Religion & Jewish Life

For Italian Jews, the ‘smell of death’ is all around

A cyclist protecting himself from the coronavirus passes in front of a synagogue in Turin, Italy, March 18, 2020. (Stefano Guidi/Getty Images)

(JTA) — At least twice a day, Micol Naccache breaks down in tears over what the coronavirus is doing to her city of Milan and its Jewish community. A high school teacher and mother of two, Naccache describes herself as “an optimistic person.” But she is struggling to stay… Read more »

You don’t need Zoom or Skype to say Kaddish without a minyan. Here’s a healthier option for the community.

A man recites the Mourner’s Kaddish from a prayer pamphlet. (Getty Images)

WALTHAM, Mass. (JTA) — Like so many others, I am feeling the spiritual loss and pain of our current inability to learn Torah and pray together in person. Many mourners are devoted to the customary recitation of Kaddish for a deceased close relative and struggling with how to do… Read more »

On Sunday, the rabbi logged on to Zoom: A bride and groom were waiting

Jalna Silverstein and Asael Papour are married in New York, March 22, 2020. (Courtesy of Silverstein)

(JTA) — Before everything changed, Jalna Silverstein and Asael Papour were planning a wedding much like many other Jewish nuptials on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. They had a band and caterer lined up, a ceremony planned for the synagogue where Silverstein grew up and all the little… Read more »

Passover in a pandemic: Families on Zoom, solo seders, broken traditions

Jewish man reads passages from the Passover Haggadah (the story of Passover) during a Passover seder in North York, Ontario, Canada on, April 19, 2019. (Photo by Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Rena Munster was looking forward to hosting a Passover seder for the first time. In past years, her parents or another relative hosted the meal. But this year she had invited her parents, siblings and other extended family to her Washington, D.C., home. Her husband, an amateur ceramics artist,… Read more »

He wanted to encapsulate Beijing’s Jewish community in a Passover Haggadah. The coronavirus complicated that.

Artist Leon Fenster says this page of his Beijing-themed Haggadah aims to capture the traditional Haggadah’s "curiously non-chronological form of storytelling." (Courtesy of Fenster)

(JTA) — Unlike Shanghai or Hong Kong, which received Jews fleeing from World War II, Beijing does not have a robust Jewish history. In the words of Joshua Kurtzig, former president of the Reform congregation there, the massive Chinese capital is a “very transient city,” especially for Jews — meaning… Read more »

Saying Kaddish from balconies and fasting: How Hasidic Jews are responding to the coronavirus

Chabad children in Argentina study in the movement's online school in 2007. During the new coronavirus outbreak, the school has offered guidance to other Jewish schools transitioning to remote learning. (Courtesy of the Nigri International Shluchim Online School)

NEW YORK (JTA) — One of Avi Webb’s favorite times of the week is Sunday morning, when he takes his children to morning prayers at his synagogue and stays for a lesson on Hasidic thought. His kids play at an arts and crafts table while he studies. Webb is… Read more »

I’m a veteran expert in stopping epidemics. Here’s why Jewish institutions should cancel everything.

Keeping the synagogue pews empty temporarily is seen as one way to stop the spread of COVID-19. (Getty Images)

CHICAGO (JTA) — I am an infectious disease epidemiologist who worked at the World Health Organization on epidemics in over 25 countries around the world. As a physician and member of the Jewish community, I prize the Jewish teaching that places the saving of a life above all other laws and… Read more »

As the coronavirus epidemic looms, American Jews brace for a Shabbat like no other

A ribbon expressing support is tied to a pole outside the Young Israel of New Rochelle synagogue, in New York's Westchester County, which was quarantined after a member tested positive for the coronavirus, March 10, 2020. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images)

NEW YORK (JTA) — As of Thursday, Alex Matthews felt confident that the synagogue he leads in Newburyport, Massachusetts, would be able to hold services as scheduled this Shabbat. Even as growing numbers of Jewish communities began shutting down schools and synagogues and, when possible, moving operations online, Congregation… Read more »

From ‘Spock’ greetings to chopstick Torah pointers, synagogues are getting creative amid the coronavirus outbreak

To minimize the spread of germs, congregants at Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley are using disposable chopsticks in lieu of a shared yad when reading from the Torah. (Courtesy Alan Sokoloff)

(JTA) — On a typical Friday, some 200 people show up for services at Temple De Hirsch Sinai, a Reform congregation in Seattle. But last week, there was no one in the pews as Rabbi Daniel Weiner welcomed Shabbat in the synagogue’s smaller sanctuary. Instead, some 1,500 people watched… Read more »

Purim fun should not eclipse message on education

Rabbi Yossie Shemtov

Two thousand five hundred years ago, Haman — then prime minister of the Persian Empire — succeeded in convincing King Ahasuerus to issue a decree to destroy the Jews throughout the land.  Following the issuance of this decree, Haman and his comrades went strolling with jovial hearts and encountered the… Read more »

Tucson’s first mezuzah week set to ensure spiritual security

Rabbi Moshe Peretz Gilden

“Tucson Mezuzah Week’ is the first community-wide opportunity, offered by Congregation Chofetz Chayim and the Southwest Torah Institute, to have every Jewish home in Tucson protected by the mitzvah of placing mezuzot on every doorpost,” says the congregation’s Rabbi Israel Becker. Often called the “Jewish security system,” the mezuzah is… Read more »

Wexler to get Zehngut award at Connections

Bella Wexler

Editor’s note: The March 8 Connections event has been postponed to the fall due to concerns about the spread of coronavirus. Bella Wexler, a junior at Catalina Foothills High School, will receive the Bryna Zehngut Mitzvot Award March 8. The Women’s Philanthropy advisory council created the award, which recognizes… Read more »

Pick from a plethora of fun-filled community Purim festivities

Kenny Mirman and Marlene Burns celebrate Purim at Chabad Oro Valley. (Photo courtesy Chabad Oro Valley)

A full array of Southern Arizona Purim parties will ensure that this most fun holiday of the Jewish calendar is action-packed. Take your pick from a string of family-friendly events, submitted by area synagogues and agencies. Friday, March 6 6 p.m.: Purim Shabbat Early Shabbat tot and child-friendly service;… Read more »

Handmaker lecture to explore community’s future from a rabbinic perspective

Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging continues its annual Three Rabbis Lecture Panel next month, exploring “The Future of the Tucson Jewish Community.” Rabbi Yossie Shemtov of Orthodox Congregation Young Israel, Rabbi Robert Eisen of Conservative Congregation Anshei Israel, and Rabbi Thomas Louchheim of Reform Congregation Or Chadash will… Read more »

Meet Mitchell Schwartz, the Jewish Kansas City Chiefs lineman heading to Super Bowl LIV

Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz enters the game against the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Jan. 19, 2020. (William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(JTA) — Kansas City Chiefs lineman Mitchell Schwartz does more than start for perhaps the best offense in the NFL. The 6-5, 320-pound tackle is a star at his position and has been for much of his eight-year career since turning pro following a standout career at the University… Read more »

Diego Schwartzman and the outsized power of Jewish representation in sports

Diego Schwartzman, listed at 5-7 but probably shorter, is congratulated by Alexander Zverev, who stands 6-6, at the 2019 U.S. Open. Schwartzman defeated Zverev in the fourth round. (Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on Alma. I was never the best tennis player. Nor was I particularly good at soccer, basketball or any other sport my parents signed me up for. Still, I stuck with tennis through my junior year of high school, when I was unceremoniously cut from the… Read more »

Israel’s Olympic baseball team preps for Tokyo and looks to expand the sport

Team Israel players Danny Valencia, left, and Jeremy Bleich with students at the Hand in Hand Galilee School in Eshbal, Israel, Jan. 16, 2020. (Hillel Kutler)

MISGAV, Israel (JTA) – As more than 20 men wearing blue-and-white baseball uniforms walked along Tel Aviv’s bustling Allenby Street on a recent Tuesday, a motorcyclist called out in Hebrew and English. “Good luck! We’re behind you!” the man shouted to the group, members of the baseball team that… Read more »