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Judaism doesn’t want you to wander and live just anywhere — or does it?



(JTA) — I was a remote worker long before the pandemic made it a thing, but it was only last month that I really took advantage of it. Early on the morning of New Year’s Day, I boarded a plane from Connecticut bound for Mexico, where I spent a full month sleeping in thatch-roofed palapas, eating more tacos than was probably wise and bathing every day in the Pacific. I’ll spare you the glorious details, but suffice it to say, it wasn’t a bad way to spend a January.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I found myself again and again coming into contact with expats who had traded in their urban lives in northern climes for a more laid-back life in the tropics. There was the recently divorced motorcycle enthusiast slowly wending his way southward by bike as he continued to work a design job for a major American bank. There was the yoga instructor born not far from where I live in Massachusetts who owned an open-air rooftop studio just steps from the waves. There were the countless couples who had chosen to spend their days running beachfront bars or small hotels on the sand. And then there were the seemingly endless number and variety of middle-aged northerners rebooting their lives in perpetual sunshine.

Such people have long mystified me. It’s not hard to understand the lure of beachside living, and part of me envies the freedom to design your own life from the ground up. But there’s also something scary about it. Arriving in middle age in a country where you know nobody, whose language is not your own, whose laws and cultural mores, seasons and flora, are all unfamiliar — it feels like the essence of shallow-rootedness, like a life devoid of all the things that give one (or at least me) a sense of comfort and security and place. The thought of exercising the right to live literally anywhere and any way I choose opens up a space so vast and limitless it provokes an almost vertiginous fear of disconnection and a life adrift.

Clearly, this feeling isn’t universally shared. And the fact that I have it probably owes a lot to my upbringing. I grew up in an Orthodox family, which by necessity meant life was lived in a fairly small bubble. Our house was within walking distance of our synagogue, as it had to be since walking was the only way to get there on Shabbat and holidays. I attended a small Jewish day school, where virtually all of my friends came from families with similar religious commitments. Keeping kosher and the other constraints of a religious life had a similarly narrowing effect on the horizons of my world and thus my sense of life’s possibilities. Or at least that’s how it often felt.

What must it be like — pardon the non-kosher expression — to feel as if the world is your oyster? That you could live anywhere, love anyone, eat anything and make your life whatever you want it to be? Thrilling, yes — but also frightening. The sense of boundless possibility I could feel emanating from those sun-baked Mexicans-by-choice was seductive, but tempered by aversion to a life so unmoored.

The tension between freedom and obligation is baked into Jewish life. The twin poles of our national narrative are the Exodus from Egypt and the revelation at Sinai, each commemorated by festivals separated by exactly seven weeks in the calendar, starting with Passover. The conventional understanding is that this juxtaposition isn’t accidental. God didn’t liberate the Israelites from slavery so they could live free of encumbrances on the Mayan Riviera. Freedom had a purpose, expressed in the giving of the Torah at Sinai, with all its attendant rules and restrictions and obligations. Freedom is a central value of Jewish life — Jews are commanded to remember the Exodus every day. But Jewish freedom doesn’t mean the right to live however you want.

Except it might mean the right to live any place you want. In the 25th chapter of Leviticus, God gives the Israelites the commandment of the Jubilee year, known as yovel in Hebrew. Observed every 50 years in biblical times, the Jubilee has many similarities to the shmita (sabbatical) year, but with some additional rituals. The text instructs: “And you shall hallow the 50th year. You shall proclaim liberty throughout the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: each of you shall return to your holding and each of you shall return to your family.”

Among the requirements of the Jubilee was that ancestral lands be returned to their original owners. Yet the word for liberty is a curious one: “d’ror.” The Talmud explains its etymology this way: “It is like a man who dwells [medayer] in any dwelling and moves merchandise around the entire country” (Rosh Hashanah 9b).

The liberty of the Jubilee year could thus be said to have two contrary meanings — individuals had the right to return to their ancestral lands, but they were also free not to. They could live in any dwelling they chose. The sense of liberty connoted by the biblical text is a specifically residential one: the freedom to live where one chooses. Which pretty well describes the world we live in today. Jewish ancestral lands are freely available to any Jew who wants to live there. And roughly half the Jews of the world choose not to.

Clearly, I’m among them. And while I technically could live anywhere, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to. I like where I live — not because of any particular qualities of this place, though I do love its seasons and its smells and its proximity to the people I care about and the few weeks every fall when the trees become a riotous kaleidoscope. But mostly because it’s mine.

A version of this essay appeared in My Jewish Learning’s Recharge Shabbat newsletter. Subscribe here.

The post Judaism doesn’t want you to wander and live just anywhere — or does it? appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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