Religion & Jewish Life

A Jewish hipster haven in the heart of Chabad’s Brooklyn territory

Nechama Levy, who participates in a few Crown Heights independent prayer groups, is involved in another Brooklyn trend: Her bike shop, Bicycle Roots, is also in the neighborhood. (Courtesy of Levy)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Soon after Nechama Levy moved to Brooklyn five years ago, she opened a bicycle repair shop. The spacious, high-ceilinged store was just down the street from a new pub with exposed brick walls. Like many who have moved recently to the rapidly gentrifying borough, Levy, 33,… Read more »

Orthodox Union asks women clergy to change their titles

The Orthodox Union is asking Maharat Ruth Friedman, left, shown at her graduation from Yeshivat Maharat in 2013, to change her title in order to comply with a rabbinic ruling that bars female clergy. (Joe Winkler)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Following its rabbinic ruling prohibiting synagogues from hiring female clergy, the Orthodox Union is pressuring synagogues that have hired the women to change their titles. In February, the Orthodox Union, an umbrella Orthodox Jewish group, issued a Jewish legal ruling by seven rabbis that bars women… Read more »

5 ways to celebrate Shavuot — without (necessarily) studying Torah

Participants in a past Shavuot program at JCC Manhattan gather on the JCC's roof. The JCC's annual event lasts all night and features an array of classes and workshops. (Courtesy of JCC Manhattan)

  NEW YORK (JTA) — Shavuot is the “Rodney Dangerfield of Jewish holidays,” says Rabbi Shira Stutman of Washington, D.C.’s Sixth and I synagogue. Meaning: It gets no respect. Considered by Jewish tradition to be on par with the fall and spring festivals of Sukkot and Passover, Shavuot is sometimes… Read more »

These 7 smartphone apps make life easier for religious Jews

Smartphone apps can help with everything from putting on tefillin correctly to finding a minyan to locating a kosher restaurant. (Lior Zaltzman)

(JTA) — These days there are smartphone applications for pretty much anything, from ordering food to finding a date to reporting anti-Semitic incidents. But what about tools for living a religious Jewish life? Well, there are apps for that, too. Whereas in the time before smartphones, observant Jews may have… Read more »

Progressive Jewish Latina embraces community with gusto

Alma Hernandez at her bat mitzvah party in the Holocaust History Center garden, April 8 (Courtesy Hernandez)

Alma Hernandez is passionate and strives every day to make a difference. People say her values and actions represent the core of Judaism, which is noteworthy because Hernandez didn’t grow up Jewish. At age 24, she has been active in the Jewish community for several years, even before she… Read more »

‘Recovered atheist’ and future rabbi speaks from heart on Jewish identity, healthy homes

(L-R): Linda Behr, Congregation Bet Shalom Cantor Avraham Alpert, Eileen Weizenbaum and Andrea Siemens, LMSW, at the Tucson Jewish Community Center April 23. Behr and Weizenbaum are Jewish Family & Children's Services Shalom in Every Home Healthy Family program board members. (Korene Charnofsky Cohen)

Avraham “Avi” Alpert’s spiritual journey has led him from Judaism to atheism to being an observant Jew. Now he wants to help other Jews find their own path to Jewish traditions, values and celebrations that bring families closer together. His April 23 talk at the Tucson Jewish Community Center,… Read more »

Three Tucsonans to compete on Team USA at Maccabiah Games in Israel

Sam Beskind of Catalina Foothills High School drives to the basket against Walden Grove High School, Jan. 12, 2017. [Courtesy Beskind)

Three young Jewish athletes from Tucson will compete in the elite Maccabiah Games in Israel. Held every four years, the games are the world’s third-largest international sporting event, with more than 9,000 athletes from over 80 countries. Sam Beskind, Tamara Statman and Brett Miller will be part of Team… Read more »

Three rabbis to explore ‘Finding G-d’ in Handmaker talk

(L-R) Rabbi Yossie Shemtov, Rabbi Thomas Louchheim and Rabbi Robert Eisen

Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging will continue its Rabbi Lecture Series with “Finding G-d (in the) Every Day,” featuring Rabbis Yossie Shemtov, Robert Eisen and Thomas Louchheim, on Sunday, May 21 at 3:30 p.m. “The Baal Shem Tov taught us that everything you see or hear can serve… Read more »

The 5 (or so) habits of successful seder leaders

(Lior Zaltzman)

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — What kind of leadership style works best for a seder? During a period when we are experiencing a shake-up in national leadership, you may want to re-examine the relationship that exists between leader and participants at the Passover meal. Though seder leaders and participants are… Read more »

Rare Judaica part of auction

 Everything But The House, an online estate sale marketplace, is auctioning a variety of rare, Judaica items from the 19th–mid 20th centuries. Items include: The Torah Crown – an early 20th century Sefer Torah crown that was made during one of the first years of the Bezalel School of Arts… Read more »

These two non-Jews are stars of Yiddish theater

Shane Baker, left, and Caraid O'Brien in the New Yiddish Rep's current production of "God of Vengeance." (Ronald L. Glassman)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Veteran actor Shane Baker has performed in three productions of “God of Vengeance,” Sholem Asch’s Yiddish classic about a brothel-owning family and their daughter’s lesbian relationship. Currently playing to sold-out audiences at New York’s Theatre at St. Clement’s Church, the play — which was first… Read more »

This Sephardi studies scholar sees preserving Ladino as an ‘act of resistance’ against Trump

Devin Naar says Ladino connects Jews with Latinos and Muslims, two communities he considers marginalized in Trump’s America. (Meryl Schenker Photography/The Stroum Center for Jewish Studies at Washington University)

(JTA) — One-year-old Vidal doesn’t know the significance behind the lullaby his father sings him at bedtime. He knows it helps him fall asleep, but not that the Ladino song is part of an effort to teach him what served as the lingua franca of Sephardi Jews of the Ottoman Empire for… Read more »

Not just prayers: synagogues are organizing to fight Trump’s agenda

Congregants of Bnai Jeshurun in New York City rally on behalf of immigrants Thursday, Mar. 9, 2017. Bnai Jeshurun is one of several synagogues more assertively embracing activism since Donald Trump's election. (Courtesy of Bnai Jeshurun)

NEW YORK (JTA) – The day after the presidential election, as congregants gathered in her Brooklyn synagogue to air their feelings, Rabbi Rachel Timoner was already starting to organize against the incoming administration. She called her local city councilman, Democrat Brad Lander, and together they organized an activists’ panel… Read more »

This women’s sport you’ve never heard of is taking Israel by storm

A match at the Israeli catchball tournament in Kfar Saba, Feb. 21, 2017. (Courtesy of the Israel Catchball Association)

TEL AVIV (JTA) – Every week, thousands of women across Israel gather to play a sport almost no one outside the country has heard of. For that matter, few Israelis knew about catchball – or “cadur-reshet” in Hebrew — a decade ago. But in recent years it has become… Read more »

Tucson congregations help others share the joys of Purim

Adina Lytle and Elliya Griver at Congregation Anshei Israel's Hamentaschen for Hunger event on Feb.26. (Yvonne Ethier)

The joy of Purim commemorates the survival of the Jewish people from a plot to annihilate them in ancient Persia, as recorded in the Megillah, the Book of Esther. But the joy goes beyond the events of ancient times. Jews have survived over and over again, in a world… Read more »

How Purim is a call to leadership

Abigail Pogrebin (Lorin Klaris)

(JTA) — Purim is a dark story marked by a crazy party. I’m still unsure why a close brush with extermination became, in the Middle Ages, an opportunity for costumes and farce, but there you have it. It’s the fifth century BCE, about a hundred years after the First… Read more »

This is why Purim is the original interfaith holiday

Jews dance in costumes and cowboy hats during Purim festivities in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn on March 25, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

(Kveller via JTA) — When I explain Purim to those less familiar with the holiday, I tell them it’s kind of like Jewish Halloween. Not so much because of the history and story behind each (Purim has no ghosts), but related to the joyful spirit, costumes, food and fun.… Read more »