Faith and Family Matters

Saba

Vacations from school usually mean trips to see close family members and friends who live far away. For example, many people go to places like Florida or Israel in order to visit their grandparents. I have never been lucky enough to take a big trip in order to visit my grandparents; I have been even luckier.

NID: 374
Date: Thursday, January 12, 2017 - 10:14
AuthorBio:
Sruli Fruchter is a junior at DRS Yeshiva High School for Boys in Woodmere, L.I. 
Title: College Concerns
Subtitle:
Experiencing anti-Semitism, a growing campus scourge, is my greatest college fear.
Body:
 
College was always promoted to me as a tolerant and accepting environment for everyone, regardless of one’s beliefs and ideology. Meetings with high school guidance counselors and participating in campus tours seemed to affirm my impression. I presumed that I would be free to advocate for my beliefs and freely express my religion without fear of intimidation or backlash from my fellow students.

If only that were true.
 
Since the beginning of 2016, the number of anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses has surged, increasing by 45 percent compared to 2015, according to a study by AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to combating anti-Semitism at universities. The AMCHA report includes every type of incident from swastikas being engraved in bathrooms to students being harassed on campus.
 
I was astonished at how ubiquitous anti-Semitism has become at practically all universities. I had always assumed that college was immune to the world’s intolerance, that college was an oasis for Jews. 
 
Even schools as prominent and well-known as New York University did not escape these appalling incursions; on Nov. 12 four students at NYU awoke to large, dark swastikas graffitied on their doors. When I saw the photos posted online of these students’ doors, my heart tightened and my stomach constricted. Questions and concerns raced through my head: What if that was my door? How could I cope with the realization that my religion made me a target of abuse? How could a diverse campus such as NYU host such a hostile dormitory environment? Can the school remain a viable college choice for me?  
 
These questions circled through my mind with an absence of answers. Despite the president of the New School condemning the swastikas on the door, his words did nothing to prevent another swastika being posted on another student’s door just five days later. Other colleges such as University of Maryland, Hunter College, Georgetown University, and Swarthmore College have all been victims of similar heinous attacks. (Photo courtesy Sam Lichtenstein)
 
Hundreds of hate crimes against Jews have been reported on college campuses in 2016, yet there’s no national outrage. 
 
At Northwestern University in Ill., a Jewish studies lecturer was asked if he was Jewish by a man in a vehicle. When the professor said yes, the unidentified man raised his arm in a Nazi salute and yelled “Heil Hitler.” Unsurprisingly, the mainstream media made no mention of the anti-Semitic salute and offered the story little to no coverage.
 
If the assailants at NYU scrawled anti-Muslim threats on the doors of NYU students, the story would have received national attention. If that lecturer was a man of Muslim faith who was attacked with hateful, religion-based slurs people would have expressed outrage. The bottom line is that the public does not stand with the Jewish community, leaving Jewish students defenseless in the face of hate. 
 
The evolution of college into a platform for anti-Semitism shakes me to my core. I am frustrated by the lack of public concern regarding discrimination against Jews and becoming a victim of anti-Semitism is my greatest college fear. There will always be anti-Semites in the world, and no one can change that, but the fact that no one would shed an ounce of concern if I was attacked is chilling. 
 
As a high school junior college is practically around the corner. After I apply to different universities and await decisions, the supposed “time of my life” commences. But what indubitably waits for me, a 16-year-old Jewish boy, beyond my high school walls — Swastikas on my door? Racial slurs from other students? Physical assaults? I can only hope that conditions will change in the coming time, but as of now, this appears to be my reality and the reality of Jewish students across the United States. 
 
Teaser:

Experiencing anti-Semitism, a growing campus scourge, is my greatest college fear.

 

ArticlePath: /articles/college-concerns-0
ImagePath: public://campusmebbe_0.jpg
Tags: anti-Semitism, college, swastika
NID: 372
Date: Friday, December 30, 2016 - 08:02
AuthorBio:
Hannah Jannol is a junior at Shalhevet High School in Los Angeles. 
Title: O Chanukah Bush
Subtitle:
Decorating a tree for Chanukah is a symbol of frivolity, not assimilation.
Body:

The Chanukah bush of the Saeidy family which started "just for fun." Courtesy Elliot Saeidy

Daniel, a junior in Los Angeles, used to decorate a Chanukah bush in his home when he was a young child. He, his parents and brother adorned the shrub with Chanukah-themed ornaments, such as mini menorahs in lieu of candy canes and shiny orbs; blue and white lights as opposed to white, red or green ones; and a Star of David on top, instead of an angel.

His mother, who is a convert from Catholicism, missed Christmas celebrations so the family figured a Chanukah bush was the perfect solution.

“I grew up with a Christmas tree as you might imagine and I just wanted the kids to have a bit of holiday cheer with a little bit of evergreen in the house,” said Mary, the family asked that their last name not be used.

At the time, Daniel didn’t think much of the tradition. “Aesthetically a Chanukah bush looks really nice and the idea of having a tree in your house is really cool,” he said.

But Daniel’s father ended the tradition citing a conflict integrating symbols of a holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus with a Jewish one. Mary said she didn’t mind kicking the bush to the curb, and today does not wish for a tree, or bush, in the house, she said it was “not worth the discombobulation.”

Every December, Christians gather around Christmas trees, Jews gather around menorahs, and some Jews gather around Chanukah bushes.

The start of the trend is not clearly documented, although there are mentions of what can be defined as “a Jewish Christmas tree” as early as the 19th century. In an 1879 issue of the Jewish Messenger, a newspaper, Henrietta Szold (founder of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America) questioned, “Why need we adopt the Christmas tree, ridiculously baptized a Chanukah bush?”

One hundred and thirty-seven years later, the answer to her question remains unresolved and complicated. Szold wrote from a place of concern about increasing assimilation; today, Daniel is unconcerned.

“I think that people need to calm down the with the cultural assimilation stuff,” he said.

For him, the Chanukah bush is not a symbol of the absorption of Judaism into mainstream Christian America, but rather a banner of cultural blending that should transcend beyond the last week of December.

“We need to stop looking at ourselves as such a separate race of people, but instead just a different category of American,” he said.

This year, the second night of Chanukah coincided with Christmas, and the issue of Jewish and Christian coexistence, on a cultural level, felt pressing.

Like Daniel, Elliot Saeidy, doesn’t think too much about having a Chanukah bush in the house. His older sister began the tradition two years ago for fun, and guests always enjoyed it when they came into Elliot’s house during Chanukah.

“Sometimes I thought about it being too close to Christmas, and sometimes thought about how it would be offensive to others,” he said. “But it was also just for fun and I didn't think about it that much because it was just a tree.” Elliot does not see the practice as a big deal.

“I never thought about it being about assimilation, and now I do see why it would seem that way. It is very untraditional of a Jew to have a Chanukah bush because it is very similar to a tree.”

He continued, “I wouldn't bring my kids up with the Chanukah bush, but if they reach a certain age where they are aware of their religion, and knew they were Jews and knew that they had to keep Jewish traditions, then I might let them have a tree just for fun. But I would not let them have a tree for the sake of assimilation, allowing them to lose sight of who they truly are.”

Perhaps we are in an era of making the best of our assimilation, because we have found and accepted a comfortable threshold. Today’s American Jews have thoughtfully assimilated in a responsible and conscious way. By standing at the doorway between Jewish traditions and the dominant tradition of the country we inhabit — but not stepping through the portal — we have arrived at an understanding. Like Daniel, his family, and so many others, we stand in a happy middle.

The concern of Henrietta Szold — that Jewish customs would be subsumed — has come true, sort of. People worry less about assimilation because they are aware of it. Similar to other times in history when Jews have adapted the culture that surrounds them, it is done in a thoughtful manner. For example, the black hats worn by Orthodox men originate from the garb of nobles of that era.

And yet now the black hat is more of a symbol of Judaism than of European nobility. Participating in the dominant culture is not the same as being devoured by it. We must heed precaution, and maybe a little less paranoia.

“I don’t think if I was living on Mars I would come up with the idea to have a tree in my house,” said Daniel. “Yes it’s a Christian thing, but I don’t want it for Christian reasons.” 

Teaser:

Decorating a tree for Chanukah is a symbol of frivolity, not assimilation.

ArticlePath: /articles/o-chanukah-bush
ImagePath: public://12-29-16-slide_1.png
Tags: assimilation, Chanukah, Christmas, tree
NID: 371
Date: Wednesday, December 28, 2016 - 13:50
AuthorBio:
Noa Spero is a junior at Kohelet Yeshiva High School in Merion Station, Pa. Linor Kuighadoush is a junior at Torah Academy for Girls (TAG) in Far Rockaway. 
Title: Sparks
Subtitle:
A golem in the palm of my hand will teach me about my Chanukah superpower, say wha?
Body:

Illustration by Linor Kuighadoush 

“It’s that time of year again,” Anna croons as she pulls my elbow, leading me down the darkened streets of the city, the fairy lights strung from the telephone polls shining on our dark figures. 

“What? Christmas?” I say as she responds with an exaggerated sigh and a pout.

“No! It’s Chanukah, the most wonderful time of the year, haven’t you heard?” she smiles with that winning grin of hers as she gallops up the steps to her condo.

“No, I’m pretty sure that’s still Christmas. I think there’s even a song using those same words.”

“It’s so magical, you know? There’s light everywhere and gold coins being tossed around and lots and lots of gambling…” she trails off, looking into the moonlight romantically.

“Oh yes, gambling is the most magical thing I’ve ever seen,” I try to stifle a laugh, but end up just snorting awkwardly. Anna’s not paying attention anyway.

“You just don’t have the Chanukah spirit, do you?” she sighs again, twice as dramatically as before. “Well I still think it’s magical, even if you’re little miss pessimism.” Then she flounces, twists and shuts the door behind her.

I chuckle as I walk backwards down her steps. She’s always this way, even when it’s not a holiday, but I have to try harder now to quell my glee because, if I don’t, she might realize that I know exactly how magical this time of year is. I know because I have magic. Magic that comes around for only these eight days. And I can’t even hope to understand why or how.

I mean, I know the story of Chanukah, and it’s all about miracles, but that doesn’t make the whole ordeal any less mysterious or bizarre. But it doesn’t matter, because I can’t tell anyone, especially not Anna. She’d think I was crazy. I think I’m crazy, for God’s sake. And anyway, eight days from now, it’ll be gone. So, taking a shaky breath, I slide my fingers into my pockets and bound down the street, but not before bright gold embers jump from my fingertips. Almost like the sparks from the candlelight. Almost.

* * *

The glowing adhesive stars on the wall are definitely moving. And it’s not just because I’ve been staring at them for so long. I think they’re actually glimmering. My mom insisted that I get to sleep early so that I’m ready to help her with all of the Shabbat getting-ready-work tomorrow, but who can sleep when there’s magic around?

It’s happened every Chanukah for a few years now, but I still don’t get it. I’ve practiced it, sure, but I can’t show it to anyone or they might call me a witch and hang me on the scaffolds in Salem. And it’s the showiest of magic too: sparks! They just pop off my hands like firecrackers and usually with no warning. So every day of Chanukah, I have to keep my hands in gloves like a creep and stay out of people’s ways.

I crack my knuckles against my left hand, sending embers across my bed sheets, singeing the pretty floral pattern.

The Christmas and Chanukah lights shimmer outside my window, almost beckoning me to join them. I’ve already got my fire, so I’m basically a light. They’re entrancing, shining so bright that when I squint, they’re like kaleidoscopes.

But then I feel a heat on my hands, something I’ve never felt before. I tear my eyes from the window to the blaring stars my hands have become. They’re blinding, reflecting white light all around my room, pilfering all of the brightness from the stars on the wall.

“Well you’re certainly making a spectacle,” I nearly bounce off my bed as a deep voice comes from behind me and a little figure hops onto my hands. With a sudden burst, the light fades from my fingers and as I blink away the spots from my eyes, a little clay-colored person becomes visible on my palm.

“What the …“ I sputter, but the clay thing interrupts me before I can say anything else.

“You are supposed to be more private when you have magic, otherwise you’ll have the whole city coming after you for shutting down all the electricity!” The clay man, who looks kind of like a cross between a pumpkin, a dwarf and a pixie, steps off my hand and falls to my blanket, pacing from flower to flower. 

“Who are you?” I get out between his muttering.

“What do you mean who am I? I’m your golem. I’m here to guide you in your magic.”

“What in the …“

“The name’s Lera and I expect that you’ll remember that. If you don’t, I’ll be sure you get a new and less professional golem.” 

“But I …”

“Stop protesting, I’ve heard the whole act,” he looks at me for the first time, giving me a once over with the little holes in the clay that must be his eyes.

“I don’t know anything about you,” he says, imitating some sort of screechy female voice, “What do you mean, golem?” then transferring to his deep voice again, “Listen Ella, you’ve had magic for a while now and you clearly haven’t gotten the hint about the magic world or the whole Chanukah connection, so we’re just going to have to get you up to speed.”

In the moment he takes a breath I say, “Uh, what exactly do you mean by magic world?”

“Don’t give me that. I’m so tired of the ‘You mean I’m not alone?’ thing you teenagers are so obsessed with. What a cliché!” Before I can open my mouth he holds up a finger, “Alright, you clearly know absolutely nothing so get comfortable and listen up. This is important. It just may define the rest of your life. Whatever, no big deal. Don’t be dramatic, you teenagers are always so dramatic. It’s only life and death.”

Teaser:

A golem in the palm of my hand will teach me about my Chanukah superpower, say wha? 

ArticlePath: /articles/sparks
ImagePath: public://12-28-webbox-slide.png
Tags: Chanukah, fiction, golem
NID: 370
Date: Tuesday, December 27, 2016 - 22:16
AuthorBio:
Sruli Fruchter is a junior at DRS Yeshiva High School for Boys in Woodmere, L.I.
Title: The U.N. Resolution
Subtitle:
A not-so-secret agenda revealed.
Body:
Teaser:
ArticlePath: /articles/un-resolution
ImagePath: public://srulis_cartoon_0.jpg
Tags: BDS, comic, U.N.
NID: 370
Date: Tuesday, December 27, 2016 - 22:16
AuthorBio:
Sruli Fruchter is a junior at DRS Yeshiva High School for Boys in Woodmere, L.I.
Title: The U.N. Resolution
Subtitle:
A not-so-secret agenda revealed.
Body:
Teaser:
ArticlePath: /articles/un-resolution
ImagePath: public://srulis-cartoon-600x.gif
Tags: BDS, comic, U.N.
NID: 370
Date: Tuesday, December 27, 2016 - 22:16
AuthorBio:
Sruli Fruchter is a junior at DRS Yeshiva High School for Boys in Woodmere, L.I.
Title: The U.N. Resolution
Subtitle:
A not-so-secret agenda revealed.
Body:
Teaser:
ArticlePath: /articles/un-resolution
ImagePath: public://a-not-so-secret-agenda-revealed.gif
Tags: BDS, comic, U.N.
NID: 370
Date: Tuesday, December 27, 2016 - 22:16
AuthorBio:
Sruli Fruchter is a junior at DRS Yeshiva High School for Boys in Woodmere, L.I.
Title: The U.N. Resolution
Subtitle:
A not-so-secret agenda revealed.
Body:
Teaser:
ArticlePath: /articles/un-resolution
ImagePath: public://a-not-so-secret-agenda-revealed_0.gif
Tags: BDS, comic, U.N.
NID: 367
Date: Thursday, December 22, 2016 - 14:48
AuthorBio:
Title: Change In Plans
Subtitle:
Meeting Israeli teens facing army service compelled me to switch my career track.
Body:

The writer, at right, with a friend during her eye-opening trip to Israel. Photos courtesy Elana Zabar 

There was nothing I wanted to do more than grow up. Adults always pestered me to enjoy my childhood, I didn’t have to pay bills, work a job and I could nap whenever I wanted. I guess I never really understood what it meant to be an adult. But I knew I wanted to have the freedom to determine my own bedtime, eat whatever I wanted and get my ears pierced at Claire’s. I never expected adulthood to be full of broken promises and unfair circumstances. I was oblivious to the fact teenagers across the world were buckling seatbelts in army tanks while I was buckling my seatbelt on the way to school.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to experience Israel with Robert I. Lappin Youth to Israel Adventure. While in the city of Tiberias, advocates from a variety of pro-Israel organizations came to speak with us about what a measly 16 year old could do to make change happen.  A speaker asked the Israeli students about the one promise their parents had made to them, and without a second thought each of them responded, “You won’t have to be in the army when you grow up, there will be no more war.” 

When I learned that my Israeli peers were raised on the hope that their future may be different from those before them, I understood how blessed I was to grow up on the promise of an education, career training and raising a family. I always knew serving in the army was a national requirement in Israel, but the reality of it had never sunk in until that moment. Hearing twenty Israeli teenagers respond with despair about growing up without peace opened my eyes to the depressing reality of their lives. In that moment I knew there was nothing more I wanted to do than help.

The future of strangers across the world seemed untouchable to me, and I used to be OK with that.  My childhood was filled with the notion that there was absolutely nothing I could do to change injustices, but my adulthood has helped me recognize how foolish that sounds. When I returned home I joined forces with the pro-Israel organizations AIPAC and StandWithUs and began to educate myself on the situation abroad. None of the hours of research I did were filled with sugar-coated facts to prevent engendering fear in a child. I read gruesome stories of knife attacks on innocent civilians, frightening articles about suicide bus bombings and even scarier charters written by terrorist organizations threatening both my homelands, Israel and the United States.

I crossed the bridge from childhood to adulthood when I decided I wasn’t going to sit and wait for change to happen, I was going to provoke it. During my sophomore year my experience lobbying Congress on behalf of Israel taught me that I was capable of promoting change that works towards solving societal problems and has advanced my knowledge of other injustices in our world. As much as I will continue to support Israel, I want to tackle other oppressions such as gender inequality, racial discrimination and equality for disabled persons; I want to be part of a movement that collectively changes society for the better.

My trip to Israel was assured to be an eye-opening, life-changing experience although I never expected it to change my plans for the future.  I went from wanting to be a civil engineer to wanting to study social justice to prevent future discrimination against all people; I’ve decided to major in political science. My Israeli friends are proud to serve their country and protect their loved ones, just as I am proud to serve and protect them by promoting access to the basic freedoms that more than just Americans should have.

Teaser:

Meeting Israeli teens facing army service compelled me to switch my career track. 

ArticlePath: /articles/change-plans
ImagePath: public://12-22-webbox-slide.jpg
Tags: AIPAC, Israel, lobby, StandWithUs
NID: 366
Date: Thursday, December 15, 2016 - 13:35
AuthorBio:
Kayla Cohen is a senior at Milken Community Schools in Los Angeles. 
Title: A Woman Of Vision
Subtitle:
Henrietta Szold’s brand of Zionism aided the poor and promoted peace.
Body:

A photo from 1922 of Henrietta Szold in her Jerusalem home. Wikimedia

This month marks the birthday of social activist Henrietta Szold. She was born in Baltimore Dec. 2, 1860. 

April wind passed us by like the smoke of men’s extinguished hookah pipes or the steam of goldenly-charred tea leaves in hot water. My classmates and I, during our semester abroad, were on the rooftop of a crumbling building. Our vantage point revealed the Judean hills — rolling, rolling — that separated the shiny buildings and white stone of our Jewish boarding school from the beaten rugs and dried soccer fields of surrounding Arab villages. Looking down, through a Jewish-American lens, I saw a conflict, a stark separation between Jewish and Arab communities.

More than a century ago activist Henrietta Szold saw, through her own Jewish-American lens, a conflict older than the Partition Plan or Green Line. She did not see a conflict between ideologies, but the conflict that transcended them: poverty. 

Szold left New York City to visit Palestine for the first time in 1909. In a horse-drawn carriage, she traveled to the green Galilee and its struggling farm communities. Jerusalem would reveal its strong connections with individual peoples — for Christians, the Holy Sepulchre; for Jews, the Kotel; for Muslims, the Dome of the Rock. But the communities of the three Abrahamic faiths revealed a common struggle, each lacked basic sanitation and was plagued by disease.

Upon her return to America, Szold’s Zionism was recharged. In 1912 she convened a small group of women in New York City and formed Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, and a humanistic form of Zionism was born. Szold identified global injustice as the enemy and saw practical social programs benefitting all human beings as the means to combat such injustice. Within a year, Szold raised $2,500 and moved to Jerusalem. Under her supervision two nurses, the first of many, were sent to spread Western hygiene to the people of Palestine, Jew and non-Jew alike. Clinics were established, mothers were given pasteurized milk for their babies, and thousands with trachoma (an eye disease) were treated. Eight years later, during the Arab riots of 1920, Hadassah nurses rushed to treat all citizens regardless of race or religion, shaping Hadassah’s medical philosophy.

Today’s Hadassah Medical Organization, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, reflects Szold’s message and commitment to equality. It is this commitment to all human life, born out of Szold’s humble Hadassah meeting in America, that has inspired global progress in the advancement of basic human rights.

When I find myself revisiting in my memory the roof of the shackled apartment building or struggling to defend Zionism, a now politically-charged term, I think of Henrietta Szold. Her work has revealed Zionism’s potential to not only help impoverished and culturally-polarized areas, but also to promote peace. While Israel still lacks harmony in its border and peace of mind with its neighbors, Szold’s activism is what keeps me, a young American Jew and Zionist, singing Hatikvah, an anthem of hope for our future.

Teaser:

Henrietta Szold’s brand of Zionism aided the poor and promoted peace.  

ArticlePath: /articles/woman-vision
ImagePath: public://szold.jpg
Tags: Hadassah, Palestine, Szold
NID: 365
Date: Thursday, December 8, 2016 - 13:24
AuthorBio:
Shuli Weinstein is a junior at Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pa. 
Title: Culture Club
Subtitle:
Chopping tomatoes for Israeli salad and drinking chocolate milk out of a bag are fun ways to instill a love for Israel.
Body:

Members of Lower Merion High School's Israeli Culture Club. Courtesy of Shuli Weinstein 

Latke sales, screenings of “Beneath the Helmet,” a documentary about life in the Israeli army, and kadorei shokolad (making balls of chocolate) are some of the many events of the Israeli Culture Club at Lower Merion High School in the suburban Philadelphia town of Ardmore, Pa. The club is a great way to introduce public school students to the cultural, rather than political, aspects of Israel. We meet about once a month after school or during lunch.

“I can express my love for my [Jewish] homeland, and I can share it with my friends from school,” said club member and sophomore Melissa Gingold. “Having an Israeli Culture Club also shines a light on the very diverse community we have here at Lower Merion.”

It is important to realize that an Israeli Culture Club does not mean a Jewish Culture Club, although the overwhelming majority of members at my school’s club are Jewish. Since the club is centered around a country, rather than a religion, people of all backgrounds are welcome to join. An Israeli Culture Club is one of the only opportunities for public schoolers to learn about the country because many schools avoid teaching controversial subjects such as the Middle East conflict. Additionally, public schools are not allowed to have religion-based classes and because Israel is often associated with Judaism, this association can limit how much information about the country is taught.

One of the goals of the Israeli Culture Club is to show students the fun and amazing side of Israel, in hopes of getting students to support and defend the country. Members share a love for delicious Mediterranean food and new Israeli music. Students learn to love Israel for its culture and people, instead of associating the country as the center of political tensions and frequent terrorist attacks. Creating such a club in a public high school makes learning about the culture accessible.

Food and music are popular aspects of most meetings. Our opening event in the fall included a snack of apples and honey — a tie to the High Holidays — as well as playing an online trivia game about Israel. A cooking competition and film festival are two upcoming events. We’re organizing a “Chopped” competition with another high school’s Israeli Culture Club in our district, Harriton High School in Bryn Mawr.

The film festival will be held in our high school auditorium during the latter part of winter. While the films have not been selected yet, the festival will include non-controversial films that display Israel in a positive light.

One of the highlights of last year’s club’s programs was a cooking event featuring Israeli foods. We set up food prep stations where students could chop tomatoes for Israeli salad, smash chickpeas to make hummus, or mix together chocolate milk in a plastic bag. This was the favorite program of junior Marli Weisman. “Teenagers who supported Israel could hang out together and not only got to eat cool food, but make it too,” she said.

The Israeli Culture Club offers more than food and music; it can guide students about what to do when confronted with anti-Israel groups. At a high school such as Lower Merion, students are sheltered from confrontations over Israel. But when students go off to college they leave their safe bubbles. Many campuses are filled with anti-Israel campaigns. An Israeli Culture Club can teach students about how to respond to the anti-Israel rhetoric.

For example, at Lower Merion we are hosting a member of StandWithUs, an Israel advocacy organization, to discuss what students should do if they encounter anti-Israel groups in college. The speaker will address which campus groups to join in order to show the benefits and communal feeling that comes with supporting this remarkable country. Bringing an Israeli Culture Club to public schools can help students grow their support for Israel as they continue in their young adult lives.

In order to create such a club, a teacher advisor will most likely be necessary to oversee the activities planned by the members. Lower Merion High School is lucky to have Mark Levy, a global studies teacher, as our current advisor. Mr. Levy said that having an Israeli Culture Club is important because many students lack Jewish connections after a bar or bat mitzvah. “This club allows them to have an outlet to explore the culture of Israel during high school,” he said.

Our club is not affiliated with a larger organization. Approximately 15 years ago a group of students who shared a love for Israel filled out a club form which explained what the group would offer to Lower Merion students. The administration then approved the organization for a trial year and the club had to prove that they had enough committed members. It has been a popular club since the very beginning and has not struggled to meet the 25-person member requirement. Since its creation, the club’s membership has continued to grow and offer a safe environment to learn about Israel.

Jen Dean, a junior, joined this amazing club, because she said it was “a fun way to learn about Israel and my heritage while being provided with good food.”

I encourage everyone lacking an Israeli Culture Club to work together with friends and create a version of this incredible club at their respective schools. Not only will the club offer a fun and safe environment to express love and appreciation for Israel, but it will also increase a powerful network of American youth who support the State of Israel.

Teaser:

Chopping tomatoes for Israeli salad and drinking chocolate milk out of a bag are fun ways to instill a love for Israel.

ArticlePath: /articles/culture-club
ImagePath: public://12-9-webbox-freshink.jpeg
Tags: Chopped, Israel, Jewish, public school
NID: 365
Date: Thursday, December 8, 2016 - 13:24
AuthorBio:
Shuli Weinstein is a junior at Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pa. 
Title: Culture Club
Subtitle:
Chopping tomatoes for Israeli salad and drinking chocolate milk out of a bag are fun ways to instill a love for Israel.
Body:

Members of Lower Merion High School's Israeli Culture Club. Courtesy of Shuli Weinstein 

Latke sales, screenings of “Beneath the Helmet,” a documentary about life in the Israeli army, and kadorei shokolad (making balls of chocolate) are some of the many events of the Israeli Culture Club at Lower Merion High School in the suburban Philadelphia town of Ardmore, Pa. The club is a great way to introduce public school students to the cultural, rather than political, aspects of Israel. We meet about once a month after school or during lunch.

“I can express my love for my [Jewish] homeland, and I can share it with my friends from school,” said club member and sophomore Melissa Gingold. “Having an Israeli Culture Club also shines a light on the very diverse community we have here at Lower Merion.”

It is important to realize that an Israeli Culture Club does not mean a Jewish Culture Club, although the overwhelming majority of members at my school’s club are Jewish. Since the club is centered around a country, rather than a religion, people of all backgrounds are welcome to join. An Israeli Culture Club is one of the only opportunities for public schoolers to learn about the country because many schools avoid teaching controversial subjects such as the Middle East conflict. Additionally, public schools are not allowed to have religion-based classes and because Israel is often associated with Judaism, this association can limit how much information about the country is taught.

One of the goals of the Israeli Culture Club is to show students the fun and amazing side of Israel, in hopes of getting students to support and defend the country. Members share a love for delicious Mediterranean food and new Israeli music. Students learn to love Israel for its culture and people, instead of associating the country as the center of political tensions and frequent terrorist attacks. Creating such a club in a public high school makes learning about the culture accessible.

Food and music are popular aspects of most meetings. Our opening event in the fall included a snack of apples and honey — a tie to the High Holidays — as well as playing an online trivia game about Israel. A cooking competition and film festival are two upcoming events. We’re organizing a “Chopped” competition with another high school’s Israeli Culture Club in our district, Harriton High School in Bryn Mawr.

The film festival will be held in our high school auditorium during the latter part of winter. While the films have not been selected yet, the festival will include non-controversial films that display Israel in a positive light.

One of the highlights of last year’s club’s programs was a cooking event featuring Israeli foods. We set up food prep stations where students could chop tomatoes for Israeli salad, smash chickpeas to make hummus, or mix together chocolate milk in a plastic bag. This was the favorite program of junior Marli Weisman. “Teenagers who supported Israel could hang out together and not only got to eat cool food, but make it too,” she said.

The Israeli Culture Club offers more than food and music; it can guide students about what to do when confronted with anti-Israel groups. At a high school such as Lower Merion, students are sheltered from confrontations over Israel. But when students go off to college they leave their safe bubbles. Many campuses are filled with anti-Israel campaigns. An Israeli Culture Club can teach students about how to respond to the anti-Israel rhetoric.

For example, at Lower Merion we are hosting a member of StandWithUs, an Israel advocacy organization, to discuss what students should do if they encounter anti-Israel groups in college. The speaker will address which campus groups to join in order to show the benefits and communal feeling that comes with supporting this remarkable country. Bringing an Israeli Culture Club to public schools can help students grow their support for Israel as they continue in their young adult lives.

In order to create such a club, a teacher advisor will most likely be necessary to oversee the activities planned by the members. Lower Merion High School is lucky to have Mark Levy, a global studies teacher, as our current advisor. Mr. Levy said that having an Israeli Culture Club is important because many students lack Jewish connections after a bar or bat mitzvah. “This club allows them to have an outlet to explore the culture of Israel during high school,” he said.

Our club is not affiliated with a larger organization. Approximately 15 years ago a group of students who shared a love for Israel filled out a club form which explained what the group would offer to Lower Merion students. The administration then approved the organization for a trial year and the club had to prove that they had enough committed members. It has been a popular club since the very beginning and has not struggled to meet the 25-person member requirement. Since its creation, the club’s membership has continued to grow and offer a safe environment to learn about Israel.

Jen Dean, a junior, joined this amazing club, because she said it was “a fun way to learn about Israel and my heritage while being provided with good food.”

I encourage everyone lacking an Israeli Culture Club to work together with friends and create a version of this incredible club at their respective schools. Not only will the club offer a fun and safe environment to express love and appreciation for Israel, but it will also increase a powerful network of American youth who support the State of Israel.

Teaser:

Chopping tomatoes for Israeli salad and drinking chocolate milk out of a bag are fun ways to instill a love for Israel.

ArticlePath: /articles/culture-club
ImagePath: public://class-slide.png
Tags: Chopped, Israel, Jewish, public school
NID: 364
Date: Thursday, December 1, 2016 - 15:50
AuthorBio:
Anna Sharudenko is a sophomore. She is home-schooled in Los Angeles. 
Title: A Proud ‘Dirty Jewess’
Subtitle:
Experiencing anti-Semitism in Moscow didn’t weaken me; those words strengthened my Jewish identity.
Body:

The author with her beloved pup, Theodore, in Moscow. Both emigrated to the United States in 2010. Courtesy of Anna Sharudenko 

I never thought that I would learn the lesson of betrayal at so young an age or that my own skin would experience the prejudice and hostility that Jews faced throughout centuries. When I was 9 years old, the following phrase pierced my naive heart: “You nasty and dirty Jewess!”

On the outside, I appeared a warrior, my back straight with confidence as if these words had done no damage to me. But on the inside, my heart was aching for those in the past who also experienced hatred. Feelings of powerlessness haunted me, and I thought about the millions of Jews murdered for being politically undesirable. To this day, it gives me nightmares to think about a time and place void of freedom and tolerance. Yet six years ago I was able to hold my head high in Moscow.

In my elementary school gym, with its smudged, light-green-painted walls and poorly drawn basketball court lines on the floor, I left behind a shadow of innocence and unsophistication. As I remember exiting that rectangular-shaped room, I became someone who I proudly identify myself as today: a Jew.

***

On a cold winter day, when the temperature reached minus-25 degrees Celsius, or minus-13 Fahrenheit, and delicate white snowflakes fell, nothing signaled of the upcoming event.

I was surrounded, if not trapped, by my fellow classmates in the girls’ locker room. Ever been on a battlefield surrounded by hungry jackals? They were stalking the prey (me), getting down on their haunches in attack mode, ready to pounce. To avoid predators, prey uses camouflage to hide its location or identity. That’s right, identity. The wild environment has the same rules as Homo sapiens. However, I stopped the pattern of the wild and did not hide my identity.

Their eyes lacked sympathy or humanity and only expressed wildness; I cannot forget them. The glowing and seething pupils were shooting virtual daggers at me. An acquaintance of mine, the tallest of the bunch and the most attractive with medium-length, thick brown hair, an oval face and milky white skin, took a step forward and shouted, “You nasty and dirty Jewess!” Shots of hatred were fired; her words offended and attacked my views, my religion and ME.

I never reacted. I appeared almost stone cold, but my inner feelings were of heartbreak. I even felt as if I were defeated, a loser in the battle against pure evil. I did not cry or express any visible anger, but suddenly felt transformed into an adult due to reality’s harsh touch.

Six years after the incident, I can still trace marks of frustration in my soul. Awareness that danger, anti-Semitism and discrimination exist in the world remain with me today. I suffered an emotional trauma in my pre-teen years; I was forced into an unfamiliar setting where the people surrounding me were dangerous emotionally and physically.

The bullying aspect of this incident played a less significant role than the shattering of my rose-colored glasses. My conception of the world filled with good people was shattered. Planet Earth is not an innocent place, floating in the Milky Way galaxy; it contains vile and despicable souls who will hurt you intentionally, and your mission is to learn how to defend yourself. Reality hit me in that locker room, and hit me hard. How can I feel comfortable in that school when the Holocaust also began with discrimination and humiliation? It became impossible for me to be a student and learn in the same room with that gang.

I highly doubt that the tall and beautiful girl from my Russian elementary school remembers me. She later told me that the whole school disliked me, and that students gossiped about my Jewish identity behind my back. I completed my fourth and last year in that school, and when I was 10 years old we purchased a one-way ticket to California. 

Who can predict what would have happened to me if her obnoxious words didn’t strike me back then? Would I be as strong and as proud of being a Jew? The answer may appear blunt, but it is “no.”

I often think of my predecessors and deceased loved ones who were murdered in the Holocaust, especially when I am in synagogue on Shabbat and offered a chance to contribute their names during the recitation of Mourner’s Kaddish. These souls lost their lives and possibly my prayers will help them in their journey upward. After all, our souls are connected. 

Teaser:

Experiencing anti-Semitism in Moscow didn’t weaken me; those words strengthened my Jewish identity. 

ArticlePath: /articles/proud-%E2%80%98dirty-jewess%E2%80%99-0
ImagePath: public://webbox_freshink_0.jpg
Tags: anti-Semitism, Holocaust, Jewish, Moscow
NID: 362
Date: Thursday, November 17, 2016 - 17:11
AuthorBio:
Leora Pineles is a junior in the Naale program at Amana in Kfar Saba. 
Title: Modern Family
Subtitle:
Israeli teens love ‘Shtisel,’ the TV show about a charedi family, whose characters are remarkably relatable.
Body:

Meet the Shtisels: The TV show gives viewers a peek into the lives of the charedi community. YesTV Youtube

Picture this: A family is sitting down for dinner at their grandfather’s house. They are all talking, eating and just enjoying themselves. Now add this to the picture: The men are wearing black hats and the women are wearing wigs… oh, and the adults are speaking Yiddish.

This is a common occurrence in one of the hottest TV shows in Israel, attracting people of all ages and backgrounds. “Shtisel,” is a scripted drama series in Hebrew about an extended charedi family living in Jerusalem.

The father, Shulem Shtisel, who recently lost his wife is trying to find a shidduch (arranged marriage) for his youngest son, Akiva. Throughout the series, Akiva feels pressured by his father to get married and experiences much stress and heartbreak. Akiva is also a very talented artist, but his family and community are not supportive of his interest.

The series also follows the life of Gitti, Shulem’s daughter and Akiva’s sister. She is a mother to many children and is experiencing problems with her husband after he left on a business trip.

The series portrays the ups and downs that this family experiences, and always leaves viewers eager to know what happens next.

I think that the show has become so popular because it depicts the charedi community in a whole new light. Many people think of charedim as very religious, old-fashioned people who do things in different and seemingly weird ways. In “Shtisel” viewers can see that charedim are people too and although they seem very different from most other Israelis, they actually have a lot in common as well. Minus the religious aspect, they conduct their lives in a very similar way. For example, the children go to school, parents go to work (or sometimes to learn at a yeshiva) and they have very similar problems such as children arguing with parents or financial stress.

Most Israelis, even religious ones, do not know very much about the charedi culture, and according to some charedim who have actually seen the show, it’s a pretty accurate portrayal of their lives beneath the black hats. I also think that some people watch it and don’t even think about the fact that the characters are charedi, but just that they are ordinary people that have interesting and sometimes relatable experiences. 

I have fallen in love with this show for many reasons. First and foremost, I love that I finally found a good show about a Jewish family. Growing up in America (I moved to Israel at age 13) none of the shows I watched ever had any Jewish characters and it saddened me that I could never relate to the characters from a religious perspective.

Also, I feel that as a Jew, I should know about levels of religious observance different from my own and this show is teaching me more about the fervently Orthodox  culture. I have always been curious about their lifestyles and what goes on in their day-to-day lives and I now know a bit more.  Some of the things that were so interesting for me, and I’m sure for other viewers as well, are what’s normal for charedi Jews, but seem so strange like the fact that the parents’ beds are separated and that young children barely learn any general studies in school.

This show has opened a door into a whole new world for me. I really appreciate the entertainment it provides along with the new things it has taught me. The show is also very well made and I enjoy watching it. In fact, the show is so successful that an American adaptation of the show is now in production and will air on Amazon. Titled “Emmis,” the featured family will live in Brooklyn. 

Teaser:

Israeli teens love ‘Shtisel,’ the TV show about a charedi family, whose characters are remarkably relatable.   

ArticlePath: /articles/modern-family
ImagePath: public://shtisel-slide.png
Tags: Brooklyn, charedim, Shtisel, TV
NID: 361
Date: Thursday, November 10, 2016 - 07:38
AuthorBio:
Shira Wilf is a senior at Milken Community Schools in Los Angeles. 
Title: Planting For The Future
Subtitle:
Judi Bari spoke for the trees and I admire her selflessness.
Body:

During Judi Bari's short life she fought to protect the West Coast's redwood trees. Pixabay

When I was an energetic child in Hebrew school I was taught a story from the Talmud about an old man planting a tree. When the old man was questioned for planting the tree that he would not live long enough to see grow, his response was short and simple, “The tree is not for me, it is for my descendants.” To create a movement that would bring about change that he would never see characterized a new kind of hero for me. No longer did I want to be just a superhero — I wanted to be a selfless one. Planting the seed for future generations embodied what I wanted to do with my life and what Judi Bari, an environmental activist, had done with hers.

Photo of Judi BariJudi Bari was a strong-headed woman in a time when women were patronized. It was about 10 years after the civil rights era when her rise to activism in a male-dominated organization for the environment truly arose. Bari strongly believed that the environment should not come at the cost of capitalism. In 1988 Bari joined the nonprofit Earth First! and became the critical organizer of events. Earth First! was a radical organization that aimed to protect the redwood forests in America through civil disobedience, machinery sabotage and road blockage. Judi Bari broke that radical approach. With a more pacifistic agenda, Bari enhanced the mission, “No Compromise in the Defense of Mother Earth!” by advocating through education in colleges and sitting in trees to prevent the trees from being cut down. Bari took the first step to solving any problem: educating and fighting apathy. Even though she had a single voice in the matter, her voice rang loud, inspiring future generations to advocate for earth. (Photo: Judi Bari outside the courthouse in Oakland, Calif., 1995. Wikipedia)

When the redwood trees were being cut down, Judi Bari fought to protect them. When she did not agree with the radicalism of Earth First!, she changed their approach to saving the environment. Judi Bari took a stand for what she believed. Although she became the target of a bomb blowing up in her car, after the accident she still stood by what she believed was right. The redwood forests are still around because Judi Bari, and many other activists, took a stand to protect them. The most heroic thing someone can accomplish is selflessness. Judi Bari was a selfless woman fighting for what she wanted to leave behind for the future generations until her death in 1997. There is a famous saying, “If you know the world is going to end, plant a tree.” I hope when my world ends I will have planted forests of hope for future generations — just like Judi Bari. 

Teaser:

Judi Bari spoke for the trees and I admire her selflessness. 

ArticlePath: /articles/planting-future
ImagePath: public://woods-slide.jpg
Tags: civil rights, environment, tree
NID: 360
Date: Tuesday, November 8, 2016 - 06:25
AuthorBio:
Liora Finkel is a junior at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, N.J. 
Title: To Be Released On Nov. 8
Subtitle:
Now screening: “The Election Of 2016”
Body:

Getty Images 

In addition to our daily lives,
we will be faced with watching the most realistic horror movie,
and only
“We The People, Of The United States”
will be able to write the script in real time.
The movie is called
“The Election Of 2016.”
It will be released on Nov. 8.

What will feel like the ending of this movie,
will not be the real end.
B’ezrat Hashem, it will continue being written forever.

The script is nearly done.
So far we know,

one suspect is being investigated for putting the people she was leading in danger,
one suspect has bragged about everything he has done legally and morally wrong,
and the other suspects… eh, they are just unlikely people of interest.

The role that “We The People, Of The United States” has is that by voting,
they can choose the final person of interest.

The voting lasts all day
on Nov. 8.
Children will be spending their day playing outside as usual.
Students will have their own lives at school as usual.
Adults will go to work as usual.

Everyone will be spending the day, weighing the options.
Which person of interest will benefit them the most?
Which person of interest will agree with them the most?
Which person of interest will best aid their family
                          And the rest of the Children of Israel,
      their house,
      their home
                          and Israel
      their people,
      their gender,
      their community
                          and the greater Jewish community.

“We The People, Of The United States” will come home after they vote, and watch the live results.

The script has been written.

And the person of interest is…
to be released on Nov. 8.

Teaser:

Now screening: “The Election Of 2016” 

ArticlePath: /articles/be-released-nov-8
ImagePath: public://gettyimages-515755492.jpg
Tags: election, Israel, poem
NID: 360
Date: Tuesday, November 8, 2016 - 06:25
AuthorBio:
Liora Finkel is a junior at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, N.J. 
Title: To Be Released On Nov. 8
Subtitle:
Now screening: “The Election Of 2016”
Body:

Getty Images 

In addition to our daily lives,
we will be faced with watching the most realistic horror movie,
and only
“We The People, Of The United States”
will be able to write the script in real time.
The movie is called
“The Election Of 2016.”
It will be released on Nov. 8.

What will feel like the ending of this movie,
will not be the real end.
B’ezrat Hashem, it will continue being written forever.

The script is nearly done.
So far we know,

one suspect is being investigated for putting the people she was leading in danger,
one suspect has bragged about everything he has done legally and morally wrong,
and the other suspects… eh, they are just unlikely people of interest.

The role that “We The People, Of The United States” has is that by voting,
they can choose the final person of interest.

The voting lasts all day
on Nov. 8.
Children will be spending their day playing outside as usual.
Students will have their own lives at school as usual.
Adults will go to work as usual.

Everyone will be spending the day, weighing the options.
Which person of interest will benefit them the most?
Which person of interest will agree with them the most?
Which person of interest will best aid their family
                          And the rest of the Children of Israel,
      their house,
      their home
                          and Israel
      their people,
      their gender,
      their community
                          and the greater Jewish community.

“We The People, Of The United States” will come home after they vote, and watch the live results.

The script has been written.

And the person of interest is…
to be released on Nov. 8.

Teaser:

Now screening: “The Election Of 2016” 

ArticlePath: /articles/be-released-nov-8
ImagePath: public://vote-slide.jpg
Tags: election, Israel, poem
NID: 359
Date: Thursday, November 3, 2016 - 17:28
AuthorBio:
Audrey Mokhtarzadeh is a junior at Milken Community Schools in Los Angeles. 
Title: Hidden Glory
Subtitle:
My semester abroad revealed how fast friendships form and how easily Israel could feel like home.
Body:

Room 33: The author, standing on the right, with her roommates at Alexander Muss High School in Israel. Photos courtesy of Audrey Mokhtarzadeh 

My mind and body in sync, saying goodbye seemed so simple in the months of preparation. The plans sounded so painless: search, pack, and we’re off. Until it wasn’t.

As time progressed, my fantasy became more real. My fear of living in Israel for four months with 35 classmates on the Tiferet program grew. (Tiferet means glory in Hebrew.) Quick texts goodbye no longer seemed difficult, as my stomach churned at the thought of picking between black and white socks. In only a short amount of time, I had gone from ready to go, to waterfall-like tears holding me back.

Before I knew it, I could count the number of days till our departure on a single hand. Five days. Days of anxiety, attachment, anticipation, and aggravation.

Thoughts of Hebrew street signs, grocery shopping on my own, and long days of school had me second guessing my decision to go to Israel.

Three days and suddenly I’d forgotten how to let go.

Less than 24 hours. Any conversation about this “experience of a lifetime” as they called it, had my heart pumping; I was excited. Until I stood watching my parents cry, and my rapid heartbeat trembled with doubt. I was surrounded by loved ones I’d soon be leaving behind and as much as I wanted to believe them, my eyes blurry with tears made it difficult to see how amazing it would be.

* * *  

A few steps beyond the revolving doors of Ben Gurion Airport, and suddenly the citizens were no longer strangers, my peers more like brothers and sisters, and Israel no longer just a place on the map.

If I stood on the cart loaded with my suitcases I could see the “Welcome to Israel and Alexander Muss” sign in the distance. I was convinced that the three young adults holding each end of the enormous sign were representatives from the bus company. However, the nagging of 36 anxious, nervous and exhausted teenagers was immediately shot down by these three strangers — Ariel, Vered and Naomi — who would become our counselors, companions, guides, and would-be siblings. 

We were mostly strangers, these 36 out of 124 students from the Milken Community Schools Class of 2018, some of whom have never spoken a word to one another. We hit it off as a group on the bus from the airport. How well do you really know someone until you’ve watched them fall fast asleep in all sorts of weird positions on a 30-minute bus ride? Not as well as you thought, is what I’ll say. Quicker than expected, my fears began fading behind my search for glory in my new home, surrounded by my second family. (Photo: Members of the Milken group at Tel Dan.)

Exiting Route 5, Hod Hasharon exceeded my expectations. From my home in Los Angeles I was quick to paint a stereotypical image of the place as a desert. In my imagination, the asphalt streets were dirt paths, the cars more like camels, and the greenery a few palm trees here and there. Looking through the huge windows of Itzik’s bus, Hod Hasharon would soon be the place I’d know like the back of my hand.

Our mouths dropped in awe as the bus pulled into Mossensohn, the campus of Alexander Muss High School in Israel. Standing by the entrance of the flower garden, we met our fourth counselor, Itamar, who showed us to our dorms.

The path was rocky, but as we passed by the outdoor park, I could see our building; the only thing standing between me and my temporary house were black cats. Standing together on the patio, we looked onto our new home, four lavender walls with a roof. 

I remember the glass front door being much heavier than I’d expected. Swinging the door wide open, we walked right into what was known as the moadon, our common space. The white interior walls of the building contrasting against the yellow, green, and red leather couches immediately caught my eye.

I noticed the clean wood floors below me and the blemish-free, eggshell-white walls of my new home around me.

We ate pizza in the cafeteria, some comfort in a strange place, and then we were given the keys to our rooms.

“I call bottom bunk,” my roommates screamed on the way up. Running full force toward the door, there it was. Room 33: Audrey, Stephanie, Kayla, Sasha, and Alexa. 

The five of us prepared for our first night in Hod Hasharon.

* * *

Considering our jet-lag, the lively atmosphere of Room 33, and the anticipation for our first big day, 7 a.m. wake-up was difficult. A quick stop at the cafeteria for a perfectly fluffy pancake, a couple of wrong turns here and there, and I’d finally made it to class.

As students of Alexander Muss, we were enrolled in Core, the class which affected me beyond the classroom walls. Core focused on the history of the Jewish people and the Land of Israel from Biblical times until current conflicts, and it was the place where my Zionism and Jewish pride were integrated into the formation of my identity.

Our Core teacher, Gavriel, gave one of the most important pieces of advice: “The experience will fly by. Enjoy every second.”

Students stand proud of their country, Israel. One hundred and twenty days later, and Gavriel couldn’t have been more spot on. The moment we’d never imagined had arrived. Days before take-off, Kayla, Stephanie, Sasha, Alexa, and I slowly took down the pictures and posters which hung on the walls of our concrete jungle. For the remaining nights, the plain walls which once intimidated me, were again empty, only not like the start of our semester. Each wall, each indent, each dust bunny under the bed was a lasting artifact of our glory.

May 26, 2016: The hardest goodbyes yet. Standing in the common area I was enveloped with new feelings. Looking down and all around, the furniture, the floors, and the walls, which were once brand new, were marked by mud from hikes, water fights, and crazy 2 a.m. dance parties.

Standing in my empty room tears streaming down my face, it was time to soak up what was left of my experience, hand back my keys, and prepare for the remainder of our final, heartbreaking day. My legs in sync with my heart, I couldn't step out the door.

While most students walked out of the heavy glass door fairly quickly, I was hesitant to let the building go. Each corner of the moadon filled my heart with a past memory. The right corner of the ceiling: the home of the bird who got stuck in our dorm. The bulletin wall: a place covered with emergency phone numbers and group announcements. The right wall: where we played Just Dance 2. Looking onto each corner of the room, the walls of my new home felt as if they were beginning to crumble.

Closing my eyes, the empty room before me felt compact. It was there, standing with my eyes shut, where I found my Glory.

Glory is having a face-to-face conversation getting to know someone.

It’s pushing the boundaries, facing consequences, but learning from them.

It’s dropping whatever it is you’re doing to help a friend.

Glory is walking through the hail in the desert.

It’s bonfires with arms wrapped around one another.

It’s watching the sunrise hiking up Masada.

Glory is standing in solidarity with those who passed away so that I could be here today.

It’s waking up to Reuven’s rendition of Rise and Shine.

It’s Gavriel’s ability to teach us to have faith in one day.

Glory is water fights in the middle of dirty lakes.

It’s paint fights on a Shabbat afternoon.

It’s singing at the top of your lungs in the shower.

Glory is in every bite of a schnitzel sandwich.

Glory is sitting on the bare ground of my home, the Land of Israel.

Glory is written along the walls of Room 33.

Glory is in all of us, Tiferet 2016.

Walking out of the dorm, holding that glass door one last time, wiping the tears off my face, it was time to remember the glory and cherish it forever.

Since my return from Israel, there isn't a single day when I forget my pride, love, appreciation, and connection to my home 7,536 miles away.

I have successfully found a way to bring the glory of the walls of my dorm into my bedroom in Los Angeles: physically, by hanging pictures and souvenirs of my experience, and emotionally, by continuing to see the glory in myself, my people, my homeland, in conversations and new experiences so that the glorious moments will no longer be overlooked or forgotten. 

Teaser:

My semester abroad revealed how fast friendships form and how easily Israel could feel like home. 

ArticlePath: /articles/hidden-glory
ImagePath: public://11-4-webbox-freshink.jpg
Tags: AMHSI, dorm, Israel, Zionism
NID: 358
Date: Tuesday, October 11, 2016 - 09:41
AuthorBio:
Jordie Priesman is a junior at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Md.
Title: Yahrtzeit
Subtitle:
A poem of remembrance.
Body:

The yahrtzeit flame: For 24 hours you are here with me. Wikipedia 

The heat of your soul warms my face
From the light of the candle.
For 24 hours, once a year,
You are here
With me,
Even though I never met you
I know
It’s you. 
I stare at my reflection next to the flame
In the pool of wax,
Except I don’t see me,
I see you.
From all the pictures on the wall.
I see you.
I know you.
I love you.

Teaser:

A poem of remembrance. 

ArticlePath: /articles/yahrtzeit
ImagePath: public://10-14-webbox-freshink.jpg
Tags: candle, love, yahrtzeit
NID: 357
Date: Thursday, October 6, 2016 - 08:13
AuthorBio:
Title: Apply For Fresh Ink's Editorial Board
Subtitle:
Applications for our inaugural board are due October 31.
Body:

Join the diverse leadership of Fresh Ink for Teens. Fotolia 

Fresh Ink for Teens (FIT) is accepting applications for the 2016-2017 Editorial Board. This select group of creative and responsible high school students will work closely with the editor on developing new content for the website and on recruiting writers. Members of the editorial board will gain professional journalism experience and exposure to an international audience of readers. 

The Editorial Board will be tasked with coming up with timely topics for writers to pursue, related to Jewish holidays, high school programming, current events, milestones in teenagers lives, and more. The board and editor will hold virtual meetings and will be in regular contact through a closed Facebook group.

Members of the board will reflect the diversity of the Jewish teen community and should be outside-of-the-box thinkers who feel passionate about their opinions and expressing them through writing.

FIT is a showcase for Jewish teens to publish their original writing, poetry and artwork. FIT covers all topics, such as family, sports, college, and activism, all through a Jewish lens. It’s a project of the Jewish Week Media Group based in New York City and participation is open to all Jewish high school-aged students, no geographic restrictions. 

 

Requirements:

-Identify as Jewish- Be enrolled in high school or equivalent home-schooling program 

 

Responsibilities Include:

- Writing a minimum of two  articles during the 2016-2017 academic year

- Participating in Editorial Board meetings and discussions

- Sharing FIT content on personal social media outlets

- Acting as a FIT ambassador by promoting the website and recruiting new writers

 

Benefits:

- A respected credential on your high school resume

- Practical journalism and writing experience

- Developing a relationship with FIT affiliates, The Jewish Week and The Times of Israel 

 

Have questions? Contact us at freshinkforteens@jewishweek.org

I'm ready to apply for an Editorial Board position. 
 

Teaser:

Applications for our inaugural board are due October 31. 

ArticlePath: /articles/apply-fresh-inks-editorial-board
ImagePath: public://fotolia_64265444_m.jpg
Tags: application, board, Fresh Ink, leadership
NID: 356
Date: Wednesday, September 28, 2016 - 11:45
AuthorBio:
Deena Abittan is a junior at Manhattan High School for Girls in New York.
Title: Peas Pass The Carrots
Subtitle:
On Rosh HaShanah the foods we eat are spiced with meaning.
Body:

Vegetables that have symbolic meaning on Rosh HaShanah include carrots, beets and leeks. Pixabay

Of all the Jewish holidays, the one that comes to mind as being the most symbolically connected to food is Rosh HaShanah. On Rosh HaShanah we eat specific foods as a merit for us to have a good year. Food draws people together; after bonding over a shared meal, warm feelings for one another fill the air which is a crucial part of our holiday. If we want to be forgiven by God for all of our sins, we must be amiable to our fellow people, which is the crux of Rosh HaShanah.

Most of my holiday memories are connected to food. With different ethnic customs, come different food traditions. In elementary school, I was the odd one out whose Rosh HaShanah simanim (symbolic foods) included leeks, beets, gourd — an orange vegetable that tastes like a cross between a pumpkin and squash — and black-eyed peas. Prior to eating any of the simanim, a specific bracha is said in hopes that these foods represent the various blessings we ask of Hashem for the coming year. For example, we eat the black-eyed peas and then say a bracha that Hashem should multiple our good deeds and increase them over our bad ones. Although I never eat leeks unless they are in soup, I avoid beets because of the smell, I only like roasted gourd, and I hate peas, I make an effort to eat these foods to follow my Sephardic traditions. Most years I try to taste at least two or three of the simanim I usually avoid, when I was in seventh grade I decided to eat every single food, no matter how repulsive it was to me. Despite gagging over the slimy black-eyed peas, that Rosh HaShanah, when I was 12 years old, was the only time I ever managed to choke down all the simanim. The boiled lamb head is displayed on the holiday table.

Throughout all my years in school, I appreciated being different and loved explaining to my classmates how I have unique customs because of my Moroccan heritage. My favorite is my family's custom to eat a lamb's head on Rosh HaShanah, in place of the customary fish head. My mother orders the lamb's head from our local Jewish supermarket and a few days before Rosh HaShanah my father boils the lamb. Although my mother is the resident chef of our family, cleaning and cooking the lamb's head, with its brown teeth still intact, is something she stays far away from. Instead, my father, who usually sticks to cooking pasta and grilling hamburgers, hot dogs, and steaks, creates a marinade for the lamb's head and boils it. Ironically my sisters, who are the pickiest eaters I know, fight over the last bits of the salty, brown, boiled lamb that reminds me of the taste of ribs. (Photo: The heads of lamb are beautifully displayed on the Abittan holiday table. Courtesy of Deena Abittan)

As we usher in our new year, very different than the secular new year, I am grateful for my family's Rosh HaShanah customs. They set me apart and give me the opportunity to appreciate my heritage. By starting off the year reminded of my family’s unique past, I feel inspired to live up to my ancestors’ examples and strive to be the best person I can be.

In the great Moroccan tradition of simanim, I hope this year brings you more good deeds than bad ones, and for all of us, victory over our enemies.

Teaser:

On Rosh HaShanah the foods we eat are spiced with meaning. 

ArticlePath: /articles/peas-pass-carrots
ImagePath: public://9-30-webbox-slide.png
Tags: beets, lamb, Moroccan, Rosh HaShanah
NID: 354
Date: Thursday, September 22, 2016 - 11:00
AuthorBio:
Jordie Priesman is a junior at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Md. 
Title: Finding My New Jewish Home
Subtitle:
How my cross-country move changed me, but not my Jewish pride.
Body:

Everybody dance now! The author, third row on right wearing glasses and a gray sweatshirt, with her Israeli dance troupe. Courtesy of Jordie Priesman 

I was born and raised in California, and it wasn’t until four years ago that I moved to the Washington, D.C., area. When I lived in California I knew I was Jewish, I went to a Jewish day school and went to shul semi-regularly, but looking back, I honestly didn’t feel a major connection. Sure, I was proud to be Jewish, and sure I knew some Hebrew, but I personally didn’t feel a connection between myself and Judaism.

That was before I turned 12.

Once I was 12, I began preparing for my bat mitzvah. I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to be counted as a full member of the Jewish community, to be counted in a minyan and wear a tallit. To me, it was an honor, a coming of age. At my shul in California, the rabbis required upcoming b’nai mitzvot to go to shul every Saturday for what they called Dovenor’s Clinic. We would meet in the wee hours of the morning (8 a.m.) and discuss a different topic every week. Then we would go into the main service and, as a class, lead the Shacharit service. It was a way of getting us used to leading the services as well as learning the prayers. Then we would go into a separate room and work with our tutor on whatever she had assigned us the previous week.

Every week I went, and every week I loved it. (OK, maybe I loved the cookies our tutor brought practically every week, but still.) I did this for a few months until, long story short, my parents informed my brother and me that Abba had gotten a job in D.C., and we’d be moving.

In the middle of my bat mitzvah training.

I had already learned my haftorah and was working on my Torah readings. Now I may have to start all over, at a new shul, with new people, for a completely different parasha!? Sorry, that just wasn’t going to happen. However, we moved, and began our shul shopping. 

Every Shabbat morning, we would go to a different shul. We would discuss as a family the pros and cons of each (location, the rabbi and hazzan, the people, the color of the rugs, etc.). We would go back to a few that we thought were possibilities, and try those out again.

One snowy Shabbat morning, we went to yet another shul, Har Shalom, in Potomac, Md., just as we had been doing for the past month or so. When we walked in, we were shocked. The sanctuary was beautiful and wooden, and very open. The windows allowed in a lot of natural light, and it was beautiful to watch the snow fall as I recited the Amidah prayer. The scenery, however, is not what sticks with me to this day. What does, however, is what happened after — at kiddush.

I got my plate of bagel, cream cheese and lox, and sat down with my family. We didn’t know anyone, so just chose a random table. We talked with a few people who were nice and welcoming. Suddenly, someone walked up behind us, and was talking to us. He recognized that we were new, and wanted to come and introduce himself.

It was the rabbi. He had come over with his oldest daughter, who was about my age, and introduced us, so that I could have a friend. Then, the hazzan came and introduced himself and family, and soon we were laughing and talking as if we had been there since day one. It was really nice. My family and I were welcomed there, right away, and it is no doubt that we did end up joining the shul.

From the start, it was almost an immediate fit. I became very involved there, as well as in Har Shalom’s USY chapter. I volunteered on Sunday mornings as a madricha, and taught kids Hebrew. I frequently read Torah. I held several positions on various boards within USY. I even found an amazing Israeli dance troupe that I fell in love with.

Then one day, it hit me. I had found it. I had found my connection. I don’t know how long I had actually felt it before I realized it, but once I did, I knew it for sure. I felt the connection I had for so long been lacking to Judaism. I loved it. It felt so good, I practically smiled for days. The move to Maryland, and Har Shalom specifically, had allowed me to find that connection. For the first time, I would look forward to go going to shul to see my friends and shmooze. Joining Har Shalom, for me, was more than merely just joining a synagogue, it was an entirely new and wonderful community for me to be in.

Today, I am just as in love with Har Shalom as I was that first snowy morning we walked in. It has been a great change, and I can’t think of what my life would be had we not joined.

I am still reading Torah. I am still teaching Hebrew. I am still very involved in USY. I am still a member of that same Israeli dance troupe.

Most of all, however, I am still proud to be a Jew.

Jordie Priesman is a junior at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Md.
 

Teaser:

How my cross-country move changed me, but not my Jewish pride.  

ArticlePath: /articles/finding-my-new-jewish-home
ImagePath: public://9-23-freshink-2.jpg
Tags: bat mitzvah, Israeli dance, shul, USY
NID: 353
Date: Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 10:19
AuthorBio:
Shuli Weinstein is a junior at Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pa. 
Title: The Blessing Of A Jewish Camp
Subtitle:
Shabbat dinners and singing zmirot are among the highlights of my summer.
Body:

Besties at Camp Yavneh: Friendships formed at sleepaway camp last a lifetime. The author is the second person from the right. Courtesy of Shuli Weinstein.

Sad as it is, summer 2016 is over and the long school days have begun. But it is never too soon to begin thinking about next summer’s big plans. I beg that you look into a Jewish summer program which could include either an overnight camp or a teen tour; I promise that the program will change your life forever. You will come to understand why each year, thousands of Jewish youth excitedly await their next summer at one of the hundreds of Jewish overnight camps or tours around the United States or Israel. I am one of those kids who counts down the days to return to my summer home, Camp Yavneh in Northwood, N.H. I have attended this amazing place for the past eight summers.

I bring home from camp an infinite amount of memories and experiences. These memories include paint night, reading Torah, late night barbecues, leading zmirot (Jewish songs), and white water rafting. While many campers learn to play a new sport or how to sail, teens who attend Jewish camps learn these skills plus many lessons they will carry with them for a lifetime.

First, the relationships formed at camp are unbelievable. The Jewish world is small so people who have attended a Jewish camp find many connections through mutual friends later on in life. In the past few years I have found dozens of Yavneh alumnae at various places such as my host family for the Maccabi Games in Milwaukee and through conversations with older members of my synagogue, Adath Israel in Merion Station, Pa.  Camp connections seem especially helpful during the college years. Dozens of my older friends found roommates for freshmen year by using camp friend connections. Later in life, connections with fellow campers may lead to job opportunities.

Teens who attend a Jewish overnight camp learn so much about Judaism. They recite morning prayers, the blessings before and after the meals, and learn how to read Torah. Campers are also exposed to how Shabbat is traditionally celebrated including the lighting of the candles, the words and tunes of the blessings and the rules to follow to keep the day holy. Many campers may not follow all of these traditions at home so experiencing them at camp feels special. Some of my friends have only been to synagogue or had Shabbat dinner a handful of times in their lives, however, at camp we have a festive Friday night dinner every week with matzah ball soup, challah, and a variety of chicken. We also sing zmirot and have a Friday night tisch filled with slow songs before going to sleep. Camp exposes Jewish youth to the traditions that come with observing Jewish practices.

Campers also learn to love the ruach, or spirit, of Judaism. Some of my favorite Shabbat songs from Camp Yavneh include, “Hamalach Hagoel” and “B'shem Hashem.” To recreate summer’s treasured moments at home, I have enjoyed teaching my family and friends many of the songs we sing on Friday nights. These fun singing and dancing experiences create strong ties between camp friends and with the Jewish religion.

Finally, Jewish camps expose teens to the incredible and unique culture of Israel through programming such as mock shuks and Israel day, where we make pita and participate in army training exercises. These events educate campers in a fun and memorable way. Some camps also incorporate Hebrew into their programming to establish a foundation in the language.

These camps host Israel-related activities, to foster support of Israel, and encourage teens to travel there as well. Many Jewish camps offer an Israel trip before junior or senior year, after campers have completed their on-site experiences. I am so excited to attend Na’aleh next summer. Na’aleh is the oldest division in camp and includes a six-week trip to Israel. After we complete our trip, we head to camp for one day to tell the younger age groups about our amazing experiences and answer any questions they might have about the Holy Land. As a young camper my dream was to float in the Dead Sea, and I wanted to hear all about their Dead Sea adventures. I can’t wait to share my own Dead Sea stories next summer. 

By attending a Jewish overnight camp, teens learn about more than sports and outdoor activities. It is vital that teens attend Jewish camps in order to keep the next generation engaged with our traditions and the Land of Israel. I urge everyone to consider these life-changing programs and sign up for a Jewish camp or teen tour in order to make summer 2017 amazing! You won’t regret your choice and will carry these amazing lessons, experiences and friendships with you for the rest of your life.

Teaser:

Shabbat dinners and singing zmirot are among the highlights of my summer. 

ArticlePath: /articles/blessing-jewish-camp
ImagePath: public://shuli-slide.png
Tags: barbecue, camp, Maccabi, Yavneh
NID: 352
Date: Thursday, September 8, 2016 - 16:54
AuthorBio:
Annie Cannon is a senior at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, N.J. 
Title: Singing To God
Subtitle:
Psalm 96 says “Sing to God.” I say gladly.
Body:

"Music and song are central to my life." The writer is in the front row, third singer from the right. Courtesy of HaZamir: The International Jewish High School Choir 

When the school year begins I am filled with excitement — no, not for the homework that awaits me, but for the start of the 24th season of HaZamir: The International Jewish High School Choir.  The beginnning of the new season means another year of great friendships, amazing memories, and, of course, an incredible, professional music experience and Jewish education. During the summer I miss music and HaZamir and cannot wait to be reunited with the faces and voices that have made the choir feel like my home since eighth grade.

Music and song are central to my life. Since I was a toddler, attending mommy-and-me music classes, I have loved to sing. I always have a song playing in my head. I have studied voice, learned many different styles of music from opera to Broadway to jazz, and feel so blessed to have a medium through which I can express myself.

Annie Cannon, member of HaZamir  I love singing in a choir even more than singing as a soloist; there is no feeling in the world like choral singing. Being surrounded by so many voices all singing a different part to combine into one masterpiece of harmonies is an indescribably powerful experience. Choral music has changed my life and who I am. My music has brought me to an amazing Jewish community, where I am blessed to be surrounded by more than 400 other teenagers who love music and Judaism as much as I do. (Photo: Annie Cannon, a proud member of HaZamir. Courtesy of Beth Cannon)

In Psalm 96 it says, “Sing to God a new song, sing to God the whole earth. Sing to God, blessing his name, announcing from day to day his saving.” What does it mean to sing a new song to God? This prayer is a call to us. We are being given a mission: to constantly compose a new song to God. What exactly is a “song to God?” Is it a prayer? Is it a religious piece of music?

I think that perhaps the song that Psalm 96 is referring to is not a literal song, but rather a metaphor for Jewish history. Like any musical composition, Jewish history has crescendos, decrescendos, sudden rests, and crescendos of revival. Like a musical piece, Judaism has had many ups and downs; it has survived many attempts to be muted and has always come back at full volume. If this song is Jewish history — the story of our people — then singing a new song allows us to continue composing Jewish history. This Psalm is a call for us to join our Jewish communities, care about the welfare of all Jews, and continue to make Judaism a vibrant religion.

Another special note about HaZamir is the strong connections I form with my peers in Israel. Every spring before our annual gala in Carnegie Hall, hundreds of HaZamirniks come together in upstate New York for a weekend filled with intense rehearsals. This weekend is the only time that all of the HaZamir chapters from across the United States and Israel are together. One of the highlights for the American singers is meeting the Israeli ones. While they live thousands of miles away from us, our shared love of music and our shared experiences in HaZamir unite us.

Through HaZamir I have strengthened my connection to IDF soldiers who protect Israel. One of the most emotional moments is when we sing our closing song, the prayer for peace in the State of Israel. The song is near and dear to every HaZamirnik’s heart, and one that brings tears to my eyes every time I sing it. During our weekend rehearsals, our maestro brings all of the 12th graders from Israel to the front of the room and reminds us that we are not singing to distant figures, but to our friends, who will be enlisting in the IDF in the coming year to ensure that we have the peaceful Israel that we pray for in our song.

HaZamir keeps my Judaism vibrant by giving me opportunities to sing world premieres of Jewish music. While the texts are often ancient and taken from Jewish liturgy, the music is brand new. By allowing us to “Sing a new song to God” we are literally fulfilling the call of Psalm 96, by adding a new verse to the resounding song of Jewish history.

In our spring gala we sang the world premiere of a composition of Psalm 96. Not only was this extremely symbolic because it was literally a “new song to God,” but also because it was composed by one of my peers, Samuel Dylan Rosner, a recent high school graduate from Westchester. Now it’s my generation’s turn to add verses to the new song, and to not just sing verses that have already been written for us. I cannot think of a better way to bring to life the values of Psalm 96.

I am lucky that music found me. Music has strengthened my Jewish identity and has given me a passion in life. I know that wherever my future takes me, I will always carry my tunes and my love of music.

Teaser:

Psalm 96 says “Sing to God,” I say gladly. 

ArticlePath: /articles/singing-god
ImagePath: public://hazamir_chamber_choir.jpg
Tags: choir, God, HaZamir, Psalm
NID: 352
Date: Thursday, September 8, 2016 - 16:54
AuthorBio:
Annie Cannon is a senior at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, N.J. 
Title: Singing To God
Subtitle:
Psalm 96 says “Sing to God.” I say gladly.
Body:

"Music and song are central to my life." The writer is in the front row, third singer from the right. Courtesy of HaZamir: The International Jewish High School Choir 

When the school year begins I am filled with excitement — no, not for the homework that awaits me, but for the start of the 24th season of HaZamir: The International Jewish High School Choir.  The beginnning of the new season means another year of great friendships, amazing memories, and, of course, an incredible, professional music experience and Jewish education. During the summer I miss music and HaZamir and cannot wait to be reunited with the faces and voices that have made the choir feel like my home since eighth grade.

Music and song are central to my life. Since I was a toddler, attending mommy-and-me music classes, I have loved to sing. I always have a song playing in my head. I have studied voice, learned many different styles of music from opera to Broadway to jazz, and feel so blessed to have a medium through which I can express myself.

Annie Cannon, member of HaZamir  I love singing in a choir even more than singing as a soloist; there is no feeling in the world like choral singing. Being surrounded by so many voices all singing a different part to combine into one masterpiece of harmonies is an indescribably powerful experience. Choral music has changed my life and who I am. My music has brought me to an amazing Jewish community, where I am blessed to be surrounded by more than 400 other teenagers who love music and Judaism as much as I do. (Photo: Annie Cannon, a proud member of HaZamir. Courtesy of Beth Cannon)

In Psalm 96 it says, “Sing to God a new song, sing to God the whole earth. Sing to God, blessing his name, announcing from day to day his saving.” What does it mean to sing a new song to God? This prayer is a call to us. We are being given a mission: to constantly compose a new song to God. What exactly is a “song to God?” Is it a prayer? Is it a religious piece of music?

I think that perhaps the song that Psalm 96 is referring to is not a literal song, but rather a metaphor for Jewish history. Like any musical composition, Jewish history has crescendos, decrescendos, sudden rests, and crescendos of revival. Like a musical piece, Judaism has had many ups and downs; it has survived many attempts to be muted and has always come back at full volume. If this song is Jewish history — the story of our people — then singing a new song allows us to continue composing Jewish history. This Psalm is a call for us to join our Jewish communities, care about the welfare of all Jews, and continue to make Judaism a vibrant religion.

Another special note about HaZamir is the strong connections I form with my peers in Israel. Every spring before our annual gala in Carnegie Hall, hundreds of HaZamirniks come together in upstate New York for a weekend filled with intense rehearsals. This weekend is the only time that all of the HaZamir chapters from across the United States and Israel are together. One of the highlights for the American singers is meeting the Israeli ones. While they live thousands of miles away from us, our shared love of music and our shared experiences in HaZamir unite us.

Through HaZamir I have strengthened my connection to IDF soldiers who protect Israel. One of the most emotional moments is when we sing our closing song, the prayer for peace in the State of Israel. The song is near and dear to every HaZamirnik’s heart, and one that brings tears to my eyes every time I sing it. During our weekend rehearsals, our maestro brings all of the 12th graders from Israel to the front of the room and reminds us that we are not singing to distant figures, but to our friends, who will be enlisting in the IDF in the coming year to ensure that we have the peaceful Israel that we pray for in our song.

HaZamir keeps my Judaism vibrant by giving me opportunities to sing world premieres of Jewish music. While the texts are often ancient and taken from Jewish liturgy, the music is brand new. By allowing us to “Sing a new song to God” we are literally fulfilling the call of Psalm 96, by adding a new verse to the resounding song of Jewish history.

In our spring gala we sang the world premiere of a composition of Psalm 96. Not only was this extremely symbolic because it was literally a “new song to God,” but also because it was composed by one of my peers, Samuel Dylan Rosner, a recent high school graduate from Westchester. Now it’s my generation’s turn to add verses to the new song, and to not just sing verses that have already been written for us. I cannot think of a better way to bring to life the values of Psalm 96.

I am lucky that music found me. Music has strengthened my Jewish identity and has given me a passion in life. I know that wherever my future takes me, I will always carry my tunes and my love of music.

Teaser:

Psalm 96 says “Sing to God,” I say gladly. 

ArticlePath: /articles/singing-god
ImagePath: public://hazamir-choir.png
Tags: choir, God, HaZamir, Psalm
NID: 351
Date: Wednesday, September 7, 2016 - 11:18
AuthorBio:
Sruli Fruchter is a junior at DRS Yeshiva High School for Boys in Woodmere, L.I.
Title: ‘Sausage Party’ Is Stuffed With Racism
Subtitle:
The popular summer film is anything but funny.
Body:

Actors Lauren Miller and Seth Rogen attend in Westwood, Calif. the world premiere of Rogen's animated film, "Sausage Party."  Getty Images

With comedy-gold films such as “The Interview” and “Superbad,” Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have had an undeniably brilliant run. After taking the public by storm time and time again, I eagerly awaited the hilarity and genius to come from “Sausage Party.” When the trailer for the film was released, it only enhanced my craving to see it that much more. “Sausage Party” is a parody of popular animated films (with adult humor) that follows a sausage who adventures with his fellow comestibles to discover what awaits them beyond the grocery store shelves. While the trailer portrayed the film as yet another ingenious and hilarious film from Rogen and Goldberg, that was far from the reality. It exhibited the raunchy comedy and creative storyline —qualities very appealing to me as a viewer. However, the offensive humor and insensitive plot wasn’t exposed until the film hit theaters in August.

While “Sausage Party” appears kid-friendly with its Pixar-like animation, that mirage soon fades. As the opening song unfolds (“The Great Beyond”) the audience is given a glimpse of what lies in store for the remaining painful, 80 minutes: Nazi sauerkrauts sing about their life purpose to “exterminate the juice,” obviously referencing the Nazi’s goal of wiping out the Jews. Any film that ridicules the Holocaust is simply disgraceful. Rogen and Goldberg drew humor from the torture and genocide of more than six million Jews; they satirized Holocaust horrors for a cheap gag in “Sausage Party,” and that in itself is enough to expose the movie’s insensitivity. Unfortunately, the offensive “humor” in this despicable film does not end there.

In all comedies, there’s a thin line between drawing laughs from sensitive topics and having a movie rely on crude and racially offensive humor. “Sausage Party” falls far beyond that line; nearly every character is based on a racial stereotype. For instance, there’s a lesbian Mexican taco; a sly, tequila bottle with a thick “Mexican” accent; and a gay Twinkie. None of them should be regarded as strictly satire because their depictions are offensive. “Sausage Party” is a racist and sexist movie that is very uncomfortable to sit through. Being a Jew, it’s painful to watch “Sausage Party” prey on minorities for a cheap laugh.

It’s shocking that many viewers look beyond the racist remarks and offensive humor, arguing that it’s a comedy and anything controversial can be justified with humor. The evidence of this ridiculous premise is evident in the $33 million “Sausage Party” raked in during its opening box office weekend, making it the largest August opening ever for an animated film, according to forbes.com.

Rogen and Goldberg pitched “Sausage Party” for years and the project eventually received funding. However, once the film was released it did nothing but negatively influence society and help turn the clock back. With all of the public service campaigns to counteract racial stereotyping and promote equality (such as MTV’s Look Different [link]), it’s appalling to watch a film that offsets the positive messages these campaigns send. Through its mockery of the Holocaust, racist and offensive humor and support and praise from the media, “Sausage Party” disparages serious matters that exist in society. This goes to show that a derogatory film flooded with offensive humor isn’t acceptable just because it’s showcased through animated grocery foods.

 

Teaser:

The popular summer film is anything but funny.

ArticlePath: /articles/%E2%80%98sausage-party%E2%80%99-stuffed-racism
ImagePath: public://seth-slide-1.png
Tags: Holoaust, Pixar, sausage, Seth Rogen
NID: 350
Date: Thursday, September 1, 2016 - 10:01
AuthorBio:
Alexandra Freund is a senior at Milken Community Schools in Los Angeles.
Title: Say “Cheese!”
Subtitle:
I capture my memories in Polaroid pictures then tack the mementos onto my wall.
Body:

The writer with her beloved Polaroid camera. Photos courtesy Alexandra Freund

Editor’s Note: Alexandra Freund was a finalist in the 2016 Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing. The national contest sought essays on a significant advancement in science, medicine or technology by a living or deceased Jewish-American. Writers were asked to explain how this innovation impacts lives and why it is meaningful to them. The contest was sponsored by the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and The Jewish Week Media Group.

My mother has always had an affinity for scrapbooks. A freelance photographer, she gets a natural high from holding her art in its physical form, rather than intangible snapshots constrained on an iPhone. Memories from my childhood — outings to the Will Rogers park, prancing in the backyard with our shaggy Newfoundland, playing dress-up with a feather boa — are dotted with images of my mother, half of her face concealed behind the camera, her eye focused on the viewfinder. The constant pop of the flash thrilled me, as did the immediate print of the photo. As a high school senior, I often find myself nostalgic about my past. When I crack the spine of a scrapbook, I feel grateful that my priceless childhood memories have been captured by the Polaroid camera, an invention of Edwin Land. (Photo: Alexandra's childhood is documented in her mother's scrapbooks.) Pages from her mother's scrapbook.

Land was born in Bridgeport, Conn. — 22 miles from my Dad’s home in Stamford — to parents of Eastern European Jewish descent. He invented the Polaroid J-sheet, the revolutionary first era of Polaroid film, in New York as a 19-year-old Harvard University student. This achievement did not come easily to Land and sneaking into Columbia University to use their lab became a nightly activity. This zealous motivation drove Land to develop the improved H-sheet 10 years later, a film composed of polyvinyl alcohol chains with attached iodine atoms that have been stretched in such a way that consumed light portrays an image.

Land’s achievements transcended physicality; he was also an emphatic patron of equality. Land hired women, not as secretaries, but for research and management positions, a feat unmatched by his contemporaries. While people of color were often turned away by big companies, Land welcomed minorities into his, creating a bond between Polaroid and affirmative action programs. Although Land’s investors were frustrated with his actions, he insisted on managing his business based on the ethics of science and the morals of humanity. As I am a member of a female empowerment club and an advocate for gender equality, Land’s liberal work ethic reassures me that there are progressive individuals that will welcome me into the workplace regardless of my gender.

Edwin Land has allowed for my memories to be saved for the rest of my life. When I asked my mom for my own Polaroid camera, her eyes lit up. I bring my Polaroid camera everywhere with me, from Barcelona to my backyard. I pin my various pictures on the wall next to my bed where I see them every morning as I wake up. In the words of Land himself, “the ways to tell young people what we know as we grow older — the permanent and wonderful things about life — will be one of the great functions of this system.” When my mother shows me Polaroids of my childhood, just as I will my own children, Edwin Land—innovator, activist, Jew—will cross my mind. And I will thank him.

Teaser:

I capture my memories in Polaroid pictures and tack the mementos onto my wall.  

ArticlePath: /articles/say-%E2%80%9Ccheese%E2%80%9D
ImagePath: public://freund.png
Tags: Alexander Award, Land, Polaroid, scrapbook
NID: 349
Date: Thursday, August 18, 2016 - 06:47
AuthorBio:
Anna Sharudenko is a sophomore. She is home-schooled in Los Angeles.
Title: One Victory Against Death
Subtitle:
Self-confidence and inner strength were my weapons in my mother’s battle against cancer.
Body:

Anna Sharudenko, pictured at right with her mother, wanted to record her journey to becoming a strong and wise teen. Photo courtesy of Anna Sharudenko

As I see the wax begin melting, I deeply inhale the scent. The Shabbat candles become misshapen and silently weep. Yet the flames — I see you there for an eternity. Your luminescent soul, it lights up my bleak heart. Mother, your presence in my soul will never fade. 

I open my siddur, glance to the right and you are there. Chazzan begins to chant. The synagogue ceiling’s vividly painted patterns shine down on your face. You turn your head and quietly warn me, with an upset voice, to pay attention and start behaving appropriately. I focus on the prayer; however, a thought suddenly crosses my mind:  What if I never hear your voice again? 

As I type these lines at 1:24 a.m., due to my insomnia, I have flashbacks and memories flowing through my head. I remember sitting on the third floor of the chemotherapy transfusion center and staring at the people walking outside. I analyzed their style of walking or the clothes they wore. The small details of people's body language were helping me forget about the nauseous cancer patient, my mother, who was lying on a bed next to me. I simply could not think about her situation.

Her dry lips whispered and she grabbed a pink tray and began vomiting. I ran out of the tiny room we were stuck in and called for a nurse. After the nurse came in, she injected another dose of a medication designed to prevent nausea, a side effect of chemotherapy.

I then left the room with cold hands trembling, locked myself in the restroom and stood in front of the mirror. I wanted to scream and let out all of the built-up torture, sadness, frustration, irritation and hopelessness which had collected in my naïve soul. But I didn’t. That moment made me stronger.

In my fight against cancer, I learned to be determined to succeed in all areas of my life. I learned not to be embarrassed and embrace who I am. I learned to cherish my loved ones sincerely. I learned how to overcome my shyness, my reluctance to speak English and self-consciousness over my Russian accent. I learned how to appreciate myself.

This summer I decided to pour my mind out in a Word document and reflect on my experience. In 10 years these memories will not be fresh, yet my essay will help me remember my life, my mother and who I was. I want to see myself becoming stronger and wiser. Expressing my feelings is a necessity or else I will eventually develop into an emotionless creature trapped in a cage of misery. Even though frustration still occurs in my soul, I must admit that my future seems brighter than it did previously because my mother will be there.

Two things about my past frustrate me the most. The first one is how didn’t I spot cancer in my mother. I assumed that she looked and acted exhausted because she was. Her face changed and became strange and unfamiliar since the cancer’s first occurrence in her body. I did not see it in her. I still consider the fact that I did not notice it very sad. I do not blame myself, yet I experience disgust at my stupidity.

The second and the final thing is that I matured too quickly. Throughout the course of my mother’s treatment, I acted as my mother’s advocate. I often had to translate in discussions with the doctors and also during procedures. I became very determined to find out exactly what had been communicated. I had to be insistent to get them to explain the medical terminology.

My mother’s illness caused me to be absent from my middle school classes often. I lost connections with my friends and developed social anxiety. I was not ready to talk about the horrible events happening in my life. Then a teacher intentionally mentioned my mother’s illness in the classroom. He did not mention any names or focus the students’ attention on me; however, we made eye contact. It felt as if my brain blocked out all of my surroundings and I was listening only to the teacher’s words. He inspired me to open up and be rid of the torturous burden that was taking away my social life.

After long weeks of speechlessness and hearing phrases, such as “Anna, are you okay?” I told many people of the struggles my family and I faced.

Surprisingly, most kids accepted me.

I felt I could breathe in oxygen again after being submerged deep under water.

Today I am a homeschooled, straight-A student. I chose this educational path in order to spend more time with my mother. She is receiving doses of two cancer-fighting medications. One of them, Letrozole, lowers her estrogen level and a side effect is pain in her joints and bones. My family and I are in close consultation with her doctor and she’s feeling better.

This summer I am taking classes to finish high school early; I want to start my law career. I plan to major in psychology, finish law school and pass the bar exam. In that journey for success, I am also hoping to find happiness. I am determined to make my mother proud.

I am extremely thankful to God for providing my family and me with the strength to battle this sickness.

 

Teaser:

Self-confidence and inner strength were my weapons in my mother’s battle against cancer. 

ArticlePath: /articles/one-victory-against-death
ImagePath: public://sharudenko_fr_chuck.jpg
Tags: cancer, homeschool, mother, Russian
NID: 348
Date: Wednesday, August 10, 2016 - 10:13
AuthorBio:
T.M. Oberman and Dovid Yehoshua Samuels are recent high school graduates in Israel. Eva Schottenstein is a rising senior at Bexley High School in Bexley, Ohio. 
Title: The Last Standing Wall
Subtitle:
I have felt the many tears that my children have wept.
Body:

It's been beaten and bruised, but the last standing wall remains steadfast. Photo courtesy of Eva Schottenstein.  

I am the last standing wall
For generations I’ve been alone
But finally now with centuries past
My children are finally home

I am the last standing wall
Made of large limestone brick
But for my prized Jewish people
I'm the last burning wick

Behind me used to stand
A palace of gold and stone
A castle for a King
Who needed no throne

But now I have burned
And been beaten and bruised
That blue and gold building
Forbidden to Jews

I'm the last standing wall
I am all that is left
I have felt the many tears
That my children have wept

But one day will come
That will stop all the crying
For this we all wait for,
And plead for, and daven
 

Teaser:

I have felt the many tears that my children have wept. 

ArticlePath: /articles/last-standing-wall
ImagePath: public://wall_poem.jpg
Tags: gold, King, limestone, wall
NID: 347
Date: Wednesday, August 3, 2016 - 07:46
AuthorBio:
Audrey Mokhtarzadeh is a rising junior at the Milken Community Schools in Los Angeles.   
Title: A Girl On The Train
Subtitle:
The train is leaving, but where is my Abba?
Body:

A little girl sits alone on a train. Where is she heading? What happens next? You decide. Pixabay

The last I was with my Abba, we were in the Grand Train Station.

We were standing by a pole on the platform when my nagging finally got to him — I mean a 6-year-old has got that kind of an effect on her dad.

“Snookies, I’ll be back in five minutes,” he said to me in Hebrew as he ran toward Randy’s, the bar we had just passed on our walk over, while I sat patiently awaiting our departure. And so, I sat, one minute, two minutes, five minutes, 10 minutes — still no sign of my Abba.

I began to worry. Surrounded by thousands of people I felt trapped inside a box, unattended and all alone. I remembered what my Abba had told me before our official move, about talking to strangers, but I began tugging, in search for answers, on the red T-shirt of the teenage boy sitting on the bench in front of me. It was clear that a little girl like myself, nearly 6 years old, had struck no feelings within him; like a typical teenager, face stuck in the screen of his iPhone, he couldn’t be bothered by my request for assistance.

I tugged again, hoping he would turn. Still no response; my heart was racing in nothing but distress.

Finally, after another yank on his shirt, he turned, his head facing mine, my lips failing to move. He responded with a prompt “What’s up?” which I didn’t understand at the time. Frustrated with my inability to understand, I look around for clues, some sort of sign. Something written on his shirt, his skinny jeans and maybe even the navy blue baseball cap, which sat backwards on his head, when it suddenly began to shine. Through the corner of my eye I saw it, the Jewish star necklace, peeking through the v-neck of his T-shirt, and I jumped in excitement like a child on the first night of Chanukah. I spoke in Hebrew.

“Have you seen my Abba?” I asked, staring into the Star of David, the key to opening doors of communication, leading me on the path to my Abba. 

He was quick to question my words so I tried to remember the few English words Abba taught me on the ride here; unfortunately, my mind went blank. I waited, five minutes, another 10 and suddenly the train arrived, with no sign of Abba.

Pointing at his phone, I asked, “You have telephone?”

Finally he understood me, handing me his most prized possession, as I recalled a song that Abba taught me only a few weeks ago, to help me memorize his phone number. “Plus teysha, shevah, shtaim” (+ 972), I started, as the rest of the numbers slowly began to jumble in my head, the sound of the approaching train was all I could think about. I heard the train arrive on the tracks — trickity trap trickity trap followed by a choo choo — and the call for all Section One passengers to board (that included the teenage boy), but he waited as I stood singing Abba’s song, listening to each ring, hoping he’d pick up. 

Still no answer. 

“Last call for train number 313,” said the conductor looking into my worried, teary eyes, watching as children walked around with their parents, my Abba nowhere to be found.

Walking toward the train, the conductor handed me a chocolate chip cookie and an apple juice box while I showed him my ticket and he instructed me to hop onboard. Hesitantly I reached out my left foot first, grasped onto Fluffy, the stuffed bunny Abba gave me, as the conductor grabbed my Hello Kitty suitcase from behind me and I settled in my seat.

I watched as the other children sat beside their Abbas, the empty seat beside me, reflective of my life without my only parental figure, my greatest hero, my Abba. 

When suddenly outside my window Abba appeared, holding a box of pizza, watching as the wheels on the track began to move, trickity trap trickity trap. My heart dropped, the taste of pizza filled my mouth, and my Abba began fading away.

I will never forget the look in his eyes, the feelings in my heart as I began sliding out of my Abba’s reach. I continue to think about how differently things would’ve ended if I was a little more patient, Abba was a little more precise and the train had left a little bit later.

Unsure of what to do, or what to say, I scream in Hebrew, “Atzur! Atzur!” (Stop! Stop!) But of course, nobody understood.

What happens next? Get your creative juices flowing by writing the next installment of “A Girl On The Train.” Send an email expressing your interest to freshinkforteens@jewishweek.org.

Teaser:

The train is leaving, but where is my Abba?  

ArticlePath: /articles/girl-train
ImagePath: public://pixabay.jpg
Tags: Abba, iPhone, pizza, train
NID: 346
Date: Wednesday, July 27, 2016 - 08:13
AuthorBio:
Rachi Levy is a rising junior at Bruriah High School for Girls in Elizabeth, N.J.   
Title: Never A Camper, Now A Counselor
Subtitle:
I know I’ll work hard, but I’m eager to impact my special-needs campers’ lives.
Body:

Writer Rachi Levy, left, with her sister Rivki before heading to Camp HASC for a meaningful summer. Courtesy of Rachi Levy

“What are you doing this summer?” That is one of the questions I hate the most. Summer’s meant to be relaxing. Who cares what I’m doing this summer? So what if I’m spending my day in pajamas or relaxing on the beach?

I’ve never gone to camp. The past few summers I have kept busy by babysitting and working at day camps or doing random things. To me those summers were jam-packed. Whether it was babysitting, playing with my little brother or going to shiurim, Jewish lectures, I always found something worthwhile to occupy my time. To others that’s not how it seemed. My friends all came back from the summer with amazing camp stories, and I came back with nothing too special. If I really wanted to go to camp my parents would let me, but I’ve never had the desire. Until this year.

After watching the music video of Yaakov Shwekey’s new single, “I Can Be”, I had this strong feeling that I wanted to work at a camp. Not just any camp, though, I wanted to work at Camp HASC. Camp HASC is a sleepaway program in the Catskills for children and adults with special needs and physical and intellectual disabilities.

Shwekey’s song has a powerful message: “I can be stronger, I can braver, I can be anything I want to be.” His music video shows adorable, special-needs children holding up signs and smiling real smiles. I knew that I wanted to be the person to put the smiles on the kids’ faces. Everyone I spoke with who worked at Camp HASC had an incredible experience — not only did they impact a child’s life, but they also had the experience of a lifetime. They grew in Torah ways and came back a changed person. That is why I want to work at Camp HASC. I want to make a difference in a special child’s life while at the same time changing my life. I have always had a passion for chesed and for doing good deeds for other people, and HASC seemed the perfect place to take my passion to a new level.

Applying was a relatively easy process. I found the “Apply Summer 2016” button on HASC’s website and answered a few questions. Once I submitted my application I received an email about an interview. At that time I was living in St. Louis, so my interview was conducted via Skype. I was nervous because I really wanted to work at HASC, and I know lots of people apply for a limited number of staff positions. My nervousness was for nothing because my interviewer was the nicest person. She wasn’t intimidating at all. A few months later I got an email that said I was hired to work at HASC.

Excited nervousness is the best way to describe my feelings. I am definitely very excited to be working there, but at the same time a little bit nervous. I’m not going with any friends, which will make the first few weeks challenging. However, I’m excited to do something amazing with my summer and finally have some camp stories to share with my friends.

 

Teaser:

 I know I’ll work hard, but I’m eager to impact my special-needs campers’ lives. 

ArticlePath: /articles/never-camper-now-counselor
ImagePath: public://rachi_levy.jpg
Tags: camp, counselor, HASC, Shwekey
NID: 345
Date: Friday, July 1, 2016 - 11:14
AuthorBio:
Aaron Feldman is a junior at Milken Community Schools in Los Angeles. 
Title: Engineering Breakthroughs
Subtitle:
Leonard Adleman invented biocomputing, yet the scope of his interests is varied and inspirational.
Body:

Leonard Adleman is a recipient of the A. M. Turing award and is a computer science and molecular biology professor at the University of Southern California. Wikimedia Commons 

 

Editor’s Note: Aaron Feldman is the 2016 winner of The Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing. He won a national contest seeking essays on a significant advancement in science, medicine or technology by a living or deceased Jewish-American. Writers were asked to explain how this innovation impacts lives and why it is meaningful to them. Aaron won $500 and a commemorative medal. The contest was sponsored by the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and The Jewish Week Media Group.

A pinch of DNA, weighing but six grams, contains over 80 times more information than the most complex computer. DNA is the building block of our existence, determining the proteins that express our genetics. So I was fascinated by Jewish scientist Leonard Adleman’s experiments using DNA, rather than integrated circuits, for computation. He wanted to use the base pairs of adenine-thymine and guanine-cytosine to represent the zeroes and ones used for data storage and calculation in computers. His first proof-of-concept experiment in 1994 proved successful. Using various sequences of DNA as encoded pathways, Adleman conquered the previously unsolved Hamiltonian Path computation problem. Adleman, the father of biocomputing, had essentially created an entirely new field by blending molecular biology and computer engineering.

He harnessed nature’s code for life, which it has been perfecting for millions of years, to further our modern society’s technological capabilities. Biocomputing can perform calculations that are too large for current computers. Moreover, because DNA can replicate, biocomputers could actually grow, providing increasing computational ability with each DNA replication.

Adleman’s work can also be expanded by using DNA as so-called “doctors in a cell.” These molecular biocomputers could regulate certain cellular processes, preventing and treating diseases by releasing small quantities of drugs within the body.

Adleman’s work inspires me because of its novelty and huge potential. He explores the question of life, speculating that human beings are intelligent, adaptive biological computers. He merges seemingly disjointed fields with bold, futuristic experiments. As Adleman points out in his famous quote, “Biology and computer science — life and computation — are related. I am confident that at their interface great discoveries await those who seek them.”

Incredibly, not only did Adleman invent biocomputing, but he has advanced chemistry, computer science, mathematics and even AIDS research. He is a true Renaissance man who defines the modern era. Like Adleman, I too am interested in many subjects: computer science and biology, but also writing, history and piano playing. I remember working on my computer one night, switching between developing a computer program and drafting a speech on organ donation while listening to the Rachmaninoff piano piece I was learning.

As I get older and college applications near, I have been told to focus on only a few of my interests. However, I am more than just a science guy or a writer. Adleman managed to succeed in many areas, and I too wish to continue learning and exploring my many deep interests. I can’t narrow myself down because each of these topics is a part of what I love and who I am. Just like Leonard Adleman, who sits in his office for hours with nothing but blackboard and chalk, I love to think … and to only think in one way, about one topic, would not let me experience the world of learning and knowledge to my full capacity.

 

Teaser:

Leonard Adleman invented biocomputing, yet the scope of his interests is varied and inspirational. 

ArticlePath: /articles/engineering-breakthroughs
ImagePath: public://adleman.jpg
Tags: Adleman, Alexander Award, computers, DNA
NID: 344
Date: Thursday, June 30, 2016 - 05:51
AuthorBio:
Title: Goodbye, High School; Hello, Life
Subtitle:
Commencement speakers reflect on the end of their high school years.
Body:

Mazal tov to the Class of 2016. Pictured are the graduates of Margolin Hebrew Academy/Feinstone Yeshiva of the South in Memphis. Rabbi Uriel Lubetski, upper school principal, is on the left and Sara Plotitsa, administrative assistant, is on the right. Courtesy of MHAFYOS

 

High school graduation is a significant milestone in a teen’s life. For many young people, the excitement comes from transitioning to the next stage of their lives. They’re about to embark on an exploration of who they are and who they want to become as adults and professionals. The challenges, fears, insights and collective wisdom of members of the Class of 2016 are reflected in the words of their commencement speakers. We have four excerpted and edited remarks from commencement addresses delivered at day schools in California, New Jersey and Tennessee. In spite of their geographic differences, the speakers share common themes such as the importance of gratitude and the value of family and embracing fears.

Fresh Ink for Teens wishes mazal tov to all of our high school graduates. May you go from strength to strength, and continue to write about it along the way.

 

Shoshana BravermanShoshana Braverman is a graduate of Margolin Hebrew Academy/Feinstone Yeshiva of the South in Memphis. She will be a student at Darchei Binah in Jerusalem followed by the honors program at Stern College for Women in Manhattan.

Gratitude is not something that comes easy. We often forget all of those around us who teach us, nurture us, and care for us, allowing us to achieve our goals and reach success. We often forget that our parents were the ones who brought us up to become the people we are today. We often forget that our teachers were the ones who taught us how to take the world head on, armed with critical thinking skills and the ability to write four essays in one week. We often forget that our friends were the ones who were there when we failed, to comfort us and to convince us to keep trying.

To gain a sense of gratitude, we must look into our past. We have to pick apart the events of our childhood and adolescence in order to recognize who the central figures were who allowed us to grow. Only then will we be able to truly have a sense of gratitude for those who helped us.

But how can we show gratitude to the Jews of our past? How can we show gratitude for the people who suffered so that we could live on? I believe the way we show gratitude today is by learning. We have the privilege of attending a Jewish school and learning from Jewish teachers. We refuse to let those who tried to destroy us win by educating ourselves about our past and our culture. We display our gratitude while simultaneously displaying our perseverance. I feel truly grateful to my parents, my teachers and my friends for allowing me to take part in something so incredible. Thanks to them, I can take everything I’ve learned and use it to create a future in which the Jewish people continue to live and thrive, a future in which we continue to display our gratitude for those around us.

 

Elisheva CohenElisheva Cohen is a graduate of Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck, N.J. She will be attending Sha’alvim for Women in Jerusalem followed by Stern College for Women in Manhattan.

When I think about leaving a comfort zone and venturing into an unknown future, I think about a true story of a young girl living in early, 20th-century Europe. When she was 5 years old, she and her family began their journey to America, leaving behind a home, friends and the tight-knit community of the shtetl, as pogroms had spread throughout Russia. Three years later, on July 6, 1923, the young girl and her family finally reached the shores of America, the “goldene medina”. Beckoning them to America, in New York harbor, was the magnificent Statue of Liberty. Imagine the emotions that filled the young girl’s heart as she prepared to disembark and take her first steps onto American soil, and the excitement of standing on the streets “paved with gold”.

The young girl in this story was my great-grandmother, Claire Umansky. Earlier this year she passed away at the age of 101. She was a great woman who, despite the challenges and obstacles in her life, took her first steps into America and raised a family, built a business and left an enduring legacy. Today, we recognize our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, the first steps they took and the opportunities they provided for us, as we stand ready to take our next steps.

David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, the leading global Jewish advocacy organization where I interned this May, once said, “…It’s important that we view Jewish history as a relay race in which we do our utmost to sprint as smartly, as swiftly, as intelligently as we can, but also to know in advance that there are people who are waiting at the end of my turn, my lap, who are willing and able to receive the baton and to engage in their own swift, intelligent sprint.”

From day one, Ma'ayanot prepared us to be able to stand at the place where the sidewalk ends, arm outstretched ready to grab the baton and run. To run and experience new opportunities. To run and help others in need. To run and spread Jewish values. To run and make an impact. We have an entire community that Ma’ayanot has created cheering us on and giving us the tools to take the next step in our lives. Class of 2016, it’s our turn to take the baton and run.

 

Naomi GluckNaomi Gluck is a graduate of Milken Community Schools in Los Angeles. She will be attending Washington University in St. Louis.

There’s no doubt that graduation is a time of celebration. But as much as all of us like to act tough, we must admit that graduating is also scary. Not just scary, but sometimes utterly and completely terrifying. Soon we will all leave behind our comfort zones and move onto an unknown. And that’s frightening.

This fear of change that we’re all feeling is a sign that we’re growing and developing. If you’re never afraid, that means you’re not moving; you’re stagnant. This is something we face as Jews in America: we strive to find new ways to take old concepts and values that we have lived for and died for for thousands of years and find ways to make them relevant. Stagnancy is something both Jewish and American values discourage; both traditions celebrate growth and self-improvement. We are never supposed to be satisfied with the way things are, and we’re supposed to constantly strive to make things better. In Judaism, this idea manifests itself in the value of tikkun olam, which encourages us to partner with God to “heal the world”.  In America, our history is built upon the notion of improvement, whether it’s by expanding to the West or traveling to the moon.

The way to think about fear is to remember that fear is only one side of the coin, and that growth is the other side. Fear has a negative connotation; many see it as a sign of weakness. But I propose that it’s actually a sign of strength. It serves as a significant reminder that what we are doing is something challenging and new — and that’s what is making us nervous.

 

Nina MillerNina Miller is a graduate of Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck, N.J. She will attend Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim (MMY) in Israel followed by Stern College for Women.

Expressing gratitude narrows the gap between the giver and taker. It gives us the opportunity to give back to our giver. It is the integration of the ideas of looking back toward matan Torah (giving of the Torah) while moving forward productively and creatively as sources of innovation, that Ma’ayanot has artfully balanced and achieved.

Classic Ma’ayanot is the focus on the talents that every individual has to offer. She is…empowered. Each student is recognized for her insights, unique personality, and finds her platform to contribute to the class and to the greater community. Ma’ayanot teachers are moderators, not orators, and the classroom is a think tank, not a lecture hall. No idea is dismissed. So often I would sit back and think — Wow, we had this idea that we talked about in or out of class (sometimes while sitting on the floor, sometimes we were wearing shoes, sometimes we weren’t…) and now we are actually on the trip, running the program, taking the class…stuff really happens.

Ma’ayanot gave us the confidence to be creative and generate new ideas and the resources and the support to execute them. On a personal level, I literally cannot thank you enough. For always supporting us and challenging us to reach beyond. For believing that we have the power to make a difference. For hearing our voices, for helping us find our voices, for caring, for giving us a word of encouragement on a rough day. For demonstrating how to think broadly while humbly maintaining the integrity of our roots. 

We have honed the skills to understand, and the faith to not always understand, sometimes simply to trust.  As we chart our own separate paths, harnessing the power to be generative and progress, with Torah at the center of our lives, we will always have hakarat hatov (gratitude) for our Ma’ayanot experience and our parents and grandparents who have come before us.

 

Teaser:

Commencement speakers reflect on the end of their high school years.  

ArticlePath: /articles/goodbye-high-school-hello-life
ImagePath: public://class.jpg
Tags: America, graduation, gratitude, high school
NID: 343
Date: Thursday, June 23, 2016 - 07:24
AuthorBio:
Deborah Brown is a rising senior at Robert M. Beren Academy in Houston.
Title: Jitters At The End Of Junior Year
Subtitle:
How will I manage college applications and avoid contracting Senioritis?
Body:

Deborah Brown on one of her first days of elementary school at Beren Academy. At high school graduation, "I will look back and reflect on how much I’ve grown since I started coming here in preschool," she writes. Photos courtesy of Deborah Brown 

Junior year is over. It’s hard to believe. This has been one of the busiest and most productive years of my life. I’ve taken four AP classes, not to mention both the SAT and ACT. I’ve acted in my school’s production of “Aladdin,” been a delegate to Model UN and the AIPAC Policy Conference and wrote a column for my school newspaper. I’ve been a Bnei Akiva counselor for elementary school girls; a leader of women’s prayer services at my synagogue; the founder of my school’s girls’ davening program; a teen Israel ambassador for the Jewish Federation of Houston; a teen board member of Houston Yachad; a member of the Beren Israel Club, the Judaic Arts Initiative Committee, girls’ choir; and more. It’s been crazy and also incredibly rewarding. But now all that’s behind me and something even bigger looms ahead: senior year.

In Late August I will walk through the doors of Robert M. Beren Academy for the first day, for the last time. I feel both nervous and excited.

What will await me in my final year of high school? I’ve heard many things about senior year, some good and some bad. Former students have told me about the stress of the first semester with college applications. They have described staying up late to finish their applications while juggling studying for AP classes and participating in lots of extracurricular activities. I am nervous for all of the big decisions I will have to make and the pressures that comes with them.

A photo of Deborah Brown. I am afraid of turning into a lazy senior in the second semester. I don’t want to catch Senioritis like many of my older friends who lost all their motivation after they applied to college. Students infected with Senioritis don’t do their homework, skip davening in the morning so they can sleep late and when they come to class they goof off and don’t learn anything. As appealing as the thought of not doing any work is, I love learning and don’t want to stop just yet. I’m especially excited to take classes I haven’t taken yet like psychology and AP English, and I don’t think anyone could possibly force me to give up Gemara or Hebrew. Plus, I know slacking off will reflect badly on me if colleges see a sudden drop in my grades. (Photo: Deborah Brown, member of the Class of 2017.)

The thought of a gap year in Israel is exciting. All of the programs sound so good that I don’t know how I’ll choose only one. I will be faced with many tough choices: Do I want a co-ed or a girls-only program? Do I want something religious, Zionist or modern? Will I study Gemara, Chumash or secular studies? Do I want to live in Jerusalem or further away, where there may be a security risk? Fortunately, Beren makes it easier on us by taking the seniors on a two-week Israel trip in November to tour yeshivot, seminaries and other programs so we can narrow down where we want to apply. I hope this trip will be a refreshing break from all of the preparations for college and will help me decide what I want my year in Israel to be.  

Of course, I will also graduate next year, which is bittersweet. I will have to write a graduation speech (because Beren is a small school, every student speaks at graduation), buy a fancy dress, and wear a cap and gown. I will look back and reflect on how much I’ve grown since I started coming here in preschool. Beren Academy has given me an incredible love of Judaism, of Israel, of standing up for what I believe in and of learning. And it’s not over yet. I have one more year to enjoy everything the school offers, in and out of class. This year will be the culmination of everything I have accomplished, every friend I’ve made, every teacher I’ve had, every Shabbat I’ve celebrated, every club and group I’ve joined and everything else that has been a valuable part of my school experience. I’d better make it the best year yet!

Whatever challenges senior year gives me, I will persevere and will make it through the year. And when I walk out of school next May on the last day, for the last time, I will be ready for the real world because of the education I got at the Beren Academy.

Here’s to the class of 2017!
 

Teaser:

How will I manage college applications and avoid contracting Senioritis? 

ArticlePath: /articles/jitters-end-junior-year
ImagePath: public://brown_fr_chuck.jpg
Tags: AP, college, SAT, Senioritis
NID: 342
Date: Thursday, June 16, 2016 - 05:49
AuthorBio:
Aryeh Lande is a rising junior at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, N.J. He is a member of Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, N.J. Shuli Weinstein is a rising junior at Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pa. She is a member of Adath Israel in Merion Station, Pa. 
Title: Words From The Wise
Subtitle:
Confirmation graduates share Jewish reflections.
Body:

Two happy grads: Noah Schwartz, left, and Aryeh Lande, right, are all smiles after celebrating their confirmation. Courtesy of Daniel Malinksy

Confirmation is a staple of teen education in Reform Judaism. It is the time when sophomores, in many communities, spend the year doing social action and learning about a variety of aspects of Judaism. It marks a transition to informed, adult conversation about Jewish practices and beliefs. As students, we grow and learn throughout the year, shaping how we view Judaism for the first time through our own eyes rather than through blind acceptance of what we were taught as children. We confirm our beliefs and, therefore, the event is called confirmation. In the early 20th century some Reform rabbis thought of confirmation as a substitute for a bar or bat mitzvah, but since then it has universally become an addition to the traditional milestone. In many temples the confirmation year concludes with a ceremony before the congregation where each teen presents a statement of his or her thoughts, values or Jewish journey in the last step toward reaching full Jewish adulthood. Two confirmation speeches appear below.                                                                                                                                                                   --Aryeh Lande

 

We Shall Overcome

By Aryeh Lande

I believe in the future of America. Across our country, new, and often provocative, ideologies have surfaced as resentment against our current political structures with their precise and manufactured platforms of the traditional politicians. In the past few months, the political landscape has changed right before our eyes. The country has stood in disbelief as Donald Trump has swept across the nation on the back of bigotry and hatred. His unfiltered and outspoken approach has led to insults aimed at Muslims, women and African-Americans. The people of this great nation came out and voiced their frustration by making him the Republican nominee. As a result, he has polarized Republicans and Democrats alike, causing a ripple so great that friendships and simple camaraderie have been exhausted, even violence spawned.

On the opposing side, Hillary Clinton came into this year as the de facto nominee, but a persistent Jew out of Vermont emerged AS a contender. Bernie Sanders has sparked a debate within the Democratic Party over super delegates, Wall Street and socialism. All this divisiveness is worrisome to me. Looking back at these past few months, I see the deep pain in the subjects of angry speeches aimed at gaining just the few votes necessary to win a town, twisted statements used to win a district and deceitful lies brought about to win a state. I am most outraged that Trump has gone after immigrant communities as my father, as well as many of my friends' parents, are immigrants. There are many stories of children who fear they will be deported if Trump becomes president, and it is a horrifying premise that immigrants bring crime and take away from American values when, in fact, they strengthen them. Looking ahead, I see a road that offers no immediate remedy for the deep wounds in our communities caused by this election cycle. It is a sad but true reality.

I am not going to stand here today and say how hopeless we as a country are, however, because I have faith that ultimately we will persevere. I say we put politics aside and focus on repairing shattered personal relationships. For what will we have gained if we fight futilely for the next four years just to watch a victory speech but not fight for the ever-lasting relationships with our neighbors? In Judaism we are taught that everyone is created in the image of God. We all have a common thread that unites us in goodness and peace. There is no need to defile our sacred bond with ugly rhetoric and divisions. If we heed the ideal of embracing everyone for who they are, we can stamp out alienation and create a United States of America once again. This is what I believe.

 

Israel And My Place In the Tradition

By Shuli Weinstein

From my earliest childhood years, one of my biggest dreams had been of traveling to Israel. In elementary school, I envied the kids who had been fortunate enough to travel there with their families. And for years, I counted down the years, months and eventually days to my first trip to Israel in 2012. When the day finally came to board the plane, I was bursting with excitement. A moment I will remember forever is when the first bit of Israeli soil came into view from the plane. The moment I saw the split between the Mediterranean Sea and the Tel Aviv coast, I began to cry quietly to myself. I was just so excited to finally experience first-hand the amazing land that I had heard so many stories about. I imagined in my head the forefathers and biblical characters that had walked this ancient land and in those few moments I realized the importance of keeping the Jewish religion strong and alive. There is so much history in this religion that at times, I had taken for granted; at that moment, I realized it could not be lost. (Photo: Shuli Weinstein, left, with friend Sophie Roling. Courtesy of Shuli Weinstein)

As a teenager, I am discovering my place with my beliefs in the Jewish world. At times I may disagree with Jewish decisions made by my parents, but through traveling to Israel and building friendships through the confirmation class, I have come to realize that the continuance of Judaism is necessary. And to keep Judaism going, my peers and I must be the strong link in the chain. I will continue to experiment with certain rituals and traditions that connect to me the most, but I have learned that many of the core practices — such as attending High Holiday services, celebrating Passover and doing something each week to honor Shabbat, such as Friday night dinner — must stay put in order to continue the Jewish religion as we know it.

 

Teaser:

Confirmation graduates share Jewish reflections.

ArticlePath: /articles/words-wise
ImagePath: public://fr_chuck_5.jpg
Tags: confirmation, Judaism, Reform, Tel Aviv
NID: 341
Date: Thursday, June 9, 2016 - 09:26
AuthorBio:
Arielle Lipsky is a freshman at Torah Academy for Girls (TAG) in Far Rockaway. 
Title: Three Steps Back
Subtitle:
So begin my heartfelt prayers.
Body:

Arielle Lipsky finds a deep connection to God through her prayers. Courtesy of Chedva Benelyahu

The time has come
It's time to take
The sacred three steps back

Ignore my bad
But bear the good
Even though the good may lack

And as I stand
I'm hearing it
My whisper in my ears

My page is torn
It's old and ripped
From all my days of tears

The words are locked
They won't come out
My tefillah needs to start

A single tear
And then my lips
Begin to move by heart

I may be flawed
And I do wrong
But I'm trying to be my best

I try so hard
But you give to me
All the hardships as a test

I'm far away
From you, Hashem
In this crazy place

My tefillah tries
To bring me close
To a much more peaceful space

What will come for me
Will I be great
And who will help me through

I feel alone
But up above
Is the Holy One, blessed are you

I know you give
To everyone
What you know they need

All the skills
And care and love
To help me to succeed

And even though
It's sometimes hard
To truly see the light

Deep down inside
I know you help
I will never give up the fight

The end is near
The last small part
My deep requests come out

My heart is racing
My lips speed up
My soul begins to shout

But then I'm done
I see you’re there
Watching every move I make

And my heart awaits
For the next chance
For the three steps I must take

 

Teaser:

So begin my heartfelt prayers. 

ArticlePath: /articles/three-steps-back
ImagePath: public://a._lipsky.jpg
Tags: Hashem, heart, soul, tefillah
NID: 340
Date: Monday, June 6, 2016 - 14:27
AuthorBio:
Rivki Hook is a sophomore at Bruriah High School for Girls in Elizabeth, N.J. Emily Saperstein is a sophomore at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, N.J. 
Title: Dare To Take The Sefira Challenge?
Subtitle:
This one won’t make you cold as ice.
Body:

The sefira challenge prefers buckets of wheat, not ice. The shafts of wheat signify a harvest and the wheat offering that was brought to the Temple on Shavuot. Courtesy of Emily Saperstein

If you ask almost any person, whether they’re a religious Jew or devout Christian, that person will have heard of Passover. How could one not? Pesach (the Hebrew word for Passover) is a time of redemption and rejoicing, in addition to marking a time when God showed the world His true strength by liberating the Jews from Egypt. There’s something uplifting about walking down the aisles of my New Jersey supermarket and finding seven different matzah brands. Even those who aren’t personally connected to the holiday know that the Ten Plagues were kind of a big deal — who wants to bite into a piece of bread to find little frogs grinning back at you? Passover has even surpassed Yom Kippur, the holy Day of Atonement, as the most meaningful Jewish holiday of the year, according to an article in the Huffington Post. It’s not a holiday that passes by unnoticed.

After the matzah is finished, the Jewish nation returns to a mundane schedule, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the next Jewish holiday: a little gem called Shavuot. This holiday is dedicated to rejuvenation, and relishing in the glow of the Torah. On this day, the Jewish nation received the Torah — our life code — at Mount Sinai and we’ve been learning it ever since. It feels like it takes forever for the holiday to come, especially with finals and hectic work schedules. The one thing that keeps the Jewish nation inspired and excited for the days of Shavuot is the challenge of Sefirat HaOmer, counting the days of the omer, a concept that is shortened and referred to as sefira. 

Sefira is the concept of counting seven full weeks from the second night of Pesach until the start Shavuot. Every night, after three stars are observed in the sky, we make a blessing and count the day and if applicable, the amount of weeks that have passed, for seven weeks straight. These 49 days are a special time of year, a unique time to refine ourselves in preparation for one of the holiest times of the year. The challenge is utilizing this period to fix our internal mistakes and work on our relationships with others, as well as with God. Even though Shavuot begins Saturday night, it’s never too late to start some personal reflection. Some examples of areas to work on during sefira include chesed (kindness), netzach (endurance), and yesod (bonding). My friend Avigail is working hard on not saying lashon hara about others while I’m working on my connection with God through prayer. Some of my friends are taking half an hour a night to learn a book together on improving one’s behavior. It’s a hard challenge, one that many cannot face, but those who do reap rewards beyond comprehension. After facing internal and external challenges and working on the physical self for 49 days, the Jewish nation is finally worthy to receive the gift that they so rightly deserve: the Torah. On the 50th night, many Jews stay up all night and learn Torah in order to grow and rejuvenate over the receiving of our priceless treasure. 

A mourning period was established during these 49 days for the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva, who all perished in a plague during this time (Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day of the omer, is excluded from the mourning period). The sadness makes the challenge more meaningful. There are various laws and customs regarding observance of the seven weeks but a lot depends on community and family traditions. Some examples include not having a wedding, not cutting hair and not purchasing or wearing new garments. Live music is also a big deal — most observers of the omer do not attend concerts. There is, however, a concept that recorded music is OK but some hold that only acapella music is permitted and many (including myself) follow this custom. Others forbid music of any kind and refrain from listening to it for the entire 49 days. Sefira is a time to face struggles within ourselves and mend relationships with others and to put our physical needs and desires aside.

Pesach is a time of redemption and rejoicing over the miracles that God openly performs while Shavuot marks rejuvenation over the gift He has generously presented to His children. How does one get from a position of rejoicing to rejuvenating? Refinement. By taking advantage of the seven weeks of Sefirat HaOmer, one can refine internal struggles and fix relationships with others, leading to a much higher spiritual level. When we have done our part to be a more spiritual being, then we are truly deserving of the Torah on Shavuot.

Take the lesson home with you and make yourself a better person than you were yesterday. Will you take the sefira challenge?
 

Teaser:

This one won’t make you cold as ice.

ArticlePath: /articles/dare-take-sefira-challenge
ImagePath: public://art_1.jpg
Tags: omer, passover, sefira, Shavuot
NID: 339
Date: Thursday, May 26, 2016 - 13:55
AuthorBio:
Arielle Lipsky is a freshman at Torah Academy for Girls (TAG) in Far Rockaway. 
Title: Here's To 69
Subtitle:
A poem to honor the never-ending celebration of Israel.
Body:

68 years
Is hard to comprehend
Despite the troubles others send
And the hands they never lend
And here's to 69

The Six Day War
Was a very hard fight
But we used all our might
Every day and every night
And here's to 69

And yet so many times
They still poke at our struggles
And make fun of our troubles
Their loss it still doubles
And here's to 69

And after time
After all of these hard years
Filled with problems and tears
And bomb threats and fears
And here's to 69

The Western Wall
It belongs to us
Arabs don't make a fuss
There is nothing to discuss
And here's to 69

Israel’s our own
Even though it's not perfect
We still give it respect
Our love we inject
And here's to 69

So realize I'm here
And don't tell me I'm mistaken
It's time you awaken
And realize we're not shaken
And here's to 69

You will never break Israel
And we'll keep on praying
We're here for the staying
Even when you are preying
And here's to 69

68 years
Is hard to comprehend
But here till the end 
We will still love our friend
Despite the troubles you send
And the hand you never lend
And here's to 69

 

Teaser:

A poem to honor the never-ending celebration of Israel. 

ArticlePath: /articles/heres-69
ImagePath: public://flag_from_charles_0.jpg
Tags: Arabs, Israel, Six Day War, Western Wall
NID: 338
Date: Wednesday, May 25, 2016 - 08:40
AuthorBio:
Title: One Heaping Cup Of Wisdom
Subtitle:
I cook up wonderful friendships in my monthly baking class at a nursing home.
Body:

The writer, in diapers, with her beloved role model and baking buddy — Evelyn Roth (a.k.a. Grandma). Grandma is holding the author's baby brother, Nathan. Courtesy of Rachel Katz

Role models come in many forms, however for me, my role model lived right down the street and was my best friend: Grandma Evelyn Roth. The fondest memories I have with Grandma took place in her kitchen, where she would bake mandelbrot — a Jewish take on biscotti. I would watch as her arthritic hands sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon into the mixture and ask, “Grandma, where are your measuring cups?” She shook her head and smiled, “I just know.” I hoped that one day I, too, would know how to add that same “unmeasurable pinch.” However, this would be the last time I got to watch Grandma bake the family recipe.

Hoping to fill the void after my Grandma’s passing nearly three years ago, I was inspired to volunteer at a local nursing home when I was 14. I yearned to share Grandma’s effervescence with the residents of Daughters of Israel in West Orange, N.J., and recreate that same sense of acceptance and community Grandma always showed me. My “initiation” into the nursing home came when I became the caller in a game of bingo, but calling out “B9” to a dining room full of half-asleep residents was unfulfilling. I knew the only way to develop meaningful relationships with the residents was to learn their names, become their friend, hear their stories and connect with them.

I requested a meeting with the activities director and proposed a way to share a bit of my grandmother and our mandelbrot tradition with the residents — thus “Recipes and Reminiscing with Rachel” was born and became a monthly event.

Looking back on the first installment of my program, I vividly remember wearing my pink apron from home tied loosely at my waist as I stood in front of the dining room and 40 residents. I introduced myself as Rachel — Daughters of Israel’s own Rachael Ray — triggering toothless smiles. Meanwhile, I began adding the eggs and flour to the bowl. When I began to sprinkle the cinnamon a voice asked, “Rachel, where are your measuring cups?” I chuckled, “I don’t need them, I just know.”

Since that day nearly four years ago, I have been the sole leader of the cooking program. Each time I cook, I am greeted by the many friends I now have. Dorothy and Bernard sit in the front row by my side each week. Bernard, a former Navy officer, always reaches for the spoon to lick it as if he were in his own kitchen. Dorothy taps her manicured nails against the table to the sound of my voice. Each time I stand in front of my crowd, I have a genuine smile on my face, one that cannot be emulated in any other environment.

My cooking program was just the beginning; my efforts have blossomed into other large-scale events. For example, for three years I hosted a fashion show at the home where both residents and community members participate. From food, to music, to decorations, I do it all. The fashion show gained me recognition by NJ Biz in their Healthcare Hero Awards as I was a finalist for Volunteer of the Year in 2014. Additionally, I have hosted and organized a New Year’s Eve party and two art shows, showcasing work from the residents and students in my high school.

No matter the size of the event or number of residents I interact with, volunteering at the nursing home has taught me what it means to be an “elder.” To some, a senior is just someone who has reached an old age, but to me it is someone who has gained wisdom and deserves the utmost respect. This image of elders is expressed throughout the Torah as it is said to be a mitzvah to “honor one’s elders” — one I am proud to have done. Moreover, the sacred text explains the value and meaning age adds to one’s life. “In the aged is wisdom and [in] length of days understanding” (Job 12:12). I have been fortunate to experience this first-hand and now understand the mitzvah of helping the elderly. 

It all began with the relationship I had with my Grandma; but the relationships I now have at the nursing home are the reason I know that surrounding myself with seniors will be part of my future. More important, I know my volunteer work is the vessel that allows me to channel my Grandma, make her proud and connect with my Jewish identity.

Teaser:

I cooked up wonderful friendships in my monthly baking class at a nursing home.  

ArticlePath: /articles/one-heaping-cup-wisdom
ImagePath: public://rachel_katz.jpg
Tags: baking, Grandma, mandelbrot, nursing home
NID: 337
Date: Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - 12:34
AuthorBio:
Esther Bildirici is a senior at the Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn.  
Title: I Treasure Turkey
Subtitle:
Summer reminds me of Istanbul, where I learned to appreciate my dad’s afternoon simit.
Body:

The author volunteered last summer with the Jewish community of Istanbul. She's photographed in Turkey with her father, Joseph Bildrici, in center and brother Gabriel, on right. Courtesy of Esther Bildrici 

I walked inside and I laughed out of sheer apprehension. Selçuk asked me my name, in Turkish of course, but I had absolutely no idea what he was saying. I listened as the rest of my classmates stated their names, and again, another giggle burst out. Esther! Stop it already, I silently begged myself. I was not expecting classmates with names such as Yulia and Timur Timur whose homes ranged from Kazakhstan to Croatia to Afghanistan and the United Kingdom. I settled down as I remembered why I was in this situation: I was here in Istanbul to learn the Turkish language.

I knew a few words, such as when my father was furious with me and shouted Turkish profanity. Then again, those words were not exactly representative of the language. I was anxious to learn because I was in Turkey for a special purpose. And that purpose required me to connect with the Turkish culture and people, and to do this, I needed to know how to speak their language.

Last summer I came to Turkey to support the Jewish community in Istanbul, the same community that my father grew up in and felt deeply indebted to. To him, Turkey was more than just his country of birth. It was his first everything — where his first word was spoken, where he learned to ride a bike and first swam in the sea. Turkey was home, despite the occasional hostility it sprang around him. His Turkish upbringing was the reason for his quirks, like the way he drank ayran for breakfast or enjoyed his afternoon simit or sesame bread. (Photo: Esther Bildrici and her brother Gabriel overlook the majestic views of Cappadocia. Courtesy of Esther Bildrici) 

The author and her brother overlook the majestic views of Cappadocia, Turkey. The religious leaders of his community, who my dad grew up with, were seeking teenagers who could inspire the Jewish children of Istanbul. I wanted to explore my culture heritage so I volunteered in spite of the anti-government demonstrations happening only blocks away from my future school. I wanted to connect the children with Judaism and make them proud of who they are. Their knowledge of Judaism was embarrassingly limited to the existence of God and fact that Saturday was a day of rest.

Although I was learning Turkish in an attempt to better connect with my students, I was still worried they would walk in straight from summer camp with overactive minds and an inability to take an American teenager seriously. I was wrong. They ran inside, hair drenched and salty from swimming, and sat down right in front of me, smiles bright and eyes wide. On our first day, they attempted their best English and with kind eyes asked me my name. I remembered my first Turkish lesson when Selçuk, my teacher, taught me how to say, “Benım adım Ester’’ (My name is Esther).

I woke early every morning, hoping to make the boat leaving from our small island, called Buyukada, where I lived in my grandmother’s home with my family. After rough waters, and a 45-minute ride, we reached the city of Istanbul. Then I took a train to the bustling neighborhood of Taksim, where I attended a university program to learn the Turkish language. The class was open to anyone from around the world. That meant I was sharing a desk with a woman from Afghanistan and a man from Ukraine. After class, I would go back to Buyukada or to a neighboring island, Burgazada. At those islands, I would go to the local synagogue where an after-camp program took place. The program was sponsored by the Jewish community leaders.

My knowledge of Turkish progressed through the summer and so did the comfort level of my students. We built a connection, tied by the biblical texts that defined our shared history, ideals and values. I was proud to see the students find an interest and passion for the material I was teaching, but more important, I was thrilled to see them developing a genuine relationship with their heritage. I had accomplished my goal, but I gained something unexpected as well.

This trip provided me with a clearer picture of my own identity, which unbeknownst to me was incomplete. America is my home. I know the language, culture and the history. Being able to connect with the Turkish children made me realize I can belong in more than one place, and each of these places hold equal weight in defining my identity. To me, Turkey now feels like home, comfortable and warm. When my dad makes his strange Turkish delicacies topped with milk, salt and rosewater, I offer to taste it; before this trip, his concoctions sounded repulsive to me! When he talks about Turkish politics, I find a genuine interest and care because Turkey is no longer a country in the East, rather it’s my country, my family, my home. Now when my dad turns up “Kuzu Kuzu,” everyone’s favorite Turkish song, I get up and dance with him.

Teaser:

Summer reminds me of Istanbul, where I learned to appreciate my dad’s afternoon simit.  

ArticlePath: /articles/i-treasure-turkey
ImagePath: public://bildrici.jpg
Tags: identity, Istanbul, synagogue, Turkey
NID: 336
Date: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 07:38
AuthorBio:
Leora Pineles is a sophomore in the Naale program at Amana in Kfar Saba. 
Title: Holiday Happiness In A New Home
Subtitle:
Celebrating Yom Ha’Atzmaut in Israel makes me feel proud.
Body:

Who doesn't love drinking chocolate milk from a bag? Courtesy of Leora Pineles

Yom Ha’Atzmaut was pretty much the same for me every year in New Jersey — dancing to Israeli music, eating blue and white cupcakes and having activities in school with the shlichim (emissaries from Israel). It was very nice, don't get me wrong, but I didn't really feel a connection to Israel. Last year, when I made aliyah to Rehovot everything changed.

The whole atmosphere here is different around Yom Ha’Atzmaut. Every street is filled with Israeli flags and blue and white streamers. There are signs everywhere, including stores, wishing a “chag sameach” (happy holiday). And this all happens weeks before Yom Ha’Atzmaut. The actual day is filled with so much excitement, it's indescribable. No matter where you look it seems as if everyone is happy. At night, there are concerts and other activities everywhere. During the day, everyone has their own unique way of celebrating. Some barbecue, go to the beach, have family get-togethers and much more. The only businesses that are open are restaurants or places with holiday activities. It's impossible not to celebrate, unlike in New Jersey where even though there was a large Jewish community, we were outnumbered. It was also treated like a normal work or school day, so it was hard to celebrate.

Last Yom Ha’Atzmaut, my first in Israel, most of my friends were going to parties or making barbecues in the park, but my family decided to do something different. Instead of just celebrating the fact that we have a country, we wanted to give back to it. We joined other families to make a barbecue at an army base. We were enjoying our day-off and we wanted the soldiers on duty to do the same. While the adults grilled and prepared the food, the kids played soccer and hung out with the soldiers. Then we all served lunch to them. The soldiers really enjoyed having a meal unlike their typical military food and feeling pampered a little. Going to this base helped me appreciate soldiers in a whole new way.

We got a tour of the base, which was located in the south, and heard about what the soldiers do every day. I could not believe that they sleep in tents every night during their training. I remember how uncomfortable I was when I went camping for two days. I couldn't imagine doing it for a few months during army training. They also wake up extremely early to start their physical workouts. I had no idea how difficult it was to be a soldier. I started to appreciate them so much more after I learned what really happens under the cool uniforms and big guns that I had always admired.

While I was feeling appreciative and thankful for what they do for the country and imagining how hard it must be to join the army, a frightening thought occurred: this would be me in a few years. When I graduate high school in two years I will become one of these soldiers. So many thoughts went through my mind. What if everything is too hard for me? What if I'm miserable in the army? What if I'm a bad soldier? I eventually calmed down when the soldiers were telling us that once they got past the difficult parts, they were very proud of what they were doing to help our country. Although I am nervous about joining the army, I am even more proud and excited about working to protect our Jewish homeland.

As my second Yom Ha’Atzmaut in Israel is approaching, the beautiful decorations have reappeared along with the country-wide excitement. I’m eager to once again celebrate the holiday at an army base with soldiers. Last year’s visit was so meaningful, my family could not think of anything else we’d rather be doing. While all of you abroad are enjoying your falafel and Israeli music, I ask you to think about the soldiers, who risk their lives every day for our country. Without them there would be nothing to celebrate.  

Teaser:

Celebrating Yom Ha’Atzmaut in Israel makes me feel proud.  

ArticlePath: /articles/holiday-happiness-new-home
ImagePath: public://leora_hila.jpg
Tags: aliyah, army, barbecue, Israel, Yom Ha'Atzmaut
NID: 335
Date: Tuesday, May 3, 2016 - 05:49
AuthorBio:
Eva Schottenstein is a junior at Bexley High School in Bexley, Ohio. 
Title: A March To A Fresh Perspective
Subtitle:
After a tour of concentration camps in Poland, I am less bothered by poor grades and fights with friends.
Body:

A living memorial: March of the Living participants walk through Auschwitz. Courtesy of Eva Schottenstein

I heard music. I heard people sing prayers overflowing with emotions while marching through some of the most unholy streets imaginable. I heard children sing songs to mourn the deaths of their soldiers — their brothers, fathers and uncles — who all died fighting for their rights to their homeland. I heard crying, and not just sad crying. I heard crying that sounded like it was coming from people who had nothing left inside of them. I heard silence, and that was the first time that I understood what it meant for silence to be loud. I saw, I heard and I witnessed the historic recollection of inhumane acts of hate, discrimination, genocide and dehumanization; the shame of the German nation.

Last April I went on a life-changing journey. The trip was called March of the Living (MOTL). MOTL offers a program to Poland and Israel for Jewish teens who have an interest in learning about their history, specifically the horrible atrocities and crimes that were committed during the Holocaust. Before MOTL, I had a conception of how I saw pain through the eyes of other people. Metaphorically, I compared it to a doctor’s pain chart, the one used to classify the severity of a concussion, let’s say, even though it holds no factual value. All that matters is how the individual tolerates pain. Everyone has a subjective scale of pain tolerance with levels ranging from one to 10.

After my trip to Poland and Israel, I can confidently say that my metaphor was completely and utterly inaccurate. During MOTL, I experienced a variety of emotions all coming from sources outside of myself. I witnessed concentration camps. I saw methods of torture, dehumanization and murder. I saw mass graves, built for 18,000 people who all perished in one day. I also saw 13,000 people of all backgrounds, races, religions, ages and languages, joined together to march in remembrance of such an awful tragedy.

We marched, we listened, we learned, we saw, we felt and we tried our best to understand. We witnessed. We became what one survivor credited as “the Jewish peoples’ revenge.” After experiencing all of this, I can no longer diminish the idea of pain to a simple one-to-10 scale, for I saw things and experienced emotions that cannot be reduced to a number. Pain is incomprehensible at times. No one single person will ever be able to feel even a fraction of the pain that belonged to death day at Majdanek in 1943; not a single person could handle so much. We can list as many statistics and rattle off as many facts as we want, but we will never truly understand just how much was lost in that single November day. However, in 2015 when 13,000 strong MOTL participants marched together in remembrance of those 18,000, we felt a little of what those victims never had the chance to feel — liberation, hope, community.

The author at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. As I stood in front of the mass grave at Majdanek, isolated both physically and emotionally, overwhelmed beyond words, I looked around and tried to understand what was happening, what I was seeing. I saw crying; more than I am comfortable with. I waited for my own tears to come, but it was my third concentration camp and I had yet to shed a tear. Why wasn’t I crying? Did my lack of emotions take away from my humanity? When I couldn’t cry, I felt intense guilt. Who was I to be even remotely upset about small things, like poor grades or lack of Wi-Fi, when other people endured so much agony? And even more, they endured and they emerged free or died trying. What gave me the right to be a coward? (Photo: Eva Schottenstein at the Western Wall in Jerusalem after her life-changing trip to Poland. Courtesy of Noa Levi)

Following the trip, little things like bad grades or fights with friends simply didn’t affect me the way they once had, because the pain scale I imagined in my head had been broken. March of the Living gave me a lot of things: the biggest one was a reality check. It was indescribably humbling to see what those people, my people, went through and fought against. MOTL also made me realize that, no matter how alone I may feel in my own little world, I do belong somewhere. I, as do others, belong to an infinite number of groups and play an infinite amount of roles. I am a student, friend, daughter, role model, Jew, sibling and annoyance. I am a part of so much that I do not even realize. I feel pain just as everyone else does and I have every right to do so. I also have a duty to empathize — empathize with my fellow teenagers, Jews, siblings, students and peers.

Sometimes, even my own personal, trivial issues seem like too much for me to handle. Other people experience similar feelings every day. March of the Living has made me realize that all pain is relevant, no matter how small, such as shattering your phone or getting cut from a sports team. MOTL has also made me realize that pain can be shared for the better. Going through life alone while sufficient, consistent and clear-cut, is a sad way to live. March of the Living taught me that it’s okay to lean on others and share the pain load, because no problem feels quite as acute when you have someone to hold your hand along the way.

Following the March, I realized that I live in a bubble more than I would like to admit. I often forget that everyone else is feeling his or her own pain, by distinctive yet equally crucial means. I am challenging myself, and you, to abandon your personal bubble for a little while. Everyone around you needs support just as badly as you feel like you do; why can’t you be the one to provide it? In life, there will always be something to be thankful for and something to complain about. Focus on being thankful and helping others do the same. Support and positivity are two of the best gifts that we can give. Deal with your emotions as they come, because every single one, both good and bad, deserves to be felt, and it always makes it a little easier when you feel like you have someone on your side.

Teaser:

After a tour of concentration camps in Poland, I am less bothered by poor grades and fights with friends. 

ArticlePath: /articles/march-fresh-perspective
ImagePath: public://auschwitz_fr_ch.jpg
Tags: Majdanek, MOTL, Poland, Wi-Fi
NID: 334
Date: Tuesday, April 19, 2016 - 11:47
AuthorBio:
Arielle Lipsky is a freshman and Linor Kuighadoush is a sophomore at Torah Academy for Girls (TAG) in Far Rockaway.       
Title: Freedom
Subtitle:
Liberation means redemption and the acceptance of guidance.
Body:

"We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt," translated from the Passover Haggadah. Linor Kuighadoush

What is freedom?
According to the *dictionary, the word freedom translates to, “The state of being free rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.”

Being free
According to that
Means being able to do whatever you want
Whenever you want it
But when is that really free?

Imagine coffee
Raw coffee grounds
Bitter to the taste alone
By itself
Coffee grounds are terrible
Harsh taste in your mouth
But then
You add sugar
And hot water
This coffee is not bitter anymore
A little addition
Which changes the substance completely

We as people
When we are alone
With no help
Like the sugar and hot water
We are bitter
We are bland
But when you add the little teaching,
The sugar and water,
We can truly be better

When we were in Egypt
We were slaves
The lowest of the low
And then
We were freed

But then
We were enslaved by God
We accepted the Torah
But this was not a true enslavement
God was adding the sugar and water
To our lives
He added his helping hand
Guiding us
And protecting us
Teaching us how to be

God brought us out of Egypt
And then we were freed
Freed forever
Then, now and for eternity
Free from the physical work
Free from the backbreaking labor
And free from being alone
We have a guiding hand now
Forever
And always

* Source: dictionary.com

 

Teaser:

Liberation means redemption and the acceptance of guidance. 

ArticlePath: /articles/freedom
ImagePath: public://hands_3.jpg
Tags: Egypt, God, slaves, Torah
NID: 333
Date: Thursday, April 14, 2016 - 09:23
AuthorBio:
Estelle Saad is a junior at the Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn. 
Title: Feeding My Need
Subtitle:
By volunteering at a soup kitchen, I know I’m helping people’s lives.
Body:

Young volunteers assist with food distribution outside of a Masbia location in Brooklyn. Courtesy of Masbia 

While strolling down Coney Island Avenue, an elderly man stopped me to ask if I volunteer at Masbia soup kitchen in Brooklyn. When I told him that I did, he thanked me with a smile. I felt so great, as if I really made a difference. At that time, I had only volunteered at Masbia a couple of times. From that day forward, I decided to volunteer at the soup kitchen at least once a month.

Volunteering at Masbia is not a glamorous job. The organization offers daily meals, and it also gives out packages with all of the necessities for each of the Jewish holidays. Masbia is hosting a large-scale Passover food distribution, giving away matzah, grape juice and fresh produce to those in need.

Wearing plastic aprons makes the volunteering job glamorous. Courtesy of MasbiaWorking at a soup kitchen may be hard, but the experience will change you. Every volunteer is required to wear a hairnet, gloves and an apron, which are definitely not comfortable nor fashionable. At Masbia volunteers are assigned to distribute meals or work in the kitchen. I remember being so nervous when I first helped to hand out food, but it really wasn’t as bad as I expected. Most of the people were very grateful which eased my discomfort. (Photo: Wearing plastic aprons does not make the volunteer job fashionable. Courtesy of Masbia)

There is often an influx of guests who arrive at the same time, so managing the tasks can be challenging. The kitchen is always damp, and the jobs range from cleaning grease off pans to cutting vegetables. Dicing is no piece of cake; I once cut 10 pounds of rock-hard butternut squash in two hours. My hands ached for days.

I find it heartbreaking to see so many people who need food, especially children. Working at a soup kitchen is a reality check. When you see that others lack necessities that you have always taken for granted, you step back and see how lucky you are. It puts your life and problems into perspective, and allows you to be grateful and understand everything you have, rather than what you’re missing. 

Even though the patrons at Masbia may not always seem appreciative, they are aware of how imperative the organization is to their daily life. Some aren’t polite and don’t say please or thank you, and I once saw an old woman yelling at a volunteer because he gave her the full portion of food and she only wanted fruit. Before judging those who seem ungrateful and aloof, you must remember that you do not know the person’s situation or life story. Masbia does not question or challenge anyone who walks through the door.

The act of chesed, or kindness, to others is a noble and selfless act, but also makes you feel purposeful. Volunteering at a soup kitchen is particularly inspiring, because you are not just behind the scenes donating money or products to a blank face, having no contact with the receiver. Here you are able to physically help someone in need, and understand what you are really doing for someone. Anyone who wants to volunteer at Masbia is welcome.

To volunteer at Masbia soup kitchen go to masbia.org. For Jewish, hunger-related resources go to mazon.org.
 

Teaser:

By volunteering at a soup kitchen, I know I’m helping people’s lives. 

ArticlePath: /articles/feeding-my-need
ImagePath: public://in_brooklyn.jpg
Tags: chesed, Masbia, MAZON, passover, soup kitchen
NID: 332
Date: Friday, April 8, 2016 - 15:42
AuthorBio:
Tova Meira Oberman is a senior at Ulpanat Talya in Jerusalem. 
Title: A Letter To The Ghetto
Subtitle:
Words become a tragic message for a savvy reader.
Body:

The arrest of Jews living in the Warsaw Ghetto. Via Wikipedia.org

21/1/41
אב התרצ''ח

To my friends and family way back home
Or as much of a home as can be
Im writing to tell you that life is great
As I hope you’ll soon come to see

We’re fed wondrous feasts daily
Like royalty we eat again
We have as much food to eat
As in Tishrei on day ten

Our clothing as well
Is extravagantly fair
As nice as on Purim
The clothing we wear

We’re definitely happy here
Thanks to the one above
We celebrate joyfully
Like on the ninth of Av

Hence dearest family and friends
Don’t worry about me
I’ll end up like Ahashverosh’s
Dearest Queen Vashti

We'll meet again soon
So fear not
I'll see you one day
When karbanot* are brought

* sacrifices

Teaser:

Words become a tragic message for a savvy reader. 

ArticlePath: /articles/letter-ghetto
ImagePath: public://warsawghetto.jpg
Tags: ghetto, Holocaust, Purim, Vashti
NID: 331
Date: Thursday, April 7, 2016 - 07:29
AuthorBio:
Ben Ruskin is a junior at Sycamore High School in Cincinnati. 
Title: Who You Calling A Terrorist?
Subtitle:
The Muslim community in Akko showed me the beauty of treating people with kindness.
Body:

The author "hangs on" to memories from his BBYO trip to Israel. He's photographed at Har Bental on the Golan Heights. Courtesy of Ben Ruskin 

Last summer I was given the amazing opportunity to travel to Israel with BBYO. Not only did I learn important lessons about my Jewish heritage and culture, but I also drank chocolate milk out of a bag. Overall it was a fantastic experience. Months later, as “Islamophobia” began to emerge as an issue in the presidential election campaign I recalled an event from my trip.

In Israel I experienced Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim celebration for the end of the fast days during the month of Ramadan. We were in Akko, a city in the northern coastal region. Akko has a large Muslim population and a prominent mosque, Al-Jazzar, in the town square. I looked outside the window of my youth hostel and saw a massive party in the streets. There were small carnival rides being run by children younger than me. The snacks that were being sold left a pungent, yet delightful scent in my nose for hours to come; the blaring music was catchy and upbeat. It felt impossible to be upset during such a celebration, and the stresses from home melted away as we joined the hoopla.
 
I recalled watching this celebration and hearing the music played late into the night. With recent news involving the religion of Islam — such as states refusing to accept Syrian refugees and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump wanting to ban Muslims from entering the United States — I think back to the time I spent celebrating with people who I met in the street. Everyone wore a smile on their faces, proud that they had completed yet another month of fasting. (In Ramadan, Muslims fast during daylight hours.)

The locals decorated me with beaded, plastic necklaces and gave me small hand-held noisemakers to celebrate the end of a holiday that I did not celebrate. I was treated with hospitality and kindness even though I was an intruder. The people were excited to welcome my friends and me into their festivities, and we loved being a part of it. These people, young and old, welcomed us into their arms without any reluctance. 

I know that people are inherently good, but lately the way that Muslims are portrayed in the media (and Trump’s comments about them) makes it hard to remember that. Israel taught me to treat everyone with kindness, no matter the circumstances, and that is a lesson that I will never forget.

It disgusts me today when people make claims that “all Muslims are terrorists.” I know first-hand that most Muslim people are not terrorists. People need to evaluate their accusations they are inflicting upon the kind-hearted people that I met in the street while traveling through Akko.
 

Teaser:

The Muslim community in Akko showed me the beauty of treating people with kindness. 

ArticlePath: /articles/who-you-calling-terrorist
ImagePath: public://ben_ruskin.jpg
Tags: Akko, Islamophobia, Muslim, Trump
NID: 330
Date: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - 07:35
AuthorBio:
Adiel Bendari is a sophomore at Torah Academy for Girls (TAG) in Far Rockaway. She is a two-time winner of the Lev Leytzan poetry slam. She performed this poem in the 2016 competition where she won second place. 
Title: When The Orchestra Came To Dance
Subtitle:
Audience members were handed harmony and kindness.
Body:
Cello strings. Via Pixabay.
 
When the orchestra came to dance
It started out very shy 
The instruments looked at each other and glanced at their notes and tuned in
But something was wrong
B flat became sharp and insulted A minor
Violin’s bow began playing piano’s keys 
Cello was busy saying hello to all the C majors 
And harp’s string were tangled in a screech 
However when the conductor came in
There was silence 
And the music began 
As the instruments danced together, in harmony
 
As the notes flew through the air 
The audience was held in a united silence
As they absorbed the light, emanating from the single sound 
They forgot about their own troubles 
Stuck in a black tunnel
Refusing to lend a hand to the man next door
For it was different than his own
His was white and his was black
His was clean and his was grimy
His was soft and his hard
And his held merits of thousands before him while his merely held the the struggle of a Jewish life but one 
And his…..
Not realizing the hand right over represented support, strength 
All they had to do was reach out and grab that string of support 
And the knot would unravel 
And their united way out of the tunnel of alienation 
Would be as smooth as…
The orchestra when it came to dance 
 
Teaser:

Audience members were handed harmony and kindness.    

ArticlePath: /articles/when-orchestra-came-dance
ImagePath: public://strings.jpg
Tags: black, cello, notes, sound
NID: 329
Date: Monday, March 21, 2016 - 10:05
AuthorBio:
Chayala Nachum is a senior at Bais Yaakov Academy in Brooklyn. Rashi Pachino is a junior at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore.
Title: Crumbly Hamantaschen
Subtitle:
Don't reject the imperfect Purim treat.
Body:

The lonely, crumbly hamantaschen is as delicious as the fresh and whole one. Courtesy of Rashi Pachino

Purim’s here again
The costumes are all in,
The stores display shelf after shelf
Of soft, sweet hamantaschen.

Every family returns home
With a big box or two,
The pastries are quickly consumed
Before Purim is through.

But some are left behind you see
All crumbly and forlorn,
And still remain there quite untouched
Come Shushan Purim morn.

What’s that you say? You are confused?
Oh that won’t get you far…
We’re the crumbly, broken hamantaschen
Yeah, you know who we are!

Year after year we hope and pray
To be eaten we wait,
But when Purim ends we’re still left
All crumbly on the plate.

Those rare times this is not the case
It’s proven for a fact,
A fight breaks out to claim the ones
That are whole and intact.

Explain, if you please, how this works
We taste the same you know,
Perfect, broken, we all come from
The very same batch of dough.

This Purim grab the crumbly ones
Taste them, go on, try!
From a tasty, broken hamantash
We guarantee you won’t die.

Teaser:

Don't reject the imperfect Purim treat. 

ArticlePath: /articles/crumbly-hamantaschen
ImagePath: public://trianglepastry.jpg
Tags: dough, hamantaschen, Purim
NID: 328
Date: Thursday, March 17, 2016 - 08:06
AuthorBio:
Title: Writing Contest
Subtitle:
The Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing is seeking essays on innovators.
Body:

Fotolia 

Choose a significant advancement in science, medicine or technology by a living or deceased Jewish-American. How does this innovation impact lives and why is it meaningful to you? 

Prize: $500 and inscribed Alexander Award medal 

Essays not exceeding 500 words should be emailed by May 31, 2016 to Shira Vickar-Fox at freshinkforteens@jewishweek.org. All entries must include the name of the high school and the grade of the entrant. 

Consideration will be given to originality, creativity and writing style

The annual contest is sponsored by Fresh Ink for Teens (FIT), the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and The Jewish Week Media Group. The contest is part of the Jewish American Heritage Month celebration in May.

The winning essay will be published on the websites of the sponsors and made available to Jewish high school newspapers that are members of the Jewish Scholastic Press Association, a supporting group of the Alexander Award.

The essays will be judged by representatives of The Jewish Week, the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and the Jewish Scholastic Press Association.

* There is a limit of one entry per student.
* Winners will be notified by email.
* Staff, board members and families of The Jewish Week Media Group are not eligible.

_____________________________________________________________________________________
 
Fresh Ink for Teens is made possible through the generosity of the Norman E. Alexander Family Foundation fund. Mr. Alexander, a businessman, philanthropist and a founder of The Jewish Week, had a special interest in educating and inspiring young people.
 
The Jewish-American Hall of Fame has honored more than 45 individuals in all fields since its founding in 1969. Student writers can select from these subjects or choose another American innovator. 
 
Teaser:

The Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing is seeking essays on innovators. 

ArticlePath: /articles/writing-contest
ImagePath: public://rw1061a_carousel.jpg
Tags: Alexander Award, contest, Jewish American
NID: 328
Date: Thursday, March 17, 2016 - 08:06
AuthorBio:
Title: Writing Contest
Subtitle:
The Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing is seeking essays on innovators.
Body:

Fotolia 

Choose a significant advancement in science, medicine or technology by a living or deceased Jewish-American. How does this innovation impact lives and why is it meaningful to you? 

Prize: $500 and inscribed Alexander Award medal 

Essays not exceeding 500 words should be emailed by May 31, 2016 to Shira Vickar-Fox at freshinkforteens@jewishweek.org. All entries must include the name of the high school and the grade of the entrant. 

Consideration will be given to originality, creativity and writing style

The annual contest is sponsored by Fresh Ink for Teens (FIT), the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and The Jewish Week Media Group. The contest is part of the Jewish American Heritage Month celebration in May.

The winning essay will be published on the websites of the sponsors and made available to Jewish high school newspapers that are members of the Jewish Scholastic Press Association, a supporting group of the Alexander Award.

The essays will be judged by representatives of The Jewish Week, the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and the Jewish Scholastic Press Association.

* There is a limit of one entry per student.
* Winners will be notified by email.
* Staff, board members and families of The Jewish Week Media Group are not eligible.

_____________________________________________________________________________________
 
Fresh Ink for Teens is made possible through the generosity of the Norman E. Alexander Family Foundation fund. Mr. Alexander, a businessman, philanthropist and a founder of The Jewish Week, had a special interest in educating and inspiring young people.
 
The Jewish-American Hall of Fame has honored more than 45 individuals in all fields since its founding in 1969. Student writers can select from these subjects or choose another American innovator. 
 
Teaser:

The Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing is seeking essays on innovators. 

ArticlePath: /articles/writing-contest
ImagePath: public://best_size.jpg
Tags: Alexander Award, contest, Jewish American
NID: 328
Date: Thursday, March 17, 2016 - 08:06
AuthorBio:
Title: Writing Contest
Subtitle:
The Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing is seeking essays on innovators.
Body:

Fotolia 

Choose a significant advancement in science, medicine or technology by a living or deceased Jewish-American. How does this innovation impact lives and why is it meaningful to you? 

Prize: $500 and inscribed Alexander Award medal 

Essays not exceeding 500 words should be emailed by May 31, 2016 to Shira Vickar-Fox at freshinkforteens@jewishweek.org. All entries must include the name of the high school and the grade of the entrant. 

Consideration will be given to originality, creativity and writing style

The annual contest is sponsored by Fresh Ink for Teens (FIT), the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and The Jewish Week Media Group. The contest is part of the Jewish American Heritage Month celebration in May.

The winning essay will be published on the websites of the sponsors and made available to Jewish high school newspapers that are members of the Jewish Scholastic Press Association, a supporting group of the Alexander Award.

The essays will be judged by representatives of The Jewish Week, the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and the Jewish Scholastic Press Association.

* There is a limit of one entry per student.
* Winners will be notified by email.
* Staff, board members and families of The Jewish Week Media Group are not eligible.

_____________________________________________________________________________________
 
Fresh Ink for Teens is made possible through the generosity of the Norman E. Alexander Family Foundation fund. Mr. Alexander, a businessman, philanthropist and a founder of The Jewish Week, had a special interest in educating and inspiring young people.
 
The Jewish-American Hall of Fame has honored more than 45 individuals in all fields since its founding in 1969. Student writers can select from these subjects or choose another American innovator. 
 
Teaser:

The Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing is seeking essays on innovators. 

ArticlePath: /articles/writing-contest
ImagePath: public://award-for-excellence-in-jewish-student-writing-is-seeking-essays-on-innovators.jpg
Tags: Alexander Award, contest, Jewish American
NID: 328
Date: Thursday, March 17, 2016 - 08:06
AuthorBio:
Title: Writing Contest
Subtitle:
The Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing is seeking essays on innovators.
Body:

Fotolia 

Choose a significant advancement in science, medicine or technology by a living or deceased Jewish-American. How does this innovation impact lives and why is it meaningful to you? 

Prize: $500 and inscribed Alexander Award medal 

Essays not exceeding 500 words should be emailed by May 31, 2016 to Shira Vickar-Fox at freshinkforteens@jewishweek.org. All entries must include the name of the high school and the grade of the entrant. 

Consideration will be given to originality, creativity and writing style

The annual contest is sponsored by Fresh Ink for Teens (FIT), the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and The Jewish Week Media Group. The contest is part of the Jewish American Heritage Month celebration in May.

The winning essay will be published on the websites of the sponsors and made available to Jewish high school newspapers that are members of the Jewish Scholastic Press Association, a supporting group of the Alexander Award.

The essays will be judged by representatives of The Jewish Week, the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and the Jewish Scholastic Press Association.

* There is a limit of one entry per student.
* Winners will be notified by email.
* Staff, board members and families of The Jewish Week Media Group are not eligible.

_____________________________________________________________________________________
 
Fresh Ink for Teens is made possible through the generosity of the Norman E. Alexander Family Foundation fund. Mr. Alexander, a businessman, philanthropist and a founder of The Jewish Week, had a special interest in educating and inspiring young people.
 
The Jewish-American Hall of Fame has honored more than 45 individuals in all fields since its founding in 1969. Student writers can select from these subjects or choose another American innovator. 
 
Teaser:

The Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing is seeking essays on innovators. 

ArticlePath: /articles/writing-contest
ImagePath: public://best_size_0.jpg
Tags: Alexander Award, contest, Jewish American
NID: 328
Date: Thursday, March 17, 2016 - 08:06
AuthorBio:
Title: Writing Contest
Subtitle:
The Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing is seeking essays on innovators.
Body:

Fotolia 

Choose a significant advancement in science, medicine or technology by a living or deceased Jewish-American. How does this innovation impact lives and why is it meaningful to you? 

Prize: $500 and inscribed Alexander Award medal 

Essays not exceeding 500 words should be emailed by May 31, 2016 to Shira Vickar-Fox at freshinkforteens@jewishweek.org. All entries must include the name of the high school and the grade of the entrant. 

Consideration will be given to originality, creativity and writing style

The annual contest is sponsored by Fresh Ink for Teens (FIT), the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and The Jewish Week Media Group. The contest is part of the Jewish American Heritage Month celebration in May.

The winning essay will be published on the websites of the sponsors and made available to Jewish high school newspapers that are members of the Jewish Scholastic Press Association, a supporting group of the Alexander Award.

The essays will be judged by representatives of The Jewish Week, the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and the Jewish Scholastic Press Association.

* There is a limit of one entry per student.
* Winners will be notified by email.
* Staff, board members and families of The Jewish Week Media Group are not eligible.

_____________________________________________________________________________________
 
Fresh Ink for Teens is made possible through the generosity of the Norman E. Alexander Family Foundation fund. Mr. Alexander, a businessman, philanthropist and a founder of The Jewish Week, had a special interest in educating and inspiring young people.
 
The Jewish-American Hall of Fame has honored more than 45 individuals in all fields since its founding in 1969. Student writers can select from these subjects or choose another American innovator. 
 
Teaser:

The Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing is seeking essays on innovators. 

ArticlePath: /articles/writing-contest
ImagePath: public://writing-contest-2016.jpg
Tags: Alexander Award, contest, Jewish American
NID: 327
Date: Wednesday, March 16, 2016 - 16:12
AuthorBio:
Gabi Friedman is a senior at Summit High School in Summit, N.J. 
Title: My Kind Of Jew
Subtitle:
My Judaism is a balance between secularism and observance, and that’s OK by me.
Body:

Gabi Friedman, far left, in Jerusalem with Diller Teens on the Israel Summer Seminar. Courtesy Gabi Friedman   

When I was very little, I would go to a prayer meeting, or minyan, with my dad every morning. I remember munching on rye bread and bagels at the small breakfast afterwards while my dad talked with the others in attendance. My mom says that the sweets they fed me for breakfast at the shul ruined any hopes she had of convincing me to eat a regular, healthy breakfast. I remember, too, when I first began to realize that not everybody was Jewish. My mom absolutely forbade telling the other girls in my kindergarten class that I knew Santa wasn’t real. I can’t remember if I listened or not.

Now that I’m in high school, Santa Claus no longer threatens my social life; I rarely have to deal with the overriding beliefs of others. Instead, I struggle with defining my own beliefs. In a group of my well-educated, secular friends, I often find myself nodding along, even participating in an atheist rejection of God. Of course there’s nobody up there in the sky. The Big Bang, evolution and natural selection: I can throw out the AP Biology terminology alongside with the best of them. Often, I even believe myself. I explain to my friends, and to myself, that I follow the traditional Jewish dietary restrictions, kashrut, and observe the Sabbath not out of devotion to a higher being, but because I respect the policies of my parents’ home. I attend services and chant verses from the Bible (or Books of Prophets) because I enjoy the melodies, not because I’m praying, not because I believe.

And yet, when I watch lightning zigzag though the sky, hear the endless silence of the forest, feel the precious softness of a newborn chick, taste the salt in the air of a storm, I am convinced that something far greater than man must be present in such wonders. And I remember why I’ve never had a cheeseburger or indulged in bacon. I remember why I can’t go out to the movies on Saturday or attend that great Friday night concert. I remember what I’m singing, who I’m praying to and that I do believe.

So yes, during Passover this year, I’ll think about cutting carbs. I’ll joke with my friends about archaic traditions and necessary evils. I’ll once more recite prayers I don’t really understand, partake in traditions that have largely lost their meaning and mumble through sections of the service I don’t really know. And that’s OK. But it’s also OK that in the heart of the next storm, I’ll whisper a prayer of my own and once more renew my faith.

I’m the daughter of a rabbi and a science teacher, at the intersection of two different ways of life. I live on the edge between the secular world and the world of observant Judaism. I’m not anyone else’s kind of Jew: my Jewish identity is distinctly my own. And I am certain that whoever may be up there in the sky is OK with that.

Teaser:

My Judaism is a balance between secularism and observance, and that’s OK by me.

ArticlePath: /articles/my-kind-jew
ImagePath: public://friedman_fr_ch.jpg
Tags: atheist, Big Bang, evolution, Santa Claus
NID: 326
Date: Friday, March 4, 2016 - 08:56
AuthorBio:
Charlie Goldsmith is a junior at Seven Hills High School in Cincinnati.   
Title: Staging History
Subtitle:
A high school production of ‘Letters to Sala’ made the Holocaust feel relevant to all audience members.
Body:

A scene from a play: Women line up for inspection at the Geppersdorf labor camp. Courtesy of Ben Hunt/ Mount Notre Dame High School

Presenting the Holocaust on stage in a way that high school students can relate to is challenging. Many Jewish teens have strong emotional ties to this history while non-Jewish teens may view this time period as the distant past. Last month, I attended a local high school’s production of “Letters to Sala,” a play written by Arlene Hutton. The show demonstrated how high school theatrical productions can provoke emotion and introspection among diverse audience members. The play was performed at Mount Notre Dame High School in Reading, Ohio, and the cast was comprised of students from a Catholic girls’ school and other Cincinnati-area high schools. The actors conveyed a difficult topic and moved the entire audience.  For schools or groups looking for an alternative to the classically powerful, “Diary of Anne Frank,” “Letters to Sala” is an outstanding option.

This dramatic, emotional play portrays Sala, a Holocaust survivor, as she remembers her traumatic childhood in labor camps in Poland. Old letters sent to and from Sala’s family members spark flashbacks of her experience during the Holocaust. Each letter awakens memories that play out on stage and force her contemporary family members to understand the significance of the letters.

Young and Chaim discuss their future. A quality Holocaust production gives the cast an understanding of the time period and immerses the audience into the lives of people who might otherwise be forgotten. Young Sala was relatable; the actor’s realistic, emotional reactions reflected the fear and terror of prisoners in a labor camp. The supporting actor, Ala, a friend of Sala’s in the work camps, revealed similarly strong and meaningful emotion in unforgettable scenes in the barracks where she consoled young Sala. (Photo: A young Sala discusses her future with Chaim, another prisoner. Courtesy of Ben Hunt/ Mount Notre Dame High School.)

In the performance that I attended, the portrayals by the two actors reflected intense exploration of their characters’ feelings. Every member of the cast, including the ensemble, added authenticity to the representation of their historical characters, whether by having Nazi guards speak in German or Yiddish-speaking family members interacting like a Jewish family of the shtetl. The talented young actors performed these roles with a great deal of professionalism. 

Offstage, the crew had many occasions to creatively use sounds in a way that contributes to the honesty of the play. Car honks and city bustle highlighted the contrast with the tears and gunshots that defined lives during the Holocaust. The set effectively established the barren, desolate labor camp and distinguished the setting from a typical Polish home. The gaping hole in the wall of Sala’s home represented the dire situation that she faced.

This play also focused on the Holocaust’s relevance. In modern New York, the characters argue as they try to decide the right destiny of the letters that were written long ago. Contemporary characters show the struggle of today’s teens to understand the significance of the Holocaust. While Jewish teens may attend Holocaust memorial programs or visit the sites of these horrors, non-Jewish teens do not have as many opportunities to explore the lives of the Jews who experienced this pain. Mia, Sala’s granddaughter, became enamored with these letters and could not stop questioning her elderly grandmother who displayed genuine fear and anguish while staring into her past. These moments turned history into reality. 

High schools that are considering producing this show should be aware that this play is more than a historical piece. It offers relevant opportunities for discussions about prejudice and discrimination. Through “Letters to Sala,” students from every religious background can experience a memorable and meaningful play that provides a window into this important period in history. 

Teaser:

A high school production of ‘Letters to Sala’ made the Holocaust feel relevant to all audience members. 

ArticlePath: /articles/staging-history
ImagePath: public://sala_carousel.jpg
Tags: Holocaust, labor camp, play, Poland
NID: 325
Date: Thursday, February 25, 2016 - 08:33
AuthorBio:
Jordyn Glantz is a junior at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, N.Y. 
Title: SuperTeens
Subtitle:
It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s J-Teen to the rescue!
Body:

Smiling Superheroes: The J-Teen group gathers in front of the home they repainted. Courtesy J-Teen  

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Would you fly? Become invisible? Make pizza magically appear? At J-Teen, a community service organization based in Westchester, we do our best to solve problems as real-life superheroes. Through J-Teen, participants become advocates for meaningful projects and find ways to help their communities.

In January, 30 J-Teen volunteers flew to Houston to aid neighborhoods affected by floods in the spring of 2015. When we arrived in Houston for Martin Luther King weekend we began with a volunteer icebreaker — we introduced ourselves with our name, grade, school and superpower we would like to have. I wanted the power to read minds. We had yet to do any service projects and improve any lives, but at the end of the trip we made significant accomplishments and felt like superheroes.

J-Teens read to students at a Jewish Montessori pre-school. We began our first day by helping the UOS Goldberg Montessori School, which is temporarily located at Congregation Brith Shalom since the Montessori facilities were severely damaged in the flood. We donated items of Judaica and books about the Jewish holidays. The children, who were between 3 and 6 years old, were so pleased to be receiving these new items since their books in the school had been destroyed. We had the opportunity to read to the children, and the children read to us as well. Not only did we enrich the children with new books, but we also enhanced their Jewish culture with more learning tools. These children are our next Jewish generation, and they need to learn to pass traditions on to the generation after them. (Photo left to right: Zoe Moskowitz, Jordyn Glantz and Ilana Geller read Jewish-themed books to Houston pre-schoolers. Courtesy J-Teen)   

On Sunday we volunteered with Rebuilding Together Houston. The group offers free home repairs and renovations so qualifying homeowners can live in a safe and renewed place. Our project was to repaint the home of a military veteran and his wife. When we arrived the house was partially covered in peeling and faded yellow paint. In a matter of four hours we peeled the paint, applied primer and repainted the whole house. Instead of the half-colored house that was there before, the couple now had a home that was as green as mint toothpaste. This job would’ve taken a normal team probably three or four days to accomplish; as a group we accomplished the job in superhero speed.

On our last day we volunteered at the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, where we had attended Sunday morning services the previous day. As Jewish teens, most of us had been to church only once or twice, if at all. So frankly we weren’t sure if we would appreciate the service as much as the members of the church. However, by the end we were all singing and smiling because of the amazing and welcoming service. The pastor was so captivating that he made us want to stand up and chant with him. His voice never quieted down, and behind him was the choir with men and women singing and dancing. Children engaged the audience by dancing on the floor in front of the stage. The church members also danced and stood to send their prayers to the pastor.

This energy made us very excited to come back the next day to volunteer at the church’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day fair. At the event there were many stations to help members of their community and the homeless population. I was assigned to the reading room where we did activities with the children while their parents were in a parenting session. We made some crafts and sat with the children while they listened to stories. One girl walked in and after I greeted her with a cheery hello she said, “I want to work with you.” This showed me that a smile could go a long way. I helped her and some others make superhero masks. Once the children completed their masks, we put them on their faces and asked them to choose a superpower. The children had the same answers as the volunteers: they wanted to read minds, to fly and to be invisible. Dreams don’t change, it seems, no matter the age.

We started our journey by contemplating superpowers, and then we were able to accomplish so much that we became superheroes ourselves. Entering the trip I hoped for the power to read minds. However, I learned that it is not necessary to read minds as long as we our willing to tell our story. If everyone tells his or her story, then we can change the world by preventing evil history from repeating itself and by being prepared for the uncontrollable disasters that come our way. We all possess the power to make a difference.  

Teaser:

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s J-Teen to the rescue! 

ArticlePath: /articles/superteens
ImagePath: public://kidsarealright.jpg
Tags: Houston, J-Teen, Martin Luther King Jr
NID: 324
Date: Thursday, February 18, 2016 - 14:18
AuthorBio:
Noa Rubin is a senior at Milken Community Schools in Los Angeles. 
Title: My Special Sister
Subtitle:
I’m in awe of the intelligent and reflective young woman my little sister, who is autistic, has become.
Body:

A Cause For Celebration: Noa Rubin, on the left, helps celebrate her sister Naomi's bat mitzvah. Naomi is on the right. Courtesy Grettel Cortes

“First you, Ron. Harry! Wait for Hermione!” my sister Naomi barked in a British accent while we waited in line for a waterslide. The other kids tried to go in front of us and she said, “No, sorry, but my wizard friends need to go first.” I apologized to the strangers and waited my turn. Later at the pool, a girl from the waterslide pointed to Naomi and whispered to her mother, “That’s the one who was talking to herself!”

When I was 8, I learned about my 6-year-old sister Naomi’s autism. She couldn’t get eye contact quite right and could hardly verbalize her thoughts. Not knowing how to help or connect with a sibling was confusing and intimidating, but I still played with her. Our games lacked structure: sometimes we just watched our favorite movies such as “Peter Pan” over and over. While my friends played board games and Barbies with their sisters, Naomi and I chased each other, pretended to be dogs and drew all over our faces with our mom’s makeup. I accepted our abnormal games because our relationship itself was unconventional.

With help from therapists who came to our house, Naomi became more like my friends’ siblings. Yet, as she became more similar to me — developing more communication skills — it was harder to be patient. My favorite conversations bored her. She was brutally honest, like when she would meet my classmates and reveal my criticisms of them to their faces. I couldn’t yell at Naomi because then she would never learn. I was forced to tap her gently and say, “Hey, when we meet someone new, we just say ‘nice to meet you,’ even when it isn’t nice.” In more challenging circumstances, like when she suddenly transformed into Helen Keller in an elevator, shutting her eyes and feeling around, I had to say, “Naomi, I love that you are inspired by Helen Keller, but this makes other people uncomfortable, so please just pretend in private.” I had to muster all my willpower not to be ashamed.

There were moments when I couldn’t help calling her names, with not-so-nice words like “stupid.” However, yelling and name-calling made her cry or scream, and I realized that if I condemned her for her imagination, she felt even more compelled to defy social rules. If I wanted to help her, I needed to be sensitive and to help shift her love of history and characters into an appropriate space by showing her books and films, such as “Harry Potter.”

Naomi always cared about the underdog, and consequently so did I. In middle school, I always stood up to the bullies who targeted kids with special needs. For the past three years, I have had the pleasure of combining my desire to care for the special needs community with my passion for Judaism as an aid in a special needs Hebrew school. In any social situation where I see a person with special needs, I always sit and listen to him or her because when people give my sister basic dignity, miracles happen. She led my synagogue in prayer and chanted Torah and haftorah at her bat mitzvah last February. In her speech, she discussed overcoming the challenge of having “a learning difference”; it was beautiful and all witnesses sat in awe, myself included, because my sister became a radiant, reflective and intelligent woman.

Being around Naomi has forced me to be vulnerable. Because I’m not bound by trying to make everyone think that my family is perfect, I am honest about myself and my personal struggles. The humility that I have learned from Naomi is paired with a pride in the triumphs of my family, my friends and in my own successes. Naomi’s achievements teach me to emphasize and enjoy capability, not disability. Most important, Naomi has made me a persistent advocate for justice, especially when a situation seems the most impossible.

Teaser:

I’m in awe of the intelligent and reflective young woman my little sister, who is autistic, has become. 

ArticlePath: /articles/my-special-sister
ImagePath: public://noa_rubin_l_0.jpg
Tags: autism, bat mitzvah, Harry Potter, sister
NID: 323
Date: Wednesday, February 10, 2016 - 13:16
AuthorBio:
Shira Wald is a senior at Maimonides School in Brookline, Mass.
Title: Laughter With Lots Of Marshmallows
Subtitle:
I volunteer with differently abled students and I’ve learned to find meaningful points of connection.
Body:

Shira Wald reads to one of her young students who participates in the Gateways' Sunday Program. Courtesy Gateways

Throughout my three years volunteering at the Gateways' Sunday Program, I have learned from my students as much as my students have learned from me. Gateways is an organization that helps students with special needs learn about Judaism and become active participants in their Jewish communities. Each year I have had the opportunity to work with a new student and gained new insights and experiences from each one.

My first year at Gateways was during my sophomore year and I was very nervous. I had no idea what to expect from the Sunday Program other than bits of information I picked up from my two older sisters who were also volunteers. The Gateways' Sunday Program is a Hebrew school where volunteers work one-on-one with special-needs students to teach them Hebrew and Jewish traditions.

The weekly program is packed with activities such as Hebrew lessons, music, circle time (where we learn about traditions or an upcoming holiday), snack and more. On my first day in the classroom I felt a little awkward, not knowing if my student would feel comfortable with me. I just hoped that he would not notice that I was not totally confident. Luckily, he was very patient with me as I learned how the schedule at Gateways worked. I learned a lot of logistics over the first few weeks, such as how to transition from music to Hebrew to circle time as well as what to do during each activity.

My student, who was around 20 years old, discovered that I was equally patient with him when he wanted to take a break and go for a walk. We worked together to make each other feel comfortable. I soon discovered that he was extremely friendly. When I started seeing him at synagogue on the weekends, he never hesitated to come over and say “Shabbat Shalom,” which always brightened my weekend.

As time went on, we were able to move past feeling uncomfortable. We began discussing our plans, weekends and pets. I especially loved seeing pictures of his cat from week to week. I also always made sure to have pictures of my two dogs readily available in case the topic of dogs came up, which it almost always did. Each week became more seamless than the one before as we learned more about each other, such as our favorite colors and favorite animals, but we also learned how to work together. I understood when a break was necessary based on his body language and what learning styles he preferred.

This year, I am having just as positive an experience with a sweet, young girl. I especially enjoy all the laughs we share. Once she and I made edible dreidels out of marshmallows, but somehow the marshmallows seemed to end up everywhere but in our stomachs, and all we could do was laugh. She is not shy around me at all, yet she is very shy around the other students and volunteers. One of my biggest goals for her is to interact with the other students in the classroom, and feel comfortable opening up not only with me but with the other volunteers. I often prompt her to ask another volunteer or student a conversation-starter question such as, “What is your favorite food?” and I am very excited when it sparks an entire conversation.

Perhaps even more exciting than the friendship I share with my students is the connection that everyone in the classroom shares. Recently at Gateways one of the young girls went over to a young boy and asked him for one of his apple slices. Without hesitation, he opened his bag of apple slices and asked which piece she wanted. This was a small gesture that showed what Gateways is all about — everyone (students, volunteers and parents) all working together to create a warm, caring environment. People are ready and willing to share, not just apple slices, but conversations, time and energy. People are willing to put in something of themselves. Everyone is able to take something out: knowledge and friendship from those around them. 

Teaser:

I volunteer with differently abled students and I’ve learned to find meaningful points of connection. 

ArticlePath: /articles/laughter-lots-marshmallows
ImagePath: public://twogirls_1.jpg
Tags: Gateways, Hebrew, special-needs, volunteer
NID: 322
Date: Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - 14:20
AuthorBio:
Rashi Pachino is a junior at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore. 
Title: A Kodak Moment
Subtitle:
Learning how to focus on God.
Body:

Turning my lens away from troubles and onto the One Above. Courtesy of Rashi Pachino

Switch lenses:
my perspective is blurry,
I can't seem to find the proper focus,
that push or reassurance I need to keep going.

Change batteries:
my hope is dying,
I don't seem to connect anymore,
with the love and compassion that carried me through my troubles.

Maybe a whole new camera:
a whole new outlook on life,
a new guardian,
a new keeper,
a new connection with the One Above.

The One that truly is:
the lens,
the focus,
the camera.

 

Teaser:

Learning how to focus on God.  

ArticlePath: /articles/kodak-moment
ImagePath: public://photog.jpg
Tags: camera, focus, lens
NID: 321
Date: Friday, January 22, 2016 - 08:56
AuthorBio:
Bailey Frohlich is a senior at Yeshiva High School of Boca Raton, Fla. She is also campus legislative coordinator for her AIPAC cadre and vice-president of social action on the Southern NCSY Regional Board.
Title: Israeli Intelligence
Subtitle:
Facts for you to counteract myths about Israel.
Body:

AIPAC Makes Us Happy: Macayla Gritz, left, a junior from Boca Raton, Fla. and author Bailey Frohlich at an AIPAC event. Courtesy Bailey Frohlich

I recently walked with my grandmother and sister down a main street in Bal Harbour, Fla. on the way to eat dinner at a local restaurant. Out of nowhere, a woman on a bicycle rode by us and screamed, “How could you support apartheid against Palestinians? It’s like the Holocaust over there!” To be honest, I didn’t process her words at first. Our modest attire of mid-length skirts and T-shirts did not automatically indicate we were Jewish or believers in Zionism, so why would she randomly shout the word “Holocaust” at us?

Then it hit me. I was wearing my favorite Tzahal (Israeli army) shirt and she was comparing my country to apartheid South Africa. I am a proud Zionist and she was comparing me to a Nazi. I wish I could tell you that I immediately retorted a witty and factually-correct response that invalidated all of her claims, but by the time I processed her accusations, I could see the back wheel of her bicycle turn the street corner, leaving behind her hateful comments and a shocked teenage girl. 

The truth is, facts are important in the battle against anti-Israel slander and propaganda. Whether you encounter accusations against Israel in a classroom, on campus or on a busy street like I did, you will need to know the facts to counteract anti-Israel myths. It isn’t enough to say, “I love Israel and Israel is a moral state” when some SJP student (Students for the Justice of Palestine, an anti-Israel campus movement) is holding up to your face a picture of what seems to be an Israeli soldier shooting a Palestinian baby.

So here are three of the most common myths (out of MANY) that you might encounter some day and quick one-sentence responses which will not only make you sound smart, but will also help you defend Israel in an effective manner.

MYTH #1: Israel’s separation wall is clear evidence that Israel is an apartheid state.

First, the facts:
1. Israel built their security barrier along the West Bank between 2000 and 2003 in response to the onslaught of terrorist attacks during the second intifada (period of intense Palestinian violence against Israelis).
2. Apartheid South Africa was the decades-long period of government-enforced racial segregation among South African citizens.

Your educated, speedy response:
1. The security barrier’s sole purpose is to protect Israeli civilians from terror attacks and suicide bombings by Palestinians and is effective in doing so because the number of attacks significantly declined since the wall’s construction.
2. Using the term apartheid is out of context because South Africa’s apartheid was discriminatory against its citizens, and Palestinians living in the West Bank are not Israeli citizens.

MYTH #2: Israeli settlements in the West Bank are the main obstacle in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

First, the facts:
1. Settlements are built by Israeli citizens on land that Israel won during the 1967 Six Day War, specifically in the West Bank.
2. In 2005, Israel removed all settlements from Gaza; these settlements were formerly known as Gush Katif.
3. UN Resolution 242 states that Israel must withdraw from its territory acquired from the 1967 war only in exchange for peace and the Palestinian acknowledgement of Israel’s sovereignty and right to security.

Your educated, speedy response:
1. Before we can even discuss Israeli settlements, we must acknowledge that the main obstacle to peace is the Palestinian continuation of terrorism against innocent Israeli citizens and Palestinian refusal to accept Israel’s existence as the Jewish state.
2. Israel has continuously proven its desire to negotiate peace — shown by Israel’s giving up of Gaza and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s two-state solution proposal in 2008 — yet the Palestinians use Gaza as a launch pad for missiles and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected Olmert’s proposal.

MYTH #3: The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) uses disproportionate force against innocent Palestinian children.

First, the facts:
1. Whenever a rocket from Gaza kills Israeli civilians and Israel responds by killing Hamas leaders and bombing weapon storehouses — which leads to the deaths of innocent civilians — Palestinians call that a “disproportionate response.” 
2. The Iron Dome, partially funded by U.S. financial aid to Israel, is a mobile defense system that intercepts and destroys short-range rockets.

Your educated, speedy response:
1. A parallel retaliation would be if the Israelis fired unguided rockets into Gaza, endangering civilians, rather than targeting specific terrorists and their locations.
2. When Palestinians civilians die due to an Israeli military response, it is because Hamas uses Palestinians, including children, as human shields and because Hamas stores weapons in hospitals and schools; even so, the IDF warns civilians in Gaza to evacuate areas in advance of a military strike.
3. The only reason why Palestinians rockets kill less people than a rocket would normally kill is because of the Iron Dome, and the Israeli military action is in response to an unprovoked Palestinian terror attack and should not be considered an act of aggression.

I wish I could have retorted back to that bicycle rider that apartheid only refers to citizens, the refusal to acknowledge Israel’s right to defense is a double standard or the demonization of the IDF is unfounded.

But you have the chance to do it. Yes, you can do it and you must. Whether it is in a classroom setting or an anti-Israel protest during the annual Israel Apartheid Week on your college campus, be the one to stand up and defend Israel. If it isn’t for your love of Israel as the birthplace and homeland of the Jewish people, do it because you are defending the truth, one counter-fact at a time.

Teaser:

Facts for you to counteract myths about Israel. 

ArticlePath: /articles/israeli-intelligence
ImagePath: public://bailey.jpg
Tags: AIPAC, Apartheid, Hamas, Iron Dome, SJP
NID: 320
Date: Wednesday, January 20, 2016 - 06:43
AuthorBio:
Rachel Eckstein is a senior at Bruriah High School in Elizabeth, N.J. 
Title: A Feminist Among Philistines
Subtitle:
I look to the achievements of Devorah, the judge, to navigate a Torah and modern way of life.
Body:

A 17th-century painting by Salomon de Bray of Yael, Deborah (in the middle) and Barak. Wikimedia Commons

There has been a spiritual struggle on my mind. I feel incredibly lost in my role as a Jewish woman in the 21st century. In my life, I have two main influences on my psyche and subconscious that are disparate in almost every way: the Torah and modern society. I would really love to meet the prophetess Devorah to discuss, understand and reconcile the differences between Torah feminism and modern feminism. We read about her in this week’s haftorah, chapters four and five from the Book of Judges.

As a woman, I feel that the Torah tells me that my greatest contribution would be to raise a family devoted to serving God. But in current society, I’m told raising a family is but one of the ways to contribute to the world and that having a career can be of equal benefit. The Book of Judges does not mention any children for Devorah and Barak, which can mean either that she didn’t have children or that she did and they were not relevant. If Devorah did have children, then I would ask the classic question of how to balance work and life. How did she balance taking spiritual care of the entire nation versus taking spiritual care of her family? What sage advice could she offer to women today, when deciding on full- or part-time careers in addition to having a family? If she did not have children, I’d like to know if she felt bad about it or if she felt she made her best possible contribution as a leader of klal Yisrael.

Unfortunately, due to my lack of knowledge and the society I live in, I often feel restricted by the ideologies and laws of the Gemara. In the grand scheme of history though, I am the most liberated female generation yet. My knowledge of the way things are and can be, leads me to desire more and more inclusion. While Devorah was a shofetet (female judge), she still couldn’t inherit from her parents, according to Jewish law. If they were in financial distress, fathers could sell their daughters. How can the dichotomy of leading the nation and not being able to inherit be resolved? I believe and want to know that the Torah does treat women fairly, but I simply do not understand how to interpret and comprehend laws and allowances that seem to marginalize women. I wonder what Devorah, a tzaddeket (great woman), would say to help me through my sense of limitation and injustice. What did she believe and how did she live her life to such a great capacity within the world she lived?

She was an extraordinary woman, and as the only female judge to guide the People of Israel she was clearly unusual. I doubt she dreamed of being a shofetet; did she feel this was a great privilege bestowed upon her as a woman, or did gender not cross her mind since the appointment came from God? I won’t have God assigning me a position as a full-time mom or a career woman. How can I know what is best for me?

The journey of self is a dual process that consists of finding and creating oneself. In my life I work to find the balance between the two, to discover the strengths God gave me, but also to develop new strengths. The same goes for my place in Judaism. The Torah mandates we find a place in a community, yet it is equally important to not lose our individual views. Devorah found her place in Judaism, but she also created the place she found. She was the first shofetet to lead the people and she was accepted and respected by the Jews.

Devorah is a role model to me. Whatever struggles she went through, she maintained her identity as a Jew and found her place in the system. For all of my questions, doubts, concerns and feelings, at the end of the day I too want to find my place in the system of Judaism. I want God and Torah to be the center of my life; I’m just not sure how to get there. I know a critical part of that journey is experiencing different hashkafot (worldviews) of Judaism and seeing how each resonates with me. I firmly believe, though, that hashkafa is not black and white and to be Orthodox does not mean to be limited to a specific set of beliefs. I plan to use my year of studying in Israel after graduation and the rest of life, to find a place for me to solidify my faith and find a way to exist as an individual woman within a large, complex whole.

I’d like to create an informed opinion about where I hope to see the Jewish future in regards to women. There are so many things I have yet to learn and many topics I have yet to discover I need to learn. I daven continuously that God should help me understand the history and evolution of the social culture of the Jews and be humble enough to accept the Gemara for all of its laws. I hope that if I could meet Devorah, she would be able to enlighten me about some of my struggles and act as a role model for how to live a meaningful life dedicated to the service of God, no matter what form it may take.

Teaser:

I look to the achievements of Devorah, the judge, to navigate a Torah and modern way of life.  

ArticlePath: /articles/feminist-among-philistines
ImagePath: public://camera_obscura.jpg
Tags: Book of Judges, Devorah, gender, Torah
NID: 318
Date: Thursday, January 14, 2016 - 09:26
AuthorBio:
Eliana Melmed is a senior at Milken Community Schools in Los Angeles. 
Title: Free Form
Subtitle:
The feminist and artist Eleanor Antin inspires me to feel unconstrained.
Body:

Eliana Melmed refuses to be labeled or categorized. Courtesy of Joshua Monesson

Editor’s Note: Eliana Melmed was a finalist for The Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing. The national contest sought essays on a Jewish American who has made a significant impact in the field of television, film, music or theater. Writers were asked to identify the person’s lasting legacy on them or on American culture. The contest was sponsored by the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and The Jewish Week Media Group.

The question comes from my teachers, my college counselor, my peers, my grandmother’s friends, the woman sitting next to me at shul: What kind of person are you? Do you like art or science? Math or English? I know that the expected answer fits neatly into a box, but the truth is: I like everything.

So did Eleanor Antin. Filmmaker, professor, screenwriter, actress, photographer and artist, she actively resisted society’s labels. “...as a Jew, I’m an outsider. As a woman, I’m an outsider,” she was quoted in the book “Looking Jewish: Visual Culture & Modern Diaspora” by Carol Zemel. These feelings of exclusion were chiseled into artwork, and Antin created masterpieces that defied societal norms.

I was most moved by Antin’s “Carving: A Traditional Sculpture,” a multi-photograph series published in 1972 that documented the changes that occurred to Antin’s body during a 36-day diet. Using her camera as a paintbrush and her body as a canvas, Antin mocked the idea that a woman is a piece of marble to be carved into someone else’s perfect statue. In the dozens of films she wrote, starred in, directed and produced, Antin created personas that revealed a haunting truth about the ancillary role women had been cast to play not only in 20th-century America, but also in pre-Holocaust Europe.

Today, I feel this same pressure as a woman to be labeled and neatly packaged into the box on the left side of the mechitza (gender partition). In my Modern Orthodox temple, I can’t publicly read from the Torah, lead services or sit next to my dad at my bat mitzvah. But slowly, things are beginning to change in ways that would make Eleanor Antin proud. Women are now encouraged to lead their own halachic services where they can read Torah. My temple is the first Orthodox one in Los Angeles to welcome a female clergy member. And I’ve had the empowering experience of blogging for the Jewish Women’s Archive, an organization that celebrates and documents important women and their ongoing contributions to society.

“I was determined to present women without pathos or helplessness,” Antin said in a Feminist Artist Statement. The changes that are occurring show that we women do not need to be pitied or sentimentalized; we are not clay to be molded and shaped by overprotective hands. What had been only a hope in Antin’s youth is now becoming a reality, and for that we can thank Eleanor Antin’s persistence, her originality, her confidence and her activism.

In my senior year of high school, I have been implored to whittle down my interests. But I refuse to choose just one subject when I am fascinated by so many. Eleanor Antin has taught me that a woman should not carve herself, physically or otherwise, to fit a mold created by somebody else.

The next time I am asked to put myself in a box, I will think of Eleanor Antin, and rip the label to shreds.

Teaser:

The feminist and artist Eleanor Antin inspires me to feel unconstrained.  

ArticlePath: /articles/free-form
ImagePath: public://melmed.jpg
Tags: artist, feminist, Modern Orthodox, woman
NID: 317
Date: Thursday, January 7, 2016 - 13:14
AuthorBio:
Title: Winter Ideas 2016
Subtitle:
Keep your mind warm with these suggested topics to write for Fresh Ink for Teens.
Body:
A lone skier on Mount Hermon in northern Israel. Wikimedia Commons 
 
 
The best ideas come from inside your heads, but if you are itching to write (not from wearing a wool sweater) and don’t know what to write about, look over this list of suggested topics. Send an email to freshinkforteens@jewishweek.org and let us know what inspires you.   
 
College Essays     Seniors, send me any essays that include something Jewish or Israel-related. Who knew essays were good for more than getting into college? 
 
Super Bowl (Feb. 7)     What’s Jewish about the NFL — maybe the kosher snacks for your viewing party? 
 
Oscars (Feb. 28)     Calling all film fans. Write about Jewish-themed movies or Jewish actors, directors or writers we should know about. Who are your favorite Jewish Oscar contenders?  
 
Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month (Feb.)     Do you participate in any programs that include mixed abilities? Want to share experiences regarding your disability?  
 
I Heart Camp     What is it with Jewish teens and their sleepaway obsessions? Are you counting down the days till summer? Planning visits with your out of town friends? Do you enjoy off-site trips or do you wish camp experiences were exclusively on site? Write about why you love everything about camp.  
 
Podcasts     Do you subscribe to podcasts? Listen to any programs from Israel? What do you recommend for your peers?
 
Community Service Projects     Did you participate in an alternative winter break or Midnight Run? Do you volunteer in a soup kitchen or spearhead a social media campaign to prevent distracted driving? You participate in so many worthwhile causes; they’re all perfect topics for FIT. And hey, if you’re the type who prefers to sit on the couch and binge on Netflix that’s valid too. Try to motivate yourself to write about it.   
 
I Can’t Believe You Did That     Have a funny, real-life story to share? I want a Jewish teen version of Metropolitan Diary from the New York Times. For example, someone walked into the wrong bar mitzvah party and was introduced to members of the celebrant’s family. Or my nephew walked into a synagogue and said too loudly, “it smells like the rabbi.” Share your cute, silly or embarrassing tales.
 
Foreign Friends     Do you have Jewish friends in India, Scotland or Mexico? Maybe you met someone at camp from Vermont. Tell us about Jews from different communities, near or far.
 
DIY     Are you handy or crafty? Did you make your own tallit? Have a delicious challah recipe to share? Give the readers tips on how to make an attractive Shabbat or holiday table. 
 
People of the Book     What are you reading these days? How do movie versions compare with the books? For example—anyone see “The Giver” and read the book? Is there a Jewish message in “Brooklyn”?  
 
New school this year? Changes in your family? Have you sworn off Facebook forever? Think about styles, trends, phases, gadgets, pet peeves and nuisances. They’re all concepts worthy of FIT.
 
 
Teaser:

Keep your mind warm with these suggested topics to write for Fresh Ink for Teens. 

ArticlePath: /articles/winter-ideas-2016
ImagePath: public://skier.jpg
Tags: articles, Fresh Ink for Tees, ideas
NID: 316
Date: Thursday, December 31, 2015 - 09:42
AuthorBio:
Bailey Frohlich is a senior at Yeshiva High School in Boca Raton, Fla.
Title: Does Security Trump Civil Liberties?
Subtitle:
Teens respond to Donald Trump’s call to deny Muslims entry into the United States.
Body:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump campaigning in December in Grand Rapids, Mich. Getty Images

We are blessed to live in the United States in the 21st century. Our Founding Fathers fought a Revolutionary War to secure our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness — inalienable rights afforded to us by our Bill of Rights.

One of these rights is freedom of religion, a freedom which has shaped America from its inception when the pilgrims fled religious persecution and arrived 400 years ago.

When Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made seemingly anti-Muslim comments in early December he naturally caused immense controversy. In a statement posted December 7, 2015 on his campaign website, Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States… until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses.”

Trump is essentially calling into question one of the principles of the First Amendment — freedom of religion — by citing a person’s religious beliefs as reason for denying their entry into the United States. Such comments have similar controversial effects as proposing gun restrictions, which could violate the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms, according to gun rights advocates.

Jewish high school students responded to the negative implications of Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban Muslims. “What started as a risky, say-what-no-one-else-will candidacy has morphed into one dispelling dangerous, fascistic rhetoric throughout this country,” said Izy Muller, a junior at Yeshiva High School in Boca Raton, Fla.

Vita Fellig, a senior in Yeshiva High School, voiced her concern that Trump’s comments will bolster ISIS. “[Trump’s comments] allow ISIS to get more recruits because it just reaffirms [ISIS’] hate against the West,” said Fellig. 

Criticisms of Trump’s comments bear a common theme: barring Muslims from entering the United States is dangerous because it is antithetical to America’s freedom of religion and casts the will of the American people in a negative light, especially since Trump is the leading Republican candidate. According to his critics, not only is Trump violating an amendment, he is also risking America’s reputation as a country that promotes freedom and condemns discrimination.

“Trump's remarks remind us of the dark periods of our [American] history: our intolerance to races, ethnicities and other groups of people,” said a high school senior who preferred to remain anonymous. “Even contemplating Trump’s comments as a possible solution to terrorism is an abomination toward the progress of Civil Rights, LGBT and other social movements that have made America the great, free country it is today.”

Yet Trump does have a method to his madness. What some would call discriminatory policies others would call necessary measures to ensure national security. In light of the current wave of terrorism caused by extremists which has led to the rise of ISIS and tragedies such as the San Bernardino massacre, Trump is reacting to the fears of the American people.

He is addressing an issue larger than America’s response to terrorism. The crux of the controversy lies in the heart of an age-old argument: when does national security override the freedom of an individual? 

To understand the implications of this debate, let’s briefly examine the significance of individual rights throughout history. It has roots in the Enlightenment when philosophers John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau debated the importance of individual rights over the common good. During American colonial times, the Alien and Sedition Acts limited rights for immigrants in a time of conflict. Today, civil liberties are at the center of discussions regarding the National Security Administration’s right to invade citizens’ privacy for security purposes.

Trump’s comments should not be disparaged as discriminatory and antithetical to American values, but should be regarded within their broad historical context.

Like the United States in 1798 that banned immigrants in response to the French foreign threat, like the U.S. post-Pearl Harbor response to Japanese immigrants and the heightened security against Soviet espionage during the Cold War, the United States of today has the responsibility to protect citizens against terrorism. When there is a foreign threat, personal liberties should be restricted because the advantages of more security offset the costs of diminished liberty.

Donald Trump is promoting the concept that in desperate times, security trumps civil liberties.

Teaser:

Teens respond to Donald Trump’s call to deny Muslims entry into the United States. 

ArticlePath: /articles/does-security-trump-civil-liberties
ImagePath: public://trump_fr_chuck_0.jpg
Tags: amendment, religion, terrorism, Trump
NID: 315
Date: Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - 17:45
AuthorBio:
Lauren Ishay is a junior at the Yeshivah of Flatbush Joel Braverman High School in Brooklyn. 
Title: Song Of Life
Subtitle:
Memories from childhood formed the teenager I am today.
Body:

High school passes in the blink of an eye. Lauren Ishay, at left, with friends Renne Hadef, Hannah Elmekies and Fatima Blanco. Courtesy of Lauren Ishay   

Childhood came, only to so quickly disappear
Time rolled unremittingly on, with each passing year
But my time of youth, always remembered oh so well
And in the remembering there is a story to tell

My days of being young were mostly happy and carefree
Blissfully ignorant of life, were my friends and me
From chasing butterflies and picking flowers at 3 years old
To a trip to the doctor discovering my first cold

The age of 4 came crawling around the corner
When I haughtily advertised that I was a performer
Of course it was not all laughter, at times there was a tear
Specifically when I reached 5 and saw that Papa was under hospital care

Then 6 years old reached its peak
Where I skied from summit to base in Beaver Creek
Two thousand and eight held the first summer away from home
From sleep-away camp in upstate New York to three weeks in Santorini and Rome

Middle school approached, the time I couldn’t look fatter
And suddenly the lives of 1D and JB seemed to matter
A celebration by the Western Wall, a vacation I’ll always remember
Skydiving at 11 an experience forever treasured

When I turned 13 and uncovered the inevitability of growing up
I learned the importance of responsibility when my parents provided me with a pup
Twenty twelve approached when Hurricane Sandy evolved into a national tragedy
An experience that scarred my memory and left my family in complete agony

Eventually the realities of life crept up beside me
When I began my high school career in homeroom 203
The rigorous classes in high school passed by
And suddenly summer arrived in a blink of an eye

Experiencing the life as a college student in Krinsky
And touring the world with tenth graders beside me
Had shaped my life into who I am today
As the song of life will continue to sing away

Teaser:

Memories from childhood formed the teenager I am today. 

ArticlePath: /articles/song-life
ImagePath: public://lauren_ishay.jpg
Tags: camp, college, high school, Hurricane Sandy
NID: 314
Date: Wednesday, December 16, 2015 - 15:33
AuthorBio:
Noa Rubin is a senior at Milken Community Schools in Los Angeles.  
Title: Jewish Handiwork
Subtitle:
The hands of many people shaped the person I am today.
Body:

Hands are key to my Jewish identity. Via Pixabay

Using a silver cup I pour water on my hands, once on my right, then on my left, three times. I watch the water rush down my hands and into the sink. Al netilat yadayim (on the washing of hands) — I reflect on my gratitude for the commandment to wash my hands as preparation for holy actions. I am ready.

My Jewish identity consists of many disjointed facets. Seeking commonality in my memories, I found one recurring image: hands. The people who appear in my memories used their hands to sanctify mine. The memory of my dad’s hands on the car’s steering wheel, fighting traffic to get me to school, brought dedication to me as a learner. The memory of my grandparents hosting Shabbat dinners for my cousins and me almost every week. Their hands set the table and cooked beautiful meals — a meaningful, intergenerational practice — and therefore, tradition matters to me.

When my friends and I discuss social, philosophical and political issues, they help my hands decide how they will use their values to shape my life and the lives of others. Are people inherently good or evil? What does Judaism say about income inequality? These conversations make me a social critic, constantly studying the world I live in. My teachers bring enthusiasm and accessibility to the classroom, which has inspired my hands to build meaningful and exciting learning opportunities for others in my roles as a leader, tutor and teacher.

As I grow up, there will also be times when I will have to learn not to use my hands, but to raise my voice. The trouble with having Jewish hands is that they often carry the burden of historical and contemporary oppression. Earlier this year at the beach I found a lost kippah. I brought it to the lifeguard to hold onto in case its owner returned. The lifeguard laughed, joked that it was his and threw it at me. I left, unsure of a safe response.

Sometimes I can try to control anti-Semitism by writing, raising awareness on social media or by reminding my peers of our obligation to defend our people. But when I go to college, I know that there will be some whose hands have not been sanctified by values of coexistence. These people may verbally harass me or decorate my school with anti-Semitic propaganda. Anti-Semitism will rattle my hands, test them and make them ache. But I will also need to fight oppression with the most important Jewish value: loving one’s neighbor as oneself. I will need to shake hands with them in an effort to wash them in the gifts that my privileged upbringing has given me.

My hands are still learning — I am still learning. But I know that the actions of those in my world are what make me the Jewish woman that I am.

Teaser:

The hands of many people shaped the person I am today. 

ArticlePath: /articles/jewish-handiwork
ImagePath: public://hands_fr_chuck.jpg
Tags: anti-Semitism, cousins, Jewish, Shabbat
NID: 313
Date: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 - 11:05
AuthorBio:
Golda Daphna is a junior at Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls in Hewlett, L.I. 
Title: Chanukah Sparks Wonder
Subtitle:
Even in high school, where the miracle of oil and the drudgery of homework often conflict.
Body:

Embracing the magic of Chanukah: The writer, on right, lights candles with her parents, Yocheved and Yehuda Daphna. Courtesy of Moshe Daphna.

Editor's note: This article was originally published in December 2015. 

Magic. A frosty, December evening in the city that never sleeps. Huddled next to my mother, my eyes shining as I gazed at the menorah as tall as the skyscrapers around it, is how I remember the wonder of Chanukah. The memory is almost comical: A cherry picker transporting a man from candle to candle. It was as if the menorah lighter were an angel of God lighting a candelabra on construction equipment to reach his Master. But the scene was far from mundane. The rabbi who recited the blessings sang them in a Sephardic melody; his Israeli lilt seemed to fill the city of millions; the warm latkes handed out contrasted with the cold air around them, and even the free, fire-alarm batteries contributed to the enchantment of the evening.

The magic faded somehow. An annual Chabad lighting ceremony still takes place in New York City. A man still sings the blessings on the candles, spreading the miracle, and the holiday is used to promote fire safety. But I changed. I matured. The world around me became different. My siblings grew up. No longer did the family gather together in the wee hours of the morning to spin dreidels surrounded by the scents of powdered sugar and fried potatoes. No longer did my brother Abie collect old pennies, my brother Moshe, compete viciously and I, look for more chocolate gelt. No longer did we all tear open fancy wrapping paper in heightened anticipation only to be greeted with gloves and laugh good-naturedly over the predictable disappointment. School became harder. No longer were classes canceled, evenings free and homework eliminated. No longer did my life contribute to the magic.

But the funny thing about magic is that as you change so does your perspective. Maturity is about incorporating the lack of family unity, the mountain of homework and the SAT into the spirit of the holiday. Maturity is about creating new traditions. Maturity is a transition. I’m no longer in elementary school. My teachers understand that specialness doesn’t need to be explained for me to internalize it. I need to experience it. I need to experience the magic in the change.

The writer's extended family gather to celebrate Chanukah. My siblings grew up. Two are married now. While I doubt they’d be eager to pull an all-nighter to spin an archaic toy, they bring two more people through our doorway. While now they are eager to receive winter accessories, my older siblings and I still scoff and chuckle in unison at the predictability. School is harder. While taking an SAT certainly is not a magical experience, the juxtaposition between the routine and the holiness of the Jewish tradition shows an unrivaled uniqueness. Although life gets complicated and imposes hurdles that compete with the remembrance of an ancient miracle, Chanukah remains special, and that shows the maturity of the Jewish nation. (Photo: The writer and her extended family celebrate Chanukah together. Courtesy of Moshe Daphna)

I grew up and retained my appreciation for Chanukah, the holiday still fills me with wonder. To me, it’s when my siblings, their significant others and I gather together to appreciate the miracle of Jewish survival. To me, Chanukah is going to synagogue, sitting with the children in my community and singing songs to commemorate the holiday. To me, Chanukah is finding the miracle and magic in everything that I do. The miracle that although Jews in Paris are urged not to light public menorahs, I am not afraid in America. The miracle that I live in a Jewish neighborhood that celebrates Chanukah with communal festivities. The miracle that I go to a Jewish school that hosts a Chanukah raffle to add fun and to ease our heavy workload. The miracle that with each passing year Chanukah becomes more magical as I understand and apply its meaning to my everyday life. 

Teaser:

Even in high school, where the miracle of oil and the drudgery of homework often conflict. 

ArticlePath: /articles/chanukah-sparks-wonder
ImagePath: public://golda_daphna.jpg
Tags: Chabad, Chanukah, gelt, SAT
NID: 312
Date: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 - 06:43
AuthorBio:
Linor Kuighadoush is a sophomore at Machon Sarah High School: Torah Academy for Girls (TAG) in Far Rockaway. 
Title: Candles Light, Glowing Night
Subtitle:
The Chanukah flames give light to the darkest of the night.
Body:

The bright and inspiring lights of Chanukah. Linor Kuighadoush 

One candle's flame
Shines
It gives off light
To the clarity of day

Many more flames
A more powerful shine
But does that help much
To the day's light?

One candle's flame
Glows
It gives off light
To the darkest of the night

Many more flames
A stronger glow
Aiding us through
The confusion's blackness

You don't need more light
During the day
But every candle's flame
Helps to make
The night's little twinkle
Gleam stronger

Teaser:

The Chanukah flames give light to the darkest of the night. 

ArticlePath: /articles/candles-light-glowing-night
ImagePath: public://linor.jpg
Tags: candle, Chanukah, light, poem
NID: 311
Date: Monday, December 7, 2015 - 17:56
AuthorBio:
Doria Leibowitz is a senior at SAR High School in Riverdale. 
Title: Perfect Presents For Teens
Subtitle:
What's wrong with putting a puppy or iPad mini on your Chanukah giving list?
Body:

An adorable puppy is the perfect gift for the senior who is leaving home in a few short months. Wikimedia Commons

OK, so Chanukah is here and with it, the angst of family get-togethers. For many, that includes the quest of finding that perfect gift for your kid, cousin or friend, or perhaps avoiding giving a gift that’s well…not so great. So here is a short guide from a teenager who unfortunately has seen it all in the world of Chanukah gifts.

First, as the teenage beneficiary of gifts, don’t worry we get it. As much as our parents assume all gifts (other than money) will be treated with the traditional eye roll and shoulder slouch, as a group, we are pretty good at showing exuberance on cue. So no worries, when my uncle can’t wait to talk about his Old Navy sweater whose pattern was the prototype for a Rorschach test, I promise my excitement will show no bounds. And I will not laugh, when I put on that large men’s sweater on my 5-foot-tall body. And no, I will not exaggerate how long it is by tripping over the end of it. Instead, to my parents shock, I will wear that sweater the entire night. Yes, shockingly mature.

Gift givers: have no fear, all will be met with excitement, but truthfully if you really want to know what we like here’s a quick list:

1.  A Netflix subscription would be appreciated — especially if there’s a new season of “Orange is the New Black.” I know everyone complains we stay in our rooms too long as it is, but we’re teenagers, right?

2.  Concert tickets, a great way to get us out of our rooms — and I don’t mean the opera, Grandpa, or the symphony, other Grandpa.

3.  A puppy.  For me it’s the perfect time, I’m a high school senior leaving home in eight months. But of course, I promise to take care of it for the eight months I’m home; and then I really, really promise to take care of it when I visit for Thanksgiving, that is if I’m not too busy watching Netflix.

4.  An iPad. Yes it can be a mini, so that I can watch Netflix in other places not just in my room. It’s a win-win for parents, I get out of my room and see the world.

5.  And if you are really desperate, another easy win-win for parents is leasing a car.  After all, it will definitely eliminate parental stress over carpooling or errands, well, unless the chores conflict with the shopping mall hours, concert start times or movie times…

So there you have it, a quick list to make any teenager happy but if none of my suggestions tug at the wallets of the gift givers, we will love whatever you give us, well, at least we’ll show you a convincing amount of excitement.  

Teaser:

What's wrong with putting a puppy or iPad mini on your Chanukah giving list?  

ArticlePath: /articles/perfect-presents-teens
ImagePath: public://chanukah_pup.jpg
Tags: Chanukah, concert, gifts, Old Navy
NID: 310
Date: Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 06:51
AuthorBio:
Avigial Albert is a sophomore at Bais Yaakov of Baltimore. 
Title: Interview With Author Danny M. Cohen
Subtitle:
Holocaust thriller author offers advice to aspiring writers, and discusses the inspiration behind 'Train.'
Body:

Courtesy of Danny M. Cohen 

Danny M. Cohen is the author of “Train” published in January 2015. "Train" is a historical thriller about six teens trying to survive Nazi Germany. Cohen, pictured below, is a learning scientist, fiction writer and education designer. He is an assistant professor at Northwestern University and founder of Unsilence Project, a non-profit that creates and delivers engaging learning experiences about hidden, marginalized and taboo narratives of atrocity and human rights. (Photo: Courtesy of United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.)Danny M. Cohen speaking at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Read Avigial’s review of “Train” on Fresh Ink For Teens.

How long have you been writing?

Oh gosh, hard question, because it all depends on where you want to count from. As a kid, if you'd asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I'd say I wanted to be an author. I remember writing stories — sci-fi stories mostly — when I was in primary school. In graduate school, I started to write more formally, focusing on Holocaust education. My work as a serious fiction writer developed only recently.

Was there any particular event or person who inspired you to write “Train?”

I didn't intend to write “Train.” I didn't say, “OK, I'm going to write this novel about this part of history.” I started off trying to create education programs for classrooms to help teachers teach about these hidden, marginalized narratives of Holocaust history. But teachers found my programs to be very dry and encyclopedic. They asked if I had any novels or films I could recommend. They were already using fiction — “Number the Stars,” for example — because fiction can be great for raising difficult questions about history. So I named some very specific books and movies and they said, “We don't have time for one book about Roma, and one book about homosexuals and one book about the disabled.” And there really wasn't any book or film I could recommend that included all these victim narratives, so I said to them, “Let me see what I can do." And I started to write a series of short stories. And these stories turned into “Train.” Suddenly I was writing a full novel and once I realized that I was writing a novel, I was very happy to continue writing, because I was really enjoying the process of writing historical fiction.

(Spoiler Alert) Why did you end your book he way you did? Personally, I'd like to know more about what happened to Ruti. Why aren’t we left with a clue about where she ended up?

I know what happens to each character by the end of the war. The book is set in early 1943, so there are still a couple of years until the end of the Nazi era. I wanted the reader to be left with questions, so the teacher could turn to the class and say, “Now we know where Marko and Tsura and Elise are, where we've left them, let's think about what would have happened to the real people of history in those situations.” The students can go online and onto [websites like] the Holocaust Encyclopedia and look in history books and find out what would have happened to these different characters at the end of the war and beyond. In a way, the readers, the students, transform into historians and investigators of history. That's my goal; that's why the ending, as you said in your review, doesn't feel like an ending. Hopefully there's a sense of closure of some kind, that I tied up some ends, but the big historical ideas are left open to the readers so that if they're in the classroom they can work together and figure out what might have happened next or what happened to the real people of history. The ending of “Train” forces the reader to take the fictionalized world I've written into the real world, into the reality of history.

If you could share only one message through your book, what would it be?

First of all, it's really up to reader to take her or his own message away. But to answer your question, I think if there was one message people could learn it would be that when anyone is caught up in an atrocity, that person is always faced with extremely complicated choices and our role can change depending on the context. So sometimes we make mistakes when we think about the Holocaust and genocide; we like to put people into boxes — say these are the victims, and these are the perpetrators and these are the collaborators —  but we see in “Train” that some people in minorities hold prejudices toward other minorities. Perpetrators are complicated humans as well. And victims sometimes fit into multiple victim categories. Now someone like Elise: she's from a Nazi family, her dad is fighting in Stalingrad, her mother is a Nazi sympathizer, she herself is a member of the Nazi Girls' League, but we find out that her brother was murdered because of his disability. And so we're forced to reposition how we think about Elise and her family — are they perpetrators, are they victims, are they both or are they something else?

Any advice for young writers?

A lot of people say, “Write what you know.” I don't think that's necessarily true. I think we should write what we want to know. We should write about something about which we have many questions. I wrote “Train” without really knowing where the story would take me. There were certain questions I wanted to answer about the connectedness of prejudice and the connectedness of victimhood and the connectedness between the choices we make and the realities that are forced upon us. I didn't necessarily know the answers to all of these questions, so maybe I wrote “Train” to answer those questions.

Anything else you'd like your readers to know?

Some of my readers don't realize until the end, until they get to my author's note, that every public event that happens in the book actually happened in history. I had one reader say, "It doesn't sound very possible that Nazi roundups of Jews happened at exactly the same time as the Nazi deportations of the Roma, and while the Nazis were arresting homosexuals and murdering disabled people.” So even though the plot can feel overwhelming and maybe even far-fetched, that's how history happened — that's how it played out. The characters of “Train” may be fictional, but they're all based on real historical accounts. I had to figure out where I wanted to tell my readers about the historical truth: should I reveal it at the beginning of the book or wait until the end? I chose to allow the reader to fall into the story and wait until the end to tell the reader that it was based on real history.

Teaser:

Holocaust thriller author offers advice to aspiring writers, and discusses the inspiration behind 'Train.'

ArticlePath: /articles/interview-author-danny-m-cohen
ImagePath: public://train_0.jpg
Tags: books, Holocaust, Nazi
NID: 309
Date: Wednesday, November 25, 2015 - 12:06
AuthorBio:
Deena Abittan is a senior at Manhattan High School for Girls in New York; she was a sophomore in 2015 when she wrote this article. 
Title: An American Jewish Holiday
Subtitle:
My family celebrated Thanksgiving with fresh baked challah and an elaborate meal in the dining room.
Body:

My great-grandmother, Shirley Honig Goldman, was a defender of Thanksgiving. Pictured is her wedding portrait with husband Harry Goldman. Courtesy of Deena Abittan  

Editor's Note: This article won a first place writing award in 2016 from the Jewish Scholastic Press Association.  

In 1789 George Washington proclaimed November 26 as a national holiday, “to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer.”  Although Washington was not a Jewish leader, Thanksgiving has its roots in the inherently Jewish concept of hakarat hatov, appreciating one’s good fortune.  By celebrating Thanksgiving, Jews show their appreciation to America for providing them with the religious freedom to openly practice their faith.

As a third-generation, Orthodox, Jewish American, my family takes Thanksgiving quite seriously.  My great-grandmother Shirley Honig Goldman, an immigrant from Poland, used to bake challah and make a feast every year for Thanksgiving.  The meal, as described by my mother and grandmother, was cooked by my great-grandmother wearing her apron and house slippers. Thanksgiving was the only time my family was allowed to eat in the dining room. 

My great-grandmother honored Thanksgiving as if it was a Jewish holiday.  She made the same menu every year — half a grapefruit for each guest, chopped liver, pea soup with frankfurters, candied sweet potatoes topped with gooey marshmallows, canned cranberry sauce and her prized item: the turkey. She cooked it in a paper bag and always forgot to slice the turkey before bringing it to the table. Her elaborate meal was rare and difficult for her to execute as she worked outside the home as a social worker and later a teacher. She took offense to Jews who did not celebrate Thanksgiving; she felt they were ignoring the blessing of religious freedom that this country grants its citizens.

The cover of "Service For Thanksgiving Day" published in 1945.In 1945 The Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in New York City, Congregation Shearith Israel, published a pamphlet titled, “Service for Thanksgiving Day.” (The cover is pictured at left.) My father, a collector of old religious books, found this pamphlet in his father’s shul, The Sephardic Congregation of Long Beach, N.Y., and was fascinated by the congregation’s devotion to celebrating a national holiday. Included in this pamphlet are the prayers of Hallel, praises to God recited on the first day of a new Jewish month; the prayer that we say today for the American government; and Psalm 100, a psalm of thanksgiving. 

The publication of this booklet showed Congregation Shearith Israel’s commitment to observing the national holiday. Halacha, Jewish law, prohibits the recitation of unnecessary prayers. Clearly, the rabbis of this congregation viewed Thanksgiving as an important national, and Jewish, celebration that warranted the extra prayers. This pamphlet showed me that although not a Jewish holiday, Thanksgiving is one Jews should celebrate as it is an opportunity for us to show our appreciation for the religious freedoms of the United States. 

As the winter holiday season approaches and most Jews are left by the red and green sidelines of Christmas, Thanksgiving is the perfect time to identify as proud Americans, yet still comply with Jewish law. Celebrating Thanksgiving presents no halachic issues as it is a nondenominational holiday that does not include any religious traditions. Jews can celebrate like other Americans.  In a sense,  Thanksgiving is a unifying holiday for Christians, Jews, Muslims and other faiths because everyone puts their differences aside and focuses on the blessings they have received by simply being an American.

Thanksgiving is meaningful to me as my entire family gets together for the meal, as we would with any Jewish holiday.  While eating our favorite bread stuffing and other treats, my family and I recount the blessings that America has provided to my family in our religious observance and in the sustenance of the Jewish community as a whole. 

Teaser:

My family celebrated Thanksgiving with fresh baked challah and an elaborate meal in the dining room. 

ArticlePath: /articles/american-jewish-holiday
ImagePath: public://goldmans_fit.jpg
Tags: American, challah, Hallel, Thanksgiving
NID: 308
Date: Tuesday, November 24, 2015 - 13:00
AuthorBio:
Alexa Cohen is a freshman at Scheck Hillel Community School in North Miami Beach, Fla. 
Title: Thankful For Thanksgiving
Subtitle:
Let’s celebrate a national holiday that incorporates the Jewish concept of gratitude.
Body:

The writer is grateful for her family. Pictured from left, Leanne, Kylie, Adam, Alexa and Dean Cohen. Courtesy Alexa Cohen

Thanksgiving is one day when we are able to decompress. Parents do not have to go to work and kids receive a much-needed break from school.  Stress levels plummet and we are able to spend the holiday simply being grateful for what we have. Thanksgiving is a national holiday, almost 200 years old, that is celebrated by Americans on the fourth Thursday of November. It is filled with traditions and memories that last a lifetime.

The holiday appeals to everyone, including the Jewish people. Jews can bake their kosher turkey and parve stuffing and gather around the table and sing prayers of thanks, such as  the words of Psalms 100 and 118. Unlike Christmas, Thanksgiving allows all to rejoice and celebrate with their own customs. The main theme of Thanksgiving is appreciation and this theme does not conflict with Jewish beliefs. If anything, it goes hand in hand with our traditions. A common theme in Judaism is giving thanks to God every day for all that we have, and even for what we don’t have, similar to the concept behind Thanksgiving.

We thank Hashem in our prayers every morning and every night. We wake up and we say “Modeh Ani,” thanking Hashem for another day of life. We thank God for our health, freedom, food, religion and family in prayers such as “Mi Shebeirach,” Psalm 100 and the blessings of the morning prayers. These prayers not only allow us to give thanks, but they allow us to realize for ourselves how much we have to be thankful for. In Judaism, we are not to feel sorry for ourselves, no matter how little we have, because it is a blessing just to be alive.

The Hebrew term for gratitude is hakarat hatov which literally means “recognizing the good.” When we give thanks, especially on Thanksgiving, we are recognizing the good in our lives. Everyone has something to be grateful for, they just have to open their eyes to see it. And if someone thinks that their only blessing is life, then that blessing is far more than many people receive, and it is to be appreciated. But one is never limited to the blessing of life because we always have the blessings of nature, beauty and individuality. I have so much to feel thankful for on Thanksgiving such as my family, my friends, my health and my happiness. I am also extremely thankful for my ability to be able to do what I love which is go to school, study and play tennis. Thanksgiving is a time when I choose to reflect on all the gifts God has given to me, and I feel it is the perfect day for everyone else to do the same.

So it is up to you on Thanksgiving to decide what to be thankful for because there is so much in life to cherish. As soon as we stop desiring more, we will become satisfied with what we have and our lives will gain meaning. Spend this Thanksgiving being grateful for all that life has to offer. For one day a year, do not desire or long for more, but find satisfaction in what you already have. After all according to the Talmud, the person who is rich is the one who is happy with his or her lot. 
 

Teaser:

Let’s celebrate a national holiday that incorporates the Jewish concept of gratitude.  

ArticlePath: /articles/thankful-thanksgiving
ImagePath: public://alexa_fr_chuck.jpg
Tags: hakarat hatov, Psalm, tennis, Thanksgiving
NID: 307
Date: Tuesday, November 24, 2015 - 10:18
AuthorBio:
Doria Leibowitz is a senior at SAR High School in Riverdale. Don't ask if she's applying to Dartmouth. 
Title: The Art Of Making Conversation
Subtitle:
Or a simple plan to avoid the dreaded discussions about colleges this Thanksgiving.
Body:

flickr.com

As a senior in high school, I’m on the last lap of my college application race. Most of my applications are submitted; I’ve finished begging my teachers for recommendations and bombarding advisors with questions (Where exactly on the application did they put the send button? was my favorite email request).

However, as I said there is one lap left, a lap that involves skillful and witty banter and a bob and weave style usually seen in a boxing ring. That is, the answer to everyone’s favorite holiday question: “So where are you applying to college?” There are only so many ways to avoid the topic. Everyone wants to know what colleges you are considering, and it eventually becomes an inevitable discussion, especially when holidays roll around. There’s no better time than Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, Thanksgiving or Chanukah to start asking. By the time Passover rolls around the question evolves into “So where are you going to college?” Holidays are the only times families gather together to catch up and enjoy each other’s company which is why everyone seems to think it’s the perfect time to begin bombarding the only high school senior at the table with questions about college. I hear my brain alerting me of what’s to come and prepare a tactful way to escape the questions.

As Thanksgiving is approaching this is my plan: the go-to topic changer is always the food. There’s no better way to distract your great-aunt than complementing her on the delicious stuffing she made (yes, seriously). The rest of the table always joins in to be polite and then decides to dig into their food to show how much they are enjoying it (still not kidding). That gives me just enough time to move on to Plan B, because once they finish that first serving, they will be satisfied enough to take a break and continue on their quest to find out as much personal information about me as possible.

That next step easily could start with, “How ‘bout them Mets?” But that’s often tricky depending on the audience and truthfully, I know nothing about the Mets besides, "How ‘bout those Mets?" This year I’m going with asking my brother about his girlfriend — regardless of whether he has one or not. The people at the table who had no idea he was dating someone will immediately become curious and excited and start bombarding him with questions instead. They’ll want to know everything about her, if she’s Jewish, smart, pretty, tall, short — you name it, they’ll ask it. If I’m really lucky, this conversation can even lead to them asking my cousin, is he dating anyone? That should keep them busy for a while. And yes, I’ll have to deal with the wrath of my brother for the next several days afterwards, but at least I will have survived Thanksgiving. Now let the Chanukah planning begin.

Teaser:

Or a simple plan to avoid the dreaded discussions about colleges this Thanksgiving. 

ArticlePath: /articles/art-making-conversation
ImagePath: public://crazyfam.jpg
Tags: aunt, college, family, Thanksgiving
NID: 307
Date: Tuesday, November 24, 2015 - 10:18
AuthorBio:
Doria Leibowitz is a senior at SAR High School in Riverdale. Don't ask if she's applying to Dartmouth. 
Title: The Art Of Making Conversation
Subtitle:
Or a simple plan to avoid the dreaded discussions about colleges this Thanksgiving.
Body:

flickr.com

As a senior in high school, I’m on the last lap of my college application race. Most of my applications are submitted; I’ve finished begging my teachers for recommendations and bombarding advisors with questions (Where exactly on the application did they put the send button? was my favorite email request).

However, as I said there is one lap left, a lap that involves skillful and witty banter and a bob and weave style usually seen in a boxing ring. That is, the answer to everyone’s favorite holiday question: “So where are you applying to college?” There are only so many ways to avoid the topic. Everyone wants to know what colleges you are considering, and it eventually becomes an inevitable discussion, especially when holidays roll around. There’s no better time than Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, Thanksgiving or Chanukah to start asking. By the time Passover rolls around the question evolves into “So where are you going to college?” Holidays are the only times families gather together to catch up and enjoy each other’s company which is why everyone seems to think it’s the perfect time to begin bombarding the only high school senior at the table with questions about college. I hear my brain alerting me of what’s to come and prepare a tactful way to escape the questions.

As Thanksgiving is approaching this is my plan: the go-to topic changer is always the food. There’s no better way to distract your great-aunt than complementing her on the delicious stuffing she made (yes, seriously). The rest of the table always joins in to be polite and then decides to dig into their food to show how much they are enjoying it (still not kidding). That gives me just enough time to move on to Plan B, because once they finish that first serving, they will be satisfied enough to take a break and continue on their quest to find out as much personal information about me as possible.

That next step easily could start with, “How ‘bout them Mets?” But that’s often tricky depending on the audience and truthfully, I know nothing about the Mets besides, "How ‘bout those Mets?" This year I’m going with asking my brother about his girlfriend — regardless of whether he has one or not. The people at the table who had no idea he was dating someone will immediately become curious and excited and start bombarding him with questions instead. They’ll want to know everything about her, if she’s Jewish, smart, pretty, tall, short — you name it, they’ll ask it. If I’m really lucky, this conversation can even lead to them asking my cousin, is he dating anyone? That should keep them busy for a while. And yes, I’ll have to deal with the wrath of my brother for the next several days afterwards, but at least I will have survived Thanksgiving. Now let the Chanukah planning begin.

Teaser:

Or a simple plan to avoid the dreaded discussions about colleges this Thanksgiving. 

ArticlePath: /articles/art-making-conversation
ImagePath: public://family_dinner_fit.jpg
Tags: aunt, college, family, Thanksgiving
NID: 306
Date: Thursday, November 19, 2015 - 07:53
AuthorBio:
Sammy Stolzenbach is a senior at Milken Community Schools in Los Angeles. 
Title: Funny Girls
Subtitle:
The zany stars of ‘Broad City’ taught me that being Jewish is no big deal.
Body:

Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson play the main characters in the Jewy comedy "Broad City." Getty Images

 

Editor’s Note: Sammy Stolzenbach was a finalist The Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing. The national contest sought essays on a Jewish American who has made a significant impact in the field of television, film, music or theater. Writers were asked to identify the person’s lasting legacy on them or on American culture. The contest was sponsored by the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and The Jewish Week Media Group.

Growing up in a tight-knit, supportive Jewish community, I seldom felt like part of an endangered minority. Despite constant reminders and awareness of the plight of the Jewish people — increasing rates of conversion, conflicts in Israel and the general threat of anti-Semitism — my life as a Jew has been a comfortable one. But the blessing of a secure community has always come with a catch; an ominous warning whispered by adults that the “real world” would not be the same.

As my time to leave the community for college draws close, I’ve felt as if I was being prepared for battle. Years of sitting through advocacy seminars and guest speeches on anti-Semitism on college campuses have made it abundantly clear that our weapon of choice should be knowledge. We can shield ourselves with facts; we can pierce the fallacies thrown at us with statistics. Objective truth will be our Iron Dome.

Yet between all these preparations is when a new answer appeared to me across the television screen. On the Comedy Central show “Broad City,” two young, Jewish women, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, are making it in the “real world” all the while defying the rules I had been prescribed to make it myself. Their characters retained their real names and their real faith, yet they never looked on guard or prepared for battle. The bustling streets of New York did not make them cringe in the spotlight — it made their smiles brighter. They never stopped to peek around the corner to check for anti-Semitism creeping up from the shadows of a dark alley. And all the while, you could catch Abbi wearing a shirt reading “Challah Back,” or Ilana leading her non-Jewish friends towards her mother’s house to sit shiva.

“Broad City” has taught me that while preparing for the worst and stocking up on knowledge is useful to defend yourself as a Jew, a much more effective weapon is available, and with it the possibility to disregard fear. Ilana and Abbi show that pride keeps their Jewish identity intact. But more importantly, the subtle nature of their pride proves that the best defense in war is to eradicate any desire for the war itself. Being Jewish is a non-issue to both the characters, and in turn, it is a non-issue to anyone else around them. Explicit mentions of their shared religion are interwoven with humorous dialogue about drugs and sexuality, and Judaism itself is never safe from being the butt of the joke. Judaism is simply one constituent of each girl’s identity, an equally integral part of a whole human being that deserves no special defense or overrepresentation.

My mom used to tell me that the best way to get my siblings to stop chasing me was to stop running. Ilana and Abbi prove this lesson to be true, and give me hope that I can leave my community without fear and enter the “real world” full of pride.

Teaser:

The zany stars of ‘Broad City’ taught me that being Jewish is no big deal.  

ArticlePath: /articles/funny-girls
ImagePath: public://broadcity.jpg
Tags: anti-Semitism, Broad City, challah, college
NID: 305
Date: Wednesday, November 18, 2015 - 07:44
AuthorBio:
Title: Your Exclusive Invitation To Fresh Ink
Subtitle:
Have your words read by thousands of people? Nothing's wrong with that.
Body:

 

WHO: You

WHAT: To join the writing team of Fresh Ink For Teens, the most popular Jewish teen website. 

WHEN: Anytime you’re not sleeping, taking tests, doing homework, or swimming.

WHERE: From the comfort of anywhere!

WHY: Because you have thoughts, feelings, opinions and experiences that are important and deserve to be shared with a large audience.

HOW: Send your ideas to freshinkforteens@jewishweek.org. You can write about anything—such as movies, books, family, youth groups, sports, politics, fro yo and more—but you must include something Jewish. 

Think it can’t be done? FIT editor Shira Vickar-Fox will tell you how. 

RSVP: Before you graduate to freshinkforteens@jewishweek.org 
 

Teaser:

Have your words read by thousands of people? Nothing's wrong with that. 

ArticlePath: /articles/your-exclusive-invitation-fresh-ink
ImagePath: public://fi_logo03.jpg
Tags:
NID: 305
Date: Wednesday, November 18, 2015 - 07:44
AuthorBio:
Title: Your Exclusive Invitation To Fresh Ink
Subtitle:
Have your words read by thousands of people? Nothing's wrong with that.
Body:

 

WHO: You

WHAT: To join the writing team of Fresh Ink For Teens, the most popular Jewish teen website. 

WHEN: Anytime you’re not sleeping, taking tests, doing homework, or swimming.

WHERE: From the comfort of anywhere!

WHY: Because you have thoughts, feelings, opinions and experiences that are important and deserve to be shared with a large audience.

HOW: Send your ideas to freshinkforteens@jewishweek.org. You can write about anything—such as movies, books, family, youth groups, sports, politics, fro yo and more—but you must include something Jewish. 

Think it can’t be done? FIT editor Shira Vickar-Fox will tell you how. 

RSVP: Before you graduate to freshinkforteens@jewishweek.org 
 

Teaser:

Have your words read by thousands of people? Nothing's wrong with that. 

ArticlePath: /articles/your-exclusive-invitation-fresh-ink
ImagePath: public://youre_invited_0.png
Tags:
NID: 304
Date: Monday, November 9, 2015 - 10:29
AuthorBio:
Kayla Pournazarian is a senior at Milken Community Schools in Los Angeles. 
Title: Happy Birthday Hedy
Subtitle:
Hedy Lamarr was born November 9, 1914. The Jewish starlet's beauty belied her gorgeous brains.
Body:

Google Images 

I have a standing appointment at a threading salon every other Thursday at 3 o’clock sharp.  I have a habit of biting my nails until they are sore, so my mother schedules a manicure for me every two weeks. My hair is chemically straightened and requires being flat ironed once a week. The public eye has never seen my form in sweatpants nor do I ever wish them to. I have never felt disdain towards the countless refinements that make me feel pretty. I feel polished, sophisticated and powerful.

Being feminine never struck me as a disadvantage as a child. Not once, did anyone tell me that I could not do something because of my yellow smocked dress and black, curly pigtails. But as I exchanged my pleated corduroy skirts for chiffon blouses, that mentality changed. No longer was I allowed to pursue a career or life that I genuinely liked, but rather what was in alignment for me as a Jewish girl. It was instilled in me as a child by my Persian society that a lady must be “delicate, soft and feminine, with ample time to create a family” but never to be “too smart or overpowering” because I would lose my femininity. But why couldn’t I be both? I never understood why strength, intelligence and affluence were synonymous with masculine identity.

I am not the only Jewish girl caught in a society where a woman must choose between her exterior beauty and her accomplishments.  In fact, Hedy Lamarr experienced the same predicament. She was a woman known for her exotic beauty and defined by her relationships, but never acknowledged for creating innovations for the modern world. Lamarr was never taken seriously for her accomplishments in science, despite the fact that she helped America defeat Nazism in World War II with her invention. (She helped invent a communications technology that made it impossible for the enemies to intercept classified radio messages.) To the rest of the world, she was simply a pretty face. Lamarr was well aware of this social construct claiming, “Any girl can be glamorous. All [she] has to do is stand still and look stupid.” Lamarr understood the norm of her society although she opposed it.  Beauty and idiocy are not the same, similar to how intellect and masculinity are not equal.  However, the idea that a striking woman who cared about her appearance was actually capable of such ingenuity was unfathomable in the 1930s, and still today.

Although I am still in high school, and I do not yet know what I want to do as a career, a few things I am certain of.  Years from now when I stand in my synagogue grasping my daughters while singing “L’dor V’dor,” I will pass down what I have learned from Hedy Lamarr. To never underestimate a beautiful face and to remember, never abandon your pink lipstick and hair bows to get ahead in the world.  Rather, use them as your ammunition to destroy the stereotypes.

Teaser:

Hedy Lamarr was born November 9, 1914. The Jewish starlet's beauty belied her gorgeous brains. 

ArticlePath: /articles/happy-birthday-hedy
ImagePath: public://justhedy.jpg
Tags: feminine, Lamarr, Persian, World War II
NID: 303
Date: Wednesday, November 4, 2015 - 10:56
AuthorBio:
Deena Abittan is a sophomore at Manhattan High School for Girls in New York. 
Title: The Heart Of A Performer
Subtitle:
While outwardly changing his appearance, inside Matisyahu remains a proud Jew.
Body:

Matisyahu made it: He performed this summer at a music festival in Spain after his revoked invitation was reinstated. Getty Images

Although surprising, it is not inconceivable that a traditionally Orthodox teenager in Brooklyn would be listening to the same Matisyahu album as a Jamaican Rastafarian teen in the Bronx. Musical icon Matisyahu, born Matthew Miller, began his career in the early 2000s as a reggae performer. He was raised in White Plains, N.Y., and his parents attended a Reconstructionist synagogue, but he was drawn to a chasidic lifestyle and identified by his Hebrew name, Matisyahu. While rapping he sported a long beard, payes and a kipa. His talent and his music — which often deals with spiritual themes — made him extremely popular despite his unusual look and observance of traditionally Orthodox Jewish law.

Regardless of Matisyahu’s religious observance, he rose to the top of his field and in 2005 his single, “King Without A Crown,” was number 28 on Billboard’s Top 100. Most impressive is that Matisyahu was accepted on the merit of his work, despite his visible Orthodoxy and the Jewish ideas expressed in his music. Although Matisyahu reportedly observed negiya (not touching the opposite sex until marriage) and would not perform on Shabbat, he managed to balance being an observant man while achieving worldwide popularity and mainstream appeal.

Matisyahu’s success together with his devotion and loyalty to Judaism, gave Jewish people, especially youth, a sense of pride and a worthy role model. Matisyahu was successful in conveying a message: maintaining your identity while rising to the top is an attainable goal.

In my opinion, Matisyahu’s most important musical contributions for Jews were his two Chanukah songs: “Miracle” and “Happy Hanukkah.” These songs provide music for Jews during a season when radio stations play Christmas songs around the clock. Matisyahu instilled in me a tremendous amount of Jewish pride.  Instead of the exclusionary feeling Jews usually have around the December holiday season, I feel proud hearing Matisyahu’s Chanukah songs being played in my favorite clothing store in the mall or blasted from the car speeding by me on the street in my Jewish neighborhood.

Although he shaved his famous beard in December 2011, Matisyahu remained proudly Jewish. In addition to making national media, his shave shattered the hearts of Jewish Orthodox youth who had finally seen someone who looked and acted like them make it in American popular culture. This shift in his religious views confused me because I always admired Matisyahu for finding the balance between religious observance and material success. Although no longer identifying as Orthodox, Matisyahu still gives Jewish youth a reason to be proud.

This past summer, Matisyahu was booked to play at the Rototom Sunsplash music festival in Spain until activists from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement pressured the organizers to disinvite him because of his refusal to issue a statement in support of a Palestinian state and a condemnation of Israel’s so-called “war crimes.” He was removed from the musical lineup. After strong backlash from the international Jewish community and the Spanish government, the festival reinstated his invitation. Matisyahu proudly attended and sang his song “Jerusalem,” in which he expressed his love for Israel, in front of an audience waving Palestinian flags. I felt disappointed by Matisyahu’s decision to no longer identity with Orthodoxy, but those proud feelings resurfaced when he stood up to anti-Israel antics. He proved himself a proud Jew and supporter of Israel.

Matisyahu’s celebrity status is important because it showed that America is a country where performers are judged on the merit of their work and not their religion. Matisyahu’s success is also a credit to the American people’s tolerance. His success sends a message to Jewish kids that they can dream big, because if they are talented enough, they will make it while remaining steadfast in their commitments and beliefs. 

Teaser:

While outwardly changing his appearance, inside Matisyahu remains a proud Jew.

ArticlePath: /articles/heart-performer
ImagePath: public://matisyahu.jpg
Tags: BDS, Chanukah, Matisyahu, reggae
NID: 302
Date: Thursday, October 29, 2015 - 10:14
AuthorBio:
Hannah Shippas is a senior at Arlington High School in Lagrange, N.Y. 
Title: A Common Thread
Subtitle:
Sewing binds me to my great-grandmother and my family’s heritage.
Body:

A family treasure: The author with her great-grandmother's manual sewing machine.

Sewing is a big part of my life. Like my Jewish heritage, it’s who I am and what makes me, me. I’m a senior in high school and ever since I was in elementary school, I have been fascinated by crafts like sewing. Sewing has been passed down on my mother’s side, the same way as Judaism. Not only has the hobby been passed down, but so has a machine: my great-grandmother’s sewing machine. My great-grandma used the machine to make clothes when she came to America before the Holocaust. It doesn’t run on electricity, but instead has a foot pedal to manually move the needle up and down. Since the machine has meant so much to our family, we haven’t sold it. In a way, the machine connects me to my family’s past and to my Jewish heritage. I consider the machine to be a part of our identity, justifying my love for sewing.

When I was in second grade, my grandmother showed me her sewing machine and made a simple doll for me to color. Since I was very young and my grandmother didn’t want me to get hurt, she waited until I was a few years older to give me a needle. The first thing I ever sewed by hand was a small cat head. After my grandma helped me complete the project, I carried around the plush animal everywhere. When I reached middle school, I started to buy different sewing books and started to sew felt by hand. I ended up making a small, green alien with beads on his head; a bunny with his hands in his pockets; and a little pirate mouse with an eye patch. (Photo: Hannah with her one-of-a-kind video game dolls.)

Hannah with her original designs for video game dolls. The more I started to sew, the more I wanted to make my own patterns. I joined the felting club in school. I made my first doll from my imagination and named her Kaneena. Since I would assign personalities to my dolls, I gave Kaneena characteristics that I would want: she was strong, brave and smart. I gave her long, red yarn hair and two tattoos: a heart on her arm and a crudely made Star of David on her back. I carried her around everywhere and brought her to school and family gatherings on Chanukah and Passover. I would sit her in my lap and pretend that I was not reading the prayers and the Four Questions to my family, but to Kaneena. My grandma went shopping for clothing patterns for Kaneena (they were designed for Barbie dolls). She showed me how to make clothing on her sewing machine and helped me make a dress, a shawl, a shirt and pants for Kaneena. She even put snaps on the clothes so they wouldn’t slide off. Whenever I would bring her to holiday gatherings, I could show off her nice dress and shawl.

As the years went by, I started to improve my skills but realized I could only go so far sewing by hand. My grandma tried to teach me how to use her machine, but I ended up getting too frustrated threading it. I wasn’t able to sew on my great-grandmother’s machine either even though I appreciated the machine’s history and how it works. I decided to invest in my own sewing machine. Using all of my Chanukah money, I bought a beginner’s model that has over 20 types of stitches and four different sewing machine feet.

I like to improve my sewing skills as much as possible. Instead of coming up with my own ideas, though, I take characters from video games and bring them to life. While this may not be the most original idea, it does help improve my skills. When I show the dolls to my friends who play video games, they immediately recognize who it is. My favorite video games on which to base characters are “Team Fortress 2,” “Minecraft,” “Portal,” the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” series and “SCP-Containment Breach.” I also make pillows for my friends and sew rips in clothing. For my best friend’s birthday, I made her a pillow that combined different patterns of fabric that reminded me of her.  I even found the perfect design: a fabric piece with the Star of David in gold and blue! She loved it and sleeps with it next to her every night. (Photo: Her best friend's beloved pillow.) Hannah sewed this pillow for her best friend.

Like Judaism, sewing is a big part of my life. I hope that when I have children, I can pass down this skill the same way I am going to pass down my heritage. Not only will I pass down the tradition of saying the prayer before eating challah, dipping apples in honey and throwing bread crumbs into the river, but I will also pass down sewing so my children can learn about a tradition that existed before my family came to America. I want my children to know Passover’s Four Questions as well as they know how to do a running stitch.

Watch Hannah make a spy doll on YouTube

Teaser:

Sewing binds me to my great-grandmother and my family’s heritage. 

ArticlePath: /articles/common-thread
ImagePath: public://for_carousel_fr_chuck.jpg
Tags: Four Questions, grandmother, Minecraft, sewing
NID: 301
Date: Wednesday, October 28, 2015 - 12:10
AuthorBio:
Alexa Cohen is a freshman at Scheck Hillel Community School in North Miami Beach, Fla. 
Title: Our Forever Nation
Subtitle:
Jews stand united while Israel stands strong against danger.
Body:
Jews gathered at the Kotel for Sukkot prayers. Getty Images 
 
“Am Yisrael Chai”
The nation of Israel shall live forever
Our souls as one
Our minds as one
Striving for peace
Whilst striving for our best selves
Praying for hope
When all hope seems lost
Seeking safety for our home
When safety seems far from us
 
We stand together
As one mighty nation
Strong against all others
Who seek to destroy us
We are strong
We are forever
We are “Am Yisrael Chai”
 
Teaser:

Jews stand united while Israel stands strong against danger. 

ArticlePath: /articles/our-forever-nation
ImagePath: public://fr_chuck_3.jpg
Tags: Am Yisrael Chai, hope, Israel
NID: 300
Date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:03
AuthorBio:
Avigial Albert is a sophomore at Bais Yaakov of Baltimore. 
Title: ‘Train’ Follows Its Own Track
Subtitle:
Teens take center stage in this riveting Holocaust novel by Danny M. Cohen.
Body:

Courtesy Danny M. Cohen

There are many forgotten people scattered over the pages of history, and it’s a great privilege to hear from them like we do in “Train,” a novel by Danny M. Cohen published in January. The story is set over a 10-day span in 1943 Germany, and it chronicles the efforts of six teens — Marko, Tsura, Kizzy, Alex, Ruti and Elise — to escape and keep each other safe from the Nazi round-ups bursting almost spontaneously into existence all around them.

To tell the truth, in the beginning I was totally bewildered, mostly because the book's point of view switches between all those different characters.  It took a while to settle into the natural rhythm of the book, but once I did — well, I won't say I enjoyed it, because the Holocaust isn't an enjoyable theme — the story was just plain fascinating. The various plotlines began to make sense and the characters managed to separate themselves from the vague, overwhelming tangle of personas a reader often encounters at the beginning of a book. 

These characters aren't the kind who introduce themselves to you.  You won't get any friendly asides, and they're not particularly exciting to meet.  In short, they're like the people you briefly cross paths with in your own life.  The only difference is that they've been fitted into types and fonts so that they have become representatives for some of the lesser-known victims of the Nazi regime: intermarried Jews, disabled people, homosexuals, Gypsies and political opponents of the Third Reich. 

Because of this, the main characters and the various situations with which they struggle, “Train” can seem overly dramatized at times.  It's instinctive, when reading, to look around for the “status quo guy,” the control of this literary experiment, the person whose normal life is compared to the protagonist's horrible one so that we feel appropriately sorry for our poor main character.  But because everyone in this book has some sort of issue upon which his or her evolution as a character depends, there's no “status quo guy” in “Train.”  Practically speaking, you could say it's because there's simply no room for one.  With the book’s ten-day time span, complexly interwoven personal relationships and frantic, fast-moving plot, it's all we can do to keep up with the characters we already have.  However, if we take a different perspective, we realize there may be another reason.  “Train” is meant to be a portrayal of the lesser-known Holocaust victims, but it's easy to fall so deep into this book that you forget that the personas into which you've dug your thoughts are not only representatives, but also people themselves, just like us.  And just like us, they have no “status quo guy” in their lives, because there's no such thing. 

Most of this information isn't actually written flat-out in the book. Instead, it’s gathered from the author's writing style, which is strange and incredibly quiet, like an undercurrent. His words are plain, almost unassuming, and at times become cliché, but after a while they meld together and become something that reads almost like poetry, it's so subtle and meaningfully phrased. Every word in this book counts: The small, devastating personal character details, the ones not necessary to the plot, are the ones that will really make you stop to think about the teens’ situations. For example, there’s this one part where Marko, crouched in a cold cellar, carves the letter M on a wall to indicate to Alex that he was there.  It was the kind of tableau you sometimes run across in a book that makes you pause for a moment because the writing’s so precise and relatable that the image created is like a photograph in your mind.  Tiny happenings like this are so good they are almost enough to make these characters seem like real people, though they are still not enough to pull out their true personalities from under the immense shadows cast by what they represent. I will say, though, that of all the characters, Tsura was the most authentically human.  Although in the beginning she appears to be another stereotypical teenage girl with the weight of the world on her shoulders and rebellion in her heart, etc., etc., she very quickly escapes from those limits, and proceeds to spend the rest of her plotline dodging definition.

The beginning of this book may be a little awkward and confusing; its characters do seem slightly flat at times in comparison with their intricate storylines and its descriptions may have a few clichés, but there's no denying that the messages in “Train” read loud and clear and gorgeous.  In the alleys and apartments of 1943 Berlin, “Train” speaks about war’s destructive power over children, over good people and over families.  It tells you that accepting yourself means accepting your past mistakes, too; it tells you that you must struggle against the inevitable because you can never be sure it’s inevitable.

It’s a wonderful story, told frame by horrifying frame. What's happening on the page in front of you is at times so ugly, so abominable and raw, that that's the most beautiful thing about this book. It is an unflinching, cold, hard group of facts, laced with well-placed descriptions and with meticulously set plot progression.  You want to turn away, but Cohen has created a story so harsh it's enchanting, and you'll stay until the end, which, as is the case in so many excellent books, does not feel like an end at all, or even a beginning — only a continuation down a track and out of sight.

Teaser:

Teens take center stage in this riveting Holocaust novel by Danny M. Cohen. 

ArticlePath: /articles/%E2%80%98train%E2%80%99-follows-its-own-track
ImagePath: public://train.jpg
Tags: books, Holocaust, train
NID: 299
Date: Monday, October 12, 2015 - 13:03
AuthorBio:
Naomi Gluck is a senior at Milken Community Schools in Los Angeles.      
Title: Her Judaism Makes A Big Bang
Subtitle:
Mayim Bialik inspired me to question my religion while retaining my faith.
Body:

Mayim Bialik balances her fame with her Judaism and a boatload of other commitments. Getty Images 

 

Editor’s Note: Naomi Gluck was a finalist in The Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing. The national contest sought essays on a Jewish American who has made a significant impact in the field of television, film, music or theater. Writers were asked to identify the person’s lasting legacy on them or on American culture. The contest was sponsored by the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and The Jewish Week Media Group.

In May my rabbi announced that our shul was hiring a female clergy member. As a femi-nist, I was excited about this announcement. Then came the catch: instead of being called rabbi, she would be called “morateinu,” our teacher. It is a lovely title, but it leaves me with a knot in my stomach — it is unfair that she cannot be called “rabbi.”

I love parts of Modern Orthodoxy; I love walking into the main sanctuary and hearing everybody singing the same prayers that our ancestors sang. I love the close community that supports its members through good and bad times. I love working in the childcare program and fostering a love for Judaism in the children in my group.

But there are parts of my shul that make me uncomfortable. The mechitza (a separation between men and women) glares at me from the center of the main sanctuary, and it is difficult to accept that if I wanted to read Torah in the main sanctuary, I couldn’t. I struggle with listening to the children in my childcare group chanting, “Thank you God for not having made me a woman.”

In truth, all of this made me furious, but I’m not the type of person to publicly voice her anger. In my mind there were only two responses to the double-edged sword of Modern Ortho-doxy: abandon it completely or ignore the parts that make me uncomfortable.

The famous actress Mayim Bialik gave me a third choice. Bialik, who stars in CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory,” is a Modern Orthodox Jew who works tirelessly to bridge the gap between the Orthodox and the secular world, and she does not take the easy way out.

In her column on the Jewish website Kveller, Bialik writes about the difficult and the controversial, including topics like Zionism and feminism. She wrestles with certain ideas, and allows her readers to see her struggle. Though she wrestles, she “refuse[s] to throw out the Orthodox baby with the Orthodox bathwater.” She does not retreat when she encounters something problematic. Instead, she grapples and ultimately grows. Her columns sparks important discussion and debate.

Right after my shul hired its first female clergy member, I was relieved to see Bialik had posted a response. She was thrilled about the new addition, though she did not ignore the ele-phant in the room: the clergy member would not be called “rabbi.” While Bialik was bothered by that, she recognized that it is an important step in the right direction. She said,“It means it’s a work in progress. I have patience.”

Bialik has taught me that I should not be embarrassed to grapple with certain beliefs or practices. With her lessons ringing in my ears, I reached out to my rabbi to discuss a blessing that frustrates me — the blessing when men thank God for not having made them women. Without discussion and debate, Judaism would die out. Inspired by Bialik, I will play my role in ensuring its survival.   

Teaser:

Mayim Bialik’s commitment to Modern Orthodoxy is out of this world. 

ArticlePath: /articles/her-judaism-makes-big-bang
ImagePath: public://bialygirl.jpg
Tags: Alexander Award, Bialik, Big Bang, Orthodox, rabbi
NID: 298
Date: Thursday, September 24, 2015 - 09:28
AuthorBio:
Rebekah Davis is a senior at the Schechter School of Long Island. 
Title: Diary Of A Day School Kid
Subtitle:
I’m grateful that a turn of events landed me in the Schechter School.
Body:

The author, second from the right, poses with newly minted seniors from the Schechter School of Long Island. Courtesy of Rebekah Davis 

I often think about what my school life would have been like if I had not attended the Schechter School of Long Island, my little Jewish day school. It was only by sheer coincidence that I ended up here. My very Reform parents lived across the street from an Orthodox yeshiva, and they didn’t want to send me far away from home for preschool. So I went to this tiny religious school where everybody’s parents had names like “Nirrit” and “Orna” and accents thicker than the modest skirts they wore. After a few years of being the Shabbat Ima and bringing home coloring pages about Torah, my destiny was determined: I would become a day school kid. My elementary school gave me an identity and an amazing education, with very personalized instruction because the school was so tiny. After third grade, I could not stay in that school anymore; there were only seven other kids in my class and six of them were related, so I moved to Schechter.

I’ve gained so much from my educational experience. I would not have the confidence I have now if I had been in a class of 400 rather than 40 students. I would not be an outgoing person nor have the guts to run for student government, lose and run again. I would not have received awards such as stage manager, editor of Paw Print Now (our daily news blog) and more. I know about Israeli dance and seem to know more about Judaism than most people. But these are all superficial things. My parents say I’ve learned invaluable lessons about Jewish ethics and about being a good person.

I have a strong passion to do good for this world, and people ask where it all started. The truth is, I don’t know. Even though I’m not religious, my drive for social change probably blossomed somewhere between the Kabbalistic idea of tikkun olam, repairing the world, and being forced to pray every morning and take a close look at all the things in my life I should be grateful for that others may lack. In addition, when you’re in a class with kids you’ve known since forever, you feel secure sharing your thoughts and challenging theirs. My school has allowed me to speak up and not feel ashamed when I may be wrong.

Day school outsiders might call us “brainwashed”, but my classmates and I question ideas more than any other group of kids I have known. My aunts, uncles, family friends and even strangers make assumptions simply because I go to a Jewish school. Many automatically assume I’m devoutly religious, even though I don’t belong to a synagogue. They think that I practice a plethora of Jewish rituals to please the all-powerful God described in the Bible. Someone once asked me if I believed in evolution. In reality, I’ve had many conversations with secular and Judaic studies teachers about religion and God. There have been many lessons that I may not agree with, but over the years I’ve become skilled at selecting meaningful concepts from Biblical and rabbinic classes and learning others just for the sake of the class.

I must admit that I’m glad I went to Schechter, even though the grass always seems greener on the other side. My friends at other schools get an abundance of free periods, know how to play classical music and take a variety of interesting classes. Besides the academic drawbacks, there are many social implications of going to a day school. All my friends live far away and making plans is a hassle. Since there are only 38 other kids in my grade, making new friends is virtually impossible and you need to stay on good terms with the friends you do have since you see them everywhere.

Lately, I’ve realized that I feel like the best version of myself when I am at school. Most people hate going to high school every day and dealing with their peers. However I am energized every morning to receive smiles, hugs and high-fives from almost everyone I see. I have a security network of not only friends but also faculty who I know will stand by me. I cannot identify with the kids I see on TV who are lost in school or feel like they cannot be their true selves, because that has been the opposite of my Schechter experience. It makes me worry that I have gotten too comfortable here and have a false sense of security.

I am excited to think about next year, meeting people outside of my little bubble, breaking the ceiling that is my comfort zone. I love the idea of encountering new people every day with different backgrounds and ideas. Schechter has provided me with a cozy nest, a foundation for the true “Rebekah Davis.” There are so many small variables in life that can have huge impacts, and it’s strange to think that my parents could have maybe lived across the street from some other school.

Teaser:

I’m grateful that a turn of events landed me in the Schechter School. 

ArticlePath: /articles/diary-day-school-kid
ImagePath: public://rebekah_davis.jpg
Tags: day school, Reform, SSLI
NID: 297
Date: Thursday, September 24, 2015 - 09:14
AuthorBio:
Rachel Blau is a senior at the Schechter School of Long Island. 
Title: Senior Year Sadness
Subtitle:
The start of school marks the beginning of the end of my meaningful day school experience.
Body:

For Rachel Blau, far left, senior year is bittersweet. Courtesy of Naomi Bernstein

I could not help but feel a sense of sadness upon stepping into school on the first day of my final year. September was the start of my senior year at the Schechter School of Long Island (SSLI) — a place where the teachers’ room was always open and no one used a lock on their locker, a place where the principal knows me by name and trade and older kids high-five me in the hallways. This was the place where I built my solid foundation upon the principles of leadership, spirituality and an understanding of the world in which we live. And at the most vulnerable time in my life — when I had to figure out who I was and what my passions were — that support system that fostered creativity and built character was exactly want I needed.

My day school education got me well past the front door my freshman year. I quickly recognized the potential that I could have at this school. When anything was possible, no opportunities were stifled. We learned about Malala Yousafzai’s courageous efforts in our current events class, and I couldn’t stand idly by. Like her, I began to recognize that an education was not a right for most girls my age around the world, and because the world was my oyster at SSLI, I felt I could make an impact.

The notion of tikkun olam, repairing the world, was something that was strongly instilled in each of us from day one. By my sophomore year, I had opened a line of communication with a co-ed school in a small village in Tanzania. Over the next few years, my school emailed with the students there and fundraised for them. We sent them more than $2,000, which they used to pay for electricity. An unbelievable story, made possible by the worldly environment of my small, Jewish day school.

On a cultural level, a Jewish school provided me with an invaluable working knowledge of my heritage, my people and of Israel. Balancing a curriculum with both Judaic and secular courses is not easy. But I know my hard work is worth it when my Jewish history teacher steers the conversation to the inherent qualities of humans through the lens of the Cossacks’ horrifying crimes, or when my Bible teacher asks, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” when discussing the Book of Job. Because these are the kinds of big questions the come up every day at a day school. These are the kinds of questions that we all wrestle with at one time or another, but are rarely addressed in a communal, intellectual environment. It’s that kind of big thinking that I know will serve me well in anything I choose to pursue.

The one-on-one attention from teachers. The opportunity to take on leadership positions within the school. The religious and cultural enrichment. The empowering nature of the system on the whole. All of these things are features that you will not find anywhere else. I’ve done my share of surveying other schools and I can tell you that there is a legitimate reason why day school graduates are such “good kids.” It’s because they graduate empowered, with the confidence to fulfill their goals and the drive to discover new passions. Also, they graduate eager to meet new people from different cultures and remain deeply connected with their own, on a level that they will not realize until they are surrounded by those who are unlike them.

You’re in good hands in a Jewish day school. I can tell you that as a product of a holistic Conservative Jewish education, my story will continue to build on the healthy foundation that was the Schechter School of Long Island. When I think about the college years ahead of me, I know that regardless of where I end up, my day school education will follow me and will enable me to tackle any challenge that comes my way.

Teaser:

The start of school marks the beginning of the end of my meaningful day school experience. 

ArticlePath: /articles/senior-year-sadness
ImagePath: public://rachel_on_left.jpg
Tags: day school, senior, SSLI, tikkun olam
NID: 296
Date: Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 12:07
AuthorBio:
Tess Nienaltow is a senior at Irvington High School in Irvington, N.Y. 
Title: At Kutz Camp, Know Before Whom You Stand
Subtitle:
Need motivation to improve your world? Look in front and behind you.
Body:

Tess Nienaltow, author, in the beit am at Kutz Camp. Courtesy Tess Nienaltow 

 

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in September 2015.

Seventy teens were brought to the edge of beautiful Lake Rolyn, which sits so peacefully on the camp grounds. We were Leadership Academy majors on the first day of URJ (Union For Reform Judaism) Kutz Camp in Warwick, N.Y. We were asked to find our own spot around the lake. Once seated and silent, we heard the words that would guide us through our journey this summer: Da lifnei mi attah omed, know before whom you stand.

At Kutz Camp, we discuss and practice this concept — we, as Reform leaders, are continuing in the footsteps of those who led before us. We emphasize that in no way will we brush off the footsteps of the past in order to make room for our own; instead, we preserve the mark that was made by those before us while building and pushing our communities further, creating our own imprints. We understand that in our lifetime, we may not see the changes to this world that we hope our work will bring, but we trust that by embodying this saying, future generations will continue where we left off, just as past generations trusted us.

“Think about the leaders before you who passed through this camp with the same purpose that you have today, and who looked at this lake as a source of inspiration, as a reminder of the generation who came before them, and the generation before that generation and so on,” said our group leader, standing by the lake. It was in that moment that so much became clear to me. Even though I now sit behind a desk at school, I can’t help but feel so grateful to have found the place where I was meant to be this summer. I knew that in the one-month span of Kutz Camp my small, close-knit community would expand not only across North America, but also across generations. As an expansive Jewish community, together, we could perform tikkun olam; together, we could repair the world. 

Fast-forward 26 days. We returned to the lake on the last day of the Leadership Academy. Once again, we were told to find our own spot and to sit down quietly. And once again, we heard the words that had become so familiar to us over the course of the month: Da lifnei mi attah omed, know before whom you stand. We were given time to reflect on our summer and on the moments that highlighted this phrase’s significance.

The moment that came to my mind was the night we listened to campers and staff deliver TEDx-style talks. Topics ranged from organizations that educate people about blood cancer to summer camps for children from impoverished families; from discussions on audacious hospitality in our own lives to conversations about facilitating innovative worship in communities. By the end of the night, I was full of awe. Standing on the stage in front of us were my peers and my mentors, eager and ready to inspire those who were, quite literally, standing before them. They shared their messages with the generation they trusted to use leadership to make change, to create movements and to make those movements move. I felt privileged to witness the sparks of inspiration, motivation and persistence that culminated within one room on that one evening at the Kutz Camp.

But it wasn’t just in that moment that our Kutz community exemplified the phrase. Throughout the summer as we became more aware of the racism that still permeates our society; as we discussed and created initiatives to fight gun violence; as we collectively heard the announcement of the legalization of gay marriage; and as we spent four weeks in the presence of determined and eager leaders, the meaning and importance behind this saying felt almost tangible to me. I experienced its truth first-hand. Our generation is continuing the fight for equality for black Americans, one that past generations began in their battle against slavery and segregation. Our generation created our own movements, speaking out against the horrors of gun violence and the injustices against the LGBT community. In doing all of this, we are marking our own footsteps on the path to peace and equality, so that future generations can follow.

Da lifnei mi attah omed. Know before whom you stand. My month at Kutz camp taught me the impact and power behind this simple statement. We are not alone in repairing the world. We have an army behind us and an army ahead of us. We can do anything if we recognize that those who came before us laid a foundation. In the present we must take action and strive for greatness, and hope that those who come after us will continue our legacy.

Teaser:

Need motivation to improve your world? Look in front and behind you. 

ArticlePath: /articles/kutz-camp-know-whom-you-stand
ImagePath: public://tess.jpg
Tags: Kutz, LGBT, Reform, tikkun olam
NID: 295
Date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 11:43
AuthorBio:
Tova Meira Oberman is a senior at Ulpanat Talya in Jerusalem.  
Title: The Judge — Our Father, Our King
Subtitle:
The crowning day is near.
Body:

Getty Images 

The day is coming
     When we’ll stand before the Judge
Who’ll look back on our every action
     Every thought, every plan, every grudge

The day is coming
     When we’ll stand before He-Who-Knows-All
And our fate will be decided
     From this autumn through next fall

We’ve been given a month to prepare
     To present our best court case
To think about what we’ve done
     And what we could have done in its place

We’ve been given a month to prepare
    To return to what is true
To consider all what we’ve accomplished
     And what we still have left to do

Judgment is looming over us
     Creeping closer every day
We must look back on our actions
     We must repent and we must pray

Yet the day that’s coming closer
    Is not as severe as it seems
For out of the corner of your eye
     You may see the crown that gleams

The day is coming
     When we’ll coronate our King
When we’ll rejoice before Him
     And we will dance and sing

The day is coming
     When we’ll crown our King again
We’ll stand in awe before him
     The King of all kings, our Father — Hashem

So while this day is looming over us
     With judgement standing by
Remember the Judge is our King
     Our Father in the sky

Teaser:

The crowning day is near. 

ArticlePath: /articles/judge-%E2%80%94-our-father-our-king
ImagePath: public://shofartowalk.jpg
Tags: autumn, Hashem, judgement, King
NID: 294
Date: Thursday, August 20, 2015 - 07:36
AuthorBio:
Ora Friedman is a rising junior at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck, N.J. 
Title: A Palette Of Paradise
Subtitle:
In the scenic mountains is a camp for young women to dance, paint and raise their voices in song.
Body:

"Reflect and Revisit", a painting by the author. "Each time I look at the painting, I revisit Tizmoret Shoshana and reflect spiritually on all that I gained there.” Ora Friedman

 

I am painting the tranquil turquoise lake and the breathtaking views of the Berkshire Mountains. I try to capture the sapphire blue sky. I use heavy brushstrokes to depict the shape and texture of the bushes. I paint the iridescent reflection of the trees in the lake by blending the emerald green of the trees with the sea blue of the waves.

As I sit outside the art studio, I hear the most angelic singing coming from the voice studio. I see the creative writing majors siting outside, describing the scenery. In the theater, the drama students act out monologues and rehearse for the final performance. The dancers learn new moves and practice gracefully. The exquisite sounds produced by the flute, violin, piano and cello are in harmony with the rest of Tizmoret.

I had the remarkable privilege of attending Tizmoret Shoshana, a two-week sleepaway camp for girls. The arts camp, founded 16 years ago, is located on the grounds of the Berkshire Hills Eisenberg Camp in Copake, N.Y. Tizmoret Shoshana gives every girl the ability to use her God-given talents to achieve spiritual heights. Music and the arts are the means to expressing the soul. It allows me to let out feelings and express what words cannot convey. Since love for Hashem is indescribable, the arts allow me to express this love.

Each camper focuses on two areas; I majored in vocal music and minored in art. At home I took voice lessons for a short period of time. I always loved singing and used to be in choirs in elementary school. As I got older, it was much harder to find performance opportunities where I could perform for women only since I adhere to kol isha — a form of modesty that prohibits women from performing in front of men. As soon as I found Tizmoret Shoshana, I knew that it was the perfect place for me — I could take voice lessons and perform in a comfortable environment.

Liba Hersh, the vocal coach, taught us a variety of exercises, music theory and how to read musical notes. Campers bonded over our love for music; we found the uniqueness in each other’s voices and recognized the incredible talents of our peers. During the final performance, we each performed a solo piece and together we sang “Lo Amus” which is part of the Hallel prayer. For my solo I sang “Meheira,” made famous by Yaakov Shwekey. I performed this song in a choir in fourth grade. It is about the joy that should soon be heard and felt in the cities of Judah and it is sung at weddings and sheva brachot. I always loved the melody and singing the song makes me happy. 

Chana Singer, the art teacher and one of the camp directors, taught us techniques in molding and designing clay, painting, using pastels and making prints. (Singer and her husband Mark are the founders of the camp.) Painting landscapes gives me the opportunity to appreciate nature in a different way when I focus on lines, colors and details. I use a variety of colors to express the beauty. Nature allows me to meditate when I reflect on the true beauty of the outdoors. It puts me in awe of Hashem’s creations, which is really awe and appreciation for Hashem Himself. Painting allows me to focus on small details that I may not have noticed and allows me to realize and appreciate all of the small gifts that Hashem gives us.

On Shabbos, we infused the day with holiness by coming together in song. Ms. Hersh taught us that music is how the angels communicate and music is from the world above. That is why when we sing, we feel so inspired and so much closer to Hashem. The music we listen to impacts our souls. When a group of people sings, we express our feelings as one. This achdus (unity) enhances the Shabbos. On Shabbos, I gave a dvar Torah about how the arts and spirituality are entwined. I spoke about how prayer and song is the vehicle to initiating our relationship with Hashem.

Summer is a time to reflect on who we are and what makes us unique. Tizmoret Shoshana gave me the unique ability to pour out my soul in song. Music, art and writing make me complete. Each camper was able to express the yearnings of her soul and unite in a love of the arts.

After camp, one of the participants designed a blog where campers and staff members can share their art, writing and videos of performances. The blog is a great way to stay connected with camp friends and to make sure that our summer experience remains with us. I recently composed my first song and wrote a few poems for the blog. It was so inspiring to be among talented girls who have the same interests and love for music and the arts as I do. I hope to continue using the gifts that Hashem gave me to help those around me and inspire others. 

Teaser:

In the scenic mountains is a camp for young women to dance, paint and raise their voices in song.  

ArticlePath: /articles/palette-paradise
ImagePath: public://stunninglybrilliant.jpg
Tags: arts, Berkshire, camp, dance
NID: 293
Date: Tuesday, August 18, 2015 - 08:18
AuthorBio:
Nathaniel Korb is a rising senior at Yeshiva University High School for Boys (MTA) in Manhattan. 
Title: A Man Of Morals
Subtitle:
A new film about Julius Rosenwald exposes teens to an important Jewish philanthropist.
Body:

Julius Rosenwald, center, with students from one of his schools in the South. Fisk University, John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library, Special Collections

 

“Rosenwald” — Aviva Kempner’s latest documentary — captures Julius Rosenwald’s larger-than-life impact on American society and culture. He was an entrepreneur whose knack for trade transformed him from the son of a Jewish peddler to the head of Sears, Roebuck and Co. and in turn, to a prominent philanthropist. In fact, Rosenwald’s contributions are so impressive it’s baffling that his name is relatively unknown.

An ardent capitalist and a model for charity, Rosenwald channeled his Sears fortune into the South, where he built schools for African-American communities during the Jim Crow era. Nearly one-third of all black children in the South in the early 20th century attended a school built by Rosenwald, according to the film. The schools were chronically underfunded and prone to being torched at night by white supremacists. Rosenwald also provided great writers and artists, like Langston Hughes and Marian Anderson, with the financial means to pursue their goals. The film attributes this generosity to a combination of faith and exposure to the debilitating poverty during a trip to the South.

Cross-cutting between photographs, documents and early moving footage, Kempner establishes the segregated South and the early life of Julius Rosenwald. Despite having watched interviews with people affected by his charities, I felt as if I was cheated of the man himself. Though “Rosenwald” has its heart in the right place (connecting this Jewish man to the education and arts and culture of African-Americans), it doesn’t have its focus on Rosenwald’s personality.

Though Kempner occasionally uses graphics and segments of other films (including a long clip from “The Music Man”), adds a jazzy tone, and has moments that seem kitschy, she tends to play the rest of the documentary straight. This works visually and emotionally since it strips away any distractions and lets the interviewees speak for themselves. Indeed it’s the variety of people supported by Rosenwald that makes his story so extraordinary. The people affected by his work range from prominent politicians to noted writers who were given educations and grants. Author Maya Angelou and U.S. Rep. John Lewis (Ga.), who attended schools built by Rosenwald, make regular appearances in the film.

The movie spends extensive time covering the impact of Rosenwald’s work, but fails to focus on him. We learn from people who lived in his housing projects about his involvement in the strong community that existed there. However, his interactions with the community are seen only through the eyes of the residents, and we aren’t given a well-rounded perspective on his personal life and outlook. For a large part of the film, Rosenwald’s private life is hardly touched upon. Despite this oversight, there are sequences that are moving, and hopefully the film will bring new light to a model citizen who for too long has gone unnoticed.

“Rosenwald” is now playing in select theaters. Check the official website for more information. 

Teaser:

A new film about Julius Rosenwald exposes teens to an important Jewish philanthropist.

ArticlePath: /articles/man-morals
ImagePath: public://fr_chuck_1.jpg
Tags: African-American, Angelou, documentary, Rosenwald
NID: 292
Date: Thursday, August 13, 2015 - 15:01
AuthorBio:
Isaac Rosen is a graduate of Albany High School in Albany, N.Y. He is attending Tufts University in the fall. 
Title: The (Funniest) 89-Year-Old Man
Subtitle:
The comic genius of Mel Brooks is divine.
Body:

"Blazing Saddles", "2000 Year Old Man", "History Of The World"  and more by Mel Brooks have made an indelible mark on Jewish humor. Getty Images 

 

Editor’s Note: Isaac Rosen was a finalist The Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing. The national contest sought essays on a Jewish American who has made a significant impact in the field of television, film, music or theater. Writers were asked to identify the person’s lasting legacy on them or on American culture. The contest was sponsored by the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and The Jewish Week Media Group.

I remember the first time I watched “Blazing Saddles.”

I was an 8th grader in the midst of a big research project. My topic of choice? Jewish humor. A few weeks in, I met with my teacher so he could check my progress. I showed him my primary source, Novak and Waldocks’ “The Big Book of Jewish Humor” and he checked over my notes. Before I left he asked me if I had ever seen “Blazing Saddles.” When I told him that I hadn’t, he gave me my homework assignment.

That evening I discovered my first true love of the entertainment world. Mel Brooks.

The child of European Jewish immigrants, Melvin Kaminsky was born in Brooklyn in 1926. At school he was often bullied and used performing (he was a talented musician) as an escape. After a brief tour of military duty he worked as a pianist in various Catskill nightclubs. One night, the headlining comedian fell ill and Brooks, who had used humor to survive hard times in his childhood, stepped on stage and improvised a set. Throughout a career spanning seven decades, Mel Brooks has been one of the most influential and successful men in entertainment.

After Blazing Saddles, I watched every Mel Brooks movie I could, memorized “The 2000 Year Old Man” and created a comedy routine with my best friend.  In my 8th grade yearbook, I listed Mel Brooks as one of my heroes alongside Abraham Lincoln and the Dalai Lama.

But comedy is complicated. What makes us laugh and why? Where is the line between what is funny and what is taboo? With roots in the shtetl, Jewish humor — heavily steeped in self-deprecation and the ability to laugh at suffering — has found its own answers to these questions. The Spanish Inquisition isn't funny… until you introduce the synchronized swimming nuns and the Yiddish men’s choir in the torture chamber. “The Inquisition” song (“It’s better to lose your skullcap than your skull!”) in all its campy glory, was the first time I had seen a Jewish tragedy made funny.

During my freshman year in a large urban public school, I posted the lyrics to “Springtime for Hitler” on my Facebook page. I had recently seen “The Producers” and wanted to show off my sophisticated palette of humor to my new high school friends. My mom, who naturally scanned and censored my page, was furious. She insisted I remove it, explaining that some might take it literally as a pro-Nazi song. In order to laugh at satire, one must understand that it means the opposite of what it says. I had taken this ability for granted, because Mel Brooks (and the Jewish comic tradition he exemplifies) had been my teacher.

With wit like Herschel of Ostropol, antics like the wise men of Chelm and better timing than God when He took us out of Egypt, Mel Brooks is one of the comic geniuses of our time. He has made me laugh and made me think. 

Teaser:

The comic genius of Mel Brooks is divine. 

ArticlePath: /articles/funniest-89-year-old-man
ImagePath: public://2000yearoldman.jpg
Tags: Alexander Award, Blazing Saddles, humor, Mel Brooks
NID: 291
Date: Thursday, July 23, 2015 - 08:41
AuthorBio:
Tova Meira Oberman is a rising senior at Ulpanat Talya in Jerusalem.  Emily Saperstein is a rising sophomore at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, N.J. 
Title: The Ninth of Av
Subtitle:
A tragic day for the Jewish nation.
Body:

On the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, Jews remember tragic events throughout history include wandering the desert for 40 years; the destruction of the first and second temples; the Spanish Inquisition; and the conflicts between Israel and Gaza. Courtesy of Emily Saperstein. Google Images 

 

It started with a cry
“Are we all going to die?”
But really they cried out for nothing

The wrong words were said
They thought they’d end up dead
They forgot it was HE they were trusting

They threatened to go back
Their leader they would sack
And return to the place of enslavement

“What should I do with them?”
Said the leader to Hashem
For HIS gift they’d refused with resentment

“You cry today lishav”*   
Said the voice from above
“For generations today you’ll now cry”

The opportunity they had squandered
Forty years they then wandered
In the desert that generation did die.

 

It continued with idols, immorality and bloodshed
The streets of the cities flowed red
And Bavel was sent to invade

The Jews were expelled
For against Hashem they’d rebelled
And from HIS teachings they’d strayed

Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Mikdash
All that remained was ash
And heavy smoke filled the air

The first temple, destroyed
In Yisroel’s heart was a void
It was almost too much to bear

 

Seventy years later Jews returned
And rebuilt the temple that had burned
The most magnificent man-made creation

Four hundred twenty years it stood
While Am Yisroel did good
For a while things went well for the nation

But then hatred hit
The nation was split
Jews treated each other with spite

Rome laid siege to the holy city
They acted with no pity
For three years Yerushalmim were stuck tight

They would have had enough food
Had together they stood
But instead they decided to fight

Divided they would fall
But perhaps worst of all
Each other’s food they burned in the night

“Victory!” Rome yelled
And the Jews were expelled
And the Mikdash was burned once again

All that remained was the West Wall
For divided we’d fall
United we must turn to Hashem

 

It did not end there
I must say with despair
As we saw in fourteen ninety-two

All was good, it appeared
But that soon disappeared
When Spain expelled every Jew

 

One would have thought tragic events
Had reached the extent
Sadly it is not so

By 2005
Gush Katif began to thrive
When its inhabitants were told to go

Gaza was given the land
Hamas took command
Peace was Israel’s desire

It wasn’t achieved
No peace was received
In its stead Israel received rocket fire

 

Centuries now we have cried
Since Canaan was spied
When will the mourning cease?

When we stand together
No hatred, no anger
And have a nationwide peace.

* lishav means in vain

Teaser:

A tragic day for the Jewish nation. 

ArticlePath: /articles/ninth-av
ImagePath: public://fr_chuck_2.jpg
Tags: Hamas, Hashem, temple, Tisha B'av
NID: 290
Date: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 - 12:48
AuthorBio:
Maetal Gerson is a rising junior at Milken Community Schools in Los Angeles. 
Title: America’s Music Man
Subtitle:
Composer Aaron Copland turned the discords of our country into musical masterpieces.
Body:

Aaron Copland: Father of the American sound. classicalite.com

 

Editor’s Note: Maetal Gerson is the 2015 winner of The Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing. She won a national contest seeking essays on a Jewish American who has made a significant impact in the field of television, film, music or theater. Writers were asked to identify the person’s lasting legacy on them or on American culture. Maetal won $500 and a commemorative medal. The contest was sponsored by the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and The Jewish Week Media Group.

Through art, we express the passion and freedom of the mind and soul. As a young child, I took this passionate idea to heart, banging on any piano keys I could find, calling my mom to stop the car when a particularly exquisite Palestrina Mass came on and jumping up to conduct Beethoven’s “Pastoral Symphony” when I was 3. For me, music spoke a language so beautiful I couldn’t help but respond. Those who have the ability to capture an essence in a brush of color, a dissonant chord or a verse of poetry and who can sculpt that essence into something that is exquisite, are beloved. They are called artists. One such artist is the composer Aaron Copland. With the same passion as I, but with a specific spirit to express, Copland wrote the pieces that would, in his lifetime, label him the “father of the American sound.” The spirit he expressed was the heart of America.

To listen to Copland’s music is to peer through a kaleidoscope into America. He took tunes from the many different traditions and cultures within our nation and found a way to harmonize their dissonances to create a unifying message. Aaron Copland became famous just after the post-war years, when Americans were searching for a way to see themselves as a nation. As a young artist, Copland was already incorporating bits of jazz, Latin and even klezmer music into his own works. All he had to do was to tie these tunes together to express America. Copland did not capture, but unleashed the wild rhythms of the West with his driving rhythms, and he returned time and time again to the simple and traditional Shaker melodies. In the process, he found the simple dignity and wild exuberance that was America. Above all, his music is honest at the core. It is this honesty that flows through the ears and into the hearts of all Americans who listen to Copland’s works. His universal strokes express a harmonized America.

I have not yet seen the America that is envisioned in Copland’s music. The America I hear today is far from harmonized. Even Copland did not experience the America he envisioned in his masterpieces. He was, in fact, blacklisted during the McCarthy era. Perhaps he wrote so deeply about his country because he understood its flaws. In the open chords and the wistful melodies, there is an unmistakable undertone and longing to be free.

Through his art, Copland reminds us that we live in a great land; one that is breathtakingly vast and that is infused to the very roots with unbridled freedom. The music dances through time, for within the deep tones lies the soul of America. This is a land of dissonances, of harmonies and of resolutions. It is this promise of resolution that makes his music universal. The music dances through America. And it dances through me.

Teaser:

Composer Aaron Copland turned the discords of our country into musical masterpieces. 

ArticlePath: /articles/america%E2%80%99s-music-man
ImagePath: public://the_winner_0.jpg
Tags: Alexander Award, Copland, jazz, music, piano
NID: 289
Date: Monday, June 29, 2015 - 11:22
AuthorBio:
Shira Fournier is a graduate of Bruriah High School in Elizabeth, N.J. She will be studying at Tiferet Seminary in Ramat Bet Shemesh followed by Stern College for Women in New York.                                                                                               Barak Hagler is a graduate of the Rav Teitz Mesivta Academy of the Jewish Education Center in Elizabeth, N.J. He will be studying at Yeshivat Sha’alvim in Nof Ayalon followed by Yeshiva University in New York.  
Title: Senior Stories
Subtitle:
Two members of the Class of 2015 write about their most empowering (and most embarrassing) moments.
Body:

Shira Fourner, front row on the left, with other members of Bruriah's student government. 

By Shira Fournier

What led me onto a stage in front of my school to give a campaign speech in ninth grade I will never know. I wanted to be elected to the G.O. (General Organization), my school’s term for student council. My fear of speaking in public should have stopped me. Having all eyes on me really should have stopped me. And making a fool of myself definitely should have stopped me. This fear has kept me from doing many things in front of people such as sharing a dvar Torah on Shabbat. Despite all these fears of mine I did it anyway.

When the director of student programming called my name, I felt my heart drop into my stomach, which was trying to escape anyway. I walked onto the stage, picked up the microphone and began, “I’m going to tell you guys a story…” From my point of view, the microphone should’ve dropped out of my hands since they were shaking so much; I should’ve collapsed on the stage since my legs couldn’t support me anymore; and I definitely should’ve puked. When I was up there I couldn’t hear myself, just the sound of laughter coming from the audience. The good kind of laughter that meant I was funny, not the bad kind that would send me into a wave of embarrassment.

After a long two minutes I was done and everyone was cheering and clapping. When I walked off the stage that’s when my legs gave out. My shaky legs could only hold me up for so long and I fell. When I stood up, my opponents gave me a big smile and told me how good I was. I conquered my fear of public speaking.

Later when everyone gathered to hear election results, my heart and stomach escaped one more time. I held hands with everyone and we wished each other good luck. When our principal said my name for the position of corresponding secretary, whatever that meant, I couldn’t believe it. All of my hard work and guts to get me on the stage had paid off. Just goes to show — no matter what you’re afraid of, if you try and believe in yourself, anything is possible.

 

Barak Hagler sips his beloved Slurpee. By Barak Hagler

It was the second half of senior year, a delightful April afternoon. Generally, I brought lunch from home, but that day my mom very kindly gave me a few dollars so I could go out to eat at one of the local restaurants. At lunchtime, a couple friends and I walked the few blocks to Jerusalem Pizza. It was a warm, sunny day, perfect for walking. We made it to the pizza store and ordered our food. I chose a delectable cheese pretzel and a pie. After enjoying this delicious meal, we began the trek back to school. (Photo: The author enjoys his beloved Slurpee.)

Now, between the pizza store and my school, there is this fantastic store called 7-11 — a store I love frequenting for its trademarked Slurpee. Naturally, as we passed it on the way back to school, I wanted to stop in for a refreshing Coke-flavored Slurpee. The time was 1:10, and that’s when classes begin. But I was feeling the senioritis, said “what the hey” and went in anyway. I know, I know, coming a few minutes late to class isn’t the worst thing, but up until now I was a well-behaved student.

By the time we returned to school, it was 1:14. No big deal. I would just slip into class a drop late and no one would notice. Big surprise! When I reached the school building every single person was outside on the lawn. Odd, but no big deal. No big deal that is, until I took a panoramic view of the lawn and scoped out who was there.

I saw my friends, my teachers, and … uh oh, my principals. My heart dropped and suddenly it felt like no one was there except for them and me. As I would find out later, at 1:10 there was a fire drill and that is why everyone was outside. But all I saw was my principal and assistant principal — they watched me walk lackadaisically into school late with a Coke Slurpee in one hand and a bag of leftover pizza in the other. They let it go, but not before one of them took a good-natured jab at me. “So, you’re late because a girl came to meet you for lunch?”

Teaser:

Two members of the Class of 2015 write about their most empowering (and most embarrassing) moments. 

ArticlePath: /articles/senior-stories
ImagePath: public://fournier_fr_chuck.jpg
Tags: fear, pizza, senior, Slurpee
NID: 288
Date: Tuesday, June 23, 2015 - 05:43
AuthorBio:
Rachel Chabin is a graduate of Townsend Harris High School in Flushing, N.Y. She will be attending Stony Brook University on Long Island and hopes to continue playing music in the school’s wind ensemble.  
Title: Tooting My Own Horn
Subtitle:
I gave up playing a musical instrument — until I walked into beginning band my freshman year.
Body:

Rachel Chabin, the author, with her beloved clarinet. Courtesy Yash Sharma

My first stint with instrumental music was back in elementary school. Every few days, a group of students would be escorted down a flight of stairs, past the clanking boiler and into our teacher’s basement classroom. For a year I took great pride in what I thought was my prowess with the recorder, managing to play a small, simplified part of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.” Once I moved up to playing the flute, however, my enthusiasm for band stalled and I struggled to play even the simplest notes. In middle school — where we didn’t have any music program — I forgot about my wind instrument experience, convinced I wasn’t cut out to be a musician after all.

Fast-forward to my first day of freshman year. I’m clutching my schedule tightly as I wander through the second-floor hallway, searching the doors for number 243. I find it at the far end of the hall, near the side exit and go inside nervously. I’m met with the sight of about 60 chairs arranged in a horseshoe around the conductor’s stand. Despite my greatest efforts, I can’t think of any way to erase “Beginning Band” from period eight on my new program, and so I resignedly took a seat and listened to my new teacher talk to us about choosing an instrument. Above all, he said, we are not to choose an instrument we’ve played before; it would prevent us from experiencing band from scratch. Knowing I’d never get away with choosing the flute, I picked the instrument that looked the most like a recorder: the clarinet.

During those first few days, I consoled myself by remembering I could transfer after a year. After a couple of weeks, quitting never crossed my mind. In band I found a community of passionate musicians who wanted to make something beautiful and were willing to play their hearts out in every rehearsal. To my astonishment, I learned something about myself as well: I got more pleasure out of playing the clarinet than nearly anything else. With my instrument and enough effort, any type of music — from old Yiddish melodies to pop songs to classical arrangements — is fair game. (Another key discovery: recorders and clarinets are not the same. Luckily for me, I fell in love with my clarinet’s sound and never wanted to go back to that plastic recorder.)

I recently completed my senior year of high school. In these four years, I’ve moved from my teacher’s beginner class to the advanced concert band, and I led the clarinet section. In May I had the chance to do even more than play. During our spring concert I put down my clarinet — to pick up the conductor’s baton. While my music teacher made a rare cameo as a performer, he gave me the chance to lead the band I’ve come to love.

Teaser:

I gave up playing a musical instrument — until I walked into beginning band my freshman year. 

ArticlePath: /articles/tooting-my-own-horn
ImagePath: public://yash_sharma_fr_chuck.jpg
Tags: band, clarinet, freshman, music
NID: 287
Date: Wednesday, June 17, 2015 - 05:29
AuthorBio:
Lizzie Zakaim is a 2015 graduate of Paramus High School in Paramus, N.J. She'll be attending The College of New Jersey in Ewing Township. 
Title: Fresh Ink For Me
Subtitle:
Four years of Fresh Ink for Teens made me a confident writer and affirmed my commitment to Judaism.
Body:

Lizzie Zakaim looks back on FIT and her proud moment of first becoming a published writer. Courtesy of Lizzie Zakaim

Four years have passed by in the blink of an eye. All too recently I was a hesitant freshman, discovering my niche in a diverse habitat — public high school — after popping my 10-year bubble of Jewish day school. In high school I encountered many people and many conversations about my customs: Why can’t I hang out on Saturdays? Why do I label my containers “meat” and “milk?” Do I own a dairy farm? I was learning how to cope with my new world, and I eventually found solace in writing. I have since adapted to my diverse atmosphere and wrote about some of my experiences as a Jew in public school (“Discussing God in the Chemistry Lab” and “Confessions of a Day School Dropout”). I am fortunate to have nine articles and one poem published on Fresh Ink for Teens.

I remember when my first article — “All Oranges, No Apples” — was published (June, 2012). In it I wrote about how an orange served as a metaphor for Judaism. Like the thick peel of an orange, Judaism may seem like a struggle to understand, but underneath the peel is a juicy treat; underneath Judaism’s commandments and restrictions is a culture and way of life that serve as a code of ethics for my life. This article was such an important step in my blossoming career as a writer. Being published changed my outlook on writing. I felt important knowing that my writing was being read and interpreted by others; I took my writing more seriously and invested more time in it. Whether it was through my fiction writing or essays for class, I became more aware of my strength as a wordsmith and felt pleased that my writing was strong enough to deserve publication. 

My experiences shaped my words and I was able to watch my thoughts and research come to life. I really enjoyed reporting and conducting an interview for “The Battle Against BDS” (June, 2014). In that article I highlighted a recent trend of anti-Semitism — the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement — and its effect on teens in America. I also wrote “The Roots of Anti-Semitism” (April, 2015), which ponders the cause of centuries of hatred towards the Jews.

Writing about Judaism connected me to my religion in a unique way. My ideas were not just circling around my head; comparing Judaism to oranges was no longer a unique comparison. It became a way of understanding my religion and of hopefully getting others to see it from a different perspective.

Occasionally I found it difficult to produce articles, but inevitably a topic always came to mind. I had the idea for “The Devil is in the Details” (January, 2013) while thinking about some of my inner qualms about Judaism. I feared the concept of hell. I felt that if I did not watch my every action, I would be sentenced to a long and painful afterlife. I had trouble coming to terms with the fact that hell might be a dark and hot place, designed to cause suffering and pain. I wanted to write about this idea of hell, but was hesitant; I was worried that the idea would not be appropriate for FIT. After asking my rabbi about hell (gehenum in Hebrew) and after learning that the fiery pit I dreaded was not so bad and that it was a different experience for each person, I became more hopeful and drafted an article that clarified the concept of hell for others. Approval of my topic by my editor and the clarity of my rabbi’s answer encouraged me to write the article, and reinforced my faith in Judaism and morality.

I was pleasantly surprised by the feedback I got from my family about articles I’ve written on the challenges I experienced as a Jewish kid in public school. My relatives endured similar conversations and scenarios when they were in high school. My aunt called to congratulate me on my publication of “Discussing God in the Chemistry Lab” (November, 2014). She told me that she, too, had to make up work from being absent on holidays and that she, like me, had friends who really understood her religious commitments and were willing to help her out when necessary. She had to explain Shabbat, keeping kosher and other traditions and holidays that kept her out of school. She also had to approach her teachers to receive the work she missed from being absent. The articles I wrote opened up topics of conversation with my family, and I found even more ways to relate to and become closer with them.

Being published made me a more serious writer. I found a love for researching everything from funky ideas for the holidays to Jewish history; I improved my writing skills; and I turned my experiences into lessons for others to read. I have improved so much since I first put my pen to paper, and I plan to pursue a career in journalism in order to continue my love of writing. As a journalist I will have the opportunity to influence and inform the world; through my words I can spark action and keep people up to date on news and events. My faith in Judaism will not falter, and in college writing through the unique lens of a Jewish student in a diverse academic environment will hopefully capture an audience I have something in common with.

It is important for teenagers to express themselves. I found my outlet through writing, and I encourage others to take that path as well. I was nervous at first about having my writing published for the world to see, but my pride soon overcame my worry. FIT gave me the opportunity to grow through my writing, and my progress showed me that when I stick with something I can improve.

Writing for FIT demands originality and perseverance. Writing an article requires experience and research and the will to step out of your comfort zone and really make a piece the best it can be to impact your audience. Writing is something you have to do no matter what career you pursue; it’s a skill that is necessary in order to write resumes, cover letters, college papers, emails and the list goes on and on. It’s time to grab the reins of your future and exercise your writing skills — watch yourself become a better writer and a published one too! I have been lucky to exercise my talent through Fresh Ink for Teens. Becoming a published writer is a tremendous accomplishment.  

Teaser:

Four years of Fresh Ink for Teens made me a confident writer and affirmed my commitment to Judaism.  

ArticlePath: /articles/fresh-ink-me
ImagePath: public://fr_chuck_0.jpg
Tags: BDS, FIT, public school, writing
NID: 286
Date: Thursday, June 11, 2015 - 08:33
AuthorBio:
Alex Pressman is a junior at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. 
Title: A Chipped Tooth
Subtitle:
The tale of a red lollipop and a trip to the Garden of Eden from the dentist's chair.
Body:

I suppose it was my fault, most of it anyway. If my time on this Earth has taught me anything it is that nothing bad or good can be completely attributed to one person. Hitler could not have gotten so far with the Holocaust were it not for some gifted Don Drapers in the propaganda department. Jordan could not have won his six rings were it not for Pippen starting at small forward; such is simply the way things are.

It should be noted that the series of events I am preparing to recount are from an early stage in my childhood and could possess more than one historical inaccuracy. Some of the early memories tend to get blurry when I relive them. What I do know for a fact, however, is that Jackie Burnbaum did push me down the stairs, I did break a tooth and I did have an exceptionally profound experience in the dentist's office. Beyond that I suppose much of what will be heard is extrapolation into some of the deepest crevices of my memory. The insight given is surely a result of my exposure to the world beginning long after my little story. After all, everyone is bound to leave that dentist's office at some point whether they are ready or not.

       ***

It was nearing the end of the week at preschool and that could mean only one thing: lollipops. I don't know what it was about those little cavity-inducing sugar balls but the teachers knew that they were our one weakness, our kryptonite. They were, in essence, the ultimate incentive to do right. The daily dosage of monosaccharide at the end of the day was their way to keep us coming back, to let us know what we were missing with poor behavior and we were hooked. If a student had become cognizant of what was happening at that tender age they would have undoubtedly grown to become a fine trafficker of drugs. No one in my class ever did, however, and I, like everyone else, was desperate for my fix. My color was red and everyone knew it. It was seldom talked about as there was nothing to say; I simply got the red lollipop.

Mrs. Boozer was out on this day. Her breath smelled terribly of late and she constantly seemed tired and clumsy; she was always a good time though. Anyway the substitute teacher, Ms. Teetotal, who was much less fun, filled in. She had managed to get us through the day and it was lollipop time. The class was to form a line from shortest to tallest. I, being the tallest in the class, was last in line and ahead of me stood the alarmingly obese Jackie Burnbaum. Jackie had one of those frames that you'd see on a Maury Povich episode documenting 300 pound toddlers who can barely walk. He, by some miracle, could move swiftly and even excel in the kickball matches on the playground. He was nicknamed "bigfoot."

Despite the eagerness of all those ahead of me, the line still seemed to take an eternity. If one had looked in my eyes they would have seen the same eyes with which a soldier might view his home after being away for three years. Each red lollipop inside the box was a close family member while the other colors were friends and more distant relatives. They were a welcome sight. It became difficult to spot the red wrappers as the number of lollipops diminished, yet the possibility that I would not get one never crossed my developing mind. Finally, Big Jackie Burnbaum was up and three lollipops remained: two purple and one red. When the unthinkable happened it didn't even register for a few seconds. I knew that no one, not even Burnbaum would have the audacity to take the one thing in my life for which I cared about more than anything else. My incredulousness was apparently clear when it began to register as Teetotal asked what was wrong. I did not attempt to explain the delicate fabric of preschool life to her as I knew my childish lexicon would do my cause no justice. Instead I took matters into my own hands and snatched the lollipop from Jackie just as it was about to touch his lips and ran. I, being unstuck in time, knew full well what would follow but was not willing to change my course of action in this particular rendition of the event. He followed with the look of a brutish bull never taking its eyes off of the red cape that tantalized it so. As we approached the stairwell I heard him gaining on me yet I refused to turn around. I felt ten chubby little fingers on my back before I could make it to the first step. He really could move so swiftly.  

 Say "ah": A boy in the dentist's chair.    
Dr. Jonathan P. Mayer, DDS. I had read the sign so many times before but this time it felt different; I had a feeling of uneasiness. The weather, which took no note of my personal angst, was utterly exquisite. It was one of those spring days in which it seemed everything had finally come together to create something bigger and more meaningful than nature. The yellow flowers surrounding the sign were especially vibrant. The birds singing their favorite tunes sounded especially graceful. The temperature was such that no one, not even the most unappeasable person could even dare complain. I entered the office knowing full well what was to come yet was not prepared for it in the slightest. The broken tooth was to be shaved down as it always was and would be, and I was to let it happen as I always would. Such things aren't to be altered. (Photo: flickr)
        
My mother and I sat down in the waiting room after checking in with the receptionist. I quickly recognized the familiar tune of “Friend of the Devil” by the Grateful Dead playing in the office. My mother, who I understand was quite the hippie in her day, played the Dead often throughout the house and their sound had become something of a soothing force for me in times of distress; this time was no exception. I sat back in my chair. Expelling all thoughts from my head surrounding the impending procedure, I truly listened to each word of the song for the first time. I was perplexed by how Jerry Garcia could sing of such serious things as death, life in jail and the devil, and make them sound so innocent and beautiful in the way that only Jerry Garcia could. At that moment I wished so much to call Garcia and have him tell me that what was about to happen wasn’t so bad, that it would all be fine in the end, but I couldn't. He had been dead for some time. I was called back to the treatment room.
          
I was not in the room long before the clown-like dentist bopped into the room. He was a lanky old man with stringy white hair and bug eyes. I didn't know why at the time but whenever we would leave his office my mom would tell me she could hear the quacking from the parking lot. I could never find the ducks. Seeing the fear in my eyes, he got right to business. His dental assistant handed him the Novocain and it was quickly running through my gums. Within minutes, the majority of my face was numb and I had no feeling in my lower lip. Oddly enough, however, the broken tooth throbbed worse than ever. When I informed the dentist of my problem he shook his head and told me it was impossible. He proceeded with his preparations and reached for the drill. It was not an exceptionally large drill, on the contrary, it was actually quite tiny. It was powered on and made an innocent buzzing sound. Just as the drill was about to touch my tooth I looked into the mirror that was placed in my hand so that I may watch the procedure. What I saw in the reflection was not me and the drill, however, but rather Adam and the serpent in the Garden of Eden. He was so desperate to cling to his innocence yet the serpent was determined to get its way.
          
What came next can be described only as tremendous, unparalleled pain. It shot through the tooth and radiated through my face and down my neck in what was indubitably less than a second. I knew I was contorting in a horribly ugly way yet had no control over my body. A scream could not even be conjured as what was happening could not be summed up in any one sound.
          
I stepped out of the office yet something had changed. The flowers surrounding the sign were dull and droopy. The birds in the trees let out horribly irritating shrieks without end. I began to sweat from the heat. I got into the car and looked at my temporary filling that was to be crowned the following week. In the corner of the mirror I spotted a small red circle in the back seat. When I turned around I was greeted by the one thing that I knew could always count on, a red lollipop. I tore it from the wrapping and threw it in my mouth as quickly as was humanly possible.
          
It was repugnant. `

Teaser:

The tale of a red lollipop and a trip to the Garden of Eden from the dentist's chair.  

ArticlePath: /articles/chipped-tooth
ImagePath: public://lollis_fr_chuk.jpg
Tags: fiction, Grateful Dead, lollipop
NID: 285
Date: Thursday, June 4, 2015 - 07:30
AuthorBio:
Aryeh Lande is a freshman at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, N.J. 
Title: Police Under Fire
Subtitle:
Racism should be separated from the dangers of police misconduct.
Body:

#BlackLivesMatter: Jews participate in a demonstration organized by Jews for Racial & Economic Justice in December 2014. Twitter

Racial discrimination has reached a boiling point in our country. With every death of an unarmed African-American at the hands of police comes a new protest, and with every protest comes new debates that consume America. I was prompted to write this article by the growing tide of ridicule and violence that has been unfairly aimed at police departments, rather than at the individual officers who are sometimes charged with breaking the law. Additionally, it has appalled me that community leaders have spread messages of violence based on hearsay and false accusations, not on facts. These groups have depicted an America where the issue is white vs. black rather than justified police action vs. unnecessary force. Yet, I have faith in America and I trust that our country can emerge from this difficult period stronger and more equitable than ever before.

Teens should raise their voices when the facts clearly show that there is injustice within our borders. If we do not, anger and the distrust of the police will engulf America and the debate will dissolve from a struggle to a conflict between blacks and whites. A struggle leads to new ideas and will help shape a new America, whereas a conflict is harmful and will detract from the work of the civil rights leaders who sacrifice their lives for equality.

As a Jew whose people are sometimes targeted by hatred and persecution, I sympathize with the black community, and I recognize that there is a legitimate problem in our country. I support racial equality and those who turn to peaceful protest. However, I cannot support the handful of prominent leaders and news agencies who use the actions of a few officers to indict entire police departments, drowning out the voices of activists and leaders who work tirelessly for true reform. 

Freddie Gray was an unarmed African-American who died while in police custody in Baltimore. Some accuse the police in Baltimore of profiling African-American neighborhoods, but we cannot be oblivious to the facts. In 2014, the FBI announced that Baltimore had the fifth highest homicide rate in the United States, according to The Baltimore Sun. Furthermore, the areas hardest hit by riots and protests have some of the highest homicide rates in the city, according to Neighborhoodscout.com. Gray’s neighborhood of Sandtown-Winchester demands more police presence and resources. This does not justify racial profiling — it is the police department’s job to focus on high-crime areas. Law enforcement protects all citizens, no matter their ethnicity or race. Most of the time, the police follow the letter of the law, but when rules are broken the police administration must investigate with full transparency in order to maintain trust. No officer is above the law.

Some neighborhoods in Baltimore were heavily guarded. Citizens have the right to protest in a peaceful manner and defend their version of the truth. But there is no excuse for turning the right to demonstrate into an opportunity to incite violent riots that turn peaceful cities into veritable war zones. These actions must stop if people want their demands to be taken seriously. Often it is a select few voices who are guilty of inciting the masses. (Photo: The National Guard protects the residents of Baltimore. CNN) 

This occurred last summer when residents of Ferguson, Mo., a St. Louis suburb, flooded the streets to protest the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager. After Brown’s death, Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights leader with a controversial career of stirring anger and accusing people of racial injustice, arrived in Ferguson. There he eulogized Michael Brown and demanded immediate action and change. “This is about justice! This is about fairness! And America is going to have to come to terms when there’s something wrong that we have money to give military equipment to police forces, but we don’t have money for [police] training,” he declared at Brown’s funeral. In my opinion Rev. Sharpton’s presence ignited the events in Ferguson, as his political reach stretches far beyond his speeches.

Thousands swarmed the streets in Ferguson, businesses were shuttered and the National Guard was employed. Rev. Sharpton made little effort to stop the riots; instead, he played his speeches off the anger of the populace by using vague phrases such as, “We have to be outraged.”

It is evident to me that Rev. Sharpton came to Ferguson for self-serving purposes. He wanted to create a national scene when in reality the events were a local issue. The investigation into Brown’s killing concluded that the shooting victim had been moving towards the accused officer without his hands raised. Instead of helping, voices like Sharpton’s agitated matters and caused the innocent people of Ferguson to be caught up in a violent political scene.

The violent response in affected communities is a recurring theme. After Gray’s death, news correspondents flocked to the city calling his death another example of racism and police brutality. Yes, it is a matter of negligence, or perhaps even malice, and certainly a horrible tragedy, but anyone who calls this a race issue is forgetting the facts. Baltimore has a black mayor, a multiracial police force and a black prosecutor. In the Freddie Gray case, three officers were white and three black. The circumstances of Gray’s death should not be confused with a racial issue; the Baltimore case should focus on broad problems such as police corruption and poor training. When the problems are mixed with race, dangerous events ensue such as the senseless riots. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s first step of nonviolent protest was the collection of facts. If we do not pursue the truth and, instead, rush to make assumptions, we will fuse the issues of racism and police mismanagement together and will turn protests into incubators for violence.

As a white teenager growing up in suburban New Jersey, I will admit that I have a privilege many don’t — namely, the color of my skin. It is shocking that I would need to say this in 2015, but it is a reality. We need to focus on changes that would be beneficial to all Americans. As the future of this nation, we teens need to let our leaders know that we will neither tolerate racism nor police negligence. My Jewish tradition reminds my people that we were strangers in another land. We must ensure as a society that African-Americans do not feel like strangers in their own land. 

Teaser:

 Racism should be separated from the dangers of police misconduct. 

ArticlePath: /articles/police-under-fire
ImagePath: public://image_02.jpg
Tags: African-American, Baltimore, police, Sharpton
NID: 284
Date: Thursday, May 28, 2015 - 10:12
AuthorBio:
Tova Meira Oberman is a junior at Ulpanat Talya in Jerusalem.  
Title: Ein Gedi
Subtitle:
May your waters run endlessly.
Body:

Ahavatya David and Reut Schremer stand at the foot of a waterfall in Ein Gedi.

 

The roaring in my ears
     As you fall so fast
A wonder, a beauty
     I hope you last
Forever and endless
     May your waters fall
The fall off a cliff
     So high and so tall
They start way up high
     And make their way down
As they fall
     They make quite a sound
They reach the bottom
     And waters gather
But stay, they do not
     Move on they’d rather
The turn to a stream
     So quiet, so calm
I sit with the water
     Flowing over my palm
They stay a while
     Then they too disappear
Falling off a cliff
     Somewhat near
Forever and endless
     May your waters fall
The fall off a cliff
     So high and so tall

Teaser:

 May your waters run endlessly.

ArticlePath: /articles/ein-gedi
ImagePath: public://ad__rs.jpg
Tags: Ein Gedi, Israel, water
NID: 283
Date: Thursday, May 28, 2015 - 09:57
AuthorBio:
Doria Leibowitz is a junior at SAR High School in Riverdale. 
Title: The College Road Trip: #GetMeOutaHere
Subtitle:
Handbook of embarrassing questions? Check. New iPhone Mom can’t turn off? Check. Let the tours begin.
Body:

Wake me when it's over: Doria Leibowitz sleeping in the car after a grueling round of college tours.

Parents of high school students do weird stuff. I think of mine as bears in hibernation. Freshman year, sophomore year, they just sort of read the paper, eat some porridge and ask how school was, but come junior year, and specifically spring of junior year, they awake, rise up and with a loud roar, scream: “ROAD TRIP!”

Yes, the dreaded college bonding trip with your parents. Spend three days, see five schools and connect with your parents through 500 miles in the back seat of the car, hearing them reminisce about that same exact road trip they took 30 years ago. They say it’s the ultimate bonding experience between parents and child and something not to be missed. But guys, I gotta tell you, that ride down memory lane is oh so painful for the child. There are lots of stories and rekindled memories, but do I really want to know the exact tree where my uncle threw up 30 years ago or where my dad ... well, you get the idea.

Our first stop on every campus is the Hillel. I’ve become something of an expert on Hillel architecture. There are one-story Hillels, two-story Hillels, Hillels that represent organic architecture, Hillels that represent post-modern architecture. There’s even the secret Hillel. You know, the one that nobody knows where it’s located (that usually is the shortest college visit). They all have food of various quantities and qualities and unfortunately, all have kids sitting there waiting patiently as the prospective parents pepper them with questions like a White House press conference. It would be great entertainment, that is, if they weren’t my parents asking the questions.

There must be some parent handbook that is given out before these trips that lists the most embarrassing questions. For example, (parents, if you’re reading this) the Hillel is not the place to have various college juniors “chance” me. You know, “If my daughter has a 3.75 GPA and an SAT score of 2200 can she get in?” Nor is it the place to pull aside some sophomore and secretly ask if the boys are nice.

While we’re on dos and don’ts, if you are over 45 and just received your iPhone 6, do not take it with you to the college information sessions. When your office calls and the phone rings to the musical strains of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin,” the entire auditorium will not be singing along as you fumble to turn it off. Also do not ask people to slide over so you can sit in the front row and then promptly fall asleep once the program starts — that looks really, really bad. I beg you, do not ask whether they will make special omelets for your daughter at the cafeteria because she does ‎not like wet eggs. And never ever ask students if they know any cute guys for your daughter.

As for that car ride home, it’s really not the post-game show. We are 16 years old, we want to — we need to — sleep, at least 12 hours a day, especially on weekends. I don’t want to assess whether the Michigan blue or Maryland maroon will go better with my complexion; whether tour guides should walk backward or forwards (a historic debate between parents that can last at least three exits on the New Jersey Turnpike); or whether the girl in the blue sweater just looked smart or really is smart. And yes, I know it seems like the kids are all sooo nice, but really, I just want to sleep.

When do parents go back into hibernation? 

Teaser:

Handbook of embarrassing questions? Check. New iPhone Mom can’t turn off? Check. Let the tours begin.  

ArticlePath: /articles/college-road-trip-getmeoutahere
ImagePath: public://sleepygirl.jpg
Tags: college, Hillel, iPhone, SAT
NID: 282
Date: Tuesday, May 26, 2015 - 09:52
AuthorBio:
Title: Writing Opportunities With FIT
Subtitle:
Mazal Tov seniors! Contribute to our special collection of high school memories.
Body:

Here are some current writing opportunities with FIT. FIT publishes year-round so don’t let the crush of final exams get in the way of expressing your thoughts and opinions. The editor, Shira Vickar-Fox, can turn your ideas into publishable pieces of writing so send an email to freshinkforteens@jewishweek.org — the first step to sharing your words with the world. 

Seniors   Let's celebrate the Class of 2015 by sharing stories about the best and worst times of high school. I’m collecting short vignettes (250-300 words) about an embarrassing, funny, meaningful or joyous time that occurred over the past four years. I need a commitment from several writers to make this idea a reality so email me your topic before June 1.

Movie Reviewer   For this assignment you’ll enjoy sneak peak access to a documentary that will be released this summer. “Rosenwald” is about Julius Rosenwald, a high school dropout who became a philanthropist and aided the African American community during the time of Jim Crow laws. The director, Aviva Kempner, is available for an interview as well. Email if you’re interested in this special assignment.

Graphic Designers Needed    Are you a recreational doodler or are you considering a career in graphic design? FIT is expanding its staff to include graphic designers and photographers. I need students to supply illustrations for our articles and poetry. (Check out Maya Sasson’s beautiful art from Passover.) Join our design team and build your portfolio. 

 

Teaser:

Mazal Tov seniors! Contribute to our special collection of high school memories. 

ArticlePath: /articles/writing-opportunities-fit
ImagePath: public://gradweb.jpg
Tags: graduation, ideas, movie, senior
NID: 281
Date: Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - 11:44
AuthorBio:
Linor Kuighadoush is a freshman at Machon Sarah High School: Torah Academy for Girls (TAG) in Far Rockaway. 
Title: Chains
Subtitle:
Our heritage passed down from Sinai.
Body:

                 Shiny

                        Silver

                                   Heavy

                                              Metal

                                                     Chains.

                                                 Joined

                                  Connected

                             Interlocked

                       Linked

                         Together.

                                 Passed

                                      Down

                                            From

                                               Parent

                                                     To child

                                              Teacher

                                 To student

                           Generation

                   To generation.

                        Never

                               Broke

                                          Never

                                              Ended

                                                     Never

                                          Stopped

                                       Never

                               Finished

                            Never

                     Discontinued

                      This

               Chain.

Teaser:

Our heritage was passed down from Sinai. 

ArticlePath: /articles/chains
ImagePath: public://chain.jpg
Tags: generations, Sinai, student, teacher
NID: 280
Date: Monday, May 18, 2015 - 12:36
AuthorBio:
Meira Edelman, Toby Gross, Rachel Miller, Malka Ostreicher and Tova Rosen are freshmen at Machon Sarah High School: Torah Academy for Girls (TAG) in Far Rockaway. 
Title: We Will Do, We Will Listen
Subtitle:
A collection of poetry in celebration of Shavuot and the rapture of receiving the Torah.
Body:

“Moses on Mount Sinai” by Jean-Leon Gerome, painting completed in 1900. Wikiart

 

Together
By Meira Edelman

We stand —
Hand in hand,
Looking up at the mountain,
Waiting —
For the moment we will be chosen,
The Chosen Ones —
The sun, a beaming ball of light
The sky, a blue never thought possible
Flowers are starting to bloom —
It is spring,
He comes down —
His face not seen,
Hidden by the blinding light surrounding Him,
He has two tablets of stone,
In His hands —
Smiles start forming on all of our faces,
It is here —
We accept it with open arms,
Together —
Hand in hand

 

Acceptance 
By Toby Gross

I stand there
Looking up at the mountain
And as I do so
I feel myself falling
Falling into a great escape
Thoughts of hate
No longer cloud my vision
All I feel is peace
And love for my creator
Who made this beautiful place
I call home

My heart
It starts beating faster
Leaving me out of breath
From such a beautiful scene
That You my God
Are giving us
To take in and receive now 
Together as one

And as thunder breaks through the air
I glance around at my surroundings
But instead of seeing the normality of terror
In the eyes of my companions
I see a look of awe
A look of knowing
That life is not yet over
It has really just begun

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Shavout: A New Type of Beauty
By Rachel Miller 

The flower blooms
A rose among thorns
All alone,
Yet still with the will to live

The child’s born
Autistic among “regulars”
All alone,
Yet still with the will to grow

The flower encounters hardship
His thorns try to crush him
Try to remove his beauty from the world

The child encounters hardship
Her family tries to squash her
Try to remove her uniqueness from the world

Yet they celebrate this Shavous together
The flower in a vase
The child in a chair
Ready to accept Hashem once again

 

We Will Do, We Will Listen
By Malka Ostreicher

We sit together
Around the table
As we once stood
Around a mountain

The flowers
Arranged stunningly
Mimic
The blossoming mountain

We wait
For our food to arrive
Like we once waited
For our holy Torah

The cakes
A scrumptious treat
Is meant for the anniversary
The birth of our people

The men
Singing their melodies
Just like we once chanted
We will do and we will listen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Painting by Marc Chagall of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments. 

 

Meeting With God
By Tova Rosen

Today the anniversary of our meeting with God
We have the ability to tap into the energy that made this moment possible
Standing completely perplexed and awed by this day
When God revealed himself to us
His nation
Where we stood with our hands and hearts united
Lifted and filled with the words of our Father
We became one
We became His
As our eyes and souls were opened to a new life
a new home
Today we grasp each other’s hands to commemorate our unity and harmony
Like our ancestors
clenching palms under bare darkness
Accepting the Torah as lightening stuck and thunder cracked
We became a nation
We became one
So today
The day we prepared for all year
Curling up into question marks asking how can I improve
As we count down to our meeting with our Father
Holding hands and hearts and eyes opened we’re welcomed to our new family
our new home
Today God gave us a gift
A guide on how to live our lives
How to treat ourselves
and others
leading us to the ultimate redemption
Next year in Jerusalem

Teaser:

A collection of poetry in celebration of Shavuot and the rapture of receiving the Torah. 

ArticlePath: /articles/we-will-do-we-will-listen
ImagePath: public://painting.jpg
Tags: God, Shavuot, Sinai, Torah
NID: 279
Date: Thursday, May 14, 2015 - 11:09
AuthorBio:
Shira Galler is a freshman at Machon Sarah High School: Torah Academy for Girls (TAG) in Far Rockaway. 
Title: Watching Daddy On Shavuot
Subtitle:
I don’t think he’ll ever understand how much I actually learned on that long holiday night.
Body:

Love and learning on Shavuot: The author is pictured with her father, David Galler. Courtesy of Shira Galler

 

The stars are shining; you’re sipping the dark, bitter coffee; munching on endless bowls of potato chips; and poring over yet another long sefer. It’s Shavuot night.

This holiday celebrates the day the Jewish nation received the Torah on Mount Sinai. To show our appreciation and love for this gift, we spend the entire night learning from this sacred text. Ever since I can remember, my father has taken me to shul on the first night of Shavuot.

Even though he sees me beside him, captivated by my class notes, I don’t think he will ever, in his lifetime, fully realize how much I really did learn and grow during those long nights in shul.

For a long time, I viewed Shavuot night as a time when I could study hard for my upcoming tests in Jewish subjects. A night when I raced through my notes and tested myself on the material over and over and over again. It was the perfect time to cram for finals.

I’d sit beside my father with my Chumash and Navi (Book of Prophets) notes and watch him vigorously learn alone. He’d quietly whisper to himself the words of the Mishna and become completely immersed as if the world around him stopped. I, on the other hand, would be somewhat “engrossed” in my learning, but never felt like I was able to become completely and utterly fascinated by my studies, like my father.

In my eyes learning was listening quietly in Chumash class, studying for the test, getting a good grade and moving on. But watching my father become so captivated made me realize something that stopped me dead in my tracks. As I looked at him, I realized there was more that was there.

Something in my father’s expression as he pored over a Mishnah made me aware that something almost magical was going on next to me. There was a sense of joy. There was a sense of engagement. There was something more to learning, I saw right in front of me, more than test grades and exams. There was something incredible about what was happening as he examined the text in front of him.

So I looked at my Chumash and read the sentence again, this time with the knowledge that there’s more to this text than a grade of 95 or 100 percent. There must, I understood, be something here for me.

Teaser:

I don’t think he’ll ever understand how much I actually learned on that long holiday night. 

ArticlePath: /articles/watching-daddy-shavuot
ImagePath: public://shira_galler.jpg
Tags: Chumash, Mishna, Shavuot, test
NID: 277
Date: Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - 13:15
AuthorBio:
Maytal Kuighadoush is a freshman at Machon Sarah High School: Torah Academy for Girls (TAG) in Far Rockaway. 
Title: The Adventures of My Cheesecake
Subtitle:
From the farm, to the shelf, to a kind lady’s holiday table.
Body:

So here I lay on a cold shelf for the price of $9.95
As they grabbed all of those on sale, I stay alone and cold
No one even thinks of my existence
Or how I’ve become what I’ve become
I owe it all to the farmer
He milked the cow
He bought the sugar
He got all the ingredients for my actuality
The work and effort is all rewarded to him
Because if not for him —
The kind lady wouldn’t have picked me up,
Paid the price,
And brought me home for Shavuot.

Teaser:

From the farm, to the shelf, to a kind lady’s holiday table.  

ArticlePath: /articles/adventures-my-cheesecake
ImagePath: public://cheesecake_cropped.jpg
Tags: cheesecake, holiday, Shavuot
NID: 276
Date: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 - 13:28
AuthorBio:
Doria Leibowitz is a junior at SAR High School in Riverdale. 
Title: My Life As A Benchwarmer
Subtitle:
Some of my toughest choices include cheering on the team or streaming ‘Orange is the New Black.’
Body:

The author is dressed to not play. She's wearing a custom baseball cap with her number, 32, and the SAR Sting logo on it. Courtesy Doria Leibowitz

Multitasking — no high school student can succeed without it. Studying for a Talmud test while eating lunch and doing your history homework, no problem. Preparing for the math quiz while davening Mincha — please, you were doing that in third grade. But the ultimate trick is what I do 10 times a year and more for playoff games (God willing): make productive use of my time while being the backup goalie on my yeshiva’s floor hockey team.

So as I stare down the court, listening to the squeaks of sneakers rubbing against the floor, I think about my choices: watch the game, cheer on the team like a good teammate should or go on my phone and contemplate whether or not the Wi-Fi is strong enough to allow me to write my history paper and stream “Orange is the New Black” at the same time. The decision is always tough, but ultimately I try to make the right choice and do all three, at the same time, of course. So while screaming and jumping up and down, I have one eye on my history textbook —reading about George Washington crossing some river in the freezing cold — and my other eye on my phone, while I try to hack into someone’s HBO GO account.

Trust me, even for an experienced yeshiva student, being a productive benchwarmer isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. It requires cleverness, slyness and, of course, the ability to multitask. It is a complex, choreographed endeavor that begins with pre-game planning and even a walk through during warm-ups.

First, as in most sports, positioning and footwork are the keys. History binders, lab notebooks and Shakespeare all have to be stowed in a location easily accessible, yet out of the coach’s line of vision. Road games can be a nightmare; often there are no boards or glass to hide behind. That’s why pre-game scouting is of utmost importance. Always look for grandmas at the game near the bench; they always have lots of pockets and bags. I’ve stuffed several lab notebooks and calculators in their purses during my years. Even better, they can never figure out their phones and are all too happy to give you passwords in exchange for taking a picture with their granddaughter. Three out of four grandmas have Amazon Prime for easy streaming of movies (I think I owe some of those grandmas $4 for the movies).

Junior year brings SAT prep and college applications into the mix. Thinking of a plan to get SAT flashcards to the bench is one of the most exciting parts of the game, especially when you enlist your teammates’ help. Those hockey helmets have a huge amount of space between your hair and the top of the helmet. I would say 15 flashcards fit with straight hair; curly hair reduces the number by half.

All in all, being a benchwarmer isn’t as bad as you’d think. Yes, I’m forced to go on a long commute to Long Island just to sit on the bench, but at least I don’t feel like I’m losing out on precious and useful time. That’s the beauty of being able to multitask: You can cheer on your team while studying and hiding your flash cards from your coach, and don’t forget that endless level of Candy Crush. That’s what being a benchwarmer is really all about. While I do look forward to being the starting goalie next year, I have learned a lot from being a benchwarmer, and I even enjoyed my time.

Teaser:

Some of my toughest choices include cheering on the team or streaming ‘Orange is the New Black.’

ArticlePath: /articles/my-life-benchwarmer
ImagePath: public://goalie.jpg
Tags: goalie, HBO GO, hockey, SAT
NID: 275
Date: Thursday, April 23, 2015 - 05:01
AuthorBio:
Ari Denlow and Liora Finkel are freshmen at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, N.J.  
Title: The Western Wall
Subtitle:
In celebration of Israel’s 67th birthday, Fresh Ink for Teens honors the spiritual heart of the country.
Body:

Photos courtesy of Liora Finkel (above) and Ari Denlow (below)

The Wall

By Ari Denlow

Never in my life have all my questions and doubts gone away.
That was until I went to the Kotel for the first time. 

It was incredible,Ari Denlow at the Western Wall.
I felt this connection.
A connection to God.
A connection to the Jewish people.
A connection to Israel.
I felt all of this from a wall.

That was when I realized,
The Kotel is not just a wall.
It symbolizes the Jewish people.
There are cracks that represent the hard times,
But the wall is still standing,
Just like us.

It was incredible,
I felt this connection.
A connection to God.
A connection to the Jewish people.
A connection to Israel.
I felt all of this from a wall.

As I looked around,
I humbly thought of my ancestors.
They prayed to be in Israel,
To be in front of this very wall.
There I was, fulfilling their wishes.
I listened to the laughter.
I listened to the crying.
I listened to the singing.
I listened to the praying.
I did not know how to react myself,
Until it hit me,
And I felt it.

It was incredible,
I felt this connection.
A connection to God.
A connection to the Jewish people.
A connection to Israel.
I felt all of this from a wall.

 

I, The Kotel

By Liora Finkel

Even to those who haven't seen me in person can recognize me,
They have for decades, even centuries.

They see my outside.
Tan stones and moss,
But that is not actually me.

There are many people who see my true colors,
and I have seen those people since the beginning of my existence.

I am for the struggles of the Jewish people and others in this land,
which I have seen from the beginning of time to today.
From even before the 67 years of my home’s modern existence,
Through a summer of attacks in 2014,
I am still standing and able to say “Am Yisrael Chai.”

I am yellow for happiness.
Through almost every struggle and hardship of all people,
there was happiness.

I am green.
Though I am green on the outside I am green on the inside.
I am green to show buds and blossoms, new beginnings.

I am pink for dreams.
Jews and others forever have dreamed.
The Zionists have dreamed of a homeland for the Jews.
People wonder what will happen to me tomorrow, in a year, in a decade.
Though you may see a wall of colors tan and green,
now you know what should be seen inside of me.
Because I am active in the dreams of the Jews once more,
they now say “Next year in Jerusalem,” excited to see me!
A lot has changed and people could only imagine how amazing my home is.

IDF soldiers and Jews from around the world dance and sing in front of me.
Though all this is true there are still struggles.
People might misunderstand them,
but they are still there.
Now might be easier to see the true me, the Kotel.

Teaser:

In celebration of Israel’s 67th birthday, Fresh Ink for Teens honors the spiritual heart of the country. 

ArticlePath: /articles/western-wall
ImagePath: public://a_wall_by_finkel.jpg
Tags: God, Israel, Kotel, Western Wall
NID: 274
Date: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - 07:08
AuthorBio:
Tova Meira Oberman is a junior at Ulpanat Talya in Jerusalem. 
Title: Home
Subtitle:
In Israel we live Jewish with pride.
Body:

Flag Wavers (from left to right): Ahavatya David, Tova Meira Oberman and Tzvia Yehoshua are proud students at Ulpanat Talya in Jerusalem.

For thousands of years we ran and we fled
Our enemies laughed as we lay and we bled
Hated for simply being born as a Jew
Expelled so often we didn’t know what to do
Slowly we realized our lives couldn’t be so
We needed a place where every Jew could go

We wanted Israel, the place of our past
Where the first Mikdash stood, and one day the last
The Zionists came, they were the first
They came forth together in a sudden burst
Slowly and surely for the next several years
More Jews arrived over land and at piers

The English were here, having been given command
They were sent to help the people govern their land
The two nations here were supposed to coexist
But while Jews wanted peace, the Arabs would resist
Summer break came and the soldiers went to England
The Arabs attacked while the defense was weakened

The Jews here realized that just land would not suffice
It was time to take control, no more being nice
They’d tried for peace, accepting the partition
Arabs had attacked, refusing the conditions
God was on our side, so we didn’t fail
Against the many enemies we prevailed

On the fifth of Iyar in nineteen forty-eight
We declared independence after some debate
Many have fallen and we remember them
Because thanks to them, we’re safe here again
A country, a home, where Jews can reside
Where we can live and be happy, Jewish with pride

Teaser:

In Israel we live Jewish with pride. 

ArticlePath: /articles/home
ImagePath: public://tova_meira.jpg
Tags: independence, Israel, Iyar, Zionists
NID: 273
Date: Tuesday, April 21, 2015 - 13:24
AuthorBio:
Hayley Nagelberg is a senior at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, N.J. 
Title: ‘Because This Is The People Of Israel’
Subtitle:
A reflection on the IDF film ‘Beneath the Helmet.’
Body:

Recent high school graduates endure rigorous basic training in their quest to become paratroopers. "Beneath the Helmet"

A few weeks ago, as I walked into a screening of “Beneath the Helmet: From High School to the Home Front,” I was instantly conscious of the fact that my friend and I were the only two high school seniors in the audience. This set the scene for the film that I was about to see. “Beneath the Helmet” is about my peers, people very close to my age, who just happen to be overseas serving in a military. Being so conscious of my age, I thought that the stories could very easily be about me in a few months.

This documentary follows the lives of soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The synopsis of the film states, “At the age of 18, away from their homes, families and friends these young individuals undergo a demanding, inspiring journey, revealing the core of who they are and who they want to be... [The film] illustrates how these young men and women are defending not only their homes, but also the values of peace, equality, opportunity, democracy, religious tolerance and women’s rights.” This is all true. And yet, as an almost-18-year-old myself, with close friends living in Israel who are also about to enter the army, I relate to this movie somewhat differently.

I generally don’t think of myself as extraordinary in any way. Although I have many community responsibilities and I am preparing to go off to college, more often than not, I still think of myself as a kid. I have a lot of friends in Israel. My school has relationships with schools in Ofakim and Ra’anana, and we get to know the students when they visit America and when we visit Israel. We stay in each other’s homes and become family. We talk every day on WhatsApp. I love them, yet I don’t think of them as extraordinary either. They’re really just like me. We talk about music and television and celebrity gossip while we shop and eat and laugh. And yet, I know that in three months or so, when they show up for their IDF appointments, I’ll be inclined to think of them that way — as extraordinary.

But I don’t want to feel that way.

My Israeli friends, like all citizens of the country, are not extraordinary people. They are ordinary people who live in an extraordinary country.

“Beneath the Helmet” was incredible. It was well-made and its stories about a handful of recent high school graduates, were touching and poignant. Each and every one of these young soldiers captivates the audience. Their diverse histories, unique challenges and personal goals resonate because they are genuine, sometimes relatable and they are compelling.

The film essentially follows five soldiers: Oren, Mekonen, Eden, Coral and Eilon. Oren, a lone soldier, and Mekonen, a new immigrant, serve together in a paratrooper brigade under the command of Eden. Mekonen is enlisted while struggling to support his single mother and nine family members. Coral, a drill sergeant, helps new immigrants integrate into the IDF. And Eilon is the first member of his family to enlist.

In spite of the differences among these soldiers, there is a common theme that drives all of them to persevere. The film refers frequently to the question of “Why?” Why do they train? Why do they serve? Why we should care? One soldier answers these questions best by saying, “Because this is the People of Israel.”

Why was it necessary to follow the lives of these five soldiers? Because this is the People of Israel.

These soldiers are kids — on the verge of being young adults, but nevertheless they are still kids, who are entrusted with the security, and maybe even the existence, of the nation of Israel. They are sons and daughters and brothers and sisters. They have their entire lives ahead of them. They accidentally refer to their commanders, who are only two or three years older than they are as “bro.” They explain that their guns are like their girlfriends because they are always with them and always have to be tended and cared for. They dance and sing and laugh and want to have a good time. In America, they would be in their freshman year of college, joining clubs and teams and making friends and staying up late talking and dancing and partying. But because they live in our Jewish homeland, they are engaged in much more serious and consequential pursuits.

Why do they do what they do? Because this is the People of Israel.

Service in the IDF is mandatory because the survival of the State of Israel depends on having a first-rate army ready to respond at all times. As one of the soldiers in the documentary commented, “If we’re not here, so we’ll be overrun in two minutes.” All Israeli children know that one day they will join the ranks of the soldiers, but they aren’t prepared for the enormity of the experience when they show up for basic training. Some of the unit commanders explain that the soldiers’ attitude and mindset, the drive and commitment, must be extracted from new enlistees. The recruits must learn how to live independently, away from home while enduring intense training with no control over their day to day lives. Sometimes I don’t want to see my friends go through this. But then I remind myself why they do it.

Because this is the People of Israel.

The documentary explained in intimate detail just how much work goes into creating the mindset of an IDF soldier. Commanders take their soldiers to Har Herzl, where soldiers who lost their lives are buried. They tell stories to their units about the close friends they have lost. Watching the soldiers go through these hardships called to mind so many experiences in my own life. I remember visiting Har Herzl with my high school freshman classmates, some of who plan on joining the IDF as lone soldiers after graduation. I remember every Yom Hazikaron in my school, honoring soldiers who died while defending Israel. I remember last summer in Pennsylvania with Hagalil USY; during every recitation of the Mourners’ Kaddish, we said the names of soldiers who were killed during Operation Protective Edge. I could remember crying every time I heard the song, “Million Kochavim." I watched the soldiers in “Beneath the Helmet” tell their parents and grandparents what to do if they lost their lives in battle. I wondered to myself where they got the strength to be able to say such things. But I knew the answer.

Because this is the People of Israel.

The documentary accomplishes its mission of personalizing the stories of IDF soldiers, recognizing their accomplishments in the military and beyond and ingraining these stories into our collective psyche. During the film, we watch boys turn into men and girls turn into women. The soldiers swear to protect our land with their lives — “Ani Nishbar” (I swear) — because, as is said in the film, “The State of Israel? It’s tangible. It’s the spirit.”

This is a film that is absolutely worth seeing. But I hope that when audiences watch it, they open themselves up to seeing it through my point of view: as an 18-year-old. I hope that viewers are reminded that these soldiers who we glorify — and indeed, we should be in awe of them all — are just children. I pray for a day when my Israeli peers are able to be that way — children. When that day comes, when military service after high school is no longer the norm and people live in peace, then soldiers in Israel will be extraordinary people in an ordinary country. But for now, they must do what they do.

Because this is the People of Israel.

Teaser:

A reflection on the IDF film ‘Beneath the Helmet.’

ArticlePath: /articles/%E2%80%98because-people-israel%E2%80%99
ImagePath: public://soldiers.jpg
Tags: IDF, Israel, Ofakim, soldiers, USY
NID: 272
Date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - 08:08
AuthorBio:
Emily Binstein is a sophomore and Dana Halpern is a senior at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, N.J. 
Title: Destruction Of The Holocaust
Subtitle:
God, where are You? Are You there?
Body:

Courtesy of Dana Halpern.

Are we dreaming
      Or is this our new reality
      Life — I know it is not
      This state of being is worse than death could ever be
Be strong
      Be quiet, stand in line
      Don’t breath, don’t speak, don’t look up
Could quit right now
      I could be done with this half a life I’m leading
      Leave the skeletons I call family behind
Death, take me away
      I wish it could all fade to white with the blankness of peace
      But black is all that I see
Everything turns red
      Red, yellow, blue and orange take over
Fire! Fire!
      The stench of burnt bodies lingers in the air
      A silent reminder of the potential-filled lives
      That were slaughtered before their time
God? Where are You? Are You there?
Human lives
     Humans-reduced to ravaging animals
     Lives fed a minuscule amount only to be kept alive
Ignite my search for hope, please someone,
      Show me what it is to think past the next meal again
      Only three months ago I was warm in my home
      My house will nevermore be a home with my loved ones gone
Just run without thinking
      Left, right, left, right
      He fell behind
      BOOM
      Down
      Dead
      But the suffering could be over if I just stop
      Don’t stop
Keep running
     Run for the others who fell before you
     Run to tell their tale and carry the weight of their deaths
     New camp, worse life
Let yourself sleep
     The run is over, you can rest in the snow
     The sweet, soft snow
     If you sleep now, you’ll never wake
    Sweet, soft death
Murders! Mass murders! They steal your life, your hope, your desire
     They take without asking and they hand out heartache in return
Names stolen
     Numbers take their place
Our mothers, brothers, son and daughters
      We watch them shrivel, crumble, lose weight
      To the degree of being unrecognizable
      Do I look the same?
Places like these should never exist
      Barbed wire locks us and our demons in
      Five to a bunk at night
      Only four rise the next morning
Quit now because there is no use
      There is no food and no warmth
      No point of going on
Ripped from the embrace of our parents
      Ripped from clothing that we called our own
      Left to beatings and torture and abuse alike
Standers-by are just that, they hide their faces from the injustice that is ruling this world
     Standers-by are just that, they let us weep, they block their ears
     Standers-by are just that, they shut their eyes, they turn their heads and let us die
Tongues are dry, this nation cries
     Too weak not to die
     Mothers leave children
     To their demise
Universal code of justice has been shot in its own face
     Hitler has danced on its grave
     Justice is irrational
     But hate is
Vengeance for no reason at all
     Just for the act of being Jewish, in DNA and practice
     Hunted down like a disease, quarantined
     Kept away from those who have the right to live on
Watch this tragedy take its place
     Deny it in your ignorance
     Lie to yourself
     Be too afraid to admit to your own disgrace
X this out from your memory
     We will remember, we will tell, we will not sit silent
Yes, we will continue to fight
     We will rise again and again
Zionists stand tall
     But will the future revert?
     Israel will not be torn apart
     She will no longer have a bleeding heart

Teaser:

God, where are You? Are You there?

ArticlePath: /articles/destruction-holocaust
ImagePath: public://traintrain.jpg
Tags: Hitler, Holocaust, murders
NID: 271
Date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - 05:57
AuthorBio:
Rachel Chabin is a senior at Townsend Harris High School in Flushing, N.Y. 
Title: Yizkor
Subtitle:
You don’t understand why the flame burns for so long, but I do.
Body:

Twelve stories up and you ask me why the candle on the countertop burns for so long
You watch it flicker, steeped in its own oil, and you ask how come it isn’t thin and red
Standing in an eight-branched lamp on my windowsill
When it’s really nine branches, one for each miraculous night
And one for the work that sets them aglow.
Twelve stories up and there’s a candle on the countertop, a red light plugged into the wall,
Hebrew you can’t read along the paper wrapping,
And you don’t understand why the flame burns for so long, but I understand.

You turn away, but in the candle on the countertop twelve stories up I watch as centuries
Melt down into the wax at the bottom of the dish
And pour decades of struggle and sweat and slave masters and train cars into the scalding liquid
Holding the wick afloat through the hours.
You ask why I wear long skirts, say funny words, eat different foods, sit through unending ceremonies And services that mean nothing to you,
But I understand the words we say and the rituals we keep and the reasons for the foods we eat
And the clothes we wear,
I hear the cries of a thousand generations before me in every song
And in the candle I see their pleading, begging us to say the words, wear the clothes, eat the food
One more time, because they lost their chance.

Twelve stories up, the candle on the countertop sends a strand of smoke into the air
And it dispels into nothing so quickly,
But not quickly enough that I miss the heat and sand and dust
Of Egypt, of Sinai, of Canaan, of Jordan East and West,
Or the chilly soil of Siberia, of the Ukraine, of Czechoslovakia,
And the passion of those who wandered in the millennia before we were born.

Twelve stories up, the candle on the countertop burns after the festive lamps have extinguished
And Sabbath lights have flickered into nothingness.
Twelve stories up, and from the bars of iron and panes of glass, from the precipice of the skyscraper,
The candle dares you to tear our fabric, crush our foundations, break our bonds
In the twenty-five hours it will take to burn out.
Laugh when you watch our slender candles fade away in half an hour,
But you will never put out the flame burning low in its metal container,
And you’ll never reach the light above our holiest gifts.

Twelve stories up and there is an ancient melody whispering around the edges of my mind
Even as the candles in the window burn out.
The fire of our past, our history, our ancestors,
The fire of our traditions and losses and triumphs,
That fire burns away from the panes of glass and the rest of the world
And it sponges up the darkness of thousands of years.

Twelve stories up and I dare you to put that fire out —
You’ll never reach it. I promise. 

Teaser:

You don’t understand why the flame burns for so long, but I do. 

ArticlePath: /articles/yizkor
ImagePath: public://burnbabyburn.jpg
Tags: candle, Holocaust, Siberia
NID: 270
Date: Monday, April 13, 2015 - 09:38
AuthorBio:
Title: Essay Contest In Honor Of American Jewish Heritage Month
Subtitle:
Write about a Jewish American who made an impact on the field of entertainment. Who do you admire and why?
Body:

 

The Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing is seeking essays on Jews in the entertainment industry. Choose a Jewish-American individual, living or dead, who made a significant impact in the field of television, film, music or theater. Why do you admire this person and what is the person’s lasting legacy on you or on American culture? 

The annual contest is sponsored by Fresh Ink for Teens (FIT), the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and The Jewish Week Media Group. The contest is part of the Jewish American Heritage Month celebration in May.

Prize: $500 and inscribed Alexander Award medal

The winning essay will be published on the websites of the sponsors and made available to Jewish high school newspapers that are members of the Jewish Scholastic Press Association, a supporting group of the Alexander Award.

Essays not exceeding 500 words should be emailed by May 31 to Shira Vickar-Fox at freshinkforteens@jewishweek.org. Consideration will be given to originality, creativity and writing style.

The essays will be judged by representatives of The Jewish Week, the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and the Jewish Scholastic Press Association.

All entries must include the name of the high school and the grade of the entrant. There is a limit of one entry per student. Winners will be notified by email. Staff, board members and families of The Jewish Week Media Group are not eligible.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Fresh Ink for Teens is made possible through the generosity of the Norman E. Alexander Family Foundation fund. Mr. Alexander, a businessman, philanthropist and a founder of The Jewish Week, had a special interest in educating and inspiring young people.

The Jewish-American Hall of Fame has honored more than 45 individuals in all fields since its founding in 1969. Student writers can select from these subjects or choose another American who impacted the field of entertainment.

Teaser:

Write about a Jewish-American who made an impact on the field of entertainment. Who do you admire and why? 

ArticlePath: /articles/essay-contest-honor-american-jewish-heritage-month
ImagePath: public://use_me.jpg
Tags: Alexander Award, contest, heritage, Jewish American
NID: 270
Date: Monday, April 13, 2015 - 09:38
AuthorBio:
Title: Essay Contest In Honor Of American Jewish Heritage Month
Subtitle:
Write about a Jewish American who made an impact on the field of entertainment. Who do you admire and why?
Body:

 

The Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing is seeking essays on Jews in the entertainment industry. Choose a Jewish-American individual, living or dead, who made a significant impact in the field of television, film, music or theater. Why do you admire this person and what is the person’s lasting legacy on you or on American culture? 

The annual contest is sponsored by Fresh Ink for Teens (FIT), the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and The Jewish Week Media Group. The contest is part of the Jewish American Heritage Month celebration in May.

Prize: $500 and inscribed Alexander Award medal

The winning essay will be published on the websites of the sponsors and made available to Jewish high school newspapers that are members of the Jewish Scholastic Press Association, a supporting group of the Alexander Award.

Essays not exceeding 500 words should be emailed by May 31 to Shira Vickar-Fox at freshinkforteens@jewishweek.org. Consideration will be given to originality, creativity and writing style.

The essays will be judged by representatives of The Jewish Week, the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and the Jewish Scholastic Press Association.

All entries must include the name of the high school and the grade of the entrant. There is a limit of one entry per student. Winners will be notified by email. Staff, board members and families of The Jewish Week Media Group are not eligible.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Fresh Ink for Teens is made possible through the generosity of the Norman E. Alexander Family Foundation fund. Mr. Alexander, a businessman, philanthropist and a founder of The Jewish Week, had a special interest in educating and inspiring young people.

The Jewish-American Hall of Fame has honored more than 45 individuals in all fields since its founding in 1969. Student writers can select from these subjects or choose another American who impacted the field of entertainment.

Teaser:

Write about a Jewish-American who made an impact on the field of entertainment. Who do you admire and why? 

ArticlePath: /articles/essay-contest-honor-american-jewish-heritage-month
ImagePath: public://alexaward_0.jpg
Tags: Alexander Award, contest, heritage, Jewish American
NID: 270
Date: Monday, April 13, 2015 - 09:38
AuthorBio:
Title: Essay Contest In Honor Of American Jewish Heritage Month
Subtitle:
Write about a Jewish American who made an impact on the field of entertainment. Who do you admire and why?
Body:

 

The Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing is seeking essays on Jews in the entertainment industry. Choose a Jewish-American individual, living or dead, who made a significant impact in the field of television, film, music or theater. Why do you admire this person and what is the person’s lasting legacy on you or on American culture? 

The annual contest is sponsored by Fresh Ink for Teens (FIT), the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and The Jewish Week Media Group. The contest is part of the Jewish American Heritage Month celebration in May.

Prize: $500 and inscribed Alexander Award medal

The winning essay will be published on the websites of the sponsors and made available to Jewish high school newspapers that are members of the Jewish Scholastic Press Association, a supporting group of the Alexander Award.

Essays not exceeding 500 words should be emailed by May 31 to Shira Vickar-Fox at freshinkforteens@jewishweek.org. Consideration will be given to originality, creativity and writing style.

The essays will be judged by representatives of The Jewish Week, the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and the Jewish Scholastic Press Association.

All entries must include the name of the high school and the grade of the entrant. There is a limit of one entry per student. Winners will be notified by email. Staff, board members and families of The Jewish Week Media Group are not eligible.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Fresh Ink for Teens is made possible through the generosity of the Norman E. Alexander Family Foundation fund. Mr. Alexander, a businessman, philanthropist and a founder of The Jewish Week, had a special interest in educating and inspiring young people.

The Jewish-American Hall of Fame has honored more than 45 individuals in all fields since its founding in 1969. Student writers can select from these subjects or choose another American who impacted the field of entertainment.

Teaser:

Write about a Jewish-American who made an impact on the field of entertainment. Who do you admire and why? 

ArticlePath: /articles/essay-contest-honor-american-jewish-heritage-month
ImagePath: public://alexawardv2_2.jpg
Tags: Alexander Award, contest, heritage, Jewish American
NID: 269
Date: Wednesday, April 1, 2015 - 09:01
AuthorBio:
Lizzie Zakaim is a senior at Paramus High School in Paramus, N.J. 
Title: The Roots of Anti-Semitism
Subtitle:
Trying to understand why every Jewish generation faces an evil Pharaoh.
Body:

Thousands gathered in London in February for a rally in response to the uptick of anti-Semitic incidents in Europe. Getty Images

“I really wanna drive around Lakewood and run over every Jew with my car.” Imagine logging onto Twitter and seeing this post. Or imagine seeing another picture on Twitter of a teenage girl dressed as Hitler, complete with a mustache and swastika, giving the “heil Hitler” salute. These anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi posts are real. They were written by New Jersey teens and “featured images of swastikas, Nazi salutes and included references to bombing and running over Jews in Lakewood [New Jersey],” according to a USA Today article.

The photographs accompanying the tweets, taken by teenagers in a nearby town, are quite startling because of the imagery and the fact that they were posted by teens who live driving distance from me. “The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office did not file charges against the teens, finding that their actions did not pose a credible threat…But [Senator Robert] Menendez wants the Justice Department to ensure that the tweets do not pose a threat to public safety or homeland security,” according to the article.

A tweet may seem harmless in the sense that there was no violence or actual attack, but with the power of the media’s influence on impressionable teenagers and other Twitter users, the post may not be harmless for long. This incidence of anti-Semitism, specifically neo-Nazism, is a warning sign — sharp  wind before a storm. No one should wait until the thunder hits and the rain falls to take cover and protect themselves.

So what exactly is anti-Semitism and what can we do to combat it? Anti-semitism is defined in the Merriam Webster Dictionary as a “hatred of Jewish people.” Semite means, “a member of a group of people originally of southwestern Asia that includes Jews [Hebrews] and Arabs [and Canaanites, Phoenicians, and Akkadians].” However, to be anti-Semitic means to harbor hatred against Jews, not Arabs. Wilhelm Marr, a German political activist who led anti-Jewish campaigns in Europe, popularized the term and intended it to mean hatred against Jews, not other Semites. Though the term was created in 1879, acts of hatred again Jews have been evident since Biblical times and unfortunately, the hatred exists today including in the United States.

Jews have endured a long history of injustice. For example, Pharaoh kept B’nai Yisrael as slaves for 400 years in Egypt. When we sit at our seder we retell the story of how Hashem, or God, took us out of Egypt and freed us from slavery and persecution. Yet despite our grand exodus and the security of being Hashem’s chosen people, Jews remained persecuted. We were tortured in Spain and terrorized by pogroms in Eastern Europe; we were even blamed for the plague (the Black Death), which broke out in Europe in 1348.

The Holocaust is brutal evidence of hatred and fear taken to the extreme through the organized mass murder of six million Jews. When Hitler crept his way into power he saw a race, not a religion, as a cause of his nation’s problems. He blamed Jews for Germany’s weak economy and enacted the Final Solution: eradicating the Jews would solve the country’s problems.

Jewish hatred and anti-Semitism have significantly increased in the past years, especially in France. Researchers at Tel Aviv University “monitoring anti-Semitism, have reported a chilling increase in attacks in Europe over the past decade,” in a January article in the New York Times. The January attack at Hyper Cacher, a kosher supermarket in France, left four Jews murdered by a terrorist linked to ISIS. Philippe Braham, Yohan Cohen, Yoav Hattab and Francois-Michel Saada were all targets of anti-Semitism. They were four people with families and lives; they are now four victims of blind hatred.

One question persists: Why Jews? Pharaoh felt threatened by their multitude and sought a way to control a growing nation that he felt would grow to control him. Hitler needed a target for Germanys’ problems and his personal vendettas. Dr. Arie W. Kruglanski, a Maryland professor who studies the psychology of terrorism, writes that although ISIS’s goal is to instill fear in Israel and other countries, the group is a gathering of men who themselves are “confused youths in transitional stages of their lives … torn by conflicting cultural demands.” In the unstable Middle East region, ISIS membership satisfies individual’s cravings for political stability and order among the chaos, according to an article published in E-International Relations. Fear may underlie the hatred of Jews. Pharaoh, Hitler and ISIS struggle with the fear of a nation and religion that they do not understand and cannot control.

Hatred and persecution of Hashem’s chosen people is a never-ending battle. We must not, however, consider ourselves victims. This Passover we must remember how our strength kept us from Egypt’s influence and how our faith in Hashem brought us to our freedom. As we lean against our pillows and sip our wine, a symbol of our freedom from slavery, while telling the story of our ancestors’ exodus from Egypt, we must recall what our freedom grants us. We are a nation in possession of Hashem’s strength. We are capable of overcoming hatred and social injustice and retaining our Jewish identities just as our ancestors did throughout history. Enjoy a happy, healthy and meaningful holiday.

Teaser:

Trying to understand why every Jewish generation faces an evil Pharaoh. 

ArticlePath: /articles/roots-anti-semitism
ImagePath: public://antidentites.jpg
Tags: anti-Semitism, Egypt, Hitler, ISIS, Pharaoh
NID: 267
Date: Tuesday, March 31, 2015 - 11:27
AuthorBio:
Dovid Yehoshua Samuels is a junior at Cooper Yeshiva High School for Boys in Memphis.  Maya Sasson is a senior at Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston, N.J.  
Title: Passover Free Verse
Subtitle:
The complete story of Passover told in an Emily Dickinson-style poem.
Body:

Courtesy of Maya Sasson.

 

Sing this at the seder table to the tune of the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song for maximum effect.

Sit down my friends and listen close
and I will tell a tale —
of people bound in slavery —
and then how they prevailed

despite the hard and painful work
they didn’t lose their trust —
that one day the creator God
would lift them from the dust

In Pharaoh's eyes he could not fall —
his kingdom, much too strong —
but then the stars betrayed him when
they said that he was wrong

One day a baby boy will come —
and with him liberty
for all the Jews who worked for him —
and were his property

Afraid, he made a daunting law —
that every baby boy
will drown as soon as he is born —
but then failed in his ploy

In one small house — a Jewish one
a boy conceived and born
lit up their home with glowing light —
his parents felt forlorn

They knew that he could not be raised
by their own family —
and so they set him in a boat
adrift beyond the reeds

He traveled there for sev'ral days
till Batya stretched her hand —
and took the baby boy ashore
and on to noble land

As son of Pharoh’s daughter he's
considered royalty —
he sees the Jews are working hard
and wants them to be free

He traveled down to watch the slaves
and something sparked his wrath —
he saw Egyptian beating Jew
and so began his path

He said the holy name of God —
the whipper fell down dead —
he knew he couldn't stay and live
and so he turned and fled

We made his way to Midyan where
he found some scary guys —
were chasing Yitro’s daughters so
he shooed them off like flies

Then Yitro was so grateful he
invited him to eat —
and gave his eldest daughter so
their bond could be complete

Moshe stayed for quite some time
and had two baby sons —
he watched the sheep until the day
he met the Holy One

He saw a bush that glowed with flames
and yet it did not burn —
as he approached he heard God’s voice
who told him to return

“Go back to Egypt,” said the voice
In no uncertain tone —
“and tell the Pharaoh let them go
or step down from the throne”

“They won't believe me” Moshe said
“how will they know it’s true?”
“I'll give three signs” was God's reply —
“and then I will pull through”

So Moshe gathered up his wife
and two beloved boys —
and made his way to Egypt where
the Jews had been "employed"

He went to Pharoh staff in hand
said, "Let my people go!"
but really he was not surprised
when answered with a “no”

As God had promised earlier
he hardened Pharaoh’s heart
and when refused Hashem decreed
to tear the land apart

At first he turned the water red
to vile flowing blood —
the fish all died and raised a stench
and tasted worse than mud

Then came the frogs incessant croak
and jumping slimy skin —
you couldn't open up your mouth
because they'd jump right in

The lice then came, a fearsome swarm
of buzzing- biting- bugs
who made their homes in human hair
and couches, chairs and rugs

Then after that came wild beasts
whose manners weren't the best —
they trampled everything they saw
devoured all the rest

And when the animals had left
the plagues had not yet stopped —
domestic beasts of non-Jews died
abandoning the crops

Then Moshe took a bit of ash
and threw it in the air —
upon contact with natives’ skin
'twas boils everywhere

And when it could not get much worse
it surely did — Surprise!
a hail unlike another fell
with fire hid inside

So when the fields were close to dead
to make sure it was done —
God sent a swarm of locusts down
who ate 'till there was none

Then darkness covered all the land
so no one could have seen —
as God killed the unfaithful Jews
so their slate could be wiped clean

Moshe then told every Jew
to slaughter a young lamb
and spread its blood upon the door
as part of God's good plan

So when the angel Gabriel
swept through the land of slaves —
he killed all of the first born boys
except the Jews he saved

The plagues were done, and Pharaoh beat,
had begged the Jews to run —
but when they did he changed his mind
our story is not done

The Jews had reached the Red Sea's shore
And almost lost all heart —
till God performed a miracle
and split the sea apart

'Twas as they crossed the king caught up
astride his kingly steed —
and when they were about halfway
it was as God decreed

The waters then came crashing down
upon the Pharaoh’s head —
so he and all his army sunk
and drowned till they were dead

The Jews saw that they had survived
and so they sang a song —
of praise and thanks to God above
who had not done them wrong

They turned around and with good cheer
bid Egypt a goodbye —
and so began the lengthy trip
to get to Har Sinai

Twas only after 40 years
of trekking through the sand
they reached the land of Abraham
because of God’s strong hand

From miracle to miracle
Hashem has pulled us through —
and every year we celebrate
the fact that we are Jews

And every father tells his son
this story so he'll see —
that God took us from deepest depths
of bitter slavery

And brought us to his Promised Land
where we could live in peace —
where nations could not hurt us and
the violence fin’lly ceased

The Pesach story tells of love —
the glory of our King —
who makes it so we can break out
and freedom bells can ring

Teaser:

The complete story of Passover told in an Emily Dickinson-style poem. 

ArticlePath: /articles/passover-free-verse
ImagePath: public://teenageart.jpg
Tags: boils, Moshe, passover, Pharoah
NID: 265
Date: Monday, March 30, 2015 - 09:52
AuthorBio:
Sara Raizel Jedwab is a junior at Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls in Hewlett, L.I. 
Title: Prizewinning Poetry
Subtitle:
Two first place poems from the winner of the Lev Leytzan poetry slam.
Body:

Winners of the poetry slam are pictured with judges Shira Vickar-Fox from Fresh Ink For Teens and Jodie Maoz from The Jewish Press. Pictured starting third from the left is Chayala Nachum, Sara Raizel Jedwab, Adiel Bandari, Calev Sanders and Neal Goldberg, founder and executive director of Lev Leytzan. Courtesy of Lev Leytzan. 

 

Editor’s Note: Lev Leytzan is a Long Island-based nonprofit focusing on medical and therapeutic clowning. Lev Leytzan works locally and internationally with volunteer and professional medical clowns to bring joy and happiness to individuals in a variety of settings experiencing hardship and pain. The subject of the poetry slam was visiting the sick.

 

Dressed To Impress

I dress to impress
upon this little girl
the magnitude of her bravery

I draw a too-wide smile on my face
to mimic the one she puts on display
when her family comes to visit

I paint my face white
to copy her pale complexion
as she camouflages herself
in the jungle of bleached hospital sheets
to protect herself from another coughing attack

I wear the big awkward shoes
to imitate the bigger pair
she fills herself
as she steps up to the plate
every time she is served a knuckle sandwich
which is the reason I wear the big red nose
to emulate the bloody one
she gets every time she’s knocked out
but wakes up from the anesthesia
and chooses to take another breath

 

The Life of a Man

* The first stanza is a quote from Ernest Hemingway

“Every man's life ends the same way.
It is only the details of how he lived and
how he died
that distinguishes one man from another.”

It is only the details of how he lived and
not the end result
that distinguishes one man from another
in this preoccupied with product society

it is not the end result of
how he died
in this preoccupied with product society
since every man's life ends the same way.

Teaser:

Two first place poems from the winner of the Lev Leytzan poetry slam. 

ArticlePath: /articles/prizewinning-poetry
ImagePath: public://slam01.jpg
Tags: Lev Leytzan, poem, visiting the sick
NID: 264
Date: Thursday, March 19, 2015 - 13:34
AuthorBio:
Bella Adler is a junior at Yeshivat Kadimah High School in St. Louis. 
Title: The Case Against Iran
Subtitle:
Why Iran’s nuclear program must be stopped. Now.
Body:

The tension could be felt from the minute we filed into the first general assembly meeting. Political leaders and Middle East experts addressed us on the same topic. Every lobbying session had the same objective and pressed the same two bills. All delegates had their own opinions on the matter, yet there was one mission uniting us all: preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. What could each of us do? How could we help?

This month I had the privilege of attending, for the second time, the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. AIPAC (America Israel Public Affairs Committee) is America’s pro-Israel lobby that works to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship. This year’s attendance was record-breaking: 16,000 pro-Israel activists (including 3,000 students) gathered to show support for our small country in the Middle East. For two days we heard from national leaders and inspiring Israeli innovators; we attended small breakout sessions where we could ask questions; and we received updates on Congress’s current initiatives regarding Israel.

After spending an exhausting 48 hours completely and utterly vested in understanding and analyzing the current situation, we drove to Capitol Hill where we met with our senators and representatives and lobbied on behalf of the State of Israel. Usually AIPAC encourages activists to lobby in three main areas: foreign aid, nuclear threats from Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But this year was different. Our entire focus was based on Iran and its nuclear capabilities.

In recent years, Iran has been building its nuclear program, with nearly enough reactors to build a weapon. With the safety of all countries in the Middle East in mind, the American government has been instrumental in bringing Iran to the negotiating table to discuss limiting Iran’s nuclear program. Diplomatic action has included economic sanctions and intense U.N. security monitoring. But the matter has become very political, with many different opinions on how to ease the tensions.

America has imposed sanctions and divested from the Iranian economy in the hope of having Iran dismantle its centrifuges. The results of these actions have been astounding, according to what I learned at a policy conference breakout session. Inflation doubles the cost of living for individual Iranians every three weeks. More than half of the country’s labor force is unemployed. Toyota stopped selling cars in Iran. Due to Iran’s inflation, the cost of oil has increased to sky-high prices, while outside of Iran, oil prices have actually decreased. The welfare of the people of Iran is decreasing as their government continues to spin centrifuges and the United States imposes sanctions.

So what now? Should the U.S. negotiate with a country like Iran that sponsors terrorism? Should Congress sponsor a deal with Iran that limits its nuclear program? Send in military forces? Add new sanctions? Ban a nuclear Iran or allow its centrifuges to spin under the watchful eye of U.N. inspectors?

A nuclear Iran poses a security threat to the United States and a threat to the existence of the State of Israel. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and a vital ally of the U.S. in many areas including innovation, technology, military, medicine and more. We must continue to align ourselves with Israel.

The final date to reach an agreement about Iran is March 24. The time to act is now. A nuclear Iran is a matter of life and death for innocent civilians in the Middle East. But most of all, a nuclear weapon in the hands of a country that sponsors terrorism is a threat to all inhabitants of our planet.

We must urge our Congressional representatives to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. We need to support diplomatic action that increases pressure and sanctions. We need to insist on a strong agreement that restricts Iran from developing nuclear capabilities. No agreement with Iran is better than a bad one that does not include strict regulations.

Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D-Bronx) wrote a letter to the president urging him to consider the following two points. One, any agreement must be long lasting. Second, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure must be constrained so that the country will not have a pathway for building a bomb of any kind.

Currently, there are two bills being considered in the Senate. The first, titled the “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015,” is authored by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). It will take effect if an agreement with Iran is not reached. Though the legislation does not implicitly ask Iran to end its nuclear development, the bill adds additional sanctions that will further impede upon Iran’s economy, forcing its leaders to choose between the welfare of their people or the development of a nuclear program. We, as the United States of America, cannot diminish our authority over this issue. If no agreement is made between America and Iran, harsh sanctions need to be put in place.

The second bill, sponsored by Sens. Menendez and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), will be adopted if an agreement is reached with Iran. The “Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015” states that Congress must have a say in final negotiations with Iran. Congress will be given 60 days to review the deal and during this time, no sanctions relief will be granted to Iran.

This matter is pressing. It is imperative that each bill have many cosponsors in case they are needed to override a presidential veto.  If Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, this could lead to heavy military action or perhaps a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. But catastrophe is preventable if we act now. Urge your senators and representatives to sign the Royce-Engel letter or cosponsor the Corker-Menendez and Kirk-Menendez bills. The security of our sole ally in the Middle East must be, and will remain, a bipartisan issue.  

As a Jewish teen who supports the American-Israeli relationship, it is important that I and my peers stay informed on issues affecting Israel’s security. As a human-rights activist it is equally important to understand the issues threatening the welfare of the Iranian people, who are suffering under the tyranny of President Hassan Rouhani.

Every teenager must speak out against injustice and be proactive in making the world a better place. Everyone must help us dismantle the Iranian nuclear program for the safety of the Middle East and the world. As Prime Minister Netanyahu said in his speech to Congress on March 2, “The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal.” This means harsher sanctions, and more tightly regulated security to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Let’s make it happen.

So what can YOU do?

Call the White House. Write a letter. It takes no more than a few minutes of your day. Tell the officials who run our country that we agree with Prime Minister Netanyahu — we need a stronger agreement. Ask why is the current deal being pushed so heavily? Explain that in order to protect the people of the Middle East, Iran’s nuclear program needs to be completely dismantled. Every teenager deserves the right to live in a country where their safety and right to existence is assured.

White House phone number: 202-456-1111

White House address:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Email your Senators via AIPAC 

Teaser:

Why Iran’s nuclear program must be stopped. Now. 

ArticlePath: /articles/case-against-iran
ImagePath: public://no_nukes.jpg
Tags: AIPAC, Iran, nuclear, U.N.
NID: 263
Date: Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 11:54
AuthorBio:
Dina Cohn is a sophomore at Maimonides High School in Brookline, Mass. 
Title: Black and White
Subtitle:
A tale of the innocence that slowly dripped away.
Body:

I didn’t suddenly
wake up one morning to
Black and White.
The colors slowly
slipped away,
Orange juice through my fingers
as I was left with
only
the pulp.

When I colored the
grass
Purple,
they told me it couldn’t be.
When I wanted to color your
skin
Pink,
they told me it couldn’t be.

Then I fell off the balance beam
in the playground
and a bruise
blossomed
like the sunset
on my leg;
those colors
washed away,
too.

I was seven when my grandmother died;
the colors
of her quilts left
with her,
too.
It was then that I realized:
words
couldn’t be as
simple
as my colors,
either
as I watched
my mother’s rainbow of
tears
and heard the
simple
words she told me:
“I miss her so much.”

And when my grandfather died
on a
snowy day,
as I listened to the
words
of Kaddish,
I was afraid I’d
lose the
White,
too.

Teaser:

A tale of the innocence that slowly dripped away.

ArticlePath: /articles/black-and-white
ImagePath: public://drips_frchuck.jpg
Tags: grandfather, grandmother, Kaddish
NID: 262
Date: Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - 11:44
AuthorBio:
Chayala Nachum is a junior at Bais Yaakov Academy (BYA) in Brooklyn. 
Title: ‘App’solutely Atrocious
Subtitle:
A Shabbos App overrides Shabbat prohibitions, but this teen doesn’t want a day of rest to become a day of text.
Body:

Texting as it appears in the Shabbos App. The users selects words instead of composing words by typing letters. Shabbos App.  

In this century, when technology advances with lightning speed, we tend to forget about a different time, when things like Shabbos timers and electric ovens were nonexistent. This may come as a shock, but not so long ago, people lived without electricity or running water and they had to make Shabbos. Seems impossible. But our ancestors managed just fine.

Now this may be stroke-inducing information, but the world should know the truth: cell phones with the capability for texting were nonexistent 20 years ago. There are many survivors living today who led normal, productive lives before the invention of this life-sustaining device. Our parents, and even some of us, lived in a world without texting or touch-screens (and most amazingly, candy crush.)

But times have changed. Nonetheless, we all went through Shabbos without our phones, which are prohibited for use on Shabbos. Electricity is considered fire and we are forbidden to kindle or extinguish a fire on Shabbos, according to Jewish law. In the case of cordless phones, the battery of the phone heats up when in use so there’s our fire ban. Using the telephone on Shabbos is strictly forbidden but that wasn’t a problem. We made plans with friends beforehand or dropped in unexpectedly. We went a day without chatting on the telephone for hours on end. And we managed just fine.

Then the world took what we thought was a great leap forward. Texting sprung into being. Cell phones became affordable for the average person. Texting, touch screen, apps ... we felt accomplished and empowered because of our innovations. But then we went overboard. And now? Go anywhere on the street and (if you’re able to look up from your cell phone) you’ll notice most people completely absorbed in their own phones. Step into your kitchen, and odds are your mother’s texting at furious speed, oblivious to the overflowing pot of boiling soup. Are we merely puppets, slaves to the little machines in our pockets? That’s what the creators of the Shabbos App seem to think.

The Shabbos App allows users to text on Shabbos without violating the prohibitions, according to the inventors. A special keyboard replaces the usual one used for texting. “That’s crazy!” cried Sharon R., a junior in Brooklyn after hearing about the app. “I think it’s pointless! The whole point is not to text or do these types of things on Shabbos.” (My sources did not want their full names or the names of their day schools included.) 

The Shabbos App creators want to take Saturday, the one day each week when we must shut off our phones and communicate face to face with our loved ones — a day filled with meaning and beauty — and transform it into an average Wednesday. They envision us sitting at the table, ignoring the singing, disregarding the steaming bowl of cholent on the table and instead tapping away at our “halachically permitted” smartphones our eyes glued to the screens.

The way they’ve designed their app makes texting halachically correct, so they say. The keyboard is comprised of a list of words, unlike a regular keyboard where users input each letter. Therefore they think this does not violate the transgression of writing on Shabbos. In Shabbos App mode, all other functions of your phone are blocked and sound is muted. Malkey Wallerstein, a mother and teacher at Bais Yaakov Academy (BYA) in Brooklyn, says she looks at it as, “1-800-DIAL-A-HETER.” (A heter is permission from a rabbi to use a halachic opinion not generally relied upon).

Penina S. of Brooklyn also disagrees with the Shabbos App philosophy. “I think that’s pathetic,” said the high school junior laughing disbelievingly. “There’s something called ‘Shabbos.’ It’s not about assur [prohibited] or mutar [permitted]. It’s the spirit of the law too and that’s what we’re forgetting.”

Wallerstein, Penina and Sharon are not alone in their opinions. There has been outrage in the Orthodox community following the announcement of the Shabbos App. This app crosses a line and invites further transgressions. Will we be driving to shul for Shabbos davening in our halachically-permissible cars? Will they make an app that allows someone to go to the office on Shabbos? Where does it end? If we tolerate transgressions we will not be keeping the spirit of the law, but we will also not be keeping Shabbos altogether.

“Personally, I find it kind of bad,” said Hadassa R., a junior in Brooklyn. “It’s going to do more harm than good. And it’s going to end up leading to you just using your phone.” Will our day of rest become just another day of being plugged in?

Everyone I interviewed does not believe this app is permissible, despite the designers’ claims. “I don’t think it has any bearing on the Torah,” says Mrs. N., a mother of three teenagers. “I believe it’s 100 percent wrong. I think it’s taking the whole meaning of Shabbos out of the picture.” I agree wholeheartedly.

Shabbos is our day of rest. There is no other day like it; on Shabbos, serenity reigns. What makes Shabbos so special and beautiful is the fact that all weekday things must be set aside. All work must be put on hold. Business matters are not thought about. Instead we take a respite from our hectic lives, one day each week, and devote it fully to our Creator. Shabbos is gift from God. And here we are, throwing it back in His face for a shiny toy with lots of buttons and lights. To me, Shabbos with a cell phone is not Shabbos. It is indeed sad, and does not say much about us, if we can no longer survive a single day without a phone.

The Shabbos App is not a good thing. It’s a net, a trap designed to lure us in and slowly, but surely, lead to our destruction. If we keep making allowances, eventually, we will not be following any of the laws that make the day of peace and tranquility which we call Shabbos. Have we really become so dependent on cell phones? Who is in control? Us? Or the device in each pocket, a relatively new innovation, that is causing a nation to forgo their age-old traditions and customs?

Teaser:

A Shabbos App overrides Shabbat prohibitions, but this teen doesn’t want a day of rest to become a day of text.  

ArticlePath: /articles/%E2%80%98app%E2%80%99solutely-atrocious
ImagePath: public://shabbosapp_2.jpg
Tags: apps, cell phones, Shabbos, texting
NID: 261
Date: Wednesday, February 18, 2015 - 09:33
AuthorBio:
Aryeh Zamore Lande is a freshman at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, N.J. 
Title: The Burden Of A Norwegian-American Teen
Subtitle:
My love of Norway will never conflict with my staunch support of Israel.
Body:

The writer is proud of his Jewish and Norwegian heritage. Courtesy israelnationalnews.com

Four years ago, I found myself talking to my cousin about global politics. He was a single man in his early 20s and like many Norwegians his age he was Christian, athletic and well educated. Not surprisingly the first topic to come up was Israel’s involvement in Gaza. This was 2011 and Israel had just finished a long counter-terrorism operation that ended with hundreds of  Palestinian casualties and dozens of Israelis dead. I expressed my concern over the Palestinian push for statehood without a guarantee for Israel’s security, and my cousin answered that Israel was oppressive and instituted apartheid. I was shocked to hear my cousin sympathizing with the Palestinians and believing their propaganda. Even after presenting him with the facts, he remained reluctant to accept that Israel was also a victim. 

It is a privilege and a burden to be a dual citizen of America and Norway. My father was born in Norway and I received Norwegian citizenship at birth. My family travels to Sarpsborg, a town in southeastern Norway, twice a year to visit family and close friends. Additionally, I attend Norwegian school online and speak Norwegian at home.  However, I also am growing up in a very Jewish home as my mother is a rabbi and my father is an active, liberal Jew. In addition, I attend Jewish day school, Jewish summer camp and regularly go to synagogue. [Photo: Kransekake is a Norwegian dessert made from almond paste that is baked with other ingredients and stacked in rings.]

Kransekake is a Norwegian dessert made of almond paste and stacked in rings.

It was hard for me to hear anti-Zionist ideas from my cousin, an otherwise reasonable guy. Unfortunately in Norway, the rhetoric often does not stop at anti-Zionism. There is a growing anti-Semitic presence, especially among the young, that has been building for years. This can be attributed to many reasons, but I would argue, that one of the key ones is the influx of Muslim immigrants. [This article was written before the terrorist attack in Copenhagen, Denmark last week that killed a Jewish man guarding a synagogue where a bar mitzvah was taking place.]

Today nearly 15 percent of the Norwegian population can be classified as immigrants, according to Statistics Norway. Many of these immigrants come from Muslim countries such as Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Palestinian territories. Many of these immigrants bring cultural biases towards Jews that are viewed as normal in their home countries. This can sometimes brew anti-Semitism and unwarranted hatred. Some of the most outspoken fanatics have even turned to violence. They have periodically instigated protests and instilled Jewish fear of attacks. There is so little protection against the possibility of a hate crime that I would not even consider walking through Muslim neighborhoods in Oslo wearing a kipa. [This is a growing problem throughout Scandinavia as documented in a Jerusalem Post article published in January.] 

Furthermore, a small number of jihadists have come out of Norway’s immigrant community. In 2006, a radical Muslim with ties to terrorist groups opened fire on the synagogue in Oslo. Luckily, no one was hurt, but the shooter only received an eight-year sentence for serious vandalism. The court outrageously deemed that there was not enough evidence to call the shooting a terrorist act. The attack showed the vulnerability of the small community of approximately 1200 Jews and how prejudice exists within the judicial system.

The vast majority of Norwegians are not naturally racist; in fact it is quite the opposite. They are a very warm and welcoming people. It is a cruel irony that due to Norway’s hospitality and acceptance of refugees, anti-Semitism has increased. With the influx of Muslim immigrants, anti-Semitic ideas have infiltrated Norwegian society and caused hatred toward Jews in the general public. In fact, many Norwegians are beginning to support movements like BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) and ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and Racism). Their criticism of Israel’s actions has left many Jews in Norway feeling insecure about their future.

At home, my friends are very outspoken against anti-Semites. Like me, they are in clubs that advocate for Israel and they rarely find resistance to their pro-Israel opinions as my school is a bubble of pro-Israel, AIPAC supporters. Contrary to most students’ opinions, I lean towards the center in Israeli politics. On top of that, peers constantly remind me of Norway’s wrongdoings, and they go so far as to say that Norway is a terrorist nation. It is extremely difficult to distance myself from the Norwegian government especially when Norway is such a small country.

My friends make accusations, saying that Norwegians sold Jews to the Nazis during the Holocaust. They tell me that Norway has always hated the Jews and they are just as bad as Palestinians in the West Bank. I am told that Norway is trying to destroy Israel and how the country funds Palestinian statehood and by default, terrorists.

As a Norwegian, I am disgusted and outraged to hear such insulting accusations. Norway had no way of saving the Jews after being invaded by the Nazis; there were millions of people who opposed Nazi rule and thousands who fought them. Norway has always viewed itself as being a Western civilization that supports peace and tries to help the oppressed of the world. There is no harm in helping the Palestinian people. It is only when Norwegians accept their messages of hate that aid gets blurred and confused with actions against the existence of the State of Israel.

I get tired of explaining that Norway is full of amazing people who have been misinformed by a small, but growing minority of extremists. It often gets hard to defend both Norway’s and Israel’s decisions. Once I support Norway’s decisions to help the often helpless Palestinian people, I get backlash from my friends who say that I am betraying the Israeli people. Likewise, when Israel is unsympathetic towards Muslims within their borders and I disagree with it, I encounter heavy resistance from my friends, despite considering myself a Zionist.

I have to wonder: Aren’t we creating a double standard if we shun those who are outspoken in their beliefs that conflict with ours? When others see no room for tolerance, don’t they also set tolerance aside? In the case of Norway, it may appear that some immigrants see no way of assimilating other than to degrade other minorities like the Jews. Seeing both sides and being sandwiched between them, I realize that if we promote tolerance we can achieve peace. It is not won through persuasion, indoctrination or violence, but rather harmony. “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding,” said Albert Einstein. Today his message holds truer than ever, as the Palestinian Authority is gearing up for a long fight to win over Europe and eventually join international governing organizations such as the United Nations and International Criminal Court (ICC). We, the Zionists, cannot let our voices be drowned out, but we cannot close the door on compromise either. If we do that we will subject ourselves to the same cruel treatment in the future.

My relationship with Norway is one of extreme ambiguity. On one hand, I am inclined to support Norway, but not at the expense of Israel. Likewise, I am hurt every time I see anti-Norway articles published by Jewish groups in America and I am saddened by reports of anti-Semitism in Norway. Today my family maintains close ties with the Jewish community in Oslo, and it is heartbreaking to watch their community be degraded by anti-Semitism. Without a resident rabbi, the synagogue’s size has shrunk and it no longer has daily prayer services, but it perseveres and continues with the hope to carry on. The congregants’ daily courage and strength ultimately makes me proud to call myself a Norwegian-American Jew.   

Teaser:

My love of Norway will never conflict with my staunch support of Israel. 

ArticlePath: /articles/burden-norwegian-american-teen
ImagePath: public://skol.jpg
Tags: anti-Semitism, Israel, Muslims, Norway
NID: 260
Date: Wednesday, February 11, 2015 - 07:49
AuthorBio:
Hayley Nagelberg is a senior at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, N.J. 
Title: CNN Asked If I’m 'Brain Dead'
Subtitle:
I wrote about my experience in a blog post and was shocked by the response.
Body:

Hayley Nagelberg, center, and friends at the USY convention in Atlanta. Courtesy of Hayley Nagelberg

Viral news stories have always fascinated me — How does something spread? Who will come up with the next viral trend? I never considered that my words could go viral. While my story about an encounter with a CNN executive did not break the Internet, it spread wider and faster than I ever imagined. 

In December I attended United Synagogue Youth’s (USY) International Convention in Atlanta. I am the region’s vice president of Israel awareness, and I was especially interested in hearing the presentation by CNN about the media’s coverage of Israel. (CNN’s corporate headquarters is attached to the convention center where our event took place.) About 30 out of the 750 teen delegates, and a handful of staff, attended the conversation with Richard Davis, executive vice president of news standards and practices for CNN. 

We spoke with Davis for an hour and were completely dissatisfied with his remarks about CNN’s headlines in the coverage of the terror attack on rabbis in a Jerusalem synagogue in November. In its coverage CNN initially reported an attack on a mosque; a headline later stated that four Israelis and two Palestinians were killed. The two Palestinians were the knife-wielding terrorists. We were not prepared to excuse CNN’s false headlines on the basis of human error. Davis offered poor justifications for the inaccurate and misleading coverage of this event. During the presentation, I texted his quotes to a friend expressing my frustration — quotes I later used when I blogged about the event.
 
After Davis’ formal presentation I approached him, with a few USYers, to ask for some clarification; specifically, I wanted to know why the network refused to call the massacre a “terrorist attack” or, at the very least, an “attack.” They were reporting death statistics, making it appear as if neither side was to blame at a time when it was suspected that guns, axes and meat cleavers were involved. Davis’ responses were defensive and did not address my questions. When I asked my last question, about just calling it an “attack”, he seemed to simply reach his end. His flustered reply to my questioning was to ask why I cared so much about one word. He spluttered questions back at me, finally asking if I was “brain dead” for getting so caught up in this.

I do not believe his intention was to be rude or to trivialize the incident. He seemed at a loss of how to respond and just wanted to move on with his day. His answer seemed like a response to my insistent questions, one after another, as I desperately tried to receive some sort of coherent answer. The room was filling for the next event and I never got a chance to respond to him in person, nor did he get an opportunity to say anything else to me. I do not think this exchange between us was me versus him. I do not think the entire encounter was teens versus CNN. The point of that day, and the point of my blogging since then, has been about media bias against Israel. 

I was furious and I am generally a pretty calm person. As soon as I walked out of the room, I texted my parents about what happened. They immediately understood that I could not leave this incident behind, and they encouraged me to put my story in writing. The convention kept me busy all day. By the time I was getting ready for bed, it was 1:30 in the morning but I knew that I had unfinished business. So I took out my phone and using the quotes that I had texted to my friend, started writing. I finished at 2:15 a.m. 

As I mentioned, I am fairly calm. I don’t jump to rash conclusions, I have a lot of patience and a serious fear of upsetting others. What I wrote at 2 in the morning, while entirely truthful, was harsher than anything I could have said in daylight, but I meant every word. After I explained the excuses Richard Davis offered for CNN’s headlines, I wrote that the media’s biased coverage of events in Israel must change, and if he is not prepared to be a part of that change, perhaps he is the one who is “brain dead.”

I sent the story to my parents and then to some of my staff who had been at the CNN appearance to confirm that I got the story right. I also sent the story to a few people I know who work in the field of Israel news and advocacy. With everyone’s feedback taken into consideration, I uploaded my blog to the Times of Israel. I wrote it because I wanted to chronicle what happened — accurately and honestly. I thought it would be read by a few friends and we would call it a day. I messaged my high school Israel Club board and said I wanted to talk about this experience for five minutes at our next meeting. I did not think that by the time I got back to school after winter break, over 40,000 people would have shared my story on Facebook — the original text and articles were posted by Honest Reporting, The Blaze, Chicks on the Right, and many other sites that picked up my story in Russian, Portuguese and other languages.

The response was more widespread than I ever dreamed. Professionals in the world of Israel relations and advocacy reached out to me and congratulated me on my actions. I didn’t, and still don’t, think I did anything heroic. And yet, I was so incredibly honored that these individuals took it upon themselves to look me up and thank me. From former staff members of Israeli politicians, to representatives from CAMERA, Stand With Us, AIPAC, Shalom TV, Forbes and so many more — I was simply flabbergasted. It hit me that my story really reached people when I found Wikipedia articles about the people messaging me. That, to me, was the ultimate sign that I did it: I made a difference.

While I received overwhelmingly positive comments, not everyone liked my article. Some people said that I was attacking a biased headline with my own biased headline. But the difference between my headline and CNN’s was that mine was truthful whereas theirs was false. In any event, my piece was an opinion blog whereas their stories were purportedly factual. Other people thought that my article was about my personal vendetta against Richard Davis when in fact my overarching point was the need for accuracy in reporting. 

Anyone can make a difference, make their story heard and go a little bit “viral.” The contacts I made from this experience and the friendships I have formed with individuals who share my passion for Israel will stay with me forever. Knowing that there are so many people like me around the world is an incredible feeling. It is remarkable that we are united in our commitment to a strong and secure Israel in spite of our vastly different cultures and experiences. I went from being a part of a dozen Israel groups on Facebook to nearly 40. I now read articles from sources I had never heard of such as Israelandstuff.com, freebeacon.com, virtualjerusalem.com and the Jewish Media Agency. I read comments from people I would not otherwise have known. This has only strengthened my love for Israel, and made it easier for me to be confident in my advocacy.

Now I understand that sometimes you need to say exactly what’s on your mind (provided it is accurate) in order to get your point across. Fresh Ink For Teens, Times of Israel and your school newspaper are excellent forums for discussing topics that are important to our generation. Do some research to make sure you have your facts straight; ask for comments from trusted friends and mentors; be thorough, thoughtful and honest. We can all make a difference, and I can’t wait to see what my future holds.

Teaser:

I wrote about my experience in a blog post and was shocked by the response. 

ArticlePath: /articles/cnn-asked-if-i%E2%80%99m-brain-dead
ImagePath: public://nagelberg_fr_ch.jpg
Tags: CNN, Israel, media, USY
NID: 259
Date: Monday, February 9, 2015 - 14:45
AuthorBio:
Title: Winter Ideas 2015
Subtitle:
Warm up your winter by writing for Fresh Ink For Teens.
Body:

Fresh Ink for Teens (FIT) is a platform to showcase the work of Jewish teens. The benefits of FIT include the freedom of writing outside the constraints of school; the joy of seeing your words published in a respected website; and a reading audience of thousands. Plus, who can pass up this reason? It looks great for college. 

You can write about anything but you must include something Jewish or Israel-related in your content. For example, if you’re a podcast listener write about Jewish or Israel themed podcasts. If you’re a foodie tell the readers about some kosher food trends or amazing new restaurants. FIT should reflect the interests, passions and ideas of Jewish teens so tell me what’s on your mind. FIT is a project of The Jewish Week, New York City’s largest Jewish newspaper. 

Send your pitches to Shira Vickar-Fox, the editor of FIT. I’m here to turn your ideas and inspiration into well-crafted articles. Important: I need to approve your topic before you begin writing. If you’re stumped for ideas here are some suggested topics for the winter:

Purim   The food, the costumes, the tale of Jewish triumph. This holiday has much to cover. You can write about the relevance of the Purim story to today or last-minute costume ideas. Share your mishloach manot themes or tell us about innovative and different Megilat Esther readings.  

Go Green    This is a shmita year in Israel. It happens every seven years and means the land cannot be farmed. Care to learn more about this fascinating cycle in Jewish law? How does this occurrence impact teens? Use this timely hook to write about environmentalism. 

College   It’s SAT/ACT and almost college decision time. Are you willing to be a pioneer and go to a school building a Jewish presence on campus? What’s important to you in your college search? Do you and your parents share the same priorities?

Shabbos app   A new app has been developed that allows people to use their smart phones on Shabbat. Do you think this is kosher? Do you think the app is vital for teens or does it take away from the spirit of the day?

DIY   Are you handy or crafty? Did you make your own tallit? Have a delicious challah recipe to share? Give the readers tips on how to make an attractive Shabbat table or unique holiday decorations.

People of the Book    What are you reading these days? How do movie versions compare with the books? For example—anyone see “The Giver” and read the book? Is there a Jewish message in “The Fault In Our Stars”?  

Everyone’s A Critic    Write a review of a play, movie or TV series with a Jewish theme. I’m looking for reviewers of “Wiesenthal The Play”,  “Above And Beyond”,  and “Beneath The Helmet”—have you seen any of these? Check Netflix for movies from Israel and let the readers know if your choice is a thumbs up or thumbs down.

I Can’t Believe You Did That   Have a funny, real-life story to share? I want a Jewish teen version of Metropolitan Diary from the New York Times. For example, someone walked into the wrong bar mitzvah party and was introduced to members of the celebrant’s family. Or my nephew walked into a synagogue and said too loudly, “it smells like the rabbi.” Share your cute, silly or embarrassing tales.

Foreign Friends    Do you have Jewish friends in India, Scotland or Mexico? Maybe you met someone at camp from Vermont. Tell us about Jews from different communities, near or far.

Are you a political junkie? Have changes in your family? Sworn off facebook forever? Think about styles, trends, phases, gadgets, pet peeves and nuisances. They’re all concepts worthy of FIT.

Teaser:

Warm up your winter by writing for Fresh Ink For Teens. 

ArticlePath: /articles/winter-ideas-2015
ImagePath: public://cold_jerusalem.jpg
Tags: ideas, topics
NID: 258
Date: Thursday, February 5, 2015 - 12:37
AuthorBio:
Benjamin Vogel is a senior at SAR High School in Riverdale. 
Title: Mazal Tov Brady
Subtitle:
A witty recap of football’s big game.
Body:
Jermaine Kearse's spectacular catch couldn't bring a Super Bowl victory to the Seattle Seahawks. Yardbarker.com
 
The Super Bowl last Sunday was one for the ages
Everything was being questioned
Even by rabbinic sages.
 
With Richard Sherman yapping,
And Rob Gronkowski gronking
Everyone knew
This game would be like a few.
 
While Pete Carrol was his energetic self,
Bill Belichick resembled a bookshelf.
Old and quiet for sure,
But fascinating and complex. Everyone concurs.
 
Both teams traded blows and interceptions
But only one team would hold a gala reception.
 
By halftime the score was tied
14 a piece
unlike last year, everyone vied.
 
Seattle jumped out in third and everyone assumed a repeat
But Tom Brady and the Patriots showed
Only they could perform that feat.
 
Tom stepped up to lead the Pats 
He even resembled Moses 
The football, looking like a staff. 
 
His four-yard pass to Danny Amendola
Showed everyone that despite being 5 feet 11 inches 
He was in fact, mega.
 
Down three with seven minutes to go
Their defense had the Seahawks going, “Oh no!”
With the ball back in Brady’s hands
Everyone saw his plan.
 
Skillfully maneuvering his way down the field
Commanding the game
As if he had David's shield.
 
A three-yard slant that beat the back-up cornerback
Almost guaranteed a forth ring to the quarterback.
 
Seahawks down by four with less than two minutes left
Russell Wilson had to give it all his best
With no name receivers to his side,
He scampered around
Pushing all excuses aside.
 
Heaving a dream in the air is all he could say
But Jermaine Kearse! Bobbling and juggling the catch, it was circus olé!
The ball deflected off his body and into the air
But Kearse’s eyes followed the ball
Maintaining a death stare.
 
As he fell to the floor he stretched out his hands
And what do you know? Now he’s the man.
 
No time for celebration, though
Still have to beat the foes.
 
The tiny Wilson fought like David 
Going up against the giant
Whose career was fading. 
 
But with the ball at the two yard line and the Super Bowl in sight
Just six feet away
From winning the fight.
 
But there was the infamous call
As they elected to pass
Time stopped, for all.
 
Out of nowhere popped Malcolm Butler
Intercepting the pass
Quick, no time to stutter!
 
The Seahawks were so close to a second title
But the Patriots had won
And Russell Wilson remained idle.
 
The Patriots hoisted Brady up in the air 
As if at a bar mitzvah 
Minus the uplifted chair. 
Teaser:

A witty recap of football’s big game. 

ArticlePath: /articles/mazal-tov-brady
ImagePath: public://kearse.jpg
Tags: football, Moses, Patriots, Seahawks
NID: 257
Date: Tuesday, February 3, 2015 - 11:55
AuthorBio:
Sophie Topping Zimmerman is a senior at Millburn High School in Millburn, N.J. 
Title: Moving On From Twizzlers In The Temple
Subtitle:
My Jewish identity is strengthened by my interactions with Jews from different denominations.
Body:

The author, second from the left, with her Millburn USY board members. Sophie is communications vice president.   

From second grade on I went to Hebrew school once a week and later twice a week. We learned to make the Hebrew alphabet out of Twizzlers. As I got older, I learned to read Hebrew. We learned about Moses and the Israelites, Noah and his ark, Jacob and his brides, and other stories from the Bible. Surrounded by people who shared the same beliefs, I was told to agree with them.

I attended Hebrew school every week, though grudgingly. I worked hard with my teachers and my tutors to prepare for my bat mitzvah. Months later I stood in front of family and friends to read from the Torah, and after my bat mitzvah I wanted nothing more than to never set foot in a temple again. Though I mastered my Torah portion, the endless memorization and lessons made Hebrew school my main Jewish experience, feel like a chore.

Of course, I went to temple for the High Holy Days, bar and bat mitzvahs and other required events. But that was the extent of my Jewish activity. It wasn’t until my freshman year of high school when that began to change, and I realized that Judaism is about much more than prayer.

A group of my friends was very active in a local chapter of United Synagogue Youth (USY). After being badgered for weeks, I agreed to attend an event. As much as I was expecting to hate the program, I ended up really enjoying the activity and the opportunity to hang out with my friends. I became involved with USY and started going to more and more chapter events. We did all sorts of unique activities; one of my favorites is still candy sukkah-building competitions.

I went to my first regional convention, which took place less than an hour from my home. Unsure of what to expect, I waited while everyone dramatically reunited with friends from other chapters. The speed and ease with which these people, who were friends for many years, accepted me and the other new people was amazing. Watching all of these groups of teenagers stand together and pray was eye-opening. Different groups of friends would intermingle and strangers would whisper to each other during services as everyone prayed quietly or screamed with ruach (energy).

Perhaps the most amazing things to me were the group discussions. People could choose which groups they wanted to go to and sit with their peers and a moderator to discuss real issues. Some of the discussions related directly to the Torah, but most were linked to human interactions and human rights, all in a Jewish context. During my first seminar I recognized the amazing mix of people involved in USY.

Of course, as a Conservative youth group its members were mostly Conservative Jews. But levels of religion varied with each individual. Some people ate kosher at all times, others only in the house. Some people, like myself, occasionally had Shabbat dinners and others were incredibly observant, going to temple every week. Somehow as a religious organization, USY seemed a haven and uniting factor for a diverse group of teens with all sorts of different lives, viewpoints and experiences.

A year after becoming active in USY, I decided to get involved in The Friendship Circle. I’ve always enjoyed volunteering, and working with kids and the Friendship Circle gave me the opportunity to volunteer with inspiring, special needs children. I also got to interact with an even more varied group of Jewish individuals.

Friendship Circle is organized and led by members of Chabad, an Orthodox outreach movement. The people who run the events are much more devout than people I would usually meet. The teen volunteers represent many different types of Jews — some are extremely religious, some attend Jewish schools, some are moderately religious and some are extremely Reform.

All of these people from different religious backgrounds are united by two concepts. First, of course, we all have the desire to make a difference in the lives of special needs children. However, every person in the room was also influenced in some part by Judaism. The Jewish idea of tikkun olam, improving the world, is incredibly relevant to me.

Over the past three years I’ve been actively involved in USY and Friendship Circle; they are my main extra-curricular activities. I began participating in both events because of their strong Jewish communal foundation. Although they are made up of likeminded, Jewish teens, they exposed me to diversity in my religion that I had not experienced in Hebrew school. The focus on creating a Jewish environment and community was completely unexpected.

Instead of seeing Judaism only as a measure of prayer and temple attendance, I began to see it in connection to tikkun olam and a feeling of connection to the world around me. Judaism is no longer about memorizing prayers. Instead I prefer to focus on my meaningful interactions with the Jewish communities I have joined. 

Teaser:

My Jewish identity is strengthened by my interactions with Jews from different denominations.  

ArticlePath: /articles/moving-twizzlers-temple
ImagePath: public://sophie_and_usy.jpg
Tags: Friendship Circle, prayer, temple, Twizzlers, USY
NID: 256
Date: Monday, February 2, 2015 - 10:32
AuthorBio:
Barak Hagler is a senior at  Rav Teitz Mesivta Academy of the Jewish Education Center in Elizabeth, N.J.
Title: Snowflake
Subtitle:
What happens when you hit the ground?
Body:

I strive to be a snowflake
So individual that no two are alike, yet part of a greater communal entity, much larger than any single one

I strive to be a snowflake
Versatile as little else, it can fall as gentle flakes or brutal crystals, whatever the storm commands.

I strive to be a snowflake
It does not matter how loudly the wind howls and how roughly it blows, the snowflake will reach the ground, even if tossed and turned plenty before it falls.

I strive to be a snowflake
Every snowflake’s path to the pavement can be watched, and its mark can be seen. But when millions of snowflakes come together, they reach greater heights than any individual snowflake could have. 

I strive to be a snowflake
When a snowflake hits the outdoor floor, it immediately becomes malleable, able to be molded into many different forms.

I strive to be a snowflake.
Once a snowflake reaches the ground, it holds its ground. There is no other way to get a snowflake to give up its land other than physically moving it out of the way.

I strive to be a snowflake.
When I wake up and look outside to see my neighborhood covered in a fresh blanket of snow, I cannot help but feel as if the snow has cleaned, restored and refreshed the world around me.

I don’t strive to be a snowflake.
I strive to be a better me. A snowflake’s life is fleeting, and melts under the heat of the sun. But I have longevity and can push on no matter the weather. 

Teaser:

What happens when you hit the ground? 

ArticlePath: /articles/snowflake
ImagePath: public://snowflake.jpg
Tags: poem, snow
NID: 255
Date: Thursday, January 8, 2015 - 09:14
AuthorBio:
Sarah Yadegari is a sophomore at Shalhevet High School in Los Angeles.    
Title: Honoring A Civil Rights Hero
Subtitle:
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marched arm in arm with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala.
Body:

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, second from the right, and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma 1965. (Photo courtesy of AP Images) 

Editor’s Note: This essay was a finalist in the 2014 Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing contest. Writers chose an American Jew they admired for his/her contribution to humanitarian causes, social justice, medicine or science. In honor of Martin Luther King Day we’re publishing Sara Yadegari’s essay about Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, an activist and scholar at the forefront of the civil rights movement. Rabbi Heschel lived from 1907-1972.

What defines a hero? A hero is one who embraces the cause of someone else and advances that cause. Heroes are able to influence others and change situations for the better. Heroes are those who overlook their own misfortunes and seek to aid those who are in need. One such hero is Jewish American leader, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Rabbi Heschel embodies all of these heroic traits as he promoted the century-long American challenge in the realm of human rights and freedom during the 1900s: the struggle to overcome racism.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel experienced a comfortable childhood growing up in Warsaw, Poland. He was descended from a long chain of Orthodox rabbis and aspired to become one as well. As a young adult, he was educated in rabbinic studies at the University of Berlin, but when Heschel was merely 30 years old, he was persecuted by the Gestapo and deported back to Poland. Fortunately, he obtained a visa and left Poland. Despite his luck, Heschel was not foreign to suffering. A large portion of his family perished in German concentration camps. He was deeply affected by the vicious attempts the Nazis used to halt the existence of the Jewish people.

Rabbi Heschel knew that he must take a stance against those who commit the greatest crime against humanity: robbing a person of his rights. He felt compassion for African Americans who were victimized by society, and he became a civil rights activist. Rabbi Heschel wrote numerous books that provided philosophical underpinnings for Jews to direct their religious obligation to help those who are desperate for support. In Chapter Six of his book “The Insecurity Of Freedom” he wrote, “Racism is man’s gravest threat to man — the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.” 

Rabbi Heschel encouraged Jews to aid the underprivileged. He fought endlessly for the rights of African-American men and women and stood proudly among leaders of the civil rights movement, including Martin Luther King Jr. Though Rabbi Heschel and Rev. King differed in their religious beliefs, their ideology was similar. Rabbi Heschel’s understanding of divine empathy emulates Rev. King’s perception of the nature of God’s deep participation within humanity. For both, religion served as a basis for their belief in serving the African-American community and abolishing racism. Rabbi Heschel was the pioneer for the broad Jewish participation of the civil right movement. Unfortunately, the history of the movement occasionally neglects the presence of white supporters, including the cooperation of the Jewish community.

Rabbi Heschel is a hero due to the many actions he took to end racism in America. He used his own experience of persecution to benefit a larger cause. He influenced an incredible number of Jews to take a stand and assist African Americans who were deprived of their rights as citizens. Rabbi Heschel continued to serve as a model to society and left a lasting impression on the history of Jewish Americans.
 

Teaser:

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marched arm in arm with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala. 

ArticlePath: /articles/honoring-civil-rights-hero
ImagePath: public://selma.jpg
Tags: civil rights, Heschel, King, Selma
NID: 254
Date: Thursday, January 8, 2015 - 05:29
AuthorBio:
Rachel Chabin is a senior at Townsend Harris High School in Flushing, N.Y. 
Title: Starved For Inclusion
Subtitle:
Many Jewish programs do not accommodate teens with special dietary needs.
Body:

Writer Rachel Chabin advocates for inclusion for teens with special dietary needs.  

When you think of celebrating Jewish culture, one of the first things that come to mind is the food we eat. However, these meals are hardly comfort food for those of us with severe allergies or medical conditions that require dietary restrictions. While holiday meals and simchas can be exciting events for any Jewish person, being restricted by what you can eat means celebrations can become a trial and participating in them often becomes a hassle.

In December 2006, after months of pain and years spent at the bottom of the growth chart, I was diagnosed with celiac disease and began eating a gluten-free diet. Three years later I was diagnosed with diabetes.

While I have adjusted to these conditions and try to make the most of living with chronic problems, my restrictions still limit the choices I can make. In the past few years, spending time in Jewish summer camps and traveling with other students on religious immersion trips has been difficult — and in some cases, impossible — because I cannot eat what other participants can. 

This is true for events on a larger scale, as well. It’s hard to participate in Jewish summer camps, Shabbatons and Israel-experience programs when I constantly have to worry about finding food that won’t make me sick. Unfortunately, many Jewish organizations and outreach groups are unequipped or in some cases, simply unwilling, to accommodate those of us with special dietary needs. Despite the good intentions of many of these groups, this lack of accommodation often leaves us with few opportunities and a hard time procuring the few chances we can get.

Plenty of disabilities and medical conditions are immediately apparent, but conditions such as food allergies, celiac disease and diabetes are more difficult to recognize. These invisible illnesses are easy to miss — those of us who are affected look, speak and act like everyone else. However, these chronic problems are no less difficult to manage than obvious impairments, and the consequences of improper management are just as severe.

This invisibility is why so few Jewish (and secular) groups meet our needs. No self-respecting organization would expect a wheelchair user to enter a building with only stairs in front, but when it comes to a food disability, it’s easy to ignore the gravity of the restrictions and the dangerous consequences.  

But just because people can’t see what’s wrong with us, doesn’t mean we don’t need their help.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to misread gluten (a natural protein found in wheat, barley, rye and spelt) as an allergen causing the immune system to attack the small intestine whenever an affected person eats something with gluten. This damage to the intestine means that the body can’t absorb any nutrients, and so eating gluten can lead to debilitating discomfort, malnutrition and cancer.

When people hear gluten-free diet they don’t generally think of a severe medical condition; they think of fad diets and weight-loss tips centered around the elimination of bread and starchy carbohydrates. Although this trend has created more awareness about gluten, it has actually hurt people with celiac, as many have come to regard eating gluten-free as a dieting tool rather than a medical necessity. They think it’s something we choose to do, but people with celiac aren’t given the option.

This is why it can be so difficult to participate in Jewish events and community programs — can you think of a single simcha, retreat, summer camp or trip that doesn’t include a catered meal or a visit to a restaurant? Not likely. Risks and dangers lurk in almost every dish: everything from sauces to beverages can potentially contain food that would make me very sick, and so it’s imperative that I know exactly what I’m eating and how it’s prepared. I’ve found gluten lurking in salad dressings, soups, dips, smoothies and dozens of other unexpected dishes. (I’ve even seen it in some medications.) Gluten often appears in items that would seem harmless and ones that are almost identical to foods I can eat. Therefore, it’s imperative that I know exactly what I’m eating and how it’s prepared.

Living with dietary restrictions means constant vigilance. We must know every ingredient in whatever we eat or drink, and it’s not always easy to obtain reliable information. When allergies or restrictions are very severe, sufferers often can’t take the word of waiters or caterers unless they can be certain the people are well-informed about the specifics of their medical needs. 

In the vast majority of cases, Jewish organizations do not accommodate people with dietary restrictions and when they do, the information is difficult to find or absent from their websites. That sends the message that they consider us a burden.

Taglit-Birthright Israel, an organization that sends Jews in the 18-to-26-year-old demographic to explore Israel for free, states that it is the “birthright of every Jewish person to visit Israel.”

Yet Birthright offers just a handful of special-needs trips for people with mobility problems and developmental delays. Last year, there was a trip for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s disease, but there has never been a trip for those of us with celiac or diabetes, both of which affect large numbers of young Jews.

There are organizations with a clear message: they have no means to accommodate people with these problems and they aren’t going to try.

International March Of The Living (MOTL) is one such organization. The trips, which bring students to the sites of concentration camps before taking them to Israel, are physically and emotionally intense. In a note on the youth application it states that “the organization will not accommodate any specific dietary needs” and recommends contacting a local MOTL office to discuss a participant’s requirements. Limited access to food I can safely eat means I would have to bring a substantial amount of my own food to cover the difference. This could be challenging particularly when packing space and storage are limited.

I do not belittle the efforts made to welcome participants with mental, motor or social problems. These are a crucial and integral part of including Jews from every walk of life in Klal Yisrael.

The problem remains when organizations brush off dietary concerns and disabilities that may appear less serious, they’re excluding us from participating on equal footing in communal Jewish life.

Segments of the organized Jewish community carry out a kind of passive exclusion. No one sets out to discriminate against us or make our lives more complicated, but we get left out in the cold when groups don’t want to work with us to maintain our health while participating in their meaningful programs.

If organizations wish to include all members of the Jewish community, they need to start by working with us as partners. We are usually (if not always) eager to explain our needs in the hopes that others will clearly understand us and will assist us. Communicating takes the guesswork out of the entire operation and lets both the organization and the participant feel more comfortable about tackling an unfamiliar task.

Many don’t realize that purchasing gluten-free food won’t help us if it’s cooked in an oven used to cook gluten. They don’t realize that diabetics need a schedule that takes insulin levels into account.
 
Since my diagnosis of celiac eight years ago, I’ve dealt with the awkwardness of bringing my own food to events and having to refuse food at parties and gatherings. I’ve had to give up the idea of attending some trips and retreats because I knew I wouldn’t be accommodated. There’s no reason those of us with special dietary needs should be left out with so many sources of information and channels of communication available.

Rather than excluding us, there has to be more willingness to work with us and treat us as relevant equals. With more communication, these organizations can bring us into the heart of their efforts and let us participate in transformative social and spiritual experiences. If not, a valuable part of Klal Yisrael will linger at the fringes, imagining the joy and fulfillment of those in the center.

March of the Living responds: “The International March of the Living does all that it can to cater to participants with specific dietary needs. During the portion of our trip in Israel, this is generally not a problem. Due to the large scale of the operation in Poland, however, where kosher food is prepared and flown in from Israel in advance, it can be difficult to meet individual requirements. In this case, group leaders will work with participants in advance to bring supplemental food if necessary.”

Teaser:

Many Jewish programs do not accommodate teens with special dietary needs. 

ArticlePath: /articles/starved-inclusion
ImagePath: public://the_girl_next_door_0.jpg
Tags: Birthright, diabetes, gluten free, MOTL
NID: 254
Date: Thursday, January 8, 2015 - 05:29
AuthorBio:
Rachel Chabin is a senior at Townsend Harris High School in Flushing, N.Y. 
Title: Starved For Inclusion
Subtitle:
Many Jewish programs do not accommodate teens with special dietary needs.
Body:

Writer Rachel Chabin advocates for inclusion for teens with special dietary needs.  

When you think of celebrating Jewish culture, one of the first things that come to mind is the food we eat. However, these meals are hardly comfort food for those of us with severe allergies or medical conditions that require dietary restrictions. While holiday meals and simchas can be exciting events for any Jewish person, being restricted by what you can eat means celebrations can become a trial and participating in them often becomes a hassle.

In December 2006, after months of pain and years spent at the bottom of the growth chart, I was diagnosed with celiac disease and began eating a gluten-free diet. Three years later I was diagnosed with diabetes.

While I have adjusted to these conditions and try to make the most of living with chronic problems, my restrictions still limit the choices I can make. In the past few years, spending time in Jewish summer camps and traveling with other students on religious immersion trips has been difficult — and in some cases, impossible — because I cannot eat what other participants can. 

This is true for events on a larger scale, as well. It’s hard to participate in Jewish summer camps, Shabbatons and Israel-experience programs when I constantly have to worry about finding food that won’t make me sick. Unfortunately, many Jewish organizations and outreach groups are unequipped or in some cases, simply unwilling, to accommodate those of us with special dietary needs. Despite the good intentions of many of these groups, this lack of accommodation often leaves us with few opportunities and a hard time procuring the few chances we can get.

Plenty of disabilities and medical conditions are immediately apparent, but conditions such as food allergies, celiac disease and diabetes are more difficult to recognize. These invisible illnesses are easy to miss — those of us who are affected look, speak and act like everyone else. However, these chronic problems are no less difficult to manage than obvious impairments, and the consequences of improper management are just as severe.

This invisibility is why so few Jewish (and secular) groups meet our needs. No self-respecting organization would expect a wheelchair user to enter a building with only stairs in front, but when it comes to a food disability, it’s easy to ignore the gravity of the restrictions and the dangerous consequences.  

But just because people can’t see what’s wrong with us, doesn’t mean we don’t need their help.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to misread gluten (a natural protein found in wheat, barley, rye and spelt) as an allergen causing the immune system to attack the small intestine whenever an affected person eats something with gluten. This damage to the intestine means that the body can’t absorb any nutrients, and so eating gluten can lead to debilitating discomfort, malnutrition and cancer.

When people hear gluten-free diet they don’t generally think of a severe medical condition; they think of fad diets and weight-loss tips centered around the elimination of bread and starchy carbohydrates. Although this trend has created more awareness about gluten, it has actually hurt people with celiac, as many have come to regard eating gluten-free as a dieting tool rather than a medical necessity. They think it’s something we choose to do, but people with celiac aren’t given the option.

This is why it can be so difficult to participate in Jewish events and community programs — can you think of a single simcha, retreat, summer camp or trip that doesn’t include a catered meal or a visit to a restaurant? Not likely. Risks and dangers lurk in almost every dish: everything from sauces to beverages can potentially contain food that would make me very sick, and so it’s imperative that I know exactly what I’m eating and how it’s prepared. I’ve found gluten lurking in salad dressings, soups, dips, smoothies and dozens of other unexpected dishes. (I’ve even seen it in some medications.) Gluten often appears in items that would seem harmless and ones that are almost identical to foods I can eat. Therefore, it’s imperative that I know exactly what I’m eating and how it’s prepared.

Living with dietary restrictions means constant vigilance. We must know every ingredient in whatever we eat or drink, and it’s not always easy to obtain reliable information. When allergies or restrictions are very severe, sufferers often can’t take the word of waiters or caterers unless they can be certain the people are well-informed about the specifics of their medical needs. 

In the vast majority of cases, Jewish organizations do not accommodate people with dietary restrictions and when they do, the information is difficult to find or absent from their websites. That sends the message that they consider us a burden.

Taglit-Birthright Israel, an organization that sends Jews in the 18-to-26-year-old demographic to explore Israel for free, states that it is the “birthright of every Jewish person to visit Israel.”

Yet Birthright offers just a handful of special-needs trips for people with mobility problems and developmental delays. Last year, there was a trip for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s disease, but there has never been a trip for those of us with celiac or diabetes, both of which affect large numbers of young Jews.

There are organizations with a clear message: they have no means to accommodate people with these problems and they aren’t going to try.

International March Of The Living (MOTL) is one such organization. The trips, which bring students to the sites of concentration camps before taking them to Israel, are physically and emotionally intense. In a note on the youth application it states that “the organization will not accommodate any specific dietary needs” and recommends contacting a local MOTL office to discuss a participant’s requirements. Limited access to food I can safely eat means I would have to bring a substantial amount of my own food to cover the difference. This could be challenging particularly when packing space and storage are limited.

I do not belittle the efforts made to welcome participants with mental, motor or social problems. These are a crucial and integral part of including Jews from every walk of life in Klal Yisrael.

The problem remains when organizations brush off dietary concerns and disabilities that may appear less serious, they’re excluding us from participating on equal footing in communal Jewish life.

Segments of the organized Jewish community carry out a kind of passive exclusion. No one sets out to discriminate against us or make our lives more complicated, but we get left out in the cold when groups don’t want to work with us to maintain our health while participating in their meaningful programs.

If organizations wish to include all members of the Jewish community, they need to start by working with us as partners. We are usually (if not always) eager to explain our needs in the hopes that others will clearly understand us and will assist us. Communicating takes the guesswork out of the entire operation and lets both the organization and the participant feel more comfortable about tackling an unfamiliar task.

Many don’t realize that purchasing gluten-free food won’t help us if it’s cooked in an oven used to cook gluten. They don’t realize that diabetics need a schedule that takes insulin levels into account.
 
Since my diagnosis of celiac eight years ago, I’ve dealt with the awkwardness of bringing my own food to events and having to refuse food at parties and gatherings. I’ve had to give up the idea of attending some trips and retreats because I knew I wouldn’t be accommodated. There’s no reason those of us with special dietary needs should be left out with so many sources of information and channels of communication available.

Rather than excluding us, there has to be more willingness to work with us and treat us as relevant equals. With more communication, these organizations can bring us into the heart of their efforts and let us participate in transformative social and spiritual experiences. If not, a valuable part of Klal Yisrael will linger at the fringes, imagining the joy and fulfillment of those in the center.

March of the Living responds: “The International March of the Living does all that it can to cater to participants with specific dietary needs. During the portion of our trip in Israel, this is generally not a problem. Due to the large scale of the operation in Poland, however, where kosher food is prepared and flown in from Israel in advance, it can be difficult to meet individual requirements. In this case, group leaders will work with participants in advance to bring supplemental food if necessary.”

Teaser:

Many Jewish programs do not accommodate teens with special dietary needs. 

ArticlePath: /articles/starved-inclusion
ImagePath: public://neighbourgirl.jpg
Tags: Birthright, diabetes, gluten free, MOTL
NID: 253
Date: Tuesday, December 30, 2014 - 05:17
AuthorBio:
Bella Adler is a junior at Yeshivat Kadimah High School in St. Louis. 
Title: DIY Israel Advocacy
Subtitle:
Useful tips on creating meaningful Israel programming from a skilled teen advocate.
Body:

The author leading a workshop titled "Skills and Scenarios" that dealt with anti-Semitism and anti-Israel activity on college campuses. Photo courtesy of Bella Adler. 

 

Are you the vocal student who stands up for Israel when it is “cool” to condemn the country? Do your Facebook statuses include hashtags such as #IHeartIsrael,  #IsraelUnderFire or #ISWI? Are you that student who intends to change the way society views Israel, but doesn’t know how to engage your passion?

The best way to help Israel, while living in America, is to teach our fellow citizens that Israel is an incredible ally for the United States and other countries to have. So how do you do that? How can teens create educational programs about our beloved Israel? Here are some helpful tips to get you started:

Know The Choir You Are Preaching To

The first step to successfully educating any group of people is understanding the audience. The program you create for a class of 6-year-olds will be different from an event for a church study group. Choose a topic that will be of interest to your crowd.

Schedule It

When picking a date and time make sure you schedule enough time to arrive at the event space early and leave late. Also check your Jewish community and school calendars to confirm that there are no conflicting programs. Then put your own event on the community calendar!

If You Build It, They Will Come

Robert A. Cohen, editor emeritus of the St. Louis Jewish Light. Building coalitions and encouraging others to join the movement are very important in Israel advocacy. Reach out to a wide and diverse group of people. You never know who you can inspire—sometimes the most unexpected people are the most engaged.
The people closest to home may have the greatest connections. Ask friends and family members to connect you to new people. My grandmother introduced me to the editor-in-chief emeritus of our local Jewish newspaper. (Photo: Robert Cohn, editor-in-chief emeritus of the St. Louis Jewish Light, addresses students in the "Skills and Scenarios" workshop.)

I have also built a great relationship with my high school administration. They are super supportive of what I do and the programs I run. With advanced notice and approval my school allows me to run events during a specific class period. I’m also permitted to leave campus to teach at other schools. I am proud to say that with the help of many, my programs have reached more people that I ever thought possible.

Get By With A Little Help From Your Friends

Establish a core group of friends to assist, take photos and help organize logistics. You’ll need them for any last-minute crisis. I did not have a central body people whom I could rely on during my first event. I became very stressed and my program fell apart. Now I always have a group of people to turn to for support and advice.

Lesson Planning

Now that you know what you want to teach, where you want to present and who your audience will be, how should you go about creating a lesson? Here are a few key points: 

The knowledge. Think about a creative way to present information. I design Power Points for each of the topics I teach. The Power Points include pictures, videos and words. Use these as a tool while you lecture. Also ask lots of questions. Asking about personal opinions and checking in to see if the audience is paying attention are great ways to see if your students are engaged. Other ways you can present information include movies, lectures, discussion panels and games.

The activity. Now is the time to apply the knowledge you have taught. Here is where your creativity comes in — you must choose an activity that suits your audience and their age. This can include a game, art project, coloring page, discussion, mock debate and more.  Here are some event ideas:

          * Watch a movie and have a discussion afterwards. There are some great movies about the founding of the Israeli Air Force, the impact of the UN on Israel, Operation Entebbe and more. Look for titles such as “Beneath The Helmet” and “The Case for Israel.” 

          * Teach about 10 famous Israelis and have the students create a Facebook profile page for their favorite one.

          * Explain to your peers the importance of being able to express your connection and love for Israel. Then decorate your school bulletin board with “reasons we love Israel.”

          * Teach advocacy skills and host a mock debate where students or adults can discuss real issues.

Planning Is In The Details

Be sure you have a detailed outline and schedule for your event. Know that young children will not be able to sit still as long as teenagers. Plan accordingly. For example, when I run a program for first graders, I will spend 10 to 15 minutes lecturing and engaging them with questions and dialogue. But for the remaining 30 minutes, I will assist the kids in applying their knowledge through an art project or a game. In high school, I will spend 30 to 40 minutes teaching advocacy skills and spend the remaining time guiding students through a mock debate. This is a great method to engage the entire audience.

Conclude by asking your students what else they would like to learn about Israel. What did they enjoy about this program? What ideas do they have for the future? This helps tailor your next program. I have found that people are most interested in learning facts so I created a high school program about Israel’s history.

Show Time!

Always arrive early. Stay relaxed. Know that you are prepared and ready to be the teacher; by now you should know the material like the back of your hand. Begin by introducing yourself, explaining why you are there and your connection to Israel. Speak slowly and loudly. Always welcome questions and give confident responses. If you are unsure of an answer, it is definitely OK to say, “I don’t know, let me get back to you on that” and follow up with an email or phone call.

Remain excited about what you are doing and always smile — the audience feeds off of your emotions. Take lots of pictures, send them out to your community and post them on Facebook. Publicizing your event afterwards builds your good reputation. 

Give Thanks

Once you have run a program, stay in touch with the other coordinators. Send them a thank you email for allowing you to present to their group. Courtesy always goes a long way, and perhaps in the future they will ask you to return to educate about a new topic.

 

Running an Israel program won’t be easy, but it will definitely be worthwhile. The time and effort you put in will repay itself when you see how many people gain a new understanding of Israel. Conflict in the Middle East is a persistent issue. But if each of us spends the time to educate just a small number of people in our community, the results would be magnificent. Teens are capable of so much more than we think — it is time we make a difference for Israel. 

Here are some useful links and websites: Stand With Us, AIPAC and the Center for Israel Education.

Teaser:

Useful tips on creating meaningful Israel programming from a skilled teen advocate. 

ArticlePath: /articles/diy-israel-advocacy
ImagePath: public://bella.jpg
Tags: advocacy, Facebook, hashtags, Israel
NID: 252
Date: Monday, December 15, 2014 - 10:45
AuthorBio:
Chayala Nachum is a junior at Bais Yaakov Academy in Brooklyn. 
Title: The Latkes’ Lament
Subtitle:
Let’s hear it for the unsung hero of Chanukah: the crispy, fried potato pancake.
Body:
Photo courtesy of Two Lazy Gourmets. 
 
Though our relatives we let you eat
About us you folks complain,
That from each bite pimples erupt
And weight from us you gain.
 
Well, we think this all has to end
You are quite an ungrateful lot,
Our grandpa took the crunch last year
Did you care? You did not!
 
You leave us frying too long
And oh, this makes us mad,
You say we’re burnt like it’s our fault
And that we taste so bad!
 
Well first we have to tell you,
Quit being so malicious,
Never did a latke exist
That did not taste delicious!
 
We’re brought up from the frying pan
Knowing our impending fate,
A few small bites then we are gone
Our families mourn on your plate.
 
But as for that, no we don’t mind
We’re proud of our special task
To remind you all of days long gone —
Which days do we mean you ask?
 
Long ago, a perilous time
When keeping Torah was forbidden,
Despite this many kept their faith
They observed but kept it hidden.
 
However sadly many Jews
Who were then known as misyavnim,
Followed the Greeks in all their ways
A grievous most horrible sin.
 
A war was fought to save our souls
We were few, we’d never win
But God gave us a miracle.
Victory for the Maccabim!
 
While our soldiers were fighting the Greeks
Never admitting defeat,
The women prepared fried oily foods
For their husbands to eat.
 
That’s not the only reason though
That you sit crunching away,
Let’s not forget that one day’s worth
Of oil lasted eight days.
 
When the Jews came to the Temple
Making it pure and clean,
Of oil there was a shortage
Just one good jar was seen.
 
They lit the menorah for one day
Since that was all they could do,
But another nes, that little jar
Eight full days lasted through.
 
So here we are for eight full days
A reminder for all Jews
Of the many miracles with oil
Hashem performed for you.
 
Think of that every single time
You look at your reflection,
Forget the extra pounds and what
We do to your complexion.
 
We’re here to help, as a reminder
Of what was done for you,
So for just eight days crunch away
(Besides, we taste good too!)
 
Teaser:

Let’s hear it for the unsung hero of Chanukah: the crispy, fried potato pancake. 

ArticlePath: /articles/latkes%E2%80%99-lament
ImagePath: public://reallatkes.jpg
Tags: Chanukah, latke, nes, oil
NID: 251
Date: Friday, December 12, 2014 - 05:27
AuthorBio:
Dafna Fliegelman is attending Midreshet Yeud in Israel. Isabel Calkins is a freshman at New York University in New York City. Gabriel Goldstein is a freshman at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. Hudis Lang is a freshman at Yeshiva University Stern College for Women in New York City.
Title: College Application Inspiration
Subtitle:
The February deadline is fast approaching. Use these samples of personal statements to get cracking on your own exposé. Best of luck!
Body:

College essays are personal statements — they require applicants to say as much as they can about themselves in very limited space. What follows are excerpts of college essays from recently graduated high school seniors; they’ve been edited for style.

 

By Dafna Fliegelman

I take a deep breath and think about all the people I have come to know in my life. Such phonies. All of them! I have come to this realization numerous times over the course of my 18-year-old life, but the thought always manages to escape me. I know, thanks to my darling friend Holden, that my mindset is cohesive with others around me. “Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now.” So many people have felt the way I have and that gives me a sense of comfort. The only thing that matters is how we go about it. How we presume to live the rest of our lives with the knowledge of how people can truly act, greedy and quite selfish. The key is to push on and avoid negative thoughts at all costs. Being distracted helps keep my mind in a safe zone and I can do that, following Holden Caulfield’s lead in “The Catcher in the Rye.” I can do that by reading. It takes me away from where I am and sends me somewhere better.

 

By Isabel Calkins

My knees cracked as I stood. My group gathered outside of the crematorium and I lined up with 11 other individuals to lead our first tekes, or ceremony. As people stepped forward to complete their parts in the service, I awaited my turn. The song I would be singing was “Eli, Eli” by Hannah Szenes. Translated from Hebrew the words read, “The rush of the waters, the crash of the heavens… the prayer of man.” My turn approached and I nervously stepped forward as the song began. The guitar strummed the opening chords, breaking the calm silence like a storm on a summer night. I channeled the words and melody and passion took over my body. As I began to sing the line, “The rush of the waters…” I noticed little droplets on the paper I was holding. At that moment the sky opened up and delicate raindrops had begun to fall. I kept singing. The emotion in my heart was unlike anything I had ever felt before. It was no longer just my voice leading this song. Drop after drop, note after note, the words reverberated through me. As the final notes were released from my mouth, my emotions peaked. Unsure of what had just occurred, I put my right foot behind my left foot and took one step back so I was shoulder to shoulder with my peers. I closed my eyes and took one long cleansing breath — in through my nose and out through my mouth.

 

By Gabriel Goldstein

I’m 14 years old and I cannot speak. I’ve never moved. I can’t comprehend complex concepts. I’m incapable of participating in everyday life. I’ve even lived in a closet for two years. And though my interaction with the human world is severely limited, I’ve seen it all. … I wondered how a young man who had immensely suffered in his life had the will to see good in the world and in himself. I watched as he re-evaluated his beliefs, deciding to live a life based on the principles of kindness and unity. I was confused by his pursuit of building bridges, but it eventually became evident that he wanted no one he cared for to suffer a comparable loneliness to the kind he endured. … He recently pulled me off of the shelf. He told me he wasn’t satisfied. He told me he’s ready for the next stage of his life. He wants the opportunity to change the world, and he firmly believes he can. I’m just an uncultured red Power Ranger, but I’m absolutely certain that the child who once saw himself limited by his past now sees before him a limitless horizon.

 

By Hudis Lang

The tickets were booked and I had said goodbye to my friends and family. I got on a plane and flew to Memphis to start my junior year in a brand-new school. There was no turning back; this was a fresh start. No one knew me and, best of all, no one knew my past. At first, I experienced extreme culture shock. “Southern Hospitality” was not exactly comparable to what I was used to on the streets of Brooklyn. I was living in a small dorm with several other students, practically fending for myself. Adjusting to the new environment was difficult; I had to make new friends and a new name for myself. This was my golden opportunity, and I was not going to mess it up. My future was in my hands and it was going to be a success.

I am so glad that I gained the courage to grow and step out of my comfort zone by switching schools. School is something I now enjoy and look forward to. Not many people can say that they love their school and are lucky to be in it, but I can. I am so fortunate to have such supportive teachers, parents and friends. I am proud of who I am today and how far I have come. Today, when someone asks me where I live, I proudly respond, “I come from Brooklyn, but I live in Memphis.” Memphis has become the place where I can finally live like myself, Hudis Lang.

Teaser:

The February deadline is fast approaching. Use these samples of personal statements to get cracking on your own exposé. Best of luck!  

ArticlePath: /articles/college-application-inspiration
ImagePath: public://common_app.jpg
Tags: college, essays, Hannah Szenes
NID: 250
Date: Thursday, November 20, 2014 - 14:33
AuthorBio:
Lizzie Zakaim is a senior at Paramus High School in Paramus, N.J. 
Title: Discussing God In The Chemistry Lab
Subtitle:
Will my lab partners hate me for being Jewish?
Body:

The author, bottom left, with friends who are respectful of her Judaism and chemistry grades. Courtesy Lizzie Zakaim. 

Being absent from school certainly has its drawbacks. After taking off for the first two days of Sukkot, I returned to Paramus High School bright and early on a Monday morning for period one chemistry. We were assigned partners to complete a lab that I had not been in school to begin. My lab partners were more than willing to get me up to speed on what I missed. One of them asked why I was absent.

A small part of me immediately tensed at this harmless question. In my four years of public school, no matter how many times I have been asked a question that requires an explanation involving Judaism, I immediately recoil. It is an irrational fear that I will somehow be ostracized for my faith. My lab partners are good-natured girls, though, and they seem curious, so I venture a short, but concise, explanation.

I explained Sukkot. How the Israelites constructed huts as shelters in the desert. How Jews eat, and sometimes sleep, in these huts as a demonstration of our faith in God. The hut is not a well-constructed shelter, though we have faith that God will shelter us from any danger, just as our ancestors believed in the desert.

“So you believe that God kept them safe then, and will keep you safe now?” asked one of the girls.

It occurred to me that these girls might be atheists or just doubting my belief in divinity. I mistook her tone as skeptical, not thinking that they were religious Christians. Their faith was revealed to me when this girl asked if by God I meant Jesus. She was not being skeptical, she was seeking confirmation.

I smiled and shook my head slowly.

“But you believe Jesus is God?” the other lab partner asked, confused at the incongruity in my statement. She looked to our fellow lab partner as if seeking confirmation of the question’s validity. Her friend raised her eyebrows, perhaps a little better informed. She muttered an, “I don’t think so,” and then turned those raised eyebrows to me.

I was completely unjustified in my emotional reaction. It made no sense for me to feel indignant. These girls were raised to believe that Jesus is God, just as I was raised to believe that Hashem is God. No one likes to have her beliefs countered, but I responded with, “We believe he existed. He is indeed a person, but we do not believe he is God.”

The lab partner with the raised eyebrows responded after a beat. “Who knows what to believe?” she sighed.

My anger evaporated. I felt instantly relieved that the conversation was over. There is clearly a quota concerning religious discussion in period one chemistry, and I think we surpassed it. We returned to our lab. Perhaps it was my irrationality, but I felt a dense, thick and completely invisible wall between my two lab partners and me. 

My indignant reaction, and later regret, occurred because I realized that I wanted to be accepted by these girls. I feared that my faith would stand as a barrier to our potential friendship, and the conversation, in a sense, confirmed my worst fears.

But to my relief, there was no need to fear being singled out or made uncomfortable because of my religion. My lab partners did not ostracize me or ignore me. In fact, we worked well together and did well on that lab.

There have been times when I have been ridiculed for my faith by my peers, and there have been times when I’m admired by curious friends and teachers for my Jewish values and traditions. Neither situation has extinguished my flame of faith.

Teaser:

Will my lab partners hate me for being Jewish? 

ArticlePath: /articles/discussing-god-chemistry-lab
ImagePath: public://all_smiles.jpg
Tags: God, Jesus, Sukkot
NID: 249
Date: Monday, November 17, 2014 - 13:42
AuthorBio:
Naomi Bader is a senior at Naale Elite Academy at Mosenson Youth Village in Hod HaSharon, Israel. 
Title: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Subtitle:
A poem wishing sweet dreams of peace.
Body:

An Israeli flag waves during sunset in the Golan Heights. Courtesy of Naomi Bader.

We would dream
Of peace
If at nights
We were able
To sleep

But the rockets
Are not
Falling stars
And the sirens
No proper lullaby

We would see
The peace
If our eyes weren't
Filled with
Tears of grief

But the burning
Flags won't
Dry our tears
And the threats
Are no comfort

We would believe
In peace
If on Friday nights
Our prayers
Were not disturbed

But the smoke
Is no promising rainbow
And the bombs
Don't send white
Doves

Teaser:

A poem wishing sweet dreams of peace. 

ArticlePath: /articles/midsummer-night%E2%80%99s-dream
ImagePath: public://bader.jpg
Tags: doves, Israel, peace, rockets
NID: 248
Date: Monday, November 10, 2014 - 12:58
AuthorBio:
Jordan Pressel is a sophomore at Columbia High School in Maplewood, N.J. 
Title: On Running, Rocket Fire and Roller Coasters
Subtitle:
How a trip to Israel during the recent Gaza War unexpectedly changed my life.
Body:

The author standing at the top of Mount Gilboa in Northern Israel. 

I would describe myself as a very fearful person. I’m afraid of doing a lot of things that my friends have no problem doing. For example, I am terrified of roller coasters with loops, and I’m very nervous about speaking in front of a large group of people. You might be thinking I’m a wimp because you do these things all the time, but that’s really how I used to be until a summer program in Israel changed me.

I made my first trip to Israel last summer on a camp tour called TAC Israel. Despite only being able to stay for two weeks out of the planned month, the trip was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I got sick and spent a night in the Emek Medical Center in Afula. After I was discharged, I didn’t recover enough to continue the trip so the camp had no choice but to send me home. I was devastated that I had to leave all my friends in Israel, but I agreed. 

I got in the car for the drive to Ben-Gurion Airport. In the car were my camp counselor, the driver, his wife and baby. It was about 7 p.m.; I was exhausted so I dozed off. Little did I know that soon my life would be changed forever.

We were driving on Highway 6 when I was awakened by a scream. The driver’s wife was panicking and pointing up at the sky. I just woke up so I asked what was happening. All of a sudden, a bright flash lit up the pitch-black sky over Tel Aviv. I knew right away what was happening. The rocket, launched from Gaza, looked like a big firework. But I knew this was no firework.  Everybody, including myself, started to panic. 

The cars on the highway stopped and people started to get out.  The driver pulled over and yelled at all of us to get out. There I was, standing on the side of Highway 6, one of the busiest roads in Israel. But what struck me was how all the cars just stopped right in the middle of the road. I felt a tug on my shoulder. It was an Israeli with his family. He spoke English and he told me and my counselor to go with him.

We hopped the guardrail and headed down a small hill to sit under a bridge. The driver’s wife was crying. I was somehow calm; I didn’t move a muscle. It is one thing to watch rocket fire on the news, it’s another to witness the weaponry first-hand. I looked up and saw the Iron Dome, Israel’s anti-missile system, fire two missiles to intercept the rocket. Seconds later, the lights under the bridge went out. 

The Israeli grabbed me and told my counselor and me to go with him to the guardrail on the side of the highway. He didn’t give a reason why, but we went anyway. We jumped over the guardrail onto the highway and crouched against the rail. A couple of seconds later, I heard a loud boom followed by a sizzling sound.  The Iron Dome successfully shot down the rocket. But we worried about other rockets that could be launched so we stayed in place.

I huddled on the highway with the Israelis for a good five minutes until the lights came back on. We got into our car but we couldn’t make it to the airport, so we returned to Camp Koby in Northern Israel, where my group was staying. My flight was rescheduled for the next day. 

After resting at home I went to the New Jersey YMHA-YWHA camp in Milford, Pa., that I’ve been attending since I was 10 years old. One of my favorite activities is kinesiology — the study of the way humans move — in the science center. I have known for years the Israeli counselor who runs the program. I went into the science center and told her about my whole ordeal in Israel. Then I asked, “How can you live with the fact that every day you risk being hit by rockets?” I will never forget what she told me. She looked at me for about five seconds and replied, “We’re used to it.”

I thought about what she said and realized that her words had more value than I initially thought. Even though the Jewish people in Israel are constantly attacked by rockets, they remain. They are loyal to their land and would never think about leaving. Israelis know that every day could be their last but they don’t even think about it. I asked one of my Israeli friends the same question and he responded, “If we leave, that means Hamas wins.” The Jewish people will always remain in Israel, regardless of any threat that faces them.

The Israeli attitude made me feel like I was a wimp. Why should I be afraid of roller coasters with loops when Israelis fear for their lives? The Israelis don’t care if their lives are in danger; they get out and make the most of every day. They inspired me to conquer some of my childhood fears. 

Two weeks after returning from camp I rode my first loop roller coaster on the boardwalk in Ocean City. I am also presenting every few weeks to the 25 students in my science research class.  Looking back, I never would have expected that I would conquer my fears by going to Israel.

Teaser:

How a trip to Israel during the recent Gaza War unexpectedly changed my life. 

ArticlePath: /articles/running-rocket-fire-and-roller-coasters
ImagePath: public://jordan_pressel.jpg
Tags: Gaza, Iron Dome, TAC
NID: 247
Date: Thursday, November 6, 2014 - 05:43
AuthorBio:
Sarah Nahmias is a senior at Westchester Hebrew High School in Mamaroneck, N.Y. 
Title: Anti-Semitism Is A Real-life Drama
Subtitle:
Living with my French cousin exposed me to the fears of Jews living in France.
Body:

Parisian Dan Dray with his sister-in-law, Joanna.

In September I went with my school to protest the Metropolitan Opera’s production of “The Death of Klinghoffer” at Lincoln Center in New York City. A woman approached me and asked what Klinghoffer had to do with the Met and what our protest was about. I explained to her that in 1985 terrorists hijacked an Italian cruise ship, the Achille Lauro, and shot and killed the wheelchair-bound passenger Leon Klinghoffer. The Met’s fall schedule included an opera that the protestors believed romanticized his murder and glorified terrorism.

Opera is one of the most highly praised, expressive and influential forms of art, and the people who attend are sometimes ones who shape our society and influence public perceptions. Here is a renowned opera company in New York City portraying an incident that says, “Terrorists? They’re not so bad.” Yet, the woman I was talking with didn’t seem bothered. She said we shouldn’t be making such a big deal about the opera because there isn’t any anti-Semitism in America to be worried about. I said that her claim may pertain to Jews in America, but not Jews throughout the rest of the world.

Until my French cousin, Dan Dray, came to live with me and my family for the summer, I never understood how Jews outside of America felt. He was so happy to be on American soil. New York was a vacation stop. All he wanted was to live the American way of life. The American way of life? What does that mean?

I could tell that Dan regarded America as the bigger and better place to live, in relation to France. He felt that the United States has opportunities, freedom and diversity.  However, I tried to dissuade him. “We’re coming out of a recession,” I said. “France has free healthcare and free college tuition, and the food looks so much better!” Moreover, I’ve always pictured Europe as a refined, artistic and cultured continent. I told him I’ve only dreamed of traveling and visiting the Louvre in Paris or the Colosseum in Rome. Yet he firmly held on to the belief that “France is dead.”

I could not comprehend what he said until I realized that for him, living the “American way of life” meant that he could embrace his Jewish identity. France has the third largest population of Jews after Israel and the United States. The Jewish community in Paris is smaller than New York. Nearly 500,000 people live in France and approximately 3.5 percent are Jewish. In the United States, Jews are 2.1 percent of a population of 5.4 million, according to 2012 statistics in the Jewish Virtual Library

However, that’s not all. This past summer — during the war in Gaza — Jews in Europe faced an extreme amount of hatred, according to an August article posted on The Guardian. Eight synagogues in France have been attacked and kosher restaurants and pharmacies were looted and destroyed. Additionally, anti-Jewish crowds in France gathered and chanted, “Death to Jews,” and, “slit Jews’ throats.” In Germany, an elderly Jewish man was attacked at a pro-Israel rally and the Birgische Synagogue, rebuilt after Kristallnacht, was fire bombed. 
 
My family in France feels that the growing anti-Semitism is affecting their everyday lives. They can’t walk on the street wearing a Jewish emblem, and they certainly do not feel free and safe in a democratic country.

We take it for granted that we are immersed in Jewish culture and religion, especially in the Northeast. Jews are able to embrace religion in whatever way they want. There are so many options including schools and synagogues of different denominations; it’s easy to be Jewish in America. Dan could not believe the large number of kosher restaurants in New York City and the dozens of Jewish schools in the area. He felt proud that Jewish culture has become engrained in American society and that Jews can live as Jews without fretting about anti-Semitism.

So Dan decided he wanted to stay in America. He told my parents that he cancelled his return ticket. At first, they were unsure if staying here would be the best plan for him. He was 21 and wanted to find a job as a licensed electrician. He insisted that he stay in the United States and not return to a place with no opportunities for him.

My mother began looking into programs to learn English so he could take the TOEFL exam, the test for non-native English-language speakers required to enroll in American universities.

He began taking English classes every Monday at the library on the Upper West Side every Monday. After taking a placement exam and scoring level 3 out of 5, we set up an interview for him at Yeshiva University. The school offered him free tuition if he succeeded in scoring high on the TOEFL.

Another option was enrolling him in an English program at Lehman College that would help him prepare for the TOEFL. If he did well on the exam then he would be accepted into one of the CUNY schools for free. He planned on enrolling in different programs to best prepare for the TOEFL.

Unfortunately, Dan was forced to go back to France due to financial reasons. When we broke the news to him, he seemed generally upset. However, he knew that going back and finishing school was the best option, and in a few years he could return as a licensed electrician.

Dan’s situation made me realize how grateful I am to live in America. But I also learned that we have a role to play in the lives of Jews around the world. After my revealing conversation at the protest of “The Death of Klinghoffer,” I realized that the general public doesn’t understand the severity of rising anti-Semitism. If they can’t comprehend the danger, then they surely can’t comprehend why producing the opera is detrimental to Israeli and Jewish pride.  

That is why it is our job to send a message to the world: the Jewish community will not tolerate anti-Semitism in America or elsewhere. America plays a prominent role in the world’s economy, politics and society. As a superpower, we also influence social trends and beliefs. That means we have the potential and obligation to impact people’s ideas and perspectives on Israel and anti-Semitism. But most of all, we need to start helping Jews in Europe feel that they can safely walk down the streets and show pride in their Jewish identities. 

Teaser:

Living with my French cousin exposed me to the fears of Jews living in France. 

ArticlePath: /articles/anti-semitism-real-life-drama
ImagePath: public://dan_from_paris.jpg
Tags: anti-Semitism, France, Klinghoffer, opera
NID: 246
Date: Thursday, October 30, 2014 - 08:57
AuthorBio:
David Ziman is a sophomore at Scarsdale High School in Scarsdale, N.Y. He is a member of BBYO Westchester Region.
Title: I Saw Europe’s Discontent
Subtitle:
And I wonder if there is a safe future for European Jews.
Body:

David Ziman at Stonehenge in England. 

A security guard was assigned to our group, and we were told to remove our Stars of David and remain vigilant. Not far from where we were staying in Paris, a group of Jewish worshipers was trapped in a synagogue by anti-Semitic marchers. They were scared to leave the building because they feared for their safety. Three weeks before, in late May, there was a shooting at the Jewish Museum in Belgium that left four people dead. This was Europe during the summer of 2014, and I was traveling on a continent where anti-Semitism was rife and widespread.

I participated with 44 other teens in BBYO’s Euro-Continental Discovery. We visited many countries including Belgium, the Netherlands, England, France, Slovenia and Italy, and we spent Shabbat in different synagogues around Europe.

In Amsterdam, we celebrated Shabbat in the Portuguese Synagogue. In Paris, we went to the Liberal Jewish Movement of France synagogue, where the rabbi is one of only two female rabbis in all of France. We were fortunate to spend Shabbat in Venice at the Spanish Synagogue of the Venetian Ghetto, and our final Shabbat in Rome was spent at the Oratorio di Castro Synagogue.

The author and Jonathan Behar at the Lock Bridge in Paris. Visiting these sites gave me a rich understanding of Jewish life in Europe and how Judaism is practiced in different communities. The Orthodox synagogues were elaborate and ornate while the progressive ones were simple and less grand. Men and women sat separately in the Orthodox synagogues, and together in the liberal ones. (Photo: The author, left, and Jonathan Behar from BBYO's Westchester Region.)

Our trip took place during the 50-day war between Israel and Gaza. I read English newspapers about anti-Israel sentiment being demonstrated worldwide with marches and protests in London, Sweden, Germany and South Africa, among other nations. Additionally, I recall reading about how the governments of Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Ecuador and Peru recalled their envoys from Israel.

Traveling through Europe in this context, I thought it best not to flaunt the fact that I was Jewish, particularly while in Paris. I read about how Jews there were targeted, and it made me fear for my welfare. I felt more comfortable in the streets with my friends rather than being on my own. We were watching the Bastille Day parade when we heard about a pro-Palestinian rally taking place nearby. I felt unnerved and rattled although we were reassured that we were safe.

Ironically, there I was on the European continent experiencing anti-Jewish sentiment and concealing my Judaism, when seven decades before, my Jewish ancestors in Europe had been subjected to anti-Jewish sentiment, and even worse — some were even persecuted and murdered — for simply being Jewish. In spite of my discomfort, I did feel extremely fortunate that unlike my ancestors, I was able to leave Paris safely and without fear — safe in the knowledge that I live in a free country and that the Jewish people now have a homeland to which they can flee.
 
When I returned to New York, I read multiple articles questioning the future of Jewish communities in Europe. Many Jews are emigrating from France. The Jewish Chronicle newspaper in London revealed that 63 percent of British Jewry felt that there might be no future for Jews in the United Kingdom (U.K.). Being born in the U.K. and having lived in London for the first nine years of my life, I find this fact frightening and devastating. The rise of anti-Semitism in Europe perturbs me, as does the fact that the future of Jews on the Continent is being questioned.

During the trip, my friends and I felt a sense of unity; we stood together as Jews and supported our homeland, Israel, without which Jews worldwide would lose a safe haven.  

Experiencing anti-Jewish sentiment strengthened my identity. The fact that Jews felt threatened inspired my fellow travelers and I to feel resolute, and we felt a strong pride in being Jewish. My experiences on my BBYO trip reinforced what I already knew: Never will I take for granted how privileged and fortunate I am to live in a democracy where I am free to practice Judaism, where I can be openly proud to be a Jew, and where I can display my unwavering support for Israel and feel safe doing so.

Teaser:

And I wonder if there is a safe future for European Jews. 

ArticlePath: /articles/i-saw-europe%E2%80%99s-discontent
ImagePath: public://ziman--fr_chuck.jpg
Tags: anti-Semitism, BBYO, Belgium, Paris
NID: 245
Date: Friday, October 24, 2014 - 10:32
AuthorBio:
Bella Adler is a junior at Yeshivat Kadimah High School in St. Louis.   
Title: #ILoveIsrael
Subtitle:
Stand with me on the front line of Israel’s war in social media.
Body:

StandWithUs interns from the central region. The author is in the second row, third person from the left.

During the summer my heart was in Israel but my body was in America. Before heading to bed each night, I sat in my room and read the headlines on CNN about the war in Gaza or watched video clips on Fox News of devastation in Israel before heading to bed. Every morning I raced to our front lawn to grab a copy of The New York Times, and anxiety filled my body as I carefully scanned each article on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

I was on a beach in Michigan when I found out about the murders of three kidnapped teens in Israel. I didn’t know what to do with myself. How could I be in the lake, enjoying the heat of the sun and the cool, fresh water on my toes as my entire Jewish nation was suffering? How could I sit comfortably in America and not mourn this loss with my people? I wanted to feel that what I was doing in America would actually make a difference halfway across the world. But what could I do?

I considered making care packages and sending them to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers, but that would cost extraordinary amounts of money. Maybe I could make cards and write thoughtful notes for the families affected by terror, but how would I deliver them? I was completely stuck and didn’t know how to express my empathy.

Fortunately this summer I was accepted into the StandWithUs MZ Teen Internship program. This Israel advocacy program is a year-long commitment for 80 high school juniors and seniors from the United States and Canada. We attend two seminars during the year at a Jewish summer camp and conference center outside of Los Angeles. In addition, we meet monthly on Google Hangouts group to discuss everything Israel. Each intern is required to run a minimum of three educational events in their home community.

I flew to California in August for our first seminar. I felt distressed about the situation in Israel and my lack of an action. I was hoping to learn something during this week that would change those feelings. Luckily, I did.

Our conference mission was to learn how to educate others about the situation in Israel. We attended classes ranging from Israel History 101 to social media training to photography and videography. We learned how to become effective tweeters, bloggers and status-updaters. I left the conference with an exploding portfolio of notes, leaflets and packets full of information. My brain was running on full speed; I had so much to think about, so many events to plan and so many new ways to educate others.

The most important lesson I took away from the seminar was that Israel is fighting a two-front war. There is physical fighting on the ground in the Middle East and a social media battle occurring on our computer screens. Warfare can be found on your smart phone, in your high school hallway or college campus. Although I may not be able to join the IDF as a high school junior in St. Louis, I can certainly defend Israel in the media, on the Internet and among my peers.

Sometimes a short response to an inaccurate Facebook post or the inclusion of #stophamasnow makes all the difference. Hashtags are a popular way to express a brief but important message to the reader. For example, when you see the word “occupation,” it can be re-written as “administration,” which is a more accurate description of Israel’s control over the West Bank. When someone talks about Israel giving back land, you can correct them to say “giving up land” that Israel rightfully owns. Adding a link to a short video of Israel facts can ignite the spark that forces someone to view the conflict from the other side.  

Bulletin board decorated with reasons why students at Yeshivat Kadimah love Israel. So far I’ve run two Israel education programs for my school, and I plan on expanding my audience as the year progresses. The first program for my classmates covered how to articulate the importance of Israel. A strong advocate has a personal connection and story that she or he can express in words. Emotion is a powerful tool in advocacy and unites all peoples. For this reason, we must teach others how to be passionate about Israel and how to express that unique connection.

I used booklets from StandWithUs and an original PowerPoint presentation to teach about innovations from Israel. Cherry tomatoes, drip irrigation and the Pill Cam for colonoscopies are just a few examples. We concluded by decorating a giant bulletin board in the hallway with “reasons that we love Israel” drawn onto blue paper arranged in the shape of the Israeli flag. (Photo: The bulletin board decorated with reasons why Yeshivat Kadimah students love Israel.)

I designed my second program for first graders. I introduced 10 famous Israelis who made an impact on the world, including Golda Meir; Noam Gershony, Paralympic athlete; and Amit Goffer, inventor of the ReWalk exoskeleton. We used PowerPoint to see pictures of each celebrity, watch a clip of the NBA’s Omri Casspi playing  basketball and handed out trading cards with photos of famous Israelis. At the end of the program, each first grader colored a paper of his/her favorite Israeli celebrity and decorated their classroom.

The advocacy tools I learned at the StandWithUs conference alleviated some of my summer angst about the situation in Israel and my lack of involvement. I know that the battle we fight in America and across the world against hate and anti-Semitism is a battle that I can affect. While I may not be sitting at home in my army green uniform, I can still help Israel win the two-sided battle.

I am grateful that the StandWithUs internship is teaching me how to become an effective Israel advocate from my home in the United States. If each one of us becomes a well-informed teacher and corrects misinformation, we will become soldiers of our own kind.

Teaser:

Stand with me on the front line of Israel’s war in social media.

ArticlePath: /articles/iloveisrael
ImagePath: public://central_region.jpg
Tags: Israel, Omri Casspi, social media, StandWithUs
NID: 244
Date: Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - 07:26
AuthorBio:
Aaron Rafelson is a sophomore at Montville Township High School in Montville, N.J. 
Title: Finding Shelter
Subtitle:
A camp in Israel exposed me to the resiliency of the Israeli spirit.
Body:

Sam Nackman and Aaron Rafelson, right, on top of a camel in Israel.  

I was in Israel this summer for the first time in my life with Teen Age Camp, a New Jersey YMHA-YWHA camp located in Milford, Pa. We saw many sites and stayed in a multitude of places ranging from hotels, a kibbutz and even a sleep-away camp. Little did I know that what I experienced at this camp will likely stick with me for a longtime.

When we got to the camp in Northern Israel the first thing I noticed were the activities. On the basketball court were trampolines and a mini water slide. About ten 10 feet away was a mechanical bull that we could ride, and kids of varying ages ran around and seemed to be having the time of their lives. The camp resembled a kibbutz; each building had a different name, and there was a walking path to get to the places where we stayed. 

Before we got the keys to our rooms the head of our trip asked for our attention and looked serious. I went quiet like most did and he explained what this camp did. The camp, named Camp Koby, is a place where kids who had an immediate family member killed by terrorists could get the therapy they need, meet similar children and have fun. At that moment I thought of the kids I saw at the camp when we drove in; they seemed to be having the time of their lives and did not have a care in the world. So I guess you could say the camp was doing its job.

We got our room keys, unpacked and went on with our day, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get my mind off the fact that every single camper there was affected by terror and yet they lived their lives without fear. I thought about this for the next few days. A couple of nights later during an evening program on the basketball court I asked to use the bathroom. On my way I froze due to a sound I have never heard before: a bomb siren. For a split second I was frozen in fear of what might happen, then I snapped back into a state of mind that would help me. I remembered exactly where the nearest bomb shelter was and sprinted there; luckily for me it was only 50 feet away.

I was one of the first people inside so I got see people’s reactions. Most were scared, some brushed it off, others were shocked and one kid felt like he had to take a bomb shelter selfie, so he did. Then I looked over at the Israeli kids in the shelter and I realized this was normal for them because they showed no fear and looked anxious to get out of the shelter.

After the required 10 minutes we were allowed to leave, and the camp leaders explained to us that the missile had come from Lebanon, not Gaza. While they were talking I heard a loud sound. No one said anything about it so I knew it was the Iron Dome, Israel’s anti-missile system, shooting it down. They also told us that it would be our last night in Camp Koby, and they sent us to our rooms to pack and then go to sleep.

As we packed up the bus to leave in the morning I thought I was only there for a few days, but this place will likely never leave me. Throughout the rest of my trip I never went into another shelter, but every time I heard about a missile hitting an area of Israel or the death of a civilian or soldier, I thought of those kids and knew that as long as those Camp Koby campers could have fun in their lives, this country and its people would thrive and survive.

Teaser:

A camp in Israel exposed me to the resiliency of the Israeli spirit. 

ArticlePath: /articles/finding-shelter
ImagePath: public://israel_vacay-03_0.jpg
Tags: Camp Koby, Iron Dome, Israel
NID: 244
Date: Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - 07:26
AuthorBio:
Aaron Rafelson is a sophomore at Montville Township High School in Montville, N.J. 
Title: Finding Shelter
Subtitle:
A camp in Israel exposed me to the resiliency of the Israeli spirit.
Body:

Sam Nackman and Aaron Rafelson, right, on top of a camel in Israel.  

I was in Israel this summer for the first time in my life with Teen Age Camp, a New Jersey YMHA-YWHA camp located in Milford, Pa. We saw many sites and stayed in a multitude of places ranging from hotels, a kibbutz and even a sleep-away camp. Little did I know that what I experienced at this camp will likely stick with me for a longtime.

When we got to the camp in Northern Israel the first thing I noticed were the activities. On the basketball court were trampolines and a mini water slide. About ten 10 feet away was a mechanical bull that we could ride, and kids of varying ages ran around and seemed to be having the time of their lives. The camp resembled a kibbutz; each building had a different name, and there was a walking path to get to the places where we stayed. 

Before we got the keys to our rooms the head of our trip asked for our attention and looked serious. I went quiet like most did and he explained what this camp did. The camp, named Camp Koby, is a place where kids who had an immediate family member killed by terrorists could get the therapy they need, meet similar children and have fun. At that moment I thought of the kids I saw at the camp when we drove in; they seemed to be having the time of their lives and did not have a care in the world. So I guess you could say the camp was doing its job.

We got our room keys, unpacked and went on with our day, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get my mind off the fact that every single camper there was affected by terror and yet they lived their lives without fear. I thought about this for the next few days. A couple of nights later during an evening program on the basketball court I asked to use the bathroom. On my way I froze due to a sound I have never heard before: a bomb siren. For a split second I was frozen in fear of what might happen, then I snapped back into a state of mind that would help me. I remembered exactly where the nearest bomb shelter was and sprinted there; luckily for me it was only 50 feet away.

I was one of the first people inside so I got see people’s reactions. Most were scared, some brushed it off, others were shocked and one kid felt like he had to take a bomb shelter selfie, so he did. Then I looked over at the Israeli kids in the shelter and I realized this was normal for them because they showed no fear and looked anxious to get out of the shelter.

After the required 10 minutes we were allowed to leave, and the camp leaders explained to us that the missile had come from Lebanon, not Gaza. While they were talking I heard a loud sound. No one said anything about it so I knew it was the Iron Dome, Israel’s anti-missile system, shooting it down. They also told us that it would be our last night in Camp Koby, and they sent us to our rooms to pack and then go to sleep.

As we packed up the bus to leave in the morning I thought I was only there for a few days, but this place will likely never leave me. Throughout the rest of my trip I never went into another shelter, but every time I heard about a missile hitting an area of Israel or the death of a civilian or soldier, I thought of those kids and knew that as long as those Camp Koby campers could have fun in their lives, this country and its people would thrive and survive.

Teaser:

A camp in Israel exposed me to the resiliency of the Israeli spirit. 

ArticlePath: /articles/finding-shelter
ImagePath: public://israel_vacay-04.jpg
Tags: Camp Koby, Iron Dome, Israel
NID: 243
Date: Monday, September 29, 2014 - 10:23
AuthorBio:
Leah Klahr is a senior at Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls in Hewlett, L.I. 
Title: Akiva And The Angel Of Death
Subtitle:
The Angel of Death confronts the soul of Akiva.
Body:

Marc Chagall’s “The Fallen Angel” (1947)

I am the Angel of Death, the angel who does not feel and does not cry.
I am the angel who inhales the scent of goodbye and short glimpses of hello.
But once, only once, did I feel and only once did I cry: Akiva.

When I came for his soul I saw his flaming body, the combs of fire scraping at his skin,
And the sparks, sparks everywhere. Sparks of burning embers and heaven and holiness.
When I came for his soul I saw the light flowing from his lips and the flying aleph bet letters,
And I felt the core of my being twisting upside down.

The heavens trembled with teardrops and dark heavy storm clouds and cries of
“This is Torah and this is its reward?”
And I, the Angel of Death, I fell before the Master of the Universe, raised my embittered voice
And wept.

Teaser:

The Angel of Death confronts the soul of Akiva. 

ArticlePath: /articles/akiva-and-angel-death
ImagePath: public://the_falling_angel_1947_marc_chagall_0.jpg
Tags: Akiva, Angel of Death, Torah
NID: 242
Date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 07:38
AuthorBio:
Bella Adler is a junior at Yeshivat Kadimah High School in St. Louis. 
Title: A Greek Tragedy
Subtitle:
A mission to Greece was uplifting even though the scarcity of Jewish life was shocking.
Body:

SOS International participants visit the Parthenon. The author is in the front row, far right, with a blue baseball cap. Photos courtesy of Bella Adler. 

If somebody asks me why I wear my sparkling silver Star of David necklace, I don’t hesitate to answer, “Because I am Jewish.” So when I began to pack for my summer of Jewish community service in Greece, it wasn’t even a question that my special necklace would be the first item on my packing list. Little did I know that upon arriving in Greece, that the necklace would be the very thing I wanted to hide.

I had the privilege of joining Rabbi Joel Tessler, his wife Aviva and nine amazing teens who participated in SOS International, a Jewish educational travel program. SOS, which stands for Summer of Service, travels for a few weeks every summer to Europe with the goal of rejuvenating a dwindling Jewish community. Rabbi Tessler is the rabbi emeritus of Beth Sholom, a synagogue in Potomac, Md.

Greece was our destination. I had never met Rabbi Tessler or his wife and I had never been overseas before, except to travel to our homeland, Israel. European culture was new to me and I had no idea what to expect. What would the food taste like? How would the people dress? Would the Greek teens enjoy the same activities as me? Could we play sports together? Would my Jewish heritage allow me to connect with Greek culture?

Greece had a thriving Jewish community before WWII. In Salonica, Greece’s second largest city, more than half of the population was Jewish. Our tour guide mentioned that this city contained the only port in all of Europe that was closed on Saturday because it was Shabbat. In many of the small villages near the city, the homes display Jewish stars on the exterior or Hebrew phrases painted on an exposed corner. One synagogue was built on the foundation of the first synagogue in Greece, dating back almost 2000 years ago. Majestic old synagogues remain all over the country.

But today there are no regular communal prayer services in these beautiful houses of worship. A minyan (10 men) is nowhere to be found. Kosher food is scarce. Formal prayer services are not permitted unless there is a security guard inside the synagogue and another one stationed outside. It gives me chills to think that the scarcity of Jews in Greece is a result of the Holocaust. While shopping on the streets of Salonica, my friend was told by an Israeli tourist to flip over her drawstring backpack so the Jewish star would not be seen. This was requested for her security. I, too, would sometimes hide my Star of David necklace in my shirt as we toured the country.

Bella Adler and friend in the mountains of Greece. We walked on the cobblestone roads that the Nazis trekked more than 70 years ago to forcibly remove Jews from their homes. We hiked the mountains where the lucky Jews fled for survival. We saw the synagogues, ports, towns, homes and villages that used to be the center of a thriving Jewish life. (Photo at left: Bella Adler, left, and Miriam Zenilman in the mountains of Greece.)

Our group visited many Holocaust memorial sites in the Greek seaside. In our tour bus we circled the piece of land that used to be one of the biggest Jewish cemeteries in all of Europe. After the war, it became the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

These experiences were upsetting, heartbreaking and tear-worthy. But at the same time, it was empowering to know that one group of people can impact an entire community. Though the responsibility is great, together we can make a huge change. We spent five days in a Jewish sleepaway camp located near Mount Olympus. The camp, supported by the Jewish community of Greece, is called Li Tohoro. The children lacked a Jewish education. 

We taught the children how to use a prayer book. We showed them what it means to keep Shabbat by teaching Hebrew songs, writing pre-Shabbat notes to each other, leading a prayer service, lighting candles and singing the traditional blessings before the meals. Our excitement about celebrating Shabbat and embracing Judaism impacted the children. Before leaving the camp we felt as if we put the Star of David around their necks. The friendships we made at the camp will last a lifetime.

Days later we cleaned the Jewish cemetery in Chaldiki so that is looks nice when relatives come visit the graves before the High Holidays. Chaldiki is the oldest Jewish community in Greece. In Ionnanina we organized old Jewish texts for a woman who can’t read Hebrew but takes care of a synagogue. We visited Holocaust survivors in a small Hebrew nursing home in Salonica; we listened to their stories and reignited their spirits. Though we were just 10 kids, we touched the hearts of many Greeks, sometimes in the smallest of ways.

My trip helped me realize how privileged we are to live in a country where our religion doesn’t pose a security concern and Jewish education is accessible. My hope is that I can use this trip to inspire those around me to realize how blessed we are, how needy the world around us remains and how much impact each of us can have.

One day, it is my mission to return to Greece and give to each of my new Greek, Jewish friends a Star of David necklace. A necklace to be worn with pride, in an environment where Judaism is embraced and Jewish learning is encouraged. We each have the power to become that inspirational role model, one whose smallest acts of kindness make the biggest difference.

Teaser:

A mission to Greece was uplifting even though the scarcity of Jewish life was shocking. 

ArticlePath: /articles/greek-tragedy
ImagePath: public://onemythologymeetsanother.jpg
Tags: Greece, Holocaust, Salonica
NID: 241
Date: Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 10:18
AuthorBio:
Title: Fall Ideas 2014
Subtitle:
Reveal your inner writer by submitting to Fresh Ink for Teens.
Body:

Fresh Ink for Teens (FIT) is a platform to showcase the work of Jewish teens. The benefits of FIT include the freedom of writing outside the constraints of school; the joy of seeing your words published in a respected website; and a reading audience of thousands. Plus who can resist? It looks great for college. 

You can write about anything but you must include something Jewish or Israel-related in your content. For example, if you’re a movie buff write a review of a film with a Jewish theme or actors. If you’re a foodie tell the readers about some kosher food trends or amazing new restaurants. FIT should reflect the interests, passions and ideas of Jewish teens so tell me what’s on your mind. FIT is a project of The Jewish Week, New York City’s largest Jewish newspaper. 

Send your pitches to Shira Vickar-Fox, the editor of FIT. I’m here to turn your ideas and inspirations into well-crafted articles. If you’re stumped, here are some suggested topics for the fall:

Thanksgiving/Chanukah/ Christmas  How does your family observe the holidays? Do you celebrate Christmas and Chanukah in your home? Do you enjoy feeling a part of American traditions? Do you secretly enjoy Christmas music? How should Chanukah be observed?

Ice Bucket Challenge  Did you participate this summer?  Was it a silly trend or did it teach people about the importance of tzedakah (charity)?

Go Green This is a shmita year in Israel. It happens every seven years and means the land cannot be farmed. Care to learn more about this fascinating cycle in Jewish law? How does this occurrence impact teens? Use this timely hook to write about environmentalism. 

College  It’s SAT/ACT and college application time. Are you willing to be a pioneer and go to a school building a Jewish presence on campus? What’s important to you in your college search? Do you and your parents share the same priorities?

ShabbosAapp   A new app has been developed that allows people to use their smart phones on Shabbat. Do you think this is kosher? Do you think the app is vital for teens or does it take away from the spirit of the day?

DIY Are you handy or crafty? Did you make your own tallit? Have a delicious challah recipe to share? Give the readers tips on how to make an attractive Shabbat table or unique Sukkot decorations.

People Of The Book What are you reading these days? How do movie versions compare with the books? For example—anyone see “The Giver” and read the book? Is there a Jewish message in “The Fault In Our Stars”?  

New school this year? Changes in your family? Have you sworn off facebook forever? Think about styles, trends, phases, gadgets, pet peeves and nuisances. They’re all concepts worthy of FIT.

Teaser:

Reveal your inner writer by submitting to Fresh Ink for Teens. 

ArticlePath: /articles/fall-ideas-2014
ImagePath: public://fallintofall.jpg
Tags: ideas
NID: 241
Date: Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 10:18
AuthorBio:
Title: Fall Ideas 2014
Subtitle:
Reveal your inner writer by submitting to Fresh Ink for Teens.
Body:

Fresh Ink for Teens (FIT) is a platform to showcase the work of Jewish teens. The benefits of FIT include the freedom of writing outside the constraints of school; the joy of seeing your words published in a respected website; and a reading audience of thousands. Plus who can resist? It looks great for college. 

You can write about anything but you must include something Jewish or Israel-related in your content. For example, if you’re a movie buff write a review of a film with a Jewish theme or actors. If you’re a foodie tell the readers about some kosher food trends or amazing new restaurants. FIT should reflect the interests, passions and ideas of Jewish teens so tell me what’s on your mind. FIT is a project of The Jewish Week, New York City’s largest Jewish newspaper. 

Send your pitches to Shira Vickar-Fox, the editor of FIT. I’m here to turn your ideas and inspirations into well-crafted articles. If you’re stumped, here are some suggested topics for the fall:

Thanksgiving/Chanukah/ Christmas  How does your family observe the holidays? Do you celebrate Christmas and Chanukah in your home? Do you enjoy feeling a part of American traditions? Do you secretly enjoy Christmas music? How should Chanukah be observed?

Ice Bucket Challenge  Did you participate this summer?  Was it a silly trend or did it teach people about the importance of tzedakah (charity)?

Go Green This is a shmita year in Israel. It happens every seven years and means the land cannot be farmed. Care to learn more about this fascinating cycle in Jewish law? How does this occurrence impact teens? Use this timely hook to write about environmentalism. 

College  It’s SAT/ACT and college application time. Are you willing to be a pioneer and go to a school building a Jewish presence on campus? What’s important to you in your college search? Do you and your parents share the same priorities?

ShabbosAapp   A new app has been developed that allows people to use their smart phones on Shabbat. Do you think this is kosher? Do you think the app is vital for teens or does it take away from the spirit of the day?

DIY Are you handy or crafty? Did you make your own tallit? Have a delicious challah recipe to share? Give the readers tips on how to make an attractive Shabbat table or unique Sukkot decorations.

People Of The Book What are you reading these days? How do movie versions compare with the books? For example—anyone see “The Giver” and read the book? Is there a Jewish message in “The Fault In Our Stars”?  

New school this year? Changes in your family? Have you sworn off facebook forever? Think about styles, trends, phases, gadgets, pet peeves and nuisances. They’re all concepts worthy of FIT.

Teaser:

Reveal your inner writer by submitting to Fresh Ink for Teens. 

ArticlePath: /articles/fall-ideas-2014
ImagePath: public://autumn.jpg
Tags: ideas
NID: 240
Date: Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 09:23
AuthorBio:
Ora Friedman is a sophomore at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck, N.J. 
Title: Raising Dough for Israel
Subtitle:
How I pulled off a charity bake sale in only four days.
Body:

Photos courtesy of Oren Oppenheim 

I am looking at a long table filled with watermelon-shaped cookies, chocolate trifle, chocolate mousse, Kahlua cakes and more. I wish I could taste Rebbetzin Shevi Yudin’s Napoleon — graham crackers covered with luscious whipped cream, fresh strawberries, juicy mandarin oranges and plump blueberries. I can’t believe how much we have accomplished in less than four days.

This summer I spearheaded a bake sale to support Israeli victims of the war in Gaza. When I heard about the outbreak of fighting I wanted to help and, as a teenager, I wanted to find a way for other teens to raise money for Israel.

My committee and I began with a goal of $500. All the proceeds would be donated to OneFamily, a non-profit organization that supports victims of terror in Israel. OneFamily began when Michal Belzberg, 12, heard about a terror attack in Jerusalem at the time of her bat mitzvah. She cancelled her bat mitzvah and donated all of its expenses to Israeli victims of terror.

I wanted to do something meaningful with my summer and give back to my community so I decided to work at Areyvut, a non-profit charitable organization in Bergenfield, N.J. Areyvut’s mission is “to infuse the lives of Jewish youth and teens with the core Jewish values of chessed (kindness), tzedakah (charity), and tikkun olam (social action) so they become giving members of the Jewish community of tomorrow.” Areyvut inspired me to do just that.

I mentioned the idea of a bake sale to Daniel Rothner, the founder and director of Areyvut. He advised me on how to put my idea into action; I started by forming a committee of other high school students. After some ups and downs, it became a committee of three: Oren Oppenheim, a junior at Ramaz Upper School in Manhattan; Meira Wagner, a sophomore at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck; and me, a sophomore at Ma’ayanot.

Countless details were involved. Meira Wagner compiled a list of 40 bakers and set up a bake sale email account. Oppenheim advertised on the TeaneckShuls email group, which was very effective in attracting a large number of bakers and supporters from Bergen County. We posted on our personal social media accounts too. Oppenheim designed a flyer that was hung in local businesses. An advance online order form was created and sent via email blasts to local synagogues and schools. Zadies Bake Shop in Fair Lawn and Ma’adan in Teaneck donated baked goods.

We successfully recruited bakers but had no location for our sale. As soon as Shevi Yudin, the rebbetzin of Congregation Shomrei Torah in Fair Lawn, heard about my bake sale she offered her synagogue at no charge for our private event. She suggested that a Thursday would be the best time to host it because people could purchase baked goods for Shabbos. She also volunteered her famous Napoleon cake.

I met with her on the Monday before the sale to work out important details. After that, my committee members and I did what others claimed to be impossible: we pulled off the bake sale in less than four days!

The synagogue tables are covered with beautiful platters of baked goods for sale. Although the week was very stressful, it was amazing to witness all of my family and friends coming together to support me and my cause. The minute people heard about my sale, they volunteered to bake. Some bakers made several platters and donated new ceramic dishes for us to sell with their attractive baked goods inside. My cousin’s house in Teaneck was the drop off location for people who couldn’t bring their goods to Fair Lawn. Additionally, one of my other cousins came with her kids the morning of the bake sale to help wrap items and set up. So many friends volunteered before and during the bake sale. The achdus (unity) that was felt throughout the entire process was so special. It was such an amazing feeling to see everyone come together to make this event happen.

While the bake sale was originally called for 3:30 - 7 p.m., I stayed much later in order to allow people who came from evening services to shop. By 10 p.m. we were sold out!

We nearly quadrupled our goal and raised $1900 for OneFamily. I feel really good knowing that we raised so much money for such a great cause. I have grown so much from my incredible experience this summer. Through the bake sale I made new friends, gained confidence, learned to take initiative and continue to put my ideas into action. It is so important to act on your inspirations and never give up.

People warned me about all the things that could go wrong and told me that I wouldn’t be able to pull off the bake sale in such a short time, but I was determined to make it happen and I took the risk. I never imagined how hard it would be to coordinate bakers, gather volunteers, and execute the event but all of our hard work definitely paid off. The bake sale brought out the best in all of us.

Throughout the entire process, I felt that we came together as “one family.” It was so special to see a group of teenagers united to support Israel. My hope is that the achdus among all of Klal Yisrael will continue long after the bake sale and that other teenagers will be inspired to take initiative and make a difference.

Teaser:

How I pulled off a charity bake sale in only four days. 

ArticlePath: /articles/raising-dough-israel
ImagePath: public://fruitish_01.jpg
Tags: Areyvut, bake sale, OneFamily
NID: 239
Date: Monday, September 1, 2014 - 09:56
AuthorBio:
Sarah Nahmias is a senior at Westchester Hebrew High School in Mamaroneck, N.Y. 
Title: The Cost of Jewish Education
Subtitle:
Is day school tuition worth the steep price?
Body:

Many middle-class Jewish families are no longer sending their children to day schools. As tuition increases yearly, Jewish education is becoming a burden, families are starting to question if Jewish schools are worth the high price.
 
Jewish high schools in the New York tri-state area cost at least $25,000-$35,000 per year. For the average Joe, that’s a tremendous amount of money to spend on a single year of education before college. Not every family can afford such a price tag, this amount and to debunk a stereotype, not all Jews are rich. Many Jewish schools cannot offer sufficient financial aid to students who need it.

Families are weighing the cost of day school against other expenses, such as a mortgage, health insurance, vacation and college tuition and are opting out of Jewish schools. However, the price of Jewish education no longer affects only people’s wallets; it is starting to trigger an even greater problem: religious assimilation.

I’m very grateful that my school gives me a generous scholarship. Last year my family and I worried if I was going to receive the scholarship for this year. I did, but if not, I would have transferred to a public school, which is the last thing I would want to do. I would have to start all over making new friends and getting used to the teachers.

In most large, public schools it is very difficult to join a club or a sports team. In fact, some schools limit students to one or two clubs. However, in a day school you can become very involved and join more than one club. I would not be able to participate in most of the after-school activities that I currently enjoy, such as Model UN, the Red Cross club, mock trial, volleyball team, newspaper and student government.

Most problematic of all, if I went to a public high school I would lose my Jewish education and environment. We teenagers may not realize this, but in a yeshiva we gain Torah knowledge that we wouldn’t receive elsewhere. Not only are we able to learn through discussions and debates, but we’re also able provide our own insights and interpretations of the Torah and find connections to our lives. That’s something we can’t do by ourselves — we can’t do on the computer, and we certainly can’t do in public schools.

Moreover, being in a Jewish school makes us feel connected to Judaism and Israel. Even if we don’t come from a religious background, we still feel this undying sense of Jewish identity and pride. When we go to college, we’re going to encounter people who don’t support Israel or who are anti-Semitic. So it becomes critical that Jewish teenagers know who they are and what they represent. 

Many Jews want their children to have a Jewish education along with an excellent secular one, but they can’t afford it. Should a lower- or middle-class family be denied the chance to give their children a Jewish education? 

We need to make attending a Jewish high school advantageous and easier for teens and their parents. Day schools have become elitist and inaccessible to many people. Perhaps organizations that are part of the Jewish federation should focus more of their money on Jewish education and subsidize the cost of the schools. 

Jewish schools and communities need to reach out to Jews from all denominations because, believe it or not, the Jewish community is shrinking. There has been an assimilation of traditional Jews, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2013 survey on American Jews.  

Today, one in five American Jews are considered Jews of no religion because they describe themselves as atheist or agnostic. About 79 percent of Jews of no religion have intermarried and two-thirds do not plan on raising their children as Jewish.

Although the number of Jews identified as having no religion is small, the number will grow as Jews become less observant. Only 10 percent of surveyed Jews considered themselves Orthodox, and about half of the respondents who were raised Orthodox say they are no longer Orthodox. Moreover, about one-quarter of Jews who were raised Orthodox switched to the Conservative and Reform movements; 30 percent of Jews who were raised Conservative joined the Reform movement; and 28 percent of those raised in the Reform movement are unaffiliated with Judaism.

These numbers quantify the problems of assimilation and the danger of the high price tag on Jewish education. Outrageously expensive schools mean limiting access to Jewish education for less-affluent families, which is something that we cannot afford, according to the results of this survey.

Judaism has survived through modern society because Jewish schools and institutions have always provided us with Torah knowledge and an infinite sense of Jewish character and pride, even during times of hardships and persecution. Today, American Jews are faced with the question of whether or not they can afford Jewish education for their children.
Unfortunately “no” seems to be a common answer, and the harm of that response is presented in the Pew survey: Jews are losing their sense of identity, belief and Torah knowledge. We need to make Jewish education affordable because otherwise, the numbers of assimilated and unidentified Jews will be higher in a future survey.

Teaser:

Is day school tuition worth the steep price?

ArticlePath: /articles/cost-jewish-education
ImagePath: public://bookstack.jpg
Tags: day school, public school, Torah, tuition
NID: 238
Date: Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - 15:47
AuthorBio:
Sophie Topping Zimmerman is a senior at Millburn High School in Millburn, N.J. 
Title: The Diary Of Sophie Zimmerman
Subtitle:
Every day should be Holocaust Remembrance Day, according to the descendent of survivors.
Body:

Sophie with her grandparents, Daniel and Bella Zimmerman. The beloved diary of Daniel Zimmerman's mother is required reading in the author's family. 

The Holocaust was an essential part of my Hebrew school education. It was something that was discussed every year. We were urged to ask our grandparents, who came from Europe, about living through the Holocaust. Several people who survived the concentration camps come to speak to us in school. Recently, I realized that my generation will be the last to hear a survivor tell the story firsthand. As time goes on, there are fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors.

Yes, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of books containing the stories of countless survivors. Books such as “Number the Stars,” “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” and “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” are read worldwide. Yet these literary pieces — engaging and tragic — are still fiction. Reading a fictional story is not the same as hearing a true, firsthand account of someone’s life. The emotions depicted in a story cannot compare to the emotions conveyed in someone’s telling of their experiences.

It is essential to preserve the stories of those who experienced the Holocaust. Both of my father’s parents were young children in Europe during the war. They survived due to their parents’ foresight and the kindness of others. My grandfather’s mother, Sophie, my namesake, kept a diary of her life during the war. My siblings and I were given a copy of her journal when we started preparing for our bar or bat mitzvahs. It was truly amazing reading about her experiences and the things they had to do just to survive. Through her account, I learned about my family’s resilience. The connection I felt with the past was amazing.

Months ago two Holocaust survivors came to speak at my school. They talked about how long it took them to be able to tell their stories and how reluctant they had been to start. Eventually both felt it was their duty to spread the word of what had occurred. As members of the young generation, it is our job to continue spreading their stories. It is important to pass on their stories of survival whether by recording them or by retelling their tales. The next generation’s job is to make sure that the stories of our loved ones, and other survivors, are not forgotten.

Of course, this tragic part of history will continue to be taught. But without the firsthand experiences, the reality of the situation cannot be adequately portrayed. Reading about something in history books does not do the situation justice. Remembering the past should not be limited to the study of history. As essential as it is for the Holocaust to be taught, it is equally important to continue learning outside of school. For example, read or talk about survivors’ stories over the summer. 

For me, nothing can compare with visiting the Paris apartment from where my grandmother fled to avoid the Nazis or hearing the stories of my grandfather hiding for many months, along with his parents, in the attic of a peasant’s barn. They had little food and were required to stay as quiet as possible or risk being discovered and murdered. 

Knowing the facts of the Holocaust is important. As a Jew, it is essential to know what our people had to face. Hearing firsthand what people persevered through in order to carry on your culture (and your family line) completely changes your perspective. Hearing these brave stories of survival gives me a new appreciation of my heritage. 

Teaser:

Every day should be Holocaust Remembrance Day, according to the descendent of survivors. 

ArticlePath: /articles/diary-sophie-zimmerman
ImagePath: public://fr_chuck--_zimmerman.jpg
Tags: diary, Holocaust, Paris, survivors
NID: 237
Date: Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - 15:16
AuthorBio:
Jacob Orgel is a senior at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School in Plainview, N.Y. 
Title: Quest For A Sustained Quiet
Subtitle:
A lasting peace between Israel and Hamas requires international intervention.
Body:

While one may trace the recent outbreak of Israel-Hamas warfare to the abduction of three Israeli teenagers in June or to the Israeli invasion of Gaza in July, it is a futile and impossible task to assign a specific date of origin to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both groups are enmeshed in each other's past, present and future and armed aggression seems to be their predominant form of interaction.

Coexistence is an eternal struggle amidst structural and economic devastation in Gaza and the constant fear of death in Israel. The conflict has catapulted to a problem of international proportions and while the idealistic outcome of this problem is a lasting peace, it is not a simple goal to achieve.

Peace is the outcome of a successful solution and the necessary elements to achieve this peace must be closely examined. In ordinary diplomacy, a truce comprising elements from both parties' demands would be enacted. In this case, since one of the parties is a terrorist organization, ordinary diplomacy would lead down a path to the continuation of warfare. The only way to create lasting peace with a group that violates ceasefires is through enforcement: the international community must guarantee immediate intervention if Hamas violates the terms of a treaty. 

Although the first shots of the most recent outbreak were fired more than a month ago, this is not a new war. Only the names, the demands and the weapons have changed. Closing our eyes to past diplomatic failures renders the entire region liable to the recurring cycle of violence. Too many times we have fallen prisoner to the tempting ends of an immediate, yet temporary, peace without considering the tools to make it lasting. Too many times we failed to address the issues that led to combat in the first place.

Hamas, the terrorist organization that took political control of the Gaza Strip in a 2006 election, is the aggressor. They hide weaponry and explosives in the homes of innocent civilians, in schools filled with people seeking shelter and in houses of worship. They use their own people as human shields to defend against retaliations from their attacks. They built tunnels under the property of their own citizens to smuggle weapons. They view their people as pawns to be used like interchangeable parts in their grand scheme of destruction. “[This is] the generation of the missile, the tunnel and suicide operations,” said Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh at a youth paramilitary camp, according to The Times of Israel.

For years Israel has suffered through rocket fire and the slaughter of innocent citizens by terrorist groups such as Hamas. Even after the start of this summer’s ground operation, the Jewish state looked to preserve as many lives as possible by forewarning citizens of incoming attacks. “We are using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles,” said Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a June interview on Fox News Sunday.

There is only so much pain and suffering a nation can endure before retaliating. While it is impossible to justify the killing of innocent people, it must be understood that the guilty party in this case is not the one firing the bullets. Hamas must be held accountable for the deaths of their citizens. By using civilians to guard their arsenals, Hamas gives the Israeli soldiers no choice and turns a mission of national defense into one of destruction. Hamas must be held accountable for the warfare, as they are the ones who fired the rockets and used provocation as a tool to garner international sympathy. It is Hamas who bears accountability for every drop of blood.

“We will do whatever is necessary to achieve our goal of a sustained quiet,” Netanyahu said in a July interview on CNN. Achieving a lasting peace is the shared goal of Israel, the United States and peacemakers such the United Nations. Hamas does not share this vision. The civilian deaths caused by Israeli weapons come with great reluctance as Israel pursues peace before being forced into armed retaliation. The deaths caused by Hamas weapons come without purpose or sorrow; they come merely with the desire to kill. Their new long range missiles allow them access to more than 75 percent of Israel’s population, according to charts on the website of the Israel Defense Forces.

Hamas lobs rockets into Israel with the intent to slaughter people as if they were hunting wild animals. While a wild animal has every right to defend itself against hunters or predators, Israel is criticized for its self-defense. The country faces international pressure to stop this defense. In the face of loud provocation, the international community is asking Israel for silence.

While Israel is justified in its invasion of the Gaza Strip, the necessity of future military action could be eradicated with intervention and support from inter-governmental organizations. The United Nations “employs the political tools of diplomacy and mediation to help nations prevent and…avert the suffering and destruction of war,” according to the U.N. political affairs department. The United Nations should pressure Hamas to comply with demands for eradication of their weaponry and provide financial support for Israel’s defense. Economic and public support of Israel by other nations would hasten the peacemaking process and bring a rapid end to the widespread suffering.

As the conflict rages on and death tolls increase, it is tempting to accept a temporary peace, that temporary quiet. It must be understood that acquiescence will lead to further conflict. Hamas may bask in the sympathy of the international community and demand a humanitarian ceasefire, but it is just to restock their arsenal and, as history indicates, violate any agreed-upon truce.

Though ruins are abundant and the dust is far from settled, the truth is crystal clear: Israel must receive unconditional support from the international community in its quest for a sustained quiet.

Teaser:

A lasting peace between Israel and Hamas requires international intervention. 

ArticlePath: /articles/quest-sustained-quiet
ImagePath: public://fr_ch--tanking.jpg
Tags: ceasefire, Hamas, Israel, rockets
NID: 236
Date: Thursday, August 14, 2014 - 05:48
AuthorBio:
Colin Silverman is a senior at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Ill., and president of BBYO Great Midwest Region. 
Title: Play Ball
Subtitle:
How my love of sports came to define my Jewish identity.
Body:

Colin Silverman, third from the left, poses with his AZA brothers.

We were in the huddle. With 30 seconds left in the game we were down by two points and everyone was out of breath, but we were all smiling. My Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA) brothers and I, whom I met just three days before, were in this together. It didn’t matter if we won or lost the tournament; it just mattered that we were on the same team — a team of Jewish guys who felt like family.

I worked with a number of BBYO staff members and teen leaders to find ways through athletics to help our Brother Alephs strengthen their ties to Judaism. I was one of the leaders of Aleph Zadik Aleph Athletics (AZAA) at BBYO’s annual International Convention this past February — a program designed to encourage teamwork, confidence and healthy living among young Jewish guys; a similar program exists for Jewish girls.  

During AZAA, we organized for more than 400 teens physical activities such as yoga, soccer, Pilates, dodge ball and a basketball tournament. But the really important part of the program happened off the court — when the Jewish professionals who facilitated these programs connected sports with Jewish values.

Bob Steinfeld, a producer at Fox Sports, explained to us that the lessons learned from playing sports — acceptance, a sense of community and good health — are Jewish values. Steinfeld, an AZA alum, also relayed how his experience with BBYO on and off the court instilled Jewish values in him and helped him become a successful sports producer.

We also held programs that debated the most important Jewish values for sports heroes and asked questions such as, “Is it acceptable to play in a game on a Jewish holiday?” We studied Red Auerbach, the legendary Jewish coach of the Boston Celtics, who died in 2006. He was the first coach to start five African-American players and to hire an African-American head coach. In response to anti-Semitism he experienced as a child, Auerbach imparted to his players the value of treating people with dignity regardless of their race or religion. He seemed to be a firm believer in the value of “loving the stranger in your midst,” from Deuteronomy 10:19.

At the end of AZAA I not only felt a sense of accomplishment, but also a strong sense of brotherhood and knowledge of how Judaism affects all areas of life. I’ve found Jewish role models throughout my BBYO career — they’re adult advisers, staff members, guest presenters and Brother Alephs. Now sports figures are helping me find my place as a young, Jewish male in the community, and this development has been invaluable to me. The success of this program inspired me to do more in my hometown of Chicago.

I’ve seized the opportunity to become a role model to younger members in my BBYO Great Midwest Region; I’ve taken leadership roles on the local and international level, where I can help young Jewish guys learn and grow the way I have.

One of the ways I’ve done this is by planning a program called, “Night of Jewish Baseball,” which will be held on September 28 in Chicago. I’ve been working extensively with staff and teen leaders to set up the event, which will feature notable Jewish baseball players such as Steve Stone, one of the best Jewish pitchers in major league history. Stone played for the San Francisco Giants, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs and Baltimore Orioles. Ron Blomberg, the first designated hitter in Major League Baseball history, and Ross Baumgarten, a former pitcher for the Chicago White Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates, will also attend.

Professional athletes will talk about their baseball careers and how Judaism helped them succeed. This program is open to all Jewish young men; we are hoping to connect everyday lives with Jewish ones.

On a personal level, events like this one inspire and excite my friends. Many of them feel detached from their religious identity and don’t seek Jewish experiences after their bar mitzvahs. These programs are a gateway to future Jewish engagement for my peers who would not likely attend a religious service, such as Havdalah. 

Being a part of these unique experiences allows me to strengthen my learning and leadership skills and I enjoy showing others that Judaism can be fun.

I am proud to create meaningful experiences for others. AZA has helped inspire Jewish young men for 90 years and without it, I wouldn’t be connected to my Jewish identity. I am so honored to have the chance to help build the framework for the next 90 years.

For more information about “Night of Jewish Baseball,” please contact Marty Shankle or Celia Bernstein at gmr@bbyo.org or call (224) 406-9261.

Teaser:

How my love of sports came to define my Jewish identity.

ArticlePath: /articles/play-ball
ImagePath: public://fr_chuck--_colin.jpg
Tags: AZA, baseball, BBYO
NID: 235
Date: Thursday, August 7, 2014 - 08:29
AuthorBio:
Kyle Price is a senior at Rye Country Day School in Rye, N.Y.  
Title: Finding My Homeland
Subtitle:
A frequent traveler to Israel discovered something new on this summer’s BBYO trip.
Body:

BBYO on the go: Kyle Price is third from the left. His friend, Jacob Herstein, is on the far right.

When someone asks me where I live, I immediately respond, “Scarsdale, New York.” One month ago, if someone had asked me where my home was, the answer would have been the same. Now I hesitate when asked this question. What does this person mean by “home?” Is home where my house is? If so, my home is Scarsdale. But what if the person were to ask where I feel most comfortable and secure? In that case, my home is Israel.

At the end of July I returned to New York from a three-week BBYO Summer Experience in Israel called International Leadership Seminar in Israel (ILSI). This marked my seventh trip to Israel. I already knew that I loved the land and connected to it deeply, so I didn’t expect a life-changing experience. Then again, I also didn’t expect a war to break out while I was there.

Over the course of the trip, I saw life proceed as usual despite the dozens of rockets being fired into Israel each day. To my surprise, though, no one seemed too panicked and nothing seemed too chaotic. There were several Israeli staff members on my trip, including one named Baruch, who were called to fight in Gaza a few days before the trip ended. While their homeland was under siege the staff didn’t seem afraid; their composure and toughness were admirable.

When my friends and family texted me to ask if I was safe, I assured them that I was the safest I’d ever been. I was surrounded by my best friends in my newly declared homeland. I was protected by the missile defense system and soldiers of the IDF, whom I respect immensely. Not only did I feel safe; I felt invincible. The strong Israeli attitude rubbed off on me, and I felt more assimilated into Israeli culture than ever before.

I came to Israel wanting to enhance my spirituality and learn more about my connection with Judaism. Israel was now my self-declared homeland and since I continually heard my friends and family refer to it as “holy,” I thought that at some point during the trip I’d realize that I not only love the Jewish people, but I also love Judaism. I expected this moment of realization to come while praying on the top of Masada, or while my eyes welled up with tears at the Kotel, or perhaps while talking to a bearded man named Avraham who made Kabbalistic art in Safed and said that everything was, “like, sooooo spiritual, you guys.” But the epiphany didn’t come at any of these places. Instead, it came during a conversation with my friend Jacob Herstein — a Jewish teen from Dallas — while walking through the tunnels that run alongside the Western Wall.

Jacob and I met last year at Kallah, a BBYO Summer Experience focused on Jewish learning. I admire his knowledge of everything from the teachings of important rabbis to the history of the Israelites. As I asked him questions about history of the First and Second Temples, about which I knew little, and as he answered each of my questions like a wise sage, I realized that I could learn a lot from Judaism. I could learn not just about the history of the Jews and the teachings of the Torah, but also about how to be a wiser, more spiritual individual who leads a life that makes other people want to be better — like Jacob, who made me want to be a better person.

On the last night of the trip, we had an incredible BBYO B’yachad event that brought together all of the teens from the various BBYO trips in Israel. We listened to Lynn Schusterman, a leading American philanthropist, and Matt Grossman, BBYO’s CEO, bring our trip to a meaningful conclusion with inspiring and passionate speeches about how important it was to be in Israel at a time that in spite of conflict brought unity.

Afterwards, on the terrace of The Israel Museum overlooking Jerusalem, I said goodbye to Jacob and told him how much I appreciated his help on my journey to becoming a better person and a better Jew. I then promised myself that I would follow through with this aspiration. My connection to Jacob strengthened my connection to Judaism, which made my already-strong bond to Israel unbreakable. On each of my previous trips to Israel, I repeatedly fell in love with the people, the history and the country as a whole. On this trip to Israel, though, I didn’t just fall in love with Israel again — I became a part of it all.

Two things made the trip life-changing for me: one was my newfound spirituality and strengthened religious connection to the land of Israel. The other, as backwards and confusing as it may seem, was the IDF, Hamas and the current situation. The war made me appreciate every aspect of Israel, from Masada to the Dead Sea to the Kotel to the Negev, for I now realize the sacrifices that are made each day to keep the Jewish state and all of its people alive and well. It is for these reasons that my trip to Israel with BBYO made Israel my home.

Teaser:

A frequent traveler to Israel discovered something new on this summer’s BBYO trip.  

ArticlePath: /articles/finding-my-homeland
ImagePath: public://fr_chuck--_price.jpg
Tags: BBYO, Israel, Kallah
NID: 234
Date: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - 18:47
AuthorBio:
Gabriella Kamran is a rising senior at Milken Community Schools in Los Angeles.  
Title: Tefilah For Betty Friedan
Subtitle:
The feminist and activist was a woman with a pen and a will to change the world.
Body:

Editor’s Note: Gabriella Kamran is the first recipient of The Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing. She won a national contest seeking essays on the Jewish American who has made significant contributions to humanitarian causes, social justice, medicine or science. Gabriella won $500 and a commemorative medal. The contest was sponsored by the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and The Jewish Week Media Group.

I hear it in my Jewish law classroom, my Girl Talk minyan, my school newsroom, my synagogue, my home. Feminism isn’t Jewish, they say, referencing mechitzas and tefillin and passage after passage of polygamy, rape, Eve and her fateful fruit. Each time, my heart sinks an inch as I am forced to repeat the words that have become so familiar, referencing Eshet Chayil, Queen Esther, Judge Devorah and Betty Friedan.

I tell them of the summer of 1970, when Friedan stood on the steps of the New York Public Library at the Women’s Strike for Equality and said, “Down through the generations in history, my ancestor prayed, ‘I thank Thee, Lord, I was not created a woman.’ From this day forward women all over the world will be able to say, ‘I thank Thee, Lord, I was created a woman.’” It was a natural confluence between two pillars of identity, the halves of spirituality that make up the whole Jewish woman. It was tikkun olam, tzedek tzedek tirdof, and betzelem Elohim meets freedom and justice for all. This was the common thread woven into every aspect of Friedan’s work, from “The Feminine Mystique” to the National Organization for Women, and it is a thread that continues into the tapestry of my own life.

I see Betty Friedan when I find my mom washing dishes in the kitchen at midnight while my dad watches “24” on the couch. I hear Betty Friedan when my grandfather tells my pregnant cousin that he’s sorry she’s having a baby girl. I feel Betty Friedan when I read the Torah alongside my male classmates and when I explore the depths of my self-worth. As I study Friedan and her accomplishments in my U.S. history textbook, a part of me leaps out and clings to the words on the page because in those words I see a reflection of myself: a woman with a pen and a will to change the world.

With words and a powerful voice, Friedan picked up fragments of our broken world, the fragments of women who had fallen from the earth, and pieced them together to make one united olam. But you can still see the cracks, the places where darkness peers through and rattles the gaps between the pieces of our planet, the male and the female. I have taken it upon myself to wield my pen like crazy glue and smooth the cracks to finish what Friedan started. Because Betty, you hoped that I would say, “I thank Thee, Lord, I was created a woman,” but here, today, I shout out loud, “I thank you, Betty, for you I am proud to be born a woman and a Jew.”

Teaser:

The feminist and activist was a woman with a pen and a will to change the world.

ArticlePath: /articles/tefilah-betty-friedan
ImagePath: public://for_the_winner.jpg
Tags: Alexander Award, feminism, Friedan
NID: 234
Date: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - 18:47
AuthorBio:
Gabriella Kamran is a rising senior at Milken Community Schools in Los Angeles.  
Title: Tefilah For Betty Friedan
Subtitle:
The feminist and activist was a woman with a pen and a will to change the world.
Body:

Editor’s Note: Gabriella Kamran is the first recipient of The Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing. She won a national contest seeking essays on the Jewish American who has made significant contributions to humanitarian causes, social justice, medicine or science. Gabriella won $500 and a commemorative medal. The contest was sponsored by the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and The Jewish Week Media Group.

I hear it in my Jewish law classroom, my Girl Talk minyan, my school newsroom, my synagogue, my home. Feminism isn’t Jewish, they say, referencing mechitzas and tefillin and passage after passage of polygamy, rape, Eve and her fateful fruit. Each time, my heart sinks an inch as I am forced to repeat the words that have become so familiar, referencing Eshet Chayil, Queen Esther, Judge Devorah and Betty Friedan.

I tell them of the summer of 1970, when Friedan stood on the steps of the New York Public Library at the Women’s Strike for Equality and said, “Down through the generations in history, my ancestor prayed, ‘I thank Thee, Lord, I was not created a woman.’ From this day forward women all over the world will be able to say, ‘I thank Thee, Lord, I was created a woman.’” It was a natural confluence between two pillars of identity, the halves of spirituality that make up the whole Jewish woman. It was tikkun olam, tzedek tzedek tirdof, and betzelem Elohim meets freedom and justice for all. This was the common thread woven into every aspect of Friedan’s work, from “The Feminine Mystique” to the National Organization for Women, and it is a thread that continues into the tapestry of my own life.

I see Betty Friedan when I find my mom washing dishes in the kitchen at midnight while my dad watches “24” on the couch. I hear Betty Friedan when my grandfather tells my pregnant cousin that he’s sorry she’s having a baby girl. I feel Betty Friedan when I read the Torah alongside my male classmates and when I explore the depths of my self-worth. As I study Friedan and her accomplishments in my U.S. history textbook, a part of me leaps out and clings to the words on the page because in those words I see a reflection of myself: a woman with a pen and a will to change the world.

With words and a powerful voice, Friedan picked up fragments of our broken world, the fragments of women who had fallen from the earth, and pieced them together to make one united olam. But you can still see the cracks, the places where darkness peers through and rattles the gaps between the pieces of our planet, the male and the female. I have taken it upon myself to wield my pen like crazy glue and smooth the cracks to finish what Friedan started. Because Betty, you hoped that I would say, “I thank Thee, Lord, I was created a woman,” but here, today, I shout out loud, “I thank you, Betty, for you I am proud to be born a woman and a Jew.”

Teaser:

The feminist and activist was a woman with a pen and a will to change the world.

ArticlePath: /articles/tefilah-betty-friedan
ImagePath: public://version_2.jpg
Tags: Alexander Award, feminism, Friedan
NID: 233
Date: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 - 20:04
AuthorBio:
Celeste Marcus is a graduate of Kohelet Yeshiva High School in Merion Station, Pa. 
Title: Kach Na
Subtitle:
A poem in memory of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach.
Body:

Kach Na

Take, please, your son, your only son, whom you love

Bent over my notebook, headphones wired into place, pencil gripped tightly in hand
As if I’m wielding it — my only weapon against the words scribbled on the page before me and inscribed within my being.
Reading the verses repeatedly attempting to gauge meaning from an inconceivable sequence of apparently sincere sentiments.
I did not hear the girl behind me mutter that the bodies had been found

take, please, your son, your only son, whom you love

WHY?

What could you, God, possibly have wanted with the limp body of a boy you had promised over and over again to your chosen one?
Why would this ever be an action of which anyone ought to be capable?
It seems nonsensical.

Love me for I have formed you from the dust of the Earth.
Love me for I have pumped breath into the dirt from which you came.
Love me, for I will make of you a great nation.
Value life, for it is what I have given you.
Value family, for it is what I have promised.
Now, destroy my gift.
Sacrifice it.
Prove to me that you value my command over the values I have etched into the fabric of your faith.

My friend asked me for my laptop,
I barely looked up from the text.
“take it”
I didn’t ask what he wanted with it.
He’s the sort of kid you don’t think to question:
solid,
committed,
honest.
My age in years but far older in soul
still — young, so young.

But older than two of them.

“Just give it back afterwards, OK?”
Silence.
I look up.
He was staring at me almost accusatorially,
“Did you not hear what Rachel said?”
“...?”
“They found the bodies, Celeste. The boys’ bodies -- they found them”

your only son, whom you love — and go to the region of Moriah and sacrifice him there as a burnt offering

WHY?

You demand love.
I demand freedom.
freedom from the narrative you forced on your own people.
freedom from the contract I had no say in signing.
Born into a body formed from the very soil in which their bodies rot.
Is this the price we pay for the land you promised?
Our blood.
Our flesh.
Our sonless mothers.
Our empty beds.
Our forced smiles at crippled family gatherings.
Our pain.
Our powerless pain.
Our fists clenched around the pencils that are our only weapons against your nonsensical sequence of apparently sincere sentiments.

The irony is overpowering.

We mull over ancient verses in beitei midrash wondering why our ancestor would ever rise early in the morning and journey to the region of Moriah.
We live there.
There is no journey for us.
No three days of respite.
Our children are already bound.
God supplied our sons and daughters.
Caught in the thicket by our own allegiances.
Our boys do not come down from the mountain.
Our boys do not bury their fathers.

Take, please, your son, your only son, whom you love

Teaser:

A poem in memory of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach.

ArticlePath: /articles/kach-na
ImagePath: public://three_boys.jpg
Tags: boys, Israel, kidnapped
NID: 232
Date: Tuesday, July 1, 2014 - 08:01
AuthorBio:
Judah Burstein is a rising senior at The Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge, Mass.  
Title: The March Of A Lifetime
Subtitle:
The transformative experience of a BBYO trip to Poland and Israel.
Body:

The author, second from the right, proudly holds the March of the Living banner.
 
In the dark crematorium I could trace my fingers along the scratch marks on the walls. I could imagine the heat from all the burning bodies and how the Nazis would bathe in water made hot by those flames. And I could almost smell the stench from the smoke.

This spring I had the opportunity to go on an incredibly life-changing experience. The March of the Living is a journey comprised of a week in Poland visiting concentration camps and seeing the physical reminders of the Holocaust, followed by a week in Israel celebrating the enduring strength of the Jewish people. For over 20 years, thousands of teens and adults from around the world have come together in solidarity during this revelatory trip. Now I was joining them.

Trudy, a Holocaust survivor, with BBYO March of the Living participants. I took this journey with BBYO Passport’s National Teen Delegation, made up of Jewish teens from across the United States.  In addition to chaperones and guides, Trudy Album, a Holocaust survivor from Suffern, N.Y., accompanied us. This was not her first year revisiting the places of her torture. For seven years, she has returned to Poland — the place where she lost friends, family and was denied all basic human rights. For Trudy the trip has become a painful, but powerful, way of teaching the next generation about morality. (Photo: Trudy Album, center, with BBYO Passport: March of the Living participants.) 

The most horrific and transformative day of my experience was when we toured the Majdanek concentration camp. This was where I could feel the scratch marks in the crematorium walls and imagine the burning, it was so well-preserved. We learned that the Nazis fed Jewish babies to their dogs and created lampshades from Jewish flesh—though the consensus of historians is that these practices may not have actually happened. And we learned that the church and row of houses sitting 10 feet outside the camp’s perimeter had been fully inhabited during its existence.

At the end of our visit we hiked up a steep hill overlooking a pile of ashes of 68,000 prisoners. Members of my group cried, huddled around the silent, resilient figure of Trudy. After a moment she said, “It’s OK.” 

I could not believe this. Now I, too, burst into tears. No, it’s not OK. It’s not. I was indignant about the atrocities Trudy suffered; about the horror she feels coming back each year to the place where she lost friends and family, where she saw such maniacal torture. But there she was, standing in front of us, telling us it would be OK. Telling us to walk away smiling.

Our week in Israel was a dramatic change. We bought chocolate milk sold in bags and ate chocolate candy infused with pop-rocks. We saw the pride and love of the country’s people on Israel’s Memorial Day. When Israelis turn 18 they all are required to serve two years in the army, making it impossible for citizens not to be one or two degrees removed from someone killed in combat. The day of remembrance was entirely different from ours back home. At the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery every grave and plaque shone with flowers, letters and illuminated candles.

Memorial Day — arguably one of the saddest of the year for Israelis — is followed by Independence Day, one of the happiest. Every March of the Living delegation from across the globe gathered in a march from Jerusalem’s City Hall to the Western Wall. A week before this, every delegation had participated in a march from Auschwitz to the Birkenau concentration camp in a similar proclamation of unity. The Israel march was joyous. In the heart of the country of the Jewish people, we marched because Hitler did not win.

I was a changed person when I returned home from my journey. First and most importantly, I’d learned that tolerance is invaluable. Every horrible thing that happened in the Holocaust stemmed from a small prejudice. And in my own sphere, I thought if people could hold back that one comment, if they could stand up for that one person, the Earth’s scale would tip in a positive direction.

Secondly, I realized how vital it is to be proud of yourself and your life. No matter what adversity you have or continue to face, you are still here. Embrace what makes you who you are.

This trip will never end for me even now that I’m back in my own home, in my own bed and have updated my Facebook pictures. This is a journey that I will march in for the rest of my life. Twenty years from now, I will still be struggling with the pure atrocity of the Holocaust, but I will also be sharing my stories with those I meet. I’ll tell them about the crematorium and the scratches and the piles of ashes. Then I’ll say that when we left the camp I saw a butterfly, climbing higher in the wind.

Every year, BBYO sends a national teen delegation on the March of the Living with BBYO Passport where teens from around the world come together to bear witness to the destruction of the Holocaust in Poland and then travel to Israel to rejoice in the Jewish homeland. The program commemorates Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, marching from Auschwitz to Birkenau and celebrates Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, in the streets of Jerusalem. For more reflections from this year’s delegation, click here. Teens interested in attending next year can pre-register here.

Teaser:

The transformative experience of a BBYO trip to Poland and Israel. 

ArticlePath: /articles/march-lifetime-0
ImagePath: public://white_mob_01.jpg
Tags: BBYO, March of the Living, Poland, Yom Ha'Atzmaut
NID: 230
Date: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 - 05:37
AuthorBio:
Bella Adler is a rising junior at Yeshivat Kadimah High School in St. Louis. 
Title: Students Rule At Yeshivat Kadimah
Subtitle:
A look back at my first year in a new, innovative yeshiva high school.
Body:

Yeshivat Kadimah students show off their sports spirit. Writer Bella Adler is third from the left.

Nobody thought we could do it. Nobody expected us to succeed. Nobody understood how close we could become until they witnessed a day in action at Yeshivat Kadimah High School.

A new Orthodox high school opened last year in St. Louis with a total of just 10 students. I am privileged to be among these special 10. As our first year ends, I reflect upon a period of nine months that changed my life and the way I view school and Jewish education, forever.

High school is a formative time in a teenager’s life. I felt strongly about entering Yeshivat Kadimah High School because during these key years of a person’s life I wanted to be in a positive Jewish environment that facilitated involvement in the secular world.

A popular Hebrew expression is kol yisrael areivim zeh bazeh, the people of Israel are responsible for one another, but often it is hard to feel like your opinion is heard. And it’s often hard to feel like your voice matters or that what you do actually makes a difference in a school filled with so many teens and so much competition. There is an average of 1,005 students in a public high school in New York, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In California, the average is 999 students. And in Missouri, where I am from, the average is 537 students. It is easy to feel lost in these large numbers, but that’s not the case in my school. 

At Yeshivat Kadimah the students get to run programs, influence their own schedules, courses and staff, and we are very close with one another. The school is a unique learning environment, “utilizing modern technologies and educational tools such as differentiated and blended learning, enriched by real-world experiences outside the classroom,” according to our mission statement.

Each student has a school-provided laptop. Our class work, tests, curriculum and extra support are found on an online learning management system called Haiku Learning. The Haiku manages Judaic and secular learning. Online texts, primary sources, polls, discussion forms and quizzes make education interesting and exciting. We use our Haiku in conjunction with teachers to integrate the use of technology while benefitting from a small class size and interpersonal relationships with our teachers. In my school there are more staff members than students, but ironically this allows me to get to know my teachers, and they really know me; this creates a superb teacher-to-student relationship.

My daily classes probably look just like yours. In our science room, the biology students dissect frogs and rats, and the chemistry students combine compounds to form solids, liquids and gases. We practice math equations on whiteboards hung up next to a flat-screen TV that is connected to the teacher’s computer.  My spirals are filled with notes and doodles, similar to any other high school student. However, all of my worksheets, quizzes, study guides and more are online instead of in a plastic folder. I look forward to Fridays when we venture outside of school. We’ve volunteered in a local charity, met a federal judge and visited a bird hospital.

Each of us matters. We bring something unique to our school and if someone is not there on a particular day, the absence is felt. Our school is like one giant family, and I couldn’t be luckier to have nine “brothers” and “sisters” whom I attend school with.

Every student plays multiple roles. We run student life, programming, sports activities, spirit week and everything involved in creating a dynamic high school. Because we are small in number, we have the ability to receive individualized attention for our specific interests. We each have a strong say in the courses offered and sports played.

In April a fellow student and I ran our own ceremonies. The first was in commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance Day. We lit candles, watched videos on Jewish history and the Rwandan genocide and said prayers together. On Israel’s Memorial Day, Yom HaZikaron, each student in the school was assigned to research an Israeli soldier who was killed in battle; we sat in a circle by the light of a yahrtzeit candle and each student told a story as if he or she was the fallen hero. Students at Yeshivat Kadimah celebrate Israel's Independence Day.

The following day, to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day, one of my peers brought in blue and white decorating materials. We spent an hour with our backs hunched over white poster boards with blue markers. Students were out of breath from blowing up blue and white balloons, hanging streamers from the ceiling and taping Israeli flags to the walls. Not only was it lots of fun to create these events for my whole school, but it was also incredibly meaningful that everybody had a chance to participate in every program. Leadership roles in Yeshivat Kadimah can be found everywhere. (Photo: Bella Adler, second from right, and friends celebrate Israel's Independence Day.)

There is also tremendous flexibility regarding the AP courses I want to take. As long as our educational director is given enough notice to hire a teacher, the options are limitless.

A friend and I decided that during our second semester study hall period we wanted to tutor young children. Because Kadimah rents space from a Jewish elementary school, we were easily able to arrange these sessions. We enjoyed reading, solving math problems and drawing with the first graders.

High school students attending a large school see their influence in perhaps only one club, but by going to a small school we see our influence in every aspect of our education. Even more importantly, I have learned that every student is a role model; we are a family and how you treat every person matters. I am so thankful for this opportunity to understand the value of individuality. The 10 of us came from different backgrounds, but united we are role models for each other and for the world.

“Kadimah” is the Hebrew word for “moving forward.” As the founding year of this new Jewish high school comes to a close, I can’t help but imagine what next year will bring. With our school enrollment increasing by at least 50 percent, I know that we will have the exciting responsibility to teach incoming students how to use the Haiku system and how to be dual curriculum — online and traditional — learners. But most important, I can’t wait to instill in the new students the lesson that each one of us matters.

We have the power to influence one another for the better. Each one of us has the opportunity to become leaders and start something new — a club, class or elective. (Keep a look out for a future Kadimah garden, sewing club, basketball team and more!) In our school we are always looking for new ways to present information, different ways of expressing individuality and seeking out various innovations of forward thinking. There’s no school where I’d rather be.  

Teaser:

A look back at my first year in a new, innovative yeshiva high school. 

ArticlePath: /articles/students-rule-yeshivat-kadimah
ImagePath: public://kadimah_2_fr_chuck.jpg
Tags: blended learning, Missouri, online, Yeshivat Kadimah
NID: 229
Date: Tuesday, June 17, 2014 - 18:32
AuthorBio:
Lizzie Zakaim is a junior at Paramus High School in Paramus, N.J.           
Title: The Battle Against BDS
Subtitle:
Boycott, divestment and sanctions: what the term means and why you should care.
Body:

The room grew tense as the speaker’s audience became increasingly disrespectful. Ishmael Khaldi, the first Bedouin diplomat in Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, came to speak at a Hillel event at Rutgers University in 2010. He came to talk in a fair and diplomatic fashion about life in Israel for Arabs and Israelis, but his speech was sabotaged by supporters of BDS (the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement).

“A lot of BDS and anti-Israel students came and ruined our event,” said Liran Kapoano, a Rutgers graduate and now director of the Center for Israel Engagement (CIE) at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey in Paramus. They got there early, sat in the front row and were “talking and hissing” throughout his speech. When it came time for Q&A they bombarded the speaker with “angry statements” and accusations. They were a disturbance to the event and ruined the experience for everyone else attending. No one got a chance to ask anything productive. “It’s the idea of uncivil discourse. People can’t sit comfortably in a room without feeling intimidated,” Kapoano said during an interview in his federation office. 

The BDS movement began after the second intifada, the violent uprising against Israel’s presence in the West Bank and Gaza. The organization’s goal is to target Israel in an economic rather than violent way, as anti-Apartheid activists did when they used to boycott South Africa. Supporters of the movement want to boycott, divest and levy sanctions against Israeli companies and companies that do business with Israel. They want to punish those they accuse of profiting from perceived violations of Palestinian rights.

Young adults are also targets of the BDS movement. College-aged students, only a year or so older than me, are an impressionable age group. We are at a time in our lives when a rebellious attitude sparks passionate interests and a college campus is the perfect breeding ground for a multitude of viewpoints on local and global issues. “Being a pro-Israel student on a college campus is not the most comfortable thing,” said Kapoano.

Everywhere, supporters of Israel have been harassed and intimidated for simply expressing their opinions on a controversial topic. The negative reaction to a pro-Israeli opinion stifles the freedom of speech and expression that every citizen should feel comfortable practicing.

On campuses with an active BDS presence, such as Rutgers University, the University of California, Irvine and UC Berkeley, attitudes are especially hostile to those who oppose the movement. Students are experiencing more anti-Semitism on campus, according to Kapoano. Professors and university officials are not always active in easing this seething tension between the supporters of Israel and BDS. 

In the spring, the student government at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor voted against a divestment resolution. The issue was passionately debated on campus. Pro-Israel students were harassed, according to a blog published in The Algemeiner. At least one pro-Israel student received a death threat. Others were allegedly called names such as “kikes” and “dirty Jews.” Professors and other administrators did nothing but “encourage the student groups to engage in civil debate over the issue,” according to the blog post.

While he was a student at Rutgers, Kapoano and other Hillel members formed Scarlet, Blue & White: The Rutgers Pro-Israel Alliance (SB&W). The goal of SB&W was to promote Israel and counter BDS activities. Some of the group members organized the Khaldi appearance in 2010.

People can think what they want, he said, but “when you’re stopping my person from speaking that’s not fair.” He’s right; people should be allowed to express their opinions without fearing crude opposition.

The idea that in this day and age students are intimidated and harassed for expressing their opinions is shocking and disturbing. People have a right to form opinions, but not to harass others. 

Pro-Israel students in college should not feel afraid. They should “stand up for what they believe in and remember that no matter what kind of distortions they hear about Israel – they are on the right side,” said Kapoano. It is important not to get discouraged and, he says, to remember that outside of a college campus “there are more people who agree with them than don’t!”

Reach out to your local Jewish community if you need support. Kapoano is also happy to help people respond to hostilities and tensions on campus.

There may be strength in numbers, but in the long term strength finds justice where it waits to be heard. Even though pro-Israel students are the threatened minority, there will come a time for their side of the story to be heard and believed by many of those who oppose them now. Hashem gave Eretz Yisrael, the Promised Land, to the Jewish people in return for His protection and loyalty. The Jewish minority has made it this far with our rightful claim to Israel because of Hashem’s hand. There is strength in that.

Teaser:

Boycott, divestment and sanctions: what the term means and why you should care. 

ArticlePath: /articles/battle-against-bds
ImagePath: public://israel_-_boycott_divest_sanction.jpg
Tags: BDS, college, Irvine, Rutgers
NID: 228
Date: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 07:34
AuthorBio:
Juliet Freudman is a senior at Great Neck North High School in Great Neck, N.Y. 
Title: Confronting Time
Subtitle:
Time disappears at a Holocaust remembrance ceremony and a high schooler imagines the anguish of 1944.
Body:

 

As the lights dim and the candles flicker, time loses all meaning. Time, in all its complexity, is simply a fragile concept, slipping through our fingers like water. I am always tricked into thinking I can save the water from escaping, if I just press my hands together a little bit tighter, if I just hold still a little bit longer. But I am always fooled. You cannot hold on to water, and you definitely cannot hold on to time, a phenomenon even more evasive. You cannot see it or feel it, taste, smell or hear it. And tonight, in this bubble that’s defying the space-time continuum, time is melting away to nothing more than a futile human attempt at understanding the unexplainable ways in which this capricious world works. Time comforts us into thinking we have a semblance of control in life. But not tonight. Tonight, time will not anchor us down.

We are seated in rows of benches in the main sanctuary of my synagogue in Great Neck. It is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. The lights are dim, and the candles flicker. The survivors march by, an eerie reminder of a time when Jews were forced to march in line, barefoot and starving, for endless miles. However, tonight they are free from such physical and mental torture and with each step, they crush those who tried to knock them down. And still, with each step, I see memories, dark like the shadows in their wrinkles cast by candlelight that tell the stories of their lives. Here is when time stops. Time is gentle; he doesn’t shove and scream, despite the bad reputation most of us give him. Time simply picks himself up and quietly slips out of the room.

It is 1944 and my world is upside down. Their memories are so real that I can feel them. I am waiting in line to be shoved into a cattle car; I am running through a forest constantly checking over my shoulder; I have left all my belongings behind. I breathe in charred air. None of us are safe. I look over at my mom sitting next to me and realize that the comfort of her soft, strong hands can no longer save me from what lays ahead. In this world, operated by hate, every Jew has no individuality, no identity. We have only each other. The walls of my synagogue no longer feel like a sanctuary, instead they become the bars of a cage closing in around me. I feel a sense of claustrophobia I have never known in this room. Everything outside these walls has disappeared and all I can think of is 1944. Time has deserted me and I want him back. I can’t shake this feeling and I need to be back.

It is 2014, and as I relax, a voice in my head whispers, “You wouldn’t have made it anyway.”

The survivors are finishing their march. The lights are dim and the candles flicker. Shadows dance around the room, ballerinas with no faces, bending and stretching and making no sense at all. The final survivor strides past me and I begin to realize the ages of these heroes. Just when I think time has come back to save me, I see the headline: “Last Holocaust Survivor Dies, 102.” My throat tightens; I am not used to the air of this future. I am not used to an air without oxygen that has been filtered through the lungs of the strongest people I could ever imagine. I am not used to a world without their air. My children have never spoken to a Holocaust survivor. They’ve never seen the intensity that only exists in eyes that have seen so much hate but still have so much love to give. How many years will it be until the last person who ever spoke to a Holocaust survivor dies? How many years until this horrific genocide is just history?

I look at my watch: 8:15 p.m., April 27. Time has returned. He sat down right behind me, so silently I hadn’t even noticed. But I scoff at him; he means nothing to me. Time means nothing when the world is ravaged with such blind hate and cold-hearted brutality. We are all born, and we all die, and the time we spend in between is so insignificantly trivial to the entirety of earth’s lifespan. Time is so natural to me that I check my watch more often than I tell my parents I love them. It’s supposed to help me understand the unexplainable, but despite making schedules, setting alarms and always needing to know the time to the exact minute, I still don’t understand. Time has not helped me understand the unexplainable. I don’t understand how one man can render so much death, I don’t understand how so many can just sit back and remain silent, and I don’t understand how it is still happening around the world today. Time hasn’t explained any of that to me and it wasn’t until he disappeared tonight that I realized how he’d been fooling me all along.

Teaser:

Time disappears at a Holocaust remembrance ceremony and a high schooler imagines the anguish of 1944. 

ArticlePath: /articles/confronting-time
ImagePath: public://clock.jpg
Tags: genocide, Holocaust, survivors, Yom HaShoah
NID: 227
Date: Monday, June 2, 2014 - 09:37
AuthorBio:
Miriam Blum is a junior at Ma’ayanot High School for Girls.
Title: It’s Torah Time
Subtitle:
Why do we celebrate receiving the Torah by reading the Book of Ruth?
Body:

Ruth in Boaz's Field, a painting by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1828. 

Along with eating cheesecake and beautifying our synagogues with flowers and greenery, we read on Shavuot the Book of Ruth. Why?  What does Ruth’s story of recognizing Hashem’s presence and involvement in the world have to do with Shavuot? Why is her story so important in our celebration of receiving the Torah?

Ruth was a non-Jewish woman who married into a Jewish family and after the deaths of her husband and father-in-law, she left her homeland and decided to live the rest of her life with her mother-in-law, Naomi.  Why is the story of a non-Jewish woman such an integral part of our festival?  

The Yalkut Shimoni, a compilation of insights on the books of the Torah, explains that the reading of Ruth on Shavuot teaches that, “The Torah is acquired only through suffering and affliction.” I think he’s implying that during the time of the Book of Ruth, the Children of Israel were suffering in exile and through the pain and anguish of difficult times they patiently waited to receive the Torah, the event we celebrate on Shavuot. 

The Abudraham, a rabbi who lived in 14th-century Spain, explains that the Book of Ruth is read on this holiday because the events described took place “at the beginning of the barley harvest,” which coincided with Shavuot. The Abudraham also says that the Children of Israel were required to undergo circumcision and mikvah immersion, just as converts do, in order to receive the Torah. We read this megilah “In honor of Ruth who was a convert and became the mother of Israel’s royal family, we say when we received the Torah, we were all converts,” wrote Abudraham.

The Bekhor Shor, a French rabbi and scholar who lived in the 12th century, gives another interesting answer. The prophet Shmuel wrote the Book of Ruth to highlight the genealogy of King David and his connection to Ruth the Moabite, his great grandmother. Ruth is at the forefront of the Shavuot holiday because King David and the future Messiah are descended from her. 

I think the reason why we read this megilah on Shavuot is to demonstrate that if someone can learn to unconditionally embrace Hashem and his Torah then so can we. Ruth is a role model for all of us; she shows us how to behave in front of Hashem. After Ruth’s husband died and she left her home for a strange land, she gained more faith in Hashem rather than remaining a Moabite. She told Naomi, “Your nation is my nation, your God is my God” Ruth 1:16. Why does she suddenly possess so much faith in the Jewish God?

Ruth reminds us to always be grateful for our Jewish Identities. I think the Book of Ruth has a greater message as well. We are living in a society filled with temptations and opportunities to stray from Hashem. There are things in my life that always tempt me to stray from my priorities and religion such as YouTube, Facebook, movies and TV shows. All of these temptations aren’t detrimental but when they become a constant addiction and when they take precedence over learning and developing our Judaism it becomes a problem. It is important to be like Ruth — resist temptations and remember that we are members of the proud Jewish nation.

Ruth inspires me to pursue worthwhile activities such as focusing on my spiritual and educational growth.  Shavuot is a time of joy and a time to experience the spiritual presence of the giving of the Torah. The Book of Ruth is an essential component of that epic event. Chag Sameach!

Teaser:

Why do we celebrate receiving the Torah by reading the Book of Ruth? 

ArticlePath: /articles/it%E2%80%99s-torah-time
ImagePath: public://joanbaez_1.jpg
Tags: Book of Ruth, Shavuot, Torah
NID: 226
Date: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 - 13:09
AuthorBio:
Hudis Lang is a senior at Margolin Hebrew Academy in Memphis, Tenn.  
Title: A Mother’s Sickness, A Daughter’s Revelation
Subtitle:
Coping with my mother’s illness makes me appreciate life and my loved ones.
Body:

The author, right, with her mother Devorah Lang.

The florescent lights glared on the tile floors, and the gray walls of the waiting room surrounded me and my mom. I glanced at my mother — or at least she looked like my mother. It all seemed so casual, I was sitting next to my mom waiting for her to be called for her daily radiation treatment. Realizing where I was and who I was with, I leaned over and gave her a small hug. I hoped that even though her memory was fading, she would still remember I loved her. While in the waiting room something inside me had changed. I had a new perspective on life.

Rewind to two weeks before this, I was sitting in class checking my phone, just like any other day. However, this time it was different. I looked down and I saw that my oldest sister had texted me — an odd and rare occurrence. The text was extremely long and had been sent to everyone in my family. I began to read and the words seemed to slip off the screen and started to circle around my head. I could not quite grasp what was going on, nor did I want to. All I wanted was to delete the text like it never was sent. I did not want to comprehend what was written. I ran out of the classroom holding back my tears as I began to make sense of what I had just been told.

Cancer — my mom (Devorah bas Chana) had brain cancer. That little devil that you watch movies about and seems to be everywhere, yet no one thinks that it will ever affect them personally. But it was affecting me personally, and it was happening right then. It was all happening so fast. My oldest brother had spoken to me and told me that there was no cure. Treatment could only slow down the evil disease. Thoughts kept pouring in. My mind went to my little brothers who were asking me, “Why is Mommy saying funny things?” I did not want all of this to happen; I did not ask for this. Things so simple like my Mom remembering what I had told her the day before became a rarity. What did this mean for the future? I could not fathom what could happen a few years down the road. Emotions and worries took over my life; I just wanted to escape from it all. I wanted someone to wake me up from this horrible nightmare. 

While I was gripping onto my mom’s arm in the waiting room — I realized how lucky I was. I had this special time with her in the hospital. It was a gift to feel her arm grasp onto mine as we walked down the hall and to hear her sweet voice speak to the nurse. Seeing her smile as she walked out of the procedure room reminded me that she was still my mother, after all. Little things, like watching her sleep next to me on the car ride home, seemed like bonding time.

I realized that I was lucky enough to get a chance to change my perspective on life before it was too late. Horrible things happen to people all the time, I knew this. My problem was not being blind, it was being naïve — like most teenagers. I was ignorant to the fact that a tragedy like this could affect me so directly. Looking at what I had in the present and appreciating it before it all disappeared was something I never thought I would be doing. I had my whole life planned out and nothing was going to interfere with my future — until cancer happened.

My mom getting sick is not something I am happy about; I am devastated and still coping with the situation. However, I am proud to say that I have taken a tragedy and changed myself for the better because of it. I have learned to accept what I cannot control. Now, when I talk to my mom or any of my loved ones, it means more to me. Small-talk became precious to me — I realized I am lucky to be able to speak to those who I care about.

Like most teenagers, I do not treasure every detail of my life, but I have changed that just a bit. The little things in life make me smile, and I try to appreciate all that I have today. I now understand that those things I had once underappreciated could be gone in a second. 

Teaser:

Coping with my mother’s illness makes me appreciate life and my loved ones. 

ArticlePath: /articles/mother%E2%80%99s-sickness-daughter%E2%80%99s-revelation
ImagePath: public://langs_from_chuck.jpg
Tags: cancer, mom, radiation
NID: 225
Date: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 07:32
AuthorBio:
Hannah Cohen is a sophomore and Eliana Worenklein a junior at Westchester Hebrew High School in Hartsdale, N.Y. 
Title: Bring Back Our Girls
Subtitle:
Jewish teens speak out against the kidnappings in Nigeria.
Body:

Authors Eliana Worenklein (left) and Hannah Cohen (right) promote social media activism. 

 

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”
— Martin Niemöller

In the past few weeks, Jews have commemorated the Holocaust, mourned the deaths of Israeli soldiers and celebrated the freedoms and opportunities we have in our State of Israel. After this time of reflection on our own history and plight, it is important to recognize significant problems happening in the world today.

On April 14 more than 200 teenage girls were kidnapped from their school in Nigeria by the terrorist organization Boko Haram, whose name translates into “Western education is sin.” Boko Haram opposes educating women and intends to sell the teens into slavery. “I abducted your girls… I will sell them in the market,” as Allah commands, announced the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau. This tragedy occurred more than one month ago and Americans are just now coming to grips with the full magnitude of this crisis. Until recently, many of us were completely unaware of the situation.

The nightmare continues for these teenagers and their families. Just last week, the captors released a video showing 77 of the girls, allegedly forced to convert to Islam and dressed in Muslim garb. Boko Haram is demanding that the Nigerian government release its imprisoned members in exchange for the kidnapped girls.

As Jews, we know what it is like to have the world sit idly by as we are oppressed. While many people stood up for the Jews during the Holocaust, there were also many who did not. Jews who fled German-occupied countries were denied admission into refugee countries, their backs turned in our time of need. We can not do the same to these Nigerian girls. We have to join the effort to stand up for them.

Similar to these Nigerian teens, we, too, are high school girls pursuing an education. We are blessed to live in a society where learning is respected, and it is hard to imagine living in any place where girls are denied an education. Yet, sadly, this is a reality. In countries such as Nigeria and Pakistan, a woman puts her life in danger when she attends school.

Malala Yousafazai is a Pakistani girl who took this risk. She sought an education for herself and advocated for the education of others. The result? The Taliban issued a death threat and followers shot her in the head. Malala survived and moved to the United Kingdom, where she recovered from her injuries and continues to advocate for women’s rights and education. Malala was a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize and wrote an inspiring autobiography, “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.” Malala is our age, 16 years old, and she has shown bravery that we are inspired to emulate.

Speaking out about the crisis in Nigeria, Malala said, “If we remain silent then this will spread.” We need to take Malala’s words to heart and fight for these kidnapped girls. 

We are asking you to join Malala and us and spread the word on Facebook: www.facebook.com/bringbackourgirls and on Twitter: #bringbackourgirls.

We implore you to contact your local representatives and urge them to send aid to rescue these Nigerian students. Please sign the petitions already circulating to encourage the American and international communities to contribute resources and take action:  White House petition and Change.org petition.  

We’re only teenage American Jews, but we have learned that sitting back idly when a part of the world is being subjected to inhumane treatment by a crazed strongman is simply not an option. Please help us bring back our girls.

Teaser:

Jewish teens speak out against the kidnappings in Nigeria. 

ArticlePath: /articles/bring-back-our-girls
ImagePath: public://bringbackgirls_5000x3333.jpg
Tags: Holocaust, Malala Yousafazai, Nigeria
NID: 224
Date: Thursday, May 15, 2014 - 06:21
AuthorBio:
Alexis Cassuto is a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Title: A Proud Jew Among Catholics
Subtitle:
High school in Israel was a refreshing change from Catholic school by day and Hebrew school at night.
Body:

The author overlooking the Negev desert during a class trip to David Ben Gurion's grave.

While I don’t look like the kind of girl who crosses herself regularly and accepts Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, I go to school with many students who do. I’m a Jewish girl attending a Catholic high school. Four years ago, I made the transition from a primarily-Jewish public school to the Catholic St. Thomas Aquinas. I had to start wearing a plaid skirt, collared shirt and Skechers uniform shoes. You can only imagine how many stereotypical jokes I am told every day. For instance, just last week someone asked me if I speak Jewish. The answer is “No, we speak Hebrew.” I am one of a handful of practicing Jewish students in the student body of 2,500, and I am proud.

My parents sent me to Catholic school because the public high schools near my house were overpopulated, not safe and did not offer a great education. St. Thomas Aquinas has an exceptional educational system, ranks nationally in sports and is well respected by colleges — three components that drove my parents to send my brother, sister and me there for school.

Making the transition wasn’t easy. Most of the students have been attending Catholic school their entire lives. One of the required courses is a theology class in which we study the Catholic faith. I had never even opened a Bible prior to my first day of freshman year. I felt like an outsider trying to learn about a religion completely different from my own. I went to Catholic school by day and Hebrew school by night.

During the summer after my junior year, I attended Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI). I attended this program to get a better understanding of my religion and learn about my Jewish roots. During that summer I met the most amazing people. I became more aware of my homeland, Israel, and felt the most Jewish I have ever felt. (Photo: Alexis Cassuto, left, with friends from AMHSI.)

Alexis Cassuto, left, with friends from AMHSI. I lived in the Rapaport Dorm with 42 of my new best friends. My classmates were from all parts of the United States, including Minnesota, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New York, California, as well as from Russia and Turkey. My friend Helen is from Ethiopia. Her birth parents died of AIDS so she was left orphaned at a very young age. Two lovely people, Helen’s new parents, decided to adopt her and five more children from Ethiopia and Bulgaria, adding to their already large family of four kids. At the age of 6, Helen moved to Atlanta to live with her new 11-person family.

On a free weekend, Helen and I went to visit some of Helen’s family’s Ethiopian friends. They lived in a huge community of people who spoke English, Hebrew and Amharic. They welcomed us into their homes with open arms and fed us a lot of unique Ethiopian food. Our host family made us homemade injera, an Ethiopian spongy flatbread, Helen’s favorite. Learning from all of these people and seeing how welcoming they were to complete strangers really opened my eyes to the importance of acceptance no matter where you come from or who you are. That was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

At AMHSI we learned on the main campus in Hod Hasharon, but we also lived on the bus (albeit one without a bathroom) as we toured the country. A normal “tiyul” (outing) would start with being woken up by one of my favorite teachers, Yossi Katz. With his raspy, Philadelphia-accented voice, he would shout “Boker Tov!” over the intercom.

My favorite tiyul was when we hiked a beautiful, lush mountain that led us to a cave. We put on our water shoes and turned on the lights on our helmets. Once we were inside the cave we were told to form a huge circle, put our arms around each other and turn off our lights. It was pitch black. We listened to my teacher, Alan, as water trickled from the walls of the cave. Alan explained how “one drop can do little, but many drops together can create wondrous things.”

He told us that “we are like drops.” Individually we can do little, but “together we can do so much more.” We sang “Hineh Ma Tov,” and the only sounds in the cave were our voices in perfect unison and the trickling water. It was so simple, yet so powerful. We all realized that together we are not drops of water, but a body of water, a whole, a family.

When it was time to go to the Western Wall I was so ready for it! I was going to put my note in, I was going to kiss the wall and it was going to be great. Before we went Alan said that if you don’t feel a connection or you just see a wall made of stones, that’s OK because that is what he felt his first time. Of course, that was exactly what happened to me. My friends were crying and I was waiting for the emotions to hit me like a brick wall. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen.

When people talk about Israel, they always talk about this feeling you get while in Israel. Their eyes light up and they smile from ear to ear as they point out the magnificent country that our ancestors called home. Before my trip, when I asked what Israel was like, I heard the same response every time: “Once you get there you will understand.” I didn’t really get it and was very annoyed.

One early morning we hiked Masada. I reached the top of the ancient mountain and was completely taken aback. I was speechless. It was then that I felt that feeling. I felt butterflies looking out and seeing the sun rise over the desert and the Dead Sea. It was invigorating. I understood what it meant to be completely and wholly Jewish and proud of that in every sense of the word. I am so glad that I had that experience on top of Masada, one of the holiest peaks in Israel. I will forever have that picture in my mind.

Being back at school over the past few months, things have definitely changed. Going to a Catholic high school has brought me closer than ever to my Jewish religion. I now share with my classmates my thoughts about Bible verses and my ideas from a Jewish point of view. I explain to them that most Jewish stereotypes are false. For example, not all of us have big noses or little hats that we wear to Temple or are cheap or consume bagels and lox on a daily basis.

I am not just Jewish. I am a survivor, a student, a community, a voice. I am the flag of Israel, I am your defense force’s jacket and I am the Jewish star necklace you wear around your neck. I am a proud Jewish woman who can maintain my Jewish identity in the toughest of times, even if that means going to a Catholic school every day of my life.

Teaser:

High school in Israel was a refreshing change from Catholic school by day and Hebrew school at night. 

ArticlePath: /articles/proud-jew-among-catholics
ImagePath: public://alexis.jpg
Tags: AMHSI, Catholic, Masada
NID: 223
Date: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 - 13:10
AuthorBio:
Meital Bloom is a freshman in Rishon Lezion, Israel. 
Title: Once Foreign, Now Friends