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A statewide Jewish community of just 400 people is about to receive a leadership boost in a move that will also make history for the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement. Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz and his wife Mussie will be the new Chabad emissaries in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, helping Chabad reach a special milestone. Of the U.S. 50 states, all but South Dakota have Chabad centers. But that’s not the only historic aspect of the young couple’s arrival. Mendel Alperowitz will be the South Dakota Jewish community’s first full-time rabbi in decades. “In Brooklyn there are shuls and restaurants everywhere—it’s so easy to be Jewish,” says Rabbi Alperowitz. “In South Dakota they have to come together to create Jewish community, to celebrate Shabbat. It’s really an inspiration.”

“Put your hands behind your back and get on your knees,” 19-year-old Noam Ohayon exhorts JNS.org's reporter, who complies. “Now fall forward on your face. Without breaking your fall with your hands.” Ohayon, his voice full of mirth, then puts things in perspective. “Now imagine having to do that outside in the height of winter on the Golan [Heights] on a concrete path full of stones and ice,” he says. The exercise is just one of many challenging drills Ohayon had to endure in what is known as “Shavua Na’or,” or Na’or Week, at the Tamir pre-military preparatory academy in the northern Israeli town of Katsrin. The academy is one of 54 similar institutions across Israel that groom high school graduates for the Israel Defense Forces.

Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds never spoke about his experiences as a prisoner of war during World War II. Captured during the Battle of the Bulge, Roddie survived an arduous march through frozen terrain and was interned for nearly 100 days at Stalag IXA, a POW camp near Ziegenhain, Germany. “Son, there are some things I’d rather not talk about,” Roddie would tell his boys, Kim and Chris Edmonds, when they were young. When Roddie died in 1985, Chris, now a Baptist pastor, inherited his father’s war diaries. Now that his father’s wartime stories are known, Chris said his life has been “turned upside down.” The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, an organization that identifies non-Jewish rescuers of Holocaust survivors and pays tribute to their courage, honored Roddie’s memory Nov. 28 with the Yehi Ohr Award during the foundation’s annual dinner at the New York City Public Library. 

For most organizations, moving underground would be ominous. For Israel’s national blood services center, it’s exciting. Nov. 16 marked the groundbreaking for the Jewish state’s new state-of-the-art central blood bank. Located in Ramla, the facility will be the world’s first completely underground national blood services center. Israel’s challenging reality affects every key aspect of the design of the center. Eli Bin, director general of Israel's Magen David Adom (MDA) national blood bank service, told JNS.org that "due to the challenges faced by our country both in terms of security and possible natural disasters, MDA must maintain its high standard and build a blood services center that's compatible with Israel's population growth rate as well as the aforementioned challenges."

Sometimes you’ll find the most splendid synagogues in the places you least expect. Such was the case during travel writer Dan Fellner's recent three-day trip to Boise, Idaho, a popular gateway for skiing, river rafting, and hiking that isn’t exactly known for being a hotbed of Jewish life. Yet just a five-minute drive from downtown sits the oldest continuously in-use synagogue west of the Mississippi River. And it’s far more than just a beautiful wood building. As Fellner learned, Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel is the centerpiece of a surprisingly robust Jewish community with a fascinating history.

Anyone reeling from the American presidential election result might want to take comfort in the laid-back attitude of some Palestinian civilians. At two competing Palestinian-owned "strip malls"—each housing a falafel joint, supermarket, and pet shop—located near the main junction leading into the city of Ariel in the Samaria region, most Palestinians interviewed by JNS.org reporter Orit Arfa were unfazed by the election victory of Donald Trump.

Any newspaper that makes political endorsements runs the risk of alienating readers who disagree with the publication’s candidate of choice. Angry letters and canceled subscriptions come with the territory. Against that backdrop, hundreds of American newspapers still endorsed presidential candidates in 2016. How did Jewish community newspapers handle this choice? A JNS.org analysis of website content from about 100 American Jewish news outlets found that Jewish media were more reluctant than their mainstream media counterparts to make endorsements, with a total of eight Jewish outlets endorsing Clinton and three endorsing Trump. JNS.org examines the decision-making processes and reader reactions at Jewish newspapers that endorsed candidates.

Stuart Rosenblatt, head of the Irish Jewish Genealogical Society, remembers a vibrant childhood of involvement with Jewish scouting, the Bnei Akiva youth group, a Jewish drama society, a golfing club, writers’ circles and many charities. But the once-verdant Irish Jewish community is paling. Ireland’s 2011 census revealed that there are 1,900 Jews in the country. Dublin-based Cantor Alwyn Shulman said the actual Jewish population figure is likely lower because many Jews remaining in Ireland are intermarried or non-practicing. Others are transient Israelis working in Ireland’s high-tech sector. “Could build up the community again?” asks Shulman. “It’s bleak at the moment, but there’s always hope.”

Responding to rising demand for post-immigration services for English-speaking immigrants to Israel, the Nefesh B’Nefesh nonprofit will open two new aliyah centers in January 2017. Rachel Berger, director of post-aliyah and employment for Nefesh B’Nefesh, envisions a shared space where immigrants can “drop by, [and] get one-to-one services in times of employment and post-aliyah guidance.” 

Retired United States Army Col. Carl A. Singer brings a can-do attitude to the top volunteer post at the Jewish War Veterans (JWV) nonprofit. Singer—formerly a member of a hand-picked elite team supporting famed Vietnam War Gen. William Westmoreland when Westmoreland served as the U.S. Army’s chief of staff from 1968-72—has dedicated much of his time to volunteering in both the veterans and Jewish communities. “I naturally gravitated toward volunteering,” Singer said in an interview with JNS.org ahead of Veterans Day. “You can complain about things or you can make them better.”

Noach Braun, co-founder of Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind, is competing in Sunday’s New York City Marathon not to finish in record time but to raise awareness about the lifesaving role guide dogs play in healing.

Exactly 175 years ago, an early leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints climbed Jerusalem's Mount of Olives and offered an impassioned declaration and prayer proclaiming the Holy Land as the gathering place for the Jewish people. This week, Jewish and Mormon leaders came together to commemorate this early vision of Zionism. 

Among the world's estimated 100 million to 150 million Beni Anusim (descendants of forced Sephardi Jewish converts to Christianity), some from Spanish and Portuguese communities are reconnecting to their roots in Israel.

 

Is it a coincidence that the two people most intimately involved in creating the Hebrew Music Museum are both Levis, descendants of the ancient Jewish tribe dedicated to providing music in the holy Temple? For 12 years, Laurent Levy, the museum’s sponsor, and Eldad Levy, its director, (who are not related), both had a vision of creating an interactive, state-of-the-art museum in the heart of Jerusalem that would celebrate Jewish music, writes JNS.org reporter Deborah Fineblum. 

The refugee crisis, escalating terrorism and dissatisfaction with the political elite are blamed for the current rise of Europe’s far-right political parties. Such a revival has not been seen since World War II, writes JNS.org reporter Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman. 

A group of 75 future IDF soldiers who made aliyah through Nefesh B’Nefesh on Aug. 17 on a flight facilitated in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, the Jewish Agency, Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel, JNF-USA and Tzofim-Garin Tzabar. Among the soldiers were several young men and women following in the footsteps of their siblings by joining the Israeli army, writes JNS.org reporter Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman.

Peter Hegseth, a rising figure in American conservative media, has one eye on the current war on terror and another on history. On a recent visit to Israel, Hegseth toured sites in Sderot, Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights to see first-hand Israel’s national defense and the fight on terror. “It is fact-finding trip,” Hegseth told JNS.org reporter Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman in an exclusive interview, over sips of American-style coffee, with the sunlit Old City of Jerusalem gawping through the window.  

Israeli water experts believe by 2050, almost half of the world’s population will live in countries with a chronic water shortage. In Israel’s Negev Desert, which has long been plagued with water challenges, a team of 80 scientists and 250 graduate students are working on ways to tackle the problem using cutting-edge science in partnership with academics around the world, writes JNS.org reporter Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman. 

As anti-Semitism continues to rise in Germany, a new watchdog group in Berlin, the Department for Research and Information on Anti-Semitism (RIAS), is encouraging German Jews to speak up and report incidents in order to to expose, monitor and hence prevent attacks against Jews, writes JNS.org reporter Orit Arfa. 

At 5 feet 7 inches tall, and weighing around 150 pounds, 26-year-old optimistic and powerful blonde Ilana Kratysh will become the first-ever Israeli woman to compete in the wrestling events at the Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, which began Aug. 5. On Aug. 17 she will fight for the gold in the under 69-kilogram category. Ahead of the games, JNS reporter Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman spoke with Kratysh as she seeks to make history for her country and bring home the gold.