Monday, June 5th 2023   |

First Person

How my JTA reporting about an anti-Semitic cartoon changed my views of Belgium — for the worse


AMSTERDAM (JTA) — I used to think I had a pretty good understanding of what it means to be Jewish in Belgium.

A longtime observer of that polarized binational country, whose dysfunctions and successes often reflect those of the European Union headquartered in its capital, Brussels, I have family ties there and am fluent in the local languages.

But I had to readjust my understanding of Belgian Jewry’s...

Another year, another flood for Houston’s Jews. What now?


( — For the second straight year, this is a story that I wish I didn’t need to write. But for the second straight year, I’m left with no choice but to help my local Jewish community heal through the best way that I know how to do so—writing.

minent community leader, being rescued on a canoe. The image could subsequently be seen on Jewish news websites...

Why I hired a Belgian butcher to circumcise my son


AMSTERDAM (JTA) — They warn you that parenting means doing a bunch of stuff you never imagined yourself doing.

I had always assumed this applied to saying to children things like, “You watch your tone of voice, young lady” or, “Let’s not eat things we find in our underwear.”

But in my case, the moment came before my son was even born, when I found myself begging...

First Person: JNS editor reflects on Houston floods


( — As Jewish media far and wide started picking up on the story of this week’s devastating flood in Houston, which hit Jewish-heavy neighborhoods particularly hard, has been (in my own estimation) conspicuously late to join the reporting. That is by design. I am both our editor and a resident of Houston, and in the days after the May 25-26 storm, the flood was a...

First Person: Boy Scout hike has Jewish touch


For the eleventh time in as many years, I was privileged to lead a contingent of 160 Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, adult leaders on what has become a tradition for many families, the Ten Commandments Hike.

The concept of the Ten Commandments Hike is simple. Host a G-d-centric, faith-based trek between three and six miles at ten different houses of worship or assembly halls with...

FIRST PERSON: Praying for three boys whose plight hits close to home


KARNEI SHOMRON, West Bank (JTA) — Four days into the search for three kidnapped Israeli teens, I attended a group prayer session dedicated to their safe return.

Dozens of women gathered together to read responsively psalms seeking God’s mercy and intervention before the start of our morning Jewish studies classes. Our voices broke as we prayed for the boys’ safe return, though most of us do not...

FIRST PERSON: My history with the family of Lee Harvey Oswald’s Jewish killer


NEW YORK (JTA) — We were sharing a pastrami sandwich and pickles at the Los Angeles landmark Canter’s Deli. I was 24. She was nearly 50 years older, with a piercing voice as loud as her flaming red wig.

Her name was Eva Rubenstein Grant, and she was a little-known nightclub manager the morning of Nov. 24, 1963, when her brother left the apartment they shared in...

Reporter’s Notebook: One in 800,000 at Rav Ovadia’s funeral


JERUSALEM (JTA) — I didn’t need to ask directions. Stepping out of the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, I saw them, men in hats and coats walking together slowly, a steady stream moving  east along one of Jerusalem’s central thoroughfares to the funeral of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. At 5 p.m., an hour before the funeral, the streets were already closed to cars, the capital’s rush-hour rigmarole giving way...

FIRST PERSON: From church choir to Jerusalem, a couple’s interfaith journey


EFRAT, West Bank (JTA) — One Christmas eve, as Jews across the country headed for Chinese restaurants, I found myself in a church choir.

The church, on the outskirts of Boston and straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting, had hired me to sing for their service. As the clock struck 11, I entered the sanctuary with the choir, our robes and music illuminated only by the candles...

FIRST PERSON/YOM HASHOAH: In Germany some closure for the son of survivors


NEW YORK (JTA) — As a child of Holocaust survivors, I have always managed to avoid visiting Germany. Part of my parents’ legacy was never to visit the country, with its dark past — not even to own any products in our home that were made in Germany.

Despite my reluctance to visit Germany, an opportunity arose that I could not forgo. A professional group to which...