Religion & Jewish Life

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 »

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 »