Monday, November 27, 2006

Torah class tonight - come and exercise your freedom of religion!

Just a reminder that our Nefesh HaChayim class continues tonight (Monday night)
at 7:30pm
at 132 Castillion Terrace, Santa Cruz 9506, with the fabulous chapter six!

Even if you missed earlier classes, now is the perfect time to jump in.

Rabbi Yisroel Gordon
To The Procrastinator's Delight - Nachman

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving: For Jews?

Unlike other traditions such as Halloween, which has pagan roots, and Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Christianity’s founder, Thanksgiving has grown out of a motivation to thank G-d for the good people have gained in America, and is not associated with a particular religious group. As such, it would seem that it would be unproblematic for Jews, even those who are faithful to traditional Halacha, to celebrate Thanksgiving. Indeed, the article “Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Purim” posted on states that the majority of American rabbis did not prohibit celebrating Thanksgiving, including such Torah giants as Rav Moshe Feinstein zt'l and Rav Yosef Dov Soloveichik zt'l.

While Thanksgiving isn’t forbidden, should Jews still embrace it, or even celebrate it? From my own perspective, I can only say that I don’t celebrate it, nor do I think Jews should or even need to. One reason is that thanking G-d is a daily, some would even say constant, affair in Judaism. The first words we utter in the morning are “Mode ani lefahnechah,” literally “I give thanks before you,” an act of thanking G-d that is performed even before we get out of bed. The liturgy is full of praises of thanks and of acknowledgements that we cannot live without G-d’s loving help. An excellent example of this is the "Asher Yatzer" blessing said after using the bathroom. Even in such a mundane situation, we acknowledge what G-d does for us. We should focus our energies on daily thanksgiving, not just being thankful one day a year.

A second reason grows out of practical considerations. Thanksgiving Day always falls out on a Thursday, a day where much of the cooking for Shabbos begins. To stage a large meal or gathering on Thursday takes away from Shabbos, both in terms of prep time and in terms of quality. Shabbos is meant to be the height of the week, and a voluntary event of similar proportions can make Shabbos seem less special. In fact, I try to use the extra time I have off during this season to invest even more time on Shabbos, for example by making extra dishes or going more in-depth with the Parsha. Shabbos is actually a gift from G-d to the Jews, and to truly value, appreciate, and invest time in a gift one has received, is probably one of the highest forms of thanksgiving one can show.

What is your view? Comments welcome!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


One of our own (alumni) Jewish slugs has been working with the Jewish social-work organization AVODAH this year in New York City, and she is putting out the call for more to join... so presumably it is fulfilling work! We miss you Chimpo!
HELP fight for justice and equality in New York, Chicago, and Washington DC's neediest neighborhoods. Work full-time on issues you care about--immigration, hunger, literacy, public health, domestic violence, and more.

LEARN first-hand from veteran organizers, activists, and educators. Gain skills, investigate the connections between Judaism and social justice, and share your passions with fellow Corps members.

LIVE together with other young Jews and build a community committed to integrating social change and Jewish values in a pluralistic environment.

Join AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps. You'll earn health insurance and a modest living stipend to cover housing, food, transportation, and other expenses. There's a $1,000 exit stipend and most qualify for an Americorps Education Award up to $4,725 for repayment of student loans or future education. Student loan deferrals are available.

Applications are now available. The deadline to apply is Feb. 14, 2007. Go to or contact us at apply [at] or 212-545-7759 x305.

Win an iPod with Hillel

In a recent message from Rabbi Shalom Bochner:
Hi! If you already know about this, pass it on to others. If you don't know about this, read on...

Santa Cruz Hillel is conducting an on-line survey to get feedback from Jewish students about our programs. The survey takes less than 10 minutes to fill out. Once we have complete surveys from 100 students who have attended at least one Hillel event, we will do a raffle for a brand new iPod Nano! Everyone who fills out the survey has a 1% chance of winning! We have received about 30 completed so far. So, fill out the survey and send this e-mail on to others. You can help your chance of winning by giving others a chance to win.

The survey can be found through our website:

You can also go there directly by clicking here.

If you are involved with a student group (Sigma, AEPi, Leviathan, SCIAC, 12 Tribes co-op, etc.) please make sure that everyone in the group has a chance to help you win a free iPod and also help your Hillel.

Thanks and Shabbat Shalom,


Monday, November 20, 2006

Can You Spot Rabbi Shlomie Chein???

Last week our beloved Rabbi Chein attended the annual Chabad conference in New York. I haven't checked in with him yet about his trip, but I found pictures! Hooray!


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

2 Big Israel-Related Events Coming Up at UCSC This Week and Next Week

So I hope this comes out alright... this is my first time sending a post.

In case this comes out blurry and I make an utter fool of myself, I'll just give the main details:

*Wed. Nov. 8 7:45, Phys. Sci. 110;
Larry Greenfield (Republican Jewish Coalition, key figure getting the warrant for Yassir Arafat's arrest)

*Tue. Nov. 14th at 7:30, Merrill Cultural Center;
Professor Barry Rubin (director of the Global Research for International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and a
professor at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) editor of the
Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal and of the
Turkish Studies Journal, also written hella bks)
Even if u don't agree with all the politics of either of the speakers, please come-show support, voice dissent, ask questions in the Q and A period afterwords and bring friends--GET THE WORD OUT.

Hope to see you there,

Jewish Learning Institute - Last Minute Info

This just in from Rabbi Friedman of Chabad by the Sea:

I just wanted to send you a gentle reminder that the opening class of "You Be the Judge" is tonight at the UCSC Inn.

It's not too late to join.
Even if you haven't yet registered, it's not too late; you can still participate.

The fee for the full series is $125 (or $225 for couples) but you can try out the first class before committing.

(Lawyers can receive nine MCLE credit hours and, conveniently, the UCSC Inn is also a voting location!)

I do ask that you please let me know that you'll be coming as we need to print student handbooks and let the hotel know how many people to set up for. You can reach me at 454-0101 ext.1.

You can see more information about the course at the Jewish Learning Institute website:

If you can't make it to this series, don't worry, this is only the first of three courses this year. The next course is entitled The Kaballah of Character and the spring course is Flashbacks in Jewish History.

With the variety of topics, there's sure to be something for everyone.

Looking forward to seeing you either at this or any of the courses and wishing you all the very best, always.


Rabbi Yochanan Friedman
Chabad by the Sea

Monday, November 06, 2006

Monday Night Learning Continues

The saga continues this Monday night, November 6th @ 7pm, with the next exciting episode of R. Chaim Volozhiner's "Nefesh HaChaim."

Even if you missed last week's intro, now is the time to join the chevra!

Location: 132 Castillion Terrace, Santa Cruz 95060 (831/427-1285)Directions from the intersection of Mission St. and Bay St.:Take Bay St. up towards UCSC. Turn Left on Nobel. The second street on the right is Castillion Terrace (a tiny street with a circle). Parking is most available on Nobel. Walk up Castillion Terrace and turn right into the first driveway. Walk straight ahead onto the walkway. I'm in the first unit on the left, right there behind a wooden gate. There is a mezzuzah on the door!

Rabbi Gordon

Check out my new parsha blog:

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Rioting in the Holy City

As many of you know, there is a "Gay Pride Parade" planned to take place this week in Jerusalem despite aggressive opposition, mainly in the form of riots. This is in addition to an Israeli competitor recently acquiring the title of "Mr. Gay International" in Palm Springs.

Opposition to the parade reached a crescendo the past two days, with a fake bomb placed in Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood and violent rioting instigated by haredim.
Late Sunday evening, a surprise decision by Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz to deny police requests to suspend the Jerusalem Gay Pride March planned for Friday set off urgent moves to reach a possible compromise.


Mazuz's decision quickly reverberated across Jerusalem's haredi neighborhoods, as residents of Mea She'arim, Geula and Romema took to the streets, blocking Rehov Sarei Yisrael and Kikar Shabbat with burning dumpsters and tires.

On Sarei Yisrael, people in the crowd threw rocks at police officers, and five protesters were detained for questioning. A failed attempt was made at blocking Rehov Tzefania and the major artery and frequent flashpoint Rehov Bar-Ilan, and similar protests were also held in Bnei Brak.
It was this effect - and worse - that police had feared when they held a situation assessment Sunday morning, at which the country's top law-enforcement officials decided that the risk to human life was too high to allow the parade to be held.

Full story
I am going to omit my own opinion of the situation, but please enjoy my vlog as an embedded observer on the front lines.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Welcome to the team!

Over the past couple months the JewniProj has been in a state of transition. But I would like to cordially welcome two of our newest team members, JimboJew and Zeeeev. I think their contributions to the online Jewish community will be valuable, and I look forward to seeing what they have to share with us.

Shabbat shalom from Jerusalem!

As is known by those who know, here in Israel we changed over our text of the Shmoneh Esreh this past Saturday night to include a supplication for rain, and it was raining plenty on Sunday, baruch Hashem.

And now it looks to be another fantastic Shabbat.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Rochel's Yartziet

Wednesday night November 1st and and Thursday day November second is the yartziet of Rochel Imenu, the wife of Jabob and one of the four matriarcs of Judaism, and the loving mother of all the children of Israel.

Light a candle in Rochel's honor and ask Hashem for what ever you need, secure in the knowledge that she is advocating on your behalf.