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New App Helps You Find a Minyan on the Go

Need to daven? Minyan Now tells you where

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Image of Minyan Now. (RustyBrick)

Ever tried to find a minyan in an airport or a sports arena? For Barry Schwartz, who co-founded the web development company Rusty Brick with his brother Ronnie, the irksome problem he frequently encountered had a simple solution: an app that would help observant Jews locate enough other people to make a minyan, the quorum of ten Jewish male adults required for prayer.

RustyBrick specializes in coming up with hi-tech fixes for the observant Jew’s modern-day needs. As Schwartz told Tablet in 2011, “Anything we find useful that we want in our phone, we’ll develop.”

The company is behind smartphone apps like the iPhone Siddur and the Shabbat app, which shares candle-lighting times with users. as well as the Jewish Google Glass app, JewGlass. (more…)

Cartoon Distorts Israeli Military Operation

U.K. newspaper The Independent publishes incendiary image

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Every once in a while, a British cartoonist tries to criticize Israel without drawing on nasty Jewish stereotypes—and fails miserably. Last year saw the sickening Sunday Times cartoon of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu depicted as the villain of some medieval blood libel, and the Economist cartoon that hinted at Jewish control of the United States Congress.

This morning, The Independent published an even more repugnant cartoon. Its artist, Dave Brown, will be familiar to Jewish audiences: at the height of the Second Intifada, he drew the infamous cartoon of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon devouring Palestinian babies. His latest creation accuses Israel of committing genocide against Gaza in the name of a mis-caricatured Biblical injunction. (more…)

Chicago Restaurant Offers Taste of Middle East

Jordan-born chef opens Masada, a nod to the desert fortress and his mom

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Exterior of Masada restaurant in Chicago.(Photo by the author)

For Shadi Ramli, owner of the newly opened Masada restaurant in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, the question “Where are you from?” elicits a complicated response.

“I was born in Jordan,” says the 37-year-old restaurateur, “but I could be from anywhere. I could be Greek, Jewish, Italian—I’m probably a little bit of everything.”

Ramli’s new restaurant, which opened at the end of June after being in the works for 10 years, is a reflection of his eclectic background. The name, for example, comes as much from the ancient Israeli fortress as it does from his mother, also named Masada, who brought him and his brother to Chicago from Jordan in 1984, when he was seven years old. (more…)

In Tel Aviv, Sirens, Soccer, and an Uneasy Night

A family takes cover in the stairwell as rockets from Gaza are intercepted

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An Israeli soldier walks close to an Iron Dome battery on July 9, 2014, placed close to the city of Tel Aviv. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Even though this isn’t the first time it’s happened, rockets flying over Tel Aviv isn’t something we’re exactly used to—or so we tell ourselves. The sound of the first siren brings with it a feeling of surprise, confusion, and slight embarrassment. This is, after all, the time when neighbors you hardly say hello to in the elevator suddenly see you in your pajamas.

The sound of the first siren in Tel Aviv, which went off Tuesday evening, was especially confusing. Truthfully, it sounded more like howling wind than an actual siren. After a few moments of “Is it?/Isn’t it?”we decided that it probably is, meaning we’d better round everyone up and at least go to the stairwell (we live on the top floor of our building, to expect to actually get to the bomb shelter on time is pretty naïve), which is supposed to be the safest place in an apartment building.

After a few moments of hesitation and confusion, and a lot of running back and forth—should we turn off the A/C? Does the kid need his sandals? Where is his pacifier? Where are my keys?—we’re finally out the door. (more…)

Rockets Land South of Haifa; Sirens in Tel Aviv

While Palestinian death toll from Israeli air strikes on Gaza reaches 42

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Israeli soldiers prepare their Tanks in a deployment area on July 9, 2014 on Israel's border with the Gaza Strip.(Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

Rockets launched from Gaza landed in the Hof Hacarmel Regional Council, just south of Haifa, in the northernmost attack on Israel yet, the Times of Israel reports. Warning sirens sounded in Tel Aviv, Beersheba, and Ashkelon, as the Iron Dome missile intercepted rockets in the area.

As Operation Protective Edge enters its second day, more than 180 rockets have been fired from Gaza—48 on Wednesday alone, with the Iron Dome missile defense system reporting a 90 percent success rate—and Israeli air strikes have pummeled Gaza, killing at least 42 Palestinians, Haaretz reports.

The mounting attacks are likely only going to get worse. (more…)

Video: Israelis Flee Wedding Under Rocket Fire

More than 100 rockets fired into Israel’s civilian population centers today

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An Iron Dome missile flies to intercept a rocket on July 8, 2014, in Ashdod, Israel. (Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)

Today, 117 rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza, mostly by Hamas, the internationally designated terrorist group that controls the territory. As the missiles landed across the Jewish state, hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians were forced to run for shelter. One of most arresting such scenes to emerge from the chaos was footage from an upended wedding in Holon, south of Tel Aviv.

In a video of the incident posted to Facebook, the bride and groom are shown standing under the marriage canopy, when warning sirens go off. Guests freeze momentarily, and then pick up their children and run, as explosions are heard and rockets and Iron Dome interceptors fly overhead. (more…)

The Theology of ‘Jurassic Park’

Viewing Spielberg’s 1993 sci-fi classic through the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s lens

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Image from 1993's Jurassic Park. (IMDb)

There’s no shortage of marvels in Spielberg’s Jurassic Park—“You want great dinosaurs, you got great dinosaurs,” wrote Roger Ebert—but perhaps the greatest wonder of all is that the director’s sci-fi fantasy appeared, in 1993, just months before the release of Schindler’s List. Spielberg oversaw the final editing of one while in Poland shooting the other—“a bipolar experience,” he later called it.

Generally speaking, Jews and dinosaurs have little in common. Not only did the two never roam the earth together, but the overwhelming majority of rabbinic literature was composed in ignorance of the notion that dinosaurs ever existed. It’s only in the post-Darwinian age that a reckoning has begun, and it hasn’t always been a happy one.

For those who believe the Earth to be some 5,700 years old, fossils and dinosaur bones have prompted serious theological questions—and some quite ingenious answers. (more…)

Iron Dome Intercepts Rocket Over Tel Aviv

Meanwhile, IDF soldiers kill Hamas gunmen trying to infiltrate army base

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The Iron Dome air-defense system fires to intercept a rocket over the city of Ashdod on July 8, 2014, in Ashdod, Israel. (Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)

Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system has intercepted a rocket fired from Gaza toward Tel Aviv, the Times of Israel reports. This latest rocket attack was in response to Israel’s Operation Protective Edge military campaign, which has launched more than 146 air strikes since it began overnight. Still, this rocket’s proximity to the well-populated coastal city of Tel Aviv (as opposed to the more than 200 that preceded it recent days, which either fell in open areas or were intercepted) is particularly troubling, as it signals both an escalation in the attacks coming from Gaza as well as an increasing accuracy of the rockets being fired.

The militant group Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the rocket attack.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces shot and killed four armed Hamas militants attempting to infiltrate the Zikim army base in the northern Negev Desert by sea. An Israeli soldier was lightly injured in the attack, and the roads from Zikim to Ashkelon have been closed off. (more…)

Kosher Cupcake Chain Closing its Doors

Crumbs Bake Shop empire crumbles, company shutters all 65 locations

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A Crumbs Bake Shop sits empty after it was announced Crumbs is closing all its stores on July 8, 2014 in New York City. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Crumbs Bake Shop, a popular New York-based cupcake chain which opened in 2003, is shuttering its 65 stores across 12 states, the Associated Press reports. The company had been struggling financially in recent years, reporting a loss of $3.8 million in the early months of 2014.

“Regrettably Crumbs has been forced to cease operations and is immediately attending to the dislocation of its employees while it evaluates its limited remaining options,” the company said in an emailed statement. That will include filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation.”

The kosher cupcake purveyor (this is where I’d link to their website, which explains that all their products are certified kosher, but it appears to have been taken offline) was popular not just among kosher-keeping dessert enthusiasts—according to the New York Daily News, the company had once been touted as the largest global gourmet cupcake business. (more…)

Israel Initiates Military Offensive Against Hamas

‘Operation Protective Edge’ a response to barrage of rocket fire from Gaza

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Israeli soldiers stand on Merkava tanks in an army deployment area near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip on July 8, 2014. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Israel has launched a military offensive against Hamas in Gaza, striking more than 50 sites overnight in response to rocket fire from militants in Gaza, including nearly 100 projectiles fired at Israel on Monday alone. At least 11 Palestinians were reportedly killed in the overnight attacks.

‘Operation Protective Edge’—which the Israeli military said is an attempt to “retrieve stability to the residents of southern Israel, eliminate Hamas’ capabilities and destroy terror infrastructure operating against the State of Israel and its civilians”—is the latest and most concrete development in a series of escalating tensions following the murders of three Israeli teens and subsequent murder of a Palestinian teen. (more…)

Beggars Dressing as Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn

‘Savvy’ panhandlers reportedly don Hasidic garb to seek tzedakah

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(Shutterstock)

Would you give money to a beggar if you knew that he, too, was Jewish? That’s the logic that “savvy” panhandlers in South Brooklyn are banking on, according to the New York Post.

In the strangest trend story of the summer, the Post reports that beggars in neighborhoods with large Orthodox Jewish populations have taken to wearing long skirts and head coverings to appear Jewish themselves, often asking for money before Shabbat and Jewish holidays. (more…)

Soccer Fanaticism Leads to Violence Everywhere

Israel is no different than any other sports-obsessed country

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(Shutterstock)

Earlier today, I wrote an article suggesting that the brutal murder of 16-year-old Muhammed Abu Khdeir by young Jews in Jerusalem had little to do with the cycle of violence that is the narrative of choice of journalists and intellectuals covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a lot to do with the fact that the suspects are active members of a group of fanatical fans of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club, known for its frequent violent outbursts. Many readers took issue with the premise of the article; because I believe the point at stake could not be more crucial, let me sharpen it further.

First of all, it seems very likely that Abu-Khudair’s murderers were indeed active members of La Familia, the radical Beitar fan group. This was reported on Israeli and American media outlets, attributed to Israeli police officials familiar with the investigation. (more…)

Remembering Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

An unconventional funeral for the founder of the Jewish Renewal movement

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The body of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi is carried up a hill during a funeral service at Green Mountain Cemetery in Boulder on Friday July 4, 2014. (The Boulder Daily Camera)

His leaving was as unconventional as his teaching and his life.

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi wanted no casket, no plain pine box. For his funeral, which was held on the fourth of July, he wanted to be clothed in his white kittel, enfolded in his father’s tallis, sprinkled with ashes brought from Auschwitz, then shrouded in white linen and lowered directly into the earth near his home in Boulder, Colo.

He wanted the ashes buried with him in honor of the millions who’d died without receiving “a holy burial.”

It felt wrenching to shovel dirt onto his body. It also felt a privilege. (more…)

Israel’s Rabbis Condemn Murder of Arab Teen

‘This is not the way of the Torah,’ says Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau

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David Lau, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

In the wake of the brutal murder of Arab teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir in Jerusalem, allegedly committed by Jewish extremists, Israeli politicians, pundits and even former terror victims have expressed their shock and outrage at the killing. And so have some of the Jewish state’s most prominent rabbis. At a meeting of the Chief Rabbinate Council yesterday, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau condemned the crime, saying bluntly, “This is not the way of the Torah.” Lau’s counterpart, Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, planned a personal visit to the Khdeir family, where he said he wished “to fiercely denounce the outrageous murder that was perpetrated against the innocent young man.” The visit was cancelled due to security concerns over his safety, and so Yosef released a public statement calling his fellow clergy to account: “We as religious leaders need to lead forward with a conciliatory message in order to prevent continued pain and bereavement, so that no one else is harmed.”

Other rabbis have answered this call. (more…)

U.K. SodaStream Shop Shutters After Two Years

England store faced weekly protests over the company’s West Bank factory

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(SodaStream)

A store in Brighton, England that sold replacement parts for Israeli carbonation system SodaStream has closed its doors, JTA reports. The Israeli-owned EcoStream shop, which sold recyclable replacement bottles for SodaStream machines since opening in September 2012, had been the site of weekly boycott protests by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, whose members oppose Sodastream’s factory in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim.

According to the U.K.’s Jewish Chronicle, the protests were regularly countered with demonstrations by the Sussex Friends of Israel.

A SodaStream UK spokeswoman dismissed the role of the protests in the store’s closure, telling the Chronicle, “Following a two-year test period, the company has decided to focus its business efforts on other channels.” (more…)

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