A golem versus tween super-heroes

November 10, 2013

By Donald H. Harrison Jordan cover final1

SAN DIEGO –Jewish tweens and teens who enjoyed the Harry Potter series by J.K.Rowling may find themselves charmed by a new juvenile fiction series launched by Karen Goldman about a village in the northern part of Israel where all the children have special powers.

Jordan, who was named for the nearby Jordan River, can change himself into any form of water — whether it be a gentle brook or a powerful wind-driven tsunami.  His little brother can spot auras.  Another child in the neighborhood can manipulate clouds, while yet another, just by imagining, can bring strange animals to life.

Yet, if anyone were to visit the fictional Kfar Keshet (Rainbow Village), one wouldn’t suspect the children were different from any other kids..  Like the Super-Heroes that seem to make their homes in America, these children live by a code of honor. They are supposed to use their powers only for good.  Sometimes, however, the line of demarcation between the public interest and self-interest is not always clear to our young heroes.

In this introductory volume, an old Israeli man left crazed by Read the rest of this entry »

‘Kaddish, Women’s Voices’ depicts struggle between modernity and modern Orthodoxy

November 5, 2013

by Rabbi Jack Riemer kaddishWomensVoicesWeb2

Rabbi Norman Lamm once said that when modernity fights with the liberal movements in Judaism, it is not a fair fight because modernity always wins, and that when modernity fights with the right wing of Orthodoxy, it is not a fair fight because the right wing always wins. Kaddish, Women’s Voices is a book in which modernity fights with modern Orthodoxy, and the results are fascinating.

Fifty-two women write their accounts of what it was like for them to say the Kaddish prayer for their deceased loved ones in the daily minyanim of modern Orthodox synagogues.

Two emotions wrestle within these women. One is anger. They were not feminists, and they were not asking for the removal of the mechitza or for the right to lead services. They were only looking for minimal respect for their right to be there and minimal courtesy for their sincere religious yearnings, but they report that in many places they did not receive either. They tell of places where men walked out when they said Kaddish, where the tzedaka box was never carried over to their section, and where they were made to feel unwanted and invisible. They tell what it felt like when the lights were lit in the men’s section, and no one remembered or bothered to light them in the women’s section as well.

But anger is not the only, or even the most important, emotion in this book. These women describe, as many men have, the powerful spiritual effect that saying Kaddish every day had on them.

One woman writes, “Even as I hit upon its limits, I Read the rest of this entry »

Female Reactions and Feelings on Saying Kaddish

November 3, 2013

by Israel DrazinkaddishWomensVoicesWeb2

Smart and Ashkenas collected some fifty essays by articulate women of the various Jewish denominations in which they tell poignant emotional tales about relatives who died and their experiences in saying the mourner’s prayer, kaddish, what motivated them to do it, and how they felt doing so. Virtually all the stories are positive. The women derived much from saying the kaddish for eleven months. However some of the women had unfortunate contacts with Orthodox men. Some men felt that saying kaddish is a male prerogative and they mistreated the women who paid honor to deceased relatives by saying the kaddish. The book also includes three short chapters by rabbis concerning the laws of mourning and the saying of kaddish.

Many women reported feeling that saying kaddish provided them with an opportunity to engage others in helping them heal. It also facilitated them in creating new and lasting bonds of friendship in their communities. The kaddish aided them in keeping their relatives alive. It was a special time together with deceased dads, mom, kids. They had a feeling of doing something concrete and appealing. They felt they helped their love ones end their life’s journey. Some accepted the mystical idea that saying kaddish helped elevate their relatives to a higher heavenly level. They knew that the kaddish was a prayer that praised God and this gave meaning to them. Sitting in the services, many developed attachments to certain prayers and their knowledge of Judaism deepened. Some women were so moved by the kaddish that they abandoned Reform and Conservative synagogues and joined traditional Orthodox ones. Read the rest of this entry »

Carlebach event at the OU Center

November 3, 2013

Carlebach ou center

A wonderful evening of Reb Shlomo Carlebach at the OU Israel Center. 130 people enjoyed the music and recollections of Howie Kahn and the presentation and stories and history of author Rabbi Dr. Natan Ophir (Offenbacher) on the occasion of the launching of his new biography on Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach.