Religion & Jewish Life

Some New York City yeshivas are operating in the shadows

Orthodox children watch as protesters march through Brooklyn, June 3, 2020. Some yeshivas have provided instructions for parents to bring their children back to yeshiva three months after schools closed due to the pandemic. (Angela Weiss/Getty Images)

(JTA) – As Orthodox lawmakers were brazenly cutting the locks off a New York City playground on Tuesday morning, Orthodox children were settling in for a school day just nine blocks away. The classes at Yeshiva K’tana Torah Vodaath in Brooklyn were the first held in the school building… Read more »

The first female chancellor of JTS shares her plans for the seminary – and getting through the pandemic

Shuly Rubin Schwartz was named the eighth chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary in its 134-year history. (Ellen Dubin Photography)

(JTA) – Shuly Rubin Schwartz’s appointment as the Jewish Theological Seminary’s eighth chancellor comes just in time for the historian to guide the institution through a period of unprecedented crisis management. The flagship university of Judaism’s Conservative movement recently completed a major renovation project of its Morningside Heights campus… Read more »

For Orthodox Jews, George Floyd protests stir complicated feelings

Members of the Orthodox Jewish community watch as protesters walk through the Brooklyn borough on June 3, 2020. (Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)

(JTA) – On Sunday night, Rabbi Richard Altabe marched arm in arm with two black politicians protesting police brutality at a demonstration in Far Rockaway. The next morning, Orthodox Jews in the same New York neighborhood showed up at the local police precinct to drop off pastries for the… Read more »

‘We have to be there’: 5 Jews on taking part in the George Floyd protests

Rachel Sumekh, right, marches in Los Angeles with David Bocarsly, June 3, 2020. (Courtesy of Sumekh)

(JTA) — It has been a trying week and a half for Beejhy Barhany. Her Israeli-Ethiopian fusion restaurant, Tsion Cafe, had already been struggling to make ends meet after months of closure due to the pandemic. Then the protests over the death of George Floyd swept through the city,… Read more »

Jewish activists in Minneapolis shift from working on several issues to one: Responding to the George Floyd protests

Members of Jewish Community Action attend a rally Sunday in Saint Paul, Minnesota. (Courtesy of Carin Mrotz)

(JTA) – Jewish Community Action, the leading Jewish social justice organization in Minneapolis, was supposed to be closed last Friday for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. Instead, its staff started organizing individually as protests broke out all over the city in response to the killing of George Floyd in… Read more »

Amid pandemic, Jewish groups get creative for Shavuot festivities

Health care staff at Jerusalem's Hadassah hospital participate in the Days of Gratitude project, holding up signs in Hebrew and Arabic reading "Thank you for taking care of yourself," "Thank you for coming to work" and Thank you for your dedication." (Courtesy of M2)

When Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s husband, Dave Goldberg, died suddenly during a 2015 vacation to Mexico, Sandberg found solace in Jewish tradition. “One of the ways you find strength is to remember what is still good in your life,” Sandberg said. During the coronavirus crisis, actress, scientist and author… Read more »

I started watching this German rabbi praying alone early in the pandemic, and I couldn’t stop

Rabbi Zsolt Balla prays alone in his synagogue in Leipzig, Germany, during the coronavirus crisis. (Facebook screenshot)

(JTA) — On a Friday early in the coronavirus crisis, isolated in my apartment and facing the first of what would be many weekends with only Netflix for companionship, I came across a live Facebook video of Rabbi Zsolt Balla praying alone from the pulpit of his synagogue in… Read more »

The millennial rabbis behind @Modern_Ritual use Instagram to make Judaism accessible

(@Modern_Ritual on Instagram)

This story originally appeared on Alma. Clapping 👏hands 👏emojis, millennial pink table runners, and glittered Shabbat candles fill a colorful grid on Modern Ritual, the Jewish educational Instagram page run by rabbis Rena Singer and Samantha Frank. Rena and Samantha, “Sam,” are challenging stereotypes and calming anxieties around coronavirus… Read more »

Synagogues demur as Trump demands that states let houses of worship reopen

People protesting to allow churches to reopen in San Diego, May 1, 2020. (Sandy Huffaker/AFP via Getty Images)

(JTA) — President Donald Trump wants synagogues and other houses of worship to open their doors — but many Jewish leaders say his pressure won’t affect their timelines. The president went on the offensive Friday, telling governors that he would override them to require houses of worship to be… Read more »

With hope fading and regulations tightening, more Jewish camps set to cancel

Rising sixth-graders at Camp Ramah in California on the beach during an overnight trip. The camp has said "we cannot open camp in mid-June or run our summer sessions as scheduled." (Courtesy of Ramah in California)

(JTA) — At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, and as recently as a couple weeks ago, some Jewish camps had hoped they could run for part of the summer. For a growing number of camps, that hope now appears to be vanishing. Two Conservative Ramah camps look increasingly… Read more »

Portugal’s ruling party wants to limit Jewish law of return policy

Two Israeli women arrive in Lisbon, Portugal, Feb. 15, 2020. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

(JTA) — Portugal’s ruling Socialist Party says it wants to stop giving citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews, partly because the application process has turned into a business venture. The announcement came in a draft amendment submitted Monday by the party to a 2015 law that ensured the naturalization… Read more »

Fauci to Orthodox Jews: Ease into communal prayer as gatherings become possible

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks at the daily briefing of the White House Coronavirus Task Force at the White House, April 10, 2020. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Dr. Anthony Fauci, who directs infectious disease research for the federal government, advised Orthodox Jews to phase in communal prayer as local governments lift coronavirus pandemic restrictions. “The kind of social interactions which is the core of the beauty of your culture has unfortunately led to… Read more »

London city worker secures Jewish funeral for 95-year-old man who died alone

A picture of Herbert Max Fraenkel that a team of volunteers studying his ancestry found in January at his home in London. (Courtesy of The Jewish News)

(JTA) — After several weeks at a London mortuary, the unclaimed body of 95-year-old Herbert Max Fraenkel was slated to be buried in a shared grave at a pauper’s funeral. Fraenkel, who was born in 1924 in Berlin, died alone at his home in January. City workers were unable… Read more »

Many people are having their conversions to Judaism delayed during the pandemic. Others are going ahead with them in creative ways.

ConversionRenee Godinez had her son pour spring water on her to symbolize immersing in a mikvah. (Courtesy of Godinez)

(JTA) — Renee Godinez had completed nearly all the steps to becoming Jewish before the coronavirus pandemic descended earlier this spring. She had studied extensively with Rabbi Rick Winer of Temple Beth Israel in Fresno, California, and adopted Jewish practices in her life. All that was missing was a… Read more »

Synagogues offer plethora of online worship, study, connection opportunities

The state of Arizona has suspended all in-person worship services, classes, and other programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many local synagogues halting live events in advance of the governor’s March 30 stay-at-home order. Local congregations have migrated programs to digital spaces, including Shabbat services for non-Orthodox congregations.… Read more »