Month: October 2016

Israeli Geeks Turn to Sci-Fi and Fantasy to Escape a Sometimes Harsh Reality

By Andrew Tobin

TEL AVIV (JTA) – As a kid, Ben Engelman dreamed of being a warrior.

Until he was old enough to join the Israeli army, he settled for role playing as a sword fighter. Now 25, Engelman has been to war in Gaza and finished his service in a special forces unit. But he hasn’t stopped play fighting.

“This is how I imagined fighting growing up. There’s glory but no blood,” he told media moments after mauling an adversary with a foam sword. “Real war isn’t fun or glamorous. It’s yuck.”

When not engaged in combat, Engelman oversaw…

A Brooklyn Judge Becomes America’s First Hasidic Woman to Serve in Public Office

By Andrew Katz

NEW YORK (JTA) — For much of her adult life, Rachel Freier has been a trailblazer in her Hasidic Brooklyn community of Borough Park: a lawyer, an advocate for higher education, the founder of an all-female ambulance service and of a nonprofit to aid underprivileged mothers during the Gulf War.

Now she has blazed a new trail, this time on a national stage, becoming the first Hasidic women elected to public office in the United States.

Last month, Freier was the victor in the race for judge in the 5th Judicial District Civil Court, State of New York,…

5776: The Year in Review

By Ben Harris

NEW YORK (JTA) — A stabbing and car-ramming epidemic in Israel that some called a third intifada was among the most dominant Jewish stories of the past year. But 5776 was also notable for the release of spy Jonathan Pollard after 30 years in prison, the communal fallout from the Iran nuclear deal, a historic (and unfinished) agreement on egalitarian worship at the Western Wall and continuing clashes between pro-Israel students and the BDS movement on college campuses.

Below is a timeline of the Jewish year’s major events — the good, the bad and,…

Jewish MLB Players: 2016 Season in Review

By Ron Kaplan

NEW YORK (JTA) — This season promised to be a banner year for Jewish Major League Baseball players — and by and large, the class of ’16 fared pretty well. Many had their best seasons in years and fans were introduced to a couple of promising newcomers.

As the big league calendar reaches its climax with the World Series, here’s a look at what all the Jewish major leaguers accomplished (or not) during the regular season.


Kevin Pillar, Toronto Blue Jays, outfielder

Pillar is a human highlight reel (see this, and this, and this). The…