Religion & Jewish Life

This is why Purim is the original interfaith holiday

Jews dance in costumes and cowboy hats during Purim festivities in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn on March 25, 2005 in New York City.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)Jews dance in costumes and cowboy hats during Purim festivities in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn on March 25, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

(Kveller via JTA) — When I explain Purim to those less familiar with the holiday, I tell them it’s kind of like Jewish Halloween. Not so much because of the history and story behind each (Purim has no ghosts), but related to the joyful spirit, costumes, food and fun.… Read more »

Finally, a book for Jews with Alzheimer’s

Eliezer Sobel's mother, Manya, reading his first book for adults with memory loss, "Blue Sky, White Clouds." (Courtesy of Eliezer Sobel)Eliezer Sobel's mother, Manya, reading his first book for adults with memory loss, "Blue Sky, White Clouds." (Courtesy of Eliezer Sobel)

NEW YORK (JTA) — The book is large and fits comfortably on a lap. The color photographs nearly fill each page. Each image depicts real people doing everyday Jewish things — a young girl eating matzah ball soup; a bubbe and her grandchildren lying in the grass; a man wearing… Read more »

Outside the synagogue, intermarried are forming community with each other

Jason and Julianne Kanter started talking about religion more seriously when they started to think about having children. (Courtesy of Julianne Kanter)Jason and Julianne Kanter started talking about religion more seriously when they started to think about having children. (Courtesy of Julianne Kanter)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Leading up to their wedding in 2012, Julianne and Jason Kanter hadn’t really discussed how they would incorporate their respective religions into their home. Julianne was raised by Catholic and Presbyterian parents, while Jason grew up culturally Jewish. At first, it was simple to mark… Read more »

Conservative movement proposes allowing non-Jews as synagogue members

Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, said the current standards don't make sense in today's world of intermarried couples actively participating in synagogue life. (Mike Diamond Photography)Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, said the current standards don't make sense in today's world of intermarried couples actively participating in synagogue life. (Mike Diamond Photography)

  (JTA) — Responding to a rising number of interfaith families, Conservative synagogues will be voting on a measure from their umbrella body that would allow congregations to admit non-Jews as members. Currently, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s Standards for Congregational Practice restrict synagogue membership to Jews. But the new language, which congregations… Read more »

BLOG 7 unexpected Birthright trips, from yoga to Instagrammed food

Participants in a specialized Birthright trip focused on yoga. (Courtesy of Hillel International)Participants in a specialized Birthright trip focused on yoga. (Courtesy of Hillel International)

(JTA) — Birthright trips — the 10-day Israel tours offered free to young Jews — are so much part of mainstream culture that they have been copied by other religions, parodied on television shows like “Broad City” and “Transparent,” and debated by academics and activists. But if your idea of… Read more »

In Israel, religious single moms gain greater acceptance

Jerusalem resident Alexandra Benjamin and her son at his bris in 2016. (Yitz Woolf)Jerusalem resident Alexandra Benjamin and her son at his bris in 2016. (Yitz Woolf)

  JERUSALEM (JTA) — When Alexandra Benjamin was pregnant recently with her son, she went shopping for appliances for her new apartment in Jerusalem. At the store, the religious salesman asked about her husband. Benjamin explained that she was having the baby on her own. “That’s so great!” she… Read more »

‘Online conversion’ helps fulfill a longtime dream — but controversy dogs the process

'Online conversion' can help make Judaism more accessible to those in remote locations, but everyone isn’t on board. (Lior Zaltzman)'Online conversion' can help make Judaism more accessible to those in remote locations, but everyone isn’t on board. (Lior Zaltzman)

(JTA) — The morning of her conversion, Diana Sewell was so nervous she “was running around like a headless chicken” in her Australia home. Meanwhile, some 9,000 miles away in Georgia, her rabbi was dealing with computer difficulties. Neither of those things put a stop to Sewell fulfilling a 60-something-year-old… Read more »

Wildcat coach to speak at Hillel alumni pre-game dinner

Joe Pasternack (University of Arizona)Joe Pasternack (University of Arizona)

The University of Arizona Hillel Foundation will host its annual alumni and friends event on Thursday, Jan. 26 at 5:15 p.m. The evening will feature Joe Pasternack, UA associate head basketball coach under Coach Sean Miller, who will brief attendees on this year’s Wildcat team. His talk will be… Read more »

BLOG In England, Christmas week of Jewish study means outreach to Sikhs and Muslims

Limmud UK’s annual conference, held this year in Birmingham, is the flagship of a network of Jewish learning festivals held in 44 countries. (Ranana Dine)Limmud UK’s annual conference, held this year in Birmingham, is the flagship of a network of Jewish learning festivals held in 44 countries. (Ranana Dine)

BIRMINGHAM, England (JTA) — If you think the United States overdoes Christmas, you haven’t been to London in December. The main drags are a riot of Christmas lights and gewgaws, the pubs overflow with midday revelers starting the week before and the Christmas shopping is no less intense at… Read more »

8 books for 8 nights of Hanukkah

(JTA) — Hanukkah is “late” this year (no disrespect to lunar-calendar literalists), which means winter will be well underway by the time those first lights are lit. What better time to curl up with a good book than when the weather outside is frightful, but the latkes are so… Read more »

Europe’s Jews prepare public Hanukkah events to ‘drive out darkness’

A menorah in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Dec. 16, 2014. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images)A menorah in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Dec. 16, 2014. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

  AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Before Monday’s attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal had planned to invite hundreds of people to the traditional lighting of the first Hanukkah candle at a large menorah erected at the city’s Brandenburg Gate monument. But he decided to change his original… Read more »

Rabbi expelled from Conservative body for performing intermarriages

Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom officiates at the wedding of his stepdaughter and her fiance in 2014. (Courtesy of Stefanie Fox)Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom officiates at the wedding of his stepdaughter and her fiance in 2014. (Courtesy of Stefanie Fox)

NEW YORK (JTA) – Conservative Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom has been expelled from the Rabbinical Assembly, the movement’s rabbis’ association, for performing interfaith weddings. An ordained Conservative rabbi for 44 years, Rosenbloom was expelled last month by unanimous vote, with abstentions, after a hearing of the R.A.’s Executive Council. Since… Read more »

At first Jewish Comic Con, artists and geeks revel in tradition

A man examining a comic book for sale at the inaugural Jewish Comic Con, held at Congregation Kol Israel, a Brooklyn synagogue, Nov. 13, 2016. (Ben Sales)A man examining a comic book for sale at the inaugural Jewish Comic Con, held at Congregation Kol Israel, a Brooklyn synagogue, Nov. 13, 2016. (Ben Sales)

NEW YORK (JTA) — After Brett Parker’s great-grandfather fled the pogroms in Europe and came to the United States, he opened a drug store where he sold comic books. Each week he would give his grandson, Parker’s father, five comic books to take home. Growing up during the early… Read more »

Israeli teen brings Jewish Ethiopian holiday of Sigd to Tucson

Wearing a traditional Ethiopian dress and shawl, Leah Avuno displays a tunic that would be worn by a  Kes, an Ethiopian spiritual leader. Avuno, who immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia as a toddler, is spending  a year in Tucson as a volunteer.  (David J. Del Grande/AJP)Wearing a traditional Ethiopian dress and shawl, Leah Avuno displays a tunic that would be worn by a Kes, an Ethiopian spiritual leader. Avuno, who immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia as a toddler, is spending a year in Tucson as a volunteer. (David J. Del Grande/AJP)

Leah Avuno, one of Tucson’s two Shinshinim (teen ambassadors from Israel) brought more than just her abundant youthful energy when she came to Tucson — she also brought the rich culture of her Ethiopian heritage. This year, the Tucson Jewish community will join Avuno in celebrating the Jewish Ethiopian… Read more »

BLOG Cubs fans, like the Jews, now face the challenge of success

Chicago Cubs fans cheer after their team defeats the Cleveland Indians, 9-3, to win Game 6 of the World Series at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Nov. 1, 2016. The Cubs would go on to win the Series for the first time since 1908. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)Chicago Cubs fans cheer after their team defeats the Cleveland Indians, 9-3, to win Game 6 of the World Series at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Nov. 1, 2016. The Cubs would go on to win the Series for the first time since 1908. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

  (JTA) — For years, I’ve told anyone who would listen that the Cubs were the team of the Jews. I’ve written two blog posts about it during the past month alone. Long suffering. Faithful. Bound to tradition. Hoping for redemption, to no avail. It was all there. Until… Read more »

Spain’s Jewish ‘ghost towns’ seek a boost from living Jews

A tourist walks down the historic Jewish quarter of the town of Ribadavia in Spain, Sept. 26, 2016. (Cnaan Liphshiz)A tourist walks down the historic Jewish quarter of the town of Ribadavia in Spain, Sept. 26, 2016. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

RIBADAVIA, Spain (JTA) – Overlooking the confluence of two rivers near the Spanish-Portuguese border, this small and picturesque town has more Jewish institutions than some European capitals. In the historic Jewish quarter of Ribadavia, the sounds of nearby waterfalls echo among cobblestone streets featuring attractions that are found nowhere… Read more »

A Brooklyn judge becomes America’s first Hasidic woman to serve in public office

Rachel Freier in her Borough Park law office with, from left to right, nephew Shmuel Freier, husband David Freier and son Mayer Freier. (Andrew Katz)Rachel Freier in her Borough Park law office with, from left to right, nephew Shmuel Freier, husband David Freier and son Mayer Freier. (Andrew Katz)

  (JTA) — For much of her adult life, Rachel Freier has been a trailblazer in her Hasidic Brooklyn community of Borough Park: a lawyer, an advocate for higher education, the founder of an all-female ambulance service and of a nonprofit to aid underprivileged mothers during the Gulf War. Now… Read more »