Religion & Jewish Life

Conservative synagogues crack open door to intermarried families

(Forward) — In June, after a year of internal discussion, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, a Conservative synagogue just outside Philadelphia, made a tiny amendment to its constitution: It redefined household membership to apply to families with one Jewish parent as well as those with two. Though the amendment impacted… Read more »

Seeking Kin: After 80 years, wondering about American cousins

JTA is introducing a new column, “Seeking Kin,” that aims to help reunite readers with long-lost friends and relatives. BALTIMORE (JTA) — Eliyahu Finkelstein grew up in the only Jewish family in the village of Zavizov in northwestern Ukraine, escaped from the Nazis after losing his parents and sister,… Read more »

Is the Jewish museum boom a good thing?

(Jewish Ideas Daily) — Although the paint is still wet on Philadelphia’s National Museum of American Jewish History, an announcement has just been made of a planned National Museum of the Jewish People on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., steps from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and not… Read more »

Eretz Peru: Cusco is a popular spot for young Israelis

(Tablet Magazine) — Walk down the cobblestone alley and you’ll see it lined with restaurants serving falafel and schnitzel, and Internet cafes advertising their businesses with Hebrew signs and Israeli flags. Shoppers speak Hebrew, and Israeli pop music emanates from storefronts. A shopkeeper waves and calls out “Shalom!” to… Read more »

Minority among a minority: Jewish students at black colleges

BALTIMORE (N.Y. Jewish Week) – On a recent Friday afternoon, an employee of a university here, passing through the Student Center building, noticed a student he knew sitting in a lounge and called out, “Shalom Abe.” The school is Morgan State University, a historically black institution in the northeast… Read more »

Dept. of Remembrance: Watching over 9/11 dead with prayers, Psalms

It was an ominous hum. A dozen refrigerated trucks loaded with the body parts of victims of the 9/11 attacks filled a cavernous tent across the street from the office of the city medical examiner, their low-pitched buzz an eerie soundtrack to the solemn work being carried out at… Read more »

Rabbi’s app sends users on a digital ‘treyf’ odyssey

The ancient laws of keeping kosher have now gone digital. Rabbi Eli Garfinkel of Temple Beth El of Somerset, N.J., has gained a reputation as something of a technophile, creating videos and podcasts on Jewish rituals and a website called askmyrabbi.com. Garfinkel recently found another high-tech outlet: developing smartphone… Read more »

In Slovakia, being strategic about preserving Jewish heritage

Maros Borsky, vice president of the Bratislava Jewish community, standing in the Orthodox synagogue in Zilina, Slovakia. The shul is one of the sites on his Slovak Jewish heritage Route. (Ruth Ellen Gruber)

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (JTA) — In 1989, on the eve of the fall of communism, the American poet Jerome Rothenberg published a powerful series of poems called “Khurbn” that dealt with the impact of the Holocaust on Eastern Europe. In one section, he recorded conversations he had had in Poland… Read more »

Parents can help raise Jewish children even once they’re away at college

ST. LOUIS (JTA) — American Jews are known for the emphasis they place on academic success. Jewish professors populate America’s universities, and, respectively, Jewish doctors, lawyers and politicians help fill the nation’s hospitals, law firms and legislatures. At the core of this success are generations of American Jewish parents… Read more »

The long tradition of Jewish farming in America

Rabbi Rafoel Franklin at his farm in Swan Lake, N.Y. (Itta Werdiger Roth)

(Tablet Magazine) — Every morning before breakfast, Rabbi Rafoel Franklin, 60, an Orthodox Jew living in Swan Lake, N.Y., puts on tefillin, says his morning prayers, and then heads outside to milk his 30 cows. Three decades ago Franklin and his wife, Naomi, left Monsey, N.Y., the ultra-Orthodox hamlet… Read more »

Young Russian Jews in assimilation bind

NEW YORK (N.Y. Jewish Week) — Like 500 other young Jews from the former Soviet Union who marched in this city’s Celebrate Israel Parade in June, Boris Shulman wore bright orange. In addition to signifying support for Israel’s settler movement, which also uses orange, the color contrasted sharply with… Read more »

Little-known non-cutting ritual appeals to some who oppose circumcision

LOS ANGELES (Jewish Journal) — In the same week in which a San Francisco judge struck from the city’s November ballot a controversial measure aiming to ban circumcision of any male younger than 18, two reputable media sources reported on a relatively new, little-known ceremony that serves as a… Read more »

Old soldier: Israeli reflects on two decades of civilian and military life

Michael Ripstein on patrol along the Egyptian border (courtesy Michael Ripstein)

MAZKERET BATYA, Israel (Tablet) — In 20 years of military service, I thought I’d seen all the crappy training camps the Israeli army had to offer. But there I was, early one morning last spring, walking from the glorified gravel pit that passed for a parking lot at the… Read more »

Inside Empire’s slaughterhouse: The life of a kosher chicken

The assembly line at Empire Kosher Poultry's plant in central Pennsylvania is the largest kosher one of its kind in America, with 240,000 chickens and 27,000 turkeys passing through every week. (Uriel Heilman)

MIFFLINTOWN, Pa. (JTA) – The end came swiftly for the chicken I’ll call Bob. Propelled into a trough of sorts by a machine that tips a crate’s worth of birds onto the assembly line — “They’re like children, sliding down,” the head kosher supervisor said — chicken Bob was… Read more »

Conference for art mavens reflects European Jewry’s niche-appeal trend

AVIGNON, France (JTA) — The roomful of artists, musicians and cultural leaders let their imaginations run wild. Unencumbered by budgetary considerations or practical concerns, they dreamed up a theater partnership between Budapest and Bordeaux, a traveling photo exhibit on the idea of “kosher spaces” and a host of other… Read more »

Joe Lieberman scaled political heights, but wants his legacy to be the Sabbath

Sen. Joe Lieberman, right, shown visiting special operations forces in Afghanistan on July 4, 2011, says his strong Jewish faith leads him to forge an independent path, striking aliiances with both parties. [Sgt. Lizette Hart, U.s. Military Public Affairs, via Creative Commons]

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Call Joe Lieberman the unlikely evangelical. The Independent senator from Connecticut — and the best-known Orthodox Jew in American politics — is probably more cognizant than most of his Jewish congressional colleagues about rabbinical interdictions against encouraging non-Jews to mimic Jewish ritual. Yet here he is,… Read more »

With $52M investment, German city banks future on unearthing Jewish past

Onlookers peer at the archeological dig and planned museum site on the Rathaus square in downtown Colgone. (Alex Weisler)

COLOGNE, Germany (JTA) — This city in western Germany is banking its future on its Jewish past. But at present, the investment is exacting a heavy price: $52 million, to be exact. Following a divisive decades-long battle, Cologne’s municipal government voted recently to allocate that sum toward the construction… Read more »

At Maccabi Games in Vienna, symbolism — and girls

VIENNA, Austria (JTA) — The symbolism was unmistakable. Four thousand Jews stood just a few hundred yards away from the spot where a quarter-million Austrians cheered Adolf Hitler in March 1938 as he announced Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria. This time, however, the Jews had come to celebrate, as… Read more »