Jewish Holidays and Practices
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Technology seems to move faster and faster. Social media has made it possible to share information instantly while cell phones allow us to be reachable anytime and anywhere. Yet even as we increase our connectivity, it sometimes feels like we are losing our connectednessâ€”to the people and places in our lives. Now more than ever, we have an opportunity to encourage people to step back, slow down, and embrace the beauty of Shabbat, a day of rest.
Thatâ€™s why the Jewish Outreach Institute is proud to partner with Reboot for its National Day of Unplugging. For 24 hours, starting at sundown Friday March 4, 2011, people across the nation will reclaim time, slow down their lives and reconnect with friends, family, the community and themselves. Though based on Jewish traditions, the day can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of background. Click Here to learn more about the National Day of Unplugging and to sign up individually for the challenge.
We are fortunate to live in a time when most Americans can be open about who they choose as their life partner. With the recent Valentineâ€™s Day holiday just behind us (though not an official Jewish holiday, or perhaps even an American one, still many Jews celebrate it), we see many loving partners who are able to openly rejoice in their love. Yet in the Jewish community, we still see couples and families who are not fully accepted. Many interfaith, LGBT, and mixed-heritage couples and families in the Jewish community still confront obstacles as they build a future together. And as we enter the second decade of the 21st century, it is vital that we ensure that the organized Jewish community reaches out to these populations to encourage their participation in Jewish life.
Each year, JOI works with Jewish communities throughout North America to help create entry-points to Jewish life around Passover! Through Passover in the Matzah Aisle SM, a program that brings a taste of Passover to local supermarkets, JOI helps synagogues, Jewish community centers, Jewish federations, schools, and more engage individuals and families shopping for Passover foods and provide them with low-barrier Passover information and samples of traditional Passover foods!
This year, communities implementing the program will not only have access to JOIâ€™s exciting resources to help shoppers take Passover beyond the Matzah (including sample activities, tastings, recipes, and more), but they will also have access to new resources specially geared towards families with young children.
And itâ€™s not too late to get involved!
Limmud-UK recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. At the time of its founding, there were no other country-wide events that catered to Jews of all kinds. The only American institution that mirrored the Limmud-UK experience was the recently departed CAJE. As a matter of fact, many of the early presenters (and performers) at CAJE also presented at Limmud-UK. And while the annual CAJE conference purported to be a conference for educators, pedagogy was probably dwarfed by Jewish education in the largest sense of the word.
There were attempts to model Limmud-UK even before the demise of CAJE. For example, a group of young educators and communal leaders in New York created Lishma, a similar kind of experience that lasted for a few years. Then CAJE went out of business. (I do acknowledge the noble effort of those who are forming NewCAJE.)
Now Limmud represents just about the only effort that is transdenominational and cuts across community lines around the country.
Preparing for a bar or bat mitzvah can be a daunting challenge for many in the Jewish community, particularly those who arenâ€™t fully engaged in Jewish life. Not only are the logistics demanding, trying to squeeze in lessons between other extra-curricular activities, but the lessons themselves are intensive. A young man or woman is expected to gain a certain level of proficiency in Hebrew, to a level where they can comfortably read from the Torah. The barriers are high for almost any family in the Jewish community, perhaps enough to keep some from even choosing to participate in this important life-cycle event.
A new website, launched by a 3rd year rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary, aims to lower these barriers by offering bar and bat mitzvah tutoring lessons online. The website MyBarMitzvahTutors.com (and MyBatMitzvahTutors.com) is an interactive resource that â€śallows for learning to take place in the comfort of your own home.â€ť