The Summer issue of CONTACT features fascinating forays into the languages and landscapes that have deepened contemporary Jewish experience.
The Summer issue of CONTACT features a diverse array of personalities and perspectives exploring history, memory and cultural meaning in Jewish communities throughout the world.
Of all the Jewish holidays, Shabbat is arguably the most well-known — but it is also widely ignored. Lurking at the end of each week, Shabbat is prone to be taken for granted or to be seen as workaday — an odd paradox for a day meant to signify a cessation of work.
The concept of Jewish identity in Israel would seem to be as self-evident as European identity in Belgium. Modern Israel was conceived as a beacon for the world’s Jews, inspired by Jewish philosophy and informed by a desire to chart the next stage in Jewish consciousness. One would expect Jewishness to be its lifeblood.
In recent years, the Jewish world has come to appreciate the crucial importance of research and evaluation. It is now accepted that without formative analysis at all stages of an initiative’s creation and implementation, programs aimed at the revitalization of Jewish life will have a haphazard chance of success.
Pharisee, Sadducee, Essene; Karaite, Rabbinite; Kabbalist, Philosopher; Hasid, Mitnaged; Zionist, Bundist. Throughout history, the Jewish people has been demarcated by precise, mutually exclusive categories. With the advent of denominations in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Jewish identification stratified still further. “Just Jewish” was never enough. There was always an adjective waiting in the wings.
Creating and implementing Jewish identity programs can sometimes seem like shooting darts in the dark. Isolated in our Jewish non-profit cocoons, surrounded by others in the same profession, it can be difficult to know whether our ideas are profoundly visionary or foolishly misguided.
For vast segments of the American Jewish community, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration is not an entrance exam into Jewish adulthood, but the final exam of one’s Jewish affiliation. For all the effort that precedes the event — the immersion in Hebrew school, the preparation to be called to the Torah, the study of adult responsibilities — B’nai Mitzvah observances are more often than not followed by an immediate drop-off in Jewish affiliation.
Jewish summer camp is a uniquely American phenomenon. Although today we often associate camp with leisure activities — softball, Israeli dance, lines at the canteen — camps have always served an indispensable purpose in the community. Originally, Jewish camps were created to ameliorate the grim conditions of city life.
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