Newsletter Issue # 23 March 28, 2012

More children are suffering accidents from poisoning to drowning during the two weeks before Passover than during any other fortnight in the year. The dangers are even greater during the week before the Festival of Freedom, when children are on school holiday and parents are involved in intensive cleaning preparations. Parents are told to protect their children, especially during this period. Nearly half of all child exposure to toxic chemicals occurs before Passover in children younger than six years old.

A group of students from the Solomon Schechter School in Westchester, New York, which is associated with the Conservative Judaism movement, were denied use of a Torah scroll for their prayer service at a hotel because they were conducting a mixed-gender service. The  students were in Israel on their senior two-month trip and spending Shabbat in Shefayim. the students made  arrangements to stay in the kibbutz’s hotel for a Shabbat in February and the group had requested that a separate room be made available for their prayer services.

The sudden proliferation of Jewish composers in the mid-19th century was unprecedented in the history of classical music. But that all changed when Germany’s two most famous composers were of Jewish origin. These two composers were Felix Mendelssohn, whose most prominent public manifestation was the oratorio “Elijah” (1846), and Giacomo Meyerbeer (born Jacob Liebmann Beer), the prolific composer of the operas “Robert le diable” (1831), “Les Huguenots” (1836) and “Le prophète” (1849).

StandWithUs, the non-profit organization that is  dedicated in informing the public about Israel and combating anti-Semitism, is urging all members of the international Jewish community to celebrate the Jewish state by designating March 30 as the day to buy Israeli goods at local stores. While the Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement is still attempting to ostracize Israeli goods, they are escalating their efforts by standing outside stores, advising customers to refrain from buying Israeli-made products on March 30, the same day of the ‘Global March to Jerusalem.

Liberal arts colleges are kosher although they are having a tough time proving it. In tough times, liberal arts colleges defend their value, recounts the efforts at St. Olaf’s in Northfield MN. St. Olaf has transformed its career center, called the Center for Experiential Learning. Once on the fringes of campus, the center now shares a bright, newly renovated building with the president’s office. It’s a key stop on campus tours and a regular sight along students’ routes. Since the move, the center has seen a 69 percent increase in traffic.

When Warren Buffet makes a deal it is the big news of the day on CNBC and in the Wall Street Journal. But the Oracle of Omaha’s recent deal probably won’t get much attention and it certainly won’t have to be reported to the Security and Exchange Committee. The Omaha World-Herald reported today that Rabbi Jonathan Gross of the Orthodox Beth Israel Synagogue in West Omaha chose Warren Buffett to be the non-Jewish buyer of the congregant’s chametz (leavened food products that are forbidden on Passover).

Watch The Prince of Egypt. Throw the toy frogs. Have a chocolate seder. Create artistic interpretations of the Ten Plagues. These are old stand-bys in the Jewish education world that aim to get students excited and engaged in the holiday and tradition of Passover. Although families genuinely enjoy these classic activities, we lean heavily on the same lessons we have used for years, and students are often left with a taste like stale matzah in their mouths. In an effort to engage families or do multi-age programs, our students miss the opportunity to discover something new about themselves, their peers, and the legacy they have inherited as American Jews.

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