Thousands sign on for Shema flash mob


More than 2,500 people signed up to participate in a global Shema flash mob as part of a campaign to promote religious pluralism in Israel. 

The gatherings early Monday afternoon came two days after Conservative Jewish congregations were asked to dedicate a recitation of the Shema to the topic as well. 

The actions were a response to last week’s arrest and alleged roughing up by police at the Western Wall of Anat Hoffman, leader of the Israel Reform Action Center and Woman of the Wall. Hoffman was wearing a tallit and leading the Shema prayer at a Rosh Chodesh service for about 200 women. 

By the time of Monday's flash mob, 2,537 people had joined a Facebook page created for the event. Rabbi Steven Wernick, executive vice president and CEO of the United Synagogues of Conservative Judaism, had asked people to post video of their Shema gatherings. Responses came in from across the United States, Israel and England. 

The Reform movement has called for an Israeli police investigation into the incident in which Hoffman said she was put in shackles, dragged across a jail floor and put into a cell overnight without a blanket, being forced to use her tallit to cover herself. 

In 2003, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that women cannot wear a tallit or tefillin or chant from a Torah at the Western Wall.

“The question of religious pluralism is an existential threat to Israel’s soul,” Wernick told JTA last week. “I find it unconscionable that in the Jewish homeland any Jew would be arrested anywhere for the public expression of their religious identity.”

Wernick said that among the steps he is taking is pressing to get the issue on the agenda for the Oct. 28-30 Jewish Agency for Israel Board of Governors meeting in Jerusalem, and setting up a meeting about the issue with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

For Justin Bieber, ‘Scooter’ and the Shema play a major presence


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Happy Birthday, USA! Sweet dreams with the Shema


Happy Birthday U.S.A.!

We celebrate the 232nd birthday of the United States of America on July 4. Between noshing on barbecue and watching fireworks, test how well you know early American history. Circle the right answer for the following questions but read carefully — some might be a bit tricky.

  1. Jamestown, the first English colony in America, was located here: Virginia or New York
  2. The stripes on the American Flag represent the signers of the Declaration of Independence: True or False
  3. The national anthem of the United States: “America the Beautiful” or “The Star-Spangled Banner”
  4. The first president of the United States is the man on: the $1 bill or the $5 bill
  5. The war fought for American Independence from Britain was the: Civil War or Revolutionary War

Scroll down to the bottom of the page for answers

Sweet Dreams

“You shall say these words … when you lie down and when you rise.” “The Bedtime Sh’ma: A Goodnight Book,” adapted by Sarah Gershman, combines illustrations with a sweet, gender-neutral translation of the bedtime “Shema” (excerpts from the full text are in Hebrew and English in the back of the book). The prayer teaches children to give thanks for all the blessings in their lives.
The CD version includes musical selections from the “Shema” and gives children a chance to hear the prayers as they drift off to dreamland. Goodnight dreamers everywhere! $17.95 (hardcover), $10.95 (paperback), $10.95 (CD). Available in stores and at online retailers.

In Harmony

Ever wonder what music they listen to around the world? If you head over to the

What’s your Jewish I.Q.?


1. When was Judaism founded?
(a) 1000 C.E.
(b) 5000 B.C.E.
(c) 2000 B.C.E.
(d) 1000 B.C.E.

2. Who was the mother of Moses?

3. Who was born a Moabite, became a Jew and was the great-grandmother of King David?
(a) Rebekkah
(b) Deborah
(c) Lillith
(d) Ruth

4. Complete this line from Exodus 23:9: "You shall not oppress the _______ for you were _________ in the land of Egypt."

5. The Jews received the Torah at _____________ __________. God said there: "You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a ________ __________." (Exodus 19:6)

6. The phrase "Chosen People" refers to:
(a) God chose the Jews to be persecuted.
(b) God entered into a covenant with the Jews.
(c) Only Jews are made in the image of God.

7. The First Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 B.C.E. by which power?
(a) Macedonia
(b) Rome
(c) Assyria
(d) Babylonia

8. The tragic last stand of the Jews in their revolt against Rome took place at:
(a) Qumran
(b) Jerusalem
(c) Masada
(d) Hebron

9. The Spanish Jews who chose conversion between 1391-1492 and continued to practice Judaism in secret were called:
(a) Kabbalists
(b) Marranos
(c) Pietists
(d) Sephardim

10. The first Jewish community in North America was established in this settlement by 23 Dutch Jews fleeing the Inquisition in Brazil:
(a) New Amsterdam
(b) Newport
(c) Charleston
(d) Savannah

11. In 1807, __________ freed the Jews from their ghettos, granting them citizenship.

12. The main wave of 2 million Jewish immigrants entered the United States in which period?
(a) 1914-1933
(b) 1860-1870
(c) 1880-1914
(d) 1933-1945

13. What Jewish person won nine Olympic gold medals in swimming and is considered the greatest swimmer in the history of the sport?

14. TRUE OR FALSE? Historians cite three factors that distinguish the Holocaust from other genocides: its cruelty, its scale and its efficiency.

15. During the Holocaust, what three countries resisted the deportation of their Jewish population?

16. "Hear O Israel the Lord is Our God, the Lord is One" is the first line of?:
(a) The Israeli National Anthem
(b) The Shemoneh Esrei
(c) The "Shema"

17. A mitzvah is:
(a) A prayer
(b) A commandment
(c) A sin

18. Where is it written:
(a)"We support the non-Jewish poor together with the Jewish poor, and we visit the non-Jewish sick alongside the Jewish sick, and we bury non-Jewish dead alongside Jewish dead, all for the sake of the ways of peace."
(b)"You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor. I am the Lord."

19. Fill in: "On three things does the world stand: Torah, service to God, and acts of ____________" (Pirke Avot).

20. TRUE OR FALSE? The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel offers "Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel" the "full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions."

Click here for the answers.

Test contributors include the American Jewish Committee, Jewish Outreach Institute, www.expertrating.com and The Journal editors.

For the Kids


Listen With Your Heart

The word shema (listen) appears in its various forms in Parshat Va’etchanan 23 times. And to top it all off, the “Shema” prayer is also included. Moses tells his beloved nation: I will not enter Israel with you, so you are on your own. In order to do what’s right without me, you need to learn how to listen. It is only through listening that you will learn how to love (“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart”). Loving will open your heart to the oneness of the universe (“The Eternal God is one”), and that will bring you understanding.

So, practice listening — listen to the trees in the breeze; listen to your cat purring; listen to your parents’ words of love. Every so often, stop what you’re doing and listen.

Lessons From Tisha B’Av

The fast of Tisha B’Av lasted from sunset on Aug. 6 through sunset on Aug. 7. Hope you had an easy fast.

Alex and Talya were driving in the car with their parents. They were reading license plates when Talya called out to her parents: “Did you know that this month is Tisha B’Av?” Here are the license plates she read that reminded her. What do they say?

A Shabbat Poem

by Reut Rotem, Age 7, Beverly Hills

Weekdays are very fun,

But when Friday comes,

It’s time to rest.

So we say the brachot

And we go to sleep.

And on Saturday,

It’s time to eat!

Mail your cartoons, drawings, puzzles, etc. to The
Jewish Journal, 3580 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1510, Los Angeles, CA 90010. E-mail
your written answers to our contests, or your jokes, riddles, poems, etc., to kids@jewishjournal.com . Make sure you write your name and address in your e-mail. See you next week!

Take 12 Steps


It would be hard to exaggerate the significance of The Jewish Federation’s Addiction Conference held Monday at the Skirball Cultural Center. But to compare, think back to the Shechinah Conference held 20 years ago at Hebrew Union College, which helped consolidate and shape Jewish feminism. In its willingness to creatively address perhaps the biggest social issue of our time, the Skirball program is that big a deal.

In truth, it was not the "first" West Coast conference on the subject of addiction and the Jewish community. More than two decades ago, L’Chaim, an Alcoholics Anonymous-style organization for Jews, made a similar effort to bring a dirty secret of Jewish life out into the open at its conference. There have been alcoholics and drug addicts ever since Noah, just as there have been Jewish professionals trying to help us face our demons.

Nevertheless, the larger American zeitgeist of "recovery" makes this event historic. The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, formalized more than 65 years ago by Bill W., are now the common parlance of millions, who gather together to share their experience, strength and hope to overcome personal obsessions deemed out of control. To nail the point, last year, California voters passed Prop. 36, allowing some drug offenders to participate in treatment programs including those using the 12 Steps, rather than jail.

Thousands of Jews consider themselves members of the "anonymous fellowships," including Gamblers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous and Al-Anon, for relatives and friends of the addicted. These Jews speak the language of "powerlessness" and "Higher Power" and say the "Serenity Prayer" as often and as easily as they do the "Shema."

Until now, these Jews in recovery have met with their fellows, mostly in churches, often with twinges of guilt that they were somehow committing treason, if not embarking on a course of spiritual schizophrenia.

But on Monday, a host of community authorities, including many addicts themselves, rose to assert that the language of recovery is congruent with Judaism.

"All the principles of the 12 Steps were in Judaism 2,000 years ago," declared Dr. Abraham Twerski in a keynote speech titled, "Twelve Steps and Torah — Is there a Fit?" Twerski, a white-bearded Orthodox rabbi who might have popped out of a Sholom Aleichem story, is a national authority on chemical dependency. He shocked many in the audience with his matter-of-fact quoting of 12-Step principles side by side with Talmud.

The day was an enormous breakthrough.

First, Jews can now feel free to walk the 12 Steps without thinking they are on the road with Jesus. These programs may not be exclusively Jewish in tone (the language of the program is a mix of Carl Jung, Buddhism and 1950s Christianity), but they are decidedly focused on Jewish purpose: overcoming the "evil inclination" and finding God’s will.

Second, the Jewish community, by this conference, is admitting that it, too, is powerless over addictions. We can’t hide from them, nor feel confident that our community alone can solve them. Drugs are everywhere, as the morning’s keynote speaker, Ethan A. Nadelmann, insisted. And we can no longer pretend that the consequences of obsession with drugs, alcohol, sex and whatever are limited to an aberrant few, most of whom end up in jail.

Scoffing at Jewish addiction is an age-old sadistic tradition, represented at the conference by UCLA’s professor Mark Kleiman."Jewish addiction is like Jewish basketball," Kleiman said. "There’s not much of it, and it’s not very good."

But this trivialization of individual and family crisis is, thankfully, no longer going to hold. Playing the numbers game to disprove a Jewish problem didn’t stop divorce or homosexuality from becoming a reality. When the community is ready to accept a social condition, it does so.

Third, the Jewish community admits that it has something to learn from another spiritual discipline. Rabbi Paul Kipnes from Congregation Or Ami suggested that synagogues open their doors to 12 Step programs. He has created a six-congregation ad hoc Rabbinic Coalition to Support Jewish 12 Step Programming. This had to be an enormous first step.

In a day filled with mind-blowers, here is my favorite, from Twerski:

"I feel sorry for those who don’t have addictions," he said. "They don’t hit rock bottom. So they’re missing out on some of the greatest ideas in life."

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