Site reflects the intricacies of different kinds of families

It's a fact: Jewish families are more varied and complex than ever.

There are families with spouses of different faiths, and families with adopted children of different backgrounds. tries to provide some help for people working through these difficult issues. The perspective is strongly Jewish, but the tone is open and welcoming.

The slick magazine-style format — this is another publication of Jewish Family & Life, a kind of Internet publishing conglomerate known for its sophisticated Web presentations and Jewish content — is easy for even Web neophytes to navigate.

The core of the site is a collection of feature articles exploring many of the dilemmas of the modern Jewish family.

A recent edition included a feature story on raising a Jewish-Guatemalan child, another on an adoptee's search for her Jewish roots. Another column is part of an ongoing series about a mixed couple's experiences in an "Introduction to Judaism" course.

There are advice columns by professionals and book reviews.

A particularly useful feature: listings of interfamily resources around the country. And there's a community forum that lets visitors help each other.

The tone is low-key and unpreachy — more social work than rabbinical in approach. The e-zine is published biweekly; visitors can sign up for free e-mail alerts about what's in the newest issue.

The home page is efficiently designed — full of information without being cluttered.

Bottom line: a great site for Jews who are coping with the growing complexities of modern Jewish family life.

Check it out at:

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Jews live in the darnedest places. If you don't believe it, check out the way-cool Kulanu home page — a vast repository of information about Jews in forgotten corners of the world.

Kulanu, according to the home page, is "an organization which reflects the community of interests of individuals of varied backgrounds and religious practices dedicated to finding and assisting lost and dispersed remnants of the Jewish people."

When they say lost, they mean lost. There are Jewish remnants in India, Burma, Afghanistan, Pakistan and China, the site reports.

Descendants of Jews subjected to forced conversions in Spain and Portugal today live in Brazil, Mexico, the southwestern United States, and Majorca.

The Kulanu group does research on these groups, but also seeks to link them to the rest of the Jewish world — and to provide assistance to native groups interested in converting to Judaism.

An essay by Robert H. Lande, a University of Baltimore law professor, addresses the sensitive question of whether these people are Jewish missionaries..

There are a handful of links to information about the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda, who converted to Judaism in 1919 and remained true to their new religion, despite persecution. Another lengthy section deals with Jews in China. There are also abundant links to Sephardic sites around the world, biographies and links to assorted scholarly and religious resources.

The site is attractive and the information fascinating; altogether, a worthwhile and educational stop along the information superhighway.

Check it out at:

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Another educational but fun Web site offers interactive learning games for kids and adults who are struggling with Hebrew. Zig Zag World is divided into two sections. The "Hebrew for Me" area includes 13 attractive, informative online games based on Java technology — a programming language that allows sites to create graphically intensive games that will work no matter what kind of computer visitors use.

The idea is to reinforce Hebrew vocabulary, using simple picture puzzles and games. A warning: kids and young adults will navigate the site without a hitch, but older folks who still speak computer as second language may find the instructionless games baffling. A second section — "The Best Jewish Games on the Web" — provides educational games on a wider range of topics, but always with the goal of helping visitors conquer the language.

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The writer is a Washington-based correspondent who has been writing about Jewish Web sites since the early 1990s. His columns alternate with those of Mark Mietkiewicz. Besser can be reached at [email protected]