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Ben Harris is JTA's former associate editor.

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  • Jewish schools grapple with a question: How do you turn a kid into a mensch?

    This story is sponsored by the Avi Chai Foundation. When Rabbi David Jaffe decided to launch a program of character development at the pluralist Jewish high school where he worked as the spiritual adviser, he grappled with a challenge faced not just by teachers but by Jewish parents. How do you turn a kid into a mensch? In psychological…

  • For Jewish advocates, UN General Assembly week is a diplomatic marathon

    This story is sponsored by the American Jewish Committee. On Sept. 22, 1999, a leading Jewish group placed a full-page advertisement in The New York Times dramatically illustrating the unequal treatment of Israel at the United Nations. The ad — timed for the start of the U.N. General Assembly, when a procession of world leaders delivers speeches…

  • Day schools applying science and technology lens to Jewish studies

    This story is sponsored by the Avi Chai Foundation. In a classroom in Atlanta, balance scales symbolize the weighing of one’s actions on Yom Kippur. In Nashville, a dreidel spins unendingly on a CD player to symbolize the eternal value of the message of the late Jewish scholar and activist Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. In suburban Chicago, a map…

  • How day schools are using games to make Jewish learning fun

    This story is sponsored by the Avi Chai Foundation. The first time Rabbi Raphael Karlin gave his sixth-grade students a Talmud game, it didn’t turn out quite the way he expected. The challenge was to take a passage of Talmud cut up into six parts and reassemble the components in the correct order. The process required his students at…

  • Top cancer doc turns his sights toward Israel with new post

    This article is sponsored by the Israel Cancer Research Fund. Dr. Mark Israel has spent his entire career focused on cancer. He has worked in medical clinics, as a laboratory researcher and as director of the cancer center at Dartmouth’s medical school. But perhaps no position Israel has occupied in four decades in medicine offers as much influence…

  • These Jewish day schools are breaking the mold to teach fluent Hebrew

    This story is sponsored by the Avi Chai Foundation. Teaching students Hebrew is a top priority for the Chicago-area day school Hillel Torah. So to ensure it has a ready supply of native Hebrew speakers on its faculty, the school goes straight to the source. It recruits two couples from Israel for multiyear teaching gigs, flies them to Chicago…

  • A Montreal pilgrimage in the footsteps of Leonard Cohen

    MONTREAL (JTA) — Just inside the gate of the Shaar Hashomayim synagogue off Boulevard du Mont Royal, a gravestone bears an unusual Star of David, the sharp angles of its two opposing triangles — one reaching heavenward, the other aimed at the earth — softened into the shape of hearts. A dozen red roses scattered…

  • Israel’s Beit Hatfutsot museum gets serious about Jewish humor

    This story is sponsored by the American Jewish Press Association. (JTA) — Stop me if you’ve heard this one: “Simi bar Chiya said to Rav, ‘As they say, camels in Medea can dance in a small jar; here is a jar and here are camels and here is Medea, and they are not dancing!’” If this were…

  • With Houston still suffering, Jewish groups step up hurricane relief efforts

    This story is sponsored by the Schusterman Foundation. Avram Mandell is no stranger to disaster zones. As the founding director of Tzedek America, a Los Angeles-based social justice group that runs relief trips for Jewish teenagers, Mandell helped out in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the wake of a…

  • At summer day camps, ‘fun’ Hebrew immersion program catches on

    This story is sponsored by the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life. On a warm summer day at a Jewish day camp east of Cleveland, an Israeli counselor instructs his charges in Hebrew to get their water bottles. The kids, none of them fluent Hebrew speakers, strain to comprehend. One of them, misunderstanding the instruction entirely, returns with a…