kosher internet

The Ba’al Teshuva and the Internet: Do I Need to Burn My Smartphone?

You made the big decision to become religious and have gone through the hard work of koshering your kitchen, switching your Saturdays to Shabbat, and living a more focused life. But what about your smartphone? Tablet? Surfing the web? Because you are now orthodox, do you need to throw out all of your internet devices and boycott the internet?

Is There Life Without Internet?

For me the answer is definitely “no,” especially since it is my profession. Today, telecommuting is huge, so you need the internet. Plus there is a ton of great stuff on the web today, including Torah classes, music, movies, dating sites, kosher versions of Craigslist and apartment rental portals, there is even social media for the religious Jew. The truth is that our lives have become digital, and to take on a self-imposed exile from the internet may be admirable but not necessary. (more…)

online dating

Frum and Single, How Do You Find Your Mate?

If you are newly frum and single, you may fear that you have come to the end of your dating life. There are so many misconceptions about how religious Jews find their spouse. Sometimes these myths even keep people from becoming religious.

Yes, Religious Singles Date

The secular life dating scene can be an endless rollercoaster of love easily found and quickly lost. Sometimes fortune smiles on you and you find THE ONE, but more often than not, the passion for that “one” peters out after a few weeks. And then you begin again and again and again.

In the religious world the objective is different. The goal is to find the one you want to settle down with for the rest of your life. With this goal in mind, the criteria for that special “one” changes, not that chemistry and appearance are not important. The difference is that rather than beginning with a shared interest in music, movies or zodiac sign, we begin with a shared value system, shared interest in religious observance and in how the children will be raised. (more…)

Jew in the City—in Panama City!

Panama City’s kosher restaurant scene is on fire

Truth is, the best kosher dining outside of Israel is still in New York, followed by LA, in my opinion, but Panama is experiencing a Jewish revival and for Orthodox Jewish couples and families looking for a quick and affordable get-away, Panama City is rapidly becoming a kosher destination of choice.

Jews Have a Long History in Panama

The first Jews arrived in Panama during the time of the Spanish Inquisitions, escaping persecution and death. The next wave arrived in the mid-to-late 1880s in pursuit of economic opportunities. By the time the Panama Canal was completed in 1911, the total Jewish population in Panama City was 505, barely a blip on the demographics charts. But, over time the population grew.

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Israel Film Festival Wows Audiences in New York and LA

The Israel Film Festival Still Going Strong in the Big Apple

In the 1980s Israeli musician Meir Fenigstein decided to create a venue through which Israeli films would be available to the American audience. It was not that Americans could not see Israeli movies, but as foreign films, they were shown only in small art houses, and oftentimes by the time one would find out about a particular movie, it would no longer be available. The Israeli movie industry was developing and producing increasingly inspiring and entertaining films and it seemed a shame that they did not have the opportunity for greater exposure to American moviegoers.

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rabbi

How to Choose the Right Rabbi

“Make for yourself a Rav” – Pirkei Avot—Ethics of our Fathers
When you are just beginning your journey of becoming religious, you need a trusted guide to help you. There can be an urge to do everything at once and even to become more religious than everyone you know. This is a sure-fire recipe for failure. You can turn to friends and maybe other family members who have also become ba’alei teshuva, but your most trusted guide should be a rabbi. If you are coming from a completely secular lifestyle, then your exposure to rabbis might be somewhat limited. You could also be nervous about hooking up with one, but trust me, the right rabbi is key to a journey of return that will be fun, fulfilling and successful.  (more…)

men kneeling on golf course

Keeping Shabbat Means the End of Saturday Tee-times

From Tee-time to Tefilah-time

As I mentioned in previous posts, once we made the decision to become religious, we sought out and found an amazing rabbi who patiently guided us along our new spiritual journey. Our rabbi suggested that we begin by keeping the laws of kashrut. Second, was to observe the Shabbat-the holy Sabbath. Turning over the kitchen to make it kosher and giving up our favorite restaurants proved to be much easier than keeping Shabbat. My wife and I enjoyed many “weekend” activities, and for me, Saturday mornings were spent on the golf course.

Golf was more than hitting a ball around the course

men kneeling on golf courseFirst of all, I was an avid golfer and we enjoyed many golfing vacations around the world. Saturday mornings on the links was a chance to unwind from the hectic schedule of the week, and connect with my friends and colleagues. Sometimes I golfed alone, and it was a time to connect with nature and be spiritual in my own way. How would I keep my connections if I couldn’t tee it up with my friends?

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Cheesecake Shavout

Shavuot: Beyond Cheesecake and Blintzes

Renewing our vows

Shavuot is probably one of the most meaningful holidays, yet it is the least understood and observed. Before we became religious, we had no idea there was such a holiday as Shavuot. We observed the biggies, i.e., Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Passover. But, once I began to learn about Shavuot, I realized that I had missed out on an amazingly spiritually uplifting holiday. We decided to take full advantage of this mystical time—the day we renew our commitment to the Torah. (more…)

music notes

From Klezmer to Rap, Jewish Musicians Have Changed the World

The Kosher Music Scene is Hot

It’s not your Bubbie’s music

One of the biggest misconceptions about being religious is that life is boring, filled with heavy restrictions, and that we have no fun. Nothing could be farther from the truth. And, when it comes to music, you will find that the level of artistry, professionalism, charisma
and pizzazz is anything but boring.

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utensils

Oren Laurent’s Family Kitchen Goes Kosher.

Making your kitchen kosher can be easy and fun.

When we left off in the previous post, we had finished torching or boiling all the utensils we could keep from our before-kosher days. We were pretty happy that we had invested in good cooking pots and pans, which were easily koshered through one of the two methods. Our Rabbi walked us through all the stages and steps and, as you may remember from the last post, was on hand to put the final “firing” touches on our kosher kitchen. Once my wife recovered from the thought of the possibility of burning down our specially designed gourmet kitchen, she quickly jumped into the swing of reorganizing and buying the new utensils and supplies we needed to become fully kosher.

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What? You’re Going to Torch My Kitchen??!!

After that fateful encounter with the Rabbi on my train trip (see “About”), I slowly began my return to Jewish life practices. Upon return home, I sought out a rabbi and began to discuss a plan for learning and taking on the mitzvot (commandments). The rabbi stressed the importance of going slowly, so as not to burn out and he suggested the first place to begin was keeping Shabbat and keeping kosher. Shabbat was more difficult and I have more stories to tell later about this transition. But, my wife and I were not afraid to go kosher, which meant koshering our kitchen and eliminating many of our favorite restaurants and cuisine. French dishes include delicious delicacies which are not on the kosher list!

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Yom zikaron picture

Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut: Israel Memorial Day and Independence Day

Remembering the Fallen and Celebrating Freedom in Solidarity with Israel

Practically every nation in the world celebrates its own version of Memorial Day and Independence Day. But in no other country but Israel do the two days follow each other, as a visible and emotional reminder that the country’s self-governance comes through the heroic efforts of many who lost their lives.

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Wine - picture

The Kosher Wine Revolution

We just finished celebrating Passover, one of my family’s favorite holidays. Passover was one of two holidays that I remember from my childhood, the other being Rosh HaShanah. We were what you would call culturally Jewish, but not religious. But, the story of the Jewish people being freed from slavery and leaving Egypt was something that our entire family enjoyed telling and repeated year after year. As an adult, one of the key features of the Passover meal I particularly like is the four cups of wine drank during the seder.

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