Religion & Jewish Life

The Chabad Rebbe died 25 years ago. Here’s how his movement has survived.

Hands reach out to touch the casket of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson as his funeral procession prepares to leave the world headquarters of the Lubavitch Hasidim in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, June 12, 1994. (Mark Phillips/AFP/Getty Images)

JERUSALEM (JTA) –Twenty-five years ago, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the 92-year-old Lubavitcher Rebbe, succumbed to his many ailments and died, to the horror of his Hasidim. Since suffering the first of several devastating strokes on March 2, 1992, while visiting the grave of his late father-in-law and predecessor Rabbi Yosef… Read more »

Anti-Semitism is strengthening the Jewish identity of young people. Why haven’t our organizations embraced them?

Young Jewish adults from all over the world participate in the Birthright Israel program in Jerusalem, Jan. 14, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (JTA) – The year was 2000, and Michael Steinhardt had just dropped a bombshell that nearly brought an otherwise dignified conference to blows. “I tend, in my dourest moments, to consider both the Reform and Conservative Jews as historic accidents in the 21st century and suspect,… Read more »

Synagogues are now conducting active shooter drills during services

Avi Abraham, a Krav Maga instructor who teaches self-defense classes to synagogue-goers, shows how to combat an attacker in a promotional video. (Screenshot from YouTube)

(JTA) — When the ushers locked the door to the sanctuary, and the congregants prepared to flee the synagogue in preparation for a mass shooting, Rabbi Neil Cooper made sure it all happened before they had to take the Torahs out of the ark. Ten minutes later the worshippers… Read more »

What preparing a Jewish body for burial is really like

Hundreds attend the funeral of former Israeli army's chief rabbi, Avihai Ronsky, in the Jewish settlement of Itamar, April 1, 2018. In Jewish tradition, the body must undergo a series of rituals after death and before burial known as tahara, performed by a chevra kadisha, a holy society of volunteers. (Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

(JTA) — In Jewish communities around the world, there is a little known group of men and women dedicated to performing the mitzvah of preparing a body for burial, a ritual called tahara. The group is called the chevra kadisha, the holy society. The chevra kadisha isn’t a secret… Read more »

Jared Kushner’s peace conference brings a minyan to 19th-century Bahrain synagogue

Jason Greenblatt, the top White House Middle East peace negotiator, second from left, organizes shacharit services at Bahrain's synagogue on June 26, 2019. (Jason Greenblatt Twitter feed)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jason Greenblatt, President Trump’s top Middle East negotiator, led Jewish prayer services at a synagogue in Bahrain this week, during the conference there that rolled out the economic portion of the Trump administration’s peace plan. Greenblatt mustered an Orthodox minyan — a quorum of 10 adult… Read more »

Boston museum pays $500K for rare Torah ornaments

BOSTON (JTA) — The Museum of Fine Arts bought two pairs of rare Torah finials, bidding $500,000 for the 17th-century German silver set. The set is considered among the earliest surviving examples of the ritual Torah ornaments. The final sale price exceeded the pre-auction estimate of between $300,000 and $400,000.… Read more »

Drowning out jeers, Polish soccer fans applaud Israeli anthem

(JTA) — Thousands of Polish soccer fans attending a match in Warsaw between their national team and Israel’s applauded during the playing of the Jewish state’s anthem. “Hatikvah” was played just before “Mazurek Dąbrowskiego” on Tuesday ahead of the match, which ended with Poland winning 4-0. When some fans… Read more »

7 Jewish fun facts about the 2019 Women’s World Cup

HARRISON, NJ - MAY 26: The full roster for the United States Women's National Team that is heading to France for the 2019 World Cup just after the International Friendly match the U.S. Women's National Team and Mexico as part of the Send Off Series prior to the FIFA Women's World Cup at Red Bull Arena on May 26 2019 in Harrison, NJ,USA. The United States won the match with a score of 3 to 0. USA. (Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)

(JTA) — There aren’t any Jewish players that we know of at this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, which runs from June 7 to July 7 in France. The top-ranked U.S. team is looking to win its second Cup in a row and fourth all time. But there are… Read more »

CAI to energize youth, family education program

Congregation Anshei Israel's B'Yachad students will participate in experiential activities with Nichole Chorney, cantorial soloist.

Congregation Anshei Israel is revamping its youth and family education models, tearing down silos, and merging them into a new program, aptly called B’Yachad (together). This new name builds on the synagogue’s tagline and vision: “Living Y/Our Judaism Together.” Religious school programs evolved post-World War II in America’s suburban… Read more »

This woman organized a Passover seder for 9 senators at 30,000 feet over Vietnam

Jill Cooper Udall leads a seder aboard a U.S. military aircraft 30,000 feet over Vietnam, April 19, 2019. (Courtesy of Cooper Udall)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Air National Guard pilot gave Jill Cooper Udall the all-clear: There were storm warnings, but she had 10 turbulence-free minutes to get through her seder. Cooper Udall, who is married to Tom Udall, a Democrat and the senior senator from New Mexico, waved the 25… Read more »

Why so many Jews love the band Phish

Phish performs on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," Oct. 10, 2016. The band members are, from left: Page McConnell on keyboard, Trey Anastasio on guitar, Jon Fishman (barely pictured) on drums and Mike Gordon on bass. (Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)

(JTA) — Gary Stein remembers the first time someone played a Phish song for him in high school. It was “Divided Sky,” an intricate 11-minute tune that shows off the group’s diverse jam rock chops. Stein, who’s now a 30-year-old history doctoral student living in Los Angeles, quickly became… Read more »

Congregation Or Chadash blesses all creatures great and small

Alice Mayoral, with Jordan the lizard, won most unusual pet. Photos: Debe Campbell/AJP)

Pets of all description were on parade at Congregation Or Chadash May 5 for the annual pet blessing. About 50 gathered with their beloved dogs, a rabbit, and a gecko to share the Prayer for Animals, led by Rabbi Thomas Louchheim. The blessing also culminated a monthlong b’not mitzvah… Read more »

Life before war focus of community Yom HaShoah commemoration

Holocaust survivor Walter Feiger, right, lights a candle with his partner, Nancy Alexander, and Rabbi Thomas Louchheim of Congregation Or Chadash.

The community-wide 2019 Yom HaShoah commemoration on Sunday, May 5 at the Tucson Jewish Community Center focused on highlighting Jewish life and culture before the Holocaust. Rather than rehearse the political miscalculations and complicity of European nations or the mechanics of Nazi genocidal violence, says Bryan Davis, executive director… Read more »

Yiddish motto explains the counting of the Omer

Every day during the month of Iyar, we observe the mitzvah of Sefirat HaOmer, or counting the Omer. This mitzvah begins on the second day of Passover and continues until the eve of Shavuot. The counting is practiced daily after nightfall with some counting from a Siddur (prayer book),… Read more »

One thing Crown Heights can do to really tackle anti-Semitism

Orthodox Jewish men walk through the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, Feb. 25, 2019. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (JTA) – Anti-Jewish incidents made up more than half the hate crimes reported in New York City in 2018 and so far this year. The 71st Precinct, which includes the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, reported nine incidents, the most of any precinct in the five boroughs.… Read more »

A site to order Kaddish for your loved ones takes a page from Nathan Englander’s latest book

A new site offers mourners a way to have someone say Kaddish for their loved ones. (Screenshot from kaddish.com)

NEW YORK (JTA) — In his most recent novel, “kaddish.com,” Nathan Englander imagines a website that a character — encumbered by Jewish guilt — uses to hire someone to say the traditional mourner’s prayer for his late father. In interviews, the author has said the idea was inspired by the… Read more »