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Ester RadaIn March, WOMADelaide celebrates its 20th festival in Adelaide’s Botanic Park. Dozens of countries including Israel will be represented, showcasing talent from around the world.

Thirty year old Ester Rada from Israel will perform. Ester’s music reflects her Ethiopian heritage and Israeli upbringing and at the same time draws on American soul icons like Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin.  She sings in a mix of English, Amharic, and Hebrew.

Even with three languages to choose from, Ester will sometimes sing in gibberish. ‘It is the music I love, not so much the words.’ Ester says. ‘However, when I sing in Hebrew, I connect with my country. When I sing in Amharic, I connect with my parents, grandparents and family.’

Ester was born a year after her parents arrived in Israel as part of the mass Ethiopian immigration. She grew up listening to religious music, joined a choir at the age of 7, and discovered her passion for music. Her parents loved music and there usually was some playing at home. Often, it was traditional Ethiopian music on a masinko, a single-stringed bowed instrument.

Living in a very religious neighborhood, also meant she was exposed to the sound of traditional prayers coming from synagogues, Shabbat tables and festival gatherings.

During her teenage years, she rebelled against her Ethiopian heritage and culture going as far as to ask her mother not to speak to her in Amharic. Ester’s life at home was different from the life outside and, like many immigrant children, she was confused.

Today Ester serves as a positive role model for young Ethiopians in Israel. When she recorded “Nanu Ney,” it was the first time an Ethiopian song played widely on Israeli radio.

Ester considers herself a citizen of the world but still calls Israel home where she spends time with her family and friends when she’s not touring the world.

WOMADelaide is part of the the World Music Festival taking place around the world. With all the BDS activists against Israel, it is heartwarming to see that the WOMAD organization has not let politics affect good music. For this the Israeli and Jewish communities in Adelaide, Australia, and around the world salute and thank you.


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Forty Shades of Grey: How Travel Opened Nicky Larkin’s Eyes

Forty Shades of Grey: How Travel Opened Nicky Larkin’s Eyes

You can’t travel with a closed mind.  You can try, but inevitably something will come along and bust down your door and break in.  Travel, for better or for worse, opens your mind.  Are you prepared for that?

Nicky Larkin is an Irish filmmaker who had exactly that experience when he recently traveled to Israel.  Ireland, for reasons I really don’t understand, is overwhelmingly anti-Israel in its media and political bias.  So Nicky Larkin applied for arts funding and flew to Israel, planning and expecting to make a documentary about how bad Israel is.

How his eyes were opened!

In an interview with the filmmaker, he describes his surprise when he enters Israel and instead of seeing a country of Jews clad in kapatas with peyos dangling, he encounters the secular and cosmopolitan world of Tel Aviv.  It was not what he expected.  The doors to his mind were flung wide open.

As a result, he made a documentary, called “Forty Shades of Grey,” that explores the Israeli-Palestinian reality.  It is not black and white like the media portrays it.  It is, instead, Forty Shades of Grey.  And while he doesn’t talk about why he chose to use the number forty, it is a number that holds special significance for us Jews.

Watch the interview with Nicky Larkin here:

And watch the film trailer for “Forty Shades of Grey” here:

I’m sure it will be a much more worthwhile watch than the much more hyped up “Fifty Shades of Grey” that everyone keeps talking about!

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Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s new book “Kosher Jesus”

My last post was about Jews for Jesus in Australia. My friend Rabbi Eli Cohen in Sydney has been actively working for Jews for Judaism and doing counter-missionary work. I just finished discussing with him Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s new book “Kosher Jesus.” Eli mentioned that he wrote a few thoughts of what he thinks about the book and agreed I could share it on Traveling Rabbi.

So here it is from Rabbi Eli Cohen:

My “personal” thoughts after reading the book “Kosher Jesus” cover to cover.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach should have had more foresight into the public reaction to his book that was coming his way.

The title and the synopsis that Shmuley chose to use to promote his book was reckless and damaging. The immediate impression it has given the public is one that has caused irreparable damage.

The book’s suggestion that Christians have misunderstood their “savior” will undoubtedly offend many Bible-believing Christians; nevertheless, they may also see this book as an opportune tool for Jewish evangelism. The next time a Jew is approached by a missionary the question will be “what do you think of “Kosher Jesus”” ?
Many unsuspecting Jews upon hearing about this new book “Kosher Jesus,” written by an orthodox Rabbi, may suffice themselves with the title and a brief excerpt or synopsis available online and glean from it that Jesus is now “Kosher” without bothering to read the inside of the book. This is a real concern that Shmuley seems to have either overlooked or failed to fully appreciate.

HOWEVER, if you actually read the inside of it you’ll see that the content inside the book is not THAT bad/heretical (although I personally wouldn’t give it to anyone Jewish not already caught up with Christianity). I also wouldn’t say that Judaism needs to look further then its own sacred teaching to find moral and ethical values without any additional help from Shmuley pointing to the quotes recorded NT (which may or may not have been quoting Jewish sources) for confirmation.

His “scholarship” leaves much to be desired as he has made a number of serious mistakes both in regards to Judaism and even more so with regards to his understanding of Christianity and the NT.

His latest “Fiction Novel” (which is what I would call it) is a compilation of his personal opinions sprinkled with his fanciful imagination that he has vocalised at his debates with Christians. These view formed by Shmuley are inspired by the views of a British Jewish scholar of the University of Leeds, Hyam Mccoby OBM, and Shmuley’s obsession with “universal religious ethics”. In other words in Shmuley’s mind, Jesus and Shumley as so like-minded it’s frightening.

I personally would consider giving the book to “messianic” friends of mine that have a good sense of humour.

As someone who is in the anti-missionary field, I have a different concern. If Shmuley’s “Fiction Novel” is looked to as an authority for the Jewish response to Christianity, the Christians will make a laughingstock of the book and say “is this is the best response to Christianity that Judaism could come up with? Another “DaVinci Code”? The mistakes in the book reveal that author is lacking any serious familiarity with and understanding of both Christianity and the NT.”

As usual though, Shmuley does make some traditional and valid arguments against Christianity which are already well known by anyone who has ever dealt with this issue.

One remark to Shmuley, had you come to me or anyone else in this field, you could have received constructive criticism that would have helped the book pack a serious punch.

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What is the Topsy Turvy upside down bus and where is the Topsy Turvy upside down bus?

The Topsy Turvy upside-down bus is now part of the Teval Learning Center Project

Some people saw the pictures of me planking on a strange-looking upside down bus. I found the bus near Eden Village Camp where I am now and thought it to be a very unique planking opportunity. I then got talking with Jonah Adels who spent nine weeks on the Topsy Turvy upside down bus, touring from New York City to Key West, Florida and then back to New York City. Jonah was kind enough to share some of his Topsy Turvy thoughts.

What is the Topsy Turvy/upside-down bus?

The Topsy Turvy bus is a traveling educational vehicle which largely runs on waste vegetable oil. Those people involved with the bus stop off at schools, community centers, and parks and talk to people about sustainable living.

How did you get involved with the Topsy Turvy bus?

While I was working for the Teva Learning Center I met Jonathan Dubrinsky who invited me to go on the Topsy Turvy bus, which was headed for its third tour of the United States that lasted 9 weeks.

Who built the Topsy Turvy bus?

Ben Cohen (from Ben & Jerry’s) had the idea. Then around ten years ago Tom Kennedy built the Topsy Turvy bus. Following him, Jonathan Dubrinsky of the Teva Learning Center made some changes to the fuel tank system to enable it to run on vegetable oil waste, as well as a number of interior changes.

Describe your trip experience on the Topsy Turvy bus.

It was an incredible experience meeting so many types of Jewish communities where we were able to give and share ideas and information.

An awesome memory from the Topsy Turvy bus?

We got paid $300 in Miami to dress up for Purim at the Jewish Museum of Florida.

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