Religion & Jewish Life

Budapest Jews split on whistleblowing leader with colorful past

BUDAPEST (JTA) — An anti-corruption whistleblower elected to head the Budapest Jewish community has sparked a crisis among the highest officials of Hungarian Jewry at a time of heightened tensions with the government. The conflict, one of the fractious community’s most vociferous and colorful fights in years, erupted shortly after the election last month of […]

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Ilana Kaufman: "My purpose in the world has always been to be a bridge." (Courtesy of Ilana Kaufman)
Ilana Kaufman: "My purpose in the world has always been to be a bridge." (Courtesy of Ilana Kaufman)

Black, Jewish and challenging ideas about the face of federation

(JTA) — When Ilana Kaufman, a program officer at the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation, arrived at San Quentin State Prison for a meeting with the Jewish chaplain at California’s oldest correctional facility, the chaplain couldn’t seem to find her — even though Kaufman was standing in plain sight. As Kaufman waited in the receiving […]

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Rabbi Yosef Mendelevitch at St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Airport, Nov. 30, 2014. (Cnaan Liphshiz)
Rabbi Yosef Mendelevitch at St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Airport, Nov. 30, 2014. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

Back in St. Petersburg, former refusenik encourages Jews to emigrate

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (JTA) — Through the backseat window of a black KGB car, Yosef Mendelevitch could see university students his age hurrying to take their finals. It was June 15, 1970, and the 23-year-old Mendelevitch had just been arrested along with 11 accomplices for trying to hijack a plane to escape the Soviet Union. […]

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Food samples were a big part of the draw at Kosherfest, held Nov. 11-12 in Secaucus, N.J. (Jeff Cohn/BaltimoreJewishLife.com)
Food samples were a big part of the draw at Kosherfest, held Nov. 11-12 in Secaucus, N.J. (Jeff Cohn/BaltimoreJewishLife.com)

At Kosherfest, a mad dash to sample the ‘facon’

SECAUCUS, N.J. (JTA) – Gefilte fish? Check. Pastrami? Check. Kosher-for-Passover anti-constipation pills? Edible spoons for Bar Mitzvah appetizers? A cholov Yisroel-certified alternative to the nutritional supplement drink Ensure? Check, check, check. Welcome to Kosherfest, the annual kosher food trade show where hundreds of kosher food companies come together to hawk their wares, luring their would-be […]

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A U.S. Marine in Vietnam featuring a Magen David on his helmet, circa 1968 (Courtesy National Museum of American Jewish Military History)
A U.S. Marine in Vietnam featuring a Magen David on his helmet, circa 1968 (Courtesy National Museum of American Jewish Military History)

New exhibit brings to life 350 years of American Jews in the military

WASHINGTON (JTA) – Mementos of Jacob Goldstein slide across the 3-foot-by-4-foot horizontal screen like cards being dealt at a casino: his photograph, his name, an Operation Urgent Fury headline denoting the 1983 military campaign in Grenada, Goldstein’s explanatory text summarizing his role during the invasion. Even more striking than the photograph showing the uniformed rabbi […]

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At Thanksgiving time, making a leap to feed the needy

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — As we prepare for our Thanksgiving feasts, a 90-year-old Jewish man named Arnold Abbott is stirring the pot in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., about hunger and homelessness in America. Or is it that Abbott, who in defiance of a controversial new city ordinance has been cited several times for feeding the homeless […]

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For some Orthodox converts, biggest challenges come after mikvah

NEW YORK (JTA) – There was the convert who was barred from a synagogue on Yom Kippur, the Jamaican convert whose boyfriend’s rabbi offered him a coveted synagogue honor if only he’d dump her, the grandmother who told her granddaughter she’d be going to hell because she became a Jew. The road to conversion can […]

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A Torah reading at Adas Israel Congregation, a Conservative synagogue in Washington. (Courtesy Adas Israel)
A Torah reading at Adas Israel Congregation, a Conservative synagogue in Washington. (Courtesy Adas Israel)

Op-Ed: The shrinking Jewish Middle — and how to expand it

NEW YORK (JTA) — As the Jewish Federations of North America held its annual General Assembly this week, newly emerging evidence from the Pew Research Center’s 2013 “Portrait of American Jewry” points to enormous challenges facing federations, Jewish philanthropy and organized Jewish life, more generally. Virtually every Jewish institution is contending with a sharply diminishing […]

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Anna Varsanyi is considered Jewush by Israel's Chief Rabbinate but not by the country's Interior Ministry. (Courtesy Anna Varsanyi)
Anna Varsanyi is considered Jewush by Israel's Chief Rabbinate but not by the country's Interior Ministry. (Courtesy Anna Varsanyi)

Is she Jewish? Rabbinate says yes, Israel says no

TEL AVIV (JTA) — In 2012, Anna Varsanyi was married in an Orthodox Jewish ceremony conducted through Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. Two years later, the Hungarian immigrant has made a life in Israel, settling with her husband in the central city of Modiin and working a desk job in a hospital. She is weeks away from […]

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A view of the reconstructed painted ceiling of the wooden synagogue of Gwozdiec, a key installation in the core exhibit of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Oct. 28, 2014.
A view of the reconstructed painted ceiling of the wooden synagogue of Gwozdiec, a key installation in the core exhibit of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Oct. 28, 2014.

Amid growing European anti-Semitism, new Jewish museum in Poland ‘reveals hope’

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — In a Europe wracked by fears of rising anti-Semitism, and in a country whose Jews were all but annihilated in the Holocaust, a dazzling new “museum of life” celebrates the Jewish past and looks forward to a vital future. Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday jointly […]

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