Birthright Israel NEXT, which follows up with young Jews after they return from the free trip to Israel offered by Birthright, is rewiring itself after a major shakeup of its top leadership. The multimillion-dollar nonprofit, founded three years ago to deepen the involvement of Birthright alumni in the Jewish community, is considering reducing and redirecting its programming as debate continues over whether its purpose is even worthwhile.
Every weekend, Ginger Reiter, a redheaded high school English teacher from South Florida, flies to New York to watch a stage production re-creating her 10-year love affair with Borscht Belt comedian Jackie Mason. Even stranger, her role in the production is played by the love child that she and Mason produced. No, this is not some strange new form of therapy. It’s more intense than that. It’s a musical.12
New York state, which represents the largest kosher market outside of Israel, announced in a January 3 statement that its 85 food safety inspectors will assume the responsibilities of the Division of Kosher Law Enforcement. The statement came two days after the 11-employee kosher law enforcement division was whittled down to just its director, Rabbi Luzer Weiss. The Department of Agriculture and Markets, which oversees the division, says that the layoffs will save the state nearly $1 million this year.
It has been promoted as a cutting-edge technological marvel and marketed as the ultimate solution to the misery Israeli civilians experienced facing rocket attacks from Gaza militants. But as the Iron Dome rocket defense system moves into its final stages of development, Israelis are questioning its effectiveness, and American lawmakers are seeking assurances that the system they are poised to fund will indeed be used to protect citizens in the battered Negev city of Sderot, close by Gaza, and not just used to defend military bases.4
When Réka Bodó was 13, she presented her mother with a choice. A rabbi had offered Bodó a bat mitzvah at a Jewish summer camp in Hungary. She told her mother that she could either have the ceremony there or in the city of Budapest, where her mother would be able to attend. Although Bodó’s mother, a non-practicing Jew, disapproved of her daughter’s interest in religion, she was a proud guest at the ceremony in the city’s Frankel Leo Street Synagogue.
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