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Black Hats and Wigs Do Not an Orthodox Jew Make

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 20:00

Why do some Orthodox Jews do things that seem so un-Jewish? Avi Shafran has an answer — they go through the motions of ritual without embodying true belief.

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Stones Thrown at Dutch Chief Rabbi's Home

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 13:37

A chief rabbi of the Netherlands said unidentified individuals hurled stones at his home in what he said was the second anti-Semitic attack on him in a week.

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Home of Netherlands chief rabbi attacked

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 11:20

(JTA) – A chief rabbi of the Netherlands said unidentified individuals hurled stones at his home in what he said was the second anti-Semitic attack on him in a week.

Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs said the latest attack took place at 5 a.m. Thursday, when two stones were hurled through a window of his home in Amersfoort.


An earlier incident outside his home on July 10 ended without damage, he said. Jacobs’ home has been targeted five times in recent years, he told JTA.

“The fact that these attacks are recurrent shows the depth of hatred that exists against Jews,” he added.

On Thursday, the pro-Israel organization CIDI prepared for a support rally to express solidarity with Israel for its military operation against Hamas and other terrorists in Gaza. Israel launched the operation last week amid ongoing rocket fire on Israeli cities and towns.

One Israeli and more than 200 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, which triggered a wave of anti-Semitic incidents across Western Europe and especially France.

Anti-Israel protesters said they would hold a counterdemonstration opposite the CIDI rally at Amsterdam’s Dam Square.

Khalid Sinouh, a goalkeeper for Rotterdam’s Sparta soccer team, called CIDI “a criminal organization” and a “pro-apartheid organization” on Twitter on Thursday, the Telegraaf daily reported.

The Walkman Generation – NFTY in the ‘80s

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 05:00

By Rabbi Roxanne J. Schneider Shapiro

More than the Jewish people have kept the Sabbath; the Sabbath has kept the Jewish people. – Ahad Ha’am

When I reflect on NFTY in the ‘80s, I would revise Ha’am’s quote to:

More than Reform Jewish teenagers have kept NFTY; NFTY has kept Reform Jewish teenagers.

I cannot speak for all who were involved in NFTY in the ‘80s, but for me, NFTY was a holy sanctuary – it was what I would refer to as a beit midrash (house of study), beit t’filah (house of prayer), and a beit k’neset (house of meeting), all in one.

Teens in the ‘80s were learning about Judaism ‘on the go.’ We were the “Walkman generation.” Finally, we could take music with us. This represented more than just music on the go ― for us it was the beginning of portable Judaism. I practiced for my bat mitzvah service with a cassette tape in my Walkman. I could play my tapes of NFTY I, II, III, IV, V, and my MoVFTY mix tapes over and over in the car, on a walk, and at NFTY events. Our music and our experiences were not limited to places where a music box could be plugged in; rather, they were everywhere. We were learning that Judaism was not limited to our homes and synagogues―it could be taken with us.

In high school, we learned English, science, and history, but NFTY was where we went to really learn about the world around us. We explored social justice issues that were in our own backyards, not just talk about them. NFTY was a safe space where we could ask questions, be vulnerable, and learn. We explored gender issues, the nuclear arms race, Black-Jewish relations, AIDS, and hunger. We craved the lessons and the chance to learn more―to uncover the truths that the world was not yet speaking about openly. We wrestled over the fact that we used the term “J.A.P” with our Jewish friends, but cringed when we heard others refer to us that way. We were introduced to and inspired by Anselm Rothschild, a young Jewish composer who served as faculty at Kutz, and for many of us, our first connection to someone who would die of AIDS. These discussions and these interactions brought us out of our secular worlds of avoidance of sensitive topics, and helped us to become the shapers of our world.

We were all so committed to believing that “Ani v’atah n’shaneh et ha’olam” (You and I can change the world). We sang the song with passion and we believed. We joined hands, studied issues, and we acted. We stood proud for Operation Moses (Ethiopian Jewry) and against apartheid (South Africa), held hands (Hands Across America 1986), and marched on Washington (Soviet Jewry 1987). NFTY resolutions became our mantras. We boycotted grapes and Nestlé products, believing with all our might that if we all joined in, we could make a difference. And when businesses changed their practices for the better, and when people gained their freedoms, we knew that we had played a part.

When I peruse Facebook these days, and consider the lives of all of those who made my NFTY experience what it was, I am impressed by all we have sought to do. From those who now serve their cities and states as elected officials to those who work in social service agencies and as teachers, from those who raise their children to be caring individuals to those running businesses that promote good values and ethics, and, of course, to those who have chosen the Jewish professional world to touch the lives of teens (thanks to those who made a difference in their own lives), I know that it is in no small part due to their experiences with NFTY in the ‘80s.

We thought then that we kept NFTY strong, but really, NFTY made us strong. And I bet, if you ask NFTYites of the 1980s, we will tell you that, despite all the challenges we know we have faced and still will face, ultimately, we believe that together, “you and I can change the world.”

Rabbi Roxanne J. Schneider Shapiro is the rabbi and Director of Life Long Learning at United Hebrew Congregation in St. Louis (the only congregation that can boast having two former NFTY Presidents currently serve as its rabbis). After being a devoted MoVFTYite, serving as Regional President and Regional Secretary, she was NFTY’s North American President (1989-1990). She was YGOR (Rockdale Temple) Advisor in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, and became a NFTY-OV Life Member in 2001. She has been honored to have a true recognition of what l’dor vador (from generation to generation) means as her former congregant, Andrew Keene, was elected NFTY President this past year.

Utah man gets five years in prison for firing on synagogue

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 09:39

(JTA) — A Utah man was sentenced to five years in prison for firing a gun at a Salt Lake City synagogue in 2012.

Macon Openshaw, 22, of Salt Lake City, pleaded guilty on April 16 in U.S. District Court for the District of Utah to firing three rounds from a handgun at Congregation Kol Ami, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice. The shots broke windows and damaged the window casings.

Openshaw admitted to firing at the synagogue because of its Jewish character.

“Religiously motivated violence cannot be tolerated by civil society,” Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels said in a statement. “The department stands ready to combat violence based on a person’s religion and will continue to prosecute these hate crimes vigorously.”

Openshaw also was ordered to pay $1,969 to the synagogue to pay for the damage caused by his attack.

Utah Man Gets 5 Years for Shooting at Salt Lake City Synagogue

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 08:38

A Utah man was sentenced to five years in prison on Tuesday for shooting into an unoccupied synagogue in Salt Lake City in what federal authorities said was an attack motivated by religious bias.

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Saperstein: Recent Spate of Anti-Semitic Incidents Prompts Alarm

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 22:49

In response to recent anti-Semitic episodes in Los Angeles and Paris, as well as incidents across the United States and Europe, Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

“We are deeply disturbed by the recent violent anti-Semitic and anti-Israel uprisings. Over the weekend, rioters, wielding bats and chairs, tried to break into the Don Isaac Abravanel synagogue in Paris while worshippers were blocked inside. In Los Angeles’ Westwood neighborhood, a peaceful demonstration was violently disrupted by agitators, leading to shots being fired. In Frankfurt, a local synagogue was attacked as an anti-Israel rally turned violent. In Bastille Square, demonstrators held signs that read ‘Death to Jews.’

“The attacks on synagogues and the anti-Israel demonstrations that spill over into violence are part of a series of anti-Semitic incidences in Western Europe coinciding with the recent escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These events are painful reminders that anti-Semitism continues to plague too many Jewish communities. Such incidents are alarming indications that the thin line between anti-Semitism and many anti-Israeli activities is evaporating.

“As home to the largest population of Jews outside of the United States and Israel, we often see France as a bell-weather of the situation for Jews and religious minorities in Europe. Especially this week, as the French people celebrate their independence and democratic society, it is a propos that we be reminded that French citizens — of all faiths and of non-faith — have a right to live their lives free from violence and intimidation. Towards that goal, we acknowledge the efforts of the French authorities to address the causes and manifestation of such incidents.

“In light of these recent events across the globe, we urge law enforcement, political and civic leaders to be even more assertive in efforts to secure the safety of Jewish citizens and institutions. Our hearts go out to the Jewish community of Paris and all the affected communities and we pledge our ongoing support to help ensure the safety of Jews throughout Europe and the world.”

The Women Rabbis Of New Mexico

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 06:00

New Mexico is home to several trailblazing rabbis and has become a breeding ground for female spiritual leaders. We visit as part of Our Promised Land series of all 50 states.

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The Century Ends: NFTY Music of the 90s

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 05:00

by Cantor Rosalie Boxt

Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong decade. I have often wondered what it would have been like to be a songleader with my mentors, my friends, and my “heroes” in the 70s. Yet, as I reflect back on the time when I was a young songleader, during the years when I was in the thick of camp songleading, I see the 90s as the most extraordinary time to have been a part of NFTY – the Reform Jewish Youth Movement, and Jewish music. At Goldman Union Camp I learned everything there was to know about songleading from the greats of community singing ― Dan Nichols, Ken Chasen, Andy Vogel, Dave Snyder. When I left there to join the leadership team of Kutz Camp in 1995, I had no idea of the scope and breadth of Jewish music. In the mid and late 90s, as a songleader at Kutz, I first became aware of the diverse and extensive camp and regional musical traditions. Before that I thought the Midwest was all there was! What became clear to me at Kutz in the 90s was that there was an entire canon of NFTY music ― a repertoire that spanned the miles and borders of state and region, of accent and weather. And yet there was also music that was specific to each region, each songleader, each camp’s particular passion in text or music.

The songleaders who came before me at Kutz had been in Israel and brought us David Broza’s “Mitachat LaShamayim” and Naomi Shemer’s “Lu Y’hi” – the new contemporary Israeli rock of which I had been unaware as a youth in the 80s beyond knowing the Chasidic and Israeli folk festival repertoire of the 70s. We also began to reap the benefits of Debbie Friedman’s new compositions around prayer, women, Torah text, and healing. I remember learning and teaching her “Devorah’s Song,” “Miriam’s Song,” and “Mi Shebeirach” as a 20-year-old, knowing then the power of these songs. I understood, most importantly, their messages of strength and courage, of allowing everyone’s voice to a part of our story, and how they would resonate for years to come.

I was impressed (and startled) by the intensity of singing I experienced at SEFTY (NFTY SE/STR) and the depth of knowledge of prayer and Hebrew of OSRUI teens. The 90s were a pivotal time for NFTY and its music; as it became clear that we needed a new chordster, a new songleading “bible.” The amount of new repertoire which had been written, or discovered and shared, had made the old orange chordster out of date ― not obsolete ― but lacking in the scope which the NFTY and UAHC (now the Union for Reform Judaism) leadership recognized had grown exponentially in the 90s, and now was needed to set the course for the next 20 years.

After college I was honored to become an employee of NFTY in Israel, and the NFTY songleader at Kutz, and to be a part of the editorial team and then co-editor of Shireinu: Our Songs, the chordster published in the year 2000. It was the dynamism of our team, the lists we voted on and culled, the songs retained and songs dropped off, the songs we hoped would last, and others we knew would take off ― that mark the pivotal moments the 90s were to our camp and songleading world.

Over 20 years later, it is thrilling to be invited to be a part of the next stage – Shireinu II – in which we will reflect on how far we’ve come, on how our music has grown deeper and wider, more inclusive of voices from many faiths and backgrounds, and always with text, Torah, humanity, and relationships at the center.

So while I was transformed by the creativity and vision of the 70s, and witnessed the dynamism and boundary-breaking of the 2000s, I was able to share so richly in the music of the right decade, and to reap the benefits of those who came before and sow the seeds for those to come.

Cantor Rosalie Boxt serves Temple Emanuel in Kensington, Maryland and is a member of the URJ Expert Faculty of Worship and Music, and Director of Worship for URJ Biennial.


Russia Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar Brings Riot Police Escort to Crimea Synagogue

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 21:45

Russia’s chief rabbi Berel Lazar brought armed policemen, including riot police, to tour Crimea’s Reform synagogue in Simferopol, according to CCTV footage.

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Couple Charged in Ramadan Threat to Hamptons Synagogue

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 17:28

A divorced couple from Long Island was arrested for allegedly sending threatening emails to a synagogue in the Hamptons.

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Indie Rock With A Spiritual Core

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 16:55

The Antlers have made a name for themselves with heartbreaking lyrics and atmospheric sounds. Singer Peter Silberman talks about how spirituality informed their new album.

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Couple arrested for threats on Hamptons synagogue

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 15:40

(JTA) — A divorced couple from Long Island was arrested for allegedly sending threatening emails to a synagogue in the Hamptons.

Asli Dincer, 44, and her ex-husband Melih Dincer, 31, sent email messages to the Jewish Center of the Hamptons in May and June, threatening an explosion there during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan began on June 29.

The two were arrested July 11 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport upon their return from Turkey. They were arraigned on Friday in East Hampton on charges of making a terrorist threat, falsely reporting an incident, menacing and conspiracy, according to NBC New York.


Bnei Akiva Chief Escapes Ouster for 'Revenge' Call

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 12:15

World Bnei Akiva Secretary-General Rabbi Noam Perel will keep his job after the governing body accepted his apology for his call to avenge with blood the murder of three Israeli teens.

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Lorin Maazel, Philharmonic Conductor, Dies at 84

Sun, 07/13/2014 - 22:24

Conductor Lorin Maazel, a child prodigy who later directed the New York Philharmonic, the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Munich Philharmonic, died on Sunday at the age of 84, according to music festival he founded.

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Anti-Israel Paris Crowd Besieges Synagogue

Sun, 07/13/2014 - 18:30

Dozens of young men protesting Israel’s actions in Gaza briefly besieged a Paris synagogue and clashed with security.

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Morocco Rabbi Beaten in Gaza Payback

Sun, 07/13/2014 - 18:16

The rabbi of the Jewish community in Casablanca, Morocco, was beaten allegedly because of Israel’s Gaza operation.

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Rabbi of Casablanca assaulted in response to Israel’s Gaza operation

Sun, 07/13/2014 - 13:55

(JTA) — The rabbi of the Jewish community in Casablanca, Morocco, was beaten allegedly because of Israel’s Gaza operation.

Rabbi Moshe Ohayon was attacked Friday night as he walked to synagogue for Sabbath services, according to local and Israeli reports.

Ohayon suffered a broken nose and broken ribs, and was beaten on the head in the attack, according to the French language alyaexpress-news.com. The rabbi reportedly asked passers-by for help but was ignored.

The alleged attacker, a local Muslim man in his 20s, reportedly told the rabbi during the attack that it was in retribution for Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. The assailant is known to local police, according to the report, and officers were searching for him in order to arrest him.

Following the attack, Casablanca Jews called on local authorities to increase security around synagogues and other Jewish institutions.

Palestinian officials put the Palestinian death toll at more than 166 since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge, which entered its sixth day on Sunday.

Since July 8, the Israel Defense Forces said, 707 rockets have hit Israel and 160 have been intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.


Paris Shul Firebombed as Anti-Semitism Flares Across Europe

Sun, 07/13/2014 - 10:16

A firebomb was hurled at a synagogue near Paris, part of a string of anti-Semitic incidents in Western Europe coinciding with Israel’s assault on Hamas in Gaza.

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Crimea Reform Rabbi Accuses Russian Jewish Leaders of 'Invading' Synagogue

Sun, 07/13/2014 - 09:44

A prominent Chabad rabbi from Moscow denied accusations that he and several of his colleagues, including a chief rabbi of Russia, forced their way into a Crimean Reform synagogue’s offices.

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