Monday, June 30, 2008

Why Send Your Kids to Jewish Summer Camp?

After reading this great post on"Jewish Hogwarts" at the Rebbetzin's Husband it got me to thinking...

(To summarize, he compares Jewish summer camp to Hogwarts...Harry Potter discovers, when he attends Hogwarts, that there are others just like him! For many kids, going to Jewish summer camp is that same eye-opening experience.)

While here at OSRUI, I definitely think a lot about the choices that parents make when they decide to send their kids to this camp versus any other summer camp experience. We rabbis spend a lot of time discussing recruitment strategies, how to encourage our parents to send their kids here, and bemoaning the fact that we can't get more kids to join us here at our favorite summer spot.

To me, of course, it's a no-brainer. Summer is the time to connect with Jewish life. With the incredible opportunity to expand our Jewish horizons so accessible, I can't imagine how my kids would NOT go to Jewish summer camp.

It's a chance for them to meet other Jewish kids from all over.
It's a chance for them to see that Judaism is not limited to their home synagogue or even to their home!
It's a chance to learn in a totally informal environment about the joys of living a Jewish life.
It's a chance for them to see amazing Jewish role models in the staff who work so closely with each of our campers.
It's a chance to gain a sense of independence about their Jewish identity, realizing that they can "do Jewish" without the direct impetus of their parents. And that they can control that Jewish activity in some way.

Why NOT send your kids to Jewish camp????

Monday, June 23, 2008

I've Been Waiting for Gilad Shalit for 2 Years

From this website:

Gilad Schalit was born on August 28th, 1986, in Nahariya and raised in Mitzpe Hilla in the Western Galilee by his parents Aviva and Noam with his siblings Yoel and Hadas. At the end of July 2005 Gilad began his military service in a combat unit of the armored corps. For the two months prior to his kidnapping, he has been on duty guarding and ensuring the security of the settlements around Gaza.

On Sunday, June 25th 2006, in a terrorist attack on an IDF post at Kerem Shalom during which his unit friends have been killed, Gilad was taken captive and has been held since in the Gaza Strip by Hamas.

To this day Gilad didn’t receive any visits from an official faction, including the Red Cross, and there is no reliable information about his well being.

Two years have passed since his abduction. Lets remind everyone that he has yet to come home and demand his quick return.

On June 25th, the two year anniversary to his abduction, please replace your personal profile picture with Gilad’s picture on Facebook, Windows Live Messenger, ICQ, Tapuz, bona, Mekusharim, news groups and any other social network or blog you’re a member of, and show the world that you are waiting for Gilad Schalit’s return.

And he's not the only one. We still await the return of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser as well, both abducted at about the same time.

May their return come speedily and safely.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sh'lach L'cha...Sending out the Scouts!

in this week's Torah portion...

12 spies were all sent
to scout the land of Canaan
one from every tribe.

They came back with grapes,
reports of milk and honey,
and fear of giants.

Caleb calmed them down
"we can do it!" he told them
Josh stood by him too.

It was lack of faith
in God's promise of the Land
and they paid the price:

As a punishment
they would not enter the Land
except Josh and Cay (leb)...

And so they wandered
forty years in wilderness

Shabbat Shalom!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Helping Flood Victims in Iowa

Here are some ways to help flood victims, from Tamar Fox's post over at Jewcy:
  • Right now, Iowa’s Jewish communities are holding up well, but they anticipate needing help in the near future. Synagogues in Mason City and Dubuque have taken on water, and will likely need money and supplies once the waters have receded and they can clean up. The Jewish Federation in Des Moines is accepting contributions to be distributed for general flood relief, wherever it may do the most good. You may send a check, earmarked "Flood Relief" to the Jewish Federation, 910 Polk Boulevard, Des Moines, IA, 50312.
  • Hillel is talking about organizing a volunteer rebuilding trip in late summer when the waters have receded and damage has been assessed. If you’re interested in such a trip, contact the University of Iowa Hillel.
  • And the Midwest isn’t the only area being hit by record-breaking floods this year. In China, dozens have been killed and more than a million people have been forced from their homes as waters rise in the Guangdong Province. The Red Cross Society of China is on the ground in Guangdong distributing supplies to people whose homes are submerged. Donate to the RCSC here.
Also, the Union for Reform Judaism is, as usual, collecting money to go to those in need. It's the headline on their page currently.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Blessings...Priestly and Otherwise

It's a famous line
"May God bless you and keep you."
the priests all said it.

"May the face of God
shine on you and be gracious
unto you and yours."

"May God's face lift up
to you and may you always
find completeness -- peace."

The Priestly Blessing is the centerpiece of this week's Torah portion, Naso.

The Hebrew root of the word "shalom," which means peace, is "shalem" -- which means wholeness or completeness. Only when we have ourselves, in the world...can we truly find peace.

May you find blessings, completeness, and peace on this Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Celebrating Shavuot

The holiday of Shavuot is almost here!

While Shavuot is one of the most important Jewish holidays, it does tend to get overlooked.
So here are some things to help you learn more about this holiday!

1. Shavuot falls on the 6th day of Sivan. Its calendaring is directly related to Passover, as it is the end of the period of the counting of the Omer. (In English, it's usually called Pentecost, but the actual translation is "weeks" -- as in the weeks of the counting of the Omer.)

2. Shavuot is considered to be the anniversary of the acceptance of the Torah at Sinai. (That's why it follows Passover -- first we were freed, then we got the Torah.)

3. This is the day that began the season of bringing the first-fruits to the Temple. The first fruits were the first of each harvest to blossom, and were harvested and brought to the priests in a ceremony.

4. It is a tradition to read Akdamut, a liturgical poem, on Shavuot. This long poem is read at the morning service before the reading of Torah.

5. It is customary to eat dairy foods on Shavuot. I like the explanation that the Torah is like "honey and milk" on our tongues as it says in Song of Songs 4:11. Other people say that we did not eat meat before the giving of the Law at Sinai and thus we remember that. Either way, Shavuot is a vegetarian's paradise of a holiday!

6. We read from the Book of Ruth on Shavuot. It is about a woman who chooses to accept the Torah, just as we commemorate our people's acceptance of the Torah. Plus it talks about the harvest. And it's a good read.

7. Midrash teaches that Mt. Sinai burst into blossoms at the giving of the Torah. Perhaps this is why it is customary to decorate synagogues and homes with flowers and greenery for Shavuot.

8. Most people stay up all night on Erev Shavuot, in a practice known as Tikkun Leil Shavuot. The idea is to study Torah all night in preparation for receiving the Torah at Sinai.

9. The idea of staying up all night really took off when coffee became available in Europe.

10. Conservative and Reform congregations typically choose Shavuot to celebrate Confirmation, the high-school affirmation of Jewish identity.

11. There is a slightly obscure tradition of making and displaying papercut-art. (I definitely need to explore this one more. I think there's something fun in this for Shavuot for next year...)

12. You could honor Shavuot by baking a "Bible Cake". It's a cool scavenger hunt through the Bible that yields a cake! How cool is that.

13. And in keeping with the cake idea, Sephardic Jews have the custom to bake a seven-layer cake called Siete Cielos or Seven Heavens. This symbolizes the seven celestial spheres that God traveled to present the Torah to Moses. Seven graduated circular layers are decorated with a star of David, the staff of Moses, the Tablets of the Law, manna, Jacob's ladder and the Ark of the Covenant. Here are some more foodie customs for Shavuot.

Learn more about Shavuot...check out some of Leora's and Ilana-Davita's great posts about it.

Join us at Am Shalom for our Shavuot Study-In, on Sunday, June 8th at 7:30pm held at our temporary offices, 900 Skokie Boulevard, Suite 109, Northbrook. Call 847-835-4800 for more details.