Thursday, October 30, 2014

Muslim Twins Convert to Judaism, Join IDF

By: Shira Kipnees for

Fatima and Zukra Islambakov are twins born to a Muslim mother nineteen years ago in Uzbekistan.

After several years in a Muslim school and years of considering themselves Muslims, the twins discovered that they had Jewish roots and that their father was Jewish, after Jewish Agency representatives showed up at their home and suggested the twins make aliyah.

The twins abandoned the local tradition and decided to arrive in and move to Israel with their families. However, they were still considered Muslims by Israeli law. Today, however, they serve in the Israeli Defense Forces after converting to Judaism and undergoing a name-change process. One of the twins even took part in one of Operation Protective Edge’s important missions.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How My Family Will Celebrate This Year’s “Shabbatoween”

By Maurie Backman for Raising Kvell

Growing up, Halloween was never something I celebrated. My Orthodox parents didn’t think it was appropriate for their children to go around trick-or-treating, and since most of my friends’ parents felt the same way, it was never something I felt I was missing out on. (Besides, we had Purim, which to me was just like Halloween, minus the spooky stuff.)

My husband, on the other hand, grew up trick-or-treating and loved it as a kid. So last year, when my son was almost 2, we decided to take him trick-or-treating, and he had a blast (even though we confiscated the vast majority of his candy once we got home, as we weren’t about to give him free reign over his stash). I know Halloween is one of those gray areas for a lot of folks who are Jewish—after all, celebrating Halloween is not the same thing as celebrating Christmas or Easter, but it doesn’t seem to be as accepted a holiday as Thanksgiving, which many observant Jews celebrate without hesitation.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Is This ‘the Face of the Future of Judaism’ for a New Generation in Los Angeles?

TV and film director Jill Soloway has been running a de facto Jewish community. The question is whether it can outlast her success.

By Ari Karpel for Tablet Magaine

Jill Soloway“I was channeling my Aunt Rose.”

Jill Soloway was excitedly recounting LoveFest, the matchmaking event she held in July to mark the rarely celebrated holiday of Tu B’Av, known as the Jewish Valentine’s Day, where she and a few friends donned fuchsia babushkas and played yentas.

“Sooooo,” she said, dragging out the “O” and raising her voice half an octave for a nasal, Fran Drescher-style accent. “Tell me what you’re looking for.”

Soloway reverted to her normal voice: “I squeezed my nails into this girl’s arm.”

And Fran Drescher again: “You say you want to have children? Ohhhhkaaaay, we’re looking for someone who wants to make babies.”

“It was so stupid and so fun,” Soloway said, back to her normal tone. “I was deputized by the babushka to do the thing I’ve always wanted to do, which is putting people together. It was total chaos. It became more like a theater event than actual matchmaking. Some people really wanted my services, and some were completely annoyed by me.”

In other words, it was just another Saturday night in the life of Jill Soloway, television writer, movie director, and part-time yenta.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Abbas' strategic threat could be more dangerous than Hamas

Op-ed: Palestinian leader's initiative to isolate Israel is not aimed at achieving a better starting point for future negotiations – but at putting an end to the Zionist enterprise.

by Michael Oren for Ynet

AbbasIn his address to the United Nations General Assembly, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas proved that he is not a partner for peace.

And a Palestinian leader who accuses the State of Israel, which arose from the ashes of the Holocaust, of committing genocide in Gaza, apartheid and ethnic cleansing, has no intention of becoming a partner for peace either.

In his previous General Assembly speeches, Abbas denied the Jewish people's historical connection to the Land of Israel and Jerusalem. But this time he conveyed an unprecedented message: He does not want negotiations – not even American-brokered talks – and is not interested in durable pace based on security arrangements and mutual recognition.

The fact that Israel doesn't have a partner for peace has been accepted by the Israeli public a long time ago. But now we are forced to acknowledge a new fact: That Abbas poses a danger which may be revealed as strategically more serious than the tactical dangers posed by Hamas.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Giant Ukraine JCC provides shelter from the storm — in style

By Cnaan Liphshiz for JTA

Menorah CenterDNEPROPETROVSK, Ukraine (JTA) — Five months into the war that turned him into a refugee in his own country, Jacob Virin has already attended 20 Jewish weddings — including those of his son and two other relatives — at the $100 million JCC of Dnepropetrovsk.

Towering over the skyline of this industrial metropolis, the 22-story Menorah Center is said to be the largest Jewish community center in Europe and a symbol of the remarkable Jewish revival here after decades of communist repression.

But with eastern Ukraine descending into chaos in recent months, the center of late has assumed a new symbolism. With one of its two hotels serving as temporary housing for some of the hundreds of refugees displaced by fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels, and a recent mass wedding for 19 Jewish couples held on its roof terrace, the center has become an emblem of Jewish survival during the current crisis.

“More than any other single complex, the Menorah Center has empowered the Jewish community of Dnepropetrovsk to better serve as an anchor for Ukrainian Jewry in difficult times and as an engine for Jewish renewal,” said Zelig Brez, the community’s director.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Paula Abdul Invites You For Shabbos

Former American Idol judge says 'Yes!' to the Shabbos Project.

Hannah Dreyfus, Staff Writer for The Jewish Week

Paula AbdulInternational singing star and former American Idol judge Paula Abdul just sent you a Shabbos invitation.

Abdul, who is herself Jewish (the name 'Abdul' is Syrian), agreed to be a part of the Shabbos Project, an world-wide initiative to encourage Jews to keep the Sabbath together on the weekend of October 24-25. In a recent video promoting the Shabbos Project, she pronounced her love for the day of rest.

“Shabbos is very important to me because it’s my time to be just me—no paparazzi, no invasion of my privacy,” Abdul says in a promotional video. “I can always look forward to the end of the week and say, ‘Thank God I have Shabbos.’”

Abdul heard about the project from the chief rabbi of South Africa, Rabbi Warren Goldstein, who gave her a personal call asking her to participate. “When the chief rabbi calls, like you’re going to turn it down?” she says in the promotional clip. Rabbi Goldstein started the project as a campaign to urge South African Jews to keep one Shabbat together.

One year later, the project has become a global phenomenon. This year, the project will take effect in more than 212 cities and 33 countries around the globe.

Aside from Abdul, other celebrities have also signed on to participate. Actress Maureen Lipman, radio presenter Vanessa Feltz and singer-songwriter Alex Clare have all recorded promotional videos, encouraging participation in Shabbat activities.

Visit to sign up to partcipate.

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Israeli app technology in fight against Ebola virus

Volunteers turn to Snapp apps builder to create About Ebola information app in native African languages including Wolof, Jola, Krio and Swahili.

by Viva Sarah Press for Israel21c

Ebola appHealth workers in Western Africa trying to contain the Ebola outbreak continue to voice the need for better communication with the local communities. So, West-African based tech company Code Innovation, with the help of a volunteer team from Chile, Lebanon, Kenya, Senegal and Gambia, turned to an Israeli technology to create a free “About Ebola” mobile application to support public health outreach and communication efforts to educate the public about Ebola viral disease.

The Snapp apps builder technology is the brainchild of Vito Margiotta, Assaf Kindler and Gabriel Gurovich from the Singularity University. Snapp lets anyone with an idea produce a mobile app from any smartphone via its free platform.

According to a Code Innovation press release, the app was created with the Snapp apps builder in response to WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic saying, “What is really important is to inform the population of Guinea and Conakry about this disease, as this is the first time they are facing Ebola. They need to know what it is and how they can protect themselves.”

It took 11 days for the volunteers to build the informational Ebola app.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The High Holidays, According to Daniel Tiger

By Miriam Steinberg-Egeth for Raising Kvell

Daniel Tiger“What’s teshuvah?” my 3-year-old daughter asked as we were getting dressed for services on the first day of Rosh Hashanah and talking about the holiday.

I explained that during this time of year from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, we can change things about ourselves and how we act in the world. I said, “If you don’t like how something is going, you can turn it around.”

She thought for a moment, then her face lit up and she said, “Like Daniel Tiger says!” Before I could figure out what the heck she was talking about, she sang, “When something seems bad, turn it around and find something good.”

“Yes,” I said. “Like that. That’s what teshuvah means.”

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While you're at it, check out our High Holidays Holiday Spotlight Kit for ideas, crafts, recipes, etc.