A law easing marriage restrictions was passed by the Knesset, and every citizen will now be able to choose the religious council in which his marriage will take place. This is a positive development, making things easier, but it doesn’t really solve the problem. We are still bound by law to get married exclusively by Orthodox rabbis.Click here for the rest of the article...
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach tweeted throughout a standoff with a gunman at the Garden State Mall in New Jersey, while his daughter and wife took cover inside.Click here for the rest of the article...
(JTA) — Rabbi Shmuely Boteach tweeted “Please pray” as law enforcement scoured a New Jersey mall looking for the gunman who fired shots there while his daughter and wife took cover inside.
Boteach and three of his children were entering the Garden State Plaza in Paramus on Monday night to meet his wife and daughter near closing time when shoppers streamed through the doors shouting that there was a shooter in the mall.
Boteach ran with his children to safety, then called his wife to learn that they were holed up in a storage closest in one of the stores.
“Terror here at garden state mall in NJ and I know people inside. I left with my kids and now outside. Please pray,” Boteach tweeted. He did not indicate that his wife and daughter were among those inside until they were rescued.
Boteach’s wife and daughter were evacuated by a SWAT team about 90 minutes after the shooting began.
The gunman, identified as Richard Shoop, 20, of Teaneck, N.J., entered the mall just before 9:30 p.m. and fired his rifle at random targets, according to officials.
Shoop’s body was found early Tuesday morning in a storage area in the vast mall, which is located about 15 miles from New York City. State officials said he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
He reportedly had shot in the air and told mall patrons that he did not want to hurt anyone.
In a personal essay written after the incident, Boteach said that newly elected U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, a close friend, called as his wife was being rescued to inquire about her well-being. Boteach had texted the New Jersey senator to inform him of the standoff.
“Still can’t sleep. have given up trying,” Boteach tweeted several hours after the incident.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — The oldest congregation in Argentina will mark its 150th year with a series of celebrations, including the launching of a rabbi’s book about Pope Francis.
The first minyan of the Congregación Israelita de la República Argentina met in 1862 on the occasion of the High Holidays. The foundation stone for its synagogue building was laid on Sept. 27, 1867.
The institution also known as Libertad temple, located on Libertad Street, is home to the Byzantine-style Jewish History Museum. The building, which includes the temple and the museum, was declared a National Historical Monument by Argentina’s government in 2000.
The main event of the anniversary celebration will be on Nov. 14, Rabbi Sergio Bergman will present his newly published book about Pope Francis. Bishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, dean of the Catholic University of Argentina, will lead the commemoration, which will include a program featuring Christian, Islamic and Jewish religious leaders.
Bergman, who was recently elected to the national parliament, in his book of religious essays titled “A Gospel According to Pope Francis,” praises Jorge Bergoglio, the former Argentine bishop who became pope earlier this year, as a religious leader, social worker and political statesman.
The synagogue is part Fundación Judaica, a network of Jewish institutions founded and led by Bergman, who is believed to be the only rabbi elected to a national parliament outside Israel.
(JTA) — The Cleveland-based Mandel Foundation awarded $5.25 million to Brandeis University to endow a professorship in Jewish education research.
The suburban Boston university on Monday announced the gift by the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation to fund the faculty chair and strengthen the programming at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education.
The announcement came during a ceremony to dedicate the auditorium at the Mandel Center for the Humanities in honor of Barbara Mandel, Morton’s wife and a Brandeis trustee since 2005.
The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Professorship in Jewish Education Research joins two similarly named chairs in Jewish education and Jewish educational thought at the Center for Studies in Jewish Education.
The Jewish history of Florence remains largely unknown to most Italians and tourists alike. Leaders want to change that, starting with its magnificent Moorish synagogue.Click here for the rest of the article...
Unidentified vandals painted several swastikas and other anti-Semitic symbols on a synagogue building in Gdansk, Poland.Click here for the rest of the article...
In a display of the changes the group has experienced this year, Women of the Wall held a peaceful prayer service under police protection at the Western Wall to mark the group’s 25th anniversary.Click here for the rest of the article...
JERUSALEM (JTA) – In a display of the changes the group has experienced this year, Women of the Wall held a peaceful prayer service under police protection at the Western Wall to mark the group’s 25th anniversary.
Absent from Monday’s service, which the group said drew at least 800 worshippers, were large crowds of Orthodox girls who – at the behest of their rabbis and activists – had blocked out the wall’s women’s section in previous months. For the first time in recent memory, Women of the Wall occupied the majority of the section, with a crowd of male supporters stretching back into the plaza.
The group has met for a women’s prayer service at the wall at the beginning of each Jewish month for the past quarter-century, but has seen rapid change in its status during the past six months. Until April, women in the group who donned prayer shawls or sang too loudly would often be detained by police. But in April a Jerusalem district court judge ruled that the group’s practices did not violate any of the wall’s regulations – and since then the police have switched from arresting to protecting the women.
“We’ve come a long way, baby,” Women of the Wall Chairwoman Anat Hoffman told JTA during the service. “It shouldn’t have taken 25 years. It should have taken two weeks. But we’re now where we should be.”
The court ruling sparked a backlash from the haredi Orthodox community. A new group formed to oppose Women of the Wall, called Women for the Wall, persuaded leading haredi rabbis to send the community’s girls to the wall en masse to pray silently during Women of the Wall’s services. In May, a haredi crowd including thousands of men packed the plaza in a protest that turned violent.
Since then, though, the haredi demonstrations have died down. Several dozen haredi men came to protest on Monday, some yelling epithets at teenagers who had come to support Women of the Wall. But aside from a few token disturbances – screams and whistles – the service continued uninterrupted.
“It’s a big success because the traditional community has an outlet to show its stance and doesn’t have to resort to violence,” Women for the Wall co-founder Leah Aharoni told JTA of the groups prayerful protest. “Some months are better, some months are worse. The interest is definitely not dying out.”
The past half-year has also seen the Israeli government intensify its focus on the conflict at the wall, soliciting a compromise solution from Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky. An outline Sharansky released in April called for a significant expansion of an area to the south of the plaza called Robinson’s Arch that is now used for non-Orthodox prayer.
After backing away from the plan, in October Women of the Wall endorsed it, agreeing to move to the new section should it fulfill a list of conditions.
Brandishing the Western Wall regulation that forbids the group from bringing a Torah scroll to its services, Hoffman told JTA that Women of the Wall has yet to reach all of its goals. She said, though, that given the relative calm at the wall, the group will now be turning its attention to negotiations with the government about the Robinson’s Arch plan.
“We’re not scared of jail and arrests – we’re scared of negotiations,” Hoffman joked. “Can we get the maximum? We won’t be suckers.”
A bill that would allow local rabbis to oversee conversions will be introduced to the parliament after passing a Knesset committee.Click here for the rest of the article...
JERUSALEM (JTA) — A bill that would allow local rabbis to oversee conversions will be introduced to the parliament after passing a Knesset committee.
Under the measure advanced Sunday by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, a city rabbi could convene a beit din, or rabbinical court, for conversions under his jurisdiction.
Conversions are handled in Israel by the Chief Rabbinate. The country now now has four conversion courts; the bill would provide for about 30 more, each comprised of three rabbis.
The chief rabbis of Israel oppose the bill, saying it is not stringent enough on some areas of conversion, Haaretz reported. The bill “puts the halachic [Jewish legal] validity of conversions in Israel at risk,” the chief rabbis said in a statement, the newspaper reported.
Elazar Stern, a Modern Orthodox lawmaker from the Hatnua party, submitted the bill and said he plans to involve non-Orthodox denominations in adjusting the legislation.
The bill may undergo some changes before it reaches the Knesset for a preliminary reading, according to reports.
Girls affiliated with the Modern Orthodox Bnei Akiva movement reportedly will join haredi Orthodox girls at the Western Wall for a prayer service against Women of the Wall.Click here for the rest of the article...
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Girls affiliated with the Modern Orthodox Bnei Akiva movement reportedly will join haredi Orthodox girls at the Western Wall for a prayer service against Women of the Wall.
According to the Israeli religious news website Kipa.co.il, Bnei Akiva has instructed its affiliated girls’ schools to send their students to join the haredi girls for their service on Monday as Women of the Wall holds its monthly service at the Western Wall.
Women of the Wall at the service will be marking its 25th anniversary. The group says some 700 women from throughout Israel will be participating.
In recent months, leading haredi rabbis and activists have mobilized thousands of haredi girls to pray at the wall during Women of the Wall’s services, at times effectively blocking the group from reaching the wall.
It would be the first time that Modern Orthodox schools are sending students to participate in the service by the haredi girls.
Women of the Wall spokesperson Shira Pruce told JTA that the move has offended several of her group’s members who are affiliated with Bnei Akiva.
“Many women are outraged that an organization that represents them would oppose Women of the Wall,” Pruce said. “They’re not saying the organization should take a side at all, but it’s offensive to many that they would teach their children to protest a women’s prayer at the Kotel.”
The main character in Ruchama King Feuerman’s novel cleans toilets on the Temple Mount. A barber from Passaic helped her find out: Are there really any bathrooms there?Click here for the rest of the article...
ADL National Director Abe Foxman has confirmed that leaders of major Jewish organizations have agreed on a limited “time out” during which they will not push for stronger sanctions on Iran.Click here for the rest of the article...
Tensions between Jews and Muslims around Jerusalem’s Temple Mount are surging.Click here for the rest of the article...
A rabbi who survived an anti-Semitic shooting in Russia led a prayer at the annual gathering of Chabad’s emissaries in New York.Click here for the rest of the article...
A Jewish tailor was shot and wounded by a macaroni maker who claimed he trying to hypnotize him. In 1938, mass hysteria breaks out after H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” is broadcast on the radio. Rabbis from different denominations unite to boycott a visiting Soviet writer.Click here for the rest of the article...
This article by Rabbi Kari Tuling originally appeared at the Reform Judaism blog on November 1, 2013.
I am packing for Israel, after a long time away. Like nearly all Reform rabbis, I spent my first year of the rabbinical program in Jerusalem, learning firsthand what life is like in the Jewish state: beautiful, complicated, ordinary, and above all else, profoundly Jewish.
There were good reasons why I have not been there recently: the completion of a degree, family responsibilities. After a while, it seems, this very act of not going can become its own habit: You think of other priorities, other needs.
When I started writing my Yom Kippur sermon about Israel this year, I did not think that I was going to be there any time soon. Yom Kippur marked the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, and certainly a few words were in order, even if the subject can become fraught in a North American synagogue, where the congregants are not of one mind on this matter and emotions run deep. How to proceed? I wrote a sermon about my first time in Israel, as a convert and a rabbinical student, uncertain about what the year might mean for me: how I fell in love with a country and why it is still a place where I struggle with my outsider status. And why I support Women of the Wall, an organization whose mission is to achieve the social and legal recognition of women’s right to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah at the Western Wall.
Israel was founded on a Zionist narrative forged in Europe: We will not be accepted, not now and not ever. Jews should have a state like all other states, a people like all other peoples. That narrative speaks the truth of that context: “Imagine,” an Israeli diplomat once told me, “if Israel had been founded 10 years earlier. Imagine all of the lives we could have saved.” Imagine.
But the North American experience has been profoundly different. Though my own narrative is not something that makes sense in the heat of the consuming fire of the Holocaust, it is rather unremarkable here: A bookish and brainy girl, nominally Protestant, falls in love with a Jewish boy in college, studies with a thoughtful rabbi, converts, and finds a new life purpose in serving the Jewish people. In my case, I have not only become a rabbi but have also earned a PhD in Jewish Studies. These days, I lead a congregation in northern New York and teach college undergraduates.
To be sure, there will be people who read my post and dismiss me as a pretender: “Real Judaism is not what is practiced by converted female reform rabbis in North America.” Let me explain, then, what is really at stake here. In the US, where the congregants vote with their pocketbooks, the Reform community is the largest. The two largest liberal denominations (Reform and Conservative) account for more than 50% of the US Jewish population, according to the most recent Pew report.
In Israel, however, the dominant form of religious observance has been Orthodox, and an increasingly rigid orthodoxy at that. Israel follows the European model, in which religious institutions receive funding from the state, and only the Orthodox can count on that funding.
Though the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled in favor of funding Reform rabbis, that ruling has yet to be implemented because orthodoxy in Israel is opposed to recognizing liberal forms of Judaism for both theological and financial reasons. We are (rightly) viewed as a threat to their livelihood.
The place where this struggle for resources is most visible is in the area of women’s rights.
Women have been increasingly silenced in Jerusalem and in areas where the ultra-orthodox are dominant. Women have been removed from advertisements, from radio, from panels about women’s health.
Why would women be targeted like that? After all, it is possible to be a fully traditionally-observant Jew without oppressing the rights of women. It is not the weight of our tradition that is necessarily forcing these increasingly-narrow interpretations of the role of women. These rabbis are, in fact, introducing innovations whenever they make Judaism less hospitable to women.
Rather, the role of women is one of the most visible boundary-issues dividing the most traditional forms of Judaism from the more liberal forms. That is to say, suppressing women is not the purest expression of Judaism; it is, rather, the most effective way to reinforce the power of the ultra-orthodox.
And that is why I am packing my bags. The Women of the Wall is an organization that challenges this silencing of women. They are seeking to give voice and presence to female prayer. And they have braved insults and violence to do so.
As I wrote my Erev Yom Kippur sermon, advocating the goals of the Women of the Wall, it became increasingly clear to me: I needed to be there, too. I needed to demonstrate in voice and in presence, that the ultra-orthodox vision of Judaism is just one small slice of a much larger, more colorful, and more inclusive whole.
Rabbi Kari Tuling is the rabbi of Temple Beth Israel in Plattsburgh, NY.