iron lion zion
forgi ng ethi opi an l i fe i n i srael
hebrew Slanguage
unpacki ng the j unk from i srael ’ s trunk
fetal attraction
why orthodox j ews wi l l prevent
j ewi sh exti ncti on

f a l l 2 0 0 7

a bright new day the biblical caSe for intermarriage
converts on the true colors of the jewish community
Funny, you don’t look jewish

presentense $5.00
issue three 2007 1
editor and publisher Ariel Beery
senior editor esther D. KustAnowitz
associate editor MiriAM r. hAier
contributing editors Ben BrofMAn, Phil Getz,
Chloe sAfier, AliezA sAlzBerG
assistant editors stePhAni e M. Ali Ano, sAM BroDy,
ruvyM GilMAn, sAMuel Grilli, si Mi hi nDen, Chen KAsher,
Jenni fer KohAni M, reBeCCA leiCht, AMinA MoGhul,
nAtAshA rosenstoCK, eli winKelMAn, ilyA zAyChiK,
tiferet ziMMern-KAhAn
copy editors ADAM ChAnDler, CAitlin KArosen,
renA KAtz, rAChel KrAuser, MereDith MishKin
editorial staff lee PAtterson, MohinDrA ruPrAM
theater editor lonnie sChwArtz
food columnist MiriAM seGurA
art director linA tuv
assistant art director hillel sMith
photography editor AvitAl Aronowitz
photographers DAviD ABitBol, AvitAl Aronowitz, yonAh
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advertising and circulation director siMi hinDen
business team sAMuel Grilli, Jennifer KohAniM
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SlaveS in the holy land
the problem of sex slavery in israel
Chloe Saf ier
funny, you don’t look JewiSh
converts on the true colors of the jewish community
Al iza Hausman
Star-croSSed loverS
scenes from an interfaith relationship
Neely Steinberg
calling all convertS
blogging the burdens and blessings of conversion
Leah Jones
the biblical caSe
for intermarriage
why you can marry anyone you want
Ariel Beer y
COntents presentensemaGazine.OrG
2 issue three 2007
letterS to the editor
here & now
06 enter the matrix
a first-person account of the
ethiopian identity crisis
Danny Admasu
07 iron lion zion
forging ethiopian life in israel
David Druce
09 Sweeten your Spirit
high style high holy days
in the holy land
The Honey Staff
11 in the big-inning
opening day at the israel
baseball league
Adam Soclof
12 home land home run?
baseball makes aliyah
Maya Wainhaus
14 Smarty pantS
rhodes scholars take to the road
Jewish St udent Weekly and
PresenTense Staff
16 boycott, bloody boycott
british academics bash
israel, again
Yai r Zivan
17 dear chapS, thankS for the
learning from the british
has never been easier
Leora Addison
18 tueSday, the rabbi
went to Jail
religious activism and
the rabbinate
Yehuda Hausman
20 go South, young Jew
zionist settlement
thrives in the negev
David Wainer
22 virtual JudaiSm
finding a second life
in online community
Jul ian Voloj
24 the hebrew Slanguage
unpacking the junk
from israel’s trunk
Jacob Shwi rtz and Esther D.
25 koSha’ for tha roSh ha’
shabot spot
Wi l l iam Levin aka Ben Baruch
26 the zioniSt frontier
zionism redefined in jerusalem
Benjamin Fisher
40 fetal attraction
why orthodox jews will
prevent jewish extinction
Eric Ackland
39 more orgieS, more babieS
a modest proposal
Ben Brofman
44 the art of rebirth
adisia crafts hope for
ethiopian women in afula
Yonit Schi l ler
50 a bright new day
optimistic futures for the jews
Phi l Getz
fi lm
52 oy-bay goeS to the movieS
shtarkers and the sweet science
Tomer Altman
54 blood brotherS
masked uncovers the conflict
Lonnie Schwartz
musi C
55 common SparkS forever within
finding forever lacks
common’s sense
Margaret Teich
37 collin
a poem
Genevieve Dreizen
57 portrait of an internet
randi jayne zuckerberg
Adam Finkel
58 taSty biteS to Smite your enemieS
rosh hashanah’s symbolic foods
Mi riam Segura
60 SinS of our fatherS
a short story
Al ieza Sal zberg
64 dreSS me up in Jew
show your partner how easy
it is to be your kind of jew
Ei leen Levinson
presentensemaGazine.OrG COntents
letters presentensemaGazine.OrG issue three 2007 3
to the editor
model publication to
the nationS
Tank you for an enlightening
and refreshing example of the
the fuidity of identity that your
civilizational construct allows.
Te caliber and appeal of your
publication is impressive. I
happened upon it in browsing the
web for information for a paper
I am writing on Bukharian Jews
(“Not Your Typical Hyphenated-
American,” Summer 2006). I
am Muslim from East Africa
who grew up in the US and have
lived all over. I’ve met plenty
of migrants, immigrants and
products of the two, like myself.
I think that if they also had a
forum such as this one growing
up—or even now—their lives and
the way that they view themselves,
or perceive that they are viewed
by others would be very diferent.
Better, I think.
So, thank you for committing
yourself to important work. It
also looks fun : )
Fatima B. Kassam
Washington, D.C.
keep it koSher
Often when I eat crisps with a
hekhsher on the packet my reaction
is not, I must admit, to refect on
the pesticides used in production,
like Leah Koenig (“Te Death of
Eco-Kosher: Ethics on the Table,”
Spring 2007), but to look aghast at
the price tag. Luckily it is possible to
fnd approved crisps for reasonable
prices in the United Kingdom, but
everyday hard-working Jews scrimp
and save in order to buy food that
complies with the covenant of their
forefathers. Koenig’s suggestion that
they should now be forced to spend
even more to meet the standards
of received bien pensant bourgeois
opinion is extremely dangerous.
Ignoring the simply preposterous
idea that unhealthy foods should
be declared treif, I’ll address only
the more straightforwardly political
arguments of the article.
Contrary to Koenig’s implications,
most Jews would not like to see
Kashrut elided with a fair-trade
eco-agenda, not because they
are ignorant or complacent,
but because they recognize that
this agenda is driven, at best, by
naivety and economic illiteracy
and, at worst, by a malevolent
and retrograde rage at the free
market system that has delivered
unprecedented wealth and a
deeply weird idolatrous fascination
with a non-existent pre-industrial
past where human beings lived in
perfect communion with nature.
Furthermore, many people do not
take nearly as kindly as Koenig
seems to think to being lectured
by ostensibly tolerant liberals on
what is and isn’t ‘ethical,’ to use
the word they have appropriated
and almost ruined. One can
understand that the purveyors
of failed dreams feel a certain
desperation, but no one should
take their sympathy so far as to
excuse a distasteful attempt to
hijack the Jewish religion for alien
Gabriel Martindale
West Sussex, United Kingdom
thankS to you, too
PresenTense is a remarkable magazine.
It captures the intellectual breadth
and depth, physical energy and
moral commitment that can be
found in young Jews today.
Dr. Marcia Weinstein
Salem, MA
if you can’ t get them to
walk, how can you get
them to run?
Te idea of a year in service that
Seth Garz brings up (“A Year in
Service,” Spring 2007) is certainly
an inspiring one, but does Garz
really think that the Jewish
community can motivate young
disafected and dissociated Jews
to devote a whole year, when they
hardly can get them to devote a few
days a year to anything remotely
connected with Jewish life? It’s as
if Garz is expecting us to get the
assimilated to run before they can
even walk.
Sure, those Jews who are already
brought up in warm and supportive
Jewish environments will jump on
board; as Yeshiva in Israel programs
show, you don’t have to do much
to convince a committed Jew to
take a year of between high school
and college. But if the community
truly desires to develop a culture
of service within the wider Jewish
community, it had better develop a
stronger system of education frst.
Without teaching Jewish values,
the community will not be able to
inspire Jewish action.
Charlie E. Poritsky
Brooklyn, New York
how can i get me Some?
Just got handed the Spring
2007 issue of PresenTense, and
it’s gorgeous. So smart and so
good-looking–so menschlikheit!
Like a boyfriend I’d be proud to
bring home.
But you have no subscriptions, unless
something has changed. So how do
I make sure that I get every issue hot
of the press? I’m glad to subscribe,
should you care to institute such a
system. All best wishes,
Sue Fishkoff
Oakland, CA
edi tor’ S reSponSe
Have no fear, Sue–individual
subscriptions are here!
Starting in October 2007, you
will be able to log on to www.
presentense.org and easily fll out
a subscription order online (and
pay online too)–and email Simi at
if you have any questions.
But if snail mail is more your thing,
feel free to send us where you’ d
like the magazine delivered, along
with $15 USD to: PresenTense
Magazine, 214 Sullivan Street,
Suite 2A, New York, NY 10012,
USA. Magazines will arrive
straight to your door, much like a
good boyfriend should.
No one has seen
them, no one at
all. Tere’s been
nothing. Tis is
why I’m asking
you to raise your
voices to demand
a sign of life from
my husband and
his colleagues.
Karnit Goldwasser
July 16, 2007
outside United Nations
Headquarters in New York
Don’t let
kill them
Bring israel’s solDiers home now
issue three 2007 5
seasonal shift
t the end of summer’s swelter, we all come back from vacation, returning to autumn.
Tis means back to school, for some of us, as the colors of the leaves trade their
verdant tones for earth-based ones, and the winter prepares its arrival right after the
Jewish holidays. Except that in some countries, it doesn’t. Our summer in the North
is wintertime in Australia, and even in countries where summer still means June, July and August,
temperatures can range from cool to unbearable. Even the use of the term “our” is a bit of a misnomer,
as PresenTense has contributors living across the world. And the leaves in the trees? Tey too cannot
be generalized into what US residents might consider an autumnal state.
Many US citizens—especially those of us who are from New York, where the majority of our
team resides—are accused of being ethnocentric, and of expecting the world to follow our lead.
But in a world where the global economy reigns and social networks extend beyond geographical
limitations, none of us can aford for our perspectives to remain so provincial. Hailing from nearly
a dozen countries, PresenTense readers, contributors and editors are pools of varying Jewish color
on an epic-sized artist’s palette. One look at this magazine reveals the diversity of backgrounds,
perspectives and experiences; even if we were to use the same brush, pen, or camera to channel our
creative spirits and spiritual creations, the strokes would still be completely diferent.
Understanding depends on communication; communication depends on language; and language–
whether it’s literally slang (“Te Hebrew Slanguage,” page 24) or the language of experience–is relative
as well. But what we share is our connection to Jewish identity within the context of our present,
contemporary circumstances. Our concept of Jewish identity now includes--or at least, should
include–stories of Ethiopian Jews’ journeys to and integration into the Promised Land (“Enter the
Matrix,” page 6; “Iron Lion Zion,” page 7) and stories of those who were not born Jewish and made
us their chosen People (“Funny, You Don’t Look Jewish,” page 32).
To link into the global Jewish youth community, we’re using new technologies that our grandparents
and even our parents couldn’t have fathomed; these tools support our Jewish development whether
we’re Jews by choice seeking community through blogs (“Calling All Converts,” page 38) or are looking
to express our true selves in the virtual realm (“Virtual Judaism,” page 22). We are the products of
our parents’ choices in religion and relationships (“Star-Crossed Lovers,” page 36). We fnd ourselves
challenged by academic authority in an anti-Zionist world (“Boycott, Bloody Boycott,” page 16).
We are taking on the status quo, sometimes to prove a point (“Te Biblical Case for Intermarriage,”
page 42; “Fetal Attraction” page 40) and other times to make radical suggestions that might not be
popular (“More Orgies, More Babies,” page 39).
Some of us are activists, getting arrested for our cause (“Tuesday, Te Rabbi Went to Jail,” page
18) or standing up for the rights of the downtrodden (“Slaves in the Holy Land,” page 30). Others are
involved in global initiatives that are taking the world by storm (“Portrait of an Internet Strategist,”
page 57). And some of us are just plain smart (“Smarty Pants,” page 14), while others can think of
nothing better than to hear the call, “Play Ball!” (“In the Big-Inning,” page 11; “Home Land Home
Run,” page 12).
In previous generations, we were united by similarity of dress, beliefs, and experience. Diference
was a threat to community. But this is an age of multi-national collaboration; for this cohort of young,
creative Jews all over the world, our diversity forges a community that is stronger for the sum of its
difering perspectives, its varying seasons, and its quintessential relativity.
editOrial presentensemaGazine.OrG
6 issue three 2007
here & now
enter the matrix
a first-person account of the ethiopian identity crisis
Danny Admasu
he frst morning I woke up in Israel, I awoke to a new
reality, yet my mother still called me Agnay, my Ethiopian
name. As a boy, I knew that this name carried emotional
weight, and that it mustn’t be changed. Every time my
mother calls me Agnay, she momentarily returns to Ethiopia; the
village, our abandoned home, the midwife who died in Sudan on
the way to Israel, the neighbors who stayed behind.
But, as an Israeli, I was given a new name. My teacher called me
Daniel, the Hebrew name assigned to me by the Jewish Agency clerk,
while my friends nicknamed me Johnny. As time passed, these new
Israeli names became meaningful to me as well. Although unfamiliar
at frst, they became evidence of my status as an Israeli, both in the
eyes of those who named me and in my own. I’ve become emotionally
attached to my Hebrew name and it is now as much a part of my
identity as my original Ethiopian one.
Israeli children of Ethiopian immigrants live double existences. At
home, their parents continue as traditional Ethiopian Jews, refusing
to give up the culture and rituals through which they preserved their
Jewish identity during thousands of years of exile, even though the
Israeli society outside poses diferent and usually conficting demands.
Te clash between the two environments creates unique identity
crises. Unfortunately, there are no adult role models that can help
an Ethiopian-Israeli teenager navigate between these worlds. Israeli
schools often interpret these teens’ behavior as juvenile delinquency,
or African primitiveness. Parents are equally unhelpful, feeling cursed
by children who adopt the “customs of the gentiles.” Meanwhile, these
teenagers are trapped between traditional Ethiopian family life and
the complex Israeli society, one which demands achievement, money
and chutzpah, without which they may forfeit their Israeli identity,
as well as their social and economic prospects.
I am forced every day to “change the foppy disk” of my personality
and reload new software, like in the flm Te Matrix. Each disk contains
its own scenery, characters, rules and regulations, and in each one I play
a diferent “self” and navigate between diametrically opposed realities.
Every time I come home, I enter my parents’ matrix. It is built on ancient
dreams and centuries of faith; where modesty, respect and other classic
Jewish values dictate the conduct of daily life. My traditional Ethiopian
parents do not approve of my current lifestyle. I have learned to cover my
tattoo, wear a hat over my haircut, remove both my earrings, and leave
my friends at the door. My parents have their own vision of beauty, and
my life seems to be a “non-Jewish” afront to their sensibilities.
Despite my many conficts with my parents, I recognize how
hard it has been for them to come to “the land fowing with milk and
honey” only to be stripped of authority over their children, language,
and culture. My parents continue to believe in the Zionist Dream,
and despite the hardships that have befallen them, I think they will
hold steadfast to these ideals until the day they die. In the short time
my parents and I share over breakfast, I could never explain to them
that my behavior, which they fnd so disturbing, is the manifestation
of their dream. Tey would not understand that traveling on Shabbat
doesn’t make me a non-Jew, that watching MTV and soccer games
gains me acceptance in Israeli society and that my earrings have no
direct efect upon my grades. No possible explanation could satisfy
their matrix, and arguments surrounding these topics only widen
the growing gap between us.
In elementary school, the teacher was not pleased when my
parents missed their meeting with the principal. It didn’t occur to
her that my parents are dependent on me to translate her note from
Hebrew to Amharic. It was obvious to me that I should not translate
any letter entitled: “Your child’s disruptive behavior.” I did not dare
further disrupt my parents' already shaky emotional balance.
During my school years, I managed to maintain the equilibrium
between these two worlds. Serving in the army cracked open the divide
and the balance was lost. My commander didn’t invite my parents to
basic training graduation because his mother, a teacher by profession, told
him that Ethiopian parents never respond to invitations. I didn’t invite
them because to get to the Golan, they would have had to take three
buses and hitchhike at least four times. It seemed like an unnecessary
ordeal, but I wish my parents could have witnessed the emotion of the
Golani berets fying in the air at the end of the graduation ceremony, just
like my friends’ parents. Standing now on the Israeli side of the cultural
israeli children of ethiopian
immigrants live double existences.
presentensemaGazine.OrG here & nOW
photo of young woman by David Abitbol
chasm, I know that I need to correct my commander’s stereotypical
thinking. I must also remind him and myself that the successes I achieve
at this and all future graduations I owe to my parents who brought me
all the way from Ethiopia to Israel, allowing me such opportunities.
University was an additional test of my fractured identity. Te
professors expected me to bridge the educational gaps accumulated in
culturally insensitive primary schools and I didn’t want to trouble them
with the social-economic complexities of my situation. Tey are not social
workers and it is not their problem that in my home we do not write on
the Sabbath, that we are eight siblings living in three rooms, and that
there is no Internet access. Wanting to reach their standards, I was left
with the following options; fnding secular friends with internet access
at home who wouldn’t mind hosting me for the weekend, or staying in
the dorms. Te hard part is explaining to my parents why I can’t spend
the weekend with my family. Whatever excuse I come up with will be
cold and brief. Telling them the truth, that I violate the Sabbath, is not an
option. Tey wouldn’t understand the complexities of my situation.
So I play the “Matrix game,” switching between my parents’ world
of tradition and religion and the Israeli world of technology, money and
achievement. Tis matrix is the story of many frst generation Ethiopian-
Israelis, struggling to develop an identity that can exist in both worlds.
Despite the hardships of the matrix, I remind myself that not everyone
has the privilege of being at the junction between the “old” and the
“new” Jew, between Africa and Israel, an ambassador of two cultures.
As I encounter the broader Israeli society, I take solace in realizing that I
am not alone in the task of identity construction as so many immigrants
are creatively fusing their cultural past with their Israeli future.
Danny Admasu is a first-generation Ethiopian-Israeli, a veteran of the Israeli
Defense Forces, a university student, and the Executive Director of the Israel
Association for Ethiopian Jews: www.iaej.co.il
Translated by Asaf Be’eri.
iron lion zion
forging ethiopian life in israel
David Druce
wait for the bus to Mevaseret Zion. An Ethiopian security
guard greets me, standard procedure at Jerusalem bus stops.
Te #157 arrives and takes me to the other side of the
archipelago of hilltop neighborhoods that make up Greater
Jerusalem. An Ethiopian family of seven walks towards the bus stop.
One woman who might be the mother balances a large, heavy basket
on her head, while a younger woman who might be her daughter or
sister sends a text message.
Mevaseret Zion, one of Israel’s wealthiest communities, has a
large absorption center known as a merkaz klitah administered by the
Jewish Agency. About 1,200 Ethiopian immigrants reside here, the
majority originally from the region of Qwara, bordering Sudan. Tey
immigrated to Israel—known as making Aliyah–in the late nineties
to forty identical two-story houses. Each house is divided into four
apartments, and the yards below buzz with activity. I can see girls
jumping rope; boys riding bikes; older men in straw hats chatting at
picnic tables, and a mother braiding her daughter’s hair. I can smell a
hint of the spices used to favor wat–a thick stew–and injera–fatbread.
Behind the laundry lines that hang in every yard is the Castel, the
strategic fortress seized by the Palmah–an elite commando force–in
1948. Posters for religious events and concerts fade on the street corners.
On some houses, there is graf ti in both Hebrew and English.
Surrounded by the sights and sounds of this neighborhood, I
meet my friend and former classmate Ganatu. Ganatu and I both
immigrated to Israel over a year ago and went to the same Ulpan.
Originally from the Gondar region of Ethiopia, Ganatu studied
mechanical engineering in Addis Ababa. After his parents passed
away, he spent over a year in a transit camp waiting to be transported
to Israel. As a Falash Mura, a nominal Christian descended from
Jews, he had to formally convert and attend courses on Judaism. He
takes Hebrew classes at night and works as a janitor at a bank during
about 1,200 ethiopian immigrants
reside here, most originally from the
region of Qwara, bordering sudan.
here & nOW presentensemaGazine.OrG issue three 2007 7
photo by David Abitbol
8 issue three 2007 presentensemaGazine.OrG COntents
the day. He tells me about his hope to fnd work as a mechanic and
marry his girlfriend, who lives in Sderot.
We watch fve teenage Ethiopian hoodlums try to topple a
street sign. Tey press against it, push and pull, hoping to pry it
from the pavement. No one seems to care. As Ganatu shows me the
neighborhood synagogue and bomb shelter, used for meetings of the
religious Zionist movement Bnei Akiva, we notice a spotless BMW.
It must belong to the upper- and middle-class neighbors that live just
across the street. Indeed, Rehov Bilu, an afuent street named for
the pioneers of the First Aliyah, is two blocks away. Now it is gated,
ostensibly to prevent the Ethiopians from entering.
Ganatu and I enter the Har-El mall and are given a perfunctory
search by yet another Ethiopian security guard. We eat at a kosher
McDonald’s; at the next table, an Arab family from Abu Gosh treats
their children to Happy Meals. Flags of the world hang from the
rafters–the United States displayed prominently among nations like
Brazil, India, China, Tailand, even Egypt, but not Ethiopia. Te food
court includes “Something Yemenite,” Big Apple Pizza, a Chinese
restaurant named Beijing, and a "South African-style" steak house,
but Mevaseret Zion has no Ethiopian restaurant. “Wouldn’t it be nice
to employ some of the older, illiterate women by doing what they do
best—cook?” Ganatu says. I agree.
It is tempting to dwell on the contrast between the “haves” and
“have-nots” of Mevaseret. Te municipal fne for failing to clean up
after one’s dog is around 80 dollars—12.5 percent of an Ethiopian’s
yearly GDP per capita. At least Mevaseret has a merkaz klitah. Most
Ethiopians have moved into gritty neighborhoods in urban centers
like Jerusalem and Rehovot or into peripheral towns in the Galil or
the Negev. Tere they struggle with poverty, along with other olim,
or new immigrants, largely from Russia, and a few veteran Mizrahim.
Many Ethiopians send their children to religious boarding schools
to avoid falling prey to violence in these neighborhoods.
Every city or town with a sizable Ethiopian community boasts
local businesses: restaurants, hairdressers, and merchants selling staples
like tef and injera. Most visible are stores that sell Ethiopian and
Pan-African ephemera: posters of Bob Marley, tzizit in the national
colors (red, yellow, and green), and paintings of village life. Amharic
and Tigrinya language CDs are common, but Idan Raichel, Shlomo
Gronich or even Ayala Inguedasht, the frst female Ethiopian-Israeli
singer, cannot be found.
Ganatu and I part ways as I head to the Mizrahi part of town,
Maoz Zion. On the way, I see a couple with their young daughter. Te
husband is obviously Ethiopian; the wife is Ashkenazi. Tis family
is the ultimate example of successful absorption. I want to interview
them but realize that they have the right to wait for a bus without
being interrogated. Instead, I smile at their daughter, wondering how
the Ethiopian community will fare in her lifetime.
David Druce is a graduate student of Librar y Science at Bar-Ilan University.
You can see more of his writing at archivist.wordpress.com.
issue three 2007 9
Sweeten your Soul
high style high holy days
in the holy land
The Honey Staff
holyland for the holidays

Te Hagim–Israel’s holiday season–means
time of if you’re secular, lots of time in shul
if you’re more traditional. But from Sin City
to synagogue, the editorial staf of Te Honey
has a host of fresh things to do in this very
Israeli season when nothing gets done and
everything else in life has to wait until ‘after
the Hagim.’
Touch down in the Holy Land at Ben-Gurion
airport and head straight for nearby Tel Aviv,
our local Sin City. Drop your bags smack in
the center of town at the Hotel Cinema, an
afordable boutique hotel that once housed
one of Tel Aviv’s frst movie theaters. Ten get
ready to explore this modern Jewish metropolis
and discover why the vibe in Tel Aviv really
does rival that of the world’s greatest cities.
• Hotel Cinema, 1 Zamenhof Street
(corner of Dizengof Square), Tel Aviv
Need some holiday fnery? Head for Tel
Aviv’s neighborhood of the moment, Gan
Hahashmal. Tis neighborhood is steaming
with creativity, boasting some great shops flled
with original designs. Gals, check out one of
our season’s favorites —the shirtwaist dress
at Delicatessen. Pair it with shoes by Shani
Bar and a new bag by Kisim. Ten head down
the road to the ever-trendy Sheinkin Street,
where hip threads options abound. Guys,
the ofers at Marsel are guaranteed to give a
cooler-than-thou look and you can stock up
with some undies from Menz, a shop solely
devoted to men’s undergarments. Tat’s right,
underduds for dudes.
• Delicatessen, 4 Barzilay Street, 03-560-2297
• Shani Bar, 3 Mikveh Yisrael Street
• Kisim, www.kisim.com, 8 Hahashmal
Street, 03-560-4890
• Marsel, 12 Sheinkin Street, 03-620-8483
• Menz, 34 Sheinkin Street, 03-620-6966

out and about
Tel Aviv’s glorious weather during the hagim
demands you to get outside and play! Hit the
beach or head over to Park Hayarkon where
you can rent bikes, paddle boats and even
Segways. Go for a run, windsurf (look for
the equipment rentals behind the Hilton),
swim, splash and enjoy being in a city built on
here & nOW presentensemaGazine.OrG
photo by Avital Aronowitz
10 issue three 2007
the dunes. And when in Tel Aviv over Yom
Kippur, make sure to rent bikes or roller
blades for the holiday. You can even cruise
down the Ayalon highway on this day of
no driving.
• Park Hayarkon, www.parkfun.co.il,
03- 642-0541
Te Hagim in Israel are all about gift-giving,
so head to SoHo in Dizengof Center for one-
stop shopping. If you’re in town on Tursday
afternoon or Friday, head down to the Center’s
basement for the designer shuk, where you’ll
fnd the latest trends by Tel Aviv’s budding
young designers. While you’re shopping,
make sure to quaf some pomegranate juice
from one of the city stands, and mix in some
fresh orange juice for an extra favorful and
nutritious treat.
• SoHo, www.sohocenter.co.il, Dizengof
Center, 03-621-2450

Tel Aviv’s hottest clubs will ring in 5768
with an array of parties to keep you hopping
all night long. Tings get going late – after
midnight—so frst digest your holiday meal
and then hit the town. Lots of options at the
Namal (Tel Aviv’s port), and in south Tel
Aviv on Lillienblum and HaMasger streets,
including Whiskey A-Go-Go and after-
hours hangout Breakfast Club. Breakfast
will be waiting for you at Brasserie, a favorite
restaurant of Tel Aviv’s beautiful people.
• Whiskey A-Go-Go, 3 Hata’arucha at the
Tel Aviv port, 03-544-0633
• Breakfast Club, 6 Rothschild Boulevard
• Brasserie, 70 Ibn Gvirol Street, just across
from Rabin Square. Open 24/7,
03-525- 0773
Inclined to do some praying? Check out Beit
Daniel, the Center for Progressive Judaism
in Tel Aviv or Beit Tefllah Israeli in Tel
Aviv, where secular Israelis pray together.
For some serious spirituality, head up north
to the Kabbalah Center in Tiberias, and in
Jerusalem, get yourself to Kahal Edat Yshurun
Yerushalayim in Ramot for an old Yekkishe
(German) style of davening, complete with
‘kretchzing’ (wailing) singers and moody old
men, or try the Italian synagogue downtown
and put a little pasta into your prayertime.
• Beit Daniel, Te Center for Progressive
Judaism in Tel Aviv-Jafa, www.beit-
daniel.co.il, 62 Bnei Dan Street (near
Park Hayarkon), 03-544-2740
• Beit Tefllah Israeli, www.btfla.org, 38
• King George Street, 077-300-3655
Kabbalah Centre, 15 Echad Ha’am
Street, Tiberias, 04-671-5503
• Te Conegliano Synagogue, www.jija.org,
27 Hillel Street, Jerusalem, 02-624-1610
While you’re busy having fun, let’s not forget
what this season is all about: love, respect
and kindness. Take a charity education lesson
from tzedakah educator and philanthropic
consultant, Arnie Draiman. Arnie has a vast
network of mitzvah heroes from his work with
the Ziv Tzedakah Fund, the brainchild of
tzedakah master Danny Siegel, and can direct
you to giving schwarma to IDF soldiers,
feeding hungry school children or painting
an apartment for a person in need. Take your
checkbook and embark on an adventure
worthy of the time of year.
• Arnie Draiman, soosim@netmedia.net.il
• Ziv Tzedakah Fund, www.ziv.org
Sukkot, our very own pilgrimage festival, is
the best time to shake it in the honey land.
To feel fruitful, head to Jerusalem’s Machane
Yehuda market, to be greeted by tables full of
citrusy etrogs, sharp palm branches, willow
and myrtle wands. Go south to Mitzpe Ramon
for a biblical night under the stars in your
own swish sukkah, courtesy of Succah in the
Desert. Or head north to the Acco Fringe
Teater Festival and experience avant garde
performances staged against the dramatic
backdrop of this ancient port city. And whether
your watering hole is a bar or a sukkah, it
wouldn’t be Sukkot without Dancing Camel’s
holiday microbrews, made with etrogim, dates,
and other favors of the season.
• Machane Yehuda market, between
Agrippas Street and Jafa Road, Jerusalem
• Succah in the Desert, www.succah.co.il,
Mizpe Ramon, 08-658-6280
• Acco Fringe Teater Festival, www.
accofestival.co.il, main@accofestival.co.il
• Dancing Camel, www.dancingcamel.
com, 12 Hataasiya Street, Tel Aviv,
Wishing you a happy, healthy, and, most of
all, sweet new year.
The Honey is an e-newsletter about what’s fresh and
new in Israel, produced by creative entrepreneur Beth
Steinberg, public relations specialist hadass tesher,
graphic designer Jen Klor and freelance writer Jessica
Steinberg. Subscribe at thehoney.co.il
presentensemaGazine.OrG here & nOW
PresenTense Magazine is designed by Talina Design.
issue three 2007 11
in the big-inning
opening day at the israel baseball league
Adam Soclof
part i: The old country
Being a spectator at organized sporting
events never found favor in the eyes of this
writer, who himself sports a limited capacity for
attentiveness. I had a hard time remembering
the rules, and was ophthalmologically incapable
of tracking the one guy holding the ball along
with the several guys who are not. Te lens
through which I interpret most sports news may
as well be labeled as “ooh, pretty colors.”
But baseball I got—or so I thought. Te
rules and on-the-feld dynamics of baseball
were relatively simple, since fy balls allowed
me just enough time to fgure out who was in
position to catch them. But at some point in
middle school, my camp bunkmates surpassed
me in their comprehension of baseball’s “fner”
points. When they weren’t yapping about
Shabbos walks, they would furiously engage in
squawking matches, carried out in a distinctly
nasal pre-pubescent tone, facilely finging
around decades worth of statistical jargon
that seemed completely foreign. Meanwhile,
I was left to lament my discovery that each
team plays over a hundred games per season; I
could barely remember the details of one.
Like the scrawny asthmatic kid at the
end of the bench, I was having a “put me in,
coach” moment, waiting for that avuncular
slap in the tuchus to usher me back onto the
feld that I naively thought of as my own.
Enter the Israel Baseball League.
part ii: The redeemer
In a blue Mazda cruising modestly from
Yerushalayim to Petah Tikvah and flled with
olim from Detroit, the discussion inevitably
turned to the Tigers’ surprisingly good
performance this year.
“I can’t root for the Tigers,” I declared
stubbornly. “Tey let me down for my entire
“Aww, Come on,” said Ari. “Where’s your
sense of redemption?”
“It’s invested in my religion, not some team
that let me down for my entire childhood.”
Despite my grouchiness, I had decided,
in fact, to diversify my redemption portfolio
a bit. Tis is why I was making the journey to
the Promised Stadium, for the inaugural game
of the Israel Baseball League. Some serious
questions kept my itinerant mind wandering
into the wee hours of the night:
In what country—and over what entrée–
were these people sitting when this “crock-pot”
idea was conceived? Having been selected by
the Modi’in miracle as the 71st and fnal pick in
the IBL draft, would Sandy Koufax be relegated
to a bench warming role? Would ‘play ball’
translate to “plaiy Bol?” or “Nu, kadima kvar!”
Would any native Hebrew speakers actually
show up to this event? Would the IBL have its act
together long enough to meet its self-determined
golden benchmark of the 2009 World Baseball
Classic? If so, would Jewish players from the
MLB actually opt to play for Israel?
But above all else, I wanted to know: would
the Israel Baseball League ofer sanctuary for
an athletically rough-around-the-diamond and
inattentive spectator like myself? (Te answer:
yes, and I wasn’t paying attention, could you
please repeat the question?)
here & nOW presentensemaGazine.OrG
photo by Adam Soclof
like the scrawny asthmatic
kid at the end of the bench,
i was having a "put me in,
coach" moment, waiting for
that avuncular slap in the
tuchus to usher me back onto
the feld that i naively thought
of as my own. enter the israel
baseball league.
12 issue three 2007
part Three: The rebuilding
I didn’t need my one marketing class in
college to help me fgure out that the IBL was
positioning itself as a family entertainment
industry. A quick look at the Israel Baseball
League website helped me set reasonable
parameters within which I could set and
evaluate my expectations. With some very
creative charitable endeavors, talk of MySpace
pages for players and mascots, and a section
dedicated to cutesy biblical references
ostensibly heralding the return of baseball
to the Holy Land set the mood.
While promotions between innings were
promised on the IBL website, they weren’t
quite what I’d expected. Some fans found it
cute to watch their children play dizzy bats
and try to run the bases, but the thought of
a few nauseous tykes puking at home plate
didn’t carry the same appeal to me as three
oversized sombrero-donning bratwurst racing
towards home. Nevermind that I didn’t hear
the announcer mention any giveaways for the
winner of dizzy bats. Might I suggest free
lice-shampoo for the lucky ticketholders in
section…oh wait, there weren’t any sections,
just deckchairs and bleacher benches.
Another unexpected surprise was the
announcer. Te old chap, whom I came to
refer to as “Zaydee,” quickly ditched the
IBL’s standardized baseball lexicon, calling
the game in English, and saving his fresh-
of-the-boat Hebrew for a top-of-the-seventh
inning plea for help returning a lost child to
its rightful owner. Tere’s no criticizing a man
who celebrates a hit by shouting “bang, bang,
bang!” into the loudspeaker. Come to think of
it, I’d love to see my own Zaydee, may he live to
120, with his one glass eye, in the sportscaster
rotation–he’s defnitely jovial enough to win
over the crowd, and he’s a cantor, to boot. And
“bang, bang, bang” doesn’t hold a candle to
Bubbe’s “Utz!”
Te real theme of the night, however,
was “a night of frsts.” Forget for a moment
the Petah Tikvah Pioneer who drove in the
league’s frst home run. I was more interested in
fnding the frst ballpark scalper in the history
of the IBL. I saw several clusters of kippot
srugot (handwoven yarmulkes) and baseball
hats scatter to all four corners of the feld to
try and earn the distinction of frst Ma’ariv
(evening prayers) minyan at opening day.
Hands down, the most pleasant “frst”
of the evening was the player-fan interaction.
Lacking a press pass and experience in sports
reporting, I doubted that I’d make it down
to the dugout to get the players’ perspective.
Luckily, the players and fans were standing on
level ground, players and personnel from all
six teams were at the game, all of them felding
impromptu questions from anyone between
the ages of 2 and 60 (the septuagenarians
didn’t seem to be represented). Some players
were from the Dominican Republic, some
were devout Catholics, some were friends of
fans growing up. All of them, though, were
congenial, approachable, and grateful for the
opportunity to play pro baseball.
All niceties aside, though, the record
book of frsts will forever bear the tainted
spot of the asterisk next to the “frst Ma’ariv
minyan” award. Immediately after the 9-
1 blowout by the Modi’in Miracle, fans
walked briskly towards the parking lot to
try to escape an inevitable line of cars and
the strange post-opening day sensation that
they wished not to relegate to in-the-park
catharsis. For many North American olim,
and there were a lot of them at that game,
there appeared to be a disconnect between
the kid-friendly ambience on one hand, and
what die-hard baseball fans were seeking on
the other, namely, a game of baseball. One
student sitting in a plastic chair directly
behind the center feld, a few feet from an
improvised sandbox for two to fve year
olds, repeatedly said, “this feels like a little
league game.”
In the future, the IBL will have to iron
out some aesthetic and logistical problems: for
one thing, the distinction between premium
seating and general seating will have to be
more convincing than four US dollars and a
choice between a plastic deck chair or a wood
bleacher bench.
But I wasn’t disappointed. I had gone to
be a part of something historic, and maybe see
a friend from camp, Raf Stern of the Modi’in
Miracle, pitch in his frst IBL game; he did, for
one inning, allowing no runs with help from
the Miracle defense. (See? I can pay attention
for half an inning.) And as a bonus, I got to
feel like a million bucks by chatting it up with
players who, if the IBL does take of, might
someday be worth that much.
And so long as we’re discussing
redemption and rebuilding, could someone
please cancel the Erev Tisha B’av game next
year? Granted, the IBL regards the Hebrew
calendar with more sanctity than most other
sports leagues in Israel. But to make Sandy
Koufax pitch on Tisha B’Av?
Adam Soclof has his own fan club on Facebook and is
the founder of hyper*Semitic.
home land home run?
baseball makes aliyah
Maya Wainhaus
t’s the seventh inning stretch at
Yankee Stadium and two rituals
are about to take place, one ancient,
one modern. Tousands of fans
take advantage of the break in the game and
Top Israeli Prospects
Israel Baseball League Vs
presentensemaGazine.OrG here & nOW
issue three 2007 13
the ibl’s formula is
a mixture of zionism,
business venture,
american patriotism,
and that familiar
sense of having
something to prove.
rush to replenish their snacks and drinks, or
wait in line for the bathroom. Meanwhile a
group gathers around the kosher hotdog stand
and begins to daven mincha, the afternoon
prayers. Troughout all this chaos, the song
“God Bless America” resounds inside the
Baseball is famously known as the
American Pastime, but as America has
changed over the decades, so too has the
game. At its best, baseball displays the diversity,
sportsmanship, and heroics that make the
game—and America—great, but it has also
served as a mirror for larger struggles. Once,
Jews and other minorities felt a greater sense of
acceptance in American society by seeing one
of their own on the baseball feld. Perhaps no
one understands this feeling better than Alva
Greenberg, daughter of Hank Greenberg, the
legendary player of the 1930s and 40s, and
the frst Jewish player to be inducted into
the Baseball Hall of Fame. Alva Greenberg,
who owns a contemporary art gallery in New
London, Connecticut, refected on her father’s
role in the history of the game during a recent
interview. “My dad was focused on the game
itself, and being the best baseball player he could
be,” said Greenberg. “But he was aware of his
Jewishness and what he meant to the Jews in
America. I think that made him a better player.
He never lost his awareness that he was being
watched, and that he was a symbol.”
Times have certainly changed since
Hank Greenberg’s career, yet the baseball
feld continues to be a place of nostalgia for
American Jews. When Shawn Green, proudly
Jewish, and an accomplished player, joined
the Mets in 2006, the New York Times ran an
article titled, “A Power Hitter. A Good Fielder.
And a Source of Jewish Pride.” Te article
might just as well have replaced the word
“pride” with “nachas.” Like famous players
before him, in the wake of his success, Green
has not forgotten his roots.
Tis summer, a new chapter was added
to the history of Jews and baseball, with
the inaugural season of the Israel Baseball
League (IBL). Te IBL’s formula is a mixture
of Zionism, business venture, American
patriotism, and that familiar sense of having
something to prove. Te idea for the league
started with Boston businessman Larry Baras,
who spent two years raising money, seeking
out facilities in Israel, and recruiting players.
Te IBL has been driven by the support of an
impressive group of prominent names in Major
League Baseball, including Art Shamsky, Ken
Holtzman, Ron Blomberg, Dan Duquette,
and Bud Selig, who serve as team managers
or in other advisory roles. Daniel C. Kurtzer,
a former United States ambassador to Israel
and Egypt, is the league’s commissioner.
Te players in the IBL range widely in
terms of age and experience, from recent
high school graduates, to college all stars,
to seasoned veterans, and hail from nine
countries. Tere are six teams in the league–
Te Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, Te Modi’in
Miracle, Te Netanya Tigers, Te Petah
Tikvah Pioneers, Te Ra’anana Express,
and Te Tel Aviv Lightning. Some of the
rules of baseball have also been modifed to
provide a faster-paced game. Games have
seven innings, with ties being decided by a
home run derby.
Although traditionalists might consider
the IBL’s incarnation of the game as “Reform”
baseball, the new league is a fresh start, without
the baggage of racism, strikes, and steroids
that have plagued its American counterpart. In
many ways it showcases baseball in its noblest
form, with a diverse group of players, and an
intimacy that does not exist in any American
ballpark. Ari Alexenberg, a player for the Petah
Tikvah Pioneers, described the scene at a typical
game. “Te fans are enthusiastic, the adults
bring signs and cheer, the kids chase balls and
love asking for autographs. After the games,
which typically end around twilight, I love to
go into the stands, sign autographs and watch
the sunset.”
Still, the process of getting Israelis excited
about the game will surely be a slow one, the
players admit. “Americans who’ve made Aliyah
come up to us all the time and say how proud
they are to see us. Tey miss baseball,” said
Nathan Mittag, who plays for the Ra’annana
Express. “It’s been tough getting the Israeli
crowd, but the TV coverage has helped spread
the word. It takes a while, but watching is
the best way to understand the intricacies
of the sport.”
Despite some eforts to appeal to Israelis,
including instructive skills clinics with
young players, it is clear that the games are
largely geared towards American fans. Te
team names are all in English, transliterated
into Hebrew on the uniforms, and the food
stands sell only hotdogs and hamburgers. It
would seem then, that the IBL is merely a
slice of American life brought to Israel for
the amusement of tourists and Americans
ex-pats. While that is not entirely untrue,
the politics behind the IBL also refect the
complicated relationship between the United
States, Israel, and the rest of the world. In
considering the worldwide spread of baseball,
the IBL is another addition to an already
extensive list of international leagues. Over
the past 20 years, the number of countries
with international baseball associations has
doubled from 54 to over 100. Tese eforts
are refected in the make-ups of today’s Major
League teams, as more money and time is
spent recruiting international players.
But the larger question remains: why is it
Americans and not Israelis who are thrusting
Israel onto the international baseball diamond?
Poor attendance at games, disorganization, and
mediocre facilities reveal that the league is not
an attempt to make money, at least not in the
short-term. Te creative impulse behind the
IBL seems to stem from a need to teach Israelis
about what many Americans believe is the best
sport on the planet, combined with a desire
to something good for Israel. By showing the
world that there is more to Israel than the war
and violence shown in the news, the IBL sends
a message that Israeli families, like families in
the US, have time to enjoy that most normal of
American activities–a baseball game.
For now, the players and fans seem
content to do just that, making the most
of the humid evenings at the ballpark. “I’m
having a great time,” said Joey Sherman of
the Tel Aviv Lightning. “I hope the league
continues. It’s an amazing sport in an amazing
Maya Wainhaus is a writer and Yankees fan living in
here & nOW presentensemaGazine.OrG
14 issue three 2007
Smarty pantS
rhodes scholars take to the road
Jewish Student Weekly and PresenTense Staff
ince 1902, Te Rhodes
Scholarships have rewarded
students for high academic
achievement, integrity of
character, a spirit of unselfshness, respect for
others, potential for leadership and physical
vigor. Bill Clinton and New Jersey Senator
Bill Bradley are among past recipients of the
scholarship, which is named in memory of
British-born South African businessman, mining
magnate, and politician Cecil Rhodes, who also
founded the De Beers diamond company and
colonized Rhodesia. (Overachiever.)
Early on, because many elite universities
rejected qualifed Jewish students, there was
little chance that a Jew would become a
Rhodes Scholar. But it’s not 1902 anymore;
some very prominent Jews have since won
Rhodes Scholarships, including Wisconsin
Senator Russell D. Feingold, Slate.com editor
Jacob Weisberg, and Harvard Law professor/
New York Times Magazine contributor Noah
In 2007, fve members of the contingent
of 32 American Rhodes Scholars are also
members of the tribe. Here’s this year’s group
of Jewish overachievers who are trying to
change the world.
Avi Feller
Yale University
Scottsdale, Arizona
At Oxford: M. Sc.
Applied Statistics
Whether he’s serving as president of the
Yale Alley Cats a cappella group, singing a
leading role in an opera, interning at the State
Department in international environmental
policy or doing research on comparative
welfare and health care policy, Avi Feller is
no stranger to multi-tasking.
“I’m studying voting, especially what
can be done to increase voter turnout, and
American politics,” said Feller in an interview
with Jewish Student Weekly. “I hope to focus
more on the use of statistics in public policy
—ensuring that the right information gets
to the right policy-makers.”
Te Yale graduate who majored in
Political Science and Applied Mathematics and
was a soloist in the Yale Collegium Musicum
explains that he loves to sing, but is a terrible
actor. “So opera was a great ft. I still don’t
think of myself as an ‘opera’ guy…[but] music
has always been a part of my connection to the
Jewish community, and has been something
I’ve continued doing until today.”
Julie Verof
Stanford University
Fresno, California
At Oxford: M.Phil.
Development Studies
“Tikkun olam (repairing the world) was
the framework I was given for understanding
the world and my role within it,” says Verof,
a Stanford University graduate who majored
in International Relations. “I remember
hearing Leonard Fein of MAZON say that
to be Jewish is to be implicated in the job of
repairing the world, and this has defnitely
shaped my understanding of Judaism and
therefore my set of values.” Verof, who worked
on behalf of women’s and refugees’ rights in
Nicaragua, Ghana, and Zambia, interned
at the State Department and was active in
Stanford Hillel. She further attributes her value
system to having had parents who emphasized
kindness, friends from many diferent racial,
religious and socioeconomic communities, and
great teachers.
Growing up as the granddaughter of
Holocaust survivors has instilled in her the
responsibility, she says, “to remember the great
injustices that were committed because of
active evil and the grave power of indiference,
but also to live a life that honors such memory
by taking action to combat and prevent future
injustice by fghting for those whose voices are
not being heard, and by working in partnership
with marginalized communities to create the
conditions in which everyone has equal access
to the same set of opportunities.”
Although her current interests are
issues surrounding women’s empowerment,
refugees, and post-confict reconstruction,
Verof says that she “resonates with anything
in the development feld, from health care to
education to environmental sustainability.”


presentensemaGazine.OrG here & nOW
issue three 2007 15
She sees a future career in international
development, “so that I can work to create a
world in which no one has to limit the number
of dreams they allow themselves.”
Kevin Shenderov
New York University
Brooklyn, NY
At Oxford: Doctorate
Kevin Shenderov was less than three years
old when he emigrated with his brother, who is
now a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, from Ukraine,
where they had been victims of the Chernobyl
nuclear disaster. Shenderov, a graduate from New
York University who majored in biochemistry,
was instrumental in establishing the Global
Health Review and organizing a world health
conference, both of which are intended to focus
attention on the inadequacies of health care
services in the developing world.
Shenderov’s memories of his native land
are few. Still, the many stories his parents
shared about anti-Jewish discrimination in
the former Soviet Union “made me realize
how important it is to appreciate and utilize
the opportunities that I have, whether it is in
exploring my heritage or in all other aspects
of my life,” he says.
Shenderov, who has also conducted
research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in cancer
immunology, aspires to become a physician-
scientist, studying the immune system and
how it interacts with pathogens and tumors,
and to develop novel therapies based on this
research. “I am attracted to immunology
[and the] possibility of developing vaccines
(which are much cheaper than drugs) against
diseases such as cancer and malaria that ravage
the developing and developed world. I think
that the development of such vaccines would
be instrumental in promoting equitable access
to healthcare throughout the world.”
Charles R. Salmen
Duke University
Glenwood Springs
At Oxford: M.Sc.
Medical Anthropology
Growing up in Western Colorado,
Charles R. Salmen was one of only a handful
of Jews in his school, and the only student
of Lebanese descent. “I remember bringing
in the first menorah my kindergarten
classmates had ever seen, and cooking
Lebanese meals for friends in high school.
I remember being ridiculed both as the ‘Jew-
boy’ and the ‘terrorist’ during my years in
school.” Still, the Duke graduate says he
feels very fortunate to have been raised with
different ethnic backgrounds. “My status as
a ‘minority’ in these regards strengthened my
connection to both cultures and intensified
my concern for Mid-East issues. I am very
proud of both aspects of my heritage, and
I would characterize my identity less as
someone in-between and more as someone
comfortable in both cultures,” the former
English major says.
Salmen, a prize-winning photographer
and captain of the Duke indoor and outdoor
track and cross-country teams, also produced
a senior thesis on Whitman and Lawrence
that earned him a prize. He notes that he
“doesn’t sleep much.” Salmen explains
that he’s become increasingly interested in
the diference between disease and illness,
“the notion that diseases have biomedical
explanations, while illnesses incorporate
much broader cultural, religious, and socio-
economic understandings of what it means
to be sick, to sufer, and to heal.”
As a Lebanese-Jewish American, Salmen
was hit hard by 2006’s Israel-Hezbollah
confict. “Civilians on both sides of the
border were paying the real price for this war
in lives, homes, and domestic infrastructure.”
He recalls that he “defnitely perceived an
increasing level of tension between Jewish
and Arab student organizations,” and felt
it was time for students to create a united
message of peace and to “move beyond the
inclination to tend to our own in times of
crisis.” Tis initiative yielded the “Peace or
Pieces” Coalition, which raised funds for
parallel reconstruction projects on both sides
of the Lebanon-Israel border and organized
on-campus events to highlight its message.
“At Duke, Arabs and Jews are willing to step
back from the passionate political issues that
overwhelm Mid-East debates, and work
together for campus friendships and Mid-
East peace,” Salmen says.
Jacob Lemieux
Stanford University
New York City
At Oxford: Doctorate
Jacob E. Lemieux notes that his Jewish
identity has been a central part of his life. His
grandparents fed Nazi Germany in 1939. He
identifes a quote from the Talmud as being a
source of inspiration: “Do not be daunted by
the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly
now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now.
You are not obligated to complete the work,
but neither are you free to abandon it.”
His interest in social justice stems from
three factors, Lemieux says: his parents,
education and religion. “My parents took me
once a week to visit an elderly woman nearby,
who was confned to her apartment. My high
school, Fieldston, had an extensive program in
community service and service learning.” Te
program included service projects, refective
writing, and project design. “Te Jewish values
of service and tikkun olam were instilled in me
during my days at religious school, and still
fundamentally shape how I view the world.
My Jewish identity and heritage form the
cornerstone of my value system.”
From publications in professional journals
to work to improve living conditions in
disadvantaged communities in San Francisco,
from a program to provide smokeless stoves
to villages in India to avoid smoke-induced
respiratory illnesses to an efort to establish and
support a girls’ school in a Tanzanian village,
Lemieux hopes to make an international
impact as a physician-scientist working on
diseases that impact people in developing
countries. “Travel has served to remind me
of the enormity and diversity of the world, and
humbled me about my place in it.”
Jewish Student Weekly is the only weekly online
magazine for Jewish students. the PresenTense
staf f put together this magazine, among other

here & nOW presentensemaGazine.OrG
16 issue three 2007
boycott, bloody boycott
british academics bash israel, again
Yair Zivan
s Jewish students in Britain
prepare to start the academic
year, they are faced with a threat
which many are struggling to
understand. For the second time in fve years,
a British academic union is calling for an
academic boycott of Israeli institutions, this
time through the newly formed University
and Colleges Union (UCU). Te boycott is
aimed at all Israeli academic institutions on
the basis of, as stated in the motion passed
at UCU Congress, “the complicity of Israeli
academia in the occupation.” Te calls were for
“members to consider the moral implications
of existing and proposed links with Israeli
academic institutions.” Te vociferous pro-
boycott lobby argues that Israel is a unique
evil in the world, and any action to oppose
it is acceptable. Collateral consequences
are, of course, irrelevant, even if that means
increased hostility and anti-Semitism at British
universities; to temper any such accusations,
the motion added in one of the most worrying
statements that: “criticism of Israel cannot be
construed as anti-Semitic.”
Many supporters of the boycott deny,
perhaps legitimately, charges of anti-Semitism.
Regardless of their motives, the efects of the
boycott especially increased de-legitimization
of Israel and an academic witch hunt will be
felt most strongly by the Jewish community.
Te consequences are anti-Semitic, even if the
intentions are not. It is Jewish students who
are most likely to feel the adverse efect of
reduced cooperation with Israel, and Jewish
Studies departments are unable to continue
ofering their courses. It is also the case that
where Israel is discussed in such a divisive
way, anti-Zionism fast spills over into anti-
Semitism, despite the claims by UCU that the
line is not easily blurred. Te decision of those
unions with a boycott policy not to address
this problem was exemplifed in July by their
refusal to meet the Organisation of Security
and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) authority
on anti-Semitism and German Member of
Parliament, Gert Wiesskirchen. Refusing to
address the problem won’t, however, make
it go away, and the UCU in particular has a
responsibility to examine the issue, especially
for the sake of those students who will likely
be hit hardest: Jewish students on British
campuses. Tose academics who support a
boycott can’t forget the duty of care which
universities are obligated to provide their
students, the responsibility to ensure their
welfare while at university.
In a campaign coordinated with the wider
community and spearheaded by the Union
of Jewish Students (UJS) of which I am a
campaign director, students are expressing
their displeasure at this latest action by some of
Britain’s academics. Working on the assumption
that the vast majority of British academics won’t
accept such a blatant and unjust impingement
on academic freedom, Jewish students have
called for a referendum of all UCU members.
National Union of Students President, Gemma
Tumelty, also opposes the boycott, saying that
it “hinders the building of bridges between
Israelis and Palestinians. Retaining dialogue
on all sides will be crucial in obtaining a lasting
peace in the Middle East.” Tey have also
received support from Universities UK (the
organization which represents the presidents
of universities). In addition, they have leading
academics, including Professor Mark Pepys,
Head of Department of Medicine; University
College Medical School, on their side. When
asked about the boycott, Pepys responded, “all
fair-minded and unprejudiced people, let alone
academics in universities, must automatically
reject outright the call for an academic boycott.
It is a contradiction in terms and in direct
confict with the mission of a university.”
In the immediate aftermath of the boycott
resolution, over 200 Jewish students followed
my lead as the Campaigns Organiser at UJS by
sending mass e-mails to Sally Hunt, the head
of the UCU, expressing our frustration. She
sympathized, but has so far failed to act. Two
students from Warwick have attracted over
7000 members to a Facebook group opposing
the boycott, and have planned diferent activities
for the coming academic year. Campaign ideas
have been pouring in from both Jewish and non-
the call for academics to “examine their moral
compass in regards to working with israeli
academia” is nothing less than a call for a silent
boycott, a daunting prospect for those who dare
to differ in their opinions on israel.
presentensemaGazine.OrG here & nOW
issue three 2007 17
Jewish students across the UK, from publicity
stunts at graduation ceremonies to action at
freshers fairs (student clubs and activities fair
for new students). Either way, it is clear that
students will continue to oppose the calls
for a boycott once the academic year begins.
Michael Harris, President of the Manchester
Jewish Society, said “for UK Jewish students
attempting to build bridges and pressing for a
just solution to the confict, academic boycott
is a shortsighted, discriminatory policy which
will serve to isolate and deepen mistrust, when
what we need are steps towards cooperation
and collaboration.”
Unfortunately, supporters of the boycott
are not interested in an academic debate. As
with much of the anti-Israel campaign in the
UK, facts and reality are replaced by polemic
and half-truths. Te boycott campaign is no
diferent. Te debates proposed were meant
to include only pro-boycott lecturers from the
Palestinian territories (ignoring those among
the Palestinians who oppose such action
including the PA and Sari Nusseibeh, President
of Al-Quds University). One suspects that
if a similar proposal had been handed in by
a student as coursework to those academics
involved, they would have dismissed it as
biased and unprofessional; but if the concept
of academic freedom is being thrown out why
not also sidestep academic rigor?
Te reality is that the call for academics
to “examine their moral compass in regards
to working with Israeli academia” is nothing
less than a call for a silent boycott, a daunting
prospect for those who dare to difer in their
opinions on Israel. If the boycott is, in the short
term, indeed silent, then it will be impossible
for Jews and Israelis to know the reasons behind
having a journal or PhD submission rejected;
was it poor quality or poor politics?
As has been the case in Britain throughout
the last few decades, Jewish students will no
doubt continue to support the causes they
believe are right and won’t be bullied into
staying silent, least of all by a minority of their
own lecturers. In the 1970s and 1980s we
heard that “Zionism equals racism” and saw
Jewish societies across the UK being banned
from campus. Te Jewish student community
only grew stronger and prouder during those
years, just as it will today, facing this new
threat from an old enemy.
Yair Zivan is the Campaigns Director for the Union of
Jewish Students of the United Kingdom and Ireland.
dear chapS, thankS
for the boycott
learning from the british
has never been easier
Leora Addison
Dear British Academe,
I am writing to commend you on your brilliant proposal to boycott Israeli universities.
I have often wondered how British Academia has received such high acclaim; your boycott
reveals that apparently the way to achieve British academic enlightenment is to completely close
oneself of from any person or opinion that does not adhere strictly to one’s own beliefs.
Alas, I have learned this invaluable lesson too late. I have just wasted two years of my
life in a Master’s degree program that pushed me to look beyond my set of understandings
and beliefs, and to actually listen to what others have to say. Silly me, I came out of this so
called “academic” program believing that this was the beauty of academia—that allowing
one to study all sides of an issue and to make up one’s own mind is what elevates the academy
above the common fray.
Tank goodness you have not wasted your time on this ridiculous notion of listening to
others. Really, what is the point of at least attempting to determine which Israeli academics
purportedly “support the occupation” and which work tirelessly to try to build reconciliation,
coexistence, and peace? Your method of discarding ALL academics at Israeli institutions
makes a far greater contribution to bringing peace to the Middle East. Who cares that the
Israeli academies you wish to boycott may be composed of some of the most dovish members
of Israeli society? Who cares that Palestinian students also study at the universities you wish to
disregard? Honestly, how dare these institutions even call themselves “academic”? Allowing
opposing viewpoints to co-exist—atrocious!
I also have to commend you on your ability to hold fast to the moral high ground amidst
all of the factors fghting against you. With the Arabic word for your forbearers in the Middle
East, “Orientalists,” imbued with derogatory connotation, you still stand tall. With the
arbitrary borders drawn by the British causing violent conficts in the region to this day, you
still stand tall. Oh yes, and with Britain’s behind-the-back promises of statehood to both
Jews and Arabs contributing greatly to the on-going Arab-Israeli confict you are still able
to cling to your feelings of superiority.
So thank you, British Academe, for showing us the way to enlightenment. Tank
you for teaching us that hypocrisy and close-mindedness are the true paths to peace in the
Middle East.
Leora Addison has a Master’s degree concentrated in Middle East Studies
from the Johns hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

here & nOW presentensemaGazine.OrG
18 issue three 2007
tueSday, the rabbi went to Jail
religious activism and the rabbinate
Yehuda Hausman
n a world dominated by Paris Hilton and Brangelina,
it might seem that little else matters. To steal the stars’
spotlight requires an act of God such as a tsunami, the
Virginia Tech massacre, or a scandal like the wrongly
accused Duke Lacrosse players. In fact, it can be quite dif cult for
us—“the less than extraordinary”—to get media attention, even
when the matter is urgent, the danger is near, and we are running
low on time.
Te Islamic Republic of Iran is one such matter. Under the
tutelage of its current president and supreme spiritual leader—
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei—Iran has
trained, harbored and funded terrorists for a clientele that includes
Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic
Jihad in Gaza and the West Bank, and perhaps even al-Qaeda.
Iran is largely responsible for instigating last summer’s internecine
war between Hezbollah and Israel, while the Islamic Republic has
continued backing al-Sadr’s Mehdi army in Iraq, a support that’s
tantamount to the ethnic cleansing of Sunnis in Shiite neighborhoods.
We should neither fail to mention the hundreds of U.S. soldiers
who died fghting Iranian-backed militants in Iraq, nor should we
forget the “Darkness at Noon” crimes that the Iranian government
perpetrated against its own people. While the ffteen British sailors
were released unscathed by their Iranian kidnappers, other nationals
wouldn’t have been so lucky.
By itself, that litany would be cause for international concern,
but there are two other grievances: Iran’s pursuit of nuclear power and
President Ahmadinejad’s promise “to wipe Israel of the map.” While
Iran says that its nuclear ambitions are for peaceful purposes only, it
strains credulity that a government which shamelessly preaches hate and
exports murder has no intention of producing an atomic warhead.
On April 17, 2007, I and about 60 others protested in front of the
UN Iranian mission, brandishing signs that said “Is Ahmadinejad
the Next Hitler?” and “Stop Iran Now.” We listened as Rabbi Avi
Weiss, the founder of Amcha: Te Coalition for Jewish Concerns,
reviewed the inhumanities perpetrated by the Iranian government.
Ten we marched to the Isaiah Wall, a monument across the street
from the UN building, where a group of rabbis and rabbinical students
like me staged a sit-in. Cloaked in black-and-white striped talesim
(prayer shawls), we sang the words of Isaiah, “lo yisa goy el goy herev, lo
yilmadu od milhamah—no nation shall raise a sword against another
nation, or know war anymore.” While we sang, the New York Police
Department issued three warnings: we could vacate the premises or we
would face incarceration. Singing, still resistant, we were individually
handcufed and ushered into a paddy-wagon.
Except for the hour inside that wagon praying that my bladder
wouldn’t burst, the experience was memorable and even enjoyable.
Although we spent the afternoon and evening locked away, waiting
somewhat impatiently to be released, we were in good spirits.
presentensemaGazine.OrG here & nOW
photos by Yonah S. Berman
presentensemaGazine.OrG COntents issue three 2007 19
Once released, I rushed home to fnd out the impact of our
incarceration. Instead, I found that the night’s headlines had been
monopolized by another story: the Virginia Tech massacre. Reporters
in Blacksburg, VA were busy interviewing witnesses and mourners
flled with sorrow, as gruesome details and personal tragedies beamed
across the networks. Similarly, the internet news outlets were inundated
with images of anguish, vignettes of grief.
As the week progressed and a few Jewish weeklies ran stories of
our arrest, I realized something else. Had there been no massacre in
Blacksburg, our little protest in front of the UN would have succeeded
in culling only slightly more news coverage. Te reason for this is that
“23 Rabbis and Rabbinic Leaders Arrested” is so prosaic it would
probably put auditors to sleep. Why? Because everyone expects
rabbis to speak out with moral outcry against injustice. So, when
two dozen rabbis decided to protest the Iranian government and the
UN’s meekness, few took notice. After all, we were only arraigned on
one count of “impeding pedestrian traf c,” which is barely a crime.
And therein lies the problem. Te narrow-minded press rarely values
the good Samaritan who picks up someone else’s trash. It’s not honor
which is prized but dishonor. Leaders of grace may make for good
bedtime stories, but leaders of disgrace make the evening news.
In order for good people to attract attention to themselves and
their causes, they must do something very bad, or at least something
drastically diferent. “Rabbi Bites Dog While Parachuting from
Stolen Helicopter in Protest of Iranian Government.” Now there’s
a headline.
Who is
Benjamin Berger. Cornell Hillel Steinhardt JCSC Fellow. Stockpiled artillery on an Israeli
army base. University of Michigan Hillel Program Director. Led college students in exploration of their
Jewish identities. Visits the elderly. Semikha student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah.
475 Riverside Drive, S. 244 | New York, NY 10115
Rabbi Avi Weiss, Founder & Dean | Rabbi Dov Linzer, Rosh HaYeshiva
Oksana Bellas, Director of Operations | Howard Jonas, Chairman of the Board
www.yctorah.org | office@yctorah.org | 212.666.0036
At Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, we train open and modern Orthodox rabbis for the Jewish
community. Our rabbinical school cultivates a love of Torah, a passion for leadership, and a
philosophy of inclusiveness. We integrate an intensive four-year Halakha and Jewish Studies
curriculum with an unparalleled professional development and pastoral counseling program.
Fellowships are awarded to all qualifying students who share in our vision and are willing to
make a serious commitment to Klal Yisrael.
YCT: Committed individuals changing the world.
Ben is YCT.
Every day at YCT is inspiring.
The vision of the faculty combined with
students’ commitment to ideals of openness
and halakhic integrity as well as willingness
to confront the challenges of Orthodoxy
in a modern world make me proud to sit
within the walls of the Beit Midrash.

But where can one fnd a parachuting rabbi? Tis problem, more
than lack of motivation or means, has hounded the Save Darfur
campaign. Tey’ve been able to organize mass demonstrations in
Central Park and raise $400,000 in less than a fortnight, but their
Achilles’ heel has been an unwillingness to forgo civility. Tey have
neither lined Fifth Avenue with cof ns, nor have they stormed the
embassies of the Sudanese government’s dealers.
Admittedly, foregoing civility can be dif cult to swallow, because
some of us are hesitant to break the law, and perhaps rightly. But,
for now, I think that creativity is more important than courage. It
struck me one Saturday that it would be terrifc to have two hundred
chickens at our next UN protest. And I mean real chickens that will
squawk, scratch, futter their wings and excrete all over the place.
Alongside them, we’ll post several signs:
1. UN: Stop Acting Like a Chicken. Stop Iran Now.
2. We nominate these chickens for future UN delegates.
3. Tese chickens are freer than Iranian dissidents. (Of course
we’ll donate the chickens to a free-range farm if we use this
Of course, there are some logistical problems, like that each chicken
will need a leash to prevent it from proverbially crossing the street. But
to advertise one’s cause, imagination is the only way to get noticed
without the scandalous and risqué. Tat’s how you efect change.
Yehuda Hausman is an activist studying to be a rabbi at Yeshivat Chovevei torah.
20 issue three 2007
go South, young Jew
zionist settlement thrives in the negev
David Wainer
hile the second half of the twentieth century was a
redemptive epoch for the Jewish people–one that
saw the creation of the State of Israel, the pioneering
of the land of the Hebrews, and the revolutionizing
of self-identity–the twenty-frst century has thus far been a glaring
question mark.
Beginning in 1948 with Israel’s declaration of independence, and
continuing in 1967 with the establishment of a stronger foothold for
Israel in the Middle East, Jews viewed the State with an aura of heroic
messianism. During this time we witnessed the aspirations of the
kibbutzim and moshavim for utopian livelihood while revolutionizing
the concepts of socialism and cooperative agriculture. It was a time of
overcoming, of developing, of pioneering, and of realizing practically
miraculous dreams: the days of the dark-skinned Hevreh-man working
the sacred soil, of “making the desert bloom,” and of watching the Israeli
soldiers kiss the Kotel during the liberation of the Old City in 1967.
Back then, the word “Zionism” rolled proudly down and of the
Jewish-American tongue.
But today, the image of Israel and Israelis held by American-Jews
is altogether diferent. Since the Six Day War, a new era has been
steadily ushered in with the subsequent capturing of territories.
What was up is now down. Te ideas of a declining kibbutz
movement, of a demonized army carrying out a “brutal occupation,”
and of a generation of politicians marred by corruption and poor
leadership have all contributed to a new image of Israel.
If the twentieth century was the era of heroes, heavenly idealism,
and self-fulflling prophecy, the twenty-frst century is the era of a stalwart
economy, robust military, and a fully developed state. If ,in the past, the
word “Zionism” so proudly rolled down a Jew’s tongue, today it simmers
hesitantly, and often sinks back down the throat with a sour taste. Te
idea of post-Zionism is not mere conjecture discussed in an academic
setting; it is a reality in Israel and abroad. Te association of Israel with
high-minded concepts such as pioneering, overcoming, and continuous
innovation seems to be disappeared from the Jewish psyche.
But a new wave of pioneers in the Negev, Israel’s southern frontier,
gives the proponents of post-Zionism a run for their money.

israelis in action and in need of help
“Go West, Young Man!” So went the phrase coined by John B.
L. Soule and made popular by Horace Greeley as the watchword for
the nineteenth century manifest destiny movement in America.
According to Roni Flamer, CEO of OR–a movement dedicated
to the development of the Negev and the Galilee regions–the
spirit of manifest destiny is much needed in Israel, though in
a different direction. “Our slogan,” he declares, “is ‘Go South,
Young Man!’”
With more than 70 percent of Israelis living within the overcrowded
triangle of Haifa-Tel Aviv-Jerusalem, and real estate prices increasingly
expensive for middle class families, the impetus to expand Israeli
settlement into the Negev Desert is commonsensical. Representing
a total of 66 percent of Israel’s land, the Negev today is home to a
mere 8 percent of Israel’s population. Tis sparsely populated and
poorly developed desert land leaves much work ahead for the Jewish
people. But a new wave of OR idealists and “settlers” have begun an
impassioned surge to master it.
Since its inception and partnership with the Jewish National
Fund (JNF) in 1999, OR has established fve new communities in the
Negev (Sansana, Givor Bar, Be’er Milka, Merchav-Am and Charuv)
and has assisted in the expansion of existing population centers. Over
the next fve years, Flamer predicts that OR will relocate 26,750
families to the Negev.
OR’s role in settling these families in the Negev, Flamer explains,
is three-pronged: “We work with housing, education, and employment
to ensure a greater quality of life for our incoming families.” Flamer
believes that through economic, educational, and cultural development,
the Negev will cease to be seen as a periphery of Israel. His long-term
presentensemaGazine.OrG here & nOW
photos from ayalim.org.il
issue three 2007 21
goal is to settle 500,000 people in the Negev. Currently, there are
13,000 families on OR’s waiting list.
Flamer holds that if the calling to expand Jewish settlements into
the Negev can be ingrained into the Israeli consciousness, large-scale
development and growth will be possible. He unshakably believes
that the future of Israel lies in the Negev. “Te dream of developing
the land of Israel is far from over,” he explains. “Tis is the Zionism
for the twenty-frst century.”

a challenge for the Jewish people
But the challenge of developing this region, thus far mostly
overlooked by the Israeli government, is vast. Categorized as an arid
to semi-arid climate, the Negev is no “land of milk and honey.” Its
conditions led Mark Twain to describe it in his book Te Innocents
Abroad as “a desolation that not even imagination can grace with the
pomp of life and action.”
More than one hundred years after Mark Twain’s foreboding words,
visionary Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion issued a challenge to the
new State of Israel: “It is in the Negev that the creativity and pioneer
vigor of Israel shall be tested.”
Today, some are beginning to heed Ben-Gurion’s words with
innovative, cutting-edge projects. One of Israel’s newer kibbutzim,
Kibbutz Lotan, was established in 1983 with the intention of creating
an environment that combines eco-friendliness with Judaism. Mainly
identifed as a liberal and Reform kibbutz, Lotan’s central focus is to
“promote ecological building, waste management, and environmental
education.” Lotan is at the forefront of Israeli eforts to create sustainable
development. Kibbutz Lotan was recently recognized by the global
community when it received the 2006 Award for Ecovillage Excellence,
the most prestigious award given to ecovillages internationally.
Located in the southern Arava region of the Negev, the pioneers
of Kibbutz Lotan have defed Twain’s curse. Tey have managed to
create a thriving Center for Creative Ecology for the study of earth
building, watsu, and wetland building. Kibbutz Lotan puts the rest
of Israel to shame with its recycling habits and permaculture.
So has the vigor of Israel taken root in the Negev just yet?
According to Udi Nathan, the founder of an ecovillage in Kibbutz
Kramim, there are ample challenges to be dealt with as the Negev
is gradually developed. For example, “Ramat Hovav is an outrage,”
he complains, referring to a waste plant by Beer Sheba that emits a
stench so putrid that the Israeli army had to move some of its bases
due to complaints of nausea and sickness among the soldiers.
In addition, he says the Bedouin issue is a moral problem that
the government should immediately undertake. Most of the Bedoins
who were moved by Israel in the 1950s still live in cluttered villages
plagued by utter destitution. Teir water supply and sewage system
are disgraceful and their electric supply is sporadic at best.
Nathan believes the development of the Negev is inevitable. “It
is the fnal frontier,” he says. “Te question,” he poses, “is whether
the government will use the desert solely for its military projects
and hazardous waste plants or if, instead, the Negev will grow in an
environmentally sound manner.” Nathan has taken upon himself to
be a advocate for the latter option.
About eighteen months ago, Nathan proposed his project of
building a “green” village within Kibbutz Kramim, located in the
northern portion of the Negev. Comprised of only fourteen families
and struggling to develop socially, Kibbutz Kramim happily accepted
Nathan’s partnership.
Today, along with sixteen new families brought in by Nathan,
Kibbutz Kramim is on its way to becoming a center for sustainable
development. Nathan jokes at the concept of “sustainable development,”
which he says is practically impossible: whenever there is development,
the environment is bound to be altered and sometimes damaged. But
it is imperative, he argues, to create an ef cient and eco-conservative
community “by building better means for water recycling, water
collecting, and solar power.”
To Nathan, who is still in the initial stages of building the village,
the Negev was the obvious place for establishing his community.
With government incentives, cheap land, and a communal sense
to build and grow together, the Negev is the place for pioneers to
realize their dreams.
While many in the new Israeli left have begun to promulgate the
dawning of the “post-Zionist” era, it is clear that the State of Israel
is far from it. With two-thirds of the country’s land left sparsely
populated and underdeveloped, the need for a new wave of Zionist
idealism and the renewal of the pioneering attitudes of yore has never
before been so dire.
But the direction of expansion is far from obvious and far from
the mainstream agenda. In the words of Roni Flamer, “Go South,
Young Man!”
David Wainer is a writer and public intellectual based out of Bat Ayin.
the shalem center, jerusalem
Founded in 1994, Te Shalem Center in Jerusalem is a research
and educational institute devoted to the study of Jewish thought
and Israeli public policy.
shalem graduate & post-doctoral
fellowships program
Te Shalem Center invites applications from students in the felds
of history, philosophy, political science, archaeology, International
and Middle East studies, economics, religion, cultural studies,
Bible, Talmud, Jewish history and philosophy, Zionist history and
related disciplines.
Students on the program will pursue advanced studies at Te
Shalem Center in Jerusalem from October 2008 to June 2009.
how to apply
More information is available online www.shalemcenter.com
Application forms may be requested by phone or e-mail.
Application deadline: January 31, 2008
Tel.: 972 (2) 560-5516
Fax: 972 (2) 560-5907
E-mail: fellowships@shalem.org.il
Shalem Graduate &
Post-Doctoral Fellowships
here & nOW presentensemaGazine.OrG
22 issue three 2007
his September, Temple Beit Israel
is celebrating its frst anniversary.
Temple Beit Israel has members
who reside in Australia, the
Netherlands, Israel, and Brazil, and several
other countries. Membership is free, everyone is
welcome, and to be part of the community, all
you need is a computer with Internet access.
Confused? Temple Beit Israel isn’t exactly
a traditional synagogue, at least not in the
brick-and-mortar sense. It’s a synagogue that
exists only in the virtual world of Second
Life, where users–or, as they’re called online,
“residents”–interact with each other in the form
of virtual alter egos: online representations of
themselves known as “avatars.” (Jewish avatars
are , naturally, are called “Javatars”).
According to Misha Kobrin, a computer
programmer from Russia who lives in Cologne,
Germany, the success of Second Life has to do
with its unique concept. “It is a step ahead of
traditional chats. Because of the anonymous
character of chats, people are more open and
it is easier to communicate with strangers. But
in Second Life, you are not anonymous; you
create a diferent identity. It does not matter
how you look or where you come from. You
reinvent yourself.”
Te popularity of Second Life tipped on
October 18, 2006 when the virtual population
grew to one million. By the end of the year,
the number of residents had doubled. Today,
Second Life has about the same size (in virtual
square meters) as New York City, with close
to ten million registered users spread around
the virtual grid, either on the mainland or on
any of the various themed “islands” of Second
Life. For nearly a year, Kobrin (known online
as Mumu Speedwell) has been a regular at
Temple Beit Israel.
Temple Beit Israel, Second Life’s frst
Jewish site, was created by Beth Brown,
whose avatar (Beth Odets) became a virtual
Jewish Matriarch. “I just wanted to create
something meaningful,” explains the artist
from Texas. “I never would have dreamed
that the synagogue could become more than
a place, but it’s developed into a responsibility
that I welcome.”
With around 400 members and thousands
of visitors every week, Temple Beit Israel is
virtual JudaiSm
finding a second life in online community
Julian Voloj
presentensemaGazine.OrG here & nOW
issue three 2007 23
"but in second life, you are not
anonymous; you create a different
identity. it does not matter how you
look or where you come from. you
reinvent yourself."
today the center of Jewish life in the virtual
world. While outsiders may see Second Life
as just a game, for many Second Lifers it is
as real as any social interaction. According
to Second Life blogger Drown Pharaoh, the
success of religious virtual institutions like
Temple Beit Israel has “something to do with
the increasing self-confdence of avatars. When
you’re in Second Life for a while, your avatar
becomes more and more your real self, and
you start looking for a place that really means
something to you.”
As Temple Beit Israel became increasingly
popular, the doors were opened for other
Jewish creations. Today Second Life boasts
several synagogues, a Jewish Museum, a
Holocaust Memorial, Jewish art galleries, a
virtual replica of the Kotel and two islands
dedicated to the Jewish people: Ir Shalom, the
frst Jewish island of Second Life, and SL Israel,
which shows the Holy Land in what is perhaps
a dream or utopian state–without politics.
Tere is even a monthly publication dealing
exclusively with Jewish arts and culture in
Second Life: 2Life Magazine, the name a play
on both the world in which it exists and the
Hebrew expression l’chaim (“to life”).
While grassroots initiatives like Second
Life’s Jewish community are booming, major
corporations are struggling to fgure out how
to use Second Life for business purposes. After
Business Week ran a cover story on Second
Life in May 2006, major corporations saw
potential for lucrative endeavors in the
virtual world. Reuters even hired a Second
Life correspondent, reporting exclusively on
economic developments in the alternative
corporate world. Coca Cola, Toyota and
IBM were among those who opened virtual
corporate headquarters and/or specially
branded islands only to fnd them deserted.
Corporations haven’t grasped that Second Life
is not primarily about futuristic marketing
techniques with fascinating graphics, but
rather building communities; this is why
Temple Beit Israel draws hundreds of visitors
on any given day.
As California-based Tamara Cogan
(virtually known as “TamaraEden
Zinnemann”) points out, “Te beautiful thing
about Second Life’s Jewish community is that
I’ve met people of literally every stream of
Judaism. We have Reform and Conservative.
We have Modern Orthodox and traditionalists.
We even have, which surprised me most,
people from ultra-Chasidic communities who
come and explore and interact with people
with whom, in their real lives, they would
never have the chance to interact with. Perhaps
a place like Second Life will be the start of
many communities, from both ends of the
spectrum, to reach out and step outside their
worlds, embracing and learning about the most
beautiful part of Judaism: our diversity.”
Virtual Judaism does not replace real life
activities and community, but it adds a new
layer to Jewish identity. Second Life Judaism
forms the base for a unique intercultural
dialogue within various streams of Judaism,
among various Diasporas and Israel, and
between Jews and non-Jews. It is an experiment
with an uncertain outcome, but with obvious
potential for new and creative ways to explore
culture, heritage, and identity.
Julian Voloj is a writer and photographer based in
New York City who explores in his work aspects of
identity and heritage. In Second Life he is known
as Kafka Schnabel, editor of 2Life Magazine
here & nOW presentensemaGazine.OrG
24 issue three 2007
the hebrew Slanguage
unpacking the junk from israel’s trunk
Jacob Shwirtz and Esther D. Kustanowitz
eyond the history, warm weather
and beautiful people that Israel
has to ofer, visitors to Israel
often experience something
deeper and more spiritual permeating Israeli
life—a healthy sense of humor. Israelis have
developed this wonderful quality in order to
cope with the many dif culties they have to
face. For those of us who were not born in
Israel, but have chosen to make our lives in
Israel, we get the bonus of experiencing an
additional layer of humor in Israel—laughing
at Israelis, their culture, and their attempts to
Americanize everything in sight.
As is well known, Israelis have a penchant
for shortening words and creating acronyms.
Tis is our inspiration at Zabaj, the blog started
by a bunch of anglo Olim from America. Zabaj
is an acronym for “Zevel Ba’bagaj,” which is a
loose translation of the slang expression “junk
in the trunk.” Our intention is never to insult
or criticize, just to observe and highlight those
lighter-hearted moments of our lives in Israel.
For example, did you know Israelis love t-shirts
with seemingly random collections of English
words strung together as slogans? Some of
our favorites are “X-ray your emotions” and
“Obsessed With Cloth’s.”
One can’t blame Israelis for having to
invent phrases and words for more modern
inventions since Hebrew is such an old
language. In the age of answering machines,
if you called someone who wasn’t home, you
could leave a message on their “mazkirah
electronit” (electronic secretary); today, you
will have instead reached their “ta hakoli”
(voice box). And did you know that while
sirens on the top of police cars are called
“chakalakas,” the single-light siren is a “Kojak”
(named after the 70s TV show)?
More modern mishaps with English come
from the frequent ad campaigns that Israeli
companies run solely in English. Crocker
Jeans’ ad campaign is a true hit, with giant
billboards all over Tel Aviv. Each ad features
a somewhat attractive Israeli girl, in really
tight jeans, bending over (but not sitting!)
along the tagline: “Don’t sit! Have a nice ass.”
At Zabaj, we like to imagine the smoked out,
Fraggle Rock, red-dyed, henna hair, Israeli
marketing genius that came up with this
ridiculous slogan. “Ze cacha omrim—hev a
nize day—omrim hav a nice azzz” (undeserved
applause by all in the boardroom).
Movie titles are a category all their own.
In 1991, Oliver Stone’s flm “JFK”—initials
apparently untranslatable to Hebrew—became
“Tik Patuah” (Open Case). But silly American
comedies are particularly susceptible to head-
scratching Hebrew titles: “Hot Shots, Part
Deux” became “Dances with Chickens.” As
a modest bow before the power of American
humor, one of the “Naked Gun” movies
became “Te Gun Tat Died of Laughter”;
and, perhaps the translators either did not
check with each other or proclaimed a comedy
tie, but “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo” was
promoted in Israel as “Te Gigolo Dies from
Laughter.” (It’s worth noting that the titular
gigolo actually lived and went on to make
“Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo”– Israeli
title unfortunately not available, but probably
similarly hilarious.) Most ironically, “Lost
in Translation,” a movie about missing
translations is itself mistranslated to Hebrew
as “Lost in Tokyo.”
As much as Americans have come to
call certain products by their brand names
(Kleenex, Xerox, etc.), Israelis take the concept
to a whole new level: all cereal is cornfakes
and all potato chips are Doritos. From the
Department of Redundancy Department
came “rotev salsa”… this, in a Hebrew-
Spanish combo, means “sauce sauce.” Te
Hebrew expression for “third time’s a charm”
is “pa’am shlishi glida,” which translates to
“third time is ice cream”; this term comes
from the time of the British Mandate when
the English would say, “If I see you a third
time, I’ll scream.” Israelis heard “ice cream”
and the phrase stuck.
Knowing that the list of examples can go
on forever strengthens our commitment to
our chosen life in Israel. Perhaps we hope that
by pointing out some of these idiosyncrasies
the society can improve and be more proud
of its heritage. Perhaps we are trying to help
newcomers adjust to life here (where, unless
you pronounce Rothschild as “Rut-cheeld” or
Lincoln as “Linkolin,” you won’t get anywhere
in a cab). Or, perhaps, we are just developing
a native sense of humor.
Have a nice ass.
Jacob Shwirtz is part of the founding team of Zabaj,
spends his days as an Internet strategist and nights
as the coordinator of the Israel chapter of the
taglit-birthright israel alumni association. Esther
D. Kustanowitz is senior editor of PresenTense
Magazine, and occasionally contributes to Zabaj.
presentensemaGazine.OrG here & nOW
presentensemaGazine.OrG COntents issue three 2007 25 here & nOW presentensemaGazine.OrG
26 issue three 2007




ommenting on his own work, the
acclaimed 19th-20th century
French sculptor Auguste Rodin
is reputed to have asserted, “I
invent nothing. I rediscover.” Irrespective of
the truth of his assertion, Rodin’s words point
to the idea that there is value to be found in the
annals of history—an idea given voice to in
the Deuteronomic injunction to ‘Remember
the days of old, [and] consider the years of
many generations.’ I was reminded again of this
idea over the past summer at the PresenTense
Institute for Creative Zionism (PICZ).
Headquartered in the center of Jerusalem,
PICZ hosted 18 young activists and innovators
from Israel and the Diaspora working on a
diverse range of projects. Te projects refected
the diversity of their creators, ranging from a
Bible rap album that serves as a platform for
Jewish education to a website linking Jewish
communities with experts in various felds. Te
Institute also provided a series of interesting
lectures, from venture capitalist Jacob Ner-
David’s analysis of Israel’s ‘start-up culture’ to
activist Asaf Baner’s discussion of B’Maaglei
Tzedek, an organization he directs which
promotes a “social seal” kashrut certifcate
granted to restaurants that adhere to basic
workplace ethics. Tese occasions provided
those with other commitments, like myself,
a valuable opportunity to participate in the
Institute’s activities.
the zioniSt frontier
zionism redefined in jerusalem
Benjamin Fisher
Underpinning the Institute is its
philosophical vision of Israel as a laboratory
for the renewal of the Jewish People. PICZ’s
grassroots application of its ideology signifes
a radical development in the Jewish world,
rooted in a rediscovery of an often forgotten
aspect of Zionist ideology.
Defning Zionism as a political movement
that ‘aims to secure and support a legally
recognized national home for the Jews in
their historical homeland, and to initiate
and stimulate a revival of Jewish national
life, culture and language, Zionist ideology
typically focuses on two issues: the justifcation
for the existence of a Jewish state in Israel, and
visions of how that state will function. Pre-state
Zionism was additionally troubled by how to
bring such a state to fruition. To give a few
examples, discussion of the frst issue often
centers on anti-Semitism, Jewish historical
connections to the land of Israel, and the
United Nations General Assembly Resolution
181 calling for the two-state partition of
Palestine. Te second issue addresses a wide
array of visions for the Jewish state ranging
from Socialist Zionism’s synthesis of Jewish
national redemption with socialism, Ahad
Ha’am’s call for the establishment of a national
spiritual center to shape Jewish life in Israel and
the Diaspora, and Religious Zionism’s focus on
establishing a state in light of Jewish Law.
Many Jewish organizations focus
principally on the former aspect of Zionist
ideology. Some, like the Jewish People Policy
Planning Institute, which aims to “assure a
thriving future for the Jewish people and
Judaism with Israel as their core state,” are
concerned with the second aspect of Zionist
ideology. Uniquely, PICZ concerns itself solely
with its vision of the function of a Jewish
state and works at the grassroots level to
bring this idea to fruition. Te initial projects
developed by PICZ provide an encouraging
sign that the Institute will achieve its aim of
generating a creative Jewish community to
explore contemporary ways of af liation and
Jewish citizenship with Israel at its center.
Commenting on the working environment,
Avi Bass, the director of an upcoming pilot
trip to Israel for Boston students interested in
Aliyah, explained that the Institute provided
“a constant source of constructive criticism
and encouragement for my project.” Similarly,
Eli Winkelman, who directs the LA-based
Challah for Hunger project, commented
that being there felt “like an integral part of
something much, much bigger than you and
your own project” which encouraged her to
“trust a little more in the future.”
Tese points were lost on a representative
of the Jewish Agency who spoke at the
closing event hosted by the World Zionist
Organization. Te burden of his speech
related to justifcations for the existence of
a Jewish state in Israel and was punctuated
with references to Israel as a refuge from anti-
Semitism. Te speech was not without merit
— indeed, in a world in which Israel’s enemies
in the Middle East and its vicious detractors in
the West often explicitly or implicitly deny its
right to exist, it is essential to articulate such
justifcations. However, concern with those
existential justifcations should not be to the
exclusion of the functions of that State. Te
father of modern Zionism, Teodor Herzl,
motivated by anti-Semitism following the
Dreyfus Afair, called for the creation of a
Jewish state, but also described his utopian
vision of such a State in his novel Altneuland
(“Old-New Land”). Each aspect has its
appropriate context.
For all those who, like me, have an “ayin
l’Tzion tzofyah” or one eye turned toward
Zion, the recent birth of PICZ is a welcome
addition to the Jewish world.
Benjamin Fisher was a member of the PresenTense
Institute for Creative Zionism (pICZ).
headquartered in the
center of Jerusalem,
piCz hosted 18
young activists and
innovators from israel
and the diaspora
working on a diverse
range of projects.
presentensemaGazine.OrG here & nOW
presentensemaGazine.OrG COntents issue three 2007 27
Josh Poritz
club360 is an
integrated solution
for student groups
seeking to manage
their clubs without
ever leaving
Avi Bass
Impact Aliyah
Impact Aliyah enables Aliyah-
minded students to become
agents of positive change in
Israeli society, the global Jewish
community, and the world, using
Israel as a platform.
Gabi Appel
Zionist Youth Leadership
Te World Zionist Youth Parliament seeks
to encourage leadership and communal
involvement among young Jews in their 20s.
Te Youth Parliament also aims to create a
young-adult network of Jews all around the
world that will deal with topics like Anti-
Semitism, assimilation, Israel advocacy and
issues that young Jewish adults deal with in
Israel and in the Diaspora.
Matt Bar
Te Bible Rap
Te Bible Rap Project
provides a new medium with
which to educate young Jews
about Judaism, the Jewish
People and Jewish texts,
fusing a cutting edge source-
based curriculum with hip-
hop, this generation’s most
powerful mode of cultural
Eli Winkelman
Challah for Hunger
Challah for Hunger volunteers
gather to bake challah, which
they sell to raise money
for relief and awareness of
humanitarian disasters. CfH
serves for many as a gateway
into activism and Judaism.
28 issue three 2007
Te Hebrew University Of ce of Academic Afairs
is proud to announce the inaugural winners for the
CRISPEE Contest: Rothberg International School
Photo Exhibit Extravaganza, an annual photo contest
and year-long exhibit for students who studied abroad
during the previous academic year.
Te focus of the contest was “What most typifes
your experience at the Hebrew University and/or in
Israel to you?” Te competition was judged by the
Rothberg International School’s Of ce of Academic
Afairs and PresenTense Magazine.
Tis exhibit is sponsored by RIS’s Of ce of Academic
Afairs, PresenTense Magazine, Isram Travel, and

To see the full exhibit, please visit
winnerS of the hebrew
univerSity photo conteSt
Jerusalem Sunset, 2007
Sam Blumberg; Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
presentensemaGazine.OrG here & nOW
issue three 2007 29
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, 2007
Rachel Belloma; Pittsburgh, PA
Israeli Flags at the Yom Yerushalayim Parade, 2007
Josh Nason; Dallas, TX
here & nOW presentensemaGazine.OrG
30 issue three 2007
t age twenty, I had never seen
a prostitute. Less than four
minutes after moving to Beer-
Sheva for my junior semester
abroad, I had seen two. Tey were working
at the local train station, southern Israel’s
commuting nexus; I crossed the street to
avoid them, not wanting to get in the way of
their business.
As I settled into a comfortable dorm
lifestyle just half a block away, I began to
ignore these mysterious women for sale. I
studied women’s health issues in my classes;
still, it became easy to forget those local
women who desperately needed health care
and services. Even from afar, I could tell that
they were undernourished: their eyes bleary
from drugs–their legs, in tall boots and short
skirts–pacing listlessly.
But after founder and director of the Center
for Women’s Health Studies and Promotion at
Ben-Gurion University, Julie Cwikel, delivered
a guest lecture about sex traf cking in Israel,
I was shaken. Beyond the local problem I
had glimpsed, traf cking is an extremely
proftable illegal industry that coerces people
over international borders, takes their rights and
money, and then forces them into slavery.
According to the United Nations Protocol
to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Traf cking in
Persons, “traf cking” means “the recruitment,
transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt
of persons, by means of the threat or use of
force or other forms of coercion, of abduction,
of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or
of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or
receiving of payments or benefts to achieve the
consent of a person having control over another
person, for the purpose of exploitation.” Tis
defnition’s wordiness cloaks the squalid reality
of the traf cking industry: these women
are often forced, abused, mistreated, and
sometimes even killed.
Tis grave human rights violation is neither
foreign to Israel, nor to other Westernized
countries with strong human rights legislation.
Although the prostitutes I saw by the train
station weren’t necessarily traf cked, it’s not
unlikely. ATZUM, a non-proft organization
based in Israel that hosts the Task Force against
Human Traf cking, suggests that nearly 80%
of Israeli sex workers are traf cked slaves.
According to a 2005 Knesset committee report,
between 3,000 and 5,000 people are enslaved
and traf cked in Israel.
In 2000, an Amnesty International
report caused Israeli legislature to pay
SlaveS in the holy land
the problem of sex slaver y in israel
Chloe Safier
nearly eighty percent of israeli sex workers are traffcked slaves.
presentensemaGazine.OrG features
photo by Laura Esner
issue three 2007 31
attention to victimized foreign women’s
legal issues. Previously, there was broad
legislation ensuring women’s rights, but after
2000, the addition of Amendment 56 to the
penal code overtly forbade the traf cking of
human persons. In recent years, there have
been further legislative and rehabilitative
improvements, but the traf cking continues
and related legislation is still pending. As
Cwikel reports, legislation has been submitted
to the Israeli Knesset that, if passed, would
“criminalize the buying of sex services from
a woman who has been traf cked.”
Te next summer, I returned to Israel with
a grant to study the myth of gender equality
in Tzahal, Israel’s military. I spent months in
Jerusalem reading archival material, visiting
recruitment centers, and interviewing women
who had served since the early ‘70s. Te results
were not surprising: historically, army women
were treated diferently than army men, despite
the myth in the collective consciousness to
the contrary. More surprisingly, while recent
legislation supposedly created broader women’s
rights and opportunities, my research showed
that society had not lived up to the law.
In communal self-perception, women’s
rights are prioritized and protected under
law. In actuality, from political to courtroom
afairs, the “old boys’ club” (connections made
in all-male army units) runs the show. When
a man is accused of violating a woman’s state-
guaranteed rights, his connections often let
him get away with little more than a wrist
slap. Tis is most evident in cases of sexual
harassment during the 1990s (my research
focus) but the tendency is for the law to
exert itself over a meme, a tendency further
corroborated by negligent legal execution.
Te public attention drawn to former
President and Knesset member Moshe Katzav,
accused of sexually harassing and assaulting
women who worked in his of ce, may indicate
a cultural shift. Perhaps the cultural acceptance
of sexual harassment is beginning to fade. Still,
despite media attention, the charges against
Katzav were downgraded; on June 28, Katzav
agreed to plead guilty to charges of sexual
harassment and indecent acts, which came
with a lighter sentence that ofended many
women’s rights groups. Katzav got of without
much damage to anything other than his ego,
demonstrating that a true “paradigm shift”
is yet to occur.
Even with preventative legislation, the
extent to which women are protected from
sexual enslavement is objectionable. Rabbi
Levi Lauer, the founding Executive Director
of ATZUM (www.atzum.org), reports, “Te
police do not close down brothels without
a court order and a court order is seldom
requested. Criminals often plea to a lesser
crime, avoiding the mandatory sentences. In
2005, only 32 traf cking cases were concluded;
13 of them ended in a plea bargain.”
Since then, Lauer charges, new legislation
has made the warrant or court order unnecessary,
although police inactivity continues. Rony
Yedidia, the Consul of Israel to New England,
relays far diferent information from the
Ministries of Foreign Afairs and Justice: “Te
police are far from passive, the recent State
Department TIP report praises the state for its
extensive enforcement,” and reports that this
March, “Te Israeli government fled charges
against a police of cer involved in traf cking.”
So the extent to which police are complicit in
criminal activity remains unclear.
Israel is at a crossroads. Te legislation
for a society that protects its citizens’ basic
human rights is in place, though it remains to
be seen how that legislation will be enforced
– both in the case of sexual harassment against
women soldiers, and the rights of traf cked
women. While prostitution is legal, pimping
and running a brothel aren’t. Moreover, as
refected in Lauer’s and Yedidia’s conficting
reports, it’s dif cult to ascertain the extent to
which police enforce the law (or are involved
in breaking it). Yet brothels are disconcertedly
abundant in Tel Aviv and prostitutes are so
common in Beer Sheva that I walked by
them daily. Local newspapers abound with
illegal ofers of cheap sex, and the number of
traf cked women, while dif cult to calculate,
is still in the thousands. If this behavior is
illegal, and the police are supposed to stop it,
then why is there still so much visual evidence
to the contrary?
It would be almost redundant to point out
the historical relationship between Judaism
and slavery. Tearing ourselves out of the
slaveholders’ grasp is a common theme in
our history, yet we are turning a blind eye
when this is happening in a country that
promotes itself as a safe haven for those feeing
oppression and slavery.
Many activists in this feld have been
criticized for “airing out Israel’s dirty laundry”
when Israel is already facing such scathing
global critique. But as a progressive and Israel-
adoring American Jew, I believe that it’s more
important to draw attention to the issue and
to help these women than to worry about
Israel’s public image. In the end, Israel will
look better for having taken the initiative to fx
the problem. Te Jewish community should
not allow Israel to neglect its women, but,
rather, should fght to ensure that its country’s
moral fber stays intact.
Chloe Safier works with GesherCity Boston
(www.GesherCity.org) to create social justice
oppor tunities for Jewish young adults in the Boston
area. A recent GesherCity Boston event featured
professor Cwikel speaking about traffcking. Learn
more about human traffcking through www.AtZUM.
org, an extensive resource for anti-traffcking work
in Israel and for ideas about activism oppor tunities.
Learn, then Act
• Visit the task Force on human
traffcking website at www.tfht.org
• Learn more about human traffcking
in Israel at www.AtZUM.org and the hotline
for Migrant Workers (hotline.org.il)
• Contact your local state
representative about current United States
legislation on traffcking, domestically and
abroad (visit senate.state.ny.us to fnd your
local legislators)
• host an information session with a
local activist or professor who can educate
your community on the subject of human
traffcking (contact AtZUM.org or tFht.org)
• “Smuggling? traffcking? What’s the
Difference?” US State Department (online
at: http://usinfo.state.gov/gi/global_
• the parliamentary Committee of
Inquiry on the traffcking in Women, 2005
report (from AtZUM.org)
• Women as Commodities: traffcking
in Women in Israel,” Levenkron, Nomi and
Dahan, Yossi, hotline for Migrant Workers,
Isha L’Isha (haifa Feminist Center), Adva
Center, 2003.
• ”human traffcking in Israel;
AtZUM’s call to conscience—and to arms,”
Levi D. Lauer and Yedida Wolfe (from
• Also check out “ten things You
Can Do to End Slavery,” from PresenTense
Issue 2, available online at
features presentensemaGazine.OrG
32 issue three 2007
funny, you don’t look JewiSh
conver ts on the true colors and jewish community
Aliza Hausman
hy does everyone stare at me in
shul? My hair is furrier, fuzzier
and a foot taller than everyone
else’s. Even among ‘my people’
in the Dominican Republic, I am considered
rather pale; but in a crowd of Ashkenazi Jews,
people tend to see my measly tan as exotic. My
skin color, my hair texture and my facial features
all betray my desire to blend in. I only wish
I could tell all the gawkers outright that, just
two years ago, I was a non-practicing Catholic
running around in cleavage-enhancing tank
tops and short shorts.
Why do people decide to convert to
Judaism? It’s a question that converts—
especially those of us who don’t aesthetically
blend in—are asked incessantly over the course
of our journey into Judaism. Many people
make assumptions: “Oh, she’s just doing it
to marry a Jew.” And for the non-Caucasian
convert, the journey is complicated by race
and ethnicity. I am Hispanic, a frst-generation
Dominican-American. I am black, white and
Other. But being Jewish is what I identify with
most of all, even though people can’t see it.
At 12 years old, when I told my Catholic
mother that I wanted to be Jewish, she slapped
me silly. Tat was when I found out my family
was staunchly anti-Semitic, despite the Star
of David I stole from my mother’s nightstand.
(She also wore a cross, and I’m still not totally
sure what it was doing there.)
As the daughter of immigrants, I had
only just realized that there were other
options outside the mix of Catholicism and
Santeria—Spanish voodoo—practiced in my
home. Even living in Washington Heights,
around the corner from Yeshiva University,
I assumed everyone was also Catholic and
had little altars at home where their mothers
made oferings to saints.
It took a visit from a Holocaust survivor,
a trip to Yeshiva University’s museum, and
one excursion to the local library’s religion
section, and I was sold. After all, as a child
presentensemaGazine.OrG features
Yitz Jordan. photo by Avital Aronowitz
issue three 2007 33
in Sunday school, everyone had drawn Jesus
when we were told to draw G-d, and I had
only squiggled my yellow crayon around and
said “G-d is light.” Te nun was perturbed.
But I cringed whenever I heard “in Jesus’s
name we pray,” or when I saw all the idols
in church.
It wasn’t until after college, many non-
observant Jewish boyfriends later, that I
rediscovered Judaism. My best friend, a sworn
atheist, had met a rabbi and gone Orthodox.
Instead of freaking out, as many of his friends
did, I asked him for books and websites, and
when I told my family about it, my sisters
said, “Well, great…didn’t you always want
to be Jewish?”
At the beginning of a religious conversion
process, there can be a startling and unexpected
chain reaction—a change or loss of friends,
a new vocabulary, a new wardrobe and a less
than supportive family reaction.
“So, who are you converting for?”
Um, G-d.
“No, really? Don’t you believe in
Um, no.
“You’re going to hell.”
Um, thanks?
“I’m sure someone will marry you even
though your hair is… nappy.”
And then there are those crowds of Jews,
who—like some friends and family—simply
don’t understand who they’ve encountered
in meeting me.
Although the American mainstream
has largely accepted Jews as white, an
increasing population of non-Caucasian
converts is adding brown, black and
yellow to the American Jewish milieu.
My Muslim African-American student,
Reggie, breakdanced with rabbis at my
wedding and discusses Talmud with my
husband, a rabbinical student. My aunt,
always full of questions about Judaism,
loves to tell those around her about her
Orthodox Jewish niece. She wonders after
speaking with a non-observant Jew, “Why
call yourself Jewish if you’re not doing
anything Jewish?”
Do Jews who negatively react to my
skin color forget that they were once slaves
in Egypt and strangers in another land?
Sticking out like a sore thumb in
your own community—the only dark or
diferent face in the crowd—is the struggling
convert’s reality. Tese new Jews are causing
ripple efects, perhaps raising the bar as
they change how non-Jews look at Judaism
and Jewry. Te encounters of converts testify
to their tenacity and dedication to staying
the course, despite absurd and frustrating
As more converts from dissimilar
backgrounds join the fold, perhaps people
will stop gawking at us in shul. If nothing
else, it isn’t very polite to stare.
David Bernstein, 40, has a Jewish father
and an African-American Christian mother. He
was raised as a Jew. It wasn’t until his teens that
Bernstein discovered he wasn’t considered Jewish
according to Orthodox standards. Immersing
himself in his Conservative synagogue has been
pretty easy; although, like many non-observant
Jews who join Conservative synagogues,
Bernstein struggles with his lack of Hebrew and
the unfamiliar prayers. He noted that his rabbi’s
own experience moving from non-observance
to becoming a rabbi himself helped him along
his own path through conversion.
Bernstein attributes his ‘half-Jewish’
status as part of the reason the community
welcomed him with open arms. “In general,
Conservative rabbis are very welcoming of
half-Jews who decide to convert,” Bernstein
said. “Tey treat it as a homecoming.”
And yet Bernstein’s conversion is one of
those stuck in the gray. Bernstein converted
through the Conservative community, and
today, the validity of even some Orthodox
conversions are suspect.
“Te impetus to fnally push me to convert
was wedding planning,” said Bernstein. “She
wanted to get married in the Long Island
Conservative synagogue where she grew up,
and I needed to get of cial in a hurry.”
As the son of a Jew, Bernstein feels
connected to the community, but still is
challenged by his own motivation and
struggles with prayers and services. “Mostly,”
he said, “it’s hard for me to get of my butt
and learn Hebrew better.”
One ex-wife later, Bernstein still lives a
Jewish life, and his observant relatives still
admire his decision to convert. “Although for
those of them who are Orthodox,” Bernstein
said, “a Conservative conversion is fairly
Too many assume that conversions are
done for the sake of marriage. In fact, there
are a growing number of converts who are
drawn to Judaism in their early teens. We all
sufer from infatuation in our teens, but for
these converts, Judaism has etched its way
into adulthood, as well.

Rivka, a 27-year-old African-American
convert, was “probably 15 or so” when she
became interested in Reform Judaism. “I
was looking for something more progressive
than the Pentecostal church I was brought up
in. When I was 16, I inquired into a Reform
conversion. Te rabbi said I was too young.”
In college, she joined Hillel and
“identifed solely with the Jewish faith as
my own.” After graduation, she moved to
Florida and converted under Reform auspices.
But, she found she didn’t ft in at the Reform
synagogues. “Tey were geared either towards
empty-nesters or to parents of young children.”
She tried dating Jewish men, but found it
“pretty disappointing to see that many of
these proud Jewish men had not been inside
a synagogue since they were 13.”
Already one of the most active and
observant Jews in the synagogue, Rivka took
features presentensemaGazine.OrG
too many assume
that conversions are
done for the sake of
marriage. in fact, there
are a growing number
of converts who are
drawn to Judaism
in their early teens.
We all suffer from
infatuation in our
teens, but for these
converts, Judaism has
etched its way into
adulthood, as well.
34 issue three 2007
her Jewish education into her own hands, and
found Aish HaTorah.
“I had no inkling they were Orthodox,”
Rivka said. “Despite my negative feelings
towards Orthodox Judaism in general, I stayed
around for the education. Pretty soon, I found
myself totally losing interest in the Reform
movement. After my frst Orthodox service
(yes, behind the mechitzah [the partition
between men and women in the synagogue]),
I knew I had found where I belonged.”
Is this a happy ending? Conversion is
much more complicated than most people
think, and Rivka’s story doesn’t end in a
glorious homecoming. While most of the
rabbis she has dealt with have been very polite,
Rivka explained, “I’ve had to prove myself over
and over in order to be taken seriously.” She
attributes this struggle largely to her race.
“I’ve gotten to the point where I have my
friends,” she said. “People have seen me in shul
enough to fgure out that I am not a visitor or
a lurker.” In fact, friends told her she needed
a halakhic conversion, and, in spite of a few
“downright rude” rabbis, she took every class
on Judaism she could fnd.
Forming connections with people has
proven dif cult for Rivka, as has keeping
kosher. “A lot of my favorite foods did not
have a hekhsher (rabbinical supervision)! Like
Combos,” she said. “I’m [also] irked by the
insincere converts that make conversion out
to be a sham,” she said.
But what Rivka seems most worried by is
the idea that she might not get married. “I don’t
trust the shiddukh (religious matchmaking)
system. My hope is that the Jewish people will
live up to their potential for greatness and be
able to see the neshamah (soul, or spirit) over
the outside appearance.”
Gloria, a 30-year-old Hispanic convert
living in Riverdale, NY, knew at an early age
that she wanted to be Jewish. At ten, Gloria’s
mother told her she wouldn’t impose any
religion on her. “When you are ready, you can
choose for yourself,” said her mother. “With
your mind, heart and eyes open.”
Te frst time Glori a attended Shabbat
services, her Orthodox husband sat on the
other side of the mechitzah. “I sat with a
friend, who held my hand through it all.
She whispered short
explanations to parts
of the prayer and
helped me to fnd my
place in the siddur,”
said Gloria. “I didn’t
know the order of the
prayers and I hardly
knew which way to
turn the pages, but I
felt comfortable.”
A month-long
conversational Hebrew
class and a trip to Israel
greatly helped Gloria in
her path to becoming
a Dominican Jewess.
“During the same trip
to Israel,” she said, “I
looked up and saw a
Dominican fag…my
two worlds living
in harmony right
there in the streets of
Gloria searched
for Orthodox rabbis
to help her conversion
along. “But most
dropped contact after an initial meeting,”
she said. She makes excuses for them.
Gloria found a Conservative rabbi, and
for the next nine months, she studied. All
through that time, her rabbi made sure she
knew the Orthodox point of view. When she
fnally made her kitchen kosher, she felt she
was somehow cleansed, too. “I was purifying
my soul,” she said.
She left Conservative conversion classes
and contacted Rabbi Avi Weiss at his modern
Orthodox synagogue, the Hebrew Institute
of Riverdale (HIR). Sara Hurwitz, HIR’s
Madricha Ruchanit, or religious mentor,
returned Gloria’s call.
Less than a year later, Gloria immersed in
the ritual bath, a fnal rite of passage for any
convert. On conversion day, she was surrounded
by family, friends, her Beit Din (the rabbinical
court presiding over her conversion), and Sara
Hurwitz, whom she calls her spiritual sister.
“Te mikvah gave birth to me, and I was
new again,” Gloria said. “I understood that
I could call myself a Jew, but I have so much
learning left to do.”
Yitz Jordan, 28, is an American convert
with a café con leche complexion whose parents
are Ethiopian and Puerto Rican. Jordan has
made his face well-known in Jewish circles as
Y-Love, and is a writer and hip-hop artist who
won the award for Best Hip-Hop at the 2006
Jewish Music Awards. Heralded as “the scene’s
next crossover success” by the Jerusalem Post,
Y-Love represents the new face of Judaism,
but still hasn’t been spared the struggles of
a convert.
“Being black does make the ‘convert’ title
a bit more salient and readily evident within
the Ashkenazi community,” Jordan explained.
“I dealt with racism on a daily basis during
the conversion process—but this changed
180-degrees after I spent a year in yeshiva at
Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem.”
Can't wait
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Join the
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“i’ve had to prove
myself over and over
in order to be taken
presentensemaGazine.OrG features
issue three 2007 35 features presentensemaGazine.OrG
“Now,” continues Jordan, “I had ‘yeshiva friends,’ now I had ‘a
year in Israel.’ At that point, many of the same people who wouldn’t
speak to me previously were relentlessly inviting me for Shabbos
Jordan fnds the Hassidic community more accepting of his
conversion. “Te Hassidic community is such that if you want to
come to the community, keep the halakhah, live the cultural mores
and norms, and keep the traditions and speak Yiddish, you will
be accepted more or less readily,” said Jordan. And then he adds,
“Accepted as what is the question.”
Jordan said he has wanted to be Jewish his entire life. Jordan
began learning Hebrew from the siddur as a young teen, on his own.
By the time he was 14, he was wearing a kippah and tzitzit, going to
Shabbat services, and praying every night after high school.
He says his instinctive draw to Judaism puts people of. “People
expect to hear about this huge theological soul-searching process,”
Jordan said. “For me, I always knew there was a group of people called
‘Jews’ and I wanted to be one of them.”
Are the Jewish people who he expected they would be?
“I lost my mother a few years ago to coke addiction and lost a
number of friends to drugs and car accidents,” Jordan recounted. “One
of the rabbis said in response, ‘You see, this is one of the problems
with the black ghetto.’ I never looked at him in the same way again.”
Jordan hadn’t mentioned to this particular rabbi that the friends he
lost to drugs had been white, not black as his rabbi had assumed.
Still, another rabbi, this one from Ohr Somayach, surprised
him. “After I told him of how the N-word was said in my presence at
yeshiva, he said ‘that young man is a baby, an idiot, he’s the reason
the Moshiach is not here!’”
“Because there is so little interaction between many ultra-
Orthodox communities and their non-white neighbors,” Jordan said,
“there is no learned sensitivity that those of us who live in multicultural
environments take for granted.”
When Jordan tells me that he hopes to contribute to Jewish unity,
I wonder if he realizes that his very presence in the community seems
to be doing just that. He is open about his fears, about not reaching
personal and professional goals.
“My rav says that, today, we see people paying less attention
to the Torah being said than [we do] to the person who’s saying it,”
said Jordan. “I fear that people will not want to listen to me. I fear
becoming overly reactive and withdrawing myself from Torah because
of other people’s racism. And my biggest fear is that my words will
fall on deaf ears for a century or two, until a bochur (young man) with
a better last name and yichus (community status) repeats my words
and is heralded as a visionary and a pioneer.”
To shield himself against such fears, Jordan holds onto his
grandmother’s memory. Tough his mother didn’t support his decision
to convert, Jordan’s grandmother told him that his decision to convert
was the best he had ever made.
“A black child born since 1980 has as much chance of being in jail
by age 20 as he does being in college,” Jordan said. “Here I was, saying
that I wanted to dedicate my life to Torah and to a strict life within
the bounds of halakhah—who would be opposed to that?”
Aliza Hausman is a freelancer writer in New York City who suffers from an
addiction to literature, flms, magazines...and the nice Jewish boy she married.
Batya, lawyer (Dominican)
Batya’s boyfriend led her to Judaism, but she reverted
back to Catholicism after an initial break-up. Trying to study
Catholicism left her spiritually empty and it wasn’t too long
before Judaism called to her again.
Today, Batya is working diligently toward her conversion,
even as she puts in 60-hour weeks at her law frm. She attends
conversion classes and wrestles with how to “come out” as a
convert to her family. She’s afraid that her conversion will
always be tainted by the fact that it was an ex-boyfriend that
started her on her path to Judaism. Batya is currently forming
an Israel trip that caters to converts.
Bill, lawyer (Venezuelan-American)
Bill, a Hispanic in the process of converting, grew up in
Roslyn and Baldwin, NY. He was always one of just a few people
of color in his community, and believes that this formative
experience as “the Other” helps him to adapt and connect to
his new community. “Because of a lack of common experiences,
which often date from childhood, converts are often hindered
in bonding with their adopted communities,” he said.
While preparing to convert, Bill is investigating the
possibility that he has Syrian-Jewish lineage on his mother’s
side. He said the most detrimental element in his journey has
been his occasional lapses, where he’s confused the religion
itself with those who attempt to pervert it or unintentionally
misrepresent it.
Wendy, mother (Dominican-American)
Wendy just gave birth to a ‘half-Jewish,’ half-Dominican
baby. Wendy and her Jewish husband have been studying
Judaism together, in an efort to mutually move toward Wendy’s
Orthodox conversion. She hopes her daughter will soon join
them on their journey. “My husband and I have decided that
this is a process, and one that should be taken slowly,” said
One of the most helpful parts of her conversion process
has been her rabbi. “He treated me as a friend from the very
frst time I met him,” Wendy said. “Tat is what I appreciate
most about him.”
I had never been too religious
growing up, but the notion that I
might not celebrate my own Jewish
heritage, the way Danna and Randy
would be doing, was now becoming
a potential—and sobering—reality.
It wasn’t just a longing for reassuring
customs, like the signing of the ketubah
standing underneath the chuppah, or
having shared cultural references, that
throttled my insides. Underneath it
all was the fear that, if I married Mr.
Just Right, a Christian man, I might
never have the option to act on my
latent desire to explore my Judaism
on a deeper level.
A couple days after my spiritual
crisis, Mr. Just Right broached the
subject of children. “What if we were
to raise our children Lutheran? You’re
not very religious, so would it really
matter to you?” he asked. Inexplicably,
the idea terrifed me. Yes, it would
matter. If I raised my children in
a diferent faith from my own, the
last vestiges of my connection with
Judaism—already precarious—might
vanish completely.
I am staunchly opposed to raising
my future children as Christians; I am
likewise uncomfortable rearing them
as Jews with a gentile father. I turn
over the options and questions in my
mind compulsively, each time growing
more and more unsteady. Secularism
seems the least desirable route, since it
would eliminate any kind of religious
or traditional identity. But by observing
both religions, numerous dif culties
might arise: mutual animosity;
confused and resentful children; and
religious superfciality. Maybe we’ll
settle for that, I think. We could gather
for dinner for a few Jewish holidays
or the past two years,
my boyfriend, “Mr.
Just Right,” has been an
incredible presence in my
life, breaking through my walls, brick
by brick, layer by layer. He has loved me
unconditionally, waiting patiently by
my side while I’ve navigated the rocky
terrain of self-growth. I have no doubt
that I am deeply in love with him.
But not all good things come
wrapped in nice, little packages with
pretty, pastel bows. Recently, one
diference has forced me to re-examine
our relationship: He is Lutheran, and
I am Jewish.
I’m not alone in my dilemma.
According to a 2001 American Religious
Identifcation Survey, one-fourth of
Jewish adults in America were members
of interfaith families—a statistic that
would make my late grandmother roll
over in her grave. My Nana felt strongly
that Jews should marry Jews and live
an observant life together, and that
this shared Judaism was integral to a
successful relationship. I had always been
adamant that religion should not be a
decisive factor in matters of the heart, but
Nana was always hopeful that I would
come to understand this someday.
But what happens when a
previously inactive and irrelevant
kernel of doubt lodges itself in your
identity and prompts you to confront
long-buried questions?
In preparation for my brother
Randy’s wedding, his fancée, Danna,
requested that I familiarize myself
with the various traditions of a Jewish
wedding. I happily delved into reading
material on the subject. Te more I
read the more melancholy I became.
I felt confused and torn.
36 issue tWO 2007
Star-croSSed loverS
scenes from an inter faith relationship
Neely Steinberg
(the way my family did) and celebrate
Christianity with some Christmas
stockings and Easter egg hunts.
But even if I somehow convinced
myself that I could walk this precarious
tightrope, there is another, more serious
question to consider: Given my current
identity struggle, what if I grow to
resent Mr. Just Right? I visualize myself
waking up one day 30 years from now,
lying next to him, still consumed by the
same confusing feelings, only grayer
and more wrinkled. Will I be sorry
then that I chose now not to explore
Judaism on a deeper level, with a Jewish
man? And will I subconsciously blame
my husband for that decision? Should
this budding desire to become a more
devout Jew continue to blossom, I
suppose I could always “be Jewish” on
my own, even if I do marry a Christian
man. Still, I wonder if the desire I feel
today would somehow be diminished,
destroyed even, by a future union and
life with a gentile. Perhaps I long for a
Jewish man to help me rouse my own
latent Jewishness? Perhaps I yearn for
a Jewish partner to take this journey
with me, and to encourage and inspire
me along the way?
I wish the pages of my fnal
chapter were already written. But I
guess a good book isn’t worth reading
unless its characters go through a
defning struggle. Will love transcend
the diferences between Mr. Just Right
and me, or will the power of identity
overtake our bond? Only time and
continued soul-seeking will tell.
Neely Steinberg is a freelance writer
based in Boston. She can be reached at
comments@ordinar ygal.com.
presentensemaGazine.OrG features
issue three 2007 37
a poem
Genevieve Dreizen
small patch of leather
placed upon his rusted head.
green eyes and pale skin,
fool shamrocks and ale.
he is peasant stock,
magyar. in boxers and
kitchen he moves deliberately:
cup and saucer, english breakfast.
milk. places his hands
upon the counter, appraising
his Long Island lawn, as if it
were his, and shifting
exhales ‘gotenyu bentshn.’
Genevieve Dreizen is a religious
studies major at New York University.
features presentensemaGazine.OrG
photos by Mauricio Quintero
38 issue three 2007
calling all convertS
blogging the burdens and blessings of conversion
Leah Jones
n my day job, I work in the social
media department of a large PR
frm. Every day I explain the power
of the blogosphere to people who
aren’t participating in the online community.
Major life changes like becoming a parent,
getting married, moving to a new country
or having a spiritual awakening are reasons
that people become bloggers. Te wonderful
thing about online communities is being
able to select the people you want in your
neighborhood and then sharing your lives
through bits and bytes.
When I speak to a room of Jews, I often
introduce myself by two names: my English
name, Leah Marie Jones, and my Hebrew
name, Leah Meira bat Sarah v’Avraham.
Te “bat Sarah v’Avraham” signifes that I
am a convert to Judaism, a Jew-by-choice.
When I began studying Judaism in the
summer of 2004, my resources were books,
rabbis and classes. Very few online resources
existed; I knew of only of one blogger who
was “out” as a convert. One conversion site,
Convert.com, still hasn’t changed since I
found the site in 2004.
Because I was already blogging daily
about very personal topics, my blog became
both a natural outlet for documenting my
road to becoming a Jew and a reference
for others on similar paths. Every day my
referral logs show hits for “why do I want to
be Jewish?”, “mikvah blessings,” “what will
the beit din [Jewish court] ask?” and “Jewish
convert blog.” It used to be dif cult for Jews-
by-choice to connect with other converts,
but thanks to the power of Google and other
search engines, blogs like mine—which is now
called Accidentally Jewish—have become an
online resource and helped us fnd each other,
both on- and ofine.
expanding Jewish community
Converts have been coming to Judaism
since Ruth told Naomi, “Wherever you go, I will
go, your God will be my God.” Traditionally,
once a convert joined the Jewish people, her
past—and thereby, her path—was not supposed
to be spoken of. Terefore, the challenges and
joys of becoming a Jew were also not addressed.
Today, the blogosphere allows converts to fnd
help on the path to Judaism, the path after
mikvah, and to build a more diverse Jewish
community. In other words, it helps us fnd
others who also came home.
Te frst blog I found about conversion
was Sushi Kiddush, written by Akira Micah
Ohiso. “My blogging helped after I converted
when I was struggling to live as a Jew and
fguring out what it meant to live as a Jew,”
said 37-year-old Ohiso, now a new father who
has very little time to blog.
“I got a lot of support from the Jewish
blogosphere with halakhic dilemmas, new
feelings about being Jewish, and getting
comfortable with my Jewish mother-in-law
buying me underpants on sale,” said Ohiso,
who converted in 2003. “[Becoming Jewish]
isn’t like ficking a switch, it’s a process, and
blogging helped.”
“Conversion started out very lonely for me,”
said Micah, the 36-year-old writer of Ger Toshav,
who is from a growing cohort of converts who
do not have Jewish spouses. He began reading
converts’ blogs early on. “I didn’t talk to people
about it very much. But I often felt like my beliefs
were disconnected from everyone around me,
including other family and friends–even the
mainstream world. Blogging (and the Jewish
blogosphere) was a door to a “connectedness”
that I was lacking in my ofine life—that there
are others out there like me. It was extremely
comforting to know that there was a community
of folks out there who had—and were still
having—similar experiences to my own.”
We began blogging as individuals. But
collectively, our blogs have created a living
archive of what it means to become a Jew and,
more importantly, how it felt to go through the
study and cultural adjustments involved. While
rabbis and cantors are well trained to assist in
helping a convert, very few know what it feels
like, or the isolation that sometimes accompanies
that process.
For instance, Avi, the blogger behind
Tikkun Ger, combs the Internet for video
and podcasts that he shares with his readers.
His in-depth essays have explored halachic
conversion, Reform conversion, and since his
engagement, he has written about creating a
Jewish family life.
“It’s been part of my Judaism because it’s
given me a much wider Jewish community
to participate in,” said anonymous blogger
Orieyenta. “It ofers a chance to be exposed to
other elements of Judaism and to discuss Jewish
issues with a much broader audience.”
Camilla, a 21-year-old college student who is
studying for conversion in an isolated community
and who blogs at Madame Blue Eyes said, “I learn
a lot more about Judaism [because of] the Jewish
blogosphere. I’ll read something and think “Wow,
I never knew/heard that before” and go of to
learn more about that particular topic.”
Without blogging, I would be involved only
with my local Reform congregation and the
Young Leadership Division of the Federation.
But because of blogging, I also have Orthodox,
secular, Israeli, and Canadian Jewish friends who
are Jewishly diferent than I am; without our
blogs we wouldn’t have a relationship at all.
As a reader who converted 12 years before
I did and recently found my blog explained,
“You didn’t convert to anything, or join
anything. You just came home.”
Leah Jones is a writer in Chicago, blogs at AccidentallyJewish.
com, and by day is a Conversation Analyst in the
me2revolution at Edelman public relations.

Choice Blogs By Jews-By-Choice
presentensemaGazine.OrG features
issue three 2007 39
more orgieS, more babieS
a modest proposal
Ben Brofman
he most popular Jewish pastime,
arguably, is our obsession with
numbers and the size of the Jewish
population, which, according to
most recent studies, is in danger. Te questions
reverberate across Jewish boardrooms and dinner
tables: How many Jews are there? Why aren’t
there more of us? If two Jews fall in the forest,
how many opinions will they have, and can we
arrange for them to fall on each other in a way
that might help one impregnate the other?
While the Orthodox community continues
to grow apace, and its women have an annoyingly
high total fertility rate, the non-Orthodox Jewish
community seems to dwindle away with every
new generation. Short of massive proselytizing
and conversion eforts, what can we do to reverse
Jewish population decline and avoid the fate of
becoming a nation of stagnation?
Luckily, help is on the way: the popular
birthright israel program has had success in
bringing young, horny, undersexed, North
American Jews of prime childbearing age to
Israel for the frst time. But, while hook-ups
are common on the free 10-day trip, its true
potential remains untapped: not enough
is being done to encourage unprotected
sexual encounters. For shame! With a small
investment in intentionally defective condoms
and some authoritative sounding, scripturally
grounded bad advice, there could soon be a
bumper crop of “birthright babies.”
Te solution to the Jewish population
crisis should be immediately obvious to
anyone with a seventh grade education:
to save the Jewish people, we need more
babies. To maximize baby production, we
need an orgy. It’s utterly simple, with but a
few insignifcant and nearly insurmountable
dif culties. Te annual IJO: the week-long
International Jewish Orgy (perhaps between
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but I’m open
to Passover, too) will provide Jewish men and
women with endless sexual partners in a non-
competitive, pro-procreative environment.
Te fully-catered event will feature an open
mustard and cold-cut bar to get the men
excited and provide ample liquor as social
lubricant. Sponsored and underwritten by
Goldman Extramarital Sachs, the event will
be a draw for paying male customers who
step up to this important national service, to
impregnate as many Jewish women as possible.
And for women, the formula is simple: arrive
on time, have a drink or twelve, and leave
pregnant with the Jewish future.
While this plan is undoubtedly controversial,
it is not without precedent. For a period in Jewish
history, sex with multiple partners, free love, and
communal possession of children was common
within kibbutz communities—an outgrowth of
egalitarian attitudes. Tese children belonged to
and were raised by the community. Such creative
reproductive actions taken by Jews living in
the nascent Israeli state deserve contemporary
emulation. As for providing community care
for Jewish children and mothers, Te Hebrew
Mutual Beneft Society, Jewish Unmarried
Mothers Services, and the Hebrew Orphan
Asylum are all models we can build on for the
disbursement of funds and assistance. Along
with donations from wealthy Jewish benefactors,
an endowment can be set up to provide for the
unwed mothers and their bastard children.
Reason cannot guide us; only fear can.
Te unmitigated fear of what might happen
in a distant, unpredictable future must compel
us to take radical actions that might otherwise
be considered unwise, were we to pause and
refect rationally. And we must not wait. We
must act immediately, before someone realizes
how ridiculous this proposal actually is. As
taught by the apocryphal thirteenth century
Rabbi Menachem “the Weird” of Chelm, “Te
only way to fght the reasonable is with the
unreasonable or, if that doesn’t work, poison
their borscht.” It should be noted that Rabbi
Menachem’s congregation consisted solely of
nine chickens and a very large radish—barely
a minyan by most shtetl standards—hence
the name Rabbi Menachem “the Weird.” To
this day there remains much debate whether
he was actually a rabbi. But, I digress.
Back to my point: the Jewish future.
Orgies are the only way to ensure population
growth. Some may consider this proposal
absurd, ofensive, or even unrealistic; but
I would ask these critics to consider the
millions of Jews who died in the Holocaust
and, hopefully, in that moment of distraction,
they will decide to criticize something else.
As the Bard famously said: “Let’s get
it on.”
Ben Brofman is a foole from New York.
features presentensemaGazine.OrG
photo by Esther D. Kustanowitz
40 issue three 2007
fetal attraction
why or thodox jews will prevent jewish extinction
Eric Ackland
t every dais in the diaspora, at fundraisers, and at singles
events, Jews are urged to marry other Jews to save the
Jewish people. Tis seems rational and imperative,
for it takes little to see that Judaism in America has
a sustainability problem. Te Jewish intermarriage rate in America
is either 47% or 54%, according to the National Jewish Population
Study of 2000-2001. (Te two fgures defne Jews diferently.) Despite
decades of pro-intramarriage programming, this is a dramatic rise
from a 13% intermarriage rate for those married prior to 1970. Most
Jews, apparently, see little reason to marry Jewish.
But intermarriage isn’t the only reason Judaism’s future seems
imperiled. Jews who marry Jews tend to marry later than other Americans,
and average 1.8 children per family (a level less than replacement). Of
these 1.8 children, signifcantly more than half will marry out. Te
Shakers doomed themselves to a futile future through celibacy, and
modern Jews seem to be moving towards a similar fate.
Generally, Jewish organizations don’t advocate that in-marrried
Jews have at least three children. Even if no one intermarried, with
this birthrate, the Jews would still dwindle, just more slowly. Most
campaigns for singles hype fnding one’s soul mate as the lure, and
once they’ve made a match, only follow-up in the form of fundraising,
rather than in urging couples to raise more than two children. Viewing
marriage solely as personal fulfllment, and without understanding
the larger value of Jewish survival, why not have fewer children and
more luxury?
Orthodox Jews, on the other hand, marry young, rarely outside
the faith, and average an estimated six children per family. Tere are
no hard statistics, but according to the National Jewish Population
Study of 2000-01, 39% of Orthodox Jews are under 18 years old,
and 51% are under 44, whereas for all Jews, only 20% are under
18, and 44% are under 44. Percentage-wise, almost twice as many
Orthodox Jews are currently under 18 than are non-Orthodox Jews.
If the Orthodox were excluded from the “all Jews” birthrate, it would
be signifcantly lower than 1.8, and the intermarriage rate would
also be higher. Even committed non-Orthodox Jews, who don’t
intermarry, and who are committed to the Jewish people, rarely
have more than two children; their commitment is expressed more
in terms of tzedakah (charity), temple membership, and politics.
Tese are also important commitments, but without the Orthodox
creed, even those doing the deed are unlikely to breed (which is the
presentensemaGazine.OrG features
photo by Rina Castelnuovo
issue three 2007 41
It’s more than Tay-Sachs
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higher carrier rate in the Ashkenazi Jewish population:
• Bloom Syndrome
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call 215-456-8722,
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© 2007 AEHN
It’s more than Tay-Sachs
Other segments of Judaism fail to
create the kind of commitment that
keeps a majority of adherents from
marrying outside of the faith and
having enough children to replace
thing we most need). Orthodox Jews don’t need expensive campaigns
encouraging in-marriage and procreation; they do it automatically,
despite dif culties, because the Torah tells them that having children
is a blessing and an obligation. Still, most Jewish organizations seem
willfully blind to Orthodoxy’s success.
Could this level of commitment to in-marriage and procreation be
recreated outside of Orthodoxy? Would non-Orthodox organizations
succeed with a campaign encouraging non-Orthodox singles to marry
Jewish, marry young, and have large families? Given their track record
halting intermarriage, this seems unlikely.
Why should single American Jews limit themselves to dating and
marrying less than 2% of the population? Tere are millions more
attractive, kind, smart, and genuinely good Gentiles than there are
Jews, and given our Western values of tolerance and equality, and
the hardship of loneliness, there is no rational reason not to love and
marry a good person of any background, short of the Torah being
true. Why should non-Orthodox Jews not only in-marry, but marry
young, and have large families, given the sacrifces involved? For
security? For posterity? Because of the charm of Jewish tradition
and culture? Because if they don’t they’ll break the chain, handing
Hitler a posthumous victory? Because they like bagels and lox? Just
None of these reasons will persuade any serious person to make
these perceived sacrifces, because they don’t answer the real question:
why it matters. What is the ultimate value in the Jewish people surviving
as Jews? Do Jews exist for a purpose, and are we fulflling it? Without
a mission beyond security or preservation, any culture, society, or
religion becomes self-indulgent: focused not on eternal ideals and a
grander mission, but upon transient matters of pleasure, aesthetics,
comfort, consumption, and matters of conscience that aren’t too
Further, given that a focus on in-marriage may seem “racist” (or
at best parochial), why should a sensitive modern human being limit,
stigmatize, or jeopardize oneself this way? Te lack of a good secular
answer is why I see these trends as inexorable, and why Orthodoxy
succeeds where all secular and liberal Jewish movements have thus
far failed, encouraging Jewish growth and procreation.
Orthodoxy holds that there’s a central and imperative purpose for
continued Jewish existence: it’s our mission to heal the world, and we
can only succeed if we adhere to the Torah. While other segments of
Judaism claim adherence to Torah as well, they fail to create the kind
of commitment that keeps a majority of adherents from marrying
outside of the faith and having enough children to replace themselves.
Efectiveness is usually one good measure of the truth of a proposition.
Because Orthodoxy has proven itself as the most successful predictor
of Jewish survival over multiple generations, Jews ought to closely
examine its claims in the context of the relative failure (not for lack
of sincerity) of other Jewish segments in perpetuating and protecting
the Jewishness of the Jewish people.
Survival isn’t enough: humans need a transcendent reason for
that survival. I believe Torah is that reason. If you don’t or won’t,
yet still believe Jews and Judaism should survive, at least focus your
campaigns on children and adolescents, rather than young adults,
teaching them to see Jewish in-marriage and having larger families
as an imperative. Play not to the idea of self-fulfllment through soul-
mates; instead appeal to idealism about, love of, and sacrifce for the
Jewish people for the beneft of the world, and–if you can handle
it—for the love of God. Fund Jewish day schools more thoroughly,
and advocate for aliyah more loudly. Create campaigns targeted at
the folly of parents who allow their children to date Gentiles in high
school and college and then become upset when they marry Gentiles.
Most crucially, regardless of your own beliefs, fund programs that
promote Torah to non-Orthodox Jews. In-marriage and larger families
are often the by-product of increased Torah commitment. And let
us merit to reunite the Jewish people as one nation under God, and
thus heal the world.
Eric Ackland is a freelance writer and a yeshiva student. he’d love to walk the walk and
have a large family, he’s just gotta get hitched frst. that’s the trick.
features presentensemaGazine.OrG
42 issue three 2007
the biblical caSe for
why you can marr y anyone you want
Ariel Beery
he Jewish community is fghting to prevent Hitler’s posthumous victory. Across
the denominational spectrum the threat is the same: intermarriage, scourge of
Jewish continuity, boogey man of every caring Jewish mother and father. To
defend good Jewish boys and girls everywhere from the threat of marrying out,
communal resources have been poured into projects which seek to engage youth in hip new
ways so that they will choose to remain within the fold. Above all else the goal of continuity-
seeking Jewish communal professionals and those who fund them is the same: prevent any
non-Jewish partner that might be crouching at the door.
It is not enough to dismiss the fear of discontinuity driving this panic by claiming, as did
Simon Rawidowicz half a century ago, that the Jews are “an ever dying people;” the Jewish
community really does have a crisis on its hands. Te Jewish People is losing quality members
to a general society that has so lovingly embraced it. But the culprit isn’t intermarriage qua
intermarriage, and aiming communal energies at this particular symptom will not cure the
true illness that has beset the Jewish People: indiference.
Intermarriage is not the source of the illness because intermarriage itself has been with
us as long as has Judaism. Let it be said: Moses did not marry a daughter of Israel. Neither
did a good number of the greatest heroes of our tradition. Joseph married an Egyptian
princess. King David, none other than the prophesized forbearer of the Messiah, married
Batsheva, whose former husband was a Hittite–one of the original and circumscribed non-
Israel tribes in the land of Canaan. Solomon, the ‘wisest’ of the Jews, followed the tradition
of his ancestor Moses and married an African, the Queen of Sheba. And let us not think that
mating with those outside the tribe was reserved for the biblical men of our tradition—the
Jews would have been decimated had Queen Esther not slept with the uncircumcised. Since
we Jews have a long tradition of learning from the actions of our wisest of ancestors—what is
now known as their Da’at Torah—one can’t ignore the lesson taught by this overwhelming
minyan of heroes.
True, the decree to stay away from the daughters of the other nations came early. Before
we entered the Land of Promise, Moses relayed the Law that Israelites may not make marriages
with the daughters of the tribes of Canaan because they may lead the Israelites to worship
other gods. But that call came from the same Moses who had married the daughter of a
foreign priest with divine sanction, Tzippora. When Moses’ brother and sister complained
about his choice in a life partner, God punished Miriam with leprosy. In other words, it
wasn’t intermarriage God seemed worried about: it was whether one would use intermarriage
as an excuse to leave the community and follow other gods, or whether one would remain
loyal and cleave to the covenant.
Our heroes, then, might strongly disagree with the contemporary sages who have made
stopping intermarriage their primary focus. Sociologist Steven M. Cohen of the Reform movement’s
Hebrew Union College writes that “we cannot ignore a critical master-theme for Jewish policy
formation: Intermarriage does indeed constitute the greatest single threat to Jewish continuity
today.” Relying upon the highly-contested data generated by the National Jewish Population
Survey of 2000-01, Cohen states that those Jews who have intra-married are many times more
likely to raise their children Jewish than their peers who marry someone from outside of the fold.
Tis situation, he continues, has created two Jewries: one that benefts the Jewish People while
the other detracts by disassociating from communal institutions and depleting our numbers.
Intermarriage, in this line of thought, is the existential threat—and those who would marry out
are actively, if indirectly, inviting the destruction of the Jewish People.
paradigm Shift
presentensemaGazine.OrG paradiGm shift
photo by Cate Copenhaver
issue three 2007 43
But the real inconvenient truth is that
intermarriage is not the cause of the downturn
in communal af liation. In the science of
statistics one learns that sometimes, when two
things move in union, there is actually third,
hidden variable that is pulling the strings on
both. Tis is known as a hidden variable bias,
an afiction of many who try and profer causal
explanations for real-world events. In the case
of intermarriage and lack of af liation, such
a not-so-hidden variable is one that few are
willing to talk about, and some even dismiss
out of hand as unimportant. Tat variable is
the indiference felt by marginal members of
the Jewish community to the Jewish People
primarily, and the Jewish tradition, as a
byproduct. To put it bluntly, most people don’t
know why they should give a damn.
Te reason most Jews don’t know why they
should give a damn is a subject worthy of an essay
in and of itself, but suf ce it to say that historical
circumstances have thrust the Jewish People to
a place we’ve not been for thousands of years. A
state of sovereignty has arisen beside the warm
embrace of open societies that want no more
than to be our one true love. And surrounded
by would-be suitors, many Jews view their
Jewish identity as something which detracts
from their otherwise post-modern experience:
placing limits on the foods they eat, cultural
traditions they follow, and the people with
whom they are allowed to fall in love. Faced
with a lack of deep philosophical justifcations for
remaining Jewish, but somehow socialized into
maintaining an af liation to the Jewish People
in name only, those with a foot and a half frmly
planted in the New World look at their roots
with the indiference that only a spoiled child
could bring to bear upon a rich heritage.
Indiference is the major diference
between those empowering intermarriages
of the past, the empowering intermarriages
of the present day, and those intermarriages
that siphon of our fellows and lead them to
leave the Jewish People behind. Each of the
married-out heroes of the Bible cared deeply
for their Jewish brethren. Tey understood
their membership in the People of Israel as a
cause worthy of life and death. And it is based
upon this supreme lack of indiference for the
Jewish People that the Biblical narrative makes
its case for intermarriage: every marriage out
can potentially tie more bodies and souls to the
destiny of our Tribe. A person who lives the life
of a Jew and sees oneself as inseparably bound
to the Jewish collective can marry whomever
he or she wants, because his or her deference
for the People is so great that his or her partner
will ultimately come to live among the Jewish
People, recognizing that their partner’s people
are their own.
Take Roy Sparrow, who grew up in the
Baptist South, as an example. When he met his
soon to be wife, Miriam, in the 1960s, Sparrow
told his beloved that she’d have to take him
as he was (not Jewish) if she truly wanted
to be with him. “I told her that she’d have
to trust me to do the right thing,” recounts
Sparrow, “and sure enough we were married,
and once we had settled down I decided to
become a Jew.”
Sparrow continued his journey from the
Christian South and ended up co-founding
and co-directing NYU’s program for nonproft
management and Judaic Studies, playing a role
in the strengthening the Jewish future. Would
those who think like Cohen say that Roy and
Miriam, due to their initial intermarriage,
belong in that “Other Jewry,” the second one
that has no stake in the continuation of the
Jewish People? I’d hope not.
Even if he hadn’t converted, Sparrow
became a communal Jew from the moment
he decided to marry Miriam. “Your people
are my people,” he told her, and it was due
to her belief in the importance of her Jewish
identity that he then later added on, “your
God is my God.”
It is no coincidence that the term ‘convert’
is foreign to the Hebrew tradition. Instead, we
have ger, which literally translates to a person
who “lives among.” When we let the ger in
to our community, and we ensure that our
community nourishes a Judaism that adds
positive value to the individual and the world,
that person may chose to become a part of our
People. A member of the Children of Israel
who believes in the importance of sustaining
a Jewish life will, more often than not, share
that conclusion with the person she choses to
live her life with. And, if the relationship is
a healthy one, odds are that commitment to
Judaism will permeate the relationship, and
perhaps even inspire a shared allegiance to
Judaism’s values and traditions. When we use
tactics of fear to push away non-Jews, however,
we communicate the message that Judaism
detracts from the world and restricts one’s
choices unnecessarily—instead of drawing
others into our community.
Not to say that we should encourage
intermarriage. But we should recognize
that whether or not intermarriage depletes
the Jewish People is dependent upon the
content of the Jewish life lived by the Jewish
partner in such a pair. Terefore, instead of
investing in matchmaking for the masses, the
community could do better to inspire answers
to the questions facing Judaism and the Jewish
People in today’s post-digital world. Instead of
focusing on the growing trend of intermarriage,
we should develop a culture of devotion to
the Jewish family that follows the example of
our ancestors. Instead of pushing families who
marry “out” into the camp of the Other Jewry,
we should be setting up their tents right next
to our tents of Jacob, living with them as they
live among us and bind their destiny to our
ever-living people.
Ariel Beery is the editor and publisher of
PresenTense Magazine and is looking to marr y
a woman who will share a rich Jewish life.
the biblical narrative makes its case
for intermarriage: every marriage out
potentially can tie more bodies and
souls to the destiny of our tribe.
paradiGm shift presentensemaGazine.OrG
presentensemaGazine.OrG COntents issue three 2007 44
the art of rebirth
adisia crafts hope for
ethiopian women in afula
Yonit Schiller
issue three 2007 45
Hundreds of miles away
from the tribal huts and
villages they once called
home, the Ethiopian
women of the Women’s
International Zionist
Organization (WIZO)
absorption center in
Israel’s northern town
of Afula are sustaining
an ancient custom in
modern society.
phOtOessay presentensemaGazine.OrG
presentensemaGazine.OrG COntents issue three 2007 46
Under the guidance of Afula’s WIZO director, David “Dudu” Moatty, twenty
women are busy bringing the Adisia Project to fruition. “Adisia” is the Amharic
term for “renaissance”—a ftting label for a project that aspires to both revive
classic Ethiopian embroidery and re-energize the art form by pushing its
traditional creative boundaries.
Embroidering gives the women a chance to come to life. Te act of creating art
empowers them by producing tangible proof of their efcacy, ingenuity, and
overall personal potential in Israeli society, as well as abroad. Indeed, Adisia’s
purpose, according to Moatty, is to “help [the women] fnd their future.”
47 issue three 2007 presentensemaGazine.OrG COntents
Tese remarkable women have endured much
hardship. Tey fed from persecution and
famine in Ethiopia, and upon their arrival
in Israel, encountered difculty assimilating,
facing a language barrier and racism, among
other obstacles. Te incredibly endearing, yet
astute, nature of the women of Adisia stems
from their combined experiences of sufering
in Ethiopia, followed by experiencing a major
cultural shift once they immigrated to Israel.
For these women, embroidery is also a social
act, providing a safe space for them to share
ideas and visions with women who have had
similar life experiences. Adisia enables them
to learn from and listen to one another in an
open, comfortable setting.
A new wave of excitement for Adisia is
engendering a ripple efect in the international
Jewish community. Te World Diaspora
Mezuzah project, spearheaded by international
project coordinator Sharon Ungerleider,
is helping to bridge the gap between the
Ethiopian women and Diaspora communities.
Te women of Adisia are very excited to be
creating embroidered Mezuzot with a variety
of artistic motifs, fusing traditional Ethiopian
embroidery style with the patterns and ethnic
symbols associated with Jewish Diaspora
communities around the world.
48 issue three 2007 presentensemaGazine.OrG COntents
Ethiopian embroidery in Israel is much more than just an ancient art form.
For these women of Adisia, embroidery is their outlet of artistic expression,
their community, and their source of personal strength.
Yonit Schiller is a photographer based in Jerusalem
presentensemaGazine.OrG COntents issue three 2007 49
50 issue three 2007
a bright new day
optimistic futures for the jews
Phil Getz
magine a world in which Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Syria,
and Egypt have cooperative tourism arrangements, Egypt
has built a "Science City" in the Northern Sinai, and oil
is “on par with cofee, sugar and tea in terms of its impact
on geopolitics.” Jihadists have been “neutralized”, and progressive
Arab democrats are helping democracy blossom in the Arab world.
According to Tsvi Bisk’s calculations, it’s the year 2020, and if the
Jewish people take his advice, it is no dream.
 Bisk’s new, timely, and worthwhile book, Te Optimistic Jew,
addresses head-on issues of concern to many thinking Jews today,
such as the increasing rate of intermarriage, the failing (if not dead)
Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and the lack of Zionist fervor both
inside and outside Israel. Te revolutionary changes that Bisk discusses
will not occur overnight, and they require a redefnition of both
Jewishness and Zionism.
Te frst part of the book is devoted to doing just that and presenting
the problems facing the Jewish people and Israel. Some of Bisk’s initial
remarks might seem unfair, or at least untactful, such as his assertion
that “we must stop making a fetish of past sufering.”  However,
Bisk’s sincere desire for Jewish
progress, evident throughout
the book, will probably prevent
people from putting it down.
In the book, Bisk reminds
us that the fnal aim of Zionism,
the construction of a model
society, remains elusive. Quite
frankly, for all of its greatness,
Israel, when compared with
much of the developed world,
is not a model of social justice.
Social inequality and corruption
have no place in the ideal Jewish
State; nevertheless, they have
found their way in. Of the
relatively small percentage
of young Diaspora Jews who
care deeply about Israel and
the Jewish People, many are
eventually co-opted by the
growing “advocacy industry.”
The ongoing political and
securit y situation has
prompted t he creation
of partisan organizations on
college campuses all over the
world for both “friends of
Israel” and “friends of Palestine.”
Constantly presenting a positive
Israeli narrative has the efect of
distracting young Jews from real
problems within Israel that need
their attention. Instead of being educated about the problems Israel faces
in maintaining its Jewish and democratic character and developing a
vibrant civil society, young Zionist idealists are asked to praise Israeli
democracy and culture to the sky, essentially blinding them to the fact
that the Zionist project is not over and the dream has yet to be completely
fulflled. Tere is, of course, the possibility that these young Jews will
eventually see some of the less praiseworthy aspects of Israel and feel
compelled to make Israel live up to the visions they have developed. Let
us hope that is the case.
Bisk’s book, however, is focused on dealing primarily with
invigorating a wider base. He points out that many of the challenges
facing the Jewish people today both stem from and contribute to a
crisis in Jewish consciousness. A crisis defned by declining rates of
Jewish af liation and participation, and the growing and increasingly
the revolutionary
changes that
bisk discusses
will not occur
overnight, and
they require a
redefnition of
both Jewishness
and zionism.
Submit your logo. It’s Free!
How many logos can the mind
create using six points?
presentensemaGazine.OrG revieWs
issue three 2007 51
by Tsvi Bisk
276 pp, Maxanna press, $19.95, 2007.
Jewish Book World
To request a subscription form, please email jbc@jewishbooks.org
Jewish Book World is published by
520 8th Avenue, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10018
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visible tensions within the Jewish community. Noah Feldman’s less
than favorable critique of modern Orthodoxy appearing under the
title “Orthodox Paradox” in Te New York Times Magazine, serves
as an example of this tension, exemplifying this crisis of Jewish
consciousness. Young Jews from all backgrounds reach a point in
their development at which they must decide whether to continue to be
active participants in the community or not. “Why be Jewish?” is the
question lying beneath every challenge facing the Jewish community,
which is reason enough for Bisk to devote an entire chapter to it, and
he does. Te general decline in substantial Jewish af liation among
Diaspora Jews, as well as the 50% intermarriage rate, refects the
reality that most Jews have yet to hear a compelling answer.
Surprisingly, Bisk does not have an answer either. One would
assume that a book about the Jewish future would contain a rational
argument for the continuity of Jewish family life, based on its role in
the Jewish mission on Earth. Nevertheless, he writes: “From a purely
rational standpoint, this question has no answer. From a purely rational
standpoint, assimilation is a perfectly legitimate alternative.” All
Bisk can point to is a widespread “unarticulated feeling that Jewish
identity is important, even though we cannot say why…We can use
this instinctive feeling as a foundation upon which to build a new
concept of Jewish identity.” Some will be appalled by this premise;
others will be comforted and perhaps even inspired.
Te assimilation of the Jewish community is not a manifestation
of Jewish self-hatred as much as it is of the universalist direction of
the post-enlightenment world. Why hold on to identity? Why not
let our diferent backgrounds and heritages coalesce into a tolerant,
non-denominational world civilization? Tese are questions worth
asking because they require honest answers that can at once instill a
sense of pride and generate self-criticism. Trough serious examination
of the nature of Jewish identity, one can come to appreciate the
uniqueness of Jewish heritage and tradition and, at the same time,
acknowledge its challenges.
Although Bisk makes some good points about the need for greater
Jewish tolerance, his inability to present an accurate representation
of the Jewish community creates a sloppy foundation for the rest
of the book and leads to inconsistencies. For example, he proposes
that Jewish identity should be more “pluralistic” and “based upon
common norms of communal behavior and communal obligation,”
which Bisk calls “Jewish citizenship.” Te frst problem with Bisk’s
appeals for increased pluralism is that they are not strictly speaking,
pluralistic. Bisk is willing to accept “numerous cultural accretions,
as long as these do not contain beliefs, practices, or dogmas that
contradict Jewish tradition.” And he continues, “Te only universal
norms of Jewish identity are the prohibition against idolatry and the
requirement of unqualifed individual responsibility.” Bisk fails to
make it clear why we should accept such principles if his proposed
foundation for Jewish identity is based on behavior, and not belief
—that is, his “Jewish citizenship.” Further, for 2,000 years, faith
has been at the very least one of the primary mechanisms of Jewish
survival. In Humanistic Judaism, there is no room for God. Why
should Bisk’s new, pluralistic Jewish identity accept a doctrine of no
God, and not diferent gods?
In truth, these problems do not render Bisk’s arguments useless.
Discussing the nature of an identity and a people as complex as
that of the Jews is often an exercise in futility. Te book’s primary
purpose is to give the reader a glimpse of what is possible if Judaism
and Zionism are enhanced. Te second part of the book, entitled
“Realization: Looking Back from 2020,” is a hypothetical account
of what the world might look like if the Jews take Bisk’s advice. Te
prospects Bisk presents are rather grand, some of dubious practicality.
Although the frst part of the book has more to ofer, the utility of the
second is that it contains what too many Jewish thinkers lack: vision.
Bisk’s proposals are creative, as well as a bit self-serving (as many of
the organizations he plugs in this section are those with which he is
deeply associated). However, Bisk will not consider the Jews a failure
if some of his initiatives are not realized. He uses his imagination
provocatively. Te inclusion of discussion questions at the end of the
book demonstrate that Bisk does not expect his to be the fnal word
on the subject of the Jewish future. Bisk wants to start a discussion.
We would all beneft from taking part.
Phil Getz is a senior studying histor y and philosophy at George Washington
revieWs presentensemaGazine.OrG
52 issue three 2007
oy-bay goeS to the movieS
shtarkers and the sweet science
Tomer Altman
hen you say “Jews” and “sports,” you’re inviting
self-deprecating humor or someone’s impassioned
invocation of Sandy Koufax. But you can almost
bet that people aren’t likely to mention boxing. But
maybe they should—as this year’s San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
illustrated, back in the 1920s, boxing was the only professional sport
in which signifcant numbers of American Jews participated.
At this year’s SFJFF, the largest and oldest continuously-held Jewish
flm festival in the world, there was a proclaimed focus on Jewish Boxers:
Shtarkers and the Sweet Science. Tough it might clash head-on with the
common image of the spindly, wimpy nebbish, as boxing historian Mike
Silver wrote, “All but forgotten today is the fact that, during the frst
half of the 20th century, boxing was a major spectator sport, rivaling
baseball in popularity, and by 1928, a full third of all title contenders
were Jewish.” But then again, most young adult American Jews identify
only our modern day middle-class life as the typical Jewish experience,
which is obviously far from historically accurate.
Te flm that opened the festival, “His People,” a 1925 black-and-
white silent work recently found and restored by the National Center
Watching this flm was a shared
Jewish communal experience,
where we laughed, cried, cheered,
and booed at a flm that exhibited
our collective heritage and our
presentensemaGazine.OrG revieWs
photo by Steve Rhodes
53 issue three 2007 presentensemaGazine.OrG COntents
for Jewish Film, provided the audience with a precious reminder of the
roots of the immigrant experience of American Jewry; in presenting
scenes of a bustling ghetto street market and boxing venues, the flm
displays a rough and crowded Lower East Side experience where
families worked hard and fought to feed their families.
Te flm focuses on the Cominskys, a family of Russian Jews
living on New York’s Lower East Side. Te eldest and cherished son,
Morris, is educated and begins a promising law career, but resents
his immigrant roots. Te younger son, Sammy, works as a newsie
and then as a professional boxer to put Morris through school and
support their family. Morris is studious and graduates law school,
while Sammy is uneducated, participates in a blood-sport, and has
a romantic interest in an Irish girl in their tenement. Initially, one
might peg Morris as the proverbial “good son,” and Sammy as the
“wicked son.” But as the movie progresses, we see that Morris is self-
absorbed and embarrassed by his family. Sammy, on the other hand,
gives all of his prize-fght winnings to his doting mother, even after
his father, David, throws him out of the house upon discovering his
participation in boxing.
Since it was made during a time when flmmaking was both
costly and dif cult, that some authentic Jewish expressions avoided
the cutting room foor was a pleasant surprise. A Shabbat dinner
scene is surprisingly thorough, showing the benedictions over the
candle-lighting, the wine, the hand-washing, and the bread, with
special focus on Rose Cominsky, the family matriarch, as she recites
the prayer over the Shabbat candles.
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Te audience packed into San Francisco’s historic Castro Teatre
erupted in viper-like hisses as Morris, about to wed his boss’s daughter,
dismisses his father from his pre-nuptial banquet, telling guests that
he’s never seen him before in his life. And thunderous applause, and
even whoops of joy, broke out when Sammy drags Morris home, in
front of all his guests, by his ear. Watching this flm was a shared Jewish
communal experience, where we laughed, cried, cheered, and booed
at a flm that exhibited our collective heritage and our internal and
external conficts, played out by a Jewish family. Tis is the authentic
movie-going experience, which can never be replicated, even by home
entertainments that are increasingly high-tech.
Te flm reminds us that such seemingly innocent examples of
integration, in the context of the intervening decades, now serve as portents
of the assimilation of American Jewry. As upright as Sammy is, and as
educated as Morris is, neither is focused during the Shabbat meal, neither
one wears a kippah, nor do they study Torah. Sammy ends up with an Irish
girl, and instead of staying in a large Jewish community, David and Rose
move out to California. In their struggle to survive economically and to
keep their family together, it seems as though David and Rose Cominsky
fail to pass on yiddishekeit, a feeling of Jewishness, to their sons.
A contemporary young Jew, awash in internet and iPods, might
dismiss the flm’s relevance. But it seems that the issues facing our
immigrant-ancestors are not terribly diferent than our own.
Tomer Altman is the editor and publisher of Oy-Bay.org, a community for San
Francisco Bay Area Jews.
54 issue three 2007
oth Palestinians and Israelis have blood on their hands.
In Ilan Hatsor’s arresting and poignant play Masked,
this image remains salient throughout the show’s tense
85-minute performance. Te compact yet incendiary
work about what happens when politics intersects with family is set in
the thickets of the Arab-Israeli confict, yet–unpredictably–it doesn’t
admonish either side. Nor does it glorify.
Flooded with bright, unfattering light, the play opens on a dingy,
sparsely furnished room with putrid yellowish-gray walls, blood stains,
and sharp metal hooks. In this space, three Palestinian brothers will
pace and circle one another like predators as they launch into a battle
of will and words, unraveling an intricate story of betrayal. How ftting
that the entire action of the play occurs in a slaughterhouse: a gnawing
reminder of man’s inclination to kill. Te butchery is the workplace
of Khalid, the youngest of the three brothers, and the determined
neutral territory for the heated reunion of his diametrically opposed
siblings: the self-righteous Daoud and the diabolical Na’im.
A bit of synoptical background to get you oriented: the brothers’
fourth sibling–a boy far younger in age–has been shot by the Israeli
blood brotherS
masked uncovers the conflict
Lonnie Schwartz
army at a Palestinian rally that the Israelis infltrated. Word has it
that a Palestinian traitor leaked information of the rally to the army,
and all suspicions point to Daoud. To complicate matters, Na’im has
risen within a violent militant Arab movement that hunts down and
kills any Palestinian with collaborative ties to Israel. In short, Na’im’s
next target is his older brother.
Daoud takes temporary refuge in the butchery as Na’im–who
cares for his brother despite opposing ideologies–preps him with the
sort of interrogation questions he will likely receive from the other
radicals. As the brothers uncover information that mark both as
potential traitors to the Palestinian community, a ferce anger builds
based on tensions both personal and political. Israeli-American director
Ami Dayan deliberately entangles the aggressive and malevolent
threads of these scenes with threads of love and concern, until the
room becomes a knotty web of conficting, ambivalent sentiments
that can only arise when family is involved.
As militant compatriots of Na’im’s surround the butchery, he
seems to want to both feed Daoud to the wolves and protect him from
harm. Similarly, Daoud views his brother simultaneously as a radical
presentensemaGazine.OrG revieWs
photo by Aaron Epstein
issue three 2007 55
common SparkS
forever within
finding forever lacks
common’s sense
Margaret Teich
ne of hip-hop’s most
renowned rhyme-
rhythm teams is
back at it. Rappers
Common and Kanye West have
joined forces on new album “Finding
Forever.” With their last collaboration
on album “Be” receiving much media
acclaim, “Finding Forever” has a tough
act to follow. It feels almost like an
ugly step-brother to “Be,” yet marginally hints to previous classic albums
like Common’s “Like Water for Chocolate” (2000) and Kanye West’s
“College Dropout” (2004). Tis album doesn’t deliver like their others,
not because of any lack of snappy beats nor spot-on delivery. Instead,
it’s because Common’s usual “ruah” and unintentional Jewish values,
that make his other records so divine, are absent from this album.
Whereas Common isn’t Jewish, conscious hip-hop is based on some
of the most important Jewish values. While his music can surely pop of a
party, its purpose is also to strengthen the community, educate listeners,
encourage questions, and challenge the status quo. In fact, these issues
make up a short list of Common’s favorite themes. For example, in the song
“Faithful” from the album “Be,” Common muses, “I was rollin’ around
and in my mind it occurred/what if G-d was a her?/Would I treat her the
same?/ Would I still be running game on her?/ In what type of way would
I want her?” Tis idea of a shekhinah is reminiscent of the Shabbat Bride
whom we greet with L’ kha Dodi at Friday Night services. In addition,
Common touches upon the Jewish value of perpetual questioning in
“Te Questions” from “Like Water for Chocolate,” where he delivers
a nudnik-worthy series of both obvious and complex questions for the
listener to ponder and discuss. Common doesn’t even try to answer the
questions, even more so a Jewish behavior.
Te lyrics of “Finding Forever” do contain some elements of critical
thinking, present on previous Common albums. In track three, “Te
People,” Common fows with assured sensibility over West’s complex
and dynamic beat. In addition, he also forces his audience to think of
racial and socio-economic divisions, when he says, “While white folks
focus on dogs and yoga/the people on the low-end trying to ball and get
over.” In addition, Common utilizes a questioning tone on “U, Black
Maybe,” when he says, “I heard a white man’s yes is a black maybe/ I
was delivered into this world as a crack baby.”
While “U, Black Maybe” introduces intriguing questions, two
other tracks on the album—“Drivin’ Me Wild” and “Southside”—
muSic whose militia has “killed more of us than the Israelis,” and as the
sole individual who can save him. Khalid, sensitive and timid, is less
enmeshed in the dramatic core of the confict, though he proves integral
to the story’s surprising climax. His singular pursuit, it seems, is for
his brothers to communicate–without hatred, without violence.
Te dynamic three-actor cast infuses the play with tremendous
energy. And though they look absolutely nothing like brothers, they all
channel an admirable amount of heart and guts into their roles. Arian
Mo’ayed, who plays the vindictive Na’im, seems to be carrying daggers
everywhere: in his eyes, in his threatening gait, and in his words. Daoud
Heidami, who flls the role of Daoud, occasionally sufers from over-acting
but well exudes the burdensome persona of the oldest child weighed
down by responsibility. Sanjit De Silva as Khalid gives perhaps the most
touching performance as he imbues his character with an earnestness
that is heartbreaking precisely because such sensitivity gets mufed
amidst an angrier cacophony of his brothers’ hostility and rage.
Te entirety of Masked is unique and impressive not only because
it is a work written by an Israeli about Palestinians. It is also a work
that–almost impossibly–depicts the complexities of the Middle East
confict without a single polemic that resembles favoritism. Hatsor’s
and Dayan’s achievement is the acknowledgment that to polemicize is,
by defnition, to neglect. When arguing a particular side of a debate,
one must emphasize the details that enhance one’s side and neglect
the details that don’t. Otherwise, the only possible conclusion is
that “it’s complicated.” And such an understanding is precisely what
makes this play successful.
While the play expresses the idea that both Palestinians and
Israelis are fawed, Hatsor doesn’t fnger-point. Nor does he ofer
any grand resolution or declaration of blame through the guise of
dialogue as many political playwrights attempt to do. If a confict is
so intricate that it cannot be solved politically, why pretend that we
can solve it artistically?
In the director’s note of the play’s program, Dayan makes a large
request of his audience. He writes, “Please put aside preconceptions
and political doctrine,” presumably meaning, “remove yourself from
the mire of cultural stereotypes and ideological leanings”—a tall
order, indeed. But perhaps the least we can do is to contemplate a
situation’s complexity before assigning immediate blame to the Other;
to recognize that no single polemic will ever defne a confict. Masked
is a terrifcally ambitious and moving work. It conveys poignantly and
almost painfully that hatred turns men into butchers. How further
complicated things become when the killer is of one’s own blood.
Masked is currently running at the DR2 Teatre in Union Square
in New York City.
Lonnie Schwartz is PresenTense Magazine’s theater editor. She is currently
pursuing her MFA in theater at Columbia University.
the room becomes a knotty
web of conficting, ambivalent
sentiments that can only arise
when family is involved.
revieWs presentensemaGazine.OrG
make statements that are great to bop to, but lack the complexity
we’ve come to expect from Common. Actually, “Drivin’ Me Wild”
features a catchy hook sung by Lily Allen and re-examines “all that
glitters is not gold” in the pursuit for material possessions. While
this is still a good point to make, it is a little too Kanye-esque (“All
Falls Down” from the album “College Drop Out”).
One of Common’s most impressive lyrical abilities is to create
great female-empowered love songs. Common proves he still has the
knack for these songs with track nine, “So Far to Go,” featuring O’
Mighty Sexy Voice Himself, D’Angelo. Te song examines what it
means to be in a real romantic partnership. Te fow sounds as fuid as
“Te Light” from album “Like Water for Chocolate,” and D’Angelo’s
vocals defnitely help. Yet, Common’s description of what it is to deeply
love isn’t as convincing, and if you ask me, hasn’t been since he and
Erykah Badu parted ways, but that’s a whole other story.
Maybe it’s because it stimulates critical thinking, or because we
have an ongoing history of sufering and overcoming oppression,
or perhaps just that we rock our bodies and bob our heads while
davening, but for whatever reason, hip hop is a genre that resonates
with young Jews. And although Common isn’t Jewish, he sure has a
yiddishe kup–a Jewish head on his shoulders.
When she isn’t pondering Maimonides, roaming her hood in Queens, or
listening to hip-hop, Margaret Teich can be found producing the Lazy
Envrionmentalist, a live daily program about greening your life in style on
Sirius Satellite radio channel 114.
Dead Sea
Qiryat at
Q y
The Jewish Agency
for Israel
The State
of Israel
MASAIsrael Journey
www.masaisrael.org | 212-339-6077
Grants are available for all participants
in all MASA programs
Israel Programs
to Long Term
Your Gateway
issue three 2007 57
portrait of an
internet StrategiSt
randi jayne zuckerberg
Adam Finkel
or a time, Randi Jayne
Zuckerberg was convinced
that she was destined for
cantorial school. But that
was before her brother Mark created the
biggest social networking application on
the face of the planet. Now Randi is
the Director of Market Development
at Facebook, and the 2003 Harvard
graduate is using the opportunity to
reconnect with her musical aspirations in an interface that can only be
described as “Career 2.0.” Randi spoke with PresenTense’s Adam Finkel
candidly about her passion for music, family and Jewish life. And of course,
“the F-word.”
With a name like Zuckerberg, I’m gonna guess: you’re Jewish, yes?
My parents always emphasized the importance of culture and tradition
and we always celebrated the holidays in our home growing up. My
parents also embodied Jewish culture and tradition in many of their
values. Education was always the number one priority and our parents
defnitely instilled in us the drive to achieve as much as we could.
Clearly they succeeded. You also got a lot of musical support
from your connections to family and to Jewish life.
I’ve always loved to sing, act, and pursue anything creative and
musical...and right before I went to college, I started to think a lot
about how that could go hand in hand with my Jewish identity and
upbringing. I had one of those “eureka” moments and decided that I
really wanted to be a cantor! I took four semesters of intensive modern
Hebrew, and started studying music theory and piano. My little
sister had her bat mitzvah during my freshman year of college and
our cantor at our synagogue couldn’t make it. She just said, “it’s ok.
Randi will do it!” So I did. It was incredible—standing up there on
the bimah and being involved in the bat mitzvah ceremony in such
a deep and meaningful way. I think that is so much more rewarding
than pursuing a career in music to be “famous.”

You frst went to Israel for your sister’s bat mitzvah on Masada,
and more recently you participated in birthright. What impact
did those trips have on you?
We went to the Western Wall the frst day we arrived and I remember
feeling a little disappointed, like “that’s it?” However, after spending
ten days touring and really absorbing everything, we returned to the
Western Wall on our fnal night. I remember seeing it and crying and
feeling so deeply moved by everything I had seen and experienced. It
was probably the most powerful feeling I’ve ever had.
birthright was also a fantastic experience because I got to meet so many
awesome people and share the experience with people my own age.
It was even more meaningful because I was there with my boyfriend
(now fancé!). It was his frst time going to Israel and I was so thankful
to share that experience with him. It really helped bring us closer
together and helped us understand how we want to integrate Judaism
into our lives when we have a family. My fnal night on the trip, I got
up in front of the group and sang “Yerushalayim shel zahav”—it was
thundering and lightning out and everyone was crying. Because music
is my life, being able to sing a song is one of the most personal gifts I
can give someone. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that evening.
Will we someday be able to call you Cantor Zuckerberg?
I think that I’ve always kind of known in the back of my head that I’d
use my twenties and early thirties to try a bunch of diferent things
and hopefully start a family....and then, after I’ve gotten all of that
out of my system...explore the cantorial school path again.
Speaking of family projects, we have to ask: how’s life at the
‘book? It seems like a dream come true.
Te fun of joining a company really early is that you get to do so
many roles and your job changes really often as the company grows.
I started in marketing, moved to sales, and as of last fall, joined the
business development team where I work on big partnerships with
media companies. Right now I’m working with Comcast to produce
an internet/television show called “Facebook Diaries” that will run
on Facebook and Comcast on demand. I’m also very passionate about
video production and online media, so in addition to my day job, I
also do a lot of video production work for Facebook.
Last question—because our parents keep asking us: how is
Facebook good for the Jews?
I think if something really important came up that required the Jewish
community to rally together, Facebook would be a pretty incredible
tool for helping that happen. Around Passover, I saw a Facebook event
someone had created that said “Passover Seder—Hosted by God, it
starts at sundown tomorrow night.” Tens of thousands of people had
added the event to their profle. Tat was pretty neat.
Adam Finkel, a senior at the University of Michigan, can be reached at
arts presentensemaGazine.OrG
photo courtesy of Randi Jayne Zuckerberg
Profile Friends Networks inbox
58 issue three 2007
osh Hashanah—the summer is ending, the harvest is
beginning, and the best part of the Jewish holidays are
kicking into high gear—the culinary part, of course.
Without the menu restrictions of Pesah (no bread!)
or the spatial concerns of Sukkot (hope you like your chicken soup
lukewarm!), Rosh Hashanah shines with gastronomic potential.
Beyond the obligatory exotic fruit to enable the saying of the
blessing on new foods and experience–sheheheyanu, a wild array
of vegetables and fruits elevated with symbolic signifcance and
protective, meritorious, mystical, and auspicious properties enrich
the frst dinner of the new year. Te exact varieties of fruits and
vegetables prescribed by custom vary greatly–sometimes even
from region to region in a particular country. Each symbolic
food has an accompanying “yehi-
ratzon” (literally—may it be your
will): invocations to God to protect,
enrich, bless, and redeem us. Often,
the connection between the food and
the request will be symbolic: apples
dipped in honey for a sweet new year
is the most universal.
Another big theme is increase, or
multiplication–of our children, of our
funds, of our merits before the heavenly
court. For these, anything goes: from
rubiya (black-eyed peas—the related
Hebrew word ribui means increase) to
mehren (Yiddish for carrots—a pun on
the Hebrew maher, fast, quickly). Also
eaten for the symbolism of meritorious
increase are pomegranates, which have
many seeds, to represent the multitude
of our good deeds.
Lest we think all of these symbols
are sweetness and light, many of the
symbolic foods have quite violent
implications–towards one’s enemies
or oppressors. Consumption of leeks
(karti) is followed by a proclamation
that our enemies should be cut down
(yikartu). Chard, spinach, or beets,
which are all botanically related
and were collectively called silka by
various Jewish communities of the
Middle East and the Spanish diaspora
are eaten with an invocation that our
enemies should be expelled from our
presence (yistalku).
Not all of our enemies are people,
though–sometimes our worst enemies are our own actions. Tis
contingency is recognized by the invocation recited upon eating
gourd or pumpkin (kra): that God should tear up the evil of our
decree (kra roa gzar dinenu) and, instead, our merits should be read
(yikru) before the heavenly court.
Here are some delicious recipes for preparing symbolic foods
for the Rosh Hashanah meal. While most of the symbols are fne
eaten raw, my family’s custom is to prepare as many of the symbolic
foods as possible as parts of the meal and spread out the invocations
as each course is served.
Miriam Segura is a Biotechnologist, a Foodie, and a talmudist. Catch her
trademark variety of cute snark at www.hungr yhungr yhippogirl.blogspot.com.
taSty biteS to Smite your enemieS
rosh hashanah’s symbolic foods
Miriam Segura
presentensemaGazine.OrG arts
presentensemaGazine.OrG COntents issue three 2007 59
beet salad
Boil 4 unpeeled, washed beets in salted water until tender when
poked with a knife. Let cool, then peel of skins and discard. If you
are using red beets, this can get messy, so be careful, or use golden
beets instead. Dice into small cubes and dress with vinegar or lemon
juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste. If you wish, dress them up
with a bit of crushed garlic and some diced parsley or cilantro.
black-eyed peas, syrian style
If using dried peas, soak 1 cup of peas for 3 hours or overnight in tap
water, then drain. (Skip this step if using frozen or canned peas.) In a
heavy-bottomed sauce pan, combine beans with twice their volume of
water. Bring to a boil, then cover and let simmer until tender. (Time will
depend on age of beans and whether you used dried or frozen. Canned
beans need only be heated through.) Drain. Add a 4oz can of tomato
sauce, salt and pepper to taste, and a few generous sprinkles of cinnamon
and allspice. Let simmer until favors meld. Serve as a side dish.
leek patties (keftes de prasa)
A traditional Sephardic way to serve leeks for Rosh Hashanah: wash
and trim a bundle of three large leeks. Leeks often have sand or fne grit
in them so wash them well. Dice leeks into rough 1-cm squares. Steam
or boil the diced leeks until tender. Drain well, squeezing to remove
as much moisture as possible. In a large mixing bowl, combine 1lb of
ground beef or turkey with the cooked leeks. Add 5 large eggs and
enough matzah meal to enable the mixture to be shaped into patties. For
fried patties, heat a thin layer of olive oil in a skillet and fry the patties
until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. For baked
patties, dip fnished patties in more matzah meal or bread crumbs and
place on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil and sprayed with
non-stick spray or oiled. Mist patties with a small amount of nonstick
spray or olive oil and bake at 375F until golden brown and crispy.
pumpkin custard
Although not strictly traditional, this delicious pumpkin dessert is
quick and easy, and a great way to incorporate pumpkin into your
symbolic meal.
Preheat oven to 350F. Open 2 16oz cans of pure pumpkin (not pumpkin
pie mix) into a large mixing bowl. Add 4 eggs and a cup of vanilla soy milk
and stir to blend thoroughly. Season with either pumpkin pie spice or 1
tsp cinnamon, 1 teaspoon allspice, and a pinch of nutmeg (don’t overdo
nutmeg; it can ruin your custard). Add a generous splash of vanilla. Stir
to combine and pour into a greased 8-inch cake pan (2 pie tins would also
work well). Sprinkle the top with cinnamon and run a knife through the
cinnamon to create a swirled efect. Bake until set and no longer jiggly in the
center. Let cool before serving. Delicious with ice cream (soy or real).
60 issue three 2007
SinS of our fatherS
a shor t stor y
Alieza Salzberg
he baby’s wail pierced the silence.
Chava stood by the window
breathing quietly, listening.
Before turning to the baby, she
fung open the shade to stare at the three men
standing in a semicircle.
Te frst man shifted uncomfortably
on his feet when the shade above him few
open. He turned, but found the window
frame empty. “Tey say that the evil spirits
sleep under rocks to avoid the sun. Te baby’s
cries will awaken them.” Te men stood with
their backs to the white clay house. At this
time of day, when the sun was its hottest,
all of the other curtains in the surrounding
houses were drawn. But a baby’s cry stirred
the settled quiet.
Te baby’s father pulled on his beard,
his face wan and long as if he had stretched
it by the bewildered stroking.
“ Cry, baby. Cry loud so they can hear
you outside,” Chava crooned. She stood over
the cradle and stroked the child’s cheek. “You
were born so early, born too soon into this
wretched world.” Even the word “wretched”
sounded sweet on the mother’s lips. “I know
the sun hurts your eyes, but you will get used
to it. My Shachar.” Energy fowed through
Chava’s body as she pronounced the forbidden
name. Te baby took Chava’s fnger in her
mouth and started to suck hesitantly. Her
cries turned to whimpers and fnally stilled.
Chava looked around the room. Her
husband’s clothes lay folded in a neat pile next
to hers on the open shelf. His
large shirts, long enough for
her to wear them as dresses,
were still foreign to her.
Surveying the mix of men’s
clothes and baby blankets
that the community had
brought over because of
the early birth, she felt lost.
Was this her room? As the
baby sucked calmly on her
fnger, Chava pulled on her
oversized dress, examining
the shape of her stomach.
When she was pregnant, her
husband had rubbed her abdomen, to comfort
the jumpy baby. Would he still do that now
that she was an empty woman again?
“She isn’t named yet, is she?” the frst
man asked.
“Heaven forbid,” answered the father
“Born so early. You know that’s not allowed…”
He shook his head as he trailed of. “What if
she dies? Chava would be torn to pieces, our
frst-born more than a month early! Who has
heard of such a baby living? If we named her
it would just be so much more painful.”
“And it is against the law,” reminded the
third man nervously.
Te father lifted his hand to his forehead,
frst blocking the bright light from his eyes, then
wiping the sweat from his brow. “Te sun is so
hot,” he said aimlessly, almost forgetting why
they were standing outside during the hottest
time of the day. Te white town looked ghostly.
Te short houses surrounding the main town
square were covered in dust, which swirled
around their feet as well. Te only thing moving
was the stifing wind that seemed to smother
anyone who dared come outside. Another wail
rose from inside the house.
“Sippeettth.” Te frst man spat on
the ground, muttering under his breath an
incantation to keep the evil spirits under
their rocks.
Shachar’s chest heaved. She let out a
wail, forcing Chava’s fnger from her mouth.
“Shachar dear,” Chava whispered, “you have
so much breath, such a strong tongue and a
strong voice. How could they think you will
die? You are so full of life. You have more
strength than they have. Tey sit and they
ponder the law, never coming to a decision, so
weak, so indecisive. You lay here and protest,
you scream. Tey have never screamed. Tey
have forgotten what it means to scream.”
Chava raised her eyes to Heaven, “ Who is
more alive?”
Shachar cried loudly, her body convulsing
with every shriek. Chava laid her hand frmly
on the baby’s torso, her palm covering her whole
baby from heart to abdomen, and the convulsions
lessened, but the cries continued.
Te sun sank in the sky, making eye
contact with the men. Still they dared not
turn towards the house, with its open window
shade and crying baby inside. Te two men
on either side of the father turned toward
him, trying to avoid the sunlight; the circle of
three tightened. Te father’s pupils were tiny
black holes for he had been staring directly
at the sun. “Friends, what can I do?” asked
the father. “She cries to me. Not the baby,
my wife. I don’t know how to talk to her yet,
to calm her.”
With his eyes focused on his feet, the frst
man summoned the courage to speak, “It is
against the law. Te baby is on borrowed time;
it is as if it is not alive. It cannot be picked up
on the Sabbath…remember what the traveling
teacher said last week?” He continued to watch
the dust collect on his sandaled feet.
at this time of day,
when the sun was
its hottest, all of the
other curtains in the
surrounding houses
were drawn. but a
baby’s cry stirred the
settled quiet.
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61 issue three 2007 presentensemaGazine.OrG COntents
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62 issue three 2007
“But the baby cries so much. She cries
during the week as well, but not as much
because Chava can hold her and soothe her.
Chava has such a beautiful melody to her
voice, nothing she has ever said to me was
so beautiful.”
Te third man answered with a sigh, “You
heard what the teacher said, she must just
wait a few more hours till the Sabbath ends.
Look; the sun is already climbing down its
ladder. It will be time for afternoon prayers
soon. Te teacher will be back at the end of
the month. You can ask him then.”
Te baby eased into a whimper. She
rubbed at her face with her small hands, trying
to reach her eyes. Chava leaned over the crib
and touched her lips to the baby’s eyes kissing
away her tears. “Tey are mad, my Shachar,
mad. Tey don’t want a mother to pick up
her own baby? I can’t feed my own infant all
Sabbath long? What kind of holiness does
their teacher believe in?” A wisp of Chava’s
hair fell out of its bun, brushing the bare scalp
of the baby. Now that the baby was quiet,
Chava could hear the men’s voices wafting
in through the window. Te rest of the town
must be sleeping calmly. “What must others
be saying of me? Does Chava know how to
take care of her baby? Didn’t her mother teach
her how?” Chava was sorry for speaking, even
though Shachar was but three days old. Chava
listened to the men talk in the courtyard. She
couldn’t make out their words, but she could
tell from their tone that they were arguing. Her
husband’s voice stood out above the others. He
was exasperated and whining to his friends.
“Te rules,” Chava sighed. “He feels trapped,
just like you, just like me.” A tear dripped
from Chava’s bloodshot eyes on to Shachar’s
reddened cheeks. Te baby let out another
moan and resumed crying.
“I can’t let this crying go on.”
“I know it is tough,” the frst man ofered
without much consolation.
“She can’t even feed her today. Te
baby is too young to suck the milk directly
from my wife, but Chava isn’t allowed to
squeeze it out for her either. Te Teacher
said it is like squeezing an orange for its juice
on the Sabbath: forbidden.” Te two men
simultaneously scratched their heads. Tey
were made uncomfortable by the image of his
wife’s breast, even though he purposely had
not even mentioned the word.
“Perhaps the
teacher will make an
exception,” the second
man suggested. “You’ll
ask him when he
“Tat will be
in three weeks!” the
father raged. “We
can’t wait that long. I
sent word to him that
she was born early, but
he didn’t respond. If
it had been a boy he
would have come in
order to perform the
Te men sensed
that the father was
losing hope. “Just wait
a couple more weeks. It
is a deep sin to violate
the Sabbath. Don’t
risk punishment.”
Te father waved
his hand in the air
silencing his friend’s
warning. “You don’t
understand,” he threw
“It’s time for prayers,” the third man said,
still focused on his shoes. It was really several
minutes early, but he couldn’t stomach the
talking any longer.
“I will meet you.” Te father turned
toward the house as his friends walked briskly
to the synagogue in the center of town.
He stepped inside his home and all seemed
black after he’d been staring at the sun for the
better part of the afternoon. He had traced
its slow descent, as if punishing his eyes for
the sight he was about to behold. Chava was
standing over the baby’s crib, her uncovered
breast hanging over the baby’s mouth. She did
not see him walk in. She was concentrating
on the baby’s wailing mouth, trying to ft
her nipple between the raging lips. “Drink
some, child. It’s good for you, like my fnger,
but sweeter.”
Without saying a word he turned and left
the room, his heart as heavy as Chava’s bursting
breast. She heard him turn. “Did they have
anything to say?” Chava asked.
“Nothing more.”
“How will she drink my milk, if she doesn’t
know how it tastes?” Chava left the obvious request
hanging in the air. Tey had discussed this before.
He turned to see her pleading eyes.
“Does it hurt?” he asked awkwardly.
“It hurts not to feed her,” she whispered.
“How much longer till the end of the
His eyes melted to silent tears as he
approached his wife, still standing with her
breasts dangling over the baby’s mouth. He
stood on the other side of the cradle and
reached out with both hands. He cupped the
plump breast and softly caressed it as he had
done only once before in their short months
“Tey say,” he sobbed, “that if two
people sin together, neither can be held
A drop of warm milk fell on the baby’s
forehead, and the surprised baby stopped
crying. Chava shifted her body the little inch
needed so that the next drop fell on the baby’s
lips. Chava rested her head on her husband’s
arms as he continued to draw out her milk,
the two of them forming an arch over the
baby who swallowed hungrily.
“I told you she would live.”
Alieza Salzberg is working on fusing talmud,
Literature, and Gender Studies in Jerusalem
and blogging about it on www.gufakashya.com.
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presentensemaGazine.OrG COntents issue three 2007 63
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64 issue three 2007
Eileen Levinson lives in Southern California. You can
see more of her work at www.eileenmachine.com.
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