First Person

On Purim, answering to a higher grogger

Besides blotting out the name of Haman, would these groggers also wake one to the needs of the hungry? (Edmon J. Rodman)

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — On Purim, can we really blot out the memory of an evil like Haman, who threatened our very existence, with a noisemaker? When in a popular Purim song we sing “Hava narishah-rash, rash, rash,” “Wind your noisemakers,” all that “rashing” does momentarily make the darkness… Read more »

My valentine to American Jewish men

Suzanne Levy

(JTA) — On Valentine’s Day, I’d like to sing the praises of American Jewish men. I’m aware it’s a rather large group, but that’s the point: The United States is a sea of plenty for Jewish men. Whereas in Britain, where I grew up, there are only about 300,000… Read more »

Jewish day school? Not for one observant Jewish family

WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. (JTA) — “I’m sorry, but we’ll have to pass.” That was not the answer I wanted to give. It certainly was not the answer my friend expected to hear. You see, my friend’s son attends a local Jewish day school. My son does not. But the… Read more »

How living in Switzerland taught me about anti-Jewish bias

NEW YORK (JTA) — During the height of the recession, I moved to Switzerland. I had already lived in France, Japan, India and Israel, and traveled much of the rest of the world. I’d gone global for work, love, spirituality and cultural infatuation, but this last time was for… Read more »

The first step out of an ultra-Orthodox world

(JTA) — The call came one evening in August. I was in Jerusalem staying with my oldest sister, Goldy, for the summer. “It’s for you,” Goldy shouted from the kitchen. “Aunt Fraidy!” Aunt Fraidy had been my host in my last year of high school. My parents, concerned about… Read more »

Putting aside historical slogans, protesting for a better Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine (JTA) — As I stood as one of the few Americans among the masses of protesters at Kiev’s Independence Square, the frigid cold reminded me that this was my fourth year trying to survive a harsh Ukrainian winter. The crowd seemed be warming up thanks to the… Read more »

Born in a DP camp, baseball’s historian adopts America’s national pastime

Major League Baseball's official historian, John Thorn, pictured holding a royal decree knighting his great-grandfather, says the past enhances the present in sports as well as family matters. (Hillel Kuttler).

CATSKILL, N.Y. (JTA) – The past escorts John Thorn home from the moment he greets a visitor at a 139-year-old railroad station, crosses the Rip Van Winkle Bridge and arrives at his residence, a county historical landmark. Clad in a facsimile jacket of the defunct Negro Leagues’ Kansas City… Read more »

Santa, the Easter bunny and raising a Jewish child

NEW YORK (JTA) – Last spring, I found myself averting my eyes when my 4-year-old mentioned something about the Easter bunny in front of my dad. We were at my parents’ home in Michigan for Passover and my son said, “When I get back to Brooklyn, the Easter bunny… Read more »

Seeking Kin: Unraveling the mystery of the late Yehuda Cohen

The “Seeking Kin” column aims to help reunite long-lost relatives and friends. BALTIMORE (JTA) – Wearing a black jacket and hat with a white shirt buttoned up to the neck, the bearded man sings of poverty and hunger, homelessness and being alone, a family lost. Yet through the pain,… Read more »

Neshama Carlebach: How I became a Reform Jew

Neshama Carlebach onstage at the Union for Reform Judaism's biennial in San Diego, Dec. 14 2013. (URJ)

(JTA) — I grew up Jewish. Simply Jewish. My late father, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, raised us in an observant Orthodox household. Our lives were filled with beautiful ritual and we celebrated the wonder of a familial spiritual connection. That said, we also danced along the fine line of progressive… Read more »

Jerusalem blanketed by biggest snowstorm in half a century

Young people sit a cafe table set up amid the snow on Jerusalem's Jaffa Road on Dec. 15, 2013. (Hadas Parush/Flash 90)

Only about 20 minutes outside of the city did it begin to appear — patches of white on the rough hills abutting the road, sprinklings of flakes on the pines. By the time our bus reached Mevasseret Tzion, near Jerusalem, the snow was blanketing the ground, building up in… Read more »

For new dad, a stronger bond from a cut foreskin

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Natan Zaidenweber thought the mohel was kidding. His wife, Linda Raab, thought it was some kind of religious formality and didn’t give it a second thought. But the mohel, Cantor Philip Sherman, was serious. Though most fathers demur when he invites them to perform the bris… Read more »

It’s not easy being a crime novelist in Israel

Liad Shoham

TEL AVIV (JTA) – “You and I, we need to have a little talk about sex,” my editor said in a deep voice. I was in the midst of writing my first thriller about a geeky lawyer suspected of murder, and I was waiting for my editor’s verdict about… Read more »

UA Hillel remains vibrant center of Jewish life

Daniel Perez

The Hillel Foun­­dation, that ubiquitous symbol of Jewish life on college campuses in America and across the globe, turns 90 this year. I know this because it came up in a recent exchange I had with the University of Arizona Hillel Foundation’s executive director, Michelle Blumenberg. I’m an alumnus,… Read more »

Rejecting the title of modern-day Job

Alden Solovy

JERUSALEM (JTA) — On a Friday afternoon, six months after my wife Ami, of blessed memory, died of a catastrophic brain injury, I received a call from a local hospital. “Your mother has fallen down and hit her head,” the voice said. “The condition is serious. You’d better get… Read more »

My history with the family of Lee Harvey Oswald’s Jewish killer

Jack Ruby, the Dallas nightclub proprietor who murdered Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963, was born Jacob Rubenstein in 1911. (Central Press/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (JTA) — We were sharing a pastrami sandwich and pickles at the Los Angeles landmark Canter’s Deli. I was 24. She was nearly 50 years older, with a piercing voice as loud as her flaming red wig. Her name was Eva Rubenstein Grant, and she was a… Read more »

The struggles of a holier-than-thou husband

HARTFORD, Conn. (JTA) — My wife stared at me as if I were from another planet. “What do you mean you don’t know if you can come to my cousin’s wedding?” she demanded indignantly. She hadn’t seen her relatives in years and was looking forward to a weekend getaway… Read more »

JFSA LGBT group voice heard ’round the world

Ellen Freeman

This summer, 150 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews from around the world gathered in Winnipeg, this year’s host city for the 21st World Congress of GLBT Jews, held July 5 to 7. Attendees represented more than 15 countries, including the United States, Canada, England, France, Israel, Argentina and… Read more »

Pass the cranberry latkes: When holidays collide

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — If the Pilgrims are lighting menorahs and the Maccabees are chasing turkeys, it must be Thanksgivukkah, as some have come to call the confluence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah that will happen this year on Nov. 28. It’s a rare event, one that won’t occur again… Read more »

At United Synagogue centennial, tough talk about need for change

Neshama Carlebach and Josh Nelson performing at the United Synagogue centennial in Baltimore. (Mike Diamond Photography)

BALTIMORE (JTA) — It will be years before it’s clear whether or not this week’s conference of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism was a success. To be sure, the centennial gathering in Baltimore by nearly all accounts was a far more dynamic and well-attended biennial than those of… Read more »