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View of coastal Netanya Israel with both industrial buildings and lush beaches in view

It’s almost Shabbat in Netanya, a coastal town in central Israel, and I’m with Rabbi Edgar Nof, the Energizer Bunny of mitzvot and inclusion.

The synagogue where Edgar works, named simply Natan-Ya, is a boxy building that was Haganah headquarters in the days before the Independence. Next door is a school that, in those pre-state days, was occupied by the radical Zionist organization Lehi. The mainstream Haganah and the extremist Lehi were bitter rivals. Edgar smiles: “Even then, left and right were fighting each other.”

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Full view of Western Wall and surrounding area

Kehillat Yuval in Gedera, Israel, founded seven years ago, is my spiritual home without walls. We don’t have a permanent building. We hold Kabbalat Shabbat services in the lobby of a school in the town that long ago became too small for us all. We usually hold b’nai mitzvah ceremonies at other Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism synagogues that open their doors to the community’s families.

Recently when we tried to find a place for a...

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challah on a cutting board, candles and wine, all on a table covered by a white lace tablecloth

God then surveyed all that [God] had made, and look—it was very good! (Genesis 1:31)

When we think of Shabbat, we think of the smell of challah baking, festive singing, time with family, delicious meals, and sweet wine. The Sabbath is a day of such joy, that as Rabbi Theodore Friedman has shown in “Shabbat as a Preview of the Perfected World,” the classical Rabbis understood it as a taste of olam haba (the world to come), – a messianic time of perfection in which “every man will sit under his vine and beneath his fig...

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Hand holding and swirling a glass of red wine while sitting at a picnic table

What Jew-ish news stories are you enjoying this week? Here are a few on my radar, a nice distraction from the more serious issues going on in the world:

  1. In Nicaragua, 114 individuals have formally converted to Judaism, nearly doubling the small country's small Jewish population. At least half of them claim Jewish ancestry, and most have been studying Judaism for at least five years. "I feel at home,” says one young man whose ancestors were forced to convert to...
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Preteen boys playing basketball on an indoor court

When I became a Jewish summer camp professional in 1994, I lacked most of the skills and experience needed to do my job well. That’s not self-deprecation or false modesty. That’s a fact. Luckily, I received great support and mentoring and am a voracious learner – and lately, as I’ve been thinking about what allowed me to survive such an inauspicious start, I came up with one asset that made a big difference.

Basketball.

I started playing basketball at age 5. I grew up in a rowhouse in Philadelphia less than 100 steps to the courts, and I loved to play by myself, with...

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