Religion & Jewish Life

Converts say Freundel’s abuse of power extended beyond mikvah peeping

NEW YORK (JTA) – When Rabbi Barry Freundel asked Bethany Mandel to take a “really long shower” before a “practice dunk” in the mikvah prior to her formal conversion to Judaism, the whole request seemed a bit odd, she says. For one thing, Freundel instructed her to skip the pre-mikvah checklist, which includes things like […]

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Miami has seen ans increase in Jewish population to 123,000 -- up 9 percent sicne 2004 and reversing a decline begun in 1975 -- according to a survey released on Oct. 13, 2014. (Shutterstock)
Miami has seen ans increase in Jewish population to 123,000 -- up 9 percent sicne 2004 and reversing a decline begun in 1975 -- according to a survey released on Oct. 13, 2014. (Shutterstock)

Study: Miami Jewry sees first gain since 1975

(JTA) – For the first time in four decades, Miami Jewry is growing. That’s the official finding of the new Miami Jewish population study released Monday by the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. The Jewish population of Miami-Dade County increased 9 percent over the last decade, to 123,000 from 113,000 in 2004, according to the survey. […]

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A representative of Jewish Voice for Peace speaking with a student at the Open Hillel conference at Harvard University, Oct. 12, 2014. (Gili Getz)
A representative of Jewish Voice for Peace speaking with a student at the Open Hillel conference at Harvard University, Oct. 12, 2014. (Gili Getz)

Open Hillel holds first conference at Harvard

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (JTA) — Harvard senior Rachel Sandalow-Ash scanned the exuberant crowd that packed a campus auditorium on Saturday night. “Wow,” she said, speaking to an audience of some 350 composed primarily of American college students. “This is amazing. This is really cool.” Sandalow-Ash, 21, went on to discuss the importance of nurturing a pluralistic […]

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Rabbi Gil Steinlauf
Rabbi Gil Steinlauf

Rabbi’s coming-out highlights dramatic shift in Conservative Judaism

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — Gil Steinlauf, a nationally prominent Conservative rabbi, made headlines this month when he announced to his large Washington, D.C., synagogue that he is gay, and that he and his wife of 20 years would divorce. As surprised as his congregants at Adas Israel may have been by the news, it was […]

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What did King David drink? Reviving ancient libations

The small cardboard box in Elyashiv Drori’s palm looks like it’s full of black pebbles. Closing the box quickly, he explains that it cannot be open for long. The pebble-like pieces, which were uncovered in an archaeological dig near Jerusalem’s Old City, are in fact remains of a kilo of grapes stored nearly 3,000 years […]

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Rabbi Gil Steinlauf
Rabbi Gil Steinlauf

Rabbi at historic D.C. shul comes out as gay

(JTA) — Rabbi Gil Steinlauf struggled for decades with an identity that he only acknowledged publicly this week. On the Monday after Yom Kippur, Steinlauf, the married senior rabbi at Adas Israel — a large and historic Conservative synagogue in Washington, D.C. — announced that he is gay. “With much pain and tears, together with […]

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Paul and Hedy Strnad were rejected in their efforts to seek safe haven in the United States from Czehchoslovakia on the eve of the Holocaust. (Courtesy Jewish Museum Milwaukee)
Paul and Hedy Strnad were rejected in their efforts to seek safe haven in the United States from Czehchoslovakia on the eve of the Holocaust. (Courtesy Jewish Museum Milwaukee)

The Jewish dressmaker FDR turned away

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Was the Jewish “lady tailor” who ran a Prague dressmaking shop a potential Nazi spy? The Roosevelt administration apparently thought so. The Jewish Museum Milwaukee recently opened a remarkable exhibit about the late Hedy Strnad, a Jewish-Czech dressmaker who with her husband, Paul, attempted to immigrate to the United States on the […]

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While none of the Jewish denominations sanction quickie conversions, there are ways to cheat the system using corrupt rabbis. This humorously labeled breath spray, however, probably won't do the trick. (carloscappaticci/ Creative Commons)
While none of the Jewish denominations sanction quickie conversions, there are ways to cheat the system using corrupt rabbis. This humorously labeled breath spray, however, probably won't do the trick. (carloscappaticci/ Creative Commons)

JTA SPECIAL REPORT: CONVERSION IN AMERICA 10 questions about Jewish conversion you want to know but are afraid to ask

(This is part of a special JTA report on conversion in America. Read our other pieces about who’s converting to Judaism, and about the denomination-by-denomination breakdown of how the different denominations do conversion.) Must coverts pass a test to become a Jew? Generally, no. Across all the denominations, rabbis are more interested in commitment to […]

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Mikvah immersion is required for Orthodox and Conservative conversions and strongly recommended for Reform conversions. (Mayyim Hayyim/Tom Kates)
Mikvah immersion is required for Orthodox and Conservative conversions and strongly recommended for Reform conversions. (Mayyim Hayyim/Tom Kates)

Conversion to Judaism: denomination by denomination

(This is part of a special JTA report on conversion in America. Read our other pieces about who’s converting to Judaism in the AJP category Religion and Jewish Life, and about the 10 questions about Jewish conversion you want to know but are afraid to ask.) ORTHODOX Number of converts: Unknown. Over the last seven […]

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The New Israel Fund says it is getting more aggressive in combating xenophobia and ultrantionalism. This anti-Arab graffiti reads "Arabs=Thieves. No Coexistence" is seen spray-painted on a stone wall surrounding a house in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sharafat, Feb. 18, 2014. (FLASH90)
The New Israel Fund says it is getting more aggressive in combating xenophobia and ultrantionalism. This anti-Arab graffiti reads "Arabs=Thieves. No Coexistence" is seen spray-painted on a stone wall surrounding a house in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sharafat, Feb. 18, 2014. (FLASH90)

New NIF campaign adopts tools of the right

WASHINGTON (JTA) – In a strategic shift, the New Israel Fund is arming itself with a set of sharp political tools and picking a fight. Its target: Israel’s political right. Its weapons: Opposition research, media monitoring, and staking its claims to patriotism and Zionism. If NIF’s dramatic language, outlined in a Sept. 18 release, and […]

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