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Jewish Life in 6 Words

Posted on 08/31/2012 @ 01:23 PM

How would you sum up your Jewish identity or contemporary Jewish life in six words? Smith Magazine and Reboot ( collaborated to produce a new book called Six Word Memoirs on the Jewish Life – a compilation of six-word entries, each called a Six Word Memoir, and here are some examples: • Everything with us a question, why?
• Chosen for something. Not sure what…
• Bagels, bagels, bagels, bagels, bagels, lox!
• An atheist, yet still a Jew.
• Moved to Israel. Rest is history.
• Crosses don’t work on Jewish vampires.
• Birth bris bed bath and beyond.
• My mother worries, therefore she is.
• A half Jew gets wholly ostracized.
• Tried to explain gefilte fish. Failed.

If you are looking for a novel icebreaker or program, consider having teens create their own Six Word Memoir on their Jewish life and then having them share it with each other. We invite you to share with us your own Six Word Memoir on Jewish life!

This Shabbat Message was written by Ira Dounn, Northeast Director of Jewish Enrichment


Jewish Values

Posted on 08/24/2012 @ 01:41 PM

When you hear the phrase “Jewish practice,” what do you think of? Prayer, tallit, kipah, kosher, Shabbat, etc.? Many associate Jewish practice with Jewish religious ritual observance. Yet there is so much more to Jewish practice! An influential Hasidic Jew once said that everyone must have two pockets, with a note in each pocket, so that he/she can reach into one or the other, depending on the need. When feeling lowly and discouraged, one should reach into the right pocket, and find the words: "For my sake was the world created." And when feeling high and mighty, one should reach into the left pocket, and find the words: "I am but dust and ashes."

Jewish practice can also mean living a life informed by Jewish values. In this case, the Hasidic story illustrates the balance needed between the extremes of discouragement and excessive pride.

This Shabbat Message was written by Ira Dounn, Northeast Director of Jewish Enrichment


Rosh Hodesh Elul

Posted on 08/17/2012 @ 01:37 PM

Who is ready for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur? This weekend is Rosh Chodesh Elul, the beginning of the month of Elul. In many ways, Elul serves as a month dedicated to preparing ourselves for the Jewish holidays and the year ahead.

During Elul, the shofar is sounded during weekday services in some communities. The shofar blast can be seen as a wakeup call. In this case, the call is “Rosh Hashanah and the holidays are coming! Get ready!”

So much of what we do in BBYO is preparing and planning. You create programming calendars and prepare for programs and conventions, you work with teen leaders on your regional visions and goals, and you spent significant time on regional plans. BBYO’s international and regional teen leaders will spend this Shabbat at August Execs (#azabbgexecs) preparing for the coming year.

This Shabbat Message was written by Ira Dounn, Northeast Director of Jewish Enrichment


Birkat Hamazon

Posted on 08/10/2012 @ 01:18 PM

It has become a tradition that after meals at BBYO, the teens sing Birkat Hamazon, Grace after Meals, with hand motions and enthusiasm. Ever wonder why we say Birkat Hamazon in the first place? It says in this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Eikev (Deuteronomy 8:10): And you will eat, and you will become satiated, and you will bless Hashem your G-d for the good land that G-d has given you. So, we could understand Birkat Hamazon in a few different ways:
• It is a mitzvah from the Torah to bless G-d after eating meals – so an answer can be, quite simply, that we say Birkat Hamazon because it says to in the Torah.
• Gratitude or Hakarat HaTov – הטוֹבָ תרַכָּהַ – is a central Jewish value, and Birkat Hamazon is a Jewish way of expressing our gratitude for having eaten and being satiated.
• Birkat Hamazon is a call to action to end hunger in the world. We say Birkat Hamazon knowing that others are still hungry, and that we should all work towards a world in which no person suffers from hunger.

Thinking and learning about why we do the things that we do is an excellent way to engage with our Jewish practice and identity. is a great resource to learn more about Birkat Hamazon, blessings, and other Jewish topics.

This Shabbat Message was written by Ira J. Dounn, Director of Jewish Enrichment of the Northeast Hub


Dealing with Disappointment

Posted on 08/03/2012 @ 01:35 PM

Last Sunday we commemorated Tisha B'Av (the 9th of the Hebrew calendar month Av), the infamous day of mourning during which tradition attributes the destruction of the 1st Temple in Jerusalem (586 BCE by the Babylonians), and the 2nd Temple in Jerusalem (70 CE by the Romans). The Shabbat after Tisha B'Av, by contrast, is called Shabbat Nachamu - The Shabbat of Comfort. We tradtionally read the passage from Isaiah 40:1-26 for the haftarah that begins "Comfort, comfort My people." Like it says in the Shir Hamaalot, Psalm 126, that we sing before Birkat Hamazon on Shabbat, "Those who sow in tears will reap in joy." Even after our greatest calamities and disasters, we strive to have hope for happiness.

After Yom Hazikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) - a day commemorating fallen soldiers and victims of Israel, there is Yom Ha'Atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) - a day of celebration for the creation of the State of Israel. After disappointment, comes happiness and joy.

It is a Jewish value to be resilient and to bounce back from disappointment and strive for happiness and hope.

This Shabbat Message was written by Ira Dounn, Northeast Director of Jewish Enrichment


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