Religion & Jewish Life

Is Kosher Switch really kosher for Shabbat?

In its first three days, the crowdsourced fundraising campaign for the Kosher Switch nearly met its $50,000 goal. (Kisger Switch video)In its first three days, the crowdsourced fundraising campaign for the Kosher Switch nearly met its $50,000 goal. (Kisger Switch video)

NEW YORK (JTA) — It promises a revolutionary innovation that could transform Jewish Sabbath observance. By changing the way a light switch works, the patented Kosher Switch offers a novel — and, its backers say, kosher — way to turn light switches (and, perhaps, other electrical appliances) on and off during Shabbat,… Read more »

In L.A.’s Koreatown, Wilshire Boulevard Temple bets big on the past for its future

The Wilshire Boulevard Temple is undergoing a restoration and expansion project that when complete will have taken more than a decade and cost nearly $200 million. Above, the synagogue's sanctuary. (Tom Bonner)The Wilshire Boulevard Temple is undergoing a restoration and expansion project that when complete will have taken more than a decade and cost nearly $200 million. Above, the synagogue's sanctuary. (Tom Bonner)

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — The time has long since passed when the Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s address on its namesake boulevard was considered glamorous. Now the surrounding blocks are the clamorous heart of Koreatown, with all its urban grit: traffic snarls, hulking office buildings, electronics shops, dentists, and banks with… Read more »

Stanford student accuses group of anti-Semitic question

(J. weekly via JTA) — A junior at Stanford University who is running for the student senate says she faced anti-Semitic questioning from a student group whose endorsement she was seeking. During a March 13 interview in front of eight members of the university’s Students of Color Coalition, Molly… Read more »

Some good news coming out of France’s Jewish community: top-ranked schools

Girls study in a Jewish school in Sarcelles, France, Oct. 3, 2010. (Serge Attal/FLASH90)Girls study in a Jewish school in Sarcelles, France, Oct. 3, 2010. (Serge Attal/FLASH90)

.(JTA) —When mainstream French media report about Jewish schools, it’s usually not good news. Sometimes, the reports are about controversies surrounding public funding of such institutions in a country with a strong separation between religion and state. More often, the news is in the context of security around Jewish schools,… Read more »

First in line for Portuguese citizenship: Jewish dreamers and fortune seekers

Congregants praying at the Kadoorie Synagogue in Porto, Portugal, May 2014. (Courtesy of the Jewish community of Porto)Congregants praying at the Kadoorie Synagogue in Porto, Portugal, May 2014. (Courtesy of the Jewish community of Porto)

(JTA) — Hunched over a monument for thousands of Jews killed in a 1506 massacre in Lisbon, Danielle Karo (not her real name) felt a swelling in her eyes. To Karo, an American poet and business analyst who is descended from one of Sephardic Jewry’s greatest sages, the massacre… Read more »

Conservative shuls turning to musical instruments to boost Shabbat services

LaurenElieCropped: Elie Greenberg and Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt co-created the popular instrumental Shabbat evening service ast Adas Israel Congregation in Washington. (David Polonsky)LaurenElieCropped: Elie Greenberg and Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt co-created the popular instrumental Shabbat evening service ast Adas Israel Congregation in Washington. (David Polonsky)

NEW YORK (JTA) – When Rabbi Bruce Dollin first talked to the board at his Conservative synagogue about launching an alternative, singing-centered Shabbat morning service that would use musical instruments, he didn’t encounter much resistance. Over the two decades he had led the Hebrew Educational Alliance in Denver, attendance… Read more »

Riskin’s Haman remark reflects broad Israeli distrust of Obama

TEL AVIV (JTA) — For years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has compared Iran to the biblical Persia, the ancient kingdom where the Jewish people were nearly annihilated through the evil designs of the arch-villain Haman. But when an American-born rabbi, widely seen as a religious moderate who… Read more »

Aliyah debate exposes French Jewry’s internal fault lines

Mark Halter, second from right, and Hassen Chalghoumi, in white cap, at a mass rally in Paris following the shootings at the Charlie Hebdo magazine and the Hyper Cacher supermarket, Jan. 11, 2015. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)Mark Halter, second from right, and Hassen Chalghoumi, in white cap, at a mass rally in Paris following the shootings at the Charlie Hebdo magazine and the Hyper Cacher supermarket, Jan. 11, 2015. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

PARIS (JTA) — A burst of applause greeted Holocaust survivor Marek Halter and his close friend, Imam Hassen Chalghoumi, as they entered the Synagogue de la Victoire together in January. Halter, a celebrated author and friend of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, is known for his outreach to moderate… Read more »

Some of Lincoln’s best friends were Jews

The cover of "Lincoln and the Jews: A History," by Jonathan Sarna and Benjamin Shapell. (Courtesy of Thomas Dunne Books)The cover of "Lincoln and the Jews: A History," by Jonathan Sarna and Benjamin Shapell. (Courtesy of Thomas Dunne Books)

(JTA) – A whopping 16,000 books have been written about President Abraham Lincoln. But a new book and an exhibit at the New York Historical Society tell a previously untold story about Lincoln: his relationships with Jews. Benjamin Shapell has been collecting documents relating to Lincoln and the Jews… Read more »

Why there is no Chabad house in Havana

Chabad emissaries won't set foot in Havana's Orthodox synagogue, Adath Israel. (Josh Tapper)Chabad emissaries won't set foot in Havana's Orthodox synagogue, Adath Israel. (Josh Tapper)

HAVANA (JTA) — On the freshly painted, salmon-colored walls of Alberto and Rebeca Meshulam’s apartment, two portraits of the late Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, frame the entranceway leading to a wide, airy vestibule. Miniatures of the same portrait sit atop a glass-covered countertop near an image of the… Read more »

In Japan, the Holocaust provides a lesson in dangers of nationalism

The entrance to the core display of the museum of the Holocaust Education Center in Fukuyama, with its replica of the infamous Auschwitz gate, Dec. 27, 2014. (Cnaan Liphshiz)The entrance to the core display of the museum of the Holocaust Education Center in Fukuyama, with its replica of the infamous Auschwitz gate, Dec. 27, 2014. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

FUKUYAMA, Japan (JTA) — In the auditorium of this country’s main Holocaust education center, a teenage actor explains the dilemma that faced a Japanese diplomat during World War II. “My conscience tells me I must act a certain way, but doing so means defying my commanders,” says the actor… Read more »

For Orthodox, tax-defined ‘upper’ incomes are often stretched

WASHINGTON (Washington Jewish Week via JTA) – For Orthodox Jews, President Barack Obama’s proposed tax reforms present a numbers-crunching paradox: Income he designates as well-off may mean just getting by for large families. Obama’s 2015 budget, which was introduced Monday, aims to offset economic breaks to upper-income families to… Read more »

Islamic radicalism poses dilemma for Jews in interfaith dialogue

Former Israeli President Shimon Peres, with microphone, meeting in Tel Aviv with, from left, Sayyid Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America, Rabbi Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States, Jan. 20, 2015. (JCPA)Former Israeli President Shimon Peres, with microphone, meeting in Tel Aviv with, from left, Sayyid Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America, Rabbi Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States, Jan. 20, 2015. (JCPA)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — After the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris last month, Kari Alterman heard from every one of her Detroit-area Muslim dialogue partners, all of them calling to express their sadness and concern. They just didn’t do so publicly. Statements condemning violence are normally made after formal dialogues… Read more »

In Tel Aviv, it’s Super Bowl Early Monday Morning

Some Israelis stayed up all nightto watch the Patriots celebrate their fourth Super Bowl victory in 14 years, Feb. 1, 2015. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)Some Israelis stayed up all nightto watch the Patriots celebrate their fourth Super Bowl victory in 14 years, Feb. 1, 2015. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

TEL AVIV (JTA) — There were wings, beers, giant TV screens, and football fans wearing New England Patriots sweatshirts and Seattle Seahawks jerseys. If not for the fact that it was 1 a.m. and former Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid stood in the center of the bar, it could… Read more »

The man who’s saving Karachi’s lone Jewish cemetery

(Jewniverse via JTA) – It might seem that the only Jews left in Pakistan are underground – in Karachi’s lone Jewish cemetery. But that’s not quite so. Faisal (Fishel) Benkhald, the son of a Muslim father and Iranian Jewish mother, dares to call himself a Jew in a country… Read more »

What Jewish ethics tell us about ‘Deflategate’

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and owner Robert Kraft are all smiles after beating the Inidanapolis Colts, but will a Super Bowl victory be tainted by "Deflategate?" (Elsa/Getty Images)New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and owner Robert Kraft are all smiles after beating the Inidanapolis Colts, but will a Super Bowl victory be tainted by "Deflategate?" (Elsa/Getty Images)

(JTA) – “Deflategate,” the controversy surrounding the New England Patriots that has made national news, made its way to a Houston business conference led by a rabbi. Rabbi Yossi Grossman, dean of the Jewish Ethics Institute, on Monday transformed the football prattle into a high-minded look at ethics on… Read more »

World Zionist Congress elections: a voter’s guide

(JTA) — World Zionist Congress elections began earlier this month and run through April 30. Here’s a primer on what the congress is, how (logistically) to vote, who’s on the ballot, and why you just might want to sign up for PayPal before casting your vote. What is it?… Read more »