Religion & Jewish Life

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 »

A stranger at synagogue told me to take my son ‘somewhere else’

It finally happened. My son is almost 9 months old, and this week, for the first time, a stranger came up to me and asked me to “take him somewhere else.” Even worse, it happened at synagogue. The woman who approached me was quite obviously not a member of… Read more »

Jewish ex-major leaguer trying to get back to baseball’s big show

Nate Freiman at bat for the Portland Sea Dogs in a game against the Harrisburg Senators in Pennsylvania, May 2016. (Hillel Kuttler)Nate Freiman at bat for the Portland Sea Dogs in a game against the Harrisburg Senators in Pennsylvania, May 2016. (Hillel Kuttler)

  HARRISBURG, Pa. (JTA) – Taking a seat on the dugout bench of the Portland Sea Dogs, Nate Freiman politely dismisses the premise that he pines to return to the major leagues. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism now that he’s two seasons and three organizations removed from his last… Read more »

Local Jewish cemetery, once derelict, gains national attention

Volunteers recruited by Peace Corps volunteer Brooke Nagle start cleanup work on the Bisbee-Douglas Jewish Cemetery on March 17. (Courtesy Brooke Nagle)Volunteers recruited by Peace Corps volunteer Brooke Nagle start cleanup work on the Bisbee-Douglas Jewish Cemetery on March 17. (Courtesy Brooke Nagle)

Every graveyard tells its own story, says Tucsonan Richard Rosen, former owner of the Bisbee-Douglas Jewish Cemetery, located about 100 yards from the U.S.-Mexico border. Regardless of its current condition, the land still radiates a strong spiritual energy, says Rosen. “There’s something right about it, and there’s also something… Read more »

Meet the Orthodox ‘American Ninja Warrior’ training to be a rabbi

Akiva Neuman, an Orthodox Jew who is studying to be a rabbi, competes in the Philadelphia qualifying round of “American Ninja Warrior.” (Mitchell Leff/NBC)Akiva Neuman, an Orthodox Jew who is studying to be a rabbi, competes in the Philadelphia qualifying round of “American Ninja Warrior.” (Mitchell Leff/NBC)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Like his fellow competitors on “American Ninja Warrior,” 25-year-old Akiva Neuman pushed himself to his physical limits — climbing, jumping and running through an intense obstacle course — in the hopes of making it to the national finals in Las Vegas. But unlike the dozens… Read more »

Why a small word change is a big deal for Reform women rabbis

Members of the 2016 rabbinical class of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion reading their class prayer at an ordination ceremony at the Plum Street Temple in Cincinnati, Ohio, May 21, 2016. (HUC-JIR via Facebook)Members of the 2016 rabbinical class of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion reading their class prayer at an ordination ceremony at the Plum Street Temple in Cincinnati, Ohio, May 21, 2016. (HUC-JIR via Facebook)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Since 1972, when the Reform movement ordained its first female rabbi, more than 700 others have joined her ranks in that denomination alone. But a surprise awaited them, though few seemed to notice: The language on their ordination certificates was markedly different than that of their… Read more »

How to make perfect cheesecake five ways

Ronnie FeinRonnie Fein

You know Shavuot is coming when you begin to see cheesecakes everywhere. Countless variations in the bakeries and supermarkets. Endless numbers of recipes in the media. Cheesecake is the iconic Shavuot dessert, as sacrosanct as a Hanukkah latke or Passover matzah ball. Unfortunately, cheesecake is one of those deceptively simple recipes,… Read more »

Kids’ soccer leagues aim to bridge Israel’s religious divide

Members of the Tzav Pius 13-year-olds' team in the Israeli city of Pardes Hanna participating before practice in an educational exercise meant to teach teamwork.Members of the Tzav Pius 13-year-olds' team in the Israeli city of Pardes Hanna participating before practice in an educational exercise meant to teach teamwork.

PARDES HANNA, Israel (JTA) — When Yoel decided, at age 8, to begin observing Shabbat, there was one problem: It meant he couldn’t join most of Israel’s youth soccer teams, which played games on Saturday. Yoel, now 12, has always lived in the increasingly large gray area between Israel’s… Read more »

Synagogue condos: If you lived here, you could be praying by now

The penthouse at 415 E. Sixth St., which will sit atop the historic Anshei Meseritz synagogue. (Courtesy of East River Partners)The penthouse at 415 E. Sixth St., which will sit atop the historic Anshei Meseritz synagogue. (Courtesy of East River Partners)

  NEW YORK (JTA) — If there’s one story that sums up the changes afoot on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a once heavily Jewish neighborhood, it’s the saga surrounding the Anshei Meseritz synagogue. The Orthodox shul at 415 E. Sixth St. is a relic of a time… Read more »

How my grandmother’s chutzpah helped Sugihara rescue thousands of Jews

The endorsements of Chiune Sugihara and Jan Zwartendijk, the Japanese and Dutch consuls, respectively, in Kovno, Lithuania, appear on the Leidimas, or travel document, that allowed Isaac Lewin and his family to escape Lithuania in 1940. Nathan Lewin, now a prominent attorney, is the 4-year-old boy in the arms of his mother, Peppy Sternheim Lewin.  (Photo courtesy Alyza D. Lewin)The endorsements of Chiune Sugihara and Jan Zwartendijk, the Japanese and Dutch consuls, respectively, in Kovno, Lithuania, appear on the Leidimas, or travel document, that allowed Isaac Lewin and his family to escape Lithuania in 1940. Nathan Lewin, now a prominent attorney, is the 4-year-old boy in the arms of his mother, Peppy Sternheim Lewin. (Photo courtesy Alyza D. Lewin)

Editor’s note: In honor of Yom HaShoah, which will be commemorated in Tucson on Sunday, May 1 at 2 p.m. at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, the AJP offers this commentary. See also “In Remembrance.”  In May 1998, the AJP published an interview with Jan Zwartendijk, the son of… Read more »

7 reasons to try this ancient Jewish counting ritual

(Kveller via JTA) — Every year it happens in just about the same way: I pledge to stick to it. I create reminders and support systems. I beg my husband to join me in the daily routine. And then at some point, I fail. No, I’m not talking about… Read more »