The recent Kveller post by Benay Josselson on her son’s positive and enriching experience at Rockland Jewish Academy made me hopeful about the prospect of a full, participatory Jewish day school education for special-needs children. Her tone, which greatly contrasted with her blog post from one year earlier when she assumed it would be tough to find a Jewish day school that would be able to work with her son who had been diagnosed with autism, reflects the steps the day school field has taken to make inclusion an educational priority. It also reflects more specifically the community that is being created at Rockland Jewish Academy under the leadership of Nellie Harris. (Full disclosure: Nellie is a Fellow in RAVSAK, the Jewish Community Day School Network’s, inaugural Head of School Professional Educational Program, which mentors exceptional new heads in the first years of their headship).
We already know Jewish day schools play a crucial role in helping develop the next generation of Jewish leaders, but now we see schools of all sizes taking a closer look at their policies on special needs students. As an organization committed to advocating the myriad benefits of Jewish day schools, this is an issue I have seen start with rudimentary programs and expand into mission-driven work, with full support from leadership and the community, at a growing number of schools. Overall, this is a huge positive for families of all types.
In the past, day schools have struggled to meet the educational needs of students with a variety of learning disabilities and other social, emotional, behavioral or health challenges. Today, great strides have been made, and more and more schools are working on identifying opportunities to increase access and developing an inclusive process for teaching students with far-ranging capabilities.
The ultimate goal is for children to become integrated into and embraced by the Jewish community, regardless of need. That’s what parents want, what the kids want, what everyone wants — to be full members of the community. Truly, a day school community can only call itself that when it reflects the make-up of the entire community from which it sources its members.
At the recent RAVSAK/PARDES Jewish Day School Leadership Conference, we dedicated an entire learning track to “Special Needs and the Diverse Classroom” to better educate those within our network and help them develop plans and strategies to become truly welcoming and inclusive institutions. Many attendees noted that it was an eye-opening experience that allowed them to gain a deeper understanding of the range of students characterized as special needs and learn new approaches to special needs inclusion.
All students benefit socially, emotionally and intellectually when children with special needs are educated alongside their classmates. With February designated as Jewish Disability Awareness Month, it is important to raise awareness not only about the psycho-social needs of students but the expanding response of the larger Jewish day school community and their ongoing commitment to make Jewish day school education a gift that all can share.
Certainly, this work is far from over; there are too many students for whom day school is not yet an option due to their specific challenges. But we have to recognize the small steps with which we begin a long journey, as it is by following the footsteps of others that change can gain momentum.
It is with great sadness that MyJewishLearning, Inc. notes the passing of our founder Edgar M. Bronfman, Sr. He was a giant among Jewish leaders, a legendary visionary, and a mentor and friend to all who knew him. We at MJL would not exist without his tireless work, forward-thinking vision, and continued support of our work.
Below is the official obituary from the Samuel Bronfman Foundation, where he was the president.
Zichrono livracha–May his memory be for a blessing.
Edgar M. Bronfman, Sr., the son of legendary Canadian liquor magnate Sam Bronfman, who expanded Seagram Ltd. internationally and transformed the World Jewish Congress into a prestigious global advocacy force while separately fostering educational and social programs designed to promote a “Jewish renaissance,” died peacefully today at his home in New York surrounded by family. He was 84.
At the time of his death Mr. Bronfman was president of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation. With offices in the landmark Seagram Building that his family built on Manhattan’s Park Avenue, the foundation’s mission is to “inspire a renaissance in Jewish life” through programs Mr. Bronfman described as designed to cultivate “a Jewish community that is knowledgeable, proud and welcoming, where everyone is invited to learn and grow.” Mr. Bronfman personally exemplified this mission by turning the foundation’s offices into a hub of study groups, seminars and special gatherings to promote Jewish learning, discussion and innovation.
Foremost among the initiatives he supported are Hillel: The Foundation for Campus Jewish Life, the Bronfman Youth Fellowships, and MyJewishLearning.com.
Mr. Bronfman was instrumental in reviving Hillel’s campus presence and leading its international expansion. He visited more than 130 college campuses on five continents and met regularly with students.
He was especially proud of the Bronfman Youth Fellowships, a network of more than 1,000 young Jews from Israel and North America that includes some of today’s most inspiring writers, thinkers and leaders. The fellowships program, which Mr. Bronfman founded in 1987, engages future leaders at a formative point in their lives – after their junior year in high school – and immerses them in an intensive exploration of Judaism, including textual study and the examination of ideas about the Jewish experience, pluralism and social responsibility. The fellows and alumni embody Mr. Bronfman’s vision that young people who are enriched and energized by their Judaism are poised to contribute not only to Jewish life, but to the world at large.
In 2002, Mr. Bronfman launched MyJewishLearning.com as a way to connect Jews around the world with Jewish knowledge and tradition. More than a decade ago, Mr. Bronfman recognized that Jews increasingly would rely on the Internet to find answers to basic questions about Judaism. Today, with more than 650,000 visitors a month, MyJewishLearning, Inc utilizes the latest in technology to spread knowledge of Jewish religion, history, values, traditions, and culture to people around the world.
A prolific speaker and author, Mr. Bronfman described his work at the foundation as “finding new ways to teach young Jewish people the stories and ethics our ancestors have handed down, and to nurture in them a pride in our common history.”
Judaism became important to Mr. Bronfman late in life after he had built a career at Seagram and raised a family. As recounted in “The Making of a Jew,” one of four autobiographical books, the turning point was a trip to the Soviet Union in 1970 as part of a delegation to lobby the Russian government to allow greater freedom for Soviet Jews. As he later recounted, “It was on those trips to Russia that my curiosity was piqued. What is it about Judaism, I asked myself, that has kept it alive through so much adversity while so many other traditions have disappeared? Curiosity soon turned into something more, and that ‘something more’ has since turned into a lifelong passion.”
The 1970 trip to Russia also marked the beginning of Mr. Bronfman’s three-decade long association with the World Jewish Congress and his emergence on the world diplomatic scene as an effective advocate for the Jewish people. On becoming president of the World Jewish Congress in 1981, Mr. Bronfman initiated a campaign to bolster its operations in Jewish communities around the world and engage in forceful diplomacy on behalf of the Jewish people.
Working directly with government leaders in foreign capitals, Mr. Bronfman achieved a series of diplomatic victories. Chief among them were agreements forged with the Soviet Union leading to the release of Jewish prisoners of conscience and to greater freedom of religious practice and emigration among Russia’s Jewish population. In 1986, Mr. Bronfman exposed the Nazi past of Austrian President Kurt Waldheim. He broke new ground in improving Jewish relations with the Vatican, including securing the removal in 1993 of a convent that had been built at Auschwitz by Carmelite nuns. While on a visit to a Tropicana Orange Juice plant in Florida in 1991, Mr. Bronfman persuaded President George H. W. Bush to secure the rescission of United Nations Resolution 3379, which equated Zionism with racism. In the later years of his WJC leadership, Mr. Bronfman fought for justice on behalf of Holocaust victims and their heirs, winning financial restitution for thousands of survivors and their families and forging a historic agreement with the Swiss banks over Holocaust era assets. In 1998, Mr. Bronfman was selected by President Clinton to chair the Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets.
Mr. Bronfman’s skills as a negotiator and chief executive were developed during his career at Seagram Ltd., the world’s largest distiller of alcohol beverages, under the tutelage of his father Samuel Bronfman, known as “Mr. Sam.” Edgar Bronfman started his Seagram career as an apprentice taster in Montreal. In 1957, he was named CEO of Joseph E. Seagram and Sons, Inc., the company’s U.S. subsidiary. In 1971, he was named Chairman and CEO of the Seagram Company Ltd.
In the early 1960s Edgar worked closely with Mr. Sam to refine the branding and marketing of Seagram’s flagship premium aged and blended whisky, Chivas Regal, making it the premier whisky in its class. The campaign, conceived and spearheaded by Edgar, was celebrated for its innovative use of advertising created by Madison Avenue legend Bill Bernbach, whom Edgar had recruited to the Chivas account. Subsequently, Edgar Bronfman led the company’s purchase of Scotland’s prestigious Glenlivet Distillery, adding one of the world’s great single malt whiskies to the Seagram collection of brands and leading the way in meeting growing consumer interest in high-end single malts.
Under Mr. Bronfman’s direction, Seagram extended its line of premium whiskies and expanded into fine wines through its Chateau & Estates division. The company acquired Martell Cognac, Perrier-Jouet Champagne, and the distribution rights to Absolut Vodka along with other premium alcohol beverage brands, cementing its position as the global leader in luxury alcohol beverages.
Seeking to branch into other fields, under Mr. Bronfman the company also purchased Tropicana Orange Juice and orange groves throughout the world, including China.
In 1966, Mr. Bronfman bought a controlling stake in the movie studio MGM, which was later acquired by Kirk Kerkorian. In 1975, Mr. Bronfman formed Sagittarius Productions, which produced several hit Broadway shows and movies including 1776, a film version of Jane Eyre and the animated movieCharlotte’s Web. His most successful diversification venture was gaining a major stake in DuPont in 1981. Under Mr. Bronfman, Seagram sought to acquire 51% of the oil company Conoco in a bidding war with DuPont. Although DuPont was ultimately successful in the acquisition, Seagram’s Conoco shares were turned into a 25% ownership of the combined DuPont-Conoco entity, with Seagram wining 25% of the seats on DuPont’s board of directors.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Mr. Bronfman positioned Seagram Company Ltd. as a major champion of the alcohol beverage industry’s efforts to achieve equitable tax and regulatory treatment as compared to beer and wine. Notable on this front was the drinks “equivalency” campaign which successfully demonstrated that the amount of alcohol in a typical drink is the same whether whisky, wine or beer and that, therefore, all alcohol beverages should be taxed and regulated in the same manner.
During this time Mr. Bronfman discovered his true life’s calling in Jewish advocacy, devoting increasing energy to his work as president of the World Jewish Congress, leading Hillel’s resurgence, and forging a renaissance in Jewish life for the next generation.
In 1994, Mr. Bronfman retired as chairman and CEO of the Seagram Company. Upon its sale to Vivendi in 2000, he reconstituted The Samuel Bronfman Foundation, named for his father, as the institutional home of his activities centered on Jewish learning and education. In 2007, he stepped down from the World Jewish Congress to dedicate his time exclusively to the foundation.
Edgar Miles Bronfman was born in 1929 in Montreal, Canada. He was the third child of Samuel and Saidye Rosner Bronfman, and brother to three siblings, Minda, Phyllis and Charles. He graduated from Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ontario, attended Williams College and received a B.A. from McGill University in 1951. He moved to New York City in 1955 and became an American citizen in 1959.
Among numerous honors conferred and leadership positions earned over the course of his life, Mr. Bronfman received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Clinton; the Chevalier de La Legion d’Honneur from the government of France; the Justice Louis D. Brandeis Award from the Zionist Organization of America; and honorary doctoral degrees from Williams College, McGill University, Tel Aviv University, New York University and Hebrew University, among others. He served as the founding chairman of the International Board of Governors of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life and chairman of the World Jewish Restitution Organization. He authored five books: The Making of A Jew, 1996; Good Spirits, 1998; The Third Act: Reinventing Yourself, 2002; Hope Not Fear: A Path to Jewish Renaissance, 2008; and The Bronfman Haggadah, 2013.
Mr. Bronfman married Ann Loeb in 1953 and together they had five children, Sam, Edgar, Jr., Matthew, Holly and Adam. They were divorced in 1973. With his wife Georgiana Webb, he had two daughters, Sara and Clare. In 1994, he married the artist Jan Aronson. In addition to Jan Aronson, he is survived by four sons and three daughters: Samuel Bronfman II, Edgar Bronfman, Jr., Matthew Bronfman, Holly Bronfman Lev, Adam Bronfman, Sara Igtet and Clare Bronfman. His brother Charles Bronfman, his sister Phyllis Lambert, 24 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren also survive him.
Hanukkah’s almost here, so let us make the gift-giving easy! Send any these delicious, festive and seasonal kosher gift baskets or other goodies to your friends and loved ones (or yourself – we won’t tell anyone!). Until November 27th, save 10% by using our discount code MJLEM1.
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Hanukkah is less than 2 weeks away! We’ve got a huge selection of Judaica and Hanukkah gifts, all direct from Israel. So whether you need to stock up on candles or you’re looking for a menorah, jewelry, or home decor, we’ve got all your Thanksgivukkah needs covered. And until November 27th, we’re offering 10% off everything in our online store with coupon code: HANUKKAHMJL
Hanukkah’s on the horizon. Got your menorah? Candles? Gelt? Check out our snazzy picks for holidays basics, and be prepared when the sun goes down on Wednesday, November, 27.
And now, for the basics:
This colorful Israeli menorah ($95) makes a unique and beautiful gift, and would look gorgeous glowing in the window.
These Handcrafted, dripless Hanukkah candles ($14.50) from Safed, Israel come in blue, orange, and red, and will burn without a trace.
And now, candles crafted for the eco-conscious family. These Hand-Dipped Beeswax Chanukah Candles ($16.99) are made from renewable resources and packaged with recycled materials— can’t go wrong with these!
Everybody loves gelt on Hanukkah and we all usually consume LOTS of it. That’s why we found the cheapest option with the most gelt with these Milk Chocolate Gelt Coins. 24-pack! ($10.19).
Hanukkah ain’t complete without a game or two of dreidel. This package of Large, Natural Wood Dreidels ($8.95) will do the trick!
Ok, but nu, have you eaten? Inspire your own Thanksgivukkah latkes, or to inspire someone else’s? Check out one of our favorite cookbook pics of the season, The New Jewish Table ($22.99). We get hungry just looking at the photos!
Here is the ultimate gift for faraway family and friends — or for yourself if you’re tired of cooking! This Hanukkah Pure Essentials ($94.99) gift basket includes: fresh baked challah, babka, rugelach, California dried fruit (plums, apricot, peaches, pears), and 1 large wooden dreidel. And until 11/24 you can save 10% on all Kosher Gift Box orders with code MJLEM1!
Hope these picks help get your Hanukkah planning underway—Thanksgivukkah planning, that is!
Soo looks like I will never again be perusing LivingSocial for a teeth-whitening deal ever again. The popular flash-sale website made a major mistake, and not one easily forgivable–seeing as though there was pre-planning involved.
The company, based in Washington D.C. threw a 7 Deadly Sins-themed Halloween Party last weekend, and the party’s “greed” room was crudely decorated with gold and silver decorations and filled with dreidels and gold coins.
Their publicity department admitted there were, in fact, dreidels in the “greed” room, described as a place to “get greedy challenging friends to a plethora of games,” and put up this apology:
“We have looked into it and determined that the inclusion of dreidels with the other games in the gaming room was not a smart choice, and we are very sorry to have upset anyone,” Nolan told The Washington Jewish Week. “Certainly this behavior does not reflect who we are as a company.”
It doesn’t reflect who they are as a company? Oh, please. Whoever works for a company reflects the behavior of the company—and whoever planned this offensive and ignorant idea had to have talked about it with others who probably got a good laugh out of the thought of it.
It’s amazing because a “greed” room can be filled with any number of things that represent decadence and abundance, yet of all items, they chose dreidels? For a company that offers myriad deals in so many diverse arenas; from aquarium outings to apple picking to dinner for two—they couldn’t have drawn from any other resource for creative inspiration besides somebody’s sinister humor and prejudice?
Did LivingSocial not take into consideration that at least one Jew in Washington D.C. would walk into the party and take offense to their blatant anti-Semitism? Do Jews work at LivingSocial? I’m sure there must be some—and it’s even possible that Jews who work there contributed to the “Jewy” decorations in bad taste. If so, I’d like to hear from you!
“Think Jews, Think Greed,” was the message they spread—and it’s all around lame and disappointing. Way to lose a bunch of great customers LivingSocial. You know how much we like deals.
Today, for the 5th year in a row, MyJewishLearning.com was named one of the top American Jewish organizations by Slingshot, for in their words, our “cutting-edge, influential work as well as its ability to do so much with a relatively small budget and staff.”
As delighted as we are by the recognition, we’re even happier by our esteemed company, which includes our blog partners at the Institute of Southern Jewish Life, Rabbis Without Borders, and Keshet. We couldn’t agree more that they’re doing vital, exciting Jewish communal work, from coast to coast (and even in the middle!).
If you don’t already follow their blogs, don’t wait another day. Read about their personal stories and community debates, and congratulate all our partners on their incredible work. Thanks for reading!
Changes are afoot at MJL, Inc. as we begin the exciting search for a new Chief Executive Officer. We are looking for an innovative and passionate visionary to lead the MJL team while developing new products and deepening the impact on current and future readers (like you!).
The ideal candidate will have a broad knowledge of the Jewish world, significant fundraising experience, and a passion for using technology and new media to engage Jews and non-Jews in Jewish learning and conversation. The job description is below, and all applications should be submitted by September 4th. Please share this post with anyone who may be interested.
Chief Executive Officer of My Jewish Learning, Inc.
MyJewishLearning, Inc. (MJL), the premier Jewish media organization, is seeking an innovative, dynamic, and passionate Chief Executive Officer (CEO) who will guide MJL’s continued growth as the leading online presence in pluralistic Jewish education and engagement.
The MJL CEO position presents a unique opportunity for a visionary leader to broaden the horizon of what is possible for the Jewish experience online. Singular in its commitment to enhancing Jewish knowledge and engagement from a trans-denominational perspective, MJL is a remarkable Jewish pluralistic initiative seeking an equally remarkable leader. We seek a creative thinker seasoned by real world experience in organizational leadership and implementation of new media strategies. Through the development of compelling content and creation of online community, the MJL CEO will stand at the nexus of Jewish life and technology. With a commitment to empower MJL users from every background to learn and engage with Jewish culture and tradition, the MJL CEO will run a fiscally viable not-for-profit media company while managing a dynamic staff committed to broadening the horizons of the Jewish virtual world.
Who We Are
MyJewishLearning, Inc. (“MJL”) is the leading non-denominational Jewish media organization. Through its various web products—MyJewishLearning.com, Kveller.com, TheJewniverse.com—MJL educates and engages more than 700,000 people a month. MJL has been included in the last four editions of Slingshot: A Resource Guide to Jewish Innovation, an annual compilation of the 50 most inspiring and innovation organizations in the North American Jewish Community, and has won multiple American Jewish Press Association Awards for “Most Outstanding” Jewish website.
MJL currently has three signature projects:
MyJewishLearning.com focuses on Jewish education and knowledge–everything from guidelines on religious customs, etiquette, and ritual to learning about obscure Jewish philosophers. MyJewishLearning.com also features weekly Torah portion commentaries, quizzes, recipes, and several dynamic blogs, including partner blogs produced with Keshet, The Institute of Southern Jewish Life, Rabbis Without Borders, The Foundation for Jewish Camp, and The Jewish Book Council.
Kveller.com features parenting resources on everything from pre-conception through preschool–information on Jewish genetic diseases, circumcision, Jewish kiddie music, and much more. Kveller also has a Jewish baby name bank, multiple bloggers (including actress Mayim Bialik), and a robust online community that facilitates profound conversations, connecting Jewish parents living all over the United States.
TheJewniverse.com is a spin-off of MyJewishLearning’s popular daily email, keeping subscribers up to the minute with news and information of interest across the Jewish world. Additionally, MJL owns Shamash.org, one of the first Jewish websites, which publishes several highly trafficked webpages, including a popular kosher restaurant database.
Across all these platforms, the CEO is responsible for conceiving strategies to deepen MJL’s impact on its large and diverse audience, while also developing new products and expanding its constituency.
What We Are Seeking
As the leader of a uniquely positioned not-for-profit organization, the MJL CEO is an important communal thought leader on the intersection of Jewish life, media and technology and an advocate for the masses of Jews who engage with Jewish content and community online. The MJL team is made up of talented, energetic individuals working collaboratively in content, technology, design, marketing, and finance roles, and the CEO will lead and inspire them, while increasing the scope of MJL products and readership.
The talents and experience we seek include:
- Demonstrated success in growing an organization, employing effective management, creativity,
- A deep knowledge of the American Jewish landscape.
- Excellent verbal, written, and technological communication skills.
- A passion for using technology and new media to engage Jews and non-Jews in Jewish learning and conversation.
- Ability to lead and inspire a team and grow and engage a board.
- Demonstrated ability to raise and attract financial resources.
Leadership and Visioning
- Provide leadership, vision, and policy guidance for MJL.
- Serve as a public spokesperson for and grow MJL’s national profile to become a visible resource/expert to the Jewish community on Jewish learning and engagement in the age of the internet.
- Establish editorial priorities and direction for MJL’s growing base of media platforms.
- Partner and collaborate with other Jewish organizations, and pursue content and distribution partnerships with other Jewish organizations and media outlets.
- Increase MJL’s readership and audience.
- Advance the MJL brand and presence in the general online world.
- Engage and strengthen a committed board of directors.
- Strengthen existing donor relationships and cultivate new major donors.
- Expand financial resources for the organization and create strategies for monetizing web traffic.
- Explore and implement innovative approaches for increased diversification of income streams.
- Build and grow a highly functioning organization.
- Engage and empower a team of talented staff members and recruit and develop talent for the organization.
- Ensure the fiscal soundness of the organization and spearhead its development, marketing, public relations, and programmatic expansion.
MJL is based in New York City and the CEO position requires significant travel. There are currently eight full-time employees and one part-time employee, and a network of freelance writers and editors.
How to Apply
Please forward your resume and cover letter to MJLCEOPosition@gmail.com, describing what interests you about this opportunity and why you feel particularly suited for this position. Indicate your name and “CEO” in the subject line. Applications should be submitted by September 4th.
We’ve finally organized all the books we’ve been meaning to read, picnic gear we’ve been meaning to buy, and kitsch we’ve been meaning to show off. Lucky you!
We know, we know, you promised yourself you’d read Proust one of these days, and you still haven’t gotten to Pride & Prejudice. But how can you, when all these great new books are coming out? Here are our favorites.
The Summer Things You Never Knew You Needed
Don’t hog all the fun. Share our ridiculous finds with your dog and your children—and when things get out of hand, whip out your “Keep Calm I’m Jewish” t-shirt.
Road-Tripping and Picnicking
There’s nothing that screams “summertime!” like Magen David ice cubes, Jewish bumper stickers, and those awesome folding camping chairs. We want two of each.
Classic Reading, Sort Of
From Leon Uris’s classic tale of the founding of the State of Israel to Daphne Merkin’s scandalous personal essays, sometimes you just want to sit by the pool with an old favorite. Here are some of ours.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our finds as much as we have!
And since MyJewishLearning, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that relies on donations and revenue-raising, we’ll receive a percentage of the proceeds of any purchase you make using our links.
Happy summer 2013!
What Gift Do You Give at a Jewish Wedding?
As the summer heats up, our calendars start filling with weddings and celebrations and our heads start spinning with worry over finding the perfect gifts.
Between MyJewishLearning’s editors, we’ve gone to enough weddings (both our own and others’) to be able to give some advice. So we’ve gotten together to share the most successful gifts we’ve given and received. We hope our picks can ease your gift-giving angst!
Friday Night Essentials
Shabbat begins with candle-lighting and the accompanying blessings and rituals, which present great opportunities for useful gifts.
Keeping an Easy and Organized Kitchen
Another genre of wedding gifts that we’re fond of giving (and, yes, receiving) are those that ease food preparation and kitchen organization—which is especially important if the couple will be keeping a kosher kitchen.
Judaica To Round Out a Jewish Home
Whether the newlyweds are looking forward to hosting Passover seders or they’re going to be having guests for Hanukkah, now is a great time to help them build up their Judaica collection.
Filled with brand-new dishes and cookware, a newlyweds’ kitchen is a great place to experiment with recipes. Here are some of our top picks:
We hope our guide helps you navigate through the whirlwind that is wedding season.
And since MyJewishLearning, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that relies on donations and revenue-raising, we’ll receive a percentage of the proceeds of any purchase you make using our links.
Here’s wishing you and your loved ones a hearty “mazel tov,” from all of us.