Olay Olay Olay Olay: Jewish Peoplehood and the Mondial (World Cup)

Last Updated on Monday, 14 June 2010 08:51 Written by bryfy Monday, 14 June 2010 08:51

Recently I was asked about one of my favorite sites in Israel and why it meant so much to me. It took a few moments but then I recalled a place in Israel that always makes me smile – the soccer pitch at Kiriat Moriah in Jerusalem.

This pitch (if you can call it that) is a broken up piece of asphalt with barely visible markings and nets with gaps in them the size of soccer balls. And for those of you who know Kiriat Moriah, and have lived there and eaten in her cafeteria, you may be even more surprised with my choice of favorite Israeli site.

But I hearken back once again to 1990 and World Cup fever had descended on all of us. As an Australian growing up on Aussie Rules and cricket I was rather surprised to learn that there was in fact a world sport and that involved a round ball. But after the initial shock I began to learn a thing or two. Argentineans and Brazilians, who had been best of friends for many months, could come to blows during a soccer match. Grown men could cry inconsolably as never heard of before Cameroon defeated their heroes. And everyone who wasn’t British seemed to despise England.

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Magash HaKesef – The Silver Platter

Last Updated on Sunday, 18 April 2010 03:53 Written by bryfy Sunday, 18 April 2010 10:09

On this Yom Hazikaron (Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day) I want to recall an episode from my first trip to Israel, 20 years ago. It was on Kibbutz Yizre’el, where I lived for 6 months, that I met the members of Garin Shakuf (Transparent) – a group of 18 year old Israelis who had volunteered to extend their army service by working both on a kibbutz and serving in the IDF.

Our group of Aussies and Kiwis made friends very quickly with the members of the Israeli garin. What was not to enjoy? Here we were a large group of motivated, passionate, largely ideologically driven, virile, long-haired people living and working together for an extended period of time. We toiled in the fields and factories together, ate in the dining room together and danced and drunk in the pub together. For all intensive purposes we were fast becoming friends. And despite some language barriers there was enough in common – as Jews coming together from different parts of the world that united us all.

Until one Friday night where the garin told us that we weren’t allowed to come to the pub before midnight.

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BBYO: Take a Bow – Jewish World: Stand Up and Take Notice

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 February 2010 09:05 Written by bryfy Tuesday, 23 February 2010 09:05

I should start this blog entry by saying that I’m no expert on prayer. I’ll leave others (including some of the Jewish ritual elitists at Jewschool – you know who you are) to debate the issues of tefillah and pluralist prayer services. What I do know is that something is wrong in the House of Prayer and it needs to be fixed. Many of the hundreds of teenagers I meet really enjoy and gain a lot from prayer services at camp, youth group or on their Israel trips. But they get back to their local synagogues and instead of being the creators, running the spirited services they are accustomed to, they’re often relegated to being shushed by a bunch of Serious Men.

So when something does come around that’s relevant, meaningful, forward thinking, and accessible to the masses, it deserves our attention and admiration.

I don’t think that I’m making any shockwaves by suggesting that BBYO hasn’t always been perceived as an organization where high quality Jewish learning takes place. That said, it’s time to give credit where credit is due.

BBYO’s Build a Prayer is as simple as it is is effective. It takes much of what we know about Jewish teens today and translates it into a web-based program that enables anyone to create their own Shabbat prayer service. (Similar sites are also available and/or under construction (e.g. Tagged Tanakh and Open Siddur) but none has captivated me in the same way as this one.) Even if you’re not into prayer, this website can serve as a prototype for other Jewish educational ventures.

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This site embodies:

  • Choice
  • Individualization based on community
  • Modern interpretations of Jewish tradition
  • A generation of teenagers who are simultaneously consumers and producers
  • Richness in content (albeit with additions that need to be added)
  • Sophisticated technology
  • Interactive capability
  • The ability to build relationships and networks
  • Being motivated and driven by teenage voices

Sounds just right for this generation of Jews.

All that said, I can already hear objections to this site:

  • What does it say about Jewish tradition if everyone can create their own prayer?
  • What does it say about Jewish community if we have become so individualized?
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