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Hungarian Jews arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau

When I was little, my dad did the usual things fathers do: he tucked me in at night, took me to the beach, and drove me everywhere. Little did I know that earlier in his life, he had been part of a daring group that helped save as many as 100,000 Hungarian Jews during the waning months of World War II.

He celebrated his 95th birthday recently, and as he blew out the candles and cut his cake, I was reminded about what I know of his life in Budapest during the war.

Herman, known to family and friends as Zidy, was the youngest of seven siblings in the Seidenfeld household. He...

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Group of teen campers outside in front of a tree

When the Israeli cabinet voted to pull back the government’s pledge to build an egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel (the Western Wall), more than 10,000 campers and 2,000 staff and faculty were at 16 URJ camps across North America. As with other summer camps, the people who come to Reform Jewish camps experience something close to radio silence when it comes to news of the world. Mostly through policy, though sometimes because of poor cell reception in rural locations, exposure to relentless social media is severely contained at camp. So, when...

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Partial handprint on wood

“And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.” -- Deuteronomy 26:8

Well-known and often-quoted, this phrase recalls the long-awaited liberation from Egypt, the ultimate symbol of God’s power to save the Jewish people by lifting us out of bondage with just a single hand. But this popular image provides only half the picture, begging the question, what was God doing with the other hand?

This week's Torah portion, Eikev, offers a glimpse into a broader...

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Smiling bar mitzvah boy wearing a suit and kippah and wrapping himself in a prayer shawl from the bimah

The most memorable part of our son Liam’s bar mitzvah on December 31st, the seventh day of Hanukkah, was also the most meaningful. On Shabbat morning, he chanted from Parashat Mikeitz about Joseph creating a plan to distribute food in Egypt in a time of scarcity. That night, after Havdalah, friends and family joined Liam to pack 21,600 meals that would be sent to Honduran orphanages...

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Woman with outstretch arms; eyes closed, face skyward; sun and trees in the background

“The old shall be made new, and the new shall be made holy,” wrote Rav Kook, chief rabbi of Israel in the 1920s and 30s. His deep insight exquisitely applies to the popular and growing field of positive psychology. This field is, I believe, poised to profoundly influence religion today and Judaism as we know it.

Simply described as “the scientific study of what goes right in life [and] those things that make life most worth living,” positive psychology’s tremendous growth and appeal is amply evident in dozens of titles at the bookstore, and thousands more on Amazon.

Birthed...

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