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Answer By: 
Rabbi Victor Appell

A few days ago, an Israeli rabbinic student, Alona Nir, was visiting Kutz Camp, a camp for Reform Jewish teen leaders, located outside of New York City. Alona showed the teens a short video of Israeli school children participating in an air raid drill. The lyrics were written by a social worker and the song is taught to young children in elementary schools near the Israeli border with Gaza. It is used as a tool to help the children deal with the fear and anxiety brought on by the constant threat of missile attacks.

The teens at the camp were surprised. They had not considered the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on children, especially Israeli children. How do we talk to our own children about the conflict and rising hostilities? Should we even talk to our children about this? If we are watching the news, or reading a newspaper, chances are our children will hear or read something about the conflict. We may have family in Israel or Israeli neighbors. If our children attend a Jewish camp, they may have an Israeli counselor.

Our children may be concerned about people they know who live in Israel or who are from Israel and have family there. We can help them by listening to their fears and concerns. We can reassure them that those in Israel are doing everything they can to keep safe. Our children will also want to know that they are safe here and that we want to create a better world in which all children are safe. Here are more resources for talking with children about the current situation in Israel.

Topic: Israel
Answer By: 
Rabbi Victor S. Appell

Yom HaZikaron is Israeli Memorial Day and Yom HaAtzmaut is Israeli Independence Day. On Yom HaZikaron, Israel remembers and honors the soldiers who gave their lives in both the War of Independence and in protecting Israel since. Without their service there would be no opportunity to celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut. On Yom HaZikaron, Israelis pause to remember. Places of entertainment are closed and two-minute sirens are sounded throughout the country. People stop their cars and stand in silence. In a small nation like Israel, most Israelis have served in the armed forces and sadly, most people know families who have lost loved ones in the protection of their country.

From a day of mourning, the entire nation turns to celebration. Yom HaAtzmaut is marked by parties, barbecues, and outdoor concerts. Family and friends gather for parties and visits to the country’s cultural institutions.

This year Yom HaZikaron begins at sundown on Sunday, April 30 and concludes at sundown on Monday, May 1. Yom HaAtzmaut begins immediately after that, concluding at sundown on Tuesday, May 2.

Answer By: 
Rabbi Stuart Federow

My husband and I are in the process of adopting an African American baby boy. We had him circumcised by a doctor -- as he was already 2 months old, my husband was concerned about safety. Must he really undergo a conversion ceremony to be Jewish?

Yes, he must undergo conversion to be Jewish. The reason is quite simply that the conversion ceremony is the "naturalization" ceremony that makes one a "citizen" of the People of Israel. Without it one would not be considered to be a Jew, in the same way that one who immigrates to the U.S. is not considered a citizen of the U.S., until he or she is naturalized. Similarly, you may get rights and privileges, palimony and the like, if you were not legally married to your husband, but without the legal marriage you would not be his wife.

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