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The Australian Association for Jewish Studies Conference in Adelaide Partial Review

The Australian Association for Jewish Studies conference took place in Adelaide this past Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Academics from around Australia and the world gathered to listen to, and share ideas on the subject of ‘Jews, Judaism and Hybridity.’

Some of the topics included were, ‘The Hebrew Bible and Hybridity,’ ‘Yiddish and Hybridity,’ and ‘Hybridity in the Diaspora.’ The session I enjoyed most was ‘Jews and China,’ with Mobo Gao as convener. Felix Patrikeeff, spoke on ‘The Jewish Communities, China and Australia, 1924-1969.’ Deborah Cao, presented on, ‘Popular Perceptions of Jews and Jewish Culture in Contemporary China.’

Many things about China have always fascinated me, and more recently is the Chinese attitude and understanding of the Jews. As Deborah Cao illustrated, how many Chinese believe that the Jews are smart and good at business. She drew many parallels between Jews and Chinese emphasizing similarities like, the importance of family, preserving culture, and respect for elders. Cao showed images of some of the books circulating the Chinese market, with titles like, ‘Talmudic Wisdom,’ ‘How to Raise your Children the Jewish way,’ and ‘Jewish Business Secrets.’

The most recent book Cao has written is about animal rights and the attitude and treatment of animals in China. This is one of the strong differences between Chinese and Jews. Any form of cruelty to animals is strictly prohibited in Judaism, where as in China it is often a non-issue. She hopes through her book and blog to educate Chinese people more in this area.

Another session I found interesting was, a session on Hybridity Among German Jews chaired by Lynn Arnold. Michael Abrahams-Sprod, presented ‘From Symbiosis to Racial Pollution: the Cases of Rassenschande (Racial Defilement) in Nazi Magdeburg.’ One thing I learned was how well organized the Germans were in their anti Semitism. Every step was calculated. On a few occasions in Rassenschande the people there thought to take their anti Semitism a few steps further than had been mandated by the central government office. They were reprimanded and ordered to fix the situations.

There were many more wonderful talks and some I’m still trying to figure out what the speaker was talking about. I find that when politicians speak, I realize they have said nothing, and when academics speak, I realize they have said a lot but I’m not sure what?

Overall it was a nice three days and I enjoyed the opportunity to meet other Jews and non Jews who are involved in, and or interested in Jewish education.


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The Similarities Between the Chinese and the Jewish New Year

Chinese New Year in Thailand The Jewish people are not the only ones to have a unique date for New Year. There are countless different New Years held by various religious, ethnic, and tribal groups around the world.

This Friday will begin the Chinese New Year. Now to the Chinese, it is called either the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival. The first thing in Common it has with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is that it follows the Lunar cycle. Friday is in fact a new Lunar month, but in the Jewish Calendar it is the sixth month of the year. However it is interesting to note that there is a debate in the Talmud as to when the world was created and when in fact is the New year. There is the opinion that it was in the month of Nissan which is when Passover falls out, and there is the opinion that it was Tishrei, which is the way we follow.


So differences in opinion as to when the New Year should be is understandable even from the Jewish perspective, and it does not come as a surprise that there are many ideas around this.


One thing I like about the Chinese New Year is that it is celebrated anywhere from six to sixteen days. And unlike the Gregorian Calendar, January first, The Chinese New Year does not start with a party. It begins with going to temples to pray and give thanks, and spending time with the family. I believe this is a good thing and how a

New year should begin. Afterword’s comes the party and celebrations.


In Judaism we have the same. We start with Rosh Hashana, two days of prayer and time with the family. Ten days later is Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement were we are judged by G-d on our actions during the past year. And then finally comes Succoth, the festival of booths, where we celebrate non-stop for a week.

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Traveling the World in Search of New Fruit

It’s great to travel the world and try amazing new foods on offer. For example: barbequed tarantulas in Cambodia, deep-fried cockroaches in Thailand, and braised guinea pig in Peru. And it doesn’t stop here when it comes to fine cuisine, there are deep-fried bats in Bolivia, eel pies in Japan, and toasted witchetty grubs in Australia.

To be honest, I’ve not eaten any of this stuff. Firstly, because none of its kosher and secondly, it just doesn’t suit my palate.  I wonder though if I did not keep kosher if I would try some of these foods…

A large part of traveling to a foreign country is discovering and indulging in some new foods. I find it exciting to walk past street vendors and see and smell what they are cooking.

The good news is there is one food area that can be found kosher everywhere. Fruit! And I like fruit a lot. Some years ago after visiting an organic exotic fruit farm in North Queensland, I learned that there is more fruit in the world than I will ever experience. “You can try a newfruit every day of your life,” the tour guide said, “and did you know that there are over 500 types of avocadoes!”

On the farm we got to try a number of strange-looking delicious fruits. The guide explained that many exotic fruits around the world never make it to supermarket shelves because of their short shelf life. Apples, bananas, and oranges can keep for months, but some tropical fruits are rotten within a day after picking them.

We tried one fruit that appeared spoiled on the outside, but when cut open it revealed a juicy and delicious pulp.  “Six hours after it’s picked,” said the guide, “it looks rotten, thus it would never sell.”

There is the special blessing one makes when eating a new fruit for the first time in a season.  I spent a few months traveling around northern Brazil and parts of Columbia where I got to recite the ‘Shehecheyanu’ blessing on a new fruit almost every day. The variety of jungle fruits G-d created is mind boggling.

This is a typical days worth of fruit while traveling

It has always amazed me how the fruits amongst the seven species the land of Israel is blessed with are superfoods. They are not apples, bananas and oranges; rather, they are: grapes, pomegranates, figs, dates, and olives. These fruits are all incredibly potent, packed with nutrients, antioxidants, and every one of them a powerhouse of goodness.

Thursday 16th January this year is the new year for fruit treas. Tu B’shvat does not tend to be one of people’s top Jewish holidays but for me it is. I like fruit and there is so much of it around the world. Besides, it’s healthy and tastes good. on Tu B’shvat is a great time to make the decision to get healthier by eating more fruit.

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Things to do Before You Die Without Setting Goals


New Years day is a time many people revise their resolutions and set goals for the coming year. Some have a list of things they would like to do before they die, often known as a ‘bucket list.’ Every year they select a handful of items from their list and try to get them done. Some few people are very successful in achieving the goals they set, while the vast majority end up setting the same goals year after year. Many will die having not done the things on their bucket list.

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year has always been my time to set revise. To think about the past year and to brain storm ideas of what I’d like to achieve in the coming year. My birthday is shortly after Sukkot which comes roughly one month after Rosh Hashana. During this period of time between Rosh Hashana and my birthday, I’ll reflect on my goals. By the time my birthday comes around I’ve got a good idea of what I want to do.

Thus said, anytime is a good time to revise ones goals be it January first or February first. In fact, reviewing your goals every day is important to make sure you are well aware of them and to actively schedule in time to get them done.

Around a week ago a friend shared an idea with me which because of, I spent January first doing a complete revision of my goals. The idea shared was: ‘Don’t set goals. Implement life style changes!’

At first it sounded fairly simple, but after thinking it through, I realized this is the answer to achieving some of my goals that have been around for a long time.

For example, say you put on your goal list ‘Run a marathon.’ A year goes bye and you’ve not done it. Many will tell you it is because the goal was to big and not manageable. You need to break it down to say ‘Run 5km.,’ and from there, 10km, 20km etc.  I’ve tried this method in the past to various success. The problem I found with it, is that it often is not inspiring. You want to after all run a marathon not 5km.

With implementing lifestyle change, you could do the following. For the next 90 days. Walk/run for 30 minutes twice a week. This should be fairly easy. Then for 90 days walk/run 3 times per week for 45 minutes. Then for 90 days, walk run 4 times per week for 45 minutes. Then for 90 days run 4-5 time per week and you are now ready to run marathon!

A typical new years goal people set is to loose weight. This goal usually repeats its self year after year. Forget the goal and implement life style changes and you will automatically loose the weight. The idea is to do things for 90 days so that they become a habit and part of the way you live.

  • Drink water in the morning instead of coffee
  • Eat a piece of fruit for morning and afternoon snack instead of a cookies or chips
  • Use low fat milk or mayonnaise

If you make these kinds of changes to your lifestyle figure 3 changes in a n area of life you are trying to improve, you will be implementing 12 changes over the year. it is inevitable that the goal will be reached without having to think about it.

See here for ideas to put on your Jewish bucket list.


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Camping on Shabbat

Camping on Shabbat: book will please G-d be available in December via this website.

How to: Build an Eruv, Bake Bread, go to the Toilet, and More…


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Photo Collage

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