Religion & Jewish Life

Some governors are letting houses of worship reopen. Synagogues aren’t going for it.

A man taking part in a protest to reopen Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, April 20, 2020. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)

(JTA) — The road to reopening for houses of worship has been paved in a handful of states, even as the coronavirus pandemic continues to kill more than 1,500 Americans a day. But synagogues in the Republican-led states that are relaxing some restrictions — including Georgia, Texas and South… Read more »

It’s official: Most Reform Jewish camps will cancel this summer due to COVID, affecting at least 10,000 kids

Eisner Camp in Massachusetts, a view of its lake seen here, is among 16 Reform movement overnight camps that will not open this summer. (Wikimedia Commons)

This is a developing story.  (JTA) — Nearly all Reform Jewish summer camps, and at least one Conservative camp, will remain closed for the 2020 summer due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency has learned. The landmark decision, made Thursday afternoon, will affect 15 Reform overnight… Read more »

‘We don’t have time’: Rabbi launches Jewish climate change initiative during coronavirus crisis

A demonstrator holds a poster in front of the U.S. Capitol during a climate protest in Washington, Dec. 27, 2019. (Eva Hambach/AFP via Getty Images)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Rabbi Jennie Rosenn has spent most of her career working on Jewish social justice causes. Until recently, however, there was one issue that didn’t resonate as strong. “The environment was something that I knew was important, but I wasn’t passionate in my kishkes about… Read more »

Passover demands we remember the Exodus. That means taking care of our most vulnerable.

A homeless man crosses the almost deserted Times Square in New York City, April 13, 2020. (Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Every Passover, we strive to experience Egypt in our own lives. Locating the suffering of our Egypt wasn’t hard this year: It seems like most days my husband and I share the names of new people we personally know who have passed away from COVID-19… Read more »

Celebrity-studded Saturday Night Seder yields 1M viewers, $2.6M for charity and 4 big insights about the Jewish people

Jason Alexander, upper right, invites non-Jews Josh Groban, upper left, Darren Criss, lower left and Rachel Brosnahan to join in a virtual Seder webcast on YouTube, April 11, 2020. (Screenshot)

(JTA) — With its glittering assembly of stars, jokes that worked and attendees who could, well, sing, it was the Zoom Seder you wished you had. The Saturday Night Passover Seder that aired on YouTube over the weekend brought together dozens of celebrities and raised $2.6 million for the… Read more »

Jewish NFL star Mitch Schwartz embraces his inner chef during coronavirus quarantine

Mitchell Schwartz is having some fun, with food, off the gridiron. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images; Mitchell Schwartz/Instagram)

(JTA) — Fresh off his Super Bowl win in February, Kansas City Chiefs lineman Mitchell Schwartz took a vacation with his wife, Brooke, to St. Lucia. Little did they know that when they returned, they would be spending the next few months holed up at home because of the… Read more »

Revising previous guidance, Orthodox groups say no shared Passover seders should take place

The coronavirus has thrown a wrench in Passover seder plans. (Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto via Getty Images)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Leading Orthodox Jewish groups have come out firmly against shared Passover meals, two days before the holiday begins and two weeks after the groups left open the possibility of communal seders under narrow circumstances. “Everyone must plan to celebrate Pesach where they are currently,” reads… Read more »

How Jewish communities are deploying Passover aid amid coronavirus lockdowns

Rabbi Areyah Kaltmann packs boxes of frozen kosher chickens to be distributed to families for Passover. (Courtesy of JewishColumbus)

In the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s Passover will be like no other in living memory. With families kept apart by lockdown orders and millions struggling with uncertain financial futures, the needs are great and the logistics of coordinating Passover aid are daunting. Across America, Jewish federations… Read more »

For Jewish law authorities, the coronavirus has caused an unprecedented flurry of questions

French Rabbi Philippe Haddad prepares for a Shabbat service via videoconference at the Copernic Synagogue in Paris, March 28, 2020. (Stephane de Sakutin/AFP via Getty Images)

(JTA) — As the coronavirus pandemic forces Jews around the world to contemplate a Passover holiday in which large family gatherings will be all but impossible, an unusual question posed to a group of Israeli rabbis led to an extraordinary answer. The question was whether it might be permissible… Read more »

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 »