Category Archives: Judaism

Manhattan Jewish Experience Helps Young Professionals Connect

We all need a place to go to that nourishes our spiritual side. In the past, that has usually been a synagogue. But what if you’re unaffiliated, either by choice or by default? What if you’re working constantly and can’t find time to attend services? What if you’re a Millennial who doesn’t feel comfortable in a traditional setting?

If you’re living in the New York area, the Manhattan Jewish Experience will be ideal.

Created by Rabbi Mark Wildes, The MJE is geared towards young Jewish professionals of any observance level, whether it’s Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox, who want to meet new people and experience social, cultural, spiritual and educational events.

Offering a slew of activities throughout the week at different locations, there are opportunities to fit everyone’s unique schedules and interests, many of which are fun, fresh and exciting—drinks and dinner, Shabbat lunches in the park, painting lessons, ski trips, Hebrew classes and shwarma, lively group discussions, holiday celebrations, and much more.

Rabbi Mark was kind enough to provide further insight:

“New Yorkers are currently experiencing the “Summer of Hell”, the latest term that has been applied to the disastrous state of the MTA and the LIRR. It seems impossible to get from point A to point B in this city without hearing “due to a switch malfunction all trains are delayed.” Interestingly enough, sometimes our spirituality has the same switch malfunctions…and similar train delays. We don’t know how to recharge or how to find a solution. My answer is not simply “keep Shabbat” although that would be a good place to start.

“We come from a religion that is grounded in years of intellectualism and community. Our culture has natural places to slip into when you’re feeling overwhelmed from the surrounding dog-eat-dog world or if you never seem to be able to solve the switch malfunction at the station of reality street and spirituality avenue. The Manhattan Jewish Experience tries to help solve these issues by immersing you in a community with people who are looking to unplug, enjoy themselves, and take advantage of a Jewish spirituality that is always nourishing.

“Our events attract professionals in their twenties and thirties from across Manhattan and throughout the Tri-State area. Every summer, we have a monthly happy hour, usually at a rooftop bar, that focuses on networking, meeting new people, and just shooting the breeze. Our calendar is packed with events that balance the sacred and profane…the spiritual and religious…the social and the intellectual. In fact, I’d say that all of our events look for a balance like that.”

Anyone who’s interested in exploring Judaism, making new friends, and getting inspired to live a more authentic Jewish life should definitely check it out.

More information about the group and their calendar of events can be found on the website.

Anti-Semitic Outrage at Swiss Hotel

After watching endless coverage of the outrageous and completely unnecessary riot in Charlottesville, VA, I thought that incident was at the top of the anti-Semitic outrage list for the week.

Imagine my surprise when this insanity popped up in my Twitter feed:

Ruth Thomann, who is the manager of the Aparthaus Paradies hotel in Switzerland, not only wrote it, but was willing to put her name on it! According to this article, she claims that the sign was posted after “two Jewish girls had gone into the swimming pool without taking a shower.”

Such a comment is so offensive, on so many levels, because it implies that Jews are inherently dirty by nature, that they are physically dirty due to bad hygiene, and that Gentiles are neither. (Obviously, all of the above is completely untrue and any rational mind knows that!)

This hotel had a reputation for accommodating Kashrut and rules about Shabbat, making it popular with Orthodox Jewish visitors, which is even more bewildering.

Such incidents prove that anti-Semitism is thriving in Europe, just as it has for centuries. The big difference now is that such evil acts can go viral through the internet, raising awareness and penalizing those who do wrong.

Personally, I would not stay at this hotel if they paid me and I sincerely encourage others to avoid it like the plague it is until they offer a formal apology and fire the manager. Two-faced folks that are willing to take Jewish money with one hand and slap us across the face with the other hand can not be tolerated!

Is Being Jewish Too Expensive?

Is the cost of participating in Jewish communal life too expensive? This article, written by a mother in California, claims it definitely is—so expensive that she can’t afford to Bar Mitzvah her son.

The author, who is a freelance writer, and her husband, who works in retail, don’t make enough to belong to a traditional temple, pay for High Holiday tickets, or Religious School. Even affording a Hebrew tutor, which can cost over $100 hourly, is beyond their reach.

Or, I should say, beyond what they wish to spend, since she freely admits to finding room in the budget for baseball and sleepaway camp…

From my point of view, there are two issues here: cost and value. It is 100% accurate that some families absolutely can not pay, even if they want to. Most, however, feel it’s not worth paying the money (sad but true).

For folks that want to participate and can’t just write a check, there have always been reduced dues and scholarships available. Unfortunately, those discounts tend to be extremely limited and the application process is so invasive, many opt-out altogether.

For folks that have the cash, but choose not to affiliate, that’s because they no longer feel a need to (if they ever did to begin with). Let’s be honest: the majority of Jews don’t want to attend weekly worship, no longer have strong ties to a particular area, and may not know anyone in their current community. Others may object strongly to the “Pay to Pray” system that persists.

Because most temples are very hesitant to break away from the old way of doing things and aren’t good at outreach to begin with, it’s little wonder that the Unaffiliated rates continue to grow every single year.

Unless individual temples get serious about implementing big changes like eliminating dues and reducing salaries, their membership will continue to stagnant and eventually disappear as the older folks die off. There are not enough young people to replace them, let alone enough youngsters that are actually interested.

So, what then, is the solution? There’s no quick fix, that’s for sure, and each family must do what’s right for them. Folks can try to find a cheaper temple, can look into online schools, can always participate for free at Chabad, or just do their own thing at home.

The Jewish experience is definitely enhanced by the communal aspect. But even if someone has to practice their faith entirely alone, it can still be done. No Jewish child should have to miss out on a Bar or Bat Mitzvah because of a lack of funds. Parents who agree will always find a way, even if it’s self-led in their own living room.

 

Is paying for a temple membership important to you?

Virtually Isreal: Experience the Holy Land from Anywhere

Visiting Israel is a goal most members of the Jewish community have on their list (along with many Righteous Gentiles), yet the amount of Americans who have actually stepped foot in Israel is surprisingly small, compared to those who say they aspire to visit. 

What is the impediment? You name it—scheduling conflicts, family issues, finances, poor health, etc. Honestly, it’s not always possible, even for those who are passionately interested.

A new website, Virtually Israel, has come to the rescue.

It offers the chance to experience the Holy Land from anywhere in the world—including your own couch! Many historic sites and some lesser-known attractions are available, allowing anyone to swim in the Dead Sea, walk in Tel Aviv, pray in Jerusalem, shop at the Mahane Yehuda outdoor market, and much more.

Israel is a truly unique country. Those who base their views solely on media coverage, which is overwhelmingly negative, have no idea what wonders exist. By touring Israel, even virtually, it can open a lot of eyes to the truth.