Religion & Jewish Life

Figuring out what Shemini Atzeret is. Finally.

I know something about most Jewish holidays. I can tell you that Hanukkah is about miracles, Passover is about slavery and freedom, and Shavuot is about cheesecake. (I have no idea why, but when it comes to matters of cheesecake, it is not mine to question.) The one holiday… Read more »

In the Ukrainian city of Uman, businesses and mobsters follow the Jewish pilgrims

Pilgrims to Uman praying at the grave of Rebbe Nachman, Sept. 7, 2013. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

UMAN, Ukraine (JTA) — By selling coffee to Jewish tourists, 18-year-old Yuri Breskov can earn in a week more than his teachers from high school make annually in this provincial city. His revenues peak at $3,000 on the week of Rosh Hashanah, when some 30,000 Israelis and other Jews visit… Read more »

OP-ED Billy Joel wore a yellow Jewish star. Thanks, but the trend should stop there.

Billy Joel performs at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Aug. 21, 2017. (Myrna M. Suarez/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Few artifacts of the Holocaust move me like the yellow star. Homely and seemingly innocuous, they sit in museum cases either by themselves or still attached to a jacket or blouse, the stitching rough and the lettering surprisingly crude. They are almost comically, cartoonishly blunt,… Read more »

Rabbi leads a team of spiritual first responders in storm-tossed Texas

Rabbi Shira Stern of Marlboro, N.J., is a disaster spiritual care provider for the American Red Cross. (Courtesy of Stern)

(JTA) — It was a day before Hurricane Harvey was due to make landfall, and Rabbi Shira Stern knew she was headed for Texas. As a director of Disaster Spiritual Care for the American Red Cross, she knew there would be people who would have other needs beyond shelter,… Read more »

New York’s Orthodox Jews are expanding into these towns, and some residents aren’t happy

A synagogue in Airmont, N.Y., a town that has seen its haredi population boom in recent months as families seek larger houses at a more affordable price. (Ben Sales)

AIRMONT, N.Y. (JTA) — When Moshe Pinkasovits walks with his kids down the street on Saturdays in his new town, he has to watch out for drivers shouting anti-Semitic slurs. The Pinkasovits family didn’t face this problem in the neighboring town of Monsey, a heavily haredi Orthodox enclave in… Read more »

Why I kept my daughters at camp after tragedy

The summer before she entered first grade, my oldest daughter asked me when she was going to go to sleepaway camp. I was stunned; she was too young. And why the heck would she ever want to leave us, her family? I blew off the question until the next… Read more »

Harissa Honey Roast Chicken Recipe

Harissa Honey Roast Chicken (Shannon Sarna)

There’s a reason chicken is a bit of a Friday night staple: Before Jews came to America, red meat simply wasn’t abundantly available and therefore saved for special occasions. But also, chicken is a relatively easy dinner to prepare, especially when you roast a whole chicken. This honey harissa and lemon… Read more »

Why you might find bacon flavors next time you go to a kosher restaurant

Chef Michael Gershkovich uses the skills and flavor knowledge he gleaned from years of study in the non-kosher world to infuse the kosher cuisine at his New York restaurant, Mike's Bistro. (Courtesy of Gershkovich)

NEW YORK – Tuna poke nachos marinated Hawaiian style. Lightly smoked duck breasts with quinoa and turnips. Hormone- and antibiotic-free USDA prime angus steaks. The kosher restaurant scene today has come a long way from the pastrami sandwiches and matzah ball soups of old (though you can still get… Read more »

Secular young Jews come here for drinks, socializing — and Torah learning

Participants at a Wednesday night event hosted by Meor Manhattan. (Josefin Dolsten)

  NEW YORK (JTA) — The scene inside the brick-walled locale minutes from Union Square has the typical trappings of a New York hangout. On a recent Wednesday, 20-somethings in jeans and button-downs crowd around tables, raising their voices to be heard over the loud pop music. The bar is… Read more »

This kippah could save the lives of kids with allergies

The "Allergy Alert" kippah is designed to alert adults who might not be aware of a child's allergies. (iKippah)

(JTA) — At 3 1/2, Peretz Apfelbaum may not completely understand it yet, but some kitchens can put his life in danger. The Brooklyn boy is allergic to peanuts, cashews, pistachios, flax seeds, mustard seeds, coconut, peas, eggs and beef. Some of the foods give him hives, but the nuts can… Read more »

How this 650-year-old French synagogue withstood centuries of anti-Semitism

Women from the Jewish community of Carpentras chatting while preparing for Shabbat at the town's synagogue, July 7, 2017. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

CARPENTRAS, France (JTA) — The synagogue in this Provence town is Western Europe’s oldest functioning Jewish house of worship — and one of the prettiest on the continent. The Synagogue of Carpentras, which this year is celebrating its 650th anniversary, has a Baroque-style interior and a gold-ornamented hall with a blue… Read more »

How a Korean-Jewish entrepreneur uses food to empower immigrants

Jeanette Chawki, far right, teaches League of Kitchens workshop participants how to cook Lebanese food. (Josefin Dolsten)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Several times a month Jeanette Chawki welcomes a handful of strangers into her Brooklyn home. There, the visitors learn about life in her native Lebanon, talk about their own backgrounds, and eat food — lots of it. Among the dishes visitors tried on a recent… Read more »

I gave my child the Jewiest name

(Kveller via JTA) — I took a poll of my friends when I was pregnant. We run in an observant crowd in Manhattan, and most of our friends have the kinds of names you’d find multiple times over at your Jewish summer camp: Adams and Davids, Elianas and Yaels. My… Read more »

How a Chinese-Jewish chef finds inspiration on a North Dakota farm

Molly Yeh has taken the food blogging world by storm with her bubbly personality and creative recipes. (Chantell Quernemoen)

(JTA) — Not much could have prepared Molly Yeh for moving from New York City to Grand Forks, North Dakota — a city of a little over 50,000 residents near the state’s eastern border with Minnesota. At the time of her move in 2013, Yeh (pronounced “yay,” as her… Read more »

13 Jewish grandparent names that are due for a comeback

(Kveller via JTA) — Kveller often writes about trending Jewish baby names — but what about more retro names that are due to come back in style? Parents-to-be may not want to go with what’s popular right now and instead choose something ahead of the curve — by which… Read more »

Temple Emanu-El celebrates b’nai mitzvah with a difference

Grey Schwartzberg (left) and his father, Gary, carry Torahs at their b’nai mitzvah ceremony on May 6 at Temple Emanu-El. (Courtesy Gary Schwartzman)

A bar or bat mitzvah brings families together in a special way. In recent months, three Temple Emanu-El members with interfaith backgrounds created new family traditions as they demonstrated their commitment through this age-old rite of passage. A father and son celebrated a joint b’nai mitzvah, and the son of… Read more »

LGBT Jews say it’s increasingly difficult to be pro-Israel and queer

Marchers at the New York City Pride Parade hold signs for an LGBT synagogue in Manhattan, June 25, 2017. (Harold Levine)

NEW YORK (JTA) — For years, Laurie Grauer had waved a rainbow flag emblazoned with a Jewish star at the Chicago Dyke March, sometimes marching near activists waving Palestinian flags. It had never been a problem. But this year, Grauer was confronted by the LGBT parade’s organizers, questioned about… Read more »

Netanyahu defends suspending the Western Wall agreement. Here’s how.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, leads the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, June 25, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

  (JTA) — American Jewish leaders are calling it a betrayal. They say that 17 months after achieving a historic agreement to provide a non-Orthodox space at Judaism’s holiest prayer site, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reneged in a Cabinet vote June 25, effectively canceling the deal and caving to… Read more »