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Op-Ed: Behind social entrepreneurship, a surprising force

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 11:40

Participants gathered in Dec. 2010 for a Jewish food conference organized by the Jewish environmental organization Hazon, in Sonoma County, Calif. (Courtesy of Hazon)

AKRON, Ohio (JTA) — Five years ago, when I began to work for Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation, I met with a colleague who worked with early-stage nonprofit organizations that are creating new ways of involving people in Jewish community life.

How wonderful, I gushed, that there are all these people who felt outside of Jewish life and who are now trying out new approaches to Jewish engagement. “Dara,” my colleague stopped me to say, “these entrepreneurs aren’t outsiders. They are day school graduates and rabbis’ kids, and many are rabbis themselves.”

It was a surprising moment for me. Having spent several years disengaged from organized Jewish life myself, and seeing all sorts of opportunities to learn, engage and contribute that were often targeting the “unaffiliated,” I assumed that their creators were also communal outsiders. Stepping back, though, it’s not surprising that Jewish social entrepreneurs are connected to their religious communities. After all, why would someone innovate to enhance something they don’t strongly value?

So too, it turns out, are financial supporters of innovation — and the lesson applies to all kinds of religious communities, not just Jewish ones. Jumpstart’s new study, “Connected to Give: Risk and Relevance,” co-funded by the Lippman Kanfer Foundation, finds that “[t]he donors most willing to support an unproven organization generally are those who are most engaged in their religious communities. Highly connected donors generally are willing to contribute to new organizations that offer a different approach to addressing a persistent problem that has been difficult to solve.”

What sets religiously affiliated donors apart from others less willing to fund such innovation? Maybe because they are involved in Jewish life they know what they find most valuable in Judaism and want to find ways to share it with others. They experience gaps themselves, see where the gaps exist for their families and friends, and therefore provide support for promising responses. Affiliated donors are, perhaps, more willing to take risks because they can imagine, and sometimes experience firsthand, the reward.

For such donors, today’s group of innovative Jewish ventures can indeed provide myriad ways to enact and extend their Jewish values and sensibilities. Whether it’s practicing values of welcoming and applying the principle that all are created in the divine image (b’tzelem Elohim) by creating a more inclusive community with InterfaithFamily and Keshet (which works with and for LGBT Jews), or expanding opportunities for learning for its own sake (Torah Lishma) with innovative educational experiences such as Kevah (which creates lay-led religious learning circles) or project-based learning in Jewish day schools, or implementing the principle of reducing waste (bal tashchit) by supporting environmental activism and farming with Hazon (which advances healthy and sustainable communities) and the Jewish Farm School.

Supporting innovation itself embodies learning from practice: we do and then we understand (na’aseh v’nishma). When we experiment, success often doesn’t look exactly like what we anticipated. For both the donors and the organizations, experimenting is about exploring and learning together what is relevant for people, what makes their lives more meaningful, what helps to repair the world.

With religious affiliation as the engine that drives support for new ideas and approaches, we who work with innovators should be turning more often and more directly to those most deeply involved with Jewish organizations and causes. We should listen to how they talk about the gaps, opportunities and possibilities that call for important and promising innovations. Continuing to enlist more active partners in funding innovative endeavors will open new pathways for the connected and not-yet-connected alike, and will enrich Jewish life for all.

Dara Weinerman Steinberg is executive director of Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation and Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah.

Swedish Rabbi Threatened by Known Anti-Semite

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 07:34

A rabbi and his synagogue in the Swedish city of Gothenburg was threatened in emails that described him as an “accursed child murderer.”

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Swedish rabbi, synagogue threatened

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 06:57

(JTA) — A rabbi and his synagogue in the Swedish city of Gothenburg was threatened in emails that described him as an “accursed child murderer.”

The rabbi, who was not named, received the threats via email from a person with a history of threatening the Jewish community of Gothenburg, Daniel Jonas, director of the city’s Jewish community, told the Gotheburgs-Posten newspaper Thursday.

The community informed police and enhanced its security arrangements, said the report, which did not name the person who sent the threatening emails to the rabbi.

The letter refers to the rabbi, who took up his position in 2012, as a “swine” and warns him that his synagogue will be demolished. It also assures the rabbi he will be “relegated to everlasting fire.”

Jonas told the paper he feared the publication in media would generate fresh threats. “We know that a publication always brings new emails and new threats. That is our reality,” he said.

In 2012, unknown individuals set off an explosive device outside the synagogue of Malmo, a city located 170 miles south of Gothenburg and where several dozen anti-Semitic attacks are documented annually.

Fred Kahn, the community’s president, told JTA most attacks in Malmo are by Muslims seeking revenge for Israel’s actions.

In April, the district of Skane, where Malmo is located, declined the Jewish community’s request to increase the number of security cameras around Jewish buildings, according to Michael Gelvan, chairman of the Nordic Jewish Security Council, and Per-Erik Ebbestahl, director of safety and security in the City of Malmo.

The municipality supported the request, Ebbestahl said.

Reform Jewish Movement Applauds New Protections for Undocumented Immigrants

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 20:56

Washington, D.C., November 20, 2014 – In response to President Obama’s executive action providing new protections for nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants, Rachel Laser, Deputy Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

We applaud President Obama’s announcement of a new executive action on immigration that will remove the threat of deportation for nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants. Under the executive action, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) will be expanded, and parents of citizens and legal permanent residents will be allowed to remain in the U.S. so long as these parents have been in the U.S. for at least five years, promising much-overdue relief for millions of families who risk being torn apart by the current provisions of our broken immigration system. We also welcome the end of the Secure Communities program, which has too often led to racial profiling and led immigrant communities to fear law enforcement instead of work with them.

For decades, inspired by the biblical imperative to welcome the stranger and by our own lived experience as immigrants, the Reform Movement has advocated for a more just immigration system. We have urged Congress and the President to work together to achieve comprehensive immigration reform which, among other provisions, addresses the issues of border security, family reunification, the needs of employers and protections for workers. Unfortunately, Congress has not succeeded at passing legislation to send to the President’s desk, despite the fact that Republicans and Democrats have long agreed that legislative action is the best way forward.

The failure of our immigration system is, of course, the result of failures in millions of individual cases. In the past six months, through the inspiring work of Rabbis Organizing Rabbis (ROR), a social justice initiative of the Reform Movement, we have worked to lift up the cases of individuals at risk of deportation and urge that their order of deportation be deferred. We are proud of the successes ROR has had, even as we continue to work on the case of Luis Lopez Acabal, now at risk of deportation after fleeing to the U.S. from Guatemala as a teenager to escape gang violence, and who is the sole breadwinner for his wife and two children. Mr. Lopez Acabal is now receiving sanctuary in an Arizona church basement, out of fear of being deported by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Over 60 of our rabbis have called ICE to ask for a stay of his order of deportation, and you can see a moving video of Luis Lopez Acabal in that church basement:

It is still unclear whether Mr. Lopez Acabal will be covered under the plan announced by President Obama, reminding us that legislation is the only way to truly and comprehensively to fix our immigration system. We hope that the positive impact of today’s executive action on individuals, workers, business owners and the nation in general will spur Congress to pass a comprehensive bill to create real and lasting immigration reform. We remain committed to working to achieve the passage of bipartisan legislation that keeps our borders secure, expands the legal channels of immigration, and provides a path to citizenship for those already living here.

Demolition orders given to four families of Palestinian terrorists

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 14:32

(JTA) — The Israeli government issued demolition orders to the families of the two Palestinians who committed the deadly terrorist attack on a Jerusalem synagogue.

Security officials sent the notices to the families of Said Abu Jamal and Ghassan Abu, the eastern Jerusalem cousins responsible for Tuesday’s attack on the Bnei Torah Kehilat Yaakov synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood that killed five.

Demolition orders also were sent to the families of Ibrahim Akkari, who rammed his car into pedestrians earlier this month, killing two, and Muataz Hijazi, the gunman who shot Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick last month.

All the families were given 48 hours to protest the decisions.

The demolition orders were given a day after the Israel Defense Forces razed the home of Abdelrahman Al-Shaludi, who killed two when he drove his vehicle into a light rail station last month.

Israel’s policy of demolishing homes has drawn international criticism and was largely suspended in 2005 after an army committee reported that it had little deterrent effect. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed a return to the practice if attacks continue.

“We have nothing against the residents of eastern Jerusalem, but we will not tolerate attacks on our citizens and we will act against those who do these things and against those engaged in incitement,” Netanyahu said, according to a statement. “With a determined and vigorous hand, we will restore security to Jerusalem.”


11 Greatest Mike Nichols Moments

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 09:02

Mike Nichols has passed away at the age of 83. The Forward pays tribute to 11 of the greatest moments in the director and comedian’s career.

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Mike Nichols, Oscar-Winning 'Graduate' Director, Dies at 83

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 08:25

Mike Nichols, a nine-time Tony Award winner on Broadway and the Oscar-winning director of films such as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” “The Graduate” and “Carnal Knowledge,” died on Wednesday at age 83, ABC News said.

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Antwerp Jews Demand Government-Funded School Security

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 07:55

In the wake of the stabbing of an Orthodox Jew in Antwerp, a Flemish Jewish politician demanded the government cover the community’s security costs of $1 million a year.

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How ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ Shattered My Dreams

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 05:00

Leida Snow auditioned for the original ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ on Broadway. What happened next forever changed how she thought about musicals — and Judaism.

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Why Terror Is Different This Time

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 05:00

For Jane Eisner, the bloody synagogue terror cuts deeper because it was an attack on innocent Jews at prayer. Somehow a line has been crossed — and there’s no telling what may come next.

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Open Hillel Admits 'Mistake' in Snooping on Eric Fingerhut Conference Call

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 19:21

Relaying information garnered from an off-the-record conference call featuring the director of Hillel International was a “mistake,” the Open Hillel network said.

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Open Hillel: Fingerhut conference call flap a “mistake”

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 17:22

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Relaying information garnered from an off-the-record conference call featuring the director of Hillel International was a “mistake,” the Open Hillel network said.

“Recently, information was shared on an Open Hillel e-mail chain concerning a conference call briefing between Hillel International CEO Eric Fingerhut and the American Jewish Committee,” Open Hillel said in a statement emailed Wednesday to JTA. “This resulted in the firing of a recent college graduate and Open Hillel member who had worked with the AJC.”

Open Hillel is a network of Jewish student campus groups that reject Hillel International’s precepts banning events with speakers who advocate boycotting Israel and working with groups that are seen as hypercritical of Israel.

The Open Hillel statement noted that the call, for American Jewish Committee and Hillel staff, was not recorded, but that information about the call was shared among some Open Hillel activists.

“We recognize that this decision, made by a handful of people involved with the Open Hillel campaign, was a mistake,” the group said.

A report this week by the Washington D.C.-based Free Beacon news website revealed that AJC fired Danny Blinderman, a staffer in its Boston office, after he offered to share with Open Hillel activists information from an off-the-record conference call with Fingerhut.

“Open Hillel looks forward to re-focusing our energies on what really matters: Jewish students and Jewish campus communities,” the group’s statement said. “Open Hillel is steadfast in our commitment to making Hillel a welcoming space that is open to all Jewish students regardless of their political beliefs.”

Jewish Veterans Oppose Sectarian Prayer in Military

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 17:06

Two Jewish veterans testified in Congress against allowing chaplains to engage in sectarian prayer in nondenominational settings.

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British Lawmaker Ties Synagogue Terror Attack to Temple Mount

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 16:59

A British baroness and former lawmaker is under fire for a Twitter post that tied the terror attack in a Jerusalem synagogue to Israel’s policies on the Temple Mount.

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British baroness, former lawmaker under fire for terror tweet

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 16:43

(JTA) — A British baroness and former lawmaker is under fire for a Twitter post that tied the terror attack in a Jerusalem synagogue to Israel’s policies on the Temple Mount.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi tweeted Tuesday in the hours after the attack: “Israeli extremists storm Al Aksa & intimidate worshipers, Palestinian extremists storm synagogue & kill 4 worshipers #Tragic #peacenotwar.”

Israeli extremists storm Al Aqsa & intimidate worshippers Palestinian extremists storm synagogue & kill 4 worshippers #Tragic #peacenotwar

— Sayeeda Warsi (@SayeedaWarsi) November 18, 2014

Warsi, who had served as senior minister of state at Britain’s Foreign Office and minister for faith and communities, resigned from Parliament in August over Britain’s policies on Gaza. Her resignation came during Israel’s 50-day operation in the Gaza Strip.

Warsi, the daughter of Pakistani immigrants, became a member of the House of Lords in 2007. She was named Conservative Party co-chair by David Cameron after the 2010 general election,

“Both Palestinian & Israeli lives have been lost in recent weeks at the hands of extremists, condemn both #Peace not #Hypocrisy,” she later tweeted, responding to Britain’s Zionist Federation.

Jewish veterans testify against sectarian prayer in military

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 16:31

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Two Jewish veterans testified in Congress against allowing chaplains to engage in sectarian prayer in nondenominational settings.

Mikey Weinstein, the founder of the Military Religious Freedom Association and a former U.S. Air Force judge advocate general, and Rabbi Bruce Kahn, a retired Navy chaplain, were among five witnesses to appear Tuesday before the subcommittee on military personnel of the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee.

The subcommittee was considering arguments arising out of recent controversies over Christian chaplains who name Jesus in their prayers for groups of troops that include more than one denomination or faith, as well as atheists, among other sectarian practices.

A number of conservative groups, including several represented at the hearing, say military regulations prohibiting such invocations are an infringement on the religious freedoms of the chaplains.

Weinstein and Kahn argued that the religious freedoms of the troops tended by the chaplains must be preeminent. “The challenge is for the chaplain to adjust to the legitimate requirements of the troops, not for the troops to adjust to the denominational practices of the chaplain,” Kahn, who is now active in civil rights advocacy, said in prepared testimony.

Among the groups submitting written testimony were the Anti-Defamation League and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, both also advocating against allowing sectarian prayer in nondenominational settings.

Pope prays for victims of Jerusalem synagogue terror attack

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 16:13

ROME (JTA) – Pope Francis said he prayed for the victims of a terror attack on a Jerusalem synagogue and appealed for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

“I am following with concern the alarming increase in tension in Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land, with unacceptable episodes of violence that do not spare even the places of worship,” he said at his general audience Wednesday, a day after Palestinian terrorists attacked Jewish worshippers during morning services, killing four rabbis and a police officer.

”I assure a special prayer for all the victims of this dramatic situation and for those who suffer most as a result,” the pope said.

He added: “From the bottom of my heart, I make an appeal to the parties involved to put an end to the spiral of hatred and violence and to make courageous decisions for reconciliation and peace. Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a torment!”


Israel Gives Green Light to 78 Settler Homes

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 15:42

Israel on Wednesday approved the construction of 78 new homes in two settlements on West Bank land annexed to Jerusalem, likely to aggravate Palestinian anger at a time when violence has flared, including a deadly attack on a synagogue.

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Slain Druze Police Officer Mourned by Thousands

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 11:45

Thousands, including busloads of haredi Orthodox Jews, attended the funeral of the Druze police officer killed in the terror attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem.

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Edgy Congregants Return to Jerusalem Synagogue on Day After Terror Attack

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 08:12

Edgy worshippers return to the Jerusalem synagogue where four rabbis and a policeman were killed in a bloody attack. Will Har Nof’s shul ever be the same?

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