Special Sections

Several times throughout the year JNS.org releases collections of articles centered around a special theme. All our special section pieces are assembled on this page. To select another topic, choose from the other content “categories” in our navigation bar.

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At Sukkot, Israeli farmers say Jewish law, tradition, love keeps them working the land.

“The content of Israel education is not Israel—but rather the relationship with Israel,” writes Barry Chazan, professor emeritus of education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “The aim of Israel education is not Israel—but rather finding a meaningful role for Israel in our lives.” Chazan’s outlook is the same one that served as a spark for the formation of the iCenter program, which invests in Israel-focused professional development opportunities for educators that work at camps, day schools, synagogues, on Taglit Birthright trips, and more. Anne Lanski, executive director of iCenter, tells JNS.org that her team is working to shift educators’ mindset from one of curriculum and information to a focus on the learner—so that students begin to understand Israel and information about it “in the context of something relevant and meaningful to them.”

Ever since Dan Senor and Saul Singer’s 2009 book “Start-up Nation” came out, the Israeli innovation scene has received significant attention. In more recent years, students from one of America’s most prestigious MBA programs have also been noticing Israel. Since 2014, Cornell University’s one-year Johnson Cornell Tech MBA program has included the iTrek course—a three-month intensive interaction with Israeli start-ups that culminates with a 12-day group trip to Israel, during which students deliver actionable solutions to their start-up clients. Roni Michaely, lead instructor of iTrek, interviews more than 100 Israeli start-ups to select between 20 and 30 companies with whom the students work. The students identify a pain point—anything from market strategy to product selection to financial challenges—and then work in teams to solve the issues. Students have weekly Skype meetings with company executives, conduct background research, and develop recommendations. 

Rooted in decades of state-sanctioned anti-Semitism and contempt for Israel, many Egyptians know little of the history and culture of their Jewish neighbors. Although Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty nearly 40 years ago, only a cold peace exists, with virtually no interaction between the Israeli and Egyptian people. But amid the ongoing upheaval in the Middle East region, some Egyptians—aided by a warming of relations between Arab states and Israel—are seeking to change that status quo and bring a new outlook to their country. Their proposed vehicle for change? Education. Recently, a 9th-grade Egyptian textbook drew headlines because its revisions featured a shift from open contempt for Israel to a more positive emphasis on peace, including a focus on the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty.

Inviting tomorrow’s doctors to fall in love with Israel today. That’s the idea behind the American Physicians Fellowship for Medicine (APF), a specialized track within the Taglit-Birthright Israel program offering free trips to Israel for Jews ages 18-26. For the last 11 years, APF has been showing current and future medical professionals from across North America the Israel most of them have only seen in news reports—while creating memories, loyalties, and friendships designed to last a lifetime. “It’s amazing to see what a small country can do, to train their doctors and EMTs to be ready for anything on a daily basis,” said Kathryn Shapero of Boise, Idaho, a veterinarian. “These are challenges that American medical schools don’t have to think much about.”

In January 2016, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Manpower Directorate report revealed that 36 Israeli soldiers died in 2015, marking the lowest single-year death toll the Israeli military has experienced in a decade. But although no major military operations took place in Israel last year, the fall season saw the start of a months-long (and ongoing) wave of Palestinian terror attacks that has so far claimed the lives of 34 people since Sept. 13, 2015. The attacks began in the vicinity of the Temple Mount and eastern Jerusalem before spreading to Judea and Samaria as well as central Israel. To mark Israel’s annual memorial day for fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism, Yom Hazikaron, JNS.org looks back at the IDF and civilian victims of the current wave of terror. 

On the Shavuot holiday, Dawn Lerman's dad looked forward to "little packages of love"—aka cheese blintzes. Lerman had made them from scratch several times with her maternal grandmother Beauty before the family moved from Chicago to New York City, but never by herself. When she called her grandmother for guidance, Beauty advised, “The trick to not being overwhelmed making the blintzes is to do it in two parts. In the evening, make the crepes for the shell and fill them so they would have time to set overnight and be ready for frying in the morning.” Lerman, a New York Times wellness blogger and a nutritionist, offers a gluten-free twist on Beauty's cheese blintzes for Shavout—ensuring that the "little packages of love" can be enjoyed without the guilt.

When she was in her 30s, Janet Buchwald fell head over heels in love—with the Hebrew language. Three decades later, whenever the 65-year-old Sudbury, Mass., resident itches to expand her Hebrew vocabulary with a tantalizing new verb, she looks no further than her favorite websites. At 69, Michael Vigdorchik feels like he’s playing a game of catch-up, something his online resources make possible. “When you grow up in the former Soviet Union, religion comes harder,”  says the Ukraine native who now lives in St. Louis. “You have to take it slowly and ask a lot of questions. This I can do at Chabad.org.” Indeed, the over-55 demographic, though not born with a keyboard in their hands like their grandchildren, is quickly warming to expanding their Jewish horizons online.

When Norma Shulman recently spoke before a gathering of Massachusetts Democrats, she held up the Adlai Stevenson campaign button her mother wore back in 1956. “I was born into it,” says the resident of Framingham, Mass. At age 70, Shulman has logged countless hours stumping for Democratic candidates over the years, including former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, former Massachusetts treasurer Steven Grossman, and now presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. While Shulman spreads the Clinton message, just a few miles away, Debra Livernois of Littleton Mass., makes the case for Republican candidate Donald Trump with friends and strangers alike. “I began to have grave concerns about how this country is being run,” says Livernois, 54. “And, when they opened a state Trump headquarters in my town, I walked in and signed up.” JNS.org explores how Jews in the over-50 demographic are campaigning for their presidential candidates of choice.

With the Katz Hillel Day School and the Gould House retirement community sharing the local Jewish Federation campus as their home, intergenerational bonds are blooming in Boca Raton, Fla. The students provide the seniors with an endless supply of noisy exuberance, flag ceremonies on Israeli Independence Day, and the occasional sloppy kiss. The same dynamic between seniors and kids is at play about 1,500 miles to the north in Dedham, Mass., where dozens of residents at the NewBridge on the Charles retirement community give of their time and talents to students at the Rashi School. Indeed, when students and seniors share a campus, the learning and the giving flow both ways.