, 2013 by Channah Pinchasi
First appeared in Haaretz blog in Hebrew, 17/6/13
Here’s a story for you: With the help of Makom, the leaders of the Bnei Jeshurun community in Manhattan arrange a meeting with Rachel Azaria, Jerusalem council member of the Jerusalemites party.
They hear of her battles for a pluralistic Jerusalem, the fight for afternoon schooling, the struggle against the exclusion of women, and more. And they look to understand from her what New Politics is all about.
Azaria has three children and a baby. It’s the evening, and she has to be on Skype with New York. Her husband is on reserve duty, and her father arrives at her apartment in Katamonim to help out with dinner and showers. To Full Post
May 8, 2013 by Robbie Gringras
There is a terribly ugly phrase here that is used whenever someone (usually Ashkenazi) doesn’t want someone (usually Mizrachi) to talk about anti-Mizrachi racism in Israel. The whistle-blower, the moaner, the inciter is accused of “letting the ethnic genie out of the bottle”. That is the literary translation, though a more literal translation would refer to the escape of the ethnic “demon”. To Full Post
July 24, 2012 by Yaira Robinson
This piece first appeared at State of Formation, and was written by a participant in Siach, an environmental and social justice gathering with whom Makom has partnered.
More than one of my politically and religiously liberal friends, when I told them I was converting to Judaism, gave as one of their first responses, “What about Israel?”
Good question. What about Israel?
I’ve understood all along that committing to the Jewish people and tradition also included coming into relationship with Israel—but the history and the issues seemed so complex that I have been reluctant to say much, to anyone, about anything related to the “Jewish State.”
Partly, this silence stemmed from a feeling that I didn’t know enough of the history, the politics, the people, and the issues to be able to speak with any authority. Partly, my place as a new Jew gave me pause. Partly, I saw how divisive the “Israel issue” is both within the American Jewish community and among people of other religious traditions, with whom I work. It is safer not to speak.
After spending two weeks in Israel, though, I’m looking at things a little differently. I traveled to Israel to participate in Siach, a program that brings Jewish social justice and environmental leaders from the U.S., Europe, and Israel together for learning, conversation, and collaboration.
July 3, 2012 by Gideon Sylvester
First appeared in Haaretz.com
“How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob…” (Numbers 24: 5)
We don’t know whether Bilaam, the gentile prophet prophesied the protest tents of the Israeli social justice movement, but other prophets certainly identified with the spirit of the struggle.
Most famously, Amos, the prophet from Tekoa resolutely insisted that social justice lies at the heart of Judaism. Currently, the gap between the rich and the poor in Israel is one of the widest in the developed world. The protestors object to this, and the ancient prophet shared their concerns. He railed against a society which taxed the poor beyond measure, while the rich lived in decadent luxury. This, he states is intolerable and unsustainable:
“Therefore, because you trample upon the poor, and because you exhort taxes on their grain, you have built houses of carved stone, but you won’t live in them; you have planted lush vineyards, but you won’t drink their wine” (Amos 5: 11).
If We Build It, They Will Come: A Case for Developing the Field of Jewish Service Learning in Israel
June 10, 2012 by Dyonna Ginsburg
Dyonna Ginsburg is the Director of Jewish Service Learning at the Jewish Agency. Previously, Dyonna served as the Executive Director of Bema’aglei Tzedek, an Israeli social change organization, and was a founder of Siach: An Environment and Social Justice Conversation, an international network of Jewish social justice and environmental professionals.
Currently, the field of Jewish service-learning in Israel is characterized by a handful of programs that target young North American Jews and that are officially recognized and funded by Repair the World, an organization founded in 2009 to “make service a defining part of American Jewish life.”1
Although these programs are known for their high educational standards, many have struggled to fill their ranks and reach financial sustainability. Alongside these accredited programs are others, often larger and better endowed programs that include some aspects of volunteerism, but have yet to adopt the more stringent Standards of Practice for Immersive Jewish Service-Learning Programs developed by Repair the World (Repair the World, 2011).
Many—myself included—believe that the time has come for a concerted effort to build the field of Jewish service-learning (JSL) in Israel—exploring ways of expanding the smaller, high-quality, service-learning programs; adding necessary depth and authenticity to the larger, volunteer-oriented ones; and identifying additional program areas that can appeal to core concerns of young Jews not addressed by existing program offerings. To Full Post
January 25, 2012 by Robbie Gringras
It’s strange how the most trivial thing brought me closest to violence.
I’m sitting on the train. The carriage is quiet. Four kids get on and sit across the aisle from me. They’re about 15 or 16. Well-equipped with their various mobile devices, they all loudly and boisterously turn to their respective video games. None of them have earphones.
One guy in particular is playing his beeping video game with the volume on full.
After putting in my noise-cancelling earphones and unsuccessfully trying to ignore him, I give in. I ask him, fairly nicely, to turn down the volume.
At first he doesn’t respond.
Then after I repeat my request he tells me to wait until he finishes the game. He is a little irritated that I distracted him. Blood rising to my cheeks I ask him again, less nicely.
His giggling mates guffaw as the kid tells me that I ought to be more patient.
I want to kill him. To Full Post
January 12, 2012 by Gideon Sylvester
Rabbi Gideon Sylvester directs the Rabbis for Human Rights Beit Midrash at the Hillel House of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and serves as the British United Synagogue’s Rabbi in Israel.
Is belly dancing kosher? How about New Year’s Eve parties?
For years, the Israeli rabbinate has waged wars against such activities, revoking the kashrut licenses of hotels and restaurants that offered them. This enrages those who feel that kashrut authorities should limit themselves to certifying food; others admire the holistic approach, which indicates that both the food and the ambience strictly conform to Jewish tradition.
Poverty Among Families
Recent economic success in many sectors of Israel society hide the ugly fact that poverty still haunts much of the nation. Recent studies have shown that 420,000 impoverished families resided in Israel (1.5 million people), including some 805,000 children. Perhaps even more alarming, 1 million Israelis go hungry on a regular basis.
The Problem: An Imperfect Jewish State
The Ideal and the Real
When most Israelis hear the term a “Jewish State,” they think of religious marriage and divorce, the Sabbath, and army exemptions for the Haredi sector. Few people associate the term “Jewish State” with a set of basic, moral obligations between the Israeli government and its citizens. Few think to ask what should a Jewish State do about:
Children with Sick Hearts Abroad, Resources They Need in Israel
Right this moment, thousands of infants and children across the world are suffering from heart disease. Some of these children have access to the treatment that can help them. Unfortunately, many children do not. Many of these children suffer from congenital heart disease, which is responsible for more deaths in the first year of life than any other birth defects.