Regarding the article thing about woman [sic] and breast cancer, that’s a sobering statistic. Of course it has nothing to do with what I wrote.

In his Mishpacha article, Sruli Besser reflects on his experience on “the other side of the mechitza” during his daughter’s Bais Yaakov graduation. Among the many rebuttals of his piece, which praises Jewish women for being pious and suffering subpar conditions in silence, several people noted that Haredi society’s negligence of women’s needs leads, among other things, to higher rates of breast cancer deaths in the community. According to Israeli studies, Haredi women die 30% more often from breast cancer than women in the general population.

Besser insists this has nothing to do with his jolting experience of what it’s like to be on the women’s side of the mechitza.

But it has everything to do with it.

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There’s a reason Israelis are called sabras. Those thick cactuses and their prickly fruits look threatening with truly tough exteriors. Once you’re past that thick skin, however, the fruit is sweet, delicious and unlike anything you’ve experienced before. They thrive in tough conditions and the plants have been used to delineate borders and protect land for centuries.

Israelis have that same toughness around a softer, sweeter core. It takes a lot to faze them. So when, recently, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organisation (Unesco) decided to list the Old City of Hebron as an endangered Palestinian world heritage site, most Israelis just rolled their eyes at the latest attempt to remove the Jewish history from their land.

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Originally published in the UK Jewish Chronicle

We — my husband and I — made aliyah twice.

First, as a starry-eyed young couple, the second time as a family of five after six years back in the United States. After some debate, we opted for a soft landing over intense integration and wound up in Bet Shemesh. Before arriving, I had heard rumours of a rabbi excommunicated on account of his books on dinosaurs, and of gyms where televisions were outlawed, but I chalked such things up to extremists. After all, I had grown up in Lakewood, NJ and we all always got along just fine — – jeans-wearers and sheitel-donners alike.

It soon became clear, however, that I had moved to the front line. Nowhere near any of Israel’s borders but the front line of ever-increasing religious extremism. Over the years, it has crept in — sometimes seeping so slowly that we don’t notice until too late, sometimes slamming us against the proverbial wall.

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Originally printed in In Jerusalem June 9, 2017

Can a bike change a child’s life? Rabbi and educator Nachum Wasosky has seen it happen for hundreds of children and is working to add another thousand to that number.

Raised in a single family home in the US, Wasosky knows he was lucky to have people looking out for him, making sure that he had what other kids had—school trips, a place on sports teams, and emotional support. He attributes his well-being and success to feeling like a normal kid with just as much value as anyone else.

It’s an awareness he’s brought with him throughout his career in informal education for youth and what drives him to help as many as he can.

During his six years of study at Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem, Wasosky realized that what he had missed out on as a child was the positive aspects of being Jewish. As a kid, he wasn’t exposed to those things that would have made him want to identify as a Jew.

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