Religion & Jewish Life

How a rabbi saved 4 Torah scrolls from being destroyed in the California wildfires

Firefighters battle a blaze at the Salvation Army Camp on November in Malibu, Calif., Nov. 10, 2018. (Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

(JTA) — The death toll and damage continue to rise in California in the wildfires ravaging the state. More than 6,400 homes have been damaged and at least 31 people have been killed, according to CNN. Like other Californians, Jewish residents are evacuating their homes and dealing with the… Read more »

Tucson’s two oldest synagogues plan Kristallnacht anniversary pulpit exchange

Rabbi Robert Eisen, left, and Rabbi Batsheva Appel

Rabbi Robert Eisen of Congregation Anshei Israel and Rabbi Batsheva Appel of Temple Emanu-El will exchange pulpits this weekend for “Unity in the Faceof Brokenness,” a commemoration of the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht. Kristallnacht, which is German for “Crystal Night,” is also known as “The Night of Broken Glass.”… Read more »

JFSA women plan Mystery Mitzvah Morning

Updated 11.12.18: This event has been cancelled. Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona Women’s Philanthropy will host a Mystery Mitzvah Morning for newcomers and longtime residents on Sunday, Nov. 18, from 9:30-11:30 a.m. The event will begin with a light breakfast at the Harvey and Deanna Evenchik Center for Jewish… Read more »

Is this the last stand for Amsterdam’s Jewish market?

Nissim Kol shows off his merchandise to a prospective shopper at Amsterdam's so-called Jewish market, Oct. 26, 2018. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Growing up, Jaap Soesan would count the days until his parents would take him to Waterloo Square, a central area that many people here call the Jewish market. “It was a treat to go there,” recalled Soesan, a 95-year-old Holocaust survivor from the Amsterdam suburb of… Read more »

This teen coped with unimaginable tragedy by starting a program to help others

Genevieve Liu created SLAP'D: Surviving Life After a Parent Dies in the wake of her father's tragic passing. (Diller Foundation)

  When Genevieve Liu was 13, an unimaginable tragedy dramatically changed her life. She was on the Lake Michigan shore on vacation with her family in Michigan on Aug. 5, 2012, when her father, a celebrated pediatric surgeon, spotted two boys drowning in the lake. He rushed into the… Read more »

This Pittsburgh rabbi lost 3 congregants in the shooting. Here’s how he is observing Shabbat.

Rabbi Jonathan Perlman speaks to thousands at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Pittsburgh during a service to honor and mourn the victims of the mass shooting at the Tree Of Life synagogue, Oct. 28, 2018. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Six days ago, on Shabbat, Rabbi Jonathan Perlman was hiding in a pitch-black storage closet as one of his congregants was shot dead in front of him. The time since has been filled with funerals, counseling congregants and figuring out how to move forward as a community,… Read more »

A Jewish group builds community for transgender and nonbinary teens

Moving Traditions' Tzelem group conducts its monthly meetings using video chat. (Lior Zaltzman)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Growing up, Devin Goldstein often felt alienated from Judaism. The 17-year-old recalls having to wear traditionally feminine outfits when the family attended synagogue. That was painful for Goldstein, who has since come out as transgender. “It meant I had to get dressed in clothes I… Read more »

Cleveland Browns kicker Greg Joseph’s long journey from Jewish day school to the NFL

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 07: Greg Joseph #17 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates defeating the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 7, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Browns won 12 to 9. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

CLEVELAND (Cleveland Jewish News via JTA) — Browns rookie kicker Greg Joseph said it’s been a “wild ride” for him since being cut at the end of preseason by the Miami Dolphins, signing with Cleveland in Week 3 of the regular season, and just days later, playing an integral role in… Read more »

Chelsea soccer club has a plan to combat anti-Semitism by fans: Send them to tour Auschwitz

Chelsea squares off against Southampton in a soccer match at St. Mary's Stadium in Southampton, England, Oct. 7, 2018. (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

(JTA) — The British soccer club Chelsea is planning to send fans who are caught chanting anti-Semitic songs on a tour of the former death camp Auschwitz rather than punishing them. The team’s owner, Roman Abramovich, who is Jewish, has spearheaded the initiative to combat anti-Semitism, according to a… Read more »

A black, Orthodox rabbi’s novel addresses racism in the Jewish community

Shais Rishon's latest book, "Ariel Samson: Freelance Rabbi," tells the story of a 20-something black rabbi. (Courtesy of Rishon)

NEW YORK (JTA) — When Shais Rishon thinks of American Jewish literature, virtually no Jews of color come to mind — as characters or authors. “We’re invisible, pretty much,” he told JTA. As an African-American Orthodox rabbi, Rishon hopes to change that. He recently published a semi-autobiographical novel titled “Ariel Samson:… Read more »

How a school for kids with learning disabilities prepared its students for mainstream Jewish high school

Shefa classes have a high teacher-student ratio. (Ben Sales

NEW YORK (JTA) – Going to high school for the first time last month, Linda Shamah felt like many other incoming freshmen: really nervous and really excited. The large lecture-style classes seemed daunting. She’d be getting less personal attention from teachers. At the same time, she was looking forward… Read more »

There are no other Jews where we live. Do we leave?

Oh, if I could count the many discussions my husband and I have had on this topic — multiple times a day on some days. Pros, cons; the list begins. Our house fit us well enough and served its purpose well enough when we bought it 12 years ago.… Read more »

Sing-along in Hebrew and English on tap

Erez and GalErez and Gal

An evening of Israeli guitar music and song makes for a great night out. “Something Israelis love to do is sing together. So we’re bringing that Israeli spirit here,” says Tucson’s Weintraub Israel Center Director Amir Eden. The Oct. 7 event is open to the public. Local guest singer… Read more »

NY meeting not chance but divine providence

Some people believe we live in a world where everything can be seen and touched. They buy into scientific explanations and find it hard to believe we live in a complex world where there’s much we can’t explain. Here is a true story of divine providence or in Hebrew,… Read more »

If dancing on Simchat Torah makes you feel uneasy, think of it as a test

Rabbi Israel Becker claps to the music as Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild carries Congregation Chofetz Chayim’s newly written Torah scroll on Sept. 14, 2014, at a celebration akin to those held on Simchat Torah. Rogelio Garcia)

I have long had a problem with the central rite of Simchat Torah: dancing. I have nothing against the kind of dancing that requires learning certain steps — I then enjoy the challenge of mastering the particular dance. The dancing on Simchat Torah, however, requires almost no skill and consists… Read more »

Mega Challah Bake entering fifth year

(L-R): Danya Horwitz, Haley Fried, Hilary Kleppel and Belle Soyfer join in the dancing while waiting for dough to rise at the Mega Challah Bake on Oct. 26, 2017 at the Tucson Jewish Community Center. (Chabad Tucson)

The fifth annual Mega Challah Bake, bringing together hundreds of women for an evening of community and instruction in the art and mitzvah of baking challah, a staple of the Shabbat table, will be held Thursday, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. at the Tucson Jewish Community Center. The event, for… Read more »

Fifth annual Ride for the Living affirms Jewish vitality today — in Poland

Tucsonans Boaz Cohon (front left) and Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon at the Ride for the Living in Krakow, Poland, June 29 (Rabbi Samuel Cohon)

This summer my son Boaz and I traveled to Poland for the great pleasure and privilege of participating in the Ride for the Living, a 55-mile bicycle ride from Auschwitz-Birkenau to the Jewish Community Center of Krakow, Poland, from the scene of the greatest destruction of our people to… Read more »

The ‘best football player who grew up in Israel’ seeks a spot at US college

Yuval Fenta plays running back for the Tel Aviv Pioneers. (Hillel Kuttler)

TEL AVIV (JTA) – In the summer of 2011, Yuval Fenta saw two guys tossing a football on the beach in Herzliya. He asked to participate. “You’re too small,” they responded. A dejected Fenta retreated, but not before hearing them mention an American football league that played in Israel.… Read more »