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/COURTESY | HAROLD GRINSPOON FOUNDATION/COURTESY | HAROLD GRINSPOON FOUNDATIONBOSTON (JTA) – Fourteen years ago, sitting in her synagogue during Saturday morning services, Jacqueline Jules was browsing some Torah commentary when a story about a medieval poet struck an inspirational chord.

“It was an ‘aha’ moment. This will be my next writing project, my next children’s book,” recalled Jules, an award-winning children’s writer who at the time was also working as a school librarian.

The historical note that captured her imagination was a reference to Samuel HaNagid, a Jewish Talmudic scholar who in the early 11th century served as vizier, the highest adviser, to the Muslim royal court in Granada.

According to the legend, HaNagid is said to have made friends with a man who cursed him “by tearing out his angry tongue and giving him a kind one.”

“I was smitten by the story,” said Jules, adding that she saw the tale as a powerful metaphor for turning a violent act into an act of kindness.

Over the next dozen years, Jules discovered that turning the tale into a story for children was challenging. The author of “What a Way to Start a New Year!,” about Rosh Hashanah, and “The Hardest Word: a Yom Kippur Story” told JTA that she wrote as many as 20 versions of the tale.

All across the country, the life of a teen is busy, busy, busy. The teen engagement department of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island has created a variety of opportunities for teens to get involved easily and that fit their individual interests. 

Students can choose to attend a five-week mini course offered on Sunday mornings or attend a communitywide teen evening event, created in cooperation with local youth groups.

Providence HaZamir choir, a local chapter of HaZamir: the International Jewish High School Choir is a great choice for singers. The choir will meet weekly and participate in two weekends in New York.

NEWPORT – On the morning of Aug. 17, 1790, George Washington arrived in Newport, accompanied by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson.  Exactly 224 years later, the President of Brown University, Christina Hull Paxson, gave the keynote address to a packed house in the same Touro Synagogue that President Washington had visited.  Echoing Washington’s famous words, Paxson declared, “The benefits of a tolerant society – the kind of society George Washington and his colleagues mapped out when Brown and Touro were still new – are infinite.”

 

What happens when you listen to the oldies station? Do memories from your teenage years of rocking to the Beatles and swaying to the Shirelles come flooding back? Do you, by any chance, reminisce about the Saturday night dances you attended at Providence’s JCC? First relationships, first kisses, first three-hour conversations that fly by in five minutes – for many, it all started during the Summer Canteen.

In the late ’50s and throughout most of the ’60s, Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts teenagers looked forward to these evenings filled with music, friends and romance. Though they attended various youth clubs in the building throughout the year, the center was mostly quiet during the summer. The canteen was a welcome distraction from the scheduled days of school, as well as a reprieve from boredom during the long, lazy days of vacation.

In 1916, 15-year-old Brooklyn native Myrtle Ehrlich quit high school after one year to marry a wholesale grocer and to work in his business. When she noticed the high demand for the imported cans of firm-bodied, pear-shaped Italian tomatoes (pomodoros) used by the best cooks to make spaghetti sauce, she had an idea — “Why not grow pomodoros domestically?” She consulted with the agriculture specialists at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, who advised that pomodoros could not be grown in American soil. Discouraged (and divorced after a short time), she moved on, studying business and briefly selling securities on Wall Street.