by Kara A. Kaufman, Moment Magazine
A landmark study of Jewish life released today reveals the deep and sometimes surprising changes the Jewish community has undergone over the past decade. The study, conducted by the UJA-Federation of New York and based on nearly 6,000 interviews in eight counties in New York, is the largest North American Jewish community study to date. The data help us better understand the contours of who we are as modern Jews in America, challenging popular stereotypes and pointing out the connections between trends within the Jewish world and those within broader American life.
The report illustrates several clear developments over the past decade. First, the size of the New York Jewish population has been growing over the past nine years, reaching 1.5 million in 2011. The study’s authors ascribe this rise to three primary factors: A rise in birth rates; increasing longevity (two factors that contribute to a ballooning of both young and old populations); and more fluid boundaries within the Jewish community. The number of people identifying as “Jewish” includes people of a wide spectrum of beliefs and backgrounds, including 12 percent of participants who self-identified as “partially Jewish.” Immigration, a driving force in population increases in the past, was not a prominent factor in the observed rise of the past decade.
Second, the report illustrates that New York’s Jewish community is increasingly diverse. People vary in their self-reported religious affinity, Jewish engagement, gender, race, ethnicity, language, socioeconomic status and sexual orientation. Five percent of study respondents live in an LGBT household (one in which at least one member identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender). Twelve percent of Jewish households surveyed are biracial or non-white. Fourteen percent of households in the study are Russian-speaking (most of whom live in city centers rather than the suburbs). These statistics paint the picture of an increasingly diverse Jewish family, in which parents may marry interracially, adopt non-white children and/or convert to Judaism from other religions.
Within New York’s Jewish world, nuanced sub-populations are growing. For instance, the Orthodox population, which some may consider homogeneous, is far from monolithic. Respondents self-identified with sub-groups such as Modern, Hasidic, Yeshivish, Haredi, Chabad and Lubavitch. While the striking diversity of New York is not representative of the entire United States, these statistics nonetheless suggest that Jews in America are individualizing the Jewish experience.
by Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, Jewishjournal.com
From the moment that Matisyahu’s new album ‘Spark Seeker’ hits your ears, you realize that the singer/songwriter is on a new journey of self-discovery. Complex, deeply spiritual, worldly, upbeat, at times pop and danceable, transcontinental, and electronic, ‘Spark Seeker’ grabs you. New beats, new sounds, new music, period. This July 17th release is best listened to loud.
‘Spark Seeker’ represents a continuation of Matisyahu’s personal journey and his independent streak. The changes he is showing the world are part of his spiritual quest, and are fueled by the same desire for authenticity as the call that led him to avoid the world of materialism and towards a spiritual Hasidic path. Matisyahu has has not forsaken his spiritual quest or the Judaism that has inspired him on his journey so far. He, like so many of us, is seeking, dreaming, struggling and wrestling with tradition and God. But unlike us, his personal journey has become the topic of intense public discussion.
“Crossroads”, the first track on the album begins with middle eastern rhythms, sounds and ancient winds blowing across a desert. Then the familiar voice fades in “like I’m walking through a kingdom of time…only to find the other side,” revealing to us that the Matisyahu is at a crossroads in his spiritual and musical development. ‘Spark Seeker’ brings together his previous albums and says, this is one path, one journey.
You can feel the spiritual energy that went into ‘Spark Seekers’ echos back to previous albums and songs. In his beautiful “Sunshine”, Matisyahu longs for a champion, a redeemer, the Moshiach. In “Live Like a Warrior”, you feel the power of “Youth”.
“Shema Yisrael…” calls Matisyahu into the vast sound of “Desert Eagle”, and you can see him there standing in the Judean desert embracing the beauty of the ancient past, and fusing it with the present and the future. The ancient and the modern mashup works brilliantly.
Each listen to the album reveals new elements, new voices, new lyrics. You come face to face with the brilliant collaboration with Shyne, the former Bad Boy Records rapper who spent nine years in prison before heading to Israel and becoming an Orthodox Jew.
Many have questions for Matisyahu: What happened to the beard? Are you still Jewish? Do you still keep kosher? What does your family think?
While offering some answers, there is still much mystery that surrounds Matisyahu’s transformation from beatboxing, rapping, Hasidic reggae artist who burst onto the world stage with “King Without A Crown”, to the clean-shaven rock-star we see today.
by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz
|African Refugees stand in a charity food line in Tel Aviv (Photo Cred Baz Ratner/ Reuters)|
Israel is experiencing great difficulties with rising immigrant populations, as are other nations around the world. Significantly, Israel is the only democratic state with a land connection to Africa, so it is inevitable that a large portion of African refugees would seek to go there. These undocumented migrants cross into Israel either looking for work or fleeing from severe persecution. The social and economic burdens are immense and Israel is already struggling with very limited resources. Clearly, Israel cannot be a home for all refugees who wish to come. This is not a fair request of this tiny state already overwhelmed with social and economic issues. However, there is no justification for the racism and violence that some Israelis are showing toward this population.
This crisis has developed over decades. During the 1990s, Israel opened its borders to migrant workers, and about 180,000 came. Only about half were able to obtain the necessary work contract and visa, while the others tended to work at very low-paying, unofficial jobs. On the other hand, since 2006, about 60,000 refugees have come to Israel, mostly from Eritrea (34,000) or Sudan (15,700), and 2,000 more enter every month. The Israeli government has regarded these refugees under the law as “infiltrators,” and regards them as migrant workers, subject to deportation. Of the 4,603 new applications for asylum filed by other refugees, only one was approved in 2011.
Ironically, Israel, a nation of refugees, has not fully developed a legal process for non-Jewish refugees. Since Israel did not have diplomatic relations with Sudan, and since Eritrea has deteriorated into a lawless state, most of the refugees from these countries could not be immediately deported. Nevertheless, they have not been given the opportunity to apply for asylum (in contrast, 85 percent of Eritreans who reach the United States are granted asylum, and 70-90 percent of refugees from Sudan and Eritrea are granted asylum in Europe). While Israel has given some of these refugees temporary group protection, this has to be renewed annually, and most importantly, it does not confer the right to work within Israel. The result is that refugees have little access to work, health care, education, or other services.
Who are these refugees, and how are they treated? Stephen Slater recently wrote about his 2007 encounter with a Sudanese refugee, George Kulang, whose wife and children had been murdered by the Janjaweed (armed militia on horseback who have committed many atrocities in Darfur). He fled to Egypt, where he was tortured, so he continued his journey to Israel. When he saw an Israeli flag, he felt that “I must walk to that flag, because the Israelis are good, they have democracy, they will not turn us away.” However, as is typical for most refugees, he then spent several months in jail, and (usually when the detention centers are overflowing) was released to an urban center to fend for himself, often working below the minimum wage.
South Sudan won independence from Sudan in July 2011. Israel established relations with the new state, and this is enabling Israel to deport Sudanese refugees, even though the political situation there is far from stable, with much military activity. This spring, events took an alarming turn. Some Israeli government officials raised a more intolerant tone:
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel had to prevent “illegal infiltrators flooding the country.”
MK Miri Regev called the refugees “a cancer in our midst.”
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and the mayor of five other cities called for the imprisonment and expulsion of African refugees.
Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai said that infiltrators are “all criminals,” and that they spread disease. He set up a special task force to solve the “infiltrator problem,” with the expressed purpose “for Israel to be without infiltrators.”
MK Danny Danon claimed that Israel now has “an ‘infiltrator’ enemy state” within its borders, and has called for the detention and mass-deportation of all infiltrators.
MK Arye Eldad of the National Union Party suggested that the IDF shoot infiltrators trying to enter Israel.
In addition, unsubstantiated reports of a rising crime wave among African refugees in South Tel Aviv raised tensions, and then apartment houses (including a daycare center) in the Shapira neighborhood of south Tel Aviv were hit by four firebombs in April; fortunately, there were no injuries. On May 24, tensions reached a breaking point. Politicians incited the crowd with xenophobic rhetoric, and then the crowd smashed the windows and destroyed goods in stores owned by African refugees, and then attacked Africans on the streets. Fortunately, many courageous Israelis rose to denounce this act of hatred:
Yair Lapid, a member of the opposition, called the attack a “pogrom” (an extremely hateful term describing the tsarist attacks on Jewish communities in Russia), adding: “They don’t understand the meaning of Jewish morals or collective Jewish memory, nor do they understand the meaning of Jewish existence.”
President Shimon Peres said: “hatred of foreigners contradicts the foundations of Judaism.”
In an editorial, Haaretz condemned the rioting against African refugees and human rights activists: “The history of the Jewish people—rife with instances of incitement, persecution and pogroms—does not resonate with the inciters…. it is becoming a badge of shame on an entire society.”
The statements of the beleaguered refugees supply an added poignancy. One Eritrean who experienced the violence said: “…when we try to explain that we fled murder and torture no one is interested. We did not believe that things like this could happen in a democracy like Israel.” A Sudanese resident of Tel Aviv spoke in a manner disturbingly familiar to many: “You don’t know when you will be taken by the police, arrested and deported. You don’t know how long it will be. We’re living in an uncertain future. We are living in fear.” Others wonder if their neighbors will attack them, and know that the police will not help them if an attack occurs.
In response, some Israelis have gone out of their way to show kindness to the stranger, such as walking African children home from school. Others have pointed out that, according to official police data given to the Knesset in March 2012, the crime rate among foreigners was 2.24 percent, while for the general population the crime rate was 4.99 percent, significantly higher, refuting the myth that Africans are disproportionately involved in crime. Lifting the prohibition on work would probably help lower the foreign crime rate even further.
June brought many new developments. An Israeli court approved the deportation of 1,500 Africans currently living in Israel. The government then arrested 240, and 300 others chose to leave rather than face arrest. There was also a spate of bills passed based more on political expediency than a coherent policy. On June 3, a law went into effect allowing the detention of “infiltrators” for up to 3 years, yet another attempt to deter refugees.
On June 10, another bill increased penalties for those who aided infiltrators and for those employers who hired workers illegally. By the middle of June, deportees were being sent back to South Sudan on weekly flights. Since South Sudan looks forward to Israeli investment to build its economy, it is cooperating with the deportations.
The government’s pledge to enforce a ban on work for refugees will have consequences. Israel is rapidly working to finish its southern detention center, Ir Amim (City of Nations), which will be the world’s largest prison for immigrants when it reaches its capacity of 10,000-15,000 inmates. In addition, Israel is building a barrier covering most of the border with Egypt to discourage refugees. However, even this will not succeed in taking all the refugees out of Israel’s cities. As a result, there is a plan to set up 20,000-25,000 tents in the Negev, which will probably not have a sewage system and will severely overtax the water and electricity supply of the region. As Ramat Negev Regional Council head Shmuel Rifman said: “I’m told it’s temporary, but in Israel the transient becomes permanent.” (Haaretz, June 12, 2012).
It must be pointed out that the instability in much of Africa cannot, of course, be solved by Israel alone, and that international efforts must be coordinated to reduce the level of poverty and human rights abuses that leads to mass migration of refugees. There must be more international support and collaboration to support the State of Israel and other democracies facing these challenges. It could also be noted that, on many occasions when Jews were persecuted, there were few voices raised to defend the Jews, whereas here there is a significant revulsion against the rioters. Many nations have refugee problems, and few have resolved the issue with humanity. There are no perfect solutions to these immense challenges. Nevertheless, as the refugees themselves have often said, Israel is a place where you should expect something better. Defining refugees from places where murder, torture, and rape are common as “infiltrators” and “criminals” shows a poor example to the world. Up to 50,000 asylum seekers should not be ignored or routinely detained by the Prison Service.
Israeli rabbi and scholar Rabbi Donniel Hartman teaches the importance of embracing our Jewish responsibilities toward refugees that come along with our political sovereignty.
As a Jewish state committed to the continuity of values and as a co-signee of the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the value of Jewish continuity cannot be allowed to cause us either to shirk our responsibility or to be deaf to the needs of others. As a strong and successful country with a clear and sustainable Jewish majority, we have the ability to assimilate thousands of individuals a year without weakening our national identity. Given the size of Israel and the value of Jewish national continuity, however, this number is not unlimited. We need to determine a realistic policy which recognizes both our responsibility as Jews and our responsibility to the Jewish people.
Rav Donniel continues showing how our Jewish response to crises like this determine the future of our nation.
With Zionism the Jewish people have entered into the arena of political sovereignty with all of its gifts, challenges, and opportunities. We need to defend our borders and defend our national identity. We must also make sure, however, that we do not create a state whose border policies are Jewish but where life within those borders is not conducted with the highest standards of Jewish moral principle. As Jews we have matured sufficiently in our treatment of our border policy but we have yet to do so when it comes to our internal policy. We have created our Jewish state precisely for such an opportunity. It is time for us to embrace it.
Call upon Israeli government officials to ensure the safety of the African refugees so that they not live in fear. The building of the detention facility in the Negev to indefinitely detain refugees should be halted. A thoughtful, ethical and comprehensive immigration policy needs to be developed for how the State of Israel receives African refugees. Creating a true policy for dealing with refugees in accordance with international law should be a priority. We not only need the Israeli government to stop wrongs done to innocent vulnerable refugees but to fully swing the pendulum to being the global leader to fight the genocides occurring in the world today and to support refugees in all ways possible. Due to our unique Jewish history, we are best positioned to be at the forefront. Israel cannot become just another nation struggling with the refugee problem like other nations; rather there needs to be a distinctly Jewish compassionate response that raises the global standard. Israel, our beloved homeland, is a light in so many ways and this is another opportunity that cannot be missed to demonstrate how we care for the vulnerable.
As Jews, we are a nation of immigrants commanded to love and protect the stranger in our midst. This imperative is highest when we have sovereignty. It is not only our historical condition but also our eternal identity as the children of Abraham, the paradigmatic stranger.
by Sammy Kanter
|Mural Outside of the Know Theatre|
“What are you up to?” she asked.
“I moved to New York City,” I said, “I’m bartending at a Broadway theatre and trying to find full-time work. How about you?”
“I’m still here,” she said. “…Still haven’t gotten out. I live here in Over-the-Rhine, which is pretty cool. But I’ll get out one of these days.”
As we parted ways, what she said bothered and frustrated me. Why do people feel like they need to escape from this town?
Granted, I did “get out.” I moved to New York City last October, after growing up and spending two years post-college here. When I moved, however, I wasn’t doing it to “get out.” I was moving to have a new adventure and be in a city I have always dreamed of living in.
Still, as the leaves started to bud, signaling the beginning of the spring of 2012, I couldn’t help but think of the Cincinnati Fringe Festival. I was the Associate Producer of the festival for the past two years, plus I had been involved for the three years prior. I knew I had to come back and be a part of this festival.
The Cincinnati Fringe Festival is a symbol for all that is great about this city. It is a truly unique Cincinnati experience that proves there are some things no other cities but Cincinnati can provide. The festival is about creating strong a community, exchanging ideas and helping speed along the revitalization of the urban center of Cincinnati.
Cincinnati has long been a city full of tight-knit, supportive communities. You see familiar faces everywhere you go. Not only that, but Cincinnati also presents opportunities to create your own community or make a difference in an existing community. I was reminded of just how special these communities can be when I walked into the Fringe Festival CityBeat Kickoff party at Know Theatre last Tuesday. At the packed bar, everyone had a cheerful, friendly face; among the crowd I counted friends, former coworkers and fellow theater lovers. The Fringe Festival community is but one example of many communities all over town. Each offers a different opportunity to make its members feel loved and a part of something greater. This trait, more than anything else, is what I miss about Cincinnati.
At a typical Fringe Festival show, there is nothing typical. Subject matter and format can literally be anything you could imagine. If you wanted to stand naked and scream on stage for 30 minutes, you could. Because this is a platform for any idea, the work is more accessible than art presented in a more traditional way. The low ticket price ($12) also lends itself to a broader and more diverse range of people attending the festival. We’re all brought together to be challenged and entertained in a unique way.
After an evening of anywhere from nine to 20 shows, a couple hundred people pack into the Underground Bar at Know Theatre of Cincinnati, Fringe headquarters. Each night, the bar serves as a meeting place where patrons discuss their favorite performances of the night and try to place the ideas presented within the context of our society. Many new ideas, collaborations and opinions are often hatched at these nightly after-parties; the energy at the bar each night is unrivaled.
Lastly, the festival brings hundreds of audience members down to Over-the-Rhine. After returning from New York this past year, I was floored by the rapid pace of new businesses and urban life in this neighborhood. The Fringe likes to use “found spaces,” or non-traditional venues, for shows. These have consisted of coffee shops, vacant storefronts and old nightclubs. The past few years, it has been harder and harder to find vacant spaces, as more storefronts are popping up each year. All these new businesses combined with the mural painting on Know Theatre each year, the bike rack installed last year on Jackson and the people walking to their shows in costume add to the cultural flavor of this neighborhood. And it takes on an added flair during the festival.
Community, new ideas and urban renewal are three factors this town has perfected, especially in recent years. I believe if you’re going to live here, you should embrace all of these things and carry this pride in your body wherever you go.
While I am in New York City to stay for the time being, I use every opportunity I get to tell people another city worth visiting exists in the U.S., even if I am someone that “got out.” I moved away, but left part of my heart here. Thanks to the Fringe Festival, and the friendly faces I run into at the bagel shop or the grocery store, I feel welcome no matter where I live. For as long as I live in another city, even if it’s for the rest of my life, I know a part of me will be here.
At the end of the conversation, I said to my friend, “If you ever do ‘get out,’ make sure to keep part of yourself here. This is not a city to run from.”
by Joe Long, eachnotesecure.com
If you’ve read ENS at all, you know how important independent culture is to us. And especially the independent culture surrounding record stores. Every year we frequent several stores here in the Cincinnati area, and one of them is the historic Everybodys in Pleasant Ridge. We heard the rumors last week that Walgreen’s wants to buy the corner of Ridge and Montgomery in Pleasant Ridge, and this would mean the end of Everybody’s and the Gas Light Cafe.
This is something we cannot allow to happen. Independent record stores are a part of the culture in Cincinnati that makes it so special. I’ve shopped at Everybody’s on and off for decades, and have purchased tapes, CD’s and plenty of vinyl there through the years. And it’s been a fixture in the neighborhood for 34 years. We don’t need another retail chain coming in and swallowing up the independent culture that shapes our neighborhoods. Oh yeah, did I mention another Walgreens is already just a tenth of a mile from the proposed location?
“I think it would be a great loss if we all would have to move out of the neighborhood,” – Woody Dorsey, manager of Everybody’s Records.
So, what can we do about it?
Well, the Pleasant Ridge Preservation Society, or the PRPS has a Facebook page set up to drive awareness, and that’s a start. They also recommend getting into your email and writing the following members of Cincinnati City Council.
Please write or email Cincinnati City Council and tell them you do not want the sale of these buildings to Wallgreens. Here are the email addresses for City Council. You can also pick up a prewritten letter at The Gas Light or Everybody’s Records.
So if you are a proponent of what I have laid out, show your support. Go to the Facebook page, spread it and this post, and write the council members. The time is now!
UPDATE from the PRPS
Representatives from PRPS recently left City Hall. They handed over a letter from Fr Paul of Nativity’s Parish, a copy of Pleasant Ridge Community Council’s statement, and a request of a moratorium. The request had 1,188 signatures! The people they spoke to reinforced the importance of continuing to send letters and emails to The Cincinnati City Council Members. Please continue to spread the word of what may happen, and continue to let City Council know how you feel on this matter. The fact that almost 1,200 signatures can be collected in 24 hours shows the passion our community has in Preserving Pleasant Ridge! The City Council Members email addresses are pinned to the top of this page. Use them and share them w/ your fiends and neighbors.
Reposted with permission from eachnotesecure.com
by David Bernstein
In one of my favorite episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Enterprise gets a temporary, substitute captain named Jellico, who displays none of the inclusive leadership characteristics of our leader-hero, Captain Picard. Captain Jellico even relieves the highly competent first officer, Will Riker, of duty for daring to question his orders. The episode’s writers must have been tempted to have Jellico’s mission end in defeat in order to make the point that dictatorial leadership styles produce inferior results, but instead the mission succeeds and deters the enemy, just as the brilliant but authoritarian Jellico had planned.
We are all familiar with examples of mean but brilliant leaders who preside over nasty organizational cultures that produce excellent results. They are expert micromanagers, telling everyone what to do and how to do it. They don’t ask for or accept feedback and publicly berate those who make “stupid” suggestions or fail to carry out a task in what they consider an effective or timely fashion. They believe there’s only one way to do something – their way. They tend to scream and humiliate. But they are so smart, innovative, detail-oriented and hard-working that they can, in the end, dictate their organizations to amazing results.
Then there’s the polar opposite – the nice organizational culture. The nice organization is a warm and friendly environment led by a congenial leader. It stresses civility and respect at all times. People in nice organizational cultures validate each other. When someone reports on a recent initiative at the staff meeting, everyone says “great job,” even though some secretly feel it could have been much better and a few others wonder if it was a good expenditure of resources in the first place. Nice organizational cultures avoid conflict and don’t argue, because arguing can lead to hurt feelings, which no one wants.
In the nice organization, when someone is not performing, no one calls them out on it. The nice organization almost never fires anyone unless they’re absolutely up against a wall because that’s, well, not nice. The nice organizational culture does not retain really top talent for long because talented people want to make a difference and can’t stand it when others don’t pull their weight. Nice organizations fail to give adequate consideration as to how to best use their resources because they’re afraid of the pain an honest reckoning might cause. Therefore, nice organizations tend to become mediocre – or worse – over time.
I hate to say it, but the mean organizational culture is usually more effective than the nice organizational culture. But the mean organization has some serious downsides as well.
In the mean organization, there’s only one leader – one decision maker – so when he or she leaves, it’s all downhill. Very few people have the sheer stamina and ability of the mean leader to micromanage that many people, so there’s no easy replacement for the leader. In the mean organization, only the leader is permitted to take risks and fail. So after the leader leaves, the people who are left tend to be highly risk-averse, which prevents the organization from innovating. The mean organizational culture is not enduring.
Whatever possible merits the mean organizational culture might have, demeaning, stifling and otherwise mistreating people fly in the face of Jewish values and, hence, should not be tolerated at Jewish organizations, or anywhere else for that matter. I suspect more Jewish organizations are nice than mean, and, of course, many contain an incoherent mix of mean and nice, reflecting a lack of intent from the top.
The trick is creating a nice, but not-too-nice organizational culture that treats people with respect, empowers them and knows how to have fun, but at the same time encourages constructive conflict, tough choices and risk taking.
Here are some steps you might consider in creating the nice, but not-too-nice culture:
Give and get real feedback. If you’re nice, you probably sugarcoat your words. You’re depriving people of what they need to know to do their jobs and, moreover, what you need from them to accomplish organizational goals. Start giving straightforward feedback. It gets easier over time. Model the behavior by insisting that people give you straightforward feedback. Ask for it constantly. Publicly ask for feedback on an initiative you were involved with, and reward the person who gives the harshest critique. While harmony and candor are not mutually exclusive – one can be candid in a respectful manner – place a premium on candor over harmony. Make it clear to people that they’ve got to get over the tendency to get offended when someone offers candid feedback.