Religion & Jewish Life

Op-Ed: Conservative Judaism has just 2 viable options

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CHICAGO (JTA) — The Conservative movement was once the very embodiment of what it meant to be an “American Jew.” As the 130th anniversary of the founding of its flagship Jewish Theological Seminary approaches in 2016, the centrist movement that historically straddled the polarities of Reform and Orthodox is struggling… Read more »

REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK How a Jewish reporter celebrated Chanukah at the Kremlin

Rabbi Berel Lazar speaking at the Kremlin, Dec. 8, 2015. (Courtesy of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia)Rabbi Berel Lazar speaking at the Kremlin, Dec. 8, 2015. (Courtesy of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia)

MOSCOW (JTA) — Like many tourists in Red Square, I have often wondered what lies beyond the tall walls that separate this Moscow attraction from the Kremlin, the official residence of Russia’s president and the nerve center of the state. As a journalist long obsessed with Russia, I’ve wanted… Read more »

How ‘Transparent’ is reshaping views of transgender Jews

Jeffrey Tambor, right, with Judith Light in the second season of "Transparent." (Courtesy of Amazon Studios)Jeffrey Tambor, right, with Judith Light in the second season of "Transparent." (Courtesy of Amazon Studios)

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — The prevalence of transgender issues in pop culture seems to have reached a pinnacle this year. Caitlyn – nee Bruce – Jenner appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair. The movie “Tangerine,” which stars transgender actors, took film critics by storm. Director Tom Hooper’s “The… Read more »

Barry Freundel’s former DC synagogue trying to move past mikvah trauma

Rabbi Avidan Milevsky, gesturing, leads a Sunday morning Talmud class after services at Kesher Israel in Washington, D.C., Dec. 20, 2015. (Uriel Heilman)Rabbi Avidan Milevsky, gesturing, leads a Sunday morning Talmud class after services at Kesher Israel in Washington, D.C., Dec. 20, 2015. (Uriel Heilman)

WASHINGTON (JTA) – Though it’s been more than a year since Rabbi Barry Freundel was hauled away in handcuffs for installing secret cameras at his synagogue’s mikvah, his crime still casts a shadow over his longtime Orthodox congregation, Kesher Israel. Three civil lawsuits are pending against Kesher by women… Read more »

Jewish foundation seeks to convert gentiles, saying ‘We all want Judaism to grow’

Ellen Gerecht, executive director of the National Center to Encourage Judaism, at her office in Silver Spring, Maryland, Dec. 29, 2015. (Suzanne Pollak/Washington Jewish Week)Ellen Gerecht, executive director of the National Center to Encourage Judaism, at her office in Silver Spring, Maryland, Dec. 29, 2015. (Suzanne Pollak/Washington Jewish Week)

(Washington Jewish Week via JTA) — Maybe it’s the centuries of living under Christian and Muslim rule. Maybe it’s the history of forced conversion. Maybe it’s that there’s no religion requirement for the Jewish afterlife. Whatever the reasons, Jews have traditionally been uncomfortable proselytizing. But a Maryland foundation is flouting… Read more »

Inspiring Jews we lost in 2015

Actor Theodore Bikel arrives at the 55th Annual Drama Desk Awards in New York City, May 23, 2010. (Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)Actor Theodore Bikel arrives at the 55th Annual Drama Desk Awards in New York City, May 23, 2010. (Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

(JTA) — As 2015 winds to a close, we’d like to take a moment to honor the memories of those who we lost over the past 12 months. From remembering lives cut short by senseless, dark tragedies to tributes to revered icons who lived life to the fullest, here are some Jews… Read more »

For ex-baseball players, Israel a place to learn and teach

Nate Fish, director of the Israel Association of Baseball, demonstrating pitching to Israeli kids. (Margo Sugarman/IAB)Nate Fish, director of the Israel Association of Baseball, demonstrating pitching to Israeli kids. (Margo Sugarman/IAB)

  (JTA) – Out of baseball after four years playing in the minor leagues, Brent Powers, a Christian from Texas, took a tour of Israel last year with his wife. He was smitten with the country and considered how to return. The Masa Israel Journey will provide his path.… Read more »

Berlin and Omaha’s incredible new synagogue-mosque-church

From left, Pastor Gregor Hohberg, Rabbi Tovia Ben-Chorin and Imam Kadir Sanci. (Courtesy of the House of One)From left, Pastor Gregor Hohberg, Rabbi Tovia Ben-Chorin and Imam Kadir Sanci. (Courtesy of the House of One)

 A priest, a rabbi, and an imam walk into a bar… Actually, this isn’t a joke or a bar. It’s an extraordinary new building called the House of One, which will combine a mosque, a synagogue and a church in Petriplatz, also known as “the medieval birthplace of Berlin.” Yes,… Read more »

How to not spoil your interfaith kids during the holiday season

Susan Katz MillerSusan Katz Miller

(Kveller via JTA) — “We get twice the presents!” Most interfaith kids will utter this classic, and rather obnoxious, boast at some point during childhood. And I have to admit, it makes me wince and grit my teeth a little. As an interfaith child myself, I understand all too… Read more »

SEEKING KIN Joan Nathan cookbook brings families together

The “Seeking Kin” column aims to help reunite long-lost relatives and friends. (JTA) – When Brazil native Fabio Rosenfeld brought up launching a search for his grandfather’s sister who had survived the Holocaust, I opened my “National Geographic Atlas of the World” to locate her hometown of Reghin. A… Read more »

Amid identity crisis, Conservative Jews pay for rebranding

More than 200 members of United Synagogue Youth came to the opening session of the conference of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism in Schaumburg, Ill., Nov. 15, 2013. (Courtesy of USCJ)More than 200 members of United Synagogue Youth came to the opening session of the conference of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism in Schaumburg, Ill., Nov. 15, 2013. (Courtesy of USCJ)

NEWS ANALYSIS SCHAUMBURG, Ill. (JTA) – Conservative Judaism is at a crossroads. The movement’s constituents increasingly are leading lives at odds with the core values and rules of Conservative Judaism, especially when it comes to intermarriage. The number of Conservative Jews has shrunk by one-third over the last 25 years. And even some… Read more »

Pigeon, chicken soup chips and other new kosher debuts

Pelleh Poultry CEO Eliezer Franklin holding squab, or pigeon meat, at Kosherfest in Secaucus, N.J., held on Nov. 10-11, 2015. (Uriel Heilman)Pelleh Poultry CEO Eliezer Franklin holding squab, or pigeon meat, at Kosherfest in Secaucus, N.J., held on Nov. 10-11, 2015. (Uriel Heilman)

SECAUCUS, N.J. (JTA) – Walking around the exhibitors’ hall at Kosherfest, the annual kosher food trade show, is like finding yourself at the most intense synagogue kiddush reception you could ever imagine. There’s plenty of food of every kind, from blintzes to hot dogs to nutritional supplements. There are… Read more »

Giving thanks for a fight-free Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving at the author's house. Just because the meal is largely a secular one for Jews, don't assume our adherence to tradition is given the day off.  (Edmon J. Rodman)Thanksgiving at the author's house. Just because the meal is largely a secular one for Jews, don't assume our adherence to tradition is given the day off. (Edmon J. Rodman)

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — As my family — and families across the country — begin preparations for the Thanksgiving feast, I started to wonder what kind of family tsuris could rend this day of plenty, pilgrims and, well, pigskin, asunder. Even in this season of presidential candidate debates, I… Read more »

How to make a turkey-shaped challah for Thanksgiving

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(The Nosher via JTA) — Thanksgivukkah has come and gone, but over here at The Nosher we think it’s always fun to bring Jewish dishes into our holiday celebrations. Kugel for Thanksgiving? Absolutely. Leftover turkey soup with matzah balls? You bet. And so we wanted to combine one of… Read more »

At Reform biennial, focus on social justice and tradition

Left to right, Beth Schafer, Julie Silver, Peri Smilow and Michelle Citrin sing "If I Had a Hammer" at the Union for Reform Judaism biennial conference in Orlando, Fla., Nov. 6, 2015. (URJ)Left to right, Beth Schafer, Julie Silver, Peri Smilow and Michelle Citrin sing "If I Had a Hammer" at the Union for Reform Judaism biennial conference in Orlando, Fla., Nov. 6, 2015. (URJ)

ORLANDO, Fla. (JTA) – Growing up in a traditional Jewish household, Joan Cubell didn’t really know much about Reform Judaism. But after obtaining ordination a few years ago from a little-known rabbinical institute in suburban New York, Cubell decided to make her home in the Reform movement. First she got a… Read more »

5 questions for the first woman to chair the Union for Reform Judaism

ORLANDO, Fla. (JTA) — Last week was a big one for Daryl Messinger. A resident of Palo Alto, California, and an active board member of several organizations, Messinger was installed as chair of the Union for Reform Judaism, becoming the first woman to hold that post. And she chanted Torah… Read more »

Finally, a kosher restaurant with Michelin acclaim in Paris

: Edward Boarland, sous chef at Le Rafael in Paris, on Nov. 3, 2015. (Cnaan Liphshiz/JTA): Edward Boarland, sous chef at Le Rafael in Paris, on Nov. 3, 2015. (Cnaan Liphshiz/JTA)

PARIS (JTA) — With 84 Michelin-certified restaurants and a combined total of 115 stars, the French capital offers a dazzling gastronomic selection to anyone willing to stomach the bill. Anyone but observant Jews, that is. For years, the kosher-keeping community has been limited to budget pizzerias or moderately priced… Read more »

Did a Jewish woman blaze a new path for women in pro baseball?

Justine Siegal, prior to coaching for the Oakland Athletics, had already made baseball history by throwing batting practice for the Cleveland Indians in 2011. (Norm Hall/Getty Images)Justine Siegal, prior to coaching for the Oakland Athletics, had already made baseball history by throwing batting practice for the Cleveland Indians in 2011. (Norm Hall/Getty Images)

(JTA) – For Justine Siegal, attending Opening Day games of the Cleveland Indians with her grandfather led to a lifelong passion for baseball – and dreams of one day playing for the Tribe. “Heaven,” she called the outings, where she sat in the best seats in the house —… Read more »

How a Holocaust legacy helped launch the Kind bar brand

Daniel Lubetzky, CEO and founder of Kind Snacks, with members of his team at the company's New York City headquarters. (Poon Watchara-Amhaiwan)Daniel Lubetzky, CEO and founder of Kind Snacks, with members of his team at the company's New York City headquarters. (Poon Watchara-Amhaiwan)

NEW YORK (JTA) — In many respects, the Manhattan headquarters of Kind Snacks — the purveyors of the omnipresent fruit and nut bars found everywhere from health-food stores to office-supply emporiums — are pretty much what you’d expect: Scads of casually dressed millennials mill about sleek, brightly colored rooms adorned… Read more »