National Menorah lit on first day of Hanukkah




National Menorah lit on first day of Hanukkah

National Menorah lit on first day of Hanukkah

Thousands turned out for a special ceremony marking the first night of Hanukkah. “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band performed as the National Menorah, situated on the Ellipse near the White House, was lit. (Dec. 20)

Israel Political Brief December 20, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Hanukkah Statement



Statement by the President on Hanukkah

Source: WH, 12-20-11

Michelle and I send our warmest wishes to all those celebrating Hanukkah around the world.

This Hanukkah season we remember the powerful story of a band of believers who rose up and freed their people, only to discover that the oil left in their desecrated temple – which should have been enough for only one night – ended up lasting for eight.

It’s a timeless story of right over might and faith over doubt – one that has given hope to Jewish people everywhere for over 2,000 years.  And tonight, as families and friends come together to light the menorah, it is a story that reminds us to count our blessings, to honor the sacrifices of our ancestors, and to believe that through faith and determination, we can work together to build a brighter, better world for generations to come.

From our family to the Jewish Community around the world, Chag Sameach.

Chabad: Hanukkah Basics — Story, Songs, Blessings & Recipes




Source: Chabad, 12-20-11

Celebrate Hanukkah 2011

On Tuesday evening (Dec. 20) light one candle on your menorah

Menorah Lighting Instructions »»

Chanukah Basics

Chanukah Hanukkah Story
Chanukah How To
Chanukah Hanukkah Insights and Inspiration

Additional Links

Hanukkah Kids Zone
Hanukkah Recipes
Hanukkah Cards
Hanukkah Shopping
Chanukkah Tidbits
Menorah Gallery
Chanukah News

Menorahs lighted in New York, nation’s capital




Menorahs lighted in New York, nation’s capital

New Yorkers light a massive menorah in Manhattan on Tuesday to mark the beginning of Hanukkah.
New Yorkers light a massive menorah in Manhattan on Tuesday to mark the beginning of Hanukkah.

  • The world’s largest menorah is lighted in New York
  • The nine-branched candelabra is 32 feet tall, 28 feet wide and weighs 4,000 pounds
  • A menorah also is lighted in Washington
  • The White House menorah lighting dates to 1979 with President Jimmy Carter

From big balloons at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to a big Christmas tree at Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center, the Big Apple is known for going big around the holidays. And on Tuesday, the first night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, New Yorkers went big again, lighting a massive menorah outside the south side of Central Park.

The nine-branched candelabra is 32 feet tall, 28 feet wide, weighs 4,000 pounds, and is considered the world’s biggest, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman, director of the city’s Lubavitch Youth Organization, said the gold-colored steel structure is equipped with oil lamps and has special glass chimneys to protect the flames from wind.

The Brooklyn-based group has coordinated the lighting ceremony since it began in 1977, then coinciding with the administration of Abraham David Beam, the first Jewish mayor of New York City.

The massive structure was designed by renowned Jewish artist Yaacov Agam, according to Butman.

During the celebration, one candle is lighted the first night, and an additional candle is lighted each subsequent night for eight nights, earning Hanukkah the name “The Festival of Lights.”

“The menorah is a symbol of inspiration not only for the Jewish people, but all people, regardless of race, color or creed,” Butman said.

In the nation’s capital, a special lighting ceremony near the White House also marked the start of the holiday.

“Tonight, as families and friends come together to light the menorah, it is a story that reminds us to count our blessings, to honor the sacrifices of our ancestors,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “To believe that through faith and determination, we can work together to build a brighter, better world for generations to come.”

The White House menorah lighting dates to 1979 with President Jimmy Carter.

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield: The 411 on Hanukkah and Why It Matters for Jews and for America




Rabbi Brad Hirschfield: The 411 on Hanukkah and Why It Matters for Jews and for America

Source: Fox News, 12-20-11

What is Hanukkah and does it really matter? What if you’re not Jewish? Does it still matter? The answer is yes to all of the above. First some basic information.

Hanukkah 2011 begins on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, which corresponds, this year to sundown on the evening of December 20th. Why does the holiday begin then – not at midnight? Because in the Jewish calendar, the day begins at sundown.

It’s actually pretty cool to imagine that something is beginning when most people think its ending. It’s about asserting new possibilities when others may not see them. It’s related to Christmas too, but more on that below.

What is the story of Hanukkah? The story of Hanukkah is that of a four-year war in the land of Israel, which lasted from 167 BCE – 163 BCE. Some accounts portray a battle between oppressed Jews and the imperialist descendants of Alexander the Great, when the latter became increasingly harsh with those living under their rule. Other accounts tell of what was essentially a civil war between those Jews who collaborated with their Pagan masters and those who did not. Either way, the holiday story culminates in the re-taking of the Jerusalem Temple and the re-establishment of its sacred service.

Why is Hanukkah eight days long? Hanukkah lasts eight days for two reasons, one well-known, and the other much less so. According the better known story, the holiday lasts eight days in honor of the eight days that oil, which should have lasted only one day, continued to burn in the newly re-dedicated Jerusalem Temple’s menorah (sanctuary candelabrum).

According to a lesser known account in the Book of Maccabees (part of the Apocrypha — writings which are part of the biblical canon for Catholics, but not for Jews and Protestants), when the Temple was taken back by the Jews, they celebrated the eight day holiday of Sukkot (Tabernacles), which they had not been able to observe when Pagans controlled the institution. There is a good possibility that was the basis for declaring the new holiday of Hanukkah as an eight day festival….READ MORE ABC’s of Chanukah (Hanukkah)




ABC’s of Chanukah (Hanukkah)

Everything you need to know about the holiday of Chanukah – Hanukkah.


Chanukah (Hanukkah), the Festival of Lights, begins on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, and lasts for eight days. On the secular calendar, Chanukah generally falls out in December.

This primer will explore:

(1) A Bit of History
(2) Lighting Instructions
(3) Other Customs
The Blessings

 Watch animation of how to light the Menorah

 Listen to the blessings for lighting the Menorah

 Print formatted text of this blessing
Other Customs

After lighting the Chanukah menorah, families enjoy sitting in the glow, singing and recalling the miracles of yesterday and today. The first song traditionally sung after lighting the candles is Maoz Tzur (Rock of Ages). (click for audio and lyrics)

A number of other customs have developed, including:

  • eating “oily” foods like fried potato latkes (pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts), in commemoration of the miracle of the oil
  • giving Chanukah gelt (coins) to children
  • spinning the dreidel, a four-sided top with a Hebrew letter on each side (sivivon in Hebrew)


National Menorah to be lit near White House for 1st night of Hanukkah




National Menorah to be lit near White House for 1st night of Hanukkah

Source: AP, 12-20-11 special lighting ceremony is planned for the National Hanukkah Menorah near the White House on the first night of the eight-day Jewish holiday.

On Tuesday, Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew will be a special guest to help light the menorah on the Ellipse. The lighting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Organizers say thousands of people are scheduled to attend. “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band will perform.

The national menorah lighting dates to 1979 when President Jimmy Carter. President Ronald Reagan dubbed it the “National Menorah.”



Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky: Why Hanukkah Is the Most Celebrated Jewish Holiday in America




Why Hanukkah Is the Most Celebrated Jewish Holiday in America

Source: Time, 12-20-11

Hanukkah lacks the restrictions of holidays like Passover and Yom Kippur. That, combined with secular culture in the U.S., has made it so popular
Getty Images

Getty Images

Even though listed officially as a “minor” Jewish holiday, Hanukkah has turned into the most celebrated Jewish holiday in the U.S. There’s nothing minor about Hanukkah anymore.

Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky, executive director of the Jewish Outreach Institute in New York City, says the notion of calling Hanukkah “minor” really presents a misnomer and it is only a term used when discussing holidays that impart major restrictions on people’s behavior.

Major holidays include Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, and require restrictions on eating and other behavior, giving them titles of major holidays. But just because Hanukkah offers a festival void of the restrictions, it doesn’t make it any less important, Olitzky says. “Outside of the technical framework of Jewish law, Hanukkah is a major Jewish holiday,” he says. “We have really done ourselves a disservice by using the term minor.”

(LIST: Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Hanukkah)

Hanukkah means rededication, and it and offers Jews a reminder of three distinct points regarding light, freedom and dedication. The lack of strict rules make the holiday easy — and fun — to celebrate, which may be why research now shows Hanukkah is more celebrated — whether through the lighting of candles, gift giving, attending a party or a full celebration of the festival in Jewish practice — than even Passover…. READ MORE

Rabbi Yaakov T. Rapoport: Dual theme is reflected in Hanukkah; often repeated prayer reflects the meaning




Rabbi Yaakov T. Rapoport: Dual theme is reflected in this holiday; often repeated prayer reflects the meaning

Source: Syracuse Post Standard, 12-20-11

Rabbi Yaakov Rapoport, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Central New York in Syracuse.

Hanukkah occurred after the conclusion of the Hebrew Bible during the period of the Second Temple, approximately 200 BC. It being called A “minor” holiday means that it is not part the five books of Moses and does not have the Biblical restrictions of the Sabbath and other Holy Days. “Minor” does not mean that it is unimportant.

The emphasis of Hanukkah is on the Jews recapturing the Holy Temple, which the Syrian Greeks had desecrated, and the miracle of finding just one vial of oil sealed with the seal of the high priest, and the oil burning miraculously for eight days, until new oil could be procured. Even so, the rabbis and Jewish tradition have made strong reference to the battles that were waged against the Syrian Greeks, as we see in original Hebrew sources.

Maimonides — the greatest codifier of all of Jewish Law — in his laws of Hanukkah states clearly that the festive meals that are eaten during Hanukkah are to commemorate the battles won.

Also in the ancient Al Hanissim prayer, written shortly after the Hanukkah Miracle, that is recited four to five times a day during Hanukkah , we read, “In the days of Matityahu, the son of Yochanancq the high priest, the Hasmonean and his sons, when the wicked Hellenic government rose up against your people Israel to make them forget your Torah, and violate your will … You waged their battles, You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few … the wicked into the hands of the righteous. You made a great and holy name for yourself in your world and effected a great deliverance and redemption.” It is only after this lengthy description of the battles, does the prayer continue to describe the miracle of the oil….READ MORE

Zachary Braiterman: Hanukkah moves Jewish people today with the universal civic ideals of freedom, identity and citizenship, SU professor says




Zachary Braiterman: Hanukkah moves Jewish people today with the universal civic ideals of freedom, identity and citizenship, SU professor says

Source: Syracuse Post Standard, 12-20-11

David Lassman / The Post-Standard Syracuse University associate professor Zachary Braiterman, a member of the Religion Department, poses at the Hall of Languages.

Zachary Braiterman is an associate professor at Syracuse University in the Department of Religion. His research interests are in the areas of modern Jewish thought and culture; medieval Jewish philosophy; classical Jewish sources and art history. Hanukkah begins at sunset today and The Post-Standard asked him to write about the history and meaning of the holiday and how it plays out today.

Funny things have happened to the holiday of Hannukah.

With no basis in Hebrew scripture, Hanukah was once a minor festival that became a big deal in America. It is an eight day festival celebrated by the lighting of candles of a special menorah or candelabrum, holiday parties at home and in the synagogue, the eating of fried potato pancakes with sour cream or apple sauce, and a game played with the famous spinning dreidel top. From modern Israel comes the custom of eating sugary, jelly doughnuts. In America, lavish gifts are given to assuage Jewish children for Christmas.

The basic storyline chronicles ancient Judean politics. Soon after the death of Alexander the Great, ancient Judea was ruled by a Greek imperial state based in modern day Syria. According to the story, the emperor Antiochos turned the Temple in Jerusalem into a pagan shrine and proscribed the practice of Judaism. Under the leadership of Judah Maccabee, the Jews rebelled against Greek rule, retook the Temple, and rededicated it to the service of God.

In the twentieth century, historians began to shed new light on these events. Historians no longer view the Maccabean revolt as simply a struggle between Jewish monotheism versus Greek paganism. In this newer version, the Syrian Greeks exploited a conflict within ancient Jewish society between those Jews who sought to resist Greek culture versus those Jews who sought to assimilate or accommodate it. With the Temple service now secure thanks to the revolt, the successors to the Maccabees became active promoters of the very Greek culture against which the Maccabees rebelled.

In this historical light, Hanukah actually celebrates the conclusion of a civil war in ancient Judea. Indeed, civil strife fueled by palace and Temple politics marked the entire period following liberation from Greek rule. But no one today really remembers any of this, at least not practically….READ MORE

Hanukkah recipes: How to build better latkes




Hanukkah recipes: How to build better latkes

You don’t have to celebrate Hanukkah to love latkes, which are sometimes referred to as potato pancakes. Done right, the traditional versions made of potato, onion and a

If you’re looking to learn or improve basic techniques, consider these tips:

* Start with older potatoes, which may contain less moisture. Be sure to squeeze out as much moisture as possible from the grated potatoes.

* Add potato starch instead of flour; this will keep them gluten-free and create good texture.

* A self-rising flour may help produce a drier potato-onion mixture.

* Don’t peel all the potatoes you’re going to grate, for a deeper flavor and interesting texture.

* Combine potato with other grated, raw root vegetables, such as celeriac (celery root), beets and yams.

* If you’re frying in a fair amount of oil, test the temperature with one latke. If the oil around it bubbles too vigorously, adjust the heat. Conversely, if there’s hardly any bubbling around the latke, increase the heat slightly.

* Speaking of oil, you can fry latkes in a relatively small amount of it — especially when you use an electric skillet or griddle.

* Instead of draining the latkes on layers of paper towels, transfer just-cooked ones to a wire rack placed on a rimmed baking sheet. You can can keep them warm in the oven this way and they’ll stand a better chance of remaining crisp all around.

* Latkes take well to reheating at 350 degrees (on a rack or parchment-paper-lined baking sheet, even if they’re frozen.

* Serve with a nice, soft ricotta instead of sour cream (earning bonus points for incorporating another symbolic ingredient of the holiday).

Check out the roundup of latkes from our Recipe Finder archive after the jump, along with appropriate sides and a few of our favorite briskets.

What kind of problems or successes have you had with latkes? We’d like to hear about them. Submit comments below.

Washington cookbook author Joan Nathan, Washington caterer Vered Guttman and Fairfax blogger, recipe developer, cooking instructor and food photographer Shulie Madnick contributed to this post.

Cabbage Latkes. Egg whites keep the batter light.

Crisp Latkes. Once you achieve the right shoestring thickness on the potatoes, there’s no need to squeeze out extra moisture.

Fire-Pit Latkes. A version of the cooked-potato method that starts on the grill.

Frankenstein Latkes. No bolts; just big and tasty.

Indian-Inspired Latkes. Yellow-gold and flecked with green, thanks to the turmeric, cumin, jalapeno and cilantro mixed in.

Leek and Beef Latkes With Beet Salad. A true, hearty meal.

Sweet Potato Latkes. Lightly spiced, these caught on years ago; scallions may be substituted for the chopped onion.

Swiss Chard Latkes. A standard dish on Sephardic Rosh Hashanah spreads. Why not go green for Hanukkah?

You could serve them with . . .

Gingered Applesauce. Healthful, kid-friendly, gluten-free.

Luxury Applesauce. Onion, almonds, winter spices and orange zest; it all works.

Roasted Mashed Apple-Pear Sauce. My personal favorite; the flavor of pear is a great complement.

Smoked Applesauce. Goes great with Fire-Pit Latkes, of course.

Grandma Rubenstein’s Brisket. Beer’s involved; go figure.

Brisket Nina. A winner.

Abigail’s Top-Secret Brisket of Beef. The fruity components of the sauce can stand in for any applesauce-y side dish.

Brisket With Onion Gravy. A great match for particularly onion-y latkes.

8 modern Hanukkah songs




8 modern Hanukkah songs

Source: Metro Canada, 12-18-11

While the songbook for Judaism’s festival of lights still lags well behind Christmas, the holiday has been punching above its weight class in recent years. Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah song, originally performed on SNL’s Weekend Update in 1994, really got the wax spinning on the modern age of Hanukkah tuneage. Get your Hanukkah groove on with one modern track for each night of the celebration.1. CANDLELIGHT by Maccabeats
This clever parody of Dynamite by Taio Cruz has racked up more than 5.7 million views on YouTube. The Maccabeats, an a cappella group composed of students from New York’s Yeshiva University, have performed at Madison Square Garden and The White House.

2. MIRACLE by Matisyahu
The Hasidic reggae star known for his prodigious beat-boxing skills brings us a sweet and spiritual holiday ballad. And in the video, Matisyahu showcases his lighter side by getting hip-checked on a skating rink and having a surreal daydream where he tangles with King Antiochus, some random hockey goons and the Nutcracker.


Kyle Broflovski’s tender yet occasionally potty-mouthed tour de force from South Park’s famous Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo episode from season one. Thanks to Kyle and Mr. Hankey, the denizens of the fictional Colorado town learn that Christmas and Chanukah can coexist.

The holiday is spelled a few ways, with Hanukkah and Chanukah being the most popular. This is the most memorable track off 2005’s Hanukkah Rocks album, a collaboration between Guster’s Adam Gardner and The Zambonis’ Dave Schneider.

5. FEAST OF LIGHTS by They Might Be Giants
These quirky indie rock darlings known for the catchy geek anthems Birdhouse In Your Soul and Malcolm in the Middle theme song Boss Of Me concoct a downbeat ode to the holiday blahs.

The lone instrumental Chanukah track on our list comes courtesy of butter-smooth saxophone player Koz, the heir apparent to Kenny G. The twinkling piano and vibrant sax solos are very seasonal

7. HANUKKAH BLESSINGS by Barenaked Ladies
One of a trio of Hanukkah tracks on BNL’s Barenaked for the Holidays album from 2004. On this earnest medley, Stephen Page weaves both of Hanukkah’s candle-lighting blessings into the song, adding religious heft to the tune.

8. LOVE YOU BETTER by The Maccabees
While these Brighton-based Brit-poppers claim they picked their band name by randomly skimming the Bible, by adopting the namesake of the heroes of Chanukah, the small yet determined Jewish rebel army who rose up against their Syrian-Greek oppressors, their music is certainly holiday appropriate.

Jon D. Levenson: The Meaning of Hanukkah




Jon D. Levenson: The Meaning of Hanukkah

A celebration of religious freedom, the holiday fits well with the American political tradition.

Source: WSJ, 12-16-11

The eight-day festival of Hanukkah, which Jews world-wide will begin celebrating Tuesday night, is one of the better known of the Jewish holidays but also one of the less important.

The emphasis placed on it now is mostly due to timing: Hanukkah offers Jews an opportunity for celebration and commercialization comparable to what their Christian neighbors experience at Christmas, and it gives Christians the opportunity to include Jews in their holiday greetings and parties. What’s more, the observances associated with Hanukkah are few, relatively undemanding, and even appealing to children.

The story of Hanukkah also fits the political culture of the United States. Its underlying narrative recalls that of the Pilgrims: A persecuted religious minority, at great cost, breaks free of their oppressors. It wasn’t separatist Protestants seeking freedom from the Church of England in 1620, but Jews in the land of Israel triumphing over their Hellenistic overlord in 167–164 B.C., reclaiming and purifying their holiest site, the Jerusalem Temple.

Examined too casually, the stories of Plymouth Colony and Hanukkah seem to show heroes fighting for universal religious freedom. But the heroes of the Jewish story fought not only against a foreign persecutor. They also fought against fellow Jews who—perhaps more attracted to the cosmopolitan and sophisticated Greek culture than to the ways of their ancestors—cooperated with their rulers.

The revolt begins, in fact, when the patriarch of the Maccabees (as the family that led the campaign came to be known) kills a fellow Jew who was in the act of obeying the king’s decree to perform a sacrifice forbidden in the Torah. The Maccabean hero also kills the king’s officer and tears down the illicit altar. These were blows struck for Jewish traditionalism, and arguably for Jewish survival and authenticity, but not for religious freedom.

Over time, the stories of the persecutions that led to this war came to serve as models of Jewish faithfulness under excruciating persecution. In the most memorable instance, seven brothers and their mother all choose, successively, to die at the hands of their torturers rather than to yield to the demand to eat pork as a public disavowal of the God of Israel and his commandments.

To the martyrs, breaking faith with God is worse than death. In one version, their deaths are interpreted as “an atoning sacrifice” through which God sustained the Jewish people in their travail….READ MORE

Paula Hyman: Yale Jewish Studies Professor, Prominent feminist, historian passes away




Paula Hyman, Jewish feminist and scholar, dies

Source: JTA, 12-15-11

Noted Jewish feminist Paula Hyman, who served as the first female dean of the Seminary College of Jewish Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary, has died.

Hyman died Thursday at the age of 65.

She was the Lucy Moses Professor of Modern Jewish History at Yale University, a position she held for 25 years, including more than a decade as chair of the Jewish studies program.

Hyman served as dean of the Seminary College of Jewish Studies from 1981 to 1986, as well as an associate professor of history at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Prior to that she was an assistant professor of history at Columbia University for seven years; she received a doctorate from the school in 1975.

She published extensively on topics including Jewish gender issues, modern European and American Jewish history, and Jewish women’s history as well as feminism. She wrote several books on French Jewry.

Hyman was a founder in 1971 of Ezrat Nashim, a group of Conservative and some Orthodox Jewish women who lobbied extensively for changes in the Conservative movement’s attitude toward women, including ordaining them as rabbis and inclusion in a minyan.

She was awarded a National Jewish Book Award in 1999 and received honorary degrees from The Jewish Theological Seminary and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Hyman regularly spent time in Israel, lecturing in Hebrew and English at the Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University.

Paula Hyman: Yale Jewish Studies Professor, Prominent feminist, historian passes away

Source: Yale Daily News, 12-16-11

Paula Hyman, a noted feminist and historian and former chair of the of the program in Judaic Studies, passed away Thursday morning after a battle with breast cancer. She was 65



Paula Hyman.

A founder of Ezrat Nashim, a group of Conservative Jewish women who advocate for changes in the religion’s treatment of women, Hyman was a prominent scholar of Judaism and a symbol of Jewish feminism. At Yale and in New Haven, she served as a mentor and friend to many, Rabbi James Ponet ’68 wrote in a Thursday email to affiliates of the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale.

“[Her] capacity for loyal friendship, her love of the Jewish people writ large and her passionate engagement in numerous Jewish communities provide us all with an enduring model of what makes a life worth living, and what it means to live a committed Jewish life,” Ponet said.

Throughout her illness, Hyman remained a prominent figure both on and off campus. She stayed involved with the Westville Jewish community and often spoke at community events, said Lauren Gottlieb GRD ’16, who studied with Hyman.

Born in Boston in September 1946 to Sydney and Ida Tatelman, Hyman was the oldest of three sisters. After attending both Radcliffe College and the Hebrew Teachers College of Boston, Hyman went on to receive a doctorate from Columbia University.

During her time in New York, she emerged as a leader in the Jewish-American feminist movement, breaking glass ceilings in the field of Judaic Studies and advocating for women’s rights within Conservative Judaism. In 1971, she helped found Ezrat Nashim, which successfully pressured the Conservative movement to include women in the minyan (the quorum of adults required for some Jewish rituals), allow women to participate equally in prayer leadership and begin ordaining women as rabbis.

Hyman came to Yale in 1986 as the Lucy Moses Professor of Modern Jewish History. She served as the chair of the Judaic Studies program for 13 years, and remained active despite her illness, advising six of 15 current graduate students. Hyman published extensively on topics including the history of Jewish women, Jewish feminism and the French Jewry and served as president of the American Academy for Jewish Research. She was an inspiration both as a scholar and as an embodiment of the ideas she studied, Judaic Studies professor Eliyahu Stern said.

“I learned so much from her, not only about Jewish history, but also about how to move in the world as a woman scholar,” Gottlieb said. “She taught by example and allowed us to see her not only a professor, but as a proud mother and grandmother, community activist and Jewish leader.”

Mark Kligman: Matisyahu, Shaves Beard, Leaves Orthodox Judaism?




Has Matisyahu left Judaism?

Source: WaPo, 12-13-11
…Matisyahu, 32, who grew up Matthew Paul Miller in a Jewish family but not an Orthodox one, has created a certain cognitive dissonance for Jews, said Mark Kligman, a professor of Jewish music at Hebrew Union College in New York.

“It’s the paradox of an outwardly Orthodox Jew singing in a tradition that has absolutely nothing to do with Judaism,” Kligman said. He speculated that Matisyahu felt some of that dissonance himself.

“It could be that this is his own processing of that experience,” said Kligman, who added that it doesn’t appear that the singer is shedding his religion.

Matisyahu: “No More Chassidic Reggae Superstar”

matisyahu no beard

Jewish megastar Matisyahu, a poster child for the Chassidic community, shocked fans and followers alike when he revealed pictures of himself on Twitter on Tuesday with a clean shaven face. In addition to removing his trademark beard, the tweet was accompanied with the statement: “At the break of day I look for you at sunrise When the tide comes in I lose my disguise.

Shortly after, Matisyahu posted a blog, explaining his decision to chop off his facial hair in which he wrote, “No more Chassidic reggae superstar.

He went on to say:

“Sorry folks, all you get is me … no alias. When I started becoming religious 10 years ago it was a very natural and organic process. It was my choice. My journey to discover my roots and explore Jewish spirituality–not through books but through real life. At a certain point I felt the need to submit to a higher level of religiosity…to move away from my intuition and to accept an ultimate truth. I felt that in order to become a good person I needed rules — lots of them — or else I would somehow fall apart. I am reclaiming myself. Trusting my goodness and my divine mission. Get ready for an amazing year filled with music of rebirth. And for those concerned with my naked face, don’t worry…you haven’t seen the last of my facial hair.”

matisyahu no beard

White House Hanukkah Reception: Overnight Makeover for a Kosher First Kitchen




Overnight Makeover for a Kosher First Kitchen

Source: NYT, 12-13-11

Brendan Smialowski for The New York Times

Rabbi Levi Shemtov oversees a team, including Tommy Kurpradit, second from left, the White House executive sous-chef, in koshering the kitchen for a party.

Brendan Smialowski for The New York Times

Gavriel Steinmetz, a rabbinical intern, with koshered flatware.

FIRST, spritz the kitchen’s stainless steel counters with disinfectant. Scrub vigorously.

Next, wrap counters in tinfoil, tight, tight, tight.

Now stretch plastic wrap over the foil and seal with masking tape.

Then repeat for every surface that could possibly come into contact with food — yes, even the hanging pot rack.

And so began the fastidious frenzy to make the White House’s kitchen kosher last week, a nearly four-hour drill that started at 10 p.m. Wednesday. A deadline approached: a truckload of kosher food was due Thursday at 10 a.m.

The Obama administration’s holiday reception season was in full swing. Leftovers from a party earlier Wednesday evening had already been removed.

The following night would bring the Hanukkah party for 550 guests, politicians and Supreme Court justices among them. Rigorous koshering (sometimes called kashering) would ensure that the kitchen would be in compliance with Jewish dietary laws. Guests could eat without qualms, knowing their religious commitment had been respected….READ MORE

Michel Cluizel: Tired of Hanukkah Gelt? Try a Chocolate Menorah




Tired of Hanukkah Gelt? Try a Chocolate Menorah

Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Source: NYT, 12-13-11

Michel Cluizel, the French chocolatier, has introduced a line of chocolates and pastries made under kosher supervision in a New Jersey plant. For Hanukkah, he has come up with a pareve chocolate menorah that allows you to observe the tradition in reverse, eating one candle each night instead of adding one. The central candle, or shamus, which is used to kindle the others, is fitted with a small container of almond oil so it can actually be lighted….READ MORE

Rabbi John Rosove: Reinvention of Hanukkah in the 20th Century: A Jewish Cultural Civil War




Rabbi John Rosove: Reinvention of Hanukkah in the 20th Century: A Jewish Cultural Civil War

Source: Jewish Journal, 12-11-11

Last week I was privileged to hear a presentation on Hanukkah by Noam Zion, a fellow of and the senior educator at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, who led 40 Rabbis of the Southern California Board of Rabbis in a superb 2-hour conversation entitled:

“Reinvention of Hanukkah in the 20th Century: A Jewish Cultural Civil War between Zionists, Liberal American Judaism and Habad –  Who Are the Children of Light and Who of Darkness?”

Noam offered us a comprehensive view of Hanukkah from its beginnings (© 165 B.C.E.) through history and how it is understood and celebrated today by Israelis, American liberal non-Hareidim Jews and Habad. Based on Hanukkah’s tendentious history and the vast corpus of sermons written by rabbis through the centuries, Noam noted three questions that are consistently asked: ‘Who are the children of light and darkness?’ ‘Who are our people’s earliest heroes and what made them heroic?’ ‘What relevance can we find in Hanukkah today?’

Though religiously a “minor holyday” (Hanukkah is not biblically based, nor do the restrictions apply that are associated with Shabbat, Pesach, Shavuot, Succot, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur), Hanukkah occupies a place in each of the ideologies of the State of Israel, American liberal Judaism and Habad.

For example, before and after the establishment of the State of Israel the Maccabees served as a potent symbol for “Political Zionism” for those laboring to create a modern Jewish state. The early Zionists rejected God’s role in bringing about the miracle of Jewish victory during Hasmonean times. Rather, such leaders as Max Nordau, Theodor Herzl, David Ben Gurion, Chaim Weizmann, Jacob Klatzkin, and A.D. Gordon emphasized that Jews themselves are the central actors in our people’s restoration of Jewish sovereignty on the ancient land, not God.

For 20th century liberal American Jews Hanukkah came to represent Judaism’s aspirations for religious freedom consistent with the American value of religious freedom as affirmed by the first Amendment of the US Constitution. Even as the holiday of Hanukkah reflects universal aspirations, the Hanukkiah remains a particular symbol of Jewish pride and identity for American Jews and their children living in a dominant Christian culture.

For Habad, Hanukkah embodies the essence of religious identity on the one hand, and symbolizes the mission of Jews on the other. Each Hassid is to be “a streetlamp lighter” who goes out into the public square and kindles the nearly extinguished flame of individual Jewish souls, one soul at a time (per Rebbe Sholom Dov-Ber). This is why Habad strives to place a Hanukkiah in public places and why Hassidim offer to help Jews don t’filin. Every fulfilled mitzvah kindles the flame of a soul and restores it to God.

Noam concluded his shiur (lesson) by noting that the cultural war being played out in contemporary Jewish life is based in the different responses to the central and historic question that has always given context to Hanukkah – ‘Which Jews are destroying Jewish life and threatening Judaism itself?’…READ MORE

Tom Segev Reviews Gur Alroey: The Makings of History / Zionism, Uganda and the Jews




The Makings of History / Zionism, Uganda and the Jews

In the annals of the Zionist movement there was no argument more bitter and more formative than that over whether the Jewish state should be built within the Land of Israel, or whether it would be better off wherever possible

Source: Haaretz, 12-9-11

A Jew, a Swiss and an Englishman were on a train. This could be the opening of a joke, but the three were on their way from Basel to Trieste. From there they sailed to Africa in December 1904, to look into founding a state for the Jews in Guas Ngishu, northwestern Kenya. That venture mistakenly went down in history as the “Uganda Plan.” The trio went at the behest of Herzl, following a decision by the Sixth Zionist Congress.

In the annals of the Zionist movement there was no argument more bitter and more formative than that over whether the Jewish state should be built within the Land of Israel, or whether it would be better off wherever possible. The Swiss scholar Alfred Kaiser and the engineer Nahum Wilbush, who came from the Land of Israel, ruled out settling Jews in Guas Ngishu; the British explorer Hill Gibbons thought the region might work and proposed setting up an experimental settlement.

Nahum Wilbush. Industrial pioneer. Nahum Wilbush. Industrial pioneer.

A fascinating book by Gur Alroey maintains that the British explorer voiced the most serious, in-depth and credible opinion (“Seeking a Homeland,” Ben-Gurion Research Institute ). Alroey, a professor in the University of Haifa’s department of Land of Israel studies, writes: “If we compare the condition of the Land of Israel to the condition of the region that the delegation investigated in those years, Guas Ngishu was not in the least ‘a place that has nothing and with which nothing can be done,’ as Wilbush claimed. It seems that had a similar delegation been sent in December 1904 to the lower and upper Galilee, the Jezreel Valley or the sand hills north of Jaffa, where Tel Aviv later arose, the sight would have been far worse than what the delegation found on the plains of Guas Ngishu. In this country – malaria stricken, rife with swamps and occupied by natives – they surely would have concluded against it.”…READ MORE

Dianne Ashton: Rowan University professor is new editor of Jewish American history journal




Dianne_edited.jpgRowan University professor Dianne Ashton is the first female editor of American Jewish History

As a professor of religion studies at Rowan University, a published author and — now — the first female editor in the 118-year history of the “American Jewish History” journal, Dianne Ashton says she doesn’t know where she finds the time. But she loves every minute of it.

“It’s great just to be the editor. The fact that I’m the first woman is just really a matter of historical events,” said Ashton of her new position at the helm of the premier journal on the study of Jewish history in America. “It’s an extreme honor and great responsibility to be the editor of a very important journal on the American Jewish experience. It has a great reputation, and it’s my responsibility to keep that up.”

Ashton said, in her new role, she has to learn quickly.

“A journal has to come out on time, and it’s a fairly complicated process,” said Ashton. “The articles are submitted, I review them and then each one goes to two scholars for review. They come back to me, I edit them and then they go back to the authors for revisions. All this must happen before they reach the publisher so there’s a lot of pressure to keep moving.”

Ashton said the editor role is also unpredictable. She doesn’t always know when articles will come across her desk, how long it will take for scholars to submit reviews or who might need to be reminded of a deadline.

“I have learned to nag politely,” said Ashton, with a laugh.

American Jewish History explores the role of Jewish Americans in events throughout the country’s history, including some involvements that were largely unknown….READ MORE

Jonathan D. Sarna: American Jewry’s Data Problem





Jonathan D. Sarna: American Jewry’s Data Problem

There’s been no national census of Jews since 2001 and none is planned for the indefinite future.

Source: WSJ, 12-2-11

Do we need a new nationwide count of America’s Jews?

It has been 10 years since anyone conducted a census of American Jewry—and no major organization has plans to conduct another one soon. (The official U.S. Census can’t ask questions about religion.) This means that the Jewish community may indefinitely lack the kind of data required for communal planning—how many Jews there are, where they live, whom they are marrying, what Jewish religious movements they adhere to and so forth.

Gathering such data is no easy task. Whereas many Christian churches calculate membership as the sum of all those they have baptized or who have made public declarations of their faith, Jews see themselves as a people embracing religious and nonreligious members alike. Thus life-cycle ceremonies and synagogue membership are insufficient proxies for membership in the Jewish community.

When the United Jewish Communities (now known as the Jewish Federations of North America) surveyed the nation in 2001, the organization pegged the Jewish population at 5.2 million. But the $6 million effort was fraught with problems: Data were lost, the response rate was low, the design was controversial, and the results contradicted those of other studies. One prominent researcher, the late Gary Tobin, characterized the survey as “utter nonsense,” while some others charged its organizers with manipulating population and intermarriage figures in order to raise more money….READ MORE

Stanley Rosenbaum: University of Kentucky Jewish Studies professor dies after his vehicle hit another on road with high water, then became submerged




Stanley Rosenbaum: University of Kentucky professor dies after his vehicle hit another on road with high water, then became submerged

Source: AP, 12-1-11

A University of Kentucky professor has died after his vehicle became submerged in water in central Kentucky.

Police told WKYT-TV that 71-year-old Stanley Rosenbaum’s truck became submerged when it traveled down an embankment after he crashed into another vehicle that had stalled in high water ( Police said the accident happened Tuesday night in Nelson County.

Jeremy Popkin, who is director of UK’s Jewish Studies program, said Rosenbaum worked in the program as a part-time professor.

Nelson County Sheriff Steven Campbell called it a “sad situation” and said no one saw the accident happen.