Religion & Jewish Life

New cohort of clergy tests Orthodox readiness for women rabbis

Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez is in Yeshivat Maharat's 2018 class. (Uriel Heilman)Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez is in Yeshivat Maharat's 2018 class. (Uriel Heilman)

NEW YORK (JTA) – When Yeshivat Maharat ordains six women next month, the New York institution will more than double the number of Orthodox clergywomen in the field. For the past couple of years, the clergywomen have been establishing themselves in Orthodox communities while serving as synagogue interns, delivering… Read more »

1 in 6 Jews are new to Judaism – and 9 other new Pew findings

NEW YORK (JTA) – The Pew Research Center’s newly released 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study offers a trove of data on American Jews based on interviews with 35,071 American adults, 847 of whom identified their faith as Jewish. Here are some of the more interesting findings about the Jews. … Read more »

Amid Chinese influx, Brandeis considers its Jewish identity

Brandeis Asian Club: A project of the Brandeis Asian American Student Association aims to raise awareness about sterotyping at Brandeis. (Uriel Heilman)Brandeis Asian Club: A project of the Brandeis Asian American Student Association aims to raise awareness about sterotyping at Brandeis. (Uriel Heilman)

WALTHAM, Mass. (JTA) – When Jeff Wang was applying to U.S. colleges more than two years ago from his home near Shanghai, Brandeis University was a top choice. Like many Chinese students now at Brandeis, he had discovered the university on Chinese Internet forums that touted the school’s academic rankings and its… Read more »

In S. Carolina, kosher-vegetarian dining hall seeks to bring diverse populations to the table

Dara Rosenblatt, Jewish sudent life program coordinator at the College of Charleston, at an Israel fest celebration on campus, April 23, 2015. (Ruth Ellen Gruber)Dara Rosenblatt, Jewish sudent life program coordinator at the College of Charleston, at an Israel fest celebration on campus, April 23, 2015. (Ruth Ellen Gruber)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (JTA) – Renowned for its gracious architecture and signature Southern charm, Charleston is increasingly celebrated as a foodie heaven. The trouble is, in a city whose culinary specialties embrace (and glorify) oysters, she-crab soup, and shrimp and grits, the burgeoning restaurant scene is nearly off limits to… Read more »

At JTS, Cardinal Dolan says Catholic-Jewish relations are strong

NEW YORK (JTA) — A half-century ago this year, the Catholic Church issued a landmark document that decried anti-Semitism and asserted that Jews could not be blamed for killing Jesus. The effect: Long-fraught relations between Catholics and Jews were dramatically improved. To mark 50 years since the detente, New… Read more »

How Jews are trying to make things better after Baltimore

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism legislative assistants at a rally May 1 in Baltimore. (Courtesy of Religious Action Center)Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism legislative assistants at a rally May 1 in Baltimore. (Courtesy of Religious Action Center)

WASHINGTON (JTA) – From roundtable discussions to protests and prayers to candid talk with law enforcement officials, American Jewish communities are joining in the debate about community policing in the wake of several high-profile deaths of unarmed black men while in police custody. Officials were short on specifics, but… Read more »

Orthodox rabbis join the conversation on LGBTQ inclusion

JQY Exective Director Mordechai Levowitz, center, in white shirt holding sign, coordinated the conference at Columbia University. (Courtesy of JQY)JQY Exective Director Mordechai Levowitz, center, in white shirt holding sign, coordinated the conference at Columbia University. (Courtesy of JQY)

NEW YORK (JTA) – A group of modern Orthodox rabbis have done what advocates for Orthodox gays and lesbians say would have been unthinkable as recently as five years ago: They spoke at a conference on the treatment of gay, lesbian and transgender people in Orthodox communities. Four prominent… Read more »

Reconstructionists consider dropping ban on intermarried rabbis

Newly ordained rabbis Ilanit Goldberg, left, and Nicholas Renner drape a tallit over Malka Packer during her ordination ceremony at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College's 2014 commencement. (Courtesy of RRC/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities)Newly ordained rabbis Ilanit Goldberg, left, and Nicholas Renner drape a tallit over Malka Packer during her ordination ceremony at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College's 2014 commencement. (Courtesy of RRC/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities)

NEW YORK (JTA) — The Reconstructionist movement is on the cusp of making a historic decision about whether to drop its longstanding ban against intermarried rabbinical school students. If the policy change passes, as most expect, Reconstructionism would become the first of America’s four major Jewish religious denominations to ordain intermarried rabbis.… Read more »

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 »