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Kosher restaurant in Paris attacked

Thu, 12/25/2014 - 15:44

(JTA) — A kosher restaurant in Paris was fired on in an attack that is similar to one on a Paris synagogue days earlier.

Bullet holes were discovered Wednesday in the window of the Al Haeche kosher restaurant located in the 19th district of northeastern Paris. The attack reportedly occurred Tuesday night, the JSSNews website reported.

The bullet reportedly was fired from an air gun. An air gun is believed to have been used Monday night when a bullet crashed through a window of the David Ben Ichay Synagogue in Belleville, in the northeastern section of the French capital. The synagogue is located less than a mile from the restaurant.

The Bureau for National Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, condemned the incident and described it as anti-Semitic because it was deliberately aimed at a kosher restaurant, according to JSSNews.

“Regardless of the projectile, stone, lead ball or ball, the BNVCA considers the incident criminal and anti-Jewish” Sammy Ghozlan, president of BNVCA, told JSSNews.

Israeli girl, 11, seriously injured in West Bank firebomb attack

Thu, 12/25/2014 - 15:24

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An 11-year-old girl was seriously injured when a firebomb hit their car in the northern West Bank.

The girl, Ayala Shapira, was taken to a Tel Aviv hospital with third-degree burns over 50 percent of her body, including her face and upper body following the Thursday evening attack. She is unconscious and on a respirator, and her injuries are reported to be life-threatening.

Her father, 40, who rescued her from the car, is in light condition.

They were driving from their home in the El Matan outpost near Maale Shomron to a bat mitzvah at a synagogue in the neighboring community of Ginot Shomron.

The car was completely destroyed by fire.

Israeli troops entered a nearby Palestinian village to find the person who threw the firebomb.

The car of Ayala’s mother was hit by a firebomb a month ago, but she escaped unhurt.

Israel Returns Bodies of Har Nof Terrorists to Families

Thu, 12/25/2014 - 14:19

Israel returned the bodies of two terrorists who killed five worshippers in an attack on a synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem.

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Israel returns bodies of Har Nof terrorists

Thu, 12/25/2014 - 10:50

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel returned the bodies of two terrorists who killed five worshippers in an attack on a synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem.

The bodies were transferred to their families on Thursday, more than a month after attack during morning worship services at Bnei Torah Kehillat Yaakov, which left four rabbis and a police officer dead.

The two terrorists, Palestinian cousins Uday and Ghassan Abu Jamal, were buried shortly after the transfer in a West Bank cemetery and not in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber where they had lived. The speedy interment was required by Israel, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported.

Only 40 relatives were allowed to attend the funeral and the families paid a $5,000 deposit to insure that they adhered to Israel’s stipulations.

Following the attack, Israel’s Interior Ministry revoked the residency permit of Ghassan Abu Jamal’s widow, requiring her to leave Israeli territory and stripping her of any financial benefits she receives from the state. Demolition orders also have been issued for the homes of both terrorists.

Rabbi Leonard Beerman Dies at 93

Thu, 12/25/2014 - 10:42

Rabbi Leonard Beerman, famed for his unremitting pacifism and fight against injustice, has died.

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Rabbi Leonard Beerman, known for political activism, dies

Thu, 12/25/2014 - 08:43

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — Rabbi Leonard Beerman, famed for his unremitting pacifism and fight against injustice, has died.

Beerman, who grew the Leo Baeck Temple from a small community of 28 members when he arrived in 1949 into one of the most prominent synagogues in Los Angeles, died on Dec. 24 at the age of 93.

“With his inimitable mixture of elegance and outrage, Rabbi Leonard Beerman taught by example how to build an unflinching life of courage and conscience.  He dreamed of humanity’s moral ascent and devoted his life to pursuing and inspiring it,” Rabbi Ken Chasen, the current senior rabbi of Leo Baeck Temple, said.

Beerman’s faith was bound to his activism. Over the years he used his pulpit to advocate for better wages for the working poor in the United States, racial equality and concern for the welfare of Palestinians, the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles reported.

Beerman also spearheaded congregational activism. He led community efforts to fight nuclear proliferation and refurbish housing on Los Angele’s Skid Row to provide decent accommodations for the poor.

“Rabbi Leonard Beerman refused to meet injustice with silent complicity. Even when he felt called to take positions that he knew would be unpopular, he sensed a higher demand to serve as a witness to human suffering and to back up his impassioned words with principled action,” Chasen said.

Born in Altoona, Pa., in 1921, Beerman was ordained by Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati. He served in the United States Marines during World War II. When fighting broke out in the new State of Israel after the 1947 United Nations vote in favor of partitioning Palestine into two independent states, Beerman, who was studying at Hebrew University, joined the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary organization.

In a 1997 interview, Beerman noted, “It was in the Haganah in which I served for about five months, I think, that I came more and more to believe that pacifism was a genuinely held conviction of mine.”

Beerman is survived by his wife, Joan Beerman, five children and six grandchildren, as well as a brother and a sister. His funeral will be held Dec. 28 at the Leo Baeck Temple.

Beleaguered Theater J Slammed Over 'Blatantly Political Firing' of Ari Roth

Thu, 12/25/2014 - 06:00

Theater J has come under attack by some of the biggest names in the business for the abrupt departure of its director. Was Ari Roth axed for ‘blatantly political reasons’?

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Roman Polanski Loses Bid To Quash 1977 Sex Case

Wed, 12/24/2014 - 16:49

A Los Angeles judge has declined a bid from attorneys for Roman Polanski to close the 1977 child sex case against the Oscar-winning director, a court spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

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Another New York Infant Gets Herpes From Controversial Circumcision Rite

Wed, 12/24/2014 - 15:00

Another infant in New York City has been infected with herpes during a metzitzah b’peh ritual, city health authorities reported.

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Atheist 'Satanic Temple' Holiday Display Damaged at Florida Capital

Wed, 12/24/2014 - 07:57

A mocking holiday display depicting an angel falling into the pit of hell was deliberately knocked off its table in Florida’s Capitol rotunda Tuesday, but was quickly restored by a local atheist leader whose group sponsored the exhibit.

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Torateinu ARZA: Unto Zion Shall Go Torah

Wed, 12/24/2014 - 06:00

By Rabbi Josh Weinberg

 “Moses received the Torah from Sinai and gave it over to Joshua. Joshua gave it over to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets gave it over to the Men of the Great Assembly.” Pirkei Avot 1:1

Dan, the official in customs, told me to have a seat with my Torah and wait. Well accustomed to Israeli bureaucracy, I immediately knew I should have canceled my plans for the rest of the day. When Dan returned, offering me a cup of coffee, I knew I was in for it. Surprisingly, within 10 minutes, having signed the necessary paperwork and paid the required fees, Torateinu ARZA (Our Torah to the Land) and I were cleared to leave.

As I headed into the arrivals hall, cradling the Torah, Dan asked, “So, is that a real Torah?”

“Absolutely,” I responded.

“A great mitzvah…” he called out with a wink. Even the customs official understood the importance of our work to bring the gift of Torah to Kehilat Sha’ar HaNegev, a fledgling Israeli Reform community.

In the back of the hall, near the vending machines, I took the scroll from its box, passing it carefully to Yael Karrie, Kehilat Sha’ar HaNegev’s student rabbi. Amidst swarms of Orthodox Jews, we weren’t sure how a woman holding a sefer Torah would fare, but we needn’t have worried. No sooner did Yael take the scroll than an elderly woman, her head covered in a scarf ran up to us, asking if she could kiss the Torah, exclaiming, “May it bring good things for the people of Israel!”

Traditionally, when we take the Torah from the ark during services we chant these words from the Book of Isaiah: “From out of Zion comes Torah.” With the arrival of this particular sefer Torah, we can modify Isaiah’s words to these: “Unto Zion shall go Torah.”

Generously donated by Congregation Beth Israel of San Diego, Torateinu ARZA, an initiative of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), had traveled throughout North America for nearly six months – from west to east, from San Diego to the Negev – visiting dozens of congregations and events on its way to Israel. Recently, I was honored to walk with Torateinu ARZA on Shabbat morning at the joint URJ-HUC-CCAR board meeting in Cincinnati and  to be granted an even greater honor: to receive the Torah upon its arrival home – at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport. It has since arrived at Kehilat Sha’ar HaNegev, the congregation that will be its permanent home in Israel.

As we celebrate the last day of the Festival of Lights, may this Torah be a symbol of much needed light, unity, and good will in Israel. Let it show the world that the Reform Movement is building a strong and growing presence in Israel, that we are committed to making Torah accessible to all Jews, and that our congregations place Torah at the center of their existence.

This spring’s World Zionist Organization elections have the potential to enhance recognition of the Reform Movement in Israel, help our communities to thrive, and demonstrate that there are many ways to be religious in Medinat Yisrael. If you haven’t already done so, please pledge to vote in the upcoming WZO elections.

Rabbi Josh Weinberg is president of ARZA.

Did Rabbi Barry Freundel Treat Mikveh Like 'Car Wash' To Peep on Women?

Wed, 12/24/2014 - 06:00

New lawsuits paint a disturbing picture of Rabbi Barry Freundel’s alleged exploitation of hundreds of women in the mikveh —  and claim rabbinic authorities failed to stop him.

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United Synagogue Youth Eases Rule on Dating Non-Jews

Tue, 12/23/2014 - 15:39

United Synagogue Youth voted to relax its rules barring teenage board members from dating non-Jews — but the Conservative group stuck with a requirement that they observe Shabbat.

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Bullet Fired Through Paris Synagogue Window

Tue, 12/23/2014 - 11:31

A bullet fired from an air gun crashed through a window of a Paris synagogue’s office.

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Drinking From the Fountain of Youth at the URJ Youth Summit

Tue, 12/23/2014 - 10:00

Today’s studies and statistics provide proof that engaged youngsters become actively practicing Jewish adults. While practicing remains a matter of degree, anyone who has worked with young people recognizes that relationships built during these formative years facilitate engagement long after the conclusion of temple youth group days. Creating those relationships requires incredibly dedicated adults who see significant value and promise in their work with young people.

But creating a nurturing environment for relationships to flourish requires thoughtful, sometimes subtle planning. There are best practices. There are pitfalls to avoid. How can someone new to youth work gain insights? How can someone who has been working with teens for years be rejuvenated and re-inspired?

If you work with Jewish youth and are asking yourself these questions, I propose you attend the URJ Youth Summit at NFTY Convention in Atlanta, February 13-17. You will have the opportunity to meet like-minded peers, and build professional relationships to share the agonies and ecstasies of youth work!

What happens at NFTY Convention that makes the expense and the time spent away from family worthwhile? Years of experience in the adult volunteer sector has taught me that enthusiasm is contagious. Being with like-minded youth advocates allows youth professionals – especially young adults – to know that what they have chosen for their life work makes a real difference in people’s lives and that they have chosen well.

As a NFTY alum and adult lay leader, I want to model how valuable it is to be and stay involved. My connection to Reform Judaism has never been a momentary part of my life, but rather a lifetime endeavor. I believe it is critically important for teens to know that adults care about and respect them. They need to know that adults want to share conversations to learn what is important to them and their peers. The Youth Summit helps advisers learn to listen, to channel teen energy, and to be both a friend and a mentor (while still the adult) in all situations.

Two years ago, my husband, granddaughter, and I traveled to California to experience NFTY Convention together. As the Centennial Chair for Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ), I was invited to announce the winner of the WRJ Centennial NFTY Essay Competition and bring greetings to NFTYites on behalf of WRJ. (The creation of NFTY is one of the most celebrated highlights of the 100-year history of WRJ). Talk about perks of the job! Whenever I spend time with NFTYites, our local temple youth group, or at URJ Camp Harlam, I feel like I’ve tasted the fountain of youth. There’s nothing like being with 1,000 teens who are singing, cheering, and loving being Jewish!

Indeed, watching and listening to NFTYites is a terrific learning experience for everyone. It restores confidence in our Jewish future. My congregation is hosting NFTY-PAR’s winter event, WINSTY, in January. It’s a lot of work and a huge commitment, but Rabbi Jack Paskoff told our Board of Trustees, “When we have a PAR event in Lancaster, the entire congregation is enriched. Everyone feels the energy. Our kids, even the younger ones, feel the connection.” Our rabbi has role-modeled for us how a congregation is strengthened by its engaged youngsters. His influence and consistent interest in the leaders of tomorrow makes our 350-family congregation a leader in our Movement.

If you want to participate in NFTY Convention and the URJ Youth Summit, make time. Ask for financial help from every organization in your community. Their investment in your attendance will reap rewards your congregation can’t imagine. Go and drink from the fountain of youth!

Sing Unto God a Newly Created Song

Tue, 12/23/2014 - 06:00

By Blaire Weinberg

Our tradition tells us in Psalm 149, “Sing unto God a new song.” For 75 years, NFTY teenagers have shaped, written, and led songs that have allowed Reform Jewish teens to connect with Judaism in an entirely new way. NFTY musicians sit at the epicenter of Jewish music, experimenting with new takes on traditional songs and writing music that serves as the musical scores of Reform Jewish life. Through NFTY, more than 100,000 teenagers have connected with Judaism in innovative and meaningful ways, continuously pushing the boundaries of Jewish music. Since 1939, NFTY has consistently redefined the call to action found in Psalm 149.

NFTY teen Blaire Weinberg of NFTY-Chicago Area Region is on the cutting edge of Reform Jewish worship in her capacity as a regional songleader. Last November, Blaire attended NFTY Nashir, a weekend of songleading training. The Nashir series brings together some of the best minds in Reform Jewish music, both teen and adult. Nashir weekends have taken place across the country in places such as Denver, Chicago, and White Plains. Through master classes, skill-building intensives, and teen-teaches, NFTY attendees leave equipped to facilitate prayer for their communities. Nashir is one of the most vibrant programs in the current NFTY portfolio, with more than 100 graduates who are making a positive impact on NFTY and their synagogue communities.

When asked to reflect on her NFTY Nashir experience, Blaire remarked,

NFTY Nashir is one place to gain feedback. NFTY songleaders from around the country attend Nashir for a weekend filled with song, learning, and engagement. We are active participants in things we would usually be leading, like services and song sessions. Saturday morning services consist of Tot Shabbat services that progress into regular services, like growing up. Saturday afternoons are workshops on a myriad of topics, such as integrating secular music into song/services, and engaging reluctant participants. After every activity we discuss what went well and why, and figure out what can be improved. We get to practice the skills we have learned on Sunday mornings with the Sunday school students. And afterwards, we all bring home what we have learned: songs, techniques, friends, and memories.

Unlike her predecessors in NFTY songleading, such as Debbie Friedman and Jeff Klepper, who were masters of guitar, Blaire brings a unique musical flavor to her community through her violin playing. Blaire explained, “I songlead just like any other guitar player, but not. Jewish music has become more welcoming to other instruments, just like our people are not one to close doors to newcomers.”

Blaire continued,

In the early days of Judaism, we chanted. There was no Mi Chamochah to be sung until we had been freed from slavery. There are the traditional chants such as the Amidah or V’ahavta. Over time, new melodies were written. Today, Mi Chamochah is one example. Each synagogue does not necessarily sing the same song of freedom. Open any Shirenu and there won’t be fewer than six versions; from happy and upbeat, to mellow and slower; our songs are different.

NFTY has opened the door to the creation of new traditions and melodies, and under the leadership of teens like Blaire, NFTY will continue to expand the repertoire of the Reform Movement.

Through her song “Shiru L’adonai,” Reform Movement songwriter Julie Silver offers her own translation of Psalm 149:

Sing unto God all the earth a new song
I will sing unto God a new song
Sing unto God and we’ll all sing along
All the earth a new song unto God.

For 75 years, NFTY has been the creator of new songs. These songs have allowed the Reform Movement to “sing unto God” in an ever-changing yet increasingly meaningful way. Through regional events and specialized programs like Nashir, NFTY teenagers are paving the future of the Reform Jewish landscape. Their voices, leadership, and musical talent are allowing a movement of over one million Jewish individuals the ability to truly “sing unto God all the earth a new song!”

Blaire Weinberg is a junior at Buffalo Grove High School. She belongs to Temple Chai, attends URJ OSRUI during the summer, and songleads for NFTY-CAR (Chicago Area Region). She is an aspiring astrophysicist. Blaire was interviewed by Andrew Keene, past president of NFTY.

61 Theater Chiefs Slam Firing of Theater J Director Ari Roth

Mon, 12/22/2014 - 22:04

Sixty-one artistic directors of U.S. theater companies denounced the DC Jewish Community Center’s firing of Ari Roth, the artistic director of its Theater J who staged numerous works critical of Israel.

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Theater J director’s firing denounced in open letter

Mon, 12/22/2014 - 17:45

(JTA) — Sixty-one artistic directors of U.S. theater companies denounced the DC Jewish Community Center’s firing of Ari Roth, the artistic director of its Theater J who staged numerous works critical of Israel.

An open letter issued Monday said “it is absolutely clear that Roth was fired because of the content of the work he has so thoughtfully and ably championed for the last two decades,” the Washington Post reported. It was signed by leaders of such companies as New York’s Lincoln Center Theater and Public Theater, Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre and Washington’s Shakespeare Theatre Company.

Roth has been artistic director of Theater J for 18 years; the JCC fired him for “insubordination” on Dec. 18.

The letter said its signatories “deplore the action of the JCC, offer our complete support for Ari Roth” and “urge the American theater community to protest these events in all possible ways.”

The JCC has described Roth’s departure as “stepping down to pursue a new series of endeavors,” while Roth has said it “was pretty punitive,” according to the Forward.

In recent years, Roth and the JCC had clashed over several plays criticized for being anti-Israel.

Rabbi Josh Broide Is First Director of Community Engagement for Jewish...

Mon, 12/22/2014 - 17:22

The Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County has announced that Rabbi Josh Broide has joined its professional staff as the organization’s first Director of Community Engagement. The Federation...

(PRWeb November 21, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/south-palm-beach-county/jewish-federation/prweb12346536.htm

Hanukkah’s Lessons Apply to our Work with Jewish Youth

Mon, 12/22/2014 - 16:17

As we approach the eighth night of Hanukkah, I know I’m not alone when I say I’ve almost reached my fill of latkes! Still, I can never get my fill of family and community gatherings that are bursting with joy, spirituality, and a sense of awe for the enduring, illuminating light of the menorah.

Of all the Jewish holidays, engaging youth and families during Hanukkah always seems to be the most effortless. Maybe it’s the seasonal cheerfulness, the theme of giving, or the focus on family, but the act of lighting the menorah is a mitzvah that still speaks to all Jews – even those who are minimally engaged in Jewish life.

Hanukkah is the annual reminder of our collective ability to persist in the face of adversity, to assemble for religious freedom, and to recognize the light in the midst of darkness. Similar to the teachings of Hanukkah, the URJ’s youth engagement work is ultimately intended to repair the world by fostering a personal commitment to social justice, advocacy, and meaningful values.

There is much to learn from Hanukkah’s inherent methods of youth engagement. Here are eight Hanukkah-inspired strategies that light the way for increased youth engagement in our communities and congregations:

  1. Be welcoming: The excitement felt during Hanukkah is ubiquitous, and we know our youth engagement strategies need to be pervasive. This is why the Reform Movement has committed to creating more programs to resonate with young Jews by 2020. Learn more about our “2020 Vision” plan.
  1. Have fun: Hanukkah shows us that when we create an inspiring and enjoyable atmosphere, our ability to engage is greater. Our youth programs aim to spread enthusiasm and vitality for Jewish life.
  1. Find meaning: The eight-day festival resonates with all Jews because it reminds us to stand up for our values and beliefs. We seek to cultivate a sense of meaning and purpose for youth.
  1. Focus on kids: Creating environments for younger children to build positive connections is a prevailing strategy of our youth efforts. The earlier the connection is made, the higher the probability of youth leading an ongoing connection to Jewish life.
  1. (And adults, too): We know it’s important that parents and mentoring adults play a role in engaging young people. The Reform Movement is committed to networking with more adults to weave a network of support for the next generation.
  1. Foster Jewish identity-building: Our youth engagement strategies are devised to help guide and suppour youth as they explore their Jewish identities. Our programs are meant to deepen and strengthen Jewish identity while encouraging a safe space for exploration.
  1. Invest in learning: Hanukkah reminds us to embrace and welcome the need to implement our youth strategy by creating environments like URJ camps, NFTY, Mitzvah Corps, and Israel programs that serve as an incubator for thought and experimentation.
  1. Build community: We invite you to share with us your own Hanukkah-inspired strategies in The Tent, the Reform Movement’s new communication and collaboration platform website. We look forward to hearing your ideas!

It’s with great excitement that I look forward to championing the youth engagement strategy and continuing to work with you to strengthen youth work that will infuse our congregations and sacred communities with vitality and hope.