CJ Shorts

Jews in Kilts

Kilts and plaid kippot? Not your everyday attire at a synagogue fundraiser, but it was a popular choice at the Robbie Burnstein Dinner in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. No, there really wasn’t a Scottish Jew named Robbie Burnstein (that we know of). But the dinner itself, held at Beth Tzedec Congregation, was quite real – a takeoff on traditional Burns Night suppers honoring the 18th century Scottish national poet Robert Burns.

The Burnstein dinner is increasingly popular, with this year’s $250-a-plate event attracting 370 people, including members of the local Scottish community and friends from Edmonton’s Beth Shalom Synagogue. Besides hearing the requisite bagpipes, guests enjoyed a Scottish-inspired kosher dinner, Highland dancing, Scotch tasting, poetry readings, and cigars. Plus, the dinner netted a generous contribution to Beth Tzedec’s education and outreach programs and to the Woodridge PREP Centre, an organization dedicated to the inclusion of youth with Down Syndrome in the community at large. Oh, and Beth Tzedec’s rabbi, Shaul Osadchey, made the kosher haggis.

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Goats Clear Land for Synagogue… Really!

Thirty hungry goats munched their way through several acres of English ivy and underbrush, and the members of Ahavath Achim Synagogue, in Atlanta, Georgia, couldn’t have been more pleased. Goats are an environmentally friendly way to clear brush and overgrown land. They thrive on the type of vegetation that ordinarily requires heavy machinery or toxic chemicals to manage, and they leave behind natural fertilizer. Using goats to clear their land was a perfect complement to Ahavath Achim’s strong commitment to being environmentally conscious. Said Executive Director Manuel Mesa, “This is, by far, the cleanest, safest, most efficient and most cost-effective method for clearing overgrown spaces.”

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New Deans at Rabbinical Schools

Rabbi Ephraim Pelcovits, assistant dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles, was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2010. While at JTS, Rabbi Pelcovits served as the student rabbi of Congregation B’nai Shalom, in Williamsville, New York, completed two units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Bellevue Hospital, served as a commissioned lieutenant and chaplain candidate in the United States Navy Reserve, and as AIPAC’s ?rst Rabbinic Intern. Rabbi Pelcovits has been engaged in interfaith and interdenominational work and continues to advocate for Israel and for peace.

Rabbi Stephanie (Fingeroth) Ruskay is the new associate dean of the Rabbinical School at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Previously, Rabbi Ruskay served as director of Alumni and Community Engagement and national director of Education and Training at AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps. She recently served as clergy organizer at JOIN for Justice (see Q and A, page 10). Rabbi Ruskay also teaches at JTS’s JustCity Leadership Institute, a precollege program, and serves on the Social Justice Commission of the Rabbinical Assembly, as well as on the Advisory Council of Tivnu.

Rabbi Avi Novis-Deutsch has been named the new dean of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in Jerusalem. An alumnus of Schechter, he his extensive experience as a rabbi, teacher,
lecturer, and congregational leader. He will develop the Beit Midrash’s programs directed at training the next generation of Masorti religious leaders in Israel and around the world.

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Israeli Camp Widens Its Embrace

This past summer, the Jack Roth Camp Netaim-Ramah NOAM included 100 children and youth with disabilities in the overall Ramah NOAM camp in Israel. Campers were recruited from the Masorti youth movement, NOAM, which has 20 locations all over Israel. Though each participant had different abilities, all had the chance to experience camp as equals. Through the initiative, children as young as eight found themselves mentoring a child with disabilities – learning to tie one’s shoelaces from a peer can be much easier than it is from a counselor or aide – and the sense of achievement was immeasurable for both. The program was made possible through the generosity of Jack Roth’s family and the Columbus, Ohio, community.

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New Programs for Jews in Latin America

The Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano (the Marshall T. Meyer Latin American Rabbinical Seminary), which has been training Con-servative Jewish leaders in Buenos Aires since 1962, recently rolled out new educational programs. In São Paulo, Brazil, the Seminario is bringing in a summer’s worth of guest speakers and teachers, creat-ing TALI schools (after the model of the Masorti-af?liated schools in Israel), and beginning to train rabbinical and cantorial students. And in partnership with the University of Connecticut and the American Institute for Foreign Studies, they are introducing the ?rst study-abroad Jewish Studies program in Latin America. Students will study at the Seminario and the University of Belgrano in Buenos Aires, and also participate in ?eld trips and experiential education, including an extended trip to the Pampas.

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Results of the Zionist Congress Elections in the United States

MERCAZ USA, the Zionist arm of the Conservative movement, won 25 seats in the recent American Zionist Movement Zionist Congress elections, making its delegation the second largest from the United States. We want to thank all of our supporters, voters and activists for bringing about this impressive achievement.

Though the number of delegates dropped from the 33 MERCAZ had in the last Congress, we faced many new challenges this year, includ-ing new competitors and exorbitant amounts of money spent by other parties. Thus, we view these results with great satisfaction. We are also watching MERCAZ chapters around the world holding their own local elections and agreements.

Now as we prepare for the start of the 37th World Zionist Congress, which will take place in mid-October, we look forward to building a coalition with other Zionist parties from Israel and the Diaspora whose ideological platforms are a good ?t with ours to promote the values of Conservative Judaism within the World Zionist Organization and to represent in the best way possible Conservative/Masorti Jews around the world in the coming ?ve years.

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New Website Offers Update to Traditional Yahrtzeit Plaques

Bringing a longtime Jewish tradition into the 21st century, United Synagogue recently launched Blessed Memory, a virtual memorial board giving individ-uals and congregations an opportunity to memorialize loved ones in an always accessible way online. Those who don’t belong to a synagogue or live far from the synagogue where their loved ones are honored with a traditional memorial plaque will ?nd it particularly helpful. Blessed Memory is underwritten by Mildred Werber to pay tribute to the mem-bers of her family who died in the Holo-caust who have no permanent memorial or marked graves. To further perpetuate Jewish education in their memory, funds raised through Blessed Memory will support the Conservative Yeshiva and the Fuchsberg Center in Jerusa-lem. Visit the Blessed Memory website at www.blessedmemory.org.

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Changemaker to Work with Jewish Teens

Matthew Fieldman, an advertising agency CEO who’s won several awards and honors for his work as a social entrepreneur, has been named the 2015 USY Danny Siegel Changemaker-in-Residence by United Synagogue Youth. Over the course of the year, Fieldman will serve as a teacher, mentor and role model for Jewish teens, inspiring them to make a commitment to social action and social justice. This summer, Fieldman toured the country, visiting USY summer trips to engage with USYers in hands-on service projects. The Changemaker program, in its second year, is funded by a generous gift from Dianne and Martin Newman of Providence, Rhode Island, in memory of their parents, Sylvia and Leonard Zimet and Lillian and Morris Newman.

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Yiddish Literature for English Readers

A digital anthology of Yiddish works newly translated into English was released by the Yiddish Book Center. The Center’s third annual Pakn Treger (book ped-dler), Translation Issue is available online and in e-book form. Many of the works, which include poetry, memoir, short stories, and excerpts from longer works of fiction, will be new even to those familiar with Yiddish literature.

Founded in 1980, the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts, works to tell the whole Jewish story by rescuing, translating, and disseminating Yid-dish books and presenting innovative educational programs. The Center is a recipient of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the high-est honor conferred on museums and libraries for service to the community.

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New Website on Jewish Genetic Health

MyJewishGeneticHealth.com focuses on health topics relevant to the Jewish community including specific diseases, medical conditions, genetic technologies, and bioethical issues. Each topic is introduced by real people describing their health stories. Users can register for free access to a webinar presented by an expert, supplemental materials, and links to other resources. The site was conceived by the Program for Jewish Genetic Health of Yeshiva University/Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and funding was provided in part by UJA-Federation of New York and a grant in honor of Beatrice Milberg.

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