Pinchas - A Righteous Zealot Who Taught Us That Zealotry Isn't the Jewish Way

This week in synagogues outside of Israel, the Jewish people read the story of Pinchas the Jewish Zealot. Zimri, of the tribe of Shimon, took a Midianite woman as a lover, and had the audacity to have sex with her right in front of Moses & the gathered Jewish people.  Pinchas, who was Aaron's grandson and Moses's great-nephew, was so enraged by the actions of Zimri that he thrust a spear through Zimri, and into his lover, killing them both while they were "in the act"! 

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Gun Control: Jewish Thoughts on a Loaded Subject

The terrible events in Orlando over the weekend, and the horrific shooting attack in Tel Aviv a few days before that, have once again shocked America and the western world. Such incidents of terrorism on our own democratic soil invite profound soul-searching as to how we can prevent such evil from happening again. They have also brought the issue of gun control back into the headlines and presidential campaigns - there are those who would ban all guns, making it harder for terrorists, criminals  and homicidal nut jobs to get their hands on weapons, and there are those that believe ordinary citizens should have the right to bear arms, in order to defend themselves from the gun toting terrorists.

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Shavuot - Five Ideas For Making It a Meaningful Experience.

I've always felt a little sorry for Shavuot -  Succot and Pesach (Shavuot's partner festivals) are each a week long and full of cool stuff that Jews are commanded to either do (like eating Matzah, shaking a Lulav & Etrog, building and eating in a Succah and holding a Seder).

Poor old Shavuot is just one day (two outside Israel), and the Torah doesn't give it any particular commandments for us to do - in fact it is the only Jewish festival that doesn't even have a date, we are simply told that it is held 50 days after Pesach. Maybe that's the reason that for large parts of the Jewish world, Shavuot gets forgotten.

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Light My Fire - Lag BaOmer

Lag BaOmer (May 26, 2016) marks the anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai - mystic and author of the Zohar, the seminal kabbalistic work that illuminates the divine light within every soul. The Omer itself is a 50-day period between the second day of Passover and the festival of Shavuot, when we celebrate the day the Jewish people received the Torah at Mount Sinai.

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This Year's Top Israeli Contributions


We aren't called the StartUp Nation for nothing! One of Israel’s greatest sources of pride is the enormous number of inventions that come out of the country. Some of the most famous are the cell phone, drip irrigation, the cherry tomato,  electric car grids,  Disk-on-Key and many more.

Here are some other cool Israeli initiatives:

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Liel Our Son

It was a Friday afternoon; we were still living in Katamonim, a small neighborhood in Jerusalem. I was about to leave my apartment to pick up some groceries for Shabbat when suddenly I heard screaming. This was not any kind of screaming. This was piercing, terrifying, horrible screaming like something terrible was happening. I opened the door, as all the neighbors had, to find out what was happening. I saw that the door to my next door neighbor, the Gidonis, was open and that  the screaming was coming from there. The Gidonis were a nice traditional family of 4 boys ranging from ages 19 to about 30 that for the most part kept to themselves. I was quite friendly with the father and couldn't imagine what had gone wrong. 

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Ideas For a Meaningful Yom Hazikaron Outside Israel

In Israel, Yom Hazikaron (Israel's Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism), is a powerful and difficult day. There are few people not affected by or connected to the death of a soldier or victim of terror. If a family hasn't suffered a loss like this, they have friends and neighbors who have - it is part of the national experience of being Israeli. So it's easy to find meaning from the day when the country is mourning around you. Its so much harder outside of Israel - no siren's or flags at half mast; TV and radio isn't dedicated to programming around YomHazikaron.

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The Top 10 Most Impactful Holocaust Films

We asked the Jerusalem U staff what they think are the most impactful Holocaust films, that inspired and moved them. Here is what they came up with:

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One Person Made a Powerful Contribution to Holocaust Education By Telling Her Own Grandparent's Story

 B2247: A Granddaughter's Understanding 

Sara Greenberg was an undergrad with no film making experience, who made a Holocaust movie that has been seen by many thousands. It was her passion to share her grandparent's important and moving story of survival  that propelled her to fight her own fears and insecurities which had been holding her back.  

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Mekonen’s Story: The Global Dream to Belong

Jerusalem U is about to release a mini-documentary about the journey of IDF Lt. Mekonen Abebe. This film picks up on the story of one of the soldiers that we first met in the highly acclaimed documentary Beneath the Helmet during which Mekonen was a trainee soldier in the IDF's parachute regiment, under my command.


Mekonen: The Story of an Ethiopian Jew, presents both his history before joining the army  as well as his process of becoming an IDF officer himself and I am really happy that Jerusalem U has made this film, and that I was able to be part of it, because I feel that Mekonen’s story is an important story to share.

It’s not just the personal account of a remarkable individual, it is also the collective account of an entire community, the story Ethiopian Jewry.

Mekonen's story is perhaps bigger than even than that of his community or of Israel - it is  a univerals story, one that applies to any country grappling with the challenges of absorbing immigrants. It describes the process a person goes through to  integrate into a new society, while still remaining true to his or her roots.

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