Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Articles written by Gil Shefler


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  • Nearly 70 years after liberation, Holocaust memorials continue to proliferate

    Gil Shefler, JTA|Jun 21, 2013

    NEW YORK (JTA)—No earth was moved last month at the groundbreaking of one of the nation’s newest Holocaust memorials. Instead, the gatherers stood silently, symbolic shovels in hand, on the immaculate lawn where the privately funded $400,000 monument will soon rise. A succession of speakers delivered somber homilies remembering one of the darkest chapters in human history. “It was an absolutely unbelievable world that I lived in,” survivor Fred Lorber was quoted as saying by local media....

  • Breaking with all black, some Chabad men pushing fashion boundaries

    Gil Shefler, JTA|May 17, 2013

    NEW YORK (JTA)—Yosel Tiefenbrun looked in the mirror and he liked what he saw. The 23-year-old Chabad rabbi and apprentice at Maurice Sedwell, a bespoke tailor’s shop on London’s Savile Row, was wearing a vintage double-breasted jacket with gold buttons, tasseled Barker shoes, a claret bow tie and matching handmade hat and square handkerchief. Then he ran out the door to attend the “Oscars of tailoring”—the Golden Shears Award ceremony honoring the best in British fashion. Several of his colleag...

  • Jewish Scouting leaders vocal on gay inclusion

    Gil Shefler, JTA|May 17, 2013

    NEW YORK (JTA)—Jewish Scouting leaders are taking a vocal role in efforts to pass a historic resolution that would partially lift a ban on gays in the Boy Scouts of America. In a meeting of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting in February, members voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution lifting the BSA’s longstanding ban on gay members. Now the Jewish Scouting group is working to shore up support for a resolution to be voted on at the Boy Scouts of America’s annual convention in Da...

  • Meet Portland's mother of Mother's

    Gil Shefler, JTA|May 10, 2013

    PORTLAND, Ore. (JTA)—It’s brunch time at Mother’s Bistro & Bar and owner-chef Lisa Schroeder has a small crisis on her hands involving the accidental defenestration of a busboy. Moments earlier, a server had tripped and gone flying through one of the restaurant’s large picture windows. Shattered glass covered the pavement outside, where the hapless staffer was being treated for a nasty gash by an ambulance crew. Meanwhile, dozens of undeterred diners were waiting to be seated. “What’s...

  • Amid Portland's Jewish population surge, community leaders try to lure the young and hip

    Gil Shefler, JTA|May 10, 2013

    PORTLAND, Ore. (JTA)—Jessica Bettelheim, a business ethics lecturer at Portland State University and a young Jewish mother, has little time to spare on weekends. Like other professionals her age, she’s busy bonding with her husband and 4-year-old daughter, meeting friends at one of Portland’s many fine restaurants or gardening, a favorite pastime in this verdant metropolis known as the City of Roses. So when Bettelheim received an email from the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland last month...

  • Fewer high school students travel to Israel

    Gil Shefler, JTA|Apr 26, 2013
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    NEW YORK (JTA)—With the summer travel season fast approaching, providers of Israel programs for teenagers are bracing themselves for what several say could be a season of historically low travel in a year unaffected by major security concerns. Over the past decade, Israel travel among those aged 13 to 18 has seen a dramatic falloff. Though exact figures are difficult to come by, leaders of several leading North American teen programs say they have seen drops of 30 percent to 50 percent in participation in their Israel trips since 2000. Two r...

  • On Birthright, building Jewish identity and finding love

    Gil Shefler, JTA|Apr 19, 2013

    NEW YORK (JTA)—Meredith Ross will never forget when she first laid eyes on Lior, her partner for the past seven years. Lior, an infantryman in the Israel Defense Forces, was escorting Ross’ Birthright Israel group on a free tour of the Jewish state when his friend, a fellow soldier, was killed. Lior was leaving to attend his funeral and had come to say goodbye. The two 18-year-olds spoke for just five minutes, but it was enough. “I remember borrowing someone’s phone to call my mother in the U.S...

  • Kosher scandals like Doheny are rare, but not unheard of

    Gil Shefler, JTA|Apr 12, 2013

    NEW YORK (JTA)—Less than a day before the start of Passover, the phone rang at the Brooklyn home of Rabbi Yisroel Belsky. On the line were concerned members of the Rabbinical Council of California, a rabbinical association in Los Angeles that provides kosher certification, among other services. The RRC had just discovered that Mike Engelman, the owner of Doheny Glatt Kosher Meats, had smuggled uncertified meat into his store, and the West Coast rabbis needed the guidance of their East Coast colleague. “It was obvious to all of us that we nee...

  • In aftermath of Boston Marathon bombings, Israeli Independence Day fetes are toned down

    Gil Shefler|Apr 12, 2013

    NEW YORK (JTA)—Israeli Independence Day celebrations in Boston were muted and security was increased in the wake of bombings that left three dead and dozens injured at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Mike Rosenberg, director of community relations at Maimonides, a Jewish day school in suburban Brookline, said an event Tuesday commemorating Israel's 65th anniversary had been toned down out of respect for the attack victims and their families. “Messages have gone out to parents and student...

  • In Florida, Venezuelan Jewish expats set down new roots

    Gil Shefler, JTA|Mar 29, 2013

    SUNNY ISLES BEACH (JTA)—Sitting outside a Starbucks coffee shop in this small city north of Miami Beach, Paul Hariton recalls the dramatic night in 2002 when he and his wife decided to leave their native Venezuela. Leftist leader Hugo Chavez had just returned to power following a failed coup and the Haritons feared the political fallout. “We thought he was gone already,” said Hariton, 56. “We came back from a big opposition demonstration in the city center where several people were shot, i...

  • New study offers tips on engaging Jewish teens

    Gil Shefler|Mar 29, 2013

    NEW YORK (JTA)—Trying to interest teenagers in activities is difficult, parents and teachers know well, especially given what technology has done to the attention spans of young people. So how to get them to partake in doing Jewish over other pursuits? The Jim Joseph Foundation commissioned two consulting firms to carry out a two-year study to figure it out. BTW Informing Change and Rosov Advisors mined data from 21 organizations geared toward Jewish and non-Jewish teens. Their conclusions: H...

  • Passover without wine? For Jewish addicts, sober seders are a life-saver

    Gil Shefler|Mar 22, 2013

    NEW YORK (JTA)—It’s rare that an Orthodox rabbi chooses to omit an important Jewish ritual in his holiday celebrations. But in the spring of 2000, Rabbi Yosef Lipsker cleared his living room of furniture, set up three large dining tables and invited dozens of people to a special seder that included all the standard Passover observances—except for one. “When it comes to seders, everybody thinks of the four cups of wine drunk during the service,” said Lipsker, a consultant at the Caron Treatment...

  • Israeli economist peddling new plan to equalize Arab university presence

    Gil Shefler|Mar 15, 2013

    NEW YORK (JTA)—Unlike most economists, Manuel Trajtenberg does not spend his days cloistered in university classrooms and think tanks far from the public eye. The Tel Aviv University professor gained attention in 2011, in the aftermath of massive social protests that gripped Israel, when he led a high-profile committee that recommended a series of wide-ranging economic reforms for the country. Now as chairman of the Israeli Council of Higher Education, the charismatic Trajtenberg has taken up a...

  • On Caracas streets, fear and eerie quiet as Venezuela mourns

    Gil Shefler|Mar 15, 2013

    CARACAS, Venezuela (JTA)—Students at the Ma’or HaTorah yeshiva in Caracas knew something was afoot Tuesday [March 5] afternoon when bodyguards driving bullet-proof vehicles started showing up unexpectedly at the gate, whisking teenagers from wealthy families to the safety of their homes. “After the second and third came, we realized this was serious,” Aron Misadon, a 16-year-old student at the school, told JTA on March 6. “At that point they closed the school and we all ran home.” That someth...

  • Documents show Venezuela spying on Jewish community

    Gil Shefler|Feb 15, 2013

    NEW YORK (JTA)—Espacio Anna Frank says its goal is to promote tolerance by teaching the life story of the teenage diarist murdered by the Nazis. But is there something sinister lurking behind the Venezuelan organization’s benevolent facade? SEBIN, the Venezuelan intelligence service, seems to believe so. According to a dossier attributed to SEBIN, the Caracas-based group is actually part of an Israeli cloak-and-dagger operation aimed at undermining the leftist government of President Hugo Chavez...

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