Israel’s chief rabbis called on the public to say special prayers due to the lack of rain.Click here for the rest of the article...
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of a Minnesota rabbi who claimed he was cut from an airline’s frequent flier program for earning too many miles.Click here for the rest of the article...
A house dating to the Hasmonean period was uncovered in eastern Jerusalem near the Temple Mount.Click here for the rest of the article...
From Friday night song session to diverse, creative options for worship and learning, Shabbat at the URJ Biennial will feature something for everyone.
- Friday Night Shabbat Services
First bring a little bit of the Tel Aviv pier to San Diego and prepare for Shabbat with the innovative leaders of Beit Tefilah Israeli, who bring Kabbalat Shabbat music and engagement to Israelis. Led by Rabbi Esteban Gottfried, Atalya Lavie, Yotam Mahler, and Eitan Goffman of Beit Tefilah Israeli, Tel Aviv, Israel. Then Kabbalat Shabbat T’filah will be led by Rabbi Joel Sisenwine, Cantor Jodi Sufrin, Rabbi Rachel Saphire, and Noah Aronson of Temple Beth Elohim, Wellesley, MA.
- Shabbat Dinner
This is Shabbat dinner like you’ve never experienced it before, with 5,000 other Biennial attendees! You will receive your dinner ticket and seating information at registration; on-site seating changes and questions about dinner can be handled at the Shabbat Dinner Information table in the Kikar Biennial – The Biennial Town Square.
- Friday Night Song Session
This Shabbat event is a Biennial favorite, featuring all your favorite music from camp and youth group – live! Encourage friends and family at home to watch the webcast at urj.org/biennial, and set your DVR to record the session on JLTV so you can relive the fun once the event has ended.
- Shabbat Morning
Start your day by choosing between Torah study led by world-class scholars or spiritual and inspiring p’sukei d’zimrah (morning blessings and psalms). Together we will joyfully accompany the Torah scrolls down to the plenary hall and convene as one community for the rest of Shabbat morning worship, a hallmark of the Biennial. Rabbi Rick Jacobs and Rabbi/Cantor Angela Buchdahl will lead the service, and we’ll hear commentary on the week’s Torah portion from Rabbi David Ellenson as we honor him on his retirement as President of HUC-JIR.There will also be four special aliyot for all NFTY alumni; Women of Reform Judaism members; URJ elected lay leadership and all congregational presidents; and HUC lay leaders, students, and alumni. If you fall into one of these categories, you will be invited up to one of many bimot scattered throughout the plenary hall.
- Shabbat Afternoon
Attendees may chose one of three Shabbat lunch tracks: traditional lunch and learn sessions with a marquee speaker; an off-site trip to a local attraction; or a URJ camp-style afternoon, featuring a range of arts and education options. These experiential opportunities include two blocks of formal workshop sessions or casual drop-in sessions.
Goldman Sachs chief Lloyd Blankfein recalled the role of his rabbi and Jewish organizations in helping him realize he could succeed despite growing up in a working-class neighborhood.Click here for the rest of the article...
Israel’s chief rabbis said in a signed declaration that Jews are prohibited from visiting the Temple Mount.Click here for the rest of the article...
Born in 1920, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman embodied her mother’s musical talent and her father’s poetic soul and love of Yiddish. Emily Socolov remembers her mother-in-law.Click here for the rest of the article...
Israel’s Chief Rabbinate extended the time within which a couple can register its intention to marry from three months to one year.Click here for the rest of the article...
The Herzl Center, an educational center designed to introduce Hungarian Jews to the Zionist movement, was inaugurated in Theodor Herzl’s birthplace, Budapest.Click here for the rest of the article...
BUDAPEST, Hungary (JTA) — An educational center named for Theodor Herzl, considered the founder of modern Zionism, was inaugurated in his native Budapest.
The Herzl Center, which was dedicated Sunday night at the city’s Israel Cultural Center, is designed to introduce Hungarian Jews to the Zionist movement. It was established by the World Zionist Organization and The Jewish Agency for Israel with the assistance of the Herzl Center in Jerusalem.
The Budapest center will concentrate on the history and spiritual heritage of Herzl, who was born in 1860. Through interactive exhibits, the center will show visitors the past and present realization of Herzl’s thoughts about anti-Semitism and the importance of Jewish identity.
Natan Sharansky, the head of the Jewish Agency, said at the inauguration ceremony that “it is very important to focus on the fight against increasing anti-Semitism together with the Europeans and here in Hungary together with the Hungarian government.”
Sharansky expressed support for the Committee on Anti-Semitism, which will research and monitor anti-Semitism in Hungary from the Israeli Cultural Center.
Also at the ceremony, Avraham Duvdevani, president of the World Zionist Organization, said that “nobody thought that after so many years of Herzl and after the Shoah, anti-Semitism would again reappear in Hungary. Herzl was mistaken thinking that the Jewish state would be the solution against anti-Semitism.”
(JTA) – Ahead of an audience with Pope Francis, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Rome’s main synagogue where he lit Hanukkah candles with his Italian counterpart Enrico Letta.
Speaking to the Jewish community and the media at Sunday’s ceremony, Netanyahu reiterated his warnings that the recent agreement on Iran’s nuclear program was a “historic error.”
Letta said he “knew Israel’s positions, doubts and fears.” He said the current economic and social crisis fed “extremism, hate and intolerance,” and he pledged to resist the “racism, intolerance and xenophobia” that were growing in Italy “in a worrying manner.”
The two prime ministers were set to hold bilateral talks on Monday.
Last Hanukkah, Marjorie Slome’s synagogue lay devastated after Sandy. A year later, she tells how her attitude about government’s role in helping religious institutions has changed.Click here for the rest of the article...
A Conservative leader is pushing to let rabbis perform intermarriages. The effort is one of the denomination’s new ideas to religiously integrate non-Jews.Click here for the rest of the article...
JERUSALEM (JTA) — David Peleg, an Israeli historian and diplomat who served as director of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, has died.
Peleg, who served as Israel’s ambassador to Poland, died Nov. 27 in Israel at the age of 72 after a long illness.
Peleg was born in Jerusalem in 1942 to a family that was originally from Poland. He graduated from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem after studying general history and the history of Islam.
Peleg served in Warsaw as Israel’s ambassador to Poland from 2004 to 2009, after postings beginning in 1965 in Lusaka, Atlanta, London, Washington, New York and Geneva.
Peleg was appointed director-general of the World Jewish Restitution Organization after leaving the Israeli Foreign Ministry in 2009.
Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress and also of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, praised the late Israeli diplomat as a “thoughtful and skilled professional who did not seek the limelight but instead fought tirelessly to secure a small measure of justice for the dispossessed victims of the Holocaust and their heirs.”
David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said in a statement that Peleg “was an Israeli patriot, proud of the country he represented and angered by the efforts to delegitimize and demonize the Jewish state. He knew his nation was not perfect – what nation is? — but he witnessed first-hand the hypocrisy and double standards too often employed in the international community when it comes to Israel, and especially in the UN in New York and Geneva during the time he served in those two posts.”
Harris said he met Peleg 25 years ago, when Peleg served as Minister of Public Affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
“He was a proud Jew, who felt a visceral connection to Jews everywhere, be it the large community in the United States or the remnant and rebuilding community in Poland, where he lived for five years as Israel’s envoy. He was a voice for strengthening the bonds of Jews worldwide, and in particular between Israel and the Diaspora. He helped keep alive the memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust through his work as a diplomat and later at the WJRO,” he said.
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem was closed to visitors after a fight broke out between Jewish visitors and Muslim worshipers.Click here for the rest of the article...
JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Temple Mount in Jerusalem was closed to visitors after a fight broke out between Jewish visitors and Muslim worshipers.
The Jews visiting the site Sunday morning reportedly began singing Hanukkah songs and praying. In response a group of Muslim worshipers attacked them, Israeli media reported.
Two Jews and two Muslims were arrested in the incident.
Jews generally are not permitted to pray or bring any ritual objects to the Temple Mount, which is considered Judaism’s holiest site, in order to avoid confrontation with Muslim worshipers at the Al-Aksa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site. The site is overseen by the Muslim Wakf, the Muslim religious administration charged with managing the Temple Mount site.
The Temple Mount was closed to non-Muslim visitors during this year’s Sukkot holiday over fears that Muslims would be incited to violence by the crowds.
Days later on Oct. 14, the Temple Mount was shut down to visitors after police removed 10 Jewish men for praying and singing. The men were detained after praying and bowing on the Temple Mount, then singing “Hatikvah,” the Israeli national anthem, waving an Israeli flag and dancing.
About an hour before the incident, police detained three other Jewish men for questioning after they prayed and bowed during a tour of the Temple Mount.
NEW YORK (JTA) — Right now, there is just one way for someone who is not Jewish to become Jewish in a publicly recognized and officially authorized fashion: undergo religious conversion under the auspices of a rabbi.
Whether the path to Jewish identification follows Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist or other auspices, conversion is explicitly and entirely religious in nature. These movements and their rabbis vary both in the preparation they demand and the religious commitments they seek of potential converts. But all require a significant measure of religious education, practice and expressed commitment to a Jewish way of life.
In the United States, interest in becoming Jewish has grown, owing in part to intermarriage, intergroup friendship, and more positive feelings about Jews and Judaism. As a result of Judaism entering the marketplace of ideas, Jewish thought and ideas resonate with many people. And with the melting of hard social boundaries separating Jews from others, many have entered into marriages, friendships and close working relationships with Jews.
Yet, notwithstanding the thousands of non-Jews who maintain familial, friendship and collegial ties to Jews, many with some interest in joining the Jewish people may be disinclined to do so for any of a variety of reasons. In the Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011, 7 percent of adults who identified as Jewish reported that neither of their parents were Jewish. Of the 7 percent, 2 percent said they formally converted and 5 percent said they became Jewish by personal choice and not by way of religious conversion. How can we explain the popularity of people assuming a Jewish identity without undergoing religious conversion?
We believe that some prospective converts to Judaism feel that religious conversion demands what for them would be an insincere affirmation of religious faith. Perhaps they are agnostic or atheist or secular, or even committed to another faith tradition. Others may be wary of adopting Judaism as an exclusive religion so as not to offend their parents or other family members, or because conversion requires abandonment of religiously grounded customs and holidays like Christmas.
Even though significant numbers of Jews are secular, atheist or celebrate Christmas as a seasonal holiday, holding such positions and observing such practices present prospective converts with insurmountable barriers to conversion.
As a result, many would-be members of the Jewish people have no possibility of engaging in a course of study and socialization that would lead to public recognition of their having joined the Jewish people, and they have limited access to enriching their familiarity with “lived Judaism” — the actual culture and ethos of Jewish life as lived in families and communities. And we know that most people live out their Judaism more in the informal context of family and friends than in the more formal context of religious institutions.
In theory at least, broader access to Judaism beyond that already offered by rabbis, congregations, and religious movements could result in more non-Jews in Jewish families and friendship circles building Jewish homes.
To provide a viable alternative to religious route to becoming a Jew, we propose a second explicitly cultural pathway to join the Jewish people. This pathway, which we call Jewish Cultural Affirmation, would be clearly distinguished from Jewish religious conversion. Religious conversion would remain a rabbinic prerogative, and Jewish Cultural Affirmation would not assume an anti-religious ethos. Nor are we suggesting that Jewish Cultural Affirmation undermine or obviate the traditional path to conversion.
Rather, by offering an additional vehicle to acquiring a Jewish social identity, Jewish Cultural Affirmation would allow prospective Jews to acquire a measure of familiarity with being Jewish and to undergo a non-religious pathway toward membership in the Jewish people.
Candidates for Jewish Cultural Affirmation would undertake a course of self-guided study and experiences, outlined in a web-based curriculum to be developed by a panel of scholars, communal professionals and others. The curriculum would consist not only of reading, but of experiences of lived Jewishness.
Candidates would be encouraged to sample a variety of areas of Jewish civilization – such as politics, literature, music, comedy, social action, learning, organized community, Israel, chesed, and sacred and secular texts — and to achieve a level of familiarity with and competence in participating in American Jewish life.
Candidates would meet with mentors (in person and virtually), and gather from time to time in small group sessions, perhaps at private homes, restaurants, cafes or other convenient venues that are not explicitly Jewish in association.
For those who may come to desire official recognition, we propose a public ceremony that would need to be designed, and also a certificate of membership in the Jewish people, whose specific substance and formulation would need to be addressed.
Accomplished Jewish cultural experts — professors, writers, artists, educators, communal leaders, and others — would constitute boards that would oversee the program and would attest to the validity of the affirmation.
Jewish Cultural Affirmation would not preclude eventual conversion by rabbis, should they seek more traditional religious recognition of their Jewish status by religious authorities. Indeed, acquiring an identification with the Jewish people is a crucial segment in all approaches to religious conversion, implying that Jewish Cultural Affirmation can be seen by religious authorities as comprising a significant step on the path to religious conversion.
We welcome those who would like to support this endeavor to join us in the conversation so that this proposition might be brought to reality.
Steven M. Cohen is research professor of Jewish social policy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky is executive director of Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute.
One of Europe’s oldest functioning synagogues sustained heavy damage in a fire that broke out in the city of Grodno in Belarus.Click here for the rest of the article...
Britain’s umbrella body of Orthodox communities is condemning a London Orthodox synagogue that allows women to hold Torah scrolls.Click here for the rest of the article...