Listening to Conservative rabbis talk about their movement is like witnessing an intervention. They talk of “saving” Conservative Judaism – and sometimes they blame the parents when things go wrong. “Reform rabbis speak positively about their movement and less positively about their synagogue, while Conservative rabbis speak positively about their synagogue and less positively about their movement,” said Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt of B’nai Tzedek in Potomac, Md., paraphrasing a refrain he says he has heard often from Reform and Conservative colleagues.
When Mark Neuman celebrated his bar mitzvah seven years ago at the Peretz Centre for Secular Jewish Culture in Vancouver, B.C., he didn’t read from Torah, wear a yarmulke or pronounce Hebrew blessings. He gave a talk on the psychology of Jewish humor.
Naf Hanau lives in the Bronx, an odd choice for someone who calls himself a Jewish farmer.
Chabad has become so ubiquitous that Jewish travelers around the world, no matter how far they stray, have come to expect a Shabbat meal, a holiday celebration and a warm welcome from one of these Chasidic couples, no questions asked. All that's required is a knock on the door.
Daniel Kliman's body was found Monday in a San Francisco building where he was taking Arabic classes. It had been at the bottom of the elevator shaft since Nov. 25, building manager Brad Bernheim told the San Francisco Chronicle. There were no classes held last week, and the elevator supposedly was closed for repairs.
Nearly three months after a federal raid and six weeks before the busy High Holidays season, a tour of Agriprocessors shows the company is attracting new workers and trying to clean up its act
Last week, the Center for Kosher Culinary Arts opened in the heavily Jewish neighborhood of Flatbush. The $4,500, six-week intensive course, run in cooperation with the continuing education department of Kingsborough Community College, is the only professional kosher cooking school in North America.
A new report lends muscle to certain aspects of the phenomenon, hinted at by Katznelson: Young Jews' desire to be with other young Jews and their interest in creating their own Jewish experiences rather than signing up for long-standing programs.
This week, the production slow-down at the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa, finally hit the nation's kosher markets and, by extension, kosher consumers
"We want people to ask questions -- what does 'contemporary' mean?"
-- Connie Wolf, Executive Director, Contemporary Jewish Museum
Two rabbis are helping Jews find a path to Judaism off the beaten track. Each has written a new guidebook to take along on that hike
Oy vey! A kosher meat shortage?
Alysa Stanton-Ogulnick isn't particularly interested in being a standard-bearer.
She's proud to be black, proud to be a woman and proud to be a 45-year-old single mother who raised her adopted child on her own.
It's been 45 years since the U.S. Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, making it illegal to pay men more than women for the same job.
Three-dozen rabbis and cantors are sitting in silent meditation in a sun-filled room at the Brandeis-Bardin Campus at American Jewish University in Simi Valley.
They open their eyes and Rabbi Sheila Weinberg guides them in a mindfulness exercise.
Three new scholarly reports on intermarriage argue for increasing Jewish educational opportunities, encouraging Jewish behaviors among both intermarried and inmarried Jews and opening the doors even further to intermarried couples and their children.
American Jews are adopting and discarding their Jewish identities with increasing rapidity in a country that is becoming less white and less Christian, according to a new study of religious affiliation in the United States.But just hours after the study's publication Monday, Jewish demographers already were disputing some of the findings on Jews, contending that the sample is too small to draw meaningful conclusions.
The American Jewish Congress (AJCongress) is ramping up its protest against Ms. magazine's rejection of its pro-Israel advertisement. In a campaign launched Sunday, AJCongress urged people to write, call or e-mail the prominent feminist publication to "register your complaint at their anti-Israel bias."
Bettina Kurowski is the chair of the 2008 fundraising campaign of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and active in her Conservative synagogue. She's also a grandmother of three young grandchildren. They give her great naches, or joy, she says, but she's also worried -- the children's father is not Jewish, the kids are being raised in an interfaith home and Kurowski, for all her Jewish involvement, is not sure what role she should play in passing on the Jewish heritage that is so dear to her.
On Thanksgiving, New Yorker Linda Lantos didn't have to compromise her Jewish or ecological values: She served free-range, organic, nongenetically engineered turkey that was also kosher.
"In the last few years, it's become important to me to find meat that's organic and kosher, and that's hard," said the 27-year-old chef and nutrition teacher, who has kept kosher since childhood.
Leaders of Reform synagogues don't quite get their members, according to a new study by the movement.
The study shows a marked disconnect between what the leaders think their members are looking for and what the members say they actually want.
For many historians, the Soviet Jewry campaign represented the coming of age of the American Jewish community.
Young American Jews are increasingly alienated from Israel, according to a report released last week.
As summer draws to a close, tens of thousands of unaffiliated American Jews begin the yearly hunt for affordable Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services, which fall this year on Sept. 12-14 and Sept. 21-22.
The Jewish world has a problem with the way Renee Kaplan defines herself: half-Jewish. Kaplan, a television producer in her mid-30s, is the daughter of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother who was raised Jewish.
"I was raised Jewish, was always told I was Jewish," said the 35-year-old, who did not want his real name printed. "I went to Jewish camps, even had a bar mitzvah." But when Levine joined a Conservative congregation after his marriage, the rabbi told him that because his mother was not Jewish, he needed a legal conversion.
For dozens of new congregations and minyans, or prayer communities, like Ikar, the Internet is not just a faster, more convenient communication tool. It's a central organizing mechanism and community-building tool, filling the roles performed in more traditional synagogues by administrative staff, newsletters, membership committees, religious school, even rabbis.
Beyond the tangible victories, those involved in this work say it has transformed their synagogues into communities where the people know and care about each other. In making the world a little better, they are making their congregations more warm, friendly and caring.
Often derided or acclaimed as "New Age Judaism," Renewal focuses on environmentalism and direct spiritual connection to the Divine. It's part of the burgeoning world of transdenominational Judaism -- the growing number of synagogues, rabbis and prayer groups that eschew affiliation with a Jewish stream.
At least 300,000 American schoolchildren ages 4 to 17 have the developmental disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And the numbers are increasing every year. Loneliness is one of the worst problems facing children with developmental disabilities. Others avoid them, uncomfortable with the outbursts, unsure how to talk to them and unwilling to make the effort.Chabad's Friendship Circle is trying to break through that isolation by reaching out to children with developmental problems, as well as their families, and offering them a welcoming hand into the community.
Everything Is Illuminated," Jonathan Safran Foer's tragi-comic tale of a young American Jew's journey through Ukraine in search of his grandfather's roots, is the first winner of JBooks.com's People's Choice Award for the decade's best work of Jewish fiction at the Koret International Jewish Book Awards ceremony in San Francisco.
Say you're a few years out of college, living with friends and working in a low-paying job for some do-good organization. You don't go to synagogue, but you miss the camaraderie of your college Hillel, and you like to invite people over for Shabbat meals.
Imagine if someone was willing to pay you to keep doing it?
A brief rundown of the national synagogue revitalization programs that have arisen since the early 1990s.
There are more than 3,000 synagogues in America. Why do some of them struggle week after week to make a minyan, while others are bustling with energy, song and laughter?
Jewish communities are being urged to remain vigilant, be in touch with police and other law enforcement agencies and review their security arrangements after a fatal shooting at Seattle's Jewish federation offices. The alleged gunman, identified by police as Naveed Afzal Haq, said he was an American Muslim upset about what was going on in Israel.
Rabbi Deborah Bravo of Temple B'nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, N.J., went through plenty of placement interviews after her 1998 ordination as a Reform rabbi. Everywhere, she got the same question: not about her attitude toward homosexuality, not whether she wore a kippah and tallit, but whether she would officiate at an intermarriage. "It has become the litmus test for placement," Bravo said in San Diego at last month's annual convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the Reform movement's rabbinical association.
Stephen Lachter didn't know what to expect when a friend dragged him to a men's club meeting at his Conservative synagogue five years ago.
"My father was in a men's club, and to me, it was guys sitting around playing pinochle and volunteer ushering," he admitted.
Lachter was surprised to see "interesting people having serious discussions," and he "fell into a session on kiruv," or outreach, to intermarried families. "I said to myself, this is something shuls need to be talking about."
Eighteen months ago, when Lenard Cohen's 4-year-old daughter was enrolled in the family's congregational preschool, the Philadelphia-area father of three decided to go back to school himself.
Margie Pomerantz and her fellow volunteers from Congregation Beth David, a nearby Conservative synagogue, were out looking for Jews. In a supermarket. Unaffiliated Jews, if possible, but they weren't being picky.
The last few months have seen a flood of studies of Gen-Y Jews -- all trying to map their sense of Jewish identity, affiliation patterns, needs, hopes, beliefs and behaviors.
"The primary purpose is to serve the needs of the Orthodox population," says Rabbi Ilan Haber, the program's national director, who works out of Hillel headquarters in Washington. "It's not an outreach program, it's an in-reach to Orthodox students."
Chaim is -- or was -- a Skver Chasid, born and raised in the ultra-Orthodox enclave of New Square, N.Y. His world until recently was Torah, family and a close-knit community.
But now he's entering the secular world.
Weiss-Ishai is one of just a few female mohels in the United States. There are about 35 Reform female mohels and just four trained by the U.S. Conservative movement, as well as a handful who learned outside the United States.
How should Conservative Judaism cope with dwindling membership, growing intermarriage rates and society's increasing religious and political polarity, while remaining true to its base in halachah (Jewish law)?
OK, we know some of the things that college students, especially college freshman, want. But put aside the clichés, the risqué jokes and careerism for a moment. It turns out that many Jewish undergrads also seek a connection both to Judaism and to Jewish peers.
Sixth-graders in America's most populous state will soon learn that Romans, not Jews, crucified Jesus.
The lesson could have been different had some of the textbooks approved by California last week gone through in their proposed form.
It was in the summer of 2004 that Hillel began work on a five-year plan to attract the two-thirds of Jewish college students who say they don't go to Hillel activities. That troubling statistic has been one of the most talked-about findings from the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS).
Four years ago, the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles funded the joint project between Centinela and two L.A.-based Jewish groups, the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) and Beit T'Shuvah, a Jewish recovery program.
Following the public criticism, 14 commissioners voted last Friday against adopting the Oxford materials, and one commissioner abstained. Their rejection came as a surprise, because a special review committee had recommended its adoption to the commission.
A new study of Jews in their 20s and 30s reveals that though these young people are underaffiliated with traditional institutions, many have a strongly defined Jewish identity that they express in creative new ways outside synagogues, Jewish Community Centers and the federation system.
During the week, Dr. David Kolinsky practices family medicine in Pacific Grove, a sleepy Northern California coastal town. But on Saturday mornings he dons his tallit and leads Shabbat services for Congregation B'nai Torah, a Conservative congregation in neighboring Monterey.
Kolinksy serves as spiritual leader and president of B'nai Torah, which has been lay led since it broke off from a nearby Reform temple 13 years ago.
Visiting rabbis have passed through, but with just 24 dues-paying members, there's no budget to hire even a student rabbi. The congregation also lacks a building -- it rents a small room in a local church, where it stores its two Torah scrolls and where, every Saturday morning, the stalwarts wait to see whether a minyan will show up.
There's been a Jewish community in Muskogee, Okla., since 1867, when furrier Joseph Sonderheim opened his import-export business.
In 1916 the first synagogue was dedicated, Congregation Beth Ahaba, a lay-led Reform congregation that served a tight-knit Jewish community of merchants and professionals.
"As Oklahoma grew and prospered through the 1920s, so did our congregation," said Nancy Stolper, 77, who moved to Muskogee 50 years ago.
Beth Ahaba reached its height of 75 families in 1929 but dwindled to 40 families during the Depression, as stores shut down and people moved away to find work.
Since then, Beth Ahaba's fortunes have declined steadily. Its young people, including the Stolpers' four children, grew up and moved away.
Its last student rabbi left 15 years ago.
"We're now just a group of frail senior citizens," said Stolper, noting that only eight to 10 members are still able to get to synagogue.
Three months ago they gave up their monthly Friday night services, and this High Holiday season, she fears, will be their last.
In his three decades at the helm of the Thanksgiving Coffee Co. in Fort Bragg, California, Paul Katzeff has pioneered the process of buying coffee beans directly from Third World growers and funneling money back to them after sales to promote economic self-sufficiency and social justice.
But Katzeff had never helped Jewish coffee farmers, who don't usually figure in the ranks of those growers.
That changed with the recent release of Mirembe Kawomera, or "Delicious Peace," a Fair Trade -- and kosher -- coffee produced by a new cooperative of Jewish, Muslim and Christian coffee farmers from the Mbale region of Uganda.
"We think this coalition is unique in all of Africa," said coffee farmer J. J. Keki, leader of the 700-member Abayudaya Ugandan Jewish community that is at the core of the project.
The 2008 election may be more than three years away, but one group is hoping to press the Democratic Party to infuse spirituality into its platform for that campaign.
Is Shavuot becoming hip? The holiday, which begins June 12, may be one of Judaism's three major festivals, but it had never caught on in America like its more popular cousins, Passover and Sukkot.
The tradition of tikkun l'eil Shavuot, the all-night study session that marks the commemoration of God's giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, is celebrated by most Orthodox Jews and many Conservative congregations. But for many unaffiliated and non-Orthodox Jews, the holiday has gone fairly unnoticed.
Nikolai Kozitsyn, chief of the Great Host of Don Cossacks, comes rushing into his second-story office in downtown Novocherkassk, apologizing for the informality of his navy blue sweat pants and flip-flops.
Ten years after the death of the last Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, his influence on the Jewish world continues to grow.
Bruce Cantz grew up in the San Fernando Valley, where he had a good Conservative upbringing and was bar mitzvahed at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino.
Now a baal teshuvah (returned to Judaism) who goes by his Hebrew name of Benyamin, Cantz, 54, lives on top of a remote mountain in Santa Cruz, where he runs Four Gates, the country's only organic kosher winery and the smallest, kosher winery in California.
Last Aug. 26, on a soundstage off Sunset Boulevard, Chabad of the West Coast's 21st annual telethon was about to begin.
The stage lights dimmed to blue, Camera One wheeled in, and a spotlight trained on a young boy wearing payes (sidecurls) and knickers -- Anatevka, circa 1905. The boy raised a fiddle to his chin and began a klezmer tune. A second young man, also in stylized Chasidic garb, emerged from the wings and began a slow-motion dance. The music got louder, the pace quickened, the dancer's pirouettes followed closer upon each other and then the stage exploded in a shower of lights and electric guitars as a dozen Lubavitch yeshiva students leapt forward, twisting, turning, doing handstands and cartwheels in a frenzied circle. Cymbals clashed and a booming voice rang out: "To Life! L'Chaim!"
Anyone who's ever watched the annual Chabad Telethon, to be aired live this Sunday from 5 p.m. to midnight on UPN Channel 13, knows that it's the single most graphic demonstration of this Chassidic group's ability to rope in big-name Hollywood celebrities.