Today is Tu Bishvat, the birthday of the trees. There are many ways to celebrate—you can plant a tree if you live in a temperate climate, you can hold a Tu Bishvat seder, you can do some awesome Tu Bishvat crafts with your kids, and of course, you can eat some delicious Tu Bishvat foods (I recommend this amazing banana cake studded with dates, figs, nuts, raisins, and chocolate).
Looking for some Tu Bishvat reading? Try these articles on Theodore Herzl’s tree, kabbalists, mystics and Tu Bishvat, a lesson in abundance, eco-judaism, or Tu Bishvat and the Transformation of Eating.
Just want to sit back and veg out to a Tu Bishvat video? Todd, God, and Al Gore have got you covered:
For someone whose life is writing on the Internet, Patrick Aleph still has a lot of secrets.
Aside from running the alterna-Torah site PunkTorah, the “online minyan” OneShul, the collection The G-d Project, and a bunch of other sites, Aleph is an astoundingly prolific blogger and YouTube video-maker. As a convert, his perspective on Judaism — and on Jews — is that of both an insider and outsider, and his observations on Jewish life and belief are often reflective of that. The things he loves, he loves. And the things he finds disquieting or hard to swallow — well, he doesn’t have any hesitation about making note of that, either.
If you’ve never encountered Aleph before, or if there’s too much of his stuff out in the universe for you to know where to start, here’s a great place. He’s just released — for free — an e-book collection of his writings, titled, appropriately, PunkTorah, named after both his punk do-it-yourself principles and his website. The two dozen or so essays touch on everything from the actual nuts-and-bolts of Jewish practice to the more aesthetic and eschatological wtf-nesses of belief (how weird is it that we believe in an intangible, invisible G-d who doesn’t actively interact with humanity, anyway?). And he really isn’t afraid to break boundaries or mess around with tradition: In one piece, Patrick talks about working with queer Jews, self-proclaimed Jews who’ve neither traditionally converted nor been born into the religion. And the next piece is titled “Everything I Needed To Know I Learned From Chabad.”
Actually, his essays are almost all amazingly-titled. OK, let me just give you my five favorites:
* Indie Rock Is My Shacharit Siddur
* Walgreens and Tempeh Reubens Brought Me Closer To God
* Star Wars and Andy Warhol: PunkTorah’s Non-Jewish Influences
* Diary of An Angry Convert
Full disclosure: Patrick cites me in a few of the essays. But I didn’t remember that until after I was almost finished writing this, and I still think it’s a pretty damn great book. And it’s free, so you aren’t wasting any money — or any trees, for that matter.
It’s that time of year – MyJewishLearning.com is conducting our annual campaign. We have a bit of an unusual request: We only want two bucks. Of course, if you can give more, that’s fine (and splendid! and awesome!).
Here’s the deal.
If everyone contributed who’s used a recipe or found a new favorite Jewish band or discovered some amazing Jewish teaching on our site, then we’d be swimming in $2 bills. Enough bills to keep providing you said recipes, culture, and teachings.
We’re a non-profit, so we rely on support like yours every year.
So, please — open your hearts, reach into your pocketbooks, and give! You don’t have to reach deep. Because even two bucks will help — and, together, all of your $2s will keep MyJewishLearning bringing you all your favorite Jewish things.
Or, as we should say, we’re among the best. MyJewishLearning is excited to share the news that we’ve been named one of the nation’s 50 most innovative Jewish nonprofits in Slingshot ’11-’12, a resource guide for Jewish innovation.
Slingshot is an organization that’s devoted to identifying trailblazing organizations that grapple with concerns in Jewish life such as identity, community, and tradition. This year marks the third year in a row that MyJewishLearning was chosen for Slingshot. Kveller.com, MyJewishLearning’s parenting website, which launched in September 2010, was also highlighted in the official Slingshot entry.
So thank you, Slingshot, for featuring us, and thank you folks for visiting and reading and engaging with us! We’ve got more great stuff planned. Keep checking out MyJewishLearning.com, and keep letting us know what you think — you’re the reason we’re here!
The 66th session of the UN General Assembly is this week in New York, and with Palestinians potentially seeking UN recognition as a state, there has been plenty of coverage from all Jewish media fronts. If you’d like to follow along with what’s going on, here are a few places to get you started:
- JTA’s Capital J Blog has launched their coverage with the full video and text of President Obama’s speech, as well as footage of a small group of rabbis and pro-Israel activists arrested for protesting in the streets. Capital J should be continuing their coverage all week.
- The Jerusalem Post has extensive coverage of the assembly from both UN headquarters and the reactions in Israel.
- Besides fulfilling her role as NY correspondent for the JPost, Jordana Horn is also writing for Kveller about balancing the madness of the UN with taking care of her newborn baby. Read her chronicles from Day 1 and Day 2, and follow along all week.
With the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 this Sunday, people far and wide are doing all they can to remember, commemorate, and honor the tragedy of that day. If you’re looking for accounts from 2001 and what’s happened in the past 10 years, from a Jewish perspective, here are some links to get you started:
- 9/11 is a national day of service. Here’s a database of places where you can volunteer.
- Irving “Yitz” Greenberg noted that Israel’s experience with terror offered American Jews the chance to share Jewish and Israeli experiences with the rest of America.
- The UJA-Federation of New York has put together a list of resources on 9/11 including readings, prayers, and songs of healing.
- 10 years worth of articles about 9/11 from The Jewish Week.
- The New York Times tells us how to teach kids about 9/11 in our schools, and why it’s important we do.
- The Forward highlights a study which suggests religious victims coped better with the attacks.
- Jay Rosen, the chairman of the Journalism Department of NYU, shares the e-mails he sent out on 9/11 and the days following.
Are you into our Quiz Challenge yet? If not, you’d better get moving — the month of September is already underway, and some people are racking up some serious points! (Remember, you get points for every correct question, not the percentage of questions — so if you don’t know the answer, just guess a lot!)
Today I thought I’d comb through the quizzes and give you the top five weirdest quiz questions I can find. We have a couple thousand questions in the system, so it’s a pretty wide pool to choose from….
5. What book contains formulas that were ostensibly used to create golems?
(from the Magic & the Supernatural quiz)
4. What were the first Freedom Seders?
(from the War & Peace quiz)
3.Why are Hasidim especially careful about selecting somebody to slaughter their meat?
(from the Afterlife & Messiah quiz)
2. Which of these is not one of the steps of a traditional conversion?
(from the Who Is a Jew quiz)
1. (for today, anyway…) True or false: Aristotle is never mentioned in the Talmud.
(from the Jewish Thinkers, Jewish Thought quiz)
That’s where my brain is today. If you think you’ve got the correct answers, go take that quiz! And if you need me, I’ll be in the Jewish Sports quiz. By this time tomorrow, I might have answered ONE question right.
So, you think you’re smarter than a Jewish website?
UPDATE: We’ve raised the prize amount — Answer the most questions, and $25 on Amazon could be yours!
MyJewishLearning’s Quiz Challenge has just kicked off! If you haven’t taken any quizzes on MyJewishLearning, check it out — it’s one of the most fun parts To participate, just take any quiz in any subject–from Jewish humor to Jewish holidays and beyond. (Make sure to register first with your email address; we’ll use it to keep track of your points and send your prize!) If you forget to register, just follow the link on top of any quiz page.
Then take another quiz. And another. Each month, we’ll award the person with the most correct answers a $10 gift card to Amazon.com. For the first month, September, you’ll also win a pony! Because everybody has always wanted to win a pony.*
So get answering those questions now! Astute-minded readers will notice that the person with the most correct answers wins, not the person with the highest percentage of correct answers or whatever. So if you don’t score 100% the first time, just poke around the site, learn some stuff, and come back! (Or, yes, you can just keep guessing.) On the first of every month, the count will reset. And then you’ll have a chance to win all over again.
* — You have always wanted to win a pony. Trust us.
Dr. Erica Brown is the author of In the Narrow Places, a daily meditation for each day of the Three Weeks. She will be blogging all week for MyJewishLearning and the Jewish Book Council‘s Author Blog.
I recently spoke at a Melton graduation that marked a two year commitment of adults studying Judaism seriously through a global curriculum out of the Hebrew University. The rabbi who introduced me mentioned my current book In the Narrow Places: Daily Inspiration for the Three Weeks followed immediately by, ‘If you don’t know what the Three Weeks are, please sign up for Melton.” I was happy to be used as an advertisement for the course but less happy with the realization that this time period is virtually unknown outside of traditionally observant circles.
Let’s face it. It is odd to have any commemorative period referred to by the number of days it occupies, and the fact that it happens during the summer does nothing to help its popularity. The Three Weeks is officially called “bein ha-mitzarim” – between the straights or narrow places from the biblical book of Lamentations. This quiet quasi-month of mourning is marked by two fasts: the 17th of Tammuz and the Ninth of Av.
The three week period includes these fasts at both ends and a general mourning period in between which is solemnized by reducing our daily sense of joy. Traditional Jews do not go to public concerts or movies. Many men do not shave. We reduce our personal hygiene somewhat and minimize the role of music in our lives. But these small daily inconveniences have not necessarily added up to the period of introspection that should characterize this time on the Jewish calendar.
The 17th of Tammuz represents the beginning of the siege of ancient Jerusalem and the weeks that ensue take us sadly to the destruction of both the first and second Temples. The Ninth of Av is the strictest fast we observe after Yom Kippur. It is 24 hours in duration, and we are also forbidden from wearing leather shoes, washing or perfuming ourselves or engaging in sexual relations. Congregants sit on the floor in the evening, listening to the book of lamentations read in a haunting melody and then recite kinnot the next morning, a litany of complex, mostly medieval poems in acrostic fashion that take us from one calamity in Jewish history after another. It is an emotionally draining day. Adding to the hunger is the fatigue of loss that envelopes the mourners who reflect on how tragedy shapes us and our values.
Mourning does shape us. Recognizing what we have lost is an important way that we value what we have. And it is time that as community we stretch back farther than the Holocaust to realize just how persecution and loss has shaped our past and how survival and redemption constantly shape our present and future. The Three Weeks is a gift of collective introspection at a time when we need to enhance our sense of group values and our shared memories.
The intern will help create innovative content, update existing material, and upload articles to the sites as well as support a number of upcoming editorial projects. The ideal candidate should be eager, able to work independently, and comfortable working on multiple projects at the same time. Experience writing for web publications, using a Content Management System, and knowledge of Photoshop are essential. Qualified candidates will also have an interest in Jewish culture and tradition.
The intern will work out of MyJewishLearning.com’s Manhattan office. The internship is available immediately and would last at least through the end of 2011. The position is 10-15 hours a week and pays $10 per hour.
To apply, please send a cover letter, resume, and links to writing samples to email@example.com.