Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Israel Center’

More Koreans than Israelis own a Talmud

In South Korea there are close to 49 million residents, and they all learn Gemara in school ( “We tried to understand why the Jews are such geniuses and we concluded that (it is because) they study Talmud,” explained South Korea’s ambassador to Israel.

Korean Talmud

Korean Talmud (Photo courtesy of the Embassy of South Korea to Israel)

In a week of renewed terror including a bomb in Jerusalem (with 1 dead, 39 wounded, some still in critical condition) and the returning shelling to the south of Israel (with rockets now reaching the outskirts of Be’er Sheva and Ashdod), as well as a joyous announcement about the Elitzur Ramle basketball team taking the women’s EuroCup final, what’s the big deal about learning Talmud in South Korea?

“We were curious how come the Jews are so successful academically and have a much higher percentage of Nobel Prize winners in all fields… what is their secret?… one of your secrets is studying Talmud,” continued ambassador Young-Sam-Ma. There might be now more (translated) Talmud volumes in South Korean homes than in Israel! In his appearance on Israeli TV he spoke about shared values between the Jewish people and the Koreans such as the place of the family, respect for elders, education and culture. He was impressed with the fact that even in a small kibbutz there is a cultural center with on-going cultural activities.

And the ambassador found other similarities between South Korea and Israel: both were established in 1948, are surrounded by enemies, are poor in natural resources and notorious for bad driving habits: “I feel right at home driving in Israel.”

But what’s with the Talmud?

The Talmud, which comes from the Hebrew root lmd “teach, study,” is a central text of Judaism’s oral law, composed of two parts: Mishnah (c. 200 CE) and the Gemara (c. 500 CE). Even if you speak Hebrew fluently, it can be most intimidating to try and study or just begin to read one line in it, but in order to appreciate what’s most fascinating about it, you don’t need to know Hebrew – or Aramaic. You just need to look at any random page in one of its many volumes.

Scanned page of the Talmud. Showing the first page of the first tractate, Daf "Beis" (2) of Maseches (Tractate) Brachos.

The Talmud page doesn’t look like a regular book. It looks much more like a table with chairs around it. There is a central issue on that table, and all around it sit various guests with various opinions, discussing, debating and often fervently disagreeing with each other.

Any page of the Talmud is a picture of a multi-generational, global dialog. It’s not an encyclopedia filled with information. It’s a culture of hearing, listening, commenting, structuring a discussion, being creative, thinking outside the box, seeking solutions in the most unlikely places, never giving up on finding them. That has been the strength of our people.

This is what we need today too. We find that, for most part, our issues are not what to do with an egg that was laid on a yom tov (holiday) or the exact methods of the sacrificial systems. But we need dialog. We crave conversations. We thirst connection based on content, good old face to face encounters.

In the last couple of weeks, our Israel Center team has been invited to several places in order to discuss dialogs regarding Israel. We are discovering that often the “program” is not some magical event, but working through the needs, and strategizing to build sustainable systems about bringing Israel to our community through local and overseas resources. In short the program might be talking about the program…

In the next week, a group of Gvanim leaders will be visiting our community as one of many such opportunities to our community. Please stay tuned for more.

- by Michal Kohane, Israel Center Director

Watch now: Jews Got Talent violinist takes the prize

Watch his winning performance from Israel in the Gardens!

Jews Got Talent winner Be’eri Moalem of San Jose State University performed “Yerushalyim shel Zahav” (Jerusalem of Gold) at the Israel in the Gardens 2010 competition finale and took first prize, an El Al round-trip ticket to Israel. Now you can enjoy his performance in hi-def right here on our blog.

Thanks to everyone who participated, and start practicing for next year!

Interested in great Israeli events all year round? Check out for the complate list of upcoming performances, movies, gatherings and more, all in the Bay Area.

A transformative travel experience in your own neighborhood

Panim el PanimThis January’s groundbreaking Panim el Panim (meaning Face to Face in Hebrew) program will bring together the enthusiasm, dynamism and energy of Bay Area women with 10 exemplary Israeli women.  The ‘reverse-mission’ will be a consciousness-raising opportunity to learn and explore common bonds.

Attend any of the programs, in any of the regions, free of charge.

In Marin

Tuesday morning, January 26, we begin in Marin at the Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies. There will be an engaging collaborative presentation and discussion on environmental issues in Israel and the United States led by environment experts Ellie Cohen, President and CEO of Point Reyes Bird Observatory Conservation Science, and Sigal Yaniv Feller, Director of the Green Environment Fund in Israel.

Following the presentation and discussion, join us as we head to a nearby private home to enjoy lunch and a Jewish learning experience with two reputable local scholars: Rachel Brodie, Executive Director of Jewish Milestones, and Rabbi Chai Levy, Rabbi at Congregation Kol Shofar.  Be inspired by a lively discussion about what it means to “repair the world” and what place social justice has in Jewish law and traditions.

In San Francisco

Tuesday evening, January 26, there will be two San Francisco programs for you to choose from.

Wednesday evening, January 27, at 7:00 pm, join us for a kosher dinner and conversation with a few of our visitors on this “reverse mission.” Four of our Israeli guests will lead a panel discussion “Navigating the Fabric of Israeli Society – 4 Women Making an Impact.”

In the North Peninsula

Wednesday, January 27, we travel to the North Peninsula. Enjoy lunch with North Peninsula women and our Israeli guests for a conversation entitled “Navigating the Social Fabric of Israeli Society,”  where attendees can learn and share their thoughts with one another.

That evening Peninsula Temple Sholom will host “Change Makers: Face to Face with Four Israeli Women Making an Impact,”  a dessert reception that includes a panel presentation and roundtable discussions moderated by Rabbi Kim Ettlinger and greetings by Consul General of Israel Akiva Tor.

In the South Peninsula

Thursday, January 28, we make our way to the South Peninsula at the new Oshman Family JCC.  Join South Peninsula women for “Women Taking Action: Strengthening the Social Fabric of Israeli Society, Intimate Conversations with Panim el Panim guests” for a lunch and learn. The five topics will be:

  • Women’s Empowerment and Women’s Status in Israel
  • “Justice, Justice, You Shall Pursue”: Envisioning the Jewish State, Jewish Values and Social Action in Israel
  • Disadvantaged Communities  in Israel:
    Closing the Gaps and Repairing the Divides
  • Building Grassroots Efforts: Empowering Social Activists in Israel
  • Jerusalem Today:
    Safeguarding Pluralism in the Complex Reality of Jerusalem.

Stay to enjoy the JCC facilities and connect with our Israeli guests in a more informal manner. Then attend the evening program “(Jewish) Women as Change-Makers in Israel and the US,” a facilitated discussion by UpStart Bay Area educator Maya Bernstein, along with 3 Israeli women and 3 local women.

The Shabbaton retreat will be wrapping up the week’s events.

This 24 hour get-away in beautiful Half Moon Bay is a bonding experience featuring memorable Jewish women speakers in addition to the workshops, Shabbat services, and discussions over delicious catered meals.

Reserve your spot

You can sign up for any of these events at

Get the early bird rate for the retreat by January 5.

Visit us online for more information at

300 young adults celebrate Simchat Torah!

For 2 hours every month, The Cellar closes its doors to the public and hosts an exclusive event for anyone Jewish and single, ages 21-40. The night, called Second Saturday, is known as the “longest running party for the young Jewish community in San Francisco” and is all about us – the young Jewish community in the Bay Area.

On October 10, over 300 young adults gathered at The Cellar to celebrate Simchat Torah and happiness in an unforgettable production called SIMCHA! which brought a taste of Israel to the Jewish young adult community in a fresh and exciting way.

300 young adults attended the recent SIMCHA celebration

The Israeli-themed SIMCHA! party drew over 300 young adults.

The festivities included Israeli snacks, Israeli video art, a raffle for a $100 dinner at Boulevard restaurant, and two amazing DJs – Second Saturday’s great house D.J. Josh Abrams, and Israeli D.J. Moshe Bonen from Maydalleh, who came straight from New York and brilliantly spun Hebrew music.

Part of the proceeds from the evening is being donated to the LGBT youth center in Tel Aviv. The special evening was a joint effort with Tzavta, the Israel Center’s young adult division, supported by the Helen Diller Family Foundation.

For more Tzavta programming information contact Lital at or 415.512.6425.

Mishmash engages new Russian-Jewish community leaders

This past Saturday, twenty-three 20- and 30-something San Francisco Bay Area Russian Jews ascended a steep hill in the heart of Mill Valley to start off their collective involvement in the Mishmash Leadership Program, a ground-breaking effort to engage potential new leaders among young Russian Jews.

The Mishmash Leadership Program is truly one of a kind, not just in the Bay Area but in North America. The eight-month long course aims to raise communal consciousness in the younger population of the Russian Jews, most of them products of late ’70s and early ’90s immigration tides. Culturally diverse and multilingual, Mishmash participants have signed up to tackle complex questions about core values and responsibilities of being young Russian-American Jews in our community.

Russian Jewish community leaders engage through the Mishmash program

Russian Jewish community leaders engage through the Mishmash program

The visionary behind this educational project, Sasha Belinski, an emissary from The Jewish Agency for Israel, working out of the Federation’s Israel Center, built the Mishmash Leadership curriculum around the mission of strengthening the participants’ Jewish identity, their connection to Israel, and their sense of belonging to the local Jewish community. To reach these goals, the program is structured around three core components: personal exploration, Jewish community exploration, and personal leadership initiative. The last component will take shape as a communal project—ranging from a cultural event, to an outdoor adventure or Jewish holiday celebration—that each participant will conceive, plan and deliver as a mindful contribution to the quality of local Jewish life.

For more information contact Sasha at or 415.512.6285.

Our work in Israel

For more than two decades, JCF has partnered with Israelis to build a more pluralistic, just and vibrant democracy.

For the past 25 years, the Jewish Community Federation has helped Israel and its people face enormous challenges. By pioneering a partnership with Israelis, we help ensure that its citizens have access to equal opportunities, build a greater acceptance for different approaches to Judaism and adapt productively into Israeli society.

We help transform the lives of tens of thousands of Israelis by creating economic empowerment, promoting religious pluralism, teaching tolerance and connecting a new generation of youth to their homeland.

JCF provides leadership, shares its expertise and dedicates financial resources enabling Jews from the Bay Area and Israel to become more knowledgeable about, supportive of, and deeply engaged with one another. By investing community dollars directly in Israel while working closely with an Israeli advisory committee—the Amuta—we strengthen Israel by granting millions annually to projects that fund programs that reflect our shared values. In 2009-2010 more than $9.5 million has been allocated in support of Israel, demonstrating Federation’s enduring commitment to its security and survival. Funds go directly to programs that: connect Israel and the Bay Area (through Israel Center and events like Israel in the Gardens), provide equality of opportunity, provide job training, give academic access, develop leadership, close educational gaps, respond quickly and effectively to emergency needs and promoting Jewish pluralism for disadvantaged or marginalized populations.

Our work throughout Israel will help to build a more inclusive, stronger and vibrant state.

We are proud that our Bay Area Federation’s initiatives provide a chance for every child in Israel to have a brighter future, offer families integration into the social and economic mainstream and sow the seeds from which a safer and more secure Israel will bloom.

Bay Area FSU émigrés take pilot leadership trip to Israel

Emigre leadership trip to Israel

A group of Former Soviet Union émigré young adults from the Bay Area recently visited a program in Israel aimed at engaging and assimilating immigrants much like themselves.

One of the highlights of their pilot leadership trip was a meeting with community leaders and educators for Bina B’Shchuna (Bina in the Neighborhood), a SF Federation supported project. One Bina program of particular interest to the group was Gvanim Olim, designed to engage immigrants from the Former Soviet Union in Israel with Jewish heritage and to help them integrate into Israeli society.

Participant Leon Kofman was impressed that the organizers of the program “really help new immigrants get acclimated in their new country and provide a nice environment where people with limited background in Hebrew language, culture and religion can gain better understanding without feeing ashamed by their lack of knowledge.”

Alex Rayter voiced what many of the participants felt about the value of the program to Israeli pluralism. “It is important,” he said, “that this organization allows Jews who are secular to learn about and come in touch with age old Jewish traditions and thought. It allows them to extract what they see as useful and beneficial to them and allows them to grow and develop as Jews, learn about their culture and people, without forcing them into a permanent lifestyle that is not a fit for them.”

The trip, organized by the Federation’s Israel Center in collaboration with JAFI and UJA Federation of NY, provided the group of 20 FSU émigrés from San Francisco and New York with an unforgettable nine days in Israel. If you are interested in hearing more about the trip or to learn about additional programs for Russian Jewish young adults, please contact Sasha Belinski, JAFI emissary for the FSU émigré community at the Israel Center, at 415.512.6285 or

Israel Center’s community resource guide on the Gaza conflict


Although the dust in and around Gaza has begun to settle, Israel’s unilateral cessation of military action by no means is the end of the conflict and problems in the region. Just as it did before the recent escalation in violence, the Federation will continue to support programs in southern Israel that focus on important immediate and long-term needs of those communities. These programs provide therapy for children who for the last eight years have had to deal with the ongoing threat of Hamas rockets. These programs provide joint educational and work opportunities between Jewish and Arab-Bedouin Israelis. These programs provide Ethiopian-Israelis who live close to the border a safe place to send their children during the day.

Locally, in the Bay Area, the Federation will continue to rely its beneficiary agencies and programs such as the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Israel Center to provide education and resources to our community looking to learn more, get involved, and make a difference.

The Israel Center recently created a new web page full of information on local community rallies, opportunities to help Israel, resources, videos, and more. We encourage to you check it out:

On eve of Bay Area visit, Benny Morris wins book award for 1948

Historian Benny Morris has done it again. Like much of his previous research on the conflict in the Middle East, his latest book 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War, is quickly receiving recognition from the critics. On January 14, just two weeks before he arrives in the Bay Area for a series of lectures, the 2008 National Jewish Book Awards announced that Professor Morris is the winner of the Gerrard and Ella Berman Memorial Award in History for 1948.

Here’s what the critics have to say:
“What is so striking about Morris’s work as a historian is that it does not flatter anyone’s prejudices, least of all his own. […] No reader can emerge without a feeling of unease—which is to say, a sense of the moral and historical intricacy of the conflict.”
- The New Yorker

“Morris himself is a controversial figure in the conflict over the conflict. […] Despite his personal views, Morris strives to give a balanced view of the conflict.”
- The Washington Post

Professor Morris will lecture in three locations throughout the Bay Area during his visit.  Here’s where you can find him:
Book sales and signings will follow each session.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 – 7:30 pm
Congregation Beth Am
26790 Arastradero Rd. – Los Altos Hills – map
(650) 493-4661

Wednesday, January 28, 2009 - 7:30 pm
UC Berkeley
Morrison Library (at the North Entrance to the Doe Library)
438 Doe Library, Berkeley – map
(510) 643-3353

Thursday, January 29, 2009 - 8:00 pm
Jewish Community Center of San Francisco
3200 California Street, San Francisco – map
JCCSF Members: $10 | Public: $12 | Students: $10
Buy tickets online

Visit for a full description of the lecture events and other Israeli culture coming to the Bay Area.

Happy Hour with HaDag Nahash

The Israel Center Young Adult division – Tzavta organized a special event for their members – a happy hour – pre-Shabbat Services – meeting with the Hadag Nahash band members. 30 local Yong Adults and 7 band members schmoozed, noshed Medireranian food and talked music and Israeli culture; then rushed to Services at Temple Emanu El.


The next evening, Hadag Nahash performed at the Ruby Sky, more than 400 people came.

Hadag Nahash is Israel’s leading hip hop band and has been topping the Israeli music charts since 2000. The band plays a unique style of music that blends Hip Hop, Funk, Jazz, Electronic and Rock with a touch of Middle Eastern flavor. This great musical fusion has garnered Hadag Nahash a large fan-base in Israel and abroad. Tracks from their recent album were also showcased on the big screen in Adam Sandler’s most recent movie, ‘Don’t Mess With The Zohan’.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 46 other followers