Thursday, May 27, 2010

With new technology comes new halachic questions

Thought this was a great posting on Frum Satire (@frumsatire) by Heshy Fried:

With the recent advances in technology there are bound to be a whole bunch of halachic issues that arise. In order to preempt these issues I have thought about the following issues that may be debated amongst the great rabbis of our time, even if they happen to be in jail.

Technology related halachic issues:

If they were to genetically modify a pig to chew its cud, would it be kosher?

Can ten people in different places daven in video conference mode?

Can one tweet their prayers?

Does yichud count when it comes to your smart phone?

Can one lain from their iPad Torah?

to read more click here

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

26 years strong

Twenty-six years is but a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things. Yet in the life of this journalist, it’s practically an eternity. If not that, well then it constitutes half of my life.

I was thinking about the passage of years just the other day. Who could have imagined back in 1984 that I would still be at The Canadian Jewish News in 2010? I know I couldn’t. Hopefully, all being well, I will have many more productive years to contribute to the Canadian community’s premiere Jewish publication. I often wonder: have the best years already happened or is the best still to be? Whatever, I’m certain it won’t be disappointing.

We may not be the largest Jewish newspaper in existence these days, but I’m certain we have one of the best workplaces. The camaraderie is fantastic. When something has to get done, it gets done, whether the newsroom has a full complement or is short-staffed, which is often the case during the summer months. Everyone pitches in for the greater good. Perhaps this is why we have such a low staff turnover. Everyone realizes what a great atmosphere exists around the office. We have had people leave and come back months and years later, all singing praises of our work environment.

This continues to be one of The CJN’s greatest strengths over the years. Many of the issues we delve into have changed over time (although surprisingly many are still the same) but the people here continue to make this a great place to spend most of your prime time.

Among the many are three special ones I have had the honour of working with, namely the editors of The CJN. All of them have been very different in style and temperament. Yet I have learned from each of them and they have helped make me the journalist I am today.

It’s also been interesting going from being one of the youngest people in the editorial department to being one of the “senior” staff members. Of course, it’s not only personalities that have changed around here.

Back in 1984, I was thrilled when I got a new electric typewriter (I was using a manual machine when I started). The arrival of the fax machine was a real eye-opener at the paper allowing us to get news copy from freelancers without them having to come to the office. Prior to its arrival, we relied on a teletype machine to connect our Toronto and Montreal offices.

Today, news copy and photographs arrive at a rapid pace through e-mails, things we could not have fathomed 26 years ago. Every piece of news had to be typeset and proofread before being laid down in production. Now a single page is created in minutes on the computer and printed out.

I have noticed that the pace of technological change keeps changing, mostly for the better. Where will we be in another 26 years? I’m certainly not one to guess because I still marvel at the changing pace around the office. Where The CJN was once just a print publication, it now encompasses so much more with links to YouTube, Facebook and the Blogosphere.

Wherever we go from here though, I firmly believe that there will always be a place for our Jewish newspaper. We provide information that can’t be found elsewhere.

Will we look the same in 2036? Probably not, but that will be the decision and responsibility of journalism’s next generation.

Friday, May 21, 2010

What day is it?

It may be Friday in the real world, but at The CJN, today is Monday. Also, this week, Tuesday was Friday, and Monday was Thursday.

Our schedule changed this week because we were closed for Shavuot the past two days, and also because we’re heading into Victoria Day weekend.

People sometimes ask if we’re publishing a paper the week of a Jewish holiday, not realizing that the work of putting together an issue is done the preceding week.

This week’s paper went to the printer at noon on Monday as usual, but next week’s paper had to be completed by noon today – which meant that our usual Thursday deadline, which applies to most stories, was moved up to Monday afternoon.

When my kids were younger, and I would tell them that Wednesday was actually Thursday at the office, they would joke that I worked at the Australian Jewish News.

Tempting thought, in the middle of winter. But in Sydney, this morning, it was 14 Celsius, and rainy. Here, Victoria Day promises to be hot (27) and sunny.

Someone told me yesterday that Shavuot is when it’s okay to start wearing summer clothes.

Whatever day it is, enjoy the seasonal weather – and the long weekend.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Writing, and Torah reading

It occurred to me as I was driving to work today that reading Torah has a few things in common with writing an article.

Writers sometimes say they like having written, rather than actually writing. As a Torah-reading newbie – this morning’s Rosh Chodesh service was my third time – I was happy when I finished, knowing that I’d made it through the longest of the four readings.

I also realized, as I practiced for this morning, that I would single out a particular phrase or word that was difficult, and work at it until I got it right (or a reasonable approximation). In the same way, when I’m writing, I often fine-tune a word or phrase after I’ve written it.

Writing, like reading Torah, is a skill that can be learned. In high school, I had a hard time figuring out how to put together a coherent essay. But you do what you have to do – and my friend, who was a good English student, helped me. It wasn’t until after I’d graduated from university that I took my first writing course, and discovered latent skills.

Earlier this year, I signed up for a Trope class with my sister, to learn to read Torah. We shared the reading this morning, as we’ve done the past two months, along with one of our classmates.

Funny thing – just like writing – reading Torah is something I never pictured myself doing.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cheesecake for Shavuot

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a pleasant 40 minutes discussing food with Cantor Marshall Loomer – cheesecake, to be specific.

I was interviewing him for a food article in conjunction with Shavuot, the holiday associated with dairy foods and – not in order of importance – the giving of the Torah.

In a previous life, Marshall, who happens to be the cantor at my synagogue, had a small cheesecake business. He can still talk the talk, and in fact was planning to discuss his cheesecake in a sermon next week on the first day of the holiday.

His recipes sound much too tempting. Chocolate cheesecake topped with dark chocolate curls and drizzled with chocolate syrup, anyone?

But Marshall’s favourite – the one I included in the article – is a plain cheesecake with a sour cherry topping. It’s online, here.

I’d try it myself, if I wasn’t lactose-intolerant.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bar Mitzvah Battle - Who Pays for What?

Dear Ella,
My son Aaron’s bar mitzvah is still a couple of years away, but I’m starting to think about it now. Aaron’s father and I are divorced, and I don’t know how that’s going to affect Aaron’s bar mitzvah.

Do we each have our own celebration? Do we have one together? Do we split everything down the middle? I have no idea where to start. Aaron’s dad and I tolerate each other and communicate for the sake of our two sons, but the divorce left us both very bitter, and we certainly don’t share any kind of friendly feelings. Financially, I’m not in the same bracket as Aaron’s dad, and I can’t afford to split an elaborate affair. Can you provide any kind of guidelines on how to handle this?
Bar Mitzvah Battle
Dear Bar Mitzvah Battle
Aaron’s bar mitzvah is a very important day, and one he will remember for his entire life. With that said, both parents must bend over backward to make this day very special, and everything else must take a back seat. If the two of you can’t be clear on that, then decide early and have separate celebrations.
Ideally, it would be special for Aaron to have all his family and friends together to celebrate his religious rite of passage. This will take much give and take from both of you, and complete co-operation and compromise. There are so many components involved: aliyot, invitation wording, cost, seating plans, number of guests, candlelighting, speeches, etc. All decisions should be put in writing, so there are no misunderstandings. Under no circumstances can Aaron be put in the middle. That’s not to say that he shouldn’t be involved in planning his bar mitzvah. He may have some very specific thoughts.
As long and the two of you continue to put your son’s feelings ahead of your own, you should be able to get through this with class and maybe even have some fun! As for cost, split everything down the middle and budget according to what’s affordable for both parents. A bar mitzvah can be very meaningful and tasteful without all the hype you often see these days. This is Aaron’s day, a day he will have prepared and studied for. He’ll be nervous enough. Make sure he’s not nervous about either of you.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mackenzie Reunion Part 2

Bottom line: I wouldn’t have missed my high school reunion for the world.

I was there on Saturday night not just as a 1974 graduate, but also to take pictures for The CJN. I regret that I didn’t manage to capture some of the best moments, like the sudden recognition of an old friend or former teacher, and the resulting exuberant hugs. They were over so quickly, and there were so many people to reconnect with!

But, for me personally, there was also a poignancy that I didn’t remember from previous reunions. Several people I spoke to had lost a parent in recent years. As well, the pleasure of seeing a few old classmates in particular was tempered by the thought that one of my best friends in high school, who died at age 40, couldn’t see for herself the type of adults they had become.

On a brighter note, I was delighted to see almost a dozen of my elementary school classmates, who I discovered last summer have become a group of warm and interesting adults. We reconnected in July for a Grade 3, 4 and 5 reunion, and got to know each other again through a series of more than 600 group e-mails – no exaggeration. (I wrote about it in The CJN’s Community Focus supplement last August. You can view it by clicking here.)

The internet is a wonderful adjunct for reunions, building anticipation and helping people connect. I found this blog on the Mackenzie Facebook page and enjoyed it very much.

Now that it’s over, people are already talking about the next one. Only 10 more years.