On May 28, 2016, Harambe died. Many mourned his death, but I was particularly distraught. You see, I might have known Harambe’s father... or his sister... or perhaps his cousin?
When I was a child, my mother insisted that I always give my seat up to someone older on the bus or subway. She would add that this was the way that boys and girls in Israel behaved.
My mother, Perla Brandriss, often mentioned to us as children that it was Erev Rosh Hashanah, 1942, that the Nazis came to take her parents. They and their two youngest children were rounded up and taken to the railway station in their home town of Lille, France, together with many of the city’s other Polish Jews, to be sent to their deaths at Auschwitz.
In 2007, I attended a bar mitzvah at the Nairobi Hebrew Congregation in the capital city of Kenya. During the Torah reading, the gabbai called relatives and friends for aliyot by their Hebrew names. For one aliyah, however, the gabbai called the name “Charles Njonjo.”
On Shabbat afternoon between minchah and ma’ariv, the men of Congregation Ahavat Shalom of Ocean City, Maryland, sit around a small table. It is a welcomed respite from the 16-hour days they work during the week. As the rabbi discusses the Torah portion, salads are served, including traditional Moroccan dishes. Cans of soda are brought to the table, but there are few takers, as the men brag about giving up carbonated drinks.
Rosie Kavanagh of Kemp Mill, Maryland, reading Kol Habirah with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. (Credit: Shira Kavanagh)
I attempted to push myself above the surface of the water, but I was blocked by the weight of the raft. I tried to remove my lifejacket and dive underneath, but the buffeting rapids propelling me along made this impossible. I thought to search for an air pocket, but I was reluctant to move toward the middle of the raft, from which it would be even more difficult to extricate myself; I also doubted I had enough oxygen for this maneuver.
A Saros Cycle is a period of time — roughly 18 years, 11 days, and 8 hours between the recurrent relative line-up positions of the sun, moon, and earth — that has been used since antiquity to predict eclipses.
The Nairobi Hebrew Congregation, the oldest synagogue in Kenya, is located in the center of the city and includes a spacious sanctuary, a mikvah, a social hall, and impressive gardens. For 105 years, the synagogue has held Shabbat and holiday services, educational programs, and celebrations of lifecycle events.
For decades, Jewish travelers to Jamaica have bemoaned the fact that the island’s signature “jerk” cuisine was off limits due to a lack of kosher supervision. Thanks to the Chabad of Jamaica, which opened the doors of the first-ever kosher restaurant in Jamaica last week, the classic Caribbean culinary experience is now within reach for the thousands of strictly-kosher tourists who visit the island every year.
As a member of the Jewish Text Department at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, I teach courses in both halacha (Jewish law) and theology. The goals of these courses are, of course, different. What they have in common, however, is the influence of Maimonides (1135-1205). In courses that deal with halacha, we read the Mishneh Torah, Maimonides’ codification of Jewish law. In courses that deal with theology, we read “Guide for the Perplexed,” Maimonides’ attempt to explain Judaism in a rational way. Reflected in these writings is Maimonides’ ability to accommodate different interests, despite inherent tensions and even contradictions.