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The Jewish Identity in the USA

The American Jews are strongly connected to their Jewish roots and are always proud of their Jewish identity. But over the years the Jewish identity has changed in the American society. 20% of the new generation says that they have no religion and are not following the Jewish traditional religious beliefs.

Since the late 50s of the 20th century, the number of religious Americans has declined and continues to decrease every year. The Jews born in the 60s and 70s had more sense of belonging to the religion with almost 74% of them confirming that they are Jews by birth and practice. The Millennial generation mostly describes themselves as atheists or agonists which is currently the trend among other Americans of different religious beliefs at birth. In the American society now almost 20% of the population are distancing themselves from all sorts of religious practices, with the Jews acting as part of that population.

The right to be free from religion or secularism is a strong trend in the modern American society, where people tend to view religious beliefs as outdated. Today, most adults don’t necessarily believe in God but strongly believe in ethics and following the rules of the community. The issue has a major effect on the lobbying of Jews especially outside Israel who don’t necessarily relate to the hardships faced in the Promised Land.

Has Israel lost the Support of American Jews?

There is no easy answer to this question. There is no doubt that in the past things were easier for American Jews. They usually participated in fundraising in order to support the cultural and economic development in Israel regardless of the current political situation. But as the years went by, the situation changed.

The current policies of the Netanyahu government keep on raising a lot of ethical question marks. Current American Jews are mostly liberal although most of them still strongly support Israel. Nevertheless, the support that they offer is mixed with a lot of dismay and discontent.

The conflict keeps on growing although the current Israeli government doesn’t think that it is that significant. For instance, American Jews don’t serve in the Israeli army. They also don’t get to vote, which means that they are not part of the political life. However, if the new generation grows more distant, Israel will have to deal with the fact that it lost one of its strongest allies. Only time will tell the effect of such circumstances on the welfare of modern Israel.

The Jewish Cemetery Project in Egypt

In 2015, Egyptians fell in love with a series that was broadcasted during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The series was called the “Jewish Ghetto”, a taboo that was previously avoided in most Middle Eastern drama. The story is about a Jewish family that lived in the 40s of the 20th century in one of Cairo’s old neighborhoods where a big synagogue still remains. The Egyptians got to watch a part of Egypt’s history that was always denied and kept in hiding.

The Jews have always been integral members of the Egyptian society along with the Greeks and Italians who founded a lot of industries that managed to help with the development of Modern Egypt. They were extremely good with commerce and built huge department stores in most Egypt’s big cities.

But after the Military coup in 1952, the Jews felt the threat and some of them knew that it was time to let go of the country where they were born. After living in harmony within the Egyptian society, some of the Jews started to feel the hostility and most of them chose to leave the country. It wasn’t until 1956 when Israel attacked Egypt that Jews were told that they were no longer welcome. They fled under the cover of the night the same way they did in the time of Moses. They had to leave their homes and their money starting from scratch. Most of them never had the chance to get back.

After the Egyptian series, people started to feel that maybe the history they have been told wasn’t true after all. The series showed how the Jews were merely people who lived in peace and minded their own business. In fact, they were prosecuted and attacked for no reason, even forced out of their homes and away from everything they owned. Later on, the Egyptians were surprised to see a group on Facebook calling for helping Jews in order to find the cemeteries of their ancestors. The group is called “The Jewish Project in Egypt”. The group admins are members of the new generation who were born and raised in the New World after their grandparents left the Middle East and its struggles. Most of them are Americans or of European nationalities. They simply ask Egyptians to take photos of different synagogues that still exist in Cairo and Alexandria, in order to help them get more information about their stolen past. Some people were extremely for the cause and strongly believe that there is no point in denying the Jews of Egyptian origins from their rights to visit the tombs of their ancestors.

As a matter of fact, a lot of Israelis and Jews are always welcome in Egypt and can safely visit most places. However, there is still some tension when it comes to discussing historical issues. Would it better to let bygones be bygones? Or should Egyptians and Jews open the door to the past? Some Egyptians strongly believe that the Jews are peaceful people who were not treated with justice while others are mixing up issues of the Jewish past and the War between Egypt and Israel. However, only time will tell how successful this project can be and whether it can be a good chance to get a closer look at the past.

Racism in the Jewish Society

The Jews fell victims to racism for long years. For long centuries and decades, the anti-Semitism resulted in a lot of hardships that we had to endure. From ethnic crimes, hate speech, assault, discrimination and genocides, we as Jews know more about racism than any other nation in the world. The Jewish nation in Mt. Sinai was a diverse one and this is one of the main reasons why it became so strong. We always took pride in our diversity and understood how our differences got us closer.

But the truth is that as part of the American society we are still dealing with discrimination. Jews are being discriminated based on their country of origin or skin color. These are all factors that no human being has control over. Nevertheless, they strongly determine how successful a human being might be at blending with the rest of the society.

We need to give to our hands to those who are suffering from discrimination and racism regardless of their faith and beliefs. People in the USA are always asked where they are coming from and by this question the person who is asking doesn’t necessarily mean the state of origin. They mostly mean where their ancestors are coming from. The features of the person play a big role in giving the person a chance to become part of a group. Sometimes Jews of color have to endure hate speech that is told in the form of jokes just because they don’t strike other people as Jews. The truth is that the Jewish faith lies deep in the heart and should have nothing to do with how the person looks.

We strongly hope that the new generations will be able to overcome the stereotypes that crafted dark stages of our history. We all look forward to a unified Jewish community that doesn’t separate people on any basis. We wish to relive the Golden Age of our ancestors where Israel was one unified nation.

Most of the members of the new generation are disconnected from their Jewish roots. However, some of the Jewish families still care that their children learn Hebrew in order to stay in touch with their legacy. We strongly believe that this is an excellent opportunity to learn about our glorious past that should live in the new generation.

It is all about educating people. We need to focus on teaching the real meanings of the Torah to the new generation who think that they are outdated. We believe that our teachings are what we need to stay unified and successful until the end of time. Our culture and nationality don’t have to divide us. Being American doesn’t mean that we have to give up our Jewish identity.

What Do American Jews Really Want?

Unlike what the majority thinks, the average American Jew is not a single-issue voter who only cares about the welfare of Israel. But this is only one of the various misconceptions about us, the Jews in the USA.

It is true that Israel is extremely important to us. We care about what is going on in the Promised Land and think about the day where there will be no military conflict so that our brothers and sisters can finally enjoy living in peace. But this is not the only thing we think about. As a matter of fact, we do consider ourselves part of the International Jewish nation but don’t necessarily agree with most of the Israeli’s political decisions.

In the past Jewish voters were naturally inclined towards picking the presidential candidate who has a policy that favors Israel all the way. But in the recent decades, American Jews started to pay more attention to the bigger picture. It is what matters to America in the first place.

Right before the elections, there were speculations that the Jewish Americans will vote for the candidate who has a stronger pro-Israel policy. But the truth is that only 4% of the Jewish cared the most about how things turn out in Israel. Almost most of the voters were concerned with the domestic issues that have a direct effect on our lives in the USA. The most important issue was the economic development. We are deeply concerned about the imposing of new taxes and the increasing rate of unemployment as we mostly care about securing decent lives for our families.

We are also extremely upset about the increasing gap between the rich and the poor where we struggle to maintain a decent living standard. The majority of the voters were also concerned about choosing the presidential candidate that offered better plans for medical care. Paying special attention to medical insurance, unemployment and tax rates is what drove the votes of the Americans, regardless of their ethnicity and religious beliefs. The voters were also worried about new policies towards immigration and refugees, where they mostly come from countries that have political and military conflicts with Israel.

This means that although we strongly identify with our Jewish roots, we are strongly attached to our American present and future. We are happy to see that America still remains to be Israel’s biggest ally. But we understand that it is our welfare as Americans living in the American society comes first as it is directly related to our lives and those of our children and grandchildren.

Bringing the Beach to the Workout

People of California are blessed with their wonderful beaches that are amazing and convenient to access all year long. As a matter of fact, working out at the beach is one of the best things that you can do. It is cheap; it is practical and has a lot of health benefits. You can easily work out without any equipment while inhaling the fresh air every single day.

Whether you are a fitness expert or simply want to lose some calories, working out on the beach is an easy way to get those muscles moving. You can try a lot of cardio activities that will increase your metabolism while engaging in fun exercises alone or with your family.

Walking Barefoot in the Sand:

Walking barefoot and feeling the sand particles getting in between your toes is one of the most amazing feelings. Using your shoes doesn’t offer much work out to the small muscles in your ankle and calves. Walking is one of the easiest low-impact exercises that you can engage in, regardless of your fitness level. But walking barefoot takes it up a notch as it provides total feet workout to get those muscles working. We spend most of our time walking in shoes that are not necessarily healthy. As a matter of fact, it is scientifically proven that walking barefoot burns more calories than walking on a flat surface in your shoes because you get to move more muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

You can either walk on the dry sand to work out your feet muscles, or you can try to walk in the water. The waves add more resistance thus enabling you to work more muscles.

Jogging is another excellent exercise that will provide total legs workout. It is more aggressive than walking because you get to exercise your glutes and calves. It is always easier to jog on wet hard sand than dry soft sand where your feet will sink in. However, if you are looking for a hard exercise that will burn more calories, then you should stick to running on dry sand.

Enjoy the Water:

The sea water has a lot of benefits to your skin and body. It provides little resistance allowing you to swim for longer periods without dealing with a muscle strain. Swimming is a great cardio exercise that helps you burn more calories while working various muscle groups in your body.

While some people might find swimming in the sea or ocean rather challenging due to the waves, it is one of the best low impact cardio exercises that you can easily practice with no prior preparation. It is one of the most suitable exercises for people who have joint problems or back pain because the water actually helps lift some of the weight.

Do Interval Training:

HIIT or High-Intensity Interval Training helps you lose more weight as you increase your level of metabolism. In fact, your body keeps on burning calories even after you have stopped exercising. Alternating between slow and fast exercises keeps your muscles in a state of alert.

Whatever you choose to do, you will be able to enjoy the fresh air and the views. If you haven’t tried working out at the beaches of California, it is definitely the time to give it a try.

Is Momtrepreneurs the New Big Thing?

New moms are often faced with a struggle after returning back to work. Most of the time their maternity leave is unpaid which pushes them to quickly sacrifice spending quality time with their newborns. As a matter of fact, a lot of people strongly believe that the working environment is not lactating-mothers friendly. They usually have to deal with inflexible hours and improper lactating areas if they are even allowed to bring their babies to work. However, most mothers agree that the tradeoff between spending time with their babies and returning to an unforgiving work environment is not totally worth it.

Most moms and women strongly believe that it is time to make their own rules. While returning to a big company might promise better career opportunities, most women are now looking forward to starting their own companies that will secure the financial stability they aspire for while securing the family life that they wish to have.

Momtrepreneurs are not new to the Jewish community. After the big war, most families ended up with women as their sole breadwinners. This forced Jewish women to get to the market if they wanted to secure decent lives for their families. With no savings and lack of support, they mainly had to depend on their commercial and social talents to help them start and maintain a business that would provide a steady flow of income.

Every year, creative women hold an annual summit called: In Good Company. This is mainly concerned with mothers who are looking for a practical business advice and the ability to network with other women who think alike.

Women believe that being in a supportive environment where they can meet with other mothers who share the same circumstances is a big plus. Having a family and caring for it is no longer considered an obstacle. As a matter of fact, it is a great opportunity to explore new territories and discover something new about one’s self.

Katie Hintz-Zambrano, co-founder of “Mother” a mothers-friendly website, thinks that women can greatly benefit from the advice they can get from other people who are experiencing the same challenges. Starting a business while caring for babies, can be an isolating experience for new moms who are still struggling with getting everything in order. Women can write down the names of other attendees, make new friends and probably hook up with new business partners.

Although there are a lot of lifestyle conferences held every year in America, there are not many targeting this special demographic; mothers who aspire to become entrepreneurs. This often leaves women feeling left out and unable to share or reflect on their personal experiences.

Since the business-owning mom is a growing demographic in the country, we expect and hope to see more of these conferences held to offer specialist advice to women who strongly need it.

Don Randi Still Cooking

Don Randi still manages to amaze us with his psychic powers. In 2014, a show was made about Don Randi’s mysterious life; a man who spent his entire life focusing on entertaining us and giving us something to think about.

There is no doubt that James Randi has special powers, but understanding and comprehending those powers is not an easy task. If he can’t share the secrets of his magic tricks with the audience, a lot of people still remain to be skeptical of what he can and can’t do. He doesn’t provide real answers but keeps you wondering about the true powers of the human mind. Can telepathy be a real thing? Randi doesn’t offer an answer to that question but he will surely give you some entertaining time while you are trying to figure out the answer on your own.

In the documentary made about his life; An Honest Liar, the movie makers try to debunk the tricks he has played on his unsuspecting audience for more than 7 decades. Nobody can forget the incident where he survived a straitjacket dangling over Niagara Falls or the time he ruined the act for Israeli mentalist Uri Geller. Although a lot of people strongly believe that he simply runs a group of some smart scams, Randi has a lot of fans and supporters. He has been decorated in the scientific societies of USA, Switzerland, and Belgium. There is even an asteroid that has been named after him. As a matter of fact, the Russians were so suspicious of him that they prevented the American astronaut Ed Lu from bringing his cards on board of a spaceship. Nevertheless, Randi managed to run a successful trick in the White House with the help of Betty Ford and in front of an audience of secret agents.

James Randi, originally known as Randall Zwinge, is a common name that appeared in entertainment magazines of the 30s and 40s. He started his mentalist acts in Toronto and soon managed to amaze the Canadian audience which encouraged him to seek better career opportunities by exploring the world.

He would always end his tricks saying that ESP doesn’t exist and that his tricks are not supernatural. But his audience wouldn’t agree. He was even disturbed by the fact that his audience believed so much in his supernatural powers especially after World War 2. As he toured Europe, he managed to visit spiritualist camps in Germany where mentalists and mediums attracted war survivors who were trying to contact with their loved ones who passed away. Such practices raised a lot of ethical questions because people would spend a lot of money under the belief that they are actually establishing contact with their deceased family members. Randi didn’t engage in such practices and actually feels bad for the people who fell victims to such illusions.

Ever since he was 12, Randi would never admit the secrets to his tricks which helped him build his reputation as an illusionist and mentalist. Until now, a lot of people believe that he possesses special powers that can make him tell what others really think.

The Jewish Choir Gives Those With Special Needs Something to Sing About

Music is the number one universal language that can bring people together. Children with special needs are very lucky to have access to the KolotTikvah; also known as Voices of hope. This Jewish choir functions based on the fact that all children are talented and special in their own way. Children who suffer from special behavioral, educational or mental disorders get a chance to express themselves and share their feelings in a safe environment that allows them to practice their hobbies and pursue their passion.

For years, children with special needs would often be bullied or left out because they are not given the chance to take part in social activities. But this choir appreciates the differences and think of them as gifts regardless of the difficulties these special people face. The choir is made up of children, teens, and adults who have special needs or have some special person in their family. The activities run to cater for the needs of special people who have disabilities or struggle with fitting into the community.

The idea of KolotTikvah goes back to 2007 when a couple who belonged to the Temple Aliyah of Woodland Hills wanted to find their right environment for their daughter. Their daughter was talented and loved singing but the traditional choir was not the appropriate or encouraging atmosphere for her to practice her hobby. This is why her parents managed to design a special choir program that gives the chance to every child to take part in the choir activities regardless of the way they will participate. It is also a welcoming environment for all family members who are looking for a chance to take part in the activities with their kids. Participation is open to members of any synagogue in addition to unaffiliated Jews.

Parents and teachers are impressed with the impact of such activities. Typically children with special needs would be deprived of engaging in the full Jewish experience mainly because they are not able to function in typical situations. However, this choir gives them a chance to express themselves without having to deal with the fear of being judged or rejected by others. Most of these children also have to endure some sort of emotional abuse as they feel left out. But we strongly believe that this amazing experience should be the part of each synagogue and the Jewish community.

Activities are supervised by several adults including Grammy Award Winner Chazzan Mike Stein. He designs special activities that manage to help members of the choir disconnect from their daily struggles. As they feel that they are protected in a safe environment they are more encouraged to take part in more activities.

Stein believes that it is a learning experience for him as well as he gets to learn from his students about what works for them. They sing for freedom and peace and they most importantly perform from their hearts.

High Tech Higher learning at Heschel Day School

Heschel Day School is more than just an educational center. Heschel School works to provide a complete cultural experience for the child, the parents and the teachers. All work together to be part of the Jewish community by giving back and working on innovative ways that aim to make our children more competent.

The school’s administration believes in totally embracing the child in order to provide the best social, academic, emotional, physical and spiritual experience. We believe that we can work together to provide better opportunities to Jewish children by creating lifelong learners who are not afraid to explore and take risks.

For 46 years, Heschel focused on the foundations of community, traditions, character, and ethics to help students become more productive. The school continues to infuse the parents and teachers in the whole educational experience. The school has high expectations for what we expect from our students thus offering them diverse opportunities that will encourage tudents to grow. We want to ensure that our children are offered every opportunity that will enable them to work as active citizens who play a positive role in the community.

Heschel Day School employs innovative and high-tech education that involves hands-on activities. We strongly believe that we need to use modern technology as a part of the learning process thus avoiding traditional ways that have become obsolete. We understand how important the technology has become and how fast everything changes. Our goal is to build a community of up-to-date citizens who are able to function and compete in a high-tech environment.

As you take the first steps into the campus of the school, you will feel the strong sense of community. Every person contributes to life on the campus in their own way and this is why we believe that every member of our school counts. We want to make sure that our academic programs are up-to-date and designed to cater for the needs of today’s international citizen. We understand that connecting the past to the present is what it takes to make sure that our children are equipped with what it takes to become successful in a highly-competitive environment.

Our school curriculum is composed of various topics and activities that focus on reading, writing, mathematics and social studies skills. We also offer Hebrew language classes in addition to Judaic studies which shed light on our glorious past. Starting from our early years, we encourage students to take pride in their very first siddur. We also help our students to notice the connection between the prayers and their meaning and how they relate to their lives as Jews.

We believe in using smart equipment and high technology tools to help our students understand and relate to different academic topics. Heschel School focuses on addressing all types of activities as we appreciate individual differences. It is a complete learning experience for members of the Jewish community who want to offer their children the best educational opportunities.

The American Jewish Cuisine

Whenever you hear the word Jewish Food, images of Middle Eastern dishes like hummus, falafel, and couscous might pop to your mind. But with 40% of the world’s Jews now living in the USA, we strongly believe that the American Jewish cuisine has become a unique category on its own.

For many Jews, eating traditional foods like brisket and blintzes was a normal part of their lives until they made America their new home. These dishes gained iconic significance as they became part of the Jewish identity. As immigrants arrived to the USA, they felt that they need to pay special attention to connecting back with their roots.

Author and historian Joan Nathan wanted to shed special light on the Jewish traditions in her book Jewish Cooking in America. She traces back the origins of American Jewish cooking back to the year 1654 when a group of 23 Sephardic Jews arrived in New Amsterdam, hoping to make America their new home. This initial group was followed by waves of Jews arriving and changing the demographics in the American society. Jews arriving from various countries had different culinary habits and managed to incorporate their cooking in order to create a special character for the American Jewish cuisine.

Jews experienced changes as they transformed from poor immigrants who are struggling to maintain their Jewish identity in a new country to rich business owners who are taking pride in their Jewish heritage. They began to package and market their favorite foods that became more popular among different members of the community.

The market was a welcoming environment that created a chance for companies that became staples in the Jewish food industry. These companies were the reason Jewish food found its way to supermarket shelves where it would stay for decades to come.

While poor immigrants struggled with keeping enough amounts of food on their dinner tables, American Jews were able to prove their financial success by serving lavish amounts of food. The preliminary Jewish traditions were strongly influenced by the American sized proportions. As a matter of fact, current Jewish holidays and events are all about quantity. You can always see huge amounts of food being served at Bar Mitzvahs and Jewish weddings. Traditional dishes became super-sized and extravagant as the American Jews try to highlight their status in the community.

The American Jewish cuisine was also subject to influences from other groups of immigrants who arrived to the USA. Sushi has strongly invaded kosher restaurants as it offers a convenient option for Jews who are interested in cuisines of other origins. Moreover, there are a lot of popular cookbooks that focus on Chinese kosher cooking.

As the American Jewish community continues to grow and change, the American Jewish cuisine will keep on changing. Some traditional dishes will be lost while others will become more popular and will occupy a special place on the Jewish table.

Jews in America Facing Real Threats

For long centuries, our nation has been subject to real threats imposed by other nations and countries. But when we arrived to the USA we felt that we have finally found a place that we can safely call home. However, things have started to change in the past few years. Over the past few weeks, eleven Jewish community centers were evacuated after receiving bomb threats. Moreover, 200 headstones were vandalized and damaged in a Jewish cemetery.

Donald Trump addressed those threats during his visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, reminding people of the effort that still needs to be done in order to remove the roots of hate and evil. Although he earlier refused to condemn the anti-Semitic threats, he later changed his mind. To most members of our community, we think that this might have been a little too late. We strongly believe that his comments are not strong enough to address what needs to be done in order to protect our Jewish community and its members.

The director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect believes that Trump’s comments are like putting a band aid on cancer, indicating that they are not strong enough to cause any kind of change. FBI records show that Jews were the subject of most religious hate crimes in 2015. Strong measures need to be taken in order to make sure that members of our community are safe to practice their religious beliefs at all times.

We can’t deny that Trump’s comments can count as an important first step of what needs to be done further in order to ensure that members of our Jewish community are safe and protected. Nevertheless, we strongly hope that Trump can take his comments one step further as he actually begins to do something about it rather than just talk. There are currently 5.3 million Jews living and working in America accounting for 2.2% of the adult population in the US. There are now 30 Jews serving in the Congress, a number that declined from the 45 who served in 2009. Three of the current eight justices in the Supreme Court are Jews. Moreover, 2 of the top 15 cabinet-level agencies are led by Jews. However, less than 1% of the military personnel who serve in the American army are Jews.

The president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump who converted about a decade ago, spoke about the anti-Semitic threats on her Twitter account. A lot of other Jews strongly agree with her as she speaks about our right to protect our religious centers and houses of worship. These anti-Semitic threats tend to jeopardize what we believe America is all about since the country is based on foundations of religious tolerance that accepts people of all religious beliefs as members of the same American community.

Our nation strongly depends on influential members of the community in order to fight off and stand against anti-Semitic threats. We believe that by uniting our efforts and educating people we can make a difference.