The Jewish Observer,

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24-30 Shevat, 5777                                              Feb. 20-26, 2017 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES  --  596th Web Ed.




                                 Rachel Havrelock (University of Illinois at Chicago)

LOS ANGELES -- The Joshua Generation:, How David Ben-Gurion and his Political Successors Read the Biblical Book of Conquest Bible and Its Interpreters Seminar Series will get under way at 12 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, at UCLA 306 Royce Hall,.

Rachel Havrelock (University of Illinois at Chicago) In the name of enshrining the Bible as the central text in Israeli life, Israeli Prime Minister Ben-Gurion convened a study group at his residence dedicated to interpreting the book of Joshua. The study group participants asserted that the true meaning of the Bible could only be unlocked by Jews living in their ancient homeland. However, a web of conflicted interpretations emerged from the group and Ben-Gurion's concluding address set off a fierce debate regarding the basis of citizen rights that has yet to be resolved.
Sponsored by the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies,  Cosponsored by the UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, UCLA Center for the Study of Religion, UCLA Younes & Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies

Pre-registration is required for this event.  To RSVP email


LOS ANGELES – Shahar Biniamini, a celebrated Israeli choreographer whose work has been performed internationally, and Daniel Landau, a multidisciplinary artist, will serve as visiting lecturers at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) this spring.

Biniamini and Landau will be in California from Jan. 2 to March 24. They are lecturing at UCLA through the Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artists Program, which is bringing 14 Israeli artists for residencies at top universities across the United States during the 2016-2017 academic year.

Biniamini has danced with the famed Batsheva Ensemble and Batsheva Dance Company and continues to teach and produce the Batsheva repertoire around the world. Biniamini is a well-known teacher of the movement language Gaga and assistant to Ohad Naharin who developed Gaga, which allows him to work with top dance companies and teach his works around the world. As an idependent dancer and artist, he creates choreographies for theaters and companies such as Frontier Danceland Company in Singapore and D.I.N in Sweden as well as videos, installations and sculptures which he presents in theaters, museums and galleries globally. Since 2013, he has been involved with the research group “Tnuda,” which he co-founded and is comprised of dancers, choreographers and scientists at the Weizmann Institute and works to explore the connection between science and movement.

Landau, holder of a music composition and new media degree from the Royal Conservatory in the Netherlands, gears his artistic installations towards interpreting the relationship between the body and technology. His work has been featured internationally in major venues, museums and festivals. He is the founder of Oh-man, Oh-machine - an art, science, and technology platform that has since included a conference, a laboratory, and workshops.  In addition to his artistic success, from 2012-2016, he led the media studies department at Midrasha Faculty of the Arts at Beir Berl Academic College.  He is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Interdisciplinary Centre in Herzliya.

The Visiting Israeli Artists program, an initiative of the Israel Institute, a D.C.-based academic institute that aims to enhance the study of modern Israel, brings Israeli filmmakers, choreographers, musicians, writers and visual artists for residencies at top universities and other cultural organizations in North America.

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation founded the program in 2008 to foster interactions between the artists and their communities, exposing a broader audience to contemporary Israeli culture.

“What makes The Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artist Program unique and so effective is that it allows members of the host community and the visiting artists to connect in a variety of settings, from formal to informal, over a significant period of time, rather than the more traditional one-off experience,” says Marge Goldwater, the program’s director.

“As we look back on the last eight years, we see that the success of the residencies has prompted host institutions to find ways to bring Israeli cultural leaders to their communities after the Schusterman artist has left.”

Since the program launched, there have been 68 residencies featuring 78 artists at colleges and universities across North America. The artists have included a recipient of The Israel Prize, Israel's most prestigious award; an Emmy nominee; recipients of Israel's highest literary awards, and many winners of multiple Israeli Oscars.

“The Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artists program is the bridge between the Israel Institute's academic and cultural programming. These visiting artists provide more than just classes that teach skills; these artists provide a window into the heart of Israel,” said Ariel Roth, executive director of the Israel Institute.

                                                                                                   Ask the Rabbi



Q. Why is black the color associated with bereavement and mourning?

A. Despite common belief, the wearing of black does not begin in the Bible even though God says in Isaiah 50:3, “I clothe the heavens with black and I make sackcloth their clothing”, which seems to suggest a parallel between black and the wearing of sackcloth which was customary amongst mourners.

We aren’t certain that Isaiah was speaking of mourning in this passage; maybe he was describing the skies darkening before and during a storm.

The Talmud speaks of black footwear in remembrance of the destruction of the Temple. Some people extended this practice to the wearing of black clothes.

It is the custom in many cultures for mourners to wear black, maybe to symbolize the metaphorical darkness that has come upon a person who has suffered a bereavement.

Despite this argument, Jews are not generally too pedantic about wearing black, though there is general agreement that bright colors should not be worn at such times.


Q. I am interested in becoming Jewish. Can I convert and if so how?

A. Judaism always accepted sincere converts, though for many centuries ours has not been an outgoing missionary religion.

Conversion was known in early Biblical times, before the set procedures we follow today had been developed. The Torah speaks of Abraham and Sarah “making souls” in Haran, and the rabbis say that Abraham converted the men and Sarah the women (Gen. 12:5).

Ruth adopted Judaism when she said, “Your God shall be my God” (Ruth 1:16; the Midrash reconstructs the detailed conversation on the subject between Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi).

The equivalent of conversion took place when the sailors were awestruck at the power of the God of Jonah (Jonah 1) and when Haman was defeated and “many of the people of the land became Jewish” (Esther 8:17, though the verse might be interpreted as reading, “took the side of the Jews”).

What motivates a person to want to become Jewish when it is such a difficult faith to follow? The best answer is that of Ruth, who wanted the Jewish God, the Jewish way and the Jewish people. In some cases, applicants for conversion have their interest first aroused by getting to know a Jew or a Jewish family, sometimes in a romantic way, and though the applicant must not have any ulterior motive (Yoreh De’ah 268:12), a genuine interest in Judaism for its own sake does often follow.

There is a rabbinic view that the souls of sincere converts were already disposed towards Judaism from time immemorial; when the nations were offered the Torah and rejected it, there must have been some amongst them who disagreed and would have preferred to accept the Torah, and it is the descendants of those dissentients who one day find their way back to the principles their ancestors always wanted.

Throughout rabbinic literature the sincere convert is praised highly. The Midrash says, “The Holy One, blessed be He, loves converts greatly… the convert left his family, his father’s house, his people, and all the gentile nations, and came to us… Can anyone be dearer to God than this person?” (Num. R. 8:2, Tanchuma, Lech L’cha).

But this does not make Jewishness an easy way of life, and it is the halachic (Jewish law) obligation of the rabbi to point out all the drawbacks (Yev. 47a) so that the applicant is aware of the whole facts.

Therefore, if you really do want Judaism, talk to a rabbi in the first instance, arrange an interview with a Beit Din (a Jewish ecclesiastical court) and become involved in Jewish life. Even if in the end you decide not to pursue official conversion, you are likely to find that you have become a Ben (or Bat) No’ach, a person who is not formally Jewish but lives by the Seven Noahide Laws for all humankind.


Q. What does glatt kosher mean? Is there something wrong with regular kosher?

A. Glatt has come to be a code word for “strictly kosher”, but the term is often not used correctly.

Glatt literally means “smooth” and applies to the lungs of an animal. It cannot therefore be applied to chicken, because their lungs cannot be inspected; to fish, which do not have lungs; or to bread, cake, oil, toothpaste, chocolate or soft drinks.

In relation to an animal, glatt means that external examination reveals no blemish, adhesion, etc., on the lungs. From the time of the ancient geonim it has been allowed (Tur, Yoreh De’ah 39) to shake the lung to see if a “false” adhesion will separate. Other authorities, especially Yosef Karo, oppose trying to remove an adhesion with one’s fingers.

The Sephardim follow Karo, and though the Ashkenazi authority, Moshe Isserles, allows an adhesion to be removed without tearing the underlying tissue, the custom has become widespread to follow the stricter opinion and to use only glatt meat.

Some prefer the stricter opinion in relation to everything, but the technical term glatt is not appropriate in relation to anything other than meat.



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