Newsletter Issue # 28 May 2, 2012

The 49thInternational Bible Quiz for Jewish youth is one of Israel’s Independence Day’s noble traditions, was held on Thursday morning at the Jerusalem Theater.  Elehanan Bloch a student from the Yeshiva High School of Yeruhuam was this year’s winner. Elhanan’s parents, Ido and Orit, came to Yeruham within the Bnei Akiva movement and are aiding in establishing a synagogue and college for girls in Netivot.

Recent studies showed that only one in five of US Jews has visited, or is planning to visit Israel. When asked why, the usual response is that at some point they would really like to visit Israel, but it is very clear from their response that it isn’t really at the top of their list of priorities. The findings have led the UJA Federation of New York to present a tourism program aimed at adults that follows the outline of programs already in place for the younger generation.

According to Ari Enkin, an Orthodox rabbi who has written several books on Jewish law, equating the loss of an animal with the loss of a human is inappropriate. He recently discussed the question of whether, upon the death of a beloved pet, it is appropriate for a Jewish person to say, “Blessed is the True Judge.” It is reflexively uttered by many Jews in response to death and tragedy.

Comedic actor and musician Jack Black is like so many parents these days, he is having a lot of stress about getting his kids into a good school. Last week, he told Conan O’Brien that he recently resorted to some desperate measures at least desperate Jewish word dropping just to impress the admissions people at a local Jewish day school.

If you ever wondered how to judge the success of a rabbi, you will know how complex the matter can be.  You ponder on questions such as what are the criteria, the measuring rods, by which a rabbi is judged? But fret no longer Newsweek magazine solved the problem by publishing its annual list of “America’s top 50 rabbis.” What was used is not made clear. Was it Torah learning? Apparently this was not a factor, since among the jurors there seems to be no one who could measure Torah learning. It wasn’t the ability to uplift and inspire a community to return to Torah learning and living? Since that too was evidently not an issue, among the jurors there was no one who could appreciate that quality.

We often say that prayer is a weapon, and we tend to forget that it is also a privilege. We begin the shemonei esrei we ask, “Hashem sefatai tiftach. Hashem open my mouth to speak with you. Rav Soloveitchik would say many times that a person needs a license to pray. You have to go through a certain regimen and routine before beginning the quintessential tefilah. Whether it’s in the morning with pesukei d’zimra, birchat kriat shema, and ga’al yisrael, or ashrei in the afternoon, a person cannot just begin asking Hashem for whatever he wants. You have to get yourself ready and prepare the groundwork for your audience with Hashem.

Here’s one way that you can help out a historic synagogue and at the same time help yourself in the process! The Congregation Beth Elohim, a landmark synagogue in Park Slope, Brooklyn, is a finalist in the American Express Partners in Preservation Program. As finalists, they have a chance to win up to $250,000 to restore their beautiful stained glass windows in the main sanctuary. To win, they need your votes and you can help by voting daily at

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