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Aviva's Bat Mitzvah!

We celebrated Aviva's Bat Mitzvah two weeks ago. She knocked it out of the park -- leading much of Migwan's services that weekend, chanting a boatload of Torah in the tallis she made herself, and giving a thoughtful, committed, incendiary speech to a packed house -- at 88 people, it was Migwan's biggest turnout ever, I believe. For her party she wanted karaoke, pizza, and a similarly giant crowd, and she got them. It's not always the easiest thing in the world to coax the Swiss into singing in public, but Aviva is unstoppable -- and after sufficient demonstration of how it's done by the young people, even the adults got into the act. We rocked until the neighborhood noise ordnances made us turn the speakers off, and then we rocked it a cappella.

Her speech (which it's taken me two weeks to translate into English) is below.

Dvar Torah for my Bat Mitzvah by Aviva Rosenbaum

Dear family, friends, Migwan members, and guests,

Thank you all for coming. Today is a very important day for me, and now comes one of the most important parts, my Dvar Torah. My Torah portion is not particularly exciting. But of the Torah portions I've heard of, it fits me the best. Maybe it's not very exciting, but it's very interesting.

My Torah portion, Tazria, has three parts, all of which concern purity with regard to worship in the Temple. The first is about what a woman has to do after giving birth. The second is about skin disease in in general, the third about when skin disease of old people counts as skin disease.

This Torah portion fits me for two reasons: sexism and disease. Both are topics that interest me. Both are pretty negative things, and both are things I want to fight against during my lifetime. My parasha begins, "when a woman brings a child into the world," in Hebrew "tazria". Literally, tazria means "seeds", by which they mean babies. Tazria is also the name of my Torah portion, which I think doesn't fit very well, but at least it sounds pretty. When a woman gives birth to a boy, she is "unclean" for 7 days. So she can't be together with her husband. On the eighth day the newborn is circumcised (in Hebrew, brit milah). Afterwards, she must stay away from the temple 33 days, and must not touch anything holy. Okay -- I get it. She gets a break. But if she gives birth to a female child, she is unclean for 2 weeks and has to stay away from the Temple for 66 days! Regardless of how I look at this, for me, it's just sexist!

Rabbi Bea and I thought about why this could be. Of course, it could be that the mother should have more time with her daughter, because this is a special and important connection. Sure, that's a nice thought... but sexist! So boys don't get a special connection to a parent? In that case, the boys should be locked up for months with their fathers! But probably, that's not the real reason. People used to think, when a woman had a girl, that she wasn't strong enough to give birth to a boy -- that something was wrong with her, and with the girl too. I'm very proud to be Jewish, but I'm ashamed that Judaism is so sexist. Of course, there's still sexism today everyhwere, so that it's almost impossible for me to be proud that I'm a girl and at the same time not to find others too girly. But it astounds me, that today's sexism is still so similar.

Already in the first story in the Torah, the story of Adam and Eve: Eve made friends with the snake, and Adam said that Eve convinced him to eat the apple. What he meant by that was that he couldn't control himself because she was so beautiful, and because of this, God blamed Eve. And men are supposed to be the strong ones?! Even God is sexist, He accepts this stupid excuse, and Eve stands there the whole time and accepts that women will have to suffer during and after childbirth!

Now we're back to my actual topic. At the end of the second paragraph we read: "the priest shall forgive her (that is, free her from guilt) and she shall be clean." "Forgive her?" Did she do something wrong? Is is somehow a sin to bear a child? I have no idea what they were thinking when they wrote the Torah. IT'S NOT A SIN TO HAVE A BABY!!!

So: did God really want the world to be this sexist? No, I don't think so. I do think God is partly to blame. But maybe God noticed the mistake, and therefore gave us so many hints that the sexes must be more or less equal. The Torah is female, the menorah is female, the kippah is female, Shabbat is female, and many other important things. But the world still has a lot more to learn, and I think it's going to take a lot longer than it took God.

Now I'm almost at the end of my dvar torah, but first I want to thank a few people. First, I want to thank you all for coming, especially my non-Jewish family and friends. I know very well how boring it can be, when you don't understand anything and can't sing along. But I hope you like it here anyway. And now for the people who really helped me in the last several years. First I want to thank my good friend Lea. She always made Hebrew school fun, and the services are a lot more fun with her too. She's two years older than me and taught me a lot about Judaism, and about life in general. She also said yes immediately, when I asked if she would sing an aliyah today. Next of course I want to thank Ruthi Ritter, my Hebrew teacher since first grade. Learning with her was always fun, and she always gave me as much hope as I deserved! She never got annoyed when I didn't make progress, and she's always in a good mood.

Next I'd like to thank Rabbi Bea Wyler a lot. She taught me so much about Judaism, that I can hardly believe we've only been studying together for a year. She taught me tricks about reading that I will never forget. She showed me how learning can be serious and fun at the same time. I know that I'll never forget how to "leynen". She explained it so cleverly, it's soooo much fun! I'm excited that I'm finally old enough to do it regularly, and I hope that Migwan will let me!

That brings me to my second to last thank you, to Migwan. I am the third Bar/Bat Mitzvah at Migwan, which means I'm one of the oldest kids. For the last few years, I've gotten to lead the kids' program together with Lea, which has been awesome. At Migwan, I've always had the feeling that my opinion matters. And that's one of the reasons Migwan is so important to me. In such a small congregation, everyone knows each other. It's like a big family of all kinds of people.

Now I come to the biggest thank you -- the biggest that I can imagine. Of course, it goes to my parents. They gave me life, and they decided what religion I would be, what traditions etc... My mother is Catholic, so I could just as easily have been Catholic. But my parents decided that I should be Jewish. They didn't force me to go to synagogue, but they did recommend it. That religion should be fun, a kind of connection between people. Today, according to Judaism, I am an adult. From today, my religious decisions are completely my own. But I'm not going to change anything, because I am absolutely satisfied as I am. My parents chose well for me. I want to thank my mother for always participating at every festival and holiday, and that she always came to synagogue, even though she understood the service even less than I did. She was always proud and supported me with everything. And I want to thank my father, that he always made synagogue fun, so that my brother and I (but especially my brother) could sing loudly from the bottom of our hearts. It was also not easy to find Migwan; at first we thought we would just be part of IGB. But my father searched a long time; and also afterwards, when we were already at Migwan, he did a lot for Migwan. And I know that when my parents did so much work and gave up so much, a big part of what they had in the back of their minds was that this day (my Bat Mitzvah) would turn out as good as it has today.

So thank you -- thanks to all of you, because you're all very important to me. Lastly I want to wish my grandmother a terrific 73rd birthday today. Mazel tov and shabbat shalom to you all!

Announcing the 2014 Hugo Award Nominees

2014 Hugo Award nomineesThe nominees for the 2014 Hugo Awards have been announced and we are feeling galaxies of pride at the and Tor Books nominees on the list.

Congratulations to all the 2014 nominees! Check out the full list below, including the Retro 1939 Hugo Award nominees announced this evening.

[2014 Hugo nominees]

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WOW, do we have so many people to be proud of!

Squees of joy go out to original fiction contributors Charles Stross, Andy Duncan, and Ellen Klages for their Best Novella nominations, Mary Robinette Kowal for her Best Novelette nomination, and Thomas Olde Heuvelt and John Chu for their nominations in the Best Short Story Category.

High fives go out to editor Ellen Datlow for her nomination in the Best Editor - Short Form category and Liz Bourke for her Best Fan Writer nomination! We’d call you up to congratulate you but all you’d hear is us going “EEEEEEE!”

Wide-eyed wonder also goes out to Tor Books editor and contributing editor Liz Gorinsky for her nomination in the Best Editor - Long Form category and to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series for its nomination in the Best Novel category! (Here’s more info on the rules behind that nomination.)

To celebrate, we've rounded up our nominated works for your reading convenience. Below you'll find each of our stories, along with their artwork, a brief description, and a link to the page where you can read our stories for free. Congratulations again to all our nominated authors!

[Read our Hugo Finalist Stories]

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The Dark Between the Stars Sweepstakes!

Twenty years after the elemental conflict that nearly tore apart the cosmos in The Saga of Seven Suns, a new threat emerges from the darkness. The human race must set aside its own inner conflicts to rebuild their alliance with the Ildiran Empire for the survival of the galaxy.

In Kevin J. Anderson’s The Dark Between the Stars, out on June 3rd, galactic empires clash, elemental beings devastate whole planetary systems, and factions of humanity are pitted against each other. Heroes rise and enemies make their last stands in the climax of an epic tale seven years in the making.

We want to send you a galley right now. Check below for the rules!

[Read more]

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04/18/14 PHD comic: 'Productivity'

Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Productivity" - originally published 4/18/2014

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

Godzilla movie

Only 30 seconds and we get to know who our human surrogates are and we get a clear look at the Thunder Lizard his/her/itself! Take a gander at the new TV spot for the Godzilla movie coming in May.


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We gave you an early look at The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke this week, and now we want to send you the out-of-this-world graphic novel, out from First Second on May 13th! Be the first to get your hands on Zita’s third and final adventure as she faces her biggest challenge yet: plotting the galaxy's greatest jailbreak before the evil prison warden can execute his plan of interstellar domination!

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 4:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on April 18. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on April 22. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor:, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

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The Severed Streets (Excerpt)

Paul Cornell The Severed Streets

Detective Inspector James Quill is back in Paul Cornell’s The Severed Streets—a police procedural tinged with fantasy—available May 20th from Tor Books!

Desperate to find a case to justify the team’s existence, with budget cuts and a police strike on the horizon, Quill thinks he’s struck gold when a cabinet minister is murdered by an assailant who wasn’t seen getting in or out of his limo. A second murder, that of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, presents a crime scene with a message identical to that left by the original Jack the Ripper.

The new Ripper seems to have changed the MO of the old completely: he’s only killing rich white men. The inquiry into just what this supernatural menace is takes Quill and his team into the corridors of power at Whitehall, to meetings with MI5, or ‘the funny people’ as the Met call them, and into the London occult underworld. They go undercover to a pub with a regular evening that caters to that clientele, and to an auction of objects of power at the Tate Modern.

[Read an excerpt]

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Body Parts“Body Parts”
Written by Louis P. DeSantis & Robert J. Bolivar and Hans Beimler
Directed by Avery Brooks
Season 4, Episode 24
Production episode 40514-497
Original air date: June 10, 1996
Stardate: 49930.3

Station log: Quark is back from two weeks on Ferenginar with some pretty awful news from his annual insurance physical: he has Dorek Syndrome, which is incurable, and he’ll be dead in a few days. It’s very rare, afflicting only one in five million Ferengi—Quark comments morbidly that he finally beat the odds. Rom is beside himself, suggesting he get a second opinion from Bashir, but Quark dismisses the notion. How good a doctor can he be when he doesn’t even charge?

Quark’s biggest concern is the paying off of his debts so he can get into the Divine Treasury after death. Rom suggests selling his vacuum-desiccated remains on the futures market. Quark doesn’t think anyone will buy, as he considers himself a joke. Rom’s assurances that he’s a pillar of the community and an important businessman on the station fall on deaf (if very large) ears, because the only opinions Quark cares about are those of other Ferengi. To them, he’s just small-time, but he doesn’t have any other way of paying off his debts, so he goes ahead and puts his body up for sale.

[“I thought you were going to break the contract!” “What are the key words there? ‘You thought’.”]

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