Religion & Jewish Life

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 »

Finally, a book for Jews with Alzheimer’s

Eliezer Sobel's mother, Manya, reading his first book for adults with memory loss, "Blue Sky, White Clouds." (Courtesy of Eliezer Sobel)

NEW YORK (JTA) — The book is large and fits comfortably on a lap. The color photographs nearly fill each page. Each image depicts real people doing everyday Jewish things — a young girl eating matzah ball soup; a bubbe and her grandchildren lying in the grass; a man wearing… Read more »

Outside the synagogue, intermarried are forming community with each other

Jason and Julianne Kanter started talking about religion more seriously when they started to think about having children. (Courtesy of Julianne Kanter)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Leading up to their wedding in 2012, Julianne and Jason Kanter hadn’t really discussed how they would incorporate their respective religions into their home. Julianne was raised by Catholic and Presbyterian parents, while Jason grew up culturally Jewish. At first, it was simple to mark… Read more »

Conservative movement proposes allowing non-Jews as synagogue members

Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, said the current standards don't make sense in today's world of intermarried couples actively participating in synagogue life. (Mike Diamond Photography)

  (JTA) — Responding to a rising number of interfaith families, Conservative synagogues will be voting on a measure from their umbrella body that would allow congregations to admit non-Jews as members. Currently, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s Standards for Congregational Practice restrict synagogue membership to Jews. But the new language, which congregations… Read more »

BLOG 7 unexpected Birthright trips, from yoga to Instagrammed food

Participants in a specialized Birthright trip focused on yoga. (Courtesy of Hillel International)

(JTA) — Birthright trips — the 10-day Israel tours offered free to young Jews — are so much part of mainstream culture that they have been copied by other religions, parodied on television shows like “Broad City” and “Transparent,” and debated by academics and activists. But if your idea of… Read more »

In Israel, religious single moms gain greater acceptance

Jerusalem resident Alexandra Benjamin and her son at his bris in 2016. (Yitz Woolf)

  JERUSALEM (JTA) — When Alexandra Benjamin was pregnant recently with her son, she went shopping for appliances for her new apartment in Jerusalem. At the store, the religious salesman asked about her husband. Benjamin explained that she was having the baby on her own. “That’s so great!” she… Read more »

‘Online conversion’ helps fulfill a longtime dream — but controversy dogs the process

'Online conversion' can help make Judaism more accessible to those in remote locations, but everyone isn’t on board. (Lior Zaltzman)

(JTA) — The morning of her conversion, Diana Sewell was so nervous she “was running around like a headless chicken” in her Australia home. Meanwhile, some 9,000 miles away in Georgia, her rabbi was dealing with computer difficulties. Neither of those things put a stop to Sewell fulfilling a 60-something-year-old… Read more »

Wildcat coach to speak at Hillel alumni pre-game dinner

Joe Pasternack (University of Arizona)

The University of Arizona Hillel Foundation will host its annual alumni and friends event on Thursday, Jan. 26 at 5:15 p.m. The evening will feature Joe Pasternack, UA associate head basketball coach under Coach Sean Miller, who will brief attendees on this year’s Wildcat team. His talk will be… Read more »

BLOG In England, Christmas week of Jewish study means outreach to Sikhs and Muslims

Limmud UK’s annual conference, held this year in Birmingham, is the flagship of a network of Jewish learning festivals held in 44 countries. (Ranana Dine)

BIRMINGHAM, England (JTA) — If you think the United States overdoes Christmas, you haven’t been to London in December. The main drags are a riot of Christmas lights and gewgaws, the pubs overflow with midday revelers starting the week before and the Christmas shopping is no less intense at… Read more »

8 books for 8 nights of Hanukkah

(JTA) — Hanukkah is “late” this year (no disrespect to lunar-calendar literalists), which means winter will be well underway by the time those first lights are lit. What better time to curl up with a good book than when the weather outside is frightful, but the latkes are so… Read more »

Europe’s Jews prepare public Hanukkah events to ‘drive out darkness’

A menorah in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Dec. 16, 2014. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

  AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Before Monday’s attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal had planned to invite hundreds of people to the traditional lighting of the first Hanukkah candle at a large menorah erected at the city’s Brandenburg Gate monument. But he decided to change his original… Read more »