Heart of the Matter

Why Turkey matters to American Jews

The Turkish people have determined that no good will come from coups d’états. Neither will any good come from the repression of people who consider everyone—including Jews—as fellow human beings...

7/26/2016 3:00:57 PM

Old enough to drink

Milestones are things to celebrate.

9/1/2015 3:08:43 PM

Boycott yourself

In a world ablaze with human suffering and unconscionable cruelty, how is it that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which in many respects has claimed the fewest lives, has become the most animating of all human rights issues on campus? 

3/25/2015 10:16:38 AM

The summer that never was and the winter that will be

Every time Israel goes to war this community swings into action.

10/3/2014 11:45:32 AM

Israel through the glare

“The Jews do own the media… the Jewish media,” I sometimes quipped when speaking to community groups, turning the infamous anti-Semitic canard on its head.

6/27/2014 10:43:23 AM

Don't boycott songs of peace

A sold-out crowd of Chicagoans, including Jews, Christians, and Muslims, applauded an Israeli export that, the next morning, Prof. George Bisharat argued should be banned: musicians David Broza and Miri Awad.

1/31/2014 11:13:39 AM

‘Arab Spring’ sowing no seeds of peace

Does resumption of the "peace process" have any chance to resolve this particular conflict in the Middle East? 

8/1/2013 10:37:11 AM

A place of, by, and for dreamers and visionaries

Israel's 65th is a happy occasion for our community. 

3/28/2013 11:17:43 AM

Personal stuff

Again, I've been sorting myriads of items, deciding what to keep, what to give away, what to discard.

12/28/2012 11:09:29 AM

Looking for voices

As the Arab world reels, Japan quakes, and Israel suffers from recurring night terrors, I need a dose of perspective.

4/12/2011 12:01:12 PM


Imagine several dozen tots 18 months to five-years old toddling around.

3/8/2011 3:23:19 PM

All you need is love

Romantic love is part of it, but it's also about relationships having nothing to do with that kind of love.

2/1/2011 10:43:43 AM

Owning it

I feel fortunate and blessed to belong to a tradition and to work for an organization that enshrines the time-tested Jewish system of kehilla.

1/7/2011 2:59:35 PM

The human touch

Baby boomers moving over.

12/1/2010 1:42:17 PM

Lesson for today

Some things are out of our hands, so better focus on what we can control.

12/1/2010 1:38:48 PM

A story of inversion

How Lorine Niedecker became known as an important member of a largely Jewish intellectual circle.

10/5/2010 1:09:18 PM

Sharing sacred space

There are Muslims willing to share sacred space with us as Jews.

9/1/2010 12:43:00 PM

The great conveyor belt

I always desired to reach across the generations, across the barrier of mortality that cannot be bridged, to hear the voices of relatives, to feel their touch, to marvel at what is familiar, and to have a conversation.

7/27/2010 11:09:01 AM

When will we be safe?

Only later, it struck me that those words made me incredulous.

7/1/2010 10:25:07 AM

Tales of completion and renewal

In a nutshell it's about observing and experiencing life.

6/7/2010 2:07:19 PM

New Orleans gets a second chance

Flood, dislocation, abandonment, and a slow and sketchy return to some sort of normal in the shadows of its former self.

5/3/2010 2:00:09 PM

An unexpected conversation

“You want to be careful what words you use...”

4/1/2010 9:34:25 AM

Unintended acceleration

"The Heart of the Matter" by JUF News Executive Editor Aaron B. Cohen

3/1/2010 11:10:55 AM

Real people

In the age of Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Geni, Plaxo, Doostang it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that real human beings—flesh and blood, spirit and soul people—make institutions like JUF what they are.

2/3/2010 3:06:40 PM

Choose to give

A life filled with choice makes one more choice necessary—to give generously so that others might fare better.

12/23/2009 2:01:05 PM

The fears of our family in Turkey

The government appears to be building better relations with Islamic neighbors at Israel's expense, fueling anti-Semitism.

11/19/2009 11:13:03 AM

Let’s talk Turkey

By the time you read this, God willing, I’ll be home safe and sound from a 10-day interfaith visit to Turkey.

11/11/2009 9:38:00 AM

Lest we forget

On erev Rosh Hashanah, the same day the Iranian regime staged massive “anti-Zionist” demonstrations, I sat in the one-room shul.

10/1/2009 1:18:55 PM

His breath still moves

As for summer, I seem to have spent part of it walking around with my head in the cloudless skies of 11th and 12th century.

9/1/2009 10:18:53 AM

Go and learn at Spertus

Will Spertus continue to be able fulfill its mission for generations to come? Dr. Hal. M. Lewis is deeply invested in the outcome.

7/30/2009 10:20:35 AM

Wait and see

What will come to pass, in Iran and in the rest of the Middle East, we’ll have to wait and see.

7/8/2009 10:27:57 AM

New prescription for anti-Semites

I recently cracked a lifelong run of never breaking any bones by cracking a lumbar vertebra.

6/8/2009 3:16:50 PM

Wandering Jews

Pausing to reflect has been a rarity lately as the miles have racked up during business and family trips.

5/5/2009 10:33:04 AM

Count on 'us'

The Passover Haggadah, the archetypal Jewish liberation story, reminds us of collective destiny and mutual responsibility. As such it provides a fitting framework for contemplating our response now to people suffering as a result of economic dislocation.

4/7/2009 1:17:09 PM

A spirit of collaboration prevails in the desert

Does the immune system hold the key to treating Type One diabetes, leading to a time when insulin may no longer need to be administered?

3/24/2009 7:54:14 AM

Homeland Security Institute balances freedom and safety

Among Western nations, Israel arguably has the most experience working on the one hand to address the threat of terrorism, while on the other hand maintaining the values of openness and democracy. 

3/23/2009 7:49:08 AM

Body and soul

A story of an injured soldier; a singing surgeon; an army that said “yes!”; and the intersection of Judaism, biotechnology, Israeli priorities, and Chicago medicine.

3/2/2009 8:57:03 AM

For the sake of peace

Anyone who thinks the conflict is over is bound to be disillusioned. 

1/28/2009 11:47:29 AM

Say no to cynicism

Call me a Pollyanna, naïve, or behind the times, but when it comes to the tales of corruption in business and government these days, I believe the exceptions prove the rule.

12/22/2008 1:14:24 PM

Prepping the walls

One of the architectural features of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center set to open in Skokie in the spring. 

12/8/2008 10:59:52 AM

My grandmother’s logic

Part of what makes parenthood intense is to see the world through the eyes of your children.

11/10/2008 11:45:08 AM

Gmar Tov—A good close

Aseret Yamei Teshuvah, (Ten Days of Repentance), the spiritually loaded period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, an auspicious time for soul searching, and taking action to remedy the self-inflicted ills plaguing the spirit.

10/3/2008 11:10:46 AM

Remembering 9/11: The war that ends 'whatever'

"Whatever," that dismissive buzzword of the era of moral equivalence, was coined by a generation who perceived themselves to be fundamentally unaffected by most outcomes. Or perhaps they never conceived of a major outcome that might fundamentally affect them.

9/10/2008 2:35:02 PM

Georgia on my mind

The sad and portentous events in the Caucasus during this past month brought words and images to mind that many would rather forget—defiant, bellicose words, and images of suffering and destruction

9/8/2008 10:01:38 AM

Such is the lesson of life

Call it odd, but one of the best lessons I learned about the human condition and my own fate, I learned from a tree.

8/5/2008 10:36:20 AM

Giving shelter from the storm

Do you know what you’ve done? Do you have any idea where your money goes?

7/2/2008 10:04:29 AM

In time

Who are we kidding? Slow down? Regulate my speed? 

5/29/2008 2:11:32 PM

JCCs change the guard

From Avrum Cohen to Marty Levine, professional leadership change at JCC of Chicago stresses continuity and experience.

4/8/2008 9:00:08 AM

A three-minute Passover reprise

Chag kasher v’sameach, may your holiday be pure happiness.

4/8/2008 8:48:22 AM

Vast and vaster

There seem to be far more cattle than humans between Las Cruces, New Mexico, and St. Louis, Missouri. And once you leave St. Louis, en route to Chicago, it seems corn and soybeans vastly outnumber the stars.

3/18/2008 2:30:28 PM

The fullness of time

At a family bat mitzvah in Newport Beach recently, my wife and I marked the passage of time and our own aging.

2/5/2008 10:16:19 AM

Rome and Jerusalem

Western Civilization is beautiful, but we Jews have a special place.

12/26/2007 2:25:07 PM

Virtuous reality

How shall Jews retain organic peoplehood in a cyber world? Where is the line between the real and the virtual? How does the old model of geographical community give way to new forms of interest-based community, while maintaining core values?

11/21/2007 8:56:10 AM

Back to the present

It’s good to go back in time, if only to remain firmly rooted, eyes wide open, in the present.

11/1/2007 10:56:33 AM

Empowerment is something to celebrate

The topic of “Jewish power” cuts to the chase about how Jews interact with the world.

10/3/2007 10:46:23 AM

In honor of memory

If only I still had that photograph!

8/29/2007 11:57:06 AM

Vacation recipe

The last two weeks in June I took 23 high school students on a two-week whirlwind tour of Israel. That’s how I spent my summer “vacation.”

8/6/2007 9:43:24 AM

Flying apart, coming together

You don’t need to be a physicist to have heard about the Big Bang, the theory that the universe began with an explosion of matter emanating from one point.  

6/29/2007 9:38:34 AM

The hope

In February I found myself in a strange place, in a strange mood, doing something that felt rather strange. I'm not talking midlife crisis strange—I know what that feels like, thank you. I'm not talking bad strange at all. It just felt odd—and sad to feel the need—to be standing in a dimly lit, overflow parking lot at Yad L'Shiryon, Israel's Armored Corps Memorial Site and Museum at Latrun, exhorting some 230 people to promise to do their part for Israel and the Jewish people.

4/11/2007 10:20:50 AM

No reprieve

The spouse and I have our eyes on a little cottage tucked away in a part of Wisconsin no one around here seems to have heard about. It's by a lake with an Indian name, is renowned for fishing and sunsets, and seems to be populated today—to the extent it's populated much at all—by the descendants of Germans who fled the great European traumas of 1848 and 1870.

4/11/2007 10:17:18 AM

What a vacation

On the ferryboat, somewhere between the tiny port towns of Isabelle Segundo and Fajardo, it struck me. The problems of nationalism, allegiance, identity, and justice I'd been discussing with Puerto Ricans on the island of Vieques had lots to do with me as an American—and with them as citizens of an American colony—and nothing to do

4/11/2007 10:13:38 AM

The Light of Israel

“Visiting Israel is the right thing to do,” I wrote last month, anticipating the trip from which I recently returned. A week in country — rubbing shoulders with Israelis during Memorial Day and Independence Day ceremonies; breaking pita with them in cafes; speaking with them non-stop about their problems and fears, pitfalls and achievements — proved to me that visiting Israel is indeed the right thing to do, lest we lose sight of her true face. 

3/30/2007 2:17:07 PM

When I think of sacrifice

When I think of sacrifice—something it's hard not to do lately—I think of shahadat, martyrdom (in Arabic); it's an idea nihilist butchers have hijacked in a gory race to a paradise that looks an awful lot like hell. What we see in Iraq and Darfur and in the grim aims of the leaders of Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah is slaughter seemingly for slaughter's sake masquerading as slaughter in the name of God. We see the flag of jihad planted atop a mountain of hate. We hear the three no's of rejectionist Islam: no recognition of Israel, no ending violence, no honoring past agreements.

2/16/2007 8:56:23 AM

A latke by any other name

Hockey puck, slider, spud muffin, grease sponge, glue glob… oh the shame of a latke gone wrong.

2/16/2007 8:55:15 AM

A time to talk and to act

Assemble 5,000 Jews under one roof and you get a lot of talking. For the people attending the General Assembly of United Jewish Communities: The Federations of North America, the biggest topic of conversation concerned how the Jewish people will deal with an enemy—triumphalist Islam in general and the country of Iran in particular—that is preparing to deal Israel what it hopes will be a decisive blow.

2/16/2007 8:54:40 AM

The spirit of partnership

Chicago Federation makes a big impression on Los Angeles General Assembly

2/16/2007 8:54:11 AM

An old friend has died

Sometime during the Days of Awe I got word that a dear high school friend had succumbed to cancer. At 54, Mary Aileen Schmiel was the first of our old inner circle to die. The news sparked a hint of the emotion, the shock of the new, attending the group's other "firsts"—first marriage, first child, first grandchild, first death of a parent.

2/16/2007 8:52:54 AM

In a related move

Boxes line the halls and obscure the walls at One South Franklin Street, the building that for nearly 50 years literally has served as the central address of Chicago's organized Jewish community.

2/4/2007 1:02:53 PM

Today Jerusalem

Israel faces a new war with a new demand: the raising of the green flag of Islam over its sovereign territory

2/4/2007 1:01:53 PM

As the wheel turns

Jerusalem, June 18, 2006—Visiting Israel you feel the wheel of history turn beneath your feet. Sure the wheel turns on your own home street, and I suppose you can feel it turn strolling down Michigan Avenue. But nowhere does it turn as fast as here. Here you're moving even while sitting still; in the time it takes to sip one fabulous cup of café hafuch (Israeli latte), the wheel has brought you one click closer to destiny.

2/4/2007 1:00:57 PM

Born to be mild

Sharing the love of riding and the desire to repair the world:

2/4/2007 1:00:25 PM

Two sons of Abraham meet on an Appalachian trail

The same day Mayor Richard M. Daley was in Jerusalem, learning (among many other things) how Israel protects her citizens from Palestinian terror, I was on a treacherous Appalachian switchback, schmoozing about pluralism with Khaled, a Palestinian-American truck driver.

2/4/2007 1:00:08 PM

Sharing the love of motorcycles and the desire to repair the world

2006 Ride to Remember honors the Paper Clip Project at Whitwell Middle School in Tennessee

2/4/2007 12:59:22 PM


Despite all the matzah balls, matza brei, matza pizza, and just about every other iteration of the bread of affliction weighing heavily on my digestive tract as I write this, I still can't help but reflect not so much on how we Jews have been oppressed but rather on how we're blessed in this glorious season of spring.

2/4/2007 12:59:02 PM

Who can Write On for Israel?

Now recruiting high school sophomores for a program that can change the way Jewish students address Israel on campus

2/4/2007 12:58:43 PM

The Call to Destroy Israel, Acquire Nuclear Weapons, and Justify It All Through Revisionism, Are Real

I had expected a different reception when on a spring day in 1998 I arrived at the Turkish cultural center in the Kreuzberg neighborhood of Berlin. Visiting Germany as a guest of the foreign ministry, I had requested to meet with a representative of the city's largest, most visible, and perhaps most ambivalent minority.

2/4/2007 12:58:17 PM

Looking for Beshert

Producing what we fondly call the love issue of JUF News moves me to ponder today's world of relationships—a world my young adult children will soon enter; a world so many friends and colleagues grapple with; a world that seemingly brings as much pain as pleasure.

2/4/2007 12:58:00 PM

A Day of Infamy

I'm old enough now to wax nostalgic about the first time I grasped that someday I would be old enough to wax nostalgic. The release of Steven Spielberg's by now not-so-new film, "Munich," was the touchstone for my sentimental, if not entirely pleasant, musing.

2/4/2007 12:57:33 PM

A hair trigger in Iran

This fall it's been hard to gear up for the work at hand.

2/4/2007 12:57:04 PM

Warriors and peacemakers

Old warriors have been on my mind. Old Jewish warriors.

2/4/2007 12:56:34 PM

Hearts in the East

Life for us American lovers of Zion seems a bit mad. Our hearts straddle two continents, two countries and two cultures while embracing one far-flung people. Our homes are too distant from our homeland. It's hard to bridge the gap, though Lord only knows we try.

2/4/2007 12:55:14 PM

Thoughts on a tenth anniversary at JUF

When I first interviewed for my job at JUF News, I recall entering the restroom to make sure my hair was combed and my tie was straight, to look myself in the eye, and to wish myself good luck. I trusted to the force that rules these things that whatever would happen, by definition would be for the best.

2/4/2007 12:53:03 PM


Hitherto a shameless news junkie, I now recoil from the media's daily supersize dose of shooting, bombing, torture, murder, mayhem, warriors, wags, wonks, and worriers. The issues facing our country and the Jewish people are vexing; the human tragedy heart-wrenching. The situation on all fronts probably will deteriorate before it gets better. But as the weather improves in Chicago's inimitable way, all I want to think about is camping.

2/4/2007 12:53:01 PM

What makes this a great country

One of the benefits of working for a Jewish organization in these 21st-century United States is not having to say you're sorry during the Jewish holidays. You get the time off, period. During Passover I took advantage of the first and last two days falling during the week, took the other intermediate days off work, and flew the coop. It was poignant to celebrate freedom in a free country, something

2/4/2007 12:52:59 PM

Inspiring words

During the last two weeks in June I traveled to Israel with 15 high school students who had devoted seven months studying Zionist and Israeli history, contemporary issues, and advocacy journalism. Our two-week Write On for Israel trip covered the map not only in geographical terms, but also in terms of the nation's political, religious, and ethnic terrain.

2/4/2007 12:52:41 PM

The potential for catastrophe is large

Recently I've been in touch with old high school friends who have said and done things publicly about Israel I can't abide. They are Jews who, as far as I'm concerned, just don't get it when it comes to the justice of Israel's struggle, who believe Israel's "occupation" and "aggression" are the major obstacles to peace.

2/4/2007 12:51:55 PM

Look Whos Fighting

Two people I know have kids in Iraq, soldiers in the United States Army. Both are immigrants. Janina is from Poland, Manny is from Mexico. They work for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago Facilities Corp., and work hard. Janina cleans my office every evening. When I'm working late we chat. I look up from my computer, and she pauses while emptying

11/7/2006 11:38:33 AM

Lets find common ground

Practitioners of Jewish journalism cherish the opportunity to get to know just about everyone in the community, regardless of their religious observances, political leanings, or preferences concerning Jewish life. During this presidential election year, when U.S. Middle East policy, America-Israel relations, Israeli domestic politics, and other

11/7/2006 11:38:30 AM

Not Without a Fight

Whoever isn't mad as hell at Mahathir Mohammed's anti-Semitic diatribe should take a good long look down the corridors of Jewish history and, for that matter, at the nature of bigotry and racism of all kinds.

11/7/2006 11:37:49 AM

A tale of Two Cities

The Heart of the Matter

11/7/2006 11:37:46 AM

Are You on the Bus?

This column is dedicated to every Israeli bus driver and passenger, be they Jews or Arabs, religious or secular, Ashkenazim or Sephardim, leftists or rightists, men or women, young or old.

11/7/2006 11:37:30 AM

A Birthday Wish

It's been 40 years since it made much sense to put candles on my birthday cake. Eleven candles 10 for each year and one for good measure were pyrotechnic enough. After my 10th birthday I recall thinking that more candles just increased the likelihood of spitting on the frosting, without raising the odds my wish would come true.

11/7/2006 11:37:25 AM

The Hall Closet

I knew the day would come when my parents would move from the family homestead. I had hoped it would come when they were both alive and could enjoy condo living in some vibrant part of town, or that they would migrate to a warmer place and leave snow and ice behind. As it happened, my father has made the move alone, nearly six months after my mother died.

11/7/2006 11:37:22 AM

Language and Memory

In several weeks my teenage daughter heads off to summer camp, where she'll spend seven weeks learning Hebrew (and lord knows what else) in the exotic environs of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. Israeli counselors, their speech redolent with rolling rheshes and expectorant chets, will hone her skills in the ancient, new tongue, hopefully to the point

11/7/2006 11:37:19 AM

A Zionist Comes Clean on the Israel-Diaspora Relationship

To borrow the famous World War I Army recruiting slogan, your "Cousin Ruth wants YOU!" She wants you involved in what she calls "this project of a Jewish state," because it is "too serious and demanding to leave to Israelis alone. All the Jews are responsible."

11/7/2006 11:37:16 AM

Purim Spiel

In a couple of weeks (II Adar 14/March 18) we'll celebrate Purim, that fascinating Jewish holiday when we recall our reversal of fortune in ancient Persia, when those who sought to destroy the Jews were hoist on their own petard.

11/7/2006 11:37:09 AM

Scene of the Crime

We got the kind of call at the office the other day that makes us feel terrific--well, almost. Norman B., a reader in Tucson, had phoned with a special request.

11/7/2006 11:37:04 AM

A decisive, critical moment

Whoever said "may you live in interesting times" has got their wish. This is an interesting, odd, spooky time, especially for young people trying to get a foothold in adulthood.

11/7/2006 11:37:00 AM

Imminent Departures

I was supposed to be winging my way to Italy about now for an exploration of that country's Jewish past and present with a few other lucky Jewish journalists. But no, that trip was canceled for the second time this year.

11/7/2006 11:36:51 AM

Off To College

Growing up, the beginning of September always stirred a mix of nostalgia for the impending fall of glorious summer, a pang of anxiety about the approaching school year, but also a feeling of adventure, with the new school year bringing with it new possibilities.

11/7/2006 11:36:21 AM

I am an Israeli

On June 26, 1963, President John F. Kennedy stood at the Berlin Wall and made his famous pronouncement in less than perfect German, "Ich bin ein Berliner" ("I am a Berliner"). His statement of identification with the people and the democratic values of the Federal Republic of Germany was a Cold War shot heard 'round the world. Surrounded and walled-off by brutal, totalitarian forces, West Berlin was a beacon to the peoples of the Soviet bloc whose basic rights were trampled. Eventually the light of free Berlin penetrated the darkness; the Wall was reduced to little concrete souvenirs, which you can buy at the Checkpoint Charlie gift shop.

11/7/2006 11:35:54 AM

On Top of the World During Israels Most Important National Days

However much American Jews care about Israel and involve themselves in educational, political, cultural, and philanthropic efforts that express and support that connection, the reality is that Israel is far away both geographically and experientially. Israelis live in a separate reality, which the majority of American Jews never experience

11/7/2006 11:35:50 AM

A New Antisemitism Comes of Age

Aaron Cohen links the UN Durban conference to the attacks on America.

11/7/2006 11:34:09 AM

For Those of Us Who Love the Middle East

For those of us who love the Middle East, each war, each outrage, creates a special pain.

11/7/2006 11:33:49 AM

Live Talk: Conversations about Jewish Life and Leadership

Interview with Richard Joel, international director of Hillel: The Foundation for Campus Jewish Life.

10/10/2006 4:41:49 PM


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