Jewish Newspapers

I'm a fan of Jewish newspapers, both online and print versions. It is a nice way to keep up to date with Jewish news and culture.

I consider The Jewish Forward to be the granddaddy of Jewish newspapers. It has a rich and varied history. My grandparents and parents read this paper. Their Promised Lands project, a story about Jewish life in each of the fifty states, is my favorite series.

Some Jewish newspapers are regional. There is the New Jersey Jewish News, Baltimore Jewish Life, and the Baltimore Jewish Times.

While I consider the Jewish Forward the granddaddy of Jewish newspapers which was founded in 1897, the Jewish Week is older. It's birth year is 1875. This paper reports on a variety of topics - news, arts, food and wine, Sephardim in New York, and other topics.

The Jewish Exponent is Philadelphia-based and is the second oldest Jewish newspaper. It was founded in 1887. The Mitzvah Heroes section is interesting; it's nice to read about people doing good. The Philacatessen section is also a nice feature. I love deli and so did my dad. A nice, lean corned beef on rye was his favorite. 

There are many other great Jewish newspapers. Please share your favorites with me and what you like about them.


No Luck Finding a Mitzvah Project?

What type of mitzvah project do you want to do? Not sure? Have no idea? Take a moment and read What Type of Mitzvah Project Do You Want to Do? My friends at The Mitzvah Bowl will help you find some ideas.

A bar or bat mitzvah is an important event. It is the ceremony that introduces the boy or girl as an adult in the eyes of Jewish law. Bar is Aramaic for son and bat is Aramaic for daughter. The literal translation of bar or bat mitzvah is son or daughter of commandment.

A mitzvah is a good deed. It can be religious or non-religious, simple or complex, making someone smile and bringing joy into his or her life, or volunteering at a food pantry.

Today, many bar and bat mitzvahs add a social component. This is a great addition. It teaches the "new adult" that he or she can help make the world, or at least, their community a little bit better.

So, what type of mitzvah project do you want to do? Take a moment and read What Type of Mitzvah Project Do You Want to Do? My friends at  The Mitzvah Bowl will help you find some ideas.

Free online Judaic courses

One of the benefits of the Internet is that it is the home to many free online courses. I'm a strong believer that learning is a life-long process and I thank my dad for instilling in me the love and discipline of self-learning.

What makes a good online course? From my experience, the University of Edinburg in Scotland provides the best online learning experience. Each class began with an introduction recorded at different places around the university. This made me feel that I was part of the university. The different lecturers spoke in a conversational tone. Longer topics were divided into manageable chunks, usually no longer than 15 minutes. The teachers were active in the online forums. Once a week, the teachers hosted a one hour get-together on Google chat. This live format was a nice addition to the prerecorded lectures.

Here is a sampling of some online Judaic and Jewish-related online classes. Enjoy!

MIT Open Courseware

Click here to view their other offerings.

Rutgers University

Click here to view their other offerings.

Want to learn Hebrew? Try Free Video Languages in Modern Hebrew.

I was surprised that there wasn't a more robust offering. Please share with me any other free online, Judaic- or Jewish-related classes.

2. Adam's Bar Mitzvah - Charles Billings

Adam left a half hour early to go to his Bar Mitzvah lesson. It wasn't that he was excited about the lesson, he was curious about the homeless man. He wanted to know more about him. He had never met a homeless person before. The idea of being homeless was a surprise to him. He understood that people made different amounts of money and that some people had nicer homes than others. He knew that some people owned their home while others rented. But not having a place to live? That was new to him.

Adam went straight to the Army/Navy store where he met the homeless man last week. He didn't see him. As he waited, he thought that something must have happened to that man for him to become homeless. He didn't remember smelling alcohol on his breath so he guessed that the homeless man wasn't a drunk. He didn't remember him being high so he guessed that he wasn't a drug addict. Something must have happened to him because Adam thought that no one grew up with the ambition to become homeless.

"Any spare change, kid?"

Adam turned around and smiled. "Let me buy you a cup of coffee and then I'll give you a dollar."

"What's your game?"


"Why do you want to buy me a cup of coffee?"

"I want to talk to you?"

"About what?"

"I told the rabbi about you last week. He said that when I gave you a dollar I did a tzedakah."

"A what?"

"A tzedakah. Some people say it means an act of charity. But it really means doing what is right."

"Tzedakah? Rabbi? You look about thirteen. Bar Mitzvah lessons?"

"Yes. Are you Jewish?"

"No. But I had many Jewish friends. Let's get that cup of coffee.


The homeless man ordered a dark, strong coffee while Adam ordered a hot chocolate.

"So what do you want to talk about?" asked the homeless man.

"What's your name?"

"Charles Billings. And yours?"

"Adam Levine."

"Did you grow up here?"

"No. I'm originally from out west, Oregon. College brought me here."

"What did you study?"


Adam thought for a minute. He had to be smart if he went to college and studied law."

"Did you graduate?"

"Yes. I did. I was a lawyer for awhile. I'm guessing you want to know why I'm homeless."

Adam turned red.

"It's OK. You're thinking that a college educated person could not become homeless."

"Yea. People say that homeless people are drunks, drug addicts, or people too lazy to work."

"That's what people think. Some are. Some people are their own worst enemy. I was never lazy. I always stayed late at the office and worked weekends." I had two homes. My apartment and the law office where I spent most of my time."

"Then what happened?"

"I started feeling funny. I got confused. I would be working on a case, got the facts mixed up, introduced things that had nothing to do with the case. Then the voices started."

Adam got nervous.

"I'm fine. The voices never told me to hurt anyone. I was never violent. Sometimes Einstein was speaking to me. John Lennon. Sherlock Holmes. If I were a writer, I might have written a best selling novel, but those voices didn't help me as a lawyer. The voices interfered with my work. I lost some cases and lost the law firm money. Next thing I knew I was fired."

"Why didn't you see a doctor?"

"I did, but not right away. At first I thought it was from all the hours I worked. I rested and for awhile I felt better. Then, the voices came back. I tried to block the voices and block that I was sick. Nobody wants to go to a doctor and tell them that he hears voices. Nobody wants people to think that he's crazy."

"Did you get better?"


"Then why are you homeless?"

"I asked for my old job back. I explained what happened to me but my mental illness scared them. I tried other law firms but the law community is a small world. The firm that fired me wouldn't give me a reference making it just about impossible to get a job."

"What's a reference."

Charles smiled. "A reference is when a co-worker or your boss tells someone else how good your work was. When you apply for a new job, you ask former co-workers to give you a recommendation, to tell the person who may hire you about the quality of the work you did.

Soon I ran out of money and couldn't pay the rent. For awhile I stayed with friends. Soon I was homeless. It's almost impossible to get a job without and address or a phone number."