Thursday, May 7, 2020

Israel and coronavirus: No good deed too small in this time of global crisis

LOTEM is finding ways to help kids with special needs stay connected from home by providing laptops and other devices.

By Ambassador Dani Dayan, Consul General of Israel in New York 

From my home in New York City, I ponder our surreal situation across the globe, as nations find themselves in lockdown, battling the coronavirus crisis. As our world faces a global pandemic with catastrophic consequences, human lives are impacted in every way from New York to Tel Aviv. Beyond health, we find ourselves in an economic and societal crisis. Through the implementation of innovative ideas, Israel is finding creative ways to overcome our shared struggles in the age of coronavirus.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Passover 2020: This year, coronavirus heightens freedom themes

By Yossi Kahana, Director, JNF Task Force on Disabilities

As Jewish people around the world prepare for Passover under the pale of coronavirus, we are faced with a host of new challenges and questions. Passover is traditionally spent with family and friends, a celebration of the divine gift of Jewish survival and community. But with coronavirus curtailing travel plans and social interactions, many are facing the prospect of celebrating Passover alone. How to celebrate the seder alone? How will we celebrate the festival of freedom with our movement restricted?

What we are celebrating this Passover?

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Looking past the complexities to experience the real Israel

By Alec Greven

I was given the incredible opportunity over this past winter break to visit Israel with Jewish National Fund's Caravan for Democracy program. Our group spent 10 days exploring the culture and history of one of the most remarkable places in the world. Israel is surrounded by polarizing perspectives and it was refreshing to cut through the rhetoric and see the complexity of the people and place directly.

I have found that people are often too quick to pass judgment on Israel. To judge something well, you have to understand what you are judging. However, to really understand Israel, you must recognize the complexity of its contradictions and the beauty that can be found in its rich society. Here are some of the more notable contradictions that I found during my time in Israel.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

In the JNF Kitchen: La Boite Israeli coleslaw

By Lior Lev Sercarz
This recipe of the week comes from La Boite, a biscuits and spice shop in New York City owned by Israeli chef and spice blender Lior Lev Sercarz. This is a two-in-one recipe. First we make a tahina sauce, then use it with coquelicot (poppy seeds) to dress cabbage to make a delicious twist on coleslaw.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Living in Israel during coronavirus makes me love this country more than ever

By Akiva Gersh 

Thoughts as we enter our second Shabbat in quarantine:

I moved to Israel in 2004, and since then, there have been events and moments that have reaffirmed the reasons I did.

One of those moments is right now. Now, during these challenging and confusing and unsettling days when the world is being held captive by the coronavirus pandemic.

Like so many others around the world, we in Israel are confined to our homes, but the few moments a day I do manage to get out remind me of why I love Israel so much.

It's the calm I see on people's faces as I push my shopping cart through the supermarket. It's their ability to still smile and even laugh with one another as they stand in line waiting for their turn to pay for the items they want to bring back to their families in quarantine. And it's their ability to still believe that "y'hiyeh b’seder," or "it’ll be OK."

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

JNF On Demand: Live challah bake with JNF first lady Lauren Lizerbram

We were welcomed into the Lizerbram kitchen for a challah bake with JNF first lady Lauren Lizerbram and with special commentary from JNF national president Sol Lizerbram.

You can find the challah bake, here.

Take photos of your challahs when done and tag Jewish National Fund‑USA on Facebook!

Friday, March 20, 2020

In Israel, one word from the dad of an IDF soldier with a disability makes it all worthwhile

Author, far left, with Tiran Attia, Special in Uniform executive director, and SIU soldiers.

By Alan Wolk

Roni and I just returned from our third trip to Israel and as usual, the experience was terrific. We enjoyed the hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv, the spirituality of Jerusalem, the breathtaking hilltop views in Haifa and the artistic communities in the Golan. And we loved the food wherever we went. You can't beat the chocolate babka from Israel. The rest of our trip was spent deep diving into Jewish National Fund programs near and dear to our hearts.

Coronavirus, from a Jewish perspective: When it comes to good deeds, just do it

By Yossi Kahana, Director, JNF Task Force on Disabilities

The global coronavirus pandemic has really thrown people for a loop. Many of us feel all sense of certainty is gone. What will happen next? We don't know. Our experts don't know. Our leaders don't know. Only G-d knows. So, what we can do? Keep calm, trust G-d, and carry on. Think good and it will be good. Do good deeds, support one another, take every precaution advised by health authorities.

Wash your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds several times a day, and every time you do, remember whose hands you are in.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

My unforgettable month in Israel's desert watching hope bloom for people with disabilities

By Rhonda Forman

The dry, unrelenting heat of the Negev awoke me as I reluctantly arose, having arrived in Israel the day before. Twenty hours earlier, the reality of what I was about to do had sunk in. Was I really about to spend an entire month in the Israeli desert, away from the creature comforts and familiarity of my home and family in Boston?

For the last 12 months, I’d been taking Hebrew classes to prepare myself for a once-in-a-lifetime experience volunteering at Jewish National Fund-USA affiliate Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran, a rehabilitation village for children and adults with disabilities in Israel's Negev desert.

As a proud Zionist and supporter of JNF, being afforded the opportunity to volunteer at Aleh Negev meant so much to me on so many levels. I was playing a small part in helping to fulfill the dream of Israel's first prime Mmnister, David Ben-Gurion who famously said, "It is in the Negev that the creativity and pioneer vigor of Israel shall be tested." And tested I would be.

A prayer for parents of children with disabilities

The author with a member of Special in Uniform, which integrates Israelis with disabilities into the IDF.
By Lynne Merriam

I watch my son, confident and tall
Standing on the bimah
Sharing memories of his Jewish experiences
Praying at the Western Wall

Standing under the chuppah
Naming his daughter
The bris for the son
And my heart fills with joy

Friday, February 21, 2020

Singer-songwriter Peter Himmelman: Jewish unity should come from love, not fear

Peter Himmelman in Israel.
By Peter Himmelman

With just a few Facebook messages and some phone calls, tens of thousands of Jews marched together in New York City to combat anti-Semitism. Yet could we even imagine a similar rally in support of Shabbat observance? How much of the power of our unity as a Jewish nation has been given over to those who hate us?

How did it come to be that our ability to bond with one another has become contingent on negative forces from without, as opposed to positive forces from within? Is too much attention being paid to the suffering of Jews as the primary driver of our continuity and unity as opposed to the gifts of the Jews?

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

10 commandments for communicating with people with disabilities

By Yossi Kahana, director, JNF Task Force on Disabilities

In last week's Torah portion, "Yitro," the Jews travel to a part of the desert called Sinai. There, G‑d tells them that if they accept the Torah, they will be a chosen and special nation. The Jews respond, "Everything that G‑d has said, we will do!" They are told to spend the next three days preparing for a very big event that will take place on Mount Sinai.

On the third day, there is booming thunder and flashes of lightning, and the Jews all go to Mount Sinai. There, they see a thick cloud over the mountain and hear a long, powerful blast of a shofar. Then G‑d comes down to the mountain and proclaims the Ten Commandments. These Ten Commandments set the standard for goodness in the world.

In honor of Jewish Disabilities Awareness, Inclusion and Acceptance Month, here are the 10 commandments of communicating with people with disabilities.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

At 36, I already know I want my legacy to involve Israel and JNF

The author, Matt Franzblau, in Israel.
By Matt Franzblau

As I stood across from the public notary who was about to stamp my document, I couldn’t help but get a little choked up. 

That's because this document was my last will and testament, and even though I am only 36 years old and in fairly good health, I felt it was important to make the declaration that when I leave this Earth, I will leave something for JNF.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Decades later, Alexander Muss High School in Israel still influences my life in huge ways

The author at Ben Gurion airport years ago.

By Kim Cook Beame 

I attended AMHSI in January 1985 -- 35 years ago this month! I can't believe it was so long ago, because the memories are still so vivid. 

I remember sitting in the hallway of my dorm, Wohl, on that first night. We were all tired and cranky and in shock by the amount of homework we were given right away. But that first night drew us together and we became an instant family -- helping each other, crying with each other, and laughing and sharing all night long. I still say, without a doubt, that my session at HSI was THE BEST time of my entire life! I have been to Israel 15 times, but no trip was as influential, life-changing, academic, or comfortable as my time there with HSI. That's when Israel truly became my home.

Monday, January 20, 2020

As the mom of a son with a disability, Israel's amazing Aleh Negev gave me great comfort

Author (right) with her son, Rod (left)
and Doron Almog.
By Lynne Merriam

Forty eight years ago, my life changed in an instant. I was a masters-level clinical nurse specialist and a school administrator, and in the blink of an eye, my new role was as a mother of a profoundly disabled son.

At the time, not only was there no support group for me, the prognosis was so grim all I could think of was  how I would go on with my life.

The doctors recommended that we put Rod in an institution. I had done an internship in the Missouri State School and Hospital system and the places were grim and the care terrible. I felt my only option was to bring Rod home.

My story has a happy ending. Rod defied the odds and go on to become a college graduate in spite of his disabilities, but I still carry the memories of how scared I was when he was born.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Everything to know about Tu BiShvat, the original Earth Day

By Yossi Kahana 

When is the last time you wished a tree Happy New Year? The 15th day of the month of Shevat on the Hebrew calendar is a great opportunity. It's known as Tu BiShvat, the New Year for Trees. This year, we will celebrate on Monday, February 10, 2020.

Why is Tu BiShvat in the winter? Why celebrate trees when nothing is growing?

The 15th of Shevat is the midpoint between fall and spring. Once half the winter has passed, its strength is weakened, the cold is not as intense, and the budding process begins.

So, yes, it may be smack in the middle of winter, but Tu BiShvat marks a turning point, a time when under all that cold and snow the sap of the trees is rising, readying for spring.