Religion & Jewish Life

Meet Dan Lederman: the Jewish bail bondsman legislator from South Dakota

WASHINGTON (JTA) — AIPAC photo-ops? Check. Initiate and pass Iran divestment bill? Check. Pheasant-hunt fundraisers, sandbagging for flood protection and running a bail bonds business… Check. Could Dan Lederman, an energetic and peripatetic 38-year-old Republican state senator in South Dakota, set a new template for Jewish politicians? “He’s somebody… Read more »

Op-ed: Reform Judaism must move beyond ‘personal choice’

SAG HARBOR, N.Y. (JTA) — Change is afoot in American Reform Judaism. A new president of the Union for Reform Judaism has been selected. The movement has launched a series of nationwide public forums to discuss its future. Hundreds of Reform rabbis have endorsed a plan toward achieving greater… Read more »

Point/Counterpoint: Magen Tzedek encouraging, not replacing, kashrut

(JTA) — We appreciate Rabbi Shafran’s embrace of the importance of the work of Magen Tzedek when he states in his JTA Op-Ed, “to be sure Jewish ethical values in food production are no less important (than) halachic concerns, and are indeed embodied in independent halachic mandates. But they… Read more »

Point/Counterpoint: Magen Tzedek seal engaging in a kashrut cover-up

(JTA) — There is something ironic, to put it politely, about an effort championing ethics that speaks from both sides of its mouth. That would be the new certification seal for kosher food products, created by a Conservative rabbi and actively being promoted by his movement, that aims to… Read more »

Jewish atheists look for their place in Jewish life

Rabbi Robert Barr of Congregation Beth Adam in Cincinnati says Jews are looking for spiritual nourishment without necessarily believing in divine power. [Alan Brown]

SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) — Jeff Levine has spent 40 years searching for a God he can believe in. He’s finally given up — but he’s not giving up on Judaism. “I did a lot of studying, and I realized about a year ago that it’s OK to say I’m… Read more »

Hadar’s popular egalitarian yeshiva grapples with sex before marriage

NEW YORK (Forward) — Just weeks before starting his year as a fellow at Yeshivat Hadar, an egalitarian Judaic learning program for adults, Itamar Landau moved in with his girlfriend. The fellowship demanded that Landau keep kosher and observe the Sabbath. The couple agreed to separate milk and meat… Read more »

Conservatives take kashrut up a notch

Rabbi Jason Miller of Kosher Michigan again making kosher the kitchen at the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization's Bittker Center in Holly, Mich. (Kosher Michigan)

SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) — The Conservative movement’s ethical kosher initiative may not have been intended as a wedge into the Orthodox monopoly over kosher supervision. But the planned rollout this summer of the Conservative-backed seal of ethical kosher production, the Magen Tzedek, coincides with an increase in the number… Read more »

Farmer, rabbi and maple syrup maker, Shmuel Simenowitz melds Torah and environmentalism

Rabbi Shmuel Simenowitz works his draft horses on his Vermont farm, circa 2002, with children Tova and Shlomo riding along. (Lloyd Wolf)

SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) — It’s easy to spot Rabbi Shmuel Simenowitz at a Jewish food conference, an environmentalist gathering or any of the other progressive-minded confabs he frequents. Just look for the Chasid in the room. Simenowitz is an anomaly: a haredi Orthodox Jew, black hat and all, who… Read more »

Twin peaks: Itamar’s mayor knows the blessing and the curse

NEW YORK (N.Y. Jewish Week) — From the highest elevation in Itamar you can see everything but the future. On a clear day, says Rabbi Moshe Goldsmith, Itamar’s mayor, “We can see the three seas”: the Dead Sea, the Mediterranean and the Kinneret (Galilee). To the west, “We can… Read more »

For new Reform leader Richard Jacobs, big tent movement is the idea

Rabbi Richard Jacobs of Scarsdale, N.Y. was tapped to be the new president of the Union for Reform Judaism. Union for Reform Judaism)

NEW YORK (JTA) — For the man tapped to lead American Jewry’s largest religious denomination, keeping the movement’s 900-plus synagogues welcoming to the unaffiliated, inspiring for members and a home for disaffected traditional Jews may require a high-wire balancing act. As a former dancer and choreographer, Rabbi Richard Jacobs… Read more »

Op-Ed: Don’t believe gloomy forecasts on Conservative Judaism

WEST CALDWELL, N.J. (JTA) — Conservative Judaism is dying, I hear — or at least according to the media. Not so. Please don’t tell me that because North America’s United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism has had its problems, that means Conservative/Masorti Judaism is declining around the Jewish world. Yes,… Read more »

As Tikkun turns 25, Michael Lerner looks back

Michael Lerner

NEW YORK (N.Y. Jewish Week) — Revolutions belong to the young, and Michael Lerner is growing old. Tikkun, the magazine he founded and still edits, turns 25 as he turns 68. Lerner wonders how long he can keep doing this. Tikkun is “the largest circulation progressive Jewish magazine in… Read more »

FSU Jewish women take women’s case to U.N., D.C.

Project Kesher activists Elena Kalnitskaya, Svetlana Yakimenko, Olga Krasko and Vlada Bystrova pose outside a U.N. workshop in New York on Feb. 25, 2011. (Project Kesher)

(JTA) — When Elena Kalnitskaya of Ukraine talked about her organization’s women’s empowerment projects at a United Nations conference last month, she was presenting the face of social progress in her country. And she was doing it as a Jewish woman — not unusual, perhaps, for an American participant… Read more »

What the Civil War meant for American Jews, then and now

WALTHAM, Mass. (the Forward) — The 150th anniversary of the Civil War is upon us. April 12 is the anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter, the war’s opening shot. From then, through the sesquicentennial anniversary on April 9, 2015 of Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House… Read more »

Orthodox grapple with ubiquity of Internet

Community leaders worry that the widespread use of the Internet is undermining religious norms among Orthodox Jews. (Uri Fintzy)

NEW YORK (JTA) — For Josh, a Brooklyn computer technician who deals almost exclusively with a haredi Orthodox clientele, it was quite the conundrum: A man brings his computer to be cleaned of a virus that Josh believes was acquired while visiting a pornographic website. A few weeks later the… Read more »

Why is patrilineal descent not catching on in Reform worldwide?

SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) — For three decades now, the American Jewish Reform movement has considered as Jewish the child of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother who is raised as a Jew. But most Reform Jews in the rest of the world still do not accept “patrilineal descent.” That… Read more »