Original Content

The following are samples of original Jewish content I’ve written, showing the range of what I can provide for your Jewish newsletter or website.

Hidden Jews: Esther and Others (excerpt)

It’s Adar, the month during which we celebrate the most famous hidden Jew of all—Esther! I want to introduce you to another hidden Jew who protected our people, saving lives: Gracia Mendes Nasi.

Gracia was born into a hidden Jewish family, the de Lunas, in 1510. The family hailed from Spain, but in 1492 Spanish Jews were given a choice: convert or be expelled. Gracia’s family, along with many others, fled to Portugal, but five years later all Portuguese Jews were forcibly converted. Many Jews in both Spain and Portugal, including the de Lunas, lived outwardly as Christians, but continued to practice Judaism in secret. Such secret Jews were called Conversos.

Gracia used her wealth and her influence, which extended even to kings and popes, to protect her fellow Conversos. She set up and financed an underground railroad that helped hundreds of Conversos escape Portugal and Spain to safe havens in Europe.

Gracia was a hidden Jew for much of her life, but even when she achieved wealth, power, and eventual freedom to live openly as a Jew, she did not forget where she came from, nor did she cease to aid her fellow Jews in desperate need. She was the Esther of her time.

Israel: Finding Beauty in the Small (excerpt)

We Americans are used to finding our beauty in big things. That’s no surprise; we come from a vast country full of big and beautiful things: the Great Lakes, California redwoods, Niagara Falls, Mt. Rushmore sculptures, herds of ungainly, ambling bison with their impossibly huge heads and humped shoulders.

To truly appreciate and enjoy the beauty in tiny Israel, one has to change that mindset and think small. For Israel is the land where G-d speaks to his people. And G-d is not in the wind, nor the earthquake, nor the fire, but in “the still, small voice.” 

Think small, and you will see the beauty in the miniature lavender cyclamen bursting to life in February, and the brilliant red dots of poppies among the lush, rain-fed grasses intermixed with stones. Think small, and you will marvel at cloud-filtered light on the shaggy green hills with their ancient rock terraces.

Think small, and these things, so easily missed, will grab you and tunnel into your memory and spirit and not let go. The wonder of the land will move you in ways so different from the vastness you have been accustomed to. And when you return home, you will see things in a different way: the ladybug perched on a blade of grass; the fairy shrimp sculling on its back through a wetlands puddle. You will learn to appreciate the beauty of the small. And your heart will yearn to return to that place where you first learned it.

Operation Moses: Then and Now

Then: Thousands of years ago, Moses led Hebrew slaves out of Egypt. When we recount the story at our seder tables in a couple weeks, the name of Moses will be mentioned only once (can you spot where?). Reasons given for this short shrift vary: to emphasize G-d, not man, as liberator and redeemer, or so that we would not make a human into an object of worship.

Now: Actually, 36 years ago, but close enough. For centuries, members of the ancient community of Ethiopian Jews, also known as Beta Israel (House of Israel), had prayed to return to Zion. Civil war and famine were the triggers to acting on their prayers. Thousands fled from Ethiopia to Sudan, the Beta Israel among them. Like the Haggadah, this article won’t mention the name of the leader (actually, leaders) of this exodus. For one thing, we don’t know the names of the brave young men who returned from Sudan to their villages to tell their fellows that the way to Israel was through Sudan. Their message sparked an incredible journey of hundreds of miles on foot through the desert, rivaling our ancestors’ wanderings in the wilderness. Perhaps someday they can be identified and their stories told. For now, they must be anonymous, but no less honored for that.

In seven weeks, Operation Moses brought approximately 8,000 Ethiopian Jews from Sudan to Israel. Subsequent efforts brought many more. Their challenges did not end on arrival, as many had to adjust from an illiterate, pastoral culture to a modern one. They encountered discrimination. But they are overcoming many hurdles and integrating into Israeli society as soldiers, politicians, and entertainers. Their centuries-old dream of “next year in Jerusalem” has been fulfilled.

As we recount the first “Operation Moses” this year at our seder tables, let give thanks not only for the ancient liberation of our people but for that of our Beta Israel brethren. Am Israel chai!