Religion & Jewish Life

From matzo balls to footballs, two Jewish brothers recall their journey to the NFL

Geoff, left, and Mitch Schwartz are the first pair of Jewish brothers to play in the NFL since 1923.(Olivia Goodkin and Lee Schwartz)Geoff, left, and Mitch Schwartz are the first pair of Jewish brothers to play in the NFL since 1923.(Olivia Goodkin and Lee Schwartz)

  KANSAS CITY, Mo. (JTA) – At 6-foot-6 and 340 pounds, veteran NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz isn’t just a force of nature, but a product of good ol’ Jewish nurture. “My size comes from a childhood that included an excess of matzo ball soup, latkes, and tons of… Read more »

Why I’m Not Converting to Judaism, Even Though My Kids Did

(iStock)(iStock)

(Kveller via JTA) — I’m an outsider in my own home. As of two weeks ago, when we converted our two young children in the mikvah, I officially became the only non­-Jewish member of our household. This was only official in paperwork, not in practice. I have been living… Read more »

3 baseball books from some veteran Jewish observers of the game

Baseball writer Dan Schlossberg, left, with the former Atlanta Brave and Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz. (Courtesy of Dan Schlossberg)Baseball writer Dan Schlossberg, left, with the former Atlanta Brave and Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz. (Courtesy of Dan Schlossberg)

(JTA) – For many, summer is all about the three B’s: baseball, beaches and books. With the weather and pennant races sizzling, two journalists and the mayor of baseball’s mythical home village of Cooperstown, New York — all Jewish — have provided their takes about a sport that has… Read more »

Once a prop for anti-Semites, the Talmud makes a comeback in Russia

The cover of a new Russian translation of the Talmud (Courtesy of Knizhniki publishing house)The cover of a new Russian translation of the Talmud (Courtesy of Knizhniki publishing house)

(JTA) — A century ago, passages from the Talmud were translated into Russian to be used as evidence in the anti-Semitic show trial of Menahem Mendel Beilis, a Jew charged with — and eventually acquitted of – murdering a Christian boy. The prosecution in that 1915 trial, which was decried… Read more »

For ‘Jewish Valentine’s Day,’ meet 5 couples who found love on Israel trips

Blake Yospa and Rachel Leeds in Annapolis, Md. (Courtesy of Blake Yospa and Rachel Leeds)Blake Yospa and Rachel Leeds in Annapolis, Md. (Courtesy of Blake Yospa and Rachel Leeds)

  (JTA) — In the two-part finale of the third season of “Broad City,” the show’s main characters, Abbi and Ilana, embark on a “Birthmark” trip — a thinly veiled allusion to the famed Birthright Israel trip that sends Jews aged 18 to 26 on free 10-day trips to… Read more »

At 80, a Munich Olympics and Holocaust survivor is still the sportsman

Shaul Ladany in his suburban Beersheba home with a prized piece of his Theodor Herzl collection, left. (Hillel Kuttler)Shaul Ladany in his suburban Beersheba home with a prized piece of his Theodor Herzl collection, left. (Hillel Kuttler)

  OMER, Israel (JTA) – Shaul Ladany, a two-time Olympian, acknowledged that he was “very happy” that the International Olympic Committee finally held an official memorial for the 11 Israelis who were killed in a terrorist raid at the 1972 Munich games. But Ladany, an Israeli racewalker who still… Read more »

Aly Raisman wins silver medal in Olympic gymnastics all-around

Aly Raisman competing in the floor exercise at the 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, Oct. 24, 2015. (Alex Livesey/Getty Images)Aly Raisman competing in the floor exercise at the 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, Oct. 24, 2015. (Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Aly Raisman won the Olympic silver medal in the women’s gymnastics all-around in Rio de Janeiro. The Jewish competitor from Needham, Massachusetts, finished second behind her American teammate Simon Biles on Thursday. Raisman, 22, is the U.S. squad’s captain and was a key part of its gold medal… Read more »

Despite silver medal at JCC Maccabi Games, Tucson boys put emphasis on fun

Tucson Jewish Community Center Maccabi Games participants and friends (in white and turquoise T-shirts) play with special needs campers in Columbus, Ohio. Back row (L-R): Oren Riback (delegation head), Max Silverman, Zach Giles, Dimitri Rally (Palo Alto), Zamy (Jake) Zwinger, Jake Blumenthal, Adam Rudy (Louisville). Front: Avin Kreisler, Matthew Gurovich (Palo Alto) and Henry Abrams. Dakota Kordsiemon (basketball coach) is kneeling on the right. (Courtesy Oren Riback)Tucson Jewish Community Center Maccabi Games participants and friends (in white and turquoise T-shirts) play with special needs campers in Columbus, Ohio. Back row (L-R): Oren Riback (delegation head), Max Silverman, Zach Giles, Dimitri Rally (Palo Alto), Zamy (Jake) Zwinger, Jake Blumenthal, Adam Rudy (Louisville). Front: Avin Kreisler, Matthew Gurovich (Palo Alto) and Henry Abrams. Dakota Kordsiemon (basketball coach) is kneeling on the right. (Courtesy Oren Riback)

Thirteen teen athletes represented the Tucson Jewish Community Center at the JCC Maccabi Games in Columbus, Ohio, July 24-29. It was Tucson’s return to the games after a three-year absence due to scheduling conflicts with local schools’ early start dates. Despite the lag, the Tucson boys’ basketball team members… Read more »

Marking Tisha b’Av during a long, hot summer

A Dallas police officer wipes his face at the funeral for slain Dallas police officer Michael Smith at The Watermark Church in Dallas, Texas, July 14, 2016. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)A Dallas police officer wipes his face at the funeral for slain Dallas police officer Michael Smith at The Watermark Church in Dallas, Texas, July 14, 2016. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

  (JTA) — As the fast day of Tisha b‘Av approaches, the summer heat and humidity is rising. That got me thinking: Does the solemn day have the stuff to raise our consciousness as well? Tisha b‘Av — this year it begins on the evening of Saturday, August 13 — marks the destruction of the First and Second Temples,… Read more »

With Amar’e Stoudemire’s help, Jerusalem looks to overtake Tel Aviv as Israel’s basketball capital

Amar'e Stoudemire is surrounded by young fans at his youth basketball camp in Jerusalem, Aug. 8, 2016. (Andrew Tobin)Amar'e Stoudemire is surrounded by young fans at his youth basketball camp in Jerusalem, Aug. 8, 2016. (Andrew Tobin)

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Jerusalem basketball fans know that when the owner of their team tweets a smiley face, the signing of a new player is about to be announced. The day before Amar’e Stoudemire made the surprise announcement that he would be leaving the NBA to play for Hapoel… Read more »

Apricot Pistachio Babka — and it’s pareve, too

Miri Rotkovitz. (Courtesy of Sonoma Press)Miri Rotkovitz. (Courtesy of Sonoma Press)

(The Nosher via JTA) — Babka is having a major moment, and why not? There’s lots to love about the loaves of twisted dough, generously interspersed with a filling that usually involves lots of chocolate. Many professional bakers behind babka’s renaissance are working with laminated doughs — yeasted dairy… Read more »

From LA to Israel: One swimmer’s journey to the Rio Olympics

Andrea Murez recalls Israelis telling her at the 2013 Maccabiah Games that she should swim for Israel -- and now she is. (Hillel Kuttler)Andrea Murez recalls Israelis telling her at the 2013 Maccabiah Games that she should swim for Israel -- and now she is. (Hillel Kuttler)

NETANYA, Israel (JTA) – Andrea Murez steps on the diving board, adjusts her goggles, swings her long arms and propels herself into the water at the Wingate Institute athletic complex here. Murez is training with a dozen other swimmers. She is the one preparing for the Summer Olympics a… Read more »

2016 Olympics: 7 Jewish American Olympians to watch in Rio

Aly Raisman competes in the floor exercise at the 2016 U.S. Women's Gymnastics Olympic Trials in San Jose, Calif., July 10, 2016. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)Aly Raisman competes in the floor exercise at the 2016 U.S. Women's Gymnastics Olympic Trials in San Jose, Calif., July 10, 2016. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(JTA) — There are athletes, and then there are Olympic athletes. And then there are Jewish Olympic athletes. When the 2016 Summer Olympics open Friday, we’ll of course be cheering the American athletes — all 555 of them — and we’ll be rooting for Israel, too, which this year is… Read more »

2016 Olympics: Israel’s largest-ever delegation is ready for Rio

Israeli gymast Neta Rivkin competes in the women's rhythmic gymnastics all-around individual final at the Baku 2015 European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan, June 19, 2015, is one of Israel's best hopes to medal. (David Ramos/Getty Images for BEGOC)Israeli gymast Neta Rivkin competes in the women's rhythmic gymnastics all-around individual final at the Baku 2015 European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan, June 19, 2015, is one of Israel's best hopes to medal. (David Ramos/Getty Images for BEGOC)

  RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) – When the 2016 Olympic Games open here on Friday evening, Israel will proudly show off its largest delegation ever, with 47 athletes competing in 17 sports. Among them are golfer Laetitia Beck, the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor; Lonah Chemtai, a Kenyan-born marathoner, and Ron Darmon, the first triathlete to represent… Read more »

The big book of women rabbis tells a grand story

Rabbi Denise Eger, center, reads the Torah during her installation as CCAR president, March 16, 2015. Eger contributed an essay, "Creating Opportunities for the “Other”: The Ordination of Women as a Turning Point for LGBT Jews," in a new book on women rabbis. (David A.M. Wilensky)Rabbi Denise Eger, center, reads the Torah during her installation as CCAR president, March 16, 2015. Eger contributed an essay, "Creating Opportunities for the “Other”: The Ordination of Women as a Turning Point for LGBT Jews," in a new book on women rabbis. (David A.M. Wilensky)

It’s a really big book. “The Sacred Calling: Four Decades of Women in the Rabbinate” is 776 pages, plus LVI pages of frontmatter (translated from Roman numerals and publisher’s jargon, that’s 56 pages of introductory material before page 1) and eight blank ones at the end. It’s a paperback,… Read more »

Yeshiva U’s search for a new president: Is a Ted Cruz aide the answer?

A view of Yeshiva University's Zysman Hall (Wikimedia Commons)A view of Yeshiva University's Zysman Hall (Wikimedia Commons)

NEW YORK (JTA) — As Yeshiva University continues its search for a new president with an emphasis on financial sustainability, JTA has learned the name of at least one candidate: the deputy chief of staff for Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign this year. Nick Muzin, who earned a medical degree at Yeshiva’s… Read more »

A 12-year-old hurler always walks on Shabbat, so his teammates pitch in

Jacob Steinmetz, back row, second from right, and his Brooklyn Bluestorm teammates are headed to the Elite World Series in Florida after going 24-0 this season. (Hillel Kuttler)Jacob Steinmetz, back row, second from right, and his Brooklyn Bluestorm teammates are headed to the Elite World Series in Florida after going 24-0 this season. (Hillel Kuttler)

NEW YORK (JTA) – Jacob Steinmetz delivers the game’s final pitch on a heavenly Tuesday night, producing a neatly turned double play to wrap up a 10-0 victory for the Brooklyn Bluestorm team of 12-year-olds. His teammates surround Jacob in congratulations in a scene familiar for the Bluestorm, which… Read more »

Wedding of lesbian firebrands, both 76, is a celebration of Jewish and ‘Aquarian’ traditions

At 76, longtime activists Shoshana Dembitz, seated, center left, and Abigail Grafton, seated, center right, married in El Cerrito, Calif., on June 27, 2016. The ceremony was officiated by Rabbi Diane Elliot, seated left, and her husband, Rabbi Burt Jacobson. (Lea Delson)At 76, longtime activists Shoshana Dembitz, seated, center left, and Abigail Grafton, seated, center right, married in El Cerrito, Calif., on June 27, 2016. The ceremony was officiated by Rabbi Diane Elliot, seated left, and her husband, Rabbi Burt Jacobson. (Lea Delson)

  BERKELEY, Calif. (JTA) – When Shoshana Dembitz and Abigail Grafton first met, they spent several long moments gazing into each others’ eyes. But this wasn’t a love-at-first-sight occurrence. Rather, the two were attending a Shabbat service in which participants were split into pairs to look into each others’… Read more »

In Rabbinate protest, Lookstein and Sharansky call for revisions, not revolution

After Israel's Chief Rabbinate rejected a conversion performed by prominent modern Orthodox Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, right, Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky, left, protested on his behalf. (Ben Sales)After Israel's Chief Rabbinate rejected a conversion performed by prominent modern Orthodox Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, right, Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky, left, protested on his behalf. (Ben Sales)

  NEW YORK (JTA) — Three months after Israel’s Chief Rabbinate rejected his authority to perform conversions, one of America’s most prominent Modern Orthodox rabbis joined with Natan Sharansky to advance a message: The rabbinate needs to become more open. But not too much more. A widely respected rabbi in New York’s… Read more »