Archive for the ‘Judaism’ Category

Local musician and filmmaker finds niche combining Judaism and the arts – Jewish Community Voice

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER

Voice shore editor

Sally Mitlas (left) with Rabbi Yaacov Orimland of Young Israel of Margate and his wife, Rebbetzin Suey Orimland, at the JCC Community Purim celebration. Amazing! said one man; Just like the Russian dancers in Fiddler on the Roof, said another woman, as they watched two male dancers turn and do low kicks while balancing bottles on their hats at the Community Purim Party at the JCC on March 12. The dancers, along with a talented group of Klezmer musicians and a juggler performing during cocktail hour, were supplied by Mitlas Productions, an entertainment company started by Sally Mitlas.

Our niche is that we combine the best of both worlds Jewish and American, said Mitlas, who moved to Margate last fall. We advertise that we can go from the warmth of Havdalah to todays hottest hits.

Mix together Judaism, the arts, and a load of creative talent, and you get Sally Mitlas. Music. Film. Art. She has brought her Judaism and creativity to all of these media and won accolades for her work.

Two of her documentary films, A Hero in Heaven, and A Green Kippahboth about Americans who gave their lives for Israelare frequently shown in Israel and elsewhere in the world on Yom Hazikaron, Israels Memorial Day. Her extensive knowledge of Yiddish music and traditions has also made Mitlas a sought-after performer at traditional simchas. At a wedding this summer in Italy, she will be performing a traditional Eastern European Krenzel or crowning ceremony, singing Yiddish songs and presenting a crown of flowers to parents who are marrying off their youngest child. She has also won awards for micrography calligraphy using tiny Hebrew letters.

Mitlas, whose production company is based in the Philly area, decided to relocate to Margate after spending a summer here. I know it sounds funny but it reminded me of being in Israel. I liked being by the sea. I liked being able to ride a bike everywhere, said Mitlas, who does much of her work in coffee shops, on computer, communicating with performers and editors all over the world.

It didnt take long for her to find a spiritual home at Young Israel of Margate. Rabbi Orimland and his wife are so exceptional, said Mitlas, who does not consider herself to be Orthodox but felt embraced by the community there.

Mitlas grew up in a very loving, Jewish traditional household that valued Judaismso much so that when her teenage brother did not seem connected to his Jewish roots, their parents sent him on a 6- week Gratz College program to Israel to rediscover them. He came back with a kippah on his head and hasnt taken it off since! she said.

Her brothers trip to Israel had an enormous impact on Sally, who was then 12. Thats what started my passion for Israel and Judaism, said Mitlas, who describes herself as an ardent Zionist. The souvenirs he brought back for hera record album he got from El Al Airlines featuring a famous recording of Shuli Natan singing Jerusalem of Gold, and a micrography poster also changed her life.

The poster inspired Sally to learn micrography. She quickly became accomplished at doing artistic designs using tiny Hebrew letters, and went to Israel for the first time after winning a free trip there with a micrography competition.

Shuli Natans recording inspired Sally to want to learn guitar and sing. She got a guitar and six months of guitar lessons for her Bat Mitzvah, and Sallys mother, who grew up in a Yiddish-speaking household, taught Sally the songs she knew. My mother taught me all the Yiddish folk songs. While everyone else was listening to the BeeGees, I was listening to Theodore Bikel!

Mitlas began performing, eventually getting hired to perform at weddings and bar mitzvahs.

Ultimately she opened her own entertainment company and hired other musicians to work with her. When making videos of these events became popular, she first subcontracted with videographers but then learned to create her own event videos.

A Hero in Heaven was her first documentary video. One day I heard a local boy was killed while serving in the IDF in the second Lebanon War, Mitlas recalled. After doing some research on the boy, I realized his mother worked across the hall from me. I didnt know her name, but we would say hello. Moved by the boys story, Mitlas attended his memorial service. She then approached the family about making a documentary about their son, and they agreed. Since then, she said, It has been shown every Memorial Day in Israel. It was a tremendous honor. The film has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for lone soldiers in the IDF whose families live outside of Israel.

After that, Mitlas went on to create films for the Israeli Consulate, Israel Bonds, philanthropists, and more.

One thing led to another. This has been my life. Im artsyIm into the arts. Im able to tell stories through film, and Im able to create happiness through music.

She is also able to bring Jewish tradition to life in a meaningful and joyous way at simchas and other events. In addition to offering musical entertainment for events, her company also specializes in doing an authentic Havdalah and horas that are long, delicious, meaningful, spiritual and authentic. Klezidelphia, the Klezmer band that performed at the Community Purim Party, is also a unique offering of Mitlas Productions. On Simchat Torah, she noted, a Philadelphia synagogue hired Klezidelphia to wander up and down Broad Street playing traditional Jewish music.

The Jewish Federation of Atlantic and Cape May Counties may be drawing on Mitlas creativity yet again in creating a combined Yom Hazikaron commemoration and Yom Haatzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) celebration that will take place on May 1. However, exact plans for the event have yet to be determined, said Federation Executive Director Kirk Wisemayer.

Notably, Mitlas will not be calling Margate home for much longer. A change in her business now requires her to spend more time in the Philly area, and the commute is just too long. But she still plans to stay connected to our local community. Im still a member of Young Israel, and Im still going to be involved, said Mitlas.

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Pakistan’s interior ministry allows man to change religion from Islam to Judaism – India Today

In a rare move, Pakistan’s interior ministry allowed 29-year-old Fishel Benkhald to practice the religion of his “choice and preference”- Judaism.

Pakistan’s ministry of interior recently responded to his application seeking conversion/correction of his religion from Islam to Judaism in his national identity documents.

Fishel was born to a Muslim father a Jewish mother in Karachi in 1987 and in the country’s top database authority he is registered as a Muslim because of his father’s religion, reported PTI.

Recently, he applied for a change in religion and asked National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to correct his faith in a Smart Card he had applied for last year.

NADRA was apparently in a fix over this issue and further asked the ministry’s opinion on correcting the religion and allowing him to practice Judaism. The ministry responded saying that “the applicant may be allowed to practice religion of [his] choosing and preference”, reported the Express Tribune.

Although the interior ministry has given a green signal but NADRA has not acted on it yet. “I haven’t received my Smart-Card ID from NADRA as of now”, Fishel told India Today.

An Express Tribune report said that NADRA usually turns down such requests especially from Muslims. But interior ministry’s approval might help Fishel’s case. There are very few Pakistani Jews and usually hide their identity from the public. In fact, their records are also treated as top secret.

Fishel, though, has mentioned himself as a Jew in the religion column during the census in the country.

Also read: Pakistani man ‘forgives’ Indian youths found guilty of murdering his son in UAE

Also read: Pakistan arrests more than 100 Indian fishermen off Gujarat coast

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Pakistan’s interior ministry allows man to change religion from Islam to Judaism – India Today

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Last Jew in Pakistan – Breitbart – Breitbart News

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I studied Islam in childhood. But I never practiced it as a religion, declared Fishel Benkhald from the city of Karachi, reports the Express Tribune.

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Benkhald had long been registered as a Muslim, but Pakistans interior ministry has reportedly allowed him to change religions.

The applicant may be allowed to practice [the]religion of [his] choosing and preference, decided the ministry after Benkhald urged the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to allow him to identify as a Jew in his national identity documents, reports the Express Tribune.

However, the latest U.S. State Department Report on International Religious Freedomnotes that it is Pakistans policy not to allow citizens, regardless of religious affiliation, to travel to Israel.

Still, the Pakistani government acquiesced in an unusual move and allowed Benkhalds conversion request.

The Press Trust of Indian (PTI) concedes, Although the interior ministry has given the green signal, NADRA has yet to issue a smart card after correcting Benkhalds religion.

In Pakistan, the government still officially considers Benkhald a Muslim.

Faisal, as he is known in his current identity documents, was born to a Muslim father and a Jewish mother in Karachi in 1987. He was registered as a Muslim due to his fathers religion, mentions PTI.

Under normal circumstances, the Muslim-registered Karachi native would have been deemed an apostate had he identified himself as a Jew, adds the Indian news outlet.

The international media has labeled Benkhald the last Jew in Pakistan.

Nonetheless, an unnamed Pakistani official from NADRA, which keeps records of the population, is quoted by the Express Tribune as saying that a tiny Jewish community has managed to survive persecution in the predominantly Muslim country by maintaining a low profile.

Benkhalds native Karachi was once home to the largest concentration of Jews in Pakistan nearly 2,500 at the beginning of the twentieth century, reports the Jewish Virtual Library,a division of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise.

However, the small Jewish community in Pakistan has nearly met the same fate of its counterparts in neighboring Muslim-majority countries who were completely wiped out by Islamic extremists.

Pakistans hostility toward Israel and Zionism has not waned, points out the virtual library. The increasing influence of extreme Islamists have further undermined the security of the Jewish community.

The organization reveals that a tiny Jewish community of about 200 people still lives in Pakistan.

Citing the top Islamabad official from NADRA, the Express Tribune reports that the identity details of the Jews in Pakistan are treated as top secret.

The Pakistani official reportedly placed the number of registered Jew families in Pakistan at 745.

Some Jewish families do remain, but they prefer to pass themselves off as Parsis [followers of the ancient Zoroastrian religion] due to the intolerance for Jews in Muslim Pakistan, mentions the Jewish Virtual Library.

Echoing the organization, the U.S. State Department notes that religious minorities, particularly Christians and Jews, continue face discrimination and persecution in Pakistan.

According to reports from the Jinnah Institute and other monitoring organizations, some public school textbooks continued to include derogatory statements about minority religious groups, including Ahmadi Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and Christians. The monitoring groups said the teaching of religious intolerance remained widespread, reported the State Department in 2015.

Seemingly acknowledging the existence of the Karachi native who was recently allowed to convert to Judaism, the State Department also reported, A Pakistani Jewish activist in Karachi has received some media coverage, but most of the historic Jewish community has emigrated.

As a show of Muslim solidarity with Arab states, Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and often joins Arab-initiated moves against the Jewish country in the United Nations.

The founding of an Islamic state [Pakistan] immediately prior to the establishment of the State of Israel created a rising feeling of insecurity within the Pakistani Jewish community By 1968, the number of Jews in Pakistan had decreased to 250, almost all of whom were concentrated in Karachi, where there was one synagogue, a welfare organization, and a recreational organization, reports the Jewish Virtual Library.

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Meet Rabbi ‘Willy’ Wolff, Germany’s ambassador of Liberal Judaism and now, movie star – The Times of Israel

BERLIN (JTA) For many Germans, Rabbi William Willy Wolff is the first Jewish religious leader they have ever met.

And hes the perfect man for the job. Diminutive, with a disarming chuckle and twinkling eyes, Wolff, who turned 90 in February, effortlessly breaks down that uniquely German condition of Berhrungsangst literally fear of contact with others.

Wolff, who fled Nazi Germany as a young boy and returned in 2002 to work in the former East Germany, is the first rabbi many Germans today have encountered. Its in part because of his interfaith outreach over the years as one-time head rabbi, serving three liberal Jewish communities in the former East German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

He is really a gifted ambassador for Judaism, said Hans-Jrgen Abromeit, a Protestant bishop who has worked often with Wolff on interfaith programs and calls him a fatherly friend.

More recently, however, Wolff has reached a new level of prominence thanks to German director Britta Wauer. Her documentary, Rabbi Wolff A Gentleman Before God, has been playing in theaters across the country. One of the top-grossing German documentaries in 2016, it will have its North American premiere in May.

Since the films release, the apparently tireless rabbi has been zigzagging around Germany with Wauer talking with dozens of audiences and signing copies of her accompanying book, Rabbi Wolff and the Essence of Life.

Hes not transmitting a narrow religion but humanity, said a starstruck woman after a screening and discussion in the former East Berlin. I like the calmness with which he approaches life.

Cover, Rabbi Wolff and the Essence of Life. (Courtesy)

Wolff may indeed appear calm, but hes also incredibly energetic and he comfortably embodies multiple identities: an Englishman, a German, a Jew; a Holocaust survivor with a spirit of joie de vivre.

The Berlin native in an interview with JTA described his family he had a twin brother, Joachim, and an older sister, Ruth as strictly Orthodox and culturally German. His father attended an independent Orthodox synagogue that attracted Jews who were unhappy with the increased liberalization of the official community.

The family fled Nazi Germany for Holland in September 1933 after Wolffs mother learned that the local tailors daughter, Magda, had married Hitlers propaganda minister.

My mother was afraid that because of the indirect connection with [Josef] Goebbels, we might be on an early list for deportation, Wolff said.

In 1939, they left Amsterdam for England, where Wolff and his brother attended the Hendon County Grammar School. When the schools deputy headmistress summoned students to discuss their career plans, Wolff said he wanted to be a rabbi or a journalist. He became both.

The headmistress, thinking Wolff was quite good at French, got him a one-year scholarship to the French Lycee in South Kensington. Wolff learned typing, shorthand and French there.

The skills would prove to be invaluable. With the war still raging, Wolffs typing and language abilities English, German, Dutch, French (he later added Russian) landed him a job with the Reuters news agency on the outskirts of London in a radio listening station that picked up Russian and German broadcasts. He worked there from 1944 to 1947.

There were no Allied correspondents [on the Axis side], so this was a way to get hints of official attitudes, Wolff, who later attended the London School of Economics, told JTA.

In 1954 he started working at the Slough Observer, and eventually joined the staff of the Daily Mirror, moving from domestic issues to foreign policy.

An overwhelming majority of Germans have accepted responsibility for the consequences of that past

Wolffs decades of work as a journalist included trips abroad with British prime minister Harold Wilson and foreign secretary Michael Stewart. Returning from one such trip in the late 1960s, they stopped in Bonn to meet with German foreign minister Willy Brandt.

It was the first time Wolff had set foot on German soil since his family had fled the country.

I was grateful, and even a little proud, to be living and working in Germany, a country where the events of the past had become unimaginable, he told Wauer. An overwhelming majority of Germans have accepted responsibility for the consequences of that past and that gave me a feeling of security.

Meanwhile, toiling as a journalist, Wolff drifted from the Orthodoxy of his youth.

Balloons from the art project Lichtgrenze 2014 (lit. lightborder 2014) reflected in a puddle next to remains of the Berlin Wall at East Side Gallery in Berlin, Germany, Friday, November 7, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Steffi Loos)

I have enormous respect and deepest admiration for all biblical scholarship, he said, but the more I got involved with text, the more clear it became to me that every word could not have come from God because God contradicts himself from one book to the next.

Plus, his parents split up. Wolffs mother lived with a man without marrying him until after his father died.

That, too, was unacceptable to some of my Orthodox friends, he said.

In 1979, Rabbi Sidney Brichto, a leading figure in British liberal Jewish circles, asked Wolff to edit the movements newsletter. He realized then that he wanted to return to his early dream of becoming a rabbi.

It became clear to me that every word could not have come from God because God contradicts himself

I found out about Liberal Judaism known globally as Reform or Progressive which had not been respected by my father or by the Orthodox circles and when I found out about that I suddenly thought, well, maybe I could make a contribution there, he told JTA.

Brichto ultimately recommended Wolff to the Progressive Leo Baeck College in London.

Wolff was ordained in 1984. He served at several London synagogues when he learned something unexpected: Germany needed rabbis.

For the first time since World War II, the countrys Jewish population was really growing due to the influx of former Soviet Jews after the unification of East and West in 1990. The postwar population of some 35,000 had grown to more than 240,000; synagogues were being built. The Union of Progressive Jews in Germany counts around 4,500 members.

In the spring of 2002, Wolff was tapped by a member of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and appointed head rabbi for Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, serving liberal Jewish communities in Schwerin, Rostock and Wismar. Three years later he was elected deputy chair of the General Rabbinical Conference, a liberal body in Germany that works parallel to the Orthodox Rabbinical Conference there.

In this photo taken Tuesday, October 14, 2014, Israelis attend a gathering encouraging others to immigrate to Berlin in Tel Aviv, Israel. (photo credit: AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Commuting to his three communities in Germany and his home in Henley on Thames, England, Wolff led services and also represented Judaism in public a role he hopes he has done with dignity.

Whether or not I have succeeded is for others to say, he said.

Whether or not I have succeeded is for others to say

East Germany can be tricky terrain to navigate; for Jews and non-Jews, the scars of recent history are fresh.

The two dictatorships first the Nazis and then the communists I think left quite deep and hidden wounds, Wolff said.

Wolffs contract as head rabbi in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern ended two years ago, but he continues to work as a volunteer. He has also found another, unexpected role: movie star.

This file photo taken on January 13, 2016 shows the main grounds of the Communist Free German Youth (FDJ-Freie Deutsche Jugend) school complex, built in the 1950s, near the Bogensee lake, north of Berlin, taken on January 13, 2016. (John Macdougal/AFP)

He met Wauer, who is not Jewish, when she was working on her first film, In Heaven, Underground, about the historic Weissensee Jewish Cemetery in the former East Berlin.

Wauer wanted a rabbi to say a few things about halacha [Jewish law], such as why we dont have two coffins in the same grave, and no other rabbi in Berlin would play ball with her, Wolff said.

The documentary was released to acclaim in 2011. Wolff, with an on-screen presence one reviewer described as pure gold, became a favorite among audiences, some of whom started asking Wauer to make a film about the rabbi himself.

The two dictatorships first the Nazis and then the communists I think left quite deep and hidden wounds

The popular result profiles Woolf as he shuttles between England and Germany, conducts services, attends the Ascot races in a dapper top hat, and digs through the piles and piles of books and periodicals that crowd his Henley bungalow.

Not one to dwell darkly on the past, Wolff acknowledges one regret: If there is anything I regret then it is the fact that I never married and never created a family, he told Wauer. I can hardly believe that I am as old as I am but have no children or grandchildren.

As for his newfound fame from Rabbi Wolff A Gentleman Before God, Wolff told JTA, I take these things in my stride, and I lose no sleep over it.

After a 2016 screening in Berlins Kino Toni, the audience, virtually all non-Jews, flocked around a small table holding their copies of the accompanying book for the rabbi to sign.

I dont see any bitterness in him, a woman commented later. He is a very important ambassador for people in Germany who know nothing about Judaism and have many clichs in their heads.

Rabbi Willy Wolff is the star of one of the highest-grossing documentaries in Germany of 2016. (Toby Axelrod/JTA)

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Selling Judaism, Religion Not Included – Bloomberg

In 2015, while traveling in Israel with 80 young tech professionals, Meghan Holzhauer fell in love with Shabbat dinner, the ancient Friday night tradition in which Jews bless candles, challah, and wine, then share a meal with loved ones. She was so inspired, in fact, that she started spreading the love. In March her travel startup, Canvus, took 40 young professionals to Mexico City, where they celebrated a multicultural Shabbat dinner. Shes now organizing a hip-hop Shabbat for 400 people attending a social justice conference in Atlanta in June. A lot of Jewish rituals are about honoring friends and family, she says. You feel part of something bigger.

Photographer: Tim OConnell for Bloomberg Businessweek

Holzhauer isnt Jewish. She was raised Christian-light by nonpracticing parents, she says, and has no interest in converting. As she explains it, a non-Jew finding inspiration in the Sabbathor traveling to Israel for that matterisnt so different from the millions of non-Buddhists who practice yoga or go on meditation retreats to India. Its the latest way that ancient traditions are meeting modern life, she says.

If there ever was a moment when Shabbat was poised to become the new yoga practice, its now. Interfaith marriage rates among American Jews have jumped from a little more than 40 percent in the 1980s to 58 percent in the period from 2000 to 2013. Thats a lot more newlyweds (plus their families and friends) with exposure to Jewish ceremonies and rituals. Call them Jew-adjacent, Jew-curious, or just Jew-ish.

Jewish culture is in the mainstream, its popular, and thats something any brand would want to jump on, says Danya Shults, 31, founder of Arq, a lifestyle company that seeks to sell people of all faiths on a trendy, tech-literate, and, above all, accessible version of Jewish traditions. Arq is a portal for interfaith couples, their friends, and their families to find relevant, inclusive, aesthetically elevated information and products. It offers holiday-planning guides; Seder plates designed by Isabel Halley, the ceramicist who outfitted the female-only social club the Wing; and interviews with Jewish entrepreneurs, as well as chefs who cook up artisanal halvah and horseradish. Theres also an event series, including a weekend retreat in the Catskills in upstate New York that Shults says is inspired by Jewish summer camp but more Kinfolk-y, referring to the elegantly twee lifestyle magazine.

Shults grew up in an observant home, attended a Jewish day school, and became fluent in Hebrew. Then she got engaged to a Presbyterian. We never really found a [religious] community that matched what we were looking for, especially for me, says Shultss now-husband, Andrew. Many of the synagogues that purported to be inclusive turned out to have an agenda, such as trying to get Andrew to convert or cultivating the couples political support for Israel.

Shults covers her eyes and performs the traditional Shabbat blessing over the candles.

Photographer: Tim OConnell for Bloomberg Businessweek

The troubles didnt end there. Shults tells the story of one non-Jewish friend who went shopping for the couple by Googling chic Jewish wedding gift and found the results to be either totally out of style or far too didactic and preachy. Cool, inclusive presents did existShults knew that muchbut they werent easy to find. Thus, Arq was born. My ultimate test case was my husband, Shults says. Would he discover this? Read this? Go to this event?

Arq may be the most ambitious new company hoping to court the Jew-curious community, but its not the only one. There are secular dinner and dating platforms that draw on Jewish clichs such as the opinionated mother and the gut-busting holiday meal; resources to plan an interfaith wedding and help an interfaith family find a nonschlocky menorah; companies offering trips that take young secular professionals to Israel; and even a matzo company that aims to make unleavened bread the next pita chip. Most of these outfits are less than three years old. Not that long ago, it would have felt dirty to talk about branding Jewish culture, says Aliza Kline, executive director of OneTable, a social dining app that helps people of all religious backgrounds celebrate inclusive Shabbat meals.

Bubby brings old-fashioned matchmaking to the app age.

Source: Bubby

Of course, there has long been a mainstream taste for Jewish humor and food (see: Seinfeld, bagels, challah French toast), but the fervor is something new. I see rabbis doing really creative things, saying, Come in and try this out, says Rabbi Ari Moffic, who directs the Chicago branch of a swiftly growing national network called Interfaith Family. You can do Jewish, she says, even if youre not Jewish. You want to unplug? Its called Shabbat, and were the experts on it.

Moffic understands why this kind of cultural marketing would make many rabbis uncomfortable. As a rule, Jews dont proselytize to non-Jews. But Moffic and the others in the cultural-marketing camp have decided that enlarging the tent is the best way to keep young Jews inside it. The focus on a single community can so easily become exclusive, says Kline, who estimates that 10 percent to 15 percent of OneTable guests arent Jewish. But through technology, were seeding hundreds of new communities.

That was the idea behind Arq as well. The name, inspired by Noahs Ark, is an allusion to diversity. With so many different animals in one boat, Shults explains, the best way forward is a compromise. For its model, the company draws on elements from well-established lifestyle portals such as Goop and Food52, up-and-coming jewelry resource Of a Kind, and parenting advice site Fatherly. To varying degrees, these sites fuse e-commerce with storytelling, but they also present themselves as community platforms. For the time being, Shults is relying on brand partnerships and events to support her business. I dont want to have to scale at an ungodly pace, she says of her decision not to seek funding.

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Shults started the company in late 2016, less than a year after quitting her job as director for marketing and community at the venture capital firm Spark Capital LLC, and it has already made several high-profile partnerships. Arq has linked up with the wedding registry company Zola Inc. to curate Jewish presents that dont look as if they come from the synagogue gift shop; with the home design site Apartment Therapy, on a series of Judaica-focused home tours; and with the feminist/LGBTQ-friendly wedding-planning site Catalyst Wedding Co., on an interview series with couples who are diverse in every imaginable way. Arq-branded events have included a couples salon series in partnership with Honeymoon Israel, a nonprofit that sends nontraditional (interfaith, same-sex) couples on trips to Israel, and a womens lunar retreat, based on the ancient Jewish practice of women celebrating one another around the new moon.

Honeymoon Israel helps interfaith couples celebrate their nuptials in the Jewish homeland.

Source: Honeymoon Israel

In addition, Arq hosts dinners with Bubby. Co-founder Stephanie Volftsun says the tech-enabled matchmaking service is inspired by the time-tested tradition of the Jewish matchmaking yenta and aimed at expanding the notion of what a Jewish couple should look like. Were all about being open to people who are different, which then means that non-Jews are drawn into our food, culture, and traditions, she says.

Not every Jew-ish company has such a social mission, however. The Matzo Project has taken as its task getting unleavened bread out of the ethnic food aisle. We want it to be more than something that very pious Jews eat at Passover, says co-founder Ashley Albert. The companys offerings include matzo flats and chips in salted, everything, and cinnamon-sugar flavors, as well as a matzo butter crunch bar. Its also about to release a vegan matzo ball soup kit. Like Bubby, Matzo Project has made the Jewish grandma central to its brandingthough in its case, shes more Long Island than old country. Each box features a cheeky cartoon granny in pearls and Iris Apfel glasses, with a word bubble that reads, Would it kill you to try something new? Albert, who also owns Brooklyns popular Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club, and her Matzo Project co-founder, Kevin Rodriguez, a former product designer for Vera Wang, have received encouraging feedback on their branding from ethnic Italians and Koreans as well as Jews. Grandma is sassy, smart, and strong, Albert says. A lot of people know a version of her.

OneTable organizes Shabbat dinners in cities across the U.S.

Photographer: Elaine Moran

Products from the Matzo Project, which started a year ago, are available at New Yorks Eataly and Dylans Candy Bar, San Franciscos Bi-Rite minichain, and specialty stores in places as far-flung as Wyoming. Most of these retailers, Albert says, have never carried matzo before. She and Rodriguez have also talked their way into a handful of Whole Foods Markets, but finding a national distributor that gets the mission has been more challenging. Albert understands why people persist in treating matzo as a specialty food. But like the founders of Bubby, OneTable, and Arq, she thinks its only a matter of time before the foreign becomes familiar. When I was a kid, pita was a really unusual ethnic food, she says. It was part of somebody elses culture. Now its part of all our cultures.

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Selling Judaism, Religion Not Included – Bloomberg

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Judaism, Atonement, and God’s Nonviolence The RavenCast – Patheos (blog)

What does Jewish spirituality have to teach us about navigating the current American political crisis?

In the latest episode of the RavenCast, I sat down with Vanessa Avery, a Hebrew Bible Scholar and Diversity and Organizational Consultant. Vanessa holds degrees from the University of Exeter, Yale Divinity School, Kings College London and McGill University. She uses mimetic theory to interpret the Bible and to help businesses inspire generosity, empathy, creativity, hospitality, strength and courage.

Vanessa is the author of many articles, including Atonement and the Book of Jonah, Jewish Vaccines Against Mimetic Desire, Watchmen and Mimetic Theory, Whither Girard and Islam and Engaging Difference: Exercises and tips for creating Experiential Learning Environments. And theres a great article about Vanessa and her organizational consulting titled Why is scapegoating so common at Work? You can learn more about Vanessas consulting workshops and you can contact her through her website, Transcendence Education.

*How Vanessa has helped businesses diversify and end scapegoating practices.

*The connections between being a diversity consultant, mimetic theory, and the Hebrew Scriptures.

*The Bible is full of violence, but Vanessa claims that the Bible also holds the antidote to violence. How can that be?

*On the Jewish Day of Atonement, Jews are commanded to listen to the book of Jonah. Vanessa explains why the book of Jonah is crucially important to understanding atonement.

*The connection between justice and mercy in Judaism.

*How the book of Jonah can help us navigate the current American social crisis.

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Judaism, Atonement, and God’s Nonviolence The RavenCast – Patheos (blog)

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Join the Boulder County Center for Judaism for a Special Passover Experience – Boulder Jewish News

BOULDER, CO: Passover, the season of our liberation, comes around every year not merely to remind us of the extraordinary liberation of our ancestors from Egyptian bondage, but also to inspire us to strive for a greater measure of self-liberation from all limitations and distractions which impede a Jew from the free exercise of Yiddishkeit in everyday life.

The rabbis at Chabad say this is the real meaning of the highly significant passage in the Haggadah which states that In every generation a Jew should see himself as though he personally has been liberated from Egypt. This is especially true during difficult times, and is always worthy of deliberation and discussion of the sort you will find at the Boulder County Center for Judaisms Passover Seder.

Every year they present an interactive Seder with explanations of our traditions, robust discussions, and a warm and welcoming atmosphere that envelops everyone in the specialness of this most celebrated of all Jewish holidays.

There is also a mouthwatering, multicourse feast including gefilte fish, chicken soupand more, which is preceded by the traditional foods of the Seder such as parsley dipped in salt water, matzo, Hillel sandwiches (charoset and horseradish on matzo), and the requisite four cups of wine.

Rabbi Pesach and Chany Scheiner invite you to consider their home yours for Passover and revel in the yom tov of Pesach the celebration of our freedom as a united community.

When: Monday, April 10 at 7:45 pm

Where: 4900 Sioux Drive, Boulder

Cost: Adults (age 12 and up) $25 (Only $20 if you reserve before April 1)

Children ages 2 to 11: $12

Anyone under 2 attends for free

Even if you can only come for part of the evening (small children are usually the reason for this) come, enjoy, participate, and leave whenever is appropriate for you.

RSVP: boulderjudaism@gmail.com

And if youre interested in performing the mitzvah of selling your chametz, contact boulderjudaism@gmail.com or www.boulderjudaism.com.

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Join the Boulder County Center for Judaism for a Special Passover Experience – Boulder Jewish News

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Boulder County Center for Judaism Importing Shmura Matzo Again – Boulder Jewish News

BOULDER, CO: Once again, the Boulder County Center for Judaism is importing over 100 pounds of Shmura matzo for Passover. The round, hand-kneaded product is worlds apart from the machine-made, pre-packaged matzo most Jews know. Shmura means to watch or guard, and these matzos are guarded from the harvest of the wheat through the packaging of the completed matzo to insure no contact with the smallest speck of chametz or leavening.

When the Israelites left Egypt as directed by G-d, they had to leave quickly and could not wait for their dough to rise. The hot desert sun, however, baked the dough in their packs as they walked so when they stopped to eat, they found hard, flat crackers they called matzo. One of the reasons Jews eat matzo during Passover is in commemoration of the creation of this unleavened bread.

In addition to the fact that our ancestors were bereft of anything leavened (chametz) and we want our annual celebration of their liberation from bondage in Egypt to be as true to their experience as possible, over the years chametz has become symbolic of egotism, arrogance, and condescension to others, traits so harmful that they are considered the roots of all negative characteristics, adding another reason for eliminating even the most minute amount of chametz prior to the start of the holiday Monday, April 10th at sundown.

Shmura matzo is the closest thing to what our ancestors ate as they fled Egypt 3,000 years ago, said Rabbi Pesach Scheiner of the Boulder County Center for Judaism

If you want to add this traditional hand-made matzo to your familys Seder, please order soon as no matter how many pounds they order it always sells out quickly. Each box costs $23.60 and contains one pound (six or seven large circular matzos). It is available in regular or whole wheat. To place your order, email boulderjudaism@gmail.com or call 720.422.6776. Once the matzo arrives, purchasers will be notified so they can come to the Boulder County Center for Judaism to pick it up or arrange for it to be delivered.

And if youre interested in performing the mitzvah of selling your chametz, contact boulderjudaism@gmail.com.

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Boulder County Center for Judaism Importing Shmura Matzo Again – Boulder Jewish News

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Progressively Speaking: After Trump controversy, what does Judaism say about paying tax? – Jewish News

Citing the recent example of Donald Trumps returns, how we pay our taxes and how much we pay is often at the top of political and news agendas.

Judaism expects everyone to contribute a fair share. Its a recurring theme in the Torah and Rabbinic literature, with the longstanding Talmudic principle of dina malchuta dina (the law of the land is the law).

But Progressive Judaism also offers two more reasons why paying tax is so important, even if you are president of the United States.

The first is historical. Our movement was founded in the first decade of the 19th century in Germany out of the intellectual milieu of the Enlightenment and the political environment of the French Revolution.

At that time, the Jews were moving from being a pariah people, restricted from the norms of life to being part of the new national state.

Progressive Judaism offered an opportunity to be both Jewish and a citizen of the modern state, and it follows that if Jews were to claim rights, they also had responsibilities.

These obligations, in my view, include voting and participating in public life and paying any tax levied by a democratically elected government.

The second reason is ethical. Progressive Judaism has sought to reclaim the Hebrew Prophetic idea that the performance of ritual obligations is acceptable to God only from Jews whose ethical behaviour accords with the core teachings of Judaism.

Progressive Judaism declares the ethical mitzvot of a higher order than the ritual ones.

Ethical mitzvot (support for the widow and the orphan, for example) are obligatory but some of that activity today is carried out by the state, utilising the taxes of citizens.

The evasion of taxes is therefore both a major breach of Jewish ethics and an attack on the modern, democratic state.

Danny Rich is senior rabbi and chief executive of Liberal Judaism

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Progressively Speaking: After Trump controversy, what does Judaism say about paying tax? – Jewish News

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Local musician and filmmaker finds niche combining Judaism and the arts – Jewish Community Voice

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER Voice shore editor Sally Mitlas (left) with Rabbi Yaacov Orimland of Young Israel of Margate and his wife, Rebbetzin Suey Orimland, at the JCC Community Purim celebration. Amazing! said one man; Just like the Russian dancers in Fiddler on the Roof, said another woman, as they watched two male dancers turn and do low kicks while balancing bottles on their hats at the Community Purim Party at the JCC on March 12. The dancers, along with a talented group of Klezmer musicians and a juggler performing during cocktail hour, were supplied by Mitlas Productions, an entertainment company started by Sally Mitlas. Our niche is that we combine the best of both worlds Jewish and American, said Mitlas, who moved to Margate last fall. We advertise that we can go from the warmth of Havdalah to todays hottest hits. Mix together Judaism, the arts, and a load of creative talent, and you get Sally Mitlas. Music. Film. Art. She has brought her Judaism and creativity to all of these media and won accolades for her work. Two of her documentary films, A Hero in Heaven, and A Green Kippahboth about Americans who gave their lives for Israelare frequently shown in Israel and elsewhere in the world on Yom Hazikaron, Israels Memorial Day. Her extensive knowledge of Yiddish music and traditions has also made Mitlas a sought-after performer at traditional simchas. At a wedding this summer in Italy, she will be performing a traditional Eastern European Krenzel or crowning ceremony, singing Yiddish songs and presenting a crown of flowers to parents who are marrying off their youngest child. She has also won awards for micrography calligraphy using tiny Hebrew letters. Mitlas, whose production company is based in the Philly area, decided to relocate to Margate after spending a summer here. I know it sounds funny but it reminded me of being in Israel. I liked being by the sea. I liked being able to ride a bike everywhere, said Mitlas, who does much of her work in coffee shops, on computer, communicating with performers and editors all over the world. It didnt take long for her to find a spiritual home at Young Israel of Margate. Rabbi Orimland and his wife are so exceptional, said Mitlas, who does not consider herself to be Orthodox but felt embraced by the community there. Mitlas grew up in a very loving, Jewish traditional household that valued Judaismso much so that when her teenage brother did not seem connected to his Jewish roots, their parents sent him on a 6- week Gratz College program to Israel to rediscover them. He came back with a kippah on his head and hasnt taken it off since! she said. Her brothers trip to Israel had an enormous impact on Sally, who was then 12. Thats what started my passion for Israel and Judaism, said Mitlas, who describes herself as an ardent Zionist. The souvenirs he brought back for hera record album he got from El Al Airlines featuring a famous recording of Shuli Natan singing Jerusalem of Gold, and a micrography poster also changed her life. The poster inspired Sally to learn micrography. She quickly became accomplished at doing artistic designs using tiny Hebrew letters, and went to Israel for the first time after winning a free trip there with a micrography competition. Shuli Natans recording inspired Sally to want to learn guitar and sing. She got a guitar and six months of guitar lessons for her Bat Mitzvah, and Sallys mother, who grew up in a Yiddish-speaking household, taught Sally the songs she knew. My mother taught me all the Yiddish folk songs. While everyone else was listening to the BeeGees, I was listening to Theodore Bikel! Mitlas began performing, eventually getting hired to perform at weddings and bar mitzvahs. Ultimately she opened her own entertainment company and hired other musicians to work with her. When making videos of these events became popular, she first subcontracted with videographers but then learned to create her own event videos. A Hero in Heaven was her first documentary video. One day I heard a local boy was killed while serving in the IDF in the second Lebanon War, Mitlas recalled. After doing some research on the boy, I realized his mother worked across the hall from me. I didnt know her name, but we would say hello. Moved by the boys story, Mitlas attended his memorial service. She then approached the family about making a documentary about their son, and they agreed. Since then, she said, It has been shown every Memorial Day in Israel. It was a tremendous honor. The film has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for lone soldiers in the IDF whose families live outside of Israel. After that, Mitlas went on to create films for the Israeli Consulate, Israel Bonds, philanthropists, and more. One thing led to another. This has been my life. Im artsyIm into the arts. Im able to tell stories through film, and Im able to create happiness through music. She is also able to bring Jewish tradition to life in a meaningful and joyous way at simchas and other events. In addition to offering musical entertainment for events, her company also specializes in doing an authentic Havdalah and horas that are long, delicious, meaningful, spiritual and authentic. Klezidelphia, the Klezmer band that performed at the Community Purim Party, is also a unique offering of Mitlas Productions. On Simchat Torah, she noted, a Philadelphia synagogue hired Klezidelphia to wander up and down Broad Street playing traditional Jewish music. The Jewish Federation of Atlantic and Cape May Counties may be drawing on Mitlas creativity yet again in creating a combined Yom Hazikaron commemoration and Yom Haatzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) celebration that will take place on May 1. However, exact plans for the event have yet to be determined, said Federation Executive Director Kirk Wisemayer. Notably, Mitlas will not be calling Margate home for much longer. A change in her business now requires her to spend more time in the Philly area, and the commute is just too long. But she still plans to stay connected to our local community. Im still a member of Young Israel, and Im still going to be involved, said Mitlas.

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Pakistan’s interior ministry allows man to change religion from Islam to Judaism – India Today

In a rare move, Pakistan’s interior ministry allowed 29-year-old Fishel Benkhald to practice the religion of his “choice and preference”- Judaism. Pakistan’s ministry of interior recently responded to his application seeking conversion/correction of his religion from Islam to Judaism in his national identity documents. Fishel was born to a Muslim father a Jewish mother in Karachi in 1987 and in the country’s top database authority he is registered as a Muslim because of his father’s religion, reported PTI. Recently, he applied for a change in religion and asked National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to correct his faith in a Smart Card he had applied for last year. NADRA was apparently in a fix over this issue and further asked the ministry’s opinion on correcting the religion and allowing him to practice Judaism. The ministry responded saying that “the applicant may be allowed to practice religion of [his] choosing and preference”, reported the Express Tribune. Although the interior ministry has given a green signal but NADRA has not acted on it yet. “I haven’t received my Smart-Card ID from NADRA as of now”, Fishel told India Today. An Express Tribune report said that NADRA usually turns down such requests especially from Muslims. But interior ministry’s approval might help Fishel’s case. There are very few Pakistani Jews and usually hide their identity from the public. In fact, their records are also treated as top secret. Fishel, though, has mentioned himself as a Jew in the religion column during the census in the country. Also read: Pakistani man ‘forgives’ Indian youths found guilty of murdering his son in UAE Also read: Pakistan arrests more than 100 Indian fishermen off Gujarat coast

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Last Jew in Pakistan – Breitbart – Breitbart News

SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER I studied Islam in childhood. But I never practiced it as a religion, declared Fishel Benkhald from the city of Karachi, reports the Express Tribune. SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER Benkhald had long been registered as a Muslim, but Pakistans interior ministry has reportedly allowed him to change religions. The applicant may be allowed to practice [the]religion of [his] choosing and preference, decided the ministry after Benkhald urged the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to allow him to identify as a Jew in his national identity documents, reports the Express Tribune. However, the latest U.S. State Department Report on International Religious Freedomnotes that it is Pakistans policy not to allow citizens, regardless of religious affiliation, to travel to Israel. Still, the Pakistani government acquiesced in an unusual move and allowed Benkhalds conversion request. The Press Trust of Indian (PTI) concedes, Although the interior ministry has given the green signal, NADRA has yet to issue a smart card after correcting Benkhalds religion. In Pakistan, the government still officially considers Benkhald a Muslim. Faisal, as he is known in his current identity documents, was born to a Muslim father and a Jewish mother in Karachi in 1987. He was registered as a Muslim due to his fathers religion, mentions PTI. Under normal circumstances, the Muslim-registered Karachi native would have been deemed an apostate had he identified himself as a Jew, adds the Indian news outlet. The international media has labeled Benkhald the last Jew in Pakistan. Nonetheless, an unnamed Pakistani official from NADRA, which keeps records of the population, is quoted by the Express Tribune as saying that a tiny Jewish community has managed to survive persecution in the predominantly Muslim country by maintaining a low profile. Benkhalds native Karachi was once home to the largest concentration of Jews in Pakistan nearly 2,500 at the beginning of the twentieth century, reports the Jewish Virtual Library,a division of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. However, the small Jewish community in Pakistan has nearly met the same fate of its counterparts in neighboring Muslim-majority countries who were completely wiped out by Islamic extremists. Pakistans hostility toward Israel and Zionism has not waned, points out the virtual library. The increasing influence of extreme Islamists have further undermined the security of the Jewish community. The organization reveals that a tiny Jewish community of about 200 people still lives in Pakistan. Citing the top Islamabad official from NADRA, the Express Tribune reports that the identity details of the Jews in Pakistan are treated as top secret. The Pakistani official reportedly placed the number of registered Jew families in Pakistan at 745. Some Jewish families do remain, but they prefer to pass themselves off as Parsis [followers of the ancient Zoroastrian religion] due to the intolerance for Jews in Muslim Pakistan, mentions the Jewish Virtual Library. Echoing the organization, the U.S. State Department notes that religious minorities, particularly Christians and Jews, continue face discrimination and persecution in Pakistan. According to reports from the Jinnah Institute and other monitoring organizations, some public school textbooks continued to include derogatory statements about minority religious groups, including Ahmadi Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and Christians. The monitoring groups said the teaching of religious intolerance remained widespread, reported the State Department in 2015. Seemingly acknowledging the existence of the Karachi native who was recently allowed to convert to Judaism, the State Department also reported, A Pakistani Jewish activist in Karachi has received some media coverage, but most of the historic Jewish community has emigrated. As a show of Muslim solidarity with Arab states, Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and often joins Arab-initiated moves against the Jewish country in the United Nations. The founding of an Islamic state [Pakistan] immediately prior to the establishment of the State of Israel created a rising feeling of insecurity within the Pakistani Jewish community By 1968, the number of Jews in Pakistan had decreased to 250, almost all of whom were concentrated in Karachi, where there was one synagogue, a welfare organization, and a recreational organization, reports the Jewish Virtual Library.

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Meet Rabbi ‘Willy’ Wolff, Germany’s ambassador of Liberal Judaism and now, movie star – The Times of Israel

BERLIN (JTA) For many Germans, Rabbi William Willy Wolff is the first Jewish religious leader they have ever met. And hes the perfect man for the job. Diminutive, with a disarming chuckle and twinkling eyes, Wolff, who turned 90 in February, effortlessly breaks down that uniquely German condition of Berhrungsangst literally fear of contact with others. Wolff, who fled Nazi Germany as a young boy and returned in 2002 to work in the former East Germany, is the first rabbi many Germans today have encountered. Its in part because of his interfaith outreach over the years as one-time head rabbi, serving three liberal Jewish communities in the former East German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. He is really a gifted ambassador for Judaism, said Hans-Jrgen Abromeit, a Protestant bishop who has worked often with Wolff on interfaith programs and calls him a fatherly friend. More recently, however, Wolff has reached a new level of prominence thanks to German director Britta Wauer. Her documentary, Rabbi Wolff A Gentleman Before God, has been playing in theaters across the country. One of the top-grossing German documentaries in 2016, it will have its North American premiere in May. Since the films release, the apparently tireless rabbi has been zigzagging around Germany with Wauer talking with dozens of audiences and signing copies of her accompanying book, Rabbi Wolff and the Essence of Life. Hes not transmitting a narrow religion but humanity, said a starstruck woman after a screening and discussion in the former East Berlin. I like the calmness with which he approaches life. Cover, Rabbi Wolff and the Essence of Life. (Courtesy) Wolff may indeed appear calm, but hes also incredibly energetic and he comfortably embodies multiple identities: an Englishman, a German, a Jew; a Holocaust survivor with a spirit of joie de vivre. The Berlin native in an interview with JTA described his family he had a twin brother, Joachim, and an older sister, Ruth as strictly Orthodox and culturally German. His father attended an independent Orthodox synagogue that attracted Jews who were unhappy with the increased liberalization of the official community. The family fled Nazi Germany for Holland in September 1933 after Wolffs mother learned that the local tailors daughter, Magda, had married Hitlers propaganda minister. My mother was afraid that because of the indirect connection with [Josef] Goebbels, we might be on an early list for deportation, Wolff said. In 1939, they left Amsterdam for England, where Wolff and his brother attended the Hendon County Grammar School. When the schools deputy headmistress summoned students to discuss their career plans, Wolff said he wanted to be a rabbi or a journalist. He became both. The headmistress, thinking Wolff was quite good at French, got him a one-year scholarship to the French Lycee in South Kensington. Wolff learned typing, shorthand and French there. The skills would prove to be invaluable. With the war still raging, Wolffs typing and language abilities English, German, Dutch, French (he later added Russian) landed him a job with the Reuters news agency on the outskirts of London in a radio listening station that picked up Russian and German broadcasts. He worked there from 1944 to 1947. There were no Allied correspondents [on the Axis side], so this was a way to get hints of official attitudes, Wolff, who later attended the London School of Economics, told JTA. In 1954 he started working at the Slough Observer, and eventually joined the staff of the Daily Mirror, moving from domestic issues to foreign policy. An overwhelming majority of Germans have accepted responsibility for the consequences of that past Wolffs decades of work as a journalist included trips abroad with British prime minister Harold Wilson and foreign secretary Michael Stewart. Returning from one such trip in the late 1960s, they stopped in Bonn to meet with German foreign minister Willy Brandt. It was the first time Wolff had set foot on German soil since his family had fled the country. I was grateful, and even a little proud, to be living and working in Germany, a country where the events of the past had become unimaginable, he told Wauer. An overwhelming majority of Germans have accepted responsibility for the consequences of that past and that gave me a feeling of security. Meanwhile, toiling as a journalist, Wolff drifted from the Orthodoxy of his youth. Balloons from the art project Lichtgrenze 2014 (lit. lightborder 2014) reflected in a puddle next to remains of the Berlin Wall at East Side Gallery in Berlin, Germany, Friday, November 7, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Steffi Loos) I have enormous respect and deepest admiration for all biblical scholarship, he said, but the more I got involved with text, the more clear it became to me that every word could not have come from God because God contradicts himself from one book to the next. Plus, his parents split up. Wolffs mother lived with a man without marrying him until after his father died. That, too, was unacceptable to some of my Orthodox friends, he said. In 1979, Rabbi Sidney Brichto, a leading figure in British liberal Jewish circles, asked Wolff to edit the movements newsletter. He realized then that he wanted to return to his early dream of becoming a rabbi. It became clear to me that every word could not have come from God because God contradicts himself I found out about Liberal Judaism known globally as Reform or Progressive which had not been respected by my father or by the Orthodox circles and when I found out about that I suddenly thought, well, maybe I could make a contribution there, he told JTA. Brichto ultimately recommended Wolff to the Progressive Leo Baeck College in London. Wolff was ordained in 1984. He served at several London synagogues when he learned something unexpected: Germany needed rabbis. For the first time since World War II, the countrys Jewish population was really growing due to the influx of former Soviet Jews after the unification of East and West in 1990. The postwar population of some 35,000 had grown to more than 240,000; synagogues were being built. The Union of Progressive Jews in Germany counts around 4,500 members. In the spring of 2002, Wolff was tapped by a member of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and appointed head rabbi for Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, serving liberal Jewish communities in Schwerin, Rostock and Wismar. Three years later he was elected deputy chair of the General Rabbinical Conference, a liberal body in Germany that works parallel to the Orthodox Rabbinical Conference there. In this photo taken Tuesday, October 14, 2014, Israelis attend a gathering encouraging others to immigrate to Berlin in Tel Aviv, Israel. (photo credit: AP Photo/Ariel Schalit) Commuting to his three communities in Germany and his home in Henley on Thames, England, Wolff led services and also represented Judaism in public a role he hopes he has done with dignity. Whether or not I have succeeded is for others to say, he said. Whether or not I have succeeded is for others to say East Germany can be tricky terrain to navigate; for Jews and non-Jews, the scars of recent history are fresh. The two dictatorships first the Nazis and then the communists I think left quite deep and hidden wounds, Wolff said. Wolffs contract as head rabbi in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern ended two years ago, but he continues to work as a volunteer. He has also found another, unexpected role: movie star. This file photo taken on January 13, 2016 shows the main grounds of the Communist Free German Youth (FDJ-Freie Deutsche Jugend) school complex, built in the 1950s, near the Bogensee lake, north of Berlin, taken on January 13, 2016. (John Macdougal/AFP) He met Wauer, who is not Jewish, when she was working on her first film, In Heaven, Underground, about the historic Weissensee Jewish Cemetery in the former East Berlin. Wauer wanted a rabbi to say a few things about halacha [Jewish law], such as why we dont have two coffins in the same grave, and no other rabbi in Berlin would play ball with her, Wolff said. The documentary was released to acclaim in 2011. Wolff, with an on-screen presence one reviewer described as pure gold, became a favorite among audiences, some of whom started asking Wauer to make a film about the rabbi himself. The two dictatorships first the Nazis and then the communists I think left quite deep and hidden wounds The popular result profiles Woolf as he shuttles between England and Germany, conducts services, attends the Ascot races in a dapper top hat, and digs through the piles and piles of books and periodicals that crowd his Henley bungalow. Not one to dwell darkly on the past, Wolff acknowledges one regret: If there is anything I regret then it is the fact that I never married and never created a family, he told Wauer. I can hardly believe that I am as old as I am but have no children or grandchildren. As for his newfound fame from Rabbi Wolff A Gentleman Before God, Wolff told JTA, I take these things in my stride, and I lose no sleep over it. After a 2016 screening in Berlins Kino Toni, the audience, virtually all non-Jews, flocked around a small table holding their copies of the accompanying book for the rabbi to sign. I dont see any bitterness in him, a woman commented later. He is a very important ambassador for people in Germany who know nothing about Judaism and have many clichs in their heads. Rabbi Willy Wolff is the star of one of the highest-grossing documentaries in Germany of 2016. (Toby Axelrod/JTA)

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Selling Judaism, Religion Not Included – Bloomberg

In 2015, while traveling in Israel with 80 young tech professionals, Meghan Holzhauer fell in love with Shabbat dinner, the ancient Friday night tradition in which Jews bless candles, challah, and wine, then share a meal with loved ones. She was so inspired, in fact, that she started spreading the love. In March her travel startup, Canvus, took 40 young professionals to Mexico City, where they celebrated a multicultural Shabbat dinner. Shes now organizing a hip-hop Shabbat for 400 people attending a social justice conference in Atlanta in June. A lot of Jewish rituals are about honoring friends and family, she says. You feel part of something bigger. Photographer: Tim OConnell for Bloomberg Businessweek Holzhauer isnt Jewish. She was raised Christian-light by nonpracticing parents, she says, and has no interest in converting. As she explains it, a non-Jew finding inspiration in the Sabbathor traveling to Israel for that matterisnt so different from the millions of non-Buddhists who practice yoga or go on meditation retreats to India. Its the latest way that ancient traditions are meeting modern life, she says. If there ever was a moment when Shabbat was poised to become the new yoga practice, its now. Interfaith marriage rates among American Jews have jumped from a little more than 40 percent in the 1980s to 58 percent in the period from 2000 to 2013. Thats a lot more newlyweds (plus their families and friends) with exposure to Jewish ceremonies and rituals. Call them Jew-adjacent, Jew-curious, or just Jew-ish. Jewish culture is in the mainstream, its popular, and thats something any brand would want to jump on, says Danya Shults, 31, founder of Arq, a lifestyle company that seeks to sell people of all faiths on a trendy, tech-literate, and, above all, accessible version of Jewish traditions. Arq is a portal for interfaith couples, their friends, and their families to find relevant, inclusive, aesthetically elevated information and products. It offers holiday-planning guides; Seder plates designed by Isabel Halley, the ceramicist who outfitted the female-only social club the Wing; and interviews with Jewish entrepreneurs, as well as chefs who cook up artisanal halvah and horseradish. Theres also an event series, including a weekend retreat in the Catskills in upstate New York that Shults says is inspired by Jewish summer camp but more Kinfolk-y, referring to the elegantly twee lifestyle magazine. Shults grew up in an observant home, attended a Jewish day school, and became fluent in Hebrew. Then she got engaged to a Presbyterian. We never really found a [religious] community that matched what we were looking for, especially for me, says Shultss now-husband, Andrew. Many of the synagogues that purported to be inclusive turned out to have an agenda, such as trying to get Andrew to convert or cultivating the couples political support for Israel. Shults covers her eyes and performs the traditional Shabbat blessing over the candles. Photographer: Tim OConnell for Bloomberg Businessweek The troubles didnt end there. Shults tells the story of one non-Jewish friend who went shopping for the couple by Googling chic Jewish wedding gift and found the results to be either totally out of style or far too didactic and preachy. Cool, inclusive presents did existShults knew that muchbut they werent easy to find. Thus, Arq was born. My ultimate test case was my husband, Shults says. Would he discover this? Read this? Go to this event? Arq may be the most ambitious new company hoping to court the Jew-curious community, but its not the only one. There are secular dinner and dating platforms that draw on Jewish clichs such as the opinionated mother and the gut-busting holiday meal; resources to plan an interfaith wedding and help an interfaith family find a nonschlocky menorah; companies offering trips that take young secular professionals to Israel; and even a matzo company that aims to make unleavened bread the next pita chip. Most of these outfits are less than three years old. Not that long ago, it would have felt dirty to talk about branding Jewish culture, says Aliza Kline, executive director of OneTable, a social dining app that helps people of all religious backgrounds celebrate inclusive Shabbat meals. Bubby brings old-fashioned matchmaking to the app age. Source: Bubby Of course, there has long been a mainstream taste for Jewish humor and food (see: Seinfeld, bagels, challah French toast), but the fervor is something new. I see rabbis doing really creative things, saying, Come in and try this out, says Rabbi Ari Moffic, who directs the Chicago branch of a swiftly growing national network called Interfaith Family. You can do Jewish, she says, even if youre not Jewish. You want to unplug? Its called Shabbat, and were the experts on it. Moffic understands why this kind of cultural marketing would make many rabbis uncomfortable. As a rule, Jews dont proselytize to non-Jews. But Moffic and the others in the cultural-marketing camp have decided that enlarging the tent is the best way to keep young Jews inside it. The focus on a single community can so easily become exclusive, says Kline, who estimates that 10 percent to 15 percent of OneTable guests arent Jewish. But through technology, were seeding hundreds of new communities. That was the idea behind Arq as well. The name, inspired by Noahs Ark, is an allusion to diversity. With so many different animals in one boat, Shults explains, the best way forward is a compromise. For its model, the company draws on elements from well-established lifestyle portals such as Goop and Food52, up-and-coming jewelry resource Of a Kind, and parenting advice site Fatherly. To varying degrees, these sites fuse e-commerce with storytelling, but they also present themselves as community platforms. For the time being, Shults is relying on brand partnerships and events to support her business. I dont want to have to scale at an ungodly pace, she says of her decision not to seek funding. The most important business stories of the day. Get Bloomberg’s daily newsletter. Shults started the company in late 2016, less than a year after quitting her job as director for marketing and community at the venture capital firm Spark Capital LLC, and it has already made several high-profile partnerships. Arq has linked up with the wedding registry company Zola Inc. to curate Jewish presents that dont look as if they come from the synagogue gift shop; with the home design site Apartment Therapy, on a series of Judaica-focused home tours; and with the feminist/LGBTQ-friendly wedding-planning site Catalyst Wedding Co., on an interview series with couples who are diverse in every imaginable way. Arq-branded events have included a couples salon series in partnership with Honeymoon Israel, a nonprofit that sends nontraditional (interfaith, same-sex) couples on trips to Israel, and a womens lunar retreat, based on the ancient Jewish practice of women celebrating one another around the new moon. Honeymoon Israel helps interfaith couples celebrate their nuptials in the Jewish homeland. Source: Honeymoon Israel In addition, Arq hosts dinners with Bubby. Co-founder Stephanie Volftsun says the tech-enabled matchmaking service is inspired by the time-tested tradition of the Jewish matchmaking yenta and aimed at expanding the notion of what a Jewish couple should look like. Were all about being open to people who are different, which then means that non-Jews are drawn into our food, culture, and traditions, she says. Not every Jew-ish company has such a social mission, however. The Matzo Project has taken as its task getting unleavened bread out of the ethnic food aisle. We want it to be more than something that very pious Jews eat at Passover, says co-founder Ashley Albert. The companys offerings include matzo flats and chips in salted, everything, and cinnamon-sugar flavors, as well as a matzo butter crunch bar. Its also about to release a vegan matzo ball soup kit. Like Bubby, Matzo Project has made the Jewish grandma central to its brandingthough in its case, shes more Long Island than old country. Each box features a cheeky cartoon granny in pearls and Iris Apfel glasses, with a word bubble that reads, Would it kill you to try something new? Albert, who also owns Brooklyns popular Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club, and her Matzo Project co-founder, Kevin Rodriguez, a former product designer for Vera Wang, have received encouraging feedback on their branding from ethnic Italians and Koreans as well as Jews. Grandma is sassy, smart, and strong, Albert says. A lot of people know a version of her. OneTable organizes Shabbat dinners in cities across the U.S. Photographer: Elaine Moran Products from the Matzo Project, which started a year ago, are available at New Yorks Eataly and Dylans Candy Bar, San Franciscos Bi-Rite minichain, and specialty stores in places as far-flung as Wyoming. Most of these retailers, Albert says, have never carried matzo before. She and Rodriguez have also talked their way into a handful of Whole Foods Markets, but finding a national distributor that gets the mission has been more challenging. Albert understands why people persist in treating matzo as a specialty food. But like the founders of Bubby, OneTable, and Arq, she thinks its only a matter of time before the foreign becomes familiar. When I was a kid, pita was a really unusual ethnic food, she says. It was part of somebody elses culture. Now its part of all our cultures.

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March 28, 2017   Posted in: Judaism  Comments Closed

Judaism, Atonement, and God’s Nonviolence The RavenCast – Patheos (blog)

What does Jewish spirituality have to teach us about navigating the current American political crisis? In the latest episode of the RavenCast, I sat down with Vanessa Avery, a Hebrew Bible Scholar and Diversity and Organizational Consultant. Vanessa holds degrees from the University of Exeter, Yale Divinity School, Kings College London and McGill University. She uses mimetic theory to interpret the Bible and to help businesses inspire generosity, empathy, creativity, hospitality, strength and courage. Vanessa is the author of many articles, including Atonement and the Book of Jonah, Jewish Vaccines Against Mimetic Desire, Watchmen and Mimetic Theory, Whither Girard and Islam and Engaging Difference: Exercises and tips for creating Experiential Learning Environments. And theres a great article about Vanessa and her organizational consulting titled Why is scapegoating so common at Work? You can learn more about Vanessas consulting workshops and you can contact her through her website, Transcendence Education. *How Vanessa has helped businesses diversify and end scapegoating practices. *The connections between being a diversity consultant, mimetic theory, and the Hebrew Scriptures. *The Bible is full of violence, but Vanessa claims that the Bible also holds the antidote to violence. How can that be? *On the Jewish Day of Atonement, Jews are commanded to listen to the book of Jonah. Vanessa explains why the book of Jonah is crucially important to understanding atonement. *The connection between justice and mercy in Judaism. *How the book of Jonah can help us navigate the current American social crisis. Stay in the loop! Like Teaching Nonviolent Atonement on Facebook!

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March 28, 2017   Posted in: Judaism  Comments Closed

Join the Boulder County Center for Judaism for a Special Passover Experience – Boulder Jewish News

BOULDER, CO: Passover, the season of our liberation, comes around every year not merely to remind us of the extraordinary liberation of our ancestors from Egyptian bondage, but also to inspire us to strive for a greater measure of self-liberation from all limitations and distractions which impede a Jew from the free exercise of Yiddishkeit in everyday life. The rabbis at Chabad say this is the real meaning of the highly significant passage in the Haggadah which states that In every generation a Jew should see himself as though he personally has been liberated from Egypt. This is especially true during difficult times, and is always worthy of deliberation and discussion of the sort you will find at the Boulder County Center for Judaisms Passover Seder. Every year they present an interactive Seder with explanations of our traditions, robust discussions, and a warm and welcoming atmosphere that envelops everyone in the specialness of this most celebrated of all Jewish holidays. There is also a mouthwatering, multicourse feast including gefilte fish, chicken soupand more, which is preceded by the traditional foods of the Seder such as parsley dipped in salt water, matzo, Hillel sandwiches (charoset and horseradish on matzo), and the requisite four cups of wine. Rabbi Pesach and Chany Scheiner invite you to consider their home yours for Passover and revel in the yom tov of Pesach the celebration of our freedom as a united community. When: Monday, April 10 at 7:45 pm Where: 4900 Sioux Drive, Boulder Cost: Adults (age 12 and up) $25 (Only $20 if you reserve before April 1) Children ages 2 to 11: $12 Anyone under 2 attends for free Even if you can only come for part of the evening (small children are usually the reason for this) come, enjoy, participate, and leave whenever is appropriate for you. RSVP: boulderjudaism@gmail.com And if youre interested in performing the mitzvah of selling your chametz, contact boulderjudaism@gmail.com or www.boulderjudaism.com.

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March 27, 2017   Posted in: Judaism  Comments Closed

Boulder County Center for Judaism Importing Shmura Matzo Again – Boulder Jewish News

BOULDER, CO: Once again, the Boulder County Center for Judaism is importing over 100 pounds of Shmura matzo for Passover. The round, hand-kneaded product is worlds apart from the machine-made, pre-packaged matzo most Jews know. Shmura means to watch or guard, and these matzos are guarded from the harvest of the wheat through the packaging of the completed matzo to insure no contact with the smallest speck of chametz or leavening. When the Israelites left Egypt as directed by G-d, they had to leave quickly and could not wait for their dough to rise. The hot desert sun, however, baked the dough in their packs as they walked so when they stopped to eat, they found hard, flat crackers they called matzo. One of the reasons Jews eat matzo during Passover is in commemoration of the creation of this unleavened bread. In addition to the fact that our ancestors were bereft of anything leavened (chametz) and we want our annual celebration of their liberation from bondage in Egypt to be as true to their experience as possible, over the years chametz has become symbolic of egotism, arrogance, and condescension to others, traits so harmful that they are considered the roots of all negative characteristics, adding another reason for eliminating even the most minute amount of chametz prior to the start of the holiday Monday, April 10th at sundown. Shmura matzo is the closest thing to what our ancestors ate as they fled Egypt 3,000 years ago, said Rabbi Pesach Scheiner of the Boulder County Center for Judaism If you want to add this traditional hand-made matzo to your familys Seder, please order soon as no matter how many pounds they order it always sells out quickly. Each box costs $23.60 and contains one pound (six or seven large circular matzos). It is available in regular or whole wheat. To place your order, email boulderjudaism@gmail.com or call 720.422.6776. Once the matzo arrives, purchasers will be notified so they can come to the Boulder County Center for Judaism to pick it up or arrange for it to be delivered. And if youre interested in performing the mitzvah of selling your chametz, contact boulderjudaism@gmail.com.

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March 24, 2017   Posted in: Judaism  Comments Closed

Progressively Speaking: After Trump controversy, what does Judaism say about paying tax? – Jewish News

Citing the recent example of Donald Trumps returns, how we pay our taxes and how much we pay is often at the top of political and news agendas. Judaism expects everyone to contribute a fair share. Its a recurring theme in the Torah and Rabbinic literature, with the longstanding Talmudic principle of dina malchuta dina (the law of the land is the law). But Progressive Judaism also offers two more reasons why paying tax is so important, even if you are president of the United States. The first is historical. Our movement was founded in the first decade of the 19th century in Germany out of the intellectual milieu of the Enlightenment and the political environment of the French Revolution. At that time, the Jews were moving from being a pariah people, restricted from the norms of life to being part of the new national state. Progressive Judaism offered an opportunity to be both Jewish and a citizen of the modern state, and it follows that if Jews were to claim rights, they also had responsibilities. These obligations, in my view, include voting and participating in public life and paying any tax levied by a democratically elected government. The second reason is ethical. Progressive Judaism has sought to reclaim the Hebrew Prophetic idea that the performance of ritual obligations is acceptable to God only from Jews whose ethical behaviour accords with the core teachings of Judaism. Progressive Judaism declares the ethical mitzvot of a higher order than the ritual ones. Ethical mitzvot (support for the widow and the orphan, for example) are obligatory but some of that activity today is carried out by the state, utilising the taxes of citizens. The evasion of taxes is therefore both a major breach of Jewish ethics and an attack on the modern, democratic state. Danny Rich is senior rabbi and chief executive of Liberal Judaism

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March 23, 2017   Posted in: Judaism  Comments Closed


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