The Zodiac and the truth behind astrology


“Astrology is one of the most ancient sciences, held in high esteem of old, by the wise and the great. Formerly, no prince would make war or peace, nor any general fight in battle, in short, no important affair was undertaken without first consulting an astrologer.”
– Benjamin Franklin

Ever so often Astrology is presented with an opportunity to explain herself and thus improve on her wisdom and service to humankind. Such occasions, alas, usually happen when her system of symbolism is under attack, usually from people who have no knowledge of Astrology and who base their dismissive notions on popular culture and misunderstandings instead of serious consideration. 

In the last few days, I received many alarmed emails asking me about the recent internet craze concerning the shattering “new discoveries” that the signs have shifted due to a “wobble” in the Earth’s axis and that there is a new 13th sign called Ophiuchus.

Let me address some of these concerns and assure you that whatever your sign was before 2011 is still the same and if you thought you could get an upgrade to a “nicer” sign, you are out of luck 🙁 

1 – Astrology is based on the seasons and the relationships between the planets (called aspects) and NOT what sign is located behind the Sun when you were born.

The signs of the Zodiac are merely symbols and metaphors that divide the year into 12 different and equal “seasons”. This partition is based on the proportions of day and night or light and darkness experienced throughout the year. Aries always begins on the first day of spring (aka the Spring Equinox), when the day and night are equal and the amount of light is growing. Libra, on the other hand, always begins on the Fall Equinox, when the day and night are also equal, but the amount of light is receding.

Astrology postulates, regardless of what constellation occupies the Equinox, that people born in the spring will exhibit characteristics such as high energy and optimism. They will be the kind of people who spring into action, the same way that nature buds into life after its long winter slumber.

A new study, published by the Nature Neuroscience Journal, found links between the season of birth and personality. It is proven that people born in the winter, i.e. Capricorns, are more at risk to suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), schizophrenia and depression. In Astrology, Capricorn, beginning on the longest night of the year, is associated with suffering, difficulties and pessimism. To quote the author of the paper, Professor Douglas McMahon, “Our biological clocks measure the day’s length and change our behavior according to the seasons.” 

2 – When Astrology was developed by the Babylonians, the constellation of Aries happened to be located right behind the sign Aries during the Spring Equinox.

Astrology was developed in Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, as a cosmic clock, most likely to help early farmers trace the seasons. In fact, the reason why we have seasons to begin with is because of the Earth’s 23 degree tilt, which is also connected to its wobble. The idea is simple: one should plant in Spring, party in Summer, harvest in Fall, and be careful with provisions in Winter.

The first zodiac sign, Aries, begins on March 21st, the Spring Equinox.  Of course there is no real Ram out there in the skies. The ancient wise women and men of the time chose a Ram to symbolize Aries because it is a great metaphor for the initiation of spring, the leader of the flock. When the refuters of Astrology claim that people born in Aries should be called Pisces, they are misunderstanding the symbolism of Astrology. It’s like saying New York City should be called “York” because by now it is hundreds of years old. However, when it was founded it was new, and it symbolized a modern place full of possibilities. Aries was located behind the Equinox, on March 21st 2000-4000 years ago, when Astrology was “founded”. That is why we still call this period of time Aries.   

3 – Astrologers and Astronomers have known about the issues presented in the “Astrology refuting hoax” for thousands of years and CHOSE NOT to include a 13th constellation.

There is nothing new about the 13th constellation or the shift in the signs. The ancient Greeks, who were the first to cast astrological “Natal Charts,” were quite aware of these two issues. In fact, Claudius Ptolemy wrote extensively about the 13th sign and the procession of the equinox in the 2nd century AD. As you can see, there is nothing new under the Sun.

Ophiuchus, the so called 13th sign, was not adopted into Astrology because the Sun barely touches the constellation during its path through the Zodiac. It also doesn’t fit into the Babylonians’ sexagesimal system that is based on 60 and 12. That is why we have 60 minutes in an hour and two sets of 12 hours in a day. That is also the reason behind the decision to have 12 signs in the Zodiac and not 13.

With all due respect, most of the people who rebuke Astrology have little knowledge about the ancient art. Intellectual giants the like of Johannes Kepler (considered by many the father of modern astronomy), Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Carl Jung, Benjamin Franklin and Sir Isaac Newton all knew about these two anomalies in Astrology. However, they continued to practice, study and develop astrological theories that resulted in amazing predictions and insights. (http://cosmicnavigator.com/blog/gahl-sasson/Astrology/Astrology-rocks-some-historical-magic)

Astrologers for centuries have incorporated the earth wobble in their understanding of the connection between the heavenly bodies and life on earth. Ever heard about “The Age of Aquarius?” The reason why we have these ages and why they move backward (Age of Aquarius follows the Age of Pisces) is because of the wobble of the earth.  So to claim astrologers had not known about this phenomenon or chose to ignore it is simply ridiculous.

4 – Astrology is a system of symbols and metaphors designed to help us connect to the universe, just like the words and metaphors found in the various spiritual texts from around the world.

Many people claim that Astrology has no scientific backing and therefore cannot provide “real” help to humanity. I was stunned to see that this assertion regarding Astrology, came from the Christian Science Monitor, a news organization owned by a church.

But wait, there is no scientific proof of the resurrection of Christ, and yet the teaching of Jesus can still inspire love and compassion. There is no archeological proof of the Exodus and yet millions live and die by the teaching of Moses. There is no evidence to support Muhammad’s nightly flight on a winged horse from Mecca to Jerusalem. However, the holiest shrine for Islam, the Dome of the Rock, was built to commemorate that event on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Help and healing can be provided by systems that have no scientific proof, and have been for hundreds of years. I am not saying that these events did not happen. I am just noting that there is NO scientific proof that they did. However, the power of these systems of belief is undeniable.
Handled in the right way, Astrology can help guide us to a better future. Over the last 15 years I have personally experienced Astrology prove herself again and again in remarkable ways with clients of all ages, races, nationalities, and genders. I can only hope that she will do for you, what she has done for me and thousands of my clients. 

“Obviously Astrology has much to offer psychology, but what the latter can offer its elder sister is less evident.”
  —C.G Jung

Gahl E. Sasson teaches Astrology, Mythology and Kabbalah worldwide. His books A Wish Can Change Your Life (endorsed by HH the 14th Dalai Lama) and Cosmic Navigator, have been translated worldwide.  www.CosmicNavigator.com

Hybrid Jews


Jews are not a people suited for the status quo. We have a rebellious gene. We can’t stand still.

Look everywhere and you’ll see signs of our restlessness.

The Reform movement is debating whether it has gone too far in moving away from halacha (Jewish law). The Conservatives are always going through an identity crisis, so much so that sometimes I think they enjoy it. The Orthodox have so many variations that a neighbor of mine calls Pico-Robertson the Baskin-Robbins of frum neighborhoods — pick your flavor.

We’re a people of paradox: We love the safety and stability of permanence, but we’re always on edge — ready to take off, to break away, to declare our independence.

Often these breakaway dramas are small, local affairs — a few Jews get annoyed with a few other Jews; they meet, they eat, they scheme and another shul is born.

I’ve seen this as often with Ashkenazim as with Sephardic Jews. We love each other, but not enough to pray together if we get on each other’s nerves. But this getting on each other’s nerves has a wonderful side benefit: We get to experience this continuous influx of new shuls, new ideas and new movements.

One of the great movements in recent Jewish history is the Chasidic movement. Over two centuries ago, a revolutionary Jew called the Baal Shem Tov decided that Torah belonged to the masses, not just to the yeshivas, and it should be lived with deep joy, not just deep study. Within several decades, despite major opposition from mainstream Judaism, Chasidic offshoots were branching out in Eastern Europe and Russia, taking on local flavors and each having their own leader, or rebbe.

One of these Chasidic groups was called the Breslovers, originating in a little town in Ukraine called Breslev. Their leader was the grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, known simply as Rebbe Nachman — an intense, charismatic mystic who died in his late 30s.

I got a taste of the Breslev world when I traveled in the early ’90s to the Ukrainian city of Uman, where many of Rebbe Nachman’s followers gathered at his gravesite during Rosh Hashanah, as was his wish.

When I visited, there must have been several hundred people at the gathering. Today, I hear the annual number has grown to well over 20,000, with Jews from all over the world and all walks of life coming to soak up the rebbe’s holy vibes.

Among the participants in this worldwide pilgrimage is a small contingent from the Pico-Robertson neighborhood, led by a French-speaking Algerian Jew in the garment business named Sylvain Sellam.

Sylvain runs a little Breslev shul in the hood, at the corner of Robertson and Cashio, called The Breslev Center. I was there on a recent Shabbat, and for a minute I thought I was in the middle of the desert hanging out with Israeli settlers. It was that laid back.

It’s OK at the Breslev shul to wear jeans and sneakers and not tuck in your shirt. You won’t see any sign of a rabbi, but you’ll see lots of men with one eyebrow. You see, the davening is Sephardic, and if you stick around for the Kiddush, you’ll get to taste what may be the only Kurdish cholent in town, a thick, dark concoction made by an elderly Israeli Kurd named Abe.

Now, you might ask, what is so Chasidic about a little shul that looks, smells, tastes and sounds so Sephardic? There are no black hats, no Chasidic melodies, no long beards — so what gives?

Have you heard of these new hybrid cars that combine the traditional engine with an electric one? Well, this is the equivalent phenomenon — hybrid Jews — Jews who embrace a new tradition, but keep a connection to their old one.

Sylvain Sellam is a hybrid Jew.

He is madly in love with Breslev and with Rebbe Nachman, but he hasn’t abandoned his Sephardic roots, which include a direct lineage to the revered mystics of North Africa. He was indeed skeptical when, several years ago, a Sephardic buddy told him about Rebbe Nachman and Breslev. It felt foreign and irrelevant. But he agreed to take a look at Rebbe Nachman’s major book (Likutey Moharan), and it changed his life.

But wait, it gets more interesting. While Sylvain is passionate about Breslev, and he maintains his Sephardic roots, he’s even more passionate about a renegade offshoot of Breslev loosely called the “Na Na Nachmans.” This is the Wild Wild West of Breslev.

They don’t believe in rabbis or any of the trappings of organized religion. They have only one rabbi, and he’s in the other world — Rebbe Nachman. Unlike the traditional mainstream of Breslev, they are not quiet and self-effacing. Their mission is to spread the words of Rebbe Nachman, especially the words of the “Petek.”

The Petek is a mysterious “letter from heaven” from Rebbe Nachman revealed to a righteous Breslev (Rav Israel) many decades ago that followers say holds the key to redemption. In practical terms, the key is the mantra “Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me’Uman,” a kabbalistic breakdown of Rebbe Nachman’s name that has become the movement’s cri de coeur.

The mainstream Breslovers, including the unofficial leadership in Safed, don’t know what to make of this vocal and free-spirited band of Breslev gypsies who travel around Israel in hippie-style vans playing loud “Na Na Nachman” music and handing out Rebbe Nachman literature. They are the rebels of Breslev — the rebels among the rebels.

The Breslev Center here in the hood is one of the few “Na Na Nachman” shuls outside Israel. If it were up to Sylvain, there’d be a lot more. His enthusiasm for the Petek is obvious and intense. He’ll tell you about miracles he has witnessed just from the act of meditating on the Petek.

What struck me when I was in his shul, though, was how familiar it all felt. Kids were running around making a lot of noise, grown-ups were schmoozing and everyone was reading the exact same Torah portion being read in every shul in the world.

Maybe that explains our rebellious gene — we’re comfortable breaking away because we know that deep down, we’ll never let go.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and Meals4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.

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Breslovers gather in Ukraine. Click the BIG ARROW

Uri Geller bends self into Israel ‘reality TV’ stardom


Israel is no stranger to reality TV. Knockoffs — or shall we say adaptations — of popular American TV talent shows, like “American Idol” and “The Apprentice,” have become hits. But recently, Israel has developed its own inimitable, highly successful talent contest in which Uri Geller, the famous, controversial, Israeli paranormalist, is seeking an heir.

It’s only natural, Geller said in a telephone interview, that Israel pioneer a contest for mentalists (read “mind readers”).

“I think this field — call it mentalism, parapsychology, real magic, kabbalah, Jewish mysticism — all started here 5,000 years ago, when the Jews left Egypt,” he said. “It’s all riddled in the kabbalah — the mystical letters, the powers, the energy of the universe. People are believers here…. Our race is steeped in mystery attached by a spiritual thread to universe.”

Geller cited Houdini, David Copperfield, David Blaine and even Einstein as examples of Jews who have learned to understand and manipulate natural phenomena.

“The Successor” debuted Nov. 18 to record-breaking ratings. Almost one-third of Israel tuned in to watch Geller judge the nine contestants as they dazzled audiences with their mind-reading, mind-bending powers. The show has attracted international attention and, according to Geller, has sparked interest from producers abroad who are considering adopting its format.

Geller is most famous for bending spoons “with his mind,” a feat that commonly figures into legends, jokes and parodies about him, although the contestants perform more sophisticated stunts on the show. The acts use three local celebrities (always including a pretty actress or model) to perform their sleights of “mind”: drawing images, determining numbers and phrases and even playing songs the celebrities secretly choose in their mind.

The show also marks Geller’s romanticized and widely publicized comeback to Israel. He left in 1972 to pursue a worldwide, profitable — and at times notorious — career as a paranormalist, entertainer and author. Geller immediately signed on to “The Successor” when Keshet Productions approached him with the idea. At the time, he was visiting Israel on a mission for the International Friends of Magen David Adom, which he chairs.

For the next few weeks, he’ll shuttle between Israel and his mansion outside of London for the weekly live tapings, although he recently bought an apartment in Jaffa so he can spend more time in Israel, even when the show is over.

“Spiritually, mentally, psychically, I’m attached to Israel,” Geller said. “I was born here. I’m a sabra. I also have a dream to make the performers become as famous as I am.”

The winner will headline at a tourist hotspot in Macao, China, and receive a secret prize, plus the chance to boast of being Geller’s heir.

“I think they are fantastic, professional entertainers,” Geller said of his potential heirs. “They are riveting, mesmerizing. Each of them has a personality”

Aside from talent, Geller is also looking for charisma, charm, personality and stage presence. Each week a contestant is voted off by viewers at home, but the final choice will be up to Geller.

At the start of each show, Geller demonstrates that he hasn’t lost his own touch. He successfully “mind-read” the image an El Al pilot drew in his cockpit prior to landing (it was a fish) and located a expensive diamond necklace hidden in one of five Chanukah candle boxes.

However, Geller, whose patriotism has been triggered anew by his return, won’t be satisfied with passing just one torch (or shall we say a telekinetically altered spoon): “I would love to take them to Las Vegas as a team and create some kind of a Uri Geller show. I feel like it’s about time that more Israelis become well known and famous around the world, because how many do you know?”

A Phone Call from our Late Tante Mina


The words “Message from Tante Mina” showed up on my Aunt Tova’s cellphone. Normally this wouldn’t be such a big deal, as Tova got messages all the time, but
there were several peculiar things about this one.

  1. Tante Mina wasn’t programmed into Tova’s phone, so how did her name pop up?
  2. Tante Mina didn’t even have Tova’s cellphone number.
  3. And the oddest thing about this particular message was the fact that Tante Mina had died several months before.

Perhaps I should have mentioned the last one first.

In this day and age it’s easy to become overloaded and pessimistic about mystical events and spirituality. We have TV shows featuring psychics for people and pets, mindfreaks who can pull people in half, David Blaine can float and oodles of people have stories claiming “I shouldn’t be alive.” We have “Spiritual Experiences for Dummies” in our bookstores and little red kaballah string bracelets gracing the wrists of celebrities in People magazine. Want to touch base with a long lost deceased relative? Go visit “Crossing Over,” where the host will verbally entrance you into a “meeting.” Or go ghost-hunting with machines that click louder in certain corners and eerie blurbs of light not quite captured by the camera.

It’s always hard to believe these shows, since as an audience we see it after it has been through the shooting, enhancing, splicing, editing and magic of television. After seeing all of this mysticism that apparently occurs every single minute of the day, it’s hard to truly focus on the real magic that occurs from time to time. Because as experience has taught me, it does in fact exist.
Mysticism, for my family, and I think for most people as well, usually shows itself through nature.

One of my favorite stories is about my grandmother on my father’s side. She always used to call us on our birthdays and claim that the mariachis were at her house with her. Then she would sing to us in both English and Spanish as the imaginary mariachis played in the background. After she died, birthdays never seemed quite the same. On my dad’s birthday he was awake earlier then usual, sitting at the kitchen table reading the paper. All of a sudden a group of birds started chirping like mad! My dad lifted his head out of the paper and listened.

Once the chirping stopped he smiled to himself — looked like his mom had sent him the mariachis after all.

Another instance was when my mother was at the gas station on the one-year anniversary of the death of my father’s aunt, Regina. A large beautiful butterfly landed on her car and flirted with her the whole time she was pumping gas. As the butterfly finally took its leave, my mother sensed that it was the spirit of Regina, just stopping by to say hello.

These stories I can handle — the sense of someone’s spirit in a butterfly or group of birds, perhaps a familiar scent on a breeze carrying with it memories of a beloved someone. These occurrences are common — a sense of something familiar that we connect to the memory of someone we lost. A favorite spot can bring back a favorite story, and with it a smile of remembrance.

But it seems that in this digital age things are getting even more advanced. No one can seem to explain how Tova’s cellphone got this message. There is no record of it in her call log, as there should be, and it came through on a ring tone that isn’t an option on Tova’s phone. All that is left is a sense of confusion, awe and humor, all rolled into one.

I can’t help but chuckle every time I get the crazy image of Tante Mina sitting up in heaven playing around with a cellphone, trying to get in touch with us all. I can’t quite wrap my mind around this bizarre event, but I find it comforting all the same. All I ask is that she not try to e-mail me, as that would truly be too much.

Caroline Cobrin is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles and can be reached at carolinecolumns@hotmail.com.

Kabbalah Fashion Statement


David Shamouelian believes he has tapped into what he thinks
is a sure-fire marketing tool: 4,000 years of Jewish mysticism.

“How do you explain this? You walk into the store and want
to buy a blouse for yourself, but you end up buying a dress. Why? Because there
is internal energy in the clothes,” said Shamouelian, whose clothing company, Sharagano,
has signed an exclusive deal with the Los-Angeles-based Kabbalah Center to
market clothes using the once-sacred symbols of the Kabbalah.

“The product is drawing you to it, not the other way
around,” he said. “That is what we learned from the Kabbalah 4,000 years ago at
the time of Abraham.”

Shamouelian, 24, hopes that supernatural forces will draw
shoppers straight to his new clothing line inspired by the 72 names of God and
the teachings of the Kabbalah Center, which offers courses in Jewish mysticism
and spirituality.

He has already released the first of a series of designs:
T-shirts inscribed with the Hebrew letters lamed, alef and vav, one of the 72
divine names in Kabbalistic teachings. The shirts, retailing from $32 to $40,
will be available through SharaganoParis.com and 72namesofGod.com, with all
proceeds going to the Kabbalah Center.

The center teaches that “these three letters give you the
power to conquer your ego…. Simply focus your eyes on the letters, then
visualize destroying your ego,” says an advertisement for a white baby-T tank
top.

The creative spark for the clothing line came from a video
made by the one superstar who in so many ways defines the word ego — Madonna.

The singer has studied at the Kabbalah Centre for six years,
and in the video for “Die Another Day” — the title song for the latest James
Bond movie — she has lamed, alef and vav tattooed on her arm

Rabbi Yehuda Berg, who is author of the book, “The Power of
Kabbalah,” said he hopes that Kabbalah is going to have an even “wider reach”
as a result of the new clothing line.

We want to “bring it out to the masses,” said Shamouelian,
who was born in Iran but moved to New York when he was 2. He became involved
with the Kabbalah Centre 14 years ago. The center’s other famous participants
include Sandra Bernhard, Naomi Campbell and Guy Ritchie.

The center has already done well with another fashion
statement, the Red String, sometimes called Rachel’s String.

A spokeswoman for the center said the string has been
wrapped around Rachel’s Tomb near Bethlehem and is purportedly imbued with the
biblical matriarch’s energy, protecting the wearer against the negative
influences of the evil eye. The Kabbalah Center sells a packet of six strings
for $26.

Celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Rosie O’Donnell,
Roseanne and, of course, Madonna have been known to wear the bracelet — an
attempt to ward off the evil lens of paparazzi, perhaps? — Mica Rosenberg,
Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Reaching Out


Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is talking about kabbalistic teachings with such passion that he pitches forward in his chair, but just as quickly settles back. His arms are a flurry of activity, and he continuously grabs the black kippah that keeps threatening to slip from his head.

It’s Monday, Sept. 18, and Adlerstein fully acknowledges that he’s competing with “Monday Night Football,” but every chair around the conference table in Project Next Step’s ground-floor suite at 9911 Pico Blvd. is full. The crowd is more interested in wrestling with the existence of evil and existence itself than watching the tackles and touchdowns.

Welcome to Mysticism on Mondays, a course offered through Project Next Step, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s educational outreach program for the unaffiliated post-college set.

“We’re looking for the kind of people who are not so comfortable other places,” Adlerstein says. “We’re trying to get to people that are not going to go to a synagogue, haven’t gone to a synagogue, don’t feel comfortable there, somehow aren’t going to be turned off to the fact that there’s a yarmulke on my head, but are still willing to look at the various parts of the Jewish experience, particularly the content of it, and react positively.”

Less than six months old, Project Next Step is still in the experimental stage and slowly evolving to better meet the needs of their intended audience. New courses being offered include an overview of Jewish law and “The Ethical Screen” on Wednesday nights. “We’ll take clips from TV and movies where the industry has actually handled different issues well and use them as trigger films for discussion,” Adlerstein says.Project Next Step’s monthly series of intellectually stimulating town hall meetings is another feature, with intimate audience sizes purposefully capped between 40-60 people and a $5 suggested donation, though no one is ever turned away for inability to pay. One recent meeting featured former neo-Nazi T.J. Leyden recounting his experiences as a white supremacist. Adlerstein says celebrity speakers probably won’t be too far off in the future.

Together with his colleague, Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom, Adlerstein is hoping that Project Next Step will eventually spin off some social groups and varied activities where people can meet new ideas and new people.

“Obviously we’re not going to get 100 percent of the crowd. We’re poor competition for a disco. But to think that all young people want nothing more than beer and music would be terribly unfair,” says Adlerstein.

Project Next Step, among other groups, is trying to reach out to young Jews who, as Etshalom says, are “disaffected or haven’t yet been affected.”

Establishing a career, paying off school costs and looking for a beshert are of primary concern to most 20-somethings. Many can lose touch with the Jewish community or, worse, have a negative experience that pushes them away.

Appealing to 20-something Jews who aren’t involved in the community can be a difficult task. But there are groups that put forth the effort to keep 20-somethings involved in the Jewish community, even if it means that they might lose money in the process. The groups are more interested in providing individuals with a great Jewish experience so that they won’t feel the need to look elsewhere for communal, social or spiritual fulfillment.

Project Next Step’s organizers pursue Jewish involvement through an academic bent but want to make sure that people are eased into a Jewish identity at their own comfort level. “Growth is the main thing,” says Etshalom.

Adlerstein says that the tools of guilt and Israel don’t work anymore as methods to keep young Jews involved with the community.

“The next item that is going to work to keep Jews interested in their Judaism is the impact that Jewishness has on the moral and ethical issues that people face, as a society and as individuals,” says Adlerstein.Courtney Mizel, a 27-year-old sales and marketing v.p. for an Internet company, has yet to join a synagogue because she hasn’t “found the right fit.”

She’s been involved with Project Next Step from the start and says she will stick with the program even after she joins a synagogue.

“It’s one thing when you meet someone at a party. It’s another when you’re meeting people and talking to them about significant, intellectual things and not worrying about where you work and what you do, but coming together to focus on something that is outside of your everyday life,” says Mizel.”In terms of going to a kabbalah class, I had never taken one and knew nothing about it. I came into the second or third class because I had missed the first one, and it was a very gentle introduction and very nonjudgmental. You don’t feel like you’re taking a class and getting quizzed.”

Facing issues of growing concern, like intermarriage and Jews who convert, groups like Project Next Step want to show 20-somethings that Judaism and the Jewish community still have something to offer.In April, 32-year-old Jeff Posner started Nexus, a group for 20- and 30-something singles and couples from the South Bay and Orange County. Tired of the same old brunches and dinners offered to young professionals, Posner got together with a few volunteers to start a group that would engage young Jews in activities that appealed to them. The group started slow with a rock-climbing class, a few movie nights and a Memorial Day party.

“[Young] Jews are just like everybody else. We like to go to movies, we like to have coffee nights, ski, bike. If we don’t offer that type atmosphere for Jewish young adults, they’re just going to do it with someone else who isn’t Jewish. Why not give them the opportunity to do this in a Jewish environment?” says Posner.

Posner says that many for-profit businesses that appeal to Jewish singles look to Nexus as competition. He says that was never his intention.

“If I’m throwing a dance and they’re throwing a dance, they make money on their dance and I lose money on mine,” says Posner. “But they look it at as ‘That could have been 100 people at our party that we could have made money on.'”

Nexus regularly collaborates with other groups to provide the participants with a variety of opportunities: spiritual, social and charitable.

For tzedakah, Nexus has already volunteered time at the Seal Beach Animal Care Center and is intending to donate gifts to orphans during Chanukah and volunteer time with Habitat for Humanity. Posner even encourages his members to donate whatever they can to the federation in their area.

For Shabbat, the group participates with Traveling Shabbat Singles and 405 Singles. “I try to encourage people to participate both in the social and the spiritual events,” says Posner.

Posner has not yet joined a synagogue himself, so Nexus has also been a great opportunity for Posner to keep a connected to the Jewish community.

“Nexus has provided a chance for myself, our volunteers and our participants to feel secure in knowing that there are other people who feel the same way they do, who want to belong to a synagogue but at this point feel that membership is too expensive, or if they’ve gone looking, they haven’t found a congregation that’s young enough for them.”

Posner says that there’s a lack of commitment to 20-somethings because a financial return equal to or greater than the amount spent in an effort to appeal to them can be sporadic at best.

A nonprofit group, Nexus doesn’t have a beneficiary agency and doesn’t bring in enough money itself to purchase advertising to make its existence known. Posner has had to rely on free newspaper listings, a Web page and word of mouth.

Posner would like to work with the larger organizations and see more money invested in outreach to young Jews.

“After college, a lot of Jews seem to drop off the map,” says Posner. “If [the community] is really looking toward continuity, teenagers don’t convert out of Judaism or intermarry. It’s the 20- and 30-year-olds who date and are lo
oking for friends and lifelong relationships that usually leave Judaism or intermarry.”For more information about Project Next Step, call (310) 552-4595 or visit www.projectnextstep.org. To contact Nexus, visit www.jewishnexus.org, or call (562) 799-9965 between 9 a.m and 8 p.m.

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