Special-Needs Kids Ride the Waves With a Pro

Surfing legend Izzy Paskowitz helps bring calm to children with autism

A Surfer's Healing camp in Montauk, N.Y., in 2013. (Photo courtesy of Surfer's Healing)

Kristin Kucia-Stauder remembers the moment she noticed that her son was so far out in the ocean that she couldn’t see him. “He was just a dot on the horizon,” she said. As she watched from the distant shore, she knew that she should probably feel nervous; beginning a new activity of any kind could be difficult for her son, and this particular activity was a bit on the extreme side. But instead, she was struck by an odd sense of calm.

Kristin and her son, Thaddeus, were participating in an event hosted by Surfers Healing, a nonprofit organization that takes autistic children out surfing. Throughout the summer, families gather on beaches across the U.S. and in Mexico for free, daylong surf camps. At each event, experienced surfers take hundreds of children with autism out into the ocean for the first time. The first Surfers Healing camp in 1998 took 30 children out; now, the organization works with about 4,500 children a year.

Surfers Healing is the brainchild of professional surfer Israel “Izzy” Paskowitz. (more…)

The Best Writing Advice Judy Blume Ever Got

It was from her daughter, and it’s delightfully simple

Judy Blume at the 15th Annual Glamour 'Women of the Year' Awards on November 8, 2004 in New York City. (Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

Trailblazing author Judy Blume, who wrote young adult books before that was even a category, is known for classics like Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, Summer Sisters, Deenie, and Starring Sally J. Friedman as Herself. But the beloved writer is back with a new novel for adults, which will be published in the summer of 2015.

Blume is working on revisions this summer, and according to her endearingly honest tweets, it’s been a stressful process. (more…)

From Sports Camp to Talmud Sleepaway Camp

Kutsher’s Sports Academy’s former Catskills location now Hasidic boys’ camp


From intense sports to equally—if not more—intense Torah study, one summer camp site in Monticello, N.Y., has just about seen it all.

According to the New York Times, Rav Tov, aTalmud-centric summer camp for Hasidic boys, is operated on the property that formerly housed the well-known Kutcher’s Sports Academy, which relocated to Barrington, Mass, in 2006. Sports courts and fields are everywhere, but they’re no longer used by campers, who instead focus on learning. (more…)

Ukrainian Jews Fleeing Fighting Head for Israel

More than 150 Jews housed in temporary shelters while waiting to emigrate

A picture shows a house destroyed by combat between the Ukrainian armed forces and pro-Russian militants, in the village of Senyonovka, near the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, on August 7, 2014. (ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian Jews fleeing war-torn towns like Donetsk, where fighting between government troops and pro-Russian separatists continues, are hoping that Israeli will be their final destination. JTA reports that more than 150 Ukrainian Jews are expected to arrive in Israel next month.

Those waiting to emigrate to Israel are currently being housed in temporary shelters at a Chabad summer camp in the western Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr while paperwork is being secured for their move to Israel. (more…)

Anger After Director Distances Israeli-Funded Film From Israel

Ministry of Culture wants its $400,000 back on Venice Film Festival entry

Still image from Suha Arraf's film, Villa Touma. (Venice International Film Critics' Week)

The Israeli government and members of the country’s film industry are furious with Israeli-Arab film director Suha Arraf, who categorized her film Villa Touma as Palestinian at this month’s Venice International Film Festival, without mentioning Israel, even though she received funding for it from the Israeli government.
Israel’s Ministry of Culture is now demanding that their subsidy of the film—nearly $400,000—be returned, since their funds are specifically intended to support Israeli culture. (more…)

Larry David Writes Broadway Play About Shiva

Don’t think about mourning, this is something to celebrate!

Larry David on July 25, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

After weeks of grim tidings, one small piece of happy news has hit the wires, fluttering into our hearts like Hope emerging from the depths of Pandora’s Box. Larry David has written a play and it’s coming to Broadway. Scott Rudin will produce.

The play is called Fish in the Dark, and it’s about sitting shiva.

Shiva. Just soak it in. Imagine how much yelling there is going to be. And crazy old people. And crazy old people yelling at each other about nothing. And also musings on mortality and hilarious—not tragic—death. (more…)

The Gender Politics of the Gaza Conflict

Elana Sztokman on the status of Israeli women during the war

Relatives and friends of slain 36-year-old Israeli reservist Sergeant First Class (res.) Yair Ashkenazi, who was killed in the northern Gaza Strip, mourn during his funeral on July 25, 2014 in the southern Israeli city of Rehovot. ( GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)

Over at the Atlantic, Tablet contributor and Jewish feminist activist Elana Sztokman discusses how gender dynamics have played out during the recent Gaza conflict in an essay pointedly titled, “Gaza: It’s a Man’s War.” Sztokman points out, rightfully, that the images we’ve seen during the month-long conflict have largely featured men.

“When women did appear,” Sztokman writes, “they were often seen eulogizing, mourning, or struggling to reconcile with their reality.”

The Israel-based activist and author focuses on the status of women on the Israeli side of the conflict, noting the startling absence of women on seemingly all fronts: in combat roles, leadership roles, and in the ongoing ceasefire negotiations. (more…)

Jerry Seinfeld Can’t Find a Good Bagel in NYC

The comedian does have a solid Long Island recommendation, though


Jerry Seinfeld has a problem. Talking to Grub Street about Single Shots (get it), the new compilation of outtakes from his confusingly popular web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, the New York-based comedian admits he hasn’t found a replacement bagel shop since H&H bagels shuttered its Upper West Side location. In fact, he’s barely found a bagel he likes as much as theirs in New York City. (more…)

Hamas Threatens Renewed Rocket Attacks

If their demands arent met by the time the 72-hour ceasefire ends Friday

A general view shows the destruction in part of Gaza City's al-Tufah neighbourhood as the fragile ceasefire in the Gaza Strip entered a second day on August 6, 2014. (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

As the end of the 72-hour ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip looms closer, mediators in Cairo scramble to negotiate a continued agreement between the two sides. The ceasefire, the eighth and most successful of the month-long conflict, expires tomorrow morning at 8 a.m.

Israel has agreed to an extension of the three-day detente, while Hamas has threatened to renew rocket attacks from Gaza if its demands aren’t met by tomorrow morning, the AP reports. The militant group’s main condition is that the blockade on Gaza be lifted. (more…)

Arrests in Sydney Anti-Semitic Bus Incident

Five drunk teens boarded school bus yelling ‘Heil Hitler’ at Jewish students

(ValeStock /

Five teens were arrested in Sydney, Australia, for boarding a bus carrying students from three Jewish private schools and yelling “Heil Hitler” and “Kill the Jews” before reportedly threatening to cut the children’s throats. JTA reports that all of the suspects in Tuesday’s incident were minors, who were drunk at the time of the incident, and not drunk men, as we reported yesterday.

The teens were able to board the bus, which was picking up students from from Mount Sinai, Moriah College Primary School, and the Emanuel School in Bondi, a suburb of Sydney, because they were also wearing school uniforms. (more…)

How Not To Write a Zionist Op-Ed

Ex-Israeli ambassador Michael Oren still sounds like PR man in WSJ essay

Israeli Merkava tanks drive near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip as they return on August 5, 2014, after Israel announced that all of its troops had withdrawn from the Gaza Strip. (THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)

Among my most pro-Israel friends on Facebook, the most-shared piece of the past week has surely been “In Defense of Zionism,” the Wall Street Journal essay by Michael B. Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States and now a professor at IDC Herzliya. It’s a stirring piece, filled with useful (and true) information about the remarkable success of a fringe 19th-century ideology in giving birth to the successful, growing, economically powerful nation-state that is also a homeland for the Jews.

But it’s clearly a work of propaganda, the kind of thing written by an ambassador (Oren’s former job) not a professor (his current one). The author of a highly regarded history of the 1967 war, Oren has intellectual chops. But in this piece of wartime agitprop, he has chosen not to use them. Yes, he’s writing in a limited space, and for a popular audience. But that’s no excuse. And the failures of his Wall Street Journal essay are object lessons of the pitfalls of a world where so many move between academic and government work, or government work and lobbying, or scholarship and opinion writing. Oren is a perfectly competent polemicist, but it’s a shame that he’s so willing to betray the obligations of a scholar. (more…)

Prague Elects New Chief Rabbi

Czech capital’s Jewish community chooses a Prague native for the post

Prague's Jerusalem Synagogue. (Bocman1973 /

The Czech capital has elected a new chief rabbi. JTA reports that Rabbi David Peter, 38, was voted into the position by the Prague Jewish community. The Prague native currently serves as the rabbi of the city’s Jerusalem Synagogue. He previously lived in Jerusalem, where he was ordained at the Straus-Amiel seminary, and returned to Prague in 2011.

Fun fact about Peter: he’s a trained dancer. (more…)

Voices From Gaza: ‘We Are Suffering’

Director of Gaza City women’s center says the area needs humanitarian aid


Amal Abu Aisha is the director of Women’s Affairs Center in Gaza City, where she works to raise awareness among Palestinian women about their social, economic, and political rights. I spoke to her in the quiet of the 72-hour cease fire, a respite from the 29 days of Israeli bombardment. Gaza City is now in its seventh day without electricity after an Israeli missile bombed the power plant. Though the Israeli Electric Corporation has begun work fixing cables that bring power from Israel into Gaza, power has still not been restored to Gaza City and other areas supplied by the plant, which means that water—which must be electronically processed—is still scarce.

People in Gaza City are angry, and sad. “We are suffering, we are suffering, we are suffering,” Abu Aisha said. “If you see your city destroyed, if you see your friends, homeless, wandering the streets. No water, no electricity, no medicine.” (more…)

BuzzFeed Gets a Big Story Wrong

But it’s other journalists who turned it into a viral conspiracy theory

Israelis hold Israeli flags along the road of the funeral procession of Gilad Shaer, 16, one of three Israeli teens kidnapped on June 16, 2014. ( Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

Yesterday, Israeli security officials claimed the funding and instructions for the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in June came from two top leaders of Hamas in Gaza: Fathi Hammad, the former Hamas interior minister, who lives in Gaza, and Saleh al-Arouri, a close associate of Khaled Mashaal, who masterminds terror operations from a safe haven in Turkey. Ordinarily, the news that a terrorist organization funds terrorism wouldn’t qualify as much of a news item. But as those paying attention to the coverage of the recent conflict in Gaza know, the question of who was behind the kidnapping has bloomed into a persistent conspiracy theory. Israel, wailed its critics, had known all along that the kidnappers were members of a breakaway sect of the terror organization, yet had blamed Hamas anyway in order to justify its bloody pre-planned assault on Gaza.

This theory, such as it was, was supported largely by the reporting of Buzzfeed’s Sheera Frenkel. “If there was an order, from any of the senior Hamas leadership in Gaza or abroad, this would be an easier case to investigate,” Frenkel quotes an anonymous Israeli intelligence officer “intimately involved in investigating the case” as saying. “We would have that intelligence data. But there is no data, so we have come to conclude that these men were acting on their own.” (more…)

NYC Jeweler’s Tribute to Slain IDF Soldiers

Boutique’s front window lists Israeli soldiers killed in recent Gaza operation

Storefront of Eli Halili, a jewelry store in Manhattan, as it appeared on Sunday. (Stephanie Butnick)

Eli Halili is a New York jewelry designer hoping to extend his impact beyond sparkling accessories. Realizing that the location of his Mott Street boutique in New York City’s trendy NoLiTa neighborhood provided the opportunity to reach a wide audience of passersby, the Israeli designer decided last week to bring attention to the war in Gaza by painting the shop’s front window with a list of the names of the Israeli soldiers killed in the conflict. The names, which by now cover the bulk of the storefront, are accompanied by the message, “We pray for peace in the Middle East!”

Halili, who was born and raised in Israel and moved to the U.S. after completing his IDF service, hopes the display, which he created with co-designer Gary Samuelian, offers the respect the fallen soldiers deserve. “Each and every single one of them represents a name, a person, a human being that I know personally did not want to go into war and did not want to get killed or kill others,” he said of the list.

“I felt that people should actually take action this time and do something, because people are being killed for no reason on both sides,” he said. (more…)

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