Don’t visit a place; shop it
My younger son, Omer, has just completed his master’s thesis at a New England university. In that thesis he traces American consumerism back to Edward Bernays (the father of public relations) and Bernays’s uncle, Sigmund Freud, and argues that “consumptionism” makes society an empty cultural shell that is defined only by its consumption of goods.
This brings to mind a conversation overheard last fall at a visitor center just south of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“Do you care to see any museums?” the elderly volunteer at the visitor center asked the man with the blond dog.
“No,” the man replied. “My wife just wants to shop.”
With what sounded like a sigh, the volunteer responded, “Well, you have 200 shops to choose from.”
It seems a long way to go just to shop, but at least some of those shops have museum-quality art and crafts and beautifully designed windows.
Poets to become the face of Israeli money
The Bank of Israel has announced its first public competition for the design of new banknotes. The notes, which will bear the current denominations of 20, 50, 100, and 200 new Israeli shekels, will be graced, respectively, by the faces of four major Hebrew poets: Rachel Bluwstein (better known simply as Rachel), Shaul Tchernichovsky, Leah Goldberg, and Natan Alterman.
Would these four would have considered it an honor to have their portraits on lucre?
What a difference a trip can make
Just a few days in Israel can change a young person’s life in dramatic ways, researchers at Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies have discovered. They have been studying the impact of the Taglit-Birthright program, which young adults to Israel for a brief visit, and their recent report summarizes long-term effects, five to nine years after participation in the program.
When compared to young adults who applied for the program but did not go, participants were 46% more likely to feel connected to Israel, 51% more likely to marry a Jewish person, and 28% more likely to rate marrying a Jew as somewhat or very important. In the event that participants married someone who was not raised by Jews, the spouse was more than four times as likely to convert than were spouses of nonparticipants.
Finally, participants with no children were 35% more likely to view raising their children Jewish as very important, though no differences in actual practice were found between participants and nonparticipants who already have children.
The researchers conclude that “the scale of Taglit suggests that it has the potential to transform, not just individuals, but the community at large.”
Full disclosure: My daughter, Shahar Hecht, is one of the authors of the report, but neither she nor I has any connection to the Taglit-Birthright program.
Text copyright 2011 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author.