Religion & Jewish Life

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 »

At Tu b’Shvat, bidding to save a beloved tree

At Tu b'Shvat, bidding to save a beloved treeAt Tu b'Shvat, bidding to save a beloved tree

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — If Tu b’Shvat is such a happy New Year for Trees, why am I sucking lemons? The holiday, usually a time for planting — except this year in Israel, where many are observing the shmitta year by not planting — for me may be a… Read more »

In Brussels, Jewish security professionals train for the next attack

BRUSSELS (JTA) — Seventy-two hours after a deadly attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris, dozens of Jewish community officials from across Europe were operating a hectic situation room at a hotel in the Belgian capital. But crisis managers and community leaders were not dealing with the horror unfolding… Read more »

In Paris, some Jews say France marched ‘for Charlie, not for the Jews’

Demonstrators gather at the Place de la Nation square in Paris following a mass unity rally protesting the recent terrorist attacks in the French capital, Jan. 11, 2015. (Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images)Demonstrators gather at the Place de la Nation square in Paris following a mass unity rally protesting the recent terrorist attacks in the French capital, Jan. 11, 2015. (Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images)

PARIS (JTA) — As he marched through Paris with some 1.5 million people, Philippe Schmidt felt he was experiencing a “beautiful moment of unity.” For Schmidt, a Jewish human rights lawyer and vice president of the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism, Sunday’s so-called Republican March was “a sign… Read more »

The only kosher butcher shop in Cuba

Old Havana, seen here, has the only place to go for the kashrut-observant Cuban to pick up a piece of meat. (Shutterstock)Old Havana, seen here, has the only place to go for the kashrut-observant Cuban to pick up a piece of meat. (Shutterstock)

(JEWNIVERSE/JTA) — For the kashrut-observant Cuban, there’s only one place to go for a piece of meat. Situated on Acosta Street in Old Havana is Cuba’s sole kosher butcher shop. For nearly 70 years, the privately run business has provided kosher beef to the country’s Jews, and only to… Read more »

Can Reform center’s new director maneuver in polarized D.C.?

WASHINGTON (JTA) — With an agenda that has come to match almost perfectly with the priorities of the Democratic Party, the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center has not had an easy time of it in an increasingly polarized Washington. But Rabbi Jonah Pesner, the center’s incoming leader, may have… Read more »

French Jewry 101: From Rashi to Dreyfus to Hyper Cacher

Alfred Dreyfus (Getty Images)Alfred Dreyfus (Getty Images)

(JTA) — Last week’s deadly hostage siege at a kosher supermarket in Paris has French Jews (and some non-Jews) proclaiming “Je suis juif,” or “I am Jewish,” in solidarity with the four people killed in the attack. Who are the Jews of France? Here’s a primer. How many Jews… Read more »

For embattled French Jews, mixed feelings about call to move to Israel

The crowd outside the kosher supermarket Hyper Cacher in Paris as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pays his respects to the victims of last week's terrorist attacks, Jan. 12, 2015. (Aurelian Meunier/Getty Images)The crowd outside the kosher supermarket Hyper Cacher in Paris as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pays his respects to the victims of last week's terrorist attacks, Jan. 12, 2015. (Aurelian Meunier/Getty Images)

(JTA) – French Jews are feeling embattled. Arsonists have targeted their synagogues, terrorists have attacked their schools and shops, and with only a few exceptions, French society has not united behind them to stop the assaults and harassment. The solution, according to Israel’s prime minister, is simple: Move to… Read more »

I’m an Orthodox Jewish father and I am exhausted

Tired man: Between studying Torah, praying, commuting and a full day at work, Bilek barely has time for family life. (Shutterstock)Tired man: Between studying Torah, praying, commuting and a full day at work, Bilek barely has time for family life. (Shutterstock)

My rabbi is known to say that “life is not for wimps.” As a student in yeshiva (Jewish seminary school), I thought I understood his point. Now I really understand his point. Just surviving the daily and weekly routine is hard work. My day starts long before the sun’s… Read more »

JCC fundraiser to benefit challenged athletes

Mary Kate Callahan (front) and her teammates (L-R): Abigail Will, Laura Haley, Jessica Honea, Kimberly Nicolai, Molly Supple and Halli Schmittenberg celebrate the end of a successful season for the University of Arizona Women’s triathlon team. (Photo: Jimmy Song Photography)Mary Kate Callahan (front) and her teammates (L-R): Abigail Will, Laura Haley, Jessica Honea, Kimberly Nicolai, Molly Supple and Halli Schmittenberg celebrate the end of a successful season for the University of Arizona Women’s triathlon team. (Photo: Jimmy Song Photography)

The Tucson Jewish Community Center will present “Consider Yourself Challenged,” a family friendly fundraiser on Sunday, Feb. 8 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. The University of Arizona TriCats will be on hand to conduct children’s activities and discuss equipment and training required to participate in a triathlon. Mary Kate… Read more »

Amid $6M deficit, Detroit-area JCC may close

The JCC building in the Detroit suburb of Oak Park is one of two JCC buildings in the Detroit area; the other is in West Bloomfield. (Aaron Tobin)The JCC building in the Detroit suburb of Oak Park is one of two JCC buildings in the Detroit area; the other is in West Bloomfield. (Aaron Tobin)

(JTA) — Amid persistent budget deficits, the Jewish community center building in the Detroit suburb of Oak Park may close this spring. The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit announced Monday that a committee is going to recommend that the building shut down in light of annual losses of $1… Read more »

Did Argentina’s president really adopt a Jewish man to prevent him from becoming a werewolf?

Did Argentina's president really adopt a Jewish man to prevent him from beconing a werewolf?Did Argentina's president really adopt a Jewish man to prevent him from beconing a werewolf?

(JTA) — Last week, JTA published an unusual item about a werewolf legend that generated headlines worldwide. The item was about Yair Tawil, the first Jewish man adopted as a godson by Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. The adoption took place under a longstanding custom that presidents adopt… Read more »

At memorial for African Hebrew leader, signs of integration and respect

Beb Ammi Ben-Israel, the leader of the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, who died on Dec. 27, celebrating the festival of Shavuot in 2011. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)Beb Ammi Ben-Israel, the leader of the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, who died on Dec. 27, celebrating the festival of Shavuot in 2011. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

DIMONA, Israel (JTA) — Yitzchok Elefant ascended the stage in his black hat and coat and turned to face an auditorium full of people in flowing white shirts and pants with matching scarves and caps. Standing beneath a banner reading “A tribute to his majesty, our spiritual leader, the… Read more »

Mario Cuomo married strident liberalism and sensitivity to the Orthodox

Mario Cuomo, seated, was New York's governor when he waa a featured speaker at the 57th General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations held in New Orleans, November 1988. Showing their appreciation of the governor's comments are CJF President Mandell Berman, right, and Daniel Shapiro of New York. (Robert A. Cumins)Mario Cuomo, seated, was New York's governor when he waa a featured speaker at the 57th General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations held in New Orleans, November 1988. Showing their appreciation of the governor's comments are CJF President Mandell Berman, right, and Daniel Shapiro of New York. (Robert A. Cumins)

(JTA) — Mario Cuomo, a three-term New York governor, was the rare politician who appealed to the Jewish tent’s opposite poles. A strident liberal with a nuanced understanding of the sense of vulnerability among the deeply religious in a secular society, Cuomo died of heart failure on Thursday just… Read more »

For poker champ Ari Engel, kipah works to his advantage

Ari Engel on the European Poker Tour in Prague in 2013. (Thomas Stacha)Ari Engel on the European Poker Tour in Prague in 2013. (Thomas Stacha)

NEW YORK (JTA) – Ari Engel is homeless. It’s been a decade since he last held a regular job and two years since he gave up his apartment. But don’t shed any tears for him. Over the last 10 years or so, Engel has grossed about $5 million playing… Read more »

Will Russia’s economic woes burst bubble for Jews?

Boris Smolkin, left, and his co-stars on the Moscow set of the hit television series "My Fair Nanny" in 2006. (STS Television)Boris Smolkin, left, and his co-stars on the Moscow set of the hit television series "My Fair Nanny" in 2006. (STS Television)

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (JTA) — In the basement of one of Europe’s largest synagogues, 100 Jews are waiting to meet local film star Boris Smolkin. The crowd applauds enthusiastically as the 66-year-old funnyman, who gave his voice to Master Yoda in the Russian-language version of the “Star Wars” trilogy,… Read more »

Portland preschool pushes boundaries of Jewish outdoors education

Sarabel Eisenfeld, the founder of Gan shalom, and her Portland Jewish preschoolers grating potatoes outside for Chanukah latkes. (Anthony Weiss)Sarabel Eisenfeld, the founder of Gan shalom, and her Portland Jewish preschoolers grating potatoes outside for Chanukah latkes. (Anthony Weiss)

PORTLAND, Ore. (JTA) — Even on a cold, gray and rainy morning, the children from the Gan Shalom Collaborative School are outside, seated under a wood-framed shelter topped by corrugated plastic. With their teacher, Sarabel Eisenfeld, they grate potatoes for latkes, then cup their hands beside their heads to… Read more »

For a Jewish baseball purist, Cuba beckons

Children playing a baseball game in the streets of Havana. "For the baseball purists, those who love to go to Cuba, it's a unique culture," Kit Krieger says. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)Children playing a baseball game in the streets of Havana. "For the baseball purists, those who love to go to Cuba, it's a unique culture," Kit Krieger says. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

(JTA) – To the dismay of baseball fan Kit Krieger, future travels to Cuba will no longer include get-togethers with ex-Washington Senators pitcher Connie Marrero. Marrero, who played for Washington from 1950 to 1954, died in Havana last April at age 102, a few months after Krieger’s last visit… Read more »

USY reverses interfaith dating ban

At United Synagogue Youth's 2014 convention being held in Atlanta, the board voted to relax the youth organization's ban on interfaith dating. (Courtesy of United synagogue Youth)At United Synagogue Youth's 2014 convention being held in Atlanta, the board voted to relax the youth organization's ban on interfaith dating. (Courtesy of United synagogue Youth)

NEW YORK (JTA) – United Synagogue Youth voted to relax its rules barring its teenage board members from dating non-Jews. The amendment was adopted Monday in Atlanta at the annual international convention of the Conservative movement’s youth group. The change affects the 100 or so teen officers who serve… Read more »