Weblog Entries for March 2005

Prepping for Passover

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Rabbi Yitz Greenberg maintains that Passover–with its message of unyielding hope and optimism–may be the greatest gift that the Jewish people have given to the world. It is not surprising therefore that so many have adopted the Exodus journey as their standard for freedom from the rule of tyranny. But how does a family who simply yearns to share a Passover Seder transform these values into a meaningful, inclusive experience? Resources abound, and we at JOI will do our best to share some with you. This year, Jewish Lights Publishing–a publishing house of inspirational books–and Craig Taubman–a leading singer in the Jewish folk scene–have bundled two resources that should be of help: a book by Dr. Ron Wolfson called “Passover, The Family Guide to Spiritual Celebration,” together with a music CD by various artists called “Celebrate Passover.” You can view this special offer here.

Jew “by injection”? - A Purim Follow-Up

The hip, irreverent weekly newspaper the New York Observer covered the Purim play that a number of JOI staffers attended last Thursday (and that we blogged about here). Besides giving a fairly accurate account of what we experienced at the event, this article also provides a new name for the spouse of another background who’s married to someone Jewish: Rob Corddry of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” describes himself as Jewish “by injection.” We’re not exactly sure what that means, but the article points out that his wife Sandy “is, presumably, Jewish by a more traditional method.”

Blogging about news…about our blog!

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This will probably be the most self-referential blog post ever at, but we’re excited to see that the good folks at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency wrote a news brief about our blog launch. You can read it here. If you’re unfamiliar with JTA, they’re a news wire source for the Anglo-Jewish press akin to what the Associated Press or UPI is to secular news media. JTA also offers a free daily email briefing that anyone can sign up for and that many of us at JOI and in the Jewish community find indispensable, so check it out if you want to keep up on news from around the Jewish world.

Happy Purim!

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Purim begins tonight. It’s one of those Jewish holidays that falls into the category: “they tried to kill us, we won…let’s eat!” For this holiday it’s “let’s eat and drink,” because Purim is the only day of the year when getting drunk is rabbinically sanctioned. (Please Purim responsibly.)

If you or someone you know has never stepped foot inside a synagogue, Purim is a great introduction. People are there primarily to have fun, rather than for solemn prayers or High Holiday repentance. Most synagogue Purim celebrations are child-focused, but if you live in one of the major Jewish cities there’s a growing number of options for genuine grown-up entertainment. In the Bay Area, our friend Dawn Kepler at Building Jewish Bridges just sent her email list a huge number of options. And here in New York there’s also a wide variety of events, including a fundraiser for Hazon, the Jewish environmental group and a former JOI grantee: “The Shushan Channel” promises to tell the story of Purim by spoofing modern-day TV shows, and was written by staff writers from (and will star Rob Corddry of) “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

Nice to be Noticed!

We were thrilled to read in this week’s Washington Jewish Week that the new executive director of the Northern Virginia Jewish Community Center, Eric Koehler, refered to JOI’s Public Space Judaism model as guiding some of his thinking as he begins his tenure there:

“Many times we get tied to our building,” he explained, citing a recent report by the Jewish Outreach Institute urging more public-space programs. “I think it’s important you have events outside.”

The Washington Jewish Week has also covered our recent work in the Greater DC community in more depth here: Study: Many Barriers To Engaging Jews, December 9, 2004.

Jews Not OK in the UK?

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You will rarely find the intermarriage debate within the Jewish community more starkly defined than in this report from the BBC today. Much of the piece focuses on Orthodox “outreach” to encourage Jews to marry other Jews. That’s not an unusual reaction to studies showing “between 30% and 50% of young British Jews now marry outside the religion.” However, the problem is in some of the statements made…


Intermarriage: The Final Frontier

This week The Forward, considered one of the most prominent Jewish newspapers in North America, carried an article about a recent Star Trek novel in which a Jewish character “intermarries” a Klingon. While this is yet another example of Jewish intermarriage in popular culture — think “The O.C.” on TV and “Meet the Fockers” on film — we would also love to see more coverage in the Anglo-Jewish press of actual Jewish intermarriages, where the issue is taken seriously…especially when it shows interfaith families that are successful at creating Jewish households or raising Jewish children.

In the meantime, we wish the best of luck to Starfleet Captain David Gold’s granddaughter, Esther, in her marriage to Khor (not pictured), son of the Klingon Ambassador to Earth.

FDR’s Great-Grandson, The Rabbi

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A fascinating article in yesterday’s New York Times illustrates yet another example of how intermarried families are capable of raising strongly identifying Jews. In this case, the family in question is among the descendents of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, and the strong Jewish identification has led a great-grandson, Joshua Boettinger, to the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Pennsylvania.

In discussing the divergent paths of FDR’s descendents, the article notes: “These life stories tell volumes about the flexibility of social class and ethnicity in the United States where even a Roosevelt can become a rabbi…” We think it also tells volumes about the Jewish potential inherent in intermarried households.

There was a much more in-depth article about Joshua Boettinger in the New York Jewish Week last month, which you can read here.

For Women from Other Backgrounds Raising Jewish Children

If you’re in Atlanta, GA, wondering if there’s anything fun, social and low-key going on to help you prepare for Passover and learn about the holiday, check out the Mothers Circle “Coffee Talk” at la Madeleine in Perimeter on April 13. Atlanta’s own Rabbi Alvin Sugarman will be on hand to answer any of your questions. Click here to learn more about the event.

At JOI we’re fond of saying that non-Jewish parents raising Jewish children are the unsung heroes of the Jewish community.


A Purim Smash Hit

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Now this looks like fun. Aberley Gifts is selling Purim Piñatas in the shape of Haman, the story’s villain. They seem to have already sold out of the larger version. They call it a Haminata. Haminatas are handcrafted in — where else? — Mexico, and come filled or unfilled.

Usually kids just drown out Haman’s name with noisemakers during Purim synagogue services. Now they can actually beat him with a stick! (Parental supervision required, of course…;)

Purim Costumes - Recycle Halloween or Create Anew?

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Growing up, when it came time for Purim there was always a big debate. Of the many traditions ensconced in this fun holiday, getting to wear a costume has always been a favorite so every year we had the debate of whether to recycle our Halloween costumes or create totally new ones. Eventually, my family collected a “Purim Box.” Within this box were ties and wigs, baggy pants and jump suits. Whenever we saw something ridiculous throughout the year, it would go in “the box.” As each of us tried to decide which costume to wear, we would have our own family fashion show to see who could put together the most ridiculous outfit. One of my fondest memories from childhood, I’ve already started to collect my own Purim box with ridiculous clothing (thank you to the 80’s) to use with my kids someday.

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