Home December 2012 Turned on to Judaism

Turned on to Judaism

It’s about a scholarly presentation with an exquisite dinner at a beautiful house.  It’s about holding these presentations – which range from thoughtful and penetrating to light and lively – on two consecutive Saturday nights, so people can go to more than one.  It’s about raising money for a great cause.
But in the final analysis, it’s about the kids – specifically, Jewish kids staying Jewish because of programs from the Bureau of Jewish Education that help them to form and retain their Jewish identity.  It’s a powerful antidote for post-Bar/Bat Mitzvah dropout.
According to David Lewis, CEO of the Bureau, “Every synagogue has the ‘disease’ of 66-percent dropout rate of teens after their Bar or Bat Mitzvah.  Our retention rate is over 90 percent.  We keep kids from the bimah to Hillel.”
While BJE’s programs have been “retaining, but not recruiting,” this year’s plan has the agency working with local synagogues to keep the teens involved.  “We’re working together, playing with the whole team and combining homes,” Lewis said.  “The result is that the kids are turned on to Judaism.”
Capably coordinated by Aviva Forster, Dinner with a Scholar has ten choices of presentations, five on January 26 and five on February 2.  All proceeds from Dinner with a Scholar benefit the Bureau’s Jewish youth education programs.

Programs on January 26:
“Small Country/Big Heart”
hosted by Michele and Arnold Shugarman in Santa Ana
Dr. Ruth Shamir Popkin, immigration attorney and senior partner in the law offices of Popkin, Shamir & Golan in Los Angeles, discusses one of Israel’s most pressing issues – the 60,000 non-Jewish, undocumented immigrants who have settled there.  Facing financial burdens of health, education, housing and socialization, as well as foreign policy pressures, Israel must make the difficult legal and moral decisions regarding who should stay and who must go.

“The Battle at the Birth of
Spain’s Golden Age” with
kosher dinner hosted by
Reega and Joel Neutel in Irvine
The much-touted Golden Age of Jewish Spain is filled with fascinating stories of adventure, intrigue and intellectual rivalry.  It was more than peace, prosperity and good relations with Muslim rulers that ignited the Jewish imagination in tenth-century Spain.  Dr. Joshua Holo, dean of the Los Angeles Campus, and associate professor of Jewish history, at Hebrew Union College and de-facto Dean of Judaic Studies at USC, reveals internal debates and changing geopolitics that played themselves out among powerful personalities who changed the course of Jewish history forever.

“Jewish Revival in Poland”
hosted by Marilyn and
Jack Stemper in Tustin
Poland for most Jews conjures up black-and-white images of backwardness and destruction.  Hear about a very different Poland from Gosia Szymanska Weiss, a person who grew up there, discovered her Jewish roots in her teens and participated in the revival of Jewish life in Poland.  Learn how Poland and its Jewish community have been engaged in untangling the difficult nuances of Polish-Jewish relationships.

“Start-Up Nation” hosted by
Yael and Eyal Aronoff in Irvine
For obvious reasons, Israel is committed to becoming completely free of her reliance on foreign petroleum.  Israel’s outstanding scientists, innovators, universities and start-up companies have achieved a breathtaking dimension of success and creativity in a wide array of technological advancements.  Dr. Daryl Temkin, founder and director of the Israel Institute for the Advancement for Alternative Energy Innovation, explains why Israel is leading the world in the crucial energy revolution.

“A Culinary History of Jews
in America” hosted by Cindy
and Michael Furst in Irvine
Seth Front, comedy writer and entrepreneur, uses humor to emotionally connect with his audience.  Conceived as a tongue-in-cheek alternative to the Chinese Zodiac signs in Chinese restaurants, this hilarious multimedia parody will have you laughing out loud.  Seth’s culinary history of Jews in America includes the twelve astrological signs of delicatessen food.  Find out what your Jewish zodiac sign says about you.

Programs on February 2:
“Memory’s Hostages:  The Second and Third Generations of Holocaust Survivors” hosted by Joanne and Elliott Mercer in Newport Beach
Compelling research continues to evolve surrounding the relationships within families of Holocaust survivors.  Explore this field, so important to the historical understanding and the future of our Jewish community.  The Binding, Brenda Barrie’s novel about the lives of adult children of Holocaust survivors, was based on her extensive psychological and medical research in the field as well as her experience working with generations of Holocaust survivors and their families.

“Sigmund Freud and Kabbalah” hosted by Susan and Gene Spiritus in Newport Coast
Seven centuries ago the Zohar, was written.  It is the foundation of Jewish mysticism, better known as Kabbalah.  Six centuries later Freud developed his theories of psychoanalysis.  Surprising commonalities exist in the literature of the two, such as discussions on human sexuality, the super-ego and life and death drives.  Daniel Y. Harris, the charismatic executive director of Orange County Hillel, explores the unlikely role played by Kabbalah in the development of psychoanalysis.

“Music of Jewish-American Icons” hosted by Janice and Larry Newfield in Newport Coast
It is a well-known fact that Jewish lyricists and composers dominated the creative world of Broadway musicals and the Hollywood film industry.  In this original presentation, Bonita Nahoum Jaros, mezzo-soprano, and Inessa Khurgel Rozenovich, pianist, explore the lives and music of beloved Jewish-American icons Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin and Oscar Hammerstein II.

“The Rabbi Asks” with kosher dinner hosted by Nevona and
Itzhak Shabtai in Newport Beach
Must a Jew believe everything?  Should a Jew believe something?  Can a Jew believe nothing?  These are some of the questions explored by Rabbi Mark S. Miller, Rabbi Emeritus and Senior Scholar of Temple Bat Yahm, selected annually by the Daily Pilot as one of the most influential leaders in Orange County.  He has served as President of the Orange County Board of Rabbis and delivered the invocation at the National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.

“Media:  Mindful and Mindless” hosted by Barbara and
Bill Pisetsky in Corona del Mar
Israel currently confronts the most precarious juncture of its existence.  It faces political unrest spreading throughout the Arab world, the growing near-nuclear arsenal of Iran and loosening alliances with Europe and the U.S.  Talia Shulman Gold, Western Regional Director for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), a non-profit, non-partisan organization that monitors the media for inaccuracies, explores some of those dangers and explains why refuting misrepresentations about Israel is more critical now than ever.
For more information, please contact Heather Zemmol at heather@bjeoc.org or (949) 435-3450.

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