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11 South African Students Punished for Disrupting Performance by Israeli Pianist

Wed, 01/22/2014 - 12:06

Eleven students at a South Africa university charged with disrupting a concert by an Israeli musician were sentenced to community service.

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Modern Orthodox High School in New York Allows Girls to Wear Tefillin

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 18:11

SAR High School, a Modern Orthodox institution in Riverdale, New York, has allowed girls to wrap tefillin — a ritual that is gaining acceptance for women.

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Israel's Filipina X-Factor Winner Gets Permission To Work as Singer

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:52

A Filipina caregiver who won Israel’s version of the X-Factor last week will be allowed to stay in the country and pursue a music career, the Immigration Authority said on Monday.

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UN Chief Attends Shoah Event at New York Synagogue

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 08:07

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited a New York City synagogue to honor the memory of the victims of the Holocaust in advance of International Holocaust memorial day.

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The (Hillel) Kids Are Alright

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 06:00

From all the ink devoted to the controversy at Swarthmore, you might think the Israel-haters are banging at the doors of Hillel nationwide. Rest easy, one campus director says.

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Two Rabbis Fight For Gun Control From Pulpit — and the Heart

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 06:00

Since the Newtown rampage, two rabbis who have been personally touched by gun violence have sought creative ways to change our culture. They say Congress isn’t the place to start.

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"555 Days of Prayer to Save America" Continues Youth and...

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 00:21

As announced, "Save America Gathering," the primary planners of the global prayer event, "555 Days of Prayer to Save America" have begun their outreach to draw increased...

(PRWeb December 16, 2013)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/12/prweb11411812.htm

Only One Chief Rabbi in Israel Under New Knesset Bill

Sun, 01/19/2014 - 14:51

A Knesset committee voted to approve a bill that would create one chief rabbi position instead of the current two.

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Knesset bill would create one chief rabbi position

Sun, 01/19/2014 - 14:17

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Knesset committee voted to approve a bill that would create one chief rabbi position instead of the current two.

The Knesset Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted Sunday to approve the legislation, proposed by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni of the Hatnua Party, and co-sponsored by Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett and lawmaker Eli Ben-Dahan of the Jewish Home Party.

The bill must be approved by the Cabinet and then pass three readings in the Knesset in order to pass. It would take effect after the ten-year terms of the current chief rabbis, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, expire.

“In a state where there is only one president, one Supreme Court president, one prime minister and one chief of general staff, there is no way to justify the doubling of the position of chief rabbi,” she said. “We have to rid ourselves of the old-fashioned division of ancestral congregations and start bringing the country together.”

The new law also would make the rabbinical courts independent of the office of the chief rabbinate, rather than the current situation in which the two chief rabbis alternate serving as the head of the Rabbinate Council and as chief religious court judge, of the Higher Rabbinical Court.

 

Zach Braff Returns To Sundance With Jewish Parenting Film 'Wish I Was Here'

Sun, 01/19/2014 - 13:26

After exploring the quarter-life crises of young adults in the critical and commercial hit “Garden State” a decade ago, actor-director Zach Braff turned his eye to examine the existential dilemmas faced by parents in his new film “Wish I Was Here.”

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U.N.’s Ban visits NY synagogue to memorialize Holocaust

Sun, 01/19/2014 - 12:30

(JTA) — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited a New York City synagogue to honor the memory of the victims of the Holocaust in advance of International Holocaust memorial day.

Ban on Saturday spoke at Park East Synagogue at its memorial service in honor of victims of the Holocaust. He also paid tribute to Holocaust survivors and called for collective action to prevent future Holocausts.

“My hope is that our generation, and those to come, will summon that same sense of collective purpose to prevent such horror from happening again anywhere, to anyone or any group,” Ban said.

The International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust is observed annually on January 27, the anniversary of the liberation in 1945 of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland.  Over one million Jews and other minorities died there during World War II.

He recalled his visit to Auschwitz last November, during which he was “profoundly saddened” by what he saw as he walked around the death camp.

“Even today, the Holocaust is hard to grasp,” Ban said. “The cruelty was so profound; the scale so large; the camps spread so far and wide. The Nazi worldview was so warped and extreme – yet attracted so many followers.”

The featured speaker at the Jan. 27 memorial ceremony at U.N. Headquarters will be filmmaker Steven Spielberg, whose Shoah Institute for Visual History and Education was a landmark in preserving survivor testimony.

“Each of us has a role to play in combating intolerance, incitement and the manipulation of ethnic or religious identity that we see in conflicts and political campaigns,” Ban said. “All those involved in atrocities – whether head of State or head of militia – should be held accountable.”

What's Unnerving About Angela Buchdahl? She Talks About God

Sun, 01/19/2014 - 11:34

What makes people nervous about Rabbi Angela Buchdahl isn’t that she is so young, or a woman. No, it’s because she talks about God.

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Haim Hears a Who as Dr. Seuss Musical Comes to Israel

Sat, 01/18/2014 - 16:46

The beloved characters of iconic children’s book author Dr. Seuss are coming to the Israeli stage for the first time. But with a Haredi director, there’s an Orthodox twist.

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Israel Rabbinate Reaches 'Historic' Deal With American Orthodox

Fri, 01/17/2014 - 15:20

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has reached an agreement with the main American Orthodox rabbinical association to automatically accept letters from council members vouching for the Jewish status of Israeli immigrants.

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Century-Old Jewish Mural's Hidden History in Vermont

Fri, 01/17/2014 - 13:57

An old apartment building in Vermont seems like an odd place to find a rare Lithuanian synagogue mural. But treasures often turn up where you least expect them.

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Nuremberg Trial Flea Market Trove Headed for Chabad Center

Fri, 01/17/2014 - 13:21

Documents from the Nuremberg Trials recently found in a flea market in Israel are to go on display at the Chabad Jewish Educational Center in Berlin.

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Conservative and Reform Rabbis Deserve Same Recognition as Avi Weiss and Orthodox

Fri, 01/17/2014 - 12:55

The Israeli rabbinate’s decision to accept Rabbi Avi Weiss is welcome. Now maybe it can acknowledge Conservative and Reform rabbis, who are no less Jewish than their Orthodox peers.

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Chief Rabbinate and RCA reach agreement on ‘status’ letters

Fri, 01/17/2014 - 12:53

(JTA) — The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has reached an agreement with the main American Orthodox rabbinical association to automatically accept letters from council members vouching for the Jewish status of Israeli immigrants.

The agreement, described as “historic” in a news release Thursday from the Rabbinical Council of America, comes after the Chief Rabbinate refused to accept status letters from Rabbi Avi Weiss, an Orthodox rabbi and council member who has sparked controversy for ordaining women clergy and founding the “open Orthodox” rabbinical school Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. The rabbinate’s refusal sparked widespread outrage, ultimately leading it to reverse course.

Under the terms of the agreement, letters vouching for Jewishness will still be prepared by individual rabbis, but the RCA will issue, upon request from the rabbi, a supporting document directly to the Chief Rabbinate. The RCA endorsement will assure the letter is accepted immediately and without question.

Situations in which conversion or divorce are involved will be reviewed by the Beth Din of America, according to the RCA release. Rabbis who are not members of the RCA may also seek similar endorsements.

“Since the earliest days of the RCA we have worked together with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel,” RCA President Rabbi Leonard Matanky said in a statement. “We are proud that we can expand that partnership to better serve our constituents and resolve issues that might appear before the Chief Rabbinate.

Berlin Chabad to display newly discovered Nuremberg Trials evidence

Fri, 01/17/2014 - 12:04

BERLIN (JTA) — Documents from the Nuremberg Trials recently found in a flea market in Israel are to go on display at the Chabad Jewish Educational Center in Berlin.

According to an announcement from the Berlin Chabad center, the documents will be on display to the public next week as part of events marking the Jan. 27 International Holocaust Remembrance Day. They will then be sold at auction in Jerusalem.

The documents, which contain incriminating evidence of Nazi crimes, were found last year by a collector in a flea market in Jaffa, the Chabad center said.

In its description of the lot, the Jerusalem-based Kedem auction house said they consist of English translations of Nazi documents; reports, protocols and memorandums distributed among the prosecutors; official documents connected to the trial; and hundreds of copies of documents from the time of the Nazi regime.

The documents include a stenographic report about a 1938 meeting regarding the so-called Jewish question, led by Hermann Goering, and a letter referring to the confiscation of art from Jewish owners on the occasion of Hitler’s birthday.

Other documents include a copy of a document titled “Instructions for the treatment of the Jewish question” and an activity report on Nazi mass shooting operations in the former Soviet Union.

The papers reportedly are part of a collection that belonged to Isaac Stone, who headed the Berlin Document Center and the U.S. Foreign Service Office in the 1940s.

Juliana Rangel, head of the library and documentation division of the United Nations International Court of Justice  in The Hague, told JTA the documents “certainly have a historical interest,” but “do not add anything to the Archives as they were entrusted to the Court by the Four Powers.”

Reform Movement Leaders Submit Statement Opposing House Anti-Choice Bill

Fri, 01/17/2014 - 11:16

On Wednesday, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, Executive Director of Women of Reform Judaism submitted a joint statement for the record opposing H.R.7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice held a hearing last week on the bill, and the full Judiciary committee met on Wednesday to do a markup of H.R.7, which passed the committee and will arrive on the House floor soon. It is worth noting that as the committee was reviewing this dangerous anti-choice bill, the Supreme Court was considering the constitutionality of buffer zones around reproductive health centers. In their statement, Rabbis Saperstein and Feldman argue from both a religious and a women’s equality standpoint why this legislation must be voted down.

On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations encompass over 1.3 million Reform Jews across North America, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which includes more than 2000 Reform rabbis, and the Women of Reform Judaism, which represents more than 65,000 Reform Jewish women, we submit this statement in strong and sincere opposition to the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 7).

The Reform Jewish Movement has long held that it is a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her reproductive health. Since the 1960s, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and Women of Reform Judaism have urged an end to all restrictions on reproductive rights. In the era before Roe v. Wade, the Reform Movement cited a “moral imperative to modernize abortion legislation,” lamenting that “illegal abortions yearly take a tragic and needless toll.” When Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, the Reform Movement praised the decision for its importance not only in protecting women’s health, but also in safeguarding civil liberties. “The question of when life begins is a matter of religious belief and not medical or legal fact,” the Union for Reform Judaism resolved in 1975. “While recognizing the right of religious groups whose beliefs differ from ours to follow the dictates of their faith in this matter, we vigorously oppose the attempts to legislate the particular beliefs of those groups into the law that governs us all. This is a clear violation of the First Amendment.”

The Reform Movement views abortion as a deeply personal issue and, like most Americans, holds the core belief that women are moral decision-makers in their own right entitled to make fundamental medical and reproductive choices. A woman should make a decision about whether to have an abortion according to her own beliefs and in consultation with her clergy, her family, and her doctor; politicians and ideologues should not make the decision for her. We believe that religious matters are best left to religious communities and individual conscience, and decisions about health, including what constitutes a life-saving procedure, are best left to patients in consultation with physicians.

We come to these beliefs inspired by the sanctity of life. Our faith tradition teaches that women are commanded to care for the health and well-being of their bodies above all else. Banning potentially life-saving medical procedures and interfering with a doctor’s medical decision-making are contrary to the Jewish commandment to protect life. Although an unborn fetus is precious and is to be protected as a potential human being, Judaism views the life and health of the mother as paramount, placing a higher value on existing life than on potential life.

The great physician and scholar Maimonides stated, “If a woman is in hard labor…her life takes precedence over [the fetus’] life.” Mishnah Ohaloth 7:6 forbids a woman from sacrificing her own life for that of the fetus, and, if her life is threatened, she is allowed no other option but abortion. In addition, a number of scholars assert that if the mental health, sanity or self-esteem of the woman (e.g., in the case of rape or incest) is at risk due to the pregnancy itself, the woman is permitted to terminate the pregnancy (“Jewish Living: A Guide to Contemporary Reform Practice,” page 240). It is due to the intrinsic Jewish belief in the sanctity of life that abortion is viewed under some circumstances as both a moral and correct decision.

Furthermore, the Torah makes clear from the beginning that all of humanity—men and women—was created b’tzelem Elohim, in the Divine image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). With that Divine spark, women are perfectly capable of making moral decisions about their own bodies. We deeply believe that unnecessary constraints to a woman’s right to make those decisions violate the principle that God created everyone equally.

For these reasons, we are profoundly concerned by and strongly oppose H.R. 7. This dangerous bill severely threatens the right to choice affirmed by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade. Such legislation would prevent women seeking needed reproductive health care from using their own, private money to pay for abortion services. This bill would also deny women the right to deduct abortion services in their health care tax credit, infringing not only on federally-administered health care plans, but also on privately-run and paid-for plans. H.R. 7, if passed, would likely lead many private health insurance plans to eliminate abortion coverage altogether, thus dramatically reducing women’s access to safe and affordable abortion services.

H.R. 7 further enshrines the “Hyde Amendment” into law, barring any federal government money from being spent on abortions needed by women who rely on Medicaid, Medicare or the Indian Health Service except for in the cases of rape, incest or endangerment to the life of the mother.  Despite the health care disparities the Affordable Care Act seeks to correct, this bill would certainly reinforce an unfortunate reality that a woman’s ability to fully access her reproductive rights is dependent on where she falls on the income ladder. Women in the Armed Forces would also continue to be restricted from using their own, self-earned money to pay for abortions on military facilities.

We cannot stand silent while the House of Representatives considers a bill that violates the U.S. Constitution, decades of U.S. Supreme Court precedent and many of our core Jewish values.

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act would result in greater government interference in what is typically a very private, and often religious, decision. As Reform Jews committed to the sanctity of a woman’s life and personal dignity, and as Americans committed to core Constitutional principles, we must oppose H.R. 7 and urge your Subcommittee to do the same.

Urge your Representatives to vote against this highly restrictive bill!

Take action here.

This post originally appeared at WRJ blog.