Thursday, November 25, 2010

Party Time! Chanukah Style...

Calorie counting begone! Time to let the inner party animal out to "responsibly" play, it's chanukah time again. We here at The CJ Shmooze have the best picks for where to go and what to do.

To kick it off there is not one but two chances to take in a unique performance from critically acclaimed artist SoCalled. His set will be showcased first in an intimate and interactive setting live December 1st at The House (469 Eglinton Ave.W. # 203). The following night, on December 2nd, in an event presented by Ashkenaz and The Annex Shul, SoCalled takes to the stage at the Mod Club (722 College St.)

Young professionals/students looking for a fun-filled, latka-laden, two-part holiday weekend celebration, need look no further. Shabbat dinner begins at 7:30 with a full spread laid out by JUMP (Jewish Urban Meeting Place at 1992 Yonge Street, Unit 103) on December 3rd. The party continues as doors open starting at 9 p.m. Saturday the time at LOL Resto Lounge (718 College St.)

If you're not latka'd out yet, then come out December 7th and learn how to make holiday favorites at home while cooking jointly with BAC (Birthright Alumni Community) and JUMP. Leftovers will surely be welcome on December 8th while you try your luck at dreydle games and more during JUMP's first game night.

That takes us just about to the end of Community Connect's 8 Crazy Nights for 2010, so how to really close it out in style?... Easy! Dor L'Dor Hadassah Chapter's 5th Annual Dreidel Bash at 6 Degrees (2335 Yonge St.) Tickets are on sale now get your today before they sell out.

For more details on all these events, look to the City Wide Events Album Here

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Times of Bar-Kochba and the Midras Caves

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayishlach, Yehuda, a great future Jewish leader is born . He eventually became the predecessor of many descendants who assumed leadership roles at significant periods in Jewish history. One of the famous leaders in jewish history living around the Jedian Hills was Shimon Bar-Kochba. While Bar-Kochba was not a descendant of the tribe of Yehuda, and while his revolt ultimately failed, his martial leadership was compelling and critical. For three years, he inspired hope and mobilized Jews to action against the powerful Roman forces.
A visit to the Midras Caves, or “Hiding Caves”, helps one better understand the perilous times of the Bar-Kochba Rebellion of 132 – 135. The Romans tried to rebuild and rename Jerusalem, as a secular city, Colonia Aelia Capitolina, banning circumcision and Torah study. Bar Kochba built the caves so that Jews could hide from the Romans. The caves were small enough to be concealed from them and capable of sustaining --just barely --Jewish life. The revolt took place throughout the entire Judea district and the outcome was disastrous: Judea was destroyed and many Jews were slaughtered. After the suppression of the revolt in the year 135 AC, most of the remaining Jewish population lived in the Galilee area, started a new Jewish community and helped usher in the Mishnaic period. The rest of the Jews from this time were dispersed throughout the world. .

The Midras Caves, which also served as subterranean bases for warriors, are a collection of chambers  connected to each other by tunnels. Most of the chambers allow for standing upright, but in the tunnels between the chambers, one must crawl in order to get through. Many of the hiding caves were also used for storage of food, oil and water. The cave is safe for crawling, and the route is circular. It takes about twenty minutes to complete an exploration of the caves.

Hiking to the caves can be followed by crawling into a tiny tunnel inside the rocky walls. There are arrows indicating the right direction. I wouldn't recommend going into tunnels that are not marked with arrows and signs, as one can get lost. Also, I would not recommend this site to people who have back problems as the tour requires turning and crawling. Don't forget to bring a flashlight with you. This site is appropriate for all ages although it may be too scary for children. The caves provide insight as to how people survived when they preferred to live simply and under difficult conditions, preserving their beliefs, their faith and their Jewish identity, rather than live in their former communities and become assimilated into Roman society.

Couple Wants to Bring Jewish Warmth to Canadian Cold

By Reuvena Leah Grodnitzky

One of the first Chabad-Lubavitch centers to be established in the coming year might soon be known as a “Little (Jewish) House on the Prairie,” its location so remote that it would take nine hours to cross its region by car.

Nevertheless, Raphael and Sarah Kats are approaching their impending move and establishment of the first-ever Chabad House in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan with excitement. They point out that the Midwestern region has both a lengthy Jewish history and a bright future: Because of its vast natural resources, it’s the fastest growing province in Canada.

“We’re looking forward to our move very much and are very grateful to be given this responsibility and opportunity,” says Sarah Kats, who will soon travel with her young family to the region – her first trip there ever. “We want to serve every Jew, no matter who or where.”

There's more to the story see it Here

Courtesy of News

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thoughts on Remembrance Day

I know what I'll be thinking about at 11 a.m.

Over the past few weeks, a bit of World War II history came alive for me while I was working on a Remembrance Day article for our Nov. 11 issue.

Alan Caplan, a member of the Association of Jewish Ex-Service Men and Women (AJEX), wrote to The CJN last month from his home in Leeds, England. He was seeking relatives of seven Jewish RCAF airmen who were killed during World War II and are buried in Harrogate, about half an hour away.

The letter caught my attention. In 1987, I'd visited Harrogate and taken pictures of the graves he mentioned. I was interested at the time because my father, who was also in the RCAF, had been stationed in the area during the war.

The pictures were a sobering reminder that things could have turned out very differently for my dad, and – without exaggeration – for the entire world.

But the gravestones included few of the details that would make the men "real" in my mind.

That's changed, now that I've seen their pictures and spoken to some of their relatives.

Today, I think of Harry Ratner – a serious-looking young man with a direct gaze and a hint of a smile – as the guy who asked his kid sister, "Hey, Princess, how about polishing my shoes?"

And Morley Stock, who struck a jaunty pose on the steps of the officers' mess, combined a poet's sensibility with a bomber pilot's grit.

Robert Sirluck – looking like he could walk out of his picture in his flying gear and aviator sunglasses – was so committed to fighting the Nazis that he lied about his age to enlist.

Click here to read more about them. And, if you know anyone who is related to the other airmen – Jack Tass, Ernest Israel Glass, R.P. Marks or Joseph Zareikin – Alan Caplan would welcome a call or e-mail.

The spring that brings people together

This week's "Site in Israel", the Ein Prat spring, is very close to the actual place where Yaakov, our forefather, dreamt, awakened and learned about the future of his twelve children who would become a nation. The spring Is located five minutes from northern Jerusalem, next to the Israeli community of Anatot, which is named after an ancient site were the prophets preached to the people of Israel: "The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin" (Jeremiah 1,1).

The Ein Prat spring flows year-round, with an average daily flow of 1,500 cubic meters. The springs provided water to Jerusalem until 1970. Ein Prat combines a variety of experiential opportunities: a charming and picturesque family picnic site beside the water; a short easy hike around the beautiful scenic surroundings; and an intensive hike through natural water pools down to the Dead Sea. Those who enjoy climbing, can scale part of the northern cliff in the stream which is a known outdoor climbing wall. Don’t miss the Haritoun Monastery, originally built by Monk Haritoun in the fourth century. Here, one can easily understand why someone would leave everything and transplant his home to be ensconced in this small heaven that offers a calm and peaceful way to approach life.

Only is Israel is there a breathtakingly beautiful site that combines such a range of different elements: a variety of historical biblical stories, water in the desert, culture, friendly animals of the region and religious nuances. Most important, Ein Prat is a small peaceful island in the Middle East which embraces visitors of many diverse backgrounds – Israelis from Jerusalem, Arabs from East Jerusalem and Christians from all over the world.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Soaking up atmosphere in N’Awlins

Yesterday morning, I walked from my hotel in New Orleans – where I’m covering the 79th annual General Assembly of Jewish Federations – to Café du Monde, the place to go here for coffee and beignets.

Not that I’m a fan of deep-fried dough, but the pastries are a virtual icon for the city, and I wanted to soak up some atmosphere sitting in the open-air café. If I did nothing else non-work-related, I would go to Café du Monde, I decided.

A long line-up almost made me change my mind about staying, but the extra hour we had just gained with the end of Daylight Savings Time tipped the balance the other way. As it turned out, the line moved quickly while a busker played a medley of tunes on his guitar, including Alley Cat, a staple at bar mitzvah parties in the late 1960, and the Beatles’ When I’m 64.

But jazz is the real staple here. Bourbon Street – raucous even during the day – is the home of the city’s signature music, although Preservation Hall, a 260-year-old building that’s been a jazz venue since 1961, is actually located around the corner on St. Peter Street.

I recorded these jazz buskers on Royal Street – a block over from Bourbon – and wandered the shops and galleries on my way to and from Café du Monde, admiring the cast-iron railings on upper balconies reflecting the city’s Spanish heritage. I happened on a small grocery store that sold local treats like pecan beer and Aunt Sally’s pralines, pronounced here with a short “a.”

Praw-leens – who knew? Then again, New Orleanians have a distinctive southern drawl. At the airport in Toronto, a U.S. immigration officer corrected me on my pronunciation of the city’s name. N’Awlins. That’s how they say it here, I think.

At Café du Monde, I heard a customer tell her waiter, “Thank you, darlin’,” as sweet as the generous portion of icing sugar that covers the beignets.

At the end of a French Quarter walking tour I took – I had time for that too! – the guide thanked us for travelling here, and told us that every dollar we spend helps the local economy and the many people still affected by Hurricane Katrina.

But he didn’t call us “darlins.” I’ll have to visit again.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

About Life

Dear Ella,
Adam and I have been together for a year. We’re both divorced and have children from our previous marriages. Adam is a wonderful man, and he tries very hard to be a good dad. He has one six-year-old boy, Josh, who is capable of being a sweet kid, but is usually an intolerable brat. I’m embarrassed to say that I can’t stand being around this kid. As I see it, Adam parents with guilt as his guide. Because of his limited visitation, he tries to be a Disneyland dad, doing only fun things and letting Josh run amok. Adam rarely corrects Josh and feels terribly guilty when he upsets his son, and Josh knows it. When I try to intervene, I end up being seen as the bad guy.
I love Adam, but I’m not sure if I can commit to a life like this. I welcome any advice so that we can work this out as a family.
Blended Battles
Dear Blended Battles
Blended families have become more common, and along with them come all kinds of problems that don’t always exist in a nuclear family. You have two sets of parents in a blended family, and that can be very confusing for children. Since there’s no manual, people tend to go with their gut on how to raise kids, and clearly Adam feels that Josh needs fun more than discipline at this stage. Blended families have a whole myriad of challenges. Navigating through parenting differences is probably the biggest hurdle. You and Adam need to come up with a game plan. You need to analyze what works and what doesn’t, and survey the results of your parenting actions. Is Adam truly happy with the results he sees in his son?
Guilt isn’t a productive emotion. It causes people to make all sorts of bad decisions. Children need consistency and boundaries. They need to know what’s expected of them as they transition from one home environment to the other. You and Adam need to explore all these expectations together. This isn’t easy for Josh. His stable family environment has been dissolved, and re-establishing a new one will take time.
Setbacks along the way are inevitable, but if you both approach this with the same goal, using tolerance, patience, communication and love, you’ll end up with a successful family unit.