Religion & Jewish Life

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 »

This is the difference between parenting preschoolers and teens

(Kveller via JTA) — I’m starting a new year in which my oldest is in high school (!) and my youngest is in Pull-Ups. Repeating the mantra, “No one goes to college in diapers,” I have decided that the latter issue will work itself out somehow, sometime. (After six… Read more »

NJ store to close after a century of suiting up bar mitzvah boys — and the occasional mobster

Sam’s storefront, circa 1968. (Courtesy of Jeffrey Cohen)

WHIPPANY, N.J. (New Jersey Jewish News via JTA) — When Clifford Kulwin celebrated his 13th anniversary as rabbi at Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston, New Jersey, he knew he had to mention another local institution. “I understand there are some present who do not consider this a ‘real’ bar… Read more »

A new Torah scroll symbolizes a Liberal Jewish revival in the Czech Republic

David Maxa delivers a sermon during Shabbat services at Prague's Spanish Synagogue during the European Union of Progressive Judaism's biennial, April 2018. (Courtesy of Maxa)

PRAGUE (JTA) — A new Torah scroll is being used in this historic city by one of its two Reform Jewish congregations to welcome the High Holidays and the series of solemn and joyous celebrations that conclude with, what else, Simchat Torah — the rejoicing of the Torah. But it’s… Read more »

Why Stephen Miller’s childhood rabbi singled him out in his Rosh Hashanah sermon

WEST PALM BEACH, FL - APRIL 18: White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller arrives before the start of a news conference by President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hold a news conference at Mar-a-Lago resort on April 18, 2018 in West Palm Beach, Florida. The two leaders are meeting for a multi-day working meeting where they are discussing world events. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels didn’t mince words when he criticized Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to President Donald Trump and a former congregant of his Southern California synagogue, in his Rosh Hashanah sermon. “Honestly, Mr. Miller, you’ve set back the Jewish contribution to making the world spiritually whole… Read more »

At L.A. games, Maccabi USA team taps local youth for 2019 Pan Am Games

Tucsonan Cody Blumenthal heads for the basket in a tied match at the Maccabi Games in Los Angeles in August.

Cody Blumenthal and Gabe Green were among 2,600 athletes at the largest annual JCC Maccabi Games this summer, representing the Tucson Jewish Community Center. Blumenthal participated in 16 and under basketball while Green vied in 14 and under soccer at the Aug. 5-10 games in Orange County, California. Josh… Read more »

Former Eagle to share journey from football to faith

Calvin ‘Yosef’ Murray and his wife, Emunah, on a Judean Desert Jeep tour in Israel December 2017.

Legendary all-star Rose Bowl running back Calvin Murray played football for the Philadelphia Eagles in the early ’80s. Yet he says his greatest touchdown was converting to Orthodox Judaism five years ago, and with his wife, Emunah, preparing to make aliyah. Murray, who now goes by the name Yosef,… Read more »

On summer travels in Israel, Tucsonans delight in people, places, studies

(L-R): Garrett Fenton, Matt Landau, Sophia Yatsenko, Monica Montes, and Linnea Dawson in the Old City of Jerusalem at the Western Wall

This summer season marked the 18th anniversary of Birthright Israel, the program that brings Diaspora Jews, ages 18-26, on a free trip to Israel. From May 24-June 4, Bus #1545 carried University of Arizona students along with participants from the University of Southern California, Arizona State University, and San… Read more »