Sorry Yemen, your mail bombs didn’t stop the Global Day of Jewish Learning

Chef Tal Renan cooks up vegetarian food - just like he made for Oprah

The foiled Yemen plot to bomb synagogues in Chicago occurred so closely to two occasions on the Jewish  calendar – one historic and one contemporary –  you have to wonder if the timing was planned or if it was an eerie coincidence. Had some terrorist in Yemen checked a calendar to see if something important was coming up on the calendar within the global Jewish community?What if the terrorists from Yemen did intentionally plan the bombing of Jewish institutions one week before the Global Day of Jewish Learning, which was planned in 350 communities around the world? What if it had succeeded, as  terror plots did against Jewish institutions in MumbaiBuenos Aires, and Casablanca?In the spirit of this learning event that celebrated asking Big Questions, I’ll add mine: If the Yemen bombing had succeeded, would Jewish learning and teaching  on November 7th still had happened?Thankfully, this time, we will never know.  This past weekend,  synagogues and Jewish community centers all over the world were brimming with people listening, speaking, dancing, drumming, and of course eating, in a Jewish way. The Global Day of Jewish learning was held in honor of an esteemed Jerusalem Rabbi, who on this day will finish five decades of work interpreting the Talmud, a sacred book of Jewish commentary, making it accessible and more understandable to today’s Jews.  So no, in honor of this milestone that took a half-century to reach, we weren’t staying home on account of a package. We were ready to learn and tackle questions, in my community and others,  like

  • What is Jewish Mysticism?
  • Why do Jewish holidays happen late or early, but never on time?
  • How can God be both loving and mysterious?

And, in my household….

  • When will the newest version of Shalom Sesame Come out?

In my community, we came out to listen to keynote speaker Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, author many books, including I’m God and You’re Not, wich was released this Fall We learned about Jewish vegetarian cooking from Chef Tal Ronen, who has cooked for Oprah Winfrey and the Dali Lama. Our kids learned Krav Maga, the Israeli martial arts, and explored Psalm 150 through drumming with percussionist Mike Mason.A separate track was offered for area Jewish educators, where we learned to fascinate our students with the art of storytelling, how to weave the narrative of Israel into any lesson, and how to excite and engage Jewish kids who, let’s be honest, may not be thrilled about coming to Hebrew School in the first place.The second occurrence on the Jewish calendar so close to these planned bombs from Yemen will be commemorated tomorrow.  On November 9, 1938, the Nazis unfurled Kristalnacht, their own terror campaign, on the Jews of Germany. On the Night of Broken Glass, 1,350 Jewish synagogues were burnt to the ground or destroyed; over 91 Jews were killed; 30,000 Jews were thrown into concentration camps; 7,000 Jewish businesses were destroyed; and thousands of Jewish homes were ransacked.  It was the beginning of the end of European Jewry in the 20th Century.It may seem like a date that is far in the past, but in light of the foiled attacks from Yemen, it brings it all too close to home.One thing that did keep the 600,000 Jews of Los Angeles away from their day of Jewish Learning was poor planning. Unfortunately, the LA Day of Jewish Learning was cancelled because of low enrollment. Why? A long-held community day of good deeds (mitzvot) was planned for the same day and the community just couldn’t compete with itself.Someone  wasn’t checking their calendars.

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About stacylynngittleman

I have been a reporter and public relations professional for over 30 years, specializing in profile features and investigative longform writing. During my career I've profiled WWII Honor Flight Veterans, artists and musicians and have written on topics that range from environmental and gun control issues to Jewish culture. Click around on my writing samples plus read my blog on my personal life raising three kids over 27 years and three cities.

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