Mazel tov jewish news jan 30, 2017

Page 1

Mazel Tov

Supplement to Jewish News January 30, 2017



Dear Readers,


here never should be a bad time to celebrate. In fact, the not-so-good

times should remind us to celebrate whenever possible. That’s the message from the author of In defense of the Big Fat Bar/Bat Mitzvah Party on page 18. She started planning early for her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah and looks forward to the new memories as she recalls those of her own.

Made with New Zealand grass-fed brisket, served with home-made grilled rustic sourdough bread, creamy mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, and crispy tobacco fried onions. Mazel Tov!

It’s an article that has relevance for everyone…as a host or a guest. This section covers other celebratory topics, such as the one on page 17

where we offer tips on planning an event. According to the Sheraton’s Nancy Rosen, an expert party planner, a combination of some solid advice, lists, and the right


Published 22 times a year by United Jewish Federation of Tidewater. Reba and Sam Sandler Family Campus of the Tidewater Jewish Community 5000 Corporate Woods Drive, Suite 200 Virginia Beach, Virginia 23462-4370 voice 757.965.6100 • fax 757.965.6102 email Terri Denison, Editor Germaine Clair, Art Director Hal Sacks, Book Review Editor Sandy Goldberg, Account Executive Mark Hecht, Account Executive Marilyn Cerase, Subscription Manager Reba Karp, Editor Emeritus Sherri Wisoff, Proofreader Jay Klebanoff, President Alvin Wall, Treasurer Stephanie Calliott, Secretary Harry Graber, Executive Vice-President The appearance of advertising in the Jewish News does not constitute a kashrut, political, product or service endorsement. The articles and letters appearing herein are not necessarily the opinion of this newspaper. © 2017 Jewish News. All rights reserved.

perspective will assure that every event …intimate or ballroom style…ends up perfect.

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For teens and their parents, the article on page 22 about Tidewater Jewish Foundation’s B’nai Tzedek Teen Philanthropy Program should be of particular interest. TJF has found a way to engage kids—especially around their Bar or Bat Mitzvah—to manage their own philanthropic fund. It’s a brilliant idea. Of course there’s more. We hope you MACON PHOTOGRAPHY

find this section interesting and that you glean some ideas from both the articles

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Jewish News Staff

azel Tov! A simcha is on the horizon…be it an engagement party, wedding, bat or bar mitzvah, milestone anniversary or birthday, the planning must commence! But where, oh where to start? Experts agree that for a successful event, the best place to begin is to determine the type of event desired and a realistic budget. With these two decisions in hand, the rest will fall into place…not necessarily easily, because as with any project, it is the details—and their execution—that determine the outcome. A plethora of books and websites are now available to jump-start the process. Some even focus specifically on Jewish events, such as Guide to the Jewish Wedding at, Step-By-Step Bar Mitzvah Planning and Bat Mitzvah Planning Guide…at www. or the handbook-style book, MitzvahChic: How to Host a Meaningful, Fun, Drop-Dead Gorgeous Bar or Bat Mitzvah, among many, many others. Often temples also have handbooks and guides for congregants that include local, preferred vendors. In fact, experts note that Millennials are the largest group of incoming brides and grooms and frequently rely on social media to find their venue and vendors. And, parents of b’nai mitzvah kids are pretty savvy with the Internet, too.

Rosen, who had 10 years experience as an event planner prior to joining the Sheraton. “Caterers, florists, linen vendors, bakeries…they can all generally do more than one event in a day, but a venue can host just one party or service, and a photographer can only shoot at one place,” she says.


Once the venue is chosen, timelines, vendor selection, menus, floor plans and all the details to make the event special have to be considered. “I am very thorough with all of the information I give to my clients and help them to make decisions on food through our tastings, by meeting with vendors and treating every question as an important one,” says Rosen.

Choose a style or theme

A style or theme sets the tone for the event…from the service to the celebration. Will it be formal, traditional, modest, whimsical, colorful, folk, or camp-style? A color scheme can permeate the event beginning with the invitation and continue on straight through to the clothes, kippot, table linens and décor. This sense of cohesiveness is not hard to achieve, it simply needs to be planned. Selecting to have a theme is, of course, personal. Some prefer a style—such as formal rather than casual. For those who want a theme, the options are, literally, limitless.

Get organized

A comprehensive list is among the early “musts.” Creating one and constantly updating it, helps to attain the desired event, and, equally as important, eases stress and relieves the mind of having to remember so many details. A binder, along with a portable plastic file box can become a planner’s best friends. The box will quickly fill with menus, samples, proofs, lists, catalogues, contracts, and receipts.

Pick the date

If possible, it’s best to schedule a date approximately eight months to a year in advance for planning purposes, according to Nancy Rosen, wedding specialist and catering manager at the Sheraton-Virginia Beach Oceanfront Hotel. “That’s ideal, but it can be done in less time, too.”

First things, first

Confirm a venue and a photographer first thing, advises

personality they are looking for,” says Rosen. “In a very competitive industry, it is important to form a trusting relationship with clients who will rely on you and trust your judgment when it comes to helping them plan important events in their lives. “I pride myself on being that person and enjoy working with people to help them create the vision they had in mind. The best feeling is knowing I have accomplished what they dreamed of.”

The latest trends

Rosen notes that smaller weddings from 100 to 150 guests, with simple and clean décor with up lighting and specialty linens are in demand.

Make it personal

Meet with an advisor

Setting a meeting with an event planner or venue representative helps to make decisions and understand options. “When I begin speaking with a prospective client I try to understand what is most important to them and build a connection. I first and foremost really try to get to know my clients. We discuss budget, whether they are looking for a view for their ceremony or reception, quality of food they want served to guests and what style or

Unique and personal details that add “a special touch, whether it be personalized favors for guests or photos of family and friends at tables,” are popular today, says Rosen.


Gigantic or small, formal or casual, the best advice from party planners, parents and “those who’ve done it before” is to focus on the main event: the wedding ceremony, the Bar or Bat Mitzvah service and then…kvell! | January 30, 2017 | Mazel Tov | Jewish News | 17


In defense of the Big Fat Bar/Bat Mitzvah Party Beth Ain

(Kveller via JTA)—I took my first baby steps into bat mitzvah planning this week, and I had a lot of feelings—but mostly a twinge of nostalgia. Somehow a girl who was once a toddler with a furrowed brow, a desperate love of Little Bear, and a staying asleep problem is going to lead an entire weekend of Shabbat services and later, an entire evening of hors d’oeuvres and hora dancing. Did I mention I am—ahem—planning for a weekend that is a year and a half in the future? I know. I’ve got time. This is all insane. What I do not have, and which I very much expected to have, are mixed feelings about throwing a big party to celebrate the occasion. A quick Google search about

b’nei mitzvah planning reveals comment sections so fierce (and defensive and judgmental), I thought for a moment I had accidentally time traveled back to 2005, when Urban Baby posts and the anonymous moms whose persistent debates about nursing versus formula haunted my every thought. Me, waiting in line to check out at Duane Reade with armfuls of formula and lots to say about it, having imaginary conversations with opinionated women I hoped never to meet. A memory for another time. This is something else, though. This is not formula or breast milk, work at home or stay at home. This is about a simcha—a celebration. And you know what? We just don’t get that many of those. Lately, I’ve heard a lot of bad news. Lately, very young mothers are getting

breast cancer diagnoses. Lately, I lost an uncle far too soon. Lately, a wonderful 40-something husband and father in my town dropped dead—smack in the middle of his life. So lately, I’ve been thinking we should gather together more often, in large groups, and hoist people up on chairs just so we can make our faces hurt with smiles and feel the pinches of our aunts and our uncles. Lately I’ve also been missing childhood and the things about it that stand out for me. One of those things is my own bat mitzvah party, the video footage (on VHS) of which I refuse to watch for fear it will ruin the hazy montage that lives in my memory as a raucous mix of sock-sliding Coke and Pepsi games mixed with twinkling lights and appropriate amounts of tween and family drama. I suppose for

1980s semi-rural Pennsylvania, having a Saturday night affair was maybe a little bit extravagant, my mom’s party planning prowess put to the test by the advent of tacky ’80s things—managing the balloons-inside-balloons trend with great sense and style. Earlier, we had put glitz aside for earthiness by hand-making my invitations together at the kitchen table, coloring in little leaves with green felt-tip pens next to the words “Be a Blessing.” Such was my theme. I also remember riding my bike to the cantor’s house, his wife fumbling around in the kitchen while he and I went over and over Song of Songs and where he taught me not just the words and the tune but the meaning. To me, this man and his thick Yiddish accent actually embodied meaning and Torah and the history that

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philanthropy noun • phi·lan·thro·py • [fi-lan-thruh-pee] 1. The effort or inclination to increase the well-being of humankind, as by charitable aid or donations. 2. Love of human kind, in general. 18 | Jewish News | Mazel Tov | January 30, 2017 |


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MA ZEL TOV no balloon-inside-balloon centerpieces could ever take that away—but OK, they might just add to it. Because I also remember having all of my relatives there for the service and later for the party, all of t hem — da ncing and smiling and smelling like themselves — cologne and maybe hints of cigar on some, vodka and red lipstick on others. So many of them are gone. My g r a ndpa rent s, my great-aunts and -uncles and now, even my own maternal uncle, who played his guitar on the bimah after the Havdalah service was over, and whose presence that day and later, at my various graduations and my wedding, was important and the memories lasting. We can debate what a party is worth, what it should cost, if you should take a trip to Israel instead, have a little kiddush luncheon and call it a day. It’s all good. It’s all wonderful. There are so many ways to mark an important milestone—klezmer music and high heels is only one of them. What bothers me is when one’s values are called into question because you want the whole shebang. I’m guilty of it myself. It’s a wedding for a 13-year-old, people might say. Well, sure. The same way a wedding is for the bride and the groom, I suppose that’s true. But how can we say that the wedding isn’t also for the parents of the bride and the groom, the grandparents, the college friends and camp friends who only get to be all in one place so many times in life—and let’s be honest, as we get a little older, not all of those times are good times. Every other day in life is a series of

piecing people together—a dinner date here, a birthday brunch there, a holiday card sent to the faraway people and places when you wish you could send for them instead. The truth is, I don’t know yet what kind of party I will throw for my daughter’s bat mitzvah. I’m feeling it out. I only want it to be a moment where we live in the present and in memory at once—preserving the smell of people and the feel of them pinching your cheeks, and squeezing your hand and maybe drinking too much, opening up too much. (Perhaps your uncle will even hook up with your cousin on the other side of the family—I’m not saying that did happen, I’m just saying it could.) It’s OK to throw a party. It’s OK not to. Just let people have their simchas, however they want to have them. No comments. One last thing about my bat mitzvah, though. Most of what you need to know about my mother is that she quoted both Robert F. Kennedy and Ferris Bueller on the bimah that day, and the latter is the one that stays with me: “Life moves pretty fast—if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.” Beth Ain is a children’s book author and creator of the Starring Jules chapter book series published by Scholastic. Learn more about Beth and her books at Kveller is a thriving community of women and parents who convene online to share, celebrate and commiserate their experiences of raising kids through a Jewish lens. Visit




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Why a rabbi under the chuppah may boost Jewish engagement in intermarried homes

Leonard Saxe and Fern Chertok

WALTHAM, Mass. (JTA)— At a summit meeting held last fall at the National Museum of American Jewish History, several hundred communal professionals, rabbis, scholars, philanthropists, and young intermarried couples gathered to discuss engagement of interfaith families in Jewish life. There is widespread communal agreement that intermarriage has reshaped the landscape of American Jewish life, but a lack of consensus regarding how best to respond to this development. At the forefront of the controversy has been rabbinic officiation at intermarriage ceremonies.

For some, the debate over whether a rabbi or cantor should conduct an interfaith wedding hinges on theological questions. But for many, the debate is also about the impact that rabbinic officiation might have on the Jewish character of the homes and families these couples create. Contrary to the long-held assumption that choosing a Jewish officiant is a symbolic, not a substantive act, we now have strong evidence of the association between rabbinic officiation at intermarriages and the couples’ subsequent involvement in Jewish life. Our new report, Under the Chuppah: Rabbinic Officiation and Intermarriage, explores the trajectories of Jewish

engagement of a large group of young adult Jews married to Jewish and non-Jewish spouses. As part of a long-term follow-up study of 2001–2009 applicants to Birthright Israel, we surveyed 1,200 married young adults. We explored differences among three groups of couples: inmarried couples, intermarried couples who had a sole Jewish clergy officiant (i.e., no non-Jewish co-officiant) and intermarried couples who married under other auspices such as a justice of the peace, friend or family member. The data are unequivocal that intermarried couples whose weddings were officiated by Jewish clergy as the only officiant are more highly engaged in Jewish

life than other intermarried couples. Among the intermarried couples married by a rabbi or cantor, the overwhelming majority (85 percent) of those who now have children reported that the religion in which their children are being raised is Judaism. This is in stark contrast to the intermarried couples who did not have a sole Jewish officiant, of whom 23 percent are raising their children Jewish. Consistent with these findings, one-third of intermarried couples who had a rabbi or cantor as sole officiant are synagogue members. This number is more than four times higher than the rate for intermarried couples married by another type of officiant.

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DESIGN LIGHTING MAINTENANCE OUTDOOR LIVING ENHANCEMENTS These differences persist even when the gender, Jewish background and college Jewish experiences of the Jewish spouse are taken into account. On the two measures that have been at the heart of the controversy about Jewish officiation at intermarriages—synagogue membership and raising children Jewish—intermarried couples with sole Jewish clergy officiation are not very different from inmarried couples (that is, Jews who marry Jews). The rates of synagogue membership are 34 percent for the former vs. 41 percent for the latter, and for raising children Jewish 85 percent vs. 94 percent. Sole Jewish officiation at intermarriages does not, however, fully level the playing field between intermarried couples with a sole Jewish officiant and inmarried couples on all measures of Jewish engagement. For example, intermarried couples who had sole Jewish officiation are somewhat less likely to have a special meal on Shabbat. Our study does not provide a full explanation of the reasons for the differences between intermarried couples with a sole Jewish officiant and other intermarried couples. In part, the decision to have a Jewish officiant likely reflects a continuation of the already existing Jewish trajectory of these couples. But it may also be that the involvement of Jewish clergy has an independent impact on the lives of intermarried couples. Interactions with Jewish clergy in preparation for the wedding may serve to welcome the non-Jewish partner into Judaism, establish

the groundwork for a continuing relationship and affirm the couple’s prior decision to raise a Jewish family. Conversely, rejection by clergy, even with a referral to another rabbi, may have a negative effect. Rabbinic officiation at intermarriage is a relatively new phenomenon, and we are only now beginning to see its effects. What does seem apparent from our research is that most couples who engaged rabbis for officiation purposes appear to have Jewish commitments that carry over past the wedding ceremony. Marshall McLuhan famously cautioned, “We drive into the future using only our rearview mirror.” In contrast to demographic studies which, while valuable, tell us more about the past than the future, our socio-psychological studies of intermarried young couples shed light not only on the lived experiences of contemporary Jews, but also provide critical data for thinking about the future. We would like to think that our research, rather than viewing Jewish experience through a rearview mirror, is looking forward. We are discovering that the consequences of intermarriage that we have long expected to be devastating vis-a-vis the Jewish future may not be inevitable. 757.301.2304

Leonard Saxe is the director of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies of the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis University. Fern Chertok is a research scientist at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. | January 30, 2017 | Mazel Tov | Jewish News | 21


Have a B’nai Mitzvah on the horizon? Consider the B’nai Tzedek Teen Philanthropy Program Amy Weinstein


he Tidewater Jewish Foundation recently debuted an exciting new program just for teens—particularly for those celebrating their Bar or Bat Mitzvah. The B’nai Tzedek Teen Philanthropy Program encourages teens to become involved in tzedakah by establishing a fund for Jewish charitable giving. Opening a B’nai Tzedek fund gives teens a chance to play a part in improving the community and the world. So, how does this work? A donation of at least $250 to the Tidewater Jewish Foundation establishes a fund in the teen’s name. TJF then matches that gift with another $250 for

a starting fund balance of at least $500. Participants can learn about the needs of the Jewish community—locally, in Israel, and around the world. Each year, fund holders can grant 5% of their fund to a Jewish charity of their choice. B’nai Tzedek empowers teens to take ownership of their philanthropy—a valuable lesson that pays off. Reaction to this new opportunity has been positive throughout the community, with several Bar and Bat Mitzvah students adding this initiative to their ongoing mitzvah projects. One of the earliest participants in the B’nai Tzedek program, Jonah Abrams, explains why he wanted to be a part of the program: “I know how

important helping people in our Jewish community is to my parents. After my Bar Mitzvah, I wanted to do something, too. I really liked the idea of giving money to set up a fund at the Foundation and being able to decide each year where the money will go. This way I can make a difference for many organizations, not just one.” For information on how to participate in the B’nai Tzedek Teen Philanthropy Program, visit or contact Amy Weinstein, director of development at 757-965-6105 or aweinstein@

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country, fed up with the bureaucracy and strict religious requirements. Some seek to reform the haredi Orthodox-dominated Chief Rabbinate while creating alternatives to its monopoly on marriage and other personal status issues in Israel. But haredi Rabbi Yisroel Meir Riani thinks the Chief Rabbinate just needs better customer service. His rabbinical group, B’Noam, has made helping Israelis navigate the famously infuriating state marriage bureaucracy its top priority. Last month, the group expanded its marriage program with help from a grant. “People wonder why they have to deal with this procedure and why there is this monopoly over marriage,” Riani says. “They get very, very angry at the Chief Rabbinate. And that is exactly where we come in.” The Chief Rabbinate and its allies in government have embraced B’Noam, which means “pleasantly” in Hebrew, since its establishment in 2015. By most accounts they view it as a haredi answer to Tzohar, a rabbinical group that offers marriage registration by the generally more lenient standards of religious Zionism. A spokesman for Israel’s chief Ashkenazi rabbi, David Lau, says the Chief Rabbinate was “very, very pro-B’Noam,” which it sees as the only religious services group that recognizes its authority. “If another group opens tomorrow, we will support them,” spokesman Pinkhas Tannenbaum says. “We support every organization that is helping people get

married as long as they follow the Chief Rabbinate’s rules,” he adds, implying Tzohar does not meet that standard. Riani was among the handful of mostly young haredi community rabbis who started B’Noam. They were motivated, he says, by the growing public discontent with the Chief Rabbinate, which many see as religiously coercive and difficult to work with. Members of Israel’s secular majority must prove their Jewish bona fides to the haredi religious authorities—something that’s not always easy when one or both of their immigrant forebears weren’t Jewish or converted under non-Orthodox or obscure auspices. According to last year’s annual survey by Hiddush, a group that promotes religious pluralism, 63 percent of Israelis support separating religion and state, which would mean abolishing the Chief Rabbinate in its current form. The number rose from 56 percent in 2012. Uri Regev, the CEO of Hiddush, noted the obstacles to marriage for Jewish Israelis. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis are not able to marry in their own country, he notes, because while they are deemed Jewish enough to be citizens, they do not qualify religiously. This includes the families of many immigrants from the former Soviet Union who arrived under Israel’s Law of Return, which defines someone as Jewish in terms less strict than rabbinic law, or halachah. Millions more would prefer not to have an Orthodox wedding, but have no choice, Regev says. The recent Hiddush survey showed nearly half of Israelis wanted a non-Orthodox wedding. By stepping in to offer friendly and

MA ZEL TOV helpful guidance, B’Noam aims to bolster the Chief Rabbinate’s reputation and authority. “We fight for every Jew to get him the best services from the Chief Rabbinate, and yes, we believe that will strengthen the Rabbinate,” Riani says. “The chief rabbis know our project is very important and needed, and they recognize that our success will close the gap between the Chief Rabbinate and the Israeli public.” B’Noam now claims some 1,000 members, about half the community rabbis in Israel, including some 300 religious Zionists, who tend to view Jewish law in a more accommodating way. Tzohar says it has more than 600 religious Zionist member rabbis. While B’Noam offers a range of religious services, from circumcision to burial, its flagship program is marriage assistance. That program was launched in June and expanded last month with funding from Orthodox philanthropist Elio Moti Sonnenfeld, who renamed it B’Noam Danielle in honor of his daughter who died in a car accident. About 60 rabbis work for B’Noam Danielle, according to Riani, responding to calls to its hotline from morning to midnight during the week, and before and after Shabbat on the weekend. B’Noam also has a slick website and an office in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv. Riani says B’Noam Danielle gets about 20 calls a day and hopes to one day serve 5,000 couples a year, or about 15 percent of all marriages, which happens to be the number claimed by Tzohar’s popular marriage program. For many years, the Chief Rabbinate and haredi politicians have sought to crack down on Tzohar’s work, which includes private registry “customized for secular couples,” according to its website. Mainly they have tried to prevent its chairman, Rabbi David Stav, from registering people for marriage who do not live in Shoham, the Tel Aviv suburb where he is chief rabbi. While most interpreted this as an effort to protect the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly, haredi and some Orthodox religious Zionist politicians argued that

only local rabbis have the knowledge necessary to check that couples qualify for Jewish marriage. By contrast, Israel’s religious establishment has gone out of its way to help B’Noam succeed. Haredi stars studded the group’s inaugural event in September 2015, including speeches by Lau and his Sephardi counterpart, Yitzhak Yosef, along with Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay. Riani says he could call on those and other officials in a pinch to help him get Israelis the religious services they need, adding that it gives B’Noam an advantage over Tzohar. “We have very good and close cooperation with the chief rabbis of Israel and also with the Religious Affairs Ministry,” he says. Stav, who helped found Tzohar 1995, says such claims were “PR” and that navigating the Chief Rabbinate only required knowledge, not special connections. He also notes that Tzohar provides some services, like verifying a couple’s Jewishness, which the Rabbinate relies on. More broadly, Stav predicted B’Noam would neither hurt his group nor help the Chief Rabbinate’s reputation. “If there comes a time when there is no more need for Tzohar, we will say, ‘Wonderful. We have accomplished our mission,’” he says. “But we register more marriages than Jerusalem and Tel Aviv combined. People come to us because they want another option.” Regev says more groups like B’Noam, or for that matter Tzohar, would not solve Israel’s marriage problem. “These groups put a smiley face on the Rabbinate’s religious coercion,” he says. “But they don’t come any closer to bringing Israel out of the fold of the Rabbinate and into the fold of liberal democracy.” Every year, thousands of Jews who cannot or do not wish to marry in Israel go abroad, mostly in Cyprus, for their nuptials. Meanwhile, a growing number are opting out of marriage. Real change would only come, Regev says, when the public demanded it.


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