Women of the Talmud?! Who knew?

It’s the kind of subject you might expect from a group rated by Slingshot as one of the most innovative Jewish nonprofits in the nation. “Women of the Talmud,” the latest offering from the Women’s Jewish Learning Center, will discuss the role of women during the rise of rabbinic Judaism.

“Like their descendants, our ancient Jewish foremothers were no shrinking violets,” reads a WJLC email announcing the special women’s study series offered in collaboration with Hadassah Valley of the Sun and the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center.

“Learn with us about some incredible women,” it goes on to say, and naming Bruriah, Ima Shalom, Yalta and Rabbi Judah’s maid as just a few of the subjects.

The series opens with 7- 8:30 p.m. session on Wednesday, Oct. 2 at the Valley of the Sun JCC: “Torah and Chutzpah: The Life of Bruriah.” Subsequent sessions are “A Force of Nature: Stories about Yalta,” 10-11:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 8; “Rabbi Judah’s Housekeeper: Wisdom in Unlikely Places,” 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014; and “Ima Shalom: Mother of Peace,” 10-11:30 a.m. Sunday, March 2.

Price per session is $20 for JCC, Hadassah or WJLC members, while the nonmember price is $25. The series price is $50 for members, $65 for nonmembers, according to the VOSJCC site. Register for each class individually or for the whole series through the VOSJCC.

— Salvatore Caputo, assistant managing editor

The line we walk

I take little pleasure in winning a first prize for Best News Story from the Arizona Newspapers Association awards this year. The article, titled “Show of support: 575 at service of grief,” was about a tragedy that consumed my congregation, a tragedy created by someone I considered a friend.

It was a story I wish I had never had to write, but it was a story that needed to be told.

As a member of Temple Emanuel, I would have attended the June 6, 2012, Service of Grief regardless of whether it was my job to write about events in the Valley’s Jewish community. Incomprehensibly to me and others who knew James Butwin, he had shot and killed his family (wife Yafit, and three children, Malissa, Daniel and Matthew) and himself a few days earlier. This sent a shock wave through our congregation, the Jewish community and the larger community, and brought a mass media focus on our shul that night.

Being there in the role of both a mourner and a Jewish News reporter demonstrated the difference between us and the rest of the media. That difference was an added level of responsibility and accountability for what I had to do. The people affected by this tragedy were not just “sources” or “subjects” but people with whom my co-workers and I shared the pain. It was our duty to tell the story of how this community coped with the calamity. Although we wish it had never happened, the story’s focus was on the way people responded to provide one another a safe space for grieving. It was as though after the fire of death, a still small voice of hope spoke that evening.

As a community newspaper with a small staff, we cannot be insulated from the events we cover in the same way that a large media company can be. Although we avoid  putting ourselves or our opinions into our news coverage, we are inherently part of the community and have a great stake in getting the story right, whether it involves good or bad things that happen in this community, and being sure that others in the community understand the things that are their right to know.

The good I can see in receiving this award is that it underlines what our role is and that it allows another safe space, this time to remember those gone in the tragedy and the way that community members supported one another in their grief.

To read more about the ANA awards Jewish News won this year, click here.

Happy new (arts) year!

I look forward to the end of summer for so many reasons (most of which have to do with my aversion to living in a oven approximately five months a year), but the halfway mark in September is also a typical starting point to the arts and culture season.

The 2013-14 season has a number of events of Jewish interest, starting with Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre’s production of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” which opens tomorrow in their intimate Actors Café performance space. Desert Stages will also do “Fiddler on the Roof” in January 2014. Visit desertstages.org.

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts is bringing the man behind George Costanza to Phoenix for one night only: “An Evening with Jason Alexander and His Hair” comes to town on Oct. 26. Also at SCPA, Dec. 3 marks the season premiere of “Keyboard Conversations” with Jeffrey Siegel; the piano-and-commentary series will take on Beethoven and Schubert this season, among other topics. Visit scottsdaleperformingarts.org.

If comedy is more your thing, you can catch a number of Jewish comics at local clubs in the coming months: Pauly Shore (yes, he’s Jewish) will be at the Tempe Improv Oct. 17-20, as will Comedy Central roaster extraordinaire Jeff Ross (Nov. 8-10). Visit tempeimprov.com. “30 Rock” alum Judah Friedlander will be at StandUp Live! in Phoenix Nov. 14-16. Visit standuplive.com.

Finally, for movie buffs with deep pockets, there are still a limited number of tickets available for what will undoubtedly one of the coolest events in recent memory: composer John Williams’ benefit concert with the Phoenix Symphony. Williams will take the stage to conduct the orchestra in some of his famous film scores — “Star Wars,” the Indiana Jones movies, “Jaws” and “Schindler’s List” are a just a few of them — while scenes from the films play in the background. The other special guest of the evening is Steven Spielberg, nice Jewish boy, former Valley resident and Williams’ constant collaborator. The $500 price tag is a small price to pay to watch two Hollywood legends work their magic, right? Visit phoenixsymphony.org.
And for the trivia-minded among you, here’s a question: Williams has scored every Spielberg film since 1974 except for one — which one?


It was a sunny morning. I woke up, got together my breakfast and coffee and just as I sat down to eat, the phone rang.

I let out a sigh and wondered who’d be calling before business hours. Just a normal scene, a normal interruption, a normal day.

Then, I answered the phone.

My mother was on the other end and she was hysterical. She lives on the East Coast. I’m not the first one she should be calling in an emergency, I thought. She also was never prone to hysteria. She had lived under bombing raids in World War II.

“How can they do that? How could they do something like that?” she screamed.

I thought that maybe one of my siblings had been hurt by some attacker, but I had no clue what she was talking about.

When I calmed her down, she was able to tell me of the events that morning, she had forgotten the time difference. I had not turned on a television or a radio, so I hadn’t heard about the collapse of the World Trade Center after a group of Muslim zealots slammed airplanes into the Twin Towers.

None of us will forget that day 12 years ago. We’ll honor the spirit of the first responders, curse the hatred that led to the attack, and realize how much our lives have been changed.

— Salvatore Caputo

New year, new blog

As you may have noticed, Jewish News has gone through several changes over the past few months, in both the print issue and online.

Now, in time for the New Year, we have a couple of other changes to announce as well.

For one, we are revamping our staff blog. JN Blog has a new look, and content will be updated on a regular basis by editorial staff members, as well as by Publisher Jaime Stern.

Another change, effective immediately, is that organizations will now have the capability to submit calendar events directly to our online calendar. Representatives from these organizations can access this by clicking on “submit” under the Calendar on the right panel of our home page, jewishaz.com, or by selecting “calendar” on the Home drop-down menu.

Here’s how to submit a calendar event:

First-time users will need to create an account. Once that’s done, the event information can be entered. Items in red are required and there are several other options, such as selecting what search attributes can be used (Family friendly, All ages, 12 and over, etc.).

Organizations can also set up a public profile, where they can add their logo, website and contact information.

All submitted events will be approved by a Jewish News staff member before going live. The calendar is also viewable on the mobile version of jewishaz.com.

Email calendar@jewishaz.com with any questions.

We hope this online calendar will help get the word out about all the great things happening in our community and serve as a vehicle to help people feel more connected.

We at Jewish News wish you a happy, healthy, prosperous and sweet New Year!