An Arizona Congregation Forms a New Kind of “Israel Bonds”



by Bonnie Golden

This article originally appeared at the Arizona Jewish Post. It highlights the experience of one woman with the WRJ-Israel Twinning Program

Jews of a certain age might share similar early impressions of Israel. In Chicago, where I grew up, the young congregants at Lawn Manor Hebrew Congregation were inculcated with a firm commitment to the Jewish state. We saved our dime tokens to plant our trees, circle-danced Israeli-style, and practiced rudimentary Hebrew conversation. During and after the 1967 war, the Chicago area Jewish community held multiple events to raise money for Israel. All were urged to support the young state by holding Israel Bond drives.

What follows are only a few of the new “Israel bonds” formed on Temple Emanu-El of Tucson, AZ’s pilgrimage to Israel this past June.

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Voices of WRJ: Parashat Shoftim



by Michelle Scheinkopf

In this week’s Torah portion, Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9), Moses reviews the justice system for the Israelites and instructs them to appoint judges and law enforcement officers in every city. According to The Torah: A Women’s Commentary, this “parashah focuses on organizing the community and establishing rules that will promote justice within it.” In Shoftim, rules are set up to make sure that everything is fair and just in the system. One of the verses states: “Justice, Justice shall you pursue.” Not only is this necessary for legal systems but also for individuals. Organizing ourselves to pursue justice is central to Jewish teaching. It is a Jewish calling—an obligation, if you will—telling us to pursue and be engaged in activities that seek justice for all.

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Cooking with the Sisterhood: Balsamic Marinated Strawberry Trifle



by Jennifer Stempel

My mother-in-law, Bette Jo, has been an active member at her synagogue for years,  and some of her closest friends are those she met participating in her temple sisterhood. These are the women whose kids grew up alongside my husband and his brothers, and who jumped at the chance to throw me a fantastic bridal shower when I married Kenny. Several of them made the trek to L.A. to celebrate our nuptials with us, and a couple even acted as official witnesses during our ketubah signing ceremony. Over the years, some of Bette Jo’s sisterhood friends and I have connected via social media, and every time I post a cooking or blog-related post, they are always quick to respond.

Last year, after I posted a photo from one of my cooking classes, Marci and Judi both commented about how they wished they could join the class, but given our current distance at the time, their participation was out of the question. I responded with a promise to hold a cooking class the next time I was in Columbus, whenever that might be. A couple months ago, when Kenny and I settled our plans for a visit to his hometown, I reminded Bette Jo of my promise, and a plan was quickly hatched. Of course, within moments of the official announcement for the class, Marci and Judi sent in their RSVPs (though, as they were the impetus of the whole event, I did give them a heads up that this was in the works).

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A Day at URJ Kutz Camp



“Bo…Bo…boker tov…Bo…Bo…boker tov to Sarah! Bo…Bo…boker tov…Bo..Bo…boker tov to Dave!” And the cheer circulated around the room from one kid to another for five minutes. What did it accomplish? The fun-filled cheer gathered community into one whole. It gained momentum and volume as it progressed. It built connections and smiles. It caught attention. It worked!

My Thursday morning initiation into Kutz Camp life began with this cheer and moved smoothly into morning services. The kids were ready for worship.

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Voices of WRJ: Parashat R’eih



by Linda Ferguson

Parashat R’eih begins with “see” and not with “sh’ma”—”listen”—as one would expect when they are about to hear a powerful challenge from God to the Israelite people: “See this day I set before you blessing and curse: blessing if you obey the commandments…and curse if you do not obey the commandments… (Deuteronomy 11:26-28).” From that point, the parashah begins the longest section of Deuteronomy and one of the longest in the Torah, with the laws and general principles for the people to live by in the new land.

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Voices of WRJ: Parashat Eikev



“And if you do obey these rules and observe them carefully, your G-d will maintain faithfully for you the covenant made on oath with your fathers (Deuteronomy 7:12, The Torah: A Women’s Commentary).” So begins this week’s Torah portion, Eikev. These seem like pretty straightforward directions, right? However, on closer reflection, perhaps they’re not so simple after all. In our modern society, we often choose to not to follow all of the commandments and, in fact, can’t follow all of the original ones handed down at Sinai.

My husband and I were married in the Reform congregation in which he grew up in Alexandria, VA and made a commitment at that time to have a Jewish household and pass Judaism on to any future generations. Not being Jewish by birth nor feeling particularly religious, I did not convert at that time. It was while helping our oldest son, Nate, study this parashah, Eikev, in preparation to become a bar mitzvah that I decided to become a Jew-by-choice. I already had a lot of friends in the sisterhood of our northern California congregation who had embraced me and made me feel welcome in the temple. They played a huge role in my decision to become a full member of the Jewish family.

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The 6 Points Sci-Tech Girls



This week, the WRJ Blog is featuring a series of articles on the newest URJ Camp: URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy. In particular, we are focusing on WRJ’s involvement in increasing the presence of girls at the camp and, by extension, supporting women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

They love science, they love music, they think URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy is amazing! Of the more than 40 campers at the Governor’s Academy campus north of Boston for this second session at Sci-Tech, seven are girls. They have no issue being in the minority and are really enjoying their majors as well as the chugim (electives) that the camp offers. They are proud to be “girls who love science.”

The girls chatted easily and with great delight about their Sci-Tech experience that combines Judaism, science, and technology. They belong to congregations; their ages range from 12-14; they had celebrated Bat Mitzvahs or would soon; and some had attended other camps, both URJ  and secular, but never a science-oriented, specialty camp. The girls hailed from Florida, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

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A Camp Like None Other



This week, the WRJ Blog is featuring a series of articles on the newest URJ Camp: URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy. In particular, we are focusing on WRJ’s involvement in increasing the presence of girls at the camp and, by extension, supporting women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Anyone who has been to a URJ camp on Shabbat knows that it is a very special moment. The youth don their Shabbat whites, gather together for inspiring words by their camp leaders, and are ushered into the dining hall with guitar-playing songleaders leading Kabbalat Shabbat melodies. The highlight of my summer was spending such a Shabbat at URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy, the newest of our 14 URJ summer camps.

Sci-Tech is a camp like none other. In addition to the typical activities, song sessions, and Jewish experiences that are enjoyed at all of our camps, this summer program is designed for youth with a particular interest in science and technology. The kids who attend are more likely to watch “The Big Bang Theory” on TV and play Minecraft than play sports. At home, they are more likely to join the math or robotics club than the soccer team or youth group. At this camp, instead of making lanyards or having color wars, they find themselves creating a video game, building a robot, editing a horror film, or blowing things up–and that suits them just fine.

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Jewish Women Innovators: The Next Generation



by Sam Kazer

This week, the WRJ Blog is featuring a series of articles on the newest URJ Camp: URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy. In particular, we are focusing on WRJ’s involvement in increasing the presence of girls at the camp and, by extension, supporting women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Our girls’ dorm, Rosie, is named after Rosalind Franklin, a biologist whose critical work with X-Ray Diffraction led to the understanding of the double helix structure of DNA. By choosing this name for the dorm, we hope to inspire our campers to shoot for the stars as empowered women, scientists and innovators. Yesterday, I sat down with two exuberant campers from Rosie, Hannah and Mia, who received YES grants to attend Sci-Tech from WRJ.

05editFor Hannah and Mia, science and technology is their bread and butter. Besides technology being the “best way to communicate with [her] friends,” Mia has a distinct passion for robotics. In middle school, Mia won the science fair with another girl by making a robot  that blew bubbles. Although she “doesn’t always like the programming,” she is invested in exploring robotics because “Robots can (or will) do things like save people from earthquakes and natural disasters.” Hannah has split passions; she triumphantly explained that “as a future director and biologist, [she has] always liked animals and [she has] always been in love with taking picture because [she has] thought of pictures as memories.” Like Mia, Hannah finds that “making videos is a social experience” and that digital media allows her to “think outside of the box” and spur “conversations about art.”

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Of Pipettes & Spiders: Women in Science



by Samantha Wette

This week, the WRJ Blog is featuring a series of articles on the newest URJ Camp: URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy. In particular, we are focusing on WRJ’s involvement in increasing the presence of girls at the camp and, by extension, supporting women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Did you know that the daddy longlegs is not a spider? It is actually an arachnid and possesses spider-like qualities, but the daddy longlegs truly belongs to a different order entirely, and it doesn’t even produce silk!

I have always been fascinated by the world around me, and I grew up in a loving home where sakranut (curiosity)was encouraged. For as long as I can remember I have been investigating the flora and fauna on my street and mixing “potions” together to see what would happen.

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