Three Rules for a Better Bar or Bat Mitzvah

Posted on March 20th, 2017
By Mark Oppenheimer for Tablet Magazine 

Jews do the milestone event all wrong. Here’s a quick, and meaningful, fix.

About a dozen years ago, I traveled across the country crashing bar and bat mitzvahs, from Arkansas to Alaska. I sneaked into one swank New York City bar mitzvah party by posing as a security guard. I stealthily trailed a deluxe coach in my station wagon to figure out where the 13-year-olds were going for the after-party. I got mistaken for one of the hired dancers. I ate a lot of free finger food. It was all research for my book Thirteen and a Day: The Bar and Bat Mitzvah Across America. In the end, despite all the pop-culture ridicule that the bar and bat mitzvah come in for, the TV and movie depictions of bitchy, prematurely mature adolescents at lavish parties (e.g. in Sex and the City, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, and many more), I argued that bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies—despite not being in the Torah, not being required, and being widely derided—are valuable coming-of-age ceremonies, and there’s a good reason that Jews who do almost nothing else Jewish nonetheless think that maybe their children should do this crazy thing.

Continue reading.

College Students Want (and Need) Critical Discourse About Israel

Posted on March 13th, 2017
By Joshua Ladon on eJewishPhilanthropy

I spent winter break week with 125 college students and campus professionals from more than 20 American universities who came to the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem to study during their winter vacation, rather than spend it on a beach or at a ski resort.

The learning focused on building participants’ vocabulary for speaking about Israel through the language of values. We aim to build students’ capacity to speak about Israel as a reflection of Jewish possibility. Many of the students attend schools featured on the recent list of the 40 worst colleges for Jews, and they expressed frustration over the emphasis on anti-Semitism, upon which the list relied. The students challenged back, as others have, and said that their schools’ vibrant Jewish communities have been unfairly characterized.

Continue reading.

WATCH: Why This Twilight Zone Episode Is More Timely Than Ever

Posted on March 6th, 2017
By Jake Romm for The Forward

"The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to the Twilight Zone.”

Continue reading and watch video.

Beauty Queens, Masks and Jewish Teens

Posted on February 27th, 2017
From Moving Traditions

Every year at Purim, we tell the tale of a Jewish teenage girl who ascends to the throne of the Persian Empire by pretending not to be Jewish.

This year, Rabbi Sara Brandes looks at Megillat Esther (the Scroll of Esther) and a TED Talk by model Cameron Russell, and describes how in our programs Moving Traditions relates Purim to the two most pressing questions for teens:

“How should I act if I want to be accepted by my peers?”

“When can I stop acting that way and reveal who I truly am?”
In Persia’s capitol city, Esther must hide her true identity — that she is a Jewish girl named Hadassah — behind the mask of a beauty queen. When she arrives at the palace, Esther only does what Haggai, the guardian of the concubines, tells her to do.  She bathes for six months in oil and six months in spices, and learns to paint herself with cosmetics.  She changes to conform to the beauty standard of her day.

Continue reading.

Visit colleges around the world without leaving home

Posted on February 20th, 2017
by Ilana Strauss for FromtheGrapevine

You Visit offers 3D and virtual reality campus tours for students.

With college on the horizon, high school seniors might be thinking about attending a school far from home. Luckily, you don't have to go to a campus to see it anymore. Online college tours have been gaining popularity for years, and they're finally starting to come into their own, thanks to virtual reality.

A new site appropriately named You Visit offers virtual college tours with both virtual reality and 360-degree tours of various college campuses around the world, from the U.S. to England to Israel.

Continue reading.