Friday, May 18, 2012

The ‘Middle’ Movement Affirms, Updates Its Middle Path

Conservative movement’s new guide to
Jewish life reflects societal changes.
Ten years in the making, ‘The Observant Life’ charts a course for between ancient wisdom and say, Internet file sharing, for Conservative Jews.
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
What does it mean to be an observant Jew in the 21st century? The question sounds deceptively simple, but the answer takes more than 30 rabbis and nearly 1,000 pages in the massive volume being published later this month by the Rabbinical Assembly of Judaism’s Conservative movement, “The Observant Life: The Wisdom of Conservative Judaism for Contemporary Jews.” That’s nearly twice the length of the book it updates, Rabbi Isaac Klein’s 1979 “A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice.” Has the world — or Judaism — changed that much in the 33 years in between the appearance of those books? -- Diane Cole, NY Jewish Week

To read more, click here.

Rallying Against the Internet

Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; original photo Shutterstock.
A sold-out event at New York’s Citi Field aims to unite the ultra-Orthodox world against online ‘evils’ -- Micah Stein, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Ben-Gurion University, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to collaborate

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center are working together to develop pediatric-specific medical technologies.

A collaboration of Cincinnati Medical Center in Ohio and Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, Israel, will address the lack of medical devices designed specifically for children, the university announced. The goal is to improve health outcomes for children by meeting their unique physiological needs.

Cincinnati Children’s is a leading pediatric hospital and research center, and one of the top two recipients of pediatric grants from the National Institutes of Health.

The development of pediatric devices is years behind the development of adult devices, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration. Since children represent only 10 percent of the medical market, there reportedly has been a history of insufficient funds and resources in the field of pediatric devices.

As part of the collaboration, Cincinnati Children’s physicians will provide details on medical device challenges and engineers at Ben-Gurion University will match development opportunities with technical solutions.

"This groundbreaking project will hopefully yield significant medical innovations that are commercially viable and leverages BGU's world-class engineering capabilities," said Doron Krakow, executive vice president of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. "It is significant that a prestigious hospital like Cincinnati Children's is working with BGU researchers to make a difference for children here in the U.S., in Israel and around the world." --JTA

JCPA approves qualified support for ‘fracking’

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs announced its qualified support for "fracking," a technique used to extract underground deposits of natural gas.

The JCPA statement issued Tuesday noted that last week's annual plenum of the consensus-driven public policy umbrella approved a resolution highlighting the potential benefits and drawbacks of the process known as “hydrofracking,” which extracts “vast amounts of natural gas from previously inaccessible underground deposits.”

JCPA noted in its resolution that the process has the “potential to yield significant environmental, economic and national-security benefits.” 

However, the JCPA also expressed “serious concerns about known and as yet unknown impacts.”

Jewish groups have in recent years been committed to seeking energy alternatives as a means of reducing dependence on foreign oil, but also are known for their commitment to preserving the environment.

A number of environmental groups allege that the process releases poisonous gases into the soil and into water supplies.

“This resolution reaffirms the Jewish community’s commitment to both protect the environment and ensure domestic energy for a growing economy," JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow said in the statement. "We look forward to cleaner and more stable alternatives to our dangerous reliance on foreign oil. Ensuring that our own energy needs be met responsibly and safely is an acknowledgement of our broad obligations to the world.” -- JTA

Old becomes new as couples personalize wedding ceremonies

Jon Cetel and Ashley Novack standing beneath
a hand-painted silk chuppah that Novack's sister made
for the couple's wedding. (Ashley Novack)

In the months before his wedding, Jon Cetel cringed at the notion of having his friends dance him to his bride at a traditional bedeken ceremony, where he would place the veil over her face.

The concept “was completely foreign to me,” he said. It “felt too traditional.”

But his bride, Ashley Novack, 26, was entranced by the tradition. “I love dancing, and this sounded like an amazing opportunity definitely not to be missed,” she said.

Rabbi Shira Stutman, director of community engagement at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in Washington and the officiant at their wedding, had a suggestion: Reverse it. -- Debra Rubin, JTA

To read more, click here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The journey of a tiny Torah scroll from a concentration camp to outer space

A secret bar mitzvah at Bergen-Belsen. Israel’s first astronaut, Ilon Ramon. The fate of the Columbia Space Shuttle.

“I thought I was making a documentary about the Holocaust,” director Dan Cohen tells the camera in a meta-movie about his movie, “An Article of Hope.”

But the story he had planned took a remarkable turn when he made a startling discovery about a miniature Torah scroll, no larger than the palm of your hand.

First smuggled into the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1944 by the chief rabbi of Holland, Simon Dasberg, the tiny scroll was used in a clandestine Bar Mitzvah ceremony for the young Joachim Joseph, who promised his rabbi he’d safeguard it. The rabbi perished in the camp, but Joseph survived; and with the scrap of the scroll that enjoined him as an adult to his people, he emigrated to Israel and became a successful scientist. Many decades later, when Israel’s first astronaut Ilan Ramon was conscripted to travel on the Space Shuttle Columbia, Ramon asked Joseph if he could bring the scroll with him into space “as a symbol”. Danielle Berrin, Jewish Journal

To read more and see the accompanying video, click here.

Tracing the Path of Jewish Medical Pioneers

The Jewish Consumptives’ Relief Society,
one of many Jewish health groups started in New York,
used sunlight to help treat tuberculosis in Colorado about 1930.
Beck Archives, Special Collections and Archives,
Penrose Library and Center for Judaic Studies, University of Denver
The young man who applied to medical school in the spring of 1933 had graduated from Dartmouth College with good grades, a keen interest in medicine and, according to the university official who interviewed him, a nice sense of humor.

he application did not ask about religion, but the interviewer surmised it. “Probably Jewish,” he wrote in a scribbled evaluation, “but no unpleasant evidence of it.”

The handwritten note was found in the admissions files of the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. After the implementation of quotas, the proportion of Jews in the student body fell to less than 5 percent in 1938 from nearly half in 1920.

The note is displayed in an exhibition called “Trail of the Magic Bullet: The Jewish Encounter With Modern Medicine, 1860-1960,” on view at Yeshiva University Museum in Manhattan. The exhibition offers a rare look at a topic few patients ever stop to consider: the emergence of European and American Jews as innovators in medicine, despite their status as outsiders frequently scorned by the medical establishment. -- Roni Caryn Rabin, NY Times

To read more, click here.

Argentina to have Jewish president for a day

Beatriz Rojkes, provisional president of the Argentinean Senate
For the first time, Argentina will have a Jewish president -- at least temporarily.

Beatriz Rojkes, the provisional president of the Argentinean Senate, will be in charge of the government for a day-and-a-half beginning Wednesday because President Christina Fernandez and Vice President Amado Boudou are traveling out of the country.

On Wednesday, Fernandez will fly to Angola on a business trip. On Tuesday night, Boudou traveled to Switzerland to accept a prize for Argentina at the International Telecommunication Union.

The provisional president of the Senate is the No. 3 position in the government and second in the line of succession.

Rojkes was elected to the Senate in 2009 to represent the northern province of Tucuman. Two years later she was appointed by Fernandez as provisional president of the Senate. She became the first Jewish lawmaker and the first woman to hold the position.

Rojkes is married to Jose Alperovich, the governor of Tucuman, who was the first Jewish person in Argentina to be elected a governor and to be sworn in on a Jewish Bible. -- JTA

Facebook IPO: Good for the Jews?

Israeli President Shimon Peres meeting with
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg
at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif.,
as Peres launches his official page
on the social networking site, March 6, 2012.
(Moshe Milner/GPO/FLASH90)

If the Talmud were written today, would it look like Facebook?

First, the rabbis of the Mishnaic period post a Jewish legal rule. Then, Talmudic sages weigh in with their comments, all pithy and lacking punctuation. Almost immediately, the comments grow far longer than the original post. Eventually, outside links to the Shulchan Aruch and Maimonides’ compendium of Jewish law appear on the right side.

It may sound too cute by half, but if you look closely, the Talmud and Facebook actually share similar layout. --  Uriel Heilman, JTA

To read more, click here.

Grandma’s Lost Challah, Found

Photoillustration Ivy Tashlik; original photo Shutterstock
How I discovered a recipe for the sourdough bread my grandmother made, before she died in the Holocaust
By Carol Ungar, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Browns sign Jewish offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz

Mitchell Schwartz
Offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz, a second-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns, signed  a four-year, $5.17 million contract with the team.

Schwartz, a tackle from the University of California, Berkeley, was selected 37th overall in April’s draft. The Jewish player was among eight draft picks signed by the team on Sunday.

Browns head coach Pat Shurmur said Schwartz displayed solid technique that could quickly catapult him into a full-time player, according to the Cleveland Jewish News.

“He is very sound in his fundamentals,” Shurmur said. “He’s very detailed with his sets, he is good with his hands, he understands what the defense is going to do by the way they are aligned. He’s a very sharp guy.”

Schwartz, whose older brother Geoff is in his fourth season in the NFL, said he had a “pretty decent understanding of what to expect” coming into camp and wanted to focus on improving daily.

“Obviously whatever your weakness is, you kind of want to make that into your strength,” he said. “At the same time you don’t want to let your strengths become your weaknesses. It’s always a nice little balance. So far, we’ve been doing a little bit of everything. Working different techniques in the run game, different techniques in the pass game with our hands, our feet.”

Schwartz also responded to draft pundits’ assertions that he was “NFL ready,” crediting his coaches at the University of California for giving him a strong foundation. Cleveland Jewish News via JTA

U.S. academic controversy could shed light on future of anti-Semitism studies

How should the study of prejudice, including anti-Semitism, be approached in an academic setting? American universities have traditionally shed more heat than light on this knotty question, as an ongoing and bitter controversy involving the field of black studies demonstrates.

A couple of weeks ago, Naomi Schaefer Riley, a prominent writer on education, posted a spirited and provocatively-worded critique of black studies on the website of the Chronicle of Higher Education, the leading U.S. publication covering the university sector. Highlighting the loaded claims of certain black studies scholars, Riley lambasted the discipline for its in-built political bias. "Let some legitimate scholars find solutions to the problems of blacks in America," she concluded. "Solutions that don’t begin and end with 'blame the white man.'" -- Ben Cohen, Haaretz

To read more, click here.

Israeli pastry chef makes it big as ‘Sweet Genius’

Ron Ben-Israel decorating a wedding cake at his New York studio.
Photo by Josh Lipowsky
As the minutes on the clock tick away, the chefs run about their kitchens furiously trying to complete their Taj Mahal-themed desserts.

“What have I got for you now?” booms the thickly accented master pastry chef Ron Ben-Israel as he overlooks the chefs’ workstations. “Another mandatory ingredient -- tahini paste!”

This is “Sweet Genius,” the hit Food Network show that recently began its second season.

Chefs compete to earn the coveted title, win $10,000 and impress Ben-Israel, the show’s host, judge and original sweet genius, who often asks competitors to include ingredients not typically found in desserts. --  Josh Lipowsky, JTA

To read more, click here.

Agritech 2012: MFA promotes Israeli agriculture worldwide

Prominent figures from abroad will be among the thousands expected to visit Agritech 2012 (15-17 May), an exhibition which showcases innovations, developments and inventions in the fields of agriculture and related technologies. -- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To read more, click here.

New Poll Shows Ultra-Orthodox Increasingly Interested in Integrating

US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro visits the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem
(January 2012)
Photo Credit: Matty Stern/US Embassy/Flash90
Coinciding with the intensifying focus on ultra-Orthodox participation in military and national service, the Israeli Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor published a poll on Monday finding that 41% of Haredi men are at least moderately interested in joining the IDF program tailored for Haredi soldiers.

In response to the question “What percentage of your friends do you estimate will remain within the long-term yeshiva framework?” approximately 70% of respondents anticipated that at least half of their colleagues would remain in the yeshiva framework, while the remaining 30% said that very few of their colleagues would remain.

Regarding preferred professions, 60% of respondents chose religious-oriented occupations (like Torah study, Rabbi, Rabbinical judges). Close behind at 56% was teaching, followed by computer-oriented professions (51%), law (38%), and the banking sector (33%). -- Jewish Press

To read more, click here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Op-ed: Israel's handicapped miracle

While Arabs shun the disabled, Israel gives hope to less fortunate members of society

While Iranian scientists are being deployed in the nuclear bunkers and Israeli F16s could be ready to take off, one story reminds the world that Israel and Israelis are involved not only in hurting and being hurt, but in giving hope to those without hope.

World-renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman, afflicted with polio as a child, just attended the 60th anniversary celebration of the Israeli Foundation for Handicapped Children. While in the Arab world disabled people have been called “the invisibles,” because they are segregated and hidden from the public eye, Israel’s work with illness and disabilities would merit a book in itself.

Israel’s ruthless determination in tackling head-on the physical problems that arise either from natural causes, terrorism or war is astounding and says much about Israel’s moral lesson to the world beyond the headlines on killings, kidnappings, snipers, and suicide bombers. -- Giulio Meotti, Ynetnews

To read more, click here.

Appeals court certifies N.Y. kosher law as constitutional

New York's kosher law, which regulates the labeling and marketing of kosher food, does not violate the Constitution's First Amendment, a federal appeals court ruled.

The three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled May 10 in a constitutional challenge to the New York State Kosher Law Protection Act of 2004. Previously, kosher was defined legally as “according to orthodox Hebrew religious requirements.” Several butchers challenged the law in a 1996 suit.

“The Kosher Act does not entangle the state with religion because it does not require the state to enforce laws based on religious doctrine or to inquire into the religious content or religious nature of the products sold,” Judge Christopher Droney wrote, saying that the law simply requires kosher products to be labeled with the required information.

Commack Kosher, a deli and butcher shop on Long Island, brought the lawsuit, as well as the suit that led to the rewording of the law.

The new kosher law does not define what constitutes kosher but requires producers, distributors and retailers of food sold as kosher in the state to submit information about their products, including the identity of the person or organization that certifies them, to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets. The information is published in an online directory. -- JTA

Leading feminist theologian to be ordained … at last

Rachel Adler said she is going from a “half-rabbi” to a “rabbi for real.”
In the first few weeks of Rachel Adler’s rabbinic internship at Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC), Rabbi Lisa Edwards had a hard time introducing Adler. For decades, Edwards had quoted Adler; she had taken classes with Adler and had been deeply influenced by Adler’s acclaimed works on Jewish feminism and feminist theology.

“It felt ridiculous to be introducing Rachel as a ‘student’ rabbi,” Edwards said. “I couldn’t do it without laughing, and I would have to explain why I was laughing. So, somewhere along the way, ‘scholar-in-residence’ evolved as a secondary title.”

Adler, who is 68 and a professor of Jewish religious thought and feminist studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), will be ordained as a Reform rabbi at the college on May 13. -- Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Jewish Hournal

To read more, click here.

Website launched to counter calls to boycott Israeli goods

Israeli businessmen have launched a website to help counter calls to boycott products made in Israel.

The campaign, called Shop-A-Fada -- a play on the word of the violent Palestinian uprising, the intifada, was launched Monday. It encourages the public to counter anti-Israel boycotts with the purchase of merchandise manufactured in Israel.

Shop-A-Fada was developed by a team of Israelis who own and operate the website, an online clearinghouse of more than 8,000 Israeli gifts and Judaica manufactured by 120 Israeli companies.

The campaign is intended to “Fight back against those who think that they’ll be able to destroy Israel by waging economic warfare,” said Israeli sports star Tal Brody, who serves as honorary chairman for the initiative.

“The time has come to show our enemies that as resolved as they are to practice hate against us, we’re equally committed to come out in unwavering solidarity for Israel,” Brody said in a statement.

For the next month, 5 percent of all sales will be donated to American Friends of Magen David Adom.

Arik Barel, CEO of, said the economic toll exacted on Israel by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is "by no means negligible, and we wanted to respond on behalf of the business community before the damage is irreversible.”

Last month, a major British supermarket chain announced that it would halt trade with Israeli companies that export goods manufactured in the West Bank, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Israeli exporters. -- JTA

In SoHo, Kosher Rules Get New Twist

The plans for Jezebel look like many other SoHo restaurants aiming to draw a hip, downtown crowd.

The difference is in the details: A gold-plated shofar will serve as the door handle. Art work will include familiar pieces but with different faces (Woody Allen in a commissioned re-creation of "The Last Supper"). And an Orthodox Jewish overseer will keep a close eye on the kitchen at all times to make sure all's kosher. Literally.

"We're looking to change the norm of where the bar for kosher is," said Menachem Senderowicz, 34 years old, one of Jezebel's two owners. "We think we can take it up more than two notches and bring it to a whole new level."

"We want to become the kings of kosher," interjected co-owner Henry Stimler, 32.

Messrs. Stimler and Senderowicz are stylish, fast-talking former finance types who plan to open Jezebel in June. It is the first restaurant for their group B&Y Hospitality (British and Yiddish, since Mr. Stimler is British and they both speak Yiddish), and they've hired James Beard Award-winning chef Bradford Thompson in the kitchen and Nick Mautone, formerly of Gramercy Tavern, to design the drink program. --Sumathi Reddy, Wall street Journal

To read more, click here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Synagogues slowly expanding inclusion to those with emotional, mental disabilities

Student Emma Weihrauch with tutor Leanne Pelser
at Temple Beth Emunah in Brockton, Mass.
The temple offers children with
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder special programs
to help them study for their bar/bat mitzvah ceremony.
(Temple Beth Emunah)
...In recent years, as physical adaptations like wheelchair access have become more widespread, synagogues have made strides at including people like Ayla -- congregants with emotional, behavioral or mental disabilities. And Jewish organizations advocating for people with disabilities have started to focus on teaching religious schools and synagogues to welcome those with nonphysical disabilities into congregational life.

But there is still a way to go. Synagogues often do not know how to deal with individuals whose behavior can be disruptive. Shelly Christensen, author of “Jewish Community Guide to Inclusion of People with Disabilities,” says stigmas remain for  mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and anxiety. --  Shira Schoenberg, JTA

To read more, click here.

The super Israeli superabsorbent

How can one product help people lose weight safely, grow crops with less water and dispose of diapers without harming the earth?
Photo by Moshe Shai/FLASH90
Two years ago, ISRAEL21c reported on an all-natural superabsorbent polymer (SAP) invented in Israel that can do all this and more.

Until our story appeared, the maker of this novel material, the Kiryat Gat-based Exotech Bio Solutions, had been unable to raise enough capital to make sufficient SAP for interested manufacturers.“We needed help being discovered,” co-CEO Mendy Axlerad tells ISRAEL21c.

As a result of our article, entrepreneurs in Europe and South America contacted Exotech and now are building factories to produce the unique Israeli product.

“A company from northern Portugal contacted us asking for a sample, and after we sent it, they said, ‘If you had a partner, would you build a factory?’ They came to visit us and we signed an agreement to build the first factory in the world to produce our SAP,” says Axlerad, who sees this as a stepping stone to all of environmentally conscious Europe.

“We expect to start production in seven to nine months from now, making 5,000 tons per year.”

And that’s not all. About half a year after that, a new German facility will start producing Exotech’s SAP and transfer it via pipeline to a new diaper factory next door. “Nothing like this exists anywhere else,” says Axlerad. “The raw material will move in a fully ecological way to produce the finished product.”

He adds that Exotech is selling only the rights to use the material. “It remains an Israeli technology. For me, this is important from a business and personal point of view.” -- Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel21c

To read more, click here.

Hebrew University archaeologist finds first cultic evidence in Judah from the time of King David, with implications for Solomon's Temple

Prof. Yosef Garfinkel with a stone shrine model found at Khirbet Qeiyafa
Photo: Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Prof. Yosef Garfinkel, the Yigal Yadin Professor of Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, announced the discovery of objects that for the first time shed light on how a cult was organized in Judah at the time of King David. During recent archaeological excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa, a fortified city in Judah adjacent to the Valley of Elah, Garfinkel and colleagues uncovered rich assemblages of pottery, stone and metal tools, and many art and cult objects. These include three large rooms that served as cultic shrines, which in their architecture and finds correspond to the biblical description of a cult at the time of King David.

This discovery is extraordinary as it is the first time that shrines from the time of early biblical kings were uncovered. Because these shrines pre-date the construction of Solomon's temple in Jerusalem by 30 to 40 years, they provide the first physical evidence of a cult in the time of King David, with significant implications for the fields of archaeology, history, biblical and religion studies. -- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To read more, click here.

Advanced Talmudic study program for women to close

The Advanced Talmudic Institute at MATAN, one of the few programs for women in Israel that focuses on high-level Talmud study, is closing.

MATAN, the Sadie Rennert Women’s Institute for Torah Studies, was established in 1988, and the Advanced Talmudic Institute, a leading program in advanced study for women, began its first cohort in 1999. The institute was started with funds from the Avi Chai Foundation and other funders.

Fellows learn in the institute for three years, using traditional and modern methods to understand the Talmud, in exchange for a living stipend.

The closing at the end of the current school year was announced in an Op-Ed on the Times of Israel website written by three members of the sixth and final cohort of fellows. There are 12 women in the current cohort.

"Closure of the Talmudic Institute will be a huge step back in the world of Torah study for women," Moriah Be’er Chriki, Yedidah Koren and Davida Klein Velleman wrote. "Not only will those seeking to learn suffer, but there will be a community-wide impact as well. "This powerhouse for training women to be educators in institutions of Torah study will no longer be able to provide the Jewish community with talented and able female leaders."

The column did not specify why the program is closing. -- JTA

Step aside, Gutenberg, Israel is about to revolutionize printing – again

Benny Landa is revolutionizing the printing industry – for a second time.
For Benny Landa, it wasn’t enough that his Indigo digital commercial printers revolutionized the industry – making it possible to digitally print everything from photo albums to wine-bottle labels — after Indigo’s 2002 acquisition by Hewlett-Packard.

An American transplant to Israel, Landa (“the Steve Jobs of the printing world”) just unveiled his latest game-changer: a trademarked Nanographic ( line of sheet-fed and web presses for commercial, packaging and publishing markets. The six printers use Israeli-developed NanoInk to print on any kind of material at high speed and low cost....

By offering a whole new way to apply ink, Israel is now positioned to usurp Germany as the king of the multibillion-dollar digital printing industry, he added. It was in Germany that Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press around 1450. -- Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel21c

to read more, click here.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Salute to 12 Jewish moms for Mother’s Day 2012

What do Golda Meir, Natalie Portman and Aviva Shalit have in common? They're all on JTA's Top Jewish Moms list for 2012 by Uriel Heilman.
Photo from CBS Televisio

Mrs. Goldberg (as played by Gertrude Berg) 

In her defining role as the irrepressible Mrs. Goldberg, Berg brought a lovable matriarch with a sing-song Brooklyn accent to radio, TV, film and Broadway. She paved the way for other Jewish domestic divas that followed, including Rhoda Morgenstern (played by Valerie Harper) and the Nanny (Fran Drescher), who proved that even a couple of WASP-y kids on Manhattan’s Upper East Side can use a Jewish mom.

To read more, click here.

Tunisia's El Ghriba Festival: A Journey of Understanding to a 2500 Yr-Old Synagogue

Controlled chaos at the El Ghriba Synagogue
on the island of Djerba in Tunisia during the El Ghriba festival.
Photo by Sony Stark
The island of Djerba, floating off the southeast coast of Tunisia, is a popular destination for relaxing in a traditional hammam, grilling your body on a sandy beach or haggling over handmade Andalusian pottery.

Few realize that only a few miles away is one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world; some say it dates back 2,500 years to time of King Nebuchadnezzar.

A Joyous Sound

Covering my head with a white cotton hoodie and tossing my sandals atop a growing pile of shoes, I listen as a fantastic cocktail of sounds comes from inside the oldest synagogue in North Africa.

Prayers, chants and eruptions of laughter alongside a throaty, gargle-like whistle that lingers in the air long after the vibration disappears. It's the oddest sound but, not mistakenly, a joyous and celebratory one. -- Sony Stark,

To read more, click here.